Twin Hearts

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Chapter 3

Chapter Three

Danny stifled a curse, she was going to miss the bus for sure, and in this rain she’d never get a cab. She should have said no when Judge Peterson had asked her to stay and be a witness, sure the couple had been cute and she’d recognized the bride as her favorite professor, but she should of said no. The elevator dinged and the doors opened, she saw two men, guests from the wedding file in, if she missed the elevator she’d miss her bus for sure.

“Hold the elevator.” She shouted, increasing her pace to a brisk walk, crushing her messenger bag to her stomach. One of the men saw her and moved to hold the door when a dark blond mountain collided with her and she stumbled backwards to land with a bone jarring thump on the marble floor.

Liam had to catch the woman, he didn’t know her name, or who she was, but he knew she was important to him somehow, knew his lion wanted her though he didn’t know why. He’d seen her hurrying for the elevator, her small trim legs moving quickly and had used his inhuman speed to cut her off. Unfortunately she was quicker than she looked and instead of stepping a few feet in front of her as he’d intended, he’d stepped directly into her path, the result was she’d collided with him hard. At six ten of solid muscle her small body had bounced off his, and he’d sent her tumbling backwards to land on her back on the highly polished marble floor.

Liam cringed as he saw the woman hit the floor hard, he’d not wanted to injure her just stop her. “Please forgive me; I wasn’t looking where I was going.” Liam knelt beside the woman; slipping a hand under her arm he helped her to a sitting position. He took a moment to examine her face as he helped her up. The woman was young, much younger than he’d originally guessed from her sever hair style and plain grey suit. Her skin was pale and flawless, reminding him of cream and she had a full generous mouth of rose petal pink that looked eminently kissable. She had a nicely oval face with high cheekbones and a small straight bump of a nose, she also had eyes the color of sapphires that twinkled with intelligence.

She was pretty in a country girl sort of way, fresh faced and devoid of makeup, she was naturally lovely. His lion was fairly purring in excitement that he’d caught her; a reaction that puzzled him to his core, his lion had never showed interest in a woman before. “Are you all right?”

Danielle winced as her bottom and lower back protested their contact with the hard floor. The huge handsome man she’d collided with gave her a friendly smile and slid a dinner plate sized hand under her elbow prying her from the floor. Behind him she saw the elevator doors close and she stifled an unlady like curse.

“Miss, are you all right?” The man’s voice was a deep pleasant rumble and she looked up into his face and caught his eyes with hers. They were gold, when she’d briefly exchanged glances with him in the court room she’d thought she’d been seeing things. Nobody could have eyes that shade, but she hadn’t been seeing things, his eyes were deep vibrant gold.

“Jeez Liam, what you do to the lady?” A sneering voice jolted Danny from her thoughts and she looked up to see another pair of gold eyes and a matching face, twins her brain screamed, the gorgeous man had a twin, a twin that was currently being leaned on by Rita Nelson, her nemesis. Mother Nature was cruel to create two such perfect specimens of masculinity, and crueler yet to give one to Rita the man eater.

Liam glared at his brother for a heartbeat, then he returned his attention to the woman on the floor.

“Just the wind knocked out of me.” Danny forced out. She eased her arm out of the man’s grip and reached for her bag. “No harm done, if you’ll excuse me I have to catch my bus.” Despite her aching back Danny just wanted to get away, she was tired, drained after a long day in court testifying and it was taking a lot of energy to keep her mental shields up. She just wanted to go home and hide in her apartment and relax, she was also starving having worked through lunch.

Liam watched as the woman grabbed her dropped messenger bag and purse then struggled to her feet, all the while trying to tug down her dark grey pencil skirt. She gave him a small nod, then avoiding his gaze moved to walk past him. Liam frowned, this wasn’t the reaction he normally got from women, usually they smiled at him and then tried to flirt, they didn’t avoid eye contact and then try and run away.

“If you mean the five fifteen it just left Doc.” Rita announced pointing towards the large window a few feet away. Through the rivulets of rain coursing down the glass he could just make out a bus pulling away from the bus stop.

“Oh, damn.” The woman, who Rita had just called Doc said so softly he almost didn’t hear her.

“I’m sorry miss, this is all my fault, I wasn’t looking were I was going. I have a car down stairs, could I give you a ride to make up for my clumsiness.” Liam asked attempting to catch the woman’s eyes.

Danny shook her head, for some reason the incredibly handsome giant of a man was unsettling her, and all she wanted to do was get away. “No, no thank you, I’ll walk home, it’s only a few blocks.” She took a step back and pain shot up her leg and her knee buckled. The giant instantly had his hand under her elbow steadying her. Danny composed herself, fighting down the pain in her ankle and pulled from the man’s grip.

“Don’t be silly it’s pouring down rain and you’ve obviously hurt your ankle.” Liam cursed himself, he’d hurt and scared the woman. Her eyes were like two saucers and he could hear her heart thundering in her chest. “The least I can do for being a klutz is give you a ride home. Miss?”

“Don’t bother with her, that’s doctor Troy she doesn’t talk to anybody but the cops and lawyers, real quiet and a.” Rita stepped forward giving Doctor Troy a dismissive look. “Real downer, come on leave her, you promised to take me to the party, that there would be champagne.”

Liam bristled at Rita’s comment, dismissing the smaller woman as if she wasn’t even there. He shot Keith a look that said control your woman as he turned his attention back to the small woman before him.

“You’re a physician.” Liam asked politely, he liked intelligent women, liked talking to them, hearing their ideas, learning how their minds worked. His mother had been intelligent, a woman centuries ahead of her time, she’d learned to read and write and speak several languages when most men were afraid to travel more than ten miles from their home and believed the world was flat.

“Psychiatrist.” Danielle replied trying to politely ignore Rita. Rita was tall blonde and looked like a Vegas show girl and thought she was better than everyone else. Rita also used her looks like a weapon, getting men to do what she wanted by simply smiling or cocking her head coquettishly to one side. She also used her looks against other women, she had a way of snubbing other women she thought inferior, which was just about every woman and making them feel inadequate. The fact Danny knew what Rita was doing didn’t always lessen the pain her sneers and jibes caused.

“I want to go.” Rita whined batting her long lashes at the two men and pouting.

“Please excuse Rita Doc she can get bitchy when she doesn’t get what she wants. I’m Keith Cherevin and you met my brother Liam.” The man beside Rita said shaking free of her grip on his arm.

“I would say it was a pleasure but I think knocking you to the floor would definitely not be how anyone would like to be introduced, so allow me to apologize again and make a proper introduction. I’m Liam Cherevin it is a pleasure to meet you Doctor Troy was it.” Liam extended his hand to the tiny doctor.

Danny starred at the huge hand for a heartbeat; she’d have to take his hand. It would be rude not to, but she hated touching people, especially skin to skin. Her so called gifts were more of a curse especially when she was tired, a quick touch with a stranger could reveal far too many secrets and drown her in unwanted emotions. Hesitantly she took the man’s hand steeling herself for what was to come. His huge hand closed over hers and rather than the usual gamete of emotions assaulting her she had the impression of extreme age and lion. She was both confused and relived by the lack of emotions assailing her as well as the odd impressions she’d received and let her hand linger in the man’s longer than usual. Lion, why was she thinking lion, it had to be because of the man’s incredible head of tawny hair.

“Danielle Troy.” Danny replied managing a forced smile.

“What a lovely name. Please let me give you a ride Doctor Troy, I wouldn’t feel right letting you walk home in this storm, especially since I caused you to hurt yourself.” Liam reluctantly released Danielle’s tiny hand; he’d liked holding it, liked touching her more than he should since she was a stranger. “I also wanted to thank you for being at my friend’s wedding, but you left so quickly I wasn’t able to.”

Danielle wanted to say no, but the rain was now lashing the window and her ankle was throbbing. “I wouldn’t want to put you out Mr. Cherevin, I’m sure I can get a taxi.”

“Not in this storm and you’d catch your death standing outside trying to hail one. Please let me give you a ride, I feel terrible about what happened.” Liam gave Dr. Troy his best smile, the one that usually had women melting at his feet. He was surprised when all he achieved was a nervous smile in return, either Dr. Troy was gay or he was losing his touch. He studied Dr. Troy for several heart beats, no, she wasn’t gay, but she also wasn’t fawning over him, something he found both pleasing and confusing. Because of who, what he was, he and his twin were used to women making fools of themselves over them, it didn’t matter how young or old they were they’d smile and flirt shamelessly with them.

Danielle reluctantly nodded, standing in the driving rain wouldn’t be pleasant and Mr. Cherevin was correct, she’d never get a taxi, not at this hour on a Friday afternoon.

“Wonderful where can I drop you off?” Liam demanded.

“Twentieth and Lexington.” Danielle replied.

“That’s the wrong way; we’ll be late for the party.” Rita complained, sounding like a whiny toddler.

“Rita don’t be bitchy.” Keith gave Rita a hard look silencing her. “Doc why don’t you come with us, were heading to our friend’s wedding reception. It’s at the Belmont, lots of food and music, should be a good time. Then Liam can give you a ride home after dinner, gives him all night to apologize. Besides he still needs a plus one.”

Liam sent his twin a silent thank you, while he focused his attention on tiny Doctor Troy. “Please do come with us.”

Danielle shook her head. “I couldn’t. I couldn’t just crash your friend’s wedding reception.”

“Of course you can, in fact you’d be doing me a favor I told my friend I’d be bringing a date and if I show up alone I’ll never here the end of it. We’ll go and eat and then leave whenever you like. The food should be excellent.” Liam smiled again, seeing indecision on the doctor’s face. “I’m being presumptuous; you probably have plans with your boyfriend for tonight.”

Danny had no plans, nothing awaited her tonight but a can of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich, followed by another lonely night of watching television, trying to stay up as long as possible so that when she did fall asleep she wouldn’t dream.

“No.” Danny replied, shaking her head.

“No, no plans or no boyfriend?” Liam asked.

“No plans and no boyfriend.” Danny replied trying to fight her odd nervous feelings.

“Well then you’ll have to come with us. It will give me a chance to be sure I didn’t hurt you and to apologize again.” Liam smiled, he was oddly pleased that she didn’t have a boyfriend. He was wearing down the lovely little doctor he was sure of it.

Danny was trying to think of why she should say no and how she could make a polite escape when there was a loud boom of thunder that made her nearly jump out of her skin. She loathed thunder, hated what it reminded her of. She could still make an excuse and escape, hope to catch a cab, and then what spent the night alone telling herself how foolish she was being to be afraid of a storm, or she could accept the invitation and apology from a gorgeous man and have a good dinner. Time to grow a spine Danny, for a woman who spent most of her time talking to the dead or peering into the minds of rapists and murders she should have more courage. The dead were safe for the most part though, a few spirits were violent and as evil in death as they had been in life but they didn’t scare her as much as the living. The living caused pain and death.

“All right, but only if you’re sure I won’t be in imposition?” Danny forced a smile, though her insides were churning from an attack of nerves.

“No, it will be fine.” Liam smiled in victory. “Kit why don’t you take Rita to the car, I asked Franky to ice some champagne earlier, it should be perfect now. When you get to the car ask Franky if we have a first aid kit.”

“Got it, come on Rita if you’re lucky Liam stocked the good stuff.” Keith gave Liam a nod and taking Rita’s hand in his half dragged, half guided her towards the elevator.

As they walked away Liam turned his attention back to Dr. Troy. “How bad is your ankle?”

“It’s not bad really.” Danny protested, tentatively shifting her weight to her right foot and trying not to wince.

“While I’d never call a lady a liar I have the feeling you're trying to be brave and that your ankle hurts a great deal more than your letting on.” Liam could see that Dr. Troy was currently standing with all her weight on one leg. “It is also abundantly obvious that Rita is not a great friend of yours, I surmised that you wouldn’t appreciate her seeing you at a disadvantage.”

“Which is why you sent her away.” Danny felt herself warming towards the huge man before her. “That was very astute of you. Rita is not a particular friend of mine, in fact unless you’re a man and rich she isn’t anyone’s friend. Oh dear that probably sounded very shrewish, I hope I didn’t just insult you. I can see your brother is close to her.”

Liam smiled broadly. “Truth be told I can’t stand her, I find her vapid and clingy and I have no idea while my brother puts up with her, other than the fact he finds her sexually pleasing.” Liam was amused to see Dr. Troy flush then cover her mouth with her hand, obviously trying not to laugh. “Now why don’t you take my arm, I promise I don’t bite, well at least not much.”

Danny felt her nerves begin to ease as she warmed to the handsome giant; she placed her left hand on his arm and took a careful step forward. It felt like she was resting her hand on steel instead of flesh, she looked up into his startling gold eyes and felt her heart give a flip of awareness. It had been a long time since she’d allowed herself to be attracted to a man, a very long time. Her right ankle was indeed tender and she was glad she’d let herself be talked into accompanying Mr. Cherevin and his brother, it would have been a cold and painful to stand outside and try and flag down a taxi or wait the hour till another bus came. Trying not to put too much weight on either her sore ankle or Mr. Cherevin’s arm they made it to the elevator and inside without too much difficulty.

When the door of the elevator closed Danny let herself take a quick peek at her companion, not only was he tall, very tall, but he had shoulders a linebacker would envy. He had tawny blonde hair the same shade as a lions mane, that he wore slightly longer than collar length and was neatly trimmed, unlike his twin brother who’s long hair that had been pulled back into a neat queue. The dark blue suit he was wearing was not only finely cut and well tailored but expensive, very expensive. She’d been around enough lawyers to recognize an expensive suit when she saw one; Mr. Cherevin’s suit was probably equal to a month’s pay if not more.

Liam felt eyes on him and smiled down at the little doctor to see her studying him, he gave her a smile as the elevator dinged at then slowed its descent. “Is something wrong?” He asked as the doors opened on the basement garage.

“Oh no, I was just admiring your suit it’s very expensive and well cut.” Danny flushed in embarrassment at being caught staring.

“Thank you, my tailor would appreciate your comments, the truth is I’m so large I can’t find anything on the rack to fit me so I have to have all my suits custom made.” Liam gave Dr. Troy a smile as he helped her off the elevator. “I was wondering if you’d call me Liam, it’s going to be a long night and I’m not one to stand on formality.”

“All right, but only if you call me Danny, I’m not much on formality myself.” Danielle was rewarded with a devastating smile.

“Danny, it’s much too masculine for such a pretty woman but if you wish, Danny it is.” Liam replied.

“Wow that was good. Do you practice those lines?” Danny gave Liam a questioning look and was rewarded with a grin.

“I was being truthful; you’re a very suspicious lady.” Liam replied.

“Sorry occupational hazard, I work with men all day. Cops, lawyers and politicians, they all stretch the truth shall I say. So I shall say thank you for the compliment.”

“Your welcome, my car is just ahead.” Liam nodded ahead.

Danny turned to look ahead and her gaze fell on a huge black stretch limousine. Standing beside the huge car was a woman, an incredibly tall, butch looking woman dressed in shiny black leather pants, and a black jacket with a double row of silver buttons down the front. She was also wearing polished black leather knee boots, black gloves and had close cropped black hair. She looked like she could probably bench press a good two hundred pounds and not even break a sweat. She gave Liam nod as they stepped up to the car.

“Franky this is Dr. Troy. Danny this is Franky my driver.” Liam was amused by the way Franky was checking out Danielle. Franky was openly gay, and had rather excellent taste in women, the fact she was checking out Dr. Troy was both oddly amusing and flattering. Franky didn’t like Rita; in fact her disdain for Rita was thinly veiled. Franky had confessed to Liam that she thought Rita was nothing more than a shallow gold digger out after Keith’s money and shouldn’t be trusted.

Danny instantly liked the tough looking woman, the fact she was wearing gloves she took as a boon, she could offer her hand and not be afraid.

“It’s a pleasure.” Danny held her hand out to the driver, who starred at her hand for a moment before giving it a hearty squeeze with her gloved hand.

“Nice to meet you too doc. Mr. Kit and that woman are in the back with some bubbly, he said you needed a first aid kit.” Franky stepped to one side and reached to open the back door of the limo.

“Yes I’m afraid I knocked over Dr. Troy a few minutes ago, and my clumsiness caused her to hurt her ankle.”

“You clumsy boss, that’s hard to believe, you move like a cat.” Franky gave Liam a disbelieving look as she opened the door. “First aid kit is on the seat.”

Liam gave Franky a scowl before turning to help Danny enter the limo, she slipped onto the large back ward facing seat as Liam eased past her to drop his large frame on the plush seat beside her. Franky closed the door gently beside her and Danny looked about the inside of the huge limo. Plush black suede seats wrapped around the interior forming a large C, at the very back of the limo, in the forward facing seat were Keith and Rita, cuddled up together and sipping from champagne flutes. Keith gave her a polite nod and grin while Rita deliberately snubbed her downing her glass of champagne before snuggling up to Keith and holding out her glass for more.

“Now why don’t I take a look at your ankle?” Liam said drawing her attention to where he filled the seat beside her.

“It’s all right really. It already hurts less.” Danny protested keeping her eyes focused on Liam, as she felt the limo begin to move.

“Hmm, why don’t you humor me and let me look at it, I promise I’ll be gentle.”

Danny had the feeling Liam wasn’t the kind of man who took no for an answer, also her ankle did hurt, if nothing else an ice bag and a Tylenol would probably be helpful. “Oh, very well.” Danny eased out of her shoes, and sliding back on the seat swung her feet up on the space between her and Liam.

Liam gently lifted Danny’s feet with his left hand and slid sideways on the seat, before setting her feet on his lap. The first thing he noticed was that Danny had incredibly tiny feet, in fact he could easily hold both of them in one hand. In addition to being dainty her feet were well formed, with high arches leading to trim well turned ankles. Liam forced his attention to Danny’s right ankle; he ran two fingers over her foot and up her heel, feeling her tremble slightly at his touch. The side of her foot was swollen and looked discolored but he couldn’t tell for sure because she was wearing light grey hose.

“It is swollen, it will need ice and to be wrapped.” Liam used his right hand to pop open the first aid kit beside him; he quickly spotted a roll of gauze and an instant ice pack. Liam crushed the bag, feeling a pop and a sudden rush of cold as the chemicals mixed. He set it on Danny’s foot, while he pulled out the roll of gauze.

Danny tried not to shiver at the feel of Liam’s huge hands on her foot and ankle. She couldn’t remember the last time someone had touched her so intimately; she was used to being alone and untouched, to hiding in her fortress of solitude. She leaned forward placing her hand on top of Liam’s. “I can do that, really.”

“Aye, but it will easier for me, now sit still.” Liam scolded, then gave her a smile to take the sting out of his words.

“I suppose arguing with you will do no good, I have the feeling you’re a man who is use to getting his own way.” Danny forced herself to sit back and try and relax as Liam began to deftly wrap her ankle. When he was done he secured the tape with a strip of bandage, then placed the ice pack on her ankle.

Liam had to fight the urge to run his hands up Danny’s leg, to stroke her as he wanted. It had been a long time since he’d been so attracted to a woman, a very long time. Unlike his twin he forced down his urges and his lusts and didn’t give into them, there seemed little point in lying with a woman when he couldn’t truly enjoy it, and all it did was depress and anger him that he couldn’t know true pleasure. His lion was fairly purring in pleasure as he touched Danielle, images of him in lion form rubbing his head all over her naked body filled his mind.

“If I may ask why were you at the court house, you’re not a lawyer.” Liam asked trying to distract himself from his lewd thoughts, and make sense out of his lion’s reaction.

“Oh, I was testifying in a criminal case.” Danny replied.

“Testifying, you weren’t a victim where you?” Liam demanded in alarm.

“Oh no, I work for both the District Attorney’s office and the police department. I was testifying that a man being held for murder was sane and able to stand trial. His lawyer was trying to say he was insane and therefore unable to stand trial, but I was able to testify that killing his boss and coworkers with a chain saw was not an act of insanity but coldly calculated premeditation.” Danny sighed. “It took all day because the lawyers kept arguing different points and trying to confuse the jury, but the jury was smarter than the defense lawyer and didn’t buy it.” Danny rubbed her temples; she’d been fighting off a migraine all afternoon, caused by the yammering of lawyers and the need to keep her shields up.

“Then I should apologize again for injuring you and kidnapping you when you are obviously exhausted. Testifying sounds like rather gruesome work for.” Liam was going to say for a woman and stopped himself, it was no longer the middle ages and women now fought in combat and flew fighter jets.

“For a woman, you can say it. I get it a lot.” Danny pulled her feet out of Liam’s lap, placing them on the floor she squeezed her right foot into her shoe, the propped the ice bag on top. “I have my reasons for doing what I do, and I’m rather good at it, because of me they solved fifteen murders last year.”

“That’s rather impressive.” Liam stated. “But why were you at the wedding, if you don’t mind me asking.”

“Thank you and I was at the wedding as the judge asked me to be a witness. I had stopped in his office to drop off some paper work and he said he was going to be doing a wedding for a friend and asked if I could be a witness. Something about needing none related people to be witness’s to make it legal, so since I wanted to score points with the judge I said yes. Besides after dealing with death all day it was nice see something happy and I know Dr. Morrison from the University. She taught one of my classes a few years ago, she’s a brilliant woman, but she was always so sad. I was happy to see that she and her fiancé were very much in love. It gave me hope that love wasn’t dead.”

“I know how you feel; Galen has been alone for a long time. I too was happy that he at last found someone to love.” Liam said giving Danielle a smile.

“Enough about me what about you, what do you do? Your obviously very successful, your suit is expensive and this car probably costs about six years pay for me.” Danielle looked about the plush interior of the limo noting three large video screens as well as what appeared to be a refrigerator.

“I’m an engineer and an architect, Keith is a contractor and landscape designer, we have our own building company. The past ten years we’ve been spear heading the revitalization program for warehouse district.” Liam leaned over to open the refrigerator squeezed in between the seats. “Can I offer you some champagne, before it’s all gone?” Liam sent an annoyed look down the length of the limo to where Keith was pouring the last of a bottle into Rita’s glass.

“No thank you, water would be wonderful if you have it.” Danielle reached into her bag to pull out a bottle of Tylenol. “Wait, are you the owner of L and K Corporation.”

Liam nodded. “That’s us, why?”

“I bought an apartment from you, well your company, in the old Wiley warehouse.” Danielle replied as Liam handed her a bottle of water.

“I hope there isn’t anything wrong with it. I’d hate to think you were a dissatisfied customer.” Liam gave her a grin.

“No, it’s great. I just never expected to meet the builder that’s all.” Danny popped the Tylenol into her mouth and washed them down with a mouthful of cold water.

In the back of the limo Rita giggled loudly drawing Danny and Liam’s attention. “I hope she won’t embarrass Keith too badly.” Liam scowled in annoyance, Rita was trouble, she was grasping, temperamental and selfish. She’d only bring Keith down, but his brother refused to see the truth.

“Well it is a wedding reception, a certain amount of, well inappropriate behavior is expected. Besides your brother appears to be a big boy and I’m sure he can take care of anything Rita gets into.” Danielle screwed the top on her water and looked about for a place to put it. Beside her Liam pulled down an arm rest she hadn’t seen, built into was a cup holder and Danny set her bottle carefully inside.

“You still seem ill at ease; I promise I’m not a serial killer.” Liam said noting that Danielle sat rather stiffly.

“It’s nothing like that.” Danny shook her head. “You’ll think me a terribly green and uneducated but I’ve never been in a limo before. And I, well I don’t want to damage the seats or behave improperly. I’m use to the bus, it has horrible hard plastic seats that don’t stain, that is if you’re lucky enough to get a seat, and then if you do get a seat you’re afraid to sit in it, they are usually so filthy you're afraid you’ll catch something.”

Liam grinned liking Danielle more and more with each passing minute. “Don’t worry, Keith has thrown more than a few parties in here, and there is a reason the seats are black. Also Franky cleans everything after every use. The truth is I don’t usually take the limo, it’s just I knew Keith and I would be celebrating tonight and wanted to be safe. In addition there are few vehicles that are large enough for both my brother and I to sit in together. Being so large has it’s disadvantages, I have a custom truck for every day.”

“Oh, that sounds nice.” Danny finished lamely. Her conversational skills were sadly odd of practice; she was use to talking to cops about dead bodies and killers, not trying to make small talk.

“I like it, what kind of vehicle do you drive?” Liam gave the tiny doctor an appraising look, she probably drove a bug or some tiny hybrid.

“I don’t own a car.” Danny answered. The truth was she wasn’t allowed to drive; her gifts as they were called often caused her to have seizures or catatonic episodes, making it unsafe for her to drive.

“You don’t own a car. How do you get around?” Liam frowned; he couldn’t imagine not owning a car. He’d owned one of the first model T’s ever made; in fact he still owned it. He loved cars and the freedom they offered.

“The bus, or the train or walk, I walk a lot.” Danny saw a look of surprise flit across Liam’s face. “I like walking, it gives me time to unwind after a long day at work and it’s good exercise and free.”

“Free?” Liam asked in confusion.

“As opposed to the gym or fitness club, walking is free. I’m working on my third doctorate at the moment, I’m afraid most of my money goes to tuition.”

“Third doctorate, that is impressive. In what might I ask?”

“Archaeology, with my main focus on ancient cultures of the middle east, particularly the Sumerian period. I just finished my doctoral thesis on a group of graves excavated last year; they had glass knives in the grave that I postulated were used for eye surgery. I believe based on other evidence found recently that the Sumerian culture was far more advanced than main stream history accepts.” Danny felt herself flush. She was talking too much again, nobody but her professors cared about her work or the Sumerians.

Liam fought to squash his surprise. “Really that is fascinating, how did you find out about the graves?”

“I was on the dig; I used my vacation days from the police department to go. The professor leading the dig was one of my undergrad teachers and wanted free help; I worked for room and board in exchange for being allowed to write about what we found. It was a win, win situation, professor Jacobs got four weeks of free labor and I got a subject for my doctoral thesis.” Danny saw what appeared to be genuine interest in Liam’s eyes, she was tempted to let down her guard and see if he was really interested or only pretending but if she did she’d pay the price. She would make herself vulnerable to whatever thoughts were flitting through Rita’s head and she didn’t want to go there. She would also make herself open to what the brothers were thinking , and for some strange reason she badly wanted Liam to think well of her. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been attracted to a man. “Your obviously just being polite though.”

“Actually I’m a collector of antiquities and something of a scholar of ancient history myself. I collect Egyptian artifacts.” Liam replied oddly proud, for some reason he wanted to impress the tiny doctor. “I recently loaned most of my collection to the museum in Crescent City, it is going to have its grand opening in a few weeks perhaps if things go well tonight you’d accompany me to the opening, I haven’t found a woman I was interested in accompanying me till now.” Liam looked towards the back of the limo where Rita was downing another class of champagne and giggling loudly. “And not one I thought would enjoy the experience, there will be food and music.”

Danny was taken aback by Liam’s offer and shook her head. “I couldn’t we just met.”

“Why don’t you wait till the night is over to refuse, I’m told I can be very likeable.” Liam replied.

Danny felt herself smiling despite her sore ankle and nerves. “All right ask me again latter. Perhaps in a few hours you won’t want to ask me again, perhaps I’ll have done something to shock or embarrass you.” Danny self-consciously touched her too tight pony tail as she looked towards the back of the limo where Rita, with her long platinum blond hair was giggling and acting like a teenage girl. She pulled the elastic tie from her hair and after a moment’s hesitation fluffed out her hair, it was a futile attempt to look pretty but Brian always said she had nice hair so what did she have to lose.

Liam watched as Danielle let down her hair then fluffed it about her shoulders, her hair was longer than he’d imagined and glistened with bright gold and copper highlights. Danielle’s hair was utterly lovely reminding Liam of an ancient copper pot he’d once found, it’s surface an amazing blend of dark red, copper and brassy gold. “I seriously doubt that Danielle, you strike me as a lady, something very hard to find these days. You have lovely hair by the way; I have always loved red heads and brunettes.”

“Oh, thank you, most men prefer blondes.” Danny’s gaze traveled to the end of the limo where Rita was playing with a length of her brilliant platinum hair.

“I am not like most men; do not let Rita intimidate you. I happen to know that isn’t her true hair color, Keith paid for her last few trips to the salon. He has the habit of leaving his credit card bills lying about. I saw he’d been billed seven hundred dollars from a salon for a blow out and coloring, and since Keith has used the same barber for the last ten years I thought someone had stolen his card. I called the salon and found out it had been a bill for one Rita Monroe, for the full works, which included a bleaching and coloring as well as something called extensions. As I didn’t know what that was I asked, apparently they sew fake hair to your real hair to make it look longer. All of what you see on Rita’s head is fake.”

“Well I’m not surprised. Thank you for telling me, I know it’s childish but it does make me feel better.” Danny replied glancing to the end of the Limo again. Seven hundred dollars just to have her hair done, and it wasn’t even her real hair.

“You are welcome, and I believe we have arrived.” Liam said as the limo pulled to a smooth stop. A moment later the door opened and Liam could see Franky standing to one side holding a giant umbrella.

Danny stepped from the car, hissing for a moment as her ankle took her weight, and then Liam was beside her, his hand under her elbow as he helped whisked her past a red uniform door man and into the lobby of the hotel. Behind them Keith and Rita hurried in, followed by several more large well-dressed men escorting fashionably dressed women.

Danny tried not to gawk at the interior of the Harris hotel, but it was hard, every where she looked was white and black marble and shinning stainless steel, the style was somewhere between art – deco and futuristic and screamed expensive. She felt even more frumpy and plain than usual in her suit, even though it was her best suit that she wore just for testifying in. She fought down a wave of nerves and fleetingly wondered if she could find an excuse to escape, perhaps plead a migraine or fake an emergency phone call from work. While she was planning her escape Liam tightened his hold on her arm and gave her a gentle tug towards the bank of elevators. The men and their female companions all greeted Keith and Liam as they joined them in front of the elevators.

“Hey Liam who is your cute friend?” A dark haired man asked, as he slicked rain dampened hair back from a face as chiseled as a marble statue.

“Alexei, this is Dr. Troy.” Liam gave his friend and fellow guard men a glare that said back off this one is mine. Alexi was a notorious flirt and ladies’ man, who’d been seducing any woman he was interested in for the last thousand years, in the hope that one might be his mate.

“Danny this is Alexi Antakov, an old friend of mine.” Liam stated as the elevator binged and the door opened.

“A pleasure Mr. Antakov. Do I detect a Russian accent?” Danny asked as she felt the other’s eyes on her.

“Why yes, how did you know?” Alexi asked motioning for Danny to precede him onto the elevator.

Danny was about to step in when Rita elbowed her sideways and practically dragged Keith onto the elevator. Danny regained her composure and stepped into the elevator taking the back corner as far from Rita as possible. “I studied in Germany and Paris for several years, I had a friend from Moscow who tried to teach me Russian, but I’m afraid I only picked up a few words. Danny replied as Liam, Alexi and the others piled into the elevator. Danny stepped further back into her corner as the elevator was soon filled with mountain sized men and their dates. Liam moved beside her forming a living shield and blocking her from the others, almost as if he spotted her unease. Luckily the elevator ride was short; over Liam’s shoulder Alexi gave her a smile.

“We will have to find time to talk latter.” Alexi said giving her another smile before during away to talk to the man besides him.

Danny looked at the huge men around her and their elegantly dressed dates and felt another wave of inadequacy. She had defiantly lost her mind when she’d yes to coming to the reception. She looked down brushing imaginary flecks of dust off her dark suit.

“You look fine.” Liam stated as she continued to brush at another imaginary speck. Danny gave him a grateful smile as the elevator slid to a stop and the doors opened. Liam waited till everyone else had left the elevator before slipping his hand under her elbow and guiding her off the elevator and then left towards a wide brightly lit corridor.

Danny squashed down her nerves as Liam escorted her out of the elevator and towards the entrance of the ballroom. Liam must have sensed her nerves because he gave her a wink as they stepped up to the end of a short receiving line. In front of them Rita let out an exaggerated sigh and pulled from Keith’s grip.

“No I don’t want to wait, I want more champagne.” Rita tossed her long blond hair over her shoulder and minced off towards a waiter bearing a tray of champagne flutes. Keith mumbled a curse but turned back to the shake hands with Doctor Theodora Morrison and her husband Galen. Danny watched as Keith teased Galen that it was time he settled down and that Theo was too good for him. A blushing Theodora thanked Keith before he moved off to shake hands with another huge blond haired man.

Danny ran a nervous hand through her hair as Liam stepped up to Dr. Morrison and her husband.

“Liam you brought a date after all, so who is your cute friend?” Galen said smiling down at Danny. Danny fought down another burst of nerves, Galen Thanos was even taller than Liam, and just as muscular, where Liam had tawny blonde hair Galen’s was black, but both men had the same green gold eyes of a jungle cat.

“This is Dr. Danielle Troy.” Liam replied, taking Galen’s hand giving it a quick shake.

Galen gave Danny a smile as his dinner plate sized hand enveloped her’s, giving her hand a quick squeeze. “You were at the wedding, you were the witness.”

Before Danny could answer Theodora turned to her with a beaming smile. “Dr. Troy, oh thank you for coming and for being at the wedding. I’d wanted to thank you in the judge’s office and invite you to the reception but you disappeared before I could. It was so nice to have a friendly face on my side, everybody else there were Galen’s friends.”

Danny felt the last of her nerves leave and returned Theodora’s warm smile. “You’re welcome Dr. Morrison or is it Mrs. Thanos? I was happy to help; I’ve been a follower of your work for so long it was an honor to help out.”

“Oh, thank you and please call me Theo or Teddy, as for the name thing it’s still under discussion.” Theo gave her Galen a smile, only to have him give her a wink in return.

“Then you must call me Danny.” Danielle replied as Theo gave her a smile.

“Well I won’t shake your hand, as I remember what you said at the University, but thank you again, and promise you won’t leave till we get to chat.” Replied as Danny felt Liam’s hand under her arm again helping her walk.

“Of course, and congratulations I wish you every happiness.” Danny said as Liam guided her to the man who’d been monopolizing Keith since they’d entered.

The man could have been a brother to Keith and Liam; he was the same build with shoulder length light blonde hair and the same piercing jungle cat eyes.

“Liam where did you find a date and such a cute one, last time we talked you were in France.” The man thrust his hand at Liam who took it, giving it a hearty shake.

“This is Dr. Danielle Troy, she was the witness at the wedding I sort of kidnapped her. I saw how pretty she was and figured I’d ask her to come.” Liam replied. “Dannielle this is Bowman. Bowman Dr. Danielle Troy, and hands off she’s too smart for you.”

Bowman chuckled as he held his hand to Danny. “Pretty and intelligent, be sure you save me a dance Dr. Troy and pay no mind to Liam here. He is a secretive as a hermit crab, I haven’t seen him with a date in years, we also have a running joke about who is smarter. He thinks because I own and run a security firm and use to be a body guard I’m dumb as a bag of rocks.”

“Well you said it not me.” Liam stated. “Catch you later Bowman, Dr. Troy has a sore ankle and I want to get her seated so she can take her weight off it.”

“Of course, go I’ll catch you both latter.” Bowman replied as Liam lead Danny away and into the large ballroom. Danny’s shoes sank into the deep pile of the dark blue and gold flecked carpet as Liam lead her towards one of about twenty large round tables set up on the left side of the room. On her right was a small dance floor with a small stage behind it where a band was just finishing setting up. In front her was a small raised platform on which a long table covered in a light pink table cloth, flanked by two huge bouquets of pink and white flowers at least four feet high. Behind her four long tables, draped in matching light pink table cloths, were currently groaning under massive steam trays from which tantalizing smells wafted up. Liam guided Danny towards one of the table towards the head table then pulled out a chair for her.

Danny took the offered seat grateful to be off her still throbbing ankle, Liam dropped into the chair beside her as Danny admired the large but tasteful arrangement of pink and white roses and carnations in the middle of their table that was covered in a light pink damask table cloth that matched the others.

“Place looks good, I didn’t think Galen would be able to pull everything together so fast. But I’m happy that everything worked out so well for him, he was worried he wouldn’t have enough time to pull off a nice wedding for Theo, with it being such short notice.” Liam said as he looked across to the bar where Keith was standing beside Rita, a glass of champagne in her hand.

“Why was it short notice?” Danny asked turning to watch people file into the ball room, she frowned something was very odd about all these men, they were all well over six feet in tall and built like professional football players, there wasn’t a paunch or once of flab on any of them.

“Well I guess it’s not a secret Galen accidentally got Theo pregnant just before he was called away for work, and he was gone for three months. Theo though he’d dumped her, to make matters worse when the University found out she was pregnant and unwed they fired her. Then her half-sister showed up with a boyfriend and cleaned out Theo’s bank account and stole her car, Theo was a hairs breath away from living on the streets when Galen came back.” Liam stated as he signaled a waiter over. “What do you want to drink, wine champagne?”

Danny didn’t usually drink but it was a party and she was sure the wine would be excellent. “A glass of white wine please and a ginger ale as well.”

“I’ll have two glasses of wine, one red and one white and some sparkling water.” Liam told the waiter who nodded and hurried away towards the bar.

“That is horrible; I’m happy things worked out then.” Danny replied. She couldn’t imagine how terrifying it must have been for Theo to be pregnant and unwed, a heartbeat away from being homeless.

“Me too Galen has been alone for a long time. When he found out Theo was pregnant he freaked out. He begged her to forgive him and asked her to marry him, promised to do anything it took to make her happy and to take care of her and the baby. It was Galen’s idea for the reception, apparently Theo would have been happy with a quickie wedding in Vegas but Galen insisted she deserved better. Galen wanted a church wedding but couldn’t find one that had a vacancy.”

“So the wedding with the justice.” Danny replied as the waiter appeared with a silver tray and set down their drinks.

“Anything sir?” The dark uniformed waiter asked.

“Not at the moment, just be sure to keep the drinks filled. When does dinner start?” Liam asked throwing a twenty on the waiter’s tray.

“As soon as the bride and groom sit.” The waiter replied before hurrying away.

Liam took a moment to let his eyes roam over Danny while she looked about the room, her skin was smooth and flawless and looked utterly likable. Hell where had that though come from Liam thought, then again since he’d touched Danielle he’d been getting flashes of the oddest things all sexual, most of the images involved him stripping Danny bare and throwing her down on his bed. He felt an odd flush go through him as he experienced the sharpest surge of lust he’d had in over two centuries, who or what Danny was he would have to find out and soon but what was most important was his lion wanted her and that was a first. Danny turned to give him a smile which Liam returned, it was at least going to be a pleasant night now, perhaps by the end of it he’d know why his body reacted so to the lovely little doctor.

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