Authors: Gabrielle Evans
Remember how he let you die? He will always put himself first, put
his needs above yours. Remember.”
Unsolicited memories assailed him, flashing through in his mind’s eye like highlights of a movie clip.
The rain beat down on them as they were shoved unceremoniously
to the sodden ground. The torrential downpour wasn’t enough to
extinguish the flames that engulfed their home, though.
A baby’s cry rose up over the wail of the wind and the pounding
of the rain. Aslan fought against his captors, struggling to get to his
feet and to his child. A sudden backhand sent him flying sideways,
face-first into a puddle of icy water.
“Give us the Regelatis!” one of the men ordered. His hand fisted
in Torren’s hair, jerking his head back on his shoulders. “Give it to
us or he dies.” His head tilted unnecessarily toward Aslan.
In the next instance a big hand grabbed his chin to yank his head
up, and the cold tip of a blade pressed against his throat. Aslan
ceased his struggles, begging Torren with his eyes to just give them
what they wanted. He wasn’t afraid to die, but he was terrified of
what they’d do to Addison.
He could see it in his mate’s expression, feel it in the
overwhelming guilt and sorrow that flowed from Torren and into him.
Torren wasn’t going to give them the book.
Coming out of his memory, Aslan felt like he was surfacing from a frigid lake as he sucked in deep breaths to his aching lungs. His chest felt heavy as though his heart was ripping in two, and unbidden tears pooled in his eyes.
“Come home with us,”
the new voice whispered to him, and Aslan recognized it as that of the man who’d carried Addison away in the storm.
“We can protect you. Love you. We can give you what he
Unseen hands began stroking him again—along his throat, over his chest, up his arms. Ignoring the touches, Aslan lifted his head and looked across the room to find Torren and Kieran snarling in each other’s faces, standing so close that their noses almost touched.
Off to the side, Galen was stroking Bannon’s chest, whispering to him and obviously trying to calm him. Aslan didn’t think it was really working, though. Bannon looked about two seconds away from launching himself at the werewolf.
Their shouts, growls, and snarls all mingled together in a cacophony of noise that Aslan didn’t understand. He didn’t register any words, though he knew insults were flying between Torren and Kieran. Nothing made sense to him, and he was so tired.
Invisible fingers stroked through his hair.
can give you what you need.”
Just as he was drifting off, a warm weight settled in his lap, and small hands squished his cheeks together. “I’m scared,” Wren whispered, his eyes brimming with tears. “Torren is very mad.” Those smoky, gray eyes were like a lifeline, wrapping around his heart and pulling him back from the void. Cradling the child to his chest, Aslan stroked his hair and kissed the top of his head. “Yes, he is. Grownups get angry sometimes, sweetheart. That doesn’t mean that we would ever hurt you or that we don’t still love you.” Wren nodded and burrowed in closer, curling his knees up to his chest and resting his head on Aslan’s shoulder. “Can I sleep in your room?”
“Tell him no.”
“Of course you can. Do you want to get your piggy?” It was the ugliest damn pig that Aslan had ever seen, and he couldn’t fathom why Wren loved the thing so much, but whatever made the boy happy was fine by him.
Wren nodded eagerly, his smile coming fast and easy.
Getting his feet under him, Aslan started to stand, but sharp, sickening pain exploded in his temples, causing him to cry out as his back arched away from the wall. He had just enough presence of mind to tighten his arms around Wren to keep the child from being thrown to the floor, but it was a near thing.
The pain subsided in his head, but before he could even catch his breath, it felt as though white-hot pokers were rammed through both of his sides. Aslan screamed again, throwing his head back against the wall and releasing Wren as sweat coated his entire body. He’d never felt anything so painful, and had serious doubts that he’d live through it.
“I can make it all go away. Just let go. Come home, Aslan.”
Wren climbed back up in his lap and slapped at his cheeks.
“Aslan?” His sweet little voice was so full of concern.
He wanted to answer the summons, but the nonexistent spears in his sides chose that moment to twist, and Aslan grinded his teeth together until he was sure they would shatter to keep from screaming again. If he did what the voice said, it could all stop. But at what price?
Luckily, he didn’t get a chance to find out. Strong but gentle arms slid under him, lifting both him and Wren into Torren’s protective embrace. Those soft lips that were made for leisurely kissing brushed over his forehead, murmuring comforting words to him. Wren’s tiny hands landed on either side of Aslan’s face as he leaned up to mash their noses together.
“You all better?”
Though he didn’t think it was possible, Aslan found himself chuckling quietly. “Yeah, little man. I’m all better now.” Wren wrinkled his nose adorably and nodded once as he petted Aslan’s cheek like he would a cat or a puppy. “Do you want a Band-Aid?”
Torren’s laughter rumbled through his chest as he pulled them closer to his heart and started walking down the hallway. Kieran’s angry voice drew him to a stop, though, and Aslan squeezed his eyes closed, praying the idiot would just go away.
“I’m not finished talking to you.”
finished. We can talk later.”
“Torren, this is important. I need your help on this!”
Torren growled under his breath. “Then I suggest you call a repairman, because my give-a-damn is busted. Fix your own mess, Kieran.” Then he turned back and left the man sputtering behind them as he carried them to their bedroom.
“Aslan said I get to sleep here.” Wren lifted his head and pointed at the big king-size bed. His expression held a hint of stubbornness, but Aslan knew he’d relent without argument if Torren said no.
Of course, Torren had no resistance to the little imp. “Do you want me to get Mr. Pokey?” What a ridiculous name for a stuffed pig, but Wren had refused to rename him.
Torren winked and settled them both in bed, waiting for them to get comfortable before he pulled the blankets up around their shoulders. “I’ll be right back.”
Aslan sighed in contentment when Wren snuggled up to his chest and rested his little hand on the side of Aslan’s neck. The boy’s next words brought a hitch to his breathing and tears to his eyes. “I love you,” Wren whispered around a yawn as though it was no big deal at all.
“I love you, too,” Aslan returned, trying to be just as nonchalant, but thinking he probably didn’t pull it off very well.
Wren was almost asleep when Torren returned, but he blinked open his eyes and patted the mattress behind him, indicating that was where Torren should sleep. With a gentle smile, Torren held up one finger before he grabbed a pair of sleep pants and disappeared into the bathroom.
Finally dressed for bed, he crawled under the blankets and draped an arm over Wren to rest on Aslan’s hip. “You okay, baby?” Feeling the warm weight of his mate’s hand on him and listening to Wren’s soft snoring, Aslan reached over and skimmed his finger down the slope of Torren’s nose. “I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.”
Torren looked concerned, but he simply bobbed his head and nestled down on his pillow. “I love you,
” It was the first time that he had said it directly, and chasing quickly behind Wren’s declaration, Aslan wasn’t sure how much more he could take. The two were trying to kill him. So, he did what anyone would do in his place. He grinned like the cat that ate the canary. “I love you, too.”
His heart full to overflowing, Aslan closed his eyes and joined Wren in a peaceful sleep—the stuffed pig, Mr. Pokey, forgotten at the foot of the bed.
Waiting until he was sure Aslan was fast asleep, Torren eased out of bed and stood, just staring down at the two people who had become his entire world in a very short amount of time. They hadn’t talked about it at length, but Torren knew how much Aslan loved the little boy in his arms. His own heart melted into a liquid puddle every time Wren smiled at him.
After hearing the pixie’s accounts of his parents, Torren knew he’d fight tooth and nail to keep Wren from having to go back there.
With any luck, maybe he could get some information from the pack alpha they’d rescued Wren from. Hopefully, it would be enough to press charges against a certain Mr. Reeves.
What would become of Wren after that, though? Was The Council house an appropriate place for the little one to grow up? After the stunt Kieran had pulled in the living room, Torren had his doubts.
Still, something ached in his chest at the thought of giving up Wren.
While he’d tried to remain impervious to the child’s charms, he had failed miserably. The minute he’d been plopped down in Torren’s lap, Wren had offered a sweet smile, traced the tattoo on Torren’s forearm, and admonished him for drawing on himself. Torren fell in love instantly.
Wishing he could stay in bed but knowing he had important business to attend to, he scrubbed at his face and bit back a sigh of longing. Not willing to risk waking either of his sleepyheads, he tiptoed from the room dressed only in his sleep pants, and closed the door quietly behind him.
Entering the living room, he was pleased to see that someone had at least found Kieran some clothes. While nudity was a common occurrence amongst shifters and weres—and apparently didn’t bother them in the least—Torren wasn’t fond of naked men running about his house with Aslan and Wren there.
“How is Aslan?” Galen asked the minute he saw him. He fidgeted nervously, his eyes shining with desperation for news about his friend.
“He and Wren are sleeping. He seems okay, but I’ll talk to him more when he wakes up.” Torren had been holding back, not wanting to frighten Aslan, but after the episode earlier, he knew he couldn’t wait any longer. The voices had been quiet for the last few days, but obviously, they were back with a vengeance.
“You need to tell him,” Raith said from the sofa.
Torren wasn’t in the least surprised to find Lynk absent from the room. That was another mess he’d have to deal with, but it wasn’t high priority at the moment. “I will when he wakes up. Let him rest right now.”
“I just hung around to apologize,” Kieran said from near the door.
“I swear I have no idea what happened. I just came over to talk about the pups, and then Lynk walked in the room…” He frowned down at the beige carpet and shook his head. “I’m going to go, but I’d like to talk to you later.”
Since Torren needed Lynk’s help, and he doubted his brother would acquiesce with Kieran there, he nodded at the werewolf. “I’ll give you a call.” The man was trying to be civil, and Torren figured the least he could do was meet him halfway. “Even though the twins aren’t mine, my offer still stands. I will help in any way I can, but I’ve kind of got my hands full right now.” Kieran bobbed his head in understanding. “Yeah, I got it. We still have a lot of questions, and I’m hoping you can help.”
“And I will,” Torren assured him. “In the meantime, try giving Alpha Taylor a call. From what I hear, I think he might be able to help you find the pups’ biological father.” For whatever reason—and they’d need to find that answer as well—everyone, including the witch, Natalie, had thought the children belonged to Torren, so there had been no reason to go searching for their parentage. They certainly had reason now, though.
“I’ll do that. Thanks for not killing me, and I am sorry about Lynk.” Kieran looked a little sad as he turned toward the door. “He’s never going to forgive me.” Then he was gone before Torren could offer any kind of condolences.
It was probably for the best, since he had no clue what he was going to say. Lynk was pissed, but if he was Kieran’s mate, that meant Kieran Delaney was Lynk’s
. He could fight it all he wanted, but Torren knew from experience that his brother wouldn’t be able to resist the pull forever.
“Are ya still wantin’ to dreamwalk?”
Pushing away thoughts of his brother’s less than romantic claiming, Torren turned to Bannon and inclined his head. “Yeah, let’s get this over with.”
“I’m coming, too,” Galen said at once, crossing his arms over his chest defiantly. “You know I can help, so don’t even give me any lip.”
Bannon growled and narrowed his eyes, but it was obvious that he would give in. “Wouldn’t even think of it, now would I, darlin’?” It wouldn’t do for him to laugh, but damn, it was funny to watch the big shifter bow before his much smaller mate. Was Torren like that with Aslan? He thought he probably was, and surprisingly, was more than okay with it. “So, how do we do this?”
* * * *
Tranquilizing himself was a bitch, and Torren just knew his mate was going to throw a fit when he found out. Since they didn’t have the special sleep drops that Bannon normally used, they didn’t have many other options, though.
He’d be lying if he said he didn’t get some small measure of satisfaction out of shooting Natalie Halstead…even if it was just with a sedative dart. Seeing the vile, manipulating tramp crumple to the floor with the sneer still on her lips was a surprisingly enjoyable experience.
Being inside Bannon’s fucked-up, creepy-ass dream, however, was not. “What is this place?”
“Bannon has issues,” Galen answered immediately. He shrugged when Bannon snorted at him. “I’ve learned to just go with it.”
“You can create anything you want here?”
“Aye, for the most part. Is there somethin’ you’re needin’?” Torren looked down at his nude chest, cotton sleep pants, and bare toes. “Some different clothes would be nice.” He should have known to be more careful in his request. The next thing he knew, he was dressed in a formfitting, white halter dress with pink and green polka dots. The hem barely reached to midthigh, but Bannon hadn’t stopped there. The white go-go boots that reached up to his knees were definitely a nice touch.