Born of Night (Page 51)

Born of Night (The League #1)(51)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

Kiara froze. “Why are you taking me along?”

Anger and hatred blazed at her from his light green eyes. She took a step back, afraid of him.

“Syn’s gone. And I have no idea who knows about my house now. If I leave you here, with my luck and yours, someone will find you.”

She frowned at him. “Syn’s gone?” she repeated, her body going numb. “What do you mean?”

Nykyrian pulled his coat on with irate jerks instead of his usual grace. “I mean he’s vanished. No one has seen him in weeks and his flat was torn to pieces. We’re assuming someone acted on your father’s contract and killed him. I suppose I should go to your father’s office and see if Syn’s severed head has been delivered to him as he requested.”

“No,” she whispered, unable to believe what he was telling her. In spite of Syn’s later hostility, she’d liked him a great deal. “I’m so sorry.”

He curled his lip at her. “I should have killed your father when I saved you.”

Kiara lifted her chin, refusing to show him how much that comment hurt. “Then why didn’t you?”

“I don’t know,” he mumbled. “I don’t know why I do anything anymore.”

Kiara reached out to touch him, but he turned away. “Just get into the fighter and leave me alone.”

“You really do suck when it comes to social skills.” She knew she should be mad at him, curse him, something. But at the moment all she could do was see images of Syn teasing him. Syn had been the one person he was closest to.

Now . . .

He was in pain, and for that she’d give him some latitude. But the man had to start giving her some consideration, too.

Kiara climbed into the ship and remained silent as he joined her and then launched.

She watched the stars zoom past as they flew to a destination she didn’t even bother to ask about again. She was tired of being snapped at. All she wanted was a day of peace. To return to those gentle days of when the two of them had actually gotten along.

It didn’t take too long to reach a small outpost planet. Nykyrian landed them with a severe jolt.

Kiara gasped, her body aching. She frowned at him, wondering about the rough landing, but held her tongue.

Without a word, he led her out of the craft and from the small, sterile bay toward a row of average-sized houses. She looked around, trying to get her bearings, but nothing seemed familiar.

She followed him down several back streets before he finally came to a large, white house. He glanced up and down the street in a manner that reminded her of the night he’d first started protecting her—like he was looking for someone to attack them—then he knocked sharply on the door.

He pushed her to the side of the door and unholstered his blaster.

She swallowed in fear. What was waiting for them inside?

The door opened to display the attractive blonde from the club they’d gone to all those weeks ago. “If you like, you may search the entire place, but I assure you he’s not here.” The woman smirked, opening the door wide enough for them to enter. “I’m sick of the way you guys go around expecting an ambush. For the sake of the gods, put your weapon away.”

Kiara didn’t miss the underlying hatred in the woman’s voice.

Nykyrian pushed Kiara into the house. But even so, she sensed his unease, as if he still expected them to be attacked.

Worried and unsure, she glanced about the main room. A teenage girl sat on the floor, looking up at them with large, luminous green eyes. Her eyes widened even more as she studied Nykyrian’s size and fierce demeanor.

His features softened immediately. “I’m not dangerous,” he said in a gentle voice.

The girl looked to her mother for confirmation.

“He’s all right, Thia. Now run along to your room.”

The girl shot from the floor like a doom squad was hot on her heels. Kiara frowned, wondering why a girl her age would be that afraid of strangers.

Driana held her hand out to the couch. “You two have a seat, and I’ll get the discs.”

Kiara didn’t move. Instead, she watched the odd way Nykyrian stared after the girl.

“How old is she, Driana?” He faced the woman with a stern frown. There was a strange emotion darkening his features.

Driana shifted uncomfortably under his stare.

“Is she mine?” he asked and Kiara felt her world tilt.

Her breathing ragged, she looked back at Driana and the beautiful, cold grace ingrained in the woman’s face and mannerisms.

“No, she’s not.”

Nykyrian cursed. “You never could lie worth a damn. Your nose always crinkles.”

Self-consciously, Driana rubbed her fingers across the bridge of her nose. Tears gathered in Driana’s eyes as she looked back at Nykyrian. “Thia knows Aksel isn’t her father. I couldn’t bear the thought of her calling him Papa.”

Nykyrian met Kiara’s gaze. What she wouldn’t give to know what thoughts were playing through his mind, but he kept every hint of his mood concealed.

For that matter, she wished she could sort through her own feelings about this discovery. The worst was a sense of betrayal, though to be honest she didn’t understand the source of that one, since it was obvious he’d slept with Driana long before they’d ever met.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

Anger clouded Driana’s eyes. “To what purpose? After what the commander did to you when he found out we’d only danced together, I didn’t dare tell anyone I’d slept with you. I still have nightmares over the beating you received.” She rubbed her arms and looked at the floor. “Aksel isn’t sure you’re the father. He suspects. But I have no idea what he’d do to her if he ever learned the truth.”

“Is she why you asked me here?”

Driana glanced at Kiara. “Who is she?”

“My wife.”

Kiara was stunned he’d bother claiming her after the way he’d treated her since he’d saved her at the station.

Driana drew a ragged breath. “No wonder Aksel’s been trying to get to her. He raved all last night because he didn’t capture her yesterday.”

“He touches her, I will kill him in ways not even he can imagine.”

“I know.”

Nykyrian picked up a picture of his daughter from the low table. “Can I spend time with her?”

Driana bit her lip. “I would like that, but I don’t know. Aksel has her afraid of everything. He reminds me so much of your father it’s not even funny.” She broke off as intense fear and sadness darkened her eyes. “I might be able to arrange something in a week or so when Aksel goes off on one of his self-indulgent binges.” She gave Kiara a hard look. “That is, if you don’t mind?”

Kiara glanced at Nykyrian, who was studying her intently. “I don’t mind at all,” she said, amazed by the honesty of her response. Thia was as much a part of him as her own child was, and she’d been every bit as innocent in her own conception.

How could she ever hold something like that against a child?

Driana nodded. “If you want, you can see her now while I get the discs.”

Kiara followed Nykyrian as Driana led them down the hallway to a back bedroom. As they entered, Thia jumped up from her desk with a startled gasp.

“Mama, don’t burst in here like that. You know it makes me crazy.”

Nykyrian tensed at the gesture.

“Thia, these are some friends of mine. Will you keep them company while I do something?”

“Sure.” She righted her upturned chair.

Driana inclined her head at them, then made her way out of the room.

Kiara stayed in the doorway, not wanting to impose on Nykyrian’s precious time with his daughter. She glanced around at all the pink and lace. The room was beautiful and sweet, much like the girl who lived here.

It made her wonder if her baby would be another daughter or a son.

Nykyrian approached the girl slowly. Kiara watched his reaction carefully, knowing this would enable her to tell how receptive he’d be to her own surprise for him.

Reflexively, she rubbed her hand across her stomach.

Thia scratched her head, studying Nykyrian’s tall stature. “Are you a friend of Aksel’s?”

“No.” He took a seat in the chair beside her. “Truthfully, I can’t stand him.”

“Good. Me, either. He’s a total . . . dirtbag.” She studied his shades. “What about you?”

“Not a total dirtbag.”

That made her smile. She looked down at the picture she’d been drawing, then glanced back up at him. “Are you my real father?”

“Why would you ask that?”

“Mom doesn’t let strangers in here, especially men. Aksel gets too bent over it.” She tilted her head. “What color are your eyes?”

Nykyrian reached up and removed his shades.

Thia’s lips parted as she saw eyes that were identical to hers.

Nykryian didn’t say anything while he stared at his daughter in awe and fear. She was an exact copy of her mother, except for the eyes that betrayed his DNA. Did she have any of the abnormalities he had?

Her teeth appeared human, as did the rest of her. But was she harmed in other ways by his screwed-up genes?

He wanted to hold her, and yet he was afraid to even reach out toward her. Who would have thought that one clumsy, embarrassing fifteen minutes with Driana could have produced such a beautiful child?

Flinching, he still remembered the way Driana had shoved him away after he’d failed to please her. “That’s it? You’re worthless.”

He brushed his hand over a stack of books piled next to her desk, trying to distract himself from the bitter memory of Thia’s conception. Picking one up, he thumbed through it. “Do you read these?”

“I do. I study languages in school, but no one other than my instructors can talk to me in them.”

Kiara leaned against the doorframe as she watched them. Nykyrian said something to Thia that Kiara couldn’t understand.

Thia’s eyes widened as she responded in the same language. Warmth rushed through her when Thia smiled and displayed a set of dimples identical to Nykyrian’s.

They were beautiful together, and it gave her hope for their future.

“How many languages do you know?” Thia asked excitedly.

“I’ve never really counted. But if you wish, I could help you with them. I’ve lived on a lot of the planets where these languages are spoken.”

“Were they beautiful?” Thia’s eyes were dreamy. “Aksel won’t let me leave here. He says that I’m not worth enough to pay for the fuel to visit them.” A frown flitted across her face, then disappeared behind another smile. “I’ve only visited them online. At night, I like to dream about going off and exploring each one.”

“If your mother okays it, I’d love to take you to some of them.”

Kiara thought she might burst into tears. This was the Nykyrian she’d fallen in love with. The gentle, kind man who would do anything for the ones he cared about.

“Aksel’s coming!” Driana’s shout broke through their conversation.

Kiara met Nykyrian’s gaze, her heart pounding in fear. By his expression, she could tell he was torn between leaving and staying.

Replacing his shades, he stood. “Is she safe here?”

Driana curled her lip. “She is unless Aksel catches you here. Do you really think I’d take a chance with my daughter’s life?”

He ignored that last barb. “Is there a back way out?”

Driana inclined her head. “The balcony behind you.”

He opened the door and helped Kiara through. Driana handed him the discs.

He paused for a moment, staring at Thia. “I’ll be back for her.”

“I’m counting on it.”

With one last look at his daughter, who’d come to her feet to watch them leave, he ducked out the window.

They made it safely down the trellis and to the street below without running into any of Aksel’s people.

Kiara breathed a sigh of relief, grateful for once that they didn’t have to fight their way out. She looked at Nykyrian, but as usual, he gave her no clue about how he was feeling.

He took her arm and led her back toward their ship. At least this time, his grip was gentler than before.

She touched his hand and gave it a light squeeze. “So you’re a father. How does that make you feel?”

After the tender way he’d spoken with Thia and the promise he’d made to Driana, Kiara expected him to beam with satisfaction, to smile and be happy, but what she got was a deep growl.

His hand tightened on her arm. “I feel like total shit.”

A chill went down Kiara’s spine. She rubbed her hand across her stomach. “Why would you say that?”

He stopped in the alley and glared at her. “First, she’s more than half grown—I’ve missed most of her life already. Second, a child is the last thing I need in my life. One more helpless person depending on me to protect them. I can’t even protect myself, Syn . . .” His voice trailed off as that familiar muscle worked in his jaw, letting her know he was furious.