Allie lifted her chin up to the bar seven more times. Dane Stanton had had it put in for her several days ago. Allie was almost finished with her set when she heard the door open behind her. It was going to be another Stanton, she knew it. They’d been in here every day since she’d been brought here. The hospital staff didn’t tell her a thing if one of them was in the room with her. It was as if she didn’t exist when they were here, and they told everything to whoever was there. Dropping to the floor, she limped over to the chair but didn’t sit. She was determined to ignore the person until she was ready. When laughter rang around the room, she looked over at Dane and smiled. Now here was a person she could like. “How’s the leg today?” She told her it was fine, lying through her teeth about it. “Yeah, dumb fuck is doing all right too. His dad finally let him shift this morning, and he’s not in the best of humor.” “He’s a brute.” Dane told her that she was right. “Who the hell talks to someone like that? ‘You’ll do as you’re ordered.’ Like I’m ten or something.” “I think he’s regretting it.” Allie snorted. “Yes, that’s what I thought you’d say. I have something to tell you. Just so you know, I’m only the messenger in this, not the bad guy.” “If it’s about the Stantons, I couldn’t care less. And for the love of everything holy, please tell Mr. and Mrs. Stanton to stop telling me that they’re sorry.” Dane told her that they felt bad, and said they’d not raised him to be that way. “Well, I don’t know where he got his archaic beliefs, but they’re not going to work on me.” “I think he’s gotten that.” Allie didn’t want to sit down. She knew that if she did, she wasn’t getting back up easily. “So, if we’re through talking about the family and tossing about bullshit, how the fuck is your leg?” Instead of answering her, she lifted the pants to the scrubs she’d been wearing around the hospital for the last couple of days. She had no idea who had made it so she had a clean pair every morning, but she was glad for them. They covered the worst of the wound on her leg. “I’m getting better about getting around now. It still hurts like a mother fucker, but the doc told me that had I not been in such good shape in the first place, it could have been a lot worse.” Dane touched her fingers along the worst of the stitches. “I’m not going to be able to run for a while.” “That’s what I heard too.” Allie paced the room. “I have something to tell you. And you’re not going to like it. When you leave here, in the morning I heard, you’re going to the Stanton house. Your brother said that he couldn’t take care of you, what with going out of town again. Perry is going to go on a trip for me, and I said I’d keep an eye on you. But I was called out yesterday too.”
“I’m going home.” She shook her head. “I’m a grown woman, Dane. I can take care of myself. I have been for some time now, believe it or not. I can call a cab when I need to…. Why are you shaking your head? I’ll be fine.” “Maybe, and I’ve no doubt that you can care for yourself, but the Stantons, as you know, feel that this is their fault. Or at least some of it. They want to make sure that you’re well cared for.” Allie said again she was going home. “Brayden is here to take you home tonight instead.” “I’m not going.” Brayden came in the room just then, and she told him the same thing she’d told Dane. “I’m not going anywhere with you. I have a very nice rental that I’m going to stay in until my lease is up, then I’m going home.” “The lease has been forfeited.” Allie looked at Dane then Brayden. “Christian owns that building and several more downtown. He usually has nothing to do with it, but apparently, he pulled a few strings and got you out of it.” “I don’t want to be out of it. I want to live there.” She watched as Brayden started collecting her things. When he asked if she wanted to take the water bottle-cup like thing with her, she screamed. “Are you even listening to me?” “Yes. Great pair of lungs you have on you. But that didn’t answer my question.” Dane cleared her throat and he winked at her. “I’m trying to be a good deal nicer about this than Christian was going to be.” “He’s a dick.” Brayden wisely said nothing, but he did continue packing her things for her. Then a nurse came in with a cart for the flowers. “What the hell is going on here? I don’t want to fucking go with you.” “You’ve said that. Several times.” She growled at Brayden. “Yeah, since I know you’re aware of what we are, you’re going to have to do a lot better than that. It comes from the belly. Try it. Just growl like you mean it.” “I don’t like you.” He was laughing when he took her bag of clothing and other personal items out of the room. Allie looked at Dane. “You can’t expect me to live in that house where he is. I can’t stand the man.” “He doesn’t live there. I mean, he does when he is around, but for the most part, he has an apartment in the city. I’m supposed to find out what you want in a house, but I’m not going to ask you. I like my teeth in my head.” She stood up. “Are you ready?” “Why tonight?” She told her that Christian was out of town. “For how long? Forever? That would suit me just fine if he was.” “He’s gone to Cleveland to represent a man on trial for murder.” She sat down when Allie did. “So you know, he thinks the guy is guilty, but he wasn’t, at the time he said he’d do it, in any position to not go to court for him. He must do three more trials for this guy’s father before he can cut ties with him. His father, Landon Hartman, was someone that Christian worked for a long time ago, just out of college, and his contract is very specific as to how many cases he must take. I don’t think it’s much of a hardship doing things for Landon, but this isn’t his usual thing with the man. Repping the stepson, I mean.” “Why are you telling me this?” Dane said nothing, but Allie was sure that she was waiting for her to understand something. “I don’t know this man, nor his son.”
“Stepson. And yes, you do.” Allie stared at her, going over the names of clients that she’d had, friends and other relatives. But none of them rang…. She stared at Dane in horror. “Yes, it’s him.” “No.” Nodding, Dane said that it was him, the one and only. “He was supposed to be in prison. I don’t understand how…does Christian know? Is that why he took his case? To get back at me?” “I think he knows now, but he didn’t when he left here this morning. Christian wouldn’t do that, anyway. He might be a dick right now, but that’s not his normal way of doing anything. I’m not saying it’s you, but something about having you in his life has set him off.” Allie said no shit. “Anyway, he’s going to try and get out of representing him, based on the fact that you and he are mates.” “No one is going to care. Especially not Park. Mother fuck. Park Davis is…who did he kill? I’m sure that whoever it was, he did it because he had no choice. At least that’s what he’s going to claim.” Dane said that was what he was saying. “Of course he is. Just like he told everyone what he did to me was not his fault. Like I would want someone to rape me. How did you find out?” “About the rape?” Allie nodded. “I have some friends that found out what he’d been doing time for. I did a couple of searches and found one of his roomies in prison. They were very…. Well, not at first, but they became helpful when I pressured them. He used to brag about it. And as you know, you’re not the only co-ed he did that to.” “I know, there were nine of us. And that’s only the few that came forward. I still have nightmares about it.” Dane said that she would as well. “You’re taking me to the Stanton home because of this? You’re afraid he’ll find out that I’m with Christian, even though I’m not, and come here to get me.” “Something like that. Park’s mom will try her best to hold Christian to his contract. She has this unhealthy thing going for her son. Whatever. Christian doesn’t think Landon will after he finds out, but I don’t have as much trust in people as he does. You may not believe this, but Christian’s a good lawyer and rarely loses his cases. But Landon’s wife, Joy, the mother of the murderer, doesn’t want her little boy in prison again. I get the feeling Landon thinks he belongs there, but his hands are tied. Or so he told Christian.” Allie stood but had to hold onto things until her leg started to work for her. “With you being injured, there is a good possibility that he might be able to hurt you more than he did before. I know that you’re strong, Allie, and smart, but Park is desperate. Especially if Christian bails on him.” “I just don’t know why he’d think that Christian would care if he killed me or not.” Dane said nothing. Allie turned to her. “I know about shifters, Dane. I might not have a lot to do with them, but I know that they don’t normally treat their other halves the way he did me, nor say the things he did to me. Christian isn’t going to tame me or make me heel to his law.” “No, he won’t, and I told him that. We all have. But I’d like for you to talk to him. At least give him another chance before you take off.” Allie looked at her. “I know you well enough to know that you could be out in plain sight without anyone finding you.
Please? As my friend, will you at least give him another chance? It could save both your lives.” “All right. But if he tries that shit again, I’m going to injure him in a way that shifting will not repair. I won’t be treated that way.” Allie limped around the room, knowing that later she was going to be sore enough that she’d need the drugs again. The bullet might be gone, but the pain of it was still there. “One chance.” ~~~ Christian was waiting outside the courtroom when his phone rang. He pulled it out, saw that it was Dane, and nearly put it away. But he remembered what he’d been told, quite painfully, about what would happen to him if he didn’t make this work with Allie. Dane, like the rest of his family, had come down hard on him, and he knew that he deserved it. Answering the phone, he waited for her to tell him that Allie had told him to fuck off. “She said you would have one chance, but I’m not sure that you can handle her. She’s a lot meaner than I am.” Christian said he’d behave. “You’d better. She’s a good friend of mine, and I won’t have you fucking that up. All right?” “You know, I didn’t shoot her. The gun went off and that’s what did it.” He could see her there, lying with her skin sliced open on her leg. All exposed from the bullet that had been, he thought, intended for him. It had entered her thigh deep and gone the length of her leg to her knee before coming out, barely missing her foot. The mark there was small, just like a tear to her instep. From there, it had gone into the ground. She was lucky his dad had been there and he’d not panicked. He had. “I’m not saying I wasn’t at fault, but had she not had the gun out and pointed right at me, then she’d be all right now.” “You’re not helping.” He said he was sorry. “Anyway, she knows what you’re doing there and why she’s at your parents’ house. As you can imagine, she’s not all that happy about it, but knows that should he come for her, she isn’t in any position to save herself.” “I need to talk to her about what went on. I know what the reports say and I’ve read over the transcript of the trial, but what I don’t understand is, how did he only serve four years of a fifty-year sentence? There wasn’t any good behavior on his part. He was just as nasty inside as he’d been out, and Landon swears that he didn’t pay to have him released. I believe him.” Dane said she was looking into a few things herself. “Just be careful. This is the third time that I’ve been here with him, and it’s getting worse with each one. I don’t want to have to do this at all, and I’m hoping the judge will see it that way.” “I don’t know how any of that works, but I do know that you can claim that you’re related to one of his victims and perhaps that will help.” He hoped so as well, but the way that his luck was going, it wouldn’t matter. He looked around when she laughed. “I have to tell you, Christian, you’re not going to be getting off any easier with Allie than you will me. She might make you go through some major hoops to get back on her good side.”
“I was a fool. More than that, I was a fucking idiot. I don’t know what came over me.” He did, but didn’t want to bring it up again. “All I could think was that someone other than me was touching her. And I haven’t any idea why that bothered me to the point where I wanted to kill my own brother.” Levi had forgiven him, of course, but he’d yet to forgive himself. He’d never hurt his brother, nor would he have spoken to a woman the way that he had her. Allie had warned him, several times, to back off, and he and his cat, mostly the cat, hadn’t cared for that either. When she’d been shot, and hurt him in the process, he’d gone a little wild and hurt Levi again. It took his brother, Brayden, commanding him to stand down before he could get ahold of himself and his beast. Now, not that he blamed her, she was pissed off at him, and he wasn’t sure that he could fix this. His name was called and he told Dane he’d get back to her. As soon as he entered the courtroom, he saw Landon and his wife. Joy wasn’t a nice person, and Christian didn’t like her at all. He was sure that Landon knew it too. After shaking hands with the elderly man, he took his seat at the table. Park would be brought out soon, and he wanted to talk to the judge before that happened. Asking to approach the bench, he let out a long breath before he spoke. “I would like to recuse myself from this hearing.” The judge asked him why and Christian told him what was going on in his life. “My future wife is Allie LaRue. She is currently staying at my parents’ home and injured. I cannot, with her being my mate, give Mr. Davis a fair trial. Not with what happened between him and my mate.” “When did you meet her?” He answered all the questions put before him. Even telling the judge that he’d tried calling his office all week but no one would put him through. “I got that you had called, but they’d not tell me what you wanted. I can see now why you wished to speak to me personally.” The judge leaned back in his seat and looked like he was thinking hard on something. The other lawyer, a public defender for the state, asked him if he was serious. That the trial was about to begin. “I’m well aware of that. I only just found her a few days ago.” Stanley was saying how ridiculous this was, that things were too far along for him to do this to him. “I suppose you’d like this to go to trial, and if I win, you’d call foul play and call for a mistrial. I’m trying my best to make sure that doesn’t happen.” “Your Honor, you can’t—” Judge Piketon told him to shut up. “But sir, this is a murder trial, not a case of rape. I don’t understand where the problem lies.” “You wouldn’t.” Piketon looked at him. “You can prove this? That she’s your mate if it comes up? I don’t want you in trouble with the law any more than I do for you to have to face your mate if you tell her you got him off.” “I can, sir. As you can imagine, things are a little tense right now. She’s been hurt and I’m here. Not a good way to start a relationship, but my dad and mom are caring for her, and you know them, what sort of people they are.” He said that he did. “I just don’t think this is a good idea.” “Neither do I. Have a seat gentlemen, I have something to say to the room.” Going back to his seat, Christian avoided looking at Landon or his wife. As soon as he was
seated, Piketon hit his gavel down on his desk and told them what was going on. “So, as you can see, there will have to be a delay in the trial until such time—” “No. No, this isn’t right.” Joy Hartman stood up and turned to him. “No, you have to do this. My husband owns you. You’ll take care of this right now.” “Mrs. Hartman, he can’t represent your son. There isn’t any way for Park to get a— ” Joy cut him off, slamming her hands on the seat in front of her. Piketon took exception to that as well. “Now you see here, young lady. I will—” “You’ll make him do this. Tell them, Landon. Tell him that he is going to do this or you’ll sue him. He’s the best there is, and you said that you never hired anyone that wasn’t the best. I want him to make sure my baby doesn’t go to prison again.” She was told to sit down. “I won’t. My husband pays you good money and you’ll do as he said. I won’t have my baby boy going back to prison for something that he didn’t do. Not again. You will make sure of that.” “Mrs. Hartman, I’m going to have to ask you to have a seat. Believe it or not, I’m the one in charge here, and you’ll do as I’m telling you or I’ll have you tossed out of here.” She glared at the judge. “Lady, I’ve been married to the same wonderful woman for nearly sixty years. That look of yours, it doesn’t mean a damned thing to me. Sit down and shut up or I’ll have you in the cell next to that baby boy of yours. Now, as I was saying, the hearing is postponed until such time as the Hartmans can find themselves another lawyer or they take on a public defender.” He left them there, not saying another word but leaving them to head to his chambers. Christian started packing up his things, relieved that this part of it was over. When someone touched him on the shoulder, he turned in time to have Joy slug him in the face. He fell back on the table, hitting his head, and just zapped out. When he woke, he was in the hospital. He knew this because he could smell blood, death, and disease. Then there was the added comfort of having a bed as hard as nails under him, as well as a curtain that kept others out. When he started to sit up, he was pushed back down by a nurse who made his cat curl up around him. Lying down, he asked what had happened. “I don’t know more than you were brought in here a couple of hours ago with a head injury. I was told to stay with you until your wife and family made it here. Which I’m thinking will be soon. I was told that would be about a two-and-a-half-hour trip.” He nodded, then held his head. “Yeah, you got yourself a banger there. Just lie still and try not to make me hold you down again. You sure are strong.” “I am. Wait, did you say my wife and family?” She nodded and asked him if he remembered them. “Yes, I do. I just wasn’t aware that I had…. I was just making sure you said she was coming. My wife, she’s been hurt recently.” “Well, aren’t you two a pair?” The nurse asked him if he wanted anything for pain. “You have something on the charts if you want it. It seems like a lot of drugs if you ask me, but the doc, he said you would need more than the average man.” “Yes, I have a high immunity to drugs.” Christian wondered what the doctor was if he knew that he wasn’t human. “Will the doctor be back? Soon, I mean?”
“When your family gets here, I’m to give him a call. You want anything to drink? You can have that as well.” He said he was fine and laid back on the bed. “All right then. If you promise me that you’ll be quiet, I’m going to run to the little girl’s room. Don’t be getting up, Mr. Stanton, I don’t want to have to rope you like a side of beef.” “I’ll stay right here.” His head was pounding, but he didn’t want to take anything for it. If his wife was coming, he wanted to be clear headed when he spoke to her. Also, he wondered what had happened after he’d been hit. Other than being here. The curtain flew back on the rod about twenty minutes later. He knew it was his dad…he’d been yelling his name since he came through the doors. Christian might have called back to him, but the thought of trying to do that with his head pounding like it was didn’t appeal to him. So, he waited and now he was here. “You scared us.” Christian said he was sorry as the rest of them crowded in the little area with him. “And so you know, I’m not going to be happy with you if you make that little girl cry. She’s hurting pretty badly about now.” “Why did you bring her?” He said that they couldn’t leave her at home. “But Dad, I’m all right. She must hurt with her leg injured like it is.” He saw her then, being wheeled back to his area by Judge Piketon. They were talking quietly, laughing at one point too. Christian had to calm his beast when he saw him put his hand out and Allie took it into hers. He had no idea what was wrong with his cat when it came to people touching her, but he had to keep his cool. It was that or go to prison himself for murdering every man that he saw within a foot of her.