Tooth awoke to a throbbing pain in his side, but it was bearable. There was a high-pitched noise somewhere in the background, rhythmically tapping on the back of his mind, but he was warm, comfortable in a soft bed, with his mind pleasantly clouded. He absent-mindedly moved his hands about, looking for Luci’s skin, but it wasn’t there, and as he extended his hands farther, a feminine voice gasped his name.
“Tooth? Are you waking up?”
He groaned and fought to open his eyes, which seemed like an unbelievably tough chore. But then it hit him. He knew that rhythmic sound that worked in perfect sync with his own pulse. Rick shot him. And then Luci was with him.
Tooth’s eyes opened, and he tried to sit up, but something pulled him back on the mattress, as if a giant spider caught him in its web, ready to feed. But it was only cables, fastened to his body to monitor his vitals. He stared at the bandage at his side, breathing hard.
“Tooth, keep it easy.” Astaroth. “You’ve been shot, but it will be fine. You’ve had surgery.”
“Fine?” he uttered, disoriented and tired. His eyes took in the room, the vase of flowers, and a bottle of mineral water on the side table. “Where’s Luci?”
She avoided his gaze and tapped on her phone, slouched. It occurred to Tooth that it was the first time in years he’d seen her without makeup. She looked so young and tired. “We can’t get him on his phone. But I’ll call Dad that you woke up. Luci didn’t get hurt, just so you know.”
All air left Tooth’s lungs. It was all coming back now like a flash flood. He and Bell had gone to confront Rick about his plans regarding Luci. Rick started shooting as soon as he realized the boy wasn’t there. With a freaking machine gun. Bell died. God, Bell died.
Tooth choked and hid his face in his hands. And now Luci was gone too? Had the bastards laid their hands on him? Had they cut him open already? Panic was rushing through Tooth’s veins, and he couldn’t stop his feet from trembling. “What do you mean you can’t reach him? Why isn’t he here?”
“He… I don’t know really. We just can’t,” she muttered.
Before Tooth could ask another question, Priest barged into the room. “Fuck. You’re up. Good.” There wasn’t a hint of sadness in his voice, but Tooth could swear his face had aged ten years.
He was being selfish to only think of Luci when his family was so clearly hurting. “I’m so fucking sorry about Bell. The fucker opened fire without any warning.” He let out a strangled breath, lowering his head.
“We need to get the motherfucker who shot him. We already did a check on him, and he was using a fake name. Only worked in the Vanilla for a while.”
“What about Luci?” Tooth bit his lip. “The fucker was expecting the boy, and he came carrying a gun!”
“Luci’s somewhere in the hospital. I told him to stay put. You want me to call him?” Priest’s tone was as dead and steady as a rock.
Tooth exhaled with a quick nod and fell to the bed. His body was aching, the pain spreading down his leg, but when he focused on different parts of his body, he managed to push it to the background, even if just for a while. It would be okay. Priest stood there with his phone on speaker mode, and every unanswered ring was making Tooth more anxious. Voice mail.
“You’ve reached Lucifer, son of Satan, please leave a message,” pronounced Luci’s cheerful voice.
“Fuck!” He hit the pillow, already imagining Luci being dragged through some dirty corridor to an impromptu operating room where all his insides would be removed, leaving behind an empty shell.
“He must be grieving,” Asty offered, covering under a blanket. “There’s different… stuff happens.”
“No, he is in danger. We need to get to him first.” Tooth was close to hyperventilating, hurt and stuck to the damn hospital bed. The beeping sound picked up its pace.
“He must be somewhere in the hospital. We need to find Rick Harris, or whatever the fuck his name is, before he disappears.”
“Is he really in danger?”
Tooth glanced at Astaroth, who looked at a pen she was playing with. A cool pressure appeared at the base of his spine. “Yeah, he is.”
She scowled and curled her shoulders as Priest rushed over, exasperated.
“You know something?”
“I don’t know… maybe,” she said with a long sigh. “I saw Mom take his cat. She said Luci couldn’t take it all. That he wanted to go away and Mom helped him out. I don’t know why. She’s… out of it. I get it.”
Tooth stared at her, and if she were a guy, he’d probably punch her. So she did know what was going on.
Priest seemed equally perplexed. “She did what?”
“We need to find him now!” Tooth grabbed the covers. Maybe Luci would pick up the call if it were from him? “Where’s my fucking phone?”
Astaroth swallowed and tapped something on her phone. “I’m calling you,” she said.
After a moment, the ringing came from the window.
“Asty, what did your mother do?” Priest growled. “I’ve got enough of this shit!” He turned around and punched the wall over and over again.
She flinched. “I don’t know... I was... it was after she told me about Bell... I just don’t know...” Her voice broke, face becoming tense, but she didn’t spill any tears.
Tooth stared at Priest. “Call her.”
Priest turned around with his face red. “No! First you fucking tell me what Rick wanted from Luci!”
Tooth exhaled, tensing his jaw. He could have explained it in detail, but what mattered now was speed. “Organ trade, apparently,” he uttered, squeezing his hands into fists. “With what he did today, it seems legit.”
Priest’s eyes went wide. “Jesus, fucking Christ!” He got his cell phone and seconds later, he screamed into it. “Dolly! Where the fuck is Lucifer? And don’t bullshit me or this is fucking it, you hear me? What the fuck are you doing? You wanna kill me?”
Asty dared looking up at Tooth. “I’m sorry. I never thought… I just… I understood that he might have wanted time away. Mom said he asked for a lift to the bus station.”
Tooth switched off the alarm in the heart monitor and pulled on a few of the cables to rip them off his chest, flinching when they unglued themselves. The monitor flatlined, but Tooth had already slipped his legs off the bed, staring down at the silly green costume the staff put him in. The moment he got up, his back broke out in goose bumps where it was uncovered. “We need to go to the station,” he rasped. “No, send the guys. And ask Dolly which bus station she took Luci to.”
“We know you took him. Which station did you take him to?” Priest groaned and hit the wall again. “I don’t care if he wanted to go!”
“Damn right,” growled Tooth, staring at the IV connected to the inner side of his elbow. He slowly removed the Band-Aid and gently pulled out the needle. Holding a thumb to the small wound, he made his way toward the window, where someone had folded his clothes into a neat pile. Had it been Luci? The boy would fold his clothes like that all the time.
Astaroth rose from her seat and got to her toes when she reached Priest. “Mom, please, tell them. It’s not right, he’s my brother!”
Priest listened for a moment before turning the call off. “She told me which station she left him at, but she says she doesn’t know which bus he took after that.”
Asty took a deep breath. “I just can’t believe he would leave like that. He’s my only brother now,” she whimpered and wrapped her arms around Priest’s chest.
He looked equally lost and bit his lip, scooping his daughter into his arms. “I know, I know.” His eyes met Tooth’s, and for a moment, they stayed silent before Tooth picked up his shirt. “You sure you good to go? You just had surgery.”
“They said it’s nothing serious, didn’t they? You’ll just take me by car,” said Tooth, gritting his teeth when a twist of his body made the wound sting.
Priest took a shuddery breath. “Are you all right to stay on your own, Asty? Or do you want one of the guys to join you?”
“I’ll be fine. Just convince him to come home,” she said and backed away, tipping her head back with watering eyes.
Priest groaned when Tooth leaned down to pull on his briefs. “Asti face away, yeah? There’s nothing for you to see.”
Tooth rolled his eyes, squeezing a whimper as his bent body screamed for him to stop moving. He fought through and donned his pants as well, happy to hide his ass from view.
They only started talking again when they walked out of the room after a quick good-bye with Astaroth.
“You have any idea where he might have gone?” Priest asked with a face as still as if it were carved in stone. Tooth could only imagine the rage and sorrow he had to be going through after losing his son, yet having no time to grieve with the other one in danger. “Or do you know anything more about this Rick? You think it was the same people who assaulted Suzy?”
Tooth sighed, turning his face away every time he was walking past someone from hospital staff. The jacket hid his shirt well enough, and people were usually not all that eager to look straight into a biker’s face anyway. His absence would be noticed only after they were gone.
He bit the inner side of his cheek in an attempt to stifle the pain and walk normally. If the stitches broke, he’d be fucked.
“Yeah, there’s reasons to suspect that. And no, I don’t know anything about Rick, even if it’s his real name.”
“Tooth. The other question.” Priest snapped his fingers in front of Tooth’s face. “Where could Luci go? You guys twiddle twaddle all the time. We need to find him. And then kill the motherfuckers who want to hurt him,” he growled as they walked out of the hospital.
Tooth’s breath rasped, his mind too full of images of Luci on an operating table to think straight. But the answer to that question came to him right away. “California. He said he’d like to see LA.” He stared at Priest, wide-eyed. “He’s your son. We need to find him.”
All he got from Priest was a stare so tense he didn’t want to ask. A man who just lost a son wouldn’t want to lose another. Tooth couldn’t remember a drive ever feeling so long. He was lucky the car had good suspension, but each time they hit even the smallest bump, Tooth was feeling growing discomfort, and he pressed one hand against his injured side in an attempt to stop the flesh from shaking. He resented each flash of discomfort as it was taking his mind of what it needed to be focused on—Luci. The boy could be anywhere. Rick could have contact to people dealing with face recognition in city monitoring. He could have found Luci already. He could have drugged him and cut out his heart.
Tooth was hitting his fist on his thigh as he spoke on the phone, mobilizing all their resources. Within twenty minutes, they knew the route of the bus to Chicago, Luci’s most probable transfer station, and it had already left. But was it the one Luci took? Tooth had Blitz go to the station to ask around, and it turned out one of the cashiers had sold him the ticket, but so far, he’d found no one who saw Luci boarding. Tooth’s flesh itched as if the seat were spiked with tiny needles. He wanted to know what was going on, but Luci didn’t even answer his calls. And somewhere beneath the utter dread of the boy dying, there was a dull pressure deep in his chest. Why was Luci doing this to him after opening up his chest with his pretty long-fingered hands? Would he just leave him now? Just like that?
He hated that they needed to gather somewhere, which meant stopping at a truck stop just to have everyone join them. Each second was tugging on Tooth’s veins, twisting and turning every time the seconds hand on his watch moved. And to make matters worse, for some reason the tracking website wasn’t working properly and kept giving him errors. Every negative response made Tooth want to throw his smartphone out of the window. But as much as he thought of Luci, as much as he tried not to make it all about himself, a small, but mighty voice inside of him whispered with glee that he’d found Tracy’s murderers, and that he wasn’t far away from showing the rest of them a world of pain comparable to what he had done to Harlow. Every time Tooth’s thoughts drifted off to pulling Rick’s teeth instead of wondering if Luci was safe, guilt washed over him and threatened to rub his skin raw. He needed to care about the boy who was still alive, not avenging the one who would never come back.
At least Ghost came as one of the first and checked Tooth’s wound.
The guys eventually joined them, and the whole club rushed to follow the elusive bus. Tooth bit his mouth shut and stared ahead, letting Priest handle the car and everything else. The flesh in his side was burned raw by the bullet and surgical instruments, and the farther they went, the more of his mind was consumed by the dull ache. The meds had to be wearing off so he rummaged through Priest’s glove compartment and stole some of his painkillers. It had to do.
He looked at his brothers on bikes with a deep longing. In the car, he felt incapacitated, useless, and what’s worse, the thought of his Harley only reminded him of how Luci had scrubbed it clean. He had looked up at Tooth with such a wide smile, so proud of himself. Luci was always so full of energy, always so tidy and caring. Was he so traumatized that he decided to leave? To not have anything to do with the lifestyle Tooth led? What would Tooth do if that was the case? He couldn’t leave his brothers, but even his chosen family couldn’t stifle the hurt of knowing Luci left him behind without a word.
At one point, they were almost ecstatic to have caught up, but the bus they caught up with turned out to be a false alarm. Tooth wanted to howl, but all they could do was drive on. Every bus was a false promise until they got close enough, but when they caught up to another bus, Tooth was close to leaning forward, his heart thudding in his chest. Would Luci be there? Still in the chain and padlock Tooth put on him? One of the guys sped up to look at the bus’s destination, and seconds later, he gave them all a wave.
Blood drained from Tooth’s face, making it tingle. “Fuck. This is it. Get it.”
Priest waved back at the men, probably just as annoyed at being locked in the car as Tooth. They watched the bikes swarm the bus. Some passed by it, some drove on both sides, and as they followed on the empty road, Priest caught up with the bus so they could see the driver.
“Tell him to stop,” he said to Tooth.
Tooth opened his window with a button and looked out, gesturing to the driver, whose face was a mixture of panic and shock. “Stop,” he called out, raising his hands in a well-known gesture. Was Luci there? He couldn’t see him in any of the windows.
It took several more seconds until the bus slowed its pace, moving to the side of the road as the formation of bikes held it in a tight loop.
Tooth exhaled, biting his lip. His temples were pulsing as if there were a tennis match playing out in his head. “I’ll go in.”
He was in a weird place where some of the pain was blurred out, yet some was all too present as he dragged himself over the grassy side of the road, all the way to the door. He passed all his friends and got out of their sight when he reached the door of the bus and knocked on it. The driver seemed to hesitate, but finally opened the door.
“What is this?” he hissed at Tooth, his pale face red and sweaty.
Tooth raised both hands before getting on the bus. Only now, when he had to move up the five steps did his side awake even more. “Family matters. My little brother’s run away from home,” he said, straightening up and looking down the narrow corridor. Not all seats were taken, but all the passengers stared at him in stunned silence, as if they were expecting him to produce a machine gun from God-knew-where. “I’m looking for a male teenager with long blond hair,” he said as firmly as he could, even though his mind was slowly falling off the rails. “He’s on the run, and all we want is to bring him home.”
Most of the passengers looked at him blankly, or avoided his gaze altogether, but when he got closer to the back, an elderly lady swallowed as she stared at him and pointed to the back of the bus where no one sat.
He forced a weak smile and walked over there, leaning over the last set of seats Luci could be hiding behind. He was struggling to keep his breath level as he looked down. What he saw was Manson in his carrier on the seat and Luci squeezed on the floor into the tiny space between seats. The look of utter dread in his eyes could only be compared to the way Luci looked at him when they first met.
He didn’t understand any of it, and the way Luci looked at him made him feel completely rejected. But he still needed to know why.
“Lucky, let’s go.”
“You shouldn’t be out of hospital,” Luci said quietly, and his gaze softened slightly, but he wouldn’t budge from his hiding space.
Tooth swallowed. “Yeah? I kinda expected you to be there when I woke up.”
“I couldn’t… I failed everyone. I didn’t have enough courage to take my punishment,” Luci whimpered like a frightened child, and tears were already forming in his big blue eyes.
Tooth bit his lip, shocked. “Punishment?”
“I left Bell to die,” he whispered and clenched his fists close to his body.
Tooth shuddered and slowly grabbed the handle of the cat carrier. “Lucky, come with me. Everyone’s waiting.”
“Come on, we’ll miss the transfer!” someone yelled from the front.
Luci slapped Tooth’s hand and took the carrier himself. “You shouldn’t carry anything,” he just said and followed Tooth with his head hung low. Tooth scowled, feeling the familiar warmth behind him. As happy as he was to see the boy, he couldn’t help the bitterness spreading through his body.
He nodded to the driver and slowly, trying not to endanger the newly sewed flesh, came down to the grass. All the guys gathered on the other side of the road, so at least he could have a minute of semiprivacy with Luci. His eyes darted back at the boy.
Luci put the carrier on the ground and nervously played with his hair. “Please, promise that if Priest wants to kill me, you’ll do it quick? No teeth taken?” He was shivering like a leaf in autumn.
Tooth shook his head, unable to process what Luci was saying. “Is this how little you trust us? Me?” Tooth whispered, staring at him, barely able to breathe.
“No… Tooth…” Luci reached out and grabbed his hand. “But the club is your family. I don’t want to break that up. It’s enough that I failed mine.”
Tooth knew he should say something else, tell him how worried Priest and Asty were, but it just wouldn’t come out of his mouth. “Why would you leave me now? Without even saying good-bye? That’s not right.”
“I thought you’d hate me. You wouldn’t have been there, nothing would have happened if it wasn’t for me and my stupid decisions.” Luci stepped closer and looked up with his plump lips parted and begging to be kissed.
“That’s not true,” whispered Tooth, leaning closer to Luci. All he wanted was to hug him again. Kiss him and tell him everything was all right. Instead, he grabbed the locket on the boy’s neck and pulled him close enough to smell Coke on Lucifer’s breath. “It was me who asked you to arrange a meeting, wasn’t it?”
Luci nodded with his pretty face scrunched up into an expression of utter sorrow. Instead of saying anything, he slid his fingers into Tooth’s beard and leaned closer to kiss him. With an engine growling somewhere at the back of Tooth’s mind, he rushed to press their lips together. His hands went to Luci’s shoulders and grabbed them for support as the world spun into a whirlwind of sweet softness, heat, the brush of hair on Tooth’s cheek, and the smell of gasoline. Luci didn’t pull away, massaging Tooth’s beard in a way that made the pain in Tooth’s side disappear.
“I’ll always trust you now,” he whispered between one kiss and another. “Wherever you lead, I won’t run.”
Tooth gasped, gently pulling on Luci’s hair when all of the sudden, they were out of shadow, and his blood froze. With a low grunt, he broke the kiss and looked across the road, at his brothers, his family, who had now witnessed something they really shouldn’t have.
Luci’s fingers slid out of Tooth’s hand all too slowly, and he didn’t even manage to step back before Priest crossed the space in which the bus had been just a split second ago. The other guys stayed back, but their glares, stares, and confused gazes showered Tooth from head to toe.
“What is this?” Priest asked both of them.
Tooth swallowed hard, trying to breathe through his nose, but he did meet Priest’s gaze at the same time his hand found Luci’s and squeezed. He had wondered how he’d eventually tell Priest he and Luci were involved, but he never imagined it being like this. He was oddly calm.
“We’re... seeing each other.”
Priest’s frown deepened, and he scanned the holding hands like they were toxic waste. “What? I don’t get it.”
Luci swallowed and took a deep breath before looking up at Priest. “I love Tooth, Dad.”
Tooth raised his eyes to the sky as they started prickling. He squeezed Luci’s hand as tight as he could without hurting him. His chest swelled with warmth, and Priest, the guys, the organ snatchers all dispersed from his mind.
Priest’s jaw set. “You’re fucking my son behind my back?”
That was such a crude way of describing what was between them. Tooth exhaled, knowing that whatever he said wouldn’t look good anyway. “We’re a couple.”
“Why’d you run then, boy? Is he threatening you?” It had to be the dramatic events of the morning that made Priest so to the point. Tooth could only imagine the emotional drain on a man who lost his son and had to deal with clusterfuck after clusterfuck.
“N-no. I left Beelzebub when he was dying… I’m so ashamed.”
Priest grabbed Luci’s arm and shook him. “What are you talking about, Luci? Your brother died on the spot.”
Tooth gently massaged Luci’s hand with his thumb and nodded. He too saw the bullet hole go through Bell’s forehead. He could not have possibly lived through that.
“Dolly said you wouldn’t want to see me, that you were angry—”
Priest stopped him. “This is bullshit. I’m angry, but not with you. I want you safe, Lucifer.” After a second’s hesitation, Priest stepped closer and embraced Luci so hard the boy was lifted off the ground for a second. “I won’t be losing another son.”
Tooth swallowed hard, averting his eyes to scan his brothers, who still stared at him, dumbstruck, their brows low, and he knew they were still assessing the situation. Milk actually turned his back on him and stood behind his bike. Their homophobic jokes were pissing him off at times, but at the end of the day, he always ignored them. Now he would find out whether that has been a wise decision. He put his free hand in his pocket, still holding on to Luci’s. So much chaos. He longed to be back in a bed and have Luci by his side, but he wouldn’t get to rest until he tracked Rick.
Tooth had never seen Priest hug Luci so it didn’t surprise him when Luci slipped his hand out of his and gripped his dad with both arms. Luci would rarely say it, but it was always clear just how much he craved his father’s affection, how much he longed to be a part of a family. And strangely, Priest held on to Luci just as tightly, as if the sorrow of losing a son wasn’t something he could show to his brothers, but could let out with Luci, a boy much gentler than any of the Coffin Nails.
Tooth cleared his throat and slowly moved across the street to give them a moment. He knew all the guys pretty much accepted Luci, but how would they see him? A man who’d seen most of them naked at some point and had hidden his true colors for such a long time. He forced a tight smile. “Mission accomplished, huh?”
The grim, confused looks he was getting weren’t helping. Milk still wouldn’t even look at him.
“He’s pretty for a guy, but… what the fuck?” hissed Blitz with a scowl.
Tooth groaned and walked up to the car to lean against the hood. Damn, maybe he could still go back to that hospital? Get some morphine maybe? Would they give him any?
“Guys, let’s get rid of this elephant. I’m gay,” he said as confidently as possible, despite the growing pain in his side. “I’ve always been, just so you know and don’t blame Lucky.”
“So I can’t get a blow job from him, but you can do whatever the fuck you want?” Milk hissed with his arms crossed. “This is bullshit.”
Hisses and questions roared for a moment after that statement.
Heat stirred in Tooth’s head, and he lowered his voice so Priest wouldn’t hear it. “You can’t get a blow job from him because you have a wife.”
The atmosphere was too grim for anyone to laugh, but a few smirks appeared on people’s faces. Ghost stepped up to Tooth and patted his arm. “It’s all right with me.”
A part of Tooth thought that he didn’t care, that he didn’t need anyone’s approval, but truth be told, it did feel good to hear that.
Don cleared his throat and lit a cigarette, staring at Tooth from behind his glasses. “I knew there was something odd about a guy like you never dating.”
Blitz stepped closer, and it was clear to Tooth he’d say something stupid to make himself look smarter than he was. “I actually had my suspicions. Tooth Fairy after all,” he said with a nod.
“Prospect, Tooth’s not ogling your ugly ass,” muttered Ghost, making everyone laugh. Tooth smiled too.
“Damn right. You’re all my brothers.”
Despite the sour mood, there were nods, which filled Tooth with hope. There wasn’t time to discuss this further anyway because Priest was coming back with his arm over Luci’s shoulders. It was a heartening sight. He even carried his son’s cat.
Tooth gave him a tight nod, stiffening. He’d known Priest would be the hardest obstacle to overcome, but what mattered was that Lucifer was safe with them. They could hunt down Rick without worrying about the boy getting hurt. With Luci in sight, more of Tooth’s thoughts drifted to what he could do to Tracy’s murderers.
Luci got into the back seat of the car, but when Tooth made a move to follow him, Priest snapped his fingers and pointed to the front seat. “We’ll talk in the car.”
Tooth closed his eyes for a moment and looked back at the other guys. All of a sudden it struck him that their road captain wasn’t there, and he would never be again. “We’re going. See you back home,” he said before slowly climbing into the passenger seat. The atmosphere in the car was so thick he could cut it with a knife.
Priest started the car and was the first to speak. “Dolly fucked up. She’s shattered and looking for someone to blame, but what happened isn’t your fault, Lucky, and you need to remember that.”
Tooth focused on Luci’s reddened eyes in the mirror. All he wanted was to hug his boy, but he’d rather not try it or Priest would stop the car rapidly enough for Tooth to go through the front window. And he couldn’t wear a seatbelt with his injuries.
“Damn right. You’re part of the family.”
Priest nodded to that as they drove along with the Nails in front of them. “Don’t you ever let anyone tell you anything else. You’re all Asty’s got now, so think about that too. She’ll need your support, you can’t just run.”
“I’ll be there for her,” Luci said with a sniff.
Tooth sighed, unsure how he fit into that conversation. He discreetly kept an eye on Priest, waiting for him to speak.
“Now for this bullshit.” Priest pointed to Luci and Tooth. “I let him stay in your room for months and you didn’t make a peep? All those months, behind my back.”
Tooth bit the inner side of his cheek. He did know how it all looked like. “No, it only started recently. I didn’t know how to tell you,” he muttered.
“You should have asked me first, not wonder how to tell me after,” Priest hissed, clenching his hands on the steering wheel so tight as if he were imagining it as Tooth‘s throat in its place.
“I’m almost twenty, he doesn’t have to ask my dad,” Luci said.
Tooth pinched his hand. “Things happened, okay? I hadn’t planned this.”
Priest stayed silent for a long moment. “At least he’ll keep close to the club I suppose. But you’ll get separate rooms until all this cools down.”
Tooth clenched his teeth. “Is this necessary? It’s not like I can do anything with that hole in my stomach. I’m just worried to let him out of my sight now.” He looked back at Luci in the mirror.
Priest groaned. “Fuck. I guess that’s right. Listen Luci, this is important. The motherfucker who shot Bell is after you. He’s into organ trade, and they want you. Until we get all of those fuckers, you are not safe. You have to stay at the compound.”
“Oh… okay…” Luci said in a small voice.
Priest looked at Tooth all of a sudden. “And Tracy, wasn’t your cousin, was he?”
Tooth clenched his jaw, looking at the forlorn grimace on Luci’s face. “I couldn’t tell you the truth back then.”
“Why me?” Luci uttered.
“Apparently you’re the right blood type, similar age, and they already invested their time in you. Tooth told me they target people who are off the grid, people who no one would report missing, but you’re not that anymore. You’ve got a whole fucking family, and nobody messes with my family!” The grip Priest had on the steering wheel was making his knuckles white.
Tooth stared at the setting sun. The morning kiss with Luci seemed like something from another world. “That bastard was watching you all this time. I had a hunch about him.”
Luci sighed and pulled Manson out of the carrier and into his lap. “You were right. I just really didn’t want to believe it.”
Tooth looked back at him with a small smile. “He’s not gonna get you. Just stay with us, yeah?” He looked at Priest.
“What organs does he want?” Luci asked as if it mattered.
Tooth scowled, but knew Luci was a big boy and could handle it. “Heart and liver, which is what I am going to carve out once I get to him.”
The little smile that bloomed on Luci’s lips was a surprise, but Tooth could damn well understand it. Luci petted his kitten with the gentle fingers Tooth wanted on himself.
Priest gave a slow nod, with his eyes on the road. “We’ll get you better painkillers once we’re back. I’m sure Ghost can work something out. We don’t have time for you to stay at the hospital. You’ll get your rest once you’re six feet under. For now, we all need to act.”
Tooth wasn’t so sure, but he wouldn’t talk of it yet. He did feel weak, and the last thing he wanted was for his flesh to tear again. The fuckers weren’t leaving town, and if he were to give them the parting they deserved, he needed to be more in shape. Tracy deserved proper vengeance. A live disemboweling might do.
“I propose we have Luci tell the guys all he knows, and we’ll try to locate them.” He looked back. “You think the manager of Vanilla has the bastard’s real address?”
“Not if he used a fake name,” Luci said.
Priest rubbed his forehead. “Let’s just get back first and send out word. There’s no point running around Detroit with no intel.”
Tooth leaned back again and looked at Luci curled up with the cat.
The boy was stroking the playful kitten. “You should rest,” he said without looking up at Tooth.
This lack of contact was making Tooth’s veins ache, but he understood his boy needed some time for himself and looked ahead. All he wanted was to be home again. And possibly have Milk get him baby food, or something.