Born of Night (Page 8)

Born of Night (The League #1)(8)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

She rubbed her arm against the chills that thought caused. “Yes, Papa. I’m fine. Please have them stand down. He’s here only to return me and has caused me no harm whatsoever. Call your troops off.”

Silence greeted her for a few seconds.

Finally, her father recalled his soldiers to base.

Nykyrian’s arms relaxed around her as the fighters dropped away and the ship’s alarms subsided.

He deactivated his weapons.

She let out her own relieved breath, grateful she was almost home. It took several more long minutes to reach the main landing bay.

Made of glass and concrete, she’d never thought the building particularly attractive. But today, it was the most beautiful place in the universe. Never had she been happier to see it. The capitol city hummed with activity as they lowered their altitude and prepared for landing.

Nykyrian slid the ship inside the bay with barely more than a whisper of a bump before they came to rest in the center of the dock.

After releasing the canopy, he unbuckled Kiara from her seat. She removed her helmet and turned to face him. She raised a questioning eyebrow as she noted he made no moves to remove his own gear. “You’re not going to greet my father?” Most people considered it the greatest honor to meet the legendary commander.

Looking over the side of his fighter, Nykyrian shook his head at the large number of soldiers gathered. “They look nervous.”

Kiara handed him the helmet. “I can never thank you enough for what you’ve done.”

“Just do yourself a favor and stay out of trouble.”

His words sparked anger in her, but not at him. At the sad reality of her life. “All I did was go to sleep. There shouldn’t be anything safer than that.”

When he spoke, she heard the bitterness underneath his tone. “Spoken like a true civilian. Trust me, princess, that’s the most dangerous thing anyone does . . . Well that, and go to the can.”

Those words made her wonder how many times he’d killed someone that way.

It sent another cold chill over her.

“Thank you again,” she whispered, wanting to get away from him as quickly as possible.

She dropped over the side of his ship.

Once her feet touched the ground, she ran to her father’s outstretched arms. Her heart was light now that she was safe and returned.

With short, gray hair and a well-trimmed beard, Kiefer Zamir was a distinguished-looking man. But right now, he had dark circles under his eyes from lack of sleep. He frowned at the marks on her face as he cupped her bruised cheek in his hand.

Kiara gave him a tight hug. “It doesn’t hurt.”

She saw the doubt in his brown eyes. “The Sentella told me they killed the ones responsible.”

Kiara trembled at the reminder of her captors and their fate—not that they didn’t deserve it. “They did.”

Kiefer squeezed her to the point she feared her ribs would crack. “You shall have an armed guard in the future no matter where you go. I don’t know what possessed The Sentella to return you unharmed. But I thank God you’re safe.”

Safe. Kiara gave a nervous laugh. She found it difficult to believe she’d been inside the fabled Sentella Command Center, seen Nemesis, and none of the mercenaries had even threatened her life.

Much.

Just the same, she wouldn’t tell her father about them, or what little she’d been privy to. She owed them that much and more.

Turning around, she watched as Nykyrian secured his canopy. She didn’t know anything about him really, but for some reason, she wondered if she’d ever see him or Syn again.

Nykyrian paused as he saw Kiara watching him. Her father continued to hold her in his arms as if afraid of letting her go—not that he blamed the man. He’d do the same with his kid if he’d had one he’d almost lost. Then again, he would never take that kind of chance with a kid of his.

His child would never be allowed out of his sight.

And still she watched him . . .

Damn, she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. Even in a battlesuit that didn’t fit her and with her face bruised and her hair mussed, she still took his breath away. And for a moment, he couldn’t help wondering what it would feel like to hold her . . .

Stop being stupid. You’re an assassin, dumbass. Act like it.

Pushing her out of his thoughts, he prepared to launch and get out of this place before they made him a memory and proved Syn’s adage. He didn’t belong here with decent people.

He was an animal and he knew it.

As soon as he could, he launched.

But as the tiny planet faded, he couldn’t get the image of her and her father out of his mind. What did that kind of love feel like? He had no concept of it. Although sometimes when he dreamed, he saw an Andarion woman he liked to think was his mother holding him as a child. She sang to him and brushed his hair back from his face while he smiled at her.

But that was only a dream.

No one had ever hugged him or sang to him. Very few had even been kind to him. Scorn. Disdain. Brutality. That was all he’d ever known after his mother had abandoned him to a human orphanage. His mother hadn’t even thought enough of him to dump him there herself.

She’d sent her staff to do it.

Not even your own mother wanted you, freak. He flinched at the sound of Commander Quiakides’s cruel voice in his head.

His adoptive father . . .

The man hadn’t wanted a son anymore than his mother had. The commander had only wanted a legacy.

And that was what had been beaten into him for the whole of his childhood. You are my gift to The League and you will be legend.

A legend that had turned into their curse . . .

Nykyrian scoffed at his maudlin thoughts. What did he need with kindness anyway? It only made a soldier weak, vulnerable.

Things that would get him killed. And he had no intention of dying.

He shrugged off the melancholy thoughts, turned his ship around and made his way to his own isolated home. That was the only place where he felt safe. The only place where he felt even the slightest bit like he belonged.

It didn’t take long to reach the orange and yellow planet that wasn’t on most maps. It had a peculiar orbit that system engineers had deemed impossible for development. But it worked well for his needs. Besides, his home wasn’t on the planet itself. It hovered in the upper atmosphere where the outside was coated with reflekakor—a mineral that would keep it from showing up on any scanners.

And with fifteen thousand square feet, the house was more than large enough to fulfill his needs as a lair, home, and isolation chamber.

The only person who knew it existed was Syn.

Which worked well for him since he hated interacting with other people. And at this point, he’d been around them too long for one day. He needed time to himself.

Buzzing past the house, he docked in the hangar adjacent to it.

He pressed the button on his control panel that closed the portal behind his ship and waited for the artificial air to replace the deadly, natural one. When the light came on notifying him it was safe to leave, he exited his fighter.

As soon as he entered his house, his four pets assailed him with happy leaps and licks.

The lorinas were feline creatures many assumed could never be domesticated. It’d taken Nykyrian a long time to make them docile, but as with most beings once they learned he could be trusted not to hurt or neglect them, they settled into an easy camaraderie.

They were the only balm against loneliness he would allow himself. Fiercely loyal, they couldn’t be bribed or turned against him for any reason, unlike humans or other so-called civilized beings. Hell, every day he lived without Syn or one of the others in their organization taking a shot at his back he considered it a miracle.

Rubbing the soft fur of the lorinas’ heads, Nykyrian dropped his helmet by the door. He was grateful it was still night on his part of the planet. With any luck he might be able to get some sleep.

The stars twinkled brightly through the clear ceiling while his home floated placidly above the gaseous world below. It was a peaceful, soothing place that never failed to ease the tension in his muscles or relax his troubled thoughts.

He’d purchased the planet several years earlier after deciding he was tired of living in cramped flats inside noisy, crime-ridden cities. There was no chance here of anyone finding him. Of an assassin or officer throwing themselves into his line of fire.

For the first time in his life, he could sleep in peace and not have to bolt awake at every sound.

Wearily, Nykyrian made his way up the stairs to his left. His large, soft bed welcomed him. He pulled the tie from his braid, shook his hair loose, then fell on top of the black fur covers.

Oh yeah . . . This was what he needed in the worst sort of way. Not a dancer who’d hate him. Not the comfort of a friend.

Just his bed and a few hours of sleep.

He rolled onto his back and lay for hours watching the sky above him as that precious sleep eluded him for some reason. It was all he could do not to curse in frustration. Despite the tranquility of the heavens, there was none for his mind. The lorinas draped across him, offering him what solace they could, but it didn’t keep his thoughts out of places he didn’t want them to go.

Stroking their fur, he thought of bouncing, dark mahogany curls as the trim dancer ran to her father. Imagined what it would be like to make love to her until they were both sore for days . . .

Gah, it was sheer torture.

As the sky began to lighten, he saw a ship zoom overhead. He knew the markings as soon as he saw the sleek fighter.

Syn.

How weird that he hadn’t called. But then Syn was probably drunk and not thinking. It happened more than he liked.

Nykyrian didn’t move while he waited for Syn to dock and enter.

The lorinas heard the loud crackle of Syn’s engines and jumped from the bed, anxious to greet their other friend. Nykyrian grunted as they used his stomach for a launching pad.

“Kip!” Syn yelled below, bombarded by the lorinas. “When are you going to chain these mongrels up?”

Running his hand through his unbound hair, Nykyrian sat up. The lorinas bounded up the stairs, followed by Syn.

Nykyrian stacked his pillows up along the wall and reclined against them. “Well?” he asked as Syn sprawled across the foot of his bed.

“I told Zamir we were booked. Ignoring what he didn’t want to hear, he offered us a chunk of money which I told him changed nothing. He made another huge counteroffer which I was tempted to take and guard her myself. I could use a planet of my own, you know? Not to mention, it’d be worth guarding her just for the eye candy alone—sheez, can you imagine being around that day in and day out . . .”

He paused to look at Nykyrian. “Wonder if she sleeps nak*d . . . Bet she showers that way. Every day even. Think about it. I’ll even bet she’s nak*d underneath her clothes.”

Nykyrian rolled his eyes. As always, Syn’s brief was efficient, short, and comical. He drew his leg up and draped his arm over his knee. “What are the Probekeins up to?”

“They want the Gourans to relinquish all rights to Miremba IV to them. You were right about it pertaining to the weapon. Seems the Probekeins have need of the resources on that outpost to complete the explosive.”

Nykyrian frowned. “I wasn’t aware there was any surata on Miremba.” His mind ran through all the chemicals the weapon needed; surata was the only one the Probekeins didn’t have in their own territories.

Syn didn’t comment. He rolled over and propped himself up on his elbows, staring at the rose-and amber-streaked sky. “This is really a great view. You should try looking at it when you’re good and flagged.”

“You should try it sober.”

“Ouch. That hurt.” Syn laughed. “I’m sober now and I must say it’s not nearly as interesting.” He shifted his gaze to Nykyrian. “I haven’t had a drink in over three hours. I’m doing good.”

“You could do better.”

Syn snorted. “I’ll quit my drinking on your wedding day.”

Nykyrian stood, unamused. “I need to eat.” He headed toward the stairs.

“Wait,” Syn called, stopping him. “I thought you might want to know. The Probekeins have upgraded their contract on Kiara’s life. Both Pitala and Aksel Bredeh have signed on to track her.”

Nykyrian went cold. Pitala was a putz, but he was lethal and cruel. As for Bredeh . . . that bastard was insane. Brutal.

More than that, he was trained by the best of The League and, while he’d failed to be admitted as an assassin, he was dangerous to the extreme. “When did you find that out?”

“On my way over here.”

Thoughts tumbled through Nykyrian’s mind. Pitala could most likely be stopped.

Bredeh on the other hand . . .

He could bypass any system and he wouldn’t stop until his target was mutilated and dead. Nykyrian knew firsthand just how vicious and unfeeling Bredeh was. How much joy he would take in making Kiara beg for a mercy the man completely lacked.

An image of Kiara lying dead twisted his gut. He’d spent the first half of his life killing for The League and he knew only too well what an assassin, especially Pitala or Bredeh, would do to her before he ended her life. Part of an assassin’s job was to make the kill as gruesome as possible to intimidate the victim’s relatives and allies.