There were times in a man’s life when he felt like he held the world in his hands. There were times where that man could conquer that world and know instinctively what to do with the life it held.
This was not one of those times.
Malik Ward wanted to throw up, even though he didn’t have a thing in his stomach. Or maybe yell at someone until he was so red in the face he couldn’t speak. Perhaps hit someone so he could feel bone smash against bone. Or maybe, just maybe, go down to his knees in front of the woman who carried his child and beg for forgiveness.
As Malik was in line for the lion throne and a Ward, the latter wouldn’t be happening.
If he were anything less than the lion he was, he’d have tucked his tail between his legs and walked out of the bar as quickly as he’d come in. But he wasn’t that kind of man, and now he had to face the consequences of his decisions.
And what consequences they were.
He’d been in his realm, trying to calm the rising storm and failing at everything he tried when he’d finally heard the full story of what had happened to Amara, Tristan, and Seth. If his head hadn’t been so far up his ass, he’d have known why his friend had wanted to save his mates the way he had. Instead, Malik had been focused on his family and the realm that would soon be his because he hadn’t had a choice in the matter.
He hadn’t known Amara was lightning-struck—not until word had eventually spread that she was now the queen of the siren realm.
He hadn’t known that Amara’s friends were also lightning-struck. Therefore, he hadn’t known that if those particular women found their mates, they would become the paranormal that held the most dominant strain in their DNA.
He hadn’t known that the one woman he’d thought he could love—the one woman, if he let himself believe, he did love—was lightning-struck.
He’d kicked Eliana out of his bed, out of his life, and had shut the door so tightly on that connection that he’d missed out on what could have been his future.
Eliana was pregnant. With his child. His cub.
His mouth went dry and his brain fogged, much like it had when he’d first heard about what Eliana could be.
He hadn’t known she was pregnant when he left. Hadn’t known when he found out that Eliana could be his. He hadn’t known until he’d walked in and almost fell to his knees. There was no doubt this was his child. Not with the timing or the way the others—and Eliana—glared at him as though he were the worst kind of person. He couldn’t blame them, but he couldn’t care about their opinions yet either.
Not until he spoke to Eliana and figured out what the hell they were going to do.
“You have a hell of a lot of nerve showing up here,” a woman with dark hair and blunt bangs said. She stood up, and Malik scented pixie on her.
Well, that made sense since pixies were some of the most cutthroat paranormals out there.
“Faith, sit down,” Eliana said, her voice strong. A hell of a lot stronger than he felt right then.
“You can’t expect me to sit down while this asshole shows up after being missing for months.” Faith waved her hand at him, and if she’d been in her full pixie form, he had a feeling her wings would have been red with anger right then.
The numerous others at the table began to speak at once. Even the babies cried or babbled in that baby language Malik had never been able to understand. His pulse pounded at his temple but he only had eyes for Eliana. He needed to speak to her, needed to explain, needed to find a way to breathe because he couldn’t quite get enough air.
“Eliana,” he whispered.
Eliana pressed her lips together and put her hands over her stomach, over their baby. He hadn’t been here, didn’t know until it was almost too late about the pregnancy, but the fact that she was carrying his cub changed everything.
The others became louder, even standing up to walk toward him. He stayed frozen to his spot, afraid to move closer and lose Eliana forever. Though, really, did he have her at all? He’d fucked up but it wasn’t his fault. He’d done what he had to do with the evidence he’d held at the time.
“Stop it,” Eliana said softly, though her voice was firm. “All of you. Sit down and take care of your babies. I need to speak with Malik. Alone.”
She made a move to stand up, and he took a step toward her, needing to help, but stopped as a tall and slender man made it to her first. The other man glared over his shoulder at Malik as he put his hands on Eliana’s arms.
“Thank you, Seth,” Eliana whispered.