“What is it?” Macy whispers.
But Hudson isn’t listening anymore. Instead, he’s locked into the fury inside him, his wrath so great that it’s threatening to rise up and swallow us whole. I don’t know if the others can tell—his face is completely impassive—but I can feel it in the way he’s holding me. See it in his clenched jaw. Hear it in his ragged breathing and the too-fast pounding of his heart.
“It’s okay,” I try to tell him, but a stronger, deeper wave of pain chooses that exact moment to hit me, and I can’t stop myself from arching in his arms. From squeezing my eyes and fists and mouth shut as tightly as I can in an effort to stop the scream that wells in my throat.
“It’s not okay,” he growls as we finally step through the stadium doors into the snow and sleet.
The moment we do, there’s a wrenching sound behind us.
Macy gasps, her face going as white as the snow-capped mountains all around us. And a few seconds after that, the entire building starts collapsing in on itself. I watch over Hudson’s shoulder as wood and glass and stone and metal come tumbling down, the arena literally tearing itself apart piece by piece.
“What’s happening?” Macy squeaks out. “Jaxon, what are you doing?”
But Jaxon looks as ashen as she does as he shakes his head. “That’s not me.”
You don’t know what real power is.
Hudson’s words come back to me now, as does that moment when I was returning his powers to him—the moment when I realized just how infinite they really are.
Infinite enough to reduce his father’s bones to dust with the wave of a hand.
Infinite enough to tear down an entire stadium with barely a thought.
Infinite enough to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants.
And if Jaxon’s gasp is anything to go by, he knows it, too. Which means he also knows that Hudson has been telling me the truth all along. Because if he had been dead set on the murder and mayhem and genocide that Jaxon had believed was his plan two years ago, then it would have already happened. It would have been done with a flick of his fingers—a wave of his hand—and there would have been nothing anyone could have done to stop it. Jaxon would only have found out about it after it was a fait accompli.
Because that’s the kind of power Hudson wields.
And now his brother knows.
People start running out of the arena screaming, and still the structure continues to fall, huge pieces of it exploding into dust before they even hit the ground. Seats from the top of the stadium, chunks of the roof, fragments of stone from the outside wall. All crumbling away. All imploding into the smallest particles of dust, harmlessly floating to the ground.
I know what Hudson is doing. I can feel the fury coming off him in waves. He wants to tear down the arena where people sat back and watched Cole try to kill me. Watched Cyrus actually kill me. And they did nothing. But he’s not hurting them. I don’t even have to look to know he’s not. But he certainly is putting the fear of God into them, and honestly, I wouldn’t be lying if I said they might deserve it just a little.
The amount of power it takes to tear the arena down and hurt no one. The amount of control. I smile. The one thing his father tried to deny him, control of his abilities, he found a way on his own terms. And Cyrus would have seen it, too, if he’d only ever bothered to pay attention to his son. That day in the memory… Hudson destroyed everything in the room except his father.
It makes me wonder what else Hudson can do.
I was dead. Sort of.
Sort of? What does that mean?
It means a lot of what I’ve believed for the last weeks, months, has been a lie.
It means a lot of what I blamed Hudson for wasn’t his fault—or maybe didn’t even happen at all. That he tried to tell me several times only makes me feel worse.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I ask as he strides away from the arena and back toward the forest we came through less than two hours ago.
And God, it feels surreal to be here. To see how much everything has changed. And also how nothing has. The pain is now so great, it’s reached some level that my body can’t even register anymore. A quiet calm settles over me as the pain recedes in soft waves, and all I see is Hudson. This moment. The last words we’ll ever share. And I want him to know. I want him to know that I see everything now. I see him.
“Tell you what?” he asks. “Not to go anywhere near my father? I’m pretty sure we covered that several times.”
“No,” I respond after swallowing the lump in my throat. “Why didn’t you tell me what a good person you are?”
Startled blue eyes find mine and our gazes lock, hold.
For a second, Hudson slows down so much that he nearly trips over his own feet while Macy and Jaxon demand to know what’s going on.
He doesn’t answer them. In fact, he doesn’t say anything at all—and neither do I. We just stare at each other as a strange understanding passes between us.
“We’ll talk about this later,” he tells me as he starts walking again.
“There isn’t going to be a later,” I answer quietly, “and you know it.”
He starts to say something, then breaks off. Swallows. Starts to speak again, then breaks off again.
As he struggles, explosions start going off around us. I drag my eyes away from his tortured blue ones in time to see a centuries-old tree turned to sawdust in the blink of an eye.
“Hudson—” I reach for his hand where it’s clutching my thighs, his arm beneath my knees, and cup my hand over his. “What are you doing?”
He shakes his head, doesn’t answer. More trees explode with every step he takes, the timberland around us turning to nothing, bark and roots and leaves just disappearing with each long stride. He’s destroying an entire forest in the blink of an eye, in an absolute and perfect rage.
“Hudson,” I whisper. “Please don’t be like this. There’s nothing you can do.”
Dozens more trees explode around us at that, and then finally, finally, he comes to a stop in the middle of a clearing he just made, a hundred trees—maybe more—gone with just a thought.
One corner of his mouth ticks up in a teasing grin. “Jeez, Grace, your belief in me is overwhelming as always.” But the humor never reaches his normally bright blue eyes, now turned nearly gray with the riotous storm of his emotions.
“It’s not about believing in you. It’s about the fact that I can feel your father’s venom moving through me. You can’t fix that.”
He squares his jaw. “You don’t have a clue what I can do.” He doesn’t say it to be mean. I know him now. He’s trying to convince himself.
“Maybe not. But I know—” I break off as another fresh wave of pain surges through me and I gasp. I must have been in the eye of the tempest earlier, and now the pain is buffeting against me in growing agony. I’m out of time.
“You don’t know anything,” he answers harshly, his storm-tossed eyes wet with more emotions than I can keep track of. “But you’re about to.”
Long Time, No Sea
“Give her to me,” Jaxon demands for the third or fourth time since Hudson picked me up, but it’s obvious Hudson couldn’t care less what Jaxon wants.
He keeps his eyes on mine for several beats, his gaze searching my face as I fight against the pain. I can tell he wants to ask me if I want to go. To Jaxon.
And he would hand me over. One word from me, and he would step aside. But I don’t even know what he’d be stepping aside from. We’ve barely tolerated each other for two weeks. And I was mated to Jaxon until two hours ago. So obviously I want to go to Jaxon.
But I don’t say anything. I can’t. Right now, I don’t know what I want.
Another wave of pain rolls through my body, and this time, I can’t swallow my scream.
“Don’t fight it,” he tells me in little more than a whisper. “Let the pain roll over you. Absorb it instead of fighting against it. It’ll make the next few minutes easier.”
I don’t argue with him—the pain is too overwhelming for that now—but I want to ask how he thinks I can just surrender to it when it feels like every nerve ending in my body is being dipped in lava…at the same time.
Before I can think of a way to explain that, Hudson leans over and deposits me gently—so, so gently—into Jaxon’s waiting arms.
It feels like coming home.
Despite how worn out he is, Jaxon takes me with ease, holding me steadily against his chest for long seconds before carrying me a little away from Hudson and Macy. Then he sinks down onto the snow and cradles me in his lap.
“It’s okay,” he whispers as he strokes my still unruly curls back from my face. “You’re going to be okay.” But I can see in his eyes that he knows the truth. Unlike Hudson, Jaxon understands that I’m already gone.
He doesn’t like it, but he gets it.
Next to Hudson, the ground makes a sound like it’s screaming, and we all turn to watch him turn the snow to vapor as he splinters the rocky ground in front of him wide open.
“What are you doing?” Macy demands. “I thought you were going to help Grace. I thought—”
Hudson holds a hand up and she freezes, which is ridiculous because he won’t hurt her and yet totally understandable, considering she just watched him vaporize a stadium and a shit ton of trees all in the space of ten minutes.
As we watch, the dirt that was frozen beneath the snow explodes up and out. But Hudson barely pays it any attention as he digs deeper, deeper, deeper. The sounds get worse, the ground grinding against itself as he literally carves through granite with a thought.
“What’s he doing?” Macy whispers.
“I have no idea,” Jaxon answers, still watching his brother with bewildered eyes.
I don’t know, either, but I know that whatever it is, it’s his long-shot idea. And because I can’t stand the thought of hoping, of thinking that Hudson might somehow find a way to save me only to have my hopes dashed at the last possible second, I turn to Jaxon, who looks as exhausted and traumatized as I feel.