First off, let me say cheers to all of you Obama supporters! And cheers to the states of Washington, Maine, Massachussetts, and Maryland for passing marriage equality last night. It makes me so happy to know that those gay communities can now share the same rights, the same benefits, and love that everyone can. We're not done, not by a long shot, but last night was a HUGE step in the right direction.
Also congrats to the states that legalized marijauna last night. lol Now watch every Little Debbie and Frito Lay product hike in price. Ya'll have fun with that. :P
Okay I'm done talking politics. Now onto the rest of the show.
This is the end of this story, yes, and the cliffhanger will probably leave you a mess and leave me with dangerous threats, but that's how a story keeps you pumped. I wanted to warn you all that I am taking a vampire hiatus until the new year. I have tons of projects I'm working on and this month is NaNoWriMo. I'm working on Cade right now, and I'm almost halfway done. YAY!
But I'm also working on my next series and an anthology submission. To those of you inquiring about the Banshee story, I decided, obviously not to post it until it's finished and even then, I am going to submit it to a publisher when it is done. It turned into something really great, in my head anyway, and I think it has a shot.
November will bring more werewolves and a bit of Thanksgiving comedy as well as more Heart for Trade. In December, look forward to more Shermin Heights. Phew, I am busy!
Okay, so no more yapping, here it is... the Knox and Isaac Finale.
XOXO NIGHT TEMPEST
KNOX AND ISAAC FINALE: CHAPTER 7
Theo closed the door to the bedroom, a solemn look for Rowe as he did. The prince stood from the chair he had been given outside in the hall. No one else was allowed in the hallway except for the two of them. Knox had gone from a hot, weeping mess to full on beast in a split second. Once Isaac’s heart had started to beat, he became a demon—protective beyond reason.
The prince rubbed his face. “How is he?”
“Knox or Isaac?” Theo set his case on the ground, leaning against the wall.
“Both, I guess.”
“Knox is being, well, Knox. What did you expect? You’ve been through this before. You know how it is. Add to that his natural personality and he’s not very… cooperative.”
Rowe smirked despite his concern. A growl ripped through the hall, seeped right out of the wall as if Knox could hear them. “I can see that.”
Theo sighed. “There is the matter of Isaac.”
“What about Isaac? You administered the sedative, didn’t you?”
“It’s not the sedative that concerns me, Rowe. Maybe partly, but I don’t think his current condition is affiliated with the drug itself.”
“What do you mean, Theo?”
“I mean, his heart rate is through the roof. His body has enough sedative in it to take down an adult elephant. He should be relaxed, his heart rate mirroring that of someone sleeping. But it’s not. I’ve never seen this before.”
“Always with that answer! I’ve never seen this before,” he mocked. Rowe attempted to calm himself. This is just what they needed. Not. Welcome to the circus, now presenting our next side show. “Sorry, it’s not you. Anyway, what do you think this means for Isaac?”
“He could be feeling out Knox unconsciously through their bond, his emotions. You know? Their bond. But I think it’s more than that. From what I gather, he was stressed when he went under. Which normally wouldn’t be cause for concern, stress is one of the triggers for the turn. But Isaac has been dealing with a lot. I mean a lot, a lot. He might be trying to work out his anger and stress during the turn. I’m afraid that when he wakes up, he’s going to be… different.”
“Different? As in I have fangs now kind of different or… You don’t mean feral? Please tell me that’s not what you’re getting at, Theo.” Rowe was beginning to snap under the pressure. God, he wished his pet could be here. But Knox would probably break down the door and go on a blood-thirsty rampage.
“No. Dear God no, that’s not what I meant at all. But I think, noting who his mate is, Knox’s aggressive nature and the way in which Isaac’s turn was triggered, the impending arrival of his fathers—he might have to be… tamed.”
“Tamed,” Rowe repeated. “Just perfect! What you’re saying is, when he wakes up he’s going to be hell on wheels.”
“Only in theory, but, yes, I believe so.” Theo picked up his bag. “We’re only a few hours deep, Rowe. Get some rest before the party starts.”
“Party,” Rowe snarled. “Fucking perfect,” he muttered. “Let me go fetch some bloody confetti.”
Theo tried not to laugh. “On the brighter side of things, I received Jessica’s test results,” he commented, facing the end of the hall.
“Not one trace of the feral toxin in her body. Just like last time and all the times before that. Everything is perfectly normal.”
“And the eggs?”
“The same.” Theo smiled. “We’re still on for this weekend. That is if the compound still stand after all is said and done.Get some sleep, Rowe.”
Get some sleep, he clucked his tongue. Yeah. Right. Rowe watched the doctor disappear down the hall before he made another attempt at opening Knox’s door. He had barely put a foot past the threshold when he found himself on his back. Knox loomed above him, red eyes and fangs bared.
“Hello, Knoxtian. I see your doing well.”
The pissed off vampire grabbed fistfuls of the prince’s shirt. His face descended until they were mere inches away. “Don’t. Fuck. With me,” he growled.
“Wasn’t planning on it,” Rowe assured. “But the floor is not my favorite spot to lounge. If you wouldn’t mind letting me up, I’d appreciate it.”
“What do you want?” Red eyes swirled. Knox fisted his hands tighter.
“I wanted to check on you, damn it! Stop acting like the fucking beast master and lay off. I’m only trying to help, offer you some support. Wasn’t under the impression I had to bring a sedative along for you too.”
Knox let his hands go, causing Rowe’s head to thud against the floor. “I didn’t ask for your help.” Movements rigid, predatory, Knox rose from the prince. He stepped aside but his eyes were still fixed as Rowe got up and dusted himself off in an irritatingly casual manner.
“It’s a wonder you didn’t eat Theo,” he muttered. “Because you’re looking at me like a walking, talking, chicken nugget.” A snarl gave him cause to roll his eyes. “Really?”
“This is my room. That is my mate and I don’t want you in here! So. Yeah. Really!”
“Maybe you missed the part where this is my compound. I am you’re fucking prince and that there is one of my mother-fucking subjects. If you want to play this game with me, Knox, I’ll step it up and drop the supportive friend bit. Calm the fuck down and sit. Sit with your mate. Sit on the ceiling. Sit in the bath with green eggs and ham. I don’t give a rat’s ass as long as you chill out. I know what you’re feeling right now. I know that terror of your mate dying and you forget everything except their last breath in that moment. I know what the aftermath feels like, the fucking waiting! We all do! So stop it, right now.”
With wide strides, Knox stormed across the room. His breath graced over Rowe’s face. “Or what?”
“Or—” The prince’s eyes swirled. Power crackled. The room filled with energy that stole Knox’s breath. “—I’ll kick your ass, you whiny little leather wrapped jackass.”
A showdown of eyes, clenched fists and heavy breathing ensued before Knox stepped back. Rowe was the victor here and he knew it.
“Fuck!” Knox shouted.
Rowe snarled. “I win. Sit down.”
Knox, even angry, was careful when he sat on the bed. Isaac’s heart beat was so fast he could hear it. He was scared shitless and there was nothing anyone could do until he woke up. It was only a matter of when.
“Now that you’re cooperating, I wanted to assure you that when they arrive, I’ll keep them back for as long as possible. No one is to get involved or start an altercation unless I say so. Micah is going to be in a mood, and honestly, I don’t blame him. The death of a parent is hard and everyone reacts differently. Cade on the other hand… well, we know how he’s going to be. He said as much on the phone.
This is such shit timing, Knoxtian. I really am sorry, but you have to deal with this. I’ll help in any way I can, but for the most part, it’s up to you. Isaac can’t exactly speak for himself right now. You have to prove yourself to Cade. Somehow, someway, a miracle from God—you have to do what you have to do. But try and keep Isaac’s future relationship with them in mind.”
“You basically just gave me a pep talk to get my ass kicked.” Knox took another look at Isaac and grew restless. He’d never been the patient type. This wait was killing him.
“And you basically asked for it. Just so we’re clear.” Rowe stood.
“Whatever. It’s true.” Knox walked to the window. “You don’t have to wait around. I’m good now.”
“Sure you are.” Rowe snorted. He grabbed the remote and jumped on the small couch. “And I’m not going anywhere. What do you want to watch?”
“You fucking kidding me right now?”
“Do I look like I’m smiling?” Rowe took the lid off a candy dish on the coffee table, popping a gummy worm into his mouth.
“Awesome.” Knox threw his hands up. “Just fucking awesome! Thousands of years under my belt and I still need a babysitter.”
“It appears you do, old friend.” Rowe flicked the television on. “It appears you do.”
The SUV rushed down the back road at an alarming rate, but Cade had demanded the trip to the compound be quick. Something was going on. His Guardian senses were on alert. He knew Knox and Isaac were mates. While it irritated him, still fighting against the idea of Knox for his past wrongs, that was not the source of his unease. Micah was sleeping, relaxed after the long trip. He was grieving, but again, his father’s death was not what bothered Cade as blasé as it sounded.
He couldn’t place this anxiety. Couldn’t get a read on the problem from his Guardian help either. He refused to call Rowe at this point. They were only minutes away from the entrance and he was still pissed at the prince. Yeah, he understood Rowe’s need to assert his authority, his caution of the situation. But to straight up deny Micah like that without a discussion first? No. Not cool.
God. Cade sighed. He wanted to see Isaac, to check on him. But as Micah had reminded him, even while he was upset about his father, Isaac was an adult now. No more smothering. Then again, where was the balance? Could he hug his son without it being too much? Could he act excited to see him now? Could he… Whatever, Cade ran a hand down his mate’s arm. It would take time to get it all right. He had to get it through his head that not everything was going to be honkey dory as soon as they got home.
Micah stirred under his touch. “We there yet?” He yawned.
“Mm hmm.” Cade accepted a peck on the lips. “Almost to the gate.”
“Why do I get the feeling we’re about to walk into the middle of chaos?” Micah scratched his head, looking around, still half asleep.
Catching the look of the guards in the front seats, Cade narrowed his eyes. “Because I think we are.”
Micah followed his mate’s look and caught on quickly. He felt the stress of the guards fill the cab, eyed Cade slowly. Yep. Something was up and for once, it wasn’t his dick. “Mind telling us what’s going on boys?”
The driver kept his eyes on the road. “What do you mean?”
“It’s like that, huh? Alright.” Micah patted Cade’s leg, a deliberate swirl of his eyes. “We’ll play along. But if something bad is going down and you didn’t warn us…”
“It won’t be pretty,” Cade finished.
Both guards said nothing. The Guardians looked at each other. Rowe was up to no good.
Ten minutes later and they were out of the vehicle. Cade ignored the bags, took Micah’s hand and marched inside the foyer with purpose. There were no fond greetings, no shared pictures of their vacation or casual banter that normally happened upon arriving home from a trip. No. The intent radiating off the couple was enough to make the lone pair of guards under the awning shy away. Good for them.
The doors to the Great Room were shut. An unusual surplus of guards formed a blockade around the small entry room. Again, Cade and Micah shared a look. It was after midnight. The guards never stood in the foyer. They usually focused on the perimeter or the courtyard.
Cade whipped his head to the nearest guard. “Where’s Rowe?”
Silent, the guard went to the door, opened it and ducked out of the way. Confirmed, Cade growled. Rowe was hiding shit.
Cade marched into the Great Room with his mate in tow. Off to the side, Blaze, Hill, and King stood as a united from. All of them watched him intently. All of them were on alert. Cade stopped to survey the room in full, feeling the gravity of the situation grow. Rowe stood from the stairs, regal and commanding with his stare. On his arm was Dan. The two made quite a pair—a true prince and princess.
“What is this?” Micah frowned.
Rowe took a deep breath. “This is where you both wait.”
“Excuse me?” Cade scoffed.
“I said… this is where you will wait until it’s done.”
Micah growled and clasped his hand around Cade’s arm to keep his mate in check. “Until what is done?”
“What is going on!” Cade snarled. “We already know about Knox and Isaac. Give the theatrics a fucking break! I’m tired. He’s tired. We both just want to go to bed. This is ridiculous. I just knew you were going to pull some shit, Rowe. But this? This crosses the line.”
Dan went to Cade, despite Rowe trying to hold him back. “Cade, I know you’ve got a lot going on right now, and I know you’re stressed. That’s why I’m going to be the one to tell you this, because I know when you try to kill me to get upstairs, you won’t mean it. Just know that the only reason we’re doing this is for your protection, both you and Micah.”
“Dan.” Cade took a deep breath. “Please, tell me what’s going on.”
With a clinical calm, Dan looked up. “Isaac is turning.”
The Guardians took a step closer. Cade’s breath left him. Micah growled. His muscles flexing as his hands formed into fists.
Cade’s eyes bloomed red. His protective instincts for his child took over, rendered his humanity helpless. Micah felt like he was being wrangled, pushed into a corner like a wild animal and the feeling only served to bring out his wilder counterpart. He couldn’t stop Cade this time. Hell, he couldn’t stop himself and fuck if he didn’t even want to. He made the first move before Cade did. Stepped into the ring of tension and bared his fangs.
Rowe shouted for his mate, but Dan was quick enough. He avoided Cade’s hand, bent to the side and snatched the Original’s outstretched arm. The roar that filled the Great Room was enough to rattle the glass above—the dome echoing the roars that ripped through the room. Chaos ensued. Rowe charged the Original for touching his mate. Micah took Rowe down—back sliding over the tile as they flew half way across the room. They rolled as Rowe fought to dominate his opponent. A fist nailed him in the gut and then the fangs came out.
The Guardians locked the doors. This was a warrior matter, not one for people outside of their circle. The door thumped over and over. The guards tried to get through. Hill was knocked off balance as Cade went for the stairs. The Original’s eyes read war, but Hill was only trying to hold him back. He didn’t want to hurt Cade. The queen’s mate beat his fist against Cade to keep room between them. He’d never let an opponent best him so far and he wasn’t planning on it this time. If Cade got his body around him, it could very well happen. So angry, his opponent could literally crush him to death if he wanted.
They had been told by Rowe to come without weapons. These were their friends, their brothers. But now they all surely wondered if their prince had been wrong. Cade was going to lose his shit completely. That point made apparent when he kneed Hill in the gut and locked a hand around his throat. The Original was on overload. The whispers in his head, his built in security, were practically screaming at him to stop but he denied them command. Roars and hissing filled the Great Room. They were trying to keep him from his child who had died without him there. Isaac had stopped breathing, scared and helpless. His son’s image filled his head. He had to reach him.
With a strangled cry, he flung his arms back. The arms and nails of three unnaturally strong beings that were now attacking him to protect Hill were thrown in different directions. His mate got a good punch in with Rowe, kneeing the prince in his side to get away. He felt something crack under his body and he roared with victory.
“Micah!” Cade reached out. A hand slapped his and the two tore up the stairs. They had to reach their child. No one kept his family apart—no one.
Like a stampede of wild horses, their brothers chased them up the stairs. Shouts tried to halt them. Bodies grew closer, but Cade and Micah only ran faster towards the scent of their son. The Original slung his mate around the corner to keep their balance and let Micah lead. Knox’s hallway came upon them. The short distance to the door took less than a second. Wood splintered under Cade’s shoulder. The smell of sweat, of blood, of their son made him roar.
When the door split down the middle, a loud alarm went off—Knox’s security had been breached. Micah pushed Cade aside and kicked out the debris, fangs bared. He was fueled with energy, power and rage. His mate hummed with electricity, bouncing around inside of him through their bond. What they came face to face with on the other side of the ravaged door was a man. Not any man, but a beast with a blade in each hand. Eyes blood red, fangs dropped in his mouth and power almost visible around him. Knox was gone. In his place was an opponent to take caution of—a raw animal with a freshly mated bond under his belt.
It didn’t matter that the Original and his bond-powered mate were formidable. His only goal was to protect his sleeping mate. No one touched what was his or entered his domain. Hell in his blood, Knox roared, swinging the blades in his hands. They whistled through the air, cut in front of his body one after the other. Come closer, they beckoned.
Cade, not even pausing to consider Knox’s defensive take on things, charged the Royal—weaponless. Knox whipped one blade through the air. The clink of metal on the marble was deafening as he missed. Cade slid under his arm in a blink, a kick to his leg in the process. Only thrown off for a second, Knox spun. The hilt of his blade smacked Cade in the back of the head and only pissed him off more. Cade was a machine, a weapon of arms and legs. A closed fist connected to Knox’s face. One blade fell from his hands in a split second stun of his body, scooped up by the Original.
Blood ran from Knox’s nose, over his lips, was swiped away by his tongue. A commotion at the door didn’t distract his eyes from his prey. Not even as two Guardians took Micah down onto his stomach. Not as Rowe threw the remainder of the door onto the ground. Not as Nina entered the room with a power so thick it threatened to steal his oxygen. Knox only had eyes for Cade. For the man that tried to take his mate from him. Who hated him and made his life a living hell!
A flash of metal and the game was on. The Original kicked out. Knox’s favorite chair hit the wall, created more space for their marble grounded arena. Cade was vicious in his strikes, going for blood, for the kill—metal whacking against metal so hard there were sparks. He was mindless. No one dared to intervene. Not even Nina who he glimpsed out the corner of his eye—the petite blonde now nothing more than an icy fury with eyes so blue they glowed white.
She was letting this happen. They all were like it was fated to be, a royal showdown with the victor claiming Isaac. This was there show and no one else’s. Cade’s fangs showed fully as he grinned. Blood, his beast sang. As Knox went to turn out, to avoid Cade’s blade, the Original flung his head back. His forehead smacked against the back of Knox’s skull. The Royal bent at the waist—leaving him wide open. Cade covered his back, looped his arm under Knox’s. His blade slid in for the kill under his target’s chin.
Knox had a split second of exposure, his throat stretched before he gave Cade a taste of his own medicine. He brought his elbow back with his head at the same time—a blow to the face and chest. Blood matted his hair. Knox struck a point on the scoreboard. In a dance so fast, only the vampires could see it, he hooked his foot around the inside of Cade’s leg, twisted them around as his leg arced off the floor and sent the Original to his back.
Cade turned over, the toes of his boots hitting the ground before he whirled to kick Knox sideways. His foot struck stomach muscle. His other foot swung around to gain momentum, flipping him onto his feet. Knox groaned through the pain, taking it into himself. His fist cut up under Cade’s chin. Another blow like the strike of lightning, open handed, landed the side of his hand between the neck and shoulder. His knee came up. His hands found the warrior’s back from underneath, shoving the knee further into Cade’s stomach.
Blades lost to the ground amidst the endless motion, it was now solely hand to hand. Knox backed off, placed himself between the bed and Cade. When his opponent swung his bloody face up, there was no semblance of the man he used to call his friend. The beast looked back. Not even Cade’s Guardian knowledge could reach him. The whispers had died in his head, shamed at what he was doing. Only the thrum of his heart remained—a metronome of rage. Sharply focused on Knox, he shook his hair out and brought his hands up into position.
Knox took the cue and did the same. His bones cracked. His veins bulged. He was ready to take down the Original. They flew at each other. There one minute and gone the next, the pair of fighters were a blur. Knox extended his leg back. Boot met face. Cade’s nails dug into the leather covered calf, ripping apart the material to get to the skin. Fingers created deep, bloody scratches. Knox took the pain, letting it fuel him.
As he pulled his leg away, hands still attached, Knox flipped them both. They slid across the floor with such speed, the wall cracked underneath their force. Cade was up first, slightly blurry across the eyes but well enough to hurl Knox over his shoulder by the arm. Knox snapped to attention, landing on his boots with ease. Cade swung around and charged him this time. One hand out and one pulled back. Knox grabbed the extended arm, spun with Cade until both his hands were securely gripping the entire limb.
The Original only had one foot left underneath him mid turn, realizing his mistake all too quickly. When Knox stopped, he lost his balance. An arm hit him square in the back. The speed caught him off guard. His arm was yanked up then back and the air left his lungs as he hit the ground with a boom. A knee to the stomach made him wheeze instead of roar. A fist pummeled him on the right of his face. An opposite hook made Cade see stars on the left. He was pinned, bloody and Knox’s moves were so fast he didn’t have a chance.
He tried to fight back but his arm was twisted under his own weight—dislocated. His skull was fractured. He could feel it. Blows rained down on him. Red eyes, fearsome and startling made him realize his own personal fears had been over nothing. When he felt his power slip as his body caved to the pain, Cade’s thought process returned. Knox was protecting his mate. Knox was protecting his son. Knox was doing what he would do. He was protecting the one thing that meant most to him—Isaac.
Blood filled his vision—his own. He silently struggled with defeat—body limp, only moving when another fist met his flesh, making him convulse. His Guardian abilities wouldn’t even listen to him as he pleaded. He was alone. He had done this. He had let his own rage take over—not thinking of the consequences. They had tried to protect him, his friends and family, his abilities. They had tried to protect him from himself.
In his ears he could hear shouting, cries for Knox to stop. And then… the beating stopped.
Knox felt nails dig into his shoulders, ripping him away from Cade. He saw Rowe move in to snatch the limp Orignal away from the room. He saw Nina nod her head at him. Her eyes said he had won his right. He saw Micah screaming for his bloodied mate. Something snapped inside of Knox. He had defeated the Original. Oh God. What had he done? His eyes swept to the bed and realized Isaac was no longer there.
A scrape of metal had him franticly looking to the door, where a barricade had formed—a long table from the hall, Guardians on the other side. He was alone, blood all over the floor. His wounds healing as he slowly turned towards the growl in his ear. A smell filled his nose, that of sweet and salty—his favorite scent in the entire world.
When he moved, the nails bit deeper into his skin. Swirling blue eyes rimmed with red flashed in the corner of his vision. Knox had to make a choice. He could either pull away, take the pain of the hands ripping from his back or he could submit. He loved Isaac. He knew the man at his back was his mate. But he had to get the newly turned vampire to understand who was boss in this situation. Judging from his breathing, the quick pace of his heart and the pain he wanted to exact—Isaac was wild, mindless. Rowe had mentioned what Theo had said earlier.
Isaac did indeed need to be tamed, and Knox? He was the only one who could do it.
“I tried to ease you into my life,” Knox rasped through his fangs. “I didn’t want to break you.”
He craned his neck to see the sexy as hell animal behind him. “But you’re not breakable anymore.”
Isaac hissed, rubbed his body into Knox’s—marked him, bled him with his nails. He wanted blood and he wanted his mate now. “Mine,” an otherworldly voice proclaimed.
“And now you get to find out what that means,” Knox whispered before pulling his body off Isaac’s nails with a roar. Pain sliced up his back. Blood wet the remains of his shirt. They would heal, the gashes, but the sexual craving remained.
Isaac shrieked, pushed off his feet to launch at his mate. Knox, still on the defense, grabbed him by the wrists and held on. “No!”
Writhing, screaming, Isaac kicked with all his might. He wanted the man in front of him. He wanted his blood, his sex like the air he breathed. The pressure on his wrists was exquisite but he couldn’t touch himself or his mate. H=He couldn’t get hard. Something held him in limbo. He threw his head back and howled.
Nothing else mattered to Knox, only Isaac. Fuck the world. This was the only home he had now. He had damned himself in every other respect. If he was to die tomorrow, this would be the only memory he would have to hold onto. In heaven or hell, he would remember this night. And so be it, Isaac would too.
Knox pulled his mate to the side of the room that they had yet to use. Beyond the bed, beyond everything that resembled a living space, were his playthings. Whips, chains, things that normal people didn’t fuck with—it was now Isaac’s right as his mate. He had wanted to wait, to gently teach Isaac the ways of his kind of loving pain, but Isaac had turned suddenly. It was what he had been waiting for to take it to the next level. He didn’t have to wait anymore and his beast agreed.
He stepped on the mechanism in the floor. A steel square with moveable restraints, fit for a splayed body, whirred away from the wall.
Isaac was heaving air now. He was excited, salivating. Was his mate going to let him feed now? Was he going to lock himself up to play with? Isaac licked his lips, mindless of anything but his hunger, his need. He struggled again, rigid movements that defied normal strength. His mate was stronger though, holding him with only his hands, hoisting him into the air.
Isaac screamed again. The fire in his chest grew until he was nothing more than a writhing mess. Metal cuffs locked into place over his wrists. A bar locked him into place at his ankles. As much as he pulled, he couldn’t get free. He bit his lip so hard with his fight, blood rushed over his tongue. When Knox met him face to face, he spit the red liquid at his mate, hissed with want when Knox made no move to wipe it away.
A hand pulled his hair hard, brought his face closer to Knox. “Clean it up,” the Royal snarled. “Now!”
Isaac groaned and obeyed. His tongue lapped over cheekbones, the bridge of his mate’s nose—tasting himself, Knox’s blood and another’s. He licked harder for more. The taste was so good. He needed more. When his fangs grazed the skin, he was gripped around the throat.
“No! You will behave,” Knox growled, his cock hard as a rock. “I’ll give you what you need if you obey. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
Isaac cocked his head. He couldn’t speak just yet. He couldn’t think enough to form words. But he got the hint. He closed his eyes, still fighting the cuffs at his wrists. He couldn’t help it. It was a defense mechanism of his body, which didn’t like being helpless. Or did it? The fangs in his mouth were his only weapon, but he couldn’t get close enough to the source of his desire to use them. He was trapped. Why did he like being trapped? The feeling was so familiar, so good.
“That’s a good boy,” Knox rewarded, sliding a hand over Isaac’s hip. He ducked when his mate’s lips followed, got too close as he slipped through the structure and behind. “I know what you want. I know how it must burn inside of you—the need for blood, my blood.”
Knox fisted Isaac’s hair, licked a slow line up the back of his neck. “Fight it, fight that need until you can’t fight it anymore. But don’t fight me.” He ran his hand flat over Isaac’s bare torso, down his stomach and over the steel that covered his groin. “When you can control yourself, I’ll take care of your thirst. But right now, I value my jugular.”
Isaac let out a slow hiss, pushing against Knox’s hand. He wanted the barrier below ripped from his body, to feel warm flesh on his cock. He wanted to be hard, to…
“Nod your head if you understand me.” Knox let go of Isaac’s hair. Iz nodded eagerly, bit his lip to keep from screaming. “That’s my boy,” he growled. He massaged Isaac’s ass, teased his thumb down the strap leading to his favorite place in the whole world.
The warrior cupped Isaac’s hips, ground his leather covered erection into his mate’s backside. “Did you like bleeding me, Isaac? Running your nails down my back? Breaking my skin?”
Isaac whimpered. The burn in his chest was fierce. But he wanted this more. He could still breathe. He could still feel his heartbeat. Knox was the only thing keeping him alive. The burn was nothing compared to the fire he felt for Knox. He wanted to be… hurt. His eyes shut tight. Yes. He wanted the pain to take away the hunger. Anything. Something.
Isaac felt cool metal against his skin, a blade, and shivered, hissed with his eyes still shut. “It’s pointless now—this.” Knox pulled at the strap of the belt around his hips. “I’m never going to stop fucking up. I fucked up big this time, but one thing will never change. No matter whose blessing I get, you’ll always be mine,” he growled.
The hairs on Isaac’s body stood up. He moaned raggedly at the leather being cut from his skin. The blade nicked his hip. The smell of his own blood heightened his arousal. Blood. His eyes snapped open—red rings glowing as the beast fought back to the surface.
Knox drew his hand back and let it fly against Isaac’s ass. The newly turned vamps fangs clacked shut, screaming though his teeth. His fists squeezed above the cuffs. “I said no!” Another slap smacked across his ass.
Isaac let go to take a breath. His body fell limp against his bindings. He drew in a breath that filled his body, fanned the burn in his chest. “More,” he choked. “Mine.”
“Until you can say exactly what you want, you don’t tell me what to do.” Knox let go of the belt. It fell to the ground with a clink. He avoided touching the cock now released. Instead, he savored how it hardened before his eyes. “But I think you like being told what to do. Don’t you, Isaac? You like it when I dominate you, even half-conscious right now. You love it.”
Isaac whined, pushed back against Knox. His fangs kept cutting his lips. Blood ran down his chin. When nails dug into his backside, he pierced deep through his bottom lip. So good, his beast roared inside. So fucking good! Knox felt the same way. He raked his nails up, across his mate’s back. Red welled to the surface, tiny trails of liquid marking Isaac’s skin. Scenting the air, Knox was high on the smell of his mate’s blood. Possessed by the color, the scent, he leaned forward and lapped the flavor with tongue.
“More,” Isaac moaned. “More,” he shouted louder.
The marks were already healed by the time Knox lifted his head. The blood remained and he ran his hands through it, spread it further—painting the skin. He knew anymore and Isaac would pass out from thirst. But he wasn’t done playing, not by a long shot. Isaac had gone still underneath his hands. He wasn’t whining or shaking. He was trying to obey. Knox grinned. His eyes narrowed.
Fangs to his wrist, he bit deep until his own taste filled his mouth. “Put your head back.”
Isaac didn’t understand. He couldn’t move back very well. He coughed instead of trying to speak. His chest burned. The warrior understood this time. Gently, with bloody hands, he soothed his fingers over Isaac’s neck until his mate tilted his head back. Blood dropped from his wrist, splattering Isaac’s face and coated his throat. Red hand prints marked his neck. Knox leaked in his leathers.
“Swallow,” Knox coached. “That’s it. That’s very good.” He rubbed Isaac’s back with his free hand in reward. Fangs never snapped at him. Isaac never moved a muscle except to close his mouth or lick his lips.
“Feel better?” Knox whispered. “You look so fucking sexy like this. I can’t wait for more.”
With a final lick to his lips, Isaac could feel his strength return, the burn ease off and his mind clear. “Please,” he begged quietly.
Knox slipped through the structure to face his mate. “Please what?”
Through his hair, Isaac looked up from his painfully hard cock. “Make it hurt. Make it hurt,” he snarled.
Knox hissed. “Fuck.”
He ran his hands down Isaac’s body. A cautious thought made him pause. Did Isaac really want this now that he was in control? Could he handle this brand of hardcore pain? The answer was a resounding yes.
A devilish grin on his face, Knox fisted his hand in Isaac’s hair, pulling his mate’s head back as he dropped his mouth to a pebbled nipple. Isaac’s cry filled the room. A lone fang pierced his sensitive nub all the way through. Knox pulled away a little, stretched the flesh without ripping. He slid his fang up, loose and sucked hard—filled his mouth with sweet, sweet blood.
The other nipple begged to be tasted, bitten, violated. But he wanted to tease Isaac, make that nipple beg to be sucked. Knox bared his fangs, hitched back and struck like a cobra. His fangs hooked into Isaac’s skin, around the nipple instead of in it. Isaac struggled because his body couldn’t stay still. The pain was so sharp, delicious. He was wild, needy for more.
Tongue darting out and fangs still locked in place, Knox dragged his muscle over the nub.
“Please!” Isaac’d back arched. “Please,” he roared.
Retracting his fangs, Knox sucked the flesh so hard it turned red and purple in his mouth. Blood ran down Isaac’s chest, red contrasting cream. It was beauty. It was pain. It was everything he and Isaac had wanted and Knox knew it only got better from here. With a gasp, he released the nipple from his mouth. Blood coated his chin, labeled him a true beast before his mate.
Isaac’s eyes pleaded. Knox obliged. He ripped into the flesh of his forearm and drew in a mouthful of blood. Mouth open, Isaac accepted the kiss from his mate. Knox’s life essence filled his mouth, an exchange of blood that healed all wounds. He swallowed, licked Knox’s lips. His mouth was ravaged, fangs clashing together, lips nicked, ass grabbed. He belonged to this warrior. He wanted to be owned.
As Knox pulled away, he saw the light on in Isaac’s eyes. His boy was more than ready. He no longer had any worries. This night was between them. It didn’t matter if they were freaks because they were freaks together. Knox smiled. He caressed Isaac’s jaw.
His eyes roamed his mate’s naked, bloody body. “You have never looked more beautiful.”
Isaac shuddered, fangs itching. He licked his lips in response and mourned the absence of his mate’s fingers when he pulled away. He watched his male go to the wall, guide a cart a few from towards him. A drawer was pulled open, a velvet pull-string bag produced. Knox dipped his hand in and came away with…
“Uh.” Isaac squirmed and received a hard slap to his bruised nipple. He bit his lip, closed his eyes as his nipple was pulled away from his body. A metal clip bit into his flesh with sharp teeth. A weight attached, it demanded his nipple go with it as Knox let it fall from his hand. Isaac shook from head to toe as the other nipple received a weight. The seconds grew thick. The pain amplified as the weights swayed with every move of his chest. It hurt. It hurt in the best kind of way.
The contents of the bag were dumped onto the cart’s surface. More clips. These had no weights. Bloody fingers snatched a handful up. Isaac was breathing so fast, he couldn’t tell if he was alive or dead. He cried out. Another clip was attached to his chest under his nipple. Skin pulled to accommodate more tiny teeth.
Knox snapped them into place one by one. They formed lines down Isaac’s torso to his groin—a trail of pain. Satisfied with his work, he went to the cart and grabbed the bag. He crouched down in front of Isaac’s cock—hard, leaking and almost purple with the need for touch. Knox smiled up at his mate.
“Don’t move,” he taunted.
Isaac screamed inside his closed mouth. His eyes shut tight. A clip bit into the skin between his balls and ass, that delicate spot that sent fissions of sexual energy through his body.
“How about one here?” Knox chuckled and carefully opened a clip. It snapped shut over the skin between Isaac’s balls. His mate howled, cock still dripping. “Such a good boy.”
He ran his hand up Isaac’s thighs. A deep inhale of musky arousal fueled him onward. With his hand over the clip under Isaac’s balls, he jiggled it, eliciting cries of pleasure from his mate. In reward, Knox wrapped his lips around the cock pointed at him. His mouth opened wide. Isaac’s length journeyed to the back of his throat. Warm flesh, the tick of his heartbeat against Knox’s tongue and the smooth taste of clear liquid made him groan.
Isaac stayed so still, it hurt to breath. Knox controlled his movements with the clip below. The sizzle of pain already dominating his chest, combined with the all-too-gentle suckle of his mate below, put him in another state of being—out of body. He felt fangs cut into his cock and he wanted to scream in ecstasy. He was going to come. He had to release. He couldn’t hold it anymore.
Knox sucked Isaac’s cockhead with all his strength. One flick of his eyes up at his mate and Isaac came apart. Hot seed filled his mouth. He bit down, sucked harder. A cocktail of flavors rushed down his throat, greedily swallowed to take more. He wiggled the clip and Isaac thrust deep into his mouth. More. He needed more.
Isaac was still hard as Knox stood. He wanted to be horrified that his body wasn’t finished, but he didn’t want to be done as Knox kissed his shoulder, rubbed their cheeks together. “Ready for more?” He rumbled.
“More,” Isaac whimpered.
Knox ran a finger across his mate’s lips. “Good boy.”
And then his touch was gone again, leaving Isaac begging. A grind of metal made him jump. The cuffs attached to the bars moved down on small wheels. Knox let go of the buttons when Isaac was almost bent over. His shoulders working overtime as his arms stretched. More importantly, his ass was on display.
Isaac took a deep breath as cold liquid ran over his ass. It dripped over his cheeks, down his crack, hit the floor. Knox was behind him now. A hand slapped his ass. His mouth was left open in shock, in want. Something prodded at his entrance and he choked.
Slowly, Knox pushed the curved vibrator into his mate. It was big, but no excruciatingly so. He watched Isaac’s thighs shake, take what he was given with no plea to stop. It curved up and inside, disappearing until all that remained was the flat circle keeping it from slipping out. Knox smirked and pressed the button at the bottom until he found the right speed—blow his mate’s mind.Isaac made small
noises to accompany his sharp breaths. He moaned. He gyrated, but nothing moved the toy inside of him. It was pressed against his sweet spot. His dick dripped some more. This was torture. All of it was the best kind of torture. His fangs pressed into his lips, he snarled and waited for Knox to touch him.
The warrior rounded the structure and pulled up a chair. He let Isaac watch as he kicked off his boots for a second and ripped his leathers down.
“Fuck!” Isaac screamed. He wanted that cock. He wanted that body! He wanted that sweet, sweet blood.
Shirt gone, now naked, Knox pushed his feet back into his boots and sat in the chair with dangerous eyes. Feet spread apart, he fisted his cock and stroked it up and down.
“Come for me,” he hissed.
“I… I can’t,” Isaac pleaded.
“Make yourself come, Isaac.” Knox sighed, squeezing his dick at the sight before him.
“I…” Isaac locked his ass cheeks tight and the toy obliged. His prostate sang, vibrated until his eyes rolled in his head.
Knox beat his shaft with his fist. The body in front of him went rigid, bent but arched. So fucking beautiful. “Exactly.”
Body shuddering, Isaac tilted his head to see his mate. Trails of clear fluid ran over Knox’s fingers and again, the sight of his lover set him off. He came, his muscles squeezing the toy in his ass so hard it was painful. His seed littered the floor yet his cock was still hard! Knox was breaking him in. He was officially broken, submissive, owned.
Knox stood, cock still in hand. “One of the best things about being a vampire… you can keep going and going and going.”
“Oh God,” Isaac whispered. “Oh my fucking…”
Knox pressed the button again, his mate’s head lowering until it met his cock. “Open that mouth, Isaac. Wider, take it all.”
His mate’s cock filled his mouth and Isaac groaned. He choked as it roughly pushed to the back of his throat. He shivered as it left his mouth only to be thrust in again. Sticky, stringy liquid everywhere, he took it again and again. Even in the painful position he kept, the clips biting into his skin so bad that his body was on fire. The toy still buried deep in his ass. He obeyed his mate because he loved him. He really fucking loved him.
Knox wrapped his hands around Isaac’s head, feeling their bond grow. He pushed in and held his mate there until the body below shook from lack of air. He pulled back, felt the love still flowing between them and continued to thrust until he felt his balls draw up. He withdrew, not ready to release just yet. A master of control, Knox moved through the structure.
Suddenly, Isaac’s mouth was empty and he was left with the hum of the toy running throughout his body. He heard the steps of his mate behind him, felt something tickle his skin then pull away. Isaac stiffened. He recognized the feel of what ran across his back. He startled as he was stretched back out across the structure. His back arched to stretch, but not for long.
“Count to three, my mate.” Knox ran the whip through his palm. A long handle fit into his hand, a large ball capping off the end. A thick length of leather coiled on the floor. “Count!”
Scared, but excited. Isaac took a deep breath. This was part of Knox, and now, it was a part of him. “One. Two,” he almost choked. “Three.”
The whip cracked against his back and he squeezed his muscles in delicious pain. The toy in his ass continued to hum, electrify him from the inside. His fingers splayed. His toes curled. His mouth opened with a pure cry.
“Again,” Knox commanded.
“One. Two. Three,” Isaac screamed as the whip met the other side of his back.
“Again,” Knox roared.
Isaac counted and Knox cracked the whip across his ass, jolting the device against his prostate hard.
“Mine!” The vampire bellowed.
Isaac threw his head back. “Yes!”
The whip snapped back then flew at his skin. It burned, his back was on fire, but he continued to take it all. Every snap of leather on his body only made him harder. In his mind and heart, he felt Knox everywhere. Their bond had been sealed, opened. Like like two streaks of lightning crashing together, he and Knox collided in spirit.
Knox, overpowered by the rush flooding his body, snapped the whip forward with his wrist over and over. Isaac wanted it. He felt it with every nerve, every scream and every drop of excitement that leaked from his mate’s cock. He smelled it all around him, choking him until he was so hard he couldn’t stand it. Red marks appeared and disappeared over his mate’s back, his ass. Blood everywhere, his beast demanded a taste.
Isaac had submitted to him fully, given him the most precious gift of all—he let Knox be himself. Vicious as it may seem to some, pain was part of their love and Isaac had no problem with it whatsoever. They had truly been made for each other.
“Fuck,” Knox roared with one final lash of the whip. It ripped the skin, made a gash for Isaac to savor.
One minute his body was twisting and writhing against the whip and then next, his mate covered his back. The toy was pulled from his ass quickly, dropped to floor and abandoned. It was as if he could still feel the hum inside of him—the pleasure that lingered.
Knox slowly made his way down his mate’s body. He licked the blood, creating a trail in his wake. His hands wrapped around the cuffs at Isaac’s ankles and detached them from the structure, freeing his mate’s legs. He’d been given the opportunity to fulfill his need, but Isaac deserved to be pleasured beyond the pain.
With a flick of his fingers, he unsnapped the clip under Isaac’s balls and listened to the howl his mate let go of. The next clip on Isaac’s balls rendered a glorious scream. Knox massaged the pain away until only whimpers filled his ears. Each clip was removed slowly, methodically to elicit cries from his mate. When he reached the nipples, Isaac’s eyes begged to be freed.
Knox pressed a kiss to his lover’s neck and unsnapped the clips at the same time. Isaac threw his head back and screamed with all he had left. Blood welled to the surface for Knox to lap up, suck into his mouth gently. While Isaac’s head lolled to the side, the warrior picked up his mate’s legs and maneuvered his cock against the slick entrance underneath.
“You’re incredible,” he whispered. “And you’re all mine. I still can’t believe it, but I feel it everywhere. You. Are. Mine.”
He impaled Isaac onto his cock in one fluid motion. They both hissed, forehead to forehead. Fangs bared, Knox finally buried himself home. His mouth inched closer to Isaac’s neck. Fangs met his own neck, searching, begging for permission while Knox began to pull out.
“Feed from me, my mate. Take what’s yours.”
Isaac’s eyes swirled. His head flicked back before he struck. Bliss unlike anything he’d ever known coursed through his body. Knox filled him, with blood, with his body, with his thoughts. Now he fed properly for the first time ever. It was glorious. It was hot. It was his mate.
His wrists burned yet he loved the way they hurt. His back was sore, enough to prick his eyes with tears, yet he yearned for more of Knox’s markings. His ass was so stretched that Knox was able to glide in and out of him, hitting the right spot, and he cried around the neck in his mouth. The entire experience was something he’d never had, but one he’d never forget. And hopefully, it wouldn’t be the last time.
He felt Knox’s worry, something about consequences, but he pushed it out his mind to savor the coupling. He could finally feel what the pleasure for his mate was like now that he was a vampire. He could feel the way Knox craved him and only him. At that moment, Knox slowed his thrusting until it was a deep swirl of their bodies. His fangs punctured Isaac’s skin and they created a perfect circle of their bond.
Isaac’s eyes flashed bright before he drew another mouthful of blood and lost it. His cock, sore and swollen, twitched and unloaded between their chests. His body was spent. His mind was a haze. His fangs retracted and his head thudded against Knox’s shoulder.
Knox felt the squeeze of muscle around his cock. He couldn’t handle anymore. The smell, the feel, the thoughts in his head—it was all too much. He barked something that not even he understood and filled Isaac with his seed. Unable to move, his fangs retreated and he lay his cheek in a trail of blood. The connection between them still hummed in the air, but it had faded to a low throb of passion.
They were finally sated.
It took a few minutes to feel his legs, to move his hands in working order, but when he did, Isaac hung there from the structure with his eyes closed. Unlike any of Knox’s sessions of pain, he actually cared what happened to this man afterwards. With the utmost care, Knox removed the remaining cuffs and caught his mate in his arms.
Isaac was now a vampire. He would recover, but due to the overwhelming events that had led to this moment, he would need time. A protective possession for his mate made him growl, flick his eyes to the barricade over the door. If anyone came in here while he tended to his mate, they would die.
His eyes remained on the door as he carried Isaac to the bath in the corner. He didn’t trip or fall, guided by the knowledge of his room’s layout, his toe finally hit the tub. Knox kicked off his boots and climbed inside. Isaac against his chest, he let the water steam up the room—blanket them from the rest of the world.
Isaac was passed out, limp but still breathing as Knox began to wash his mate clean. Every swipe of the sponge was careful, every move was gentle. Knox still watched the door as the water turned a bloody red.
“Mine,” he whispered.
Waking up to people standing over him was not Isaac’s idea of a good morning. Although they were his friends, Isaac snatched the covers and hissed until he was perched on the edge of the bed.
“Mother f—” Hannah began but Emma clamped a hand over her mouth.
“Iz, it’s just us. It’s okay,” Emma reassured.
But Isaac searched the room for his mate. He couldn’t smell Knox but he knew the vampire was nearby.
Nan sat on the side of the bed. “He’s not here, Iz.”
“Where is Knox!” Isaac trembled, but his predatory defense was still in charge. His fangs made his words breathy. His muscles flexed, ready for action.
Axel sighed. “He was summoned before Rowe and our mother early this morning. They’re keeping him there until your fathers reach an agreement.”
“What! What the fuck does this have to do with my fathers? What are you talking about?” Isaac looked around the room, surprised to see Cage sitting on the couch with his head down.Nan scooted closer. “You don't
remember what happened last night?”
“That’s none of your business, Nan!”
“She’s talking about before you… woke up.” Axel made a rare gesture and took off his sunglasses, squinted his eyes under the light from the windows.
Isaac wracked his brain. It was useless. All he could remember was Knox touching him, the pain, the connection of their bond.
“Jesus, Iz.” Hannah plugged her nose with her fingers. “You smell like a dog in heat.”
Emma growled at her twin. “Will you shut the fuck up! Can’t you see he’s upset and scared? What is wrong with you?”
“Iz?” Nan got close enough to touch his shoulder. “Relax, it’s okay if you don’t remember.”
“I need Knox,” he choked, covering himself. “Take me to him.”
“You can’t go to him right now, Iz. Rowe asked us to stay with you until he called.”
“What’s happening? What did he do?”
Isaac’s distress shot through their bond. A soothing stream of thoughts drifted back to him. He could see through Knox’s eyes, knew he was safe before the queen and the prince. Although there was a lot of tension, Knox made sure to tell Isaac he was okay. Then the connection was gone and Isaac fisted the blankets in his hands.
“What happened,” he repeated.
“It started after you blacked out in the hallway. Do you remember me, Cage and Jaska?” Nan scooted even closer.
Isaac flicked his eye to Cage who was still staring at the ground. “Yes.”
“Rowe had just found out that your parents were on their way home and he went to warn you and Knox, but you weren’t there. That’s when Knox came looking for you.”
“My parents were coming home?” Isaac folded his arms around himself.
Axel gave him a solemn look. “They already are home, Isaac.”
“Shit,” Isaac whispered, finally accepting Nan’s embrace. He tucked his head into her neck, smelling her deeply for the first time. All his senses were out of whack, heightened. This vampire business was overwhelming.
“Ditto,” Hannah murmured. This time it wasn’t teasing. It was soft, thoughtful even.
“Rowe knew Knox was freaked out. He was seriously scary for a while, Iz.” Nan swallowed. “He wouldn’t let any of us near you and with your rents coming back, Nina put us in the basement with Mags and Nova. They didn’t want us involved if things got crazy when Cade and Micah walked in.”
“What aren’t you telling me?” Isaac looked around at the others. “Please, tell me.”
Emma sat down on the bed with sad eyes. “Isaac, when your parents got home, Rowe and the others tried to talk to them, make them wait it out until Knox felt comfortable with other people in the room. But when they found out you had turned, they attacked the Guardians, Uncle Dan, Rowe.”
“No,” Isaac whispered, shaking his head. “They wouldn’t do that.”
“You’re their kid, Iz. Yes. They would.” Hannah crossed her arms.
“But that’s not all,” Em continued. “They broke down the door to get to you.” She pointed and for the first time, Isaac noticed the state of the room.
How had overlooked this? Blood splattered the floor. The door was nothing more than jagged pieces across the marble. Furniture was overturned, pushed against the walls. There was a large crack behind Knox’s favorite chair. It was a mess. Knox, he thought. What happened here?
He clutched Nan’s arm. “Did I do this?”
“No. Cade and Knox did,” Nan finally revealed. “Knox was trying to protect you, Iz. He went one on one with your da.”
“But my da is a Guardian, he’s the Original—the beginning of the others. How is Knox still alive?” Isaac cringed.
“It didn’t matter, Iz. They fought and Knox won. He took your da out hard.”
Isaac started to hyperventilate. “Is my dad… oh my God, is he dead!”
“Shh.” Nan pulled him to her tightly. “He’s okay, Iz. He’s just fine now. But that’s the reason Nina and Rowe summoned Knox. They wanted to talk before he went before Cade and Micah.”
“Are they going to kill my mate?” Isaac pushed away from Nan. “Are they!” He wrapped a blanket around his hips and slid off the bed.
“Izzy, calm down. Nobody is going to die. Knox is going to ask for forgiveness.” Emma put her hands up. “He wants to apologize because he doesn’t want to create a break in your family. He’s doing the right thing.”
“The right thing? This all so fucked up!” Isaac roared. “It’s been fucked up since the beginning. All I ever wanted was to love him! Now he does, or always did and finally we can be together, but it’s always going to be two sided in everyone’s eyes. My dads might forgive him, but they’ll never like it.
You guys say you’re happy for me, but you’ll always hate him for something, always watch to see when he fucks up. I am always going to be a freak in everyone’s eyes. We are never going to be normal because we’re both different from all of you! Why can’t anyone understand that? Why is it so fucking complicated!” He screamed.
“I love him,” he roared and stormed into the bathroom, slamming the door so hard it broke off the hinges.
The others stared at each other in silence. Isaac had finally snapped under the pressure. The looks they shared were calculating, guilty. But more than anyone, Cage felt the brunt of it. He had pushed and pushed. It was his fault Isaac had to go through this. He was the one that triggered the turn. He was the one who was different. If he had just let Isaac talk without screaming in his face, all of this would have never happened.
When his phone went off, everyone turned to him. His brother’s name registered on the screen. Scared, pitiful, he picked up the call and listened to Rowe’s careful words. It was time.
“I can’t believe you never said anything. After all the times I confided in you and you hide this from me?” Isaac’s nostrils flared as he and Nan walked side by side down the hall.
“I thought it was just a crush, Iz. Jaska texted me, said he missed me, made me feel special and shit. I didn’t know until that night after the bar that…”
“You and Jaska were mates? Right.” Isaac kept his eyes forward.
“Isaac, I’m serious. I had a feeling, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up. You know more than anyone what I mean. You and Knox? You didn’t know until he told you. It’s different for everyone, Isaac. It’s not some instant realization for all of us. It was just this little feeling. When I saw him that night, I knew for sure.”
Isaac frowned. “You could have at least told me about the texts. That’s kind of a big deal considering you’ve acted like you’ve hated Jaska since he was born.”
“I never said I hated him. He just kind of annoyed me, in a cute way.” She bit her lip, eyes cloudy.
Isaac stopped, looked at her with a scoff. “In a cute way? Who are you?”
She shook her head. “I’m the same person that has been your friend all these years. Don’t tell me you don’t get warm and fuzzy when you think of your mate,” Nan countered.
“Right now, when I think of my mate, I feel how upset he is. So excuse me for my lack of warm and fuzzies.” Isaac started walking again. “I just can’t believe you didn’t tell me.”
“Isaac, that’s not fair. You didn’t call me to say Knox had whisked you away to the Wharf. You didn’t call me when you got back to the compound. You didn’t tell me about a lot of things before that either.” She grabbed his shoulder. “Everyone has things that they aren’t ready to talk about. Both of us are going through something, heading down a new road. But what you need to understand, Iz. I’m still your friend.
Just because I’m mated and moving to the city doesn’t mean I don’t still love you like my brother. It doesn’t mean that you won’t be part of my life anymore. Just because you have a mate now, doesn’t mean you aren’t the same Isaac that I’ve always known. We’re growing up, Iz. It’s part of life. It’s part of being in love. As attached as you and I are, Knox is your confidant now and Jaska is mine. We have to rely on our mates, tell them things, share our other half with them.
Don’t be like this because I know deep down you feel exactly the same way. I get that your upset right now and that’s okay, I would be too. But aren’t you the slightest bit happy for me? Because I’m happy for you. Honest to God, Isaac. I am happy for you and Knox.”
“Really?” Isaac scowled, trying not to let his guard down. He played with his fangs in his mouth.
He flicked his eyes to her. “I guess I’m happy for you too. Even though, you’re moving away from me. I don’t like that part.”
She grinned, shouldered him a little. “I didn’t either at first, but the idea is growing on me. And thanks. That means a lot.”
Isaac bumped her back, a small smile hidden behind his hair. “I would hug you and cry with you, but I’m not really in the mood. Sorry.”
“No worries, I don’t want your cooties anyway.” She laughed. “And we have grown up problems to deal with now.”
“Yeah,” he growled. “Being a grown up sucks.”
Gearing himself up, Isaac finished walking the hallway to the conference room. He turned back to Nan who stopped at the stairs. “I am happy for you, Nan. You deserve to find a mate more than anyone I know. Don’t worry about me anymore. Start living your own life. You’ll always be my best friend, but now it’s time I took care of myself. Thanks for being there. Now go be there for him.”
Nan watched Isaac turn around and walk into the conference room. The doors were shut behind him by guards and she exhaled heavily. Isaac had finally grown-up and she couldn’t more proud. Crossing her arms, Nan walked down the stairs to find her own mate, praying like hell Isaac would be okay. But who was she kidding? Isaac could survive anything. He was more of a fighter than she would ever be.
Nina gestured to the chair beside her. “Have a seat, Isaac.”
Micah sat on the window sill staring at Knox. Cade was turned away from everyone in a chair in the corner. Knox immediately moved in to sit next to his mate. On the other side of the room were Dan and Rowe, carefully studying everyone and their movements.
“First off, I would like to say congratulations on your turn.” She patted Isaac’s hand. “A welcome to the club so to speak. On the other hand, I am sorry for the way of which your mating and your turn were both so sudden and scary.”
She flicked her eyes to Knox, serious and regal. “Both of you have had quite a journey to this moment and a lot of people have been hurt in the process. None of which is your fault, Isaac. Don’t think that for one second. But it is my duty as your queen to point out when one of my people has disturbed the peace.
Knoxtian, for the past two decades you have caused a rift between not only yourself and Cade and Micah, but between Isaac and his family. You have lied to hide your insecurities. You have punished your mate with your words and actions. You have put a strain on your fellow warriors, pit them against each other because of your situation—a situation that only you created.
You have caused stress to your prince and his mate. You have shunned yourself from everyday life on the compound. You have disobeyed direct orders from your superiors and you put your mate at risk by taking him away from our security by failing to inform anyone of your whereabouts at the Wharf.”
“What?” Micah laid eyes on Knox. “The Wharf!”
Nina held up a hand. “I was not speaking to you, Micah. Wait your turn.”
He growled and turned back to the window.
“All in all you have made your bed and now it is your duty as Isaac’s mate to make it right. What do you have to say for yourself, Knoxtian?”
“He didn’t—” Isaac tried to argue.
“Be quiet.” Nina glared.
Isaac hung his head as Knox hugged him close. “My queen.” Knox bowed his head. “I ask first for your forgiveness. I am responsible for this situation and I don’t deny any of my wrong doings. I ask for your blessing for me and my mate because he is the only thing in the world that makes me happy. He is the only reason I am still alive. I was a coward and a liar because I couldn’t deal with letting someone else into my life when I had been so alone for so long. I had lost my family, my brother, everything of worth until Isaac came along. I was scared of my feelings for him because they were so strong and he was so young.
I felt terrible about myself for thinking such things and knew there was something wrong with me. I never wanted to tell anyone, never wanted him near because it hurt to say the truth out loud or hold him because I couldn’t have him. By the time he came of age, I knew in my heart that I wasn’t worthy of him.”
“Knox,” Isaac breathed.
“It’s true. I wasn’t. It’s why your fathers hated me. Because I hated myself. But that night you danced, I couldn’t stop myself anymore. You were everything to me, my other half and that was it, Iz. I gave up fighting because I had no reason to fight anymore.”
Micah stared at Isaac and Knox. He was angry with the warrior, but deep down, he knew everything Knox said was true. He was the one who had said the same things to Cade. But it still didn’t erase the fact that his mate had almost died last night. The image of Cade, bloody, defeated—it rattled him to the core.
He looked to his mate who still hadn’t moved. He was so still, he looked dead, but Micah knew what his mate’s true thoughts were. He was the only one that Cade let feel his mind.
Nina saw the look on Knox’s face, the way he touched Isaac’s cheek and knew her decision. “Knoxtian, I give you my blessing for this mating. It isn’t within my right to deny you two in the first place. But it is my right to make you see how you have affected your brothers. That is their child. He is their family too and if you want to make this work, stay here under my roof, then you will do what needs to be done.”
“Nina?” Isaac turned.
He was silent for a second, staring at his da in the corner. “Can I talk?”
She smirked and gestured to Cade. “Yes, but we aren’t leaving this room. Just so you know.”
Isaac squeezed Knox’s hand and stood. He glanced at Micah before going to crouch in front of Cade.
Cade said nothing. Not because he hated his child, but because he didn’t know what to say anymore. His child’s hand slid over his and he turned away.
“I need you to look at me right now, da. I need to know that when I tell you how I feel, you hear me.”
Cade looked at his son and sucked in a sharp breath. Blue eyes stared up at him, clear and sharp. Isaac looked so much older as a vampire—stronger features, muscle in his thin frame, hair pulled back. It was hard to take in.“I don’t blame you for being protective of me. You wouldn’t be
my Da if you weren’t. I grew up envying you, loving you so much for being my big, strong protector—the Original. This, you right now, that’s not the Da I know.
I dreamed of the day when I could come home and tell you I had found my mate, someone that would make you proud of me. Someone that loved like pop loves you. Because I envied that, what you have together. You are both so passionate and strong, stubborn but caring. I wanted that kind of strong bond.
But the strength I envied wasn’t me. I wasn’t ever going to be a warrior. I wasn’t ever going to Harvard to meet the perfect man and be on the honor roll, fight evil doers at night and come home to my mate. My strength is different, Da. I’m different and I know you’re having a hard time grasping that.
But I want you to know that I am strong willed, a fighter, because of you and pop. You both have given me a life that most kids dream of. You accepted me, loved me, cared for me when you could’ve just left me in the woods that night. But you didn’t and I will forever be grateful and love you with all my heart.
I’m so sorry that I didn’t give you the kid you always dreamed of, that you don’t like the way I live my life. But Da? It’s what makes me happy. Him. He makes me happy. He’s where I fit in. He’s the next part of my life. Knox is my mate, Da, and I love him with every part of me. I know you two will never get along, but for me, could you try? Could you see past all the things that have happened up until now and be happy for me? Just a little bit, because above anyone’s approval, despite what you might think, your opinion matters the most to me.”
Cade reached forward and gathered his son in his arms. He held on tight for fear that he might be swept away with the overwhelming rush of emotion inside of him.
“You were and are exactly what I wanted,” he whispered fiercely. “And I’m sorry for never telling you that. It’s just so hard to let you go. Not because I hate Knox, but because I don’t want you to grow up. And you are. You’re grown up, Isaac. It scares the shit out of me.”
“I’m not leaving you, Da. I’m just a few floors up.” Isaac hugged Cade tighter.
Knox watched the interaction of Isaac with Cade and felt a weight lift from his shoulders. On the other hand, he knew Cade would never forgive him. It hurt to know Isaac would never have that from his dad, that complete acceptance because of him. He caught the looks from Dan and Rowe and let his eyes drift to the table. His bangs hid his gaze and he threw his mental block up to save Isaac any worry. He needed this. His mate deserved this moment.
Micah watched his mate, felt the joy in his heart and sighed. But try as he might, he couldn’t stop his eyes from landing on Knox. The male was hunched in his seat, crestfallen. He knew what Knox was thinking. That they would never bless this mating or accept his apology. But the truth was, Cade wasn’t angry about last night. Micah and spoken to his mate earlier. The fight had been a long time coming and with his defeat, his embarrassment, his pain, Cade had realized he would have done the same thing if he had been in Knox’s situation.
They weren’t so different, Knox and Cade. They both wanted to protect what was dear to them. One a parent, struggling to let go, but still felt the need to protect his child. And one a newly mated male with a love so fierce it could take down the Original. Both of them had a point, but now, Knox was the clear victor and Cade had settled into the idea. It was either give over to save the bond with his son and renew his friendship with Knox or lose them both because of his stubborn and misplaced anger.
Micah, even in his grief and all that had happened within the past few days, had a hard decision to make. If his mate, the one who had been angry in the first place, could let bygones be bygones, could he do it as well after last night? As Micah looked at his son and mate one more time, he closed his eyes and sighed. Yes. He had to for the sake of everyone.
“Knox?” Micah grunted.
The blue haired vamp looked up with pitch eyes. They were blank, guarded.
Micah stood with his arms crossed. “Do you have something you want to say to us?”
Knox looked between his mate, the Original, and Micah. Just do it, you coward, he chanted silently. Get up and say it like you mean it. This is your fault and if you can proclaim your love to Isaac like a hopeless fool, you can at the least give these men your apologies. Knox stood slowly.
“Yes, there is.” He rounded the table, saw Nina’s pleased look as he got on his knee in front of Cade and Micah.
“Knox, what are you doing?” Isaac’s eyes widened.
“Something I should have done a long time ago.” Knox looked up into the eyes of Isaac’s family and exhaled. “I’ve been an asshole. I am an asshole and I probably will be one for the rest of eternity, but that doesn’t excuse what I put your family through. You were both… fuck it. You were both brothers to me at one time.
I had your back and you had mine. I was the one who broke that trust and now I beg for your forgiveness and your blessing because Isaac doesn’t deserve to have parents that won’t accept me for what I’ve done. He did nothing wrong and I know he needs those words from you both. Hell, if my parents were still here, I’d need them too. Because your parents are the ones you look up to the most. They’re your heroes and I hate that I can’t give that to him.
I hate that I’ve done this to you all. I am sorry for… everything. But I love him.” Knox sighed heavily. “I love him so much it’s fucking scary. I’ve loved him since the moment you brought him here, Cade. I will die to protect him. I live to serve him and again, I beg for your forgiveness. Both of you.”
Isaac held his breath. His Pop was stoic, silent as he regarded Knox on his knee. His Da stared with heavy thoughts behind his silver eyes.
“Get off you damn knees, Knox. Unless you have ring for me, that is.” Cade raised a brow.
Isaac’s face fell from hopeful to blank. And there it was. Knox had tried and that was all he could have hoped for.
“Right,” Knox clipped and stood. He’d given it a go, but he’d expected this. He’d beaten the shit out of Cade last night. That was something a person didn’t forget. “Isaac, you coming or do you want to stay? I don’t mind. I just need some air.”
“Who the hell told you, you could leave?” Cade snorted. “I wasn’t done.”
“Look, I know you’re pissed and you have every right to be, but can we not do this? I get it. I’m trying to keep my cool here. So, I’m leaving.” Knox turned, but Micah caught his wrist.
“He said he’s not done.” The Guardian narrowed his eyes.
Isaac put a hand on his arm. “Knox.”
“Fine.” Knox snatched his wrist away. “Let me have it. Come on.”
“Fine,” Cade threw back at him. “I forgive you.”
Knox’s brows drew together. “I’m sorry?”
“I forgive you,” Cade repeated.
Knox rubbed the back of his neck, looking away. “I… I wasn’t expecting that.”
“I know.” Cade let Micah pull him to his feet. “And it’s fun watching you squirm because you deserve it.”
“Yeah,” Knox could only agree. “I do,” he whispered to himself.
“You put me on my ass last night to protect my kid, Knox. I’m not going to hug you or cry with you or act like I’m not still pissed off about it, but it’s obvious you love my son. I can’t hate you for that.”
Isaac beamed on the inside. He wanted to hug his parents, smile and laugh, but he held back. This was a good start and his mate wasn’t one for making a big emotional production in public. His warrior had already done his share for one day. Instead, he sent Knox his joy through their bond. Fingers threaded through his and that was enough. Knox got the message.
“Nina?” Micah looked over his shoulder.
The queen wore a bemused smile. “Hmm ?”
“Would you please give us a moment?”
She contemplated the request in silent thought, shifting her eyes to Rowe and Dan who nodded. “I trust that you’ve made enough progress to avoid violence in the future? That if we leave this room no one will be jumping tables and baring fangs?”
“You have my word.” Micah nodded his head.
“Very well. When you’re finished, join us downstairs for brunch. We’re going to have a meal together for once.” She pushed up from the table. “No matter how awkward it will be.” She smiled curtly.
“They get it mother.” Rowe helped Dan up. “Meal. Everyone. Required. Got it? He asked the foursome in the corner.
“Message received.” Micah attempted not to snarl. He still had words for Rowe, but they could wait. There were more important things to discuss.
Micah waited until the others had left to look at Isaac and Knox. “Have a seat. I have something to tell you, Iz, and apparently Knox by association.”
“Pop,” Isaac sighed his name.
“Sorry, I’m still a bit on edge, Iz. It’s going to take some getting used to. You and him, you’ll have to give me a minute.”
“Yeah,” Knox agreed.
Cade shot him a look but sat next to his mate without a word. Once Isaac and Knox were seated across the table, Micah ran a hand through his hair.
“We came home early for a reason, Iz.” Micah looked at the table as Cade rubbed his back.
“You want me to?” His mate whispered and he nodded. He was so tired, stressed.
Cade set eyes on his son. “We didn’t come home because of you two. I may have wanted to because I was being a little… crazy when I couldn’t get a hold of you, but that wasn’t the reason we did. Your Pop got a call from his cousin when we were on vacation.”
“His cousin?” Isaac made a face. “I didn’t know we had any cousins in the community.”
“Not this community. She’s human,” Cade revealed.
Isaac balked. “What?”
“She doesn’t know about us, relax. She thinks your Pop is retired.” Cade rolled his eyes. “The point is she called to give us some bad news.”
“Okay, what is it? Is she in trouble or something?” Isaac dared a look at his mate. Knox squeezed his thigh in reassurance.
“No. Your grandfather passed away.”
“Pop’s dad?” Isaac drew in a sharp breath. He looked to his Pop whose grief was now apparent. “I’m so sorry, Pop. I didn’t know him at all, but I can’t imagine.”
“I didn’t want you to know him. He wasn’t a good person. He… never mind.” Micah rested his face in his hands.
Cade massaged the back of his neck. “We came home to attend the funeral. We would like, well, we want you both to attend. For Micah.”
“Wow,” Knox grunted. “That’s big, Cade. Do you think that’s a good idea? Seriously?”
“No, but we’re going because Micah needs to and I’m not going to argue with anyone over the matter. Since your family now,” Cade cleared his throat, “it’s only right that you and Isaac come with us, out of respect.”
“But why are you going if you didn’t like him?” Isaac piped up. “I don’t mean that in a bad way, I just don’t understand.”
“Because I need closure. I want to see him in a box, in the ground with a headstone, something that says that part of my life is done. You can move on now, Micah. What he said and did to me has never gone away, Isaac. He broke part of me, but at the same time, I want to show him that he made the other part stronger. If he had never pushed me out of his life, I would have never met your Da and we would never have you. So when he’s looking out from whatever part of hell he’s in, he can see what I have that he never did—a fucking heart.”
Isaac eyed his father. “I’m so sorry, Pop.”
“Yeah. I’m sorry for your loss, Micah. Even if you didn’t like your father, that’s hard.” Knox sighed. “As bad of an idea as this is, sorry but it’s the truth, we’ll go with you.”
Isaac had a moment of shock that Knox was agreeing to this. A loss for words before he nodded. “Of course we’ll go.”
Cade stared hard at Knox, searching for an inkling of sincerity. What he found was beyond sincere, small whispers told him of Knox’s own father’s passing—the grief, the understanding. Attached to that was his worry for Isaac, how he was truly receiving the news. And then… he was actually worried about Micah. The man he had despised all these years was worried for his mate.
He cleared his throat. “Thank you. Um, why don’t you both go get cleaned up and packed, a suit preferably and, Knox? Wear a hat.”
Knox grinned subtly. “What? You think the blue will run them off?”
Cade rolled his eyes, trying not to smile as his son slapped his mate on the shoulder. “No. I think we’re going with low-key for this event is all. We’re trying to blend in.”
“Right.” Knox smiled at Isaac with a wink. “I think we can do that.”
“Is there anything else we can do, Pop?” Isaac looked across the table.
“Yeah, relax. I think we all need to relax a bit.” Micah faked a smile for his son. “Get out of here and clean up that mess upstairs.”
Knox cringed. “I’m sorry about that. I didn’t mean—”
“Let it lay, Knox. It’s over and done with and we’re trying here.” Cade stood from the table. “I forgave you, both of us do. But when we’ve had some time to process all of this, you still owe us a little chat, Isaac.”
Micah smirked at that. He stood from his chair. “Yeah. We want to hear all about how your ceramics show went the other night. Heard you were a showstopper.”
Flushing bright red, Isaac ducked his head. “I don’t know what you guys are talking about.”
“Whatever you say, Midnight.” Cade rounded the table and ruffled Isaac’s hair.
“Oh God,” Isaac groaned.
“Forgive us if we don’t come down and show our support,” Micah added. “But if you’re good at what you do, who are we to judge?”
“Fuck,” Isaac muttered.
“See you tonight, kid.” Micah bent down and kissed Isaac’s head.
The doors closed behind them and Knox threw his head back and laughed. “The jig is up, Midnight.”
“Shut up,” Isaac hissed.
Narrowed eyes looked back at him. “Make me.”
Isaac’s nostrils flared as he was shoved onto the conference table. “I think I can now.”
“Yeah?” Knox wedged himself between his mate’s legs. “Show me what you got, Tiny Dancer.”
“Are you seriously going to do this in the conference room? There are guards outside!”
“I got a one track mind and so sue me, I’m in the mood to celebrate. No one is dead. You’ve got fangs. And your parents said yes.” Knox shrugged.
“You’re an asshole.” Isaac wrapped his legs around his mate.
“And you love it.”
“Yeah. I kind of do.”
Knox grinned with a mouth full of fang. “Brat.”
Two SUVs waited in the courtyard like a procession ready to take on the night. Isaac stood off to the side of the entrance, watching his breath fog in the air with his wool dress coat wrapped around his body. He glanced over at Knox who was grumbling something to one of the guards. He looked over to the other end of the vehicles to see his parents talking with Rowe. No fighting there… yet.
Then he glanced up at the sky and saw the moon bright amidst the dark. His vision improved since the turn, it almost blinded him. But he was somehow entranced with it. Maybe it was the way it never changed unlike the rest of his life. For millions of years and until eternity, the moon would always be the same. It was one thing he could rely on and as a child of the night, or so most of the vampires called themselves, it soothed him.
So wrapped up in the sky, he didn’t feel someone creep up behind him. Only when he caught a whiff of light cologne did he turn. Dark eyes bore into his. Magenta hair in complete disarray made Cage look childish instead of his usual rock star self. The man looked tired, lost. Isaac had been there not so long ago. He knew that feeling, but he was also surprised that Cage knew it too.
Cage had everything a vampire could want. The queen was his mother. The prince was his brother. He had a blood sibling, a twin. He had killer looks and a casual style that made all the girls flock to him. He had brains yet he had the strength that Isaac had always desired. So why was he was having such a hard time lately? The mystery of Cage had yet to be solved, but as it stood Isaac had no place venturing into that territory, let alone asking Cage for the umpteenth time what his problem was.
But that didn’t mean he wouldn’t show Cage the kindness that he had been lacking recently. “Hey.”
Cage leaned against the wall. “What’s up?”
“Getting ready to go.” Isaac hitched a thumb at the vehicles. He felt the tension waft off Cage and sighed. “What’s going on, Cage? I’m not trying to start anything and I promise this is the last time I’ll ask. But you came to me this time.”
“I was just checking things out. Nothing to say.” His eyes darted away.
“Okay,” Isaac said quietly. “I’ll see you around.” He took the first step.
Cage caught his shoulder. “Wait.”
“What?” Isaac didn’t turn around.
“I’m sorry for yelling at you yesterday. I’m sorry about your grandfather too.”
“Okay,” Isaac breathed. “Is that it?”
“What do you mean is that it? I just apologized, Iz.” Cage’s face fell.
“And I said okay. But our issues go deeper than yesterday or my grandfather. This is the first civil conversation we’ve had in almost a month. You’ve got problems with me that I don’t understand. Honestly, I don’t even think it’s me or my life that bothers you. I think it’s you, Cage. And when you’re ready to admit that, you’ll get more than an okay from me.”
“You don’t get it.” Cage slapped a hand to the brick. “It started with you, Iz. All of it.”
“I don’t even know where to start with that, Cage. But right now, I have to be there for my family. That’s more important than worrying about why you are the way you are. It gets me nowhere and gives me a headache. You don’t want to expand on that because you’re scared of what I might think? That’s fine. But I don’t have the energy to fight you when you’re like this.
I need to focus on taking care of my Pop and my mate because they care about me. And deep down I know you do too, but I can’t be friends with someone that doesn’t show it. Thanks for the apology though. It’s a start.”
As hard as it was, Isaac walked away from Cage because he had nothing else in him to give his old friend. He wasn’t being selfish or cold. He was trying to make Cage realize the void he had created. And if Cage was any kind of man, he would get it eventually.
Cage stared at Isaac as he went to his mate. The two reached for each other’s hands and he had to turn around and close his eyes. He couldn’t look at Isaac every day and see him happy with his mate, his new life when he was hurting inside. Not because he wanted Isaac, but because Isaac reminded him of what he did want. It was crazy. He knew that, but Isaac triggered his brain in ways he didn’t want.
Thoughts of other men. Dreams about them at night. Glancing at the other guards in the training shower when they weren’t looking. Curious staring that made him doubt all he ever knew. He just couldn’t do it anymore.
Slipping back inside, Cage went upstairs and packed his duffle. Clothes, gadgets, weapons—everything he’d need on his own. His cards in his wallet and his keys in hand, he made his way out the back entrance and to his car. As soon as the SUVs had left the courtyard, he turned on his headlights and exited the compound grounds. He didn’t belong there anymore and he wasn’t coming back.
After a long, sleepless night at the hotel, Knox helped Isaac load their things into the vehicle. It wasn’t much, but it seemed like a lot when he was running on fumes. Not to mention the suit he had on that was not his style at all. The dark shades and the tipped down fedora that hid his hair. He looked like a top secret agent, not a bar owner. He didn’t like it one bit, but he kept his mouth shut because today wasn’t about him.
Today was about the man with an even worse disguise. Micah’s beard was top notch as far as fake hair went, but it still didn’t suit him. The black wash out coloring in his hair didn’t either. Dressed in a sharp black suit and thick rimmed glasses over his brown contact lenses, Micah looked like a Persian on the prowl for real estate, not a Guardian mourning the loss of his father.
Cade had gone for an even less subtle approach. A fake tan and a blonde wig that Knox had to admit looked decent on him and a pair of aviators over his eyes—Cade looked as if he were going to be selling the property Micah was looking for. Knox had been alive a long time, but he guessed he didn’t know squat about Connecticut high society and their fashion trends.
As he turned to his mate, he had a moment to study the man. He looked older in his suit, more refined like a true Royal. A skinny black tie around his neck and his hair pulled back into a tight ponytail, Isaac looked like he belonged on the cover of a magazine instead of currently headed for a funeral. He cleared his throat when Isaac looked at him. His mate grinned and shut the rear door before brushing past him.
Of course, Knox followed him into the vehicle and closed the door. The guards took their place up front and then it began—a slow drive to the church, a mega institution that supposedly worshipped God. After a bit of internet searching, Knox had his suspicions. A church that housed three coffee bars and a Christian based spa? Sounded more like a country club to him. If only these snobby conservatives could have lived a few hundred years prior. When religion was law, where you lived and breathed the word of God and fought to keep his name pure.
Spas, he scoffed. What had the world come to? His hand in Isaac’s, he zoned out as they took the highway and made the journey behind Micah and Cade’s vehicle. He tried to relax his anxieties about this event, but something stirred in his gut. Today, something was going to happen and he feared it wasn’t going to be pleasant.
A while later Isaac was a bundle of nerves as he and Knox sat in the back of the church with his fathers and their guards. Their presence was noticed among the hundreds of people gathered, but being a vampire in the middle of a bunch of humans was scary. He knew that if worse came to worse, they could high tail it out of here. That didn’t stop the what ifs from bombarding him. He tried to remain calm. He tried to soothe himself with Knox’s fingers rubbing circles into his wrist. But in his mind, he knew something was going to happen.
His eyes were drawn to the front of the pulpit. Below the massive bulk of polished wood was a box so white, it didn’t look real. Flowers dripped from the sides of the large arrangement lying on top. The entire scene was so surreal to him. A man that had been such an important part of his Pop’s life, but someone he never knew. Was it wrong not to grieve him? Was it more wrong that he was here, taking up a space for someone that actually had cared for the great Senator Adam Derenger?
But as he glanced over at his parents, he knew being here was important. The strained look on his father’s face, even under the disguise, made his heart hurt. So, he settled back and listened, out of respect for not only the deceased, but for his parents. His Pop who was mourning a man that hadn’t loved him, but his Pop had obviously loved Adam Derenger regardless. No matter what he had said on the topic.
Knox began to look over the program in his hand. A professional photo of Adam Derenger looked back at him. He was in his early seventies, but he still looked young, groomed even. Thick gray hair swept back into place, bold blue eyes that he’d definitely given to Micah and tightly drawn lips that had kept so many secrets—the man looked every bit a politician. Strangely unnerved by the eyes staring at him, Knox opened the program and read through the list of family and Adam’s favorite bible verse.
The pallbearers were all family. The song was by someone famous that he vaguely recognized. Then came the part that made his eyes widen. He was about to show Isaac when the music started and his attention snapped to the front.
A minister read from the bible, talked about Adam’s faith in the church, recognized the grieving widow that was hidden in the front of the crowd. It wasn’t until members of the family or friends were asked to speak on Adam’s behalf that Knox looked at Micah.
Tears streamed down the Guardian’s face, disappeared into his beard as his eldest sister walked up to the podium. What it must be like, Knox thought. To see your loved ones who pushed you away, people you had loved your entire life, but didn’t love you in return. He found that his hand gripped Isaac’s. So much human emotion in the room that it stole his breath. The sadness was overwhelming. Even with the apparent snobs in the room, they had all had a hand in Adam’s life.
When the fifty something year old woman stepped down and a younger version stepped up, Micah buried his face in Cade’s shoulder. The Guardian’s shoulders shook softly. Isaac’s emotions heightened through their bond. It was so much to take in. Family member after family member revealed before their eyes, causing distress throughout their small party. Knox looked to his mate, whose eyes were transfixed forward. This was Isaac’s family too. A family he had never met, who should have loved him all this time.
But it wasn’t meant to be. He was a born vampire. They were humans, cruel humans without a heart to give. Protectively, Knox wrapped an arm around his mate. They didn’t deserve his mate as family. These bigots, they deserved nothing for the way they had treated his… family. And there it was. Micah and Cade were his family as much as Isaac was. He had betrayed their trust, pushed them away just like Micah’s father had.
He was a bigot in a certain respect. Knox felt his own guilt flood him more than ever before. He thought of his brother, his blood family and how he had never truly opened up to him unless he needed something. He thought of Isaac and the way he had hurt his own mate. He thought of poor Micah and all the wrongs he had done to cause him and Cade pain. This was his family to protect, not to hurt. And there in the back of the church, Knox opened up his feelings for them to feel.
Isaac felt Knox’s heart like it was his own. He felt the shift of his parents next to him and saw them staring at his mate with glassy eyes. He looked to Knox who stared straight ahead, clutching his knee with his free hand and a tight jaw. The truth of his feelings were better than any apology he could ever serve up.
Knox calmed as the last sister stumbled up the podium steps. She was either drunk or high and had been crying as makeup ran down her face. The youngest of the three, Margaret Sadler, formerly Derenger, slurred to even get out the first sentence. She gripped the podium, struggling to make any sense. That was when a young blonde man got up from the front and approached her. He turned shameful eyes on the crowd. Knox and Isaac froze.
There stood Joseph. Joseph Sadler, one pallbearer and grandson to Adam Derenger.
Cade and Micah tried to get Knox and Isaac’s attention, but it was useless. Both men were shocked at the revelation. Joseph was Isaac’s cousin. Joseph was Micah’s blood nephew.
“Holy shit,” Isaac whispered.
An elderly woman turned around with narrowed eyes. “Have some respect,” she hissed before turning back around.
“What is going on?” Cade leaned over, growling under his breath.
“That’s… that is…” Isaac’s jaw continued to drop. All this time he had been dancing with his cousin and he never knew. Part of his family!
“That’s who?” Micah wiped his eyes.
“That’s…” Isaac choked.“That’s Joseph,” Knox whispered in a trance.
“Will you be quiet,” the lady huffed around in her seat. “This is a church and that is a grieving family. Knock it off or leave.”
Isaac leaned forward. “Why don’t you mind you own damn business?”
“Well, I never,” she gasped.
“And while you’re at it.” His eyes swirled softly. “Fuck off.”
Her face went slack, her eyes hazy and she turned around in her seat. The man at her side glanced over his shoulder, minding himself before facing the front.
Isaac sat back in his seat with cool eyes. He’d never done that before, a natural instinct, but in this case he was glad it went well. No longer a swiping virgin, he grabbed his mate’s hand and looked at his parents.
“We have to leave.”
“I don’t understand, Isaac. Who is that?” Micah glanced at the podium where the blonde man led his sister out of the sanctuary through a side door.
Isaac exhaled deeply. “That is my ceramic’s teacher. My good friend.”
“And your nephew,” Knox added. “If he sees Isaac, all bets are off.”
“My nephew?” Micah swallowed. “I…”
“Pop, we have to go.” Isaac squirmed a bit as eyes started to fall on them.
“Baby, come on. He’s right.” Cade nudged his head. He whispered something in Micah’s ear.
The guards were told the situation and they stood, silently going around the corner to grab the vehicles. Cade went next with Micah behind. As soon as they left unnoticed, Knox pulled Isaac quickly out the door. His hand gripping the program, he shoved Isaac into the closest SUV and slammed the door.
“This is too weird,” Isaac rasped. “I mean, Joseph, seriously!”
“That’s not the worst part,” Micah said in a deadly calm, pointing his finger to the vehicles on the side of the church.
Everyone looked out the window as Micah’s sister was shoved into a vehicle with Joseph. Three vampires looked around before getting into the limo. They limo took off and Micah snarled.
“I knew it,” Isaac whispered. “I knew he wasn’t okay. He was hiding something. He was always fighting with his mom on the phone when he thought I couldn’t hear. He was…”
“You couldn’t have done a thing.” Cade cupped his son’s cheek. “You didn’t know. You couldn’t have known.”
“I know, but he’s my friend. I should have pushed him more to tell me what was going on. I asked him a few times, but I let it go. They could kill him, Da. We don’t know them.”
Knox pulled out his phone and dialed Rowe. The prince picked up casually. The sound of running water in the background.
“Get out of the bathtub and get the closest manager on the phone. We have a situation.”
Water splashed, Dan whispered in the background. “What’s going on?”
“Long story, but we have unknown vamps at this funeral and they have hostages. Pretty sure they’re dealers or a branch of some.”
“On it. Sorry, pet,” Rowe murmured. “Are you still at the church?”
“Yes. They just left in a black stretch limo about a minute ago.”
“Did you get a plate?” Rowe’s bare feet slapped the floor.
Knox growled. “I didn’t have time. They took off.”
Rowe snarled. “Fuck. Okay. I’m calling in a team to investigate. Don’t you dare go after them yourselves, Knoxtian. It could be a trap. Do you understand me? I will not put the four of you in any more danger, especially while heads aren’t quite straight if you know what I mean.”
“We have enough power with us, Rowe.”
“No! You don’t. I swear to God, Knoxtian. I said no! Don’t pursue them.”
“But they have Micah’s sister and nephew. We can’t let them go.”
“Yes, you can and you will. I’m not fucking around. Send me everything you know and I will have this investigated. None of you are in any state to fight. Are you willing to put your newly turned mate in danger over Micah’s family who he hasn’t spoken to in over twenty years?”
Knox closed his eyes and exhaled slowly. “No.”
“Then will you for once listen to me and let me do my job?” Rowe sighed.
“Fine, but I want updates on the hour.”
“You watch too much television, Knoxtian. Have a safe trip home. See you then.” The line clicked and the call ended.
Knox looked up at Cade and Micah. The mated pair knew before he even said anything what Rowe’s answer was. They turned in their seats and Cade cleared his throat.
“Take us to the cemetery. We’ll wait there,” the Original instructed the guard.
The driver hit the GPS and the SUV pulled away from the curb, the other vehicle following behind.
“What?” Isaac looked at his mate. “We’re not going after him?”
“I’m sorry, Iz.” Knox hugged him close. “This isn’t the city and we don’t know enough to go after them. It could be a trap.”
“Joseph wouldn’t do that to me.” Isaac pushed away from his mate. “He’s my friend.”
“Is he? Did you ever see where he lived, where he went outside of class? Did you ever hang out with him, know his deepest secrets?”
“No.” Isaac hung his head.
“Unfortunately in this world, people aren’t always who they appear to be. And… I’m sorry that I can’t give you the information you need to feel better. But Rowe will do whatever he can to find out more. I promise you that. We won’t let this go, Iz.”
Isaac let Knox massage his shoulder. “Do you really think he could be involved with dealers? By choice?”
“I don’t know. I hope not, but I really don’t know.” Knox rested his chin on Isaac’s head.
Micah said nothing as the landscape began to rush past them. So overwhelmed, he began to feel numb from it all.
Five hours later and a necessary trip for food during their pseudo stakeout, Micah stood to the side of his father’s grave. Flowers were piled off to the side of where the headstone would go, probably some tacky monument with an angel or something close. He kneeled next to the fresh dirt and took a shaky breath.
Knox pulled the program out of his back pocket and folded it open. He thrust it at Cade and stepped back. The Original glared at Knox before looking down at the paper in his hands. His eyes went wide, transitioning to sad in under ten seconds. He knelt by his mate and put a hand to Micah’s back.
“To Adam Derenger family was everything,” Cade read. “But along the way, he made a mistake that he has since regretted. With a deep weight on his heart, the following was to be shared upon his passing, directly stated in his will:
You were part of my heart and I let you go because I couldn’t see past my own selfish ideals. There was a hole left inside of me that no one could ever fill. You were and always will be my son, a human, a good man that never deserved my judgment. For you, Micah, I extend my love and apologies for breaking your trust and setting you free into a cold world that you never belonged in. Forgive me. I will always love you, Dad.
As was Adam’s wish, all donations in his memory are to be given to the GLAD organization, so that they may continue to fight for LGBT rights across the nation and defend the gay community so that one day, all love will be equal.” Cade placed the program slowly on the dirt so that Micah could see.
The Guardian trembled then lost it. Micah put both hands in the dirt and sobbed—a loud bellow of his emotions that sent the birds away from the trees and into the sky. His father had loved him, risking the conservative legacy he had worked so hard to establish to admit his feelings for his only son. Instead of getting closure, Micah mourned his father’s loss in Cade’s arms.
A week had passed and still there was no sign of Joseph or his mother. But through Micah’s cousin, they had learned that Joseph had met with his grandfather’s lawyer after the family will reading. The cousin had revealed that Joseph stood to inherit sixty five percent of the Derenger family fortune due to his close relationship with Adam. Maybe it was guilt on his grandfather’s part, trying to right his wrongs with his gay grandson, but the endgame remained.
If Joseph did indeed take his inheritance, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind of who would be controlling the funds. His mother’s home had been searched by the guards. Enough Rush was found in her room to secure their theories. Joseph and his mother were involved with dealers and the outcome of their situation remained a mystery. No calls, no credit cards, no vehicles to trace—all of their things had been left as if they had just disappeared. And truly they had because nobody could find them.
The loss of his friend weighed heavily on Isaac as did the loss of Cage. What he had hoped for, their friendship to be rekindled had backfired in his face. Cage had moved to the city and moved in with Blaze. The two of them staying at a Caldwell owned apartment in downtown Manhattan. Cage didn’t answer the phone for him, emails, or anything of the sort. He too was gone from Isaac’s life.
But Knox had not. His mate, their bond, was thicker than ever. They weren’t going anywhere and that alone gave Isaac the confidence and security to carry on. He had a mate. He had a home. He had renewed his relationship with his parents, even though they were still working things out. He had resigned as Jacob’s assistant. Knox was still on the other side of the ring on the issue, but he loved Isaac enough to let him do what made him happiest—dance. Even if it brought out every territorial grunt and hiss he had.
That was what led to this night. Isaac’s first official day as an employee at Sated. No friends here to watch his every move. No parents to gawk or judge. No warrior business. It was just him and a pair of leather thigh highs and a strut that owned the joint. He walked the hall to the thump of the bass filtering down from the stage until he reached the last door marked office.
He didn’t knock because he didn’t have to. He simply opened the door and grinned at his mate. Hunched over the small tablet on the desk, Knox looked up to see the sexiest man in the world. A leather harness around his chest, a skimpy pair of black shorts and leather thigh highs that were made for unwrapping, a leather military hat to top it all off—Knox growled deep in his chest.
“I’m trying to work here. You can’t be coming in here looking like that. You know I’m already on edge about seeing you dance.” He took a sip from his whiskey.
Closing the door, Isaac licked his fangs. “But I wanted to see you.” He pouted. “Maybe see if you had some sage advice about taking off my clothes.”
“What clothes?” Knox growled. “Those are not clothes.”
“This is clothing.” Isaac ran a hand over the ass of his shorts.
“Stop that right now.” Knox adjusted himself in his chair, something growing between his legs.
Isaac put the tablet on a chair and crawled onto the desk. “Or what?”
“Or I’ll give you a preview of later tonight. When there aren’t customers to worry about…” Knox leaned forward. “…hearing you scream.”
“Fuck em.” Isaac pulled Knox’s shirt to him. “Make me scream.”
“You’re on in fifteen,” Knox reminded. He traced his mate’s lips with his tongue.
Isaac slid his tongue inside Knox’s mouth, pulling away to tease. “Then you better get to work.”
“Brat,” Knox hissed.
“Fucker,” Isaac returned, biting down on his mate’s bottom lip.
Knox snatched his mate into his arms and pierced his tongue into Isaac’s mouth. Sliding into his lap, his mate began a hard grind, choking as Knox ate away at his mouth. The room heating up, they barely noticed the knock at the door. When he did, Knox threw his lamp at the entrance to ward off the intruder. Isaac laughed at the sound of broken glass, but stopped as the door eased open.
A man with long coppery hair peeked his head in. Knox almost tossed Isaac from his lap on his way to his feet.
“The fuck you want?” He snarled, smelling vampire from the other man.
“Frank, the bartender, he said to come right in.” The man’s eyes darted around.
“Yeah, well, Frank is slightly retarded. So get the fuck out.” Knox bared his fangs. “I’m working here!”
“You have to listen to me! It’s an emergency.” The man looked over his shoulder, desperate.
Isaac put a hand to his mate’s chest. “Knox, it’s okay.”
“No. It’s not. That is my mate and I will fuck your shit up if you are still standing there in three seconds.”
“Knox!” Isaac slapped him on the arm. “Chill.” He turned to the stranger. “You better start talking. He’s pretty angry.”
The man stepped inside, closing door a little. “I don’t have any other way to contact the Guardians. I was told you could help me.”
Knox growled, taking deep breaths so he didn’t explode. “What the fuck do you want with the Guardians? Who the hell are you?”
“My name is Henri and I need to get a message to Ghost immediately.”
“Ghost?” Isaac stood up, holding Knox back with his touch. “What do you need with Ghost?”
“Gabriel is in danger. I need to talk to Ghost,” he explained with insistence, glancing at the door again.
“Gabriel?” Knox took a step forward. “Ghost’s Gabriel?”
“Yes! Come on. I don’t beg anyone for anything, but that kid doesn’t deserve what’s coming.”
Knox shook his head. “How do you…”
The door slammed open and the click of gun filled the room.