Part 6 Playlist:
Faces - The M Machine
Fade To Grey - Visage
Royals - Lorde
Back In Black - AC/DC
Shelter Me: Part 6
Shelter Me: Part 6
“Are you gonna hurl again?” Henry pulled a disgusted face while leaning away from Trey. “There’s an empty flower pot over here.”
Trey held up a hand to stop Henry, although, his face was as white as a sheet. And he did feel like he was going to be sick again. For someone of his pale complexion being pasty wasn’t anything out of the norm for Trey, but the sickly greenish hue to his already ghostly white skin was unsettling. Just like his stomach was unsettled. Just like his head was pounding. Just like his heart seemed to be banging two angry fists against his ribcage.
“No. I’m not going to hurl.”
“Sure about that?” Henry lifted the empty flower pot. He shrugged when Trey turned away and he put the pot down. “Just trying to help out.”
“Thanks for the sentiment, I guess.”
Henry pulled his long legs up on the wooden bench under the flower laced pergola. His eyes scanned the rooftops of SoHo from their unseen perch on the lower patio of Greg’s rooftop garden. They had escaped up here to get some fresh air and to calm Trey down before Flynn Courtenay showed up. “I know how you feel right now,” Henry murmured.
“Doubtful.” Trey sighed. He mirrored Henry’s position by leaning back against an old timber post next to a concrete flower box. Deep in thought, Trey pushed his bare feet over a smattering of soil that had escaped from a bag next to him, just to feel something other than the throb of guilt in his chest. Greg’s mother was out there most likely fighting for her life. Because of him. Because he was a fuck up.
Henry cast a look at Trey, one that said he doubted nothing. “I wanted to run away. I couldn’t think about anything else except for what they were gonna do to me, the Guards. I thought I was a traitor, Trey, because my parents were. I thought, after I called the Guards in that I’d made a mistake. I hid in a closet on the phone with Ari for half an hour before I decided I had nowhere to run. Even if I did take off they’d find me. No matter where I went they’d come after me. And running would make me look guilty. That’s what Ari said.”
“She was right. You would’ve looked guilty.” Trey put a hand over his eyes, balancing his elbow on his knee. He was so tired and this conversation was not exactly helping him to relax. “But your circumstances were much different than mine are now. No offense, but I’m not some kid struggling to come to terms with what happened to me. I know what I did and who I chose to be. I have one chance to live at the moment and that all depends on Greg’s father cutting me some slack. From what I’ve heard about the guy he’s not very forgiving. And I just—his mate is out there, possibly dying because of me.”
Henry swiveled on the bench and scoffed. “You were only four years older than me before you were turned and not because it was in your blood. You were a kid too. Don’t you get it? You are still coming to terms with what happened to you. I don’t have to be a vampire with dealer experience to know how bad it looks right now, Trey. All I know is that both of us were dealt shitty cards. We were both ripped from our lives because of things we couldn’t control. We were both forced to be someone else because of what others think of us. Me? I hid at the shelter because I couldn’t take the looks and the whispers any more, or being lonely because of my last name. And you were pushed into dealing because you didn’t have a family tree or anyone to vouch for you.”
Henry shook his head a little. His hands curled into fists. “We’re people too. We matter, Trey. They can’t just tell me to go live with Ari because it makes sense. What if I don’t want to live with her because I want to start over with my own family? I love her, but I’m not ready for that. I can’t live two bedrooms down from her like some live-in future husband. I’m only sixteen. It’s weird and it hurts to see her perfect little family when mine was such a nightmare. And they can’t cut your heart out because some fucktard left you to die in an alley. How are you guilty because of that? How can they deny you a family when they took you away from your own?”
“I never told you that.” Trey squinted at Henry.
Henry flushed. “Doesn’t matter if I heard you talking to Yvonne, I know now.”
“What else do you know?” Trey planted his feet on the square of stained birch patio set into the concrete. He fought to get his breathing under control, his eyes burning holes in the golden mums still in their plastic pots on the workbench surface.
“I know that you’re…” Henry looked down at his hands. “I know that this is where I belong. And this is where you belong, too. It felt right when we came home, didn’t it?” Henry lifted his copper colored eyes. “Didn’t it, Trey?”
“Maybe it did. Even so, don’t get used to it. I might be out of a heart in a few hours. And if Greg… If Greg loses it after I…” Bile threatened to rise up Trey’s throat at the thought of Greg dealing with his death, should Flynn call for his head over the loss of his mate, among other things. “If Greg can’t deal, then you might want to make plans to live at Ari’s. I don’t think he’d make a very good caretaker for you boys after something like that.”
“Are you gonna give up? God you’re such a pussy.” Henry stood and stomped up the stairs to the next level of the rooftop garden. “I fucking hate my life! Why can’t anything ever go right?!”
Scared as he was, Trey followed Henry up the metal stairwell. Sure Henry was being selfish, but he had every right to be selfish at the moment. He’d had a glimpse of a life that could have been his to keep and now everything was being turned on end for the second time in his short existence. Trey sympathized, so much so he couldn’t let Henry go unwanted, or think he was at the very least. “Henry?”
Trey walked carefully over the skinny, slatted walkway that weaved around each square flower bed. He shivered as a low-lying fern tickled his toes. A few yards ahead sat a small, glass greenhouse. He spotted Henry pacing back and forth like a wild animal about to go berserk.
“Henry, come out here.” Trey crossed his arms to fend off the evening chill. The sun was a few minutes from disappearing. City traffic filtered up from the street only five stories below, and in the distance Trey heard the sound of a plane taking off into the sky from LaGuardia. The roof was such a different world than that of the ground below.
Trey felt free up here, but more scared than anything. And the floodlights fixed in flower beds didn’t exactly help with his paranoia. They cast warped shadows against the different wooden beams and metal railings, against every nook and cranny until Trey’s heart pounded in his chest. Dread cursed Trey again, and suddenly, this new little paradise didn’t feel so free anymore.
“Henry, I mean it.”
“You can’t tell me what to do. You don’t even care about us.” Henry marched out of the greenhouse and stalked up to Trey. “If you cared about us, or about Greg, then you wouldn’t be hiding up here like a little kid. Greg’s dad isn’t going to disappear if you count to five and hide under the covers. You have to defend your life. You have to make him see that this is where you belong, with us.”
Staring at the hysterical teen, Trey tried to think of what to say to that. Henry had basically referred to Trey as family, someone Henry wanted around for the long haul. The last person Trey had called family had been slaughtered in front of him. He had been scared to take a chance with Greg because of Jackson’s death, and all the criminal connections he still had from dealing. But once he’d found glorious security in his mate’s arms, the warmth of Greg’s love, Trey had stopped questioning his bond with his mate.
But now he was faced with someone looking up to him, an eager heart that wanted the same as Trey: somewhere to belong, a real family that wanted him. Trey had been given that precious place in life. And even though he wanted to hurl all over the roof and then jump off of it rather than face his past or Flynn Courtenay, he wasn’t a big enough asshole to turn Henry down. The kid deserved a piece of the pie, no matter how temporary his place might be with his makeshift family.
Trey took a deep breath. “I’m scared, Henry. I’d rather hurl than show you how scared I really am. You don’t need another reason to have nightmares at night. I don’t want to get close to you, not because I don’t want to, but because I would love to and I know it won’t last long. I don’t want to hurt anyone else.”
“Then fight back. Don’t give up now. We need you.” Henry sniffed as a means of chasing away the tears. He was trying to be stronger than he was, more manly for some reason unknown to Trey. He was just a kid. “If you take it lying down then Greg is gonna be without a mate, and he’s all I got. Without you he won’t be him. I need him. So, I need you too. Okay?”
“Oh, you just want Greg? I get it.” Trey smirked despite the tension. He relaxed his arms, sighed, and extended a hand to Henry. “I can’t not fight for my life, Henry. I promise you I won’t just take it lying down. That’s not me. Even when I was dying, when that thing ripped my throat out, I fought to live. I fought so hard someone heard me. And that man is the only reason I’m standing here. And I’m hoping like hell he’ll do the same thing for me tonight, let me live because I don’t want to give this up. Not you, not Greg, not this home we could have together. Don’t tell me I don’t care, Henry, because I do. A lot.”
Trey wiggled his fingers. His gaze bore into Henry’s crumbling copper-hued uncertainty. “Come on. It’s cold up here.”
“You mean it? You’re not gonna be a pussy when Flynn shows up?”
“I’m scared and I’m going to stay that way for a while, but I’ll do everything I can to stick around, if only to see Pierre’s head on a stick for what he’s done to my family.” Trey growled when Henry took his hand. He squeezed the teen’s fingers. “My family,” he repeated.
Those two words silently resonated with Henry. It was in the confidence that overtook his face and in the squeeze he gave back to Trey. “Kay.”
“Cool.” It was all he could think of to say. It seemed to be enough. Trey led Henry back down the stairs, leaving the open sky of New York City behind. As they entered the penthouse from the rooftop door and slowly descended the metal stairs to the main floor, Trey knew Greg wasn’t alone anymore. He stopped on the last step, Henry right on his heels.
“He’s here.” Trey closed his eyes, collecting his thoughts and internally working himself over to give him the courage needed to go out there and confront Flynn Courtenay, the man he knew had turned him fifteen years ago. The Manager had changed his life forever and now he held the keys to end it all with a single breath.
“I got you, dude. You’re not alone anymore.” Henry’s long fingers squeezed Trey’s shoulder. “We’re not gonna let anything happen to you.”
Trey nodded. He was numb as he started walking again. The hallway looked like a road to hell and he couldn’t even feel his bare feet hitting the concrete floor. All he felt was the intense emotion coming from the living room area. He heard Greg’s voice on the rise, arguing with a man he called Dad. He heard Flynn giving it right back, and then another male voice interjected. This one was softer, more level-headed. Had they brought a Guard to take Trey in?
With a final shove from Henry, Trey entered the living room to greet his fate. Three sets of eyes turned on him. But the pair he found most entrancing were bright blue, the same blue that had haunted Trey’s nightmares for years. All of his mustered confidence fled his body when his lips opened in shock. Trey’s body shook the longer he stared into those eyes. His own eyes were wide and full of tears.
Trey could almost smell the scent of cigarette and trash that had littered the narrow alleyway outside the club that night. The same chilly air seemed to engulf his body, blanketing his skin with goosebumps. Hallucinating from fear, Trey heard that gravelly voice hiss at him from the shadows, saw those red eyes break away from the darkness to approach him. That hulking silhouette forever painted in his mind against the shocking neon blue of the club lights from the windows.
Faintly, Trey heard Greg shout, “Trey!”
His banshee like cry lit up the room, filling Trey’s ears with the sound of his own screaming. The snap of fangs from his pursuer’s ghostly attack followed. Hands clutched his shoulders and Trey screamed again. His hands fought to get away. His legs kicked out. His back arched. His body twisted and shimmied to be free.
“Greg! Help me.” Trey hyperventilated. He clawed at the floor once he was on his stomach, but the concrete under his nails did nothing to help him.
“Jesus fucking Christ. Get the kids out of here, Donahue!” Blue eyes pervaded Trey’s waking nightmare and he recoiled into a solid body.
“No! Don’t touch me.” Trey tried to break the barrier down behind him, pushing his heels into the concrete to gain leverage, but the force at his back was unmoving.
“No one is going to hurt you, Trey.” The man with the blue eyes lifted his hands in assurance. “You’re safe. You’re at home with your mate. Everything is going to be okay.”
“No,” Trey whispered, trembling in the warm embrace of the male at his back. “No.”
“I’m here, Trey. It’s me, baby,” Greg’s voice whispered back in his ear. “You’re safe. It’s not real, okay? Whatever you think you see isn’t real.”
“It was real.”
“Was real. Not anymore. That man is dead, Trey.” Blue Eyes sat back on his heels, looking very somber, almost sad even. “I killed him that night. And when I came back to get you, you were gone.”
Trey turned his head to see the other strange male leaning against the entrance to the hallway. His eyes were glossy, possibly tired, but Trey was inclined to believe he was miserable. He looked young, almost as young as Trey would look until the day he died. His dark hair was pushed back away from his face, all business and kind of mobsterlike. His black eyes were outlined with full lashes like he was a Royal doll and not a real person. Trey looked away. He couldn’t think.
“This is Sutton Donohue, Quin’s father,” Greg explained. “He’s also Captain of the Second City Crimes Bureau.”
That got Trey’s attention. He gasped, fighting against Greg’s arms again.
“I didn’t do it, man. I swear.” Trey panted, clutching his chest. His mind had finally released him from the gripping memory of his turning, leaving him smack dab in another hellish situation. “Please! I had no choice. I didn’t do this to myself.”
“We know.” Greg soothed Trey’s hair back away from his forehead. “They know everything. Quin gave my dad the journal.”
Trey sobbed. He put his face in his hands for a second, then was left to shake his head. Those people and those names were possible innocents that he’d withheld for as long as he could. Turning in that journal would mean the death of hundreds of people who would never see it coming.
“I didn’t need the journal, Gregory.” The man Trey deduced was Flynn stood up and dusted off his dress pants. He looked down at Trey, not in a way he could categorize as snobbish. More like Flynn was guilty, harboring nightmares of his own within those brilliant blue eyes and instilling a hint of familiarity with Trey as Flynn had the same rusty colored hair as Greg did. At least it was something he could hold on to, that this man was connected to his mate. Maybe there was hope after all.
“I would know his face anywhere. When I received that anonymous email with Trey’s picture, I almost lost myself.” Flynn stepped around them and sat in one of the leather chairs. “I’ve spent hours in meetings with the queen to defend his innocence and devise a plan to take out Gogan without harming Trey.”
“What?” Greg breathed behind Trey. “Why didn’t you tell me that upfront? We could have avoided this entire argument! You yelled at me for not telling you about my mate!” Greg took them to their feet, bringing Trey to the couch with him.
“Greg, this goes deeper than you know. We’re all having a hard time of it. If you’d been forthcoming with the news of your mate we could have dealt with this a bit more delicately, but I’m afraid the time for gentle negotiation has passed.” Captain Donohue took a seat in the other leather chair.
“Yeah.” Trey put his hands on his knees, rocking back and forth a little. “I think we’re past all that.” He snorted. “It’s not like I’m gonna have my heart cut out, right?”
Greg growled, putting his arm around Trey. “Someone needs to start talking. The sooner you tell us what’s up, the sooner we can go get mom. I know that’s where she is, with that fucking bastard who tried to kill my mate.”
Flynn’s eyes swirled. Donohue gripped his friend’s hand. “My son was the one who attacked Trey fifteen years ago.”
“Bullshit. I know that’s a lie. Ricky lost his mate and killed himself. I was there during all of it. I will never forget that, Sir.” Greg snarled. “Neither will Quin.”
“Quin can never know the truth, Greg. He can never know what happened to his brother, to my son, do you understand? Do you know how it would break Quinton to know that his beloved older brother lost his mind over the death of his mate and killed five innocent humans before he even reached Trey? He would never be the same, which is why we told you boys a version of the truth you could understand.”
Donohue leaned forward, tears of his son’s death wetting his cheeks after all these years. “You could understand the pain he was suffering from Angelica’s death, even so young. In our world it would make sense to end one’s life without half of your soul to fill your heart, not go on a blood-thirsty rampage because you’d gone feral from her death. Quinn could forgive a broken heart, not a murderer of innocents. He’s dedicated his entire life to helping the less fortunate overcome their grievances so they don’t end up taking their lives. Don’t ruin my only son, Greg. I beg of you.”
“He should know.”
Staring into the eyes of a mourning father, Trey saw his own father, and thought of what his dad must have felt after his only son had gone missing. Was it better to know your son had died or to never see him again, always holding out hope he’d come home? Within those dark, teary depths, Trey saw every father’s pain and want to keep their sons and daughters safe. He saw a broken man who had held out hope even when the facts remained the same. His son was dead and there was no turning back time.
His son had done this to Trey. This Ricky, he was the name behind those fiery red eyes and those teeth that had almost ended Trey’s life. He was a lost soul just like Trey, although their agony came at different times in their lives. But what if Trey had never encountered Ricky that night in the alley? What if he’d ended up back at his dorm, sweaty and drunk, all by his lonesome that night? What if he’d graduated from college and moved far away from the city?
If Ricky had never been there that night, Flynn would have never taken pity on the poor human innocent and turned him. Where Ricky had sought to end the pain in his heart and end Trey’s human existence like his mate’s life had been extinguished, Flynn had sought to heal Trey by giving him a life that went on forever and an internal beacon that drew his mate in after many long years.
Without Ricky or Flynn, Trey would have never met the love of his life.
Trey blinked. He looked up at Greg. “I’m supposed to be here.”
“Trey? Are you okay?” Greg’s fingers traced Trey’s head, looking for an injury.
“No.” Trey pushed Greg’s hands down. “In this very moment, I am supposed to be here for a reason. This is my place, Greg.”
“Of course you’re supposed to be here with me, Trey.” Greg squinted, leaning in. “Sure you’re okay?”
“No, I’m not okay. Your mom is out there because of me.”
“This isn’t your fault, Trey,” Donohue argued.
“It is my fault. I should have come to you from the beginning. I should have said fuck it and owned up to what I’d done as a dealer and taken the consequences. But this fate shit is real, isn’t it?” Trey looked around the room as if Lady Fate would magically appear to smile at him. “If you hadn’t given life to your son, he would have never attacked me.”
Trey stood, looking down at a shocked Donohue. Trey turned to Flynn. “If you had never turned me, I would have never survived and never ended up in this whole mess in the first place. If I had been a more perfect man, I would have ended up executed for confessing everything to the Bureau straightaway. But I didn’t. I went to the clinic that night, cold and hungry, and I laid eyes on this man right here.” Trey turned to his mate, taking Greg’s face in his hands. “And if I hadn’t turned to the clinic for help, I would have slowly died inside without you.”
“Now that I have my family, we have to make this right. We have to go save our mother because that’s what family does and I’m in this, Greg. I’m done being scared to turn around and see if they’re after me. I can’t put my family in danger anymore. And I have to stop protecting those people who never protected me. Jackson was the only one who ever cared and they took him from me. I’ll tell them everything if means keeping you and the boys safe. If it means getting your mom back, I’ll do whatever I have to because she was kind to me, accepting of me, simply because I made you happy. And that is worth more than anything I could ever wish for.”
Greg stood in his mate’s arms, looking down the couple of inches between himself and Trey. His warm lips brushed over Trey’s, right there in front of his father and the Captain. Neither of them gave a fuck who was watching as they kissed to seal the bond between them. Trey broke the kiss with hooded eyes and a soft smile. He touched his mouth as if it were the first kiss he’d ever received, and truly it was as an honest, solidified, mated couple.
“Dad, I’d like you to meet, Trey Ambrose, my mate.” Greg turned Trey around. “Trey, this is Flynn Courtenay, my father and the man who gave me the greatest gift of all. You.”
Flynn got up from the chair. He was visibly emotional and shaken, angry and stressed, but nothing deterred him from taking Trey’s hand and giving it a firm shake. “Anything for my son’s happiness,” he said roughly. “Trey, your forgiveness… When I’ve been such a terrible excuse for a—”
“There’s nothing to forgive. From any of us,” Trey added, looking at Donohue. “I’m sorry for your loss, Sir.”
“Why are you not angry?” Donohue demanded suddenly. “Your life was ripped away from you by my son! He took your future from you, your innocence and left you all on your own when Flynn couldn’t find you after we chased Ricky down. How can you not be angry over fifteen years-worth of hell? Don’t you want to hit me or…something!”
“It wasn’t your fault, either, Sir. Stop blaming yourself.” Trey left Greg’s arms to face Donohue. “This is my future and I’m happy with it. Yes, I hated being a dealer and being forced to hand out drugs or get killed. But I met a friend who showed me another side of life, who gave me the skills to survive. He kept me sane, fed, and clothed during that time of my life. And when he was gone, I was able to find a way to safety because of what he’d taught me. I found my way home. I’m not angry anymore.”
“And what about Quin? Aren’t you proud of what he’s doing in his brother’s memory, even if he doesn’t know the truth? Do you think he’d be doing this if it wasn’t for his brother? Maybe I’m having a crazy moment, because I’m really fucking overwhelmed right now.” Trey sighed, closing his eyes to focus on not shaking. “But isn’t it so out of your realm to see the wonder of it all? Everything is literally done for a reason. Death. Life. Love. Pain. They all have a reason. We are all here for a reason. And some of us aren’t…for a reason. It’s fate. It’s real.”
“Another believer, I see,” a female voice stirred them all.
Trey gasped at the petite blond woman who pushed the front door open. A burnt orange wraparound dress fit her slender frame snugly, tapered at her trim waist then flared down her hips where it straightened out to her knees. Layered gold chains adorned her regal neck and toned blonde curls curtained her elfin face. She owned the room with a mere step; her expensive heels clicked over the concrete floor, followed by two pairs of black boots, owned by the bodyguards that thudded after her.
Her blue eyes took in the room, a quick scan that left nothing hidden from her gaze. And then she continued over to the seating area without comment. Trey glanced at the two bodyguards who stayed by the door. Whatever was about to happen, there was no escape. These weren’t just any Guards; Trey could feel their power crawling on his skin. He stepped closer to his mate, figuring his odds with the Queen were better than with the two killers in the corner.
“Your majesty—I mean, My Queen” Flynn rushed and bowed. His face contorted with shock and terror as he looked at the floor. “Forgive me for not telling you where I was—”
She pursed her lips, mildly irritated with his urge to get down and kiss her feet. This confused Trey. He would’ve thought the Queen enjoyed such gestures. But this queen wasn’t what he’d imagined at all. She wore her crown in her eyes and on her sleeve where her power slithered over them all. “Sit down, Flynn. Our situation has become time sensitive and the faster I update you, the more chance we have of getting your mate back. I’ve no time for a formal production.”
Trey moved out of the way for the tiny female. He stood off to the side with Greg as she sat on the couch and crossed one leg over the other. She nodded at the two men standing by the door. One had a shaved head with a deadly looking skull tattoo. His dark eyes were trained on Trey, his target for the moment. The other man had eyes that lit up gold when he turned in the light and a stature that would be considered gigantic in most parts of the world. He growled possessively when Donohue leaned towards the woman.
The Captain wasn’t a fool. He sat back in his chair, his posture a little stiff with the murderous eyes staring at the back of his head. “My Queen, please don’t prolong the suspense. We need to get Yvonne back.”
She hummed in agreement. “Then I need all the details. Starting with you, darling. Trey, is it?” Trey nodded. She eyed him up and down. “You don’t look like a criminal mastermind but I’ve seen it all, so you never quite know what you’re in for. Although, I suppose I’ve heard enough in your defense to sway my decision. And that decision will only be formally recognized with your cooperation. Do you understand, darling?”
Trey nodded again, taken aback by the stifling supremacy coming from the queen. He froze in Greg’s arms. “Yes.”
“Very well, what do you of a man named Liam Marcus Jackson?” She looked up at him with icy blue eyes that could slice his soul in two.
“Jackson? Jackson was my best friend. He got me the job dealing with Gogan.” Trey held his breath until he was forced to fill his lungs with air.
The queen lifted a brow. “And you knew nothing of his true nature or the operation he had with his brother Isaiah Carter Jackson?”
“His true nature? I don’t know what you’re talking about, or who Isaiah is.”
“Hmm, I can smell your truths. Nevertheless I need to know what happened to my Hunters, you see. I think, darling, you know more than you are able to piece together.” She gestured to her bodyguards by simply holding out her hand. Her eyes never left Trey’s.
The golden-eyed male brought her a tablet. She proceeded to swipe across the screen until she found what she was looking for. “I was sent this message the night Liam went missing, the night he was supposed to rig the explosives at the Haitian warehouse on my orders. He was to call with the address, but he feared the information being leaked through bugged technology. This message, though, was a red alert and a request for pickup. He said he needed out and that he was carrying an innocent. It was the last we heard from him. He never finished sending the address and we couldn’t trace him.”
Stomach gurgling like he was gonna be sick, Trey slid down to the couch, uncaring of the queen’s close proximity. He put his face in his hands.
“Trey? Did you know your best friend was actually two men working under my orders to take out Gogan and his supply? Were you helping Jackson to get the location from Gogan in exchange for your freedom from the enemy?”
“I didn’t know. I didn’t know why he did it in the first place. I didn’t understand why he would risk his life to kill Gogan. It didn’t make sense. I just knew I had to get him out of there when Pierre called saying we’d betrayed him by killing Gogan. He thought we were spies. I wasn’t a spy. I was a nobody. And what do you mean two of them?”
The queen brushed Trey’s hair behind his ear. He let her because he needed the touch to keep him from floating away on a sea of confusion. “Identical twins who had served me underground for the better part of thirty years. Liam was a smooth talker, a people person, and could squirm his way out of anything; he was perfect for schmoozing with Gogan and the other Haitians in command. Even more perfect as a dealer, one who could move up the ranks quickly. Isaiah was the computer wizard who could track, locate, and decode on command. He was also the weapons specialist whereas his brother Liam was more of a hand-to-hand fighter. Together they were codename Jackson, the perfect team until one of them ended up in the morgue months ago and the other went missing less than two weeks ago.”
“I was best friends with two people?” Trey shuddered. Greg crouched down and took his hands. “Two spies for the queen and I never knew. How stupid am I?”
She frowned, lifting his chin to greet her eyes. “Apparently not stupid at all if they sought to keep you safe. You meant something to my boys and here you are to tell their story when they are no longer able to. If you feel you’ve been had, I assure you it was for your safety and not a trick meant to hurt you. They were both your friends—your dear, dear friends. And because of them you are alive to tell us what we need to know. Where is the warehouse and what happened to the child, Trey?”
“I can tell you where the warehouse is. In fact I’m pretty sure that’s where Mrs. Courtenay is. Every time someone “disappeared” they were always quick to mention their supply like they needed to stow away all the evidence. They’ll have it heavily guarded now. But I’m afraid I don’t know what kid you’re talking about…”
As everyone fell silent, staring at Trey, his head became a muddle of pieces to a puzzle he didn’t know existed. Jackson, his best friend in the entire world had actually been two people. Identical in looks, twins would have been able to switch in and out of Trey’s life without him noticing. They would have been in constant contact with each other, updating one another on the state of things, about Trey, and their secret mission to take out Gogan and his suppliers, and then the entire fucking supply.
Bits and pieces jumped out at Trey. The blond man he knew so well sitting at the computer for hours on their nights off, heavily engaged in social media for all Trey knew. When Jackson had been at the computer he had been a different person. He’d grunt and drink coffee all night, oblivious to his surroundings unless Trey wandered to close and Jackson got agitated, closing out of his screens until only the desktop remained.
What Trey had thought was porn or something embarrassing was most likely part of his orders from the queen, scanning and tracking the Haitians plans and the whereabouts of the warehouse. The next morning, the Jackson Trey knew would be back in action, smiling and joking around, a total one-man show of enthusiasm. That Jackson didn’t drink coffee. And he didn’t have such a serious intonation to his eyes either. He was…a different person.
Another startling revelation hit him. Lizzy had mentioned Rascal’s father before. A man called Icee had been killed on the street, leaving his baby boy behind. I. C. Isaiah Carter Jackson. Trey stood to pace. There was that fleeting moment when he’d looked at Rascal and thought, beyond all reasonable doubt, that he’d seen Jackson in Rascal’s sweet little face. He’d been studying the two men that supposedly made up one for the better part of fifteen years. Trey’s gut had been telling him something in that moment.
The child. The child was theirs, one of theirs at least. And the reason they switched places every so often was to take care of the child they wanted to protect. Jackson would have never brought a child into this mess. They would have kept him far away from the violence, so long as they could be within reach of him at all times.
“Oh my god.” Trey looked at Greg. “Rascal.”
“No way, Trey. I know you’re stressed and you think everything is connected because you want answers and are on the Fate Train right now, but Rascal is just another orphan. He’s our orphan now. Okay?” Greg put his hands on Trey’s shoulders. Trey shook his head and backed away. He turned to the queen. “Do you have a picture of either of them? I don’t have my bag here. Wait. Greg left the picture at the shelter. Shit.”
Greg confirmed Trey’s ramblings with a grim nod.
“I have their pictures from the database.” The queen nodded. “Do you think you know where the child is, Trey?”
“Pull up a picture and I’ll see.” Trey marched to the back room. He flung open the door and watched as Henry sheltered Rascal under his arm while they looked at the television. “Can you bring Rascal out here please? It’ll only take a second.”
“Why? What’s wrong? Are they gonna…you know?” Henry stood, putting Rascal on his hip. “I don’t want him to see any of that.”
Trey sighed. “They’re not going to…you know. I just need Rascal to take a look at something. He’s safe. Trust me.”
Eyeing Rascal, Henry shrugged then brought the toddler down the hall. The living room was full of people neither Henry nor Rascal would know, but they both kept their mouths shut as Trey guided them to sit on the couch with the Queen. She was smitten the moment she laid eyes on the child. She cooed over his chubby cheeks and ran her small fingers through his white blond hair. Rascal soaked up the attention under Trey’s cautious watch. He even reached for her, but Henry shook his head. Rascal huffed and crossed his arms.
After getting comfortable, Trey took the tablet with the professional identification photo of one Liam Jackson and turned it to where Rascal could see. “Hey, buddy. Do you know who this is?”
Rascal’s scowl faded. He pouted, pushing out his bottom lip before his mouth scrunched unhappily. His big blue eyes watered and he slapped the tablet with a chubby hand. He kept his hand there for a long minute, searching the eyes in the picture before he started crying for his daddy and struggling to touch the picture again.
“Jesus,” Greg whispered. “It’s true.”
“Okay, Rascal. It’s okay.” Henry rocked the toddler back and forth. Rascal wouldn’t quiet for anything. His face turned red. His nose ran and slobber dribbled down his chin. Finally, overcome with anger that everyone in the room had lost something due to the fuckers that had taken their loved ones, Trey scooped Rascal up and walked to the window. He held on to those beating little fists and secured Rascal against his chest, feeling that small heartbeat thud with his own. Rascal was Jackson’s son, a little piece of them left behind for Trey to protect even though he hadn’t known at the time.
“Trey, we need to talk about this. If he has family out there, we need to contact them. But first we need to get my mom back.” Greg went to the sliding glass door next to the terrace. He leaned against it. “We’ll work this out. We’ll talk about it, figure out a plan. I promise you I’ll do everything I can to keep him here.”
“The child has no family to speak of, Gregory. Liam was his father and his mother was killed in the line of duty. Both Liam and Isaiah protected the child in rotation. Now the enemy has taken three of my operatives and an entire family away from that boy. They have taken many families and ripped them apart, but what they don’t seem to realize is that no matter how many they kill, we will always look after our own.”
Greg growled at his queen. “Oh. Yeah? Then you wouldn’t mind explaining to me how so many of those that are ripped away from their families still have nowhere to go? Why you sit up there on your throne while people like Trey and Henry and Rascal suffer the consequences? I’m sure you have an explanation for that.”
“Gregory!” Flynn hissed. “Enough. Know you’re damned place!”
Her Highness cleared her throat, fidgeting with the hem of her dress. “No. He’s right, Flynn. The system is flawed and our justice is twisted by our black and white instincts, those of our beasts and their crude definition of revenge. No one is perfect. People, human and vampire alike do bad things and are still good people. It is up to those like you, Gregory, to point out the errors along the way, so that I might fix what I have done wrong. I cannot apologize for being one person in charge of many, but I can apologize for the way you feel and how I feel I have wronged you and those you love.”
The Queen walked to the man with the gold eyes. She took his hand in a loving way. “If that were my son, I would hope he would fall into the right hands, hands like yours, hence he might know a real family when his has fallen apart. What you do in my name and in the name of humanity is a beautiful thing and it will not be forgotten. You have my formal pardon on behalf of your mate. You have my word the child will be signed over to you, for you and your mate to adopt permanently. And Trey?”
“Yes?” Trey turned with Rascal in his arms. The child was quiet and clutching at Trey’s neck while Trey rubbed his back. With Greg against Trey, he was able to face the queen and receive the respect and the humble apology she offered them.
“You have the support of my entire army at your back should you need it. I will spare nothing to see that Yvonne is returned and my Hunters are avenged, as is your suffering. Pierre has offered a deal. It is up to you how you wish you twist his words.” The skull tatted bodyguard laid a phone on the side table and pressed play as the queen and her warriors filed out of the penthouse and into the hall.
At first all that could be heard was Yvonne pleading at someone to stop, that it was a trap. Not for her mate or child to come to her rescue.
And then Pierre’s breathing filled the room. “If you like espionage and night cloaked mischief so much, Trey Ambrose, then I suggest you hand yourself over in exchange for your precious mate’s mother. Midnight. Your old apartment. Come alone.” The recording ended. No one could look away from the white smart phone lit up against the wall.
“Our old apartment is in Midtown, two streets over from Korea Town. Your mom’s right. It’s a trap because the warehouse is right off the Hudson River Greenway, the old City Sanitation Department, putting a lot of distance between the real problem and the distraction. He knows I won’t come alone. He’s betting on it.” Trey kissed Rascal’s head absentmindedly.
Donohue rubbed his chin in thought. “He wants to take you out before you think to tell us about the warehouse. He thinks you’re scared and weak and he just wants his revenge. He doesn’t even know about Jackson, the whole truth, or the Hunter connection to the warehouse. He’s going to kill Yvonne to make everyone pay after he kills you. Two birds with one stone to send an awfully big message. And he doesn’t even have all the facts, just a new title and a bunch of loose ends. How sloppy.”
“I’ll call in my Senior Guards and connect them with the Guardians back at the office. We need to clean up that apartment before Pierre is notified of your presence. Meanwhile, I want that warehouse cased. Flynn, you’ll need to get with Arnie on this. Meatpacking District falls under the Village’s jurisdiction. I’m sure he’ll have no problem whatsoever with giving you the reins on this matter. None whatsoever,” Donohue snarled so loud that even Rascal shivered.
“Trey, Pierre will be watching the old apartment I’m sure. You’ll be coming with us to give him confirmation that you’re in the building. And before you jump down my throat, Gregory, he will never step foot inside that apartment so long as I live. Clear?”
Greg licked his fangs and nodded. “Am I just supposed to sit back and watch while all of this goes down?”
“No. I figured you wanted a piece of the real action.” Donohue’s twisted smile gave Greg what he wanted. Trey watched the interaction between Greg and his father, their connection intensified even if it was only with a look. Father and son were going hunting. And Trey was going to play his part, and play it well. If Pierre wanted “night cloaked mischief”, they were going to give it to him.
To be continued...
To be continued...