Unleash the Night (Page 26)

Unleash the Night (Dark-Hunter #9)(26)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

She could tell exactly how much those words meant to Wren. And she was grateful that she and Wren had come back so that he could hear them.

"It’s okay."

"No," his father said sternly, "it’s not. I spent all my time building a company that I won’t even be around to see prosper. You must hate me."

"I never hated you, Dad. Not really."

He reached out and pulled Wren into a tight hug.

Marguerite watched the look on Wren’s face as he tensed, then returned the hug. Tears welled in her eyes as she reached out and patted Wren’s back.

"I love you, Wren. I’m sorry if I ever said or did anything that hurt you."

"I love you, too, Dad."

Wren pulled back and cleared his throat, but even so she could see the tears that were glistening in his eyes.

His father turned toward her. "I hope you’ve been taking good care of my boy."

She smiled at Wren. "I’ve been trying to. But he can be very difficult. He doesn’t listen."

Wren rolled his eyes at her before he spoke to his father. "Karina’s going to meet Grayson this afternoon. Would you keep Maggie safe while I track her?"

Marguerite growled at that. "Wren…"

"No, Maggie," he said, his voice thick and commanding. "It’s better this way. It’ll be easier for me to search her out alone."

"Bull!"

Both of them ignored her.

"I’ll guard her with my life," Aristotle promised.

"Wren!" she snapped.

He cupped her cheek in his warm, callused palm. "It’s okay, Maggie. Really. I have to do this."

Marguerite didn’t want to listen to him, but she saw the turmoil inside him. The fear he had for her. That reached down and touched her deeply.

She wouldn’t be stupid. Her luck, she’d just get them caught anyway. Spying wasn’t something she was good at.

For that matter, she’d been busted anytime she tried to get away with anything.

She let out a long, exasperated breath. "Don’t you dare strand me here without you."

"I won’t." He kissed her cheek, then vanished from in front of her.

Marguerite seethed at his actions. "I hate it when he does that."

His father laughed. "I’m glad to know he’s at least mastered that trick."

"He’s mastered many. I think you’d be very proud of him. He’s managed to stay alive against incredible odds just since I’ve known him." Then she held her hand out to his father. "I’m Maggie Goudeau, by the way."

He shook her hand gently. "Pleased to meet you, Maggie. I have to say you are a beautiful companion for my boy."

Aristotle’s words warmed her. At least until a weird thought went through her. "You wouldn’t happen to have any old photographs of Wren, would you? I would love to know what he looked like as a young boy."

His father smiled devilishly. "I’ve got something even better than that for you."

She didn’t understand what he meant until he led her down the long, elegant hallway to another room at the very end of it.

He opened the door, then stood back so that she could enter the darkened room first. Marguerite entered, then froze as she saw a young Wren on the other side of a two-way mirror.

"Isn’t this dangerous?" she whispered.

"No." Aristotle closed the door and moved to stand right behind her. "Wren can’t see, hear, or smell either of us. I had this room built a long time ago so that I could watch him without his knowing it."

She scowled. "Why?"

There was much regret and hurt deep in those turquoise eyes that reminded her so much of Wren’s. "Because I have always loved my son even when he repulsed me, and I want you to make sure that he knows that. That he really understands it."

She looked at Wren, who appeared to be around the human age of thirteen or fourteen as he lay on the floor of the other room. His blond hair was long and shaggy, his body frighteningly skinny. He looked so vulnerable. So scared and unsure. Things she had never known the man Wren to be.

"How could he have ever repulsed you?" she asked Aristotle.

He indicated the window that showed Wren on his back in human form. He was completely nak*d and writhing as if he was in pain.

"It is the nature of animals to kill those who are weak. Those who are different. For the last twenty-five years, I let Karina’s coldness color my own views of my child. Wren was born neither tiger nor leopard, but a mixture of us." His gaze burned her. "You’ve no idea how much of a handicap that is in our world."

He moved over to the glass, so close that she was surprised Wren couldn’t see him there, staring at him. "All his life, I thought it was a deformity. I didn’t know that when he hit puberty, it would be a gift. You see, as a rule, our kind can only be two things. Human and whatever animal we’re born to. There’s no choice in it. But Wren… he’s special. He can be the tigard that he was born-"

"Or a tiger. I’ve seen him as a tiger."

His father nodded. "And he can be a leopard. Snow or normal. Day or night. He’s not bound by the same laws that the rest of us must heed. It’s an incredible gift he has. I had heard myths of such creatures. But like the fabled unicorn, I thought it was bullshit. Until I saw him."

He looked back at Wren, who was starting to tremble. "At his age now, he shouldn’t be able to take human form until after dark. It’s very hard for Katagaria to be humans in the daylight. I have an advantage because my mother was human. I’m able to maintain this form longer than most of my kind. For Wren to be able to take human form in the daylight at the age of twenty-five is unbelievable."

Marguerite’s heart pounded as she watched Wren struggle with some unseen discomfort. "We should help him. He looks like he’s in pain."

His father shook his head. "There’s nothing we can do."

"But-"

"Watch and see."

He left her alone in the viewing room, then entered the room with Wren.

As soon as Wren heard the doorknob turn, he shifted into the form of a tigard. He growled low in his throat as he saw his father joining him.

"Easy, Wren," his father said, crouching down. "Come here."

Wren backed up as he eyed Aristotle warily.

He moved toward Wren as he continued to back up into the corner. When his father reached out, Wren swatted him with his claws.

His father pulled back.

She could see the disappointment on his face. The more he tried to reach out to his son, the more Wren rejected him.

After a few minutes, he left.

She watched as Wren shifted back into human form. He tried to stand, but for some reason his legs buckled.

His father rejoined her.

"What’s wrong with him?"

"He doesn’t know how to walk or talk as a human. He’s like a baby now. Everything that you learned as an infant he has to learn as an adult. If he would accept me, it would be easier to teach him. But I’m afraid we left him alone too long. He’s feral. If anyone enters the room, he lashes out at them."

Marguerite wanted to go to him so badly that she ached. But she knew she couldn’t-it might alter their future, and that was the last thing she wanted.

"Would you do me a favor, Maggie?"

She had no idea what Aristotle might ask, so she answered hesitantly. "I guess so."

"Tell Wren that if I could change me past, I would have kept him by my side and not locked him away."

Her heart clenched at Aristotle’s words and the tragedy that would become their relationship. "It seems cruel that you can travel through time and not fix it."

He agreed. "It is cruel and it’s why many of us don’t jump. It’s way too tempting to right the past, but every time you try-"

"You screw it up more."

He nodded.

Marguerite watched as Wren pulled himself by his arms across the floor into a corner. His entire body was trembling while he tried to make what seemed to be words. He reminded her so much of the Wren she had met in Sanctuary.

Withdrawn and solitary. Hurting.

Wanting something he didn’t think he was allowed to have.

But the man she knew now… he was a whole other being. Wren was slowly starting to come into his own, and she hoped that maybe part of it was because of her.

His father let out a sad sigh as he watched Wren struggling. "I hope you never know what it’s like to look at your child and know that you hurt him. I think back to when I was a cub how my mother would roll on the ground with me and play. She didn’t care that I was an animal while she was human. She loved me regardless. Just as she loved my father. You would have thought that I’d be the same way with my own son. And now… now there’s no time to apologize."

"I think you’re wrong. I know Wren, and what you did while he was here… it helped more than I think either one of you realize."

Aristotle gave her an appreciative look. "I need to make sure that everything is set so that when I die, he gets to the future he’s supposed to have. But first, there’s one other thing I want to give him."

"And that is?"

"The future he deserves."

Chapter 12

Aimee took a deep breath as she entered the back door of Peltier House. This was the last place she wanted to be, but she better than anyone else understood why she had to return.

Her family would kill Fang and his entire clan if she didn’t.

Steeling herself for what was to come, she closed the door and headed for the stairs.

She’d only gotten as far as the hall table when her brother Dev came out the door that led to the kitchen to see her. She saw relief in his eyes a second before it was replaced with anger.

"So you’re back."

"It’s my home."

He scoffed at her. "I would find another one, if I were you."

She stiffened at the coldness of his tone. "I’m being thrown out?"

"You’re being warned. You picked your side and it was the wrong one."

"Leave us."

Aimee looked up at her mother’s commanding tone. Maman was at the top of the stairs, glaring down at them. Dev shook his head at Aimee before he headed back toward the kitchen.

She flashed herself up to her mother’s side. "Don’t even think about striking me, Maman. I’m not in the mood for it. And I will hit back this time."

Her mother narrowed her eyes on Aimee. "You would sacrifice all of us for a hybrid orphan without clan?"

"Never. But I will not stand by and see an innocent condemned for nothing. Can you not see the lie that is being told, Maman? I know Wren. I talk to him. He’s no threat to anyone but himself."

Still her mother’s face was angry and cold. Her family, and in particular her mother, wasn’t stupid. Aimee had no doubt that her mother and father knew she’d left voluntarily with Fang.

"You betrayed us all."

Aimee sighed. "If doing the right thing is betrayal, then yes, I suppose I did. So what are you going to do now, Maman? Kill me?"

Her mother growled ferociously at her, but Aimee stood her ground.

The air around them sizzled an instant before something shattered in Wren’s room.

She followed her mother, who rushed to the door and slung it open. Aimee half-expected to find Wren there.

She could tell by the scent that it was a tiger all right, but the blond man wasn’t Wren.

"What are you doing here, Zack?" her mother asked.

The tiger curled his lips as he opened a drawer. "The bastard escaped us. I need something with his scent on it to disseminate to the Strati."

Aimee arched a brow at that. The Strati were elite Katagaria soldiers who were carefully trained to hunt and to kill. Her brothers Zar and Dev, along with her father, were Strati warriors.

"You need nothing of his," her mother said, to Aimee’s surprise. "Get out of my house."

Zack didn’t listen. He moved to open another drawer.

Her mother used her powers to slam it shut. "I said for you to leave."

The tiger moved to confront her. "Don’t screw with me, bear. You have as much to lose by this as I do."

"What do you mean?"

But Aimee already knew. "You’re the one who spoke out against Wren at the Omegrion. You lied."

Her mother jerked her head to look at Aimee. "Do not be foolish, cub. I would have smelled a lie."

Aimee shook her head. "Not if the animal makes a habit of lying. He could easily mask his scent."

Zack took a step toward her only to find his path blocked by her mother.

"Is Aimee telling the truth?"

Zack answered with a question of his own. "Were you?" He arched a brow at her. "Do you really think Wren’s gone mad? Honestly? You just wanted him out of here and you seized on any excuse to expel him. Admit it, Lo. You don’t want anyone here but your family and it galls you to have to play nice with the rest of us."

She growled low in her throat.

Zack narrowed his gaze. "If Savitar ever learns the truth, he’ll come for you and all your cubs. There won’t be a brick left of your precious Sanctuary."

Her mother seized him and threw him against the wall. He landed with his back against it, but it didn’t appear to faze him at all.

Zack actually laughed at her. "What happened to the rules of Sanctuary, Nicolette?"