8 - School Spirit(s)
Marshala rushed inside the building and frantically looked around when she saw Alexander kneeling on the floor, trying to calm down a freaked out Kiara.
“Stop it! No! Don’t touch me!”
Marshala ran over to them just as Elijah flashed in front of her in mere seconds. “Elijah!” Alexander said anxiously. “I- I didn’t mean- there was a feral- it tried to attack her-I was just trying to protect her. I didn’t-I didn’t mean to scare her!”
“It’s alright Alexander, calm down,” Elijah said.
“What are you?! What are you?!” Kiara screamed. She was freaking out, trying desperately to scramble away from him.
“Kiara, please hun, calm down. It’s okay. You’re going to be okay!” Marshala said, grabbing her arms.
“No! He’s a monster! His eyes! And his teeth! And that thing!” Kiara sobbed terrified as tears streaked down her face.
Elijah looked at Marshala and saw the hopeless look on her face. “I can take care of this, Marshala...”
“No, Elijah!” Marshala said sharply. Kiara continued to wiggle frantically in her grasp as her breathing got more erratic.
“Please! Let me go! I wanna go home! I don’t wanna be here! Why are you doing this?! Who are you people?!” Kiara stumbled over her words in fear. Marshala looked helplessly at Kiara before looking back at Elijah.
“You’re too attached to her to do it yourself... let me do it...” Elijah said calmly. Marshala hesitated. She bit her lip nervously before she finally nodded. She stood to her feet and watched cautiously as Elijah grabbed onto Kiara’s shoulders.
“Stop! No please! Don’t hurt me! Please!” Kiara cried out, trying to move out of his grasp.
“Kiara... listen to me...” Elijah said calmly. “It’s going to be alright... you can trust us... you can trust me...” Kiara slowly started to calm down as she looked into Elijah’s sharp blue eyes. Her body started to warm over and she ceased moving so anxiously. “You are okay... you are safe..” he said to her.
“I am okay... I am safe...” she repeated softly as her breathing started to regulate.
Marshala frowned as she watched Elijah work his charm on Kiara. She turned around to see Alexander anxiously pacing the hallway as he ran his fingers through his black hair multiple times. “Alexander...” Marshala said, cautiously approaching him.
He quickly turned around to face her, staring wide-eyed. “You have to believe me, Marshala! I didn’t hurt her! I would never hurt her! I was trying to protect her! It was a feral! A feral made it into the building, and-and-”
“It’s okay, Alexander, I believe you,” she said, carefully putting her hand on his shoulder. “Be still...”
Alexander stopped pacing as his muscles relaxed from her gentle touch on his shoulder. He glanced at Elijah still holding Kiara as he continued to calm her. “She hates me. I’ve ruined everything, haven’t I? I didn’t mean t-”
“You didn’t, Alexander. It’s fine. She’ll be okay,” Marshala assured him. “Take a deep breath and tell me what happened?”
Alexander deeply exhaled as he looked from Kiara to Marshala’s concerned brown eyes. “I was cleaning up in the art studio. I told her I would meet her outside for the game. A few minutes after she left, I... I sensed something. I stepped outside the studio and then I smelled it... the feral. It was on campus. In the building. I don’t know how it got in. It had already fed but was still looking for more food. When I ran into the hallway to find it, I saw it chasing after Kiara. I stopped it before it could hurt her, but... I guess... I scared her... But I had to, Marshala! I had to kill it!”
“You did the right thing, Alexander,” Marshala said, trying to calm him again. She gently squeezed his shoulder. “What do you mean it already fed?” Alexander frowned and motioned to a heap on the floor in the doorway of a classroom. Marshala thought she had stopped breathing as she started to sweat. “No... please don’t tell me that’s a...” she said weakly as she approached the heap. She looked at the mauled body on the floor and immediately covered her mouth as she started to hyperventilate.
“She’s asleep now,” Elijah said, approaching Marshala. He saw the look of dread on her face and tilted his head in confusion when he noticed the dead body on the ground. “Oh no...”
“Y-You... you have to get out of here,” Marshala said to them. “Both of you.”
“I’m not leaving you like this,” Elijah said, gently grabbing her arm. She immediately shivered from his touch.
“You must! You can’t be here. The others will assume the worst and blame you! And you’ve violated the treaty. If Nicholas catches you here-”
“I am not afraid of Nicholas, Marshala,” Elijah said sternly. “You know I’m not.”
“Well, I’m afraid for you!” she shrieked at him. He looked at her tenderly and reluctantly let her go. “Leave,” she said again. “Take Alexander with you. I will take care of this.” Elijah looked at her with pleading eyes, not wanting to move. “Please, Elijah,” she said desperately. “Just go. Look after Alexander.” She gestured to Alexander who was looking at Kiara like it was the last time he’d ever see her again.
Elijah took a step back, his eyes still lingering on her when they heard the footsteps of people approaching. “Elijah, go!” she said again more firmly. He gave her a pained look before he grabbed Alexander and disappeared within seconds.
“What happened on our campus last night was a terrible and most tragic incident. One of our very own Excalibur students, Jerry Jones, was mauled to death by a wild animal. His remains were found by fellow student Kiara LaFleur who is currently incapacitated and recovering at home. Campus police are still investigating to find out how the animal got into the building and will take immediate action to make sure that our students feel safe and protected.”
Marshala nibbled on her fingernails as she anxiously watched the president of the University deliver a speech to a crowded room of students, faculty, and some parents. She tapped her foot impatiently, waiting for him to finish. Nicholas stood on the other side of the room, his hands in his pockets. He took note of Marshala’s nervous movements and frowned. He knew something was wrong.
“Tonight we will hold a vigil for our dear fallen Excalibur honoree. All students are encouraged to attend. Homecoming started us full of excitement and wonder for a new school year and ended tragically. Let us remember dear Jerry Jones as we celebrate throughout Spirit Week.”
The president went to step down when Clare immediately walked up to the podium. Marshala’s heart nearly leaped out of her chest at the sight of her assistant. “Oh no, Clare, don’t...” she murmured.
“And let’s not forget to thank our very own Professor Marshala Toussaint for being one of the first responders on the scene and making sure our students were safe!” Clare said loudly into the mic. Marshala groaned as everyone in the room turned to face her and clapped for her in gratitude. She gave a humble smile and a small wave before turning on her heels. She was the first to leave the room. When she arrived back at her office, she frantically searched through her shelves.
She jumped startled and turned around to see Nicholas standing in her doorway. “Nicholas! Hi.” She quickly turned back around and started searching through her shelves again.
He eyed her form before walking up to her and grabbing her by the waist. “Shal, stop,” he ordered her. He turned her around in his arms until she was facing him. Her brown eyes were filled to the brim with concern.
“Nic-” she started.
He immediately silenced her with a kiss as he wrapped his arms around her body and pulled her tightly against him. He controlled just how long and how deep the kiss was until he finally pulled his lips away. She sighed, feeling frustrated and trapped in his arms. “Are you okay?” he asked.
“Yes, I’m fine. Please let go,” she said, pushing him off of her. She immediately turned back around to start rummaging through the shelves again.
“What happened, Shal?” Nicholas asked as he leaned back against her desk.
“I already told you what happened, Nicholas. It was another one of those creatures. The ferals.”
“Yes. You told me about the feral. What you didn’t tell me is what happened afterward… with Kiara...”
“She... she passed out...”
She heard Nicholas growl angrily behind her. “I don’t like it when you lie to me, Shal... I can fucking smell him on you...”
Marshala stopped rummaging through the shelves and slowly turned around to face him. His arms were folded across his chest as he casually leaned back against the desk. But the scowl on his face and the amber light in his eyes were in stark contrast to his lax demeanor. “That fucking asshole was here, wasn’t he?!”
“Alexander is the one who stopped the feral, Nicholas.”
“I can smell Elijah on you! Don’t fucking lie to me, Shal! You think after all this time I don’t know his damn scent?!” he said, standing up angrily.
Marshala slowly exhaled, trying to calm herself as she anxiously rubbed the top of her head. “Nicholas... we have a dead student on campus and we’re not even halfway through the first semester...”
Nicholas could see she was trembling and struggling to keep herself together. He relaxed the tense muscles in his face and tried to mask his anger. Human life was precious to Marshala. But she especially loved her students. She had sworn to protect the people of the town, and no one was more dear to her than her students. That one of them was killed so brutally was tearing her apart. Nicholas could see that. He was still angry about Elijah whom he knew had to have been present even if she refused to tell him. But for the sake of her sanity and emotional stability, he decided he would press her about it... later...
“I’m sorry, Shal...” he spoke more tenderly. He grabbed her waist and pulled her towards him. She stood in-between his legs and wrapped her arms around herself, her mind consumed with worry. He pressed his lips to hers and ran his fingers along her spine, trying to soothe her. She pulled back from him and walked to the window, still nibbling on her fingernails.
“I don’t know how it got on campus. We cast a spell that put an entire layer to protect the school from those creatures,” she said irritably. “We can’t allow it to happen again.”
Nicholas watched her pensively as she stared out the window. “...what do you need me to do...?” he asked.
She thought for a moment before turning around to face him. “We need to make another protective layer over the campus. I’m not allowing those things to get anywhere near my students again.”
Nicholas nodded as he stood up from his leaned position. “I’ll gather the pack. Are we doing the usual?”
She nodded. “Yes. But I don’t want Rhea partnered with Levi. They fool around too much and get nothing done. She can partner with Leo for this one.”
Nicholas smirked at her. “Baby, when are you gonna stop holding this grudge against my cousin?”
“When he stops being a nasty little freak and learns to control his hormones around her. I refuse to let him get my god-sister pregnant before she’s at least graduated. I swear your entire pack is nothing but sex-obsessed animals with no self-control,” she said irritably.
Nicholas threw his head back, roaring with laughter. He grabbed her hips and roughly pulled her against him. “Damn, baby, tell me how you really feel,” he smirked at her. He caressed her plump backside and tickled her neck with his lips. “It’s not that we lack self-control... we just take what we want...”
“Mhm,” she said, rolling her eyes. She pushed him off of her. “Go, Nicholas. We’re burning daylight here.” He looked her up and down and bit his lip naughtily before smirking and leaving her office.
Alexander paced the hallway, waiting for Elijah to finally emerge from Kiara’s room. He ran his fingers through his hair as he nervously bit his lip. Elijah hadn’t said one word to him the moment they returned to the manor. Marshala made good on her promises and provided the school with a cover story, making sure to leave Alexander’s name out of it. As far as the administration was concerned, a student was mauled by a wild animal from the woods and Kiara had passed out from shock from finding the student’s remains. Marshala, known for working late nights, had arrived just in time to tend to Kiara and call the police just as people were starting to re-enter the building.
But Alexander wasn’t concerned about being found out. His mind was consumed with Kiara. He deeply craved kissing her. He had imagined what it would feel like to have her soft lips against his again. To feel her body in his hands. He knew Elijah wouldn’t approve, but he couldn’t stay away from her. His desire for her was stronger than anything he had ever felt. And the fact that she wanted him too set his whole body ablaze with impatient desire. He desperately wanted to claim her.
But then the feral attacked... and she watched him kill it. She saw his red eyes, his fangs. She was terrified of him. Though he longed to touch her, the way she retracted from him when he tried to comfort her nearly tore him to pieces. He wondered how much of her memory Elijah took away. He hoped it didn’t include their first kiss.
He looked up suddenly as Elijah calmly stepped out of her room, gently closing the door behind him. “How is she?!” Alexander asked impatiently, rushing him.
Elijah sighed as he rolled his sleeves down. “She’s resting...”
“How much does she remember?” Alexander asked anxiously.
Elijah looked at Alexander coldly. “We’ll find out when she wakes up... Why...? Is there something you’d like to tell me, Alexander?” Alexander stuffed his hands into his pockets and immediately averted his eyes, refusing to say anything. “I strictly forbade you from getting close to her, Alexander. You directly defied my orders,” Elijah said sternly.
“I can’t fucking help it, Elijah! I’m drawn to her! I think... I feel like I’m-”
“Don’t you dare say you’re in love with her!” Elijah said angrily.
“I can’t help how I feel about her-!” Alexander said exasperated.
“Alexander!” Elijah sneered. He grabbed him roughly by the neck and slammed him up against the wall. “You WILL help how you feel about her! You WILL keep your distance! You will end this... infatuation you have with her! Marshala is not yours, Nicholas!”
Alexander stared at his brother wide-eyed, caught in the clutch of his angry grasp. Cole rushed out of his room to see what all the noise was. “Elijah? Alexander! What’s going on?!”
Elijah blinked rapidly, realizing the error of his words. His snarl slowly turned into a regretful frown as he looked at his brother in shock. “I... I’m sorry... Alexander...” Elijah quickly let Alexander go and briskly walked away.
“What the hell was that all about?” Cole asked. Alexander said not a word as he watched his brother storm down the stairs and leave the manor.
Marshala tightened her coat around herself to protect herself from the cool night breeze. She watched the students walking towards the center of the campus to Jerry Jones’s vigil. Students placed letters and lit candles onto the memorial which sported a large picture of Jerry’s smiling face. A tear cascaded down her cheek that she quickly wiped away once she heard footsteps approaching.
“Everyone’s here, Marshala.” She turned around to see Rhea wearing a green petticoat that matched the green headband in her fluffy, kinky hair.
“Good. Thank you, Rhea.” The two of them walked to the other side of the campus, opposite the vigil. They approached two mid-sized crowds. Nicholas stood tall with his hands in his jacket pockets in front of a group of men, including Levi and Leo. Rhea walked over to the other group of all women and stood next to a younger girl with afro puffs. She gently grabbed her hand.
“Thank you all for coming,” Marshala started. “I know we don’t usually gather like this unless it’s urgent. A student was mauled to death last night.”
“Was it one of those vampires?” one of the women called out.
“No. It wasn’t a vampire,” Marshala said.
“How do you know?” one of the men called out.
Nicholas locked eyes with Marshala, waiting for her answer. She sighed deeply. “The same way I know it wasn’t a wolf. It was a feral,” she answered.
There was a low murmur among the crowd. “These things are increasing in number. And we’re still trying to figure out a way to get them under control. But until then... we need to protect this school so that something like this doesn’t happen again. Many of you attend this university. This is our home. I will not allow it to become a feeding ground for those creatures.”
“But you let those damn vampires on this campus! How are they any different?!” another person yelled.
“This has nothing to do with them,” Marshala said, getting impatient.
“They’re just as dangerous!” someone yelled.
“It’s their fault this is even happening!” another one shouted.
The murmur among the two groups rose to a higher level as everyone started to get restless. Marshala looked at Nicholas and gave him a pleading look for his assistance to help control the crowd. He walked over and stood next to her with his hands still in his pockets.
“Everyone shut the FUCK up!” he shouted. The murmur immediately ceased as they all looked at him. “We didn’t come out here to fucking debate and point fingers about who did shit! If one more person interrupts, I will shut you the FUCK DOWN!”
Marshala shook her head, trying to hold in her smirk. She always considered Nicholas’s methods and way of speaking a bit too harsh, but he knew how to lead his pack. It was not something she would ever debate him on. He looked at her and nodded for her to continue.
“We’re going to add an extra layer of protection to the school. We’ll place amulets in each of the furthest classrooms and locations bordering each building and call on the spirits to provide an ethos shield. We need to do this now, tonight, while Jerry officially passes over and there are enough bodies here to pull the cosmic energy we need to solidify the shield. I want every sister-witch partnered with a wolf for protection, just like we’ve done before. We’ll meet back in one hour to finish the ritual,” she said.
They immediately started to pair up and walk in their respective directions. Rhea approached Levi who quickly grabbed her hand. “Nuh uh! Leo, go with Rhea. Levi, you go with Mya,” Nicholas ordered.
“What the fuck? Why?” Levi said annoyed.
“Don’t question me. Just do what I fucking tell you to do!” Nicholas demanded.
Levi rolled his eyes and sucked his teeth. He cupped Rhea’s face between his massive hands and gave her a long and hard kiss. “Don’t worry, Levi. It’s just an hour,” Rhea smiled up at him.
“That’s one hour too long. I’m definitely fucking you tonight after this,” Levi smirked as he nibbled on her bottom lip.
“Levi! Move your ass!” Nicholas snapped at him.
Rhea watched Levi jog off with Mya towards the building. She gave a forlorn look before she glanced at Marshala who was watching her. “I need you focused, Rhea...” Marshala said softly. Rhea nodded and grabbed Leo’s arm as they jogged towards the building.
Marshala watched them run off when she felt Nicholas grab her hand. “I guess that means I’m with you,” he smirked at her.
Marshala rolled her eyes and proceeded to pull him towards the Admissions office. “Just keep your hands to yourself, Volkov. We’ve got work to do.”
“Now where’s the fun in that...” Nicholas grinned.
“You’ve been awfully quiet...”
Leo kept watch as Rhea placed a small amulet in the back corner of the chemistry lab. His mind had been in a frenzy, thinking of too many things at once with a certain someone, in particular, driving him especially crazy.
“Leo?” Rhea said when he didn’t respond.
He looked up at her. “Sorry, RiRi... just... distracted...”
“Well, great! Now I really feel protected. Whatchu gonna do if a feral comes after me? Kill it with all the carbon dioxide you keep exhaling every time you sigh like you’re the forbidden lover in a romance novel?” she teased.
“Don’t joke like that, RiRi!” Leo said, getting upset.
She looked at him with surprise. “... I’m... I’m sorry, Leo...” she said hesitantly. He exhaled again as he leaned back against the wall. “What’s wrong?” she asked.
“...Kiara... I should have been there. She could have been seriously hurt... or worse...”
“But she wasn’t, Leo. She’s safe. And it’s not your fault, you were in the middle of a game.”
“That’s no fucking excuse!” Leo said angrily. He instinctively punched a classroom locker next to him, leaving a deep dent in it. Rhea saw his eyes flicker between it’s friendly blue and fierce, animalistic amber. “... Sorry...” he grumbled. He tried to calm himself down as he ran his fingers through his dark blonde hair. “I’ve been on edge about her ever since I found out she was staying with the Blackbournes. I don’t trust them with her...”
“It’s only temporary, Leo. Just until she discovers what she is,” Rhea said reassuringly.
“I don’t understand why we can’t just tell her now. This seems so unnecessary and counterproductive. What if she never finds out?”
“She will find out, Leo. But she needs to discover it for herself. We need to trust Marshala on this. If we just tell Kiara, she’ll freak out. We can’t just be like ’Hey, Kiara, wanna catch a movie? Oh, by the way, your future husband is a wolf and your best friend is a witch and everyone in this town is expecting you to save us from this wretched curse because you are ‘the chosen one’ ooooo ahhhhh sparkle sparkle!’” she said dramatically, making spirit fingers.
“Oh God... did they really use that term? ‘The chosen one’? What is this? The Matrix?” Leo snickered.
“Kiara! You are the chosen one! Cue CGI fight scene dun dun dun.” Rhea lifted her leg in the air, pretending to do Trinity’s move from the Matrix as Leo laughed hysterically.
“You’re such a dork,” he teased as he pulled her in for a hug. “Thanks for helping me see reason.”
“What are best friends for?” Rhea said, hugging him back.
She pulled back and noted the frown on his face. “... what if… she doesn’t want me...?” Leo said hesitantly.
“I don’t think that’s something you’ll have to worry about, Leo,” she smirked, nudging him in the side.
“So, when are you going to tell me the truth about, Elijah?” Nicholas asked. He watched Marshala wedge an amulet into the cranny of a wall in the cafeteria.
Marshala let out a frustrated sigh, refusing to look back at him. “Please don’t start this again, Nicholas,” she said impatiently.
“Do you still have feelings for him?” he asked.
“How are we having this conversation right now?!” she said exasperated.
“I need to know, Shal. I can’t pretend like your history with him doesn’t exist.”
“Can we just talk about this another time?”
“The fact that you can’t give me a straight ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer leads me to assume the worst,” he said, getting upset. “It’s bad enough I have to keep my distance from you for this fucking bullshit treaty, but now I have to keep an eye out for that damn bloodsucker trying to move in on my mate... again?!”
The amulet fell from Marshala’s hands and rolled underneath one of the cabinets. She let out a desperate and exhausted groan as she knelt on the ground and reached underneath to grab it. “I have not brought Elijah up once, and yet you talk about him so much I’m starting to think you’re the one who’s secretly in love with him!” After grabbing the amulet, she stood to her feet and glared at him. “Do you think you can cast your nonsensical jealousy aside long enough for us to get through the damn night?!”
But, he just looked at her as if he were in a trance. “Nicholas!” she snapped at him.
He looked at her startled. “Sorry, babe. You bent over and I got distracted by your ass.”
Marshala groaned and rolled her eyes as she pushed the amulet back into the crevice of the wall. “I worry about you sometimes, Nicholas,” she muttered. She headed for the exit with the alpha wolf in tow.
As everyone met back up outside, the men stepped back, giving the women space. The wolf pack casually lounged against the walls of the building, keeping watch. Meanwhile, the witches held hands, encircling a small fire pit that they had created from rocks and twigs. The men looked on as the women started a low chant, causing the fire in the center to steadily rise.
Levi leaned over and whispered in Nicholas’s ear. “Am I the only one that gets turned on watching them do this witchy shit?”
Nicholas shook his head with a snicker. “You’re just a damn freak, Levi.”
“Stop your fucking lies. You know your dick gets hard every time Marshala gets swept up in one of these weird-ass rituals,” Levi teased.
Nicholas rolled his eyes before he set them back on Marshala. “Every damn time...” he murmured.
A small blue orb formed in Marshala’s hand before the sky around them soon started to reflect the orb she held in her palm. From different parts of the building where the amulets were hidden, blue lightning streaks reached upward towards the sky. They merged together at the center, forming a barrier that enclosed around the campus. It shimmered a bright blue glow before it disappeared altogether.
The witches let go of each others’ hands as a still silence fell and the fire went out. Marshala turned to Nicholas with a relieved smile. “It’s done.”
Kiara’s eyes fluttered open and she immediately cringed at the bright light above her. “Oh no! Too bright!” she squealed, hiding underneath the covers.
“We’ll turn it down,” she heard a voice say.
She peeked out from underneath the covers and saw Elijah perched on her dresser. “Elijah!” she beamed at him.
“How are you feeling?” Elijah asked.
“I... I actually feel pretty good,” she said, sitting up in her bed. She looked over to see Cole leaning against her window with his arms crossed.
“You better. You slept for like a whole damn day,” Cole smirked.
“Shut up!” she gasped in shock. “Did I really?! What in the hell?!” she said slapping her hand against her forehead.
“Take it slow... you had a bit of an accident at school,” Elijah told her. “Do you remember?”
She furrowed her brow as she tried to think. “I remember the game... and...” She looked up to see Alexander enter the room, holding Peter’s hand. “I remember Peter being mad at me...” she said flatly.
The little boy pouted as he pulled a wilted flower from behind his back and walked over to give it to her. Kiara flushed at his adorable act of kindness and willed herself not to pet his little head. “Does this mean you forgive me?” she asked him.
“...Yes...” Peter murmured. She gave him a slick smile and couldn’t resist pinching his puffy cheek. He groaned in agitation and ran behind Alexander’s leg. She looked up at Alexander and saw apprehension in his bright blue eyes. For a moment she got locked in his blue gaze.
“Do you remember anything else, Kiara?” Elijah asked, trying to get her attention.
She looked at Alexander and a slight flush came to her dark cheeks. “Just the game...” she said softly.
Alexander looked at her curiously when he heard Elijah loudly exhale. Elijah stood to his feet and walked to the door. “I’ll bring you some dinner. You haven’t eaten in a while...”
“Thank you, Elijah,” she smiled at him gratefully. Elijah returned the smile but quickly lost it when he looked at Alexander with warning in his gaze and finally left the room.
“Shit... you can cut the tension with a knife,” Cole teased as he pushed himself off of the window sill. “Guess I can leave, now that I know she’s still alive. Try not to kill yourself, little thing. You’re supposed to be fixing our Evangeline,” he smirked at her.
“I’ll work on it,” she said sarcastically.
Cole looked at Alexander whose eyes hadn’t left Kiara the moment he walked in. “Come on, Peter. Looks like Alexander needs a moment,” Cole said mischievously. Alexander shot his brother a glare as Cole laughed and nudged Peter out the door.
“Is there anything I can get for you?” Alexander asked her.
Kiara smiled pleasantly. “Just your company…”
A small smile came to his face as he moved closer to her. “Kiara…” he said hesitantly. An argument raged in his head. Kiara looked at up at him expectantly, waiting for him to continue. “Do... do you really not remember anything else?” he asked her.
Kiara looked at him nervously and bit her bottom lip. His sharp blue eyes instinctively zeroed in on her lips, igniting a fire between her legs. “Was there something else I was supposed to remember?” she asked innocently.
Alexander looked at her curiously before he sat down on the bed next to her. He stared deeply into her eyes and brought a hand to her cheek, caressing her softly. He felt a tinge of excitement as she instinctively leaned in. Throwing caution to the wind, he immediately closed the distance between them and pulled her into a passionate and intense kiss.