“You don’t even know his name, do you?”
Daniel looked over to see Anna standing in the bathroom door, toweling her hair dry. The white t-shirt reached her knees, and left her looking impossibly young. “He said we can stay.”
Anna sighed, then shook her head and hung the towel up on the back of the door. “Who is he?”
“I don’t…” He sighed. “He caught me breaking in. Gave me food and a hundred bucks. He’s okay.” Scary as fuck, but not the type to hurt kids. “You should go to bed. He said you can have the bed.”
“Daniel…” Anna crossed her arms and bit her lower lip.
“I told him about Trent. He can protect us.” Daniel gave her a reassuring smile. “Look at him, he could break Trent in half.”
“He’s scary.” Anna nodded. She took a couple deep breaths and started up the stairs. “Daniel?”
“What’s wrong?” He raised an eyebrow.
“I don’t know.” She shook her head. “Something is strange about him.” She frowned. “He’s scarier than what’s hunting us, so what’s hunting him?” She shook her head again continuing up the stairs.
He watched her vanish into the bedroom. That was actually a good question. The guy carried a gun, checked the windows, had zero difficulty getting him into a sleeper hold, and… Daniel stood. What had he gotten them into? Still, they were better off today than they had been yesterday, and it had been a couple months since he could say that. He started another kettle of hot water.
The exterior door opened, and the big guy entered carrying their bags. Daniel immediately ran over to take one from him. He set it down behind the couch, then grabbed the dry towel and offered it to the guy. The guy gave him a blank look. Daniel shifted awkwardly. “You’re wet. And cold.”
Another blank stare, then the guy took the towel. He started drying his hair as Daniel went back into the kitchen. “Do you want cocoa, mister? I noticed some tea or…”
“You sure? Cause I can make —”
“Okay, then, I’m…” Daniel hesitated. “I’m gonna get in the shower.”
“More towels in there.” The guy pointed at a cupboard near the bathroom.
“Thanks, uh…” He swallowed. “What should I call you?”
“What?” The guy turned toward him.
“I mean, I can’t just keep calling you mister…” He shook his head. “I mean, unless that’s what you’re into and then hey, yeah, whatever you want but do you have a name or —”
“Stop talking.” The guy sighed. “Matthias.”
“Matthias?” Daniel shifted from foot to foot.
“Just Matthias.” He pointed. “Shower.”
“Right.” He grabbed a towel and went into the room.
After a couple weeks of trying to wash in the sink, the stream of hot water felt amazing. There wasn’t much in the way of product, just a bar of soap. He made fairly liberal use of it, then reluctantly left the shower. He blinked. The only clean pair of sweatpants he had was sitting on the counter. He hadn’t even heard Matthias open the door. Daniel dried off, then yanked the pants up over his hips before stepping out of the room.
Matthias added another log to the fire. He’d need to chop more wood soon, if he was going to need to keep the fire going. The girl had found the little space heater in the bedroom, and there was an electric blanket around somewhere. He glanced up when Daniel left the bedroom. The kid had a bit more muscle than he’d expected, but was still thin enough that the sweat pants were threatening to slid right off his hips. “Make a list of shit you need.” He stood.
“What?” Daniel blinked.
“You and your sister.” Matthias shrugged. “I’ll clear the drive tomorrow and head into town when the roads are clear. She’s gonna need vitamins and…” He growled. “Make a list.”
Daniel looked down at the dirty clothes he was carrying, then dug the hundred back out of his pocket. He held it out. “Here.”
He stared a moment, then shook his head. “You keep that.”
“Kid…” Matthias sighed. “Always have an escape cache. Running money. You don’t know jack shit about me, kid. I might be just as bad as what you’re running from.”
“You made sure I was legal before you…” Daniel gave a small shrug. “Makes you worlds better than what we’re running from.” He looked down at the clothes in his hands. “You said there was laundry?”
“Utility room, off the garage. Soap is above it.”
The kid opened his sister’s bag and took out a bunch of her clothes, then headed into the garage to start the load. Matthias sat down near the fire. He looked up when the kid came back in. Daniel swallowed nervously, then walked over to him. He knelt in front of Matthias. “So, uh…” He shifted a little. “What do you want me to do?”
“Ground rules.” Matthias sat up. “One. I could hurt you easily, and I’ve no interest in breaking you. So, you’ll pick a safe word, and you’ll use it.”
“Okay.” Daniel nodded.
“Two.” Matthias narrowed his eyes. “Long as you’re with me, you’re with me. I don’t share.”
“Okay.” Daniel swallowed.
“Three.” Matthias glanced up at the bedroom above before looking back at Daniel. “And this one goes for her too. You do what the fuck I tell you. No arguing. I tell you to get your ass in the car, or run, or stay down, you do it. I can’t keep you safe if you don’t listen, and I can’t keep you safe if you get in the way. We clear?”
“Four.” Daniel looked up at him. “She doesn’t know about…” He shrugged. “This part of it. I don’t…” He sighed. “I don’t want her feeling like anything is her fault, alright? Cause it’s not.”
“Alright.” Matthias shrugged. “I’ll keep you and her safe, fed, and sheltered.” He looked down at Daniel. “Which tonight means you need to get some sleep. Take the couch.”
“You don’t want…” Daniel blinked.
“Kid, you’re half dead on your feet. Last thing I want is you falling asleep with my dick in your mouth.” He gestured at the couch. “Get some sleep.”
Daniel couldn’t help but be impressed when Matthias lifted the plow onto the front of the truck. He had barely been able to budge the thing. He moved in, sliding the bolt as Matthias had directed. It clicked into place. Matthias nodded. “Make the list while I clear the drive.”
“Yes, sir.” Daniel nodded. He hurried back into the house and out of the cold. It took him a few moments to locate a pen and notepad, then he froze.
“What’s wrong?” Anna looked up at him.
“He told me to make a list of the stuff we need.” Daniel chewed his lower lip.
“Shouldn’t be hard.” Anna shook her head. “We need everything.”
“I know, I just…” Daniel sighed. “Wondering how much we dare test his generosity.” He wrote vitamins on the pad. Matthias had mentioned those, so they were safe. The place had food, but most of it was canned or frozen and there really wasn’t anything healthy. He wrote ‘I can cook so fresh food’. He looked over at Anna. “What sizes are you wearing these days?”
“What’d you have to do get him to let us stay?”
“Anna.” Daniel started shaking his head.
“Like that bar?” Tears started welling up in her eyes.
He still had no idea how she’d learned about that. “No, Anna, I…” He shrugged. “You saw the kitchen. Everything is canned and…” He shrugged. “I said I’d cook and stuff and played the take pity on us poor kids angle.”
“If he hurts you…” Anna narrowed her eyes. “I will set him on fire.”
“Anna, I broke in here and all he did was feed me and give me a hundred bucks. It’s just for a little while, Anna. Once the snow clears and…” He reached out and took her hand. “Come on. What else do you need?”
“Shampoo.” She sniffled.
“Shampoo. Got it.”
He looked down at the list Daniel handed him. There wasn’t as much on it as he’d expected. The kid had requested some warmer clothes for his sister and noted sizes, including boot sizes. Matthias glanced at the door. Both kids only had tennis shoes. “Daniel. Boots?”
“What?” Daniel looked up.
“You. Boot size.”
“Oh, uh…” Daniel frowned a moment. “Ten.”
“Second bedroom has a bed. Get it put together for your sister. Brought the mattress into the garage. Vacuum is in there.” He pointed. “There’s an electric blanket around somewhere in the linen cabinet. Find it for her.” He looked down at the list again, then frowned before turning to Anna. What the hell did twelve-year old’s do these days? “You like crayons or…”
“Crayons?” She blinked.
“Oh.” She shook her head and then nodded rapidly. “I like drawing, but not crayons. Colored pencils.”
“Right.” He looked down at the list again, then up at Daniel. “You cook?”
“Yes.” Daniel nodded eagerly. “I took some cooking classes and this cordon bleu thing last summer where we did ethnic fusion recipes like French Thai and pairing sushi with pasta or lefse with tikka masala and I can also bake if you like cookies or pie or anything like that and I can make croissants and…” He trailed off as Matthias just stared at him. “Yes, I can cook.”
So much for a nice, quiet winter. Then again… He shrugged. “I’ll get some chocolate chips.”
“Half his books aren’t even in English.” Anna looked away from the bookshelf. “It’s not even the right alphabet. I think it’s Russian.”
“Maybe he’s Russian.”
“Matthias isn’t a Russian name.” Anna shook her head. “It’s like Swedish or something but he’s too dark to be Swedish.” She tilted her head at one of the photographs. “Do you think he took all these pictures?”
“I don’t…” Daniel stepped back as he opened one of the other cupboards. Matthias apparently had his own set of what looked like riot gear. The guy definitely was no cop though. He closed the cupboard again. “I can’t find any twin-size linens, so you might have to make do a little.” The combination of sleeping bag and electric blanket would keep her warm enough, certainly. He caught a glimpse out the window. “He’s back.” He wished he wasn’t worried, but the truth was he really didn’t know what he’d just gotten them into. With more than a little trepidation, he went out to the garage to help Matthias bring bags in.
There were more bags than he’d expected. Matthias had apparently taken the fresh food suggestion to heart, because there was a lot of groceries. He smiled at the bag of veggies. Good groceries. Anna took a couple bags and watched Matthias warily. Matthias, for his part, appeared a little wary of her as well. He set three bags on the couch, then set an oversized bag on top of them. “Make sure these fit.” He gestured at Anna before going back out for another load.
She took the jacket out of the bag, and Daniel stared at it a moment. It was nice, lined with fur and it fit perfectly just a little too big. Anna smiled as she petted the fur trim before taking it back off and setting it down carefully. Daniel felt a slight lump in his throat when he realized their mother hand never bought Anna anything half as nice, especially not brand new. Matthias brought in the last bags and closed the door behind him.
“Here.” He added a packet of twin sized bedding to the couch.
Her eyes lit up at the sight, and she made a squealing sound. “Pinkie Pie!” She jumped up and threw her arms around Matthias. The big guy got a deer in the headlights type look as she hugged him. Anna released him, grabbed the bed set, and went flying up the stairs to the bedroom.
Laughter escaped him. He couldn’t quite help himself. The guy looked positively pole-axed. His glare at Daniel didn’t do much to stop the laughter. It took him a few seconds to make himself stop. “Pinkie Pie is her favorite.”
“What the fuck is a Pinkie Pie?” Matthias stared at him.
“Oh, she’s one of the mane six.” When Matthias just kept staring at him, Daniel shrugged. “My Little Pony.” He frowned a little. “She’d been wanting to do her room. I was going to get her a set for Christmas but…” He swallowed. “How’d you know?”
“Little girls like pink.” Matthias glanced up at stairs. “Right?”
“Some. Well, Anna really does and…” He looked at the bags, and suddenly realized Matthias had bought his sister a whole new wardrobe. He blinked back tears. “Thank you.”
“You can cook steak?” Matthias raised an eyebrow.
“Oh, yeah.” Daniel nodded.
“Cook steak.” Matthias pointed at the kitchen, then tossed him a bag. “Boots.”
Matthias looked down at his plate with some pleasure. The kid really could cook. When was the last time he’d had homemade biscuits? Now if the two of them could figure out how to shut up. The girl kept up a running monologue about the apparent adventures of talking horses, while Daniel talked about some type of dragon thing and a sparkling twilight. Anna had gone through the clothes while Daniel had cooked, and insisted on giving them a fashion show. She’d boggled at the art set before hugging him again.
Maybe he should have bought himself earmuffs. It took him a couple tries to turn the conversation to information he could actually use. Trent Hayden was a police chief with unpleasant ties. Daniel was pretty sure it was drugs and mafia, but the kid’s judgment left a few things to be desired. Anna went silent at that portion, and he was sure the girl knew something she wasn’t saying. Instead of pushing, he let Daniel cajole her into talking about the horses again.
A simple police chief was one thing. Powerhouse in some ways, but limited by borders. If the guy was tied to a cartel and worried about the kids talking, that was a different matter. And Anna was the kind of evidence that could bring down seriously powerful men. They were in danger. Now he just had to figure out who was looking for them, and how big a trail the kid had left.
After dinner, Anna collected her various remaining prizes and carted them to the room that was already starting to look like a bubblegum explosion. Daniel did the dishes, thankfully without further talking. Matthias went from window to window, checking outside and making sure the latches were fixed. Snow was starting to fall again. He’d pushed the kid’s car off the road, and by now it would be well buried in snow. He sat near the fire. If they were lucky, nobody would find it until spring.
He felt eyes, and looked to see Daniel staring at him. “I, uh…” The kid swallowed. “She hasn’t smiled like that since…” Daniel shrugged awkwardly. “Thank you.” Daniel walked toward him, then hesitated before dropping to his knee and putting his hands on Matthias’s knees. “I mean, you did all this and I haven’t even paid you yet, really.” He slowly slid his hands up Matthias’s legs.
There was something in the kid’s eyes. It took him a moment to realize it was actual interest. Something about it made the prospect of getting ‘paid’ more appealing. He put a hand on Daniel’s cheek. “You pick a safeword?”
“Isn’t red light, like, a pretty standard one, or…” Daniel leaned into Matthias’s touch. “I’ve never thought about one before.”
“Red light works.” Matthias stood. “Go upstairs. I’m gonna lock the garage.”
He tried to tell himself he wasn’t nervous. And he wasn’t, at least not entirely the bad kind of nervous. Matthias had kept his end so far, and he hadn’t been an asshole about it or anything. Hell, he’d gone above and beyond what Daniel had been expecting. But he couldn’t quite shake the realization that he’d sold his body to a stranger for some clothes and bedsheets. And he had no idea just what use the stranger was going to make of him.
Matthias entered, closing the door behind him. Daniel shifted his weight a little, but smiled. “You’re scared.” Matthias looked him over.
It really was a good thing he hadn’t tried his hand at poker. “A little.”
A nod. “Do you want to be?”
Daniel blinked. “I, uh…” He shook his head. “What does that mean?”
The big man crossed the room in two steps. He pinned both of Daniel’s hands above his head and to the wall with just one of his own. Then he traced a finger of his other hand down Daniel’s throat to the middle of his chest. “Do you want to be scared, Daniel?”
He tugged at his wrists, but the guy’s grip was like iron. “What if I say no?”
“Then I let you go. You blow me, then go sleep on the couch.” Matthias shrugged.
“And, uh…” Daniel took a deep breath. “If I say yes?”
Slowly, the big man’s finger traced down, hooking on the waistband of his pants. “Then you’ll get to cum tonight too.” Matthias tilted his head. His voice was slightly husky. “And sleep in the bed.”
His breath was coming a little fast. He tugged again at his wrists, and there was still no give. It occurred to him the guy really didn’t have to offer him a choice. He’d promised anything, after all. Even if he hadn’t, it was clear the big guy was fully capable of taking it if he wanted. And frankly, he was starting to get just a little turned on. Daniel swallowed. “Yes.”