Born of Fire (Page 21)

Born of Fire (The League #2)(21)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

Still, she didn’t understand why Digger had stayed with such a man. “Once you saw that you couldn’t change him, why didn’t you walk away?”

Digger sighed. “It wasn’t that easy, and there for a time, Indie got better. Not because of me, but for Sheridan’s mother. She was a decent lady from a good family and, believe it or not, he loved her like nothing I ever saw. She was under his skin and he’d have done anything for her. But it wasn’t that easy to leave his past, which hadn’t been all that bad up until then.”

“So what happened?”

“Her parents,” he spat the word. “Stupid interfering bastards. They refused to even call him by his name cause he was so far beneath them. They told her that so long as she was with him, she couldn’t come home. Even when she took Talia there to see them, just a few weeks after Talia had been born, her parents had her thrown out and told her they didn’t want to see no bastard lowborn baby—said it was no grandchild of theirs.”

He winced. “I was there with them when it happened. She’d been so convinced that as soon as they saw the baby, everything would change and that they’d forgive her for falling in love with a pleb. But her father was colder than Indie had ever been. And she was so tore up over it. After that, Indie went insane cause he couldn’t make it better for her. He wanted her to have the life she’d had with her parents and to not regret marrying him. Since he couldn’t find a legal job that paid anything, he went back to what he knew. Filching.”

He let out a tired sigh. “And something happened to her after that meeting that day. She became real demanding about everything. Like she felt that she’d given up her entire life and dignity for Indie. Suddenly nothing he did could please her and she rubbed his nose in everything she didn’t have. She kept reminding him that she was a high-bred lady and he was shit.”

Shahara scowled. “Why?”

“I don’t know. She became an entirely different person and nothing Indie did was good enough. She started to take it out on Talia and then Indie would take out his anger on her for hurting his daughter. Then when she got pregnant with Sheridan, it only got worse . . . I half expected her to abort him.”

“Why didn’t she?”

His eyes turned dark. “Indie told her he’d kill her if she killed his son.”

Shahara was horrified by that. How could parents act that way? It was bad enough what they did to each other, but to do it to their children? “I don’t understand. Given the way he treated Syn, why did he care?”

“Indie still loved her at that point. I don’t know why, but he did and he worshiped Talia because she looked like her mother. Then when Sheridan was born, he was so proud and happy to have a son. Until the day he caught that bitch trying to drown Sheridan when the boy was only three weeks old.”

Her stomach hit the floor as disbelief consumed her. “What?”

He nodded. “I don’t know what made her snap, but she’d been holding the baby down under the water while she was bathing him. But for Talia running to her father to tell him Sheridan was dead, we’d have never known. Indie beat her down so bad that I don’t know how she lived. Not that I blamed him for that one. It’s the only thing that was justified.” He swallowed audibly as he glanced out the window. “She left not long after that and when she took off, it killed Indie. Whatever kindness he had inside him went with her. And he hated Sheridan from that point on.”

That didn’t make sense. “I don’t understand? Why hate him? He was just a baby.”

He rubbed a tired hand over his chin. “Indie blamed him for losing her. He had this screwed up idea that if Sheridan hadn’t been born, she’d have stayed, and so he wanted to make Sheridan pay for running her off. He even turned on Talia . . . again because she looked so much like her mother. And I felt even sorrier for her than I did Sheridan. She knew what it was like to have a father who loved her. Sheridan didn’t. She used to cry herself sick wanting to know what had made her father hate her.”

Shahara wanted to cry for all of them. “Who was his mother?”

The hatred in his eyes singed her. “I’ll never say that bitch’s name. May that old whore rot and die for all eternity for what she did. She could have saved Indie and pulled him back from his life had she not been so selfish. But she wanted her fancy baubles and houses. We weren’t good enough and that was what turned my brother psychotic. He got it in his mind that we were trash and that the only way to get respect was to take it and to kill anyone who wouldn’t give it to him.”

His gaze turned hard. “Syn don’t know none of this and I want to keep it that way. He thinks his mother left because she couldn’t take living with his father. No offense, I’d rather he keep thinking that, too.”

Because it was easier than to know his own mother tried to kill him. “Don’t worry. I would never tell him.”

He inclined his head to her.

Shahara pushed her food around on her plate. “So what about Syn? What made him a criminal?”

“That boy ain’t no criminal!” he snarled so defensively that she pulled back from him. “Sheridan never done nothing but survive and there shouldn’t be no crime in that.”

His unwarranted hostility surprised her. There was no denying what Syn was, reasons be damned. The man broke the law. A lot.

His gaze probed hers with an intensity that chilled her. “Tell me what you’d have done if you were only ten years old and found yourself without a family and no home? Them Rits took every last credit of Indie’s. Not a cent was left for Sheridan. He had nothing at all. I was thrown in jail when they arrested Indie and I thought that, as bad as it was for me, that at least he’d have a good home with decent people. But I overestimated those so-called decent people. None of them would take him in. Not even the government wanted him in an orphanage.”

She winced at that harsh reality. “Because of who his father was?”

He nodded.

The sins of the father are forever visited on the son. Conventional wisdom would say that whatever genetic defect had caused Idirian Wade’s behavior would manifest in his child. It was a rampant fear that she was more than familiar with.

“So what did they do with him?”

Sighing, Digger raked his hand through his hair. “Put him in prison. They said he might as well get used to it since he’d most likely end up there anyway.”

She set her fork down in stunned shock. “At ten?”

He nodded darkly. “And not kiddie jail. They sent him to maximum security.”

“At ten?” she repeated.

“At ten.” His tone was ice cold and brutal. “There’s your League justice for you. Put an innocent kid in with the garbage and see if he survives. But that was all right. His father had taught him well on how to hide, fight, and take as much pain as anyone wanted to give to him. As you’ve seen. He don’t go down easy.”

Still . . . he’d been a baby. How was that even possible? How had he survived? “Someone had to get him out. Did they release him?”

He laughed. “You have to remember, Sheridan was big for his age and precocious as hell. That resourceful little bastard escaped within a year and went out on the streets by himself. He managed to stow away on a ship that came here and he made a home for himself in the gutter.”

Shahara tried to imagine it. She knew how hard it’d been to survive without her parents and she’d been almost twice his age when her father died.

And though her condo wasn’t much, at least it was one of the few things her father had paid for before his death.

“Where was his mother then?”

The look he gave her killed the words on her tongue. “He went to that bitch when he was twelve and she threw him out into the street like he was trash. Said she was back where she belonged and she didn’t want nothing to do with the past. Said she never wanted to lay eyes on him again and that if she did, she’d put him in jail for the rest of his life. Then she called the pinchers to come pick him up.”

Shahara swallowed in horror. How could a mother react that way? Why? It was so cold and needless.

If she could only have a child, she’d make sure no one ever hurt it.

“And his sister?”

Tears welled up in the old man’s eyes. “She was an angel. So gentle and timid. Never once raised her voice or said an unkind word about anyone. Sheridan loved that girl like you wouldn’t believe. He would have slit his own wrist if she’d just asked him to.”

“Surely she helped him?”

He shook his head. “She killed herself the day before Indie was arrested.”

She gaped at that unexpected bomb.

Talia had killed herself?

Please don’t leave me, Talia. I won’t let him hurt you anymore. I promise. Syn’s pleading tone tore through her. She knew how much he’d loved his sister. He must have gone crazy with her death.

And suddenly she knew why he’d turned his father in . . . No doubt he blamed him for it and had wanted revenge. It made perfect sense and yet . . .

How had Syn survived?

He’d been just a baby when everyone in his family had deserted him. She couldn’t even begin to imagine the fear and pain he must have felt. No matter how bad her life was, she’d always had her family. A family who, even with their problems, protected her to the bitter end.

“What did Syn do after his mother . . .” She couldn’t even bring herself to say what the bitch had done.

Digger shrugged. “I don’t know how he survived. Worst of all, I don’t know what was done to him either in jail or after. He never would talk about it. But I thought about him the whole while I was in prison. I was sure he’d get killed in no time . . . or something much worse. He was such a smart little thing and so good-looking. I just knew if he managed to survive he’d fall prey to some slaver or pervert. And I still don’t know if he did.”

He gave a sad laugh. “But I guess living with Indie had taught him how to suffer in silence. How to go a long while between meals. How to move like a ghost around people so they wouldn’t see or hear him.” He looked down the hallway to where Syn was sleeping. “How to take a beating that would kill most people and not surrender to the pain.”

And that explained it too. No wonder Syn didn’t react.

He was used to it.

Digger took a sip of water. “One of the few times Sheridan talked about being on the street, he told me that he used to crawl up under Dumpsters to sleep and keep the scum away from him at night. Can you imagine? The filth, the smell . . . The rats?” he shuddered. “Sheridan either ate out of the garbage or stole what he needed to eat and, when he was old enough, he took up Indie’s primary occupation.”

“Murder?”

Digger snorted in indignation. “Sheridan would never kill anyone what didn’t try and kill him first. I told you, he ain’t his father.” He gave her a nasty glare. “Filching was what started Indie off on his criminal career. He was the best at it. He could hack into any security system, and he designed them so well that no one could even begin to breach his codes . . . except for Sheridan, and that used to make him insane. He never could keep Sher out of whatever file he wanted.”

There was pride in his eyes when he spoke about that—like he’d had something to do with it. “When Sheridan was old enough, Indie taught him how to work the systems.”

Then his look turned dark again. “If he messed up, on a good day, Indie would break some of his fingers for it. On a bad day, he’d break Talia’s.”

He shook his head, his features tormented. “And you know the saddest and sickest part of it all? She was buried right after his father and me was arrested. Sheridan, in custody at that point, was the only one at her funeral, and I remember them news people broadcasting how cold he was over it. They had a picture of him at her grave, dry eyed, and they painted him as a monster, which is another reason why they sent him to jail and no one would take him in. ‘Ten years old and already his father’s son,’ that’s that they said. A second generation Wade psycho in the making.”

He spat in fury. “Sheridan didn’t cry because Indie would burn or scald him anytime he cried until he learnt not to. That boy was never allowed to shed a tear without making it worse on himself. So when Sheridan didn’t cry, the media crucified him for it. Son of the devil, as heartless as his father. May they all burn in hell.”

Anger burned deep in his eyes. “Some of the victims’ families were there when they returned him to jail just so they could spit on the ten-year-old boy who’d lost everything in his life, including his freedom, for nothing more than the fact that he was born and that he didn’t die when his own mother tried to drown him. The media painted it like he deserved that, too. Can you imagine going to bury your sister wearing armor and handcuffs and manacles? Alone? Having people throw things and spit at you?”