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Exile’s Hunter Chapter Twenty-Four: Free Sci-fi Romance

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Kenzie tripped over her feet, and her cheeks burned at the humiliation. The chains on her hands clinked, and she could feel the eyes of everyone in Jadirel’s territory on her as Mad dragged her through the street.

It’s for Carise, she reminded herself. Again.

Jadirel had Carise. This was the only way to get close enough to get her back. She trusted Mad for some crazy reason, and she really hoped she hadn’t judged poorly.

The walls and stained glass windows of Jadirel’s palace mocked her as Mad stopped at the entrance and spoke to the guards.

“You finally found her,” one of them chuckled darkly, looking at her in a way that had her reaching for her knives.

Except she was unarmed.

If Mad betrayed her, she was going to kill him.

“She’s not for you.” Mad scowled, but didn’t sound possessive. He sounded bored. “Jadirel wants her, and I’m going to deliver her. No one else is getting the credit for this.”

The guard blew out a breath and glared at Mad. But he let them pass.

Mad was fully decked out in his best warrior gear, leathers in place, axe on his back, and a knife on his hip. She’d even let him borrow her baton just in case he needed another weapon. He was the size of a supersoldier, and she had to believe that he would be strong enough to defeat Jadirel himself.

Otherwise, she was dead.

Kenzie wouldn’t let Jadirel put a collar on her. She would die fighting. And she had to mentally apologize to Carise for her weakness, but she couldn’t let herself be taken. It wasn’t in her.

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A stronger woman would be willing to live through anything.

They entered the narrow passage that led to Jadirel’s throne room. This was their last chance to be alone. Possibly forever.

Kenzie wanted to launch herself at Mad and kiss the living daylights out of him. Dread hung over her like a curse, and she couldn’t help but fear that Jadirel was too strong. She’d never seen the exile king fight, but he’d hung onto his power here for years.

There could be eyes on them right now, but Kenzie risked taking a step forward. Mad whipped around and clasped her forearm. To anyone else, it might have looked like he was stopping her from hitting him.

Instead, it was as close to an embrace as they could manage.

Their eyes locked, and Kenzie could feel Mad’s gaze all the way down to her soul. And something that had been tickling the back of Kenzie’s mind finally annoyed her enough that she had to speak.

Mad had been protecting her this entire time, even when it was clear that she could handle herself. And when he’d talked about mates, there was something missing. “I think you’re holding something back from me,” she spoke, barely above a whisper, just in case there were hidden guards or recording devices. “When you were talking about fate. And mates. And the future. I know we don’t have time for you to explain, but whatever it is, I want you to do whatever you need to get us to the other side of this thing. No matter what.”

Mad’s face went a bit pale. “You don’t know what you’re saying.” She couldn’t tell if his voice trembled with fear or hope.

She wanted it to be hope. Under other circumstances, she would have covered her hand with his as a sign of trust, but she was still bound. So she had to use her words. “I trust you.” She wouldn’t have let anyone else put her in chains.

They stood like that for an eternity, but it must have really only been a few seconds. Not long after that, there was a knock against the door leading into Jadirel’s throne room ,and Mad dragged her inside.

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The two humans were chained beside the throne, and Kenzie didn’t have to try to hide her disgust this time. Two other Kru’dari, a man and a woman, stood to one side of Jadirel’s throne.

The spectacle would have witnesses.

Mad stilled in front of her, and Kenzie knew something was wrong. The door shut behind them, locking them in with Jadirel. She stepped to the side as best as she could and saw that Jadirel was wearing a strange glowing necklace today.

She’d seen that before. On the guard in the green zone. They were important, but she couldn’t remember what they were called.

Jadirel stroked a finger along the leather pouch and grinned. “I was lucky enough to get a nearly full Pitcher. I can’t remember the last time that happened. Now bring the girl forward.”

Pitcher. It took a second, and then Kenzie remembered. The pouches contained energy from Krudare, energy that could make them stronger, faster, and more resilient fighters.

This was bad. Really, really bad.

“Anything,” Kenzie whispered to Mad. If he had a trick up his sleeve, she needed him to pull it.

Immediately.

A headache started to form at the back of her skull, and Kenzie took a deep breath. Mad was going to win. He had to.

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The headache got worse.

“I don’t have all day, Damari,” Jadirel jeered.

Mad pulled out a knife and threw it straight at Jadirel’s face.

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