“River,” I called out to him, and he turned to us as we pushed through the water to reach him.
The moment I reached River, he stood there, not embracing me, but blinking at me. When I reached out for him, he pulled back from me, and my insides curdled.
“River, whatever happened in the water wasn’t real,” I explained, needing him to snap out of it.
“We were hallucinating,” Hendrix muttered. “Our trials were a test to see if we’d accept the sacrifices for Syn.”
The tremble in my body intensified as I thought about how they were made to feel like parts of them were taken from them for me.
River blinked, then ran a hand over his face. “So, you haven’t left me?” His voice choked.
I burst out with a crazed sounding laughter, the moment of utter confusion and chaos scattering my emotions.
“I would stalk you down if you ever left me,” I admitted.
Hendrix and Capsian remained close by my side, pressed close, their arms wrapped around me. So I reached out for River, needing him with us.
The darkness shrouding his expression moments earlier faded, and whatever illusion blurred his thoughts seemed to clear from his eyes.
He collected my hand into his as he stepped closer.
And the moment he did, an explosive burst of water shot upward from around us, throwing us all apart. Something smacked into me too, throwing me backward.
Ghostly hands grasped me around my middle and dragged me under the water.
I thrashed my arms and legs wildly, but nothing I did lifted me back to the surface. Air bubbles rushed from my mouth in my scream.
Movement above the water revealed my three men looking down at me, desperately hitting the water but never reaching me. It seemed as though I was in a bubble and they were locked outside, unable to find their way to me.
And I decided then that fighting this might be the wrong answer. My men were tricked in this water, so what if this was the same?
With every inch of strength, I lay back down on the lake floor, my eyes wide and watching my panicked alphas try to reach me. My lungs screamed for air. But I tried to quiet my mind.
What do you want from me?
No response came.
Silence. It pulsed in my head as loudly as my heartbeat.
A tingle ran up my fingers, and I lifted my hands in front of my face to where emerald sparks danced around them. Beautiful. The shine spread down my arms, buzzing across my skin like ants and needles. Then it raced across my body, engulfing me, and circled around my stomach. It warmed me, stealing away the cold.
The corners of my eyes were darkening now, and I knew I was close to passing out from suffocation, yet instead of panic, a calmness came over me. And yet it was strange knowing that all would be alright.
Laying my hands on my stomach, I felt the strong kick of a baby. That simple act had me tearing up, and I desperately wanted to share it with the three men who brought love into my life.
I curled upward, wanting to scream with joy that I hadn’t lost my baby. The small kick came two more times. I stilled, smiling up at the guys who frantically beat at the water to reach me.
If I wasn’t in the water, they’d see my tears. I reached out, needing them.
At that moment, two things happened.
The voice in my head whispered, you will always sense the truth in someone’s heart.
Then the water suddenly rushed around me in a dizzying effect. Suddenly, those ghostly hands pushed me upward with such force that I broke free from the water and higher up. For a few seconds, I hung suspended in the air, looking down at my three men, the green glow centered around my stomach. Then just as quickly, I fell back down, causing a huge splash.
Powerful hands dragged me back to the surface. It was a frantic madness with them screaming to not let me go, to get me out of the water. I didn’t fight it and soon found myself cradled in my men’s arms, looking into their frightened gazes.
I smiled to reassure them, dripping wet and trembling, and said, “I think everything is going to be alright now.”
“How are you feeling?” Hendrix asked, distress painted across his face. He stroked the side of my face tenderly, and I loved it when he looked at me like only I existed in his world.
“I felt our baby kick,” I gushed, and those tears of happiness came again. “I didn’t lose the baby.” Then I was full-on crying from all the pent-up stress and tension. “I felt the little kicks. It was so beautiful."
River and Caspian immediately reached over and laid a hand on my stomach as if hoping to catch the moment.
I did my best to hold onto whatever part I could reach, bringing us all close together.
The beaming smiles on their faces had me choking up with emotions. Hope filled me as I stared at my three alphas. “I think I’m ready to leave this lake,” I murmured.
River laughed and it sounded beautiful. Yet, all three refused to let me go, so they carried me out of the lake. At the shore, they placed me on my feet.
“Okay, grab your clothes and let’s never return here again,” ordered Hendrix.
They moved quickly to collect clothes, and I walked over to my discarded shoes, pressing my hands to my stomach, completely smitten. I was distracted… So much so that I hadn’t noticed the danger lingering right behind me until it was too late.
I sensed the prickle of something sharp on the back of my neck, and I snapped around only to come face to face with a blade coming right for my face.
My heart thundered in my ears, and I jutted out of the way, the weapon biting across my cheek and drawing blood, as it barely missed completely sinking into me. I flung my arm outward in reaction, knocking the knife out of her grasp.
I was screaming out of pure shock to find the witch who had helped me with the bracelet laced with dark magic attacking me.
What the hell?