Kade extracted himself from Alex's sheltering arms and scrabbled to the sheer edge of the cliff.
"Seth!" he yelled into the rocky void, straining to find even the slimmest thread of hope that his brother might not be dead.
And then ... a dark, broken form, lying on a jagged outcrop about a hundred feet down. Moving only slightly, but alive.
slightly, but alive.
Hope soared in Kade's chest.
"Jesus Christ. It's him." He got to his feet. "Seth, hang on!" Alex gasped. "Kade, what are you doing? Kade, don't--" He stepped off the edge.
Alex's scream followed him as he dropped at a calculated leap, down into the cleft of rock. His booted feet came to a rest beside his brother. Kade crouched and swept the ice and snow away from Seth's battered face and body.
"Goddamn you, Seth." His voice cracked with a mix of relief and pain as he took in the extensive injuries that his brother had sustained in both the fight with the Ancient and the fall. Seth bled from multiple contusions on his head and limbs, but it was the vicious gash in his torso that concerned Kade the most. Regenerating from that kind of damage would be a challenge for the fittest Breed male, but for one in Seth's gaunt, emaciated condition? Shit. It didn't look good for him at all. Seth's eyes were closed, his body limp and broken. He was barely breathing, except for the thin rasp of air that wheezed out of his lungs when he parted his lips and tried to speak to Kade.
"G-go," he huffed out after a moment. "You can't ... can't save me, brother." Kade exhaled a sharp curse. "Like hell I can't. I'm going to get you out of here."
"No. Leave me ... I am dying. Already dead. You and I both know it."
"Not like this, brother," Kade ground out. "You will heal. I'll take you home to Father's Darkhaven, and you will recover from all of this."
"No," Seth murmured quietly. His eyes peeled open slowly on his pained hiss. "No, Kade. I won't." The sight of his twin's gaze almost made him glance away. The pupils were needle-thin, vertical slits bathed in bright amber. Seth's gaze was hot with anguish, a feral gaze. His fangs were still extended. The glyphs that were visible through large rips in his clothing were dark and pulsing with color, as though he starved for blood.
All the signs were there, but it killed Kade to recognize them.
From the time he'd last seen him, his brother had succumbed to Bloodlust. Seth was Rogue.
"There's no going back for me now," Seth murmured. "You tried to warn me ..."
"Ah, fuck," Kade whispered. "Ah, damn it, Seth. No. No, this can't be." Seth sucked in a short gasp and a violent cough racked him. His body shuddered. His skin seemed to grow paler before Kade's eyes. "Let me go, brother. Please."
Kade shook his head. "I can't. You know that. I wouldn't have given up on you, not before ... not now. You saved my life up there, Seth. Now, goddamn it, I'm gonna save yours." He turned his head and shouted up the cliff to Tegan and the others above. "I need some ropes. My brother's wounded. He can't make it up on his own. I'm going to need a harness to lift him back to the top." The warriors peered down at them, then vanished to carry out Kade's request. Then Alex's face appeared in their place, just the sight of her a haven to him, giving him a feeling of pure, honest love-something he'd needed more than anything in that moment. Seth's cracked, bloodied lips parted in a weak smile. "You're in love," he said, something wistful in his wheezing voice.
"Yeah," Kade replied. "Her name is Alexandra. I'm going to make her my mate, if she'll have me." Seth closed his eyes, gave a weak nod. "I would have liked to have met her."
"You will." Kade stared down at him, seeing a stillness washing over his broken body. "You have to hang on, Seth. Come on ... open your eyes. Keep breathing, damn you!"
But Seth's eyes remained closed.
He breathed, but only one final time. His chest compressed with his last exhalation, and then he was gone.
Seth's pain was over.
Kade gathered his twin's ravaged body into his arms. He sat with him on the frozen ledge and gently rocked him, praying that Seth had finally found peace.
No one said a word as the warriors helped Kade lift Seth up from the ledge. They worked soberly, handling the lifeless body like precious cargo even though it had to be obvious, even in death, that Kade's twin was Rogue.
Seth's dermaglyphs were still dark with angry color, his fangs still protruding behind his slack lips. Although his eyes were closed, beneath the lids, his pupils would still be elongated, his irises still swamped with furious amber.
All marks of the Bloodlust that had owned him and that declared him an enemy to every law-abiding member of the Breed. All the more so to the warriors of the Order, who were sworn to rid the population of all killers in their midst.
Yet despite that, Tegan and Chase lay Seth down with reverent care on the snow-covered ground before Kade, while Hunter went to the edge of the crevasse and surveyed the deep chasm far below. He turned a level look on Tegan and gave a mild shake of his head. "I can find no sign of life whatsoever down there. The Ancient is surely dead."
Tegan nodded. "Good. Even if the fall didn't kill him, a few thousand tons of snow and ice will certainly finish the job."
Just then, Alex walked back from the plane with a folded blanket in her hands. She had tears in her eyes as she glanced at Kade, then began to gently shake out the shroud that would cover Seth's bloodied, broken corpse.
Kade held up his hand. "Wait. I need to see him like this. I need all of you to see him, and to know that this could have just as easily been me." He glanced at the grim faces of his brethren from the Order, from Hunter's impassive golden eyes, to Chase's narrowed scowl, and then to Tegan's steady, unreadable regard. Finally, Kade looked at Alex, the person whose opinion mattered more than any other. "Seth--my twin--was a killer. I've known it for a long time, but I didn't want to admit it. Not even to myself. What I really didn't want to admit was that he and I were not so different."
"He was Rogue," Tegan said. "There is a difference."
"Yes." Kade lifted his shoulder in acknowledgment. "But it took many years for him to fall. And during those years, he hunted like an animal. He killed in cold blood. Seth was sick with a wildness that he couldn't curb. I knew he was, because the wildness lives in me, too."
Kade saw Alex swallow hard, saw her hold the blanket to her as if she suddenly needed its warmth. He felt the little spike in her pulse as she stared at him in wary silence. Through his bond to her, he could feel her fear as if it were his own.
He hated like hell knowing that he was causing it, and the urge to soothe her worries with a comforting lie was nearly overwhelming. But he was through with secrets. He couldn't hide anymore, or pretend he was something stronger than what he was, even at the risk of losing Alex here and now. She had to know the truth, and so did the group of Breed males standing before him.
"From the time Seth and I were boys, we let our talent rule us. It was hard to resist the freedom it offered, and the power. It was heady stuff back then--to command other deadly predators, to run alongside them. To hunt with them. Sometimes, to experience the precision of a kill as seen through their eyes. And once the wildness had called to us, it only got harder to rein it in. At times, it still is." Although Alex didn't so much as blink, Kade felt the twist of her stomach as she listened to him. She was repulsed, not by Seth this time, or by some misunderstanding that Kade could smooth away with charm or well-meaning promises. She was seeing the truth now, at last, and as terrible as it felt to know that he was pushing her away with his honesty, he couldn't stop until she knew it all.
"Too much power is never a good thing," Chase interjected into the long silence, the ex-Enforcement Agent's voice deep with reflection. "It corrupts even the strongest."
"Yeah, it does," Kade agreed. "It corrupted Seth early on. I don't know when he first started killing humans. It doesn't really matter now. Eventually, I found out, and I should have stopped him then and there, but I didn't. Instead I left Alaska. I got the call from Niko that the Order was looking for new recruits, and I couldn't get out of here fast enough. To save myself from turning into what Seth had become, I ran to Boston and left him to fend for himself"
Tegan eyed him gravely. "That was just last year. Seth was no child then. How long would you have considered him your responsibility?"
"He was my brother," Kade said, casting a pained look at the corpse of the Rogue that had once been his mirror image. "Seth was a part of me, almost an extension of who I was. I knew he was sick. I should have stayed here to keep him in line. And if he didn't quit the killing, or if it turned out he couldn't, then I should have made sure he was stopped for good."
Tegan's green eyes narrowed. "It's no easy thing, to kill a brother, no matter what he's done. Ask Lucan, he'll tell you."
"Is it any easier to break a father's heart?" Kade scoffed, a bitter sound that grated in his throat. "My father would have expected this of me, not Seth. All his hope and attention has always been pinned on Seth. He'll be devastated to see him like this. Just as he would have been if I'd exposed Seth's secret instead of protecting it all this time."
Tegan grunted. "The truth only gets uglier the longer you try to hold it down."
"Yeah. I know that now." Kade's gaze strayed to Alex, but she had turned away from him. Handing the blanket over to Chase, she strode back to her plane in silence with Luna trotting at her heels. Kade cleared his throat. "I need to take my brother home to his family. That's where he belongs. But first I want to make sure Alex is all right. Her friend Jenna, too."
"There's also the added problem of one dead trooper back in town," Chase put in. Kade nodded. "Not to mention several more people on ice after the attacks by the Ancient, and a unit of Staties currently on the way in from Fairbanks to look into those recent killings in the bush."
"Shit," Tegan said. He gestured to Chase to cover Seth's body. "You and Hunter bring him to the plane. And be careful, yeah? Rogue or not, Kade's brother saved his life today. What Seth did more than likely saved all our asses up here."
The two warriors nodded in agreement as they carried Seth away. When Kade took a step to follow them, Tegan held him back with a meaningful look.
"Hey," he said, his voice pitched only for Kade's ears. "I know something about what you're dealing with, so you're not alone. A long time ago, I gave in to a similar wildness, only my drug of choice back then was rage. It nearly killed me. It would have, if Lucan hadn't pulled me out of it. Now it's Elise who keeps me grounded. But it's always there. The beast never fully goes away, but I'm here to tell you that it can be mastered."
Kade listened, recalling what he'd heard of Tegan's own struggles, both in the Order's earliest days in Europe centuries ago, and the more recent events that had brought Tegan and his Breedmate Elise together in the past year.
"I'm not gonna say I'm happy to hear all of this today," the Gen One said, "but I respect that you trusted us enough to put it out there."
Kade gave him a short nod. "I owed it to you."
"Damn straight you did," Tegan replied. "You need to remember one thing, my man. You lost a brother in Alaska today, but you're always gonna have family in Boston." Kade held the intense gem-green stare. "Yeah?"
"Yeah," Tegan confirmed, his broad mouth breaking into a brief smile. "Now let's get the fuck off this frozen rock and go take care of business."
Alex could not pretend that hearing Kade's admission hadn't frightened her. Seeing his brother--the twin who looked so much like him--transformed into the same kind of monster that had killed her mother and Richie only made things worse.
Could Kade one day turn into a monster, too? He certainly believed he could, and the worry put an ache in Alex's chest, not so much out of fear for herself but out of concern for Kade. She didn't want to see him in pain. She didn't want to lose him to the disease--or to the addictive wildness--that had claimed Seth.
With the exception of Jenna, whom she could only pray would be all right, Alex had already lost everyone she loved. Now Kade could be next. He feared the seductive nature of his talent. Seeing what it had done to Seth, Alex feared it, too. She wasn't sure she could handle letting herself fall any deeper in love with Kade, only to lose him later to something she could never compete with and hope to win. But the problem was, she did love him.
It was the depth of that love that terrified her the most as she flew him and the other warriors back to Harmony. She couldn't dismiss the knowledge that Kade's Rogue brother lay dead and shrouded in the cargo hold, a grim warning of the future that might await Kade one day.
Losing her loved ones to Rogues had been difficult enough. Losing Kade to the same vicious enemy that had robbed her of her family was a prospect too terrible to consider.
Alex dragged her thoughts away from those dark worries and searched for a place to land near Jenna's cabin outside town. They had decided on the way to avoid using Harmony's airstrip when it would Jenna's cabin outside town. They had decided on the way to avoid using Harmony's airstrip when it would risk drawing more undue attention from the upset residents. Instead, Alex brought the plane down in a small clearing not far from Jenna's property.
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com