Kyrian didn’t want to talk about his wife. Ever. Acheron scoffed at the idea of love as the ultimate stupidity. You know what love is, Nick? It’s a woman’s way of controlling the relationship and controlling you. In the wrong hands, it’s the worst, most painful weapon imaginable. So when you give your heart away, make sure it’s a mutual exchange. ’Cause once you let them in, cutting them out again is like being gutted with a dull spoon.
He didn’t want to know what had happened to Acheron to make him so jaded, especially given the fact that Ash had died at age twenty-one. To have that kind of hatred eleven thousand years later.…
Yeah, someone had hurt Ash badly.
The Were-Hunter shapeshifters had their mates chosen for them by the Fates, so they didn’t really date like humans, and they definitely didn’t have a choice or say in who their spouses were.
The only people he knew who were married, he didn’t feel comfortable enough to ask. Or they were divorced, which didn’t bode well since they’d obviously made a mistake when they picked someone.
But Kody … she made him feel things no one else did. He could be having the absolute worst day and with one smile, she could make him forget all about it.
“Did you enjoy your time in Azmodea?”
Nick curled his lip at the familiar voice. Why would Ambrose bug him now? Couldn’t he have five seconds to decompress before his insane older self came in to rough him up?
Yawning, Nick answered without looking. “It certainly wasn’t Disney World—unless Mickey sold his soul to Satan. Not that I’ve ever been to Disney World. Heck, I haven’t even been to Six Flags and it’s just over the bridge.”
The power from Ambrose made the hair on his arms stand on end.
Ambrose’s aura practically sizzled with its lethal capabilities. “I can’t believe you got out of there in one piece. I had to betray the closest thing I’ve ever had to a friend to escape it.”
A bad feeling went through Nick. While the voice was definitely Ambrose’s, the story wasn’t.
It couldn’t be.
Opening his eyes, he saw a man who bore a frightening resemblance to Ambrose. Except this one had short, military-cut jet-black hair, and he stood about two inches taller. Even more telling, he was covered with prison tattoos.
Definitely not Ambrose.
This was his father.
Soc au lait!
Nick tried to call for help, but he was completely paralyzed. He couldn’t even blink. If he so much as thought about Kody or Caleb, a sharp pain pierced his brain.
Was he being stabbed with an ice pick?
His father gave him a crooked smile. “Oh the powers that awaited you … the things you were born to do … Too bad you won’t live long enough to experience any of them.”
Fighting with everything he had, Nick did his best to break free.
He couldn’t. Never had he experienced anything like this. It was terrifying. Forget being Force-choked by Vader, this was even more terrifying and debilitating.
If I get free, old man, you’re going to bleed.
Yeah, okay, so it most likely wouldn’t be much of a fight, but he was going to put up as much of one as he could. There literally was nothing he could do.
Adarian’s gaze was frigid as he moved to stand over Nick. He pressed his thumb against the inside corner of Nick’s left eye. In his head, Nick screamed from the raw agony of it. But the sound wouldn’t leave his throat.
He was the only one who heard it.
His father had him completely paralyzed.
“That’s it,” Adarian whispered before he sucked his breath in with pleasure. “Feed me with your pain. Let me bathe in it.”
“What are you doing, tchu!”
Nick’s eyes widened at a Cajun insult he’d never heard his mother use before. In fact, she went into a full babiller on his hide, using words that shocked him and some he didn’t even know she knew the meaning of.
Her shrill voice ringing off the walls, she ran toward them. She actually slammed all of her body weight against Adarian to shove him away from the bed. Given the fact that she was about a foot and a half shorter and probably weighed less than one of Adarian’s muscled thighs, her ability to move him was impressive. “You get away from him! You hear me?” she snarled through gritted teeth.
“I just wanted to see him. He is my son, after all.”
She backed Adarian into a corner like a Chihuahua cowing a Doberman. “You shouldn’t be here and you know it. How are you here? I know you didn’t make parole. No one’s dumb enough to ever let you out again.”
Adarian’s gaze softened as he faced her anger without flinching. “I’d forgotten how beautiful you are.” He reached to cup her cheek.
His mother slapped Adarian’s hand away. “You are not going to touch me again. Ever!”
Nick kept trying to move or speak, but whatever Adarian had done to him, it was holding him solid.
Averting his gaze with a glaze in his eyes that told Nick he was listening to the ether, Adarian went ramrod stiff. When he looked back at his mother, his face was a mask of disbelief. “You’re the one who turned me in to the cops after I robbed that bank, aren’t you?”
“Yes, I did,” she said proudly between her clenched teeth, straightening up to her full height, which barely reached the middle of his father’s chest. “I didn’t care what you did to me. I didn’t. But when you hit my baby … nuh-uh. It was on like Donkey Kong. Nobody touches my boy. Not you. Not anyone. He’s all I got in this world and I will slaughter you like a hog at Christmas if you even look askance at him again. You hear me?”
Adarian appeared as stunned by her attack as Nick was. “You turned me in.” Disbelief haunted his voice.
“I. Did,” she repeated.The hurt in his eyes was tangible. And it was telling. Adarian loved her.
No, worse than that. His father’s love was a perversion.… Because he’s the Malachai. They weren’t born to know that emotion. They were born to hate and to slaughter. That was what Thorn had told him.
The only reason Nick had any concept of love was because of his mother’s blood, and the fact that she’d kept him and nurtured her ‘baby’. Nick was the only Malachai ever born who’d been shown love and who understood it.
His father had no idea how to cope with it. For that matter, Adarian had probably never felt it for anyone else.
“How could you?” Adarian’s tone was more like a child being tortured by its parent.
His mom shook her head at his continued confusion. “Are you…” Closing her eyes, she waved her hands around her face as if erasing a board. “Of course you’re insane. I know that. Everybody knows that.”
Biting his lip, Adarian held a light in his icy gaze that said he was one step away from hitting her.
Nick fought his hold even harder. He had to protect his tiny mother from the bear of a man who had fathered him.
“Is there a problem, Cherise?”
Since the only part of his body he could control was his eyes, Nick turned his gaze to the door, where Kyrian stood in a major power stance that let everyone know he was more than willing to get bloody if he had to. Dressed in black from head to toe, he was almost the same size as his father. And he was every bit as buff. Kyrian’s black sunglasses covered his eyes while he stood with his arms crossed over his chest.
Adarian did the alpha strut as he closed the distance between them. “This doesn’t concern you.”
Kyrian didn’t break his tough-guy stance at all. “The hand you had on that lady says it does.”
Adarian laughed. “You don’t know who or what you’re dealing with.”
“And neither do you.” Kyrian’s voice was as smooth and emotionless as if they were discussing the weather. It always amazed Nick that Kyrian could speak so easily without showing even the smallest hint of fang. “So if you want to dance with me, let’s take it outside where we have more room.”
Invading Kyrian’s personal space, Adarian was close enough to kiss him. Still, Kyrian didn’t blink or flinch—and that in and of itself was a call-out to his father.
Adarian raked Kyrian with a sneer. “You think you can take me?”
Kyrian cocked an amused grin. “You’re not the scariest thing I’ve ever seen. And you’re definitely not the most powerful.”
Adarian laughed. “There, you would be wrong.”
Just as Nick was sure Adarian would attack, Acheron moved to stand directly behind Kyrian.
His father’s eyes widened as he took in Acheron’s seven-foot height, four inches of which came from the thick-soled, flamed Goth biker boots he wore. More than that, Acheron not only exuded lethal authority, anyone with a drop of paranormal blood in them knew he wasn’t what he seemed. His powers surged in a way no one else’s did.
In the land of Bad Ass, Acheron reigned supreme.
Adarian took one step back as if rethinking his position. After a few seconds, he turned his head to speak over his shoulder. “You can’t keep me from my son, Cherise. He’s my blood.”
She shook her head. “No, he’s not. He’s my boy.” She put a long emphasis on the “my” part. “And I’m not sharing him with anybody. That includes you. I know you think I’m nothing. But I’m no longer the child I used to be and I’m not afraid of you anymore.” She pointed to Nick. “That right there is the only family I have. And I love him with every part of me. You touch him ever again and one of us will die. I promise you that. You can take it to the bank and spend it.”
A tic beat a fierce rhythm in Adarian’s cheek. And the promise in his eyes was loud and clear.
He would be back.
Sucking air between his teeth in a frightful hiss, Adarian brushed roughly past Kyrian and Acheron.
As soon as he was gone, his mother’s legs buckled and she headed to the floor. Moving with preternatural speed and power, Kyrian caught her against him.
It was only then that Nick could move again.
“Breathe easy, Cherise,” Kyrian said, scooping her up in his arms so that he could carry her to the recliner by the window. Gently, he set her in it and took two steps back.
She fanned her flushed face with a shaking hand. “I don’t know what got into me. He could have killed me. I’m surprised he didn’t.”
“You’re a mother who loves her child—who was protecting her son.” Acheron quirked a twisted grin. “That makes you the most dangerous creature on the planet. I’d face down a team of SEAL-trained mass murderers any day over one pissed-off mom, of any species, protecting her young. Believe me.” Tucking his hands into the pockets of his spiked motorcycle jacket, Acheron paused next to Nick. “What did he want?”
Nick let out a long breath. “I don’t know. I really don’t.”
His mom launched herself from the chair to his bed so that she could check on him. “Did he hurt you, baby? Why didn’t you call me?”
“I couldn’t. He had a Vulcan death grip of some kind on me. I couldn’t move or do anything.”
His mom brushed the hair back from his brow. “Well, he’s gone now and we’re done with him. I don’t ever want to see him again.”
Kyrian nodded. “We’ll make sure he stays away from both of you.”
She turned and offered him a grateful smile. “I can’t thank you enough, Mr. Hunter. I know it’s not your place. God love you for your decency. You’ve been so good to us.”
Her heartfelt praise made him bristle. Nick had noticed that Kyrian, in spite of having been a prince when he was a human in ancient Greece, didn’t like to be thanked. “I believe in helping people out whenever I can. I know you and Nick don’t really have anyone to watch over you, and while you’re both very capable, we all need a cavalry once in a while.”
His mom nodded. “I hate admitting it. But you’re right. It’s not in me to ask for help for nothing.” She glanced from Kyrian to Acheron. “And with the two of you and Menyara, I never have to.” Tears welled in her eyes.
Blinking against her tears, she took Nick’s hand. “I’m okay, baby. It’s been a very emotional day. A lot has happened and the roller-coaster ride is making me a little sick to my stomach. But don’t you worry about me, Boo. I’m all right.”
Yeah, his mom had a core of steel unlike anyone he’d ever known.
Acheron dropped his backpack by the bed. “Why don’t you go on to work, Kyrian. I’ll take first shift of Nick watch duty.”
He inclined his head to Acheron, then turned to Nick’s mom. “If you need anything, call me.”