"Yeah, well, I could have done without the passing-out part," Z muttered as he pulled into the driveway of the safe house Bella's family was living in. "And that whole bawling-my-eyes-red routine, too. Definitely could have lost that one. Christ."
"I thought you were very sweet."
With a groan he killed the engine, palmed his SIG Sauer, and went around to help her from the Escalade. Damn it. She already had the door open and was stepping out into the snow.
"Wait for me," he barked, grabbing for her arm.
She shot him a level stare. "Zsadist, if you keep treating me like a wineglass, I'm going to go nuts over the next sixteen months."
"Listen, female, I don't want you slipping on this ice. You're wearing high heels."
"Oh, for the love of the Virgin…"
He shut her car door, kissed her quickly, then put his arm around her waist and led her up the front walkway of a big, Tudor-style house. He scanned the snow-covered yard, his trigger finger itchy as hell.
"Zsadist, I want you to put the gun away before you meet my brother."
"No problem. We'll be in the house by then."
"We're not going to get jumped here. We're out in the middle of nowhere."
"If you think I'm taking even the slightest chance with you and my young, you are out of your mind."
He knew he was being overbearing as hell, but he couldn't help it. He was a bonded male. With his pregnant female. There were few things on the planet more aggressive or dangerous. And those bastards were called hurricanes and tornadoes.
Bella didn't argue with him. Instead she smiled and covered the hard hand on her waist with one of her own. "I guess you should be careful what you ask for."
"What do you mean?" He moved her in front of him as they came up to the door, blocking her with his body. He hated the porch light. It made them too conspicuous.
As he turned the thing off with his mind, she laughed, "I always wanted you for a bonded male."
He kissed the side of her neck. "Well, you got your wish. I'm deep bonded. Way deep bonded. Deep, deep, ultra—"
As he leaned forward and hit the brass knocker, his body came into full contact with hers. She made a little purring sound in the back of her throat and rubbed herself against him. He froze.
Oh, God. Oh… no, he was instantly erect. All it had taken was that one little move of hers and he had a big, flipping—
The door swung open. He expected to see a doggen on the other side. Instead there was a tall, slender female with white hair, a long black gown, and a whole lot of diamonds.
Crap. Bella's mother, Z hid the gun in the holster at the small of his back and made sure his double-breasted jacket was buttoned all the way down. Then he linked his hands together right in front of his zipper.
He'd dressed as conservatively as possible, in the first suit he'd ever worn. And he was even plugged into a pair of fancy-dancy loafers. He'd wanted to wear a turtleneck to cover up the slave band at his throat, but Bella had nixed that, and he supposed she was right. There was no hiding what he'd been, and there shouldn't be. Besides, no matter what he was dressed like, and even though he was a member of the Brotherhood, the glymera would never accept him—not just because he'd been used as a blood slave, but because of what he looked like.
Thing was, though, Bella had no use for them, and neither did he. Although he was going to try to put on a polite show for her family.
Bella went forward. "Mahmen."
As she and her mother embraced formally, Z came into the house, shut the door, and looked around. The manse was formal and wealthy, befitting the aristocracy, but he didn't give a shit about the drapes and the wallpaper. What he approved of was the lithium-powered security contacts on all the windows. And the laser receptors in the doorways. And the motion detectors on the ceiling. Huge points for all of that. Huge.
Bella stepped back. She was stiff around her mother, and he could see why. It was clear from the gown and all those sparklers that the female was a hard-core aristocrat. And aristocrats tended to be about as cozy as a snowdrift.
"Mahmen, this is Zsadist. My mate."
Z braced himself as her mother took him in from head to foot. Once. Twice… and yeah, a third time.
Oh, man… This was going to be a really long evening.
Then he wondered if the female knew he'd gotten her daughter pregnant, too.
Bella's mother came forward and he waited for her to reach a hand out. She didn't offer him a thing. Instead her eyes watered.
Great. Now what did he do?
Her mother fell to his feet, her black gown pooling around those fancy loafers he wore. "Warrior, thank you. Thank you for bringing my Bella home."
Zsadist stared at the female for a heartbeat and a half. Then he leaned down and lifted her gently off the floor. As he held her awkwardly, he looked at Bella… who was sporting the kind of expression folks usually reserved for feats of magic. A big what the hell, laced with wonderment.
As her mother stepped away and blotted carefully under her eyes, Bella cleared her throat and asked, "Where's Rehvenge?"
"I'm right here."
The deep voice drifted in from a darkened room, and Zsadist glanced to the left as a huge male with a cane—
Shit. Oh… shit. This was so not happening.
The Reverend. Bella's brother was that mohawked, violet-eyed, hard-ass drug dealer… who, according to Phury, was at least half symphath.
What a flipping nightmare. Technically the Brotherhood should be running his ass out of town. Instead Z was looking to mate into the guy's family. God, did Bella even know what her brother was? And not just the drug-dealer part…
Z glanced at her. Probably not, his instincts told him. On both accounts.
"Rehvenge, this is… Zsadist," she said.
Z looked at the male again. The pair of deep purples staring back at him were unwavering, but beneath the calm there was a flicker of the same kind of holy hell that Z was feeling. Man… exactly how was all this going to play out?
"Rehv?" Bella murmured. "Um… Zsadist?"
The Reverend smiled coolly. "So, are you going to mate my sister now that you've knocked her up? Or is this just a social call?"
The two females let out gasps, and Zsadist felt his eyes flash black. As he pointedly drew Bella to his side, he itched to bare his fangs. He was going to do his best not to embarrass anyone, but if flyboy with the mouth peeled off any more one-liners like that, Z was going to drag Bella's brother outside and beat an apology out of him for upsetting the ladies.
He was damn proud of himself when he only hissed a little. "Yeah, I am going to mate her. You drop the tough act, civilian, and we might invite you to the ceremony. Otherwise you're off the list."
The Reverend's eyes flared. But then he abruptly laughed. "Easy, there, brother. Just want to make sure my sister is taken care of."
The male put his hand out. Zsadist met the big palm halfway.
"That's brother-in-law, to you. And she will be, don't you worry about that."