PRINCE OF SHADOWS
From CHAPTER 6
Carrying her shoes, Kendra dashed across the wet grounds, sticking to the cold shadows where she couldn’t be seen. Her heart pounded, but that was because of Cale, not from the fear of discovery.
What had she just given him to secure her safety? And why did that price no longer seem so steep?
To think she could slip into the lodge unnoticed was naïve.
“Are you aware of the time?” drawled the intimidating Wall.
Kendra stopped and regarded the clan females’ fierce watchdog. “No. Could you tell me what it is, please? I don’t want to miss breakfast.”
Walter’s gaze moved over her, detailing her transgressions. Bare feet and legs. Bruised thighs. Wearing a man’s tee shirt, a man’s coat. And showing no remorse.
“What’s happened to you?” Then more importantly, “Who have you been with?”
Had there been even the tiniest bit of concern in the hard black stare, Kendra might have confided horrors compressed as painfully within her memory as silent scream struggling to escape. But there was no sympathy in the woman and her worry was for only one thing.
Kendra straightened, her own stare growing icy. “I’ve returned with my prized virginity so you needn’t fear your reputation has been tarnished.”
The creature didn’t even bother to disguise her relief. But then a harsh suspicion took its place. “And why should I believe you? Sneaking in with your shoes in your hands and your virtue sullied by whomever’s clothes your wearing?”
Sullied . . .
Her spine went rigid and even the Indomitable took a hesitant step back as she channeled Brigit MacCreedy’s indignation. “How dare you speak to me in that tone. Are you calling me a liar? A whore? Shall we check right now, right here, to see if my precious commodity is still intact?”
Walter’s did the unprecedented and backed down. “Forgive me. I overstepped. Breakfast is in one hour.”
Kendra marched to the stairs with a slap of bare feet, not expelling a shaky breath until she’d rounded the first landing. Would the awful female report what she’d seen to Bram? If he believed her value compromised, where would that leave her? Fair game for any of the Terriot males?
She had only one safe avenue. Cale wouldn’t allow her honor to be damaged. He wanted that privilege for himself.
If he was alive to preserve it.
From CHAPTER 10
She paused to pick up an enlarged snapshot from that shrine to her young son Vera Terriot had arranged on the side table. One she’d never seen before, of her and Cale that final summer. He was standing behind her, those newly muscled arms encircling her youthful stick figure. She was smiling at the camera, but he was looking down at her. Something about his intense, stripped bare expression made her heart clutch.
He’d been in love with her. It hadn’t been a crush or a fondness or a preteen fling. There was an aching wealth of maturity captured in that somber gaze. Unsettled, she replaced the picture only to glance up and catch him watching her with a careful neutrality as he said, “Momma, this place is like a museum. Why don’t you let me get you some new things.”
From CHAPTER 11
Cale reached back to tap her helmet and gestured toward a high end car dealership before making the turn in. He stopped the motorcycle behind a sleek black Lexus and tugged off his helmet. When she did the same, he asked, “Think she’d like it?”
“Your mom? It’s beautiful. Cale, you don’t have to—“
But he let out the clutch and cruised over to the show room where they were met by a slick older man with a dazzling smile as they swung off the bike.
“Help you folks?”
“I want that Lexus out front.”
His smile grew impossibly wider. “Excellent choice. If you’d like a test drive—“
“It’s not for me. It’s for my momma.”
He opened the door to the showroom and ushered them into the cool climate control. Kendra watched his practiced eye take in the custom lines of the bike outside, the expensive cut of Cale’s leather jacket and the weighty carat of the diamond in his ear, and equated the total to a fat commission. Despite the comfortable temperature, he wiped sweaty hands on his suit pants. “Your mother is a lucky woman.”
“She might argue that. Can you draw up the paperwork? I have someplace to be.”
“If you’ll step into my office, we can go over financing.”
“Can I just pay for it?” He pulled out his wallet.
The man blinked. “Cash?”
A narrow smile. “It’s not like I have it in small bills.”
“Oh, of course not, sir.”
Cale drew out a couple of singles which he handed to Kendra. “Baby, would you get us something to drink?” He provided the salesman with his driver’s license and a deposit slip from his bank. “Ask for Gerald Myers. He handles my family’s business.”
Kendra went to the vending machine while the dealer rushed to his office phone. Cale remained in the lobby, his attention on her. Or at least she thought it was. He hadn’t taken off his wraparound sunglasses. When she returned with the drinks, he pressed the cold can to his face and neck then drained it in a few gulps.
The salesman came trotting out carrying a clip board. If he’d been any more eager he would have had tongue hanging out and tail wagging. “All set, Mr. Terriot. Just need you to sign a few things.”
Cale scrawled out his signature without reading the documents. “I want it delivered to Vera Terriot.” He wrote out her address. “Title it in her name. She’ll have all the insurance numbers and whatever else you need. And she’s got an old Buick you can take care of for me.”
“Did you want to transfer title, sir?”
A pause then, a cool drawl. “I already have a car. Scrap it.”
“Yes, sir. Is there anything else I can do for you today?”
“I don’t know.” He turned to Kendra. “You want a car, baby? You’d look good in that little sporty number over there.”
The salesman was practically drooling.
“No,” she answered quietly. “I don’t have anywhere to go.”
Ignoring her reference to her position as his family’s prisoner, he hooked his arm about her waist and drew her in close. His cheek brushed hers, skin fever hot, as he whispered, “I’ll take you places you never knew existed.”
From CHAPTER 12
While Cale was talking easily to several young males who gazed at him as if upon the face of God, Kendra’s attention was diverted by one of the servers, a voluptuous red head who reminded her of Brigit. Perhaps it was that bittersweet sense of loss that made her look more closely, beyond the heavy makeup to the bruises it was supposed to hide. Kendra touched her arm and asked gently, “Who hit you?”
When Cale turned back to her after he’d finished his conversation, he frowned. His thumb grazed her knuckles to pull her focus from a table across the crowded dance floor.
Kendra relaxed her taut expression with an attempted smile. “Nothing. Just wishing I had the power of the Terriot throne behind me for just the next few minutes so I could— Never mind. It’s nothing.”
“Katy,” he told her quietly, “you have the power of the Terriot throne beside you. What do you need it to do?”
She wasn’t sure what she expected from him as he listened to her complaint. His eyes narrowed and his gaze grew unreadable. When she’d finished, the lift of his hand brought Tony to their table to bend down for his murmured instructions.
A large brooding male sat alone, following the redheaded waitress’s every move with a hooded stare. He glanced up sullenly when approached. Then his wide gaze darted to their table and Kendra had the satisfaction of seeing his alarm. With Tony at his back, he quickly obeyed the summons to their table. This time, Cale didn’t stand to extend his greeting.
“Is it Richard, Rick? Or Dick?” Cale emphasized the later.
“Dick, there are two things that I just despise on principal. One is anything that displeases my female.”
Furtive eyes darted to Kendra. “If I’ve done something to offend the princess, I apologize.”
“And the other thing, Dick, is a bully. I’ve got a bit of a reputation as being one myself, but then, hell, I’m a Terriot prince and I can pretty much get away with anything I please. Who’s gonna stop me? You?”
Richie paled and shook his head.
“I didn’t think so. You’re not a prince, Dick, and you’re not getting away with anything.”
“I don’t understand. What have I done?”
“See that girl over there, the one with the red hair and your handprint on her face? The fact that you’ve put it there upsets my future queen. If I had the offending hand removed, would that take care of the problem? I don’t think so.”
Richie began a fierce trembling.
“If you pee on the floor in front of me,” Cale growled, “I’ll have you killed where you stand.”
“Yes, my prince,” he whispered, then frantically amended, “No, my prince.”
“What you’re going to do is walk out of here, get into whatever big shot studmobile you’re driving and you’re going to keep driving until you cross the state line. I don’t care which one. And you won’t come back. I’ll have your name flagged and if any domestic issues pop, I’ll have you dragged back in front of me and you’ll know what it’s like to feel a merciless hand. And it will not end pleasantly for you. Nod if you understand?”
A quick, jerky nod.
“Good. Now get out of my sight before I put my handprint on the inside of your skull.”
“Thank you, my prince,” he stammered, backing away with eyes lowered.
Cale turned to Kendra, fearsome expression loosening. “That enough flex of power for you, baby, or did you want me to kick his ass, too?”
She smiled back. “That was enough. Thank you.”
He frowned suddenly and began to rise up. Kendra followed his stare to the front of the club where a furious Richie confronted his frightened accuser, grabbing her arm roughly, yelling as he shook her. Kendra put a staying hand on Cale’s arm as the Lesser’s impotent fury ebbed and he shoved the weeping female away to stalk out the door. Huge devastated eyes met hers and Kendra had a terrible feeling that her interference, though deserved, was unwanted.
The distraught young woman hurried to their table, dropping to her knees to press her cheek to the back of Cale’s hand. “Please, my prince, don’t do this. You don’t understand. My family needs him.”
“To what? Smack you around until he kills you? They don’t need that. He won’t bother you again. You don’t have to be afraid.”
“We can’t survive without him, my prince. You must let him come back. I beg you.”
“Look at me.” When her head raised and her eyes meekly lifted, his fingertips traced the brutal mark on her face. “What’s your name?”
“Fiona Styles, my prince.”
“What makes your situation so desperate that you’d put up with this?”
“When my mother died, my father pledged me to him on the condition that he take care of me, my brothers and sister. I can’t provide for them on what I make here.”
“Where’s your father?”
“Gone. I don’t know where. Please, my prince. Would you rather see us starve?”
Cale thought for a moment, gaze detailing that mark on her cheek with a mounting displeasure. “No,” he said at last. “You’ll come up to the mountain to serve my mate, if she’s agreeable. I’ll see you make a wage equal to what you need.”
“You’re too generous, my prince,” she began hesitantly.
“I have four brothers and a sister. They’re very young. I’d be so far away from them.”
Cale muttered an undecipherable curse. “Bring them. I’ll find a place for the lot of you.”
While she pressed a grateful kiss to his hand, he gave Kendra a helpless look and gestured for Tony. He made brief introductions and told his man to arrange for the family to be moved to their compound before turning rather awkwardly to Kendra.
“I probably should have asked if it’s all right with you.”
“When you do things like this—“ Impulsively, she hugged him about the neck, squeezing tight.
From CHAPTER 13
“I want to be part of a family, Cale. Family is more than what you have here. I want you to settle things with your mother.”
That surprised him. “What things?”
She refused to hear his protests. “It takes more than a new car and you know it. You know what she wants from you.”
He was deliberately obtuse. “She’d probably like a grandchild more than a Lexus, but I’m going to need a joint account to write a check for that kind of gift.” When she swallowed hard and turned away, Cale pressed, “I want you to have my children, Katy. What do your rules say about that?”
She couldn’t look at him as she quietly said, “I’ve always wanted to have children.”
“My children. Look at me!”
She did, bracing for his expected anger. But that wasn’t what she saw in his expression when he asked, “Will you have and love my children?” When she couldn’t find an answer, he cursed under his breath and stared up at the ceiling. Finally, she said, “Before we talk about making a withdrawal, we should talk about opening the account.”
“It takes two to invest, Kendra.”
“I told you I was sorry. What I should have done was thanked you.”
He was studying her through those intense, distant eyes. “For what?”
“For not taking what I wasn’t ready to give. I made you promises. I led you to believe certain things that I couldn’t follow through on even though . . . even though I wanted to. I don’t think I’ve ever respected anyone as much as I do you right now for having that kind of restraint.”
For a long moment, he didn’t even breathe. Then a quick snort. “Yeah. I’m a prince.” He rolled his head away, eyes closing. “Don’t give me credit I don’t deserve.”
“You deserve those things I’ve promised you. And I will make good on them . . . if you’ll give me one thing.”
“What? A plane ticket to New Orleans?”
Her tone sharpened. “If I was willing to sell myself to get that, I could have gone to any of your brothers.”
He looked back at her then, gaze guarded. “So just what are you selling.”
“I’m asking for time. Just a little more time.”
A crooked smile moved his narrowed lips. “To what? Learn to love me? What’re we talking here? Months? Years? A lifetime? It’s not going to happen, baby, and all the time in the world won’t change that.”
“Time for us to get to know each other. I once fell in love with a boy who was my best friend. I don’t think it’s impossible for that to happen again.”
His expression went very still. “I’m not that boy, Kendra.”
“Yes, you are. I still see him in you. Let me get the chance to know what else you’ve become. Some of the things I already know scare me, but there’s more that you haven’t let me see. Let me get close. I want to feel close to you, safe with you so I can be the queen you deserve.”
His eyes narrowed slightly. “So, how would this getting to know you thing work?”
From CHAPTER 16
An insistent tugging from behind him woke Cale from a state closer to unconsciousness than sleep. He had to struggle back to awareness from a lethargy reluctant to leave him. His perceptions were hazy, his senses blunted to all but the vaguest whispers of potential threat. He heard movement at his back, felt an unfamiliar presence and only that dulled reaction time prevented instant annihilation. His eyes came open just as he swung, giving him a split second to pull the force from the blow when he recognized the scale of the danger as slight. And small. Just a boy, knocked on his ass, blinking up at him in alarm with his suit jacket clutched tight.
“What the hell are you doing?” he snarled, sharing his startled alarm with the now teary eyed kid who was all of eight or nine. “I could have killed you just then? Do you know that?”
“I’m s-s-s-sorry, my prince,” came the fearful reply.
“What are you doing with my coat? There’s nothing in it worth stealing, not that’s worth your life.”
The shaky lip firmed. “I wasn’t stealing it. I was going to hang it in your closet.”
Cale scrubbed his palms over his face and glanced around to orient himself as to time and place. Seven o’clock? In the evening? He sensed a female close by, calling out, “Kendra?” even though he didn’t feel her signature in that presence.
“My prince, I apologize if Benji disturbed you.”
He stared at the vaguely familiar redhead, not making the connection from her and the boy to this invasion of his privacy.
“It’s Fiona Styles, my prince. You offered me this job.”
“Oh,” he muttered rather stupidly until he fit the flaming hair to the waitress at the club. “Oh. Yes. I’m sorry. I remember now. What are you doing here?” He looked pointed at the boy.
“Miss Kendra said it was all right for them to be here just for today, until we have a place to settle. She and Mr. Angelino are arranging that for us.”
Them? Cale scowled as four more youthful faces peered at him from around their older sister. Was he suddenly running some kind of daycare? “Fine,” he grumbled. “For now. Just keep them quiet.”
That said, he leaned the side of his head against his palm, eyes closing as that thick fog seeped over his senses once again. He couldn’t seem to rouse himself until a strongly scented cup of coffee was placed at his elbow. He dragged his eyes open to see another boy of about twelve with close cropped russet hair and an attitude regarding him with a belligerent curiosity.
“So, you’re a prince. Don’t look like much. Dress pretty fancy for a warrior.”
Cale glowered at him but the boy was unimpressed. “I was at a funeral. I’ll be putting on my warrior clothes in a minute.” As soon as he pushed some motivating caffeine into his system. He reached for the cup, his hand unsteady.
“If you’re hung over, I can put something stronger in that.”
“I’m not hung over.” So why did he feel as if he was? He sipped slowly. Great coffee, harsh and throat scrapingly strong.
“Sam,” Fiona hissed from the other room. “Leave him alone.”
But the boy continued to eyeball Cale with a measuring contempt. “That was quite a pop you gave my little brother.”
“If you don’t let me finish this, I’ll give you one, too.”
He retreated a cautious step and drawled, “I’m not afraid of you.”
Cale gave him his most menacing look. “A smart boy would be.”
“I’ve stood my ground when I had to.”
“Have you?” Cale remembered the heavy handed fellow from the club. Yes, the boy probably had. “How’d that work out for you?”
No boastful reply. Cale glanced at him over the rim of his cup, catching that shamed glimmer of helpless in the kid’s eyes before they quickly lowered. He knew that look uncomfortably well.
“How old are you?”
“Twelve.” Defiantly said as the hot, angry gaze lifted.
“Old enough to learn how to take care of your family.”
“I do my best. Didn’t have anyone to teach me like you did.”
Cale smiled ruefully. “School of hard knocks doesn’t give lessons, kid.” He reached out suddenly to snap his fingers beneath Sam’s chin, the move so fast and unexpected, the boy had no chance to react to it other than to flinch after the fact. “You want to protect them, you learn how to protect yourself first.”
A new respect seeped into Sam’s expression. “You could show me.”
Cale drained his coffee and stood. “Not my job, kid.” He walked away, but not before that crestfallen look was replaced by a tough resignation.
The bedroom was overrun by children. Fiona was filling the filmy fantasy side of the closet with Kendra’s practical clothing which didn’t improve Cale’s mood. He dodged around a tiny boy and girl to grab up something to wear, growling irritably at the older two boys who were checking out his electronics, “Keep your hands off my stuff,” before retreating to the relative quiet of the bathroom. He’d shucked off his dress shirt when he heard a shocked inhalation from Sam who loitered in the door way.
“Were’d you get those stripes?”
“My hard knocks grade in ‘Stay low and shut the hell up 101.’ Had to retake some of the classes.”
“What kind of warrior does that make you? Smart or slow to catch on?”
Cale smirked at his reflection. “Good question.” He stripped out of his dress pants and tossed them at the boy. “Hang these up with the jacket.”
Sam let the trousers strike his chest and drop to the floor. “Not my job,” he drawled.
Cale stared at him, eyes narrowing into a chilly squint until the boy and the trousers disappeared. Chuckling to himself, he pulled on a pair of slouchy black tech pants, a worn sleeveless tee shirt and stuffed his feet into a pair of running shoes. He needed to wake up, get sharp, and on top of the things discussed in his father’s office. The best way to do that was with some warriorlike activity, not lying around babysitting his belongings while he waited for Kendra to return from wherever she’d gone.
He reentered the bedroom, snatching his iPod out of Benji’s hand, rumbling, “Not a kid’s toy,” as he plugged in the ear buds. He picked up his gym bag and threw it at Sam. “Carry that.” When the boy just blinked in surprise, he impatiently snapped, “Going with me or not?” and started for the door, smiling at the sound of him hurriedly following.
With his leather jacket over an old grey sweatshirt and a pair of sunglasses on, he gave Sam a look.
“Warrior enough for you?”
The boy shrugged, saying, “You’re still short,” and trudged out into the cold early evening air wearing just a tattered light weight windbreaker over tee shirt, jeans and tennis shoes that were on life support. His silence didn’t last long.
“Fee told me you killed three fellas at the club the other night. What did they do? Insult you?”
“I don’t kill over insults. Everyone I know would be dead. Including you.”
“So what did they do?”
“They hurt someone I care about. That’s something a man can’t let slid.”
A blissful moment of silence, then Sam started up again, his tone tough and angry. “I wish you’d killed Richie instead of just chasing him off. I would have if I’d been able to. I will if he ever comes back.”
“How you gonna do that? Talk him to death?”
That shut him up.
Cale didn’t want to care about the problems of some vagabond kid who meant nothing to him, not when he had so many things pressing down upon him. Survivors would find a way to survive. It wasn’t up to him to show Sam Styles the way. It wasn’t his job.
But then whose job was it?
Cale launched a flying spin kick that sent the weighted bag rocking. He stepped back, breathing hard and called out to Sam. “Kid, grab those pads. Might as well do something useful.”
He strapped the bulky sparring pads on the boy’s forearms with the simple instruction, “Hold your ground and don’t let me knock you down.”
Cale held back on the first few hits, until he was sure the kid wouldn’t drop his guard and get hurt, then he started wailing in earnest. Sam tried but wasn’t able to hold his footing. Finally, angrily he threw off the protective gear in frustration telling Cale to find another punching bag.
“Okay, kid, you don’t want to help me train. What do you want to do.”
“I want to learn to fight.”
Cale smiled ruefully. “Are you sure that’s what you want to learn?”
“That’s all I need to know to take care of my family.”
“You think fighting is going to do that for you? All right, let’s see what you know.” And he reached out to cuff the boy sharply.
“Hey! I wasn’t ready!”
“Nobody’s gonna read the rules and ring a bell when it’s man to man. You ready now?”
“Yeah.” He started to assume a stance and Cale caught the side of his head with his elbow, sending him stumbling.
“I thought you were ready,” Cale goaded.
Sam waded in swinging furiously but Cale simply skipped back out of reach. “How am I supposed to hit you if you keep dancing around?” he yelled.
Cale laughed at him. “I’m not gonna stand there and let you hit me. C’mon, brother. Bring it. Show me what you got.”
Sam charged him. At the last instant, Cale feinted to one side, spinning to place the sneakered sole of his foot between the boy’s shoulders to send him skidding on the boards.
“What do you want to learn, kid?”
“How to fight,” Sam growled and flung himself at his opponent, managing to land a glancing blow that Cale easily knocked away before planting one of his own. Sam went down, planets spinning out of alignment. When he was finally able to sit up and wipe the blood from his nose, he glared up seething.
“C’mon.” Cale beckoned with his fingers. “You want to fight, fight. I’m not gonna play with you. You want to fight me, you’re gonna get hurt. A lot. Fighting is serious business. A man’s business. Are you ready to take it like a man or are you gonna sit there sniveling like a baby?”
Sam swiped at his eyes, then Cale could finally see him thinking. And he asked again, “What do you want to learn?”
Sam smiled. “How not to get my ass kicked.”
Cale grinned back. “See. Smarter already.”
From CHAPTER 18
That prickling brushed across her nape again, this time at the whisper of perfume. A scent she’d smelled on Cale once before. She planted her feet on the walk and waited for Sylvia to come around the corner, for the slightly mocking smile to seep over her perfect face.
And then Kendra planted her fist right in the middle of it.
Shock more than the actual force of the blow dropped Sylvia onto her shapely ass and Kendra was on her top of her, delivering another, harder punch to lay her out on the sidewalk. Crouching over her, breath coming in savage pants, Kendra curled her fingers about Sylvia’s wrists in anticipation of her gel-coated nails.
“Are you insane?” the older woman managed around the immediate ballooning of her lip.
“You bitch. I should kill you for what you’ve done.” Kendra’s snarl only made the blue eyes grow rounder.
“I haven’t been anywhere near him. Get off me!”
“How could you do it? How could you do such a thing?”
“What? What did I do?” Now that the initial surprise was over, Sylvia began to struggle in earnest, but Kendra sat on her solar plexus and kept her arms pinned at her sides. “If you can’t take a little verbal sparring, you should learn to keep your mouth shut.”
“This isn’t about your petty lies. I don’t care what you say about me.”
Sylvia huffed at that then demanded, “Then what the hell is this about?”
“How could you push that poison into him knowing what it could do?”
“Poison? I had nothing to do with what happened to Derrick!”
“I’m talking about Cale and that drug you’ve been giving him without ever telling him the possible consequences.”
“Consequences? There was nothing harmful about what he took. The both of you are crazy. I would never do anything to harm him. Why would I? I wanted to be his queen.”
“Sorry. Position’s filled. You knew that. That’s why you tried to destroy him by pumping him full of Kick.”
Sylvia blinked, her confusion so convincing Kendra began to ease back. Could she have made a mistake?
“I never gave him that! There was nothing in those herbs that was dangerous. I prepared them . . . myself.” Her voice trailed off. A flicker of panic crossed her expression then she pushed Kendra back into her heels. “I was only trying to help him. If you want to do the same, you’ll keep your ranting accusations to yourself.”
Kendra let her up, too agitated to feel any satisfaction in the way Sylvia shirted a wide birth around her before hurrying away.
What wasn’t she admitting? There was more. Kendra had seen it in her eyes.
If Sylvia wasn’t the one trying to keep Cale from the crown, who was?
From CHAPTER 25
Wes glanced across the great hall toward the closed door at its far end.
“We’ll use my office for now,” Cale replied in answer to that look. “It’ll be crowded but we’ll make do until I have a chance to clean out the other one.”
“Someone already beat you to it. The old man had all his papers removed sometime last night. He still has a reach and an insider so you need to be careful.” Then a shrewd smile. “Good thing I thought to make backups of the important stuff.”
Cale crossed the hall in quick strides to stand in the doorway of his father’s office. The files stood open and empty. The lap top was gone. The only thing that remained was his dominating scent and one lone picture on the wall. Cale’s still hung crookedly, abandoned by those of his brothers. The purposeful slight was unexpectedly wounding.
Vera eased by him to take down that isolated photo. She carefully brushed the broken glass into the wastebasket and stroked those bright, youthful features with her fingertips. “I’d like to have this, if you don’t mind.”
“No,” Cale said flatly. “Go ahead.”
“And if I’m going to stay, for a while anyway, I need to keep busy. I’d like to air out this room and toss out all its ugly memories.”
He bent to kiss her brow, whispering, “Thank you, Momma.”
©2013 by Nancy Gideon