The cereal-filled spoon that had been halfway to her mouth froze as she looked up from her breakfast to the man standing across the counter from her. A deep frown marred his forehead and his golden eyes were clouded. Not exactly the expression she was expecting to see when he finally proposed. But then again, it hadn’t been so much a proposal as it had been a demand. But after the night they had, she guessed she could hardly expect a smile. It took him two hours to wear himself out before he finally allowed her to go to sleep. She only had five hours of sleep and she was now very cranky. So as far as she was concerned, there was only one real response.
“No,” was all she said before shoving her spoon in her mouth. She ignored the gasp from one of the other occupants in the room as she chewed on her slightly mushy Frosted Flakes. She really did not like mushy cereal.
“Mia,” Sarah said tentatively when Mia said nothing further, “Nick just proposed. I think you might want to think about your answer again.”
“Nope,” Mia said as she stared back at the ice cold gaze that bore down at her, “Got it right the first time.”
“Mia, please,” Sarah begged softly as the air in the large room turned electric.
“The answer is still no,” Mia said firmly before turning away from Nick and concentrating as her cold breakfast.
“Why,” the word came out between his clenched teeth.
“First of all, that wasn’t a proposal. That was a demand. And second, you’re not asking me because you truly want to marry me, you’re asking me because you’re scared of losing me. A wedding ring on my finger isn’t going to change what’s happening,” Mia snapped as she held up her right hand where his wedding band still circled her thumb. “Marriage isn’t the answer for what’s troubling you so my answer is still no.”
Nick slammed his palm down on the granite counter, “This isn’t about what’s happening to you, this is about the two of us. And don’t make it sound like this is the first time I’ve brought up the subject of marriage. I’ve been asking since the day we got our memories back. But no matter what I say or do, you always push the subject aside. I’ve told you over and over again that I want you to be my wife. What is so damn hard about saying yes.”
Damn, he had here there, she thought with a scowl. He was right and they all knew it. But right now, Mia wasn’t in the mood to act like an adult and admit the truth, instead she went on the attack.
“Why are you so obsessed with us getting married? Isn’t it enough that I’m wearing your ring and sleeping in your bed? Hell, I’m sure every blood magic user alive knows we’re together. Isn’t one target on your back enough? Do you not remember my sister’s first wedding present to you? Because I sure as hell do. She left the pieces of your stallion in our wedding bed. The horse you raised and trained since birth. She cut the poor creature up in pieces and left it in our bed on our wedding night. Do you truly not understand how insane my sister is? Or just how obsessed she is with you?”
“I don’t care about Emily. I never cared about her. Let her play her games-“
“Her games killed the entire Stormrider Clan and our unborn child! My sister is insane. What don’t you understand about that? She will kill anyone and everyone we care about. You may be willing to risk her wraith, but I am not.”
“Nick, this is a woman who is not afraid to sacrifice the souls of her own children to create monsters for her eternal army. She has no conscience, no morals. She doesn’t understand what love is. She will find everyone you ever cared about and she will sacrifice their souls to make sure you pay for wronging her.”
“She’s right,” Alexander commented from his seat at the dinning table. His gray eyes bloodshot, his hands wrapped tightly around the coffee cup in front of him. “My mother feels no remorse of sorrow. She doesn’t see that she has done any wrong. She has been this way my entire life. If she was ever any other way, I have never known it.”
“Nikolas, maybe this is not the best time for this,” Nathaniel said as he gave his grandson a meaningful look, one that Mia didn’t miss nor understand. “It will be a very busy day and you have to be getting off to work soon. Why don’t you leave this discussion until you return home.”
“She needs protection, as my wife, the guild is honor bound to protect her with whatever power is necessary,” Nick said through clenched teeth as he stared down his grandfather.
“She is also Amelia Dragos. Something they will all too soon realize. Her face had become all to recognizable. The rumors have gotten around. Everyone knows that Theodora Dragos is dead and that Amelia has take over as head of the Clan,” Nathaniel reminded him sternly, “The Guild will offer no protection once they realize who she is.”
“Why would I need the guild’s protection?” Mia demanded to know as she turned back to Nick. “I’m one of the most powerful blood magic users alive. I have a Clan of a thousand who are blood bound to die for me. I don’t need protection from a group of magic users who would persecute my kind rather than offer assistance.”
“Tell her,” Nathaniel said as with a resigned sigh.
“Tell me what?” Mia looked to the others at the table for help. Sarah looked just as confused as she did and Alexander was too lost in his own grief to care for whatever was going on. He just looked between them all with his dull gray eyes, not caring one way or another.
“William took some of your blood yesterday while you were still unconscious to test what effects the change was having on your body,” Nick informed her with a scowl, “The results came back last night and he informed me that you can’t use your magic at all. If you do, it will kill you. The transformation was enough to keep you alive, but your awakened powers are too strong. If you were to use even a drop of your magic, it will kill you.”
Mia’s mouth dropped open and she tried to process the news. They all knew it was a risk. Hell, she had known it was a risk to use her magic the night before, but she had still done it. If it meant saving Nick’s life and the lives of everyone she cared about, then she would gladly sacrifice her life and her soul. Their continued existence matter more to her then her own.
“Mia, you can’t use your magic at all,” Nick repeated as he reached out to grab her hand, wrapping his large fingers around her smaller wrist.
“If it means saving your life, then I will. I’m immortal. Even if I do die and I lose all my memories, I will still be born again,” She stated, not mentioning the fact that she already planned to sacrifice her soul to protect Nick soul’s anyway. Finding this out really didn’t change the outcome. It was startling to hear, that she literally was a ticking time bomb, but it didn’t make that much of a difference. She knew she was going to die and she what she was going to do before that happened.
“You don’t understand,” Nick said shaking his head and swearing, “If you die, yours will not be the only life that’s lost.”
Mia frowned at his words. She stared at his golden eyes, trying to understand what he was trying to tell her. Had he done something while she was unconscious? Had he someone how bound himself to her so that if she died, he died with her. Because if he did, she would never forgive him. She would find some way to break whatever bond he had created. There was no way she would let him die with her.
She opened her mouth to tell him so, but he beat her to the punch and spoke first.
“If you die, our child dies with you,” Nick said.
All thoughts froze as she stared at Nick blankly, absolutely sure she had heard him wrong. Her mouth still hung partially open as she blinked her eyes, someone hoping that when her eyes opened again she would find herself still in bed and that this whole morning had been nothing but a dream.
“Mia? Say something,” She heard the words, but they didn’t register to her. She was trying very hard the erase the earlier words she heard, because they had to be wrong. They had to be wrong. She was not going to do this again. She was not going to lose another child. And that is what would happen if she was pregnant. There was no way she would be able to keep the pregnancy a secret. Emily would come after her and she would kill her, child and all. If she couldn’t use her magic, she would be a sitting duck.
“Mia!” Nick’s grip tightened on her wrist painfully.
“No,” Mia said shaking her head as she yanked her wrist free and turned away from Nick, to find all the others watching her.
“Mia, please calm down and lets sit down and talk about this,” Nathaniel said as he got to his feet.
“No,” She repeated, “There is nothing to talk about because he’s wrong.”
“He ran the tests over and over again. They all came back positive,” Nick informed her.
“Then his tests are wrong,” Mia snarled as she whirled on him.
“He believes the reason your visions started was because of the changes the fetus was having on your body. The reason you kept seeing that one moment over and over again was because your subconscious realized that you were with child,” Nathaniel tried to explain calmly.
“I’m not pregnant,” Mia said through gritted teeth.
“Mia, if there is even the smallest possibility that you could be pregnant, we should find out if it could be true. We could take you to my OB-GYN and she could confirm William’s suspicions. She’s not connected to the guild and doesn’t need to know anything more than a name we give her. I’m sure William with all his connections could create a new identity for you. No one needs to know but us,” Sarah offered.
“No,” Mia said shaking her head. “He’s wrong.”
“If Mia says she’s not pregnant, I would believe her over William and his tests,” Alexander stated, surprising everyone in the room. All eyes turned to him, and he continued, “All the women in my family have known upon conception that they are with child. Adeline knew it the moment her twins were conceived. My sisters and daughters always knew the instant the child was created. Mia, being my biological daughter would have known the instant a child was conceived.”
Mia didn’t add in that she had also known the moment she felt Kai’s child come to life within her. Kai had been there, he had watched as the radiant smiled had blossomed on her lips the tears had gathered in her eyes. They had been trying for a child for so long after all the tragedy that they had gone through. Finally she would be able to give one to him, it had been one of the happiest moments of her life.
Nick frowned as he too remembered.
“Is there a chance, she could have missed something?” Sarah questioned.
“I would not know from experience, but I have been told it is something that a woman would not miss or mistake,” Alexander answered.
“And you truly felt nothing?” Sarah asked as she turned in Mia’s direction.
“No, I felt nothing,” Mia said firmly as she looked Nick in the eyes. His frown grew deeper.
“What a stubborn child you are,” William said with a long yawn as he walked in to the room and took a seat at the breakfast table next to Sarah. He began to pile food on the empty plate in front of him, ignoring the rest of them in the room as he served himself. Only once his plate was filled and a mug of steaming coffee was in front of him did he turn his attention back to Mia.
“You are mistaken,” Mia told him flatly, as he picked up a piece of bacon with his fork and bit down on a crispy end.
“And you’re in denial,” He said in between bites.
“I would have known,” Mia argued.
“Because he said so,” William smirked as he pointed the end of his fork at Alexander.
“No, because I would have known,” Mia replied heatedly.
“Have you or have your not have your period in the past thirty days?” William asked flatly, his bored expression told her he knew the answer. His smirk returned when his question was met with only silence, “Your body knows the truth even if your mind refuses to accept.”
“It doesn’t matter what you say, or what any of your tests say, I am not pregnant.”
“Good, then you won’t mind that I’ve sent for my best healer and a portable sonogram machine,” William said with a bright smile before spearing a large chunk of fried potato.
“You’re wasting your time and your money,” Mia said crossing her arms over her chest.
“Well, it’s a good thing that I have a lot of both,” He said with a dismissive smile as he turned away from her and turned his attention completely on his food.
“This is utterly ridiculous,” Mia said as she turned away from them all and headed back to the bedroom she and Nick shared.
“She’ll be here in an hour, make sure to wear something comfortable,” William called after her. She ignored him. She would know if she was pregnant. It didn’t matter what any of them said. She would know.
“Don’t you think it’s just a little childish to sneak out of a nice warm and cozy house to hide yourself here in this gloomy cave?” Ronan asked as he strolled in to the small chamber Mia had turned in to a sanctuary in the mountains behind Nathaniel’s home. When she had first come back a month ago, it had been nothing but dank cave. She had built a fire pit and dragged some rocks in for a place to sit. She hadn’t needed much. She had just needed a place to think.
When she had come back a few days later, there was no a camping cot tucked in one corner with a large waterproof duffle bag filled with blankets and extra close. There was even a small stainless steel cooler placed at the edge of the cot filled with dried and canned food. Nick had made sure she had everything she may need. He knew how important this place was to her and he wanted her to be safe, warm and well-fed.
He also knew that this was a place she came to be alone and to think. So she figured that was probably why Ronan was here and he wasn’t. He respected her privacy and her need to be alone, but he wasn’t above sending someone else to get her.
“You do realize that there is a houseful of people waiting for your return?” Ronan said as he took a set on the cot besides her. She said nothing but gave him a dark look.
“Yeah, yeah, I realize you probably came here to get away from the full house, but seriously, you’re acting like a spoiled brat right now,” Ronan informed her as he threw open the cooler beside him and began to browse through the contents. He dug around until he came up with a small sealed back of beef jerky. Slamming the cooler lid down with his elbow, he tore open the bag and pulled out a thick piece of jerky.
“You do know, that while you’re hiding out here, Nick is dealing with a house of worried and upset people. Your sisters are down there, wearing a hole in the kitchen floor from their pacing. Your crazy ass cousin is playing with her blood blades as she glaring at your mother and half-brother. My uncle is trying to calm my cousin who is worried you’re going to do something stupid and not only get yourself killed but your unconfirmed child as well. Not to mention that William’s men have practically taken over the house. His Enhanced Army is stalking the woods around the house, his Omega is guarding the cave entrance, and his healer team has taken over the den and set it up like a portable delivery room, not sure why, since if you are pregnant, this kid is like the size of pea.”
“Out of everyone in that house, how on earth was it decided that you would be the one they send up?” Mia asked with a scowl as she watched him eat her jerky.
“Oh, there was no voting,” Ronan informed her as gnawed on the thick piece of meat in his hand, “I just ducked out when no one was looking. I figured someone should come and get you before war breaks out or before Nick electrocutes either William or your biological father. Besides, Nick and I do have a job to do and he refused to leave for said job until it is confirmed on whether there is a bun in your oven or not.”
“Its a wonder your still single with the way you have with words,” Mia said with a roll of her eyes.
“Honestly, what are you worried about? You say your not pregnant and Alexander swears you’re right, so what you you hiding out here for? Just do the damn ultrasound and get it over with. Prove to everyone that your right,” Ronan said with a shrug, “And if your wrong and you are knocked up, what do you have to worry about. There is a very powerful group of people down there that would die to protect you and your child. It’s not like its the worst thing that could happen.”
“Have you ever been in love? I mean really in love? Not just lust or puppy love, but real, true love?” Mia asked as she gazed absently in the dancing flames in the middle of the small room.
Ronan was silent for a long time before he let out a terse, “No.”
“Love is such a scary thing,” Mia said softly as she pulled the thick wool blanket tighter around her shoulders as she leaned back against the smooth cave wall, “When your world suddenly revolves around a single being, all that matters to you is their happiness and safety. You’d do anything for them.”
“I know people say that that kind of love is wrong. That your life should never be about just one person. That there is more to life. But when you lived a life like me, when you lived in the darkness of your own heart for so long, you have no idea what that single spark of light means.”
“When I met Kai, I was at my lowest. My life had become meaningless. I thought I was going insane. I feared that I was turning in to my father and that there was no way to stop it. I was ready to end my life. I wanted to end it. There was nothing left for me.”
“And then suddenly he was there. He walked in to my life and he gave it meaning again. I walked away from my previous life without any hesitation. I left my clan to be with him. He became my life. Nothing else mattered as long as he was by my side. And the amazing thing was that he felt the same way for me that I felt for him. He came from a totally different background. He had a loving family. He had an amazing life, yet he still chose me. He was prepared to walk away from it all just to be with me. No one had ever loved me like that before. There wasn’t anything I wouldn’t give to be by his side for the rest of his life.”
“I had ten years, ten short years with him, and then he was gone,” Mia said softly. “He was there one moment and then he was gone. I kept thinking afterwards that things could have been different, that things should have been different. That he shouldn’t have died. If I hadn’t been pregnant, he would have been alive. He tried to protect me. He wouldn’t let me fight. He didn’t want me to use my magic, he was afraid it would hurt our baby. He died to protect his child.”
“In those first few days after he was gone, I resented the child we lost, the child I felt that he had cared more about then staying by my side. If he had let my fight beside him from the very beginning he would still be alive. Even if I lost the child, we would still be together. We could have tried for another child. I was so mad, so mad at him, mad at myself, and mad at the child we made together.”
Tears gathered in the corners of her eyes, “I was in such a horrible place those first few days. A part of me called for blood. If I hadn’t just taken the lives of every last Dragos in my clan, I would have gone out hunting the rest. I wanted someone to pay. I wanted them all the feel what I was feeling. I had lost everything and there was nothing left. It felt so much worse then before Kai entered my life. Back then, I hadn’t known what love was, now I did and it was gone.”
“You’re afraid,” Ronan said solemnly as he watched her.
“I can’t do it again,” Mia said shaking her head, “I won’t do it again. I lost him once because he thought he had to protect me. He’ll do it again because its all he knows. And if I am pregnant, it will be even worse. He’ll do something stupid again and I’ll have to watch him die again. He doesn’t understand that its already too late. He can’t save me and if he tries, it will just shorten the time we have together.”
“You’ve given up,” Ronan said, a scowl on his face.
She gave him a dark look, “I haven’t given up. I’ve accepted reality. I’m going to die. That is inevitable. There is no way we’ll find a way to put my soul back in to my body without waking up my father. The moment he wakes up, my sister will turn him in to her killing machine. At this point in time, we don’t have the man power or the magical power to stop him. He will kill anything and everything that is in his path. And with Emily guiding him, I can only assume his path leads here. Do I want to die? No, but I can’t find anyway to stop it, not without being the cause for the loss of millions and millions of lives.”
“So what were you planning to do? Fall on your blade and save those millions of lives even if it meant destroying the man that you love?” Ronan scoffed.
“What if my death meant he never had to worry about dying for the rest of his life? What if I could protect him from my father and whatever other horror Emily sent our way? Would that not be worth it? I would be giving him the power he needs to protect everyone he loves and cares for. I would be giving him a way to defeat my sister and my father.”
“At the cost of your life,” Ronan said as he shook his head in disbelief. “Do you truly think Nick would want to live in a world without you? Do you think he would want to go on living if you were gone? Do you believe in his love so little that you think he could survive without you?”
“I can’t die, I’m immortal,” Mia said with a little sneer on her lips.
“No, your body can’t die, but your soul, your heart, everything that makes you the woman he loves will be gone. He will not thank you if you sacrifice yourself to save him. He will curse your name for the rest of his long lived life.”
“Yes, but he will be alive,” Mia countered.
“Just as you were after you lost him,” Ronan replied.
Mia said nothing to that.
“Whatever you’re planning to do, whatever you think will save him, it won’t. Living an eternal life without you, would be a living hell. You saw what happened to your father, would you truly do that to the man you love?” Ronan said simply as he got to his feet.
“I can’t tell you what to do, and I won’t try. In the few months I have known you, I’ve learned how stubborn you can be. But I can give you advice, and I’m telling you now, whatever cockamamie plot you devised in that devious little head of yours, it won’t work. Nick would rather die protecting you, then live without you.”
“That I know,” Mia said softly as she turned her gaze back to the flames, “And that is what I fear.”
Ronan just shook his head as he turned away and headed back out of the cavern. He stopped once at the cave entrance and opened his mouth as if to say something but nothing came out. Instead he just shook his head and turned around. There was nothing else for him to say.
Next: Chapter Fourteen