As if he’d read my mind, the driver said, “Wait until you see the back. He has a legitimate hedge maze back there.”
“Straight out of The Shining. It’s the craziest thing.”
He pressed a button on the visor over his head and the huge wrought-iron gates swung open. Above each red brick pillar on either side of the driveway, a large stone gargoyle was perched, guarding the entrance to Lucas Rain’s kingdom. The town car followed the winding gravel driveway up the hill at a slow enough speed for me to marvel at Lucas’s home.
The Rain mansion was incredible. It had the look and feel of an English Georgian-era manor home, with gray stone walls and dozens upon dozens of windows. There were none of the peaks and turrets I would have imagined a werewolf home to have. I guess, in my head, I’d pictured something a little more Gothic for the wolf king. It was still a grand home and big enough to suit a billionaire’s lifestyle.
The car stopped outside the front doors, and the dutiful driver got out to open my door. With a tip of his cap—yes, he was actually wearing a driver’s cap and gloves—he got back in the car and drove off, leaving me standing at the foot of the entrance stairs wondering what to do next.
I knocked on the front door, but after a long pause there was no reply so I let myself in, somewhat shocked to find the door unlocked. Inside, the house was dark and eerily quiet. I could see a few lights shining down each upstairs hallway but nothing else to indicate anyone was up there. The house’s interior was wide and spacious, and even in the dark I could tell it was decorated to feel inviting rather than stuffy.
Somewhere in the rear of the house I heard a masculine voice and a loud, familiar laugh. My heart jumped at the sound of it. I passed through the kitchen and out onto a well-lit stone patio behind the house. There was a full kitchen set up outside as well, built from the same patinated stone as the rest of the patio. Sitting on one long section of counter, next to a built-in barbeque, was a large wooden serving slab that contained the evidence of a massive steak dinner. Wineglasses were scattered all over the patio, some still partially filled with a beautiful, deep red vintage. I was willing to bet this mansion had one hell of a wine cellar.
Aside from the dinner layout and all the wineglasses, there was little else to indicate some sort of party had recently occurred. I followed a trail of lights down a stone path and past the hedge maze the driver had told me about. The walls loomed twelve feet high, and in the dark the maze was sinister looking. I heard the laugh again and was thankful it wasn’t from within the foreboding depths of the maze.
The stone path continued, and the glowing turquoise-blue light of a swimming pool appeared ahead, along with a well-lit white pool house with large floor-to-ceiling glass windows. Then I saw Lucas.
The wolf king was standing beside the pool, wearing khaki trousers and an unbuttoned white shirt that looked remarkably similar to the one I had borrowed from his penthouse. He was barefoot, which I had come to realize was one his secret comforts. His blond hair was still short and tousled, but in the three months I’d been gone he’d grown a beard. It was short and well groomed, but it was odd to see his handsome, youthful face covered in fine blond fuzz. It made him look older, more mature, and that was probably the point.
He was talking to a girl with straight brown hair. She faced away from me, but her lean figure was clad in a backless orange sundress. She too was barefoot. Lucas said something to her I couldn’t hear, and she tossed her head back and laughed, her hand touching his upper arm as she did.
I stepped into the light and waited until his gaze moved past the girl in the sundress and found me. Me, wearing my borrowed shirt with my unwashed hair and ridiculously overdressed heels. I stood at the edge of the pool’s patio and met his wandering gaze across the distance, unsure of how he was going to react.
For a moment he stared. The girl’s hand dropped from his arm, and she turned to see what he was looking at. She was fresh-faced and pretty, her skin glowing from a day out in the sun. She didn’t look pleased to see me, although I didn’t think we’d ever met.
“Secret?” Lucas asked.
He brushed past the girl like she wasn’t there, and a part of me was glad he hadn’t replaced me, while another small part of me felt bad for her because she had been so easily forgotten. Lucas was halfway from her to me when a twig snapped from the bushes next to the path. I turned, and out of the garden stepped someone I’d never expected to see again—the young wolf who had helped kidnap me.
The wolf and I froze simultaneously, and then both looked away from each other and to Lucas. The young man took another step out of the garden and moved towards Lucas, who was staring at us with great confusion.
I panicked. It seemed like my kidnapper was back and this time he wanted something from the king. Frantic, I screamed, “No.” I dove towards Lucas, and before the other wolf could reach him, Lucas and I were falling backwards into the pool.
When we resurfaced, two dozen puzzled faces were gazing down at us, including those of the pretty girl and the young wolf. Lucas was already climbing out, looking remarkably graceful for someone who’d been knocked into the water. In addition, a familiar blond was smirking down, extending his arm to help me out of the pool. I grabbed the hand Dominick, Desmond’s brother, was offering, and let him pull me up like I weighed nothing. He was a small man, not much taller than me, but he made up for it in strength. Not to mention personality.
“So, Secret,” Dominick said, his smirk widening. “You haven’t forgotten how to make an entrance, I see.”
The other people had stepped back to allow Lucas and me room to get out, but I could see a few of them moving into a defensive stance near him, clearly thinking I was crazy enough to try it again. That none of them seemed worried about the new wolf made me feel foolish and very aware of the mistake I’d made.
“What’s he doing here?” I pointed an accusing finger at the young man. Now that his face had healed from my attack at the motel, the familiarity of him was driving me crazy.
“Jackson?” Dominick asked. All I needed was to hear his name, and then I remembered why I recognized him. He’d been one of the werewolf guards I’d left alive while trying to take down Marcus. Dominick continued without being aware of my discovery. “Jackson is from Albany. When the dissenting wolves were banished, he was one of the only ones to stay loyal, so we moved him into the city so he could be with our pack. He’s been living out here with Lucas.” He seemed to remember something else and laughed a little. “Oh, yeah. I guess you’ve met Jackson.”
“What does that mean?” This I directed at Lucas. I couldn’t tell if Dominick was referring to my previous interaction with Jackson at the Orpheum theater, or if the bodyguard knew about Jackson’s part in my kidnapping. The wolf king would have my answers.
“We’ll talk about it inside,” Lucas said.
“I’d like to talk about it now.” I know I sounded petulant, but it was hard not to be when I’d just found out someone who’d kidnapped me happened to be living with my boyfriend.
“Secret.” His voice had taken on the authoritative tone of his royal position. “We will discuss it when we are alone.” The wolves around him seemed hesitant to stand down until he said, “You all remember Secret McQueen, of course.”
A murmur of uncomfortable hellos moved through the crowd, and finally those nearest the king stepped out of the way so he could come towards me. He put a wet arm around my shoulder, and when he pulled me in, our embrace was exactly how I imagined it would be all those lonely months. In my mouth, Desmond’s flavor was gone, replaced now by the spicy bite of cinnamon. Being this close to Lucas, I could taste our combined flavors, and the result was like biting into a fresh cinnamon bun.
“I’ve missed you so much.” He spoke into my hair. “Please come inside.”
“Lucas, aren’t you forgetting something?” This from the pretty brunette he’d been speaking to. She’d balled her hands on her hips and looked none too happy about any of this. Lucas frowned at her, clearly displeased to be scolded in front of his pack by someone who was his inferior. The girl had balls though, and that gained her instant respect in my book.
“Of course.” He sighed and held out his hand to indicate I should focus my attention on her. “How rude of me. I’d like to introduce you to someone.”
I hesitated. If he planned to tell me he’d been soul-bonded to someone else while I was away, I was so out of here. I didn’t need any more wolf drama in my life. Really, I didn’t need any more of any drama in my life.
Ignoring my cold response, he continued. “Secret, please say hello to Kellen.” He looked at me to ensure I had made the connection—I had—but in case I was oblivious—which I was not—added, “Kellen Rain. My sister.”
The girl now seemed satisfied she hadn’t been overlooked and reached out her hand to me.
“It’s nice to finally meet you.” Her whole demeanor had changed. “I’m hoping now that you’re back it means Lucas will shut up about you.” Kellen’s smile was sweet, but her words betrayed a small amount of genuine annoyance.
“I find that unlikely,” Dominick said, which got him a warning glare from Lucas and a smile of appreciation from me.
“It’s nice to meet you too. I guess it’s true what they say, you shouldn’t believe everything you read.”
Her smile faltered a little, and she raised a well-shaped brow. “Meaning?”
“Well, I was led to believe when I met you you’d be buck naked, riding a New York Jet or three, and that you had found a way to replace oxygen with vodka. And here I thought Page Six had a fact checker.”
There was a long pause where everyone waited to see what her reaction would be. Bad press or not, it was no secret Kellen Rain had a short fuse. Then, in an instant, her face lit up and she laughed so loud it surprised me. She continued to laugh until the people around us began to as well, proving I hadn’t overstepped.