Happy Halloween!!! I have treats for you! LOL Many of you will think this is the last chapter and it was what I had intended but I still have ten pages to go on the very last part of this story and then I have to attempt to edit all of it (more than ten pages). :P
My schedule switched up a bit this week and I start NaNoWriMo tomorrow. Hence the reason for another dose of your vampires today. I will very busy from here on out, but I promise not to let it bite at my blogging. We're still on track. The last, OFFICIAL, finale will be posted on Monday. Sunday is still on for Heart for Trade. If you have been skipping this story because you're only reading about vampires, you're missing out. Haha.
Send me good vibes as I work Cade for my NaNo project. If all goes well, it will be submitted before Christmas. :D I hope you all have an amazing Halloween. Be safe, keep warm, and don't go out alone.
KNOX AND ISAAC CHAPTER 6
Micah looked out the glass doors to see his mate on the beach. There was Cade, sitting in the sand. His chin rested on his arms while he watched the water lap at his feet. He’d been quiet all day. After a few rounds of heavy sex and another few hours of sleep, Micah had figured his mate was tired. But now, he knew Cade had withdrawn into his own world. He felt a little guilty for being so rough, but it was what they’d both needed to get back on track in their relationship.
Still, as he watched his mate all alone, his heart hurt. Cade was painfully sad, reflecting his emotions onto his mate unintentionally. It was obvious he was thinking things over, putting his mind to work with all the things he’d done wrong. And as much as Micah wanted to make his mate realize he’d been at fault, he didn’t want Cade to suffer. It wasn’t right. It would only drive them further apart.
Pushing open the doors, Micah walked out onto the sandy beach. The warm breeze ruffled his hair and the salty smell of the ocean filled his nose. It was so beautiful here, so peaceful. He only wanted to enjoy this place together. It was supposed to be about mending, not separation. He wanted his mate back. Micah missed Cade terribly.
“Hey,” Micah said quietly, sitting down beside his mate.
Cade turned his head. He glanced at Micah before turning back to the water.
“Are you not talking to me?” Micah mirrored Cade’s pose, drawing his knees up to his chest.
“What do you want to talk about?” It wasn’t a snippy response, only a tired one.
“Cade, please don’t be like this.” Micah sighed, reaching out to rub his back.
“What did I do wrong now?” Cade looked over, tears in his eyes. “I didn’t even do anything.”
“Baby, you didn’t do anything wrong. I just wanted to talk. You’ve been out here for a while. I was worried.”
“No. You think I’m ignoring you now, right?” Cade pulled away. He felt guilty beyond reason. It didn’t feel right for Micah to want him anymore, to touch him because he was a terrible person. He knew he was being crazy, but it was how he truly felt. “I don’t even know what to do anymore. I don’t know what to say, how to act, what to think. What more do you want from me, Micah? I apologized. I let you…” He ran a hand through his hair. “I don’t know how to go from upset to this romantic mate that you want me to be. I just realized that I’ve been ruining everyone’s life around me for all these years and my son probably hates me. That you’ve hated me and I’m just supposed to smile, have a glass of wine and call it good?”
He choked back tears. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “But I just can’t.”
“I have never, and will never hate you, Cade.” Micah pulled his mate close, whether he liked it or not. “I love you so much. That’s why I had to put my foot down. I’m sorry that you’re upset. I don’t like to see you this way. It breaks my heart.” He forced Cade’s head onto his shoulder, his fingers combing through auburn waves. “I don’t want you to change who you are. I only wanted you to realize that you weren’t being you. You weren’t acting like the man I fell in love with. You weren’t being the father that wanted his son to be happy, no matter what.”
When Cade’s fingers clutched at his shirt, Micah kissed his head. He breathed in his favorite scent. “Do you remember the first week we had Isaac?” He smiled.
“Yeah,” Cade whispered. “He was so little, I thought he would break every time I touched him.”
“But you held him for hours because you couldn’t get enough. Because he reached for you every time you were near. He fell in love with you from the second you rescued him from those woods, Cade. You were meant to be his father and he knew that.” Micah grinned at the memories. “He wouldn’t let me hold him without screaming for weeks. I thought he would never love me like he did you. I just didn’t have the magic touch or something.”
“Of course he loved you. You’re his father.” Cade looked up.
“And because you’re his father too—a good, loving father. Isaac could never dream of hating you, Cade. That boy loves you with all his heart, even when he’s irritated with you. He still loves you.” Micah slid his hands up and down Cade’s back. “All we ever wanted was for him to be happy. But he’s not a baby anymore. He doesn’t need to run into our room when he has a nightmare. He doesn’t need us to pick out his school clothes. He doesn’t need us to find that lost sneaker anymore, Cade. His happiness isn’t up to us now. It’s up to him and we have to be there to support his choices, not push him away.
He’s all grown up, and he’s in love. He’s not our little boy anymore. He’s an adult now, the same as you and me.”
Cade shut his eyes, choking on a sob. “I don’t want to let him go,” he wheezed. “It’s so hard. What is wrong with me?”
Micah rocked Cade gently. “There is nothing wrong with you,” he whispered fiercely. “All you’ve ever wanted is a family like your parents gave you. But you never got to the experience this part with them, to let them see your beautiful family grow, what that time would have been like for them. You don’t know what to do now because they’re gone, Cade. You don’t have a guidebook anymore, your mom to call and ask. You only had memories as a reference. You’re trying too hard because you’re trying to make them proud, trying to do what you think they would’ve done.
But now is the part where we have to let him go off and live his life, make mistakes, and find a mate of his own. And I know that wherever Isaac and Melaina are, they are so proud of you and the beautiful boy we’ve molded into a well-rounded man.”
Cade pressed his face into Micah’s neck as he sobbed. His body shook so hard, Micah wrapped himself around his mate to keep him from slinking into the sand. This is exactly what they’d needed all along. It might not be a fairy tale of a vacation, but it had a purpose. Letting go of old wounds and mending their hearts was better than any candlelit dinner Micah could ever dream of. He let his mate cry into his neck. He held him tighter because he loved the man in his arms for better or worse.
“He loves Knox,” Cade whimpered. “He really does.”
Micah nodded against him. “Yes.”
“Knox is so cruel to him. Why? I don’t get it.” Cade refused to leave the safety of his mate’s arms to look up.
“You know why, Cade.”
Cade shook his head. He refused to say it out loud. So Micah continued.
“He’s avoided Isaac since he first arrived at the compound. He pushes him and pushes him until Isaac steps it up and does him one better. He challenges Isaac to be stronger. He watches him like a hawk when he thinks we’re not looking.”
“No.” Cade shook his head again.
“He would have died to save Isaac from Olaf, Cade. He wouldn’t let go of him. He almost took you on to keep Isaac. He would have fought you to near death.”
“It’s not true,” Cade whispered. “He would’ve done that for anyone.”
“Not like that, baby. He made Isaac that blade and you know it. Yuri told us both.”
“He felt guilty for being an asshole,” Cade justified.
“Then tell me why Isaac’s room smelled of Knox for years. He was there, Cade, watching over him all that time.”
Cade shut his eyes because he couldn’t dispute the truth anymore. He’d thought he was crazy for so long, smelling his friend on his son, in his room. He’d never told Micah about it either.
“I’ve known for a long time, Cade. And I know. I just know you have too.” Micah pulled back to look at his mate. “I don’t agree with how he treated Isaac, but have you ever stopped to think about his situation? How crazy he must have felt? How wrong that must have been to him? How scared he was of what we would think or do?
But, Isaac? Isaac never stopped pushing him back, testing his limits. He was never afraid of Knox. As messed up as it all is, would they be the same people they are today if Knox had told us in the beginning? Would our son be strong and independent like he is now? Would Knox have changed himself to be who we wanted him to be?”
Micah shook his head. “It was supposed to happen this way, Cade. Isaac becoming man enough to be Knox’s other half. While Knox is starting to cave emotionally—he’s coming to the point where he has to admit his feelings for Isaac. All of their hardships will be worth every single second. They were being prepared to be with each other, Cade. And now… they’re ready, baby. I can feel it. You have to stop being angry. Let it go, Cade. Let Isaac be happy. Accept his chosen and let him start his life.”
Foreheads resting together, Cade threaded his arms around Micah’s neck. “They’re mates.”
“Mm hmm, and what are you going to say to our son when he admits that to your face?”
Closing his eyes, Cade took a shaky breath. “That I love him.”
“And the rest… will work itself out.” Micah tipped Cade’s chin up. “Until then and for the rest of eternity, stop shutting me out and let me love you. I miss you, Cade. I really fucking miss you.” Micah took a deep breath to keep the tears from his eyes.
Eyes now open, Cade saw his mate. He saw past the layers of strength his mate had created to protect himself. He saw the man that only he knew about—the one that was vulnerable, so sweet it melted his heart. His fingers gripped his mate for all he was worth as his lips meshed with Micah’s.
“I miss…” He gasped for air as Micah attacked him back. “Miss you too.”
His back hit uneven sand that rolled flat while Micah dug him deeper with every rocking motion. A tongue plunged into Cade’s mouth. He opened his lips wider to receive, to slide his own tongue against Micah’s. This time it wasn’t rough or hard, one-sided and grieving. Cade craved his mate’s passion. He craved his touch and his familiar love. It had been so long since they saw each other like this. Since the walls came crumbling down and their pain blew away like smoke on the wind.
Micah’s hair fluttered around him, his eyes swirling a deep blue. His thighs to either side of Cade, he lifted up to slowly unbutton his shirt. His hands were pushed away. Cade smiled up at his mate—a messy, teary smile that tore Micah right into pieces. It wasn’t complete, but it was a start.
“There you are,” he whispered, thumbing the tears away. “It’s been a long time.”
Shirt parted under his hands, Cade smoothed his fingertips up Micah’s chest. He wasn’t afraid of this change anymore. He gained confidence knowing that his mate still wanted him, still stood by his side even though he had been hurt. With a deep breath, Cade found himself, his old self. He didn’t have to wonder if he was doing it right anymore. He didn’t have to wonder if he was living up to his parent’s expectations or the ones he’d conjured for them. Because, no one did it right. There was no perfect life. There wasn’t a perfect love or family. There were only mistakes and the beautiful spaces between them. But the one thing in his life that would never be a mistake was Micah. His mate was his beautiful space.
Cade sat up, pressing a deep kiss to Micah’s chest. He slowly lifted his gaze. “I know, but I’m here now. I’m ready to be a part of this and I’m so sorry I let you down. I’m sorry I didn’t hear you. I’m so sorry I let you feel like you didn’t matter to me, because, Micah? You are it for me. I can’t do it alone and I don’t what the fuck I was thinking to even try, unintentionally, but I’m still fucking guilty.
I’m ready to let you in again, even though you never deserved to be on the outside in the first place. I have no excuse. I was and still am an asshole. Please, forgive me.”
He put his cheek to his mate’s skin and closed his eyes, seeking out the bond he had blocked for way too long. Like a caress from the inside, he felt it. He felt Micah’s love under his skin, in his heart, in his soul. Pushed back once again, Micah stared into his eyes.
“There’s nothing to forgive. Just be with me, Cade.” Micah pressed his lips to his mate’s—a slow, deep kiss that said it all.
Cade sighed into to the open mouth against his. His fingers slipped into Micah’s hair, palms full of thick locks and for the first time in a long time, Cade smiled. Not an ugly, teary smile. A real, genuine, joy filled one.
“I would like nothing better,” he murmured.
Micah growled and kissed his mate again as the sun went down over the ocean.
Isaac threw his head back, mouth open and eyes somewhere rolling in his brain. His hands gripped the side of the tub and water spilled onto the floor with every splash their slapping bodies created. Knox’s hands gripped his hips so hard there would surely be bruises, but he loved it. He wanted those fingers marked on his skin.
His mate’s cock slammed into him and he choked on his breath, smiled as that same length slowly retreated. Somewhere between the reality show, shampooing hair and a soft kiss, Knox had bent him over the side of the tub and pushed inside. He loved the spontaneity. Isaac loved everything about the unexpected when it came to his mate. Twenty four hours full of sex and yet, Knox still wanted to go at it.
This time wasn’t about fulfilling an emotional need or proving oneself. It was to sate the fire between them, if that was even possible. Isaac groaned, full and deep. Wet hair slapped back as he gasped to the ceiling. Knox grunted, hair hitting him the face. He bit down as a lock drifted over his lips, pulling his mate’s head back further. Their bodies aligned. He held Isaac roughly by the stomach, slamming into him so fast, he wasn’t sure he was even moving. His cock was a blur. Isaac was melting.
Knox’s eyes glowed. His balls met their limit. His shaft drove in. Isaac grappled for something with his hands, choking for air. He didn’t want to breathe. He wanted to drown in the climax taking him by storm. Shoved over the edge of the tub, the cock inside of him drove deep, pressing his own member into the marble.
He came seeing stars. No touching. Not even a jet against him. He just came, and he came hard. Knox bit into Isaac’s shoulder, sinking into the skin with a vicious growl as he released. It was exactly what he’d wanted—a good hard connection of bodies, him and his mate and their unbridled passion. As blood rushed over his tongue, he melted into Isaac. Careful to keep an arm around his mate’s waist so he didn’t crush him. Isaac was lulled into a slumped submission. This time, the feeding was calm, relaxing his limbs with an intimate bliss.
Feeling Isaac giving over to his sleepy desires, yet again, Knox pulled back and cleaned his lips. He lapped gently at the small wounds, proud of the markings on his mate’s flawless skin that he had created. That certain joy fueled their bond—the happiness he took in pleasuring his mate warring with his primitive beast was a satisfaction that he couldn’t put into words. He could only detail that it felt right in every sense.
Pulling out of Isaac, Knox gathered the man in his arms, carefully climbing out of the tub. He took care to dry his mate, selecting the softest towel absentmindedly—caressing Isaac’s skin until every drop of water had been put to death within the downy material. Isaac clung to him with only the weight of his drowsy limbs keeping him in place. He was so soft and warm, smelled sweet and salty with a hint of green apple shampoo.
Everything about his mate intensified his need—a need that would never be fully satisfied as the vampire would always crave him with a vengeance. But his beast compromised, allowing him to care instead of take. Simple necessities that Know normally took for granted such as drying his hair had become sensual between them. He couldn’t grasp the emotion in his heart—the one that defined how he felt about this singular task. His mate allowing him this trust, to allow Knox to fulfill his needs above any other—he wanted to throw his head back and roar his claim.
Never had another being made his heart submit like this. And never would another take Isaac’s place. This was what Rowe had meant. This was his heart, his weakness, his downfall. Isaac was his mate and Knox vowed to love him forever. The only way to kill this kind of bond would be through death and even then, Knox would only love him more from wherever their God sought to put him.
Refusing to say these things out loud, because it wasn’t really his style and he wasn’t good with words, Knox instead placed Isaac on the bed. Still wrapped in the softest towel known to man, Isaac sighed and rolled into the silky sheets. He felt a wall of pillows being built around him, one by one. His smile grew, even drowsy. He knew exactly what his mate was doing and it was all for him. Biting his lip, his affection only grew for Knox. This hard-ass, beast killer with a vast collection of body art, was making the bed just the way he liked it.
The scent of his man blanketed him as a thick comforter floated over his body. It sank around his form, nestling him further into the bed. It smelled like him, everything smelled like him. Isaac inhaled, craving that scent to be embedded into his skin. Just as he was about to sniff the sheets again, the blanket was pulled back, chilling him from the temperature difference.
“Knox,” he whined, scissoring his legs for some heat.
“On your back, mate,” a dark whisper sounded next to his ear.
A shiver coursed through him, not of fear, but of desire. Could he really be down for another round when he felt like his body was ready to give up? He didn’t argue with Knox though. He simply adjusted himself onto his back with his knees bent. Eyes opening, Isaac looked up at his formidable male. From the view, Knox seemed larger if that was possible. The vampire narrowed his eyes, but a grin graced his lips.
“More?” Isaac yawned. “Really?”
Knox shook his head. “Nope. Not today.”
“Then why are you not in bed? It’s so warm,” Isaac whispered.
“Because I have something to do first.”
“You’re leaving?” Isaac sat up, alarmed. His sleep shook off. He fought his tired body to his knees. “Please don’t leave.”
“Shh.” Knox ran a hand down Isaac’s jaw. “I’m not leaving. Lay back down,” he coaxed.
“Promise?” Isaac slunk back into the sheets.
“Promise,” Knox whispered back, fighting not to growl at the sight of Isaac in their bed. Instead, he pulled a thigh high from his back pocket, letting it dangle in front of his mate’s eyes. “Lift.” He brushed a finger down one leg.
Isaac’s mouth opened. A rush of air left his lungs. His leg lifted under Knox’s large hand. This was so sensual, so deep a secret between them—an intimacy that Isaac had longed for all of his adult life. Black silk cupped his toes, pulled up his leg slowly to reveal the sheer design mingled with criss-crossing lines of black floral lace. He shivered as strong hands adjusted the thick lace band around his thigh, smoothing it out before caressing his leg with both palms.
A small bite to his toe, a rumbling growl that shot straight to his cock and his leg was lowered to the bed. Only for the other leg to be lifted under Knox’s commanding touch. Isaac moaned. The second thigh high pulling up his leg was more than he could handle. His skin was on fire. His cock was slowly hardening against his leg. Knox hissed, wrapping his hand around the swelling shaft with a squeeze.
“No,” he barked. “No.”
His vice like grip made Isaac whimper, throwing an arm over his eyes to stave off the erection—to disconnect from Knox’s hungry look. By an act of God or maybe it was the now absent grip on his cock, Isaac willed away his impending arousal with a single word from Knox’s lips. When his arm slipped from his eyes, it was to investigate the strange object coursing up his legs.
He gasped. Black leather straps fitted over his thighs and up his hips. A bent steel cup with a hole near the bottom fit over his groin—Knox guiding his softened cock inside. His eyes darted up to his mate in horror as his ass was nudged up to fit the belt into place around his hips. A heavy click sounded, making him shy away from the vampire.
“What the fuck is this?” Isaac scattered to his knees, fingering the device covering is groin. He ran a hand over his ass to discover the thin, yet sturdy, strap running between his cheeks. A hole caught his finger. A hole meant for… “Knox!”
“What do you think it is?” Knox crawled behind his mate, rubbing his shoulders to relax him into sitting. A key-ring dangled from his fingers over Isaac’s shoulder. “But, you already know exactly what this is. Don’t you?”
“Why are you doing this?” Isaac turned with hurt filled eyes.
Knox stilled at his mate’s gaze. “Don’t be upset, Iz.” He leaned forward, kissing his man gently. “It’s not what you think. Okay, it is partly. I thought at first you could use a bit of punishment for being so greedy yesterday, a little payback. But I do have another reason.”
“What reason could you possibly have for putting a god-damn chastity belt on me?” Isaac pulled away. He wanted to slap his mate and take the keys.
Grabbing Isaac’s arm, Knox pulled him back to his chest. “Because. You’ve made me all soft.”
“Oh.” Isaac made a noise of pure pain. “I don’t do it for you now? Well, that was quick. Give me the keys, Knoxtian. I’m leaving.”
“Fuck. I didn’t mean it like that, Iz.” Knox growled, holding his squirming mate tighter. “I meant you’re making me soft on the inside, you stubborn brat—hearts, flowers, and kittens kind of soft. Not soft, soft. Jesus. Will you let me explain?”
“You better start talking, you stupid fuck,” Isaac growled back.
“See? I’m no good at this shit. I do chastity belts instead of roses and call you a brat instead of baby. I’m just going to piss you off no matter what I say, aren’t I?”
“This is your idea of being romantic, not wanting me to have any pleasure?” Isaac’s eyes watered.
Knox groaned into his mate’s neck. “No. I want to wait. I decided to wait for more.”
Whipping around, Isaac turned murderous eyes on his mate. “Wait for what?”
“Shit. Alright, don’t laugh. Okay?”
“Laughing wasn’t on my list of to-dos. However, stabbing you is getting close to the top.” Isaac recoiled, tucking his hands under his arms in anger.
“I want to wait until your parents get home to be… intimate—”
“What!” Isaac practically jumped to his feet, bouncing unsteadily on the mattress. He pointed to the casing around his groin and growled. “You want me to wear this thing until my parents come home? What the fuck! Are you out of your damn mind?”
“I guess I am!” Knox rose on the bed, towering over Isaac. “I wanted to ask them for their blessing, be all proper and shit. Be a man like everyone tells me to be. Because I’m not good enough for you and everyone knows it, including myself. I wanted to do right by you and all that jazz, but once again I guess I’m nothing more than a fuck up. God!” He jumped off the bed. His bare feet slammed into the marble floor before he padded off to the sitting area. “I thought you would get it. I thought you would see what a fucking turn on that was—me being sweet, wanting the anticipation to build. Fuck!”
His fangs chattered against his lower teeth with anger, not at Isaac, but at himself. He really did suck at everything except sex. And even then, he sometimes wondered. Normal people weren’t into the kind of shit he was. Yeah, sure, Isaac was all down for a little spanking and being tied up but had he even thought about the other stuff? How was this ever going to work?
Slumping into his favorite chair, his hand immediately went for the bowl of Reese’s Pieces on the side table. A handful popped into his mouth, he crunched them with his fangs. He heard the slap of Isaac’s feet on the marble, the slow and tortuous pace as his mate came near.
“Just don’t.” Knox threw the keys over his shoulder. “There you go. Don’t say I didn’t try.”
“So that’s it?” Isaac picked up the keys, heartbroken and a little guilty. “We’re done?”
Knox clenched the armrests. Hot breath pushed out of his flaring nostrils. “Did I say we’re done? No. I said there you go. Don’t go and twist my words, Isaac.”
“Is this what you really want?” Isaac took a deep breath, letting the words linger in the air.
In his own strange way, Knox was trying to be romantic while he was being selfish. He hadn’t even given his mate a chance to explain the belt or what it meant. Knox wanted to stand before his parents and ask for their blessing? He wanted them to wait to have sex until afterwards, making him go lust crazy in the process? Isaac had never heard anything so brave.
“No. Not anymore. If you don’t want to, you can just say so. You don’t have to scream at me.” Knox threw another handful of chocolate into his mouth, chomping as he stared at the wall.
“I’m sorry,” Isaac whispered. “I cut you off and didn’t listen.”
“Yeah. Well, I’m used to it.” Knox shrugged, becoming numb. He didn’t even know how to fix this. He’d fucked up bad.
Isaac took a few steps towards the chair. The keys clutched in his palm. “Knox, please don’t be mad at me. I didn’t understand.”
“Doesn’t make a difference, Isaac. You don’t want to wear it and I’m not mad at you. Just take the thing off and we’ll go to bed. I’m tired.” He waited for the belt to fall to the ground. Why was he so tore up about this? It wasn’t that big of a deal, was it? In some strange way, the belt was a tangible form of trust, of love, of chivalry when it had all but died out. This wasn’t him. What was he doing?
The keys clinked against the side table. Isaac swallowed back his own pride and forced Knox’s arms apart. He sunk onto his mate’s lap with his arms around a thick neck. Swirling eyes full of hurt looked up at him.
“I’m sorry.” Isaac kissed Knox’s closed lips, wishing they would open for him.
Knox looked away. “Don’t force yourself to do this, Iz. It was a stupid idea and I don’t want you to feel like my slave, losing yourself to my demands. That isn’t what mates do.”
“We aren’t like any other mated pair I’ve ever seen, Knox. Who the fuck cares what the others do?” Isaac clutched Knox’s chin, turning those eyes back to him. “It’s you and me, Knox. No one else is in this with us. I didn’t understand what you were doing. But I do now. I love how you were thinking of me, albeit in a different kind of way, but it still means a lot. Okay?”
Knox eyed his mate suspiciously. He sought out the lying heartbeat, traces of doubt within Isaac’s mind and only felt a clear conscience and clarity beam back at him. “I was really trying, Iz.” His forehead dipped down to rest on his mate’s chest. “I swear.”
“I’ve never done this either, Knox. We have to cut each other some slack.” Isaac eyed the bowl of candy, smiling. It reminded him that his mate really was a romantic at heart. “If you’re serious about talking to my fathers, I’ll wear this until you do. It’s going to be hard as fuck, but I’ll do it. And you might want to hide that key. In case I get too horny and try to rape you in the middle of the night.”
Knox smirked into Isaac’s chest. Nails gently caressed his neck and he sighed. “I am serious. I’ll take whatever they dish out to me. I deserve it and I want to show them I love you.” He looked up.
Looking down into this mate’s eyes, Isaac felt nothing but warmth. “You’re getting better at that.”
“Saying you love me.” Isaac wiggled his butt deeper into the lap underneath. “It’s romantic.”
“Brat,” Knox murmured.
“Fucker,” Isaac teased back, inching closer to his mate’s lips.
Their lips melded into a soft kiss. Thigh highs rubbed over Knox’s bare legs and he groaned. This was going to be harder than he thought. He wasn’t just punishing Isaac. He was punishing himself.
Cade walked inside from setting up the table on the beach. Breakfast with a backdrop of the ocean was just what they both needed after a long night in bed. Neither of them had much sleep but they didn’t want to waste their vacation being lazy. He smiled to himself, shutting the doors before checking in on his sleeping mate.
Only when he looked at the bed, Micah wasn’t there. His eyes roamed the room. “Micah?”
No answer, Cade started to search the small villa for his mate. There were only two rooms and a bathroom. He couldn’t be far. Cade felt it then. A pain that wasn’t physical but it felt as much. His heart raced. He could sense Micah in the other room and he ran.
“Micah!” He caught his breath with a hand to his chest. Sitting at the small kitchenette table was his mate. Tears coursed down his cheeks. His phone was in his palm.
Cautiously, Cade approached the table. “Baby, what is it? Are you okay?”
Micah shook his head, staring at the screen like it was made of gold. He couldn’t look away as his cousin’s number blinked and faded out.
“Micah, talk to me.”
“He’s dead, Cade.”
Fearing the worst, Cade found his way into the opposite chair. His only thought was Isaac. “No. Please God. No.”
Micah’s hand shot out, pulling his mate closer. “Not Isaac. My father,” he choked.
“Oh baby, I’m so sorry.” Cade wrapped his arms around his mate, snuggling close. Micah struggled in his arms, soon settling his head in the crook of the Original’s neck.
“Why am I sad he’s dead? I shouldn’t be upset. I shouldn’t waste tears on that asshole.”
“He was still your dad, Micah. Deep down you loved him, no matter what he did. All you ever wanted was to be accepted by him.” Cade held angry fists to his chest as Micah sobbed. “What happened? Who called you?”
“My cousin. I still keep in contact with her sometimes. She was the only one that cared that I was gone.” Micah cried into the arms keeping him safe.
“Does she know about you?” Cade asked gravely.
“No. I haven’t seen her in almost twenty five years. She thinks I’m retired in Europe. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. I just… I miss them sometimes.”
“It’s okay, Micah.” The Original breathed a sigh of relief. “That’s your family. I’m not mad and I don’t blame you. So… what did she say?”
“She said he had a heart attack when he was all alone at home. My mother came home and found him. It was too late.”
“Ah shit. I am just so sorry, baby. So sorry,” he whispered. “Tell me what to do and I’ll do it. I’m here, Micah.”
“We have to go home. I have to go to the funeral. I can’t be a bastard like he was. I have to see him, Cade.” Micah hugged his mate tighter. “Please,” he begged.
“Baby, you can’t go. You’re supposed to be forty-nine. You aren’t human anymore. It’s not safe,” Cade relayed, stricken with grief.
“I have to go, Cade!” Micah pushed against Cade’s chest. “You don’t understand!”
“I do understand, more than most.”
Micah whimpered, nodding his head in understanding, immediately feeling guilty for saying such. His hand cupped Cade’s face. “I’m sorry. I just… I have to, baby. I can’t let it end this way. I’ll hate myself if I don’t go. Please,” he begged.
Seeing his mate in such despair, Cade thought about the situation harder. What would happen if they were spotted? It would no doubt be a large ceremony. Micah’s father was a retired senator, a veteran. Higher ups from every part of the country and possibly the world would be there. People they might know. Would there be other vamps? How would they possibly blend in without being spotted? What would Rowe say? Despite all the questions, all Cade knew for sure was that Micah’s heart was breaking for the father that had never loved him. Or maybe he did but he’d never said it. If seeing his father being carried away and buried would bring closure to his mate, end his pain, Cade had no choice. Because he loved Micah and this was part of life—the hard things included.
Hugging Micah tighter, Cade nodded to the sound of sobs. “I’ll make it work, baby. You’ll be there. Okay?”
“Thank you,” Micah slurred through his tears.
“Come on. You need to lie down while I make the arrangements. I’ll get on the phone and book the flight home.”
“This is not how it was supposed to be, Cade. I’m sorry.”
Cade looked down, holding Micah’s attention with his loving stare. “Don’t apologize, baby. This is not your fault. You brought me here to work things out and we did. We have eternity to vacation, but this trip was so much more than that. Now it’s my turn to take care of you. Let me love you now, Micah.”
Rising with Micah still attached, Cade guided him to the bed. Tucked into bed, face buried in a pillow, Micah accepted a soft kiss to his shoulder. His fingers slipped from Cade’s wrist as the Original went to call the airport. He avoided the other call for now. Hopefully Rowe would understand. He had to. Otherwise Cade was going to raise hell. No one denied his mate. No one.
Tapping his fingers against the desk, Rowe stared smugly at Nan and Jaska while Yuri and Katrina paced the back of the room—whispering to each other.
“You want to leave, don’t you?” Rowe chuckled. “Why is everyone so afraid of little old me? You can ask, you know? I won’t bite.”
Nan’s hand threaded through Jaska’s. The younger male cleared his throat. “We aren’t afraid of you, your highness. We just don’t want to start any drama. Nan is Nina’s secretary and all. It’s an important position and we wouldn’t want the queen to be upset.”
“Oh pish posh.” Rowe waved a hand. “My mother is more excited than you two are, I suspect. As important as your duties may be, I doubt she’ll be upset that you want to live with your mate. That is how things work, you know? The one you should be concerned with is your own mother, Nanette. That woman… now she might have a bit of trouble cutting the cord so to speak.”
Nanette groaned. “I know. I’ve already talked to her. She’s not exactly happy about it.”
Jaska snorted, rolling his eyes. “Mother-in-laws.”
“Jaska!” Katrina slapped the back of his head. “Manners.”
He looked to Rowe with a grin. “Sorry, mom.”
Katrina scoffed. “You should be. Chloe is an upstanding Royal and there is nothing wrong with her excitement over the two of you or her upset that her only child is leaving the nest. One day, you’ll understand.”
Nan’s eyes went wide. “Uh…”
Rowe laughed, slapping the desk at her terrified look. “There is room in my boat for that. Children are a blessing, but actually having one is a different story. Being a parent terrifies me too.”
“Wait. What?” Yuri frowned.
Rowe sighed. “Cat’s out of the bag now. Me and my big mouth. I’m afraid there are going to be little pets running around sooner than you think.”
“What?” Nan looked at her mate. Both of them shocked. “How? I mean, not that, uh…”
“It’s alright, Nan.” He smiled, looking at the picture on his desk of his mate. “Keep this mum for now, yeah?”
“Sure,” Yuri breathed.
“Jessica has agreed to carry our child. We had our first appointment with Theo yesterday afternoon.”
Katrina covered her smile with a hand. Her eyes beamed with joy. Her mate slung an arm around her shoulders. Yuri equally excited. “That’s wonderful, Rowe. Truly.”
“Thanks. Pet is over the moon right now, and as much as I rag on the topic, I am too.” He smiled up at the others. “I really am.”
“Wow. A little prince? That’s crazy.” Jaska chuckled. “But a good crazy.”
“Or a princess.” Rowe clucked his tongue. Suddenly aware of all the spotlight on himself, he slapped his hands against the desk. “Yes. Well. Thank you all for the nice words. But I think we have a form to fill out for little Miss Nanette. Let’s see here.” He pulled up the document on his laptop and hit print. “Nanette, I am obligated to inform you that this document is my formal consent of your departure from the compound. Once this is submitted to the compound director, you will officially begin your forty eight hour move out period.
After the period is complete, your former rooms will be placed back on the availability list for incoming royalty. Thereby becoming the property of someone other than yourself. Should you choose to return to the compound under any circumstance, you shall either board with your parents or be placed on the waiting list for another set of rooms. The wait time is currently six to eight months and it is also noted that the likelihood of receiving your same rooms is slim to none should you choose to come back. Are you in agreement with these terms and conditions?”
This was huge. Nanette choked on the words. Her home, her room, the place she had grown up was all being yanked away from her. Jaska’s strong fingers gripped hers. She looked to him while all eyes waited for her decision. Seeing Jaska and the love in his eyes affirmed what she knew she had to do. She wasn’t a child anymore. Jaska was her mate now. He was her home. Wherever he was, she would be happy.
Turning back to Rowe, she smiled. “Yes. Where do I sign?”
“Right here.” The prince slid the paper and a pen across the desk.
When Nan had signed it, she pushed it back at him. “Normally,” he began. “I’d have you take this to the compound director, but Jacob is in the city this weekend visiting Oliver and Tate. So, I’ll just have you take this to Isaac.”
“He’s here?” Nan sat up straight. “I haven’t heard from him—”
“Everything is fine.” Rowe put his hands up to soothe her worries. “Both he and Knox are in their rooms. You may want knock.”
“Knox and Iz? No shit,” Jaska blurted in awe. He received another slap to the back of his head from Katrina.
“Jaska Mikael Ozerov! I swear to the heavens! Language.” The doe eyed blonde crossed her arms. “No more.” Katrina’s usually light Russian accent thickened with her irritation.
“Tinka,” Yuri cooed, distracting her anger.
“Don’t you Tinka me. He is my son. Man or not, I will reprimand him where I see fit. Swearing in front of his highness or in front of anyone is not acceptable, Yuri.”
“Don’t say I didn’t try,” Yuri grunted to his son. He too received a slap to the back of the head.
Jaska stifled a laugh as his mother went off in Russian, shoving her large mate towards the door. She stopped and turned to Rowe. “Excuse us, your highness.”
“Gladly,” Rowe issued, with a motion of his hand. He loved to see Yuri get in trouble. A rare sight but enjoyed whenever available. The door slammed shut. Rowe turned back to the young couple. “I am enjoying all this love in the air. Aren’t you?”
Overwhelmed but feeling better about their choice, Jaska and Nan laughed. She took her mate’s hand proudly. “It has its benefits.”
Cracking a smile, Rowe looked between the couple, feeling the heated energy flow from one to the other. “I’m sure it does.”
Nan looked at the ground with a blush. “We should get this form to Isaac. I, uh, I have to be back to the city tonight. Early morning tomorrow.”
“Oh really?” The prince folded his hands under his chin.
“We talked to Oliver today. Jaska and I are going to open another shelter down the block from his place. We’re meeting with one of his realtors first thing tomorrow.”
“Our place,” Jaska corrected her.
“Right. From our place. The area is too overcrowded with our kind, or rather vampires with no plan, no jobs or shelter. We need to offer more help, more space for them to stay. They can’t sleep on the streets. Not with those kids. I just can’t…”
“It’s okay, Nan. We’ll find them somewhere to stay. I promise.” Jaska rubbed her back.
“Seems you’ve found yourself a passion other than filing. I’m happy for you, Nanette.” He rose from his seat. “And you also, Jaska. You’ve both come into your own and I couldn’t be more proud of your latest undertaking. In fact.” He raised a finger. “Once you’ve secured a location for this shelter, let me know personally and I will foot the bill. Consider it a mating gift.” He winked.
“Seriously?” Jaska rose to his feet. “You would do that for us?”
“Of course.” Rowe chuckled.
“Wow man. Thanks so much.” Jaska thrust his hand forward. “We really appreciate that.”
“Think nothing of it.” Rowe accepted the hand, shaking it as Nan got to her feet.
She was a bit emotional. So much was happening in such a short time. Mated, moving, building her new life with Jaska. Now Rowe, the prince giving them a mating gift—it brought out the deep emotions inside of her. Wordlessly, she wrapped her arms around her prince and hugged him tight.
“Thank you,” she whispered.
Rowe stilled for a second but returned the hug warmly. “You are most welcome, my little one,” he whispered back.
For a moment, he pictured his future child hugging him like this—a moment when all the chaos would be worth it. He closed his eyes, breathing in her complete joy and rubbed her back. “You will be truly missed here. But don’t let it hold you back. Go and make a difference for those that need you more. Go and enjoy this life with your mate. We will always be here, Nanette, always.”
“This is the only time I’m going to say this,” she whispered. “But, I love you, Uncle Rowe.”
“And I love you, you stubborn girl.”
Squirming out of his embrace, Nan turned around to wipe her eyes. Sometimes people could surprise you. Rowe was most definitely full surprises. He cared for her and she could feel his love plain as day. Grabbing Jaska’s hand, the form secured in her pocket, Nan looked at the door.
“You’re going to make a really good dad, Rowe.”
Struck with her sincerity, Rowe cleared his throat. He would not cry. He would not get all weepy in front of these children. But damn if her words didn’t get to him.
“Off with you both,” he croaked. “Things to do and all that.”
Jaska chuckled. His mate and the prince refused to look at each other. “See ya round, your highness,” Jaska teased.
“Yeah. Later,” Rowe murmured towards the window. He listened to the sound of the door clicking shut. His lungs let go of the breath he had been holding.
The phone in his pocket vibrated against his hip. He wasn’t really in the mood to talk and he knew it wasn’t Dan, who was in a session upstairs. Yet, something told him to answer the call. Against his better judgment, still a little emotional with thoughts of being a daddy, he swiped the phone to life.
“Rowe, it’s Cade.”
“Oh.” The prince stiffened. “Cadence, uh, how is the beach?”
“It was beautiful, but that’s not why I’m calling.”
Noticing the clipped manner of Cade’s responses, Rowe knew more trouble was on the way. He sat in a chair, just in case it was far worse than he could possibly imagine.
“We left the island a few hours ago and are mainland. We’ll be catching a plane in Miami within the hour.”
“You weren’t supposed to be coming home for another four days. What’s wrong?” Rowe ran a hand through his hair, nervous as he could get.
The sound of Cade shuffling around only heightened the prince’s anxiety. “Micah’s father passed away, Rowe. We’re coming home for the funeral.”
“Cadence,” Rowe warned. “You can’t do that. You know you can’t. I am very sorry for your loss. You have no idea how sorry I am for you both, but it is impossible for you to attend such a public funeral. He was a senator, Cadence. The media will be there as well as God knows who else. His family will recognize him surely, seeing as how he hasn’t aged a day past twenty-six. It will be nothing more than a shit storm. I’m sorry, but no. Stay and take care of Micah.” He closed his eyes. “We have enough on our plate already,” he muttered to himself.
“I didn’t ask, Rowe. I was just giving you a courtesy call. We’ll be home around midnight. And as for your full plate, we’ll talk about that when I get home.”
“You are not going to that funeral, Cadence. That is final.” Rowe stood, growling. “As far as other business, none of it yours. Have a safe flight, even though you’re making a mistake.”
“The only mistake here, Rowe, is your attitude. Wouldn’t you die for the chance to see your father one last time, to get some closure? The man that scorned you, hurt you? I would, Rowe. And I’m going to give that to my mate, to make the pain go away. You’d do the same for yours, so don’t tell me what I’m going to do.” Cade snarled. “As for that other business we’re dancing around? Go ahead and warn Knox that I’m coming home because I have a few words for him.”
“Shit,” Rowe hissed. “Cadence, I don’t know what you think you know, but—”
“And you can tell his mate to wait up as well. The four of us will have plenty to talk about.”
Rowe stared at the wall, wide-eyed. “How could you possibly know?”
Cade snorted. “As far as how I know, it’s none of your business,” he mocked the prince.
“Cadence, I didn’t mean it to come out that way. I’m just really stressed out and—”
“Save it. I’ll speak with you later. Goodbye, Rowe.” Cade hung up the phone. He turned to the windows where his mate sat waiting at the bar. They were going to that funeral, hell or high water. Rowe could go shove it.
Back in his office, Rowe almost ran for the door. He had to warn Knox and Isaac. They had to come up with a plan. Because of his big mouth and his inability to think on his feet, Rowe had just doomed them all. He might be the prince, but he was no match for a vampire protecting their mate and child all at the same time.
Isaac had to get some things off his chest, things that were bothering him—had been bothering him for quite some time. Heading down the hall towards his old wing, he adjusted his jeans in the front to accommodate the new equipment underneath. It was hell wearing this thing, but Knox was right. Every second that ticked by, he only wanted his mate more and more. He could only imagine what the victory sex would be like. But imagining the conversation with his parents before that scared him shitless.
He ended up wandering to a door he hadn’t stood in front of in a long time. His fist raised to knock, the door opened quickly. Cage emerged, head down reading his phone, almost plowing right into Isaac.
“Hey!” Isaac stepped back, out of the way.
Cage looked up, shocked to the spot. He did a once over with his eyes before turning away. “What do you want?”
“I need to talk to you. I want to say some things about—”
“Look. If you’re here to apologize on behalf of your mate,” Cage spat. “Then you can forget it. I don’t want you like that and it will be a cold day in hell before I even think about it.”
Isaac frowned. “What?”
“Oh don’t act so innocent, Isaac. I know he’s told you. You’ve probably both had a good laugh about it by now. How he beat the shit out me. Made me piss myself and run away. Go ahead and laugh it up. I don’t give a fuck.” Cage pushed his pink hair out of his eyes, determined to let Isaac see his angry gaze. His fists shook. The rage flooded him once again.
“I know you’re pissed at me and I still have no idea why, but I would never think you would go as far as to make shit up to further your agenda. What the fuck is your problem, Cage? Why do you hate me and him? Why do you do this to me? I came here to say sorry, to bury the hatchet even though I don’t know why you’re mad at me. And this is what you do? Who the fuck are you! You were my brother, my best friend. What did I do to you?”
“You’re so blind!” Cage screamed. “He made me feel like nothing! All those years I trained to take down any man and he made me weep, Isaac. He threw me around like I was nothing, scared me and yet you still take his side. All those years that he hurt you and you still love him! It’s not what’s wrong with me, it’s what’s wrong with you!”
Isaac covered his mouth, tears filling his eyes. “You’re always going to hate me, aren’t you? For no reason. Maybe because I’m happy now, I don’t know.” He looked at the ground. “I thought I could make this right somehow, but I can’t. You really hate me.”
Isaac felt lost, hopeless and heartbroken. His thoughts immediately went to Knox. He wanted to be held, comforted by his mate even if it was childish. He had officially lost one of the most important people in his life over nothing. Cage was gone to him.
Cage stared at his old friend, wanting to retract everything he had said, but his pride wouldn’t allow it. What he’d said was true, but it didn’t stop the guilt in his heart. He was the one who had started this because he couldn’t handle his own problems, his confusion that had started with Isaac. His sudden cravings for the opposite sex, his dreams at night—none of it would go away. It wasn’t Isaac’s fault who he was attracted to. He wasn’t his fault that fate had put him and Knox together. It wasn’t his fault that Cage was… confused. He took a step forward unconsciously just as footsteps ran towards them.
Isaac looked up. Nan came firing down the hall with Jaska behind her. “Don’t you dare lay a hand on him, Cage!”
“I wasn’t going to,” Cage defended but ended up against a wall. An arm to his neck, he looked into Nan’s swirling eyes. “I swear,” he choked, his feet leaving the ground.
“Nanette, let him go.” Jaska dared towards his mate. “Let’s just talk about this, baby. It’s probably all a misunderstanding.”
Isaac took in the scene, backing away. His heart raced and he felt light headed from the screaming. He couldn’t speak. Nan, he thought. Jaska. He looked between them. Cage. His heart hurt. Knox. He bumped into the wall. Knox, he tried his best to feel through their bond. Something was wrong. More footfalls raced towards them. His vision hazy, he saw his mate racing to him.
“Isaac!” Knox roared. Rowe was right behind him.
The prince’s eyes widened. “Shit. Knox, catch him!”
Isaac’s eyes rolled into the back of his head as he went down. Arms caught his fall, securing him to a hard chest. The sounds of his own heartbeat grew louder and louder. As his vision faded, he saw Cage push Nan away with all his strength. His old friend reached for him in a panic. What was happening? Why did his body hurt all of the sudden? His last few seconds of vision were filled with Knox’s eyes as he gasped for air. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t breathe!
Knox cradled his mate in his arms, lowering them to the ground. “Not now, Iz. Please no.”
Rowe knelt next to them, smoothing Isaac’s hair away from his face. “It’s going to be okay, Knox. It’s going to be okay.”
“Shit, Iz,” Knox cried. “Please don’t die. Please.” Tears rolled down his cheeks. “Oh God, I love you so much, Iz. Don’t leave me.”
Isaac took a gulp of air, an eerie wheeze of his lungs before his body fought for more. His chest burned. His eyes watered and then, it was as if his pupils exploded—the ring of blue overcome with black. Limbs limp to his sides, he stared into his mate’s eyes before everything went dark from the inside.
“No.” Knox panicked. “No!” He shouted.
“Cage!” Rowe turned to his brother. “Get Theo right away. Tell him Isaac has started his turn.”
Cage nodded immediately, sprinting as fast as he could go to the clinic. He had to wipe the tears away while his legs pumped up the stairs. He had just watched his best friend in the whole world die. And the last thing he’d said was that he basically hated him. He couldn’t get to the clinic fast enough.
Back in the hall, Knox pulled Isaac’s limp body over his chest, weeping and unseeing. His mate, his beautiful mate, was dead.
“Knox, listen to me. You have to pull yourself together, old friend. He needs blood. You have to make him take your blood.”
“He’s dead,” Knox moaned. “Isaac, wake up.”
“Knox.” Nan crouched down. “Look at me. He’s not really dead. Okay? Technically, yes. But you have to wake him up and you only have a limited time to do it. Put him down gently and take a deep breath. You can do this.”
For the first time in history, Knox listened to Nan. She and Rowe helped him spread Isaac on the floor. His mate was so still, so cold that it hurt for him to breathe, let alone think. This delicate man was his world. He had to wake him up. He just had to. Fangs to his wrist, Knox bit so deep that blood dripped immediately over his skin, raining from his lips.
Rowe maneuvered behind Isaac’s head, gently opening the man’s mouth and tilting his head back. He locked eyes with his best friend. Knox’s wrist moved over his mate’s lips. Drop by drop, crimson liquid hit the tongue, rolling down Isaac’s throat. No one moved. No one said a thing. They just watched as Isaac took Knox’s blood for the first time.
To Be Continued…