He leapt at Wren.
Just as he would have reached them, he slammed into what appeared to be an invisible wall. He fell to the ground yelping.
"Don’t piss me off any more, you stupid punk," Savitar growled. "Now get up, Zack."
The tiger became human. His mouth was bleeding as he turned to face Savitar’s throne. "I demand justice!"
Savitar laughed evilly. "Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it."
Marguerite exchanged a completely confounded look with Wren, who seemed to understand about as much of this as she did. What was going on here?
"Animals," Savitar said. "Sorry to disturb all of you. But it seems there is new evidence for you to consider."
"He knows something," she whispered to Wren.
Wren took her hand into his and held it tight.
"Nicolette?" Savitar addressed the bear who had been so nasty to them. "Care to share with the council what you told me earlier?"
Zack growled a warning to Nicolette. "Think of what you have to lose, bear."
"Worry about your own ass, tiger," Savitar said snidely. His gaze softened as he looked back to the bear. "Speak, Nicolette. To be rather cliched, the truth shall set you free."
Nicolette glanced at Wren and Marguerite before she spoke again. "Zack Tigarian admitted to both me and my daughter that he knew Wren hadn’t gone mad. That he and his father were accusing him only to get his money."
Another dark-haired man frowned at Nicolette. "What about your earlier testimony? You said you had witnessed his madness yourself."
Nicolette nodded. "He has been more hostile lately, I did not lie. And he has exposed us to unnecessary human scrutiny."
Zack sneered. "He’s standing here right now with the daughter of a senator. Tell me what kind of animal would do such a thing? It’s obvious he is insane. He even launched himself into a tiger cage at the zoo, where he was filmed by the humans."
Savitar looked at Maggie and Wren with a stoic expression. "Do you have anything to say, Maggie?"
"How do you know my name?"
One corner of his mouth twisted up wryly. "I know everything, kid. And the vast majority of it, I wish I didn’t… especially those girly thoughts you’re having about Wren right now. They’re really grossing me out, and I seriously wish Dante would stop thinking about Pandora’s…" Savitar made a face, then appeared to shake it off. "Now speak if you have something to say that refutes these allegations."
Marguerite let go of Wren’s hand to step forward as she addressed the Were-Animals who were gathered at the round table. "In every event that you accuse Wren of, I was there as a witness. He never once attacked unless it was in defense of himself or me. He only jumped into the tigers’ cage because a small boy’s life was in danger and he knew he could save him. That wasn’t madness, it was kindness."
A blond woman sneered at her. "What does a human know?"
Savitar snorted. "Oh, I think our little human knows quite a bit about animals… especially now."
Marguerite frowned. By the tone of his voice she could tell that somehow Savitar knew she was part tiger.
Good grief, the man did appear to know everything. It was really scary to think about that.
Wren moved to stand in front of her. "I’m not mad or insane. There is no trelosa inside me. I’m here to be judged as the Omegrion sees fit, but only so long as you promise me that nothing will happen to Maggie."
Zack scoffed at him. "I would fear more for my own life than the human’s."
Wren tilted his head as he felt something odd. He turned just as something flashed right behind him.
Before he could react, a man grabbed Maggie, then vanished with her.
Zack laughed an instant before he vanished, too.
"What the hell?" Fury demanded from the round table.
Savitar didn’t react at all physically. He sat on his throne completely emotionless. "Well, that was certainly special," he said, his voice laden with sarcasm.
"Are you going to allow someone to threaten the sanctity here?" the jackal representative asked.
"Oh no," Savitar said. He checked his watch. "Let’s give them a few minutes before I send the tiger in to finish this."
"Where the hell did he take her?" Wren demanded.
Savitar gave him a droll look. "Hold your horses or, since you’re part tiger, your tail."
"She can’t stand alone!" Wren roared as his anger boiled inside him. Savitar might not care about Maggie’s well-being, but he most certainly did. "You have to send me to her now."
"Fehrista nam gaum."
Wren scowled at words he didn’t comprehend. "What does that mean?"
"To make an omelette you must first break some eggs."
Marguerite was slightly disoriented as she found herself in a posh, overly decorated room. It looked like something one might find in a home-and-gardens magazine. Everything was highly polished and meticulously clean.
She tried to move, but the tiger still held her in a grip from behind that kept her from escaping. For that matter, she could barely breathe.
Closing her eyes, she summoned her powers and tried to make herself a tiger.
It wasn’t easy.
But as Zack flashed into the room, she succeeded. The man holding her cursed before he turned into a tiger to attack her. Marguerite caught him a gash to his throat before she bit him hard in the neck.
They weren’t going to take her without a fight.
He limped away from her as Zack lunged, then grabbed her from behind. She roared as she tried to bite him, too, but he held her in such a way that she couldn’t.
A middle-aged man gasped as he entered the room. Dressed in an expensive black suit, he was the poster boy for the Fortune 500 set.
Marguerite cocked her head. It was Grayson. She knew him instantly due to the fact that he bore an amazing resemblance to Aristotle.
"You got him?" Grayson asked.
"No. It’s his human companion."
Grayson shook his head in denial. "How is that possible?"
"Don’t ask me," Zack said in an aggravated tone. "You’re the elder, Dad." He indicated where the other tiger was lying on the floor, dead and bloody. "She’s already killed Theo, and I’m sure Wren will track her to us any minute now."
Grayson approached them cautiously.
Marguerite snapped at Grayson, wanting to tear him apart for what he’d done to not only Wren but Aristotle as well. How could any man kill his own brother?
And over what?
It was ridiculous and both the woman and animal in her wanted vengeance for the undue pain Grayson had caused Wren.
She did her best to return to human form so that she could tell Grayson exactly what she thought of him, but her body wasn’t listening to her at the moment.
Grayson moved toward her, with a deliberate intent. He manifested a butterfly knife in his fist. Twirling it open, he gave her an evil smirk. "Then I say we put her out of her misery and let Wren find her with her throat slit."
"Don’t you dare touch her."
Marguerite, as well as Grayson and Zack, froze at the sound of a voice she was sure she’d never hear again.
It couldn’t be…
She wasn’t sure who was the most stunned as Aristotle appeared in the room before them. With his arms crossed over his chest he seemed strangely calm, and yet at the same time his anger was tangible. It was an eerie combination.
"You’re dead!" Grayson snapped.
Aristotle laughed. "Do I look dead, Brother?"
"Karina killed you."
Aristotle arched a brow at that. "I thought Wren killed me. Is that not what you claimed?"
Grayson moved away from her slowly, toward the door. "You’re a ghost. You have to be. Your mate killed you more than twenty years ago."
"Did she?" Aristotle unfolded his arms and threw a small Japanese throwing star into Zack’s arm.
Cursing in pain, Zack let go of Marguerite.
His face a mask of malice, Aristotle turned toward his brother. "I told you a long time ago, Gray, never come between a tiger and his mate."
Grayson changed into a tiger and lunged at Aristotle. Aristotle caught him in his arms and held him close to his heart.
He gave her a grim look. "Do what you have to do to protect Wren, Maggie. He needs you," he said, then vanished.
Marguerite turned on Zack with a snarl.
Wren was livid by the time Savitar allowed him to locate Maggie.
He flashed into an unfamiliar house, ready to do battle with the devil himself if he had to.
But what he found absolutely floored him. Maggie was huddled nak*d in a corner, shaking and crying, while Zack’s tiger body lay a few feet away from her.
Stunned and terrified of what had been done to her, Wren moved slowly toward Maggie until he could pull her into his arms. She looked up at him with tears in her eyes. His gut knotted as he mentally prepared himself for the worst.
"I killed him, Wren," she breathed, "just as I killed the other one. It was so awful." She wiped at her mouth so hard that he was amazed she didn’t rub the skin off. "I can’t get the taste of blood out of my mouth."
"Did they… are you okay?"
She nodded, then sobbed even harder.
Relieved that they hadn’t raped her, he held her close and sent up a silent prayer of thanks. "Shh," he said, pulling her into his lap and putting clothes on her. "You did what you had to do to protect yourself. There’s nothing wrong with that."
"But I killed someone."
"You’re a tiger now, Maggie. The animal inside you is stronger…" He paused as he thought that through. It wasn’t true and he knew it. "No. The woman inside you is strong enough to know it had to be done. If you hadn’t killed them, they would have killed you."
Marguerite drew a ragged breath as she remembered Wren telling her about how harsh his life was. How brutal. At the time she’d thought he was just being melodramatic.
Now she understood.
He was right, the animal part of herself was satisfied even as the woman in her was horrified. The two parts of her were at war and at peace.
It was so strange.
How could she feel like this? Those had been people, kind of. And she had killed them.
For Wren and for herself. No, he was right. It was self-defense. Had she not killed them, they would have taken a lot more from her.
Wren got up and pulled her to her feet. His eyes were dark with worry, and it warmed her even through the pain and the horror. "Did you get hurt in the fighting?"
"A few scratches, but I’ll live." She looked up at him as the whole event replayed through her thoughts and she shivered. "Your father was here."
Wren stared at her in disbelief. "What?"
She nodded. "Right after Zack brought me here, your father came in and grabbed his brother. I think he took him to the past."
"That doesn’t make sense. Why?"
"I don’t know. Maybe to confront him?" But even that didn’t make sense. It was completely bizarre.
Wren let out an elongated breath. "There’s no way to prove my innocence now. We can’t even force Zack or Grayson to a confession."
"But they’re dead. There’s no one to accuse you."
His gaze burned her. "Our justice doesn’t work that way." He lifted her hand to his lips and placed the tenderest of kisses on her palm. "C’mon, let’s return to the Omegrion."
"No," she said, stopping him. "Let’s run. We can-"
"No, Maggie. I’ve never been a coward and I will not run in this. Besides, Savitar can find me."
Hope flared inside her. "He knows the truth. He said he knows everything. If we can get him-"
"Savitar won’t interfere with what the others decide. It’s not in his nature."
"Then what good is he?"
Before Wren could answer, they found themselves back in the Omegrion’s council room.
Marguerite swallowed at the extremely unamused look on Savitar’s face as he stared straight at her. Surely he hadn’t heard what she’d just said to Wren…
"Yes," he said darkly. "I did, and I ask myself every friggin’ day exactly what you did. What good am I? The answer is simple. There’s nothing good about me and I like it that way. Pride myself on it, in fact."
Savitar was a really strange man.
And still, he looked ticked off.
She glanced around the room at the council members, who were all staring, not at them, but at the doors. She followed their gazes and then gasped.
Wren frowned until he looked to where everyone else’s gaze was. His jaw went slack.
He blinked, trying to clear his vision. But still he saw what couldn’t be.
Wren’s father smiled and nodded.
Wren took a hesitant step forward, then caught himself. This wasn’t real. It couldn’t be.
His father crossed the distance to pull Wren into a hug. He just stood there in shock, unable to return the embrace. Wren looked at Maggie, who appeared every bit as confused, then at Savitar, who just looked stoic.
Afraid it was a trick, Wren pushed the man who looked like his father away.
"What the hell is this?" Wren demanded.