Fandom: White Collar
Word Count: 6,811 This part
Beta Credit: elrhiarhodan
Warnings: Violence, knife use, non-canon death of canon characters (pre story)
Summary: Peter Burke is a high-end jeweler. When he meets Neal Caffrey, a talented young jewelry designer, it seems like a match made in heaven. But when Neal discovers that Peter is an ancient dragon, it sets in motion a firestorm that neither one may survive.
In contrast to his state of mind, the day was clear, the temperature perfect, the sky blue. He’d spent the night sleepless, spent most of the evening staring out the window at the rain, Sam’s damning words echoing in his brain.
He knew he should have stayed away from The Dragon’s Hoard, but he couldn’t. He wanted answers. He needed answers. And unless he confronted Peter – which seemed like a terrible idea – he wasn’t going to get answers. Instead, he snapped at Blake for no good reason which pissed Diana off to the point that she refused to go to lunch with him. It was a good thing that Peter was out for most of the day. Neal wasn’t ready to face him. He still needed to deal with the information that Sam had given him.
Neal looked down at the sketch he was making and realized it was the dragon from the photograph. He grimaced, for the first time in his life, desperately unhappy about his fascination with dragons. He needed to figure out what he was going to do. How he was going to deal with Peter.
He was interrupted as the object of his thoughts wrapped his arms around him and nuzzled his neck. “What’cha working on?” Peter turned Neal’s chair around and kissed him. Neal couldn’t help but notice how gorgeous Peter looked dressed down in his grey cashmere v-neck sweater and tailored black Armani slacks. He had to stop. He couldn’t just brush what he knew under the carpet and pretend like nothing happened.
“Nothing worthwhile.” Neal tried not to squirm out of Peter’s embrace, he tried not to give away his feelings. Instead, he put a grin on his face that he didn’t mean. Peter seemed to accept it and kissed him again quickly.
“Can I help?” Peter leaned over and tried to look at the sketch that Neal was working on. “Another dragon?” He moved to pick up the paper but Neal took it and balled it up, tossing it into the trashcan.
“No, just something I was thinking about that wasn’t working.”
“Wait. Let me see it. It might not be as bad as you think.” Peter reached for the paper.
“No! It’s crap.” Neal fished the paper out of the trash before Peter could grab it and ripped it up into little pieces before dumping it back.
“Why the hell did you rip it up for?” Peter was annoyed, his eyes flashing a bit. “Why didn’t you want me to see it?”
“Because it wasn’t for the store.” Neal stood up, sliding past Peter and heading to the mini-fridge for a bottle of water. He needed to get some space between them.
“So? That doesn’t mean I couldn’t have given you my opinion.” Peter followed Neal across the room.
“No, what it means is that some things are none of your business.” Neal knew he was being intentionally combative but frankly, he didn’t much give a damn at the moment. All he wanted was for Peter to stay out of his personal bubble, because if he got any closer, Neal would break, and everything would come spilling out.
Moving back to the drafting table, Neal sidestepped Peter’s outstretched hand.
“Neal, what is wrong with you today?” Peter had switched from irritated to concerned. Which was exactly what Neal didn’t want, because a concerned Peter was a hovering Peter.
“Nothing.” Neal bit the word and spit it out. “There’s nothing wrong with me.”
“Then would you care to explain to me why you’re snapping my head off?” Neal could see Peter’s irritation flare up again.
“Because I don’t need you looking over my shoulder like I’m in first grade art class,” Neal retorted.
“Wait, what?” Peter looked confused.
“I don’t need you to babysit me, Peter. I can work on my own without you hovering every damn day!”
“I don’t hover.” Peter’s jaw clenched so hard that Neal was surprised he didn’t break any teeth.
“Yes you do. Every day. I can’t work like that. I need my space.”
“Space?” Peter laughed in frustration. “You need your space? Oh, please don’t tell me you’re going to pull a diva artist fit!”
“No, if I were going to pull a diva fit I’d tell you exactly how I feel about you nagging me to create more of your fucking dragons.” Peter gasped and Neal knew he’d crossed the line.
“What did you say?” Peter’s voice was low, dangerous.
“I said ‘fucking dragons’, Peter.” Neal was almost shouting. “Fucking dragons. I’m tired of them. Tired of looking at them, tired of drawing them. They’re useless pieces of mythology and I’ve wasted my life on them. Not anymore.”
A low rumbling began. At first, Neal thought it was a passing truck, but then he realized it was coming from Peter. Breathing heavily, Peter was growling at him, the hollow of his throat and the side of his neck reddening. Slowly, his skin became iridescent, the ruddiness reflecting in the overhead lights. Neal could see the scales, faint at first, but then delineating the angrier Peter got. Neal felt like he’d been punched in the gut. Right in front of him, Peter was turning into a dragon.
For the first time, Neal was afraid of him.
Neal’s eyes darted frantically towards the door, mentally judging the distance in futile hope that he could escape, however Peter was in the way. He had to get past somehow. He took a chance and darted past the other man, but Peter was too quick. Neal found himself face first up against the wall, his wrist trapped in Peter’s hand.
“Let me go,” Neal hissed. Peter didn’t move, his hand tightening painfully on Neal’s wrist. “I said – Let. Me. Go.”
“Why not, Peter? Neal sneered at him. “What are you going to do? Flame me?” The words tumbled out. “Or maybe just bite my head off. That’s what your kind does, right?”
Peter dropped Neal’s wrist and stepped back in shock. “Neal…?”
Neal whirled to face him. “Yeah, Peter. I know what you are. And I know what you’ve done.”
“What do you mean ‘What I’ve done’?” Peter’s face had drained of color, throwing the scales on his neck into stark relief.
“Oh please! Don’t bullshit me. You’ve been lying to me since the beginning.” Neal headed towards the door.
“Wait! Neal we need to talk…” Stepping back in front of him, Peter tried to stop him.
“Talking’s over, Peter.” Neal shoved the other man, sending him thudding against the wall. “I may be your employee, and I will do my job like I was hired to -- but as far as my personal life goes - we are done. We're DONE.”
Neal rushed out of the store, holding up a hand to halt Diana when she approached him. He needed to get out before Peter could stop him, before Peter could wrap his words around Neal and glamour him into believing that everything was fine.
He needed to find Sam.
“What I want doesn’t matter…” Neal stood there, dripping wet, the sword in his hand raised as if to deliver a killing blow.
The heartbreak in those words cut Peter to the core. He could see Neal’s hand shaking as he lifted the sword. “What do you plan to do, Neal?”
“Kill you.” Neal’s voice was hoarse.
Peter considered those two words and he wondered what had happened to Neal, how he’d gone from friend and lover to assassin. Slowly he put the tumbler of whiskey on the end table and regarded the man in front of him. “If you do this, Neal – you’ll regret it for the rest of your life. You’re not a killer.”
Neal ignored Peter’s words. “I want you to know how they felt – how it feels to die.”
They? Peter looked down the shaking blade. Neal’s arms were straining to hold it level, but the stress of his emotions was taking its toll. He’d solve this mystery, but he needed to get Neal into a more rational state of mind. And that wasn’t going to be easy. And it just might backfire and end with a lot of blood and pain. “Okay. Have you decided how yet?”
“What?” Neal looked confused.
“Have you decided how to kill me?” Peter reached out and ran his fingers lightly over the blade of the sword, admiring the workmanship. “While this is a lovely piece, it’s not going to work too well in the hands of someone who doesn’t know how to use it.” He removed it from Neal’s hand before the other man had a chance to react and slid it under his chair. “You really need something that’s more manageable. Try this.”
Peter pressed a dagger into Neal’s hand, closing the younger man’s fingers around it but not letting go. Neal sucked in a breath and Peter knew the minute Neal felt it that he recognized the dagger he’d created for Peter. “Peter…”
“Appropriate, all things considered, don’t you think? Definitely a dragon-killing weapon.” Neal began to speak but Peter shushed him, guiding their hands closer to his body and placing the dagger against his throat. “You might want to consider a stab to the throat – it could be effective.”
“Peter, what the fuck are you doing?” Neal started to struggle against his hold.
Peter ignored him, pressing the tip into his skin. He felt the sting of a small cut as he heard Neal gasp. “But on second thought, that could get messy and there’s no guarantee that you’d kill me right off the bat.”
“Peter…” Neal was frantic, trying to pull the dagger away from him, trying to let go, but Peter had wrapped his hands around Neal’s, trapping him.
“I think the best thing would be for you to stab me in the heart.” Peter trailed the dagger down to his chest and rested it right above his heart. “Physically, it would be quick and painless. Assuming, that is, that you don’t really want to hurt me. Just make sure that I’m dead. Is that what you want, Neal?”
“Yes…no…I don’t know…Peter, stop!” Neal fought him, but Peter’s strength kept him imprisoned.
“Because if it’s about hurting me, then the leg is a good target – just a nick on the femoral artery and I’ll bleed out in a few minutes.” Peter sliced into his thigh, leaving a long shallow gash that welled red with blood. “Or maybe my stomach. That’s a nasty way to die.”
NO!” Neal wrenched the dagger away from Peter’s body and fell to his knees, letting the weapon clatter to the floor. “Are you crazy?”
“No more than usual.” Peter saw the horror in Neal’s eyes at what had just transpired. He bent over and picked up the dagger, turning the hilt towards Neal. “It’s your choice, Neal. But before you do choose the manner of my death, I think maybe I deserve to know why you want to kill me.”
Neal scuttled away from the blade. His face was drawn and Peter could smell the anguish rolling off of him. Gently Peter asked, “You do still want to kill me, right?”
“No.” The word was so soft that even Peter almost missed it.
“Then why are you here?”
“You killed my parents.”
That was not what Peter expected to hear. He killed Neal’s parents? Neal’s statement made no sense. As far as he knew he’d never met Neal’s parents before they died. “Okay, I think we need to talk about this.”
“No, I-I think I just need to leave.” Neal scrambled to his feet and headed to the door.
Peter intercepted his flight. “Neal…”
Neal tried to push past him, but Peter placed his hand on the door, effectively blocking his exit. “Peter, please…just let me leave. I’ll never come back.”
“No.” Peter knew his voice was harsh, but he didn’t realize how much until he saw the look on Neal’s face and scented his emotion. Fear.
Peter’s heart broke. This man that he loved was afraid of him. How had they gone from perfection to - this - in the span of one day? Peter needed answers. He started to speak, to demand that Neal tell him what he meant by his statement when he realized - he was going about this all wrong. Neal would run if he pushed.
“Neal, please…just…come sit down.” Peter stepped back, giving Neal the option of staying or leaving. He held his breath, waiting for the other man’s decision.
Neal nodded. Peter breathed again. Good. Maybe he would be able to get to the bottom of this mess they were in. He walked over to the living room, trusting that Neal would follow him. He picked up the dagger and placed it on the table. Turning to Neal, he held out his hand.
Neal took it, and led himself be led to the chair Peter had been in earlier. Peter seated him and nudged an ottoman close so he could be right in front of him when he sat down. “Here.” Reaching for the whiskey, he placed the glass in Neal’s hand and closed his fingers around it. ‘Drink this while I get you a towel.”
“You know I don’t like whiskey.” Neal was gazing into amber liquid.
“I know, but you’re soaked through and probably cold. That will warm you up quickly.” Peter hurried to the bathroom and grabbed a towel. Returning just in time to see Neal take a small sip, he smiled to himself. They would get through this, if he could just figure out what was going on. He draped the towel over Neal’s shoulders and received a tight smile. Sitting down on the ottoman between Neal’s knees, he observed the other man.
Neal had aged. His face was pale, his eyes red-rimmed. His normal ethereal beauty was dimmed. Peter didn’t smell fear anymore, but he did scent despair, confusion and grief. That was never a good thing. He stayed silent, watching Neal.
“You need to do something about the cut on your leg.” Neal was stalling – it was obvious.
Peter looked at the wound. He’d had worse. It was seeping slightly – nothing he had to deal with at the moment. “I’ll live.” He waited for Neal to continue.
Neal took another sip of the whiskey. “I don’t -.” He stopped. “I can’t -.”
Taking a chance, Peter reached up and cupped Neal’s jaw with his hand. Neal flinched but didn’t jerk away. A good sign. “Neal,” he began softly, like he was speaking to a scared child. “I don’t know what’s going on. I want you to tell me, but I’m not going to push.” He paused. “I love you, Neal, and nothing you say to me tonight is going to change that.”
Neal grabbed his wrist. Eyes haunted, he choked out. “I came here to kill you, Peter! How can you love me after that?”
“Would you get angry with me if I said I knew that the man I fell in love with wouldn’t go through with something like that?” He searched Neal’s face, hoping that his words were making an impression. “It’s not in your nature, Neal. You’re a creator, not a destroyer.”
“What about your nature, Peter?” Neal was wary.
Peter chuckled, keeping his tone light. “My nature is to appreciate beautiful things.” He tilted his head at Neal’s snort. “So – are you ready to talk to me now?”
Neal took a deep breath. “You’re a dragon.”
“Yes, I am.” Peter didn’t see any sense in denying it. Neal knew what he was and any protests would just ramp up the tension again. “When did you figure it out?”
“Can I ask how?” Peter needed this information. He’d made it a point over the years to be extremely discrete about his nature, so it puzzled him that Neal had learned about him before Peter had told him. If there were leaks, he needed to know about it.
“My father’s partner told me.”
“Partner?” Peter was confused. “What do you mean?”
“My dad was a cop. His partner told me.”
A cop. Peter’s blood ran cold, this was beginning to make sense. “Neal, start at the beginning.”
Neal did. He told Peter about Sam telling him about dragons and the group of policemen that went after the rogue ones. Peter’s stomach churned as he remembered his kin being cut down without reason.
“And your father was part of this group?” He kept his anger in check. None of this was Neal’s fault.
“Yeah. According to Sam, my dad found out information that you were trying to take over the area.” Neal continued, his voice tight. “You sent him a warning and when he didn’t listen, you poisoned my mother with dragon’s blood.”
Peter was speechless. He couldn’t believe the lies Neal had been told. “Neal, dragon’s blood doesn’t poison, it heals.”
“That’s not what Sam said.” Neal surged to his feet and shoved past Peter. “You poisoned my mother and she died. She died, Peter because of you!”
“I can prove that you’re wrong.” Peter followed him as he paced.
Whirling to face him, Neal sneered. “How?”
“Do you trust me?” Please trust me.
“What do you think?” Voice cold, Neal stared at him.
Peter spoke slowly. “I don’t know, Neal. There’s only one way I can prove this to you. And I’m hoping that even if you don’t trust me, at least you have faith in me. Please.”
Peter could see that he was thinking. “You’ll have to cut me.”
“Yeah, but it won’t be any bigger than a bad paper cut, I promise.” Peter stepped over to the end table and picked up the dagger.
Silence again, then, “Okay.” Neal held out his hand and hissed when Peter made a small cut. Peter sliced his palm and pressed it to Neal’s. The other man flinched. “It feels hot.”
“That’s the blood working. Tell me when the feeling goes away.” Peter snagged the towel off the back of the chair.
Peter wiped the blood from Neal’s hand. “See. Healed. Not even a scar.” He turned to put the towel down.
“Peter…” Neal caught his hand. “I -.”
“Why don’t you tell me the rest and let’s see if we can’t separate fact from fiction.” Peter knew the evening’s revelations were far from over and he wanted to get through it as quickly as possible for both their sake’s. “But first I need a drink. Do you want something? Maybe wine this time?”
“Water, I think. I need to keep a clear head.” They went into the kitchen. Peter poured them both a glass of water and they headed back into the living room. “So…I know we have more to talk about, but I have a question about what just happened – about dragons.” Neal sounded hesitant.
“Go ahead.” Peter was glad that Neal didn’t seem to have a problem with Peter’s nature.
“If dragon blood can heal, why do you still have the gash in your leg?”
Peter chuckled. “And here I thought you were going to ask me something difficult. I need to shift in order to heal myself.”
“So why don’t you?” Neal sounded eager and Peter could tell that his anguish hadn’t overcome his fascination with dragons.
He laughed again. “Because without trying to sound conceited, my dragon form is bigger than this room, and I wouldn’t want to destroy all the hard work Diana put in to decorating it.” He sat on the couch. Neal took the other corner.
“Can I ask another question?” Peter nodded. “Is Diana a dragon, too?
“Yep. Firedrake.” Peter finished his water and put the glass on the table.
“Huh.” Neal tilted his head. “That explains a lot.”
Neither man spoke for a bit.
“Peter…”Neal began. “Sam said you killed my father. Is that true?” Neal wasn’t accusing, but Peter could hear the uncertainty in his voice. “He said that he and my father came to see you and you broke his neck. That Sam was trying to leave with my father’s body and you slashed him.”
No. Peter mind froze. It couldn’t be. “Neal, what’s Sam’s last name?”
It all gelled at that moment.
The story. Sam. Neal’s father. Neal’s love of dragons.
“Your father was James Bennett.” Peter’s voice was flat.
“Yeah. How did you know?”
Hollow-eyed, Peter looked at Neal. “Because that’s the one part of the story Sam got right. The night they came to see me, I killed your father.”
Neal stared at Peter. The man who told him that he loved him – the man who he loved – just admitted that he had killed his father. He didn’t know how to react to the information, or Peter’s own shock as he realized who he was, that he’d killed his father.
Neal stood and when Peter started to follow, he gestured at him to stay seated. “I’m not leaving. I just….” He walked to the balcony doors and stared out at the storm. The furor outside those doors mirrored the war inside him.
Yes, Peter had just confessed to killing his father. He didn’t lie to Neal, although he could have. He could have denied his actions, or made excuses. He could have said that the story Sam had told him was a lie. But he didn’t. Peter was willing to have Neal hate him for what he’d done as long as the truth was out in the open.
Sam on the other hand – Neal had come to realize that Sam had lied about many things. Neal wondered whether he’d lied about the reason that Peter had killed – murdered, was the word Sam used – James. Neal knew it could just be semantics, but killing someone was different than murdering them.
“Tell me it was an accident.” He stalked back to Peter and stood before him, his emotions swirling.
Peter looked up at him, strain reflected in his eyes. “What?”
“Tell me that killing my father was an accident.”
“I can’t tell you that, but I can tell you it was unintentional.” Peter ran a hand over his face.
Neal was at a loss. How could it be unintentional yet not be an accident? That made no sense. He stared at Peter, looking for an explanation. Peter just looked back at him, his eyes tired, his face drawn, silence weighing heavy on his frame.
Neal needed to know what happened. Peter had never outright lied to him and Neal didn’t think he would start now. Squaring his shoulders, Neal sat down on the couch next to Peter. “Okay. So tell me what happened.”
Peter sighed and closed his eyes for a moment. Opening them again, he looked at Neal, his deep brown eyes full of sorrow. “Sam and your father came to rob me, and in the process, someone very special to me was killed. In anger and grief I struck your father and broke his neck.”
Neal was taken aback at Peter’s comment. “Sam didn’t say anything about someone else being killed.”
“I’m not surprised. It sounds like Sam told you only what he wanted you to hear.”
“I’m beginning to see that.” Neal looked at Peter and could see the lines on his face. He hated that he’d put them there, albeit unintentionally. Taking Peter’s hand, he kissed it. “Can you tell me the details? I need to hear them.”
Peter shifted and removed his wallet. Flipping it open, he pulled out a photo, its edges creased. “This is David Siegel,” he said softly, handing the photo to Neal. It was a shot of Peter and an attractive blond-haired man. They were facing each other, eyes laughing. “He was a firedrake. I met him when I invested with his grandfather in the elevator button business.”
Neal raised an eyebrow. “Elevator buttons?”
“You’d be surprised how lucrative that was.” Neal glanced up from the picture to Peter’s face. He was looking at the picture in Neal’s hand with a mix of fondness and sadness. “Even though he was very much younger than me and we lived in different cities, whenever we were together, David and I were inseparable.”
“Eventually, David left Chicago and came to work with me in the jewelry business.” Peter paused and Neal saw a flurry of emotions cross his face. “He became my assistant, much like Diana is now, with one exception.”
“He and I began a relationship. Actually, it was more like I was courting him.” Peter blushed. “Dragons don’t ‘date’ like humans do. When we choose someone, we’re very old-fashioned. We bring them gifts, provide for them. Show them that we can care for them.”
When Neal looked back at the photo, he could see what Peter was talking about. The two men looked smitten - arms around each other, thighs close together, awareness of each other’s bodies. They were in love. And Sam and James took that away. It made Neal angry. For Peter’s loss, his heartbreak.
With a start, Neal thought about all the gems and jewelry items that Peter had gifted him with and realized with a small smile that was exactly what Peter had been doing – courting him. He looked up at Peter and saw that he was blushing. “Yeah, we’ll talk about that later.”
Neal nodded. Now was not the time. But they would talk about it. “So what exactly happened that night?” he asked, handing the photo back.
“The night Sam and your father broke in, David was over for dinner. I had planned to ask his permission to make our relationship official.” Peter put the photo back in his wallet. “We’d upgraded our main security system that week and for some reason it wasn’t working. I found out later that it had been sabotaged.”
“Sam?” Neal suspected it was.
“Probably so. We never caught the people who did it. Anyway, we had a guard patrolling the store and the specific alarms set. About eight, the silent alarm to the vault that rings in my apartment went off. David and I headed downstairs to check it out and found Sam and your father in the process of trying to break in to my vault.”
Neal could imagine the stand off. David and Peter squared off against James and Sam.
“Sam was mouthing off, but your father was quiet. I could tell he wasn’t comfortable with the situation. Because of him I was willing to let them go with just a warning. Then Sam pulled a gun and things got ugly.” Peter shuddered and Neal swore he could see the scene play out again in the other man’s eyes.
“David lunged for the gun and when he did, James grabbed him. They struggled and the gun went off. Dragons are long lived, but we’re not immortal. If you shoot us or stab us in the heart we die. James got off a lucky shot. David was dead before he hit the ground.”
“I got angry, Neal. I’m sorry.” The pain in Peter’s voice was palpable. “When I saw that your father had killed David, I lost control and backhanded James. The blow broke his neck. I – I don’t even remember Sam taking James’ body out of the store.” Neal heard the hitch in Peter’s breath. “I took care of David’s body and the next day, reported the break in and threw suspicion on one of the local mob bosses.”
“Why?” Neal was surprised. “Why didn’t you just hunt Sam down?”
“Because too many people died that night. What happened to James and David was unintentional. If I’d gone after Sam it would have been murder.”
“And you’re not a murderer,” Neal said softly.
“I’d like to think that’s the case, but if anyone harmed you, I don’t think I could stop myself.” Peter stood and walked to the window - the same spot where they’d first kissed. Neal could see the slump of his shoulders, the weight of the past dragging him down.
Neal understood how he felt. They both were exhausted from the truths that had come out this evening.
Peter shuddered and Neal realized he was crying. His lover, his dragon was crying. Neal crossed the room and wrapped his arms around Peter. “Shhh,” he soothed, trying to calm the other man. Their reflections appeared and disappeared in the glass as lightning lit the sky.
Peter turned to Neal, burying his face in his neck. Neal felt Peter’s lips whispering words into his skin. I’m sorry, I love you, forgive me, over and over.
“Peter, look at me.” Neal gently cupped Peter’s face and tilted it so the other man could look at him. “I love you. There’s nothing to be sorry for.” Which was the truth. “It was a bad situation that ended in an accident.”
“I know, but your father died at my hands, Neal.” Peter took a deep breath and Neal knew he was trying to settle himself. “I’ll understand if you can’t forgive me – if you need to leave -.”
“Peter.” Neal interrupted him. “I need you to listen to me.” He paused, composing the words in his head because they needed to be perfect. “My father - what I know about him - is like a fable. A story that’s fantastical, imaginary, but not real. Growing up, I built him up to be the perfect man. Tonight I learned that he’s not – that the image that I have of him is not real.” Neal leaned up and softly kissed Peter. Pulling away, he rested their foreheads together. “That’s real, Peter. You’re real. My father’s my past. You’re my now. I love you. And I’m not going to leave.”
When Neal said those words, Peter felt the weight that was crushing his chest disappear. Neal forgave him. “Thank you,” he whispered before claiming Neal’s lips with his own.
Neal tasted delicious – like pomegranates and oranges and Neal. Peter lost himself in the sensation of Neal’s mouth, Neal’s tongue.
“You just couldn’t do it, could you?” The voice was cold, mocking.
Peter broke away, gasping, to see a stranger in his house. Instinctively he stepped forward in front of Neal, bristling at the intruder. “Who the hell are you?”
“Sam?” Neal was puzzled. “What are you doing here?” He moved around Peter towards the other man, but Peter stopped him. He didn’t trust Sam not to hurt Neal. Peter knew he was displaying his alpha tendencies, but he had a bad feeling about what was going to happen.
“Good question. And more importantly, how did you get in?” Peter prided himself on his security and for someone to get past it -.
“Unlike Neal, I don’t have a problem taking care of things. Your door man was no obstacle.” Sam held up a keycard smeared with blood.
“You sonofa - .” Peter lunged forward but pulled up at the sight of a gun leveled at his chest. “He had a family!”
“Yeah well, if I get out of here quickly, I’ll call an ambulance for him and he might just survive.” Sam waved the gun towards the couch. “Now sit down!”
“Sam, what the hell are you doing?” Neal didn’t move.
“Fixing your family’s mistake.” Sam moved closer and cocked the gun. “I said sit down.”
“What are you talking about? What mistake?” Neal still hadn’t moved towards the couch. Peter wanted to beg him to follow Sam’s order, to possibly get him out of harm’s way, but he knew Neal wouldn’t listen. The only thing Peter could do was to watch for his chance to disarm Sam.
“You dad screwed up when he killed that dragon. I knew I shouldn’t have taken him with me. He didn’t have the guts for it. I figured when you were old enough I’d find you and send you to finish the job we started. That’s why I fed you all that bullshit about Burke.” Sam laughed in derision. “Guess I was wrong.”
“That’s why you lied to me? For revenge?” Neal’s voice was laced with anger and betrayal.
“Why else? When I saw that you were getting involved with him it was the perfect opportunity to get back at him.”
Neal surged toward Sam. Peter grabbed him. “Neal, stop!”
“No Peter. It’s his fault that my father’s dead!” Neal struggled, but Peter refused to let go.
“I know. And he’ll kill you in a heartbeat, too.” Peter felt Neal stop fighting him and let him go.
It was a mistake. “You asshole!” Neal went after Sam again.
The crack of the gun was deafening as Sam fired, the bullet lodging into the parquet floor inches from Neal’s feet. “That’s your only warning, Neal. The next one goes through Burke’s heart.”
Peter knew Sam meant it. “Calm down, Neal.”
“Why did you go after Peter in the first place? If you’d left him alone my father wouldn’t be dead.” Neal’s voice was shattered. Peter’s heart broke as he heard echoes of the little boy who’d lost his father.
“Because they think they’re better than we are,” Sam shouted, his face red with anger. “They lord their riches over us humans. Flaunting it. Acting like we’re nothing. And he’s the worst.” Sam pointed the gun at Peter.
“So what are you going to do, Sam?” Peter’s voice was calm, belying the stress he felt. He was hoping that Sam would be arrogant enough to share his madness so Peter could formulate a plan of attack.
“I’m going to make it look like the two of you had an argument that got out of control. You accused Neal of stealing from you. You shot him, but he got a shot off, too and you both bled out. Such a shame. Now go sit down, Neal.” He waved the gun towards the couch.
Peter saw his chance. He lunged forward, knocking the gun out of Sam’s hand and tackling the man to the ground. “Neal, run!”
They fought, knocking into furniture and sending the table lamps crashing to the ground. Sam escaped for a moment, but Peter was able to bring him down again. The other man retaliated with a kick to Peter’s head. The blow was just enough to stun him and Sam was able to break free again.
Instead of going for the gun, Sam grabbed the dagger that was on the end table and whirled around, his intent to stab Peter crystal clear.
Neal charged him. “No!” He grabbed Sam, wrenching the dagger up and away from Peter.
The two men struggled over the weapon, neither one getting purchase, until Neal stumbled over the edge of the lamp on the floor. In slow motion, Peter saw Neal lurch, his eyes widening, his mouth agape. Stumbling back, Neal put a hand to his belly. Following his movement, Peter could see the beginning spread of crimson seeping into Neal’s shirt. Neal took his hand away, bloody, and stared at Peter in shock.
“Peter?” His voice was soft, questioning. Holding out his bloody hand, Neal collapsed.
No, no no! Peter caught him, easing him to the floor. Not this time, was all he could think. He was not going to lose Neal like he’d lost David.
He pressed his hands against the wound. “Stay with me, Neal.”
“Hurts, Peter.” Neal’s voice was breathy.
“I know, I know.” Peter raised Neal’s shirt, paling at the deep wound in Neal’s stomach. He ripped his sweater off, balled it up and applied pressure. “You’re gonna be okay…”
Peter’s shoulder exploded in fire. Rearing back, he roared in pain, his face morphing into the long lines of his dragon form. Sam had stabbed him. He turned around, wrenching the dagger from his shoulder and plunged it hilt deep into Sam’s chest. Shoving the dying man away, he turned back to Neal.
Neal’s eyes were closed and he was breathing shallowly. A pool of blood was spreading slowly around his body.
“Peter…” Peter could barely hear him.
“Hang on, Neal. Please!” Neal shuddered and went limp. He wasn’t breathing. “Oh God!” No! He couldn’t lose Neal. He’d never be able to survive.
Peter frantically checked for a pulse. Slight, but there. There was still time. Peter’s incisors elongated, fangs dropping down. Biting his lip and tongue, he felt the blood well up in his mouth. Pressing his mouth to Neal’s, he prayed that he would be able to get enough blood down Neal’s throat to heal him. He massaged Neal’s neck trying to coax a swallowing reflex.
The minutes ticked by with no response. Peter kept dripping blood into Neal’s mouth. His heart soared when he felt Neal’s lips move under his. Pulling away, he saw Neal’s eyes flutter open as he took a gasping breath.
“Peter?” His voice hoarse, Neal looked groggily at him. “What…?”
“Oh thank God!” Gathering him in his arms, Peter moved him to the couch. “I thought I lost you.”
Neal smiled weakly. “Not going anywhere…”
“Good.” Brushing a lock of hair off Neal’s forehead, Peter kissed his temple. Neal mumbled something too low for Peter to hear. “Say that again?”
“Over. Is it over?” Neal turned his head into Peter’s neck and shivered.
Taking a deep breath, he looked at the wreckage of his home and smiled. “Yes, Neal. It’s over.”
Peter loved a full house. The store was packed with customers old and new, all here to see the newest custom line of jewelry and art from The Dragon’s Hoard. Rubies and emeralds flirted with amethysts and diamonds in a display that was reminiscent of a pirate’s bounty.
Elizabeth had outdone herself. Waitstaff were circulating trays of hors d'oeuvres with a dragon and jewel theme – everything from pan seared foie gras with candied mandarin orange and pomegranate pearls to spicy dragon rolls. Specialty cocktails flowed in abundance, all designed to create the mood for the display of gold, silver and precious gems.
The highlight of the exhibition took center stage in the middle of the store for everyone to see. Glowing under the lights, the gold and jewels of the custom desk set looked stunning on the black velvet display, each piece telling a story of dragons and humans and conflict and forgiveness and love. Peter moved closer to admire it, impatient to whisk it away from all the coveting eyes.
“It’s beautiful.” Mrs. Neidermeyer was standing next to him, champagne glass in hand. “I assume it’s not for sale.”
Peter chuckled as he looked at her. “That would be correct. I’m keeping this one for myself.”
Mrs. Neidermeyer smiled up at him, her eyes glinting. “And its designer?” She nodded her head at the group in the corner.
Peter followed her gaze to see Diana, Blake, Elizabeth and Neal. They were deep in conversation. Dressed in an exquisitely tailored pinstripe Armani, Neal was in his element and Peter couldn’t get over how beautiful he looked. He watched as Neal laughed at something Diana said. Then, as if he knew Peter was looking at him, Neal turned and their eyes met. Neal smiled, giving him a look - a raised eyebrow full of promise and invitation. Peter turned back to the woman standing next to him. “I think I’ll keep him, too. Now if you’ll excuse me.”
Placing his glass on a passing tray, Peter walked toward Neal, the desire in his expression answering Neal’s gaze. Sliding in next to him, Peter leaned in and exhaled a breath against Neal’s neck, thrilled at feeling him shiver. Moving in more closely, his cock brushing the curve of Neal’s ass, Peter growled lightly. “So…I think we’ve been social long enough this evening.”
“You do?” Neal’s laugh vibrated against Peter’s chest, sending frissons of desire curling throughout his body.
He snorted softly, not caring if anyone caught a whiff of smoke. “Yes. I do.”
“What do you have in mind, Peter?” Neal’s voice was low, throaty and full of sin.
“Whatever you want.” Always.
“You know…I’ve always wanted to ride a dragon…”