"You want something to eat, my man?" Phury said to John as they walked into the mansion. The kid looked worn-out, but then anyone would. Getting poked and prodded at was hard work. Phury was a little wiped himself.
As John shook his head and the vestibule's door clamped shut, Tohr came jogging down the staircase looking very much like a nervous father. And this was in spite of the fact that Phury had called in a report on the way home.
The visit to Havers's had been all good, for the most part. Seizure notwithstanding, John was healthy, and the results on his bloodline test would be available soon. With luck, they would get a bead on his ancestry, and that would help John find his kin. So there was no cause for worry.
Still, Tohr put his arm around the boy's shoulders and the kid sagged. Some kind of wordless, eyeball-to-eyeball communication took place, and the brother said, "I think I'll take you home."
John nodded and signed something. Tohr looked up. "He says he forgot to ask you how your leg is."
Phury brought up his knee and knocked on his calf. "Better, thanks. You take care, John, okay?"
He watched as the two of them disappeared through the door under the stairwell.
What a good kid, he thought, And thank God they'd found him before his transition—
A female scream ripped into the lobby, as if the sound were alive and had taken a nosedive off the balcony.
Phury's spine turned to ice. Bella.
He bolted up to the second floor and pounded down the hall of statues. When he threw open Zsadist's door, light spilled into the room and the scene was instantly carved into memory: Bella on the bed, cowering against the headboard, sheets clenched to her throat. Z crouched in front of her, hands up, naked from the waist down.
Phury lost it and launched himself at Zsadist, grabbing his twin by the throat and throwing him against the wall.
"What is wrong with you!" he yelled as he crashed Z into the plaster. "You fucking animal!"
Z didn't fight back as he was slammed again. And all he said was, "Take her away. Take her somewhere else."
Rhage and Wrath burst into the room. Both started talking, but Phury couldn't hear anything for the roar between his ears. He'd never hated Z before. Had cut his twin slack for all he'd endured. But going after Bella…
"You sick fuck," Phury hissed. He nailed that hard body to the wail once more. "You sick fuck… God, you disgust me."
Z merely stared back, his black eyes like asphalt, opaque and flat.
Suddenly Rhage's massive arms clamped around them, gathering them up into a bone-crushing bear hug. In a whisper, the brother said, "Bella doesn't need this right now, boys."
Phury dropped his hold and pushed himself free. Yanking his coat back into place, he snapped, "Get him out of here until we move her."
God, he was shaking so badly he was almost hyperventilating. And the anger wouldn't quit, even as Z left voluntarily, with Rhage tight on his heels.
Phury cleared his throat and glanced at Wrath. "My lord, will you give me leave to attend to her in private?"
"Yeah, I will." Wrath's voice was a nasty growl as he headed for the door. "And we'll make sure Z doesn't come back for a while."
Phury looked over at Bella. She was trembling as she blinked and wiped at her eyes. When he approached her, she shrank back against the pillows.
"Bella, it's Phury."
Her body relaxed a little. "Phury?"
"Yeah, it's me."
"I can't see." Her voice quavered like hell. "I can't…"
"I know, it's just the medicine. Let me get something to clean it off."
He went into the bathroom and came back with a damp cloth, figuring she needed to get a look at her surroundings more than she had to have the ointment.
She flinched as he took her chin in his palm.
"Easy, Bella…" When he put the cloth up to her eyes, she struggled, then clawed at him. "No, no… put your hands down. I'll get it off."
"Phury?" she said hoarsely. "Is it really you?"
"Yes, it's me." He sat down on the edge of the bed. "You're at the Brotherhood's compound. You were brought here about seven hours ago. Your family's been notified that you're safe, and as soon as you want to, you can call them."
When she put her hand on his arm, he froze. With a tentative touch, she felt her way up to his shoulder to his neck, then touched his face and finally his hair. She smiled a little when she felt the thick waves and then she brought some of it to her nose. She breathed in deep and put her other hand on his leg.
"It truly is you. I remember the smell of your shampoo."
The closeness and the contact sizzled through Phury's clothes and skin, going straight into his blood. He felt like a total bastard to feel anything sexual, but he couldn't stop his body. Especially as she patted her way down his long hair until she was touching his pectorals.
His lips opened, his breath getting short. He wanted to drag her against his chest and hold her tight. Not for sex, though it was true his body wanted that from her. No, right now he just needed to feel her warmth and reassure himself that she was alive.
"Let me take care of your eyes," he said. Jesus, his voice was deep.
When she nodded, he carefully wiped at her lids. "How's that?"
She blinked. Smiled a little. Put her hand on his face.
"I can see you better now." But then she frowned. "How did I get out of there? I can't remember anything except… I let the other civilian go and David came back. And then there was a car ride. Or was that a dream? I dreamt that Zsadist saved me. Did he?"
Phury was not up to talking about his twin, even tangentially. He rose to his feet and put the washcloth on the night-stand. "Come on, let's get you to your room."
"Where am I now?" She looked around, and then her mouth parted. "This is Zsadist's room."
How the hell did she know that? "Let's go."
"Where is he? Where's Zsadist?" Urgency threaded through her voice. "I need to see him. I need—"
"I'm going to take you to your room—"
"No! I want to stay—"
She was so agitated now he decided to stop trying to talk to her. He pulled back the sheets so he could help her up—
Shit, she was naked. He yanked the covers back into place.
"Ah, sorry…" He pushed a hand into his hair. Oh, God… The graceful lines of her body were something he was never going to forget. "Let me… um, let me get you something to wear."
He went to Z's closet and was stunned by how empty it was. There wasn't even a robe to cover her with, and he'd be goddamned if he'd put her in one of his twin's fighting shirts. He took off his leather peacoat and walked over to her again.
"I'll turn my back while you put this on. We'll find you a robe—"
"Don't take me away from him." Her voice cracked from pleading. "Please. That must have been him standing over the bed. I didn't know it, I couldn't see. But it must have been him."
It sure as hell was. And the bastard had been naked as sin and ready to jump her. Considering all she'd been through, the near-miss was a total cringer. Man… Years ago Phury had caught Z having sex in a back alley with a whore. It hadn't been pretty, and the idea of Bella's being subjected to that made him ill.
"Put on the coat." Phury turned away. "You are not staying here." When he finally heard the bedding move, and the creak of leather, he took a deep breath. "Are you decent?"
"Yes, but I don't want to go."
He looked over his shoulder. She was dwarfed by the coat he wore all the time, her long mahogany hair falling around her shoulders, the ends curled as if they'd gotten wet and had dried without being brushed. He imagined her in a tub, with clean water rushing over her pale skin.
And then he saw Zsadist looming over her, watching her with those soulless black eyes, wanting to fuck her, probably only because she was scared. Yeah, her fear would be the turn-on for him. It was well-known that terror in a female cranked him up more than anything lovely or warm or worthy.
Get her out of here, Phury thought. Right now.
His voice became unsteady. "Can you walk?"
"I'll carry you." He approached her, on some level unable to believe he was going to put his arms around her body. But then it was happening… He slid his hand around her waist and reached down, taking her behind her knees. Her weight barely registered, his muscles accepting her easily.
As he started for the door she eased into him, laying her head on his shoulder, taking some of his shirt into her hand.
Oh… Sweet Virgin. This felt so right.
Phury carried her down the hall to the other side of the house, to the room next to his.
John was on autopilot as he and Tohr left the training facility and walked across the parking area where they'd left the Range Rover. Their footsteps echoed up to the low concrete ceiling, bouncing through the empty space.
"I know you have to go back for the result," Tohr said as they got into the SUV. "I'll go with you that time, no matter what's happening."
Actually, John kind of wished he could take himself.
"What's the matter, son? Are you upset that I didn't take you tonight?"
John put his hand on Tohr's arm and shook his head vigorously.
"Okay, just wanted to make sure."
John looked away, wishing he'd never gone to the doctor's. Or that at least when he'd been there, he'd kept his mouth shut. Holy hell. He shouldn't have said a word about what had happened to him almost a year ago. Trouble was, after all the questions about his health, he'd been in answering mode. So when the doctor had asked about his sexual history, he'd alluded to the thing back in January. Question. Answer. Just like all the others… sort of.
For a moment it had been a relief. He'd never gone to a doctor or anything afterward, and in the back of his mind he'd always worried that he should have. At least by coming forward, he'd figured he could get a full checkup and really be done with the attack. Instead, the doctor had started in on him about therapy and the necessity of talking about the experience.
Like he wanted to relive it? He'd spent months burying the damn thing, so no way was he digging up that rotting corpse. It had taken too much effort to put it in the ground.
"Son? What's doing?"
Like hell he was going to see some therapist. Past trauma. Screw that.
John took out his pad and wrote, Just tired.
He nodded and looked at Tohr so the man would think he wasn't lying. Meanwhile he was withering in his own skin. What the hell would Tohr think if he knew what had happened? Real men did not allow that to be done to them no matter what kind of weapon was at their throats.
John wrote, Next time I want to go to Havers's alone, okay?
Tohr frowned. "Ah… that's not really smart, son. You need a guard."
Then it needs to be someone else. Not you.
John couldn't look at Tohr when he flashed the paper. There was a long silence.
Tohr's voice became very low. "Okay. That's… ah, that's fine. Maybe Butch can take you."
John closed his eyes and exhaled. Whoever this Butch was would work for him.
Tohr started the car. "It's whatever you want, John."
John. Not son.
As they headed out, all he could think was, Dear God, please don't let Tohr ever find out.