But he was planning on getting some satisfaction out of this before he died.
The bears reared before they started toward him.
They’d only taken two steps when a bright light flashed in the hallway.
Wren backed up, ready to fight, only to pause as he saw Vane and Fury in the hallway now.
In human form, Vane took one look at Fang’s bleeding shoulder and growled low in his throat. "Aubert? Have you lost your mind?"
Aubert flashed back to human, while Etienne remained a bear. "He is marked for death," Aubert snarled. "We took you in, wolf, when you had nothing. Is this how you repay us?"
Vane’s green eyes were blazing. "No, Aubert. I haven’t forgotten my debt to you or Nicolette. But I will not stand by and see this happen to an innocent. Wren has no clan to back him. Therefore I offer him mine."
Wren was completely stunned by the offer. It was suicide to stand by him now, and he couldn’t believe that Vane would even consider such an action.
Aubert was every bit as incredulous. "You would back him against the Omegrion’s decree?"
Vane didn’t hesitate with his answer. His face was grim and deadly. "You damn straight."
Wren saw the flash of panic on Fang’s human face as he looked past Wren’s shoulder.
They all turned to see Aimee in the middle of the hallway behind them. Only Wren and Fang knew whose room she’d been inside.
She swallowed as she looked from her father to Fang. "Papa, please. Don’t do this. This is wrong and you know it. Wren poses no threat to us."
"Are you insane, Daughter? He’s here to kill your mother."
More doors were opening now. More animals were coming out to investigate the disturbance. Dammit, Wren would have to run through them all to reach the one animal he wanted a piece of…
Even after Vane’s bold words, Wren didn’t really expect anyone to side with him, so when the three wolves formed a barrier between him and the others, he was shocked.
"You’ll never make it out of here alive," Aubert said in warning. "None of you."
Wren cocked his head as he saw something strange pass between Fang and Aimee. He knew they were speaking telepathically.
A heartbeat later, Fang grabbed her into his arms, manifested a knife in his hand, then held it threateningly to her throat. "Don’t you dare follow us. I’ll kill her if you do."
Fang turned to look at the three of them. "Fury, Vane, get Wren out of here."
Wren started to protest, but before he could, Vane grabbed him by the neck and flashed him from the hallway into a room he’d never seen before.
It was dark, with no windows anywhere. The only light came from two dim lamps on two tables at opposite ends of the room. He looked around, wondering where Vane had brought him. The modern furnishings were chic and high-tech, not to mention the walls were made of dark gray steel.
By those walls and the rolling motion of the floor, he could tell they were on a ship somewhere.
Hissing in anger, Wren flashed to human form to confront the wolf. "What the hell are you doing?"
"Saving your life."
He curled his lip at Vane. "I didn’t want you to save my life, ass**le."
Fury, Fang, and Aimee flashed into the room beside Vane. Aimee threw herself into Fang’s arms.
"Have you two lost your friggin’ minds?" Vane asked them. "Between you and the tiger, we’re so screwed."
"No, you’re not." Wren tried to flash himself back to Sanctuary to finish this, only to learn that he couldn’t. "What the hell?"
"I’ve got you locked down," Vane said.
Wren knew better than to go after Vane-the wolf was too powerful to take down-but it was taking every bit of his self-restraint not to at least try to kill him. "Lift it."
"No," Vane said firmly. "I didn’t just jeopardize my entire clan to see you commit suicide."
"This isn’t your fight."
"Yes, it is. I’m not going to sit by and watch an innocent die because some ass**le got greedy."
Wren scoffed at Vane’s heroism. "Well, thank you, Mr. Altruist, but the tiger doesn’t want your help. So sod off."
Someone started clapping. Wren turned his head to see the Dark-Hunter Jean-Luc entering the room from a door on his left. A pirate in his human life, the immortal vampire slayer still retained much of his old look. With a small gold hoop flashing in his left ear-lobe, he was dressed all in black in a pair of leather pants, a silk button-down shirt, and biker boots. His long, straight black hair was pulled back into a queue that emphasized the sharp angles of his face. His eyes were so dark that not even the pupils were discernible, and those eyes were dancing with amusement. "Nicely put, tiger."
"Shut up, lapdog, this isn’t your fight, either."
Jean-Luc sucked his breath in sharply at the insult. "Boy, you better counsel that tongue before you find yourself without it."
Wren took a step toward him, then froze as Maggie came through the door behind the pirate. The relief on her face held Wren immobile.
She rushed to his side and threw her arms around him. "I’m so glad they got to you before it was too late. You weren’t really going to do something stupid, were you?"
"Oh no, hon, we were too late," Fury said snidely. "Tiger-boy done pissed down the wrong honey tree and got all the bees, or in this case, bears, going wild."
Fury glanced to Fang. "Then again, knowing the bears, they’ll be gunning for wolf before tiger. Good move, Fang. Making time with their only daughter. Real swift. You know chocolate is lethal to our kind. I’m thinking if you want to commit suicide, that’s the much less painful way to go about it."
"Knock it off, Fury," Vane said, moving over to where Fang and Aimee were standing. "We have to send her back. Now."
"I know," Fang said.
Tears glistened in Aimee’s eyes. "I don’t want to leave."
The two of them stared pleadingly at Vane, who looked sick to his stomach. "And I thought my relationship with Bride was doomed. Dammit, people and animals, this shit sucks."
Fury snorted. "You’re the leader, Vane. Lead."
Vane looked up at the ceiling and sighed. "If I had any brains at all, which obviously I don’t, I would never have gotten involved in this. I would hand my brother and Wren over to the bears and just take my wife and go find a nice, quiet place to raise our children."
He swept them all with an irritated glare. "But obviously, I am truly the dumbest man on the planet."
Jean-Luc pulled a long, thin stiletto out of his boot. "Here, mon ami. Either for you or for them. One cut and all your problems are solved, eh?"
"Don’t tempt me." Vane growled low in his throat as he surveyed the lot of them. "Wren, listen close, ’cause, buddy, your chances are running slim. You kill Nicolette and you’re dead. There’s no way back from that."
Wren scoffed at him. "There’s no way back from an execution order. Period."
Shaking his head in denial, Fury stepped forward. "You weren’t there when the vote came down. The council was divided on the order."
Wren frowned. "What are you saying?"
"That you have a shot at redemption," Vane said, "but not if you kill Nicolette for vengeance."
Wren hesitated as he felt a small twinge of hope. Did he dare believe them? It seemed a little too implausible even to a man who was really a tigard.
Vane sighed. "You give the council proof that you’re innocent of killing your parents and Savitar will rescind the Omegrion’s order."
Wren froze as those ludicrous words went through him. Was the wolf on crack? "What the f**k are you talking about? They’re trying to kill me because I’m dating Maggie."
"What are you, stupid?" Fury asked. "Your dating the human is only the catalyst for why Mama Lo tossed your ass out. The death warrant is because you murdered your parents."
"Your cousin Zack."
Wren clenched his jaw shut to keep from gaping as rage took root deep inside him.
This, this just got ugly. He couldn’t believe that bastard had gone to the council with his lies…
"We can help you, Wren," Vane said calmly. "But you have to trust us."
Wren sneered at the wolf. "I’m not putting my faith or life in anyone’s hands. All that ever got me was screwed, and my ass is currently sore from it."
Fury curled his lip in repugnance. "Nice imagery there, tiger. Graphic. Ever think of writing children’s books?"
Fang popped his brother lightly in the back of his head.
"Ow!" Fury snapped, rubbing the spot where he’d been hit. He glared at Fang.
"Was I this annoying before my attack?" Fang asked Vane.
Vane didn’t hesitate. "Yes, and you still are most of the time. And we have now gotten off-topic."
"There’s nothing to discuss," Wren said. "You can’t keep me here forever, wolf. Putting me on a boat was a nice trick to keep them off my scent, but it won’t take them long to figure out where I am. All you’ve done is drag the Dark-Hunters into our fight, and knowing Acheron, I’m sure he won’t be amused by this."
Wren let out a tired sigh as he shook his head at them. "They’ll be coming for me and we all know they won’t stop. I would rather face them on my own terms than have them attack me on theirs."
Too tired and hurt to argue anymore, Wren headed for the door.
As he passed by Jean-Luc, the Dark-Hunter grabbed him. Before Wren could react, he felt the sting of a needle in his arm.
Infuriated, he growled and changed, but before he could do anything more, everything went black.
Marguerite went cold at the sight of Wren falling to the floor at the Dark-Hunter’s feet. "What did you do?"
Fury let out a slow breath. "He’s going to be seriously pissed off when he wakes up."
"No doubt," Jean-Luc concurred. "Therefore I suggest we keep him under at least for a day or two, until he can heal and you can plan out what it is he needs to do."
"Yeah, but if he doesn’t listen-"
"Come up with your plan," Marguerite said, "and I’ll make sure he listens to it."
Fury, who she had quickly learned was the doubting Thomas of the group, laughed at her. "Don’t be so cocky, human. Wren isn’t the kind of beast you manipulate."
Aimee shook her head at him. "No, Fury, you’re wrong. With her, Wren is different."
Fury moved over and took Marguerite’s hand into his. He turned it over to see her palm. "They’re not mates."
Aimee passed an adoring look at Fang before she looked back at Fury. "You don’t have to be mated to care deeply for someone. I think Wren will listen to her."
Marguerite stood back with Aimee as the men picked Wren’s tigard form up and carried him down the narrow hallway to a lush bedroom that was adjacent to the one they had given her. She’d learned from Bill that this ship was a converted tanker. On the outside, it looked like a rusted heap, but inside it held every luxury known to mankind, including a satellite room that would give NASA a run for its money.
Dr. Alexander and Bill had determined that a ship was the safest place for them to hide. While they were over water, the Were-Hunters after Wren wouldn’t be able to track him by scent, and so long as he kept his use of magic to a minimum, they wouldn’t be able to find him that way, either.
She only hoped this worked. "Do you really think there’s any way Wren can prove his innocence?" she asked Vane as he covered Wren in tigard form with a blanket.
"I don’t know. Hell, I’m not even sure he didn’t kill his parents. His cousin made one hell of an argument."
"He didn’t kill them," Aimee said firmly. "I was there when they brought him in. He was too traumatized by it. He sat in a corner for three weeks solid with his arms around himself, just rocking back and forth whenever he was in human form. As a tigard, leopard, or tiger, he stayed coiled up."
Vane frowned. "Was he wounded when he was brought to you?"
Marguerite saw the reluctance on Aimee’s face. "He was a little scuffed up."
Vane looked skeptical. "A little or a lot?"
"Okay, a lot," Aimee admitted reluctantly. "But had he been in a fight with two full-grown Katagaria, he would have been a lot more injured than what he was."
"Unless he poisoned them," Fury said. "Zack didn’t really say how he’d killed them."
"I still don’t believe it," Marguerite said. "It’s not in him."
"Yeah, and you are delusional," Fury said. "Babe, news flash. With the exception of you and the pirate, we’re all animals here. And we all have a killer’s instinct."
Aimee sighed as she looked wistfully at Wren’s unconscious form. "He did have a really hard time in puberty. He couldn’t maintain his forms and he did have extremely violent outbursts over minor things."
"Such as?" Vane asked.
"Well, the first night he was working in the kitchen, Dev startled him, and Wren cut Dev’s throat with the knife he had in his hands. Luckily, Dev pulled back fast enough that it was only a small wound, but had his reflexes been slower or if Dev had been human, it could have been fatal."