Dang, dang, dang! She’d have to do something about that bleeding herself or he was going to die.
She got up and eased over a little at a time until she was next to him, then dropped down on her knees with Brutus at her side. “I have no idea what to do with lightning bolt cuts. I need bandages and disinfectant.”
A first aid kit appeared on the other side of her. “Now you want to help?” she asked the rock, exasperated.
Inside the kit, she found everything clearly marked. Using a pair of scissors in shaking hands, she carefully cut away his T-shirt until she had the entire thing off his chest. Skin around the shoulder injury and on the side of his chest was red and swollen. She tried to be careful and not hurt him when she dressed the wounds.
By the time she was finished, sweat lined her brow, but her hands had stopped shaking. She cleaned up the mess and deposited everything in the kitchen, then went looking for a blanket to cover him with. Not that her old house was cold in the middle of August, but anyone who went through serious injuries would be chilled from a shock reaction.
Humans would be. Was this guy human?
Her faithful Brutus hung close the entire time, giving her a sense of protection. She kept the rock close, too, but when she reached the living room with the blanket hooked inside one arm she paused before putting the rock in her baggy pants pocket so she could have a clear look at this Vyan from standing above him.
The two braids running along the sides of his angular face gave him a dangerous rogue look. His nut brown skin, shoulder-length black hair and strange accent made her think Mediterranean, but the shape of his eyes and thick lashes hinted at Chinese ancestry somewhere in his background. He sure as heck wasn’t your everyday guy.
But that beautiful chest of his could belong to a fireman or a soldier or a guy who just enjoyed working out in the gym.
She’d never been so close to perfection in a male body, or to many men at all.
But this one carried a sword that looked older than time and fought lightning bolts.
Sliding the rock into her pocket, she shook out the blanket and covered him up to his neck. When she reached to pull a pillow off the couch, her gaze stumbled at the sword lying on the floor. She slipped the pillow under his head, then walked around the room, closing the curtains just in case anyone looked in.
The sword rested too close to him even if he was out cold.
She tiptoed over and reached down to see if she could lift the huge thing, and a sizzle of energy ran along the handle as if in warning.
Yanking her hand back, she scooted around his supine body and turned toward her bedroom, planning to blockade herself inside.
A sound from the floor stopped her.
She stood dead still, heart racing, then looked over her shoulder at her patient.
His chest moved with soft breaths, less pained than before she’d bandaged him. She must be tired to think he’d made that sound. He was too wiped out to move. “Come on, Brutus.”
Vyan stayed perfectly still until the young woman was out of the room. When a door down the hallway closed, he opened his eyes.
He had kept his eyes shut when he’d awakened at hearing her close by, telling her dog to be careful around him. He’d almost laughed when she’d tried to get the stone to heal him, though he would have appreciated being mended at the time, since the cuts in his body burned.
That was only until this angel had ignored her fear and put her gentle hands on him. He tried to remember the last time a woman had touched him with care. Something deep inside his chest was unleashed, a yearning for what he’d once had many years ago.
Why was that angel caught in this dangerous circle of trouble?
Lifting his head, he looked all around until he saw his sword lying a couple feet away. Close enough to reach.
He would protect his angel, and the best way to do that would be by getting that rock out of her hands.
By the time Trey’s house was in view a half block away, sweat gleamed across Evalle’s face and upper body, and not just from the heat still rolling through Atlanta at midnight. Her skin pebbled with a feverish chill.
The back of her leg was on fire. Muscles twitched and curled in her body.
She fought the urge to change into a beast. Every instinct was telling her she’d heal from the wound if she did, but making that mistake in view of the team would seal her fate with the Tribunal.
She kept hobbling along the sidewalk and chanced a quick look at Storm. He hadn’t said another word after she’d forbidden him from using any majik to help her. His long fingers were balled into fists.
He must have felt her eyes, because his gaze cut over to her. “You don’t have to be in this much pain. I could ease it before you get around the team.”
“Thanks, but no.” She didn’t trust anyone to take control of her emotions or her sensory abilities. Not even someone she’d allowed to kiss her.
Did that make me a control freak? Damn straight.
Men who offered to take care of her were dangerous.
The doctor her aunt had worked for had visited Evalle in the basement from the time she was eight until she was fifteen. He’d been her only friend. He’d promised not to hurt her when he’d performed her first female physical exam.
He’d said he was there to take care of her.
And he hadn’t hurt her. His touch had been clinical and his words had soothed her anxiety.
She hadn’t found out he’d been lying all along until the next house call after that, a week later, when he’d wanted to talk to Evalle about her test results. Her aunt had given the thirty-four-year-old family doctor keys to her house and to Evalle’s basement room so he could make a stop while her aunt had been working in his medical center.
He’d taken that private opportunity to give Evalle a hands-on lesson in his twisted fantasy.
“You have to get the Noirre venom out of your leg before you lose control,” Storm said, breaking her free from reliving that nightmare again. “I can see you fighting it.”
Her skin was clammy and cold in spite of the perspiration. She tightened her stomach muscles, anything to keep what was fighting to get out locked down. Cartilage along her forearms hardened and rippled beneath her skin. She gritted her teeth and clenched her fists until the ridges along her arms dropped back to normal skin and muscle. She’d explain the torn sleeves as having happened during battle, which was true.
“I can control myself,” she gritted out. “Tzader will know what to do.”
Tzader and Quinn were the only two she trusted not to say a word to Sen, who could use the Noirre majik infection as a way to put her into quarantine.
When she reached the walkway to the old Victorian house that Trey’s wife and sister-in-law owned, Evalle searched the group of people clustered on the veranda stretching from corner to corner across the front.
Tzader must have sensed her coming, because he and Quinn both broke off from their conversation with Trey and hurried down the steps to meet Evalle on the sidewalk.
“What’s wrong?” Tzader was staring at her, but that question had been directed at Storm.
“Not a big deal—,” she started saying, but Storm cut her off.
“She was attacked by a possessed ghoul that stabbed her. She’s got purple coming out of her leg with blood that smells like rotten oranges. Could be Noirre majik. We need to get that infection out now.”
“Where were you?” Quinn asked Storm in a voice harboring vicious undertones.
“Chasing three more ghouls. When I realized they might have been sent just to split us up, I tried going back to where I’d left Evalle, but something was blocking me from reaching the south end of the park. Someone had spelled the area to prevent anyone from interfering. I tried calling you on the cell, but it wouldn’t work. I don’t know who she battled besides the ghoul. She wouldn’t tell me that or let me touch her leg.”
She didn’t have to tell him a damn thing. “My leg’s fine and I’m reporting to Trey, not you.”
Storm turned a glare on her so hot it should have baked her face brown. “You’re getting that venom out of your leg first before you do another thing if I have to hold you down myself.”
She shoved close to him and paid for it with a sharp blade of pain up her leg. She croaked, “Try it and you’ll die.”
“You couldn’t kick a snowman’s ass right now.”
Quinn piped up. “He has a point.”
The chiding in his voice snapped her last straw. “Do not side with him.”
“We’re not taking sides,” Tzader said, but before she could feel relief at that he added, “but he’s right. We’re getting that venom out of your leg.”
She took a breath and dropped her voice. “I don’t want to tell the others about being infected with Noirre majik. They might think I can’t hold my human form.”
Storm could have busted her then, but he didn’t. She lifted her eyes to his, expecting more argument, but he actually looked … worried. How much of that was true and how much was him just doing what he’d been brought in to do?
Lucien was standing on the porch with his back to them. “We heard everything, Evalle. The only person on the team without exceptional hearing is Casper when he’s not in his Highland warrior form, but he isn’t even here right now.”
She leaned passed Tzader to see the rest of the team and Trey’s sister-in-law, Rowan, watching her from the veranda.
Oh, great, once again I’m the entertainment for the night.
“Nobody’s turning you over to Sen,” Tzader assured her.
“Not until after they find out what I know about the rock,” she said, sensing defeat hanging around the corner waiting for her.
“Don’t underestimate how much the team doesn’t like Sen either,” Quinn interjected.
“She thinks she’s the only one with Sen problems,” Storm interjected. “That everyone is her enemy except you two and she has to fight every battle alone to prove she’s as capable as she is pigheaded.”
His sarcastic dig jacked up her hackles again. She turned on him, but Tzader caught her by the arm. “Let’s get up on the porch, killer, and see what we can do with that leg.”
She hated handing control over to anyone.
“Don’t make me use my majik,” Storm warned her. “You’ve stretched the outer boundaries of my control by making me watch you limp in pain for a mile. Get up there or I will carry you.” He walked ahead of her up to the porch.
Her mouth fell open. Was Storm really that worried about her being injured?
“My, my, that’s interesting.” Quinn’s voice switched to mild curiosity. He looped his arm around her waist. “Lean on me, sweetheart.”
When she reached the top landing, Quinn swung her to the left side of the porch and settled her on a wooden swing wide enough for three people.
Rowan came to squat down by Evalle’s injured leg. “Been a long time since I’ve seen you. Sorry it isn’t under better circumstances.”
“Me, too. How’s Sasha?”
“Sleeping. Ready to have the baby. Trey doesn’t want her around any of this.”
The last time Evalle had been around Rowan was before Trey had married her sister. Of the two witch sisters, Rowan was the more powerful of the two, but they were white witches. “Can you get the Noirre majik out of my leg, Rowan?”
“I don’t know. We’re not supposed to go near any form of black majik, but that might not apply to drawing it out of a wound. Let me try to touch it first.” Rowan waited until Tzader gently lifted Evalle’s leg, then turned her hand palm up beneath the gash in Evalle’s jeans. She moved her hand up until her fingers were a half-inch away, then jerked her hand back with a hiss. “The Noirre is burning my skin.”
Trey had been watching. “What about you, Lucien? Can you draw out the venom like you pulled the insanity out of Rowan that time she was possessed?”
Rowan had been possessed by an evil spirit two years ago when Trey had battled Vyan.
Lucien said, “No, I can’t. That possession had originated with the Kujoo magician. I can’t overturn something spelled by a witch.”
Evalle didn’t miss the intimate look that passed between Rowan and Lucien for a fleeting second. Word was he did not like witches, white, black or any other kind. But he liked something about Rowan.
Storm gave Lucien an assessing once-over. “How do you know it’s spelled by a witch?”
Lucien’s face barely changed when his lips turned up with an arrogant smile. “I just do.”
Surprise lit several faces on the porch, Evalle’s being one. She’d heard that Lucien had faced off with Rowan once when she’d been possessed and had gone airborne to attack. He’d stopped her by just putting his hand against her chest, then he’d drawn the dark energy out of her long enough for her to regain control.
Rowan lifted disappointed eyes to Evalle. “I’m sorry. But if I can’t help you, maybe …” She looked across her shoulder, past the men on either side of her, toward the far end of the porch.