SHELTER ME: FINALE PLAYLIST
Fix You - Coldplay
With or Without You - U2
Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah) - Joan Jett and The Blackhearts
Team - Lorde
SHELTER ME: FINALE
Trey recognized he was dying. Possibly, he was already dead. His heartbeat nothing more than a steady thump thump, the drumming the only thing he heard. His memories were jumbled with his final thoughts, snippets of treasured events in his life that slipped away seconds from being vivid, intangible images chased away like smoke. In their wake came a torrent of dreams, fast moving sequences he was positive his imagination created to satiate the regret his heart begrudged at the loss of his future—the house, the kids, that man he died to touch one last time. The man who was now nothing but a fuzzy shadow in his soul.
The culmination of what could have been was so hauntingly beautiful yet agonizing that he allowed those half-formed pictures to slip through his hands like water, so he didn’t have to linger over what would never happen; so he could ease into the afterlife without distress. Yet no matter how hard he tried to will away the vicious cycle of dreams, they continued to come for him.
Blackness engulfed the space between each passing clip occupying his mind. As if a viewing screen had been framed by his dark lashes, a distorted depiction of Yvonne sitting up on a metal table made him smile. How he smiled through it he didn’t have the faintest idea. But he did, smile. Her presence, maybe just an illusion of his subconscious, alleviated the transition into death.
He ignored the aching that was fading fast in this heaven he’d been invited to, to enjoy Yvonne, his angel with her golden brown hair shining under the harsh lights above. The edges of her form glowed, while her eyes tried to capture Trey’s. Shadows of people danced behind her, so much commotion he didn’t try and make sense of it. None of this vision made sense, not the location or the acrid, metallic smell, or the sinking plunge of his stomach followed by the need to give up, to just relax.
Yvonne blinked close to his face. Her lips moved yet no sound came out. A weight was lifted off of Trey’s body, scaring him. He needed that weight, but he couldn’t remember why. Too much, he thought, too much to understand. Then Trey passed out, or went back to the warmth of the dark and the peaceful silence of his own heartbeat. Heaven was much better this way.
When he saw the next flash of color it was from the back of a moving vehicle. What should have scared him, another dream trying to draw him back into consciousness, didn’t scare him at all, instead providing his mind with nothing but tranquility. He tried to touch the water outside the window, so sparkly it couldn’t be real, but his hands didn’t move. His eyes rolled, catching the last of the fireworks at the water’s edge. They were like fire; red and orange and blue where midnight merged at the fire’s dancing tendrils.
He sighed into the warmth next to him, the weight he’d thought lost forever, and went back to sleep. Sleep was good. He was comfortable. He didn’t care anymore about what was happening or what was so important he’d been trying to remember. After that the visions stopped and Trey was left in peace.
An eternity later he was jerked from his blissful state. Hands caressed his arms, drawing him into some form of a conscious realm of existence. To heaven. Only heaven could be so bleached and bursting with light.
Jackson stared down at him, a beaming presence to greet him in the afterlife. Life battered, but gorgeous and cocky as usual, Trey’s best friend sat on the edge of the bed and pushed his blond dreads back over the shoulder of his ripped up leather jacket. Eyes blue like a spring sky, Jackson observed Trey for long time before he spoke. “For the life of me I can’t understand why you think you’re so weak. Like what you did tonight was the easy way out or somethin’. Always, Trey, always you’ve acted timid, played a follower, tried to be a total sheep. But man, that isn’t you. I knew it wasn’t you from the get go. Takes one to know one, know what I’m sayin’?.”
Trey tried to speak to his dead best friend, to reply to Jackson’s smooth city accent with an “I miss you” or “Are you real?”, but most certainly he’d say Jackson was wrong about all of it. He was weak. Trey’s words came out a choking noise and Jackson put a hand to Trey’s chest, shaking his head. “Don’t argue with me. You can’t anyways—your voice is shot to shit.”
He gave a wide smile. “We both know you were too scared at the time to pound on your chest like a gorilla and lay the smack down with Pierre. Would’ve been stupid, and stupid you aren’t. Goddamn engineer genius and shit. But in here,” Jackson patted Trey’s chest, “you’re so brave. Not once did you give in to drugs or suicide or worse like the others. You never once took the easy way out. Never. May have looked that way to some, but you became a dealer to get noticed, to find that way out, to take your time making a plan, finding out what the fuck you wanted before you took a leap. Just like us. You wanted to be somebody so badly that I wanted to give that to you. Now look at you, kid—you’re something to a lot of people. The right kind of people.”
Jackson reached down next to Trey to pet a tuft of blond hair peeking out from beneath Trey’s blanket. Rascal’s lashes moved but he didn’t wake. His fists pressed into Trey’s side and his open mouth allowed warm puffs of air against Trey’s skin. Molded to Trey, Rascal was so beautiful that Trey could hardly comprehend his being there. If Rascal was here… Please God no. Please let this be a dream.
Jackson bent down to kiss the toddler. When he pulled back his eyes were full of tears. “It had to be this way, you understand. I needed someone who I could trust. He can’t grow up in my world, wouldn’t be fair to him. But your world is so different now, and I knew it would be a long time ago. You used to talk about your parents and the Sunday dinners and the camping trips. You talked about love when you thought I wasn’t listening. I knew you weren’t in to dealing for the money, Trey. You were in to belong somewhere, to stick with me cause we was family. But now you got a real place, a solid space on the shelf, Trey. They’re gonna frame your pictures and hang a stocking for you and all that shit.” Jackson looked away for a second, swallowing something hard to get out down his throat. “You belong to a family, a family for my son.”
No. He’s yours. Look at him, J! He’s perfect—how can you leave him? You’re leaving. Don’t go. I can’t be his…
Jackson caressed Trey’s cheek. Trey wondered if this was real or if this was hell. His eyelids grew heavy. He didn’t want Jackson to go. He stretched his fingers. They just wouldn’t reach. Jackson threaded their fingers together for him, for once in Trey’s dream, Jackson let himself be captured, if only for a minute. It was the end of the nightmares for Trey. “One day when he’s big and strong, he’s going to be brave just like you, Trey. He’ll be safe and loved and he’ll know he has the support he needs to be whatever he dreams of. I can’t give him that doing what I do, and I’m too deep, wanted dead by too many people to keep him safe. You can. You can give my boy the dad he needs.”
Reaching into his heavy leather jacket, Jackson pulled out a dirty stuffed dog and placed it under Rascal’s arm. His kissed his son one last time. “Love you forever, Chance. Take care of your daddy for me. He’s pretty special to me.”
Trey again tried to object. His lips wouldn’t work. A tear escaped his eye and then sleep took him again. Jackson…
Trey awoke to little hands on his face. Sunlight struck his barely open eyes like sharp daggers. A steady beeping noise echoed around the room. When he was able to open his eyes completely, he stared up at Rascal. The child was lying across his chest, a hand rested on Trey’s chin. Rascal sighed deeply, his wide blue eyes relieved. And then he let his weight rest completely on Trey’s chest, where he put his hand to Trey’s skin and closed his eyes.
“Rascal, cut it out. You’re wiggling the tubes.” Henry appeared at the foot of the bed. “You’re going to—Trey? Oh my god, Yvonne! He’s awake.” Henry nearly tripped to get to the side of the bed, where he carefully folded his hand over Trey’s. “Trey.”
Trey had a second to see those copper penny eyes full of grief before a whooshing sound caught Trey’s attention. A sliding door inside a glass partition opened and Yvonne ran to the bed. “Go get the doctor, Henry. Tell the nurses to call page Quinton and Donohue. Go now.”
Henry still held onto Trey’s fingers, scared to let go. “What about Flynn? We should wake him up.” Any excuse to stay, Trey thought heavily. He tried to lift his fingers, to ease Henry’s heartache.
“Let him sleep.” Yvonne ran a hand through Trey’s hair as Trey tried to process everything. “He hasn’t slept at all in six days.” Trey noticed: neither had she. Yvonne was a mess, a far cry from the angelic depiction of his dreams.
“Yes ma’am.” Henry looked unsure. His gaze flicked between the door and Trey. He crossed over to the other side of Trey’s bed, away from Yvonne’s hovering, and kissed Trey’s forehead. He sniffed back tears, wiped his eyes and sighed. Nodding to himself, Henry exited the room. Trey was left finally wiggling his fingers. He’d tried his best to touch Henry, but he was weak and scared this was just another vision waiting to torture him.
“Trey, can you hear me, sweetheart?” Trey nodded once, in a surreal state that left him questioning everything. His body was completely drained. He couldn’t move much more than his head or his fingers, and those moves cost him precious energy. Instead of trying to get up, he allowed Yvonne to relax him with her mothering hands. “Would you like some water?”
He nodded once. The one movement jostled his brain and set his body on edge. A straw appeared at his lips. Trey closed his eyes, sucking down water like he’d never had any. After smacking his lips a few times, Trey finally asked, “How?”
It hurt to say the single word and his voice relayed as much with the gravelly question. Everything fucking hurt.
“Hush now—save your strength, baby.” She continued to run her fingers through his hair as if the act was the only thing keeping her sane. Her eyes focused on her fingers moving. Her jaw ticked with unsaid things, things Trey needed to know.
“Please,” he rasped. “How?”
Her eyes finally met his, a ferocity etched deep within them that made Trey hold his breath until she spoke. “A mother never goes down quietly when her children are in danger. And a warrior never leaves a man behind. And you are the bravest man I know, worthy of the rescue.” She kissed his forehead, lips lingering as if soaking up his heat to assure her he was alive.
Trey had no idea what she meant. His head swam, vision fading in and out until he found his bearings, and those were ambiguous at best. All the while Rascal remained silent. His fingertips pressed into Trey, clinging to him. Under one arm was a dirty stuffed dog with one button eye and a floppy ear hanging on by barely a thread. Trey moved his hand to touch the dog in astonishment, but the monitor next to his bed beeped a frenzy of warning. A sharp pain sliced through his hand and arm when he tugged away.
“Relax, sweetheart. Just lie back now. You don’t want to pull out the tubes. You’re the only thing keeping each other alive right now. You lost a lot of blood, and he’s replenishing you while you…cure him.” Yvonne put a hand to her mouth. Her stare roamed to the glass wall Trey had yet to fully study. His left hand cupping Rascal’s shoulder, Trey turned his head to the wall of glass. “Not yet,” Yvonne said, voice rising. She moved to block his view, but gave up when she was certain he’d already seen. “I need you to stay calm, Trey.”
“What?” His stomach rolled at the sight of the man on the other side of the clear partition. The tubes in Trey’s neck and arms traveled through small holes in the glass to a bed parallel to his. Greg’s sculptured arms and chest were bare except for the twin needles and tubes protruding from his body. His eyes were closed, purplish circles surrounding his lids where black veins had been. His upper body was pale, almost as green as the blankets covering him from the waist down. He was propped up in a hospital bed where Flynn slept with his face buried in the circle of his arms at the end. Trey gasped, holding the breath in for a few seconds before the ache swelled in his lungs and he had to expunge the painful air.
“The doctor put him under to start the VBT. He was too far gone to cooperate, Trey. They started dosing him with sedatives every four hours, and that was six days ago.” Yvonne squeezed Trey’s hand. “The transfusion is the only thing keeping his heart beating. And yours until you woke up. We thought you were gone.”
“I don’t understand…” Trey drew in air, but he still couldn’t breathe. He had thought he was dead, thought heaven had knocked on his door, and Greg’s too for that matter. The weight he’d dreamed of, the weight he’d missed during what he’d thought were dreams was Greg. Greg hadn’t killed him. And by some miracle they had barely survived, if this was a survival worth living through.
Still didn’t change the fact that Trey’s mate looked dead, and felt as much in Trey’s heart. Overwhelmed, Trey panted and reached for the glass that was too far away, strained to be as close to his mate as possible when that night’s events came rushing back to him all at once. The rescue mission. Pierre. Feral. The bomb. The machine next to Trey shrieked in warning. Yvonne wrestled his hands down to the bed and Trey screamed.
“Greg!” He thrashed his head, keeping his chest carefully still until Rascal had enough sense to crawl to the end of the bed. Pain burst in Trey’s temples. He needed to feel his mate next to him. He needed to fix Greg’s condition, needed to hear his laugh and see his golden eyes open. Trey’s fangs emerged, slicing across his tongue as he cried for help. Near the bed the machine went wild, hysterical along with him, a heart song for the broken.
The door opened for a young Indian woman in a white lab coat, apparently the doctor had arrived, but Trey didn’t give a shit who she was or what she wanted. He wanted Greg. He fought Yvonne, swam above the pain in his body in an attempt to wrench her hands off of him unsuccessfully. Donohue and Quinton pushed the good doctor aside to get to Trey. Yvonne was made to stand against the wall and hold Rascal close. Trey’s back arched. He became hostile against the strong hands pressing him into the bed.
He recognized Quinton’s dark eyes and the similar face of his father on the other side of the bed. But he wanted them to stop, to let him breathe, to let him touch his mate. It wasn’t fair! “Let me go,” he begged on a scream. “Please,” he edged toward sobbing.
“Hold him down just a little longer.” The doctor walked to the multiple bags hanging above Trey’s head. She pushed a table closer to the bed, loaded with small glass bottles, and as Trey lifted his head to see, a sterilized needle still in the bag. He hissed and started to fight harder.
“How can you do this to me?!” he roared, knowing they were going to tranquilize him like some animal. “He is mine, not yours. I should be there for him. Stop. Just stop!”
The doctor injected a needle into the cap of a glass bottle full of sedative. Trey snarled, managing to get his hand free. He ripped the tube out of his arm, and the next while kicking out at Donohue to keep him away.
“Enough!” Flynn Courtenay filled the doorway between Trey and Greg’s rooms. His face was red, as were his puffy eyes from lack of sleep and no doubt a few tears. He wore a pair of scrubs pants and a white cotton shirt, and looked like complete shit, although still very formidable when push came to shove, and oh had the man been shoved past his boundaries. When his eyes met Trey’s, Trey was certain this man was his only ally at the moment, no matter how much the others claimed to want to help him. In those blue eyes, Trey found the only kind of understanding he cared to respect.
The doctor put her hand up. “Sir, I just to need—”
Flynn bared his fangs. “Suarta, you stick my son with that shit and I will stick my foot so far up your ass that—”
“Flynn!” Yvonne nodded to Rascal. “Mind yourself. Stay calm.” Rascal could have cared less. Like Jackson, the kid wore an amused smile that stunk of approval and future mischief.
“Calm?” Flynn laughed like he was high out of his mind. He shook his head, snarled and then walked over to the doctor. She allowed him to pluck the needle from her hand and toss it to the other side of the room, where the sharp tip embedded into the seat of an empty chair. “My kids have been through enough. My mate was stuck with fucking needles, trapped in a Rush lab, while Trey decided to make the ultimate sacrifice to spare us from the monster my son had become. Then I sat there watching a weapons freak disarm a bomb that could set off more and kill my entire crew and the heads of the Bureau, plus a fucking GERT team.”
His breathing packed the room, in and out like he was right on the precipice of murder. Flynn crowded the doctor’s personal space, going to nose to nose with her. “After that I had to spend all night playing cleanup around the city with the human cops, swiping and sweating and wondering whether or not my kids were going to make it through the night, and whether I would be there to say goodbye. I had no time to console my mate, to tell her how much I loved her, to touch her and hold her. I didn’t have the chance to rip to shreds the bastard who did this. And if you fuck up the only thing I have going for me right now, I will not hesitate to rip your scalp off and dance on your dead body. You got that, doc?”
The doctor’s mouth opened and closed a few times. Quinton cleared his throat. “Say yes, Suarta.”
“Yes,” she whispered.
“Good.” Flynn took the tray of sedatives and tossed the thing in a noisy clatter to the floor. “Get the fuck out. Now.”
“I was just trying to help.”
“And if you didn’t have your head so far up your medical breakthrough ladder climbing ass you would have understood the basics, such as Trey here. He wakes up in an unfamiliar place, only to see his mate like that.” Flynn pointed sharply to the glass. “He has no idea what happened, not sure what he remembers, and then you try to put him under again because he flips out. Of course he’s going to flip out! He knows what his mate needs. He knows because they are connected, you imbecile. This Vampire Blood Transfusion crap is for the birds. Want to fix them? Put them together where they belong.” Flynn growled. “And you call yourself a doctor. You’re a mad Frankenstein with a hard on for wild experiments. I’ll be talking to the queen about this, your lack of a bedside manner and your fixation with needles—”
“Flynn, sweetheart, come on… Let her go.” Yvonne pulled Flynn back to allow Suarta to edge past him.
The Manager struggled to keep calm, delivering a scowl to the doctor who swept by quickly. “Stick my kid… She’s an—”
“No.” Yvonne tugged on his arm. “She’s not. You’re upset right now. We all are, and maybe we thought he was going into shock, Flynn. Could it be we were trying to relieve his stress just as much as you want to? We’re all trying to help, in different ways—sure, but I’m at my limit here, Flynn. I can’t have you flying off the handle too. Watching the boys suffer is enough.”
Trey’s fighting strength diminished once the hands holding him down left his skin. His muscles melted into the bed, the stiff mattress and thin covers wrapping him a cocoon. Trey noticed Flynn’s fingers gently caressing the top of his hand, the only thing urging Trey awake through the sleep that wanted to jerk him back to Never Land. He tapped back at Flynn’s fingers to get his attention because his vocal chords refused to work any longer. The struggle had wrung him out.
Catching Flynn’s attention, Trey turned his head to the glass wall where his mate slept. Something in Trey’s stare must have pained Flynn to the point of breaking, or maybe the Manager just understood the need to be with his love after having been yanked away from his mate not long ago. Sometimes recovery wasn’t as complicated as tubes and needles, sanitary rooms with locks and machines, and beds with guardrails. Sometimes getting better was a far simpler process, an internal instinct one had to just rely on.
Flynn, for all of his professional and ruthless traits understood just that. He warned the others with his eyes, a menacing squint of his baby blues that exuded “I dare you to stop me.” Only Yvonne didn’t shy away from her mate’s power. She held Rascal to her chest, not a word of protest as she watched her mate pull the remaining needles from Trey’s body with gentle care.
Donohue and Quinton shared the same wide eyed look, as if they were ready to jump in at any moment for a rescue, to save the frail man in the bed: Trey. But as frail as Trey’s body might have been, his mind was strong and ready to connect with his mate. Flynn carefully wound Trey’s arm around his neck and peeled back the thin green blanket. Trey shivered, a chill raced up his spine, and then down under the flannel pajama bottoms he wore.
He couldn’t stop the groan of pain that escaped when Flynn lifted him up from the bed like he weighed nothing. The man Trey had been so scared of until days ago looked down at him with concern. He held Trey like an injured child, arms supporting his back and under his knees. There was a moment where Flynn just stared at him, asking if this was okay, if there was something he could have done to have prevented this entire situation and Trey’s strife in the past. Could Trey forgive him for losing him that night of his turning? Could he understand that it had been a situation of happenstance and bad timing? Could he forgive him for not being strong enough to save Greg from becoming feral and leaving Trey alone should Greg not make it out alive?
Flynn’s blue eyes were sad, hopeless, tired. His was a look of a man who had neglected the most important aspects of his life, even though he loved his family dearly. Those eyes said he was repentant, that he needed forgiveness from Trey; that he loved Trey just as much as Greg and he wasn’t kidding when he’d called him son, including Trey when he’d mentioned his kids, as in plural.
Flynn Courtenay was the last chance Trey would ever have at knowing a father, a damn fine one at that. Trey’s human dad had cared for him, and his memory would never be forgotten in all the days Trey walked this earth, but it seemed very important to Trey to forgive Flynn, to… If Greg ever woke up, Trey wanted his mate to understand the importance of family, to not shut them out when they were only people who made mistakes, who could rectify their wrongs if they worked at it together.
Trey wanted that life, a happy one with his two adopted sons and his mate, with their extended family spending dinners and holidays together. He wanted people he could rely on, a supportive network in this new journey he and Greg would embark on if Greg could ever get better. Trey blinked and exhaled. He squeezed the back of Flynn’s neck. I forgive you.
Flynn cleared his throat, blinking back tears. He nodded, and then wriggled his nose before turning with his son’s mate in his arms toward the partition door. The sensor registered Flynn’s presence and the door to Greg’s glass prison whooshed open. Trey’s heart pounded. He felt like he would be sick from the rise in temperature in both his body and that of the sweltering heat suffocating Greg’s room.
Once the door closed behind them, Flynn carried Trey to the bed and stopped. There was something on his chest, a weight built of words that needed to come out. “They put him out every couple of hours because he wakes up screaming. His blood is clean and still they put him out like an animal because they don’t trust he’d not feral anymore. They thought he would hurt us, but they’re wrong. My son is scared to death, just like you were. And they wouldn’t let me comfort him. But you can because I’ll make sure nothing gets through that door. And if your comfort isn’t enough, know I will never blame you. You are my son’s mate, which makes you my child. Nothing you do will make me forsake you, Trey. Not now or ever.”
A tear hit Trey’s forehead. He looked up to Flynn and squeezed his neck again. There was nothing Trey could say to take away Flynn’s pain. But there was something he could try instead. Flynn nodded and lifted Trey up and over the guardrail on the bed to carefully place him on the narrow mattress. Half on top of his mate, his muscles tightly wound in discomfort, Trey slowly shimmied onto his side, fighting the covers stuck under his body.
“Calm down. Let me help you.” Flynn put a hand to Trey’s bare shoulder. Flynn pulled the blankets down under Trey’s weight, and then slid them back up his body so the two men in the bed could touch. There was no shame between him and Flynn. While being in bed with his mate was intimate on every level, Flynn was only there to ease them in any form he could… for his children. Trey squeezed Flynn’s fingers before Flynn stepped away.
Cuddled up to Greg, Trey lost all sense of Flynn or the beep of the monitor, or the heat and the bleach-like smell. He closed his eyes, head on Greg’s chest, and sighed. He had finally come home after his trip to hell and back. He gripped Greg’s side, molded his fingers around the curve of hard muscle there. His silent tears bathed Greg’s chest. Trey’s mind sought entrance to Greg’s. His heart thrummed in need.
Wake up. Can you hear me? Greg?
Nothing. Not a peep or a glimpse into Greg’s soul. Trey wanted to die, wanted to scream. Dying and screaming would be useless. He’d already experienced both anyway. With its unrelenting fist his frustration choked him, and Trey slid his hand to the first needle in Greg’s arm, the needle feeding Greg a bag of Trey’s blood in the other room while the live source was draped over his side, frantically trying to get his mate to notice. Trey yanked with no strength left. Again he tried, but to no avail the tube slipped from his clammy palm.
All business, Flynn peeled back the blanket and took them out. There was some shouting behind him, didn’t deter the Manager, though. He stared at his son’s needles, pulling them out as if they were his darkest enemies. The tubes left the bed, thrown to the floor by Greg’s angry father.
“Leave them alone!” Flynn went to the glass door to cuss out the doctor who was scared to enter the room, but not too scared to yell back. Flynn wasn’t backing down, packing the doorway with menace. No one shall pass through this door, his body language read.
Trey sniffed with a grateful half smile for Flynn and inched his lips closer to Greg’s neck. He nuzzled his nose into Greg’s skin, inhaling his scent. His gums ached as his fangs descended again. He wrapped Greg up in a limp hug and bit down without hesitation.
Fresh blood rushed over his tongue, his mate’s flavor flooding forth until he couldn’t help but moan in ecstasy. Trey squeezed his eyes shut as he sucked. With each pull he called for his mate in his mind. He sought to lure Greg away from the darkness, out from behind the curtain where he hid. If only he could just reach inside and yank Greg out. He sucked harder, almost cruelly out of frustration.
His fingers dug into Greg’s chest, begging to zap life into his mate, to feel a mirroring thrum of Greg’s heart like his own beat in rapid cadence. A dull thud answered, the rhythm of a man who was in another world, a man so severely sedated his heart couldn’t do much more than barely beat at all.
Trey slapped Greg’s chest, pouring his hurt and need into the excruciating move. He drank, filling his body with Greg like he’d done for his mate every unconscious hour from the bed in the other room.
Wake up! I fucking need you. I can’t do this without you.
Trey wept against his mate, fangs sunk deep in Greg’s skin. He was just about to give up, to curl into a ball and die against his mate’s body when he felt it. Like a burn against his palm that had nothing to do with his physical pain. Greg’s heart lurched in rhythm, a roaring pound against Trey’s hand. Trey’s eyes snapped open. His fangs retracted and a hand moved over his back. Not Flynn’s hand.
He was so scared to see Greg’s eyes open red that Trey buried his face in Greg’s neck as that hand trembled up Trey’s spine and then into his hair. Sharp points grazed Trey’s neck that he was gently prodded to bare to his mate. Trey peered sideways, right at Greg’s face, into those beautiful golden eyes he had fallen for hard. Not red ringed with death, but gold. Trey’s heart soared.
Trey was allowed time for a single deep breath. And then he was cradled close and his neck was pierced and fed from the way mates were supposed to—safe and warm, alive and healthy, no tubes and needles to taint the moment. Trey shut his eyes and connected with Greg, heart and soul, mind to mind.
One month later Greg stood in Fletcher’s new kitchen, pushing aside bubble wrap and stuffing from packing boxes to get to his phone that had disappeared in the mess. He frowned when the screen refused to turn on. It had died. Trey was going to shit himself if he tried to call.
“So the doc gave you the final okay, huh?” Fletcher looked up from his secondhand kitchen table with a lopsided smile.
Greg set down his beer and patted his stomach. No sense freaking out about a dead phone if he made it to the florist on time. “Clean bill of health. No more stupid checkups for me. That Suarta chick made my skin crawl, always with the blood tests and the creepy staring. I’m so glad I don’t have to go back there.” He shivered at the thought of returning to that room, enclosed in glass where he’d almost died. Never again.
Fletcher’s mouth twitched to the side. His eyes strayed back to the mess of papers Greg had given him to sift through. “That’s good.”
Not one to usually delve back into the topic of his feral moment with anyone other than Trey, Greg sensed Fletcher wanted to know more. As if he were scared of both asking for answers and knowing the truth. Greg turned one of the mismatched chairs around at the table and straddled it. “What?”
“I don’t know where to start.” Fletcher grinned, but the humor didn’t reach his eyes. His pretty boy bangs flopped into his eyes and he pushed them aside so he could find his beer. After a long swig he set the bottle down and looked at Greg. “I could never be that brave. I like to think I could be, but I know that’s a lie.”
“You mean what Trey did?” Greg rested his chin on the back of the chair. His heart skipped a beat thinking of the ridiculous stunt his mate had pulled, giving up his life to be with Greg in their final moments, to give the team some time before the bombs finished triggering. At least Greg liked to think Trey knew about the bombs, although his gut said he didn’t and Trey’s reasoning had been purely romantic, together until the end. Greg didn’t like to ask. Trey had done what he did and maybe pushing the trigger was jumping the gun, but in the end he’d saved Greg’s life by offering himself in return.
If it hadn’t been for Blaze, the queen’s weapons specialist disarming the bomb in the warehouse so the others couldn’t go off in sequence, he and Trey would both be dead… along with many others. If his mom hadn’t woken up when she did and stabbed Greg with enough night night juice to lay a herd of elephants flat, Greg would have continued on his merry killing spree. But after many long hours being consoled by Trey, Greg found he had no regrets about that night.
His mom had been rescued, albeit not the way they’d planned. An entire Rush lab and warehouse had been destroyed. People who deserved to die were dead. And both he and Trey felt stronger after that night than they ever had before. Even through the feral parts, somewhere deep down, Greg knew Trey would save him. Where Trey was concerned, Greg knew his mate was the bravest man he would ever know. And now, Trey believed him. Greg told him every night, woke him up every morning with kisses that said the same; held him tight while they slept and whispered in his ear when Trey was deep in thought. Trey knew how worthy Greg thought he was, how loved he was.
“See? Look at you thinking about it. You can’t even comprehend that level of courage.” Fletcher turned a sheet over and sighed. “I don’t know one person that would come to my rescue like that, if I were kidnapped. I’d rot to death.”
“Dude…” Greg huffed. “Now you’re being dramatic. You have friends and family that give a damn and you know it. You’re just frustrated none of my tenants are ringing your mating bell and you’re getting down on yourself. Don’t sweat it, Fletch. Someone is going to come along—”
“Bullshit.” Fletcher sniffed and got up from the table.
Greg grumbled and took another sip of his beer. He watched Fletcher go to the window of his new apartment to mope. Greg huffed and stood up. “It is bullshit. For all you know your mate was one of the contractors that worked on my building. Or the garbage guy that stops by every Thursday. Or the man that cleans the offices next door. Did you ever stop and think about why you can’t find your mate right this very second in your life?”
Throwing his hands up, Fletcher’s eyes searched Greg’s. “Because I’m crazy and he doesn’t exist?”
Shaking his head, Greg brought Fletcher his beer. He pointed at the brilliant view Fletcher now had from his new high-rise apartment in the heart of the Village. “Do you see all of those lights and buildings out there, Fletch? He could be anywhere, just waiting.”
“Waiting for what? I’m tired of waiting.” Fletcher made to turn, but Greg blocked his path with an arm.
“Waiting for when he’s needed. At the exact moment you truly need him to be there, he’s going to come to your rescue, so you don’t rot to death.” Greg glanced at the window. “I wasted a part of my life being jealous of others, of denying myself happiness with my family, and keeping people at arm’s length because I didn’t think anyone could love me because of what I’d done in the past. I criticized where I came from. I looked down on them, cutting ties with innocent people. I punished myself if I’m being honest. I was so stupid, Fletcher. I didn’t realize my obsession with being just the opposite of them hurt everyone around me. I burned bridges and stepped out of my own life for a long time because I’d looked for my mate, someone to pull me out of the funk, and he wasn’t there. And then I gave up because I was burnt out. And when I was just about to say “fuck it”, there he was—my white knight.”
“Yours is different. You had this romantic adventure, life and death shit, and hanging on by a thread in the hospital. It was beautiful and scary and brought you together, and in the end you couldn’t live without each other. I don’t mean to sound like a prick. Because I was scared shitless you were gonna die. But I’m just so tired of being insignificant and being it all alone. Does that make sense?”
From where Greg stood he didn’t like the darkness surrounding Fletcher, the shadows created by moonlight over his youthful face, up to his eyeballs in depression. But he could relate. Hell, he could really fucking relate. “I know,” he whispered. When Fletcher didn’t respond, Greg walked across the narrow living room. “What’s going, man? Something’s eating you and it isn’t this mate shit.”
“It is actually. They offered me a job,” Fletcher blurted.
“Who are they?”
“The Bureau.” Fletcher looked up. “They want me to go through a basic training course over the next two weeks with some other new staff members and then they’ll give me a salary. I’m going to be a driver for the Bureau.”
“That’s great.” Greg slapped Fletcher on the back, smiling from ear to ear. Fletcher didn’t return the enthusiasm. “Why is that not great?”
“I won’t be doing my route in SoHo anymore. What if I…? What if I never find him, Greg? What if I take this job and lose that trail again?”
Greg groaned. “Have you been cabbing in SoHo this entire time, even after you specifically promised to cut that shit out until the Bureau cleaned up the territory?”
“It’s been clean for two weeks! And I swear I felt it again, Greg. He was there somewhere!” Fletcher started to pace. “I’m going to lose him. He’s so close.”
“And what if your mate works for the Bureau, huh? What if you felt him because he was there cleaning up and you turn down this job to hunt for him? Then what? You’ll lose your chance because of this obsession with something that isn’t ready yet. Maybe it’s just not your time. You’re young—you still haven’t turned yet, Fletch. Don’t fuck this opportunity up and play what if while a perfectly good future awaits you.”
“A Guard, huh?” Fletcher whirled around. “Maybe he was working for your dad this whole time, lent to the territory by the Bureau as part of the rotation. Or maybe he’s a detective who lives in the area.” Fletcher gasped with newfound excitement. The change was like night and day, making Greg nauseous. Then again Greg had become accustomed to Fletcher’s constant flip switching moods, he should have expected this. “Oh my god, you’re right. He could be there. I could drive him around one day. I’ll be driving a lot of them around. Shit!”
Greg complained into his beer like the glass bottle would sympathize with him. He snorted as Fletcher stacked the papers on the table before going to the stereo, the one part of his cardboard storm of an apartment that had been organized since the move; speakers set up and the entertainment system dust free on the shelves like a shrine to the gods of music. Fletcher pressed play on one of his funky remix playlists with some pep in his step. The blond was like no one Greg had ever met before, but Greg wished his friend well on his journey, whatever fate had planned for him. At least Fletcher would have constant theme music to accompany him.
“Hey, you want to celebrate with some homemade pizza? Arnie is coming over in about an hour to watch some movies with me. He’s really cool by the way, haven’t had a chance to thank you for hooking me up with him.” Fletcher’s cheeks tinged pink. “Not like that, I mean just friends. He’s not really my taste, handsome though, just not… But we’ll have a little party, nothing big. Pizza, maybe that new cop movie I recorded yesterday.”
Greg smiled. As much as he wanted to continue to see Fletcher bask in his decision to take the job, at least he thought that was what was going on, Greg had to decline. He did regret not being able to stick around to see Arnie, the tight lipped, bear of a Manager eat homemade pizza and listen to Fletcher rave over cop movies. That was a scene worth watching. “You’re welcome. Arnie is a cool guy. And nah, thanks, but I just came to go over these with you. I have to get back home. Henry has a formal tonight over at his new school, a boy girl thing. He’s wearing a tux, can you imagine?”
Fletcher sighed and looked up. “You got it all now, huh? Husband. Kids. Formal dances with girls. That’s nice, Greg. I’m happy for you, you know?”
“Me too, man. But if I don’t get a move on, the florist is gonna close and Trey will kick my ass if I don’t have that stupid corsage thing for Ari. Hell will open under my feet.”
“Maybe another time. Bring Trey and the kids. I make a mean bowl of Ramen noodles.” Fletcher chuckled.
Greg set his beer by the sink to hug Fletcher with one arm. “Of course. We’ll do something to celebrate this job thing when all is said and done. Proud of you, kid. Tell Arnie I said hi.”
“Will do.” Fletcher hugged Greg with a laugh. “Now go get that corsage. A lady must never go to the formal without one.”
“So I’ve heard a thousand times.” Greg went to the door. He waved at Fletcher one last time before heading out. He couldn’t help but feel Fletcher’s sudden change of heart had nothing to do with excitement, rather he wanted to switch the topic altogether to avoid a night of depression. Greg knew what that was like, had known, and maybe Arnie would help Fletcher out of his funk with some crappy television movies and homemade pizza. Sounded nice.
The florist on Spring Street was still open, but just barely. One customer, a tall dark haired man was at the counter with the owner, a short Puerto Rican lady wearing a polka dot apron at the register. She pursed her dark red lips at Greg, and lifted her chin at the man standing at the counter. Quinton turned around to smile at Greg and lifted a plastic carton with a purple flower thingy in it. His smug grin said it all. Greg was in trouble, but he played along.
“The fuck are you doing here, man?” Greg smiled.
“He’s getting your corsage, idiot. I said eight, not eight-thirty, not nine. Eight. Should have closed an hour ago.” She lifted her hand dismissively, and muttered a stream of Spanish on her way to the back. “Don’t touch nothing, I already cleaned the glass!”
Quinton’s brows rose. A smile played at his lips. “Trey called me. He said you weren’t answering your phone. You’re going to get reamed when you get home, just so you know.”
“I had a feeling that’s why you were here. My phone died a while ago. I came straight here from Fletcher’s. He was having a moment.”
Quinton shook his head. “That kid you were talking about, the cabby?”
“That’s him. He’s got the mating bug, swears he can feel his mate wandering around, so he circles SoHo in his cab to find him. Poor kid—he’s not even turned yet,” Greg whispered, checking over Quinton’s shoulder for the curvy lady who’d already made a target out of him.
“He’s probably just dying for sex on the regular. I’ve heard mated sex is the end all for our kind.” Quin winked. “He’s just a horny kid.”
“I think it’s more than that. He’s a nice kid. Lonely though.” Greg shrugged.
“You know what else is lonely?” Quin lifted the corsage. “Ari’s wrist.”
“Shit. Right. Did you pay for it already?”
“My treat.” Quin bumped Greg’s shoulder playfully. “Let’s get back before the herd goes wild and Raquelle back there decides to use your face to mop the floors. Lizzy, Yvonne, and Ari’s mom are flash happy with those damn cameras. Ari is playing supermodel, and Henry is trying to blend into the wall and die. And Trey is freaking out, trying to make everything perfect. The only ones content are Flynn and Chance. Your dad can’t get enough of his grandkids.”
“Hope there are still two of them when we get back. I don’t get this to them soon and Henry will probably jump out of a window.” Greg walked with his best friend out of the shop, yelling a thank you to the owner who flicked him off.
Trey was about ready to pull his hair out. Half blind from the flash of the cameras and half deaf from the teenage bickering. Playing host to Ari’s parents and his own family was tiresome. And dealing with Henry while he was trying to show off for his date, only to fail miserably was fucking exhausting.
“Where the hell are you, Greg?” Trey muttered under his breath, popping open another bottle of wine to appease the females as well as him. He turned his back and took a swig straight from the bottle to calm his nerves. He hoped there was still wine when everyone left. He was going to need it.
When the door opened, revealing his mate and Quinton, Trey wanted to hurl the bottle at Greg’s head, but as always, his mate’s presence soothed his anger. He sighed and jerked his head at Greg. His mate shook hands, smiled, and made his way to the kitchen where he gave an apologetic beam and hugged Trey to him.
“Fletcher was about to have a breakdown. My phone died and I made it here as soon as I could. Forgive me?”
Trey gave a tight smile for their audience. “I want this done and over with. You can make it up to me when everyone is gone. I’m about to have my own breakdown.”
Greg nodded. “Tell me what you need me to do.”
“Make sure Henry looks okay. I don’t know fuck about tuxes. Did I do it right, the bowtie? I looked up a video on YouTube and Dad said it looked good, but it has to be perfect. This is his first dance, Greg.”
Greg chuckled. He kissed Trey’s temple. “Baby, calm down. He looks great. A little stud.” Greg’s smile melted and he cocked his head upon further study of the photo session going down in the living room area. “He’s holding her a little close, don’t you think? Is this thing chaperoned? Are we supposed to go with them? Did they like get a room or something for…after?”
Trey gawked. “She is a pastor’s kid.”
“And I’ve heard they’re the worst. Where is her other hand right now? Trey, I swear—”
“That is Ari you’re talking about. Cool it. The dance is chaperoned and they have Guards there. Dad is having them followed and there better not be a gods-damned room for after.” Trey took Greg’s hand, squeezing the life out of it. “We’re parents,” he whispered like it’d just hit him.
Greg stopped panicking to look at his mate. He started with a smile and then let loose a laugh. Trey joined in until he had to wipe his eyes. “When does this stop?”
Yvonne set her camera on the counter. “That would be never.”
“I know that look, the look of a parent about to turn inside out with panic. I’ve worn that very look many times when you were growing up, and even after that.” Yvonne turned around to lean on the bar. “The corsage is beautiful, matches her dress perfectly. I think so far you’re doing it right. The trick is to keep it up, and ask for help now and then. We aren’t superheroes, although never tell your children that.”
“You just did.” Greg hugged Trey to him.
“No, that was from one parent to another. Or grandparent.” Yvonne nodded at her husband in the corner seat with Chance in his lap. Almost four weeks to the day Rascal’s legal name had been changed to Chance upon Trey’s insistence. Whether it had been a dream or not, Trey felt in his heart that Jackson would have wanted it that way. So Chance it was. Flynn gave Chance his mysterious stuffed dog, the one Trey never understood where it came from, and Trey wanted to melt. Little fucker makes me weak, he thought proudly. “Thank you for letting him spend the night with us. Your father is thrilled. And I’m sure the break is needed.” Yvonne’s eyes twinkled with unsaid things as she turned around.
“Gregory, I never thought you were such a prude.” She giggled behind her hand. “Now come say goodbye and make sure to tell Ari how beautiful she looks.”
“I don’t think I have to. Pretty sure she knows.” Trey grinned at Henry’s date.
Ari posed for the camera with the experience of a teenage girl working it as supermodel in front of her closet mirror. Draping an arm over Henry’s shoulder, Ari tilted her chin for the perfect photo, one hip turned in and one sparkly silver pump struck out for punctuation. Henry was eating it up with a shit eating grin. Kid had won the jackpot as far as dates went.
“Kill me now. I know that look too.” Greg nodded at Henry.
Trey knew that look also. Their boy was as goofy and awkward as they came. But he was no fool. He held onto his date with pride, and a bit of possession in his young eyes. One day those two were going to rock the mated world. They were just meant for each other, like Henry was meant to call this house home, and Chance was meant to be their youngest son, and the world was supposed to spin. It just was.
Greg took the corsage from his best friend, his cheeks reddened with nerves as this was one of those parental moments he was supposed to savor and scrapbook later. But the thought of scrapbooking made him want to vomit, so he did it in his own style: casual. He slipped the plastic box to Henry, who looked at the purple flowers like he was being handed a wedding ring. “Just do it so you guys can get out of here and have some fun.” Greg bumped Henry’s shoulder with his. The words felt right. Henry gave Greg a short compassionate stare that cemented his thanks.
The kid gulped, visibly paling as he turned to his spunky date. “Hey, uh, Ari?”
Ari turned around, saw the box, and squealed. “Oh. My. God. It’s perfect! Put it on me. You just have to put it on me!” She bounced in her heels, ruffling her knee length purple dress that sat on her hips like mounds of tutu fluff. Glitter spun to the floor from the yards of fabric, settling onto the hardwood underneath her, where it looked like a fairy princess had yakked. Greg leaned back into Trey, holding back his groan and the impulse to wave away the cloud of fruity body spray wafting off the bouncing teenage girl.
Ari’s mother rolled with laughter. “You are going to break your ankle in those things. Stand still for poor Henry.”
“And don’t forget to wear your sweater out of this house. Too much skin,” Ari’s father muttered. His rigid back slumped as his wife comforted his fatherly instincts with her hand on his arm.
“I am an expert in Choos, Mom. And Dad, this is a dance, not an interview at the convent.” Ari scoffed playfully. She gave Henry a bashful smile as he slid the elastic bracelet onto her wrist and adjusted the flowery corsage. “It’s gorgeous.”
“You are,” Henry blurted, staring at her dumbly.
Trey gripped Greg’s arm, putting his face against Greg’s back to hide the laugh. Greg bit his lip to do the same. He watched Henry recover none too gracefully with a series of stammering starts. The uncomfortable moment was fixed with Ari’s kiss to his cheek and the reciprocation in her eyes. Young love was a fragile, messy affair, but that wasn’t to denote the strength of it either. Henry took Ari’s hand in front of his family and friends, and as Trey peered around his mate to watch, he could almost see Henry in fifteen years doing the very same thing for a another more mature special occasion, one that replaced a corsage with a ring and a purple dress with a white one.
In four weeks their family unit had weathered storms that only served to bring them closer. Maybe one too many near death experiences allowed the four of them to see how much they needed each other to make life livable, not understanding what they really had until it almost slipped away. Watching Henry mature before their very eyes was magical, something that took Trey’s breath away.
In a short time Trey and Greg had become responsible for these two delicate lives, and they were trying the best they could. It wasn’t easy. It was really hard, actually. But it was moments like these—Henry’s awkward formal dance and Chance’s ability to speak actual words and give kisses at bedtime—that made it all worth it, that made giving up their private time together as a couple seem petty when they looked at the bigger picture.
Trey put his arms around Greg’s waist. His hands were squeezed back tight. And before he knew what was happening, Ari and Henry were at the door, saying goodbye to Ari’s parents as they prepared to leave. Yvonne and Flynn hung back with Chance, gathering the toddler’s things for his night at the grandparents. Ari’s parents snapped one last shot and took the stairs instead of the elevator, waving goodbye, and Ari’s father barking last minute commands at his daughter to cover up and use her manners. And Lizzy and Quinton were finishing the last of the wine in the kitchen before they headed out for a night of clubbing.
Greg and Trey approached the teens with caution and excitement. “Midnight,” Greg said in a way of greeting. “No later.”
“As if our bodyguards would let us turn into pumpkins.” Ari grinned. “I have a tennis lesson in the morning anyway. My trainer would shit bricks if I was late, and do you know how hard it is to get up that early without my beauty sleep?” Her lashes fluttered and Henry sighed next to her, completely smitten with his date.
“All good plans can give way to temptation,” Greg found himself saying like he had become his father. Henry blushed, hiding his eyes behind his unruly hair. “I just mean…be good, okay? I know you’re good kids, so I don’t have anything to worry about, right?”
Henry shook his head. “We’ll be good.”
“The best.” Ari winked.
“No drinking or drugs,” Greg growled. “Home by midnight. But…have fun.”
“You two get downstairs to the car before he bestows anymore wisdom he might regret.” Trey chuckled. He kissed Ari’s cheek. Then he hugged Henry and whispered, “Have fun, kid. You deserve it.”
While Henry had grown fond of Trey as his parental figure, he had kept the affection to a minimum since that lone kiss at the clinic when Trey had awoken in confusion. When Henry hugged Trey back in front of everyone, Trey’s heart soared. He held on until Henry wiggled free and looked away. But they were both smiling.
“Okay, get the hell out of here. We got plans.” Greg grinned, waggling his brows.
“Gross. TMI, Greg!” Ari rolled her eyes.
Henry turned ten shades of red, but accepted another hug from Greg. Greg buried his face in Henry’s hair, lips next to his ear. “You listen to the Guards, okay? Something feels off, and I’m just a phone call away. Love you, kid.”
Henry went rigid. He exhaled, all the tension easing out of his body. “Love you too.”
Greg was forced to hang back with his mate as Ari and Henry pulled away and disappeared down the stairwell, where two Guards awaited to take them to the dance. Greg twined his fingers with Trey’s, wondering why the hell letting Henry go to the dance was such a big deal to him when they sent Henry off to school every day on his own. Because this was one of those big moments in Henry’s life. He was being given a level of responsibility and a dose of maturity to protect his date and guard her honor while they let loose in the city under the night sky. It was a big deal. It meant that not too far from now, Henry would be all grown up.
“Fucking kids, man. Tell me why we’re doing this again? I just look at him and start thinking a whole bunch of crap that leads to more crap and—”
Trey leaned on him. “They’re coming back, Greg. They’ll always come back home.
“I’m being stupid, right?” Greg looked over at Trey.
“No, not at all.”
Quinton broke up the moment to grab his coat near the door. Lizzy was already buttoned up into hers and was well on her way to finishing the last drops of wine. She hooked an arm through Quin’s and smiled at them. “Dance fever is calling my name.”
“That would be our cue to go. Dance Fever can be quite serious if not treated immediately.” Quin patted Greg’s shoulder. “You two have fun. Make the time off worth it, otherwise Jackson will bitch and moan that he had to work a double for nothing.”
“Whatever—he likes it and he knows it.” Trey took the bottle from Lizzy and set it on a bookshelf. “And you can tell him the time off was worth his trouble.”
Quin lifted a brow, and flicked his gaze to Greg. “I’ll relay the message, filling in the blanks with my imagination, of course.”
“My parents are right there, man!” Greg put a hand to his face. “Look: no filling in the blanks, that’s just wrong on so many levels. You take Lizzy here out on the town, treat her right, and don’t let her go home with any creepers. Same goes for you.”
Quin flicked the collar up of his wool coat. His eyes sparkled like he was about to do something very naughty, and Lizzy obviously approved because she gave him a countering grin. Oh, yeah. They were getting into trouble tonight. “Nice to know you care for our safety from the inevitable creep show, nonetheless we’ll stick to the classier joints tonight and have ourselves a marvelous time, won’t we, Lizzy dearest?”
“Of course, Mr. Donohue. We’ll have ourselves a grand old time,” she mocked, batting her thick lashes. “Now get a move on, I don’t want to miss half price drinks.”
“I bid you adieu, gentlemen. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of the festivities. Your son was dapper and his lady was as beautiful as they come.” Quinton lifted an imaginary glass with his hand.
Lizzy followed suit. “Here. Here. Let’s just hope our new parents delivered a very thorough “talk” before their young suitor departed,” she continued their theatrics. “For one must never leave home without one of these.” She produced a foil wrapper from out of her pocket and left it on the table. “To the happy couple.”
Trey’s mouth formed a little circle as he stared at the condom on the table by the door. Greg paled. Quinton chuckled under his breath and Lizzy dragged him out the door. She stopped short, clicked across the concrete floor and gave both men a kiss on the cheek. “By the looks on their faces, Mr. Donohue, I’m guessing a talk is in order.”
“Fuck. Me.” Greg turned red. He glanced over at his parents who were wrapped up in something Chance was showing them on the coffee table. He hadn’t thought to give Henry any kind of talk, especially about sex. And he didn’t want his parents to know… Or think he was a terrible parent. Or to have any kind of awkward talk with them about “the talk”. Shit.
Trey was quick to squeeze his arm, gaining Greg’s attention. “They’re just kidding, Greg.”
“All in good fun,” Lizzy agreed. “Besides, Ari is a pastor’s kid. What could go wrong?”
Quinton whistled a low warning at her. He grabbed Lizzy’s hand. “Don’t think too hard, Gregory. Your head might explode. We’ll see you this weekend. Enjoy your night alone.”
Lizzy cackled in a wine induced haze. She blew them a kiss and clicked after Quinton in four inch heels. Trey was left clinging to his mate’s arm in support as he tried not to laugh. Greg was absolutely mortified.
“What are the chances Henry does something stupid?”
“High. He’s sixteen.” Trey shrugged. “But I doubt Ari will let him that far. She’s more likely to give him a sparkly pump to the balls if he tries anything. Look at me, Greg.”
Greg looked to the side, right into those jade eyes that soothed his soul. “I just became a parent. I’m not ready to become a grandparent.”
“Relax. It was a joke. Henry can barely form words around Ari most of the time. Do you think his brain could comprehend working down her dress zipper?” Trey sniggered.
Greg slowly smiled. “Nope.”
“Like I said, you have nothing to worry about. We got this. Henry has no clue what he’s doing.” Trey took Greg’s hand to walk them into the living room area. “Are we all packed over here?”
One large blue duffle bag held Chances favorite blanket, pillow, and stuffed dog, along with things he actually required for the night. A smaller bag was stuffed with things Chance had packed himself because he insisted he be a part of the packing process. Crayons bulged out of the side of the Velcro pocket. Half a cheese sandwich in a Ziploc bag stuck out of the top next to a pair of fuzzy shark house slippers. Kid had his necessities down.
“We have plenty at the house, but whatever makes Chance feel at ease.” Flynn crouched next to the small boy at the coffee table. Chance drew on anything with a surface, sometimes paper products and sometimes walls as Greg had found out three days ago when a crudely crayoned fish mural had appeared in the boys’ bathroom.
Trey followed Greg’s eyes to the crayons and smirked. He kneeled next to the table, tapping Chance on the nose. “Remember to listen to Grandma and Grandpa. No drawing on the walls or the floor or under the bed or on the furniture.”
“Kay.” Chance blinked.
Greg crouched to Chance’s eye level. “Don’t leave the house without Grandma and Grandpa. If you need something you tell them, okay?”
“You eat something besides cheese sandwiches, please. Veggies, okay?”
Chance made a soured look. “Yuck.”
“Chance. Veggies.” Greg leaned forward.
Chance huffed and crossed his arms. His blond brows furrowed. “Kay.”
Greg smiled at Chance, easing the pain of eating veggies. He ruffled the boy’s curls before he looked up at his parents. “No water before bedtime. He’ll pee everywhere, swear to god. And he thinks it’s funny. No horror movies or anything to do with dancing animals. Don’t ask.”
Trey bit back a laugh. “If you go to check on him at night and he’s not in his bed, check under it. If he’s sleeping there, leave him be. His nightlight is in the big bag, don’t forget it. If you do, he’ll remind you and it won’t be pretty.”
Greg nodded. “Trust us. Not pretty at all. And be firm on pajamas. It’s cold at night. He’ll insist he doesn’t have to wear them, but he’s pulling one over on you—”
“Gregory,” his father stopped him. Flynn gave a warm smile. “We’ve got this. We did in fact raise a little boy once before.”
“But he’s different—”
“Not really.” Yvonne stood. “We were prepared for just about anything where you were concerned. Making forts in the middle of the night out of my good table cloth. Using my lipstick as war paint. Taking every fish out of the aquarium in the living room to set them free in the gutter when you were four. Eating things that were only white until you were five.” She winked. “We have it all under control. It’s only a night, a night I’m sure you could use to yourselves.”
Trey’s brows hitched at Greg. “Fish?”
“I was four! I don’t even remember that.” Greg huffed. He sighed and stood. “You’re right; it’s only for the night. Chance?”
“You wanna come say goodbye?” Greg stretched his arms out for a hug.
Chance’s lips formed a pout. “Goodbye? You leave?”
“Oh. Oh no. Is he gonna cry?” Greg put his hands out defensively.
Trey rounded the coffee table to pick Chance up before the waterworks began. “You’re gonna sleep at Grandma and Grandpa’s tonight. Remember we talked about this, a sleepover?” He brought Chance to Greg’s side. “You’ll have so much fun.”
“Don’t leave.” Chance buried his face in Trey’s shoulder.
“Shit, I can’t do this.” Greg’s heart melted. He pulled Chance out of Trey’s arms because he couldn’t stand to watch his kid cry. Holding Chance felt so right, embracing his little body within his much larger arms until Chance was snug as a bug in a rug. How he’d formed such an attachment to the child was beyond him, but Chance was their kid now. And they were his parents. The moment it had been made legal with no refunds, Greg’s protective streak stretched to the stars and back. He sighed into Chance’s hair.
“We’re not leaving. You’re gonna sleep over at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, have so much fun, and then when you wake up we’ll be there to have breakfast with you. Grandma makes the best pancakes, and if you ask her nicely she’ll even put a smiley face on them. I know you love pancakes.” Greg soothed his hand over Chance’s hair. “With syrup on top…”
“Bacon,” came a little whisper.
“With bacon,” Greg murmured, knowing this kid was after his own heart. Bacon solved every problem he could think of. Little blue eyes peered up at him. “You think you wanna go with Grandma and Grandpa now?”
Chance sniffled and then nodded. He hugged Greg. That squeeze of his arms around Greg’s neck about blew his mind. But he returned the gesture until Chance wriggled around for Trey. Trey was there with open arms, sending Greg a thought to breathe. While his mate whispered to their youngest, carting him off with Yvonne in tow, Greg pushed his hands into his pockets and looked at his Dad.
Flynn nodded. A slow smile broke across his lips. “I have to say I always knew you’d be a good dad, I just never thought you’d want to be one… after me. But you are an amazing father, a natural, Gregory. Those little hugs…don’t they make you want to curl up and die from how precious they are?”
Greg exhaled, closing his eyes for a second. “Yeah,” he admitted. “Yeah they do. But Dad?”
“I’m sorry you thought… I’m sorry I was such a dick to you. I never made time after the clinic to tell you that. Trey told me what you did for him that night. He said I had no need to be angry at you because there was nothing to be angry for. And he was right. I was wrong.” Greg had imagined this moment in a million different fantasies. Letting go of the tension between father and son to get back to the way things used to be. His fantasies had always been so magical and farfetched that this moment in comparison seemed casual. Then again Greg was a casual, no frills kind of guy; seemed fitting he should apologize in the same manner.
Wearing jeans and a button up, Flynn looked younger than the mid twenty something man he appeared to be. His blue eyes were vulnerable, but masked with caution. Still, something about him seemed approachable tonight, lending relief to Greg as his father explained. “You had valid reasons, Gregory. I’m overprotective. I work too much and my job interferes with my family. I criticize as a form of protecting my pride when you lash out at me, but truly, I am nothing but proud of you and what you’ve done with your life. I wish I could downsize my life and live as you do at times. But my job, as consuming as it is, is important as well.” Flynn pushed a hand through his hair, staring at the coffee table.
“After that night with Sam, seeing firsthand the impact of the next generation, both the good, you, and the bad, that son of a bitch who ended Sam’s life, I took the Manager position to lay the groundwork for a better future for you and yours. You and I are not so different, Gregory. You work from the bottom and I work from the top, but in the middle our cause is the same. How could my blooded son be anything but my likeness, and how could I deny him his dreams when they are the same as mine?” Flynn shrugged. “I am so sorry we lost our way somewhere. And I know this can’t be fixed with an apology to one another. But I swear if you’re willing to meet me halfway, I will still be standing there to greet you, as I always have been. You’re my son, Gregory. Everything about you matters to me.”
Greg cleared his throat. He was not going to cry. Then Chance would never leave. His mother would freak out and want to know what was wrong. It would ruin the mood for the night once his parents left. Trey would want to comfort him with some pep talk, which Greg liked, but didn’t need at the moment.
So he manned up and went to his Dad before his Mom and Trey returned to the living room. Flynn stood and gave his son a one armed hug. It was fierce and quick and said all they couldn’t say at the moment. Flynn knew with that hug Greg loved him. He knew his son had always loved him. And that was why Greg wanted his sons to know what a great man Flynn Courtenay was, to learn the things Greg had learned from his father to become a man like Greg was now.
“Thanks,” Greg grunted.
The Manager nodded. He hefted one of Chance’s bags onto his shoulder. “So,” he smiled, “did you have the talk with Henry yet? You know I could give you some pointers.”
“Fuck off,” Greg snorted. “I distinctly remember that conversation and I’d rather swallow broken glass than review your notes. I think I can relay the warnings and mechanics myself, thank you very much. But…thanks,” he rushed.
“What? You didn’t like my diagrams?” Flynn barked a laugh. “I think I might have them somewhere around the house still.”
Greg groaned. “No way. He’s sixteen. If he doesn’t know A and B by now…”
Chance came running into the living room with a large book in his arms. He thrust the heavy book up at his Grandpa with glee. “Ramones!”
“What have you here?” Flynn took the book from the toddler, and lifted a brow at the title. “Encyclopedia of Punk? Gregory, you have got to be joking.”
“It’s bedtime reading. He didn’t dig the dog finger puppet book, so I started his musical education early. We left off at the Ramones. He wants a leather jacket now.” Greg gave Chance a thumbs up.
Flynn flipped the book over, shocked at the pictures of Mohawks and safety pinned leather pants. “This is his bedtime story?”
“It was either that or a Karma Sutra book Quin gave me for Christmas last year. I think he’s too young for diagrams, don’t you?” Greg winked.
“Ramones it is.” Flynn lifted the book, shaking his head at Chance. “Maybe it’s time to include a little Sinatra or Etta James in your education when Daddy isn’t looking, hmm?”
“Ramones!” Chance ran around the table until he decided smacking into Greg’s legs was a good time to stop. He grinned up at Greg, a smile full of teeth and adoration. Greg once again went into a crouch to hug his son close. “Brat Pack is bad. Remember that.”
“You got it, kid.” Greg kissed Chance and then stood up tall. “Well…”
“We’ll be on our way. Grandma rented a movie for you to watch before bed, one with penguins.” Yvonne wiggled her fingers until Chance held her hand.
“Dancing penguins?” Trey stiffened.
“It’s a children’s movie.” Yvonne waved them off.
“No!” Greg and Trey shouted in unison. Trey glanced at Greg, and then stared down Yvonne. “No dancing animals. He wouldn’t sleep with his dog for a week.”
Yvonne batted her lashes, blinking rapidly. “Okay… No dancing penguins.”
“Thank god. Don’t scare me like that. Thought the dog was gonna murder him in his sleep. Took a lot of convincing for him to believe the animals weren’t coming for him.” Greg exhaled in relief. “Just stick to the car movies and reality TV. He’ll fall right to sleep.”
Flynn chuckled. “Will do. Goodnight, boys.”
Trey kissed Chance’s head. “Goodnight, buddy. Night, guys.” He accepted a kiss from Yvonne. Chance stopped near the front door to stare at his parents. His lip trembled. Trey smiled. “Pancakes.”
Chance’s eyes lit up and he ran down the hallway with Flynn chasing after him. Yvonne shut the door, leaving Greg and Trey alone for the first time in weeks. Together they stared at the mess accumulated around the penthouse. Chance’s toys were everywhere. A foam mat with numbers took up half the room. Small metal cars made death traps in the most unsuspecting of places.
Henry’s book bag and its contents were strewn over a chair. His unfolded laundry piled high next to it. His sneakers dropped by the door with his socks still in them. Dishes mounted in the sink, next to empty wine bottles and juice boxes. There was a certain smell in the air, not an odor quite yet, but on its way there.
Trey sighed. “Clean first or fuck?”
“Definitely fuck. We’ve only got a few hours.” Greg yanked at his belt buckle, dropping his jeans right there in the middle of the living room. His dick began to swell at the thought of taking his mate over the back of the couch, not even looking at Trey to fully include him in the fantasy.
By the time Greg looked up, he was in his underwear, and Trey was still fully clothed. Trey arched a brow. “I was sort of kidding. I thought we could have a drink first and maybe…” Greg blinked. Trey looked his mate up and down. He stopped to stare at the bulge in Greg’s briefs. “Or not.”
“Let’s not.” Greg grabbed his mate by the collar of his flannel button down and kissed him hard. He wound his fingers in Trey’s thick hair, spanning his digits wide to encompass the back of his mate’s neck and the silky skin there. He opened his mouth, tasting Pinot Grigio and the remnants of mouthwash. He licked inside the wet cavity to trace Trey’s teeth and lap at his tongue before he sucked the soft muscle inside his mouth.
The penthouse’s odor now had nothing to do with the mess, but that of their arousal, spicy and musky, two men ready to get down with the man they loved. Greg walked backwards toward the couch, hitting his calves on the coffee table hard enough to leave bruises that would fade in seconds. Something sharp and plastic stabbed the sole of his foot. He kicked it away to continue kissing his mate.
Trey pushed Greg onto the couch, knocking the breath right out of him and into the heated air suffocating them both. Stripping off his shirt, Trey tossed it to the floor. His bare chest had toned a little since he’d started working out with Greg, eating right and feeding on a regular basis. He looked healthy and sexy, divine to Greg’s insatiable sexual appetite. Trey kicked away Chance’s blanket and pushed his jeans down over his narrow hips.
He left his boxers on to tease Greg, and Greg knew it. When Trey slipped to his knees, those green eyes staring up at Greg with all the heat of a roaring fire, Greg spread his legs to accommodate Trey’s silent plea. If there was one thing Trey loved, it was pushing Greg to the edge and back with his tongue. Who was Greg to complain? The head of his cock approved as it breached the top the elastic holding his briefs in place, already weeping for mercy at the tip.
Fingertips placed on Greg’s thighs, Trey knew the electric power his hands held, that first needy touch against already hot skin made his mate shiver uncontrollably, goosebumps racing over Greg’s legs and a wet spot collecting at the top of his briefs. He loved holding his mate’s pleasure in his hands, being responsible for the unapologetic responses from his lover. Like the guttural moan coming from Greg this very instant as Trey’s hands moved feather light over his mate’s thighs and to the hollow where hip met pelvis—his favorite spot in all the land.
Greg leaned back into the couch, spreading his legs wider, scooting his ass to the edge of the cushion so Trey could pull his briefs down just a little to lick his sensitive skin. Tongue tracing the hollow near his hip, Greg bit into his fist to keep from losing his mind via his mouth. His cock twitched, wanting out of the cotton prison Trey had yet to free him of. He watched his mate’s spine bow, his ass lift in the air.
Fuck he’s gorgeous.
He wanted to touch the muscles of Trey’s back, to feel them shift under his palm as his mate sucked his cock. But Trey had made it clear in their recent lovemaking that the wait was more than worth it, that until Trey relinquished his control to Greg his hands were to stay away. The slow torture continued. Heated licks to his abdominal muscles as if each flexed ridge tasted like candy of the sweetest kind. His belly button was thoroughly explored, Greg breathing in and out hard made it near impossible to catch completely.
Held falling back onto the couch, Greg surrendered to his lover, lifting his ass in time with Trey’s hands kneading his balls through the briefs while Trey’s tongue flourished over one nipple. He loved when his mate used just a bit of teeth, a nip to his small bud to bring a bit of pain to the table.
What he loved even more was Trey’s kisses, the push of his mouth on Greg’s until he was able to speak without using words and Greg understood it all. Trey sighed into his mouth while slipping a hand into his briefs to capture Greg’s cock in the heat of his palm. His mate pulled gently, cupping the head within his hand until it disappeared with Trey’s twisting fingers.
Greg groaned. His hands went behind his head because it was too hard now for them to be within reach of his mate. He wanted to touch Trey so badly the itch was becoming painful not to scratch. When Trey crawled into his lap, thighs straddling Greg, hand working Greg’s cock from balls to tip in rough strokes, Greg lost his control.
He loved being a family unit, but there were times when he needed to claim what was his and claim him hard. Thankfully the boys were long gone at the moment, so they wouldn’t think Greg was killing their father. His mouth attacked Trey’s, fangs clashing and tongues colliding. His hands went wild, anchoring to Trey’s neck and ass like he would float away if he weren’t forced against Greg’s body. Greg flipped them, roughing his knees against the couch to slam Trey against the back, holding onto Trey’s ass with his palms to rub Trey’s groin up and down his cock.
Trey choked then breathed. Choked then groaned. Sputtered helplessly then moaned Greg’s name. His back arched over the back of the couch, his head dangling over the edge and his neck exposed for Greg’s tongue. Greg pinned his captive, grinding them up the back of the couch, cocks pushed together with no room to breathe. There was only up and down, Trey’s heels pressing into Greg’s ass cheeks, and Greg licking a slow line up the column of his mate’s elegant neck.
“Greg, swear I’m gonna come right now.” Trey keened with need, digging his nails into Greg’s shoulders.
“Then do it,” Greg hissed. He nipped with his fangs, light enough that he didn’t pierce the skin.
“Not yet. Please take them off. I think I’m gonna…Please!” Trey slapped Greg’s shoulder while being treated to a series of hard grinds against the couch, pressed against the soft cushion with Greg’s demanding hips. His cock was about to spit fire if Greg did it one more time. And if his mate bit him he didn’t know if his orgasm would stop before Henry got back.
One minute Trey was trapped and the next he was flipped over, his hands capturing the back of the couch to hold on for dear life. His boxers were wrenched down and discarded. Between his legs, Trey saw white briefs pool near the floor. Greg nudged Trey’s knees wide apart with his own while running his hands over Trey’s ass. Trey knew he shouldn’t have teased. But he enjoyed the foreplay as much as Greg did, stirring up trouble before Greg took him like the criminally insane, fucking him so hard he saw stars—just the way he liked it.
His cock stood to attention, violating the couch cushion before Greg rubbed his back to get him to push his ass out. Cheek to the back of the couch, Trey tried to see what his mate was doing. Seconds later his cock was pulled backwards between his legs so Greg could suck on the head. Trey about came unglued. Soft lips engulfed the helmet of his erection, slow suction that went no further than an inch or so. The pressure of his cock bent at such an angle made his thighs shake and his breath come short.
Months ago Trey would have never in his life imagined a future such as this; a mate who knew his deepest desires and had the desire to fulfill them, to love him, to make love to him. And there was a time when he’d felt unworthy of the life he now possessed. He’d been a criminal, a murderer by delivery, and a loner even when he’d been with Jackson. Now he had it all. And through Greg’s words and fiery touches, he now understood he deserved it all. That it was okay to be loved so much, to be desired, to smile.
It always came back to his worth when Greg touched him like this. That tiny seed of doubt would forever be there because like the humans, vampires valued being wanted. But Greg…he made Trey feel wanted every second of the day. He felt Greg’s love in his soul, through his tongue, and by way of Greg’s hands that stilled up Trey’s thighs.
Greg knew what Trey was thinking. Never once did he fault him for feeling a certain way or choosing sex to reflect on their connection and all that it entailed. In fact, he loved the way their bond lit up when Trey remembered how desired he was, and not just for his body. It was sexy and it felt good to know his mate was at peace, that his mate understood Greg’s love for him. All any mate wanted in life was for their one and only to know that.
Perching up on the edge of the couch with his knees, Greg covered his mate’s back. “I’d give you some heartfelt pep talk, but you don’t need to hear it. You know what I think already.” He put a hand underneath them, palm over Trey’s heart as he reached into the vase behind the couch to pull out a packet of lube.
Trey received a kiss on the cheek. He closed his eyes to savor it. “I do know.” He opened his eyes in time to see the little packet before it was pulled behind his back. “How many times do I have to tell you to quit putting that shit all over the house? What if Henry finds that? You really wanna have that talk?” Trey bit his lip, eyes shimmering with passion. He wasn’t really mad; he just liked to yank Greg’s chain.
Greg laughed. “Hey, let’s hope he knows the fuck this is. And he should be happy his parents are getting it on. Means they love each other, right?”
“I do not want to think about our parents getting it on, thanks. How about you shut up, silently agree not to lube up the house when I’m not looking, and we get it on?” Trey grinned. His lips opened and his back arched as Greg swirled lube over his hole, putting pressure on his entrance until the tip of his finger gained access.
“I think we shall.” Greg slid down to Trey’s ass. He kissed one cheek, and then the other. His finger pushed in up to his hand, working into a rhythm Trey could get with. “Mad about that lube now?”
Trey moaned. He shook his head into the couch. “Not at all.”
“That’s what I thought.” Another finger pushed in. “And baby, we’re just getting started.”
“You better have some more nearby. I’m yours until midnight.” Trey’s toes curled. His knees spread as his ass took a third finger. He pushed against his mate’s hand. His fingers grasping onto the back of the couch as he fucked himself.
“Taped under the coffee table.” Greg pushed his fingers in harder. “One inside the couch cushion.” He kept his fingers in while he got up on the couch behind Trey. “There’s one behind the coffee pot if you’re up to a change of scenery later.”
“Oh, I’m up.” Trey tugged Greg’s hand to his cock to let him feel. He helped Greg stoke up and down while his mate’s fingers fucked his ass. “How about you?”
“Wanna feel?” Greg breathed on his neck.
“Gonna make me beg?”
“Now that would be torturing me too. Why would I do that?” He smirked against Trey’s skin.
“Cause I deserve it.” Trey groaned at the loss of Greg’s fingers. Instead, he was rewarded with something bigger and harder than fingers. He rubbed against his mate’s slick cock, his entrance begging to be filled.
“I can torture you another way.”
“I’m down,” Trey hissed.
Greg laughed. He squeezed Trey’s cock. “I thought you were up.”
Greg pushed inside of Trey, leaving his mate at a loss for words. Their bond flickered, gearing up for the main event until suddenly it blared to life, white hot and open. Trey tried to twist around to see Greg’s face. Greg met him halfway, putting his chin on Trey’s shoulder as he thrust in all the way. They groaned and Greg stretched out, pulling Trey back a little so he felt every inch.
Trey craned his neck to peer into Greg’s swirling eyes. That look. Damn. The look meant only for him, like he was owned completely and revered at the same time. No man had ever looked at him the way Greg did. And he didn’t anyone other than his mate to ever look at him that way in the future.
Trey touched himself, countering the slow burn in his ass with the pleasure of stroking his cock. He snarled and pressed back, almost knocking Greg off of the couch. “Move, dammit.”
“So demanding,” Greg hissed. He seized the back of Trey’s neck and pushed his cheek into the back of the couch. Trey loved it. Else Greg wouldn’t be so rough. Neither of them wanted to hold back when they had the alone time to burn. “I dig it.”
Trey cried out as Greg started to slide back. Trey splayed his fingers in the air, not sure how to react to his insides being caressed. Every damn time it got to him. He’d have thought after the first few times he’d come to expect what Greg’s cock did to him. But here he was, panting, stretched out, and begging with his fingers for more.
Greg kissed the spot between Trey’s shoulder blades. “It’ll always be this good. Promise.” He pushed back in, barking a curse at just how good it felt. “Fucking always.” He began to pound into Trey. The table butting up to the couch rattled. The vase that concealed Greg’s lube crashed to the floor. Trey arched his back, nails clawing into the couch, and screamed Greg’s name.
Greg took a hold of Trey’s shoulders, using them to keep his balance and to ram into his mate from behind. Other than the street noise from the open window and the fucker across the common lawn singing at the top of his lungs, only their bodies slapping together could be heard. Until they both began to punctuate the silence with each other’s names, with curses, with noises not recognized within any language or culture.
Trey’s body warmed, hotter than a volcano about to erupt. He gripped the back of the couch and pushed back at his mate, not expecting one of Greg’s hands to slip to his cock. He nearly cried it was that good. Greg’s slippery hand stroked up and down at the speed of light. Brought them both closer to the edge as Trey clamped down on Greg’s length buried deep within him.
Trey’s orgasm originated as a churning tingle below his balls and he spread his legs as far as they could go, the stretch sending that tingle up his body. His balls lifted. His thighs shook. He leaned back into Greg, abs going rigid and his cock straining for the first shot to release.
Greg growled in Trey’s ear. His thumb and forefinger massaged the slit at the head of Trey’s cock and the tingle turned into an explosive throb. Trey reached behind to hold onto Greg’s hips and clench his mate’s cock. He bared his fangs, huffed a few short breaths, and let loose a cry to make his neighbors go deaf. When he came, there was no one word to describe the sensation. It was just fucking incredible.
His semen hit the couch over and over. Greg proceeded to milk his length for every drop. Trey quivered. He squirmed against the arm across his chest for mercy from the fingers caressing his oversensitive skin. But Greg couldn’t let go. He reveled in the seed he’d made his lover spill and closed his eyes against Trey’s neck to inhale his scent. He slowed his thrusts, rotating his hips in languid circles until he hit climax and came.
Grabbing onto Trey, Greg collapsed on his side and curled over him protectively. Their legs tangled and the couch a mess, they stared at the back of the couch with smiles on their faces. Trey closed his eyes, shivering with every lazy stroke of Greg’s fingers on his hip. “The couch is fucked. No way is that coming out.”
“What that a dirty joke?” Greg sniggered.
Trey winced as Greg slowly pulled out. “Everything is dirty joke to you.”
“And why shouldn’t it be? Have a little fun, party pooper. We just had sex, hot sex where you didn’t have to bite my fist to keep from screaming. This is our boys just want to have fun night. I can’t believe I just said that.”
‘You want fun?” Trey wiggled around to give Greg a wicked grin. “I’ll show you fun. Behind the coffee pot you said?”
“I’m not up for caffeine right now.” Greg sat up with Trey. He looked over his mate’s flushed, sweaty body and licked his lips.
“I bet I can get you up for something.” Trey crawled over Greg’s body and stood up. “We have,” he glanced at the clock, “three hours and thirty-two minutes. Enough time to play The Great Lube Hunt.” Trey pushed his dark hair out of his eyes, tucking it behind his ears. He stood in the middle of the living room completely naked and totally comfortable with it. He was confident, sure of himself. He was at peace, and at home. He put a hand on his hip and arched a brow while Greg just enjoyed the scenery. “Coming?” Trey began to walk backwards into the kitchen.
“Insert dirty joke here,” Greg whispered. He got up and prowled towards his mate. When he had Trey pressed against the bar, he wove his fingers into Trey’s hair and searched his eyes. “Can I say something corny and not get crap for it?”
“Depends on how corny…” Trey winked. “I’ll give a free pass for the night, I suppose. But don’t push your luck,” he teased. “Go on, tell me, Hallmark. How do I make you feel?”
Greg swallowed. He brushed his thumb over Trey’s bottom lip. “Like I’m home.”
Trey wanted to brush Greg’s words off as silly, but he couldn’t. He held Greg’s intense stare for as long as he could, feeling Greg’s proclamation as a deep truth for them both. He cupped Greg’s face with his hands and kissed his mate for all he was worth. Fun and games aside, every moment they spent together was another nail in the boards that kept their shelter standing against the storm. They were each other’s heart. And they’d spend eternity keeping the beat alive.
Greg smirked against Trey’s lips. “Not so corny I guess.”
Trey shook his head. He smiled up at Greg. “Not at all.”
Captain Sutton Donohue closed the door to his office at the Bureau. After a long night with GERT, using Trey’s journal as a resource to bring in a dealer they’d been chasing for months, he was tired. He’d called his mate to tell her he’d be done sometime tomorrow so she didn’t worry, and now he was ready to burn the midnight oil writing up his report for the Original, the leader of the Guardians, only to have to change his plans when a video chat notification chimed on his computer.
He wanted to ignore it. He really didn’t have the composure at the moment to deal with formal theatrics on her behalf. But when his Queen called, she expected an answer. How she knew he was back in the office was a mystery of the world. But the fact was she did. She knew everything. She was the queen after all.
Donohue ran a hand through his hair and then buttoned his collar back up. He answered the call with a click of his finger. “Your Majesty. To what do I owe this honor?”
The Queen was dressed surprisingly casual. A silky pajama top peeked out from underneath a soft robe. Her curls were bundled on top of her head as if she was preparing for bed, which made Donohue wonder why call at all. It was entirely too informal for his taste that the queen call from her private rooms, her bedroom more precisely at such a late hour to discuss business. That meant it was of a personal matter, one of which she trusted only her mate to overhear.
And there her mate was, stalking in the background like a lion on the prowl in front of a roaring fireplace. The warrior stopped when the queen crooked a finger at him. He stalked over to her and sat next to his mate on the bed.
“My Queen, if I might repeat myself…”
“Not necessary, I’m sure you’ve deduced this isn’t a formal matter I wish to discuss in the office.”
“It would seem that way, yes.” Donohue sighed. If she was going to drop the act, then so was he. He unbuttoned his collar again and sank back against his chair. “May I ask what this is about?”
“I was getting there.” She narrowed her eyes. “You leave next week for Europe, yes?”
“Yes.” He nodded.
“And you plan to watch your nephew graduate from The Guard Academy?”
“My… I’m going as the head of the Bureau. My attendance is tradition as well as mandatory as I am their future boss and their keynote speaker.”
“Cut the crap. I’m exhausted. Do you really think I didn’t see the connection, Sutton? That boy is your blood and he has been active on my registrar since he was barely old enough to walk. Since he went into the academy, on my command no less, he was benched from duty. He was a little…out of control for a while before I sent him there. I think you know that.”
Donohue snarled, not meaning to. He rubbed his face to get a hold of himself, although the irritation was still there. He hated talking about his brother. It only reminded Donohue that he was no longer alive. And that hurt. “Or course Adrian lost his ever loving mind. That man was his father, his partner as a Hunter. Adrian was raised to kill, to hunt and track criminals. Those pieces are a part of his blood, and with his inabilities he grew frustrated that the only person he communicated with on an everyday basis was dead.”
The queen sighed. “I never said I blamed him, Sutton. I, too, know what it is like to lose your family, people who should always be there. No, Sutton, I blame myself for allowing Adrian to go in so young and to lose part of his humanity when he should have been playing with other children and socializing with those his age. But the fact is…Adrian is far more talented in his field than I thought. He is an asset to us, one we cannot lose. That said: I’m not a bastard, Sutton. I sent him to the academy to plant him amongst his kind, so he could relearn the value of others and maybe, just maybe mend the wounds he’s accrued. I gave him time to cool off before he did something stupid.”
“Good luck with that. Don’t you think I haven’t tried to bring him home to his family, to be around his kind? I’m lucky if he texts me back at all or even keeps the same number, the only one I have. He knows I’m coming to the ceremony and by the lack of a joyous response on his part, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t care. Hell, after his father died, I’ll be delighted if he even looks my way and I’ll be front and center, Your Highness.” Donohue closed his eyes and counted to ten before he lost his cool in front of the leader of their race.
“He’ll look, Sutton, trust me on this. I didn’t call to stir the pot. I called to give you the recipe.” She smirked. “I have no doubt Adrian will pass his finals with flying colors. And when he crosses the stage to be inducted into the Bureau by myself and the Guardians, and well, you…he’ll receive his new orders of service.”
Donohue rolled his eyes. He was done with the pleasantries and he was tired and hungry. His queen would have to forgive his lack of care. “And you plan to give him another mission far, far away where he gets to play Hunter all over again. Lovely.”
“No,” she snapped. “I plan to give him orders to report to you. He obeys my command, and if I tell him he’s to be a detective, he’s going to be one. The threat in the city is just as dangerous as the one overseas. His gifts are useful and I intend to make him see them as such, not as a burden for him to hide like his father wished. He cannot live as a hermit for the rest of his days. I will not have it.” Her eyes swirled with fury. “He has had his time to run the globe as a deadly one man show. Now it’s time he came back home to his family so he can use his talents for more than the thrill of the kill. I want him partnered. I want him on a case to keep him distracted during the transition. Do you understand?”
Donohue leaned forward. It all clicked. “You were afraid he was going to break away from you and venture out on his own as some insane mercenary and that’s why you stuck him in the academy, to watch his every move. You think he’s going to snap once he leaves the academy. You’re not going to reinstate him as a Hunter, are you?”
“His service overseas was appreciated. But now it is time he settles down, at least for now. Should I decide he is needed again, we will revisit the subject.”
“My god. That was his life.”
“Only because I made an error in judgment on his behalf and allowed his father to soldier his child so young. Adrian will serve as a detective at the Bureau after graduation. You will escort him back to New York and partner him with someone capable of his handling. He is not to know about this conversation, else he probably will snap, as you put it. Have I made myself clear, Captain Donohue?”
“Crystal.” In a daze, Donohue fell back against his seat to watch the queen’s mate shut down the feed. The screen went back to his Bureau desktop and Donohue cursed silently.
He only had a few minutes to himself before he felt the thunderous vibration of one angry male’s footsteps coming towards his door. Donohue slipped on his suit jacket and sat up straight, lacing his fingers together on the desk. The door slammed open and Senior Detective Wesley Durren filled his doorway. Just the man he was thinking of.