"We’re saving you."
"Aimee," he said, stressing her name and the danger she’d placed them both in.
He also stopped as he saw Savitar flash in behind her with a look of extreme fury on his face.
"No buts, Fang. I can’t let you do . . ." Her words faded as she caught sight of Savitar standing behind her in the glass’s reflection.
Aimee froze to the spot. Her heart sliding into her stomach, she turned around to face what had to be the most terrifying grimace ever conceived.
"Hi," she said, hoping to lighten his mood.
His look only darkened-so much for trying. It’d only made it worse. "What are you doing, bear?"
"By the unhappy glower on your face, I would say making the single worst mistake of my life."
Fang moved to stand in front of her. "She was only trying to help me."
"And going against me in the process. No offense, but that seriously pisses me off."
Simi’s eyes widened. "Ooo, you got that throbbing vein like akri gets right before he turns blue. You gonna turn blue too, akri-Savvy?"
Aimee gulped. "No, Simi, I think he’s turning redder."
Savitar looked as if he was working hard on not killing her. "Answer me one thing. . . . What were you going to do after you took him out of here?"
"You didn’t exactly think this through, did you?" Savitar looked at Vane who’d just moved into the area to see what was going on. "Wolves and Simi, leave. Now."
Vane passed a sympathetic look to Aimee before he followed Savitar’s command.
Fang knew he was about to commit suicide, but he couldn’t obey him and leave Aimee here alone. The protective wolf inside him would never abandon her to anyone’s wrath, especially not someone as capricious and lethal as Savitar. "It’s my fault she’s here. I take full responsibility."
Savitar sneered at him. "Don’t make me laugh, wolf. You’re out of soul to sell to keep her safe. Take the out I’m giving you before I take your life."
He slowly shook his head, his determination set in stone.
Savitar threw his hand out and blasted Fang so hard it lifted him up and slammed into the wall behind him. "Have you any idea how angry I am right now?"
Fang struggled to breathe. "I think I have a pretty good idea."
"No, I don’t think you do."
He slammed Fang to the ground so hard Fang swore half the bones in his body broke.
Simi, who hadn’t left yet, went running up to Savitar and whispered in his ear. Savitar’s scowl lessened. He dropped his hand as his face returned to its typical stoicism. "Get out. Both of you. But know, little bear, that with this, I’ve revoked the license on Sanctuary for good."
Aimee gasped. "What?"
"You heard me. Now leave before I kill you both for disobeying me."
He actually didn’t give them a choice. One moment they were on Savitar’s island and in the next they were in the foyer of Peltier House.
Fang looked around at the dark Victorian furniture, bemused. There was no sign of Vane.
Simi popped in a second later. "Oh, good. Simi was afraid Savitar done gone and been really mean to you. But you okay. That’s good."
Aimee frowned at the demon. "What did you say to Savitar?"
"I told him you were Simi’s friends and that I didn’t want him to make brolf stew."
"Bear and wolf, which might be tasty, but not when it’s made out of people the Simi likes. Besides, Aimee always feeds me good ice cream whenever I come to Sanctuary."
Aimee hugged the little Goth demon who meant the world to her. One thing about Simi, you could always count on her. "Thank you for your help, Simi."
Simi opened her mouth, but before she could speak, Maman was there, her eyes flaming angry. Aimee’s heart flopped at the sight. Never had she seen her this mad.
"What have you done?" Maman demanded.
Aimee felt the color fade from her face.
Maman would have slapped her had Fang not caught her hand and held it away from Aimee’s cheek. That only angered her mother more. "You have ruined us. I want you both out of here. Now."
Wanting to soothe her mother, Aimee stepped forward. "Maman-"
"No," she snarled. There was no reprieve or forgiveness in her voice or expression. "You have endangered every one of us and for what?" She raked Fang with a disgusted sneer. "You are dead to me, Aimee. I never want to see you again and you are no longer part of this family or patria. Get out."
Aimee’s vision dimmed. "But-"
Fang pulled her against him. "C’mon. She needs to calm down."
Aimee allowed him to teleport her out of her home to Vane’s house.
Vane was in the living room, his face a mask of worry that lifted the instant he saw them. "Thank the gods. I was terrified of what Savitar had done to you."
Aimee barely understood those words as the true horror of what had happened slammed into her.
Her mother had thrown her out. She’d revoked her clan from her and left her abandoned.
Vane furrowed his brow. "Is she okay?"
Fang didn’t answer the question. He didn’t think Aimee would want him to share what had just happened with someone who, to her, was basically a stranger. "Can you give us a minute?"
Fang waited until Vane had left before he cupped her face in his hands. "Aimee?"
Her tears started then. They flowed silently down her face as her blue eyes were completely haunted. "What have I done?"
He pulled her into his arms and held her close. "It’ll be all right."
"No, it won’t. Maman will never forgive me."
"You’re her only daughter. Once she calms down, she’ll be fine. You’ll see."
"No, she won’t. I know her and I know that tone. She’ll never forgive me for this."
Fang bent his knees until he was eye level with her. "You know you’re not alone. So long as I have shelter . . ."
Aimee clung to him then, needing that security even though part of her wanted to shove him away and condemn him for doing this to her.
But for him . . .
No. Fang hadn’t done this. He’d been there by her side every step of the way these last few years. She’d made the decision to go save him regardless of consequence-even death-and Maman had cut the cord.
The only thing he’d done was try to protect her and Vane and Fury and their families.
And with those thoughts came another realization of something that she’d almost missed earlier. "What did Savitar mean about you selling your soul?"
He stepped away. His demeanor was now closed and reserved.
But she wasn’t about to leave it at that. "Fang? Tell me the truth. Please."
She saw the regret in his eyes. The shame. And when he spoke, his voice was tight with emotion. "You’ve asked me repeatedly about the sign on my shoulder . . . it’s a mark of ownership. When you and Dev were in the alley and the Daimons attacked, I sold my soul to a demon to keep you safe."
Aimee gaped at the last thing she’d expected him to say. He’d sold his soul for her. . . .
"Why would you do that?"
He swallowed hard before he answered. "Because I’d rather be damned than see you dead."
Overwhelmed by his devotion and loyalty, she took his hand into hers . . . the hand that should have borne their mating mark, and kissed his knuckles. "All I wanted was to keep you safe and now . . . I’ve endangered every member of my family. All of them."
"We can try to petition Savitar when he calms down. He’s not entirely unreasonable."
She gave him an arch stare. Was he out of his mind? Savitar not unreasonable? "He killed off an entire species because they angered him. He’s not exactly forgiving."
"I said entirely." His eyes turned dark and hopeful. "C’mon, Aim, have faith. Sanctuary is legendary. Your mother is resourceful. Somehow all of this will work out. I know it."
"I wish I could believe that, but I don’t know. I have such a bad feeling."
Fang hesitated. So did he, but he didn’t want to worry her. Even though he wasn’t the most intuitive person in the universe, he knew deep inside that something much worse was going to happen. He just didn’t know what.
Damn, Savitar, that was harsh."
Savitar stiffened as Thorn appeared by his side. "What are you still doing here?"
"Wanted to make sure you didn’t skewer my wolf. For all the aggravation, he still belongs to me and I don’t want him skinned quite yet."
"Then you better keep him out of my way."
"Noted. But what you did . . ." Thorn shook his head. "Harsh, and coming from me that means something."
Yes, it was, and Savitar already regretted it. But he couldn’t have the Were-Hunters second-guessing him. The one thing he’d learned the hard way was that without fear, there was no control. And without control, the Were-Hunters would destroy one another. He had to give them a bigger enemy to fear than one another.
But none of that was Thorn’s concern. "You know something, don’t you?"
Thorn gave him a calculating look. "Did you not see what will happen because of your decree?"
A tic worked in Savitar’s jaw at what he had to admit to a man of undefinable loyalty. "Only a glimpse and I was too angry to pay attention."
"Then it’s probably for the best."
"Let me just say this. I’m really glad I’m not one of the people who calls Sanctuary home. ‘Cause it’s about to get seriously fugly for them."
A week later
Fang stood inside Trace’s nursery while Vane changed the toddler’s diaper. It was so strange to see him doing something like this after all the battles the two of them had fought. Vane’s hands were every bit as bloody as Fang’s and yet here he was . . .
A loving father.
Squealing with laughter, Trace reached for his dad as Vane picked him up and rubbed his back, smoothing down the yellow Sponge-Bob shirt. Trace wrapped his chubby arms around Vane’s neck and planted a wet kiss on his cheek. Damn if the two of them didn’t look just alike.
Except Vane didn’t drool as much.
It made him wonder what it would have been like to have that kind of relationship with his own father and it brought home just what had been taken from Aimee. She was devastated over the loss of her birth family. And he couldn’t blame her at all.
Nicolette, for all her faults, did love her children.
Vane set Trace down so that he could run to grab his toys. "I meant what I said. You two are welcome here for as long as you need to stay."
"Thanks." Fang watched as Trace grabbed an oversized LEGO and chewed on it. "And not just for this." He indicated Trace with a tilt of his chin. "I can’t believe what you were willing to risk for me."
Vane shrugged like it was no big thing, but they both knew otherwise. It had been one hell of a thing Vane had done and Fang still didn’t really understand why. "We’re brothers, Fang. Nothing will ever change that."
"Yeah"-he indicated Trace with a jerk of his chin-"but I was never that cute."
Vane laughed. "True."
Most of all, Fang couldn’t believe that Bride had allowed Vane to go and make such an offer to Savitar, knowing it could have been her life too. Their sacrifice erased any hurt left by his being trapped in the Nether Realm. For the first time since he’d left his bed in Peltier House, he felt close to his brother again. "You know I love you, right?"
Vane pulled him into a tight hug. "I don’t ever want to lose you again. Next time you pull one of these vanishing acts, either in this world or the next, I swear I’ll kick your ass."
Fang laughed as he shoved Vane away from him. "Man, quit hugging on me. You are a perv."
Vane punched him in the arm. "You’re such an ass**le."
Trace gasped. "Daddy said a bad word!"
Fang picked him up from the floor and laughed. "You tell him, pup. Keep your daddy straight."
But for the first time in years, he felt almost whole again.
Aimee was still hesitant around Bride and Fury’s mate, Angelia. Tall and blond, Lia was an Arcadian wolf who’d belonged to Fury’s birth pack. They had reconnected last fall when Lia had come to Sanctuary to hunt him down and kill him.
Now the only one Lia would kill was the one who looked askance at Fury.
Yeah, life was anything but predictable.
Lia was staying here with them while Fury was meeting with Sasha to get an update on what was happening at Sanctuary. Aimee couldn’t stand the radio silence and Fury had volunteered to be her liaison with her brothers.
"Aimee? Could you set the table?"
As she went for the plates, a flash near the doorway caught her attention. Dev materialized in the kitchen beside her.
Aimee almost dropped the plates. No one from her family had spoken a single syllable to her since Maman had thrown her out.
Dev glanced sheepishly at Bride and Lia before he turned his attention back to her. "Can I have a word with you?"
Handing the pretty blue plates off to Lia, she led him into the living room where they could speak without the others overhearing them. "What’s going on?"