Home > The Story of Son(15)

The Story of Son(15)
Author: J.R. Ward

Which meant he'd taken down her license plate. And he also knew where she lived, didn't he. Because . . . oh, God, she'd woken up in her bed at home after the three days with Michael. Fletcher had somehow gotten her back there.

Maybe he had some mind tricks at his disposal as well.

Maybe they should have killed him.

7

When Mick Rhodes's Federal mansion came into view an hour later, Claire wondered whether she was doing the right thing by getting her friend involved even tan-gentially.

After all, she was pulling into the guy's driveway with an escapee vampire who had a bad case of justifiable agoraphobia. Who was also carsick.

Michael was green around the gills as she put the Mercedes in park. "We're safe."

He swallowed hard. "And we're not moving. This is good."

The front lights came on and Mick walked out onto the porch.

Claire opened her door and got out as Michael did the same. "Mick is an old friend. We can trust him."

Michael sniffed the air. "And he was your lover, was he not?" he said softly. "He remembers you with a certain . . . need."

Jesus. "That was a long time ago."

"Indeed." Gone was the fear and the queasiness. Michael was dead serious. And staring at Mick like the other man was his enemy.

Vampires were evidently rather territorial of their mates.

Mick lifted his hand in greeting and called, "Glad you made it. And who's your friend?"

"He's going to help us, Michael," she said, going around to her man and taking his hand in hers. "Come on."

Michael's eyes shifted over to hers. "If he touches you inappropriately, I'm going to bite him. Just so we are clear." Michael glanced back at her friend. "I'm not an animal and I shall not behave as such. But you are mine and things will go better for him if he respects that."

Vampires were evidently very territorial of their mates. "He will. I swear it."

Mick shifted impatiently. "Are you two coming or going?"

"Coming," she muttered as she started to walk forward. When they got to the house, she said, "This is Michael."

"Nice to meet you, Michael."

Michael glanced at the palm that was offered. As he bowed slightly instead of putting his hand out, she wondered whether he didn't trust himself to touch Mick even in a polite way. "How do you do?" he said.

"I'm all right." Mick put his hand back in his pocket with a shrug, then frowned. "Chains. . . is that what you have on your arm?"

Claire took a deep breath. "I told you I needed big favors."

There was a moment's hesitation. Then Mick shook his head and indicated the open door. "Come on in, you two, and how about we start by ditching your iron, buddy. Unless you're wearing it as a fashion statement? I've got a hacksaw." He glanced at Claire. "And maybe you'd like to tell me what the hell is going on here."

An hour later, Claire was drinking a cup of coffee in the library, looking over the rim at Michael, who was free of the chain and seemingly much more himself after the nausea of the car ride had fully faded. Dressed in his robe, he fit in perfectly here, she thought. With the formal, antique feel of the library, he seemed to have stepped out of a Victorian novel—maybe the very one he held in his hands. He was loving all of Mick's books, examining their spines, taking them out, leafing through them.

"Where did you find him?" Mick asked softly from behind her.

"It's a long story."

"He's. . . unusual, isn't he?"

Christ, you have no idea, she thought, taking another sip from her cup.

"Michael's unlike any man I've met."

"And he's why you're leaving the firm, isn't he?" When she didn't reply, her friend murmured, "So what do you need from me?"

"Somewhere to stay the night, for starters." She stared down into the coffee. "And I want to buy him a new identity. Birth certificate, social security number, credit history, tax payments, driver's license. I know you know people who can take care of this, Mick, and what I get for my money has to be impregnable. It has to stand up in court. Because we might end up there."

Which was going to be no fun at all.

"Shit. . . what kind of mess are you in?"

"No mess." It was far, far worse than a mess.

"Liar. You show up here with a man who's covered in iron links. . . talks like a Victorian but looks like he could cheer-fully eat me alive . . . has hair down to his ass and is dressed in a red silk Hugh Hefner special. And who smells like a . . . well, he smells really good actually. What kind of cologne is that? I think I want some."

"You can't buy it. And Mick, frankly, the less you know the better." Because she was about to become a white-collar criminal. "I also want to use your computer. Oh, and we have to sleep in your basement."

Michael turned, frowned at the two of them standing so close together, and came across the room, putting his hand on her shoulder. Mick had the smarts to step back.

"So will you help us?" she asked Mick.

Mick rubbed his face. "Let me buy the identity for you. The man I know is really touchy and he won't accept a payment from anyone else but me. You can reimburse me somehow. And you're serious? You want to sleep in my basement? I mean, I've got six guest rooms in this ark and this is an old house. It's not nice down there."

"No, downstairs is better."

"We shall stay in a proper bed," Michael announced. "We shall stay upstairs."

She looked over her shoulder. "But—"

His hand squeezed gently. "I shall not have you sleeping in quarters unfit for a lady."

"Michael—"

"Perhaps you will show us to our room, kind sir?" Okay, clearly when her man decided something, that was that.

Mick frowned. "Ah . . . yeah. Sure, buddy—"

Michael wheeled toward one of the windows. And positively growled.

"Stay inside," he said. Then disappeared into thin air.

Mick barked out a curse, but she wasn't about to worry over her friend. Claire ran for the window and watched as Michael took form on the side lawn in the moonlight.

The butler was back. Fletcher was standing there like something out of a nightmare, glowing like a ghost though his form was solid.

Her first thought was that he'd probably put some kind of GPS device on her car. It was the only explanation for how he could have found them. But then she realized he was not human. So God only knew what kind of shit he had at his disposal.

"Who is that?" Mick said from behind her. "Or. . . Christ, Claire, should the question be what?"

What happened next was gruesome and horrible and the only option. Michael and the butler faced off, and they fought to the death.

Fletcher's.

Claire couldn't watch, but Mick did and she tracked his face as he witnessed the carnage. "Is Michael. . ."

"He's doing—" Mick winced. "Yeah, there's not going to be much left of that other guy to bury."

She knew it was over when Mick took a deep breath and rubbed his face. "Stay here. I'm going to go see about . . . your man?"

"Yes," she said. "He's mine."

Mick went around the corner to the front door, and she heard the men talking softly from the other side of the doorway.

"Claire?" Michael said without coming into the room. "I'm fine, but I shall go get cleaned up, shall I?"

It wasn't a question even though he'd posed it as one. She knew he was staying outside because he didn't want her to see him, but screw that.

She walked across the library and through the—

Okay, that was a lot of blood. But it didn't appear to be his because it was on his hands and his . . . mouth. As if he'd bitten Fletcher. A number of times.

"Oh, God."

Except then she looked into his eyes. They were grim and serious and resolute. As if he'd done what he'd had to and that was that. But there were shadows in them, as if he were afraid she'd think he was a monster.

She pulled herself together and walked over to him. "I'll help you wash."

After she bathed Michael, she got him some clothes. Which was a joke. Though Mick was a big guy, the only thing that fit her man even remotely was a pair of flannel pajama bottoms and a button-down shirt—and even still, it was all tight and showed a lot of ankle and wrist.

But he looked good, his hair damp and curling at the ends as it dried, its red and black colors coming to life.

Mick showed them into a lovely bedroom that mercifully had only two windows and thick drapes. Hopefully that would be enough protection.

Mick was the one who pulled the lined curtains into place.

"You need anything, you know where I sleep," he said. He hesitated at the door, then closed them in together.

Claire took a deep breath. "Michael—"

He cut her off. "You said you could do anything while you were with child, correct?"

   
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