Born of Fire (Page 41)

Born of Fire (The League #2)(41)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

Shahara had to stifle a smart comeback to that. But the one thing she knew about him was that he used sarcasm as a defense and a cover for his real feelings. “No, not that. You were searching for something. What was it?”

Syn was completely unprepared for the wave of emotion that ripped through him over her simple question. It tore a hole straight through his heart and left it ragged and bleeding.

Something he would never share with someone else. “Nothing.” He stepped around her.

But she was relentless in her pursuit. “Don’t lie to me. I know better. They took something extremely valuable to you.” She pulled a small handful of tattered bits from her pocket and handed it to him. “I found this in the debris.”

Grief choked him as he saw Talia’s bruised face staring at him. That one expression took him straight back to his childhood. Back to the horror and pain that had battered him every day of his life.

His hand shook as he reached for this last tie to the sister who had meant the world to him. “I tried to save her, you know.”

Shahara heard the pain in his voice and it cut through her soul. “What happened to her wasn’t your fault.”

Syn didn’t believe that for a second. “If I had gotten home sooner . . . I was supposed to come straight back . . .” He paused as he fought down his tears. “But I didn’t. I stopped in a park and . . . I was so stupid and selfish. I just wanted to have a few minutes where no one was yelling at me or hitting me. A few minutes to sit in the sun and feel like I was normal. Gah, I’m such a f**king idiot. Had I just gone home . . .”

Shahara pulled him into her arms and held him close. How could he call that selfish? A child shouldn’t have to feel so much pain.

And neither should this man. He who gave so much to others. He put the world first. Too bad no one had ever done that for him.

If only she could take away his pain.

Syn let the softness of her skin soothe him even as his bitter memories surged.

“You were just a kid.”

He shook his head in denial as her thumb stroked his cheek, sending waves of pleasure through him in spite of the pain that ravaged him. “I was never a child any more than you were. She was my responsibility and while I sat on a bench, watching a group of kids play ball, she was slicing open her wrists.” He felt his tears well as he remembered that day so clearly.

Why did you leave me, Talia . . .

In a life marked by betrayals, hers stung the deepest.

Closing his eyes, he inhaled the scent of Shahara’s skin. But not even that could soothe him. “I stole a flower from the park and took it home to her, hoping it would make her smile. When I opened the door to give it to her, she was on the bed, covered in blood.”

Everything had gone black and white in his vision as he saw her lying awkwardly on the bed, except for the bright red blood that haunted him to this day. It stood out starkly against the other colors.

Dropping the daisy to the floor, he’d screamed out, “No!” A cry of agony that had come straight from the deepest, darkest part of his young being as he ran to the bed to try and wake her.

But he’d known it was useless.

She’d left him alone in a world that hated him as much as it had hated her.

He’d slipped on her blood that had soaked the floor and had crawled on his hands and knees while he sobbed, begging her to live. Begging her to open her eyes and tell him he wasn’t so bad. Sobbing and desperate, he’d taken her cold hand and held it to his face. “Why would you leave me, Talia? Why?” But in his heart he’d known the answer.

It was the same reason Mara had left him.

He wasn’t good enough.

Now Shahara held him close as he tightened his grip on her. “It’s all right, Syn. I have you.”

He didn’t believe that. No one had him or wanted him. They never had. He pulled back from her and handed her the photo remains. “Thanks for finding this, but it’s not what I was looking for.”

“Then tell me. Maybe I saw it. Talk to me, Syn. Please.”

Syn wanted to tell her to go to hell. But she reached out and cupped his cheek in her hand. It was such a tender touch. No one had ever comforted him like this.

Not even Mara

And he was helpless before it. Before he could stop himself, he answered. “It was a note.”

She pulled back to frown at him. “A note?”

Syn closed his eyes as more agony ripped him apart. Even now he could see Paden’s bright, happy face as his son had run to greet him when he came home from work the night before the reporter had ruined his perfect lie of a life. He’d scooped the boy up and laughed as he hugged him close, grateful to have such a pure, untainted love to call his own.

Paden had bounced in his arms. “Daddy! Daddy! Look what I made!” He’d stuck a piece of paper in his face so close that at first all Syn could see was a bright blue color.

Laughing, he’d kissed his son’s cheek and pulled the drawing back until it came into focus. It was the two of them standing in the hospital with a rainbow over their heads. And in the rainbow, Paden had scrawled the words: I lov you, Dedy.

Nothing had ever meant more to him than those precious words that had been written from his son’s heart. That one moment of pure joy, knowing that after all he’d been through, he had one person alive who really loved him. One person who saw him as he wanted to be.

He could still feel those tiny arms around his neck as Paden kissed his cheek and laid his head on his shoulder.

A perfect, untainted moment . . .

Gods, to have that back for a single second . . .

But it was gone, along with the love and respect Paden had had for him.

“Get away from me, you lying bastard. I don’t want anything from you. Thank the gods you’re not my real father. You disgust me. I never want to see you again.” Those were the last words Paden had said to him.

But not even those harsh words could erase that one precious memory . . . or that drawing that he’d kept all these years in a watertight container sewn into his backpack.

His last memento of the life he’d wanted so desperately to live. A life he’d fought so hard for and one he missed every single second of the solitary hell he was now living.

Somehow they’d found it, and it was as gone as his son’s love.

I should have never kept it.

“Syn?”

He stared into a pair of golden eyes that even now looked at him suspiciously. Couldn’t one person ever see him? “It was just a stupid note, Shahara. Nothing more.”

Shahara didn’t believe him. There was too much pain in his eyes. She brushed his hair back from his forehead and even without him telling her, she knew what it had to be. Only one thing could have shredded him like this.

“It was from Paden, wasn’t it?”

He pulled away from her.

“Talk to me, Syn.”

“I’m not a woman, Shahara. Yes, it was from Paden. Now can we leave it alone?” He moved to pick up his clothes.

Her entire being ached at the knowledge of his tender soul that had been pulverized by everyone around him. And what had he treasured most?

A note written by a child he’d loved. One he continued to love and care for even while the child spurned him.

It was so unfair.

How could anyone ever leave him? What kind of fool had Mara been that she could shove away a man capable of such love and devotion even when she didn’t deserve it?

And in that instant, she realized the most frightening thing of all.

She loved him. This man, this stranger, had infiltrated not only her heart, but her very soul. The more she learned of him, the more she cared. The more she wanted to soothe him . . .

Life had dealt him the worst possible hand and still he’d survived without losing his decency. She didn’t know how he’d managed to keep what so many others, including herself, had lost.

But then, he was one of a kind and that was what she loved most.

Not since childhood had she ever allowed herself to think of the future, to hope for someone to call her own. She’d given up all hope of ever loving someone outside her siblings. Of caring so much about them that she’d lay down her life to keep them safe.

Now she did.

She wanted Syn. She wanted to spend every single moment with him and him alone. There was no way to change his past, but she could make sure that he’d have no more lonely holidays. That his future included someone he could talk to, someone he could trust.

And that person would be her.

He deserves better than you. It was so true, but those better than her didn’t see the beauty that was his battered heart. They didn’t appreciate what a rarity he was.

Most of all, they couldn’t protect him from a world that was hostile and cold. But she could make sure no one hurt him anymore.

Ever.

You have an oath to uphold. He’s a wanted criminal. Even without Merjack’s and Zamir’s warrants, he was still under indictment from thirty-five other systems.

Being with him would cost her everything.

No, that wasn’t true. Not everything, because being without him would cost her her heart.

Doing something she’d never done before, she threw her common sense aside and kissed him. To hell with her oath of office. None of that mattered to her, anymore.

Only he did. And she would see to it that no one ever hurt him again.

Syn’s mind whirled at the unexpected contact. Her lips were as light as a feather as they tugged against his. Instinctively, he held her against him, pulling her closer until her br**sts were pressed flat against him.

She tasted so good, felt even better. All he wanted was to spend the rest of his life holding her like this. But that could never be. Fate had conspired against him from the moment of his conception and, the way things were going, it wasn’t about to give him a break for anything.

Still, he had this one moment. This instant to call his own. How could he turn away?

He pulled back from her lips and stared into her passion-darkened eyes. Her hungry look took his breath away. There was no accusation there. No restraint.

It was open and inviting.

How could she want him after she’d learned so much about him? It was amazing. Never in his life had he made love to a woman who knew much of anything about him. And none of them had ever known his past, his true identity.

But Shahara did. She knew the horrors and the scars that had been left behind. It made him feel vulnerable and afraid.

She ran her hands over his bare skin. Chills spread down his back and arms as she gently rubbed the muscles of his chest.

With a wicked smile, she leaned forward and suckled the hollow of his throat.

Growling with pleasure, he tensed as his body erupted in flames. Gone were all thoughts of anything except the pure joy of her hot lips on his throat—of her hands soothing him.

Shahara felt a moment of shyness as he removed her top, but it vanished the moment he kissed her. His hands gave her pleasure everywhere they touched, her arms, her br**sts, and the throbbing ache between her legs.

She pulled at his towel, needing to feel him inside her again. It fell in a puddle at their feet.

With her own insatiable hunger, she tugged at his lips with her teeth, wanting to devour him.

“I need you, Syn,” she whispered softly. She wanted to tell him that she loved him, but he wouldn’t accept that from her. He was too jaded to believe in something as easy and paltry as words. It was something she’d have to show to a man like him.

He sank to the floor with her before he removed the rest of her clothes. Shahara bit her lip, amazed that she still had no fear of him. Amazed that she welcomed his touch when she’d never been so easy with anyone else.

Syn soothed her. He silenced her doubts and her insecurities. With him, she was finally whole. She was the woman she’d always wanted to be. One who could be touched without fear. Most of all, she could rely on him. When everything was falling apart, when enemies had her cornered, he stood by her side to protect and help her.

Her eyes misting, she touched his newest wound on his shoulder. A wound he’d taken for her . . .

He was all she’d ever wanted, wrapped up in a package that should offend her to the core of her being.

But that was Syn. Ever full of surprises. Ever full of strength and integrity.

Most of all, loyalty.

Reaching up, she pulled his lips back to hers.

Syn trembled at the wave of emotions her simple kiss evoked. Gods, how he wanted to believe in her, but how could he? He’d been wounded so many times by those he trusted.

Would she be any different?

I don’t have another fresh start in me. He’d had to start over one time too many. He was tired now. Soul-weary.

But as he looked into those eyes that seared him, his heart wouldn’t listen. It wanted to believe in her and it wasn’t listening to reason.

“Hold me,” he breathed in her ear. She wrapped her arms around him and he closed his eyes to savor the feeling.

One perfect moment.

Lying nak*d on the floor with her breath tickling his neck, with her arms holding him against her body. This was heaven.