The muscled Jatorrian swung his sword at me savagely, but not with any real skill. I was almost relaxed as I blocked every one of his blows with my own fire. He swiped at my neck, but I caught him with crossed swords. He dipped and stabbed at my abdomen, and I twirled my fire to slam into his. Frustrated by his slowness, he hacked at me, every blow glancing off my own energy as I simply deterred him from hitting me.
He fought me as if we wielded true swords. This wasn’t metal clanging against metal though. This was fire, licking flames made up of the energy that made ourselves. Countless hours training with Adriem at a young age hadn’t taught me much about swordsmanship, but I had learned that my will was stronger than most, and somebody else’s fire couldn’t restrain me.
I flitted to the Jatorrians side and without hesitation, cut my sword through the air, a precise swing aimed at his throat. He raised his sword to block me, the Jatorrian greens of his eyes gleaming with his false confidence.
My jaw clenched shut and all of the muscles in my arm strained as our swords collided, sparks of fire hot energy chipped away by the slamming force. I braced the weight of his resistance in my arms, and gritted my teeth as I pushed through his fire. For a short moment, his sword engulfed mine, molten energy dripping and pliable as we smashed them together. My energy flared with the Jatorrians struggle. I was stronger. Ercole had been right, weak men couldn’t fucking handle me.
I grunted with my next shove of pure will, my sword sliding out of the entangled mixture of our extended energies. We weren’t fighting with metal swords, and my sword cut straight through his. My opponent didn’t even have the time to register surprise as sharp fire sliced into his neck, burning and cutting his head clean off.
Blackness clouded my vision as my adrenaline overloaded my senses, too much for how devastatingly exhausted and stricken I already was. The man thrashed over me, dying, but still alive. His knee collided with the side of my abdomen and when I doubled forward to curl myself into the fetal position, his head smashed into the side of mine. Fuck, that hurt. Pain fractured up my jaw and my body throbbed in defeat. But that was okay, the dead man collapsed on top of me; no longer a threat.
Before the dead weight could settle too comfortably on me, he was lifted off and I watched dazed as his body was tossed to the side.
“Madame?” Warm hands brushed along my neck. I sucked in a breath of air to ensure he wasn’t choking me, and coughed at the rawness of it. “Madame, what can I do? Where have you been hurt?” The fingers prodded at my neck, his thumbs brushing along the soreness of my jaw.
A deep moan parted my lips, and it felt damn good. I could take care of myself. The smug thought flitted across my mind as I envisioned how pissed off Mayko would be for missing all the fun.“Help!” The man above me called out. I narrowed my eyes and glared at him. I didn’t need fucking help. “Help!” He shouted out again, frantically looking toward the house. When he looked back down, I knew exactly who he was.
“Hey, Char,” I kept my voice low enough to insinuate that we needed to be stealthy, but I didn’t really care. I would rather the men storm into our room first, I was pretty certain we were the only ones awake. “Wanna play a game?” We needed to distract any of the intruders long enough so Cyran would have enough time to escape. We just needed to keep her safe until her daughter was born; and births weren’t on the forecast for tonight, so death couldn’t be either.
“What kind of game?” Every word shook as they fell off her tongue, but her tone raised in excitement. “Is it dangerous?” Her emerald eyes glanced at our bedroom door and her small chest rose and fell rapidly as imagination stole over her reality.
“Very.” I stood to get her attention back on me, I only had a few seconds to discuss lifetimes of battle tactics the demon and I had perfected over time. Some of it was in there somewhere. The lives we had already lived together, the fights we had conquered, the enemies we had slain.
“You know that’s why I did what I did,” Ronan said cheerily, the rest of his melancholy falling away like autumn leaves. Memories of Ronan calling out to me, stabbing the man who had been holding my Charlotte, and bravely distracting Achilla flooded me. “I owed you. You’ve saved me a thousand times before.”
His statement cut into me with the gravity of his words. A thousand times before. Not just one other future to a timeline we had never seen, or maybe even a second… It seemed Ronan and I had known each other much longer than I could have ever comprehended; and he somehow remembered every single life together. Which meant I had those memories… somewhere in this crowded head of mine.
I guess time is funny like that. The more of it we have, the harder it is to remember yesterday. Except yesterday isn’t really gone and tomorrow is never promised.
“I haven’t met that many women.” Adriem leaned into me. I arched my back toward him to press the swell of my breasts into his chest and he grunted in appreciation. “But none of the women I have met, whether they wanted me or not, have made the words I’ve read or the things I wanted to feel come alive… until I pulled an unbreakable woman into my arms, on top of a hill, under the stars. I think a part of me was always waiting for you, Cy.”
With that simple statement, his short history of patience and hope, Adriem claimed what was left of my heart. It was an incredible feeling, realizing just how deeply in love I had fallen.
The hysteria that turmoiled inside me had ebbed though. Whatever sacrifices I had made for Mayko, I was apparently still alive. And Rogue was selfless. He would do anything for us, he had done everything for us.
He always stood by our side when impossible battles arose. He had held me in my moments before death. When I had used the God stone to wish myself into nonexistence, he had been at my side prepared to die with me. He had gone after Achilla and was a prisoner on her nave after trying to get the same God stone back so I could come home. He had bonded with Charlotte to save her from Nikon’s nightmares. He had come home regardless of his fears to protect Lilah and James. He had travelled through time to change our past, to save us from the future he had to live.
Adriem had my heart, but Rogue had my faith.
“Whatever you need me to do,” Roe interrupted my thoughts, “you know I’ll do it.”
“There’s nothing for you to do right now.” Kit dropped her hands from my cheeks and faced Roe. “When the time comes, you’ll save her. I know it. I don’t know when. I don’t know how. All I know is that she needs you to save her, and you will.”
“Is he listening?” Roe’s eyes were narrowed to slits as he bore into me.
Adrenaline spiked through my body; between Mayko’s invasive stare and Roe’s animosity, my body was peaked to high alert. I pressed my knees into my stomach and wrapped my arms around myself. At my sudden nervousness, Adriem was listening, alert and present as he scrutinized the eyes on me through my thoughts.
“I am not Adriem’s son. And I am dangerous, no matter what time we’re in. I killed her. Thirty years from now, the daughter you’re pregnant with, doesn’t even get a breath in. She’s buried under the same poplar with Alex and Ronan.” Shadows clawed into his eyes, blackening the violets and while my body instinctually drew away from Roe, I felt a need to reach out to him before the darkness consumed him. “Don’t defend me. My own fucking son is here, in this time, to protect you from me.”
“Convincing yourself isn’t going to win this fight.” My voice rang out, but I sure as hell hadn’t been the one to speak.