It's been a while, but I bring gifts in the form a good playlist and a very LONG chapter. :D
Thanks so much for all the love during my health hiatus. I'm doing better now. Still limited to what I can do physically, groans, but I'm starting to work this nursemaid bit in my favor. Hint hint: Bf go get me cupcakes. Bf goes and gets cupcakes. *evil grin*
See what I did there? It's called sweet talking with a pouty face. It works wonders boys and girls. Lol. Moving along, you'll find this a bit more high energy than the usual slathering of drama-jam your used to. I needed a bit of cheering up and frankly, so did our vampires.
I hope you like it and thanks again for all the lovin.
DAN AND ROWE CH. 8 PLAYLIST
The Twelves - Works For Me
Neon Indian - Polish Girl
Santogold - The Keepers
Lykke Li -Little Bit (AutoErotique Bootleg Remix)
Phoenix - Too Young
Blackmill - Let It Be
Purity Ring - Lofticries
Radiohead - Talk Show Host
Stereophonics - Maybe Tomorrow
Lana Del Ray - Blue Jeans
Capital Cities - Safe and Sound
The Weepies - World Spins Madly On
Flight Facilities - Crave You (Adventure Club Dubstep Remix)
AWOLNATION - Sail
Sufjan Stevens - Chicago
Purity Ring - Obedear
Electric Guest - This Head I Hold
Grouplove - Tongue Tied
M83 - Reunion
Passion Pit - Take A Walk
Neon Trees - Lessons in Love (All Day, All Night) [feat. Kaskade]
Grimes - Genesis
Of Monsters and Men - Mountain Sound
Phantogram - You Are The Ocean
Friendly Fires - Jump In The Pool
Young Men Dead - The Black Angels
The Middle East - Blood
Starfucker - Rawnald Gregory Erickson The Second (Swear this is the title of the song LOL)
Lo-Fi-Fink - Want U
Appaloosa - The Day (We Fell In Love) [Acid Girls Wept Remix)
Acid Girls - Wake Up (feat. FrankMusik)
DIIV - Doused
Rill Rill - Sleigh Bells
Florence + The Machine - Only If for a Night
DAN AND ROWE CHAPTER 8
The night provided a cool tone to the room. Windows opened, letting in a gentle breeze. Thick drapes tied to the side so as not to catch on the candles near them. Flickering against the dark red walls of their private rooms, the little flames danced before Dan’s eyes. He had no idea what to expect, what was to happen soon.
Alright, he sighed, he did have some idea, but nothing compared to the truth of the actual event itself. Feeling like a nervous bride, Dan got off the perfectly made bed, and put his hands on his hips. Pacing over and over, he would stop occasionally to look at himself in the mirror. Would he look different, stronger maybe? He eyed the green of his irises as if to memorize them in human form.
How long would his fangs be, Dan touched his gums slowly. Would Rowe be able to control him, he turned around and leaned against the mirrored chest of drawers. Endless questions with round about answers. Nothing could calm him down. Not the smell of the light Jasmine oil on his skin, not the beautiful room and all the details Rowe had added to make this night as special as possible.
Dan suddenly felt as if he couldn’t breathe. The robe he wore felt too tight, somehow expanding to smother him, when in reality it fit just fine. Offending garment pooled onto the floor, he swept over to the window to wait for his mate. With all that was going on—as if anyone needed a reminder—Rowe had gone off to make sure they were not to be disturbed.
What would everyone think? Dan slid his hand down the edge of the curtain. Would his sister think he was crazy for wanting to be this way, for wanting to be with Rowe forever? Would she hate him for not talking with her first after all they had been through together? Dan shook his head, no she wouldn’t. Why, because as Rowe had told him only a little while ago. This was his life now. Jess would always be a part of it, but Dan controlled himself. The only one he needed to rely on in all things was his mate.
Rowe was going to be his husband for real. After tonight, they were going to share everything—thoughts, moods, life, love. The Blood Prince was to be his forever and always, together.
The door shut softly, but Dan jumped with a startled gasp. “I’m sorry. I’m just…”
Rowe took his time walking to Dan. “You’re nervous. I’d be shocked if you weren’t.” His palms slid over Dan’s bare shoulders, his eyes taking in the beauty of the man before him. “Take your time, love. If this isn’t what you really want, we don’t have to do this.”
Green eyes flicking up to Rowe, Dan narrowed his brows. “The hell we don’t. I promised you. I promised myself that I could do this. I love you, Rowe.”
“It’s not a matter of love, pet. I know you love me and I cannot apologize enough for making you feel guilty earlier, but this is death and birth all at the same time. Can you tell me honestly that you can handle more blood, more death, the feeling of letting go?” Rowe’s voice cracked. Thinking of Daniel’s heart stopping was excruciating.
“I can let go if you can.” Dan’s hands found Rowe’s—slipping fingers through fingers, holding on until his mate looked him in the eye.
In response, the prince pulled his fingers from Dan’s. Bent knees, he picked his mate up, legs wrapping around him as if they had belonged there all along. Seamlessly Rowe made for the bed, laying Dan out slowly—admiring the contours and shadows play along his mate’s naked torso.
“Last chance, my love. If you stay like you are one minute longer, I will have no choice, but to take you. My control only goes so far and you are divine.” Rowe leaned down, his tongue flicked over Dan’s craned neck—such a sweet patch of skin, such a sweet taste in his mouth.
Dan tried to relax, tried to give in the tongue bathing his neck tenderly, but knowing he was going to die tonight halted his pleasure. Sensing his mate’s reluctance, Rowe took a deep breath and rose onto his knees.
“I have an idea.” The prince shifted off the bed and went to the table along the wall. “It isn’t your usual blend of girly pop, but I know music calms me. Maybe some background noise will soothe your nerves a bit.”
On his elbows, Dan watched Rowe, a small smile at the gesture—the normalcy music provided him. “Couldn’t hurt I guess.”
The vampire sifted through his playlist until a slow, but powerful voice filled the silence—a sensual rock ballad for the love of his life. He turned to Dan then, his eyes hopeful. His beast wouldn’t last much longer. Together he and the creature inside needed to claim their mate fully. Turn Dan to love him forever, never without him or handing him over to a human death. Rowe pleaded with his eyes.
The music flowed over Dan and he lay back against the cool silk. This sanctuary Rowe had created around him washed over his skin. Dan took in the ambiance with his other senses. The smell of his own skin tempting him, a luscious petal scent breaching his nose with a deep inhale. The night air kissed his naked chest with each appreciative push of wind. If he listened closely enough, Dan could hear the fizzle and crack of candles near him, the mild warmth fighting with the breeze from the open windows.
He felt the bed dip, a new weight joining him. He kept his eyes closed, listening to Rowe shedding his clothes slowly as he done before. Although Dan knew the sound from memory, his heart rate picked up. The rush of blood in his body caused Dan to flush, the knowledge that his lover would take him soon making sweat bead around his neck, the small of his back. Fingers hooked into the lounge pants settled around his slender hips. A slow slip of fabric, combined with a gentle kiss to the dip where his leg met his hip, set Dan on fire.
Passion bloomed in his chest. This night would be a religious experience Dan would never forget. The temperature changed around his naked legs, his hardening length. Another soft kiss to inside his ankle, a torturous pace as his bottoms slipped over his toes—lost forever to the floor below.
“Tell me you’re sure.” Rowe’s hiss signified he was losing control—the command breathy through his fangs. The words slurred across Dan’s skin with a graze of sharpened tips.
The human shuddered uncontrollably. Rowe’s mouth tracing the inside of Dan’s spreading thighs. He wanted more, the pierce of those teeth in his skin. The pleasure only his mate could evoke from him.
“Take me, Rowe. I want nothing more than you, forever.” Hands slithered into Rowe’s longer hair. Dan loved the feel of his mate’s hair—silky yet thick, the color of snow between his fingers, and God, it smelled good.
Violet eyes darkened, the beast within the prince taking over at any moment. His irises swirled like a gateway to the lust behind them, the love made physical in his hands, his mouth. With his last gentle thought, Rowe pushed Dan’s legs apart fully, his tongue capturing his mate’s silken sac on his taste buds before swallowing it into his mouth.
This time, Dan gave over to the lips on his body. Nothing could describe the soft insides of Rowe’s tropical mouth. The slippery suction capturing his delicate groin with a purpose—to bring his back off the bed, begging breaths from his mouth. Satisfied with the moist state of his mate’s balls, Rowe dragged his tongue up Dan’s six inches, blazing a trail of heat for his lover to feel.
He traced the dip under the head of Dan’s cock with his tongue—such a tease, earning his mate’s cries for more. With a little fang, Rowe grazed his sharp teeth up over the bulbous head, across the slit slowly. A reaction that left Dan’s shoulders suspended in mid-air made Rowe grin. A sneak of tongue flicked over the leaking slit, gathering clear fluid on his tongue—spreading it down the shaft before Dan’s very eyes.
Having received oral many times in his life, Dan had never had it like this. The color of his cock was a hue of ready for action, his blood rushing in his ears with a pleasure he didn’t think possible. They hadn’t even got to the part where Rowe bit him and already Dan was ready to be consumed, filled—plunged into as if Rowe’s cock was the key to life itself.
The toothy grin the prince wore was lost when he sheathed Dan’s shaft into his mouth. His fangs were a little eager. One knick to the feather soft skin between his lips and Rowe tasted the blood on his tongue. Kicked in the mouth with the flavor that resonated over his taste buds, Rowe became hungry for more. Tongue cupping one side of Dan’s length, the prince sought to siphon every ounce of flavor from his mate. His suction increased. Dan’s reaction was to throw his head back with an alarm of passion—twisting, turning, tangle of his fingers in search of release.
The time came when Rowe couldn’t hold back. A growl erupted around the organ in his mouth. His eyes lost to the reality around him. Dan became the only thing that existed to the beast within. Fangs pierced into Dan’s cock momentarily, the blood flow swallowed greedily.
“Oh fuck!” Dan came unglued. Whether it was the fact that his body wasn’t ready yet or he had teeth embedded in his cock, Dan couldn’t release.
The prince came off Dan with a hiss. Powerful muscles clenched, abs chiseled by the gods themselves, blood slowly trailing down both sides of his mouth before a pink tongue cleaned it away.
“Mine!” Rowe roared with fists in the air. Two swirling orbs of violet targeted Dan like prey. “Mine,” he repeated before ripping his briefs down the middle, the remnants of fabric floated to the ground.
A swollen cock jutted into the air—warm, slick with sweat and fluid, ready to stake its claim. Dan wasn’t frightened in the least. He was too busy trying to find an emotion to describe the need he had for the body before him.
As if he were magnetized, Dan found his way to his knees. His hands planted to Rowe’s pectorals, nipples pebbled under his palms. His tongue slid past his lips to lick the skin between them. Salty yet the vampire’s irresistible flavor was present. A smack of cinnamon indulged across his flat pink tongue, swathing his entire mouth with the taste of home.
Hands enfolded over his shoulder blades, pressing him closer—his lips sealed over a nipple. Dan’s teeth bit down, a gentle tug of the bud in his mouth.
“Harder,” Rowe demanded.
His beast wanted those teeth in his flesh, to taste his blood and Dan didn’t fall short. Even blunt as his teeth were, he tasted the liquid between the break in skin—let it fill his mouth as he suckled for more. His arms found their way around Rowe’s torso, palms planted flat, but rough against his mate’s back. Nails driving home into the vampire’s flesh, Rowe closed his eyes. Tilting his head back to savor the pain, the ecstasy, Rowe needed more.
His hands moved down, their bodies pressed together until he found the ass he craved in his palms. Dan gasped as the nipple slipped from his mouth, his body sliding up the prince’s chest. Grinding together, Rowe moved Dan up and down, marking him erotically with his sweat, his scent. Cock trapped between their chests, Dan put his face into Rowe’s neck with a slow moan. With every tortured ride up and down, the vampire made sure that his cock slid over Dan’s now exposed entrance—Rowe’s leaking fluid working a slick trail over his backside.
Splayed fingers through the back of his hair clenched, causing Dan to reveal his smooth neck to his mate. From shoulder to ear, the prince licked his mate before honing in on the spot he craved the most. No warning, no sweet nothing to his ears, Dan felt the teeth strike his skin. Fangs dug deeper until he felt Rowe’s hot breath whoosh over his body. Lips sealed over the wound, tongue lapping at the treasure Dan held.
He was lost, gone to this place. Rowe’s beast claimed his veins, drugging him with mindless pleasure. Every nerve struck up a chorus of passion within him. The sheets suddenly greeted Dan’s back. Rowe rubbed his cock in the haven of warmth between Dan’s ass cheeks, seeking the tight entrance he owned. Blood liquored his senses. He couldn’t think, he had to take from his mate, had to take him all.
The feeding was continuing past the point of return, Dan knew what Rowe was doing, but he didn’t care. He craved it with an unholy need. This bliss to continue was all he wanted.
“Fuck me.” Dan’s voice was deep, his hazy eyes staring down the strong line of Rowe’s back—that ass rolling into him below. Round cheeks, tanned skin, a kiss of sweat pooling in the small of his mate’s back.
Rowe didn’t move from the well of sweet nectar under his mouth, but his hand found his cock—wet and ready. His hips nudged Dan’s legs up forcefully—ass spread nice and tight. A swirl of his cock head around the heat of his mate’s entrance and Rowe pushed his thick member inside. Dan took it all. Let his vampire fill him with a cry of need. He didn’t let Rowe wait—not that he ever had—and meshed his hips up to meet his mate until skin met skin. Balls dragged along his tight body, driving Dan’s libido higher. Any part of Rowe touching him seemed to up the high in his brain.
Need more, Rowe growled, need him all—every fucking drop. Cradling Dan’s head, he continued to drain his mate of his life. His cock began to work in and out of the muscle underneath. He was a mess, fighting his humanity against the need inside. Rowe knew what he was doing in the back of his mind, the sane part. He was killing Dan slowly, with pleasure. Tears pricked his eyes despite the beast being in control. He wanted to say he loved his pet, tell him it would be alright.
The overwhelming grief welled in his chest while he pounded into Dan, listening to the sweet sounds of pleasure. He couldn’t seem to break the hold on Dan’s neck, his beast refusing to let go. To give Dan some sense of love, Rowe folded his body around his mate—pressing them tight, letting the human feel his compassion, his love for him, his heart.
The tears trailed down Dan’s skin, bringing his own emotions above the thick pleasure he rode. He could feel his limbs starting to go limp, the thud in his ears not as loud anymore replaced by an echo of his own whispered cries. More importantly, he felt Rowe surround him tightly. Dan knew what his mate was saying with his body, his thoughts in this moment loud and clear. Breath coming short, Dan whispered so softly he could barely hear himself.
Rowe made an anguished sound around the neck he was attached to. The tears rushed over his cheeks now as he killed Dan with every swallow. Even knowing Dan was in no pain and would die, knowing pleasure the likes he had never known, did nothing to dampen the heartache Rowe felt. He forced all his thoughts on Dan, flooding the human with nothing, but his love.
Dan felt a strange calm while he counted his breaths, the last few he would take as a human. He felt loved, he felt safe, drowsy when Rowe groaned against him. A smile permeated his lips—a hot rush of Rowe’s release filling him. One breath, two, he inhaled deeply with a shudder—his body giving off the last of his human seed. The last breath was the hardest. Giving over to the darkness encroaching on his vision gave him a moment of panic, but when Rowe finally lifted off Dan’s neck. He knew it was alright to leave.
Violet, tear stained eyes captured his. Rowe’s hand took his and pressed into his chest. “Goodnight, my love.”
Rowe, Dan thought before the darkness took his vision and his heart ceased to beat.
“Make it stop!” Rowe gripped his hair in his hands.
He couldn’t take the screaming. It was eating him alive. Knox tried to calm him down, tried to rub his shoulders, but Rowe couldn’t stay put. He was up, he was down. He was sitting, standing, pacing all over the place while Daniel kicked and screamed on the bed.
“How much longer?” He turned to his best friend with anguish.
Knox sighed. “I don’t know. It’s different for everyone, you know that.”
“Well I can’t do this. I can’t see him this way.” Rowe rushed to the bed only to be slapped in the face with a flailing limb. “I can’t even touch him! Maybe if I just…”
He went to pounce on Dan, to pin his limbs, but he ended up across the room, sliding down the wall with his pet’s new found strength.
“Holy fuck,” Knox breathed.
It had been seven hours and counting since Rowe gave Dan his blood. Ever since, it had been a non-stop scream-fest in their quarters. Knox’s head throbbed, he wasn’t sure he could handle anymore either. He was about to tie Dan down when a knock sounded at the door. He intercepted Rowe’s territorial mood by getting the door and opening it a crack. There stood Theo, the rest of their friends and family gathered in the hallway, waiting anxiously.
“I found it,” Theo stated plainly.
Knox raised a brow. “Found what? It’s not really a good time, Theo.” He glanced over his shoulder as the bedside lamp took a fall to the floor with a shatter.
“We used to sedate Nova when we took the spikes out for testing,” Theo said before he caught himself. Knox’s face turned dark, his upper lip rippled with a growl. “I’m sorry, but you had to know what this was for before I give it to him.”
“Give what to who?” Knox’s eyes swirled when Theo held up a packaged needle and a small bottle of liquid. “Rowe will shit bricks.”
“If he wants Dan to settle down he’ll understand!”
“Understand what!” Rowe practically ripped the door open, the joints groaning under the force. “Oh I will slice you open you wretched human!” He roared at the sight of the needle.
An arm shot out, barring him from ripping Theo in two. Knox looked at Rowe. “It will stop the screaming.”
Rowe’s nostrils flared, his eyes hinting at red. His fingers curled around the door frame. “You wish for me to stick my mate with some unknown substance that you concocted? What the bloody fuck do think I’ll say to that? Just guess!”
Cade stood in the hallway. “Rowe, I can’t stand him screaming any better than you can. If Theo can make it stop, let him.” Circles took up residence under the Guardian’s eyes. His mate beside him equally exhausted. “Let Dan sleep it off in peace. He won’t remember the pain this way.”
Despite his fear of the needle in Theo’s hand, Nova stood and faced Rowe. “It does not harm him. The doctors only used this method when I would not comply. It is merely to put him to sleep. I wish you would put him out of his misery, if only for a little while.” With a sigh, Nova disappeared around the corner as if he couldn’t look at the object any longer. George followed after him quickly.
“It’s just for a while, Rowe.” Knox dared a hand on Rowe’s arm. He could feel the power leaping off the prince’s skin, onto his own fingers.
“Please, Rowe.” Theo gulped when those violet eyes flashed on him.
The needle and sedative were snatched from his hands, the door slammed in his face, but Theo sighed in relief. In some small way, it was progress between them. Even if he still felt like the dirt beneath the vampires feet, Theo was allowed to do his job—to help where he could. He went to the last empty chair next to Jess and sat. Like an act of grace, Jessica Walker gently grabbed his hand and held on.
“I trust you,” she whispered. “Thank you, Theo.”
“Thank you,” he returned. The urge to cry at the small gesture was swallowed back. Along with the others, he waited.
Back in the room, Rowe had set the needle and the bottle on the table. His arms crossed, he paced back and forth—his eyes never leaving the objects. A loud sharp scream made him shiver in torture, stop to really think on what he should do.
Knox crossed the room and snatched the needle up, peeling back the wrapper before holding it up to the light.
“Doesn’t look like a weapon of mass destruction to me,” he commented. The tearing of sheets accompanied another set of screams behind him. “Fuck this. We’re not listening to him anymore. Look at you. You’re about to lose your shit completely. Besides, why wouldn’t you want his pain to go away? That makes you look stupid, not Theo.”
Knox poked the top of the bottle with the needle and drew the liquid up, filling the apparatus completely. Rowe stood frozen while Knox flicked the needle and let out a tiny bit of liquid at the top—making sure there wasn’t air lingering around.
“Give it to me.” Rowe held his hand out. Knox would not make him feel weak and he certainly wasn’t going to let his friend touch his mate. “Now.”
“Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” Knox asked, but he knew the other man had a handle on things. He just wanted to piss him off enough to actually go through with it. He handed over the needle with a mild shrug.
Like a charm, Rowe turned around, eyes narrowed. “Of course I know what I’m doing, Knoxtian! I’m going to stick my mate with a needle so he passes out while he turns into a vampire! Why? Did you come up with some secret instruction manual that I don’t know about? How to drug your mate and other vampire secrets,” he mocked, approaching the bed.
Knox waved him off. “Cute.”
“Oh my love, please calm down. I don’t want to hurt you,” Rowe cooed—the fluctuation in his temperament up and down where his mate was concerned. His heart pounded in his chest, the needle in hand waiting for the right moment to strike.
That moment came when Dan splayed all his limbs out on the bed, muscles clenched, teeth snapped together in agony. Needle raised, Rowe struck down into Dan’s thigh—draining the stick into his bloodstream until there was no more. Dan wailed, flailed, danced on the bed before he started to slow his movements—jerked a few more times. A relieved sigh left his lips and Dan went limp, angelic almost, against the sheets.
Mortified with the sudden changed, Rowe crawled onto the bed, ripped the needle from his mate’s leg and shook Dan. “Oh God, what have I done? Pet! Wake up, damn you.”
“For Christ sake, he’s out like a light, Rowen! Stop shaking him. He’s not going to wake up right now.” Knox pulled Rowe back, grabbing his chin in hand. “Sedative equals deep sleep. Get it?”
“Sleep,” Rowe repeated with a nod.
“He’s sleeping, not dead.” Knox stared his best friend down, making sure the prince understood and wasn’t about to have a meltdown.
A blink of his eyes and Rowe shook his head. “Uh right, sorry about that, just having a…”
“Interesting night?” Knox offered, letting his hand fall. “Yeah, why don’t you go clean up and get some sleep. Cuddle with him or some shit while he isn’t going all Banshee on us.”
“My mate is not a Banshee!” Rowe shoved Knox back, walking past him to the bathroom.
A deep chuckle from Knox, he crossed his arms watching over Dan. “You are so right, D. He’s the real diva.”
The sleeping form said nothing, but Knox laughed anyways. A muffled ‘I heard that’ sounded from the bathroom and Knox laughed louder.
“I’m out. Call me after the good stuff is over with.” Knox grabbed his cell before leaving the room.
Showered, his hair no longer sticking every which way, Rowe climbed into the bed beside Dan. He pulled his limp mate into his naked side, inhaling the clean scent he would never get enough of.
“Wake up, pet,” Rowe murmured against Dan’s hair. “I miss you.”
His fingers drummed over the desk, a murderous look on his face as the impatience began to build. Ghost waited for the call from J.J. He had to hear the tip one of the guys had gotten off the streets. Rowe had forbid him from dealing with Grant until after Dan’s turn was done, but J.J. was not under his rule. Fuck this he thought with a growl. Grant’s number looked back at him on his phone. Just dial, no one will know. What if they were too late? What if Grant was onto them, knew they knew about him.
He had to know where the kid was. He had to know where his…
“What am I going to do?” He threw his phone across the desk, knowing he wouldn’t go against Rowe’s wishes. The prince had enough of his own problems without Ghost creating a few more.
He whispered a plea of help to the ceiling, knowing he wouldn’t receive a reply. None of his questions were ever answered unless he found them himself. Relying on someone else when he could be out there hunting the streets was killing him. All Ghost needed was a name or a phone number and he could track that kid to Middle Earth if he had to.
Against the wall, his phone buzzed. Ghost’s hand shot out, gripped the phone, and took a deep breath before answering.
“Markos?” One word from his best friend and Ghost knew J.J.’s mood was serious. Shit was steadily flowing down the hill with no drain to let it go. Eventually they were going to be in over their heads.
“Lotty got something, someone to be more precise.” J.J. was cryptic, deciding on the other end what would be best to tell his friend.
“Just tell me already,” Ghost hissed.
“You don’t have to call Grant. We have him here.”
Ghost stood from his chair so fast, the rolling seat hit the wall with a smack across the office. “What?”
“One of Lotty’s guys gave us a building number up the street, said Uncle Grant and the kid lived there. The kid, his nephew, is always around, watching people, talking. Always has a recorder on him. He’s been watching us, Markos. The entire time, even before all this shit started. That kid knows all about the Cartel.
Lotty heard that and went snooping. Found the building, told a neighbor he needed to get an urgent message to Grant and our boys were in. When Grant came home, we were waiting for him.”
“I’m on my way,” Ghost growled.
“No, Markos. This is on our turf. Stay with your boys. We got this for now.”
“Your turf, what the fuck does that mean, Juan?”
“It means although I love you and you’ll always be a part of us, your loyalties are elsewhere now. They need you there and we got this here. Understand?”
“No, I don’t and I’ll be damned if you hold onto the only key I have at this point to finding that kid. You won’t keep him from me.”
J.J. sighed. “I’m not keeping him from you. I’m handling this while you take care of your people. That’s what being a leader means. I know you’ve followed me, followed the Cartel’s rule for so long that you don’t know how to stand apart, but things are different now. You are the leader now. You have duties, responsibilities—people beneath you that need you.”
“Why are you doing this?” Ghost found the chair behind him and sank into it.
“Because now is not the time for you to take off and abandon them for this kid. I know how you get—focused and lose interest in everything around you except your target. I know what he means to you, if the mating thing is true, I get it. Lotty is working Grant’s phone and I’m going to talk with him…nicely. We’ll find your kid, Markos. You stay put. Let me do this for you.”
Ghost’s grip on the chair was white knuckled. Although he was mad as hell, Juan was right. He didn’t have the luxury of taking off right now. He had no other choice, but to stay. “Do...do you know his name at least?”
“Ghost…” J.J. warned.
Before this ever happened, Ghost would have never thought to lower himself to begging, but now he wasn’t so above it. “Please,” he whispered hoarsely.
“Gabriel…the kid’s name is, Gabriel.” The line went dead and Ghost put his face in his hands, tears slipping through his fingers. Gabriel…
George quietly got up from his chair in the library when Knox appeared in the doorway. Nova was bent over the table, fully engrossed in an older text—his finger skimming over the words in awe. His long hair shimmered with the rich red highlights within his darker hair, a dim lamp silhouetting his large profile.
Knox crooked a finger at George, stepping into the hallway. Green eyes regarded the blue haired vamp kindly, a smile on George’s lips. “You two could not be more different.”
“Why you say that Georgie boy? You like my baby brother more than me?”
Knowing that was a trap in the making, George simply leaned against the wall. “I don’t think I’ll ever find another vampire that shares my love of books as much as Nova does.”
“Nice save, George. Uh, so…”
“He’s doing alright for the most part. Although I enjoy spending time with him, I think what he needs the most right now is you.”
“Me?” Knox slid his boot across the tile to distract from the emotions on his face. “He doesn’t need someone like me.”
“Someone like you?” George made a noise of disbelief. “Knox, I don’t think you understand how much that man needs you in his life. Everything he knew before he was taken is gone, completely different. He is thrust into our world, this day and age, with no one to hold onto except for you. You are his brother, by blood, by trust. You are what he knows, what is safe and the same as when he left. Tell me again he doesn’t need you.”
Knox turned around, his hands on his hips. He couldn’t look at George because Knox knew he was right. The passionate words did nothing to unwind the tight feeling that clenched his heart. Before he knew it, Knox was speaking, emotional word vomit that had been uncorked.
“I should have gone after him that night, should’ve tracked him down. You have no idea the guilt I carry where my brother is concerned.” Knox whipped around, his voice hushed, but anguished. “He was my little brother. I let him down, let him fall into the cruelest hands imaginable. Everything he has gone through is my fault. It should have been me. Not him.”
“Knox, you can’t blame yourself for this.” George grabbed Knox’s forearm in a blink. “That’s why you’ve been avoiding him isn’t it? You think he’ll eventually blame you for his slavery?”
“Why wouldn’t he?” Knox snatched his arm away.
“Because he knows there was nothing you could have done. He knows that if even the slightest opportunity had opened itself up, you would have been right there to save him. Nova loves you Knox whether you can find it in yourself to believe it. He’s asked about you all day. A million little questions that I have no answers for. He wants to know you again and if you want to help him, you know what to do.” George stepped aside, clearing the way to the library door. “Go talk to your brother, Knox. Stop thinking about the past and start building a future that he can thrive in.”
Spinning on his heel, George walked away from the library, leaving Knox staring at the opened door. He could leave, and Nova would never know, or he could do the right thing. Pondering never got him anywhere except into a deeper hole than he started with. Knowing his decision was already sealed. Knox took a deep breath and went into the library.
Nova was shoving his book aside, grabbing another to replace it. The more Knox studied his profile, the more he realized how tired his little brother looked, how alone he truly was. Drawn in by Nova, Knox slid into the seat across the table. He waited until Nova glanced up, a sincere smile from his brother.
“George tells me you prefer to be called Knox now.” He went back to his text, but he was still listening. Even as tortured as Nova was inside, he still kept a light-hearted front.
Playing along, Knox shrugged. “Rowe still calls me Knoxtian, and sometimes Maggie, but only when she’s angry with me.”
Nova grinned. “Why do I feel like she’s angry with you most of the time?”
“Probably because she is, I’m not her favorite.” Knox leaned back with a chuckle.
“She does seem to favor Cadence and Dan, but I can tell she loves you as well.” Nova flipped a page.
“Yeah, I guess. I’m not big on the warm and fuzzies she practically breathes.”
Nova glanced up, his forehead creased in confusion. “Warm and fuzzies?”
“Okay right, warm and fuzzies. You know heartfelt stuff, feelings that make you warm inside?”
“Hmm, are you referring to love?”
Fighting not to groan, Knox shook his head. “No. Say you see a…baby. They’re uh cute right?”
“Oh I know of this one!” Nova shifted excitedly. “Cute as in Little Prince is cute, correct?”
“Yes, how did you feel when you first saw Little Prince?” Knox was already uncomfortable, first babies and now puppies with ridiculous names? Describing the word cute on top of all that? No thanks.
“He was so soft and small. I immediately was rendered helpless by his charm and yes, I did feel a certain amount of warmth towards him. This feeling was your warm and fuzzies?”
“Yes.” Good grief. Was he going to have to explain every word for his brother? Knox hoped like hell that was not the case, but if it was, he would do it anyway. Nova was smiling, so all was good in the hood.
“Awe-some, I need to write this one down. It’s a bit more complicated than the others.” Nova searched around, flipping his books over until he produced a sheet of paper and an ink pen. “I love these. So much easier than what I was accustomed to, although this pen is not as nostalgic as a quill. I used to love writing letters. Do you do that here?”
Knox raised his brows at the word awesome and looked at the list of words Nova pulled out. He covered a chuckle. “I guess, but not many people write them anymore. We use e-mail or text to get messages to each other.”
“How does one e-mail?” The same eager look crossed Nova’s face, the one when Knox had said cute.
“Do you even know what a computer is?”
Nova stared at him blankly.
“Of course you don’t. My bad,” Knox said.
“Don’t be sorry, I will find myself acclimated in no time. How do you spell…com…pa...oh, will you repeat that?”
Knox had to laugh. Nova had no idea what e-mail or a computer were, but he knew ‘my bad’?
“Did I say something humorous? Did I tell a joke?” Nova’s eyes sparkled. He was completely ecstatic that he had made Knox laugh.
“Not a joke, but yeah it was funny. Come on. Let’s get you out of here for a while. The best way to learn is to do it, not read about it.” Knox went to Nova and pulled his chair back.
Getting up, Nova was about to burst into tears, but he didn’t let on to the fact. Knox was here, had sought him out to chill as King would say. He had never been happier in his whole life. The reading had been a distraction to take his mind off of the nightmare that had been most of his life. He knew Nigel was dead and he was now safe within the compound, but he was so lonely. He didn’t want to burden anyone with his unease and the library had become his haven. Now though, Knoxtian had come along. Maybe after all this time, they could share the bond they used to.
Knox held out his hand. “Coming?”
Accepting the hand offered, Nova stood. “Of course.”
Two hours later and Nova was flailing his controller around madly, a twist of licorice bouncing against his chin as he hopped from foot to foot.
“Let the controller move with you naturally. You don’t have to wave it around.” Knox was in tears laughing. He watched his brother trying to replicate the dance moves on the television via the game system. Holy shit was it hilarious.
The screen declared Nova a loser and he turned around with a pout. His licorice pulled from his mouth, he put the controller down. “I am no good at this. I have not used my body in such a manner for a very long time and find myself unable to continue.”
“Party pooper,” Knox teased. “Give it a rest, we’ll watch a movie.”
“Oh, no you don’t!” Chloe marched into the entertainment room, scooping up the remote for the flat screen, and planting her butt between the brothers. “Spring Valley Falls is on and it’s my turn.”
“I am not watching that soap opera crap,” Knox huffed.
“Then go away. Nova and I will watch.” She turned to the younger Montesego. “You’ll love it, don’t worry. Knox is being an asshole.”
Eyes wide, Nova leaned back to look at his brother. Chloe grabbed his chin and turned him back to her. “You don’t need his approval and yes, I just called him an asshole. He’s grumpy and needs to lighten up. My normal SVF partner is sulking downstairs and you are going to fill in. Sit back, enjoy. Got it?”
“Don’t argue with her. It gets you nowhere,” Knox grumbled, crossing his arms to show he was not enjoying himself.
“I will watch.” Nova nodded obediently. Chloe smiled sweetly and released his chin from her clutches.
“Good.” She hummed, flipping from the game to the satellite channels. “It’s the season premiere tonight. Ghost is gonna shit himself if Cassidy gets with Ron. We don’t want that because Ron is a home wrecker and Cassidy belongs with Eric. Following?”
Nova flicked his eyes to Knox who nodded his head. Say yes, he mouthed.
“Yes, I am following,” Nova almost shouted, nervous due to the stern female pressed into his side.
Chloe gasped. “See! You are excited. I told you, Knox.” She stuck her tongue out at the blue haired vampire.
“Yeah, Chloe. He’s thrilled,” Knox snarked.
“Shut up, shut up! It’s on.” Chloe stuck her hands out to both sides to silence anyone talking, her head leaned forward as the intro to the show began.
Nova was immediately sucked in. Images of strange hair and too much make-up, a catchy theme song and scenery made up of beautiful brick buildings with lots of greenery.
“Where is this place?” He murmured in wonder.
“Spring Valley Falls University,” Chloe whispered back, enthralled already. “Here it is.” She bounced a little in her seat.
A recap of last season complete with a cliffhanger of the wrong boy kissing someone else’s girl. The recap ended. The main character Cassidy was on the rooftop of her dorm with the bad boy Ron. Their lips disconnected from a heated kiss—a frown on his face as he looked up to see Eric snarl with rage from the stairway.
“He is very angry.” Nova leaned forward.
“Oh yeah, Ron just kissed his woman. He’s gonna get it. Come on, Eric,” she rooted quietly.
Then something changed as Eric pushed past Cassidy and grabbed Ron’s hair, crushing their lips together in a passionate kiss.
“What the fuck!” Chloe leapt from the couch with a squeal. “No way, no freaking way! Ghost is gonna die!”
Nova stood with her, grabbing Chloe’s forearm in excitement. “I thought the female was with him? What is happening? A secret love affair, were you aware of this?”
“Hell no,” she cried, grabbing his hand tight. The two of them stood there clutching each other as they watched Cassidy cover her mouth in shock, tear up then run away. The two males took their kiss to the ground, ignoring the retreating main character.
“Didn’t see that coming at all.” Chloe made a tiny squeak that turned into a crazed shout of joy.
“For the love of God you insane fan girl, you are not sucking him into this fluffy crap. Come on, Nova.” Knox stood, going for his brother, but Nova put up a finger—his eyes glued to the screen. “Nah bro. Not you too! First Ghost…”
“Shut up.” Chloe guided them back to the couch, stealing Knox’s bowl of candy from his empty seat and placed it between her and Nova.
“Hell with both of you.” Knox huffed his way to the door, so much for a night of bonding with Nova. At least he’d got a few hours in before the guy was stolen from him.
“Knoxtian,” Nova called softly, causing Knox to turn around. “Thank you for spending time with me. Shall I see you tomorrow as well?”
With a tug to his ever growing heartstrings, Knox grinned. “Yeah, see you tomorrow.”
Before he could get all messy eyed, Knox headed for the door, going back upstairs with a smile.
Even a deep sleep, Rowe could feel something moving on top of him. Not too heavy, just right, a body crawled onto his. Hands slowly moved over his arms, his chest, before nails dug into his sides. Rowe’s eyes shot open. Dan was straddling his waist, eyes closed, mouth open—new fangs descended with a flick of his tongue the pointy tips.
Nails moved to Rowe’s chest as he stayed still underneath—breathless as he eyed his mate in vampire form for the first time. Fingers dug into his pecs, Dan grinding into his cock below. The sheets slipped down over his pet’s slender thighs to reveal his muscles working hard against the prince.
“Pet?” Rowe whispered. His hand moved up to greet Dan’s face, but was pinned above his head in the blink of an eye.
A rugged growl rippled from the newly turned vampire’s throat. His nose scented Rowe’s neck before running his tongue over the warm skin before him. The prince’s head fell back, the always dominant one of the two, he let Dan have his way—whatever he wanted was his to take. Rowe didn’t have time to get emotional or weep for joy that Dan was here, breathing—heart beating in his chest. He couldn’t think past his own cock or the need boiling from his loins, his heart—in his blood.
“Take it pet. Feed from me,” Rowe growled, arching his back. His hips ground against his mate.
Not his self, Dan threw his head back—glittering gold curls bounced around his face before he sunk his fangs into the neck offered. Blood rushed into his mouth, the most glorious taste he had ever known. On the other end of the feeding, Rowe’s body exploded like shattering glass. Dan sucking his very life into his own body the most erotic feeling Rowe had ever known.
His right hand found Dan’s head, clutching his mate to his neck. The other gathered moisture off his tongue before slithering between Dan’s ass cheeks. He had to be inside, Rowe had to put this pleasure into action, to feel his release full circle—give Dan all he had. With every suck at his neck, Rowe’s chest heaved, a gasp every time he went to breathe. The pleasure was so much, he was overwhelmed by Dan’s bite.
Pull after pull, Dan felt strength entering his body. A buzz of adrenaline filled him before leveling out, the liquid on his tongue now merely to taste, to enjoy without the hunger forcing him to take. He felt fingers rub over his entrance and he pushed back against them. Deep down he knew who was underneath him. Even through the haze of his change, Dan craved only Rowe inside of him. Some humanity swam to the surface of his thoughts. Rowe’s pleasure loud in his head along with the love he felt for Dan, the joy that his mate was alive, the way he needed his mate.
Dan wanted more than anything to form the words to say he was alright, that he loved Rowe with all that he was. Those words didn’t come, but a growl of his own doing rumbled over Rowe’s neck, bouncing back at his lips—he knew Rowe could hear him in his head, feel his every thought. At some point his body knew he’d had enough. Dan’s fangs let go of the sweet spot he had created on his mate’s skin.
His head flung back, he latched onto Rowe’s hand and held it up while his other hand kept the cock at his ass straight in the air—impaling his self upon his mate. Dan shuddered, blood running down his chin while Rowe’s ass lifted off the bed. Bending to Dan’s will, Rowe’s body knew no bounds—his back arching until his feet planted flat on the mattress.
Dan grabbed Rowe’s waist, held him there now semi-standing. The cock inside him slammed home before the prince relaxed into the bed. Dan pulled his mate close again, that thick cock sliding back inside—he now controlled his mate, the bigger male now his to do with as he pleased—his new strength an afterthought to what he could do with it in this moment. Rowe’s hands pushed up above his head, a back bend with his body, his hips pressing forward with each rise and fall.
Falling onto his knees, Dan rode Rowe for all that he was worth. His tongue worked its way back to his mate’s neck. Hands held him close as he inhaled Rowe, memorized his scent. Blood rushing under his skin at dizzying pace, Dan shuddered—fangs sinking deep for a second time, marking his mate as his.
The shock of Dan’s second bite melted Rowe into the silky sheets, his eyes swirled bright, fangs descended and itching to feed. Exerting his own dominance, Rowe used what strength he had to flip his new vampire onto his back. He was sex on fire as he buried his cock inside his pet again. Dan growled, but that only turned Rowe on more. A lick of his fangs had him setting a new pace inside his pet—fast, hard. They were both vampires. There were no physical barriers between them. Dan could take it, Rowe could give it.
A high pitched keen sang from Dan before he wrapped himself around Rowe, taking what he was given—exposing his neck as he was picked off the bed and thrust into his mate’s lap.
“You did it,” Rowe choked. “You really fucking did it.” He sucked at Dan’s neck with joy.
Finally he let the reality of what and who he was doing sink in. Dan was a real vampire. The strength wrapped around his body proof, the fusion of their pleasure coursing through his head. He had to catch his breath every few seconds to get used to the shudders throughout his body. Dan’s bite over his tattoo still lingered at his neck. The spot sensitive to Rowe as fingers ran over his skin. Every detail became overwhelming until he couldn’t take it anymore.
Dan was in his head, begging for release—the climax building and building between them.
His head jerked forward, sweaty white blonde bangs matted to Dan’s forehead. Rowe’s lips covered his mates with a roar. The prince came hard inside his mate, piercing Dan’s bottom lip with his fangs to complete the exchange. Feeling Rowe go over the edge, Dan was swept along the current of his mate’s release. His cock drained between their chests, a sticky mess that felt like a full body exhale. For the first time, his eyes snapped open and with only a glimpse, Rowe was rewarded with irises that swirled the purest green he’d ever seen. Dan made a small noise as his eyes shut with sleep.
“So beautiful,” Rowe whispered, planting a kiss on his pet’s cheek before pulling him close. A few more hours and Dan would awake to the world for good this time.
The newly renovated conference room in the compound’s mansion easily sat thirty, but only one small portion of the table was needed this night. Knox and Ghost sat down with King and one side. On the other sat Cade, Micah, and Blaze.
“I’m not quite sure why you’re in here.” Yuri pointed to Blaze. “But after you hear this, you are forbidden to leave the premises until your background has been checked into.”
“You think I’m some spy,” Blaze growled, rising from his chair. “I’ll have you know my parents were of Royal blood.”
Yuri was in his face in a second. “That means shit to me until you’ve been proven innocent, I don’t fucking care what you call yourself. Sit down, shut the fuck up, and if I tell you to jump, you do.”
“Blaze, dude…” Knox waved him back into a seat with a yawn. “Yuri’s tired. Don’t let him rile you up.”
“I am not tired!” Yuri smacked a fist on the table.
“Oh yeah? Why don’t we add hungry to that list too? When’s the last time you saw Katrina?” Micah, ever the peaceful one, laid a hand on Yuri’s arm.
“Two days,” Yuri grumbled, slipping his arm free. “Doesn’t change anything where you’re concerned. You leave and I’ll find you, flame, flare, fireplace...whatever the fuck your name is.”
Blaze rolled his eyes. “There are enough shiny dangerous things in the basement to keep me busy for a while. A mere prisoner such as myself,” he mocked with a hand to his chest.
“Don’t you forget it, matchstick.” Yuri booted up the flat screen and dimmed the lights a bit. “Moving on to more important things, J.J. forwarded this bit of gold to us a little while ago.”
“What are you talking about?” Ghost checked his phone. Juan had sent something to Yuri instead of him? Was his best friend really going to play like this?
Yuri shot him a strange look. He didn’t know yet about…Gabriel. “I’m talking about a video, hence the reason I turned on the flat screen. You good, Ghost?”
Everyone at the table looked around, anywhere, but at the male whose fingers gripped his chair to keep from ripping out Yuri’s throat. “Of course, why wouldn’t I be?”
Glancing around, he saw the eyeballing looks from the others, and cleared his throat. Apparently this was a subject that wasn’t open for discussion. With a turn he grabbed the remote. “Never mind, my mistake.”
A collective sigh of relief caused Ghost to whip his head around. The males gathered smiled sweetly. Ghost frowned, slinking back into his seat. His eyes ready for the video, which was more important than whatever the fuck had just happened behind his back.
“Rowe and Nina are unaware of this right now and due to recent circumstances, let’s keep it that way for the moment.” Yuri shot a look full of thick narrowed brows around the table.
“We hear you. Press play already, damn it,” Ghost growled. His man of few words personality was slipping rapidly.
“Fucking touchy…” Yuri muttered, pressing play.
A black and white video feed, a little fuzzy, took up the television. J.J. sat across from a decent sized male in an impeccable suit. That’s where the confidence stopped. The male’s body read nervous like a book. His eyes darted around. His foot tapped away off to the side of the table.
“Hold up, Yuri.” Knox stood, leaning in to see the picture better. “I know him.”
Yuri put the remote down after hitting pause. “How could you know this guy? This is that kid’s uncle, worked for Nigel. Grant something.”
“No, I know him. I’m sure of it.” Knox shook his head and walked to the screen. “He’s different, it’s probably been a while, but we’ve crossed paths before. His name isn’t Grant.”
“Who is he, Knox?” Ghost joined him at the screen with a snarl. “Think.” Without a thought, Ghost touched the television. His breath left him.
“Ghost?” Knox frowned. “Dude, Ghost!” He shook his friend, but Ghost’s eyes glazed over.
“Shit, he’s seeing something. Don’t touch him.” Cade jumped up, pulling Knox back. The males watched the Latin’s fingers splay over the television, his mouth open a little.
Ghost was sucked into another time, someone else’s point of view. Whispers of his ancestors greeted him before he was thrust into a scene straight out of a movie. Hundreds of years before Ghost’s time, wet cobblestone slapped under his knee high boots. The rain drizzled from above and ran down sharply angled roofs that were jammed together, sandwiched homes and shops that braved the night. A corner establishment was up ahead. Lights welcomed him from the old lattice style windows. A drunk passed out in his own filth slumped underneath the nearest sill.
The second the wooden door pushed open from the inside, Ghost was bathed in the sound of three dozen men—cups clinking, rowdy banter, a man thrown into a wall on the far side. A few females were scatter in darkened corners, servicing men for a few coins in their purse. The barkeep caught his eye. A dirty man with a long gray ponytail jerked his head to the back.
Not in charge of his own movements, Ghost simply watched the memory play out. Pushing a thick curtain out of the way, down a long twisting hall, he came to the last door available. He knocked, the door slipped open for him.
The man from J.J.’s video stood there—long dark hair, light brown eyes, a black coat that hung to his knees.
“My Lord Isaac,” the man known as Grant greeted him with a bow at the waist.
“Grenier.” Isaac nodded.
“It is good to see you, Guardian,” a sultry female voice came from the corner. Yards of blood red silk dripped from the bed, a black lace corset wrapped around her slender waist—long black hair falling over flawless golden skin.
“Good evening, Ofira.” Isaac made no move to greet her with a kiss to her spoiled, jewel-covered fingers. He simply sat at the barren table across from Grenier, placing his hat in his lap.
Ofira swept the train of her dress up in her arm with offense. Sliding into the other seat, she pursed her lips like a woman scorned.
“Have you an idea of why I summoned you here?” Isaac looked between them. He ignored Ofira’s open display of disrespect to her superior. In court, she would have been taught a lesson, but here, he was trying to save their lives.
Grenier sighed, flicking his eyes to his sister for help, but ever the selfish one, Ofira looked away.
Grenier looked at Isacc. “It was only one time, Isaac. I give you my word it will never happen again.”
“Consorting with the enemy, for any purpose other than killing them, is forbidden. Both of you have been noted in the company of such persons more than once, Grenier. Power and money are tempting. Both of these things you can find amongst your own people, but you so chose to live on the edge of right and wrong.”
Ofira scoffed. “What are you getting at, Isaac? Are you calling us liars?”
“I am calling you suspect.”
Grenier pushed his chair back. “I am no enemy to my own people. I went to fetch, Ofira! She was bedding one their kind! Was I to leave my own sister to rot away in their hands, mindless to anything else, but his body?”
“Is this true, Ofira?” Isaac calmly folded his hands on the table.
The dark haired beauty flitted around nervously, using her most sugary tone. “I didn’t know he was with them, my lord. It was only once.”
“Lies! You knew he was with Thomas and yet you bedded him again. What if you find yourself with child, the enemy’s child, Ofira!”
“The second time wasn’t like that! He said he loved me,” she cried.
Isaac stood, hands on the table. “Sit down now. I will not tell you again.”
The brother and sister sat slowly in their seats before Isaac spoke again. “You are to report to your queen before sunrise. If you do not show face in front of your majesty, you will both be declared enemy among us—hunted like the others, no mercy upon you. Do you hear my words clearly, Grenier?”
“Yes, my lord.”
“Sunrise, Ofira. No later,” Isaac said to the elegant woman with her nose turned up in the air.
“I heard you, my lord,” she sneered.
“Since your tongue and disrespect bother me to the point of violence, Ofira. There is nothing more to say here.” Isaac rose, placing his hat back on his head. “I hope to see you both tomorrow, even if I know it was you that chose this path, Ofira. Have a pleasant evening.”
“You as well, my lord.” Grenier was quick to open the door, polite and polished as always.
Isaac leaned in, hushed voice, and whispered, “If she does not come at sunrise, my boy, she does not deserve to be called family. Save yourself if she is already doomed. There is a future ahead of you.”
Grenier shuddered against him. With a flick of his hat, Isaac left.
Ghost felt the pull back into his own body. The whispers lingered for a few seconds. He gasped when his eyes opened to see he was back in the conference room, his brother’s faces concerned around him.
“Grenier,” he rasped. “His name isn’t Grant. It’s Grenier.”
“I knew I’d seen him before.” Knox looked back at the screen. “What did you see?”
“Isaac, Cade’s father, visited Grenier in this old bar. He told him and his sister that they’d been seen with the enemy and if they didn’t report to Nina, they’d be considered one of Thomas’s from now on.” Ghost found his chair. “To me, the most important part of the memory wasn’t that they were enemies, but that Isaac believed Grenier was innocent. He told him at the end to leave Ofira behind. Isaac knew she was the bad one.”
“Ofira,” Yuri growled. “Now there’s a name I know.”
“You know her too?” Knox asked the Russian who nodded.
“She had an affair with my little brother after the last war, got him mixed up with the enemy for a second before we pulled him out. He wanted to marry her, bring her home. He was completely convinced she was having his child…shit.” Yuri pressed play on the video again. “It can’t be. We called Yasha crazy. Said the child couldn’t possibly be his. He ran away and we never heard from him again.”
It was the most emotion any of the men had ever heard from Yuri. The drama had peaked to a new high—loose ends twining their way together, everything coming to light all at once. Could this kid be Yuri’s nephew and Ghost’s mate?
J.J. pushed a box of small tapes across the table on the screen. Grant, or rather Grenier, looked down with a sigh. “Want to tell me what this is?”
“They’re Gabe’s. He’s always recording everything, but I suppose it’s my fault he’s like that.” Grant rubbed his eyes. “He’s not a bad kid. He’s not even involved in any of this. It was my mistake to send him your way, to get inside. He doesn’t know any better.”
“We’ll see about that.” J.J. leaned back. “Why is a kid that isn’t involved, documenting the family’s everyday business?”
“I told him to.”
“You told him to?”
“Yes, for it was for me to give to Nigel. Ironically it kept him out trouble, taught him how to get by on his own. We weren’t very close, but I knew that the neighborhood knew who he was, that they would watch his back. It worked for the most part.”
“He didn’t work for Nigel directly?”
“Hell no! I might be a terrible role model for that kid, but I would never let him on the inside. He didn’t deserve that after his mother chose the dark side over him. He never had a choice in the matter. He grew up knowing only me. I kept it that way. Nigel had no clue Gabe existed.”
J.J. shrugged. “So you had him do your dirty work. Why not leave Nigel if you were so concerned about Gabriel? You could have made an easy getaway.”
“I had nowhere else to go! A long time ago, I made the mistake of trying to save my sister, but she was so deep in the enemy’s shit there was no coming back. My people, your queen, she declared me an enemy and from then on, I did what I had to do to survive. I had a chance to leave a few years after the last war. But I found out my sister was pregnant and I’d be damned if that kid grew up lost, hunted like me. You know what I mean?”
“You care for your nephew deeply. Why do you say you weren’t close?”
“Because we weren’t. I took care of his basic needs and that was it. He did his thing, I did mine. I wasn’t the parenting type. What does it matter how I was with, Gabe? Aren’t you here to get what you want about the new guy in town and kill me?”
“Perhaps I believe your story about the boy. We wouldn’t want one ours out there for the enemy to find right? Especially with all the knowledge he has about the families.”
Grant leaned forward. “Do you know where Gabe is?”
“No, but I intend to find him. One of ours is tied to him. Gabriel won’t be able to resist the pull for long from my understanding.”
“Pull? You mean you know Gabe’s…” Grant laughed like he’d lost his mind. “If Gabe is gone, he’ll stay that way. You’ve been looking for him already haven’t you?”
“Gabe knows that then. He’s on the run. Most likely he thinks you’re after him because he wanted info the other night, he won’t be back.” Grant put his hands in his face. “This is so fucked up. Between you, Gabe, and Thierry…it’s too much.”
“Thierry?” J.J. looked at the camera. The slight nod was to signal the person on the other end to start searching the name.
“I tried to tell Gabe to send the email to you. You would protect him if you knew he wasn’t a bad kid. But, now I’m actually scared for Gabe. Thierry is unlike any boss I’ve ever had. He’s going to bring it down J.J. He’s going to turn this city into hell on earth. The thing is, unlike Nigel, he’s not crazy—he’s smart.”
“This is Nigel’s replacement we’re talking about?”
“Yes, he and his mate Anton have taken over the Italians.”
“You’re seriously going to give it all up aren’t you? You would really tell me anything I wanted to know with honesty?”
“Yes. All I ask is to be protected under the Queen. Both of us if you can find him.”
J.J. smiled at the camera. “You’re protection is a possibility. I think you will find Gabriel already has protection.”
“A mate huh?” Grant let out a slow exhale.
“Oh yeah, a Guardian mate.”
“Holy shit,” Grant swore, his brown eyes staring into J.J.
“Yes well. That isn’t your concern at the moment. Now is your chance to prove to me you aren’t my enemy. Tell me everything…”
Grant swallowed. “The email is on my phone. It’s all there, Thierry’s plans, his meetings—everything.”
J.J. shook his head. “I want to hear it from you. There are details that a few pages of text can’t give me.”
For the next fifteen minutes the men in the conference listened close. Grant detailed the new plan for the lower dosage serum, the chaos it would cause, the meeting between the families, the distribution...everything.
Pressing pause, Yuri slowly put down the remote. “Ghost.”
“That kid…he’s yours, isn’t he?”
“Yes.” Ghost spun to look out the window.
The Russian nodded to himself before looking at the men gathered. “Anyone here have a problem with Ghost fetching the kid?” Yuri blocked Ghost’s view, his arms crossed. No one said a word. “Get out of here. Kid could be in China by now.”
“You serious?” The Latin got up from his chair, turned around and looked at his family.
Cade rubbed Micah’s arm. “No matter what’s going on, we would never ask you to give up your mate for us. Rowe is coming into his own. He’s realizing the world doesn’t revolve around him. He’s becoming a leader, caring for his people, thinking differently. You are his people, Ghost. You and that kid are meant to be together, even if he was messing with the wrong crowd, he’s yours. Rowe will understand.
None of us are safe right now. We may have a plan for the future. We may even solve a few problems, but this war Thomas started isn’t going to end if we make you stay here. If that was our mate out there, none of us would think twice. You aren’t a bad person for going after him, Ghost.”
King grabbed Ghost’s hand, a serious look on his face. “You go get him and bring him back. We’ll leave the light on for ya.”
King cracked up and everyone chuckled, despite the looming dread the video had presented.
“I’ll stick around in your place. I know we aren’t friends or anything, but…well yeah,” Blaze offered.
“No one said you could leave anyways, fire starter” Yuri growled.
“Fuck off you dictator,” Blaze spat.
“Hey.” Ghost held up his hands. “The gesture is good enough.”
He nodded at Blaze before addressing Cade. “You’re sure?”
“Positive. Go, we’ll call you if we need you.”
“I don’t know what to say.” Ghost ran a hand through his hair.
“Say I’m not a girly bitch and go pack your shit.” Knox shrugged.
Ghost truly smiled for the first time that anyone could remember. “Sounds good.”
“Gentlemen, thank you for coming.” Thierry smiled.
Around the table were three men. All of them surrounded by their bodyguards, more of their men filled the hallways, all the way down to the cars they arrived in. The leader of the Haitians, Vincent, was a tall, thin man with a little stubble covering his scalp. But scrawny as he may be, the man’s reputation put some vampires to shame. His eyes were full of suspicion as they eyed his competition.
The Jing Dragon Head, formerly the head of the Chinese Triad before coming to America, smiled cruelly at Vincent. Zian held his hand up, his gold ring with a jade dragon glinted in the light. His bride to be, Mai, handed him a glass with a slight bow before taking her place a few feet behind his chair. He turned to the man next to him.
The younger Japanese man cut his honey eyes to Thierry, a sharp nod with his head. “No one will know within my organization, I act alone. I will take my own cut on behalf of the Yukuza of New York City.”
“So formal, you are not Jing then?” Thierry’s smile turned wicked—three families, so much fun.
“Zian’s bride is my sister. We are Yukuza and my father is Wakagashira, first in line to take over once my grandfather, the Oyabun, passes. I will not see the head seat in my lifetime. My cousin was chosen before me. Therefore I must make my own path.”
Anton slinked his arm over Thierry’s shoulder casually. “And your path led you here?”
“I know what you offer. I am in the right place.” Shinobou folded his hands in his lap.
“The Jing, Yakuza, and the Haitians, all in one night my love. I am beginning to love this city.” Anton kissed Thierry’s neck.
The Haitian leader made a face at the sight of two men together in such a way. That face fell into a mask when Thierry turned his yellow eyes upon the leader. “If you are all in agreement, let me show you di product and we can get started.” The unsaid threat was given to Vincent in the form of narrowed eyes, the violence behind them more than capable.
Sleek injection molded cases were set on the table. In unison, the cases clicked open and smug smiles went around the room.
“I trust you will find di product as described. As for di other part of our arrangement, we shall set something up for next week, yes?” Thierry scanned the room. Nothing, but hungry eyes looked back at him. It was as if they were taking candy from a baby. A baby made of criminals that pushed billions in drugs every year.
Vincent eyed Zian with suspicion. “What if we don’t like the product?”
Zian narrowed his eyes back, his hand over the knife at his waist. “Yes, what if the product is not to our liking?”
Thierry tapped the table with his sharp nails, getting their attention again. “You will be refunded of course. No worries, gentlemen. I assure you, all parties will be satisfied.”
“You can’t assure us of anything.” Shinobou leaned forward. “You are brand new here. Don’t be so arrogant of your merchandise.”
Thierry leaned back. “You know what would be a shame, Shinobou? If your grandpapa found out a member of his secret organization was going behind his back, ruining his loyalties, betraying his own blood. What you tink he say about dat?”
Shinobou growled and Mai was quick to grip her brother’s shoulder. Maybe eighteen, her Japanese was light like air, but stern. It was obvious she didn’t want her future husband upset, much less her traitorous brother. Poor girl, Thierry sighed with secret delight. He loved a good soap opera.
The Yukuza traitor took in a deep breath, his face leaking no emotion. “You have made your point. But do not forget this is a trial basis only.”
“But of course,” Anton sang with a hand down Thierry’s jacket, his teasing eyes on Vincent with a smile.
A knock at the door turned all heads. One of Thierry’s men entered the room with a tablet in his hands. “All accounts have cleared, sir. There was a message for you also.”
“Very good.” He looked at the message sender and patted Anton’s thigh, so he would stand. “Gentlemen, I appreciate your time. We will be in touch.”
The unspoken get the fuck out was good enough for the men at the table. They stood with their respective parties and filed out. Mai lingered a little at the door. Her doe brown eyes regarded the dark skinned couple with concern, not for them, but for herself. Anton smiled, letting his fangs show. Mai gasped, her china doll face contorted in fear before Zian pushed her from the room.
“Next week,” the Jing Dragon Head repeated with his back to the vampires.
“See you then,” Anton cooed. A little wave of his fingers before the door shut with a smack. “Oo he’s feisty. I like, my love.”
“Your taste knows no end. How about you say tings like dat about your own mate?” Thierry pulled his jacket off, his shirt thrown onto the floor. Quickly he unzipped his pants and spread wide the fly to his slacks.
“Because you already know how much I crave you.” Anton sank to his knees between Thierry’s thighs.
“Tell me with your tongue, my sweet.” Thierry read the message on his tablet before placing a phone call. Anton looked up with a pout. “Keep going, cherished one. I have to take dis.”
Anton rolled his eyes, but sheathed the head of Thierry’s cock in his mouth. The yellow eyed vamp hissed with pleasure as his phone rang, his hand pushing Anton lower.
“Yes.” The phone was answered.
Thierry shifted back in his chair. “He is gone?”
“Yes.” The man took off his fedora, placing it next to him in the passenger seat-- large cobra head facing the back window from his bald skull.
The vampire sighed, pumping his hips into Anton’s mouth. “His home?”
“Clean. No furniture, no papers, not even a roll of toilet paper. The Cartel moved him out.”
“I knew he was keeping secrets. Have you tracked our little rat yet?”
“Grant is inside the Cartel house now,” the man confirmed.
“Stay where you are. If he comes outside, kill him.” Thierry ended the call and tossed his phone to the floor. “Where was I?”
Anton popped off Thierry’s cock. “You were going to stop with all this and take me right here.” Thierry’s mate stood, shucking off his button up before shimmying out of his slacks. Slowly he slipped to his hands and knees, his ass on display to Thierry with a lick of his lips. “Like this.”
“You know my love. I believe I like this city as well.” Thierry pounced on his mate with a laugh.
Downstairs, three separate families filed out of the elevators and into their vehicles—cases handcuffed to their leader’s wrists. As the vehicles drove into the night, the product went three separate directions. Another piece of the war in motion, spreading it’s infection across the city with no cure in sight.
Dan woke up to bubbles floating down his chest. Rowe’s hand squeezed the cloth out before wiping down Dan’s arm while they soaked in the tub. He stilled as his new sight took in the higher spectrum of color his vampire eyes allowed. Early evening light filtered through the cathedral windows of the bathroom, creating little flecks of rainbow against the walls.
The hand caressing his arm dropped into the water. Rowe leaned forward sensing a change in his mate. “Pet?”
Dan slowly turned around in Rowe’s lap. He could smell everything in the room as he inhaled the scent of cinnamon from his mate, a sharp yet clean aroma, the mild soap in the water. Rowe’s eyes wavered with emotion—Dan was so beautiful he couldn’t stand it, but he stayed still to allow his mate some time to get used to things. The green of Dan’s eyes was paranormal, a shade so bright they surely weren’t of this world. All his features were magnified. Sharper angles in his already angelic face, the color of his hair radiant like spun gold.
The muscles in Dan’s lean body moved with him, his new strength leaving him stunned and he hadn’t even used it yet. But it was there. He could feel it. A simple reach to cup Rowe’s face made Dan stare at his arm—the way it moved, the tendons and skin so fluid, effortless to him. The strangest part was how he wasn’t hungry for blood. Dan figured he’d be stark raving mad for it by now, but he wasn’t.
Not to say he didn’t want to taste Rowe on his tongue. Right now he just didn’t need it.
“Hi,” Dan whispered. He searched Rowe’s eyes for some sort of reaction.
The prince wrapped his hands around Dan. Instead of roaming his mate’s body, he pulled Dan close. Fitting the man’s head in the crook of his neck, Rowe held him.
“I don’t know what to say,” he finally said.
“Me either.” Dan smiled.
“Are you…I mean…”Rowe took a calming breath, his nerves all over the place. “Are you alright?”
“Am I alright?” Dan lifted his head. “Are you kidding?”
Rowe frowned. “No, I’m rather serious.”
“I feel like I could jump off a building and fly, Rowe.”
“Oh God, don’t say such things!” Rowe pulled Dan close again. “Do you know the kind of damage that would do to you?”
“I wasn’t really going to do it. It was just an expression.” Dan laughed. The sound was so freeing to his spirit. Knowing he was the same as Rowe, able to feel his mate’s heartbeat loud in his head—the actual fear made him laugh even harder.
“Who expresses they want to jump off a building? I would love to meet this insane individual and push them right off the roof. I could fly,” Rowe spat. “Absolutely ridiculous.” He scowled until he realized the joy he could feel clear as day in his chest, the laugh ringing in his ears.
“Absolutely ridiculous,” Dan mocked in his best British accent. “You are ridiculous.”
Rowe’s frown flipped into a brilliant smile. “You know, pet. You’re rather docile for someone who just woke up as a vampire. Are you sure you’re okay? No strange urges, hunger, or…”
Dan thought about it, did a checklist in his head. “Nope, then again I haven’t done much, other than talk to you that is. I don’t really know much about being a vampire yet. I do know though…” He leaned down, planting a soft kiss on Rowe’s lips. “…that I feel really, really good right now.”
“So strange,” Rowe murmured, licking his lips of Dan’s kiss. “I really figured a brat like you would be growling and stomping around by now.”
Dan reacted to Rowe’s deepened tone—his fangs sliding into his mouth, making him jump a little. He reached up and touched the ivory points in awe, flicking his eyes to Rowe.
“You like that do you?” Rowe smirked. “When I use my sexy voice?”
Dan smiled awkwardly—the fangs in his mouth making the simple gesture foreign to him. He smelled something equivalent to the best dryer sheet money could buy and he looked around. The scent was familiar, but right now he couldn’t place it.
“Oh my dearest pet, you won’t find what you’re looking for. It’s coming from you,” Rowe purred.
“Me?” Dan sniffed the air again. This time the clean mixed with cinnamon. He knew that smell. “And that’s you?” A growl came from his throat and he covered his mouth in shock.
Rowe tilted his head back with a hearty laugh. “Now you know how I feel! I sport wood about three quarters of my day when you’re around. But, bloody hell, Daniel…” The prince’s laugh turned serious. “It’s stronger now that you’re vampire. How will I ever get through the day?”
Dan blinked and he was already claiming Rowe’s mouth. His fangs nicked his mate’s tongue. A drop of blood licked away like candy. He growled, “I guess I’ll have to take care of you…regularly.”
“Mm, yes. I suppose you will. Can’t have good wood going to waste.” Rowe’s heated chuckle changed to a full-bodied moan when Dan grabbed his erection with his wet fingers. “I don’t know if I’ll get used to this. To you being…oh fuck, yes I can!”
Dan grinned, his fangs peeking out from under his lips. “No refunds.”
“Well fuck me, I lost the receipt. Bloody return policies,” Rowe whispered.
Dan’s eyes began to swirl. “Yeah, fuck returns.”
“No, I’ll fuck you.” Rowe pushed Dan back into the water, covering his body.
“Thank God, I was wondering when that part was coming.” Dan wrapped his legs around his mate with a teasing smile.
“You and your dirty mouth.”
“You love my mouth,” Dan laughed.
“And I love you.”
Dan shrugged. “Good to know.”
Rowe bit his lip, tickling Dan’s ribs until the smaller male squealed. “Say it back you little demon.”
“Fine! Fine, I love you too.”
On a sigh, Rowe smiled. “Forever.” His lips met Dan’s, the gentle banter lost to heated moans and sloshing water.
An hour later, Dan pressed play on his phone and smiled in the mirror. Loud dance music filled the large bathroom, his hips immediately moved to the fast beat. Hairbrush in hand, Dan lip synced as he bounced around the vanity, occasionally put the brush through his hair. He would stop with a laugh every so often to marvel at the perfect state of his ‘vampire curls’. No gel, no spray, the damn mop simply stayed as it should.
“Fuck you, Vidal Sasoon,” Dan boasted in the mirror. He set the brush down, blew his reflection a kiss, before going into Rowe’s closet. Scratch that, he grinned, his closet now too.
He grabbed the sleeve of the nearest shirt. Much larger than him, Dan knew it was Rowe’s. He smiled, inhaling his mate’s scent with glee. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been this happy. The fact that he’d gotten past the scary part of his turn, he focused on his future with Rowe. None of his past, whatever darkness had been leftover from his father and Nigel, could put a damper on the amazing mood he was in.
In nothing, but a pair of underwear, Dan turned to the other side of the closet. Maggie had mentioned he would find what he needed after his shower, but what he faced now was every little diva’s dream.
“No fucking way,” he shouted, clamping a hand over his mouth with a giggle.
He checked the open bathroom to make sure no one had come running. Coast all clear, Dan ran to the racks of clothes all in his size and hugged the mass of fabric with a delighted sigh. A princess in his own right, he fingered the designer labels. The grin on his face hurt his cheeks, but he didn’t mind.
Pulling down a Marc Jacobs sweater in a deep purple, he rubbed the soft cashmere against his face like a cat. If he could actually purr, Dan would’ve done so. Instead he slipped the garment on, twirling in his sweater and the underwear.
Minutes later, with jeans that hugged his ass in all the right places zipped up tight, he bit his lip, delighted at his reflection in the mirror. Another cabinet opened, rows of shoes dropped Dan’s jaw somewhere near the floor. Rowe’s boots and dress shoes next to his made Dan giggle. He was seriously about to enter shopper’s paradise. That or he was just really, really in love, with his husband.
“I have a husband,” Dan said to himself. Another bite to his lip with a squeal, and he dropped onto the small sofa in his new closet.
Rowe walked around the little table set up in his mother’s quarters. Three trays of rings stared back at him, two little girls mimicking his facial expressions seriously.
“Rowe, he’s going to wonder where you went eventually. Do you want him walking out of your quarters as a newly mated vampire? All alone, scared of the looks everyone will give him? There is a difference between discovering the wonders of your new self as a vampire and actually being a vampire around other vampires.” His mother sat up in bed. “Bring the trays here. I figured with your love of expensive things, the choice would be a no brainer.”
Rowe hissed over the thought of Dan walking around unaccompanied as beautiful as he was. His smell heightened, his beckoning eyes, other males walking the halls. “And I figured I had more time when I mentioned this to you before. It was only yesterday! I had no idea he would agree to the turn so suddenly.”
Emma huffed as the tray of glittering jewels was whisked away from her sticky little fingers. Hannah grabbed her hand, guiding them to the bed where the baubles were headed. Rowe joined them on the bed, avoiding Hill’s stare—his mother’s new mate still confused as to what was happening.
Nina patted her mate’s hand. “A wedding ring darling, for Daniel.”
“Ah.” Hill finally got with the program. He was spent as it was. Thinking for himself wasn’t in his schedule. There wasn’t room for anything, but eat, feed his mate, and sleep like the dead.
“Alright girls, pick one for Uncle Daniel and one for Uncle Rowe. They are matched in pairs, but if you see something you think fits better.” She tapped the girls on the nose. “You let us know.”
“You’re going to let the girls choose my wedding band.” Rowe gaped. The twins shot him matching looks and he held up his hands.
Emma put her finger on a thin, white gold band. The metal was interwoven with detail and a small emerald sat in the middle. “I think Uncle Dan would like this one.”
“Mm hmm,” Hannah confirmed. “He doesn’t like jewelry and this one is small.”
“What?” Rowe groaned. “I didn’t know that.”
“But it’s a wedding ring!” The shy one of the two assured him. “He’ll like this one. It looks like his eyes too.” Emma sighed.
“You don’t think he’ll want a diamond?” Rowe found himself actually listening to the girl’s advice, sliding onto his stomach between them.
Hannah giggled. “Diamonds are for girls, silly.”
“I have diamonds. See.” Rowe swept his hair back a little to show the first piercings in his ears.
Both girls broke into laughter. “Fine,” he grit. “If that is the band Uncle Dan will wear, which one would you choose for me?”
Emma and Hannah were back on the hunt. Both their hands landed on a darker band near the middle, a small line of emeralds shining in the light.
“This one!” They declared together.
“Fine choices, darlings. This one here…” Nina held the small band up to the light. “Belonged to a vampire in Ireland, her name was Morelle.”
“Was she a princess?” Hannah scooted under the Queen’s arm to hear the story.
“No, but she was as pretty as one and brave too. Her mate gave her this ring to symbolize his love before he went on the hunt for our enemy a long time ago.”
“Did he come back for her?” Emma took up residence under her other arm.
“Yes and they lived many years happily together until the enemy came to their castle and stormed the front gate. Morelle and her mate fought to protect their home and their family with honor. Although they were killed, they saved the others with their act of bravery.”
“She kicked some ass!” Hannah made a fist with a nod. That got Hill to chuckle.
Nina kissed her head with a smile. “Language darling.”
“It’s alright. Morelle was a heroine to our people, and in her memory, we kept the ring she cherished safe and sound. We keep all these jewels in memory of our loved ones. Only for a very special reason would we allow them out into the open, to be shared.”
“Uncle Dan is a very special reason.” Emma smiled at Nina.
“Yes,” Rowe said. “He is.”
“What about this one?” Hannah cupped her hands, the dark band carefully balanced within them.
“That one is a wonderful choice, fated even.” Nina smiled. “It belonged to my father. Rowe’s grandfather, the first Blood King.”
Rowe hadn’t even noticed, hadn’t even thought about the ring they had chosen for him. His heart skipped a beat knowing that the first leader of all the vampires would be with him always, on his ring finger to symbolize his bond with Daniel.
“Mother,” he whispered.
She turned away from him. “Oh don’t start to cry. If you get me going with these hormones, you’ll have nothing, but a mess on your hands.”
“Please don’t make her cry,” Hill pleaded with wide eyes. The Guardian looked exhausted to Rowe, his normal manly persona reduced to nothing more than a walking sippy cup. The image caused Rowe to smile.
“I wasn’t going to cry.” The prince raised his brows, hiding his true emotions. “I was going to say what a good choice the girls made. I am sure pet will be happy. I know I am.”
“Really?” Emma beamed up at him.
“Truly, little one.” He kissed her head, reaching over to give Hannah a peck of her own.
“Now you’ve done it!” Nina turned teary eyes on him. “Kissing little girls all heartfelt and what not. Oh come here you.” The pregnant queen squished her son to her. Hill put his hands up with a gasp.
“Don’t crush them. Fuck, I mean…you didn’t hear that. Stop this! No hugging!” He jumped up, pushing the two apart. “I said stop that, damn it! Shit, I didn’t say that either.” He eyed the girls.
They giggled. “Yes, you did.”
“Alright, shows over kids.” Nick the nurse came into the room. “Hannah, Emma, your parents are looking for you. It’s lunch time.”
“Score!” Hannah wiggled off the bed.
“Peanut butter,” Emma whispered, licking her lips and following her twin at a run out the door.
“Rowe, you too.” Nick checked the bag of fluid hanging above Nina’s bed.
Rowe grunted. “She won’t let go, you human general.”
“Baby, please. You’re going to get your heart rate up, get all stressed out. For the love of all that is holy let go.” Hill was almost in tears—the couple rather dramatic to Nina’s pregnancy.
“I want peanut butter too.” She wept to her mate, letting go of her son. “A big spoonful.”
“Is this normal behavior?” Rowe growled to the nurse who chuckled.
“She’s pregnant, not terminal. Peanut butter, dryer lint, mayonnaise with honey, I’ve seen it all.”
Rowe shuddered. “Disgusting.”
“You, scrub man! Get her some peanut butter!” Hill growled to Nick’s assistant creeping out the door.
“Uh…yes, yes, sir!” The skinny nurse ran from the room.
“I love you,” Nina cried into Hill’s shirt.
Rowe stared at his mother like she’d lost her mind. “I’m going to take these upstairs. Thanks for…yeah. I’ll be going now.”
“Make sure stick boy brings up the goods.” Hill held Nina tight, listening to her blow her nose in his shirt.
“I’ll let the guards know…about the peanut butter.” Rowe turned on his heel, eyes wide. What the ever loving hell is wrong with her, he shook his head.
“Don’t worry, Rowe. Next week she’ll be craving a turkey stuffed with marshmallow fluff, never a dull moment with a pregnant woman.” Nick patted him on the back.
“Marshmallow fluff?” He whispered to himself.
The door closed behind him, but not before he heard his mother moaning about turkey.
Rings in hand, Rowe went upstairs to greet his mate. Despite the craziness of his mother’s pregnancy, Rowe had never been more excited in his whole life.
Back in their quarters, Dan wandered around the bedroom. Finally he had time to explore, peek in drawers—find out Rowe’s dirty secrets. He’s a vampire, big freaking check, Dan smiled. Has a soft spot for slow music, check. Likes silk…a lot, check.
Out of curiosity, Dan pulled open a small drawer at the desk by the window. A few pages slipped to the floor, a small stack of them still nestled safely in the drawer. Picking one up from the ground, Dan began to read the top line.
I know we don’t get along, but there’s something you should know.
Dan put the page down as there was nothing else to read and picked up the next with confusion.
I’ve been such an asshole to you. I know you can’t forgive me for the things I’ve said, but I have to get this off my chest. I am writing this letter, because I’m not very good with talking about these things in person.
The page had definitely been crumpled and smoothed out a few times. Dan pulled the pile out of the desk, flipping to the next page, desperate for more.
You’re a dumbass and Dan hates you.
Covering a laugh, Dan reached for another. He didn’t even realize the tears running down his cheeks.
My dearest Daniel,
I have no words for how much I need you. Being without you, knowing you hate me, rips my heart into a thousand pieces. I wish every day for the right words to say to you, to make you mine. I…
The page fell to the ground as Dan felt Rowe in the doorway. Slowly he turned to his mate.
“You never wrote me a letter.” Dan held up the paper with a sniffle.
Rowe only smiled. That soft turn of his lips, the smile that was more in his eyes than anything. It made Dan’s heart flutter wildly in his chest.
“I sat up until morning the night that Thomas attacked the compound. I was so sure you were going to come to me, that maybe you were embarrassed to be public about how you felt, that you would come to me here.” Rowe’s smile grew wider. “But ever the diva, you were too stubborn to make the first move. I sat there, at that desk, and tried to write how I felt about you. Page after page nothing seemed good enough for you, my mate. I had never felt that way about anyone in my entire existence. Finally, I put the paper away, because I never needed it, Daniel. Maybe I had to help you along, and you with me as well, but the moment I said that I loved you to your face, you were mine.”
Slowly, Rowe got to his knee, and took Dan’s hand.
“What are you doing?” It took Dan a second before his eyes went wide. “Are you really going to…oh my God!”
“Hush, I will if you stop bouncing around.” Rowe rubbed Dan’s hand until he settled down. “Daniel Walker, my heart, will you marry me?”
A tiny white gold ring was held between the prince’s fingers. A glittering green stone winked in the light and Dan pounced on Rowe, taking him to the floor with a gasp. On his back, Rowe laughed, holding onto the ring so it didn’t fall to the ground.
The prince tried to sit up. “I take that as a yes?”
“Are you kidding!” Dan snatched the ring and put it on his finger as he straddled his mate. “It fits, holy shit. This is real. I didn’t think vampires did this, the rings and…”
Rowe put a hand over Dan’s mouth. “Two little birdies told me that all good husbands get their man a ring. They were rather persistent.”
“I would have been fine without it, but I always kind of wanted the whole shebang. No dress or doves or anything like that, but this…” Dan held his ringed hand to his chest with a smile. “I love this.”
“But pet?” Rowe sat up, holding Dan by the waist. “When a prince gets married, the whole shebang is required.”
“What are you saying?”
Rowe smirked. “I’m saying you better find a dress.”
Completely caught off guard, Dan started to cry.
“Pet? Okay, calm down. If you don’t want to have a wedding we don’t have to. Please don’t cry!” Rowe picked Dan up as he stood, suddenly understand Hill’s thoughts on crying earlier—it was heart wrenching when it was your mate. “I was kidding about the dress.”
“We’re getting married,” Dan sobbed.
Rowe looked down with confusion. “You don’t want a traditional wedding? The girls said you had always wanted one, a pretty glamorous affair from the sounds of it.”
“Of course I want to get married!” Dan slid out of Rowe’s arms.
“Then why are you crying love?”
Dan wiped his eyes. “I’m happy you asshole! You propose to me, tell me I get to have the wedding I’ve always wanted, and I’m not allowed to cry?”
Shaking his head, Rowe chuckled. “I don’t like it when you cry.”
“Get used to it,” Dan shot back, sniffling before looking back at his ring. His tears turned to laughs as he fell back onto the bed. “I can’t believe this.”
His mate on their bed holding his ring finger in the air made Rowe growl. “Believe it, pet. From now on, you’re mine.”
Something in Dan responded, Rowe’s lust sweeping through his brain like a powerful storm. His fangs slid down into his mouth, his scent filling the air for his mate. He shook his head to clear the haze a bit.
“I’m going to have to leave this room sometime. You’re not making it any easier,” Dan hissed. The sound of his voice surprised him, his vampire tendencies very, very new on his part.
Rowe threw the pillows onto the floor to slide onto the bed. “Fuck them all. You’re mine. Or didn’t you hear that part?”
“I swear you have two gears, bitchy and horny.” Dan’s tongue betrayed him by licking his lips as Rowe straddled him.
“Two peas in a pod, dearest,” Rowe growled. He brought his lips to Dan’s, his mate opening his mouth to receive his tongue. Mouths sealed together, they shared a nice, slow kiss.
Dan sighed when Rowe lifted his head. “I’m a vampire and I’m getting married. To a prince,” he whispered to himself with a grin. “You aren’t hiding Mariah Carey in the closet are you? I don’t think I can take much more.”
Rowe groaned, but his smile was radiant. “God, you ruin everything. It’s actually Madonna.”
“Shut up.” Dan slapped Rowe’s chest. “But if Madge is in there, she’s about to hear one hell of a show.”
“What?” The prince was pulled by his collar down to the bed. His laugh turned into a loud growl that could be heard all throughout the hallway as Dan claimed his mouth.
Another hour passed, another shower, another change of clothes that took Dan forever to pick out—as if it was the last outfit he would ever wear.
“Are you ready yet prima donna?” Rowe called to the bathroom. “Maggie has called twice already while you’ve been in there. Did you fall asleep or are you staring at your hair again?”
“These don’t even come out until the fall.” Dan marched out of the bathroom pointing at the black boots on his feet. “I saw them in a magazine, they’re expensive!”
Rowe looked around seriously, crooking his finger at Dan until his mate was standing right in front of him. “Don’t tell anyone, but Karl Lagerfeld lives somewhere between your jean rack and the shoe shelving. And if you say Tom Ford three times in the bathroom mirror with the lights off, he appears with a pair of jeans from the winter line.”
Dan slapped his mate upside the head. “You’re such a dick.” He turned, straightening his cardigan, and the shiny watch on his wrist.
Standing, Rowe laughed. “I am not a dick, I just happen to have one, and know how to use it.”
Explicit thoughts ran through Dan’s head, his mate no doubt touching himself if he turned around. “Rowen Gerard,” he warned without looking. “No more!”
Rowe’s phone beeped with yet another message. He groaned. “It’s Knox now. Oliver is here with the Angry Squirrel. Wait.” Rowe kept scrolling. “Appointments? I never scheduled any damned appointments.”
His mate’s irritation made Dan finally face Rowe. “What did you expect, Rowe? Your mom can’t handle anything right now. Knox is busy playing gopher with everyone like he always does, but he’ll never admit it. Cade is in charge of the guards, so he’s probably preparing them for what comes next. Micah is with Cade or taking care of Isaac, you remember, their child? Ghost, well I have no idea what the hell he does, but I’m sure it’s important too. King has his family and he’ll jump if you say jump, but don’t you think he deserves some time with Chloe and Nanette too?
All of them came after me, just like you did, and you’ve had me all to yourself for a few days. Why don’t we give them a break while the dust settles? I’ll help you with whatever you need, alright?”
Leaning against the bed post, Rowe stared at his mate. Not only was Dan beautiful, sensitive, and obnoxious in the best kind of way. Rowe’s mate was also level-headed when he couldn’t be, when he got flustered. His new role, or rather the role that had been his all along, but he hadn’t taken up until now, was going to be hard. With Dan by his side though? He could really do this.
Walking to Dan, Rowe held out his hand. “I’d like that.”
Hand in hand, the prince and his mate walked into the chaos outside their quarters. Heads held high, they passed the guards staring at Dan. They kept walking until they reached the double doors of the conference room. The doors opened by the guards to either side, Dan stepped ahead of Rowe.
A familiar man with tattoos and chin length curly hair turned to the side, revealing Jessica. With an anguished cry, the female jumped from her chair, startling her daughters, and rushed to her brother with a bruising hug.
“Danny, oh Danny,” she sobbed into his neck. “You’re okay.”
His hands found her long blonde hair, soothing his fingers through it to calm her. On the sidelines, Rowe watched with not one ounce of jealousy. His beast recognized Jessica as family, not some whack job whose hands were on his mate. Instead of intruding or thinking about foreign paws all over Dan, Rowe nodded to Frank before approaching Oliver and Tate.
The pair seemed to be in their own world, arguing as if no one else was present. Rowe smiled at the twins who were taking in the show, bits of peanut butter and jelly smeared their faces. Bite after bite of sandwich was mindlessly shoved into their mouths.
“Gentlemen,” Rowe said, only to receive a finger in his face from Tate.
“You promised me we were taking tonight off! Ever since we returned from France it’s been go, go, mother fucking go. I’m tired, damn it. Yes, I know you can keep calm, keep going, persevere all that jazz, but I can’t and I’m a part of this too. So unless you want to sleep on the couch tonight, you will cool your shit tonight!” Tate fumed where he stood. Oliver had promised they would spend some time together tonight and now the bastard had informed him they would be spending tonight on a conference call with the other managers.
“Lose the attitude,” Oliver growled. “We aren’t at home and you’re pissing me off.”
Tate breathed in sharply, crossed his arms, and narrowed his eyes. “What did you just say to me?”
“I said…” Oliver started, but caught Rowe shaking his head wildly—a silent don’t go there of sorts. “Nothing, drop it. This conversation is done. We have business to attend to.”
“And you can attend it without me. I’m getting a ride home.” Tate went to leave, but Oliver caught him by the arm. “Don’t touch me.”
“Alright boys, I think it’s best if we reschedule this meeting for tomorrow. I’ll call Maggie and have her find you somewhere to relax for a little bit.” Rowe couldn’t deal with the two of them throwing eye daggers at each other when they needed to talk about the future of his race. Nothing would get done and the two would most likely end up killing each other.
“Fine,” Tate hissed.
Oliver shook his head. “No, we need to get this done and over with. I have meetings all day tomorrow with the real estate people. We need to secure those buildings before they get snatched up.”
Tate dropped his arm to his side. He was mad, yes, but he had hoped Oliver would give in if only for a few hours just to have some time to themselves without assistants or secretaries or managers—just them. He stepped away from Oliver, looking at the ground.
“I’ll be outside,” he murmured. “All the information is on the tablet.”
Rowe scowled at Oliver. How could he be so cruel to his mate? Rowe could never fathom acting this way to Dan. Tate was so upset he had lost his anger and the prince knew all too well from his own experience with Dan, sad was worse than angry.
Once again looking at Rowe, Oliver sighed with a roll of his eyes. It wasn’t a sarcastic gesture, it was one of a man who was tired, but didn’t want to admit it. Rowe decided it within his right to take initiative in this situation. Human or not, Oliver was going to take a break.
“Oliver, this is how we’re going to proceed. We are going to take an hour, one hour, and you and Tate will share the brief version of the Second City plans. After that, you will reschedule your meeting with the leaders for next week.”
“But we have to…” Oliver tried.
“No, you don’t. I will call David and have him accompany you to your meeting with the real estate agents tomorrow, lighten the load a bit on your end. In this life Oliver, there is nothing more important than the safety and well-being of our mates. They are to be treasured above all else, loved, and cared for. Even human, you knew in your heart Tate belonged to you from the second you laid eyes on him. Fate doesn’t make mistakes, so let’s not piss her off. Understood?”
“If I don’t get this done soon we’ll be in trouble. I have a schedule and don’t tell me I don’t love him! He knows that. Shit, I tell him all the time.” Oliver turned away, rubbing his face with a groan. “I have responsibilities and if I fall behind, everything will go to shit. He chose me and I’ll be damned if I fuck this up. Isaac died because of these fuckers. I won’t have any more blood on my hands.”
“Is that what this is about?” Tate frowned, going to Oliver without hesitation. He turned the bigger male to face him. “Oliver, you can’t do this all on your own. Isaac chose you because he knew you could do this, but he never dictated you do it all alone. His death wasn’t your fault. No one here thinks that for a second.”
“I fucked up that meeting with Rutovsky. I should have known it was a trap to divert Isaac’s attention. If I hadn’t agreed to make that deal in the first place…” Oliver closed his eyes.
“If you hadn’t agreed to that deal, Oliver, from my understanding those girls would have been sold and most likely killed. We also wouldn’t have found out about Thomas was backing Alex in time. We wouldn’t have been able to pinpoint King or Ghost, to find them after the assassins tried to attack them.”
“What are you talking about?” Oliver rose above his self-pity with interest.
“Hill, King, Ghost, all of them were targeted because they were loose ends in Thomas’s plans. King was undercover with Alex. Ghost got away and he was involved with the Cartel. They wanted to make sure he didn’t talk. Hill was fresh home from duty, working security at the warehouse next door. He was the one who called the cops before King did, even tried to shoot at a few of the assassins.”
Oliver shook his head. “I didn’t know that. Do any of them know they were swiped?”
“What do you think?” Rowe raised a brow.
“They didn’t recognize me, so I wasn’t sure.”
Smiling, Rowe patted Oliver’s shoulder. “No, they don’t. For now, we have enough drama, so let’s keep it mum shall we? Oliver, we are all one person. Things happen, one action sets in motion events that are out of our control. In your case, your actions helped us immensely. Don’t fault yourself for being brave, for saving lives, for being an incredibly sound individual. We all need help, even me.”
Rowe looked at Dan who was whispering in the corner with his sister. He smiled, looking back at Oliver. “You are meant to do this, but you can’t do it all in one night. The Second City plans will take years to implement, not one week. Take time for yourself, to be with your loved ones. Find some balance before you drive yourself mad. Balance makes you a better male, not less of one.”
On a sigh, Oliver turned to Tate. “I’m sorry.”
“I know.” Tate wrapped his arms around Oliver’s waist. “I just miss you sometimes.”
Oliver cleared his throat of emotion. He would not sap up in front of the fucking Blood Prince. “Yeah, alright I get it. Let’s get this over with.”
Tate looked at Rowe. “He doesn’t do emotions in public. Well except for angry. You’ll have to forgive him.”
“Tate…” Oliver scowled.
The petite brunette chuckled. “See?”
Rowe laughed. “I do see. You two take a minute, get set-up, and I’ll be right back.”
Emma and Hannah were licking their fingers, shifting their eyes back and forth between the drama in one corner and the sob fest in the other. Frank crouched down between them, a grin on his face. He knew his girls all too well.
“Anything good over here?”
Emma shook her head, sharing a look with her sister.
“Uh huh, I see the wheels turning up here.” He rubbed their heads. “You better not be planning anything. I know how you two get.”
Hannah smiled sweetly. “We weren’t doing anything, honest.”
Frank chuckled. “Yeah sure, just don’t break anything alright?”
“Never, daddy,” Emma said.
A kiss to her forehead and Frank stood. “Be good.”
“Yes, daddy,” the twins sang. As soon as Frank turned his back they giggled and slipped under the table.
Over in the corner, Dan was mesmerized by the bond he felt with his sister. The ups and downs that they had been through, the love that they shared for each other, the closeness that would never die no matter what happened. He wasn’t sure if all vampire siblings could feel this strange connection or if it was only because he and Jess had relied on each other for so long, they knew how the other felt. But sitting across from her now, Dan could feel the tether between them clear as day.
“I thought you were dead.” He hugged her tight. “When Keith…”
Jess hissed softly in his ear. “I don’t want to talk about that. I’ll never forget that night, but I’m trying to.”
“Are you okay though? Seriously, Jess talk to me.” He leaned back to gage her emotions. Jess always tried to hide her feelings from him, thought he wasn’t strong enough to know the dirty truth, but he was no fool when it came to his sister.
She hung her head, an attempt to hide her eyes. “Like I said, I’m trying, Danny. That’s all I can do at this point. I have my girls back. Frank.” She peeked over her shoulder with a small smile at her mate. “We have a shot at this now. You know, like a real life, a family. Not to say it’s going to be easy now that were…”
“Vampires?” Dan offered.
“Yeah, but Danny?” She finally looked up—her eyes seeking something from her brother.
He smiled with a go ahead. “What is it?”
“I’m scared. What if I mess it all up and let the past creep back in? I pushed him away for so long because I didn’t want to drag him down. Frank, I’ve been such a bitch to him because honestly, he’s a great guy, a good father, and he doesn’t deserve my baggage.”
“You’re worried about, Frank?” Dan snorted. “Jess, you left him. Nightmares, baggage, and all, he never left you. He never had a girlfriend after you dumped him. He kept a steady job. Hell, he owns a bar and has for almost ten years. He paid child support when you never asked him to. He jumps up whenever you call. That man was always looking for a way back into your heart. I always went along with you when you called him sperm donor, rough and rowdy, but I knew from the get go Frank was your other half. You just needed to realize it to make it happen. I know this is going to sound fucked up, but the vampires wholeheartedly believe in fate right?”
“Yeah.” She nodded, watching Frank out of the corner of her eye.
Dan turned her chin to face him. “If Nigel hadn’t taken us that night and you hadn’t been turned.” He watched her eyes darken. “Honey, you would have never gone back to him. This, you and him, it would have never happened.”
Jess clamped her mouth tight to silence the growl forming at Nigel’s name. Or maybe it was the fact her little brother was completely right and she had wasted six years of her life pushing Frank away that made her angry. Six years she could have had him for support, to love, to help her with their daughters. Before she could be too angry with herself, Frank’s hands found her shoulders, and she closed her eyes at his touch.
“What’s good, D?” Frank’s deep voice made Dan grin.
“Oh you know, I got fangs and what not.” Dan winked and extended his hand to Frank.
Jess’s mate laughed. “I heard. You doing good with that? You know, being a princess?”
“I happen to like being a princess just fine, even got me a crown jewel.” Dan showed off his ring and Jess gasped.
“Holy shit, I didn’t even notice, oh my God Danny!” Her mood changed instantly. The moment Jess had always wanted for her brother surpassed her train of thought. Then she realized she had sworn in front her children and whipped around. “Don’t repeat that…girls?”
Her hand still holding Dan’s ringed one, she frowned. “Hannah? Emma?”
Rowe smirked at the table and pointed down. Oliver and Tate were seated at the other end, talking to each other when Tate started to rise from his chair. “Do you want some water before we start?”
“I’m good.” Oliver smiled.
As soon as Tate went to step away, he shrieked and fell to the floor. Two loud giggles came from under the table, followed by Hannah and Emma taking off for the door like two little bats out of hell.
“What the fuck! You two are in so much trouble!” Tate howled—his shoe tied to Oliver’s.
“Girls,” Frank commanded them to stop, but they kept running.
Jess was up in a flash, catching her two hellions before they made it for the stairs. “Not so fast. You two come with me.”
“Sorry mommy,” they replied in unison.
Jess put her hands on her hips. “Huh uh, you aren’t going to get off this time. You go apologize to Tate right now. After that it’s back to your room where you can’t stay and think about what you did.”
After an all too sweet apology from the twins, a good-bye and a promise to meet for dinner from Frank and Jess, and a few dirty looks from Tate, the four men were finally getting down to business.
Oliver shifted through his notes on the tablet. “The Brooklyn territory has offered up two safe houses and a clinic. From what I hear on their end, they’re more than happy to help in any way they can, apparently they’re flooded with runaways and young vamps with no idea on how to go about being a vampire in the first place.
After the last war, a lot of families moved away from their territories because it wasn’t safe to them. Now you have kids and broken families moving back because they hear about the Guardians and the new line of security we have going on. I guess suburbia wasn’t cutting it for them either. To think about moving out to a place where you had no community baffles me, but if the parents thought it was safe, they were going to do it anyways.”“I’m impressed with the amount of research you’ve put into this. Every point you’ve made is backed up to the fullest extent.” Rowe leaned back, putting an arm around Dan’s shoulders. “The only thing that
concerns me now is the schooling part. For lack of a better term, all vampire children are human. Are we prepared to let them go to a school of their choosing when we can’t be sure of their safety every day? If not, do we have the resources to instruct them privately? I can assure you this matter will be brought to your attention on a regular basis. The new generation is growing with the amount of Royals we have coming into the compound and the ones that are already here. Not to mention the other territories following suit. The safety of their children will be top priority.”
“That was my next point.” Oliver ran a hand through his hair. “The public schools in the area are already overcrowded and only a few of them hold a high academic record. I assumed a good education was a priority as well.”
“If you haven’t noticed, and I mean that with all due respect, our race is used to a certain lifestyle that exceeds that of most humans. So I would dare to say they would want the best for their children.”
“Why not go to public school?” Dan interjected. He had been taking in everything, absorbing the fluid conversation and making notes for later. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
Rowe ran a hand through Dan’s hair. “Your opinion means everything to me.”
Shaking off the tingle Rowe’s touch provided, Dan smiled. “What I mean is we can’t shelter the kids from everything. Why not integrate them with humans? How else will they learn to live around them, to acclimate themselves when they aren’t at home? Humans can be their friends too. Besides friendships, our kids can learn how to safely interact, what to do, what not to do. Just like any other kid. We shouldn’t limit them to their own kind. It would give them a complex, an unsaid heir that vampires are better than anyone else.”
“He’s right,” Tate agreed. “We don’t need a whole generation of snobs. Isn’t that the point of creating the Second City? To help, learn, and create a peaceful environment?”
Oliver nodded, ever the business man he got right to the point. “So no private vampire schooling, I’ll talk with David tomorrow and start scouting appropriate public schools or private human schools within each territory. Baby, will you make a note of that?”
Tate grinned with his eyes down. It was obvious he loved being of any help to Oliver and the small use of a pet name made the assistant blush.
Rowe cleared his throat. “Alright, five more minutes before we have to be off. We’re interviewing for two compound directors to help with family placement, the running around, supply orders. We need some order around here.”
“Sounds like you’ve really filled out your title.” Oliver approved with a nod of his head. “I think that’s all for now. If anything else comes up, I’ll email you.”
“Thank you both for your help. We couldn’t have done this without you.” Rowe stood, extending his hand to Tate then Oliver. “I believe you’ll find Maggie downstairs. I’ll have a guard escort you.”
After they left, Rowe took Dan down a hallway to the other side of the compound. “I thought the interviews were downstairs?” Dan looked at Rowe.
“They are.” Rowe pulled Dan into a darkened side hallway.
“Rowe, we’re going to be late.” Dan gasped as he was pressed into a wall, his hands held above his head.
“They can wait,” Rowe growled. His nose nuzzled into his mate’s neck. His tongue flicked across the skin. “You were brilliant back there, so fucking sexy.”
A growl ripped from Dan’s throat. His back arched his body into the larger body covering him. He pulled his hands from Rowe’s grasp. His leg wrapped around his mate’s thigh to get closer. “We don’t have time for this,” Dan reasoned, but was pushed harder into the wall.
“I’m making time. I don’t ever want you to think business is everything.” Finding Dan’s lips, Rowe slipped his tongue inside.
A moan echoed around Dan’s mouth. The love Rowe sent him through their bond shot straight to his groin—an electric tingle that lit him up inside. Even though his cock wanted more, Dan settled for a passionate kiss in a dark hallway with his mate. The fact that Rowe had sought to make time for them amidst their busy day made him glow.
Rowe ignored the first buzz in his back pocket to lick the roof of Dan’s mouth. He ignored the second to pull his mate to his chest and run his hands over the backside in his palms. He ignored the third because he loved to fuck with Knox to no end. On the fourth ring, Rowe settled his forehead against Dan’s with a smile.
“Back to work I suppose.” He kissed Dan softly.
“I guess,” Dan whispered.
“Thank you for doing this with me.” Rowe ran his fingers along Dan’s jaw. “I feel with you, I can be who they need.”
Dan looked down to hide his blush. “You gotta stop saying stuff like that if you want to get through the day that is.” He slipped out from underneath Rowe to adjust himself below. “And you’re welcome. I like helping you.”
Rowe didn’t miss Dan’s situation down under and with a lick of his lips he answered the phone that had yet to stop buzzing. “Calm down, Knoxtian. We’re on the way.”
Exactly six days later, Rowe stood in front of the doors leading out into the courtyard. Unbuttoning his top jacket button, he adjusted his tie, and took a deep breath. Knowing Dan was out there helped to calm his nerves a little, but the fact that he was about to address all the Royals in his true title for the first time ever, had him on the fritz.
Theo stood to his side, all his notes in hand. “Are you ready?”
“To go out there and give my people disturbing facts about ferals? No, Theo, I’m afraid not.” Rowe sighed. “Look, I’m sorry. I don’t mean to snap at you. I’ve never been very good at public speaking. It makes me nervous.”
Careful not to show his excitement over a simple apology, Theo shrugged. “Then we will wait until you feel up to it.”
“And keep those snots waiting? Are you out of your mind?” Rowe finally looked at the doctor.
“I haven’t exactly had the pleasure of meeting the other Royals. I’ve been busy, so I’ll take your word they’re not pleasant.”
“Ugh,” Rowe groaned. “I didn’t mean they’re all unpleasant. Sometimes they can be…”
“Judgmental? Irrational and a smidge over the top?” Theo smirked.
“I thought you said you didn’t meet any of the others.” Rowe furrowed his brows.
“No, I haven’t.” Theo turned his dark eyes on Rowe. “But I have met you.”
“Why you little ungrateful piece of…”
Theo pointed at Rowe with a raised brow. “Use that right there. Channel your anger for me into anger for those bastard assassins that forced my colleagues and me to harm your race. Those bastards that took lives from the families seated outside, those bastards that forced your people out of the comfort of life only to fear for their immortality and their children, themselves. Command their attention. Make them feel your outrage and I promise you they will listen to every word you have to say.
I don’t know much about your life beyond the physical realm, but I know you are one of them. You’ve lost people. You’ve been uprooted from what you know because of Thomas. Feel how they feel. Talk to them on a level that ensures they will understand the need to fight back and the need to accept you as their leader now. Don’t make promises, Rowe. Tell them what you know and I’ll back you up with science.”
Mystified at the courage it took for the doctor to speak so boldly, Rowe saw something in Theo that he hadn’t realized before. This man truly was on their side. Even as a human forced to do what he was about to do, Theo was adamant that every Royal understood and fought for what was theirs. He was here to stay and the presentation they had set up in the past seven days was astonishing.
Rowe stared at Theo. “Why are you doing this, helping us?”
The doctor smiled. “Because I once took an oath to do no harm and I broke that promise. Even if I was forced to do so, I will die to make it right again.”
Moved by Theo’s words, Rowe place a hand on the doctor’s shoulder. “Thank you.”
Theo would have responded, but the Guardians moved down the hallway towards them. Knox and Blaze led the entourage, Micah, King, and Cade behind him. Yuri lingered in the hallway on the phone, an arm around his mate.
Rowe frowned, craning his neck to look for Ghost. The man had been gone for what seemed like forever. Every time Rowe had gone to look for him, something seemed to distract him, or maybe the others were distracting him on purpose.
He narrowed his eyes. “That’s it. Where is he?”
Knox eyed the others. They knew who Rowe was referring to. “He’s busy.”
“Bullshit, where is he?” Rowe got right in King’s face. He always talked. This time would be no different. “I want an answer now.”
“He’s gone.” King looked at the others when they groaned. “What? He was going to find out sooner or later. I’m surprised he didn’t ask until now.”
“He’s about to go out there and talk to hundreds of vampires. What the fuck part of after the seminar did you not understand, bro?” Micah slapped King upside the head.
“Well where the blazing hell is he?” Rowe growled, His temperature was on the rise. His hands itched to be around Ghost’s throat.
Cade pushed his fellow warriors out of the way with a roll of his eyes. “It’s like this, Rowe. If you knew Dan was your mate before he did, he was out there in danger with all this war shit going on, would you just sit here and wait it out?”
“Of course I wouldn’t. Are you fucking with me?” Rowe’s eyes swirled a deep purple, his mood going sour. It was then, as he stared at the unmoving Original, that Rowe got the gist of what Cade was saying. His eyes lightened, his hands unclenched. “He went after the kid, didn’t he?”
“Yeah.” Cade nodded. “And we told him you would never get in his way. That if it was you, we’d let you go too, prince or no prince.”
Turning back to the door, Rowe seemed to stare through it. “Is he coming back? Or is he really gone?”
Knox smirked. “We agreed he would report back if he was needed. That he had until the summer to find Gabriel.”
“Gabriel?” Rowe whipped his head around.
“Yep, Ghost’s kid has a name. What do you know?” The blue haired vamp crossed his thick arms.
A guard cracked open the front door. “Your highness, they’re ready to begin. If you’re ready that is.”
“I’ll be right there.” Rowe held up a finger. “You lot, this is not the end of this conversation. Hiding important details from me, that’s some bullshit. I am your mother fucking prince!” He stood tall, letting his full form speak for itself. “If you’ll excuse me, you sorry excuse for trusted brethren, I have to go make a speech.”
In his tirade, Rowe pushed open the front door with a scowl, completely unprepared for the crowd that awaited him. “Theo…” he whispered, grabbing for the doctor wildly. His nerves peaked at the amount of eyes that shifted his way.
“Right here.” Theo took some of the pressure off Rowe by walking in front of him.
Hundreds of elegant vampires were seated in the courtyard—the only space big enough to accommodate such as crowd. All eyes were on Theo and as soon as Rowe began to walk, the crowd stood as one. Bows at the waist, a muttered your majesty, some sneers, accompanied Rowe while he made his way to the erected stage with a video screen backdrop.
The warrior entourage followed. Every one of them eyeing the crowd seriously, watching for any behavior they didn’t approve of. Their weapons were out in the open. Guns strapped to their belts, under their arm or knives across their chest, swords at their backs. In short, the men who vowed to protect Rowe were not fucking around. Anyone that decided this was the time to show their pompous ass would regret it dearly.
Rowe found Dan and he was able to breathe. Sitting next to Nina who had been allowed, more like had fought to come outside, and Hill, was his mate. It was in Dan’s eyes how much he admired the prince, how confident he was that Rowe could do this. The heated look from Dan fueled his inner fire and Rowe took his place behind the podium. Hundreds of eyes stared back.
The doctors along with their assistants took their places in the chairs behind Rowe while the warriors stood on the ground below. The video screen lit up with a correlated digital projector up front and it was show time. Theo took up post next to Rowe, a lap top ready with his notes.
“Good evening,” Rowe spoke into the mic. “You may be seated.”
The rustle of vampires sitting down made Rowe’s heart beat faster, but one look at Dan with a thumbs up calmed him. “I thank you all for coming tonight and I would like to recognize our visitors from the surrounding territories up front. Thank you all for taking time to be here so that you may educate your people upon your return. It is imperative that what transpires here tonight is spread among our race as quickly as possible.” Rowe nodded to the managers lining the front row. They nodded back in recognition.
“I would also ask that if any of you know of family or friends living in remote locations or perhaps vampires that you have not heard from in some time, that you get in contact with them after we are finished here and warn them of what is to come. That is the reason I have called you here tonight. To warn you all of the future ahead, to prepare you as any leader should.” Rowe took a deep breath. “What my father started, what Thomas carried out, and what Nigel could not deliver has developed into something none of could have imagined. Tonight, we learn of the new war upon us.”
Thirty minutes later, Rowe was gripping the podium like a southern preacher in a Baptist church, his voice calling out into the night as he roared for revenge. He had their attention now. His tale of Nigel and his kidnapped mate, the latest development on the serum front, the future of their very lives at stake. He told of Nova and what they had done to him, to Moira, Isaac’s mother, what they could do to any of his people. He now had a name via J.J. to go by, the latest boss in a long line of traitorous Royals—a name many would recognize by his father.
“Your majesty!” A female rose to her feet.
Rowe pointed his finger. “Speak.”
“Was not Thierry’s father, Kartos, the one that conquered the entire Carribean for…”
“My father and his followers? Yes, he is one in the same. Thierry and his mother went into hiding when the first Guardians and their men stormed Barbados and the surrounding islands. It was not a large battle, because most of the islands were not a big enough hub of activity for our kind. After the Guardians left, we were unable to locate Thierry and his mother Jauquin.
That said we know for sure that Thierry has relocated to the city to take over for Nigel. His mate Anton has accompanied him and I’m sure that name will surface memories for a few of you. Anton was one of the vampires that took down our Guardians during the last war. He is a rat—ruthless, mindless in his killing. He favors death over life.”
A male stood with a growl near the front of the crowd. “Then why do we not just go down there and kill him ourselves?”
“Because they have set roots in the city already. Our informant has given us invaluable information about their plans and what they have already set in motion. They have the backing of two powerful families and no doubt plan to turn the leaders as they did with the Italians. We are equally matched if a battle takes place. Not to mention would you expose yourself with such a public display in the city for all the humans to witness?”
The man shook his fists. “What is this plan?”
Rowe looked to Theo. “To answer this, I would like to introduce you to Dr. Theodore Jones and his colleague Dr. Suarta Nahjim.”
Getting up from her chair behind Rowe, Suarta took up post next to Theo at the podium with trembling fingers, but confident eyes. Two humans that created a death sentence in a vial in front of hundreds of vengeful vampires was a terrifying situation to Suarta. Ever a master at masking her feelings though, she took a deep breath and fired up the presentation.
“I am Dr. Theodore Jones and this is Dr. Suarta Nahjim. For over a decade, we have been part of a research group for…” Theo cleared his throat.
Suarta leaned in. “For the assassins.”
Roars of fury went up around the courtyard. Guards stepped in line to form a barrier around the throng of pissed off vamps.
Rowe grabbed the mic. “Sit down and listen! Anyone who steps out of bounds will be punished to the fullest!”
His voice along with his power crackled over the crowd. The prince’s eyes glowing upon his people. The courtyard grew still as the vampires stared at him with a shiver. They had never seen Rowen Gerard act this way or command them with such authority. Even as Rowe’s mate, Dan had the urge to run or hide—anything to not be on the receiving end of that kind of power.
He kept his feet planted to the ground. Nina’s hand on his knee helped to settle his nerves. Like a caress to his mind, Dan felt Rowe’s presence inside of him. When he looked back up to the stage, his mate was looking down at him with heated eyes. Dan nodded, trying not to let his fangs pierce his lips—that look excited him beyond words.
Still looking at Dan, Rowe put the mic to his lips. “I believe I said sit.” The crowd sat in their chairs with a final chorus of rustles.
Nina leaned over to her new son-in-law. “He’s rather good at this isn’t he? It’s all so exciting.”
“Finally he gets a chance to yell at people and not get in trouble for it.” Dan smiled back at her.
“Too true, darling.” Nina chuckled. “Thank you for helping him to realize his potential. I will forever be in debt to you, my son.”
The last words caused Dan to look at his queen with teary eyes. She waved at him. “If we are to sit through this entire, what do you call it, shebang did you say? You must keep those little tears to yourself. Once I start to cry, I fear I cannot stop.”
Hill leaned over. “If you make her cry you little shit, I’ll have your balls. Capisce?”
“Got it.” Dan sucked in a sharp breath. Hill was even scarier when completely exhausted. Man, he was glad he couldn’t get pregnant. He didn’t want to ever see Rowe like that.
On the podium, Rowe stepped back to allow Theo and Suarta the floor once more. The silence over the courtyard was almost eerie. Only the crickets could be heard as the sun set over the security wall.“I know it will take time for this to make any sense. Anger is a powerful emotion, one which humans and vampires alike have a hard time controlling. Most of you have had experience with the assassin clan and the memories tied to them are heartbreaking. The mere mention of their names causes you to feel violated all over again. For that, I apologize on behalf of all of us for causing you grief, no matter how minor it may be.” Theo stepped back from the podium to allow Suarta room.
She clicked the laptop and the projector brought up a picture of human blood under a microscope on one side and another type of blood on the other, vampire. “This is the first image we were ever given as researchers. This was the very first piece of evidence that deterred our very way of thinking as members of the scientific field. This was the very image that ripped our lives from us as doctors, life givers, families, and friends. Everything that we knew was gone. Thomas and Nigel took everything away from us as he did to you. What started out as a miraculous discovery among human researchers, quickly morphed into slavery.
This…” She pointed to the screen. “This changed everything!” Tears formed in her eyes at the memory of that night. “As humans, we’re made to believe vampires don’t exist. They are fantasy, bed-time goblins, or romantic sparkly wonders. They aren’t real.”
Theo rubbed her arm with a quick glance at the crowd. He too remembered everything about that night. His family was gone. Everything he had ever wanted ripped away because he had laid eyes on the picture in question.
“When we found out about your race, we were immediately terrified. We had no choice, but to survive. The wonder of your DNA came later, much, much later.” Theo took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes.
“I apologize.” Suarta gripped the podium once more. “This isn’t about us, it’s about saving you.”
“Behind us you will see the split image of two types of blood shown from the view of a microscope. The first is human. Notice the red blood cells are colorless viewed at this magnification, smaller, and singular among many. Now the vampire blood sample produces very different results. Under the same magnification, your red blood cells are in fact red, some even ringed with purple, but we will get to that in a minute. Suarta, if you would please.” Theo produced a laser pointer from his coat pocket.
Suarta cued up the GIF, causing the images on the screen to move. Theo pointed the laser at the screen. “Notice the human cells move freely and swiftly as they should? Now take a look at the vampire sample. It almost appears to be standing still does it not?” He turned back to the crowd to see them leaning forward in wonder.
A confident smile crept over Theo’s lips. Turning back to the screen, he motioned to Suarta. “Now we will magnify the cells and slow the rate of the video feed so you may see exactly how fast your blood moves.”
The vampire blood moved at a rapid rate, exceeding the speed of the humans even on a slower setting. “This is how you heal so rapidly. Your blood pumps through your body at a pace that allows for the tissue to clot quickly and the area to knit together at a wondrous speed.”
Suarta hit the next slide. A diagram of two blood cells appeared. On was red, one was red with a purple ring. “This,” she said. “Is where it becomes dangerous. The red blood cell is a healthy, normal vampire cell that makes up about ninety percent of your blood volume. The other beside it, the one with the purple ring, is a cell you all carry, a feral cell.”
Rowe looked at the screen with dread. He’d never had the opportunity to view what he was made of, what they all looked like on the inside. For a human to be preaching their insides to them was slightly unnerving, but at the same time he was glued to their every word. Theo, Suarta, and their team really were something. For all the hardship they had endured, made their guinea pigs endure in turn, this information was invaluable to them all.
The prince sat in a chair by the podium as the next screen was shown. Theo ran the laser pointer over the purple ring of the cell. “This is a digital re-enactment of a cell releasing the feral toxin into the body as we wish not to show you the real footage. The male in question was put through a series of trials by the assassins. His anger was peaked. His adrenaline was at full capacity. He was injured severely then starved and when that didn’t work, he was allowed to drink an amount of blood that not even a human body can hold. This set his bloodlust in motion and this is the result.”
The cell swelled twice in size, squeezed in on itself before the ring at the edge burst—releasing the purple liquid into the blood stream. The cell flow slowed in the bloodstream as the purple liquid seized the cells helpless, turning them black in its wake.
“This is how the body reacts to the feral toxin. The blood will thicken. Turn black while it mutates the DNA. Every nerve, every cell will be so sensitive to the toxin they have no choice, but to for a lack of a better word, sleep. This will cause the vampire to go into a deep sleep, the breathing will slow, and they will appear dead for almost eight to fifteen hours. All vampires differ with such a turn, but the result is always the same.
When they wake up, the blood will flow at a speed that rivals that of any vampire and their testosterone and adrenaline levels will sky rocket. They won’t care about anything, but blood or the adventure it takes to get it. In essence they are a vampire at the very core, pure beast and nothing more.”
Suarta clicked to the next slide. Vials of serum were lined in a small holder. “These vials are the reason we bring you all here today. His majesty wanted you to be aware of the latest weapon for the war that is upon your race. This,”Suarta emphasized. “This is the latest in feral warfare. This serum is designed to be painted on darts, laced within lead bullets, dipped on the blade of a knife. If the assassins are lucky enough, they will simply be close enough to inject the serum directly into your person. Once contact is made, the feral toxin will begin to work immediately.”
“The serum is made of part vampire blood, part feral toxin, and…part human blood to release the bloodlust. We found the combination in just the right percentage ratio to be effective,” Theo added. “The serum does not have an antidote, but there are counter measures that can be taken. When a vampire is truly mated to another, you both share a part of yourself with the other—DNA, blood, a true bond. We have found that only the blood of your true mate is powerful enough to cleanse the body of the toxin.”
“What about unmated vampires!” A shout went up from the crowd. “What then!”
“At this time, we have no answer for that. Once the clinic is set up, we will have the proper tools to begin working on preventive medicine, possibly a vaccine that blocks the feral toxin from being released. Though that is a far off idea at this point in time, the informant in the city has brought another trouble to our attention and this is where Thierry’s new plan comes in.
A new serum was developed on his end. His team managed to reduce the percentage of feral toxin in a dose, bringing a vampire to the brink of feral and keeping them there for upwards of eight hours. The high so to speak will end, but during that time a vampire will be violent to no end. They will kill. They will feed to the point of killing their victim. The goal is to mock a feral state so that our guards will be forced to kill our own. But that is not the most disturbing part.”
Suarta could tell Theo was getting flustered. The news they had received days ago made it almost impossible for them to find a solution and the enemy knew that. The doctors were all stressed, this news being the last thing they needed. She moved in to finish the last detail, to spare Theo a minute to breathe through his anger.
She looked out over the crowd of vampires, watched them take in what they had been told. A mix of emotions crossed their faces, but they were silent. No doubt they had no idea how to react to any of this. She didn’t blame them one bit.
“To all of you that are unmated and use humans as a source of food, listen close. The serum has reverse effects on a human. Where a vampire experiences a feral nature, a human will experience the most incredible high they have ever felt. They will feel out of their mind with pleasure and crave the serum much like cocaine or even heroine. They will never get enough, becoming addicted to the drug. Once a human has ingested the serum they will carry the toxin in their bloodstream.
Any vampire that feeds from a human using the serum will become susceptible to the feral toxin. The results will disastrous for everyone involved. The enemy plans to sell the serum under the name of Rush—distributing it to all the crime families in the city. Once the drug is out there, there is no coming back.”
Knowing he couldn’t let this situation get any worse, Theo took over at the podium. “We can’t take back what they put out there, but we can prevent, and we will do everything we can to ensure your safety. There has been too much violence, so much to take in that I would not ask for you to burden yourselves with undoing our wrong. You can fight against it, take out the enemy one by one, but from a medical stand point…we are the ones who must fix this. Which is why, I will use myself to test all developments.”
“What?” Suarta gasped.
Rowe stood slowly. “You would test on yourself? But you aren’t vampire.”
Theo looked the prince in the eye. “Not yet. I have nothing left, Rowen, nothing to live for, but this.”
In Rowe’s eyes, Theo was possibly the strongest person he had ever encountered besides his mate. He got the feeling from Theo’s tone the doctor had lost more than just his human medical career when Nigel had taken him from all he knew. With a nod of his head, Rowe looked at Theo.
“So be it.”
Suarta grabbed Theo, shuffling him to the side of the stage. “You can’t do this. What if something happens to you? I won’t stick you with needles and spikes, damn it, Theo.”
“You mean like we did to Nova, to Moira, to the others?” He turned watery eyes on her.
She let her hand drop from his arm, her eyes on the ground. “I didn’t mean it like that.”
“I know you didn’t. Look at this way, Suarta.” He wiped his eyes. “This will allow us opportunity to document the turn with detail. To create actual text for their race, medical reference to train others to help us. Were doctors, not scared children, Suarta. We know our limits, we know theirs. We can do this safely. I trust you and our team and frankly, I would rather die than condemn another vampire to experimentation. After Nova, I just can’t.”
Rowe covered for Theo and Suarta who were huddled in the corner. He took to the mic with renewed confidence. “Teams of guards have been dispatched to all the family turfs, with a presence on the Italians. If the drug has already been dispersed, we will be there to nip it in the bud. While we can’t take the entire city on, we can try. This new development on the war front has urged me to push forward with the plans for the Second City.
I’m sure you all have received the plans via email earlier this week and now it is time to put it into action. It will be slow at first, creating a city within the city for our race, but anything is better than nothing at this point. That said I’m calling upon you tonight to do your part. Our time of sitting around on our asses, not contributing while our people die out there, is finished.
There are stations set up in the Great Room, at the back of the courtyard, and in the gardens for all volunteers willing to use their skill sets to improve the quality of life for the next generation. Medical experience, educational, counselors, food prep, weapons, construction or architectural, all of it! I am not afraid to admit I need help, because we are a community, and that’s what we do—help each other. Over to the left you will find our two compound directors and their staff who will be more than happy to push you in the right direction.
I thank you for your patience tonight. I regret that most of what I had to say was heavy hearted, but channel your anger into something constructive. With a little fuel to the fire, great things can happen. That is all for now. Thank you all and have a good evening.” Rowe looked down at Dan, releasing a slow breath. He’d done it. His first official gathering was under his belt and all he wanted was to slip into his bed with Dan underneath him.
As people rose to bow to their prince and find their way to the sign-up areas, Dan kept his eyes on Rowe. He could feel his mate’s need. He got up from his seat with a kiss to Nina’s cheek. Rowe met him at the bottom of the platform stairs. Their hands found each other and Dan just held on.
“I couldn’t have done that without you sitting there. I’ve never been so nervous in all my life,” Rowe murmured into Dan’s hair.
“It was a lot to deliver. You had every right to be nervous, but I’m proud of you.” Dan kissed Rowe’s hand. “You were amazing.”
The pride inside Rowe grew and grew until he felt he would burst. To have a line of support like he had with Dan would still take time to get used to, but he loved every second of it.
“I love you, pet.” Rowe’s arms tightened around Dan. The smell of his mate made him think very dirty things. A wicked grin curled his lips.
“Love you too. Even though I can see what you’re thinking plain as day. Don’t try to cover it up either.” Dan leaned back with a look that said Rowe had been caught.
“Oh that.” Rowe waved. “That was another curly little blonde that I was thinking of. He likes it when I flip him upside down and…” The prince whispered in Dan’s ear.
A deep growl was summoned from Dan’s throat. He pressed his body into Rowe, a hand seeking entrance under the dress shirt that blocked the prince’s skin. “He better not be upstairs when I get there, because baby, you’re mine.”
Rowe let his head fall back with a laugh before his eyes grew serious with the love he held for his pet. “There is nobody, but you my love—never and forever.”
With a fang filled smile, Dan grabbed Rowe’s hand, and pulled him behind the main house and up the private back entrance. He pushed open the door, looking back at Rowe. “Last chance to call off the blonde upstairs.” Dan giggled.
“Oh fuck off, pet,” Rowe growled, pushing his mate through the door, slamming it behind them.
The guards on the back patio rolled their eyes as a high pitched squeal sounded from inside followed by a chorus of moans.
“Like a fucking Hallmark commercial around here,” one guard said to the other.
“Yeah sure, maybe if Quentin Tarantino made Hallmark cards.” Both guards laughed, watching the vampires file over to the volunteer tables in the gardens.
Zian, The Jing Dragon Head, smiled as he listened on the phone to his third in command. His fangs slid down into his mouth in excitement. His almond eyes swirled with a light gold as he stared right at his future bride. Mai shivered under his gaze. Not because she was lustful for her fiancé, but because she was terrified. Her blue silk gown was so beautiful, everything in the room expensive, their home a model of perfection. The dirty secrets these walls held soiled all the material things until they were nothing, but dust in her mind.
Barely eighteen, Mai didn’t want to marry Zian, but he had threatened to wage a war with the Yukuza, with her grandfather if she didn’t agree. So Mai convinced her father she was in love with Zian. Her father was not pleased in the least, but her happiness meant everything to him, so he had agreed in time. Now as she hid the bruises of Zian’s hate under her dress and wore circles under her beautiful eyes, Mai was out of her mind with fear. He wanted to make her a vampire on their wedding night as some sacred ceremony where he could claim ownership over her. She’d had enough though. She wouldn’t let anyone turn her into a monster such as Thierry had made of Zian and her brother.
The one person she had trusted above all, Shinobou her brother, had fallen prey to the wicked ways of the beast. He too had pushed for Mai to become like them. It was only so she wouldn’t have anywhere to turn, but to the two of them, to keep the secret that he had betrayed the Yukuza under wraps. With shaking fingers, Mai knew what she had to do.
She couldn’t stay here, be one of them, to have children with this man that loved to hate her. She refused.
Zian put the phone down with a satisfied sigh. “Everything is going as planned. The dealers have already sold the first batch and the money coming in is unlike anything I’ve ever heard of. We should celebrate.”
He rose from his chair. The gold dragon ring he wore glinted under the modern chandelier. “Champagne?”
“Yes, please.” She bowed submissively.
He grinned, pouring a little bubbly into each glass. Bringing the glass to her, Zian held it just out of reach. “Come get it, Laopo,” wife he said like it was a dirty word.
To Mai, the idea of being Zian’s Laopo made her sick and he knew it, which is why it delighted him that he could make her cringe. In a traditional Chinese partnership, Laopo was to be used by your husband or partner to make you feel treasured, favoring the term over one’s own name to make you feel loved. But to Mai, the fact that he hadn’t even asked her permission to use the name before marriage, and the fact that Zian was a bastard turned her off from the idea of marriage all together.
She moved forward to take the glass to get it over with. Mai knew what was coming. She could see it in his eyes. It was that kind of night.
“Ah. Ah. Ah, Laopo. Beg for it,” he whispered darkly.
Mai kept a straight face. “May I have the drink, please?”
“I said beg, not ask politely,” he growled.
“I beg you for a sip, Zian.” She was tempted to roll her eyes at the vampire, but held back.
“Was that sarcasm?” He narrowed his eyes. The glass in his hand tipped down the front of her beautiful gown, wetting the silk until it clung to her skin. “Don’t you ever talk to me like that, you whore.”
His hand was faster than her eyes, slapping her across the cheek with enough pressure to break something, but thankfully her jaw was still intact as she fell to the floor.
“Beg!” He roared, throwing the other glass into the wall where it shattered into hundreds of tiny pieces.
Mustering the courage to actually go through with her plan, Mai took a deep breath under the curtain of her long dark hair before turning her eyes on her fiancé. He turned his back with another growl, ripping his jacket off in preparation of something Mai refused to be a part of. It was then that she slipped her hand under the skirt of her gown and pulled the gun from the holster inside her thigh.
Head, heart, over and over, she chanted. She had heard the guards talking and thankfully she was the daughter of a killer. Mai might be small, but she could use a gun. Her eyes watered at the thought of her father, the betrayal that she had laid upon him. Shame consumed her, rage blanketed on top, her eyes fixed on Zian’s back as she rose on shaky stilettos.
“The Yukuza don’t beg,” she said in deadly tone and pulled the trigger. The shot hit him square in the back of the head.
Stunned a little, Zian turned around, but received another bullet to his eye, to his heart. An entire magazine unloaded into his body before he actually felt the damage. He sank to his knees. Blood leaked past his lips while his wounds tried to close over his body.
“Guards,” he choked out, trying to alert his security.
“You sent them a text a few hours ago, told them to leave. You wanted some alone time with your Laopo,” she spat. “Don’t you remember?”
“I never…never did that.”
She wiped the gun off on her dress, putting it in the holster at her thigh. Walking around her fiancé’s desk, Mai slid free one of two Jian mounted to the wall. The traditional Chinese, double-edged sword glinted back at her. With no emotion at all, Mai calmly walked back over to where Zian was trying to push bullets out of his body with all his strength.
“Oh that’s right.” Her eyes fell on his bloodied face. “I did.” The sword sliced down in one strike, piercing the hunched crime lord through the heart.
An hour later, Mai ran out into the chilly night in nothing, but her bloodied silk gown. The blue material waved behind her as she held Zian’s phone to her ear. Tears ran down her face.
“Hello?” A low voice answered suspiciously.
“Chichi,” Mai cried. It was the only name she had ever called her father. He would know in an instant it was her.
Mizuki Yamanashi clutched his phone on the other end. “Mai-chan?”
“Please, help me,” Mai pleaded. She stopped on the road, looking around to see where she was.
“Where are you, Mai-chan!” Mizuki got out of bed and went to the door. Two guards greeted him as he opened the door to the hallway. “Prepare the car.” The men silently bowed to their superior.
“I’m in Chinatown at the meat market on Mulberry.” She slipped behind a dumpster to hide from a group of teenagers roaming the street in the middle of the night. In this part of town, all eyes were Zian’s eyes.
“Stay there, Mai-chan. I am coming for you.”
Mai slid down the wall finally letting it all out. Her father would forgive her. He would always love his daughter, just like she loved him. She had to tell him. He had to know about the vampires.
Her father grabbed his coat and his gun, not giving a shit that he was still dressed in pajamas. “I’m on the way, Mai-chan. Stay with me…”
TO BE CONTINUED....
TO BE CONTINUED....