Home > The Story of Son(7)

The Story of Son(7)
Author: J.R. Ward

Getting out of the shower, she dried off, put the robe back on, and tucked her panties and her bra in the pocket.

When she was out in the bedroom, she said, "Michael, where are you?"

She went farther into the room. "Michael?"

"I am at the desk."

"Will you turn on some lights?"

Candles flared instantly.

"Thank you." She stared at him as he shuffled to hide what he'd been drawing. "I am taking you with me," she said.

His head lifted and for once so did his eyes. God, they were amazing the way they glowed. "I beg your pardon?"

"When Fletcher comes for me, I'm going to make it so you get out." Most likely by beaning the butler with the very candleholder in her hands. "I'm going to take care of him."

"No!" Michael jumped to his feet. "You must not interfere. You shall leave as you came, without violence."

"The hell I will. This is wrong. All of it. It's wrong for the women and for you and it's your mother's fault. Fletcher's, too."

And would that she could take things to their right and proper conclusion. That woman and her thug butler needed to be put behind bars: Claire didn't care how old they were. Unfortunately, turning them into the police because they'd kept a vampire chained in the basement wasn't exactly what you wanted to lead with when you were trying to have one of Caldwell's most prominent citizens arrested.

That would be one hell of a hard sell. So freeing him was the best course.

"I cannot let you resist," he said.

"Don't you want to get out of here?"

"They will hurt you." His eyes were grave. "I would rather be imprisoned herein for all my days than have you harmed."

She thought about Fletcher's uncanny strength given his age. And the fact that he and Miss Leeds had been stealing women for fifty years and getting away with it. If Claire disappeared because they killed her, it would be a pain to justify, but bodies could be dealt with. Sure, her assistant knew where she'd gone, but Miss Leeds and Fletcher were no doubt smooth enough to play dumb. Plus they had Claire's car keys and the signed will. They could get rid of the car and maintain Claire had come and left and whatever bad things had happened had nothing to do with them.

Man . . . she was surprised they'd picked her, for no other reason than her personality was so assertive. Then again, she'd been pretty damn ladylike around Miss Leeds. And she was an acceptable target, she supposed: a single woman traveling alone on the last, rowdy weekend of the summer.

Clearly, they had an M.O. that had worked for five decades. And they were going to protect themselves. By force, according to Michael's fear.

She was going to need help getting him out. Maybe she could have him—no, he probably wasn't going to be the kind of backup she needed, given the head f**k that had been done on him. Damn .. . she was going to have to come back for him and she knew who to bring. She had friends in law enforcement, the kind who would be willing to put their badges in the drawer and leave their guns on their hips. The kind who could take care of a messy scene.

The kind who could take care of Fletcher while she took care of Michael.

She was coming back for him.

"No," Michael said. "You will not remember. You cannot come back."

A fresh wave of anger hit. That he could obviously read her mind didn't piss her off as much as the idea that he'd prevent her from helping him—even if it was because he wanted to protect her. "The hell I won't remember."

"I shall take your memories—"

"No, you won't." She put her hands on her hips. "Because you're going to swear on your honor, right here, right now, that you won't."

She knew she had him because she sensed there was nothing he would deny her. And she had absolute faith that if he promised he would leave her memories alone, he would.

"Swear to it." When he stayed quiet, she pushed her wet hair back. "This needs to stop. It isn't right on so many levels and this time your mother picked the wrong bitch to throw down here with you. You are getting out and I'm going to spring you."

The smile he gave her was wistful, just a little lift to his mouth. "You are a fighter."

"Yes. Always. And sometimes I'm a whole army. Now give me your word."

He looked around the room with yearning in his face, his eyes intent as if he were trying to see through the stone walls and the earth up to the sky that was so far away. "I have not known fresh air in . . . a long time."

"Let me help you. Give me your word."

His eyes shifted over to her. They were such kind, intelligent, warm eyes. The sort of eyes you would want in a lover.

Claire stopped herself because being his Good Samaritan did not include sleeping with him. Although . . . what a night that would be. His big body was no doubt capable of—

Stop it.

"Michael? Your word. Now."

He dropped his head. "I promise."

"What. What do you promise." The lawyer in her had to nail down the specifics.

"That I shall leave you intact."

"Not good enough. Intact could mean physically or mentally. Say to me, 'Claire, I will not take your memories of me or this experience from you.'"

"Claire . . . what a lovely name."

"Don't stall. And look at me as you say it."

After a moment, his eyes rose to hers and he didn't blink or look away. "Claire, I will not take your memories of me or what transpires from you."

""Good." She went over to the bed and lay on top of the velvet duvet. As she arranged the lapels of the robe, he sank down into the chair.

"You look exhausted," she said to his back. "Why don't you come lie down? This bed is more than big enough for the both of us."

He braced his arms against his thighs. "That would not be appropriate."

"Why?"

All the candles dimmed. "Sleep. I will come to you later."

"Michael? Michael?"

Abruptly, a wave of exhaustion came over her. As she blacked out, she had a fleeting thought that it was because he had willed it so.

Claire woke up in total darkness, with the sense that he was looming over her. She was in the bed, as if he'd tucked her between the sheets.

"Michael?" When he didn't say anything, she asked, "Is it time for you to . . . ?"

"Not yet."

He said no more and still did not move, so she whispered, "What is it?"

"Did you mean it?"

"About getting you out?"

"No. When you asked me if I would . . . lay beside you?' "Yes."

She heard him take a deep breath. "Then may I. . . join you?"

"Yes."

She moved the sheets, making room as the mattress dipped low under the great weight of him. But instead of getting in, he stayed on top of the duvet.

"Aren't you cold?" she said. "Come inside."

The hesitation didn't surprise her. The fact that he lifted the blankets did. "I will retain my robe."

The bed moved as he shifted and the sound of the chains chilled her, reminding her they were both trapped. But then she smelled dark spices and could only think of holding him. Easing herself over, she touched his arm. When he jerked then settled, she was aware she had decided to be with him.

"Have you had many lovers?" he asked.

So he knew what she wanted, too. And she had a feeling he had come to her because he was seeking it as well. Still, she wasn't sure how to answer the question without making him feel insecure.

"Have you?" he prompted.

"A few. Not many." She'd been much more interested in winning at the negotiation table than sex.

"Your first time, what was it like? Were you scared?"

"No."

"Oh."

"I wanted to get it over with. I was twenty-three. I started late."

"Is that late?" he murmured. "How old are you now?" "Thirty-two."

"How many." Now, there was a masculine demand in his voice, an edge. And she liked the contrast with his essentially gentle disposition.

"Only three."

"Did they . . . please you?"

"Sometimes."

"When was the last time?" The words came fast and low.

He was jealous and it shouldn't have pleased her, but it did. She wanted him to feel possessive, because she wanted to have him.

"A year ago." He exhaled as if relieved, and in the silence that followed, she became curious. "And when was the last time you . . . relieved yourself?"

He cleared his throat and she was damn sure he was blushing. "In the shower."

"Just now?" she asked with surprise.

"It was hours ago. Or at least it feels that way." He coughed a little. "After I came to you—well, during the time that I came to you, I became . . . needful. To resist, I had to leave you and that is why I didn't finish you properly. I was afraid I would . . . touch you."

   
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