“You expect me to believe you wouldn’t hurt her?” Damien shouted, fighting Caine’s hold. “After what happened to my Mother?”
“Damien…” Evelyn protested. Nobody heard her.
Desmond was too busy shouting something about robberies and break-ins. And he didn’t hurt women. Damien’s vocalizations degraded to rabid snarls. Nate was shouting for everybody to calm the fuck down. Then Damien bent, twisted and threw his arms up, broke Caine’s hold, gripped the other man’s forearm, and one bend and a couple of snarls later Caine went from standing behind Damien to flying over him. Damien was already moving, closing the space between he and Nate.
“Holy shit holy shit holy shit.” Jose had given up on leaning forward, rising from the ambulance and jumping around.
Andie couldn’t get anything out other than panicked squeaks.
Layla just pointed a black fingernail Damien’s way, “Oh wow, that was a good throw.”
“Damien, stop. Please Damien.” The shout came from the only person that likely could have stopped him. Evelyn had the car door open, shifting so her feet were outside on the ground, “Damien, You must stop. There are things you don’t know. Nate, if you could please retrieve my chair from the car.”
Without a word Nate did as he was told. When his mother was settled in her chair. Damien back off the dipshit, but looked ready to tear his throat out any minute.
“Evelyn, what’s he saying?” Desmond asked. The surpise came from Desmond,
“Evelyn…what are they….” He looked to her in confusion, but he must have seen the answer in her face and if the horror on his face was an indication, it wasn’t a good one.
Evelyn smiled. It was heartbreakingly sad. “I’m sorry.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Desmond hobbled over to the chair and holy shit, fell to his knees.
“Did we know that Desmond was head over heels in love with Evelyn?” Andie asked.
“No,” Jose answered, “No we did not.”
Layla silenced them with a one-handed, rebounding double slap-slap.
“I couldn’t risk it.” Evelyn said, “He had so many connections. He could have taken the boys away and Callie….”
“Do we know who Callie is?” Jose.
Layla lifted the slap-slap hand.
Andie answered with a silent shake of her head.
And Damien… Damien stared at his mother and Desmond. A haunted vulnerability Andie had never seen before. He looked so very young, “Mom?”
“You should have discussed this with me, dear. Desmond didn’t know.”
“Hell no, I didn’t know. I’d have dragged you all out of there.” He turned to Damien, “I knew he’d done it once, blamed it on being drunk. I tried to get Evelyn to leave. She wouldn’t.”
“Jesus, Mom.” Nate shook his head.
“There was no intruder.” Desmond said, vivid with disgust, “Sweet hell, he got off too easy.”
And Layla went nutso. Gasping, she jumped up, threw her arms out, index fingers pointing like six shooters and muttering a bunch of shit shit shits, that that thats and Damn damn damns, then resumed her seat and shushed the hell out of Jose and his, “what what whats?”
“Things had changed. It took time, but I made allies of my own. I had a lock on Callie’s location. I was making plans to leave.” Evelyn said, voice soft with memory. “He discovered them.”
“He nearly killed you. He broke your back. Dear God, Evelyn. You should have told me.”
“To what end? I was free. The boys were safe. I didn’t want his abuse to be our legacy.”
And, sudden insight hit Andie. The break-in.
Everyone knew the Drake story. How Damien Drake II died on the steps of Drake Memorial the same night his wife was nearly beaten by an intruder. The tale was spun around DC like some tragic Shakespearean drama.
There had been no intruder. Damien’s father had beaten his mother nearly to death. And Damien had been the one to call 911. He’d been six years old.
Dear God, what would that do to a child? Andie wasn’t a behavioral psychologist, but she’d bet her best Kitchen Aid a uni-bomber lair was in there somewhere.
“The list of names.” She said.
Damien turned to her. “They knew. They did nothing.”
“So they deserve nothing.” Andie followed the logic, “So you take it all away.”
“Oh yeah, now that’s poetic.” Layla tapped her chin with a short chic black nail.
“Excuse me,” The EMT walked from the front of the ambulance, “If we’re not taking anyone to the hospital, we need to get moving.”
Oh right,the ambulance she was sitting in the back of. She’d sort of forgotten.”
“You’re taking Andie.” Damien said.
He just said it and expected it to happen, poof! He really needed to work on that one. “No, I’m not.”
“You were kidnapped.”
“He’s right.” Jose said, “You should get checked out.”
And all of a sudden she was done. “No. You know what? No. No. No. NO. I am sick to death of ambulances and hospitals and kidnappings, and fires and cars flying down mountains. And most of all I am sick of people giving me orders. And that means you,” she shoved one finger in that perfect chest, “Mr. Universe can take your high-handed nonsense and shove it where the sun don’t shine. I want to go home. God, I don’t even know where that is anymore. I am done. Just done done…. “
“Uh-oh.” Layla backed away from her.
“Honey, drink your juice.” A juice box was shoved under her nose.
She whacked at it. “No. This isn’t my blood sugar. I’m just pissed.”
The juice box stayed right where it was. “Honey, really you should drink…”
“Dammit Jose, stop shoving that in my….” Andie side stepped and shoved and then, her foot rolled. Everything tilted, the juice went flying and the last thing she saw was the back of the ambulance.
She was and comfy and warm…but there was so much noise. People talking over each other, yelling shouting.
Dammit, Jose was watching CNN round-table crap. Andie hated round-table crap, “Jose! Cut the damn television down!”
It all stopped. Damn right, it stopped. She snuggled down.
She opened her eyes and saw an ugly white ceiling and heard beep-beep-beeps. She knew those beeps. Dang it, she was at the hospital. Again.
“Oh honey,” Her Mom was there.
And her Dad.
“Ah, now awake and well.”
And her Grandma.
“It’s about time, Missy.” And Jose
“Hey, chick-o. Damn, you were out.” And Layla.
“Hey Kitten,” And the Demi. Boy, did he look a mess.
“I heard yelling.”
“Your Mother had some essential oils she thought would help. Your grandmother disagreed. You woke just in time.”
“What happened?” She asked, though, at this point, she didn’t much care.
“Lots of shit.” That was Dee’s voice. That meant her room was so full of people they couldn’t fit around the bed single-file.
“We think you tripped.” Jose said.
“I tripped?” She didn’t remember tripping.
“That’s what it looked like.” Layla interjected like she wanted to keep going but Jose was not yielding the floor, “You were having your little shit fit, shoving me around…”
“And who could blame you, really.” Layla popped in again.
“And you sort of jerked. It looked like you tripped.” Jose jumped back in.
“And then you fell…” Layla.
“And hit your head…” Jose.
“On the way down.” Layla.
And she had a flash of memory, red and black and white and chrome and, oh for the love of frosting, “The ambulance? I’m in the hospital because I tripped and hit my head on the ambulance?”
“Crazy, right?” Min said from somewhere in the second tier, “You some bad EMT mojo girl.”
“And one heck of a concussion.” Dee added.
Course she did. “Right. Uh, could I have a couple minutes alone with Damien.”
“Okay, You heard her.” Jose did his Double hand clap, “Chop chop.” The room cleared with surprising efficiency except for Min and Dee who lingered in the door with worried expressions
“You’re not going to break up with him are you?” Dee asked, “Cause you shouldn’t blame him for Des being an ass.”
The Demi threw an regal arm at the door. “Out.”
And then there were two. Just a girl, her concussion, and her Demi-God who looked a right mess. Stubble, blood-shot eyes, hair all over the place, wrinkled shirt hanging out, “You don’t look so good.” Still looked good enough to eat, though.
A weary smile, “It’s been hell-of-a-day for about a week now.”
“Hasn’t it though?”
“So, Are you breaking up with me?”
“What? No. I just think we need to…” Damien cut her off with a finger to her lips,
“Hold that thought.” The Demi walked, albeit very quietly, to the closed door and yanked it open.
And swear to God, half dozen people fell into the room. Layla and Jose were hardly a surprise, neither were Dee and Min, but her Mom and Dad? Really?
Andie threw her own arm, “Go!”
They scattered as Damien shut the door. “Where were we?”
“I think I should move back home.”
The shutters came down, “To your apartment?”
Down, flipped closed, and tight as a drum. “It’s not secure. We still don’t know who set the fire and messed with those brakes.”
“I was taken from EverMay, right out from under your nose with practically an entire battalion watching over me. I don’t think location matters.”
“I don’t like it.”
Yes, the crossed arms and mulish expression were a heck of an indicator on that one.
Andie reached out and pulled one arm down taking his hand in hers, “Damien, that last few weeks have been crazy, good in a lot of ways, but I need to get my feet back under me and feel like I’m somewhat in control of my own life. And the people in my building, we’re very close more like a family than neighbors. I miss them.” The mulish expression turned thoughtful. Good he was listening, “And you have yet to take me out on a proper date.”
That got a smile from him, small a little crooked but she’d take it, “A proper date?”
“You’ll need security.”
“Max can watch over me.”
“He’s easygoing and handy. Everyone in the building likes him.” That he was goo-goo gone over her next door neighbor, she felt no need to divulge.
“You’ll need at least three.”
“Whatever, but for everyone’s sake make them more Max-ish than Caine-ish.” Max was a big teddy bear. Caine was just big and scary.
Very well? Well, that was anti-climactic and way too easy. The Demi was up to something. “I’ll be living in my apartment,” She said to be clear, “Without you.”
“And I’m to take you out on a proper date. I understand.”
“I don’t believe you. You’re cooking up some Demi-God shenanigans.”
“I’m relatively sure that if and when Demi Gods do cook, it’s not shenanigans in the pot.”
“I have no idea what that means and you’re acting weird.” He was cooking all right.
“Well, I do have a uni-bomber lair.”
Oh yeah, that. They’d have to talk about that one later. When she wasn’t concussed. But there was one thing she needed to know. “What’s going to happen to your uncle?”
“That depends on you.”
“My mother explained a few things about my uncle I didn’t know.”
“I’ll bet that was humbling.”
“You have no idea. She wants me to let the entire matter drop.”
“I wasn’t the one he held at gunpoint. You were kidnapped, Andie. If you want him in prison, he’ll rot there.”
“Oh.” Dumb-shit rotting in prison. Did she really want that? “He loves his boys.”
“Yes, I believe he does.”
“And he didn’t know about your father.”
“It doesn’t appear so.”
“And he is head over heels, stupid crazy in love with your mother.”
“What did you say?””
“Oh, uh, nothing. Man, I’m sleeeeepy.” Andie closed her eyes.
“Are you actually playing possum?”
She opened her eyes a slit to see the Demi full-out smiling. It made her all warm and gooey inside “Sshhhh, I need my rest.”
That turned out to be true. She didn’t remember drifting off, but her eyes flicked open to see an impeccably dressed woman standing over her holding a syringe and a gun.
Huh. Okay, call her surprised. She had Chaylene Abingdon pegged as bitchy, shallow, even conniving, but bat-shit crazy? Nope, would have never thunk it.
“Shay what are you doing?” Damien asked from the chair on the other side of her bed. He must have drifted off as well. He sat in the chair on the other side of her bed. His expression calm, serene even. Other than one lightening quick glare her way that spoke volumes of Stay quiet and let me handle this. He’d wasted his glare. Andie knew enough not to draw the attention of the crazy girl with the gun. her bed. He looked to have been dozing as well.
“She needs to go away.” Chaylene Abingdon said, “She’s ruining everything.”
“Daniel was going to sell the hotel to someone else. He was always jealous of your feelings for me.”
Oh, Damien had feelings for her, alright.
“Why would he be jealous? You married him.”
“It was an impulse. I was angry at you for breaking our engagement.”
Oh ho, no way. Andie sent the Demi her own glare, and mouthed, “Seriously?” What the hell had he been thinking?
“It worked out for the best.” Shay kept up the crazy-talk, “I was able to stop him and make sure you got the hotel.”
“Daniel never did seem the type to take his own life.” Damien said all calm and agreeable. Andie had to give it to him, his poker face was flawless cause that was one hell of a bomb dropping.
Crazy Bitch had offed her husband.
“And then you fired me. I was so mad at first, but then I understood.”
Oh, Andie couldn’t wait to hear this one.
“You understood why I fired you…” Damien repeated, then his expression cleared, “Ah right, I couldn’t date a subordinate.”
“Yes,” Miss Chaylene Abingdon aka Miss Bitchy Britches aka Crazy Bitch smiled bright as the sun.
“You meddled with the brakes.” Damien said in that same careful calm voice.
At that Miss Bitchy Britches threw her lovely blond head back and laughed. A girlish tinkling sound that creeped up Andie’s spine and froze her blood. If she had heard that laugh when they had first met, she’d have had her pegged as a psycho right off. “Oh no,” Shay shook her crazy blond head, “Not me personally, but that security guard you nearly choked to death was most helpful.”
“But it didn’t work.” Damn if crazy bitch didn’t stomp her foot like some teen drama queen, “Nothing works. Not even fire. She’s still here.”
Well, ‘scuse me for not dying. Andie almost said that one aloud, catching Damien’s glare as she opened her mouth. Right, don’t antagonize the crazy woman holding a way to kill you in each hand.
“Shay, I’ll leave with you now.” Damien rose from the chair, “I can’t protect you, if you kill her.”
“But it’s just air, it will look like a heart attack” Shay said all wide eyed and innocent, and creepy as all hell. Seriously, how had Damien not seen the cray-cray behind those eyes.
An explosion of music, swirling scarlet and, ruffled shirts paraded into the room. Led by a giant of a flamenco dancer decked out from the top of her blond head to the tips of her toes in feathers and ruffles sequins and glitter and all of it in screaming pink. Bree flam-e-coed into the room, castanets in each hand. Marla and her fifties poodle skirt sashayed in behind her and bringing up the rear was Jose in skin tight black leather pants and a fire engine red satin shirt with ruffles for sleeves and waving a gray pride rainbow boa. All three were belting out “Lime in the coconut and call me in the morning.”
What in the ever-loving fuck?
“Drop it, bitch.”
That was a distraction, so Layla could sneak up on Crazy Bitch and hold a very large gun to her head.
Crazy Bitch looked crazy enough to give it a go.
Layla though, she’d sped past crazy and was onto full out possession, “Give me a reason. You fucked with my friend and you fucked with my ball. You so much as twitch and I’ll splatter your brains all over this wall.”
She-devil made cutesy rhymes. How… disturbing.
“Layla, sweetheart, that would be messy.” Marla said.
It spoke to just how demented Layla appeared that Marla was trying to talk her down when crazy bitch was holding a syringe and a gun.
Although to be fair, Layla’s gun was bigger. She shoved it into Shay’s temple. Her guttural snarl of “Worth it.” Down the octave. A sign of active possession if ever there was one.
“Honey, I’d listen to her.” Jose said, doing the butt check in the mirror over the sink. “Layla has anger issues.” He spun to check out the other cheek, “And special note: If you hurt my Andie, she’ll be the least of your worries. Are these pants too much?”
A chorus of yesses rang around the room.
Jose’s bottom lip made an appearance, “Bitches.”
Damien settled the matter by walking over and taking the syringe and the gun from Shay who must have believed Layla because she didn’t do any twitching – until Layla bashed her in the head with that big-ass gun. And then it wasn’t twitching so much as crumpling…
to the floor…
Layla stood over her snarling “That was for that trip down the mountain. You pathetic ho.”
Damien was beside her looking a little shell-shocked, “Andie.”
Layla, on the other hand. Her friend was having some kind of episodic, She-Devil fit. Snarling curses in all five languages, she grabbed Jose’s glitter infused, boa and sank to the floor. Straddling crazy bitch, she proceeded to wrap it around her neck like a choker then pulled her arms behind her back and grabbed her feet. Layla kept weaving and knotting until Shay lay on her side, the boa around her neck, her knees bent so her feet were tied to her hands behind her back. It looked uncomfortable. On the upside, Layla had set the gun down. It rested on the food tray next to her juice box.
“What the hell is that?” Marla ventured.
“Hog-tied.” Layla said, rising and dusting glitter off her hands, “The more she struggles, the faster she suffocates.”
Holy shit. And Andie thought all those choking threats were just …threats.
“Uh, honey where’d you learn to do that?” Jose sidled over to the 357, sliding it neatly off the tray and passing it behind his back to Marla.
“Internet.” Layla said, then her head jerked right, She took a deep breath through her nose, her eyes glazed over. She sniffed and sniffed again. “Sausage… cheese.. egg… grease…coffee. Hot Damn! There’s a McDonald’s in this hospital.” Her friend was greased lightning bolting out the door.
Possession probably burned a lot of calories.
“Uh honey,” Jose called after her, “While you’re out there, could you get me a coffee – cream two sugars. And Andie likes lots of cream in hers. And uh…Bree drinks decaf.”
“Jose, I don’t think I’m ready for coffee yet.” The pain meds made her a nauseous. Coffee would be a mistake.
“It will give us time to get Miss Crazy Thing out of here and into protective custody.”
“Oh. Right. Smart. Where the hell did she get that gun?”
“It’s Mama’s. Daddy collected them.” Bree slipped the giant gun in her giant pink pleather handbag, “In hindsight giving Layla a giant gun was probably not the best plan.”
Damien was staring down at the unconscious Miss Bitchy-Britches tied up in rainbow feathers, “Well, damn. Remind me never to fuck with her ball.”