She had hoped he would make it easy. But she should have known better. Alex never did things the easy way if he could do them the hard way. Danny knew he got a perverse sense of satisfaction out of driving her insane and completely fucking up her life. It was as if he lived for this shit.
She scowled and threw a couple more pairs of socks and a handful of panties into her bag.
“The pink is my favorite, care to model them for me?” Alex drawled.
She really didn’t care which pair of panties he liked the best. And she was impressed by her ability to ignore the annoying sonofabitch.
“This technique of yours will not work … nothing changes by ignoring me.”
“I’m blocking you out.” She continued to pack her bag, keeping her back to him. He was not going to get to her. He was not going to get to her. She just had to keep telling herself that.
Alex smoothed his hand across Danny’s hair, and laughed when she swatted his hand away. He smiled broadly. “Why are you even here?” she finally asked, exasperated. “You could have just summoned me, Your Majesty,” she bit out, sarcastically.
“Yes, I could have. But I decided that I like you like this … in your element. It’s nice to see you in your home.”
Well she hated it. She hated having him in her home. It was uncomfortable enough being at the clan, but at least she knew what to expect when she was called to meet with him on his turf. This was her home. This was her space. And she didn’t want him in it.
“I forbid it,” Alex said suddenly, his voice no longer light.
Spinning around, Danny narrowed her eyes. “Excuse me?”
“I forbid you to go.” Alex snorted. “We have negotiated nothing. I will not have you traipsing off to foreign territory without even a by your leave.”
“Well, you have no say in this.”
“I am your Alpha!” Alex roared.
“My Alpha, yes, but my master … never.” She stood her ground, even in the face of his mounting anger. “And this is not something that requires negotiation. I will not be staying with a certain enemy Alpha. I will not be staying with the Stone Claw Clan. This has nothing to do with Pack business or politics.”
“Then you have no reason to go,” Alex said, voice short.
Danny threw up her hands. “This conversation is over. You can just show yourself out.”
Alex grabbed Danny by her shoulders. His eyes were blazing with fury and his nostrils flared. His beast was rising.
“You’re not frightening me. And I’m telling you again, I’m going.”
“You do not wish to anger me, Dennison.”
Sighing, using her full name was never a good sign, Danny relaxed in his arms and tried to even out her breathing. She really didn’t need this right now. And she didn’t feel like fighting him either—surprising, but true. She had begun to even out her life, so to speak, and she enjoyed finally being able to breathe. She liked not always being on the defensive and killing things. It was never too early to begin work on your karma. That was Danny’s new motto and she was going to try to stick by it.
“You’re right, Alex. I really don’t want to anger you. And I’m not trying to anger you. Right now I have a lot to do, and you’re not helping me any.”
“It is not my job to help you, Dennison,” he said softly.
“It is your job to help your Pack member. I’m not asking for much. I’m asking you to understand, not to like, but to understand that this is something that I have to do, that I’m obligated to do. I am going.” Danny took a deep breath. He was not ripping her head off—yet—so she continued. “I have done everything that you have ever asked of me, Alex. I have honored all of my obligations to the Pack. And I have honored all my obligations to you. Have I not?”
Alex said nothing.
Danny nodded. His silence was answer enough for her. “This is not a matter for the Pack. This is not a matter for you. This is my matter. The only reason we’re having this conversation now is because you always want to know my business.” His eyes narrowed slightly. “You know there is nothing you can do … short of fighting me right now … and let me assure you that I don’t feel like fighting you. Can you not just understand and let it go?”
“No,” Alex finally said. “I cannot. I cannot just let you go.”
Danny rolled her eyes. “You’re not letting me go, not like that, not in that way.”
God she was exhausted and she hadn’t even begun her trip yet. “Please, Alex…”
“Have you ever said please to me before?” Alex’s expression had softened.
Alex touched the side of her face gently. “You will stay far away from the Alpha of the Stone Claw Clan.”
Danny nodded quickly. Oh lord. Was he actually acquiescing?
“You will stay away from him, Dennison. And you will check in with me.” Alex’s eyes began to glitter with a hard, sharp, edge. “And you will deny the dark, do you hear me?”
“Deny the dark. Yes, I hear you loud and clear, Alex.” Whether or not she would actually listen to him…
Thad looked good—for a dead guy. His fair hair was brushed away from his handsome face. His complexion was pale, expectedly, but it still gave Danny pause. He was so very pale, and fine, blue veins were apparent beneath his soft white flesh. He looked well and truly dead. Danny couldn’t pretend, no matter how animated Thad was, that he was alive … human. He would never be human again.
“It’s still me,” Thad said quietly, having read the unease on Danny’s face. “It’s still me, Danny.”
Smiling, Danny shrugged. “Sorry, I’m still getting used to … uh … your state.”
“My state … that’s very diplomatic of you.”
“I know … I can be at times.”
Thad finished loading up the rental car and then turned to face her. “Thank you for this.”
Danny waved his thanks away. “You don’t have to thank me for anything.”
“Yeah, I do.”
“No, you really don’t. I mean, he called for me too, remember?”
“Uh-huh. But you could have sat this one out, so to speak. My master, my allegiance. You could have chosen another time to answer his summons. He would have understood.”
At that she raised her eyebrows. “Okay, you haven’t spent a lot of time with master vampire Savior Knight, have you? Because understanding … well, it isn’t a word that he is all too familiar with.”
“He could surprise you.”
“I sincerely doubt it,” Danny said dryly.
“Get in,” Thad said, chuckling.
“Why do you get to drive?” she complained as she slid into the passenger seat of the car.
Thad wiggled his eyebrows. “I rented the car … I get to drive.”
“Stupid logic,” Danny muttered.
“Logic that you use all the time when you’re getting your way.”
“Yes, but when it’s my way…”
“It’s fine. Yeah, I know.”
She wrinkled her nose, crossed her arms across her chest and sat back reveling in the butter-soft leather. She loved the smell of leather.
“Has he told you anything?” she asked suddenly. She wasn’t exactly certain why she bothered asking. She knew the answer already.
“Not really, as in a little? Or, not really, as in … nothing.” Danny waited. Thad frowned. “Or, not really as in…”
“All right, all right,” he groaned, “I get your point. He merely summoned me, Danny. And with his summons he,” Thad’s voice softened and took on that slow sexy Savior drawl, “asked to see his wolf, that flower of elegance and beauty who will surely give you a time of it.”
It was uncanny how much he sounded like Savior. It was uncanny and very, very unsettling.
Thad must have read the surprise on Danny’s face, because he smiled. “Yeah, I know, I’m good.”
“It’s a talent, what can I say?”
“He called me a ‘flower of elegance’?”
“You crack me up, Danny.”
“Only you would think such a compliment is disgusting.”
“Uh, I’m sure there are other people in this world who don’t want to be given stupid little pet names.”
“Most women would like to be called such a name.”
“I’m not ‘most women,’ Thad.”
He cleared his throat. “I’m well aware of that.”
“Not sure how to take that, Thaddie boy.”
“Any way you want, Danny girl. You will anyway.”
At that, she laughed. Thad did know her well.
“Did you pack your … uh … well that, that thing that you…”
“Spit it out, Thad.”
“Did you pack that vinyl outfit of yours?”
“Asking for any specific reason?” Danny popped a peppermint into her mouth.
“Just liked it, that’s all. It, uh, definitely makes a statement. I think it’ll come in handy.” Thad frowned and gestured towards her. “Do I get one?”
“Didn’t know you had taste buds left?”
“You are such a bitch.”
Danny shrugged, nodded and smiled. “Just figuring this out now?” She turned on the radio, and jacked up the volume.
“Trying to deafen me?”
“Is it working?”
“Getting there … supersensitive hearing, remember?”
If anyone had supersensitive hearing it was her. Wolves had senses like nobody’s business. “Where are we stopping, Thad? I’m assuming you’ve chosen a location.”
Thad nodded. “The Hollowing.”
“Excuse me?” She had to have heard that wrong.
Thad sighed dramatically. “The Hollowing.”
“The same Hollowing that is owned by a master vampire?”
“It is the safest place for me to take my rest, Danny.”
“I wouldn’t let anything happen to you.”
“This is for the best.”
Spending the day at The Hollowing didn’t sound like ‘the best’ to her. In fact, it sounded absolutely ridiculous. There had to be hundreds of places they could bunk down for the day. Why in the world did Thad have to choose the one lodging that happened to be held by a master vampire?
“He set it up, didn’t he?”
“If you are referring to my master,” Thad nodded. “He did think that this was the best idea.”
She knew it. That slimy, Machiavellian bastard! “Well, choose something else.”
“There is no choice.”
“If you would like me to drop you off at some other location, just tell me. I will. I will take my rest at The Hollowing, and you can spend the day at the Holiday Inn.”
The Holiday Inn had a pool, didn’t it? Danny shook her head to clear it. As much as she would enjoy spending the day lounging by the pool drinking cocktails, …she knew in her heart of hearts what would happen to Thad if he was caught disobeying his master. She was certain that Savior had made the directive and she was equally certain that if she did not spend the day at The Hollowing, Savior would take out his displeasure on Thad. And that was not acceptable.
“The Hollowing it is.”
“Don’t sound so surprised.”
“I am. I thought you’d fight harder than you did.”
“Would you like me to?”
“What do you have against The Hollowing, Danny?” Thad sounded genuinely bewildered.
“Are you joking?”
“No, I’m curious. You’re a magi, Danny, and a wolf…” he laughed, “and you’re Dennison Lee, the invincible…”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake, Thad, it’s The Hollowing! The same Hollowing that is written up in Paranormal Report.” Danny winced. “The Hollowing, an enchanting realm where time has no meaning and sensibilities no place … run by Master Vampire Rickart Sven, this reporter wishes the rest of the world would live within the boundaries of The Hollowing…”
“You see … that doesn’t sound so bad,” Thad said.
Danny rolled her eyes. “Jesus, Thad, I swear, reading that article, I think I threw up a little in my mouth.”
“Lovely, real descriptive there, hon.”
“Well, I did. Seriously, I have no desire to spend any time at The Hollowing, and even less interest in possibly bumping into master vampire Rickart Sven.”
“I will be sleeping, along with all the others like me. I don’t think you’ll be, uh, bumping into the big guy.”
“With my luck…”
Thad nodded. “True, very true. You have the worst luck ever.”
“Thanks a lot.”
“Do you disagree?”
She couldn’t. She couldn’t think of anyone who had worse luck than she did. It was like the fates were conspiring against her—all the fucking time. And people thought she was paranoid. She wasn’t paranoid. She was just used to being the wrong person at the wrong time in the wrong place. Being that person would make anyone more than a little uneasy … and perhaps more than a tad bit paranoid.
“Are you still with me?”
“Yeah, I’m still with you.”
“You were a million miles away there for a while.”
“Whatever.” Danny turned toward her window and focused on the scenery whizzing past her eyes.
“You’ve just shut me out.”
She didn’t answer. She had shut him out. Why was it she was always that person? The person with the terrible luck, the person who couldn’t seem to catch a break. Oh, she had spent years telling herself that there wasn’t anything different about her. That she was as normal as the next person, and that she made her own luck. She had control. She could do anything … and if it seemed that she couldn’t … well, she would change it. By sheer force of will she would make the situation change to her liking. But recent events had made her realize something—she didn’t know jack shit. And control … ha, what fucking control was that?
Alexander, Draco, Savior … you want to talk about control, power … they had all the control and they certainly had all the power. She was left grasping at straws … or trying to keep them from grasping her straw. It was so little she asked for, and yet everyone wanted it. Everyone wanted the little she had.
Well fuck that! Control was slipping—yes. Power? She was learning lately what little power she had over life-altering events. Nonetheless, she was not about to let those who might try to take everything from her into her life. She could not allow them to even have a taste—well, another taste. For if they had a taste … they would want it all, hadn’t the past taught her anything?
Oh, she didn’t believe for a minute that she was the most beautiful, the most desirable, even the sexiest woman out there … no, that had nothing to do with it. Man, wolf and evil bloodsucking dead wanted her because they couldn’t have her—or because someone else wanted her. Men, be they wolf or not, were all the same. They all played the same old game. They all beat to the same drummer. If they couldn’t have her, or someone else wanted her, boom, she was numero uno, the big fucking cheese.
“Danny … Danny … Danny, talk to me.”
“Jesus, you scared the crap out of me.”
Thad pulled the car over to the side of the road and cut off the engine.
“What are you doing? Do you want to get us killed? What’s wrong with you?” Danny shouted.
“I was going to ask you the same question. You totally went all weird on me. And you said, ‘huh’ twice, did you realize that? I don’t think I’ve ever heard you say the word ‘huh’ and you just uttered it twice in less than a minute.”
“You nearly got us killed because I said ‘huh’?”
“You were in a different world, Danny. You just spaced out on me. And,” Thad sighed, “I’m not used to you spacing out. You’re like the most composed person I know.”
Composed? Wow, she was becoming a fine little actress. “Thad, believe me when I tell you I’m as far from composed as possible.”
“Then you sure put on a good front.”
“You have no idea,” she muttered under her breath.
“Nothing.” Danny tried to gather her thoughts. “Listen, Thaddie boy, maybe I was taking a minute to feel sorry for myself, but it’s over now, I’m done and I feel much better.”
“Why would you feel sorry for yourself?”
Danny stared at him incredulously. “Are you serious?”
“Wasn’t it you who told me a couple of days ago that you were in a ‘good place’ that you felt at ease and even peaceful? That you enjoyed not killing things, and felt good about getting out of the mercenary business?”
“I wasn’t in the mercenary business,” she ground out.
“Uh-huh, okay. You were in the ‘right hand for money’ business, does that sound better to you?”
“My point is … I thought you felt good about your life, Danny.”
“I did too,” she murmured, “I did too.”
“So what happened?”
“Do we really want to talk about this here, on the side of the interstate?”
“You mean … do you really want to talk about this here on the side of the interstate.”
“Danny, please, talk to me.”
“We have a long ways to go, we should get going.”
“Danny, don’t shut me out, please…”
“What? What do you want me to say?” Danny screamed. “Do you want me to tell you how fucking screwed up my life is? Do you want me to tell you that I feel like I’m spiraling out of control and I don’t know how to get back on track? Do you want me to tell you how each and every day I feel the beast gaining on me … stalking me, and that someday soon it’ll overtake me?” She squared her shoulders and narrowed her eyes in defiance. “Well I won’t. Do you hear me,” she turned her flinty eyes back toward him, “I won’t! Whatever this fucking screwed up life holds for me, I’ll take it, just like I’ve taken everything else. It’s like you said … I’m the one and only Dennison Lee, magi wolf … and I can do anything, right?”
“Danny, I … I…”
Danny held up her hand to stop him. “Yeah, let’s forget about it, okay? Can we get this show on the road?”
Thad swallowed and nodded. “Yes, I think that would be a good idea … a very good idea.”
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