I took his hand, and we walked out of the diner with a wave to Bonnie. It was a short walk to the train station and we went two stops down before switching trains and heading into another part of town.
Everyone knew the City was broken up into territories. What the humans didn’t know is that it had even more lines they didn’t know about. The Venatori controlled most of both the Upper East and West sides and all of Midtown. Vampires controlled all of Harlem, Manhattan Valley and Carnegie Hill. And the wolves controlled Hell’s Kitchen and Turtle Bay, and everything south of Midtown.
Sage got off the train in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen. We were in wolf territory. I pulled the hood of my sweat shirt up as I followed Sage. He held my hand like it was no big deal. He thought nothing was wrong, I hoped that the wolves didn’t think I was here out of context. It had been many years since I’d come into Hell’s Kitchen on anything but Venatori business.
The buildings looked familiar. Sage started into one of the four story apartment buildings I knew were wolf territory and I pulled my hand from Sage’s grasp. “Why are we going in there?”
Sage looked at me with pleading eyes. “Please. No one will hurt you. I promise.”
I took a deep breath and took Sage’s hand he had continued to hold out “Sage, what are you getting me into?”
“Nothing. I promise. It’s not going to start a war.”
“So you know where I am?” I was confused even more now.
“Yes. Please. Nox, come with me.” I sighed and resigned myself to follow Sage. I pulled my hoodie around me tighter like I felt cold, but I wasn’t cold from the air. It was old memories. I could feel the wolf energy prickling my skin. It wasn’t safe for me here.
Sage knocked on a door and pulled me against him and took my hood down. “It’s okay. I promise.”
I heard rustling on the other side of the door and then the door unlatched and a woman answered. She was wearing a small apron and covered in flour. “Sage. Darling, what a surprise.”
“Mama Rose, this is my friend Nox.”
I nodded to her and bowed my head. I could feel the power of the pack behind her. She spoke, “Come on in boys.”
She moved into the house and towards the kitchen and I followed Sage through the apartment after closing the door behind us. I saw pictures of the family on the hallway wall as we passed them. I stopped when I saw a familiar face and swallowed hard. Sage was looking at me when I turned. “You okay?”
I nodded. “Yeah. Things make sense now. Or are starting to.”
Sage smiled and headed into the living room. The TV was on and a man was sitting on the couch. I stopped in the doorway and stared at the large Hispanic man watching television. “Adrian.” I whispered.
I looked at Sage, “Why have you brought me to your alpha? He is your alpha right?”
Sage nodded. “I’m not a werewolf if that’s what you are afraid of.”
I frowned. “I knew that from the get-go. But I didn’t know you were the foster son of Danny Morgan. When did they bring you in?”
Sage sat down on the floor facing Adrian. “When I was adopted by the Morgan’s.”
“You knew who I was the first time we met?” I asked. “When I was with your friend, Alice?”
Sage nodded. “I knew of you, yes. You are kinda a legend here. Danny works with you. Our alpha helped you, I know that much.”
“I paid Adrian to help me.” I qualified. “It wasn’t because he was a wolf.”
“I know. You’ve been sharing all these big things with me. This is all I have left. And your questions made me think you needed to know.” Sage frowned.
“You are omega?” I asked.
But Sage didn’t have time to answer, Adrian interrupted him. “No. He’s not. He’s under pack protection until he turns, or taken as someone’s mate.”
“He can’t turn. Adrian, he’s a path.”
Adrian smiled. “I know. He doesn’t. We’d have already turned him, he’s well past the age.”
There was one nagging question in my mind and I had to ask it, “Did you? with him?” Adrian was a psychologist by professional standards, but he was more of a sex therapist than any traditional one. I had paid him to teach me not to be a victim. It wasn’t about the sex, but it was still the same type training he did with some of his clients. It was how he met his wife. They ran the business together and shared in the kinkier side of it. Adrian was a dominant male, and he’d been my top for many years. Until I grew too powerful he said.
Adrian was smiling while he waited for my brain to refocus on him. He was used to my thought process even after the years of absence. He shook his head. “No.”
“Then why does he speak to me the way he does?” I asked.
Adrian’s grin grew wider. “I advised him how to catch you.”
“Catch me?” I sounded as confused as I was.
“He came to me a few weeks after you first met him in Aspect. When you went off with the girl. He said he’d met you in person. I saw how he spoke about you. I gave him a few pointers on how to act around you and treat you if he truly wanted to capture your attention.”
I knelt down in front of Sage who had been picking at the carpet he sat on. “So you don’t really want the control you were asking for? You were playing me?”
Sage looked up and I could see the tears in his eyes and I wanted to dry them. I didn’t want to see him sad. I had to look down at the floor. He put two fingers under my chin and made me look at him. “I liked how you reacted to me, how you’d smile and go with what I said. When I gave you the card and took …” Sage blushed but I wouldn’t make him say it here, if we’d been alone I might have. “I didn’t think you’d call me because I’d been so forward. Then I got the text you didn’t send me. But you called me afterwards. I like the power. But you are an alpha, I feel it. I couldn’t take control that was yours to have. The pack would kill me for overstepping.”
I smiled at Sage. “They will have to go through me to do that.” I turned around and sat down next to Sage and put my hand on his leg and looked up at Adrian who was smiling.
He chuckled and called out, “Rosella, you have raised the pup well. But I think he out grows us.”
Rosella came out with a plate of freshly baked cookies and placed them on the coffee table in front of Adrian. “He will always be my pup and always welcome here.” She gave Adrian a hard stare.
“He will always be welcome in the pack. But I think his standing will change.”
Sage got up on his knees and crawled to Adrian, “I can’t get any lower.”
Adrian put his hand on Sage’s head, “Not lower, little one.”
Sage looked up at Adrian, “What do you mean?”
Adrian just smiled. “I’m sure we will all see.”
Adrian grabbed a cookie and stood up. “Nox. It’s been a pleasure. Take care of my pup. Or should he be the one taking care of you?”
I stood up and offered my hand to Adrian. “I think we need to take care of each other, Adrian.”
He took a bite of the cookie with a smile. When he finished, he yelled, “Excellent cookies, Rosella.” He turned back to me, “And excellent answer.”
Adrian left the room and the house with little more than a fond farewell to Sage’s foster mother. Sage still sat on the floor on his hands and knees looking at the floor. I sat down on the couch and looked down at his bowed head, “You don’t have to stay that way, he’s gone.”
“He wasn’t the only alpha in the room.”
I laughed. “I’m not going to order you around. I am not pack. You do not need to heed in any terms.”
Sage looked up and shook his head. “You are pack. I feel it.” Sage sat back on his heels and put his hand against his heart, “I feel it where I feel the rest of the pack. Adrian considers you pack. You are pack.”
I sighed. “Fine. We’ll do this proper then. I yield my power to you and only you Sage Morgan. I am yours to command.”
There was a gasp from the kitchen from Mrs. Morgan as she eavesdropped on our conversation. But it was Sage who was looking at me with wide sapphire blue eyes, “Do you know what you did?”
I nodded. “Yes. I’m not pack so I didn’t feel whatever power shift you did, but I feel it’s different in the room now.”
Sage shook his head, “You are lower than me now? Why did you do that?”
“I am lower than you, but I didn’t sink to the bottom. I raised you above me. You command my power in the pack. Whatever that means since I’m not pack. I did it because you liked the way it felt to take charge of me. No one can confront you now about being controlling with me because I gave you my power to control.”
I took a breath and continued, “You could make a move with that power. If you do and we end this, you would be in a terrible situation. Unless you kept the power, and I then had no choice but to do as you asked with in pack laws. But I’m Venatori. My rules out weight your rules by the Clandestine Providence. I can’t do my job if you had complete control of my abilities.”
“Why though? We aren’t even dating.” Sage asked.
I smiled, and I leaned my forehead against his and whispered, “I like when you tell me what to do. I need you to.”
Sage grinned at me, “So even if I hadn’t brought you here you would have given the power to me?”
I sighed, “Not all of it. Even Adrian will tell you, I am not a perfect submissive. But I like when decisions are taken from me. So not having to worry about who is paying is a relief. My schedule is part of my coping mechanism to get through the anxiety of my nightmares and the daily changes of adult life. The less I worry about the better I feel, and the more time I can feel safe.”
Sage asked, “You have you all figured out don’t you?”
I shook my head. “No, Sage I don’t. I learn things everyday.”
He grinned. “What did you learn today?”
“So far,” I smiled, “I’ve learned I need to trust you.”
Sage looked confused, “You don’t trust me?”
I shook my head. “I trust you. I don’t want to trust you. I need to trust you. Like I need to breathe.” I emphasized want and need to make my point.
Sage smiled and took my hand, “Let me show my childhood bedroom.” We stood, and I followed Sage deeper into the apartment he grew up in. This was not what I expected on my birthday.