Authors: Candace Blevins
Tags: #Fiction, #Fantasy, #Urban, #Erotica, #Bdsm
He looked tired, which was rare for him. Before I could comment on it, though, he told Nathan to take me home.
I pulled my cell phone from my pocket and looked at the time, “Can I work out first, since I’m here?”
I kept workout clothes in the ladies’ locker room, so I changed and then stretched out and went to the weight room, as I hate to stretch out in front of the guys. There were three men in the weight room working out, one I hadn’t met before. I nodded to all of them and got started, moving the weights back to what I’m sure they considered wimpy weights. As I went from the first piece of equipment to the next the new guy said, “Hey, doll. What’s your name?”
Smokey was through checking out the room by then and he plopped down in front me. He may have looked totally unaggressive, but I noted he’d situated himself to face the man who’d called me doll. His ability to assess a threat always surprised me. Not that this guy was a threat, but somehow Smokey knew he was the one who most needed watching.
I was guessing the new guy was fresh out of one of the military branches, and he didn’t feel like shifter so I figured he was human, since daylight was streaming through a window. I still couldn’t tell a vampire from a human, but there was no need in the sunshine.
The new guy had dark hair, dark eyes, was maybe five foot eight inches tall with lots of muscles, and he reeked of jerk. I kept my eyes away from the offending asshole, concentrating on what I was doing and not giving him the courtesy of looking at him as I asked, “Doll?”
Kenny chuckled and said, “Uh, Vin, this is Kirsten, and you might want to mind your manners around her. She’s nobody’s doll.”
“What? She gonna kick my ass for calling her a doll?”
. I was in the perfect mood for a fight, and when I looked at him this time, it was to size him up. Vin appeared to be human, so I’d have a good chance of at least holding my own with him with a quarterstaff. I didn’t stop with my weights as I asked, “Don’t you think I can, Vin? I tell you what, let’s go to the gym and we’ll spar.” I set the barbell on the rack and added, “My choice of equipment. You up for it?”
“You’re serious?” He looked around at the other men, then back to me. “I can’t fight you, you’re just a little thing. I’m sorry I said anything. What is it you do here, anyway?”
“You don’t want to fight a woman?” Aaron sends most of his new hires to me for a psych eval, but I hadn’t seen Vin. I’d need to ask Aaron why, later. For now, I told Vin, “You need to get over that. Let me help.”
“Go easy on him, Kirsten,” Kenny said. “He’s new and hasn’t been around civilians long. What’s up with the dog?”
“He’s mine, or maybe I’m his, the jury’s still out on that one. His name’s Smokey.”
Lou came walking in, all business as he told me, “I’ve given the access codes for tonight to Nathan to give to you when he takes you home. I didn’t figure you’d have pockets in here. It’s opened up for two way so you can talk to the control operator. You won’t have direct access to any of the players, but control can pass something along if needed. I’m told you’ll have outside surveillance around your position tonight, please take care that none of them see you input the passcodes.”
“Of course. Thanks, Lou. Cora will be with me tonight, I’m assuming it’s okay for her to see the passcodes and watch the op. Where’s Nathan, by the way?”
“He’s in the strategy room with Aaron and another gentleman they didn’t introduce me to. Cora has enough clearance to see the passcodes and feeds, no problem.”
“Big guy?” I asked, wondering about the third person in the strategy room. “A few inches short of seven feet?”
“Yeah, scary dude.”
I nodded and thanked him, pretty sure it was Mordecai.
“You aren’t going to tell me who he is, either?” Lou asked.
I shook my head and tried to look sorry. “If they didn’t tell you, I probably shouldn’t. Sorry.”
When Lou left, Vin didn’t look happy
cocky as he said, “You’re part of some big mission with Aaron Drake and his right hand man tonight? Looks like I stepped in it when I called you doll.”
He sounded sorry, and there was no need in making an enemy of him, so I grinned as I said, “Ya think?”
“Yeah, can we start over? Hi, my name’s Vin.”
I played along. “Hi Vin, my name’s Kirsten. From the look in your eyes I’d say you’re fresh out of one of the branches of our fine government. Welcome back to civilization. Such as it is.”
Kenny and Jeff’s phones both beeped, and they gave each other knowing looks as they reached for them. They’re both werewolves and I was pretty sure they were both being called to the strategy room. They scrolled to check their text messages, looked at each other again, then looked at us and excused themselves, leaving it just Vin and me.
“What’s with the dog, is he some kind of guard dog or something?”
“Actually no, he’s just my pet, but it suited our purpose to have him with us today and I haven’t been home yet.”
“He’s awful well behaved to be just a pet.”
“I trained him as a puppy, back when I still weighed more than him.”
I changed equipment again. “Where were you stationed? Or did you have the type of job that keeps you from telling me?”
“Officially I was in Afghanistan.”
“Which means you spent enough time there to be able to convince people that’s where you were, but most of your time was spent somewhere else.”
He didn’t answer.
“Are you up for body guarding prima donnas?”
“It was that bad?”
The look he gave me said it was that bad.
My official paycheck from Drake Security listed me as the company therapist. While it wasn’t my primary function, I stepped up and helped the employees when I could, so I told him, “Look, I know the military has their fair share of shrinks and I’m sure you’ve been required to talk to plenty of them, but if you still need to talk, in my day job I’m a therapist. I actually specialize in family counseling, but since my hobby is helping Aaron on missions, I’ve seen my fair share of violence and death, and I can help people figure out how to live with what they’ve seen and done. If you need to talk, give me a call — you’ll find a handful of my cards in a basket on Lou’s desk. When people turn electronic equipment in to him, if he sees someone looking shell shocked he hands them my card, but don’t wait for him to give you one, help yourself. Aaron will pay for six trips a year to see me while you’re on his payroll. Depending on your job, sometimes he’ll pay for more.”
“This is your
?” He sounded incredulous.
“Maybe hobby is the wrong word, but I have a day job and this isn’t it.”
“What is it you do for Drake Security, anyway? My guess? It isn’t body guarding.”
Time to change the subject. “Are you from Chattanooga originally, or is this just where one of the good jobs happened to be?”
“I’m originally from New Orleans but there wasn’t much reason for me to go back there. Once I get settled a little better I hope to move my dad up here with me. He’s in an assisted living place down there, and he’s fine with me bringing him up here so we can see each other.”
Hmmm, maybe not such a jerk after all.
I switched equipment again, figuring this would be my last one and then I’d go shower and change back into my clothes. Or, maybe just leave these clothes on and take my suit home and take a bath at home. Yeah, that would work. I finished my reps and wiped the machine down as I told him, “Contrary to the way things started out, it was nice to meet you, Vin. I hope you feel like you’re fitting in here, and if you need to talk, give my office a call and my assistant will set you up with an appointment.” I finished wiping the equipment and faced him. “I’m glad you turned down my offer to spar earlier; I was in a nasty mood and I’d have taken it out on you. However, I’d like to put the offer out again sometime in a more good natured way, because you really do need to get used to sparring with women.”
He gave me a friendly smile. “It was nice to meet you, too. Take care on whatever you’re into tonight. See you around, I hope.”
Oh no, I hope he didn’t think I was hitting on him.
I clicked my tongue twice at Smokey and he got up and followed me out.
On the way home I decided to get brave and try to start a conversation with Nathan. I wouldn’t keep trying if he shut me down, but he’d sounded as if he were willing to talk earlier, so it was my turn to make an effort.
“What’s the deal with Vin? I usually meet the new hires during the interview process.”
Nathan shook his head and at first I thought he wasn’t going to answer, but he surprised me by saying, “Vin gets us into a part of the world we haven’t been able to reach. You didn’t meet him because we already know he’s messed up, but we hired him anyway.” He glanced at me and back to the road. “Six sessions with you would just fuck him up. He needs years of therapy, and even then he may not be okay. He’s functional as is, and we’re good with that.”
“I told him where to find my card, and to call for an appointment if he wants to talk.”
The muscle in Nathan’s jaw worked a second, and he finally said, “If he does, you’ll need to sit down with Aaron and me for a conversation before you talk to him. Some subjects you shouldn’t delve into with Vin. Bringing it up and making it raw won’t help him.”
I didn’t argue with him, but my arrangement with Aaron didn’t allow for him to dictate what I could and couldn’t talk to his employees about, other than my not sharing secrets that weren’t mine to share.
Nathan got me home in time to cook dinner and help Lauren with her project. She did all the work, but she likes me to sit and watch so she can bounce ideas off me. She had no mother when she was young, and she still need the reassurances most kids get as smaller children.
I finally managed to soak in the tub while Cora manned the laptop in case the action started sooner than expected. I’d already patched us in, punching in the access codes with a blanket over my hands just in case the vamps were looking in the window trying to snatch the code. I didn’t think they could, but better safe than sorry.
We figured the earliest murder had been around eleven, so I got out of the tub at ten thirty and was in bed in my pajamas ten minutes later.
Cora and I sat on the bed with the laptop between us, and a splitter so we could both wear headphones to listen. Mine also had a microphone, though it was currently turned off so the control room couldn’t hear Cora and I talk.
At a little after eleven a non-descript car I figured was a rental pulled into the driveway on Iron Wood Trail, and a large man got out. It was hard to tell on the video, but if the perspective was right then he was taller than Mordecai and much heavier. With almost no neck and a prominent forehead, he looked like a cross between a sumo wrestler and Neanderthal man.
Mordecai seemed to appear out of nowhere on the front porch, blocking the bad guy from the front door. He spoke to the unknown man in another language, and I had no idea what he was saying. I looked at Cora, but she shrugged her shoulders to let me know she didn’t understand, either.
My insides shook with fear as the unknown man spoke. I thought he was using the same language as Mordecai, but the tenor of his voice struck terror into every cell of my body. Cora tensed beside me and reached for my hand, and I assumed he had the same effect on her.
As he spoke, the man I was assuming was the murderer pulled something from a front pocket, and a second later he was holding a sword of light.
I looked closer and found it interesting he used a handle and didn’t create it from scratch. The light wasn’t touching his skin, it came from what looked like a metal handle.
Cora gasped and I shifted focus to another view and saw Mordecai
. I didn’t know if it was a trick of the video or not, but it almost looked as if he’d done something to make his aura viewable to human eyes. Perhaps he’d supercharged it somehow? Without being there to feel, I couldn’t tell.
Too bad I wasn’t there — my laser had a farther reach than that sword and I could’ve easily taken the big dude.
Suddenly, Mordecai and the murderer were fighting, and I
not being there.
Cora squeezed my hand, and I squeezed back as one of the feeds went black and we were left with two.
I didn’t know if the video couldn’t keep up, or if it would also be a blur in person, but I couldn’t see enough of anything to figure out what was happening.
I saw someone crumpled in the yard, but the fight was still going on and none of the angles available showed me who it was. I also didn’t see the werewolves, and wondered where the fuck they were.
I knew things were bad when Aaron shifted into a dragon, shook his head a few times as if he didn’t expect to be in this form, and then shot straight up and was gone.
By this point I’d lost all but one feed — the wide angle camera they’d mounted on a tree at the perimeter. In less than two minutes something had gone horribly wrong, and Cora gripped my hand again as the wolves showed up, some in human form and some in wolf form — all of them looking as if they had no clue where they were.
And there was a lion. Had Nathan shifted, too? And where was Mordecai?
I had to ask what was going on, so I clicked the mic button into the silence and asked, “Control, this is shrink wrap, what the hell is happening?”
“I have people headed that way to figure it out. No one’s communicating with me and I’m seeing what you are.”
A delivery truck pulled up, and men I recognized spilled from it in full fighting form, expecting the worst. This gave me two more video feeds, as apparently a few of the new men were wearing cameras. One of them walked up to the man on the ground, and it took me a minute to make sense of what the camera was showing us.
He was in two pieces. Mordecai had been sliced in two, from the top of his head to his groin, literally. I made sure my mic wasn’t on and asked Cora, “Any idea if he can come back from this?”