Night Play (Page 26)

Night Play (Dark-Hunter #6)(26)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

Vane stared at him, hard. Dangerously. "You’re not."

"How do you know?"

"Ash wouldn’t have left you here with me if you were."

Fury scoffed at that. "You put too much faith in a Dark-Hunter who could care less about our kind."

"No I don’t. I put a lot of faith in a man who has never been anything other than a friend to me." Vane crossed his arms over his chest. "So why did you come to our den?"

"Same reason you sought out Mom. I wanted to know what the rest of my family was like. I had every intention of telling you who I was, but as soon as I saw how much Markus disdained you and Fang, I figured it would be a mistake."

"You could have told us. We would have welcomed you."

"And again, I remind you that Dare, my litter mate who was my best friend, had already betrayed me. He delivered me up to our mother in chains. I was raised believing that animals are unreliable and unpredictable. But you know what? Animals only kill for two reasons: to protect and to eat. Humans kill for many, many more reasons. In spite of what they think, we’re not nearly as dangerous as they are. But you know that, don’t you?"

Vane nodded.

Fury sighed and stepped back. "Well, you guys have a nice life or whatever."

"Where are you going?" Vane asked.

Fury shrugged. "Wherever."

"So that’s it?" Vane asked. "You’re just going to introduce yourself to me as my brother and hit the road?"

"What else is there? You don’t want me around. You damn sure don’t need me."

Vane frowned at that. Didn’t Fury have any idea

No, he didn’t. The only family he had ever known had betrayed him. Little wonder his brother hated him. At least he, Fang, and Anya had banded together through any and all threats and obstacles.

Fury had been alone for centuries. He’d always stood back in the pack and never talked to anyone. While other strati formed inner circles of friends and allies, Fury had always remained solitary. For that matter, he had seldom fought to claim a she-wolf.

It must have been awful for him to know they were kin and to never breathe a word of it. How often had Fury watched the three of them laughing together?

Seen them huddled together as family against the rest of the pack, while knowing he should have been included in their group?

For that omission of friendship, Vane would feel eternally guilty. He should have sensed the bloodline that bound them together.

Fury really was good at hiding his scent.

"You’re my brother, Fury," Vane said sincerely. "Family means something to me.

If you know nothing else about me, you should know that."

"Since when am I family?"

"Since the minute we were born and since the second you came to me to warn me about Stefan." Vane held his hand out to him. "I don’t need an oath to be bound to you, little brother. We’re family."

Fury hesitated, then placed his hand in Vane’s. Vane pulled him forward and hugged him.

Bride’s throat tightened at the look of pain on Fury’s face. It was obvious he had never expected Vane’s reaction or his acceptance.

"I won’t betray you, Fury," Vane said. "Ever. And if Fang ever comes out, he won’t either."

Fury stepped back and nodded.

"And if you walk out that door," Vane said between clenched teeth, "I might have to maim you for it."

Fury laughed. "Okay. I’m here for a while, I guess." He cleared his throat and took a step backward. "You two probably want to talk now. I’ll go be in the kitchen with Amanda."

Vane waited until they were completely alone before he turned back to Bride.

"Hell of a day, huh?"

Bride sat back on the couch and took a deep breath to help her cope with all the odd events of the last twenty-four hours. "Yeah, oh yeah. We got flying babies, wolf-brothers, psycho moms, serial-killer boyfriends, vampire-killing friends, and I’m not even sure what else."

This was so beyond her ability to cope. "Am I insane?" she asked him.

"Really, be honest."

"I wish it were that easy. I wish I could say yes so that you could have Grace fix you, but no, you’re not crazy."

She was afraid of that. The question now was, what should she do?

"So let me see if I got everything straight from your mother. This"she turned her hand over to show the mark"means that we are somehow meant to be husband and wife. But if I refuse you, you spend the rest of your life impotent and alone? But I, on the other hand, am free to live my life however I see fit?"

He nodded.

"It really sucks to be you, doesn’t it?"

Vane looked away as a muscle worked in his jaw. "I don’t expect you to accept me, Bride. I never did. I mean, I hoped for about an hour or two, but I’m not stupid and I don’t live in the world of well, okay, I do live in a world of fantasy, but I’ve never deluded myself."

He knelt on the floor before her, took her hand in his and kissed her palm.

Oh, he was so tender with her. So kind. She curled her fingers against his warm, whiskered cheek.

How could she leave a man like this?

He’s not human.

Not fully, anyway. And he lived in a terrifying world of magic and mystery and scary monsters capable of all manner of cruelty.

"What do you want, Vane?" she asked, desperate to know. "Be honest with me. Do you want me simply because of this?" She held her palm out to him. "Or do you want me? I mean, you don’t really know me, do you? Nor do I know you. I know you’re a great guy in a pinch and that you have a family that makes the Addamses look normal. But I don’t know the real you."

He took her hand from his face and held it in his callused one, staring up at her with those piercing hazel-green eyes. "The truth is, I don’t know. I’ve never wanted any female the way I want you, Bride. But I honestly don’t know if it’s the mark or not. I don’t."

At least he had told her the truth. That was definitely one thing in his favor.

He’d never once bed to her.

"How long do I have to make a decision on this?" she asked.

"Two weeks. Roughly. Barring any further demon or mother interference."

"Then how about we try and act normal?" She burst out laughing at the ludicrousness of that statement. Yeah, they were just Jack and Jill Average climbing the hill to hell. She only hoped Jack didn’t break his crown or that she went tumbling after.

Bride sobered. "Okay, at least we can pretend to be normal. Let me see the real you in all your strangeness so that I know what I have to look forward to and then I’ll decide if I can handle it all without going totally insane."

He looked stunned by her suggestion. "You’re not just running away from me?"

"I probably should and I can’t imagine why I’m even considering this. But I do like what I know about you, Vane, and I guess everyone has problems. Not as profound as yours, mind you, but at least with you, when I tell people that my boyfriend is a dog, it’s not just a figure of speech."

He chuckled at that.

Bride squeezed his hand. "So give me your worst, wolf. I’ll give you mine, and at the end of two weeks, we’ll see where we are."

Vane couldn’t believe her. She was too good to be true. In all honesty, he had expected her to scream at him and run out the door, calling all of them loons. But she was giving him a chance.

And that was something he hadn’t had in a very long time Hope.

Joy burst through him at the thought that she might actually stay with him.

"There’s so much I have to tell you."

She cringed. "You’re not going to suck my blood, are you?"

Damn. She would pick that one thing to fear. Well, it was pointless now to keep anything from her. Better he lay it all out for her than she get pissed because he withheld something from her. As his mate, she deserved to have her questions answered. "I don’t have to, no."

She looked at him suspiciously. "What do you mean, you don’t have to?"

"My people aren’t vampires, but there are two parts to a mating ritual. First is you accept me as your mate."

"How do I do that? Is it like a wedding?"

"To my people it is. Only we do it nak*d."

Her jaw dropped. "With witnesses? Forget it!"

"No," he said, laughing at her outrage. She was beautiful whenever her cheeks colored. It made her amber eyes glow. "It’ll be just us. I lie on my back, we join our marks together, and you take me into your body, then we make our verbal pledges to each other."

She tilted her head as if she were less than sure about his honesty. "That works?"

He nodded. "It’s magic."

"Okay, I guess, and then what’s the next part?"

"The next is optional and can be done or not done whenever we choose. It’s where I combine my life force to yours."

"Why would you do that?"

"Because you’re human, and if we don’t you’ll die in less than a hundred years, while I still have another four to five hundred years left before my old age kicks in."

Bride was completely stupefied as she recalled Bryani’s words. At the time she had attributed them to either her insanity or Bryani’s. Apparently, it was true, just like the rest of this madness. "You really are four hundred years old?"

"Four hundred and sixty to be exact."

She breathed in slow and easy at that. Dear Lord, what would it be like to live so long? How much could a person see in all that time?

It was mind-boggling.

But more than that came a frightening realization. One that made her heart clench as a horrible panicked grief swept through her. "I would seriously outlive everyone I know," she breathed. "Tabitha, my brother and sister, my cousins. Everyone would be long gone before I even grew old?"

He took a deep breath and nodded. "It’s not easy, but you would have me and my family and friends." His expression lightened as if a thought had occurred to him. "Sunshine Runningwolf. You know her, she’s immortal."

Bride was shocked by that. She’d known Sunshine for years. "Sunshine’s immortal?"

"Yes."

"Get out! Since when?"

"Always. Both she and her husband are."

Wow! Who knew the woman who sold her the art Bride had hanging in her store and her little apartment was immortal?

She paused at that thought. Now wait a second that wasn’t fair!

"Why can’t we be immortal?"

Vane shrugged nonchalantly. "Because my people aren’t. We have long lives, but they are finite." His grip tightened on her hands. "There are some drawbacks, though. If you decide to bond with me, I will have to take your blood and you will have to take mine. A blood exchange is the only way to do it. Secondly, if one of us dies, we both do."

She went pale. That was a scary thought.

Well, then again, compared to other things in Vane’s world, that was probably one of the more minor concerns.

"But you don’t have to, Bride," he hastened to assure her. "Both decisions are yours alone to make."

She took a deep breath as she considered all of it. This was one helluva commitment Vane was asking from her. It took "until death we do part" to a whole new level.

But as she looked at him still kneeling on the floor, she couldn’t help but wonder how bad life with this man could be. He was considerate and giving.

A rarity in her world.

It was worth a two-week shot, at any rate.

"Okay," she said slowly. "Now for my part of this. If we do mate, I want a human wedding. My parents won’t understand anything less than that and I’m not sure if I want to tell them about all this."

"That’s fine."

"That means you’re going to have to meet my parents, Vane."

"Okay. They can’t be as scary as mine."

"Well, they’re not homicidal as a rule, but they are protective of me."

"I love them already."

Bride gave a nervous laugh at his small, playful grin. "You know, I always thought I would meet some guy and date him for a year or two and then have him go down on his knee somewhere romantic to ask me to marry him. I never dreamed this would be my engagement." She toyed with a lock of his hair. "I guess life is never what we want it to be, is it?"

Vane cringed inwardly at her words. He’d never meant to alter her life so horrendously. He’d only wanted to touch her for a moment.

To have her touch him.

Maybe this was cruel, and yet his heart didn’t want him to leave. It only wanted her.

Both the animal and the man in him craved nothing more than to be touched by this woman.

"I’ll do anything to make you happy, Bride."

Bride tightened her grip in his hair. In that moment, she felt as though she might actually love this man. At least she knew that she could.

But she had been burned and she didn’t know Vane very well. She only had two weeks to learn about him. What she knew so far was terrifying and wonderful.

She only hoped he wouldn’t lie or deceive her. If he showed her the real Vane and that man-wolf was honest, then she could accept him.

Her worst fear was that at the end of the two weeks, she would mate with him and he would become the psychotic, harsh animal his mother spoke of.