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Blood Bound Series Book 12
Amy Blankenship, RK Melton
Copyright © 2013 Amy Blankenship
Second Edition Published by Amy Blankenship
All rights reserved.
Ren glanced down at the girl in his arms as he made his way through Gypsy's underground living room and past the beaded curtains that surrounded her bedroom.
The main thing that drew his gaze was the thin layer of dirt she’d smudged all over her face like makeup to cover up the fact that she had a smooth unblemished complexion. Unable to stop himself, Ren let his gaze slowly drift back to her perfect lips and then up to the fan of her long dark lashes where they brushed against her cheeks. It would take more than dirt and baggy clothes to hide her softness and beauty from him.
He could feel the thick cloth that she had wrapped so tightly around her chest and it annoyed him. It was no wonder she’d passed out like that upstairs… he doubted she could even breathe properly with those bindings squeezing her breasts so tight. He silently wondered whose bright idea it had been for her to dress up like a boy... hopefully not hers.
Ren stopped beside the bed and leaned over it to place Lacey down on the soft mattress. It was just his luck that the girl chose that exact moment to snap out of her dead faint and wake up fighting him.
The first thing Lacey noticed was the strong arms that were wrapped around her so possessively. Her brain automatically went into overdrive when her paranoid mind sincerely thought that the dangerous demon that she’d been running from for the last couple weeks had finally caught up with her.
If this was the end of her, then like hell she was going to go down without a fight. Before the darkness even had a chance to clear from her vision, she started throwing punches at the monster holding her.
“Let go of me you black hearted bastard!” Lacey yelled and began kicking her feet to throw the demon off balance.
Caught off guard by her quick awakening, Ren snatched his sunglasses back out of the air where she’d managed to knock them off his face because his hands were full of her. Quickly becoming frustrated, he gritted his teeth and dropped her gracelessly on the mattress.
Not bothering to put the glasses back on just yet, Ren stood to his full height and watched as she bounced once and somehow managed to fold her knees under her in midair so that she landed on them. The movement was fast for a human… very impressive.
Lacey blinked and felt overwhelming relief when her vision finally cleared and she realized it was just Gypsy's heavy handed I want to rock you bodyguard. However, she did frown when her gaze was drawn to his strange eyes. It took less than a heartbeat for her to decide that the color of his irises reminded her of pure mercury with the hint of ice blue around the edges. Oddly enough, they added to his sex appeal since she was damn sure he wasn’t blind.
“Oh, it’s just you,” she murmured thankfully then mentally cringed when he lifted one elegant eyebrow at her inquiringly.
“Who did you think it was… the boogeyman?” Ren asked as he slid his dark sunglasses back on. He was still a little stunned that she’d just looked him right in the eyes and not shied away or flinched in fear.
Lacey stared up at him forcing herself to push the scary image of the old demon and his underlings out of her mind. She crossed her arms over her chest and said with as much sarcasm as she could with her heart still racing a mile a minute, “Nah, you’re no boogeyman… just some creep that can’t seem to keep his hands off me.”
Ren half smirked and half glared down at her and retaliated with an equal amount of sarcasm, “You wish.”
“I wish?” Lacey demanded and rose up so that she was kneeling on the mattress.
She straightened her arms down at her sides and balled her fists up while she fought off the slight fear that was still trailing up her spine. She didn’t have time for this. If she didn’t get out of here, there was a chance it would be too late to leave and she was looking directly at the reason for the delay.
“Yeah… you wish,” Ren repeated wondering how such a spitfire of a girl could look so cute dressed as a boy.
“I’ll tell you what I wish… I wish you’d just let me get what I came here for so I can be on my merry little way,” she tossed back at him raising her chin.
“Speaking of that… what exactly were you trying to steal and who were you stealing it for?” Ren demanded as he leaned down a little closer to intimidate her into answering the one question that was gnawing a hole in his brain. He didn’t like the thought of her putting herself in danger by working with demons and resisted the urge to shake some sense into her.
Even though she couldn’t see his eyes because of the sunglasses, Lacey could feel his silver glare leveled on her and she had to suppress a shiver. Keeping her wary gaze on him, she scrambled backwards in order to put the bed between them only to blink in surprise when he suddenly vanished from view.
She couldn’t control the frightened gasp that escaped her when she felt two hands take hold of her shoulders just as her left hand met thin air instead of the flat surface of the mattress. If he hadn’t moved so fast, she would’ve fallen backwards off the bed and onto the floor.
“How about staying put for a damn minute,” Ren said a little more harshly than he’d intended but this girl was going to have to chill out before she hurt herself.
Lacey's breathing sped up and her gaze darted around the room searching for a weapon of some sort. Much to her relief, she noticed quite a few decorating the walls and mentally smirked at her grandpa’s knack for thinking ahead. Too bad they were still out of her reach.
The man holding her shoulders had moved too fast to be human… which meant he was a demon. If that was indeed the case, then what the hell was a demon doing inside her grandfather’s secret bomb shelter and why was she alone with him?
She slowly blinked and all thoughts of fighting back left her when the memory smacked her in the face… hard. Grandpa was dead. A sound by the door made her jerk her gaze up and she spotted Gypsy and the other guy that had broken down the front door of the shop come into the bedroom.
Gypsy’s shoulders slumped when Lacey’s expression slowly turned from sadness to accusing as they stared at each other from across the room.
“Can you get them out of here and give me a moment to think clearly?” Lacey demanded angrily as she fought back the tears that thoughts of never again seeing her grandfather had provoked.
“Need I remind you that you’re the one who snuck in here uninvited,” Ren shot back wishing there was a demon nearby that could read minds so he could snag that power. He’d give a king’s ransom to know what this girl was thinking right now. The last thing he needed was for her to have enough time to come up with a cover story before he could get the truth out of her.
“Ren, please… can you and Nick give us girls some privacy?” Gypsy asked gently, feeling sorry for Lacey. She’d already dealt with her own grief over the death of their grandpa… but here Lacey had just found out.
Ren stared at Gypsy for a moment before looking back down at the girl he still had a hold of. Tightening his grip, he leaned forward until his lips were only a few inches from her ear, “I won’t be far.”
Now Lacey was born at night but she hadn’t been born last night and understood the man’s underlying threat in his words perfectly.
Gypsy sighed and shook her head before waving both men out of her room. “Go on, I think I can handle it from here.” She blew a strand of dark hair out of her eyes when they stepped out of the sleeping area but stopped just inside her living room to turn around and look at her.
Frowning, she calmly approached the bomb shelter door and pointed out. “No offense to either of you, but I haven’t seen my cousin in over a year and I think she has just as many questions as you do… so out.”
Nick placed a hand on Ren’s shoulder and gently pushed him toward the door. He quickly removed his hand when Ren shrugged it off and stormed out of the room ahead of him.
Before he followed, Nick turned his head and gave Gypsy a reassuring smile. “We’ll be right outside if you need anything. Take your time.”
Ren spun around to contradict the allowance of time but the words died on his lips when he saw that Lacey was now standing right behind Gypsy with a smug smirk on her face like she’d just gotten her way about everything. The little brat was infuriating and on the verge of actually pissing him off… so he decided to play her little game.
Tilting his head down so she could see the silver of his eyes, Ren returned the smirk with a darker one of his own making her expression slip just a little.
Lacey couldn’t believe this guy was actually smirking at her like he knew something she didn’t. Well, to hell with that. In retaliation, she reached out and slung the door to the bomb shelter closed hard enough for it to make a very loud bang about a second before she locked it.
‘Take that you sexy eighties reject,’ She mentally ranted, completely missing the fact that she’d just given him a compliment and an insult in the same sentence.
“Why that little,” Ren thundered and reached for the wheel to unlock it but Nick quickly knocked his hand away.
“Oh come on, I doubt she’s dangerous,” Nick offered trying to get Ren to calm down. “In case you haven’t noticed, she’s scared half out of her wits right now, not planning to take over the world. Besides, there’s only one way out of that bomb shelter and we‘re standing right here in front of it. Trust me… she’s just a girl and not a threat.”
“Screw off!” Ren snapped in exasperation. “If she’s so damned innocent, then why is she dressed like a boy and trying to break into her grandpa’s shop in the middle of the night. Oh, and let’s not forget the fact that she went straight for a hidden vault that until yesterday held a slew of very powerful artifacts that any demon would give their Demon Blade to get their hands on? Riddle me that Robin,” he finished cockily.
Nick smirked and slowly shook his head, “Oh no… I’m Batman.”
“Whatever… Robin,” Ren said as he laid his palm against the door and closed his eyes to concentrate.
He frowned when Nick's thoughts, which weren’t very nice, suddenly sounded through his mind loud and clear. Ren couldn’t help it and began to silently rant at the mind reading power that had failed him just a moment ago when it would have come in handy. Where ever that mindreading demon was… it needed to stand the hell still.
Gypsy sighed at Lacey’s stubborn streak and turned around to face her cousin. She didn’t bother with telling her that both men knew how to unlock the door she’d just slammed in their faces. If she kept antagonizing Ren, then she’d find out soon enough… Gypsy was sure of that.
“What in the world…” Gypsy began only to snap her mouth shut when Lacey suddenly reached out and touched her lips with the tips of her fingers and made a shushing sound.
“Where’s our crystal,” Lacey barely whispered before she began walking around the room looking at the vast quantity of crystals Gypsy had on personal display.
Gypsy smiled realizing what Lacey was looking for and approached her computer desk, reaching for the bright ruby quartz crystal sitting there. As children, they’d often used the privacy crystal to tell each other the secrets that they didn’t want anyone else hearing… especially the grownups.
The crystal itself had been their secret and given to them by their grandfather to share. As they grew up, the crystal was set aside because there’d been no use for it. Gypsy didn’t know why the crystal continued to stay with her instead of moving on as crystals tended to do… maybe now she’d get her answer.
Ren kept his hand pressed to the door trying to listen through the thick steel. His eyes narrowed when Gypsy's voice was suddenly cut off mid-sentence.
Nick was standing beside him with his ear pressed to the cold steel. He was having a little bit of trouble but could still hear the same things Ren did.
Ren frowned when he heard Lacey ask Gypsy about a crystal just before the room fell into silence except for the sound of their footsteps.
“What’s a crystal got to do with anything?” Nick asked.
Ren shot him a look that basically told him to keep silent before closing his eyes and concentrating again.
Gypsy and Lacey sat down on the sofa facing one another with Gypsy holding the crystal out in her hand. Lacey placed her hand in Gypsy's, trapping the crystal between their palms before releasing a heavy sigh.
“Tell me everything I’ve missed since I’ve been gone,” Lacey said softly.
Ren was getting frustrated, straining to listen in while attempting to widen his succubus range. Only fragments of their conversation were filtering through now, like a bad radio reception and he suddenly realized he was being blocked by some kind of magic. The air surrounding him gained a bit of power and his frown deepened just before he sneered at the door.
Nick leaned back from the door in confusion, “I can’t hear a damn thing now.”
“It appears that Gypsy has something in there that can shield a personal conversation,” Ren said and his lips thinned in agitation. “They’re using magic to keep us from hearing them.”
Nick huffed at the big bad Ren being outdone so easily, “You mean to tell me that you, with all of your power can’t break through it?”
Ren’s jaw flexed as he pulled on the power of the crystal and stretched the shield to where he was inside its barrier. “I didn’t say that. It’ll take more than a little girl’s silly game and parlor trick to keep me out.” He leaned a little closer to the door and looked over at Nick with a mischievous smirk, “Wanna hear what they’re saying?”
“What, you think I’m stupid… of course I do,” Nick answered with a sly grin of his own. He was in no way above eavesdropping when it suited him. As a matter of fact, he was usually a pro at it.
Ren motioned him over and placed a hand on the jaguar’s shoulder, squeezing a little too tightly just for fun.
Nick cringed at the hard grip but ignored it as his eyebrows shot up into his hairline when he suddenly heard the women’s voices just as clearly as though he were in the same room with them.
“Nice,” he whispered grudgingly.
Gypsy sat cross-legged on the sofa while she told Lacey everything that had happened, starting with Grandpa’s death. It hadn’t taken as long as she thought it would to tell the story and she actually leaned forward a bit when she began to tell Lacey about Nick, Ren, and all the mess with Samuel. She blushed when she admitted the fact that she’d had a slight crush on Nick for years.
Outside the door, Nick took a deep satisfied breath hearing Gypsy's confession and glanced toward Ren to see how he was taking it. It was a little disappointing to find the other man unfazed.
“Shut up,” Ren frowned wishing Nick would stop thinking so loud at him.
Nick wanted to laugh so bad but held it in also wanting to hear what was going on inside the room.
By the time Gypsy was finished catching her up, Lacey was rubbing her temple with her free hand and her face was in a heavy frown like she had a bad headache.
“All of that and you’re still alive? And here grandpa thought that he’d given me the dangerous job. Is there anything else I should know about?” Lacey asked crossing her fingers there wasn’t more to tell.
Gypsy thought about it for a moment and then slowly shook her head, “No, I think that pretty much covers all of the important stuff.”
“It’s a wonder The Witch’s Brew is still standing,” Lacey whispered and tightened her grip on her cousin’s hand before bringing it up between them. “And you tried to shoot a demon with a wooden bullet,” she shook her head in amazement and sympathy. Brave and dumb seemed to be something they both had in common. “I’m so glad that this Michael person had the power to heal you. I’d have died if I’d come home only to find both you and Grandpa… gone.”
“I’m fine and you’re home now. You are staying… right?” Gypsy asked letting the hope shine in her eyes.
Lacey started to say no but paused, biting her bottom lip as she tried to wrap her mind around something her cousin had said. Raising her chin, she locked her gaze with Gypsy’s wondering if she’d just found the safety net she’d been searching for. If it kept the demons from finding her for a little while longer, then she wasn't going to complain.
“Wait a sec… were you serious when you said that demons can’t come into this building without your permission?” she asked knowing when something sounded too good to be true… it usually was.
“It’s true,” Gypsy confirmed with enthusiasm. “We even tested the spell just to make sure that it worked, and well… it works brilliantly.” She tried to keep herself from grinning as she remembered Nick and Ren being sucked out of the store.
“Now that is the sweetest thing I’ve heard in hmmm… about a year,” Lacey said truthfully and felt some of the tenseness drain out of her shoulders and back. Maybe if she stayed, she could buy a little more time before facing the grim reaper. “And you say this was one of the spells that has been in the safe all this time?”
She silently wondered if it had come from the same spell book that she knew held the spell to counteract the power of the demon mark she was now wearing. The way she understood it… by casting a distortion spell over top of her demon mark, it would be near impossible to track her. It wouldn’t remove the mark but it was the next best thing.
She needed to find out where they’d taken that book. Her next step would be to locate the most powerful witch’s coven in the city and convince them to help her perform the spell. Problem was… someone had moved the damn book.
Gypsy tilted her head to the side in concern when the relief in Lacey's eyes faded back to worry. “Lacey, where have you been for the last year? What happened to keep you from coming home?”
When Lacey didn’t answer right away, Gypsy lowered her gaze to where their hands were still locked together around the crystal. “You have to know that Grandpa was worried sick when you vanished. He tried to hide it from me, but you stayed away for so long that he was finally convinced you were never coming back… that something terrible had happened to you.”
Lacey made a slight face knowing Grandpa was the last person responsible for the mess she was in. This one was all on her.
They had always kept Gypsy out of the loop but now that Grandpa was gone, there didn’t seem to be anything stopping her from telling at least part of it. Besides, when her past caught up with her, then at least Gypsy would know what really happened to her and maybe even place a grave marker next to Grandpa in memory.
She felt herself calm as she made up her mind to let her cousin in on the family’s extracurricular activities.
“Grandpa always sent you to the auctions and safe places to get the artifacts he wanted for his collection or needed to appease his clientele. That was your job and you were very good at it.” She smiled fondly at her cousin before adding, “But me… I was good at something completely different.”
“What are you getting at?” Gypsy asked with a frown. She had a suspicious feeling that she wasn’t going to like whatever it was Lacey was about to tell her.
Lacey shrugged as if it wasn’t that big of a deal, “Grandpa sent you after the things that were available and easy to get a hold of… just make a few deals in secret, with the help of a highly sought after trade or huge wad of cash. He sent me after the things that were not so… easy to obtain.”
“Like what?” Gypsy asked.
“Like things people did not want to part with,” Lacey supplied and watched as her cousin’s jaw dropped.
“He sent you to steal things?” Gypsy's voice rose in bewilderment. “I can’t believe Grandpa would encourage you to do something so dangerous.”
“How do you think he got into this business in the first place?” Lacey asked with a slight smile.
“I’ve only heard rumors,” Gypsy whispered more than a little amazed by the confession. Some of the highest ranking people at the underground auctions had been throwing her hints for the last couple years. She’d just nodded politely at them and smiled, then bleached the rumors from her mind not wanting to think too hard on them.
She sighed as she admitted, “I just shrugged it all off thinking they were picking on me because we often got a hold of things the others wanted very badly.”
“They had every right to be jealous. Grandpa was a notorious cat burglar in his prime and he was able to get his hands on a lot of valuable items during those years,” Lacey confirmed with pride in her voice.
“His specialty was supernatural items… old spell books, journals, paintings, and various magical items. Underground rumor mills say that he actually found the Holy Grail and hid it from the man that hired him to find it. I seriously doubt he did, but it only adds to the myth that surrounds Grandpa.”
Gypsy frowned, “How did he stay alive all these years going after such dangerous items?”
Lacey shrugged, “Who knows? Grandpa made a lot of enemies before he retired from his favorite pastime. No one could prove it was him because he had mastered the art of thievery. One of the first things he’d stolen was a cloaking device that rendered him completely undetectable. His shield against most of those enemies who did suspect him was the fact that a lot of the things they thought he might have stolen were powerful enough to be used against them if they retaliated.”
“A cloaking device,” Gypsy repeated with wide eyes. “Like Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak?”
“I don’t know… I never got to see it since it disappeared before either of us was born,” Lacey answered. “I guess someone else was an even better thief than Grandpa.”
“No wonder what’s left of our family moved out of the city and warned us about hanging out with Grandpa. I thought it was just because they assumed that he was a nut for believing in the supernatural and running a store like this.” Gypsy shook her head remembering all of the times she’d stood up for him. She still didn’t regret it though. She had loved him and that was all that mattered to her.
“Oh no,” Lacey contradicted her. “The family has no idea. He wanted it that way. He would always act strange around them on purpose… so that they would label him as a weird outcast and stay far away. He didn’t want to put any of them in danger if someone did come after him.”
Lacey's lips hinted at a sad frown as she thought back to when she’d first moved in with Grandpa… right here in this store. When she’d been nine years old, her parents had been killed in a freak accident and her grandfather had showed up to claim her within hours. He had no way of knowing if the accident was truly an accident or not and had confessed that secret worry to her after she’d learned the truth about him.
It was the theory that her parents might have been murdered over some paranormal trinket that had eventually made her want to seek revenge against anyone hording supernatural items in hopes that she’d run across the one that had killed them. Nothing had ever turned up though and she’d quickly become addicted to the thrill of the job. That… and the money wasn’t bad either.
“It was my idea to follow in his footsteps and he was against it from the start,” She reminisced. “But after a while, I wore him down by going out and thieving on my own. I made sure he caught me doing it so that he had no choice but to train me on how to get in and out without being detected. It wasn’t his idea but I left him no other choice. It was either let me do it on my own and get myself killed, or teach me all of his tricks and hope for the best.”
“I see,” Gypsy shook her head at her devious cousin and almost felt sorry for her grandfather. “Poor Grandpa didn’t have a chance.”
“Yeah well… I got in way over my head with this last job,” Lacey confessed. “It was my fault and Grandpa shouldn’t have blamed himself. He knew I was headstrong and he’d done the best he could.”
“Oh no,” Gypsy whispered making a face. “You were gone for more than a year. What exactly happened to you?” She reached out and touched Lacey's cheek with the pad of her thumb, wiping away a smudge of the dirt there. “Is that why you’re dressed like a dirty boy and sneaking around? Are you running from something… or someone?”
“A little bit of both I’m afraid. I shouldn’t even be here right now and the less you know about what’s been going on the better.” She glanced toward the door knowing she should follow her grandpa’s lead and protect the family by keeping her distance. “I was supposed to be in and out of here without anyone noticing, but your guard dog had to go and ruin everything.”
Gypsy noticed Lacey starting to fidget and the way she was now looking longingly toward the door like she wanted to leave. Not wanting her to go, Gypsy quickly blurted, “There is a clause in grandpa’s will about you… he never gave up on you coming home.”
Lacey smiled fondly, “He always did look after us.”
Gypsy nodded earnestly, “Yes he did and that’s why he left half ownership of the shop to you in his will. The Witch’s Brew is half yours and half mine. Even though you weren’t around, I still had them fix the deed exactly like Grandpa wanted it. We’re business partners now, and we can run this place together if you’ll just stay.”
“I don’t know,” Lacey whispered. Her days were numbered. Even if she had gotten the spell book and damaged the demon mark… they would still eventually catch up to her and that would be the end. She started to pull her hand away from Gypsy's but her cousin kept a firm hold. “You don’t know what you’re asking. If I stay… it could be dangerous for the both of us… not just me.”
“I have very powerful friends now and they can help you… keep you safe from whomever or whatever it is you’re so scared of,” Gypsy said raising her chin. “After what’s been going on around here… I’m a little tougher than you remember and can handle it.”
Lacey closed her eyes and took a deep breath. The store she’d always loved was half hers… bless Grandpa’s soul. He’d always said that she reminded him of himself when he was younger and had eventually took pride in that instead of thinking it was a bad thing. Of course, she could also remember his long lectures about getting herself killed. Yep… if he could see her now, the first words out of his mouth would be I told you so.
Gypsy could tell she was winning and added, “You can even tell me what you wanted out of the safe, and I’ll ask Ren to return it for you if it’ll help you feel safer.” She’d been so lonely since Lacey had disappeared and Grandpa had passed away. She’d been convinced Lacey was dead and had even mourned her. Seeing her here now… the last thing she wanted was to lose her all over again.
Lacey's mind was going a mile a minute. She wanted to stay so badly, but did she dare underestimate the demons chasing her by letting her guard down? On top of everything else, one of Gypsy’s friends was a demon… or a superhuman, or something and it made her a bit jittery. That was when something Gypsy had said made her think and a devious smile spread across her lips.
“Gypsy,” she began thoughtfully, “you said the spell you have on the shop… that only the owner can invite people in… right? I’m half owner of the shop, so if I tell someone to leave… they have to leave?”
“That’s right, you get to say who can come in and who can’t if they are not one hundred percent human,” Gypsy confirmed with a quick nod then gasped when Lacey suddenly leaned forward and gave her a tight hug.
“That means I can tell anyone that bothers me to leave including your overbearing bodyguard,” Lacey said with a giggle, feeling nervous now that she’d convinced herself that the smartest move she could make was to stay right here where she had a demon shield around her. Maybe she would just become a recluse, or at least have a heads up on when it was time to face her demons.
“Oh please don’t evict the boys,” Gypsy said and pulled back almost laughing at the disappointed pout on Lacey's face. “If it wasn’t for Ren and Nick, I would either be dead or the slave of a demon and you wouldn’t have had a shop to come back to. I owe both of them my life. And as far as Ren goes, you can’t use the spell he helped put on this place against him.” She hid a guilty smile knowing she’d already done that once in the name of testing the spell.
Lacey nearly rolled her eyes but nodded to let her cousin know she would behave… as best she could anyway. “Can you at least keep my secret? The less people that know about what I have been doing the better. To be honest, I shouldn’t have even told you. Besides, I’d rather get along with your harem instead of fighting with them.”
Gypsy was about to answer when they heard the large wheel on the door turn, making both girls jump in surprise. She sighed heavily knowing that the boys had either decided that they’d waited long enough, or they had heard everything… she’d rather it be the former.
The girls watched wearily as the thick steel door swung open and Ren stepped in, followed by Nick. Ren didn’t look happy at all, while Nick had an understanding expression on his calm face.
“I’m afraid it’s a little too late for secrets,” Ren stated in satisfaction. “We’ve already heard everything.”
Lacey just stared at him knowing they had only heard what she’d just told Gypsy and… that was just the tip of the iceberg. If they truly knew everything, they would have already tossed her out the door and locked it behind her.
Nick noticed the intense look Ren was giving Lacey and wondered if the idiot was actually going to lay into the girl for being the thief he’d originally accused her of being. In the deepest part of his mind, he hoped Ren did do something stupid so that the girls could put him out on his ass.
Deciding to wait and see what happened, Nick walked over to stand near the side of the sofa where Gypsy was and watch the show.
Knowing they were busted, Gypsy quickly pulled her hand away from the crystal and cringed when Ren stared down at it with an expression of disappointment. She didn’t understand why, but being caught by Ren made her feel like a child and she frowned, scooting across the cushion to get closer to Nick.
“Under ordinary circumstances, a privacy crystal might have worked with your grandpa and your other relatives… but I’m not human,” Ren informed them both but his words were meant for Lacey. “And after what I just heard, I think keeping secrets isn’t the best idea… in fact, it’s a very bad one and you,” he added pinning Lacey with a hard stare, “didn’t tell nearly half the story.”
Lacey pressed her lips together and gave him her most defiant glare, “No one asked you to eavesdrop you little sneak.”
Ren was suddenly towering over Lacey, staring down at her with his intense silver eyes and his sunglasses in his fisted hand. How dare she call him little, he was twice her size.
Gypsy jumped up and quickly moved to stand behind Nick when Ren slammed both of his palms against the back of the sofa, caging Lacey against the cushions.
“Start talking,” Ren ordered in a harsh voice hoping intimidation was the key to getting the details he wanted.
Now that Gypsy was behind him and couldn’t see his expression, Nick's lips spread into a wide grin. He took a step back, bringing his body that much closer to hers, silently letting her know that he would protect her from the big bad out of control Ren. It wasn’t his fault Ren was making him look like the good guy.
Lacey glared up at Ren with equal ferocity and slipped something out of her pocket, palming it without anyone noticing. Feeling the thin warm metal against her skin, she surprised everyone when she slammed her palm against Ren’s chest and easily shoved him away from her.
“Back off,” she insisted calmly.
Ren felt something stinging his skin through his shirt and did indeed take a reluctant step back. His lips thinned knowing she had some kind of enchanted medallion in her hand and with one quick motion he jerked it away from her. When it instantly burned his hand, he slung it across the room.
“Enough with the childish toys?” he growled, silently wishing his hand would stop stinging. Whatever that was… it hadn’t liked him very much and the feeling was mutual.
“I don’t have to tell you a damn thing,” Lacey said keeping her voice unhurried and even as she rose to her feet.
The fact that the medallion had worked so well on him let her know he was powerful. It only reacted to power and usually wouldn’t even work on low level demons because they didn’t have enough of it. Honestly, she hadn’t expected it to work on him… it was just the only thing she’d had within reaching distance.
“I may be only human but don’t make the mistake of underestimating me.” Lacey exhaled loudly when Ren took a threatening step toward her. “I don’t even know you,” she informed him with a raise of her eyebrow.
Ren ran a hand through his bangs in exasperation and silently counted to ten… not that it was helping.
Ignoring Ren, Lacey directed her gaze toward Gypsy. “I’m going to get out of these boy clothes and take a shower. Did Grandpa save any of the clothes I left here?”
Gypsy nodded deciding Lacey had more balls than she remembered, though her cousin had never really been a push over. “They are packed away in the trunk in the closet.”
Lacey smiled thankfully, “Good, I’ll see you in a few minutes. And you,” she continued, sending another glare at Ren and paying him back for the way he’d done her just a few minutes ago, “don’t you even think about peeking.”
“As if,” Ren said insultingly and crossed his arms over his chest as he gave her the once over, “you look like a dirty little street rat.”
Lacey let a smirk appear on her face deciding that if she couldn’t beat him at the insult game then she would have fun with him, “You know you want to.”
“I think you have it backwards,” Ren glowered down at her. “You’re the one known to pick the lock and slip in where you are uninvited.”
Giving up, Lacey threw the silencing crystal still in her hand at him and took off for the shower, slamming the door behind her.
Ren smirked as he caught the crystal in midflight and skillfully pocketed the trinket… they wouldn’t be using that little bit of magic again.
“She forgot her clothes,” Nick remarked nodding toward the closet Gypsy had indicated.
Within seconds, the door flew open again and Lacey stormed out grumbling under her breath about needing a testosterone free zone. She went straight to the closet and dragged the trunk into view.
Gypsy lifted an eyebrow and fought the grin that tried to appear on her face when Lacey pulled the heavy trunk into the bathroom with her and slammed the door again, never once even looking their way.
The moment they all heard the shower turn on Gypsy let her light tinkling laughter fill the room. It was going to be so much fun having her cousin back. If nothing else… the girl was entertaining and had been her best friend as far back as she could remember.
“I fail to see why you’re so amused,” Ren grumbled and stormed out of the apartment, stomping his feet all the way up the stairs. He had no clue how the hell he could be this aggravated and turned on at the same time.
Nick snorted and looked over at Gypsy, “I do believe they were just flirting with each other.”
Gypsy nodded liking the idea. Maybe this would be another reason for Lacey to stay. “Well, if she is in trouble… and I suspect she is, who better to protect her than Ren?” she said with a smile.
Nick didn’t know whether to be jealous that she thought Ren was a better protector than he was, or to be happy that Gypsy seemed fine with Ren and Lacey's weird attraction to each other. He thought about it for a second then gave in… silently admitting Ren was bigger, stronger, and way more powerful. Too bad the big guy’s downfall was the fact he was lacking a few brain cells.
Ren had heard Nick's crack but ignored what he was insinuating. Flirting… there was no way in hell he would ever think about being attracted to that brat. She was sarcastic, devious, and a thief… all minuses in his book. He made it up the stairs and started pacing back and forth in the huge storage area.
“She actually ordered me… ME not to peek,” he ranted in a harsh whisper as he paced.
Lacey sighed when the hot water sprayed over her body and relished the feeling of finally being completely free of the bindings that she’d had wrapped around her breasts to make herself look like a teenage boy. She had a good notion to burn the stolen clothes she’d been wearing.
She grabbed the scrubby from where it was hanging on the tub faucet and turned the heat up a little more. For her, relaxing was a luxury she’d been unable to partake of since running away from Vincent and the horde of demons that were after her.
Vincent… even the name called up feelings of guilt and she frowned sadly. She’d met him a couple days after she’d gotten a layout of the huge museum Grandpa had sent her to. It just so happened that they had both been sent by different people to steal the same artifact.
Her lips twitched at the funny memory… the look on Vincent’s handsome face when he’d caught her breaking into the same secret room he was there to break into. If they had tried to fight over which one of them had gotten there first and who deserved the spoils, they would have alerted the heavily armed guards that were just down the hall and been busted, or worse… shot.
Glaring at each other, it took them about thirty seconds to come to a mutual decision to work together in order to gain the piece. Though thinking back on it now, she realized that Vincent would have been fine either way… he had only agreed to the tag team because he’d wanted too.
Once they’d made it safely away from the museum, they had suddenly been surrounded by five black eyed shadow demons that had taken up host inside some of the local law enforcement by possessing them.
Standing there in the flashing lights of the cop cars with hands raised and five sets of guns pointed directly at them, she’d thought for sure that they weren’t going to make it out of there alive. That was until Vincent had handed one of them the stolen artifact and been handed a huge briefcase of money in return.
Afterward, Vincent had offered to split the money with her and asked her to go into business with him. Without thinking of the consequences, she’d agreed to the partnership deciding that she could get even more things for her grandfather by using Vincent’s ties to these new aggressive collectors.
She had been excited about finally having a partner and she’d seen that he could be just as sneaky as she was. It also didn’t hurt that he was sexy as hell and had a British accent that made it sound like he was flirting with every sentence.
Lacey shook her head at her naïve thinking as she lathered her hair up with shampoo. She’d agreed to the arrangement out of greed and because he was damn sexy… her only two weaknesses.
After a night and most of the next day of hot as hell, no strings attached sex, Vincent had told her a little bit about the underground ring he belonged to. It hadn’t taken her long to figure out that being partners with him meant she was also partners with an entire network of powerful demons.
Thanks to grandpa, she hadn’t been completely clueless about demons but that didn’t mean she’d ever danced with one. Though the knowledge of what she was getting herself into had made her nervous, she’d ignored the sixth sense and had been looking forward to the thrill Vincent was offering her.
That evening, he’d taken her to meet the master demon of the underground ring… an old man that looked every bit a hundred and ten years old and went by the name of Masters, which she’d thought funny at the time.
When the old demon had coldly rejected her invite into the underground thievery ring and tried to kill her on the spot, she’d lost all sense of humor. If it hadn’t been for Vincent stepping in front of her and taking the bullet meant for her head, she’d be dead right now. She’d thought Vincent was dead when he’d jerked and groaned as the bullet entered him, sending a spray of blood across her face.
That was the first time she’d been clued in that Vincent couldn’t be killed… no matter what was done to him. He’d dug the bullet out of his shoulder as he’d argued with the black eyed demon on her behalf, saying he’d wanted a partner for years and he’d chosen her.
Seeing how Vincent was his favorite thief, Masters had reluctantly agreed, but only if he could brand her as one of his underlings, giving him rights to kill her if she ever got out of line or tried to leave the group.