Read Motor City Mage Online

Authors: Cindy Spencer Pape

Motor City Mage (4 page)

Yeah, kick it, then kiss it, her inner slut—who’d only come into existence since meeting Des—growled happily.
Knock it off.
That was her rational side talking. Lana was too much an alpha just to roll over and beg for any man. Even one as hot as Des.

* * *

When the party broke up, Des followed Lana back to her apartment despite his better intentions. Since she waited in her car until he’d parked beside her in the structure, he figured she wasn’t too surprised.

“You’ve got a lot of nerve, buster.” She lit into him even as she fell into step beside him. “You promised me you were going home to sleep last night.”

“I did.” He was glad she continued to face forward, so she couldn’t see his smile. It was good to fence with her openly after having to hold his tongue in front of her family. “I just didn’t go
home.” He shrugged. “Besides, I didn’t find Luther anyway.”

“The point isn’t that you did or didn’t find your snitch.” There were a few other pedestrians at the far end of the alley so she lowered her voice to a whisper as they crossed. “The point is that you don’t trust

Des bit his lip. He couldn’t very well say it wasn’t true. It wasn’t in his nature to trust anyone, not really. Certainly not a lupine. Aside from that, he didn’t want to see her hurt, which wasn’t the same thing at all. He reached for the right words and came up with what he hoped was a reasonable compromise. “I trust you as much as I trust anybody besides myself—well, and my immediate family, I suppose.”

“Huh.” She unlocked the door and held it open, one eyebrow raised. “Oddly, I almost believe that. I assume you want to continue this inside, or were you just walking me home? I’m not working at the club tonight.”

Des held the door, nodding for her to precede him inside. Once again, he watched the swing of her world-class backside as he followed her up the stairs. She’d been teasing him all day in a soft, clinging sweater dress cinched at the waist by a gold leather belt. The dark red of the knit suited her coloring perfectly, and it had taken enormous amounts of willpower to keep his hands to himself, especially after last night. Some visceral part of him had spent the whole day wanting to drag her close and shout, “Mine.”

So why was he following her home?

Because he was an idiot.

“So have you decided?” She stopped at the top landing and turned to him. “You all right? You haven’t said a word.”

“What was the question?” He looked up at her face.

She sighed. “Men. It’s called polite conversation. Learn how to do it. I asked what you were giving your sister for a wedding present. Kind of hard to shop for the couple who already has everything.” Aidan was ridiculously wealthy in both the human realm and Faerie.

“I have no idea.” He followed her into her apartment and automatically hung his jacket on the hook by the door beside hers. “What are you giving them?”

“For the shower? Sex toys.” She didn’t even look over her shoulder to see the shock on his face as she headed toward the fridge. “Want a beer?” Her red-and-gold heels got kicked into a corner when she was about halfway across the living room, so Des slipped out of his loafers and left those by the door as well, managing not to choke on his own tongue.

“Please.” He sat on the couch and waited until she’d returned with two opened beer bottles before he asked, “Sex toys?”

Lana’s grin was wicked. “Yup. Fun for him and her. Even added a pack of rechargeable batteries and the charger.” She sat on the opposite end of the couch and curled her feet up under her, tugging the dress down over her knees in one oddly graceful move. Her lower legs totally disappeared under the stretchy hem. How did women learn to do things like that?

“Well, that’s sure a wedding gift I hadn’t thought of.” He took a long swallow of the pale ale she’d given him, trying not to think about Lana’s personal experience with a variety of toys.

“No, that’s just for the bridal shower, which is designed to be kind of racy. For a wedding gift, I found some cool, hand-blown-glass Christmas ornaments made by a local craftsman. One’s a pirate ship in a bottle, since Aidan was once a pirate, the second is a star, since your sister told me that’s what her middle name means in Chinese, and the third is a Pegasus for Dina. There’s also a tree, for the entire Green Oak family. Each one has the date on the bottom, so I thought they’d be cool for remembering the year they all became a family.”

“That’s…remarkably thoughtful.” Des shook his head. Lord Green Oak was Aidan’s Fae title. Des’s niece’s favorite toy was a stuffed winged horse. Lana had pegged each of them perfectly. “All I’d come up with was a vase or an engraved silver tray or something.” He loved his sister, but this sort of thing was outside his comfort zone.

“You’ll be fine.” She shook her head and gave him a goofy little smile. “They’ll love whatever you give them.”

“Yeah, they will.” He had plenty of faith in their sibling bond, and Aidan was an all right guy for an elf. “But they won’t pull them out every single Christmas and remember their wedding, and think of me. You’ve got a real knack with people.”

“You know, that may be the nicest thing you ever said to me.” She reached over and patted his knee. “That wasn’t so difficult, was it? Now tell me why you’re so bent about this drug thing. We’ve faced down worse.”

Des inhaled a deep breath. She deserved to know the truth. “When I’m thinking rationally, I know you can handle yourself. There’s just something about you, though, that shorts out the logic circuits in my brain.”

Lana tipped her head, her teeth nibbling on her lush lower lip. “Is that a compliment or an insult?”

“I have no idea.” He grimaced and sipped his beer to stall for time. They were getting close to stuff he never, ever, talked about. But again, she probably had a right to know.
Here goes nothing.
“I tend to…well…freak out a little when demons are involved. Did Elise ever talk to you about…Dina? About why she thought Aidan wasn’t Dina’s father?”

He saw the
oh, hell
moment on her face and knew she’d forgotten about that. Slowly, she nodded. “I never heard the whole story, but…she was raped, wasn’t she? Before she knew she was pregnant.”

Des pinched his nose, trying to block the visual, visceral memory. He heard the rasp of pain in his own voice. “There were three of them. I was fighting two, Elise one. But even though she had
training, she was never that much of a fighter, not against something like that. By the time I’d killed the two, the other had dragged her into an alley. I killed him, but not before…” It was the greatest disaster of his life, his blackest moment. He’d failed his sister when she’d needed him most.

Lana set down her beer, took his from his hands and launched herself into his lap, wrapping him in a big, warm hug. “I’m so sorry, Des. You’ve got to know it wasn’t your fault. Bad stuff happens in a war, and keeping demons like that out of the city certainly qualifies. I know Elise doesn’t blame you in the slightest, and you can’t blame yourself. In the end, you saved her life, and Dina’s.”

Gods, she felt like heaven in his arms. He closed his arms around her and rested his cheek on the top of her head. “I know, but you’re talking about my little
I saw that thing…” He shuddered. “Anyway, I can still see that demon’s face when I close my eyes. And the fight was a close thing. He was strong—more so than Nightshade. When I killed him, there was an enormous magical backlash, and now we think Dina may have absorbed some of the energy of the blast. For a long time, we thought she was actually half-demon. She’s damn powerful.” Scarily so, sometimes. He loved her to bits, but sometimes she freaked out even him.

“That might explain her abilities. Or maybe she just got all of Elise’s power
all of Aidan’s.” Lana wriggled on his lap, and Des felt his body react. No one had ever turned him on faster or more strongly, and he didn’t know why. They were all wrong for each other.

But her words made sense. He ran his fingers through her hair. “Maybe. At least we know now that she’s half Fae, not half demon, which is a huge relief to Elise, and Aidan, too, I suspect. She’s something else, though. And now we have Fae-lupine halflings to look forward to with Fee and Greg. Wonder what they’re going to be like?” He was happy for his friends, but the idea of what was possible with their offspring was more than a little terrifying. The League was already worried—and his bosses didn’t even know
the details.

Lana didn’t leave his lap, but eased away from his chest so she could look him in the eyes. “Considering you’re none too fond of either elves or werewolves, I imagine they’ll be pretty weird by your standards.”

Des winced at the hit. “Look. I know I can carry a grudge too long, but I am trying, and I’m not about to take it out on innocent little kids. I don’t dislike Greg or George, or Ric or Aidan for that matter. It’s just—”

“Leaving me as the only werewolf of your acquaintance who you do dislike?” Her amber eyes narrowed and darkened to a rich caramel.

He scrubbed at his face with his hands. “Not what I meant, and you know it.” He never managed to say the right thing around Lana.
wasn’t the right word for his confused emotions when it came to her.

“Maybe.” She tipped her head. “So what’s your beef against us anyway? I know the
League thinks we’re all just trouble waiting to happen, but
ought to know better.”

“I do. It’s just a lifetime of conditioning, plus a stupid, personal thing I’ve never quite moved past.” And yeah, the League never let him forget. He leaned his head against the back of the sofa and closed his eyes. Did they really have to talk about this? He took in the determined set of her chin. It seemed they did. “Have you ever wondered why Elise and I moved to Detroit?”

“Yeah. You seem to be on good terms with your family in Vancouver.”

He nodded. “Exactly. Well, once in my life, right after college, I fell in love.”

“And?” Her throat worked as she swallowed. So she was bothered, thinking of him in love. Was that good or bad?

“And we got engaged. When she told me we had to hurry up the wedding because she was pregnant, I was thrilled.” He’d been an idiot. “Then one night I caught her and a ‘friend’ breaking into my
superior’s office, using my keys and passcodes. Getting close to me had just been part of a plot with her lupine boyfriend to steal some magic artifacts from the
. Turned out the so-called friend, the son of the local pack leader, was the actual father. He’d taken off, so she panicked and decided to marry me. Then when he came back, she reverted to using me for the keys and codes. He was killed, she went to jail and I had my rank stripped plus a big black mark on my file. The Vancouver pack never forgave me, which made it an uncomfortable place to work. Elise stood up for me, so she was asked to leave as well.”

“Ouch. I can see how that would leave some emotional scars.” She stroked his shoulder. “And elves?”

He shrugged. “A minor thing, but it’s mostly the general sense of superiority some of them present toward humans. Back in high school, they were the princes and princesses, better than the rest of us because they were virtually immortal. Some of the girls made Elise’s life hell by constantly reminding her how she’d age and die while they wouldn’t. Until I got to know Ric and Aidan, I hadn’t met any who went out of their way to change my opinion.”

Now Lana laughed. “Guess she showed them.”

Des had to think for a minute but then he laughed, too. “You’re right. I wonder if she’s run into any of them Underhill, come to think of it.” Not only was Elise life-bonded to an immortal and would share his life span, but Aidan was a lord, a member of the ruling council of the Fae. As Lady Green Oak, Elise most likely outranked the elven girls who had tormented her.

“Anyway,” he continued, “add that up with the fact I’ve spent the last fifteen years hunting rogue non-humans, and I guess I did develop a pretty big chip on my shoulder. As my sister reminds me on a regular basis, I can be a bit of an ass.” He looked into Lana’s eyes and spoke sincerely, twisting one of her curls around his fingers. “I’m sorry.”

“Accepted. You can be an ass. But I’m starting to get why. And I like that you give a damn.” She stroked her hand down his cheek. “You do give a damn, don’t you? And not just about your sister. That’s why you don’t want me to do this. It isn’t that you don’t think I can, it’s that you’re afraid I’m going to get hurt, like Elise did.”

He tucked the strand of hair behind her ear. “It’s my job to chase immortal bad guys. Your jobs are serving beer, playing bass and taking classes. Isn’t that enough of a load for one person?” It would destroy him if anything happened to her on his watch. Couldn’t she see that?

“First of all, the band doesn’t play that often anymore. Secondly, I manage the bar now, but I have really good help. By January, Kurt and Ben will be running it on their own.” When Greg had moved out, they’d hired two young werewolf brothers as assistant managers, with the understanding that they’d be promoted if everything worked out. “And thirdly, my classes are basically done. This semester was just about wrapping up my thesis. I turned in the final paperwork last week. The only reason I still go to campus is for the occasional discussion seminar, and those are only for another week.”

“Still…” He squeezed his eyes shut. “That isn’t what I meant.”

“I know.” She kissed him on the nose, bringing a lump to his throat. “And after January, I expect to have a real, normal nine-to-five job, which will be weird, to put it mildly. But right now, I can help, and I’m going to. So get used to the idea.”

“I give up.” He held up both of his hands in mock surrender. “You’re going to do what you want to anyway, so I might as well at least be in the loop.” So he could worry.

She leaned in and kissed him. “See, I knew you were smart.”

His resistance shattered. He closed his arms around her, one tangling in her hair and one clamping down on her backside as he kissed her back with the longing he’d been fighting all day.

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