Page 19 of Revenge Hunter (The Rover 3)

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Chapter Nineteen

I had thirty secondsto make my choice. Did I try to find a weapon that could kill Esteban here and now, and maybe succeed, which would in turn leave Fin to die in the time it took? Or did I grab Fin and haul ass out of this house to find help for him?

My body screamed at me to take my vengeance. My newly opened mind told me to think about things. I eyed Fin and plucked at our quiet bond. He wasn’t supposed to fall in love with me. If I’d fallen for him, that was one thing. I could shove it away, pretend it didn’t exist. His damn fae honor wouldn’t allow him to do the same.

Twenty-five seconds.

After we’d slept together, we’d agreed, if given the choice, taking out Esteban had to be the priority. But Harlan’s blood already stained my hands. Fin’s added another layer to the sticky coating when I tried to staunch his wounds. I didn’t have it in me to watch another friend die today, especially not Fin, not when there were so many things I needed to say to him.

Twenty seconds.

I hugged Fin tight to me and pressed a kiss to his head. The second on the watch ticked, reminding me I had to make my choice and do it fast.

“Little Zoey,” Esteban said, his voice growling louder. “I’m so proud you figured out my little secret. Our children will be blessed with magic and the wit to back it up. This pleases me.”

Fin twitched his foot, brushing my leg. If there was even a chance to save him, then there really was no choice after all.

Fifteen seconds.

I used my magic and the fireman’s carry I’d practiced until my knees gave out in bounty hunter training to scoop Fin over my shoulder and carry him across the room. Esteban’s gaze followed me out the door.

The usual black SUV sat in the driveway and I hobbled for it as fast as I could go.

Time’s up.

A guard sprinted toward me, shock etched in his features.

“Give me the damn keys.” I growled at him.

He moved to take Fin, but I shoved him back with a blast of air. “No. After one of you betrayed us, I don’t trust any of you. Give me the keys. The Black Mage is in there, and your men should get away while you can.”

With a salute, he moved toward the house.

I tucked Fin into the passenger side. It hurt to leave the Captain’s body there, but I couldn’t waste the time, not with Esteban already breaking free of the enchantment.

I used the watch again. Sixty seconds.

It seemed to take more out of me. If I had to use it all the way to my destination to keep Fin with me, so be it. Despite the blood, his pulse still fluttered under my fingers as I gripped his wrist across the consol. I would drive one handed to keep monitoring him.

“You’re such an idiot, Zoey,” I said. I eyed Fin across from me, his face pale. “You’re an idiot, too. How could you let yourself fall in love with me? You know I’m about as unreliable as can be when it comes to emotions, and yet you still went and did it.”

At this point, I was berating both of us, because it made me feel better.

Was it just this morning that I’d woken up so replete and happy? Thinking that maybe, just once for me, life wouldn’t knee me in the lady balls and try to shove me off a cliff.

I should have learned my lesson on that one.

A sputter and cough beside me made me jerk the wheel. My heart pounding and adrenaline pumping through me kept us on the road.

Fin cracked his eyes open and sighed heavily. “What happened?”

“Well, you dope, you took a stab from a knife that is supposed to be unhealable. So good job there. I’m taking you to get help.”

“Where?”

I gripped the steering wheel a little tighter than necessary, but refrained from telling him where we were headed. “Don’t worry about it. Lay back and rest. Do you know if we can do anything to stop the bleeding?”

He grunted and shifted in the seat. The tingle of magic washed over my skin and he sagged back. I slowed the car, reached across, and fumbled with the controls to lay his seat back to make him more comfortable.

“What did you do? I thought you couldn’t heal it?”

“I...” He wheezed and then more magic whispered in the air. His voice came out stronger the second time. “I used my magic to cycle my blood, as it comes out it will go back in. It’s not a permanent solution, but it will hold for a little while. It wasn’t an option when...”

He faded and pain arched down the bond between us. He didn’t need to continue for me to guess he meant the Captain.

He’d died too fast for any sort of loophole magic to save him.

I kept my gaze on the road, still leaving my fingers on one hand on his wrist to monitor his pulse. Despite wanting to hear his voice, I knew he should remain quiet. Keep his strength up.

The words he hadn’t said, but I’d felt, choked the air between us. It wasn’t the time to drag them out and fight about it, but I couldn’t leave them there, not when I knew he could hear me.

“You’re not in love with me,” I told him.

He didn’t answer, and I glanced over to make sure he was still awake. His eyes were open as he stared out the windshield.

“You might think you are because of this bond or whatever between us, but when you get rid of it, and the amazing sex is gone, you’ll realize. I’m an asshole, and no one should have to put up with this mess.”

Again, he remained silent.

I tried to force some cheer into my tone. “We’ll get you fixed up, and then you can go chase some highborn fae woman. I’m sure you two will make beautiful fae children.”

The thought made me physically ill.

I caught his voice down the bond this time. His actual deep, sexy, exasperated voice.

“You’re so full of shit. Stop lying to yourself, and to me, and drive the damn car.”

His voice in my head made me glance at him. Horror likely stamped across my features.

“What the fuck?”

He shrugged and, in my mind, spoke again. “It’s part of the bond. Over time it changes, especially if both parties have powerful feelings.”

“Is this how you and the Captain used to speak when you didn’t want me to hear what you were talking about?”

He nodded and then coughed, leaning his head against the passenger side window. The cold from the glass seemed to comfort him.

Especially if both parties have powerful feelings. Of course I knew, deep down, how I felt about him, but I couldn’t very well walk around in denial if my own magic kept calling me out on my shit.

A soft, almost hysterical laugh escaped me.

Dusk gathered outside, shooting diffused light along the trees and roads. In normal circumstances, it would be pretty, but not when the person I cared about bled out in the passenger seat.

I flicked on the headlights and kept going. When I’d first climbed in the car, I didn’t know what to do, where to take him to get help. But as I drove, my flight plan solidified, and my mind supplied only one choice. Not than any of us were going to enjoy it when we got there.

Fin shifted in his seat and a shudder rolled through him. I remembered when I was injured how cold I felt the entire time. My teeth had chattered with it. I shrugged out of my jacket with one hand on the wheel and draped it over his shoulder. He didn’t hesitate to snuggle into it and the action shot a bolt of something straight into my heart.

Damn it, when had I gotten so soft? I dragged my gaze from Fin, who still stared out the window, and focused on the road.

It would take another hour to get to our destination.

“Are you going to tell me where we are going?” Fin asked in my mind.

I kept my feelings of disgust at having someone in my head shoved down. It wasn’t his fault; it wasn’t like he did this on purpose. “I can’t tell you where we are going. I’m magically bound not to.”

He threw me a sharp look over his shoulder. “What the hell kind of place magically binds its visitors so they can’t reveal its location?”

I kept my eyes on the road and my mind carefully blank. If he knew, he would be clawing his way out of the car right now.

This time out loud, he said, “I get the sense that I’m not going to like this.”

“If I had another choice, I’d have taken it. But no, you won’t like it, I won’t like it, the person who owns the place we are headed will hate it most of all. But, if anyone can save your life, then it’ll be him.”

“Him? You’re not taking me to Esteban’s house so he can finish the job, are you?”

That earned him a glare. “Since he is currently at your house, likely ransacking the place, or chasing us down, no, I’m not. If I thought I could convince him to share a cure to fix you, I might have considered it. But I wouldn’t trust him to hold up his end of a deal with me, no matter what I offered him.”

I checked the clock, and my stomach let out a loud rumble. Perfect timing, as usual, for my body to demand its needs met.

Fin huffed out a chuckle, but it ended in a cough. “There are protein bars in the console if you’re hungry.”

Since we hadn’t been ambushed yet on the road, I figured Esteban had given up chasing us for now. My mind drifted to what the Captain had told me as he lay dying. Something about the bond. It was important enough to make his last words, so I couldn’t brush it off. Not from him. I also feared telling Fin about them, as he might not tell me the truth. Otherwise, why would the Captain only whisper it to me?

I shoved the words down with the rest of my secrets and prayed they stayed there until I could unearth them at a better time.

“How much farther?” Fin asked.

I jumped, guilty, and glanced out the window. “Probably twenty more minutes. Are you hungry? Thirsty? Can I do anything to make you more comfortable?”

He snorted, and I couldn’t help but smile. It seemed I only worried about other’s comforts when they were mortally wounded.

I decided to poke at this thing between Fin and I. Figure out why it had suddenly changed now.

“Why can I hear your thoughts? Can you hear mine?”

It took him a long time to answer. “I can hear yours, but only whispers. Words, or feelings, at least for now. You’re not pushing them into my head like I am yours.”

I let out a breath I’d been holding and nodded. If he couldn’t just see inside my head and pick apart my thoughts, then I felt better about this whole mind reading business.

It wasn’t as if my brain contained nuclear codes, or the back way into Fort Knox. I just didn’t want someone in my head, someone who could use my thoughts and feelings against me.

Emotions had always felt like ammunition to me. If I kept them locked up, I didn’t have to worry about anyone exploding them like grenades in my face, or worse, in my heart.

Fin touched my arm. “You don’t like that my voice is inside your head, do you?”

I levelled him an incredulous glare and then turned back to the road. “What, in our stunningly long acquaintance, told you I enjoyed people in my head? In fact, I believe, I’ve had several melt downs because someone infiltrated my mind without my permission. But, if it’s not something you can help, then I can’t do anything about it right now. Besides, we need to make sure your organs aren’t going to slide out of your body into your lap first.”

He grimaced. “Thanks for that.”

“Call it payback. If you’re going to be in my mind, you might see or hear things you don’t want to.”

“I’ve been on both sides of the mind-control game. I can appreciate discretion and I would never throw something in your face that you thought privately to yourself.”

It surprised me to hear someone had tried to control Fin’s mind. That there was someone out there powerful enough to pull it off. I also took his promise but knew he couldn’t possibly keep it. In the heat of an argument, during a fight, when people were at their weakest, they would use anything against each other. Anything to strike a blow. Anything to win. I’d seen it more times that I could count.

I turned the car down a long winding road that led into the trees.

“I smell a large body of water,” Fin said, his voice weak.

Instead of answering, I pressed on the gas harder, sliding from the asphalt as the road turned to a stone driveway.

There wasn’t a gate which I always found hilarious, but he’d always said if someone really wanted in, then a gate wouldn’t stop them.

I pulled up outside a large cottage that sat so close to a lake that sand made up part of the front yard. Quickly, I flicked off the headlights, skirted the vehicle, and helped Fin out from his seat.

We made it to the door as soon as it opened. Everything in me deflated, and the security I’d felt driving here, home, for the first time in years washed away under the man’s angry look.

Suddenly I was sixteen again, sneaking back in after a night with my friends. His eyes held the same angry disappointment.

I shoved it all away, because I couldn’t take no for an answer.

“Hey, Chief. You going to let us in? I’d hate for Fin to bleed out on your welcome mat.”


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