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.The smell of gasoline filled his nostrils, acrid and threatening.All at once, he jolted to alertness, remembering what had happened.They’d gone over the side of the mountain—he had lost control of the truck after carrying out his attackers’ “orders”.“Hayden! Oh, God, baby.” He tried to sit up, but the truck had flipped and they were upside down.He reached for Hayden, who was unconscious just as he had been before.Surely he was alive.Surely he was still breathing.With desperate, shaking hands, Josh felt for his lover’s wrist once again, knowing that if he didn’t find a pulse, he would die, too.In his soul.Hayden’s hand was covered in blood.Where was Hayden bleeding? Josh wondered in a panic, only to realize the blood had come from his own sticky hand.His own injuries were irrelevant, though, because the only thing that mattered was the reedy, thin pulse he felt beneath his fingertips.“Hayden,” he murmured, beginning to sob.“I’m going to get you out of this.I’m going to save you and protect you.I promise you, baby.” He pressed a kiss to Hayden’s battered temple and murmured the words as a heartfelt pledge.Somehow, despite their remote location—despite all that had been done to them—he would make sure his mate was safe.Not just from the night’s violence, but for all time.Chapter ElevenPresent dayHayden approached the small house that Kira shared with her brother.Even though he’d never been back to the place since that fated night five years earlier, he was well aware that she’d moved in with Josh shortly after all the shit came down.And had never moved out.Staying on, he guessed, to make sure Josh ate decent meals between shifts.Thank God he’d had her, Hayden thought, his chest tightening at the thought of how much his mate had suffered in the past five years.He pulled down the wooded drive that wound to the back of the house, and released a sigh of relief when he spotted Kira’s pickup truck.Inspecting himself in the rearview mirror, he hated how haggard he looked, too thin after the weeks spent in wolf form.Running quick hands over his hair, he smoothed it one more time and, heart jackhammering, stepped out of the SUV.Slowly he approached the back steps to the house, memories flashing through his mind like strobe lights.A blinding headache began pounding behind his eyes as he saw himself racing up these same steps, remembered the crippling fear he’d experienced as the men had followed him into the driveway.He stopped, unable to walk forward for a moment as he felt their rough hands on him…and saw those same rough hands manhandling Josh.He pressed a hand to his eyes, moaning low in his throat—then growling as he kept seeing the violent bastards, kept remembering how they’d harmed his mate.“No,” he swore in a guttural tone, burying his face in both hands.“It’s all in the past.”“But Joshua needs you now.”Kira’s unexpected words jolted him, making him yelp slightly in surprise.Dropping his hands away from his face, he found her standing inside the door, holding it open for him.Bright, cheery light spilled out from the kitchen behind her, making it hard to read her features, but he’d have sworn she wore a shocked expression.“How could you stay away like this? For so long?” Kira demanded quietly, still standing in the open kitchen door.“Don’t you know how it’s been killing him?”Her words were a quiet accusation, and Hayden hung his head.Yes, he was well aware that the past few weeks must have taken a harsh toll on Josh, but they’d been necessary.She stared down at him.“He’s convinced you’re dead, Hayden.That’s how bad the situation is.How bad of a shape he’s gotten himself into.”“It killed me, too.Keeping away from him, but I had to reclaim my memories.It was the only way we could have a future together.” Hayden stared past her, into the house’s warm interior.He kept looking up at those welcoming kitchen lights, hating that a simple house could fill him with so much terror and dread—even as it reawakened memories of his mating night, of falling deeply in love.Kira planted hands on her hips, clearly prepared to confront him.“Are you back for good now, Hayden? Because if you’re not ready to be with Josh—really be with him—then you better stay away,” she persisted.“I don’t think he could handle you showing up and taking off again.I really don’t.”He swallowed, feeling his eyes burn.“I…I haven’t gone to him yet.”“He won’t be home for another three hours.He’s still at the station.”“I know.I drove by there like…damn, at least ten times trying to get up the nerve to go inside, and that’s when I realized I had to come here.”“You’re going to wait for him to get back? Because I can call him, and he’d be out of there in a heartbeat.”“I came to talk to you.”Kira blinked at him and gave a slow nod.“You have questions.”“I have to know if what I remember…if it’s…”“Hayden, it’s all true.It all happened [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]