What The Cat Dragged In Ch. 27bypsyche_b_mused©
Kelly flinched again. This time she covered it better. Something else occurred to her though. She stopped and took his arm. "He's afraid of you, isn't he?"
Creed smirked, revealing one keen fang. "'Tween my reputation and the fact that a few of his key people have started having accidents, he's fucking terrified."
Kelly's eyes widened. "You mean the ones who took me-"
He gripped her hand, smiled a little wider and started walking again. "Funny thing, you'd think a bunch of accident-prone motherfuckers wouldn't have been able to pull off what they did. Must've been dumb luck."
"Does that mean..." she hesitated to say the words, "that I'm safe?"
"Don't think I can go that far. We do have a window of opportunity though, as long as we're careful."
They came out of the trees and into the circular driveway. A large black motorcycle was parked in the wide circle in front of them. Victor grinned down at her.
"Window...you mean on that?" Kelly's heart started to pound.
"Yeah. 'S Jimmy's but it looks like he keeps it in decent shape."
She pulled her hand away and took a step back. She shook her head. "No."
He turned and advanced on her. "What do you mean 'no'?"
"I mean no!" Kelly's head was spinning. She could hear her heartbeat pounding in her ears.
He growled. "Frail-"
Tears were in her eyes, she was backing away from him. "I'm dead! To all of them I'm dead and if I show up somewhere and somebody recognizes me it'll get back to Stan and that will just make a bigger mess!" She was shaking. Terrifying images filled her mind's eyes, the scents of her own blood and sweat crowding out the clean scents of snow and pines.
Victor gripped her arms tightly. "Frail!" The past faded away again in degrees. She held onto his arms to steady herself. When her legs felt stronger, she looked up at him.
"I'm sorry, I can't-"
"Yeah, you can."
She shook her head. He dug a hand into her hair and held her head still. "Ninety-five percent of people don't notice what the fuck is going on around them because they don't really give a shit. The ones who do notice have no goddamn idea what you look like now."
Kelly felt some of the tension leave her muscles.
"You ever watch Stan when he's on TV?" His grip on the back of her hair eased.
"No." Her voice was small. Victor had kept her away from most of the reports in the beginning. The few times she had been on her own Kelly hadn't been able to bring herself to watch for more than a few seconds.
"Don't waste your time, it's all bullshit. He shows pictures of you and your brother, but in those pictures you look like you're about thirteen and bony as all hell. On the road you're going to wear a helmet. Where we're goin' is a place run by mutants." He shrugged. "Jimmy says they got good food, but he's never had much taste in that kinda shit."
She moved a little closer to him. "You said that before." The words were painful to say, and she fully expected his anger.
He pulled her head against his chest instead. "Game's changed, frail. 'F I had to guess, I'd say that it's gonna be another couple of weeks before Cavallo can convince himself that it ain't as bad as he thinks it is. Probably take more time to get his people back around him and then it'll be the ones who want to move up, meaning they'll be third rate talent at best. He might have it in him to make a move on Stan, but it's going to take him awhile to be able to come after us again. If there's anybody out there now, they're unorganized."
She relaxed into him. "You're sure he will come after me?"
"I'd bet on it. Be a matter of pride with him by then. Not like he's gonna have a chance." He kissed the top of her head. "Gonna break you of that habit of saying no to me."
She looked away. "I'm always going to be like this aren't I? Crazy I mean."
"You ain't crazy now, frail." He dug his hand into her hair again, forcing her to look up at him. He smirked a little. "Pain in my ass sometimes, but not crazy."
She smiled a little.
He took her arm and led her down the path toward the motorcycle again. Kelly followed without fight this time. He handed her a black helmet. Kelly looked at it and then at the bike. Her heart started to pound again.
"This is why you told me to wear layers, isn't it?" She shifted uncertainly.
"Yeah." The corner of Victor's mouth quirked into a little grin. "Never been on one, have you?"
She shook her head and felt a blush rise to her cheeks. "No."
He smiled wider. "I have."
She thought about protesting but found she didn't have any real argument, except for fear.
"Put the helmet on, and get on behind me."
Kelly put the helmet on and buckled the strap under her chin. She got on hesitantly and the machine rumbled to life. He pointed to a place where she could rest her feet. Kelly shifted uncertainly. When her feet were off the ground, he grabbed her hands and wrapped her arms around his waist. She bit back a surprised squeak as they started moving forward.
The roads were perfect, but Creed was careful at first. The frail's arms were tense and he could feel the tremors in her body over the vibrations of the bike. He concentrated on how she felt against him. She was breathing faster, though sometime after the first ten miles some of that fear evaporated. He felt her body start to relax and the tremor faded.
Fifteen miles in, he felt the tension fade completely. Creed smiled and sped up.
Kelly relaxed into an armchair in front of a wide stone fireplace at the Cavinder Inn. As far as she could tell, they were the only guests there. They ate far too much in front of the warm fire and Kelly found herself halfway believing that things were normal and this was just a little outing with Victor.
"Frail." His voice was a soft rumble.
She looked over at him, a little smile on her lips. "Sorry, was I drifting off?"
He smiled. "Yeah. Wanna stay?"
Kelly laughed softly. "Yes. I told Cassie I'd go over to see her after she's out of class though."
He chuckled. "Jimmy'd probably shit fucking bricks if we don't come back. Makes me wanna do it, just to see the look on his face."
Kelly couldn't resist a giggle. "For people on the fringes, we certainly seem to have a lot of commitments."
"Yeah." He sighed. "Not sure I like it."
She leaned her head against the side of the chair. "It's different. Maybe once in awhile it's okay, but not all the time."
An older woman with reddish scaly skin walked over. She smiled. "How was everything?"
"Delicious, thank you." Kelly said. Victor just nodded.
"Would you like anything else?"
"Just the check," Victor said.
She nodded and walked away. Kelly closed her eyes for a few minutes again. Victor would take care of the rest and the heat of the fire felt so good. Less than fifteen minutes later they were out in the parking lot again. She shivered as the cold wind hit her. He handed her the helmet. This time, she didn't hesitate.
The ride back seemed to be over much more quickly than the ride there. She was almost sorry to see the gates of the mansion, even though she was shivering. He reached for the helmet, but she took his hand instead.
"We're leaving soon, aren't we?"
He gave a short nod. "Sunday."
She smiled up at him. "Thank you, for all this."
He looked at her as if she had said it in a foreign language. She moved closer and stood on her toes. He leaned down and kissed her. His mouth was more commanding than it had been earlier, but it made her knees pleasantly weak. She let herself get lost in it.
A cough startled her. "This is a school ya know." She recognized Logan's gruff voice. A deep blush rose to her cheeks and she reluctantly backed away from Victor. She couldn't take her eyes from his though.
"Part of their education, Runt." Victor looked at the smaller man and tossed the keys at him. He put his arm around her waist and led her toward the path. "C'mon frail, wouldn't want to corrupt anybody." Kelly leaned into him as they walked.
Kelly spent part of the afternoon napping next to Victor. She wasn't sure that he slept much, but it did feel good to curl up next to him. A little before four, he walked her to the end of the path, Logan met her there. She could feel Victor's anxiety rising, even though she wasn't sure why.
"Are you coming?" She asked.
"Nah, got nothing to go over there for." His eyes were on his brother when he leaned in to kiss her. "That's if I'm trusted to walk back without an escort."
Logan rolled his eyes. "Suppose if shit happens I'll know where to look."
Kelly gripped Victor's hand a moment longer and then turned away. She could feel Victor's eyes on her as they walked toward the mansion. They were halfway there before she remembered the jacket in her hand. She handed it back to him.
He took it from her. "You're welcome. You enjoyed it?"
She smiled a little. "It got my mind off of everything for a little while. He told you about my mother?"
A short nod. "I'm sorry."
"Thanks." She sighed. "I guess I'm starting to get used to the idea. Either that, or I'm still numb."
"You able to find out anything about how she is?"
"Yes. Conlon's been keeping Victor as up to date as he can. I don't think there's a whole lot to say though. They're keeping her safe from herself for the moment. I'm not sure what else can be done in such a short time."
"You're not allowed to talk to this Conlon guy?"
Kelly could hear the 'leading up to something' tone in his voice. She took a deep breath and worked to keep the annoyance out of her voice. "I don't usually have any need to talk to him when Victor's around."
"But Victor keeps him busy." The sarcasm was clear.
She shrugged. "I wouldn't know anything about that. Conlon takes me grocery shopping, talks to me and keeps me safe while Victor's away."
"And he's got you trained not to ask questions."
She looked at him and smiled. "Your turn to have a go at me?"
He turned his head quickly. "What makes you say that?"
Kelly smiled a little. "Well, classes don't let out for half an hour yet so you have the time."
His eyebrows drew together and Kelly was reminded of the look of exasperation Victor got sometimes. She suppressed a giggle.
"Maybe I had something else to do. I do work here you know."
"Cassie said you teach fighting or something to some of the students, but that's over in the mornings."
"You been conducting interviews?"
"No, I just listen to what people tell me." She couldn't resist a little smile. "Besides, you're the only one who hasn't lectured me yet so I figured it was about time."
He stopped and stared at her.
She looked up at him. "What?"
He smiled a little. "Inside. It's cold out here."
Kelly followed him into the mansion and through to a comfortable, large sitting room. They ignored the open space and television and sat on a large, comfortable sofa. He let her sit, and sat with one wide cushion between them.
"Go ahead, lecture away." She smiled.
"And you won't listen to a word of it."
"Well, I have heard it several times before. Gets a bit harder to listen after that."
"You're not gonna hear it from me."
Kelly looked at him, unsure where he was going. "Is this some kind of reverse psychology thing?"
"Nope. This is an 'I know my brother' thing. It's been a goddamn long time since I saw anything but hate and bloodlust in his eyes. Figured that's all he had left. Then he showed up on the lawn with you wrapped up in that fucking coat and the way he looked at you..." He looked away, like whatever was coming next was hard for him to say. "It was like, just for a split second, he was human." He looked at her again. "You're different when you're around him too."
Kelly was surprised, this time she didn't try and keep it off of her face. "I am? How?"
A little smile. "Not ways most people would notice. When you sit or stand you lean closer to him. When he touches you, your whole body reaches back and your scent changes, sweetens. Chuck'd call that Stockholm Syndrome, but I know you can't terrify someone into all that little unconscious shit. You're his because you want to be."
Kelly nodded. "That's what I've been trying to say."
"Don't mean I think you're safe with him." He dug into his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. He held it out to her. "This is my number. Not the school, me. You decide you need out you call me. I'll make it happen."
She took it and clasped his hand for a second. "Thank you."
He nodded. "And I know you're gonna tell him I gave it to you."
She laughed. "He probably won't be surprised." Kelly pulled out her phone and programmed it in. She started to hear voices in the hallway.
He glanced up at the clock. "C'mon, in a few minutes this room is going to be full of kids."
She got up. "Am I still a secret?"
He laughed. "Secrets around here last for about two days tops. Just don't want you to have to answer a million questions at once."
Creed leaned against a tree at the edge of the wood and watched the quiet mansion as the evening gathered. Jimmy handed him a beer and leaned against the other side of the same tree.
"Worried about her?" The runt asked.
"Fucking hate it when she's over there. All those horny little bastards sniffing around her and me nowhere in sight to keep 'em away. Makes me sick." He took a long swallow of the beer.
"Doubt she even sees 'em." He was sure he heard a little smirk in Jimmy's voice. "Soon as she gets there, she's off with Cassie and those other two. 'Sides, for some crazy reason she's only interested in your ugly ass."
Creed looked around the tree at his brother. "How long did it take you to get your hair fluffed up 'fore you came out here? An hour? Two?"
"Least you finally evened yours out. Was starting to wonder if she kept you too tired to notice."
Creed grinned. "You're just jealous because you ain't gettin' any."
"Keep tellin' yourself that."
They were silent for a few minutes as Creed watched shadows pass by curtained windows. He knew the frail was in one of the rooms on that side of the building, but he didn't know which one and there were lights on in just about all of them.
"You're leaving tomorrow?"
"Yeah. Still trying to get your boss to tell me what I owe him."
"You may as well give up on that. He ain't gonna take any more money than what you already gave him."
"Means he wants somethin' else." Creed took another long swallow.
A short, sarcastic laugh. "He usually does."
"He gonna keep me from taking her out of here tomorrow?"
"Doubtful. She wants to leave and she's legally an adult. S'pose he could turn you in to some authority, but I figure he's got bigger plans."
Creed rolled his eyes. "Why the fuck do you stay here?"
"You think I should get my ass back in the cage where I belong?"
"That was your dumbass idea." Creed took a long swallow. "Plenty of work for an independent contractor with your skills."
Jimmy looked around the tree. "You lost your goddamn mind? I got out of all that shit."
"I don't mean you should do what I do. There's plenty of factions out there nobody's even heard of. Pick a few that fit with all that moralistic bullshit you spout, get your girl and get the fuck out."
Jimmy moved out of his sight again. "Ain't that easy."
Creed didn't ask for an explanation. He was silent for a moment. "You change your mind; you know how to find me."
Kelly sat on the floor with Cassie, and Cassie's roommates Sophie and Lucy. They were in the same small sunroom where she and Cassie had spent their first afternoon. A pizza box, soda cans and a bowl of popcorn was laid out around them. She got the impression that the little send-off had taken some convincing on Cassie's part, but it had been a fun evening of laughing and eating and getting to know the other two girls.
"What should we watch now?" Cassie asked, sorting through the stack of DVD's in her hand.
Kelly stretched. "What time is it?"
"It's not that late." Sophie said. Of the three, Sophie was the only one with an obvious mutation. Patterns and colors shifted under her skin according to her emotions. Now her pinkish hue shifted to a darker red with bands of purple dots, betraying a disappointed kind of excitement. "C'mon we have three movies left to watch."
"I know, but I told Victor I'd be back before midnight."
"Do you get in trouble if you're late?" Lucy smirked. Kelly learned quickly that the tall brunette could make just about anything sound slightly naughty.
Kelly laughed. "No."
"Then we'll watch another movie." Cassie said.
Kelly shook her head. "I can't."
"What's it like?" Sophie asked. A shot of curious orange passing over her features.
"Sophie!" Cassie sounded shocked.
"What? We all wanted to ask." Sophie said.
"And she can tell us or not." Lucy said.
Kelly's mind raced. She knew exactly what they were talking about, and she knew it was a subject she didn't really want to get into.
"She's blushing!" Sophie pointed a webbed finger at Kelly and started to giggle.
"I am not!" Kelly covered her burning cheeks with her hands.
"Just give us some little detail." Lucy said.
Kelly looked from one to the other. "He's a cover-hog."
The three girls groaned and leaned back. "Come on!" Sophie said.
"What? I would guess it's not that different than being with any other guy." Kelly was fairly certain that wasn't true, but it might serve to make someone else the focus of the conversation.
"Sophie wouldn't know," Lucy smirked. "She never has."
"I have so!" Fireworks of bright red embarrassment covered her cheeks. "Well, mostly anyway."
"Besides, living here is like living in a convent." Cassie said.
"And forget sneaking out," Lucy added. "Half the teachers are psychic."
Sophie looked at the brunette. "Doesn't seem to stop you."
Lucy shrugged. "It's kind of like a challenge now. I'm starting to think that if I ever didn't have to plot and plan and sneak around it won't be half as much fun."
Kelly laughed, so did the others.
"You still haven't given us any details," Cassie said.
"What can I say really?" Kelly blushed deeply. "It was weird at first, but now...now it's...I don't really know how to say it."
The girls were silent for a long moment. Cassie spoke first, her voice subdued. "You really love him."
Kelly smiled a little. "That's one way of putting it."
At five minutes to midnight, Kelly walked into the small guest house. The main room was dark, but she could see light coming from the bedroom. She took a quick shower and pulled on the t-shirt she'd left out. She was only halfway surprised that he was still awake when she got into the bedroom. He glanced up from the book he was reading. She cocked her head to get a better look at the title.
"Crime and Punishment?" She pulled the shirt off and got into bed with him.
He put the book on the nightstand and pulled her close.
"Yeah. Don't know what the fuck Jimmy was thinking. He knows I hate Russian literature. Finished everything else he brought over though. You ever read it?" One hand moved over her hip and thigh. His mouth found hers in a soft kiss.
"No." Her fingers stroked over his chest. "Why do you hate Russian literature?"
"'Cause it's usually long and depressing. Course Russia was cold and depressing when I was there so I suppose you can't expect anything different." His hand started to stroke more freely over her body, as if he was refamiliarizing himself with her contours.
She sighed and leaned into his chest. "You've been to Russia?"
She felt his short laugh more than she heard it. "I been damn near everywhere, frail." He stroked her cheek, she looked up at him. "You got somewhere you wanna go?"