I didn’t care if an army of Troy’s men, tripped out on meth and having a bad day, were waiting to spring out of the crevasses and do unspeakable things to me. No threat I could ever face would cause me to slow when Emma was helpless in front of me.
Biting harder against her gag, two words leaked out around it. One name, followed by one warning.
“Patrick,” she managed, moving against the gag like she was trying to bite it loose. “No!” It was too late, even if I heeded her warning—which in this life and the next I wouldn’t. I was incapable of it.
I felt the shield right after I noticed who I guessed was the Shielder standing in the shadows. I’d been in one before, but it was so long ago I forgot the strange sensation of crossing through one. They were invisible to the nak*d eye, although if you looked close enough, the borders around them were just hazy enough to give them away, but I wasn’t looking anywhere but Emma’s face. As soon as I hit the shield, it clung to my body, pulling me through its gelatinous walls until I was trapped inside.
I didn’t stop to curse my stupidity—I didn’t even pause to note the borders of the shield. I just crossed the final steps towards Emma, ripping the gag from her mouth, forcing myself to move slowly so I didn’t hurt her.
“Em,” I said, sliding the blindfold over her head, putting on a brave face when, for one of the few times in my life, I felt scared.
“You need to get out of here,” she said, her eyes flying around the room like she was waiting for an army to explode out of the rock walls. “Patrick. Go,” she said, new tears running down her face.
“Sure, I’ll go,” I said, grabbing for her wrist restraints. I bit my cheek to keep from screaming out.
More damn hell wire. “Once you and Joseph go with me.”
Grunting in equal pain and frustration, I realized I’d just found myself in one of the most hopeless situations I could remember. I had a brother an inch away from death I couldn’t free. I was just as useless freeing my girl. And I’d just gotten myself trapped inside the most impressive kind of cage known to Mortal and Immortal alike.
Getting inside the shield was easy; getting out was impossible. The only way out was if the Shielder dropped the shield or if they were killed. Judging from the smug expression on the Shielder who was now stepping out of the shadows to gloat, I guessed neither of those possibilities was on the near horizon.
So, since it looked like neither Emma nor I were going anywhere, I tried to forget where we were, who was holding us captive, and what our futures held. I made myself focus on what I did best and live in the moment.
The moment was the only guarantee we had anyways, Immortality no exception.
“Hi, beautiful,” I said, smiling, wrapping my arms around Emma. “Have I told you lately how much you rock my world?”
Emma’s worry lines conformed into a smirk. “Even charming in the face of death,” she said, leaning her forehead against mine. “How is that possible?”
I ran my hands up and down her bare arms, trying to warm them. “How isn’t it?” I said, feigning insult. “Now come here and remind me what those lips of yours do so well,” I said, angling my face against hers.
“They can’t remember much of anything right now,” she said, but her mouth moved towards mine.
The world around us started fading away.
“I can help remind them,” I whispered before my mouth covered hers.
And there it was. The world of Patrick and Emma. The one I’d fight to preserve—the one I’d die to spend an hour in. The world I might die for today.
It was a world worth dying for.
Her lips weren’t timid like they typically were. Maybe it was because she knew our time was limited too, or maybe because her lips were the only thing she could touch me with, or maybe because Emma was just one hell of a kisser who’d been playing coy. But damn if this kiss wasn’t made of the stuff that made men ride to war.
My fingers dug into her waist, fisting at the hem of her shirt. Parting her lips, her tongue played with the seam of my mouth, encouraging it open.
It didn’t require much encouragement.
I moaned into her mouth when her tongue slid down mine, teasing it into action. For the first time ever, I felt like a fumbling idiot. Like a twelve year old boy experiencing his first kiss all over again. I didn’t know where my hands should go, I didn’t know how to move my mouth, I didn’t know how to breathe.
And I never knew I could enjoy feeling like a fumbling idiot so much.
“And I thought you were rumored to be some legendary ladies man,” a voice broke through the shell of our world. A voice that made me moan again, although it was the anti-pleasurable kind. “That was just plain pathetic.”
Stepping away from Emma, I worked my jaw. “Come inside here, Troy, and I’d be happy to give you a private demonstration of pathetic.”
The squat, stocky, no-neck meathead chuckled, crossing his arms, and regarded me like I was a caged animal. And not a caged lethal animal, but something amusing, like a damn meerkat.
“You really are too predictable,” Troy said, clucking his tongue and giving a slight nod at the Shielder lurking just outside the shadows.
Panic strangled me as I spun around and lunged back towards Emma. I saw the sheet of haze separating us, but it didn’t stop me from charging ahead. Crossing through the shield might have felt like passing through a mold of jello, but trying to escape it felt completely different. I lunged full speed into a steel wall—an electrified steel wall. Crying out in frustration and pain, I had to try it again. Today wasn’t a day to put my stubborn resolve up on the shelf.
Taking another lunge at the shield, the impact floored me this time.
Emma screamed as I flew back, Troy laughed at my hang time in the air, and I grunted when my body slammed into the ground after its suspension. This was one hell of a shield and if this was the same Immortal who’d been shielding Troy and his army from Father these long months, he was exceptionally powerful. Which meant he’d been around a while.
When it came to powerful Immortals that had been around the block as many times as me, I preferred them fighting the good fight shouldered up next to me, not smirking at me on the other side.
Because I was incapable of anything else, I smirked right back as I hoisted myself up. The other superb thing about being stuck in this barless prison was that my gift was rendered useless. Just when teleportation would come in handy, I had nothing.
Emma watched me, her face twisted in pain, those green eyes of her brighter in their glassiness.
“Em, listen to me,” I said, dusting myself off and approaching her until the shield let me go no farther. We were a painful step apart. “Everything’s going to be okay. I’m going to get you and Joseph out of here. You’ll be fine, Em.”
I knew the words seemed placating, because what chance did I have right now? But I knew enough about myself to know that I was made of the stuff that liked to give impossible a run for its money. I’d been in the opposite corner from impossible plenty of times in my life and I could go ten rounds with it and still be the one to raise my arm in the air at the end.
Emma’s lips quivered. “It’s not me I’m worried about,” she whispered, looking at me like I was lost to her.
I had to look away before that look choked me up, making me useless against whatever was about to come at us. “Don’t you worry about me for one second, Emma,” I said, wiping my arm across my face. “It doesn’t matter how many guys they toss in here at me. I can take them all and eventually, they’ll run out,” I assured her, watching a group of Immortals emerging from the mouth of the tunnel. “You and me and Joseph are walking out of here together. You hear me, Emma Scarlett?” I was rushing my words now as the men got closer.
I knew the stuff I was made of. I knew the extent of my training and the breadth of my skill. I knew I could handle ten Immortals, holding my own, because I’d found myself in these kinds of situations on an annual basis. However, the one thing that put a hole in my balloon of confidence was the one weakness I had here.
My green eyed weakness staring at me like good bye was on her lips, helpless, fragile, and the one thing that, if threatened, would render me a compliant sucker who’d agree to anything to keep her free from harm.
Emma had become both my strength and weakness, although I felt very little of the strength as two of the stoic faced members of the mini army diverted towards Emma. The others kept coming at me, pressing, one by one, through the shield.
“It’s going to take more than eight of your piss poorly trained goons to take me down, Troy,” I called out, eyeing each of them coming my way. “In fact, this is going to be fun.” I had so much pent up adrenaline and rage, it would be. I needed to outlet it before I exploded.
“Those eight men aren’t there to fight you, Patrick,” Troy replied, stepping closer to the shield.
“They’re there to torture you.”
Emma squirmed against her restraints, something that sounded like a curse slipping from her mouth at Troy.
“Yeah. About that,” I said, feinting around the shield, positioning myself for the attack. “In order for them to torture me, they’d have to be able to take me down. And that isn’t happening.” I took in my surroundings, calculating what I could use as my ally against the eight staggering themselves around me.
“Once again,” Troy said, a tilted grin sliding into place, “you and I have a difference of opinion.” Lifting his chin at the two men stationed behind Emma, his smile moved higher.
The burn of bile in my throat was immediate as my mind caught up with where Troy’s demented one had already gone. It didn’t matter how many men I could hold off; if I couldn’t hold off even one of them from Emma, Troy had won.
And he knew it.
The men on either side of her hadn’t even rested a finger on her when I raised my hands in surrender.
“Do what you want with me. I won’t fight back. Just don’t touch her,” I said, keeping my arms up and backing into the circle of men cautiously approaching me. Troy and I might know I wasn’t going to fight with Emma threatened, but the eight around me weren’t so convinced. “I’ll do whatever you want.”
“Oh,”—Troy’s eyes gleamed—”I know you will.”
I shot him a quick glare before turning my attention to Emma. The men had backed away from her, but were still an arm’s length away in case I decided to misbehave, I suppose.
Emma’s beautiful face was so twisted with pain and worry I choked on a sob. I’d never wanted to see that expression on her face again; I’d made a vow with myself to ensure she never experience the dark rooms of humanity again, but here she was. Smack in the center of the darkest room of inhumanity I could have gotten her.
“Em, don’t worry,” I said, as one of the guys grabbed one of my arms, twisting it behind my back.
“I’ll be fine.”
She cried out when my other arm was snatched and twisted down.