“You got something of mine, asshole.”
Rage itched up Alexander “Xander” Dumitru’s spine. No one spoke to him with such blatant disrespect, especially someone who apparently didn’t have the courage to do so face-to-face. Heat pooled in his eyes, threatening to turn the ocular organs into twin obsidian pools.
“I want it back,” the caller hissed.
The voice on the other end of the blocked call wasn’t familiar, rendering Alexander clueless as to what the hell was going on. If he possessed whatever the caller accused him of taking, then he was damn well going to keep it.
“Who the fuck are you calling ‘asshole’?”
The caller chuckled, the sound thick with menace. “If I don’t get back what belongs to me, that will be dead asshole.”
Fangs punched through his gums. He didn’t bother to hold his vampire DNA at bay. The motherfucker was lucky Alexander was on the other end of the cell and not standing scant inches from him. He’d take great pleasure in draining the craven fuck with little regard.
“I’d say you must have a huge set of balls, but then that would require you having the nerve to call me ‘asshole’ to my face.”
“Consider yourself forewarned,” the man said, Alexander hearing the smile in his final words.
The call ended.
“Son of a bitch.” Alexander stared at his own reflection in the Gorilla Glass before tossing the cell to the scarred bar.
After grabbing the tumbler of Sprite he had been sipping before the phone rang, he tossed it back, feeling the carbonation burn a path down his esophagus. His gaze went to the bottle of Gentleman Jack sitting half empty on the bar. For the most part, he didn’t partake in whiskey. It reminded him too much of his alcoholic parents and how it had torn apart his family. But right now, he’d certainly welcome the buzz, no matter how temporary. Damn his vampire blood for not allowing him a good drunk.
If the idiot on the phone wanted whatever he thought Alexander possessed, then it was only a matter of time before the gutless recreant showed his face.
He ran a hand down his slightly whiskered jaw, his gaze sweeping the dark, empty living area of the clubhouse. Grigore “Wolf” Lupei and Ryder Kelley, the other two residents of the Sons of Sangue clubhouse, had gone to bed a little over an hour ago. He had meant to follow suit, bunking on the sofa since his room was otherwise occupied. Alexander needed to get his head screwed on straight and figure out what the hell he was going to do with the clubhouse’s new occupant.
The black-haired, dark-skinned, leggy beauty had walked into the clubhouse a couple of months ago, pregnant, with nowhere to turn. And his stupid ass had invited her to stay. Kaleb “Hawk” Tepes, the Sons of Sangue club president, had damn near blown a gasket. But what kind of a man would he be to turn her away when she had been in dire need of a friend?
A smart one.
Hell, he still had no clue to the identity of the baby’s father. The thought gave Alexander pause. Could the caller have been speaking of India? If that were the case, then he definitely wasn’t giving her back. The asswipe, whoever he was, had wanted her to abort the baby, India having expounded as much when she had first moved in. So, in Alexander’s eyes, he didn’t deserve to have her back. He’d have to go through Alexander first.
Alexander poured himself the other half of the lemon-lime soda, then set the empty silver and green can beside the phone on the bar. He took a sip, then leaned his forearms on the wood and folded his hands around the glass. His gaze traveled to the window, catching sight of a small red flare.
What the fuck?
Righting himself, he skirted the bar and headed through the living area to see exactly what the fuck was going on. The explosion popped his ears milliseconds before the blast wave of air and fire threw him against the bar, knocking the wind from him and snapping bones, flipping him over the counter where he landed in a heap on the floor behind it. The smell of burnt hair, flesh, and wood wafted to his nose.
He tried to suck in much-needed oxygen, only to cough up toxic fumes. Smoke hung thick in the air, obstructing his view. The electricity flickered, then died. He struggled to stand and regain his balance. He could barely hear the thundering of feet headed in his direction over the ringing in his ears. Hacking up more black smoke, he spit on the wood floor.
His equilibrium had him stumbling, grabbing the countertop to steady himself. He’d likely ruptured an eardrum from the force of the blast. Grigore and Ryder skidded to a halt, just shy of what remained of the living area. Ryder snatched the fire extinguisher from the hook on the wall, aimed, and spread nitrogen-laced foam over the area, putting out the remaining flames.
The sofa on which Alexander normally slept was little more than burnt wood and steel. Had he gone to sleep an hour earlier when his MC brothers had, he’d be part of the burned rubble. Alexander ran a smoke-blackened hand through his hair, sending soot airborne.
“What the fuck?” Grigore looked about the room, his jaw slackened. “You all right, man?”
“Other than a few broken bones, never been better,” Alexander grumbled, sarcasm dripping from his words. “And no, I didn’t get the license plate number of the truck that just drove through the fucking place.”
“Seriously? I was being a fucking smart ass, man. I didn’t see a truck.”
India stepped up beside him, her footfalls so light he hadn’t detected them. She finished shoving her long arms into her robe and tightly cinched the belt around her waist. Thankfully, she had been in his bed and didn’t appear hurt.
Her full, deep brown lips rounded. Her gaze swept the room. Rubbing her hands up and down her slender, terry-cloth-covered arms, she asked, “What happened?”
“You okay?” He dare not touch her. Having her underfoot was one thing, but allowing himself to care on a deeper level was an entirely different matter.
“I’m fine.” Her gaze left Ryder and Grigore and what was left of the room, and looked up at him. “Everyone else?”
“All accounted for.” Alexander rubbed a hand over his nape, his gaze traveling back to his temporary bed. “Good thing I was too keyed up to sleep.”
India worried her lower lip but said nothing in response. Nothing needed to be said. He’d been lucky. And if he was placing bets on the guilty party, Alexander had his money on the unknown caller. It was too damn coincidental that the bomb had gone off following the disconnected call.
He needed to find out who he’d pissed off and what the fuck he wanted ASAP.
“Ryder and I’ll take a look outside, Xander.” Razor-sharp fangs protruded from beneath Grigore’s upper lip. “You call Hawk. Let him know what the fuck happened. We need to get this tidied up and quick. We’re like sitting ducks, man. We need to get this shit contained.”
India laid her hand on Grigore’s forearm, reminding Alexander of a time when she had openly flirted with the big ox in front of him. It had been the last time he had used India as a donor or looked upon her as anything other than a friend. Even then, that had been pushing the term until she had asked for his shelter.
“Shouldn’t we be calling the police?” she asked.
Grigore smiled at her naivety. Other than Kane “Viper” Tepes’s mate, Cara Brahnam—a detective for the Sheriff’s Office—the Sons of Sangue had their own form of law. They took care of their own, meted out justice when need be. Whoever the fuck had bombed the clubhouse might want to get on his knees and say his prayers, because if any of the three of them got a hold of the bastard, they’d take him out.
No second chances.
“We take care of our own, gattina.” Alexander wasn’t sure why he had called her “kitten.” It had slipped easily enough off his tongue and he wasn’t about to examine the stupidity of using the term of endearment where she was concerned. Thankfully, Grigore and Ryder let it pass without comment. “I’ll call Hawk.”
Grigore and Ryder exited via the door and became visible through the gigantic hole in the clubhouse wall seconds later. He turned to India. “You know of anybody who might benefit from one of us biting it?”
Her dark brown gaze widened. She took in a sharp breath. “You think I had something to do with this?”
He tipped up her chin with his knuckle, forcing her to look at him. He’d easily spot a lie. “I got a phone call just before the blast, gattina. The caller said I had something of his and he wanted it back. I’m thinking he was referencing you. You know who that might be?”
“It can’t be me.”
“You said the baby daddy doesn’t want anything to do with your unborn child. I’m thinking maybe he’s changed his mind.”
She shook her head vigorously, sending her long black braid draping across her shoulder. “It can’t be, Xander.”
Alexander released her chin and gripped her shoulders. He was having a devil of a time keeping his anger at bay. No one played him for a fool. “Then explain it to me. Because from where I stand, it makes perfect sense. Who is the baby daddy, India? If you want to continue to be under my protection, I need to know what I’m up against.”
His heart stuttered. Fuck! Kaleb would blow another gasket. “The Devils’s Spike?”
“Yes. But don’t you see?” She placed her palm against his bare chest, just above his heart. Her touch seared his flesh more thoroughly than the firebomb had moments ago. “He’s dead, Xander. Rogue killed him in the café a couple of months back. Dead men can’t talk, let alone bomb a place.”
“Then you haven’t heard.” He dropped his hold on her and stepped back, a grimace on his lips.
“Spike is very much alive, gattina. He rose from the dead about a month ago.”
Her lips parted as she sucked in air. “That’s not possible. The café burnt, along with everyone in it.”
India stumbled back a step before Alexander directed her onto a barstool he righted from the blast. Her shock appeared genuine. She looked about as happy with the news as the rest of the Sons when Draven Smith and his mate, Brea, had returned from Mexico. Apparently, Spike had turned up at Brea’s godfather’s, Raúl Trevino Caballero’s, beach house. Draven had left Spike dying at his feet when he went to rescue Brea from her godfather. And for a second time, Spike had cheated the Grim Reaper, disappearing with the Sons of Sangue nemesis, Raúl.
“You don’t look too happy about the news.” Alexander couldn’t help the menace from creeping into his snide remark.
Could she have stooped any lower? And here he thought her flirting with Grigore had been a low blow. Spike was a miscreant and the thought of him fucking India turned Alexander’s stomach sour.
“Happy? Please tell me this is some sort of a cruel joke.” Her eyes darted about the clubhouse as if she were afraid her very thought of him might conjure him up. “Rogue killed him.”
“Rogue thought he had. When we got there and torched the café, somehow Spike had managed to slip by us.” Alexander pulled a bottle of water from the refrigerator and twisted off the cap, handing it to India. “We had no clue until he turned up south, a guest of Raúl’s. But I don’t think that’s the worst of it.”
India took a long pull from the bottle, then wiped her trembling fingers across her lips. “Please … what could possibly be worse than having the father of my unborn baby turn up alive?”
“You slept with him, gattina.”
“Don’t remind me.” A shiver shook her shoulders. “A definite faux pas on my part.”
Alexander raised a brow. She had made the decision. “If you think so lowly of him, then why the hell did you crawl into the sack with him? Or was it rape? I’ll fucking kill him. Just say the word.”
“He didn’t rape me. It was bad judgment on my part.”
Alexander chuckled. “Bad judgment is Wolf, gattina. Spike?”
“Are you kidding me? Wolf wouldn’t have anything to do with me. We were friends, Xander. Nothing more. Besides, I wouldn’t have done that to you.” She looked at the water bottle clutched in her hands. “I used him to make you jealous. When that backfired, I earned your hate. Spike came along… I don’t know, he treated me as though I mattered. But once I got pregnant, his demeanor changed, he became violent. I thought he might hurt me or the baby. That’s when I came here.”
Alexander tilted up her chin. “You thought I would protect you from him?”
She lowered her gaze, unable to look him in the eye. He couldn’t say he blamed her. She had used Alexander to hide out from the man with whom she had chosen to make her bed. Christ! He couldn’t wipe that picture from his brain. He had been played for a fool.
India squared her shoulders and lifted her gaze. “I needed your protection. I thought he might come after me. When Rogue said he had killed Tank and Spike, it was then I felt free from the burden of my past.”
“Now you know he’s alive.”
“You mentioned it gets worse. What could possibly trump his rise from the grave?”
Alexander dropped his hold on her and stepped out of reach. His gaze went to the large hole in the front of the clubhouse, where Grigore and Ryder rummaged through the rubble.
“The fact that it’s a damn good possibility he’s now a vampire.”