She spent the next thirty minutes following his moves. Over and over. Swiping the sword this way, then that. He barked out commands. Not really in a rude way, but as if this was the way he'd been taught. She couldn't help but imagine a younger Lucas taking stern directions from his grandfather.

"Not like that," he said. "Keep the sword pointing out to where your opponent will be. And don't look down. Now look where you're holding your weight. Put your weight into your moves."

Over and over again, they did it.

It was actually grueling. The sun felt hot on her skin, the air thick. Her leg muscles from all the partial squats and forward thrusts burned. She didn't complain. Not once. She'd take this to him touching her.

"That's good," he said, doing the same moves beside her. "You're doing it."

Oh my. You are a natural.

Out in the open, she actually heard the voice before she felt the spirit's cold. The spirit stood to Kylie's left, holding her own sword, following Lucas's direction to a tee.

"What are you doing?" Lucas asked. "Shift your body weight back and then forward."

Kylie ignored Lucas, but continued to move-her focus now on the spirit's weapon and not following his directions.

Comparing the swords, she realized the spirit's sword wasn't really like the one glowing in Kylie's hands. The ghost's blade was more slender and tapered. And the hilt, as Lucas called the handle, was longer.

What kind of sword do you have? Kylie asked the spirit, thinking maybe if she could get her to open up, she might give Kylie something to help send her away.

A bastard sword. I stole it from a bastard. She laughed, but she didn't miss a step in her moves. Her form looked practiced.

Whoever she was, her skills with the sword matched, if not surpassed, Lucas's.

I'm serious. Kylie missed a step.

"You okay?" Lucas asked and she felt him studying her.

"Yeah," Kylie answered, but continued to focus on the spirit. She needed to get this figured out. The sooner the ghost was gone, the sooner she could work on her other quests.

Who is it you want me to kill? she asked, and kept moving, but obviously not well enough because Lucas had stopped moving and was now just staring at her.

"Do you want to take a break?" he asked.

Who is it? Kylie demanded, and stopped moving.

The spirit stopped her motions and looked at Lucas. Listen to this guy. He's a good teacher. With a little practice you'll be ready. You'll kill my enemy and then I'll leave you be and take my place in hell.Hell? Kylie's breath hitched. She hadn't ever dealt with a spirit heading to hell. She couldn't help but hope the ghost was wrong. But knowing what she knew, all the people the spirit had claimed to have killed, she might be hell bound.

The spirit faded.

Kylie let out a frustrated puff of air and then wiped the sweat from her brow with the back of her left hand. Again she got the distinct feeling that this spirit was somehow connected to her receiving the sword.

But what could that mean? Was Kylie actually supposed to do the ghost's bidding, and kill someone for her?

The thought of taking a life sent a shiver down Kylie's spine. Just another reason she questioned her ability to be some holy warrior.

"You need some water?" Lucas asked.

She looked at him. His skin, already golden from the sun, glistened with heat. The front of his T-shirt clung to his upper torso, showing off his chest even more. Sweat always did look good on him.

She glanced down at the sword. "Is there such a thing as a bastard sword?" she asked, focusing on the ghost and not wanting to think about how good he looked.

"Yeah, why?" He moved to his bag and pulled out two bottles of water. He handed her one. His hand brushed against hers. She pulled her hand back, and he must have noticed her suddenness because he frowned.

"Nothing," she said, knowing he wouldn't want to know. He didn't like ghosts. But he went into the cemetery for me, to help me. Even when at the time I was a vampire.

She put the sword down and watched it lose the golden hue.

"That's so strange," he said.

"Yeah." The bottle he'd handed her chilled the inside of her palm. She unscrewed the top and took a long sip.

They drank without talking, her mind on the ghost one second and on how good Lucas looked the next.

"You ready to spar?" he asked.

She looked at his sword and the one resting on the towel. Real weapons that could kill. A slip of a wrist and someone could be seriously injured. "I don't think so."

"Not with these. You're not ready for that." He pointed back to the towel and the wooden swords.

"With those."

She wanted to say no, but then realized the sooner she learned to fight, the sooner she wouldn't have to meet Lucas and be reminded of all she'd lost. Screwing the top on the water, she dropped it beside her sword and then picked up one of the wooden weapons. "Let's go at it."

Twenty minutes later, they were finally doing just that. Going at it. Kylie finally started to understand how to do this. Using the moves he'd taught her earlier, she was able to block most of his offenses. Most of them, but not all.

Three times he found his way around her sword and touched her chest with the wooden edge. "Two points for the teacher," he'd said each time. Then they'd go back swinging, swiping, moving back, forth, and sometimes in circles. The sound of their wooden blades clashing rang in her ears. Sweat poureddown her brow again, but she ignored it, determined to earn a few points of her own.

Watching him, studying him, she started noticing his patterns of movement. Using what she learned against him, she waited for her opportunity and then took it. She tapped his chest with her own wooden blade. Breathing heavy, she felt the sweat rolling down between her breasts. "Two points for the student,"

she said, reveling in the moment of success. As crazy as it was, she enjoyed this.

He stopped and lowered his sword. His blue gaze froze on her. He drew in a deep breath. "You have no idea how much I've missed seeing that smile."

Sobering, realizing what she'd offered him, she tapped her wooden blade to his. "We came here to fight."

He held up his sword and then went back to sparring.

"I miss you," he said, right after he stopped her blade.

She pulled back and swung her sword extra hard to the left. His wooden blade blocked it. She pulled back and then went back for more.

"You are my soul mate," he said, blocking her at every turn.

Emotion filled her chest. Some from the memory of hearing him say those words to Monique, but mostly from knowing all he had to lose. She swung harder, and her sword hit his with a cracking thud. The impact sent his sword flying out of his hand, and hers broke in half.

"You should do what your father wants. Go to Monique, agree to marry her. Get on the Council like you planned."

"I'm not agreeing to marry Monique!" he said in a stern voice. "I should have never agreed to it!"

"I think we're done," she said, her heart racing and a world of hurt sitting on her chest.

A soulful expression filled his gaze. "With sparring today, we're done. But not with each other." He went and picked up his sword and then moved back to pack their things, while she stood there, trying to get her breathing under control. He found the other half of her sword and picked it up.

She couldn't help but wonder if these weren't the same swords he and his grandfather used. And if so they probably meant something to him. Guilt filled her chest. "I didn't mean to break it."

"I know. It's okay. It happens a lot." He paused and from the look he sent her he was about to say something she didn't want to hear.

Kylie's phone rang. She pulled it out of her pocket.

Lucas frowned. "If it's Della tell her I said I'd walk you to your cabin."

"It's my mom," Kylie said as she stepped a few feet away. She pulled the phone to her ear, a bit concerned that her mom was calling during work hours.

"Hey, Mom?" Kylie said, and she could still hear her heart thumping in her ears from the exertion of the sparring match. Or because of what Lucas had said.

"Hey? That's what you're going to say to me!" her mom bit out.

"What should I say to you?" Kylie asked.

"How dare you do this to me, Kylie Galen." Her mom's tone sent her back to the time that she and her mom couldn't see eye to eye on anything-back to the days when Kylie called her the Ice Princess. She took a deep breath and told herself not to panic, but wasn't this just what she worried about? That with John in the picture the fragile relationship they had would be put in jeopardy?

"Mom, what did I do?" Kylie moved a couple more feet away, not wanting Lucas to hear her fight with her mom."You know what you did; don't play innocent with me."

"I'm not playing," Kylie said, growing a little more concerned, and when she looked up she saw Lucas studying her with empathy.

"You met with Mr. and Mrs. Brighten, didn't you?" Her mom spoke so loud, it hurt her ears and she was certain Lucas could hear.

Kylie moved a few more feet away. She'd planned to tell her mom as soon she got back to the States, but after the pregnancy fiasco it just hadn't seemed like a good time. And yesterday morning with all the apologies and John praise, it didn't feel right. Besides, it might just be something they needed to talk about in person.

"Yes, and I was going to tell you."

"Was? Was going to tell me? Don't you think this is something you should have told me before you did it!"

"I did tell you. I mean, I told you I wanted to do it. We talked about it months ago, remember?"

"You should have discussed this with me first."

And you should have discussed it with me years ago. Kylie found some emotional reprieve in her own anger, but she knew better than to let it out right now. Her mom was never reasonable when this upset and adding fuel to her mom's emotional fire wasn't smart.

"Did they call you? Were they upset?" Kylie had thought the Brightens had agreed to wait and meet with her mom later. Why had they gone ahead and called? But even annoyed that they had called, she couldn't imagine the Brightens being rude with her mom.

"Yes, they called me! And do you have any idea how awkward that conversation was?"

"I'm sorry. But you were in England," Kylie added.

"How long has this been scheduled, young lady?"

"They've been out of the country and I don't even think they got my message until they got back. They called and wanted to come by immediately."

"You should have run this by me first, Miss Galen."

Oh, hell, whenever her mom referred to her as Miss Galen, Kylie knew her goose was cooked. And like so many times in the past, she didn't think her goose deserved to be cooked.

"I should have been prepared to speak to them. Instead, I get this phone call out of the blue."

"I'm sorry," Kylie said.

"John was with me when the call came in. Do you have any idea how awkward that was."

Tears filled Kylie's eyes and she couldn't hold back her anger anymore. "That's why you're upset, because of John?"

"I haven't told him that Tom wasn't your father. It was completely embarrassing."

"You're embarrassed about me?" Kylie asked, and shook her head.

"Don't turn this around," her mom said.

"Turn it around?" She shook her head. "I'm sorry, Mom, but you are so wrong here."

"I was not embarrassed about you. I'm ... I'm embarrassed that I got pregnant by someone I barely knew."

Kylie swiped at her tears. "You said you loved him."

Her mom gasped. "Of course I did, but...""But what?" Kylie asked. "But you were afraid that your precious John would see your omission of the truth as a lie?"

"Kylie, don't be-"

"And that wouldn't be good, would it?" she continued. "Wait, you don't have to answer that, because I can tell you how it feels. How it feels when someone you thought you knew keeps something from you, something that might have mattered! I can't believe you're mad at me for not telling you I contacted the Brightens when you friggin' didn't tell me about my own father, or about my grandparents, all these years!"

Her mom's intake of air said a lot. "I ... I thought I explained that?"

"Yeah, you explained that you were so in love with my father, and now you claim you hardly knew him."

"I ... I don't think this is something we should discuss over the phone."

"Really? That's sort of how I felt about telling you about the Brightens." Another few tears rolled down her cheeks.

She hung up so angry she almost wanted to throw the phone down. She didn't, but she did turn it off just in case her mom tried to call back.

"I'm sorry." Lucas's words came behind her.

She wiped her tears away again and turned around. She hadn't known he was so close and unintentionally ran right into him. Her face landed on his oh-so-perfect chest. His arms, warm and gentle, came around and held there for two or maybe three seconds before she pulled away. Just long enough to remember how good it was to lean on him-to recall how good it had been to be able to count on him.

Just long enough for her to come to her senses and remember she shouldn't be leaning on or counting on him anymore.

The following Friday, almost midnight, Kylie lay in bed staring at the ceiling, playing mind games with her issues. Round and round they go, which one to fret over, nobody knows.

Her mom, whom Kylie was talking to but was still mad at, and her seemingly impossible quest to save the teen chameleons.

Her completely impossible ghost and the impossible and infuriating Lucas.

And an unbearable longing to talk to her dad again, who she hadn't felt or heard from since right before the Brightens' visit.

And last, but for sure not least, an impossible rogue, whose threat still rang in Kylie's ears. You will come to me, Kylie Galen, come to me willing to die, to suffer at my hands for my pleasure, because the price will be too great! Your weakness will take you down.

Right now, Kylie's weakness seemed to be her inability to figure anything out. Everything in her life felt as if it were in limbo.

The only issue Kylie felt productive in this last week was her skill at using the sword. At times she wondered if her good feeling about that wasn't just because of Lucas. Being with him for an hour or two a day.

Oh, she hadn't succumbed to any of his advances. Subtle things, like walking so close that his shoulderbrushed up against hers, his tactic of showing her a move by standing behind her and guiding her through a certain stance or motion. And then there were his not-so-subtle advances. They would be sparring with the wood swords and he'd just pop out with something like "I still love you" or "Do you know how beautiful you are?" or "Do you remember the night we were coming back from the graveyard and we almost made love?"

She'd broken three more wooden swords when he said those things, too. One would think he would learn to keep his mouth shut. But nope. Lucas had even laughed the second time she'd done it. He didn't seem to care that his comments ended up with him having to replace another sword. And she knew that for a fact when the very next day he said something else that ended with her breaking the third sword. Not that she was doing it on purpose; it was just so dang hard not to let her emotion come out in her blows.

Today when they had been leaving, she'd called what they were doing "fencing" and Lucas had corrected her. He told her that she wasn't learning to fence. That entailed a completely different set of skills. She was learning to fight. He didn't say it, but she read his thoughts. She was training to kill.

But who?

And how? Oh, she knew it would happen with a sword, she just didn't know how she would be able to do it. To really take a life.

Letting go of a deep breath, she rolled over, gave her pillow a thump of her fist, and recalled Collin Warren when she'd tossed him across the room. Her intent hadn't been to kill but to protect. She hadn't killed him, but she could have.

And maybe that was how "this," whatever "this" was, would go down. Maybe if her protective mode was in gear, she'd be able to do it and not think. But when she thought about it afterward, would she be able to live with it?

Perhaps if it was to save someone she loved.

Or to kill someone you loathe.

The cold washed over her. Kylie sat up and the ghost sat at the end of her bed holding her sword. Kylie had seen her every day while practicing with Lucas. She would show up and complete the exercises with them, but no matter how hard Kylie had tried, she hadn't spoken once.

"Who do I loathe that much?" she asked.

You know, the ghost said.

"Tell me, damn it! I'm tired of your games!"

Della, looking half asleep, burst into Kylie's room. "Are you okay?"

"Yes!" Kylie told her. "Go away!" When she didn't do it immediately, Kylie said, "It's a ghost issue."

Della shot out. But when Kylie looked around the ghost was gone. "Who do I loathe that much?" she repeated her question. The ghost didn't return, but suddenly Kylie knew. She knew with clarity.


She was supposed to kill Mario.

Deep down she'd known this was going to happen. Known that they would face each other again. What she didn't know was how in the hell she was going to win against him. He'd had years to build his powers. How could she match that?

Then another question filled her head. Did this mean that Mario was who the ghost wanted her to kill?

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