After the check came and the card was exchanged, Saxton then signed things just out of sight, and the two of them got up and gave further compliments to the human—at which point, a woman in a white chef’s outfit came forth and there were exclamations to her as the person who had provided them with such a glorious meal.
When they were finally back outside, Ruhn found that he could remember little in terms of detail: If asked what precisely he had eaten or drunk, what had been said, where they had sat, he could not have pointed to many particulars.
And yet the whole was unforgettable.
“Aren’t they wonderful?” Saxton was saying as they walked over to the trunk. “Such a great couple. They live above the restaurant. It is truly their life.”
As if on cue, a light flared in a window on the upper level, a shadow passing by drapes that were pulled.
“Thank you,” Ruhn murmured as he looked at Saxton. “This was amazing.”
“I am glad. I wanted to show you something special.”
Shifting his eyes lower, Ruhn recalled the taste and feel of the male’s kiss—and oh, how he wished that they were on the human schedule. It would have been wonderful to find this the end of the day instead of the start of the night, the two of them winding down together back at Saxton’s sleek penthouse, entwining themselves, legs about legs, arms about arms, in a bed, with nothing but hours of pleasure ahead.
There was much to explore.
So many things he wanted to taste and touch.
“If you keep staring at me like that,” Saxton groaned, “I am going to lose my job for failure to show up.”
“I’m sorry.” He was not. “I’ll stop.” He did not.
It was cold and the wind was blowing, but it might as well have been an August night for all he was in a rush to get under cover in the truck. He could have stayed just where they were forever, suspended between a good meal and the good-bye that was going to have to come because of Saxton’s responsibilities.
“Can I visit you at the end of the night?” Ruhn asked.
“If you spend the day with me, yes.” Saxton’s smile was slow and full of promise. “I’m going to need more than a half hour before the dawn’s ugly light.”
Later, he would wonder exactly what it was that broke the moment and brought his head around, but he would be forever grateful for whatever instinct had his back-—because they were no longer alone.
Two figures were in the shadows about fifteen yards away, standing just out of sight behind a shop’s back porch.
He knew who they were without confirmation from their scents.
“Get in the truck,” he ordered Saxton.
Ruhn grabbed the male’s arm in a hard grip and started marching for the cab. “The truck. Get in there and lock the doors.”
“Ruhn, why are you—”
The men who had been at that two-bit office stepped forward, silencing that line of questioning. And a quick triangulation to the passenger-side door of the truck made Ruhn nervous. It all depended on how fast those humans moved.
“Let me call the Brothers,” Saxton said as he put his hand inside his coat, clearly going for his phone.
Keeping his voice down and his eyes on the approach, Ruhn shook his head. “I’ve got this.”
“They could be armed. They probably are. Let me—”
“This is why I’m here. Get in the vehicle.”
He unlocked things remotely and then jumped ahead, opened the door, and pressed the keys into Saxton’s palm. “Lock yourself in. Leave if things go badly.”
“I will never leave you.”
With a rough shove, Ruhn all but airlifted the other male in, and then he shut the door and glowered at the solicitor.
Thunch went the locks.
Ruhn walked around and stood at the back of the bed. The humans were not in a hurry on the approach, but that didn’t mean anything. Aggression was best played as a second card, and maybe they knew that—
As if on cue, the two men rushed forward on the attack. One had a knife. The other was empty-handed—if there were guns, they were holstered for now, probably because even though it was late, there were still humans around in short-stack apartment buildings or over their businesses, like the restaurant owners.
Settling into his fighting stance, Ruhn returned to his previous life in between one heartbeat and the next, his brain flipping into a different gear that was rusty only for a split second. Then everything, for better or worse, came back to him.
And he started to fight.
“A wheelchair. You want me to go down the corridor…in a wheelchair.”
As Novo glared a hole in the back of her surgeon’s head, Dr. Manello seemed woefully unaware that his skull had sprung a leak and she was the one responsible for his brains evac’ing all over the place. In fact, the man seemed nonchalant and utterly unconcerned by her Laser Eyes of Total Domination.
Which was pretty fucking frustrating. Especially when it was compounded by the fact that she was still relegated to her hospital bed. Still in a johnny with flowers on it. Still hooked up to things that beeped.
“Come on.” He patted the chair’s seat. “You don’t want to be late for the big meeting.”
“I am perfectly fine walking on my own, thank you very much. I’m not a goddamn cripple.”
“Okay, that counts as a micro-aggression. Or something. Or, like, disrespectful to the physically handicapped.”
“What are you, the thought police, too?”
“Non-negotiable.” His smile was about as charming as a toe infection. “So let’s do this.”
“I’m not getting in that thing.” She crossed her arms—at least until her IV line got squeezed and she had to put them back down. “And when can I get rid of this bag.”
“I am so relieved.”
“The bitchier my patients get, the more they are improving.” He pumped his fist like Rocky. “Woo-hoo!”
“I’m going to hit you with my bag.”
“I didn’t know females like you had purses. I thought you just fanny-packed your shit like a dude.”
Novo burst out laughing and pointed a finger at him. “That is not funny.”
“Then why are you—”
“Fine, bring that thing over—but I am driving.”
“Oh, of course, Danica. Aaaaaabsolutely.”
The fact that she grunted as she sat up and swung her legs around probably proved his point, but he had the good sense not to bring that up.
The wheelchair wasn’t more than three feet from the mattress—and it was a shock to find that even within that short distance, she was ready to take a load off by the time she turned herself about and positioned her ass over the seat.
She thought of Peyton.
His blood was solely responsible for the recovery she’d had. After the two times she had fed from him, she’d taken huge leaps in her forward progress. Without him? She doubted she’d be upright at all, and yet she was still frustrated.
“Let’s get you set up here.” Dr. Manello transferred the IV bag to a pole on the back of the chair. “Okay, hit it.”
He jumped ahead and held the door open.
It took her a minute to get a hang of the ambulation thing. Her hands were sloppy and her arms were weak. But then she was rolling along.
“If you salute me, I’m going to—”
Dr. Manello snapped to attention, all Benny Hill with his palm flashing out.
“Really?” She started to laugh again and had to hold under her rib cage. “Ow.”
“Come on, badass,” he said. “Let me help you.”
Before she could tell him to fuck off, he took control of the driving, and it was a little hard to argue that she didn’t need the help as she breathed through the sharp-shooter.
Which seemed to be getting worse. To the point where she had to bring it up.
“Am I having a heart attack?” she asked as she massaged under her left arm. “I…”
Panic made her feel like she was suffocating, and the good doctor was right on it, pulling a stethoscope out from his white coat and coming in front of her. He listened to things for a little bit. Asked her to sit forward. Listened some more from the back.