Born of Night (Page 39)

Born of Night (The League #1)(39)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

Kiara was hesitant. “There’s no human meat on here, is there?”

He shook his head. “While there are still those who partake of human flesh, they confine that delicacy to Andaria. The rest of the universe tends to consider it murder. It’s all beef or vegetable on your menu.”

She let out a relieved breath. “So what do you recommend?”

“You would probably like the Fitau Cour Bariyone.”

A chill went down her spine at the way those words rolled off his tongue. He had an incredibly sexy voice, especially when he spoke in his native tongue. “And that would be?”

“Lightly seasoned beef with a yellow herb cream sauce and stewed vegetables. It’s not as spicy as the other items.”

She’d forgotten what a gourmet he was. “That does sound good. I’ll try it.”

As soon as the waitress returned, Nykyrian ordered.

The moment the waitress saw his long canine teeth, she spoke in Andarion to him. Nykyrian’s response was tinged with condescension—something Kiara had never heard from him before, and it made her wonder what the waitress had said to cause it.

When they were alone again, she sat forward. “What was all that about?”

“She wanted to know why I bleached my hair and was with a human.”

“And you said?”

“That a servant shouldn’t question me.”

“That was harsh,” she chided.

He didn’t react at all. “I’m a trained warrior, Kiara. On Andaria, the only thing that outranks me is the aristocracy. Had I answered her questions, I would have ceded my status and become inferior to her. She would have attacked us both. The caste order is sacred in their world. If I considered myself a true Andarion, she’d have been beaten for even questioning me. As bad as you think Hauk is off-world, you should be around him when he’s with his people. He’s really a nasty bastard then.”

She’d forgotten just how warring and brutal the Andarions were. “I’ll bet you’re glad you weren’t raised there, huh?”

As soon as the question was out of her mouth, she realized how stupid and thoughtless it was. “I’m so sorry, Nykyrian. I wasn’t thinking.”

“It’s all right. It didn’t go any better for me on Andaria than it did in the orphanage. I see no real difference between humanity and them. Both races prey on the weak and defenseless.”

Kiara hated the fact that he was right. In the end, it was only a dental anomaly that really differentiated them from each other.

“Do you remember your mother at all?”

He gave the subtlest of nods.

She opened her mouth to ask more, but a chill went down her spine.

“Kiara Zamir . . . you’re the last person I expected to see here.”

Nykyrian went completely still as he heard the one voice that spun him into a level of pissed-off that not even Syn’s drinking could match.

Jullien eton Anatole. The crowned Andarion prince.

Nykyrian steeled himself to keep from leaping at him and killing him where he stood. Jullien had been bad enough to stomach before he’d been sent off to the orphanage.

But it was the cruelty of the bastard in school that still haunted him. A bully and a ringleader, the prince hadn’t been content to pick on him, knowing he couldn’t fight back so long as he wore a training collar. The little bastard had accused him of stealing his sacred signet ring.

He ground his teeth at the memory. He’d been put through three weeks of hell—the highlights of which had been two brutal body-cavity searches and then spending two days in jail while having his arm broken in the process.

Meanwhile, the prince had hidden the ring in his own gym bag and conspired with his ass**le crew to frame Nykyrian for no other reason than he didn’t like him. If not for Hauk coming forward to say he’d found the missing ring, Nykyrian would probably still be in jail for a theft he hadn’t committed.

And now, having almost ruined his entire life, the bastard didn’t even recognize him . . .

This was priceless.

Kiara turned around in her chair to see Prince Jullien behind her. She smiled even though she wanted to curse. Jullien had a bad habit of turning up in places she’d rather he not. She didn’t know why, but she’d never liked him. He just put off a nasty aura that made her want to cringe anytime he drew near.

Corpulent and slimy, he wore an expensive dark pewter suit that dripped gaudy jewels. His long black hair always looked greasy—today was no exception. He carried a silver-tipped black cane that was more for fashion than necessity. The cane also allowed him to flash his prince’s signet ring for the world to see when he posed with it.

As he joined her, she noticed his guards withdrew to a discreet distance in the café to give them space.

Yippee that.

Without a word of courtesy, Jullien took a seat beside Kiara and lifted her hand in his soft, fat palm. She stifled her cringe at the uncharacteristicly swollen white flesh—most Andarions had dark tawny skin. What made the prince think she had any desire to be touched by him?

But he was nothing if not haughty, and in his world, all females, regardless of species, craved his corpulent form.

It was all she could do not to be sick.

“It’s a such pleasure to see you again.” Jullien smiled a confident smile that told her how much arrogance the ugly thing possessed.

She smiled stiffly. “It’s a pleasure to see you again, Your Highness.” Now go away and get out of my face. She pried his hand away from hers.

Flipping a lock of coal-black hair from his shoulder, he took her dismissal in stride.

Kiara glanced at Nykyrian. He appeared calm, and yet she had the distinct feeling it was taking all of his self-control not to leap at Jullien and strangle the prince.

Why?

Facing Jullien, she met his gaze and had to stifle a shudder at his mutated greenish-brown eyes ringed in blood red.

His smile widened. “I’ve spoken with my father about bringing you back to Triosa to perform. He’s as enthralled with your beauty and talent almost as much as I. But my people have had trouble getting yours to commit. I’m sure it’s just an oversight. After all, think of how good it would be for your career to be seen on our stage.”

What did he think? She was some ingenue begging for a job? His offer was as insulting as the way he drooled over her.

Nykyrian cleared his throat. “Emperor Aros is exceedingly generous to say such things.”

Jullien raised a disbelieving eyebrow and turned around in his chair to face Nykyrian.

Kiara held her breath, unsure of what would follow. No one spoke to a prince unless acknowledged beforehand. As Nykyrian had pointed out, their caste system was set in stone.

“Did I speak to you?”

Nykryian responded to him in Andarion.

Jullien’s eyes narrowed and for a moment, Kiara thought he might call his guards to arrest Nykyrian. “You are one of my subjects. I demand proper respect!”

“Titana tu.”

Kiara didn’t know what Nykyrian’s deadpan response was, but by the amount of color suffusing the prince’s cheeks, she knew it wasn’t polite. She prayed Nykyrian calmed down before Jullien’s guards attacked him.

“Giakon,” Jullien sneered.

Nykyrian rose to his feet, his entire being coiled to strike.

“Your Highness,” Kiara interrupted before the tensing guards launched themselves at Nykyrian. “I would be honored to perform on Triosa. If you could contact my manager, I’m sure something can be arranged.” She offered Jullien a false smile.

Jullien glared intensely at Nykyrian. “Very well, mu Tara. Unlike your fritalla, I have no desire to further embarrass you.” Jullien stood, his eyes locked on Nykyrian’s face.

Nykyrian didn’t move until Jullien and his guards had been seated far away from them.

“What was all of that?” she asked him.

“Nothing.”

She was aghast at his answer. “Nothing? You lecture me on the higher order of Andarion etiquette and then you insult their crown prince? We’re both lucky they didn’t arrest you.”

“They wouldn’t have lived long enough to regret that mistake.”

Kiara paused as she noted the bitter undercurrent in his voice. There was history there. Then she remembered the bit in his files . . .

“You went to school with him?”

Nykyrian didn’t answer as the waitress brought out their food.

Kiara wasn’t willing to let this go. “Nykyrian? Why did you attack him that way? What did he do to offend you?”

“He was born, and I don’t want to discuss it.” He indicated her plate. “We should eat and get back.”

“You’re locking me out again, aren’t you?”

His grip tightened on his silverware. “In spite of Jullien calling me your girlfriend, I’m not a woman, Kiara. I’m a mercenary assassin and I really don’t want to talk about my feelings.”

The wall around him was back in place. She could almost weep in frustration. They’d had such a pleasant day.

Now it was ruined.

Sighing, she ate in silence while she pondered everything she’d learned today.

But what disturbed her most was how easily Nykyrian could shut her out and retreat back into himself. As if she wasn’t even here.

How she envied him that ability, because all she could feel was him, and it hurt to know she could be so easily dismissed.

Nykyrian searched his mind for some way to ease the awkward tension between them. He wanted to go back to the playful Kiara who’d fed him her disgusting treat.

But he didn’t know how. I suck at human relations. He always had. Jayne and Darling said he was too brutally honest. Syn called him socially awkward.

It was easier to stay silent and just observe others.

And yet, he wanted to know how to make her happy again.

Why bother? She’s just a client.

No, she was much more than that.

She’d made love to him. Most of all, she’d touched him in a way no one ever had before and she made him feel things he’d never even dreamed possible.

Damn you, Jullien, for ruining this.

One day he was going to kill that bastard . . .

After they finished eating, they picked up her clothing packages in the hangar, and made their way back to Nykyrian’s fighter and then his house.

Kiara remained silent as she entered the house first and patted the lorinas on their furry heads.

Syn appeared relieved by their taut silence as he helped unload the fighter. The only words Nykyrian spoke to her were to tell her where to store her purchases. Other than that, he quickly changed and made his way out to the bay to work on Syn’s ship.

In angry, irate jerks, Kiara pulled her clothes out of the bags and boxes, and set about putting them away. As each second passed, she became angrier and angrier at herself for caring what Nykyrian thought anyway. She was acting like some lovesick teenager. If he didn’t want to talk to her, fine.

So what if he kept her at a distance? It was his prerogative.

And yet it wasn’t that easy. She wanted him to let her in. She wanted . . .

Kiara wasn’t even sure. She just knew that he’d somehow changed her, and it wasn’t fair that after all they’d shared, he would cut her out so easily.

I’m nothing to him.

And that was what stung most of all.

“So what did you two do today?” Syn helped Nykyrian jerk open the panel on his stabilizer.

Nykyrian picked up a socket wrench. “Grabbed some clothes for her and your part.” Unwilling to elaborate beyond that, he changed the subject. “Did you find Driana’s address?”

Syn nodded, his stare probing Nykyrian in a way that always made him want to throw something at the man. “I also found out some interesting tidbits about you and Driana.”

Nykyrian narrowed his gaze. He definitely wanted to throw something at Syn. “You weren’t supposed to go into her personal file, or mine for that matter.”

Syn shrugged and unwrapped the new part. “You know me. Couldn’t resist.”

Nykyrian held his breath, waiting for Syn to build up enough courage to ask him the next question.

Sure enough, he found his courage. “So how did she end up married to Aksel and not you?”

“You know the answer. I was already engaged to The League.” Nykyrian loosened the plate’s bolt, his mind whirling with memories he didn’t like to think about.

“Yeah, but from what I read—”

“Enough!” Nykyrian roared. “I don’t want to think about this anymore. It was a long time ago.” And what had happened between them still tore through him with serrated talons. The parting words Driana had sneered at him were forever carved into his heart. “Leave it alone.”

Kiara stroked Ilyse’s ears as she drew a ragged sigh. A few weeks ago, she’d known exactly who she was and what she wanted out of her life—to retire after a brilliant career and marry a nice, loving aristocrat her Father approved of and start a family.