Warning: some nudity!
It took four hours to get to Beach City on I-76. By the time he reached the hospital, he’d called Eden twelve times.
Kieran rushed through Beach City Medical’s emergency doors and immediately spotted his best friend. “Eden!”
Eden looked up from where he’d been slumped against the seats. “You made it.”
“As fast as I could. Sorry I took so long.” Kieran walked over and sat down next to Eden and asked, “What’s going on? Has anyone come to give you a status report?”
“Just the cops.”
Kieran frowned. “Start from the beginning. What happened to your sister?”
At the mention of Belle, Eden started to cry. “She was raped. Those bastards raped her and left her to die. If I hadn’t come home when I did. Oh God, I’m going to be sick.” He got up and ran to the bathroom.
Kieran was shocked into silence. What do you say to something like that? First Lorde, now Belle and she was only sixteen!
It took two hours before someone came out to talk to them. He was slowly going crazy. The emotions from every sick and dying patient washed through him. Wave after wave of it. It was better than the last time he’d been in a hospital, when his mother’s own emotional pain had been almost too much to bear. Matt had taught him how to block out the worst of it over the years but still, sitting next to Eden was starting to scrape away at his nerves.
“Mr. Luck?” A nurse came out and looked around the waiting room.
“Yes.” Eden stood up and so did Kieran.
The nurse looked them over. “Are you her guardian?”
“Yes,” Eden choked out. “Yes, I’m all she has.”
“I see.” The nurse glanced at Kieran before continuing. “She’s sleeping now but the police would like to ask her some questions when she wakes up.”
“I understand. How is she? Can I see her?”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Mr. Luck. She’s had a very traumatic experience and she needs to stay calm.”
Before Eden could protest, Kieran said, “Still, we would like to make sure she’s comfortable.”
The nurse bristled, clearly not appreciating his insinuation. “And you are?”
“Alistair King. I believe the children’s wing is named after my family.” He stared the nurse down. He didn’t usually throw his family name around but in this instance, he was more than willing to use his status to get what he wanted. Eden wanted to see Belle and he was going to make sure that happened.
“I see. Let me get the doctor out here to talk to you and I’ll check to make sure Bellamy is situated.”
“You do that,” he said, staring after her as she scurried away.
They were soon looking in on Belle as she rested in a private room. The doctor had come out and explained her many injuries but she was expected to make a full recovery. She had no broken bones or internal bleeding. Her biggest battle, the doctor had warned, would be psychological.
Kieran looked down at her, a child, barely older than Steph, and felt rage start to bubble up. Images of what he would do to the men who’d done this to her flashed through his mind. He would kill them all. Shaking his head, he looked up at Eden. Those weren’t his feelings, they were Eden’s emotions flowing through him.
“Eden…” he whispered but his friend was so immersed in his anger and thoughts of revenge that he didn’t hear Kieran, much less even remember that he was in the room. “Eden!”
Eden looked up and seemed startled to find Kieran there, just as he suspected. “Yeah?”
“Belle needs you now more than ever. You are all she has left. You’ll have to take better care of yourself, okay?”
Eden just stared at him for a minute. “Al, can I ask a favor from you?”
“If something happens to me, you’ll watch out for her, right?”
He grit his teeth. “Nothing is going to happen to you.”
“Just, promise me. Okay?”
Kieran relented and nodded. Eden was looking for reassurances and though he didn’t like the emotions pouring from of his friend, he knew he would make and keep that promise. “Okay.”
Eden’s shoulders sagged and he leaned down to press a soft kiss against Bellamy’s forehead, whispering, “Okay.”
Kieran made his way to his apartment three weeks later. He was exhausted but it was nothing compared to how Eden was feeling. His home had burned to the ground with the murdered bodies of his parents still inside. It was by sheer luck that he’d come home in time to save his sister. From burning, at least.
The police wouldn’t let him leave the city, so both Bellamy and Eden were staying with Kieran’s parents. Matt had used his magic to persuade the police that they were the best option for Belle instead of foster care. She’d gone through so much. He shuddered just thinking about it.
He headed up to bed without turning any of the lights on. He just wanted fall into bed and sleep for a few days but tomorrow was Wednesday and he had to go visit Gracie. At least she was back in Oasis Landing and he only had a two-hour drive.
He woke up to his phone buzzing. Thinking it might be Eden, he got up and went in search of his jeans. He checked his messages and smiled. It was Lorde.
An hour later, they were sitting at a small bistro eating breakfast.
“How’s your friend doing?” Lorde asked as she studied her menu. He’d called to tell her he would be away for an extended period while he was still in the hospital that first night and had given her a watered down version of what happened.
“He’s okay. Belle is finally settled at my parent’s house so we’re hoping she continues to do well in a new environment.”
“I’m glad to hear it.” Their meal arrived and they spent a few minutes eating in silence but he could tell she wanted to ask him something. She was fidgety, spooning up some of her fruit parfait but only taking a bite or two before putting her spoon back down. Finally she tilted her head and said, “Can I ask you something?”
“When you talk about your parents, you always call your father by his first name but not your mother.”
He took a bite of his carbonara and looked at her while he chewed. If they were dating, it was only fair that she want to know more about him and vice versa. Swallowing he said, “Matt is my step-dad. Although I’ve known him practically my whole life, he never asked and I never volunteered to call him dad, not even after he adopted me and my sister.”
“You have a sister?”
He grinned. “Yes, Steph – Stephanie. She’s fifteen going on thirty. She calls our parents mom and dad even though she’s not their biological child.”
“We have the same father, different mothers. He died when we were both very young and Steph’s mom dropped her off on our doorstep and never looked back. My mom took one look at her and decided we were keeping her.”
“Your mom sounds like a lovely woman.”
“She is.” Kieran pointed his fork at her. “What about you?”
She looked startled. “What about me?”
“Oh, no. I’m an only child. I was – an accident for my parents.” She shrugged but ducked her head.
“I’m sorry,” he laid a hand over hers and was happy when she squeezed it. It still amazed him that he could read nothing from her. He didn’t know if it was a good thing but it made him feel normal. He didn’t know anything about her that she didn’t want to share. He wouldn’t have an opportunity to mess this up by saying the wrong thing.
Well, he could always say the wrong thing but at least it would be because he was an idiot and not because he was a freak.
They finished eating and he invited her back to his place. He had to get ready to go see Gracie and he figured he could get what he needed and then drop Lorde off on his way out of town.
“This is where you live?” She sound puzzled.
Kieran opened the door to his apartment and let her in. “Yeah. Why do you sound so incredulous?”
“This is the penthouse of the Marquee. I once looked into an apartment here on one of the lower floors and they don’t even rent out. How can you afford this?” She narrowed her eyes at him. “I thought you said you appraised artwork?”
He laughed. “I did say that, didn’t I?”
She hadn’t taken a step closer since she walked in the front door. “I don’t date drug dealers, Kieran.”
He stopped laughing abruptly. “I can assure you that I do not deal drugs. I don’t deal anything. Promise.”
“So what do you do? Honestly.”
He sighed and walked to his couch. “Do you want to sit down? Something to drink maybe?”
Leaning on the edge of his sofa, he started ticking names off his fingers, “My full name is Alistair Kieran London Zenteri King. My mother is Eva Louise King, daughter of Connor and Rae Rose London, granddaughter of Antonio and Aaliyah Torres and great-granddaughter of Adejola and Ijoema Shelby, King and Queen of Cape Verde. My great-grandmother was a famous movie star, my grandmother is a renowned scientist and my grandfather is a London of the Sunset Valley Londons. My mother is a famous artist who paints and sculpts under the pseudonym Lou Torres. My uncles, Anthony and Riley London are the inventors of things like the hover-board, jetpacks and PLUMbots. They actually created the hover-board as a birthday gift for me when I was a child.
“Brian Gates, founder and sole owner of uGenex, is a family friend and I still keep in touch with my cousins, the Crown Prince of Cape Verde, Tyson Martel-Shelby and his sister Princess Demi. In short, I don’t actually do anything. I am what you would call, ‘independently wealthy.’ Although I do have a degree in Art History and Post-Medieval Artwork, so I appraise paintings from that Era. From time to time.”
While he’d been speaking, Lorde had moved further into the room and was now perched on one of his kitchen stools, a look of amazement on her face.
“So now that you know, do you still want to date me?” He didn’t know why he’d told her all of that, except once she knew his full name, it would be easy for her to look him up and find out all this information on her own. He had his own damn Wikipedia page. The only thing he’d left out was his date of birth.
“My name is Lorde Penelope Nueman Lawson. My parents are Margo and Marcus Lawson of the Lucky Palms Lawsons.” She smiled slightly.
“The owners of Lawson Media?” Lawson Media was a corporate conglomerate that owned half of everything on the planet. TV, Newspapers, radio, telecommunications. He’d even read that they were negotiating with uGenex for access to the hologram technology.
“My father’s family, yes.”
They sat sizing each other up. So they both came from wealthy families and they both chose not to flaunt that wealth. Although, she’d gone a little to the extreme, stripping at a club. He wasn’t one to judge though, being a criminal and all. Finally, he said, “It’s nice to meet you, Lorde Penelope Nueman Lawson.”
She smiled and said, “Yes.”
“Yes, I still want to date you.”
Kieran burst out laughing.
They were seated at his piano, Lorde on his lap, when she turned around and asked, “Why do you come to the club so often?”
“To see you.” He thought that was pretty obvious.
“Why were you there that first night?”
She turned to the keys and lightly played scales while waiting for his answer and he thought back to the night he’d met her. “We were celebrating.”
She seemed unhappy with that answer. “It’s okay if you don’t want to tell me,” she said, shrugging and placing her hand on her lap.
“You ask a lot of questions,” he couldn’t help but observe. He didn’t mind so much as long as the questions were about him. But he felt uncomfortable talking about his family. Perhaps it was just habit to shy away from telling people too much, too soon. Perhaps it was because for whatever reason, he couldn’t read her.
She grinned, glancing at him. “My parents used to be reporters.”
He laughed and tugged gently on her hair. “Eden makes me celebrate every time I get a job. I’m a freelancer – I guess you could say – so income isn’t a steady thing for me.”
“What do you do with the money since you don’t actually need it?” She’d placed one of her hands on his thigh and was making circular patterns up and down his leg.
He stared at her as she licked her lower lip. “Donate it to cultural institutions, mostly. Pay for Eden’s boozing, usually.”
“Kieran?” She leaned in until her breasts pressed against his arm.
“Can I kiss you?”
He leaned in until his lips were almost touching hers. “Yes.”
Lorde wrapped her arms around his neck, pressing her lips harder against his. He shifted the both of them until her legs were straddled around his hips. He wrapped his own arms around her back and held her close to his body. He didn’t try to control the kiss though. She’d asked to kiss him, so he’d let her do just that.
She pushed down and his body immediately responded. He moaned and her tongue darted into his mouth. Her hands traveled up in to his hair and she held his head steady as she continued to kiss him. He began to knead her ass, pressing her closer into his growing erection.
She groaned and pulled back, eyes heavy with lust. “Kieran?”
He stood up with her still in his arms and began to walk towards the couch but before he made it there, his phone started to ring.
“Don’t answer it.” She was panting.
He didn’t want to but he had to. “I’m sorry, it might be important.”
He was headed back to Lorde’s apartment to drop her off.
Eden had called and asked him to come over. Nothing like the reminder of a horrifying event to kill the mood. He would pick up Gracie and head out to Beach City for the rest of the day.
“Can I ask you one more question?” Lorde was in the passenger seat, watching the scenery pass by. She’d been tense since he called a stop to their heated encounter but he couldn’t blame her. He was feeling a bit cranky too.
“My date of birth is January 19, 2061,” he joked.
“That’s good to know.” She rolled her eyes but smiled. “I wanted to ask where you go on Wednesdays.”
Kieran’s smile grew wider. “Oh, I go to see my cousin, Gracie.”
He could see her trying to puzzle that out. “Is there something wrong with her?”
Lorde shrugged. “I just thought…I don’t know. You go every week; that’s a little weird, don’t you think?”
“No, I don’t.” He pulled up in front of her building. “I made a promise to her and I always keep my promises. Simple as that.”
He might have been harsher than he’d wanted to be but Gracie was a sensitive topic for him. She was meant to do something that would be a catalyst for a great change in his life. He’d known this for as long as he could remember. He was supposed to look out for her and protect her and in return, she would make his life better. Aside from Eden, she was his best friend and his Wednesdays were for her. He’d promised.
“Okay.” Lorde pushed on the handle of the door, but before she stepped out she said, “I’m glad you’re a man of your word.” She kissed him and then was gone.
“Hey mom, everything alright?” Kieran glanced out the window while his mother gave him the latest update about Belle’s recovery. As he listened, he sunk down on the piano seat. “Well, what does the doctor think?”
“She needs supervision. Around-the-clock care. I’m sorry Al.”
Kieran scrubbed at his eyes. Jesus, Eden… “It’s alright mom, it’s not your fault. How’s Eden doing?”
“That’s the thing; he doesn’t want to do it. You have to talk to him. She needs more help than we can give her. He needs to accept that.”
“Yeah, okay. I’ll talk to him.”
“How’s everyone else? How’s Steph and Matt?” He hadn’t seen his family since his mom’s birthday the month before.
“Everyone is good. They say hello – wait, hold on, Steph wants to talk to you.”
“Hello, Alistair?” His sister’s voice came on the line, sounding excited.
“Hey Blondie.” He listened while she chattered about all the latest gossip in her life. He loved Steph and it broke his heart to think that Eden couldn’t have these moments with his own sister anymore.
He talked to her for a few minutes more before hanging up.
He called Lorde and asked if he could come over. She was working that night so he went to pick her up at the club. He was quiet through the whole ride, thoughts of Belle and Eden running through his head. What the hell was he going to say to his friend? He drove Lorde to her apartment and followed her upstairs to her duplex.
As she opened the door, she turned to look at him. “Are you okay?”
Gently pushing her in, he closed the door behind them. “No.” He reached for her and kissed her, and she wrapped her arms around him and kissed him back. They stood by the front door, making out like teenagers until he lost all breath and had to come up for air.
Lorde placed a hand on his chest. “What happened?”
“Nothing, everything. I just – I needed to kiss you.”
He didn’t know if she believed him and he couldn’t explain any better than that. When she took his hand and led him upstairs, he exhaled and squeezed her hand. She looked back and smiled, worry and understanding in her eyes.
Having never been upstairs, he still wasn’t surprised to find more Asian artwork. All older than the medieval period. “You really like Asian sculpture, don’t you?”
“Yes,” she laughed. “It’s a reminder to myself to make time to go.”
“You’ve never been?”
“Yeah, we have some family there.”
He tugged on her hand to stop her. “What?”
“You’re this educated, world-traveling aristocrat. And I’m…not. Sometimes I wonder what I can possibly bring to this relationship.”
He leaned down and kissed her. “You’re smart and funny, caring, and you wanted me before you knew all those things about me. Whatever you bring, I’ll take and be grateful you shared it with me.”
She pulled away after a while and led him into her bedroom. She had a four-poster bed right in the middle of the room. A small couch and TV area and a door leading to what he assumed was a bathroom. He smiled when he saw the mounted photos of the two of them above her sofa.
Now that he was in her room, he felt unsure about what to do next. If truth were told, he…
“I have a confession to make.”
She’d taken her shoes off and had started to reach for the zipper of her jeans but stopped. “What?”
“I’ve never – I don’t…”
She smiled and walking over to him began to unbutton his shirt. As she bared his chest, she kissed each exposed area. He lost his train of thought for a minute and helped her get the shirt off quicker. He leaned down and caught her lips, kissing her even while he helped her out of her own clothes.
They weren’t rushing, though there was a sense of urgency in their actions. As she stripped down to just her panties, he let his hand trail down the sides of her body. He swept his hands up her stomach and cupped her breasts, something he’d wanted to do for a very long time.
She reached down and unzipped his pants, pushing it and his boxers down to the floor. It wasn’t until then that he remembered what he’d wanted to say. “Wait, Lorde, wait!”
She looked up at him, waiting. She was so close he could feel the heat from her body.
“I’ve never had sex before,” he confessed softly, completely embarrassed.
She blinked at him before smiling. “What?”
He felt himself blushing and he looked over her head to the incense burner on her dresser. “I’m a virgin.”
“How did that happen?”
“I never found the right woman?” The truth was, he’d only ever had one other girlfriend and that relationship had not ended well. He’d thought he was in love and had let it slip that he could feel other people’s emotions. When she’d demanded that he prove it, he’d told her about herself. She’d called him the devil and had wanted nothing to do with him after that. She’d told anyone who would listen that he was a freak and that he had tried to trick her into sleeping with him. It had been hard to get a date after that.
Lorde stopped touching him and took a step back, her head tilted to the side as she studied him. “You’re serious.”
He cupped his hand in front of his body, feeling incredibly stupid. Why had he even said anything? He nodded and lowered his eyes, unable to meet her gaze. “I’ll understand if you don’t want to – you know.” He bent down to retrieve his boxers. “I’m sorry.”
“Kieran.” Although he didn’t want to, he looked up at her. Once she was sure she had his attention, she slipped her hands into the waistband of her panties and slide them over her hips and down her legs. She stood there naked and raised her hand to him, palm up. “Come here, sweet boy.”