Page 58

“Thank you,” she whispered. “You’re always there when you’re needed, aren’t you.”

“I try to be.”

“How could your father not have been proud to have you as his son?”

Boone shrugged. “Different set of standards. Way different.”

There was a pause. And then she said, “What is it?”


She brushed her fingertips over his eyebrows, smoothing them. “You’re frowning. What are you thinking about?”

It was probably not the best timing to go into it. But for some reason, he couldn’t stop himself from speaking—probably because of the conversation they’d had with Butch in that interrogation room.

“I sometimes think my sire might have had my blood mahmen murdered.”

Helania jerked up, her citrine eyes popping wide. “Are you serious?”

“It’s okay.” He soothed her shoulders with his hands. “It’s all right.”

“No, it’s not. What happened?”

“I don’t know. She wasn’t sick. She wasn’t old. She wasn’t pregnant. Except one evening, she woke up dead.” He shook his head. “I wasn’t any closer to her than I was my sire, but even a stranger could tell she was woefully unhappy.”

“Did she . . . commit suicide?”

“You can’t get into the Fade that way. Or at least that’s what they say—and I know she believed it. I overheard her talking to my aunt once, saying that the only thing that kept her going was the thought that eternity was waiting for her at the end of the suffering. Provided she didn’t do anything rash.”

“How did she die?”

“I never knew. I came down to First Meal, and my father informed me she had passed. That was it. Like it was an update on the weather or something. I never got the story of the how and I should have asked. Even though I probably wouldn’t have gotten any kind of answer from him, I regret that I didn’t even try.”

“Was your father upset?”

Boone shook his head. And he was a little surprised at how hard it was to say the words. “My father was in love with someone else.”

“He was cheating on her?”

“It was more than that, I think. It was a full-blown relationship.”

“And he stayed with your mahmen because divorce doesn’t exist in the glymera?”

“No, I think it was because it was a male. He was in love with a male. With Marquist, the one he left everything to.”

Helania’s jaw slowly fell open. “Did your mahmen know?”

“She must have. Even though aristocrats are very particular about their vices, very private about them, and that kind of relationship was not—is not—allowed, there is no way when Marquist moved in that it wasn’t apparent to her. How could it not be?” He shrugged. “Besides, I doubt it was my father’s first affair in that regard, and maybe that was why she cheated on him, too.”

“She did?”

“I’m not even sure I’m biologically his.” As Helania’s eyes popped again, he laughed bitterly. “Yes, I’m afraid things only look good from the outside where I’m from. And that is precisely why, right after my mahmen died, my father moved another ‘appropriate’ female in. His second shellan fared no better than his first, but at least my stepmahmen seemed better prepared to live with the situation.”

“Boone . . . I had no idea you grew up like that.”

“It’s all right.”

“No, it’s not.” Helania massaged the center of his chest, right over his heart. “My parents didn’t have much when it came to money, but their love was the binding to my sister’s and my lives. I can’t imagine what it was like not to have that example to believe in, to model, to hope for for yourself.”

The idea that that kind of loving relationship had existed between her parents made Boone want her for his own shellan even more.

“I’m so sorry,” Helania whispered. “That sounds so lame, but . . . I wish—”

“It’s okay,” he said as he leaned up and kissed her. “It feels good to get it all out in the air to someone. I’ve never told anybody the real story—and as for my blood mahmen’s death, I’m not sure which one of them did it.” Boone laughed in a hard rush. “Knowing my father, he probably refused to get his hands dirty. And hey, Marquist is good with a carving knife. You should see what he can do to a roast beef—although those nights in the kitchen are long over now that he’s lord of the manor.”

“Can you do something about this? Maybe Butch can help?”

“It was two decades ago, and all I have are my suspicions. Besides, now I have a conflict of interest because I was disinherited in favor of Marquist. If he committed a murder tied to my mahmen? I think he’s disqualified from getting the assets because she was my father’s shellan, and if she had lived, she would have kept everything—and I would be her sole heir.”

“But if what you think is true, Marquist could be getting away with murder and taking your inheritance.”

Boone thought about it for a time. And then he focused on Helania. “Well, then that former butler can pat himself on the back and enjoy the money and the house. I’m not going backward, only forward.”

As he said the words, he realized . . . he really wanted her to be pregnant.

He wanted to start his life over. With Helania and their young.

And he wanted to do things right, like her parents had done.

As the door to the patient room opened, Syn looked up from where he was sitting on the foot of the hospital bed. When he saw who it was, he cursed and stared down at the floor. Anyone else. He would have preferred anyone else, and no doubt that was exactly why the Brothers had chosen the male.

And what do you know, Xcor, the leader of the Band of Bastards, was not alone. Vishous was behind him, and as the pair of them entered, the Brother closed the door and locked it.

“So they sent you,” Syn muttered. “I should have guessed.” Xcor sat down on one of the chairs that were lined up against the wall, his enormous body filling the piece of furniture. The male had recently gotten a skull trim, and the lack of hair made his neck look even thicker, his shoulders bigger, his chest broader. As was typical of him, his face was unsmiling, that harelip distorting his mouth into what looked like a sneer, but was actually just a misalignment of the upper lip.

Or maybe the guy was pissed.

“As if I would not have come on my own,” Xcor said in a low voice.

That Old World accent, so similar to Syn’s own, was a reminder of how many years they had been together. Fighting, surviving . . . being angry at destiny. But Xcor had changed tracks. He was happily mated now and even had step-young.

Never would have seen that one coming, Syn thought as he looked into the eyes of his mentor, his leader . . . his friend.

The stare that came back at him was so level, so unemotional, it carried a punch to the gut that Syn had to resolutely ignore. As much as he hated to admit it, the two of them were on different sides of the table right now and it bothered him.

Xcor glanced up at Vishous. “Can you leave us?”

The Brother shook his head and lifted his phone. “And I’m recording.”

“Such an official show all this is,” Syn said.

“’Tis official.” Xcor eased back in the chair, his weight making the plastic and metal creak. “A female is dead.”

“Wasn’t it two?”

“Are you saying that to show off?”

“No, just to correct the record given that we’re so serious.” Syn nodded over at the Brother who was looming by the door like a prison guard. “And also to give his phone something to do.”

There was a long silence, and the fact that his leader, and others, were operating under the belief that Syn had done the killing made absolute sense. The present was always judged on the past, and his actions spoke for themselves.

Or maybe it was more like his corpses spoke for themselves.

After a while longer, Xcor said, “It’s not like you to leave the bodies behind. Usually no one finds them, at least for a while. And then they’re hard to identify.”

“You sound disappointed in me.”

“It would have made things easier,” the male muttered dryly.

Syn raised his eyebrows. “But that poor female would still be dead, wouldn’t she. And the other. Boo-hoo.”

“So you’re admitting you did it.”

“What do I get if I do?”

“You know the answer to that.”

Thinking back to the Brother Butch shoving that gun up against his temple, Syn smiled. “I’m okay with that outcome. Can we do it now, or do you have to wait for nightfall so we can go out into the woods and leave less of a mess for the doggen to clean up.”

Xcor’s foot started to tap, his shitkicker’s heel bouncing on the tile floor. “You’re cycling really tight. Eight months ago. Six nights ago. The night before last with the human male in the alley. You’re moving really quickly.”

“So let’s end it right now.” Syn nodded at the gun holstered on V’s hip. “He can do it. Or if you want to, you do it.”

The Brother Vishous frowned, the tattoo at his temple distorting. “I still haven’t heard you say you killed the females.”

Closing his eyes, Syn thought back to that night, that club . . . the female with the wig and the bustier, the breasts and the lips. He remembered seeing her through the crowd, the push and shove, the argument she’d been in. Then she came across to him, came on to him, toyed with him, until he picked her up and took her down below. Against the door, fucking. Door falling open and them spilling into the black interior of the storage room.

His monster stirring in his skin. Prowling. Demanding to be let out.

Then him outside of the club, the cold burning his face, his body hot under his clothes, his cock still hard.