Authors: Dana Marie Bell
The salamander was tiring. Its flame bursts were coming further and further apart. Akane forced it down, closer to the ground, using her tail to whip its ass into complying. The salamander landed, exhausted. The creature panted, watching them warily through flame red eyes. Its flame dimmed until it looked more like a tall Komodo dragon with longer limbs. After another second it took on its Seeming. The German Shepherd wagged its tail and settled down on its haunches.
Akane landed next to it, turning back into the elegant female she’d been inside the Dunne house. She petted the salamander, smiling when it licked her hand. “I think I’ll keep it.” She winked at Jaden, earning the vampire glares from two sets of Dunne eyes.
Jaden stared at Shane and Moira. “What did I do now?”
Duncan began herding them all back toward the house. “I think we need to finish that chat we were all having.”
“You go on. I think it’s time I left.” Akane stepped in front of Shane, her hands on her hips. “Where is my car?”
Shane, for the first time, looked uneasy. “The barn?” He gave her a weak grin, backing away from her slowly. “What kind of car was it again?”
Steam literally began to pour from the dragon’s ears. “A Porsche Boxster.”
Shane swallowed hard. “What year?”
Ouch. That was going to sting the man’s wallet. Duncan was pretty sure Shane could afford to replace the dragon’s car, but he was dressed so modestly that he wasn’t certain if the man wanted Akane to know how rich he truly was. Dragons were known to covet either wealth or the rare and exotic, and until he got to know her better Akane’s preferences would remain a mystery. But from the car she drove and the clothes she wore, he was betting she preferred wealth. Duncan decided to give his bondmate’s brother a hand keeping his wealth a secret. “Allow me replace it.”
Akane gifted him with a sweet smile. “Thank you, Mr. Malmayne. At least there are
gentlemen left in the world.”
Duncan wasn’t buying that for a moment, but he’d let her get away with it for now. He bowed his head before the Blade. “You’re welcome.”
“Whew. I’m not sure how much corn I’d have to sell before I could replace a fancy car like that.” Shane stuck his hands into his back pockets and rocked on his heels. “How much does one of them go for, anyway? Ten, fifteen thousand?”
The dragoness looked ready to sic her new pet on Shane. Duncan stepped between them, gesturing toward the house once more. “We could use your help, m’lady.”
She blew her hair out of her eyes. “Sure. It’s not like I can go anywhere, can I, Rhubarb?”
Shane shook his head. “Nope. Not until we get you a rental. Unless you want me to drive you in the tractor?”
Akane spun on her heel and headed for the house, stomping the entire way. The “dog” followed her, obviously seeing her as its new master. The heels of her expensive boots kept sinking into the earth. She let out an annoyed screech and leapt for the porch. She turned the corner and they could hear the screen door slam shut behind her.
“You’re bad.” Jaden draped his arm around Shane’s shoulders. “I like that about you.”
Shane’s shoulders were shaking with laughter. “Thank you kindly.”
“We need to do something about the…” Duncan turned, but there was no sign that the redcaps had ever been there. Even the one gazing at his own navel was missing. “Hmm.”
Sean merely whistled and ambled up onto his porch. “Coming?”
“Remind me not to piss him off.” Jaden followed his new father-in-law up onto the porch.
Duncan took Moira’s hand and followed them. Jaden wasn’t fooling him one little bit. That amused nonchalance was hiding a terrible anger. He had the feeling his personal Gray Knight was going to disappear some time during the night, and in the morning Duncan would hear about a tragedy at Charles Malmayne’s house.
Why? Why had Charles done something so drastically stupid? It didn’t make sense! Why hit the Dunne house?
Duncan pulled out his cell phone and quickly dialed home.
Shit. Ian sounded breathless. “Is everyone safe?”
“We’ve held off an invasion of redcaps, my lord.”
Duncan swore. “Is anyone injured?”
“No, thank goodness. But the strangest thing happened. One moment they were almost through the door, and the next they were…well, gone. All we could hear were these horrible screams and—” the man gulped, “—wet, crunching sounds.”
Duncan blinked. “Was there anything left of them?”
“No, sir. But we did find a note on the front step.”
“What did the note say?”
“Whoever it was charged us fifty dollars for yard clean up, sir.”
“The bill was made out to Lord Jaden, my lord.”
What the hell?
“Thank you, Ian. Keep an eye out on things. We think Charles may be behind the attacks.”
“Very good, sir. If I may say so, please be careful.”
“I will. And thank you.” Duncan hung up the phone. There could only be two explanations for this. The first, Charles had declared war on him, deciding to take him out when he least expected it. By hitting the Dunnes and his home he guaranteed that the redcaps would find him. The other possibility was that Charles was aware that Jaden had been in his house. It was possible that he also knew Jaden had found incriminating evidence of his collusion with the Black Court. Either way, he had to have known what Jaden would do once he recognized those redcaps. Jaden would make a beeline to Charles, intent on killing him.
Duncan stopped. He had to have
“Jaden!” He raced toward the house, but it was too late. He heard the roar of an engine, and Jaden was gone.
“What the hell is going on?” Moira watched Duncan’s face pale. “What?”
“He’s going to kill Charles.”
“I know. And?”
“Charles had to know what Jaden would do if we were threatened, Moira. He
to. That means he planned on it.”
Her entire body went cold. “It’s a trap.”
“Of one kind or another. Either he intends to capture Jaden, or he intends to be a martyr. Either way, the Malmaynes will demand Jaden’s head.”
“Despite evidence that Charles is using help from the Black Court.” Moira took a deep breath and turned in a circle, searching for something, anything that could help, but only one thought kept revolving through her mind. “We haven’t completed the Vows, Duncan.” She’d planned on doing that here, in front of family.
His eyes narrowed. “No. But he completed the blood bond. We’re his mates.” He ran around to the front of the house. The car was gone. “Son of a bitch!” Duncan’s Seeming exploded from him, silver lights dancing in a furious display. “We have to go after him.”
“How? We don’t have a car.” Moira took Duncan into her arms. “Contact him. Let him know we think this is a trap.”
“Jaden? Answer me, damn it. We think you’re heading into a trap.”
“I know. But I’ve been ordered by Robin to take care of the Malmayne problem. We’ll have to use the evidence of the redcap attack and what was found in the computer files to prove that he’s been working with the Black.”
“There is no evidence of the attack, Jaden.”
Moira tightened her grip on Duncan.
“My father buried it.”
“Well. That makes things a bit more difficult. Still, I was told to handle this any way I see fit, and I see fit to take his stupid ass out.”
“That might be just what he wants.”
Duncan pulled away from Moira and strode toward the house.
“If he becomes a martyr, you know what the clan will do?”
“They can’t touch me, Duncan, we both know that. Not if it’s a sanctioned Blade hit.”
“We both know that’s not entirely true.”
Duncan stepped into the house and nodded toward Shane. “I need your help.”
Shane followed him back out. “What can I do for you?”
“Jaden’s in trouble. I can’t get to him because he took my car.”
Shane slapped him on the back. “No problem. Follow me.”
“Duncan? You still there?”
“He’s a little busy plotting something with my brother.”
Moira followed behind the two men, curious to see how Shane could help.
The concern in his voice would have amused her if the situation wasn’t so dire.
“Shit. Stay away until it’s over, Moira. Promise me.”
When hell opened its first ice skating rink.
Shane led the way to the shed, and Moira found herself chuckling. “Oh, boy. You’re letting us borrow Bumblebee?”
Shane threw open the shed doors, exposing the tarp-covered car. He pressed his finger to his lips. “Shh. Just don’t let Akane see it.”
Moira helped her brother uncover the bright yellow Corvette.
Duncan rubbed his hands together with child-like glee. “Happy birthday to me.”
“Uh, no. Still
baby, thank you.” Shane took the keys out of his pocket and tossed them to Moira. “Get your own, Mr. Gentleman.”
Moira slid behind the wheel and started the Corvette. “Come on, Duncan.”
She ignored Jaden, gesturing instead to Duncan. “Let’s go.”
“Moira, damn it, answer me.”
Duncan climbed into the passenger seat and put on his seat belt. “Let’s go.” He placed his hand on the dashboard and concentrated.
Moira blinked. The beautiful yellow Corvette now looked like some rusty junk ball choking its way out of the shed. Behind her she could hear Shane laughing like an idiot as she drove off, the dust kicking up behind them looking black and thick, enhanced by Duncan’s magic.
“Duncan. Use your head. You come after me and they’ll blame you. I’m sanctioned for this kill. You most certainly are not.”
Moira pulled out of the farm’s driveway and onto the road. “You think Shane will tell Akane what’s going on? She’s a witness to the attack. That might come in useful if the clan turns against Jaden.”
Duncan ran his hands through his hair, the gesture screaming his frustration. “I don’t know. I’m still not entirely sure why Charles is doing all this.”
There had to be something in the contract, something that all of them had missed. Moira hadn’t looked too deeply at the contract, and now she was kicking herself. “I doubt it’s revenge. It’s got to be something else.”
“What is so special about Leo Dunne? Why all the focus on him?”
“Other than the fact that his powers are almost pure Sidhe?” Moira shrugged. “I have no clue, but the entire clan keeps harping on that fact.”
“Fuck. Until we figure that part out we’re flying blind.”
Jaden’s voice was full of strained amusement.
“You know I can hear you, right? Where are you?”
Moira pulled up to the gate leading to Charles Malmayne’s estate. She stared at the huge mansion. The oversized portico was almost obscene, thrusting out from the main body of the house.
“Jaden? You were right. He’s definitely overcompensating.”
She reached out to press the button that would open the gates.
“Hello?” The voice was deep, almost guttural.
“Duncan Malmayne to see Charles Malmayne.”
“One moment.” There was a click, and the gates swung open.
“Stupid, stupid move, Moira. They know I’m here now.”
She couldn’t let herself think about that too much. She was determined to save not only Jaden but the Malmayne clan. The only way to do that was to confront Charles and find out what the hell was going on.
She pulled through the gate and up the long drive, parking in front of the porch. It definitely reminded her of a hotel. All it needed was the oversized ashtray slash trash cans. “Do we need to check our bags at the front desk?”
Duncan didn’t respond other than to step out of Shane’s car. “Let’s get this over with.”
She got out and followed him up the stairs to the door. “What do you think is going to happen?”
His jaw tightened. He rang the bell and took hold of her hand.
“Oh.” She stood as tall as she could despite the fact that she was covered in dirt and redcap blood. She was Lady Malmayne, and as such she pulled on her mother’s teachings to give herself as regal an air as she could. She might not be able to glamour herself into appearing clean and dignified, but damn if she couldn’t make herself look like a warrior queen just off the battlefield.
“Which you are. Now get back into the car and go home, Queenie. And take Toto with you.”
She let the corners of her lips lift into a small smile. Duncan was practically vibrating next to her. She bet Jaden would regret calling him that.
The door swung open. Charles’s butler bowed to Duncan. “Lord Malmayne.” He ignored Moira completely. Waving his hand, he gestured for them to enter. “Please, follow me.” Duncan’s hand tightened on hers, but he didn’t correct the butler. They didn’t have time to mess with the fae’s prejudices. They followed the butler past the sweeping, grand staircase to a room off to the left. Moira’s sneakers squeaked on the polished marble floors. The entire entry was done in blinding white and gold, from the Carrera marbled floors to the gilded stair rail. It made Moira’s eyes hurt just looking at it. She preferred the cooler tones of blue and green to this cold museum-like décor.
The butler threw open a door. “Lord Malmayne to see you, sir.”
“Show him in, Bradley.”
Moira bit her tongue at how they’d been announced. The butler hadn’t even said “and guest”, leaving Moira to question just where Charles Malmayne lumped her in Duncan’s life.
She didn’t have to wait for long. “Ah, I see you brought your…wife with you.” The sneer that crossed Charles’s face and the relaxed, easy posture he held by the mantelpiece were belied by the shaking of his hand as he lit his pipe. “To what do I owe the honor?”
Duncan walked forward, taking Moira with him. From the look on her Sidhe lord’s face, things were not going to go well for Charles. “I know you sent the
to kill me.”
Moira hid her surprise. Powrie? She hadn’t heard that name for redcaps in years, not since that trip to visit the Dunne half of her family in Ireland. The powrie lived more in Scotland and Ireland, and the Dunne sprites were very familiar with the vile redcaps.