"I understand your concern, Marcus, but we cannot just let Valentine back us into a corner." Antoine's voice held all the exasperation he felt about the subject. It wasn't surprising since I'd hounded him about it every day for the last week.
Antoine's office was as meticulous as ever. Every book was in its place, every paper where it belonged. There wasn't even a single paper clip left astray. Sometimes I wondered why our esteemed leader even needed a maid in the first place.
I'd been against getting a live-in maid from the beginning. A cleaning service would have worked just as well with fewer complications. However, the rest of my brothers had a need to have someone pick up after them. Perhaps part of it was my brothers wanted someone to bother or dote on depending on their whim.
That desire brought us to our current subject, Piper Billings. A simple name for a more than complicated woman. She had weaseled her way into our house and into the hearts of at least two of my brothers... or so it seemed. Antoine and the twins were harder to read than Rayne and Wynn. Those two were easier to read than anyone, even though they tried to cover it up in their own special way, Rayne with anger and Wynn with a flippant attitude. Someone who didn't know them wouldn't have been able to see it, but as we'd been together for several decades, not much slipped past me.
Except for Antoine.
Our leader and savior was more than an expert on hiding his true feelings and intentions. I had to work extra hard to get a read on him, like I was trying to do now.
"Valentine will not stop until we get rid of her or give her to him." I crossed my large arms over my chest, my gaze set on the man before me. "If you won't give him to her, then you need to eliminate the cause of his attraction."
Sighing, Antoine sat his pen down and locked those icy blue eyes on me. "Even if I dismissed Miss Billings, there is no guarantee that Valentine won't go looking for her on his own." He pushed his shoulders back and his braided blonde hair fell over his shoulder. "No, she is better kept where we can keep an eye on her."
"Then at least bind her."
That one word resonated through the room and told me that I'd already pressed my luck. I could keep pushing him, but it would not have a pleasant outcome. I'd been on the receiving end of Antoine's wrath a time or two in our long life together, and it was not something I enjoyed.
No, better to let it lie and try again later. Perhaps if I were able to convince the others to let her go, then Antoine would be more willing to comply.
With a jerk of my head, I turned on my heel and left his office. I'd always prided myself on being a man of few words. There was a time to speak up and a time to stay silent. Right now, it was the former.
I walked toward the library where I knew one of my brothers, Wynn, would be lounging about. It was already past midnight, and most places in town would be closed. There wasn't much a vampire could do after nightfall here. The bars closed at one, and unless you were looking for a pharmacy, there wasn't much nightlife. While that was something I enjoyed about this town, my other brothers were frustrated by it.
Wynn, for instance, loved the attention of the mortals. He had voted for our house to live in some place ‘fun.’ at least in his eyes. New York or Los Angeles, those were his top picks. Living in the middle of Georgia in a town that barely had a library and a movie theater wasn't his idea of fun.
But he was young, younger than Antoine and me. We long since had gotten over the need to be in the middle of it all. The pheromones humans gave off would fill the clubs and parties like a thick fog which vampires would revel in. We enjoyed blood the most, of course, but knowing what humans wanted was just as filling.
It wasn't the same as mind reading, not like Rayne, who could see right inside your mind as if he were watching one of those television sets. It took time and practice to build enough of a wall up to keep him out. It was exhausting, and most of us didn't bother anymore.
When I pushed open the heavy door of the library, I was so lost in thought that I didn't notice our little maid trying to leave. With a small oomph and a bump against my chest that I barely felt; Piper fell toward the hardwood floor. My hand automatically shot out and caught her wrist to stop her descent mid-fall.
"Oh, shit." She gasped, her chestnut colored eyes darting from side to side as she tried to regain her bearings.
With a little tug, I pulled her to her feet only inches from myself. Against my better judgment, I inhaled deeply. The scent of her filled my senses, and I felt myself harden. Peculiar that a woman like her with her big doe eyes and heart-shaped face could cause such a reaction in me. I hadn't felt that kind of immediate arousal in years... if ever.
"Thank you," Piper murmured, her eyes darting down to the floor as she shifted in place. "I should have been watching where I was going."
"I ran into you."
The rumble of my voice seemed to startle her, and her eyes widened, her head jerking up to meet my gaze. I cocked my head to the side, to search for what was so attractive about her that she had us all falling over ourselves to keep her.
Well, almost all of us.
"Still, I should have been paying attention. I get used to being by myself during the day I forget you guys live here too." She huffed a laugh, tucking a hair behind her ear and showing off her dangling silver earrings. Three tiny crosses attached with small circles between them swung in the air and bumped against her jawline.
"Those don't work," I told her with a nod of my head.
Her brows furrowed, and she pulled back slightly, then her hand reached up and touched the dangling crosses. "Oh." The small word made her lips form into a perfect O-shape before her brows shot up to her forehead as she shook her head back and forth. "No, no. I would never... I mean, I didn't pick them because you're vampires." Piper continued to ramble on and muttered apologies, her heart beating rapidly as I stared down at her.
Piper quieted, and her head jerked toward the voice. Wynn approached, his hands in his pockets and a languid sort of movement to his gait. His black hair curled as it brushed his shoulders, and his eyes bright blue twinkled with mirth. I could see his tattoo of our house sigil between the folds of his unbuttoned shirt, the same one that matched the one above my heart.
"Wynn, when did you get here?" Piper's voice became low and breathy, her heart skipping a beat as she looked dreamily at Wynn.
"I've been here the entire time." Wynn gave her one of his trademark smiles, the smile that usually had women dropping their pants for him in seconds. He pointed a finger at Piper and wiggled it around. "You should pay more attention to your surroundings. Isn't it past your bedtime?"
Piper's cheeks turned an interesting color of pink, and she ducked her head before giggling. "I couldn't sleep. I was looking for something to read." She held up the books in her hands, and my eyes finally dipped below her face.
The short, silky shorts and the tank top that hugged her curvy frame collaborated with her story. My eyes briefly registered how she hadn't put a bra on beneath her top and how the cool library had made that fact quite prominent.
Wynn clearly noticed as well. His tongue slid across his top teeth, and he bared his fangs to her for a brief second before turning his eyes from the tempting maid to me. "Were you looking for me, brother?"
I inclined my head in a nod.
"Then, by all means, let's head to the kitchen. I could use a drink." He gave Piper a sideways glance that made me think he was contemplating taking a bite out of her. That was strictly against the rules... not that Wynn ever had intentions of following any of Antoine's rules.
"You should go to bed, it's not safe in these halls after dark." Wynn winked, and that made her giggle once more. It was a pretty sound, one that I wouldn't mind hearing more of. I could understand why they would all want to keep her around.
But what we wanted and what was needed wasn't the same thing.
"Yes, brother." I opened the door and gestured outside into the hallway. "Let us drink."
Thank you for reading!