XOXO NIGHT TEMPEST
P.S. Pssst Happy Birthday Mo! :D
DAN AND ROWE CHAPTER 6
Dan took one whiff of the tray that was rolled up to the bed, and his stomach made a tortured sound of hunger. Immediately sensing his need, Rowe made nice with the poor vampire that was trying his best to be helpful before sending him on his way. See? He could be pleasant, Rowe thought before starting to turn back to Daniel.
Dan wasted no time in pulling the lids off the dishes. Steam greeted his battered face—a lick of his lips was the only signal he gave before shoving a piece of crisp bacon into his mouth. The flavor of maple flavored pork on his tongue made him moan, food never having tasted so good in his entire life. Disregarding his mate watching him with an amused expression, Dan guzzled down half a glass of juice before going to town on the fluffiest biscuit he had ever seen.
“Slow down, love.” Rowe chuckled. The smile replaced with a look of concern as Dan just ignored him completely. Pieces of melon disappeared beyond Dan’s lips, the juice was emptied, a bite of toast. Rowe’s mate was beyond starving.
“Dan,” Rowe said, grabbing the hand going for another sausage link. “Slow down,” he repeated and settled in behind Dan. Pulling his mate into his lap, Rowe kissed his shoulder and pulled a plate onto his knee.
“I’m sorry, I’m just so hungry,” Dan murmured.
Rowe picked up a small piece of honey dew melon. “I know. I just don’t want you to get sick. Let’s try it this way.” Bringing it to Dan’s mouth, Rowe slipped the fruit between his mate’s lips with a kiss to his other shoulder.
Even though Dan’s body ached in places he didn’t even know existed, his brain was still reeling from everything that had happened, and he never wanted to see another soul ever again, Rowe still made it all better. The prince’s lips on Dan’s skin were the only Band-Aid he’d ever need. Rowe feeding him was so out of character for the prince, so careful, so loving. This was the Rowe he wanted forever. So, without protest, Dan sucked the fruit into his mouth, and let his mate feed him.
Bite by bite, ever so slowly, the two shared breakfast in a way that they’d never forget. Not one word was said throughout the entire process. Not when the plates were stacked, not when Rowe pulled off his lounge pants, and not when he pulled Dan into his arms heading for a much needed shower.
Warm water created clouds of delicate moisture in the air before Dan could think. And that simple function was hard enough with Rowe’s skin against his. Rowe pressed play on the shower radio and pulled Dan into the large glass enclosure with him. The water penetrated his aches and pains, Dan left open mouthed and closed eyed at the feeling. Unable to resist the look on his mate’s face, Rowe covered Dan’s mouth with his own. As if he was made of glass, Rowe took his time with Dan. His large hands cupped his mate’s face—his lips moving slowly over a soft cherry flavored mouth..
In a heaven all his own, Dan brought his hands to Rowe’s waist. Hard with muscle yet soft as silk, Rowe’s body was so beautiful. Water poured over both of them, the scent of Dan heated up. Rowe moved closer smelling his mate’s arousal—feeling it against his leg as proof. His delicate touch slipped, his beast exploding forth to push Dan into the tile wall.
Pain prickled across Dan’s back and side, causing him to hiss through his teeth. “Rowe,” he gasped. Tears teasing at the edge of his eyes.
“Pet?” The prince shook his head to clear droplets from his eyes. Water flung from side to side as he saw his mate’s anguished expression. “Dan.”
After looking down at his battered body, Dan finally saw the purple splotches that Rowe must have noticed all along, the yellowish outlines that formed ugly bruises. Red lines like cat scratches crisscrossed over his arms and chest—lines formed from asphalt biting into his skin. Tears mingled with the already pouring water and Dan pushed Rowe away.
“Pet, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you. Forgive me.” Rowe reached out, but Dan took a step into the corner. “Daniel, please.”
“I’m ugly,” Dan gasped. God, he was an ugly crier, even hiding behind the shower water, he was disgusting. “I’m fucking horrific. How do you find this attractive?”
Rowe sighed in relief. He’d been so sure he’d hurt his mate, he‘d almost had a heart attack there for a second. Instead of answering Dan in words, Rowe grabbed the bar of soap, stepping forward.
Cowering in the corner, Dan shook his head. “I’m ugly,” he whispered. “And you’re perfect, you don’t.”
Getting to his knees, the prince pressed his lips to Dan’s stomach—the bruises nothing more than discolored skin to him, nothing that would make Dan ugly in his eyes. At the same time, he brought the bar of soap up Dan’s leg, slowly rubbing circles until bubbles formed and the scent of man-made clean filled the air.
Hands found their way into his dripping hair. The body underneath his mouth relaxed. Rowe moved his lips higher. This wasn’t about sex right now. Even as much as he wanted that, healing Dan of his insecurities and traumas was more important at the moment.
“Love you so much,” Rowe whispered getting to his feet.
Soapy bubbles fell away from Dan’s freshly cleaned skin. His heart was racing, yet he was surprisingly relaxed. Somehow Rowe had managed to soothe his worries—something Dan was beginning to realize was one of his strongest qualities. Something Dan treasured right now.
“I love you too,” Dan cried, pulling Rowe to his lips.
“Easy, love, easy…” Rowe settled back into his pet’s arms.
This time when Dan looked up, there wasn’t any fear of rejection. Dan grabbed the soap from him, deciding he needed to be in this for Rowe too. He wasn’t a child and it was time—despite everything falling down around him—that he needed to act like a man. Rowe wasn’t going anywhere. The only question left now for Dan, was could he finish what he started? Looking at Rowe mingled with thoughts of his past and last night, would he turn out like himself or like…Jess?
This time when Dan looked up, there wasn’t any fear of rejection. Dan grabbed the soap from him, deciding he needed to be in this for Rowe too. He wasn’t a child and it was time—despite everything falling down around him—that he needed to act like a man. Rowe wasn’t going anywhere. The only question left now for Dan, was could he finish what he started? Looking at Rowe mingled with thoughts of his past and last night, would he turn out like himself or like…Jess?
A knock at the door a few hours later sent Rowe into protective mode. Minus the guard with food from earlier of which he had been alerted to by phone, Rowe hadn’t seen another soul for a long time. His mating instincts flared, his nose scenting the air until he stood just in front of the door to the suite. A relief spread through his chest, his hands relaxed opening the door as he realized who it was.
“Hey,” Knox stood there looking like shit.
“Hey yourself,” Rowe sighed and stepped aside. He didn’t want company, especially Knox who knew him cover to cover, but he couldn’t hide in this suite forever. It was time to face the ugly facts of life.
Peering around the door, Knox shot a look at Rowe. “You sure it’s cool?”
“I wouldn’t invite you in if it wasn’t, idiot.” Rowe rolled his eyes and left Knox standing there. On his way back through the hallway, he closed the door to the bedroom—leaving Daniel sleeping soundly on their bed.
“Is uh…how is D?” Knox closed the front door behind him and rubbed his hands nervously. He knew Dan was in a bad place, but he had to break the ice somehow. Dan wasn’t the reason for this visit. And he knew Rowe knew that as well. It was in the way he plopped in the chair and gave Knox ‘the look’.
“Oh you know traumatized, broken, hates himself. And how was your dinner last night? I heard it was delicious.” Rowe stared at Knox.
“Look, I know you’re fritzed. We all are and I’m sorry if I kept you up last night, but I never slept.”
“Really Knoxtian? That’s what you’ve come in here to bother me about? I’m trying to take care of my mate and you bust in here to brag that you haven’t slept because you were fucking all night. Are you mad?” Rowe growled. This wasn’t him. His beast had been taking the reins too many times in the past twenty four hours. He needed to get in control. This was his best friend, not the enemy.
Knox sighed, rubbing his chin. He waited for Rowe to realize he was being unreasonable. Why poke a stick at a wild animal? Answer, you don’t.
“Sorry mate, I didn’t mean that.” Rowe ruffled his hair in agitation then blew out a loud breath.
“So what is it? You don’t normally make house calls. You’re more a texty kind of guy.” Rowe leaned back and tried to relax for whatever shit storm Knox was about to unleash.
Here’s goes nothing, Knox took a deep breath. “I need you to be calm and know that everything is being taken care of. She’s fine.”
Rowe sat up straight, his eyes narrowing. “She who? Knoxtian, don’t fuck with me.”
“What?” Rowe stood. Suddenly he looked a foot taller than he actually was. Knox swallowed, feeling the power crackle along his skin. “What happened?” He hissed, his eyes swirling like barely contained raw electricity.
“It’s not what you think. She’s not hurt, but she is being treated by the doctors.” Knox stood slowly with his palms facing Rowe defensively.
“Those mad scientists are touching my mother? I’ll take their heads! Get Hill on the damned phone now!” Rowe roared. His mind going to secret labs and test tubes full of his mother’s life, he couldn’t breathe.
“Rowen! Calm down and take a deep breath old friend. You don’t want to wake Dan.” Knox tried to keep Rowe in the living room—the prince pacing like a lion between the chairs. Maybe the mention of his mate would soothe his beast a little.
“I said call Hill now. I will not repeat myself.” Rowe stopped—an animalistic rage behind his eyes.
Knox pulled out his phone with a huff. “I said she was fine, Rowe. She’s not sick, she’s on bed rest.”
“Bed rest sounds sick enough to me, Knoxtian!” Rowe crossed his arms with a growl.
“Keep your voice down, damn it. I won’t be responsible for waking up your mate and for telling you what I’m about to tell you. It’s either one or the other and I’d rather take shit for the last one. Besides, you’re giving me a headache. Fucking haven’t slept all night dealing with this shit on top of this new crap with Blaze and then…”
“Blaze? That weapon’s monkey was the one in there last night? Oh fuck me, Knox. Why don’t you just go sleep with the entire fucking city? Maybe lead the whole lot of them back to the compound and my mate while you’re at it. Fuck, why even have security, it’ll be like one big party. Shall we invite Nigel’s people too? Do you want a go at them?” Rowe was fuming mad. Everything inside of him was on autopilot. He couldn’t fight the anger away from his Daniel. His mother or his mate, that’s what it felt like to his haywire beast—the beast that was trying to find a way to deal. Lashing out in anger was the choice it made, a very bad choice judging from the look on Knox’s face.
Knox stopped dead in his tracks. A cold feeling spread through him, his good old friend switch being turned off. “The fuck you say?”
“I said…wait. Knox, shit…” Rowe grabbed his hair and took a deep breath, before letting it go as a scream through his teeth. “Fuck, I can’t control it. I’m just so angry. I feel like I have control of nothing right now. I never lose control.”
“Doesn’t mean you didn’t mean what you just said,” Knox replied coolly. “Call Hill yourself, you have a phone. Then you can listen to him freak out for four hours because his new mate is having twins.”
“What?” Rowe whispered, his hands dropping limply to his sides. Pregnant? Twins?
“Yeah, then when you’re done with that, you can go and remind everyone else who doesn’t have a mate how worthless they are. How they’re pathetic because they’ve tried everyone out in the city in hopes that one of them might be ‘the one’. But you know what I’m realizing, and if I’m truthful with myself I’ve known all along, Rowe? I don’t want a fucking mate. I don’t want to watch them go through this shit.” Knox pointed to the bedroom.
“I don’t want to watch them pass out because they get pregnant, I don’t want them to be some kind of lamb to slaughter for the enemy. I don’t want any of it. So yeah, I think I’ll take my chances being a lonely slut. Deal with your own shit for once, you spoiled brat. I’m out.” Knox was so tired and the only person that he really let go with had just hurt him in a way that he wasn’t ready to admit out loud. He had feelings after all. He was person too, damn it.
“Knox, I am so so…”
“Fuck off, your majesty,” Knox muttered with a sarcastic bow and stormed out.
He left Rowe standing there sputtering, not caring to see the look on his best friend’s face. They never fought. Sure, they joked, they tested each other’s boundaries, but this was over the line. In time, they would recover from this. Though right now, Knox couldn’t see the future clearly through his own train of thought. His pain rapidly turned to anger and he practically pried his door off the hinges while throwing it open.
Still naked, with only a small blanket covering his lower body sat Blaze on the sofa drinking tea. Fucking eloquent piece of ass, Knox growled causing Blaze to turn. The weapon’s tech tried to put his tea down in time, but didn’t have a chance as it was smashed to the ground by one pissed off vampire.
“Who said you could drink tea?” Knox snarled, grabbing Blaze’s hair in his fist. “Because I sure as hell didn’t.” Oh he was going crazy alright. His heart beat was jacked up like the beating wings of a humming bird, his pupils burning, his mouth dry—yeah he was about to lose it.
“Knox,” Blaze grunted at the pain flaring along his scalp. “What’s wrong?”
“What’s wrong? Have you been breathing for the last twenty four hours? What the fuck is wrong!” He screamed, tightening his fingers. Then the smell of fear rolled off Blaze. Something Knox never thought he would ever scent from the man that dealt with the tools of death. Blaze’s eyes tried to hide it, but the smell enveloped them both. Knox’s hand slipped free and he collapsed on the sofa. As much as Rowe pissed him off, and no matter how much controlling another made him forget his loneliness, Knox couldn’t take it out on Blaze. With a shaky series of deep breaths, he gripped the couch for support.
“Knox?” Blaze rubbed his tingling scalp before scooting over. “What happened?”
Knox swallowed and leaned back, one thought leading to another then another. “Blaze, if you knew who your mate was, even if they were completely off-limits, would you claim them? Do you think you could resist, no matter how many people you tried to forget them with?”
“Knox, I’m not following. Where is this coming from?” Blaze frowned. This was not what he’d expected after the guy poured in here with enough steam to melt his own skin. This heart to heart, or whatever it was, kind of scared him more than the possibility of angry sex and losing a fistful of hair.
“Just answer me,” Knox growled. He couldn’t look at Blaze. He didn’t want his eyes to give away the hurt behind them.
“My…my real mate? The one I’m supposed to go bat shit for if I find them?”
“Yes.” Knox gripped his knees.
“I don’t want a mate Knox. Not now or ever. So, no,” Blaze murmured. He truly didn’t, not after seeing all this shit go down. He had thought there for just a second that it looked nice from the outside, someone to help you through, but after last night. No fucking way.
Knox shook his head. “Do you think you could watch your mate be with someone else then?”
“If I knew who it was and I was starting to lose my shit seeing them with another person, I’d leave. Go somewhere else, start fresh. We’re here to stay Knox, it’s not uncommon for us to move from time to time,” Blaze replied. What was Knox talking about? Now he was really confused.
Knox let out a slow laugh. A laugh that said he was losing his marbles. “You say that like it’s so simple. Like this fucking feeling eating away at me is going to disappear the farther I get from him.” He laughed again. “You try it, Blaze. Then tell me how great moving sounds to you.”
Blaze’s jaw dropped, his eyes fixed on Knox’s profile for a long time. “What did you just say?”
“Calls me a slut? He was the slut not too long ago. Fucking sleeping with the whole God’s damned city and he calls me a slut. It must be nice for your mate to be this perfect little single piece of prime ass, and not only that, but he’s over the legal age. Just fucking peachy. Of all the things to say, he knows, he just knew that would piss me off. Fucking little brat. Always getting what he wants and never staying around to pick up the pieces. Well, fuck him. Just fuck him. Gah,” Knox growled. His inner monologue spilled out into a slew of things he would never say in public. The realization that he had just told Blaze these things made him stop.
“Who? What? Knox!” Blaze gripped his shoulder. “You have a mate? Then why the hell did you sleep with me?”
“See! I knew it! You secretly want one too. You want what they have, but unlike them you know that it will end badly. That something terrible will happen to them and you’ll never recover from it, you’ll just lose your shit and become feral. I can’t do that, I’m not strong enough. Just when I think I might be, I realize I’m not,” Knox whispered the last words and put his face in his hands.
“Knox, hey I…” Blaze scooted until he could wrap his arm around Knox. He wasn’t sure if it was the best idea, but he had to do something. Knox showing feelings was too creepy, it needed to stop.
At the touch of Blaze’s arm against his back, Knox turned his eyes to the other vampire. Tears ran down his cheeks, his eyes swirled with pain. “But, I can’t stop thinking of him. Just like I’m not strong enough to admit he’s mine, I’m not strong enough to stay away from him either. What the fuck am I going to do, Blaze?”
Blaze stared into those dark eyes that swirled with gold. Knox was crying openly in his presence, creating a certain level of trust between them. He couldn’t fuck this up. He had to be a…friend? Were they friends? Hell if he knew, but Knox was about to lose it. This was a time to say fuck titles. They weren’t sixteen for crying out loud. They were men.
“First off, I have to know. Who the hell snagged you for eternity?” Blaze started to grin and Knox sniffled, but groaned. “Come on, if you want my help, then you’re going to have to be straight with me. I won’t tell anyone. You can trust me, Knox.”
Knox sat up, but didn’t move Blaze’s hand. He needed someone to connect him to the real world while he spilled his guts, someone who wouldn’t let him turn into a sobbing mess. He didn’t do sobbing mess. Crying for a second because his tear ducts were just doing business was one thing, requiring tissues and a Snickers bar was another. Snickers were only for really bad days, and they had only brought up Reese’s from room service. Fuck.
Looking at the redhead, Knox took a deep breath. This guy had saved his ass last night. Hell, he’d given up his ass last night too, all of it for a stranger with a hard-on for violence and control. Blaze could have said no, could have fought him, he was just as strong. Okay, maybe he was a bit leaner, but Knox knew he didn’t bottom bitch on a regular basis. So if Blaze could give it up for a guy in need? He could also be trusted with something Knox had to get off his chest. It was fucking killing him and it wasn’t as if Rowe was coming around any time soon. Double fuck.
“I’m waiting.” Blaze continued to stare at him.
Knox huffed and crossed his arms. “Fine, but you can’t say one word.”
“Cross my heart and hope to die,” Blaze teased.
“Oh, I’ll cut your fucking heart out and your eyes if you utter a breath of what I’m about to tell you.”
“Jesus, Rambo. Just tell me, enough with the dramatics.” Blaze ran his free hand through his hair. “Who the hell could be that off-limits?”
Knox leaned forward and looked around. Bringing his lips to Blaze’s ear, he whispered…
In the suite across from Knox’s, Rowe jumped as he heard a curse so loud it vibrated through the walls. He thought about checking on his best friend, but after what he’d said he wasn’t so sure he had one anymore. Whatever, Rowe stood up from the couch. He had his own shit to deal with now, right?
His phone had been going off ever since Knox left and he’d finally turned it on mute so as to not wake his pet. Dan needed to sleep to refresh, to recharge his batteries. Or at least that’s what Rowe hoped would happen when his mate woke up, that he’d be himself possibly. Judging from this morning’s shower episode, he knew the probability of that was slim to none.
Lighting up once again, Rowe rolled his eyes at his cell phone. Cade’s name appeared on the caller ID, so he answered. At least it wasn’t that damned human, Oliver again.
“How’s Micah?” He greeted the Original.
“Well enough. How are you is the real question?” Cade’s voice was sincere, his concern loud and clear.
Rowe went to the hallway and peeked inside the bedroom. “I’m doing as best as I can.”
“That’s good. You uh, talked to Hill yet?” Cade asked cautiously.
“I know, Cadence.”
A brief pause came from the other side of the phone. “You know about…”
“My soon to be siblings? Yes. Have you talked to Hill?” Rowe shut the door, satisfied with the sight and sound of Dan’s even breathing against the sheets.
“No, but Micah talked with Yuri. And I called Mags already.”
“And?” Rowe slipped back into his chair.
“If you’d answer your phone, you’d know that already. I know it’s been a long night, but from now on leave your phone on please.”
Rowe waved his hand to get through the yada yada. “Fine, what about my mother?”
“She’s awake. She’s eaten half a dozen cinnamon rolls, among other things. She’s on strict bed rest and Maggie has given the doctor’s two thumbs up.” Cade laughed softly.
“Two thumbs up? This isn’t a movie review, Cadence. This is my mother and my soon to be siblings. I want the best, damn it. Not some fucking Dexter’s Laboratory rejects.”
Cade laughed again. “Since when do you watch Dexter’s Laboratory? The image alone is priceless.”
“Rowe, do you honestly think Yuri, or Hill for that matter, would let those doctors anywhere near your mother if they didn’t know what they were doing?”
“No, but I…”
“No, they wouldn’t. She’s okay though. So stop worrying so much. Though if you’re so worried why isn’t your phone on? Is something wrong with D?” Cade sighed. “Rowe, how is D? Seriously?”
Rowe was silent, thinking of how to possibly answer that. Cade would know the truth if he lied. The two of them were like brothers.
“That bad?” Cade asked quietly when the silence had gone on too long.
Rowe wiped his tearful eyes. His mood swings still running amuck. A sixteen year old girl could compose herself better than he at the moment. “Yes.”
“Rowe, it’s gonna be okay. We’ll figure it out together.” Cade whispered something away from the phone. Micah’s voice carried through the line. “You still there?”
“Yes.” He got up from the chair and went back to the bedroom door. If only to put his palm on the wall to know Dan was close.
“Oliver just called a meeting downstairs. He wants all of us there.”
“I’m not going to leave him, Cade. Especially not because this whoever the fuck he is human declares a meeting,” Rowe growled into the phone.
“There are guards right outside the door. This floor is so secure that not even black ops could get through. If D needs company, I can have one of the assistants come up and stay with him, but we need you there.”
“The assistants?” Rowe turned around. The assistants were the right arm of the managers. They handled visiting guests, appointments, freshly ground coffee, but more importantly they handled the heads of each territory and that was a big job.
“Yeah, all the managers have come to the city at Nina’s request. Like I said, this meeting is kind of important.”
Knowing this was serious if all the managers would leave their territories and their people right after an attack, Rowe nodded to the empty room. “I’ll be there. Would…would you send one of the assistants up? I don’t want him to wake up alone.”
“Yeah Rowe, anything you need.”
A dozen familiar faces plus a few new ones sat around the conference table with tired expressions. Leaving your home, some as far as hours away to come to a meeting in the middle of a war zone was not the way to start your day. At the head of the class was Oliver Caldwell, the human that Rowe was rather curious about. His stunning partner Tate sat to the side of a massive flat screen in silence.
At the back of the room the Guardians plus Blaze and Knox stood waiting. Their eyes flicked up as Rowe came into the room. A formal feel spread through the small crowd gathered, the manager’s rose to greet their prince.
“Your highness,” David bowed to Rowe. The manager of Long Island rose again and offered Rowe a chair.
“David, it’s good to see you.” Rowe sat down and nodded around the table. Backs straightened, hands folded in their laps. God, he hated how formal everything had to be with them. “You can sit now.” He gestured to the group, who immediately sat back in their seats.
“I wish the circumstances were better, your highness,” David offered. “Now that we’re all here though, shall we begin?”
“Yes. Please, do tell me what all this is about.” Rowe cut his eyes to Oliver who smiled sweetly. The human’s eyes were another story though. Suddenly the image of two wild dogs going at each other came to Rowe’s mind and he smiled back. Oliver blinked a few times before turning towards the window to avoid the prince’s eyes. I win mother fucker, Rowe turned back to David smugly.
David sighed. “Oliver? The floor is yours.”
“I know I’ve corresponded with a few of you over the phone in the last few weeks, but after last night, we couldn’t wait to hold this off until the end of the month as previously planned. Tate?” Oliver turned back to the group as Tate worked a laptop next to the big screen. The television turned on and a split screen popped up.
Every person sitting in the room rose to their feet and bowed to their queen. Nina looked like a small doll propped up in bed—a mountain of golden pillows surrounding her. Hill sat at her side, their hands twined together. Yuri sat to the other side, a scowl the size of Texas across his face.
On the other half of the screen sat Ghost and another man Rowe had never seen before. He was definitely of Hispanic descent, pretty but rough around the edges. What the hell was going on, Rowe thought as everyone took their seats.
“Darling,” Nina greeted him. She paused, squeezing Hill’s hand for reassurance. “Rowen, we need to talk. I know you are worried about me, I know you are anxious to get back to your mate, I know that other developments have reached your ears by now, but I need you to focus on what we’re gathered here to talk about. I have to apologize to you first for finding out this way about our most recent addition, but this ‘position’ developed in a time that you were unsure about your next move, and I didn’t want to put any more stress on you. With that said, how are you and Daniel?”
“We’re...okay,” he mumbled.She was using code words in front of the managers—always thinking of him, even when she was obviously exhausted. She didn’t want to hurt his feelings, but the word 'developments' meaning babies
kind of made him emotional. Until now, the thought hadn’t hit home with him. Little brothers or sisters, or possibly both; was that okay with him, did it need to be? Not really, it was going to happen whether he wanted it or not.
As to him being unsure about his next move, he knew what she was referring to. Before Dan, Rowe had no motivation in life. He’d drifted by on his mother’s graces for so long that he had almost forgotten what being a true Royal felt like. Sure he’d lapped up the money, the clothes, the glamour, but he’d also fallen into a rut of desirable bodies, loneliness, anger, self-loathing, and pity. There had been nothing glamorous about that, and certainly nothing that resembled a reliable prince of worth.
Looking around at the managers gathered, these strong, well-bred vampires that lived to protect their people and their queen, Rowe wondered why he had never felt compelled to take up his crown and help. The fact that he even had to question it was also the most likely the reason his mother had kept him out of these affairs until necessary, because he knew nothing—not that his mother thought he was dumb, she only worried for him. It was where he got it from.
“The rest of you, I thank you for arriving on such short notice. I wish that this meeting could have happened under more preparation and time, but as you know, last night the enemy took their cause to a new level. Many were hurt or affected by last night’s events, and the entire episode was way too public for my liking. After the last public crisis, I didn’t think we would ever go through that again, but I was wrong.”
“What other public crisis? This has happened before?” Rowe addressed his mother. She sighed before looking directly at him. His hands were digging into his knees. Rowe just wanted to hug her tight. She looked so frail, so not herself. It had always just been the two of them. Now he watched her mate wrap his arm around her carefully. Hill gave her an opened bottle of water. He cared for her needs now.
After taking a sip, Nina nodded. “That’s the reason for this meeting. Things are starting to come together. The enemy is sinking their teeth into resources that we didn’t even know were available. They are starting to spread throughout this city and make themselves known, when we have plenty of young vampires roaming around with no structure, no one to mentor them, free to run into the open arms of the assassins. Free to choose between the two sides and fuel the fire of this war.
There are many details connected to last night that disturb me, but out of all of them, that is the most important. If we as a race make it known amongst us that we do not tolerate getting in with the enemy, we can stand stronger as a people.” She paused with emotion. “Last night our guards identified over half of the assassins littered with the dead. They were members of our families once, sons, brothers, friends, and people you knew—people that grew up among us that didn’t feel like they were worth anything. Or they were left to drift apart from us. Maybe they got caught up in the wrong crowd, but no one was there to pull them back. In this, I have failed you all.”
Every person in the room was silent. For the head of their race to weep for the enemy’s dead was truly painful to watch. “I am so sorry that I have let things get this bad. I was so caught up in the frivolous side of our existence that I stopped planning for our future. I stopped securing the territories. We stopped communicating with each other. I weakened us all.”
“Mother,” Rowe interrupted, standing from his chair. “Stop this. You did no such thing. They did this to us. You might be our queen, but this is a new generation of vampires, that they made. These infants don’t know of our lives before, what we came from, who we serve to protect. They have no tradition, no place to call home, no one to respect. They only know the hunger and the violence, their feral side emerging quickly because it is what they’ve been taught since their rebirths as one of us. You did not teach them that. You would never.”
“I should have kept better eyes on Thomas’s Royals. I should have known Nigel wasn’t dead,” Nina argued, but Rowe slammed his fist into the table.
“Are you psychic now? Do you have premonitions such as a Guardian or are you the new Ms. Cleo?” Rowe put his hands on his hips. A few sniggers sounded around the room before the prince growled with an eye over his shoulder.
Nina sniffled and shook her head. “I still feel responsible. I have to make this right, Rowen.”
“Then we make it right, but know that we never wronged anyone in the first place. Do you understand?” Rowe’s eyes softened, his mother reached out and put her fingertips on the screen. Walking over to the monitor, he put his hand over hers with a nod. “We will fix this. They won’t get the best of us.”
“Yes we will, darling.” Nina smiled wiping tears from her eyes. “That’s why for the past few weeks, Oliver has been working with the other managers to start over. He’s designed a new program that ensures we are involved with our people, starting with our largest territory.”
“Hold up. Why the hell is he working with our mangers? What does a human know about us?” Rowe was flabbergasted. A human directing vampires, had his mother lost her shit completely?
“Oliver, care to answer this one?” The queen settled back into the pillows with Hill behind her now. Yuri crossed his arms with a smile. That bastard knew something too.
Oliver gave a small bow at the waist and Rowe rolled his eyes. “Oh. What a kiss ass.”
“Rowen.” Nina narrowed her eyes then relaxed as a stone cold Hill rubbed her shoulders.
“Fine, spill it oh genius human. What could you possibly do that we haven’t already?”
Tate hopped off his stool and got between the two facing Rowe. “Look, if you think you’re the only tired and pissed off one here, your majesty, then you are sorely mistaken. Take a look around you. Half of us have been up all night dealing with the clean-up from the explosion. Not to mention covering the press, backtracking so this didn’t turn into a public eye-sore, wiping any possible witnesses. Oh and let’s not forget taking care of a burning heap of dead vampire bodies. Was there something else?
Oh yeah, there’s more. How about cleaning out an entire building’s worth of evidence to your race, interrogating a dozen attempted runaway assassins, getting the addresses to a handful of ‘bunks’ as they call them, and the names of over three dozen young vampires that signed on with Nigel? And that’s not even half the list.” Tate took a breath. “So from where I’m standing, and I’m not sure how I’m still on my feet at this point, the least you can do is show us a little bit of respect, sit your ass down, and listen for fifteen fucking minutes.”
The warriors watched Rowe take a few steps back and sit in a chair without a word. Tate narrowed his eyes and cocked his head waiting for Rowe to make a peep, but he didn’t. “That’s what I thought. Go ahead baby, floor’s yours now.”
Oliver shook his head with a laugh. “You all good there angry squirrel?”
“Don’t call me that!” Tate blushed furiously as the managers chuckled amongst themselves. Even Rowe had to crack a smile at that one—quite accurate for Oliver’s little minx.
With a sigh, Rowe threaded his fingers, and relaxed in his chair. “Alright Oliver, tell us what you’ve got and why you’re here.”
Oliver looked at Rowe for a second then smiled. “Thank you, your highness.”
“Quit kissing ass and get on with it.”
“After many long hours and a lot of communication between the territories, it is my pleasure as the new manager of New York City to present to you, your new ten year plan.” Oliver clicked a remote and everyone turned at the buzz of a screen coming down from the ceiling.
“You are the manager of…that’s bullshit!” Rowe stood. “I demand some answers before any of this proceeds. I won’t have it.” He turned back to his mother.
“You will have it and you will like it, because it was not your decision to make. Would you question Isaac’s judgment were he standing here before you?” Nina gripped Hill’s hand.
“No, but he’s…” Rowe’s face fell.
“Then you wouldn’t dare to question his decision in death either.” Nina narrowed her eyes.
“Isaac chose Oliver to fill his chair?” Rowe sat back down slowly. He couldn’t believe this. He suddenly felt like he knew nothing about his people—their thoughts, their needs, the happenings of their everyday lives escaped him. Looking around him at all the looks of pity, Rowe knew the managers were sharing his thoughts exactly. He was clueless, he was heartless. Who was he anymore?
The queen nodded. “Yes.”
Stepping forward from the wall of his brothers, Cade went to Rowe. He held up a hand to the queen, who smiled softly. “Nina, would you mind excusing for us a second?”
“Cade, I don’t think that…” Nina sat up a little more before Hill pulled her back.
Seeing Rowe’s breathing change, his emotions flitting through his eyes signaled alarms in Cade’s head. Dude needed to catch his breath for just a second. For the past twenty four hours it had been go, go, go. Take care of Dan, fight to the death, mend all wounds except his own. Rowe needed to just get out whatever was about to boil over, but not in front of everyone.
“It will only take a minute, Nina. Please.”
“Alright, but make it quick.” She nodded. Knowing that Nina didn’t want Rowe to go, only because she was a pestering mother hen and because no bed rest restriction would shake her, Cade grabbed Rowe’s hand and pulled him along. “Darling…” Nina tried, but the two were already out the door.
“Fuck,” Rowe relayed, the one word vibrating softly, but full of exclamation. “Who does she think this guy is, the human messiah? I’m sorry mother, we already had one of those and look how well that went! Damn it. I’m sorry.” He looked to the ceiling with the apology.
“Rowe, Oliver has been a friend of mine for a long time. He’s good at what he does and if my father entrusted him, a human, with this big of a job, then he knew what he was doing.” Cade stood in front of the prince. “Does it matter what he is if he can bring us out of this situation? Aren’t we supposed to value human life and all that it stands for? What’s this really about?”
“I’ll tell you what it’s about.” Rowe let his anger fall to the truth. His eyes swelled with tears. “It’s about the fact that I’m supposed to be doing this. I’m the one who was supposed to be checking on the territories and gathering information to protect us. I’m the one who was supposed to train the warriors who would fight for us, for you.
I’m the one who let those young vampires go to the dark side because I didn’t care. I didn’t fucking care because I hated myself. I didn’t want to be anyone’s prince, I didn’t want to think or feel. I didn’t want the responsibility. I wasn’t…I wasn’t strong enough,” Rowe admitted, his body relaxing in relief.
Cade didn’t laugh or roll his eyes, only squeezed Rowe’s hand in acknowledgment.
“And now?” The Original asked.
“Now, I’ll do whatever it takes to protect them, Cade—protect you, your child, them, their families, and my mate. They won’t touch my people ever again.” Rowe slipped his hands from Cade’s and wiped away his tears. “God, that sounded so lame. Didn’t it?”
“Did you finally realizing who you want to be sound lame?” Cade smiled. Rowe this insecure, yet still so big and vampire was kind of a hallmark moment. “Not at all, Rowe. Not one single iota of lame.”
Rowe sniffed, wiping his eyes one last time. “Yeah?”
“Yeah, now let’s get back in there before your mother tries to find a way to crawl through the screen.” Cade chuckled.
“I don’t even want to think about. She would do that too. You know she would.” Rowe shook his head.
Cade pushed the prince for the door. “Sounds like the Nina I know. Now get in there and make nice.”
Rowe sighed, putting his hand on the door knob. “Fine.”
A minute later, he stood before Oliver and his angry little squirrel husband.
Rowe straightened up, his face cool and collected. “Oliver?”
“Yeah?” Oliver waited for the next blow. His hard work was about to be thrown out, he hadn’t been this nervous since his freshmen year of high school. He didn’t like it one bit.
Rowe stuck out his hand to the newest manager. “I’m sorry I’m such a prick. Sometimes it takes me a minute to realize it, but I’ll get there eventually. If Isaac Hightower said you were his boy, then you’re my boy too. Welcome to the family, Oliver. I hope that I, we, don’t disappoint you too much.”
Running, he was running until his heart was an exaggerated beat in his head. Red eyes, the grating scrape of claws against brick, howling echoes coming from every direction. His body burned, blood ran down his skin. His mouth was filled with a searing pain. He ran through pools of thick crimson that squished under the soles of his feet until he reached the door—the door that opened to reveal a beautifully clean white room. The most pristine, almost sterile place he had ever been in.
Closing the door to the dark tunnel at his back, he turned towards the window that held a fake backdrop of the city skyline. It was still better than the tunnel, even if it the sky wasn’t real, he sighed. His heartbeat started to even out, his breathing calmer now. A large rectangular frame covered in a white sheet was propped up in the corner, he became curious. Stepping forward to find out what was underneath, a man walked out from behind the frame with a grin.
“I’ve waited a long time for you, pet. Now we can be together forever.” Rowe looked strange. His eyes were darker, his skin paler, his movements almost twitchy. With a sly smile, the prince took a gloved hand and pulled the sheet off the frame—a large mirror revealed. “Look here my love. Come and see how beautiful you are.”
“I’m beautiful?” Dan put a hand over the flutter in his chest. Rowe always gave him butterflies.
“More than ever, pet. Come see.” He held out his gloved hand, a few drops of blood marring the snow white fabric.
Dan frowned, but took his mate’s hand with trust. The mirror loomed closer, he didn’t want to look, but he had no choice. His stomach dropped, lurching inside of him, a sickness rising at the sight of his own reflection. Blood covered his body, his green eyes now red and rimmed with the black of a diseased feral. Fangs descended to his bottom lip, the sound of those claws? They were his nails—long and dirty. He held his hands up to his face in horror. He was a nightmare made real, not a polished vampire like Rowe.
A chilling laugh erupted from his mate and Dan backed away. “No, no, no!” The thudding returned to his ears, a need boiling in his chest.
“Oh yes, pet. Oh yes.” Rowe threw his head back and laughed, blood began to pool around his feet. Dan looked down at his hands to find the same crimson liquid dripping off his hands like water.
“No!” Dan screamed.
“No! No,” Dan screamed as he shot up in bed. Strong hands kept him from flailing around and his eyes shot open to look straight at Nova. Light assaulted him from every direction, but Nova’s eyes kept his attention.
“Dan. Dan, it is Nova. Do you not recognize me?” Knox’s brother turned away from him and whispered to someone nearby. A tall woman with a long chestnut braid came over with a glass of water. “Dan, are you awake? Can you hear me now?”
Dan was nervous, shaky. He knew he was awake now, he knew it had only been a dream and that he was safe in the suite, but he didn’t like the way Nova’s hands were so big, so powerful on his skinny arms. Seeming to sense that, the vampire dropped his hands slowly, and pulled his long black hair back over his shoulders. The woman offered the glass to Dan, letting him take his time with his thoughts. Where was Rowe, he looked around taking a sip.
“He’s with the others downstairs,” Nova answered for him.
The woman sat on the bed, keeping to the very edge so as not to intrude. She was professional and stylish, her posture elegant like a ballerina. The only disturbing part about her was her eyes. They were a light gray, so light they looked like glass. Those eyes stayed on Dan as he drank the rest of the water.
“My name is Kennetta, but everyone calls me Kenny.” She held out her hand to take the empty glass. “I’ve been asked to keep watch over Nova until the other Mr. Montesego is finished with the meeting downstairs. Your highness also requested that you be assisted with your care while he is out of the suite, so the decision for me to look after you was only natural. Is there anything that you need; another glass of water or maybe some lunch?”
Nova leaned forward with a warning look. “She will not take no for an answer. I have tried to say no.”
Looking back to Kenny, Dan handed over the glass, noticing he was a bit hungry. “Then can I have a sandwich?”
Nova raised a brow at Dan. “What is a sandwich?”
Kenny’s lips pulled tight, but her irritation towards Nova was clear behind her plastic smile. “Nova, perhaps you could wait in the other room while I take Dan’s order?”
“No, no, he can stay.” Dan nodded. He didn’t want to be left alone with the robo-assistant, especially after that nightmare. The memory still fuzzy in his mind, but that was the best part about most dreams. The minute you woke up, half of it faded into the recesses of your subconscious, a possible coping mechanism of the brain. Whatever it was, Dan was thankful for it.
“Very well, what type of sandwich? They make a lovely chicken salad on…”
“Uh, no thanks. I’ll have peanut butter and banana with honey on wheat.” Dan looked down at his hands to avoid Kenny’s obvious dislike for him.
“I suppose you want a glass of milk to?” She snorted.
“Yes, we both require one. I will have this banana sandwich as well.” Nova stuck out his bottom lip a little with an intense look in his eye. Was he…no he couldn’t be, could he? Did he even know how to flirt?
Dan watched as Kenny’s eyes sparkled a little, a tiny, yet sharp inhale. Oh yeah, she wasn’t irritated with him exactly. She wanted him and that irritated little Ms. Prissy Pants more. Nova screwed up his face and scented the air with confusion.
“Okay, alright. Two banana sandwiches with honey on wheat coming up, I’ll be right back,” Kenny rushed. The woman was out the door so fast that Dan barely saw her leave.
Nova looked to Dan. “Do you believe her to be ill? I do not understand her actions. She is forever running away, her face is a twist of horror, she is most certainly ill, but I am not certain for she smells most intoxicating whenever she departs.”
D laughed. “No, Nova. I think she has a crush on you. You know, she’s affected by your beauty. She’s into you.”
“She is into me? How is that possible? She does not have a…”
“Not like that! It just means that she is ‘into’ the idea of you. It’s just a saying.” Dan giggled, feeling a little better. He thought being near Nova would bring back terrible memories of last night, but truthfully? Nova was so sweet and innocent for a huge badass that he had a way of making things warm and fuzzy instead of violent and bloody.
“She is into me,” Nova repeated to himself. “Cool.”
Dan fell back into a fit of giggles. How the fuck did he know what cool meant? Laughing hurt his chest, but it felt good everywhere else. Laughing from the other side of the bed, Nova stood.
“I do not know why we laugh, but your happiness is contagious, Dan. Your smile means many good things for this new day. For if you can smile, then so can I.” Nova bowed a little.
Dan sat up, his smile fading a bit. “Nova?”
“Yes, my lord?” The vampire sat down again.
“Can I ask you something?”
“Anything,” Nova murmured. Dan looked so delicate, vulnerable even as the light hit his face. Nova couldn’t help, but want to protect him from anything. To tell him the wonders of the world like you would a child. The prince’s mate was a beautiful creature, Rowen was a lucky male.
“This is between us, alright? I don’t…I don’t want to burden Rowe.”
“You are a never a burden to your mate, Dan. He loves you and wants nothing more than to share in your thoughts. Why would you keep things from him?”
“Because I’m scared, Nova and I don’t want him to know that,” Dan admitted.
Cocking his head, Nova asked, “scared of what? You are safe now, Dan. We both are. King has assured me of this many times.”
“Not of that, well, I mean yes, but that’s not all of it. Nova? What…what’s it like to be a vampire?”
Thinking upon the question for a minute, Nova put his hand over Dan’s. “It is the most wondrous thing you will ever know, to be strong enough to protect yourself and those around you. To have the knowledge that out there somewhere is one person designed just for your heart. To know with a faithful certainty that somewhere in the sky, he watches over us. It is a beautiful life and now that I’m free from the darkness, all I want to do is see the light again, that beauty once more.”
“But what about the bad stuff, the pain, the hunger, and the beast inside of you?” Dan searched Nova’s face for any hint of hesitation—finding only a soft smile for him there.
“The problem here is not your fear, Dan. It is simply the way you seek out the negative aspects of every situation.” Nova got up and walked to the wall of windows. “Last night, my situation was the very same. The noise, the lights, the smells of this new civilization disgusted me. How, I began to question. How was I going to survive in this world? My heart hurt just to think of it, what I knew used to be here, and now is gone to these large structures and paved roads, but then? I saw the most beautiful sunrise I had ever seen. It was still the same, Dan. After all these many long years, the sun is always the same.
You will be the same too. Just because you become more than you are now by being a vampire, does not mean you will not still be Dan. If anything, you will feel more like yourself than you ever did before. To be the chosen mate of our prince by God himself means you were to walk with us from the beginning. You, Dan, were always one of us. Only before you met us, you were not aware of that fact. Now that you have been introduced to this world, are you saying you would let yet another fear take from you what is rightfully yours? Would you let thoughts that are beneath you keep you from the most sacred bond you would share with your mate eternally?”
“I just want peace in my life. I want Rowe. I want to be there beside him, but to give up my life? To die to live again, it’s so terrifying.” Dan pulled the cover over his knees and turned his head. “I can’t tell him that though. He’ll think I don’t want him and he has so many problems going on as it is. It’s not that I don’t want him, because I love him. I’ve never loved anyone like this before—so quickly, so passionately, so real that once I said it, I stopped questioning it. My fear is that my life has been based on violence. Every aspect of my life is bloody and messy and scary.
First, it was my mother. After she had me, she became depressed to the point that my father had to hire a nanny to care for us, because she wouldn’t come near. Her depression was so severe and that’s when she became more like a ghost than a person. She was there, but she wasn’t. The only time she ever came to life was when she made her cup of tea in the morning. It was the only time she got out of bed, or said a word to anyone.”
Nova put his hands in his lap and listened. He had a feeling that this was the first time Dan had felt comfortable telling this story to anyone. The human’s body was almost sighing in relief as the words flowed from his mouth, his hands relaxing, his eyes focusing as he remembered the past. Maybe this was what he needed the most. Not a person telling him what to do, someone to hear him out.
“When things get bad, I find myself craving tea. It’s not so much the actual tea that I want, it’s the routine; the way it makes me feel close to her. Isn’t that insane?”
“No. That memory is possibly the most positive you could have picked from what you’ve told me. You would be smart to listen to your younger self more often.” Nova smiled and Dan wiped at his face.
“Yeah well, I try to forget my childhood as much as possible. After my mother took her own life, my father lost it. He got it in his head her death was our fault, she killed herself because she couldn’t stand us. When really? She was just very sick, chemically imbalanced.
I can remember Jess calling our grandmother to beg her to come and get us. She showed up one night with my mother’s brother and they demanded to see us, but my father refused. Told them he would call the cops if they showed up at the house again. When they were forced to leave he came upstairs and we tried to run. But that night, our father let loose and took his anger out physically.”
“Daniel, I am so very sorry.” Nova grabbed Dan’s hand and held on tight.
Tears came to his eyes. How could a father be so cruel? Then again, hadn’t he experienced the inner anger of another male physically? He knew how degraded you felt afterwards, how worthless, how beaten into the ground it left you, but that’s where their similarities ended. Nova had known a wonderful life before his slavery, Daniel had never known that. Therein lay Nova’s revelation. From the differences came the answer to all of this.
“Dan?” Nova squeezed his hand. “Are you afraid to take the last step, because you are afraid of what you had never had before? A family, happiness, a caring household, a union; does that frighten you?”
Hugging his knees with his free arm, Dan looked at Nova with a small nod. “Yes.”
“And you fear that if you become a part of us, that happiness will vanish like a dirty trick?” Nova was so close he could taste the answer on his own tongue.
“Yes!” Dan cried. It was the truth. It was the honest fucking truth.
“Are you willing to give up Rowe to take that chance and live in that kind of fear?” Nova looked him in the eye.
“No, I’ll never give him up. I love him.”
“Then show him. Show his highness you are stronger than that. Let your mate give you the sweetest death you could ever know, to live the most beautiful life you could ever dream of together. Can you do that for him Dan, for yourself?”
With goose bumps forming at Nova’s words, Dan stared into his eyes. “Yes.”
Everyone around him seemed to be deep in conversation about Oliver’s project. Rowe couldn’t seem to throw himself into the new development even as hard as he tried. Sure he listened, he commented, but it wasn’t with the enthusiasm he had promised. His mate upstairs with others that Rowe sensed wandering around had him on edge. He had wanted to be the one to wake up Daniel, to feed him again, to bathe him slowly and with love.
The urge to care for his human was overwhelming, but he sat firm in his chair and nodded for the umpteenth time. The managers looked at him with different eyes now. Instead of small groans and eyes rolls when he walked into the room, they were eager, leaning towards him to hear his next suggestion. Finally, Rowe felt like he was putting his title to use. Despite his fears for Dan, this respect felt really, really good. He was a part of them now.
“Your highness, did you hear me?” David cleared his throat.
Rowe shuffled the papers in front of him. “I’m sorry, what did you say?”
“The new vampires, how many do you think can we manage under one roof? We don’t want to set ourselves up for more problems and we all know how ‘teenagers’ can be.” The group around the large conference table laughed a little. ‘Teenagers’ was a nickname for what they referred to as coming of age vampires.
Smiling, Rowe nodded. “I think at a four to one, young to mature vampire ratio, we should keep things running smoothly. No more than twenty five residents though. If the facility is full, then they will either be directed to emergency housing and taken in by a mature vampire, or put in a safe house for the night until a spot can be found for them.”
“Emergency housing, you mean you would let a stranger stay in your home?” The manager of Albany scoffed.
“Would you subject innocents of your kind to the streets when there are enemies roaming about with those weapons? Are you heartless, Josiah?” Rowe growled softly. The entire room shifted their eyes to Josiah with a hint of disapproval.
“Er…no, your highness! I only worry for the safety of these families that would take in such an…inexperienced individual.” Josiah looked around nervously, catching the eye of the un-amused guardians across the table.
Knox shook his head with irritation at the little rat of a manager. Albany was such a stuck up lot. “That’s why only un-mated vampires will be allowed to register as a source of housing in case of emergency. No family, no mates, no children. No problem.”
Rowe looked at Knox, the small show of support unexpected. Their eyes met briefly before Knox looked away, but it wasn’t to avoid Rowe, it was to take a glass of scotch from the assistant’s hand. Rowe sighed and gathered his papers again, shuffling them until he found what he was looking for.
“I like this, Oliver. The mini compounds all over the city. The night classes, the technical training, the job placement. And the other connections,” Rowe said looking at Ghost and the man that had introduced himself as J.J. “Mother? What do you think?”
Looking to the screen that had been quiet for a while now, everyone found Nina sound asleep in Hill’s arms. Yuri moved closer to the screen to sit in front of the sleeping couple. “Bring all your notes when you come back to the compound. It’s been a long night and the doctor would like for the queen to get her rest now.”
“Make sure she…” Rowe rose from his chair.
“We are taking care of everything, my prince,” Yuri addressed him formally with a smile reaching for something. Was that respect Rowe saw? Nah couldn’t be. Rowe was sure of it when, Yuri grinned diabolically and held up a small dog to the camera. “Oh and one of the guards said you told him to pick this up today? A…” Yuri read the little crown shaped ID tag. “Prince Pomeranian?”
Knox groaned and slapped a hand over his eyes. “I told him to give it to Maggie, damn it.”
The room broke into laughter. Dan’s birthday present was something Rowe had forgotten about. The collar from last night had been a hint of sorts, but he had been too tempted to resist actually using it on Dan. God, he had looked sexy as sin.
Between the thought of Dan and that leather, Rowe stood. “Yuri, give him to Mags and let the girls play with him until we get back.”
“What, no comeback for this?” Yuri waved the little paw of the golden haired Pomeranian until it started to growl and yap at him. “Hey! It bit me!” Yuri let the tiny dog go, but it didn’t stop yapping at his feet. “Rowen,” Yuri hissed at the screen, but Tate turned it off, earning him a smile from the prince.
“Ghost, J.J. we’ll visit around shall we say nine? Give everyone a little time to sleep and what not.” Oliver stood in front of the flat screen with his hands behind his back.
Ghost narrowed his eyes. He knew this man’s voice, he knew his face from somewhere, but he couldn’t for the life of him place Oliver, which was scary as hell, because Ghost never forgot a face. Grasping at thin air for a reason for this feeling of déjà vu, he came up short and nodded. “That’s fine. Be on time though, I wouldn’t want to start playing with our guest before you got here.”
“We’ll be there,” Knox rose from his seat with a snarl. “With bells on.”
“Good, see you then.” J.J. leaned forward and pressed something, severing their signal.
Oliver addressed the room, “I’ve reserved the top three floors for all of you. Your assistants have your room keys should you wish to get some sleep. Should there be anything you need, food, clothing, directions, just ask. Thank you all for coming and we’ll wrap the rest of this up tomorrow afternoon.”
Relief washed over the room, exhaustion winning out over the excitement of the new project. From what Rowe had seen, this was going to be really something. Schools, housing, weapons and defense training, jobs opening up for their kind—it was looking up, even if the development was only on paper right now, it was still amazing. And for a human to have put together in a few weeks what they had been trying to do all along, was even better still, astonishing more like it.
Cade and Micah gave Oliver hugs. “We’re really eager to hear more about the guard training program tomorrow, Oliver, great job.” The couple exchanged goodbyes before leaving the room hand in hand, the gesture reminding Rowe of his own mate.
“Thanks again, Oliver and again, I’m sorry about earlier. I really don’t have a good excuse for what I said,” Rowe apologized quietly.
“Yeah you do. If I was you, I’d have been mad as hell too. Now, I think you have better things to be doing than standing here talking to me right?” Oliver winked, slipping his arm around Tate.
Rowe smiled. “That I do. Thanks again, Tate.”
“Get out of here, your highness.” Laughing, Tate pulled Oliver towards the door, leaving Rowen alone with…Knox.
Gray clouds shifted across the sky, hiding the sun in preparation for a shower within the hour. Knox faced the glass windows, his hands on his hips in thought. He’d watched Rowe the entire meeting. A new slew of expressions had formed on his prince’s face, ones that Knox hadn’t been sure existed—focus, respect, eagerness, excitement. And every one of those faces broke away his anger towards his best friend.
What was one name calling throw down worth compared to a friendship that had been born before Christ? Nothing, Rowe’s friendship with him was priceless, and for what he was about to face Knox would need his best friend afterwards. Hell, even if Nova hadn’t turned up Knox would still need Rowe. They were brothers too, he and Rowe. They always would be.
“Rowen, I…” Knox turned.
“Don’t you dare apologize to me, Knoxtian. I’m the one who owes you an apology so big it wouldn’t fit in this room. Forgive me, brother,” Rowe whispered and got to one knee. “Without you I would be lost and to insult you like I did crossed a line that I beg you to forgive. You are more worthy of a mate than I ever could be and to insinuate you were nothing more than a whore was cruel and thoughtless. Please, I don’t know what else to say to make things right.”
Knox grunted and moved in on his friend. Seeing the guy on the floor like this was weird. He didn’t like it one bit. “Get up you asshole.”
“What?” Rowe looked up as he was hauled to his feet.
“Just consider this forgotten, but don’t forget this, you ever call me a slut again and I’ll deck you so hard, China will feel it. You get me?” Knox stared at him.
“Just like that, you’d forgive me?” The prince was having a hard time believing this. Knox had been so pissed off earlier, he’d felt the anger like it was his own.
“What? You want to sit here and hug and cry? Fuck that shit. Go do that on your own time. I don’t hug or cry.” Okay, that was a lie Knox argued in his head. Just this morning, he’d cried to Blaze. No, he corrected himself. That was just a necessary function of the body that he couldn’t help. That’s what it was.
“Are you having a conversation with yourself mate?” Rowe held back the laugh he’d almost let loose.
“What? No, fuck off.” Crossing his arms over his chest, Knox narrowed his eyes. “Just shut up and come on. Kenny is probably having a nervous break-down by now.”
“Ah you sent David’s Kenny upstairs? She’s such a…”Rowe clamped his mouth shut as David greeted them at the door.
“I believe you were about to say how amazingly beautiful and perfect my mate is, weren’t you?” David inhaled to keep his cool.
“Yes, that’s exactly what I was about to say.” Rowe smiled a little too perfectly, his teeth grinding together. Oh, no it wasn’t. That little mate of David’s was like a general in stilettos. Always poised was the mighty Kennetta of Long Island, too professional to be healthy, but damn if you crossed David’s mate. She was like a female machete if you told her no or got on her last nerve. An anger Rowe had received personally on more than one occasion, lucky him.
“How kind of you,” David replied, barely concealing his growl.
“Yes, well she is a lovely female. You are so very lucky, David.”
The manager snorted. “Don’t push it, your majesty.” He began to walk away towards the elevator. “Are you two going to stand there all day or are you coming along?”
One very awkward lift ride and a short walk later, the three males stood in front of the suite door and listened for anything out of the ordinary. A light laughter came through the wall then a deeper bellow followed with a female growl.
The males looked at each other curiously before opening the door and entering Rowe’s suite.
“Kenny?” David called. “Kennetta?”
“Thank God. If I have to watch another of one of those wretched films, I fear what I’ll do to those…oh your highness.” Kenny bowed slightly, but not without an angry look at both of the Royals. “I mean, it’s been a long day and I think I am about at the end of it, wouldn’t you agree darling?” A few stray hairs escaped her otherwise perfect braid. Her hands flew to her bangs, straightening them with an obsessive nature.
“Yes dear.” David held out his hand to his mate. “The answer to everything,” he murmured to the other two males as they passed.
“David! I heard that,” Kenny growled, pulling him out into the hallway and slamming the door.
More laughter, only this time it was the deep bellow again. Rowe and Knox followed the sounds to the living room, staying in the hall to watch Dan and Nova on the couch. Both were huddled under their own blankets with a messy looking sandwich in hand. The Princess Bride played on the flat screen above the fire place, rats running after the main character and his princess.
“I have never seen such large rodents!” Nova proclaimed before shoving another bite of sandwich in his mouth. “They are disgusting,” he followed up excitedly with his mouth full.
Dan laughed again, wiping his eyes of happy tears. “Nova, they aren’t real. It’s just the movie.”
“Yes, but wherever did they acquire make believe rodents to create those rodents? They must be real to some degree. And that fire? Have you ever seen fire rise from the forest floor like that? What magic this world is.” The large vampire snuggled under his blanket with wide eyes as the fire leapt before the two main characters on the screen, a gasp came from Nova’s mouth.
“They’re called props. Almost like a doll, but very life like. They have teams of people that can create anything you imagine and don’t even get me started on the mechanics inside those things. It’s another world I tell you.” Dan seemed just as excited about the movie or maybe it was teaching Nova about this century and its wonders that earned that smile.
“Indeed, this is another world.” Nova dropped his sandwich on the floor to throw his hands up. “Stop! Don’t go in there, he is a bad male! An ugly little troll man!”
“Nova!” Dan giggled and pulled the large vampire back to the couch. “It’s not real, it’s just a story. Remember when you made me promise everything turned out okay? I wasn’t lying. Wesley and Buttercup live happily ever after.”
“Could you stop the story once more? I believe I would like to see the water faucet again. After all of this action, I would find that very soothing.” Nova sighed in relief as Dan pressed pause.
Both Knox and Rowe wordlessly followed the Dan and Nova duo to the kitchen where a small bar sink sat on the island. From the hallway, Knox and Rowe watched. With a deep breath through his nose, Nova brought his hands palm up to the faucet. The sensor caused water to rush over his hands.
“Fascinating,” Nova breathed, pulling his hands back to look under the faucet again. “More magic.”
“Yeah and growing fangs with swirly eyes isn’t magic?” Dan laughed.
“No, that is who we are. Just as you do not have swirly eyes or sharper teeth. You have other magic such as this.” Nova put his hands under the faucet again. “Can we try the scented liquid again? It is most intoxicating.”
“The foaming soap?” Dan raised his brows.
“Yes, the foaming soap,” Nova repeated slowly.
“Alright, one more time.”
Not being able to watch another second without laughing, Rowe walked into the kitchen startling both the men. Dan gasped and dropped the soap onto the ground, suds going everywhere as the cap popped off. Nova flung a handful of water onto Rowe out of surprise then slipped on the soap, landing his ass on the ground with a thud.
“Nova!” Knox ran into the room, falling to his knees. “Are you alright?”
“I am alright. Daniel?” Nova turned around to see Dan on his hands and knees trying to breath. “Dan?”
“Shit, pet?” Rowe dropped to his knees, pulling a heaving Dan into his lap. “Just breathe love. It was an accident, everything is fine. No one is upset with you.”
Catching his breath, Dan frowned. He pushed against Rowe’s chest. “I’m not going crazy, Rowe. You scared the shit out of me. God, I’m not always a freak show. Sorry about the mess, Nova. I’ll see you later alright?”
“Oh alright,” Nova said, looking to Knox in confusion as Dan quickly left the room. “Are we in trouble?”
“Why would you be in trouble?” Knox helped Nova to his feet.
“Knox, would you take Nova to your suite? I need to speak with Dan.” Rowe stood watching as Dan slammed the door to their bedroom closed. What had he done wrong? Why was his mate acting this way? This morning had been wonderful. Even if the gloom of last night had been present they had made the best of it.
“Yeah, come on Nova. Ah man you’re all wet now.” Knox made a face and Nova hung his head.
“I am sorry. I do not have any replacements for these.” The large man went quiet in his own head. He hadn’t been back with his brother for five minutes and already he was a disappointment. He had feared this would happen—that he would not be seen as anything but a bother to his well respected brother.
“Nova, it’s alright. We can get you some more. Actually we should get you a lot more. Let’s go and catch a nap then maybe we can see about picking something up.” Knox put his arm around his little brother. He wanted to squeeze the ever loving shit out of him, to cry into his chest and tell him how much he’d missed him, but again…he didn’t do that.
Looking up in surprise, Nova felt tears come to his eyes. “You would buy more clothing for me?”
Opening the front door for his brother, Knox leaned forward and sighed. “Nova, I would buy you the world if it meant another day with you by my side.” Well there went that anti-warm and fuzzy rule.
In the face of his brother, Nova decided he would not cry. Instead as his heart pounded with joy, he clasped his brother’s arm and squeezed. “I will stay for free because you are all I have brother.”
“Good. That’s…that’s good.” Knox wrapped his arm around Nova again and led him across the hall. Neither of them able to look at the other, but they didn’t need looks to feel the secret smile they both shared.
Opening the bedroom door, Rowe entered to find Dan on the bed with his head in his hands. “Just don’t okay? I know what you’re going to say and I’m not crazy. I was honestly scared for a second, but I didn’t have an attack or anything. I was just having fun and then you popped out of nowhere. I was just talking to Nova and then you…what? Why are you looking at me like that?” Dan became a mess of nerves. He wasn’t mad at Rowe in the least. He was freaked out because he knew the conversation they were about to have. Or at least the one he was going to start, because besides his fun with Nova, it was all Dan had thought about all day.
Rowe slipped between Dan’s legs on his knees. His large palms pushed Dan onto his back, his thumbs hooking under his mate’s shirt to pull it up. “Rowe, wait. We need to talk.”
“Talk all you like, pet. I have thought of nothing, but this body and your sweet voice all day. I want to touch you, taste you, and drink you in. I think you’ve been thinking of me too and you’re afraid to admit it. That’s why you’re all jumpy.” Rowe became overwhelmed with Dan’s fresh scent, his mate responding to his words even if he didn’t mean to. His fangs descended a little, his hands tugging Dan’s shirt off his body, his tongue lapping at the soft skin of Dan’s belly.
“Fuck, Rowe! I’m serious…” He failed to remember what he was going to say next. Soft, wet warmth traced his belly button. Dan’s hands ran through Rowe’s thick hair, a moan resonating throughout the room. Lifting his legs, his feet cupped Rowe’s shoulders before smoothing over his hard back, begging to feel skin against skin.
“Tell me your fears, pet.” Rowe glanced up with heated eyes. “Tell me why you run from me now. I can feel you trying so hard to block me.”
Relaxing into the bed with no other choice, Dan let Rowe crawl up his body, smoothing his arms above his head by his mate’s hands until he was trapped underneath the prince. “Tell me pet.”
The words built in his throat, Dan’s heart beating rapidly. “I want to be happy,” he blurted.
“What?” Rowe softened his grip on Dan’s arms. He didn’t do that for Daniel? Rowe thought, hell, he thought his mate said…he thought they loved each other. Immediately Rowe moved off the bed to sit in the chair by the window.
“What do you mean what? Why are you over there? What did I do!” Dan shot up on the bed, tears in his eyes. “See? This is why I told Nova and not you. You just freak out and think I’ll leave you!”
“Don’t you feel the same way when you don’t understand, Daniel? Excuse me for never having loved anyone before. And what do you mean you told Nova and not me! What does he have to do with any of this? Is he your mate?” Rowe rose and pushed the chair away until it smacked into the wall.
“No,” Dan cried. “But I don’t want to make you worry about me. You freak out over every little thing.”
“You blame me for caring for you? Are you serious? Last night I felt like my body was being ripped apart piece by piece when Nigel took you from me. Every time I felt your fear run through my blood, I died over and over. To know that I forgot you for even a second in favor of that sick fuck makes me ill. To know how he furthered your pain, gave you things to fear on top of what you already feared the most, to take a piece of you away from me? It makes me want to die!
Instead, I live for you. I live to take care of your needs because you are the most precious thing in my world. I will give up my crown. I will shun my family for you. I will move mountains to see you happy, Daniel because you are mine. You are my mate, my love, my heart, my everything and if freaking out over every little thing is how I show that I love you, then fucking deal with it. I’m not going anywhere, you are stuck with me.” Rowe fell at Dan’s feet and held onto his legs.
“I don’t want you to leave me.” Dan pulled Rowe up on the bed. “I know I freaked out this morning, and I’m sorry. I just don’t want you to have to be worried all the time because of me. I don’t want you to look at me like some freak that needs to be cradled or babysat. I want to be your mate, but I need you to treat me normally to feel better.”
“I can’t help, but want to…” A hand was placed over Rowe’s mouth.
“Just listen,” Dan said, slipping his legs to either side of Rowe’s hips. “After talking with Nova today, I realized that I’m scared of being happy, because I’ve never known what it feels like before. If I have it, will I lose it? I didn’t like those chances because having you seemed like a huge prize that I didn’t deserve, like you’d leave at any second and I would fade back into nothingness, but he showed me that there isn’t anything that would keep you from me and the same goes for me to you. I would never dream of leaving you, I could never do that. I love you so much, so why couldn’t I stop being afraid of taking the last step?”
“Hold on,” Rowe interrupted, sitting up with Dan in his lap. “Last step, you mean as in turning you?” Dan nodded.
The thought of Dan strong and healthy made Rowe hard. To be able to share himself completely with Dan in that way would be beyond anything they had now. He could defend himself, he would finally feel a part of the bigger picture—Dan would be healed inside as well as out. To change Dan though, would require time, patience, a lot of hours that made Rowe sad to think about. Would they ever get to that place? The place Rowe dreamed about, his mate as a vampire?
“Yes,” Dan whispered. He was so scared, he didn’t know what else to do, but cling to Rowe. “I want to be the person I was supposed to be all along, your real mate.”
Staring down at Dan, Rowe felt himself break inside. He couldn’t push this, but he wanted it so bad—had since the moment he held Dan in his arms. “Have I ever indicated to you that I thought of you as anything but my real mate?”
“No.” Dan looked up. “But I’m going to age eventually and then where does that leave us?”
“It leaves me with a beautiful silver fox,” Rowe replied teasingly. His smiled faded; a serious tone to the look in his eyes.
“Dan, do you think that one day.” He swallowed. “Maybe one day you would be ready for that, to be like me?”
“A vampire?” Dan thought about it constantly since coming back to the hotel. He’d pictured what he would look like, if there would be a lot of differences, if he’d be a different person, but in the end? He knew he’d be himself. Deep down he knew what his future held.
“Yes,” Rowe pulled Dan to him. “Would you surrender yourself to me fully?”
Wiggling in Rowe’s lap, Dan felt feverish. His mind raced, his heart sped up. He swallowed hard—a thickness building in his throat. It hurt going down. “Right now?”
“What if I said yes?” The prince’s question was laced with a growl.
His libido was screaming, his beast demanding a fucking answer—a bite to the neck, to the thigh, to anywhere as long his mate’s blood coursed down his throat with his cock buried deep inside of Dan. He wanted to give Dan a new life. He wanted him to be safe, strong, here forever. He wanted the full experience.
“And what if…what if I said no?” Dan trembled, his fingers gripping into Rowe for dear life. “No to right now, I mean.”
Dan felt Rowe’s hard length against his thigh, heard the hitch of Rowe’s breath and the eerie growl that he was trying to hold back. He was afraid to look up or he knew he’d give into Rowe. Hell, he technically was already. The way his body began to rub against the Prince, the sweat that made his curls kick up around his neck, it was like he was going into heat thinking about Rowe turning him.
His large hands felt there way down Dan’s back, kneading, caressing until Rowe found a nice tight ass formed in his palms. “Then I would ask if you were intending to say yes soon.”
Rowe’s breath hissed over his shoulder, Dan moaned. At the moment all Dan could think of was how good his larger mate’s body felt against his, how much he wanted Rowe.
“Yes,” Dan groaned. His head fell back to give way to Rowe’s mouth. Someone kicked him into high gear, his own cock fighting to be free. God, he loved how his mate touched him.
Dan’s arousal hit him hard again. Rowe gripped onto his mate’s arms and pushed Dan onto his back. That one word answer would do for now. He reminded his beast that was on a short leash at the moment, he needed to back off until it was time. Dan needed a minute to breath as did he. They just needed to fuck, to hold each other, to be a couple for a minute without any interruptions. His beast was satisfied by the idea of hot sex and feeding, being intimate with his mate.
Eventually though, even Rowe wouldn’t be able to control the need to turn Dan. Fuck, he was going to be exquisite. The sex was going to be so intense, they’d need a week to recover. Dan would be so connected to his heart and mind, more than he already was. He couldn’t wait, but sadly he’d have to.
Rowe growled and nipped at Dan’s neck. “Are we done talking for now, love?”
“Only if you plan on fucking me,” Dan replied and clapped a hand over his mouth at the blatant response his mind had conjured for him.
With a sexy laugh, Rowe growled. He peeled the hand from Dan’s mouth to lick those lips. “So you have been thinking about me all day. Good, because I’ve been thinking about all the things I want to do with you. Starting with this.”
On his knees, the prince straddled Dan. Pulling his shirt over his head, he dropped it to the side of the bed. Grasping Dan’s hand in his own, he put it to his chest and guided it over his skin. The warm softness of Dan’s palm on his skin left him painfully hard in his slacks.
“Rowe,” Dan whispered bringing his other hand up to Rowe’s body. He started to wonder what this would be like if he was a vampire. Would he smell Rowe’s arousal like Rowe could smell his? Would there be a different feeling inside of him? Would he want Rowe’s blood? The idea kind of turned him on in a morbid way or was that only morbid to humans?
“Stop thinking and touch me, pet,” Rowe hissed.
Thoughts ran through Rowe’s head like they were his own. Just quick glimpses to what Dan was thinking, but not a full connection like back at the warehouse. Dan had been fighting for his life. Their bond had acted on instinct, reaching to Rowe for help. It was extraordinary that he could feel this much from his human already. When Dan became vampire, they would share thoughts and feelings freely. Just like Cade and Micah, just like what he wanted. God, to know that freedom between thoughts was such a gift.
Feeling the need in Dan’s mind only caused Rowe to growl louder. His hand urged Dan’s over the bulge in his slacks, the thick erection that was waiting to be freed. Watching Dan’s eyes widen was so delicious he couldn’t stand it. The smell, the sound of Dan’s heart pounding, the way his tongue licked his perfect lips. Fuck!
“I’m sorry, I need you,” Rowe declared unbuckling his belt and pulling his slacks off to his knees with his underwear. “I can’t promise you…” Gentle? Way to not scare him, Rowe. Fuck it, he declared.
“What do you…” Dan barely got the words out before he found himself on his hands and knees. Rowe’s hand supported his stomach as his pants were pulled off his legs. A large hand squeezed his bare ass.
“You are so gorgeous, I could cum from just looking at you,” Rowe growled in Dan’s ear before disappearing again. Legs apart from Rowe’s strong hands, Dan came off the bed, a long wet tongue painting a line over his entrance.
He writhed, he panted, he dug his fingers into the bedding, but there was no escape from the build-up of need in his body. Dan was so hot it wasn’t even funny. Rowe played his body like he knew the music and holy fuck was this a sweet melody. Previously careful, Rowe’s fingers now dug into his hips before sliding to his cock, a warm tongue still working him over. The second that Dan felt those fingers wrap around his erection and pull up to the head, he lost it.
With a mighty scream, Dan released all over the bed and Rowe’s hand. What? He’d never, not even when he was younger…oh no.
The tensing of Dan’s body was not a good sign after such an exquisite release. Rowe was even more turned on knowing that his mate had been that horny all day over him, but now the look of panic in Dan’s eyes before he hid his face in the bed only made him cautious.
“Had I known you were this hot, I would have come back to the room ages ago,” Rowe confessed and kissed Dan’s back. Only the human turned away to hide his shame.
“Dan come on, it’s not a big deal. Actually I think it was probably the hottest thing I’ve ever seen. Tell me anything more erotic than knowing that by simply touching your mate you made him cum? Jesus! You have no idea how much more that makes me want you.” He was trying so hard to make Dan turn around. No such luck. So he gave it another go. “Fine, then I guess you won’t miss this then.”
He moved around until his pants were somewhere on the floor, his naked body kneeling behind Dan. Using Dan’s release, he coated his erection with a tight grip. “Fuck that’s good,” he murmured. “God, look at how hard it is. With you all over me, my cock is so glossy, just so fucking sexy.” He bit his lip and closed his eyes. Dan would turn around, Rowe was sure of it this time.
Peeking over his shoulder, Dan’s eyes widened. Oh no, he swallowed, how the fuck could resist that? His naked sculpted vampire was on his knees stroking himself, with his…oh yeah. Oh God. Slowly, Dan rolled over onto his knees.
Rowe still had his eyes shut, but he felt his pet crawl forward, removing his hand from around his cock. Lips replaced his fingers, a hard suction in favor of his second-rate stroking. Dan began to suck Rowe into his mouth, unable to resist his mate any longer. He nibbled around the head, before gliding down slowly with his tongue flat in his mouth—tasting himself over Rowe’s moist, silky skin.
His cheeks still burned with embarrassment, but damn if he’d be denied this body over some premature excitement. He had been under a lot of stress lately, his moods weren’t stable. This was almost bound to happen. Relaxing into his task, Dan got to business. His free hand gripped the base of Rowe’s shaft as he licked around the head tasting Rowe as his flavor joined the party—a thick bead of liquid just waiting for his tongue. Again the flavor of cinnamon coated his mouth. Dan hummed his love for the taste and sucked harder to get more.
“Yes, love. Ah damn, where did you learn to…oh yeah.” Rowe let his head fall back, Dan taking him deep into his throat. A hint of teeth scraped over his shaft. Suddenly Rowe was imagining Dan’s fangs piercing his cock. A pleasure so foreign would bleed through his body rendering him all Dan’s. The thought made him swell in Dan’s mouth. A previously impossible feat, with Dan though, nothing was impossible.
To bring Rowe pleasure was all Dan cared about. He’d been so focused on his needs that he sometimes forgot the guy needed attention too. It was strange being part of a pair now, to have someone rely on you and you them. Dan had never understood a relationship and it was why he’d abstained from them all these years. Now, as he tasted his mate slowly, he couldn’t imagine not being in one with Rowe. Nightmares and evil villains aside, he had to prepare himself for what the inevitable. A feeling in his gut, in his heart confirmed what he already knew. Soon, he would ask Rowe to turn him, joining the ranks of his family and friends. Never again would he be alone.
A tug at his hair lifted his head. Rowe pulled him to his knees in earnest, a pop from his mouth, a gasp of air before their lips met with a shared groan of passion. Hands flew over each other’s bodies, both of them feeling Dan’s heart was in right place again. Petal soft, his tongue wet Rowe’s bottom lip before he pulled it into his mouth. Their bodies meshed together, Dan’s legs wrapping around Rowe’s powerful thighs—the vampires knees anchoring them to the bed.
“You are my real mate and I’m going to make sure you never forget it.” Rowe pulled Dan’s head to the side and smoothed a hand over the tight line of skin exposed to him. His teeth lengthened, his swirling eyes zeroing in as he lifted Dan up his body. Looking at the beautiful neck before him, Rowe had an idea. It was kind of out there and possibly a terrible one, but it was worth a shot.
Bringing his wrist to his mouth, Rowe bit down. A gasp sounded from Dan then a deep inhale. Blood trickled from two perfect pricks in Rowe’s wrist.
“Cinnamon,” Dan murmured. He licked his lips as Rowe brought his wrist closer.
“Pet, would this…will you try it?” Rowe waited for Dan to start crying or push him away, but instead his mate grabbed his wrist quickly. It wasn’t the same as a vampire, but something stirred inside of Rowe as Dan lapped at the blood dripping from his wrist. His pet sealed his lips over the twin punctures and sucked hard, making his cock turn a different shade of red with need.
“Fuck yeah. Ah pet, so good.” He moaned and fell against the mattress.
Clinging to Rowe’s body, Dan kept the wrist at his mouth—hot cinnamon rushing down his throat in the most delicious way. How could he have been afraid of blood before? An image of last night rolled through his head, sucking Rowe’s bloodied lip into his mouth, the taste had been heavenly. More important was how could he have forgotten this?
His body started to tingle; euphoria or a high—he wasn’t sure—took hold of him. Dan was in another world of bliss, Rowe thrusting that gloriously hard dick along his bare ass. His mate’s moans of pleasure were all he could hear, Rowe never having looked so sexy. With a gasp, Dan sat up on Rowe’s chest and wiped his mouth, his green eyes narrowed, his lips swollen.
Opening his eyes, Rowe looked up at his mate—a lone trail of his blood painted down the side of Dan’s chin. Before he could reach up to lick it off, he noticed Dan’s body. His eyes went wide. He couldn’t believe what was happening.
“What?” Dan licked his lips with arousal, then frowned when Rowe wouldn’t stop staring at his chest like he grown an eye there. “Rowe, what’s wrong?”
“Your bruises,” Rowe whispered.
“Come on Rowe. I was kind of into that,” Dan pouted. Rowe looked up.
“So was I pet, very much so, but would you mind looking down please?” Rowe looked like he’d seen a ghost.
With that same feeling of dread from his dream, Dan looked down. His mouth opened then closed with a lack of words for what he was seeing. His skin was flawless. Not one bruise or cut marred his body. That tingling sensation…
“Rowe?” He looked up. “What?”
“Holy shit, love.” Rowe sat up and looked to the already healed bite marks on his wrist then back to Dan. “I think, well I’m not sure, but I believe I just healed you.”
The two stared at each other for a minute in silence before Dan laughed from the continued soap opera his life was turning out to be. “Is this the part where you tell me you were a first aid kit in another life?”
Grinning a bit, Rowe kissed his mate. “No, but that would make a lot of sense right now.”
Dan put his arms around the prince’s neck. “Nothing makes sense anymore, Rowe; nothing, but you and me.”
Rowe clung to Dan, flipping them back over with a growl. “You and me,” he repeated looking at Dan’s cock which was hard again.
Nodding in agreement, Dan pulled Rowe down for a kiss. The small shock of his healed body and a minutes worth of conversation was not going to stop the need building in either of them. Dan wanted it bad.
Rolling under Rowe, Dan pressed his ass into the hard body above. “Like this.”
“God damn, pet.” Rowe couldn’t help himself. His mate was like a bloody cat in heat. He was equally bad, falling victim to the divine ass rubbing into his cock. Sweet lord, he was never leaving this room ever again.
“Like this huh?” His voice grew dark, his body sliding up to cover Dan’s.
“Please, Rowe.” Dan looked over his shoulder, his breath coming quicker when he saw the power rolling through Rowen’s eyes—the electrifying swirl of violet there.
The vampire began to get anxious, his cock full and hard. He needed inside his mate. “Tell me your mine. Tell me how bad you want your mate inside you.”
That voice, Dan shuddered. As if Rowe had caressed him inside, those words were dark and deep—Dan’s undoing. Before he knew what he was doing, he got to his knees and grabbed Rowe’s hand. Down his chest, over his stomach to grip his cock, he sighed.
“This is yours,” Dan moaned the words. “Feel how much I want you. I want you so bad, so hard. Don’t tease me, Rowe. I want my mate.” Back onto his hands and knees, Dan looked over his shoulder.
That little look did it. A noise between a growl and yell rumbled from Rowe’s throat. “Forgive me,” he apologized, gripping Dan’s hips—pushing the head of his cock into his mate without any warning.
So high on Rowe already, the pain of his mate pushing inside was amazing. He was so tight, Rowe was so big, it should have hurt worse than it did, and maybe it would have had he been clear headed, but it only left a hiss on his lips before the pleasure took him. His eyes rolled back, feeling the rest of Rowe fill him. Before he knew it they were moving, Rowe almost to the root then pulling back out.
This wasn’t close enough, Rowe thought. He needed more of Daniel, needed to cling to his skin like a shirt would, contour to every curve and dip. Fuck, he wanted to be Dan’s skin. It was a crazed thought, but it was the truth. Being inside of the male underneath was like being plugged into a raw current of electricity. He felt alive, turned on, finally fed, but he still wanted to touch him see his eyes.
Grabbing Dan around the stomach, he hauled the human to his chest with a slap. Dan struggled to understand until Rowe’s hands held his chest tight—crushing them together. Rowe slid deeper inside of him at this angle, his mind exploded again.
“Rowe, yeah,” he cried.
A hand grabbed onto his hair, Rowe’s face being pulled to Dan’s shoulder. The scent of Dan this close drove him crazy, his tongue sweeping forward. His pet, he growled, his all his. The room smelled like a clean mountain spring, something you could not bottle, but could sure as fuck taste on your tongue. Rowe grabbed Dan’s hip, falling into a rhythm until his pet was making noises that might have been words or screams, who cared?
Instead of biting into Dan like he was a starving animal, Rowe slowly let his fangs pierce into his shoulder—letting his pet feel every bit of the delicious pain.
Flooded with the sensation of Rowe’s bite on top of getting gloriously fucked from behind took Dan to an out of body level. He as there and then he wasn’t. Rowe’s hands keeping him steady, pressed tight together. Sweat formed between them, allowing them to rub perfectly together. Not one bit of space separated them.
With his mouth laced of blood, Rowe pulled Dan’s head back and kissed him hard. As he thrust into him even harder, he let Dan taste himself in a different way this time. Cinnamon mixed with something coppery sweet, Dan couldn’t get enough. A strange mewling sound reached his ears, Rowe holding the back of his head tight. It was him! The noise was him and he wanted more of this taste, the need unbearable.
Rowe’s tongue was sucked on, the roof his mouth swiped thoroughly, his lip pinched between Dan’s teeth. His growl started slow then built until his beast was in control. He couldn’t be denied this opportunity. Not to turn Dan, but to give it to the human thoroughly.
“Mine,” Rowe growled viciously. He pushed Dan onto his hands, listening to his protesting whine turn to screaming Rowe’s name over and over. Hands rippled with his power as he dug his nails into Dan’s ass, holding his cheeks tight while he plowed into him from behind. The power built, his own moans echoing around the room like an unforeseen ghost. Close, the end was close.
Holding on for dear life, Dan was being royally fucked in every literal sense of the term. Never had he been handled like this, never had he trusted anyone so much in his entire life. He wanted it now. He wanted to be like Rowe; to feel that powerful against his mate. Pushing back against Rowe for every thrust, his thighs were on fire, but he bet if he were vampire that wouldn’t be the case. He bet he could literally do this all night long—the thought another reason in favor of him turning.
He felt something small building at the back of his mind, it felt like Rowe. Sure enough the feeling came slamming into his body. Rowe’s climax was upon them, his own release teetering on the edge. One touch, just one was all he needed. Rowe…
The prince shuddered, a roar ripping from his throat. Daniel, he felt his last thoughts just barely. He wanted to turn. Oh God, he actually wanted it. Happier than he’d ever been before, Rowe grabbed Dan’s cock bringing the human screaming. The high, uneven chorus of noise was all it took for Rowe. He pushed his length into Dan, buried deep and came. Hot, sticky, filling his mate as he covered him.
Fangs sunk deep into Dan’s neck as he came for the second time, the pain of clamping down on Rowe while he was still cumming so much to take in. He fell against the bed and rode the wave. Rowe relaxed against him. Still deep inside, the vampire continued to feed. Stretching them out, he pressed into Dan’s back and pulled at his neck, swallowing mouthfuls of liquid candy.
Their breathing mimicked each other eventually, slow and even. Rowe’s hand sought out Dan’s. Their fingers intertwined in the silence that followed. Fangs retracted back into his mouth, the prince pressed a soft kiss to his lover’s neck before snuggling in to follow Dan into a deep sleep, but not without a smile. His Daniel wanted to be with him forever.
Dr. Theodore Jones reviewed the files that Suarta handed him. “Although it’s far too early for a human to be diagnosed as such, vampire pregnancies are obviously much different. Accelerated growth of the fetus, higher risks because their bodies are going through a rapid change, exhaustion of the cells from trying regenerate at far too fast a rate for something that isn’t in need of repair. All of this leads to major stress on the body and after looking at her blood pressure and elevated levels of protein in her urine, I’m positive it’s early onset Pre-Eclampsia.
Until the clinic is fully operational, I want around the clock care for the queen. She is not to be out of bed except for a short walk once a day. Her meal plan has been sent to the staff and she is not to be bothered with meetings or more than a handful of guests at one time. We need to keep her blood pressure under control and her stress level at a minimum. No, disregard that last statement. We want a stress free environment. I don’t care whether we need a bucket full of scented candles or Enya’s greatest hits, handle it.”
“Certainly Dr. Jones,” Nick said. Theo’s assistant was the best choice for Nina’s twenty four hour care specialist. He was smart, obedient of his superiors, and had a perfect gentleman like quality to his bed side manner. He could charm the pants off Hill if he tried, but it wasn’t something he’d recommend.
“Hill, Nick here will be taking care of all the daily tasks and I will check on her every evening. If you need me during the day, I’ve put my number in both of your phones. Otherwise I’ll be in the opposite hall helping with the new clinic.”
Hill took the paper Theo gave him and made a face. “Feed her three times a day? How the hell am I supposed to fight like that? I’ll be lucky if I can get out of bed after day one.”
The group of doctors said nothing as they waited for him to realize what that meant. Theo saw the male’s face drop with his answer.
“Wait, you mean I can’t fight anymore? But, that can’t be...” Hill hissed a curse quietly.
Nina was fast asleep next to him. She was still recovering from using so much power during pregnancy. The twins trying to take what energy she had left to live off of. He couldn’t let her suffer through that and as much as he hated to admit it, he would never do that to his children, even if the little fuckers tried to kill his woman.
“You will need to be with her around the clock. When Moira was without her mate for the first few months, she was in such pain from not being able to have blood as strong as his. It is not a fate I wish upon your mate.” Theo took off his glasses to rub his eyes. As a doctor he was used to two or three days without a full night’s sleep and as a vampire doctor he was used to working under a lot of stress, but lately he was tired, really and truly exhausted.
“I don’t want that either, Hill.” Chloe came around the group of doctors holding baby Nanette against her chest.
The baby girl was sleeping soundly, her fat cheeks vibrating as her mouth blew tiny bubbles with each breath she took. “King wasn’t there when I was pregnant, Hill. I know what it feels like. Even though I was given strong blood to go on, it wasn’t the same and it still hurt. Fighting will always be there, you can’t replace those babies or her.”
Hill bent down, kissing his mate’s head before getting out of bed. “Leaving her to fight never crossed my mind. It just sucks that I can’t be out there with them.”
“I’m sure they preferred you were taking care of their queen instead of out there with them.” Chloe smiled.
“Dr. Najihm? Would you please check on our other patient while I finish up here?” Theo squeezed her shoulder.
“Of course, Ian, would you bring the kit downstairs please?” Suarta turned to her assistant.
“Sure. Chloe?” Ian smiled, but it was clear that a man to man chat was about to happen. She’d said her piece, but Hill looked beat. Could he really do this?
He looked right at her. His golden eyes tired, but he smiled for her benefit. “I heard ya. Go on, I’ll be fine.”
“Sure?” She rubbed Nanette’s back.
“Yeah. Night, Chloe.”
“Alright. Night, Hill.” She sighed, letting Ian lead her to the door.
The doctors trickled out of the room with Chloe closing the door behind them.
Silence in a noisy situation always seemed strange. Going from everyone to just he and Hill in the room was a little unnerving for Theo. Being a ‘special interest’ doctor gave him experience with all sorts of unnerving situations. If he could handle Nigel and that freak lab, he could handle Hill.
“Hill, I know this is a huge change in your life. I know that you didn’t have much time to spend with your mate before the world seemed to collapse around you, but I can promise you being a father is the most beautiful thing you will ever know next to loving your partner. To see them born, to hold them, to hear their first words, to tuck them in at night and know that those little babies are a part of you, is so special that not even fighting compares to the emotion you will feel in your heart.” Theo turned away to hide the pain in his eyes. Memories of his past weren’t welcome on the job.
“I grew up in foster care. So, having a family hits me hard. I never thought I’d be here, doing this. You know, waiting for my mate to wake up so we can talk about our children. It’s weird, it’s terrifying, but the strangest part of all it, something that’s hard to admit.” Hill exhaled looking at his mate in bed. “I already love them…don’t I?”
“Yeah, you do.” A smile crossed the human’s face remembering his ex-wife’s belly. The kick he felt against his hand, the feeling that overcame him for someone he had yet to meet. “It only gets better; your love bigger.” He heard a creak then the rustle of covers.
“Before Nina, I never loved anything before. I was raised in an orphanage. Got shipped and switched between foster homes twelve times until I turned eighteen. Back then I was nothing more than a scrappy little shit that didn’t fucking care. I thought I was some kind of bad ass so I entered the Navy thinking it was a free ride. The ladies like a guy in uniform and to get paid doing it? Yeah, I thought
I had it made.
I had it made.
They looked at me as prime rib. Big and mean, no family; perfect for the dirty work.” Hill shook his head when Theo raised a brow. “Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to start no drama with the gov, but Seals ain’t for pussies and we certainly didn’t train to hand out first aid kits and mac n cheese to the needy. You know what I’m saying?”
Theo chuckled. “Seals handing out boxed pasta. Now there’s an image.”
“Right.” Hill smoothed Nina’s hair away from her face tenderly. “After boot camp, fuck that, it was hell camp if I’m being real with you, I was scared shitless. My body was in the best shape of my life, I could kill one hundred ways from Sunday in my sleep, but my mind wasn’t prepared for the real thing. I wasn’t prepared to be attached to those guys like I was. I convinced myself to stay away from them, to hang back, but still trust them in combat, because I’d been conditioned to be that way.
That’s why I was such an asshole and on some level, I think I knew why I went into the Navy, because everything always changed. Places, people, none of it was ever the same. Just like foster homes, schools, friends if you wanna call them that. I knew from the very beginning I would never belong to anyone.
It wasn’t until the last mission I ever went on that I let myself get attached. He was fresh, real young, and reminded me of myself. Thought he was a certified bad ass, immortal. I be-friended him, I mentored him a little, got a beer with him once in a while. Trevor. That was the kid’s name.” Hill paused. The tall copper haired soldier came to mind.
“What happened to Trevor?” Theo took a step forward.
“Three of us were doing a recon at the edge of town. The other guys were securing the area while we tapped the house two of our men were being held in. There were so many buildings, the alleys were narrow, it was a mess to get a handle on, but that was what we got called in for, the really dangerous shit.
Trevor was on my left, Kilo was on my right. Everything looked clear, so we surrounded the house. I heard something, called a halt, but Trevor thought he was some kind of miracle God. He relaxed his gun, shook his head and started over for the cellar entry. He turned his back when I heard the noise again.
A little boy stepped out from behind a cart with a machine gun. A kid, like didn’t even hit my chest, Theo. Trevor turned with his gun, hesitated because who wouldn’t, and got a face full of lead. Kid knew we had bullet proof gear on. A fucking child had that knowledge. He was trained to shoot for the face. All those tiny memories you make with someone flit through you when you’re watching them die. As a soldier, you don’t have the luxury of mourning or being horrified that this person is gone. You will never see them alive again or hear their voice, or get that beer.
You have to be the one to pull the trigger in a child’s face to save yourself. You have to be the one to call in the body and finish your duty. You have to forget Trevor for the next twelve hours, because you are the only line of defense for those men still alive inside. That is why I never attached myself to people or things before, Theo, because they aren’t yours to keep. They die, they push you away, they abandon you. Why put yourself through that when you know the outcome? At least that was how I viewed the world until...until her.”
Theo had to keep a mask of calm on his face while he watched Hill stare off into space remembering his nightmares. “How was Nina different?”
“Shaking her hand for the first time was like coming home. Hearing her voice made me catch my breath. Feeling her near me made my heart race. It was so organic, I couldn’t ignore the way I felt for her. She wasn’t a thing or a face that I could train myself to stop thinking about. She had spun her way around my mind. Night and day, I thought about her until finally we met in the middle.
She told me the reason we both had been abandoned was because fate knew we’d find each other. I don’t feel cold or angry when she’s with me. I smile when she smiles. Suddenly she’s just my world. I don’t know how else to explain it to you.”
“You just love her,” Theo summed it up, facing the window.
Hill bent down to kiss Nina’s temple. “Yeah.”
Turning around, Theo watched as Hill snuggled into his mate’s back and wrapped his arms around her currently flat stomach. Suddenly he felt like an intruder. Being the true gentlemen he was, Theo bowed to the queen before heading out.
“Good night, Hill,” he called softly over his shoulder.
The hallway was silent when he exited the room. Guards blended in with the paintings and furniture along the walls. Theo had become so accustomed to having men with guns and knives around him, that he gradually began to tune them out. They were people, but they were also white noise. If he thought about them too much he’d become paranoid and his job would suffer from his delusions. Instead of dwelling on the violence they represented, he rather focused on his patients and the healing hands he could lend them—the proverbial light in the dark, or so he liked to think.
Taking the stairs down slower than normal, he finally reached the next floor and stopped. What had been so chaotic, so loud before was silent. This time, Theo looked to the guards stationed outside the secure room’s door to gage their expressions. One guard actually shrugged at him causing him to shake his head.
Suarta greeted him from the other side of the hallway with an indecipherable look. “I’m not sure what to say at this point. Out of all the feral cases we’ve seen this has to be the most intriguing, Theo.”
“How’s Frank?” Theo walked Suarta away from the secured room and toward the lavish stairwell. The tiny yap of a dog echoed up the stairs, Emma and Hannah chasing a ball of fur around the great room.
“Like a love sick puppy.” Suarta rested her elbows on the balcony. “His wounds aren’t showing any sign of infection or disease, but that’s probably because she wasn’t infected.”
“Of course she was, we both saw her,” Theo countered. “Suarta, maybe you should get some rest. It’s been a long couple of days.”
“Theo, I’m tired, but not that tired. Let’s think about what happened before you go back in there. A trauma patient has a hard time remembering facts about what happened to them right before said event occurred, but they can vividly remember the emotion they were experiencing in those last moments. Let’s add that to what we know about newly turned vampires. Once they are turned, their emotions and prior personalities are amplified by the change in hormones, DNA, their abilities.”
Suarta looked to him and Theo gave her the benefit of the doubt. Her logic made sense thus far, so he sought to improve the equation she was producing.
“So she was a victim of murder. Her heart rate would be through the roof, her fight or flight instinct building, her brother in peril the last thing she witnesses before her human demise. These things collected in her brain before she loses consciousness. Do we know yet if her sire was diseased?” Theo asked.
Suarta shook her head. We weren’t able to collect a good sample from his remaining tissue. Not yet, they took pictures of identifying characteristics on every body and a matching tissue sample. We won’t get that material for a while yet. There was a lot to sort through in such short a time and they had us under lock and key.”
Theo couldn’t wait until they had their clinic up and running. Proper technology to advance their research and help the best they could. They needed to make the Royal’s aware of what they had been fighting this whole time. Feral was a word thrown around, but did the vampires truly know how the condition came to be? The disease that they all carried, but lay dormant until a number of things occurred?
After talking with Nina and a few of the others, the doctors decided to wait until they could properly explain all their findings. Maybe a seminar could be arranged, because what was coming—if they were correct—was not good at all. The more prepared, the better.
“But we have to assume if he was one of Nigel’s if not Nigel himself and that her sire had elevated levels of testosterone and the feral toxin running through them. All of his men were groomed to bring out the disease. That’s why all his turns are automatically attuned to violence and bloodlust, because it is part of their birth,” Theo argued.
“Not necessarily, high levels of adrenaline can combat the testosterone in a vampire. Her aggressive nature was geared with the sole purpose of retribution to right a wrong. Her body was only trying to combat the hunger she didn’t understand by finding her brother. He was the last thing she remembered besides the anger she felt towards Nigel and his men. Hate can make a woman do crazy things.”
“That isn’t scientific Suarta, it’s just circumstantial, and something I’d advise you not to put stock in.”
“I think I might have to on this one, Theo because there is no way—scientific or not—that the woman in that room is feral.” Suarta shook her head with a laugh. “It’s a miracle that you have to see for yourself.”
“So she’s made some progress. It’s not like she could be magically cured, Suarta. I know the situation is terrible and we all wish that we could play God, but there comes a point when you have make yourself realize the reality of it all. Good doesn’t always prevail. ” Theo raised a brow looking down at their makeshift files on Jessica Walker.
“Progress might be a bit of an understatement. As for playing God, Theo, I would never even think to compare myself. In this case though, I think he might have just done his own handiwork, because I don’t have any other explanation.” Suarta led him to the door and opened it. “Frank, it’s just Dr. Najihm again and I have Dr. Jones with me.”
“Come in,” a gravelly voice called back.
Entering the white room, the pungent smell of disinfectant greeted Theo. “Frank.” He nodded at the man in the chair. A bandage wrapped around his neck and arms where Jess had gotten carried away, but the guy couldn’t look happier. It was like entering the twilight zone. Then again, mates were still something Theo couldn’t quite understand. He was scientific in his reasoning, fate was just a myth in his eyes. He couldn’t look at the fixated half smile on Frank’s face any longer and turned to the twin sized cot bolted to the floor.
Sitting up on the bed, her blonde hair freshly cleaned, and a set of white yoga pants with a matching top covering her blood-free body was Jessica Walker. Theo ran calculations of her slight movements from head to toe, trying to get a grip on what he was seeing. Her ankles were still chained to the bed, but she wasn’t in need of them. She wasn’t flailing or screaming, biting or assaulting. She sat perfectly still, only the air vent rustling her shimmering hair.
“Jessica?” Theo asked in shock, approaching the cot. He gasped and put a hand over his heart as bright green eyes turned to him.
“Yes?” She looked up at him with the most angelic face, but her sorrow was clear. This girl was about as feral as a new born kitten and this place was already starting to wear on him. Theo hoped he had enough doctor in him to go around, because he was about to get taken for one hell of a ride.TO BE CONTINUED......