To Hell and Back - 13 | vii

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Storming Hedgewood had to wait. Ava's 'problem' was a matter that required a second's more thought. So close to the end, Marx was growing impatient. They needed to strike while they could and delays after delays were shifting the advantage square into the enemy's hands. He folded his arms across his chest, keeping his face void of his emotions as he listened to Ava.

"He has layers of protection wrapped around him like a shawl," she was telling them as they stood inside the lobby of Anax Corp. Having the conversation on the outside felt too open. While they conversed, the last of the civilians and the injured were being ushered to the safety of the Mountain. Those left behind were there to fight. Marx found that he was itching to fight.

Ava continued, "We got through three of them before we had to get out of there."

"Kunz spent years perfecting his magic," Rea said. "It stands to reason he would not be easy to kill."

"And why are you two standing here?" Daniel asked the two members of the Order who escorted Ava through the portal. "As we heard it, you all ganged up on Ava, took her stone and threw her out."

"Daniel," Ava started. He didn't heed her.

He continued to say, "If you had all stood up to him then none of this would be happening."

"We did stand up to him," Cale refuted. The man stood at the same height as the woman, Rea, beside him. While her face looked pleasant enough, his was etched in sharp lines, his eyes cold and flat to match the tone of his voice.

Daniel growled, his eyes taking the frosty blue of his wolf. "Not soon enough look at what he has done to this world."

"He has done much worse to mine," Cale said.

Daniel took a step forward. "And whose fault was that? You could have stopped him." For a moment, Marx wasn't sure whose vehemence he was witnessing, Daniels's or Sven's. "Had you the guts to do it, all of you could have put him down before he grew this powerful."

Marx heard what Daniel was saying, and he was inclined to agree. The Order had made their side on the matter clear when they turned against their Queen yet here they were. It would be naive of him not to consider that their choosing to be opposed to Kunz could be a subterfuge. A means of infiltrating their ranks to take them down from the inside. Marx was not a paranoid man, but looking for the best in people did not mean the best was always there to see. In a war like this with so much at stake, he was double cautious.

"You trust them?" Marx asked Ava point blank there in front of her new companions. The time for tact was not now.

Ava sent her two fellow members of the Order a look over her shoulder. "Considering the things I can do to them they are not an issue."

He gave way to her council having confidence that Ava would deal with the two should they choose to step out of line. Marx may not trust the newcomers, but he trusted Ava with his life. How many times had she saved him already? Saved the others? She brought three of his pack members back from the dead. She was no longer the Queen of the Order; she was a loyal member of his pack. His family. He nodded his acceptance of her words. Daniel growled, said nothing further.

"Do we have a plan?" Anabella asked. "Sounds to me like we only get one shot at his. Fail the first time we won't live to see a second."

"Sven did a similar thing," Martha said. She was absently rubbing at her injured hand.

"Child's play," Ava said. "Sven's magic is nothing when you stake it against Kunz's."

Rea changed her position to stand more at Ava's side rather than behind her as she addressed her Queen. Daniel, on instinct, shifted, so he had a clear line to the woman he didn't trust anywhere near his mate. Rea noticed, gave Daniel a polite smile then carried on with what she was going to say. "With the book, the advantage is in our corner, your highness. Given sufficient time we can unravel the protections making it easier for you to kill the King," Rea said.

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