Passion Untamed

Page 20


But sometimes words were all you had.
As he reached the main floor, he saw Lyon at the front door greeting three strangers, two men and a woman. The chief's gaze swung to Paenther, and he motioned him over.
"The Guard, B.P."
The Guard hailed mainly from Europe, trained in the British Isles, and were known to be fierce fighters. He was interested to see the leader of this team seemed to be the woman, a petite female in a trim pantsuit and high heels with flaming shoulder-length red hair.
Paenther shook hands with each of the three. The men both spoke with English accents, but the woman, Olivia, possessed a hint of a Scottish brogue.
As Lyon turned to usher them into the parlor, Jag came storming into the foyer. "That witch has to go! I feel like I've got her magic crawling all over me," he growled, then stopped short as he saw the visitors. His gaze zeroed in on Olivia, his gaze raking her from head to toe and back again. "You'll do."
"Jag..." Lyon warned, but the surly warrior slid his arm around the redhead's shoulders. "How about you come upstairs and spread your legs for me, Sugar," he drawled.
"How about I don't." The words purred from her mouth, but her eyes had turned hard as steel.
Jag didn't seem to notice. His hand dropped from her shoulder to grasp her breast. "I'll be good."
"I'm sure," she murmured as she lifted one of her high spiked heels and drove it down hard on his instep.
"Fuck!" Jag leaped back, lifting his injured foot. The look he turned on the woman was pure venom.
Olivia turned so that she could keep Jag in her sights, but glanced at Lyon and lifted one well-arched brow. "As you were saying?"
Paenther struggled to keep a straight face.
"Did I just see what I thought I saw?" Tighe said coming up behind him.
"You did."
Lyon eyed the woman with a bemused look. "I was saying I appreciate your willingness to help. I'll be pairing your warriors with mine, allowing my team to cover more ground."
The redhead gave a decisive nod, glancing at Jag, then back at Lyon. "We'll be ready. As many of us as you need."
"You're one of the fighters, then?" Lyon asked.
"Of course. Do not let my size fool you, warrior. Many have done so to their regret."
Admiration lit Lyon's eyes, and a hint of amusement as he glanced at Jag. "I don't doubt that. I'll be happy for your help. All of you," he said, his words encompassing the other two men.
Tighe chuckled low and glanced at Paenther. "Think Lyon will pair her with Jag? She could sure teach him some manners."
Paenther grunted. "A hundred bucks on the redhead."
Jag glared at the pair of them, growling. All of a sudden his skin began to sparkle with lights. The next moment, a furious jaguar prowled the parlor.
Fuck! Jag's yell roared through Paenther's head.
Lyon scowled and glared at Paenther. "See to your witch."
Paenther nodded and left the room. Tighe accompanied him back to the kitchen, where he was determined to find Skye some food.
"Hawke called while you were downstairs. They're on their way back."
"What happened?"
"They found the farmhouse where we picked you up without any trouble, and Wulfe located your scent. He followed it about four miles, then lost it. They spent all night searching but can't find anything that looks like a cave."
"What about the Market?" They turned the corner into the dining room, where Foxx, Kara, and Delaney were helping Pink sweep up the mess. On the sideboard sat a platter of cinnamon rolls still half-full.
"They can't find it." Tighe picked up one of the rolls and took a big bite. "Mmm, not bad."
Paenther grabbed one of the unbroken plates and loaded it with four rolls.
"They were starting to feel disoriented, so Lyon ordered them back here, stat."
"Yep. Gotta be."
"Dammit. I can find my way back in there. I know I can. As soon as I get these damned shackles off."
"Any word from the Shaman this morning?"
"None. If he doesn't come up with something soon, I may not have any choice but to cut off one of my hands to see if it works." He couldn't shake the memory of Frederick bleeding to death after Ancreta cut off his foot, but Frederick had been two years without radiance. He'd turned mortal, as all newly marked Ferals did if they didn't find Feral House within a couple of years.
It wouldn't happen to him. His hand would grow back. He hoped.
Tighe grimaced. "And if it doesn't work?"
Paenther met his gaze. "If the Mage find a way to free Satanan from that blade, a missing hand is going to be the least of my worries."
He took the plate and started back down the stairs to the underground, but as he neared the bottom, a strange sensation began to crawl over his scalp, as if something were dripping into his head and spreading, taking root.
The plate of cinnamon rolls slipped from his fingers and crashed to the floor. Voices whispered inside his head on a thick, cold mist as his skin crawled with recognition.
The mist rushed in, and he knew no more.
Skye rested her head back against the wall, trying to make sense of what had happened upstairs. A dull queasiness played in her stomach, a fear that if she didn't figure out a way to stop whatever it was and convince the Ferals she could be of help to them, she was in serious danger.
Paenther would protect her as long as he could. But if his chief decided she was dangerous, there would be nothing he could do.
It was as if the animals inside the Ferals were both drawn to her and repelled by her. She'd thought it was simply a matter of confusion on the animals' part by their warriors' animosity toward her.
Unfortunately, that didn't explain what had happened to Jag. She'd felt his animal's pain, in a different way than she'd felt it before. What was worse, Foxx's, Lyon's, and Tighe's animals had all been exhibiting echoes of that same pain that morning. As if something were wrong with them. Her gift should never cause a creature pain. Even if she wanted to hurt them, she couldn't. Not when the Shaman had bound her magic.
She stilled. Maybe that was the problem. Maybe the Shaman had changed her gift in some fundamental way. As soon as Paenther returned, she'd ask him.
The sound of footsteps carried to her. Paenther's footsteps. Her skin heated. Her heart fluttered with anticipation, her chest expanding and filling until the warmth was nearly too much to contain. How had Paenther become her entire world in such a short time?
But as he turned the corner, she sensed something was wrong. His walk was tense. His expression hard. And he'd come without the food he'd promised her.
"What's the matter?" she asked as he unlocked her cell, his gaze fixed on the task.
"We have to go."
"Why?" She wiped suddenly damp palms on the pants Paenther had loaned her. Had Lyon already ordered her to be destroyed?
Swinging the door open, glancing back over his shoulder, he reached his hand out to her. She placed her hand in his and followed him through the passage and into the gym.
"Can you tell me what happened, Paenther?" Her heart was beginning to race with fear.
He didn't reply. When they reached the hallway that led to the stairs, he instead led her to a pair of double doors. Releasing her hand for just a moment, he unlocked the doors and swung one open only enough for the two of them to slip through, then he closed it behind him.
He grabbed her hand and led her up the wide set of steep stairs. Daylight filtered in from above, lighting their way and glinting off spiderwebs and dust motes.
"Where do these go?" she asked softly. But again, he didn't answer. "Paenther?"
Her heart lurched. Alarms began to ring in her head. "Paenther, look at me." She tried to jerk her hand from his grasp and couldn't. "Look at me!"
Finally, he turned his head, and met her gaze with the eyes of a stranger. Eyes dulled by magic.
He was enthralled.
Birik had come for them.
Chapter Fifteen
Skye tried to yell for Lyon, but Paenther slammed his hand over her mouth before she made a sound. She struggled against him, but he dragged her up the stairs effortlessly, unlocked the door at the top, and pulled her into the harsh sunlight.
Birik couldn't be calling Paenther all the way from the mountains. He must have come for Paenther himself or sent one of his minions. Now they waited for them, calling to Paenther through his shackles.
No, she would not go back there! Every time she closed her eyes, she saw that Daemon again, ripping those poor people to shreds. Worse, much worse, was the thought of Paenther chained again, back under Birik's control.
Her mind screamed. Birds took flight, rattling the trees around them. Dogs howled in the distance, feeling her distress. Her magic being bound seemed to have no effect on her ability to call the animals.
Paenther dragged her through the tree-filled backyard, one hand over her mouth, one hand firm on her arm. She struggled, desperate to get away, but he only lifted her off the ground and carried her as if she weighed nothing.
She had to do something! She couldn't let this happen.
But the only ones who'd ever come to her call were animals. And not even a large dog was likely to be able to stop this man.
She stilled. But there were other animals in these woods. Animals that were also men.
Praying the Ferals' animals would hear her distress, she opened her mind and heart and sent her plea out into the wind.
Within moments, animals began to appear. Squirrels scampered through the underbrush, a groundhog waddled out from behind a nearby bush, and birds of every kind and color appeared, landing in nearby trees.
Dozens of creatures came to her call.
But the animals she needed to hear her, the only ones who could stop Paenther and keep them from becoming prisoners all over again, weren't among them.
Lyon shook hands with each of the Guard and finally their lead, Olivia. "Where are you staying?"
"At the Bethesda Therian enclave," she replied with that hint of a Scottish brogue.
Lyon nodded. "I'll be in touch." Just as soon as he figured out what to do with Paenther's damned witch. He reached for the door and stopped mid-move as his beast leaped within him, lifting his head on a roar of distress. A second later, a strange blast of energy hit him. The power rushed over him, power he hadn't called, and he felt himself shifting. He struggled against the magic and failed.
Son of a bitch.
His line of sight dropped as he shifted into his animal form, a large, full-maned African lion.
One of the Guards crowed. "Brilliant!"
What the hell? Tighe's voice roared in his head. I just shifted. And I can't shift back!
Lyon growled angrily from his lion's throat. That witch has got to go.
"Tighe!" Delaney's voice rang down the stairs. As the huge tiger ran into the foyer, his mate raced toward them.
"I just saw Paenther and Skye out our window. He's carrying her off through the backyard, his hand over her mouth. She's struggling."
Something's seriously screwed up here, Tighe muttered.
Lyon had to agree. Olivia, I'd appreciate it if you'd stick around. We may need you. To Tighe he said, Let's go.
Delaney ran for the back door and threw it open, then stood back as Lyon ran through, the tiger close behind him. As he ran into the yard, he called to his mate.
Kara, lock the doors and stay in the house. We've got a problem.
He heard her groan. I wish I could say that's a surprise. Be careful, Lyon.
Always, little Radiant.
Through the trees, he caught a flash of color. Paenther and the witch. As Delaney said, it appeared Paenther was dragging her against her will.
The little witch bitch is at it again, Jag drawled, joining them in his jaguar form.
Where's Foxx?
He left for the store a little while ago. Hopefully, he was out of reach of that blast.
Lyon had to agree.
The cats ran on all fours, their sleek animal bodies eating up the distance in a handful of seconds. It was rare for Lyon to run free in his full lion form, and the power of its body filled him with a rush rivaled only by the joy he found in Kara's arms.
The cats circled around the fleeing pair and cut them off. Stop, B.P., Lyon demanded, but the Feral only tried to push around him. Paenther!
His eyes don't look right, Roar, Tighe said.
And they didn't. They were unfocused. Paenther was almost certainly enthralled. Yet the witch wasn't leading him away. Instead, she seemed to be fighting him with every ounce of strength she possessed. When had his well-ordered world turned into such a mire of chaos?
We're going to have to take him down, he told Tighe. Don't kill her until I know what she's done to him.
As Tighe blocked Paenther's escape, snapping and growling, Lyon circled around. Bunching his powerful lion's muscles, he took a running leap, hitting Paenther full in the back with his forepaws, then flinging himself sideways before he could injure his friend.
The witch rolled free.
Kara, love, we need rope. Olivia, we're going to need your help.
As Paenther hit the ground, the massive tiger leaped on him, pressing him down with his weight.
The witch rose and backed away.
Delaney, don't let her escape. Shoot her if you have to. Lyon speared the witch with his lion's gaze. What have you done? Why can't we shift back?
The Mage shook her dark head, her blue eyes wide and confused. "I don't know."
You're failing the test, witch. Give me one good reason why I shouldn't kill you right now.