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.
"Your father didn't die," Savitar said blandly. He pushed himself up from his throne to approach them. "It was one hell of a night. Too bad you passed out and missed the fireworks."
Wren shook his head. "I touched him. I saw his body. He was dead. Killed."
"You saw Grayson's body," Wren's father explained.
Savitar waved his hand and on the far wall images appeared. Wren couldn't breathe as he saw his father and uncle fighting as tigers. With one harsh move, Wren's father laid open his brother's throat.
Grayson limped away and died on the floor where Wren remembered finding his father. Two seconds later, the tiger became a man.
"Didn't you ever think it was weird that the dead body appeared human?" Savitar asked him. "By rights, should your father not have been a tiger as a dead man?"
Wren's eyes widened. It was true. He should have thought of that himself, but in the ensuing trauma it had never occurred to him. Not even when he thought back on it. Not that he made a habit of dwelling on that night.
"I don't understand."
His father placed a hand on Wren's shoulder. "My brother was actually Arcadian, like our mother. And he hated it about himself. Like you, he hid what he was from the world. He never learned to come to terms with it. It was why I didn't trust him. He had all the power of a tiger and all the jealousy and hatred of a human."
"I told you bastards it was all about the money."
Wren frowned at Dante Pontis, who was giving the council an I-told-you-so smirk from his seat at the table.
Wren's father cleared his throat, drawing his attention back to him. "While you and Maggie were off, I started thinking about what the two of you had said about the night you found me. And I remembered you saying I was human. I realized it wasn't me you had seen. It couldn't have been. I am a tiger and I would have been a tiger in death."
"But you gave me your powers," Maggie said, confused.
Aristotle shook his head. "I gave you the powers my mother conferred on me. I kept my own." His eyes turned haunted as he faced Wren. "I knew that Karina must have seen Grayson, and his face must have been so badly damaged by whatever killed him that she assumed it was me, since I would never have allowed my brother to enter my home-unless I brought him there myself to fight. I kept trying to think of why I would have done it and when."
His gaze sharpened as he tightened his grip on Wren's shoulder. "Then it occurred to me. If Grayson was alive to accuse you before you came back, then I must have brought him back in time to kill him after you left."
Wren looked at Marguerite. "Are you following this?"
"Not really, but in a weird way, I think I get it." She looked at his father. "If you killed Grayson, then who killed Karina?"
Wren's father took a deep breath. "I did. I assumed that I was still supposed to die that night, so after they penned you, I confronted her and her lover. We fought, and during it, her lover fell into the fireplace. He dragged the coals out into the room and it set fire to the house before he died. Karina and I went down fighting hard. By the time I killed her, there were flames everywhere and I assumed I was meant to die in the fire. I passed out, and when I awoke, I was in an animal shelter."
Wren was completely stunned by the revelation. His father had been alive all these years? "Why didn't you ever tell me?"
"Because he knew you had to grow up without him," Marguerite said quietly. "Otherwise everything would change."
Aristotle nodded. "You wouldn't have come back to warn me about my death, and had you not done that, I would have died, as would you. I wouldn't have changed my will and you would have gone into Grayson's custody."
Savitar moved to stand beside them. "It's true. Everything played out just as it was supposed to."
Wren still couldn't believe it. How was all this meant to be? "Where have you been hiding all these years?" he asked his father.
He gave a sheepish grin, "Running the company behind the scenes in the guise of a human. It's why no one ever bothered you while you were at Sanctuary." He winked at Wren. "You didn't really think I'd let a human handle things, did you? But I really appreciate the tips you two gave me. World Wide Web. You were right, it's one hell of a thing."
Marguerite was completely stunned by all this.
Aristotle tsked. "I have to say it was hard not getting the jump on Microsoft after what you said, but I was too damned grateful to be alive to screw with the Fates over that. Second-best is better than dead."
Dante whistled from the table to get their attention. "You know this is all real charming and interesting... well, not really. I'm bored and I have things to do at home. So are the rest of us free to go now?"
Savitar shrugged. "Depends. Is the death order on Wren lifted?"
"The man is alive," Vane said to the others. "And he admits he killed his mate in self-defense. I don't see how Wren could possibly be responsible. I move to rescind."
Savitar nodded his agreement. "Anyone second it?"
"I do," Dante said.
Savitar scanned the group. "All in favor say aye."
It was unanimous.
"Then you're all free to go," Savitar said drily.
They poofed out. All except Dante, who sauntered over to them.
"Congrats, tiger," he said, extending his hand to Wren. "I knew you were innocent. And if you ever need a sanctuary, Dante's Inferno is there for you... I just hope you don't mind freezing your ass off in the wintertime. Bring a parka. It's cold in the Twin Cities."
Wren was warmed by his offer. "Thanks, Dante."
"No prob." He smiled at Maggie, then winked at her. "Good luck. I have a feeling the two of you are going to need it." He vanished.
Wren turned to face Savitar. He did something he'd never done to another living soul. He offered the immortal his hand. "Thank you. For everything."
Savitar shook it. "I don't take credit for this. All I did was pick your rank ass up and cart it off to New Orleans. The rest was you and your father." He let go of Wren's hand and stepped back. "Now if you'll excuse me... surf's up."
Savitar placed a pair of sunglasses on his face as his clothes faded into a black wetsuit. Then he, too, vanished.
Wren stared at his father as he tried to come to terms with all this. "I can't believe this is real. I can't believe you're really alive."
"You can't?" Aristotle asked in disbelief. "I'm the one who's been living with an alias all these years." He shivered. "Josiah Crane. Is that crap or what?"
Maggie smiled at him. "I think it's a wonderful name."
Aristotle sobered as he looked at her. "I'm sorry I left you alone with Zack when I grabbed Grayson. He didn't hurt you, did he?"
She shook her head.
"Good." Aristotle pulled his wallet out and opened it. "Look, I know the two of you have a lot to do when you get back to New Orleans." He pulled a business card out and handed it to Wren. "Give me a call sometime. If you ever get up to New York, drop by."
Wren took the card and nodded. "I'll be by, Dad."
Wren's father looked at her hopefully. "And Maggie?"
"I'll be right by his side."
Aristotle beamed at them. "Excellent. Now if I could only take those powers back so that I'd be fully charged... Ah, what the hell? They look better on you anyway."
Wren hugged his father, who then pulled away to hug Maggie. "You two take care."
Maggie stepped back from him. "You, too."
He nodded, then left them alone.
Marguerite watched as Wren put his father's card into his pocket.
"So what now?" she asked, wondering how they could just simply go home after all that had happened to them.
To her complete shock, Wren dropped to his knee in front of her. He took her hand into his and stared up at her. "Marguerite, lady tiger, will you marry me?"
She couldn't breathe as she heard those words. He couldn't be proposing to her? Not as a human. It wasn't possible. "We're not mated."
He shrugged nonchalantly. "Fuck the Fates and what they want. Mark or no mark, I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you."
Marguerite's vision dimmed as tears filled her eyes. Obscenities aside, she'd never heard anything more lovely.
His grip tightened on her hand as if he were afraid she'd deny him. "Will you marry me, baby?"
"Of course I will." She gave him a devilish smile. "Besides, it's not like I could marry a regular guy now anyway. I might accidentally eat him during a full moon or something."
Wren returned her devilish smile with one of his own as he rose slowly to his feet and pulled her into his arms. He cupped her face in his warm hands. "You don't have to wait for the light of a full moon, Maggie. I'll be your dinner anytime you're hungry."
Marguerite laughed as she held him close. This was without a doubt the happiest moment of her life. .
Until she remembered something. "We can't have children, can we?"
Wren pulled back and shook his head. "We can always adopt. That is, if you don't mind."
"I don't mind, but are you sure that you don't?"
"No. As long as I have you, I'll always be happy."
Marguerite pulled his head down toward hers to give him a hot, sizzling kiss.
Now, she just had to find some way to explain all of this to her father.