I’d offered to take Keelan home as soon as I was disconnected from Raiden, dropping the rope in the storage tub where it would somehow tangle itself with the others again. You couldn’t just memorize the order for next time as the ropes, like angel statues in my brother’s favorite tv show, seemed to move when you weren’t looking. Alex had said he’d take AJ to the hospital which left me free, and after the afternoon I’d had all I wanted was to talk to Keelan.
Keelan had accepted the ride going so far as to offer the young teen from earlier a seat as well. The teen, Levi, had refused but I discovered that he was staying at Basil’s as well. The kid looked so familiar but my focus was redirected as Keelan sighed and stood up tiredly. In the car, he stared out the window in silence. He couldn’t still be mad about Murrell, could he?
“So…” Keelan started, trailing off as he kept his eyes on the window. I wasn’t sure if he realized he was rubbing small circles in the side of his stomach. “You and Raiden, huh?”
“What?” I responded, pulling my thoughts back to his words. I narrowed my eyes at the road in front of me. “Rayen say something she shouldn’t again?”
“You looked good together.” He pouted, pouted. I didn’t think he knew how much he was giving away at the moment. I hid a grin as we pulled up in front of Basil’s house.
“It was pretty one-sided and didn’t last long.” He grunted non-commitally. “Hey,” I said to get him to look at me. I shifted in my seat to face him a little more as he watched me from lowered brows. “There has never been anyone else for me but you. I just, I don’t know, I thought I’d never see you again.”
He pursed his lips, looking away as he thought. “So… you never thought you’d see me again and you were lonely?” He asked, eyeing me with the barest hint of a smile. I nodded, my own smile refusing to hide. “So, what made my best friend a valid option?”
I chuckled. I should’ve known he wouldn’t make it so easy. I had nothing to say and I stopped him from saying anything by crushing our lips together. He hissed into my mouth like a balloon losing air and I about lost it, trying to pull him closer to me.
“Ow,” he panted, pulling back and I followed his movement to where a hand covered a part of his stomach and remembered the fact that this car had a center console.
“I’m sorry, are you-”
“Wanna come inside?” he asked at the same time.
“I, uh,” my brain stuttered.
“Race you to the house,” he said as he opened his door.
“Don’t run,” I called as I pushed out my own door and rushed around to keep him from hurting himself or the baby. When I got around the car I didn’t see him slipping on the lawn or careening up the cement driveway. There was a tap on my shoulder and I turned to the side to see Keelan staring up at me with his hands on his hips, shaking his head.
“I can’t believe you actually thought-” he cut off with a squeak as I swept him up into a side carry, one arm under his knees with the other braced around his back. As we reached the door he reached out to open it saying, “This is nice, but you know we should really do this in our own house.”
I growled, kicking the door shut and didn’t let go of him as I climbed the stairs, or when we got to his room, or when he stretched out on the blanket like a cat who’d just stolen the farmer’s best cream. I wouldn’t let go of him again. Ever.
I woke up in a panic, fear clogging my brain function as I sat up looking wildly around before my eyes settled on Keelan where he lay next to me. I breathed slowly, bringing my heart rate back down. Keelan yawned and rolled onto his back. “Is everything okay?”
I couldn’t tell him I’d had a nightmare that he’d left me again, this time taking our child. I still worried he’d leave me, us, this town, and this time wouldn’t look back.
I must’ve said it aloud without the filter of coffee to fire my brain up as he responded, “How could I leave now?” He gestured at his belly. “This is at least 65% your fault, you know. And I fully expect you to take responsibility.”
“Yes, sir,” I grinned as I kissed his mouth then moved to his stomach. Keelan’s stomach seemed to be fighting back as I felt a knock against my lips. I looked up at Keelan and he just stared back, stunned, before his lips curved slowly up.
“I think he likes you.”
“He?” I asked.
I placed a palm over the spot I’d kissed in wonder as I felt another kick.
“Okay, okay, enough wonder,” Keelan said after what felt like an hour but was more likely only ten minutes. He pushed my hands aside and began to roll toward the edge of the bed.
I grabbed his hip, halting his progress. He bent one of my fingers back to force me to loosen my grip. I just switched hands, grinning. “Where do you think you’re going?”
He scoffed. “Oh, come on. I have to pee and then I need food. You remember food right? That dead stuff that keeps us in the circle of life?” As if to punctuate his words, his stomach growled loudly at me, rumbling through my fingers.
I laughed and let him go as I got up and put on yesterday’s clothes since Basil and his son were most likely awake by now. “Fine. But you should take a shower too.”
He raised an eyebrow. “If you have something to say-”
I raised my hands, backing away with a grin. “Just that I should have breakfast ready by then and it’ll be relaxing for you.” At the door I paused. “And you kinda smell.” I ducked out of the way as a pillow flew by.
I listened as water struck the sides of the shower and eggs and turkey bacon sizzled in the frying pan. I heard movement upstairs as Sean cried out from his crib and woke Basil up. I put on more eggs and bacon. I was just placing the last piece of toast on the set of plates when Basil came down the stairs blearily rubbing his eyes. He didn’t react with anything but a nod, taking the smallest plate with him to the highchair. Placing one in the oven to keep its contents warm, I grabbed the other two plates and followed to the table.
“Has Levi gotten up yet?” Basil asked as I sat a plate in front of him.
“Levi?” Was Basil dating again? I’d thought he had a thing for-
“Yeah. 14. Scrawny. Quiet. Likes drawing.”
I snapped my fingers. “Was he at Nita’s reception yesterday? Keelan said he was staying here.”
Basil rubbed his face tiredly. “Yeah, he’s here because-” he glanced at me sharply and cleared his throat, stabbing his fork into his eggs. “because his parents are on a deadline.”
“If you’re hungry, pops, I don’t think Mr. McCormick would mind if you-” said the familiar quiet, scrawny 14-year-old as he came in the back door. He paused like a deer caught in headlights, but not before I saw who he was talking to.
Maybe I was developing a memory problem because the next thing I knew I was throwing Murrell out the door.
“I warned you,” I snarled as I stomped toward him. My bison wanted out and I let it.
I charged him with 2,000 pounds of bison on my bones. He barely dodged out of my way. I spun sharply, pawing the ground and snorting as he got to his feet. I charged again and he thought he could hide behind a tree. I turned my head catching him between my horns and tossing him in the air.
I heard shouts in the background but ignored them. I spun to face Murrell who was coughing on the ground. I charged again but the teenager got in front of the man and stood facing me. I veered off when he did nothing but flinch as I sped toward him. I moved in a circle around the pair but the boy just followed me. I charged again as Murrell stood having regained his breath. If I didn’t scare the boy away form the murderer, he’d be hurt or, heaven forbid, killed. Then Murrell would go after the others. If I got closer to the boy, he’d move. He had to.
The unyielding teen had no choice when Murrell knocked him to one side then dove the other way. I skidded near instantly to a stop right next to him. I placed a hoof on his neck. All I had to do was put weight on it and the danger would be gone. Everyone would be safe. Keelan would be safe. But I was an officer of the law. I shifted back, my hand now gripping Murrell’s neck. I would take him into custody. Again. This time, maybe it would stick.
There wasn’t much I could do without handcuffs, but I twisted an arm up behind his back and forced him to stand. When I turned, everyone from the house and even a couple neighbors stood in the yard, goggling at me. My eyes locked with Keelan’s, his face like granite.
“You can’t take him,” Keelan said in a quiet voice.
“I can and I will. He was trespassing on private property.”
“No, actually he wasn’t. He was invited.”
“He probably lied to that boy to get him to let him in. He’s a parasite.”
“Levi is Robert’s son.” His quiet voice shook a little, but I didn’t think it was fear. I scoffed, but I could see pieces of the man in the boy now: the hooked nose, the pointed chin. “We’re helping him out until he can get on his feet.”
He moved to within an arms length. “This isn’t your house.” He flinched at those words and I grimaced. I hadn’t meant it wasn’t his home, but I couldn’t bring myself to say it.
“But it is mine,” Basil said, stepping up behind his brother and resting a hand on his shoulder. “And Robert Murrell and his son are my guests.”
It was my turn to gape. “I’m sorry?” I couldn’t have heard right.
Basil pressed his lips together for a moment, looking apologetic. “Please release him before I file a complaint.” I took several deep breaths as I looked from face to face. It took more effort to open my hand where it gripped Murrell’s wrist than… well, anything I’d had to do before.