Special note: Andre does leave, but don’t worry he’s coming back.
Dangerous? The devil killed as easily as he breathed and he called her dangerous? “That’s ridiculous.” The words were slow to leave her. The soothing strokes of the brush were like a drug. Her body, that had been wound so tight all evening, uncoiled. Holding her head up was becoming difficult, keeping her eyes open – impossible.
“Ridiculous, am I?” His lips were so very close to her ear, another pull of the brush, “Look around you Angel. Roger brought four carts with him. Fire and Ice roses are rare, so I’ve been told.”
“Are they?” she sighed. The touch of his hand gathering the hair as he pulled the brush through making goosebumps pop up.
“They are.” The glides stopped. Allie had to choke off the protest that rose in her throat.
“You’ve bewitched the staff.”Andre picked up a pastry from the tray, “Almond brioche, I believe.”
“A favorite of yours.”
“How did you…”
“Open up.” He held the bite sized pastry to her mouth. He slipped the pastry between her lips, his fingers lightly brushing. Dark eyes watched her mouth as she chewed, “They brought your favorite chocolate.” He lifted the cup and saucer and handed it to her.
Allie somehow swallowed the pastry and took a sip of her chocolate, hoping to steady her nerves and still her raging hormones. She focused all her attention on setting the cup back in its saucer, “The staff here are wonderful. They treat everyone well.”
“Treat you well?” Low laughter tickled her neck, her ear, “No, Angel, they worship at your feet,” A kiss of air on the shell of her ear had her hand shaking, jostling the fine china. His much larger hand settled over hers, steadying it. He stiffened, she heard a low curse, and then the cup and saucer were taken away and she was lifted, turned and sprawled over Andre’s lap,
“Hey…what…” She blinked up at him. Oh, he had stubble… she wanted to kiss him right there on his jaw, run her mouth up to his throat….
“Sssh, you’re hands are like ice,” He tossed the throw over both of them, the autocratic tone yanking her out of her fantasy.
“Oh, pooh, my hands ae always cold.” She protested, even as she snuggled into his delicious heat. She’d always been sensitive to the cold, and she was still feeling chilled. That was why she snuggled into him and lay her head on his strong shoulder with a blissful sigh. And that was why when he released her hands to pull her more securely into his arms, she slid one hand behind his neck, resting it against his nape her fingers trailing absently through his silky hair. And that was why she lay her other hand on his chest, her fingers playing with the open buttons, revealing beautiful golden skin. And as the exhaustion pulled her under, it was her desire for more heat that had her sliding her hand under that open shirt to feel hot golden skin over hard muscle.
The chest under her hand rose with a sharp intake of breath, “What are you doing Angel?”
“Sleeping.” She mumbled, words were too hard.
“Ah, yes, sleeping.” A rueful laugh over her head, long gentle fingers sliding into her hair, the press of lips to her crown, “Sweet dreams, Aliana.”
Blood everywhere. Bone and blood and gristle. Frozen earth above her. Dead eyes all around. She was trapped in the grave, surrounded by dead flesh. Cold, dead hands held her down, ripping her clothes, groping, grabbing. She screamed, but nothing came out. She fought, but couldn’t move.
“Ssh, Angel.” A husky voice soothed her, velvet brown eyes glittered through the dark, strong arms wrapped around her, “Sleep, sweet, you’re safe.” She snuggled into that warm safe place and drifted into peaceful sleep.
Allie woke up to very familiar hushed voices.
“She doesn’t look like she’s been having wild monkey sex.” She slit her eyes open at that crazy observation to see Christy’s blue eyes studying her from behind her glasses. Her little nose scrunched up.
“Wild monkey what?” Mac said from somewhere near the door, sounding especially exhausted.
“Lena said they’d have wild monkey sex all night.” Christy tilted her head as if studying her from another angle would be help her analysis.
“Oh, for the love of the Goddess….” Mac, now sounding especially exasperated.
“Where the hell is the pervert?” Oh dear, and Lena was especially belligerent. She could hear her twin’s quick agitated steps even on the carpet, “He’s supposed to be protecting her.”
“I told you I called him from the lobby.” Mac was still hovering by the door.
“So, he probably values his man parts and didn’t want to take a chance you’d go terminator-twin crazy on him.” Mac said, exasperation overtaking exhaustion, “Now ssshhhh, you’ll wake her up.”
“Not likely,” Lena snorted, crossing the room again, “She sleeps like a horse.”
Christy’s serious gaze swung in Lena’s direction, “Horses sleep standing up.”.
Allie bit back her smile. Her youngest sister did have a tendency to be literal.
“Whatever,” Lena stopped moving. Allie saw her at the foot of the bed, her arms outstretched, her head swinging back and forth on her neck, “Just where the hell is the coffee maker in this room?”
Allie gave in and sat up, pushing her hair off her face, “There isn’t one.”
“Dammit, I told you to keep your voice down.” Mckenna collapsed into the sofa and oh, she did not look good. Still in her clothes from the night before, her ponytail had that snarled look it got when she’d been trying to rake her hand through it repeatedly. Her pale complexion had faded to a ghostly white, the dark circles standing out harshly under her blood-shot eyes. Wow, she’d had a rough night.
“What the fuck do you mean there isn’t one?” Lena ignored Mac altogether. Nothing was more vital than Lena’s morning coffee.
“You call down and they bring it to you.” Allie explained.
“Well, shit.” Lena threw her hands on her hips looking disgusted and more than a little frayed around the edges. Literally.
“Lena, what happened to your shirt?”
“Oh,” She tugged on the bottom of her long sleeve flannel shirt that was hanging on her in a shredded mess of ribbons, “It… uh got caught in the wood chipper.”
“Wood chipper?” Oh, that did not sound good.
“Believe me,” Mac lay her head back, rubbing her eyes, “You do not want to know.”
“I’m going down to get coffee.” Lena headed for the door.
“Me too.” Christy spun around and ran after her, “Hey, do they have those pecan-banana pancakes?”
“Get me my own pot.” Mac called without lifting her head, “I’ll be down in a minute.”
The door shut and then it was silent. Allie waited and tried not to feel despondent. She hadn’t expected him to stay, not really, but she thought she’d at least be able to say goodbye.
“He didn’t want to wake you.” Mckenna spoke without moving even so much as a millimeter.
“Oh,” But he didn’t minded leaving her. The thought rose unbidden and unwanted in her mind, crushing her heart.
“It was urgent.”
“Oh…” Did that make her heart hurt less? Allie found that no, it did not.
“I missed it.” Mac whispered the words in that absent way that told Allie she was talking to herself. She waited in silence. Sometimes her sister would explain and sometimes not. “We brought you fresh clothes. They’re in the bathroom.” She rose from the couch, “Damn, I need coffee.”
So this was one of the ‘not’ times.
“Mac,” Allie called out, then working up her courage, “I’m sorry, I know I shouldn’t have acted on my own.”
Her oldest sister paused at the door and sent her a weary, but genuine smile, “We’ll talk about it later, sis.”
Then those eyes dark eyes that were uniquely Mckenna’s bored into her with that uniquely Mckenna stare, distant almost absent, and yet Allie felt as if it pierced her soul, “Allie, are you okay?”
There was no way to answer that question honestly and not worry her sister. She nodded dropping her head forward, staring down at her twisting hands, “Yes, I mean, basically, yes.”
The strangely still silence that went with that strange Mckenna stare filled the room. Allie could hear her own breathing, housekeeping’s cart squeaking down the hall outside the door, the television in the room behind her head.
She raised her eyes to see Mckenna’s head tilted, her unblinking eyes locked on her, scouring for the answers her mind craved. That utter stillness cutting her off from the world around her. She looked to be suspended in time and there were some that believed that was exactly what was happening. Allie was half-way tempted to believe it herself. Finally, Mac blinked, shook herself, and came back to her, “Alright, would you like the usual?”
“Okay, see you downstairs.”
The New Years Day Brunch was surprisingly light. The hotel’s five star restaurant only one third full. Allie suspected perhaps the Senator’s untimely demise put a damper on the celebrations. She sat in the large corner booth with her sisters sipping coffee and enjoying her eggs benedict when a commotion at the front of the room drew her attention.
“Oh this is fabulous. Just beautiful. Look at these columns and the carvings. Oh, this is marvelous. John, honey don’t let me forget to get some shots of the bar. Is that mahogany? I thought so. You just don’t see this on the west coast.”
“Jose?” She’d spoken the word softly, but the man she’d come to count as more family than friend heard her, “Oh there you are you are, Oh, Thank Jesus!” He rushed past tables with prying eyes, his hand clutching his heart.
To Allie’s utter shock, the entire Grey family filed in. Ana holding Teddy, followed by Christian, and Jose’s new husband John. What on earth?
But Jose was tugging her out of her seat and hugging her tight, “Oh honey, I was terrified. You scared a good fifteen years off my life last night.” He stood at arms length, inspecting her head to toe, taking in her fluffy teal cashmere sweater she’d paired with skinny jeans. When he got to her Gucci boots he gasped, “Oh, sugar those are the very boots Kate ruined on our Donner Party reenactment. It’s a good thing that girl’s foot is so big, or she’d rip them off your feet, which would be a shame since they look fabulous on you. In fact, you look fabulous head to toe. No one would ever know you’d been kidnapped by vile evil beasts who deserve to die screaming.”
“Here! Here!” Kate called out. The lovely blond strolled in the restaraunt with Elliot on her arm.
“I’m fine, really.” She assured them all with a smile, “What are you all doing here?”
“We were worried.” Ana said, handing Teddy over to Lena, who’d leaped up and held out her hands, cooing and telling Teddy to come see his favorite Auntie Lena. Her deadly dangerous twin turned into a marsh-mellow around the Teddy-Bear.
Then Christian Grey was in front of her, his hands taking both of hers, his serious gaze traveling over her, “You’re well?”
Her heart melted a little. Christian Grey was not a demonstrative man. His open concern had tears floating in her eyes, “Yes, I’m fine.” She got a skeptical raised brow, “I mean, I wasn’t hurt. Andre got to me in time.”
He nodded, but at the mention of Andre the man stiffened, his mouth pulling into a tight line. No, he wasn’t an Andre fan, either. And Oh dear Goddess, Andre Torrill caught between a livid Christian Grey and a furious Gavin McIntyre… that could turn very ugly very quickly. She leaned in, “He was a perfect gentleman.”
She whispered the words, but Jose heard them. His face fell, “Oh, that’s too bad.”
Allie saw Ana’s hand snaking behind his bicep. He instantly flinched, rubbing the back of his arm, “Annie Grey that was uncalled for!”
Ana gave him a fulminating look.
“Oh don’t look at me like that.” Jose sniffed, making a scooch motion for Allie to slide over in the booth and slipping in beside her, “What’s the point of getting rescued by Mr. Hot as Fire if he doesn’t thoroughly ravish her? What a waste… Oooh, are those the banana pancakes…”
Christy nodded as her mouth was full. No talking with your mouth full. Granny Rose’s rule number 5.
Jose reached across and pinched off a piece, dredging it through the abundance of syrup on her sister’s plate, and popping it in his mouth, “Oh, they are divine. Sugar Buns, go throw some of that delicious weight around and get us some menus. I think they officially cut brunch off at 12:30.”
“Honestly,” Ana rolled her eyes and sat down next to Mckenna.
“Oh, stop with honetlys and the eye rolling.” Jose snagged a crisp piece of bacon off Lena’s plate. She was too busy bouncing Teddy around to notice. “What’s the use of being married to a billionaire if he you can’t get you pancakes?”
“A valid point.” Christian Grey grinned and kissed his wife on the cheek, but as he rose, his eyes strayed to Mac slumped down in the booth. The grin fell off his face, his gaze turning sharp, assessing, “Mckenna…..”
Mac held up a hand, “I know, I know. It was a busy night all around.”
A smile hinted at his mouth, “I see.”
Mac snorted in her coffee, “I doubt it.”
“Hmm,” His assessing gaze wandered to Lena. Allie had seen that look on Mckenna many times. He was taking note of everything and drawing some very precise conclusions, “Well, let me go be of use and acquire pancakes.” He sauntered off, but Allie saw him pull his phone from his pocket. She knew exactly who he was calling.
“Sheesh, look at him,” Lena shook her head, “Flew all night. Looks fu….I mean frickin’ perfect.”
Ana giggled, her eyes roaming over them with genuine joy and affection, “It’s so good to see you all.”
At that, Mckenna came out of her half-dead stupor. Her head swung around, her eyebrows shooting up, her mouth dropping open in utter and complete shock.
“What?” Ana turned and looked over her shoulder.
But Mac’s wide disbelieving eyes were on Ana, “Holy Shi…uh. zam! You really mean that.”
“Of course,” Ana laughed, covering Mac’s hand with her own and squeezing it, “We’re family after all.”
“And we were just at your house not two weeks ago. Wow, you’ve got stamina.” Lena said, her eyes nearly as wide as Mac’s.
It was when John pulled up a chair beside Jose, and Kate and Elliot pulled up chairs across from her, Allie noticed there was plenty of room for everyone in the large corner booth. She cast suspicious eyes Mckenna’s way, “You knew they were coming?”
She shrugged, lifting her coffee cup, “Had a feeling.” Her eyes followed Chrisitan Grey, her head tilted, “He’s worried about you and Grey’s not one to sit on the sidelines.”
Translation. No, she hadn’t been told, but she already knew. Allie was struck, as she was every day, by her sister’s brilliance.
“Humph, he thought he’d just jet out here without me.” Jose paused his bacon nibbling, “Well, I told him. Didn’t I snookums?”
John who’d been watching Jose with an indulgent and very smitten smile, “You sure did…uh..” He hesitated then with a grimace, “Sugar-plum.”
“Oh give it up.” Jose patted his cheek, “The cute endearment doesn’t work on you Oh dear Jesus…” He gasped, his horrified eyes fully landing on Mckenna and Lena for the first time, “You two look like death.”
“Oh… we uh… had a …busy night.” Mckenna slid a hand into her pony tail. It got stuck. She may have muttered “oh fuck it” and dug her fingers into the hairband intending to rip it out. Jose was up off the seat and across the table, “Don’t you dare rip that gorgeous hair.” He carefully removed the band, “Now it’s not technically good manners to fix hair at the table,” He worked his hands through the thick, auburn strands, “But just a little finger combing…there.” He stepped back, “It will have to do.”
Mckenna took the hairband he held out to her, her weary eyes warming with affection, “Thanks.”
“Any time, gorgeous.” Jose winked at her, returning to Allie’s side and pouring himself a cup of coffee from one of the five pots on the table. One for each of them, and a spare for Lena, “Just what in the blazin’ blue balls have you two been up to?”
Lena got very interested in Teddy’s cooing.
Christy stuffed her face with a forkful of banana pancakes.
Mac just slid down in the booth, gulping coffee.
Allie patted his hand, and whispered, “The less you know the better.”
“Oh…murder and mayhem.” Jose nodded sagely, “Got it.”
Mckenna quirked an eyebrow at him.
“Don’t look so surprised Missy. My family has God Father connections.”
“Really?” Mckenna smiled over her cup.
“Oh yes,” He nodded, stirring cream into his coffee, “We made a made a small fortune in bones.”
“Bones?” Christy tilted her head, clearly puzzled.
“Oh yes,” Jose grabbed the last piece of bacon from Lena’s plate, “My uncle’s cousin’s dad’s aunt’s brother’s Granddad used to break them.”