Two days later
With Maggie by his side, Wren walked through the doors of Sanctuary like he owned it. It was so strange to be back after all that had happened. There was an eerie sense of deja vu that he couldn't quite shake.
He'd spent the last twenty years cleaning tables here, never once thinking about a time when he wouldn't call this place home. Never thinking about the world that existed outside these walls. He'd lived here as a recluse and a hollowed-out shell.
Now he was facing a whole new life with a whole new family. Maggie, Marvin, and his father. It was scary in a way and yet he looked forward to it. It was almost as if he'd been reborn. The old Wren was gone and in his place was a man who knew exactly what he wanted.
And that was the woman at his side.
His heart pounding, he held Maggie to him as he walked up to Dev, who was sitting in front of the door.
"Welcome back," the bear said to him as if nothing had happened.
"Yeah," Wren scoffed. "Don't worry. I'm not staying. I'm only here to get Marvin, unless one of you bastards ate him."
Dev's eyes danced with humor. "Remi tried to, but that little bugger is fast. He's been hiding out in Aimee's room ever since."
Wren wasn't amused. Without another word, he led Maggie through the bar, to the kitchen, and to the door that led to Peltier House. As was typical, Remi was there with a scowl on his face.
"Blow me, bear," Wren snarled at Remi's intimidation. "Move your lumbering ass or get it kicked."
Remi crossed his arms over his chest as he glared defiantly at Wren.
"Let him pass, mon ange."
Wren glanced over his shoulder to see Nicolette behind them. Her face was stoic, but for once he sensed no animosity from her.
Remi's face registered shock at his mother's words. "The woman-"
"She is cleared to go with him," Nicolette said, interrupting Remi. "She's one of us now."
Wren inclined his head to her before he smirked at Remi. Remi wanted to fight, he could smell it. But fortunately for the bear, he moved aside.
Wren opened the door and let Maggie enter first. He still didn't trust the bears, and he wanted to keep his eye on her while they were here to make sure no one hurt her in any way.
Lo followed him into the parlor. "I'm sorry for what happened, tiger."
He laughed bitterly at that. "No, you're not."
Nicolette pulled him to a stop as he reached the stairs. "It was your own fault, you know? You were never really one of us here."
"Never one of your dupes, you mean." Wren shook his head. "No, Lo, I wasn't. Unlike the other fools here who would lay down their lives for you, I do know the truth. You do what you have to, but in the end, you don't want any of us here. We're nothing to you but a means to an end, and in a weird way, I almost respect that. It's Darwin's law. Either you eat the bear or the bear eats you. My goal is to be the diner, never the dinner."
Wren looked to where Maggie waited on the first step, watching him with pride gleaming in her brown eyes. "I only owe my loyalty to one person."
Nicolette nodded. "I understand. And our laws still apply. Now that you've been pardoned-"
"Save it, Lo. I've got enough human in me that I don't intend to let bygones be bygones. You turned on me and I can't forget that. I have too much to lose now."
Nicolette inclined her head to him. "Then you will understand if I ask you to leave?"
"I'm just here for the monkey."
"Then get it and get out."
"Believe me, I intend to." Wren headed up the stairs with Maggie in front of him. He led her down the hallway to Aimee's room before he knocked and waited.
He pushed open the door to find the bearswan on her bed in human form, watching TV. Marvin dropped the banana in his hands, then ran screaming at Wren. He launched himself into Wren's arms.
Wren caught him against his chest with a laugh. "Hey, buddy," he said as the monkey latched his arms around his neck and hugged him tight. "I missed you, too."
By Aimee's face, Wren could tell she was stunned to see him here.
"Thanks for watching out for him."
As Wren turned to leave, Aimee stopped him. "I have a few things for you."
He frowned as she knelt by her bed and pulled out a plastic box. "It's the handful of things that you left behind."
Wren was stunned to see the sweatshirt Maggie had given him along with the rest of his clothes.
"I know how weird you are about your scent, so I put it in an airtight container."
A wave of tenderness for the bearswan swept through him. Unlike her mother, Aimee was human, and for once he didn't mean that in a derogatory way. "Thanks, Aimee."
She smiled at them. "No problem."
"How's Fang doing?" Maggie asked.
Sadness darkened Aimee's features as she looked away. "I don't know. I'm not allowed to see him anymore. They're watching me now. All the time."
Wren felt for her. He couldn't imagine what it must be like to be banned from the person he loved. He would kill anyone or anything who came between him and Maggie. "I'm really sorry."
A bittersweet smile curved Aimee's lips as she looked back at them. "Don't be. You two give me hope."
"For what?" Wren asked.
"For my own future." Aimee kissed him lightly on the cheek. "You two take care."
He inclined his head to her. "You, too, Aimee."
Marvin leapt from Wren's shoulder to Maggie's. He ruffled her hair, then placed a kiss on her forehead.
Maggie laughed. "I think he likes me."
"He better," Wren said in a light tone. He looked back at Aimee. "Good luck, bearswan."
Wren wrapped his arm around Maggie and flashed them back to her house.
No, it was their house now.
He finally had a home. After all this time, he had somewhere he really belonged. The feeling washed over him with a joy the likes of which he'd only known in one place...
"Poor Aimee," Maggie said as she took Marvin to see where his food and water were kept on the kitchen counter. "Do you think she'll ever find a way to be with Fang?"
"I don't know. To have him, she'd have to give up her family. I doubt that'll ever happen."
Marguerite sighed dreamily as Wren came up behind her while Marvin splashed in his water cup. She leaned her forehead against Wren's cheek as he held her close. The scent of him enveloped her and made her hungry for him.
Everything was perfect Or at least very close to it. Because of the time travel, she'd only missed one week of school. With the help of Dr. Alexander, she'd be able to make it up without an incident and without failing.
She and Wren had decided that she would finish up her last semester of law school and then they would travel for a while before she even thought about taking the bar exam.
That sounded like heaven to her.
As Wren held her, she watched Marvin explore her kitchen cabinet. "Where did Marvin come from?"
She could feel Wren smiling. "I don't know. He was in Savitar's car when he saved me. He's been with me ever since."
"He's a cute little monkey." She sighed as she felt Wren's bulge against her hip while he gently nuzzled her neck.
"Marvin," Wren said in a husky voice. "Go check out your bedroom and shut the door."
The monkey squealed at Wren before he complied.
"Smart monkey," Marguerite said with a laugh.
"Mmm," Wren breathed against her throat before he gently laved her skin.
Fire coursed through her veins as he lifted the hem of her short leather skirt and ran his hands over her.
"You are a hungry little tiger, aren't you?" she said as he pushed her panties down her legs.
"Insatiable." He loosened his pants before he lifted the hem of her skirt to bare her from the waist down. He raised her up to sit on the countertop.
Marguerite hissed as he slid himself deep inside her.
She wrapped her body around his as he thrust against her hips.
She loved feeling the power of him inside her. Loved the fact that he was all hers. There was nothing else like her Wren.
She clasped him to her as she came fiercely.
Wren growled as he felt her body convulsing around his. There was nothing in life he treasured more than this woman. He quickened his strokes and in a few more thrusts he joined her in her paradise.
He held her to him and let her breath scorch his skin. Their bodies still joined, he reveled in the feel of her. For her, he was willing to do anything.
"Do you mind if I stay right here inside you for the rest of the day?"
She actually purred. "Not at all."
Biting her lip, she stroked him with her body, making him hard all over again.
Wren growled at how good she felt as he reached down to unbutton her silk blouse. He smiled at the fact that she wasn't wearing a bra.
"I know how much you hate them," she said as if she could read his thoughts.
He smiled at her before he dipped his head down to taste the taut peak.
Marguerite moaned at the sensation of his tongue flicking back and forth so very torturously. With every stroke, her body contracted, moving her dangerously close to another orgasm.
Just as she was sure she'd come again, she heard Marvin screaming from the other room.
Wren pulled out of her with a curse.
"What is it?" she asked, half-afraid someone else was coming for them.
"He says there's someone pulling into your driveway."
Marguerite frowned. No one should be visiting. She'd already told Todd, Blaine, and the others that she wasn't interested in their study group anymore.
Who could it be?
She buttoned her blouse while Wren refastened his pants. As she straightened her skirt, someone started pounding on her door.
She exchanged a scowl with Wren as she went to open it. The minute she swung it open, she felt the instant need to slam it shut.
It was her father, and he was flanked by two Secret Servicemen. All three of them were dressed in black power suits. They made quite a spectacle on her stoop.
"Oh goody," she said under her breath. "It's the X-Files."
Her father glared at her. "Don't be smart with me, young lady. Have you any idea what you interrupted? I don't have time to be flying down here to see what's going on with you while you flunk out of school and hang up on me."
Marguerite let out a tired breath as she gave him a bored stare. Without speaking to him, she left the door open and walked nonchalantly over to her small desk. She looked over at Wren and sent a silent warning to him: "I'll handle this."
Wren looked less than pleased. "Are you sure?"
She nodded even though she could feel his irritation at her father rising.
Her father curled his lip as he entered the house with his men flanking him. "And what is that get-up you have on, Marguerite? You look like a streetwalker."
She glanced down at her black miniskirt and high heels. She'd bought the outfit just yesterday after Wren had told her how much he loved seeing her legs. Her burgundy silk blouse was a little slinky, but it was sedate enough. She hardly looked like a prostitute.
And deep inside, her own anger rose. She wasn't thirteen anymore and this man didn't run her life.
"Yes, but the question is, Daddy, do I look like a cheap ho or an expensive one?"
"You don't look like either one," Wren growled.
She smiled at him.
Her father curled his lip at the sight of Wren. "Is this the busboy you've been gallivanting around with?"
Marguerite walked over to Wren, who pulled her into his arms. "Yes, Daddy. He's my busboy and I'm in love with him. We're going to get married at the end of the month."
Her father took a threatening step toward her.
She felt Wren tense as if to fight. "I have him, love, let me do my thing."
Wren relaxed only a tiny degree.
"What in the hell are you thinking?" her father snarled.
Marguerite refused to make any apologies to him. "This is my life, Dad, and from now on, I'm going to live it. I would really like for you to be a part of it, but if you can't, then fine. I'm through trying to please you."
His handsome face hardened. "You better listen to me, young lady. I happen to own your life. That car, this house, the school you attend... You can't afford even the bill for your cell phone on your own. You marry this bum and you're out of this house. I'll cut you off so fast, your head will spin."
"Fine," she said in a bored tone. "We'll move, then."
Her father looked sick to his stomach. "And where will you go? Oh wait, I forgot. You can go anywhere they need a busboy to clean tables. Think about it, Marguerite, don't be a fool. Don't throw your life away for a cheap piece of trash you picked up in a bar. People don't live on love. It won't feed you and it won't protect you."
"There you're wrong, Dad. Wren can, and will, keep me safe."
He screwed his face up in anger. "Damn you! After all I've done for you... given you. How dare you spit in my face? And for what? So that you can get back at me by doing this?"
"This isn't about you, Daddy. This is about me and Wren. You have nothing to do with why I'm in love with Wren. Nothing."
He narrowed his eyes on them. "I want you both out of this house by tomorrow."
His face turned to stone. "This isn't a game, Marguerite, and I'm not joking. I'll see you on the street before I let you toss away your life. I'm canceling your credit cards as soon as I leave here and I'm cleaning out your student bank account. In the next few hours you will have absolutely nothing."
She leaned back against Wren and looked up at him.
"So where do you think we should live, hon? Which pathetic little hovel appeals to you?"
Wren shrugged. "Well, we have the estate in northern Scotland, but it's kind of cold there and you know how I feel about the cold. There's the estate on a game preserve we have in South Africa. An island in the Pacific that's supposed to be really nice. I've never been there, but my mother used to love it and my dad said it's ours anytime we want it. It's not a really big place, only about ten square miles or so. But we own it. And then there's the boat that's docked in the Bahamas." He paused at that. "Well, it is a boat, but it has ten bedrooms, so it's kind of like a house. Then we own the upper two floors of the Tigarian building, but that's like living above the shop, in my opinion. Not to mention the city is loud."
He made a thinking noise with his teeth. "But you know, since you want to finish school, we could buy that house over in the Garden District that you liked so much."
"You mean the three-story mansion with the pool?"
He nodded. "Yeah. It's only what? Four and a half million? I'll get my accountant on it and we should be able to move in by tomorrow."
Her father's eyes were getting bigger by the second. "What bullshit is this?"
"It's not bullshit, Daddy. It's truth."
Still her father refused to believe it. "He's lying to you, Marguerite. Wake up and don't be stupid."
She arched a brow at her father. "I have a question, Daddy. I know how much you've been wanting to cozy up to State Senator Laurens and shmooze him for contributions because he, as you so often say, has more money than God. Do you know where his family got their money?"
"Of course. They're stockholders in the Tigarian corporation."
She nodded. "Want to meet the man who holds fifty-two percent of those stocks?"
His jaw actually went slack. "It's not possible."
Marguerite smiled at him. "Yes, Daddy, it is. Meet Wren Tigarian. The man who owns the enchilada."
It was the first time in her life that she'd ever seen her father speechless.
Marguerite turned and did something completely crass and gauche. She whistled for Marvin. As soon as the monkey was in her arms, she stepped away from Wren and picked up her keys from the counter.
With a confidence she'd never known before, she walked over to her father and handed the keys to him. "No offense, Dad, I don't want the life you gave me. I want the one I'm going to make for myself... with Wren. You're welcome to everything here. I'm through letting you control me."
She closed his hands over her keys. "I do love you, Daddy, and I would like for you to be a part of my future. But if you can't, that's your decision. I'm not your scared little girl anymore who's terrified that she's going to embarrass you. I'm Maggie Goudeau now and I know what I want. When you decide that you can love and accept me without conditions, give me a call."
She let go of him and turned to take Wren's hand. For the first time in her life, she felt free. Happy. The future stretched out before her with a vastness that would have scared her a few weeks earlier.
Now she looked forward to the challenge of it.
As they left the house, she half-expected her father to call her back, but he didn't.
And that was okay. Her father would need time and she had... literally centuries ahead of her.
Without looking back, she got into Wren's vintage red Mustang and held Marvin in her lap.
"Are you sure about this?" Wren asked as he joined her in the car.
Wren picked her hand up and kissed her palm lightly. "So where are we off to?"
She gave him a hot once-over. "I vote for a quiet hotel where we can finish what my father interrupted."
Wren gave her a wicked grin at that. "Here, here, lady tiger. Sounds like a plan to me."
Maggie's smile faded as she looked back to see her father on her front porch, watching them leave. The little girl in her wanted to run back to him and hug him.
But she wasn't a child anymore, and until he could accept that, there was nothing more to be said between them.
She only hoped that one day he would come to his senses. But until he did, that wasn't her problem. She refused to let him hold her back anymore.
Her heart lighter, she looked down at her unmarked palm. "Wren? Do you think we'll ever be mates?"
Wren glanced over at her. "We already are, Maggie. I don't need some external mark to tell me what I know."
She smiled at him. "I love you, Wren."
He reached over and took her hand into his. "I love you, too, baby."
And that was the greatest miracle of all. "So you're sure you still want to marry me? Bad in-laws and all?"
He snorted. "In-laws don't frighten me. If he doesn't come around, I can always eat him."
She laughed. "Okay, so I at least know what to put on the caterer's menu. One senator's head. Cool."
Wren joined her laughter, but even as he did, he felt the sadness inside her, and for that he really could kill her father. He couldn't understand how the man could be such a jerk to his only child. If Wren ever had one of his own, he would make sure that they never doubted his love.
But that didn't help Maggie. "It'll be okay, Maggie, trust me."
Wren squeezed her hand before he let go and headed toward the French Quarter. As he stopped at a light, he looked over at her and made himself a promise. Her father might not love her, but Wren would give her so much of his own that she would never miss it.
And that was something she could definitely take to the bank.