“The usual, Nox?” She smiled at Nox. Everywhere he went he had a usual. Made me wonder how stuck in his patterns he really was. Everyone everywhere catered to him.
“Yeah. Thanks. Alex?” He asked me. I was surprised he didn’t order for me.
I smirked at her in that he’s mine sort of way. I wasn’t exactly sure why I felt so possessive of him, “Coffee with two sugars and cream. And whatever pastry, cupcake that’s freshest. I don’t want something that’s been sitting out all day.”
The server, Chrissy, her tag said Christina, but her mind and Nox had called her otherwise, smiled at me, “We’ll have some chocolate cake out in few minutes, if you’d like that.” I didn’t really like chocolate cake but Nox started speaking before I could ask if there was anything else.
“Jay didn’t.” He interrupted..
“You know he did. You come in here every day, order the same thing, you leave a huge tip for everyone. Of course Jay made you your favorite. Besides, Mia told him too.”
He sighed “Fine.”
Then he looked at me expectantly. I grinned at him, “Oh I can talk now?” Sarcasm dripping from my voice, “That’s fine.” I told the girl and she left with a smile to get our order. I asked Nox, “What was that about?”
“Jay, their pastry chef made chocolate cake. Mia usually orders some for my birthday and brings it to me the day of, but she apparently can’t make it to the City then so she made Jay do it today.”
“Come on.” He grinned, “You’ve been stalking me and you don’t know who Mia is? You can see it in my head.”
I really didn’t know the name. It wasn’t in Poet’s file and I hadn’t paid much attention to his conversations with other people so I had no choice but to dig around in his head to find the information. I didn’t have to dig far. “Childhood best friend.” I nodded, “She’s the brunette with the dip boy… husband, right?” I recognized the other face he associated with Mia the dipshit who he sent to tell me off.
He nodded clueless to what had gone down. “Yes, that’s Mia and her husband is Jason, or more commonly referred to as Jace.”
The door jingled and and a bum walked in and headed straight for us. His suit didn’t fit, his shoes had holes in them and he looked rough.
A few of the patrons sneered as he sat down across from us and put the plastic card on the edge of the table. “Nox, who’s your friend?” He asked in a slow slurred voice.
“Alex, this is Liam. I don’t know his last name. He’s the left hand of the the Manhattan Werewolf Pack.”
“I’m not his hand.” The werewolf said flatly.
“He sends you to me often enough.”
“Dicky is his hand.” I smirked at the name.
“His right hand. I don’t like dealing with Richard. He’s a bully.” There were images in Nox’s head I didn’t like when he thought about this other man.
I didn’t really pay attention to their conversation about the prick in his head. Not until the werewolf called me Nox’s boyfriend. “Nox. Stop, your boyfriend will get mad.”
“I never said he was my boyfriend.” He looked at me to make sure I hadn’t taken offense to his words. He wasn’t my boyfriend, he was a fucking mark. This was a game, but I nodded as he spoke about the whole label thing. “I didn’t think we were putting labels on it.”
Though I pulled him closer against me and whispered against his neck, “We weren’t, but I don’t like him.”
He sent me a private thought. I’m sorry. Liam is harmless. I’ll get down to business. It made me happy that he wasn’t going to keep flirting with this werewolf. My jealous streak was a mile wide when it came to him. And there was no reason, but he was mine. Always, mine.
I only half listened to their conversation. I was surprised that Nox had threatened to kill a man for not locking a cage? I was confused until I realized she was a werewolf who he’d saved. One who apparently can’t shift during the full moon. It made a little more sense then, but still Nox really did use whatever tools available to him, even the possible threat of violence. He was a hypocrite still. Using the kid, now using violence when he claimed to not kill supernaturals. But I kept quiet. I didn’t say anything.
But Nox mentioned the Last Phoenix, I knew enough about them to know that Poet was thick with their leader. My attention turned to their conversation as Nox asked the wolves to look out for anything weird. “The Last Phoenix is stirring up trouble. I don’t know if its a faction inside, or the whole crew but I need to know if they make trouble in your territory.”
“Dragon’s don’t like wolves. They don’t hang here. There are a few pockets in Adrian’s territory but they won’t come down here. We smell bad to them.”
I snorted and muttered, “Wet Dog.” I hadn’t meant to say it out loud.
But the werewolf grinned, “I resemble that remark.”
Nox finished his coffee and the other man across from us looked down at Nox’s chocolate cake “You are going to eat that right?”
“I am, just not with you watching me.”
There was a sigh of relief “I hate when you eat chocolate here. It’s almost as bad as when you flirt with Dicky and his comments about gay men.”
Nox laughed. “You are comparing the sounds I make to the bull shit he spews.”
Liam, that was his name, I had to pluck it from nox’s head because I hadn’t been paying attention when Nox introduced us. He chuckled, “Nah, man, Dicky didn’t get his nickname cause it’s a shorthand for Richard.”
“Really, they know what he does?”
Liam frowned, “Back in the day, he came crawling back at the ass crack of dawn while Adrian was making peace with the big boss and Adrian smelled you all over him.”
“He didn’t fuck me.” Nox blurted out. He was looking at me to reassure me with a slight smile.
“That’s what he said. But he tried and that was all that mattered to the pack. He don’t hate guys that like guys, he hates you.” I got the feeling that the pack didn’t like this guy anymore than Nox did. Made me wonder why they let him stay.
Nox grinned at him. “He hates guys who like guys. That night, he tried to beat the shit out of me. None of the guys were having any of his action. Jaxen called me in hoping the wanna be Venatori would be enough to get him to back down in his bar.” Nox was picturing the moment in his head and while I wasn’t happy that some idiot was hitting on him, and then tried to beat the shit out of him I saw a familiar face and the name matched the much younger face.
“Wait a minute, you know Jaxen Oliver?” I asked. “And he knows you are Venatori and what werewolves are?”
“He knows I’m friends with Adrian. And Adrian trusts me to keep the peace with his pack. All of Adrian’s, um, play friends know he’s a werewolf. It’s part of an NDA they all sign and under the sexually transmitted diseases.”
“You can become a werewolf through sex?” Holy fuck!
“It’s rare, but it’s no different than aids. It’s transmitted through bodily fluid transfer. Which is why scratches rarely turn a human. But bites almost always.”
Liam frowned, “I gotta go Nox. Dom doesn’t like when I’m late. I’ll tell him what you asked us to do. He says thanks for Kyle.”
“Tell Abby I said hi.” Nox nodded and bid the man farewell “Next week.” he finished as the man left us and Nox looked over at me, “Sorry about that.”
“No worries, Pretty Boy. I got to find out all sorts of things listening to you and your werewolf friend. He’s got a poor shield.” I laughed. I was more than happy to sit here and listen to things unfold between him and one of his contacts. Poet would be happy with the information.
“Liam isn’t very powerful. He’s a rare wolf, he’s an addict. Usually doesn’t stick but Liam couldn’t cope with the change so kept using and they have to keep him locked up like Abby.”
“Why don’t they keep them together?” I asked as I poked my fork at his plain cake. It had been good for being chocolate.
“Two uncontrollable werewolves together is not a good idea.”
I changed the subject, we did come here after all to talk too, “Do you want to talk here? Or someplace else?”
“Can we talk and walk?” He asked almost shly.
“After you eat your cake. I want to hear these sounds that make Liam uncomfortable.”
“All right” He wanted to protest but he agreed easily, never complained.
“I don’t make any noises. That was Liam’s way of saying it was my favorite.” Nox said, but I wasn’t going to listen to him, I just nodded at him and told him to eat which he did as he was told.
He shoved his fork through the corner and I watched as he put the morsel in his mouth. He closed his eyes and groaned. I laughed, “I see the entertainment value in watching you eat.” The noise had gone straight to my cock and I had to readjust so things weren’t uncomfortable.
He rolled his eyes at me. “At least I’m not drooling.”
I had drooled, yeah, I got that, but I understood why he had watched me eat that steak. I asked, “So chocolate is your favorite?” More to distract myself then to learn more secrets about him.
“Chocolate is the only sweet I indulge even a little in.” I made a mental note.
“So if I wanted to butter you up, bring you a Hershey’s bar would make your day.”
“No. I’m not big into candy. Ice-cream is my go to. I eat chocolate cake around my birthday. You’d do better bringing me a milkshake from Bonnie’s. But if you are trying to butter me up, a cup of fresh hot coffee is going to win more points.”
That was good to know. “What about chocolate coffee?”
“That usually is filled with sugar and I don’t like the empty carbs. But as long as it’s more coffee than sweet you’d be pretty good I think.”
I knew a great place thanks to Poet that had gourmet coffee. I’d have to take him one day. “I know this really great joint that roasts the cocoa and coffee beans together and fresh ground. I don’t even have to give you any sugar, but it’ll be mighty bitter without it.”
“I trust your judgement.” Nox said with down turned eyes staring at his plate again.
“Do you now?” I asked playfully.
I reached under his chin with two of my fingers and lifted his eyes, “Let’s go for that walk.”
Nox pulled out his wallet and dropped fifty bucks on the table. “Holy fuck!” I exclaimed, “Why do you do that?”
“What else do I have to spend the money on. It’s an expense for doing my job. Paying off informants.”
“But he paid for the coffee.” I was still confused.
“He always pays for the coffee. It’s an expense for him, and he uses Dom’s card anyway.”
“So this was nothing more than a business transaction?” I asked.
Nox shrugged “Yeah. Liam’s not my friend. Dom’s not my friend, we exchange favors. He pays for the drinks because Dom tells him to. Just like I cook for Ant and crew and don’t expect anything in return. Just a bunch of incremental favors and exchanges.”
“You don’t make a cent off of any of this do you?” Such a shame, all these connections and he didn’t profit from them. He needed a few business lessons I thought to myself.
“The Venatori pay me and I use that money to pay for the information I need. What am I going to do with the excess money? It’s not a lot. But I don’t need it.”
“Take a fucking vacation Nox.” He was overworked and stressed out because of what he did and the Venatori didn’t appreciate him. I almost told him to come away with me I’d take care of him. But I reminded myself that boat had sailed. He’d left me alone with his dick friend.
He grinned. “I don’t need to save up for it. I can tell Dae’lin I want to go to Paris and she’ll find me an assignment there and I get a free vacation.”
“But you’d have to work.” He never even took a break for himself. How sad.
“I can’t sit on a beach and do nothing. I just can’t.” I smiled and pushed him out the seat. “I thought we were going for a walk.”
I took his hand my hand in his when we got out of the coffee shop. His fingers entwined with mine and Nox let out a long slow breath. I sent him a teasing thought, If you’d called me we wouldn’t be having this problem, so this is all your fault.
“You know that’s not fair right?”
I knew that, of course I did. That’s why I did it, but I played coy anyway. “You mean me looking inside your head?”
“Yeah.” He nodded.
I smirked proudly, “Life ain’t fair, didn’t your mother ever tell you that?”
Nox shook his head sadly, “Probably, but not that I can remember anyway.”
“You’ve a crap memory eh?” I joked. His memory in the dream had sucked. But he didn’t know that. And I realized my folley when he went the serious route with my joke.
“Not really. I was five when my mother gave me to the Venatori. And I don’t remember a whole lot from then. And when I saw her as an adult we didn’t speak much before she died.”
“My mom died when I was seventeen.” This was not a topic I enjoyed talking about and my voice reflected that.
“Eighteen for me.” Nox said and got a lost in the thoughts of his own mother before he added after several seconds, “What happened? to your mother.”
“Car accident. One I was supposed to be in too but I’d told mom I’d meet her there I had something to wrap up before we left. It was a last minute thing.”
“I’m sorry. I understand survivor’s guilt. I felt the same way when my mother died.” Nox squeezed my fingers reassuringly. He’d read me without anything more than the sound of my voice. Was I that transparent?
Central Park came into view and Nox pulled me in that direction, “So bossy sometimes.” I smirked at him and he gave me that smile – my favorite smile. The one just for me.
We walked a little ways into the greenness inside the City before I started this stupid talk but i was tired of waiting for him to bring it up so i did. “So I followed you last night.” He acknowledged me with a nod but his thoughts were railing against the thought I thought he was lying. “There was a kid, what happened to him?”
“He was with his mother when I left them. I don’t know yet. I’ve been filing reports all morning, and was going to go see how far they got on getting information from his mother after I talked with Liam. And gave you your phone.”
He so easily changed the subject, “You were expecting me to be sitting there?”
“You have been for the past several weeks, don’t know why you’d change that now.” He said.
“Good point. I’m sorry I didn’t call you.” I was sorry I had caused him distress that could have been remedied with a simple phone call. But that was the past.
Nox shook his head. I wasn’t sure why, I think it was I didn’t need to apologize, but I did. “I know. You explained it already. I just don’t like lies. I have to tell so many of them out in the real world, keep things from people, but I don’t do that in my personal life, and I hate when someone lies to me.”
“Some lies are good.” I joked.
“No lies are good. Even the little white ones can come back to bite you in the ass. I don’t lie to the girls on the dance floor. I tell them straight out the gate I don’t want more. I don’t play that I’ll call or that I even take their numbers. Some girls don’t listen.”
“So what about me? Where you going to say hey it’s only a one time thing? I don’t want more.” I knew he had been thinking it. Had been thinking all about going down on me and afterwards. It was one reason I’d left.
“I don’t know. I don’t think I wanted it to be a one time thing.”
“But you were thinking about that night, what we could be doing instead of dancing. I wasn’t just some one night stand was I?” I asked.
“Maybe you were, but you aren’t now. We’ve seen each other everyday for the past three days since we met. That doesn’t seem like a one night stand.”he tried to reassure me then his face lit up in that grin as he added, “Unless this is all just a game to you to get into my pants.”
I laughed and stopped in the middle of the sidewalk. I grabbed his hips and pulled him tight against me. He had no choice but to wrap his arms around me and I leaned in and kissed him. A small moan left his lips and vibrated against mine. “Oh Pretty boy, I don’t have to play games to get into your pants.”
“Are you saying I’m easy?” he teased.
“Very.” I laughed even as he bit his bottom lip, fuck! “You have to stop that.”
“Stop what?” he asked as if he were clueless
“Biting your bottom lip.”
“Why? Maybe he was clueless…
I leaned in and took his lip in mine and bit it. I whispered against his lips, “Because all I want to do is bite it when you do that.”
He laughed and pulled away with a playful look, “That sounds like a line.”
I smirked at him as I slid my arm around his waist and started walking with him, “It may be a line, but it’s the fucking truth. You have no idea what that cute shy act does to me.”
Nox gave me my smile again as he changed the subject, “So, back to Drake. If you want, you can come with me back to the AU building and we’ll go check on him. He should be in the daycare rooms until they know what to do with him.” That was a surprise. Most of it was. He knew the kids name.
“You know the kids name? Even though you were willing to use him as leverage.” I hadn’t expected him to ask me to come along either. I wasn’t part of his world.
“It’s not what you think.”He defended, “She’s dead anyway. I don’t know what will happen to his father, he’ll go to jail or they’ll kill him too. I don’t know. It’s rare a human gets mixed up in Venatori business like this. And I certainly have never brought one in before. I can use his future as leverage. Promise to take care of him for information.”
“You mean the Venatori would take care of him?” I asked.
“No, I mean me. I’d take care of him. Promise to keep him safe – personally.”
What? “Why would you do that?”
“So I can get the answers I want.” That was a more reassuring answer he gave me.
“It’s a false promise.”
I got it now. But Nox shook his head, “Nothing false about it. I don’t lie, Alex. Not even to get what I want. Tell me why I’d let a kid grow up in the Venatori like I did and become like me? An outcast, a nobody, feeling unloved, unwanted. Kids need someone to love them unconditionally. No strings attached. If it were in my power I’d never let any kid ever grow up like that.”
“So you’d take on some strange kid just because you don’t want them growing up like you did?” he was still such an enigma.
“I want a family. I have for some time. I may not get the wife and kids and the white picket fence, and honestly, I don’t want any of that. I want someone to love me like I love them, I want kids, blood, not blood doesn’t really matter to me. I want a home we can live in and be safe. I just want some semblance of normal.”
“You do realize you are very far from normal. You’re what, 25? And single, and have the chance to get whatever you want and you want to settle down?” He could have everything with his gift and his ability to charm nearly anyone he met.
He laughed. “I don’t have that chance Alex. I’m Venatori, eventually, the Procreation committee is gonna be breathing down my neck making me have kids. And if I don’t choose someone, they’ll choose for me. And they don’t believe in science for procreation, but yet the AU building houses the finest genetics research labs and abilities – the best from all the world is right there under their fingertips and they insist on the old fashioned way.” I hate the fucking Venatori!
I pulled away from him and sped up. Why was it when things started going better they all turned to shit. I was just some fucking game to him, “So this,” I waved my hands between us, “is what? A diversion. You’re going to marry some woman, get her pregnant and she’ll have your kids and this is nothing?”
“No. I would never marry a woman. And definitely not because the Venatori said so. Alex, I don’t like women.” He sounded sad that I didn’t understand.
“You could have fooled me with the way you fucked them on the dance floor.” I growled unable to let myself feel anything. I should know better than to think this was more.
“I enjoy sex with them. But I’d never fall in love with one. I have too many trust issues when it comes to women. I can’t trust them to take care of me. And I already told you what I needed there. Alex, I’m not looking for Ms. Right, or Mr. Right…”
“Just Mr. Right Now.” I interrupted.
I didn’t want to sit here and listen. I was about to leave when Nox groaned and grabbed my shirt and pulled me closer. “Alex stop. I’m here. Third day in a fucking row with a guy who keeps running away from me. With a guy who …” He paused and I heard the thought, a thought I didn’t want to hear. I didn’t fucking care if he loved me and he seemed to get that as his words didn’t match his thought completely, “A guy who I could love, who I want to at least give a shot, even though all we ever seem to do is fight.”
He sighed then continued with an open mind. “I will tell you the one truth that very few people know. I was in love once, you remind me of him. I don’t want to make a mistake with this like back then. I don’t know what I did, or what happened. But something did and he never showed up. I’m never going to ignore you even if I’m angry. But I need to know I can trust you. Because Alex, you can break me easier than you can snap a dried twig.”
It was so fucking open I just stared at him looking for that final truth. He’d had one boyfriend, he wasn’t in love with him. He didn’t fucking love me, he sent his dick head friend to come tell me off. That was what you did you ashole. But here he was opening himself up to me completely and I couldn’t help but go as far as I could. I saw memories of us buried deep inside his head. It was startling at the least, but in the same vein there was darkness. So deep, so dark.
It was everything I could do not to drown in the suffocating darkness. A single image played on loop in the darkness. A pair of glowing eyes floating in the darkness with glowing tentacles of red, green, brown and blue falling on an ever changing body of a boy, a teenager, a young man, until I saw the man standing in front of me. What the fuck was that. I rested my forehead against his head and pulled the image into his mind. “Is this what happens every night?”
It was almost instantaneous. As soon as I asked and the image was in his mind the panic started. His heart raced and his breathing grew ragged. He was crying. I put my hands on his face, the finely manicured beard under my hands was rough against my palms as I wiped the tears away. This had to be why he was scared, but why, how? “How does that translate to the scars on your back, Nox?” I asked quietly
The panic was too overwhelming. I pulled him aside, and sat down on the ground and pulled him into my arms. I held him tight against me and whispered, “It’s okay. You’re safe.”
I held him while he calmed down. I took in his scent, the warmth of his body against mine. He was so assured and now he was broken. So broken, how the fuck was I going to get through this. Poet really had no idea how fucked up this kid was, how easy it would be to manipulate him. Which is exactly why Poet had sent me. He knew I could do it. And I could keep my distance.
Nox spoke quietly breaking me from my own thoughts,”I’ve had nightmares of what Garrett did to me since I was six years old. When I’m stressed out or when the dream is really strong on particular nights, my own power leaves gashes in my back.”
“What do you mean, your power? You do this to yourself?” He hurt his fucking self? It was one thing for someone to hurt him but why did he hurt himself. I had seen the self depreciation in his mind, and heard him talk bad about himself but hurting himself?
He pressed against me and I held him closer, he whispered, “I don’t do it on purpose.”
“Jesus, Nox.” I said. What the fuck was I going to do with this information. We sat there for a good long time. My ass was starting to get sore from sitting on the ground with the added weight of my pretty boy in my lap, and we were getting looks from people walking by even though we weren’t doing anything.
“Come on, let’s walk.” I said pushing Nox up out of my lap. He turned and helped me stand up.
I didn’t know where we should go but he’d said he’d take me to see the boy so I headed back the way we came. Nox whispered, “I’m sorry.”
I shook my head. “Don’t worry about it Pretty boy. I’ll catch you when you fall.” And it was the truth. No matter how much he fucking hurt me I couldn’t see him like this – it killed me and I hated it. I had to get this job done and over with. But that might end up with Poet trying to kill him, could I live with that? I didn’t know. Hopefully there was some other way around it. Maybe if I knew what Poet needed him for, I could work on pushing Nox in that direction. But how does one con another con man?