In his keeping, p.15
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       In His Keeping, p.15
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         Part #2 of Slow Burn series by Maya Banks

  She bit into her lip, unsure of how to broach such a sensitive topic. Especially when it was a fact that Ramie suffered whatever the victims suffered. And if she did help, if she was able to ascertain exactly what was happening to her parents, Ari didn’t know if she could face that terrible truth.

  “What’s wrong?” Ramie asked. “You have the most horrified look on your face, Ari.”

  Ramie stared at her, concern evident in her smoke-colored eyes.

  Ari closed her eyes briefly, bolstering her courage, praying for strength. Praying that Ramie would agree and that Ari could bear knowing the truth.

  “I know this is asking a lot,” Ari said nervously. “But as you know, my parents are missing. They disappeared without a trace and I have no idea where to even start looking. Would you . . .” She sucked in a deep breath before plunging ahead. “Would you be willing to use your powers to try and find them?”


  “HELL no!”

  Ari jumped, so startled that she stumbled and had to throw her hand out to clutch the back of one of the bar stools to keep her knees from buckling and doing a face plant right on the kitchen floor. Her heart nearly exploded in her chest at the sheer vehemence of Caleb’s outburst. She whirled anxiously, fear knotted in her throat, to see Caleb, Beau, Zack, Dane and Eliza had entered the kitchen just as Ari voiced her request. Her pulse had escalated so swiftly and jittered so erratically that she was light-headed. She swayed precariously and suddenly Ramie was there, wrapping a steadying arm around her waist, holding her as she shot her husband a glare of reprimand.

  Fury emanated from Caleb. His entire body bristled with rage, his eyes glittering, making him look . . . lethal. She took an instinctive step back, Ramie’s arm falling away as Ari made her escape. But she bumped into the bar and then felt trapped with nowhere to escape Caleb’s terrible wrath.

  She swallowed, unable to articulate any sort of response, not even to apologize. She was utterly paralized, panic knotting her insides.

  “Where do you get off trying to emotionally manipulate my wife when you know damn well the hell she endures when she uses her powers to locate kidnapping victims?”

  Ari clenched her fingers into tight balls, wishing she could take the words back, suddenly wishing she’d never walked into the DSS offices. Whereas just moments earlier she’d felt safe—comforted by the knowledge that Beau would protect her and find her parents—now she felt terrified and wanted to be as far away from this place as possible.

  She skated sideways, eyeing her pathway to the hallway that led to the bedrooms. There was a doorway just outside the exit from the kitchen, on the left, that led into the living room. And escape. There were other security firms. She’d only sought out the Devereauxs because it was who her father had said to look up. She could even hire a private investigator or simply go to the police, which is what she should have done from the very start.

  When she’d eased past the barrier of the bar stools just enough to make her bid for freedom, she lunged for the hallway, bolting like a spooked deer. A strong arm wrapped solidly around her waist, hauling her up short, and she turned, prepared to fight. Two of the bar stools simply lifted in the air, hurtling toward her unseen attacker.

  “Damn it, Ari! It’s me, Beau. Stop with the chairs. Those sons of bitches hurt!”

  His voice infiltrated her utter panic and the overwhelming desire to be away. Anywhere but here. She went still and the chairs tumbled to the floor, lying on their sides. Beau had his arms solidly around her waist, facing her, his expression hard, fury so like his brother’s a storm in his eyes.

  Tears suddenly welled up in hers. He was angry with her too? When she and Beau had discussed the possibility during that first meeting? He had been the one to broach the subject. Not Ari!

  A tear slid down her cheek, warm against the ice of her skin.

  “Why are you so angry with me?” she choked out, it taking every ounce of her control to prevent the words from ending in a sob.

  The rage in his eyes was simply too much for her to bear. She dropped her gaze, her head lowering in defeat, her hair falling like a curtain and obscuring her view. She was aware of more tears, blurring her vision, so she simply closed her eyes, shutting out everything around her.

  Helpless anger bubbled up in her veins, replacing her utter despair. She wanted to bring the whole goddamn house down—and she could. Now more than ever, she was cognizant of just how much power she wielded. Never tested before a few short days ago, it was now like a second skin, always lurking just beneath the surface and for the first time she embraced it.

  Because she had something her parents’ kidnappers didn’t. The ability, from a distance, to wreak complete and utter chaos. She’d already proved she could slow a bullet. Her only vulnerability was being drugged and someone would have to be close enough to her to be able to manually inject it into her. Because someone wielding a dart gun would be ineffective because not only could she slow its trajectory, but she knew—knew—she could redirect it right back at the shooter. Unless . . . She didn’t know it was coming? Was she vulnerable to something similar to a sniper only in closer proximity and with a dart gun?

  As soon as the thought occurred, she shook it off. The knowledge was there, buried in her subconscious. Certainly no one told her these things. Who would have told her? Her parents were as baffled as she was as to the how and why of her powers.

  And yet she knew or maybe she sensed, but whatever the case, she was absolutely certain that she could deflect a threat to her, even if she didn’t know it was there.

  Just how extensive were her powers? To have such reflexes, such instincts was more than simple telekinesis that required concentration and focus. Walking down the street, being randomly shot at and yet still being able to deflect a bullet was something else entirely, even if she had no idea what, how or why.

  She felt a surge of power, restless, edgy and eager to be unleashed. Set free to do what it had always been meant to do. Protect her. Protect the people who mattered. And these people, all standing there, angry, slinging hurtful words like arrows didn’t matter.

  Cabinet doors flew open. Glasses hurtled through the air in Caleb’s direction. She turned just enough to see him in her periphery, cursing and dodging as glasses hit the floor, the wall behind him, even the ceiling. One scored a direct hit, glancing off his shoulder to then shatter on the floor.

  She was careful to protect Ramie. She projected an invisible shield, constructing it carefully in her mind, silently commanding the objects doing her bidding not to come near her. Amazingly it worked. Ramie threw up a hand to protect her head but a plate met with resistance two feet away and literally bounced off, falling harmlessly to the floor where it broke in half.

  Beau’s hand curled around her shoulders, firmly holding her but careful not to hurt her. He turned her, and then simply crushed his mouth to hers, his kiss deep, demanding, powerful. If his intent was to distract her from the barrage of objects his brother and the others were currently dodging, it certainly worked.

  He released her shoulders and gently cupped her cheeks, framing her face in his hands as he tenderly kissed away the remnants of her tears.

  “I just want to go,” she whispered brokenly as soon as his mouth allowed her to speak the words. “Please just let me go. I’ll find them on my own. I’m used to being on my own with only my parents.”

  When he spoke, it was barely above a hushed whisper. “I was not angry at you, Ari. Never with you. I was furious at my dick of a brother, but you were about to bolt so I had to choose between laying his ass out or making sure you didn’t disappear out of my life forever.”

  His eyes burned with sincerity, the edge of anger diminishing as he stared intently into her eyes.

  “I chose you.”

  The words from the previous night weren’t coincidental. They were meant to evoke the memory of their lovemaking and that he had chosen her.

  The electrical current that had arced through t
he room, crackling with her power—and hurt and rage—dimmed, the shards of the glass, plates and other items ceased their vibration on the floor and the room went utterly silent.

  She knew everyone was staring at her and Beau. She could feel Caleb’s furious gaze, now even more so since her attack had been aimed at him.

  “You protected her,” Beau murmured, gesturing behind her to where Ramie stood.

  Ari turned slightly, an unhappy frown curving her lips and marring the quiet, intimate exchange between her and Beau. Ramie’s eyes were wide as she stared incredulously at Ari. The others wore similar expressions and Ari fidgeted under so much scrutiny. She felt like a freak show and it made her want to run all over again. Anything to escape the awkwardness of the situation.

  “I’m sorry I asked, Ramie,” Ari said quietly, tears evident in her voice. Then she turned back to Beau. “And yes, I protected her. She didn’t deserve my anger.”

  Beau’s fingers, now firmly entwined with hers, shook with silent rage.

  “You erected an invisible barrier around me that protected me,” Ramie said, awe reflected in her words and expression. “Ari, do you even realize how extraordinary your powers are?”

  “I’d trade them for yours without hesitation,” Ari said bitterly.

  “You have no idea what you’re talking about,” Caleb said harshly.

  It was as though Beau’s tenuous grasp on his control snapped and he launched himself across the distance separating him and his brother. He bunched Caleb’s shirt in his hands, forming tight fists and he slammed Caleb against the wall that so many of the glasses and plates had been shattered against.

  The veins in his neck were distended and his face was red, his breaths coming in erratic puffs. His jaw was clenched so tightly it bulged out and ticked in supreme agitation.

  “I’ve had enough of you abusing Ari,” Beau spat. “Swear to God if you say one more goddamn word, I will take your fucking head off. This is the only warning you get, Caleb. You do not want to test me.”

  Ari glanced nervously between the brothers, the three other DSS operatives and finally Ramie, who looked furious. Ari couldn’t blame her for being angry that her husband’s brother had just slammed him against the wall and proceeded to threaten him in a menacing tone that sent a shiver down Ari’s spine.

  He sounded lethal, the words violent and passionate but most of all . . . convincing. In that moment Ari believed that if Caleb uttered another word aimed at Ari, Beau would enact violence on his brother.

  “Beau!” Ari cried, finally spurred to action.

  She sent a pleading look in Ramie’s direction, silently asking for help in breaking up a potential disaster as she ran to where Beau still had Caleb pinned to the wall. Beau’s forearm was pressed into Caleb’s neck and Ari realized that he’d temporarily cut off Caleb’s airway by pressing so hard on his neck. Caleb’s face had reddened and was growing redder still as Beau exerted even more pressure.

  Ari tugged uselessly at Beau’s arm. “Beau, please,” she begged. “Don’t do this. He’s your brother. I’ll leave. No one should ever cause dissension in a family and that’s obviously what I’ve done. You can’t blame him for being angry. I had no right to ask Ramie what I did. I was just . . . desperate. Can you remember how you felt when your sister was missing?”

  She directed the last more to Caleb, though she included both brothers in her question. She knew she scored a direct hit because guilt flashed in Caleb’s eyes and they turned bleak. Despair crept in behind and she softly cursed because she’d inflected yet more pain. Poured more salt onto a wound.

  She turned, knowing the best thing was to simply leave. Let the brothers come to terms after her departure. With the source of conflict gone, everything could go back to normal. Life would resume. But at least she’d have the memory of one beautiful night. That, she would never give up. Never give back. It was hers to keep. Nothing or no one would ever take it away.

  Wanting to make a clean break, not wanting to linger simply because she was leaving her heart and part of her soul behind, she briskly made a beeline for the other exit, the one that led directly into the living room instead of the two connecting hallways Beau had just prevented her from taking.

  She brushed past Dane and Eliza and leveled a glare at Zack when he simply stepped in front of her, barring her from leaving.

  “Get out of my way or I’ll make you move,” she said in a menacing voice she would have never thought she possessed.

  “I can’t do that,” Zack said quietly. “I lost someone once, Ari. I know what it feels like. And I know how Beau would feel if you walked out of his life and disappeared. I think you would feel it just as keenly. I’m not wrong, am I.”

  Though technically a question, the last was voiced as a statement. As if he could reach in and pluck out her thoughts, delve into the very heart of her and see the imprint of . . . Beau. See that Beau had already marked her. Permanently. There would always be a part of her that was reserved for him and the memory of their lovemaking.

  “I’m very sorry for your loss,” she said solemnly. “Perhaps then you can understand why I refuse to stand by and allow my parents to be taken from me when I’m doing nothing to get them back.”

  Frustration crept into her voice and was more pronounced by the time she finished.

  Then familiar arms stole around her body and she was drawn against Beau’s chest, though she was still facing Zack. She had no knowledge of what had occurred behind her. She’d only been focused on escape. If words had been exchanged, apologies acknowledged, she hadn’t heard, but then she hadn’t really been listening because she was mentally bracing herself as she recognized that this was goodbye.

  Warm lips nuzzled into her hair just above her ear.

  “Don’t go, Ari,” Beau whispered. “Just . . . don’t go. Please.”

  Shocked that he would ever beg anyone for anything, she swiftly turned in his arms, staring intently into his eyes to try to decipher just exactly what he was asking. He made his request sound so . . . permanent. It wasn’t spoken as though he were simply trying to get her to stay until his mission was accomplished.

  Actual vulnerability shadowed his eyes, astonishing her almost as much as the fact he’d begged. She had an instant image of him on his knees, staring up at her, sincerity burning in his beautiful, dark eyes. Sorrow filled her because never would she want this proud, arrogant man on his knees for anyone. Unless, of course, he was proposing marriage.

  Whoa. Talk about jumping to major, far-fetched conclusions! She shook her head to rid herself of all the clutter that had seemed to accumulate. It was an unfortunate side effect of using her powers, one she, of course, had never been aware of since she’d refuse to ever test them.

  And then she felt the betraying warm slide from her nose and she glanced up at Beau in dismay just as the dull throb in her head that had gone unnoticed until now, because she’d been concentrating so fiercely on everything else, made itself known in a jagged burst of pain as if it had been caged and suddenly burst free of constraints.

  She bit into her lip to prevent a moan escaping, afraid that any sound would simply make her head explode. She lifted her hands to cover her ears and simply held them there. The roar in her ears grew louder and louder until she could bear it no longer. The room seemed to spin around her while she stood still, making her so dizzy she feared she’d be sick. She swayed, closing her eyes to make the constant motion stop.

  Beau swore violently and she winced, nearly screaming as the sound, magnified a hundred times, speared through her head.

  She let out a whimper, no longer able to control her sounds of distress. “Please,” she whispered so softly she wasn’t sure she’d even be heard, but to her it sounded like she’d screamed it. “Please don’t talk. No sound. Beau, I’m going to be sick!”

  “Nobody say a goddamn word,” Beau bit out, turning away from her so she didn’t feel the impact of his words directly.

  When he turned, she wobbled
precariously and suddenly a foreign set of hands clamped down around her shoulders, holding her steady. But even that didn’t prevent her legs from giving out. She shot downward, cringing and bracing for impact, knowing the jarring would split her head wide open, or at least that’s the way it would feel.

  Before she hit the floor she was suddenly lifted and she immediately shut her eyes again as the room spun wildly out of control. Zack. She’d all but forgotten he was there, that he’d been the one who’d prevented her from leaving, the moment she’d turned away from him to face Beau.

  “What the hell?” Beau murmured softly.

  She cracked open one eye, wincing as the light seemed to pierce her eyeball like a needle. Beau had turned back around, his dark eyes even darker with concern as he viewed her cradled in Zack’s arms.

  “She almost took a header,” Zack said grimly.

  In response to the softly worded explanation, Ari let out another low sound of distress.

  Beau immediately closed the distance between them and very carefully took her from Zack’s arms.

  “Lay your head on my shoulder, honey,” Beau whispered. “I’m going to take you back to bed and Zack is going to get your medicine. Everything is going to be all right. I promise. Try to relax and school your thoughts. Focus on something soothing and relaxing, something happy and mellow. Or just blank your mind completely if you can manage that.”

  The low cadence of his voice, while roaringly loud, was oddly soothing. Or perhaps it was the vibration, the low rumble from his chest that was a balm to her frayed nerves.

  He carried her like she was the most precious, fragile thing in the world, like she . . . mattered, careful not to jar her in any way. The covers were still in disarray and he laid her down onto the mattress and then pulled and straightened the sheets around her, pausing only briefly to ensure her bandage was still in place underneath her shirt.

  She was barely aware when Zack entered and she turned her face into the pillow, trying to muffle the sound of the jangle of pills in the bottle as Zack shook two of them out and reached over to carefully put them to her lips.

  “Open up, sweetheart,” Zack murmured. “I brought you a little milk to take them with since you didn’t eat breakfast.”

  She vaguely wondered why Beau wasn’t administering the medication but then her unspoken inquiry was answered when Beau very gently lifted her head, just enough so she could open her mouth and allow the pills to be placed between her lips. She was astonished by the effort it took to simply roll them to the back of her throat with her tongue. Then Beau lifted her the barest of inches more and Zack held the glass to her mouth and tilted it, careful not to allow too much of it into her mouth. Which was good because the pain had made her so nauseated that she feared anything she swallowed would simply come right back up.

  The task accomplished, Zack withdrew and Beau sat on the edge of the bed, running his hand down her hair, pushing it away from her face in a soothing motion.

  “Hurt,” Ari said. It was the only word she could muster. Something felt terribly wrong, but she couldn’t articulate what or for that matter anything at all.

  “I know, honey. I’m so sorry. I should have flattened the jackass the minute he opened his mouth. He had no right to attack you that way,” Beau said darkly.

  “He’s . . . brother . . .”

  Her intended admonishment that Caleb was Beau’s brother and nothing was more important than family had narrowed to the only two words she managed to form. But it was enough to get her message across.

  Beau stroked her hair, not responding to her words. He acted as though he hadn’t heard them. Or perhaps he simply chose to ignore them all together.

  “After the medicine has had time to work, I’m going to get you out of these clothes so you’re more comfortable,” Beau said, continuing the soothing caresses up and down her body. “Try to relax, honey. I know it’s hard, but try for me.”

  “Asked . . . me . . .”

  A brief look of confusion skittered across his forehead as he leaned in closer so he could hear her barely audible words.

  “What did I ask you, Ari?”

  “To . . . stay. What . . . did . . . mean?”

  His expression softened and his hand went to her forehead, his thumb pressing into her brow and rubbing along the lines, applying just enough pressure that it was soothing.

  “I don’t want you to leave,” he said simply.


  Her eyelids were growing heavier and heavier and she didn’t want to go under yet. She wanted to hear why. Sluggishly her eyelids fluttered, half closed, and then the room seemed to go dimmer and dimmer.

  “Beau?” she asked fearfully, wondering why the room was going dark.

  “I’m here,” he said. “Medicine working yet?”

  “Why?” she persisted, determined not to surrender to the pull of the medication until he answered her question.

  He hesitated, seeming to wage an internal battle, almost as if he couldn’t decide whether to tell her or not. She reached blindly, searching for his hand. Her anchor.

  His hand closed around hers and immediately warmth spread up her arm and into her chest. He lifted her hand to his mouth and pressed his lips to her palm.

  “Because you’re mine,” he said simply.


  BEAU stalked out of the bedroom, his face set in stone. He knew the others had moved to the living room because he heard voices in that direction. He was so pissed he literally couldn’t see straight. Rage formed a red haze that made his vision cloudy.

  As soon as he strode into the living room Dane looked up and said, “Oh shit.”

  “Beau, man, let it go,” Zack softly advised.

  Ignoring them all he headed straight for where Caleb stood rubbing his throat from where Beau had pinned him to the wall, blocking his brother’s airway. Caleb
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