A scream...blood...so much blood!
Liv bolted up in an instant, sending waves of nausea through her as she shakily stumbled across the hall to the bathroom. Retching into the toilet, her back heaving as her stomach emptied its contents, a thin sheen of sweat spread over her fevered skin, glistening in the pale morning light.
“Hey, you okay?”
She heard the man from last night ask. Unable to answer as another rush of sickness hit her, her head bent low over the bowl. Suddenly, a warm hand touched the back of her neck, drawing slow, comforting circles over her upper back. He didn’t say a thing, and eventually she had nothing more to throw up. Helping her stand, he flushed the toilet and led her to the sink, supporting her weight while she rinsed her mouth out with his mouthwash and splashed her face with cold water.
She nodded, giving him a weak little smile.
“Sorry about that,” she mumbled.
“No worries, sweetheart,” he rumbled low in his chest like a purr.
His voice did things to her. She hadn’t even known him for twenty-four hours and she already felt as if she’d known him for much longer.
“I was going to ask you if you’d like some breakfast, but uh,” he gave her a meaningful look, “that’s probably the best thing for you right now.”
At that, she had to give him a big smile.
“Y-yeah,” she laughed.
“Would you like to sleep a bit longer? Or are you wanting to leave?”
There was something in his tone that made her feel sad, like he didn’t want her to go.
Same here, she thought.
“Actually,” she began, “could we have coffee?”
His enthusiasm was contagious. Arm in arm, he brought her to the couch and covered her with the ugly throw he’d inherited from his great grandmother. While he busied himself in the kitchen, she turned on the television and zoned out during the weather report. But then there was a breaking news story on the events from last night. Unsure if she wanted to watch it, she studied the screen with apprehension as they showed her friend’s picture and the front of the bar.
“...As of right now there are no leads in the investigation. Patrons of the establishment claim to have not heard anything, with only a few saying they saw the victim with a man, just minutes before she was brutally murdered. Police have requested the security footage from the owner, and have yet to analyze the evidence...”
She felt rather than hear his approach. He set down two mugs filled with steaming, hot coffee on the coffee table in front of them, before sitting down beside her.
“Cream or sugar?”
Shaking her head, she took the mug set in front of her in her hands, the warmth of the roughly sculpted clay a comfort to her.
“Thank you,” she said, sipping the dark brew.
They sat quietly as they savored their coffee and watched the program go from one horrific tragedy to a series of minor vandalism and petty thefts.
“Later, when you’re ready, I’ll take you home,” he said, breaking the comfortable silence.
His words were like a bucket of ice water dumped over her head; she didn’t want to leave this cocoon of warmth and safety he’d spun around her. She only wanted to go back to his bed, maybe sleep for a few more hours, and share another exotic dinner with him. There was an inexplicable need to be near with him, to stay by his side. It was as if she knew he was the only one who could keep her safe on an instinctual level. She didn’t know how right she was…
“Mhm,” she replied, not wanting to give him a definitive yes or no answer.
He set his mug down, turning towards her.
“Unless...” he began, one eyebrow arching in question, “you’d like to stay with me?”
Her eyes grew wide, her pulse quickening.
Was he serious..?
She nodded, wholeheartedly hoping he wasn’t just offering to be nice; she felt such a connection between them and she wanted to discover what it was.
“Y-yeah...if that’s okay?”
She got her answer when his lips smiled wide.
“You got it, sweetheart.”
After another refill of their mugs, they sat for a while on the couch, while Roman flipped through the channels to look for something to take her mind off of her circumstances. Finding an old, black and white movie, he felt her relax into his side. A few minutes later and she was out, her breathing slow and steady. Her head rested on his shoulder, her arms having wrapped themselves around his big left one, having sneaked their way under the throw. Even though she’d had the wherewithal to pull on the hoodie he’d given her last night, she hadn’t had the time to put on pants.
Thinking through everything he thought she’d need to get from her place if she was going to...move in with him temporarily, he thought about what she’d need. The basics, obviously, he knew she’d at least need her toiletries. Heaving a ragged sigh, he refocused his attention on the screen, desperate to keep his mind off the goddess sleeping soundly next to him.
It was a couple of hours late that she woke, and he offered to take her back to her place to get her things, reassuring her that they would be coming back to his apartment afterward. He decided to take his car this time, just in case she needed the extra room for her things. It wasn’t as flashy as his bike, but it drove like a dream. The vintage leather seats crinkled under his weight; a nice, familiar sensation that took him back to happier days.
Driving a few minutes out of town, she gave him directions to the house she’d been living. He got her to open up a little on the way there, prodding her for any information she was ready to share. She’d been through hell last night, and he could tell she was still in shock. He couldn’t push her too far just to get a little more insight on her friend. Evidently, they hadn’t been friends for long.
Liv gave him a snapshot of their relationship; roommates first, friends after, but they were total opposites, which caused friction between them. The other girl, Sam, had been outgoing and popular amongst the other college seniors, never without a frat guy hanging around, hoping to get lucky. Liv was her polar opposite; she was introverted, more conservative and a little antisocial. A classic bookworm...if you discounted her gorgeous body.
As they pulled up in front of the house, the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end, and his superhuman senses were picking up a nasty mix of scents. Worst of all, was the feeling of his gut twisting with anticipation. He was getting some really bad vibes from this place, and he didn’t like it one bit. Leaving the keys in the ignition, he put one finger to his lips, signaling for her to stay quiet, and carefully opened his car door to go investigate.
Two, no three male wolves...young...itching to kill...they’re rogues. Fuck.
Maintaining a safe distance, he went around to the back of the house, wary to keep away from the windows. His ears pricked up at the rogues’ voices somewhere inside.
“Where is the bitch,” one of them snarled.
He guessed he was their leader.
“Dunno,” said one, “seems Quentin took off right after finishing the first. Didn’t wanna stick around for that Diego fucker.”
It was obvious the little shit was nervous, trying to cover it up by acting nonchalant. The problem was, you could never mask the scent of fear – especially amongst their kind.
“Diego, eh,” the leader’s tone was dripping with sarcasm, “you’re telling me one of ours is afraid of that fucking cunt?”
The silence that ensued alerted Roman to the calm before the shit storm, and he really didn’t want to be around when it finally blew open. He’d heard enough to report back to his alpha, and he needed to get Liv out of here fast. Getting back in the car, he was grateful the house was far from the street, otherwise they would have heard the engine idling. Not saying a word until they were back on the main road, he could feel Liv’s anxiousness billowing off of her like steam.
“My initial hunch was correct,” he said, matter of fact, “the asshole your friend was with at the bar is part of a gang.”
“Gang? But I thought-”
“Not saying it wasn’t...an animal attack… Just saying that the guy she was last with is part of a gang, and they’re out for blood.”
Oh, he hoped that he hadn’t said too much!
“But what does that have anything to do with Sam’s death? What does have to do with me?”
She was starting to sound frantic, and he needed to her stay calm.
“What did you see,” she asked, suspicious.
She was too smart for her own good, a quality that could get her killed. He had to diffuse this now, or else she would become a liability to Diego, and then he would have to be the one to…
Nah. Not gonna think about that. Just get her attention off of it. C’mon, think!
His mind raced as he searched for literally anything he could think of to steer the conversation away from dangerous topics.
“Nothing,” he lied, “but it’s not safe back at the house-”
“Not safe? How?”
Oh, for fuck’s sake’s.
“It was broken into,” okay that was a half-truth, “didn’t wanna risk somebody still being in there.”
Yeah, like she’ll really believe that, he inwardly scoffed.
It seemed he was shit at lying to this chick.
“Okay,” she huffed, turning in her seat to glare at him, “I’ll believe you. For now. So what’s the plan? Obviously I can’t go back home, and I only have my purse and the clothes I wore last night at your place.”
“Well, darlin’,” he began, amusement in his tone, “looks like we’re going shopping.”