Where Dare had always been arrogant and bossy, Fury had held a vulnerability that had made her protective of him. More than that, he'd never treated her as inferior. He'd seen her as a partner and confidant.
"I'll be your family, Lia." Those words haunted her. It had been Fury's vow to her once he'd learned that her family had been killed by the Katagaria—by his own father's pack. "I won't ever let the wolves hurt you. I swear it."
Yet she'd stood by this morning while they'd tortured him relentlessly.
It's nothing compared to what you did the last time you saw him.
It was true. She hadn't stood by him then either, and he'd been beaten a lot worse than this.
"Fury," she tried again. "Tell me what we need to know, and I promise you this will stop."
He lifted his head up to pin her with a furious glare. "I don't betray my friends."
"Don't you dare say that to me. I was protecting my people when I attacked you."
He let out a disbelieving snort. "From mel They were my people, too."
She shook her head in denial. "You don't have people. You're an animal."
He twisted his lips into a vicious snarl. "Baby, you untie me, and I'll show you just how much of an animal the man in me really is. Trust me. He's a lot crueler than the wolf is."
"Told you," Oscar said as he joined them in the tent. He angled the red-hot poker toward the flap. "You should leave. The stench of burning flesh is going to be hard on your nose."
She saw the panic in Fury's eyes as he tried to scoot away from them.
Oscar grabbed him by the hair and rolled him over. Fury kicked at him, but there wasn't much he could do given how tied up he was. Still he fought with a courage that was admirable.
"Get out," Dare said as he entered the tent.
As she started for the flap, Fury let out a howl so fierce and pain-filled that it shattered her soul. Turning, she saw that Oscar had dropped the poker across his left hip where it burned in a foul stench.
Right or wrong, she couldn't let them do this to him anymore.
She shoved Dare out of her way, then kicked Oscar back from Fury. Before they could recover themselves, she knelt by Fury's side and placed her hand on his shoulder. Using her powers, she took them out of the tent and moved them farther into the marsh where they'd been camped. Since she didn't know the area all that well, it was the safest place she could take him.
When he met her gaze, there was no gratitude there. Only rage and a hatred so sharp it was piercing. "What are you going to do now? Leave me here for the gators to eat?"
"I should." Instead, she manifested a knife to cut through the ropes that held his hands.
Fury was stunned by her actions. "Why are you helping me?"
"I don't know. Apparently I'm having a moment of extreme stupidity."
He wiped at the blood on his face as she cut the ropes on his feet. "I wish your stupidity had kicked in sooner."
She paused at the sight of the raw blister on his hip where the jackal had laid the poker. It had to be killing him. "I'm so sorry."
Fury snatched at the collar on his throat and jerked it free.
Angelia gasped at the action. No one should be able to remove their collar. No one.
"How did you do that?"
He curled his lip at her. "I can do a lot of things when I'm not being shocked."
She started to leave, but before she could, he snapped the collar around her throat. Shrieking, she tried to use her powers to either attack him or remove it.
It was useless.
"I saved you!"
"Fuck you," he snarled. "I wouldn't have been there had the two of you not jumped me last night. You're lucky I don't return the favor you did for me."
Raw panic tore through her as she realized he could do anything to her and she'd be powerless to stop him. "What are you going to do?"
There was no mercy in his expression. No reprieve. "I ought to rip your throat out. But lucky for you, I'm just a dumb animal and killing for revenge isn't in my nature." He tightened his grip on her arm. "Killing to protect myself and those in my pack is another story. You'd do well to remember that."
As she opened her mouth to respond, Fury flashed them out of the marsh and into his brother Vane's large Victorian house.
Vane's mate was in the living room, standing by the couch where their son was napping. Tall and curvaceous with short, dark auburn hair, Bride was one of the few people Fury actually trusted. She let out an almost wolf-sounding yelp before she spun about and gave them her back. "Good grief, Fury, warn me if you're going to jump in here naked."
"Sorry, Bride," he said, trying to keep his focus. But it was getting hard given his wounds. "What happened to you?"
He looked over his shoulder to find Vane standing in the doorway. He wanted to answer, but the drain on his powers combined with the wounds was more than he could take. His ears were buzzing. The next thing he knew, he was a wolf again and exhaustion was overtaking him.
"Don't let her escape and don't take that collar off," he projected to Vane before he let the darkness take him under again.
Angelia jumped away from Fury in his wolf form. Realizing he was unconscious, she started for the door only to find a man there who bore a scary resemblance to Dare. This guy, however, was a lot more intimidating and even more handsome. "I need to leave."
He looked past her to the woman by the couch. "Bride, take the baby and get upstairs." Though his tone was commanding, it was also gentle and protective.
She heard the woman leave without questioning him.
As soon as she was gone, he narrowed those eerie hazel eyes on her that were more wolf than human. "What are you doing here and what happened to my brother?"
She tilted her head at his question. His scent. . . it was unmistakable. "You're Arcadian. A Sentinel like me." But unlike her, he chose to hide the marks on his face that designated him as one of their rare and sacred breed.
He curled his lips. "I'm nothing like you. My allegiance is to the Katagaria and it's to my brother. He told me to keep you here and so I shall."
Anger ripped through her. She had no intention of staying here. "I have to get back to my patria."
He shook his head, his face set by determination. "You're part of my mother's patria which makes you my mortal enemy. You're not leaving here until Fury allows it." He stepped past her to where Fury lay on the floor.
She was aghast at his actions. "You're kidnapping me?"
Effortlessly, he picked Fury up from the floor. No small feat given the size of the wolf. "My mother kidnapped my mate and took her back to medieval England where the male members of your patria then attempted to rape her. Be grateful I don't return that favor to you."
Those words were so eerily similar to Fury's that it sent a chill over her. "I just want to go home."
"You're safe here. No one's going to hurt you . . . unless you try to leave." He turned and carried Fury up the same stairs the woman had taken just a few minutes before.
Angelia watched him until he was out of sight. Then she ran for the front door. She'd only made it three steps before four wolves appeared in front of her. Baring their teeth and snapping, they blocked her way.
She could tell from the smell of them. That scent of wolf mingled with human and magick. It was daylight which meant it was hard for them to appear human. Not impossible, but difficult, especially if they were young or inexperienced.
She tried to press forward, but the animals prevented it. "Do what Vane told you."
She turned and froze in shock. In human form, this werewolf looked similar enough to Dare to be his twin. "Who are you?"
"Fang Kattalakis, and you better pray to whatever god you worship that nothing happens to Fury. My brother dies and I will have your throat." He looked at the wolves around her. "Keep her guarded." Then he returned to a wolfs form and ran up the stairs.
Angelia backed slowly into the living room. Catching the sight of another door to the outside, she started for it only to find more wolves in front of her.
Fear sliced through her as she remembered being a helpless child as the wolves ravaged her mother. Over and over she heard the screams and relived the nightmare of them tearing her parents into shreds. She tried to blast the wolves before her, but the collar rendered all her powers useless.
She was at their mercy.
"Get back," she snarled, throwing a lamp at one of them. The others snarled and woofed, circling her. She couldn't breathe, as panic set in. They were going to kill her!
Vane wanted blood as he saw the deep wounds on Fury's body.
He turned to find Fang standing in the doorway. "It looks like the Arcadians grabbed him and had some fun with him."
Fang's nostrils flared. "I saw one of their bitches downstairs. Want me to kill her?"
Vane frowned as he heard Fury's voice in his head. Fury opened his eyes to look at him.
Where is she?
"Downstairs. I have the pack guarding her." Fury turned human instantly. "You can't do that."
"Her parents were killed by our pack. Ripped apart in front of her when she was only three years old. She'll be terrified."
Before Vane could respond, Fury vanished.
Angelia kept swinging at the wolves with her broken lamp as they closed in on her. Terrified, she wanted to scream, but the sound was lodged in her throat. All she could really see was blood, and feel the same horror she'd had the night her parents' screams had echoed in her head. She couldn't breathe or think.
The next thing she knew, someone was grabbing her from behind.
She turned, trying to hit her new attacker, then froze as she saw Fury there in human form.
His touch gentle, he took the lamp from her hand and set it on the floor. His expression stoic, his eyes were every bit as blank. "I won't let them hurt you," he said, his tone soothing. "I haven't forgotten my promise."
A sob came out from deep inside her as he pulled her against him.
Fury cursed at the way she trembled in his arms. He'd never seen anyone more shaken and it pissed him off. "Back off," he barked at the others. "You're acting like fucking humans." Angry at their cruelty, he led her toward the stairs.
"I didn't need your help," she snarled at him.
But he noticed that she didn't pull away. "Believe me, I'm well acquainted with your willingness to stab and kill in cold blood."
Angelia stumbled at those cold words that were tinged with a well-deserved hostility. It was true. He'd been unarmed when they attacked him and she'd left him to his family and their brutality.
Shame and horror filled her. "Why did you save me just now?"
"I'm a dog, remember? We're loyal even when it's stupid."
She shook her head in contradiction. "You're a wolf."
"Same difference to most people." He stopped before a door and knocked.
A gentle voice told them to enter.
Fury pushed it open and nudged her inside. "It's me, Bride. I'm still naked so I'm hanging out here. This is Angelia. She's not real fond of wolves so I thought she might want to stay with you . . . if that's okay with you?"
Bride rose from her rocking chair as she cuddled a sleeping toddler in her arms. "Are you all right. Fury?"
Angelia saw the fatigue on his face and could only imagine how much he must be hurting. Still, he'd come for her. . .
It was amazing.
"Yeah," he said in a strained tone, "but I really need to lie down and rest for awhile." "Go sleep, sweetie."
Fury paused and met Angelia's gaze with a feral hostility so potent, it chilled her all the way to her soul. "You hurt her, you even give her a bad look that hurts her feelings and so help me, I will slaughter you like yesterday's meal and no power, yours or otherwise, will save you. Do you understand me?"
"I'm not kidding," he warned again. "I know you're not."
He inclined his head to her before he shut the door.
Angelia turned to find Bride closing the distance on her. Without a word and still holding the toddler, Bride stepped past her and opened the door. Fury was back in wolf form, lying in the hallway where he must have collapsed as soon as he closed the door.
Her expression sympathetic, Bride knelt on the floor and sank one hand in his white fur. "Vane?"
He manifested in the hallway beside her. "What the hell's he doing here? I was looking for him downstairs."
"He wanted me to watch Angelia."
Vane looked at Angelia and gave her a nasty glare. "Why?"
"He said she was scared and wanted me to stay with her. What's going on?"
Vane's face softened as he looked at his mate. The love he felt for her was more than obvious and it touched Angelia's heart. No man had ever looked at her with that kind of tenderness.
He brushed a strand of hair back from her face before he dropped his hand down to the dark hair of the sleeping toddler. "I'm not sure myself, baby. Fury always talks more to you than he does me." He returned his gaze to Angelia and it turned lethal and cold. "I warn you now. Anything happens to my mate or my son, we will hunt you down and rip you into so many pieces they'll never find all of you."
Angelia stiffened. "I'm not an animal. I don't prey on people's families to get back at them."
Vane scoffed. "Oh, girl, trust me. Animals don't revenge-kill or -attack. That's purely human. So in this case, you better act like an animal and guard her with your life. 'Cause that's what I'm going to take if she so much as gets a paper cut in your presence."
Angelia returned his lethal stare with one of her own. If he thought to attack her, he was going to learn that she wasn't a weakling. She was a trained warrior and she wouldn't go down without a brutal fight. "You know, I'm really getting tired of being threatened by everyone."
"No threats. Just a stated hard-core fact."
Angelia glared at him, wanting to go for his throat. If only she wasn't wearing her collar.
"All right, people," Bride said. "Enough. You," she said to Vane, "get Fury in bed and take care of him." She stood up and walked to Angelia. "You, follow me and I promise I won't threaten you unless you do something to deserve it."
Vane laughed low in his throat. "And keep in mind that even though she's human, she took out my mother and caged her. Don't let her humanity fool you. She can be as vicious as they come."
Bride made an air kiss at him while she cradled her son's head with one hand. "Only when I'm protecting you and Baby Boo, sweetie. Now get Fuzzhead in bed. We'll be fine."
Angelia stepped back to allow Bride to lead the way back into the nursery. The walls were a pale baby blue decorated with teddy bears and stars. She put the toddler in his matching white-and-blue crib before she lifted the side into place.
Feeling awkward, Angelia folded her arms across her chest. "How old's your son?"
"Two years. I know I should take him out of the crib, but he's a kinetic sleeper and I'm not ready for him to accidentally fall out of bed yet. Silly, huh?"
She bit back a smile at Bride's concern. "Protecting your family is never silly."
"No, it isn't." Bride sighed as she brushed a hand through the baby's dark hair. Turning, she faced Angelia. "So you want to tell me what's going on?"