XXIX | Let Me Drown

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Gave her you. Gave her you. Gave her you.

The words echoed. They were everything. They were the entirety of Kaia's existence as the world faded around her and suffocating silence enveloped her.

It was almost peaceful for a moment, like falling through the sky, wind rushing past her. Kaia almost embraced it. But then some part of her reminded her that she had things to live for, people who needed her. Kaleb and Cole...and maybe even her dad, if she could forgive him.

Her real dad. Not Jack.

So she struggled with all she had, clung to the edge of the cliff with her fingertips. It wasn't much, though. It wasn't enough, and her fingers started slipping. 

But instead of the cold sinking feeling of death creeping into her flesh, she felt her nerves light up, flames exploding within her. A rush of air surprised her, sending her hair flying.

And then she felt oxygen return to her. She fell to her knees, the cement tearing gouges into her uncovered knees and palms. She clutched her throat as she coughed, her damaged trachea doing its best to conduct air. The world was loud and quiet at the same time, and Kaia wasn't sure if it was her own pulse or something else that was the source of the constant thudding and booming. 

When Kaia's vision started to focus, at first all she saw was concrete. Her palms were flat on the ground in front of her, and as she stared at them, reality started to set in again. The banging sounds had been gunshots. She began to panic. But then big, warm hands grabbed her shoulders and jerked her upright.

"Kaia!" It took her a moment, but when she finally realized who it was, she started to cry for so many reasons. Cole felt so far away. Even if she reached out, he'd only get farther and farther. He didn't know, and Kaia did. There was suddenly a wall between them, and it made Kaia sick how much she didn't want it there. 

"Sorry I made you save me. I'm sorry I made you worry and didn't tell you about all this," Kaia choked out through sobs. Now she had another secret, something worse that she was hiding from him. 

Cole's face softened, and he leaned forward, crushing her into a tight hug. "You're ok, you idiot."

"Hi, Kaia!" Kaia looked over Cole's shoulder, still stuck in his hug, to see Jaeda. She was standing there grinning, a gun in one hand and waving with the other. She was pointing a gun at a disgruntled man with a welt growing on his left cheekbone. 

"Jaeda, keep your attention where it belongs, or you'll accidentally shoot someone...again!" said a man with black shoulder length hair and intimidating tattoos.

Jaeda grimaced and turned back to where she'd been pointing her gun. Wait. Was it just Kaia, or were there suddenly a couple dozen too many people in this alley?

How long had Kaia's blackout been? What was going on? Kaia withdrew from Cole's arms, but he gripped her hand hard enough that she knew she wouldn't be moving an inch. "Cole, what's-"

"We got your message. Your guy brought back up, but not enough. He probably hadn't been planning on having Hunters here as well as Prowlers," Lionel said from where he casually leaned against the brick wall.

"Yeah," Cole said, "They didn't stand a chance when we-"

"Please never tell anyone I fainted," Kaia grumbled, touching her fingers to her raw neck, "Ever." The world still felt a little bit off. Everything felt off, but the fact that the wall in front of her appeared curved told Kaia that there was something physically wrong, something beyond the destructive secret Jack had injected into Kaia's veins. 

"I mean...you had an excuse, but-"

Kaia interrupted Lionel without hesitation, "Never. Especially not Kal-" Kaia stiffened and sat up straighter, looking around frantically, "Where's Kaleb? Is he ok?" There were so many people in the small alley that she couldn't see Kaleb anywhere. She scanned the faces of the crowd, the subdued and the subduers, and took little comfort in the realization that no one had died. She just wanted to see her mate.

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