Heartglow

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Chapter 5

Kaden had some satisfaction as he watched her eyebrows came together in confusion before she responded, “Did you mean drifter?”

Kaden shook his head as he began to walk in the general direction of his hotel, pulling her unresisting body along, “No, I mean shifter.”

Vee thought hard, he said another shifter and he could obviously smell him…is that what they called people who worked in the sanitation department in his country? And he said another…was he a garbage man in Ireland? Valaria looked him up and down, damn, cover me in old food and plastic wrappers…or maybe not…but it would explain why he got so horny down in the smelly alley… She guessed it wouldn’t have mattered if she had dove into a dumpster, he would have been right at home…

“I find it hard to believe that after everything I have said, you are finally silent,” his voice drifted to her as he looked back.

What could she say? She certainly wasn’t going to say anything against his occupation. Sanitation workers were hard-working and earned every dime they made. Course she remembered him throwing his earnings away on whiskey at the bar…but she supposed he could be on vacation…just funny that he was concerned about meeting another person who shared his occupation…

Wait, did the Irish mob launder money through the garbage system?

Kaden was curious why she had suddenly gone so silent and she was no longer fighting him, “What’s wrong, cat got your tongue?” he borrowed that old saying.

I want her tongue… His cat chimed in.

How was she to approach this?...

“Ummm, I’m just confused. Why would having another,” she wanted to use the correct term for him, “…shifter in the area make you feel threatened?”

Kaden stopped dead at her words, did she know more than what she let on? It would certainly make his job easier. He looked down at her, “You know about shifters?”

Valaria looked down, “Sure I do, I have met quite a few…shifters. They are just like you and me.”

Now Kaden was confused. Had other shifters in the city found her and wanted to bring her into their clan? Did they know how special she was? No wonder they were being followed…

He growled low in his throat as his hand squeezed her own small appendage.

She gasped, “Owww, you know that hurts, right?”

It was his turn, “Sorry, I am just surprised, that’s all. I had no idea you already knew they existed.”

Now Vee was getting perturbed, “I’m not blind you know and I don’t look at them any different for being what they are.”

Great, now it was even more imperative to get her back to Terravane Valley. The last thing he needed was to battle a bunch of shifters over her. He didn’t mind the fight, but even he could only take on so many…maybe he should contact Slayde and get him to send out reinforcements…

We will protect her…

His cat did not feel they needed any extra help and he always put his trust in Leo.

He needed to know more from her, “How many different shifters have you met?”

Valaria sighed, what was his fascination with garbage men? She ticked off on her fingers, well there were drivers, the guys on back of the truck, the people who worked at the gates…wait did they count?...and then there were the ones running the equipment to bury the stuff…

Kaden watched her count on her fingers and his eyes widened in surprise as the amount slowly grew. How many species lived in the city? He had assumed most would live in the rural areas, needing the forest for cover when they wanted to let their animal loose.

Vee was still counting…and there was the recycling aspect…probably another set of workers for that…so how many was that?

“Ummm, at least five that I can think of,” she finally answered.

FIVE???

Kaden needed to get her out of there, with her pheromones running on extra high, they were going to have packs of shifters hot on their heels. But the first thing he had to do was try to mask her preshift odor and the only thing he had that was readily available was…

He looked around and spotted a restaurant beside an alley. Perfect, just what he needed…he pulled Valaria down into the alley and was rewarded when he spied a couple of dumpsters along with several garbage bags sitting beside them. He kept his hold tight on her as his other hand tore open the bags to reveal old slimy smelling left-overs.

The smell hit Valaria and she started to gag…okay, this fetish of his was going too far…

Kaden grabbed a large handful of the mess and began to plaster it onto his female. He found the stench staggering, which was a good thing. Hopefully, it would cover up her smell before he got her back to his room…although the hotel might not be impressed with his new guest.

Vee gagged again as she felt the gooey food paste being slathered up her arm. She began to pull on her arm, currently not caring if she pulled it off as long as she got away from this weird creep. This was not the definition of foreplay!

“Hold still, Valaria,” he pulled her back, “this will cover your smell.”

Cover my smell??? How bad did he think she stank???

“Hey, this is even better!” she heard him announce before she found herself being liberally sprayed with some god awful perfume that he must have found lying beside the garbage. She choked as it mixed with the refuse to create the worst smell she could have ever imagined!

She was going to die.

She was going to die from asphyxiation in a pile of trash, smelling like some garbage eating cheap whore.

Then the attack suddenly stopped and she heard his voice, “There, I don’t think anyone is going to smell you now.”

Vee opened one of her eyes, glaring at her captor, “You asshole…I’m the only thing anyone is going to smell…for days!”

Kaden had to admit the stench was overpowering, but he was sure that now they could get to his room without being followed…unless they picked up a few stray dogs…

“You are totally bonkers if you think I am not going to run from you the first chance I get!” She didn’t want to reveal her plans, but this was just too much!

Kaden pursed his lips knowing she probably was a bit uncomfortable with his way of cloaking her smell, but after what she had done to him earlier, he was surprised to find he wasn’t really that sorry.

“Come on, Valaria, when we get back to my hotel room, you can have a nice warm shower and wash it all off…”

She was beginning to feel hysterical, “You think I am going to go with you back to a hotel room?”

Kaden was calm, “I see you aren’t going to make this easy.”

Vee was enraged, “Easy?! You think this is easy?! You know, I thought you were just being an asshole, but now I realize you are utterly deranged! And I am not going back to any hotel with a deranged garbage man!”

What did she call him?

He watched her breath heaving after her short diatribe and figured since she knew about shifters, the only thing left to do was bring her back to his hotel and find out how much she knew about her own double shifter history and if any of her shifter friends also knew what she was.

And it looked like she wasn’t going to follow him…which left only one way…his…

He pulled her quickly before she could brace her feet and threw her easily over his shoulder, her head down over his back, her feet dangling over his stomach and her luscious bottom sticking in the air…smelly, but still luscious.

Surprisingly, she was quiet as he walked towards his hotel, not worrying at all about rousing any interest…

~*~

Valaria had thought about fighting him more when he threw her over his shoulder but she was getting tired. This night couldn’t get any worse, could it? He was going to take her regardless of what she wanted. She had to start thinking smartly instead of just striking out with no plan B. The only thing she took comfort in was (and was there a silver lining in every cloud?), he hadn’t harmed her. Although she had thrown a knife at him (which he caught, miraculously), and bit him, (a mere flesh wound), snapped his chin (he had a hard head), and punched him in his johnson (even harder balls), he hadn’t hurt her in retaliation. He only covered her with greasy garbage and old whore perfume and wanted to take her back to his room so she could clean it all away…that must count for something…

And there had never been an Irish garbage man serial killer, right? Any garbage men she had met all seemed like nice normal people…

“Okay, honey, we’re here. Now if I let you down to walk, are you going to give me any trouble?” his voice was calm and smooth like he did stuff like this every day…and who’s to say he didn’t?

Vee glanced around the best she could and her jaw dropped at the site of an awning and a very expensive name advertised on it. He wasn’t serious, was he? This surely couldn’t be where he was staying, how could he afford it? And how was he going to just casually enter with both of them smelling like garbage? Even these places had standards, right?

Valaria was startled as a dark limo pulled up and an older couple emerged to make their way towards the door, which was being held by a very discerning doorman. She could almost feel the disapproval waft from the couple as their nostrils pinched in obvious reaction to her stench. Although people’s opinions had never played a role in her life in a very long time, Vee felt very out of her element. She didn’t belong here. She couldn’t follow them in.

She whispered, “Can’t we go somewhere else?” and she needed him to understand, “please.”

Kaden had seen the couple show their distaste and felt Vee’s body tighten in discomfort and he truly felt bad that things went the way they did tonight, he wished it could have been otherwise. But he was sure once he took her to his room and had a shower with some sweeter soap, she would be feeling much better and then they could finally sit down and talk…as long as he could keep his hands to himself…

Kaden entered the hotel and the man at the desk glanced up. Kaden noticed only a slight display of surprise before he was welcomed, “Good morning Mr. O’Connor, is there anything we can do for you this morning?”

Kaden shook his head, “Not right at the moment, Carson, I will ring if I need anything,” and he headed for one of the elevators with Valaria still hanging over his shoulder.

Vee closed her eyes, not wanting to see anyone’s reaction to what they must think as nothing more than some cheap street person who should be thrown back out with the trash. She felt them rise with the lift and felt tears prick her eyes. Once she got out of this mess, she was going to take a long trip somewhere remote where there were no people to look down on her. She had thought she had given up caring, but she guessed she was wrong…

The elevator made no stops on the way and Vee was glad there was no one else to witness her state of dirt and smell. When the doors opened, she was surprised that he just walked out, seemingly into a large space.

This couldn’t be his room, right?

Valaria was gently placed on her feet, “There you go, I wouldn’t recommend touching anything until you’ve had a shower,” the deep baritone voice was actually sounding a little saner.

Vee looked around, noticing the slight lightening of the sky outside huge windows, “Oh my God, are we on the top floor?”

She vaguely noticed Kaden moving into the kitchen space. She walked towards the glass and stared out at the city just starting to wake up.

“Yes, it is, I like the privacy,” he explained nonchalantly while he began to wash his hands in the sink, “The bathroom is through there,” he nodded to his right, “You probably can’t wait to get that stuff off you.”

Valaria turned around, “I want to talk to Ronnie.”

Kaden glanced up, “Wouldn’t you like to clean yourself up first?”

Vee shook her head, “No, I want to know she is okay.”

“I told you…”

She cut in, “Yeah, I know what you told me, but I want to hear her voice so I know if I still need to kill you.”

Kaden huffed and reached into the side of his pants to withdraw her knife which he threw on the table on her side of the counter he was behind, “You might need this back.”

Valaria hesitated before creeping slowly over and retrieving her blade. She grabbed it and then demanded, “I want a phone.”

Kaden’s eyebrow raised at her firm tone but he didn’t say anything as he reached behind him and grabbed a cell phone off the counter before tossing it to her, which she easily caught.

Vee hugged it to her like a lifeline. But who could she call besides her friend? Was that why he didn’t seem concerned? He knew she was technically non-existent and there would be nobody who would come to her rescue.

She immediately followed his directions and ran into the bathroom, closed the door, and locked it. She knew the flimsy lock probably wouldn’t keep him out, but at least it gave her a little peace that she would at least know if he was coming in.

She made her way to the double sinks along one wall, barely glancing at the rest as she put the phone and her knife on the countertop while she began to scrub the goo from her hands and arms. A container of rose-scented liquid soap provided her with the best scent she had sniffed in a long time…she would use the whole bottle…

After several minutes, she deemed her red skin was a little better and quickly picked up the phone to dial her friend’s number.

It took six rings before it was picked up.

“Ronnie? Is that you?” she was relieved…she wouldn’t have to kill him yet…

“Vee, is that you? Why are you calling me at…” pause, “five-thirty in the morning? Where are you? And what number are you calling from? Hey, did Kaden…”

“Why did you tell him where I was, Ron?” Vee cut in.

“Ummm, you aren’t in jail, are you?”

Vee huffed, “No, but we very nearly got caught. The ass came through the window and set off the alarm.”

“Oh shoot,” her friend was beginning to wake up, “I suppose it wasn’t such a good idea.”

“But why did you do it? He could be a cop. It could have ruined everything we’ve worked for.” Now that she knew her friend was alive and well, she wasn’t feeling nearly as forgiving.

“Ummm, he said your sister sent him to find you.”

“I don’t have a sister, Ronnie, you know that,” Vee broke in, “Why did you think he was telling the truth?”

“Well, he seemed really nice and honest…”

“Oh, God,” Vee felt her stomach begin to rage again and she collapsed to her knees on the floor.

“What’s going on Vee? Where are you? I’ll come get you,” her friend began to panic.

Valaria tried to make her voice normal, “I’m okay, and no, don’t come here, I’ll get myself out of this on my own.”

“Is it the pain again?” Ronnie asked with worry in her voice.

“It’s all good, Ron,” she bit her lip to stifle her moan, “I’m okay, everything is all okay.”

“Well at least he isn’t a cop,” her friend threw in, “What is he, some P.I. or something?”

Vee shook her head as she spoke, “No, he’s a garbage man.”

~*~

Kaden watched her take her knife and the phone and disappear into the adjoining bathroom. He knew it would probably take her at least a half-hour to reassure herself that her friend was still alive and then to scrub all that refuse from her body. He would be more than happy to help her along while cleaning himself too, but he wasn’t interested in fending off another knife attack. Maybe it wasn’t that great of an idea to let her have her knife back. He was thankful again that his reflexes were honed, saving himself a trip to an underground doctor.

When he heard the door lock, he smiled to himself and grabbed the second cell phone off the counter behind him and he entered the livingroom and walked to the large windows as the number he punched began to ring.

After what seemed like forever, a sleepy male voice answered, “Hello?”

Crap! He forgot it was still early, hopefully, his news would excuse his faux pas, “Sorry to wake you, but I thought you might like an update.”

The voice on the other end immediately sounded more awake, “Kaden? Yeah, give me a sec.”

Kaden could hear movement and he pictured his friend moving from one room to another before he came back on the line, “Did you find her?”

Kaden smiled slightly, “Yeah, I found her.”

He could hear relief on the other end, “Wow, that’s great news, Cassidy will be so happy to hear that. Are you on your way here?”

Kaden sighed, “Not exactly, we didn’t get off on the right foot here.”

“What do you mean? She wasn’t interested in her sister?”

“We haven’t really had the chance to talk about Cassidy…”

“Has she shifted yet?” Slayde broke in.

Kaden sighed again, “No, but I think she is very close. She smells…incredible,” his voice ended softly.

“Damn, I was worried about that,” Slayde swore into the phone, “and I suppose you haven’t explained the whole shifter thing yet.”

“Well, surprisingly, she said she knows all about shifters,” Kaden replied then added, “in fact, she says she knows of at least five different kinds…”

“Five?!” the voice burst through the phone, “What the hell…?”

Kaden nodded as he replied, “Yes, I saw one following her, but I couldn’t identify what he was, it was like he had his scent cloaked under something else.”

He could hear mumbling coming from his friend, “What are you saying?”

“I was just trying to think of the clans in that area…bears are north and there is a wolf clan about a hundred miles west and the nearest…”

Kaden broke in, “It doesn’t matter, none of them are getting their hands on her. When is the full moon?”

“A couple of days, you may not have time to get her here before she shifts,” Slayde answered, “You know Cassidy shifted a couple of days before the full moon, right?”

Damn!!!

“No, I didn’t, so what you are saying is that she could shift anytime,” Kaden confirmed.

“If her scent is as strong as you say, then yes. Where is she now?” Slayde asked.

Kaden looked towards the closed door, “She’s in the bathroom taking a shower and calling a friend.”

“You left her with a phone?” he could hear the censure in the voice.

“Yeah, no worries, I’ll explain everything when I see you. Believe me, the police are the last people she would ever call,” he answered, “But I need someplace to take her, she can’t shift here in the penthouse suite, I don’t want her trying to get out.”

There was silence on the line and Kaden wondered if he had been cut off before Slayde replied, “There is a wolf clan cabin about fifty miles west. Nothing fancy, just a place for the city wolves to lay their head if they need it. I will send you the directions. I would advise you to get her…oh hi honey, I am just talking with Kaden, why don’t you go back to bed? I’ll be there in a minute…”

Kaden heard a noise before another voice came on the line, “Did you find her? My sister?”

It gave him a good feeling to give her the news, “Yes, I did.”

“Where is she? Can I talk to her? Oh my God, I can’t believe you found her,” the voice was excited.

Kaden chuckled as he spoke, “Well she is taking a shower right now.”

“Did she shift yet? Did you bring her through it? What is her name?” the questions couldn’t come fast enough.

Kaden laughed as he heard voices begin to argue back and forth before Slayde returned to the conversation, “I’ll tell Cassidy everything you told me, I just want you to get her to that cabin asap…oh, what is her name? Cassidy wants to know.”

Kaden stared again at the closed bathroom door, “Her name is Valaria.” He heard the message relayed and heard a squeal of delight in the background before Slayde repeated, “So get her to the cabin, Kaden, and keep me informed of the change. Remember the instructions, and treat her with a gentle hand,” he heard the light warning in Slayde’s voice.

“I will treat her like a queen,” Kaden replied, meaning every word, “I will talk to you later, bye.”

After he hung up, it was only seconds before a message came in with directions to the wolf’s lair. Although he would rather take her to another cat lair, he knew the cat clans were spread out across this country and he didn’t have the time to be choosy. Hopefully, Slayde would let the other clans know that it was going to be occupied for a few days.

Now, how in the hell was he going to get her there???

~*~

“He’s a what?” Ronnie responded back.

“Just what I said, he is a garbage man,” Vee repeated.

“Doesn’t look like any garbage man I ever saw, are you sure that was what he told you?”

Valaria blew her breath out, “Yeah, I mean, he called them shifters, so I assume that’s what they are called in Ireland.”

“Shifters? Why wouldn’t they just be called garbage men? Shifters seems like a strange word to use,” Ronnie reasoned.

“Well, you know, they shift garbage from cans to the trucks, right?” Vee explained her way of thinking, which was as good as anything else.

“Oh, right,” Ronnie replied with a far off voice, “So, what are you and your shifter up to now?” Vee could hear the little giggle on the other end.

She was not amused, “Right now we are in the penthouse of a hotel downtown,” she did not want to give the name to her friend in case she decided she was coming to her rescue, “and I have to take a shower…”

“Oooohhhh, you lucky…”

“No! We did not have sex! In fact, he covered me with garbage because he said I stank!” Vee cut in, feeling like the conversation was taking way too long.

“What?”

“Yeah, so like I said, I have to grab a shower, but I need you to do something, Ronnie,” she voiced.

“You want me to come down there and pummel him into the ground?”

Valaria smiled at her friend’s fierce loyalty, she was mighty but not that mighty, “No, I need you to pack up everything you want to keep and find another place to live.”

“What?” the voice was alarmed, “Vee, why…”

“Just do it, Ronnie, he said in no uncertain terms if I didn’t come with him, he would hurt you,” Well, it was almost what he said.

“Hurt me? He was great when he…”

“I know, Ron, but he was just being nice to get info out of you. When I get out of here, I don’t want him going back to you looking for me. I think his nice guy act is just that and I don’t know how nice he will be the second time around,” Valaria knew that time was ticking and her captor would soon be knocking on the door to find out what was taking so long.

“But maybe he is telling the truth…”

Valaria felt exasperated, which made her testy, “Veronica, you need to leave. Just pack your things and find somewhere else to live. Just use whatever money you have to and get another place. Email me when you’re gone so I know you’re safe!”

“Vee…”

“Just do it, okay?!” Valaria was beginning to feel like she was losing control over everything and she really needed her friend to comply. It was one less thing to worry about and when she got out of this situation and they were together again, she would make sure this wouldn’t happen again. She had gotten complacent and was creating habits that anyone could track.

“Ok,” the small voice on the other side finally agreed, “Just give me 24 hours, okay? I’ll message you when I find a place.”

Vee breathed a sigh of relief, “Ok, I’ll keep him occupied until then. I will try to call you tomorrow or get somewhere to answer my email. Sorry to drop this on you, Ron, but I will make it right, I promise you.”

“I know you will, Vee, just be careful, ok?”

Vee nodded, “I will.”

“And Vee? I love you,” the small voice ended and hung up the phone.

Valaria knew her friend never expected the words back, Vee had a very hard time voicing those emotions, not because she didn’t feel them, but she was scared that if she admitted it, something would happen to destroy her world again. It was better not to say those words out loud.

She placed the phone on the sink and turned the shower on. She jumped in, clothes and all, and began to scrub. She found a small bar of soap, tore off the wrapper, and began to lather every inch of her clothes. Then she pulled off her soaked shoes, pulled open the shower door, and threw them onto the floor. The bodysuit was easily tossed into the nearest sink. She wrinkled her nose at the stench still clinging to her suit. Well, that was one set of clothing that was going straight into a dumpster. She should make Mr. Studly pay for it too, along with what she lost tonight, he looked like he could afford it, she thought as she pulled herself under the strong stream of hot water.

She stood leaning against the wall of the shower as she allowed the hot water to soak into her bones.

Wow, this was a nice shower…

Should be for what he was probably paying a night for this place…

She opened her eyes and began to wonder how a garbage man could afford this luxury…unless he was some bigwig in the company…or the Irish mafia…

But what would the Irish mob want with her? She was a nobody. And her theft was small cheese compared to whatever they would have going on…unless one of the houses she broke into belonged to them…

Vee shook her head as she reached for the Irish Spring hair and body shampoo. She chuckled softly, “Of course that’s what you would use.”

A knock sounded on the door and she jumped, almost expecting him to walk right in.

“Is everything ok?” his muffled voice penetrated her inner sanctum.

She debated whether to answer, but thought better of it, she didn’t want to give him any excuse to knock the door down, “I’m fine.”

Everything turned quiet again and she shrugged her shoulders, “Whatever…”

Pain shot through her middle, bringing her to her knees. Vee gasped as her insides were turned inside out. She bit her lip as she folded her body into itself, praying it would help with the agony that was now her flesh, eating itself from the inside out. She took short puffing breaths, trying to get her mind off the slicing and dicing going on inside.

Go to him…

“Ain’t gonna happen sunshine, there is nothing that man can do for us,” Vee muttered as she clenched her stomach muscles hoping to ease the strength of the knife twisting inside. She felt sweat break out on her forehead as the shower continued to pelt her back.

She didn’t know how long she remained on the floor of the glass cubicle but was pulled out of herself when another knock came on the door.

“Is everything ok, Valaria?” he was close to the door.

Vee lifted her head and called out, “I’ll be right out,” before picking herself off the bottom and sighed as she rinsed any traces of soap from her hair and body, glad the pain finally gave her a break…but for how long?...

When she stepped out, she grabbed a large fluffy towel and began to dry her hair, wrapping it, and then grabbed another to wipe down her body. She wrinkled her nose as she could still smell her clothes and footwear. No way was she going to wear that, not after getting clean. She started opening doors and was rewarded to find one with several soft white bathrobes hanging within. She didn’t hesitate to grab one to wrap herself deep within its depths. She sighed as her nose burrowed into the sweetest smelling cloth she had ever experienced. Course anything would be sweet after what she just went through.

She stared at her reflection in the mirror, seeing a stranger peering at her from its white haven. Wouldn’t it be nice to wake up to this every morning? A shower with never-ending hot water and warm, fluffy towels that actually soaked up the water on your skin.

Vee pulled the towel from her hair and watched its black strands fall in light curls to frame her small face. She reached up to touch her own skin…when had she gotten so thin…? She looked away from her reflection towards the bathroom door. She had to keep this man busy for at least 24 hours…as long as Veronica got away, she really didn’t care what happened to herself. If this was related to her sketchy occupation…well, that was one sin that only she herself would pay for. She tucked the phone and her knife into one of her pockets, one small comfort in a world that just got knocked upside down.

She reached for the door, ready to pay the piper…

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