“You can’t be real,” I whispered. The side effects of my anxiety attacks had started to ebb away. As I regained feeling in my chest, I slumped forward, eyes fluttering.
Eidan’s hand slid from my jaw to the back of my neck, guiding my head to his shoulder. The steady rhythmic kneading helped calm me further.
“Is this okay?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I muttered.
I’d lost the day’s will to fight after his declaration. It was an impassioned speech and impossible to argue with at the moment. His position was valid, and I’d have to be one heartless bitch to Reject him now. My real fear was that I had never had an actual choice.
“I’m sorry for growling at you. Nature, but it was rude.”
“I’m sorry for electrocuting you.”
“Didn’t know you could do that. You don’t need a spell for something like that?”
Shaking my head, I eased off of his shoulder. I rolled up the sleeve on my right arm, showing off the collection of images decorating my skin.
“All of these represent different things.” I pointed at one picture that looked like a zig zag and two other designs with storm clouds and lightning bolts. “Conjure is tied to the feelings of the mind and spirit. People’s personalities can allow them to have strong natural connections to certain magic, like the elements. The tattoos help me channel the lightning’s energy that I trigger.”
The fascination was clear on Eidan’s face. He couldn’t stop looking at the designs that covered my arm.
“You can touch them,” I mumbled.
I was nervous to have someone this close to me. It wasn’t something I normally enjoyed. Still, our attraction was unmistakable. The sensation was unfamiliar to me, and no matter how kind, I wasn’t completely comfortable with a person being so close. Even so, I wanted to try meeting him where I could.
Human eyes smiled at me, before tender hands grazed my skin. We watched in awe as the tattoos glowed at his touch, a new experience for us both.
“Are there more?”
With a slow nod, I rolled up my other sleeve to expose the left arm’s artwork. Eidan seemed to have dismissed our earlier skirmish, enraptured by my hobby. I couldn’t stop myself from being mesmerized by the effect he had on the designs as well. I’d never seen or heard of anything like this happening before, but it didn’t seem like a bad thing. The glow was warm like when I cast a spell, but there was more of a fizzing sensation after he made contact. The tattoos felt alive.
“These are beautiful. Do you have more?”
Clearing my throat, I looked out of the window.
“Why don’t you tell me what kind of Shifter you are?”
There were several more tattoos, actually. Eidan’s small smirk confirmed he understood exactly why I had avoided answering his question. I was grateful he chose to drop the subject when he answered my question instead.
My eyebrows shot up, unable to withhold my surprise.
“There are Black Wolf Shifters?”
His laughter was a much needed reprieve from the heavy atmosphere of our fight. Long black locs covered his face as he hunched over. His amusement permeated the room, contagious. I wanted to be irritated that he was laughing at me, but he was so radiant when he was happy. I couldn’t bring myself to interfere.
“Yes, Hael. Black people can be werewolves.”
My face heated, embarrassed by his phrasing.
“Leave me alone! I didn’t know werewolves were still around. It’s not my fault everybody talks like they’re all white guys from the country.”
Eidan’s laughter intensified, tears streaming down his face. My ignorance must have been hitting on some Shifter inside jokes I wasn’t privy to. I didn’t have a right to be annoyed because I had made foolish assumptions. Still.
“Stop laughing at me!”
“I’m sorry Hael,” Eidan wheezed, laughter calming. “I’m sorry. I’m only kinda laughing at you. No need to pout.”
I could feel the disgust curl my lip.
“I don’t pout.”
The grin he wore looked hungry. I couldn’t keep up with his rollercoaster of emotions. Eidan practically did and said whatever he felt like. It made it impossible to predict or confidently navigate him. I squirmed in my seat as he continued to stare at me, unintentionally fueling his fire.
“Don’t you? You’ve pouted for me quite a bit today.”
My heart skipped a beat, his use of ‘for me’ not going unnoticed. Shoving my chair back, I hopped out of the seat.
“Wanna see the library?” I was desperate to take a break from this dance of ours and hoped it was clear in my face. After scanning me silently, Eidan shrugged and rose from his seat. Leaning against the edge of the table with his arms crossed, Eidan glanced over me once more.
“How long do you plan on running from me?” he asked after a pause. His tone wasn’t aggressive, but it wasn’t playful either. The blunt phrasing caught me off guard. I was hesitant to respond, wary of his fluid moods.
“It’s not you I’m running from... per se.”
The adorable head tilt appeared again, lost eyes watching me.
“Who else would you be running from?”
Shoving my hands in my pockets, I leaned on the table’s edge beside him. I skimmed the books on the small shelf ahead of us. The covers ranged in age, a colorful mix of hard- and paperback copies. Some of the spines were weathered, lettering worn from readers’ touch. A few red unraveling threads caught my attention, anchoring my view.
“There’s not always a who. Sometimes it’s a what,” I mused, my voice hollow.
“You do know I’m hunting you though, right?”
My head whipped to the side at the guiltless query. The hinges of my jaw loosened when he blinked at me, making no attempt to rephrase the question.
“Seriously. I won’t stop until you agree to officially become my Mate. So if you plan on resisting, you need to focus on running from me. Otherwise, I’ll catch you and make you mine.”
“I…” We both waited for my retort, but nothing else would come out.
“How old are you, by the way?” His change in subject made it clear I’d lost another round of our debate. The losing streak put a dent in my pride.
“Twenty-four.” The answer was automatic as it required little conscious thought. My mind was still focused on figuring out how to feel about the whole hunting ordeal.
“Huh. Twenty-six.” After a few more moments of silent observation, Eidan nodded and stood up straight. “How about that tour?”
He swept past me then, confidently striding across the room. My head followed his path, stunned by his emotional flexibility. Eidan swung the door open wide, leaving plenty of room for me to exit. When I decided to move, I paused in front of him, just shy of crossing the threshold.
“You’re an Alpha… Aren’t you?” I didn’t want to believe I was overpowered by an unranked Shifter, but I really couldn’t find it plausible that an unranked wolf could give off the overwhelming aura he did. Before answering, Eidan leaned down closer and blinked. Amber irises gleamed down at me, charming me into a lull.
“Would you like to be my Luna, Hael Storm?”
Turning on the ball of my foot, I hurried out of the room before Eidan could see my face light up in response. I’d be damned before I let him know the question did much worse than scare me. But seconds before the door closed behind me, a snort let me know that, one way or another, he already knew.