Authors: Scarlet Hyacinth
A big, translucent white wolf stood in the middle of the hallway, gazing at them. “He will go,” a female voice said, echoing from the wolf. “He will go because he must, for his own good, and for that of others.”
Quinn knew enough about the spirit wolves to identify the beautiful creature in front of him. He hadn’t been sure whether the Spirit Mother existed or not, but now that he was in front of her, he had the sudden urge to kneel or at least bow.
“There is no need for humility,” she said, obviously reading his mind. “Already, you have given one of my children hope, and you will continue to do so. Therefore, you are dear to me.”
One of her children. She must mean Roarke. His heart started beating faster just at the thought of the feral. The white wolf tilted her head, and Quinn swore she seemed amused. His face heated with embarrassment, but that didn’t stop his cock from hardening in his pants.
As if to complicate things further, Roarke suddenly appeared in the corridor. He must have decided not to wait for Quinn after all. His gaze first went to Quinn, concern shining in his gray eyes. It was only when he realized Quinn was all right that he spotted the Spirit Mother. He fell to his knees, bowing lowly and murmuring words of praise.
To a certain extent, Quinn felt amused. How in the world had Roarke missed a glowing white wolf in the center of the hallway? His heart warmed when he realized the feral had been too focused on Quinn to care about anything else.
The Spirit Mother’s voice appeared in his mind.
“You already mean a lot to him, and to the witch,”
“But you have a difficult battle ahead of you. Are you up for it?”
“I’m not afraid,”
“I know I’m only a human and I don’t have the strength your children do, but I still have a lot to give, and I know there must be a way to save G’aladon.”
“You are right, in both matters,”
she answered. Out loud, she said, “Roarke and Quinn. I will send you to see your friends. I have already informed them that you are coming. We will discuss this further once you are there.”
She looked deep into Quinn’s eyes, and when she spoke again, the words seemed to be in a different language that Quinn shouldn’t have understood. Even so, the meaning came to him, and he stood there frozen, allowing her to contact the man they were trying to save.
“I know you can see me and hear me, G’aladon. I banished you twice, and I know what you’re trying to do. While it is laudable, death is never a solution for anyone’s problems. But if you are strong enough, there might be another, better path we can follow.”
Quinn felt a resentment course through him, a feeling not his own, but belonging to G’aladon. Why was he being denied? He was merely attempting to do the right thing, and still they refused him. Quinn took a deep breath, struggling to calm the witch down, to explain that surely, the Spirit Mother meant well. He didn’t like her admittance that she had hurt G’aladon, but he suppressed his anger on the witch’s behalf, realizing all too well there must be more to the situation than he knew.
He sensed the Spirit Mother’s slight amusement once again, but there was something more, something like awe and relief coming from deep within him, from that bond he shared with G’aladon. Quinn wondered what it all meant. He wondered if he could truly be what G’aladon needed, or if he was destined to fail. As he shared a look with Roarke, though, he understood that he wasn’t on his own in this. He might be feeling out of his depth now, but Roarke would teach him everything he needed to know. And the Spirit Mother seemed convinced that he was capable of great things. That and the memory of G’aladon’s voice asking for his help cemented his resolve.
Naturally, his mom still attempted to protest, but with an actual goddess there, she could no longer argue that Quinn’s plan held little importance or little chance of success. Quinn kissed her cheek and squeezed her shoulder. “I’m going to go pack. I promise you, everything will be all right.”
“That won’t be necessary,” the Spirit Mother piped up. “I took the liberty of gathering some of your more important personal items and sent them off to Hewitt’s.”
Quinn turned toward the white wolf. The thought of someone, even a powerful goddess like her, rummaging through his underwear drawer embarrassed him, but he understood the reasoning behind the action. Truly, he was thankful, because every second of delay meant more pain for G’aladon.
“Thank you,” he told the Spirit Mother. He threw a brief smile his mom’s way. “I’ll be back soon. Don’t worry, and tell Dawn I’m sorry we didn’t get to say good-bye. I love you both.”
Roarke got up and headed toward Quinn. He seemed to have recovered completely from seeing the Spirit Mother, or perhaps she had encouraged him as well. Either way, he took Quinn’s hand and squeezed it. “We’re ready,” he said simply.
The white wolf nodded in a strikingly human-like gesture. “Just close your eyes. It will be easier.”
Quinn obeyed, his heart racing a hundred miles a minute. He was excited, but also nervous, since he’d never taken up such an important responsibility before. Not only that, but he’d never experienced such powerful magic firsthand. While he had grown up in a home saturated with knowledge of the supernatural, being involved with it so completely was new and just a bit frightening.
But Roarke was by his side, and in a strange way, so was G’aladon. Quinn could feel the witch in his mind now, distant, but there, and it brought him a comfort he didn’t think he could ever let go. Even when he acknowledged the pain G’aladon was going through, he couldn’t bear the thought of losing him.
Roarke’s voice snapped him out of his musings. “You can open your eyes now,” the feral whispered in his ear.
Quinn did, and he gasped in shock when he realized he was no longer in the diner owned by his parents. Instead, he was in what looked like a cabin, and three handsome men stood in front of him. Quinn only recognized Devon, but it wasn’t hard to guess the other two must be his mates.
Quinn had been so lost in his thoughts that he hadn’t felt the magical shift in location. He didn’t know whether to feel disappointed or relieved, so, instead, he focused on his current location.
Devon took a step forward and hugged Roarke. Roarke’s body went as tense as a bowstring, and Quinn could feel the feral’s shock almost as if it were his own. He gently released Roarke’s hand, allowing the two friends to reunite.
Roarke stole a look at him, and Quinn just arched a brow. With a sigh, Roarke relaxed in Devon’s arms and hugged the other wolf back.
Quinn couldn’t help a smile. He knew that ferals didn’t like each other and liked spirit wolves even less. But from what Devon had told him, he and Roarke had been great friends before they’d lost their grip on their beasts and turned feral. Devon wanted that friendship back, and apparently, so did Roarke. Quinn was happy for them both.
At last, Devon released Roarke and cleared his throat, as if embarrassed. “Sorry about that.”
“Not to worry.” Roarke chuckled. “We always were demonstrative.”
A wide grin graced Devon’s full lips. “Indeed we were. But where are my manners? First off, I’m glad to see you here, Roarke, and the same goes for you, Quinn. It seems that every day, you grow up more.”
Quinn snorted. “I very much doubt that. But I’m glad to see you, too.”
Devon smirked. “Let me introduce you to my mates. These are Hewitt and Mason,” Devon said, gesturing to his companions.
In turn, both men stepped forward. The bulkier brown-haired man eyed Quinn and Roarke with a warrior’s gaze. “I’m Mason,” he said. “I hear you need our help with an unusual problem.”
Well, he was certainly direct. The other man, a handsome brunet, elbowed Mason. “At least welcome them properly. Gods.” Shaking his head in what seemed to be exasperation, he turned toward Quinn and smiled. “Hewitt Moore,” he said, extending his hand toward Quinn. “You must be very confused, and I assure you that soon, you’ll find out everything you need to know. For the moment, welcome to our home. We’re always happy to have visitors, especially friends of Devon’s.”
As their hands touched, Quinn looked closer at Hewitt. A shudder of recognition flashed through him, and he squeezed the offered palm harder. Hewitt arched a brow, but didn’t attempt to pull back. Much to his dismay, Quinn realized he was hard.
A low growl escaped Mason, and even Devon narrowed his gaze at Quinn. Roarke pulled Quinn away, baring his teeth at the other two wolves.
It looked like his overactive libido had already shattered the renewed bond between Devon and Roarke.
Hewitt just laughed. “Stop your growling. I’m afraid you’re going to have to get used to that, Quinn. Wolves are naturally very possessive, and it’s only worse when there are two of them. For the record, it’s not me you’re responding to, but my resemblance to my ancestor.”
That must mean G’aladon.
Quinn’s face flamed at the implication of the words. “I didn’t…I mean we’re not—”
Hewitt gave him a look full of understanding. “I know. How could you be, with him trapped there? But it’s a subconscious thing, a natural reaction.”
Quinn still felt a little embarrassed, but was relieved when he realized the wolves were no longer tense. Instead, Mason and Devon seemed quite mortified themselves, while Roarke wrapped an arm around Quinn’s waist.
“And I think we know all about natural reactions, don’t we?” Hewitt inquired pleasantly.
It was almost amusing to see the two wolves fidgeting under their mate’s jet-black gaze. All of a sudden, Quinn had a feeling their behavior wasn’t only caused by Quinn’s inability to control himself. In a way, it made sense. Given what he knew so far, G’aladon had basically attempted to kill Hewitt. Devon and Mason were likely protective of the witch. They couldn’t be pleased that Quinn planned to release G’aladon.
Before they could fall into awkwardness, Devon started speaking again. “Right. Well, now that we have both the warm welcome and the snarling out of the way, come in and make yourselves comfortable. As you see, sections of our cabin are still under construction.”
Indeed, when Quinn looked around a little, he could see that portions of the house were still unfinished. Even so, the building looked cozy, like a home, not merely a structure. He could only describe it as a nest, a retreat for the three men who clearly loved each other a lot.
A worm of jealousy slithered into his heart. He wanted that for himself, and for…He quickly squashed the thought before it could fully form. He had to stop thinking about himself, his embarrassment, and his inadequacy. There were more important things to deal with here.
“It’s very nice,” he told Devon. “Thank you for welcoming us here. But I have to ask, what exactly did the Spirit Mother tell you about our problem?”
“Everything they needed to know.” Unsurprisingly, the Spirit Mother manifested in front of them. “And now, I will tell you as well. Sit down and listen.”
Mason and Devon brought chairs, and everyone obeyed the white wolf. Quinn felt G’aladon’s restlessness at the back of his mind, and he sent waves of calm, hoping it would reach the witch. He still didn’t fully understand how this strange connection worked.
“As you all know,” the Spirit Mother began, “G’aladon is trapped in the astral realm. Most of us here have in one way or another been involved in that. But as Hewitt sensed the last time he met the witch, things are not so simple. The world is never simply made up of black and white. There are many shades of gray, foggy waters which we must navigate.”
She turned toward Roarke and Quinn. “You also have been told that G’aladon wants to free himself through death. What he probably didn’t mention is that his plan will essentially shatter his soul, wiping out all traces of his existence.”
Quinn didn’t think he could have been more horrified than before, but apparently, he’d been wrong. He knew that reincarnation was possible and had actually happened for some spirit wolves. But even if he hadn’t realized that, he’d still have cherished the idea of an afterlife, a place where everyone could reunite with lost loved ones. G’aladon would not have that. After what he had endured in the astral realm, he deserved better.
“But I think everyone has a right to a second chance,” the Spirit Mother continued. “This will not be easy at all. If we falter for one instant, if your faith in each other fails, you will lose everything.”
Quinn knew she wasn’t referring to Devon and his mates, but to him and Roarke. “I understand that. Tell us. What must we do?”
“The first factor you must understand is that there is a purpose behind G’aladon’s plan. He aims to provide absolution for the creatures he brought into this world. The orcs have no souls, and he wants to change that.”
Silence greeted her decree. Quinn couldn’t have been more surprised if she’d told him the moon was made out of cheese. He took a deep breath, focusing to process what she had said. “What do you mean? How is that possible?”
“As he is the one who engineered their existence, he is linked to them the same way I am linked to the spirit wolves. Whether he knows it or not, G’aladon has an uncommonly strong soul, which is why his power became so absolute when he gave it up. Now that it is back, he means to shatter it and grant a piece to each of his creations.”
That was noble, but Quinn couldn’t bring himself to feel proud for G’aladon. He was too terrified, too frightened that G’aladon would find a way to achieve his plan. He could not allow it. He would save the witch. He just had to.
a weak voice came inside his mind.
“It is the way things must be.”
“Nothing is certain,”
Quinn replied without missing a beat
. “No one is forcing you to do this. The Spirit Mother told us there is another solution.”
“There might be, but I admit I don’t fully trust Shaiyta.”