The first person to ask him about it was Nevins. Paul Nevins was a stockily built, middle aged man with graying hair and pale freckly skin. He’d been on the force longer than almost everyone else in the precinct, and he wasn’t one to beat around the bush.
When Nick arrived in the locker room, he could hear a few of the other officers talking quietly amongst themselves. He could have sworn he heard his own name, but resisted the urge to concentrate on the background noise; it wouldn’t help him. He glanced around, before beginning to change out of his street clothes and into his uniform. Feels like everyone’s waiting on something.
Nick wasn’t stupid—Yamahara despised him. It was a bone of contention between I.A. and the rest of the precinct that Nick remained there—and probably a personal one between him and the aforementioned investigator that Nick was even still breathing.
Just as Nick was pulling on the white tank top he wore underneath his uniform shirt, when Nevins approached him. He tensed, his skin prickling as the older man approached him. They weren’t friends by any stretch of the imagination, but they’d never had any issues. Despite this, Nick turned to look at Paul, his face a cold mask. He could take the other man if he wanted to fight, he knew—but it wouldn’t be pleasant.
He nodded. “Nevins.” Nick shrugged his arms into the coarse blue uniform, before beginning on the buttons.
“O’hara says Yamahara told him you fuck human women.” The older officer jerked his head at the man in question, a redhead who’d been particularly vocal about an Orc’s presence within the ranks of the L.A.P.D.. Nick’s carefully crafted cool expression was ruined as he widened his eyes in surprise. He hadn’t expected him to be so blunt. The sounds of conversation died around them as the other officers paused everything they were doing to listen. He could hear someone murmur from the other side of the room.
“It’s true. Look at his face.”
It was bound to happen eventually. Nick found himself wishing that Angie was there—at least if she was, he’d have something else to concentrate on besides how much he wanted to find Yamahara and rip his throat out.
“He saw me with my girlfriend.” Nick stressed the word. He himself didn’t see the difference—either way he was balls deep in her nearly every night. It seemed to make the other males feel better, more comfortable about the loss of one of their own. They’ll have to get comfortable with it. I’m not giving her up. As he’d predicted, Paul Nevin’s shoulders relaxed, and the man suddenly seemed a little less intimidating. “Angie and I are dating.”
“No offense,” said Nevins, holding his hands up placatingly. Nick unclenched his jaw, nodding stiffly. “You know how the rumor mill works ‘round here. Just wanted to make sure no one was lying.” More like you wanted to threaten me for sullying one of your kind.
Nick glanced around the locker room. Many of the faces he saw were neutral. Shocked, but otherwise nonplussed at his admission. As he’d expected, there was some thinly veiled disgust—Humans are so easy to read—though not as much as he’d expected; and some anger, though he doubted any of them hated him enough to act on it. Nick finished buttoning up his uniform shirt and headed into the precinct proper. Ward wasn’t there yet, his desk was empty. He sat, before beginning on some of the paperwork he’d been avoiding. Angie had been surprised when he’d told her how many papers and forms he had to file on a daily basis, and that was if he didn’t make any arrests. Wait. Nick paused, and inhaled deeply before frowning.
His head snapped up sharply, and he grimaced, fighting back a growl. He’s here. He scented the air again. Or he was. Nick wasn’t sure if he was still in the building, but he’d been there. Possibly even just a few minutes before. He was probably there about the case again.
“You’re early for once,” Ward replied, startling Nick out of his thoughts. He hadn’t even heard him approach. His partner had come in with two cups of coffee from the kiosk down the street. Ward placed one on Nick’s desk, before nodding at him. “Is he here?” Daryl didn’t need to elaborate.
Nick nodded. “I can smell him. Don’t know where he is, but he was here. Ward inclined his head toward the chief’s office.
“Probably running his damn mouth to the Chief.” Ward said distastefully, a scowl flashing across his face. “What’d he say to you, exactly?” Nick took a sip of his coffee before replying.
“He told me they’re trying to reopen the Ching case.” Nick’s voice was quiet, so that the few other officers on the floor that morning couldn’t hear them. Ward leaned forward, his brow furrowed.
“They’ll never let him.” He took a swig of the bitter liquid in his cup. “So what the fuck’s he really want?”
Why did he keep looking into the deaths of those four? Officers died on the force every year—so why this case? Nick furrowed his brow as he thought, searching for the answer. He had a feeling that it wasn’t far off; he just had to play process of elimination.
Before they could continue, the chief’s office door opened, and the older man stepped out, rubbing the back of his neck tiredly. He caught sight of them, before making a beeline straight for their desks.
“Chief’s coming.” Ward replied, draining his cup before tossing it into the trash can beside their desk.
“Morning, Chief Daniels.” Nick replied, inclining his head respectfully. The man looked tired, his clothes slightly rumpled, as though he’d worked through the night and had slept in the office. Nick wouldn’t have been surprised if that was the case.
“You two. In my office.”
Ward sighed before rising the follow him, with Nick close behind. If Yamahara was here trying to reopen the case, of course Daniels would want to talk to them. Yamahara’s scent was strong in here, and it made Nick go tense. He was in here earlier.
“Yamahara’s requesting to reopen the Ching case.” Chief Daniels sat on his desk, folding his arms as he looked down at the pair of them. “Now you know why I can’t do that.” He rubbed his temples, and Nick wondered if he’d been visited by Kandomere again. He sniffed the air lightly, but couldn’t detect him. Doesn’t mean he hasn’t been here.
“He told me two nights ago, sir. That he and Arkashian were planning on reopening it.” I knew they’d never let him. Nick expected to feel relief, but instead, dread pooled in his stomach. This should have been the end of it, but he got the feeling that somehow, it was only the beginning.
“Hmm. In any case, I haven’t heard anything from upstairs about a move, so I want the two of you to play it quiet.” The chief rubbed a tired hand across his face. “You hear something, you bring it to me. I decide what the move is.”
“Chief he tailed me and my girlfriend.” Nick felt Ward nudge him, telling him to be silent, but he knew he needed to say something. “I think he knows something. Maybe about… it.”
Daniels raised an eyebrow, his jaw tightening. “How could he? They erased everything. And fucking trust me, they were thorough.”
Nick shook his head. “Everyone makes mistakes.” The chief waved his hand, dismissing them. “Quiet. The both of you.”
Nick felt frustration churning in his gut. He was right—he knew he was. Yamahara had to know something about the night Ward had put those dirty officers down. Why else would he keep trying to reopen the case? He’d never succeed; the MTF would put a bullet in him before they let him blow the cover on that.
Instead of heading back to their desks, Nick made a beeline for the patrol car. It was better they leave early anyway. Ward rounded on him, slapping his hand against the car. He spoke in a furious whisper.
“Are you trying to get us killed? I think you actually might be this time. ”
“What the hell are you talking about, Ward?”
Ward yanked open the driver’s side door. “You’re kidding, right? Whatever Yamahara and Arkashian know, the MTF will take them down. Not us. You got that? Not. Us. We can’t get involved. If we do, we become a risk. I like going home to my wife and daughter.” Ward slid into the vehicle, closing the door behind him. Nick clenched his fists, before doing the same.
“He fucking followed us, Ward! It’s more than the Ching case, I can feel it.”
Ward sighed heavily and rubbed a tired hand across his face. “You’re right.”
“You’re just—wait I’m right?”
“Yeah. There’s more. But it’s way fucking above our pay grade, and you need to leave it alone. So Yamahara’s a racist piece of shit trying to get you kicked off the force? Let the task force handle it. Think about Angie.”
Ward was right—about that, at least. Pursuing this issue with Yamahara could very well put Angie in the crossfire, which was the very last thing Nick wanted. Nick understood Daryl’s hesitation to involve himself—if they became variables, they risked elimination to avoid complications.
But what if he’s determined to involve us?
Nick knew he was right—he was on to something. Yamahara had to know about the Wand somehow—why else would he be interested in a dead end case? Nick didn’t feel right sitting out and letting the Magical Task Force handle it, but what else could he do? And then, there was the matter of Yamahara’s apparent vendetta. How could he stop him from dragging the both of them down with him when it seemed he intended to do just that? Nick was usually not one to ignore his instincts, but if everyone who was in the know was telling him to back off… Maybe I should listen.
Everything in him shouted that there was more, more they didn’t know, more they needed to know, and that no one was paying enough attention. Wasn’t that what they’d been taught at the academy?
“Humans are fallible.” Some of his classmates had been zoned out, not listening, but Nick had been paying rapt attention. He’d looked at Nick then, a younger orc, with his fangs messily filed. “Mortals are fallible. You’ll miss things. You’ll miss a lot of things. But maybe, if you’re paying enough fucking attention, you’ll get the right guy.”
He rubbed his temples, and Ward sighed. “Look, I get why you’re caught up on it.” He rested an awkward—but still comforting—hand on Nick’s shoulder. “But until we’ve got more anything, all we’ve got is ghosts.”
Just then, Nick glanced up. He wasn’t entirely sure why, but his eyes were drawn to the precinct steps.
The internal affairs officer was standing on the steps, looking straight at them. Nick felt his lip curl. Fucker.
If Yamahara kept trying to reopen the case, he’d bring the MTF crashing down around his own ears. All Nick had to do was be patient, and wait.
“Yeah, ghosts.” Except Yamahara is very much alive. “Let’s go.” Nick settled back into his seat, trying to ignore the weight of the eyes on him. He hoped Angie was having a better day than he was.
Nick sighed, dropping his keys back into the bowl they kept them in by the front door. “Just make sure you stay below the speed limit this time,” Nick replied, eyeing Angie seriously. He’d noted her tendency to speed, and though he loved her, Nick had a small heart attack whenever it came time for Angie to merge onto the freeway. She huffed.
“Oh stop it. I’ve never had an accident before,” she snapped, rolling her eyes. Ever since he’d gotten home, he’d been short tempered and ill, snapping at any and everything. Nick wasn’t sure why he felt so irritated and jumpy. More than likely it was because he’d been forced to let it go with Yamahara earlier than day when all he’d wanted to do was chase the bastard down and make him talk. . “And you don’t have to come. I’m perfectly capable of going grocery shopping on my own. I tie my own shoes and everything,” Angie replied sarcastically, locking the door behind them. “Especially if you’re going to be in that mood the whole time.” She paused by the steps, putting her hands on her hips. “Seriously.”
“Coming,” he groused, following her sulkily down the stairs. Angie had decided on baking a cake for. She, of course, had none of the necessary materials. She’d even forced him to watch the tutorial with her.
“That way, we’re less likely to screw it up.”
Nick chuckled a little to himself in spite of his bad mood. As though she’d read his mind, Angie glanced over at him from the driver’s seat.
“Everything good? You seem kind of..” Angie grimaced. “Annoyed tonight.” Although he hadn’t done much to hide it, Nick still felt a little guilty that she’d had to deal with his foul temper.
“Bad day. That’s all.”
“Well, if I can successfully pull it off, you’ll get to eat the test cake tonight,” Angie replied, her voice cajoling. If there was one weakness Nick had, it was sweets. “That’s He remained quiet for a moment, and then responded quietly.
“Can I lick the spoon?” Angie laughed so hard Nick thought she’d swerve into the breakdown lane. He could see her fighting to keep her eyes open wide enough to see the road as she devolved into a fit of riotous giggles. After a moment, she calmed, wiping the tears from her eyes before sighing heavily, the smile still on her face. He raised a single brow ridge in question, his annoyance palpable. “Oh my god, that’s exactly how your mom looks at me,” Angie replied, cartoonish shock coloring her expressive face, her brown eyes wide. Nick couldn’t help the snicker that escaped him, though he didn’t respond.
“In my defense, you have no idea how funny that was.” Angie flipped on the indicator as their turn neared, crossing traffic to the right side of the street. “You’re all gruff and mad, but you still want to lick the baking spoon? It’s comedy gold.”
“I’m a complicated Orc.”
“And no one understands him but his woman,” Angie sang, deepening her voice as she sang the lyrics. “Nick! Ya damn right.” Nick didn’t want to laugh, but he couldn’t help it.
“Did you lie to me about your age? Because I’m pretty sure Shaft was before your generation.”
“Did I say twenty seven? I actually meant forty.”
“I knew it.”
“Hey!” Angie replied, her voice thick with mock offense. “I think I look damn good for forty. My ass is pretty tight.”
“Best ass in L.A., if I do say so myself.” They pulled into the grocery store parking lot as Angie nodded sagely.
“You’d better,” The threat was delivered as a joke, but Nick couldn’t actually even remember the last time he’d looked at anyone else. It was like everyone else was static background noise, and Angie was the only thing that came in clear. “Okay, so we have to get a… what the hell does this say? Why can’t I read my own handwriting?” Angie grumbled quietly from the drivers seat, looking at the hastily written note she’d made before leaving the house. It listed all the ingredients, but it was a shame her handwriting looked like chicken scratch.
They exited the car, with Angie still squinting at the paper in her hands as Nick went to grab a cart. “Okay I figured it out. It says ‘springform pan’. Why didn’t I google this? I have no idea what that looks like.”
“My mom has one.” Nick replied, steering them towards the aisle with the cooking utensils in it. “It’s got this little latch at the side. I.. yeah, here, it’s this one.” He handed her one of the pans.
“Oh, good, and it’s an eight inch too, that’s what I needed.”
Again, Nick was struck by the sheer domesticity. He was grocery shopping with his girlfriend. Who was currently standing on her toes, attempting to reach a can of baking spray. He watched her for a moment before going over to help. Nick couldn’t help but admire the smooth curve of her back as she leaned forward, the shorts she’d hastily shoved on before they’d left the house riding up on her thick thighs.
Nick reached it easily, tossing it into the cart as Angie rolled her eyes at him. “Show off.”
When they’d gotten everything they needed—measuring spoons, the pan, a set of measuring cups, and a glass one with a spout—they left the supplies aisle. “I had no idea baking was so complicated,” she murmured, and Nick chuckled.
“It’s like chemistry.”
“I failed chem.”
Nick watched as Angie picked up a product, checking the price with a frown, before reluctantly tossing it into their cart. This is exactly why I can’t deal with Yamahara. Nick reminded himself. When he made K-9 officer, he’d get a pay increase, and a bonus. Only doing his job well—with no distractions—would make that possible. Then Angie wouldn’t have to look at necessities like they were luxuries.
And maybe they could move out of her tiny apartment, too. “How was Ward?” She asked, checking the list on her phone once again. “Oh, and do we need toilet paper? I can’t remember.”
“Just get it.” Nick advised, nodding. “He’s… fine.” Nick couldn’t help but be put off by their disagreement earlier. He knew Ward was right about being careful, but Nick knew he was right to be worried.
“Don’t worry about the groceries, Angie, I’ve got them.” Nick replied as they approached the cash rack. She looked indignant for a moment, and opened her mouth to argue, but Nick cut her off before she could maneuver her way around him. “I’ve got it. Come on. I’m your boyfriend, aren’t I?” he asked, producing his wallet from his pocket as the cashier behind them began scanning their items. Angie rolled her eyes at him, before trying to sneak by him, but Nick wouldn’t allow it.
“Oh my god, fine.” She sighed, gesturing to the credit card machine. “I wasn’t aware the Jakoby’s were so well off,” Angie replied. She made a snooty face at him, before walking around to the bagging area to begin loading the groceries onto the cart.
“We actually get all of our money through investments my great grandfather made. Bootstraps, you know.”
Angie giggled. “Okay moneybags. I’m going to take these out to the car.”
Nick watched as she headed for the door. “$84.67.” The cashier was an older woman, with skin darker than Angie’s, and graying close cropped hair. “That little girl your friend?” Nick handed her his credit card, and though he still felt the slight churn in his gut from earlier, he couldn’t help but smile when he said it, nodding.
“I’m going to marry her, I think.” He waited for the shock to leave her face, but it wasn’t replaced by disgust or anger. Just serene acceptance. She smiled kindly at him.
“That’s nice. I like hearin’ things like that.” She handed him his card back as the receipt printed. “You have a nice—” she paused, shock coloring her face as she stared at something behind him. Nick turned. Everyone was looking.
“Someone go out there and help her!”
Nick shifted, trying to get a look at what had everyone mesmerized. Nick’s eyes widened as he dropped his wallet on the grocery store tile, mindless as he shoved people out of his way.
Jeremy. Had he recognized Angie’s car? Followed them? He wasn’t sure, but it didn’t matter, because Nick was going to kill him. He had Angie by her arm, the metal cart turned over and their groceries spilled into the parking lot. He couldn’t hear her, but he could see the pained grimace on her face. Tear out his throat, break him, kill him, kill him—
There weren’t any thoughts but those. He was deaf with rage, adrenaline pumping through him as he barreled into the other man. Angie fell to the pavement with a yelp that didn’t register in his ears. Nick was panting, his chest heaving and pupils contracted into pinpricks. Nick raised his fist, smashing it into Jeremy’s face. Blood! Blood, kill him, snap open his ribs, eat his heart!
And then someone was on his back as he brought his meaty fist down again. Jeremy gurgled, his face a bloody mess. Nick shook himself, grabbing the other offender and tossing them off of his back—but then he heard Angie cry out. This time, he heard it through his rage. She’d hit the pavement hard when he’d thrown her, and she was sniffling, rubbing her shoulder as her elbow bled freely.
The fog began to clear, and Nick let go of Jeremy’s shirt, the unconscious man slumping to the pavement. His hands were sticky with warm blood, and there was a crowd of people he hadn’t noticed gathered around them. Some of them had cell phones out, recording, talking to the police, taking pictures.
Angie looked up at him, her eyes wide. “Nick…” He’d hurt her. He hadn’t meant to, but as the blood dripped from her torn shirt onto the asphalt, Nick knew it didn’t matter. It was his effect, not his intentions that counted here, and he felt disgust and shame welling in his chest.
“I’m sorry, Angie.” He wanted more than anything to go to her and hold her, kiss her, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t do that ever again. I shouldn’t even be allowed near her. Nick watched as she winced, glancing at her elbow. “I never…”
“I know, I know, it’s not your fault—” She rose to her knees, hissing when she put weight on her arm to rise. He shook his head.
“I have… I can’t.” The words wouldn’t come out, and as panic rose in his chest. “I hurt you. You’re bleeding, and it’s not him, it’s me.” Nick pressed the heels of his palms to his closed eyes and his head throbbed.
“Nick it’s not your fault, I know you didn’t—”
“The police are on their way.” Nick opened his eyes, and one of the grocery store clerks was standing next to Angie, a small first aid kit in his hands. “We told them how we saw that man attack you.” He pointed to Jeremy, who was still laid messily on the ground behind nick, both of his eyes swollen and bruised, and his nose a pulpy and broken mess. Nick looked down at his hands in horror. This was worse than when he’d fought him that night, the third time he’d ever met Angie. He couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think. Before he realized it, Nick was running, Angie’s pained voice calling him back.
I hurt you.
He kept going, rounding the corner out of the parking lot. He wasn’t even sure where he was going, he just knew he had to get away from her. Angie wasn’t safe with him, he knew that now. Monster. Everyone was right. He was an abomination, and their relationship had been doomed from the start. Nick loved Angie enough that he could let her go. He felt his phone going off in his pocket as he ran, but he ignored it. No, baby. No more. I’m sorry.
When he finally arrived, panting, it was like she’d known he was coming. His mother opened the door, her face sad. Worry lined her expression as well as she stroked the side of his face, sighing.
“Oh Mausan ukon.” She grasped his hand, leading him into the house. “I told you she wasn’t right for you.”
Angie’s heart was racing. She was falling down a hole of anxiety and fear and Nick had up and left, booking it after realizing he’d accidentally tossed her like a sack of potatoes. Angie had known Nick was strong—but this… this had been next level.
“Hey, cunt!” Jeremy’s voice was crude, and colored with cruel intent. Angie had known she’d not seen the last of him when Nick had royally handed his ass to him at the bar. She’d walked faster, trying to make it to the car without him accosting her. Not enough people out here—She glanced back, and found him closer than she’d expected. Jeremy had backhanded her across the face, startling her. “You fucking pigs now, whore? You’re gonna go from me to that?” He gestured crudely at Nick inside the grocery store. Angie tried to go for her purse, there was pepper spray inside. But in hitting her, Jeremy had overturned the grocery cart, sending her bag too far out of her reach.
He grabbed her arm, and Angie was certain he was going to break it. She prepared herself for the pain, while rearing her hand back to punch him—and then she heard it. The terrifying, animalistic growl. Nick’s coming. She knew it like she knew her own name; Nick was coming for her, and Jeremy was going to die.
He barreled across the lot, his eyes wild and singleminded. It wasn’t like when he looked at her, and there was passion there too—no. There was only one desire behind those eyes, and it was to see Jeremy in bloody pieces. He didn’t slow as he approached, and plowed straight into the other man, his hand loosing Angie’s arm on impact. She saw them hit the ground, hard, though the impact seemed to have no effect on Nick. He bared his teeth—an unnerving display despite his lack of fangs. Angie watched, her mouth open as Nick raised his arm and drove his fist into Jeremy’s face over and over. He’s really going to kill him.
Angie looked around, at the crowd that had gathered. She couldn’t let him do this. Not like this—if he did, Nick would go to jail. He’d be gone.
Angie rose to her feet a little unsteadily. Her mouth tasted like blood, and she knew her lip was split. “Nick! Nick stop!” She grabbed his arm, before throwing her arms around his shoulders. “Nick, it’s me, it’s Angie, baby you have to stop, you’re gonna kill him—”
And then she was airborne. Angie hit the pavement with a dull thud, sliding a little. Her arm throbbed—the thin material of her shirt had shredded on impact, and her elbow was bleeding profusely. She groaned, before sitting up. Nick seemed to come to himself then. Maybe it was the sound of her voice or the scent of her blood, but he could see her now. His expression turned pained as realization dawned on him.
“Ma’am?” Angie looked up. She’d zoned out while the officer had been talking to her. It was someone from Nick’s precinct, but she’d already forgotten his name. Angie almost wanted to ask for Ward—but that might make a bigger mess of this than it was already becoming. “I said we can’t do anything about the footage. It’s already been picked up by two local news stations.” Angie was shocked it had gone viral so fast, but Orc looses it when girlfriend is assaulted in parking lot already had three million views and counting. “But Jeremy’s in custody. He’s trying to press charges, but with the footage… He’ll be in the pen for minimum five years. Could be more, if you press charges too.”
Angie shook her head. “I don’t like court. Besides, I don’t think he’ll try this again.” She’d seen them wheeling him away in a stretcher, finally conscious. He’d looked at Angie fearfully, afraid to speak, even when the officers asked him questions. Good. You fucking should be afraid.
They’d let her have her phone, but Nick wasn’t answering. Angie hadn’t really expected him to—she’d seen the shame and pain in his eyes. In spite of herself, she found herself opening her messaging app, texting him again.
Please come home tonight, okay?
“Okay, I think that’s all. Are you fine to drive home?”
Angie nodded. The EMT’s had bandaged her up fairly well, and the manager at the grocery store had replaced everything Jeremy broke, free of cost. Plus a gift card. “I think I’ll be okay. Nick…”
“He’s not in any trouble.” The officer reassured her, grasping her hand. “You be safe.”
“I usually try to.” She smiled, though it was the absolute last thing she felt like doing.
Angie knew Nick wouldn’t be home when she got there, but tears welled up in her eyes anyway when she returned to an empty apartment. He’d returned none of her calls, responded to none of her texts. Angie found that her too-small apartment suddenly felt three sizes too large without Nick in it.
By midnight, Angie had called Nick twelve times, and texted him countless others. Begging, threatening—it all got the exact same response. Resolute silence. Angie briefly considered attempting her cake, but she couldn’t even bring herself to do meow than unpack the groceries. It wasn’t even late, but she dragged herself to bed anyway, finally succumbing to the emotional exhaustion she’d been doing her best to hold at bay.
Angie laid her head on the pillow, her phone still grasped tightly in her hands as she sent out two last messages.
Please come home.
The next morning, Angie’s phone buzzed. She jumped awake, unlocking it before her brain even registered that she’d been texted. Her face crumbled. It was just the alert for next week’s work schedule.
And still nothing from Nick. Angie ran a hand tiredly through her messy hair. She hadn’t bothered putting a scarf on; a lifelong habit she’d broken when Nick had started sleeping in her bed. It had been disorienting waking up without him, reaching for him and finding him gone.
Angie let herself fall back into the pillows, unable to keep herself from checking and rechecking her notifications. Nothing, no responses. This is it, then. Angie’s vision fogged as tears gathered in her eyes, threatening to spill down her blotchy cheeks. Didn’t see it ending this way. Angie’s phone buzzed, but she’d given up hoping that it would be the Orc whose phone she’d been blowing up. She glanced at it uninterestedly. Facebook.
Angie turned over, burying her face in the blankets. “Still smells like you,” she murmured.
Angie clenched her fist. She wasn’t going to just sit there and let Nick make all the decisions by himself. It was easy to do, he was so sure and steady, but this was her relationship too. No, I’m not fucking giving up.
And she wasn’t going to let it go without a fight. Angie dialed the number for the precinct, greeting the operator when she answered.
“Hi, I’m looking for officer Ward? Daryl Ward.”
It rang for a long time, and when Ward finally answered, he sounded irritated. “This better be you, Nick.”
“Try again.” So he didn’t go to work, either.
“Angie?” Shock colored his voice. “Is Nick with you? What the fuck happened last night? They ran that fucking clip on Fox!” Angie sighed, rubbing her temples. Of all the major news networks, it had to be the conservative one that hates Orcs.
“My ex found me again.” Angie replied quietly, her sore cheek seeming to throb at the memory. “He attacked me in the parking lot at the store, and Nick…” She paused, remembering the empty fury in his eyes. She shuddered. “I got hurt. He didn’t know it was me, and he hurt me by accident, and now he won’t come home.”
“What do you mean he hurt you?” Ward’s voice was suspicious, and Angie frowned. He’d never hurt me on purpose. Never.
“It was an accident. I was trying to stop the fight, and… I don’t even think he knew it was me.” Angie said quietly, glancing at the empty space beside her in bed. “I was calling to see if he’d come in to work, but..”
“As you can see, he hasn’t been here either.” Ward sounded annoyed, but Angie knew he was probably a little worried about Nick, even if he didn’t particularly want to admit it. His voice was a little quieter when he spoke next, softer. “Everybody’s seen that video, Ang. Everyone knows now. No damage done here, but you guys are going to have to be careful.”
“Why are you warning me?” Angie snapped, sniffling. “Nick’s not even here.”
She could practically feel Ward rolling his eyes through the receiver. “Have you tried his mom’s house?”
“No. I didn’t think she’d let me in.” Angie admitted, furrowing her brows. It had occurred to her, tangentially, that he might go home, but she hadn’t been certain. I’m also pretty sure Ulaorn would slam the door in my fucking face.
“It’s either there or the barracks. There’s a room here for off duty officers that need to knock out before they get on the road and go home. I’ll check there.”
“Yeah, yeah,” he replied grumpily. “And Angie? If you find my partner, please try not to lose him again. All this paperwork is a bitch on one fucking person.”
Angie ended the call and rolled out of bed. She headed over to the vanity to grab her spray bottle and deal quickly with the mess that had formed on top of her head. If she didn’t have dried blood on her face, and an ugly yellowing bruise, she’d probably have just run straight to Nick in her pajamas.
Instead, she forced herself to detangle her hair, willing her fingers to stop shaking, and her heart to stop racing anxiously in her chest. When she was done, and her kinky hair was piled in a messy—but untangled—knot on top of her head, Angie headed to the shower. She didn’t want their relationship to be over. She wanted to run to him and scream and cry and beg, to rush through her shower and jump in the car, her skin still damp.
But she didn’t.
Angie forced herself to move slowly, deliberately. When she was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, she headed for the door, grabbing her keys on the way out. The drive was quiet—it was Memorial Day weekend, and people were already on the highway, heading out of town for vacation. Angie decided to take the long way, instead of waiting in traffic. And with each press of the gas, her resolve strengthened.
He’s not running away from me like this.
Not at least without some fucking answers. The pain in her chest was turning quickly to anger, and Angie shook herself, breathing deeply. No. She wasn’t going to go there to scream at him. That wasn’t the right answer either. She forced the building frustration away, concentrating on looking for his parent’s place. She remembered the street, but not the house number.
She parked, unbuckling her seatbelt quickly. He fucking walked here? All the way from the store?
Angie was knocking loudly on the door before she’d even registered the thought that it was early still, and that she could quite possibly be waking everyone in the house. She paused, listening. Upon hearing nothing, she raised her fist to bang on the door again, but it jerked open.
Great. Why couldn’t it be fucking Brun?
Ulaorn frowned at her, dislike and displeasure written all over her face. “You need to go.”
“No, not until I see him.” Ulaorn was stockier and taller than Angie, and she knew that if it came to blows, she’d be down in thirty seconds flat. Don’t care. I’ll give her one good fucking punch before she lays me out.
“You cannot see him. It’s over. That’s for the best.” Her tone was clipped and icy, but this time, Angie wasn’t cowed.
“No! You do not fucking get to stand there and tell me that my relationship is over. I need to hear that from him.” Angie’s hands were on her hips, and she was yelling now. She didn’t care that the neighbors would probably be at the windows soon—if they weren’t already—listening to every juicy detail. “I know you don’t like me.” You’re probably actively wishing I’d fucking combust. “But I love your son. I woke up this morning, and…” Her voice broke a little as she swallowed thickly. “And it was like part of me was missing because he wasn’t there.” Ulaorn’s face was unreadable. Her body remained just as imposingly positioned, there in the doorway, but her face? Angie had no idea what she was thinking.
She moved, allowing Angie to cross the threshold into their sitting room. “Sit down, Angie.” Ulaorn sat on the couch, and she followed suit, her knees shaking a little as she lowered herself.
“I don’t hate you.”
Angie couldn’t help but roll her eyes. “I’m sorry, I really just can’t believe that.”
“You’re human. You don’t understand… I come from a long line of Orcs.” Ulaorn gestured at the wall Angie had seen last time, where the pictures hung. “Blooded Orcs. Warriors. When the Dark Lord rose, he chose two Orcs to be his generals.” Angie nodded, everyone knew this story. “Ghosh and Kynr. Ghosh was special, he was a fierce warrior, and he had never been defeated in battle. He had blood lust so strong that he went into battle rages, slaughtering dozens in moments.” Ulaorn sighed deeply before continuing. “And when he saw the carnage on the battle field, and the cost of the lives of his kin, he changed sides, and fought with Jirak.”
Angie sighed. “Not that I’m ungrateful that you’re finally speaking to me like I’m not a stray dog your son dragged in, but why are you telling me this?”
“Because Ghosh is my ancestor. He’s Nick’s ancestor. They were called berserkers. I feared that Nick would be the one to inherit the trait from me, and I was right.”
Angie shook her head. “What do you mean? You mean he just… snaps?” Ulaorn nodded.
“Nick is the most emotional out of all my children. He feels deeply, and because of this, he… When he is particularly emotionally vulnerable, violence can make him go…”
“Berserk.” Angie finished softly, rubbing a hand across her face. He’d never hurt me on purpose. She sighed deeply, closing her eyes. It seemed everyone was more afraid for her than she was for herself. Nick didn’t have an abusive bone in his body. Angie pointedly decided not to mention the fact that Nick seemed to loose control almost every time he got his hands on her, and it had never been an issue before. He was just trying to protect her; it wasn’t as though he’d deliberately attacked her. Even as she’d seen him come running across the lot, the intent clear in his eyes, she hadn’t been afraid of him. She’d been afraid for him.
Angie wasn’t stupid, she knew how much harsher the system was on Orc offenders. He wouldn’t get the death penalty—only because California had eliminated it years prior—but he’d be in there for the rest of his life if he’d killed Jeremy. Angie looked up at Ulaorn, determination written across her face. “I don’t care.”
“I said I don’t care. I don’t care. I want to be with him anyway.” She watched Nick’s mother frown, and shake her head, and suddenly Angie understood. Ulaorn hadn’t hated her. She’d been afraid for her, just like everyone else. Urging Nick to leave her not because she was black, or because she was human, but because she was worried Nick would loose control and tear her throat out. But Angie knew he wouldn’t. He seems to have other, equally nefarious purposes for my neck, but none of them ever seem to involve ripping it open.
“You should care,” Ula replied quietly, clenching her hands on her lap as she spoke.
“Why? He’s never hurt me before. I’ve seen him like that before and… and he’s never hurt me.” Her voice was sure and steady as she spoke. “I love him, and I’m not afraid.” Ula looked at her, her luminous eyes seeming to bore into Angie’s, and the seconds ticked by slowly. Oh fuck, she’s going to make me leave, Angie thought to herself, clenching her fists tightly on her lap. She’s not going to let me see him.
“Because you’re the trigger.” Her words struck Angie almost like a physical weight. She clenched her eyes shut and sighed sadly, before opening them. “As the one he loves, you’re both his greatest asset, and his largest weakness. What you saw yesterday?” Ula said, seeming to look through Angie then, as though remembering something better forgotten. “That’s only the slightest taste of what he could be capable of.”
Angie paused.“I want Nick. All of him. I can handle it. I know you think… I can’t. Because I’m human. Or maybe just because I’m me.” “I can handle anything he has to throw at me, because I love him.” It was the first time she’d said it aloud to anyone other than him, and it appeared to have the intended effect. She stuck her chin out stubbornly, waiting for Ula to continue to list reasons why it wouldn’t work. So he looses control sometimes. It was certainly news that gave Angie pause, but certainly not something that made her want to be with him less. Angie took a deep breath before finishing. “But I know what I want, and that’s him.”
“You’ve been with my son for six months.” Ulaorn’s voice wasn’t mocking or stern—she was simply stating a fact. Angie nodded. It was true, she hadn’t known Nick as long as some of the other people in his life, but Angie knew herself well enough to be honest about her emotions.
“Seven, really, if you count from when we first met.” Her gaze remained steady and strong. “And I know I love him.”
“Love isn’t enough,” Ulaorn replied bluntly, though her expression softened. “But it’s a very good start.” Ula glanced at the stairs, before meeting her gaze steadily. “Nick said you were brave.” She smiled, and though it was a little tight, it was genuine. “You’ll need to be.” The Orc woman smoothed out a wrinkle in her skirt before giving Angie one last look—the final judgement. She seemed to be satisfied with her findings, and nodded once, curtly. “He’s very angry with himself right now. He won’t want to listen.”
“No, he wouldn’t even pick up the phone for me,” Angie felt some lingering bitterness work it’s way into her voice. Ula nodded.
“Tell him ve braje wiavhouav alnej, ve fehrleukuk wiavh alnej.” Angie narrowed her eyes in thought, before speaking, trying to pronounce everything exactly as she’d heard it.
“Yes, good.” Angie couldn’t help but be surprised at the praise. She’d honestly been half expecting Ula to tell her she sounded like a dying donkey. The older orc looked at her expectantly. “Come now, the rest.” Angie could hear the remnants of her years as a teacher, the way she spoke, tilting her head, watching to see if Angie understood.
“Ve braje wiavhouav…alnej, ve fearleukuk wiavh alnej?”
“Your pronunciation is good. Has Nick been speaking Orkish with you?”
Angie felt her cheeks warm. “More like to me. I only know like two words.” Ulaorn snorted derisively, shaking her head. Hopefully she won’t ask me which two. “What does it mean?”
“Jirak said it to his troops as they faced the Dark Lord. ‘Be brave with me, and be fearless without me’.” She paused for a moment, before continuing. “Say that to him, and he’ll come home.” She eyed Angie, and pursed her lips. “And then you’ll come twice a week to learn Orkish. It’s unacceptable he hasn’t taught you yet. Almost seven months and only two words? My son is disgraceful.” She snorted. Angie gave her a watery smile before rising from the couch.
“I’d better go.”
Ula nodded. She turned and headed for the steps, pausing for a moment before putting one foot in front of the other. Angie hadn’t seen the second floor of the house. There were four bedrooms up there, each with the door closed. She could hear loud, unfamiliar snoring coming from one of them, and Angie assumed it was Brun. The third time was the charm, and when she opened it, Nick was sitting up in bed, shirtless, staring blearily at the door. He’d probably been woken up by the noise she made, looking for him.
“I smelled you, Angie.” He said sleepily, and Angie’s knees almost buckled at the sound of his voice. “What are you doing here?” His eyes widened in recognition. “You should go.” Angie shook her head, watching as he pursed his lips. “I’m not… It’s not safe for you to be here.” She hadn’t realized how much she’d missed him. She’d known that for a few hours, when she’d believed they were really through, it was the loneliest she’d ever felt. Funny, considering it’s not like being with another person, being with Nick. It’s everything I love about being alone and nothing I hate.
“Would you just shut the hell up?” Angie replied tiredly, coming to sit next to him on the bed. Despite his apparent discomfort, Nick allowed it. He opened his mouth to speak, likely to protest again, but Angie spoke first, preempting him. “Look. Yesterday… was not ideal. I think we can both admit that, yes?” Nick nodded tersely. “Your mom told me everything.”
“And you’re still here?” The shock was evident in his voice; it was clear he honestly thought the idea of being with him anyway would send her running, eager to have him out of her life. “Angie I lost control. I could have fucking killed you!” He was furious, but not with her. With himself. “And Jeremy…”
“I swear to god if you express even an ounce of remorse for what you did to Jeremy, I might actually consider leaving you.” Angie snapped. “He deserved worse.” Her eyes darkened as she tried to ignore the memories. “Much worse.”
“Then why did you stop me?” Nick’s voice was quiet, and Angie could see him fisting his hands in the blankets.
“Because the absolute last thing I need is for you to go to jail, Nick.” She finally reached for him, stroking the side of his face. “I love you, and I want you in my life.”
Nick’s voice cracked a little when he spoke. “I love you too.” Nick rested his head in his hands, before sighing. “This is a big fucking mess, isn’t it?” He asked after a moment. “My mom said they ran it on the news. The video clip of me attacking Jeremy.” Angie had been hesitant to bring that up. Angie herself hadn’t bothered to watch it—what was the point? She’d lived it. And I’d really rather fucking not watch myself get decked.
“You mean of you defending me from Jeremy?” Angie snapped, pointing to her bruised face. “The video also showed that. And yeah. Ward told me it ran on Fox.”
Nick looked at her quizzically. “He told you? You didn’t watch it?”
“No. Why would I? I was there.” She pointed to her face, watching his hands fist in the blankets. “I don’t need to see it.”
The silence was thick between them for the first time, and Angie hated it. Most of all, she hated Jeremy, for managing to wedge himself between them even now. It would almost be funny if it weren’t so infuriating. “Angie… I can’t.”
“I can’t come home.” Angie gritted her teeth and shook her head. She opened her mouth to speak, but Nick cut her off. “No. I’m not… I’m not brave enough to take the chance that I could hurt you again. Worse.” Say that to him, and he’ll come home. Ula’s voice rang in Angie’s ears, and she swallowed nervously. No time like the present.
“Ve braje wiavhouav alnej, ve fehrleukuk wiavh alnej.” Nick’s mouth dropped open a little as she spoke, his surprise at hearing the language coming from her mouth written all over his face. Angie fidgeted nervously, waiting for him to respond. “Did I say it wrong?” She asked after a moment, only to find herself pressed hard against Nick’s chest as he pushed his nose into her hair, inhaling deeply.
“Where did you learn that? Who taught it to you?” He asked, the timbre of his voice vibrating against her cheek.
“Your mom, actually.” Nick snorted.
“Seriously, who? Did you look it up?”
“I’m serious,” Angie replied, leaning away from him to meet his disbelieving stare. “Your mom seriously taught me. And she told me to start coming over twice a week for Orkish lessons.” She hadn’t thought it was possible for Nick’s eyes to get any wider, but they did. Angie couldn’t blame him; if he’d told her the same thing two hours ago, she’d never have believed him either.
“I died in my sleep and these must be the halls of my ancestors, because there’s no way that happened. Without me there to mediate.”
“Miraculously, your mother and I are capable of communicating without you courier messages between us.” Angie replied dryly, running a hand along the thick skin of Nick’s back. He sighed, drawing her head back to his chest as he tucked it underneath his chin. It was clear he’d been missing her, too. Nick’s rough fingers stroked the exposed skin where her jeans met the t-shirt she’d hastily donned. “No more muttering to me in Orkish while you’re trying to dig out my uterus,” Angie joked softly, and he laughed.
“You’ll… you’ll really let me keep you?” he asked after a moment, his voice raw and vulnerable. Angie couldn’t see his face, but she could feel and hear his heartbeat as it quickened. He was afraid of hurting her, but Angie was convinced he didn’t need to be. If he was going to loose control and rip her throat out, she was fairly certain he would have done it by then; six months was a long time to wait for that sort of thing. Not that I have any fucking frame of reference.
“As long as you promise never to fucking do that shit to me again, ever.” Angie pushed away from his chest hard, her brows furrowed. “I mean it, Nick. Either we talk it out or we don’t, but I can’t take the disappearing act.”
“I promise.” He looked down, regret making it’s way across his features. “I was terrified, Ang.” His voice was low and quiet. “It was like I was watching myself. Watching myself beat him into a bloody pulp and… I was enjoying it. I couldn’t stop.” Angie squeezed his arm.
“You know something? I didn’t feel bad, watching them wheel him away on that stretcher,” Angie said after a moment. Nick was dragging himself through the dirt, and for what? Some asshole who had a penchant for beating his girlfriends, selling drugs, guns, killing people, and God knew what other shit he’d done. Angie refused to allow Nick to continue to take himself to task for doing what she thought, at least, was the right thing. “He’s scum, Nick. He should have been in prison a long time ago. You were trying to save me. You did save me.” He looked away, but Angie caught his chin, forcing him to meet her eyes. “You did the right thing, Nick.”
He held her gaze for a moment before sighing. “You know not everyone is going to see it that way.”
Angie shrugged. “I can’t control how other people see it. I was there and I know what happened. You’re not in any trouble, by the way. I talked to Ward.”
“Fantastic. I bet he’s pissed with me for not coming in.”
“Just so we’re clear,” Angie replied, rubbing her nose along the crease between his hard pectorals. “You’re coming home, yes? And you’re not gonna do this again?”
“I’m sorry, Angie. I got so freaked out that I hurt you. I didn’t… I couldn’t even begin to deal with it.” She understood why he’d fled—she just wanted to be sure he wouldn’t do it again. “
“If we’re together, we have to actually work through these things together,” She replied softly, squeezing his arm. “Please don’t do this to me again.” Angie felt tears of relief pricking at her eyes. It was both frustrating and wonderful how much she found Nick meant to her, and while others might view his flight at proof that he didn’t want to be with her, Angie knew it was just the opposite. Nick’s heartbeat thudded against her cheek, and she closed her eyes, sighing deeply.
“I promise. Never again.” Nick wasn’t a man who gave his word lightly, and she knew that once he’d given it, he’d do his best to keep it. “I love you, Angie. Mausan avreaukure.”
“What does that mean?” she mumbled, wrapping her arms around his waist. He laughed a little.
“It’s how you tell someone you love them, in Orkish. It means ‘my treasure’.”
“So it’s not like.. a direct translation?”
“No. Orcs… we weren’t always the most poetic people Ang. Telling someone they were like gold to you is probably the highest compliment you could have given, back when we were living in caves in the mountains.”
“I can’t believe we’re discussing linguistics in your bed.” Angie laughed. It felt good to have him back, to settle back into the way things were supposed to be. There was still
Nick gave a low rumble in his chest. “Is there something else you’d like to do in my bed?” She could hear that he was only half joking, and the way he tightened his arms around her let her know the offer was real, and open.
“Isn’t the barbecue in a few hours? I still have enough time to get home and bake my cake,” She replied, knowing full well that there wouldn’t be any of that. He’d been away from her for too long not to reassert himself, even if he didn’t realize he was doing it. Nick ran his nose along the side of her throat, grunting in displeasure.
“You don’t smell like me,” He rumbled, the displeasure clear in his voice.
“Oh? Well I did sleep all by myself last night,” Angie replied cheekily, turning so that she was straddling his lap instead of splayed across him. She pouted up at him. “I had no big strong Orc to protect me. I mean, I considered having Terry stay over—” Nick growled fiercely and his hands tightened on her jean clad hips.
“Not. Funny. And I’m going to fix that right now.”
“It was a little funny.” Angie couldn’t argue anymore as Nick’s mouth came crashing down hungrily on hers, his teeth scraping eagerly against her lower lip as he sucked it into his mouth. Angie moaned quietly, before pressing her hands against his chest. Nick stopped—reluctantly, and eyed her.
“What? What’s wrong?”
“We can’t, not here,” She replied, giggling. “Literally your dad is asleep across the hall.”
Nick snorted derisively, as if to tell her that was a poor deterrent. To illustrate his point, he ground his hips upward into hers, and Angie bit her lip.
“We’ll be quiet.”
And then his hands were under her shirt, tugging the hem up and over her head. Quiet. Yeah. Angie leaned forward to drag her teeth down his chest, and Nick released a ragged groan. She reached behind herself to unhook her bra and tossed it into a corner of the room before Nick could rip it off of her. He ran his thumbs appreciatively over her nipples, licking his lips as they pebbled beneath his touch.
“Take these off,” Nick commanded hoarsely, hooking his finger into one of the belt loops of her jeans. “Now.” Angie leaned up on her knees to unbutton and unzip them, but before she was even done, Nick was tugging them down her legs, sending her tumbling to the bed, laughing.
He didn’t bother responding, he just leaned down to cover her body with his, his cock pressing insistently against the seam of her panties. Angie bucked her hips, grinding against him. “Now who’s impatient?”
Angie giggled, before wiggling out of her panties and wrapping her legs around his waist. “Barbecue starts at 11. You’re wasting time, you know.” Angie replied snippily, and Nick chuckled darkly, sliding the head of his engorged cock against her before beginning to push inside. There was nothing like that sensation, that sweet burning ache as he filled her. No wonder so many Orc women have such wide hips, she thought, hissing as he sank in further.
“Oh shit,” She cursed quietly, as Nick rested his forehead against her own, panting. She could feel him pulsing inside her, eager to move, but anxious for her comfort. He ran his tongue along the side of her throat, groaning as she undulated her hips, rocking the head of his cock against her womb.
Nick groaned quietly, pressing his face against the mattress beside her head. His chest was heaving with the effort not to lose control. Nick pulled back before rolling his hips into Angie’s, forcing his cock as far into her heated passage as it would go. He released a low growl against her ear, and Angie felt herself clench around him, moaning.
“Shh,” he uttered, grinning against the skin of her throat. Angie wanted to complain, but he moved in her again, and the words were lost in a rough exhalation of breath. “Someone could hear.” He was mocking her for being the louder of the two of them, she knew. But how could she help it, the way his rough hands squeezed her ample hips and tugged at her taut nipples? He rocked into her again and again, until the headboard began tapping the wall with the force of his thrusts, though neither of them seemed to register the sound.
Angie’s legs were wrapped around him, her hips tilted upward as she met his thrusts with her own. Nick nipped at the skin between her neck and shoulder before pulling back, and sliding out of her. Angie whimpered at the loss, looking at him questioningly.
Does he want to stop?
Nick’s hands caressed her thighs appreciatively, his eyes traveling down the length of her body inch by inch. Angie fidgeted under his gaze. “What?”
“Lookaumn aav whaav iuk uorkormajal.” He replied, taking a single finger to her sensitive, dripping slit to test her wetness. Nick locked his golden eyes onto hers, and wrapped his tongue around the digit, sucking her juices off. “I’m looking at what’s mine.”
Angie felt a pleasurable shiver run down her spine at his words. His. Without question. Nick shifted them, tugging her to the edge of the mattress, and motioning for her to flip over onto her belly. Angie’s feet found purchase on the floor just as the head of his cock nudged back into her throbbing cunt. Nick gave her a few shallow strokes, keeping just the head of his cock inside her.
“Missed this,” he muttered, and Angie moaned, thrusting her hips back and seating him further inside her. “Oh fuck, Angie.” Nick’s hands tightened around her hips, slamming her down onto his rigid cock. She could feel her orgasm building in her belly, making her walls clench furiously around him.
“Fuck, I’m—” Nick leaned forward and clapped his hand around her mouth as she cried out, muffling the cry that would have alerted his family—and probably his neighbors too—to the nature of their “discussion”. She moaned weakly against his hand as he thrust into her, riding out the wave of her orgasm. His teeth scraped against her neck, and Angie tilted her head to the side, allowing them to sink into her flesh. Nick growled, slamming into her twice more before shuddering.She could feel him throbbing inside of her, his cock pumping thick jets of cum against her cervix. If he could get me pregnant, I’m pretty sure that would have done it.
After a moment, Nick slid out of her, reaching for the towel on the chair beside his bed to wipe her off. Angie rolled over onto her back and sat up tiredly, her thighs throbbing. She was about to ask Nick if he thought they could sneak a shower, when suddenly the door opened. I thought I locked that!
Angie yelped, and dove behind Nick, who tore the sheet off of the bed to cover the both of them. It was only a small relief, when she peered around Nick’s broad shoulder, to see that it wasn’t Ula who had discovered them. It was a stranger, likely one of Nick’s relatives, as they shared the same purposeful cheekbones and graceful brow ridges.
“Uh, mom sent me to tell you that people are arriving.”
“Get out, Tom.” Nick's voice was gruff and irritated, but not angry. Wait...
“Yeah, yeah. Nice to meet you, Angie!”
Angie pressed her face against Nick’s back in horror.
“Please tell me that wasn’t—”
“Yep.” Nick replied, sighing. “That was my brother.”
To be continued….