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Edge of Dawn (Chapter Five)

SHE HADN'T EXPECTED TO WAKE UP.

Hell, she hadn't really expected to be alive. Not after fighting with her captors in transit, sticking the one named Vince with her dagger soon after they'd shoved her into the van at Jeremy Ackmeyer's house. They might have killed her then. And she couldn't have blamed them if they'd finished her off during the struggle she'd put up once they'd arrived at this place either.

This . . . wherever she was.

She tried to open her eyes where she lay now but saw only darkness. The pressure on her face told her she was blindfolded. Handcuffs bit into her wrists, which were fastened somewhere above her head. She gave them a tug and heard the shackles grate on what she guessed was a metal headboard. Her ankles were restrained too, fixed to the bottom of the bed.

Her mouth felt as dry as if it had been packed with cotton, but at least they hadn't gagged her. Then again, what good would it do her to start screaming? She didn't have to see the walls of her prison to know that they were made of thick, impenetrable material. Stone, she was guessing, from the dank, stale odor of the place, more than likely without a single window in the room.

She smelled the faint brine of the ocean in the damp air. Heard the low roar of waves rolling onto the shore from not far off in the distance. Beyond that, only silence.

No, raising her voice in this place would only alert her captors.

Mira shifted on the thin mattress and winced at the dull ache that flared in the side of her neck. She remembered getting punched there with something sharp. Something that took out her legs and sent her mind reeling. Tranqs, it was obvious to her now.

But it didn't take much to recall the sudden, overwhelming sense of floating, falling . . .

Dying, she had thought.

She'd even seen the face of an angel in those final few moments of fading consciousness. Kellan's face, handsome and haunted, his soulful hazel eyes holding her in a gaze that seemed mournful, somehow heartbroken.

God, they must have given her some powerful shit.

It took more than a little effort to shake off the soft pang of longing in her chest that always followed in the wake of Kellan's memory. Instead, Mira rallied herself around her present reality – which, at the moment, wasn't looking too promising.

She tested her shackles again, to no avail. Next, she shifted her head around on the pillow, trying to use friction to slide the blindfold away from her eyes. It moved up only a fraction on the right side, not enough for her to see anything.

And she'd apparently made enough noise already, because now she heard the heavy jangle of a key turning in a lock. From somewhere beyond the foot of the bed, a heavy panel door creaked open.

"You're awake." The woman with the long black hair. Brady, they called her. Mira recognized her voice and the long-legged gait as footsteps approached the bed. "How do you feel?"

"Like I'm going to vomit," Mira replied, her own voice raw from disuse. "But then, being near rebel scum tends to have that effect on me." She cleared her arid throat. "That's what you are, right? Rebels. Lowlife cowards who plot and skulk around in the shadows like a den of rats, making messes for other people to clean up. Taking the lives of people worth any hundred of your kind."

The woman said nothing in response to all that venom. There was a soft rustle of movement beside the bed near Mira's head, then the liquid sound of something being poured into a glass. "Drink this," she told Mira. "It's water. The sedative you were given will have dehydrated you."

Mira turned her head when the cool glass came close to her lips. "I don't want anything you give me. Tell me what you've done to Jeremy Ackmeyer."

A soft sigh. "You don't need to worry about him. He's not your concern."

"I'll decide what's my concern or not." Mira tried to rise, but there was nowhere to go with the restraints digging into her wrists. She dropped back down on a hissed curse. "Where is he? What do you want from him?"

The water glass came up to Mira's mouth again. "We're going to release you tonight, unharmed," the female rebel said, ignoring her questions.

"Release me?" Mira scoffed, refusing the drink a second time now. "And you think I believe that? I've seen all of your faces. I may not know exactly where you brought me, but I know we're not far out of Boston. Somewhere very close to the bay – so close, I can hear the water. I can taste it in the air. Some kind of bunker would be my guess. Something very old. It won't take long to figure out where this hideout is, and then I'll come back for all of you."

"We've considered that." No worry in that calm reply. "Precautions will be taken, of course."

Precautions, Mira pondered silently. Were they taking Ackmeyer to another location? Or did this imply the rebels would be moving their base of operations tonight, scattering somewhere like the vermin they were?

No way they'd ever outrun her, let alone the Order, no matter how far or wide they fled. And if they thought hooding her for the ride back to this base earlier and keeping her blindfolded now would protect their identities or the location of their lair, they would be sorely mistaken. Short of lobotomizing her, which would definitely negate the "unharmed" part of their promise, Mira didn't see how these humans figured they could turn her loose and expect to get away with it.

"You know who I am," Mira said, not a question.

"Yes," the woman replied quietly. "I know who you are."

"Then you have to know that I will find you and the rest of your criminal friends, and I won't be alone when I do." Mira wished she could see the rebel's face and gauge the fear that must surely be there. No one took on the Order without a good deal of trepidation or stupidity, and this woman didn't strike Mira as anything close to an idiot. "You need to tell your pals that if any of you think I'm leaving this place without Ackmeyer, you've got another thing coming."

"It's not up to me to decide," she said. "Now, please. Take some water."

The glass came back toward Mira's mouth. This time, instead of drinking or turning away, she lunged forward and bit the fleshy base of the rebel's thumb.

The woman shrieked and leapt back, dropping the glass to the floor. It shattered beside the bed, as loud as a crash of cymbals in the quiet of the thick-walled cell.

Mira used the opportunity to fight her restraints again. She bucked and struggled on the bed, managing only to shift the blindfold down from one of her eyes as the open doorway filled with the immense male form of another rebel, responding to the commotion.

This guy was big and menacing, radiating a dangerous heat that made even Mira's breath catch in her throat. She could see only a sliver of him over the top edge of her skewed blindfold. Broad shoulders. Dark, copper-shot brown hair.

As tall and muscular and powerful as any one of the Order's warriors.

A sense of unease – of bone-deep alarm – arrowed through her on that thought.

She levered herself up on the bed for a better look, watching as he went to the female rebel's side and wrapped a protective arm around her.

"Candice, are you all right?" Not Brady as the other men had called her, but a feminine name, spoken with genuine concern, true affection in the deep, low-toned voice. His head was down, most of his face obscured by the wild fall of his shoulder-length hair. "What the hell happened?"

"Nothing, I'm okay. I'm sorry, Bowman. I should've had better control of the situation."

Quiet words, an absolving stroke of the man's large hand over the ebony hair of his comrade. Mira's breath was sawing out of her lungs as she watched the private exchange, all of her senses focused on the deep murmur of the rebel leader's voice.

Something about him – no, in fact, everything about him – began to stir something cold and rusted inside her.

The tendons in her neck pulled tight as she strained to see his face. Angling her head to hear more of that silky, dark voice. His presence drew everything in her to full attention. Her skin went tight and hot and confining. Her pulse pounded like the wings of a caged bird, trapped inside her chest.

Her instincts knew this man. Her heart knew, even if the illogic of it left her mind struggling to catch up with the rest of her.

Curiosity twisted into desperation as the man began to move. Letting his arm fall away from the other woman, he pivoted toward the bed, moving too smoothly, emanating too much raw power for a human.

Because he wasn't human.

All the air left Mira's lungs as he approached the bed where she lay.

"Impossible," she whispered. "No . . . this can't be real."

But it was real – he was real.

Not an angel. Not a ghost, either, but flesh and blood. Alive.

The impossible answer to so many of her hopes and prayers.

"Kellan," she whispered.

Her shock was so profound in that moment, they could have uncuffed her and she would've had no strength to lift her head, let alone prove any kind of threat. And even as she strove to make sense of what she was seeing, a part of her heart was going cold with an awful realization.

If it was he, what was Kellan doing here after all the time he'd been missing? How could he possibly know these people? What did any of them mean to him?

"It is you?" she asked, needing to hear him confirm what her mind still refused to fully believe.

Without answering, without meeting her searching eyes, he glanced down at her. Drew away the blindfold from her face and gently removed it from around her head. All the while, deliberately avoiding her gaze.

"Candice," he murmured. "Bring me the contact lenses."

Of course, Mira thought. Kellan would know about her gift. Kellan knew everything about her. He had been her best friend for most of her life. The only person who truly had known and understood her.

The dark-haired woman handed him a small dish filled with clear liquid, then quietly exited the room. He fished out one of the pair of purple lenses suspended within. Mira could hardly breathe as he took her face in his hands and carefully put the lenses into her eyes.

Once they were in place, her powerful ability muted, he finally lifted his hazel gaze. Oh, God . . . there was no denying that it was he. Under the thick mane of copper-infused hair, his greenish brown eyes were deep set and intense. His cheeks seemed leaner now, razor-cut and strong, his square jaw framed by the trim lines of the goatee that gave his handsome face a darkly mysterious edge. But within that rakish beard, his mouth was grim, unreadable.

He gave her no words of comfort. No explanation for how she'd come to find him here, living among killers, thieves, and traitors. The very enemies he'd been fighting against when he'd been one of the Order.

Mira stared into his eyes in agonizing confusion. One part of her was elated and relieved to the very core of her being to see Kellan living and breathing, so undeniably real and alive. Another part of her was in abject misery, realizing that his death had been a mistake – or worse, a lie. And now, the bigger betrayal, to see him standing among these people, treating them as friends – as family – while she had been left to mourn him alone.

"You died," she finally managed to croak. "I was there. Eight years ago, almost to the day, Kellan. I watched you run into that warehouse. I saw it explode. I still have shrapnel scars from the debris that fell out of the sky that night. I can still taste the smoke and ash from the fire."

He stared at her in a terrible silence.

"There was nothing left of the building," she went on. "Nothing left of you, Kellan. Or so you've let me believe, all this time. I cried for you. I still do."

His eyes remained on Mira, but he spoke no words. No plea for her forgiveness. No insistence that it had all been some unavoidable mistake.

She might have been tempted to believe him. The way her heart was cracking open in her chest, she might have been willing to accept any crumb of explanation he gave her. But he offered her nothing.

His silence was killing her. "Don't you have anything to say to me?"

He swallowed. Glanced down. "I'm sorry, Mira."

When his eyes returned to hers, they were somber. Sincere, for all she knew of him now. But they were unflinchingly remote.

"You're sorry." Her shattered heart turned to cinders under the cool simplicity of his response. "Sorry for what part?"

"All of it," he replied. "And for what I still need to do."

With that, he rose. Moved away from the bed. Away from her.

"Candice," he called toward the open door. She appeared in an instant, waiting for his command. "Make sure Vince gassed up the beast like I told him to." Kellan paused, pivoting a brief, sidelong glance in Mira's direction. "I'll be heading out at nightfall to take care of the complications from his fuck-up today."

So, that's what she was to him now. Nothing.

A complication.

An unpleasant wrinkle in his plans.

And now she thought back to something Candice had said earlier, after Mira had told her they'd be as good as crazy to release her tonight and assume she wouldn't come after them later.

Precautions would be taken.

Mira hadn't imagined then that the rebels had one of the Breed on their side. Now she understood. And while she didn't think Kellan would stoop to killing her, he had other ways of ensuring she never found him again.

The truth of his betrayal sank in with a pain she could scarcely bear. It hardened something inside her, devouring the love she'd carried for him for so long, spitting out the grief.

As she looked at Kellan now, at the man he had become – a man who had just now declared himself her enemy – Mira's anger and hurt turned the ashes of her heart into tiny diamonds of contempt.

Because as badly as she wanted to reject the idea, Kellan Archer no longer existed.

And the man who stood in his place was not only allied with these rebel bastards, he was leading them.

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