Marguerite tucked her books into her borrowed backpack. She still hadn't found her Prada. She couldn't imagine what had happened to it. She'd checked the lost and found at the library a dozen times. It wasn't like her to lose something like that.

Sighing, she got up from her desk to head off to the library and meet with her group.

As she left the building and headed across the lawn, she wasn't paying attention until she heard a man calling out, "Maggie." His voice was so deep and rumbling that it sent a shiver down her spine.

There was only one person she knew who held a voice like that. Only one person who called her Maggie nowadays...

Pausing, she turned to see Wren coming toward her from the street. He moved with a graceful, masculine lope that sent a heated wave through her. He had on a pair of faded jeans that had holes in both knees, black biker boots, and a black T-shirt with a ragged red and black flannel shirt worn over it that he'd left unbuttoned.

She'd never known anyone to dress so haphazardly, and there was something about the clothes that made him seem like a young teenager.

But that aside, it was obvious that he was completely ripped. A fact she knew firsthand since she'd seen him without those shirts on. There was also a dangerous confidence about him that said he was a lot older than he appeared at first glance.

He kept one arm behind him as he moved to stand just before her. She shivered at his commanding presence. He was so much taller than her, and those eyes...

There were times when they didn't seem quite human.

"Should you be upright?" she asked.

He shrugged with a nonchalance that she couldn't fathom. "I told you it wasn't fatal." He brought her backpack around from behind him. "But I thought you might want this back. You left it in the bar the other night."

"Oh, thank goodness!" she said, delighted to have it returned to her.

"You stunned me so much when you came to my room yesterday that I forgot I had it."

She smiled up at him, grateful that he'd gone to such trouble to bring it here. "You didn't have to bring it to me. You could have just called and I would have come for it."

"I didn't have your number."

"Oh," she said as she realized that she hadn't given it to him. Which brought up another question. "How did you find me here?"

He didn't answer. In fact, he looked rather uncomfortable at her question. "I should be going."

"What the hell is this?"

Marguerite looked past Wren's shoulder to see Blaine with a group of his frat brothers. She drew a sharp intake of breath. This wasn't good. Knowing Blaine, he'd see this as a direct violation of his territory by Wren, and with his friends backing him, there was no telling what he might do. Blaine could be a total prick when he wanted to.

"It's none of your business, Blaine," she snapped in warning. "Go on and leave us alone."

He didn't take her obvious hint.

Blaine glared at them. "What are we having here, revenge of the busboy? In case you haven't noticed, pal, there aren't any tables out here in need of cleaning."

She could sense the rage that was swelling inside of Wren. Luckily, he was holding it back.

She glared at Blaine. "Leave him alone, Blaine. Now."

Blaine sneered at Wren as he raked a disgusted stare over Wren's clothes. "What? Can't you afford a real pair of pants? Or are you so hot natured, you need natural ventilation?"

"Blaine," she growled.

"What kind of hair is that?" another of the frat boys asked. "Don't you ever wash it?"

"It's dreads, mon," another answered in a fake Jamaican accent. "All the better for smoking the ganja, don't cha know?"

Blaine tsked, then passed a feigned sympathetic look at her. "Really, Margeaux, why are you hanging with such lowlifes? I know you can't help who your mother was, but damn, woman, I would think your father's genes would take some dominance."

"I'm sorry, Maggie," Wren said in a quiet voice. "I didn't mean to embarrass you."

"You're not embarrassing me," she said between clenched teeth. "They are."

Still Wren didn't look at her. He started away from her, heading back toward the street.

"Yeah, keep walking, busboy," Blaine said in an acidic tone, "and don't come sniffing around her anymore."

As Wren moved past them, Blaine shoved at him. Wren's reaction was swift and violent. He slammed his fist straight into Blaine's face. Blaine hit the ground hard as his frat cronies jumped Wren.

"Stop!" Marguerite shouted, afraid they would hurt Wren. But to be honest, he was cutting through them with little difficulty. He slung one over his back, onto the ground, then punched him hard while the other two were swinging at him.

All of a sudden, campus security was there, pulling Wren off. He turned on the officer with a growl and slugged him before he realized it wasn't another student.

The other officer pulled out a club and struck Wren's injured shoulder with it. He growled loudly and shoved the officer back. Marguerite realized that Wren was about to attack him as well.

"Wren, stop!" she shouted. "They'll hurt you."

He froze instantly.

"I want that bastard arrested for assault," Blaine snarled as he wiped at the blood on his face. His nose was a total mess.

"Don't worry," the officer said as he cuffed Wren's wrists together behind his back. "He's going straight downtown."

Wren's face was stone as he said nothing in defense of himself.

Marguerite was livid over this. "He wasn't doing anything wrong. They attacked him first."

"Bullshit," another frat boy said as he wiped the blood from his lips. "He hit Blaine for no reason. We were just protecting our brother from being mauled by this animal."

"He doesn't even belong here," Blaine added. "He's town trash who was trespassing."

The officer Wren had struck tightened the handcuffs to the point where she could see that they were biting into his wrists.

Still Wren said nothing. Nor did he flinch or show any emotion whatsoever.

"Are you a student here?" the officer asked him in an angry tone.

Wren shook his head.

"Then why are you on campus?"

Wren didn't answer.

The officer was getting even angrier as he tugged at Wren's cuffed hands. "Boy, you better answer me if you know what's good for you. Who invited you here?"

Wren kept his gaze on the ground. "No one."

"He was my guest," Marguerite said.

Wren gave her a harsh stare. "She's lying. I don't even know her."

Marguerite's heart clenched that he was trying to protect her so that she wouldn't get into trouble, too. As a student, she was responsible for anyone she invited onto campus.

Meanwhile there was no telling what the police were going to do with him.

She started to speak up and tell the truth, but the look on Wren's face kept her silent. She could tell he didn't want her to contradict him.

A police car pulled up to the curb.

Feeling completely helpless, she watched as they took Wren and placed him roughly into the car.

"Wait until my lawyers get through with him," Blaine said with a laugh. "That bastard will be serving a life sentence for this."

She turned on Blaine with a lethal glare. "You are such an asshole. You can forget ever interning with my father. Hell will freeze over before you step one foot into his office."

"Margeaux..."

She wrenched her arm away from his grasp and headed in the direction of her car. She needed to find a lawyer for Wren. There was no way she was going to leave him in jail when he hadn't done anything other than protect himself.

Six hours later, Marguerite hesitated in the police station as she felt a wave of fear go through her. She'd never been near such a place. It was cold and sterile. Eerie. More than that, it was frightening. She hoped that she never had to visit such a place again.

As bad as it was for her to be here to get Wren out, she couldn't imagine how much worse it must be for him to be in the scarier part of the building with other men who'd been arrested for God only knew what.

They had to get Wren out of here.

"I told you, you should have stayed home, Ms. Goudeau," her attorney said. He was a short African-American with thinning hair that was dusted with gray. Very distinguished and accomplished, he was one of the most prominent attorneys in New Orleans. Best of all, he was discreet, so no one, not even her father, would ever learn of this.

Both she and Wren would be protected.

She doubted Wren could afford his own counsel, and from what she knew of public defenders, they were often overworked. She wanted to make sure that Wren spent as little time here as possible. Luckily, she had enough money of her own to easily cover Mr. Givry's fees to get Wren out of this.

"I think you should go on back home," Mr. Givry said as he urged her toward the door.

"No," she said hastily. "I wanted to make sure he was okay myself."

Looking less than pleased by her insistence, Mr. Givry led her to the desk where a female clerk sat wearing a police uniform. Even though the woman was heavyset, it was obvious she was well muscled and in great physical condition. Her face was dour and stern as she brushed her short brown hair back from her face. She looked up with a bored stare as they approached.

"We're here to make bail for... um..." He looked at her expectantly.

"Wren," she said.

"Wren who?" the clerk asked in an agitated tone.

Marguerite hesitated as she realized that she had no idea what his last name was. "Um... I'm not sure."

Mr. Givry gave her a stunned look. It probably did seem strange that she was willing to spend several thousand dollars to get a man she barely knew out of jail. But to her it made perfect sense, and she didn't dare explain to the lawyer or clerk that Wren had saved her life.

With her luck, that would make the local news and she would be in deep trouble.

"Well," Marguerite said quickly, "he's around my age, about six three, and has blond dreadlocks. They brought him in about six hours ago for fighting at Tulane."

An African-American male clerk came up and shook his head. "You know who that is, Marie. He's that kid we had to isolate earlier."

The woman screwed her face up in disgust. "The crazy one?"

"Yeah."

"Crazy?" Marguerite asked as she frowned. "How so?"

The man snorted. "When he was first brought in, we put him in with the normal crew of prisoners. He beat the shit out of three of them. It took seven officers to pull him off and stick him in a cell alone. Since then he's been pacing back and forth in his cell like some kind of wild animal. He glares and growls at anyone who comes near him. It's spooky as hell. There's something definitely not right with that kid."

Her lawyer arched a brow at her. "You sure you want to bail him out?"

"Yes. Positive."

Mr. Givry looked extremely skeptical, but he turned dutifully to the female clerk. "How much is his bail?"

"Seventy-five thousand dollars."

Both she and her lawyer gaped.

That couldn't be right, could it? "Are you serious?" she asked them.

"Yes, ma'am," Marie said without hesitation. "He assaulted an officer."

Marguerite was indignant on Wren's behalf. "Not on purpose. He didn't know it was an officer when he struck out."

The male clerk scoffed at that. "Yeah, that's what they all say."

Marguerite felt ill and angry. She didn't have that kind of money. At least not without going to her father, who would stroke if she told him why she wanted it.

"Hi, Daddy, I met this man who is a busboy in a local biker bar and he needs to get out of jail... What did he do? Nothing much. Just assaulted an officer and Blaine. You remember Blaine, don't you? His father is one of your major campaign contributors. But that's okay, isn't it? Wren's a good guy. He even got shot when he kept me from being raped after I was down in the area of the Quarter where you told me not to go.

"Daddy? Are you seizing? Should I get the pills for your heart?"

Oh yeah, that would go over well.

Mr. Givry gave her a sympathetic look. "What would you like for me to do, Ms. Goudeau?"

Loan me the money?

Before she could answer with something more reasonable than that, the outside door opened to admit three men. She knew one of them instantly. He was Dr. Julian Alexander, who had been her undergraduate advisor.

Tall, blond, and absolutely gorgeous, he was with two other good-looking men. One who was two inches taller and blond and another one who had short black hair. The brunette stood even in height to Dr. Alexander.

"Bill," her attorney said to the dark-haired man as he offered his hand to him. "What brings you here? I didn't know you made personal calls anymore."

Bill laughed as he shook Mr. Givry's proffered hand. "I don't."

"Then I must be imagining things."

Bill continued to smile. "I wish, but I have an extremely valuable client to bail out. He always gets my personal attention, if you know what I mean."

The look on Mr. Givry's face said he knew exactly what Bill was talking about. Marguerite had no idea who Bill's client was, but he must be loaded to warrant such personal attention from an attorney who didn't normally give it.

"Marguerite?" Dr. Alexander said as he approached her. "What brings you here? I hope you haven't been in any trouble."

She shook her head. "The lack of news coverage alone shows that I'm innocent. I came in to bail out a friend but found out I don't have enough money to cover it."

She frowned as she suddenly realized who the dark-haired man was. "You're William Laurens, State Senator Laurens' eldest son, aren't you?"

Bill cocked his head as he searched his mind for clues as to her identity. "Do I know you?"

"She's Senator Goudeau's daughter," Dr. Alexander and her lawyer said at the same time.

"Ah," Bill said as enlightenment came to his features. He extended his hand to her. "We've met at campaign parties."

She nodded. "I love your wife. She's quite a character." Selena Laurens was more than that. Extremely idiosyncratic, Selena was a psychic who owned a new age store down in the Quarter. She was only tolerated by Marguerite's father because Bill's family was one of the wealthiest in the state of Louisiana and Selena's family wasn't too far below his.

Had Selena been poor, she would have been an insane kook. As it was, Marguerite's father referred to the tarot card reader as "eccentric."

Bill laughed. "Yes, she is. It's why I love her." He indicated the blond man with him. "This is my brother-in-law Kyrian Hunter, and you already know Julian."

"It's nice to meet you," she said to Kyrian, who shook her hand and returned her words.

"If you guys will excuse me for a second..." Bill went over to the clerk to speak with her.

Marguerite looked back at Kyrian. "You're the man Nick Gautier used to work for, aren't you?"

Kyrian frowned. "You're a friend of Nick's?"

She nodded. "He was a great guy."

"Yes, he was," Kyrian said, his expression extremely sad.

Bill rejoined them. "They're getting him now, but damn, that boy needs to learn to stay out of trouble."

"What happened?" Kyrian asked.

Bill sighed heavily. "Well, he neglected to tell me he'd assaulted a Tulane cop and now they have him in isolation."

"Wren?" she asked hopefully. "You're here for Wren?"

Kyrian looked stunned by her words. "You know Wren, too?"

Marguerite nodded. "We only just met, but yes, I know him." She looked about sheepishly. "I'm ashamed to say that I'm the reason he was arrested."

Bill arched a brow at that. "How so?"

"Wren came to campus to return my backpack to me that I'd left in Sanctuary. When he started to leave, a group of frat boys started harassing him. After insulting him repeatedly, one of the boys shoved him and then Wren slugged him. The rest jumped on him and then the police came and arrested him for the disturbance."

She could see Bill processing the new information with a keen focus on how he could use it to get Wren out of trouble. "Did he really attack a cop?"

"Yes, but it was an accident. The officer came up from behind him and I'm sure he thought it was another student jumping on him. Wren didn't see who it was until after he'd struck the officer."

Bill narrowed his sharp gaze on her. "You willing to testify to that?"

"Absolutely."

"Good," he said with a smile. She could tell that Bill was going to get Wren out of trouble. Thank goodness.

"So who is this kid that he got you out at dinnertime to spring him?" Mr. Givry asked.

"Wren Tigarian."

Her lawyer continued to frown, as did Marguerite.

"Should I know that name?" her lawyer asked.

"Tigarian Technologies," Dr. Alexander explained. "He was the only child to Aristotle Tigarian and the sole heir to their entire international empire."

Marguerite gaped at that. Tigarian Technologies was second only to Microsoft in the corporate world. "Why does he work as a busboy?"

Julian gave her a pointed look. "Why does the daughter of a prominent senator go to Tulane and not Princeton, Harvard, or Yale?"

"I like New Orleans."

"And Wren has no interest in running his father's company," Bill said. "He'd rather leave it to the management in charge."

Still it didn't make any sense to her. Wren didn't live like a wealthy man. He lived like a vagrant.

Bill looked past her shoulder, then scowled. "Hey!" he shouted. "Take the damn cuffs off the man. There's no need in embarrassing him. He's not a criminal."

The police officers with Wren gave Bill a sinister smirk. "Yeah, right, you didn't see the way he tore through those bikers. This 'kid' could give Mike Tyson a run for his money."

Marguerite's heart pounded as she saw Wren. He had a black eye, and his lip was swollen. The police officer gave a vicious turn of the cuff before he opened it. Wren looked up as if he sensed her presence and pinned her with a gimlet stare.

A tremor of heat went through her. There was something so unsettling about him, and at the same time a part of her was drawn to him even against her common sense.

Bill cast a murderous glare at the officers. "Look at him. Has he seen a doctor?"

"He didn't want no doctor."

Bill shook his head. "You okay, Wren?"

Wren nodded as he rubbed his wrists.

Marguerite crossed the distance between them, grateful that he was out of danger.

"Are you sure you're all right?" she asked, brushing the hair away from his face so that she could inspect the damage they'd done to his eye.

He nuzzled her hand ever so slightly before he nodded. "I'm okay. What are you doing here?"

"I was trying to bail you out."

He looked surprised by that. "Really?"

She nodded.

He gave her a hesitant smile.

"You want me to call Carson?" Bill asked.

Wren shook his head.

"You want me to give you a ride home?" she asked Wren.

"Please. Thanks."

By the look on the men's faces, she could tell they were as stunned by his acceptance as she was.

Bill cleared his throat. "You sure you don't want me to take you back?"

Wren shook his head and it was then she realized the only person he'd spoken to so far had been her.

As Marguerite fished her keys from her purse, she saw the outside door open. To her complete shock, Blaine and two of the other frat boys who'd attacked Wren were being led inside the building in handcuffs.

"This is ridiculous!" Blaine was snarling. "My lawyer will have all of your badges for this. Do you hear me!" He froze as he saw Mr. Givry beside her. "Tom! Get me out of this."

His expression concerned, her lawyer went over to Blaine and told him to calm down.

"What are the charges?" Mr. Givry asked the officers.

It was Bill who answered. "Oh, let's see, assault, battery, fighting words, slander, offensive touching, public drunkenness, trespassing, hate crime, and anything else I can think of to toss at him."

Mr. Givry gave Bill an irritated glare. "You're pressing the charges?"

Bill gave him what could only be called a shit-eating grin. "Yep. I swore out that warrant as soon as I got off the phone with Wren. You should counsel your client to be careful who he insults and attacks. Not only did he attack Wren on campus, but also last night at the local bar Sanctuary, where I have plenty of eyewitnesses who will gladly testify to his belligerent and drunken behavior. Ever heard the expression 'never pull a tiger by the tail' ? Well, by the time I get through with your client, he and his family will be lucky to have a toothpick left to call their own."

"You've got to be kidding me," Blaine snarled.

Mr. Givry sighed. "No, Blaine, he's not. I'll go call your father and-"

"There's no hurry," Bill said in an emotionless tone. "I can assure you the lot of them will be spending the night in jail."

Mr. Givry gave him a stern frown. "You can't do that, Bill. They're good boys, from good families."

"So is Wren and it's already done. Maybe next time, they'll think twice before they make assumptions about someone." Bill opened his briefcase and pulled out a piece of paper, which he handed to Mr. Givry. "I've also sworn out a restraining order that will be served to your client when he leaves here. If he comes near my client again, he's going to seriously regret it."

Bill looked back at Blaine. "While we're at it, if I were you, I'd warn him that if he insists on pressing charges against my client, he will be implicating Ms. Goudeau in the wrongdoing, since she was the host at Tulane for Wren. We wouldn't want to impugn the good senator's daughter now, would we?"

Blaine rushed at Wren, only to have the police pull him back. "I'll get you for this, you prick."

"Shut up, Blaine!" Mr. Givry snapped. "You're already in enough trouble."

Bill added a speculative look at Blaine, who was being dragged toward a small hallway. "We'll be adding threat to do bodily harm to those charges as well."

The police hauled Blaine and his friends off.

Mr. Givry looked disgusted. "You're not going to make this easy on me, are you, Bill?"

"Not at all. You'll definitely be earning your keep on this case."

Mr. Givry let out a tired sigh. "All right. I'll call you in the morning and see what we can work out."

Bill put his hand on Wren's shoulder, then jerked it back as Wren literally growled at him. "Sorry," he said. "I'll, um... I'll call you later."

Kyrian and Julian paused.

"You sure you wouldn't rather we take you home?" Kyrian asked Wren.

Wren shook his head.

"All right, then. Stay out of trouble."

Marguerite indicated the door with a tilt of her head. "You ready to go?"

He nodded. And as they headed out, she noticed that he was rubbing at his injured shoulder. "Do you need to go to the hospital?"

"No, I just need to rest for a while."

"Are you sure?"

"Positive. Just take me home, okay?"

She led him to her Mercedes, which was parked under a streetlight. "I didn't know you were related to Tigerian Technologies."

He stared at her over the top of her car. "Does it matter?"

"Not really."

"Then why should I talk about it?"

He had a point with that. "Why do you live in New Orleans if the company is based out of New York?"

He shrugged. "I don't like New York. Too many people. Too much noise. Too cold in the winter. I don't like being cold."

She supposed that made sense. Offering him a smile, she got into the car and waited for him to join her. He quickly sat down, slammed the door, and buckled himself in.

"Did they feed you while you were in there?" she asked. "Would you like to stop somewhere on the way back and get something to eat?"

He nodded.

"What would you like?"

"I don't care. I'll eat anything not Tylenol or chocolate."

"That's a strange list."

"Not to me."

Okay... he was an odd man.

Marguerite headed out of the parking lot while Wren pulled his things out of the manilla envelope that the police had given him. "Was it bad in there?"

He paused to look up at her. "It certainly wasn't the highlight of my life."

She smiled at his sarcasm. "What happened to cause the jail fight?"

He slid his wallet into his pocket. "They thought it would be fun to knock around the 'kid' and show off their manhood. I thought it would be fun to knock a couple of them unconscious."

Well, she could understand that. He did have a unique take on things. "Do you always get into fights like this?"

"No," he said in a low tone as he snapped his Timex onto his arm. "I don't like to fight. I'd rather be left alone. But if someone else starts it..."

"You finish it."

He nodded. "My father used to say that it's not enough to just beat an attacker off. You have to hurt them enough that they'll know not to tangle with you anymore. Or preferably, kill them."

"Sounds like our fathers have a lot in common."

Wren didn't comment. Instead, he gestured toward the left. "McDonald's would be good."

She wrinkled her nose at the thought. "You really eat there?"

"It's good stuff."

She cringed at the thought. She'd only seen their food in commercials and had never really considered trying it out for herself. "I don't know about that. I'm not sure I like the idea of fast food." But she pulled in and got in line at the drive-thru.

Wren gave her a suspicious look. "Don't tell me you've never eaten here."

"Never."

"Where do you eat then?"

"Restaurants or at the campus meal hall." She pulled around to the speaker and lowered her window. "This is so weird, to get food like this."

He grinned at her before he leaned over her lap and answered the woman who had asked what they wanted. "I'll have twelve Big Macs, two Filet-O-Fish, three Double Quarter Pounders with Cheese, four apple pies, six large fries, and a large vanilla shake." He looked at her. "You want something?"

She arched both brows as she stared at him and his unbelievably large order. "You're not seriously going to eat all that by yourself, are you?"

He looked stricken by her words. "Am I doing something wrong?"

"No," she said quickly. "Not if you're hungry. I've just never seen anyone eat like that before."

He gave her a confused frown. "I do it all the time."

"And you stay so thin? I'd be bigger than a house."

"Would you like anything else?" the voice asked over the intercom.

She glanced over the menu. "I'll have a cheeseburger meal with a Coke."

Marguerite's eyes actually widened at the total before the server told them to drive around. Who knew fast food could be so expensive?

Wren pulled out his wallet and handed Marguerite the money to pay for it. He sat back in his seat and watched the way the light played in her dark hair. She was so beautiful to him.

While they waited, he reached out to touch her cheek with the back of his fingers. The softness of her skin amazed him. It also made him hard and aching for her.

She turned her head to smile at him. The expression hit him like a sledgehammer and left him oddly dazed. She cocked her head as if studying him in turn. "How do you get your hair to do that?"

"I don't know. You just kind of twist it and it holds."

"How do you wash it?"

He shrugged. "Same as anyone else. You put shampoo on it and run water through it."

Frowning, she reached out to touch a strand. She smiled and wrinkled her nose. "It feels so strange. Kind of like wool." She dropped her hand and pulled up to the window.

Wren sat quietly as he thought about her words. He'd started wearing the dreadlocks to keep other people away from him, and it'd worked. Most people curled their lips in repugnance and immediately cut him a wide berth, which was fine by him. He'd never really liked being touched. But he wouldn't mind Maggie stroking his hair.

His skin...

She handed him the change, then his food. Wren opened a Big Mac and took care to eat it like a human, but it was really hard. His kind only ate every three to four days, and he was extremely hungry. In truth, this wasn't enough food. It was only enough to tide him over until he could get back to Sanctuary and eat the rest of what he needed.

He picked up a fry and offered it to her.

Smiling, she took it from his hand and ate it.

Wren watched her closely. She had no idea what a feat that had been for him. His kind didn't share food with anyone or anything when they were hungry. They would fight to the death for a tiny morsel. Yet he wanted to take care of her. It was such a peculiar feeling.

If he didn't know better, he'd think she was his mate. But Katagaria didn't mate to humans. It wasn't possible.

Marguerite drove through the congested streets as she watched Wren from the corner of her eye. He didn't speak as he ate. But then, he didn't speak much anyway.

He was such a fascinating contradiction. She still couldn't get over that he had one of the most exclusive lawyers in New Orleans at his beck and call.

"What do your parents think of you working as a busboy?" she asked. Her father would die if she'd ever done something like that. He'd always carefully screened her jobs so that they would be appropriate to his career and social standing.

Wren swallowed his food. "They don't think much these days."

She waited for him to continue with that thought. Instead, he went back to eating. Frowning, Marguerite prompted him to explain. "Why don't they think?"

"It's kind of hard for them, since my parents are dead."

Her heart clenched at that. "Both of them?"

He nodded.

"How long?"

"About twenty years now."

He'd only been a baby when they'd died. How awful to not know his parents. "I'm so sorry."

"Don't be. I'm not."

She actually gaped.

"They were total assholes," he said quietly. "Neither one could stand me. They couldn't even look at me without their lips curling in disgust. My mom only referred to me as 'it.'"

"Oh God, Wren... that's horrible."

He shrugged. "You get used to it. I'm just lucky I was an only child. If they'd had any more children, I'm sure I would have been killed."

The nonchalance of his tone stunned her. "You are joking, right?"

He didn't answer, but the look on his face told her he wasn't. And to think, in fits of anger she'd always thought her father was an uncaring dirtbag. He suddenly looked like Father of the Year.

"So if your parents died while you were so young, who raised you?"

"I raised myself."

"Yeah, but who was your guardian?"

"Bill Laurens. My father and Bill's firm go way back. After my parents died, a guy brought me here to Bill and he hired Nicolette Peltier to let me stay with her and work at Sanctuary for my keep."

"You don't have any other family?"

"Not really. The ones I have who are surviving don't want me anywhere near them."

"Why not?"

"I'm not right."

A chill went down her spine. Was there something about him she needed to know? "What do you mean, you're not right?"

He took a drink of his shake before he answered her. "I'm deformed."

She glanced over at him as she drove. He certainly didn't look deformed to her. He looked completely fine and healthy. "How so?"

He didn't answer as he opened up another Big Mac and started eating it.

"Wren-"

"Don't ask me anything else, Maggie. I'm really tired, I'm hungry, and I'm in pain. If you really knew me, you'd realize that it's a complete miracle that I'm sitting here and not taking your head off, literally. I just want to get home, okay?"

"Okay," she said even though she was dying for an answer.

They remained silent the rest of the way to Sanctuary. By the time she pulled into the small parking lot behind the house, he'd almost finished his food.

Marguerite came around to help him carry the bags.

He led her to a red back door where they were met with the same angry-looking blond man who had wanted Aimee to keep Marguerite in the bar. "She's not allowed in."

"Move away, Remi," Wren said between clenched teeth.

"You know the rules."

"Yeah, I know the rules. In the law of the jungle, the tiger eats the bear."

Marguerite saw Aimee come up behind Remi. "It's okay, Rem, let him pass."

Remi sneered at her. "Have you lost your mind?"

Aimee pulled Remi back. "Come on in, guys."

Marguerite didn't say anything as they headed up the stairs to Wren's room.

"What was that about?" she asked as soon as he closed his bedroom door.

"Lo doesn't like anyone in her house."

"Oh. I guess I should be going-"

"Stay... please."

Wren knew he shouldn't ask that of her. He needed rest. Hell, he needed care. But none of that mattered. He just wanted to be with her for a little longer. The danger didn't matter. Nothing did except being able to smell her. To see her.

To touch her.

He dipped his head toward hers until she met his lips. He pinned her to the door as he kissed her.

Without thinking, Marguerite buried her hand in his hair. Wren hissed and pulled back as if in pain. Her hand was still stuck in the twisted blond locks.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry," she said, trying to extricate her hand without hurting him more.

He frowned at her as he rubbed his head.

She reached out to help, only to have him move away. No sooner had she stepped away from the door than it crashed open. Marguerite turned to see the angry middle-aged woman there who'd been in the bar.

Wren made a strange growling sound low in his throat.

"She has to leave," the woman said in a voice that brooked no argument. "Now."

"I want her here."

"I don't give a damn what you want," she said, her voice laden with a French accent. "This is my house and-"

"I pay you enough."

"No," she said, her tone filled with venom, "you don't. Not for this."

The last thing Marguerite wanted was to get him into trouble. "It's okay, Wren. I'll go."

The anger on his face actually scared her. Wren cast a scathing glare at the woman, then escorted Marguerite downstairs to the back door.

"I'm sorry about this," he said as he led her out of the house and back to her car.

"It's okay. I'll see you later."

He nodded, then opened her car door for her. After enclosing her inside, he placed his hand on her window, and the look of longing on his face tore through her.

She put her hand up on the glass to cover his and offered him a smile.

As she started her car Wren stepped back, and watched until she'd pulled out of the lot before he went back inside.

He met Nicolette in the parlor. Aimee stood just behind her mother, looking completely contrite.

"You ever threaten one of my sons again and I will see you dead, tiger."

He gave a bitter laugh at that. "You can try, bear. You won't succeed."

Nicolette held her temper as Wren left her and headed up the stairs.

"It wasn't his fault, Maman" Aimee said. "I told him she could come-"

Nicolette backhanded her. "You ever threaten the safety of this house again, and I will see you cast out. Do you understand me?"

Aimee nodded.

"Papa?" Nicolette shouted for her mate.

He came in from the door that led to the kitchen. "On?"

"Summon the council. I think it's time we see about putting the tiger out of our misery."



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