Love's Prisoner (Page 3)
"We need to get you out of here," he said urgently, completely ignoring her order. "And quickly. The moon's almost up."
"Do not start that again," she ground out.
"Out," he was muttering, "Need to get you out. Not safe here."
"Brother, have you got that right." She started to stand and nearly pitched forward; she would have thought her eyes would have adjusted to the dark by now, but she was still effectively blind. And exhausted. And—how was this for the stupidest thing ever—she wanted him to put his arms around her and promise everything would be all right.
What if she was stuck in here with him all night? What if he decided to take her again? Could she fight him off? Did she want to?
She heard him stand, heard him bang experimentally on the elevator roof, then heard the groan of metal as he somehow forced the locked hatch. She shook her head at the sound, amazed at his strength. He could have broken my neck, she thought dumbly. Anytime he wanted.
"Why the hell didn't you do that twenty minutes ago?"
He gripped her waist and lifted her up, up . . . and through the small trapdoor. "I had other things on my mind," he replied shortly. "Like how badly I needed to touch you."
"Yes," he said quietly. "But now I can think again. For a while."
"Don't flatter yourself," she mumbled, cautiously getting to her knees on top of the elevator. She heard him chuckle beneath her and then abruptly, shockingly, he was crouching beside her on the roof. Off the floor and through the trap door in one bound, apparently. It was almost enough to make her wonder . . .
But that was ridiculous. This was the 21st century, and there were no such things as werewolves, dammit!
"Why have we left the relative safety of the elevator, to teeter out here on top of the elevator, you nutcake?" she asked with saccharine sweetness.
"I'm definitely planning on falling in love with you," he said casually, in a tone he might have used to ask her to close the window. "Any woman in mortal danger who can tease her assailant after being terrified is definitely worth taking to mate. Just so you know."
"Save it for your parole hearing, pal," she said. Before she could elaborate on what the judicial system would do to him with her blessing, she heard their death warrant: the elevator cables groaning from stress. She belatedly realized she was in danger of more than forced sex this evening. "Oh, God," she said, abruptly terrified. Had she thought she was scared when Tall, Dark, and Horny had taken her against her will? She hadn't known what scared was. "Oh, God—what should we do?"
"Live," he said simply and, absurdly, she took comfort in that. She had to, because never was the dark more terrifying. She could hear his rapid movements, hear twangs as parts of the cable give way under the stress, hear the elevator doors two feet above her creaking as they were forced open.
"Be careful!" she said sharply.
"Always," he said, and suddenly his hands were on her again, and she felt herself effortlessly boosted and shoved. She reached out and clutched wildly, and felt the carpet in front of her. The building was as dark as the elevator had been, but she could tell he had held her up, almost over his head (no one is that strong) and boosted her through the elevator doors. In the pure dark, she could sense no one else around, which was just as well, given the shredded ruin of her clothes. Now his hands were on her heels, and he shoved, hard. She zipped across the carpet as if it was wet tile, her entire front going warm from the friction (he's not crazy, he really is a werewolf).
She turned around and crawled back toward the open doors, groping for the drop-off. "Come out!" she cried in the dark, hearing the sharp twang of more cable parting. "Jump out! Quick! You can do it, weirdo!"
"Stay back from the doors!" he said sharply. "You can't see a thing, you'll fall right back down here. Stay—"
She would obsess about that for weeks, that his last words were warnings to her. Because at that moment, the main cable parted and the elevator car plummeted five floors into the basement.
Her rapist had become her savior. And paid the price with his life. She shouldn't have cared. She should have been relieved. And she was relieved. So relieved that she put her face down on the dusty carpet and sobbed as if her heart would break.
Of course, there were questions. There were always questions. And when she stopped crying, Jeannie tried to answer them. No, she didn't know the elevator passenger's name. No, she didn't know how he'd managed to break the hatch lock and lift her several feet to safety. No, she didn't know how he'd over-ridden the safety locks on the doors, forcing them open. No, she didn't need to see a doctor. No, she couldn't identify the body—when they found it—because she had never seen his face. No and no and no.
She supposed she could sympathize with the building's management. A half-naked, hysterical woman cheated death on their property and now only wanted to go home . . . of course they were loathe to let her go.
She had her chance to tell them what he had done to her, how he had forced her—there was even a lawyer in the room to take her statement (the building management's corporate counsel, doubtless prepared to beg her not to sue)—but she couldn't do it. As much as he had scared her, used her, she couldn't bring herself to lay charges against him. If the price for her life was forced sex and mind-numbing pleasure, she was going to count herself very lucky indeed.
She saw a doctor at their insistence, a doctor who raised his eyebrows at the shredded ruin of her clothes but said nothing, a doctor who could tell she had recently had sex but, after her rude replies to his carefully phrased questions, said nothing to the others. Probably assumed it's my nature to seek out quickies in elevators, she thought darkly, and at the thought of her "quickie" partner, crushed and dead, she nearly started crying again.
The doctor had tried to insist on an overnight hospital stay; she had been firm. Like mountains were firm. She would not stay, she would spend the night in her own bed, thank you, will someone call me a cab?
They gave her a cab voucher—her purse was at the bottom of the elevator shaft, along with her wallet, ATM card, credit cards . . . and her rapist/savior. The cab came. She got in. The cab dropped her at home. She got out. Went inside. Threw her clothes away. Showered for a long time. Wept for a longer time.
Three weeks later, about the time she noticed her period was late, her martyred rapist/savior showed up on her doorstep.
Michael Wyndham III stepped from the car, nervous as a bridegroom. Which, he supposed, he was. It had taken him nearly three weeks to track Jeannie down, weeks of frustration and guilt and worry. But now he was going to see her again. The thought of taking in her scent, maybe even touching her, made his pulse pound in his ears. Oh, he had it bad.
He grinned. It was marvelous, to find his mate. And in such a strange way! His father had tried to tell him, but Michael had never believed, had always figured one female was as the next. But he had found his mate through purest luck and, best of all, most wonderful of all, she was an extraordinary human! And homo lupus, unlike homo sapiens, mated for life.
Now to persuade Jeannie, who thought her future husband was nuttier than a granola bar.
Derik and Jon got out of the car and the three of them examined the apartment building before them. Minimum security—not that that would be a problem for three werewolves in their prime—and a pleasing location, right on the lake, with a park across the street. Best of all, less than a four hour drive from the Wyndham estate.
"Remember," he told his men. Derik and Jonathan were his closest friends, his fiercest protectors. "She was scared to death. I forced her, and she had to assume I died. She'll be terrified when she recognizes me."
"If she recognizes you," Derik reminded him. He was as blonde and fair as Michael was dark. "Her eyes aren't as good as yours. It was probably pitch dark in the elevator to her."
"If she recognizes me," Michael agreed. "I'm just reminding you, you'll need—"
"Patience," Derik and Jon echoed, then laughed at him. Michael rolled his eyes and cuffed Jon in the back of the head.
"It's true," he said, "I might be repeating myself."
"Quit fretting, Michael," Derik said. "We'll not muss your mate."
"Do you think she's pregnant?" Jon asked with hopeful curiosity. He was a curly-haired redhead with boyish features. He looked all of sixteen, and was twice that. "The pack has been after you for a long time to mate and provide an heir. It would be wonderful if she—"
"Was pregnant and happy to see our pack leader, and embraced our lifestyle with open arms, and settled into the pack as if she was born to it?" Derik shook his head at his friends. "None of this is going to be easy, for her or for us. Better that she not be pregnant. Then Michael can let her go."
"Enough," Michael said sharply. Let her go? Let that witty, beautiful, sensual woman go? In his dreams, his ears still rang with her cries of ecstasy. Let her go?
Moot, he comforted himself. She was surely pregnant. Her scent had been all sweet ripeness, like a bursting peach. And beneath him, she had felt—
"Excuse me, O mighty king of the werewolves," Derik said dryly, "but you're about to walk into that pillar."
"I am not," he said, swerving at the last moment. He grinned at his friends, who rolled their eyes. Jon had taken a mate last year, and thus knew exactly what his pack leader was going through. Derik had not, and thus thought his leader was being foolishly sentimental.
"She was scared," he said aloud, remembering, "but she never showed it."
"I still think this is nuts," Derik said gloomily. "And bad luck. Of all the times to get stuck in an elevator—with an ovulating female who couldn't fight you off, who just happens to be human and not believe in werewolves—"