Heartless Savage (Angels Halo MC Next Gen #7) - Terri Anne Browning



Ryan Age 8 : Nova Age 3

“Good morning, l’venok,” Mom greeted as she sat at the table where I was reading while eating breakfast. “Did you sleep well?”

I lifted my gaze from the book to give her a grim smile. The truth was, I hadn’t slept well, but I didn’t want to tell her. The nightmares had kept me up most of the night, but instead of crying and going to climb in bed with her and Papa, I’d been brave. It had still been dark outside when I’d decided sleep just wasn’t worth the monster who hurt me in my dreams, so I’d grabbed my new book and used the light on my iPad to read.

Her blue eyes skimmed over my face lovingly but filled with concern when I didn’t answer. I wouldn’t ever lie to her, but I didn’t want to tell her that the nightmares were getting worse, and I was hoping she wouldn’t ask what was wrong.

Thankfully, Ciana came bouncing into the dining room, her dark-red hair pulled into a pretty braid that went down her back as she flopped into her usual chair across from mine. Her brown eyes were full of excitement, and as usual, she was full of annoying chatter as she reached for a slice of toast.

“My cousins are coming to visit today!” she announced, distracting Mom. “They live all the way in California, and Papa said they will stay with us for their vacation.” She smeared a huge glob of strawberry jam over her toast. “They even have kids we can play with, Ryan. Isn’t that exciting?”

“Yeah, exciting,” I agreed, turning my attention back to my book.

I could practically hear her eyes rolling at my obvious non-excitement. I didn’t want strangers in our house. It made me nervous, and I thought it might be the reason my dreams had been so bad lately. Zia Scarlett and Mom were the only other women in the house, and I knew they wouldn’t hurt me. But I didn’t know Zio Ciro’s cousin.

What if she was mean?

“Will you at least play with us later?” Ciana asked after taking a small bite of her messy toast. Mom offered her a napkin, which she used to wipe the jam from her mouth and then thanked her as Mom passed her a small glass of juice.

“Maybe.” I wasn’t about to make her any promises. I’d learned my lesson where my cousin was concerned. If I gave her a promise, she made sure I kept it or she would make my life miserable. I loved her, but she sure could be annoying at times.

“I know your brain is really big, Ryan, and you would rather read your boring books than play with me. You act more grown-up than the adults sometimes. But could you be normal for like two minutes and play with me and my cousins today?” I could hear her pouting before I even looked up from my book again. She was sitting back in her chair, her arms crossed over her chest, and her bottom lip was pushed out. Her brown eyes were bright while she blinked at me like she was trying not to cry.

Groaning, I used my favorite bookmark to hold my page and closed the book. “Fine. I’ll play with you later, but only for a little while. I might go swimming with you. But you have to let me read until they get here.”

“Deal!” she squealed, clapping her hands together just as her elder brother and sister walked into the room.

Zayne and Zariah were twins and older than us, but her younger brothers, Vito and Benito, were twins too. I thought since Ciana was the only one of her siblings who didn’t have a twin, that was why she always pestered me. She was only a few months older than me—something she liked to hold over my head at times—but since we were the same age, she told random people I was her twin.

“I’m spending the day in the pool,” Zariah announced as she placed her napkin in her lap. “Ciana, do you want to paint each other’s nails later? I want to paint little sunshines on our toes so they match.”

“Sure! But only after I play with our cousins.”

“Oh yeah,” Zariah said, her brow pinched as she looked over at her brother. “Do not be mean to them. I want them to like us.”

“Me?” Zayne grunted, offended. “Look in the mirror when you say that, Zar. You’re the mean one.”

“Am not,” she