“I’m more of a Rangers girl, Secret. At least in their off season.” This made Lucas frown, until she added, “I like her, Luke. You hang on to this one.”
“I intend to try, but she doesn’t make it easy.”
Kellen smiled at me. “The good ones never do.”
Inside the house, Lucas led me upstairs to the master suite. Dominick, ever the dutiful bodyguard, trailed behind us at a reasonable distance, then settled onto a loveseat in the hall outside the room. I guess my display at the pool hadn’t proven I was ready to be trusted with the king. At least not out of earshot.
As soon as the door closed, I turned to him and tried to speak, but I found he wasn’t interested in chatting. He had removed his wet shirt, and his damp skin glistened in the low light of the room.
He crossed the distance from the door to me in a heartbeat, and I was in his arms as he held me tight and met my lips for a long, soft, painfully deliberate kiss. It was nothing like the way Desmond and I had kissed earlier. In fact, apart from both being wolves who were soul-bonded to me, there was almost nothing similar in the relationships I had with my two men.
Lucas’s kiss was gentle, inquiring and exploratory. He hugged me tighter, keeping me close to his body, and lifted my feet off the floor entirely. The last time he’d done this I had tangled myself around him, but tonight I was still too hyperaware of having made love to Desmond and the strange overlap that had shown up with Holden. I wasn’t ready to go through it again. I also wasn’t quite ready to be the kind of girl who could have sex with two different men in one night. At least on the physical plane.
Call me old-fashioned, but having two boyfriends was already hard enough for me to wrap my head around.
He continued to kiss me, and I let him, enjoying each delicate kiss we shared. The way his tongue tasted like cinnamon hearts when he licked my lower lip was a small treat I had forgotten, and it made me long to make each kiss more lingering. But the beard was weirding me out a little, and I couldn’t ignore every other part of the evening.
I was also acutely aware this bedroom was smaller than the one he had in the city, and we were a hell of a lot closer to the bed. I didn’t want to tempt fate too much, and the longer I let him kiss me like this, the more likely I was to say fuck it and, well, fuck it.
“Put me down.”
He ignored me, holding me closer and kissing my earlobe.
He stopped, pulled his head back and looked at me with those searing light-blue eyes. They didn’t hold the same kind of pain Desmond’s always seemed to, but Lucas’s were now less innocent than they had once been. I didn’t want to think about the last time I’d looked into his eyes. He lowered me back to the ground, but he didn’t let me go. He put one hand on either side of my face and kissed my forehead.
“I’m glad you’re back.”
“About that.” I looked up at him and tried to ask the question that had followed us in from outside. I still wasn’t sure how to word it. “Jackson?” It was the best I could do.
“You don’t want to know about that, Secret.” Lucas let his arms drop and stepped away from me. The disappearance of his body heat left me chilled in my soaking-wet shirt. Or maybe something else was leaving me cold.
“I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t want to know. Do you know what Jackson did to me?”
It wasn’t the answer I was expecting. “You do?”
“Of course. Your boss, your vampire boss…the blond one?”
“Sig?” Why was that name coming up everywhere I went tonight?
“He came to me, and we had a little chat about a mutual friend of ours.” He shot me a meaningful look. “It seems he was very grateful to me for saving your life.”
“Oh?” This was an interesting turn.
“Yes.” Lucas sat on the edge of the bed, but I chose to remain standing closer to the door. “He asked me if it would be of any interest to me to help bring you home again.”
“I beg your pardon?”
He raised a hand, and I let my question hang unanswered. “I’d tried to find you, I even went to see your friend Mercedes, but she wouldn’t give me anything. Then Sig came to me and told me that with a little help he was certain he could bring you back. He said all I needed to do was let him use one of my wolves, someone you didn’t know well. He said he had someone close to you who would take care of the rest.”
My mind began to spin. Of course, I’d been totally naive. Any fool could see the whole kidnapping was a setup, but I had assumed Sig had worked alone to facilitate it. Sometimes lone wolves worked with vampires for the money, and I’d assumed Jackson had been one of them. But he was part of the pack, and Lucas had asked him to kidnap me. That meant the shape-shifting witch was on someone’s team too.
Someone who knew a thing or two about how hard transfiguration magic was. Someone who had told me the very night I vanished how she thought it was time for me to go home. My hand flew to the necklace dangling from my throat. Ward against evil, my ass. My grandmere had led them right to me.
I slumped to the floor, and in an instant Lucas was crouched in front of me. He tried to help me up, but I pushed him harder than I meant to, and he stumbled backwards onto the floor.
“I spent an entire day locked in the trunk of a car.” I glared at him. “I smashed that kid in the face and got my own split open in the process.”
His eyes went wide with sudden rage. “Did he—?”
“No. God, do you think that scrawny thing could have beaten me up? It was an accident, and I healed. But that’s not the point, Lucas. You helped the head of the vampire Tribunal kidnap me. And you know who was helping him on my end? My own goddamn grandmother.” Out of frustration, I began unbuttoning my shirt, unable to stand the feel of the wet cloth on my skin anymore. I stood and threw the shirt on top of his on the floor.
“I’d like to go home,” I said bluntly. “Your driver left, and I’d like to leave.”
“I have a rogue vampire to find. Apparently it’s so important that everyone I trusted snuck around behind my back and dragged me home against my will. So I should probably get it done.” I was standing in my bra, dripping wet, but I managed to make my point serious enough he didn’t question it.
“I’ll have Dominick bring you a car.” He moved past me to open the door.
He hesitated as the door swung open.
“I did miss you. I really did. And I wanted to come home. But you should have let me do it my way. I needed time.”
“I know. But, Secret, we needed you here. We’re your friends.”
“Yeah. With friends like you, who the hell needs enemies?”
I slammed the door behind me.
I knew Lucas was up to something the second Dominick showed me to the garage.
The smirking blond bodyguard had been gracious enough to loan me his leather jacket, and because of his slight build, it fit me perfectly. Plus, thanks to the DNA he shared with his brother, it smelled comforting and familiar.
“This one is yours,” Dominick said, indicating a pristine yellow BMW convertible.
Like all the other cars in the garage, the BMW Z4 was meticulously detailed and polished within an inch of its life. Something about this specific one, maybe the color, or some type of new-car magic, made me certain this car was more than a loaner.
When I shot Dominick an accusatory glare, he raised his hands and added, “Messenger.”
“Will you feel better if I call it a loaner?” he asked, obviously picking up on my discomfort.
“My pride will.”
“You live in a special country of denial, Secret.”
“Have you met me? It’s more like a planet.” I couldn’t help but smile at him.
Dominick tossed a set of keys at me, and I tested the weight of the new object in my hand. It felt foreign but not unwelcome.
“Is it gonna blow up?”
Dominick laughed. “I doubt he’d go through all the effort of getting you back only to kill you.”
I opened the unlocked driver’s door and let the scent of new leather waft out. I’d never owned a new car before.
Just a loaner, I reminded myself.
“Dominick?” I stopped before climbing in.
“Mmm?” As always, he was grinning and his blue eyes were alight with some inner mischievousness.
I reconsidered my question, opening my mouth to speak, then looked away from him and into the car so I wouldn’t have to see his face change.
“Was it bad? When I left, I mean.”
He was quiet for so long I had to look back to be sure he was still there.
“For which one?” he asked, just as I was certain he wasn’t going to respond. When I couldn’t answer, he came and stood on the opposite side of the open car door and fixed a serious expression on me. I couldn’t turn away. “It was different for both of them. For Lucas, he was so busy trying to hold the pack together, if he was hurting, he didn’t let it show. But he needed you here. You killed Marcus, and whether you know it or not, that puts you in a pretty important position within the pack. I mean, like, Desmond-level importance.”
“You risked your life for the pack. You killed someone who meant to kill the king, and you defended the pack from total collapse. It makes you a pack protector.”
“Is that a job title?” I didn’t mean to sound so stupid, but there was still so much I didn’t know about the world of the pack. I knew if I offered my protection to individuals, they became my responsibility under pack law. Grandmere had told me that was why she was able to live among werewolves even though she was human. But I wasn’t aware the same rule applied to the pack as a whole. Had I made the entire pack my responsibility when I killed Marcus?
Dominick had waited for me to connect the dots, watching confusion change to understanding in my expression.