Born of Fury (Page 63)

Born of Fury (The League #7)(63)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

Nyk cradled Zarina against him. “Now, you stay with your gut in a knot, and you want to tether them to you to make sure no one can touch them, because you know exactly what your enemies would do if they ever laid hands on them.”

Hauk hated just how true every bit of that was. “How do you cope?”

“That’s the question, drey. When you find an answer, please let me know.”

He shook his head.

“Honestly,” Nyk continued. “The only thing that keeps me going is the memory of what it was like without them.” He kissed the top of Zarina’s head. “There are days when I feel like I’m barely hanging on to my sanity. When I wonder if I did the right thing by bringing them into my hostile world. Then I feel like a selfish ass**le for it.” He looked down at his daughter and smiled at her. “But truthfully, I can’t imagine going back.” He held Zarina up to Hauk’s eye level. “If I have to lose sleep, I can’t think of a better reason than this little face.”

He gave Zarina a lopsided grin. “She is a cutie, even if she does keep springing leaks all over.” And right now, she was going to town on Nykyrian’s thumb.

Pain hit him so hard as he tried to think about what might happen to Sumi and Kalea. “I don’t know if I can let her step into that ring tomorrow, Nyk. Dariana’s a nasty bitch, and highly trained.”

“From what I saw, Sumi’s no slacker. Anyone who can take the chunk out of Kyr that she did is more than equal to the challenge. Kyr might be psychotic, but he’s never been weak or unskilled.” Nyk clapped him on the shoulder. “You know we won’t let anything happen to your family. Not after everything you’ve done for ours. Breathe, Hauk. Have faith.”

Ironic, coming from a male who’d been a devout atheist until Kiara had entered his life. She had changed so much about Nyk, and not in a bad way. She’d taken a savage beast and tamed him. Taught him humanity. While Nyk had always been loyal to his friends, he hadn’t been long on compassion, and a discussion like this one would never have happened ten years ago.

Now…

Hauk glanced back at Sumi, who was sampling the food Ture had brought for her. Her long blond hair was plaited and fell over one shoulder while she smiled up at him and chatted. Overwhelming love and fear consumed him. “God help me, Nyk. I can’t lose her.”

Nykyrian glanced over to Kiara. “I know. But it’ll be fine. We have your daughter, and we will find the traitor and deal with it. The entire Andarion army and armada are at your disposal. Not to mention The Sentella and Tavali… and now Phrixians.”

Kiara came back to take Zarina, who was starting to fuss. “Daddy ignoring his baby girl?” she asked in a high-pitched tone. “Shame on him.” She blew air against Zarina’s cheek, which made the baby laugh before Kiara headed toward Sumi.

Nyk wiped his hand off on his pants leg. He started to say something, then he cursed.

Before Hauk could ask what was wrong, Nyk took off at a dead run. His heart stopped in fear of an unknown attacker, until he saw his friend rush to one of the columns where Adron was quickly climbing up, out of reach.

Nykyrian snatched his son down. “What are you doing?”

“Jayce said I couldn’t make it to the top. I was showing him he was wrong.”

Growling, Nykyrian tossed his son over his shoulder and held him upside down by the legs. “I swear on my life, I could lock you both in a padded room and you’d still find something dangerous to do.”

Hauk laughed as he grabbed Adron from Nyk’s hold and swung him around. “You making your dad crazy again?”

“Toss me, Uncle Hauk!”

He threw Adron into the air and caught him. As he started to do it again, he saw Kalea running to her mom… holding Jayce’s hand.

“Look, Mommy! Jayce made me a flower crown like a princess. He says I’m the prettiest of all!”

Raw, unmitigated anger tore through him as he set Adron down and glared at Nykyrian, who was laughing over it.

Sumi jerked around at the sound of an inhuman cry. One second, Dancer was staring at Nykyrian. In the next, he’d pulled out a small stick and extended it into a staff.

Nykyrian did the same as the two of them went to war.

Literally. She hadn’t even known they were armed. Gaping, she watched as they assaulted each other with seasoned ferocity and skill. It was impressive and terrifying.

“What’s going on?” she asked Kiara.

Kiara let out an irritated sigh. “Who knows? They do that sometimes. One says something and the other draws a weapon or throws a punch. It looks serious, but they never really hurt each other. I’ve learned to ignore them and let it go.”

But Kalea didn’t. Screaming and sobbing, she ran at Nykyrian, who narrowly missed striking her.

That distraction cost Dancer, as Nykyrian’s staff caught him on his chin and busted his lip.

“Don’t you hurt my daddy!” She grabbed Nykyrian’s leg and bit him hard enough to draw blood.

Dancer quickly pulled her back. “Lee-lee, it’s fine. Daddy and Uncle Nyk were playing.”

Still, she sobbed uncontrollably.

Dropping his staff, Dancer cradled her against his chest and wiped at the blood on her lips. “Shh, sweetie. It’s all good. Really.”

Nykyrian knelt down and placed his hand on her head. “We didn’t mean to scare you, Kalea. It’s how we play with each other.”

Sniffling, she picked her head up from Dancer’s shoulder to glare at Nykyrian. When she spoke, it was in short, staccato breaths as she struggled to calm down. “You weren’t trying to kill my daddy?”

“No. I love your daddy. He’s my little brother.”

She continued to gasp for air as she looked up at Dancer. “Your lips are bleeding where he hit you, Daddy. Please, don’t die!”

“It’s just a busted lip. I’m not going to die. Really. I get them all the time.” He wiped the tears from her face. “Don’t cry, Lee-lee. We won’t play fight anymore.”

“Okay.” She wiped at her nose before she scooted away from him.

Hauk frowned as he watched her return to Jayce and Adron, who led her to the sand to play. How weird that would upset her when she’d been so brave the day before. He met Nyk’s apologetic stare. “Is that normal?”

Nyk shrugged. “My kids have never done that. But then they’ve grown up with us sparring against each other. And they’ve seen us both bleed a lot worse than your lip. Sorry about that, by the way.”

“Don’t be. I’m the one who started the fight and dropped his guard.” A bad feeling went through him as his thoughts returned to Kalea’s outburst. “You don’t think they would have had her around death matches at that age, do you?”

He gave Hauk a droll stare. “It’s The League. I wouldn’t put anything past them.”

Neither would he. But one thing was clear. There was no way Kalea would be able to attend the match tomorrow and watch her mother fight Dariana. Unlike Nyk, that bitch wouldn’t be so kind or understanding if Kalea bit her.

Hauk glanced down at Nyk’s leg. “You know you’re bleeding. Right?”

“Yeah, I know. Your daughter has an amazing set of teeth.” Clapping him on the back, Nyk went to Syn to have him stitch it.

Hauk licked at his busted lip as he went over to Sumi, whose brow was creased with worry.

“Did she draw Nykyrian’s blood?”

He nodded. “She was scared.”

“Is Nykyrian all right?” Kiara asked.

“Yeah. Hell, I’ve bit him worse than that in a fight.”

Kiara let out an irritated noise. “I’m going to check on my husband and try not to think about how true that statement is.”

He wiped another round of blood from his lip.

“Are you okay?” Sumi asked.

He nodded. “It caught a fang. Bleeds a lot worse than it hurts.”

“Why did you go after Nykyrian like that?”

Cursing in Andarion, Dancer narrowed his gaze on Jayce as he picked a bouquet of flowers for Kalea to match the crown he’d made her. “That! Right there!” He jerked his chin at them. “Before I met you, Nyk cursed me to have a beautiful daughter. Bastard! I don’t think I’ll ever sleep again.”

Sumi laughed at the anguished look in his eyes as he watched the children, who were being absolutely precious together. Jayce was taking care of Kalea as if she was his little sister. But it was more than that. “You really do think of her as yours, don’t you?”

Hurt and fear mixed in his red eyes as he locked gazes with her. He swallowed hard. “I know she’s your daughter, Sumi. I didn’t mean to presume anything, or trespass. Sorry.”

In that moment, she wanted to kick the snot out of Dariana for her cruelty to him over the years.

“Dancer,” she chided as she realized the source of his fear. She reached out and took his hand into hers. “Sweetie, that’s not what I meant. At all. I want you to think of her as yours. It means more to me than you’ll ever know that you’ve accepted her so thoroughly.”

He kissed her hand then rubbed it against his goatee as if he savored her touch as much as she relished his. He wasn’t one to really talk about his feelings, but she saw them in what he did. She saw them every time he looked at her.

“My fierce warrior,” she breathed.

That brought a smile to his lips. “My fierce Ger Tarra.”

Eleron appeared by his side. “There is a group of two males and a female who are seeking you, Hauk. They say that they’ve brought clothing for your daughter.”

“Bring them here, please.”

“As you wish.” Eleron vanished.

Clearing his throat, he left her to fetch Kalea.

Sumi choked on unexpected tears as she watched that sexy, loose-limbed gait. She would never get over the way he looked whenever he cradled Kalea. Their daughter was so tiny in his muscular arms and he was so gentle with her. So kind.

He rode her back to Sumi on his shoulder where she squealed in delight. Then he flipped her over and sat her next to Sumi’s side.

As the Andarion store clerks came in, Dancer left them with his grandmother, Desideria, Zarya, and Maris. They were quickly joined by Kiara, who made the introductions, and then Ture, who wanted to help pick out clothes.

Sumi had expected them to bring a small bag of clothing. Instead, they had four huge trunks to choose from.

Kalea and Lillya both gasped at all the fae and glitter items, and they tried on different shoes and accessories. There were even matching clothes for Kalea’s doll.

“Mommy!” Kalea gasped as she saw one red dress that was ankle length with a poofy embroidered skirt and beaded neckline and matching sweater. It was, by far, the most beautiful gown she’d ever seen. “It’s a princess dress. Can I have it? Please!”

Biting her lip, Sumi hesitated. She looked for a tag to see the price, but there wasn’t one on it. “How much is it?” she asked the clerk.

He smiled warmly. “Gersen War Hauk had us remove all tags. He wants you and your daughter to buy what you like without worrying over the cost. He was quite explicit that we not dampen your happiness in any way, and that we outfit his daughter like a fae princess.”

Kalea gave her the most adorable begging face.

“Then I guess you can have it, sweetie.”

Kalea squealed as she hugged the dress to her and danced around the chairs.

Sumi pressed her lips together, enjoying the sight of her daughter’s excitement while they picked out the rest of Kalea’s wardrobe. She wished Dancer was here to see it, too. Especially since it was his kindness and generosity that made Kalea so thrilled and happy.

By the time they were done, Kalea had more clothes than Sumi could have dreamed of. She kept trying to say enough, but the other women, and Maris and Ture, came up with reasons and occasions that required more and more.

Giggling, Kalea rolled around on top of her new wardrobe like a happy little piglet.

Dancer finally rejoined them. He arched a brow at her actions. “What are you doing, Lee-lee?”

She sat up with a gasp. “Daddy! Look at what all I got!” She turned to show him the tulle wings on her back before she twitched and wiggled her bottom to make them flap. “They made me a fairy princess! And… and me and Lil got matching dresses, and me and Mommy got matching dresses, and me and my dolly got matching dresses, too!”

Picking her up, he rubbed noses with her. “So you like them?”

“I do!” She lifted her foot. “See my red shoes. Aren’t they pretty! Aunt Mari said he has some the same color.”

Dancer glanced over to Mari. “I think I’ve seen those shoes.”

Maris winked at him. “Where should we stash all her new things?”

“The room that adjoins my bedroom. El can show you the way and open it for you.”

Maris nodded then turned back to Sumi. “Don’t worry. We’ll get this all put away for you. Come, come, everyone. Let’s tuck our girl into her new room.”