“Looks like we have company,” Caspian murmured under his breath just loud enough for Hendrix and me to hear.
I raised my head and looked out toward the other end of the beach of Dorse Island where yachts glided in and out of the harbor dropping off guests.
“They’re holding a fucking party. Hip hip hooray, this is one function they won’t forget for a long time,” I growled, the bandaged wound suddenly pinching across my middle. I gritted my teeth, riding the pain. At least it wasn’t as bad as last night after I’d been left to die on the shore.
Memories I wanted to forget lashed my mind, mostly blurred by the excruciating torment of being shot in the gut. I couldn’t stop them from bulldozing over me.
Inky black water. It splashed up my knees, its icy touch like claws digging into my flesh. Night engulfed me. Where the fuck am I?
I swore I heard my name in the wind when a huge wave crashed into me. It came fast and unexpected, wiping me out. I lost my footing and fell into its grasp, my head plunged underwater as I scrambled to fight the tide that tried to wrench me out to sea.
Panic gripped me. It swallowed me as I was thrown back to my childhood. To when Father tried to drown us, to kill us. Terror clutched my chest, and I beat my arms and legs, needing to escape. To get away.
“Demon, you will die!” my father cried out hysterically.
Daddy no! Please no! I screamed in my head.
I frantically tried to find purchase in the sand shifting beneath my feet. I swallowed the salty water, leaving me to choke. My head swam with confusion, unable to discern between the present and the past. I kept waiting to see Hendrix and Caspian in the water. For my brother to finish our father. To turn into his monster.
But none of that came. Only the water that kept dragging me under and under.
Pushing myself forward, I crawled against the pull of the water, completely drenched, coughing, but the tide was relentless. My muscles ached while disorientation had the world tilting on its axis.
Someone was suddenly at my side, tugging on my arm to help me get out of the water. I glanced up at the most beautiful face. The moon behind her made her appear almost angelic and glowing. For those few seconds, I let myself believe it might be an angel coming to collect my pitiful soul from having drowned.
She shifted, and I saw her face clearly.
“Syn?” I finally said, gasping for air, my head spinning as I tried to make sense of what happened. Trying to recall how I got out of my room because it had been a long time since I walked in my sleep. “I was asleep. I almost drowned myself,” I sputtered the words along with water.
She helped me up, and I wrapped my arms around this gorgeous girl with magenta hair that glowed in the moonlight and caught in the breeze. My savior, she peered up at me, smiling, but worry flared behind those gorgeous eyes.
She went on to tell me she’d seen me from her window and came to me.
I blinked, staring around at the mansion and walls, noting there were no signs of our guards. “How did no one stop me?” I murmured, mostly to myself as I stumbled on my feet, moving away from the water.
But something felt off. The hairs on my nape lifted. Where were the guards?
“Something’s not right,” I said, holding Syn close to my side, scanning the mansion as we moved closer toward it. “We need to get–”
The familiar sound of a gun being cocked came too quickly from behind us for me to react.
The shadows around us suddenly took a life of their own. They moved with a blur. Syn was snatched from me, her cry throttling me.
I whipped around just as something sharp and hard whacked into my gut. Something so fast and painful that it threw me off my feet. I grunted, clutching my stomach, feeling the warmth of blood pouring out of me. And the last thing I recalled was hearing Syn’s cries in the night as darkness inhaled me.
“River.” Caspian shoved a hand into my shoulder, wrenching me out of my thoughts. “Are you going to pass out?”
I blinked at him at first. “What?”
“You’ve got that glazed-over look in your eyes. If you can’t do this, then go back to the boat.”
My shoulders reared back. “Fuck that. Get out of my way,” I growled and shoved past him. I wasn’t 100% fixed just yet, but my wolf side healed fast. And nothing in this fucked up planet would make me miss out on delivering justice to the assholes who shot me and stole Syn.
My chest burned up at the thought, but with it came something else…guilt. It cut through me that under my watch, I didn’t protect Syn enough. I let her get captured. And that shit was destroying me.
I grew up watching my prick of a father beat us up, especially Hendrix. And at the time, as terrified as I’d been, I made myself a promise: I’d never let anyone I cared for get hurt. But I’d fucked up with Syn, hadn’t I?
They ambushed us on the beach, and regret was slowly killing me.
I should have done more. Should have torn them apart. Fuck. I clenched my hands, fury hammering in my chest.
Hendrix suddenly signaled for us to follow him amid the myriad of palm trees covering the island. With a wave of his hand to his three dozen guards at our rear, he sent them round the back of the mansion. The dozen guards vanished into the shadows.
“Let’s move,” I uttered, wanting this as much as I needed oxygen. I had to get Syn, had to make them pay.
Night concealed us, and considering the number of attendees, our infiltration would be easier than we anticipated.
We’d left our boat just off shore, the skipper taking it far enough to not raise suspicions. The plan was set in motion, and this little shindig would only help us conceal ourselves among the sheep.
“Maybe we’re not so underdressed,” Caspian commented, his attempt at a joke falling flat. We were all in black for a reason, and it just happened that it matched the guests.
“We’re not going inside to mingle with them,” I snarled, still agitated as hell to know that Syn was in there somewhere, god-knows-what was happening to her, and we were still out here.
“Chill the fuck out,” Caspian hissed. “Don’t lose your shit. We work better as a team. Remember that.”