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  • Home > Christine Feehan > Burning Wild     

    1

    EARLIEST MEMORY

    HIS environment was warm and cozy. He wasn’t alone. He could hear the other inside him, whispering soft little growls and encouragement. The need for freedom, the promise of a life that had been lived one cycle already and had been incredible. And then the squeezing came, hard shoves, the walls of his cocoon closing around him, twisting in waves to push him out, to expel him from the warmth of his home into cold air and bright lights. At once scents assailed him. He couldn’t sort out all the different smells, but the other could. Blood. People. Hospital. The other remembered the smells even when he didn’t.

    He felt hands on him, shaking him, poking, a sharp prick. He pried open his eyes and looked around this new environment.

    “My God, Ryan, he looks like a skinned rat. He’s so ugly. He’s skinny and useless to us.” The voice was resentful, filled with loathing.

    He understood the words, or maybe the other did, but he knew the woman was talking about him. He looked like a rat. And rat wasn’t good, not if that voice meant anything.

    “Shh, Cathy,” another voice cautioned. “Someone will hear.”

    “We can’t take it home with us.”

    “We can’t leave it here,” the deeper voice said.

    “On the way home, I’m finding a Dumpster,” the higher-pitched voice hissed. “I’m not getting stuck with that ugly thing.”

    “Don’t be ridiculous, Cathy,” Ryan said. “We can’t take a chance that we’ll be caught. We’ll take him home and hire someone to look after him. You’ll never have to see him.”

    “This is your fault. Daddy warned me not to marry you. He said your genes weren’t strong enough to produce one of the special ones. I didn’t want to get pregnant and have that thing growing in my body, but you insisted I had to carry it. Now you deal with it.”

    “Fine. I’m naming him Jake, after your grandfather.” There was malice in Ryan’s voice. “Your father never did think I was good enough, and he won’t like having my whelp named after his father instead of him.”

    “Name it any damn thing you want, just keep it away from me.”

    The hatred and loathing in the cold voice gave the infant—newly named Jake Bannaconni—chills, but he refused to cry.

    TWO YEARS

    THE sharp pointed shoe caught Jake in the stomach and he doubled over. He should have been faster. He had the reflexes. The other warned him, but he had wanted to be held, had gone looking for her. She was his mother, after all. The mothers on the television and out in the play yard held their sons, but she kicked him hard, her voice screaming for Agnes.

    “Get this horrid brat out of my sight. Ugly little rat.” Cathy yanked him up by one arm, held him dangling in the air and beat him with her stiletto heel, smashing the shoe into him over and over, his face, his belly, his groin, his thighs, anywhere she could land a blow on his squirming body. Rage and hatred fused together on her cold face.

    Deep inside, he felt something wild unfurl, and his fingers curled under, as did his toes. The other hissed to him, cautioned him: Take it. Let her hit you. Hide what you are. She wants what you are. Hide. Hide. He breathed away the fire building in his belly and the itch running under his skin.

    Mommies weren’t like this on television or in the movies. There was no cuddling. There were no hugs and kisses. Slaps and kicks were all he would get from his mother. He watched her on television sometimes, at the parties and fundraisers. She looked so different, smiling for the cameras, clinging to Ryan’s arm, stroking his face as if she loved him so much. But behind closed doors there was cruelty and hatred and deceit from both of them. Over time, they taught him to separate fantasy from reality.

    FIVE YEARS

    “WE absolutely can’t keep a governess, or whatever you call that woman, who beats the crap out of our kid. She put out cigarettes on him,” Ryan complained. “There are burn marks on his hands. Sooner or later one of the tutors will see and report it.”

    Jake stayed quiet, very still. He’d perfected the art of sliding silently into a room without their knowledge and listening to the conversation. Most of what they said was still over his head—discussions about business and taking over companies—but he understood the basic truth that lay at the foundation of every meeting. Money was important. Power was important. They had it and he needed it. Agnes wasn’t putting cigarettes out on him. Cathy was. Her lovers did sometimes, just to please her. She could make them do anything she wanted no matter how cruel or humiliating. He knew them by sight, by scent, and someday he would ruin them. Money. Power. That was what they had and he needed.

    “Nobody cares, Ryan,” Cathy said, annoyed with the conversation.

    “Someone is going to see those burns and a reporter will get hold of it. We’ll be front-page news.” Ryan swung around, pointing a finger at her, his voice hardening. “I let you do what you want within reason, Cathy, but you aren’t going to ruin us with your senseless little games.”

    Cathy stabbed her cigarette into the tray. “Really?” Both eyebrows shot up. A crafty expression crossed her face and Jake’s stomach tightened. “We might get some great publicity, Ryan, if we can work it right. Our little boy beaten and abused by a trusted member of our household. Tears in front of the camera, me leaning on you. We photograph so well together. A close-up of our child in the hospital looking frail. We could run with that for a long time. I could host a charity event for battered children. It would open more possibilities and get us some great press.”

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