Born of Night (Page 22)

Born of Night (The League #1)(22)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

She frowned. “I don’t understand.”

“I’m an outlaw, princess, with a staggering price on my head and a death sentence waiting should I ever be taken. So while I can kill anyone who pisses me off and it won’t effect the outcome of what The League will do to me if they catch me, Syn and the others don’t have my death sentence hanging over their heads. Had I killed Pitala without blood being drawn, they would be considered accomplices to his murder, committed by me, and a death warrant would be issued for them. As it is right now, they only have jail sentences if they’re caught. No offense, I’d like to keep it that way.”

“And if one of them had killed him?”

“They are licensed tracers and assassins. As such, the first blood law governs them, too—because they’re trained. Unless they have a death warrant for the person, they’d better be bleeding when they kill them or they’re screwed.”

She let out a tired breath. “I didn’t realize how complicated the laws were.”

“You’re a civilian. There’s no need for you to know.”

Perhaps, but what a way to find out. “I can’t believe that a government can take out a contract on me and have me killed with immunity while my protectors could be executed for keeping me safe. It just doesn’t make sense.”

“Welcome to The League, princess. The bureaucrats are idiots and so long as a government pays a high enough fee, they make the laws that govern all of you dumb enough to subject yourselves to them.”

“But not you?”

“I only follow the law when it impacts those around me.”

She watched him put the blaster back together, his hands running through the procedure with practiced ease. It was a strange ballet, mesmerizing. “When you decided to quit The League, how did you do it? Did you just tell them no thanks, or what?”

He grimaced, slamming a piece of the grip back into its firing position. “Why do you want to know?”

She shrugged, an image of the promoters running through her mind and how they’d react if she told them to go roast their parts like she’d wanted to many times in the past.

“Because of the courage it took for you to do so. Most people would rather suffer through a bad situation than take the steps needed to free themselves, especially if they knew that by freeing themselves, it would make them hunted. I just want to know how you did it. Did you walk up to your boss and tell him to stuff it or did you go quietly?”

He set the blaster down on the table between them. “I’m not completely suicidal and it wasn’t something I’d ever planned to do. One night I came face to face with what I was, what I’d become. I didn’t want to be that mindless dog anymore, so I took my targets to a safe zone, deposited them there with enough money to make sure they would be cared for for the rest of their lives, and then dug out my tracer and never looked back.”

She frowned. For some reason, she hadn’t imagined it would be that easy to leave The League. “Why?”

Nykyrian paused as he remembered the sight of the little girl screaming as she saw him coming out of the shadows to kill her and her mother. Her mother had been terrified as she’d clung to her child.

Please, not my baby. Please, let her live. She’s only five. She’s done nothing wrong. For the love of the gods, don’t hurt her. Kill me, but spare her. I’ll do anything you ask. She’d jerked her expensive necklace off and held it out to him. Take it. Just spare my baby.

The mother was just as innocent as the child, but she’d never uttered a single word to spare her own life. Only her daughter’s.

Nykyrian had held his knife in his fist as all the years of League training ripped through him. Kill or be killed. If you fail, you will die.

No exceptions.

A part of him had wanted to end their lives simply because they had something he’d never known.

Maternal love.

A mother willing to die for her child. One who would suffer anything to spare it. Rage and jealousy had torn through him as he remembered his own mother sending him into hell when he’d been the same age as the little girl. There had been no compassion on his mother’s face. No tears for him. She’d handed him off to her guards and told them to take him away.

You sicken me, you ugly, worthless bastard. The cold look on his mother’s face still haunted him. Make sure he never returns here.

He could still feel the wrenching sobs he’d cried as he begged his mother to let him stay with her, as he’d cried and promised to be good. To stay out of sight of the rest of the world so that he couldn’t shame her.

She hadn’t listened or cared. Instead, she’d pried his desperate fingers from her wrist and turned her back on him.

But the mother he’d been sent to kill had been different. She’d held her daughter close and shielded her daughter from him with her body.

How could he kill someone whose love was so pure?

He’d given them their lives at the expense of his own. He didn’t even know if it’d been worth it. There really wasn’t much difference in his life. The only thing that had changed was the person telling him to kill and the number of people trying to kill him.

Everything else was the same. The loneliness. The mistrust. The empty place in his soul. All that seemed to be eternal.

And now he looked at Kiara who’d asked him a question he’d asked himself many times over the years.

Why?

There was one truth above all others.

“Because some things are more important than our own lives.” Such as the love of a mother willing to die to save her child. To him that was so rare that, having found it, he hadn’t been willing to destroy it.

Kiara tilted her head to stare at him. “I don’t understand. If you’re an assassin—”

“I was tired of blindly following orders, princess, and in one night it all came to a head. All my life, everything I wore, ate, or did had been dictated to me by someone else. In that one moment, I decided that I would rather be dead than live one more second enslaved to people I couldn’t stand or respect. It was just that simple.”

And it had been just that hard.

She shook her head. “Do you regret it?”

“No. It was the best day of my life.”

“Even though it made you hunted?”

“Yes.”

Kiara nodded, her heart hanging heavy with just one more thing she needed to ask. Finally, she found the courage to bring it up. “Do you ever think of dying? Really?”

Nykyrian rubbed his hand across his jaw. “No. I really don’t care one way or the other.”

He had nothing to live for.

Tears welled up in her eyes. “I want to be like you. But I’m so scared of death. Of what’s on the other side. What if it’s nothing? Or cold and dark? What if we’re there alone without our friends or families? Oh God, I’m so scared.” Covering her trembling lips with her hand, she ran down the hallway to the safety of her room.

Nykyrian sat on the couch, looking down at his weapons on the table. “That is my life now, princess,” he whispered. And she was right. It was hell.

He heard her sobs through the wall. They were the same soul-wrenching ones he’d cried when his mother had abandoned him. The kind that came from the darkest part of the soul where all the pain of the heart lived.

Leave her alone. She’s nothing to you.

But unlike him, she wasn’t used to hurting alone. To knowing no comfort.

His gaze went to the photos of her with her parents and friends. The happy smiles and the hugs.

She was a creature of the light. One used to comfort and warmth.

Damning himself for the weakness, he got up and went to her room. She lay curled into a ball, her sobs wracking her body. She held a pillow to her stomach as she let out all the fear this day had laid at her feet.

Nykyrian remained silent as he pulled her against him and offered a comfort he didn’t really understand. He brushed her hair from her wet cheeks, rocking her gently in his arms as he’d seen people do in shows, or mothers with their young.

Kiara held him close as she tried to put her fears behind her. But she didn’t want to die. There was so much she still wanted to do with her life.

She wanted to be a mother. She wanted to travel more.

Why did they have to hunt her? Why?

She didn’t want to be raped and killed . . .

And yet in the arms of a killer, she had never felt so protected. Or safer.

She didn’t know how long she cried, but when she finally pulled away, the material of his shirt clung to his chest where her tears had fallen.

“I’m sorry.” She sniffed and wiped the back of her hand over her cheeks.

He moved her hand and wiped the moisture away for her. “Feeling better?”

Kiara nodded. “This isn’t like me.” She reveled in the feel of his warm, strong hands moving over her icy cheeks. “I know you don’t believe me since I burst into tears every other minute. But I swear I’m stronger than this and I hate that you’ve seen me so weak and emotional. I swore I’d never cry again. That no one would make me do this. Ugh! I am pathetic.”

“Don’t apologize. Everyone cries sometime.”

Kiara couldn’t imagine him doing that no matter how much pain he was in. “Do you?”

“Inside I do.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Yeah, well, I am lying, but I was trying to make you feel better.”

Kiara laughed through her tears. “You did. Thank you.” She stared at him, wishing she could see his whole face. In so many ways he was a complete stranger, yet they sat now like old friends or even lovers, and she’d shared things with him that she’d never shared with another living soul.

In spite of his ferocity, he was amazingly easy to talk to. He didn’t appear to judge her. Rather, he accepted her with all the evil emotional baggage that came along with her, and that was rare enough that she fully appreciated it.

And right now, she ached to kiss his lips. But she knew if she tried, he’d push her away again and end this peaceful moment.

She desperately didn’t want it to end.

“What do you think is on the other side?” she asked, wondering what he believed in.

“I hope nothing. No voices, no sound. Just me and the darkness forever.”

That would be hell to her. She couldn’t stand darkness and silence. “Doesn’t that thought scare you?”

“No. It would be peaceful, I think.”

“But don’t you want to see your loved ones again?”

Nykyrian looked away from her innocent face. How naive she was, thinking such a childish thought. In his world, things like that didn’t exist. Loved ones were just the first to betray—the ones whose treachery hurt the most. “I don’t have any.”

By the scowl on her face, he could tell she couldn’t accept what he was saying.

“No one? What about your friends?”

“They wouldn’t miss me long.” He knew that for a fact. All of them were used to loss and while they might have an occasional twinge whenever he crossed their thoughts, they would never really mourn him. They’d move on with their lives as they’d always done. He wasn’t angry or bitter about that.

It was just the way of things. It was the way of them.

Kiara shook her head in denial. “Not even Nemesis? Surely your boyfriend would miss you?”

He snorted bitterly at her question. Like he’d ever given a shit about himself. “I assure you, he’d care least of all if I died tomorrow.”

“You don’t really believe that, do you?”

“There’s not a lot to miss, princess. Trust me.”

Kiara still couldn’t accept what he was telling her. How could no one mourn him? Surely someone loved him. They had to. There wasn’t a day that went by that she didn’t want to cry over her mother. To have one more moment to hold her. To feel her mother’s gentle touch . . .

And he had no one who would hold that painful place in their hearts for him? Not out of selfishness, but out of love. Out of respect and care and the knowledge that the universe would be missing a vital part if he were no longer in it.

“Don’t you ever socialize with your friends? Drink? Have dinners?”

“Sure, when we’re working.”

That wasn’t the same. Gah, what a horribly lonely life.

Aching for him, Kiara reached up to touch his face. The moment she did, he set her aside and stepped away.

“No one’s going to harm you, princess. On my life, I’ll keep you safe.” Then he was gone faster than she could blink.

Kiara’s heart pounded at the audible sincerity behind his words. Her cheek burned from the memory of his gloved fingers touching her skin. There was so much more she wanted to say to him, to ask him, but she didn’t know how.

He was such a dichotomy. In one minute he pulled away and snapped if she dared to even touch him, then the next he held her like a treasured love and comforted her tears.