Kendrick felt his stomach knot. Keelan had known all along what his fate would be if he joined the Alpha Unit. Kendrick had told him of his premonition two hundred years ago. In fact, it had been the root of the argument that led to Keelan leaving home. That Keelan had had his own premonitions and thought of the others first, hurt. A part of him felt betrayed, as if Keelan didn't care that he was Kendrick's only family. However, that small, rebellious voice quieted when he looked up and saw the pain in Darian's eyes. For over two hundred years, Keelan had called the Alpha Unit home, and judging by the way the members of this house were acting, he had also called them family.
"I want to scream and curse him, you know," Kendrick finally admitted.
Darian nodded. "I called him an idiot and screamed in his face after it happened."
Kendrick looked into the large fae's face and recognized a look he had seen not only on his own face but on Caiden's as well, the expression of an older brother who had failed to protect his younger sibling.
"Do you think... was there..." Kendrick took a deep breath. "Was he in pain?"
Darian thought a moment and shook his head. "I don't think so. His face was peaceful and he was smiling." Darian visibly swallowed hard.
Kendrick snorted. "He would, the little shit. He has always been the most exasperating child. He always put others before himself, to the point where I would get angry with him for being so kind. What kind of bastard does that make me?"
Darian walked forward and placed a hand on his shoulder. "It makes you a brother. Trust me, I have an older brother, Oron, and he has said the exact same things to me. Sometimes, us kid brothers need to be reminded that we can't save everyone."
Kendrick ground his teeth together. "I didn't remind him enough." He looked over his shoulder at where Keelan lay, looking like he was simply sleeping.
"We'll get him back, I swear it to you," Darian vowed.
Kendrick stared him in the eye before he glanced down at the silver ring on Darian's finger. "I will hold you to that, Your Highness."
Darian flinched and removed his hand from Kendrick's shoulder to hide the ring. "There aren't many people outside the fae who recognize this ring. How do you know it?"
Kendrick shrugged. "I am an archivist. It is my job to study and to learn, and I have had a long, long time to do both."
Darian ran his hand over the back of his neck. "The others don't know. I would appreciate it if you didn't say anything."
Kendrick nodded; it was a reasonable request. "You have my word."
Darian looked relieved. "Thank you. Well, I'll let you get some rest. See you in the morning, breakfast is at eight, if you're up."
Kendrick inclined his head and Darian left.
Sighing, Kendrick walked over and sat down in the recliner next to his brother.
"From what I have seen, you have an amazing family here, Kee. I can see why you would want to protect them. What I can't understand is why you didn't call me for help? Did you think I was still angry with you for leaving? Did you think I wouldn't drop everything and move heaven and earth to get to you?" Kendrick rubbed his hands over his face. If only he could talk to his brother one more time.
He reached into the small leather pouch at his waist and pulled out his cell phone. He selected a number and dialed.
Caiden answered on the second ring. "Kendrick?"
"How much do you know?"
"Amelia called earlier to warn us. She said that the ones who'd kidnapped her were only interested in using her as a bargaining chip to get to me and my brothers, the Ironwoods and the Ashleighs. The enemy is harvesting powerful witches to steal their magic, and evidently, we're high on the list. I feel flattered." He chuckled dryly. "She also told me what happened to Keelan. I went to your place, but you had already left. Where are you?" Caiden asked.
"The Alpha estate."
"But that's across the country!" Caiden exhaled. "You know what? Never mind. I don't want to know what laws of physics you ignored. How is Keelan, really?"
"I've never seen worse. The only thing here is a shell--skin, bones, and hair. Nothing of my brother is here. The only reason he's in a bed and not in a grave is because this shell is breathing. They have him hooked up to so many machines I can't tell exactly what the body is doing and what help he is getting from the tubes and wires."
"Gods Kendrick!" He heard Caiden take a deep breath. "What do you need from us?"
Kendrick allowed himself one brief moment to contemplate calling his friend to his side, there was no family on this earth he trusted more than the Ironwoods and, through them, the Ashleigh brothers. But he knew that if he was selfish enough to call them to his side, he would only be putting them in danger. He would be doing exactly what their enemy wanted, getting the Ironwoods to leave the safety of Storm Keep.
"You stay there, it's not safe for you to come here. You'd be playing into whatever trap the enemy may have set for you."
"If it's that dangerous, then you need me more than ever. Don't forget, my baby sister has already been kidnapped once. You expect me to sit here and do nothing?" Caiden demanded angrily.
"Yes. Yes I do. There is a bigger picture here, Caiden, one that is so large I can't even see the edges yet. Leave Amelia to me. I won't let anything happen to my godsdaughter. In the meantime, I need you to tighten up patrols. Use your defunct Elder status to get the council to agree to lock down the city. If these monsters require magic, then Storm Keep represents a stockpile. I need you where you are," Kendrick replied evenly.
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