Deeper Than Midnight (Chapter Thirty-four)
Gabrielle patted the empty spot beside her on the massive bed in their quarters at the compound. It was midmorning according to the clock on the nightstand, but he had been on his feet nonstop since the day before.
Too many fires to put out. Too many lives resting in his hands – not the least of which being the infant son newly born to Dante and Tess.
And then there was Sterling Chase, currently cooling his heels under lockdown in the infirmary. Lucan and the rest of the Order had been on high alert since he'd shown up on the estate grounds more than twenty-four hours ago, bleeding from multiple gunshot wounds and sporting a rather massive target on his ass.
The news stations were still having a field day with the eyewitness sketch they'd obtained of him. It was being played on every broadcast – local, national, and cable – and had been a permanent fixture on the various Internet news sites since the incident at the senator's party took place. Lucan wondered just how long it would take for the heat on Chase from human law enforcement to subside.
Not good, that the Order was harboring an individual wanted by several local police entities and the goddamned feds as well.
As pissed as he was at Chase not only for letting Dragos get away but also for getting himself shot and ID'd in the process, he had to admit it had been a good thing – a bloody admirable hunch – that had put Chase at the senator's party. Regardless of his personal issues of late, Chase's instincts had been solid, and royal fuck-up on the execution notwithstanding, his public disruption had managed to thwart whatever Dragos had up his sleeve. And there had been something going on, Lucan was certain of that. The conniving son of a bitch sure hadn't been there for the canapes and conversation.
He hated to consider what Dragos might have intended, considering the fact that some of the United States's top government officials had been in attendance. Lucan walked another hard track in the rug. "Something big is about to blow. I can feel it in my bones, Gabrielle. Some shit is about to go down, and unless I get my hands around it quick, it's going to explode not just in my face, but in everyone else's too."
"Come here," she said, frowning now as she threw back the sheet and comforter to make room beside her naked body on the bed. She was gorgeous, and too tempting to resist, despite the gravity of his thoughts. "You're doing all you can," she told him as he settled in next to her.
"We'll figure this out. All of us, together. You are not alone in this, Lucan."
He felt himself relax as she spoke, his troubles seeming to ease just by the fact that she was near. It was a power she had over him that never ceased to amaze him. "How did I ever manage to convince you to be my mate?"
Her soft laugh vibrated against his ear where it rested on her breast. "There was kissing involved, if I recall. Maybe even some kicking and screaming. On your part, primarily."
He pulled back and stared darkly into her eyes. "I don't kick, and I most definitely never scream."
"Maybe not," she conceded, a wry smile tugging at her full lips. "But you didn't go down easy, you have to at least admit that much."
"I'm thick-headed, according to rumor," he said. "Half the time, I don't know what's good for me."
Her auburn brows quirked. "Fortunately for you, I do know what's good for you."
She pulled him up for her kiss, sealing her mouth over his in a slow, penetrating claiming that had him going stiff as granite in his fatigues. With a snarl of pure masculine approval, he caught her around her tender nape and plunged his tongue between her teeth. He already had her pressed beneath him when the phone line from the tech lab started ringing.
Lucan's warning bells went off like sirens as he tore himself away from Gabrielle's warm body and put the receiver to his ear. "What's going on, Gideon?"
"You don't, by chance, have the television on, do you?"
Gideon's voice didn't have its usual levity. Not even close. "All hell's breaking loose downtown, Lucan. You'd better come quick. You need to see this."
Chase brought his head up from the pillow of his bed in the infirmary, straining to get a better look at the television screen mounted in the corner of the room. It had been parked on one of those pointless morning chatter shows, where a pair of hosts kibitzed and chuckled over vapid news items while sipping tall cups of coffee and flashing a lot of veneered white teeth at the camera. Even on mute, the thing had annoyed him, but he'd left it on just to give his eyes something to focus on, other than the four clinical walls that caged him inside the compound. It had been either that, or let himself go mad and give in to the hunger that was still clawing at him from the inside out. The addict in him had wanted out of there in a bad way –
needed it more than anything – but he knew if he stood even a rat's ass chance of breaking his dangerous slide, he was going to have to starve the blood thirst out of himself. He could think of no better place for him to try than back here, in the compound, among the only friends he had. Friends he'd given every right to desert him.
And yet they'd taken him in.
Strapped him down and locked him up inside the infirmary, but what the hell, he wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth.
But now, as he peered up at the monitor, his stomach sank as he watched the show being interrupted by a live news report. He reached for the remote on the wheeled tray beside him, only to be reminded of his restraints as the shackles rattled but held fast. He could have yanked them loose, but fuck it. He could handle the sound without it.
Willing the volume up, he listened in abject dread as real-time footage of a massive explosion somewhere in Boston filled the screen. A female news reporter's voice described what they were broadcasting.
" – at the UN building downtown. Police are just arriving on scene, and Channel 5 has news crews en route now. Initial reports seem to indicate this was a bomb situation of some sort. We're getting reports of significant damage to the building, and all surrounding streets in a ten- block radius have been sealed off by law enforcement."
Holy shit. Chase watched the roiling cloud of smoke and dust and flame billowing up toward the camera of the news helicopter that circled the area overhead. Although it seemed impossible – completely lacking in sense, except for the purpose of creating terror – his gut was telling him this too had Dragos's name all over it.
"Further reports from sources on the scene tell us there is a vehicle pursuit under way by law enforcement at this time. It is believed the alleged suspect or suspects in this possible terror act are in that vehicle and were spotted by eyewitnesses leaving the scene in the moments before this explosion took place. Channel 5's news copter is reporting to the scene of this pursuit, and we will update you live as we have more information."
Chase put his head back down and muttered a ripe curse at the ceiling. If Dragos was involved in this stunt, what the hell was he up to?
Chase wanted to rip loose from his forced recuperation and head down to the tech lab, where he was certain all the rest of the Order would be watching the same troubling report by now. Gideon constantly monitored human news outlets, and shit like this – terror acts in the middle of the week, rolling toward the holidays – tended to make a big splash. But he didn't belong around that long table in the lab anymore. He'd walked out on the Order, and he didn't deserve to ask them to take him back until he was sure he had his shit together.
As he kicked himself for the string of failures and fuck-ups that had been the bulk of his recent missions for the Order, the news reporter came back onscreen.
"We're breaking now to Channel 5's eye-in-the-sky, which is bringing you the latest from just outside the city, where police are currently in pursuit of the vehicle they believe is linked to this terrible incident at the UN building this morning. Again, if you're just tuning in, Channel 5
was first on the scene, bringing you news of a large explosion, a bomb of some type, that was set off downtown just moments ago …"
While she spoke, Chase watched in astonishment – then in mounting suspicion and abject dread – as a fleet of police cruisers and SWAT vans pursued a late-model red pickup truck from out of the city, toward an area of large, tree-filled estates and sprawling private properties. Right toward the Order's domain.
Chase tried to sit up and felt his restraints bite into his wrists and ankles. The steelreinforced leather band around his torso groaned as he strained to get a better look at what was happening on the monitor.
It wasn't good.
The pursuit turned the last bend, heading right up the sunlit street toward the outer perimeter of the Order's estate. To his horror, not an instant later, the red pickup roared up toward the front gates of the mansion.
Mother of fucking God …
Sparks erupted as the vehicle hit the electrified gate and crashed through. Several men poured out of the truck and started pounding up the snow-filled lawn on foot. Running toward the mansion with a dozen or more cops hot on their heels.
Dragos sent them here.
He knew it.
He knew it the same way he knew now that this was an act of retaliation, not merely some bizarre coincidence. This was Dragos taking his revenge for what Chase had done the other night. He brought this on the Order … on his friends.
With an anguished roar, Chase ripped loose from his restraints and fled the infirmary using every ounce of preternatural speed at his command.
Lucan stood with the rest of the Order, all of them gathered in the tech lab watching the news report incredulously.
Their disbelief had been nothing compared to the sick sense of dread – the first true sense of fear that Lucan had experienced in a long time – when the red pickup truck carrying the suspected bombers rammed the mansion's gate.
A silence filled the tech lab in that terrible instant.
It was full daylight outside. No chance for escape. They were trapped now, with no choice but to watch the skirmish take place above the compound and hope law enforcement left without deciding to nose around the property or question the owners.
And in the pit of his heavy heart, Lucan understood that this was Dragos's intention all along. This was why he'd planted the tracking device in Kellan Archer. This was how he meant for the Order to go down.
Not by his hand, but by the humans.
"Seal all portals to the compound and lock them down," he told Gideon. "If any of those criminal fucks or the cops do something stupid like bring this thing inside the mansion, we don't want them getting curious about what might lie below the house."
If they did, the Order would have no choice but to kill them all on sight. And that would be damned hard to sweep under the rug, especially since the whole bloody chase was being captured on live news coverage.
"Shut it down now," he said, slamming his fist onto the table and sending a big crack running down its center. "This is Dragos's doing. He sent them here. Right to our goddamn doorstep."
"Compound portals are sealed," Gideon reported. Then he hissed a curse, something Lucan did not want to hear at that moment. "Ah, Christ. I don't believe this."
He pivoted his head toward Lucan and gestured to one of the interior surveillance feeds from inside the mansion.
"Holy fuck," Nikolai breathed from his place among the others. "It's Harvard. What the hell is he doing up there?"
"He's saving us," Dante answered, no inflection in the warrior's voice at all. They watched in dumbstruck silence as Chase strode calmly toward the front door of the mansion. He opened it on to the yard full of uniformed cops, SWAT members, and Secret Service agents. As he lifted his hands to his head in a show of surrender, sunlight streamed in all around him, a nimbus that lit him up in silhouette like an avenging angel. The humans rushed up to intercept him, more than one speaking quickly into his radio as they got a good look at Chase, no doubt every man out there recognizing him from the sketch that was circulating in every station and precinct house between Boston and D.C. Lucan watched, humbled and grateful. If not for Chase's sacrifice, those men likely would have torn the estate apart. They might still, but the Order had just been granted a stay from that particular execution. Instead of a potential daylight raid, the Order might have a chance to collect themselves and clear out at nightfall instead.
All thanks to Sterling Chase.
"Man, this is fucked up," Brock murmured from beside Lucan. "We can't just let them take him away like this. We have to do something."
Lucan gave a grim shake of his head, wishing there was a way to help. "Harvard just took that option out of our hands. He is truly on his own now."