Home > Tarian Silver Lion (New Tarian Pride #2)(3)

Tarian Silver Lion (New Tarian Pride #2)(3)
Author: T.S. Joyce

“Can you let the lady in while I sign the paperwork,” Talon murmured. “I don’t want her getting cold.”

Driver Mc-driverson rolled his eyes and huffed a sigh like a brat teenager and crawled inside, popped the lock on her door, then scampered back out. Smart man. She really did feel about fourteen percent violent all of a sudden.

The car smelled like leather, oil, cleaner, and the piney wood-scented air freshener that hung from the rearview mirror. It was pristine inside. Rose touched the white leather stripe that ran down the driver’s seat and now only felt about five percent violent as her inner lioness looked around Talon’s den. Because that’s what this was, right? He didn’t put down roots, but he took care of his car. This was home for him. This and Emerald. Not a place.

Talon was talking low to the delivery man and Gray, signing some paperwork on a clipboard. She twisted in the seat and read the labels written on the boxes stacked in the back seat.

Kitchen.

Bedroom.

Memories.

Emerald’s Baby Stuff.

A car and four boxes.

“Is this your whole life?” she asked Talon as he slid behind the wheel.

With a frown, he cast the boxes a quick glance and turned the key. The engine roared to life, the seat rumbling under her. Oh, hello.

“It’s the important parts of my life. It made it easy to pack up and go if I didn’t attach to material things.”

“Why did you do this, Talon?”

“Do what?” he asked, reversing the car past the tow truck the delivery man had unloaded the Chevelle from.

“Train yourself to live on the move.”

She didn’t miss the wince on his face as he threw the stick shift into first gear. He was still hurting. With a sigh as he hit the open road, he said, “Because I wanted to keep Mariah and Emerald safe. And being rogue isn’t like what you think, Rose. There’s not free territory out there that isn’t claimed by some Crew or another. If we found some space, after a while, a Crew would move in and push us out or ask us to pledge. Or stalk us. You think the Tarians just let us go free when we ran from here? They’re hunters who don’t let anything or anyone go. They lost the family they could shit on the most when they had a bad day. The ones they could blame for any bad luck. You didn’t have a submissive cub, Rose. And your grandson, Grim, sure as hell wasn’t submissive either. I remember how you were. You and your mate. You were both tough as nails. We ran the night we thought Leon killed Ronin. He called that meeting and said they would be culling the submissives. I was a Tarian long enough to know what that meant, and I wasn’t going to let them kill my daughter. Learning to live on the move? It was the easiest decision in the world. Tonight, I watched my daughter laughing and loving her mate, happy…safe…home. That’s the life I dreamed of for her, but we had to wait for it to all work itself out.”

Rose swallowed hard. “I feel like I should apologize.”

“Apologize?” he asked, casting her a quick frown as he shifted gears.

“I…” Rose blew out a breath and tried again. “I made a snap judgement, but your life was completely different than I imagined. The judgmental old bitty in me thought less of you for running. For roaming. For keeping your mate and Emerald on the move all those years. But you didn’t do it for selfish reasons, did you? You lived a harder life so that Emerald had a chance at surviving. And look what you did. Look where you got her.” Rose relaxed back against the creaking leather seat and looked out the window, smiled at the man in the moon hanging low in the sky in front of them, illuminating the road ahead. “You’re a good man and a good dad. Any wandering habits you picked up in all those years of moving…who am I to judge? Perhaps I should’ve made that same decision for Grim. Perhaps you were the one in the right. Perhaps I should’ve worked harder to save my grandson from being tormented into a monster in the Tarian Pride.” She rolled her head against the seat and smiled at him, crossed her arms over her chest to ward of the cold. “Perhaps standing my ground made me the weak one and running made you the brave one.”

“Hmmm,” Talon murmured. “Or perhaps there was no right or wrong way. Perhaps we just had to make the decisions we thought were best at the time. I heard about your grandson. Sure, the council made the Reaper in him, but he’s head of a Crew now and paired up with a love match. He came here to help Ronin get Emerald back. Him and his Crew. They’re loyal to him, and he has a friend in the Red Dragon, too. He ain’t doin’ too bad, Rose. You did just fine with that one.” His smile in the dim blue moonlight loosened the tight sensation that had constricted her chest. “When you get to our age, there is so much history behind us. So much story. And I don’t know if it’s the same for you, but I can lie awake every night and regret, overthink, and remember. And I have to pull myself back to the here and now because I’m not done yet.” He tossed her a wink. “And you ain’t either. Not even close, ya wildcat.”

Rose snorted and barely resisted the urge to roll her eyes like the delivery driver had done. “Wildcat, huh? I eat boring fiber cereal for breakfast and take about a dozen vitamins and medications every morning. I get a senior citizen discount on movie tickets, and I’m getting arthritis in my hands so I can’t do the things I used to and—”

“And you just went to war and whooped some dominant male lions’ asses.”

Shocked, Rose let her mouth plop open. “How did you…?”

“Oh, I asked around about you.” He changed gears and gunned it on a straightaway.

The squeak that fell from Rose’s lips was mortifying. She left her stomach clear back there on the road somewhere, and Talon wasn’t slowing down. He hit another gear, and Rose clutched the seatbelt, prepared to bellow, “Good lord, let me live!” But right then, Talon let off the gas and the car slowed to a not-so-terrifying speed.

“Wildcats don’t squeak,” she said in a very small voice.

Talon chuckled and slipped his hand from the gearshift to her thigh. He squeezed it once and told her, “It was the cutest damn squeak I’ve ever heard.”

“I’m a cougar,” she blurted out.

Her cheeks felt like they lit on fire, so she pressed her cold palms there to cool the heat.

“Pretty sure you’re a lioness. I saw you Change when I was here before, and unless you’ve been part of some gnarly experiments, I’m pretty sure you can’t switch shifter animals right in the middle of your life.”

“No…I mean…” Oh, God, how did she say this without further embarrassing herself? “You’re young, Talon. And I’m…”

“I swear to God if you say ‘old,’ I’m going to pull this car over and make you walk back.” He said it with a smile in his voice, but she dared a look at his face just to make sure his dark brown eyes were dancing. They were. “How old do you think I am?” he asked her.

“Don’t tell me! I don’t want to know.”

Talon belted out a laugh. “Why not?”

He was teasing her, and enough was enough. She was embarrassed. Embarrassed! She didn’t let men affect her like this. Never. She was above this and much too aloof to encourage his laughing at her.

“Turn here,” she said, pointing at a mailbox. Or what would’ve been a mailbox if the Old Tarian Pride hadn’t run it over with one of their ridiculous SUVs they’d souped up like they were preparing for the damn zombie apocalypse.

Talon slowed and turned onto the gravel driveway. “Is this where you live, or am I just turning around?”

“I’m up the road a ways. I can pick up my snowmobile tomorrow. I’m suddenly tired. You wouldn’t understand because you aren’t old.”

Talon slammed on the brakes and jerked them to a stop. “Seriously, how old do you think I am?”

“Well, I had a child at fifteen, and my daughter was an apple that fell a little too close to the tree, if you know what I mean. She had Grim at sixteen, and Grim is a grown man. You have a daughter his age. So roughly fifty. And I know all about single fifty year old men in their mid-life crisis. They go for the young spring chickens and don’t keep their interest on us mature ladies long.”

“I’m not a mid-life crisis kind of man, and age isn’t something I notice on a woman.” He chuckled and said, “I sewed my wild oats much longer than you young breeders. I didn’t have Emerald until I was in my thirties.”

Hope blossomed in her chest. Honestly, part of the reason she’d stayed away the last few days was because she knew he was a runner, and part of it was because she’d assumed he was much younger, and she didn’t want to feel gross for having a little schoolgirl crush on a younger man.

“I’m only five years younger than you,” Talon murmured.

“Oh, thank God,” she whispered, pressing her hand over her pounding heart. “I’ve been thinking how gross I am for having this…this…thing for a younger man, and—”

“You have a thing for me?”

“What? No. That’s not what I said.”

“Yes, it is. And I quote, ‘How gross I am for having this thing for a younger man.’”

“Okay, okay! Okay.” She held up her hands. “It’s not really a thing, per say. It was just the wrong word. That I used. I used the wrong word.” Oh hell, stop talking!

“Even if I was fifteen years younger than you, I would still think you’re a beautiful woman and I’d still want to take you out to dinner.”

“Wait, what?”

“Dinner. Me and you. As cliché as it is, I truly feel like age is just a number.”

“But your mate was younger than you. Mariah. I remember her. Why would you want to take me out?”

“I didn’t pair up with Mariah because of her age, Rose. You’re stuck on that part. I don’t give a fuck about the number of years you’ve lived on this earth. I care about your experiences in that time. Besides, you’re like wine, woman. You’re even prettier now than I remember you back then. Your eyes are still just as blue, and you have the same wily smile. Your hair is a different color, pretty silver, and you wear it longer than you used to.” He picked up a strand of her hair and rubbed it gently between his finger and thumb before he released it. “I like it this way. You look damn good to me.”

   
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