-How Sleep the Brave-
“Oh my god, how many times do I have to tell you?” Hailee sounded annoyed as she drew an invisible line down the center of the Range Rover. “This is my space over here,” she warned. “Keep your hands to yourself.”
But Dominic just smirked as he refused to move his arm. He thought he had done well for the seven or so plus hours thus far. There seemed to be little to no effect on Hailee, but for himself, being trapped for that long in a vehicle with his mate’s intoxicating scent was no joke.
“Oh come on,” he wiggled his eyebrows playfully as he turned his face from the road. “You and I both know that‘s not what either of us wants.”
His finger tried to hike up the side of Hailee’s black shorts, only to be stopped yet again.
“I said stop.” Hailee rebuked him with that ‘I’m seriously done with your shit today’ tone. “The man just lost his mate, Dom,” Hailee reminded him. “How do you think he’s going to react if we show up smelling like sex?”
Dominic tilted his head thoughtfully to the side, letting his hand slowly retreat down her leg. She would drop her guard more easily if he let her think she had won this battle.
“Honestly, he’s a man.” Dominic shrugged his broad shoulders as though he was stating some sort of fact. “I’m pretty sure he’ll understand.”
And with that, the big man leaned over as far as he could before placing his hand teasingly between her inner thighs.
“Dominic, stop!” Hailee squealed again as she tried to shove his arm back. “You know, we could have been there by now if you would have just let us fly!”
He fixed Hailee with a serious look before settling on taking her hand. “Obviously you have no idea what it’s like for me,” he replied. His mouth had suddenly gone dry as the look in his eye spoke of untold horror.
“They always make me pay for at least two seats,” he began. “But then somehow, the flight is mysteriously ‘overbooked’, and I wind up squished against the window seat with a stranger practically in my lap and my knees in my throat. And you can just forget about the aisle seats or the exit row--”
Dominic trailed off as Hailee began to laugh. “It’s not funny,” he pouted. “There’s nothing funny about claustrophobia.”
“I know.” Hailee had stopped laughing but the smirk she couldn’t hide. “I was actually just imagining sitting in your lap,” she purred. He could tell she was trying to soothe his ego. “You’re right, I have no idea what it’s like to be so big--” Her free hand ran up and down along the vein of his bicep. “--So sexy.”
“I swear I’m about to pull this car over, right here-- right now.” He growled slightly as her slender fingers interlaced with his much thicker ones.
“Then I guess we’d better change the subject, huh?” Dominic watched as Hailee sat back with a satisfied grin. As she released his hand, her arms crossed over herself as she retreated back into her ‘half’ of the car.
“I got a text from Ava right before we left this morning,” she stated. “Apparently Big Dragon only holds two pieces of real estate in this entire country.”
“And just like that the mood is over,” Dominic groaned. “Damn, woman. You could at least warn a man before you go and deflate him like that.”
“Oh I’m pretty sure you’ll be just fine,” Hailee laughed. “Besides, if you were to ask Doug, little Dom see’s plenty of action.”
“Little Dom could never get enough action,” Dominic snorted his disagreement. “And if Doug had a mate even half as hot--”
“It’s not Molly, is it,” Hailee suddenly interjected. He knew she had been wondering about that for a while. The way she worded it though seemed like more of a statement than a question.
“She’s not,” Dominic confirmed with a sad shake of his head. “But he won’t leave her. He’s loyal to both her and those kids.”
“I just really hate that they’re all human, you know? Has he at least told her yet? About us or himself?”
“Not that I’m aware of,” Dominic replied. He paused for a brief moment as he contemplated what his mate had said. “You know Hale, if Big Dragon does anything to that man’s family-- anything at all-- I’m not sure I’ll be able to stop him.”
Hailee nodded in agreement. “It would be a tough call for sure. All the more reason to find out where he’s keeping those people then, I guess.”
“So the two properties?” Dominic raised his brow expectantly while Hailee took a swig from her Coke.
“The Atlantis and a small residence in the burbs,” Hailee sighed. Neither of those locations were large enough for his operation. “Even the two safe houses that we use during the full moon aren’t owned by him.” She screwed the lid back on and placed the bottle back in the cup holder before going on. “Both places are apart of the housing urban development’s depopulation program.”
“Damnit.” Dominic slammed his fist angrily into the steering wheel as he cursed. It had been a little over three months since he had been bitten, three months since they’d brought Ava in on the case-- and they still weren’t any closer to closing down Big Dragon then they had been when he was human.
“There was another location,” Hailee sounded hopeful as she snatched up Dominic’s hand. “It’s a long shot, but it came up under the name of a Marguerite Clermont Long.” She took in a deep breath as she inspected his knuckles for any damage. “Marguerite was Bojing’s Claimed One, but to my knowledge, the plantation hasn’t been used since her death in 1865. It would have needed a lot of work,” she explained. “So I’ve had Ava searching for abnormalities in bank transactions to local and private contractors all around the area.”
“Where at?” Dominic wondered aloud, but damn was his girl smart. Certainly a plantation would be large enough to house Bojing’s blood bags.
“Laurelwood, South Carolina.”
There was a long pause before Dominic spoke again, his mood going from hopeful to sour in a matter of seconds. “That can’t be it,” he shook his head, disappointed by yet another dead end. “How in the world could he possibly be transporting hundreds of people that far?”
“Which is why I said it was a long shot,” Hailee reminded him.
He drummed the fingers of his free hand along the top of the steering wheel. There was something the leprechaun, Calum, had said yesterday-- something about Big Dragon turning half of the city into cattle. Perhaps the plantation wasn’t that far of a stretch, Dominic thought. Chicago was big, but it would be nearly impossible to hide that many people in a single place. If Bojing really was using the plantation, the big question here was how?
The pair fell silent as he continued to follow the directions on his GPS. At the prompting of the female voice, Dominic turned off another highway before heading deeper into the Appalachian Mountain Range. While he had to admit that certain parts were in fact quite beautiful, the road they were currently traveling down reminded him of a horror film.
The further they drove into the valley, the more Dominic grew intrigued by the old, snarled tree limbs arching over the roadway and forming a natural looking tunnel. The sunlight was barely able to shine through the leaves. But just when he thought it couldn’t possibly get any darker, the forest around them seemed to grow even more dense. With a wary look, Dominic glanced over at Hailee-- the GPS announcing it had just lost signal.
“It’s alright,” she smiled at him as she gave his bag arm a pat. “I remember the way.”
Dominic relaxed a little as he watched a radiant looking Hailee glance out the window. “You’re going to love it here,” she told him with an excited smile. “All the fresh air and the most delicious fried chicken!” She beamed at him over her shoulder before giving his large hand a squeeze. “Two whole weeks with us completely off the grid! I hope you’re ready to get your hands dirty,” she laughed.
To a millenial or anyone younger, going that long without cell service or wifi would have sounded like a death sentence. He would honestly be shocked if Hailee herself lasted that long. But Dominic had never felt like he fit in with the rest of his generation. The idea of hard work excited him. He looked forward to using his hands-- but more than anything, both he and his wolf couldn’t wait for the freedom of not having to be chained up during the full moon.
As they passed a big, ‘no trespassing’ sign, Hailee assured Dominic that they were travelling down the right road. She seemed unconcerned by the barbed wire surrounding the perimeter. The only thing the big cop seemed sure of, was any minute now, a creature from ’The Hills Have Eyes’ was going to shoot out into the middle of the street.
He found himself mildly surprised as they pulled up to a very modern looking remodeled farmhouse. He had been growing more and more worried as they travelled deeper into the backwoods of West Virginia. From the road, most of the houses looked uninhabitable, not unlike some of the ghettos back in Chicago. The only difference here was the overgrowth surrounding them and the moonshine distilleries out back. The moment he saw the place though, he had stopped calculating how to politely suggest that they would stay at the nearest hotel-- wherever the hell that might be.
Hailee had hopped out before he even had time to put the big SUV into park. As he watched a man walk down the steps of the wrap around porch, he tried to not let himself turn into a possessive beast. Clearly, he was failing miserably, and even found himself wincing at the force with which he slammed the driver’s side door. The man must have gotten a whiff of Dominic’s dominance as he strode up to the two, giving the older man an intimidating glare. Dominic figured it must have worked as he stopped mid swing before putting his Hailee back down.
“This must be the mate.” An amused bushy brow rose on the man’s bearded face. Instead of stretching his hand out like Dominic expected, the man suddenly lowered his gaze before taking a quick step back.
It wasn’t until Hailee ran her hand down along his own chest that he realized he was growling. “Uh- sorry,” Dominic awkwardly cleared his throat before holding his hand up for the other man to shake. “The name’s Dominic,” he said.
“It’s quite alright,” the man’s gruff voice drawled. It reminded Dominic slightly of Sam Elliott when he spoke. “I was the same way when it came to my Pamela.” The older weremale scratched at his neatly trimmed beard before taking Dominic’s hand. “Pleasure to meet you,” he gave the large officer a nod. “I’m John.”
Dominic could feel the man’s strength, which surprised him slightly. He was definitely still the biggest and baddest mother-fvcker around, but certainly the man standing in front of him was a force to be reckoned with.
His tan face and perfectly groomed silver hair, suggested he was somewhere between his late sixties to early seventies. But what Dominic was impressed with most was the man’s strong and tall looking physique. He wasn’t pumped like someone who had spent multiple hours in a gym, but the old wolf was definitely lean and defined-- no doubt due to his hard work around the farm.
He continued to silently size the other man up as John turned towards his mate. “I reckon’ you still remember your way around the ole place?” The man glanced towards Hailee before nodding towards a cabin across from the big, red barn. “Mel made sure that everything stayed just the way you left it,” he explained. “She wanted it to be ready for you, in case you ever decided to come back.”
As tears welled up in his dark colored eyes, Hailee threw her small arms around the larger man. “I’m so sorry, Pops,” Hailee whispered in confession. “I know I should have visited. Or at least called more often. I just thought that if I stayed away--”
“I know why you did it, darlin’,” John nodded, his kind eyes shining brightly with understanding. “We were worried ‘bout-cha for a while, I’m not gonna lie.” The older man glanced over at Dominic before pulling Hailee from around his waist. “But I can see now that we had nothin’ to fuss over.”
Dominic noted how he got a far off look in his eye as he spoke, a tear threatening to spill over the man’s cheek. He had only been with Hailee for a little over three months but had nearly gone mad when she had left him for a few days. He couldn’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like for John.
“Alright, enough with the tear fest,” he abruptly snapped back to reality. “We both know Mel would have insisted it was a waste.”
“She was a strong woman for sure,” Hailee agreed. She quickly brushed a few tears from her face before giving John another squeeze.
“She always said I would be a wreck if she passed before me,” the older man chuckled. “I’m convinced she would have been just fine without me though,” he said before drawing himself up to his full six-foot-two height. “Anyways, why don’t you take Dominic here, and get all settled in. I’m sure the pair of you are dying for a little alone time after that long car ride from up north.”
At the suggestive smirk on John’s face, Dominic decided he already liked the old man.
“When you’re ready, you can both meet me ’round back for a glass of tea,” he informed the mates as he gestured to the back of the gray farmhouse. “Tonight we will grieve the loss of a brave, beautiful woman. May she sleep with the angels-- and teach them a thing or two.”