Authors: Marisa Chenery
Torger leaned toward her and gave her a short, thorough kiss. “Thanks for being understanding. And sorry for sticking you with all the dirty dishes.”
“Hey, you cooked. It’s only fair I should do the washing up. Go.”
He stood, then went to the apartment door. Torger turned and blew her a kiss before he walked out. Rikki smiled. He was cute.
She collected their dirty dishes, then put them into the dishwasher. She filled the sinks to wash the pots and pans that Torger had used to cook their meal. Her thoughts gravitated toward him. So far, he came across as being perfect. The man cooked. She only hoped he wouldn’t be too good to be true. She hated that the thought even crossed her mind, but the way she grew up, she found it hard to trust what a person actually was at face value. Rikki had learned that lesson the hard way with a few foster parents. At first, they’d come across as great people, who only wanted the best for her. After a few months, they’d made it perfectly clear they were in it just for the money.
Rikki was halfway done washing the dishes when someone knocked on the apartment door. She dried her hands on the tea towel that she had over her shoulder before she put it on the table. She smiled as she crossed to the entrance. Maybe it was Torger, finished up with whatever he had to do with Cameron and Kaisa.
She opened the door, about ready to say he’d been quick. Rikki stopped herself as her gaze landed on the man who stood on the other side. It wasn’t someone she’d met. The first thing she noticed was that he wasn’t bad looking, but his skin was so pale it was as if he’d never been out in the sun. Like ever.
“Can I help you?” she asked.
He dragged in a deep breath through his nose, then gave her a wide smile that gave her a good view of what she could only describe as fangs. The kind vampires in the movies and on TV had.
“It would seem as though you can, even better than I’d expected,” he said as he grabbed her by the throat and walked her backward farther into the apartment.
Rikki wanted to scream, but his grip tightened, cutting off most of her airway. She clawed at his hand and fought to breathe. She was on the verge of passing out when he allowed her to drag in a lungful of air.
“No screaming,” he said. He lowered his head so their gazes met. “Look into my eyes.” She did and felt as if she fell into a dazed state. His voice washed over her as if he were far away, but it seemed to resonate deep inside her. “You will do everything I say, then forget I was ever here.”
Rikki blinked and found herself standing in front of the sink, staring at nothing. She gave herself a mental shake. Man, she had to have it bad for Torger to get so lost in thoughts of him she forgot what she was doing. She dipped her hand into the wash water and found it’d cooled. She really had been off in another world. She ran the hot water to warm what was in the sink, then continued with the chore at hand.
* * * *
Torger got out of his car, then walked over to where Kaisa and Cameron stood, waiting for him. They were not too far from Lemmon’s grain elevator, which was situated close to the train tracks near the outskirts of town. Since it was past business hours, the place was deserted.
“So, what happened?” Torger asked as he came to stand in front of them.
Kaisa answered. “Cameron tracked down the scent of a servant. It was the weirdest thing. Once we caught up to him, he stood out in the open as if he wanted us to find him.”
A servant was a human a vampire compelled to do their bidding without question, and to put the needs of their master before their own. Even if it meant they had to give up their lives to serve him or her. Not all vamps had them. Only the ones who were evil at heart.
“What did this servant want?” Torger asked.
“To give us a message. He said his master would be here in Lemmon soon, and would come hunting us. And that they know we killed his master’s cousin. Apparently, we’ll pay for that with our lives.”
Torger snorted. That sounded in character with the vamps in his mother’s family. They were arrogant to a fault, and thought they were all powerful. The thought that he, Brolach and Kaisa were all true immortals, unable to be killed, wouldn’t have even crossed their minds.
“Did you call Brolach and tell him what the servant said?” he asked.
Cameron nodded. “I did. He’ll be extra observant whenever he and Waverly are out or at the coffee shop, working. Not that a vampire would show up there then since they work dayshift.”
No, one wouldn’t, but a human servant could. The vamp they’d killed had had two of them, who’d captured Waverly during the day. That abduction had led to Brolach doing the second blood exchange to claim and turn her to save her life when the vamp had torn into her throat.
Torger nodded. “Brolach is just being cautious of his mate. Something I’ll now have to do with Rikki.” He met Cameron’s and Kaisa’s gazes with his own. “My werewolf side has claimed her as mine.”
His sister shook her head. “Damn. Why couldn’t it have taken longer? What about blood exchanges? Please tell me you didn’t do one?”
“Well, it didn’t. And I wish I could tell you I didn’t, but I can’t. Not expecting the werewolf mate bond to form so quickly, I lost control and fed from Rikki. I took too much and had to give her some of my blood.”
“So if a vamp happens to come across her, he or she will know you’ve almost claimed her. That’s so not good with one of our vampire relatives on his way here. Did Rikki know what happened?”
“No. She was on the verge of passing out. I acted quickly and then she fell asleep for a few hours. If she remembered any of it—our souls joining or me getting her to drink my blood—she didn’t let on.”
“You’ll have to tell her, brother.”
Torger sighed. “I know. Especially now. It might be better if I turn her as soon as possible. That way she’ll be immortal and will have a fighting chance if a vampire tries to use her to get to me as the other did to Brolach. Waverly almost died because Brolach had held off the second blood exchange.”
Cameron nodded. “I think that’d be best. Until then Rikki will be a vulnerable mortal.”
“I’ll tell her everything tomorrow. Where’s the servant now?”
Cameron blew out a breath. “In the trunk of my car. Right after he delivered his message, he took out a knife and stabbed himself in the heart before we could stop him. I’m going to ditch the body some place where it won’t be found. You can drive Kaisa home while I do that.”
“Shit,” Torger said. “Take care of it. Kaisa let’s go.”
They only way to sever a servant’s tie to his or her master vampire was to kill the vamp. Even though it sucked that the servant had been ordered to kill himself, in the long run it was for the best.
“Aren’t you going to go back to Rikki’s place?” his sister asked.
“Not tonight. If I’m going to reveal what I am to her and tell her what it entails to be my mate, I think I’d better work out a plan that won’t involve her freaking out. I don’t think springing it on her right out of the blue is going to do me any favors. I don’t want to use compulsion on her.”
“That’s probably a good idea. You don’t want to lose her trust. And once you turn her, you won’t be able to compel her any longer.”
Cameron waved and said he’d get home to the house they all shared as fast as he could, then got into his car before he drove off. He headed down the road that would take him farther away from the main part of town. Torger didn’t even want to know where Cameron would bury the body of the servant.
He and Kaisa climbed into his car, then he started the engine. As he drove them home, he tried not to let his worry for his mate’s safety take him over. His instincts would blow it all out of proportion before it reached the stage where she was in true danger. After tomorrow, he wouldn’t have as much to fear. She’d be his mate in all ways, and he wouldn’t leave her side.
It was the following day, and Torger stood outside the coffee shop with Brolach, Waverly, Kaisa and Cameron. He was about to cross the street to see Rikki. He’d had a coffee with his family beforehand, and they’d insisted on following him out.
He looked at each one of them. “Are all of you going to hang out here while I’m with Rikki?”
“We just want to be ready in case you need help with telling Rikki the truth,” Waverly said. “I know from firsthand experience how hard it can be to accept it all when you think it’s only stuff of make believe.”
“I think I can handle it on my own.”
“Still,” Brolach said, “you might appreciate it if it blows up in your face.”
“Don’t you two have to work?” He set his gaze on Waverly. “Your dad will come looking for you and Brolach.”
She waved his concerns away with a flick of her hand. “Dad won’t be a problem. Devin said he’d cover for us. And it isn’t as if my father is a harsh task master, anyway.”
Torger turned his attention on Cameron and Kaisa. “There isn’t anything I can say that will send you away either.” He said it as a statement, knowing full well there was no point saying it as a question.
His sister smiled. “You have that right.”
He shook his head. “Fine. Just so you know, I have no idea how long it’ll take me to figure it’s the right time to tell her. You all could be standing out here for hours.”
Cameron shook his head. “Just get it over and done with. Why prolong the agony?”
“I guess you’re right. I’ll let you know once it’s done.”
“We won’t come to your rescue unless we hear screaming.”
Torger rolled his eyes, then walked across the street. He opened the door to the entrance stairway to Rikki’s apartment before he climbed the steps. He took a deep breath. Cameron was correct. There was no sense in waiting for the opportune moment to tell Rikki. It might never come. It was best to get through it as soon as possible so he could put it behind him.
He knocked on the apartment door. His sensitive hearing easily picked up the sound of Rikki moving around on the other side. She opened it, then stepped back for him to enter. Once she closed it behind him, he gathered her into his arms and gave her a long kiss. They were both breathing hard once he let her up for air.
“I missed you,” he said.
She smiled. “I can tell. I missed you too.”
Rikki took hold of Torger’s hand and pulled him to stand in the middle of the living room. He went to embrace her once more, but she stepped out of reach and shook her head with a grin.
“I want you to wait right here,” she said. “I have a surprise for you. I have to get it.”
“And where exactly is this surprise?”
“In my bedroom.”
“Wouldn’t it be better if I went with you? I can think of lots of things I can do in that room to show you how much I like the surprise.”
“Oh no, you don’t. You stay there. I’ll be back in a few seconds.”
“Fine. You win. I’ll wait for you to bring the surprise to me.”
Rikki turned and walked toward her room. Torger watched her, wondering what she’d bring back. He was disappointed in himself at how fast he latched on to this small diversion from having to tell her his big secret. He wasn’t exactly chicken about doing it. He thought his reluctance stemmed from the fact she’d be the first human he’d told.
She returned to the living room with a big smile as she held something behind her back. “Are you ready for your surprise?”
Before Torger realized it was a gun Rikki pulled from behind her back, she’d fired. She was close enough not to miss. The bullet hit him smack in the middle of his forehead. He collapsed to the floor like a ton of bricks.
Rikki jerked as what sounded like a gunshot rang in her ears. She blinked, not knowing what was happening. It was almost as if she’d been sleep walking and then had suddenly woken up.
She looked down at the weight in her hand. She held a gun. Had she fired it? Rikki frantically gazed around the room and found Torger on the living room floor with a bullet wound in the middle of his forehead. He didn’t seem to be moving.
Her chest heaved as she breathed at too fast a rate. She couldn’t have shot him. She didn’t even own a gun, and had no idea where this one had come from or why she’d used it. She hated them.
The sound of the apartment door slamming against the wall drew her gaze. Brolach, Cameron and Kaisa raced inside. A woman she didn’t know followed them. Rikki whimpered and dropped the gun.
As Kaisa rushed to Torger’s side, Rikki said on the verge of tears, “I shot him, but I don’t remember doing it. I don’t remember.”
“It’s okay, Rikki,” Kaisa said.
“No, it’s not. I shot Torger. I killed him!” she shouted. “Why can’t I remember? Why would I do that? I have deep feelings for him. Why would I kill him?” Her voice rose with each word she spoke.
Kaisa looked at Brolach. “She’s getting hysterical.”
He nodded. “I’ll take care of it.”
Brolach crossed to Rikki and took hold of her chin to force her to gaze into his eyes. She felt as if she couldn’t break the connection, and that she was in a bit of a daze.
“You’re going to be calm. And you’re going to remain calm when Torger tells you what we are. You won’t fear us—ever.”
Once Brolach let her go, Rikki felt calm, just as he’d said she would. What had he done to her?
The woman Rikki hadn’t met before came to stand beside Brolach. “I’m Waverly, by the way.” She looked at her husband. “Torger is going to be pissed that you compelled his mate. It worked for me when I found you, but I’m yours, and it was your decision, not your brother’s.”
Brolach shrugged. “He’ll thank me for it in the end.”
Rikki said calmly, “Torger is dead. I shot him.”
Brolach shook his head. “He isn’t. Go see for yourself.”
She walked around him and Waverly and then went to Kaisa and Cameron, who were still with Torger. Rikki kneeled at Torger’s side. At first, all she could stare at was the bullet wound, but the longer she looked the blood stopped seeping. She sucked in a sharp breath as the bullet pushed itself out of the wound, which then healed within seconds as if it’d never been there.