Authors: Gabrielle Evans
Still, he wanted to see the twins, find out for sure if they were his, and then…well, he didn’t exactly know what he wanted to do. The pups had been adopted by two she-wolves who loved them very much. He didn’t want to take the babies away from the women, but if they were indeed his children, they’d been born into a legacy that none of them could simply ignore.
Either way, he wasn’t looking forward to the meeting and possible confrontation. He hadn’t met Raina—one of the pups’ mothers—but he’d met her brothers. Not only were they huge werewolves, but they hated Torren with every fiber of their beings. Not that he could blame them for trying to protect their sister and the people she loved, but he wasn’t interested in getting into a pissing contest with the men.
“You know you’re being an asshole without me needing to tell you, right?”
Torren pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed heavily before turning to face Raith. “I check on him, but I need to settle things here before we can be together.” He hadn’t asked anyone about Aslan’s well-being. While he respected the Enforcers and maybe even considered a few of them friends, he didn’t trust them with something so important.
At least four times since he’d left Aslan in Haven, Torren had traveled outside of his body, using his power of etheric projection to visit his mate’s room and watch him sleep. With each new visit, Aslan looked more tired and drained than the last.
When Torren had checked on him three days ago, the little man had been sleeping fitfully, muttering under his breath as he thrashed around on the mattress. The dark circles under his eyes were prominent, even in the dim light of the room, and he looked thinner than when Torren had seen him in person. Seeing his mate like that caused a deep, painful ache in his heart, but there had been nothing he could do to soothe Aslan’s distress.
Things had been hectic since that night, and he hadn’t been able to return. Still, Aslan was never far from his thoughts, and Torren knew he’d be making another trip once everyone was asleep.
His brothers weren’t impressed, though. “You’re an idiot,” Lynk said with disgust, shaking his head while his eyes rolled in exaggeration. “Just go bond with him, already. He’ll be safer, you’ll be less distracted, and everyone will be a hell of a lot happier.” The mating bond between a witch and his or her consort was eternal. They would be twined together in every way possible—heart, mind, spirit, and lifeline. As long as one heart continued to beat, the other couldn’t die. It was one of the strongest, purest bits of magic in the world, but it still had its limits.
“Bonding with him isn’t guaranteed to keep him alive,” Torren responded flatly. Gunshot wounds, stab wounds, and a slew of other injuries could be overcome with their mating. Things like decapitation or having their hearts removed from their bodies—there was no coming back from that.
“Damn, you’re a stubborn asshole.” Raith slouched back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest, looking more stubborn than Torren was sure
ever had. “It’s been a long time since we last saw each other, but I can still read you like a book. You’re completely fucking miserable, and you have no one to blame but yourself.”
“I have a stressful job. That doesn’t mean I’m miserable or that it has anything to do with Aslan.” Maybe keeping his distance wasn’t the most honorable thing to do, but it was with good intentions.
Unless they could sort out the problems amongst the different communities and restore some kind of balance within their world, they were headed for war.
“Oh, forget it. Tor doesn’t do emotional attachment.” Lynk yawned hugely before rising to his feet. “I’m going to bed. Good luck taking over the world.”
Torren didn’t think that was fair at all. He was trying to save their world—not rule it. It was no secret that he was somewhat emotionally stunted when it came to personal relationships and expressing his feelings, but that didn’t mean that he didn’t
He still stood by his claims that at some point everyone he allowed close to him would invariably let him down. While he cared deeply for his brothers, he had to include them in his statement.
Most likely they wouldn’t mean to fail him, but given the selfishness of human nature—and paranormals were not excluded from this nature—it was very much every man for himself. When given the choice, survival instincts took over, and people would without question choose themselves and their needs above others.
Raith pushed to his feet as well and shook his head, a sad look playing over his face. “It’s okay to trust people, Torren. Not everyone is going to hurt you.”
Torren didn’t refute the man’s words as he watched him walk out of the room, but he knew different. And he knew it all too well.
* * * *
“You came back.” His eyes were still closed, but it was as if he could feel the presence of someone else in his room. He’d felt it at least twice before, but when he’d finally crawled out of the haze of sleep, he’d always been alone.
“You look tired,
. You aren’t taking care of yourself.” The smile that tilted the corners of his lips upward couldn’t be stopped. Aslan didn’t want to open his eyes, though. It might be a dream, and if he opened his eyes, he’d wake up to find the room empty. “I miss you,” he whispered. It didn’t make any sense. He’d spent a whole ten minutes with the man. How could he possibly miss him?
“And I miss you,” Torren replied very quietly, just barely above a whisper. He sounded sad. Why was he sad?
Blinking open his eyes, wanting to see the look on Torren’s face to confirm his suspicions, Aslan frowned when he got a good look at his mate. “You’re all glowy again.”
Torren smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes. His onyx eyes looked haunted, lost. “It’s not safe for me to come here, but I had to make sure you were okay.”
“You’ve been here before.” It wasn’t an accusation, nor was it a question. It was just a simple statement. Those other times when he’d felt like someone was watching him, hovering near him protectively, it had been Torren.
Nodding slowly, Torren never took his eyes off him. “You’ve had bad dreams.”
Pushing up to a sitting position, Aslan curled his legs closer to his body and pulled the blankets up around his shoulders. “Why are you so sad?”
The question obviously surprised his mate. Torren’s eyebrows lifted, his eyes widened, and his mouth fell open as if he would say something. Then the look was quickly—and unsurprisingly—turned to one of denial.
Aslan didn’t understand why people, and men in particular, felt the need to hide when they were sad. Maybe they thought it made them weak. Sadness was a natural human reaction to unpleasant things, though. Aslan had been sad plenty of times in his life. He didn’t think that made him any less of a man, or any more of a weakling.
“It’s okay if you don’t want to tell me.” He pulled one of his arms out of the blanket and patted the mattress beside him. “Come sit down. We can talk about something else.” Again, Torren looked surprised. Hesitantly, he closed the short distance between them and eased down onto Aslan’s bed. The mattress dipped with his weight, and though Aslan could still see right through him, he wondered if he could touch the man beside him.
So, that’s what he did. His fingertips slid over the back of Torren’s hand, very gently caressing the knuckles. He could feel something, but it wasn’t as substantial as if he had been touching his own hand. “I can touch you, but not really.” He looked up and smiled as he tilted his head to the side. “Does that make sense?” Probably not. Not often did anything he said make sense.
Torren’s lips crooked on one side into a half smile. “It makes sense. What would you like to talk about?” His mate was awfully formal. Maybe he’d been raised that way.
Perhaps he’d gone to some preppy school where they taught classes in manners along with the rest of the curriculum. “Why didn’t you come back for real?” It was the question he’d been dying to ask, and now seemed like the perfect opportunity.
“I…” Torren trailed off and pressed his lips together. Apparently, whatever he’d been about to say didn’t sit well with him for some reason. “You are a distraction.”
Well, that hurt.
“I told you so,”
a feminine voice whispered inside his head.
“We all told you that he was an asshole,”
another voice commented, this one masculine, older, and with a slight accent.
“You can do so much better than him. Just look at the way he
won’t even meet your eyes. He doesn’t deserve you.”
The last voice was also masculine, but hard, mean, and always sent a shiver down Aslan’s spine.
“Shut up,” he whispered. He didn’t know how long he’d have with his mate, and he didn’t want to miss a second of it because the imaginary friends in his head wouldn’t shut the hell up.
“Excuse me?” Torren shifted so that he could face him fully and frowned. “Did you just tell me to shut up?”
“No! Not you.” Aslan closed his eyes and groaned. Why couldn’t he just be normal?
“Well, we’re the only ones here. Who were you talking to if not me?”
“No one. Forget it. So, did you find your brothers? Kendall said you went to Missouri to find one of your brothers.”
“Make him leave,”
the woman demanded.
the accented male voice agreed.
“He’s not welcome here.”
“That’s not for you to decide.” Aslan growled, irritated with their less-than-happy thoughts about Torren. “Go away.”
“You want me to go away?” Torren started to rise from the bed, but Aslan grabbed him around the wrist.
Well, he didn’t really
him because his hand went right through Torren’s arm, but he figured he got the point across, because Torren sat back down, looking at him very oddly. “Don’t leave,” Aslan pleaded.
“You’re acting strange,” Torren accused.
“You see the way he’s looking at you,”
the menacing voice taunted.
“He doesn’t really want to be here. That’s okay, though,
because we don’t want him here. We don’t need him.”
“I need him. Now, shut up!” He yelled the last word as he pressed both palms over his ears and shook his head violently. “Just leave me alone!”
“Aslan, look at me,” Torren said sternly. He waited for Aslan to drop his hands and look up into his eyes before he spoke again. “What do you hear,
“They don’t want you to be here,” he whispered. What did it matter what he said now? Torren probably already thought he was insane.
“Who doesn’t want me to be here?”
“I don’t know their names. Two are kind of nice, but the other one scares me,” he admitted. Fear was another emotion that most people denied having, though he still didn’t understand why. There were plenty of things in the world to be afraid of, and with good reason.
Torren moved a little closer to him, his hand reaching out to hover just over Aslan’s cheek. “What do they want?”
“It’s usually different stuff, but right now, they just want you to leave.” There was something in Torren’s tone and the way his eyes softened that gave Aslan hope. “Do you think I’m crazy?”
“No, Aslan, I don’t think you’re crazy. Do they ever hurt you?”
“I get headaches sometimes.” Aslan shrugged. He thought it was probably more from the constant noise than because the voices in his head were trying to hurt him, but he wanted to be honest with his mate.
Torren nodded thoughtfully for a moment before he smiled weakly. “Go back to sleep now,
“You’re leaving? Will you come back?” Aslan didn’t want to appear needy, but it wasn’t fair! Everyone else got to be happy. Why not him?
“I’ll come see you tomorrow night. I promise.” Then he bent forward and brushed his lips over Aslan’s forehead.
It wasn’t a real kiss, and it felt more like cool air than warm lips, but Aslan’s insides melted at the gesture. “I’ll wait up for you,” he promised in return.
“Just rest,” Torren whispered. “We’ll see each other very soon.”
“Why the hell didn’t anyone tell me that Aslan is a witch? And a fucking Limina at that?” Torren prowled about Stavion’s office, throwing his hands in the air in explosive movements while he raved at the coven leader.
“A what?” Stavion sat calmly behind his desk, reclined in his chair with his fingers carded together and resting on his chest.
The vampire’s lack of urgency pissed Torren off, though he knew he was overreacting. Knowing didn’t dissipate any of his anger, though. “A Limina!” he shouted, as though if he said it loud enough it would suddenly make sense.
Raven chuckled as he leaned against the wall and shook his head.
“We heard what you said, asshole. What is a Limina, though?” The Enforcer was right. They weren’t going to get anywhere if Torren didn’t calm his ass down and start making sense to everyone but himself. Sucking in a deep breath, he forced himself to stop his nervous pacing and exhaled in a great whoosh. “Aslan is a witch.”
“Yeah, we got that,” Raven said with a snort. “If you want to know why we didn’t tell you, I can give you two reasons. Number one is because it’s none of your fucking business since you just abandoned him. Number two is because we didn’t know. I’m not even sure if
Torren wanted to argue that he hadn’t abandoned Aslan, but none of the people in the room would understand, so he didn’t waste his breath. “He’s not just any witch, though. He’s a Limina, a Mortuos Limina.”
“Translation?” Cassius looked merely curious as he lounged in one of the armchairs.
“Mortuos Limina translates literally to ‘the threshold of the dead.’
Aslan is the threshold, the Limina. He’s like this portal or gateway between the realms of the living and dead.” Well, that finally seemed to get everyone’s attention. Stavion sat forward in his chair and rested his elbows on his desk. “What does that mean?”
“He’s hearing voices in his head. I don’t think he knows what they are, though. He just thinks he’s crazy.” If anyone questioned when Torren had spoken to Aslan or how he knew these things, they didn’t interrupt to ask. “He’s hearing spirits trapped in Purgatory.”