It’s been a very long time coming. Cluster has been running away with me, but for those who want more of Allie and Andre this is a short story I’ve been working on.
New Years Eve, Richmond Virginia…
The lobby in the Hotel Jefferson had always been one of her favorite places. Tonight it sparkled like stars in a midnight sky. The arched ceilings of stained glass soared overhead. Oriental carpets were a rich tapestry beneath the feet of revelers, clustered around the towering Christmas tree glittering above them. Music played and champagne flowed as the old year ticked away so a New Year could begin. Allie Kinkaid smiled at her date for the evening and tried to shake off the feeling of being watched. She was used to men’s stares, and though she wasn’t exactly comfortable with them, she’d become adept at tuning it out over the years, but this was different, the energy so sharply focused she felt it like breath on her neck.
Lavish wealth rioted around him. Jewels glittered. Liquor flowed. Arrogant laughter empty compliments and insincere smiles graced overly made up faces. It all swirled together in bloated swell of nauseating excess. He hated all of it. The men who toasted their own achievements with liquor so expensive the price of one bottle could feed a village for months. The vapid women who cared about nothing but the jewels at their throats and the shoes on their feet. The empty people who believed that wealth made them superior. Yes, he hated it all, with one exception. One lovely, tempting exception.
He heard her before he saw her. A husky laugh that floated on the air like siren song. Following his ears he searched the crowd and there… at the top of the stairs. A swan floating gracefully among hungry crocodiles.
She was Aphrodite. An Angel’s face and a body made for sin. Gold hair piled on her head in such a way it looked as if one tug would send it tumbling to creamy shoulders covered in a whisper of red lace. Unlike the other women she wore nothing on her neck. Adornment would have been an insult to the silky perfection of her throat. Scarlet lace hugged her breasts ending at her waist where a cascade of silk flowed over her hips and down her legs made longer by the stilettos she wore in that same siren red. He wanted to peel that dress off her and reveal the satin and lace he knew she loved to wear underneath. He’d rip the teasing pieces of fabric off with his teeth so that all she wore were those red stilettos, then he’d lay her down and taste every succulent inch of her.
She held the men around her in thrall with just a smile. Then she turned slightly and a gown that had been merely temptation became torture. The back was cut out in a deep vee. Barely covering the dimples at her lower back. Sweat beaded on his forehead. The crocs swam around her, their toothy smiles hungry. And then one of the men touched her, his hand sliding behind her back and down to the delicate flesh reveled by that deep vee.
His mind sharpened, his eyes locked on that hand that dared touch that perfect skin. Without concious thought, he was moving. He’d lure the man outside and snap his neck. Simple enough. He hadn’t planned on killing tonight, but he was flexible. It was one of the things that made him so good at what he did. Staying to the shadows, he stalked his prey with single minded intent. He’d gotten within fifteen feet when the man’s hand abandoned the Angel’s back to clutch his own chest. The angel gasped the man’s name as he doubled over, pitched forward and tossed head over ass down that famous staircase. The man sized rag doll tumbled, arms and legs flopping about, the feminine screams and deeper masculine shouts a macabre accompaniment to the wet sounds of flesh hitting flesh and the crunch of bone. Finally the man reached the bottom of the stairs and Andre was disappointed to see the open eyes blank with the distant stare that meant his prey was already dead.
The Angel lifted her dress and floated down the stairs. A security guard blocked her but she peeked around him, turned white as fresh snow, swayed where she stood, and crumpled. The startled guard caught her just in time to keep her from the floor. He decided he wouldn’t kill the guard since he touched her with respect and kept her lovely body from hitting the floor.
“Yep, he’s dead.”
“Damn, that looks like it would hurt.”
Detective Wallace rubbed the back of his neck and cursed his rotten luck. His New year’s Eve had gone straight to hell. He didn’t care for these fancy-pants gigs anyway, but he’d been about to make an early night of it. His wife had whispered in his ear that she wanted to ring in the New Year with him at home. Naked. He’d just loaded her into a cab. Of all the nights for the Senator to fall out dead. He had to pick this one and with him just days from retirement.
Well, I’ll be double damned and shit the boot, as his granddad used to say. Had never made a damn bit of sense to him, but it sure seemed to fit. “Must be old age.”
He looked up at one of the officers clearing the scene, “You said there was a girlfriend?”
“Hell yeah there is. And damn she is fine, but a real lady ya’ know?”
Not likely, if she was with the Senator. The guy was scum, “Where is she?”
“She passed out.”
Shit the boot.
“Between Conners and Reynolds, they took her out that way,” The Officer pointed to a door on the left.”
“Thanks.” He turned and bracing himself, entered the side room. It was little more than a storage closet where they kept extra banquet tables and chairs. A young man in blues met him at the door, “You Reynolds?”
He flipped his badge, “What have we got?”
“Girl took one look at him and passed out. Just coming around now, and man she is hot. I wonder how much that pussy costs, cause damn it’d be worth…
“Ah come on, the girl’s a pro.”
Probably. “We don’t know that.”
He approached a tall female officer standing in front the woman. He got a glimpse of blond hair and the color red. The officer’s voice strong and clear. The woman’s voice husky and vaguely familiar. Then the officer stepped aside. Well, they were right about one thing, the woman was hot. Gorgeous, even with her eyes closed and the ashy look to her skin it was obvious and she screamed money.
“Yeah,” The tall woman nodded once, not so much as a single short, nondescript, brownish hair moved.
“Wallace,” He introduced himself, “This is the girlfriend?”
“No.” The woman’s whisper was weak, barely a sound, but it carried over Conners emphatic affirmation.
“No?” He looked from the officer to the woman and back again.
“Told you she was a pro.” The kid behind him.
He didn’t bother to turn around, “I told you to shut-up.”
“You said you were with the Senator.” Officer Conner’s voice took on an edge.
“Yes.” The woman nodded, then grabbed her head as if the action were painful.
“Ma’am how much have you had to drink?” Conners question was sharp.
“Drink?” She whispered, her head still in her hands. Tiny feminine hands. Familiar hands.
“Yes,” Connors eyes rolled, v “Alcohol.”
“Oh, of course,” The blond raised her head, but her but her eyes remained closed, “I had a glass of champagne.”
“Ma’am, I’m Officer Conners. This is Detective Wallace. You were the Senators date.”
“I’m telling you she’s a pro.”
“Pro?” The girl repeated. It was a question.
“Yeah, how much you charge? I’ll bet your worth every penny.”
Before he could clobber the kid. The female officer turned around and popped him on the back of the head.
“HEY! What the fuck?”
“Watch your mouth,” Conners popped him again, “Or you’ll be moving traffic cones.”
The kid snorted, “Like it’s anything new to her.”
The woman finallly caught on to the inferrance, collapsing in on herself, she crossed her arms over her chest. Either she was suddenly chilled or she was covering up, attempting to hide. The movement was oddly familiar…… Damn, did he know this girl?
“Hey, you okay?”Conners must have seen the same thing in the movement he had.
The girl’s long lashes fluttered open.
Holy Shit, those eyes could slay dragons. Vivid aquamarine, large, sensual and innocent. Recognition slammed into him at the same time the woman said, “There was blood.” and fell fell right on over.
“SHIT!” Conners grabbed the woman, propping her up. “We need a medic.”
“Damn,” The stupid kid shouldered in, “You’d think professional pussy’d be tougher.”
“Kid, shut the fuck up before you ruin any shot you have at a career.” He pushed Connors our ot the way and knelt in front of the woman who, as beautiful as she was, was known for her brilliance. Then over his shoulder, “Go inform the officer we need a medic and then go get me a Coke with ice.”
“What?” The little prick’s eyes were locked on the woman’s chest.
“Kid, this is Allie Kinkaid. She’s a forensic accountant and expert witness for the Eastern District of Virginia. She also works for the FBI. She’s a personal friend of The President and First Lady.”
That got the kid’s eyes off her chest. He turned beet red then white, then started stammering, “Oh…oh damn, I’m sorry… I uh… she doesn’t look… I mean…”
“Son, shut up and go get Miss Kinkaid a Coke. Not diet. Not a Pepsi. A Coke with ice. Lots of ice and a straw.”
“Right yeah, uh right.” The kid was skipping back, “Coke, ice, straw. Yeah okay.” With that the younger officer ran out of the room.
He turned back to the woman who had earned his respect with not only her brilliance, but also her compassion, “Sorry about that. It took me a minute. You do look a little different without your glasses and…all dressed up.”
“It’s a Badgley Mischka.”
“It’s uh…. a very nice.”
“Thank-you.” She sat up a little straighter but kept her arms crossed over her chest.
Out of his periphery he saw Conners go to the dororway, mumbling to the officer stationed there.
“Do you remember me Miss Kinkaid? I was the lead Detective on the Kronfeld case?”
She blinked at him, still shaking. Allie Kinkaid could not tolerate the sight of blood. Not even in pictures. He’d never seen anyone so sensitive to it.
“Detective Wallace, yes of course,” She smiled, and though she was pale and drawn it was like watching the sun rise, “You had a new Granddaughter. Emily Jane.”
“Yes, named for my Daughter’s favorite writers.”
“And Jane Austin. You remembered.”
“It’s a lovely name.”
“She just turned four.”
She rested her head against the wall, long lashes fluttering down to pale cheeks, “Oh, I love that age. Everything is a new discovery.”
“Here, here you go.” The kid was back, cup in hand and out of breath. He took it from him and placed it in the woman’s tiny hand, “Here you go. Coke with ice.”
“You remembered.” She smiled and sipped the icy drink. Connors returned with a black velvet something, not quite a coat, “Here you go, ma’am. I got your shawl from the coat check.” She placed the shawl around the woman’s shoulders.
Miss Kinckaid’s smile shifted direction, “Oh that’s so kind, thank-you” She tugged the wrap more tightly around her.
“Uh, no problem.” Connor’s said, blinking a couple of times and shaking her head, a silent ‘whew’ coming out. He met the Conners’ eyes over Allie Kinkaid’s head, “Damn.” She mouthed.
Officer Conners was gay. Perfect. He’d have to deal with two love-struck fools.
“Miss Kinkaid, how did you come to be the Senator’s date this evening?”
“He has a house in the fan.” She answered, lowering the Coke to her lap, fiddling with the straw.
“Yes, that’s true.”
“And he has a dog. A small one. I think it’s a corgi.”
“A corgi?” Conners asked, her face openly bewildered.
“Yes, he’s very cute. His name is Muffin.”
“Muffin?” Connors eyes swung to him. He ignored her.
Allie nodded, thick lashes flickering up, “I think the Senator’s daughter named it.”
Conners nodded slowly, “Ah okay.”
“I walk Trudy on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That’s how we met.”
“Our dog, Christy usually walks her but she has surgery on those days and goes in early.”
“My sister. She’s a vet.”
“So you met the Senator walking your dog?” Wallace shot Conners a glare and took over.
“Yes basically, yes.”
“Basically?” He prompted.
“Well, I was walking Trudy and the Senator was on the other side of the street. He walked into a car and poor Muffin got his foot run over.”
“I see.” His lips barely tipped up at the corners. Conners covered her mouth and tried to turn her shout of laughter to a sneeze. He glared.
She lowered her hand and in a convincingly neutral tone, “He was probably distracted.”
“Yes, Trudy’s huge.” Allie nodded, “Every time I take her for a walk people stare.”
“I’ll bet.” Conners said dryly. He shot her another warning glare. She just shrugged. At least the kid had gone quiet. He was probably busy writing odes to her beauty in his head.
“So muffin got hurt?”
“Yes, and Christy’s clinic was close, so we took him there.”
“When was this?”
“Tuesday of last week.”
“Yes, I suppose so. I waited with him while Christy checked Muffin out, and we started talking. He told me about his divorce. He seemed so lonely. I think he still loves… I mean loved his wife….”
“Uh-huh…” Conners again. He looked up, the warning unmistakable this time. She held up her hands and backed off.
“He said she would be here tonight with her new younger boyfriend. He asked if I would be his date.”
“So this is a mercy date?” The kid must have finished his sonnet. Damn, he got one under control and the other one chimed in.
“Oh, no” Allie blinked up at them, “It was just a favor for a friend.”
“But you’d just met.” Conners pointed out.
“Well, yes, but he was so sad and it’s the holidays, and I didn’t have any plans.”
“You didn’t?” The kid shouted. Damn, this interview was shot to shit. Not that it mattered. He had the all the facts he needed.
“No, and it seemed like such a small thing. Just to put on a nice dress and go to a party.” She shrugged.
“Huh.” The kid’s mouth hung open.
“Well, that was uh…very…. nice of you.” Conners’ face said she believed her, but like the kid couldn’t get her mind around it. He could. Allie Kinkaid was compassionate, tenderhearted, and immensely generous. It was why she was such a good witness. When someone this good told you someone else was bad, like it broke her heart and she wished she could say otherwise but the facts being what they were well… She’d shrug one perfectly rounded shoulder and that was that. Prosecutors loved her.
“Dammit, I will take your head off if you don’t get the hell out of my way…”
“Oh,” Allie Kinkaid popped up off the wallfocusing on a spot over his shoulder, eyes wide with something akin to panic, “Um, maybe he should let her in.”
“Let who in?” Conners looked to the door and back.
“Is that a threat ma’am?”
“Don’t be ridiculous, I’m merely stating the facts of life as they pertain to you.”
“It’s Mac.” Allie Kinkaid sighed with a roll of her aqua eyes.
“Mac?” Conners’ brow wrinkled.
“Your sister?” Conners head swung to the door and back, “the Vet?”
“No, my other sister. She made the cake.”
“The Cake?” Connors confusion barely registered because son of a bitch he could not catch a break tonight. Wallace made it to the door a half second too late.the officer guarding it hit the floor, clutching his junk. the cake baking sister calmly stepping over him into the room.
Tall, slender, sleek red hair tied back in a high pony tail, but it was the eyes you never forgot. It was like looking into bottomless pools swirling with secrets.
“Allie,” The woman pushed the rookie aside.
“Lady, you can’t…” The kid protested.
“Shut up.” Wallace cut him off. The kid was an idiot, but he didn’t want him losing his job.
By this time the other officer had gotten up. He started towards the woman now kneeling in front of her sister.
He stepped in front of him, “Stop.”
“She assaulted me.”
“Let it go.”
“Son, if you want any kind of career in law enforcement turn around and get out.”
Something in his eyes must have gotten through. The other man took a step back, “Who the fuck is she?”
“The caterer.” The woman’s voice, dry as a desert and cut through the room, “Get out.”
Then she turned to her sister, and it was like a different person invaded her body. She took the tiny hand that wasn’t holding the coke in her larger ones, “Allie, sweetheart, you okay?”
“Yes, but he’s dead.” The words came out hollow.
“I know honey,” Watching her profile, Wallace saw dark lashes lower in one slow blink. It gave him half a second’s pause, why -he couldn’t say, then patting her hand the woman rose, “Come on, I’m taking you home.”
“Uh, ma’am, we still have some questions.” Connors stepped forward.
“My sister can barely sit up straight.” The woman turned those disturbing eyes on Conners. He watched the officer take an unconscious step back. “She works for the DA and from what I can gather, the man had a heart attack, fell down forty steps, cracked his neck and died. Exactly what else is it you need to know?”
Wallace answered, “Nothing, I’m lead on this and we’re good. If I have any more questions I’ll contact you Miss Kane.”
The dark eyes shot to him, “You know me?”
“I worked for the capitol police.”
Her eyes narrowed on him, searching before giving him a quick nod. He knew he’d passed some kind of test.
Then somebody’s cell phone went off. Turned out to be Kane’s. She pulled it from her back pocket and checked the number, promptly muttered an “Oh shit,” pinched the bridge of her nose, and put the phone to her ear, “What?”
There was a brief silence and then Alex Kane exploded, doing a one-eighty leap in the air she came down and bellowed, “Are you fucking serious? Dammit Lena, can you go a week without getting arrested? I mean… shit.”
Conners took a step another back.
Detective Wallace slid her a polite but curious look, “Um, Lena’s my sister.” She explained, breathing a sigh of relief. Thank Goodness for her twin’s tendency to enrage law enforcement. Mac would be tied up the rest of the night.
“Ah, right” he nodded, “The private detective.”
“Just how many sisters do you have?” Officer Conners asked. She had that dazed and confused look Allie had seen on the face of numerous police officers over the years.
“Just the three, but they…um…. I mean we stay busy.”
“Yeah, funny how it’s never your fault.” Mac snarled into the phone, raking her hand through her hair and spewing forth a string of creative curses when she hit her ponytail, “Yeah, yeah, dammit, I’m on the way. I’m still at the Jefferson. You’re not the only one dealing with a dead body….. No, it’s all good I’ll explain when I get there.” She disconnected and turned to her. “I’ve got to go bail Lena out of podunk jail.”
Allie winced. Lena in some dinky town’s jail cell was a recipe for disaster. “Where?”
“Hell if I know,” Mckenna’s hand got stuck in her ponytail again, “Somewhere around Mckinney.”
“Oh, Mac that’s not good.” Good old boy, podunk, that was tsunami bad.
“I know, I know,” Mac knelt in front of her again, “You going to be okay?”
“Yes, really I’m fine” Allie put on her best guileless smile.
“You can’t drive.”
“But…” She bristled. She was so tired of being treated like a fragile flower. You’d think Christy would get that, she was the baby, but no, it had always been her.
“No, absolutely not.” Mckenna shook her head, “You know it’s not safe sweetheart. There was blood.”
She gave in. The sight of blood did strange things to her, it always had. She could collapse as much as an hour later.
“We’ll get her home safely ma’am.” The younger man’s eyes raked over her. She looked away from what she saw in those eyes. She’d been seeing it since she was fourteen. It made her skin crawl now as it had then.
McKenna shot to her feet, “You so much as breathe my sister’s air, I’ll slice your balls off and set them on fire.”
Oh, for the love of the Goddess. Between Mac, Lena, and Gavin, it was a wonder she ever got a date. They were constantly threatening men on her behalf. Slicing things was Mac’s obsession. If she had delivered on all the threats she’d made over the years, the Richmond Symphony Orchestra would be overloaded with sopranos.
“Excuse me,” A man with silver at his temples and a Jefferson uniform entered the room. The head concierge, Gregory. Allie pulled up the information in her mind. He and his husband were Richmond natives. They had a home in the fan and had just recently renovated. Tucker, his husband had broken an arm when he fell off a ladder.
“Miss Kinkaid, we had a last minute cancelation, one of our deluxe suites. We would be happy to have you stay overnight with our compliments.”
“Oh, thank-you that’s so generous,” Allie sent him a sincere smile of gratitude, “I’d love to.”
Mac gave her one of her assessing looks, “If that’s what you want to do…”
“Yes, I think I’d like the quiet.”
It was the right thing to say. The cloud of worry left her sister’s eyes, “Well, I can’t blame you for that.” Mac more than anyone knew the two side by side townhouses she and her sisters called home were seldom ever quiet. Christy would pepper her with questions as soon as she walked in the door, and Goddess only knew what trouble was brewing with Lena.
“Quiet,” Mckenna murmured the word reverently, then with a wry grin, “Smart move, sis. I think I’m jealous.”
Allie squeezed her hand, “Be careful Mac.”
“Always.” She assured her. And with a final threatening look to the officers, Mckenna left, muttering under her breath about New Year’s Eve and no way was she kissing a corpse at midnight.
Allie released the breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding.
Within moments, she was on her way to her suite on the arm of Roger, one of the bellhops. Detective Wallace had wanted to escort her, but she insisted he get home to his wife. She knew Roger from her previous stays at the hotel and trusted him. Dark skinned, greying hair, kind eyes. The information came without her even having to reach. He’d been married 11 years. His wife Alma taught fifth grade. They had two children Warren, twelve, loved music and played the violin and Jacob, seven, a soccer player goalie.
“How are the boys?”
“They’re as good as boys can be.” He grinned down at her, punching the button for her floor and the close elevator option before any of the curious people nearby could join them. Things had begun to get back to normal in the grand foyer. Revelers once again ringing in the New Year.
“And your wife? Didn’t you tell me she’d changed schools this year?”
“Yes ma’am, she did, really enjoys it too. Closer to home.” He smiled down at her as they stepped off the elevator, “I can’t believe you remembered.”
Allie remembered everything. Always. Perfectly. The Senator’s neck flashed in front of her mind, white bone and mangled flesh and red – oozing into the carpet. Her vision went gray.
“Here we are.” Roger’s voice came from far away. He opened the door. She walked through and turned immediately.
“Thank-you Roger.” She smiled at where she thought his face would be.
“Miss Allie, you sure you don’t need a doctor? You’re mighty pale.”
“I’m just tired,” She leaned on the door, “But if you could have a tray of tea sent up, maybe with some toast?” She had to give him something to do. She didn’t have much longer on her feet.
“Be glad to.” The warmth in his words told her he was returning her smile.
“Thank-you Roger. I think I’ll have a bath. So if they could leave it by the door?”
“Sure, sure Miss Allie. You call if you need anything, now.”
She was already shutting the door, “I will.” She offered him her warmest smile.
The door clicked shut right as her knees gave way, but instead of falling to the carpeted floor she was lifted, heat enveloped her. Her head lolled back. The grey fog cleared enough for her to make out dark chocolate eyes, and the most sinfully beautiful voice breathed in her ear, “Hello, Angel.”
He always came to her in her dreams. Dark eyes promising darker pleasures, “Come Angel,” That silken voice tempted, “Come back to me.” She would reach out to touch his beautiful face, but he was always just out of reach. He laughed, breath touched her cheek, “Come now Angel, let me see those lovely eyes.”
No, if she opened her eyes the dream would end and he would be gone She would be alone – again.
“Come Allie,” She shivered when lips brushed her ear, “Let me see you, Cara.”
With a sigh of regret she lifted her lids. Black eyes, dancing with wicked lights met hers, “There you are.”
She raised a leaden hand, touched a sensual mouth, “Are you real?”
Her wrist was caught in a firm but gentle hold, directing her fingers to brush back and forth over his perfectly sculpted lips, “Do I feel real, cara mia?” He smiled against her fingers then took one in his mouth in a quick bite.
“I don’t know.”
“Hmm,” The hand holding her wrist tugged till she rested at the back of his neck. Warm skin and silky hair, her chin was lifted, “Perhaps this will help.”
Dark beauty filled her vision. She felt the touch of lips on hers. She sighed and opened for him. Her mind was muddled, but her body remembered and was eager to be taken. His lips opening hers, his tongue teasing her mouth, and she opened more. A low hungry groan and she was pressed down, softness at her back and solid male heat on top. The mouth sliding over hers his tongue, stroking, searching, claiming. Her body heated. She knew this decadent taste she’d had once before. She gasped, her eyes flew open, her body went stiff.
The mouth lifted. The face hovering over her own was impossibly beautiful, she blinked “Andre?”
“Ah, there you are, Angel.” White teeth flashed in a dangerous, sexy smile.
“What…” Her eyes darted around the room – The Jefferson, yes that was right, but the man in her bed, no that couldn’t be, “What are you doing?” She pushed against his chest. He didn’t budge. Her hands stroked over the fine cloth of his tuxedo feeling the hard man beneath.
“I think I should be asking you that.” His eyes lowered to her mouth. She was laying on the bed, his arm behind her head his upper body covering her. She felt the brush of fingers at her shoulder, out of the corner of her eye she saw him toying with the thin strip of lace of her gown.
“You were very beautiful tonight, Cara.”
Allie blinked again, yes he was here holding her. Questions tripped over themselves in her mind, “How do you…were you …Why… What are you…I don’t …Oh, pooh,” Frustrated, she threw her head back, “I sound like an idiot.”
“A very beautiful idiot.” That one finger at her shoulder moved just slightly so he traced the lace forming the neckline. Such a small touch, and her body heated, “Every man in that hotel wanted you.”
“No…” She didn’t want to think about that.
“Oh yes, I was there.” Those chocolate eyes flickered from lazy sensuality to feral glow, “I watched them. The Senator touched you.” The finger trailed half way down the v-neck and back up in a deceptively casual caress.
Allie tried to not think about that finger raising chills on her sensitive skin, “Did Mac send you? Does she know you’re here?”
“Hmm?” His eyes slid down watching his finger continue to trail down the vee of her gown barely grazing the swell of her breast. Delicious shivers and languid heat slid through her. Her body growing pliant, her breasts suddenly heavy, and oh she was wet. The hand behind her slid into her hair, “Do you torture us on purpose, I wonder.” It was an absent musing whisper.
She tried to shake her head and clear it, but his grip tugged on her hair, at the sting of pain her sex quivered. She ignored her unwanted reaction. Focusing on her question, “Andre.”
His eyes slid up from her breast, “Yes, Angel?”
“Did my sister send you?”
“Ah, no she did not, but she more than likely knows I’m here.” His mouth lifted in half a rueful smile, “That sister of yours knows far too many things.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Neither do I,” His eyes slid back down. Watching that finger trail up and down. No doubt seeing her pebbled nipple as well.
“Andre, you’re not making sense.” She gasped, her traitorous body arching when that finger slid under the lace. Brushing the swell of sensitive flesh.
“Ah, yes Cara, I’m aware.” The finger trailed back up, sliding under the lace and slipping it down, baring her shoulder. She should protest, push him away. She didn’t. Instead, she tilted her head in wanton, welcoming delight as his lips trailed over the flesh he’d bared. She was being seduced – slowly with devastating expertise.
She shivered, his warm lips grazing across her collar bone to hover at the hollow of her throat, “I saw his hand touch those sweet dimples on your back.” She raised a hand to push him away, but didn’t, laying it against his nape and threading her fingers through his glossy black hair. Weak, she was so weak.
“I was going to kill him for that, Cara.” He was nibbling his way back to her shoulder. It took a moment for his words to permeate the sensual fog he wove around her.
“What…what do you mean?”
The world went topsy-turvy. Andre rolled till he lay back on the bead and she lay half atop him. One of his thighs between her legs. Chest to chest breath to breath. His hands slithered down. Liquid heat flowed onto flesh already slick for him, his fingers danced over the dimples he spoke of, “Exactly what I said Cara. I was going to take him outside, snap his neck, and toss him off the balcony.” The casual words slipped almost absently from his sensual mouth.
“What… no..that’s crazy…” She pressed up, bracing her hands on the bed beside his head, looking into the eyes that told her he meant what he said.
“I agree.” The finger traced the dimples slipping just under the lace, “Bring me your mouth, Angel.”
The fingers slipped lower, brushing the upper swells of her bottom, stealing her will, she was quivering with wanting him, so weak her arms would barely hold her, but “No.” She shook her head.
“No?” A wicked smile had his eyes lighting.
“No…” She looked away. He’d have to release her. She didn’t have the will to stop him. Her body was betraying her with every breath she took.
“Why? You want me, Angel.” The hand at the back of her head exerted pressure so their lips brushed, “You smell like sin, Cara. You’re very wet, I think.”
She closed her eyes. It was true. She was drenched in desire for him, “I can’t do this, ” She closed her eyes so he wouldn’t see the pain in them, “Please let me go.” Unbidden, tears slipped from under her lashes.
She heard a low curse, “Dios, I’ve made you cry, again.” The world went topsy-turvy once more and she was alone and cold. So very cold.
He was across the room, raking his hands through his hair, his dark eyes troubled, then those eyes lowered and turned to black flame.
She looked down, “Oh…” The strap of lace he’d pulled from her shoulder had slipped further, causing the gown to gape, exposing her breast. She scrambled from the bed, turning her back, and pulling the lace over her shoulder, “I’m sorry.”
There was a string of cursing from behind her. She heard quick agitated strides away and back, felt something warm envelope her, one of the hotel’s terry robes from the bath. She slid her arms into it and pulled it around her, but when she would have reached for the belt he was already there. His arms closing around her, deftly tying the sash. His hands, strong and elegant, glowed golden against the white cloth. Those hands were equally skilled in both pleasure and death.
“No, I am the one who is sorry, Angel.” She felt his lips brush her temple. Then he was gone, again. She fell down on the edge of the bed watching the fallen angel pace, pinching the bridge of his nose the way Mckenna did when she was frustrated. His chest working, he crossed the room, keeping his back to her and bracing one hand against the wall, he dropped his head and just stood there. Other than his labored breathing the room was silent.
Allie took the time to steal precious moments drinking him in. This beautiful man who had fascinated her since the first time she’d seen him as a girl of sixteen. Seductive, everything about him tempted, from his dark eyes to his sensually perfect mouth. His face so perfect it would be beautiful on any other man, but Andre was too dangerous for beauty. His lean muscular body radiated lethal intent. Well over six feet he stood almost a full foot taller than she did and towered over her even in her four inch heels. She barely got her eyes off his magnificent back in time. He turned and leaned back on the wall next to the mantel, a rueful smile flashing across his face, “I lose all sense around you, cara.”
How she wished that were true. Oh, he wanted her, and while giving in to the heat scorching the air around him would be easy and so very pleasurable. If she let him touch her, gave in to what her body craved, only to have him walk away as he inevitably would. It would break her. The pain would never dim. Her memory wouldn’t let it.
“Angel, if you do not give me a smile, soon. I’m going to start thinking I have hurt you in some way.” The whisper was low, pondering.
He was too perceptive, so like Mckenna, but she’d dealt with with Mac for years. Allie was good at hiding what she didn’t want seen. The key was to give that mind something else to focus on.
She walked to the fireplace flicked the switch by the wall and the gas logs came to life. She stared into the flames, “Senator Marvin has a daughter.”
“Ah, how old?”
“Twelve, Rachel Anne Marvin,” She smiled into the flames, “She hates her name.”
“Most twelve year old girls do.”
“She likes Elvis.”
“Yes, Lilo and Stitch is her favorite Disney Movie.”
“I’ve never heard of it.”
“It’s a newer one. It’s very good. Lots of Elvis tunes.”
“I’ll have to ask my niece about it.” A second of silence then, a somber whisper, “When did it start?”
“When she was six months old, she was admitted to the hospital with a broken collar bone. “When she was two – three broken ribs.” Allie rattled off the medical reports she saw in her head, “At five, she was rushed to the hospital with a punctured lung.”
“Another broken rib?”
“Yes,” She rubbed her arms, the fire too weak to penetrate the frost in her bones, “There was nothing for a long time. Then six months ago, she was rushed to the hospital again, massive internal bleeding, a ruptured spleen, a broken nose.”
She stepped right up to the edge of the hearth, the frost turning her bones to ice. The photos from the hospital records flashing across her eyes. The fire blurred.
“Stop Allie.” The husky whisper came from behind her.
“The mother finally found the courage to leave. She’d been admitted to the hospital many more times than the daughter. Broken jaw, broken arm, fractured wrist, ribs, broken nose….” Her bones were ice, “He was going to get joint custody.”
“Stop Angel.” Warm arms pulled her into a hard warm body, “Sshh…”
She couldn’t stop. The monsters never stopped. Shuddering in the warm embrace of a man who killed as easily as he drew his next breath, she whispered, “It was one of Auntie’s formulas. He was dead before he fell.”
He held an Angel in hands stained with blood. He’d suspected what happened as soon as the senator fell, but to hear the Angel had done the deed. She was too fragile for this. Her heart too tender. Killing would damage something very precious in this woman. He wanted to protect that precious something, that sweet gentle softness. It warmed him when he was halfway across the world up to his elbows in blood.
“Mckenna didn’t know?” He already knew the answer but he wanted the confirmation.
“No,” The husky whisper was followed by a defeated sigh, “I’m sure she knows now, though.”
Oh yes, of that he had no doubt and Mckenna would not be happy. She was obsessive about protecting her sisters, and most especially the one currently shivering in his arms.
He slid one hand from her back and cupped it under her jaw, raising her face to his, “Alliana, I’d like a promise from you….” He began, only to be distracted by her mouth, pouty and plump, a perfect little bow. He had a flash of her sweet body over him that luscious mouth kissing him as she worked her way down his – throat his chest, his stomach, his cock….
He jerked his eyes up before he forgot himself and dragged her to the bed behind them. That wasn’t much better. A man could get lost in those eyes and never find his way out again.
“Andre?” Her hesitant whisper pulled him from his daze, he became aware that the fingers cupping her jaw were not idle, he was stroking the delicate skin where her jaw became her throat. So soft.
It was a supreme exercise of will to still those fingers, he did however, allow them to linger, pulling his mind back to that important point he’d been about to make, “The next time you want someone dead you contact me. I’ll take care of it.”
The Angel dismissed him with little pfft sound, “That’s nutty. You’re never around. You just appear and disappear.”
If only she knew. He’d had eyes on her 24/7, since that night in October when he’d first tasted her. Even before they’d known about the soon to be eliminated threat to her safety. Only his work took him away and when it did, he had eyes on her still. She was becoming an obsession. A sweet, lovely, tempting, torturous obsession, “Not so nutty – logical. I am used to killing and quite adept. You Angel, are not cut out for it.”
She did not care for that. That perfect mouth pursing up, she jerked out of his arms. Crossing the large room to stand beside the baby grand piano in the corner, and wasn’t that ludicrous. Who needed a piano in a hotel suite?
She spun around, crossing her arms over her chest, her delicate chin sticking out. He wanted to bite that chin, “I’m a McGovern.” She announced as if it meant something, and he was certain it did. He’d never been quite able to figure out what exactly, “Just like Auntie and Mckenna and our mother and her mother before her.” Her husky voice sharpened, “I am not a fragile flower….”
The angel had a temper. How…stimulating.
“You’re smiling.” She said as if it were the most heinous crime.
His smile grew, “Am I?”
His smile grew some more, “Are you?”
“Oh, pooh.” The angel stomped one dainty, stiletto clad foot. Standing there in her robe and ball gown. She looked so very beddable, “You are such a….” She struggled for a moment, her beautiful face going red then, flinging one hand in the air, “….man.” An even more heinous crime than his smile apparently.
“Ah, cara you have me there.” A low laugh rumbling out of him, he crossed the room. She backed up till she hit the wall. He kept coming, boxing her in with one hand braced on the wall the other on the piano. Really, the girl had no sense of self-preservation, “You will call me, Allie.”
Laughter, clear as a bell and refreshing as a summer storm fell from those beautiful lips, “Should I just lean out a window and holler?”
“Holler?” His lips tilted at the touch of southern accent. She became more delightful by the second.
At that, she pushed away from the wall, he was sure in an effort to walk away, but as his arms closed around her that wasn’t an option. Ignoring her small, frustrated sound of protest, he slid one arm behind her back the other holding her hip. He found himself regretting his moment of chivalry and that terry cloth robe, “I’ll give you my cell number of course.”
She blinked at him, pulled back slightly tilting her head up. The light caught one of her hair pins, “You have a cell number?”
“Of course, cara.” Unable to resist, he pulled the pin from her hair, then one more. And just as he’d suspected the golden silk tumbled down, a cloud floating just past her shoulders. That delicious mouth popped open on a gasp.
“Ssh..” He slipped his hand under the cloud massaging her nape.
She made another sound, this one a sigh. A pleasured sigh. Her hands gripping the lapels of his jacket. “It looked like it was about to come down.” He lied.
“It’s the style.” She whispered the words into his shoulder.
“So you do torture us on purpose.” Her nape was like satin.
She stiffened, attempting to pull out of his arms again, “I most certainly do not.”
He simply refused to let her go, “No?”
“No,” She tilted her head back, pushing against his chest, “I happen to like pretty dresses.”
“Ah, yes this is a very pretty dress.” He held on. If the angel wanted out of his arms she’d have to ask.
Those vivid aqua eyes that had been haunting him night after endless night narrowed, “There’s nothing wrong with enjoying nice things.”
“Certainly not.” He was enjoying the hell out of all of her very nice things.
“I like pretty clothes and make-up and girlie things. I always have. Auntie says I should be who I am and damn anyone who doesn’t like it.”
“Oh, I like it. I like it very much.”
“Pooh,” She pushed against him again, “Let me go.”
Ah well, he’d held her longer than he should have. He released her, sliding his hand over the top swells of her lovely ass.
She jerked back and shot him a quelling look, “And you have no room to talk.”
Hiding his grin he assumed a politely puzzled expression, “Explain.”
“Please, as if you don’t know how devastating you are.”
“Oh you know sexy, attractive, tempting as the devil, sex on a stick.”
“Sex on a stick?” He leaned against the ludicrous piano, watching her gorgeous ass sway as she walked away from him.
Oh for heaven’s sake, even cocky was sexy on him. She opened the door to the spa bath, but stopped. Giving in to the she-devil whispering in her ear, she tossed a look over her shoulder, “I’m going to take a bath and go to bed,” She slid the terry robe from her shoulders and dropped it to the floor, “You can see yourself out.”
She’d meant to shut herself in the bath, but she’d underestimated Andre’s speed. One second he was leaning lazily on the piano and the next he was behind her, one hand resting lightly, but implacably on her hip, his lips brushing her ear, “Now that, my naughty Angel, was most definitely deliberate.” She felt the feather light stroke of a single finger trailing deliciously slowly down the center of her back, Past her shoulders, and all the way down to the lace and lower. She bit her lip to stop the moan that single ghost of a touch pulled from her. Dear Goddess, he was a master seducer.
“Be careful, sweet. Baiting the tiger is liable to get you eaten.” That ghost of a touch went lower, barely grazing the beginnings of the crease of her bottom. She jerked away with a gasp, but he was already gone. She spun around to see the door to her room closing. And she was alone, He’d left her life as suddenly as he’d entered it.
“I’ll give you my number…Hah!”
She walked into the bath and slammed the door, though he wasn’t around to hear it.
The bath was wonderful. The cream and gold marble – beautiful. The lighting dim and perfect. A fluffy, terry bath-pillow cushioned her head. The lavender bath salts made the water silky and lightly fragrant. The soap in that same lavender decadently creamy, and still she couldn’t relax…and it was all that devil’s fault.
She tried thinking of something else, but that was a total disaster. Andre was too powerful to be shoved to the back of her mind, so when her phone started ringing it was no hardship to leave the tub pull on the terry robe, grab a towel, and head out to the sitting room. When she saw who was calling her heart lightened. Plopping down on the sofa she brought the phone to her ear. She didn’t have time to say hello.
“Oh sweetie, how are you? I saw you faint. It’s all over MSNBC. Rachel and Chris are talking about it now.”
“Jose, it’s so good to hear your voice and I’m fine really.”
“You certainly looked fabulous. Even in a dead faint. Those Minolos are stunning, perfect with that gown. It’s a shame you had to cut the evening short.”
“Yes, but the staff put me in a deluxe suite….”
“Oh, I’m so jealous.” Jose gasped, Allie could picture him clutching his chest, “Those suites are fabulous. If you tell me you picked up a hot hunk of man at that party, I might have to hate you.”
She stuttered out a “No danger in that, and you have your own hunny-bunny.” But she must have hesitated one second too long.
There was a very telling silence and then, “Okay, spill it.”
She tried for innocent ignorance, “Spill what?”
“Whatever it is you’re not spilling. And don’t you dare hang up. I’ll fly out there if I have to, now dish.”
“Um…well…I believe you’ve met Andre’”
The shriek was high, loud, and long. Then the inquisition began, “Tell me everything. EV-ER-EE-THING! Don’t you dare leave out one dirty, delicious detail.”
So she dished, and dished, and dished some more. Jose wouldn’t even hold on long enough for her to change into her complimentary satin pajamas. She had to put him on speaker. It was a relief in a way, being able to talk about what happened. She left out the part about being on the bed, but then slipped up when she mentioned fainting again. Jose hopped on it instantly. Fortunately she got a reprieve in the form of her tea arriving.
Even though she’d asked them to leave it by the door she was grateful for the tap tap and the call out of room-service, “Jose, hold on I have to get my tea.”
“Speaker, missy and don’t stop talking.”
Wow, Mckenna had nothing on Jose. She put the phone on speaker, left it on the coffee table, “I passed out,” she explained walking to the door, “When I woke, I was on the bed….”
“Oh SAH-WEET SUGAR-N-SPICE! Honey, if you didn’t at least get in some heavy petting I’m going to have to commit you.”
She was laughing when she opened the door. Distracted by her memories and Jose’s sense of fun. Lena would be furious at her carelessness she thought as rough hands dragged her from her room. She had time for one short scream before her mouth was covered and she was immersed in darkness.
Andre prowled through the drunken revelers. There was no way he could stay in the Angel’s room knowing she was naked and wet just one thin closed door away. But the further he retreated the more uneasy he became. He’d just turned around to go back when his phone vibrated in his pocket. Very few people had this number, weaving between a drunk man and his tipsy much younger companion, he pulled it out, checked the number, and ice settled in his spine, “What?”
“Allie’s in trouble.” The clipped voice wasted no words.
“Fuck.” He’d known something wasn’t right. He’d been feeling it all night. And he’d left her. He headed for the stairwell, “Tell me.”
“Jose was on the phone. Room service came to the door she answered it. He heard her scream. Then nothing.”
“I see.” He put the phone on speaker and pulled the app that he’d had designed. A little red dot of light was still and seemingly right on top of him. Shit, figuring out which floor she was on was going to be difficult.
“What do you need?”
“As it turns out nothing. I have the means to track her.”
“Yes.” An astute and accurate deduction. The man didn’t make all that money by accident.
“Doesn’t she have to activate it?”
“Ah …no…” He’d found a way around that little problem.
Silence then, “Does Mckenna know you can track them with McIntyre’s chip?” Grey referred to the powerful tracking device all the sisters wore buried in a locket that housed a photograph of their deceased mother.
“Believe it or not, I don’t think she’s ever put that together. I would appreciate discretion in this matter.”
“Just get her back.”
“Oh, I will. I assure you.” He disconnected and the dashes of sound started. The best indicator of how close he was to his quarry. The more he climbed the closer together the dashes came, and the closer he got to is Angel. It wasn’t until he stood in front of her door he remembered the perfection of her silky throat, bare and unadorned. Cursing his own stupid male lust, he slid the key-card in and pushed the door open. On a table by the door was a tiny beaded bag. Opening it, he dumped the contents and there along with a lipstick and a tiny mirror was the Angel’s locket. For the first time in years Andre felt real fear grip his chest.
He spun and had the man who’d come through the open door against the wall a knife at his throat. Recognizing him as the one who’d walked Allie to her door, he loosened his hold, but not by much, “Miss Kinkaid has been abducted. We have very little time.”
The man’s eyes narrowed, “Well then you best be getting that knife outta my neck and let me help you. I know every inch of this hotel.”
Andre stepped back, lowering the knife, “They’ll want to avoid being seen.”
“Service Elevator to the basement parking deck. It’s isolated, deliveries and employees only.” The man Allie had called Roger was already leading him from the room and down the hall, pulling his radio from his belt, “Calvin, Miss Allie’s been abducted. We need men at all the exits.” He looked at Andre with competent, serious eyes, “Cops out of the loop?”
“No cops. Cover the exits. Stall and call.” He led him to the stairs, “I’m assuming you want to go in quiet.”
“That would be best.”
“We’ll go through the laundry room. The whole deck can be seen from that door including the elevator.” He pushed the door open to the stairwell, taking the stairs with an agility incongruous with his age.
“You’re taking an awful lot on my word.” Andre called above the hollow pounding of their feet.
“No sir.” Roger shook his head, but kept his pace, “We been keepin’ a close eye on Miss Allie. She’s a regular here, likes to come for tea. Stays overnight at least once a month. Her sister, Miss Mckenna said there was some bad men after her. Said she was bein’ watched for her protection and if a Latino lookin’ too pretty to be real asks for help, we do exactly as he says cause it’d mean Miss Allie’d be in bad trouble.”
“Ah, yes,” He should have foreseen that one. Mckenna left nothing to chance. Then Roger’s last words registered, “Too pretty to be real?”
“Uh, yes sir. That’s what Miss Mckenna said. Fit you perfect, too. Knew who you were the minute we saw you at the party downstairs.”
Holy Christ! “You made me?” No one made him.
“We don’t miss much.” Roger leaped over the last two steps and shoved the door open to the laundry room.
“Apparently not.” Andre muttered under his breath, sufficiently humbled, “Too pretty to be real…” His derisive snort had him choking on a lungful of steam.
She was dumped onto a chair her hands tied behind her but her legs were free. The hood was lifted from her head She looked into muddy-brown eyes, flat eyes. Eyes that told her this person had long ago ceased to care about any harm he might cause, if he ever did.
When he rose to his full height it was well over six feet, and had muscles on muscles. A mercenary – in a tuxedo. After this was over she would find that ironically funny. She would laugh about it with Jose over the phone tomorrow. She held onto that thought.
“You’re a pretty one.”
“You’re welcome.” The only indication she’d surprised him was a twitch of his left cheek.
Yes, well polite was her stress response. Mac got quiet when nervous. Christy stammered and fidgeted. Lena turned aggressive, no surprise there, but she became Miss Manners. This thoroughly disgusted her twin, “I mean, who turns into Martha fucking Stewart when they’re nervous.” She’d ranted more times than Allie could count, “It’s freaky.”
“How much is he paying you?” She had no doubt it was Thresher who was behind this. The monster who wouldn’t die.
“A lot.” He turned away, going to the window.
“I’m sorry, but you won’t live to spend it.”
“You don’t think so?”
“No….” She shook her head, “How many of you are there?”
“I don’t suppose I could have some water?”
He snorted, but crossed the room to the bathroom. She took the few seconds to asses her surroundings. A standard single room with a king sized bed. Those were on the opposite side of the hotel from the deluxe suites. Same floor though, they hadn’t taken stairs or an elevator. He brought her one of those small hotel glasses. He leaned over her his chest pressing into her to untie her hands, but paused, “You smell good.”
He straightened, setting her glass of water carelessly on the bed where it tipped over, his eyes wandering to her chest. And Allie knew what was coming.
“Thresher wouldn’t want me touched.” He’d want her for himself. The man had to know that.
“Yeah, well he won’t know.” His hand came out.
Allie closed her eyes, pushing herself back in the chair. Choking on fear and bile when she felt that hand, hot and eager, touching her breast through the thin satin. Revulsion shaking her, she prayed to go somewhere else in her mind, but unlike Mckenna she couldn’t lose herself in the past. She felt his hands sliding inside her top pushing it open, “Don’t, please don’t.” The words came out stilted and small.
“I’m not gonna hurt you.” He squeezed and pinched, fondling her. She squeezed her eyes closed and tried to think of a way out, but panic was shutting her mind down. His grunts and breathing the only sounds in the room echoed in her mind pushing out thought. She bit down on the inside of her cheek to keep from crying out. The tears she could do nothing about.
He stepped back. She breathed a relieved sigh, but then she heard the slide of a zipper going down, felt hands at her waist, parting the loose fabric under the tie belt, chill air touched her breasts, her nipples pebbled. Dear Goddess this couldn’t be happening. She fingered the ruby ring on her right ring finger, stroking it over and over, focusing on the feeling of the stone under her thumb, trying to calm her mind enough to think.
“Damn, those are the prettiest tits.” She heard the sounds of him touching himself, his breathing growing heavier, his grunts faster, and humiliating as it was, Allie prayed this was all he would do and squeezed her eyes tightly shut so she wouldn’t have the disgusting image in her mind for the rest of her life.
The sound of the door opening had her eyes flying open and the man jumping back. Another dangerous man in a tuxedo entered the room. Assessing the situation in less than a second, he crossed over to her and closed her top. He wasn’t gentle, but his hands didn’t linger. Dizzying relief hit her system and in its wake – chills. Starting at the top of her head and racing down her body to her frozen toes, intense heavy waves that had her teeth chattering. She hated this particular genetic quirk she and Mckenna shared, erratic volatile spikes in adrenaline that left her shattered, weak, and bone-numbingly cold.
She sat and shivered in relieved misery while the second man rounded on her attacker, “What the fuck do you think you’re doing, Abe?”
The question had the ring of authority. As did his bearing and the intelligence in his pale eyes. He wasn’t as large as Abe, but he had the other man sweating.
“Nothin,’ I wasn’t doing anything.”
“Shit,” He tossed his head towards the bathroom, “Go zip yourself up, and wash your fucking hands.”
Abe nodded and disappeared into the bathroom.
Those pale eyes turned on her, “Did he touch you?”
With a silent nod, he went and tapped on the bathroom door, his other hand reaching into his coat, “Hurry up in there.” As soon as the door was opened, the gun went off. There was no scream, no plead for mercy, not even the crack of gunfire. Nothing. Just the sickening fleshy sound that told her Abe was no longer a person. It was now a body.
“Guy never could keep it in his pants.” The man slid his gun back into his jacket, “Dumb-ass.”
“Oh…Goddess.” Her gaze drifted from her savior to the red seeping from Abe’s chest. Her lips went numb. Spots swam before her eyes. Sweat broke out over her chilled skin. She was drowning in cold.
“Right, no blood.” Her savior shut the door, “Yeah, he mentioned that about you.” The man gave her an appraising look, “You in shock?”
“I don’t think so.” She stuttered though chattering teeth, and honestly, what kind of question was that? If a person was going into shock they wouldn’t be the most reliable source of information on the matter. Her savior was a blooming idiot.
“Looks like it.” The idiot concluded. “You need to warm up,” He went to the little cash bar and picked up one of those little bottles. Bringing it over he dropped behind her, “I’m going to untie your hands,”
“Thank-you.” She stuttered. Still polite. A nervous giggle bubbled in her throat. She was sinking fast.
A grunt as he went behind her cutting the plastic cuff loose. “Shit! What the….?”
He jumped back, sucking on his thumb, “You cut me.”
“Oh… um” She blinked up at him, widening her eyes, “It was my ring…one of the prongs is bent.”
He grunted and handed her the tiny bottle “Here.”
She dutifully sipped. She hated whisky, but the fire raced down her throat, warming her and clearing her head. She watched the man pacing the room, his phone at his ear, “I need clean-up. Abe’s dead. Guy couldn’t follow orders. We’re moving.” Disconnecting, he slid the phone his opposite pocket and faced her, “You can cooperate or I can knock you out.”
How nice of him to give her choices. A considerate blooming idiot.“I’ll cooperate.”
“We’re walking out of here.” He took her by the arm, pulling her from the chair, “If you see anyone, don’t ask for help. You’ll just get them killed. Understand?”
“Yes.” An evil, considerate, blooming idiot. “I’m in my pajamas. Won’t that draw attention?” She babbled, stalling for time, which was much easier when she had her sisters around. She and Lena once held off a gunman for fifteen minutes arguing over a sweater. Solo though was a different matter.
“We’re taking the service elevator.” He tugged her to the door. Pausing to check the hallway.
“Oh…um..I need to use the restroom.”
“Abe’s got blood all over him,” He pulled her out and into the empty hallway, “And you’re stalling.”
“Won’t do any good.”
Well beggars couldn’t be choosers. Stalling was all she had and time was all she needed, but he was propelling her down the deserted hall, and much too quickly he pushed her into the elevator, hitting the “PDB” button.
“Is he here?” She asked, huddling in the corner, her arms wrapped tightly around her middle to hold heat. Her bare feet felt like solid blocks of ice.
“Of course not.” Thresher was brilliant and a coward. He’d never expose himself, “You know he sells children.”
She thought she saw a tic in the man’s stubbled jaw, “Not my problem.”
“Do you have children?”
“Good.” Allie would hate the idea of taking a father from a child. She had no memory of her own.
The elevator stopped, the doors slid open, and Allie’s heart sank. Three large men, all in tuxedos. Her captor pulled her out into the frigid exhaust filled air of the basement parking deck.
“Shit, no wonder he wants her.” The giant in the middle reached out, his hand going for her hair.
“Abe just died for touching her,” Her captor’s words were a barren statement of fact that ended with an equally bland question, “You want to be next?”
“Fine man. Whatever.” The middle-man raised both hands, stepped back, and Allie saw a hole appear in his forehead. He fell to the ground. His open eyes blank.
Andre. More relief poured through her, more chills raced behind it. The men around her scrambled, dropping low and pulling her down. One of the men slapping the call button. cursing when the doors failed to open. Her captor was on his phone screaming for someone to bring the car. That was when she noticed the black car idling in the middle of the lot.
“We’ve got to move.” One of the men shouted from behind her,”Why isn’t Walt bringing the car?”
“He’s dead most likely.” Her captor called back, “The shot came from behind us on the right. He’s taking head shots.” Then grabbing her by her hair pulling her up to block his body, “Who the fuck is out there?”
“I…I don’t know…” She stammered, her eyes tearing at the intense pain shooting from her scalp. And honestly this was no time for an inquisition.
He cursed, yanking her up and pushing her forward, “Let’s go,”
Then it was all pounding feet and random shouts. As desperate men raced to escape death. A punching shove in the middle of her back, “Run you stupid cun….” The insult died as another man thudded to the ground.
And then there were two…. the random string of memory chanted in her mind, as the black car got closer. They were mere feet away when, unbelievably, it took off. The men just stood there watching it drive away. Their shocked stupor only lasted only a second, but in that second the third man fell and then it was back down to Allie and her blooming idiot.
“Shit,” Her jailer ducked behind her, pulling them both back against the wall of the parking deck, shoving a gun to her temple, “I’ll kill her.”
She rolled her eyes at the predictable words. Although, to be fair, what else could he say?
“Will you?” The casually curious question came from beside them. The man spun her around and there he was, Andre Torrill, looking perfect in his tuxedo, leaning casually against the wall. He wasn’t even looking at them, His eyes on the twirling a silver blade he propelled between his fingers, almost too fast to follow. Dear Goddess, he was magnificent.
“That was impressive.” Her captor’s voice shook as now he stalled for time. She allowed herself a little vindictive glee.
“It was nothing,” Black eyes flicked up briefly. The blade never stopped moving, “Are you hurt?”
“Did he touch you?”
“Not this one.”
The blade froze between the third and fourth knuckle. Andre slowly raised his head and what she saw in those black eyes was truly terrifying, because there was nothing there. She stared into a void, an eternity of empty darkness. Then, his voice cold as an empty grave, “Who touched you, Alliana?”
“He’s dead.” The man answered, his voice shaking, “I killed him.”
“Ah, well, that I cannot forgive.” Her captor stiffened behind her, likely not the reaction he was expecting, “You took my kill.” The blade was moving again, rolling over the hand in rapid hypnotic swirl of silver and light, “I would have made him suffer, you see.” A careless shrug of one elegant shoulder, “I suppose I’ll have to make do with you.”
Her captor’s body went rigid. At first she thought it was a reaction to Andre, but then the gun fell from her temple. She jumped, spinning around at the echo of it clattering to the cement floor and watched as the man who’d saved her from a rape only to be ready to deliver her to a monster slid down the wall. The death rattle gurgling from his throat magnified in the hollow space. For a fleeting moment terror filled his eyes, then- nothing.
Staring at the empty shell that seconds ago had been a living soul, Allie rubbed her arms against the cold consuming her. She felt as if her body were turning to ice from the inside out. Vaguely it registered that Mckenna would be pleased. She liked the monsters to die afraid. Christy though, would not be. She absently rubbed her thumb over her ring. The toxin took way too long to kill him. It then registered that she noted these things with a strange detachment. Hmm, was she going into shock? Had she ever been in shock before? She couldn’t recall. What was shock anyway? She just wanted to get warm and get the car exhaust out of her hair.
Delicious heat at her back chased away the chill. Sandalwood and spice chased away the smell of exhaust. Hands gripped her shoulders, turning her and backing her against the wall, all that delicious heat surrounding her. Then a ragged whisper at her ear, “You never take off the necklace, you little fool. Never.”
The harsh words were tempered by warm male lips skating over her cheek. Desperate kisses tasting of fear, traveled over her face and down her jaw. Shaking restless hands roved up and down her hips, her arms, her back, touching her everywhere at once, obliterating her detached numbness.
Andre’ buried his face in her throat, tugging her roughly up against his very hard, very hot male body, “Never.”
“I’m sorry.” She whispered, sliding her hands into his silky hair and snuggling into all that blessed heat.
“Miss Allie, you okay?” She looked up to see Roger emerge from the black car that had pulled away.
“Yes…Roger..I’m oh…” She was lifted off the ground and held against Andre’s chest. Then she was being carried back to the elevator. Roger following.
“Where are we going?” She linked her hands behind his neck.
“Back to your room.” He stepped into the elevator. Roger following and pushing the button for her floor.
She sighed into his neck. He was like a furnace and she hated being cold. And she may have breathed extra deep so she could inhale his delicious smell and yes her lips could have possibly brushed his yummy masculine throat when she asked, “Is it safe?”
A low curse, then, “Look at me, Angel.”
Reluctantly, she lifted her head from his wonderfully warm neck… and was caught in eyes of glittering obsidian. He lowered his head until they were nose to nose, until she was drowning in black fire. His silky hair brushed her brow. His lips teased her mouth. And then slowly, carefully enunciating word, his whisky and sin whisper scorching her down to her toes, “You. Are. Always. Safe. With. Me.”
She was safe. He’d gotten to her in time. Her body shaking so badly he’d have been terrified if he hadn’t seen the exact thing before. Mckenna exhibited the same symptoms. He’d seen it a number of times over the years. Still, seeing the tiny woman in his arms shaking so violently, her face ashen, her lips blue, her skin icy to the touch had him wishing he could kill every one of the bastards again, much more slowly and a great deal more painfully.
He carried her all the way into the bath pausing only long enough to give Roger instructions about keeping the deck clear until he could have the bodies removed.
“No problem, I’ve already quarantined it.” Roger said, “Seems somebody in the laundry room mixed ammonia and bleach. The fumes are poisonous you know.”
“Yes, I believe I’ve heard that.” Andre felt his lips twitch. It wasn’t often people surprised him. Roger had been one surprise after another.
“Happens sometimes with new folks.” Roger shrugged, then his concerned gaze rested on the Angel in his arms. “Miss Allie I’m gonna get you some of that crème de chocolate you like so much. That should warm you right up.”
His angel tried to say thank-you but her teeth were chattering too hard. If he didn’t get her warm he was in serious danger of losing his sanity.
Reaching into the shower, he turned it on, adjusting the temperature. He then walked right into it. the Angel gasped and stuttered something about his tuxedo.
“Shush.” He sat her on the built in marble bench, rubbing her arms roughly to get her blood flowing, “You need to warm up. Can you sit here on your own?”
She nodded. He stepped out of the shower and started the water running in the bath. The shower would warm her up enough so that the hot bath wouldn’t feel scalding.
While the water ran he called Grey who answered with a terse, “Well?”
“I’ve got her. She’s unharmed. The men are dead.”
“Good. This was Thresher?
“I’m contacting Welch. I’ll follow up tomorrow. This needs to end.” And the line disconnected. The man didn’t waste words.
His second call was to Mckenna.
“Andre, what is it? Is she safe? I got a crazy message from Jose…”
“Thresher tried to take her.”
“Goddess be damned! I’m going to destroy that fucker one fucking piece at a time!” A fond smile lifted the corner of his mouth. Mckenna did have an affinity for slicing things up, a surprisingly endearing quality. “Is she alright? Shit, I knew I shouldn’t have left. I had a bad feeling.”
“What is it?” He heard the hellion in the background, “Dammit Mac you told me the Senator was no big deal…”
“It’s not about the Senator. Thresher tried to take her.” This set off a string of violent cursing, dire threats and demands to know what the fuck happened, “She’s fine.” Mckenna shouted oer the girl’s graphic description of just how she would snap the man’s dick off and make him fucking eat it, “Andre’s got her.”
“WHAT?” The hellion stopped her cursing mid-fucking fuck, only to spout out more, “What the fuck is that kinky fucker doing to her?”
The hellion was not his biggest fan.
“Hell’s Nine Bells, Lena, get off me.” He heard grunt and the hellion’s distant sulky, “Snarky bitch.”
“Alliana’s safe.” He jumped into what he knew would be only a temporary lull, “The men who tried to take her are dead. I’ll have her call you when she’s feeling better.”
“Get her into a hot bath.” Mckenna instructed, “And get them to bring up that hot chocolate she likes.”
“Good, yes. Okay. We’re kind of busy here…” He heard indistinct grumbling, then, “Oh for fuck’s sake, no he didn’t leave any of them alive for you. Just how many bodies do you want to have to dump in one night? Stop sulking and get your damn end. Sheesh, why is it the assholes who take a break from wailing on women to run into the bullet that just happens to be leaving the gun you’re holding are never, never short and scrawny.”
Ah yes, the girls would be occupied all night.
“You’ll stay with her?” Mckenna was back to him.
“Of course.” He hung up and turned to see his Angel standing just outside the still running shower – shivering.
“What are you doing?” He grabbed one of the fluffy towels from the rack and wrapped it around her delectable quaking body.”
“I wanted to talk to Mac.” The words came out stuttering, barely comprehensible.
“You can talk to her tomorrow. Right now, you will get in the tub and warm up.” The sight of her miserable and freezing, knowing it was his own negligence that brought her to this state was ripping away at his sanity. He wanted her in the tub surrounded by bubbles, drinking cocoa, and sighing in bliss. Pampered and indulged. And somehow he would stay on the other side of the door.
“You need to get these off.” He left the towel hanging on her shoulders, his hands going to the tie holding the top closed. The Angel stuttered a protest and grabbed the knot. He merely reached in his coat pocket, pulled out a short silver blade. One quick slice on either side of the knot and the sash fell away in pieces. He went to push the top from her shoulders.
“What are you doing? Stop it…” Her shaking hands held the fabric when he tried to push the top from her shoulders.
“I’m getting you in that tub. You’re freezing.” He almost promised not to look, but that would not only be a lie, but an insult to the Angel’s intelligence.
“Andre Torrill you get out of this bath.” Her words became much clearer as her temper flared, “I can take my own clothes off, thank you very much.”
“Can you?” He asked absently, reaching around to the back of her neck he pushed the towel off her shoulders, gripped the top at the collar and pulled it away from her body
“Yes…” She tried to jerk away from him.
His hands were occupied so he indulged himself by nipping the lobe of her ear, “Hold still…” Her split second of shock was all he needed. He flicked the blade around in his hand, touching it to the collar and tugged. The knife sliced through the thin fabric in less than a second. It hung off her shoulders in two pieces.
A small feminine squeal of outrage had a swelling effect on his already rising erection. Grimly ignoring the growing discomfort in his pants, he pulled the damp fabric off her back, but ran into resistance in the form of two dainty hands holding the fabric to her breasts, “How dare you? Get out of here, now.”
Affording himself only the briefest glance down, seeing a pebbled nipple and a plump of sweet flesh pressing through her spread fingers covered only by that thin film of blue. He was so close, it would be nothing to lean down and bite and suck right through that fabric.
He forced his eyes back up to her flushed, outraged, beautiful face, “Not until you are in that tub, Angel.”
“Fine.” With an enraged toss of her head, she spun around. He was treated to the mouth-watering view of her perfect ass covered in thin wet satin, clinging to her like a second skin. So mesmerized by the sight, he failed to see what sailed through the air at him until it slapped him across his face and stuck, and his view was obstructed by the wet blue veil. He peeled it away to see his Angel glaring at him, eyes flashing, cheeks gone vivid red in anger. Holding the mate to the piece of her top she’d slung at him over her luscious breasts, her arm outstretched, her dainty hand pointing at the door, “OUT!”
Holy God, the sight would send a man to his knees. His nearly buckled, “Very well, Angel.” The words were rough, but he was impressed he could form words at all, “Enjoy your bath.” He left the room before he jumped in the water and devoured her. Tuxedo be damned.
“How is she?” The gruff voice on the phone demanded. As much as he hated making the call. The oaf would be storming the gates if he wasn’t informed.
“She is well, but chilled. She’s in a hot bath.
“Where the fuck are you?”
“I’m in her room. It was when I left that they took her.” He reminded the man They had formed an uneasy alliance over the years. Each understanding the other was too useful when it came to protecting what they both cared about to kill.
“I’ll be there in the morning. Keep your hands off her.”
“My hands are none of your concern. Your concern are the five bodies that need immediate disposal.”
He disconnected. McIntyre had many contacts in this city. Disposing of five bodies would be no problem. Neanderthals had their uses.
Once off the phone, his eyes strayed to that closed door, his feet followed. If he were very still and quiet he could hear the sensual sounds of a woman in her bath. The trickles of water, the contented sighs, the gentle slosh of a slick body moving. He could picture her raising a leg… soaping an arm…
He was tugging his coat off his suddenly heated skin, when the knock on the door came.
Three raps, “It’s Roger Miss Allie,” followed by two more taps. Roger took instructions well.
Andre opened the door and stepped back, his eyes wide at what waited in the hallway behind Roger. It seemed everyone at the Hotel Jefferson was on board with pampering the Angel. Roger pushed the first linen covered cart. Three more followed.
The first cart held a pot of cocoa and some of what Roger called “Miss Allie’s favorites.” A variety of tiny sandwiches and cakes. The second cart was loaded with tall crystal vases of white roses. As the man placed them around the room, Andre saw each of the vases was subtly different. In one the white roses were tinted with delicate pink that became deep pink on the edges, in another the white was slightly green. Still another held roses of delicate ivory that reminded Andre of the Angel’s skin. And the final vase, set in the place of honor atop the grand piano held roses of purest white edged with vivid blood red. “Fire and Ice” The man told him proudly. “Very rare. Miss Allie’s favorite.”
The remaining two carts were laden with white terry cloth pajamas, slippers, and another robe. And a delicate blue and white cloth covered box filled with bath products and candles. The candles got set around the room and lit. The single female in the room had tapped on the door and delivered the pajamas slippers and robe. Softly scented steam had drifted through the cracked door and he imagined he heard the sound of a woman rising from the bath. He pulled his tie loose and tore open the buttons at his throat, then yanked out his cufflinks set about rolling up the sleeves.
The last item to be placed in the room was a plush ivory throw. Roger fluffed it out laying on the sofa.
“It’s cashmere. Miss Allie gets chilled.” He explained.
“Yes, she does.” And he was about to burn alive. After seeing the four out of the room he crossed to the balcony, slid the door open and stepped into the night breathing deep of the chill air in an effort to cool the rush of blood going to every part of his body, and most notably south.
Having done anything and everything anyone could possibly do in a bath room. Allie covered herself in an abundance of terrycloth and bravely opened the door. It would be fine. She was an adult. Yes, he was tempting as the devil, but she could resist. And though he wanted her she knew he’d never attempt to seduce her after what she’d endured tonight. Why that thought made her feel weepy, she wouldn’t allow herself to ponder.
She bravely opened the door and walked out…and… “Oh, how…wonderful.”
The room was beautiful already, but now it was an overabundance of luxury. Gratitude and affection for Roger and the staff clogged her throat. They were always kind and treated her well, but this was over the top. She wandered over to the coffee table, where a vase of roses had been placed and touched her finger to a single ivory bloom, “It’s like I’ve been visited by the fairies.”
“From what I’ve heard, fairies are vicious spiteful creatures. If they visited they would no doubt kill you in a jealous rage.”
She spun around and choked on her tongue, “Oh…dear…”
Oh, the man was just evil. His hair was tossed, his tuxedo jacket gone sleeves rolled up, tie gone, and at least three buttons open. That was just too much succulent golden….male…
She wanted to nuzzle the shirt aside and take a bite out of him, right where his shoulder became his chest.
“Something wrong, Angel.”
Her eyes popped up. Wicked humor danced in his eyes, though his face was perfectly blank. The menace, “No,” She choked out, giving him her back, “Nothing at all.”
She concentrated very hard on the pot of chocolate in front of her. Picking up the pot and carefully pouring out the rich steaming cocoa, lifting the cup and saucer, inhaling the chocolate.
“It’s only fair, Angel.” The dark whisper came from right behind her. She’d have dropped the cup had he not reached out to steady her hand. And those layers of terry cloth might as well have been gossamer wings left behind by the fairies.
Warm breath tickled her ear, “That you suffer a little of the torture you cause me to endure every waking moment.”
The ridiculousness of that statement gave her the strength to pull away. She crossed to the sofa plopped down and cupped her chocolate in both hands, “You didn’t even know I existed until October.”
“You don’t think so?” He tilted his head, smiling.
And it occurred to her she might sound a little bit petulant. Oh that wouldn’t do, she shrugged and sipped her cocoa.
“Why is that I wonder?” She felt him approach and tugged the throw over her. More armor. He sat down beside her and reached into a box filled with bath products, “You, my sweet Angel are very difficult to overlook. I overlook nothing. So why is it I overlooked you?”
The question in that thoughtful tone had her glancing his way. He was serious, “You were focused on Mckenna.”
“True.” He rummaged through the box and came back with a silver brush.
“Do you love her still?”
She did not just ask the question she swore she never would. Oh Dear Goddess, she should never open her mouth after midnight. She lost any semblance of a filter when she was tired.
“I’m sorry.” A shaking hand, settled the cocoa cup on its saucer, “Please forget I asked that….”
She whispered, staring at the chocolate in her cup, knowing she’d never forget. Never. Nor would she be able to forget his answer….
Oh don’t answer. Don’t…
“I will always love your sister…..”
Allie sat still. So very still. She breathed in and then out. She sipped her cocoa, placed the cup back on the saucer. While inside, her heart broke, cracked into pieces. Pain radiated out to every cell in her body, filling her up, till she was choking on it. Dear Goddess, how could something that was not physical cause such agony? And how could she be sitting here still and silent, not dying. Not wailing like the wounded animals she’d seen in her sister’s shelter, curled in on herself in abject misery.
“Though not in the way a man loves a woman, not in that way, no.” The quiet words came to her from far away. Seeping into her consciousness, gently lifting her to the surface of her raging sea of heartbreak. She became aware of a hand tugging the towel from her head, spilling her damp hair on her shoulders. “Do you know what your sister said to me that October morning?”
Allie blinked at the silver brush in his hand as he motioned for her to turn. Numb from pain that had turned to shock, she did as he asked.
“That brilliant girl told me I loved her because I knew she could never love me back. She was safe.”
Allie’s oh of understanding turned to a moan of pleasure at the slide of the brush through her hair. “Now you, my Angel, are not safe at all.” Andre’s lips brushed her ear, the sensual slide of the brush pulling her head back, “You are most definitely 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.”
He stared at the man he’d just cut down. Walter, the driver had been hanging from the ceiling in this old tobacco warehouse for the last two hours as Andre asked for any and all information the man might have about Thresher. It was his experience the man who drove the car heard a lot. So he’d let Walter live for a while. It had paid off.
“Shit, what the fuck? You killed him?”
Andre pulled the bloody surgical gloves from his hands, tossing them onto the plastic where the body lay. He assumed the question needed no answer since obviously the man was dead.
The giant oaf who held Mckenna’s heart stomped up next to him, careful not to step on the sheet of plastic that had caught the various fluids Walter had expelled during their conversation, “Did you get anything?”
“Thresher hired them.” He shrugged out of the plastic coat that had protected his clothing and tossed it on the body, “They were a team, had worked together before. Usual progression. Military. Private Contractors. Mercenaries. They were to deliver her to a private airfield in Buckingham County. The plane took off an hour ago.”
“Thresher was on it.”
“Shit, he’s in the country.”
“Not only that, Walter said the man has property in the state.”
“Fuck!” McIntyre cursed and stared down at the body like he wanted to kill him all over again. Andre knew that feeling. It was frustrating at times that a killing blow could only be delivered once.
“The man who ran this op didn’t care for Thresher. Thought he was obsessed, but the money was very good.” Andre shrugged, “Greed is so often the downfall of men.”
“Whatever,” The giant blew him off. McIntyre was a man of simple tastes with one notable exception, “We need to get Allie to a secure location.”
Oh no, there was no way anyone was taking the Angel somewhere he couldn’t follow. Andre stuck with facts, “She works for the FBI. She lives with the Hellion, Mckenna, and the one who carries poison in her pockets. We are watching her 24/7. How much more secure can she be?”
The oaf acknowledged the truth of the words with a grunt, “You have people on her?”
“The only reason I’m allowing this is that he would recognize my people.”
“You allow me nothing. She’ll have my protection until I see the life leave Thresher’s eyes.”
The oaf’s eyes narrowed, “Keep your hands off her.”
“My feelings for Aliana are none of your concern.”
“I don’t give a shit about your feelings. I said hands off.”
“My hands will be wherever they need to be to keep her safe.”
“Shit,” The man’s eyes raked him with contempt, “You’re not worthy of so much as one of her smiles….”
His single shout of laughter rang hollow and humorless in the dead space, “On that, we agree.”
The cell phone ringing from McIntyre’s pocket cut off yet another grunt. How he managed to hold a phone in those ham sized hands Andre didn’t know, “Grey?”
He watched McIntyre’s face transform and knew the conversation was about Mckenna. The man had very specific facial expressions for the woman he loved. And regardless of Andre’s personal loathing for the oaf, there was no doubt he loved Mckenna with every cell in his gargantuan body. Andre noted frustration, anger, wry acceptance and finally grim determination flash across the rugged features, “I’ll be there in ten.” McIntyre disconnected and shoved the phone in his pocket. Then, without so much as a final grunt, he turned and stomped away.
He couldn’t resist poking the bear, “Give Mckenna my regards.”
You could always tell when Gavin McIntyre entered a room. The volume went down. People whispered. Crowds parted. He was that impressive. Allie knew before she looked up – he’d shown up. He dominated the restaurant simply by standing there. In a gray long sleeve t-shirt and jeans, he wore a lot of t-shirts as collared shirts were hard to find in his size. Allie always had shirts made for him for Christmas, being six foot five inches with a 53 inch chest made clothes shopping difficult. He wove between tables now, oblivious to the whispers and covetous female stares, his square jaw set, his rough-hewn features determined, his eyes blazing, all of his attention locked in and focused on one person.
“Oh shit.” Lena saw him first as Mac was half asleep in her coffee. Lena elbowed her.
“Ow! Hey, what the…” Then she saw him. Her mouth dropped open, “Oh..oh…well fuck…how did he.. who….?”
Just then, Christian Grey walked over with breakfast menus. Mckenna shot him a dirty look. He raised one brow, clearly communicating, ‘Yes I called him and what of it?’ without saying a word.
Mckenna humphed and hunched. Allie covered her grin with her coffee cup. Mac in a full sulk was a rare sight. Gavin had always been able to strip away that distance she wore like armor, as if he existed inside the sphere that kept everyone else out.
Gavin nodded to Grey and, without a word, walked around to the back of the booth, leaned over, grabbed Mac around her waist and picked her straight up. Lifting her up and over the back of the seat, and all her sister could do was sputter.
The restaurant erupted in gasps, laughter, and spontaneous applause while Mac wiggled and cursed, “Gavin McIntyre put me the hell down!”
“No cursing in front of the baby, Babe.” Gavin chuckled, setting her on her feet.
Mckenna jerked around and gave him her favorite Peanuts quote, “I oughta slug you.”
Grinning, Gavin leaned down and said in a stage whisper that easily carried, “Try it, baby. I triple-dog dare you.”
More laughter and applause, and beside her Allie heard Jose sigh, his chin resting in his hand, “Oh..oh that is just H-O-T hot!”
Gavin paid no mind to any of it, already tugging Mac towards the exit, “You’re exhausted. I’m taking you home and we’re going to bed.”
Mac was fighting him the entire way, leaning her weight back, pulling against him, “Let me go, you bossy ass Scott!”
It didn’t slow the man down a bit, “Settle down, you crazy pagan witch.”
Mckenna continued making dire threats, which Gavin kept inviting her to carry out all the way out of the restaurant. Both of them oblivious to the applause and amused stares of patrons and staff alike.
Jose sighed again, “True Love.”
John stared after the two with wide eyes, “If you say so, sugar-plum.”
“What the hell were you thinking? I can’t believe you. You’re all over the news…everywhere. I mean everywhere. What the fuck Allie? When did you turn all vigilante? Auntie is going to be pissed.” Lena prowled around their kitchen, yanking on her short hair with one hand and gulping coffee with the other.
After brunch, the Grey’s checked into the Jefferson. Deciding to stay for a few days. Christy went to check on the animals at the shelter. Gavin had been true to his word and he and Mac were locked up in Mac’s bedroom in the townhouse next door. Lena however, had had enough caffeine to rant after being up all night stuffing who knows what into a wood chipper, speaking of which, “Lena, you have no room to talk. Did you or did you not stuff a body through a wood chipper last night.”
“Not the same thing and you know it.”
“I know nothing of the kind.” She raised her chin.
“Shit, don’t get all prissy with me. He was a Senator Allie, not some penniless hick living in the sticks, and Sweet fucking Charlotte, he fell down the Rhett and Scarlett staircase. It’s made the news worldwide.” Lena threw her arm up and made a giant circle like she was twirling a lasso, “The. World. Like China and New Zealand and Tim-buck-fucking-too!”
Oh honestly, Allie leaned against the counter, settling in for the duration. When Lena started putting random effing into the middle of every other word she could go on a while. Perhaps if she stuck with the facts, “He had a heart attack. He died. Nobody cares. We’re fine.”
“Yeah, well you better hope Auntie doesn’t get a whiff of this. You know you’re not to act on your own.”
“You do. You did.”
“That was self-defense. The man came at me. He was three times my size.”
“You baited him and shot him.”
“Yeah, and do you know who witnessed it? Nobody. Dammit Allie!”
“He broke her collar-bone when she was six months old.”
“Allie…” Lena shook her head, “We can’t…”
“He nearly killed her, Lena.” Allie went over to the old oak recipe box they had inherited from Granny Rose. Lifting it, she dumped the recipes out and popped the false bottom loose. Their Great-Grandmother insisted that nobody expected little old ladies to be hiding contraband in their recipe boxes. Just one of the places she hid things. Allie lifted the photo, “Look at her.” She shoved the picture under her sister’s nose.
Lena took it, flopping down on a bar-stool, her face going white under her tan, “Ah shit… fucking hell…Fuck.”
It was the photo Rachel’s mother had taken at the hospital this last time, when Rachel had nearly died, “I couldn’t stand it.”
“Right,” Lena pulled a lighter out of her pocket and flicked it, setting the photo on fire, “Do you have any more?”
Her twin rose from the stool and stood over the sink, dropping the photo in and making sure it burned to ash before washing the evidence away.
Then those ice blue eyes locked on her, “What’s going on with you?”
“Nothing,” She sent her an apologetic smile, “I know I shouldn’t have acted alone. I’m sorry.”
“Seriously? You may be able to fool Mac with that wide-eyed, I’m a lady shit, but I know you. We kicked each other around in the womb for Goddess sake. Now what the fuck is happening in that perfect, prissy, blond head of yours?”
Lena was dogged stubborn, “Honestly?”
Her twin threw her hands in the air and bellowed, “No, I want you to keep on lying your ass off. Yes, honestly, shit!”
“Nothing I want to share with you.”
That stopped her. Lena fell back against the sink and stared at her like she’d sprouted another head. Then blowing her bangs off her forehead, the fight falling out of her, “Yeah, okay. Believe it or not, that I get.” Lena then marched up to her and put her hands on her shoulders, “But, damn get some therapy or a hobby or something. Cause this business of sending powerful Senators tumbling head over fucking ass all the way down the The Goddess-be-damned Rhett and Scarlett staircase on New Year’s fucking-Goddess-be- damned EVE has got to stop.” Her sister released her, grabbed her coffee cup, and headed out of the kitchen with on final curse filled piece of advice, “I mean shit, Allie! Fucking take up skeet shooting or some shit. Damn.”
Disposing of Walter had taken longer than usual, by the time the task was accomplished and he’d showered and changed into a much more comfortable black tee-shirt, black leather jacket and jeans, it was full dark, but still he’d had to wait. The hours had seemed to creep by. Finally he was making his way through the alley under the cover of dark and shadows to the bottom of the trellis that would get him to the window he needed, but someone was already there, bundled up in a puffy coat that reached well below her knees. This woman, like her sister, hated the cold. He waited for the pain that he’d felt upon knowing he’d lost her, this unique woman, who he’d been fascinated with since he first saw her slam her fist into a smuggler’s face, it never came.
Fascination, he’d come to understand, was not love, “Good Evening, Mckenna. I’m surprised to see you out and about.”
A shrug, “Gavin sleeps like a log,” Those dark eyes turned on him, “Did they hurt her.”
“One man touched her, though I don’t believe he physically hurt her. He was unfortunately shot by his own people.”
A brief flash of rage, before relief settled on her features, “Thank-you, Andre.”
“How long have you known I was watching her?”
“I knew when I saw you with her that morning.”
“So from the beginning.”
“Yes.” She shrugged, “She needed looking after. Although you’re taking your life in your hands every time you pull this stunt. Gavin’s not a fan, you know.”
Oh yes, he was aware, but the man wanted the Angel safe, and as much as it charred his ass, McIntyre knew of Andre’s skills better than anyone, but that was not what he needed to discuss at the moment, “You didn’t know about the Senator.”
She fell back against the trellis, “No, I did not see that coming. Allie is very good at hiding parts of herself. I have a tendency to underestimate her. This though…”
“She’s no killer, Mackenna.”
“You think I don’t know that?” The girl jerked her hands through her stick straight auburn hair, grabbing it on either side like she was going to rip it out. Oh yes, this had upset her. “Dear Goddess, the convoluted twists and turns I’ve taken to keep this very thing from happening.”
That wasn’t the only thing she’d kept from happening, “You deliberately kept Aliana away from me.”
It was so very subtle, Mckenna’s tell. One had to be watching closely, but over the years he’d learned it. The nearly imperceptible change in breath, a slower blink. Yes, he’d been right, “Why?”
“It’s not like you’re around often. Usually you show up just in time to pull me out of the fire and then disappear again….” The words drifted off and then….there it was. Her eyes flared with understanding. The gig, as they say, was up, “HOLY SHIT! You can track us.”
“Ah well….” It was his turn to shrug.
“How? Gavin can’t even track us unless we activate the chip…” She drifted off again, Then those dark eyes went wide with shock, and he knew the final piece of the puzzle had fallen into place. This was confirmed when she started stomping in circles cursing to beat the band, “Shit, shit, SHIT!!!!! He damn well can, but you show up. HOLY SHIT! You’ve been working together all this time? Well, fuck me, I did not see that coming. SHIT!”
Laughter rolled out of him, “Ah Mckenna, I will remember this night fondly for a long time. The night you, my brilliant girl, realize that you’ve been had.”
“Oh, for Goddess sake, it’s not that big a deal.” She abandoned her stomping and waved him off, but then contradicted herself by muttering in a feral whisper, “I’m going to kill Gavin McIntyre.”
“I’m all for that, but if you could see clear to wait until after we catch Thresher.”
“Right, so how long?”
“May I propose an information exchange?”
“Sure.” She waved a hand, and fell against the trellis again,“What the hell, go for it.”
“Why did you keep me away from Aliana?”
“It was instinct.” She plucked a sprig of tiny berries from the vines growing behind her, “I think it had to do with that first night. She was very taken with you and…
“And I was fascinated with you.”
“Uh…yeah…and she was so young.”
“So were you.”
She shrugged again, twirling the berries, “Not the same….”
True. Mckenna had been way beyond her years even at eighteen. Doling out death had a way of aging a soul. For a second he saw as she had been that night. An eighteen year old woman/child. Brilliant, beautiful, lethal.
“And Allie..she…her mind is different.”
That statement snapped his full attention back to the present, “Different how?”
“McGoverns have strange memory quirks.” She glanced up from her study of the berries in her hand, “I fall back in time.”
“Yes, but that’s a rare disorder correct?”
“Uh…yeah…that’s what they said.” Her eyes back on the berries. The girl never did like to reveal too much, not that he blamed her. He understood every revelation was a truth that, in the wrong hands, could be used against you, “Christy and Lena both have photographic memories. That has to do with reading and cognition, but Allie…” Mckenna hesitated, looking up to the room at the top of the trellis, “Shit, she doesn’t like to bandy this about.”
And he didn’t give a fuck, he needed to know, “Mckenna,” He planted his hands on the woman’s shoulders, turning her to face him, “Tell me.”
Those dark eyes, frosted opaque in the moonlight, met his, “It’s very rare. She has something called Superior Autobiographical Memory. She remembers every day in her life. Can pull it up like a file folder.”
He dropped his hands and took a step back, “I had no idea there was such a thing.”
“When I say rare, I mean it, less than a dozen people have been diagnosed with it.”
“I see.” He put his mind to work on what this would mean, but the ramifications seemed endless.
“You made a heck of an impression on her that night. That fascination stayed, it’s more difficult for her to gain emotional distance….”
“So any experience whether good or bad…” He continued the thought.
“It stays with her.” Mckenna picked it back up, “Time does eventually give her some emotional distance, but if she had kept seeing you over and over again…..” She shrugged again. Silence settled on them, Mckenna’s eyes drifting to the moon as they always did when she was troubled. Andre doubted she was even aware of it.
His eyes drifted to the window at the top of the trellis. Bad memories, like what happened to her last night. The attack, the man touching her. His Angel would remember. It would haunt her. Blood rage threatened to consume him all over again, but he pushed it away. His mind working towards something that had been bothering him for a while, “Mckenna, where does her sensitivity to blood come from?”
She never took her eyes from the moon, “I’ve asked myself that over and over again. I just don’t know….”
“But you think it has to do with memory.”
The woman went eerily still, and though her eyes never strayed form the moon, he knew she was no longer seeing it. That strange stillness meant she was no longer with him. Mckenna visiting the past in all but her physical body. It went on for over a minute, she could have been etched in stone. Then she blinked, rubbing her hands up and down her arms she turned to him, “Yes, I think she’s repressed a memory. A very bad one.”
“Shit.” He was halfway up the trellis when Mckenna called out to him again, “So how long?”
He released one hand to hang sideways so he could see her face when he told her, “The night you knocked Mia on her ass, of course.”
Laughing at Mckenna’s shocked face, he made it to the top of the trellis with ease. There were only so many ways to break into a house. This house in particular was difficult. Fortunately he had inside help. Mckenna had been aiding him from the beginning. Anonymously, of course. Providing him with the deactivation code to their alarm system. With a few touches to his phone, he overrode the security system. An easy climb up a suspiciously strong trellis, a leap over the balcony and the picking of a lock. Then he was in the Angle’s little slice of heaven.
The first time he’d been in her room, he’d thought how very perfect for her it was. White and fluffy like a cloud. Entirely feminine. He crossed the room on silent feet and looked down. Golden hair lay strewn across a pale cheek. The sheet pulled down to her waist he saw tiny straps holding whisper thin silk in place. In silence, as he had many nights before, he crossed the room, sat in the chair at the foot of the bed, and proceeded to watch the Angel sleep.
This activity had become an addiction. She was an addiction. For a man who stayed alive only because of his ability to be one step ahead of his enemies, this addiction was a distraction that could easily get him killed. He could honestly say he didn’t much care if it did. No, it was the danger he posed to her that kept him awake at night. His enemies were always on the lookout for an Achilles heel.
Some had thought Mckenna to be one, but when they tried to act on it, the men they sent to take her died a most horrible death from the poison she’d pumped through the ventilation system of the very house she lived in. When he’d asked her how she managed to do that without dying herself, she’d shrugged and said she’d been immune to that toxin since she was fifteen. His enemies decided the crazy woman was more dangerous than he was. It was possibly, he would concede, a tie.
But the Angel….no. She was vulnerable. He would see her safe and happy, and for that to happen his plan had been to maintain his distance. Andre was self-aware enough to admit that plan had been an epic fail. He would have to come up with another way, because staying away from the woman who’d beguiled him with little more than a smile was no longer possible.