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Midnight Awakening (Chapter Thirty)

The warriors were gearing up for patrol when the glass doors to the tech lab whisked open and four beautiful women rushed inside. Elise and Gabrielle were carrying the tapestry from Lucan's library; Tess and Savannah walked behind them with serious looks on their faces. Savannah seemed especially grim, her mouth drawn into a flat line, her hands flexing and fisting at her sides as she walked.

Tegan met Elise's anxious gaze. What's going on?

The tapestry, she said as she and Gabrielle spread it out on the meeting table. I think we've figured out what the Odolf riddle refers to.

You serious?

Yeah. Her sober expression told him that it wasn't going to be good news.

Tegan and the other warriors gathered around the women. Okay. Let's see what you have.

He watched, astonished and proud, as she recited each puzzling verse and folded the design accordingly. It was incredible, and so obvious now that Elise was putting it together for them. The tapestry correlated exactly to each seemingly nonsensical phrase. When Elise was finished, she stepped back and revealed an entirely new design–one that Kassia had hidden in the threads as she sewed the piece all those years ago.

Elise met Tegan's curious look. When I was at Irina's place, she showed me some needlework that was incredibly detailed. It also had a secret design woven into it. When I saw this tapestry on the wall just now, I knew it had to have been made by the same hand. The more I looked at it, I wondered if there might be something more to it.

Tegan smiled. He didn't care one bit that everyone saw him bring her under his arm and lovingly kiss her brow. Good work.

I know that mountain range, Lucan said as he inspected the weaving.

Tegan nodded, also recognizing the distinctive formation that lay northeast of Prague. It's not far from the region where most of the Breed was living at the time.

So, this is meant to be some kind of map? Rio asked. If so, what are we looking for?

It's not what, but who. Savannah's soft voice drew everyone's attention. The tapestry points to a location where Dragos helped hide someone. The vampire who fathered him.

Jesus Christ.

Tegan didn't know which of the warriors muttered the curse, but each one of them had to understand the weight of what Savannah had just said.

Dragos's Breedmate wove this piece specifically for me, Lucan put in with a dark scowl. Are you saying Kassia deliberately hid this message in here? Why? And why the hell wouldn't she come to me and tell me about this?

Because she was afraid, Savannah said. She'd been entrusted with a terrible secret, and she feared what might happen if she let it out.

Gideon glanced over at his mate. You felt all that in the cloth, babe?

Savannah nodded. There's more too. And it's not good.

Tell us, Lucan said grimly. Whatever you can read in this thing, we need to know. The room went still as Savannah reached out and put her hands on the tapestry. The Breedmate's unique gift of psychometry had been useful to the Order in the past, but everyone watching as she began to absorb the emotional history of the piece fell into total silence, well aware that they'd never needed Savannah's special talent more than now.

Kassia was tormented by what she knew, but Dragos kept a close eye on her and she knew that if she told the secret, her mate would find out. He might move what he was hiding, and then there would be no hope of fixing what he had done. Savannah closed her eyes in concentration. Kassia had no one to share her burden with–not even her dearest friend, Sorcha.

Tegan felt his jaw go rigid at the mention of the sweet girl who met such a terrible end because of his failings. As if to say she understood what he was feeling, Elise's hand came to rest gently on his arm. Her touch was caring and compassionate, her soft gaze tender.

Savannah went on. When Lucan asked Kassia to make this tapestry, she realized that maybe there was a way to warn him of what Dragos had done. So, as she stitched the remembrance for Lucan, she added clues and prayed one day he'd discover them before it was too late.

What did Dragos do? Lucan asked, his deep voice booming in the quiet of the lab. How the hell did he begin this deception?

For a long time, Savannah didn't speak. She slowly withdrew her hands, and when she turned to face the Order's leader, her pretty features were bleak.

When you declared war on the last of the Ancients–only a few months before this tapestry was made–Dragos and the alien creature who fathered him forged a pact. Dragos helped his father escape into the mountains rather than stand and fight you and the rest of the Order.

Lucan's scowl was dark, anger building in his tense stance. Dragos and several others battled the one who sired him. Dragos was the only one to come out of the skirmish alive. He was severely wounded–

All part of his ruse, Savannah said. After they killed the others, Dragos helped hide his father in a protective crypt he'd built specifically for him in the mountains outside Prague. Dragos's wounds were from his father, but only to help conceal the truth of what actually happened. The plan had been to leave the Ancient in a state of hibernation until things settled down with the Order. Then the Ancient would be awakened to feed again, and to start a new generation of his Breed offspring.

Holy hell, Gideon muttered, ripping off his pale-blue glasses and rubbing his eyes. Did Kassia know if Dragos ever got the chance to go back and free the bastard?

Savannah shook her head. I don't think so. I'm not picking up anything to indicate that she knew the outcome. Dragos told her where the crypt was located, and that's what she stitched into the tapestry. She wanted Lucan to have the clues in case anything were to happen to her.

Oh, Lucan, Gabrielle said, wrapping her arms around him.

There is…something more, Savannah said. There was a child. Kassia was pregnant when she made this tapestry. Dragos was away on a mission for nearly a year–so long that she had her son in secret and sent him away to live with another Breed family before Dragos returned. She refused to let her only child be a victim of her mate's dangerous alliance, so she took steps to protect the baby and give him a safer future.

Let me take a wild-ass guess about the name of the family Kassia turned to, Gideon drawled.

Savannah nodded. Odolf.

You know, Kade interjected, I've heard that under the right conditions, the Ancients were capable of hibernating for generations.

Try centuries, Tegan said, reflecting on the savage otherworlders who spawned him and the rest of the Breed's first generation progeny. For all we know, that last remaining Ancient is still out there, holed up near Prague and waiting to be unleashed.

Christ, Dante hissed. The world would be a very different place if an evil like that was turned loose again.

Niko clucked his tongue. And if someone thought to ally himself with that kind of deadly power? Somebody like Marek…

We can't afford that risk, Lucan said. So, it looks like we need to haul ass to Prague and see what we can find.

Reichen's only a few hours away from there in Berlin, Tegan said. He's offered us his help in whatever way we can use him.

Lucan narrowed his eyes, considering the idea. Can he be trusted?

Yeah, Tegan said, nodding in certainty. I can vouch for him.

Give him a call then. But keep the details to a minimum. Let him know we're on the way and we're going to need transportation. We can rendezvous with him on arrival at Tegel Airport.

Shouldn't we head straight for Prague instead and meet up with him there? Brock asked. Tegan shook his head, picking up on Lucan's tactic. Reichen may be trustworthy, but we don't know about anyone else around him. Marek's already aware that we've got an interest in Berlin. No sense tipping our hand about Prague.

Lucan nodded. We'll fill Reichen in once we arrive.

Right, Gideon said. I'll get clearance for a flight out tonight.

There was none of the usual bravado as the lab emptied out and the warriors each went to prepare for the mission ahead of them. Tegan normally would have gone off to suit up by himself and think in peace. He thought he probably should now, but then Elise linked her fingers through his as the two of them paused in the vacant corridor.

Are you all right? she asked, her gaze as sober as his must have been. If you want to be alone, or if you have something you need to do…

No. I don't.

He thought about calling the denial back and feeding her some line of bullshit that he was needed somewhere else right then, but the words wouldn't come. And he found he couldn't let go of her hand.

He'd be leaving in a few hours, and the odds were pretty damn good that he wasn't coming back.

He was going in this time with one goal: to personally take out Marek. Even if he had to take himself out in the process. Tegan was more than ready to bring the war to Marek, and, one way or another, that son of a bitch was going down.

Come on, he said to Elise, tipping her chin up to meet his kiss. There's only one place I want to be right now. Elise and Tegan spent the rest of the day in his quarters, making love, and, it seemed, avoiding talk of what the future might bring them. She knew the secrets the tapestry had revealed weighed heavily on him–on all of the Order–but Tegan seemed especially remote as dusk drew near and the group of them prepared to head out. He had withdrawn in some way, as if he were already gone, fighting the ghost of an enemy that had haunted him for too long and had to finally be exorcised.

His call to Reichen earlier that day had brought troubling news: Petrov Odolf had slipped further into Bloodlust and was not doing well. The word out of the containment facility was that the Rogue had become increasingly unstable in the hours after Tegan and Elise left him that last time. At some point overnight, he lapsed into violent seizures and attacked one of his handlers, nearly killing the attendant in a fit of rage.

As for Tegan, he seemed skeptical of Director Kuhn's report to Reichen. He didn't trust the facility director, and, as he hung up with Reichen, he left the Darkhaven male with a mission to get more answers about the Rogue's condition.

Be careful, Elise told him as they walked out of his quarters to meet the others who were gathering in the main area of the compound.

Tegan paused and kissed her passionately, but there was a distance in his eyes.

I love you, she said, stroking his strong jaw and trying to tamp down the worry that was beating like a caged bird in her chest. You'd better come back to me soon, you understand? Promise me.

The sounds of the other warriors talking in the hallway up ahead drew his attention. Weapons and gear jangled, deep male voices rumbling against the marble walls. That was his world calling him, the duty he'd been sworn into for longer than she'd been alive.

Tegan, promise me, she said, forcing him to look at her. Don't do anything heroic.

The corner of his mouth quirked into a wry grin. Me, heroic? Not a chance.

She smiled with him, but her feet felt leaden as they walked the rest of the way up the corridor to where the Order, and Tegan's role among them, waited.

Everyone else was already gathered. Elise met the serious faces of the other Breedmates, Tess and Gabrielle holding on to their mates as the departure time drew near. It had been agreed that Gideon would stay behind at the compound where he could monitor the operation from base and be a touch point for the others while they were in the field.

The biggest surprise was Rio. The recuperating warrior was dressed in combat gear and waiting with the rest of them, the look in his topaz eyes nothing short of fury. His muscled body radiated pure malice–white-hot and volatile–and Elise suddenly understood Tess's concerns about him. He was terrifying, even simply standing still.

Elise resisted the urge to hold on a little tighter to Tegan's hand when she felt his arm flex as he prepared to join his brethren.

God, but she didn't want to let him go.

Not when they'd just found each other.

All right, Lucan said, his gaze steady as it lit on each of the warriors in turn. Let's do this.

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