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Invasion Sample Chapter

Paige

Zephyr opens the door to a suite with two bedrooms next to Gavin and Drake. Zephyr leaves me standing in the doorway as he heads to one room and closes his door. My heart sinks. I don’t know what I want, or what I expected would happen, but disappointment and rejection curl in my stomach uncomfortably.


Though there are two bedrooms, there is only one bathroom. I watch his door, wondering if I should knock, before deciding against it. I close myself in the bathroom to shower. Someone restored the plumbing in this hotel somehow…and the water heater. The hot water feels like bliss over my aching muscles.


Flashes of the battle, of Zephyr’s death, crowd my vision as the water runs down my back. I gasp and fight off the anxiety that swells inside of me, pressing a hand to the shower wall. No one else remembers it. No one but me. He died saving me. In two days, he will probably do it again. I curl my fingernails against the tile wall and focus on my breathing.


A knock on the door is followed by Zephyr’s voice. “Paige? Are you alright? Your magic is trying to surge.”


I swallow hard and clear my throat, then turn the water off. “Fine. I’ll be out in a minute.”

Silence greets me.


Once I’m dry and dressed, I open the door and peer out into the suite. The balcony door remains open, allowing a warm breeze to blow through.


Zephyr stands on the balcony, arms over his chest as he stares out at the river. I pad out barefoot to join him in a fresh tank top and leggings. His brooding gaze sweeps over me as if seeking signs of weakness. What does it feel like to sense someone else’s Power? I know what it feels like to have his press against mine, but it can’t possibly be the same.


“I know you aren’t alright,” he says. “You don’t have to hide from me. There’s no way you can be alright considering what you’ve agreed to do.”


I watch the way the warm breeze makes the tips of his hair shift. The white t-shirt clings to his muscles and forms tight around his chest. This is the first time we have been alone for real, with no danger looming around the corner waiting to catch us and no forced distance to keep us apart. This draws me closer to him. I slide my hand down his arm. When my fingers brush his, they automatically weave together.


“Zephyr, you don’t have to do this,” I say softly, staring at our hands, reveling in the warmth of his skin against mine. “In fact, I would prefer it if you didn’t. Chances are I won’t survive, and I think that’s the way this is supposed to be.”


He turns toward me, hurt shining in his eyes. “Don’t do that. Don’t push me away now. We both know this is exactly where I’m supposed to be.”


I want to argue with him, but he’s right. The Dreams we shared before we even met led us to this. Celeste told me he would be there, no matter what. A sad smile perches on my lips.


“I don’t want anyone else to die because of me,” I say. January’s tear-streaked face as she apologizes flashes through my mind. Ivy telling me to finish this. Hundreds of faceless soldiers I vaporized with radiation I pulled from the earth during battle. Tears prick the corners of my eyes. “If I could just…”


Zephyr places a finger against my lips, shaking his head. “Don’t even say it. I won’t let you fall on your sword when we can still save you.” His other arm slides around my waist, pulling me closer. My pulse quickens and heat rushes through me.


I take his finger from my lips and kiss his hand, then place it against my cheek. For so long, I have suppressed these feelings, this longing for more, for him. Now, all I can think about is how I can save his life. That he wants to save me so desperately only makes my heart swell with love.


Celeste gave me hope, but she didn’t promise we would succeed. There’s a chance we could die. I can’t allow it. “I need you to promise me—”


“Paige…”


“—promise that if this isn’t going to work, if it comes down to me or everyone we know and love—”


“You can’t ask me to do this.”


“—that you will kill me quickly.”


Zephyr tries pulling away, but I cling to him, gripping his wrist as my other arm holds him close. He shakes his head. “I can’t.”


“You can. I think you are the only person who can.” I press my cheek into his palm, holding his gaze firmly with my own. “Promise me.”


His Adam’s apple bobs as he swallows hard. Fear and love and anguish make the lines on his face harder than normal. He nods. “I promise. But I decide when you’ve reached the point of no return. Not you.”


Agreeing to his terms means he might wait until it’s too late to stop my Powers from exploding out of me, but how can I argue and still get any kind of agreement from him? I nod. I trust Zephyr. Not only with my life but the weight of this horrible duty. He is the only one among us who will have the strength to do what needs to be done when the time comes.

Zephyr dips his head closer to mine. His penetrating gaze drills into my soul. It makes me ache. Of all the boys I’ve taken an interest in over the past couple of years, none of them are anything like Zephyr. There’s something steadfast and immovable about him, like a mountain where I can find shelter. I love him more than I ever imagined I could love someone. And I’ve already watched him die once. I don’t know if I can handle it again.


Zephyr’s knuckles graze under my chin, tilting my face up toward his. “What’s wrong?”


“What?”


“You looked like you were a million miles away.” The intensity of his stare supercharges my adrenaline. “You can tell me.”


How do I explain? “I…saw your death on the battlefield.”


“I’m here.” His thumb strokes my jaw.


“Now you are.” I bite my lip. Zephyr will understand if anyone would. He won’t try to judge me or placate me. “I can manipulate time. When you died, I lost control. I know what this world looks like when my Powers explode because I did it once already.” My words catch in my throat.


“That’s why you said you tried to save him,” Zephyr breathes. His voice is deeper, and his gaze keeps shifting to my lips. “You tried to go back.”


I nod and the tears expose my shame and failure to him. But Zephyr doesn’t condemn me with a look, doesn’t fault me for a moment. His rugged features soften. His gaze caresses me as gently as his fingertips.


Zephyr is rugged beauty. A lakeside breeze on a hot day. An ancient demigod sculpted of the mountains. It terrifies me how much I want him, need him…love him.


“No one blames you,” he says, but the heat in his voice doesn’t match his words. He is thinking about the same thing as me. I can see it clearly over every inch of his tense body.


My pulse quickens. We stand a heartbeat apart. I can’t breathe with him so close, can’t think, can’t blink. His hot breath rolls along my neck, intensifying the pulse of need racing through me.


Zephyr presses against me, slowly squeezing out any space between us. His bristled jaw brushes my cheek. The surrounding air supercharges with a fiery energy that tingles every part of me. The fingers on my jaw slide along my neck and I shudder in delight. Then his lips brush my jaw and create a trail down to the tender skin of my neck. Every nerve in my body is on fire, but this time it has nothing to do with my Power and everything to do with his power over me. I cling to him, breathe him in.


His fingers press into my lower back, hugging me close. I half expect that any second I will be ripped out of this glorious dream and thrust back into reality. But this moment is real. It’s ours. I revel in his scent, fresh like a lakeside breeze, but with a hint of muskiness. His lips continue, soft yet firm, hungry yet patient. I exhale his name and Zephyr eases back.

The burning intensity and desire in his eyes undoes me. His hand grasps mine. “I need to stop,” he says breathlessly.


I can hardly breathe, too. “Why?”


“Paige…”


“I’ve waited long enough,” I say.


His grip on my hand tightens, and he peers into me as if he needs further permission.


Whatever he sees settles matters. Zephyr leads me into his room. A shiver of pleasure races down my spine as his fingers trace my back.


“I’ve been waiting a long time to kiss your lips,” he says. His voice rumbles with a heated desire that makes me wild. “Properly. Outside of dreams and without some big, devastating event around us. Just you and me. And those lips.” His thumb brushes my lower lip.


I hesitate. He's right. We haven't truly had space to ourselves like this since we met to really enjoy one another. This moment feels so much more sacred than that last kiss had been. Our first real kiss outside of dreams had been on the heels of Baron's death. Our second was surrounded by the end of the world—not that he would remember that kiss. His gaze sinks to my lips.


“Do it, then,” I say, challenging him to get on with it. I can’t stand how slowly he is moving.


Zephyr’s lips crash into mine, hungry and ruthless and full of passion. A sound of delight slips up my throat and into his mouth. His desire rolls out like thunderous waves in a storm. There is nothing gentle and slow about this kiss. It’s uninhibited, a release of months of pent-up desire. If he is the stormy waters, I am the gale-force winds whipping us into a tempest. His mouth shapes to mine until I can taste him. The kiss transforms me into a mess of longing.

Then the storm shifts. His lips pull back, angling against my own, jerking at a core of acute need within me. My fingers slide under the hem of his shirt, and he groans against my lips as my fingers brush his skin. His fingers tangle in my hair as the other hand tugs at my shirt. I’m burning now. Our bodies press together in desperate need.


Once more, his lips blaze a trail along my jaw and neck. My fingers slide up his shirt, exploring the muscles of his back.

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