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Chapter 5

The next morning, Scout was leery to leave her home. Mostly because she’d been too friendly with Rhys. He was disarming in such close proximity. Scout tried not to think about it. The more pressing matter was how she was going to explain this turn of events to Luca.

The obvious answer was that she wasn’t. She couldn’t. Scout hated lying to people, but it was kind of necessary in her line of work.

Scout worried about her interaction with Luca. The Hunter had the ability to read people. Could she spot a lie? Was that in her repertoire? Scout didn’t know and she was scared of finding out. She waited as long as she dared before pedaling off to school so she wouldn’t have to hang out with Luca for too long.

"Kill anyone recently?" Luca asked as she took a seat.

"Should I have?" Scout asked, unsure.

"I think your lack of action has got you on edge."

Scout replied with a sort of half-smile. She hadn’t killed anything in a couple days, but that wasn’t the reason she was on edge. It was because she had a secret Luca couldn’t know. Hunters hated anything with fangs and Scout was a little more liberal.

Scout still didn’t trust Rhys, Luca’s bias against him had personal written all over it, and having read a little about him, Scout knew that she should be on her guard. He was a stranger with a killer past. He had taken an interest in her (he hadn’t tried to kill her even though she had staked him), that had to count for something. It was the fact that she’d had vampire friends in her past that was doing the most to sway her opinions.

"Got any leads to work off some excess aggression?" Scout asked, trying to shut off her inner dialogue and be friendly.

"Does that mean you're rethinking the--"

"No," Scout said firmly, realizing what Luca was hoping to imply. She had no intention of joining their crew. "I just--" the girl struggled for words.

"Actually, now that you mention it, I heard the boys on duty last night ran into a gang. But you--"

"I just want to make sure there's still action in this small town. I wouldn't want to have to move so soon after I got here."

Luca smirked, "Trust me, this town will keep you occupied."

No kidding, Scout thought.

"We still on for tonight?" Luca asked as the bell rang.

"Unless I run into that gang," Scout laughed good-naturedly. "I can't get afford to get rusty." Especially if things with Rhys didn’t go as planned.

After school, Scout dodged Tom, an increasingly common occurrence, and raced Luca home. The study was well-lit, and Scout could have sworn the pile of books to read had shrunk, and not because of yesterday's adventure. At least two of the larger leather-bound volumes were missing from the bottom of the pile. She didn't comment on this suspicion, there were enough tomes to read as it was. The books were the property of the Dumitru family, it was entirely likely someone else had simply borrowed the book for personal reference reasons.

Scout made sure to leave before the sun set. It wasn’t that she was trying to avoid Rhys, she just needed a little time to think things through on her own.

Mom was home, so that plan was out the window. Because their paths rarely crossed, Mom used this early night in to inquire about Scout’s life. They had been in Crimson for almost a week and encountered no late night drama with the police or trouble at school. Things were going great in comparison to other towns. Not only that, but Scout had friends. Mom was pleased to hear that.

Scout hadn’t had friends since New Orleans. She tried to be vague about Luca and her family, but Mom didn’t seem to notice. The teen escaped to her room as soon as she’d spilled most of the goings-on in her life.

Scout got distracted the next day. She was supposed to be reading about Rhys but she ended up looking for the vampire who made him. A woman named Macha. So far as Scout could tell, she predated the written word. Either that or she’d changed her name. Rhys hadn’t started out with his current name. He’d been born Fraser Hardie in 16th century Scotland. It wasn’t until after he’d become a vampire that he took the name Rhys.

Looking for Macha’s creator ate up a lot of time. By the time Scout decided to call it quits, it was well after dark.

The girl quietly collected her things and slipped out into the night. As Scout raced home, she very nearly took out a dark figure in the street. As she slammed on the brakes, Scout recognized Rhys’s red hair.

“Hey,” Scout dismounted, “I’ve got a question for you.”


“Tell me about Macha.”

Rhys was silent as he eyed Scout carefully, “One: that’s not a question. Two: why?”

“Well, she was your maker, right? There’s not much about her origin, and she seems like a bad-ass chick.”

Rhys chuckled, “Of course you’d be interested in her.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Well, not only is she Irish, but she is history. Two of your favorite things, if I recall.”

Scout grinned, he was wasn’t wrong.

“I was among the first batch of men sent along for the plantations,” Rhys grinned and started walking. “I looked pretty dashing in a red coat.”

Scout made a face.

“I caught the attention of a charming creature named Macha. She’d been working alongside the Irish to kick the English out. Long ago, she’d recruited folks to her side, gallowglasses and redshanks. Knowing I was Scottish, and the aforementioned groups were as well, she hoped that she could turn me and my lads to her cause.”

“Freeing Ireland from English rule?” Scout guessed.

Rhys nodded, “I convinced her that she shouldn’t be fighting on Irish soil, defending and losing land, but to take the battle to England. So, overseas we went. Having a redcoat in her pocket proved pretty useful, and she showed me how good she could fight. I was smitten the day I met her, but it wasn’t until we were leading charges on English soil that she told me that she’d taken a fancy to me.

“She asked to change me so that I could become more formidable on the battlefield. She didn’t mention the side effect of immortality, but it’s treated me well.”

Scout nodded.

“Have you ever been in love?” Rhys asked.

Scout didn’t answer. She decided to pretend it was a rhetorical question.

“You’re young yet. When you’re in love, people seem more real. Colors are more vivid. That was the way Macha appeared to me. Being a vampire isn’t much different. Details are sharper. Senses are heightened. It’s like a permanent high. Being with Macha had a similar effect on me. She was a spitfire. They say redheads burn the brightest, but blondes have more fun. Macha was the best of both worlds. She had a wild streak. And she was never afraid to get dirty, or bloody,” Rhys’s tone was wistful.

“Why did you guys part ways?”

Rhys sighed, “I found out she had a boy toy before me. He resurfaced not long after I convinced her to leave the Irish rebellions behind. It’s an exhausting business,” he told Scout’s shocked face. “Turns out they’d split up to sort of divide and conquer. We took to the Continent to recharge our batteries. We let him join in our fun for awhile but he wasn’t much for a threesome. I convinced Macha to leave him behind--not that it took much. The guy she’d been with before was a bore. So we left him and the world was ours to explore.”

Scout could feel the heat in his words. His passion for this woman. If Scout had been a lesser individual, she might have torn off Rhys’s clothes and asked him to take her right there.

She’d heard about stuff like this. For the average vampire, their natural abilities were to lure people in with their superhuman good looks and seductive natures. People let down their guard surprisingly well when there was the prospect of getting laid (as evidenced by almost every spy film).

Knowing about this tactic didn’t stop her from being reeled in. It just made her conscious that it was happening. Teen hormones probably had something to do with it. And his eyes.

It didn’t take much of a stretch of the imagination for the boy Scout wanted to be with to get superimposed on Rhys. He was taller than the person in her mind's eye, and his hair was all wrong, but there was something about the lilt in his voice.

Rhys’s adventures had all but scrubbed away his Scottish accent. The odd speech structure and occasional peculiar syllable broke through only rarely. The accent was all wrong, but the fact that there was an accent pulled her in. It was the eyes that hooked her every time.

Rhys stopped at the only other house on Scout’s lane.

If this was his place of residence it would explain why her spidey-sense had been permanently a-tingle. She stopped with him and the pair of them stood, not saying anything. Rhys’s gaze locked with Scout’s, but the girl was too distracted by the muddy color of his eyes to register the intensity of his gaze until he went for the kiss.

His lips seared hers and she recoiled at the unexpected charge of electricity between them.

When Rhys broke the kiss, Scout was panting and her entire body was tingling. “You should go home,” Rhys told her in a husky voice that rattled her bones.

She nodded and ran a shaky hand through her hair, unable to believe that a vampire kiss could turn her into such mess.

How long had she known this guy? A few days? And hadn’t she tried to kill him? Scout was supposed to be suspicious of his behavior. Wasn’t this suspicious? Scout wanted to be angry or, at least embarrassed by her behavior. It went against all of her training. You’re never supposed to let a vampire get that close. But that rule applied to vampires with malicious intent. She had no rulebook for vampires who wanted to get friendly. The one friend from her past had always maintained his distance. She didn’t really know how to proceed here.

Her hardwiring told her Rhys shouldn’t be trusted. Luca would say the same. So did the books. But he hadn’t harmed Scout and that was the part that mattered. After spending her entire high school career on the run and as an outcast, she had earned the wild and reckless reputation everyone already thought she had.

She barely knew the guy, but she wasn’t looking for a relationship. She was taking advantage of his interest and using it for her own ills. She could see no problem with that--until it stopped being fun.

A desire she had forced to lay dormant came back with a vengeance. She would use Rhys for the way he could make her feel. It was the way only a vampire could and while Rhys wasn’t the guy who made her swoon, the one she wanted wasn’t around. Rhys would have to do.

Scout decided to go for it. She tried not to think about the consequences.

Luca would shit a brick if she found out.

Scout had to keep up appearances.

She continued to frequent Luca’s after school to read up on Rhys. Then, she would sneak out of the Dumitru house before sunset and show up on Rhys’s front step. She made him tell her about the stories she read. Listening to him speak would get her all hot and bothered and they would end up hooking up until Rhys kicked her out.

An outsider might observe that they were moving too fast. She’d only been in town a couple weeks and was getting hot and heavy with a practical stranger. Scout wasn’t in it for the romance. She was used to moving around. Being here one week and gone the next. She’d never had any of the quintessential teen experiences her mother was always bothering her about. Wasn’t this one of them? She wasn’t expecting a happily ever after with this guy, just a distraction, an outlet for her teenage urges until she hit the next town. This was the first place she’d ever had the opportunity.

She could get used to this life.

The only vampire Scout had seen in days was Rhys. She attributed it to the fact that he was kind of a big deal. It could easily have been the fact that Scout had changed her routine so that she only traveled during daylight hours. If she traveled at night, she was accompanied by Rhys, who no longer lurked in the shadows, but walked by her side.

As her third week in Crimson was coming to a close, Scout found herself sitting in Rhys's living room, which was an ironic room for him to possess, much less furnish. The reason she was there, Scout was trying to tell herself, was because her fortress of solitude had been breached.

This past week, the peace and quiet Scout enjoyed at the Dumitru residence had been intruded on. First by Mirela, who had gone out of her way to make Scout feel unwelcome. That was strike two given Alin's awkwardness towards her. Strike three had come rather unexpectedly, in the form of Tom Meyers. Scout had all but forgotten that Luca's house was home base for the Hunters and made the mistake of staying late one night to finish her homework, only to have her place of peace disturbed by a ton of teenage boys. Scout immediately abandoned ship. Disregarding her unfinished homework, she threw everything into her bag haphazardly and made for the door. The damage had been done though. Tom realized that Luca's place was Scout’s favorite haunt and had appeared there everyday after that requesting homework help.

A lie.

Something both girls knew.

Luca thought it was cute.

Scout found it distracting. Especially given her...could they call it a relationship? with Rhys.

So now, instead of going to Luca’s, Scout showed up at Rhys’s door.

Was she getting in too deep? Probably. Rhys’s history was supposed to make her balk. He’d killed thousands of people, including his fair share of Hunters. It wasn’t that Scout didn’t care. She was keenly aware of it. It was just--he hadn’t tried to kill her--yet. Until then, she was going to allow herself to be lulled by the timbre of his voice. Scout had earned a little recklessness at this point in her careful life. She’d taken to thinking of this as a rebound for a relationship she never had. Scout sighed and tried to push memories of New Orleans out of her mind.

Rhys appeared out of nowhere, "What's wrong?"

Scout shook her head and turned her attention back to her homework.

Rhys did not accept her non-answer. He sat down on the futon beside her and turned her face to his. With his other hand, his pushed Scout’s books from her lap. Scout read the look in his eyes and willingly obliged. She pushed him back against the cushion and straddled him as she captured his lips.

Rhys grabbed firmly onto her hips, pulling her close. The girl broke the kiss to lean back and comb her mussed hair out of her face.

That was when she noted the increasing dark. Her stomach growled and, with a groan, Scout detached herself from the red-haired vampire.

"Where are you going?" Rhys asked, his brows knitting together.

"Home," she sighed, stretching, knowing full well that it only made Rhys hotter.

"Already?" He growled.

Scout grinned, pleased to be leaving him needy for once, "Well, I'm hungry. And I should be home by dark."

"But it's Friday."

"I'm still hungry," she countered with a smirk.

"So...if I kept some mortal munchies about--?"

"You might never get me to leave," she admitted, shouldering her bag. "But until that delicious day, I am off," she leaned down to deliver Rhys a goodbye kiss.

He tried to pull her on top of him again.

The girl shook her head, “Not gonna happen. Not tonight.” She pulled out of his grasp.

Rhys watched her walk to the door, "I'll see you tomorrow then?"

"Probably," she agreed and ambled home.

On Saturday, Rhys met Scout before she even knocked on his door. He pulled her inside for an instant makeout session and Scout immediately knew something was up. His normally dark home was glowing with candlelight.

There was a definitive age gap between them: the eighteen year old mortal and the four hundred-plus vampire masquerading as a smoking hot co-ed. Rhys had been surprisingly chaste with her despite disclosing a number of tawdry accounts to her.

While Scout was more than willing to take to the futon, Rhys escorted her to his bedroom. He had a four poster bed, complete with drapes, adorned with silk sheets. Scout was not at all surprised by his decor, and it made her want to laugh. Maybe that was nerves.

Scout knew this day was inevitable. Vampires are sexual beings and bodies have needs. Was she intimidated by his experience? Yes. But she was bold and frank, and he found that a turn on. This was one of those times when Scout needed to shut off her brain.

She couldn’t.

Scout wasn’t sure where she stood on sex. Maybe she was a romantic, but she thought the first time was supposed to be important. And then you get your heart broken and resort to meaningless sex.

Hadn’t her heart been broken? Wasn’t this all a sort of rebound for a love affair she’d never been able to have? Maybe she’d skipped a few steps of crucial life experience. Best to just play it like she saw it, that was her normal response system.

While Scout was struggling with her thoughts, Rhys closed the door and pulled off his shirt. That was enough of a distraction to stop her internal dialogue.

Rhys pulled Scout close and locked her in a heady kiss. The girl wrapped her arm around his neck as she allowed herself to be drawn in. Getting her confidence back, Scout wrapped a leg around him, possessively. The vampire reached down to get a better grip on her and Scout took that as permission to wrap her other leg around him.

Rhys carried the girl to the bed where Scout detached herself from him and knelt among the sheets as she peeled off her shirt. Rhys removed his pants. Scout couldn’t help noticing he went commando.

Of course.

She wasn’t ashamed to admit it was a turn on.

Scout grabbed another kiss from Rhys and, as she did so, he unclasped her bra.

He pulled back to look at her. The teen was panting, her eyes closed, her tousled hair a golden halo, her skin the color of buttermilk. Rhys climbed onto the bed and guided the girl to the mattress.

He slid a hand up her thigh, eliciting shivers as he straddled her and leaned down to capture her lips in another kiss. As his fingers roved, his lips slid to her neck.

And then she felt him bite her neck.

Immediately, she froze.

Her first reaction was to grab hold of his neck and keep him at arm’s length.

Her grey eyes were open now, and they looked deadly, “It occurs to me that we should have laid some ground rules.”

“Like a safe word?” Rhys grinned.

Scout was not amused, even though Rhys’s hands were doing their best to make her think otherwise. The moment was gone. The girl slid out from underneath him and scoured the room for her clothes as she redressed. Her instincts were telling her not to take her eyes off of Rhys. He was dangerous. He’d just reminded her of that--that she was in the lion’s cage. Scout was more concerned with getting her clothes and getting out. She needed some time to think about this turn of events.

Scout imagined he’d had enough dalliances with women that he could turn his lust off just as easily as it turned on. Maybe he was only going for a love-bite, a hickie, but it felt possessive. Scout didn’t like it. This thing they had worked because there were no attachments.

“You aren’t going to say anything?” Rhys’s voice sounded pained, “You’re just leaving?”

“This whole thing worked because you said you weren’t like the rest of them--the ones that are after my neck. You can’t be surprised to find things ending like this,” Scout slipped out the door.

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