Born of Ice (Page 21)

Born of Ice (The League #3)(21)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

Alix grimaced at him. “Doesn’t that kind of murder bother you at all?”

His gaze turned brittle. “Given everything people have done to me in my life, little girl, especially in my childhood when I was helpless against them, humanity is lucky I’m not on a perpetual killing spree. As for the Merjacks… I owe them a debt that no amount of violence on my part will settle. So, no. Nothing about killing him would bother me.”

“But this isn’t your fight,” Devyn said, drawing Nero’s icy stare away from her. “It’s mine. It’s my family he’s after and I will be the one who settles this.”

Nero scoffed at his bravado. “Don’t be stupid, Devyn.”

“I’m not. This is a blood feud. The man doesn’t want me, he wants to hurt my parents. I will end this.”

Nero shook his head. “Aneurysm’s quicker. I’m just saying.”

Devyn was unamused by his persistence. “Merjack needs to suffer for what he’s done to Alix’s family. If he dies, they’re still slaves. Legally owned. And they will be sold to the highest bidder… after they’ve been raped. We have to get them emancipated and then deal with him.”

Nero let out a sound of supreme disgust. “I still don’t understand why I can’t kill them and you buy her and her people. Not like you don’t have the money, Dev. The handful of people who could outbid you are your own family and they wouldn’t dare. Even if they did, they would never hurt her or her family.”

Devyn wanted to choke him for the obstinacy. “Scalera, it’s not that simple. A, the government doesn’t have to sell them. They can choose to keep them as slaves and there’s nothing I can do about that. B, because they’re government-owned slaves, the Rits could just kill them for no reason. Disposal of property… which is vintage for those bastards.”

“That’s a good point.”

Alix looked at Nero. “Can’t you teleport them to safety? Like you just did with the part?”

“No. The part wasn’t organic or all that heavy. It doesn’t move and drain my powers or fight against me. I can do quick pops in and out with people, but to pull two women out of there for the distance I’d have to travel… it’d burn my brain cells out and leave me a vegetable.”

Sway laughed. “That would be different from your normal state, how?”

Omari ignored his barb as he sat forward. “Maybe we could find something Merjack wants and exchange it for them?”

“That would be your father, pup,” Nero said as he rolled his water bottle back and forth in front of him. “You want to make that transaction?”

“Uh… not today. He hasn’t pissed me off.”

Devyn stroked his chin as he considered their options. “There has to be dirt on him. His family was too corrupt for him to be the only innocent one.”

“Dirt is always good,” Nero agreed. “What are you thinking?”

“I’m not sure. Let me get my father on this and see what he can find out about Merjack’s past. There has to be something he’s hiding. Something we can use.”

Alix wished she could believe in that. “And what if we’re wrong? What if there is no dirt on Merjack?”

“Oh, I can answer this one.” Omari raised his hand like he was in a classroom, then dropped it to his side. “We all die.”

Nero snorted. “I just love teenage angst. By the way, chip, there are worse things in life than dying.”

“Like what?”

Alix answered before Nero could. “Living as a slave.”

Nero passed a look to her that said he understood exactly what she meant, and it made her wonder if he shared a past so similar to hers that he would know.

Devyn’s throat tightened at the pain he heard in Alix’s voice. He wanted to comfort her, but this wasn’t the time for it. “All right, guys and lady. We have a day and a half to get everything in place. Merjack wants evidence and we want Merjack. Let’s hope the best team wins.”

Omari cleared his throat. “Otherwise, we’re screwed.”

Alix buzzed Devyn’s quarters. She probably shouldn’t be here, but she wanted to talk to him alone and thank him for a kindness she’d never expected, especially after she’d lied to him.

His door opened.

Devyn sat at the desk across from her where he was working at his computer. “What can I do for you?”

She was hesitant as she stepped inside and the door slid shut. “I just wanted to say thank you for not launching me out an airlock and for helping me and my family. It was something I never expected.”

“It’s all right. Helping people is what we do.”

“Yeah, but unlike the others, I have no way to pay you for it.”

He froze as if she’d just insulted him. “You think I’m getting paid for what I do?”

“Of course. It’s why you run. It pays a lot more than freighting.”

He curled his lip. “I have never and I will never take a single credit for what I do. We run humanitarian missions to those who have nothing. What we do is out of compassion, not for profit.”

Alix was as baffled by his indignation as she was his words. “I don’t understand. How can you afford a ship like this if you don’t get paid?”

“I’m loaded, Alix. In the filthiest sense of that word.”

“I don’t understand.” His father was a retired filch and his mother a tracer. While more lucrative than what her father had done, those weren’t exactly professions that made people wealthy.

“In addition to owning a part of The Sentella, my father owns Precision Shipping.”

Alix gaped. Precision Shipping was the number-one freight company in the universe. They had contracts with everyone. Literally.

“And my mother is the co-owner of the Dagan Investment Group.”

That stunned her even more. DIG was the largest charity organization in existence. They funded schools, co-ops, hospitals…you name it.

His gaze bored into hers. “The only person on this ship who gets paid for what they do is you, Alix. The rest of us live off our trust funds and we use those funds for our humanitarian missions. I do what I do because I can’t stand to see innocent people bullied by a corrupt government. I don’t want to see a baby starve and die because some fat politician wants to work its parents into the ground for a mineral most of them can’t even pronounce.”

She felt ill at his words and at the way she’d misjudged him. “I am so sorry, Devyn. I had no idea. I can’t believe I almost got you killed.”

“Well, you’re not the first person to misjudge me. I doubt you’ll be the last.”

Yes, but she felt terrible as she moved closer to him. “I don’t understand then. If you’re not gouging people, why is The League after you?”

“Simple. I was a League soldier who tore down my commanding officer and half my unit. Taryn’s father, Emperor Quiakides, got me off the charges, but it doesn’t mean The League isn’t still after me. After all, running through a League blockade when they’ve cut off supplies to a civilian population is considered treason. They catch someone doing that and it’s over.”

“Why did you tear down your unit?”

“They wanted me to leave Omari to die.”

She was aghast at that. “Vik told me that you’d left The League to save Omari, but I didn’t know you’d attacked them when you did it. I thought he was being metaphorical when he said you’d ruined your career for him.” Horrified, she shook her head. “How could they ask you to leave your own son?”

“He wasn’t my son then. He was just a wounded kid, crying for his mother who was lying dead in the ditch next to him, the victim of a League attack. I was raised that you don’t hurt kids. No matter what they do, they should be cherished.”

She stared at him in wonder. “Do you have a single vice?”

He laughed as he leaned back. “More than my share.”

“Such as?”

The humor fled his features. “I killed the woman I was supposed to marry.”

“While she was trying to kill you.”

“Yeah, but most men wouldn’t have done it. I have a hair-trigger temper that explodes. And while I have a code, I will kill anyone who threatens me or my family.”

“Except for Merjack.”

“Merjack lives only because I want it to stop. I take him out and his son comes for us, et cetera. My goal is to break the chain and make sure that when I’m done with Merjack, he won’t ever have the guts or the ability to come after my family again.”

“And if you can’t?”

“‘Can’t’ isn’t in my vocabulary. I will take him down. Hard. And this will end the feud once and for all.”

A tremor of respect mixed with desire ran down her spine. She loved whenever he was fierce, especially when it was protecting the ones he loved and it made her wish that she’d been born to a different time and station.

But those were stupid dreams. He was the son of a rich shipper and she was a worthless slave.

Disheartened, she dropped her gaze to the picture frame on Devyn’s desk. A smile played at the edges of her lips as she saw a beautiful woman with dark auburn hair. “Your mother?”

He nodded as the screen flashed to a couple. “That’s my dad with her.”

“You look just like him.”

“That’s what they tell me, but I don’t see it. Except for our eyes.”

The next picture was of him and Zarina when Zarina was a little girl, then a bunch of pictures flashed with him and two blond males. “Zarina’s brothers, Adron and Jayce,” he explained.

“Your family is huge.”

“Tell me about it. I had no privacy growing up. Adron was always staying over at the house because he wanted space.” He laughed. “The boy lived in a palace ten times the size of our house, which don’t get me wrong, was pretty big, but still…”

Then she saw Taryn and his twin, along with several photos of Omari growing up.

She touched one photo of him holding Manashe when Manashe was a puppy. “Omari is gorgeous, isn’t he?”

“Yeah. I couldn’t be prouder or love him more if he’d been born to me.”

Alix smiled at the pride in his voice as she leaned down to kiss him. He arched a brow at her actions. “You’re getting frisky again?”

“I get frisky every time you’re near me. I really can’t thank you enough for what you’re trying to do.”

His eyes darkened as she opened his shirt. “You don’t have to do this to thank me.”

“I’m not.” She was doing this because she wanted to feel safe again and the only place where she’d ever found that was in his arms.

Devyn stood up and started for the bed.

Her gaze dropped back to the photos and when another picture flashed, her smile and desire died instantly. She reached out and froze the scroll.

No…

It couldn’t be.

Yet there was no mistaking that face. It was a younger version of the man, but it was him. Definitely.

She looked at Devyn in total shock and horror. “Why do you have a photo of Lieutenant Whelms?”

CHAPTER 9

Devyn sat in stunned silence. His brother wanted him dead… No, not dead.

Convicted.

Why?

He just couldn’t believe it. He’d never done anything to his brother. Hell, he hadn’t even met Paden. Only heard stories about him from his father.

“Are you all right?”

He was completely stunned as he met Alix’s concerned frown. “Not really… Are you sure about this?”

She nodded. “Believe me, he left an impression. That man”—she pointed at the picture of Paden—”wants your head on a platter. I saw his ID and everything. If Paden Whelms is your brother’s name, then he’s the one I’m supposed to deliver you to.”

Last he’d heard, his brother’s name was Paden Belask, but it was too similar to not believe her. After all, people changed their names, and while he’d never known the name Whelms, it didn’t mean it wasn’t the same person. “It doesn’t make any sense. I’ve never met him.”

“You don’t know your own brother?”

He shook his head. “My father had him with his first wife. After their divorce, Paden had no use for him, and I was born after he was grown. Honestly, I wouldn’t know him if he was standing in front of me.”

“Then why do you have a photo of him?”

“In case I ever ran across him by accident. I just wanted to know what my half-brother looked like.”

Alix was baffled by all of this. “But that doesn’t explain why he would be after you.”

“The only thing I can figure is that he wants to use me to hurt my father.”