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Powerless (The Powerless Trilogy): Chapter 35

Kai

Training and torturing have kept me sane over the past couple of days, though I’m well aware that only an insane person would admit that.

It’s almost been a week since the first Trial ended.

Almost a week since I buried a blade in Jax’s chest.

Almost a week of restraining myself from doing the same to Ace.

So I keep busy, pounding my fists into mats so they don’t find their way to somebody’s face, seeing that I don’t have the Silencer to beat down on anymore.

It’s a shame that I killed him.

I’m sure he had information, yes, but I’m not one for empty threats. I promised Micah I would kill him if he didn’t prove his life worthy of saving. And when he failed to offer me the information I wanted, I followed through on that promise.

He was a liability, too dangerous to keep alive as my human punching bag. I knew he had no intention of telling me what I wanted to hear, and I had no intention of wasting my time.

Though I do miss taking my anger and frustration out of him.

Despite that, I still spend most of my days with Father’s Silencer. His ability is one of the few I’ve never trained with, never even encountered until a month ago. So I train with Damion for hours, trying to understand and develop this new power as best I can. I never want to feel powerless like I did when Micah ambushed me in Loot. No, I want his power. Want to be able to use it and deflect it so I can never be crippled like that again.

Easier said than done.

The training is tedious and tiring. Learning to use the Silencer’s ability is far easier than defending yourself against it. I’m smothered daily by his power while trying to tap into it, trying to use it against him. I’m struggling, to say the least, despite being determined and despising feeling so helpless.

But I’m restless. I keep myself busy all day in the hopes that the nightmares are too exhausted to chase me from my sleep at night.

The blade of my sword sinks deep into the wood of the practice dummy I’m currently hacking into.

I sigh in annoyance and grip the heavy hilt with both hands, yanking the sharp steel out of the splintered wood. I mindlessly flip the weapon at my side before raining down blows on the hunk of wood once more, letting my mind focus on the power and precision of each swing—focus on what it feels like to wield death, hold it in my palm, bend it to my will.

And yet, all it takes is a familiar laugh to shatter that focus.

She’s leaning against that padded tree she likes to pummel so much, Kitt standing close. Something begins burning inside of me, but I ignore it, not bothering to acknowledge the jealousy painting me Ilya’s kingdom color.

My eyes are glued to the two of them as they talk casually. Paedyn seems to be far more comfortable with Kitt as of late, spending time with him outside of training and meals. I will the jealousy to seep from my bones, to simply evaporate, but it gnaws and nags with every thought of the two of them together.

Paedyn nods to Kitt with a smile before he turns and heads back towards the castle while I force myself to focus once again on training. I cut and slice at the wood with my sword, the tension in my shoulders easing with every swipe.

“How about a rematch?”

I hit the wood hard, slicing the sword deep across the dummy’s chest. Paedyn waits patiently as I slowly turn around, swinging the sword in slow circles at my side. I don’t bother smiling as I casually say, “Someone’s in the mood to lose.”

The shadow of a frown shades her face as she crosses her arms. “And someone’s just in a bad mood.”

I chuckle humorlessly. “Darling, this is not me in a bad mood. There would be a lot more blood if that were the case.”

She gives me a small smirk. “Well, I won’t have to take your word for it, because after I beat you, I’m sure I’ll get to witness one of your bad moods firsthand.”

I sigh, giving in. “Fine. Hand-to-hand again?”

“No,” she says slowly, “I was thinking we could do something different.”

“And why’s that?” I take a step closer to her, leaning in as I say, “Is hand-to-hand too distracting, having to be so close to me?”

She somehow manages to take a step even closer. “Not at all. I don’t get distracted, Azer.”

“That sounds like a challenge.”

“Only if you’re in the mood to lose.”

Plagues, this girl.

She smiles up at me. “So, how about archery? Unless, of course, your pride can’t handle losing to me. Again.”

“Oh, that won’t be a problem. Because I won’t be losing.” I pull my face away from hers and brush her shoulder as I pass. I know what she is doing, and I welcome the distraction. Welcome her being the distraction.

I pull a bow off one of the weapon racks and throw a handful of arrows onto the ground between us. Paedyn already has her weapon in hand, already facing the battered target over fifteen yards away.

“Three rounds,” she says, not taking her eyes off the target. “We each get three shots per round. Highest score wins.”

“Fair enough.” I extend my hand towards her to shake on the rules, as is customary. She slowly grasps my hand, holding it firmly as her callouses brush my own. Then I tug her towards me, pulling her against my chest where I murmur close to her ear, “Good luck, Gray.”

She rolls her eyes at me but mine are locked on her. “I don’t need luck when it’s you I’m competing against,” she says coolly, her growing smile smug. I can’t help but huff out a laugh. After a moment too long, I let her go, and she turns to face the target with a smile. When I don’t move to nock an arrow, she throws an expectant glance at me to which I respond with a gesture towards the target. “Ladies first.”

“Oh right. I forgot you were a gentleman.” She snorts before nocking an arrow. I cock my head, watching her as she holds the bow as if she is left-handed, though I know she isn’t.

Interesting.

I blink, and an arrow is sailing through the air, landing just shy of the bullseye. She places another arrow on the bow and pulls back, taking a deep breath. She shuts her eyes for a moment, only firing when she opens them. Bullseye. I watch her follow the same routine with her final arrow. Watch her arm strain as she pulls the bowstring back. Watch her eyes flutter shut in concentration. Watch her breathe deeply before sending another arrow sinking into the bullseye.

Damn.

Archery has never been my favorite, and clearly, Paedyn doesn’t feel the same. She’s a natural. So confident, so controlled, as if the bow is nearly an extension of her arm. The arrow obeys her as she wills it to land exactly where she wants.

And I’m suddenly thinking she’s right. I might lose this.

“You’re up.” She steps back beside me, and with a mocking whisper, says, “Good luck, Azer.”

Plagues knows I’ll need it.

I step up and settle an arrow onto my bow. I can feel her eyes on me, tracking every move I make and it’s annoyingly distracting. I pull the bowstring back, aim, and fire. Then I’m cursing under my breath for just barely missing the bullseye before I nock another arrow. This one follows the same pattern, and I’m now frustrated and feeling the overwhelming need to punch something. I fire my last arrow and it finally lands where I want it to. Barely. Its silver tip sinks into the farthest edge of the bullseye, guided by sheer luck to get it there.

Paedyn doesn’t say a word as she steps up and fires her next three arrows. And just as before, two hit the bullseye, one just shy of it. She’s mesmerizing to watch, to witness her work with this weapon.

I am going to lose. I don’t like losing.

And Paedyn knows it too. She walks past, smiling at me as if she’s already won. And she probably has. I take my time firing my next three shots, trying to concentrate and calm my breathing before letting them fly towards the target. Not helping. Two on the rings, one on the bullseye.

I glare at the target while Paedyn grins. She nocks an arrow as she says, “Now I see why you wanted to stick with hand-to-hand. You knew you had a better chance of winning that.”

She’s not wrong. Archery has never been my favorite or my forte. She’s still smiling as she focuses her attention on the target, calming her breathing before she even draws the bowstring back.

There is no way I’m winning this.

I fight a small smile at my sudden idea.

If I’m going to lose, I might as well have some fun.

I take a step towards her. Then I slowly step behind her—close behind her. My chest presses against her back at the same moment I let my hand lazily find her waist. She jumps at the sudden contact, and I laugh softly, close to her ear.

“What are you doing?” Her words are breathless, but she doesn’t move, frozen against me.

My lips are close to her ear as I murmur, “Distracting you.”

She lets out a forced laugh, feigning confidence. “I told—” Words fail her when my hand begins exploring farther along her waist, her abdomen, atop her thin tank. She swallows. “I told you I don’t get distracted.”

“Yes,” my fingers begin tracing lazy circles up and down her side, “and I could have sworn you tapped your left foot as you said it.” I lean in even closer, whispering against her ear, “And we both know that means you’re lying.”

The truth is, I’m the one lying. Her foot is the last thing I’m paying attention to. But I know she’s lying nonetheless, and I’m going to prove it.

“Well,” she clears her throat, trying to concentrate on forming words and not my fingers, “you’re wrong.” And with that unsure remark, she lifts her bow and draws the string.

I wrap an arm around her waist, slowly, and let my other hand brush from her knuckles curved around the bowstring all the way to her straining shoulder. With her body still pressed against mine, I feel a shiver snake up her spine as my fingers dance slowly up and down her arm. I smile against her ear, and I know she feels that too since she huffs in annoyance.

I feel her take a deep, shaky breath as she tries to calm down, tries to pull herself together. And then she fires. I chuckle against her ear when the arrow lands the farthest away from the bullseye yet. She whips her head around so our faces are mere inches apart and scowls at me. I’m amused, smiling as I let my eyes wander over her face, catching on every faint freckle and dark lash framing her blue eyes.

Then those ocean eyes tear from mine when she turns back to the target, grabbing another arrow. But she never tries to step out of my grasp. She’s too stubborn. If she moves now, she knows it will only prove just how much I truly distract her.

So, she nocks the next arrow and breathes as the breeze blows a strand of silver hair into her face. I reach around and gently, slowly, tuck it behind her ear as I whisper into it, “Why is it that you’re shooting with your left hand?” It’s a random question, used to distract as well as satisfy my curiosity.

She takes a deep breath before answering, “Would you believe me if I said it’s because I wanted to go easy on you?”

I laugh, shaking my head before resting my chin on her shoulder. “Liar. You would never go easy on me.”

“You’re right about that.” She exhales a shaky laugh. “My father taught me to shoot with both hands and after my injury in the Trial, I figured I should practice more with my left.”

And with that, she doesn’t hesitate before pulling back and firing the arrow, hitting far outside the bullseye with a soft thud. “Don’t. Say. A. Word,” she mutters through clenched teeth, not bothering to look at me as she grabs another arrow angrily.

“I wasn’t going to say a thing,” I say with mock innocence.

“Liar. I can practically feel you smirking.”

My lips are against the shell of her ear, and I am, in fact, smirking. “I can’t help it when I’m right.”

She’s still fiddling angrily with the arrow, her voice deceptively sweet as she says, “Well if you keep smirking like that, I’m going to turn around and point this arrow at your heart.”

I smile at her sentiment, my fingers continuing to draw circles across her stomach. She takes another shallow breath, about to pull back and fire when I mumble, “Yeah, well at least you might be able to hit my heart, unlike the bullseye—”

I’m not surprised when I feel the hard jab of an elbow sink into my stomach. The air whooshes out of me, but as soon as I catch my breath I’m laughing. Paedyn huffs and I tug her closer to me, using this game as an excuse to hold her, touch her.

Her head rests on my chest as she examines the target, breathing deeply. And I’m doing the same. My chest heaves, the feel of her against me almost too much to breathe properly. We fit together so perfectly, so right. I can hardly think, or breathe, or move when my fingers glide across her skin, her waist, her body.

Then, she lifts her head, lifts her bow, and lets the arrow fly. Bullseye. But barely. I lean down and rest my chin on her shoulder once again, admiring the arrow that finally made it to its mark. “It’s about time, Gray.”

“Let’s see you do any better,” she scoffs, pulling away as I reluctantly let her. I sigh and grab an arrow, settling it onto my bow. I fire quickly, hitting the ring closest to the bullseye, swearing under my breath. Then I grab another, determined to make the arrow land where I want it to.

Something brushes my arm, a whisper against my skin.

My head whips to the side, eyes crashing into blue ones below. She looks up at me through her lashes, eyes burning into mine, full of fire. Her hand hovers just above the exposed skin on my arm, teasing without touching.

“What are you doing, Gray?” I ask, turning my attention back towards the target.

“Distracting,” she says slowly, drawing out the syllables. Her hand brushes my arm again, lightly. So lightly.

I smile. “Darling, you’re going to have to do better than that.”

“No,” she says coolly, “I don’t think I do.”

The tips of her fingers meet my skin. She lets them trail down my arm, stopping at my wrist before making their way back up, painfully slow. Her fingers find their way under the sleeve of my cotton shirt, climbing up and up and—

Gone.

Her touch vanishes, leaving me aching for her to lay her hands on me—

That’s when it hits me.

She’s right. She doesn’t need to do anything more to distract me.

The mere thought of her being so close and barely touching me has my head spinning. I’m melted by the promise that her fingers gave me, promise of more, promise of something. Nothing. She won’t lay her hands on me. Instead, she’ll drive me mad by teasing me with her touch, only to pull it away, leaving me wanting more. Leaving me cold without the fire her fingers trail along my skin.

I exhale, noticing how shaky the action sounds, how shaky my body has become. I pull back the bowstring as another finger traces under my forearm, grazing my skin.

My arrow lands two whole rings away from the center but my mind is elsewhere, on the phantom touches making their way up and down my arm. I don’t remember grabbing another arrow, but it’s nocked onto my bow when I look down.

Slowly, so damn slowly, she lets her fingers slide over my skin, heavier than before. A single touch has never made me feel so on fire. And she knows exactly what she is doing. She knows that barely feeling her at all will drive me mad in a way I can’t explain, in a way I’ve never felt before.

“You’re a cruel, little thing, you know that?” My voice is deep, desperate.

“But I’ve barely laid a finger on you,” she says softly, emphasizing her words with a single finger tracing up my forearm.

“Exactly.”

Maybe I did it on purpose. Maybe I chose to distract her because I knew she was too stubborn to not do the same to me. Maybe I did it all just because I wanted her hands on me too. Because it was an excuse for me to hold her, for her to hold me. And now that she isn’t, I’m craving her touch. Craving her.

I fire the arrow, not bothering to wait and see where it lands before I’ve thrown my bow to the ground, spun around, and gripped her wrists instead. I pull her towards me, staring into her startled eyes. Her lips part, either in surprise or because she’s about to tell me off, I’m not sure.

“Don’t,” I pause, swallow, exhale slowly, “play with me like that.”

She stares at me. Her mouth opens and closes again, clearly hoping words will fall out. I hold her gaze as I guide one of her hands to my arm, dropping her other wrist to pull her closer by the waist. Her palm meets my skin and it’s almost like I remembered how to breathe again. I press my hand on top of hers, holding her skin firmly against mine. I smile now that she’s finally, fully touching me, rather than taunt me with tips of teasing fingers.

A single touch from her, or the lack of it, is enough to drive me mad.

What has she done to me?

I take my hand off hers, fingers trailing down her arm before dropping it to my side. But she doesn’t drop hers, instead leaving her palm in place. She stares at where her skin meets mine before her gaze finally trails up to my face. She smirks, but it’s as weak as her voice. “I didn’t realize a single touch could affect you so much.”

“Neither did I.”

Her eyes dart away from mine, almost looking timid as she lets her hand trace down my arm before dropping it completely. Then she cranes her neck, looking around me at the target behind.

She smiles at what she sees.

“You lost, Azer.”


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