* * * * *
Hours later, Kane could still feel the insidious crawl of the overwhelming terror that had filled him when he heard the screaming announcement that Cassie had escaped the house. At the same time, one of the younger Breeds panicked and set off a barrage of bullets as the door to the limo began to open. One little girl. Over a hundred battle-hardened, animalistic warriors and no one had been able to catch her before she threw herself into the dark interior of the car a second before the door slammed shut. Kane sat alone now, the scene replaying in his mind as the near consequences of her actions slammed into his brain. She could have died. Right there in front of his eyes, that precious bundle of energy could have died.
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He came to his feet in a surge of energy, restrained, vibrating with violence as he jammed his fists into the pockets of his jeans, ignoring the flash of pain in his engorged c**k as the material tightened further. First, he had failed to protect his own unborn child and now he had nearly failed with Cassie. It didn’t matter that the situation had quickly been diffused and the intruders had turned out to be Roni’s irate half-brother, Seth Lawrence, and her long-lost father.
The Breeds could have whisked the intruders from the property, no one would have questioned it and then arranged a meeting outside the estate between Roni and her brother. That option was not feasible now. Cassie had ensured that.
“Cassie’s still crying.” Merinus stepped out on the porch, her voice soft in the growing darkness as Kane kept his back to her.
Kane hunched his shoulders against the guilt flaying him alive.
“At least she’s alive to cry,” he finally snapped, so damned angry at himself, Sherra, and an innocent child that he could barely make sense of anything else.
He could still see her running, her face tear-streaked, fear contorting her expression into a snarl as she launched herself through the men and women attempting to stop her until she disappeared into what could have been an enemy’s arms.
“She’s making herself sick, Kane,” Merinus told him as she came close to him, leaning her heavily pregnant body against his side. “She’s just a little girl. One who believes in herself enough to do what she feels is right. She knew there was no danger…”
“No, goddammit,” he cursed roughly. “She didn’t know anything of the sort, Merinus. She could have died…” He broke off, shaking his head as he moved away from her. “Hell. I died a thousand deaths when Sherra alerted us she was out there. Bullets ripping around like a damned war zone and she throws herself into an unknown vehicle. If I had anything to throw up I think I would have done it then.”
He moved away from her. He had spanked Cassie. He shook his head against the knowledge. When he got her back in his arms he had taken her straight to her room, set her on her feet and spanked her twice before ordering her straight to bed. Then he had yelled at Sherra. Hard, bitter words that had ripped from his chest as he watched her eyes go blank with shock.
You were supposed to keep her f**king contained. Dammit to hell, there were four of you watching her. Couldn’t one of you keep her contained for ten f**king minutes?He had thrown the words at her furiously.
“God, I’m a bastard,” he muttered. “I’m not just an ass**le, Merinus. I’m the worst bastard to ever walk. Someone should have shot me.”
She sighed heavily behind him.
“You’re human,” she finally said softly. “I know about the kiss you shared with Sherra. I can imagine what you’re going through without the burden of protecting everyone that you place on your shoulders, Kane. You can’t protect us all alone. Shit happens. That’s what you used to tell me. All you can do is be as prepared as possible when it unloads and get through the stink the best way you can.”
He grunted at that. He was an arrogant ass to boot, it seemed. He stared around the darkened yard, the tall fence that stretched below the wood line, the guards patrolling the area. It was like an armed camp, not much better in its restrictions than the Council labs had been. In the farthest distance of the main compound, lights blazed in one of the small guesthouses. Seth Lawrence, his father, and chauffeur were presently under closewatch as Taber and Dawn attempted to convince Seth and Aaron Lawrence that right now, Roni wouldn’t be told who they were or why they were there.
It wasn’t so much that Seth Lawrence had disregarded all their requests that he wait before forcing such a meeting. It was the damned hairs at the back of Kane’s neck. They prickled in warning, making his nape tingle with an itch that wouldn’t go away. He had agreed with Taber’s fears about not allowing the meeting yet. Roni’s physical health had been precarious when she first came to the compound. The length of time she had endured the mating heat, along with exhaustion, the sexual excesses and resulting pregnancy had worn her down. But that wasn’t Kane’s only worry where the Lawrences were concerned. The timing was off. Two mated females pregnant, the only known Wolf Breed child in existence living there with them, and now this.
“Hell. I saw Cassie running for that car and you know what ran through my mind, Merrie?” he asked her painfully.
Merinus sighed deeply. “That you had failed.” She surprised him with that answer. “You couldn’t protect your own, and now you hadn’t protected Cassie either.”
He turned to her slowly.
“Yeah,” he breathed out roughly. “But how did you know?”
“Because it’s the same thing Sherra told me before she locked herself in her room,” she answered him gently, forcing him to embrace her as she moved into his arms. She was another man’s wife now. She carried a child, would be a mother and would face more danger than he could have ever envisioned. But she was still the little girl he had bribed with chocolate. The young woman he had held as she cried over the loss of her mother. The same who had called him an ass**le for most of her life. He fought not to hold her too tight as his arms constricted around her. He could smell baby powder and chocolate for just an instant. The scents that had been uniquely Merinus’ when she was a child. A precocious bundle of energy that got into more trouble than seven men could keep her out of.
He kissed her forehead gently before pushing her to the door. “Go on in. You need to be resting or terrorizing Callan. Not out here messing with my head.”
She didn’t laugh as he expected her to, and neither did she go in the house.