A WOLF ON A MISSION Part 3
Declan had been merely dozing. Only a stupid wolf allowed himself to fall into a deep sleep while in enemy territory. At first, he'd only remained vaguely aware of both Vivian and her boss moving around in the room outside of his cell. That changed the second he heard the vampire order her to explain the situation. Her response had both man and wolf growling and angry.
No matter which skin he currently wore, it was easy to sense the fear threaded through every word she spoke. Even though she tried to hide it, he could see it in the panicky flare of her eyes and the slight tremor that ran through her body. Still, she managed to lock onto his gaze and hold it with her own.
The vampire abruptly stepped between them, forcing the woman to turn her focus back in his direction. Declan snarled, but there wasn't much he could do about the situation until he found a way to get himself out of the damned cell. Hands might make that easier than paws. He would continue to heal faster wearing fur, but he'd just have to deal with any remaining aches and pains. Right now, he needed to get back in the game.
Still keeping an ear on the ongoing conversation, he turned his back toward Vivian and Logan and started his shift. Audiences were never appreciated, but he ignored the fact the pair had gone quiet and were no doubt watching the show. At least they'd left his clothes folded up inside the cell. Was that her doing or the vampire's? No way to know for sure. Since it was Vivian who'd offered Declan both water and food, he suspected she was the one behind this courtesy as well.
He didn't want to feel grateful, but he did. At least a little.
Once his jeans were zipped, he reached for his shirt and then pulled on his socks. Funny how just having his boots back on made him feel more in control of the situation. No one spoke until he was fully clothed.
"How's your head?"
That it was the vampire who asked rather than the woman was a bit of a surprise. Not that he mistook Logan's question as an apology that one of his minions had done his best to crush Declan's skull. He doubted Logan would have wasted a single second of regret if the blow had proven fatal.
Although the steady pounding in the back of his head made him wonder if he even wanted to. "I'm interested in what she has to say about what landed her in this situation. Let me out."
The vampire's fangs were back on display. "You have to know that's not happening anytime soon."
Before Declan or even Vivian could say another word, Logan added, "In fact, I think it's best the lady and I continue this conversation without you."
Then he took Vivian by the arm and all but dragged her from the room.
Vivian and Logan hadn't gotten very far into the story of her past when he'd been called away to deal with a problem. Evidently, there was a delay in shipping of a large order of several popular microbrews from New Eire that wouldn't go over well with their customers. He'd promised to get back with her as soon as he could, but that had been hours ago. At a loss what to do with herself, she decided to check on their prisoner again. He had to be hungry; healing burned a lot of calories.
At the bottom of the steps, she studied the array of food she'd selected for the prisoner. The bar's menu mostly consisted of pub grub, so the options were admittedly pretty limited. She'd asked the short-order cook to fix two big burgers cooked to medium rare along with all the usual fixings. It was the best she could do. She supposed if it was the wolf waiting in the next room, she could always go upstairs and exchange the burgers for raw meat. Or not. It wasn't as if their relationship was a friendly one, and Declan was in no position to be picky.
Balancing the tray on one hand, she slowly turned the doorknob with the other. Bracing herself, she called out, "Everyone decent in there?"
Stupid question. There was no "everyone" waiting on the other side of the door. Just one pissed off man who shared his soul with a wolf. Still, considering the lack of privacy in the cell, he deserved at least a short warning before she came barging in.
The only answer was a deep growl. It was unclear whether it came from the wolf or the man-half of the duo, so she risked a quick peek inside. Declan sat slouched in the far corner of the cell, his back against the wall and one leg stretched out in front of him. The other was drawn up with an arm resting on his knee while he acted as if he had nowhere else better to be. She didn't buy the ruse for a second. His body language might say he was relaxed but did nothing to tamp down the fury burning in those blue eyes.
As she stepped closer to the cell, a gold sheen washed over his eyes, no doubt his wolf checking in as well. It took everything she had not to go into full retreat. Instead, she forced herself to continue forward. "I brought you dinner."
He rose to his feet in a single graceful motion but came no closer. She set the tray on the ground where he could reach it through the bars and then got each of them a bottle of water from the small refrigerator in the corner. After adding it to his tray, she settled down on the floor a short distance from the cell door. There was a chair she could have used, but she didn't want to have to look down at him while they talked. If they actually talked, considering he hadn't said a single word since she'd walked in.
When he made no move toward the food, she said, "You should eat before it gets cold."
"Afraid I'll starve to death in here before your boyfriend decides whether to let me out or kill me?"
"Logan is my boss, not my boyfriend."
Declan arched an eyebrow, clearly doubting the truth of her statement. She stared right back at him. "What? He owns the place. I tend bar for him. Nothing more, nothing less."
He huffed a small laugh. "That might be true, but there's more to it than that even if you don't see it. Not many employers would risk bringing down the wrath of Chancellor Ambrose O'Brien on his head for the sake of a mere employee. Logan runs the risk of losing everything if he lets himself gets mired in your mess even more than he already has. While Ambrose might believe Logan had no idea he'd hired a criminal, that ends the second he helps you get away. If he kills me in the process, his life will be forfeit. I wasn't lying about that."
If he was at all interested in how she'd respond to his grim evaluation of the situation, he gave no indication of it. Instead, he crossed the cell to where she'd placed his dinner and sat down. Reaching through the bars, he picked up the first burgers and took a bite. It didn't take him long to finish it. Before reaching for the second one, he glanced over at her. "Is the second burger mine or yours?"
"Yours. I figured one wouldn't be enough."
Besides, she strongly suspected that anything she ate right now would likely come right back up. Even the iron bars of the cell did nothing to mute the power of his alpha wolf nature. Although he'd made no overt threats, past experience had taught her hard learned lessons about the nature of men like him. She also had both the mental and physical scars to prove it.
To keep herself busy while he made quick work of his meal, she took small sips of water in a futile attempt to soothe the tension in her throat. If she was going to convince him to forget he'd ever crossed paths with her, she needed to be able to talk. One part of her argued not to even try to explain her situation. No one had ever believed her before, and there was no reason to think Declan Lyell would be any different. He'd made it clear that his family was at the top of the power structure in his own pack, and that they'd have his back no matter what. Lucky him. With that background, no doubt he believed the Alpha of a pack could do no wrong.
There was a world of difference between what his experience had been and her own. The sound of Declan shoving the tray back through the bars jarred her out of the misery of her own thoughts an memories.
"Thanks for the food."
"You're welcome. Do you need anything more?"
She half expected him to return to the corner where he'd made a makeshift bed out of the blankets Logan had tossed on the floor when they'd first carried Declan into the cell. Instead, he remained next to the bars, studying her with eyes that seemed to see too much. After a brief silence, he said, "You stand accused of attempted murder of a member of your pack. The Coalition considers that a capital offense. If Chancellor O'Brien hadn't had so much on his plate right now, he would have sent his own people after you. Instead, he contracted with my brother's security firm to bring you in. Since we're independent contractors, our orders are to bring you back alive to face the justice of your pack. If the chancellors had come after you, they would have been authorized to use lethal force if necessary. Again, I'm not trying to scare you. I'm just making sure that you understand the seriousness of the situation you're in right now."
When the plastic bottle creaked in her hand, she forced her fingers to ease their grip on it. Rather than risk cracking it open, she slowly set the bottle down on the floor. "Don't worry, Mr. Lyell. I'm more than aware of the situation. Basically, I'm dead if I go back willingly. If I don't, eventually you or someone else will drag me back, and I'll die then. The only question is if it will be a clean kill by the Coalition or a lingering death at the hands of the bastard who sicced you and the others on my trail in the first place."
If her bitter words had any impact on Declan's conscience, it didn't show. In the same calm voice, he said, "Tell me about this Rolf Jantzen, your mate."
Just the mention of that name made her sick. "I said he thinks I'm his mate, not that I actually am."
Declan cocked his head to one side as if trying to make sense of the distinction. "Why does he think that?"
"Because he decided he wanted me. When I made it clear that I wasn't interested, he informed me I had no choice in the matter. He'd recently become the Alpha of the pack. He believes that alone gives him the right to lay claim to whomever he wants. I stood my ground and told him that wasn't how a pack should ever operate."
Vivian hunched her shoulders as she was drawn back into the horror of her prior life. When she didn't continue talking, Declan prodded her to keep going, his voice surprisingly gentle. "What happened then?"
Tears burned like acid as they rolled down her cheeks. "He—"
Her explanation was cut off by the sound of the door behind her slamming open hard enough to send it bouncing off the wall. Logan stepped into the room. One look at her had him glaring at Declan. "What the hell did you say to her?"
Declan didn't blame the vampire for being furious with him. He was pretty damn mad at himself for causing Vivian such pain. To give her a chance to regain control, he stood up and faced off against her would-be defender. "She was about to tell me what happened when she rejected the suit of the Alpha wolf in her pack."
"Why do you care? If you weren't in that cell, you'd already be doing your damnedest to haul her back to New Eire."
Maybe. Maybe not. At this point, Declan wasn't sure of anything. He didn't know Vivian well enough to know how good an actress she was. Those tears were real, but could the same be said of the emotions behind them?
Her emotions weren't the only ones running hot right now. Logan planted himself in front of her, once again blocking Declan's view of Vivian. He was getting pretty damn tired of the vampire doing that. He also didn't like the tone in Logan's voice when he spoke to her again.
"Viv, I told you I'd handle him. You need to be packing. We don't know how often this guy is supposed to check in with whoever is holding his leash. Time could be already running out for you to make a clean getaway. Don't waste another minute trying to convince him of your innocence. You can't be hoping to win him over to your side. You're smarter than that."
Snarling, Declan let his wolf vent his own frustration before he spoke again. "Show the lady some respect, vampire. I'm nobody's pet dog, but I can't help her if I don't know what happened."
"Seems like you have a new defender, Vivian."
The sarcasm in Logan's voice made it clear Declan wasn't winning any points with him. The vampire barely spared him a glance before once again focusing on Vivian.
She accepted his offer of a hand up off the floor with a shaky smile. But instead of leaving as he suggested, she stepped around him to face Declan.
Her shoulders were now firmly back, her chin up as she spoke. "I'm not naïve, Logan, and we have no reason to trust him. Whether or not he believes me won't change a thing in the long run, but I want you both to hear the truth."
Declan gave her a quick nod. "I'm listening. What happened after you told your Alpha no."
She waved her in the direction of the iron bars that separated her and Logan from Declan. "Rolf locked me in a cell much like this one and gave me a day to change my mind."
Declan braced himself for what was to come next, because there was more to the story than that. Just spending twenty-four hours to reconsider a proposal wouldn't have left those echoes of pain and despair in her pretty eyes.
Logan moved to wrap his arm around Vivian's shoulders, holding her close. "Tell us the rest, Viv. Then we'll decide what comes next."
Once again she shrank in on herself, and Declan's wolf growled softly as her voice dropped to a harsh whisper. "When the twenty-four hours passed, he joined me in the cell and asked if I'd come to terms with the situation. I said I had no intentions of ever changing my mind."
"And after that?" Declan asked even though he was pretty sure he really wouldn't like her answer."
"He generously gave me another twenty-four hours to rethink the situation." She drew a shuddering breath. "Then he broke my arm in two places on his way out the door."
Declan responded the only way he could. "Rolf Jantzen is a dead man."