Riven stared at Aren with rage. "You know what I want to know? What happened to my sister? Why did you kidnap her? Why people thought you were dead? Your death alone about killed her."
"I will start off by saying your sister was my life. She was my true mate and I would have done anything for her. I know exactly where Raice is coming from. You wouldn't understand the feeling, because you haven't found your mate. You may never, but if you do, you will understand what has happened in your pack."
Aren moved from his position at the doorway and sat down in the seat previously taken by his daughter. He inhaled and memorized her scent. She had that sweet scent, much like her mother. He closed his eyes and pictured his mate's beautiful face in his head. He could get lost in her blue eyes every time she looked at him. When he had first met her, it had been under difficult circumstances. She had been kidnapped by his men and brought to him. He had given them orders to break into a rival alpha's house and kill everyone in it. He also commanded them to steal all of his valuables. He hadn't counted on the alpha's daughter being home, or his men bringing her to him.
She had been sixteen at the time, and just starting her transition into a woman. She was beautiful and instantly taken his breath away. He had felt his heart stop. He went berserk when he saw his friend's hand on her. He noticed multiple bruises on her skin. But he kept himself under control. He couldn't let his men know that this girl was his true mate. He had to protect her, and to do that, he had to lie and pretend not to care.
"Your sister was never supposed to be kidnapped," Aren started talking aloud once more. "My men were sent to your house to steal your father's valuables. We had no idea his daughter was in the house. I wasn't on the raid. I was giving orders at our safe house. When my men made it back, they told me that they had killed everyone still in the house and kidnapped his daughter. I was furious. I told them to bring her to me.
"As soon as I saw your sister, I knew she was mine. My very soul left my body and connected with her instantly and I knew I had to protect her. I couldn't let my men know what she was to me, or they would use it against me. They were ruthless. I commanded them to lock her in one of the rooms and to take turns guarding her. I had to figure out a way to get her away, or for her to escape."
Aren closed his eyes as he remembered the first time he heard her voice. It was music to his ears. He could hear it echoing in his head at that moment. Lucy was eerily like her mother. She had the same voice, and a similar scent. Every time he saw her, it was like looking at a miniature Hannah. It made him miss his mate even more.
"Later that night, I took over guard duty from one of my men. I waited an hour before I opened the door and entered her room. I found her sleeping on the small mattress we'd thrown on the floor. She looked so peaceful and her hair was splayed out on the pillow. Her hand was resting gently on her chest, her necklace in her opened palm. I crept forward and studied my mate. I guessed she was around sixteen, not old enough to mate. Without thinking I reached forward and touched her hair.
"I was so intent on touching my mate and studying her, that I didn't catch the slight difference in her breathing. When I touched her cheek she attacked. One second she was lying on the bed, the next she launched her small body at me. I was caught unaware and went tumbling backwards. I hit the floor hard and my head slammed against the cold wood floor. Hannah climbed off of me and sprinted for the door. I caught her ankle and sent her hitting the floor. She gasped as the breath flew past her lips and she turned to glare at me. I just remember at that moment her eyes were intensely blue.
"She tried to kick at my face, but I moved and climbed to my feet. I watched her struggle to her feet as soon as I released her. She stared at me, but I could tell her attention was on the door. She growled at me and I couldn't help the laugh that bubbled up from inside me. It caught her unprepared and she stumbled back in surprise. I smiled at her and waited to see what her next move would be.
"She circled around until her back was facing the door. She started inching back toward it as I moved forward toward her. There was no way she was getting out that door before I reached her, and she knew it. I watched her eyes survey the room and then she smiled at me. Part of me wondered why she was smiling, but the other more dominant part of me was mesmerized by her smile. Her lips were the perfect shape for kissing."
Riven cleared his throat, his disproval clear. He didn't want to hear about how kissable his dead sister's lips were. He just wanted straight facts. Aren smirked at him and then continued on as if he weren't interrupted.
"Before she could take another step back, or find something to use against me, I leapt at her. I knew I had caught her by surprise from the look on her face. My arms encircled her waist and I pulled her against me. She started struggling immediately and bit my shoulder. I walked over to the bed, ignoring the pain, but loving the way she felt against me.
"Setting her on the bed, I kept her arms in my grasp and her legs tucked under mine. She growled at me and attempted to head butt me. I laughed and just shook my head at her antics. 'You aren't going to get away.' I told her. She glared at me and said nothing in response. 'What is your name?' I asked her. Again she remained silent.
"I could wait all night for her answer. I was quite comfortable in my mate's presence. I inhaled more often just to take her scent into my lungs. Eventually she relaxed after several more attempts to get free. I watched the fight leave her eyes, but she was still defiant. She would not speak. I wanted to release her, but was afraid she might hurt herself, or I might hurt her in an attempt to restrain her.
"I sighed and said, 'If I promise to let you go, will you talk to me?' Her eyes lit up and then I realized what I had said. 'Not let you go as in release you back to your family, but release you from my grasp.' Her face fell and she sighed. Nodding her head, I took that for a yes. I released her slowly and moved to the foot of the bed. She rubbed her arms where my hands had been and tucked her legs up under her little frame.
"She looked around the room before her eyes landed on my still form. 'Where am I?' she asked me. I kept quiet. I couldn't tell her that she was with the notorious murderer and thief. She would fear me, and I didn't want that from my mate. 'What is your name?' Yet another question I couldn't answer. I instead asked her what her name was. She growled, but told me, 'Hannah'. I tried the name out in my head and thought it fit her. 'What do you want with me?' she asked. Finally there was one I could answer.
"That's when I told her she was my mate." Aren laughed out loud, remembering the look that passed over her face. Shock had been the first followed by anger, then patience as she thought he was a mental case.
"You bluntly told her?" Riven asked, glad his sister had been a fighter. He had trained her to use anything to her advantage. He couldn't help the smile that crept on his face after imagining his little sister besting the man in front of him. It was a sight he would have loved to see.
"I couldn't lie to her," Aren answered.
"You loved her very much," Riven said honestly. He could see this man really had cared for Hannah.
"I still love her, and curse the day that she was killed and taken from me for eternity." Aren still couldn't believe she was gone. He had thought to protect her by disappearing, not having her die in his absence.
"What happened next?" Riven asked, ready to get on with the story and to why Aren had been proclaimed dead.
"Well, I guess I can skip ahead a bit. Anyway, you sister and I talked the rest of the night. I explained how we hadn't planned on kidnapping her and that she was in fact my mate. She didn't believe me on that, but she pretended that she did. I knew she was lying, but kept it to myself. When morning came around, I snuck out of her room and turned the guard duty over to one of my men. I went about doing my normal routine, and only returned when one of my men asked me to take their shift. They had an emergency. I didn't ask questions like I normally would, but instead went to watch my mate.
"We did this for two more nights. Then I heard that you and your father had returned and found the house destroyed and your nurse killed. I knew you would be coming for her, and it would work to my favor to give her to you. My mate couldn't live with me at that time. She was too young and wouldn't be able to defend herself. I needed her with you where she'd be safe."
"That's why we found her so easily. And why there was only two men guarding her." Riven was thinking aloud.
"Yes, I sent the rest of my men on a run. They were breaking into another rich shifter's house. I was with them, knowing you would attack that night. I had left her with the promise I would come for her when she was older. I had finally convinced her that she was my mate. She had started feeling for me. Every time we touched, she felt the spark. It was just a matter of time."
"My father had always questioned why it had been easy, but I was just glad we had gotten my sister back. None of us would have guessed you had done it on purpose."
"No one but your sister and I knew she was mine." Aren closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He opened his eyes and looked straight at Riven. "Nothing could have kept me from coming for her when she got older."
"My sister was different when she came back from being with you. She was quiet; more reserved and was always looking out the window. We asked her what had happened, but she would never tell us. My father feared the worse; that she had been raped. I was worried about her."
"None of my men would have lived had they touched her. I wouldn't allow it. I made sure they knew she was off limits. They didn't like it, but I was the boss at the time."
"Why did you think it was the right time to come back when you did? What made it safer for my sister then? Why didn't you step forward and claim her in front of my father? What made you do it in secret and steal her away?" Riven had always wondered why Aren had ran with his sister. He was well known in the area and had always been ruthless. It would have been a good match, though Riven's father would have never allowed it. If the two of them would have fought, Riven wasn't so sure who would've won.
"It was time. I was tired of being away from my mate and she was old enough. I had also stopped thieving and had gotten a house for myself and a safe haven for my mate. I had disposed of most of my enemies and given her time to grow into a woman to meet my needs." Aren was answering honestly. He didn't care whether Riven approved of the answers or not. He had never told his story to anyone.
"I finally managed to get her to tell me what happened when she had been taken. She confessed she had a mate and that he promised to come for her." Riven watched Aren's face to see if his expression would change.
"She told me everything when we were reunited."
"That's why she was sent away. My father hoped you wouldn't find her." Riven could remember the rage their father had shown when Riven had told him what Hannah had said. He had thought Hannah had been brainwashed or something. He would not allow his daughter to keep thinking those thoughts.
"I knew exactly where she was at all times. I paid visits to her at school and sent her presents for Christmas and her birthday. I never let her go without talking to me or hearing from me around the holidays. She was never unprotected," Aren admitted. He had made sure his mate had been safe and cherished.
"We thought that she had forgotten you when she came back at twenty-five. Neither of us suspected you had been seeing her, sending her stuff. I had thought her at peace. None of us saw her disappearance coming. She just up and left without a goodbye. She only left a note that said she was going to meet her mate, Aren. That was the first time we knew your name and just who you were. It came as a shock and was almost too much for my father to take. We looked for her for years, but never could find you two."
"I wanted it that way. I was not going to let you take her from me. I made sure we kept on the move and that she was happy. She missed her family dearly, but I wasn't going to chance you stealing her away from me. She was mine," Aren growled. His eyes shifted to wolf.
"What happened to you? Why did my sister send me a letter saying you were dead and she was pregnant? Where did you go?" This was the part Riven most dearly wanted to know. This was the most important. It could also be the most damning.
Trent shifted back to his human form and started pacing. He had no idea what to do. No one could discover he had killed Bruno or he'd be put to death. It was the one rule that could not go without repercussions. If you killed someone in cold blood, you were put to death. End of story. He had to dispose of the body, but where?
"I could dump it in the water and hope it drifted far away." He whispered tohimself talking out loud. He ran his fingers through his hair in frustration. "That's what I'll do."
Picking up Bruno by the arms, he started dragging the body toward the river. He could hear the water growing louder as he neared. He was about to throw the body into the river when he heard a sound. He turned and scanned the forest.
He was about to turn back to the body when he noticed a black shape in the bushes. It moved and he gasped. A black panther prowled toward him.
"Raice, what the hell are you doing out here?" Trent asked. He looked down at the body and then back up at Raice. "Shit."
The wind shifted directions and Trent caught the panther's scent. He drew in a deep breath and froze. That wasn't Raice.
"Who are you?" Trent growled. He watched the panther stand on its back legs and shimmer before his eyes. Several moments later, a large, tan, human male stood in the place of the panther.
"Who am I? The better question, my boy, is who are you?" The man stretched, flaunting his nakedness. He moved slowly toward Trent. He looked down at the body and the met Trent's eyes. "Got yourself in quite a mess, don't you."
"Who are you and what do you want?" Trent felt his body tense. He was ready for action. He could shift and be at the man's throat in less than ten seconds. He was biding his time.
"My name is Anthony, and I have a proposition for you." The man smiled menacingly, and Trent knew he was in trouble.
Braiden threw the open the backdoor and raced out side. He breathed hard, and his hands covered his ears. He resisted the terrible urge to throw up. Hearing Lucy and Raice going at it had his stomach in all sorts of knots and he felt sick.
"Why did she have to choose him?" Braiden kicked at the leaves and swung his fist at the closest tree. He hit the tree several times before letting his bloody hand fall to his side. He leaned back and looked up at the sky. The sky had grown dark and he could smell the scent of rain on the air. It was going to storm hard.
Braiden started walking toward his house. He kept his eyes on the ground, and his ears listening to the forest around him. He didn't know what to think. Lucy would have made the perfect mate. She was a full blooded werewolf and would have strong pups. Braiden couldn't help feeling attracted to her. He had thought they had bonded that night in the woods, but she had used him. He growled and ran his fingers through his hair.
"How could I have been so stupid?" he asked himself, stopping to settle his thoughts.
Now this situation with Raice had come up. How had no one in the pack seen that he was a panther? They knew he kept to himself and never shifted in front of them, but to be a panther? That was ridiculous. How could they accept him in the pack now? Yes he had their back in a fight, but how could they trust him?
"This is fucked up," Braiden said.
"Who you talking to?" Michael asked, coming up behind his brother. Braiden jumped and glared at this brother.
"What the fuck you doing? Coming up behind me like that?" Braiden asked.
"Man, what's got your panties in a bunch?" Michael smiled at his brother. They loved riling each other up. "Jealous of panther boy?"
"Shut your mouth, you little fuck." Braiden stomped away. Michael laughed.
"You know it's true. Can you believe she chose a panther over one of us wolves? I mean she must have known. Trent is pissed and now you're fucked up over it. I mean come on, she's just a chica." Michael shrugged. He liked Lucy, but she wasn't for him. "She's good for a fuck, but that's about it."
Braiden saw red. "How dare you." He swung at his brother, nailing him right in the nose. Michael cursed and growled.
"You're going to pay for that, you dumbass." Michael darted forward, grabbing his brother by the waist and tackling him to the ground. He punched Braiden in the face and then the stomach. Braiden bucked up and rolled, punching Michael in the side as he did so. They rolled across the ground and straight into a tree. After several moments of wailing on each other, they broke apart and climbed to their feet. Both boys glared at each other with such ferociousness it could be felt a mile away.
"You have to forget her, dude. She ain't worth it." Michael tried to talk sense into his brother.
"She should have been mine!" Braiden yelled. He knew his brother didn't deserve his wrath, but he had to take it out on someone.
"You can do better," Michael replied.
"Whatever. You don't understand anything." Braiden shook his head and sprinted off toward his house. His brother was an ass.
"I understand more than you think," Michael whispered after his brother, his face morphing into one filled with pain. "More than you know…"