“I don’t want to love him—this would be so much simpler if I didn’t. But I do.
He’s funny, and passionate, and strong, and he believes in me more than I even believe in myself. When he looks at me, I feel like I could take on the whole world and come out standing tall. I like myself better when I’m with him, because of how he sees me. He makes me feel beautiful and powerful, like I’m the most important thing in the world, and I don’t know how to walk away from that. I don’t know how to walk away from him.”
“You’re a bitch."
"Yeah, I’m thinking of having that put on some business cards.”
“I want you. I want you so badly I can’t stand it. When you left, it felt like the world got darker. Like I couldn’t truly see anything. Couldn’t feel anything.”
“In the end, it only comes down to one thing: choosing the one you can’t live without.”
“Stay for me. Stay with me. There will never be anyone else. Not in my bed. Not in my life. And not in my heart.”
“Sorry doesn’t mean anything! Not when you’re still with him. It’s not just that you cheated—it’s that he’s still here, and you’re still with him. It just goes on and on, and it hurts every single time I see you with him. I hate it that he makes you smile, and that there’s nothing I can do to stop this. I can’t think straight, and everything hurts, and nothing makes sense anymore. You’re shredding my heart with one hand and stroking his ego with the other. And it’s killing me, Faythe. You’re killing me. And it’s only going to get worse, now that everyone knows.”
“A minute later, Jace landed where I’d fallen, and I helped him up.
“Hell, no.” He actually wobbled on his feet and clung to me, his face whiter than a sun-bleached Texas sidewalk. “There’s a reason cats don’t have wings.”
“Yeah, but at least we always land on our feet.”
“Then why did I land on my ass?”
“I want to kiss you.” Jace’s whisper pulled me from my thoughts and I glanced up to find his eyes blazing with raw need. “Just because Marc won’t touch you doesn’t mean I shouldn’t. Right? I don’t have that kind of self-control, and honestly, I don’t see the point in it. Are you supposed to be impressed by how long we can go without touching you? ’Cause if that’s the game we’re playing, I think I’d rather lose.”
“Pain is what I feed from when nothing else will nourish the noxious fury in my heart. It’s what I cling to when everything else—everyone else—slips right between my grasping fingers.”
“And you still love Marc?"
"More than I can even explain. He's my rock—strong and steady, and ready for anything. He knows what I need before I know it, and he pushes me to work harder, and look deeper, and be better. He challenges me, and infuriates me, and he lights me on fire, deep in my soul. And he has never, ever let me down. Sometimes it feels like he's the only thing keeping my heart beating. I love him so much that it feels like I'm dying a little bit every day that he won't smile at me. Or touch me.”
“Um, Faythe?” Marc reached for my arm, and a small grin turned up one corner of his beautiful mouth. “As my first official piece of advice to the new Alpha, let me suggest that you put on some pants. And maybe a shirt.” His grin grew and pulled me closer to whisper in my ear, while Jace watched us stiffly from across the room. “While the look definitely works for me, I’m thinking the other Alphas might take you more seriously if you dress the part.”
“So instead of ignoring the pain, I called out to it, reaching for more. Pain is part of who I am. It’s the defining characteristic of a Shifter’s transformation. Pain is what I suffer from my enemies. It is what I deal out to those who break our laws. It is what I protect my charges from. Pain is what I inherited from fate, that fickle bitch who gave me a mouth and fists, then put me in a world that wanted only my womb and my cradled arms.”
“Marc didn’t want to win by default. He wanted to win for real. Forever.”
“Can I see it?"
He blinked, still scowling, "See what?"
"Your scar." His expression darkened like a sudden eclipse and I let my gaze grow cold. "You want to hear me scream? Give it your best shot. But until then, every time you take off your shirt, you may as well be handing out my business card. I shoved my blade deep inside you and loved every single inch of it. When I can't sleep at night, the memory of you screaming like a little bitch is my lullaby. And everybody knows exactly what that scar means- that you got your ass handed to you by a little girl. Again.”
“He went down like a cheerleader after prom.”
“We need you to do some reconnaissance. A simple flyby over our ranch. All you have to do is count the cars and tell us how many men you see hanging around the property.”
Kai shook his head without a moment’s hesitation. “Not even if you fed me your firstborn, still wet and screaming.”
I blinked, but for a long moment, his words made no sense. Not the refusal. The part about cannibalizing my theoretical future child. “Well, isn’t that…gruesome? Who are you, Rumpelstiltskin?”
Kai frowned, as if I made no sense to him. “No thunderbird would claim a name so senselessly flamboyant.”
“Even if they were willing to let you remove your Pride from the council's collective influence—and they won't be—there's a reason the council exists. We band together because there's strength in numbers. Because in its unperverted state, the council ensures representative government and a pooling of resources and ideas that benefits everyone."
"Yes, but the operative word there is unperverted, and right now, you guys are operating under the thumb of the biggest power-pervert ever to swish his tail in the U.S. He's like Hitler with fur.”
“I'd just stepped out of the kiddie pool and into the deep end, with no floaties. And drowning was not an option.”
“Not even if you fed me your firstborn, still wet and screaming”
“I sobbed again, and this time my father chuckled. "What's so funny?" I demanded, tilting my head when my cheek got his coat wet.
"You didn't cry when Kevin Mitchell broke your arm, or when you got stabbed in the hip the last time we were here. But boy troubles are still enough to reduce you to tears.”
“I give it a fifty-fifty chance of total failure. If Kai refuses to repay a debt he legitimately owes, he'll be dishonoured in front of his entire Flight. Thunderbirds always avenge their dead, honour their word, and pay their debts. Those seem to be the only laws they have." Based on what little time I'd spent with them.
Marc frowned. "It's the 'legitimately owes' part that worries me."
"Thus the fifty-fifty shot of failure." I stared up at the nest, watching for any sign of activity. "It all depends on whether or not I'm able to bullshit him into thinking he owes us."
"The odds are always in your favour when bullshit's involved." Jace grinned, and I couldn't help returning his smile.”
“You're afraid the other tabbies will start thinking like me. You're afraid they'll start thinking, period! You wouldn't know what to do with a woman who has ideas of her own, and your vacant, slack-jawed stare right now proves it.”
“Will there be enough to go around, or must we compete for our kills?"
"Unfortunately, I suspect there will be plenty, but that really depends on how many of you are willing to come." And that's when I lost track of who was speaking. They called out from everywhere, having apparently forgotten I was even there.
"All of us!"
"We will all go..."
"It's only far..."
"Someone must stay with the children..."
"Someone must stay to hunt..."
"Then we'll draw quills. Feathers into the pile! The twenty drawn will go and fight!"
"Wait!" I had to shout to be heard. "Don't you want the details?"
Kai frowned, one of the few birds paying me any attention. "No. We want the fight, and the feast."
"No! I said there will be no feasting! It's a war, not a f***ing dinner banquet!" I threw up my hands in exasperation.
Mentioning war to a Flight of thunderbirds was evidently like dangling candy in front of a class full of children! Ruthless, deadly children...”
“I'm not seeing a strong father-son relationship here, Alex. You two make Anakin and Luke look like Andy and Opie.”
“Wow. You guys are like a broken record. Don't you ever get tired of the whole 'knock 'em our and drag 'em back to the cave' routine? 'Cause I swear, Cro-Magnons were more subtle.”
“Or has your dad changed his mind about that?"
Alex sneered. "My father never changes his mind."
"Oh, that's right. Your dad's the sort who'll bang his head into a brick wall over and over, convinced the wall will eventually collapse. But it isn't the bricks that are going to cave in, Alex. Fortunately you seem to have avoided that particular character flaw - you're messed up in an entirely different way.”
“I'm sorry about the trouble, Karen," he said, loud and clear, so everyone could hear how reasonable he was being.
She scowled up at him, eyes narrowed. Her arm flew almost faster than I could see. The smack of flesh against flesh was loud in the silence, and a small red handprint stood out starkly on his left cheek. "You have no idea how sorry you're going to be.”
“I want everyone to get plenty of rest tonight, because tomorrow, we make plans to bury the new council chair. And don't worry about the shovel shortage," I said, glancing from face to determined face. "Because Calvin Malone has dug his own grave.”
“You killed a tree?"
"It tried to kill me first."
"Perhaps you should tell me exactly what happened to you, Princess.”
“the values to which people cling most stubbornly under inappropriate conditions are those values that were previously the source of their greatest triumphs over adversity.”
“I sigh. I wonder if practicing in my head counts. I can easily picture myself doing a perfect routine. Somehow it comes out differently once gravity gets involved.”
“...Life is all about chances. You might be safer not taking any. But playing it totally safe means you're only existing. Not living.”
“Sometimes you just have those days where everything goes wrong. But sometimes, and totally unexpectedly, something can go right.”
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