My everything hurt.
It was like I had spent the last couple of days in some kind of terrible movie with a B-level plot, a predictable villain, and a heroine that passed out at a drop of a hat. I had always believed I was made of stronger stuff but I had been proven wrong on that assumption, repeatedly.
I opened my eyes, it was still dark outside and the room was lit by a small lamp on the side table. The ceiling wasn’t covered in stains and the bed beneath me was soft. I turned my head, slowly taking in the rest of the space around me. There was a dresser on the wall by the foot of the bed, drawers half open, overflowing with clothes. Two doors, one was a jar but I couldn’t see anything but darkness – the other was closed. I didn’t see any personal items, no pictures or decorations, no way for me to determine who this room might belong to. My heart began to beat a little faster as I came to terms with the fact that Dace had taken me somewhere. I didn’t like being in unfamiliar territory without my revolver.
I sat up, wincing at the ache of my muscles as I did so. I wasn’t going to be going anywhere fast from the pain it caused to move my body. I pulled the covers back, shivering as the air in the room met my naked flesh. I had lost my towel or someone had taken it from me, either way, I didn’t prefer being naked. I grabbed onto the sheet, wrapping it around myself as I got up out of the bed one foot at a time. I let out a little yelp as my right foot touched the ground, pulling back. I looked down to see it was bandaged up, a little red bleeding through the gauze. Well, whoever I was with had been kind enough to patch me up, which had to be a good sign.
“Oh good, you’re finally awake.” I whirled around, gritting my teeth against the stabbing pain that rushed up my leg. An older woman with coal-colored hair was walking through the door that had been closed. She was carrying a metal tray in her hands, dull green eyes surveying me before glancing down at whatever was on the tray.
“Who are you? Where am I? Where is Dace? Rhys?” All the questions tumbled out of my mouth as I backed up, knees hitting the bed. The panic slithered down my spine and made a home in my stomach, turning it sour.
The woman lifted a thin eyebrow as she met my anxious stare. “That’s quite a lot of questions. Do you have any specific order you’d like me to answer those in?” She set down the tray she’d carried in with her on the top of the dresser. I peered over to see a plate of steaming eggs and a glass of orange juice. My stomach growled loudly in response to the sight, causing my cheeks to burn with embarrassment.
The corners of the woman’s eyes crinkled with silent amusement. “My name is Astrid. Currently, you are in son’s home.” Her son?
“Rhys.” She corrected.
My eyebrows shot up. This was Rhys’ mother? I was suddenly more aware of my condition.
“I believe that covers the important ones. As for your other question, Dace...that boy took off shortly after dropping you here...something about cleaning up a mess he made.” Astrid shrugged tense shoulders. I knew he must have gone to take care of Koldo or at least I hoped that’s what he had intended to do. The last thing I needed was police getting involved.
What I needed to do was find some clothes, get back to my truck and get the hell out of this town. There was no way that Silas was going to let this go. He would come back for me and when he did I had a feeling he would be coming back with the whole legion of followers. He would raise this entire town to the ground if only to punish me because someone had stepped in to save me and, in the process, made him look even more like a fool. I couldn’t handle having the blood of innocent people on my hands as much as I wanted to stay and fight. As things stood, I was probably ensuring the torture and possible death of the people who had already helped me.
“Well, when Dace or Rhys get back tell them that I said thanks for the help. And that I’m sorry for causing trouble.” I limped toward the dresser, tightening the sheet around my body. The last thing I needed was to flash Rhys’ mother. I opened the top drawer, only to find boxer briefs, socks, and tank tops. I snatched a pair of briefs before moving to the opened drawer below it, grabbing a t-shirt.
“And where do you think you’re going?” Astrid crossed her arms over her chest, studying me through narrowed eyes.
I shifted my weight from one foot to the other. “I need to go.” Was the only real response I could give her without giving away too much information. She didn’t know me and I didn’t know her. Dace had brought me here and he had shot Koldo in the head...well, I wasn’t sure who was on my side.
“What you need to do is sit back down on that bed, eat some food, and rest. You look like you haven’t slept in a month or had a proper meal in much longer than that.” Her tone was much more demanding than it had been moments ago. The look in her eyes and the pinched expression on her face told me she meant business. I wasn’t going anywhere without her clearance to do so.
I tightened my grip on the clothes I had gathered. “You don’t understand. I need to leave. If I don’t the man that did this—” I shimmied, regretting the action as pain lanced through my body. “—he is going to come back and do a lot worse to me and anyone else who gets in his way.” I needed her to understand that by keeping me here with her she was putting herself at serious risk.
Astrid’s expression softened into one of sympathy before she blinked it away. Her lips lifted into a tight smile. “Don’t you worry about that. You just rest and eat, build up your strength. You’ll be safe as long as you are here with us.” She didn’t linger. She simply said her peace and disappeared from the room, trusting that I would do as she said.
I waited a moment before dropping the sheet and slipping the large shirt over my head. It took a little more effort to get the boxers on, my wounded foot forcing me to lean against the bed. I glanced at the meal Astrid had brought me, stomach growling. My body was begging me to feed it but I didn’t trust anyone at the moment as delicious as the food looked and smelled. I knew things weren’t always how they appeared, it was better not to chance it. I wrapped my arms around my stomach and sat myself down on the edge of the bed. I didn’t think leaving was an option, for now, I was stuck.
Being alone in the room gave me time to think, too much time.
I kept going over all the details of the moments leading up to Silas finding me to now. I was over analyzing everything, playing and replaying it all. Certain details jumping out and becoming clearer. Like how had Dace known I was in trouble? It could have been a happy coincidence that he was in the right place at the right time but my gut didn’t believe that. And how had he been able to sneak up on Silas and Koldo? Their senses were too keen for some random human to catch them unaware. The other night Dace had been able to sneak into my room through the window without me having a single clue.
More and more the facts were leading me to have suspicions that Dace might not be human and that meant Rhys might not be human...that would account for his need to have so much privacy. Maybe it would also explain my unhealthy level of attraction to him. I had never felt such a disconnection between my mind and body. I laid myself back down on the bed, the need to rest becoming overwhelming. I had overloaded my brain and my body was too tired from fighting to have the strength to sit up anymore. I closed my eyes and dropped my head to the pillow, hoping that I was just paranoid and that my suspicions were nothing but that.
I hadn’t even remembered falling asleep but when I woke up it was to the sound of Rhys’ voice. At first, I hadn’t been sure if it was part of the dream I had been having or if it was real.
“I want you to find the fucker that did this to her. I don’t care what you have to do or who you have to call, do you hear me? Just find him.” I shifted on the bed, rolling over onto my back. “I’ll call you later.”
I opened my eyes and found Rhys leaning over the bed, staring down at me. His face drawn into a dangerous scowl. I blinked a couple of times, pushing back deeper into the mattress to put more distance between us. My mind was screaming at me to run away and my body was heating up, ready to have him take me again. I was caught up in a strange kind of madness. “I hope you weren’t just standing there watching me sleep this entire time...”
He looked like he was forcing himself to relax his expression, reaching up to tuck his hair behind his ear. “I just got home, found you lying in my bed...beaten to hell.”
Anger cut through my fear. “Do you want me to apologize for that?”
“Of course, not.” His voice dropped lower.
I didn’t want to linger here, especially now that Rhys was around. My bones groaned in protest as I sat up. His eyes followed the movement, scanning down the length of my body before meeting my gaze again. I wondered if he was as affected by my presence as I was by his, it was like being next to a lightning rod. I was uncomfortable and achy in all of my places.
“Look, I tried to leave earlier but Astrid told me to stay and I was a little afraid to test her.”
I watched his lips twitch at my words. “You aren’t going anywhere until you’ve healed up and we’ve found the fucker who did this.” He held my gaze, a familiar amber light flashing through beneath the deep green of his eyes, like sunlight through evergreens. “Lay down.”
I sucked in a sharp breath. Fear rippled through my limbs. “You can’t keep me here.” My voice was a soft tremble.
“You should be happy to be here at all, according to Dace.”
I shifted on the mattress, moving toward the edge. “Dace doesn’t know everything...” I was getting out of here. I should’ve never sought out Rhys the other day. I’d made a fatal error. I might’ve traded one monster for another.
“I trust Dace and his opinion of the situation. We’ve known each other a long time. You, I’ve just met and I’m not sure if I can trust a girl who mixes herself up with men that would do something like this.”
I stared up at him, frozen. “You think that I wanted this to happen to me? You think I wanted to spend my life running from a mistake that I made?” Hot tears spilled from my eyes. “You ass.”
I watched his stern expression drop at the sight of my tears. His shifted his gaze away from mine. I got the urge to let out a bitter laugh. He, clearly, couldn’t handle a girl crying. I guess everyone had their kryptonite and this was his. I wiped my eyes. I needed to try my best to regain control of the situation.
He lowered himself to the edge of his bed, sitting down. I scrambled to get away from him on instinct, rising up off the bed. “Shit, Dove. I’m sorry. I’m just pissed off that someone hurt you under my watch.”
I glanced away from him toward the door. “It’s not your responsibility to protect me.”
“Yes, it is.” He replied. I looked back at him, his expression apologetic. I believed that he meant what he was saying, even if it was a little overwhelming. I shifted a step toward him, freezing when I became aware of the action. I shook my head, frowning. It wasn’t normal to feel so drawn to a person, it felt almost obsessive. That should have terrified me but it didn’t, which made me even more nervous and confused. Perhaps everything with Silas had really done my brain in.
“Because you –” He shook his head as if changing his mind. “You obviously can’t take care of yourself. So, someone needs to.”
I scowled at his response, a thousand sharp retorts sitting on the tip of my tongue. He had wounded my already fragile pride. There was a heavy silence before Rhys spoke again. “How did you get involved with this guy?”
“Do you mean that because he’s clearly unstable or...because he’s not human?” I needed to know if I had walked myself right into the situation I had been trying to run from. I wanted to believe that my luck couldn’t be that terrible.
There was a stretch of silence as we both stared at each other. Rhys was the one to look away first and that was an answer enough for me. I couldn’t stop the choked, hysterical laugh that squeezed out of my chest. “I can’t believe this...” Rhys fixed his green eyes back on me. “On second thought, you know what, I can. I have terrible taste in men. Actually, I don’t know if it’s bad taste in men or just bad taste in dogs.” I remarked favoring one foot over the other as I made my way to the door.
My heart was racing and my panic was rising. I didn’t hear any movement behind me, just a heavy sigh. “I thought I told you not to move around.”
My lip lifted into a defensive snarl. “Don’t you dare try to order me around, Rhys. I am not a dog. I am not one of you!” I knew I was freaking out but I had been way too calm about everything I had been through. This was a much more expected reaction to the situation I had found myself in. I was glad that my brain seemed to have taken control of my body this time.
I heard the creak of the floorboards. “You didn’t seem to mind me ordering you around a couple hours ago.” I knew his words carried a double meaning, images of what we had done flashing through my head. I reached for the doorknob. A rush of air leaving my lungs as a strong hand planted itself above my head.
I whirled around, stumbling back into the corner. “What do you think you’re doing? Stay away from me, Rhys. I’m serious.”
“Now who’s ordering who?” He lifted a brow.
I licked my lips as my core heated. This was the worst timing ever to be getting hot and bothered. These had to be symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome or something like it. I narrowed my eyes. “This isn’t funny. I want to leave.”
He pulled his hand back from the door. “I know you are freaked out and confused right now—”
“Damn right I am. So, ease the fuck back, okay?”
His lips twitched but he gave into my request, taking a step back. “Sorry. You’ve been through hell tonight and you don’t need me behaving like an ass.”
He reached up and ran his fingers through his hair, pulling it away from his face. “I don’t want to hurt you. If I had wanted to hurt you I would have done so by now. I’ve had more than enough opportunities.”
“So, I’m just supposed to trust you?” I questioned.
“No.” He shook his head, pursing his lips. “I don’t expect you to trust me, but I need you to understand that this is the safest place for you, right now.”
I knew he was probably right. He was a werewolf like Silas, which meant he stood more of a chance then I did – even with my revolver and silver bullets. But still, I’d put my care into the wrongs hands before. I couldn’t trust myself, especially when it came to Rhys. I couldn’t think clearly around him. I was trapped in between two impossible decisions. “I don’t know—”
“I’m going to find this guy and I’m going to make sure he goes away, forever.” He proclaimed without hesitation. There was no doubt in him.
He was speaking words that I had been longing to hear. All I wanted was to be free from Silas. I didn’t want to run anymore. I was so tired of living my life in fear, always looking back over my shoulder and missing out on what was right in front of me. I wanted to be free to live. Still, I was uncertain about everything, but deep in my gut, something told me I could depend on Rhys. He might be my best chance at putting an end to this nightmare. I forced some of the tension from my shoulders, breathing deep.
“Okay. I’ll stay...at least for now.” I might come to regret this decision later. “But not in your bed.”
Rhys tilted his head. “We’ll discuss sleeping arrangements later.” He had no plans of letting me sleep anywhere but in his bed. I could tell from the look in his eyes. I narrowed my eyes preparing to argue with him. “Let’s get you into the bath.”
“Bath?” I blinked.
“I’ve heard that they do wonders for sore muscles and from all the bruises I see on you I’d wager you’re feeling pretty sore.” He was trying to keep his anger about my current state under control but I could still see that it upset him by the way his jaw tensed. His eyes strayed from me to the tray of food his mother had brought me. “Was there something wrong with the food?”
My cheeks burned when he turned his gaze back to me. “I have a rule that I don’t eat food I don’t cook for myself.” I’d learned that lesson from my time with Silas.
There was the flash of amber again. “I’ll find you something that you can eat.”