Jason rubbed his chin and sighed as he leaned back in the driver’s seat. “You sure about this? I mean, I know you’re tired of being stuck in the house,” that was an understatement, “but I don’t feel right leaving you here. Something feels off.”
The parking lot at Timmons Hill Community College sat empty for a Tuesday morning. Or maybe that was how it always looked. Who knew?
She glanced at the brick buildings and then shot a look in the side mirror, noticing the town behind her sat pretty damn empty too.
“Dude, I know what her men look like. If I see one, I’ll take this,” she held her little pocket knife, “and I’ll stab ’em.”
“That’s . . . not gonna do much damage.”
“It will if I stab them in the eye.”
Her golden-haired savior nodded, brows furrowed. “Are you even allowed to have that on campus?”
She shrugged. “Probably not, but who’s gonna know? Unless they fuck with me.”
“Damn, watch them claws, kitty-cat.” Jason cranked the car. “Be careful.”
Opening her door, she lifted her bag and stepped out. “It’s just a drawing class, peaches. Not demonology. But if we happen to summon Satan, I’ll let you know.”
“God, don’t say that name too loud,” Jason mumbled.
“You’re really superstitious.”
His eyes darted about frantically, paranoid almost. “It’s not superstition if he actually exists.”
“Go walk around town, eat a meal. And maybe buy yourself something pretty to wear for me, doll.” She winked.
“Ha. Ha. Get moving, kid. You’re late.” She shut the door and trudged up the hill of grass. “Call me when class ends,” Jason shouted from his car as he backed out of the parking spot. “I’ll be in town.”
With a nod, she waved him off. Getting him to leave her hadn’t been easy. He even suggested taking the class with her, though he couldn’t draw a proper stick figure to save his life.
The car took a right and disappeared behind the trees guarding the entrance, and for the first, she felt alone. Which was nice. She glanced at the schedule for the drawing class and then stuffed it in her army capris. She had to meet there every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at three for six weeks. She went to take a step but stalled.
The fear of Marcy and her minions had nothing to do with the rumbling of her stomach.
Yes, she begged Jason for the class—it even cost him twenty bucks—but now that she was there with her pencils and sketchbook in hand, she didn’t have the balls to step in. It’d been quite some time since she’d been in a classroom full of people, and her heart pounded as if she were starting high school all over again.
She looked around before taking a deep breath and opening the heavy green door. Numbly, she weaved in and out of college students in the yellow halls. A knot formed in her stomach as she reached the open classroom numbered 33 in the middle of the hall. She entered with her head low and her eyes pointed to the floor, peeking up only once as she walked down the aisle. About ten people sat in the class and looked to be around her age, most of them Goths and hippie-wannabes with a disgruntled, rebellious attitude put on for show. Ignoring their sneers and their judging eyes, she took the first open seat she came upon.
She settled in and scanned the room, noticing the murals that lined the walls and the different pottery that set on the shelves. She looked to her left to scope out her table partner and almost choked. Hot damn. Sitting next to her was a god. And on that god lay a devilish smirk.
Carved jaw. Straight nose. Wicked gray eyes that nearly glinted silver. And disheveled black hair to sport? She was going to sign up for this workshop more often. Nodding to herself, she placed her things on the desk.
“Hello, everyone. As most of you know, I’m Jim Sturple,” the teacher said. “Today we’ll be learning the use of shading.”
Five minutes later, she had her sketchbook flipped open and her pencil moving. She drew the first thing that came to mind—what always came to mind—the blue eyes that haunted her. After shading in the detail, she pulled out her blue colored pencils. At the corner of her vision, she saw the handsome stranger’s gaze narrow on her drawing. She paused and glanced at him the same time the hefty guy in front of her tilted to one side and farted.
The handsome stranger leaned over. “Please, tell me that wasn’t you?”
“Definitely have more control over myself than that.” She covered her nose with the back of her hand.
“Too bad doing that in public’s not illegal.” He chuckled, looking to the culprit. “These people nowadays have lost their manners.” He held out a hand. “I’m Michael.”
She smiled. “Jade.”
He brought her hand to his lips and placed a kiss on the back of her fingers, as his gaze stayed on hers. Those strange eyes shimmered and a light-headed haze took over her. An odd tingling sensation sprouted from her fingers and ran all the way to her toes, halting her body and freezing every logical thought in her head. Eyes weren’t supposed to shine like that. She gulped and took her hand back.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Jade.” His face held a grin, those lips the soft color of pink, full and enticing.
She blinked as if she’d been smacked. There was something about his face, those lips—she knew those lips. They were imprinted in her mind.
“Something wrong?” he asked.
“Uh, no. I—you just look familiar, that’s all. Sorry, I didn’t mean to stare.”
“I don’t mind you staring.” He paused and swept his gaze over her. Then he nodded to her sketch. “Nice shading.”
“Do you have a thing for drawing eyes?”
With a shake of her head, she rubbed her temple. “Uh, no, I just . . . I can’t get these pair out of my head.”
“Hmm. Ex-lover?” He wiggled his brows as he chuckled.
She smiled. “No, I don’t really know who it is.” The man stared at her intently, as if he expected her to carry on—like he knew there was more to the story. “I was in an accident a few years ago and . . . I’ve just been drawing them ever since.”
“Mm, that’s odd. You haven’t even come across the guy?” he asked.
“Nope, I think I just . . . made him up.”
He frowned. “I doubt that.”
“Why do you say that?”
“The detail is too vivid. You’ve seen him before. Your subconscious is speaking to you. You should listen to it.” He chewed on the end of his pencil. “Next thing you know, you’ll be drawing the whole face.”
“Please use your stump to smooth out your shading! Do not use your fingers!” The teacher put his hands on his hip at the head of the class.
“So serious,” Michael whispered in her ear but tensed. His hand on the desk clenching into a tight fist, he stilled, eyes widening for a moment. And then he eased back from her. “Sorry . . . I just—your perfume reminds me of someone.”
“Oh.” Except she didn’t wear any perfume.
Michael’s light eyes turned dark like a brewing storm. For the rest of the hour class, he sat silently beside her, a scowl bunching his brow.
The last thing Dom wanted to do was drive to T’s. In fact, he’d been driving in circles, hoping for some diversion. He wasn’t in the mood to deal with the elf who’d answer the dealer’s door; he kind of felt threatened around her like his dick was on the line.
She had this wild glint in her wide, black eyes that yelled “crazy.” As if there were a possibility she’d lock him in her basement and . . . Yeah, he didn’t even want to think about it.
He grimaced, coming to a stop at the red light, which happened to be the longest red light in town. With a sigh, he glanced to his right, spotting a group of familiar faces sitting at a table in front of a café. He looked closer, catching a glimpse of Jade laughing with . . . Zeke.
Dom gritted his teeth.
His brother threw an arm over Jade’s shoulder, and it was like a bomb went off inside Dom’s head. His breathing became heavy, and he was so mad that—that he could strangle a panda. His eyes shifted black, knocking out the whites of them with an emotion stronger than the fury he was used to.
The hell is wrong with me? He rubbed his eyes, blinking away the darkness that was seeping from his pores.
His vision adjusted back to normal, and he realized the car behind him was beeping its horn. He slammed on the gas, telling himself to just drive home. But of course, he did the exact opposite. He swerved into a McDonald’s parking lot down the street and pulled into the only available parking space. He leaned back in his seat and took a peek in the rearview mirror.
Everyone stood to leave, and his brother pulled Jade’s hand into his and nodded toward the red GTO parked on the curb. Great. His eyes flashed to that crazy, soulless look again.
Jesus, he needed to go somewhere and cool off. Maybe run himself a cold bath and drown in it. She was a human girl, and she could hug, touch, suck, or fuck anybody she wanted to. His mind lingered on the touch, suck, and fuck part of the thought. A dangerous growl sprouted from his chest. Again, he shook his head and wiped his eyes.
There was no reason for him to act like this. None whatsoever.
Maybe he needed to get his rocks off. That was it; she was the only pussy he was remotely close enough to at the moment.
He needed to get fucked.
Revving the car back to life, he shoved it into gear and backed out. Perhaps that elf chick did need to lock him in her basement for a while. It’d stop the shit-fest going on in his brain.
On the way home, he dropped by the river where his problems originated. Sure, he could say his issues began the moment she walked into his house, but he’d be lying. They started the second he pulled her out of that water. And even though he left her on Len’s couch, his problems didn’t end there because, for whatever reason, he started having dreams about her.
To the point he couldn’t sleep. He’d toss and turn and wake up in cold sweats night after night, wishing he could close his eyes for one second without seeing the same thing. For the past three years, that woman unknowingly made his life a living hell, and here she was making it even worse.
He walked the bank, kicking the rocks into the water. The current was calm today, but that was about to change with the sky turning a dark gray and the wind beginning to whip. He knew it was shifting because of him; he had a habit of unintentionally doing that. He pushed a vine out the way and headed up the trench toward his car.
He needed to go home, eat, and steal a bottle from the bar. With all the liquor he was pouring into his system, he felt like Zeke—drinking from the moment he got up to the second he tried to catch some sleep.
Pulling up the driveway, he spotted smoke billowing from the grill. The sweet smell of smoked meat called to him as he got out. Laughter drifted from the backyard and, instead of going where the crowd was, he snuck in through the front door, hoping his brothers had maybe thought of him and left him a plate.
As he walked in the kitchen, he realized they hadn’t. He sighed, grabbed a leftover hamburger, and stood, sniffing the air as a more potent scent hit his nose. He pivoted.
Jade stood at the island counter with a plate filled beyond its limits. “Figured you’d want something to eat.”
His heart kind of warmed and did a little number inside his chest. It was just heartburn though. Just heartburn. He scowled, wondering why she’d go out of her way to bring him food.
The human seemed to hear his thoughts. “I’m just trying to be nice. We invaded your house, and now you don’t eat dinner, so . . . I think the least I can do is save you some food before your stingy brothers eat all of it.”
Without looking, he chucked the stale hamburger back in the fridge and let it slam shut. He stepped forward, thinking she’d do like most humans and scurry off, but instead she stood there, waiting for him to take the plate. He slid it in front of him, picked up a rib, ripped a chunk off, and chewed it.
“You eat like a caveman. That’s hot.”
He raised a brow as he kept chewing the cooked meat.
“I’m being serious. That’s hot.” She went to the fridge and took out a soda. “So, is there a medical explanation for why you don’t speak or are you mute for religious reasons?”
He didn’t answer, only sat down on a stool and stared at her as he ate like a hungry savage. She swept a strand of hair behind her ear as she pursed her lips to the side. He realized it was her thinking face.
“Well, that answers a lot. So you’re one of those human-haters, huh? You know, humans are so puny and stupid.” She sipped at her drink. “Totally understandable though. Cuz a few of us are. I mean, I’m puny and my sister’s stupid.”
Again, he said nothing as he finished off rib after rib.
“Have you seen Thor or The Avengers?”
He gave a blank stare.
“Really? No? Insane. You should watch it sometime. Thor’s kinda like you. All big and . . . caveman-like.” She curled her arms in toward her sides and made a face.
He thought about speaking but decided against it. This was too entertaining to interrupt. He lifted another rib from the plate.
“I’m guessing you haven’t seen Batman either.” Her fingers tapped against the granite. And then the subject changed. “You don’t look like your brothers?” She leaned on the counter. “What are y’all? Werewolves? Dragons? Some form of vampires?”
At that, he paused, eyes glaring hard and raking over her. If she went any further with the topic, he’d bend her over his knee and . . . and spank her. Which was pleasantly tempting.
“Calm down, grumpy. Keep eating your food before I eat it.”
He brought his plate in closer to him at the threat. She muttered something under her breath as she left her drink on the table and went back outside. He picked up a piece of chicken and heard the back door creak open.
He looked up, expecting to see her again. Instead, Zeke stood in the doorway.
“So, you plan on eating her tonight, Dom?” His brother strode toward him. “I’m sure your beast is dying to rip into another human.”
Running his tongue along his teeth, Dom dropped the chicken leg on the plate and stood from the stool, unsure if this would be one of those days where he and Zeke would get into a fistfight.
“You know your scent’s on her? It’s light. I almost didn’t notice it.” Zeke stepped closer. “Why is that? She’s been here all of a week.”
The back door opened again and Jade entered with another plate of food in her hand. They both looked at her, seeing her startled expression.
“Am I interrupting something?” She began to back away, but Zeke grabbed her by the arm and jerked her into his hold.
Dom peeled his lips back, baring his teeth.
Zeke took the plate of food from her hand and placed it on the counter. “I’m not hurting her. I just want you to sniff her skin.”
Jade’s wide eyes furrowed. “Uh, Zeke I think you’ve drunk way too many rum-and-cokes today, buddy.”
Skimming his nose along her neck, Zeke eyed Dom with a smirk. The bastard was testing his patience. The beast took him by surprise, overpowering him and setting off the darkness that hid in his veins. It started with his eyes. The blackness seeped further, the fury burning powerfully, the thing becoming him.
A growl rose from within his chest. “Let. Her. Go.”
Jade whitened a shade and her eyes rolled to the back of her head as she went limp in his brother’s arms. In an instant, the beast slid back into its shell.
“Just think, Dom, this is the first time she’s seen your face. Your true face.” Zeke looked at him, pleased as could be. “I wonder what she’d do if she saw the rest of that nightmare beneath your skin.”
Without thinking twice, Dom wrenched her out of his brother’s hands and lifted her into his arms. He sent his brother a look that could drain the life out of a thousand Gods.
“Father would be so proud,” Zeke muttered. “Sniff her when you get the chance. I’m sure you’ll notice it too.” His brother went to turn away but halted. “I don’t know what the deal is with you and her,” he wiggled his finger at the two of them, “but I promise I’m gonna figure it out.”
“All that liquor’s finally fermented your brain.”
“Sober or drunk, my sense of smell is always on point.” His brother smiled as he walked out onto the patio.
He stared at the woman in his arms, deciding if he should or shouldn’t sniff her skin. A part of him wanted his scent to be on her, and the other part was scared to death. Deciding against it, he carried her up the stairs to her room and paused over her bed, stalling like an indecisive creep.
He kind of liked holding her. In fact, he didn’t want to put her down. Her face was softened with sleep as her head hung off his forearm, exposing the long column of her throat. The silky, dark curls of her hair brushed his skin, and he imagined running his fingers through them and burying his nose in their sweet smell. Her lips—he wondered what they tasted like.
Wondered if they still tasted the same.
He shook his head, cutting the idea from his brain. Laying Jade on the crumpled sheets of her bed, he stepped back and looked down at his arms. They felt empty by his sides. His fingers tingled from touching her, and if he stayed in the room any longer, he’d want to do more than just hold her. He halted at the door, taking one last glimpse of her lying fast asleep. Flexing his jaw, he left the room, not knowing what the hell had come over him.
Jade rolled over, tangling the bed sheets between her legs. Her head pounded with the nastiest headache she’d ever had, the throbbing consistent and nauseating. She sat up, her vision spinning at first. One too many tequila shots maybe? Though she couldn’t remember drinking any after that one glass on the patio. She swore she stepped in the house to give Dom the food she saved . . . but she couldn’t remember anything after that.
She threw the covers off and stumbled through the darkness of her room, colliding with a wall and a dresser before finally managing to make it to the door. The lit hallways were quiet and eerie as she went to the kitchen. She flipped the lights on and rounded the counter, heading for the fridge. She popped the top of a soda and eased onto a stool at the island counter.
With her eyes shut and sleepy, she rubbed her goose bumped forearms and scowled down at them as her hands became sticky. Red sauced covered her skin, and when she looked closer she realized they were fingerprints, ones that were too big to be her own.
Cautious, she sniffed her hand. Barbeque sauce?
What the hell did I fall asleep doing last night?
At the corner of her eye, a black shadow darted out of the tree line. Her head jerked to the left, and she stared at the brush. It was then that it emerged from the darkness, its muscles rippling beneath its midnight fur. It was a massive beast—a massive monster. It was Batman.
No, seriously, it was a wolf. But in her opinion, it had enough shock value to have been Batman.
It walked along the edge of the woods, its head low as the shoulder blades gracefully contracted with every step. As if it felt her stare, the wolf looked up. Its electric blue gaze held her captive, froze her solid. It had to be a couple yards out, yet she could still see that brilliant blue burning bright.
Before she could blink, the wolf began stalking toward the house, toward the window. Toward her.
Drawn by some unseen force, she left her soda on the table and walked to the doors, undauntedly placing her palm on the cool glass. The wolf’s hot breath fogged the window as its nose came to a perfect level with her hand. In some way, shape, or form, there was a connection that ran deeper than she could explain. And those eyes—she’d seen them before. Sketched them daily out of habit.
A part of her knew what that meant, but the other half screamed it wasn’t possible.
Aidyn froze in the archway, the scene in the kitchen perplexing him. His dark brows lowered and his eyes squinted as Jade stood at the door with the wolf on the outside, both of them gazing intently at one another as they trailed each other along the width of the patio glass. It registered to him what was happening.
But she’s human. Aidyn stared in disbelief, stuffing the rest of his strawberry twizzler in his mouth.
Icy eyes flicked to him and the wolf’s lips peeled back, revealing sharp teeth as it unleashed a growl, warning him of the consequences if he were to touch her. Aidyn understood without a doubt that she was his, and not to mess with her. Even though she hadn’t been marked, the notion was unmistakably clear. Jade followed the wolf’s stare and Aidyn stepped inside the kitchen with his hands up.
“I’m not gonna touch her,” he said, with a mouthful of candy. Aidyn glanced at Jade. “He thinks I’m gonna hurt you.”
She looked at the wolf, who kept its intimidating gaze on Aidyn. “So, your brother’s a wolf?”
“How’d you guess?” He raised a brow, inching closer and letting his arms fall to his sides.
The wolf finally returned her stare, its sneer vanishing.
“I can feel it.” She pressed the pad of her thumb to the glass.
He didn’t doubt her; the electricity between Jade and his brother filled the room like static, raising the hairs on his neck. He wondered if she knew which brother it was, and if she’d be standing so close to the glass if she did.
“You sure you know which brother it is?”
He edged toward her, and Dom threw him another warning, baring his teeth.
“She’s fine, Dom. You can go. I’m not gonna hurt her.” Aidyn tried to gain his brother’s trust. “Don’t worry, she’ll be fine.”
The snarl on the wolf’s face faded. It took one last look at Jade and then disappeared around the house. She dropped her hand from the glass and pivoted, a strange look lingering in her eyes.
“Whatever you do, don’t go out that door on a full moon.” Aidyn shot her a wary glance. “No matter how friendly he may seem at that window, there’s another side to him you don’t know about, okay?”
She looked out the window again and nodded. Aidyn stared out into the darkness, feeling his brother’s steely eyes bore into him. He couldn’t see Dom, but Aidyn knew he was there.