GOING HOME ISN'T EASY Part 5
Logan's fangs ran out full-length as he planted himself in front of Rylee, using his body to shield her from his brother. The stubborn female circumvented his attempt to protect her by slipping around him to move right back into the line of fire.
She stared across at Rory, her chin up as she met the jerk's gaze directly. "For the last time, Rory, I am not now, nor have I ever been, your fiancée. I've made that clear from day one of this fiasco. If you can't manage to wrap your brain around that fact, I'll write it down for you."
She gave the pompous ass a dismissive look. "Or I could always cross-stitch it on a sampler for you to hang on the wall if that would help with your memory problems."
Laughing wouldn't help the situation, but Logan couldn't help himself. Rory never handled being thwarted very well, and it was clear this wasn't the first time Rylee had stood toe-to-toe with him and won. The man looked as if he'd been sucking on a lemon, never a good sign. If she continued to push him, there was no telling what Rory would do to punish her. If not now, then later when Logan wasn't around to protect her.
He edged closer to Rylee, slipping his arm around her shoulders and tugging her in closer to his side. She didn't exactly relax into his casual embrace, but at least she didn't pull away. That was good. Right now, Logan's emotions were running hot and having her so close helped ground him. There would come a day when he and Rory would finally have it out, but now wasn't the time for that bloody battle to begin.
His grandmother knew them both well enough to realize how volatile the situation had become and inserted her diminutive self between them. "Rory, why are you here? I don't recall inviting you to join us this evening."
"Since when do I need an invitation to visit my own grandmother?" Rory barely glanced in her direction, instead pinning his gaze on Rylee. "Not to mention my—"
Logan cut him off. "Brother? Is that what you were going to say, Rory? If so, I find that hard to believe since neither you nor Harry have made any effort to visit me in ten years."
"And why would we? Father and I found life to be ever so much more pleasant without you underfoot and embarrassing the family at every turn."
Logan lunged forward, but Rylee held him back. "Don't. That's what he wants."
In the interim, Grandmother Colleen pointed at her elder grandson. "You are banned from my home for the foreseeable future. Return again, and my guards will take you into custody. Don't think for a single second that I don't mean it, Rory. Leave now while you still can."
Rory stared down at her as if he'd never really seen her before. He took a step back, signaling his intent to leave. But before walking away, he shot one more look at Rylee. "Hide behind Logan all you want, Rylee, but it won't save you. Your father has already signed the paperwork approving our betrothal. If you fail to accept me as your husband, I will destroy everything that you hold dear."
Then he walked out, leaving nothing but silence and fury in his wake.
They all stood frozen right where they were until the sound of the front door slamming closed echoed through the house. Rylee wasn't used to leaning on anyone for strength, but right now she was grateful for Logan's support. Rory's last words had struck a powerful blow. Only years of practice had kept her from flinching.
"Breathe, Rylee. Just breathe."
Logan murmured the words close to her ear, his deep voice soothing her. He maintained his hold on her as he led her toward one of the chairs and patiently waited for her sit down. "Grandmother, would you ask Sinead to bring each of us a stiff drink of your best bourbon?"
Rather than hover over her, he pulled a chair closer to hers and sat down, letting out a shaky breath of his own. "Are you okay?"
After months…no, years…of pretending that nothing her father said or did hurt her, she couldn't lie anymore. Not to Logan. Of everyone she'd ever known, he was the only one who she thought would understand. After all, his own family was every bit as dysfunctional as her own. She had no idea why Harry McCaig hated his younger son, but he did. Maybe it was because Logan had never bowed and scraped at the man's feet. For her part, her father had wanted a son and got a daughter instead.
She realized Logan was still waiting for her to answer. "No, I'm not. After all these years, it shouldn't surprise me that my father would sell me to the highest bidder, but somehow it still does."
"You don't have to marry Rory." His mouth quirked up in a small grin. "Or me, for that matter. It's illegal in the Coalition to force anyone into marriage."
She blinked to clear away a sheen of tears. "That may be the law, Logan, but we both know that the vampire clans have a way of ignoring little details like that."
"I have friends who do security work. They have Ambrose O'Brien on speed dial. Say the word, and I'll make the call."
He grinned at her. "Is it that hard for you to believe that I have friends?"
That wasn't it. Logan had always had a heavy dose of the charm that both his father and brother lacked. He'd also been fiercely loyal to the people of his clan and wanted more of them to enjoy the benefits of the wealth that his father so carefully hoarded for his own use. It was one of the many reasons the two had never gotten along. Logan believed the duty of his family was to serve the entire clan. Harry and Rory didn't see it that way. The lesser members of the clan existed to serve the ruling family.
Her father was cut from the same cloth. Unfortunately, he lacked the McCaig's talent for earning money.
Back to the matter at hand. "I believe you have friends, Logan. I'm just surprised that you would enlist their help on my behalf. Why would they help a woman they've never met?"
He reached out to brush a lock of her hair back from her face. "Because that's what friends do, Rylee."
Then he sighed and sat back in his chair. "It took me a long time to believe that the cutthroat politics inside a vampire clan wasn't how everyone else in the world operates. That isn't to say that everyone always gets along, because they don't. But I have learned that there are different kinds of families out there. We both know that those connected by blood aren't always the best. I love my grandmother, but there is no love between me and Harry and Rory. But I have another family made up of people who have proven their loyalty to me and each other time and time again. I've been there when they've need me. They will stand with me if I ask them."
"That must be nice, Logan."
"It is, and it's what you deserve, too. Like I said, say the word, and I'll make the call. If nothing else, they'll offer you sanctuary until we get this figured out."
"Between your father and mine, there's no place to hide."
Before speaking, Logan glanced toward the door behind them, no doubt making sure that neither his grandmother or her companion were within hearing distance. Satisfied they were alone, he leaned in closer again. "Trust me, they'd never look where my friends live. Say the word, and we're out of here. I'll meet you downstairs right before sunrise, say six o'clock. My car will protect us from the sun, and I have some blood in the cooler. We'll stop along the way for more."
"We can't avoid this situation forever."
"No, but we can buy ourselves some time."
It was tempting. So, so tempting. For that matter, so was Logan although that was no surprise. She'd always been drawn to his easy smile and green eyes that always seemed to see through to the truth of people.
"I'm not saying I'm okay with the idea, but just how would this work?"
"Tell my grandmother you have a headache and need to sleep it off. Retire to your room and pack a suitcase. Only take comfortable stuff—my friends don't stand on formality, so we won't be dressing for dinner. Think jeans, T-shirts, sneakers, and basics like shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush, etc. A suitcase of full of cosmetics isn't necessary."
He paused to study her face. The gleam in his eyes made her think he might like what he was seeing. "Not that you ever needed any of that stuff to begin with."
She didn't know where he was thinking about taking her, but she was pretty sure it might be paradise. Other than breakfast, she couldn't remember a single meal where she wasn't wearing heels and full makeup. "I'm not sure I have much in the way of casual clothes with me."
Logan shrugged. "Pack what you have. We can buy whatever else you might need."
That was a problem. One of the ways her father controlled her every move was to restrict the amount of money she had access to. Somehow he'd managed to gain control of the trust fund her maternal grandparents had set up for her. He doled out a pittance to her every month, and nothing she'd ever said or done convinced him to increase the amount.
Always quick to correctly assess the situation, Logan offered her lifeline. "I'm guessing you also didn't bring a long of money with you since you wouldn't need it as guest here at the estate. I can buy you whatever you need."
He cut her off. "I can afford it, Rylee. But if it would make you feel better, keep the receipts and pay me back when you can."
Under the circumstances, she wasn't sure when that would be. "I might not be able to do that, Logan. My father got a lawyer friend of his to alter the terms of my trust fund. They named my father as the trustee, so he dictates how much money I can access. At least the court refused to allow him to roll the money into the family account."
"That cheating bastard."
The dark expression on Logan's face made her shiver. His anger wasn't aimed at her, but it was still scary. He immediately apologized. "Sorry, Rylee. But that makes it even more important that we reach out to Ambrose."
Then without missing a beat, he stood and offered her his hand. "I'm sorry you're not feeling well. My brother has that effect on me, too. I hope a nap will help."
Rylee let him tug her back up to her feet. "I'm sure it will, Logan."
They both turned to face his grandmother, who had just stepped back out on the patio. She offered each of them the drinks Logan had asked for. Rylee didn't really want one. She'd need a clear head to prepare for their escape.
"Thank you, Colleen, but I think I'll retire early."
"I'm sorry you're not feeling well, my dear. I'll ask Sinead to bring you a tray."
"You're most kind." She offered a shaky smile to Logan. "How long are you staying, Logan? I'd like to spend more time with you while I have the chance."
He picked up one of the glasses and chugged it down before answering. "I'd like that, too."
After she stepped inside the house, she looked back one last time. He'd picked the second glass. When he saw her looking at her, he raised it as if making a toast. Was he drinking to their success in thwarting their fathers' plans? She offered him a small smile and headed upstairs to start packing.