“You need to get downstairs, Rogue,” Kassien’s words came out breathless. It wasn’t that many damn steps to get up here. “Now.” I sensed him skitter down the hall and he had to have flown down the steps with how fast he made it down.
I sighed deeply and ripped myself out of my mental hunt for Cyran. She didn’t want me to find her. She hated me because of him. I sat up and glanced around the room for the shirt I had crumpled up and thrown somewhere before falling asleep. It wasn’t in sight and I didn’t feel like rummaging under the bed or rifling through near empty drawers for one. I shrugged as I paced barefoot across the cool floors and unlocked my door, taking a deep breath before I unshielded myself from my small amount of privacy.
Just as I took the first step of the staircase toward the crowded living area, I heard her voice.
“Hurry.” It was Cyran. I couldn’t mistake her voice after ten years of not hearing it, I sure as fuck couldn’t mistake it now. She sounded worried. I flew down the stairs.
“Prin-” I couldn’t even finish saying her nickname as all the air rushed out of my lungs in a contorted wheeze. Just seeing her took my breath away. What the fuck. I growled viciously at the sight of her and a deadly black rage danced along the edges of my vision.
She was facing me but her violet eyes were focused over my shoulder, as though she couldn’t even see me. Her stomach had grown considerably, and her arms were crossed protectively in front of her as she nervously chewed on her lower lip. The entire left side of her face was swollen and dangerously bruised, her eye almost swollen shut. There was a grotesque slit along her lips that needed stitches. Or me. Both of her arms were mottled with angry purple bruises. Small circles that circled her formarms and elbows, fucking fingerprints.
“Hurry,” she said more urgently, still looking behind me. She needed me.
I swiftly took a few steps towards her, my hands instinctively reaching out to her and she…disappeared. What the fuck was going on? I spun in my confusion, attempting to seek her out. The room was full with all of the house occupants, over fourteen Jatorrian men and two Human women standing around with concerned faces as they watched the scene unfold.
She appeared again in the same spot. Her teeth dug so deeply into her lower lip blood seeped profusely out of the gash that marred her face.
“Cyran?” I held out my hands again and took a step in her direction, but she wasn’t looking at me.
“It’s good now.” I would recognize Dev’s anywhere and I glanced around the room hurriedly in search of him, but I couldn’t see him anywhere…or sense him. I couldn’t sense Cyran either.
“The authorities have been trying to block the broadcast,” a gruff tone startled me back into the real world, and I turned to Learco in my confusion. The stout, brawny Jatorrian was here, and real, and familiar energy I had been living with for weeks now.
“Broadcast?” My eyes flitted from him back to Cyran. She seemed like she was looking at me now, but the grim set of her face just made the darkness around me creep and swirl as though I were caught in one of my nightmares. It was a hologram. She wasn’t really here.
“She’s been trying for a few minutes now to get a live broadcast out,” Learco shoved his chin in the direction of Cyran’s image.
She was back to looking behind me, but one of her battered arms had unwound from her pregnant belly and she held her hand out as though expecting someone to grab it. Someone did grab it. A man I didn’t recognize came into the frame and stood beside Cyran.
His gaze was locked onto Cyran’s hand and his jaw clenched tightly. He looked familiar. He had deep black Jatorrian hair and was taller than Cyran, although most people were, maybe he was just under my height. His skin wasn’t as bronzed as a Jatorrian’s, and he wore loose fitted clothes that seemed to drape over him as though he were trying to hide in plain sight. His face was tilted slightly away from the device they were using to record themselves with, but the color of his eyes were wild and strikingly distinct. He had bright yellow irises. Inhuman and injatorrian. Significant and intently set on Cyran’s fingers that were interlocked with his.
“My family has been attacked,” Cyran stated clearly and rubbed at her stomach. She tipped her chin into the air as if in defiance, daring the fucking world to come at her. Her violet eyes blazed as she stopped gnawing on her lip to bare her teeth viciously. “I am Cyran, daughter of Kassra.” She seemed to puff up with her self recognition and her beaten body may have been defeated, but she was far from losing any fight she decided to face. My lip tipped up into a slight smirk for her, as she stood fuck knows where and spoke to anyone that would listen. Well fuck, she had my attention.
“What happened?” I muttered under my breath, taking stock and sweeping over Cyran’s purple and black stained body. I needed to be there. I squinted at her stomach, wishing I could bore through the thin t-shirt she wore and check if there was any bruising along the stretched skin. Was the baby okay?
“My family was attacked,” Cyran repeated and focused her gaze directly on me, the violets of her eyes bruised and pained. She was sad. Where the fuck was the older me? “Because of this,” she let go of her tight grip on her stomach and motioned over the baby nestled comfortably in her body. My teeth ground together at the thought of anyone laying their hands on her, on a pregnant fucking woman. “Because of this.” She raised her eyes and drew her fingers over her violet eyes. “And it’s not going to stop. They’re going to keep coming, and we are going to keep fighting.” She paused for a long second, not to steady herself, but to let the weight of her next words carry across galaxies. “They’re going to come for you.”
I could feel the nervous agitation as it rippled across the room I stood frozen in. Deep whispered grumbles as the Jatorrian men I had found refuge with murmured their opinions to each other.
“The Jatorrian’s who feel entitled to your wives, your daughters, your sisters,” she paused and her eyes widened, so concentrated on mine, as if she really could see me. “Your best friends.” I hopped from foot to foot, needing her to finish and tell me where she was. “They’ll hunt down any pure-blooded woman left in hiding. They’ll take any partial Jatorrian woman who feels safe. And when none of that works, when they realize their sciences aren’t producing children, they’ll start taking Human women.”
The wave of murmurs around the room grew sharper, words weaponized in defense of the few Human women who stayed with us. Where are you, Princess? My fingers fidgeted and I squeezed the pads of my fingertips together, needing to heal her. She couldn’t be at home, we didn’t have the technology to send a universal broadcast out. Who the fuck was that guy she was with?
I glared at his hand that tightly gripped hers. Where was Adriem? Why hadn’t he kept her safe? Adriem might be a devious asshole with plans to continue his ridiculous pure-blooded heritage, but he had one fucking job. Keep Cyran safe. The one thing he should be capable of. She was the one thing he proved he was willing to die for, even if his love was fake. My stomach knotted uncomfortably and I swallowed down a wave of nausea. Maybe he died in the fight. Whatever battle Cyran had just risen from, maybe my father didn’t make it out of the ashes. Even with as much as I hated him, the thought curled sickeningly inside me. “We are going to protect our family.” Cyran’s upper lip lifted in a snarl, and I was surprised she didn’t wince as the movement caused a fresh flow of blood from her lips. “We are going to protect our children, our sisters, and our partners.” A low growl vibrated up her throat. “And we challenge anyone who threatens our peace.” How the fuck somebody so tiny could appear so feirce, I would never know. But that was Cyran. She wasn’t scared of anything. “And we offer our protection and our unity to any family who wants to stand with us.” Oh fuck me, Princess.