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Bright Moon (Illumination Book 2) by Paige Taylor (1)

Chapter One

My eyes snap open with sudden awareness, my lungs heaving against my tight chest as I inhale deep breaths for what feels like the first time in forever. Staring up at the white ceiling, I try to stretch out my arms and legs, pushing through the stiffness that pulls on each of my muscles. Everything feels like it’s been locked in the same position for too long, achy and unyielding. I attempt to turn my head to the side and wince at the immediate pain that shoots up to the top of my skull. Shit. Okay, need to try to sit up then. I breathe deep a few times, preparing myself for the agony that I’m sure to experience from the effort. Bracing my hands and feet on the bed, I squeeze my eyes shut, and use my arms and push myself up. Fuck me. Why is this so fucking hard? I lock my elbows and continue to inch my way upward, sliding my hands closer to the edge of the soft white sheets. My muscles scream at me with every passing second that I continue to hold the position, my shoulders capitulating under the pressure of my body’s weight. I lean my back up against the headboard once I’m upright and try to calm my huffing before I open my eyes again.

“Wade! Dylan!” I shriek in alarm when my direct line of sight shows them unconscious in single white beds across from me.

Their bodies remain motionless and panic begins to spread throughout me. Why are they not responding?! My stomach drops with horror as my last cognizant conscious memory flashes across my mind. A scream threatens to tear from my throat, so I slam a heavy hand to my mouth and tears begin to fall in earnest. The excruciating pain, the reason behind the agony, all of it assaults my mind, on an endless loop. That much pain can only mean one thing; our people are dead.

“Oh, my God. I’m going to be sick.” I gag through my closed fingers. Bending over the side of the bed, I wave my arm about in a haphazard search for the bin. Once my fingers close around one, I pull it closer just as my stomach clenches in rebellion. I heave repeatedly, wishing over quickly. I take a quick look around and survey the white room. Set up similar to a small medical ward, equipment surrounds a handful of singular beds, and the colour white abounds everywhere. White beds, white walls, white floors.

Not able sit still any longer, with concerted effort I swing my legs over the bed and put the bin on the floor. I try to stand up, but my knees collapse underneath me, and I fall back onto the bed, my head spinning with vertigo. Once the room stops spinning, I grab hold of the bed head, and I use my arms to pull me up and help keep my balance while my legs struggle to regain their strength. How long had we been fucking out for? I start to shuffle towards my mates, one-foot sliding across the floor at a time, my eyes shifting between Dylan and Wade. Neither have awoken yet, remaining out cold despite my regular calling of their names. Both appear peaceful in their repose, their bodies protecting them from the pain awaiting once they regain consciousness.

I reach Wade’s bed first and lean down to press my lips to the top of his Golden-blond head before taking his hand and threading my fingers through his while I lean over to Dylan and repeat the same process. Squeezing their hands, I pray for them to wake up soon. We need to be at home, not here with the Council. Our packs and my other mates need us at home. Wade’s fingers close around mine a little tighter, and my head whips in his direction at the pressure. Is he waking up?

"Wade, baby? Can you wake up for me? Please?" I keep my pleas low in his ear, my hand squeezing in his gently. As soft grunts and groans sound from his throat, I let go of his hand to brush my fingers through his hair. My other hand refuses to detach from Dylan's, not wanting to miss a indication of my other Mate waking up.

"Wade, I love you, but you need to wake up. I need you to wake up, please. We need to go home. Your Pack needs you, and both Marco and Zane need us there." I continue to ramble into Wade’s ear, running my eyes over his strong jawline and bone structure until he surprises me when his eyes pop open and those crystal blue orbs lock onto mine.

"Hey Ava," he whispers with a smile. The change in his is immediate as our situation dawns on him, his eyes filling with tears and his emotions rolling his face without restriction. The devastation rips through him, and he once again closes his eyes, curling his body around my hand as tears run a rapid trail down his face. Sobs wrack his body, his chest shuddering through the havoc his emotional turmoil triggers. My own tears drip down my face as I let some of my own sorrow break through the wall I started to build since waking up.

I whisper repetitive and quite pointless platitudes, I send love down our bond, anything that comes to mind to ease however much pain I can. Apologies bounce off unhearing ears, all while I continue to clasp the hand Wade clings to.

I sit there for so long that both of my arms start to go numb, but not before I feel a long-awaited squeeze and pull from Dylan, his consciousness regaining clarity after God knows however long we have been out.

"Dylan, babe, are you awake?" I prod, quiet in my questioning, not wanting to raise my voice too loud in case he is sleeping still. I sweep my gaze over him, searching his Mediterranean features for any signs of awareness.

"I'm awake, but I wish I were dead," he whispers towards the roof, no emotion in his voice. My heart splinters at the utter desolation flowing down our bond.

"They died, Ava, they fucking died, and I wasn’t there. Their Alpha wasn’t fucking there to protect them." The emotionless pronouncement only causes the tears to run faster down my face. Wade let’s go of my hand and pushes me towards Dylan.

Sitting down beside him on his bed, I peel back the fingers rubbing over his face until I can tug his hand to my chest, and my gaze locks onto his defeated brown eyes.

"We don't know exactly what happened yet, we don’t know how many people died or were injured. What we do know is this: we need to talk to the council, go home, and be with our Packs. We will figure this out." I reply as gently as I can, pushing love and truth down our bond, anything I can do to help relieve the pain in his soul.

"One is too fucking many, Ava. One is more than unacceptable. But you’re right, we do need to go home, to talk to Marco and Zane, and to be with the people who need us." His body contracts to lift himself up. He did that a lot easier than I did.

Both Dylan and Wade get up at the same time and move toward each other. They hug with such ferocity that I’m scared I’ll hear the pop of bones at any moment. They both turn to me and haul me into their hug, my chest to Dylan's as I’m sandwiched between my two Alpha mates. We stand there holding each other for a few minutes before pulling apart and searching the room for our things. Thankfully, we’re still dressed in our clothes from the night of the apparent attack of our Packs, for which I’m grateful for, but our wallets, phones, and accessories have been removed.

Seeing a small set of drawers off to the side of the lone door, I walk towards it, my legs no longer shaking. I start opening the drawers and find all of our things placed in neat rows inside. Grabbing up my phones and unlocking it, I dial Marco. The ringing vibrates through my body, my breath catching with every one that goes unanswered until his voice mail picks up. I try Zane next, my anxiety ramping up through the roof when neither of them answers. I repeat the process, three calls for each, all with no response. Fuck!

"Baby, they won’t answer. Stop calling. Let’s go speak to the council and figure out what the fuck is going on, then we can go straight home. They will call us back if and when they can," Wade instructs from behind me, reaching forward to grab his own wallet and phone.

"I can feel them, Wade. I know they aren’t dead, but I need to hear their voices," I cry, looking down to press Marco's name again on my call log.

"Ava, enough. Wade is right, they will call when they can, babe. We should just get going," Dylan insists as he follows Wade’s lead and heads towards the door, pulling it open and motioning me through.

I peer out into the hallway for any danger before walking to the grand staircase at the end of the hallway. Wade and Dylan hurry in front to quickly take point, with me a step behind them as stride towards the room that we visited when we first came here.

Without waiting for an invitation, Dylan and Wade barge into the Council's meeting room, their soft murmurs stop the instant they notice our unwelcome intrusion, and their cold eyes turn towards us. All of them seated the way they were when we’d first been introduced. Bethany sits at the head with her ebony hair, Thomas, mocha-skinned with piercing green eyes to her right, Brody and his enviable white-blond hair to the left, the beautiful Anastasia further round the table, and the suave Cedric opposite her.

"Nice to see our guests awake, however I don’t believe I heard a knock," Bethany chides with mild censure, yet the look in her eyes indicates she'd have no problems tearing any of our throats out.

"Council members, we regret this intrusion and offer our sincerest apologies, but as you may imagine, my Alpha Mates and I are anxious to go home; our Packs require immediate attention. Thank you for aiding and caring for us during our indisposition. We do, however, wish to know what action we can expect will be taken against the people that attacked us," I say, ploughing ahead before my mates can speak, not wanting them to insult any of the council members. They would kill us without hesitation for any verbal abuse my mates would undoubtedly utter while they are this worked up.

"We will investigate the matter, but as it stands, we’ve been unable to reach your Pack since you three lost consciousness two days ago. Therefore, we require a full report from at least one of you upon your return. If there is cause for us to step in, then we will, but under no circumstance are you to take action without our prior consent. Understood?" Cedric’s reply is curt and sounds forced. His gaze drills into each of us with disdain, his eyes twitching around the corners in anger.

I can feel the anger and tension rising in the three of us, and I force my hands to stiffen to stop them from clenching into fists. What the fucking fuck? Are they seriously telling us to do nothing?

"Thank you for your time, Council members. We will be in contact with a report as soon as we figure out occurred to our Packs," Wade manages to reply with civility, while Dylan and I just lower our heads in agreement.

"Then you are excused. Now remove yourselves from our presence before we decide to make a point of your earlier rudeness, " Anastasia disparages before turning her back on us, and the others follow suit.

We take measured steps backwards until we reach the door. Silent on our way down the hall, no security enters as we hurry towards the exit, but the stillness in the house doesn’t fool us into relaxing our guard.

Once we make it outside into the fresh air, as we look out over their lush, manicured lawn, I’m ready to explode over the absolute horseshit that just came out of the Council’s mouths. They can get fucked if they think we’ll allow the people who hurt our Pack to escape without retribution. But before the words can leave my parted lips, Dylan's hand whips up to clamp over my mouth, preventing any words from leaving. He gives a slight shake of his head, and I get the gist…I should shut up while we’re still on Council grounds. I roll my eyes but nod my head in understanding and stomp down the drive to Wade's Ford Explorer.

Dylan and Wade get in the front seats while I climb into the back and plop down, all without speaking, as we begin the drive home. The negative of malcontent and fury fill the small compartment of the car, crawling over my skin. Still so raw from the events of the last few days, my walls collapse once again. The tears begin to fall, one at a time at first, until they start cascading down my face too quickly for me to swipe away. I hunch over as the emptiness in my gut gets bigger, my sobs stealing my strength until I’m nothing but hysterical crying mess. Large hands lift me up and move me closer to the window before Dylan's large frame climbs over the front consul to sit next to me. His large, muscular arms wrap around my body, hauling me against his chest, and he begins to rock me back and forth. No-one says anything as I let everything out, but when no tears remain, I lift my face from Dylan’s broad chest and glance up to see his face wet with tears as well. I press my lips to his and kiss him with everything left in me. I shift until my legs are straddling his hips and thread my fingers through his hair. His hands slide down my back to rest on my ass as I grind up against the hardness held hostage in his jeans.

"Babe, what’s going on?" he rasps, his beautiful chocolate eyes staring into mine.

"I need you, right now. I want to forget, even if just for a few minutes," My reply is husky as I trail kisses down his neck, still rocking against his hard cock, inciting a response from him with my gentle motions.

"We're in the car, on the highway, babe," he states like it’s escaped my attention where we sit.

"I'm aware. Wade, any problem with this?" I ask with a slight turn of my head, just in time to catch him rearranging his tightening jeans.

"No problem on my end, baby. I’m happy to just watch. In fact, I think we all could use a bit of a distraction right about now,"

"Dylan, I need this. I think you might need it, too. I crave this," I persist. I know the only reason he hasn’t already jumped me is because of concerns about whether I'm in the right frame of mind to consent.

His lips are back on mine in an instant, teasing them apart with lazy swipes of his tongue as one of his hands tighten on my ass and pulls me closer. The other trails a light touch over my chest before his palm closes over my left breast, tightening over my nipple and making me arch his palm. I scrape my nails down his chest, and my fingers latch onto the button and pull it open, forcing the zipper to slide down. Dylan's teeth replace his lips, and he bites down on my lip as my hand reaches in to pull out his cock. Dylan shifts, turning us until my back rests on the seat and he lies on top of me, with his lips still connected to mine. His tongue flicks against mine as his hands go to my jeans and work them down my legs. His body moves back over mine the instant my legs pull free, his cock rubbing over my clit as he grinds against me. I wrap my legs around his lean waist and rock my hips up into his, hoping to alleviate the pressure between my legs. I dig my fingers into his boxer briefs and make quick work of divesting him of them, dragging them down his hips, while he does the same to my underwear. My arms wrap around his back, and I yank him closer as he lines himself up with my entrance before sliding into me in one powerful thrust.

"Fuck!" I curse as his size stretches me to the point that hovers between pleasure and pain, my entire focus on the man staring into my eyes. He growls and begins to move as I sink my teeth into his shoulder as he starts to move within me, each stroke lighting me up from within. He leans down and peppers me with tender kisses me, each touch of his lips a mere whisper, while he continues to drive into me faster and harder with each stroke. Dylan's braces his weight on one hand while the other reaches down to rub circles against my clit, the sensation bringing me closer to the edge, closer to the orgasm that we both need. The car jumps up and down like it’s going over rough road and our bodies bounce with the movement. Dylan pushes into me just that little bit harder as the momentum slams us back down, his hand flying forward to brace us against the door. His hand comes away from my clit, and I take over the ministrations without hesitation. He begins to pump harder into me, hitting that perfect spot and pulling shameless groans from my lips. I rub quick, desperate circles against my clit and push my hips up, meeting him thrust for thrust. The smell of sex permeates the air, and I turn my head towards the front to find Wade's eyes locked on mine, a look of hunger clear upon his face. His expression pushes me over the edge, and I feel myself pulse around Dylan, gripping him tighter, as I detonate. My pleasure, along with my pelvis rutting against his, forces the orgasm from Dylan. He groans above me, his breathing heavy through his continued ecstasy as his orgasm continues to pulse through him, his thrusts slow into gentle, shallow movements.

"I love you, Ava, more than life itself," Dylan hums against my ear, bringing a smile to my face.

"Just as I love you, Dylan Andrews," I reply, tightening my arms and legs around him.

"Fuck, that was hot," Wade blurts out into the quiet, making both Dylan and me laugh while we sit up and start to put pants back on.

Wade hands me a couple of tissues from the front so that I can clean up the uncomfortable wetness between my legs.

"You’re mine tonight, baby, all mine," Wade says from the front before once again adjusting the large bulge in his pants.

"Jeez, what a hardship," I retort with no small amount of sarcasm, the smile not budging from my face.

"So, are we going to talk about what happened, or are we just going to pretend we didn’t go see the Council this morning," I inquire addressing the elephant in the car. That adage doesn’t sound right without the word room, but we’re not in a room, so car shall be.

"When we stop for the night we will, don’t want to debate that just yet." Wade’s cryptic reply rings with caution, and his hands tighten on the steering wheel, his jaw clenching.

"Ok, then. So, who's choosing the music for the trip back?" I quip, watching Dylan and Wade’s tense frames. Why wouldn’t they want to discuss it now? We won’t stop for, like, another 12 hours, and it’s only us in the car.

“Hey guys, is it because you think the car might be bugged?” I use our mind-speak to pry for more information, not wanting to risk saying anything to cause us more trouble.

Wade responds with only a simple tap of his finger on his nose, letting me know I’m correct in m y speculation. Apparently, our lockdown even effects out mental communication. Well, this is going to be a long fucking 12 hours.

* * *

The sound of Dylan's low voice stirs me from my clumber within Wade’s arms, but I don’t open my eyes yet, wanting to just listen to his voice a little longer.

"Yeah man, I'll wake her up now. Thank you for getting back to us. She hasn’t said it, but I know how much she worried over you two, regardless of the fact she could feel your bonds. We'll be back by tomorrow night. Thank you again for everything you did." Dylan's gruff voice cracks at the end of his sentence.

"Ava, babe. Wake up, Zane is on the phone." His hands give me a gentle shake to rouse, but my eyes snapped open at the mention of Zane.

"Zane! Are you ok? Is Marco ok? What happened? How is everyone? What's going on?" I fire down the phone, wanting to know everything and nothing all at the same time. The fact he’s on the phone and able to speak is enough for me right now.

"Hey, Angel, it’s so good to hear your voice. God, I needed to hear it so much the last few days." His sigh echoes down the line, his tiredness clear.

"We're on our way, but damn, it’s good to hear your voice, too," I assure him, waiting to hear whatever else he has to say. Dylan and Wade sit around the bed with me, listening in to our conversation, even though I suspect they already know.

"It was fucking brutal, Angel. I've never seen anything like it. Fuck! We were so unprepared. Trent died protecting some of the kids playing in the clearing when the attack began. We lost twenty in all, out of the two hundred that were here. Three of them were children, and two were mothers. The rest consisted of people willing to face down the motherfuckers that broke the wards. A lot more were injured when the first sixty of us fought a group of thirty or so rogues. Several of the Pack were injured trying to sprint to safety. Marco's hurt and hasn’t woken up yet. I called in the healers, and they’ve been working non-stop on everyone. I'm up to my fucking ears in people looking for a leader, and I don’t know how much longer I can pretend, Angel. I’m so fucking emotionally exhausted. I’ve got nothing left." Zane recounts everything like he’s written down a list to make sure he didn’t forget anything. but I know better. He just had to unload and get everything off his chest in one go. My heart lurches into my throat with his comment about Marco, my fear rising with such speed and strength that I almost forget to focus on my Mate who needs my attention and encouragement through his struggle right now.

"Zane, you are a leader; you are an Alpha, as much as you refuse to admit it. Our people turn to you because they know you possess the ability, the strength to care for them, and the desire to do so. Yes, it is fucking soul destroying to see this happen to our packs, but soon, we will be there to deal with it together. I know you are spent, bub, I know, but I just need you to keep it together for one more day without us, OK? Physically I may not be there yet, but I am here. All you ever need to do is pull on that beautiful connection our bond formed, and I will happily lend you strength, patience, love, whatever you need. I will always give you everything I have left to give you," I proclaim, all while standing up and trying to get dressed one handed. Dylan and Wade already started packing our belongings, so we can leave now rather than in a few hours. None of us wanting to prolong this journey anymore; our home, our Pack, my other Mates need us.

"Thank you, Angel. I love you." His hoarse whisper comes through the phone and I can imagine his head resting in his big hands, his beautiful tattoos rippling with every movement.

"I love you, Zane. Now tell me about Marco," I demand, needing to know what the fuck is going on with my Mate.

* * *

A very long drive later, with minimal bathroom breaks, we pull up to Wade's house. I don’t even wait for the car to come to a complete stop before I throw open the door and run up the stairs in search of my unconscious mate. I pull on the bond, allowing it to lead me towards the back of the house and off to the side of the stairs. I stop in front of the door to Wade’s suite and take a deep breath, readying myself to see my third comatose mate in two days. Pushing the door open, I peer inside to see Marco by himself, asleep on the bed, bruises and cuts littering his face and chest. My heart contracts with pain, and tears threaten to fall from my eyes once again. So many fucking tears in such a short time. These boys make me all kinds of soft. I cross the room and sit down on his bed, careful to keep quiet.

Taking his hand in one of mine, I brush the other through his hair.

I bring his hand up to cup my face, breathing in his scent and send up a silent prayer that he will wake soon.

"Hello, Mate." The gravelly voice startles me, and I jolt in surprise. My wide eyes shoot up and are soon held captive by two gorgeous, russet eyes.

"Hello, Mate" I sob back, a single, happy tear falling down my face in relief.

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