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Authors: Mason Sabre

Cade (7 page)

BOOK: Cade
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The expression on her face was a mixture of concern and fear. Cade wanted to reach out and cup her face in his hands. He wanted to … He gave himself a mental shake. He didn’t let himself think about what he wanted to do.

“I’ll be back in a moment,” she whispered, then turned on her heel and left.

He listened to her run down the stairs and into to the kitchen. The boy had grown quiet on the other side of the door, and Cade crouched down so that he could peer through the keyhole. He pulled the key out slowly, trying to be as silent as possible so that it didn’t rattle in the lock and set the boy off again. Cade couldn’t see anything—the bed was on the other side, empty and bare, just like before they had brought him in. But the boy was close—Cade could sense him, could hear his deep, husky breaths.

Cade placed his hands against the wood, an incredible connection drawing him to the young
wolf

The sound of movement against the door pulled at his heartstrings. The pup was rubbing against the door because he sensed Cade there. He came into view through the keyhole just as Gemma was returning.

“Still no sign of him,” she said breathlessly, more from edginess than any physical exertion due to running up and down the stairs. Cade knelt down and sat back on his haunches, rubbing his face as he did so. Suddenly, he was too weary to stand, an intense heaviness weighing him down.

“Cade?” Gemma’s voice seemed to carry from far away. “Cade, what’s wrong?”

“I don’t know,” Cade rasped, the words feeling too heavy to even utter. He was drowning in some kind of murky darkness.

“Is it the boy? Did you connect too much? Cade, is he dying?”

“I don’t know,” he repeated slowly. He could hear the desperation in Gemma’s voice, but there was nothing he could do to ease it. He shifted his body around and let himself slide down the wall. He breathed in deeply, slowly, but even that seemed to require more energy than he could muster.  His eyelids grew heavy and it seemed too much of a fight to keep them open.

“I’ll get help.” Gemma set her jaw in determination, but her eyes shone suspiciously with unshed tears. “I’ll go find Stephen. Don’t move.”

Cade shook his head slowly. “Wait.”
Wait
… He didn’t know what for or what he could manage to do, but he closed his eyes and searched his mind for the anchor that was holding him down, but it was like searching a grand hallway with only a penlight to check each spot. All he could find was thick, dark emptiness. “It’s the boy,” he said hoarsely. “It’s his hunger. Maybe it’s killing him.”

Gemma knelt by Cade and reached out to cup his face gently, her fingers as delicate as feathers. He grabbed hold of her wrist and kept her hand against his face. His mind was almost gone, he was certain of that. If he let go of her, he would fall. He gripped on with both hands and pressed her arm against his lips and nose. He could smell the sweet scent of her, that scent that was uniquely Gemma. It was intoxicating in itself.

He opened his eyes and stared at her—at her perfect face, her bright green eyes. From this close, he could see the smattering of light freckles that decorated her nose.
So beautiful
, he thought in a haze. She took his breath away. She was so close; he just needed to lean forward to the close the gap between them. He closed his eyes and focused on his own breathing.
You're beautiful. So god damn beautiful.
Those were the words his heart wanted to whisper to her.

“You're burning up,” Gemma whispered shakily. “Have you hunted tonight?”

It took too much effort to vocalise anything, so he simply shook his head slowly instead, each breath more laboured than the last.

“I’m going to find Stephen,” she said again, pulling her arm away from his weak grasp.

 

 

It tore at Gemma to leave Cade. Even though it was going to just be moments, everything in her screamed that she should stay. She touched his forehead, his skin hot and clammy against the coolness of her hand. She studied his handsome face with a mixture of concern and longing in her chest. It looked pale and gaunt, as if he had just aged in front of her. She needed to stay with him. She needed to hold his hand and tell him that it was okay.

Her mind was all over the place. It pictured everything possible that could be happening to him and landed on the worst—that the boy would drain Cade and take him down with him. That’s what was happening, she was sure. She couldn’t lose him now. Not now. Not when he had finally started to show some interest in her as a woman. She had waited so long for him to stop seeing her as a little sister. It seemed like she had been in love with him forever. The way he had looked at her tonight when she had shifted … She shuddered. She had lain awake for so many nights, just dreaming of him looking at her like that.

The need to touch him was so … so
wolf,
not
tiger
at all. But it was there, and she couldn’t deny it. She swallowed down her tears and the fear that had constricted her chest. “I’ll be as fast as I can,” she whispered. “Please hold on.” She barely resisted the urge to kiss his mouth. Reluctantly, she pulled herself up and ran down the hallway, almost slipping down the stairs as she raced down them. She flew through to the kitchen and out the back door, her heart a beating drum in her chest. Where the hell was Stephen?

She almost sobbed in relief when she saw Stephen strolling back along the makeshift path, clutching two squirming rabbits tightly in his big hands. When he saw Gemma, concern instantly crossed his features, and he picked up his pace as she ran to him.

“We need those quickly,” she shouted. “What
took
you so long?”

“I was like ten minutes.” He frowned. “Is something wrong?”

“The boy,” she rasped. Her throat was tight from trying to keep in her sobs. “He’s making Cade sick.”

Stephen was already racing into the house, Gemma close on his heel.

 

 

How much time had passed, Cade didn’t know. He heard footsteps from far away, and he tried to focus his attention on them. They faded in and out and he started to think that maybe he was just imagining them—everything around him was shrouded in darkness.  His head fell to the side as big hands suddenly shook him. There was a buzz in his head, and he realised somebody was talking to him, but he couldn’t quite grasp what it was they were saying.

What did it matter? What did anything matter? He’d ruined everything. His life, his family’s life. He’d ruined himself and the poor boy outside. He’d killed him. He’d killed his mother, too.
Cade gasped, the pain of the thoughts flooding him in agonising waves. Were these his thoughts? His mother wasn’t dead, so none of it made any sense. He fought through havoc in his head, pushing it all away.

The rich smell of fresh meat hit Cade’s senses with force “Eat,” someone instructed, but the voice and command were difficult to follow. “Open your mouth.” He swallowed, then slowly did as he was told. Something was shoved between his lips—warm, rich, succulent. He could hear the racing heart of whatever it was. Closing his jaws, his teeth pierced fur and flesh, the taste of blood in his mouth making him groan in pleasure as he set to ripping away the flesh.

“Cade,” someone yelled. “Cade. Open your eyes.” The sound was familiar, yet he couldn’t quite understand. “Open your eyes, Cade,” they repeated. He tried, his eyelids fluttering open with difficulty.

He blinked—once, twice, three times—until his vision began to clear and the faces of Stephen and Gemma came into view. Stephen was bent over him, his face a mask of concern as he stared at him. “I guess that answers that then,” he muttered.

Confused, Cade frowned. “What?”

“Whether someone can be bound to a half-breed, like you can to anyone else.”

Cade’s throat was dry as he tried to talk. He could still taste the blood in his mouth and feel the flesh in his throat. He touched his fingertips to his lips, but they came away dry and clean.

“Nothing there,” Stephen said, frowning at him.

“I … I was ... ”

“Eating?” asked Gemma.

“Yeah,” Cade croaked, trying to nod his head and instantly regretting it. The world spun around him. “Someone put something in my mouth.”

Stephen stood, his eyes intent on his best friend. He pushed the door open a crack so that Cade could peer in. The boy lay sleeping, curled up on the floor—the
wolf
was no longer there. Blood marred his face and his hands, his naked form shivering on the cold, hard floor.

“He shifted back?”

Gemma nodded. “Stephen gave him the rabbits, but you …” She paused and swallowed down tears. “You started … eating.”

“The rabbits?”

“Nope, your own fucking arm,” Stephen said wryly. “Now that was some weird shit.”

Cade stared down at his arm and there it was—it looked like somebody had tried to take a chunk out of his arm. He had broken the skin, but there was no real damage luckily. He looked up at Stephen again, needing to make sure he had heard him right. Had he really just tried to chew his own fucking arm off?

Stephen nodded, reading his mind. “Yep. Like a genius you were. Had to prise your arm away before you did yourself some real damage.”

“It was only when he started to shift back that you stopped,” added Gemma gently. “Maybe you're bound to him more than you thought.”

“No,” he said vehemently. “I can't be. Maybe it’s just that I’ve not eaten.” He tried to get up, but his legs didn’t seem to want to work. He tried to focus but his mind kept trying to float the hell away. What was wrong with him? Everything about him felt as though he were made from jelly.

“If the hunger had taken his life …” Gemma broke off.

“Don’t,” Cade rasped. Even in this state, the need to protect her from any pain was deep. “It’s not that bad,” he assured her.

Stephen snorted. “Have you looked at yourself?” 

“The link doesn’t go two ways. I’m just tired. It’s been a shit long day. I have shifted twice and not hunted.”

“I'm afraid it does, and it did.” Stephen was not letting him get away that easily. “Congratulations, my friend. I think you are officially a father. You are well and truly stuck.”

Cade sagged against the wall and sighed. Did it matter? He tried to ask himself that, tried to see reason, but did it honestly matter if he and the boy were linked? If the
Humans
found the boy here, Cade would be executed anyway. Nothing mattered, he decided. Not a single fucking thing.

Chapter Eleven

 

Although Gemma hadn't seen the boy’s face at the onset, she could see that it had healed considerably since she had laid eyes on him for the first time in the car. A scar ran through his left eyebrow and a bruise still shadowed his eye, but other than that, it was clear. His head lolled to one side of the bathtub in which he lay, his breathing slow but steady. His eyes were nothing more than small slits, and she suspected that he was far from conscious. She soaked the washcloth in the water and brought it back up again, squeezing out the excess water onto his hair, his face and his chest.

It had been Stephen who had lifted him into the tub. Cade sat on the chair in the corner of the bathroom, leaning back, too exhausted to hold up his own head. He had refused to go lie down, wanting to stay near the boy. His body had grown weak, the bond between him and the boy sapping him of his strength. Gemma prayed the boy would regain his strength soon. It made her heart ache to watch Cade, helpless to stop what was happening to him.

They’d had to change the water in the boy’s bath twice already. The boy was so caked in mud and blood that the water had changed to a murky red almost instantly. He was still covered in bits of
Human
blood that the swim hadn’t managed to rid him of, as well as the rabbit’s he had just devoured. It made him appear menacing, like the sweet face of death, but as she washed it all away, the young boy revealed underneath looked pure and innocent. He had a handsome face, she mused as she cleaned off the last remnants of dirt and blood, but he was sickly pale and disconcertingly scrawny. Her heart clenched in pity for the hell he must have been through over these last days and weeks.

“I’ll make us some coffee,” Stephen said from the doorway as he stood silently watching them. She was glad he was there in a way and, in others, she wasn’t. Although she knew that it was nothing more than her own paranoia, it felt that he watched her every move. His eyes lingered on her for a moment, and then on Cade, as if deciding whether he should leave them both alone together. Had he realised how she felt about his best friend, or was this all just her own mind playing wicked tricks on her? If there was one thing you could never deny about Stephen, it was the shrewd, cunning intelligence he possessed. It was a mistake to ever underestimate how smart both he and his
tiger
were. 

She averted her gaze, afraid he might see right through her. Maybe there was nothing more to Stephen’s stare than worry for his little sister and his best friend. Despite his façade of cool composure and sarcasm, she knew just how worried he was right now about Cade. They were brothers—if not in blood, then in spirit. It was almost as if Stephen had two versions of himself. There was the part of him that was a deep thinker, who calculated every move his opponent would make before they even made it, and on the other side, you had the joker—the big grin that lit up his eyes and promised mischief and mayhem. She hoped one day that he would find the right mate. Not one to please the Council and his place as alpha, but one that would challenge his wit and intelligence, who could invoke his interest and keep it—no small feat, of course. Stephen was known for his endless train of affairs—he and Cade each had their hordes of female admirers—but with Stephen, they were always extremely short-lived, and Gemma never remembered any relationship with a woman that he’d had that was more than just physical. Any woman would have to be exceedingly strong of mind to deal with Stephen—she’d have to match his intelligent and arrogance for his interest to be piqued at all. But Gemma had hope that there was someone out there for everyone. She was so relieved that Cade hadn’t met a woman he wanted to get serious with yet. Her young heart had broken every time she’d seen him with a woman on his arm. She’d wanted to scratch and claw her eyes out.

“You drink coffee?” Even in this state, Cade managed to add the sarcasm Gemma had come to love about him.

“It makes me look normal,” Stephen drawled, but Gemma knew full well the relief he was feeling that his friend was well enough to poke fun at him. “Helps me fit in.”

“There isn’t anything that’s going to do that,” Gemma snorted, rolling her eyes at him. She laughed when he placed a hand over his heart and gave her an expression of mock hurt.

“Do you want one?” he asked, already heading towards the staircase. “I'm going to call Pops, too. See what’s going on.”

“If you call him Pops, he’s’ going to kill you. You do realise that?” she called out after him. Of course Stephen did, and she knew that was the reason he did it. It wasn’t so much of a joke really, but more a little bit of rebellion that he dared to use against their father. He liked to see where his limits were when it came to the pack and his father, but he often pushed them too far. It had got him into trouble more often than not.

Gemma cast Cade a quick sideways glance. He had closed his eyes again and was leaning his head back against the wall. Her gaze travelled over the strong column of his neck and down his muscled chest and arms. His long legs were roped with muscle, the runs and hunts that were a part of his daily routine showing in his perfect physique. He was a gorgeous male specimen, she thought, and he could have her melting with just one glance.

She forced herself to look away from his perfect body and tried to stop the discomfiting images that had suddenly filled her mind—hot, hard, naked, male flesh against her own, small bites and naughty licks, Cade thrusting hard into her as she screamed with the pleasure of it. Her body grew hot, her nipples tightening painfully under the confines of her shirt. Her body literally ached for his, her need for him unbearable. He was constantly in her dreams, whether asleep or awake.

Her mind travelled to her restless sleep the night before. Her dreams had been full of Cade once again … though it hadn’t really been him. It had been so utterly confusing. The man had been tall and slim, with hair so dark that it was almost black, his eyes the most striking obsidian. But Cade’s eyes were blue, his hair a lighter shade of brown, and while he was tall, he was built with plenty of muscle. He had the body of a shifter; the man in her dreams, however, had had the body of a
Human
. But everything in her had said it was Cade—it had felt like Cade, smelt like him, everything about him had cried out
wolf
to her. He had touched her just like she imagined Cade would, the roughened pad of his thumb stroking her lip before his mouth taking hers in the fieriest kiss. She had woken up breathless and filled with a longing that she hadn't been able to remove. It was madness, absolute craziness. This was her brother’s best friend, yet there was nothing brotherly or innocent in what she felt for him. And it wasn’t just lust—wasn’t just a feral thing—it was something deeper.

She wanted to believe that Cade had started to look at her differently, too. So many times she had told herself that it was just her imagination, that she saw things where she wanted to see them. But then something would happen—something like tonight—where his eyes had been riveted on her as she had got dressed after their shift. The hot look he had given her as his eyes had raked over her naked form had almost made her knees buckle. His stare had pierced through her, igniting feelings that she had never known existed before.

The hairs on her neck suddenly prickled with awareness, and she knew Cade was standing behind her. She could feel him. She wanted to turn to look at him, but she didn’t quite dare. She sucked in a tremulous breath and scolded herself.
Get a grip. You’re acting worse than a childish, teenage girl
. “Hey, you feeling better?” she said breathlessly, without turning to look at him.

“Yeah, much.” His voice still sounded hoarse, but stronger than before. She took in a deep, calming breath and tried to ignore his proximity.

“This is where he got bit, I think.” Her fingers ran lightly over the puckered mark on the boy’s arm. It looked like something that had been there for years, yet based on what they assumed about the boy, it must have been just weeks. There were more marks on his chest, but Gemma couldn’t quite make out what they were from. Cade leaned over her to get a better look, and Gemma went absolutely still. She could feel the heat emanating from his body, and forbidden images and thoughts rose once more. God, what was wrong with her? It was like she lacked any kind of control around him. She cleared her throat, doing her damnedest to focus on the boy. “He’s been through some shit,” she added. “Why are they scarring? He should heal, right? Like we do … so that there is nothing there?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe it’s like Stephen and his scars?”

“Maybe.”

He moved back to his seat, and Gemma risked turning to look at him. Relief and happiness washed over her at how much better he was looking.

“My mum says that it’s the trauma. That something must have happened and because it doesn’t heal on the inside, it doesn’t heal on the outside, either.”

For a moment, Cade said nothing, and then he nodded. “Makes sense, I guess.”

She glanced back at the boy and pushed his wet hair back from his face. “I wonder what trauma is hiding behind those eyes to leave such a mess.” She had finished bathing him and cleaning his wounds, pleased there seemed to be no need to dress any of them. They had all but healed now. She ran a gentle hand down the side of his face, thinking how lucky he was that Cade had found him. “He’s just a baby,” she said softly, tears prickling the backs of her eyes. “Who would bite him? Who would throw him out?”


Humans
,” Cade said drily. “Not the bite … but the rest. I bet there isn’t anyone looking for him. Not now that he is tarnished.”

“I hate the
Humans
,” she spat. “They take so much from everyone.”

“It’s ironic, isn’t it? They call us the monsters.” Cade paused, then added, “Do you think what I did was stupid?”

“What?”

“For taking him? I could have left him there. I could have turned him over to them.”

Before she could stop herself, she had gone over to him and knelt in front of him, placing one wet hand on his knee. She squeezed it reassuringly, and felt him tense under her touch. After a moment, he rested his hand on top of hers and curled his fingers around it, his gaze lifting to meet hers.

“Saving a life is never stupid, Cade. When he wakes properly, he isn’t going to think you’re stupid. Think what would be happening to him right now if the
Humans
had him. Imagine what they’d be doing to him. It would be worse than any hunger he could ever experience. Not just because of what he is, but because of what he did.”

“He killed a boy.”

“He did,” she said solemnly. “But can you blame a puppy for pissing over your favourite rug when you haven’t taught it to go outside? Or that it hasn’t learnt how to control the things that happen in its body?” She heard Stephen’s wisdom in her own words, but he was right. “He was a
Human
boy. How the hell is he meant to handle the hunger? I blame whoever bit him. He should have taken him in and shown him the way.”

“Or put him out,” Cade mumbled, as if he didn’t really want to voice that thought.

Gemma didn’t respond to it. It was too ugly a thing to think about. She got up and pulled the plug on the bath instead, and when the water had drained away, she reached behind her and pulled one of Cade’s towels from the rail above the cold radiator, and then draped it over the boy. “Stephen can move him when he gets back,” she said, taking another towel to dry the boy’s hair. Cade might look better, but she didn’t want to risk draining him again in any way.

“I can lift him,” he said, standing and stretching his arms out on either side. His shirt pulled tight over his sculpted chest, the muscles in his arms bulging as he flexed. It was as if someone had flipped a switch in her head and all she could think about suddenly was those arms a tight band around her as they lifted her, crushing her against him.

“Tell Stephen we’ll be down in a minute.” His words snapped her out of her reverie, and a flush crept up her neck to her face. She really had to learn to control herself more.

He lifted the boy with no effort this time, and as he carried him to the back bedroom, Gemma got a blanket for him. Cade dressed him in one of his own t-shirts and a pair of shorts—both were much too big for the boy’s small frame—but it didn’t matter. They would do for now, she supposed. The clothes the boy had been wearing were old and tatty, and not much use to anyone. She would have thrown them away, but then worried about possibly upsetting the boy. Maybe he’d still want them.

“He’s okay to leave alone?” she whispered.

“We can hear him,” Cade said. “Besides, he’s hunted and fed. I don’t think we’ll hear from him for a few hours. “

Stephen was sitting at the small table in Cade’s kitchen when they got there. It wasn’t a grand table, nothing huge or fancy like she had at home in her parents’ place. The lounge just off the kitchen held a sofa and a television, and the walls were lined with bookcases overflowing with books, some of the bookshelves two books deep. The only sofa in the room was covered with papers and work Cade had obviously brought home, and the top of the television was stacked with even more books. He read everything from Poe to King—Gemma liked that about him, too. She couldn’t really recall when Cade was not reading something.

“The kid is sleeping?” Stephen asked them.

“Yes,” Gemma said. “Out like a light. Maybe he’ll sleep to morning.” She sat down at the table and Stephen pushed over a mug of coffee for her. “Did you speak to dad?”

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