Then again, the Founding Families in Caldwell were aware of Peyton’s reputation. Maybe this wasn’t so much the best his father could do…as the best the son could do.

“Well?” Idina of the Libido prompted. “Tell me everything about them.”


Fuck this shit.

Peyton turned around and looked at the young female.

This shut everyone in the room up, a hushed disapproval slamming the door shut on all that social drooling.

The daughter recoiled, but then she collected herself quickly, shifting her stare downward as was appropriate considering his social faux pas: They had not yet been properly introduced.

She was lovely in a low key kind of way, her beauty not the sort that grabbed the eye immediately, but rather something that was revealed the more you stared at her. Her features were even and small, her limbs long and graceful, her body in that soft blue dress possessing all the curves a male could want.

A slight flutter off to the side drew his attention. It was her hands…her hands were shaking—and as if she didn’t want him to notice that, she clasped them together in her lap.

What have you done to deserve me, you poor thing, he thought.

“I’m Peyton,” he said, much to his father’s horror.

As he spoke up, the female’s eyes lifted to his, and there was surprise in them. But she immediately glanced to her parents.

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Her sire cleared his throat with a disapproving grunt—like he wished this were going better, but knew he had no right to expect shit in that department.

And then he muttered, “This is my daughter, Romina.”

English, not the Old Language. An insult to which one of us? Peyton wondered.

In any event, he bowed low. “My pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

Before he straightened, he tried to communicate with her telepathically: It’s going to be okay. We’re going to get out of this.

As if they were both prisoners.

Take out the “as if.”

And clearly, they were on death row, at least in the female’s opinion. The girl was flat-out terrified.

As Saxton stood beside the open sliding door of his penthouse, he didn’t feel the freezing cold or the punches of the wind gusts or the hunger that had been agitating his belly. The male before him took all of that away, Ruhn’s big body tensed as if he were ready to bolt off the top of the Commodore, his hair blowing asunder, his eyes too bright and very wary. But that scent…that scent.

Dark spices. Arousal.

Sexual need.

What fantasy is this, Saxton wondered. Was he asleep and dreaming?

“Don’t go,” he said in a rough voice. Except then he caught himself and tried to pull back from a tone that was too close to begging. “I mean, come in and tell me what happened. At Minnie’s. Please.”

Ruhn’s stare shifted so that he seemed to focus on the interior.

“There’s no one here but me.” Saxton stepped back even farther. “We’re alone.”

Dear God, why did that sound like an invitation?

Because it was.

“Stop it—” As he realized he’d spoken aloud, he closed his eyes and tried to pull himself together. “Sorry. Please, it’s cold.”

Or maybe it was sweltering hot. Who the hell knew.

“All right,” Ruhn said in a low voice.

As the big male turned sideways and came in, Saxton couldn’t keep from closing his eyes and inhaling. He had never smelled anything so sensual in his life. Ever.

With shaky hands, he closed them both in together by pulling the glass back into place. “I was…well, I was just going to make—would you like some coffee?”

Ruhn looked around and crossed his arms over his chest. “I’m fine. Thank you.”

“Won’t you sit down?”

“This shouldn’t take long.”

And yet the male did not start to speak. He stayed there right by the exit, his boots planted on the pale gray rug, his black leather jacket and blue jeans making a mockery of all the carefully constructed minimalism around him, a giant in a dollhouse.

“Tell me what happened?” Saxton went across and sat down on his sofa. “Is anything wrong?”

Ruhn seemed to take a deep breath, his chest expanding so much that that jacket creaked. “I went out there, to the farmhouse, to make sure Mistress Miniahna was all right. There was a truck parked in the driveway, just before the circle in front of the house. Black, with darkened windows. I waited, and after a moment, two human males got out and looked at the trees. One had a sensor in his hand.”

“They know we removed the cameras.”

“Yes.” Ruhn put his hands into the pockets of his leather jacket. “They do.”


“Well, I couldn’t just leave with them there.”

Here we go, Saxton thought.

“What did you do?”

“I dematerialized around to the back and approached them as if I were coming around the house. The men were surprised. I told them I was staying with my aunt and was out chopping wood when I heard them come up the lane. I asked them what they were doing on the property. One said he and his buddy were concerned for her, what with her being all alone. When I pointed out that she wasn’t alone, that I was there, they said they knew she lived by herself. Then they went on about how the neighborhood was really changing and that she should consider selling. I told them that there was no more reason to worry about her as I was going to take care of things at the house and that I would deal with any trespassers. Then I asked them what their names were and why they were on the property at all, and that was when things got interesting.”

“Did they threaten you, too?”

“They gave me these.” He pulled out some papers that had been folded in quarters. “And told me that they were for Mistress Miniahna. They had tried the front door during the day a number of times, they said.”

Saxton sat forward and held out his hand. “Did you show these to her?”

“I can’t read.” Ruhn came forward only far enough to give whatever it was over and then he immediately dropped back. “As I didn’t know what they were, I didn’t want to show her something that would upset her for no good reason. I wasn’t sure what to do for the best. That’s why I called you.”

Saxton unfolded things, and a quick scan got him right up off the cushions onto his feet. Then he paced around as he did a more careful read.

“What is it?” Ruhn asked.

Saxton stopped and looked over at the male. “They’re accusing her of being a squatter.”

“How? It’s her property.”

“It is, but she and her hellren made a mistake with the property records. I discovered it late last night. They didn’t file redundant real property contracts over time.”

“What is that?”

“It’s a strategy for vampires who hold real estate in the human world. Every twenty years or so, generally, you want to pretend that you’ve sold your house or your land to what appears to be a fellow family member. Otherwise, you have what Miniahna is going to have to deal with here—which is that the records show a single owner since 1821. Needless to say, that is impossible for a human to pull off, and clearly, the developer has discovered the issue, even as he cannot guess the truth about our species. Anyway, tell me—did you wait for them to leave? The humans?”

“Yes. They took off right after they gave me those.” Ruhn frowned. “Can you do anything to help her?”

Saxton walked into the kitchen area and went straight for the coffee machine. As he poured himself some Starbucks Breakfast Blend, his mind was racing.

Backdating documents. Yes, he had to create an artificial paper trail—

When he turned around, he caught Ruhn wincing as the male gripped under his arm and seemed to stretch his torso.

“Are you all right?” Saxton asked.

“Just fine.”

“Then why are you looking as if you’re in pain.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“It does to me.”

Ruhn opened his mouth. Closed it. Opened it again.

Saxton shook his head sadly. Abruptly, he was tired, horny, and totally confused by the male—oh, and he was truly pissed off at the human race and its meddling ways. So, indeed, he was done with being socially appropriate and polite.

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