“There's my gorgeous fiancée,” Trent said. He walked into his room, closing the door softly behind him, and sauntered toward me. “I was starting to think you were going to sleep the day away.”
I stretched my arms over my head and let out a satisfied groan. “Yeah, well, someone kept me up all night,” I said, glaring at him with fake annoyance.
He kneeled over me on the bed and grinned. “I hope you’re not waiting for an apology for that,” he said.
“What time is it anyway?” I asked.
I laughed. “That’s not half the day.”
“Mm-hmm.” His eyes sparkled, and my heart fluttered in response. “Everyone else is already awake. Jax made breakfast.” “Did he make French toast?” My stomach grumbled just thinking about it.
“Yes.” Trent’s grin widened as if he found me highly amusing. Such a good mood was a rare thing for him, but I loved every second of it.
“Well, I’ll definitely get out of bed for that,” I said, smirking.
He let out a surprised laugh. “So you’ll get out of bed for my brother’s food but not for me?” His lips twitched with a barely contained smile.
“Exactly. But only because I really like staying in bed with you,” I said.
I reached for him at the same moment he lowered his mouth to mine. His tongue grazed my bottom lip, and my eyes fluttered closed. A thick, intense jolt of desire shot through me, and I reached for the hem of his shirt, my fingers barely brushing against his bare skin before he was off the bed and standing clear across the room.
“Oh, no.” He held up his hand and shook his head. “We have entirely too much to do today for you to be starting that.”
Groaning, I rubbed my hands over my face. The events of the past couple of days were still fresh in my mind—telling Trent about Ivy’s offer to help us have a baby, him getting upset, us fighting about it, throwing a surprise birthday party for him, his long lost thought-to-be-dead brother showing up out of nowhere. Trent begging me to spend the night, him telling me he wanted to talk to Ivy, making love until the sun rose.
“You really have no self-control, do you?” I teased as I got out of bed and stretched my arms over my head.
“Not where you’re concerned,” he said.
“Fine. Let me get dressed.”
Trent nodded. “I’ll meet you in the kitchen.” And then he left the room in a hurry, probably because he was worried I might try to start something again.
I took the quickest shower of my life, dressed in jeans, a fitted blue sweater, and black knee-high boots, and pulled my hair into a ponytail at the nape of my neck. Time to go have breakfast with my fiancé’s vampire family. Man, my life was weird.
When I walked into the kitchen, Sean, Colt, Karina, and Wyatt were seated along one side of the table while Whitney and Trent were on the other side. Between them was an empty chair for me. Jax moved from the stove to the island, replenishing the buffet of food he’d made.
“Help yourself,” Jax said, waving the spatula at the stack of plates.
I grabbed a plate and piled it with three slices of French toast and four strips of bacon. Things with Trent had been tense last night, so I really hadn’t eaten much during his party.
Jax rose a brow, his signature cocky smile making an appearance. “Someone worked up an appetite last night. Though, with how loud you were being, I’m not all that surprised.”
I grabbed a biscuit and hurled it at him. “I wasn’t loud,” I snapped.
He caught the biscuit mid-air and took a large bite, winking at me as he did. “We’re vampires. Everything is loud to us,” he said.
My face heated, and my temperature spiked several degrees. I was tempted to throw my entire plate at him next. Instead, I turned and headed toward the table.
Colt laughed. “You seriously gonna let him get away with that?” he asked Trent.
Trent shrugged. “I’m learning to pick my battles.” He draped his arm across the back of my chair as soon as I sat. He fingered a lock of my hair, smiling in my direction. “Besides, I have no issues with Jax knowing Chloe was with me last night.”
“Oh, my God,” I mumbled, head down.
A second later, a slice of French toast flew through the air, straight at Trent’s head. He grabbed it and flung it back in Jax’s direction.
“Boys!” Sean said sternly. “Honestly, Colton, must you always cause trouble with those two?” Sean shook his head. “It’s like you boys are ten years old again.”
I laughed. “You’re the troublemaker?” I asked Colton. “My money was on Jax.”
“Aw, Chloe,” Jax said in a sickeningly sweet tone. “That means you’ve been thinking about me.”
“Okay, enough,” Sean said. “Let’s leave Chloe alone for a while.”
I gave him a grateful smile and smeared butter and syrup over my French toast. Next to me, Whitney was busy tapping away at the screen of her tablet. “What’re you doing?” I asked.
“Messaging Ellie and Abby about your wedding,” she said without looking up. “Letting them know we need to plan for one more bridesmaid.”
“We do?” I asked.
“Oh, yeah, about that…” Trent said, rubbing the back of his neck. “You’re going to need another bridesmaid. I asked Colt to be in the wedding, too.”
“Okay then,” I said.
Who else could I ask? Gina or Tonya would be the only other people I’d ask, but they were as close as Ellie and I were. Asking one and not the other felt wrong. How could I choose? I could always ask Larissa; then she could be in the wedding with Little Frank, which might make the whole thing easier.
“All right, Colton,” Jax said, pulling out a chair and sitting. “It’s time to start talking.”
Colt sighed. Karina shifted closer to him, and he wrapped his arm protectively around her. “Well, I obviously didn’t die in the war. I mean, I did. Technically, but…”
“So, you did go to the war?” Sean asked.
Colt nodded. “Yes. I was drafted shortly after I turned nineteen. I fought for almost two years before I was severely injured. I was on my deathbed, literally, when I encountered a vampire. He offered to save my life.”
“And you said yes?” Trent asked, his tone full of disbelief. “You walked out on your family because you couldn’t stand the thought of becoming a vampire, and then you—”
“Easy, Trent,” Sean said. “Let him finish.”
I rested my hand on Trent’s leg, giving it a reassuring squeeze. He leaned closer, the scent of his cologne wrapping around me.
“When you’re knocking on death’s door, your outlook on things tend to change,” Colt said.
“Then why didn’t you come find us?” Jax asked, shoveling a forkful of eggs into his mouth. He chewed, then swallowed. “After you changed, I mean.”
“I don’t know.” Colt shrugged. “I was embarrassed, I guess. Worried you wouldn’t welcome me back.”
“You’re our brother. Of course we would’ve welcomed you home,” Trent said.
“My sire took me under his wing, taught me how to be a vampire, and for several decades, I simply survived,” Colt said. He placed a kiss to Karina’s temple, then straightened in his seat. “But then we got mixed up with some dangerous people. My sire was destroyed, and I took off. Laid low for another few years. Until I met a vampire named Dante.”
Trent stiffened, and Jax froze with his fork halfway to his mouth. They’d reacted the same way when Macaih had talked about Dante, too. What was up with that? I really needed to ask Trent how he knew Dante, and why he seemed so terrified of him.
“That’s when I met Karina,” Colt said, smiling at her.
“Wait, you’re a vampire?” I asked, shocked. I was so certain she was human.
Karina laughed softly. “No. I’m human. Just like you.”
“Technically, she’s human,” Colt said, the two of them sharing a knowing look. “She comes from a line of very powerfully psychics.”
“Psychics are real?” I asked, pushing my plate away.
I hadn’t even taken a single bite, and my food was probably cold now, but I was no longer hungry. I was much too fascinated by Colt’s story.
“Yes,” Karina said. “Both of my parents were psychics, and I inherited their gifts when they died.”
“I’m sorry about your parents,” I said.
“Thanks.” She smiled sadly.
“So, you can see the future?” Jax asked.
“No.” Karina shook her head and leaned forward, folding her arms on the table. “I mean, not really. I can’t just randomly see what’s going to happen in the future, but sometimes, I’ll get visions, or I’ll see things in my dreams. Other times, all I have to do is touch someone or something and I can see what’s going to happen.”
“Which is why Dante had her,” Colt said. “He was in a bad way with some witches, and he was using Karina to figure out what was going to happen. When she couldn’t give him the answers he wanted, he’d…” Colt’s jaw clenched, and he curled his hand into a tight fist, his knuckles white.
“You rescued her,” I said.
“I fell in love with her,” Colt said, his tone vehement. “I couldn’t let Dante keep hurting her.”
“So, we ran,” Karina said, uncurling Colt’s fingers and taking hold of his hand. “And we’ve been on the run for over a year.” “Where’s Dante now?” Jax leaned back in his chair, arms crossed, expression hard.
“No idea. He gave up following us a few months ago, somewhere in Italy. He just disappeared,” Karina said.
“What’re the chances Dante will find you here?” Trent asked.
“Slim,” Colt said. “I haven’t used the name Halstead since I died in the war. I took my sire’s last name. Dunn. There’s no way for Dante to trace me to you guys.”
Silence descended, and I adjusted so I was leaning against Trent’s side. He placed a lingering kiss to the top of my head.
“Look, you all have your lives here, and you obviously have people you care about, people you want to protect”—Colt nodded in my direction—”so if you feel it’s not safe for us to be here, we’ll go.”
“No,” I said, shaking my head. “It’s fine. I’ll be safe. Please don’t leave.”
Jax and Trent just got their brother back, and I wasn’t going to be the reason they lost him again. I didn’t want Sean to lose his son again, either. Whoever this Dante guy was, he seemed like a lot less of a threat than the Zoya. Or Ivy.
Jax huffed. “That’s easy to say when your best friend is one of the most powerful witches in the world.”
I glared at him. “Jealous?”
“Of Isach?” Jax laughed too long and too loud. “In your dreams, sweetheart.”
“Who’s Isach?” Colt asked.
“Isach Zoya,” Trent answered.
“Zoya? Isn’t that the name of the witch who cursed you?” Colt’s gaze shifted around the table.
“Yes, but Isach’s different. He’s good.” I shot Jax a dirty look, warning him not to say anything negative. “He’s my friend, and he’s dating my cousin. And in case you forgot,” I said, my attention fully on Jax. “He saved your ass, too.”
“We both know that was for you, not me,” Jax said. “I would’ve been perfectly fine if he hadn’t shown up.”
“Jaxon,” Trent warned, his tone cold.
Colt laughed. “I’m gonna stick around just to see how this whole thing plays out between you three.”
“I’ll tell you how it’s going to play out,” I said, standing and grabbing my plate. “I’m marrying Trent, he’s going to change me, and then we’re spending eternity together. End of story.”
I dumped my uneaten food into the trash, then stormed out of the kitchen. Anger pulsed through me, and my hands shook. Why did I let Jax bother me like that? I knew how he felt, so hearing him saying it wasn’t a shock. But at this point, I had hoped he was moving on and not dwelling on things that had happened, things neither of us could change.
“Hey, you okay?” Trent asked.
“Your brother drives me crazy,” I said, flexing my fingers in the hopes they’d stop trembling with anger.
“Which one?” Trent asked, and when I glared at him, he laughed. “Aren’t you always telling me not to let Jax get under my skin? You can’t let him get under yours, either.”
“I know.” I sighed and rested my forehead on Trent’s chest. “He just has this way of making me feel guilty, like I’m somehow solely responsible for everything that happened. I know I broke his heart, but how long is he going to punish me for it?”
I eased back and stared up into Trent’s eyes, and he gazed back at me with a mixture of hurt and compassion. “For eternity,” he said.
“That’s not funny.”
“It wasn’t meant to be,” he said, cradling my face in his hands. “Heightened emotions, remember? Vampires can hold grudges for a very long time.”
I frowned. “I hurt you, too, and you forgave me.”
“Because I chose to. Jax hasn’t. Not yet,” Trent said and kissed my forehead. “He will eventually. Just give him some time.”
Sighing, I nodded. More than ever, I wished things could go back to how they were before Jax ever bit me, back when we were friends and there was no lingering feelings or animosity between us. Trent’s phone rang. He released me, grabbed his phone from his pocket, and frowned. “I’ll be right back.” And then he was gone.