"The trail to the cabin is just through those trees," she told Kade and the others as she brought them to a stop and killed the engine.

Kade turned to look at her from the passenger seat, the first time he had done so since they'd left the mountain to head back into Harmony. His eyes flicked down for a moment as he cleared his throat. "After we sort things out here in town, I'd like to return Seth to my family's Darkhaven near Fairbanks. I know it's a lot to ask of you. Too much, probably, especially after--"

"It's not too much to ask," Alex replied. "Of course, Kade. I'll take you there whenever you're ready." His expression was sober, contrite. "Thank you."

She nodded, feeling a bit sorry herself for the way he seemed to be pulling back from her with his silence, and his carefulness when he did speak to her. Or maybe it wasn't so much that she felt him pulling back but, rather, pushing her away.

Alex climbed out of the plane with him and the other three Breed males, leaving Luna to stand watch over Seth's body while the rest of them went to check on Jenna and Brock.

As soon as her friend's cabin came into view with the door smashed open and Zach's blood still visible beneath the freshly fallen snow, the reality of what had occurred there rose up on Alex in a swell of emotion.

"Oh, my God," she gasped, breaking into a run as they drew closer. "Jenna!" Brock appeared in the open doorway, his huge Breed body blocking the entrance as Alex dashed up the steps of the porch. "She's doing fine. Confused and not exactly coherent yet, but she's unharmed. She's going to be okay. I put her in the bedroom so she could rest more comfortably." Alex couldn't help herself from throwing her arms around the big male's shoulders in a grateful hug.

"Thank you for taking care of her, Brock."

He nodded solemnly, his dark brown eyes warm with a kindness that seemed incongruous with the warrior's immense, lethal appearance. "What happened?" he asked as Alex moved past him into the cabin and Kade and the other warriors came in behind her. "Did you find the Ancient?"

"Long story," Tegan said. "We'll fill you in later, but suffice to say the Ancient is dead. Unfortunately, not without casualties on our side. Kade lost his brother in the battle."

"What?" Brock's expression fell as he put a comforting hand on Kade's shoulder. "Ah, Jesus. Whatever happened, I'm sorry."

Alex was moved by the true emotion--the tight bond--shared between Kade and Brock, between all of the warriors gathered in the small space of the cabin. It humbled her to see such strong men--men who were, at their core, something far more extraordinary than that, in fact--looking out for one another like family.

Feeling something of an outsider in that moment, Alex drifted into the bedroom where Jenna lay curled up on the bed where Brock had placed her.

Jenna stirred as Alex sat down gently on the edge of the mattress. "Hey," she murmured, her voice groggy, barely above a whisper. Her eyelids lifted the smallest fraction.

"Hey." Alex smiled and swept a bit of hair from Jenna's pale cheek. "How are you feeling, honey?" Jenna murmured something indecipherable as her eyes fluttered closed once more.

"She's been in and out of consciousness since you guys left." Alex turned her head and found Brock standing behind her. Kade and the other warriors came into the bedroom, as well, all of them looking on Jenna with quiet concern.

"She's still weak from blood loss," Brock said. "The Ancient must have been with her long enough to feed from her. She's luckier than most. At least she's still alive."

Alex closed her eyes at that, regret for Jenna's ordeal squeezing some of the air out of her lungs.

"I put her in a light trance to calm her," Brock added, "but something's not quite right. The trance isn't keeping her down completely, which is particularly odd, considering she's human."

"Not a Breedmate?" Tegan asked.

Brock shook his head. "Just your basic Homo sapiens from what I can see." Tegan grunted. "I guess that's good news, at least. What's going on with her?"

"Damned if I know. She's not in any pain, but she keeps drifting awake, mumbling a lot of nonsense. Not even words, just a strange, incoherent rambling."

Alex glanced back down at her friend and caressed her softly. "Poor Jenna. She's been through so much. She didn't deserve this on top of everything else she's endured. I wish I could just snap my fingers and erase everything that happened here today."

"That can be arranged, actually," Tegan said. When Alex pivoted a startled, questioning look on him, he went on. "We can scrub her memory of all of this. It's painless, and it's fast. She won't even know we were here. We can make it so that she remembers nothing of the past day, or two, a week ... longer than that, if necessary."

"You can do that?"

Tegan shrugged. "Comes in handy from time to time."

Alex looked at Kade. "What about me? Can you erase my memory of all this, too?" Kade held her gaze for what seemed an endless moment. "Is that what you want?" There was a time when Alex would have jumped at the chance to toss away all of the awful memories that had plagued her. To be able to blink her eyes and recall none of the loss or grief, none of the fear.

There was a time, not that long ago, in fact, when she would have given anything to forget all of it. Not anymore.

Her past was part of who she was now. The things she witnessed, terrible as they had been, had shaped her life. She couldn't willingly discard her memories of her mother and Richie, not even the memories of the night they were killed. To do that would be just another form of running away, of hiding from the things she didn't feel strong enough to face.

She didn't want to be that person anymore.

She couldn't go back to living that way, never again.

Before she could say as much, Jenna began to toss on the bed. She flexed and contracted her limbs, her face pinched in a frown, breath huffing through her parted lips. She murmured something unintelligible, then her movements became more agitated.

Brock moved up beside Alex and placed his big hand on Jenna's back with the utmost tenderness. He closed his eyes, concentrating as he caressed her, and some of Jenna's distress seemed to ease under his touch.

"Brock," Tegan said, giving a faint shake of his head. "Don't trance her just yet. I need to hear what she's saying."

The warrior nodded but kept his hand on Jenna's back, still stroking her with a light motion. She relaxed on the bed, but her lips kept moving, whispering more of the peculiar ramblings as she drifted into a calmer state.

Tegan listened for a moment, his face growing more grave with every strange syllable that spilled out of Jenna's mouth. "Holy shit. We can't scrub this female's mind of anything. And we can't risk trancing her any more, either."

"What's going on?" Alex asked, worried by the stunned look on the warrior's normally impassive face. "Is something wrong with Jenna after all?"

"We won't know that until we get her back to Boston."

Alex stood up, alarmed now. "What are you talking about? Take Jenna to Boston? You can't make that decision for her. She has a life here in Harmony--"

"Not anymore," Tegan said, his voice brooking no argument. "When we leave here, the woman will be coming with us."

Kade moved over to stand beside Alex. "What is it, Tegan?" The elder Breed male tilted his head in Jenna's direction, where she continued to murmur softly under Brock's gentling hand. "Alex's human friend is not incoherent. She's speaking in another language. The Ancient's language."

Chapter Thirty-one

It took a while for the aftershock to wear off, following the bomb Tegan had dropped about Jenna. While Kade and his fellow warriors had connected via satellite phone with the Order's headquarters to brief Lucan on the various developments and potential disasters in Alaska, Alex had remained in Jenna's bedroom with her friend the entire time.

with her friend the entire time.

She was worried about Jenna; Kade knew that.

Alex had tried to argue with Tegan and him that it wasn't fair to yank Jenna out of her world in Harmony and carry her off to Boston as if Jenna had no say in the matter whatsoever. But Tegan would not be swayed, nor would Lucan, once the Order's leader had been informed of the stunning revelation concerning Jenna Tucker-Darrow and the fact that the human female was suddenly speaking a language that hadn't originated on this planet nor been heard here for several centuries at that. A language that was recognizable only to the few, very oldest of the Breed, and one the Order hoped might somehow prove useful in their efforts against their enemy, Dragos.

Alex had been reluctant to leave Jenna alone with Kade's brethren when the time came for her and Kade to leave for his family's Darkhaven. Tegan had given his word that Jenna would be safe with them, but Kade noticed it was Brock's personal reassurance that finally eased some of the worry from Alex's eyes.

"He'll take good care of her until we get back," Kade said now, seated beside Alex in the cockpit of her plane as they passed over the lights of Fairbanks a few thousand feet below. Alex had also entrusted Luna to the warrior, having sent the wolf dog back to Jenna's cabin before she and Kade departed. "You don't need to worry, Alex. I've fought beside Brock for the past year, trusting him to watch my back as I've watched his. When he gives his word, you can count on him to keep it. Jenna couldn't be in better hands." Which was more than he could say for Alex, Kade thought grimly. If he hadn't needed the plane to transport Seth's body to his family's domain, he would have insisted that Alex stay behind in Brock's care, too. The reception that awaited him at his father's Darkhaven would not be pleasant--he knew that. The last thing he wanted was for Alex to witness his shame, or to see the pain his return was sure to cause in his kin when he brought Seth's corpse back to them.

That was a path he wished he could walk alone, but there was a small part of him that was grateful for her company beside him. Selfishly, he took a measure of comfort just in her presence at his side. Alex glanced over at him in his silence. "What about the rest of the people in Harmony? I heard Tegan say on the phone that he and Chase and Hunter were going to contain the situation while we're taking care of Seth. What exactly does 'contain the situation' mean? They won't ... hurt anyone in town, will they?"

"No. No one will be hurt," Kade said, having been part of the discussion with Lucan and the others as they'd strategized the mission's final steps in Alaska. "You know how you said you wished there was a way to erase Jenna's memories of the Ancient and what she might have been through with him?" Alex shot him an incredulous look as understanding dawned on her. "You mean the whole town?

There are nearly a hundred people in Harmony. What are Tegan and the others going to do, walk down every street, knocking door to door?"

Kade smiled despite the gravity of the situation, including the chasm of unresolved issues that still gaped between Alex and him. "I'm sure they'll find a way to get the job done. Tegan is nothing if not efficient."

Kade glanced out the window as the dark landscape below the plane changed from the uniform terrain of city with its plowed streets and snow-covered rooftops, to the rugged, far-reaching wilderness of the bush. "My father's ten thousand acres begin just at that ridge ahead. There's a clearing where we can land on the other side of those tall spruce to the north. The Darkhaven compound is within an easy walk of the clearing."

Alex gave a nod of acknowledgment as she guided the plane to the ground where he had indicated. Once they had landed, Kade went back to the cargo hold and retrieved Seth's bloodied, blanketwrapped body. He carried the lifeless bulk in a careful grasp, Seth's weight a precious burden he would never know again. As much as he intended to bring his brother home alone, as was his duty, he had to admit Alex's presence as he made the trek to the Darkhaven compound lent a comfort he hadn't expected he would need.

She walked beside him in sober purpose, into the snowy yard of the main residence. It had to be late morning by now, probably only a couple of hours before the noon daybreak. Most of the Breed population of this small community would be inside their private quarters, sleeping perhaps, some of them making love.

Kade paused in front of the large house where his mother and father lived, reflecting that in just a few minutes, he would shatter their lives with grief and pain. The very things he had sought to protect them from in keeping Seth's secret for so long.

"Are you okay?" Alex hesitated beside him. She put her hand on his shoulder, a tender, warm touch that gave him more strength than she could have possibly known.

that gave him more strength than she could have possibly known.

He needed that strength in the moment that followed.

From within the Darkhaven came the sound of footsteps traveling swiftly over the wood-plank floors. His mother's voice called from somewhere inside. "Kir? Kir, what is it? Where are you going?" Kade's father did not answer.

The doors of the main residence burst open with the force of the elder Breed male's emotions alone. He stalked over the threshold like a tempest, clearly roused from his bed and having paused only long enough to tug on a pair of loose flannel lounging pants before he flew outside to face the news no parent wanted to hear.

Alex gasped at the sight of him, though her shock came as no surprise to Kir's surviving son. Six and a half feet of muscled fury, dermaglyphs seething with the dark hues of anger and alarm, stood frozen on the porch of the large log residence. Gray eyes burned with amber, flicking questioningly over Alex before landing on Kade in searing judgment.


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