Marcus dropped his head back against the headboard and closed his eyes. Divine might have named her son Damian and taught him the rules about not harming mortals, but Abaddon had busily been undoing all her good work from the boy's birth. It was obvious to him that Damian and Leonius were one and the same son of Leonius Livius I.
"It infuriated me," Divine admitted, drawing his attention again. "And scared me. I was suddenly desperate to get Damian away from him."
"He called him Leonius," Marcus murmured, and then lifted his head to peer at her and simply asked, "Did you take Leonius from that hotel in Toronto two years ago?"
"No," Divine said firmly, and he felt a moment's relief, until she added, "I took my son, Damian, from it."
"Ah crap," Marcus muttered, closing his eyes again.
"He is not like his father," Divine said quickly. "My uncle has been hounding and hunting him ever since the immortal/no-fanger war just because he carries his father's blood, but Damian's not like Leonius. I brought him up with the same rules my grandfather taught me. He knows not to harm or kill mortals. Yet Uncle Lucian has hunted him, killing Damian's sons in the process, innocent little boys, most of them under ten."
"What?" Marcus asked, shocked at the very suggestion. When Divine nodded her head, he stared at her blankly for a minute and then said, "Divine, I don't know what happened to your grandsons, but I guarantee you that Lucian would not kill little boys. At least not unless they were no-fanger and killing mortals willy-nilly."
"They weren't no-fangers. Most of them hadn't turned yet and were mortal still," she responded.
"Mortal still?" he queried blankly.
Divine shrugged. "Some of the boys seemed to be mortal and then turned when they were somewhere between five or ten."
"That's not possible," Marcus said at once. "What's more, if Damian is no-fanger, he is not your son."
She blinked in surprise at that comment, and gave a short laugh. "I'm sorry, Marcus, but you're the one mistaken this time. Damian is no-fanger and he is definitely my son. I gave birth to him."
"You couldn't have," Marcus said firmly. "Divine, I explained about nanos. They are carried in the blood. A mother passes them down to her child."
"Or the father does," she said with certainty.
"No," Marcus said stoutly. "He doesn't. He can't. It's in the blood, not in the sperm."
"Well, that still doesn't mean an immortal mother can't have a no-fang— edentate child," she corrected herself. "No-fangers and edentates are immortal too, aren't they? We all have the same nanos."
"Ah, damn," he whispered suddenly with realization. "I didn't explain that part to you in the RV."
"What part?" Divine asked uncertainly.
Marcus breathed out a sigh and then explained, "No-fangers and edentates don't carry the same nanos as immortals. The first no-fangers and their prodigy carry the nanos from the first batch the scientists came up with. But those nanos turned out to be somehow flawed. A third of the subjects died when given them, and a third went crazy. The other third were fine. And then when Atlantis fell, none of them produced fangs and they had to cut to feed. The crazy immortals without fangs were called no-fangers. The noncrazy immortals without fangs were called edentates to differentiate them.
"Immortals," he continued, "are the result of the scientists going back and tweaking the nanos. I don't know what they did, or how they changed the programming, but the second batch of nanos produced the immortals that simply go by the name immortal. None of them died or went crazy when the nanos were introduced to their bodies. And when Atlantis fell, it was only in the immortals with the second batch of nanos that the fangs developed."
"Oh," Divine said with a frown.
Marcus sighed and then continued, "Because the nanos are carried in the blood, the child becomes what his mother is. A mortal mother will have a mortal child every time no matter what the father is, and the same is true of an immortal. An immortal mother with the second batch of nanos can only produce an immortal child. But both a no-fanger and edentate mother with the first batch of nanos will pass those on to her child and produce an edentate who has a thirty-three percent chance of remaining edentate, a thirty-three percent chance of turning no-fanger, and a thirty-three percent chance of dying.
"You carry the second batch of nanos, Divine. The child you gave birth to in that camp, and any children you produce in the future, can only be immortal. If Damian isn't an Immortal, with fangs, then he is not your birth child."
"But . . ." She shook her head, confusion rife on her face. "I gave birth to him."
"Is it possible your child was switched for Damian?" he asked gently. That seemed the only explanation. "Was the baby you gave birth to ever out of your sight?"
"No, I . . ." Divine paused and frowned. "Well, Abaddon did take him out of the room briefly to clean him up, but . . . he was only gone moments before returning with him bundled up in swaddling."
"This Abaddon must have switched Damian for your child then. Damian must have been the child of Leonius and a no-fanger woman." He raised his eyebrows in question. "Were there any no-fanger women who gave birth around that time too?"
"Yes," Divine murmured, looking defeated. "One of them had a child the day before."
Marcus nodded. "Damian is probably her child."
"Yes," Divine agreed, and then she suddenly straightened. "But he is still my son, Marcus. I raised him, I breast-fed him, I cared for him, taught him, kissed his scraped knees and boo-boos. I raised Damian. He is my son."
"I'm sorry you feel that way," he said sadly, and she glanced to him with surprise.
"Because if Damian is the man who was shot several times, including an arrow through the heart, and was picked up outside the hotel room in Toronto, then he's a stone-cold killer, and a no-fanger, not edentate."
Divine was shaking her head before he'd even finished. "No. He's not a killer. I taught him—"
"If the man you whisked away from the hotel is Damian, then Damian is a killer," Marcus said firmly. "He and a handful of his sons killed several women in northern Ontario, and then kidnapped a doctor and her sister. The doctor was rescued right away, but one of the sons, Twenty-one I believe he was called, got away with the sister. The man you whisked away was captured at the site where the dead women were found, but he too got away."
He saw Divine close her eyes at this news, but continued, "The sister, who was a teenage girl by the way, was rescued, along with a couple of other victims, from the hotel room you whisked your son away from as well as from the room next door to it. And he was going by the name Leonius."
"You said that earlier," she muttered unhappily, and then said, "But Damian said he was only there because a couple of the boys got up to some risky business and he had to go get them out of trouble."
"Risky business?" he interrupted with amazement. "They cut those women up like kindling . . . and he bragged about at least one of his kills to the doctor they took. And," he added heavily, "one of their victims, a young woman named Dee, told us how Leonius and his boys slaughtered her family. He wasn't there to get them out of trouble. He was leading them into it."
Marcus gave her a moment to digest that, and then said, "Everything I've said is true, Divine. I wouldn't lie to you. You're my life mate . . . and believe me I wish this wasn't true. Because this does mean you're rogue and we are going to spend the rest of our lives running and hiding."
Divine stared at him blankly for a minute, and then suddenly turned and headed for the door.
"Wait! Where are you going?" he called, struggling with the ties on his wrists.
Divine didn't answer, simply slipped out of the room and let the door close behind her. Cursing, Marcus gave up trying to tug his hands free of the ties at his wrists and began to jerk at them, trying to snap the cloth. Instead, on the fourth pull, he snapped the bed headboard clean off the bed. That was good enough. Marcus tugged the ties off of the snapped wood, and quickly removed the cloth from his wrists as he slid off the bed. He then rushed for the door, but when he hurried out into the hall and looked both ways, it was empty.
Marcus cursed and turned back to the room, intending to dress and go after her, only to find that the door had closed behind him . . . and locked.
"Brilliant," he muttered, slamming one fist on the wooden panel with fury.
Divine kept expecting Marcus to rush up behind her and stop her as she made her way out to the hotel parking lot where the SUV was parked. She didn't know if she was relieved or disappointed when that didn't happen. A little of both, Divine supposed as she slipped into the driver's seat and started the vehicle. However, it was probably for the best. She knew it was. That didn't make it any easier. But then there was very little in her life that had seemed to be easy.
While Marcus had wanted to learn more about her from their talk, in the end she'd learned more from him than he had from her. All he'd learned was that she was indeed the rogue he'd been sent to find. She'd learned that her son wasn't her son, that he was a killer, and that Abaddon had probably been using mind control on her from the get-go to get his way.
Divine really couldn't believe that she hadn't picked up on it before this. Now that Marcus had said it, it seemed so obvious. Her fear of her uncle had been so solid and deep with little in the way of doubt . . . and so constant. Abaddon must have been feeding that into her thoughts day in and day out for those first ten years and then reinforcing it every time she'd encountered him.
Of course, the fact that he'd played on her own fears had probably helped. She'd admired and envied those two immortal women who had chosen death over Leonius's abuse. She'd even wondered if that wasn't the more honorable choice. They had escaped, after all, if only into death. They needn't suffer the pain and humiliation he'd visited on her and the others. They were free. Their family honor safe . . . While she had quavered and wept and screamed in pain and terror, begging him not to hurt her, groveling at his feet like a pathetic—
Divine gave her head an angry shake as she started the SUV engine. She might have done all of that for nearly four months, but then she'd become pregnant and life had been more bearable . . . and she had survived. She had lived more than two thousand years since then. She'd met millions of people over the years, some shining stars of brilliance, others individuals in need of a little guidance to find that brilliance.
Divine had spent her life helping others. Surely that made up for any shame her family might have suffered? And surely that made what she'd suffered, if not worthwhile, at least bearable?
Her life had been long, with many quiet joys, moments of satisfaction, or peace. They might have been quiet, hidden moments in comparison to the bright and fiery moments she'd shared with Marcus these last days, but they were moments nonetheless and every single one of them had taken place away from Abaddon. She hadn't enjoyed even a second of peace or enjoyment in Abaddon's presence. It was part of the reason she'd finally taken Damian and run from the man, and why she'd spent so little time with her son after learning he'd welcomed the man back into his life.
Now Divine wondered if all of this was her fault. Damian might not be her child by blood, but she had raised him, he was her son. And he had been a sweet child growing up. Always smiling, always eager to please. It was after they'd left Abaddon that Damian had changed, becoming secretive and moody.
At first Divine had thought he just missed the man and would get over it, and then she'd blamed it on puberty. All teenagers were like that, weren't they?
At twelve he'd started wandering the woods or cities depending on where they lived, taking off for hours at a time despite her haranguing him to stay close to home. At sixteen he'd begun disappearing for days at a time. On returning he'd always been manic with happiness; laughing, chatting a mile a minute, telling her tales of his adventures while away. She'd allowed it at the time because he was considered a man in that time period.
Damian was eighteen when he'd been gone a week rather than the usual day or two. Worried that Lucian—who Abaddon had assured her was still looking for them—had finally found her son, Divine had gone looking for him and found him holed up in an abandoned hut. He'd been outside, laughing and chatting by a fire with, of all people, Abaddon. And Abaddon had been calling him Leo, she recalled now. She'd been so furious to find him with the man she'd kind of let that slip her mind at the time.
Divine had tried to send Abaddon away, but Damian had protested. Abaddon was his friend.
"Abaddon is no friend of ours," she'd said furiously. "He was Leonius Livius's lapdog."
"You mean my father?" Damian had asked.
Divine had simply gaped at him. She had never told him about his father. How could she tell her son that he was a child of rape? That his father was a man she loathed who had tortured and raped her for months before he'd been conceived? She hadn't told him before that, and couldn't tell him then. Instead, she had drawn herself up and said, "You are old enough to do what you wish and live where you want now. But I will have nothing to do with this man. Never bring him to my home when you visit."
She had turned and left then. Damian hadn't followed. And Divine had simply continued with her life. He had visited often during the first fifty years or so, relatively speaking. It had been only a year after that when Damian had come to her with her first grandson. When she'd asked his name, he'd said the mother hadn't given him one and didn't want the boy. She'd offered to raise him, which she suspected he'd counted on at the time.
Divine had named the boy Luc and had loved him like her own. She'd been heartbroken when Damian had come to visit on the boy's tenth birthday and decided he needed a father and should go with him. She'd been absolutely devastated, though, when she'd gone to visit Damian and the boy some months later only to learn that their camp had been raided by Lucian's scouts and the boy hadn't got away. He was dead.
Her old fears of her family had immediately resurfaced and the first wave of her anger with them had been born. Luc had been only the first of her grandsons that Divine had raised. Damian had brought her eight of them in all during those first two centuries. She'd raised each as her own, with all the love she could give them, and then had been forced to stand by as her son took them away to finish their upbringing himself. Some had become no-fanger after leaving her, some had not, which Abaddon had said was normal. He had claimed that some children were like that, their no-fanger needs simply not kicking in until puberty.
Of course, now that Marcus had explained nanos to her, she realized that couldn't be the case at all. Those boys must have been birthed by mortal women. If they became no-fangers later, it was because Damian must have tried to turn them. She now wondered if that was the real cause of their death, because not one of the grandsons she'd cared for had survived to adulthood. Each of them had died, supposedly slaughtered by Argeneau spies or hunters. And then Damian had stopped bringing her the children he spawned, claiming that she made them weak.
Once he'd stopped bringing her children, Damian's visits had grown more sparse. Some centuries she'd seen him more often than others, but they had gone as much as eight decades between visits at times. In fact, Divine had often been amazed that he was able to find her when he did come around or send for her. She was constantly moving, after all.
Divine sighed and dashed irritably at her eyes. Thoughts of her grandsons always made her teary. But it was more than that right now. Looking back with the new information she had, she was seeing a lot of the lies that had been told her and wondering just what in her life had been true. She was also wishing she hadn't been quite so gullible and accepted what Abaddon had said. In fact, she really didn't understand why she had. She'd loathed the man. Shouldn't she have doubted every word out of his mouth?
Influence seemed the obvious answer. All she could think was that he'd used mind control, influence, and mental nudging to ensure she believed him. It didn't matter though, whether he'd used influence and such, or she'd just been blind and stupid, the end result was the same. Divine was left with the ruins of a life; no home, no family, no friends, and unable to claim her life mate. It also left her with a son who, if Marcus was to be believed, was a killer like his father. And so were his sons.
Divine shook her head. She'd never seen any evidence of that. The women who had been around when she'd visited had— Frankly, she'd not thought much of them. They'd all looked unkempt and emaciated, and had always been high as kites when she'd visited, as had her grandsons. Now she had to wonder about that too. Were they druggies, or just kept drugged up when she was around so that she couldn't read fear or terror from their minds? Narcotics muddied the thoughts enough to make them incomprehensible when read.
Were those poor women really victims like she had been to Damian's father, Leonius? Divine's mouth tightened. Marcus had said that Damian went by his father's name and named his sons Leonius as well so that he had to call them each by their birth order number. She had heard him call them by numbers over the centuries. For instance he'd called Rufus, the rude grandson she usually wanted to swat, Four on more than one occasion, although in front of her he usually just called them all boy.
Her thoughts returned to the women. Divine couldn't bear to think her son was treating those women as his father had treated her. She intended to find out and set them free if that was the case. She intended on finding out the truth of everything if she could.
Spotting a gas station, Divine slowed and pulled in.
As she'd hoped there was a pay phone here, against the side of the building. She needed to call Damian and find out where he was. She didn't want to drive all the way to the last place he'd been only to find he had moved on.
Divine had always had a good memory. She suspected it had something to do with the nanos. Certainly she didn't recall Damian's number because she used it excessively. She usually called him once a month or so. At least she had until a couple days ago when he'd suddenly called saying he was in the area and needed to see her.
The phone barely rang once before it was picked up, but it wasn't Damian who answered, it was Abaddon. The sound of his voice immediately set her teeth on edge. "I want to speak to my son."
"I'm sorry, Basha, he's playing with one of his little female friends right now," Abaddon said sweetly. "Can I take a message?"
Divine didn't bother insisting he use the name Divine, but simply growled, "Are you still at the house I woke up in the other day?"
"No," Abaddon said at once. "We've moved. I felt like seeing the Cirque du Soleil perform, and your son was amenable, so we headed to Vegas. We're about half an hour outside that city."
Divine went still. That seemed a happy coincidence, but she doubted if it was. After all, she knew Abaddon had some of Damian's sons watching her. They'd probably told him that she and Marcus were in Vegas, and that was the real reason he was here. The only question was why? The boys could call in their reports. He didn't have to remain close by.
Grinding her teeth, she asked, "What's the address?"
When he finished rattling it off, Divine hung up without a good-bye and returned to the SUV to check the GPS. The address he'd given her was half an hour out of the city, but on the other side from where she was now. And it looked like it was in the middle of nowhere, she noted, making the GPS image bigger.
Setting that address as the destination, Divine started the SUV and shifted into gear. She would return it to the hotel parking lot after confronting her son. If she survived the confrontation. Divine suspected one of them wouldn't. If he was killing people, Damian was a menace, and while she hadn't technically brought him into this world, she'd raised him, was responsible for him, and would take him out if she had t