“When you put it like that you sound pretty awesome,” Sally pointed out.

“Well, I am awesome, dammit,” Jacque stomped her foot.

Jen threw her arms up in the air. “That’s it, people, decision made. Jacque has stomped her foot. If she can cuss and stomp her foot at the same time, I say she’s ready to barge through the gates of hell.”

Peri looked over to Alina. “You okay with this?”

Alina looked her daughter in-law over. She saw nothing by a will of steel. “She’s going with or without us.”

Peri nodded. “That’s what I was afraid of.” With a huff, she waved for them to follow. “Well, hold on to your butts, it’s about to get messy.”

“Jurassic Park,” Sally, Jen, and Jacque all yelled out at once at Peri’s movie quote.

Peri looked back at them and shook her head. “I think your parents must have dropped you guys on your heads five times too many.”

“My mom claims it was only three,” Jen walked alongside her two best friends, finally feeling a little bit more like herself. “But, I swear it was four because I remember this one time…”

Jacque slapped her hand over Jen’s mouth, and the others let out a collective sigh.

Crina smiled at Jacque. “It’s good to have you back.”

“You’re telling me that no one has been censoring this beast?” She motioned towards Jen.

“She’s quite dangerous these days. We all wanted to keep our clothes dry and our hair on our heads.” Sally said in defense.

Jen growled low, her wolf getting agitated along with her. “I’m standing right here you know.”

“Actually you’re walking,” Jacque dodged the hand that reached out to smack the back of her head and laughed along with the others.

They walked, nearly two miles before Peri finally stopped. She turned around and held a finger to her lips. Motioning for them to come closer, she quickly glanced back over her shoulder before beginning to speak. Her voice was so low that they had to lean forward to hear.

“The bridge is just beyond those bushes. The troll is there and has very good hearing and a very good sense of smell. We are down wind at the moment so we should be safe. I’m going to approach him first. You all just sit tight and try not to screw this up.”

Elle raised a single brow at Peri and narrowed her eyes. “How about you, try not to screw this up.” Peri quietly clucked her tongue as her fellow Fae. “Come now Elle, you mustn’t hold a grudge about the past.”

Elle’s face relaxed as she shook her head. She had learned long ago that arguing with Perizada was a futile endeavor.

With a final warning finger like a mother to a child, Peri turned and disappeared from view to face the troll.

“How long do we give her before we make our move?” Crina asked.

“There’s no need to worry,” Elle said, dryly.

“Why not?” Sally asked.

“That troll has nothing on Peri. The only reason she’s going about it this way is to keep the balance of magic right. Going around blasting everyone into oblivion just because you can does not mean that you should.”

A thoughtful look came over Jen as she listened to the Fae. “When did you get so Yoda-ish on us?”

“I have no idea what that means, but if it means I freaking rock, then I’d say always.”

Their attention went back to the bushes where Peri had gone through and they waited. The opening to where their mates were suffering was most likely less than fifty feet away. Sally looked around at the girls and could tell it was taking everything in them not to just take off at a run. She too felt the urgency, but she steeled herself to wait. Wait for the exact moment when Peri gave them the go ahead, wait for the moment when she would enter the In-Between and possibly lose herself to its evil influence, wait for the moment when she would see Costin for the first time in what felt like months, even though it had only been a couple of weeks. Waiting seemed to be the theme of her life at the moment and if she were honest, she would say that it was a theme that sucked eggs. She smiled to herself at her thoughts because for a moment she felt the inner-Jen and realized she hadn’t had many of those moments lately. Sally liked to think that it was because she no longer needed inner-Jen, she was becoming exactly who she needed to be, exactly who they all needed her to be. It was time to let go of inner-Jen and embrace Sally, the gypsy healer, and mate to Costin. As she stood there, enduring the waiting, she absolutely loathed, and in that moment, she found the strength in herself that she had always turned to her inner-Jen for. It had been there all along. It had just taken trials, experiences, loss, anger, love, joy, and life to uncover it. And now, Sally, with her new found strength, was going to storm the gates of hell. Okay, not all by myself, she thought, but it’s a start.

Chapter 7

“There is often a moment in life where you feel like you have run out of options. You think and think, trying to pull something from nowhere, but still no possibilities jump out and smack you in the face. It is in those moments that I would like to think that the best in me comes out. I shine in all my calm glory and levelheadedness and others bask in my controlled state. If that ever happens, I’ll let you know… don’t hold your breath.” ~Lilly

Cypher, Lilly, and Cyn had been on the run from the draheim for nearly two days. They had taken cover in a cave after running through the freezing cold river to cover their scent. It had been nearly six hours since they had heard the beast fly over again, undoubtedly searching for its prey.

“You think we lost it,” Lilly asked, Cypher?

His jaw was tense and the crinkles around his eyes deepened as worry, anger, and resolve all fought for a spot on his face. He had finally built them a fire and they were beginning to get dry and warm. As the cold dissipated from Lilly and her teeth no longer chattered, her mind began to work again.

Cypher looked over at her and his face relaxed a tiny bit. She smiled at him. He opened his arms to her and she went without thought. They were alive, uneaten, and that warranted a moment to process what had happened and what better way to do that than in the arms of a big, handsome, warlock? He pulled her close against his chest and she felt his warmth seeping into her. She relaxed and found relief in the knowledge that he would protect her. She could let herself just be for a few moments, completely trusting that he wouldn’t let anything happen to her.

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