Fang was laughing with Vane as a rancid chill went straight down his spine. A chill that turned into shredding talons as every instinct inside him went on high alert.
In an instant, he knew what it was.
“Aimee’s in trouble.”
Fury arched one sarcastic brow as he scoffed. “In the bathroom? What’d she do? Eat the wrong thing?”
He gave Fury a fierce glare. “No. She’s at Sanctuary.”
Vane frowned at him. “What?”
“She must have flashed there to see her family.” Unwilling to waste another second trying to explain it to his dense brothers, he teleported himself out to find her in the alley, surrounded by demons as she fought them back with her staff.
There were easily two dozen, with more appearing to attack as if someone had opened a portal to hell.
Fang met her determined gaze. He manifested his sword to fight them. “Get inside.”
For once, she didn’t argue. “I’ll get help.”
After making sure she got inside without harm, Fang raked the advancing demons with an arrogant sneer. “Ready to dance, punks? It’s killin’ time.”
Aimee ran to the bar where Dev, Remi, Colt, and Wren were, along with her father. They all stared at her as if she were a ghost.
“What are you doing here?” Papa asked.
Aimee struggled to slow her rapid breathing as she felt the sweat rolling down her back. Her entire body was shaking from the battle she’d just left and she was pretty sure her Sentinel markings were showing on her face—especially given the way Remi was eyeing her—but she didn’t have time or strength to worry about it. “Tara’s dead. Fang is outside in the alley, surrounded by demons. He needs help. Now!”
Dev started forward only to have Maman’s sharp voice stop him. “The wolf means nothing to us. They declared war the moment they caused Savitar to revoke our license. We have no use for them. Let the demons have him.”
Aimee gaped, then glared. Rage took hold of her as she faced her mother. “He might not mean anything to you, Maman, but he is my mate.” She held her palm out to her mother to show her Fang’s mark. “And if none of you will help him, then I’ll do it myself, and I’ll never forgive you for it.”
She started to flash herself out, but before she could she saw Blakemore’s pack come through the door.
Every member, male and female, was there with a look on their face that said they had come here loaded for bear. They stood shoulder to shoulder in battle formation, heads low, eyes alert.
It was obvious this wasn’t a coincidence. This was a well-planned, calculated attack on Sanctuary. Suddenly, everything made sense about the demons outside.
And she knew exactly who was to blame.
He’d summoned them up and tonight, on the anniversary of his son’s death, he was going to clean bear hide.
Dev grabbed the two swords off the wall above the bar. He tossed one to Kyle and kept the other. “C’mon, cub, let’s go save Fang before Aimee hurts us. Remi, the rest of you take out the trash in the bar and make sure you crush it first.”
Remi inclined his head before he jumped over the bar and went for the wolves.
The last sight Aimee had before she flashed to the alley was of all hell breaking loose as Eli’s thugs attacked the Sanctuary staff. People screamed, guns went off, and bodies entwined in a deadly blur.
But right now, there was one who was fighting alone.
Aimee flashed out to find Fang, who had been joined by Varyk, being overwhelmed by the sheer number of the demons coming at them.
The back door of the club opened and Dev grabbed Fang and Varyk by their shirts to yank them into Sanctuary. “Get in the club and shut the door,” Dev growled at her.
Aimee didn’t hesitate to obey.
Varyk and Fang shook Dev off them.
“I’m not your bitch, boy,” Varyk snarled. “Don’t ever touch me like that again.”
Dev rolled his eyes at the common wolf complaint. “Next time I’ll let them have you.”
Panting, Fang pulled Aimee against him and kissed her on the side of the head. Like her, he was sweating from his fight and she could feel his heart thumping wildly in his chest while he held her close.
Varyk looked pointedly at Kyle. “Get some salt. As much as you can find.”
Varyk coughed before he answered. “They’re slug demons. Put a thick line of it at all the doors and windows, and it’ll keep them out.”
“You’re too late.” Wren said, joining them. He nodded toward the front.
“Holy shit,” Dev breathed.
It looked like something out of a zombie movie. The last of the remaining humans ran screaming for the door while the Were-Hunters and demons fought. What was most surprising was the fact that Vane, Fury, Lia, and the rest of the Kattalakis Katagaria pack had joined them.
Remi met Aimee’s gaze. “I wouldn’t blame you if you ran for the door.”
“Family forever,” she said, holding her hand up to him.
He grabbed her into a tight hug before he pushed her back toward Fang. “Protect her.”
“With my life.”
They joined the battle. Aimee’s heart pounded as she engaged an Arcadian wolfswain. Burly and ugly, he was almost twice her size.
As he reached for her, Thorn appeared, and he brought with him reinforcements that included Wynter, Zeke, and Ravenna.
Fang gaped as he saw them in the fray. “What’s this?”
Thorn winked at him. “One for all and all for fun, my friend. You didn’t think I’d let you fight demons all on your own, did you?”
“It wouldn’t be the first time.”
Thorn laughed as he took the head off a demon who’d made the mistake of getting too close.
“Guess we can kill these, eh?”
Thorn snatched his sword back and gave him a piercing stare. “When your mark sizzles, don’t kill them. When it tingles, they’re all yours.”
So that was the difference in the sensations he felt. “We really need to work on your communication skills.”
“Give it up,” Zeke said as he caught a demon beside Fang and twisted its neck. “He’s just not a people person and we’re never going to housebreak him.”
Fang head-butted one of Eli’s crew. He wanted to turn wolf, his body begged for it, but he had to have arms to fight the demons.
Aimee stepped back from the demon she’d just killed and looked around at the bloody mess. There were just so many demons. Even though Xedrix and crew had come in to help, they were still overwhelmed. Aimee felt like she’d fallen into an anthill. Everywhere she tuned there was a demon or a Blakemore pack member.
We’re going to die. . . .
Tears filled her eyes as she fought down her panic. But how could they hold their own? New demons came in, and they were lagging from battle. Her staff was getting heavier by the minute and though her wounds were minimal, they were still aching.
None of them could use their powers since that would only feed the demons’ strength. Even Acheron was fighting with staff and sword.
Simi was the only one who seemed to be enjoying this as she ran around with a bottle of barbecue sauce, trying to catch Eli’s crew. The rest of them . . .
Stop it! We’re not down yet.
She was a Peltier mated to a Kattalakis. The blood of two royal Were-Hunter lines was merged inside her and by the gods she would not give in or give up.
Her strength renewed, she tore into the werewolf closest to her. She caught him with her staff, a blow so fierce it lifted him up off his feet and sent him flying into the back of the demon fighting Wren. She lifted her weight up to kick them both back.
Wren laughed. “Get ’em, girl.” He flashed back to his tiger form.
As Aimee advanced to finish them off, she caught sight of Eli heading for her mother’s back. Maman was embroiled with a demon and had no idea he was anywhere near her.
But the bloodlust in his eyes was unmistakable.
He was going to kill her.
Her only thought to save her mother, Aimee turned into a bear and launched herself for him.
Maman turned at the same time Eli spun on Aimee and dealt her a vicious blow to her side. It sent Aimee flying and made her turn human as she tried to catch her breath through the pain. Naked and bleeding, she tried to focus. How on earth did Fang stay in his alternate form?
She couldn’t move. . . .
Gah, it hurts!
Eli went to stab her, but Maman, in her bear form, lunged for his throat, knocking him back. Maman turned back to check on Aimee, who had at least recovered enough to clothe herself.
Her mother placed one large bear claw on her face . . . where she was sure her Sentinel mark was visible. The frightened concern for her in those black eyes brought a trembling smile to Aimee’s lips.
“I’m all right, Maman.”
Maman went for Eli, but the coward had run off. She pursued him while Fang came running up to check on Aimee.
He helped her up and cupped her face in his hands. “Are you all right?”
She nodded. “Why are you still human?”
“It’s the only way to fight the demons and win.”
Aimee looked around at all the bodies and the blood-covered combatants and floor. “I’m not too sure we’re winning.”
He flashed her that taunting grin of his that somehow managed to make her feel better even in the face of possible slaughter. “We’re not dead yet.”
No, but that was about all that could be said for them at present.
Fang kissed her, then rejoined the fight. Aimee turned to see Remi get kicked back at the same time one of the demons let out a belch of fire. Remi ducked the blast. The fire went skimming across the polished countertop and caught on the wood of the bar. Flames skimmed across the top and lit the bottles of alcohol.
“Oh, no,” she breathed as the fire quickly spread. Her heart in her throat, she ran for a fire extinguisher while Kyle did the same.
“Fang!” she called, needing more help.
Fang turned at the same time Eli went for him.
Aimee froze in painful shock as she realized what was about to happen.
Eli, sword in hand, was going to behead him.
Screaming, she ran at Fang to save him. He turned as the blade was coming down. Aimee died inside as she realized she’d never reach him in time even if she teleported.
Just as the blade would have reached him, Maman put herself between them. The sword, instead of beheading Fang, was buried deep in Maman’s side.
“No!” Aimee screamed as she saw the stroke.
Maman fell over Eli, pinning him to the floor as the bear mauled him until he stopped moving. When he was still, Maman tried to leave him, but she stumbled.
Aimee reached her mother, who was shaking and gasping. Blood was everywhere as it flowed from the gaping wound. “Maman?” she choked.
Her mother turned human to look up at her. It was then she saw just how horrific the wound was. Aimee conjured a blanket to cover her mother’s naked body.
Carson appeared at their side and shook his head as he saw the wound that had almost cut her in half. “There’s nothing I can do. I’m so sorry, Aimee . . . Nicolette.”
Aimee grabbed him by the shirt. “Get Talon from the swamp.” He could heal wounds like this. “He’s her only hope.”
Maman gasped for breath as she took Aimee’s hand and turned it over to see her marked palm. A tenuous smile curled her lips. “My beautiful daughter.” She kissed her palm.
Aimee choked on her sobs as her brothers surrounded them. “Hold on, Maman. Talon’s coming.”
She swallowed. “It’s too late, ma petite.” Her smile sad, she touched Aimee’s marked cheek. “You were always so beautiful . . . you should have told me the truth of you long ago.”
Tears stung Aimee’s cheeks.
Fang moved to stand behind Aimee at the same time Papa reached Maman’s side. His eyes were filled with tears as he sank to his knees.
Tears flowed from Maman’s eyes as she reached for her mate. “My precious Aubert. Je t’aime pour toujours.”
Her father’s hands shook as he gathered Maman into his arms and held her close. “Moi aussi, ma petite.”
Maman reached out and took Fang’s hand, then pressed it against Aimee’s. “Forgive me,” she breathed. “May the gods grant you both the happiness Aubert and I have shared, and may you have children as precious as ours.” Her lips trembling, she looked out at all the boys who were gathered there. “I love you, mes enfants. Take care of each other for me.”
Then she turned into a bear. Papa sobbed into her fur as he held her even closer. His Sentinel marks appeared on his face. “Do us proud, children.”
Maman shuddered as her last breath left her. Papa smiled sadly, then laid his head down and joined her in death.
Aimee let out a wail of pain as Fang pulled her against him.
Fang didn’t know what to do for her as he rocked Aimee in his arms. She sobbed like a brokenhearted child. Parts of the bar were still burning, but Wren, Acheron, and Max appeared to have most of it under control.
Thorn, Varyk, Wynter, Zeke, and the Charonte had the demons on the run.
Remi let out a feral sound of pain an instant before he turned into a bear. He launched himself at Eli’s body, tearing it to shreds. Fang grimaced, grateful that Aimee wasn’t able to see the viciousness of his actions.
Not that she didn’t know Remi’s darker side or probably wouldn’t have done it herself had she been more aware. He buried his lips against her hair and rocked her while she let out all her pain. He hated that he couldn’t take this from her.
But there was nothing to do except comfort her.
And as everyone realized what had happened and that Eli lay dead, the fighting ceased.
Stone let out his own cry of pain as he saw his father slaughtered on the floor. He fell to his knees sobbing as the rest of their pack stared in disbelief.
“I’ll get you, bastards!” Stone shrieked. “I swear it! I’ll kill you all!”
Dev shook his head. “There’s been enough killing, Stone. Go home for the sake of the gods.”
Stone launched himself at Dev.
The Dark-Huntress Janice caught him and shoved him into the arms of the werewolves behind him. “Boy, you better learn to listen. It’s over. Take your punks and go home while you’re still on this side of the grave. This is a onetime offer and it’s about to expire. Go.”
He went, but the promise in his eyes was potent.
He would be back.
The werewolves and demons retreated. Constantine and Varyk passed a look of mutual hatred between them before Varyk, Thorn, and his crew followed after the others to make sure they didn’t double back.
Fang swept his gaze around the bar that had been all but destroyed. Tables and chairs along with railings and trim had been splintered. The entire area was charred. Broken glass and weapons littered the floor and were covered in blood.
He’d never seen anything like this.
And as his gaze went to the sign by the door, he felt his heart lurch.
Come in peace or leave in pieces.
The only question was, could they ever pick up the pieces that had been left here tonight?
Dev came forward to pull Aimee away from Fang so that he could hold on to her. Fang started to protest, but realized she needed her family as much as she needed him. While he ached for her, Dev truly felt the pain of the loss. Knowing that pain all too well himself, he released her to her brother.
Dev cradled her head against his shoulder. “It’ll be all right, Aim. We’re here.”
Aimee heard those words, but they did nothing to ease the ache inside her. All she’d wanted to do was to share her mating with her mother. . . .
Her father. . . .
It was why she’d come here tonight. She’d wanted her parents to be proud of her. To share in her joy.
Now they were gone. Forever.
Had you not been here, they would have been attacked unawares and Maman would have died without your ever seeing her again.
It was true, yet she couldn’t stop the pain inside her. The grief that cried out for her mother’s love. How could they be gone? How?
It was so unfair and she wanted blood for the loss. . . .
Fang stood back as the bears circled and held on to one another to grieve. They were a family united.
He felt like a total outsider.
Until Aimee and Dev pulled him forward. He hesitated until Remi took his wrist to force him to join them. “You’re one of us, wolf.” Remi’s gaze went to Fury, Vane, Lia, and the others. “As are all of you. Thank you for coming to help us fight. It won’t be forgotten.”
Aimee reached up to wipe some of the blood off Fang’s face before she kissed him. “I guess we’re all brolf after all.”
Dev frowned. “Brolf?”
Simi huffed at him as if she thought he was completely dense. “A bear and wolf family. Jeez, doesn’t anyone understand Charonte English?”
Dev shook his head as he looked around at the hodgepodge of creatures who called Sanctuary home. “This is one fucked-up family.”
Fang laughed. “I think it’s the nature of all families to be fucked up.”
Aimee wiped her tears away. “Simi? What was it you told me once about families?”
“We have three kinds of family. Those we are born to, those who are born to us, and those we let into our hearts.”
Aimee held her hand out to Fang as Dev continued to hold her.
It was all that ever really mattered.
Those we are born to, those who are born to us, and those we let into our hearts.
The ones who were gathered here, they were family and no amount of malice would ever change that. Family could only be destroyed from within.
Never from without.
And tonight they were all closer than they’d ever been before. United in grief. United in spirit.
United in love.
One week later
Aimee stood in the center of the bar as Quinn and Serre reattached the lights to the ceiling. They were trying to get the bar back up and running as soon as possible, but it was taking awhile to pick up the pieces and reopen.
In true Were-Hunter fashion, they’d cremated their parents and placed their ashes in an urn that now rested in the memorial chapel where Bastien and Gilbert were kept in a special room in Peltier House.
Aimee had visited with them just that morning. She didn’t think she’d ever get over the need to see her mother or feel her father’s warm hugs.
She would miss them always.
Fang came up behind her and offered her a cup of tea. “Are you all right?”
How could she really answer that?
She looked around at the damage that they had yet to repair. In one night, their lives had all been forever altered. One night that would leave a lasting scar on all of them.
But out of the pain was hope. And like the mythical phoenix, Sanctuary would rise out of the ashes and be every bit as strong as it had been before.
They might never again regain their limani license, but that was all right. That would allow them to pick and choose who they helped and it would give Remi and Dev the freedom to break ass over anyone who crossed the line.
“Yeah, I think I am.” She smiled at Fang before he went to help Dev and Xedrix move some of the lumber around.
The bar should be opened again in a couple of weeks. Everything would be back to normal except for two things.
There would be no more Mama and Papa Bear Peltier. That pain burned inside her.
But her brothers had come together and named her and Fang as the new owners of the bar. They would be the two faces that would carry on the legacy her parents had started, especially now that Fang was no longer wanted for what the demons had done. Stu had made sure of that.
For better or worse, Sanctuary would be here. And everyone would be welcomed here equally, so long as they maintained the one law.
Come in peace or leave in pieces.
She turned at the sound of the unfamiliar voice coming in from the outside door. “Yes?”
A tall blond man stood in the bright sunlight as he skimmed the construction. “When are you opening back up?”
Quinn came down from the ladder. “On the fourth of next month.”
“Cool. See you then.”
It wasn’t until he’d left that they all realized something.
That man had been a Daimon.
And he’d just walked out into daylight.
“Oh, shit,” Dev breathed. “You guys think the Dark-Hunters know?”
Fang shook his head. “No, and I think the Dark-Hunters are about to get seriously owned.”