His gaze was focused on her and Vane as he walked slowly through the crowd without speaking to anyone.
He stopped beside them. His eyes were sorrowful and brooding as he held his hand out to Bride.
Her hand shaking, Bride reached out to him.
"She’s beautiful, Vane," Fang said, his voice hoarse. "I’m glad you found her."
Vane stood up, but Fang stepped back.
"Fang?" Vane asked.
Fang withdrew from them.
Bride couldn’t breathe as she watched him make his way back toward the kitchen where Aimee was waiting. The female bear put her arms around him and, to Bride’s amazement, Fang allowed Aimee to hold him as he returned to Peltier House.
"Are you okay?" Bride asked Vane as he took his seat.
A smile played at the edges of his lips. "Yeah. For the first time in a long time, I think I am."
"Good," Fury said. " ‘Cause if he’s messing with Aimee Peltier, Fang is going to need both of us to keep those bears from skinning him."
The band, which was made up of various animals, took the stage and picked up their instruments.
While they tuned them, a small monkey came running over to Bride and jumped up on her shoulder.
"Hi there," she said to him. "I didn’t know there were Were-Monkeys."
"There aren’t," a tall, lean blond said as he held his arm out for the monkey.
Bride remembered being introduced to him earlier. He was named Wren.
"Marvin’s the only non-were in the bar." The monkey ran up his arm and perched on his shoulder.
Wren smiled at her. "It’s okay. It took me a long time to get used to the people here, too."
She watched as he walked off.
The band broke into a rendition of wolf songs. Bride felt her face heat up as they sang "Little Red Riding Hood," "Werewolves of London," "Bad Moon Rising," and even "Midnight Special."
"C’mon up here, Vane," Colt said into the mike. "And sing for your supper."
Vane looked a bit sheepish before he left her and joined them on the stage.
"I didn’t know he could sing," she said to Fury.
"Neither did I."
She expected Vane to sing some classic rock tune, so when he started singing "The Story of Us," Bride felt tears well up. Vane wasn’t singing for his supper.
He was singing for her.
Dev came up to her and pulled her toward the stage.
Bride couldn’t breathe as she listened to Vane. He had a beautiful voice, and when he finished his song, he pulled her up on the stage with him. There, in front of all the Were-Hunters, he went down on his knee before her.
"I know we’re mated by Were-Hunter custom, but I wanted to make sure and do this right for you, baby." He put the microphone down on the stage and pulled a ring from his pocket.
Bride felt the tears fall down her cheeks as he placed the round diamond solitaire on her finger.
"I love you, Bride McTierney, and I want to spend the rest of my life showing you just how much I need you. Will you marry me?"
She couldn’t stop blubbering. Heck, she could barely see him for her tears.
All she could do was nod like a hysterical loon.
She thought Vane was smiling, but she couldn’t be sure.
"It’s okay," Vane said into the microphone. "She cried like this on the day I met her, too. I think it’s a good thing for humans."
"Ahhh, I’d cry too if I had to look at you every day for the rest of my life, Vane," Colt said.
Ignoring him, Vane stood up before her and wiped her tears away with his hands.
"I’m getting better at this, Bride. I didn’t poke your eye out this time."
"No," she said, sniffing back her tears, "you didn’t."
He kissed her gently, then led her from the stage.
Ash met them there with Simi, who was also crying. "That was bootiful," she sobbed hysterically at Vane. Then she turned to face Ash. "Akri, the Simi wants someone to propose like that to her. Go get that model Travis Fimmel for me and make him do that, too. Please!"
"I told you, Sim, you can’t just take humans away from their lives."
"But Vane took Bride."
"No, Sim. Bride chose Vane."
"Then go make Travis choose me."
"I can’t do that. It wouldn’t be right."
The demon blew him a raspberry before she saw one of the bears bringing a cake from the kitchen. Her tears dried instantly.
"Ooo," Simi breathed, eyeing the cake hungrily. "Chocolate. My favorite. Gotta go now. Bye."
Ash laughed as Simi ran and literally attacked the poor bear who was holding the cake. She grabbed it out of his hands and headed off to a corner to be alone with it.
Shaking his head, Ash turned back to them. "Your father is now out of your hair and I just wanted to say Congrats again to both of you."
"Thanks, Ash," Vane said, holding his hand out to him.
Ash nodded as he shook it. "By the way, you don’t have to worry."
"About what?" Bride asked.
"You’ll have babies and not puppies. And no litters."
Bride was more relieved than she would have thought possible. "Thank you."
Ash left them and picked up a pie from the table which he took to Simi, who looked up at him with her face covered in chocolate. She literally inhaled the pie in less than ten seconds.
Vane draped his arm over Bride’s shoulders. As they walked back to her table where Fury and Cujo were sharing a piece of steak, Bride started laughing as she looked around her newfound zoo and family.
"What’s wrong?" Vane asked.
"Nothing. I was just thinking that my life has gone completely to the dogs and I wouldn’t have it any other way."
Vane shifted himself to the past. It didn’t take much effort to find his parents. After all, Acheron hadn’t bothered to shield their scent from him and they had only been here together for about an hour.
The Dark-Hunter leader had sequestered the two Were-Hunters on an isolated island during the fifth century. Neither of them had the power to leave either the island or the time period.
It was truly a fate worse than death.
Or at least it was about to be.
Vane flashed to the "arena" where his parents were battling each other with swords drawn. They were both bloody from the fighting, and even though he should be amused, he wasn’t.
How could he be? These two people, for all their faults, were his parents, and if not for them he would never have been born.
Even so, some things could not be forgiven.
His father hesitated as he saw Vane. It gave his mother the opening she needed to run Markus through with her sword.
It should have been a killing blow.
His mother jerked the sword free, cursed, and stabbed Markus again.
stood there blinking in disbelief as he remained immune from her attacks.
"Give it up, Mother," Vane said as he approached them.
She spun on him with another curse until her eyes focused on his face.
For once Vane didn’t bother hiding his facial markings from either one of them.
He stared at her blankly as horror filled her expression and she realized the truth about her eldest son.
"I know Acheron probably couldn’t care less if you two destroyed each other," he said slowly. "But I couldn’t live with myself knowing that he had sentenced one of you to die even though you deserve it."
"What do you mean?" Markus asked.
"I’m altering things a bit. You two can fight and kill each other over and over again, but neither one of you will be able to die by the hand of the other."
"Fine, then," Markus snarled. "I’ll kill myself."
"I won’t allow that, either."
Bryani cursed him. "You can’t stop us."
Vane laughed. "Yeah, Mom. I can. You should have listened to Fury when he tried
to tell you about my powers. There are only a small handful of people on this earth whose powers can negate mine. And neither of you are one of them."
Bryani’s eyes narrowed. "Why are you doing this?"
"Because you two need to come to terms with each other. What Markus did to you was wrong, but then, I’ve always been told that two wrongs don’t make a right.
So here I am trying to do the right thing for once. You two have to deal with each other and settle this hatred." He took a deep breath. "I’ll be back in a few decades to see how it’s coming."
"You can’t leave us here. Not like this!" Bryani screeched.
"Why not, Mom? Dad beat me and Fang and hung us out to die, literally.
You beat Fury and left him for dead. Now the two of you can both pummel the one who really pissed you off, and we can live our lives out in peace away from the two of you. Have a nice war."
Vane flashed himself away from them, back to where Bride was busy packing up their things in Valerius’s house.
"You know you don’t have to do that?"
She jumped and gasped. "I think I need to put a bell on you!"
Bride jumped again as all of their belongings suddenly appeared neatly folded in her suitcases. "Vane"
"Never mind," she said with a laugh. She didn’t really want to change him, either. He came up behind her and pulled her to him.
Bride took a moment to savor the feel of him there. To savor the strength of his arms around her waist. "So what are you going to do with the rest of your life now that your parents are taken care of and Fury has control of your pack?"
"I don’t want to do anything other than spend the rest of my life watching you."
"No buts, Bride. I’ve spent the last four hundred years fighting tooth and nail for everything. Hiding who and what I am. Now there’s no need. You’re safe here in New Orleans and I intend to make sure you stay that way."
She turned in his arms and wrapped her arms around his neck. "And what about my shop?"
"It’s all yours."
"Will you help me watch it?"
"No. I’m going to be too busy watching you."