The Contract – Part 5

To celebrate the release of my new novel, Contained, I will be posting chapters from the prequel to the Fractured Series, The Contract.

Here is the final installment, which includes an epilogue. I hope you enjoy!

Chapter 5

The moment she saw Tobias relax, Maddison blew out a breath to ease her own tension. She’d sensed the moment he entered the arena, and he’d been wound so tight he looked ready to smash through the glass to get to her.

It had given her a moment’s pause when she noticed the Nrikabat shadowing him, until the son of a bitch winked at her and she’d realised it was Marcus. The deceptively human gesture looked so out of place she almost laughed.

“Oof.” A large, hard fist smacked into her solar plexus, making her bones vibrate.

Son of a god-damn bitch.

Gobowin swung again. “Get your head in the game, witch. You’re making this too easy.”

She dodged the fist, diving between his legs to come up behind him. “I.” She elbowed him in his lower back, making him howl. “Have.” Her fist connected with his jaw as he swung to face her. “A.” The pain shot through her arm but was ignored. “Name.” Her other hand flattened as it connected with his stomach.

Before she had time to dodge out of his reach, Gobowin grabbed her shoulders. He lifted her from the ground and, with a satisfied grunt, threw her against the glass barrier.

“You’ll earn a name when you earn my respect,” he thundered, coming for her.

Smug prick.

 She rolled, despite the pain still shuddering through her body. It took effort to find her feet, which was probably because the whole damn cage was spinning. Gritting her teeth, she glared at him, or one of him anyway, given the double vision.

“What’s the matter, witch, don’t you know how to fight without your tricks?”

She grabbed hold of his outstretched arms, using the power in his thick muscles to vault over him, landing on his back. “I don’t need magic to kick your sorry ass,” she said in his ear.

He spun in a tight, fast circle, trying to shake her loose. Somehow she held on, though her thoughts were racing as quickly as the carousel she was on. Her goal had been to strike the pressure point at the top of his spine. But without her magic she didn’t have enough power. It would probably just make him angry, the equivalent of being stung by an insect.

Not that he wasn’t angry already. With a frustrated roar, he threw himself backwards with the intent of crushing her beneath him. Her reflexes were a little off, her body tired from withholding the magic, and she wasn’t fast enough to roll free of his body.

A scream echoed around her head as they hit the ground. Gobowin landed on her leg, effectively pinning her. Her jaw almost shattered under the pressure of holding back her cry of pain. The vultures would get nothing from her.

“Maddy, are you okay?”

She flinched at Tobias’ voice in her head, and turned to find him in the crowd.

“Just peachy.” She looked at Gobowin, who was showing no signs of movement. He’d probably knocked the wind from his sails – he had gone down pretty hard. “I don’t suppose you can zap a little energy my way. Gobowin weighs a ton.”

The rich, musical laughter sounded different in her head, though no less powerful. She didn’t have time to dwell on her body’s reaction to it. Gobowin had decided to rejoin the fight. He rolled off her, rather awkwardly, to rise to his feet. Her own moves weren’t particularly graceful either, since she’d probably sprained her ankle.

It didn’t stop her from bearing down on it. She couldn’t afford to show any sign of weakness. “Have you got your breath back?” she asked, not trusting the hard, triumphant look in his eyes.

“How’s the leg?” he challenged, unclipping an axe from a sheath on his leg. He was too anxious, too impatient for freedom to use his fists now.

Her eyes never left his weapon. “You’re lucky I can’t use magic, otherwise I’d shrink that down to the size of your-”

Gobowin roared and charged. Waiting until the last moment she danced out of the way, laughing when he sailed past her. He almost face-planted the wall, and the effort to reverse his forward motion cost him several seconds.

She used the time to gather her remaining strength. Then, vaulting towards him, she landed an arm’s length away and jabbed her fingers into his chest. The axe, which had begun a downward arc, clattered to the floor.

“Bitch,” he screamed, making a grab for her.

Maddison barely dodged his large, calloused hands, but she got to the axe before he did. Its power tore through her, burning her palm. She’d been prepared for the feedback, for the pain that came with handling such a weapon. Still the disharmony of it stole her breath.


Gobowin’s explosion of anger made him clumsy. An advantage she’d used several times during the fight. She honed her anger, used it to focus her skills. The moment Gobowin lost his head his incredible fighting abilities, coupled with his previous injuries, made him next to useless. She drilled that point home when she hooked a foot around his, and used his weight against him. Again.

He crashed face-first into the ground, the impact rippling across the pit hard enough to make her teeth rattle. A second later she was straddling him.

“I look forward to the re-match,” she said, close to his ear, before jamming the handle of the axe into the top of his spine.

For the benefit of their plan, she hooked an arm around his neck and made a show of suffocating him. She didn’t look up to judge the crowd’s reaction, afraid they would see right through her. They had to believe Gobowin was dead or it wouldn’t work.

Silence descended on the room like a thick, heavy curtain, and still she continued her charade. When the uproar began – a boom of sound with no beginning and no end – she leapt into action, standing over Gobowin’s prone body.

“Do you think they’re buying it?” she asked Tobias, seeking him out in the crowd.

His eyes met hers, the beady reflection of his current form making her shiver. “I don’t think anyone is willing to challenge you.”

Her brows rose as two guards entered the pit. They knelt to check Gobowin’s body while she reached out with her magic to mask the sound of his beating heart. As her power spread, so did the illusion, until not even she could detect the rise and fall of his chest.

“He’s all yours now,” she told Tobias. “The illusion will wear off the moment he regains consciousness, so we don’t have much time.”

His responding smirk was almost familiar. “He’s going to be royally pissed when he wakes up.”

“He deserves it for being such a horse’s ass!” With that, she followed the guards out of the cage and back towards her cell.

They kept her waiting for hours, so long that she wondered if the clan leader had double crossed her after all. He was no doubt spitting the demon equivalent of feathers, and would be desperate to save face.

A dozen scenarios ran through her head, but none of them prepared her for the broken, bleeding body of Donovan. He was dumped unceremoniously at her feet, six hours after the fight. One look at him and she knew he was barely holding on.

Kneeling beside him she reached out to Zachariah, and almost wept when she felt a connection. She’d been afraid they were still cloaking the caves.

“Hang on,” she whispered to Donovan, cradling his head in her lap.

Zachariah appeared, with Sebastian in tow. “What-”

“We need to get him out of here,” she said, cutting through the tension. “Please, Zac, we have to help him.”

It was Sebastian who dropped beside her, placing a gentle hand on her shoulder. “We’ll do all we can.”

Zachariah knelt to touch Donovan’s forehead, his face creased in concentration. She knew he must be pumping enough juice into Donovan to light up the entire den, because she could feel it. The spellbinding effects of his gift. He couldn’t heal the injuries, but he could take away the pain.

“Thank you,” she whispered, not touching him in case she broke the link.

“She’s right,” he said to Sebastian. “We have to get him out of here. It’s bad.”

They exchanged a glance before focusing on her. “Go,” she croaked. “Take care of him.”

The moment they left her, she purged herself of the anger before it could eat her alive. It was a wave of energy so strong her hair came free of its binds, whipping around her in a hurricane of fury. When she was calm again, free of murderous intent, she took stock of the damage. Aside from a few scorch marks, the cell was relatively untouched.

Blowing out a breath she closed her eyes, enjoying the feel of her hair hanging long and loose before it bound itself once more. This time the braid was unrestricted, a lethal weapon hanging down her back.

She realised she didn’t hurt anymore, due to her power or the after effects of Zachariah’s enchantment. Either way, she felt like herself again. She was almost pleased when the door opened and a Nrikabat walked into the cell.

No, not a clan member.

Her hair shot out to pin Marcus’ arms to his sides. She didn’t let on she’d recognised him. She was feeling mean.

“Aw, I missed you too,” he said, grinning. At least she thought it was a grin – the Nrikabat’s weren’t known for their expressive nature.

“Did you get Gobowin out?” she asked, surprised how important it was.

“Yes.” He tilted his head to the side, looking oddly like a hound. “What’s wrong?”

She let him go and turned away, walking in a tight circle. “The bastards did something to Donovan. He might not make it.”

“Where is he?”

Her gaze shot up when she heard Tobias. For one crazy moment she wanted to go to him, to seek comfort. The impulse made her voice hard. “Sebastian took him.”

He nodded, stepping forward to pass her the phone he’d taken for safe keeping. “I think it’s time we called in the cavalry.”

Riley answered on the first ring. “Finally!” he growled into the phone. “I thought you were going to leave us hanging.”

“Just get in here, and hurry. I’m feeling pretty mean right now and I have a friend who is dying for a little fun.” She snapped the phone shut and grinned at Marcus. “Let’s blow this joint, shall we?”

“I think I might love her,” Marcus said to Tobias, ducking out into the corridor.

Maddison laughed and made a move to follow him. She froze when Tobias put a hand on her forearm. “Easy, tiger. We should give your team the chance to catch up.”

She felt the heat from his palm even through the suit. He was making her feel things she couldn’t afford to feel, evidenced by the way her braid slithered to his wrist. It wound itself around his arm in a teasing sweep, the contact making them shudder.

“Damn bond,” she muttered, wishing she could dig up some of her earlier hostility.

Tobias’s voice was low and sensuous. “We’re not bonded anymore.”

Tell my body that.

She forced her hair to retract, feeling tired from the fight and worried about Donovan. That was the only reason she wanted to sink into his arms. “I don’t know how to handle the fact I no longer want to beat you into a bloody pulp.”

His chuckle warmed her. “That’s the most romantic thing anyone has ever said to me.”

Stepping past him she hid the grin, trying not to be charmed. “Then you need to get out more.”

The protection Lucas had bestowed upon him came in handy during the fight. None of the demons could touch him, which meant he got to take the lead and deflect some of the action. Not that the hunters needed the assistance. Riley had come through for Maddison, bringing an elite team with him. At least ten were in wolf form, Marcus included since he didn’t want to miss out on the fun. The twins were on hand to clear the exit, ensuring they didn’t run into any nasty surprises.

It was a noisy, messy battle, one Tobias was glad to see the back of. When they emerged from the caves, bruised, yet triumphant, they were all feeling drained. He looked around him, taking in the torn and bloody clothing, and felt a twinge of remorse. He had fought side by side with them, yet he didn’t have the battle scars to show for it. Maddison too, looked relatively unharmed, thanks to her suit, but he could imagine the bruises beneath the material. It was a direction his thoughts should not be taking, picturing Maddison naked was hell on his libido.

“Thanks for having my back in there,” she said, holding out a hand.

He found himself hesitant to take it, far too raw after everything they’d been through. So instead he unhooked the cuff from his wrist and placed it on her palm. “Just repaying the favour.”

Riley, who had returned to human form, walked over to them. “I’d say you owe us a drink,” he said to Maddison, nudging her with his shoulder.

“Please, I did you a favour. You live for this shit.” Her green eyes danced, a colour which matched Tobias’ emotions.

The wolf grinned, more than happy to play along. “Fine, then it’s my round. Are you ready to get off this damn mountain?”

“I have to check in on someone first,” she said, turning to Tobias again. “Try not to give any more blood donations.”

He watched as she flicked the ring into the air and caught it on her thumb. Then, with a smile he couldn’t read, she turned and walked away.

It’s better this way.

Holding onto the thought he motioned to his guards and turned to head towards the nearest portal.

“Do me a favour,” he said to Marcus, when he was back on his own land. “Get me an update on Donovan’s condition as soon as you can.”

“Of course,” Marcus bowed, blending into the shadows a moment later. His head guard was astute, so he had sensed that Tobias wanted to be alone. The twins followed his lead.

He walked the grounds for a while, to anchor himself in the familiar feeling of home. Aronmyre had seen many changes since he took the throne and, if it hadn’t been for Maddison, he might never have made it back.

It was a beautiful evening. The moon cast a silver glow across the land; full and elegant in all its glory. He liked living on the edge of the Enchanted Forest, midpoint between the two realms. The forest called to him, as it often did. And, since he didn’t feel like going in just yet, he sent a signal to his guards and ventured farther into the night. He was familiar with the worn paths, so even when the moonlight could no longer guide him, he knew his way.

The trees thinned out as he neared the lake. A few more steps and the dark, still waters appeared, relaxing him in a way little else could. The water drew him, the mystery of it, and the elegance. It calmed him; from the light ripple cast by the evening breeze, to the moon’s fluid sheen.

He walked to the mound of stones laid at the water’s edge and sat against the smooth, weather-worn surface. There was no concept of time here. He remained seated, in no hurry to return home and content to allow the gentle grace of his land to soothe him.

“I thought I might find you here.”

His body tensed, freezing him to the spot. This was a place he had never shared. She had taken the scene right out of his head.

“Maddison. What are you doing here?”

She walked around the stones to face him. “If you tell me I need to rest, you’ll be taking a dip in the lake.”

“Not everything is about you,” he murmured, angry with himself because he liked having her in his space.

“Fine. I’ll say what I need to say, and get out of your hair.”

His gaze travelled to her dark locks and he realised they weren’t bound. Her mane flowed around her shoulders as fluid and calm as the water at her back.

“I had a visit from the Assembly,” she began.

His gaze darted back to hers in surprise. “That was fast.”

“Fast or not, I accepted a position within the Legion of Watchers. Effective immediately.”

He stood so they were face to face. “So you came to say goodbye?” He felt a sharp, hot pain drive through his heart.

Instead of answering, she started with the crazy pacing. Something he’d rarely seen her do, unless she was agitated. “They agreed to a few more conditions,” she stopped abruptly, facing him again. “I expected them to laugh in my face, but the clown they sent didn’t even bat an eyelid.”

“Clown?” He found he liked the description.

“He was pompous and…never mind about him. You’re missing the point.”

The fact she had turned to him when she was feeling vulnerable, meant a trust he had never expected. “You’ll be an asset to the Legion,” he said, understanding her reticence. “A few concessions are nothing to the Alliance.” He let that hang a moment, before his curiosity got the better of him. “What did you ask for?”

“I asked for the freedom to remain at Merc Hall and my choice of assignments when I’m not on duty, which,” she paused, frowning slightly. “Includes the Legion. I find the idea of not seeing you…unpleasant.”

He grinned at her choice of words, even as his pulse leapt. “You say the sweetest things.”

She laughed, expelling some of the tension in her body. “Just so we’re clear, I still think you’re an ass.”

“Now is that any way to speak to royalty?” he teased, taking a step forward.

Maddison stared at him, her green eyes serious now. He felt the shift between them, the awareness which hummed along his skin. “Screw it,” she said, and pulled him down for a kiss.

Every part of him stilled, a beat or two before his cells burst to life, making his head spin. Through the storm of emotion he pulled her closer, plunging his hands into her hair. He didn’t even feel the soft current running through his fingers, given that his system was on fire.

When she pulled back he released her, albeit reluctantly. “I knew you were warming to me.”

A grin lit up her face, the pleasure in it blinding. “Ass,” she said with a shake of her head, and moved around him. “I’ll be seeing you half-blood.”

“I’ll look forward to it, witch.” He dropped back down against the smooth stone, listening to her retreating footsteps. He enjoyed nothing more than sparring with Maddison, and she had placed the ball squarely in his court.


Maddison paced outside Zara’s apartment building, trying to walk off the unfamiliar nerves. It was ridiculous to feel anxious about seeing Donovan again, but in truth she had no idea how to behave. She’d never owned a contract before, didn’t want to, despite fighting so hard for him in the arena.

‘Will you relax? Everything is going to be okay.’

She ground her teeth at the voice in her head. Tobias had lousy timing. ‘Tell me again why I agreed to this? I don’t want a shadow, I don’t need a shadow, and if he looks at me again like I’m going to beat him for peeing on the rug, I’m going to scream.”

Laughter filled her head, a sound she heard often. ‘He’s not a puppy, Maddison.’ There was a beat or two of silence. ‘Did you ever have a dog?’

‘I know he’s not a puppy, and no I never had a dog, nor, before you ask, did I want a dog, because they’re too much responsibility. Yet here I am obliged to…ah, shit, what the hell was I thinking?’

She forced herself to stop moving, which was easier after the rant. It felt good to let go of the crazy.

‘Donovan has been waiting decades for the opportunity to prove himself,’ Tobias pointed out, suddenly the voice of reason. ‘He’s obliged to honour the remainder of his contract and by accompanying you, he’ll learn from the best.’

‘If you’re trying to sweet talk me, it isn’t working. I’m still pissed off, only now it’s with you.’ It wasn’t true, but he probably knew that, considering he was always in her head. She’d tried to set boundaries, but they were clearly a work in progress. ‘Thanks for the pep talk, but it looks like I’m out of time.’

She watched Donovan jog down the steps, looking less like the tortured soul she’d met in a cell, which could only be a good thing. He stopped short when he got to the bottom, his relaxed posture turning tense.

“Hi,” he said, all but shuffling his feet.

Give me a break.

“Look,” she said, waiting until he met her eyes. She’d practiced the speech all morning, so she would damn well get through it. “Let’s skip the awkward getting to know you stage, since we had a crash course. As far as I’m concerned your trials are over, so anything you learn in the field will be a bonus.” She paused, waiting for him to speak. When he didn’t she pressed on. “Since we’re stuck with each other for the next two years, and I have permission to…let’s say offer you on the job training, why don’t you consider yourself my silent partner and we’ll play it by ear.”

She wanted to scream when he remained silent, but she held her tongue, waiting for him to digest what she’d said.

“And when you say silent partner, did you have an object in mind?” he asked.

Oh crap!

“That’s not what I meant. For a start, I don’t expect you to bind yourself to a particular object.”

His face relaxed, though she sensed his caution. “I can choose?” he asked slowly.

She nodded. “Whatever you want. I get that you’re required to bind your true form, and that’s fine. But there are times when I’ll need you as backup.” That wasn’t exactly accurate, but she’d decided to bend the rules in his favour for a change. “I have a partner, but there’ll be times when I’m flying solo. Like today.”

His smile was slow, but genuine, as he walked towards her. “Thank you for fighting for me,” he said.

You will not turn into a whimpering wreck.

“Thanks for fighting for me too.”

He nodded, before breaking eye contact. Then he surprised the hell out of her when he stepped onto the road and transformed into a kick-ass motorbike.

“Now that’s what I’m talking about,” she said, grinning. She was about to swing her leg over the seat when she remembered his empathic ability. “This might be a problem.”

The gently revving engine sounded like reassurance, which it probably was. They had shared most of their past already. What could it hurt?

With a shrug she hopped on, relieved when she didn’t get hit with a barrage of horror. “We’re going to Darin Mountain,” she told him. “Can you handle that?”

This time his response was more forceful. The engine roared to life, jerking forward before she had a chance to grab the handle bars. She would have fallen, if the bike hadn’t dipped with her. A deep rumble was clearly the sound of Donovan’s amusement.

‘How’s it going?’ Tobias asked, as though sensing her change.

She closed her eyes when the wind stole her breath, taking a moment to enjoy the simple pleasure. ‘We’ve come to an agreement.’

She took advantage of the short silence, relaxing into the ride. It was liberating, the speed at which Donovan took the bends, more so because she trusted him.

‘Go easy on him, okay.’

She thought of where they were going and smiled. ‘Where’s the fun in that?’ She ducked her head when Donovan shot through a portal, laughing when he came to a controlled stop mere inches from a Gargantua tree.

‘Okay, fine. Go have fun.’

Jumping to the ground, she waited until Donovan had reformed beside her. His gaze was on the sky, a look of wonder on his face – as though seeing it for the first time. Then she remembered his past, and realised he’d had little chance to enjoy the forest. “Let’s take the scenic route,” she said, feeling like an idiot. “It will give me a chance to stretch my legs.”

Donovan turned to stare at her, not saying anything. After a moment they moved on, falling into an easy rhythm as they made their way through the forest to the foot of the mountain. It took an hour to reach their destination, a time they mostly spent in silence. Not an uncomfortable one, which was more than she could have hoped for.

“This is a spectator sport only,” she warned him. “I owe them this.”

“I’ll only step in if you ask,” he agreed, following her to the mouth of the great mountain and the Realm of the Dwarves.

They hadn’t made it halfway through the connecting chamber before they heard a thundering roar. “You have quite a nerve coming back here, witch,” Grendel boomed, sounding oddly pleased by her presence.

“I’m here to challenge Gobowin for a rematch, so you can wait your turn.”

His rumbling laughter vibrated underfoot. “Then you’ve just signed your death warrant.”

“Always with the drama,” she muttered under her breath, and met Donovan’s curious gaze. She smiled, hoping it was reassuring. “Here we go.” It was time to settle the score.


Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time.



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