“Yeah,” Mal said. “Conah transported him to the cage. It’s warded to fuck. The bastard won’t be able to escape. It seems these wankers can teleport, but he won’t get out of the cage.”
I stood on trembling knees. “I want to speak to him.”
“Babe…” Cora grabbed my arm to steady me. “You need to shower and get some food first.”
“No. I need to speak to him now. I need to look him in the eyes and ask him what the fuck they want from me.”
My father nodded in agreement. “The Rising Pack is here when you need us, Seraphina. I’m here when you need me.”
Hunter made a sound of exasperation, drawing my attention. He’d thrown himself in front of the mouths to protect me. He’d been willing to die for me, and I’d lost my senses when I’d thought he was bleeding out. We were connected, whether I liked it or not, and that fucking scared the shit out of me, but I wasn’t an ungrateful bitch either.
I held his dark gaze. “You risked your life to protect me.”
“You belong to me, Seraphina,” he said.
And there it was, the arrogant alpha-hole trait that set my teeth on edge, reminding me this wasn’t the world for me. “No, Hunter, I don’t belong to anyone.”
“The Regency Pack is here for you, Fee,” Grayson said, cutting off whatever Hunter was about to say. “All you have to do is call.”
He’d given me space. A semblance of autonomy when I knew it went against his alpha Loup instincts. He’d tried to understand me, had been willing to compromise. Why hadn’t my wolf chosen him? The Loup inside me was fucking insane.
The human part of me wanted to hug Grayson, but I was afraid if I did, I’d never let go. My body wanted to stay here, amongst the Loup, to run wild, to give in to baser desires, but my mind vetoed the option.
I took a step toward Mal and reached out to him. He grasped my hand and pulled me against him, wrapping his arms around my waist securely. I clung to him, reveling in the familiar feel of him, his distinctive aroma, and ignored Hunter’s growl of protest.
Mal and the guys were where I belonged. “Take me home, Mal. Please, take me home.”
Cora ran a comb through my wet hair. In the end, she’d won and manhandled me into the shower, threatening to come in with me if I didn’t wash off all the icky mouth blood immediately.
She’d been right. I felt more myself now. Alert and ready to interrogate one of the fuckers that had it in for me. Conah and Mal hadn’t had any luck getting answers from the bastard. But I was adamant it would be different for me.
Cyril lay half on my lap, the other half trailing across the floor. I’d never seen him this clingy before, but he’d even lain outside the bathroom while I showered. I stroked his head, and he raised it slightly to look at me.
“I wasss ssso worried. I don’t get worried,” he said.
“I’m sorry, babe. But I’m home now. I’m not leaving.”
“Next time, I come with you,” he said. “I’ll even do the teleporting thing.”
Iza appeared in the bathroom doorway, her expression grim. “The blood is gone, but I want to give the room a second cleaning.” She didn’t wait for permission but went back in and set to work.
Cora sighed. “Iza’s been just as worried about you as Cyril.”
I could tell. My room was so clean I could have eaten off any surface.
She reappeared in the doorway. “Fee?” Her eyes welled.
“Come here.” I held out my arms to her.
She hesitated a moment and then hurried over and stepped into them. Her shoulders shook, and she began to wail.
I looked up at Cora, eyes wide, like what the fuck?
Cora winced and shrugged.
I patted Iza’s back for long seconds, and finally, the wailing stopped. She stepped back and wiped her eyes. “I feel much better now it’s all out. You’re home. You’re alive.”
“And you need to take a break. Go to the tavern and spend some time with your beau. I insist.”
She shook her head. “I have work to do.”
I arched a brow. “Like what? This room is spotless.”
“Go,” Cora said. “You need to unwind. Fee’s safe now.”
Iza bobbed and then headed out of the room.
“Well, that was weird,” Cora said.
“It’s an imp thing,” Cyril said. “They expresss extreme emotion in burstsss. Anger, sorrow, grief. Once it’sss out, it’sss out and done with.”
“Look at you, the imp whisperer,” Cora teased.
Cora gave my hair a once-over with the comb. “You kicked ass out there, Fee,” she said.
“I was frozen, but I saw everything. It was like being trapped in amber. I think I moved like a fraction, but it was weird. I saw what Hunter did. He would have died for you.”
“He thinks I’m his mate, that’s why.”
“I didn’t choose to be.”
“On some level, you did.”
Annoyance flickered to life in my chest. “Why are you doing this? You know what he is and what he stands for.”
“Yet your father chose him to rule the Rising Pack,” she argued.
“He’s a chauvinistic pig.” I glared at her reflection in the mirror, willing her to agree with me.
“I don’t know, Fee,” Cora said softly. “I think there might be more to the whole Grayson-Hunter saga than we know.”
I took the comb off her and met her eyes in the mirror. “I don’t care. It’s not my problem. I’m done with the Loup. If I want to run, I’ll do it in Deadside. Alone. I can’t get involved in their business. I won’t.”
“What about your father?”
“I can meet up with him outside the pack boundaries, at Lumiers maybe.”
Cora sighed and sat on the bed. “I love you, Fee, but I’m telling you now, denying your Loup heritage is a bad idea.”
Her words grated, irritating me, nudging my anger and the need to bite back. “Is it me you’re worried about, or the fact you won’t see as much of Dean if I quit hanging with the pack?”
She flinched, and then hurt darkened her eyes. Guilt flooded me. Fuck, what was wrong with me? “I’m sorry, babe, I didn’t mean that.” I threw the comb onto the dresser and turned on my stool to face her. “That was totally bitchy and uncalled for.”
Cyril slid off my lap and hid under the bed.
“Yeah, it was,” Cora said. “And just so you know, I don’t need your permission to see Dean or any other guy for that matter. You may not feel at home in the Loup world, but I do, and I have a standing invitation from Grayson to come and go as I please.”
Oh. Okay, that was news to me.
“And Vi invited me to the Masterton Coven House for tea next week, too.”
I blinked in surprise. “You and Vi hang out?”
“I am capable of making other friends,” Cora said. “I do have a life outside of hanging with you.”
She was pissed. I could feel the tension in the air, and fuck she had every right to be. All she ever did was be there for me. I was a fucking bitch. My ears felt hot with shame.
“I’m sorry, Cor. I don’t deserve you. I know that. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said the stuff I did.”
She exhaled, and the tension melted away. “Shut up, you idiot. I get it. I know you’ve just been through the wringer. I shouldn’t have gotten so upset with you. Look, how about we save this energy for some heavy interrogation and maybe some light torture?”
A few weeks ago, the idea of torturing anyone would have filled me with revulsion, but now, after all the shit I’d gone through, the idea of inflicting pain on one of the bastards responsible for it had the opposite effect.
I couldn’t keep the grin off my face. “Sounds divine.”
The cage was on a sublevel of the Dominus quarters, deep in the rock face that made up the cliff our residence was perched on. It was accessed via a transport doorway that led into a chamber that existed between the Underealm and the human world.
Conah explained the location was what allowed the cage to function. Celestial energy operated differently in the Underealm. It was more destructive, darker than if used on the mortal realm, so here, at the cusp of both, it served the best of both purposes. The cage both held a captive and punished him if need be. Our scythes didn’t operate in this space, but we wouldn’t need them.
The cage itself was made of gridded iron. But each bar was etched with markings that glowed softly. It sat in the center of a room hewn from rock. Water cascaded down the wall to my left and pooled in a recess in the ground before trickling along the edge of the chamber and out through a hole in the wall. Soft amber light from tube bulbs bolted to the wall to our left illuminated the chamber.
Mal stopped at a panel in the wall, ready to activate the torture runes, while we approached the cage. The hooded figure was no longer hooded. He sat cross-legged in the center of the cage, eyes closed. His face was angular, his brow high, and his dark hair fell to his shoulders in waves. He looked serene and at peace, and that pissed me off.
“Hey, open your eyes. Look at me.”
I didn’t expect him to respond. From what Mal had told me, the man, creature, whatever he was, had taken two hours of pain delivered by the cage’s power and didn’t even utter a whimper. His skin had healed from the welts and cuts, but there were patches of blood on the ground around him as evidence of what the guys had done to him.
“We need Azazel,” Mal said softly. “This is his forte.”
The mention of Azazel made my heart beat faster. He knew what had happened to me, that I’d almost been killed—Conah had sent him a message—and he was on his way back, but not to make sure I was okay, to interrogate our captive.
That fucking hurt. It made me want donuts and hot chocolate, or anything else with sprinkles, to kill the rejection.