With a shimmy and subtle surge, they were off for the outside world. And Peyton was not looking forward to whatever was cooking at his father’s house. Given the way he had bailed on First Meal with Romina and her parents, he was going to be in trouble with his pops.
What was the saying, though?
Same shit. Different day.
Saxton twisted around so he could see out the back of the truck’s cab. As the two human men approached Ruhn, they were on a saunter—until suddenly they weren’t, their bodies rushing forward in a coordinated attack.
“The hell I’m not calling,” Saxton muttered as he fumbled with his phone.
As soon as he sent the text, he flipped his eyes up just to make sure Ruhn was still alive—and caught the rather alarming sight of one of the men flying through the air, ass over teakettle. The guy landed in a heap on his head, flopping over like a loose bag of potatoes.
Ruhn grabbed the other one and slammed him face-first into the side of the truck. Then came the hits: to the gut, to the jaw in an uppercut, to the groin. Ruhn’s fists were controlled, vicious weapons and he used them as if he had a repertoire of offensive and defensive moves so vast, this was just child’s play.
The bag of potatoes rallied and got up on loose legs, his drunk-walk back to the fray suggesting he might better head in the opposite direction. What wasn’t a joke? That knife in his hand.
Saxton pounded on the rear window and then lunged for the driver’s door, throwing it open and jumping out.
Ruhn was already on it. He glanced behind him at the human and then refocused on the one he was working on, bending the man’s arm at a weird angle—and driving the lower part of it down onto the high, hard edge of the bed. The bones broke instantly and Ruhn was smart enough to clap a palm onto the mouth that cranked open, to muffle the scream.
Throwing the man to the side like litter, Ruhn spun around.
He wasn’t even breathing hard.
And he was not the male Saxton had just had dinner with, that was for sure. His eyes were cold and curiously flat, as if his warmth and shy kindness had given his wheelhouse over to a serial killer. In fact, his face showed no expression at all. It was a frozen mask of the features Saxton had loved staring at over the French cuisine and the candlelight.
The human with the blade staggered over, a trail of bright red blood drops behind him in the snowpack. Clearly more aggressive and angry than competent, one got the sense this was not going to end well for him.
And it didn’t.
Ruhn overpowered him instantly, grabbing on to the wrist that controlled the knife, and spinning the human around, so that he also banged headfirst into the side of the truck—and instantly, the knife was down in the snow.
The human was not far behind. Ruhn forced the man to the ground, mounted his back, and grabbed on to the sides of the man’s head.
He was going to twist until the neck broke. Saxton saw it clear as day.
“No!” He jumped forward. “Ruhn, stop!”
At the sound of Saxton’s voice, Ruhn went statue, nothing on him moving even as he was poised to snap that cranium right around.
“Let him go. We don’t need the police involved—and there could be a lot of eyes on this.” Saxton glanced up at the apartment over the restaurant. “Come on, we need to go.”
The shades were all still down on those second-story windows, and the upper floors on either side of Premier were dark. But all it would take was a single set of curious eyes, drawn by an unusual sound, and there were going to be complications all over the place.
Saxton reached down and touched Ruhn’s shoulder. “Come with me.”
God, the male wasn’t even breathing hard. Even as those humans were panting from exertion and pain, great puffs coming out of their mouths like steam from old trains, Ruhn was a robot, something mechanical that did not have to concern itself with oxygen.
“Ruhn, look at me.”
Beneath the male, the human was straining, grunting, begging, his coarse face red as a neon beer sign.
Ruhn’s head cranked around and those matte eyes focused for a moment—and chilled Saxton to the bone. Who could ever have guessed a demon was behind that placid, timid exterior? This was another personality entirely.
From out of thin air, Rhage and V arrived on scene, the Brothers dressed for fighting in black leathers and jackets that held arsenals of weapons. The surprise on their faces? He totally understood.
Rhage stepped forward and addressed Ruhn. “Hey, son, what are we doing here?”
The human in that hold was struggling to breathe, spit and blood running out from between his crooked teeth, but it wasn’t as if Ruhn seemed to notice or care.
Rhage got down on his haunches and started to talk quietly to the male. Meanwhile, V closed in from behind.
“You need to step off, Hollywood,” the Brother said. “We’re done with the chatting.”
After a moment, Rhage nodded, and V went into action, going behind Ruhn, snagging a hold under each of his arms, and yanking outward so that the grip was broken. As the human’s face landed in the snow with a bounce that reminded Saxton of a plate hitting the kitchen floor, Ruhn was dragged off onto his ass.
Now came the breathing.
Like a spell had been broken, Ruhn started to inhale and exhale in great pumps, his hands coming up to hold his head, a strangled sound like a moan leaving his mouth.
Saxton stepped back as the humans were packed off by the Brothers, the two men scrambling for that truck that they had parked around the corner. There was a good chance short-term memories were being erased, and Saxton didn’t want that. He wanted them to be scared into leaving Minnie alone.
But he had other things to worry about.
With eyes that were now dazed, Ruhn looked up at him. “I didn’t want you to see this part of me,” he whispered.
Staring down at the male…Saxton had no idea what to say.
Saxton left the scene about twenty minutes later, dematerializing to…wait, where was he going?
As he re-formed in a stand of pine trees, he looked around, and was nominally amazed he’d been able to pull off the disappearing trick at all. Ah, yes. Minnie’s farmhouse. That was right.
Walking through the snow to the front door, he recognized he was ruining his loafers, but he didn’t care. And it was a relief that things were opened up for him before he even mounted the steps.
The female who stood in the doorway was the one from the portrait in the parlor, the younger version of Minnie, only taller and without the laugh lines. With dark hair that was long and straight, and a lithe body in jeans and a Syracuse sweatshirt, she was casual—until you met her pale eyes.
This was a very sharp, very protective female. And he liked her instantly.
“Hi,” she said. “Welcome. I’m Minnie’s granddaughter, also called Miniahna—but I go by Ahna.”
As he approached her, he tried to reconnect with his purpose here, his job, his reality. It was so hard. He kept seeing Ruhn’s mask-like face, and with that image in his mind, it was hard to focus on anything else—impossible not to obsessively try to reconcile the violence he’d witnessed firsthand with the rest of what he knew, and liked, about the male.
“I am Saxton,” he said as he stepped onto the stoop and bowed low. “It is my pleasure to be of service to you and your granhmen.”
“Thank you so much for all your help.” The female dropped her voice. “This has been a nightmare like you can’t believe.”
“We’re going to take care of this,” he affirmed in equal quiet. “Oh, there you are, Minnie.”
He smiled at the older female as he entered the parlor. “How are you?”
“I am well, thank you.” Minnie glanced at Ahna from her seat. “But I don’t see why I have to leave. What happened? What’s changed?”
Saxton went over and sat down beside her on the sofa. “As we discussed, I went and spoke with the humans. I don’t want to alarm you, but there was, shall we say, a bit of an altercation.”
Read: Ruhn almost decapitated one of them. With his bare hands.
“And in light of that, we feel as though you should stay with your granddaughter for a couple of nights.”