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

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Something woke Mad up. He was alone in his bed, and it had never felt more empty. He knew Kenzie couldn’t stay, not when Jadirel was desperate to get his hands on her, but that didn’t mean he didn’t crave her company.

Soon, he promised himself. Soon he’d find a way to be by her side.

Even if it meant leaving Guerran.

Could he really? For so long he’d struggled on this hopeless planet, hoping that one day he might be reunited with his sister. But there were tens of thousands of exiles on Guerran. How many had been pardoned over the years? A hundred? The chance of actually getting a pardon was minuscule.

If he left with Kenzie, he could have a life. If she would have him.

Mad heard another noise.

He stayed still in his bed. There was a knife on the bedside table and his axe was right under the bed, but he didn’t want any intruder to know he was awake until it was too late. His fists could do plenty of damage before he had to reach for a weapon.

Heavy footsteps tromped through the room and threw open the door to his bathing chamber. Whoever was here wasn’t trying to hide.

Mad sat up and reached for his knife. He didn’t turn on the light, it would make his quarters a beacon for anyone looking in from the outside. The moonlight streaming in provided enough illumination to make out his intruder.

Jaek.

He spun around as if he’d heard Mad sit up. “She’s gone. Where is she?” He turned back toward the bathing chamber, dove in, and then came right back out once he’d assessed it was empty.

“I’m the only one here.” Mad put the knife back down with a fair bit of reluctance. Jaek looked ready to brawl, and Mad might need to defend himself, but he wasn’t about to stab his friend.

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Jaek growled again and slammed his fist against the wall. The room shook.

Okay. Mad slid out of bed and made for the kitchen. They needed to talk. He had alcohol, but he had a feeling they were both going to need clear heads. Tea it was, then.

“Are you saying you had Carise at some point?” Kenzie would be enraged that they’d been so close to her sister and let her go.

“Cari’s gone. Jadirel’s men.” He sank down onto one of the chairs and accepted his drink.

“Then why did you come here looking for her?” Mad supposed he was one of Jadirel’s men, but both he and Jaek knew the truth of that.

“Looking for the other one.” Jaek scowled, eyes scanning the room as if Kenzie would magically appear.

“I’m not sure where Kenzie is right now. We’re meeting up again tomorrow. But I need to understand what happened. Why didn’t you tell us you had Carise?” Mad had a few guesses. He’d never seen Jaek like this before, and there wasn’t much that could drive a man to this state.

“She’s mine,” Jaek ground out, every syllable daring Mad to contradict him. “Not letting her go.”

“She’s your mate?” Kenzie wasn’t going to like that one bit.

Jaek didn’t confirm it. “I have to get her back.”

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“Calm down. Drink your tea.” He’d turned into the nanny who had raised him and Taiana, always pushing tea on everyone. Another reminder of the home he’d never see again.

Jaek drank his tea.

“How long has Carise been with you? Are you bonded? Does she know about the connection? Does she trust you?” Kenzie was going to be angry and confused when she learned about this, and Mad had to manage things before everything exploded in his face.

“She trusts me,” Jaek said. He didn’t answer any of the other questions.

Mad put that aside for now. “When was she taken?”

“A few hours ago.” The teacup looked tiny in Jaek’s hands, and Mad was half sure the man would crush it in his frustration.

“Do you know who took her?” It wasn’t Jadirel, clearly. He didn’t do his own dirty work.

“Baryn and that new kid he has working for him. Gav. I have security footage of them dragging her away.” His eyes grew desperate. “She was struggling. She tried to fight. Baryn slapped her. I’ll kill him.”

Kenzie was going to be even angrier when she learned the man she’d spared had harmed her sister. “You may need to get in line.”

That confounded Jaek for a moment. “What?”

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“Kenzie beat Baryn in the pit but didn’t kill him.” Mad couldn’t wipe the small smile off his face at the memory. She was an artist with her weapons.

“Impossible. Cari said—” He cut himself off.

So they’d discussed Kenzie. It was only fair. He felt like he knew Carise. But Kenzie had changed a lot since the last time her little sister had seen her. What about Carise?

“I saw the fight with my own eyes.”

Jaek stood up.

“Where are you going?” Mad needed him here now, needed to figure out a plan of attack before Jaek did something stupid.

“To find Cari.”

And there it was. Mad glared. “Sit your ass back down. We’re going to get her back. I promise. But that’s not going to happen if you rush into Jadirel’s palace without any backup. Now tell me, are you sure Baryn and Gav were working for Jadirel?”

Jaek nodded swiftly, still glaring as if Mad was wasting his time.

This was not going to be an easy conversation, and Mad definitely hadn’t caught enough sleep to deal with it. Too bad. “Okay. I have a way into Jadirel’s palace. We’re going to get Carise back. You have my word.”

“How?” Mad wished he knew.

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