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Authors: Debra Mullins

Tags: #Fiction, #Paranormal romance

Prodigal Son (34 page)

BOOK: Prodigal Son
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“Late.” He stroked her hair. “Sleep, baby. Nothing’s going to happen tonight.”

“Too bad.”

“Like you could go again.”

“Maybe.” Her lips curved into a mischievous smile, and she drifted back to sleep.

She fit against him like she’d been made for him. Everything about her called to him, lured him, made him want her. If ever a true mate existed for Rafe Montana, she was it. But his life was in danger—and perhaps always would be. How could he ever give her what she deserved?

He lay awake for a long time, wondering how he had fallen so hard in love so quickly … and how in hell he would ever be able to let her go.

*   *   *

Cara awoke the next morning to sun streaming into the bedroom and an empty pillow beside her. She stretched, enjoying the ache in her muscles and the memory of how it had gotten there. Their hands linked together, the crystal burning between their palms … Like a couple of mirrors in the sun, they had reflected arousal back and forth, each time stronger, each time hotter, chasing each other toward the blinding pinnacle of pleasure, each touch, each stroke, like a whip to bare flesh. The pleasure had torn through her like lightning, ripping a scream from her throat, burning away anything had she had been before and leaving someone completely new, completely
his
.

And he’d been right there with her, his heart open to her as they both soared high and plunged into the sun.

It didn’t surprise her that Rafe was up and gone already. He tended to slip away before things got too serious. She didn’t hold it against him. He’d revealed more to her last night than he knew, his crystal a looking glass into his emotions. She hoped that when all this was over, he’d want to stay together. She knew they lived lives on opposite coasts, but they could work it out somehow. This kind of thing came along once in a lifetime, and she wouldn’t give it up without a fight.

She sat up, pushing her hair out of her eyes. Rafe thought he was a bad guy, but he was wrong. Hopefully they’d stay long enough with his family that everyone would see the big-hearted, honorable man she did. The man she had somehow fallen in love with.

Yeah, she’d gone and done it. Never mind that she’d only known him a couple of days. Never mind that the guy was some kind of psychic superhero. She could cope with all that. The real terror was that he was also related to one of the richest families in the country. How could a computer programmer from Jersey hope to fit into the level of society the Montanas called home?

She shook her head. One night of orgasmic bliss, and she was already planning the wedding. She had to keep her feet on the ground. She knew Rafe believed he had to stay a lone wolf to protect those closest to him. She got that; it was a noble idea. But everything she’d seen said Rafe had more control than he thought. Now he just had to realize it, and maybe she could help him.

Provided he didn’t shove her on a plane to Jersey once all this was over.

She pushed aside the covers. First order of business was get cleaned up and dressed and find some breakfast. Or lunch, she thought as she caught sight of the clock. She’d slept a lot longer than she’d expected.

She spotted her T-shirt on the floor. Sliding naked from the bed, she pulled it over her head and headed for the shower. As she passed the dresser, she noticed her own clothes, clean and folded, sitting on top of it. And on top of
those
was a cell phone.

The phone was brand new, shiny, and black. She picked it up and turned it on, puzzled. She couldn’t remember Danny’s number, so what good did having a phone do? But someone had left it here for a reason. She started pressing buttons. When she hit the one labeled
CONTACTS
, she almost dropped the phone as she scrolled down the list: Apex Consulting, Canzo’s Pizza, Danny, Maisie …
These were her contacts
.

How…? She shook her head. She didn’t care how. She knew Rafe or his family had somehow done this, and she’d find out the means later. For now she hit the contact for Danny, listening as the phone dialed.

It went right to voice mail, but it was nice to hear his voice, even in a recorded message. Choking back tears, she left a message for him to call her, set the phone back on the bureau, and scooped up the clothing.

A nice hot shower and a good cry, and she’d be all set to face the day.

*   *   *

Darius stood in front of the fridge. Holding on to the door, he leaned inside to grab the milk, but the door swung wide. He tilted, off balance, and struggled to retain his grip on the gallon jug.

“I got it.” Rafe grabbed the milk with one hand and stabilized the fridge door with the other.

Darius scowled and looked down at both their hands on the milk jug. He jerked his hand free, lurched away from the fridge, and followed the line of the counter to the small table in the breakfast nook, where his cane rested against the wall. “Make yourself useful and bring the milk over here.”

Rafe closed the fridge door. Any other time he would have given Darius a hard time for talking to him like the hired help, but he figured he deserved that and more. He watched Dar sit down at the table, a box of cereal and a bowl already set out. He swung by the cabinet to grab a second bowl, then headed over to the table where his brother was already pouring his cereal.

He set the milk down between them and pulled out a chair, scowling at the little brown sticks and balls in Dar’s bowl. “What’s that, twigs and berries?”

Darius reached for the milk. “High fiber.”

Rafe wrinkled his nose. “Got any of that other stuff around here? The one with the multi-colored O’s and the little marshmallows?”

Darius paused before pouring and looked at him with that older-and-wiser look all older brothers were born with. “Don’t you have any respect for your body?”

“Yeah, which is why I feed it good-tasting stuff instead of hamster food like that.” Rafe snatched a twig thing out of Darius’s bowl seconds before the milk hit it. He popped the cereal into his mouth. “Not bad. Who knew hamsters lived so well?”

Darius set down the milk. “I just wanted a quiet breakfast. And now there’s you.”

Rafe shrugged and poured some of the high fiber stuff into his own bowl. “Good thing I came when I did, or you might still be on the floor covered in milk.”

Dar’s mouth thinned, and he dropped his spoon in the bowl with a clank. “What the hell do you want? Haven’t you caused enough trouble?”

“I don’t think that exposing the truth is trouble. Mom and Dad shouldn’t have hidden that from us. I like to know who my enemies are.”

“Me, too.”

His brother’s snarl sucked the air out of Rafe’s optimism balloon. He set down the box of cereal and looked Darius in the eye. “I’m not your enemy, Dar.”

“You sure about that?”

“What kind of question is that?”

“A legitimate one, seems to me.” Darius leaned back in his chair.

“I’m your brother, damn it. I screwed up, okay? I know I screwed up.” Rafe glanced at the cane leaning against the wall. “I would take back every minute of that day if I could. I’m so sorry, Dar. Seriously.”

Darius stayed silent for a long moment, then reached for his spoon. “Seems a little late for an apology.”

“I know it must seem that way, and I’m sorry about that, too.”

“You left.” Darius fixed him with a hard stare. “You didn’t know if I would live or die, but you left anyway. What kind of brother does that?”

Rafe curled his hands into fists. What had he expected, that Darius would just shrug and tell him to forget about it? “I had to go.”

“You couldn’t stick around for the funeral maybe?” His brother spooned a big scoop of cereal into his mouth and chewed.

“Cut it out.”

“If you’d hung out, maybe you would have gotten my car if I hadn’t survived.”

“I don’t want your car.”

“Maybe my comics. You always drooled over those.” Darius took another spoonful of cereal.

Rafe stared at his own bowl, his appetite gone. “Dar, quit it.”

Darius swallowed. “If I were a quitter, I wouldn’t be walking.”

“I’m glad, really glad, that you’re a stubborn cuss. It killed me to see you in that hospital bed.”

Darius scoffed. “When did you ever come see me in the hospital?”

“The night I left.”

The quiet words made Darius pause with the spoon halfway to his mouth. Slowly he set it down.

“I sneaked into the hospital that night before I left town. You were still unconscious from the surgery. I slipped past security and the nurses and sat by your bed for a good hour, talking to you telepathically.”

Darius narrowed his eyes. “You’re telling the truth. I can feel it.”

“Of course I’m telling the truth. Why would I lie?”

“I don’t know, Rafe. Why do you do anything?”

“I’m not the selfish prick you think I am.” Rafe leaned closer. “I left because I knew I was dangerous. Hennessy died because of me, and you nearly did, too. What else was I supposed to do? I had to get away from the people I loved to keep you all safe. But before I left, I came to see you in the hospital to tell you I was sorry.”

“You couldn’t have told me when I was awake?”

He could see the struggle in Dar’s face, as if he wanted to believe but didn’t dare. “There wasn’t time.”

“Why do I think you’re full of it?”

“I left you the healing crystals.”

Darius bit back whatever smart remark he had been about to deliver. “I thought Mom did that.”

“No, that was me.” Rafe glanced down at his cereal. “It was my fault you got shot. I had to find a way to help you get better but still leave so everyone could be safe. That was the best I could do.”

“The nurses kept moving the crystals off the bed.” The amusement in Dar’s voice had him looking up. “You should have heard Mom arguing with them.”

Because he actually could imagine it, Rafe couldn’t hold back a smile. “I guess she won.”

“She started out telling them it was a religious ritual, and when that didn’t work, she kept upping the amount she pledged to donate to the place. There’s a wing with her name on it now.”

Rafe chuckled. “She is a force, that’s for sure.”

“Yeah.”

Their laughter died. Rafe looked his brother straight in the eye, all his remorse open for him to see. “I really am sorry, Dar. I did a dumb thing and you paid the price. I hope you can forgive me.”

“I don’t know.” Darius toyed with his spoon.

Rafe’s heart sank. “I understand. I just wanted you to know how sorry I am.”

Darius nodded but didn’t look up.

Rafe pushed back his chair and stood. “You can have my bowl of twigs. I’m not hungry.”

When Darius remained silent, Rafe turned to leave. He’d gotten halfway across the kitchen when his brother finally spoke. “Rafe.”

He paused. “Yeah?”

“There is something you can do.”

He turned to face Darius. “What?”

“Actually, there’s a couple of things.”

“Name it.”

“Well, my car needs detailing.”

Concern gave way to confusion. “What?”

“And my laundry’s piling pretty high.”

“Laundry? Doesn’t Lupe still do the laundry?”

“And then there’s one last thing only a brother could help with.”

Only then did Rafe spot the gleam in his brother’s eyes. He folded his arms, scowling to hide the stupid, hopeful grin that wanted to explode across his face. “And what’s that?”

“Well, you’re aware I have mobility issues, and sometimes there’s a few places I can’t quite reach in the bathroom.…”

The laugh burst from his lips. “Forget it.”

Darius smiled. “You’d leave me with dirt in sensitive places?”

“In a heartbeat. Now eat your twigs.”

“That’s cold. Now be a good boy and get me a cup of coffee. It should be done brewing, and it’s hard for me to get it myself without spilling it.”

Rafe glanced at the coffee pot and the tower of disposable cups and lids stacked beside it. “Yeah, I can see that. Still take it black?”

“Always.”

Rafe poured the steaming coffee into one of the disposable cups just as their father walked into the kitchen.

“Bring your breakfast into the dining room,” John said. “I’m calling a family meeting.”

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

Rafe carried both cereal bowls into the dining room, and Darius followed with his coffee. Their mother was already sitting at the table, nursing a cup of coffee. Tessa breezed in with smiles for everyone before she sat down at the table and grabbed a banana from the fruit bowl. Moments later Cara appeared in the doorway.

“I’m sorry,” she said, glancing over the gathering. “I’m interrupting.”

“Not at all,” his father said. “Did you get your new cell phone?”

She nodded and held it up, a hint of a blush sweeping her cheeks. “Yes. Do I have you to thank for that?”

“I just called in a favor with the cell company, and this morning they sent a new one over and deactivated your old one. Darius was the one who told us how upset you were about being out of contact with your brother.”

Cara shot a surprised look at Darius. “Thank you. It means the world.”

Darius just shrugged.

“Come on in,” Rafe’s father said, gesturing. “This meeting involves you, too.”

She frowned but slipped the cell into her shorts’ pocket and came into the room. Rafe reached over to pull out the chair next to him. Their gazes met for one second of white-hot heat before she accepted the seat. Rafe draped his arm along the back of her chair, his fingers grazing her shoulder, content to just touch her.

John rested his hands on the back of an empty chair in front of him. “Thank you all for coming.”

“What’s this about?” Rafe asked.

“Patience, Rafe,” his father said.

“Got a date?” Darius drawled.

“No, but I planned to get on the road today.” The silence that fell and the sober expressions that accompanied it had Rafe looking from one to the other. “What? I still have to find Cara’s brother.”


We
,” Cara corrected. “
We
have to find Danny.”

Rafe touched her hand. “No, you’re staying here, where it’s safe.”

She started shaking her head before he’d finished his sentence. “I’m going with you.”

BOOK: Prodigal Son
7.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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