Passion Untamed

Page 19


"I'm Skye."
"Do you have a last name?"
Skye shook her head. "There aren't enough Mage to warrant two names unless we live among the humans."
Delaney nodded, glancing at Tighe and Paenther as they took their seats. "Same with the Therians, right?"
Tighe's wary gaze moved between the two women, clearly reluctant to be drawn into this discussion.
Delaney's none-too-subtle jab of her elbow to his arm elicited a grunt from the warrior and a stiff reply. "Most Therians take two names because they do live and work among the humans. The Ferals don't."
Delaney's gaze swung to Tighe. "Then why does your driver's license say you're John Tighe?"
Tighe lifted a brow. "You've been in my wallet?"
She grinned at him. "I'm FBI. You know full well I'm snooping around every chance I get."
Tighe hooked his arm around her neck and pulled her close for a quick kiss to her temple.
"And I'm going to have to put up with this for eternity?" His voice was low, the look in his eyes full of such love that Paenther lost the last of his doubts about why his friend had taken the woman as his mate. Tighe had clearly found his match.
"We've all taken John as a first name for the purposes of the licenses. Among other aliases."
Delaney rolled her eyes. "It's a good thing I'm on your side, now. I'm learning way too much." She turned to Skye. "So, you're really a witch?"
"I'm a Mage, although female Mages are often called witches." Her mouth turned rueful. "Few of us have hooked noses with warts on the ends, though."
The touch of wry humor in her voice surprised him.
Delaney's eyes lit. "So you don't fly around on a broomstick?"
To his amazement, an answering smile twitched at the corners of Skye's mouth. "No broomsticks. Unfortunately, no flying. I wish I could fly."
"Me, too. What about that..." Delaney lifted her finger to the end of her nose and wiggled it.
The small burst of laughter, sweet and genuine, that erupted from Skye's throat almost seemed to startle her as much as it did Paenther.
"Bewitched!" The delight in Skye's eyes entranced him. "I loved that show when I was a little girl. The way Samantha could make things appear and disappear with the click of her fingers or a wiggle of her nose. Even Tabitha could do it!"
"Oh my God, did you ever see the episode where Tabitha..."
As the smell of cinnamon rolls began to fill the dining room, Paenther met Tighe's gaze as the two women talked about a television show he'd never seen, nor had ever cared to. Tighe was looking decidedly unhappy with the enthusiasm with which his mate was embracing the conversation with the witch. His friend's wary gaze turned back to Skye and stayed, like a man prepared to defend his mate against a wild and dangerous beast.
As much as he hated that Skye had to endure the constant distrust, he couldn't blame Tighe. Few Therians ever found a mate worth binding themselves to for an eternity. None of the other current Ferals ever had except those chosen as the mates of the Radiants. Lyon for Kara and Wulfe for the now-deceased Beatrice. While Lyon seemed happy with the choice, Wulfe never had even though those pairings were supposed to be as perfect as any pairings ever made.
Now there was Tighe.
Paenther shook his head, watching the play of possessiveness, unable to fathom caring so deeply about one woman that he would be willing to forsake all others for eternity. But as his gaze turned back to Skye, to the fragile pleasure lighting her face as she talked about the old television show, he could...almost...understand. Every now and then, a woman had a way of changing everything.
Her eyes positively danced as she leaned forward, deeply engrossed in her discussion with Delaney, a self-deprecating smile lifting her lips.
"I used to complain bitterly to my mother about the unfairness of being a real witch and not being able to do any of those cool things."
Delaney watched her intently, her smile bemused. "You can't do any of those things? Then what can you do?" Her gaze rounded on Tighe. "There has to be a reason everyone's so afraid of you."
The delight slowly drained from Skye's expression. "The Mage I grew up with could do little more than simple spells and charms, lighting lightwicks..." Her hand lifted and twirled in the air. "Floating candles, basically. And increasing the yield of the garden or healing minor sickness. Some had other gifts, the gift of foresight or the ability to read another's mind. None of those was any real danger to the Therians except for the ability to enchant and capture the mind of another with the touch of a hand. A dangerous trick since the victim can be stolen away without effort and made to do anything the captor wishes. But not all Mage possess that ability. I never have."
Paenther stilled. "You captured me."
She met his gaze with a lift of her brow, a decidedly impudent twist to her mouth. "I did." Even as she held his gaze, color began to stain her cheeks. "But it took considerably more than a touch."
The memory of just how she'd captured him, of how he'd slid inside her, had his blood heating all over again.
"I hadn't heard this part," Tighe said, his voice a low rumble. "By the look passing between you, I take it she...uh...opened your mind for you?"
"She did."
"Without enchanting you first?"
"She hid her Mage eyes, if that's what you're asking."
"It's not like you to get distracted by a female."
Paenther knew that all too well. And yet...As Skye looked up at him, as their gazes met, he felt her reach deep inside him and stroke that tight knot in his chest. "I hadn't met this female," he said softly.
The soft smile that curved her lips had him longing to reach for her, to stroke her face and bury his nose into the curve of her neck, immersing himself in her scent.
Tighe growled low. "Did you ever consider that she's enchanted you?"
"Of course she's enchanted him," Jag snarled from the other end of the table. "She's been fucking with my animal since she got here. All fucking night!"
Paenther turned, slowly, meeting the hard anger in the other Feral's eyes. It had been a mistake to bring her into the dining room. But he'd be damned if he was going to steal her away before she'd had a chance to eat. She deserved better than that.
"What in the hell is she doing here?" Lyon stood in the doorway, Kara at his side.
Paenther groaned, then rose to greet his chief. But Lyon didn't move forward. Instead, he pushed Kara behind him as if protecting her.
Paenther's jaw clenched. "She needs to eat."
"She's not even tied."
"I thought the Shaman bound her magic," Delaney said evenly.
"We have no way of knowing if it was effective."
Jag snarled. "I can tell you right now, Chief, it wasn't. She's fucking with my animal!" Jag began to light as if he were...shifting.
Chaos erupted as the sleek jaguar materialized in Jag's chair. The chair crashed backward as the animal twisted and leaped to the floor.
"What the hell?" Lyon demanded.
It's her! Jag's angry voice rang in Paenther's head as he was sure it did in all the Ferals'. A shifted Feral was able to speak telepathically with whomever he chose as long as that person was relatively close by. I didn't intend to shift. I felt her pulling on me, and suddenly it was happening.
The cat came around the table slowly, his walk stealthy. Deadly. I'm going to rip that bitch's throat out.
Paenther shoved back his chair and stood, Skye at his back. "Like hell you are. It's not her fault, Jag."
No? She works her magic, and it's not her fault? Who's to blame, then? Lyon? Kara? Maybe Santa Claus?
Jag's muscles bunched to spring.
"I can't shift," Paenther told Tighe even as he grabbed Skye from her chair and pushed her against the wall, shielding her with his body.
"I can." In a flash of lights and striped fur, Tighe shifted into his tiger and leaped at the same moment the jaguar did, colliding in midair, right over the table. The pair crashed on top of the platters of food, sending dishes, crystal pitchers, and silverware crashing to the floor.
Paenther pulled Skye to the other side of the room as the two big cats fought in a way strictly forbidden by the code of the Ferals.
"Jag, shift. Now!" Lyon ordered.
But the jaguar's only reply was a furious growl as he sank his fangs in the tiger's shoulder and was batted back by a huge, powerful paw.
Lyon turned on Paenther. "Get her out of here, or I'm going to kill her myself!"
Paenther snarled, pulling Skye hard against him, but he couldn't argue. Whether she was doing this on purpose or not, the result was the same.
"The Prisons, B.P.," Lyon yelled, as Paenther pulled Skye from the room. "I don't want her anywhere near the others."
In the hallway outside the dining room, Paenther grasped Skye's trembling hand and saw the fear in her eyes. A fear that echoed deep in his soul. Because whether she was doing it intentionally or through the cantric embedded in her heart, he could not allow her to endanger his friends.
As he led her down the long stairs to the prisons below, he felt his choices narrowing to a dismal few. In a terrible twist of irony, he'd found that rarest of creatures, a kind and gentle witch. Yet thanks to the treachery of her own kind, she was still dangerous.
And a dangerous witch, caught in the Ferals' trap, had only one kind of future. Bleak.
Chapter Fourteen
Skye turned to face Paenther as they reached the prison deep below the house. She was shaking, her stomach tight with misery after what had happened in the dining room. The jaguar inside Jag had been acting increasingly desperate to reach her. Not drawn to her. Not leaping to greet her as the panther was. He'd almost been acting as if he were being pulled against his will, turning him angry. Viciously so.
"I didn't do it on purpose."
Paenther looked down at her, his mouth hard, his eyes grim. "I didn't say you did."
"But you have to think I was responsible."
"I don't think it's you but your cantric that's to blame."
"Why? I mean, why would Birik load a spell into my cantric that would drive a Feral crazy? He couldn't have expected me to free you, let alone be kidnapped by you in return. It doesn't make any sense."
He opened the door of a cell across from where she'd stayed...and midnight. Someone had cleaned up the blood.
He ushered her inside, then followed her. There was a wooden bench in this one, and she sat on it as Paenther stood beside the door, his arms crossed over his broad chest, his body still. No expression crossed his face.
"It might not make any sense, but the only alternative I can see is that you're doing these things intentionally."
"I'm not."
He watched her closely. "I believe you."
She closed her eyes, absorbing the sound of those words.
"But that means it's the cantric." He moved, coming to sit beside her on the bench. "Or something else we haven't thought of."
As he stretched his long legs out in front of him, she turned to him. "What are you going to do, Paenther?"
He turned to meet her gaze. "What do you mean?"
"With me?" She knew her survival was at stake. She knew it. And knew he did, too. "I want to help you stop Birik. More than anything in the world, I want that. But I don't know how."
He reached for her, hooking his arm around her shoulder as he pulled her against him. "I know. I don't know how, either."
"You can't let me go for fear Birik will catch me and use me to free more of those things. But Lyon won't let me stay here, will he? Not when I'm causing so much distress to your animals."
"Maybe your staying down here is enough for now. We'll figure out something, Beauty."
With a gentle squeeze, he released her, then stood and turned to look down at her. "Stay here. I'm going to get you some food."
"I'm not hungry."
He cupped her face with hand. "I'll be right back." Then he locked her in and disappeared down the long passage, leaving her alone and trembling.
For all her adult life she'd longed for kindness. For goodness in another. She'd finally found it and fallen head over heels in love with a good man.
But love was never enough.
Paenther strode through the underground of the house, hating that he had nothing more to offer Skye than platitudes. Lies. Words of hope, some called them.
Hope was good, of course. Vhyper's words, repeated every day of their incarceration three centuries ago, had kept him sane, kept him believing he'd make it. "We are going to get out of this, we three. Together. Do not doubt it. Do not ever doubt it."
The words had turned out to be a lie for Frederick, the third of their group. He'd died in that dungeon, bleeding to death from a wound Ancreta had inflicted on him just for the fun of it. She'd cut off his foot to see how long it would take to grow back. It hadn't.
The three of them hadn't gotten out of there together. Frederick had never become the jaguar Feral he was marked to be. It was nearly two years later that Jag had finally dragged his surly ass into Feral House and set about turning every Feral against him. They'd thought he'd never show up. To this day, nearly three centuries later, most wished he hadn't.
Frederick, with his quiet strength and dry wit, would have rounded out their team well, but he'd never gotten the chance, despite Vhyper's words of hope.