No dizziness set in, or nausea, and her headache didn’t worsen with her change in altitude, so Lucy stayed upright, but shifted uncomfortably under wolfy’s intense blue gaze.
Geez. The dude needed to stop studying her. His gaze was unnerving, made her feel exposed.
Their close proximity made his focus on her seem more unsettling somehow.
Breaking eye contact, seeking to relieve her growing self-consciousness, she turned her gaze out the window to her right. Beyond the glass was darkness so she couldn’t see much, other than a dirt driveway to the left, a black F-150 parked near the house.
“Lucy - ”
Her brow furrowed, her gaze shifting from the large picture window and back to wolfy.
“Where’d you get my name?” she asked.
Better question, what was his name? Even better question, why didn’t he move over to the La-Z-Boy chair at the end of the coffee table already? It looked comfier than the table and a little breathing room would be nice.
She was starting to feel flustered with him so near.
“I followed those demons into Elixir.” wolfy replied.
Oh, so he’d heard Jack introduce her.
“I heard you introduced.” he said.
Yep, she’d got that.
“You were amazing, by the way.” he told her as an aside.
She blinked at the unexpected compliment. A small contingent of butterflies took flight in her stomach.
Where the hell had they come from? She’d been praised for her voice many a time... never had butterflies. This guy complimented her and her insides were set a-flutter?
After his rudeness last night, his opinion shouldn’t matter, but for some reason, it pleased her to know this man had seen her perform, and had been impressed.
She cleared her throat, ignored her inner fluttering.
“Thanks.” she said, her lips turning up at the corners slightly.
“After your set, those demons were watching you.” her knight in wolf’s clothing told her. “When you left, they followed you out and I followed them.”
Her smile slipped away.
Butterflies and confused ego’s paled in comparison to near-death-by-demon experiences.
“Thanks again.” she murmured.
Wolfy nodded once in reply.
Dammit. He was studying her again.
Shifting under his scrutiny, she started to look away, but stopped, her attention drawn to his eyes.
Were they growing lighter? More silver?
A closer look proved they were.
She watched, mesmerized, as his irises turned more silvery-blue by the moment.
They were... stunning. Icy and full of heat at the same time. A crisp white-blue.
And the look in them? She got the impression it wasn’t just the man looking at her now, it was the wolf too.
Whether man, wolf, or both, it didn’t matter. The way he was looking at her? Sent a million more butterflies a-flutter inside her.
Annnnd... she was staring.
She snapped herself out of her haze.
The guy had eyes. They were blue. And silver. Big deal. She needed to get a grip. And lose the frickin’ butterflies.
“You know my name, but I don’t know yours.” she pointed out, steeling herself against those crystalline eyes.
“Deklan.” he told her, his voice deeper than it had been moments before. “Winters.”
Deklan Winters. With those eyes of his, the name suited him.
He extended his hand toward her for a shake. She slipped her hand in his bigger one, the warmth of his palm stealing into hers at their touch. As their hands pumped up and down, the scent of pine and earth and soap wafted to her.
She’d noticed his scent earlier, when he’d been taking care of the cut on her head and been even closer than he was now.
His scent... his nearness... his gaze... had her changing her mind - she didn’t want him to move away, she wanted him even closer.
She wasn’t unnerved anymore, she was tempted... very tempted... to lean into him, tuck her nose into his neck and fill up on his natural, made-it-himself cologne.
She shouldn’t have to tell herself not to sniff this guy up, but...
Girl... do not sniff this guy up.
In an effort to obey her own command, she let go of Deklan’s hand and sat back, away from temptation, hissed when her back hit the back of the sofa.
“Yeah.” Deklan said, the silver in his eyes receding a little, his expression sympathetic as she sat forward again.
“I put some salve on the scrapes on your back and taped bandages over them while you were out, but they’ll probably sting for a bit.” he told her.
His kindness drew a sigh from her, which seemed to confuse him, judging by his furrowed brow.
If he could hear her mentally reprimanding herself, he wouldn’t be confused.
She’d been an ass to this guy last night and he’d saved her life tonight.
He’d been an ass last night too, sure... but he’d done her a solid tonight.
She’d tried claiming they were even after she woke up, but she wasn’t stupid - she knew they weren’t. She, in fact, owed him twofold - she owed him an apology for last night, and she owed him a debt for his actions tonight.
She cleared her throat, met Deklan’s gaze straight on, and put on her big girl panties.
Might as well get the apology out of the way.
“Listen, Deklan,” she said. “I’m sorry I interfered in your affairs last night.”
At her quiet words, Deklan sat back a little, his dark brows lifting in clear surprise, the silver in his irises returning, swirling with blue.
“It looked like you were in trouble.” she continued. “I thought I was helping.” she explained. “I didn’t mean to... get in the way.”
As soon as she’d extended the apology, she felt better.
Deklan quietly looked at her, keeping his thoughts to himself for a moment or two. After his initial surprise at her apology, his expression softened, a new warmth entering his eyes.
“Thank you for trying to help me last night.” he said, his voice low, smoky. “I... appreciate your intentions.” he smiled softly. “And... I’m sorry for my... surliness.”
Lucy returned his soft smile.
Look at them, making friends.
Deklan cleared his throat, tilted his head. His smile turned cheeky.
“Since I saved your ass and you finally admit you didn’t save mine,” he said, shifting gears from serious to playful, “guess you owe me one.”
Her new friend was right, and didn’t waste any time.
“I guess I do.” she concurred with a nod. “And I’m guessing you already have something in mind I can do for you?” she said, looking at him expectantly.
“As a matter of fact.” he confirmed. “I’m trying to find a particular demon.” he shared, expression turning serious once more. “I would consider us square if you would do your scrying voodoo for me and help me locate him.”
“My ‘scrying voodoo’?” she asked, lifting a brow at his words.
“Yeah, you know. With a pendulum and a map and...” Deklan’s voice trailed off as he started miming using a pendulum, moving his hand in a circle.
“I know what scrying is dumbass.” she told him, pairing her words with an eye roll. “And for the record, scrying isn’t ‘voodoo’.”
“Whatever.” he shrugged.
“Why don’t you give me the name of this demon you’re looking for?” she suggested.
Her brows lifted to her hairline, her eyes widening at the name drop and at the venom in Deklan’s voice. He had a hate-on for Malek something fierce.
“Malek?” she repeated.
Deklan nodded. All business.
She gave a low whistle.
“That guy is seriously bad news.” she said inanely, since she was sure he was well aware of that fact. “Why are you trying to find him? I would highly recommend avoiding him.”
Face stark, Deklan shared his motivation for finding Malek.
“He killed my best friend.” he told her.
She slowly inhaled, sighed.
... that explained the hate-on.
Losing someone sucked the big one - that was an understatement, sure, but it summed things up well enough. She’d been there, done that, never wanted to do it again. Ever. Hence, her best friend was her cat, Jinx.
“I’m sorry.” she murmured.
Deklan accepted her condolences with a dip of his head. He didn’t offer any more details and she didn’t pry.
She frowned, the reality of what she’d done the night before by interfering in Deklan’s affairs, really sinking in for her.
“Those demons you were fighting last night,” she said, “they were Malek’s minions.”
“Yes. The first I’ve come across in months.” he replied.
And he’d wanted one of them alive so he could get Malek’s whereabouts out of them.
“Shit.” she said, shaking her head, blowing out a breath. “I’m sorry. I really thought I was helping.”
She mentally kicked herself. Not only had she set him back in his hunt for revenge, she’d been a bitch.
“I know.” Deklan replied, understanding in his voice and expression. “From your vantage point, I’m sure it looked like I needed help.” he allowed. “It’s alright. Really.”
That was kind of him to say, but it was far from alright.
“Of course,” he said, a cheeky smile splitting his lips again. “It’d be even more okay if you’d agree to scry for Malek.”
Obviously she would.
“You got yourself a scryer.” she assured him.
Deklan’s teasing smirk softened to a small smile.
“Thank you.” he said.
Neither of them spoke for a moment and she got to her feet, moved out from between sofa and table.
Time to go home.
“Where are you going?” Deklan asked, getting to his feet and moving to the end of the coffee table, stopping a couple of feet from her.
“Home. Once you point me in the direction of my boots.” she replied, looking around the immediate area, not spying her boots.
“Are you sure?” he asked, obviously not approving of her plan. “I mean, you shouldn’t be alone.”
She tipped her head back a little to look up at him. Guy had to be 6′2, at least. She was barely 5′7.
“You might have a mild concussion.” he frowned. “Someone needs to check on you every once in a while.”
She kept her frown to herself.
He assumed she was single? She was kinda offended.
“What makes you think I’d be alone if I went home?” she asked.
He was right - but it chafed a little that he assumed she was single. She was a badass and, on a hottie scale, she rated herself a solid seven. Shouldn’t he assume she was taken?
Deklan’s wide mouth opened and closed twice before sound finally came out.
“I just assumed. I figured a boyfriend wouldn’t let you fight demons alone at night.” he replied.
Her brows lifted. So, he hadn’t assumed she was single... he’d assumed a guy would dictate what she could or couldn’t do?
“Let me?” she scoffed, hands going to her hips as she threw Deklan a pointed ‘excuse-me’ look.
He floundered, no words forthcoming as he did another fish imitation.
“It so happens you assumed right, I am happily single right now.” she admitted, letting him partially off the hook.
She crossed her arms in front of her chest.
“But that is neither here nor there.” she continued. “If some guy was lucky enough to be able to call himself my boyfriend, he wouldn’t ‘let’ me anything.” she informed him.
“Sure. Right. Of course.” Deklan nodded readily.
She ‘hmm’d’ at that.
The backpedaling male. So cute.
“Still,” Deklan said, after clearing his throat. “I think it might be a good idea if you stayed here tonight.” he paused, continued after a beat. “There’s a bed in the spare room. You could sleep there. And I could check on you every so often. Make sure you haven’t slipped into a coma or something.”
She dropped her arms to her sides, tilted her head, considering the reason he was being so solicitous.
“You want to make sure the witch with the scrying skills doesn’t pull a sleeping beauty on ya.” she mused.
“I want to make sure you’re okay,” he corrected, voice tinged slightly with exasperation. “Smartass.”
“Alright.” she capitulated.
... better safe than sorry.
Jinx would be fine until she got home. He wouldn’t give a crap where she was until tomorrow, when he needed his food and water bowl refilled and his kitty litter freshened.
“Alright.” Deklan nodded, relief showing on his face before he covered it up. “I’ll show you upstairs.” he said and turned, starting out of the living room. He headed across the hall and up the stairs.
She followed behind him, took the opportunity to enjoy the view, her eyes tracing along wide shoulders, down a solid torso to narrow hips and a denim-covered ass she bet she could bounce quarters off of. Though she could think of more delicious things to do to that ass.
At the top of the stairs, they made a right turn, then approached a door on the left.
“I’ll go get one of my T-shirts for you to sleep in.” Deklan announced, stepping aside so she could enter the room after he’d opened the door, pushed it wide.
“Thanks.” she said, crossing the threshold into a bedroom that was twice the size of her own.
There was a large bed to her left, bedside tables on either side of it, a chair over by the window, and a dresser along the wall to her right.
She heard Deklan moving around in a room down the hallway, opening a drawer, closing it. Then he was obviously on his way back to her, his footsteps getting louder as he got closer.
“Here you go.” he said, reappearing and stopping just inside the doorway, extending a dark grey T-shirt to her.
She walked over, stopped in front of him, accepted the offering.
“Thanks.” she said, hugging the shirt to her middle.
She appreciated the loan. Sleeping in her bustier and leather pants did not appeal.
“No problem.” he replied. “Do you need anything else?”
She shook her head in the negative.
“Okay, then.” he nodded. “Try to get some sleep. I’ll come wake you in an hour or two.” he murmured.
“Alright.” she replied. “G’night.”
“G’night.” he echoed.
Lucy waited for him to leave, but he didn’t... he stayed where he was, gazing down at her, triggering a new flock of butterflies to take flight in her stomach.
Was he feeling this attraction between them, or was it just her?
Breaking eye contact, she stepped around him, went to the door. He followed her over, headed out of the room.
As he walked down the hall, she took one last, quick look at his posterior, then shut the door.
Bleary eyed, Deklan slapped his hand around his bedside table until he found his cell and silenced his beeping alarm. It was 4:30 am. An hour and a half had passed since he and Lucy had gone to bed.
Ugh. He was gonna feel like shit tomorrow. He felt like shit now.
Throwing off his covers, he swung his legs over the side of his bed and sat up, the soles of his feet kissing cool wood floor. Yawning wide, so wide his jaw cracked, he rubbed an eye with a knuckle. A few sleepy blinks and he pushed off his mattress and stood.
He’d left his pants untied, as he usually did, and they were riding low on his hips, as they usually did. Tugging them up a little, he tied them before moving quietly out of his room, down the hallway and to the room he’d put Lucy in. She’d left the door open a crack.
Pressing a palm to the door, he slowly applied pressure, quietly pushing it wider, stepped into the room.
Lucy was sound asleep on her side facing him, her hands tucked underneath the pillow cushioning her head.
She looked so sweet.
Deklan was struck by how young she looked in slumber.
Just how old was she?
He’d assumed she was close to his own age of 29, but looking at her now, he’d guess she was closer to her early twenties than her late twenties.
Her pants and bustier were on the chair by the window. She hadn’t looked so young - or sweet - when she’d been wearing that outfit.
Knowing she was wearing his clothes filled Deklan with some unwarranted, primitive, male satisfaction.
Guess the old caveman gene was alive and kicking.
Quietly, he stepped toward her, coming to stand near the head of the bed.
Why he was being quiet, he had no idea. The whole point of coming in here now was to wake her up.
He let himself gaze down upon her - just for a moment - before he woke her up. She’d loosed her hair from its ponytail, her brown locks now free and covering the star tattoos on her neck. He wondered if she had any other tattoos, enjoyed picturing where they might be.
A hip bone. A breast. Her lower back. Yes, please, to all of the above.
And he needed to stop picturing where else she might be inked before he woke little Deklan. The guy didn’t need much incentive when around Lucy. Didn’t help that it had been a while for him - with any woman - let alone one he found this attractive.
So much for starving his interest in her.
Clearing his throat, he bent toward her. Even in the darkness, he could see her well, could tell there was a little more colour in her cheeks than there had been earlier.
She really was beautiful, her dark lashes short but full, resting atop softly rounded cheeks, her lips a taupe-pink without lipstick staining them.
And her scent? Luscious.
He hated to disturb her, knew rest would go a long way in helping her feel better. But, better safe than sorry.
“Lucy.” he whispered.
“Lucy.” he repeated raising his volume, bending a little closer.
“Lucy.” he said a third time, going full volume and jostling her arm a little.
“What?” she grumbled, scowling.
There she was.
He smiled down at her.
“How are you feeling?” he asked quietly, leaving his hand resting lightly on her arm.
She shrugged, not awake, her scowl slipping as sleep tried to reclaim her. He quickly interrupted her fall back into dreams.
“How’s the head?” he asked, his hand moving from her arm to her head, fingertips stroking above the bandage at her temple, continuing through her hair, down to the ends.
“Better.” she mumbled, opening her eyes at his gentle touch, looking up at him.
He watched her eyes drop, take in his bare torso before quickly flicking back up to his face. If he wasn’t mistaken, she liked what she saw.
She’d seen him naked last night - had looked her fill, and hadn’t seemed too impressed. Course, they hadn’t been getting along.
Obviously her indifference had been for show. Tonight, half asleep, she was unable to conceal her attraction.
His wolf emitted a muffled rumble in the back of his thoughts, pleased with Lucy’s reaction as much as he was.
He stared down into her sleepy, hazel eyes, resisted the desire to stroke his fingers through her hair once more.
A guy could lose himself in those eyes if he wasn’t careful. And... that thought was his cue to wrap this up.
He didn’t need to get involved with someone right now. He needed to hunt down Malek and end him.
“I’ll check on you again around 6.” he told her, easing back, straightening up.
“Can’t wait.” she grumped, putting a smile on his lips.
She snuggled deeper into her pillow and he turned and left her to sleep, pulling the door almost closed behind him.
It was barely audible, but he heard his wolf whine a little at being separated from the witch.
Lucy may have started off on their shit-list, but she’d upgraded herself to their ‘I want’ list. With her looks and smart mouth, it hadn’t been a hard sell.
Working with her was going to pose a challenge. He’d have to keep his priorities in the right order.
His list was short.
Maybe - when those tasks were done, and Tuk had been avenged - he’d add ‘pursue Lucy’ to his to-do list.
Maybe. Pfft. Who was kidding? As soon as he’d taken care of Malek, ‘Pursue Lucy’ was going to be stamped at the top of his to-do list in all caps.
He got back in bed, reset his alarm. He was not looking forward to waking up in a measly hour and a half.
At six, he checked on his scryer, as promised. She grumped adorably again, but otherwise seemed fine - she knew her name, his name, where she was and what month they were in. That was good enough for him.
At 7:30 he interrupted her sleep a third time and it was a case of third verse, same as the first - and second. She grumped, but got the answers right.
Half asleep, he reset his alarm for nine. When it went off, he wasn’t sure he’d even slept. He must have - because it seemed like he’d only set the alarm a second ago - but he sure didn’t feel like he had. He felt like a zombie.
After blindly silencing the beeping, he dragged himself out of bed and shuffled out into the hallway. Opening the spare room door, he expected to see a sleeping beauty and witness more of her grumping, but instead came up short when he found the bed empty and the chair by the window bare.
That woke him up.
“Lucy?” he called, frowning as he turned and left the empty room.
Maybe she was in the bathroom?
No response came and the bathroom door was wide open. She wasn’t in there.
He called again as he made his way downstairs. Again, nothing.
At the bottom of the stairs, he noticed her boots and knife weren’t by the front door where he’d left them.
A peak in the living room showed she wasn’t in there.
He continued further down the hallway and into the kitchen. There, sitting on the end of the island, was the T-shirt he’d given Lucy to sleep in, folded neatly.
She’d left? Without saying a word?
She could have at least left him a note.
He sighed, went to retrieve his shirt. It wasn’t until he got closer that he noticed a piece of paper lay tucked partially under it.
She had left him a note.
Well, good. She should have.
He picked it up and read.
I have a gig at The Spot tonight.
I’ll poof myself to your place when I’m done.
Text me if this doesn’t work for you
Below her scrawled name she’d left her cell number.
Now he could text her and see how she was doing.
Note in hand, he collected his shirt, the garment now laden with Lucy’s mouth watering citrusy scent, and returned upstairs to his room. He tossed his shirt on the end of his bed, took a seat on his memory foam mattress near his pillow. Reaching for his iPhone, still plugged into its charging dock on his bedside table, he unlocked it and added Lucy’s number into his contacts, shot her a quick text.
How are you feeling?
She texted back almost immediately.
That’s all she was going to give him?
A little more detail would have been appreciated, but at least he knew she was awake and feeling okay.
See you tonight. he texted.
A thumbs up emoji came back at him.
He didn’t bother sending anything back.
He set his cell back on his bedside table, swung his legs up onto the bed and fell back into his pillow.
A few more hours of sleep would do him a hella good.