Angel stripped off his clothes and dropped them on the floor, knowing he would never get around to washing them. He had to leave in the next couple of days, and he couldn't carry much, just the few things he really wanted.
His mother had left early that morning, gone to live with her new boyfriend in France without leaving a forwarding address, let alone inviting him to go with her. Boyfriend was a stupid word; the old creep was at least seventy. Angel's stepfather had been away on business for several days and had returned just that evening, so she had made her escape. That morning Angel had gone down to the kitchen, and Maria-Jesus had said, "Mrs. Andresen gone." Then she had shrugged and hugged him.
He couldn't stay in the same house as his stepfather. The guy couldn't stand him, and it was entirely mutual. They had lived in the same house for five years, and Sven had never said a kind or civil word to him. Even if Angel did not plan to move out, Sven Andresen would throw him out as soon as he found out his wife had left him.
In the en-suite bathroom, Angel switched on the light and turned on the hot water in the shower. He loved his bedroom and bathroom at the Cape Cod house. They were much bigger than at the Manhattan apartment. More than anything he loved hitching up the cape to Provincetown to look at gorgeous men on the beach. But that day, after his mother had left, he had taken one of Sven's cars and managed to dent the driver's side door against a lamppost.
Deciding he wanted a Coke he grabbed his robe to head downstairs. "On second thought," He tossed it on the floor with his clothes. Sven got furious when he left his room naked, but he no longer gave a damn what Sven thought. Sven could call him "queer little fucker" all he wanted; tomorrow he'd be gone.
Leaving the shower running, Angel padded down the stairs into the wide entrance hall, his bare feet silent on the hardwood floors. The kitchen stood on the west side of the house, and he had to pass the lounge to reach it. One side of the double mahogany doors stood open, the light from inside illuminating a small area of the dark hall. A loud voice erupted from inside.
Sven was on the phone screaming at Angel's mom. "Get your fucking ass home, bitch!" A pause. "Oh yes you are; you are coming home. Do you think you are going to get alimony out of me? You'll get nothing!"
His mother didn't care about alimony. She was still young, only thirty-four, and beautiful. She had found Gregoire St. Germaine several months before when she had taken Angel skiing in Whistler. She wanted the designer clothes and purses she had got used to being married to Sven, the expensive perfumes and trips to Europe. The new man would give her all that and more, and without the abuse Sven doled out.
Sven had a vile temper. Angel had lost count of the number of times he had listened to them screaming at each other, followed by Sven giving his mother a smack. Then there were days of bliss when they made up and cooed at each other while her black eyes healed.
He crept up to the double doors and stood behind the closed side, peeking in. Sven sat on the dark red leather chesterfield sofa, his back to the wide French windows that looked out onto the sea. The surf was loud tonight, the waves roaring in. Fists clenched, Sven shouted, "No one else will have you, whore! Get the fuck home!"
She's not coming home, and she's already found someone else, dickhead. He's richer than you and too old to knock her around.
Angel watched his stepfather, handsome and tall, always well dressed even at home. The anger on Sven's face was beginning to melt. "Please, Samantha, come home. I love you. I'll never lay a hand on you again."
Angel stepped out from behind the door and stood in the full light, waiting. It took Sven a second to see him. Hands on his narrow hips, Angel wiggled his ass while offering an exaggerated wink. Anger flaring quickly again, Sven's face contorted. He angered easily and had never had even the smallest patience with Angel. Grabbing the case containing his reading glasses, he hurled it. It landed on the rug about ten feet from Sven, missing Angel by another six feet. He ducked back behind the door, still peeking at his stepfather, a grin plastered across his face.
"How come you didn't take your fucking faggot son with you? He dented the door on my BMW today. He doesn't even have a license, and that's the third car of mine he's damaged. You should have taken him, because I'm going to kill him."
Angel shivered. He might be wise to leave tonight.
"I will, Samantha. You come home, or I'll kill your son. He's a useless piece of shit anyway."
A silhouette flitted past the French windows and was gone. Angel squinted. There was nothing there. He had imagined it.
It was back.
A very tall, broad-shouldered figure stood at the French windows, doing something to the lock. Either he was completely silent, or the surf and Sven's voice drowned him out, because he made no sound.
The next few moments were surreal.
The French windows opened a slit, and a man dressed in unrelieved black stepped inside, closing them behind him so fast that the rush of the wind and surf had no time to enter with him. He was huge and handsome, with a shaved head, and his eyes were a stunning bright blue. His jaw had that chiseled, masculine look, like he'd just stepped out of a magazine.
He must work with Sven.
Sven had no idea anyone was behind him, not even when the man stood so close that he put a gun directly behind Sven's ear and fired.
Almost no sound came from the gun, just a little pop. It looked like the kind James Bond used in Quantum of Solace, with a silencer. Sven dropped the phone and slumped to one side. Blood ran from the wound, down his neck, and onto his immaculate, white Armani shirt, creating a fractallike pattern.
As silently as he had entered, the man turned to leave. At the French windows, he froze and pivoted round again. His body as still as a statue, he scanned the room by turning his head very slowly. Angel wanted to duck out of the way--it would have taken him a split second--but he froze, just like the stranger had a second ago.
The beautiful blue eyes met his. The man put one hand on the back of the chesterfield to lever himself and sprang over the couch toward him.
Angel ran back up the stairs and along the hall to his bedroom. His heart thudded--not from running--but from fear. Pure, unadulterated, sickening fear.
In his bedroom, he turned off the light and ran into the bathroom, flipping off that light as well, until he stood in the pitch-dark. Nothing but the sound of rushing water filled his head. On tiptoe Angel crept into the shower. The water ran hot, streaming over his body. He had forgotten he had left it running, and the room was filled with steam. The man had killed Sven, and now he would kill Angel. He pressed his back to the tiles, waiting to die.
Kael stood in the bedroom in the dark. He had studied the house plan with his usual attention to detail and knew the boy was trapped in the bathroom.
He also knew the boy should not have been there. Mrs. Andresen had left her husband that morning, and he had been told by intelligence that the boy had left with her. Not only was he in the house, but he had seen Kael's face and seen him hit the target.
Only that familiar prickly sensation on the back of his neck that alerted him to danger had made him turn around. At first he had no idea what it was: male, female, child, or adult. It was not until his foot hit the bottom step of the staircase that he saw a very slender naked male figure ahead of him running through the darkened house, and knew it was Andresen's stepson.
There was nothing else to do. He had to kill the boy.
Kael stood in the bathroom doorway. His incredible night vision had always been an asset. The room was both dark and unfamiliar; added to that, it was filled with steam, and still he could see a vague outline of the boy plastered against the tiles in the big shower stall. It was one of those showers with three jets and room for an intimate gathering, bigger than his own shower at home.
From his pocket he removed the scalpel, placed his gun on the floor, and removed his clothes, smiling all the while. The blood would run down the drain, and he could rinse off any spatter. Why didn't all his kills have the decency to hop in the shower and make his life easier? He stripped off his latex gloves and shoved them in his pocket.
When he was naked, the scalpel in his hand, he flipped on the light. A whimper issued from the shower. Kael crossed the bathroom and opened the glass door. He stepped into the shower and stood absolutely still. Flattened against the wall stood a lovely and utterly terrified boy. Blond hair was soaked to his head, and his big silvery gray eyes opened wide with fear, staring straight at Kael.
The smell of warm urine filled Kael's nostrils, and he looked down at the boy's legs to see yellow piss mingling with the water. The boy also looked down, then back at Kael, shame passing over his face.
"Are you going to kill me?" The voice was little more than a whisper.
An unexpected and overwhelming feeling gripped Kael in the belly. He wanted to take the boy in his arms and calm his fears. He wanted to comfort him, not kill him. "Why would I do that?" Of course he was going to kill him, but he wanted the boy's fear to go away first. He enclosed the scalpel tightly in his hand, hiding it.
"Are you English?"
The situation was ludicrous, yet the boy's natural curiosity forced him to ask a question that made it feel almost commonplace. "Yes. What's your name, boy?"
"Angel," he said softly. "Angel Button."
"Angel," Kael repeated and opened both his arms to the boy. "Come here, Angel."
He thought he might have to repeat himself or take a step toward the boy to encourage him. He expected Angel to slide down the wall or piss himself again. Instead Angel took two or three quick steps and threw himself at Kael, wrapping his arms around Kael's broad chest. At six feet five inches, Kael stood taller than most people. Angel was barely five feet eight, so his head rested against Kael's chest. He looked down at the boy, cupping Angel's head with his hand.
"Don't be afraid of me, Angel. I won't hurt you." But that was a lie; Kael had to hurt him.
For a long time they stood with the water rushing over them, not moving. Kael could feel Angel's thudding heart begin to slow as the boy calmed down. Overwhelmed with confusion, Kael did not know what to do. All he knew was that he felt happy the boy trusted him, and angry that the poor kid was putting his trust in a hired killer.
Kael took Angel's chin in his hand and tilted it up to look into his eyes. His face was lovely--pale porcelain skin and a delicate, pointed chin. But it was his eyes that drew Kael in, wide, silver, and completely trusting. Kael had told Angel that Kael wouldn't hurt him, and the boy appeared to believe him. He dropped a little kiss on Angel's forehead, turned off the shower, and stepped out, taking Angel with him.
Secreting the scalpel in the fold of a towel, he took a couple more towels from a shelf and threw one at Angel. Kael toweled the water from his head and body, watching the boy do the same. Angel's hair got blonder and blonder as he rubbed it dry. When he was finished, he dropped the towel on the floor, looking at Kael. "Why did you kill Sven?"
Kael pointed at the towel. "Put it in the wash basket." Angel obeyed at once. That was the second time he had done as he was told immediately. He seemed submissive and eager to please, but then, what choice did he have? Avoiding the question, Kael asked, "Did you love him?"
Angel shook his head, his hair falling into long, soft spikes. It looked like it was cut to be spiky. Kael wanted to touch it, and he beckoned the boy with one finger, fully expecting him to come, and he did. He ran his hands through Angel's hair, thick and soft and very fair.
Kael usually had no idea why his targets had to be eliminated, but Conran had kindly told him. He reveled in the memory of Conran's discomfit that day. "He sold guns to bad guys," he said as if talking to a child.
"That doesn't surprise me," Angel said. "What do we do now?"
He should kill the boy and leave the house at once. His instructions had told him there would be cleanup on this job, but they would probably be slow to arrive because of the location. "Come and have sex with me. I'll decide after that."
A little sigh escaped the boy, and his pale cheeks flushed with pleasure. "Yes, please, sir. But what about Sven?"
"He's not going anywhere," Kael said.
Angel issued a small laugh. "After you." He gestured at the bedroom door. Kael took him by the arm, directing him in first. He never turned his back on anyone.
The bedroom was fairly typical for a young man of Angel's age. Clothes scattered on the floor, a laptop computer sitting on the desk, a TV, an iPod with a speaker ring, an Xbox, and mess everywhere. The walls were covered with posters of idiots with guitars. A single birthday card stood on the dresser. Kael picked it up. "When's your birthday?"
"Today," Angel said.
"Happy birthday, boy." He glanced at the inscription. "Who is Maria-Jesus?"
"She's the maid."
Kael pointed at the duvet falling off the bed and the rumpled sheets. "Did you just get up?"
"No." Angel looked confused.
Sticking out from under the bed was a sliding stack of dog-eared magazines. Kael bent to retrieve a handful. "Bear Magazine." He looked at the boy, who no longer seemed frightened and had a very obvious erection. "Is this what you like?"
"I like really masculine men," Angel said, his flushed cheeks growing pinker.
Kael looked down at his chest, carefully waxed to remove all hair. "I don't like hair; I have it all removed, except this." He pointed at the short dark blond hair around his cock and balls.
Angel looked him up and down, saying quietly, "I like men without hair too. I just like them big and manly." He paused, looking down as if he was shy to say the next thing. "And older."
"How old are you, just so I know this is legal?" Kael said.
"You just shot a man in the back of the neck, and you're worried about what's legal?" Angel looked genuinely confused.
"Just because I killed an arms dealer doesn't mean I'd have sex with an underage twink."
"I'm twenty," Angel said. "I'm still growing. I hope I'll reach six foot."
"Good." Kael looked at the next magazine. "Daddy Magazine." A mature, bare-chested man on the cover smiled at him.
"That's what I want," Angel whispered. "I want a daddy."
"Are you obedient?" Kael put the magazines back under the bed. He already knew the answer.
"Yes," Angel said at once.
"Say yes, Sir."
"Do you trust me, boy?" He looked into Angel's face, thinking how appropriate his name was.
"I didn't say you could call me Daddy," Kael said. "I'm not into the daddy thing. I'm a master. I expect obedience, instant obedience."
"I am obedient, Sir," Angel said. "And I trust you."
"In that case..." Kael pulled the rumpled duvet off the bed and tossed it onto the floor. He pointed at the bed. "Up on your hands and knees."
Angel scampered over and leaped up onto the messy sheets. Standing beside the bed, Kael laughed at his enthusiasm. "A moment ago you were terrified of me."
On his knees on the bed, Angel wrapped his arms around Kael's waist. "You said you wouldn't hurt me, didn't you, Sir?"