GOING HOME ISN'T EASY Part 8
Rylee fought the pull of the sun as she struggled to stay awake. The only reason she hadn't succumbed to the compulsion to sleep was that the tinted windows on the helicopter gave her limited protection against the sunlight. Older vamps could tolerate the UV rays far better than ones her age. Add in the effects of stress and multiple adrenaline rushes, she was fighting a losing battle.
When she slumped sideways against Logan, he shifted to wrap his arm around her shoulders, holding her close. "We're almost there, babe. Once we touch down, we'll run for cover inside Declan and Vivian's house. Then you can sleep as long as you want to."
She nodded and moved to sit upright again as the helicopter veered sharply to the right and started a slow descent to the ground. Declan's voice crackled through the headphones they'd given her. "Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for flying with Air Lyell. Please check to see that you have all of your personal items before disembarking."
Logan laughed as the helicopter settled on the ground with a soft thud. A man who bore a strong resemblance to Declan approached Rylee's door and opened it for her. He offered her his hand to help her down to the ground. She accepted with gratitude, not sure how steady she would be on her feet. "I'm Ian, Declan's middle brother. Let's get you in out of the sun."
It was a huge relief to step inside the sprawling two-story house. Logan was right on her heels, followed closely by Declan and Vivian with the luggage. Ian hugged his brother and sister-in-law before shaking hands with Logan. "When I delivered the chopper this morning, I brought in a shipment of blood packets for you. I didn't want to have them delivered here in case that would make it easier for your father to track you down."
"Thanks, that was smart thinking. I also appreciate you lending the chopper to Declan. We got out by the skin of our teeth." His fangs showed in his smile. "And that new weapon system was some kind of scary. We've got the video of it melting my SUV that Declan said you wanted."
He held out his phone so Ian could watch it. After it finished, Ian shuddered. "Wow, that is pretty terrifying. I was testing it for a friend, but I don't think I'll be buying it in bulk."
Rylee was glad to hear that. She couldn't imagine many circumstances where a chemical bomb like that could be put to use for any kind of good reason. Well, except for melting a car to destroy evidence. But what if someone had been in the vehicle?
Ian handed the phone back. "Send me a copy if you don't mind. My friend will want to see it."
Turning his attention to his brother, he asked, "So what did you think of the new chopper?"
Declan's eyes were bright with excitement. "I'm tempted to keep it."
Even as he said that, he tossed the keys to his brother. "It was fast, maneuverable, and easy to fly. I hesitate to ask how much it cost because now I want one."
"Let me know when you're ready to order. We'll work something out."
He turned back to Logan. "I'll be heading out now. We're hoping that if anyone is tracking the helicopter, they'll think we stopped to refuel. I brought three of my operatives with me, so I'll leave with the same number of people that landed a few minutes ago. That should help buy you some time."
"Let me know how much I owe you for your services."
Rylee couldn't help but notice that Ian looked a bit insulted. "No charge. You helped my brother and Vivian when they needed it. That makes you family."
Logan looked stunned, and Rylee understood why he'd feel that way. They both came from clans who would stab their own family in the back if it would help turn a profit. That these wolves would adopt a vampire into their pack out of friendship was simply out of Logan's life experience.
"See you all soon. Stay safe."
Then Ian was out the door. Declan must have sensed that Ian's declaration had knocked his friend for a bit of a loop. "Come on, let's get you two settled for the day. The blood is in the mini fridge in your suite."
He hesitated before speaking to Rylee. "We weren't sure if you'd want one room or two, so we compromised and gave you the guest quarters next door. There's a tunnel that connects the two houses, so you won't have to go back outside in the sun. There are two bedrooms, each with its own bathroom. The place isn't fancy, but it's comfortable."
"It sounds perfect."
She meant that. She'd had enough of fancy in her life and was pretty sure Logan felt the same. Vivian led them down the stairs to the tunnel. After she showed them around the small house, she said, "Yell if you need anything. Otherwise, we'll leave you alone until you come find us. Sleep well."
When Vivian and Declan disappeared back down the tunnel, Logan stared at the closed door for the longest time before speaking. "I count meeting the pair of them as some of the best days in my life. I have other friends at the bar and my other business, but those two are extra special."
"They clearly think the same of you. It's a shame that your father and brother can't get past their own selfish desires to realize what an asset you would've been to the family."
His smile was a bit sad. "The same could be said about you and your father. Declan and his brothers had issues, mostly because they're all Alphas, and there can only be one in a pack. In their case, it's their father. Ian essentially created his own pack when he started his security company. Declan was the Beta for their family pack until his younger brother challenged him for the job and won. After that, Declan and Vivian fought to take over this pack, which had been led by her family for generations. Her father, the old Alpha, was murdered by his successor. He was a brute who tried to force Vivian into being his mate. When Declan defeated him in a challenge fight, he and Viv became the new Alpha pair. Under their leadership, the pack is thriving again. When it comes to politics, wolves can be as vicious as in any vampire clan. The difference is that once the pecking order had settled, they pull together, especially against outside threats."
He shook his head. "Sorry, no more lectures. Let's go to bed."
Probably realizing how that sounded, he stopped and tried again. "What I should've said is let's go to our separate rooms. If you get up before I do, wake me."
That would be so much easier to do if they were sharing the same bed, but she wasn't quite brave enough to point that out.
Picking the room on the right for no particular reason, she headed inside. Right before she closed the door, she called after him. "Thanks again for getting me away from our families. Sleep well, Logan."
Logan stared up at the ceiling, his hands behind his head, fingers threaded together. He'd managed to finally fall asleep after tossing and turning for at least an hour after taking a shower and crawling into bed.
He hoped Rylee had had better luck getting settled in. She'd been practically reeling from exhaustion by the time they'd made it here to Declan's compound. It couldn't have been easy for her to take refuge with total strangers. Heck, she barely knew Logan after all these years.
He planned to change that.
A sound caught his attention. Rylee must be up and moving around. That was motivation enough to have him rolling out of bed, too. He made quick work of getting dressed before joining her out in the living room.
She smiled when he appeared. "I've already got blood packs warming for both of us."
He followed her into the small kitchen and sat down at the table. "How did you sleep?"
"All things considered, surprisingly well." She handed him two packs and sat down to drink her own.
"That's great. It always takes me a day or two to adjust to sleeping somewhere new. At least there's no one here who is going to wake me up in the middle of the day to deal with a missing shipment of beer."
Rylee gave him a curious look. "Does that sort of thing happen often?"
"More than it should, but such is the life of a bar owner at its most exciting."
"You love it, though. You always look happy when you talk about the bar."
Logan shrugged. "That's because I am. It may not seem like much to some people—my father and brother, for instance. When I bought it, the place was a mess. I didn't know much about working with my hands, but I learned. That was because I didn't have the money to hire out the work it took to bring the place back up to snuff. I even helped build my house. Now I have good employees and a steady clientele. I actually own a couple more bars and a few other related businesses now besides the one I run myself. I've got someone trained to run it, so I might start looking for another one that needs some attention."
There was so much to admire about Logan. She couldn't imagine her father or his starting off with nothing and building a satisfying life for themselves. And the thought of his brother doing anything like that was laughable. For one thing, all three of them looked down on anyone who doesn't live up to their snooty expectations. By way of contrast, Logan had friends, the kind who had his back and wouldn't stab him in it. Amazing.
Friends or not, she and Logan couldn't hide out with Declan and his wife for forever. "So, what do we do next?"
"We figure out what's going on with my father and yours that has them so desperate to link our clans by marriage. It has to do something with money—that's the only thing that motivates them. But if it was that simple, my father wouldn't have risked dragging me into it."
Rylee knew he wasn't wrong about that. "Rory doesn't particularly like me, but he would have married me to please your father and mine."
Just the mention of his brother's name had Logan's fangs on full display. She'd never admit it, but she found that flash of aggression sexy as heck. The upper level of vampires prided themselves on their restraint and control over their vampiric natures. Their viscousness played out in other ways and in other venues-mostly the corporate world. Displaying their wealth was simply a more genteel way of showing their aggression.
Logan's fierce determination to protect her was a refreshing change of pace.
"How do we start?"
His smile was wicked. "I'm going to hire Ian Lyell's security firm to do a deep dive into their finances. Once he can tell me what's at stake including their weaknesses, I will take them both down. My brother, too."
"We have to draw the line somewhere, Logan. Both clans have a lot of innocent people who don't deserve to have their lives upended because there is corruption at the top."
He reached out to cup her cheek with his hand. "I protect my people, Rylee, and I'll protect yours as well. But this has to end."
"I know." She didn't have many weapons that she could bring to the table, but she did have one even if Logan didn't like it. "Just know that if the only way to save my clan is for me to marry into yours, I will."
His eyes flashed with fury. "Damn it, Rylee, I won't let you be forced into marriage, especially to my brother."
She needed to remind him that she had a backbone. "It's not up to you to decided what I will or won't do, Logan. It has to be my choice."
She hesitated before adding, "And your brother isn't the man I was thinking of."
He stared at her in silence for a long time. Finally, he said, "That will happen only as a last resort, Rylee."
Then he got up and walked away.