Hollis tried to whip her gaze to the darkened tree line, panic coursing through her, taking all the butterflies and exhilaration of a few moments ago with it.
“Shh,” Oberon hushed, voice gentle, keen eyes scanning their surroundings with precision. Once they fell back to hers, she could see his mind was set on a task.
“Follow my lead, and do not move when I leave you, understand?” came his deep voice as he cupped her cheek again.
Before she could finish her fearful question, he lifted her, gripping handfuls of her butt and wrapping her legs around his hips. She swallowed, knowing he could hear it at the small smirk on his sculpted lips.
“Put your arms around me,” he said, and she obeyed, limbs trembling.
“I will not let him get to you. He is weak,” he sneered, walking them to where the horses were snorting and shifting restlessly—even they could sense the presence of a threat. Hollis felt annoyance more than anything, now, for her own senses were weak and did nothing to help them.
Between the horses he walked, silent as a ghost through the trees and still night air. He set her down, ensuring she was steady before releasing her.
“Stay here, he cannot see. I will double around,” he said, and she nodded up at him, lips parting, face still flushed from whatever he’d been about to do to her a few moments ago. He chuckled, leaning down to trail his nose along the length of her neck, and she shivered despite the warmth of the evening, leaning into his fiery touch, her mind forgetting all about the threat lurking in the darkness.
“You are not ready yet for what I’d do to you, Hollis,” he whispered, his words a promise. She felt her breath hitch in her throat, wishing to argue that it was her choice on the matter, when she felt his lips kiss her forehead.
“But there are other things you’re quite eager for, and I will gladly indulge you once I rid our camp of this voyeur.”
And with that, he disappeared, leaving her a shaking, sweaty mess. Pressing a hand to her forehead, she leaned against Winston, his side sturdy and reassuring. He gave a huff as Tyr nipped at him, always the pest. She patted Tyr, giving him the attention he desired as her overwrought mind calmed, focusing in on any noise she was able to decipher.
She was surprised in herself, that she hadn’t been afraid of another person so nearby. Perhaps it was the confident air Oberon exuded, and the fact that she had now witnessed his indestructible nature more than once. That, coupled with the confirmation that he wasn’t fully human all pointed to her reassurance that she was safe from any foe.
She trembled, a vision of vivid red flashing in her mind’s eye.
She knew she could defend herself, too, if necessity arose, but that violence was not something she sought openly, as her companion did. She lurched as his booming voice erupted from somewhere on her left, sending nested birds scattering into the night, their wings loud as the rush of wind.
Her chest deflated in an instant. He knew whoever was watching them? Worried and curious, she pushed Tyr aside, making her way to the campfire as two figures emerged from the trees, one hulking, one smaller, but both men.
His golden, seething eyes seared into hers.
“I told you to stay put,” he said, gripping the jacket of the man from the grocery store. Hollis’ heart leapt into her throat, a defensive aura overcoming her.
“He was…he was the guy from the store,” she said, voice quiet in comparison to his. The man gave her a pleading look, deep brown eyes now black, face pale and frightened, glasses askew.
“Run, he’s dangerous, go—”
Oberon gave him a hearty shake, cocking his fist as his smooth, British accent spoke with urgency.
“No!” Hollis squeaked, for she knew this man was innocent of whatever Oberon was accusing him of.
“Hollis,” he growled, throwing her a look of rage.
“You can’t kill everyone you come across,” she hissed, hands on her hips. He gave her a dangerous sneer.
“He is one of the men who brought me back to life, Hollis.”
At his words, her face blanched, her hands fell to her sides, and the man in his grasp slumped, defeated.
“What?” she breathed.
“I will get what I want from you, and I will watch the light leave your eyes,” Oberon said, an evil glint in his eye. Hollis stilled, knowing all too well what that look meant. The man, head raising slightly, gave her a pleading look, eyes begging for her to help him. Oberon moved, towing the man with him.
“Wait!” Hollis called, drawing near. Oberon glared down at her, but she didn’t miss the way his eyes softened as they fell upon her face. Heat pooled in her gut, and it was then, as her own sexual awakening was taking root, that she realized she now had some form of control over all situations. Not in a manipulative sort of way, but it was a surge of feminine power that she’d never felt before.
“We can use his help,” she said, searching his lethal gaze.
“He was instrumental in bringing me back,” Oberon argued, and she could see the pain it caused him to have this man alive.
“I…I understand that, but we could use him, he can bring us to that other guy—”
“I see what you are doing, tiny Hollis, and your compassion is a beautiful thing, but I cannot let it stand,” he said, the tinge of his voice final. She glared up at him, setting her jaw as she crossed her arms. He narrowed his eyes, and the man in his grasp glanced between the two, curious despite his impending torture and death.
“What is this?” Oberon hissed, glaring at her.
“You tell me, energy reader,” she spat back, closing off all arousal she’d felt for him not so long ago. His eyes narrowed again, that same evil glint now focusing on her, a dark smirk curling onto his face like a rattlesnake about to strike. A challenge, and she knew he wanted it.
“He takes us to Seattle, then you can kill him,” she said, forcing her gaze to stay locked on Oberon, but the man relaxed another fraction in his strong grasp. Oberon glanced at the man, who shrank under his burning gaze.
“My little human wants to keep you, weak man,” Oberon spat. “I would deny her, but I see her logic.”
Hollis felt the breath she’d been holding escape, sensing her achievement.
“Th-thank you,” the man said, voice strained, eyes focused only on her, his full, plump lips twisting into a grimace of gratitude. Hollis glared.
“I didn’t do it to save you. You’re just as evil as the other one he’s after. You don’t get to play God,” she said, her animosity surprising herself. After witnessing the pain it caused Oberon to simply exist with such abhorrent memories of his past, though, she’d developed a soft spot for his suffering. Her attachment frightened her, but at the same time thrilled her. His golden eyes glowed like embers through the night, his desire rolling off him in waves. She threw him a small, dark smile. At least now, she felt she was able to read energy, or at the very least, the hungry look in his eye.
“Go to bed, tiny Hollis. I will ensure our prisoner is well versed in the rules of my reign.”
With a roll of her eyes, Hollis turned, trekking back to their sleeping bags. Oberon watched her go, working through everything he wished to do to her this very night, but the sniveling man in his grasp brought him back to reality. He dragged him to the horses, pulling a length of rope from the side bag, setting to work tying him to a maple tree.
“You will not speak unless asked a question,” Oberon said, cinching the rope around his chest.
“You run, I kill you without hesitation,” he said, circling the rope about his wrists. Cole glanced around him to Hollis, who was snuggled into their shared sleeping bag, cuddling Teddy. He wanted to warn her, to save her and scream at her to run as far away from this monster as she was able. He felt Oberon’s rough hand on his jaw, forcing his eyes back to his.
“If I catch you staring at her, I’ll gouge your eyes out. If you touch her, I will rip your limbs off one by one and strangle you with your own intestines,” he seethed, and within his eyes, Cole saw he was speaking the truth. He gave a nod as best he could, mind reeling. How had their creation survived, found a young woman, and convinced her to aid him in searching for Res? And was that desire Cole saw in his eyes?
“You…you like her,” Cole breathed, the scientist in him more fascinated than frightened. Oberon sneered down at him.
“What was rule number one?”
Cole shook his head, sensing that the human side of this creature held some bit of kindness, or this girl would not still be alive. He’d worked through it already, as he’d found his way out of the woods and to the nearest town; the DNA—the remains they’d used—had not been completely human. And Res had hid that from him from the very beginning. Cole had found the papers in the wreckage, the sequencing of his DNA only thirty five percent human. What made up the rest of this creature, he did not know. He had a sick feeling Res did, though, and an even sicker feeling that he desired to replicate it, for their creation had been immune to every virus, every cut—every test they’d done upon him while unconscious. It made Cole sick, now, as he stared at the being, so intelligent, so capable of emotions—even lust, maybe even love.
“I…I want to…to help you find Res, I—”
Oberon’s hand snaked to Cole’s throat, giving it a hearty squeeze as he brought their faces within inches of one another. Cole could see for himself the faint glimmer of his honey eyes, as if there were real gold flecks within the irises.
After a moment, the monster relented, narrowing his eyes at him.
“You speak the truth,” he said, cautious, curious. Cole coughed, using his shoulder to push his glasses back up as best he could upon his release.
“Res lied to me,” he rasped, swallowing hard. Oberon’s brow furrowed, waiting for him to continue. Cole shook his head.
“He just used me to help with publicity, to get funding,” Cole said, speculative eyes entranced by the being they’d given life to once more. He wanted to hurl questions at him, about his strength, his eyesight, did he get headaches? Did he tire? But the glint in Oberon’s eyes kept him in check, save for the most pressing question on the forefront of his mind. The girl had knocked the breath from Cole’s lungs the moment she spoke to him in the store. She’d been the most gorgeous and pure being he’d ever had the pleasure of seeing, and a woman of that caliber was the rarest thing in the world right now.
“Hollis,” Oberon interjected, voice cutting like a machete. Cole nodded in respect.
“She…you…” he fumbled, reddening, for he was a scientist, not a playboy. Oberon squinted at him, gaze darkening.
“She is mine, weak human,” he hissed with finality, standing, his long legs carrying him back to the little blond minx. Wide eyed, Cole watched as Oberon turned one last time to smirk in his direction, before he kicked off his shorts and slid under the sleeping bag next to her.
Oberon felt Hollis stiffen at his intrusion, and her heart was sent racing once she realized he was nude. He pulled her close, nuzzling her neck, a gentle giant once more.
“Obe,” she growled, and he smiled at the shortening of his name.
“Why are you naked?” she hissed, trying to maneuver herself away from him, but he held fast.
“Because, he needs to know to whom you belong,” he said, voice darkening. She struggled in his grasp now in quiet fury.
“I…do not…belong to you,” she seethed, not for the first time. He chuckled, his lips on the back of her neck making her complaint once more. He nipped at her, quite enjoying this chance to prove and assert his dominance.
“No, you do not belong to me. Not yet, anyway,” he said, and he felt as she warmed to him, relaxing as he continued to pepper her smooth skin with kisses.
“I never will,” she argued, though her resolve was thinning. He chuckled, wrapping a leg around her, pressing his hips to her butt so she could feel what he had to offer.
“Never,” he agreed. She shuddered in his arms, rolling to face him, her eyes dark and brooding.
“Have I upset you?” he asked, concern tainting his deep baritone. Lips pressed thin, she shook her head.
“Then what is it?”
She sighed, blowing a loose strand of silvery hair from her eyes, the moonlight giving her an ethereal glow.
“Don’t hate him, just because you feel threatened by his presence,” she said, blue eyes wide with innocence and kindness. Oberon stilled now, fingers digging into her hip.
“I can assure you I am not threat—”
“Okay, you’re not threatened. Fine,” she said. He frowned, detesting the way she flung that word at him with irreverence. Fine.
“Speak your mind, tiny Hollis,” he said, gripping her arm to prevent her from escaping this conversation. Her eyes softened, falling to his chest.
“He…he was kind to me, at the store. And it was nice, for a change, to have a…a human—male, interaction where I never questioned my safety,” she muttered, eyes sweeping back up to his. He drank in her words, tasted her energy. He felt low, then, for not seeing it sooner, how it felt to be a woman in a world such as this. Defenseless, small, a constant target. Even he himself had been a threat to her at the beginning.
He cupped her cheek, thumb stroking the prominent bone beneath her gently sloping flesh.
“Forgive me. I was blinded by my hate for what he helped do, to me,” Oberon said, voice low against the sounds of the night.
“I’m sorry, too,” she admitted, a steady blush building in her cheeks. “I don’t know what you endured, and I’ll never understand how it feels to be you, and—”
“Hush, it is forgiven,” he said, golden eyes simmering, pulling her into their depths. They stared, the heat between them rising once more as Oberon smirked.
“I would continue my welcomed assault, but I fear you’ve developed a bit of performance fright,” he teased, brushing his thumb once more over her bottom lip. Her body reacted despite herself, leaping toward him, pulled in as though his force were more powerful than even the gravitational pull of the sun.
To Hollis, he felt like the sun. Always warm, with golden eyes and tanned skin. A thrill ran through her.
“You’re a titan,” she said, breathless, completely convinced. It took Oberon a moment to gather what she meant, but when he did, there was no suppressing his booming laughter. He fell back, Hollis staring on in confusion and annoyance.
“No, tiny Hollis, I am not. Good guess, though,” he said, pulling her to his chest to cradle her. She pinched him in her stubborn anger, but he was unrelenting. He gave her a peck on the head, lips lingering on her soft hair and she writhed like an angry tomcat in his grasp.
“My kind are much, much more evil than what you humans call titans,” he said, and she stilled a bit. He let her up, her eyes finding his, fervent and piqued. He leaned in, gripping her hips and pulling her on top of him as her eyes widened.
“And—just so you know—any pain you inflict upon me only serves to arouse me more.”