Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Whispers In Silence: Part 5

Whispers In Silence: Part 5
Chapter 14


The turkey wasn’t the only thing that could be cut with a knife.  Adrian had been on edge since he woke up, and the tension replacing the dining room’s air supply didn’t help.  If he didn’t see the drama and he couldn’t hear it…that had to be better, right.  He picked at the food on his plate, trying to remember what course this was and how many courses they had yet to go.

The only thing that kept him from taking Wes’s hand and getting the hell out of Dodge was the sullen woman seated across from him.  At first Tina had been teeming with excitement, proud of her handmade menus and name cards at each plate. She’d brought them all drinks and offered up a smile that secretly warmed Adrian inside. 

She was the perfect hostess.

All of that changed about forty minutes into dinner.  It took Adrian some time to notice her emotional shift and the quiet that overcame the other diners, but when he did, Adrian didn’t like it.  Tina focused on her plate.  Her shoulders slumped and lips pressed into a delicate frown.  Of course it was all because of Sutton.  The fact he’d had enough alcohol to service happy hour and hadn’t once complimented his beautiful mate on the meal she’d slave over had taken its toll.

Not one to make himself the center of attention, Adrian still had to do something.  Sitting by to watch this train wreck intensify wasn’t going to help anyone, especially poor Tina.  Adrian took another bite of sinful cranberry sauce and put his fork down.  “This is really good, Tina.”

Sutton’s mate looked at Adrian straightaway.  Her bottom lip quivered and her eyes misted over.  She blinked rapidly to keep the tears at bay and smiled for his benefit, although it was a tight, forced smile that spoke of her unfailing manners.  “Thank you.”

Sutton set down his drink to observe his mate, as if he were only now detecting her state of distress.  He put a hand to Tina’s shoulder, waiting for her to look at him, but she refused.  For all the warning Adrian had been imparted from Wes not to upset Sutton’s mate, it had been Sutton to break his own rule.  The stricken expression that crossed Sutton’s face was enough to bring any evil dictator to his knees. He looked like a sad puppy who had been thrown out into the cold.

The Captain pushed his drink away and turned to his mate.  “Vertina?”

“It’s fine,” she snapped while punching the prongs of her fork through a cranberry.

“It is most certainly not fine.”

Tina glared at her mate.  “You’re right.  It isn’t.  What good will it do to tell you that, though.   You can’t tell yourself what’s wrong, let alone your mate.  And now you’ve seen for yourself how you’ve humiliated me, and ruined this meal and any chance we had for Adrian to come back.  That is punishment enough, I would think.”  Tina took another bite, staring at her plate as if it was the most important thing in the world.  To her, with all she had done for this meal, it probably was.

“I am so sorry, my mate.”  Sutton took her hand, prying the fork from her rigid fingers.  “Forgive me for my rudeness.”

“What is wrong with you?”  She snatched her hand away.  “I may have been raised to cook and clean and run a household for my husband, but I did not sign up for this. Sometimes you are a mess I can’t clean away, Sutton Donohue.”

Adrian wasn’t a vampire yet but it didn’t take much to feel Tina’s rage.  He guessed if he were in her shoes, having prepared this meal and her home for over a week to make her family proud, only to get nothing but a fight in return… He would be angry too.  She’d wanted Adrian to feel comfortable, to experience a memorable family gathering that would make him anxious to repeat, and now Tina was terrified he would never come back.

Had she, like Sutton, been waiting for him to come home all this time?  Yes.  She had.  Adrian didn’t know how to react.  His body said he was to be emotional and thankful and maybe even hug this woman he’d possibly met when he was very little.  But his brain was at war; training versus human emotion.  One thing was very clear by the way Tina was looking at Adrian.  This woman thought of Adrian as her family.

Adrian eyed Quinton, trying to get his take on this.  His cousin’s eyes widened urgently, and he motioned with his chin at his mother.  Do something about this, Quinton’s expression said.

Adrian squinted back.  You do something about this!  You’re her son.

Quinton shook his head.  He lifted a brow.  You think I have anything to do with this?  Nope.  Quinton stared right back.  She wants you.

The body language across the table escalated to the point where Adrian was sure his aunt was going to tear Sutton’s head off.  He had to act quickly because Quinton wasn’t going to be of any help.  Not that Quinton was an asshole who didn’t care.  Quinton was simply right.

Adrian stood up and slipped out of the room, ignoring Wes, who reached out to stop him.  Best friends until the end, even when they were at odds, Wes still couldn’t step in between Sutton and his mate.  He closed his mouth and gave up as Adrian escaped.

No idea of the layout of the house, Adrian smelled the kitchen as he walked back through the den and into the main hallway. Homemade bread, soup, and spiced apples made his mouth water.   This was a much better detour, as he had no intention of walking past Tina and Sutton and possibly getting mauled.  So he took the back route to the kitchen and found the maid with her heart over her chest.  She turned to him in shock, at a loss as how to help her beloved mistress.

“Uh…” Adrian cleared his throat.  He waved her over.  The maid was hesitant but she complied.  “Is there any way you could set up coffee or tea in the main room?  I don’t know what they drink but we’re going to need a little privacy to work this out.”

She gratefully grabbed his arm.  “Thank you. Oh thank you.”

“Sure…”  Adrian rubbed his arm where the maid had left bruises of appreciation.  The maid caught him eyeing the apple pastries and stuffed one into his hand.  She nodded once, as if her pastries were the key to life itself, making them valuable for trade in an emergency. She tightened her apron with calloused fingers, put a silver tea tray on the counter and took a deep breath.

She was ready.

Adrian hid his smile from her.  He bit into the pastry, scarfing it down in four bites.  And while the maid prepared ammunition for the dining room war refugees, Adrian scattered back to the dining room with traces of cinnamon and sugar on his lips.  He could get used to this family thing.  If there were pastries involved, he could get used to anything.

Tina was standing, working an accusing finger into Sutton’s chest when he returned.  She noticed Adrian near the door and put a hand to her mouth.  From enraged to blubbering in five seconds flat.  She thought Adrian was leaving.

“Okay… Quinton. You two,” he pointed to the Guards he didn’t know, “there’s coffee or something in the main room.”

The Guards didn’t doddle. Talk about awkward—going to your boss’s house for a holiday meal to watch all his dirty laundry be unveiled.  Quinton was another story; he’d seen the good, the bad, and the ugly and was comfortable with all of it.  He took a casual exit, making sure to check his mother over and give his father a warning look on his way out.  When only the four of them remained, Adrian shut the doors to the kitchen and the den and then sat next to Wes.

“Could you two take a seat, please,” Adrian said.  Wes squeezed his knee.  This was going to be okay.  He was doing the right thing, even if he had no idea what he was doing at all.

Sutton tried to pull the chair out for his mate but was pushed away.  Tina scooted back into the table and crossed her arms as Sutton sat next to her.  She was not backing down, which left Sutton helpless as how to fix this.

“Aunt Tina,” Adrian tried; the words foreign on his tongue.  “I’m sorry for causing you this much stress.  You didn’t have to go out of your way to make dinner over the top, but it was wonderful all the same.”  Adrian looked at Sutton before Tina burst into another round of waterworks.  “I know I’m supposed to be your employee but I do know that work is work and personal is personal.”

“That’s rich coming from a Hunter,” Sutton said, hands signing simultaneously.  “Everything is personal with you.”

Adrian fisted his hands under the table.  Sutton’s dig at his past hurt, especially when this was the man who supposedly wanted more than a work relationship. Still, while Adrian was programmed to lash out and get results, he drew on Wes and what he would do in this situation to form a response.  Wes didn’t let Sutton’s digs get to him.  Like Adrian, he saw Sutton’s remarks as a defense mechanism—to take the attention off himself.

“You’re intoxicated and you’re angry right now.” Facts.  Adrian used them to his advantage, to keep calm.  “You knew how much Aunt Tina had done to make this dinner special and yet you drank more than you should have.  I rarely drink to handle my stress.”

“Talk to me in another hundred years, Adrian,” Sutton bit back.

“I hope that in another hundred years, we are still talking.  I thought that was your goal, to establish a relationship between us.  Yet you have done nothing but make things hard on me from the beginning.  You gave me a partner you thought appropriate, and he is.” Adrian didn’t look at Wes.  He’d lose his nerve.  “But ever since I’ve arrived you’ve been butting heads because I…I am more receptive to Wes’s techniques than yours.  I am not a contest, Uncle.  There is no prize.  And you are so wrapped up in this case that you have ignored your long friendship with Wes, your mate, and what’s really important today.

“Do you really believe I wasn’t nervous to come here?  Do you think I don’t understand what this dinner was to this family?  I do.  I’m trying very hard to please everyone because I want to stay.  I really do,” Adrian whispered.  He rubbed his neck where his skin was hot to the touch.  “And even if you continue to be jealous of my relationship with my partner, or find me unstable because of past, or think I’ll amount to nothing just like my father, we are still blood.”

“Blood that will be spilt because I don’t know how to save you!”  Sutton slammed his fist down on the table.  His dark eyes glittered as he stared at Adrian.  “Just like I was unable to help David…”

Tina’s eyes registered shock and understanding.  She unfurled her mate’s clenched fingers and threaded hers through his.  “Talk to me.”

Sutton shook his head.

“Sutton, please.  Forget the meal.  This has nothing to do with the meal.  Why are you so angry?”  Tina pressed her body against her mate’s.  “It’s this case, isn’t it?  What happened to Briggs was a tragedy, Sutton, but his death cannot rule your life.”

Sutton whipped around to face her.  “How do you know about that?”

“I know when you’re keeping things from me, so I had Quinton call in a few favors.”  She put a finger over his mouth before he could start to argue.  “No one gave away details.  Quinton was told that if he had information about Briggs’s passing to call Detective Feist or Captain Donohue.  That the investigation was ongoing and they had no new information.  I put the rest of the pieces together myself.”

Sutton sank in his seat until he could lay his head on Tina’s shoulder.  He sighed.  “We have nothing to go on.  Two ex-Hunters, a dead man, and an entire fleet of experienced Guards and we can’t find one single clue to lead us to our murderer.  We have no way of knowing when he’ll try to take Adrian.”

“Take Adrian?!” Tina gasped.

“Keep your voice down.”  Sutton hugged his mate close.  “If you promise not to breathe another word about this case at dinner, then I will tell you everything later.  Deal?  Just know I can’t do anything and it’s killing me.”  Sutton squeezed her hand.  “I can’t lose another one, my mate.  I simply cannot.”

“I know.”  Tina kissed his hand.  “I know.”

When Adrian was nine years old, he remembered his Uncle coming for a visit.   Adrian and Davide were stationed in a small German town, keeping a close eye on a forming coven.  Sutton had come in from the cold and not looked at Adrian.  He didn’t smile or call his nephew over.  He didn’t bring a gift or tell a stupid joke.  He sat in front of the fire with Davide for hours, sobbing into his brother’s shoulder.

Because Sutton’s eldest son had died, a part of Adrian’s Uncle had died with him. And when Davide had died not five years later, his passing messed Sutton Donohue up something fierce. 

Sutton could not handle another death close to his heart, which meant Sutton was very fond of Adrian despite his earlier actions.  Sutton was nervous, more so terrified he couldn’t protect the child he had always wanted to protect.  Although Adrian could handle his own, he respected Sutton’s fatherly needs.  He’d once had a father who would’ve done anything to keep him safe—even if keeping Adrian safe meant molding him into the perfect weapon.

“I understand what you want.  I’ve understood for a long time how much you wanted to protect me.  But I chose to be a Hunter.  I chose to make enemies and I chose to deal with those consequences.  It is not your fault.”  Adrian leaned forward.  “The way I am is not your fault.”

“There is nothing wrong with the way you are.  Our family comes from a long line of Hunters, and I understand how you think and act perfectly.”  Sutton looked down, guiltily observing his free hand.

“What?”  Adrian didn’t comprehend.  He and his father had been Hunters.  His mother too.  As far as Adrian knew, the line ended there.

Tina rolled her eyes at her mate.  “I swear, Sutton…”  She turned to Adrian.  “Before your father met your mother, Sutton and Davide Hunted together.  Just like you, their father taught them too.”

Back then, there were times when we had nowhere to go and no one to turn to.  We couldn’t be seen and couldn’t trust anyone.  Adrian slowly turned to Wes.  His partner had tried to tell him before he fed from Adrian last night.  Adrian thought Wes had been joking, twisting his words back at him.  “You were Hunters?”

Wes put his hands up.  “Not me, and before you get angry, I was just along for the ride.  A very long, exciting ride that upped my street credentials.”

Adrian looked from Wes to Sutton.  “Why hide this from me?”

“Do you believe it should be public knowledge, a high ranking official’s past made available for the world?”  Sutton tried and failed.  Adrian wasn’t buying it and Sutton knew it.  “Fine.  I left your father out there on his own.  Nina separated us because I couldn’t do my job when all I did was worry for my brother’s safety. I was a liability to him.”

“You thought I’d think of less of you for getting out?”


Adrian sneered.  “Did it occur to you why I kept Hunting instead of going back with you?  Every time you visited, I wanted to go…  I couldn’t. You know why?”


“I had to protect him from himself, just as you wanted to.”  Adrian straightened in his chair.  He kept any emotion from his face.  “If that made me someone’s enemy, then so be it.  Let them come for me.  But I do not regret my decision to stay by his side and give up my childhood to learn everything he knew.  And I consider this meal, being here now with your family and remembering my own, to be the best of both worlds.”

Sutton offered Adrian his hand over the table.  He paused, searching Adrian’s face for honesty.  “You don’t think less of me for making another life for myself, for leaving your father, for leaving you?”

“Not at all.”  Adrian shook on it.  “Stop worrying so much.  This guy will slip up and we’ll be right there when he does.  I’m not an easy target, Sutton.  And I have a good partner to watch my back.  If I understand correctly, he was there for you too at one time.”

Sutton glanced at Wes.  He didn’t want to admit it, but he had no choice.  Adrian had won this battle.  “I apologize, Wesley.  I don’t know what came over me but I was wrong to use my authority against you.  You did what any good friend would do and held me accountable.”

Wes grunted.  He rubbed his hands on his knees.  “It’s fine.”


“We’re good, Sutt.  Really.”

Sutton released Adrian’s hand and sat back in his seat.  He tugged on his jacket and allowed himself to smile.  “You remind me so much of Davide it will be like old times catching this bastard.  I look forward to closing this case with all of your help.”

Adrian narrowed his eyes at Wes.  “Speaking of old times, why don’t we start at the beginning.  I’d love to hear how you got involved.”

“Tell A-D-R-I-A-N how I became your Knight in Shining Armor.”  Sutton grinned.  He put an arm around his mate and tucked her in close to his chest.  Tina’s smile said everything.  More than a perfect turkey, this was what she’d wanted all along.

And like nothing had ever happened, the tension took a swift exit and everyone breathed easily.

Wes stuck up his middle finger.  “You broke my leg carrying me through the basement door.  I don’t exactly call that shining anything.”

Adrian rested his chin on his fist, losing himself in their quick hand gestures, stories from long ago, and Wes’s silent laughter.



Chapter 15


Two weeks after Thanksgiving and they were nowhere closer to finding Briggs’s killer.  Briggs hadn’t contacted Adrian, not even in a dream—not that Adrian had ever experienced spirit communication while asleep.  But it was worth a shot, a chance the Bureau and Sutton were willing to take.  The Captain had ordered the coroner in France to send a lock of Briggs’s hair and the instructor’s rosary he kept next to his bed to Adrian; one physical key to Briggs, and the other sentimental.  The day the package arrived at the house, Briggs had been cremated and readied for his remaining family members to do as they wished.

Ever since then, Adrian kept the two keepsakes close to him, especially when he slept.  What little he did sleep. Still, he got nothing from the dead.  Not a peep.  No one was getting any rest the further the case was drawn out, but it was nice to think that maybe Briggs had given into eternal slumber and had found some peace.

Although, in the back of Wes’s mind, he knew Briggs wouldn’t go without the last word.  Wasn’t his style.  He didn’t just give up.  That’s what made this case all the more curious.  If Briggs had reached out in warning to Adrian, fighting against the afterlife to protect his pupil, and Adrian was now receptive to him, then why didn’t Briggs come out with it?

Wes flipped to the next screenshot of the video from graduation night.  Every entrance, every camera, every face and profile, back and front had been broken up into stills for Wes to memorize. This practice wasn’t uncommon to him; he was always given video and photographic evidence because of his talented memory. But this case was different, more at stake this time.  Hours and hours he searched their faces, their shadows, their enhanced images to find something out of place, and still…nothing.  Everyone was accounted for, signed in and matched to their image.  Every Guard and student was where they were supposed to be.

Wes put his hand over the touch screen monitor and stopped.  His finger lingered above Briggs, their Instructor paused mid-wave to Nina’s German ambassador, Patel something or other.  Briggs’s last smile, his last wave, and no one to answer for his last anything.

“Who took you from us?” Wes whispered to the empty Cage.

Ready to move on before he started driving himself mad, Wes flinched when the bulbs buzzed loudly, cutting through silence.  Wes had been alone for hours, hadn’t had a decent cup of coffee yet, and was at work well before anyone else was due to show.

He couldn’t sleep.  Let Feist and Maloy into the house because the temperature outside had dropped unseasonably low, and he wanted someone watching Adrian while he was away.  Then called Davis to drive him to the Bureau, claiming he needed an early workout.

Davis didn’t like being lied to, but he understood.  He left Wes to do his thing while he went to get some breakfast and then work out.  Now Wes wasn’t sure he’d made the right decision coming down here alone.  His eyes hurt from staring too hard.  His skin crawled with a strange, prickly sensation.  And now he was spooked over a buzzing light bulb.

“Coffee,” Wes declared to no one.  He cracked his back, twisting both ways, and the lights above hummed and then blinked.  Blinked in a way only dying lights would.  “I am not about to be down here when that shit happens.”

His phone in hand, he texted Davis about the lights, hoping maintenance was lurking about at this hour.  Then it happened again, for longer this time.  It was dark for almost ten seconds, and when the lights zapped back on air rushed from Wes’s lungs into the Cage. 

He would never like basements, but he dealt with them.  A pitch black basement hit too close to home.  Add some mud to the floor, water leaking from the ceiling, and handcuff his wrists to the wall and he was back to a place he did not wish to go.

“Fuck this.”  Wes pushed his arms through his coat sleeves.  A strange creaking noise behind him chilled his blood.  Slowly, Wes turned back to the monitor.  The set up was attached to a movable arm and anyone could move the screen wherever the audience needed it.  Horrified, Wes watched the monitor swivel on its own to him and then stop.

“Wake up, Wes.”  The Detective pinched the top of his hand.  “Wake the fuck up.”

Wes’s focus was drawn to Briggs’s image on the screen; an image that zoomed in all on its own. There was a darkened alcove behind the instructor where a potted tree was housed just outside the entrance to the main hallway.  It was a mere sliver of dark behind Briggs that could fit a very slender person at best.

The stilled image rippled, that shadow behind the tree warping until Wes could make out a hand and a profile that would have looked like the continuation of leaves if he wasn’t seeing this now.  There had been a person standing behind Briggs the entire time.  Why Wes was seeing this and not Adrian was scary.  However scary, this was a clue.  This was their killer, this simple profile hiding in the dark.

“Who is he?”  Wes shouted to the Cage and the space beyond.  “Briggs!  Briggs…” he repeated, softer this time.

The lights returned to normal.  Wes glanced up.  His heart raced and he found himself putting his fingers to his wrist to calm down before he his heart jumped out of his chest.  Something Adrian seemed to take comfort in much like Wes took comfort in Adrian’s presence these days.  Except now their roles were reversed, the universe knocked on end and Wes left to deal with what had occurred.  As he looked back at the monitor, it too had returned to normal; Briggs just another face in the crowd that Wes recognized.

Wes dialed Davis because he was certain he was going into shock.  His entire body trembled.  He listened to his own heavy breathing as he waited for Davis to answer. 

An out of breath Davis picked up, “Yeah?”

Wes didn’t know what to say.  He exhaled into the phone, scared to even move.

“Man, you okay?  Wes?”

“Davis... Please…”

Wes listened to the squeak of shoes across polished cement flooring, and Davis slamming through the double doors as he ran.  “Stay there.  I’m on my way.”

Wes sat in his chair, still unable to face the darkness behind him.  He continued to hold his phone to his ear, scared that if Davis wasn’t there to listen, Wes’s link to reality would be gone forever.  On the other end, Davis pounded down several flights of stairs. He beeped through security check-ins, and practically raced through Evidence to get to the Cage.  He bent over, hands on his knees while he dragged in air once he got to the platform.

“You… You’re not bleeding…”  Davis stood.  “Scared me.  You sounded…”

“Like I saw a ghost,” Wes murmured.

Davis pulled a face and clucked his tongue.  “This some joke?  Man, I thought you were dying the way you sounded.  All whispery and shit.” Davis walked closer and frowned.  “Speaking of, you look like shit.  I know you’re white, but you’re whiter than normal.”

“I don’t feel so good.”

Davis sobered instantly.  “We don’t get sick.”

“I think I’m gonna throw up now.”

“The fuck?”  Davis grabbed a trash bin with shredded paper in it and pushed it over just in time.  He pulled out his phone and groaned at Wes’s huddled form over the trash bin.  “I’m calling Sutton and then the clinic.  You even smell funny, like…garbage or something.  And I’ve smelled puke.  That isn’t puke.”

Wes wiped his mouth.  He glanced up at Davis.  “I was serious.”

“Yeah? So am I.  What’s wrong? I’d say you were drinking, but you can’t hide the smell of booze from a vampire.”

“Briggs was here.”

“Man, quit with that shit.  You’ve been hanging around Adrian too much.  Having dead people’s hair sent to your house for some dream voodoo.  Did you fall asleep and have a nightmare or something?”  Davis thought he was nuts.

“He was here.”  Wes’s stomach settled long enough for him stand and adjust the monitor.  “And that’s not garbage you smell."

Wes sniffed, noticing the stench too, a scent any Detective had come in contact with before.  “That’s the smell of a dead body.”

Davis took a long drag of air.  A few short sniffs and he stopped to gawk at Wes.  “You’re right but it’s not here.  We would know.  How the hell is this possible?”

“Because ghosts don’t have bodies, Davis.  But this guy was here,” Wes whispered, pointing to the potted tree behind Briggs on the monitor.  “The whole time he was here.  He’s coming.  That’s what Briggs said.”

“You’re scaring me, Durren.  Tell me what happened.”  Davis put a hand on Wes’s shoulder, the kind of touch that was meant to soothe a child after a bad dream.

Wes pushed Davis’s hand away.  He zoomed in on the tree and picked up a stylus from the desk.  “You unlocked Adrian’s file and a signal was sent to someone who flagged it.”

“Old news, man.”

“Listen to me.  Even if the killer was able to get the notification immediately, he would still have to plan his way into the Academy.  He would be near the Academy since the signal went off, or on his way there at the very least.”

“He had help, remember?  We’re still working on finding the mole.  He had to let Briggs’s killer in or at least give him an access route to get to Briggs’s office.”

“What if the mole didn’t need to help him get in?”

“I’m not following.”  Davis sighed.

Wes began to outline a shadowy figure on the screen with his stylus until the killer’s outline was a bright white.  He looked up at Davis.  “What if he simply walked in unnoticed?”

“Christ…”  Davis gripped the desk, practically nose to screen with the image.  He, too, couldn’t believe what he was seeing.  “You telling me Briggs gave you this information?”

“I’m not crazy.”



“I believe you.  Scary as hell, but I believe you, man.”  Davis clapped him on the back.  “Timestamp on this still?”

Wes nodded.  He touched the bottom of the screen, where the stamp had been hidden.  “Quarter to nine.  Guards logged each guest in on a tablet.  There’s a timestamp on those too.  Over there on the table.”  Wes pointed to the guest list sheets they’d been given copies of.

He continued to the next still, which could be split down to half a second if he wished.  A man’s back now faced the camera, and he was approaching the next set of Guards in the crowd.  Another still showed the man wearing a full tuxedo, but his head was bent to hide his face.  He knew where the cameras were.  He knew how to hide from them because he was a professional.

Not professional enough to be invisible.  A Guard checked him in, which meant his name was on the list and they’d somehow overlooked him.  In the next still, the Guard waved him through, and the man with the shoulder length ponytail and fancy tuxedo entered the main room to sip champagne, enjoy the ceremony, and then kill their beloved instructor. 

Wes checked the time gap.  Less than thirty seconds was all it took for their killer to make one of the easiest security breaches in history.

“Checkpoint three.  Timestamp is 8:46.”  Wes checked with Davis.

Davis scanned the sheet with his fingertip.  He looked at Wes, disbelief widening his eyes.


“I swear this case cannot get any crazier.  Ulysses Maloy’s plus one checked in at 8:46.  We never saw it because Ulysses never checked in.  There’s a red unregistered stamp next to his name.  That’s because he was too dead to attend.”  Davis sat on the edge of the table.  “Plus ones are in fine print underneath an official guest.  If they checked in, they only get a small timestamp.  This guy is good, Wes.  He had to have known Maloy was dead, which meant he was in town days before graduation night, maybe even before I triggered Adrian’s file.”

“He had to see his target up close,” Wes confirmed.  “This isn’t a hired hit, Davis.  This guy is playing a game, leaving behind messages and body parts for Adrian to piece together.”

“I was wrong.  It just got crazier.”  Davis set the sign in sheets down.  “Tell me what you need me to do and I’ll do it.”

Wes clicked and clicked, typing in different cameras to find the guy’s trail.  But after their killer turned into the main room he vanished.  “We need to call everyone in.  I want to know if this guy was with Ulysses at some point and if his nephew can ID him with these stills.  They may have had some prior interaction back at home.  If he doesn’t know him, maybe Adrian will.”



“You saw Briggs?”  Adrian faced Wes, looking mortified.  “How is that possible?”

“I didn’t see him.  He was here, though, I felt him Adrian.”

Adrian shook his head.  “No.  You were studying that image for hours to find what we needed.  Purely an instinct from being in the field.  You don’t know what a spirit is like.  You have no idea.”  Visibly angry, Adrian refused to believe the truth.

“A-D-R-I-A-N, I was terrified.  I still am.”  Wes attempted to convey how serious he was.  He put a hand over his chest.  “I asked him who killed you and he showed me.  I don’t know what else to say to make you believe me.”

Adrian crossed his arms and stared hard at the ground.  He shook his head over and over.  “How can you suddenly develop my ability?  It’s not possible.”

“We should have you checked out at the clinic, Wesley.  I’ll phone in a favor from Nina.  I’m sure the Royal Doctor will be discrete.  Surely you’re exhausted and its caused you to hallucinate.”  Sutton came to Wes’s side.

“I’m not crazy.  I’m not having a breakdown.  I know what I saw.  I know what I smelled, because Davis smelled it too.  And Briggs was here, in this room with me.  Stop fussing over me and let me do my job.”

“Wesley, how am I supposed to feel about this?  You believe you now have the ability to communicate with the dead, and are crediting your discovery to Briggs.  A dead man, Durren—you were shown the way by a dead man.  I would be the crazy one not to see to your health and welfare at this point.  No offense, Adrian.”

Adrian lifted one shoulder.  He could’ve cared less what Sutton had to say. 

Sutton was right to put his hands back in his pockets and not touch Wes’s forearm like he wanted to.  “And even though you’ve spent a lot of time with Adrian, it would be unprecedented for a vampire to gain abilities from anyone, with the exception of the Guardian bloodline.  Memories and feelings from a donor are plausible.  Warnings and communications from a mate are normal.  But abilities, Wesley… Absolutely not.  For this miraculous gift to be remotely logical you and Adrian would have had to partake in some sort of…”

Adrian looked away quickly.  Wes looked down at the ground.

Sutton raised a brow.  He put a finger to Adrian’s chin, begging his attention.  “Some sort of fluid exchange.”  Every Detective paused in a collective hush.  All eyes fell on Adrian and Wes.  “Wesley?”

Wes closed his eyes.  There was no point in lying to Sutton, so Wesley admitted, “I fed from him.”

“Might I ask how long this has been going on?”  Sutton narrowed his eyes.

Wes snarled.  “Does it matter?  Do I ask you how many times you’ve fed from your mate?”

Who the fuck does Sutton think he is?  Don’t you dare get up in my shit like that.  Adrian is my business, not yours.

If the room could’ve been zapped of sound, it would have.  It was that quiet.  Sutton looked between Wes and Adrian, who were both frozen to the spot.  “No you wouldn’t because that is my mate, and what we do together is sacred.”  Sutton formed his next words carefully.  “What is it the two of you are doing?  Because I must say, Wesley, if feeding from my nephew gives you the ability to conjure the dead then this is more than a partnership.”

“And I have to tell you, whatever we do on our own time is none of your business, Uncle or not.  I have work to do.  Even crazy people hold jobs.”  Wes slammed a rolling chair under the table and went back to his seat on the other side.  He declined to look at Adrian because he knew the hostility he’d receive.  Adrian may have offered to feed Wes, but it was supposed to have been private, a “thank you for introducing me to the other side” kind of gift.  It wasn’t meant to be work gossip, fueled by a protective uncle who thought his nephew wasn’t ready for certain things.

He’s not some virtuous maiden, Donohue.  Get a life!

Now Wes was sure he would never get near Adrian like that again, no matter how scientifically wondrous their relationship just became.  Wes knew what he saw and if that was because he drank from Adrian, then great.  If not, well, he still wasn’t crazy.

The rest of the day was a whirlwind of passed sticky notes and charting on the glass boards.  Boards plural as their timeline and suspect profile had grown by leaps and bounds. Because neither Detective Maloy nor Adrian recognized the stills, it was up to good old sleuthing to put together the pieces.

“No cameras?”  Sutton rubbed the bridge of his nose.  “I specifically remember seeing cameras at the hotel. What?  They were turned off?  All the time or… Two days.  Show the pictures to the doorman and get back to me.”  He drummed his fingers on the table.   “You did?”

Everyone leaned forward.  Wes tasted victory.  Sutton stopped drumming his fingers.  He lifted a printout of their killer’s grainy photo to his eyes for several minutes.  “Keep me informed.”  He put his phone down and turned the image around on the table.

“And?”  Feist lifted a hand.

“The doorman positively identified our killer.  Seems he was filling in at the front desk for his dear grandmother who was on holiday for the weekend.  They found his so-called grandmother at home today.  She had been swiped, made to believe she was on vacation indefinitely like a damn loon, sunning herself in the garden in thirty degree temperatures.  Her daughter thought she’d lost her mind and had to take over duties at the desk.  Says she’s an only child and has no children of her own, making the grandchild angle a little sloppy on our killer’s part.”

“We have a name for our killer?”

“A Mr. Leo Redding. He disappeared the night of graduation, and his short stay at the hotel fits our two day window.  According to the doorman Mr. Redding even has a ponytail.  But the real kicker is how the doorman claims that the night of graduation, Mr. Redding left early, carrying a garment bag.”  Sutton folded his hands in his lap.  He looked around at his men and stopped at Adrian.

Wes wasn’t sure if Adrian was upset because of the feeding thing or something else, but when Adrian looked at Sutton, his expression was murderous.  “I saw the guy at the front desk that night.  He was there when I went upstairs.  I saw his face.”

“You could ID him?  Spot him in a crowd?”  Sutton asked.

“Yes.  He’s tall, thin, and gangly.  I remember he looked almost sick.  He has dark hair, pale skin, dark eyes, long chin and nose.  I’ll know him when I see him.”

“The name ring any bells to you?  I’m positive it’s an alias, but still…it might have significance.”

Adrian shook his head.  “I’ll think about it.  Right now we should track his movements, starting with all major and private airports near the Academy.  He would’ve moved quickly, and it wasn’t exactly a secret where each of us was heading when we all left from the same airport.  The mole would’ve informed him where I was going immediately.  If I was tracking a target, I would want to be headed for their destination at the same time or leave before they arrived.  My guess is he left around the same time.  Gave him ample time to take care of Briggs and move out.”

“Good.  We start there.  Davis and Fontine, round up the techs.  We’re going to need everyone we can get with proper clearance.  And make sure they sign the disclosure agreements!”  Feist yelled at Davis’s retreating back.

“Yes, Mom,” Fontine shouted back.

“Wes, I want to know how Redding came to be Maloy’s plus one.  It isn’t a coincidence Adrian’s stalker happens to be connected to Adrian’s hit.  Dig however deep you need to.”  Feist waved his hand in Adrian’s face.  “Get with your partner and stop spacing out.  No one cares whether or not your Wes’s walking blood Slurpee.  Get back to work.”

Adrian glared at Feist and then faced Wes.  Wes shrugged and opened his laptop.  He wasn’t getting into it with his partner.  In fact, Wes hadn’t done anything wrong to deserve Adrian’s anger.  What was he supposed to have done, lied to his best friend who knew his every tell?  Yeah right.  Adrian had to suck it up.

“Bring your stuff over here.”

Adrian narrowed his eyes.

“Over here now.”

Adrian was a mountain that had yet to be moved.

“Fine.”  Wes pushed his stuff across the table and went to sit next to his partner.  “This works too.”

Had Wes been anyone else, he would’ve missed the quick smirk of amusement that passed over Adrian’s lips.  But he wasn’t just anyone.  He was Adrian’s partner, and maybe, given time, he would mean that in more ways than one. But now wasn’t the time to admit that to anyone, especially Adrian.  Hell, admitting it to himself was hard enough, and he still had reservations.

Adrian scooted closer a fraction of an inch.  He reluctantly put his elbows on the table—telling Wes he was ready to get involved. 

Wes happened to glance at his boss, his best friend, and knower of all things.  Sutton was already staring his way, eyes a little wide, mouth slightly parted.  Wonder and fear were two things that looked strange on Sutton Donohue at the same time. The Captain looked sick to his stomach, and whatever he’d seen in Wes and Adrian made him anxiously fidget in his seat.  Sutton coughed, faked clearing his throat, and then went to fill the empty coffee pot in the corner.

Wes thought he knew what was bothering Sutt, but he wasn’t sure until he tested his theory.  Wasn’t as if he could simply ask Sutton what his deal was as the lines of communication between them were still iffy.  They were working on it while managing to still butt heads from time to time.  And every time they danced, it was around Adrian—the root of all confusion.

Sutton returned to the table, sifting through paperwork, but really spying on Wes and Adrian while everyone else was busy.  Wes put his hand in his lap and then slid it over Adrian’s knee where Sutton could see.  A cruel thing to do, knowing it would give Sutton a near aneurism, Wes needed to know where he stood.  If Sutton would accept whatever was going on between Wes and Adrian, if and when things were taken to another level.

Oh how Wes wanted to move things along.

Sutton’s eyes snapped to attention, right to where Wes’s hand slid up Adrian thigh.  He spilled coffee down the front of his shirt, cursing and dabbing at the stains with his hands for a minute before he recovered.  Adrian looked up from the laptop where he’d taken over.  He shook his head at his Uncle and returned to his search for Mr. Redding.

Unlike Sutton, Adrian never acknowledged the hand on his knee, the hand that slid up his thigh and then down again.  Wes met Sutton’s eyes, and this time he shared Sutton’s bewilderment.  Wes had expected a reaction from Adrian—a glare, a snarl, a shove followed by an unwanted smile he couldn’t hold back.  Nope.  Adrian didn’t seem to notice Wes’s caress, like it was a natural thing between the two of them and no one else would care because people did this all the time.

Wes looked away from Sutton.  He didn’t care to deal with the implications of Sutton’s silent reasoning, what was really going on here.  Neither he nor Adrian was equipped for anything more than feeding and maybe a bit of fun here and there.  Not at the moment.  Maybe later?  Did he want more, a permanent more?

Sutton didn’t want more.  His paling face said as much.  However, Wes did; he wanted more and more and more.

What was he even talking about?  Sutton was a lunatic, an overprotective lunatic that jumped to conclusions.  Talking about mates, scaring him and Adrian shitless like that.  Fucking asshole Sutton.  Wes huffed and watched Adrian’s fingers fly over the keyboard.  They were nice fingers, long and powerful, well used and scarred from years of fighting.  They moved like Wes imagined a pianist’s would over ivory keys, graceful and with purpose.  For a fleeting second Wes imagined what those fingers would feel like on his skin.

Wes caught himself staring.  Adrian caught him too.  His partner stopped and leaned in.  He whispered, “I still think you’re crazy, but…good job today.”

It seemed the closer they became, the more human Adrian learned to be.  What appeared to be a good thing on the outside wasn’t such a great thing on the inside for Wes.  As much as he secretly cherished the moments Adrian opened up to him, the times Adrian softened around the edges, Wes knew how dangerous it would be for Adrian to lose that baser part of himself.  The eighty-five percent of Adrian that was a stone cold killer really needed to be high alert.

Now that they’d entered the killer’s game, it wasn’t the time for Adrian to relax and get cozy with Wes.  It was time to learn the rules and play the most treacherous game of their lives.

Wes couldn’t interfere with that.  As he pulled his hand away, returning Adrian’s sentiment with a forced smile, Wes conceded to Sutton’s reasoning.  Wes had to protect Adrian the only way he could without a weapon, by not getting more of what he wanted.  What he needed.




Chapter 16



Wes and Adrian decided to break the day into two shifts to catch up on sleep, and Adrian had taken the evening hours.  It was around eleven when Adrian practically flew through door from the front hallway.  Instead of looking as haggard as Wes did, he acted energized and ready for another eight hours of digging.  He shut the door with a bang, kicked off his boots, and padded over to the breakfast bar window like he’d won a million dollars.

Too tired to figure Adrian out, Wes pushed a plate of pasta to him and waited.  Adrian was just buzzing with excitement.  He quivered with it, shoving massive bites of pasta into his mouth because his body required food before he could reveal whatever had him jazzed. He groaned down a glass of water, wiped his hand over his mouth and sighed.

“I have never seen someone so excited to eat my pasta in my entire life.”  Wes leaned against the counter.  “You want some more?”

“In a minute.”  Adrian shed his jacket, the ugly beat up leather one Wes wished he would throw out in lieu of a real suit.  “We found something.  Well, I found something.”

Wes perked up.  “What?”

“Davis and I hacked into the LaGuardia database to roll through their video footage from our arrival day.  No sign of Redding getting off the flight or at baggage claim, so we thought we might have to circle the other terminals.”

“He used a different airline or what?”

Adrian grinned.  “No.  He was on our flight.”

“How is that possible?  He’s not invisible.”

“It might be cliché, but when in doubt use a disguise.  A really good one.”

“Bullshit.  If he’s as ugly as he sounds, that would have to be some disguise.”  Wes snorted.

“I could pull off a disguise that you wouldn’t be able to spot me if I walked right past you.  This guy is pro, Wes.  He knows how to do this.  I wouldn’t have gone bleach blond, but it certainly did wonders for his coloring.”  Adrian pulled out his phone.  He turned it around for Wes to see.  “That’s Redding there.” He pointed to a tall, blond man with short hair.  The guy carted a carry-on bag, wore faded jeans and a sweater.  Average.  He looked so very average.

“Redding goes into the restroom here.”  Adrian slid to another picture.  “Timestamps indicate he was in there for around fifteen minutes, and then here he exits the restroom.”

Sure enough, Redding was caught on camera leaving the restroom with his signature black ponytail.  He’d changed into black jeans and boots and a grey hoodie.  He was still average to every stranger in that terminal, but not to the Detectives looking for him.

Wes growled, now as excited as Adrian.  “Passenger manifest?”

Adrian’s blue eyes sparkled with danger.  “Leonardo Redding. Seat 13B.”

“Gutsy to use the same name.”

“Oh, this is where it gets good.  Leonardo Redding is his latest persona.”  Adrian folded his hands over the bar.  “Davis cross referenced the alias with the no fly list.  There are over fourteen alias’ that fit Redding to a T.  Artemus Reddgrove was the first to make the list, wanted for the assassination of our Spanish Ambassador five years ago.  They still haven’t found him, but they have a blurry black and white of Redding at a coffee shop across from the Embassy and several eye witnesses that saw him exiting the rear of the building near the time of the Ambassador’s death.  It’s him.”

“You think…”

“Of course I do.  Redding might have been part of a coven at one time, but from his list of priors, I’m positive he broke away on his own.  He’s a straight up hit man.”

“What does his list of priors have to do with you?”

“Still not sure on that part, but we do have a connection to Ulysses.  The Spanish Ambassador that Redding killed was exposed as a pedophile after his death.  He’d been keeping company with underage boys for well over a decade, and those boys were more than happy to try and make some money with the media.  They claimed they were part of program called His Children, some Christian based homeless outfit for boys on the streets.  In reality, the charity was turning out tricks and making money off their residents.”

“They were shut down?”

Adrian shook his head.  “Not a shred of proof.  They have an army of lawyers funded by the good Christians of Europe and other financially sound donors that might sound familiar.”

“Ulysses Maloy,” Wes spat.  “That fucking asshole.”

“Yep.  His bank statements show he’s donated to His Children for the last twenty-five years in the collective amount of near ten million dollars.  And I bet anything that boy he was with the night I killed him was part of His Children.  A runaway with nowhere to go, looking to make a few dollars to feed himself.”

Wes felt a stab of pain in his heart for what that kid must have gone through that night.  He couldn’t help but take delight in Ulysses’s brutal death.  “So Redding doesn’t like pedophiles but he keeps company with one?  Connect the dots for me.”

Adrian nodded.  “After reviewing everything I could get my hands on, I’d say he was circling the operation, getting close to the biggest players to take them down one by one.  Over thirty of them are dead now, five natural causes, and the others foul play.  Not one arrest.  I think our bad guy might have a good cause.”

“You think he lost someone close to him that entered His Children?”

“Wes, I think Redding might have been one of those children.  They’ve been in operation since the early nineties, and I’m sure their boys weren’t strictly human.  If Redding had lost someone to HC, he would have taken his revenge on the person who defiled his loved one and then probably have blown the main office to bits to send a message.  But from what I’ve seen this is a personal vendetta.  He’s out to make them hurt just like he was hurt.”

“Then why you?  What have you done to him?”  Wes grew agitated.  Something wasn’t clicking.  If the bad guy had good intentions, no matter how twisted, how did Adrian fit into his pedophile whacking party?

I don’t know.”  Adrian rubbed at the back of his neck, getting the kinks out.  I can profile this guy up and down, but I have no clue why he’s out for me.”

The minute Adrian started to wind down from his excitement, Wes sensed his overwhelming sadness.  Adrian’s eight hours of digging left him high, only to fall when the adrenaline wore off.  “You need to sleep, Adrian.  Have you even slept this week?”

“Here and there.”

Wes exited the kitchen and walked into the living room.  He stopped next to Adrian and lifted his chin.  “Are you afraid to sleep?”

Adrian’s eyes said it all.  Defenseless and tired, his baby blues gave him away.  “Maybe.”

“Why?  Are you seeing things?  Are Briggs’s possessions working?”

“No, it’s not Briggs.  I wouldn’t hold that back from you.  Any evidence would be appreciated right now.”

Wes sat down on the stool and bumped knees with Adrian.  “Something else bothering you?”

I don’t want to talk about it.”
“I know you don’t, but you’re no good to us exhausted.  You have to sleep sometime.”  Wes reached out and tucked Adrian’s curly bangs behind his ear. 

What should have scared them both, such a warm gesture of comfort, was as normal as breathing.

“When I sleep, I dream about things I don’t want to remember.  I can’t wake up if I don’t set my alarm or the motion sensors.”  Adrian lifted his wrist, showing his watch to Wes.  “I’m trapped in my dreams and what I see…I can’t forget.”

“This is just you and me.  You can talk to me, Adrian.  You don’t have to sleep under the bed with a gun.  You don’t have to be trapped in your head all alone.  We talk this out and maybe you can dream easier.”

“Like therapy?  I don’t need therapy.”  Adrian pulled away.

Wes grabbed Adrian’s arm, tugging him closer than before.  He spoke slow and deliberately, leaning back for Adrian to read his lips.  “I’m saying you let me help you deal with the shit in your head because I’m your partner.  You don’t think I have nightmares I can’t wake up from?  They used to be constant.  I’d scream for hours, thinking I was trapped back in the basement with my wrists chained to a wall. Them torturing me for fun…”

“You don’t have to tell me this.”  Adrian looked away, bowing his head.

Wes let go of Adrian’s arm to cup his cheeks.  When Adrian’s blue eyes met his, Wes said, “I’m telling you because I trust you with the worst part of my life.  I have faith you’ll pull me out if I get trapped.  I want to be there for you too.  We’re not partners for nothing.”

Adrian’s chest rose and fell swiftly.  He was so close Wes tasted Adrian on his tongue.  The Senior Detective wanted to take Adrian in his arms and hold him until he admitted his deepest, darkest secrets.  Wes wanted to unburden Adrian and make him feel right again.  To hell with not interfering; this shit with Adrian was too hard not to give in.

“I’m always burning alive,” Adrian whispered.  “I can never put out the fire. He stands there doing nothing to help me.  Just watches me burn…”

His fear of fire… Wes skimmed his thumbs down Adrian’s jaw.  “Who does?”

Adrian wiped his eyes, gently pushing Wes’s hands away from his face.  He licked his lips, grazing his bottom lip with his teeth.  Adrian was scared to say, having never told another soul the answer.  But by answering, he would reaffirm Wes’s faith—that Adrian trusted him too. “My father.”

This time, Wes didn’t hold back.  He gathered Adrian in his arms, felt his partner’s powerful body collapse against him.  Adrian clung to Wes like a magnet.  He didn’t sob or get choked up.  Adrian simply needed to make a connection when he was worried.  Adrian had never had someone like Wes before, never someone to let go with.  Wes held Adrian, slipping his thick arms around Adrian’s back, pressing his partner to his chest until all the air escaped Adrian’s lungs.

When Adrian leaned back, taking a steadying breath, Wes knew he’d done a good thing.  Adrian wasn’t magically cured, but it was a start.  A start that would take things to the next level, just not the level Wes wanted before.  With Adrian, everything would be baby steps.  Healing Adrian was more important than hooking up.  Much more important.

To prove he was more than a massive hothead who occasionally had a soft moment, Wes took charge in a bold way.  Telling Adrian he wasn’t alone didn’t mean shit if Wes didn’t show him.  And Adrian wasn’t about to leap from the partner side of the fence to the unknown side on his own.  He was a visual learner, an imitator of human interaction with his own flare.  Just like every other time since Adrian had stepped into Wes’s life, Wes just needed to show Adrian this was okay too.

Wes slipped his hand into Adrian’s and pulled him to his feet.  “You lock the door?”

Adrian nodded.

“Maloy outside when you came in?”

Adrian nodded again, confusion forming a wrinkle between his brows.  “Yeah.”

“Good.  Let’s go to bed.”  Wes didn’t give Adrian a chance to argue with his plan.  He wasn’t afraid Adrian would retaliate and pull a gun on him or try and break his arm.  Adrian wouldn’t very well kill his closest friend.  Smugly aware of that, Wes used his strength to pull Adrian behind him, tugging when Adrian tried to drag his feet.  They climbed the stairs to Wes’s room, all twelve of them without a word.

Wes’s room wasn’t but a few square feet bigger than Adrian’s.  And even then most of it was taken up by his large platform bed topped with a thick down comforter.  Wes made sure Adrian was inside before he shut the heavy door and slid four deadbolts into place.  He had a thing about security after all he’d been through in his lifetime, and now he was thankful those locks served another purpose—to keep his partner safe as well.

He didn’t coddle Adrian or give him instructions when Adrian stood there with his hands in pockets and his heart racing.  He would get the gist after a few minutes if he hadn’t caught on already.  Wes went to the flat screen television opposite his bed, turned it on, and then logged into the monitoring system that showed the cameras around the house.  He pulled his shirt over his head and put it on the dresser.

Anything moves in this house and we’ll know.  You can put your gun in the side table.”  Wes sat on the edge of the bed. He stared at Adrian.  You okay if I close the blinds?  I like it pretty dark when I sleep, except for that.” He pointed at the television and shrugged.

Adrian sucked in air through his nose.  He glared.  “I’m not sleeping with you.”

“Yes you are.”  Wes stood and pulled back the covers.  “And not in those jeans.”  He proceeded to pull his sweatpants down his hips, letting them pool on the floor; partly because he wasn’t body conscious in nothing but underwear, and partly to make Adrian squirm.

Wes took satisfaction in Adrian’s startled expression, in the way his heart sounded like it skipped it beat, and the intense arousal drifting through the air.  “If you refuse to sleep by yourself then I have to make you sleep with me.  It’s not healthy all the hours you put in as it is, and when you’re walking around dead on your feet, you’re just putting another nail in your coffin.  You either willingly sleep in this bed next to me or I drug you.”

That’s supposed to make me get in that bed? Threats!”  Adrian lifted his hands to the heavens, his version of what the fuck.

“If you think I’m crazy, that’s fine.  I’m trying to take care of you.”

“You are crazy!”  Adrian spun his pointer finger next to his temple.

Wes rolled his eyes.  He crossed the room slowly, allowing Adrian a good look at his white cotton briefs.  They weren’t anything special, but they sure got a rise out of Adrian in more ways than one.  “Get in bed.”

“Absolutely not.”

“Adrian.”  Wes put a hand above Adrian’s head and leaned on the wall.  “Get into that bed.  Now.  If you wanted to leave you would have done so the moment I started locking the door, but you didn’t.  I got maybe three hours of sleep before you got home and I’m not getting any more with you still standing here.”

“Want me to leave?”  Adrian swallowed.  “I can leave.”  He didn’t move an inch.  More like he began to sag into the wall, letting Wes’s imposing body shelter his against the wall.

Wes put his other hand to the side of Adrian’s head.  “Do I want you to leave…   You a comedian now?”

“No,” Adrian said, looking away.  

Wes, going on instinct, nudged Adrian with his nose, skin against skin. There wasn’t much left to say in this position.  Wes stepped into Adrian, aligning their bodies.  He slid his hands down the wall, around Adrian’s arms to the hem of Adrian’s t-shirt.  When Adrian didn’t protest, Wes pulled Adrian’s shirt up his chest.  Inch by inch he lifted soft cotton over Adrian’s abs, allowing the heel of his palm to skim over hard muscle.

Finally Adrian looked at Wes.  For the man to have been a violent killer afraid of nothing, Adrian sure as hell looked scared now.  Not scared Wes would hurt him, scared he had no idea what he was doing.  Everything in Adrian’s life had been about planning, details down pat, with even the surprises thought of beforehand.  So the spontaneity of this moment was new and perplexing, enough to make anyone apprehensive—even the most lethal boys of all.

Adrian flexed his fingers, pressed his lips together and then closed his eyes.  Wes caught Adrian’s soft inhale, enjoyed it like a cold beer after a long day.  Adrian didn’t ruin the moment; he kept on going and lifted his arms over his head for Wes to continue.  Wes pressed his palms flat over Adrian’s pectorals for a second, felt firm muscle greet him.  And while the moment was intense and heated, anticipated by both parties for weeks now, Wes had no intention of giving Adrian more than he was ready for.  However hard it was to put a lid on his libido, Wes needed the trust to continue between them.  Tonight was about sleep and comfort.  Nothing more.

He whisked Adrian’s shirt over his head and let it fall to the floor.  Adrian’s eyes opened when Wes stepped away, something akin to hurt ran through them. Had Adrian expected more than sleep?  Wes knew he did.  He also knew it wasn’t the right time and that he needed to cut Adrian a break and stop with the flirting before things got out of hand.

Wes really did want Adrian to get some rest, and sleeping next to Adrian sounded fine by him.  The object of his desire wrapped in his blankets, pressed up against him all night long…  Wes liked the sound of that.  He was overcome with possession, thrilled that in the morning Adrian would smell of his bed, of his skin.

Luckily Wes didn’t have to worry about his partner hearing the low growl working up his throat.  He did, however, have to keep his expressive eyes in check so as not to spook the crap of Adrian.  Flirtatious touches and lots of close up contact was one thing; mad eye swirling, fang dropping, caveman control issues were another.

It’s getting worse.  Wes turned away from Adrian and continued turning down the bed.  You’re dropping words like relationship and mate.  Your fangs come out and your dick gets hard every time he looks at you.  You’re feeding all the time now. What’s worse is he comes and asks you to.   You got him up here to have a slumber party and you have no intention of sticking it to him. Wake up, Durren.  You know exactly what’s going on.

Wes listened.  Adrian’s belt buckle hit the floor; his jeans worked down his thighs, the sound of denim brushing against cotton.  Adrian’s hand thumped against the wall as he struggled to get his socks off.  The smell of Adrian, his soapy, natural scent was thick, wrapping Wes up until he wanted to gasp as his insides were twisted into a knot.  His gun went into the drawer.  His phone slid over the side table.  Adrian was giving in.

He’s mine.  Wes confessed to the city peeking through his open blinds.  Sutton had once told Wes when he’d first met Vertina there was no possible way to explain a mating.  There was no true way to describe the way a vampire felt when he first realized they had found their destined one.  There was no way or reason to fight the pull, no matter how wrong it felt or forced it seemed, because the truth of the matter was that fate designed you for them and them for you and why would you pass that up.

Sutton never lingered on the details, other than the age old “everyone’s mating is different” lecture.  Humans, Humans-turns, Royals, and traitors alike were all in the same hat, waiting for their names to be drawn.  It could happen at any time, in any place, and no two matings were alike.  It was all Wes knew about the situation he was now in.

He had changed since meeting Adrian.  He’d be a fool not to notice how he’d started to warm up to the others, thinking before acting and listening instead of yelling.  He’d started to enjoy the silence and appreciate the beauty of his hands and expressions, often imagining Adrian’s world and how the quiet could be his friend too.

Wes had also changed Adrian, formerly a wild stray cat who bit and clawed his way out of any situation.  Now he smiled and purred, he rubbed against Wes’s leg for a scrap of praise.  He trusted Wes to feed him, to keep him warm even though they couldn’t have a fire, and now to shoulder the weight of his nightmares when he was too tired to carry them.

Adrian had become Wes’s confidant, his friend, and in a twisted way his teacher in life.  In all the years Wes had been alive he’d never learned more than in the past few weeks he’d spent with Adrian.  He learned he liked blue eyes, especially when they brightened with excitement.  Wes learned he liked being near someone after years of pushing others away in favor of the quiet.  He learned Adrian was the quiet he’d been seeking all along, and yet Adrian was the loudest person in a room even when he didn’t say a word.

When Wes emphasized being a part of a team to Adrian, Wes never imagined he’d learn how to become a part of one too.  He called Adrian his partner.  He meant it.  For the first time in Wes’s life, he didn’t want to be on his own.

Wes turned when a finger tapped his shoulder.  Adrian stared at him, waiting, uncertain if he’d made a mistake by coming up here.  He tried his hardest to hide it but he wasn’t getting anything past Wes.  The Senior Detective ran his hand over Adrian’s shoulder, now aware of the connection between his palm and Adrian’s skin.  The gap begged to be closed, to be sealed.  Unfortunately, now wasn’t the time. 

As Adrian had done for most of life, Wes would show this man what was between them instead of telling him.  He traced Adrian’s upper arm down to the elbow and turned Adrian towards the bed.  Adrian climbed in, moving over for Wes to get in too.  The first few minutes were awkward; a lot of rolling and tossing and pillow fluffing to pass the time.

Soon they settled in, Wes on his back and Adrian on his side, staring at the wall.  The glow from the television kept the room from being completely dark after Wes tapped the lamp and turned out the lights.  He was able to look over and make out Adrian’s form huddled under the covers.

A few pillows separated them.  Pillows Wes removed one by one.  If he wasn’t going to be fulfilling his ultimate fantasies tonight, at least he’d be as close as possible to Adrian while they slept.  Adrian immediately went rigid as Wes pressed his chest against Adrian’s back and wound his arm around Adrian’s waist.

Wes counted to ten, hoping and praying he hadn’t just fucked everything up.  Wes was almost to eleven when Adrian relaxed.  His fingers brushed over Wes’s and soon his breathing evened out.  As much as Wes wanted to watch Adrian sleep, his eyelids became heavy. He buried his nose against Adrian’s neck and closed his eyes, giving over to sleep.


Chapter 17

Unable to tell the difference between Wes’s sleepy rumblings against Adrian’s neck and the vibration of Adrian’s watch waking him up, Adrian decided to wake up.  It had been a long time since Adrian was able to wake on his own, and he’d been contemplating opening his eyes well before his watch told him to this morning. Not a single dream invaded his rest last night.  Not one flickering flame.  A ghost didn’t whisper messages from beyond.

He just slept in Wes’s arms all night long.  In a real bed that had been designed for comfort and not necessity with many warm layers and soft pillows.  Adrian knew he couldn’t get used to this way of sleep; last night had stressed Wes out.  Adrian saw it, no matter how in control Wes had been.  And even though Wes’s discomfort had been apparent, there was no denying he wanted Adrian in his bed.

Now Adrian was left to process this new facet to his and Wes’s relationship.  Sure, Adrian had had sex with both men and women; partly for his job as a Hunter, to play a part and gain information, and partly to release tension in his body.  It’d never been about anything other than sex and intelligence.  He didn’t sleep through the night with any of them.  He’d never had sex in someone’s actual bed before, favoring hotels and back alleys, and a kitchen counter or two.

Last night, Adrian had been ready to have sex with Wes, in Wes’s bed, because he wanted to get closer to his partner.  He had every intention of giving over to Wesley Durren.  He had every intention of allowing Wes to kiss him deeply and whisper stuff Adrian would never hear.  Because deep down Adrian knew his partner was after more than a roll in bed.  He was after everything Adrian was willing to share—heart, body, and mind.

Adrian had undressed in cold silence, hoping Wes would at least turn around to make some connection.  He’d even stowed away his gun in the nightstand, showing Wes he trusted him.  He’d put away the remote to the foyer, leaving business out of the equation.  And then he stood there in his underwear, waiting for Wes to do something.   They’d come this far and Adrian had been so sure Wes wanted him.  He was made to trust and to care for this man.  Yet, he didn’t get a single look in return.

Adrian had gone out on a limb, a dangerous one, because he was ready for this change in his life.  In the end, Adrian had been the one to go to Wes, and all he received was a friendly push into the bed.  The lights had gone out, Wes had settled against him, and that was that.

What Adrian had imagined in Wes’s eyes last night, the hunger, the need, and the fierce protectiveness over Adrian had all been some sort of dream.   Wes was just being a good friend, a partner, making sure Adrian got some sleep.  People like Wes were surely meant to be with someone else, someone not as fucked up as Adrian.

Adrian’s eyes adjusted to the darkness, surveying the room’s scant belongings covered in a bluish glow from the television.  Slipping out from under Wes’s arm, Adrian sat on the edge of the bed and looked at his watch.  He was about to turn off the alarm when he saw the time and immediately went to the windows in the corner.  He pulled the blinds open.  It was still dark out.  It was only three in the morning.

What the hell?  Adrian looked at his watch.  His alarm hadn’t gone off.  He had ten text messages and three missed calls.  All of their teammates tried to contact him.

Open the damn door! 

Got the door open and there’s a gun pointed at my head. 

We have another body. 

I’m calling in GERT if you don’t answer in the next five minutes.

ADRIAN!!  The texts and voicemails translated into text streamed across his watch.  They’d discovered another body, same style as Redding.  Sutton was with the parents?  What did that mean?

“Fuck!”  Adrian shook Wes.

Wes covered his eyes with his forearm and slapped Adrian’s leg.

Noticing Wes’s phone glowing on the side table, Adrian picked it up once he saw who was calling. “Sutton, its Adrian.  Just woke up.  We’re on our way.”  He threw the phone on the bed.

That got Wes’s attention.   The lights snapped on and the Senior Detective threw the covers back.  “What’s going on?”

Adrian pushed his legs through his jeans and buttoned them up.  Davis and Fontine are downstairs.  Feist called us in, we got another body.  Sutton is with the victim’s family.”

Wes didn’t need to be told twice.  He pulled on some jeans from the back of the door, tucked his gun away at the small of his back, and then unlocked his bedroom door.  Adrian followed him down the stairs to greet Fontine and Davis at the door.  They were pissed, understandably so, and when they got a load of Wes and Adrian shirtless and bed rumpled, their anger kicked into high gear.

“You don’t ignore us for sex.  You got it?”  Davis pushed Wes into the living room.  “I thought you two were dead!”

Something inside Adrian snapped.  All he saw was Davis manhandling Wes and Wes not putting up a fight.  He pushed between the two Detectives and gripped Davis by the throat.  Didn’t care if Davis was a full blooded vampire or that Davis had kicked his ass on the mat too many times to count.  “You touch him like that again and I will slit your damn throat.”

“Get your hands off me before I hurt you, Adrian.  You have no idea how scared we were.  None!”  Davis bared his fangs.  A split second later he put his hands up, his eyes going wide.  “Fine.  You two wanna fuck around while we try and find the guy that’s trying to kill you, that’s fine by me.  Your funeral.”

Adrian spun around to see Wes with his gun drawn, pointed at Davis.  “Wes, stop.  Put it down.”  He glanced at Davis.  “He just woke up and came right downstairs.  Not that it’s any of your business, but we were actually asleep.  He’s tired and stressed out.”

“Well aren’t we all sweet nothings in the morning?”  Davis shook his head.  “Adrian, Wes has been at this for years.” Davis dropped his hands.  “We all have.  You expect calls like this.  You expect to get woken up when you haven’t slept in weeks.  You expect dead bodies to show up in the middle of the night and you expect to have to drag your ass out of bed and investigate.  What you don’t expect is a gun in your face because you were trying to protect your friend.  You don’t expect to be attacked by his partner for protecting both of you.  You don’t expect to spend an hour jimmying locks to reach them because they could both be dead.  More than anything you don’t expect a good Detective to let his guard down so he can get some from someone he’s becoming a liability to.”

Fontine pulled Davis back.  He glared at Adrian.  “Maybe next time you should sleep in your own bed.  Get dressed and meet us outside.  Don’t forget to bring to your mate.”

The door slammed shut.  Davis and Fontine left Adrian staring at the slab of metal that led to the front hall.  He held his breath for as long as he could and then let it out in a rush.  Of all the things he hadn’t been expecting, Fontine’s parting words made the top of the list.

Mate… Adrian finally gained enough courage to face Wes.  When he turned around, all he found was an empty living room and a night’s worth of regret.
To be continued...