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

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

Prologue

“You’re a good woman, Rose. I remember.”

Rose jerked her attention to Talon Lawson’s face. His eyes were open now and bright gold. He must’ve been in a lot of pain if his lion was still present. He had a thick silver beard and matching hair that was mussed just right. He was even more handsome than she remembered from his time in the Tarian Pride all those years ago. What was it? Fifteen years now? Something must’ve happened to his mate, Mariah. Mariah was a Tarian lioness, too, and wouldn’t have allowed her mate to be beaten like this. She would’ve gotten him out of the Old Tarian Camp if she were still alive. Or she would’ve died trying.

“I’m not what you remember,” she whispered as she cleaned the long cut where one of his ribs had broken and stuck out of his skin. She’d wrapped the rib so it could heal properly, but this cut was still open and seeping. She was worried.

“If you aren’t good, you wouldn’t be wasting your time trying to save an old rogue like me.”

Rose inhaled deeply and let the potency of his compliments wash through her. It had been a long time since a man was kind to her like this. But the timing was bad. His daughter had just traded her life for his. “The Old Tarian Pride has Emerald,” she murmured low.

Talon’s nostril’s flared, and he grunted as he tried to sit up. His body was completely broken by whatever torture Cassius’s Pride had done.

“Stop, stop, stop, you’ll undo everything I’ve done,” she said, frantically pushing his shoulders back onto the mattress.

He groaned in agony. His bare torso was a latticework of claw marks, bandages, and long, black bruises, as though they’d beaten him with a pole of some kind. He shouldn’t have survived, but here he was. Steel man.

“I have to get her back,” he said, his eyes wild.

Rose tried to smile reassuringly, but probably failed when she uttered the words, “Then let me be your claws.” Why couldn’t she hold his gaze? Because he was hurt? Because he’d gone through worse than her? Because she’d begun to care for him as he fought for his life? They’d become a little team without him knowing. She’d poured her energy into saving him so that she didn’t have to think about her own time in Cassius’s “care.” Somewhere along the way, the unconscious man had started to matter to her. Terrifying, steel man.

He didn’t understand. She could tell because he just lay there, staring at her, eyes so wide and confused, his hand gripping his stomach, his abs flexing with every struggled breath.

Rose might never see him again after tonight, so she did something she would’ve never ever done if she had the guarantee of a long life ahead. She leaned closer and pressed her lips to his forehead. And then she eased away and said, “Tonight, Ronin’s going to war, and I’ll be at his side.”

“No,” he rumbled in a deep, inhuman voice. He was going pale, and a cold sweat broke out across his skin. He would pass out soon. “No, Rose, I don’t want you…”

“It’s my choice. Emerald is important to Ronin, and Ronin is very important to me.” And you’re important to me too, Talon. “Your daughter is worth the war.”

He was breathing so heavy, panting, through his mouth. His pupils were getting bigger, his eyelids heavy. Steel man, trying to stay awake. Nearly dead and still wanting to go back into Hell to retrieve his daughter. Steel Dad.

“You did so good,” she whispered, cupping her hand on his cheek. His beard was soft under her touch. “You kept your girl safe all these years, but now you have to let us protect her while you rest—”

“Don’t need rest,” he gritted out, his voice breaking on the words.

Rose snarled and gripped his shoulders, looked him right in the eyes. “I’ll bring her back. I swear it. No matter what, your daughter will come back to you.”

His brows relaxed and his breathing steadied, and with his gold eyes going hazy, he said, “Be…my…claws.”

It was in that moment of vulnerability when his eyes rimmed with moisture. It was the moment he accepted he wouldn’t be able to be a war-lion for his cub tonight…that look of deep regret that she understood so well…

That moment was the one that made her heart beat a little harder for Talon Lawson.

She scratched his beard gently and nodded. “I will.”

And then his eyes closed, and his body went limp. She left the room, thinking she would never see him again.

And that was the terrifying part—the sadness in her chest at not seeing a man again. It wasn’t her fate to pair up this late in her life. Her focus was to get the Tarian Pride rehabilitated with Ronin. That’s all. That was everything.

No one understood how loyal her heart got when she chose a person. She never let go, never gave up on them. She couldn’t afford to let her heart get attached to this one.

Caring for a man who was rogue and trained to run wasn’t okay. Not for a lioness like her. He would leave, and she would hurt for the rest of her life.

If this war didn’t kill her…falling for a rogue would.

Chapter One

Talon Lawson had lost his anchor.

For the last two and a half decades, his entire world had revolved around his daughter, Emerald. But as he sat here, watching Emerald lean into her mate at the head of the sprawling dinner table, he knew he’d lost her.

Not in a bad way. He’d always wished for a pairing like this for her. She’d found a childhood crush. Or maybe fate had nudged them together. Ronin, Alpha of the New Tarian Pride, was a good man and caring toward his daughter. Protective of her just like every father dreamed for his child. A love match, like Talon had with Mariah, Emerald’s mother.

His daughter was happy and stable and would make an amazing queen for the Tarians. This Pride needed her kind heart and steel backbone.

No, he hadn’t lost her in the tragic sense. He’d lost the need to take care of her. Or she’d lost the need for him to be her protector. Her hero.

She had figured out how to take care of herself, and now what? What was Talon’s purpose?

Kannon, a dark-haired lion shifter next to him, leaned in and tinked his beer bottle against Talon’s empty. “We’re going into town later if you want to join us.”

“Mmm? All of you? Why?”

“To celebrate.”

Talon frowned. “Celebrate what?”

“Winning the war.”

Talon huffed a laugh and shook his head. “Boy, you ain’t won the war until every Old Tarian is snuffed out of existence. They’re like a cancer. How many do you think survived last week?”

Kannon sighed and leaned back in his creaking chair, took a swig of his drink, a thoughtful look on Ronin and Emerald. “I counted nine of the Pride and four council members.” He lowered his voice. “But all their females rebelled against them and traded to our side. One of their males, too, Orion.” He twitched his head at a blond-haired bruiser who was sitting alone on the couch, watching football. “We have the numbers on our side now, and they’ve been shamed. Plus”—Kannon grinned—“we have a dragon.”

Talon chuckled. “You do have that.” There was no “we.” Talon would leave as soon as he knew Emerald was settled. He wasn’t here to crowd his newly-paired daughter. He just wanted to make sure she was adjusted to her new throne before he started his new life.

He wasn’t very hungry tonight. Last week had just about done him in, and he wasn’t quite healed yet. Apparently, being systematically beaten by a rival Pride and then dragged behind a snowmobile was bad for the health. He had good healing, thanks to his inner lion but, good God, those assholes had done a number on him.

He was a Lawson, though, and Lawsons didn’t show weakness. Especially around a bunch of dominant strangers. Talon excused himself from the table and cleared his plate. The second he made it to the kitchen, a petite blond, Sora, reached out and tried to take the dish from him. “Sora,” he rumbled, easing the plate out of her reach, “this isn’t your old Pride. You don’t have to do everyone’s dishes.” He twitched his head toward the table. “Go on in there and relax. Everything’s okay.”

She was looking at the ground, wringing her hands. She cast a glance at her brother, Orion, still sitting motionless on the couch, and then gave Talon a forced smile that looked more like a grimace. “I don’t even know what that means anymore.”

“You will,” he promised, wishing he could revive all those Old Tarians who’d made her cower like this just so he could put them through a second death. Poor girl. If Emerald had been struggling to adjust this bad, it would’ve broken Talon’s heart.

“You’re safe with these guys,” he murmured, sidestepping her to get to the sink. “And I’m wary of every shifter. Been on the run for years. These boys, though?” he said, looking over his shoulder at the table of chattering lion shifters. “They’re different.”

“Yeah,” Sora said on a soft breath. Didn’t sound much like she believed him, but this was her battle. Get tougher and learn to trust. Or stay a mouse her whole life. He hoped she didn’t stay broken. He would talk to Emerald in the morning and tell her to pay special attention to Sora. Emerald was submissive, but tough as nails, and her care for people was unmatched. Probably Emerald had already noticed Sora was struggling. It’s just the way his daughter was.

His phone vibrated in his back pocket. He dried his hands quick on a dishtowel and answered the call. “Yeah?”

“Hey, this is Wade at Effects Delivery. I’m towing your car and your belongings. I’m at the address you gave me, but some twat-wrinkle named Gray won’t let me in the gate.”

Aw shit, he should’ve given Ronin a heads up his things were being delivered today. “Hey, Ronin?” he called, covering the speaker of the phone.

Ronin was on his cell phone and leaned back in his chair, but looked back at Talon. “Your car?”

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