But then Garcia had to shock him by being brutally frank.
‘Not just angry. Furious. Cheated. Betrayed. All of the things you are doubtless feeling. But if I looked at the bigger picture I would see that above all else Luciana put her son—your son—first, believing he was unsafe. I have no idea how much of your reputation is true, but one fifth of it would be enough to persuade me. She protected him as any mother would. And I could not hate her or blame her for that.’
On that note, he spun on his heels and strode back to the helicopter.
Thane watched the blades whip into a frenzy, slicing through the air. The vociferous clamour lent him a moment of mental peace. A chance to breathe without it physically hurting.
‘I only wanted to keep him safe… We’re enemies… I was scared…’
Then the sonorous roar receded and it all came rushing back in one titanic tsunami of agony—and he turned and ploughed his fist into the stone wall.
* * *
Dressed in Hawaiian-style shorts and a funky matching T-shirt, Natanael was a red blur, sprinting along the shoreline, dragging a long stick that drew a wavy line in the damp sand, while those great lumbering dogs pranced around him. Her little boy in seventh heaven was a glorious sight to see.
Slanting another glance over her right shoulder, she kept watch for Thane. The helicopter had soared into the sky over an hour ago and she felt flimsy and tenuous—like a kite that would blow away with one gust of wind.
Sloshing through the shallow waters, she slowed her step, ‘Hey, Nate? Shall we build a sandcastle and wait for Thane?’
Together they scooped sand into a mound, and Luciana watched those sweet little hands pat-pat-pat their creation into shape. This was good. She had to keep busy. Too much time to think and regret and fret would drive her loopy.
‘May I join in?’
She flinched at Thane’s low, masculine tone and rocked back on her knees to peek up at him.
‘Of course,’ she said, her stomach hollowing at the pain that darkened his eyes. At the way he shunted frustrated fingers through the swarthy mess of his hair.
When his hands plunged to his sides her gaze snagged on his raw swollen knuckles and air hit the back of her throat.
Lord, had he hit Lucas? Reaching up, she dusted over his torn skin.
‘Did you fight?’ she whispered.
He snatched his hand away and she curled her fingers in her lap. He’d closed himself off to her. Emotionally. Physically.
Natanael—oblivious to it all—said, ‘Sure, you can help. You can build the moat of the castle if you want. That’s a biiig job.’
‘I think you’re right,’ Thane said easily, sinking to his knees. ‘Where do you think I should put it?’
Nate pointed to a slope that was close to him, Luciana noticed. As if he wanted Thane closer, in his space.
That was a big enough clue for her and she shuffled backwards, giving them some room, some time together, while her heart lodged itself in her throat. It was like watching a fantasy she’d replayed in her mind, but reality was even more incredibly beautiful.
‘Is your name really Thane? Like the warrior?’
Those broad shoulders seized up. ‘Yes. But…’
Dark turbulent eyes darted her way in a silent plea that said he didn’t want Natanael to call him Thane. Of course he didn’t.
‘Do you want to tell him now?’ she whispered.
Incredible as it was, he blanched—as if drowning in pure fear. Almost as if he expected a rejection.
She couldn’t abide it. This was her doing and she didn’t want him hurting any more than he already was.
‘Nate…’ she began. ‘You know how Auntie Claudia is Isabelle’s mamá and Uncle Lucas is his papá?’
‘Well…’ She licked lips salty from the sea breeze. ‘Thane is…your daddy. He’s your papá.’
His dark head jerked up. ‘Really?’
A huge smile stretched his face as he looked at Thane, then back to her. ‘Oh, wow—my daddy is a New Warrior.’
‘He is,’ Luciana agreed, fighting tears. ‘He saved me once. Many years ago.’ Her throat felt thick, and it burned as if aflame. Stung so badly her words came out on a choked whisper. ‘He’s a real superhero.’