Camden Colgan seldom took pleasure in a woman’s discomfort as much as he reveled in Candice Lane’s. Despite her sweet-sounding name, Candy Lane was anything but sweet. She was a shark in barracuda-infested waters. He fully intended to make her discomfort last.
“So we’re done here,” she asked.
Camden leaned back into the comfortable couch cushions with a satisfied sigh and smiled at his host, watching the man standing behind Lane blanch at the gleaming flash of sharp canines.
Lane swallowed, but refused to be intimidated. She had no choice but to acknowledge that Camden represented a threat she wasn’t equipped to handle. But this was her territory, her office, and by god, she wouldn’t let him see her apprehension.
“Yes.” Lane’s relief wafted over Camden like a humid current that matted the hairs on his exposed arms. He would need a shower after this. “Our deal?”
“Stands,” Lane assured him. “I am a woman of my word.” In truth, she’d been prepared to pay a lot more. Camden’s services didn’t come cheap, but the bonus he’d requested for the successful and timely completion of his task barely registered. Independence City’s foremost crime boss had no problem throwing in something extra when it didn’t cost her.
Eager to get this over with, Lane pressed a button on the communication console on her desk. “I’ll have delivery arrangements made as soon as you—“
“That won’t be necessary,” Camden interrupted. “The young man in question is downstairs.”
Lane’s glee drifted over Camden much like the woman’s relief had only moments before. Camden nearly shook his head. He could live another six hundred years, and he still wouldn’t understand it. A minute ago Lane had feared him and rightfully so. Now her arrogance was firmly back in place. Vampire, professional assassin or not, Camden’s threat had just been downgraded because he preferred to rut with the males of the species. Lane wasn’t the first to fall prey to that idea. She wouldn’t be the last.
She raised her shapely brows in an unspoken question.
“You heard me.”
“He is in your employ, is he not?” He was. Camden had checked.
“One of the people in your employ. To be used at my discretion and how I see fit. That was our deal, was it not?”
“Yes. But Daniel, he’s … “
Camden waited. His glance strayed over Lane’s shoulder and met the disapproving stare of Noel Lane, Lane Enterprises’ heir apparent. His stare buckled under the hard glint in Camden’s eyes.
“I have the finest whores, male and female, in this city,” Lane rallied. “Daniel isn’t one of them.”
If she heard her son’s “He is now” fall over her shoulder, she gave no indication of it. Camden heard it, though, and it drove him to his feet. He felt a momentary surge of satisfaction when mother and son flinched.
He smiled sweetly, baring just enough of his fangs to drive the message home Lane had all but forgotten. She’d made a deal with the devil, and she’d signed the contract with blood—not hers, but that was a technicality.
“I’ve made my choice.”
Truer words couldn’t have been spoken. He’d made his choice a long time ago. Young Daniel hadn’t been more than a gangly pre-teen, a wide-eyed gorgeous kid with his father’s features.
“He’ll grow into a fine young man,” Jeff Lane had prophesied, catching Camden’s interested gaze on his son. “You’ll have to wait that long,” he’d said. “You better wait that long,” he’d warned, knowing his friend was known to indulge his hedonistic nature on occasion.
“I will,” Camden had promised. “I will.” But he hadn’t.
“Daniel works in the garage. He isn’t trained. He has no experience.”
Camden suppressed his disbelieving snort. He couldn’t tell if she operated under the assumptions of a mother or if she really didn’t know that her son was anything but inexperienced. “Maybe that appeals to me?”
He’d come across a teenage Daniel years after his father’s death, drunk, high on more than one illicit drug and about to go home with a stranger. It hadn’t taken much to persuade the nameless john to find new companionship; it would have taken a lot more willpower to resist the teenage temptation than Camden could muster at the time, still grieving for his lover, the man whose features the boy wore. Maybe it would have been easier if Daniel hadn’t been so darn determined to get fucked.
“I have others. Untrained. Untouched. Boys. Young men.” What she didn’t have she could procure.
She must have known about her son, Camden figured. She’d sent him away. He hadn’t been there, had been somewhere else on off-world business, and she’d sent him away. In an effort to control the out-of-control teenager, she’d shipped him off to one of those preparatory military academies that excelled at beating the individualism out of young men.
Camden knew he was being overly dramatic. But after Jeff’s death, he’d taken to watching over his son from the shadows, determined to wait for the kid to grow up. Losing him to the military had been a blow only his familiar’s sensible influence had softened.
He’d come back to claim his prize as soon as he’d learned that the adult Daniel had gotten himself discharged, somewhat less than honorably.
“I’ve made my choice,” he repeated, not bothering to hide his impatience. The rancid smell of discomfort that suddenly permeated the office pulled his lips off his teeth in a humorless smile.
Lane reached for the communication console again, pressed a button, and barked a simple command at her assistant, “Bring Daniel.” She met Camden’s glare with a hard stare of her own. “I am a woman of my word. And I am also a business woman who likes to guarantee the quality of her product. But in this case—”
“I will hold you harmless,” Camden promised with a snarl. He was beginning to tire of this charade. He’d dragged this out long enough. He turned to look out the panoramic window and calm his rising urge to tear Lane’s throat out. She was Daniel’s mother, for god’s sake! She was supposed to refuse, not worry about her professional reputation for offering less than satisfactory goods.
Just as he was about to suggest he wait elsewhere, a perfunctory knock sounded and a young man swept into the office.
“What?” The single word carried a surprising amount of disdain and apprehension with it, which paled in comparison the life that burned in hazel eyes.
Only decades of experience kept Camden from gaping. Jeff had been right. His son, the gangly pre-teen, the very angry teenager who’d been anything but virginal had turned into a fine young man.
In an ill-fitting oversized mechanic’s overall. With an oil smear across his cheek and bloody knuckles. Camden caught himself smiling. He wouldn’t have put it past Lane to exploit her son’s looks. Her protest not withstanding, he hadn’t been entirely convinced that she didn’t offer Daniel as the occasional business incentive.
“With this, I consider our business concluded, Mr. Colgan.”
Daniel’s hazel eyes followed the direction of his mother’s gaze, and he found himself caught like the proverbial deer in old-fashioned headlights. His knees would have buckled had he not learned to control himself.
“You see that man, Danny,” his father had asked, one arm around his bony shoulders, pointing to a tall blond walking away from them. “He’s a very good friend of mine. His name is Camden Colgan. Remember that name, son. One day he will come for you.”
“You’re here for me?”
About damn time, he wanted to snarl. What took you so long, he wanted to ask. He’d thought once before Camden Colgan had come for him, but their ways had parted after an exhausting hour. “For good?”
Daniel grinned. “So I can be Whistler to your Blade?”
Camden caught the 21st century pop culture reference and returned the grin. “Something like that.”