That one face, those menacing eyes that haunted her dreams and waking moments. She watched her stepfather, watched his hand slowly lift and extend the gun. Eerie words started echoing around the auditorium, silencing the applause, bringing it to a dead stop.
Her breath caught, frozen in place as his threat echoed about her, vibrating from every speaker.
The fear rose up like a great black shadow and engulfed her.
She crumbled into the blackness.
Storm moved without thinking, rushing the balcony of his box and jumped over it, descending through the air and onto the stage. He landed easily, rolled up to his feet, raced across the expanse to get to Effie as the audience screamed, confused. Another scream ripped through the air as a gory image of bloody body appeared on the drapes behind those on the stage. A menacing laugh rose up through sound system.
The drapes ran red with blood.
The audience panicked as all hell broke lose, scrambling for an exit.
Wynne and Reiser moved. Wynne went for Jeanine as Reiser gripped Duncan's collar, slipped his arm under his armpit and hefted him up, hurrying him out into the corridor. Wynne looked back, pushing Jeanine into Alvar's arms. He drew his Sig, prepared to take up the rear and froze. His eye focused on the box across the hall, on the man emerging into the half-light and then full on from the shadows of his box. His eyes narrowed at the thick raven hair that fell about his shoulders, and knew the warrior body hidden beneath the Canali suit was someone he had not laid eyes on in eight years--his cousin, Storm.
What the fuck was that bastard doing here?
He did not have time to linger and followed his men shepherding the First Family, and their escorts out of the King. A lot of questions would have to be voiced as soon as they were safely away.
Wynne closed the door to the SUV, hitting the ceiling, “Byrne…” Byrne pulled out from the back entrance as Wynne gripped the front seat, hoping the fleeing crowds scattered out of the way in time. The streets were clogged with those escaping the concert hall, afraid of what had happened. He heard the approaching blues and twos as the police arrived, converging on all avenues. Byrne deftly maneuvered the SUV, and gritted his teeth together, hating the thought of mowing down innocents as panic drove them to do anything and everything to flee. More than one curse filled the air as the Rover made its escape.
Duncan growled at Wynne as he wrapped an arm around Jeanine to protect her as the SUV swerved one way and then another, “What the hell happened?”
Jeanine buried into his side, shivering in fear, “She fainted, but I could see her face, her fear. Someone in the crowd, something frightened her.” She turned her face into Duncan’s coat, “Then blood dampened the drapes, and you heard the gruff voice coming out of the loud speaker. God that was awful.”
Duncan tucked her under his coat for his warmth, “Aye, I heard it.”
Wynne pulled Isabel against his own body at the sight of her pale features, “Are ye alright?”
“Aye, I think so. How could someone threaten such a beautiful woman, wonderful musician?” The words that had played over the loudspeaker, still echoed in her mind making her shiver. Her whisper repeated the threat.
You will always be mine.
I will haunt you in every waking hour
Into the depths of sleep.
You cannot escape me.
Not even death will steal you from my side.
You will always be mine.
Isabel grasped Wynne’s hand, entwining their fingers, squeezing back reassuringly. Reiser shifted in the front seat. His eyes darted around looking for any threat, sitting in shotgun beside Byrne. He saw their lead Land Rover tighten up the distance in front of them, and turned looked behind, saw the follow-up Rover pull in behind keeping close. He breathed a bit better as he heard his bràithrean’s voice come over his ear piece, telling them that the others were making a path up ahead on streets for their convoy. He noted, "People can be jealous of those with such talents. If she has a stalker, then why wasn't there a police presence?"
Byrne grumbled as he swerved to miss a couple darting between two parked cars, hitting the horn and kept right on going, "They may not have known or they were low key. This could be his or her first message."
Isabel sat up, "Didn't sound like a first message. What I don't understand is that no one went to her aid..."
Wynne interrupted, quietly speaking, "Someone did..."
She turned to Wynne, “Ye saw him?"
Wynne nodded, “Aye.” His eyes locked for a moment with Byrne’s in the rearview mirror and Wynne’s mind saw another's pair of steely green eyes starring back. His mind drifted back eight years.
The cities were trying to dig out of the recession that seemed to cling to the country like a bad smell. Change was happening, just not fast enough. Scotland was evolving, gaining a bit more independence, but the old guard still clung on. Edinburgh had been cast in cold, grey of winter.
Summer had been just as miserable, but their enemy had taken advantage of the depressing times, hitting their kin with deadly accuracy. Several elders were injured, two of their key family members killed.
The winter seemed brutal as the buildings along the Royal Mile caught the wind, creating a vortex of air that took a bite out of your ass, even with layers of clothing. Thick fat snow had fallen for a day, blanketing the city with several inches. Winter winds howled off the North Sea, barreling through the city streets freezing the people and buildings alike.
Wynne, Jac, Foster and Storm sat in the black BMW watching the city white over yet again. The cold tasted like the edge of steel on their tongues, in the back of their throats as they breathed. Nothing stopped them, nothing stopped their foe. God, it had been one of their first assignments, young brash twenty year olds sent to gather recon on one of the major players of the Louvella family.
Wynne looked at Storm’s cold eyes in the rearview mirror, watching him work the toothpick dangling from his lips. They had lost the silver Audi down along the Leith docks, and were trying to link up with the others to devise another plan. Storm's arrogant grin flashed as he turned his head to the side, spying something down an alleyway. He hit the brakes, hit the reverse and wheeled around, spinning the traction of the wheels and headed in the direction of the car. The brakes locked as he hit the pedal, the tires skidded several feet as the Audi pancaked into a parked Vauxhall ahead of them. Shifting their auto into park, he punched out of their car after their enemy with his other brothers on his six. If they could capture the bastard, bring him back, they would make good, and move up a notch.
The snow ran greenish-gray with oil, steam rising from under the hood, and the Audi was clearly out of commission as their enemy hoofed it down the street. A host of men and lads seemed to emerge out of no where after hearing the accident, the screech of tyres. Wynne had cursed, recalling how young and stupid they all had been, especially Storm. Back then anyone was quick to temper, and nighttime especially was a punch drunk of adrenaline that had them pumped up till late in the afternoon of the next day. That night, that fateful night started like any other, and ended with one of their own’s betrayal, two of their brothers dead.
Wynne shook his head. The images ingrained in his mind of Storm rushing headlong into a delicate snow fall. He closed his eyes, dispelling the images. “It was Storm.” He replied in a hard whisper.
Duncan’s angry growl filled the SUV, “What!? He is supposed to be dead. How can he be alive, let alone in the Capital?”
Wynne spat out, “I dinna ken, but I intend to find out.”
Storm hurried across the floor to Effie’s side. In the confusion, no one had come to her aid, and he inwardly growled in frustration. He hesitated, knowing the moment he touched her, her fate would be sealed. In his haste, his eyes were fixed on her beautiful features, and the sudden fear in the pit of his stomach that someone could hurt such innocence. He bent and scooped her up as the meaty smell of blood filled the air. He turned and saw the drapes drenched in wet fingers of red, spreading downward towards the floor as he tucked Effie’s unconscious body against his own. He rushed off the stage and into the wings. He turned to go to the dressing rooms, but he heard the soft whisper coming from Effie, “No, please no.” Someone shouted behind him, ordering him to stop, but he ignored their command.
At her plea, the feel of her nuzzling into the crook of his neck, made his decision, and he turned, heading out to the parking lot. He kissed her temple, watching the audience scatter like roaches in the light. He crossed to his Aston Martin as a delicate mist began to fall. He opened the passenger door, eased Effie down onto the seat, and buckled her up. Someone burst out of the stage door shouting at him, caught him up at the rear of the car. The man was shorter with lank brown hair, wire rimmed glasses, and beady black eyes. Storm shoved him off, mumbling something about keeping her safe, something about security. The man’s brow pinched together, shouted again about being her manager.
“Ye want her safe, she stays with me.” Storm growled, threatening.
“Are ye with Franklin’s?”
Storm had no idea what or who Franklin’s was, but he nodded, “Aye…”
The man stepped back imploring him to move, keep Effie safe. In an instant he was in the driver’s seat, buckled in, and revving the engine. His feet, his hands instinctively manipulated the gears, and he was backing out of the space, turning around, and heading to the street. Storm flicked his headlights to clear away the crowds, and punched the car out into the open streets. He was stopped at a barricade, and hastily lied to the officer, that his wife was pregnant and he feared the scare was causing a miscarriage. That their doctor was just a few streets over. The older man believed him and let him pass, with a hollow promise to return to headquarters to give a statement tomorrow.
Where could he take her? The words that had spit out from the loudspeakers were telling and the lass, clearly in danger. He could not take her back to her own home for fear that someone would be laying in wait to ambush her. He cursed himself, knowing that if he had been mindful, kept his senses tuned to the audience and those around him, he might have seen the culprit lurking about. She was a damn pretty distraction.
A hotel was out of the questions because he did not want to be seen by video surveillance or any other eyes. He had already tempted fate by exposing himself at the King. He hit the steering wheel and cursed, once, twice. There was only one safe place to take her, and he was not happy with it. He was probably the only one that could protect her from the person that had threatened her, until he could hand her over to police. He turned onto the highway and hit the gas, speeding down to the older part of the Leith docks and the sea front.
The car was nothing more than a silver blur, he hit a button on his console to open the garage door into the old factory that he had had converted to his living quarters. From the outside, it looked like a derelict building with nothing to warrant investigation. But to the more discerning eye, it was a fortress to protect all within.
He pulled into the underground garage and came to a stop, engaging the parking brake. He turned off the engine and came around to the passenger side. Effie was unsteady on her feet as she made to stand. He wrapped an arm about her waist, and drew her away from the car door, shutting it. “Easy lass.”
Effie leaned into the solid chest, her hands feeling the hard plains of muscles beneath the fine clothes. She leaned far back to look up into piercing steel green eyes, and her breath caught. A fragment of a dream came back to her, quickening her breath. She was sprawled on a bed, naked, covered by the softest sheets, and a man with thick raven, shoulder length hair sprawled over her, feasting on her flesh. Hard plains of muscle rippling under the candlelight as he kissed a path down over her belly, his hands kneading her hips. Her body arching upward on a moan of pleasure as she orgasmed. Even now her body throbbed with the thought of the heated dream. This man was solid beneath her palms, alive. She was breathless as the dream played on, “You are definitely not a dream.”
The subtle scent of her perfume wafted up around him, and Storm inhaled deeply, feeling his body tightened. He half-grinned, amused at her comment. He shook his head, “No.”
Effie felt a wave of exhaustion rise up and claim her. Her eyes rolled back in her head, and fainted again. Storm had a moment of panic, his eyes drawn to the heartbeat at her neck. He breathed a sigh of relief as he held her close, seeing the pulse point throb. He lifted her in his arms and carried her up into his domain. The security sensors identified his arrival, opened doors and turned on certain lights. His elbow hit the lights on as he moved to his bedroom, and laid her down upon a king size bed. He brushed a hand over her cheek, her forehead feeling its warmth. He frowned at her restlessness. He needed to get her out of this gown and into something more comfortable. He sat down and lifted her up into his arms, started on the laces at her back. He pulled them free as her scent filled his nostrils. She smelled of sharp, tart limes and something else, trying to place it. Something that he loved as boy, something that reminded him of home and his mother.
The scent reminded him of his Mother’s cedar chest stuffed with the soft blankets and sheeting. He turned his nose into the crock of her neck and took a deep breath. He held himself in check, wanting to be bold, to kiss the line of her shoulder as he pulled the last of the laces free. He laid her down and divested her of her gown.
A stomacher was robbing her of breath. He always hated corsets and freed her body of its constricting fabric and tossed it aside. Questions ran amok in his mind. She clearly had a stalker, and wondered about the origins. He would have to find out, perhaps pay a visit to her home, and check out her security. He got up and went to his dresser, pulled out one of his shirts and returned, dressing her for bed. He pulled up the duvet and tucked her in, pulling out the barrette, freeing her hair and fanning it out about the pillow. His finger caressed the apple of her cheek as his hand reached to turn out the bedside lamp. He crossed to his walk-in closet to change out of his suit and into black jeans, and black, thin Nike turtleneck. He pulled on a shoulder holster and retrieved a Beretta 92 from his gun safe, tucking it into the leather under his left arm. He left her and retreated to his study, intent on finding an address for her.