Kylie's breath trapped in her lungs. She dropped the sword. Lucas's sword slipped from his hand and landed beside hers. He stepped back. His shirt hung open, ripped by her blade.
"Oh my God! Are you-"
"It's okay. Just a scratch." He pressed his palm on his upper abs.
"Let me see." She moved to him.
"I'm fine." He took another step back. "It's my fault. I made you lose your concentration."
"Let me see!" she demanded again.
"It's really a scratch," he said.
She took the last few steps separating them and reached for his shirt. Her heart clutched, fearing what she'd see. Tears filled her eyes and air slipped from her lungs when she saw the red mark running over his belly button.
"A scratch, see?" His voice came out deep.
He was right. It wasn't much more than a scratch, but it still looked painful. She pressed two fingers to his bare flat stomach. Inhaling, she concentrated on healing. Her hands grew warm, and slowly she moved her touch across the wound.
She heard him groan, or was it a growl? She met his eyes. "Am I hurting you?" Then she recognized the heat in his eyes.
"No," he said, the hypnotic hum vibrating from him signaling that his body sought a potential mate.
Feeling brave, she brushed her hand up and over his abdomen. The soft, warm ripples of muscle and skin felt wonderful against her palm. She wanted more. More of him. More touching. She wanted to be touched.
As if reading her mind, his hands were on her waist, pulling her against him. His lips found hers and the kiss was smoldering. Deep and demanding from the moment his mouth met hers. She wasn't sure how they ended up on the ground, but suddenly they were there. The soft grass tickled her neck, but she mostly felt Lucas. Felt his hand brushing under her shirt. His sweet, soft touch on her breasts. Felt his weight half on her, his leg positioned between hers.
Everywhere a part of him touched her, she burned and ached for more. His hum filled her ears like music and she was lost. Lost in the moment, in the desire. Lost with yearning.
She wasn't afraid. She wanted this, wanted Lucas. She slipped her hand inside the back of his shirt.
She heard him make another sound, a mixture of both pain and marvel. And then his weight and all the wonder were gone. Opening her eyes, she saw Lucas standing over her, his eyes ablaze and looking almost wild. His hands were locked behind his neck and he breathed in and out as if he needed more oxygen.
"We can't ... I'm not prepared ... I don't have..."Doing her own share of trying to breathe, it took her a second to understand what he was attempting to say. He didn't have condoms. Even if he did, this shouldn't happen as an accident.
"We need ... Not like this," he said.
"I know." She sat up and the cumbersome feeling crowded her chest and she felt her cheeks heat up.
Standing up, she swallowed the tightness down her throat. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have..." She looked away, not sure how to put it.
He closed the distance between them and gently turned her face to his. "You didn't do anything wrong.
We didn't do anything wrong. We just need to plan it."
She nodded. Her phone chimed with an incoming call. She hadn't reached for it when Lucas's started to ring.
She inhaled and pretty much knew what this meant. The FRU were here. Early. She pulled her phone out and saw the call was from Burnett and knew she was correct.
"It's Burnett," she said. "I'm sure it's Holiday calling you, too." She reached for the swords. "Don't answer it. We just need to get to the office."
He studied her. And she felt guilt swirl in her chest. She should have told him. Now it felt as if she'd kept it from him.
"Why shouldn't I answer it?" He opened the bags and pulled out the cloths to wrap the swords in.
"I was going to tell you, but..." I knew you would fight me on it.
"What's going on, Kylie?" he asked as he put the swords in the bag and then picked it up.
"It's my window," she said.
"What's your window?"
"The reason Burnett and Holiday are calling. It's the FRU, they're here for me."
"Why the hell are they here for you?" he asked.
She swallowed and started walking. He grabbed her by the elbow, questions in his eyes.
"I agreed to be tested."
He shook his head, his eyes went from blue to burnt orange instantly. "No!"
"I have to, Lucas. It's my quest. Just like your quest is to change things with your kind. I have to do this."
"No, you don't!" He moved in front of her and stopped her from taking another step. "Are you forgetting that I saw part of the vision of what they did to your grandmother?"
"That was over forty years ago. Things are different." That's what she'd been telling herself, that's what she had to believe. She moved around and continued forward.
"No!" He grabbed her arm.
She looked at him, pleading for understanding. "I have to do it, Lucas. And you have to let me."
"Burnett and Holiday won't allow this," he seethed.
"Burnett doesn't believe they would hurt me," she insisted, feeling a cool breeze brush her skin. And she knew she wasn't alone. Her father was here. She prayed he approved of what she was doing.
"He believes there could be risks to doing it, he told me that himself. He told me he hid your grandmother's body because of it."
"There's risk in everything, Lucas." She touched his stomach. "In learning how to fight. In not learning how to fight. I'm doing the right thing. I know it."* * * "We didn't contact her," the male voice came from Holiday's office. "She contacted us."
Kylie and Lucas walked inside the office. Lucas remained furious. She could tell from his posture, his silence, but he didn't try to stop her. She knew he sensed how serious she was.
"Kylie wouldn't have done that. She wouldn't even know how to get in touch with you," Holiday demanded.
Kylie stopped at Holiday's door. "I called my mom and got his number. Told her I needed to talk with him about something I was doing for Holiday." Kylie met the camp leader's worried eyes. Burnett stood beside her, his eyes showing signs of anger. She just hoped it wasn't targeted toward her.
Holiday shook her head. "I refuse to let this happen."
Kylie moved all the way inside, followed by Lucas. She looked at Burnett, hoping she would find an ally in him. "From the very beginning, Burnett said that they wouldn't intentionally harm me."
Holiday stood up. "He also admitted there could be risks, which was why he ... agreed that you didn't need to do it."
"She's right," Burnett said. "I don't want to chance-"
"The risks are practically nonexistent," the gray-haired FRU agent spoke up. "It's what we've been telling you from the beginning. But you refused to listen."
Kylie ignored the agent and spoke to Holiday. "It's my quest. You yourself said that it was a good quest."
"But I didn't mean you should put your life in jeopardy."
"It's not in jeopardy," the FRU agent said again.
"Then why couldn't a regular doctor perform the tests?" Holiday asked, her tone sounding like an angry parent. No doubt she was going to make a good one.
"I already told you when we spoke months ago. It's nothing more than a brain scan and some blood tests. And the reason they can't be done in a regular hospital is because these tests aren't for humans."
"But they could do a brain scans and blood tests in a regular hospital," she accused.
"It's different," the man answered. "The scan is set to look for things a regular brain scan doesn't search for. The same for the blood test. A regular lab can't do this."
"And how many of these tests have been done?" Holiday asked.
"Thousands," he said. "It's been used by the FRU for several years."
He frowned. "Research."
"On who? What kind of research?"
"Mostly to study criminal cases. But-"
"You use it on criminals and you think it's fine to use on a teenager?" she demanded.
"You're going to tell me that there haven't been any negative side effects?"
"None to speak of."
"So there have been some that you won't speak of!" Holiday snapped.
"I have to do it, Holiday. It's the right thing. I know it. Please, don't try to stop me, because I won't let you."Kylie saw tears appear in Holiday's eyes, and it was killing Kylie that she was causing her friend pain, but everything inside her said it was the right thing.
She looked at the agent. "Did you bring the papers I asked for?"
"What papers?" Burnett asked.
"A written document from the FRU containing their promise that if they prove that I'm found to be a special race that they will acknowledge that we exist to the supernatural world."
"But then what?" Hayden appeared, standing in the corner. "Are you going to insist everyone that comes forward go for these tests?"
The FRU agent looked puzzled at Hayden's appearance, but he didn't miss a beat. "We will need to confirm it with at least one other of your kind. But once we have Kylie and this other person on record, all we'd require is a blood test to be registered."
Hayden looked at Kylie and she knew what he was thinking. "You don't have to do it," she said.
Putting her life on the line was one thing, asking someone else to do it was another.
"Yes, I do. You were right. It's time things change." Hayden's gaze went back to the agent. "You have your second person."
The agent, right along with Lucas, tightened his brows and stared in awe at Hayden's pattern.
"I still don't like it. What if they don't keep their word?" Lucas asked.
Kylie glanced to Lucas and then Burnett and pleaded for him to speak up. He'd never lost his loyalty to the FRU and she trusted his opinion more than he would ever know.
"They wouldn't do that," Burnett said.
The room was cold and reminded Kylie too much of the vision she'd had with her grandmother. But she held tight to the knowledge that Lucas, Burnett, and Holiday all waited outside. First, they had her dress in a hospital gown. Beautiful.
The nurse came over. "I'm going to give you a couple of shots to numb you. It's sort of the same thing a dentist uses when he's working on a tooth. We need to get blood from your radial artery for this test, so it's slightly more uncomfortable than just drawing blood. But these injections should help."
The nurse was right, it was more uncomfortable. Kylie didn't know if the prior injections helped, but it still hurt like the devil. She closed her eyes and squinted tight, waiting for them to be done.
In a few minutes, it was over. Before Kylie was led to the other room for the brain scan, they let Lucas, Holiday, and Burnett come in. She knew they'd done Hayden's brain scan first.
"Is Hayden okay?" It was the first thing she wanted to know when they walked in.
"Just saw him," Burnett said. "He's fine, said it was a piece of cake."
Kylie nodded. Holiday still didn't look happy.
"You can still call it off."
"Holiday," Kylie said. "I'm doing this."
The fae exhaled as if exasperated and pressed a hand on her stomach. "I hope my kid isn't half as stubborn as you."
Kylie glanced at Burnett and grinned. "With the daddy being who he is, I'd say you don't have a chance in hell of the child being anything but stubborn.""Hey, I'm not that bad." He smiled, but she could tell it was forced. He was trying to lighten the mood, but the concern shined in his eyes as well.
In a few seconds, Burnett and Holiday left. Lucas stayed behind and moved to stand beside the bed. He picked up her hand with the Band-Aid and brushed his thumb over the bandage. She could tell he was thinking about her healing him.
"When all this is over with, we need to talk. I don't like the fact that you didn't tell me what you were planning to do, or that the other teacher was chameleon. And I know, I didn't deserve for you to tell me about it then. But you were right when you told me that day that we didn't need any secrets. I don't want any more between us."
She swallowed. "Me either."
Suddenly, Kylie remembered something. "You were supposed to meet your grandmother for tea."
He shook his head. "This is more important."
"No it's not, Lucas. You have to get on that Council."
He frowned. "I haven't given up. I just postponed talking to her." He exhaled. "But I don't care what you say. If I make the Council or not. I'm not losing you."
"Okay." A nurse walked in. "We're going to take her now."
Lucas frowned but let go of her hand.
Kylie refused to be wheeled into the lab where the scan would take place. She wasn't sick. But she did make sure her gown was tied before giving everyone a peek at her pink bikini underwear.
Holiday squeezed her hand before she walked into the lab. Burnett gripped her shoulder. Lucas, looking half-pissed and half-very concerned, stayed back. The nurse walked ahead of her into the room, Kylie turned to follow her and was tugged back.
Lucas's mouth pressed against hers briefly. The words I love you sat on the tip of her tongue, but she didn't say them. She didn't want him to think the fear of what was about to happen was the only reason she said them. And then there was that little doubt that if he knew he had her now, he might not work as hard to get on that Council.
The door swished shut behind her. A chill ran up her spine, but not from a spirit; the room was simply that cold. Kylie glanced around, noting the lack of color in the room. Not a speck of color. Everything was white or off white.
"Okay," the nurse said. "Have you ever had an MRI?"
Kylie nodded. "When I was having night terrors."
"Well, this is very much like that. The machine is a little loud and you might feel crowded, but you'll need to remain completely still. It will take about ten minutes to complete the test. You don't have claustrophobia, do you?"
"Not really," Kylie said, but then remembered being caught in the small grave with the three dead girls.
Then again, it was more the dead girls than the small space that freaked her out.
"Good," the nurse said. "Here's some earplugs. Now climb up here and we'll get this done."
Kylie put in the earplugs and swallowed a sudden feeling of anxiety. In the back of her mind, she heard her father's words. But soon. Soon we will discover this together.
Her heart raced to the tune of fear, but she climbed onto the table and laid down, trying to fight the chill, and yet wishing she could feel another cold. That of her father. A little word from him that shewasn't about to die would be good.
The machine pulled her inside. Her nose was less than an inch from the top and the sides of the machine actually touched her forearms. A machine, not a coffin, she told herself. But that's where her mind took her-being in a closed coffin.
The noise started. Even with earplugs, the sound grew so loud she could hardly hear herself think. She closed her eyes. Tried not to listen. Tried not to think. She wasn't sure how long she was in there when she felt a light tickle in her head. That tickle grew until it was a pain. A sharp pain.
She opened her mouth to scream, tried to move but couldn't. Suddenly she felt like a light exploded in her head and all she could see was darkness.
Soon, baby, soon we'll be together.