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My Brother's Keeper

By:Bewitched and Bewildered



PROLOGUE





Three weeks ago





She always looks so sad.

Kendrick watched the pale, blonde woman tenderly wipe the soup from the stubbled chin of an elderly man. Though she smiled, her eyes told a different story. With infinite patience, she managed to get the older man to eat an entire bowl of soup.

"That was wonderful, Dad. You finished the whole bowl! Before you know it, you'll be harassing Ethel down at the Duck In," she teased.

"Never mind me, girlie. When are you going to move on with your life? You can't babysit an old man forever," the man grumbled.

"Don't be silly; I love spending time with you." She rose and walked into the kitchen. Kendrick heard her putting the dishes in the dishwasher, and after a few minutes, she returned carrying a stack of books.

"Do you want me to turn your shows on?"

"That'd be nice."

She picked up the remote and switched the television on. They sat in silence as he watched his shows and she studied from her books.

During a commercial break, Kendrick noticed that, at some point, the old man had stopped watching his shows and was watching the beautiful woman.

"You should have gone to college, met a fine young man, and had babies of your own by now," he said quietly.

She looked up, a surprised expression on her face. "I couldn't just leave you to take care of Mama on your own. Besides, I'm still going to college." She held up her nursing textbook.

"You'll be my age before you finish, taking one class at a time like you are. Sometimes, I wish I would hurry up and join my Lucy in heaven so you won't be tied to this house anymore."

The young woman flew off the sofa and dropped to her knees next to the old man's recliner. With tears in her eyes, she laid her head on his leg. "Don't say that! Don't leave me alone, Daddy; you're all I have."

The old man gently ran a gnarled hand over her soft blonde curls. "You're stronger than you think. My time is coming, girlie. When it's time to say goodbye, I want you to smile for me. I want you to be happy."

She shook her head. "I'm not strong."

"Yes, you are. You've sacrificed so much taking care of first your mother and then me; now, it's our turn to set you free. After I'm gone, sell everything--the house, the land, everything. Keep a few keepsakes, like your mother's jewelry, but sell the rest. Take the money, and you go to the best nursing school in the country, don't let anything tie you down."

The woman looked up, her eyes wide. Kendrick watched as she realized that her father was dying. He saw the exact moment the knowledge hit her.

"No!" She reached for the phone, and a wrinkled hand stopped her.

"Go to school... live your dream." The words were coming more slowly now.

"Daddy, please..." she begged.

"This isn't goodbye, not really. Your mother and I will be watching over you... so you won't be alone. Live every day to it's fullest so you have a lot to tell us when we see each other again." He smiled and took a deep breath. "You're the best thing I've ever done in life, girlie. I'm so proud of you." With a shaking hand, he brought her face close to his and kissed her forehead. When he slumped back against the recliner, Kendrick knew he was gone.

"No!" The woman buried her face in her hands and wept.

Darkness swept him away and carried him to another scene. The beautiful woman looked paler now, and her teal-colored eyes were rimmed red and she stared down at a headstone.

"I did it, Mama, Daddy. I graduated, and I'm a nurse now. I'm back home and working at the Duck In until I can find a permanent position." She blushed. "I've met a nice man, he's gentle and kind, I know you'd have liked him, Daddy. He's so easy to be around, I'm never awkward when I'm with him. It's nice to finally have a real friend." She knelt down and placed a bouquet of sunflowers on the double grave. "Maybe it's time to start thinking about having a family, I'm thirty-six already. It'd be nice to not be alone anymore." She stood and stepped back. "I'll visit more often now that I'm home. Please keep watching over me." She kissed her fingers and blew kisses to each name.

When the darkness returned, Kendrick fought against the pulling tide of inky blackness. He wanted to stay with her; he wanted to make sure she was okay. When the shadows disappeared, his heart began to hammer in his chest. A familiar nightmare began to take shape.

"No," he whispered harshly.

His younger brother Keelan lay broken, lifeless in the warrior's arms. Kendrick growled low. He knew these men; they were the Alpha Unit. The dream began to collapse around him.

"No! Why won't you let me see what happens to him? I can stop it if I know!" he screamed out.

But, like every other time he relived this nightmare, no one responded. He woke up with a start and sat upright in bed. He looked around, the musty scent of old books helped bring him back to the present. Breathing hard, he climbed out of bed and headed to the bathroom. He turned on the water and haphazardly splashed his face, heedless of where the water ended up. He wanted to wash away the image of his baby brother's lifeless body.

He looked up and stared at himself in the mirror.

"Keelan, please be safe."





CHAPTER ONE





Kendrick watched as the large shifter pushed the small woman behind him. From the name she had yelled, the man before him was apparently Aiden McKenzie, the Unit Commander.

"Where is my brother?" he repeated, locking eyes with the shifter.

Aiden stared at him for a moment then stepped back. "This way." He turned and started walking up the stairs.

Kendrick nodded at Amelia before following Aiden. Why was his brother's body being kept at the Alpha estate? Aiden stopped and opened the door.

"We brought him back to his own room." Aiden raised an arm, inviting Kendrick to step inside.

Kendrick shouldered past the massive commander and walked into the room. Lying serenely in the bed in the center of the room was his baby brother. Wires and tubes were everywhere, connecting him to the many beeping machines.

"He's alive?" Kendrick felt his legs give out. A strong arm kept his knees from slamming into the hardwood floor. When he looked up, a large fae supported him effortlessly.

"He's still breathing, but we don't know if he's alive," the fae admitted.

Kendrick shook his head, trying to make his exhausted mind work. He had researched his brother's unit decades before and kept close tabs on them, but for the life of him, he was having a hard time remembering the fae's name. Darian! The fae member of the Alpha Unit was named Darian Vi'Alina. "What in the hell is that supposed to mean?" He forced his legs to support him, and he stepped away from the men.

Darian spoke first. "Our enemy released a spell that strips a person's soul from their body. Keelan was protecting us from that spell when he fell victim to it. The enemy took his soul, for what reason, we don't know."

Kendrick froze in shock. What the fae described was forbidden. To separate a soul from a person's body was an affront to the Gods. No wonder the entire city was coated in black magic. He turned to find that the room was now filled with bleak-faced couples. The men he knew and, of course, his Amelia, but the other women, he did not know.

"What you're describing is forbidden." He met the eyes of each of the warriors.

"Well, there seems to be a lot of that shit going around lately, Keelan-From-the-Future." The small woman said sarcastically.

Kendrick blinked. "I'm not Keelan. My name is Kendrick Ashwood. Keelan is my younger brother," he explained.

The woman rolled her eyes. "Whatever, clone boy."

Kendrick stared. Was this woman damaged?

Amelia stepped away from Darian and wrapped her arms around his waist. Kendrick took a moment to enjoy a spurt of satisfaction as anger flashed in the fae's eyes. Who was he to keep his godsdaughter from him? Wait? Didn't Caiden say that Amelia had mated? So much had happened in the past couple of days. He returned the embrace and pulled back to pat her on the head like he always did. Her smile was wobbly, and her eyes were filled with tears.

"Can you help him?" she asked.

Kendrick forced a smile. "Of course, that's what big brothers do."

"We can get the guest room ready," Aiden offered.

Kendrick shook his head. "No. I'll stay in here with Keelan." He pointed to a sturdy looking recliner then turned back to them. "Who is in charge of those machines?"

A dark haired woman stepped forward. "I am. My name is Rheia Bradley. I'm a doctor. If there's anything you need, you have only to ask. We all want Keelan back."

Kendrick searched her face for deception and couldn't find a trace of it. She exuded sincerity and strength. She was a good doctor.

"We can leave him as he is tonight. I expended a lot of magic getting here so quickly, but tomorrow, I would like to know what each machine does. I may be able to cast spells to replace them depending on what they are doing."

The doctor stared. "There's healing magic like that?"

Kendrick was about to retort with sarcasm about humans meddling in the paranormal world when he noticed the looks of disbelief on the men's faces. It dawned on him that he wasn't in Storm Keep. Only younger witches were allowed to serve outside the city, and most of them weren't trained in healing.

He clenched his fists in frustration then forced himself to relax. There was no point in being rude to the woman who was caring for his brother, despite her lack of magical ability. He should be thankful, not judgmental. He knew from his own surly thoughts that the day was catching up to him.

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