Crash and Burn

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Chapter 11: Roman

The first thing Roman noticed was that she was shaking like a leaf. He had no idea what to do as he stood there and watched her in the hallway. Curled up in the fetal position against the wall, she was clearly fighting some sort of an internal battle.

He had noticed her stagger out of the room when he was yelling at the trainees, and once they had finally left, he saw that her jacket was still on the gym floor.

Roman had no clue why he suddenly had the urge to be nice to the girl, but he didn't feel right just leaving the jacket lying there on the ground. Hesitating for a moment, he eventually decided to at least try to see where she went so he could give it back to her.

He didn't sign up for this, though. Roman had no clue what to do with a girl like this. Was she sad? Angry? Scared?

Or was she just crying for no reason? He'd heard that girls did that sometimes, and he never could figure out why.

This didn't seem like that, though. She seemed terrified. Roman had no clue what could terrify a girl like this one, but he had no intention of finding out.

No one but the other heirs had ever challenged him like she did in that gym and gotten away with it. When people, especially females, looked at him they always shrank back in fear.

Considering his appearance, he was used to it, but that didn't mean he always liked it. It did the job when the guys needed information out of someone, but it made it so that he never really could have a person treat him like an equal.

Even the other heirs knew he could beat them up in a fair fight, so they made it a point not to push his buttons too much.

But not this girl. She came right up in his face and purposefully attempted to get under his skin.

If she wasn't scared of him, then what the hell had her freaked out this bad. She had her knees tucked to her chest with her head faced down between them and her arms wrapped around herself as if trying to protect herself.

But what the hell would have her coiling up like this? It had to be something seriously messed up to have her this afraid. Having dealt with a lot of the interrogations within the castle, Roman knew what terror looked like.

Normally, he was elated if he came upon a prisoner like this. It meant they had endured enough abuse to finally give in. They were no longer set on standing up for themselves, but, instead, beginning to curl into themselves for protection from the thing they feared. Often, it was him, and it meant that he only had to do a little more threatening to get some answers out of them.

He knew it was messed up, but he couldn't help it. His shifter nature often called for blood more than Lachan's did. He suspected it had to do with his main form being a bear, whereas Lachlan's was a cougar, but he didn't honestly care enough to figure it out.

Declan was the one who was always looking for answers. Roman was more of the fuck shit up and move on type of guy. He didn't really care why things happened as long as they weren't hurting him or his friends.

But for some reason, he felt drawn to this girl. Some unfamiliar part of him wanted to dive deep into her thickheaded skull and discover all of her secrets. It was odd.

Normally, he would have straight-up beaten anyone who came at Callum as she had, but for some reason, he couldn't bring himself to physically harm her, even as she boldly held a knife to one of his brother's throats.

He knew he would ultimately protect his brothers no matter what, but instead of jumping straight in and asking questions later, he found himself wanting to give this girl another chance.

What the hell was going on with him?

If she was only a low-level mage like she said, then she couldn't have placed a strong enough charm on him to override his protective instincts and get under the wards Callum had placed on him, but maybe she had gotten help from someone else.

Charms were not to be taken lightly, so he made a note to bring it up to the guys later on when he met up with them.

Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, Roman looked back down to the quaking girl at his feet. Honestly, he had no idea if she even knew he was there. Should he wait? Should he reach out and touch her?

He decided to wait because he had once tried to wake Lachlan up from one of his nightmares and Lachlan ended up trying to kill him thinking he was someone else.

So, nope. Not trying that again.

But what if she looked up and got mad at him for standing there doing nothing?

Oh, what the hell. He didn't sign up for this! Throwing the leather jacket on the ground next to her, he began to stomp off, planning to head to his rooms for a shower before he met with the guys.

But he stopped in his tracks when he heard a sharp intake of breath.

Turning around, he was frozen at the sight of those mismatched eyes. Her left one was a perfect mix between green and blue, and her right was a rich amber. Even puffy and red from tears, they were beautiful.

Tearing his eyes away from hers, he reminded himself who she was. This was the girl that stole their car, attacked Callum, and completely disrespected him in the middle of training. She was arrogant, foolish, and a complete enigma. They didn't know anything about her, and until they did, she could not be trusted.

In the time it took for him to get his thoughts back on the right track, she had shakily gotten up and her breathing had become more even.

"What the hell are you doing here? Come to insult me some more?" She said, and although her voice still had a slight shake to it and the remnants of tears could be seen in her eye, he had to admit she was doing a very good job of piecing herself back together.

She had raised her chin once more and made complete eye contact, refusing to look down. It was a very shifter-like thing to do, and he was intrigued by it. How did this young mage know shifter culture so well?

The other heirs obviously knew the culture and habits of shifters since both he and Lachlan were shifters themselves, but most mages disregarded their traits, preferring to treat them like normal humans instead of acknowledging their animal side.

By refusing to break eye contact, this small, apparently low-level mage was attempting to establish dominance over him and his shifter half.

Still keeping eye contact, he motioned to the jacket on the floor "You left your jacket." He grunted, attempting to hold back the growl that was building within him.

In the few seconds it took for her to decide her next move, the tension between them could be cut with a knife.

Eventually, she broke eye contact, but she was sure to not lower her eyes in submission. She simply looked to the jacket and picked it up, muttering a soft "thanks," before turning around and beginning to walk off.

"Wait," he started after her, "What were you crying about earlier?"

Visibly stiffening but not breaking stride she replied curtly. "I wasn't crying, and even if I was it's none of your damn business."

Not letting it go, he decided to strike a deal with her. He saw some serious skill in the way she fought those guys, but she could definitely improve with some work on technique.

"Tell me and I'll train you."

Freezing, she seemed to hesitate before she replied. "Why now? Why are you willing to train me now?"

"Because I watched as you knocked out two of my men easily and probably would have defeated the other three had I not stepped in." She slowly turned back towards him as he continued. "But you're sloppy and your style lacks the technique and finesse that it needs. You are arrogant and you fight dirty. I can teach you how to fight with precision. I can teach you how to fight like a guard."

Hesitating slightly, Roman watched as her eyes displayed her every thought. Her hesitance to accept and her excitement at being trained, followed by the fear of telling him her secret, and eventually the determination that he had seen so much since they first found her in that rundown village.

"Fine. I'll let you train me. But I'll have you know, I might just surprise you. I've had more experience than you think. And to answer your question, it was an old memory. That's all you're going to get, so take it or leave it."

Crossing her arms, she waited for his reply, but it didn't take long before he came to his decision. For some odd reason, he was actually a little excited at the opportunity to train this girl. She had skill and grit, and he was looking forward to seeing what she could do with some weapons.

Callum would be happy with the idea, and Roman could definitely use it as a chance to pick her brain for any secrets she was hiding.

"Meet me in the gym at four tomorrow morning," he replied gruffly, turning around and walking off before she could get a coherent reply out.

He smirked as his shifter hearing picked up on her mutterings of "Who in hell gets up at four am in the fucking morning just to go train with some arrogant dickwad who can't seem to get it inside his thick skull that not all girls are pushovers who just want to get in a guy's pants! Ugh! What the hell have you gotten yourself into, Ad?"

Letting out a slight chuckle as she became too far for him to hear anymore, he began to make his way to his room.

He heard the voices of the other heirs long before he saw them, and when he finally entered the common room that connected their personal rooms, Callum looked up at him from his spot on the large couch in the center of the room.

"What took you so long? Your training was over a half-hour ago," he commented, heading over to greet him with a clap on the back.

"Shower first," he grunted, making his way over to his own room.

Callum let him go, making his way back over to the couch to continue his conversation with the other heirs.

Once he reached his bathroom, Roman turned the shower as hot as he could get it, relishing in the slight burn as he stepped into the stream and attempting to clear his mind for just a minute before he had to go back out to the real world.

However, as he washed the grime and sweat off from his training session, his mind kept wandering back to the feisty young woman with dirty blonde hair and mismatched eyes.

No matter what he tried, he couldn't get her out of his head, and as he began to recall the fight he had witnessed between her and the guards, he found himself twisting the shower nozzle all the way to the cold side in an attempt to get himself back under control before he went to fill the guys in.

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