Ana and Darling were the reasons why they always took separate vehicles to work. In case one of them had to leave, the other one had a way home.
Maris followed them to the door so that he could make sure Ture actually got her into his transport. He smiled as Ture continued to run around like a scrambled mess while he tried to help her in then went to his side of the car then came back to make sure she was inside and secured. All the while, Ture was breathing so rapidly, it was wonder he hadn’t passed out.
That man did not handle a crisis well. His neurons synapsed in so many directions that he could never focus on a single thought or task. It was something his past boyfriends had despised about him, but Maris found it oddly adorable. And when it’d really mattered— when they’d been escaping the prison, Ture had managed to hold it together with a strength that still amazed him. It was only now that he knew Ture better that he fully appreciated how hard that had been for him.
Stepping inside, Maris locked the door then cleaned up Ana’s mess before he hurried through the paperwork. He had no doubt that Ture would be pacing a donut-shaped hole in the hospital floor until he got there. Maris was the only one who was able to calm him when he was in one of these frenetic moods. Mostly because he’d learned to keep a lid on his emotions in battle. And because Ture’s anxiety brought out the protector in him, instead of his impatience. That one vulnerability made him feel needed.
Because other than that, Ture was extremely self-sufficient and very proud of that fact.
Maris paused as he saw a shadow at the door. Instinctively, his hand went to the small blaster he kept holstered at the base of his spine. At first Ture had been terrified of the fact that Maris was always armed, but once he saw the price on Maris’s head, he’d insisted that Maris carry even more weapons than he had in the past.
And after the last round of contracts had been issued from the League against them, they were all on high alert.
Using the shadows for cover, he made his way to the front. Since the person was visible through the frosted glass, he doubted they were League trained. But it could still be a thief out to rob them.
Maris tilted his head so that he could see through the small line of clear glass while making sure that the person outside couldn’t detect him. He relaxed as he recognized Bristol.
Rolling his eyes, he moved his hand away from his weapon and settled his jacket back into place. He opened the door. “Can I help you?”
“Where’s my brother?”
“He’s not here.”
Bristol scowled as he stared at him for a minute. “You the guy I met at Ture’s a few weeks ago?”
“Wow, Ture’s been with someone for over a month. That’s a first.” He narrowed his gaze on Maris. “Sorry, I didn’t recognize you with your clothes on, and without Ture’s dick in your ass. What was your name again?”
Maris profaned violence, but right now… He could definitely see the appeal of knocking that smugness off Bristol’s face. “I didn’t give it.” He locked the door and set the alarm with the remote in his hand, which made Bristol even more curious.
“Ture doesn’t let his boyfriends have keys to his restaurant. Where is he?”
Maris slid the security card into his pocket. “He had to leave early.”
Anger snapped in Bristol’s eyes as he glared at him. “Don’t play this shit with me. I’m his brother. Now where is he?”
Maris ground his teeth at the frustration of dealing with this. Ture had been very insistent that he never give any information to his brother. The less he knows, the better… Trust me, Mari. Don’t engage him. Unlike me, he has no loyalty or inhibitions.
Since Ture knew his brother much better than Maris did, he deferred to Ture’s warning.
“I can have him call you when I see him.” Maris started past, but Bristol stopped him with a rough grip that made his vision dim.
“You better answer me, you cock-sucking quim. Or I’ll beat the hell out of you.”
Maris dropped his voice an octave and fell into his staunch military training. “Boy, you’re about to head down a path that’s going to lead you to a really bad year. Now take your hand off my arm, two steps back, and you might get through the night without an ambulance ride.”
Shock replaced the smirk. Still, he didn’t loosen his grip. “You don’t act like a faggot.”
“And I don’t hit like a girl, motherfucker. Now unless you’re craving extensive dental work and reconstructive surgery, get out of my face.”
That growl succeeded in making Bristol release him. “Who are you?”
“The lucky bastard who happens to be your brother’s boyfriend. And I’ll make sure he calls you before he sticks his dick in my ass later. Now goodnight.” Maris stepped around him and went to his airbike that was parked a few feet away. As he pulled his helmet on, he glanced back to see Bristol still eye-balling him.
Every family had its ass**le. And in Maris’s case, his had a solid dozen. Putting it out of his mind, he headed for the hospital.
* * *
Ture checked the clock as his anxiety worsened. Maris should have been here already…
What if something happened to him?
Unable to breathe for the panic, he pulled his link out to call.
Relief tore through him as he heard that deep, glorious accent. Turning, he threw himself into Maris’s arms. “What took you so long? You had me worried.”
“Sorry. Your brother showed up while I was leaving.”
“You didn’t give him your name, did you?”
Maris shook his head. “You told me not to.” He held the restaurant’s security card out to Ture.
Ture nodded. “And to answer your question, Ana’s doctor threw me out until I could, and I quote, get a hold of myself.”
Maris gave him an adorable smile. “Sounds about right. Want to try again?”
Maris offered him his arm. Ture tucked his hand into his elbow and led him to Anachelle’s room. She lay in the bed, chewing crushed ice while a nurse checked her vitals.
The nurse arched her brow at Ture. “Are you calm now?”
Ture rolled his eyes. “Yes, my sanity just arrived.”
Her gaze practically licked Maris from head to foot. Dressed in his all black protective biker gear, he was exquisite. Especially since he’d grown his whiskers into a sexy well-trimmed beard. A slow smile spread across her face. “I hate to ask this cutie, but are you family?”
“He’s the baby’s father,” Anachelle answered before Maris had a chance to speak.
Maris arched a brow, but didn’t contradict her. After all, they’d been teasing him about acting like an expectant father for weeks now.
“Oh good,” the nurse said, holding her hand out to Mari. “I’m Aundrea and I’m the nurse assigned for the delivery. I was just telling your…”
“Girlfriend,” Anachelle supplied.
“Girlfriend that she’s at three centimeters, so we should have a little time. But we shouldn’t assume anything. I’m going to let the doctor know you’re here, and will be right back.” She left them.
Maris frowned at Anachelle. “Boyfriend?”
She shrugged. “I’d already told them that Ture was my brother so that he could stay with me while we waited for you, and I didn’t want to chance them thinking you two were incestuous or something.”
“Great,” Maris breathed. “So instead of being your creepy incestuous brother, I’m your scuzzy boyfriend who’s snaking on you with your brother. Lovely. Just the label I was looking for.” He moved to kiss her on her cheek. “How are you feeling, sweetie?”
“It’s a little painful. I won’t lie. But manageable for the moment. I’m glad you two are here. In spite of what they think, you and Ture are all the family I have. Thank you both for taking care of me.” Tears filled her eyes then ran down her cheeks.
Maris hugged her close. “Oh, honey. We love you. We’re always here for you, you know that.”
Ture held her hand. “Don’t you worry about anything, except that little boy.”
Sniffing back her tears, she nodded.
* * *
Hours later, Maris left the delivery room to find Ture asleep on a waiting room couch. Since Ana had pegged him as the baby’s father and Ture as her brother, the doctor had allowed Maris to stay and forced Ture out once serious labor began.
Shaken by it all, he knelt beside the couch and touched Ture’s arm.
Ture woke up with a jerk then frowned. “Is something wrong, baby?”
“I am so glad I’m not a woman.” He let out a ragged breath. “That…was terrifying. I’m thinking we’d better lock Darling up whenever Zarya goes into labor. It’s going to get ugly.”
Ture cupped his cheek. “How is she and the baby?”
“She’s fine and sleeping. The boy… It was amazing, Ture. I wish you’d been there. One minute, Ana was calling out for every set of male testicles in the universe to be cut off, and the next…this tiny little person was in the doctor’s hands. He gave the baby to me while they cut the cord, and I stared into these dark eyes that stared back at me. He’s so tiny and perfect. Beautiful. You want to see him?”
“Absolutely.” Ture sat up. “How are you doing?”
“Good, but exhausted.” Maris yawned then put his arm around Ture’s shoulders as he led him toward the nursery. “I’d give anything if you could carry me home.”
“Oh, baby, I wish.”
Maris stopped in front of a large window and waved at one of the attending nurses. She smiled brightly then moved to pick up one of the blue-swaddled babies. She brought him closer for Ture to see.
Tears misted in his eyes. “Oh, Mari, he is beautiful.”
“I know, right?”
“What did she name him?”
“Terek Andros . . . Sulle.”
Ture quirked an eyebrow at that.
Grinning sheepishly, Maris shrugged. “They think I’m the father, and she had to list the father’s name for his registration. At least this way his real father can’t come in and use him against her later. They’ll never have a record of his real name anywhere.”
That was very true. “So do you have to pay child support?”
He laughed. “No. I’m going to sign away custody as soon as she can get the paperwork drawn up.”
Turning back toward the baby, Ture smiled. “Hey, little Terek,” he said, even though the baby couldn’t hear him. Then he waved at the baby.
It was the most adorable thing Maris had ever seen. He yawned again.
Ture frowned. “I need to get you to bed.”
Maris’s eyes widened in acute interest as his body perked up instantly. “That’s my boy.”
Laughing, Ture shook his head. “Is that all you think about?”
“Of course not. Food . . . which you also give me. Damn, Tur, I think you’re the perfect man.”
They both froze as Maris realized what he’d said. It was the closest thing to an avowal of love that he’d made. Terror filled him.
“Relax, honey. I know you’re tired and I’m not making anything big out of it.” Ture walked him toward the door. “Let me get you home and tucked in.”
Maris followed Ture to his transport then headed for his airbike. This was the only part of his Phrixian past that he’d really hung on to. He could still remember the stunned look on Darling’s face the first time he’d seen Maris riding one.
“It’s so not you.”
Maris smiled as he strapped his helmet on. Darling was right. He didn’t normally go for things that messed up his hair or clothes. But he loved the freedom of it. The sensation of flying through the air at over two hundred miles an hour… There was nothing like that kind of freedom.
Ture hated that he drove one. He thought it was dangerous. But then so was breathing.
Maris checked his mirrors. He narrowed his eyes as he saw someone just outside the hospital, watching him. Was it attraction or nefarious?
From this distance, he couldn’t tell. Still, he called it in to the Sentella so that they could set up a guard for Anachelle and the baby.
Better safe than sorry.
And as he headed back to Ture’s, a new fear gripped him. Unlike Darling and the very small group of Maris’s friends, Ture wasn’t military trained. He was purely civ.
If the League or a bounty hunter went after Ture, there was nothing he could do to protect himself.
Suddenly terrified, Maris gunned the engine and made the building in record time. He parked and locked it down fast, then ran inside.
Holding his breath, he tried not to panic. But he couldn’t help it.
“Ture?” He scanned the apartment.