Triple Threat Epilogue
Tinley and I had just settled down in front of the television after a long day of transporting a couple of goons that Wynonna and her crew had captured in Steelshore. One of the guys, a Wild noble, had been beaten. It worried me, because that wasn’t Winnie’s style. I hadn’t spoken much since I saw his condition. Rory had shrugged it off as just a part of the capture. These were the bad guys, but unless provoked, we didn’t harm them. We were trying to avoid a war. We didn’t need a martyr.
“You are thinking what I am thinking,” Tinley said.
“And what am I thinking?” I asked her in a playful tone.
“Well, it wasn’t that.”
“Oh.” I tried to hide the disappointment in my voice, but I didn’t do very well. She grinned and patted me on the cheek with faux sympathy.
“I’m thinking about that guy we picked up in Steelshore. They’ve caught plenty of people in the last few months, but none of them looked like that,” Tinley said.
“You are right. You were thinking what I was thinking.”
“I don’t think Winnie did it. She has a temper, but she wouldn’t beat a prisoner.” She was right. Winnie would have killed him if she thought he deserved it. However, she’d been awfully cozy with the vampirate who had a well-known reputation of being a bit cutthroat.
“No, I don’t believe she did it, but she has been spending a lot of time with Seamus who by all means is a criminal by human standards. I just hope that she isn’t being tainted by his association.”
Tinley snuggled closer to me, and I loved the feel of her body pressed to mine. My thoughts drifted to other things. I was already trying to figure out a good way to propose. It was still early in our relationship, but I had no doubts. She was the queen I wanted. The queen I needed. She was also the leader that the pack needed. They’d opened up to her and accepted her as my partner. We hadn’t talked about the future, but we needed to talk about what she wanted. The last thing I wanted was the sting of a rejection.
The television screen flickered like it was losing power, and the lamp beside the couch dimmed. I felt the room grow colder. The light from the moon outside faded as if a sudden storm had rolled into town.
Tinley straightened her back, and the hairs on her arms stood up.
“Mark,” she whimpered.
I jumped up and walked across the room to the windows which looked into the front yard of the house we shared in Shady Grove. A dark figure stood in the center of the grass. Around him a nebula of stars and sparkling dust swirled hiding his face. I knew who it was.
“He’s back,” I muttered.
“Who?” Tinley asked.
“Kyrie Babineau.” I paused, trying to figure out why he was here and wondered if Winnie knew he had returned. “Stay here. Call Phelan and tell him I have a visitor. I might need back-up.”
Kyrie and I had never seen eye to eye, but once he moved to Steelshore, he gained some respect from me. He loved Winnie and supported her. That meant a lot to me. Now I feared that his return meant trouble for her and the Steelshore crew. A sour feeling grew in the pit of my stomach.
Maybe it already had.
“Is he dangerous?” Tinley asked.
I turned around and kissed her on the forehead. “Not to us. But I need to find out why he is here and if Winnie knows that he is back. Please stay inside.”
“I will,” she replied, nodding her head. Tinley had a backbone when she needed it, but she wasn’t defiant for the sake of being defiant. Winnie liked to be a pain in the ass. I loved her for it, but sometimes, it was too much. She’d influenced Kyrie’s life, but he’d done the same for her. She’d mellowed out a lot after their relationship.
Tinley picked up her cell phone to call Phelan who was in charge of the pack’s patrols in town. They guarded my home on a regular basis along with my parent’s home down the road, but the jail cells were full at the old county lock-up. More and more of the shifters were having to guard the wayward fairies we were collecting. Dad was already discussing what we needed to do to get them back to their realms and keep them there, but we hadn’t reached a solution yet.
I took a calming breath and stepped out onto my porch. The clouds above eased, and the moon reappeared. The swirl of stars around Kyrie’s body lifted to the sky and dotted the night with pinpricks of light.
“Hey, Kyrie,” I said, giving him a wave.
“Hey, Mark. Got a minute?” he asked.
His light blonde hair obscured part of his face, and my wolf senses picked up on the scent of blood.
“Yeah, sure! I didn’t know you were back. Good to see you,” I said, stepping off the porch into the grass.
“You don’t have to lie, man. You are shocked to see me standing here.” He wasn’t wrong.
“Doesn’t matter. I hope you are feeling better,” I said. That wasn’t a lie or a platitude. For her sake, I hoped he was well.
“Don’t worry. I have no murderous intent,” he said with a smirk. Classic Kyrie to make a joke out of a serious matter.
“That’s great news. What brings you to Shady Grove?”
He walked up to me, keeping his eyes on the ground. I reached out with my senses and heard several members of my pack approaching in the woods. Speaking through my Alpha authority, I instructed them to stay out of sight and not spook him. Kyrie stopped just out of my reach. I couldn’t blame him. We’d fought a couple of times in our youth. Mostly about Winnie. Kyrie was scrappy, but I had him in the brute strength category.
Now, I wasn’t sure my strength would be enough for his magic which by rumors had grown before he left Steelshore. I’d wondered if he always held back, allowing Winnie to take the glory. In any other situation, he would want to be first and the best, but when it came to her, he lifted her up.
He might take me, but I’d feel bad for him if he triggered the white Rougarou inside my house.
“Well, I’ve been back in Steelshore for a couple of days, and I need to ask you a question or two.”
When Remy took Kyrie to be healed by their people, we had discussed as a group the things we could and couldn’t discuss with Kyrie when he returned. They were wiping his memory of his relationship with Winnie. I knew that he would come back different. When my gaze landed on the bloody marks on his knuckles, I knew who had beaten the Wildling we’d taken to jail.
“Sure,” I replied shortly.
“Someone sent me this picture,” he said, handing me a small square photograph. My heart pounded when my eyes landed on a picture of him and Winnie curled up on a couch smiling. I saw the love in their eyes. If he had this picture, then someone was trying to break into his memories.
“Who?” I asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Did you hurt her?” I asked, nodding to his hands.
“No. No, heavens, no. I took out my frustrations on a fairy trafficker that we captured. She didn’t know I was doing it. I lost control. Ever since I came back, I’ve been holding back this anger that I can’t explain,” he said. I couldn’t see his eyes, so I couldn’t tell if he was lying or not. He had always been calm under pressure, so even his heartbeat was steady, which was interesting since most immortal beings didn’t have a heartbeat.
“What do you want from me?”
“You see. I remember growing up here. I remember you and me fighting. I don’t remember why other than you were a prick and a goody goody.” I snorted at that description. “But I don’t know her. I don’t remember her being here. Rory has been nice to me down in Steelshore. I’ve talked to Soraya a couple of times, but she seems to be avoiding me. I’m confused, and that picture isn’t helping me. She and I were together?”
I heard his voice tremble on the last word. This was exactly what we weren’t supposed to talk about. I didn’t know how to answer him.
“You were sent away because a Siren enthralled you and basically reprogrammed your brain. She sent you to destroy what we had built in Steelshore. Unfortunately, Remington Blake told me that you lost some memories in the healing process,” I said, avoiding the core of the question. Frustration wrinkled his brow, and he huffed.
“Rory avoids talking about her, too. Of course, it didn’t really matter because she was off roaming through the Wild realm with that winged freak.” He’d used that tone to describe me a time or two.
“Wild? Winnie went into the Wild?” I asked.
“Yeah, some mission for her mother. It seemed dangerous and cool to me, but then I got that picture of us. And I can’t describe how I began to worry if she was okay. It bothered me that she might not come back. I don’t remember us! All of you seem to know exactly what is going on but won’t talk about it.” He paced as he talked. His hands swung around erratically creating trails of stardust as he moved.
“Come sit with me,” I offered.
“Naw, man. This was a bad idea. I’ll go.”
“Kyrie, did you show her this picture?”
“Yeah, but it didn’t matter. She hates me now. I’m not the man I used to be.”
Rule-breaking wasn’t in my vocabulary. Kyrie was right. I was a goody-goody. But he needed answers and I needed to protect Winnie. It didn’t matter that we were no longer involved. When we were younger, her mother had asked me to look after her. I took that seriously, and I’d take it seriously until the day I died.
“If you want answers, you have to sit down and talk to me,” I said. I walked back to the steps of the porch and sat. He stood with his back to me, and his hands on his hips.
The strength in his shoulders gave way, and they slouched. His head hung forward. He slowly made his way to sit beside me. We sat in silence for a few minutes, looking up at the stars. I felt Kyrie’s power humming below the surface of his skin. I’d never felt that before from him. He always seemed to be a low powered being like Remy and his father, Niles.
“Look. There is a reason this has been hidden from me. I get that, but there are things I need to know. Mark, you have always been straight with me. I need you to do that now.”
“When you saw her after you returned, what did you think of her?” I asked.
“She was fighting a couple of trolls in an alley. They’d outmatched her by using some fairy armor that blocked her magic. I took care of them quickly for her. She seemed shocked. She didn’t even thank me.”
I chuckled at his tone. He liked to boast about his skills when we were younger, but as he became more involved with Winnie, he’d lost that bravado. Just one of the many ways she’d influenced his life. All of that influence was gone.
“That sounded like the old Kyrie.”
“Yeah, well, the old Kyrie sounds weak to me.”
“Well, he wasn’t. He became a powerful force for the F.B.I. in Steelshore. When they lost you, they lost a fighter and a leader.”
“I’ve been replaced by a freak with big feathered wings.” I wondered how true that was. Winnie hadn’t shown any particular affection for Raphael when I’d seen them together. I had worried more about Seamus. Of course, Rafe had become a big part of the operation. I knew him to be quiet, reliable, and fierce in a fight.
“What about the vampirate?” I asked.
“I tried to kill him the first time I saw him, but apparently he works with us. Well, not us, since she kicked me off the team tonight. That’s fine. I don’t need them. I can catch these bastards without them.” Bravado and bull-headed. I suddenly remembered why Kyrie and I used to fight all the time. “Wait. Are you saying the head of the F.B.I. is boinking the vampirate?”
Something inside of me twinged. I hoped she wasn’t, but the truth was that it wasn’t any of my business. Yet, something was off about his statement. They erased Winnie from his mind. Why didn’t he remember Seamus? Was their every interaction in her presence, and so by default, Seamus had been erased too? I noticed that Kyrie was waiting on my response.
“No, I’m not saying that. I don’t know her private life.”
He turned to me and his mouth opened, but nothing came out. He closed it again and rubbed his forehead.
“You used to date a girl that was the daughter of the Queen. Was it her?” he asked.
“You remember that the Queen had a daughter?”
“Yeah, sure. Don’t remember anything about her. Even seeing her in Steelshore didn’t trigger any memories, but this photo, well, we look awful cozy. We look…happy.”
“Wynonna and I did date when we were younger, but she’s more like my best friend. She wears a necklace that I gave her.”
“The compass one?” he asked.
“That’s it. I gave it to her and told her to find her way.”
“And she found me?” He paused for a minute, and I decided not to add to the equation. “It’s crazy. I look at this and see us together, and I feel like I should feel something. But I don’t. She’s a beautiful woman. She’s definitely fiery.” He chuckled with that one, and I nodded in agreement. “But other than a normal male attraction to a pretty girl, I got nothing.”
“This may sound horrible, but that’s good. Tell me why she kicked you off the team.”
“I roughed up that guy we caught. She came in with her vampirate and feathered guy.” His disdain for Raphael amused me. It was jealousy without basis. His emotions were having the reaction that he should for a guy who was moving in on his girl, but he didn’t know why. “I argued with her about how the F.B.I. handled these pieces of scum. We need to be pumping them for information. We aren’t going to find out what is going on until we start getting a little more aggressive. I get that we don’t want to enrage the fairies, but the trafficking has to stop. I might not remember Wynonna, but I remember the faces of those we’d rescued. You’ve seen them. They are battered, beaten, and used. Some of them seem too far gone that they may never recover. My suggestions didn’t go over very well, then I shoved this picture in her face. I was angry. If she and I were like this, how could she act like I didn’t exist or matter when I came back? She was afraid of me. Damn, Rafe stayed between us the entire time. He acted like I was going to hurt her.”
He was putting it all together, and I didn’t know whether to restrain him now or hope that when he figured it out that the Siren song didn’t trigger him. I told my wolves to move through the shadows to surround the house.
“We’ve gotten to the part where I’m not allowed to discuss it with you, but it seems like you have it figured out.”
“She said that we both sacrificed for the mission. Did we sacrifice this for it?” He shook the photo. “Was I going to hurt her? No, I wouldn’t do that. I might have a mean streak, but I wouldn’t have really hurt her. No. I wouldn’t. Not someone I loved. Hell, I wouldn’t even hurt you!” He clinched his fists in frustration.
He stood up and took a few steps away from me. I remained alert, but my heart also felt for him. He knew he was missing something. He turned to face me.
“I don’t remember,” he said.
I nodded. “I know. It’s hard. But I suggest, you decide what you want. You aren’t going to work in her city without her permission. Leaving everything else out of the equation, she’d put you in a jail cell before she allowed you to jeopardize her mission. I suggest you go back; tell her you were wrong. I think you know you were. Then, be a part of the team. To be perfectly honest, I hope you never remember what has been hidden from you, because it was a matter of life and death. Stop trying to figure it out. For her. For you.” I hoped my veiled threat wasn’t too veiled. He needed to know that we would do whatever it took to stop him from hurting her.
“So, just go down there and be a team player? Act like I’m fine with my mind being erased of a whole relationship, if that what it was? Sounds like your brand of goodness.” He shook his head, but I saw the twinkle in his eyes. “I’ve never been much of a team player.”
“What are your other options? Where is your dad?”
“Yeah, he’s pretty much M.I.A., but that’s been normal for my whole life.” Niles did breeze in and out of Shady Grove as we grew up. Remy seemed to be more a part of Kyrie’s life than Niles. And I hadn’t seen his sister since we were little.
“Maybe Remy could put you to work. We could find something for you here, but you’d have to refrain from beating the inmates.”
He shook his head adamantly. “I can’t stay cooped up in this town. It’s like I can feel the ward around it, pressing down on me. No, I can’t stay here.”
“Do you want to be a part of the operation in Steelshore? You have options. You don’t have to go back. I can talk to her for you. Explain why you left,” I offered. Leaving would be the easiest thing for them both. But I saw the look in his eyes. He was going back.
He looked up to the stars, then back to me with hope in his eyes. “Thanks for the talk.” He walked farther away from me into the grass. “You can tell your wolves to back off. I’m not here to kick your ass, this time.”
I stood and offered him my hand. He clasped me at the elbow, and I wrapped my fingers around his arm. “I’m here. Next time, you can join Tinley and me for dinner.”
“I think I would enjoy that, and you don’t have to worry. There is something left inside of me that knows how important she is to me. It’s more than just the picture. It’s a feeling. It’s a sucky feeling, but I can’t walk away.”
“I never thought I’d say this, but I’m rooting for you.” His eyes widened, and he gave me a genuine smile.
“Well, I’ll take that endorsement.” He stepped away as a cloud of stars gathered around him. “Now, I gotta figure out how to keep my balls and eat crow at the same time.”
The cloud of stars consumed him, and when they dissipated, he was gone. I felt the power in the conjuring, and it surprised me. More importantly, I needed to call her. I dashed up the steps into the house. Speaking to my wolves, I thanked them for the support and set them home.
Tinley descended the stairs. “Do you think he’s genuine?”
“I hope he is,” I said. She handed me the phone. She already knew so much about me.
“She deserves to know he was here.”
I dialed her number. It rang and rang, then finally someone answered. The deep voice caught me off-guard.
“May I speak with Wynonna?” I asked.
“Mark, this is Raphael. She’s finally asleep. I don’t want to wake her,” he said. Those words cut me. Finally. Asleep. The people we loved the most were the ones that could hurt us the most.
“How bad is it?” I asked.
He paused and the line became so silent that I thought he hung up. “As you know, she is strong, but she’s been holding this pain back for a while.”
“He came here. I spoke to him. I thought she should know,” I said.
“He came to you?” Rafe asked. Confusion filled his voice.
“Man, I don’t understand it either, but he did. Don’t wake her up. Just have her call me. Okay?”
He paused again. I got the impression that Rafe wasn’t a big conversationalist.
“What did you think of him?” he asked.
“It’s hard to say. Kyrie has always had his own agenda except for when it came to her. I think he feels that, but I also think he’s still confused.”
“But would you trust him?” he pressed. I knew that tone. Protective. Forceful. Raphael had fallen for her. I wondered if I’d tossed my hat in the Kyrie ring too quickly. When all actuality, my hat in this instance, was and would always be in Winnie’s ring.
“I would trust her. I can’t say that I ever trusted him, but if he earns it, then so be it. Is Seamus around?” I asked.
“He’s lurking,” Rafe replied with disdain.
I huffed out a laugh. “You’ll be with her?”
“As much as she will let me, and maybe a little more.” With that, I decided that I liked him. I didn’t know if he was right for her, but anyone that would stand up to her was a good man in my book. Winnie had a stubborn streak that could rival her mother. She was a soft heart wrapped up in a fiery stone will.
“Good. Tell her I called. I’d like her to call me back,” I said.
“I’ll tell her.” This time the line silenced because he hung up.
“So, the Wildling is watching over her?” Tinley said.
“Seems like it.”
“Hmm, I wonder what it’s like to do it with someone who has wings?” she mused.
I quirked an eyebrow at her. “It’s for the birds.”
She slapped me on the arm. “Mark Maynard, that is the lamest joke I’ve ever heard!”
“Don’t say lame things to me, and you won’t get lame jokes!” I countered.
She cocked her hip and grinned at me. “I think I’ll just go upstairs and use my imagination.”
“What!?” I exclaimed. She giggled, then ran up the stairs. I followed her, removing clothing as I went.