Ryder, Vesper’s father, arrived late to dinner after his family had started. The large dining hall of Celestial Keep was mostly dim, only a few floating orbs illuminating the area of the main table they used. There had been a time when the entire hall clothed in pale blues among the white marble would expect to be near capacity to house the Malice extended family, the walls echoing with talk and laughter. If Vesper hadn’t been chosen, it would still have been the case. But Leandra’s child had caught Heiden’s attention and the queen’s family was now the outcasts, always spoken to so kindly while pity shone in every family member’s eye and vicious word was held in cheek for later when not face to face with the monster’s meal.
The dimness of the lighting made it so Vesper didn’t notice that the two individuals with his father were not the servants the Malices employed. It wasn’t until his mother suddenly stood, her eyes flashing, that he looked up, his gaze taking in the two huddled, slender forms.
“Guests?” Leandra asked, her eyebrow arched in the closest expression of confusion the woman would dare reveal.
Ryder offered a weak smile to his wife, stepping to the side and ushering the two young men forward. “Of a sorts, my love. Vesper, Master Heiden intercepted me with a delivery while I was away on business.”
“Father?” Pushing himself up stiffly from the table, Vesper met his father’s gaze. Ryder might not have been of Ezella’s blood but his looks complemented the Malice bloodline well. Having just turned forty with his smooth, straw blond hair, cool complexion, and gray eyes, Ryder fit in with his ethereal wife and son, even if the man insisted on dressing in heavy layers of clothing to combat the temperature of the castle. Although his father had his normal, casual smile in place, Vesper could see a tension to his stance, the man’s eyes sharp and full of warning as he tilted his head towards the two new guests.
A pair of red eyes peered back at him from beneath pale, purple tinted hair and Vesper inhaled sharply. Demons. His father had brought demons into their house. Vesper looked to his mother but her expression was as carefully crafted as his father’s. Still, he was certain this was just as much a surprise to her as it was to him. She would have warned him otherwise.
Vesper approached slowly, trying to gain as much information as possible with his eyes before he dared speak and say the wrong thing. Two, they couldn’t have been older than him, petite, slender, and eerily similar in looks. They were dressed in thin shifts, hardly offering much in protection from temperature or gaze, their legs and arms bare. They came up to his shoulder, their hair cut in identical fashion to bob silky around their faces. After a moment, he realized he was looking at twins, the only difference being that one was as pale as the snow with startling blue eyes while his brother was nearly gray skinned with a demonic red to his stare that could belong to no other creature. They were horned, a single small spire protruding from the center of their foreheads. Beyond their odd coloring, sharp fangs, claws, and pointed ears, they seemed far from hostile, the two of them huddled together possibly from the cold or maybe just in terror.
Vesper noticed it then, the frozen, thick black metal wrapped around each of the young man’s slim throats. They were slaves, their magic cut off from them along with any ability to flee.
The Malices did not deal in slaves. They did not allow them into their household, nor did they support the enslavement or trade of slaves in any way. Enslaving demons, fae, and humans was about as barbaric as one could get and Vesper’s family had no stomach for it. Yet there were two in his dining hall, eyes wide and full of misgiving as they peered back at Vesper with thinly veiled curiosity.
“Vesper, I would like you to meet Lilo and Draven,” Ryder said carefully, indicating the blue-eyed than red-eyed twin while beckoning his son closer. “They will be joining us at Celestial Keep until you find it time to move. They will then accompany you to your choice of estate. Space will be made in your set of rooms so that they can be near whenever you have need of them.”
A sickening wave of heat clenching in his stomach, Vesper nodded tightly. He didn’t dare ask just what sort of need he was supposed to have of the two youths, not when they were standing there staring at him like he was a step away from stripping the flesh from their bones. “They are from Heiden?”
Ryder nodded, his eyes downcast. “A very special gift for his precious one.”
“I see.” Forcing himself to breathe normally, Vesper took a small step back. “I imagine the three of you are famished after your journey. Father, if you will take your seat, I will have Gibbens add two more place settings for the evening.” The two boys were so thin, he had to wonder if they had been fed at all since arriving on Earth and just how long ago that might have been.
His mother sent him an approving look Vesper couldn’t fully feel past the ice moving through his veins. Heiden had gifted him with two slaves. Slaves. The demon had no understanding of his disgust of slavery—Or perhaps he completely did and that was why he had gifted them. All he knew for certain was that two very real lives had just been placed into his responsibility and he had little idea how to care for them.
He glanced back when he heard the two hissing, the pale boy having grabbed his gray skinned brother with a soft cry after seeing the tattoo on Vesper’s back.
“If he desires to bond with us—”
“Do not assume.” Red eyes glowed in warning, glancing Ryder’s way cautiously to see if the outburst had gotten them in trouble. They were speaking in their native tongue, Vesper recognizing it from one of the many demonic dialects he had studied.
“No one will force you to bond,” Vesper said bluntly in the same tongue, ignoring the wary glares immediately turned towards him. “I will not share my fate with anyone. As long as you are under my protection, you will have as much freedom as I can grant you.” He finally met the twin gazes, not sure if he could handle much of any reminder of Heiden at the moment. “I cannot promise it to be much in ways of freedom, given my own situation.” He crossed to the table, lifted the servant’s wand from the center, and signaled the kitchens for Gibbens.
The older man stepped in after a short wait through one of the hidden internal portals, gray-haired and stooped with age but still full of spirit. He took one look at Draven and Lilo and immediately summoned chairs and unfurled placemats that contained plates and bowls magically flattened and at the ready. In moments, the man had food steaming on the two new plates and both demons seated under their own respective fluffy furs for warmth.
Seeing Lilo and Draven were situated well enough, Vesper did everything in his power to ignore the two of them. He could feel their eyes on him, glancing at him secretively while they prodded their food. He couldn’t stop the feelings of resentment swirling within him. No matter how hard he had tried to avoid it, his home had been invaded by Heiden. It would take hours for his father and mother to be able to ensure that the two demons weren’t covered in trace spells or listening runes, or their fancy collars soaked in spying enchantments for that matter. And at the end of the day, Vesper would never be able to guarantee that either boy wouldn’t report any misdeed right to his demon master when his back was turned. The bonding ceremony hadn’t even taken place yet Vesper’s slavery had begun.
He couldn’t even talk to his father about what had occurred at the Hierarchy. Vesper could only hope his mother would relay the information to Ryder. If Avem’s genes were dominant to Ezella’s, Vesper’s control might be nonexistent when it came to the mating urge. After his exritus, he could potentially just off and decide to go seek out Evanel and mate the boy no matter that Heiden would kill the angry blond immediately after.
Vesper had done some reading that evening while waiting for his father’s return. It had not been encouraging. He could already identify traits that were strong in him from Avem. Many of the fae’s descendants had the ability to control prey with their eyes—An ability Vesper was certain a lot of his natural allure was centered in. When he wanted someone, he only had to look at them. Eventually, they would turn and meet his gaze, and he would simply pull them closer after that. It had seemed so insignificant at the time, just a different level to his already overwhelming allure. Now he saw it as the possibility that more of his father’s genetics would awake during his exritus with disastrous results.
Not that Ryder was a particularly aggressive man. Tall, impeccably dressed, and dignified, Vesper’s father was more a man of the world than the type of fae one would expect to lose his temper while seeking a mate. But Vesper had only ever known his father when the man had been past his mating days, married to Leandra and working as a long term investment banker. Vesper’s father had been well on his way to assuring the Malice line would never fear financial instability, along with the entire Celestial Clan. Even Heiden hadn’t been able to disturb Ryder’s financial plans, although it was clear the demon master preferred his victims to be completely reliant on him. Vesper had no idea just what type of man his father had awoken as when his exritus had come. Assuredly someone that had felt no fear to pursue a dragon queen and win her heart.
If anything had stayed the same, it was Ryder’s unfathomable loyalty and love for Leandra. Theirs was not a superficial relationship. Vesper had never doubted it because he had seen arranged marriages within his Clan. The contrast was startling. His parents were friends, confidants, and lovers; nothing less. Even if Leandra had been cursed with the Malice blood that had tied her family to the will of a demon, she had been blessed with a true partner. It only made the fate of their son more tragic, but Vesper knew his parents would persevere even in that. He would not deny them anything, including the replacement his mother was soon to birth.
It didn’t stop the bitterness still from twisting inside him. The world had compromised with his parents. Their love for each other strengthened the two and kept them going. He would never have that. He could never allow another human being to get close to him physically, never mind emotionally. He could not love or be loved.
Vesper didn’t know what fully compelled him as he sat there between his parents, the two exchanging simple pleasantries that held a warmth that revealed their happiness to be back in each other’s company. Maybe it was to distract from all the many things he wished to say but couldn’t because of the two demons that were failing to hide their dislike of the food before them. That night, as the walls seemed to close in and the shadows held a new darkness, he wished silently for a higher meaning beneath it all.
“Who was the last Candidate in our bloodline?”
His mother’s sharp look suggested the question was far beyond the scope of appropriate at the moment. More confusing was his father’s expression, a twist of anxiety on his lips that just as quickly dispersed when the man looked to the two demons.
Thinking a moment to soften the question, Vesper added, “The Hierarchy was riddled with visages of the Exault. Half their buildings were practically covered with the winged beasts. Yet I saw none of the shadowed Domin.”
“They’re beneath the observatory,” Ryder explained quietly. “There is a chamber equal in size. You know those traditional academic types; they have to have symbolism in all they do. They couldn’t just put His statues out in the light of day.”
Vesper nodded in understanding, waiting patiently. Still, it was a full minute before he got his answer, Ryder shooting Leandra meaningful looks until the woman finally relented.
“Over a thousand years, Dionys Malice was the last Candidate of our bloodline.” Leandra gave a small shrug. “He was not chosen but the honor to be selected as a Candidate for the shadow faced god was still great.”
Vesper didn’t respond. From what he recalled, the Candidates battled between three houses for the right to be chosen by the Heir. The remaining living survivor was chosen for the job. “How long ago was a Candidate chosen before Dionys?”
Her hair shimmering in a wave of delicate steel, Leandra’s head bowed forward, her eyes fixed on her plate. “Previously, no more than six hundred years passed between his coming.”
Vesper sighed, staring at his half-eaten plate of food. It would be extremely unlikely. It would be insane, really. Over a thousand years and no sign of the shadow faced god’s human incarnation? How accurate were the old records, truly? How much had just been fables and scare tactics to keep the people in line? He really couldn’t be expected to be called to serve the shadow faced god. It’s not like fae gods really just came down and fixed everyone’s problems. If it really happened, wouldn’t things just make more sense? Less? When there was something so much bigger in the mix, did anything anyone did actually have a value in comparison?
“We do seem a bit due,” Ryder said, his voice a low rumble. Leandra’s face was too impassive for words. It was her war face. Ryder was not a sorcerer to be crossed, by no means, but if there was anyone more dangerous than the dragon queen in the Clan, Vesper didn’t know it. She had upheld the Celestial Clan when even her own family had turned their backs on her. Her tense silence seemed word enough. Looking from his mother to his father, Vesper had to wonder how their world would change if an Heir was born. His parents had spent the last eight years preparing to lose their only son. Would they be happy or devastated to have to come to terms with a change of plans? Would it be another lost child they’d have to look forward to instead of just him?
He wondered dimly if he could reach Asher Vah, then dismissed the idea. The boy had been cryptic, not to mention annoying. Whatever the halfling’s price would be for any information was probably not worth the bother. Vesper had little interest in opening a vein. Either the little brat knew something or just suspected. If he was called to some ancient battle to the death, Vesper assumed he’d have his answer by then.
It could be decidedly more interesting than being fed off of by Heiden for uncountable years. Vesper kept that particular thought to himself. He had no desire to damn any of his relatives to his fate. Still, a battle to the death seemed far more fitting a way to die than being drained until there was nothing left of him.
Ryder surprised his son after dinner by suggesting Leandra show the two demons to Vesper’s quarter’s alone. Apprehensive with all the weapons in his rooms that could be turned against him if the demons felt threatened, Vesper would have preferred to have gone along. His father’s expression left no room for argument and with steady steps he followed the older man down the stairs and into Ryder’s personal study. He was confused to find Gibbens there, the stooped man casting the last in a list of charms on a magical device Vesper had not seen before outside of books.
“A Foure ward. For discretion,” Ryder explained tightly, ushering his son into the room and nodding to Gibbens in farewell. The servant lingered long enough to make sure the magical device on the desk was operational, then bowed out silently. A fire was roaring in the grate, burning a cool blue flame and committing no smoke but a great amount of heat. It cast the dark colored stone and wood in an eerie, ghostly glow. Most of Celestial Keep was as pale as the dragon fae that lived there but the basement rooms had a darker theme. More ancient traditions steeped in something Vesper couldn’t fully name because it was before his time. Something to do with honoring the earth magics and the night while so close to the stone of the mountain. He thought it more symbolism than useful but his mother dutifully kept with the theme whenever adjusting the decor of the rooms.
Ryder’s office was crammed with an array of books, half the bookcases dedicated to accounts and finances and the other half to magic, mostly focused on prediction and luck, two aspects that suited his occupation well. There were a few dark books but Vesper’s father kept those locked in his safe, the items too dangerous to be left out unsupervised. Like most things magical, they usually found ways of being discovered unless they were chained up.
Feeling decidedly unsettled, Vesper chose not to sit when his father offered him a chair in front of his smoothly polished walnut desk. He crossed his arms over his chest, looking around the room idly while trying to think of what he was going to do with his two new guests. It wasn’t their fault they’d been shoved into his life but it didn’t make him any less resentful to the fact. He had enough things to worry about without adding two lives to the list of things to keep from getting killed.
“Vesper, I need you to tell me what happened at the Hierarchy,” Ryder said. He leaned back against his desk instead of sitting, his stance suggesting he was dealing with his own level of nerves.
Shaking his head from his thoughts, Vesper looked up to meet his father’s gaze. “What part? Where I nearly killed Asher Vah over some boy I just met, or when I then nearly got the same boy killed by trying to pull him?”
“The entire incident will suffice,” Ryder said dryly, ignoring the huff sent his way. “I fear it is the reason Heiden has acted. Did you touch this boy?”
Vesper shook his head dully. His muscles were tense and he could feel a headache threatening just at the edge of his consciousness. Nothing was going right. “I never made contact… But it was clear to anyone that saw that I wished to,” he added with a heavy sigh. “Kruck had to physically remove Devlan and Ev—”
“No names,” Ryder interrupted with a sharp shake of his head. “Do not tempt things, Foure ward or not.”
Swallowing, Vesper nodded again while looking at the glowing device. “They had to be removed to keep me from making contact. Others saw.” Saying it aloud only revealed how much he had fucked up, Vesper inwardly cringing at the realization. Somehow he had managed to get home and not fully comprehend just how bad it had been. “Why did Heiden send me those two? What of that incident would make him think slaves were appropriate?”
Clearing his throat, Ryder straightened. “That would be revealed by what type of slaves they are.” At his son’s blank look, he added quietly, “When they were given to me, I was told they were to be your sex slaves. The two demons are your only allowable indiscretions, hand picked by Heiden himself.”
His breath stuttering to a halt, Vesper grabbed the back of the nearest chair. “Fuck, he knows,” he choked out. Would he kill him? Would Heiden kill Evan when he hadn’t even touched him? “His words exactly?” He asked, trying to keep the panic from his voice only to fail miserably.
“Draven and Lilo are the only two beings you are allowed to touch in a sexual manner without repercussions. If Heiden scents another on you outside of your immediate family or the two demon slaves, he will hunt down and kill the individual as stated in the terms of the bonding contract. You are for his enjoyment alone.”
“I’m not bonded yet,” Vesper whispered, knowing it was pointless before the words were even free.
“The tattoo was a sign of you acceptance to the contract,” Ryder reminded, his voice emotionless and steady. “You know he only waits for your exritus so he doesn’t impede your final growth.” He waited for Vesper to get ahold of himself, the boy shaken and pale. “I cannot say for certain that the two demon slaves will not be punished if you actually touch them. I asked him—I didn’t wish for anything to be unclear. Heiden’s only answer was to say that the two belonged to you in all sense of the word. I can only assume once you belong to Heiden…”
Vesper felt another wave of sick hit him. Once Heiden owned him, he owned nothing in return. No slave, no property, no title. He was a ghost from the moment the bonding started, allowed his name and nothing else, unless his master decided otherwise. If Heiden decided so, he would torment the two demons no matter what he said of them being safe.
“Tell me about him.”
Staring at the pattern of dark leaves and vines on the carpet, it took Vesper a moment to notice his father’s request.
“The boy,” Ryder prodded, grabbing his son by the bicep and guiding him beside him at the desk. “The one that caught your eye. What’s he like?”
Vesper looked at his father, biting his lower lip for a moment. “He’s cute,” he finally said, shrugging slightly. “Normal.”
“Normal?” Ryder raised a brow in surprise. “At the Hierarchy?”
Nodding, Vesper studied his father’s face a moment. “He was immune to my allure. I hadn’t seen him before and, well, I’ve known just about everyone that was going to be in my class for years now. So when I saw him… I might have tried to get his attention.” He flashed an awkward smirk. “I ended up pulling three kids that were standing in front of him while he barely looked my way.”
“Impressive.” Ryder whistled softly. “I’m sure that didn’t help matters.”
Vesper snorted softly. “No. By that point, I was ready to pull the damn room just to get the kid to look at me.” He sighed heavily, running his hand through his hair.
“Did you? Pull the room?” Ryder prompted when his son fell silent in thought again.
“No, I only wanted to.”
“I felt your power all the way from Asia. You did something.”
Gnawing on his lower lip again, Vesper gave a reluctant nod. “One of my classmates thought it would be funny to hit the kid with a feverlust enchantment. He over did it and…” He turned his gaze back to his father, something dark and desperate sparking in the boy’s crystal blue eyes. “I wanted to save him. I wanted to save him, and own him, and kill every single person that would dare to look at him. Still… I still want that and I can’t stop this crazy feeling inside.”
Silent for long moments, Ryder mulled for the right words. Vesper was certain it would be the same as his mother; the absolute insistence of what he couldn’t have, no matter how much he wanted it. Instead, Ryder replied with a question of his own, one that Vesper hadn’t expected.
“Does he return your interest?”
Vesper didn’t even have to think about it, the answer clear to him as most things had been concerning Evanel Reed. “Yes.”
“Beyond your allure?”
“He could love me if given a chance,” Vesper said fiercely. “I might love him now. When I reached my magic out to him…” He trailed off, a shudder of heat tingling through him. “He is beautiful. Fiery, angry, and damn beautiful.”
“Ah.” A smile teasing across his lips, Ryder leaned forward with a conspiring whisper. “Your mother was just about the angriest young woman I have ever had the privilege of meeting. She made it very difficult to look elsewhere when she insisted on flaying me alive with every word from her pretty mouth.”
Blinking, Vesper couldn’t help but return his father’s grin, a tension within uncoiling and melting at the man’s words. “Did you know with mother? Was it clear right away?”
“Gods, yes,” Ryder said with a laugh. “Don’t get me wrong; ultimately it was her choice no matter how much of an ass I made of myself trying to woo a dragon queen. But whenever our magic touched…” He sighed. “It was like a meeting of souls. To feel her fire was to help me burn greater. There is nothing else like it.” He gave his son an assessing look. “And I’m glad you had the opportunity to experience such a thing.”
Vesper shook his head agitatedly, abruptly pushing himself away from the desk. “I’m not. It has ruined everything. I barely know who I am anymore and I fear I’ve gotten him killed in just one meeting.”
“Vesper.” Ryder stopped him, grabbing his hand and pulling the boy back to the desk and the device it held. “You must hold on to every memory. Every moment. Do not deny your heart no matter how much trouble it wishes to get you in. It is rare to find someone you connect with. It is a true gift and you should cherish it.” He tilted his head, waiting for his son to meet his gaze again. “When things feel their worst, I can always count on my memory of your mother’s energy as it touches mine. It warms me when nothing else can. You now have his memory, brief as it might be.”
Swallowing back a retort of just how useless a memory was with the many things he was facing, Vesper just nodded. He felt close to tears, the hopelessness of his situation seemingly more concrete since having visited the Hierarchy.
“Is his energy warming?” Ryder asked softly.
Vesper shook his head. “His anger never reached his magic.” He furrowed his brow, turning away from his father.
“I did not mean to suggest he had to be like your mother,” Ryder said when Vesper seemed to shake before him. “When magics touch, it is a unique experience each time.”
“I told you, he was very normal,” Vesper whispered, his eyes glowing in the dim light as he stared at the ground. “Familiar. When I touched his magic, I felt despair. Beautiful despair.” The last words were choked out, something breaking in him to actually speak the words aloud.
His expression grim, Ryder pulled his son into a hug, silent as Vesper shook in his embrace. It took long minutes before the boy could get himself back into some control, tears streaking his porcelain cheeks.
“I’m sorry,” Vesper muttered hoarsely. “I don’t wish to burden you.”
“You haven’t. There is nothing you need to protect me or your mother from, Vesper,” Ryder said gruffly. “We’re adults. We’re strong.”
Vesper nodded weakly, his face pressed tightly to his father’s shoulder. “I just… I feel so alone.”
“I promise you, you’re not, no matter how bleak it seems.” Ryder gave his son a final, fierce squeeze, then raised his hand, magic swirling in a curtain around them. “I need you to listen to me very carefully. Do not speak, just listen. Even with the spells in place, what I’m about to say can still cause us harm if word is revealed.”
His eyes closed, Vesper let his breathing even out, turning his cheek so that he could hear his father clearer. He could feel the spell take hold, the magic forming a wall around them making his own breath bounce back on his skin.
“There was a prophecy concerning your birth.” Ryder’s voice was pitched low but his words were distinct. “This prophecy was so cursed that once it was foretold, Celestial Clan had no other recourse than to abandon your mother. You need to understand this, Vesper. They did not leave us because of Heiden. It was because of what the prophecy said of you.”
Vesper’s chest tightened painfully, the light fluttering of his lashes the only sign he was listening. He waited, not certain he wanted to know what could have ever been said that would drive his Clan away.
Ryder ducked down closer, his lips pressed to the side of his son’s head. “You are god touched.”
Breath hitching, Vesper didn’t dare move. Candidate. Asher Vah must have known. The boy had to have known about the prophecy or just that an Heir had been born or maybe just—
Ryder’s fingers brushed his chin, Vesper raising his face to meet his father’s solemn gaze. “By the maddened on, Vesper. The shining faced god has marked you.”
Jolting back as if struck, Vesper stared up at the man with wide eyes. “Father?”
Ryder held his finger to his lips. “Heiden must never know. Do you understand? If you bond with the demon, he will have an instrument of the gods. And by the goddess, you will surely be a destructive force. Your power far surpasses your mother’s already. No one in the Celestial Clan can match you, son, not even close. If your exritus is allowed to pass, what you will become…” Ryder swallowed, his expression pleading something his son couldn’t fully read.
His mouth going dry, Vesper found himself nodding to an answer that hadn’t been spoken. “I must die now.”
Ryder nodded as well, his hand heavy as it fell to the boy’s shoulder. “Soon. Your mother and I are brewing the potion together. It will be painless—A sleep you never wake from.” There were tears in the man’s eyes Ryder didn’t blink away.
“Why?” Vesper asked, his voice rough, his body shaking as he tried to comprehend the magnitude of it all. “Wouldn’t it have been better to have just killed me at birth?”
“We loved you too greatly. Even then, newly formed, you were perfect.” Ryder wiped the back of his hand across his eyes with a heavy sigh. “We were weak. We chose to sacrifice later to have the years we could with you. They were good years, Vesper, happy years. But I fear your short life was marked with only pain and loneliness. Our selfishness hurt you. Your mother and I chose to embrace the pain as consequence of the joy we did have together.” He pulled his son back into a hug. Even in his confusion, Vesper gripped him back just as tightly.
“We never would have let him have you. You had to have known that,” Ryder said with a swift kiss to Vesper’s forehead. “Death is better. Your mother saw two of Heiden’s bonded and they told her as much. They begged for death.”
“You’ll be punished,” Vesper whispered, burying his face against his father’s shoulder. “He might kill you for this.”
“I know. We all die, son. Only a few of us get to decide what we die for.” Ryder’s expression softened as he gazed down at Vesper’s bowed head. “You met a young man. Someone you could love. I am so glad you had a chance to feel such a thing. I… I was worried you might spend your entire life never having the opportunity to love.”
Vesper could not comprehend just how his parents had made it this far with all they must have known. God touched by the maddened one—How could they love him at all? No wonder the Clan had run from him. They likely feared he would kill them each, one by one. “Is this why you and mother waited to have another child?” He asked quietly. “Because of me?”
“We feared what you might become, yes,” Ryder answered carefully, meeting his son’s gaze evenly. “Out of all the records, no one has ever been marked by the shining faced god. Even still, all know…”
“He’s insane,” Vesper whispered, a cold shudder moving down his spine.
Ryder nodded silently, then tilted his head, tucking his son beneath his chin while holding him tight. “We will never let it happen. I promise you; we will save you from such a fate.”
Even though Vesper knew the only way that could be, he felt a warmth of relief at the words. Death would be better.