Born of Fury (Page 10)

Born of Fury (The League #7)(10)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

“At least I’m not the one tainted with human blood!” he snarled after her. He cast a feral lip curl at Sumi before he pushed himself up and stormed out.

Okay then.

Sumi released a slow, steady breath. She didn’t know why, but she felt bad for all of them. And honestly, rather intimidated by Thia. For a little thing, she was ferocious and highly unpredictable.

Who was her father?

To her knowledge, Hauk only had Fain and Keris as brothers. But then she hadn’t done that extensive a dig into his family. Only enough to get the parameters of this mission straight in her mind. And Fain had never said much of anything about his family. Since he’d been disowned by them, he’d told everyone, even her, that he was an orphan with no blood lineage whatsoever.

“What do you mean, we’re staying here another day?” Darice whined outside. “Gah! It’s not fair! This is supposed to be my Endurance, not an exercise in learning to tolerate humans!”

“And it’s not supposed to be an exercise in my learning to tolerate you,” Hauk shot back. “Now do what I told you.”

“You’re not my father! I don’t have to do what you tell me.” There was no missing the hatred beneath those words.

Thia let out a tired sigh. “And all this wondrous joy because my father can’t stand the thought that I’m a grown woman and he can’t rule my entire life anymore.”

“Not a word against your father, Thee. That’s my brother you’re talking about, and I will not have you disparage him in my presence.”

“Disparage him? Excuse me? Have you met my father, Uncle Hauk? The man who smiles with a grimace and has perpetual PMS and an itchy trigger finger? Try dating with that…” When she spoke again, it was in a falsetto. “Why yes, hon, my father is the legendary killer with a higher body count than the top three League assassins combined. No, he’s not planning to eat you or hide your body, dear. That’s his version of a smile, and yes, we’re all well aware of the fact that he looks like he’s in extreme pain when he does it. Just don’t make any sudden moves and you might live long enough to get to the front door…” She made a shriek of indignation. “Really, I should just go ahead and join a convent now.”

Hauk snorted at her tirade. “Be glad you have a father who loves you.”

“I am delirious that he loves me. I just wish he’d loosen the noose once in a while so that I can breathe around the choke hold.”

Sumi swallowed hard as she realized who Thia’s father was. Given that tirade, there was only one male it could be. Nykyrian Quiakides. Crowned prince of both the Andarion and Triosan empires.

And the most wanted being in the history of The League.

Holy gods…

Nykyrian was the assassin who’d taken the eye of the prime commander. The one creature Kyr Zemin would sell his soul to have in custody.

And his prized daughter was standing just outside this tent. A daughter Nykyrian would do anything to protect.

Even die for her.

If Sumi handed Thia over with Hauk, Kyr would give her anything she wanted. Not only would she be able to negotiate Kalea’s freedom from League custody, Sumi might be able to bargain for her own.

Her conscience balked at the idea of making such a trade. But Kyr wouldn’t hurt Thia… and as Thia had pointed out, she was full grown.

Unlike her baby.

Kalea was barely three. Still young enough that she would have no memory of being in League custody. If Sumi could get her back now, they could finally be a family. It was the only thing she’d ever wanted. The only thing she’d ever craved.

Closing her eyes, she cherished the thought of finally knowing what her baby girl looked like. Of being able to hold and rock her to sleep at night.

Those strangers outside were her key to that dream.

She was going to get her baby back. No matter who or what she had to betray. Nothing and no one came before her Kalea.

CHAPTER 7

Sumi froze as she uncovered the only personal item of Hauk’s, other than clothes, she’d found during her thorough search of his meager belongings. It was a palm-sized device that held his rowdy native Andarion music, a few videos and photos, and files written in the strangest alphabet she’d ever seen. It might be from encryption, but she’d lay money that was what the Andarion language looked like. She’d never seen their written language before, however it only made sense that he’d keep files in his native tongue. And if it contained anything so sensitive that it needed encrypting, she was sure Hauk wouldn’t have left it where she might find it. Rather he’d have it on him.

Curious, she opened the file marked Family in the Universal alphabet so that she could flip through his images.

She’d expected it to contain mostly photos of Darice and Hauk’s brothers, the rest of his blood family. Yet oddly enough, the majority of images were human children and infants of varying ages, including one of Hauk playfully sparring with a much younger Thia. The girl was even skinnier than now, with braces and short, dyed red hair. Even so, it appeared she was giving Hauk a good run as they laughed and fought.

And as Sumi flipped through more, she couldn’t help smiling at the pictures of Hauk holding the human babies and children. They were so tiny in comparison to him. He looked awkward and scared in some, and in others – later ones – he was much more confident. One of the most adorable was a more recent image of him with a girl around a year old. She was dressed in a frilly tulle gown that filled Hauk’s muscular arms with pink fluff. Laughing, the girl had her hands tangled in his braids while she laid her little head against his massive shoulder.

Tears filled Sumi’s eyes as she thought about her own daughter, and wished Kalea could grow up with a doting father who would cradle and protect her so adoringly. Unlike Sumi’s own callous bastard progenitor who had donated his sperm to her and her sister, and begrudged them everything else. Never mind the rank dog who’d tried to murder her when he found out she was pregnant with his child.

She flinched at the memory of Avin’s violent reaction when she’d given him what she’d stupidly thought was happy news. “You got pregnant on purpose just to trap me in this godforsaken job I despise, didn’t you, you bitch! I hate you!”

Part of her didn’t believe that any man could be a decent parent, or person for that matter. It just wasn’t in their genetic makeup.

And yet…

She wanted to believe that there really were decent and kind men in the universe. Somewhere… probably microbial fathers, living under a rock on some remote backwater planet.

She drew a ragged breath, hoping she was wrong. Surely, statistically, they couldn’t all be ass**les. Could they?

Maybe I am nothing more than an ass**le magnet, after all. It certainly made sense, given her dating record. Yeah, I take perfectly nice guys and ruin them.

Forcing her thoughts away from that uselessness, Sumi paused as she discovered a picture of Hauk around the age of five with his brothers. She hadn’t realized Keris was that much older until she saw them together. Fain, however, didn’t appear more than two, maybe three years ahead of Hauk. With their arms slung over each other’s shoulders, and bright smiles, they were the epitome of loving siblings… until she flipped to the next one that was time-stamped a few seconds later. Then, they were in an entwined heap on the floor, viciously fighting.

She laughed in spite of herself. How very Andarion.

For that matter, how very male.

The next was of Hauk in his late teens or early twenties in an Andarion government IT contractor uniform standing back-to-back with Nykyrian Quiakides, who was wearing a League assassin’s battlesuit that held the command assassin rank on the sleeve. Arms folded across their chests, they appeared ready to take on the entire universe.

No wonder Hauk considered the Andarion prince his brother. They appeared to have been good friends for a very long time.

It was so strange to see these glimpses into Hauk’s past. Like seeing his underwear – which he apparently didn’t have – or being able to read his thoughts. Each photo betrayed the heart of a fierce beast she knew would kill her without flinching if he ever learned why she was really here.

For all the humanity in these pictures, she’d seen the warrior who had brazenly stormed a League prison to back his friends, and fought against overwhelming odds to emerge victorious.

He was terrifying as a soldier. Like her, a brutal killer.

And that hadn’t been the only time he’d participated in such an assault. The Sentella was forever making those kinds of raids against The League. Never had they retreated. Never had they been defeated.

By anyone.

Frowning, she hesitated at an image of Hauk pretending to choke the Caronese emperor, who was barely more than a scrawny teenager at the time it was taken. It was obvious the two of them were clowning for the photographer. And while she knew the Caronese emperor wasn’t a small man, he appeared tiny next to Hauk. But more than that, the next series of pictures with the two of them over the years showed that Hauk viewed the emperor more as a pesky little brother than an untouchable, elite aristo.

And that the two of them were extremely close. There was even one where they were both wounded from battle. Dressed in unmarked black battlesuits, Darling lay with his head uncovered on Hauk’s stomach while they were either passed out or asleep. His helmet clenched in his left hand, Hauk had his right arm slung across the emperor’s chest as if, even half dead, he’d fight to protect him. As a goof, someone named Syn had handwritten the word “blackmail” across the photo before he’d e-mailed it to Hauk.

Completely charmed and amused, she laughed at the warped humor, and wondered if Hauk had beaten the sender for it. But then he must have taken it in stride, or he would have deleted the photo long ago and not kept a copy.

And there were many more of him and the emperor and Nykyrian, as well as several other men, climbing in various terrains and climates. But the ones that fascinated her most were where he and his friends were free solo climbing. There were numerous pictures of them hanging from boulders and rocks by nothing more than their fingertips.

Ye gods, that was a dangerous combination of brave and stupid.

Yet the sight of Hauk’s bulging muscles while he dangled precariously fascinated her and made her breathless. The male was fearless and ripped in a way that had to be illegal in most galaxies. And it left her with fantasies that would have Kyr cutting her throat if he ever learned of them.

How could anyone be so lickably delicious?

When she got to one of Hauk on top of a picturesque mountain, with his arm around a Hyshian female, she froze. The woman was beautiful. Exquisitely so. There was no missing the admiration and love in their eyes as they stared at each other. A weird, inexplicable fissure of jealousy went through her. Though why she would care who Hauk loved was beyond her.

Disturbed by that thought, she quickly moved on past additional photos of them together that did nothing to improve her ire.

Until she came to a photo of five people. Her heart leapt into her throat as a bitter chill consumed her. Hauk, Nykyrian, Darling, the Hyshian woman, and another handsome man with dark hair and dark eyes, who’d been in several of the earlier pictures.

All five wore unmarked red-tinged black battlesuits…

The same suits that were used by Sentella members.

Holy shit.

This was the five members of The Sentella High Command. It had to be. She’d meticulously studied the footage of their mission into The League prison enough to know their heights and builds as well as her own. With them clustered together, there was no mistaking those tough I-will-kill-you-where-you-stand stances.

Oh my God, this is it. She had what she’d been sent for.

Swallowing hard, she shivered. With this one, condemning picture, she could destroy The Sentella once and for all. This, right here in her hand, was the intel Kyr would sell his other eye to possess…

“Uncle Hauk?”

Sumi quickly turned the device off and stowed it as she heard Hauk and Thia outside, preparing dinner. Terrified of being caught and killed, she scrambled back to her pallet while her heart continued to hammer in her chest.

But the images were burned in her mind. Worse, they made Hauk a real person to her. Not a target. And that was so dangerous it wasn’t even remotely amusing.

I cannot allow myself to feel anything for him.

He must remain the enemy and nothing more personal than that. It was the only way for this to work. The only way she could survive and do what she had to do. For her sake and for Kalea’s. She’d already made the mistake of putting her life and faith into a man and his integrity.

Sumi had barely lived to regret that stupidity. There was no way she’d ever do that again.

She refused to be a victim. It was that stubborn determination that made her such a lethal killer. Why she was one of the best assassins in her division.

When she went on the hunt, it was to the end. Nothing ever distracted her or got in her way. Especially not her own feelings.