Night Play (Page 19)

Night Play (Dark-Hunter #6)(19)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

Was he talking about the commune again? For some reason she didn’t think so.

"Where do you come from?"

"I was born in England."

Bride paused at that, surprised. But then, Vane had a habit of constantly surprising her. "Really?"

"Aye, luv," he said in a perfect English accent. "Born and bred."

She smiled. "You do that well."

He opened the door of the package store for her without comment.

"Funny," she said, entering the store. "I never really thought of Englishwomen as particularly vicious."

He snorted at that. "Yeah well, you never met my mother. She makes Attila the Hun look like a fluffy bunny."

There was a lot of anger and hurt in his tone and face as he said that. His mother must truly not have much of a maternal instinct. "Do you ever see her?"

He shook his head. "She made it clear a long time ago that she wasn’t interested in having any sort of relationship with me."

Bride wrapped her arm around his and gave a light squeeze. "I’m sorry."

He covered her hand with his. "Don’t be. My kind don’t have mothers like"

Bride paused in the street. "Your kind?"

Vane stood there in shock at what had slipped out of his mouth. Damn.

Bride was a lot easier to talk to than she should be. He was used to being on his guard around people. "Lone wolves," he said, stupidly borrowing Fury’s term.

"Ahh, so you’re one of those macho I-don’t-need-no-tenderness types."

He used to be, but after spending time with Bride What he felt for this woman scared the shit out of him. "Something like that."

Bride nodded as she started back toward her shop. "So it’s just you and your brother, then?"

"Yeah," he said, his throat tight as he remembered his sister. "It’s just us. What about you?"

"My parents live in Kenner. I have a sister in Atlanta who I get to see a couple of times a year, and my older brother works for a firm in the business district."

"Are you close to them?"

"Oh yeah. Closer than I want to be sometimes. They still think they should all run my life for me."

He smiled. That was how Anya used to feel about him and Fang. It brought a bittersweet pain to his chest. "You must be the youngest."

"You know it. I swear, my mother still cuts my meat for me every time I go home."

He was unable to imagine a doting mother like that. It must have been nice to know such love. "Don’t knock it."

"Most days I don’t." Bride frowned up at him. "Why do you keep doing that?"

"Doing what?"

"Scanning the street like you’re afraid someone is going to jump out at us."

Vane rubbed the back of his neck in nervousness. He had to give her credit, she really was observant. Especially for a human.

The last thing he could tell her was that he did in fact fear just that.

If Stefan or the others ever tracked him down

He didn’t want to think about the consequences.

"I don’t suppose I could talk you into closing your store for a couple of weeks and taking off to some exotic island with me, could I?"

She laughed at him. "Good one."

Yeah. Little did she know, he was quite serious. Part of him was tempted to kidnap her, but after what had happened between his parents, he knew better than to chance it.

Four hundred years later, his mother was still emotionally scarred over his father’s kidnapping her against her will. He didn’t want to destroy Bride’s kindness. Her open smile. God help her, she trusted people, and that was so rare that he would do anything to keep her that way.

She opened the door to her yard and led him to her apartment where Fury was waiting for them.

Rushing toward them, Fury went straight for Vane’s groin to rack him in typical dog fashion. "Get down," he snapped, brushing the wolf aside.

"He likes you."

Likes annoying me. "Yeah, I noticed."

Bride frowned as she walked over to the stereo, which was blasting the old Troggs song "Wild Thing."

"How strange," she said, turning it off. "I didn’t leave the stereo on."

Vane tightened his grip on Fury’s neck.

"That hurts, Vane. Let go."

He did so reluctantly. "What else did you do? "

"Nothing, really. I just watched some TV, went through her CDs she has some really good shit and made some coffee."

"Fury, you weren’t supposed to move in!"

"You said watch her, that implies moving in."

He reached for Fury, who darted over to Bride.

"Maybe you have a ghost," Vane said. "It is New Orleans, after all."

"You’re not funny," she said.

She took the wine from him and headed to the small kitchenette where she set it by her two-cup coffeepot. She pulled the carafe out and looked at it. "What on earth is going on here?"

"What?"

She met Vane’s gaze. "Did you make coffee this morning?"

"Oops," Fury said. "I kind of poofed that in. I probably should have poofed it out once I was finished."

"You think?"

"Be nice to me, man. I don’t have to stay here."

"And I don’t really have to let you live, either."

"Are you okay?" Bride asked as she replaced the carafe.

Vane smiled and forced his stem expression to relax. "I’m fine."

"This coffee is fresh." She looked down at Fury, then shook her head. "No way. That’s just stupid."

"What?"

"Nothing. I won’t even say it for fear of being put away for the rest of my life."

She put the wine in the freezer to stay cold while she opened the cabinets and pulled out a saucepan and boiler.

Without thinking, Vane went to the tiny pantry to get the spaghetti sauce.

For some reason, she loved putting it on everything.

"How did you know to go there?" she asked.

Vane cringed. Damn, he shouldn’t have known where she kept it. "It seemed the most likely place."

She appeared to accept that.

Fury jumped up and pushed him into Bride. Vane sucked his breath in sharply as their bodies collided and he felt her lush curves against him.

She looked up, her lips parted from her gasp of surprise.

"Sorry," he said, his heart pounding. "The dog hit me."

"I’m not a dog."

"You’re going to be dog food if you don’t stop."

"Oh c’mon, you idiot. She’s your mate. Move on her."

"I can’t force her. Believe me, it’s something I will not do."

To his surprise, Fury cocked his head and stared up at him. "You know, I think I just learned to respect you for that. You’re a good wolf, Vane. Now hand me your shirt and let me outside."

"Do what?" Vane was so stunned that he spoke out loud.

"What?" Bride asked.

"Nothing," he said, wondering at what point tonight she was going to decide he was completely mental.

"Trust me," Fury said. "I’ll use your scent to lead the others far away from here. Hell, by the time I get through with Stefan, he’ll be chasing his tail in circles."

Vane was impressed. It was a good thought. "Can I trust you not to lead him here?"

"Yeah, you can."

What an uncharacteristic response for Fury. Vane looked at him as he debated whether or not he could trust him.

In the end, he had no choice.

Fury went to scratch at the door.

"I’ll let him out," Vane said, heading to the wolf.

"Thanks," Bride said as she pulled out the leftover angel hair pasta.

Vane followed the wolf into the back courtyard. He pulled off his shirt, then conjured up a fresh one while Fury flashed into human form to take it.

"Put some clothes on, Fury. I’m going blind here."

"Shut up," Fury snapped. "I’m not as talented as you are with my powers and I’m not staying human long enough to care. I just wanted to tell you to be careful.

She seems like a nice enough woman, for a human. Be a damned shame to see something happen to her."

"I know."

A car pulled up to the gate.

Fury stepped into the shadows and vanished. Vane didn’t move as he watched the car pull in. It was the stripper who lived in one of the upstairs apartments. Relieved it was a friendly car, he went back inside to find Bride spooning the sauce into her pan.

He had to find some way to get her to agree to leave with him until they could safely part company.

Vane watched her and felt something very peculiar. In his world no one cooked for him. He either ate it raw or bought it in human form, then cooked it himself. No one had ever made food for him before except when he paid them to do it. This was almost homey. Not that he understood what homey was.

Maybe it was this strange feeling in his stomach. The pull inside that urged him to touch her even when he shouldn’t.

"Bride?" he asked, moving closer to her. "Do you believe in the impossible?"

She pulled a bag of salad from her fridge. "Impossible how?"

"I don’t know. Fairies? Leprechauns? Wolves who can turn into humans?"

She laughed. "Ahh, the loup-garou. You’re not buying into local legends, are you?"

He shrugged as his heart shrank. It was too much to hope that she would be anything other than a typical human.

"Although," she said, making his heart lighten. "I do have a friend who chases vampires after dark. She’s nuts, but we love her."

Damn.

"Yeah," he breathed. "Tabitha is a bit out there, isn’t she?"

Bride stood stock-still. "How did you know she"

"Everyone in New Orleans knows the resident vampire slayer," he said quickly.

"Tabitha Devereaux has been around a long time."

Bride laughed. "I’ll have to tell her she’s a legend. It’ll please her to no end."

Vane turned back toward her. "But what about you? You don’t believe in weird things, do you?"

"Not really. The scariest thing I’ve ever seen is my accountant in April."

Outwardly, he smiled at that, inwardly he shriveled. She would never be open to his world. To the reality that sometimes the people she passed on the street weren’t really people at all. That they were the worst sort of predators.

Let her have her delusions. It would be cruel to take them away from her.

And for what purpose? So that he could show her a world where the two of them would be perpetually hunted?

Where their children would be outcasts?

No, that wouldn’t be fair to her. He didn’t need a mate, and he damned sure didn’t need children.

"You okay?" she asked as she set out two plates.

"Yeah, fine."

He just hoped they both stayed fine until the mark vanished from their hands. It didn’t take Fury long to find Stefan and the others who were in human form on Bourbon Street while they tried to recapture Vane’s scent.

The three of them were outside a bar, sniffing patrons who came and went. As always, he was struck by the beauty of his people, but then, it was to be expected. In their world, ugly or different was quickly rejected or killedusually the latter. Animals had no mercy on anyone or anything.

Not even the animals who fooled themselves into believing they were mostly human. He’d been with Arcadians long enough to see for himself that when they said they were human, they were deluding themselves.

Just as humans did.

There was nothing humane about humanity. At the end of the day, they were all animals with only survival instincts.

It was dog-eat-dog. And Fury knew more about that principle than he cared to recall.

Stefan whirled about as he caught Fury’s scent.

"Well, well," Fury said, gifting him with a smirk. "I’ve been standing here long enough that I could have killed all of you before you even sensed me. You’re getting old, Stefan."

"Is that a challenge?"

Fury raked him with an amused stare. He fully intended to challenge the older wolf and kill him one day.

Right now, however, he wasn’t in the mood.

"Don’t make me hurt you, Stefan. You can prance around like an alpha all you want, but we both know who holds your leash."

Stefan grabbed for him, but Fury twirled out of his grasp.

"Don’t, old wolf. I don’t want to embarrass you."

"What do you want, Fury?" Petra snapped.

Fury gave her a full-fledged grin. Out of the group, she was the one who hated Vane the most. For years the she-wolf had wanted to mate with him, and when he had refused, she had moved on to Fang. She had stalked Vane to distraction.

Since he was the oldest of their leader’s children, the natural assumption would be that Vane would one day inherit the pack. Even though his father hated him, Vane was without a doubt the strongest of them all.

Only Fury knew why. Vane wasn’t Katagaria and the rest of them were too stupid to realize it.

He had smelled it on Vane the moment they met. That twang that came only from human genes. A so-called human heart. More than that, the scent came from the most elite of the Arcadians. Vane wasn’t just an Arcadian. He wasn’t just a Sentinel.