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Authors: Raine Thomas

Tags: #FICTION / Romance / Science Fiction

Return of the Ascendant (The Ascendant Series) (3 page)

BOOK: Return of the Ascendant (The Ascendant Series)
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Chapter 4

 

 

Ty watched Kyr’s face as his words sank in. He tried to read her thoughts, but they were aggravatingly nebulous. Only some of her more potent thoughts were getting through to him. It was highly unusual and cause for concern, but as he’d told Sem, now wasn’t the time to dwell on it.

They had to leave. Now. The Shelvaks were already aware of their location and were more than likely working on infiltrating the building. The only thing keeping them outside at that point was the light. It was only a matter of time before they figured out how to cut the building’s power.

The sense of time passing made him want to grab Kyr and drag her bodily out of the building. He knew she’d fight him, though, and that would make a stealthy escape all but impossible. They had to convince her to leave willingly.

He didn’t like seeing her as upset as she was now. Her eyes, an incomparable shade of blue he’d always equated with brilliant stars, were clouded with emotion. Her finely-arched eyebrows were drawn together in a frown. Her kissable mouth trembled as she battled her reaction to their revelations.

He knew she doubted them. He could sense that much from her raging emotions. Above everything, she felt hurt and betrayed. Her two closest friends were refusing to back down from what they’d told her. They were trying to make her believe something that she thought was impossible. The real irony was that it had been the Alametrians who made her forget the truth in the first place.

“The Ascendant,” Kyr repeated.

“Yes.”

Now she looked frustrated. He preferred that to hurt. She pushed herself to her feet and moved to stand in front of him, tilting her head back to meet his gaze. He fought the urge to reach behind her head and free the beautiful hair she wore bound at the nape of her neck.

“You know I have no idea what that means, right?” she asked.

“It means that you are the one meant to save and rule worlds,” he said.

Her mouth opened, but for once, she didn’t speak. He knew this was a lot to take in. Normally, he could use his mental abilities to bring forth at least some of her latent Alametrian memories. Even one would have probably convinced her. With this odd block in place, however, that was proving impossible.

“Kyra—” Sem began, moving closer to her.

“She is Ma’jah Kyr to you now, SemDane,” Ty interrupted. “It’s time you begin affording her the respect her position warrants.”

Sem’s expression darkened. “In her current mind, she’s a simple college student and one of my best friends. Until she believes otherwise, I’ll treat her as such, cousin.”

Ty stood straighter and gave Sem a cool glance. “It seems Ma’jah Kyr isn’t the only one receiving less respect than deserved.”

Flushing, Sem glanced at Avana and Kyr and muttered, “Apologies,
Dem-Shyr
.”

Because Ty’s mental connection with everyone but Kyr was still functioning perfectly, he felt Sem’s resentment over having to use the title. That didn’t bother Ty. He knew his cousin wished he had become the Ascendant’s Mynder rather than Ty. What did surprise him, however, was the power and nature of the feelings Sem had developed for Kyr.

He thought himself in love with her.

“Apology accepted,” he said brusquely, pushing aside the less important issues at play. He looked again at Kyr. “Will you leave with us now, Ma’jah?”

A look came over her face at the use of her title. A smile started to pull at the corners of her mouth. Had she begun to remember, after all?

“I get it,” she said. She laughed and wagged her finger in the air. “Oh my God, I get it now! You guys planned a surprise party for me for my twenty-first birthday. This is all an elaborate ploy to get me to come with you to the party. Since my birthday isn’t until next week, I almost didn’t make the connection. Freaking fabulous!”

Ty shook his head. “You believe you’re only twenty because that’s how the lesson was designed, but you’re actually—”

“She’s on to us, Ty,” Sem interrupted. “Damn it, Kyra. You weren’t supposed to figure it out! Do you know how hard we worked on all of this?”

Kyr laughed again. Her relief was obvious, even with Ty’s connection to her not functioning like it should.

“Sem, what—?” Avana began, getting up from the bed.

“She’s figured it out now, Avana. We might as well stop pushing the whole alien story. I told you it was too insane to believe, but you thought the whole frat party ruse was too
boring
,” he said, rolling his eyes. “You said a twenty-first birthday needed to be really memorable, remember?”

Ty frowned. Kyr needed to be aware of the danger when they left the building. Making this all out to be a hoax was not a wise plan.

“Now Kyra, you have to play along,” Sem hurried on, taking her hand in his. The action made Ty’s frown intensify. “I’ve got most of my frat brothers wearing dark suits and hanging out in the shadows acting like Shelvaks. You’ll disappoint a lot of people if you don’t pretend to buy into all of this.”

Kyr’s smile radiated from her face, her happiness directed at Sem. Something tightened in Ty’s gut. He stepped forward, intending to insist that Sem tell her the truth. Then she turned her smile to him.

His thoughts dematerialized.

“This is Ty Dane,” Sem said, waving at him. “He’s the…entertainment for the evening.”

Kyr’s eyebrows rose. She gave Ty a head-to-toe once-over that had him wanting to tug at a nonexistent collar.

“Is he now?” she murmured.

Sem glanced between the two of them. Ty knew the moment his cousin realized his plan was backfiring on him. He wanted Kyr showing
him
that kind of attention, not Ty.

“Well, we’re running really late,” Sem said, giving her hand a tug and pulling her away from Ty. “The guys are probably all sweating in the humidity outside, wondering what the hell is taking so long.”

Ty reached out and pulled Kyr back to his side, earning a glare from his cousin. “If this is all a ruse, we must keep up appearances, musn’t we? As Ma’jah Kyr’s
Dem-shyr
, I’ll be her escort to this…party.”

Avana issued a soft gasp. He watched her eyes glaze and knew she was receiving a vision. Almost all Divyners shared a similar reaction when glimpses of the future reached them.

“Don’t worry about her,” Kyr told him, following his gaze. “She has a medical condition, but it doesn’t harm her. It just makes her space out every once in a while.”

“Is that right?”

She smiled at him. He realized then how close they were to each other and fought the urge to put some distance between them. His job required that he be as close to her as possible.

The fact that it was utter torture was of no consequence.

Avana blinked rapidly as the vision faded. She met Ty’s gaze. “We must go now.”

He didn’t question her. He took Kyr’s arm and guided her towards the door. Her expression faltered. He knew she’d caught his sense of urgency and was confused by it. Glancing at Sem, he gave him a pointed look.

“Uh, yeah,” Sem said. “So, some of the guys might be hiding in the building…you know, to add to the believability. Time to act like the ruler of worlds, Kyra.”

She laughed again and nodded. Ty opened the door and looked both ways down the hallway. He nodded to Sem, letting him take the lead since he knew the best paths to take to get through the building unnoticed.

Elevator or stairs?
Sem thought.

Stairs
, Ty thought back.

Although no one could directly read his mind, he could send thoughts to any other Mynder if he wanted to. Sem knew this and had used the connection so they could operate in silence. As much as Sem’s attraction to Kyr irritated Ty, there was no one else he’d rather have at his back in a tough spot.

They made their way along the empty corridor until they reached an unremarkable beige door with a brown plaque depicting stairs on it. Sem eased the door open and made sure the stairwell was lighted. Then he held the door open so Ty could take the lead.

Easing past the threshold, Ty turned his head in every direction, trying to detect any sign of an enemy presence. Kyr’s scent reached him, but he forced himself not to think about how light, fresh, and delicate it was. Her scent was ingrained in him anyway. He couldn’t afford to let it distract him now.

Putting a warning finger to his lips to ensure silence, he glanced at Kyr until he received her nod. The humor he saw in her eyes made him want to throttle Sem. This was the furthest thing from a joke. They couldn’t afford for her to take the situation lightly. Still, he reminded himself, she was on the stairs and not talking, so the deception had served some purpose.

Deciding there was little he could do about it now, he started descending the stairs, keeping Kyr behind him. Avana hurried after her with Sem taking the rear guard. Ty’s boots made little noise, as they were designed to do. Kyr’s shoes, on the other hand, clicked loudly on every step.

Pausing, he turned to her and pointed at her feet. She frowned and shrugged. Reaching down, he lifted her right foot and took her shoe off. He tried not to notice how soft the skin of her slender calf was as he handed her the shoe. She gave him a soft huff of annoyance, but obediently removed the other shoe and carried it in the same hand as her purse.

They were three stories above ground level. With each step he descended, Ty wished they had never entered the building. He knew Sem needed his weapon and locator, though. His cousin hadn’t been expecting him or he would have had those things on his person. Although the stop had been necessary and had bought them time to assure Kyr, it had also given the enemy time to plan and coordinate.

That thought no sooner entered his head than the lights went out.

Chapter 5

 

 

Kyra froze as the hallway was doused with darkness. She heard Sam curse under his breath. Avana gasped. Her friends were really hamming this up.

She still couldn’t believe the lengths they had gone to for her twenty-first birthday. All this time, she had thought they planned on taking her into town to the local tavern to get her drunk enough to have her first hangover. That had seemed a more than sufficient way to celebrate her right to drink. This surprise party was seriously over the top, but she loved them for it.

And the entertainment…dear heaven! If Ty was a stripper, she definitely needed to hit an ATM on the way to the party. From what she could see in his outfit of a black T-shirt, jeans, and boots, the guy had the body of a god. He had to be an actor, too, she decided. He hadn’t dropped his character yet. He was so good, in fact, that she was more prone to believe that he was some alien bodyguard than an exotic dancer. But what did she know, really?

As much fun as she was having now that she understood what was up, she couldn’t help but think that the power outage was overkill. One of them was likely to take a header and break their neck, possibly taking someone else down with them. Maybe that was why Ty had made her take her shoes off. She parted her lips and drew in a breath to ask them to skip this part of the dramatics.

A warm hand clamped over her mouth before she could say a word. Light flashed behind her. She realized Avana had lit up her cell phone. Ty was the one who had silenced her. As he had done before, he placed a finger to his lips.

She shoved against the hand covering her mouth. This was too much for her. She didn’t care how much Sam and Avana were paying this guy, she was about to cut his night short.

Then an odor reached her…something foreign, yet familiar. Repugnant, like stagnant brine water. The darkness moved behind Ty. Kyra choked on a scream.

The next thing she knew, she was shoved to the ground and Avana was beside her, clinging to her. Avana was larger than her by a couple of inches and at least thirty pounds. She tried to cover Kyra with her body. Her arms shook.

Violently.

That was the moment when Kyra started to believe.

The cell phone went dark as it fell from Avana’s hand. Bright light quickly filled the stairway. Sam and Ty now held long, sword-like objects made out of light. They reminded Kyra of light sabers, but the light was white rather than colored and she couldn’t see a base or handle like the ones in the
Star Wars
movies.

There was no noise outside of the rustling of Sam and Ty’s clothes and the occasional grunt as they fought off attackers that Kyra couldn’t see. She realized with increasing alarm that their weapons were hitting something. Dark, gritty stuff flew through the air, landing on her and Avana. She had no idea what it was, but something visceral reacted within her.

Remains
, the deeply buried part of her consciousness told her.
Shelvak remains
.

Bile rose in her throat. It made a nice companion for her thundering heart.

“This isn’t a joke, is it?” she whispered into Avana’s ear, too afraid to move.

“No. I’m so sorry, Ma’jah.”

Kyra didn’t have the luxury of being upset with her friend. Avana had tried to tell her, but she hadn’t wanted to hear it. Now, her resistance to the truth could cost all of them their lives.

Lifting her head from beneath Avana’s arm, she saw that Ty had progressed down almost an entire flight of stairs. The darkness in front of him seemed alive, silent shadows writhing to fight him. Kyra shuddered. Behind them, Sam was pushing the rest of their attackers back up towards the landing on the floor above.

“We’ve got to move down the stairs and try to get out of here,” Kyra told Avana, getting unsteadily to her feet. It was a challenge to ignore the rain of black filth spouting on them from above. “We should stay close to Ty.”

“No,” Avana argued. She tried to pull Kyra back down. “We should stay here. Sem and the
Dem-Shyr
are keeping them at bay.”

What they were doing, Kyra thought as she fought to calm her rapid breathing, was widening the unprotected halo around her and Avana. Her gaze slowly moved up, where she knew the open stairwell rose for several flights, even though she couldn’t see more than a foot from her face.

She fumbled in her purse for her iPhone. Pulling up the screen and hunting for her flashlight app, she asked, “Avana, how far can Shelvaks jump?”

“I don’t know. Why?”

Four shadows thumped down next to them. Avana shrieked. Kyra was too petrified to make a sound.

The Shelvaks made barely any noise as they landed, which was really something in light of the fact that they were easily seven or eight feet tall. Kyra instinctively tried to back away, but she was up against a wall. Beside her, Avana scrambled to her feet and tried to position herself in front of Kyra.

“Here!” Kyra said, hitting the right button on her phone to generate the flashlight and shoving it at Avana.

When her friend took the phone and held it up, the Shelvaks retreated a step. Kyra got a terrifying glimpse of them as she bent down to pick up her shoes. The enemies were faceless, covered in some kind of clothing that seemed to absorb the light. They held long, dark weapons that she imagined could do more harm than just severing a limb. She wouldn’t be surprised if they could slice into a person’s very soul.

Something passed near her head, nearly touching her hair. She bit back a scream. Avana shouted and brought the phone down closer to Kyra. The Shelvaks once again backed away.

Kyra stood with her shoes, the sharp heels pointing out. They weren’t the most effective weapons, she knew, but they were all she had.

“Kyra!” Sam shouted, turning to rush back down the stairs.

He was grabbed from behind, forcing him to continue his battle away from them. The Shelvaks to Kyra’s right swung out with their weapons. Kyra and Avana barely evaded them, stumbling closer to the Shelvaks on the left. Something smashed into Avana’s hand holding the cell phone. She cried out, but the light didn’t falter.

A dark, cold grip settled on Kyra’s arm. She reacted instinctively, swinging one of her shoes with all of her strength. Whatever it hit felt as solid as the wall behind her. The heel snapped. The hold on her arm tightened like a vise.

Not knowing what else to do, she stopped resisting the hold and shoved herself into it. She forced the Shelvak off-balance. They tumbled towards the stairs heading down. In an instant, she was airborne.

A light sliced through the darkness as she fell. An explosion of acrid dust blew around her as the hold on her arm disintegrated. She fell face-forward into a wall of muscle. Her momentum propelled them down, but they didn’t tumble and break their necks. Somehow, Ty managed to grab her in mid-flight and jump her down to the next landing as though it was nothing more than a short hop.

“Are you all right?” he asked.

“Yes,” she replied breathlessly.
Outside of my heart nearly blowing up in my chest
, she silently added. “Please help Avana.”

“Stay with me,” he instructed, even as he turned and raced back up the stairs.

She didn’t question him. After confirming he had cleared the lower stairwell of Shelvaks, she hurried to keep up. Avana had managed to pick up her cell phone. Between the two phones and some evasive maneuvering, she had avoided serious injury. Within seconds, Ty destroyed the three remaining Shelvaks.

Sam raced down just as the last of the dust settled. His gaze ran over Kyra as though assuring himself she was okay. “Let’s get the hell out of here,” he said.

She saw blood on his forehead. When she looked at Ty, she realized his forearm had been sliced open. Avana’s wrist was swelling where she’d been struck, and a dark bruise was forming near her temple.

The only one uninjured was her.

This was all her fault. She wanted to apologize to everyone, but she didn’t have time. Ty grabbed her around the waist. Before she could even think to protest, he leaped down the remaining stairs one whole flight at a time until they stood at the bottom. Avana and Sam stood beside them before her bare feet ever touched the ground.

The door leading out into the lobby of the dormitory stood ajar. Kyra heard voices and commotion as the dorm monitors and students who still remained at home tried to resolve the power issue. Bright beams from flashlights and dimmer glows from candles broke up the darkness. Ty extinguished the light sword.

“Looks like we’re gonna get busted,” Sam said. “Good thing I won’t be here to face the music.”

“Here,” Avana said, pulling a tissue out of her huge purse. Kyra realized she’d lost her own purse somewhere in the scuffle. “We don’t need more questions than necessary.”

Avana worked at mopping up the blood on Sam’s face. Biting her bottom lip, Kyra looked from Sam to Ty. She reached for Ty’s injured arm, but he pulled it out of her reach.

“I heal quickly,” he said.

Her hand fell back to her side. She tried to convince herself she wasn’t offended by the fact that he didn’t want her to touch him. He rubbed his arm on his black shirt, removing most of the blood. His arm was almost completely healed.

“Nice,” she said, intrigued despite herself.

Ty started through the door. “Let’s go. The Shelvaks will avoid all of this light.”

They hurried out, not bothering to be clandestine. Heads turned. Jaws slackened. One of the men broke apart from the rest.

“Who are you?” he asked Ty. His gaze moved across Kyra and Avana and settled on Sam. “Sam? Why do you all look like you’ve been hosed down with dirt? Are you responsible for the power outage? What the hell is going on?”

Kyra had forgotten that they were covered in Shelvak remains. Her gaze moved down to her once-white and red dress. She winced when she saw the damage.

“What do you think is going on, Jimmy?” Sam replied. “We’re just having a little fun. Don’t bother rolling out the welcome wagon. We’re heading out now.”

“You can’t have chicks in here,” Jimmy said, looking personally affronted by the idea. “It’s against the rules. I’m going to write you up for this.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Sam said as they hustled across the lobby. “I’ll look forward to it. Make sure you detail how hot the
chicks
are.”

Avana laughed. The sound eased some of the fear still banded around Kyra’s chest. They stepped out of the building into the warm night. She took a deep breath, wanting to cleanse her senses of the lingering scent of Shelvak. It didn’t help much.

Ty paused for a moment as though getting his bearings. He briefly studied the night sky, then nodded. Turning right, he took Kyra’s arm and started walking along the cobblestone sidewalk at a brisk pace. All of the lights along the walkway were still lit. Kyra assumed they received power from a different source than the building.

“Ow,” she hissed when she stepped on a stone. Not only had she lost her phone and her purse, her beloved shoes had been left behind.

Not breaking stride, Ty lifted her off her feet. She wanted to argue, but knew it would be a waste of time. All she could do was cling to him and pray they weren’t attacked while his hands were full.

They reached the student parking lot. Kyra expected them to head to either Sam or Avana’s car, but they approached a dark sedan she didn’t recognize. The symbol on the vehicle’s grill was something she’d never seen before. Judging by the looks of the gleaming black beauty, it was foreign and expensive.

Approaching the front passenger door, Ty shifted her so he held her with one arm and pulled a set of keys out of his pocket. She heard several clicks and a beep. He pulled the passenger door open and settled her into the seat. His eyes met hers as he quickly and efficiently snapped her seatbelt into place. She wanted to point out that she could do it. He didn’t have to treat her like a child.

The look in his eyes stayed her tongue. In that frozen moment, she saw equal parts banked fury and desperate hunger. Something deep within her responded to the look, even though she didn’t understand it. If they’d been alone, she would have pulled him into her arms. She knew it with a certainty that shook her.

Turning away from her, he locked the door and closed it. He strode around to climb into the driver’s seat as Avana and Sam secured their seatbelts. Kyra struggled to regain her composure as Ty opened his door and got in.

The sound of the powerful engine turning over helped ground her. She turned and looked out the window at the lights of the university. Had it only been an hour ago when she was celebrating moving out of the dorm? It felt like a lifetime.

Two years of memories ran through her mind as the vehicle shifted into drive. Years of studying, making friends, stressing, partying. Growing. Learning.

She had thought she’d be making many more memories in the years to come. But as Ty pulled the car out of the parking lot and the school faded into the distance, she knew that she’d never see this place again.

BOOK: Return of the Ascendant (The Ascendant Series)
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