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“Martin, you’re just going to have to tell my father I can’t make it.” Hope’s frustration level rose as she attempted to deal with one of the Neanderthals that made up her father’s security detail of vampires. “Tonight is Charity’s last night at Club Dominus, and Faith is giving her a going away party.”
It was just a little lie. Martin didn’t need to know Charity was only going on maternity leave. Hell, Martin didn’t need to know anything about the shifter. Not since that night six months ago, when he’d pulled the trigger and put a bullet in Kash’s skull, had Hope completely trusted any of her father’s goons. And since they’d kidnapped her under her father’s orders, any credence in her father had taken a dive as well.
“He’s not going to be happy, Hope,” was Martin’s sullen reply.
Hope rolled her eyes as she twirled a strand of her blonde hair around her finger. Like she cared if her father was happy. Since the moment Faith and Bale had lied, telling her father that Kash was her mate, she’d refused to let herself be intimidated by him. And he’d lost all right to control her. Or so he thought, and she didn’t feel the need to correct him.
“He’ll live, I’m sure.” She didn’t bother to hide her sarcasm. What the hell was Martin going to do about it?
“One of these days, Hopeâ€¦” Martin warned.
“What? Huh, Martin?” Hope curled her fingers around the phone as her anger mounted. “I’ve got to go. My mate will be here any moment.”
At Martin’s grunt, her ire rose to a whole new level. “One of these days, your father is going to wonder why your mate allows you to remain in that condo, separated from him and the rest of those freaks.”
The vampire’s words sent a chill down her spine. “Good-bye, Martin.” And she quickly hung up the phone. She’d always wondered about the phrase someone walking over my grave and suspected she’d just experienced the phenomenon.
Shaking her head at her overactive imagination, Hope grabbed her purse and headed for the door. Her agent had once claimed Hope had one of the most vivid imaginations of anyone she’d ever met. If only the woman knew that almost everything Hope had ever written in her books was the truth. Her agent would never leave her New York City apartment again.
The twenty-minute drive to Club Dominus, the nightclub her father owned and her twin, Faith, managed, went by far too quickly, and Hope sat in her silver Prius for another fifteen minutes before she finally got up the nerve to enter the bar. She didn’t know what she was going to say to Charity when she saw the shifter, but she knew it was all on her shoulders. Hope had been in the wrong this timeâ€”well, if one would consider accusing one’s best friend’s mate of infidelity and trying to pass off the resulting child as his as being in the wrong. So yeah, she’d really been in the wrong, and if she didn’t do some damage control quickly, she’d lose said best friend. And that would just suck.
Hope stepped inside, and for the briefest second she wondered what was going on. The club had yet to open, yet five of the Seattle enclave of the Grigoriâ€”warriors who were once angels before being tossed out of Heavenâ€”were in plain sight. She figured the rest of the brothers must be skulking about somewhere, ready to protect Charity with their last dying breath.
Hope noticed the strawberry blonde shifter sitting by the bar but did a double take when Bale stepped into view. His long black hair, which he usually left loose because that was how Faith liked it, was pulled back from his face and secured at his nape. Then her chest tightened, and her heart skipped as she found herself trapped in Zeke’s hot gaze. Thank God Faith took that moment to approach, blocking him from her view. Lord only knew what Hope might have done if her twin hadn’t. When it came to Zeke, Hope just lashed out without thought.
“Hey. What’re you doing here?”
Faith’s question took her by surprise. “I’m here for Charity’s party. And to apologize to her. I shouldn’t have opened my big mouth.”
Hope wondered at Faith’s frown. Why did Faith appear to know nothing about the party she herself was throwing? Most of the brethren together in one venue, combined with her twin’s reactionâ€¦ Something was definitely going on. And one guess as to who was behind it. Hope followed her twin’s gaze toward Zeke as he stepped up behind Charity and gently clasped her shoulders. Hope clenched her fists at her sides. It was really so damn unfair.
“No, you shouldn’t have,” Faith murmured, dragging Hope’s focus back to their conversation. “But I understand why you did it.”
Hope shoved her fists into the front pockets of her jeans, hiding her whitened knuckles before her twin noticed. Telling Faith she had feelings for Zeke would be like broadcasting them from the rooftop, because whatever Faith knew, Bale knew, and then it would be only a matter of time before it got back to Zeke. And Hope would rather die than have Zeke discover the truth.
Faith tucked a red curl behind her ear, quickly perusing the club before settling her gaze on her mate. “Hope, are you upset over me and Bale? Is that why? When were you planning to tell me?”
“What are you talking about?” Hope was now swamped in confusion. One minute they were discussing Charity, and the next, Faith and Bale.
Faith pinned her with a hurt look. “I went by the condo today and saw the sign.”
Hope sighed in resignation. She hadn’t told Faith her plans for this very reason. She’d known her sister would think it was a petty act, a tantrum over the fact that Faith had moved in with Bale. And maybe if Faith had never met Bale, Hope wouldn’t be in the predicament she was now, having lost two roommatesâ€”Faith and Charityâ€”in a matter of a few months. Hope was alone for the first time in her life, without her twin to keep her grounded.
But her plan to leave town had nothing to do with the fact that Faith had fallen in love. Hope had never been envious of her taller, thinner sister until Bale and his brothers had come into their lives. What was the saying? Blondes have more fun? Well, Hope had certainly lived up to that adageâ€”until it became apparent that fallen angels had a preference for redheads.
But she didn’t begrudge Faith for anything. And the same went for Charity. It wasn’t so much that Hope was jealous of them for having found their mates so much as she really wanted her own happily ever after. But for Hope, fate seemed to deem that her desire remain just out of reach.
“It’s not Bale or you, Faith. Never think for a minute that I wish anything but utter happiness for you. You deserve it and more. Okay?”
The sadness in Faith’s gaze had Hope dropping hers to the floor. “What are you doing, Hope? Where do you plan to live? Why won’t you tell me what’s going on?”
Hope shook her head as she looked up again. “I can’t,” she whispered. “Please just leave it at that, okay?”
Faith grew thoughtful, and Hope knew her sister was already beginning to piece things together. But before she could ask any more questions, Hope hurried away and took a seat at the end of the bar.
Slowly the club began to fill up, and as the night progressed, Hope watched the way Kash’s gaze sought only his mate. Whenever Charity moved within arm’s reach, he seemed compelled to touch her and the bulge that protected their child. Hope still didn’t want to believe the child Charity carried was Kash’s. Not because she thought Charity had it in her to be unfaithful, but because Faith longed to give Bale a child of their own. Though it had never been determined exactly why, female vampires weren’t able to carry a baby to term, and Faith was heartbroken that her dream would never come true.
Still, it was no excuse for the trouble Hope had caused. With a sigh, she stared down at her margarita. It would probably be much better for everyone if she just left the club and stayed away.
“Now is the time to fix the mess you caused.”
Hope immediately stiffened at the sound of his voice in her ear. “Please go away, Zeke,” she said softly. She couldn’t handle the recriminations over what she’d done to Charity. Not from him. At least until this moment, she’d been spared his angry tirade. Though surprised at first when he hadn’t confronted her, as the weeks had passed, she’d finally come to realize that to Zeke, she wasn’t even worth that much.
“I never took you for a coward.”
Hope spun her stool around to face him and found Zeke stood only inches away from her. She fixed her gaze on his broad, nearly bare chest, the two nipple rings peeking out from the edges of his black leather vest. She longed to turn away; he was too close. She could feel the heat pulsing off him, and she wanted to soak up his warmth. But Hope forced herself to lean back and meet his blank expression with what she prayed was one similarly void of emotion.
“Don’t worry. Soon I’ll be out of your hair for good.”
Zeke smirked as he ran a hand over his bald head, and Hope rolled her eyes. “Really, sweet pea? And how are you going to accomplish that?”
“Not that it’s any of your business, but I’ve put the condo on the market. I’m moving as soon as it sells.”
He seemed genuinely surprised by her words, and that confirmed what Hope had already known: if Zeke had cared even just a tiny bit, he’d have kept an eye on her, and the huge FOR SALE sign in her front yard wouldn’t have come as a shock.
He nodded toward Charity. “There goes your chance to make things right.”
Hope glanced over her shoulder and saw Charity heading toward the hallway that led to Faith’s office and the storeroom. In her hand was an empty bottle of Bacardi, so it didn’t take much to figure out where the shifter was going.
“Why do you give a damn?” she snapped but found Zeke was gone, and Hope really wanted to hit something. Preferably someone. Grinding her teeth, she rose from the stool, slid her keys into her brown leather jacket, and headed toward the storeroom.