The Prince and the Paladin Chapter Three

They were quiet on the way back to Mr Perrigo’s house. Kayley lugged awkward boxes and felt Drake’s frustration wash over her in waves. “Okay, it’s scary, but I’m not giving up on you,” she said finally. “Let’s go back to who you are. You’re a vampire hunter, right? So where do you live?”

“In Roundhay, I think,” Drake said. “How about – I’ve inherited a house with an occult library from an uncle who was my last remaining relative.”

“It’s too cheesy,” Kayley said.

“It would only be cheesy if I wanted a mansion,” Drake shrugged. “I don’t think I should have a big family. It’s just that for one reason or another I have distant relatives, most of them abroad.”

“Not in Australia or New Zealand” Kayley said quickly. “My mother would want to meet them.”

“Good point.” Drake had his hands in his pockets and his shoulders. “I think they should be in Canada,” he said thoughtfully.

“And perhaps you bought a house in Roundhay because you had an opportunity for a fixer upper with a large garden and plenty of room for all the swords and silver bullets that you needed to fight against darkness.” Kayley nodded to herself.

“Fortunately, I am handy around the house and I’ve been doing a lot of the work myself,” Drake said smugly.

“I would help with the painting,” Kayley pointed out. “I like decorating.”

“That makes one of us,” Drake grumbled. “I would have been glad of your help.” He grinned wickedly at her. “And it’s convenient if you’re going to stay the night. You don’t have a long journey to work from my place so we can sleep in.”

Kayley found herself blushing. “I’m not sure that I’d stay overnight.”

“After a hard evening of staking vampires, you would be too tired to go home,” Drake said innocently. “Now that looks like a vampire hunter’s car. I have a car like that as well.”

“Enough of the vampires.” Kayley ran past the battered Range Rover which was now liberally spattered with mud and ducked into Mr Perrigo’s house. “I’ll take the food through to the dining room.”

Kayley set out the food on Mr Perrigo’s exquisite Victorian china, loaded them on to the hostess trolley and wheeled it down to the dining room.

“I can hear a lot of voices,” Drake said. “I wonder what’s going on.” Kayley could imagine him frowning. “I bet that the herbal teas are a front for drugs,” he said. “Or better – dark potions sold to vampires. It’s the vampire mafia meeting in the drawing room and I’m undercover to find out.”

“You’re outrageous!” Kayley thought at him. She arranged the food on platters at one end of a shining mahogany table. “But it must be serious. I wonder if he’s running out of money?”

“Are you kidding?” Drake said. “He’s raking it in with those herbal teas. I’ve seen the invoices and spreadsheets. Nope, it’s paranormal, I swear.”

“You’re going to be obsessed with this, aren’t you?” Kayley teased.

Drake grinned. “I’m having so much fun,” he said.

Kayley tapped on the drawing room door and went in. “I’ve put the food in the dining room, Mr Perrigo,” she said, trying not to stare. The collection of men sitting around in the prim drawing room was unexpected. Mr Perrigo bounded to his feet. “Gentlemen, allow me to introduce Miss Kayley Adams. Kayley, this is Lord Marius,” he gestured at the tall, slim, dark haired man who lounged like a cat in one of the overstuffed armchairs. “He’s an old friend of mine and very important to me.”

“You need to watch him,” Drake whispered. “He looks lethal.” Kayley agreed. There was an edge of darkness around the man.

“This is Rhys Davis,” Mr Perrigo said, indicating a tough, hard faced man standing near the window. “He’s an important man in the construction business.”

“I could take him,” Drake said. “As long as he wasn’t a vampire.” Kayley wasn’t so sure. Rhys looked strained but he looked strong and poised for action, out of place in the old-fashioned room.

“And this is Sir Dylan,” Mr Perrigo said. “He’s a very good man and happy to look after you.”

“That is not a sir,” Drake said, stunned. “What sort of ‘sir’ is called Dylan? And what sort of ‘sir’ has tattoos. And what does he mean – look after you? Hell, it’s human trafficking!”

“If it was that then I would have been trafficked ages ago,” Kayley said mentally as she smiled politely at Sir Dylan. He stood, looming over her.

“That guy is built like a bear, and not in a good way,” Drake hissed. “He looks like he could juggle washing machines. He has tattoos on his neck.”

“I’m very pleased to finally meet you,” Sir Dylan said, holding out a massive, meaty hand for Kayley to shake and giving Mr Perrigo a hard look. “Let me give you my number.”

Kayley limply shook his hand and took the business card. “Thank you,” she said.

“Is this some sort of dating thing?” Drake said. “Did Mr Perrigo set you up? He doesn’t seem the type but after reading The Lothario of Leeds I suppose anything could happen.”

“You may call me at any time,” Sir Dylan said, still looking hard at Mr Perrigo. “If anything bothers or concerns you in any way, don’t hesitate to call. It doesn’t matter how crazy or insignificant it feels.”

“It’s definitely a set up,” Drake said.

Kayley managed a non-committal smile before turning to Mr Perrigo. “Would you like me to set up tea and coffee?” she asked.

“No, not at all,” Mr Perrigo said. “It’s all in hand. Why don’t you take the rest of your lunchbreak and I’ll let you know when we need you to take notes.”

“And when you need to talk to the minister,” Sir Dylan added.

“It’s a cult,” Drake said. “It’s fake ministers who are going to take you away to a cult.”

“At least it’s not vampires,” Kayley thought back as she escaped from the drawing room and headed back towards the kitchen. “I need a cup of tea.” She opened the door into the kitchen and froze.

“There’s a naked man in the kitchen.” Drake sounded as shocked as Kayley felt.

“He’s wearing a towel,” Kayley answered. She couldn’t take her eyes off him as he pulled a bottle of water from the fridge.

“Those aren’t gym muscles,” Drake said quietly. “At least, those aren’t go to the gym to look good muscles. Those are go to the gym as part of practising to hurt people muscles.”

“He’s good looking,” Kayley murmured. “I mean, not like you, but perhaps it’s a careful workout.”

“You must be Kayley Adams.” The man looked impatiently past her. “I don’t suppose you’ve seen Sir Dylan?”

Kayley swallowed. “He’s in the drawing room with Mr Perrigo,” she said.

The man ran a quick hand through his dark, wet hair. “He was supposed to be bringing my case from the hotel. Do you know where he put it?”

Kayley slowly shook her head. “I can go and ask him,” she said.

The man shook his head. “I’ll go see him in a minute,” he said. “I need to dry off a little first. I was pushed in the canal.” He gestured casually at the sound of a washing machine working quietly in the utility room. “Mr Perrigo was good enough to let me get a quick shower here where there would be less questions and…” He looked around at the sound of the door. “That will be him. Excuse me.” Kayley stood well back as the most handsome man she had ever met strode past her and down the hall.

Kayley made herself a cup of tea and went back to the office. A small stack of manuscript and some letters were sitting next to her computer along with an elegant note telling her not to worry about refreshments for her meeting with Reverend King as he had taken care of it. She could feel the tension in Drake.

“Everything’s going crazy. Ten minutes ago I would have never believed there would be a naked man in Mr Perrigo’s kitchen,” he said

“At least he was wearing a towel. I wonder if he’s a friend of Sir Dylan.” Kayley said carefully. “Or whether he’s an accomplice.”

“He’s got to be something to do with drugs,” Drake said. “Did you see those scars? He can’t be legal.”

“Perhaps he’s ex-military,” Kayley suggested, half-heartedly shuffling through the letters. “He had short hair.”

“He wasn’t shy.” Drake ran a comb through his own damp hair and checked his reflection in the window. “Perhaps he’s used to being naked around women. You need to watch yourself around him. I wish I could actually be there to keep an eye out for you,” he said uneasily. “Those scars looked nasty.”

“I’m sure Mr Perrigo knew what he was doing.” Kayley tried to convince herself. “I mean, he wouldn’t allow someone dangerous to just wander around his house, would he?”

“How could he stop him?” Drake paced up and down. “Unless he really is a vampire. I mean, that was someone who was dangerous. Perhaps he’s forcing Mr Perrigo to make drugs.” Drake paused. “He’s probably going to be at the dinner party tonight. You need to make sure you’ve got your mobile phone on you at all times and keep it charged.” He threw up his hands in frustration. “I wish I could really be there. It doesn’t feel safe.”

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