Secret Santa
Page 8

 Sierra Dean

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In five days I’d scoured the city top to bottom, and all I’d gotten was more rumors and no real answers. I was out of places to look, out of ideas and out of time. Another body had turned up yesterday, this time in the lobby of Trump Tower, and now the city was in an absolute panic.
I didn’t know what to do, and since Mercedes had dumped the responsibility onto my shoulders, she’d also loaded all the guilt and worry that went with it.
None of the four missing teens had been found yet, leaving the police and Nolan with unsolved cases. Though part of me was grateful they weren’t among the body count, the realist in me knew it was only a matter of time.
I needed a new lead or a clear head. I needed to get my mind off the depressing hamster wheel of unhelpful thoughts it was currently spinning through.
My phone started to ring out in the living room, its bubbly Christmas carol ringtone all I could hear in the empty, quiet space of my apartment.
It was saying, Secret, get your mopey ass the hell out of bed.
Actually it was singing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”. But that wasn’t how I heard it.
I threw off the covers and padded into the living room, not bothering to put on a robe over my tank and boy-short undies. Cold wasn’t a problem for me, even with the subpar radiator we had in my apartment.
The caller ID screen showed Desmond’s cell, and the fretful despondency I’d felt in bed was shucked off and replaced with a warm glow.
“Santa’s workshop,” I said with a breathy purr. “Have you been nice…or naughty?”
He groaned, but it didn’t sound like it had anything to do with being put off by my poor attempt at Christmas humor. “If you tell me you’re in a Mrs. Claus costume, I might die.”
“I’m wearing significantly less than the suggested North Pole uniform.”
“Standing under the mistletoe, too, with no one here to kiss. Oh, wait, is that the door? Knock knock.”
Then someone did knock on the door, a heavy solid pounding. I went rigid on the spot. When I sniffed the air all I could smell was pine, and with Desmond in my ear I couldn’t hear what might be outside my apartment.
It didn’t sound like his voice was echoing on the other side of the door. I stepped onto the bottom ledge of my fireplace and grabbed hold of the katana hanging on the wall, then slid the protective sheath off.
In the light of the Christmas tree the steel glinted with the cheerful LED reds and yellows. The power of the old blade hummed in my hand. I had come by ownership of the sword as a fluke late-night purchase, but I often wondered if there was more to the weapon than met the eye.
All I needed it to be right then was a weapon quieter than a gun. The knocking at the door resumed, louder this time.
“So what are you wearing?” Desmond asked, oblivious to my sky-high anxiety.
“I’ll be wearing a brand-new werewolf fur coat if you’re playing some sort of trick on me, Desmond Javier Alvarez.” I jerked the front door open with a rough gesture while I grasped the sword with my other hand. I kept the phone wedged between my shoulder and my ear and braced myself in an attack stance.
The hall was empty.
Lowering the sword, I poked my head into the hall cautiously. It was a tiny space with nowhere to hide, and there was no one but me there. What the hell?
“Secret, what’s going on?” Desmond’s voice had taken on a tone of worry, something I liked far less than the heated passionate promise of only minutes earlier.
“Nothing. I thought I heard something, but I must have been imagining it.”
I turned towards the apartment when the front door leading to the street swung open with a loud smack against the interior wall. I yelped with surprise, dropped the phone and held my sword with both hands in preparation for a defensive strike. A dark figure stood silhouetted by the dim streetlights outside, looming in the doorframe without moving.
Then I tasted lime and snarled. “Christ, Desmond.”
He closed his phone with a snap and bypassed the two-step drop by jumping into the landing with a hop. I still held the sword up, but it didn’t look like it fazed him at all. He was sniffing the air with exploratory, careful precision, but judging from the frustrated sigh he let out, he didn’t sense anything more than I had.
“What happened?”
I hated it when he went all business on me. I was standing around in my underwear, wielding a sword. Somewhere a D&D nerd had a contact erection and couldn’t figure out why. My boyfriend, on the other hand, looked deadly serious.
“Someone knocked on the door. I thought it was you, but when I opened it up the hall was empty. You suddenly showing up makes me wonder if I wasn’t right the first time.” I lowered the sword again because the space in the hall was too limited to risk keeping it up at accidental-impalement levels. Cold air was wafting in from the open door, but it was a dry cold. There was still no snow.
“It wasn’t me.”
“Don’t mess around. If you were playing a joke, just tell me.”
“Secret, I swear to God it wasn’t me.”
He shut the door, blocking out the chilling wind, and turned to get a good look at me. Seeing I was uninjured and more irritated than scared, a smirk played at his mouth.
“What?” Yup, definitely irritated.
“Nice outfit.”
I smacked him in the shoulder but had the presence of mind not to do it with my sword hand.
His grin widened. “That’s the best you got?”
This time I punched him in the arm with my real strength, and he winced. I might have felt bad if he didn’t make a lunge for me. My gut reaction was to swing the sword, a response that had killed many more frightening foes than a werewolf in human form. But luck was on Desmond’s side, because I happened to be in love with him and love tended to trump other natural responses.
He took full advantage of my hesitation by grabbing me around the waist and snatching the sword out of my hand. So much for that option. Desmond tossed the sword through the open apartment doorway where it bounced over the carpet, scaring the bejeezus out of poor Rio, who hissed at it before hiding under the loveseat.
Desmond lifted me as though I weighed nothing—which was probably what I felt like to a buff werewolf—and slung me over his shoulder. I wanted to fight, but this angle gave me a fabulous view of his wonderful, toned butt, and I was hard-pressed to find anything wrong with that.
He kicked the door closed behind us, and I watched the apartment slide by as I dangled upside down, a curtain of my blonde curls obscuring most of the view.
“Aren’t you at all curious about the knocking?” I wheezed, the question directed at his tush.
He didn’t stop walking until we were in the bedroom, where he heaved me onto the unmade bed.
“Do you hear that?” he asked, lifting his head and looking around the room.
“Hear what?” I listened closely but heard nothing.
“Nada. Not a damned thing. No knocking.” With his coat on the chair and his tie already loosened, I could tell strange noises were the last thing on Desmond’s mind. Getting to my knees, I fixed him with a serious look.
“What if it was a monster?” My tone was playful, but just saying the word reawakened my guilt. He must have seen the shift in my eyes because he climbed onto the bed and knelt in front of me, cupping my face between his warm, rough hands.
The touch of his wide, familiar palms made a sensational heat bloom inside me. If there was one thing Desmond could be counted on for, it was making me forget my problems.
“The monsters will always be there, Secret. Let’s just pretend for a little while we don’t know anything about them. Deal?”
I ran my hand through the thick, dark waves of his hair. It had gotten longer in our time together, and wilder. Sometimes it reminded me of the carefree waves Holden had always favored, but I bit my tongue whenever the comparison sprang to mind. Desmond’s extraordinary violet-gray eyes were searching my face, trying to judge my reaction to his request.
I smiled and traced a path from his hair, down his cheek, my fingernails grazing the five o’clock shadow that made him look both mature and dangerous.
“Stand up,” I whispered.
A befuddled look overcame him, but he edged backwards off the bed and complied with my instructions. I crawled towards him, my gaze fixed on his face, and the new expression there was worth every slow, painstaking inch I traveled.
When I stopped I was on all fours at the end of the bed, eye level with his Gucci belt buckle. I breathed out a hot, openmouthed sigh, and Desmond groaned. He reached out to touch my hair, but the instant I felt the brush of fingers, I pulled back and shook my head.
“That’s not how this is going to work.”
He raised a single brow and couldn’t hide the smirk threatening to overtake his lips. As patient as he was, his resolve wouldn’t last forever. Werewolves, especially those with Alpha leanings like Desmond, were used to being in control at all times. It had never bothered me that his dominant nature exhibited itself in our bedroom, because I knew it was hard for him to keep it buried in the pack.
As Lucas’s second, Desmond couldn’t flaunt his power since he didn’t want to upset the balance. If he wasn’t the king’s lieutenant, he’d be Alpha of another pack, and I wondered if he ever regretted not being given the opportunity.
But I had dominant urges too. And with all the stress and pressure that had been mounded on me, I didn’t want that to be one more thing I needed to bury.
Tonight I needed to let my freak flag fly.
I rose on my knees, the front of my body rubbing against him as I did. His breath came out sharp and raspy. “Secret.”
“Shh.” I twisted my fingers in the Windsor knot of his tie and noticed for the first time that it had festive silver snowflakes embroidered in the silk.
The knot came undone without any resistance, and I tugged the tie off him with a precise yank. I pressed into him, licking the bow at the bottom of his lower lip, but when he tried to kiss me I turned my face away.