Beauty in the Beast

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Chapter 8

I couldn’t shake the feeling like I was being watched. Yet no other wolf senses were telling me I was. I never heard anyone following me, I never saw eyes in my direction, the air smelled free of invaders. My gut told me to be careful but with no evidence of anything out of the ordinary what was I to do?

It had been two days since I saw Emmett or Derek at the bar. But this time I wasn’t avoiding anyone. I wouldn’t break my deal with Emmett but I needed to see Derek. Something was going on in his head and I needed to know. I pressed the button to his apartment. “Halt—who goes there?” I smiled at the sound of his voice.

“Will you come down and talk to me or do I need to come up there?”

“Just a sec.” My enhanced wolf hearing heard his door open and close from upstairs. His feet pattered against the stairs and finally his body emerged from the building. He had on a pair of loose fitting sweatpants, the elastic hugging his hips to hold them in place. His feet covered by slip on slippers, his chest as bare as the day he was born. The outline of his muscles were defined in all the right places.

“Laundry day?” I asked.

“I didn’t want to make you wait.” He gave me a half-cocked grin. As angry as I was with him that night I couldn’t help but see past it. Dammit, Moon Goddess, what kind of hold did he have on me?

“We need to talk.”

“Says every woman before a breakup.” He leaned against the building and crossed his arms over his chest. His biceps twitching with power.

“I’m serious, Derek. What were you thinking?”

“I was thinking that another male was challenging my relationship with you.” I scoffed at his response. “Listen Em,” he pushed himself off the building and grabbed my forearms. “We’ve been friends for a long time, and you know how I feel about you. I’ve been trying to ask you out since the night we met but you friend-zoned me faster than I could blink.” He wasn’t wrong. I never gave him a chance. “I know you better than you know yourself sometimes. You don’t think you’re a female to be fought over and dammit if I have to prove you wrong by killing every male that steps in that ring at the mating ritual then I’ll die trying.” Where was this coming from? Words. I needed to find words to come out of my mouth but as I parted my lips nothing came out. Words, Emma. You know words.

“What?” Really, Emma? That’s all you got? Derek smiled at me and opened his mouth but just as mine, nothing came out. His body thrust into mine, flames shooting up from behind him. A huge BOOM! erupted from behind us. I fell backwards into the street, Derek’s body on top of mine. I couldn’t hear anything but ringing. What the hell just happened? I could barely see through the smoke. I blinking rapidly. “Mom?” I tried to sit up. I have to find my mother. My head pounded as I straightened my body out. The weight on top of me eased as someone lifted Derek’s body off of me. I felt a warm touch on my shoulder with a familiar smell to the smoke. I couldn’t see anything but darkness. Where was my mom? I have to get to her before the building goes down. The touch on my arm went to my cheeks.

“Emma, open your eyes.” That voice. I know the voice of my alpha from anywhere. My eyes shot open and the sight of his face somehow eased my panic. His hands were warm on my cheeks, but my head was pulsing.

“I have to find my mom.” His eyes darkened with sadness as my words reached his ears.

“I’ll get her out, little wolf. Don’t worry.” He picked up my body like it was nothing more than a bag of groceries.

Everything hurt. Mostly my head. When I woke up I was the pack hospital, IV dripping fluids into my body from my arm. A bandage was wrapped around my head like I was a mummy. I had an oxygen machine to my left from the smoke inhalation. I had random bumps and bruises all over my body. Nothing that wouldn’t be healed in a week. Maybe not my head. I reached up and winced as my fingers touched the bandage.

“You hit your head pretty hard on the pavement.” I jumped, not noticing that Nick was in the chair across from my hospital bed. Damn, I must be broken if I didn’t even notice I wasn’t alone. I sat up, wincing the whole way. Suddenly, embarrassment hit me as I remembered the events that got me here. I thought I was back in my mother’s office building during the explosion. He faked a promise he could never keep by telling me he would get her out.

“Where’s Derek?” I changed my line of thought.

“He’s in surgery to fix some internal bleeding. He took the brunt of the explosion but Dr. Morris assured me he’d make a full recovery.” I looked at Nick. I really looked at him for the first time in ten years. He looked the same as that sixteen year old boy who saved her back then. His body was big and powerful just like any alpha would be. I’ve never seen golden eyes like his before, they were unmistakable to his wolf. His hair was a dusty brown as well as his beard. That part was new. He grew it out into a full beard across his face but it was kept trimmed and tidy, not a hair out of place. The sleeved tattoo across his entire left arm was also new. Rumor was he got it to account for his kills to protect his pack, but I knew better. It was a tribute to the fallen wolves—a tribute to his uncle who died in the same explosion that killed my mother.

“Nick—“ I let out a deep breath. “What the hell happened?”

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