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Blood's Fury (Deadly Beauties #1) by C.M. Owens (1)

Deadly Beauties

Blood's Fury

 

Published by C.M. Owens at Smashwords

 

Text Copyright 2013 by Christie M. Owens.

 

This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only.  This eBook may not be re-sold or given to other people.  If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient.  Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

This is a work of fiction.  Characters, names, places, events, or incidents are products of the author's imagination.  Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or to places or incidents is purely coincidental.


Chapter One

 

"Maybe tomorrow we can find someone to take care of the rest of your furniture," my mother breathlessly releases, as we finish heaving my far too heavy couch into the living room.

"Or we could finish now since I have to start work tomorrow," I chirp with a grin.

I know she's not tired, but she's very opposed to doing things the human way.  Too bad.  That's what I plan to be for as long as I can.

"I could go persuade some of your hunky new neighbors to help us out," she says while flashing me a scandalous grin.

The candles in the house flicker before rising to a flame as the fire starts to spread over her eyes, making me scowl in response.

"No magic in my house," I caution while standing up and heading back out.

"It would be a hell of a lot easier to get your stuff in using magic," she huffs as the candles stop their blazing intent without leaving a smoky trail.

"Not concerned about getting it done easily," I chuckle out.  "That's sort of the point of my new start."

She follows me to the oversized truck I rented, and we start lugging out the next set of furnishings.

"It's part of you, Alyssa.  The sooner you start accepting it, the better.  You're so pow-"

"Don't say it," I interrupt, holding a hand up.  "If you say it, I'll finish unpacking by myself."

She crosses her arms in protest, but I roll my eyes as I head back into the house while carrying my two lamps.  As soon as I walk in, a growl of agitation slips through my tight lips.  All of my furniture, clothes, and everything else has been put into place.  Even my pictures are hanging on the damn walls.

"Seriously?" I gripe, knowing damn well she's out there laughing.

She walks in, a smug look on her face, and I roll my eyes.

"What?  You can't expect me to spend all day sweating and toiling over all this unnecessary labor when I'm not going to see my daughter for months."

Guilt.  She always uses guilt.  Amazing.

"Fine.  I'll order a pizza, and you can grab some wine out of the grocery bags I have over-" I look up to see they've also been taken care of.  "Never mind.  You can find the wine wherever you put it."

She lets a bit of a chuckle escape and the television turns on as she passes by.

"Really?  You're so lazy you can't even use the remote?"

"Not lazy, dear, just special… like you."

Oh you're special all right.

I somehow refrain from letting that snarky comment out.

"Get your hair out from behind your ears.  You know I absolutely hate that."

And she wonders why I'm moving out.

Like a small child, I do as my mother says and pull my hair out from behind my ears.  It's her biggest pet peeve.  After the little stunt she just pulled, I should keep both sides of my hair tucked behind my ears all day.

My attention is drawn to the television when four pictures of young girls my age flash across the screen.

"If you see these women, please contact the police.  They were last seen together on Midwalk Avenue.

The television mutes when I press the button, and then I flip the channel quickly, hoping Mom didn't hear.

"I guess that means you didn't check to see what other immortals were roaming around here?" Mom asks as she walks back in with her phone at her face, reading.  "Fifteen girls have gone missing this month alone.  I don't like this."

"There are a variety of immortals all over the world, Mom.  It's not like I can avoid living among all of them.  Besides, they're apparently blood drinkers, which means they'll be moving along soon enough, and this will be one of the safest places around."

"It's not safe right now, and you're not immortal yet, meaning you can die as easily as a human."

And let the fight begin.

"I'm marked, Mom.  If someone gets too close, I'll show them what I'm meant to become."

She scoffs, "That won't matter.  If they give you the chance to show them, they'll just deny it if it comes to war.  No one wants another dark ages, so our council will dismiss it as an accident."

I sigh as I head over to the pantry to pull out some popcorn.  I'm exhausted from the move and the woman I stupidly asked to help me get situated in my new place.

"They're probably vampires or changers, considering the pretty girls they took.  I'll just steer clear of pretty boys for a while."

She groans while rolling her eyes.

"Don't say vampires.  It's so... juvenile.  And pretty boys aren't the only night stalkers or changers.  Pretty girls are night stalkers and changers too.  Besides, this could be lycans, werewolves, werecats, dark users… the list goes on and on, Alyssa.  I knew this was a bad idea.  Just come home with me."

Turning around, I shake my head, meeting her determined gaze with my defiant glower.  "No.  I'm twenty, and I've already been knocked out of going to college because of your paranoia.  You swore one of my professors was a changer you knew hundreds of years ago."

"He was," she growls.

Again, I'm forced to huff.  She's impossible.

"The point is, this world is deadly for anyone, yet humans exist daily, living to be of old age and dying of natural causes.  The chances of me actually running into harm are astronomical.  Stop worrying so much."

She breathes out heavily, and then she vanishes briefly to reappear on the couch.  That's one bit of magic I wouldn't mind having.  It would save me from trying to afford a car.

"It just worries me.  Promise me you'll use your powers if one of them comes after you."

Finally.

"I have no problem using paranormal against paranormal," I say with a shrug.  "I just don't want magic to be my life, not yet.  I happen to like living like a regular girl.  It's… comforting.  Now, where's my wine?"

She smirks before vanishing again, and I hear a cork being pulled free from the bottle.

 


Chapter Two

 

The diner isn't what I was expecting.  You'd think a small town would have small business, but I've hardly had a chance to breathe, due to the ridiculous volume of customers.

"Thanks," I murmur to the guy who hands me a ten for a tip.

"My pleasure.  You new around here?" he asks, his eyes staring into mine with an obvious agenda.

I check his eyes for sparks of blue to infuse, showing me his true identity, but they stay brown as he stares at me.  His hair is too light to be a night stalker, and his thudding heartbeat is too quick to be a changer.  I could be wrong, but judging by his pitiful posture and terrible wardrobe, I'd say I'm in the clear.

Just a horny human.

"Very new."  I smile sweetly, and then I start to walk away when he pulls at my hand, catching me off guard.

"We're having a large dock party tonight.  You're welcome to come.  I could introduce you to some of the locals, help you make some friends."

He seems harmless enough, but vampires... er... I mean, night stalkers... are strongest under the moonlight.  If they're here, they'll be hunting at night.  My mother would flip the hell out if I was attacked, and knowing her, she'd level the town before our council could pass a verdict.

"Um, maybe," I lie, having no intentions of risking it.

"Here," he says, releasing my hand and scribbling down an address on a napkin.  "If you decide to show, just come here.  We might take one of the boats for a cruise later tonight.  There will be a bonfire on shore."

I smile, showing a little gratitude, and then I wave sweetly at him after taking the proffered address.

"Thanks."

Walking away, I felt his eyes on me.  He was cute, but not my type.  Unfortunately, I've got a nasty habit for being drawn to the bad, bad, very bad boys.  I sure as hell don't want to end up like my mother.  She has worse taste in men than I do.

"Alyssa, can you stay until nine tonight?" Francine asks as I walk behind the counter.  "Darlene just called in, and we don't have anyone to cover."

"Um, yeah.  I could use the extra cash."

Crap.  So much for enjoying my first night alone in my new house.

"Thank you.  You're a life saver."

At least now I'll be one step closer to getting a car.

 

The streets are dark, and my feet are killing me.  I was supposed to get to leave at nine, but I ended up having to stay until eleven.  What a great first day.

The night is perfect at least, just a slight breeze.  Putting the diner to my back, I start walking home.  I hate walking.

A chill hits my neck, as if a breath is being blown against it, but I turn to see nothing.  Then I feel it again, and I roll my eyes.

"You can show yourself, Frankie."

No one answers, and my skin crawls.  I assumed it was Frankie, my mother's best friend.  He loves scaring the shit out of me.  But he usually always starts laughing by now.

"Frankie?" I prompt, my hand tingling at my side as my magic starts to stir, ready to be used.

Nothing happens, and no one answers.  Sighing, I turn around and slam into a hard body, almost falling to the ground before strong arms wrap around me, pulling me back to a safe balance.

"You okay?" a smooth voice asks, and I grumble to myself as I try to look up at him.

My knees wobble, my heart thuds, and my palms begin sweating as I stare into the gorgeous green eyes of a dark haired beauty.  The way I'm shivering over him means he has to be terrible for my health.

His strong, chiseled face is nothing but flawless, and his dark hair sways with the wind, making me jealous of the fact I can't touch it with such ease.

I blush when I realize my hands are resting on his incredible waist, and he smirks in a way that makes me damn near dissolve.

"I said, are you okay?" he repeats, making my cheeks heat more when I realize I've forgotten how to damn speak.

"Um… yeah… you just startled me.  Where'd you come from?"

He shrugs, nodding his head toward the diner.

"I was heading toward the diner for some pie, but I see I was too late.  They sometimes stay open a little later if there are customers lingering around."

His smile is disarming, far too perfect.  He's too frigging hot to be part of this small town… or human.

"Oh, yeah.  Sorry.  I just finished locking up."

I start walking off, but he jogs up beside me, surprising me a little.

"You aren't from around here."

I pause, not sure if I should continue trying to speak to him.  If he's a changer, I should probably keep from turning my back on him again.  If he's a night stalker, I definitely don't want to turn my back on him.

"Um, is that a question or an observation?"

"Both, I suppose."

He smiles bigger, making my heart trip over itself.  Stupid deadly beauty bull shit.  What is he?

“You're right.  I just moved here from Colorado."

He stays at my side, keeping my pace as his hands cross behind his back.

"So are you going to the dock party?  I hear it's supposed to be pretty great, and it's just up the road."

I look up, expecting to see a glisten of something in his eyes, but there's nothing there.  I can't show him my mark until he reveals himself.  It could kill a human to see it.

"No.  I don't think so.  I'm exhausted."

I start walking faster, and he keeps stride with me, his steps even and not seeming rushed like mine.

"Is Frankie your boyfriend?" he asks.

"Huh?"

"You were calling for a Frankie back there," he murmurs softly, not sounding winded like me.

"Oh.  No.  Frankie is my mom's friend.  I thought I saw him."

Or thought he was trying to scare the shit out of me.

"Ah.  Your mom lives here with you then?"

I almost stumble, but I quickly regain my composure before he has to catch me again.  I almost wish my mother did live with me right now.  She's made me a fucking basket case, and I'm freaking out a little.

For all I know, this is just one hot human.  It's not like every sexy creature is an immortal.

"Um, no.  I assumed she sent him out here to check up on me.  He likes to scare me, so I thought he was lingering in the parking lot."

He bites back a grin, seeming amused by something.  He keeps his hands behind his back, casually enjoying the night while I clamber down the sidewalk.

"You seem… scared.  Am I scaring you?"

Hell yes.

"A little… are you following me home?" I worry, trying to provoke him into revealing himself and ending this cat-and-mouse game if he's really a blood drinker.

"Not at all," he laughs.  "I'm going to the dock party.  It's just around the corner up there.  I thought it would seem creepier if I was walking behind you."

I let out a nervous laugh, finally relaxing a little, and he smiles his panty-dropping grin that makes the junction between my legs heat up and pulsate.

"Oh.  Sorry.  I'm just a little freaked out after seeing the news about the missing girls," I mutter, gauging his reaction with subtle scrutiny.

He nods, his smile fading as seriousness takes place.

"You should be.  It's unnerving.  Just be careful, and try not to walk home so late.  Why did they make you shut down alone?"

Because I'm the new girl and a sucker.

"Because the other girls wanted to go to the dock party."

"Ah.  Well, personally, I feel no party gets going good until close to midnight."

"Midnight, eh?" I ask, feeling all the more relaxed now.

Not immortal, just a bad boy human.  Crap.  I think that's even worse.

Midnight is the showing hour, and all blood drinkers loathe it because they're forced to reveal the monster they are.  It's when their fangs show against their will, and their eyes glow their true color, even though they're not ready to show themselves.

"Well, it was odd but nice meeting you.  Sorry I wasn't better company," I murmur as I start off the sidewalk and down my gravel path to my house.

"You live here?" he asks, seeming surprised, possibly a little confused.

"Yeah, why?"

"It's just… what made you choose this house?"

It was the first affordable house I found that was far away from my overbearing, paranoid, ridiculously protective mother.

"It was cheap, I needed something close to town, and it's small.  Why?  Is something wrong with it?"

He shakes his head, obviously hiding something.  "Not at all.  A friend of mine lived here a while back.  I didn't realize she was selling it."

"I bought it from a woman in her early thirties.  Jessica… Richards?  I think."

"Sounds about right," he murmurs to himself, staring at the house as though he's looking for something... someone.

He seems confused.

"Were you close to her?" I muse.

"Not really, it's just odd this place made it back on the market without my knowing."

Okay.  I'm curious now, but I'd rather talk about something other than the prior owner of my house.

He concentrates on the house for a second longer, giving me a chance to examine him better under the moonlight.  He's so much hotter than I initially thought now that I can truly gawk at him.

"I should get going," I strain out, knowing Mom would kick my ass for speaking to a dark-haired beauty in the middle of the night.  "It was nice meeting you…"

"Kane," he says softly, giving me his delicious, dissolving smile once again.

"Nice to meet you, Kane."

"I'm sure you'll see me around.  Especially since you work at the diner.  It's my main source of nourishment."

Butterflies ruffle through my stomach, and I smile involuntarily.

I don't know if I should stay or go.  Now that I finally believe he's human, I'm almost considering going to the dock party.

"I should head on before all the booze is gone.  I'll see you around, Alyssa," he says while turning away, making me sick at my stomach.

"How did you know my name?" I release in a crackle.

He just laughs, turning back, mocking my fear.

"You're still wearing your tag," he says while motioning to my shirt, and then he winks at me before walking away.

I look down to my uniform, and I roll my eyes when I see the big slab advertising my name.

Idiot.

I've officially made myself look like an absolute wreck now that I've freaked out for no real reason.

I turn around and head inside, hoping to fall right to sleep.  A shadow passes through the room, and I squeal out.

"Ha!  Knew I'd scare you," Frankie murmurs as he appears in front of me.

"Stupid warlocks," I grumble.  "I knew you were here."

He laughs harder, reveling in his successful plot to leave me shaking and breathing hard.

"I know, that's why I didn't bother showing myself back at the diner.  By the way, who was that guy you were walking with?"

A delicious human that I made myself look like a psycho in front of.

"Spying much?" I scoff while walking by him.

Frankie looks much younger and acts much younger than he actually is.  His soft eyes and timeless face remind me of what's to come.

"You told your mother you wouldn't be getting involved with any guys until the disappearances stop."

"I'm not getting involved with anyone, Frankie.  Besides, he's human."

"You're sure?"

He runs his hand through his blond hair as he stares worriedly at me.

"He would have tried something.  The streets were deserted.  All he did was accompany me on my walk since it was on his way."

"So you showed him your mark?" he asks naively.

Though he's my mother's best friend, he doesn't know all of my dark, jaded secrets.  Mom's poor taste in men left her with a daughter too strong for her own damn good.

"Um, it wasn't necessary."

He sighs and grips his head.

"Your mother isn't going to be happy about this."

"Happy about what?"  I can't think of absolutely anything I've done wrong.  Hell, I've spent all day at work.

"You coming home so late, talking to a handsome stranger, and then letting him walk away after finding out where you live."

I'm sick of this.  I've literally been one day without my mother, and already I'm getting scolded by her spy.  She's not going to make me feel like a child in my own house.  That was the entire reason I moved all the way out here to Pine Shore.

"My mother can't control my life.  Neither can you.  Now go loiter in someone else's home.  I'm taking a shower and going to bed."

He tightens his lips, knowing better than to argue with me.

"Fine, but I'll be around.  This place is crawling with immortals.  I can feel their energy.  It's a good thing your mother can't do the same, otherwise she'd be the one stalking you right now."

"Overbearing, untrusting, arrogant immortals," I mumble under my breath while heading to my room.

"I heard that," he calls from the living area, but I ignore him as I hear the front door shut behind him.

My first night, and I'm getting treated like a child who is still living with her crazy mother.  Just for that, screw them.  I'm going to the dock party.

 

I walk up, tugging at the ends of the dress I didn't realize was this short, and my eyes fall on all the drunken fools acting out.  Everyone is completely wasted right now, and I haven't had a sip.  This could either be really fun, or incredibly annoying.

"You came," a voice says from behind, and I turn to meet the guy who invited me, though he's staggering drunk.

I don't even know how he recognizes me with his heavy duty beer-goggles on.

"I thought we had a moment."

"A moment?" I muse, stifling a laugh as he reaches for me and misses.

"Yeah," he says as he tries to figure out which of the many images is actually me.

"Seeing double?" I giggle out.

"Seeing quadruple," he jokes while shaking his head.  "It's fucking wonderful since there're four of you and one of me."

When he finally finds me, his arm wraps around my waist to pull me to him.

"Hey, whoa.  Easy, Romeo," I say through my snickers while escaping his hold.

"I can show you Romeo," he slurs while leaning toward me again, and I take a step back, bumping into someone.

I look up to see Kane towering over me, and my heartbeat quickens to the point of feeling like I'm going to explode.

"I thought you weren't coming," he says with a deviously sexy smile.

"I changed my mind," I mutter softly while turning to face him, and his eyes fall down to my chest before popping back up to meet mine.

"Yo, dude, she's with me," the drunken mess murmurs while tugging at my hand.

"Please stop," I huff while struggling to pull my hand free.

Then I feel Kane leaning over me and freeing me from the grasp.

"Actually, I think Alyssa is with me, considering I'm sober."

"So am I," he says while laughing ridiculously hard.  "Alyssa is a pretty name."

I'm tempted to make his hand go crazy and splash his beer in his face, but I refrain from using magic.

Kane pulls me back behind him, tucking me safely in his grasp, and then he gently murmurs, "Actually, she's my girl.  Better luck next time, Mark."

Mark huffs and slumps down to the ground.  Fortunately, he's too drunk to even try to counter.  I smirk as Kane pulls my hand in his and leads me toward the bonfire.

"Your girl, eh?" I tease.

He laughs a little, and then he looks over his shoulder.

"It worked, didn't it?  You're here without anyone to help you rebuff their attempts, and you're wearing that," he says, motioning to my dress, his brow rising.

He offers me a glance that makes me blush, and he smirks before looking away.

"Are you trying to say you like my dress?" I flirt, and his smile grows.

He props up against the side of a truck and studies me intently, making me feel a little on display.  The intensity of his green eyes is mesmerizing, and the way his dark hair plays with the wind is breathtaking.

"You're a little confusing, Alyssa," he says while tilting his head.  "You seemed terrified of me earlier, and yet now you're here, flirting with me."

Way to be obvious, Alyssa.

"I thought your girl was supposed to flirt with you," I say jokingly to lighten the mood, praying I don't look like the mess I feel I do.

"Cute.  So, why'd you change your mind about coming?" he says softly, shifting as he puts his hands in his pocket.

Five seconds ago he seemed so confident, and now he seems nervous.

"Long story.  So, are these people your friends?"

He lets his eyes drift around, taking in the partiers as he mulls that over.

"Some of them.  You want me to introduce you around?" he asks curiously while hopping up on the tailgate of a truck.

"Um, nah.  I'm not staying long.  I just wanted to see what all the fuss was about."

And I secretly wanted to see him again - possibly to piss my mother off.  Great.  I had to move out before I had the courage to start acting rebellious.

"Well, now you see a bunch of lake-loving drunks.  Some fun, huh?" he says through a laugh, making me chuckle lightly while nodding in agreement.

I look down to see it's almost midnight.

"So much for your theory - the fun gets started at midnight.  It looks like it gets sloppy after eleven."

He laughs ridiculously hard, and then he lifts me up, as though I weigh nothing, to pull me beside him on the tailgate of the truck.  His unexpected touch makes my breath hitch, but I play it off without letting him know how he just affected me.

"You'll have to come to one of my parties sometime.  This one shouldn't be setting the bar for this place.  I wouldn't have come if I had known it'd be this pathetic."

"You live close to here?" I muse, given the way he said it.

"Yeah, two houses over.  You should come by sometime, seriously.  We have a party at least once a week.  My roommates are relentless hell-raisers."

I smile lightly, and then I tug at my dress when I see it has risen almost too high.  He looks down and smirks.

"Pink's a good color on you," he murmurs, his eyes motioning to my dress.

I start to thank him when a group of people walk up to us.  They're laughing and talking

"Hey, Kane," one girl says.  "We're ditching the dud party and having the after party at our place.  You coming?"

He looks to me and smirks.  "Told you."

I force a smile, but my stomach is almost queasy.  There's no way this many hot-as-hell people are all in one group without them being some sort of immortals.  Maybe they're harmless though.

Or maybe you just think he's hot and now you're making excuses.

Girls are missing.  And here is a group of immortals, but I know Kane isn't.  They're not blood drinkers... they can't be.  It's now after midnight, and no one is revealing themselves.  Midnight is the waking hour when their victims' deaths force the curse of revelation.  They're planning to party, not hide.

"You coming?" a guy prompts, his eyes questioning Kane.  "You can bring your… new girl."

His eyes rake over me once before looking to Kane to give him a smile of approval, and Kane lets out a laugh.

"I'll see.  You guys head on."

They all start walking off, though one girl turns around to burn through me with her glare.  She's the only girl without a guy's arm draped around her, and I start wondering if she's into Kane.  I sure as hell don't need to make enemies with her until I know what she is.

"Girlfriend?" I muse as she turns around, my eyes still watching her carefully.

"Don't have one."

I turn back to see his eyes staring into mine, his far too sexy grin making my skin heat up, and I almost shiver in response.

"Cold?" he asks while leaning toward me.

"No, um… I just…. I need to get going."

I struggle to slide off the truck gracefully when my legs stick to the tailgate.  Suddenly I'm being lifted and sliding down a wonderfully hard body as Kane lowers me to the ground.

Oh damn.

Everything on me is tingling to be touched by him right now, and I'm almost looking forward to the sort of mistakes I could make.

He brushes my hair from my shoulder while wrapping his arm around my waist, and then he starts ushering me through the crowd.

"I'll walk you home.  It's late, and you shouldn't be walking back by yourself."

If he really is human, along with his model friends, then I'd be the one protecting him.  If he's not human, and I'm being played, my mom is going to kick my ass.

"I'll be fine.  You should probably go monitor your party-animal roommates."

He lets free a grin that sends the most heated chills through my bones, making my heart thud loudly.

"So, it's not me you're scared of, but being alone with me?  I think you might have a bit of a crush, Alyssa," he teases, his green eyes burning into mine without fear.

I'm such a damn girl.

"Um… I don't… we… I-"

"Look, I'm walking you home.  You can't go walking around by yourself this late right now.  I'd like to see you again - somewhere other than the missing flyers."

I swallow hard, and he takes my hand in his as he starts pulling me away from the party.  Now I want to go to his party.

"So... what about going to your party?" I ask, surprising myself.

"You want to go?" he muses, his smile etching up more.

"Is it going to be like this?" I laugh lightly, trying to sound more respectable than a stammering fool.

"Not at all.  It'll be more laid back."

"Then… yeah.  I want to go."

Cop lights begin flashing as sirens squeal out, and Kane shakes his head while pulling out his phone.

"You might want to can the after party.  The cops are here," he says into the phone, and then he hangs up and turns to me.  "How old are you?"

"Um, twenty.  Why?"

"You're underage.  Come on.  I'll get you out of here."

He tugs me through a wooded area, forcing me to quicken my pace.  He stays quiet and alert, checking from side to side with each step.  I can't help but admire the view he's giving me, letting me walk behind him.  I'm so pathetic.

Before I know it, we've hit the sidewalk of the streets.

"That was one hell of a short cut.  I wish I had known about it on the way there."

He turns to me, stopping our retreat and shakes his head.

"Don't go through those woods without me.  It's crazy dangerous, especially at night.  Two of the girls that are missing went in one night, and they were never seen again."

I smile a little at his protective tone.

"And you think you can protect me?" I ask, delighting in the warm feeling his words have given me.

"I know I can," he says with that damn heart-stopping grin before pulling me again.

Our fingers stay interlocked as we head down the sidewalk, and then I frown when I see my house coming into view.

"Do you think the cops will be at your house?"

"Probably," he chuckles out.  "We've had so many parties interrupted by them that it's just common for us to get the blame.  It'll be fine though.  We're all legal adults."

"Oh," I say somewhat disappointedly.

I was hoping for an excuse to invite him in without looking like a lusting, hormonal fool.  Something about him makes my blood stir with primal need.  I wanted to feel those perfectly smooth lips on my skin, devouring me.

"Your eyes," he murmurs softly.  "Wow."

Oh shit.

I quickly look away, praying my eyes die down.  Fucking mood stone eyes.

"It's like they were turning different colors," he says with a touch of suspicion.

I laugh dismissively, trying to downplay the slip up.  "Turning on the smooth talk?"

Out of all the immortals, my eyes are the only ones to do this.  No one in my family knows why, and I hate it.  Every emotion I have comes through almost too clearly when it gets too strong.  I was definitely feeling a strong emotion - desire.

"Not at all," he says with a smile as he walks me to my front door.  "I suppose I'll see you tomorrow."

"Tomorrow?" I ask, feeling my eyes fully back to normal.

"At the diner."

"Oh… yeah."

"I'm going to vote they make this your new uniform," he says with a devious grin while motioning to my showy dress.

I let out a small laugh, but then I'm trapped in his eyes as he props up against my door and stares at me.  It's like time has slowed, and I'm considering risking everything and pulling him inside.

"Are you going in?" he asks, his smile growing.

My cheeks flush, and I look down at my feet.

"Yeah.  Sorry.  Bye," I mumble as I wiggle my keys in the lock.

When my door opens, I step inside and turn to see him again just as he walks off my porch.  I really thought he was going to at least try to kiss me.

"You know where I live if you need me for anything," he says with his back turned.

"Actually, I don't," I say, smiling, and he turns to face me before I continue.  "You said you lived two houses down, but you didn't say in which direction."

He smiles this time, and then he shrugs before walking back toward me.  He gets dangerously close, letting his breath find my lips for a split second, and then he pulls back with my phone in his hand.

I was so enthralled and entranced by his near kiss that I never felt him pulling my phone out of my hand.  My breaths are heavy now, and then I hear a phone ringing - the sound coming from his pocket.  He smirks as it quits and hands me back my phone.

"Now you've got my number.  It's up to you whether or not you want to program it."

He starts walking away again, and I prop up while murmuring, "That goes both ways."

He turns around with his phone in his hand and waves it in front of him.

"Already done."

My heart flips over, and then the shadows swallow him as he disappears into the woods again.

Oh damn.

Obviously, I program his number in my phone before I even shut the damn door.  I glance around one last time before stepping inside, but something catches my eye before I can lock up.

There's a tall, lean figure in the distance across the street, and I hear the breaths growing rasp as a second figure goes limp in his arms.  Though they're in the shadows and between two houses, I can still somewhat make out what's going on, horrified by the reality I had hoped I wouldn't run into.

Night stalker.

Without any regard for my own safety, I throw off my heels and take off running, throwing my arms out to release my attack, and impacting him with my invisible force.  The feeding figure flies backwards, thudding against a house, and an alarm sounds as a window shatters.

Lights from several of the houses around us flash on in response to the loud wails.  The lights cast a bright glow on the scene of the crime, and I hear a hissing noise as the dark figure disappears into the shadows to avoid sight.  I rush over to the collapsed body on the ground, and my heartbeat charges fiercely as I slip her blond hair to the side to see the marks of proof on her neck.

Definitely a night stalker.  Changers have larger fangs, leaving bigger bite marks.  Lycans and Were are beasts who only feed in changed form, and that was a man's silhouette.

A guy rushes out of a house with his boxers and robe on - his white, hairy belly bouncing as he charges toward us with a bat.  He stumbles to a halt and turns pale when he sees the barely breathing girl's head cradled in my arms.

"Call an ambulance!" I scream.  "She's dying!"

Others rush out, and within seconds, I hear the whooping sounds of help on the way.  I only pray no one saw my release of power.  The council will string me up if they did.

 


Chapter Three

 

"Are you crazy, Alyssa?" Mom scolds through the phone.

No, just really unlucky.

"He was killing her.  What was I supposed to do?"

No good deed goes unpunished.  Calypso Coldwell punishes me for every good deed I do.

"It's not your place to get involved.  Night stalkers kill to live.  You can't go painting yourself a target by interrupting their meal."

"He was feeding in the open.  If anything, he painted himself a target.  Besides, they don't have to kill in order to live, they just need blood.  They don't have to pick young, pretty girls, but they choose to.  I simply reminded him that they’re not the only ones in the damn universe, and some of us don't approve of killing."

She groans, exasperation in her long, drawn-out breath.  "Alyssa, you're still incredibly vulnerable right now.  Going after a feeding night stalker is suicide.  That's it.  I'm coming to stay with you."

"You can't, Mom.  They need you in Tibet for the ceremonies.  You're the priestess.  I'm fine.  I can handle myself, and he never saw my face.  Don't worry."

"Then I'm calling Frankie to follow you."

"If Frankie starts following me, I'm going to be on edge.  His favorite pastime is scaring the shit out of me.  Definitely not."

She sighs loudly, her mind searching for a way to keep me safe.  I tuck the phone closer to me as I walk up to the diner.

"Look, I've got to head into work right now.  I'll be fine.  Don't worry.  You do need to say something to the night... um… their council about openly eating dinner… if you know what I mean."

"Oh believe me, I will."

I nod, as if she can see me, and then I hang up the phone before she has time to reprimand me more.  I'm the only person in the world who gets in trouble for saving a life.

Sheesh.

 

"Thanks for staying late again, Alyssa," Mary, another waitress murmurs as she strips off her apron.

"It's fine.  It's dead in here anyway.  I should be able to handle it by myself."

I have one customer who is simply here for the Wifi.  He's about my age with black hair, tattoos peeking up from his shirt collar, and a piercing on his right eyebrow.  I've studied him too much, since it's a little dull in here tonight.

I've barely seen his face though.  He's kept his back to us since he arrived an hour ago.

Mary smiles, offering me a farewell-wave, and heads out to throw her arms around a beefed up guy who is leaning against his car.  I smirk as they entangle in a rather showy kiss, and then I flip on my phone to pick up reading my book where I left off.

"Need anything?" I ask the guy who has no interest in spending a dime in the diner.

"No, still fine," he chirps.

I hear the door open, and I look up to see a tan guy with onyx, glistening hair, as he walks in.  His eerie smile sends shivers down my spine, and I glance over to see the human in the corner shiver too.

Looking back, I see his glowing blue eyes spark and flicker before dying back down to a deep brown.

Shit.  Vampire.

Swallowing hard, I murmur, "Can I help you?"

He smiles bigger, malice burning in his eyes as he sits down at the bar directly in front of me.

"What time do you close?"

"Um, an hour."

"Ah.  Then I'll take some coffee while I wait."

I get sick as he stares at me, and I slowly back up, refusing to pull my eyes away.  He knows who I am, and I know who he is.  He's the night stalker from last night.

"You shouldn't be in here right now.  You know what I am," I almost whisper.

"You shouldn't have meddled in my meal and then sent the council after me," he growls.

I narrow my eyes as I place the cup of coffee in front of him, and then I do my best to act composed and in control.

"You shouldn't have been in the open.  You risk us all when you kill like that," I murmur in a nearly muted tone.

The sparks in his eyes ignite more fiercely as he smirks all the more - the devil's air in his breath.

"Well, I was famished, and there she was - drunk and alone."

"That's not how things work and you know it."

"Neither is interrupting one's kill.  You're just lucky no one wants a damn war."

I laugh a little louder than I meant to, and he glares at me.

"No one would start a war over this shit," I daringly release through my mocking laughter.  "You're a speck in a world far larger than you.  Interrupting your brazen, open kill was nothing but warranted in the eyes of everyone's councils.  I pray someone caught it on tape, and then they'll exterminate you."

He shakes his head, smiling more.  "If they saw me, they saw you.  You might want to recant that last little bit."

My feigned confidence doesn't waver, and I keep the conversation below the register a human can hear.  "The force I used was invisible.  You had a girl bent backwards with your fangs dug in.  All they'll see is you mysteriously flying backwards and me screaming for help as I rush to her body.  Believe me, I've ran through it a time or two."

He snarls, his eyes sparking blue again and his fangs slip free.

"How about I just pick up with you where I left off with her?"

He smirks as he stands, acting as though he's about to prove he hasn't just made an empty threat.  But then the door sounds out as new customers arrive, halting him from trying anything.

Thank God.

He snarls louder as he turns, and a wave of butterflies crash through my stomach when I see Kane and his friends walking in.

He smiles as he walks toward the counter, and then his smile falls when he sees the damn vampire still ready to rip my throat out.

"Hey," he says softly, his eyes returning to me and studying my face.

I try to seem casual, not wanting to give this fanged son of a bitch any ideas about going after Kane in order to get revenge on me.

"Hi," I say very professionally, showing indifference instead of pure lust.  "What can I get you?"

He frowns, feeling my chilly demeanor, and then he shrugs.  "Um, five coffees and a slice of pie each," he murmurs with a bit of disappointment.

I glance back to the night stalker, and then I head over to the coffee.  He won't attack with eyes on us.  He's in enough trouble as it is.

"I'll bring it to your table," I say with my back turned, and I hear a slight huff as Kane walks away.

"Thanks."

When I turn back, the night stalker is staring at me, slowly sipping his coffee, but I ignore him as I head over to Kane's table - the oversized corner booth.  The girl who glared at me the night before is sitting by his side, her body touching his.

Maybe it's good I'm being cold.  It seems he has someone already much too into him, and he obviously doesn't mind the attention, since he's sitting by her.

Without speaking, I pass out the coffee and pie, avoiding eye contact with Kane, and then I force an obligatory smile before wandering back behind the counter.  They're too close for the night stalker to say more, so he continues to stare at me, trying to scare me.

This could get bad when we're alone, so I decide to text Frankie.  I know he's still in town.

Night stalker in diner.  Could use your help.

This will cement my mother's fear, and I know she'll be out here as soon as she's finished with the ceremonies.

Crap.

Almost instantly, the door swings open, and in walks Frankie.  Kane's head turns to investigate, and he watches the night stalker watching me as Frankie takes a seat at his side.

I smirk as Frankie cracks his fingers, warming up to intimidate the fanged asshole.  "I'll take some coffee, Miss."

I stifle a laugh, and I serve him his coffee as requested, my eyes studying the night stalker who is oblivious to the immortal on his side.  Realizing we're out of cream, I head to the back to grab a fresh stash.

As I turn around, I gasp for air when I see a body standing too close.  I sigh in relief when I see it's Kane.

"You keep scaring the shit out of me," I grumble, shoving him lightly, and he smirks.

"I was starting to wonder if you recognized me."  He almost pouts, making me tingle in all the wrong places.

I can't fight my foolish grin, and then I roll my eyes.  "I recognize you, but I'm at work."

He smiles as he leans over, and his arm presses against the wall over my head.

"Is that guy bothering you?  You seem a little rattled around him."

Knowing he'd probably say something to him, I decide it's best to lie.  I don't need Kane throwing himself in the middle of a vampire/witch debacle.

"No.  I'm just not used to working so long.  Apparently the new girl gets used and abused the first few days."

He smiles bigger, and then he leans back.

"What are you doing after work?" he asks while propping up on some crates behind him.

"Why?  You having another party?"

He lets out a small laugh and shakes his head.  "No party, but I wouldn't mind you coming over… if you want to that is."

"You wouldn't mind me coming over?  That doesn't sound like much of an invitation," I tease while stacking a few more boxes of stuff in the corner, pretending to stay busy so I don't fall prey to his emerald green eyes.

"I suppose it didn't.  Let me rephrase it.  Would you like to come over after work?"

Trying not to grin like a girly idiot, I shrug as I turn around.  "I could, but it'll be late.  I'm closing up at eleven, and then I'll need to go change and wash away the diner."

"I could come to your place if you prefer," he suggests, his lips turning up in a seductive grin.

We'd be alone at my place, and I don't know if that's a good idea… Definitely not a good idea.

"That sounds better, actually," I blurt out.  What?  "You want to meet me there around eleven thirty?"

I've lost my damn mind.

"I'll just swing by and walk you home.  I don't like the vibe I'm getting from that guy.  I don't mind waiting in your living room."

Oh damn.  Tell him no.  Tell him never mind.

"Sounds good."

Dumbass girl.

"Great," he says with a smile, and then he ushers me back out.

I glance over to the counter to see Frankie sipping his coffee beside the night stalker who seems a little paler now.  Frankie gives me a wink, letting me know he just gave the lone stalker a hint that I have backup.

Kane glances over his shoulder, making butterflies stir when his eyes meet mine, and then he slides back into the booth beside the girl who is now fuming.

"Would you like some more coffee, sir?" I ask while staring at the less antagonistic night stalker.

"No thank you," he says, and then clears his throat.  "I should be on my way."

He stands up and throws a ten on the table before walking out with his tail between his legs.  I smile at Frankie who leans back with a triumphant grin.

"Well, that's that."

"What'd you say to him?" I whisper.

"Nothing.  Sometimes words aren't necessary," he whispers back, and then he gives me a menacing wink.  "Just give me a call if you have any more problems."

He stands up and then waves before walking out the door.

Kane turns around and comes to the counter as I wipe it clean and cash out the night stalker's coffee.

"So, it's almost eleven.  Can I just stick around?" he asks as his friends come up to leave their money behind on the counter.

"Um, if you want to," I murmur a little shakily.

He smiles as he sits down, and they all start filtering out the door.

"You coming, Kane?" one of the guys asks.

"Nah.  I'll be home later.  Don't wait up."

I blush fiercely at the way that has to sound, and the guy chuckles in response, while the girl with a black, short bobbed haircut glares at me once again.

"We're supposed to do something tonight," she grumbles.

"Do it without me," he says nonchalantly.

She rolls her eyes and follows the others out, and then Kane props up on the counter as I cash out all the tickets and pocket the extra change as my tip.

"Are you sure she's not your girlfriend?" I ask with a tense tone, my eyes not meeting his.

They're supposed to do something?  What does that mean?

"Positive," he exhales very dramatically.  "She's just a roommate, but she's got a crush… like you do."

Blushing again, I roll my eyes and walk away from his teasing grin.

"I think you're a little full of yourself," I mumble.

"Hey, you're the one who blushes every time I say something," he menaces, and I turn to see his smoldering gaze burning through me.

"You're the one in my place of work asking to come home with me," I daringly counter, my own sizzling gaze meeting his.

"I never said I don't have a crush."

I blush again, and he leans back while propping his hands up behind his head.  The lone guy in the corner with his laptop finally stands and heads out the door without so much as a thank you.

"He sat in here all night, taking up a booth, and never even ordered anything," I murmur softly to change the subject.

"Are you ready?" Kane asks, his attempt to seduce me refusing to be deterred as he ignores my statement.

I glance over my shoulder to look at the clock, and see it's five minutes past eleven.

"I suppose so.  Just give me a second to wipe down your booth and ring out the register."

"I'll get the booth, you get the register," he says with a grin before picking up my rag and heading away.

I try not to smile like a fool as I rush through the closing process.  As soon as I'm done, Kane walks over to hold the door open for me.

Locking it quickly, I turn around to see him staring at me with a gaze so sexy I'm worried my eyes are going to shift again.

"So," I murmur, looking away, "what do you want to do at my place?"

He stifles a laugh, making me blush harder, and then I shake my head.

"Not what I meant," I mumble as he walks side by side with me.

"I didn't say anything," he murmurs, feigning innocence.

"You didn't have to."

He laughs harder as we cross the road in the quiet, still night.

"I thought a movie and popcorn, if you have either.  If not, we could just head down to the lake or something."

I'd love to go to the lake with him, but we'd have no privacy there.  That's probably better.  I don't need to be alone with him.  The lake it is.

"I've got a movie and popcorn, so you're in luck."

Apparently my brain and my mouth are no longer linked together.  Good grief.

"So I should probably ask for your last name," he murmurs while running a hand through his hair.  "It's not on your tag."

I chuckle lightly and then say, "Coldwell."

He tilts his head to the side, and then he nods.

"And yours?" I muse.  "I suppose I should have asked before inviting you home with me."

A devilish upturn of his lips makes me feel as though I'm coming down with a fever.  "You should have.  That's very irresponsible of you," he seductively plays.  Then he sighs out before answering.  "It's… don't laugh… Ice."

I do laugh because he's full of shit, and he lets out a laugh of his own.

"Seriously, what is it?" I giggle out.

He pulls out his wallet while smiling and hands me his license.  My eyes fall on his surname that truly says Ice.

"Wow.  Kane Ice.  Unbelievable."

"I know," he says while putting his proof back in his back pocket.  "I've caught hell a time or two.  When people call me Vanilla I get a little agitated."

I giggle louder, and then I feel his hand grazing my back to turn me when I almost walk by my own house.

"Thanks," I murmur softly.

He bites back his grin for my completely stupid move, and he follows me up to the porch as I nervously fumble for my keys.

"If this is making you uncomfortable, we can go back to my place.  There will be plenty of people around."

Good idea.  Say yes.

"No, I'm fine," I lie, forcing a smile.

What's wrong with me?!

I push open the door, and then I quickly flip on the light to show him my very girly decorated home.

"The diner must pay more than I thought," he murmurs as he looks at my furnishings.

I smile lightly while shaking my head.  "Everything you see was a housewarming gift from my mother.  I paid for the house out of my savings, which was also started by my mother."

"Well, nevertheless, I'm impressed.  I'll wait here for you," he says while flipping on the television and sitting down on my couch.

Suddenly, the flashy sectional looks so much sexier with him on it.  His long, perfectly sculpted body makes my body start to sweat as I gape openly at his marvelous physique.

"Yeah," I finally force out, and then I quickly disappear into my bedroom.

I start tossing clothes around, trying to find something that doesn't scream slut, while also looking for something that won't make me look undesirable.  I suck at mediums.

I hear the shower turn on, and scowl at myself for letting my magic out.  The room flies into place, cleaning up my accidental mess, and then I scowl again.

Great.  Seeping magic in front of a human.  Just what I need.

My phone rings just as I walk into the bathroom, and I roll my eyes when I see who it is.

"Hey, Mom," I murmur casually.

"What are you doing with a boy in your house, Alyssa?" she scolds.

She's lost her mind, and Frankie deserves an ass kicking now.  Keeping my voice in a whisper too low to even be heard by an immortal not standing directly beside me, I answer with agitation.

"Tell Frankie thanks for ratting me out."

"It could be dangerous.  After last night-"

"He's human.  Besides, I'm sure you've got Frankie watching the house for any possible intruders."

"You're sure he's human?" she worries.

"Very.  I've been around him at midnight.  He's also been alone with me and hasn't tried anything"

She huffs out, not enjoying her total lack of control.

"Well, if something happens, just call for Frankie.  He's tuned in."

He might want to tune out.

"Sure will."

"And be careful.  Right now, you're less than a year away from your immortality.  Your emotions, hormones… everything will be a little out of whack.  Don't lose your innocence to some random guy simply because you don't have the control to stop."

"Not having this conversation," I grumble.

"If it gets too intense, just eat some of the carnations I left behind and a drop of honey."

I'm not eating flowers to keep from being horny.

"Got it."

I hang up quickly, and then I rush myself through the shower to cleanse away the burger and fries smell.

Staring at my drowned-rat imagery in the mirror, I sigh.  Against all my better judgment, I use my magic to dry and style my hair while also making my makeup appear.

"Breaking my own damn rules so I can hurry up and be with a guy," I mumble under my breath, disgusted with my eagerness.

Deciding not to dwell on my pathetic excitement, I pull on tight pair of jeans and a shirt that drapes off the side of one of my shoulders.  Feeling satisfied, I walk out to see Kane is no longer on the couch.  A twinge of worry spreads as the thought of the night stalker making his way into my house crosses my mind.

"Kane?" I say a little too crackly.

"In here," he murmurs from the kitchen.  "I hate burnt popcorn so I'm watching very closely.  I thought you were getting ready."

I smirk as I walk into the kitchen, and he turns to face me with a smile until his eyes fall on my fully redone self.  His smile falls, his eyes widen, and his mind becomes clogged with transparently scandalous thoughts.

"Something wrong?" I almost tease.

He swallows hard and then bites back a smile.  "Not at all.  I just wasn't expecting you to… well, you clean up fast."

"I learned to be quick, thanks to my mother.  She's constantly bouncing around from one task to the next."

"Well, I'm impressed again."

I grin as I smell the hint of something familiar, and then my eyes point to the microwave.

"I thought you said you hate burnt popcorn."

"Huh?" he asks with a stupefied stare, and then he turns to follow my gaze.  "Shit," he spews while jerking open the door.  He frowns as he opens the bag, and then he shakes his head.  "Sorry."

"I happen to like it that way," I say with a laugh while pulling down a bowl.

His body brushes up against mine as he pours it in, and I feel my heartbeat quickening from the accidental graze.  He swallows hard, and I look up to see him staring at me.

"You look… really good," he murmurs softly.

"Thanks," I murmur while blushing again.

His thumb reaches up to stroke my blushing cheek, and my breath catches in my throat.

"Pink really is a good color on you."

Considering I'm wearing a red top and blue jeans, it's obvious he's now referring to my blushing hue.

"Movie," I strain out, my whole body suddenly aching to feel his hands somewhere else.

He smirks lightly, and takes the popcorn from the counter to start heading into the living area.

"I picked a zombie flick.  I thought horror would be better than a chick flick, and those two were quite literally your only options."

I laugh a little and then nod.  "Sounds good."

He sits down on the large sectional with the remote in his hand, and I sit down a safe distance away from him.

"You won't be able to reach the popcorn from there.  I don't bite… unless you want me to," he jokes, his eyes sizzling through me.

I swallow hard and force a smile as I move in closer.  Our legs graze each other's and I stiffen up a little.  The smallest touch from him seems to be igniting fires all over my body, and unless he plans to extinguish them, I'll burn alive with too much contact.

"You okay?" he asks as the movie starts.

"Yeah," I shakily release while cramming some of the burnt popcorn into my mouth.

Bring on the blood and gore and kill this lust.

 

The movie is almost over, and despite the blood and guts, I'm starting to burn worse than the popcorn I almost single handedly demolished.  My leg has pushed against his more, and he's slouched down with his hand resting on his leg, close to mine.

So close to my change, my hormones really are at an all time uncontrollable level.  This was so stupid.  I hate to admit this, but I should have listened to my mother.

"I'll be right back," I murmur uncomfortably while standing up.

He pauses the movie before tilting his head.

"Too much?" he asks, motioning toward the horror scene.

Not enough.  I need something to completely kill my desire to rip his clothes off right now.

"Um, nah.  I just need something to drink.  You want something?"

"Do you have any wine or anything?" he asks curiously.

"Yeah.  White or red?"

"White, please."

I smile and nod while diving into the kitchen.  I grab the carnations that are resting in the window and bite through the petals while digging around the cabinets for my honey.  As soon as I find it, I turn it up and let the slow-falling, sticky mess fall into my mouth.

I swallow hard, and then cringe as the two combine.  I grab a cup of water to force it all down, and then I take in a deep breath.

Slowly, the intense feelings start to relieve, and I sigh almost happily.

"Need some help?" Kane asks as he walks in, making me squeal a little from the surprise.

"Sorry," he chuckles out.  "I suppose I shouldn't subject you to zombies and then sneak up on you."

I laugh uneasily, and then I turn to start pulling down the wine glasses.

"It's fine.  I'm always a little jumpy."

I turn back around to see him propped up, looking far too damn good, and all the relief the carnations and honey gave me dissipates.  The look he's giving me is just as carnal and raw as the one I'm giving him.

My control doesn't merely waver, it snaps, and I launch myself at him.  I grip him behind the neck to pull him down, and his hands curl around my ass to jerk my hips against him.

His perfect, soft lips collide with mine in the most incredible way, and then his tongue slips in with a commanding force, exploring my mouth.  Everything south on me heats up, and then he jerks me up and spins me around to put me on the counter.

I moan into his mouth, making him pull me tighter to him as my legs wrap around his waist, locking him to me.  His arousal digs into the center of my pants, making me all the hotter as my fingers slide up to tangle in his hair.

Before I know what's going on, his hand slides under my shirt, finding one of my breasts through my bra, making me moan all the harder.

"Damn, you taste good," he murmurs against my lips, and then suddenly my shirt is over my head and on the floor as his hands slip over my bra strap to unclasp it.

I should stop him.  This can't be sane.

Instead, I jerk him tighter to me, bringing his lips back to mine as my chest becomes bare.  I hear the clap of my bra slapping the floor, and then I feel him lifting me from the counter and carrying me toward the bedroom.

I gasp when my back hits the bed, and then his lips start trailing down my neck, heating me to my core.  I suck in a breath when his hot, wet breath finds my nipple to send tingling shots of excitement shooting through me.

I grip his head, bringing him closer as he starts unbuttoning my pants.

"Alyssa, I can slow down," he murmurs while letting his lips travel to my other breast to give it some attention.

"Please don't."

His ravaging motions pick up, and I tug his shirt over his head to reveal a body I only thought I was prepared to see.

"Oh damn," I breathe, and he smiles salaciously as he finishes unclasping my pants.

"I should be the one saying that.  You're fucking ridiculous," he murmurs while his lips find the hollow of my neck.

His hands push down the open pants, and his fingers slide down to find the slick telltale proof of my arousal.

A deep moan exudes from the back of his throat, and I keep my eyes closed to prevent him from seeing the rolodex of crazy shades my eyes are flooding through right now.

"Damn, you're so wet," he murmurs, only making me want him inside me all the more.

I start undoing his belt, and he rips my pants free while I struggle.  I can't look.  I know my eyes are in hyper-drive right now, and he'd freak the hell out if he saw them.

Then I feel his bare body between mine - apparently he decided to help me out.  His erection brushes up against my leg as his lips find the center of my breastbone, and my whole body arches as my panties become drenched from his touch.

His lips slide back up to meet mine, dragging out the suspense.  All I can think about is getting him inside me, and I just learned his last name.  I met him yesterday.  This is crazy.

"Kane," I exhale with my heavy breath, making his moans louder as his erection presses against me through my underwear.

I've never wanted anyone so badly in all my life, and I barely even know him.

Someone pounds on my door, interrupting our crazy hot moment, and he leaps up from the bed to grab his pants.

"Are you expecting anyone?" he breathlessly releases.

"No.  Don't answer it," I grumble, knowing damn well Frankie is here to douse our fire.

He drops back down to me, even though now his jeans have been pulled back up.  He falls between my legs, and his mouth begins owning mine once again.

"Kane," a guys voice yells through the door.

"Shit," Kane gripes as he stands up again.  "I'm so sorry."

"Who is it?" I murmur with a bit of a frazzled tone while covering up with my sheet.

"It's Deke, one of my roommates.  I'll be right back."

I watch as he quickly buttons his pants, and then he pulls his shirt on while rushing out the door.

How did he know where I live?

"What the hell, man?" I hear Kane gripe.

"Sorry, it's Amy.  She's kind of… gone.  I think she got upset about you going off with this chick.  We need to find her before-"

"Fine.  Fuck," Kane interrupts.  "Just give me a second."

Amy?  The chick who's obviously in love with him?

I hear him rushing back through, and suddenly I feel incredibly stupid for having allowed myself to be with him.  I should have known he had a damn girlfriend.

"Hey," he murmurs as he walks back into the room.  "Something came up, and I have to go.  I'm really, really sorry, but can I see you tomorrow?"

He walks over to the bed and takes a seat on the edge as I cling to the covers.

"Um, I don't know.  Just call me, and I'll see what I've got going on."

He looks at me sideways, as if he's trying to see through me.

"Alyssa, I swear this is the last thing I want to do right now, but I have to.  Will you please see me tomorrow… or later today rather?" he asks while looking at the absurd hour on the clock.

"I told you, call me.  I don't know what I'll have going on," I murmur, my chill extinguishing the roaring flames.

He sighs out while gripping his head as Deke yells, "Come on, Kane.  We've got to get going before she does something stupid."

Kane cringes, apparently not wanting me to hear that, and I look away, not letting on I've already heard more.

"Alyssa, I'll call you after while.  I'm sorry," he murmurs while leaning over to kiss me.

I offer him my weakest, coldest kiss, and he pulls back looking torn about what to do.  It's just sex he's passing up.  He's doing me a huge favor by bailing out before I offer my first time to a creep.

He groans as he finally gets up, and then he walks out to leave me in my shameful bed that is laughing at me for my nearly foolish decision.

I hear the door shut, and then it wiggles as he checks to make sure it's locked.  I feel sick at my stomach, and I rise up to rush to the bathroom and expel the proof of my shame.

"So stupid," I mumble while leaning over the toilet.

Wiping my mouth, I stand up and head back into my room to pull on a pajama shirt and a pair of pants that match.  A huff falls free when I see his boxers he failed to put on his haste.  I pick them up and carry them to the wash, along with my uniform and clothes that all smell like him.

Tossing them all in at once, I flip on the wash and head back to my living room to finish watching the zombie movie still that is paused.

"Bring on the blood, guts, and death."

 


Chapter Four

 

My phone buzzes for the fifth time during my shift, and I silence it when I see Kane's number.  I groan inwardly and lean over the counter, burying my head in my hands while yawning.

Butterflies and nerves rattle around aimlessly when I look up to see him and two of his guy roommates heading toward the diner.

Squealing lightly, I rush to the back to hide from the mistake I desperately wanted to make.  Cindy, another waitress, gasps while putting out her cigarette she's not supposed to be smoking inside.

"Please don't tell," she squeaks.

"I won't if you'll make Kane and the others believe I'm not at work."

She tilts her head.  "Kane Ice?  He's here to see you and you don't want to see him?" she gushes in disbelief.

"Please," I urge.

She nods hesitantly and then heads around to do my dirty work for me.  I listen in to Kane's smooth voice talking to someone else.

"Can I speak to Alyssa Coldwell, please?"

"She's-"

"Actually," Cindy interrupts, "Alyssa left earlier today.  We felt sort of bad for making her work over so much two nights in a row, so I told her I'd cover for her tonight."

"Oh.  Did she say where she'd be going?" he asks disappointedly.

"I think she was going to meet one of her friends."

Damn it, Cindy.  I'm new to town.  I don't have any friends yet.

"Sounds like you fucked up," one of his friends chuckles.

Kane lets out a trapped breath of air before responding.  "If you see Alyssa, will you tell her I stopped by?"

"Sure," Cindy chirps.

He sighs reluctantly, and I peek around the corner as he and his friends disappear out the door.  Cindy squeals in excitement as she rejoins me, and then she throws her hands up like what-the-hell.

"Seriously?" she releases in a girly octave.  "Kane Ice is into you and you're hiding from him?  What is wrong with you?"

I'm a witch on the verge of turning immortal and I want to fuck his brains out.  Probably shouldn't say that.

"He's… too… complicated," I murmur in a huff while returning to the floor to start refilling drinks.

"You've lost your mind.  If Kane Ice is looking to talk to you, you run toward him, not away."

She continues following me around like a new puppy as I smile and refill drinks, and then I turn to see her with her hands on her hips.

"I knew blonds have all the fun," she gripes, and I glance in the mirror to see my hair has gotten lighter and lighter.  In less than a month, I've gone from having a light brown color to a nearly solid, golden blond.

Crap.  Soon I'll match my mother too damn much.

"Well, it's not as much fun as it looks.  Listen, just drop it, please.  I'm not trying to get involved with anyone right now."

Her shoulders drop as she silently pouts.  "Fine," she grumbles.  "So, tonight, will you-"

"No.  I can't work over tonight.  My shift ends in an hour, and I'm going to get off my feet for one night," I crankily murmur as I glance to see it's nearly six.

She chuckles a little and shakes her head.  "I wasn't going to ask you to stay over.  Some friends of mine are having a little party up the road, and I was wondering if you'd come.  Apparently you draw in the right attention."

The praise in her eyes doesn't go unnoticed.  She really thinks I've got something special.  She'd feel stupid for thinking such a thing if she knew he ran off to be with Amy - while I was naked!

I offer a tight smile, and then I glance around the diner to see if I'm finished for now.

"Sure.  I've got nothing better to do."

"Great," she squeals, clapping her hands once after jumping up.

"Kane won't be there, will he?" I worry.

"He's never come to one of their parties before.  It's usually just a small gathering of the same old people, but tonight they've got some of the vacationers coming.  There're supposed to be some serious hotties."

I smile and then head back behind the counter just as my phone buzzes again.

Kane.

Eventually he'll take a hint.  For now, I've just got to dodge and ignore him.

 

Cindy's arm loops through mine as we head into the house too close to where Kane lives.  I hadn't realized how very close we'd be, or I would have said no.

"You're sure he won't be here?" I rattle out nervously.

"Like I said, he's never come before.  One of his roommates doesn't get along with Heath, my friend's husband."

"Okay," I murmur with some relief.

"So, what's the deal?" she muses.  "With Kane I mean."

He's the bad boy I almost threw my virginity at, only to have him run out in the middle of the night to go be with another girl after she got upset.

"Long, weird, terrible story.  Where's the booze?"

She laughs and then grabs me a cup full of a liquid stout enough to raise the dead.

"Whoa," I cough out.

She laughs and then clanks her plastic cup against mine before sucking it back.  I cringe as the tart, bitter taste lingers in my mouth after I've forced it down, but at least I should be able to get drunk.

"Hey," a tall, blond, smoking hot guy murmurs far too close to me.

"Hey yourself," I lightly flirt while turning my cup up again.

"Hey," Cindy squeaks, her red curls bouncing with excitement.

He smiles at her briefly, and then he turns his attention back to me.

"I'm Thad.  And you?" he asks curiously.

"Alyssa.  Are you a vacationer?"

"No, I just moved in a little across the way, close to Midbrook and Holtz."

"Awesome, Alyssa lives around there," Cindy interjects.

He tilts his head to the side, and then he leans up beside me while clanking the side of his cup to mine.

"Here's to new neighbors then," he says with a sexy grin, making me flush a little.  Another bad boy.  Just my luck.

"I suppose so."

Cindy frowns, possibly feeling ignored, and she wanders off to leave me alone with Mr. Blond Heaven.

"So, how long have you lived here?" he asks while getting a little closer.

"Less than a week," I chuckle out, and he lets a laugh free as well.

"Well then, I guess we're both the new kids on the block."

"I guess we are," I murmur while turning up the glass.  "So how do you know the people that live here?"

"I don't," he laughs.  "I'm a total party crasher.  I guess I'm busted, but I thought it'd be a good way to meet some of the locals."

"Well, instead you met me.  Another newbie."

He smirks, but doesn't laugh like I do.  "I'd say this was a party worth crashing."

I blush lightly, and then Cindy walks back in.

"Hey, Alyssa, come here.  I want to introduce you to Misty and Heath."

I turn to face the platinum blond vision, and then I hold my hand out to shake his.

"I guess I should go mingle.  It was nice meeting you, Thad."

He smiles, pulling my hand to his lips instead of shaking it, and then he plants a soft, sweet kiss on the back.  "It was very nice to meet you, Alyssa."

The way he looks at me makes me blush again, and I turn away, happy that someone else is interested in me besides Kane - the asshole who left me naked in bed while he went to find his missing girlfriend.

Time to drink until I can quit thinking about him.

 

The howls of the drunk exude the howls of the wild as I giggle over every stupid joke told.  Staggering, I make my way outside where Heath is standing.

"This is a great party," I slur.

He laughs, though nothing is funny, and I laugh too while hanging off the back deck overlooking the lake.

"I'm glad you came."

"Me too," I chirp while chugging another guzzle.

He smiles as he leans toward me, and a sick feeling strikes my gut right before he jerks me forward into a kiss.  I push him back with all my strength to shove him off while wiping his slobber from my face.

"What the hell?" I scold.  "You're married."

He laughs and shakes his head.  "Lighten up.  It's a party."

He starts toward me again, and I dart underneath his drunken grasp and rush down the stairs to escape him, happy to reach the yard.

"Alyssa, I can play this game," he chuckles out, and I start scouring the party in search of Thad, praying he's still here.

I'm not surprised when I don't find him - since I haven't seen him in hours - and I start running to escape the drunken fool following too close behind.

My phone buzzes, and I juggle it up to my ear, hoping it's Frankie getting ready to scoop in and save me.

"Are you seeing this?" I  ask, though my drunken stupor has made my words sound unintelligible and malformed.  "Where the hell are you already, Frankie?  I need your help."

"Alyssa?  Are you drunk?" Kane's voice sounds out, and I get all the sicker as silence steals my breath, his voice concreting my feet to the ground.  "Alyssa, where are you?"

The music blares louder as several drunken people stagger out of the house, and then I feel arms wrapping around me far too tightly.

"Let me go!" I yell while struggling under Heath's grasp.

"I've got you now," he chuckles out.

"Alyssa, damn it!  Where are you?!" Kane demands.

"I swear I'll break you like a damn twig if you don't let me go right now!" I screech.

My phone drops to the ground as I start trying to free myself from this asshole's grip.  If I use my power on him, I'm breaking the law of the light.  If I don't use it, I'll probably end up dealing a consequence that I'm not willing to face.

I finally get enough leverage to stomp his foot, making him yelp and loosen his grip, and giving me the chance to start running again.  I cry out as I stumble and crash to the ground, but knowing that scum is right behind me, I pull myself up and start running again.

I look over my shoulder to see Heath gaining on me, and suddenly I'm brought to an abrupt halt as I slam into a hard body.  New arms wrap around me to keep me from collapsing to the ground.

"Alyssa," Heath chuckles out from not far behind, but when I look up, I see the fury burning in Kane's eyes as his grip on me tightens.

Shit!  How'd he find me?

"Kane," Heath murmurs in surprise as his groggy eyes zoom in.

"Heath," Kane strains out through gritted teeth.  "I think you should get back to your wife, don't you?"

His grip tightens on me more when my legs try to give out, and Heath's eyes glaze over with fear as Kane stares him down.

"Um, yeah," the stupid ass murmurs, and then he turns to walk away, leaving me alone with the guy I damn near gave something I couldn't get back.

He breathes out heavily, watching Heath until he staggers off into the shadows, and then he looks down to me.

"You okay?" he says too sincerely.

"Peachy," I mumble while trying to wobble free from his grip.

"Damn, you're so drunk right now," he sighs while catching me before I lose my footing again.

"So what?"

He doesn't have time to answer before the heel on my shoe breaks and I go falling forward.  I tense up, but I'm suddenly going up before I hit the ground.  Kane pulls me into his arms in a bridal-style carry.

"Kane, please put me down.  I want to go home," I gripe while struggling.

"I'm sure you do, but you're too drunk to walk, and quite frankly, I'm not taking you home until I know you're not going to have alcohol poisoning."

"That's a little melodramatic," I scoff.

"No, ignoring me all day, staying away from your house, and then getting drunk at some random party where you don't have any friends there to have your back is melodramatic."

His tone is almost scolding, and I start to laugh at how absurd he sounds.

"Stalk me much?"

His jaw tenses, proving he's a little madder than I realized.

"Alyssa, you're obviously pissed, and all I want is a chance to explain about last night."

"It's fine.  I'm sure Amy was thrilled to have you come after her, especially when she found out you left me naked in the bed to run out."

He huffs loudly, cursing under his breath, and then he murmurs, "You heard that?  Why didn't you just say something?"

I squirm uselessly in his powerful grip.  I'm too drunk to be very strong right now.  Fuck it.

"Sounded like a personal problem, and it was obvious I was the other woman."

He groans, frustration rolling over him as he readies himself for the big explanation.

"Not even close to being the case.  Yes, Amy is a little obsessed with me, but I've never been with her.  She's just my damn roommate," he grumbles, as if he's exasperated.  "She gets a little crazy, but we usually just calm her down."

"How?  Do you put her back in her cage?" I mumble sardonically, not really meaning for him to hear, but he lets a laugh out.

"Something like that," he snickers.

Obviously I didn't say that as quietly as I meant to.

"How did you find me?"

He motions behind him with his head, though I have no idea what he's motioning to.

"The music.  It's not like we haven't heard it thudding every time we go outside.  We don't go to Heath's parties, but I would have shown up sooner, had I known you were there."

"Why?  So you could tell me all about leaving me naked in the bed to go chase after another girl?"

His head drops back as he lets out another exasperated groan.

"You're really blowing this out of proportion.  The last thing I wanted to do was leave you.  Believe me, it was painful to do.  But that's not why I would have shown up.  Heath has a reputation for doing girls the way he tried to do you tonight."

"Oh," I mumble, looking away as a sick pang strikes.

That was way too damn close.

"So I suppose your mother's friend - Frankie - was supposed to be watching out for you?"

I thought so.

"I just assumed he was.  I guess he would have been if I told him I was going out."

"I would have been if you had just talked to me."

I sigh, not really sure if I want to be talking to him right now.  He definitely didn't do much for my confidence.

"Sorry, but I still don't feel right about all this.  I shouldn't have even let you in my bed, and now you're whisking me away to who knows where."

"My house," he says as we start up the steps, making me look around.

My jaw drops when I see the three story cabin stretching wide.  There's no way they can afford this beast.  And he thought my place was impressive?

"Okay, this definitely doesn't feel right.  I really don't want to be around Amy right now."

He frowns, and then he shakes his head.

"Don't worry about her.  She knows not to mess with you, and she'll eventually get the hell over me.”

Doubtful.

I sure as hell can't seem to stop thinking about him, and I just met him.

"Just take me home, please."

"If I take you home, I'm staying with you.  I'm not leaving you alone tonight, not with the heavy amount of alcohol you've apparently taken in."

I can't let him stay with me because then I wouldn't be able to sneak out to get away.

"Fine," I huff.  "I'll stay until I'm sober enough to leave."

He smirks, and then his delicious lips stroke my forehead as a guy opens the door to the cabin for us.

"Did you kick his ass?" he asks.

"No, but it was hard not to.  Do me a favor, Zee, will you go grab Alyssa's phone?  I think she dropped it around the midway point."

"Yeah, sure.  Maybe I'll get the chance to run into Heath."

The menace in his eyes is unmistakable.  They really hate Heath.

"Play nice.  Don't cause a scene," Kane warns before walking through the enormous living area filled with gallant, large widows.

The others are stretched out on couches and chairs, some of them coupled up, and the others seeming causally engaged in whatever movie they're watching.  Then I get sick when I see Amy staring at me with the scorned woman's fury.

"Should have kept her in that cage," I almost whisper, and Kane lets out a laugh again.

"You're probably right," he murmurs while kissing my forehead again.

"You alright?" one of the girls asks, seeming sincere in her concern.

"Fine, just drunk," I mumble.

She smirks and then she stands to walk to a door and opens it for us.  Her soft auburn hair falls to her shoulders.  Her eyes are dark, smoky blue, and they have a depth that shows experience beyond her years, giving her a delicate but mysterious edge.

"Heath is a total creep, and he knows it," she almost growls.  "He's one person I'd like to break my no-violence rule for."

"I think that goes for all of us," Kane murmurs while carrying me through the doorway, and then I feel a plush bed beneath me as he puts me down.

"Let me know if you need anything," she says while shutting the door behind her.

"At least she's not psycho for you." I sigh while turning over on my side, avoiding looking at him.

"Definitely not.  Sierra is Deke's girl, and she's pretty cool… like a sister to me."  He walks over to a dresser and pulls out a tee-shirt, and then tosses it to me.  "You can sleep in that, or I can see if Sierra has something you can borrow."

"I’ll stay in my clothes because I'm leaving the second I'm sober."

His sweet face is taken over with agitation.

"Alyssa, you're not getting sober until you get some sleep.  Change or I'll change you."

That shouldn't turn me on, so why does it?

"Fine.  I'll change," I mumble while sitting up and pulling my shirt over my head.

He coughs and turns his back, and I let a laugh free.

"Like you didn't see more last night.  Afraid you'll feel the urge to run off again?" I taunt.

He turns back around as I slip on his shirt, and then he walks over to me to pull my lips to his, devouring me by surprise.  He jerks my hips to his and rips my pants free from my body.

Heat floods through my veins, burning me alive from the inside in the most divine way.  Damn he tastes so good.

"Shit," he murmurs while backing away.  "I didn't want to look because I knew it'd be hard as hell to stop myself, but I'm not some asshole like Heath who's ready to pounce on a girl while she's drunk."

"You didn't have a problem stopping yourself when I was completely sober."

My snarky comment forces a wince from him.  He runs his hands through his hair, demonstrating how terribly frustrated he is.

"Please don't keep punishing me for that," he groans.  "I've already explained it and told you I was sorry several times."

Sorry doesn't piece back together my dignity or my confidence.  How's a girl supposed to feel?

"I'm not punishing you, I'm just stating the obvious."

I try to ignore the throbbing desire to straddle him right now, but it’s almost overwhelming.  One thing that helps me is the fact I really don't feel like being turned down a second time.

He sighs as he climbs into bed beside me, and then his arm drapes around my waist as he pulls me to him.

Now that he's touching me, it makes it all the harder to deny the throbbing ache inside me, pulsating at the spot no one has ever gone.  When his arousal brushes against my back, I shiver.

"Kane, you're not exactly making this easy on me," I mumble, and his sharp intake of breath follows my words.

"Sorry.  This isn't easy for me either."

He uncoils from my body, and then he rolls over to the other side of the bed to leave me all the more distraught and yearning for his touch.

I close my eyes tightly, praying for sobriety and sleep both.  Maybe I can make it through the night without dreaming about him.

 

Chapter Five

 

The sun blinds me as it peers through the enormous window in front of my face.  Shielding my eyes, I climb free from the bed to hear laughter and animated conversation on the other side of the door.

"Hey, I found the best new video," one of the guys laughs out.  "You have to see it."

"Not right now.  I'm trying to get Alyssa some breakfast ready before I take her home," Kane murmurs in objection, and I tense up.

I definitely don't want to see him right now… not after the idiot I looked like last night.

I start picking up my clothes and stepping into them as quickly as I can.  My bra is nowhere to be found.  Apparently I shed it during the night while I was sleeping, and right now I don't have time to find it.

I open the window to the balcony, and I grimace when I see how far down it is.

I hate using magic.

I force the ladder on the ground to rise to the window, and I tuck my high-heels under my arm as I climb down quickly.  With a flick of my wrist, the ladder slides down and back into its place before I run like hell through the woods Kane forbid me to travel without him.

After the first briar tears at my foot, I pull on my heels, deciding to brave the woods in shoes never meant for hiking or running.  I forgot I broke one of the heels off, so now I have to run like a gimp idiot through the patch of forest.  This walk of shame is by far the worst one ever experienced, and I'm still a damn virgin.

I stumble onto the sidewalk, and then I remove my heels again as all the judgmental eyes of the quiet street fall on me.

Small town slut. 

It'd be great if I actually got to have sex while being a slut.

I look over my shoulder, worried someone I actually know is going to see me, and then I feel myself colliding and arms wrapping around me to steady me as mail drops to the ground.

"Hey, whoa," a familiar voice chuckles out.

I turn to see Thad - fresh, clean, and looking just as sexy in the sun as he did under the moonlight.

"Hey," I bumble out.

"I guess you had a rough night," he says, amused, while staring at my bare, bleeding feet, my heels in my hand, and my previous night's clothing.  Not to mention, I'm sure my hair is a hot mess.

"Um, yeah, you could say that.  I ended up crashing with someone I know after getting a little too drunk to make it home."

My embarrassment has to be radiating from me with a blinding glare.

"I see," he says with his adorable grin, while his soft, blond hair strums through the fingers of the gentle breeze.

He kneels down and examines my bleeding feet, making me self conscious because I feel so icky right now.  I'm glad humans can't read auras.  I'd be mortified if he was an aura reader.

"Have you got anything to clean that up with?" he asks while standing back up.

"Um, I'm sure I do.  Don't worry about it."

"Let me come help you.  You definitely don't want an infection since you said you have to stand on your feet at work."

Sighing, I nod.  I really don't know the first thing about cleaning up a wound.  I've always had an overprotective mother to do that for me.

"You sure you don't mind?" I ask while walking by him, noticing his house is directly beside mine.

Great.  As if I need another guy clogging up my head.

"Positive, where do you live?"

I let out a laugh as he picks his mail back up.

"Right beside you."

He smirks, a menacing twinkle flashes in his eye, and then he stands to his feet to follow me.

"I guess I should bring you a cup of sugar or something sometime."

I chuckle lightly at his corny joke.

He's so tall, like Kane, but he's tanner, and his shoulder are a little broader.  His hips are still seductively narrow, like the dark-haired man who I've now slept with but still haven't slept with.

This town shouldn't be allowed to have so much sex appeal.  It's too small.  If the humans are this hot, I dread seeing the immortals.

"Wow, this is really nice," he murmurs as he follows me in.

"Thanks," I murmur softly as we head inside, then I feel a little sad as I think back to Kane walking in here just a couple of nights ago.

"So, let's see your foot," he ushers while motioning for me to sit down.

"It's both of them," I mumble while gripping my head in embarrassment.

"Should I ask why you felt it necessary to run home in broken shoes through the woods?"

I laugh bitterly while dropping my head back on the couch, and he gets up.

"Long story short, I didn't mean to spend the night with this person I know, so I snuck out while I could."

A knowing grin falls over his lips, and he bobs his head in a nod.

"Ah, one of those friends.  Been there.  So where's the alcohol, Band-Aids, and stuff like that?"

Not really one of those friends.

"Under the sink in the kitchen.  Thank you for doing this, by the way," I murmur as he heads into the kitchen.

"What are neighbors for?  The way I see it, small town people tend to band together and shut out outsiders.  We'll have to start our own little gang."

I laugh lightly, amused by his positive outlook, and he smiles warmly as he walks back in while carrying an armload of supplies.

"Well, I owe you for this.  My feet are not exactly very pretty right now."

He places a small bowl of water at my feet, and then he walks out again.

"I'll take care of it."

Suddenly my door swings open, and my head whips around to see Kane towering over me.

"Shit, Alyssa.  You scared the hell out of me.  How did you leave this morning?"   He takes a steadying breath as he tries to calm down, surprising me with his worry.

I hadn't thought about my disappearance scaring him.

"You guys must have been in the kitchen or something," I lie.

"Why the hell did you just leave?  And what's wrong with your feet?"

He slides around to be in front of me as he inspects my disgusting feet covered in dirt and matted blood.  I didn't like Thad seeing them, but I sure as hell don't want Kane to see them.

I start curling them away from his view just as Thad walks back in with an awkward smile.

"I'm about to clean them up," he says, making Kane's head whip around, his eyes narrowing.

"And you are?" he prompts.

"I'm her neighbor.  She sort of ran into me this morning - very literally - on her way in."

Kane relaxes slightly, returning his gaze to my dreadfully embarrassing feet.

"Ah, well, I'm here now.  I'll take care of it," Kane says dismissively, picking up my foot.

"Stop, please.  This is so embarrassing," I grumble while trying to pull my foot back.

"Did this happen last night or this morning?" he sighs.

I try cling to what shred of dignity I have left by refusing him an answer, but he stares at me expectantly, his eyes telling me he's more stubborn than I am.

"This morning," I mumble reluctantly.

Kane swears under his breath, scolding me with his eyes just before he resumes his examination.

"Alyssa?  You okay with that?" Thad asks, putting me in an even more awkward position as he stares down Kane.

Kane snorts derisively, and I shrug while tightening my lips.

"Yeah, I guess so.  I'll see you later, Thad.  Thank you."

He doesn't seem too happy, but he puts the stuff on the floor beside Kane and walks around behind me.

"If you need me, you know I'm not far away.  I'll see you after while."

Kane makes sure to shoot him a threatening glare, which confuses me, and Thad glowers back before walking out very reluctantly.

"I leave you alone for five seconds and the wolves are at the door," Kane grumbles as soon as the door shuts.

"He was just trying to help.  I met him last night at the party before Heath went crazy."

His jaw tenses as he brings the bowl of water closer to him and starts the process of cleaning me up.

"Where was Thad when you were being chased around by a pervert?" he scoffs, his jealously a little bit bemusing but somewhat exciting.

I bite back a smile as he washes away the dirt from my feet.

"I don't know.  I think he had already left.  I was there a while.  Are you jealous?" I poke, and he stifles an embarrassed grin.

"I'm not crazy about you spending the night in my bed and then finding another guy in your house less than an hour later."

I laugh lightly as he starts towel-drying my feet.

"He was getting his mail when I came barreling down the sidewalk and slammed into him.  He offered to help, and considering I have to go to work in a few hours, I decided I should let someone who knew what they were doing help out."

He looks up, his hands burning against the back of my leg as he stares into my eyes.

"Well, you’re in luck.  I happen to know a great deal about doctoring up scratches.  You shouldn't let strangers into your house."

He looks back down, and I laugh again.

"Um, you realize you're still a stranger?" I muse.

He snickers lightly, and then he shakes his head.

"Yes, but I'm a stranger you can trust.  You either don't realize how incredibly gorgeous you are, or you're far too trusting.  Twice I've found you in a bad situation with a drunken ass at a party, and then I find some random guy in your house.  A girl who looks like you shouldn't be so quick to trust."

I blush fiercely.  Hearing his praises makes me start feeling hot in all the wrong places as his touch ignites that stupid, tempting fire I wish would stop blazing.

"I'm a little tougher than you might think."

He presses the alcohol swab against my cut, and I wince while reflexively jerking free from his grip when it burns.

"Yeah, you're superman alright," he sardonically releases after my whimpering reaction to the burning liquid.

"That's different," I huff, my lower lip pouting playfully.

His eyes suddenly shift from scolding concern to lusting desire, making me worry the windows in the house are all going to fog over.

"Please put that weapon away," he says with a wry grin.

"Weapon?" I murmur with a touch of breathlessness while falling prey to his gaze.

He abandons my foot, and jerks me to his body as he kneels between my legs.  His lips attack mine as his tongue forces itself into my mouth, demanding my arousal.

He pulls back, his thumb strolling over my lower lip, and then he smirks.

"Yes, that weapon."

Swallowing hard, I pull him by the back of the neck back to my lips.  His hand slides up my shirt, finding my breast and forcing a moan from my throat before his forceful touch starts becoming more urgent.

His passion and desire pours into my mouth.  My hand slides down to feel his erection through his jeans, making me all the hotter as the firm piece of perfection tries to break free from the fabric.

"Alyssa, you're killing me," he groans against my lips while ripping me up from the couch.  "I want you so damn bad."

"Then take me," I breathe, moaning louder when his lips reclaim mine.

My legs wrap around his waist as he starts carrying toward the bedroom.  Then suddenly his phone starts buzzing.

No!

"Fuck," he grumbles while pulling back and lowering me to where my feet touch the ground.

I shift uncomfortably, confused by why I can't seem to say no to him.  It's as though I lose all control and desire rules my body.

"What?" he snaps into the phone, and without thinking, my hand slides down the front of his pants to feel his delicious erection - hard, perfect, and ready to be inside me.

His breath hitches, and then he has to clear his throat.  The phone is so quiet that I can't hear the person on the other side, which is unusual, given my exceptional inhuman hearing.

"You're going to have to take care of it without me…  No, I'm not leaving…  I don't care."

He grips his head as my hand slides out of his pants, and then he looks at me as if he's tortured.  I know that means he's about to have to leave, and I suddenly feel very dirty again.

"Fine.  Fuck… Just meet me at the gallery in ten minutes."

He hangs up, and then he jerks me to his body before his lips crush mine, making me shiver before I push him away.

"Amy needs you again?" I mumble under my breath while turning away.

"Alyssa, it's not like that.  Deke needs my help with something, but I swear I'll be back in no time.  Please, please don't be mad at me."

My body officially hates him.  This is twice I've been on the edge of finally getting rid of my damn innocence, and twice I've been blown off.

"I'm not mad.  Go do what you have to.  I need to… Hey, do you have my phone?" I murmur, ready to start picking up the pieces of my confidence that are still scattered around the floor of my room.

"Yeah."  He sighs while pulling it out of his back pocket and hands it to me.  "I meant to tell you it was ringing earlier."

"I have some calls to make."  I groan inwardly when I see Frankie's number showing up at least ten times.

"Alyssa, please say I can see you in a little while."

I shrug, not really trusting myself not to fuck him if he returns.  I should have more self respect than this.

"I don't know.  I've got work, you've gotstuff to deal with.  I guess we'll see," I murmur dismissively.

He huffs loudly, cursing to himself while gripping his head again.

"I swear I'll take you somewhere no one can find us," he almost pleads, and I let a laugh escape.

"It's probably for the best.  This is all moving too fast anyhow.  Just go help Deke.  I've got to get a shower and put some stuff on my feet."

I start walking away, but he grabs my hand and whirls me around.  Without giving me a second to protest, his lips find mine, his tongue invades, and his strong hands hold me to him, forcing my already throbbing center to start aching painfully.

"Say you'll see me later," he softly demands.

"I'll see you later," I murmur involuntarily - a little breathless - as my eyes burn into his.

I'm praying the mood stone craziness isn't going on right now, but I look away to be safe.

"I'll call you, and then I'll come pick you up before work.  We'll go eat or something."

Or I'll go in to work early to avoid this.

"Sure."

He tightens his lips, and with exasperated reluctance, he releases me to rush through my door.  Once I hear the click of the front door closing behind him, I let out my own huff.

I've never known of any girl having such a hard time losing her damn virginity.

I flip on the television to see something that makes me sick.  Quickly turning up the volume, I lower myself to the couch when my legs try to fold.

"Samantha Taylor has been reported missing since late last night.  She was supposed to close up at work, but her mother says she never came home.  Police have found proof of a scuffle inside the diner where Samantha works, and they're currently running down every lead.  If you have any information-"

I shut off the TV.  I'm so sick and dizzy after hearing that.  I just saw Samantha last night.  I'm usually the one closing up.  What if the night stalker who was after me decided to feast on Samantha in my absence?

Picking up my phone to dial Frankie, I head back into the living area, the weight of my guilt striking my heart.  I saved one girl, but then I got another killed.

"It's about damn time you called me back," he gripes angrily, a little worked up.

"Sorry.  Long story short, I lost my phone for a while.  Where were you last night?"

"Why?  Did something happen?  Were you attacked?" The panic in his voice tells me I should downplay the occurrences from last night.

"Just some human issues.  Nothing that couldn't be handled by a regular person."

Though Kane is far from regular.

Frankie sighs out his relief, and then suddenly he's walking through my front door as a shadow puff of smoke follows behind him, proving he just manipulated the air around him.

"Well," he says while putting down the phone, "I followed the night stalker you had a run-in with.  I was worried he'd come after you, so I wanted to keep my eyes on him.  I followed him three towns over, keeping my distance of course, and then I watched him get ripped apart."

My hand covers my gaping mouth as I gasp in disbelief.

"By who?"

"A group of them.  I could tell by the way some of them were moving they were his own kind.  There were lycans in the mix too - fully changed and snarling like vicious pets.  Two lycans and three night stalkers working together.  It's unusual for them to team up and kill one of their own."

"Did the night stalker I pissed off kill Samantha?" I whimper.

"Who?" he muses just as my phone rings.

I pick it up, recognizing the number from the diner, and hold up a finger to Frankie while answering.

"Hello?"

"Alyssa, this is Wade.  I suppose you've seen the news," he murmurs with a heavy tension in his tone.

"Yeah, I just saw it.  Are you okay?" I ask sincerely.

"Right now I'm just worried about Samantha.  I pray she's okay.  The reason I'm calling is because I'm closing the diner for the next few days while the police investigate.  Whoever did this could come back.  Whenever I reopen it, no one is to close alone."

"I understand," I murmur while glancing up at Frankie who has most likely overheard both sides of the conversation, given his look of dread.

I hang up, and Frankie grips his head.

"How is it you chose this town - one where night stalkers hang out with lycans, night stalkers kill openly, girls keep popping up missing almost daily… I mean, what's wrong with Miami or Palm Springs?"

I release an exasperated, dramatic laugh while dropping to the couch.

"Just my luck, I guess.  Did you call Mom?" I sigh out.

"I tried, but she's apparently enthralled with the ceremonies.  I'm sure she'll call me back when she's free."

"Great.  I'm sure she'll yank me out of here the second she finds out a turf war is at play."

"This is bigger than a turf war.  Last night, the other night stalkers stood by and watched the two lycan females drain the vampire's body of life and blood."

"Did you see them in human form?" I ask curiously.

"No.  I couldn't ever get a look at the night stalkers either.  It was too dark, and obviously, I kept my distance.  I didn't want to be next on the menu."

Swallowing hard, I stand up and head for the wine.  Despite the fact I got entirely too drunk last night, I really need a drink right now.

"I need a drink and a shower.  You sticking around?" I ask curiously while heading to the kitchen.

"Yeah.  I need to make some calls, find out how long your mother is going to be indisposed."

I nod, the feeling of dread cloaking me as I think of how royally pissed my mother is going to be, and then I pour my drink and carry the bottle of wine with me to the bathroom.  One glass isn't going to cut it.

 


Chapter Six

 

"Any word from Mom yet?" I ask as I walk out fully dressed and towel-drying my hair.

"No," he sighs.  "I can't get a hold of any of her guards either.  They must be deep under."

I check to make sure my makeup isn't running, and then I head back into the kitchen in search of something to eat.  A knock at the door interrupts my search, and Frankie stands up, ready to pounce.

“Chill, Frankie.  It's probably my neighbor checking up on me."

He doesn't relax though, and as soon as I open the door, I tense up more than him.

"Kane," I murmur before sucking in a sharp breath, and he gives me a devilish smirk while stepping in.

"I decided to skip the phone calls.  I wasn't going to risk you ignoring me again," he murmurs, his breath finding my neck as he pulls me to his body.  "Damn you smell good."

His hands run through my wet hair as he crushes his lips to mine, and then my lips part to invite in his expert tongue.

"Ah hmm," Frankie says with a throat clearing chuckle.

Kane quickly cuts his gaze toward the warlock, and I let an embarrassed grin free.

"Another wolf?" He sighs, and I laugh a little when I see the sheer jealously blossoming in his perfectly green eyes.

"Sorry.  Frankie, Kane.  Kane, Frankie," I quickly introduce.

"Your mother's friend?" Kane muses.  His body relaxes but his eyes continue to study Frankie curiously.

To the untrained eye, Frankie looks young - thirty at the most- but in all reality, Frankie has seen the realm of Author, the rise of the Roman Empire, the Trojan war… He's old as shit to put it bluntly.

"Well, I'd like to consider myself Alyssa's friend too," Frankie snickers.

Kane's grip on me doesn't loosen, but his hand does trail down my back to pull me into him.

"Um, Frankie, will you let me know something when she calls back?" I ask, hinting for him to get the hell out of the house.

"Yeah.  I'm sure she'll want to talk to you soon."

I'm sure she will.

I'm definitely not leaving until I've at least had a chance to be with Kane.  I know it's not possible to stay with a human, but I also want to be with him as long as I can.  It's so ridiculous to have such feelings so early on, but I want him.

Frankie waves as he walks out, and Kane's arms return to pull me to him.

"So what was it this time?" I ask, trying not to sound bitter, but failing slightly.

"Deke needed some help with a… problem, so to speak.  Zee and I went with him."

I back away, heading toward the kitchen once again, and he follows me.

"Is that all I get?" I sigh out, not sure if I even have the right to be prying.

"It's sort of a personal thing that you'd probably never understand.  So, you hungry?" he asks as I pull out a prepackaged salad.

"Very, you?" I ask, checking my fridge for more.

"In more ways than one, but if you've got another salad, that will do," he says far too seductively.  "Or we can go back to my place and I can make you something before you go to work."

I lean back while shaking my head, feeling my damp hair starting to seep through my shirt.  Crap.  I really wish I wasn't standing here with wet hair right now.

"Actually, they canceled work.  A girl I work with was snatched from the diner last night just before she closed up.  Wade is pretty upset, and he's not opening the place back up for a few days."

His eyes widen.  "I haven't even heard about that.  Shit.  You've been closing."

"I know.  It freaked me out a little, but I'm just worried about her right now."

"You're sure as hell not closing by yourself anymore.  I don't care if I have to sit in there for your entire shift."

I bite back a smile, wondering how he can care so much when he barely knows me.

Without over thinking it, I drop the salad and jerk his lips to mine, feeling his immediate response trying to burst free from his pants as he moans into my mouth.  Gripping my ass, he picks me up, forcing my legs to rise and straddle his waist as he starts carrying me to the bedroom once again.

I gasp as he drops me to the bed and then falls between my parted legs.  He turns his phone off and then tosses it to the ground while smiling.

"No interruptions this time," he says with a devious grin.

My lower lip slides between my teeth as my anticipation builds, and he slowly runs his finger under the waistband of my pants.

A loud, obnoxious banging rattles us out of our moment, and his head drops to his chest.

"Are you fucking kidding me?" he growls.

"Why did you tell your friends where I live?" I huff as he stands to go answer the intruder.

"Because I'm stupid like that," he grumbles on his way to the door.  "I swear I'm not leaving this time."

I flop down, waiting to hear why they have to have him right away, when suddenly Frankie's ashen face is in my room.

"What the hell?" I panic, and Kane quickly follows in behind him.

"Alyssa, come on.  We've got to go.  Your mom is missing."

My heart slaps my chest, my head spins, and I get dizzy and nauseated at once.

"I'll come with you," Kane quickly interjects while scooping up his shoes.

"Sorry, but you can't.  This is family only right now," Frankie vaguely counters.

More like magic only.  Shit.  Mom, where are you?

"Yeah, let me grab my stuff.  I'll meet you outside."

Kane looks so torn about what to do as I rush around to grab some stuff and throw it in a bag.

"Alyssa, please let me come help you out.  I can be there for you when you have to talk to the cops.

There won't be any cops, just an immortal council.

"I'll call you as soon as I can, but right now I should just go with Frankie.  I'm sorry," I murmur with tears teetering on my lids.

"Don't be sorry.  Let me know if I can do anything.  If you need me, I'll be there."

My heart melts, and if I wasn't in a complete panic over my mom, I'd probably say something really stupid right now.

"Thanks," I squeak out as the first tear finally falls.

He wipes it away, and then he kisses my forehead so sweetly before pulling me into a comforting embrace I don't want to leave.

"Alyssa!" Frankie prompts.

"I'm coming," I whimper out, and Kane follows me to the door as I rush to the car Frankie has apparently swindled from someone.

Kane props up against my porch railing as he watches me disappear into the car with Frankie.  We pull away, and I feel his eyes still on me, wishing he could help me.

"What do they know?" I prompt, trying not to fall apart.

"All they'll tell me is that she's missing.  When there's a blood relative alive, the council won't release the details to anyone else.  When we get there, keep your eyes low.  Some of these council members aren't far from dark users.  They'll consider eye contact an insult, and it won't faze them to strike.  I wouldn't even be letting you doing this if-"

"If you weren't secretly in love with my mother," I interrupt, making his breath catch.  "I wouldn't let you not let me do this.  She's my mother.  She'd already be there if it was me.  I wish you could vaporize me with you and get us there quicker."

"I could, but you'd die," he sighs.  "Just hang on.  This thing looks like a family car, but I've replaced the engine with something a little… faster."

The engine roars as he gasses it, snapping me back against the seat, and I close my eyes as we push forward.

 

"Thank you for coming out, Ms. Coldwell.  I'm sorry we're not meeting under better circumstances," the frigid lady sitting near the end murmurs very insincerely.

I swallow the rude, foul thing I want to yell at her, and summon up my best cordial face, remembering to keep my eyes low and my tone humble.

"Thank you for seeing me.  Could you please give me what information you have on my mother so that I may ask for permission to seek her?"

The arched table sits prestigiously in the place that resembles a gallant courtroom, with all of them being judge and jury.  The prominent, stuffy asses behind the elongated table show no emotion as a man answers, "Her last whereabouts were in Tibet for the ceremonies, however, we believe it was a dark user she left with.  We don't know if it was a nabbing or a simple disappearing act.  Calypso has run off for decades at a time before, so it wouldn't be the first time.  I suggest starting in Washington, near the Canadian border.  Their roots of power are there, and if you're to find anything out of sorts, that's where she'll be."

I get sick, but I try to keep a straight face.  My mom has been around for a long time.  The longer you live, the harder you are to kill.  They'd need the magic their dark roots have in order to do such a thing, but the council can't acknowledge that, not without telling me they know she was taken and they're not going to do anything about it.

"Calypso Coldwell is indeed very important to the light community.  Without her, the ceremonies will have to stop until we can find someone strong enough to proceed.  However, we cannot send you any means of help other than that of information for fear of sparking too much conflict.  Light users are forbidden to travel around that area, so tread carefully."

Meaning these sorry, stick-up-their-asses cowards aren't going to risk their own necks to save the woman who has saved everyone here at some point and time.

I bite the inside of my jaw so hard the tang of blood strikes me.

"Of course," I murmur through strain, trying my best not to snap.

I bow, showing them respect they don't deserve, and then I walk out quickly to meet up with Frankie who's waiting by the door.

"Have you called for plane tickets yet?" I mutter as we head down the hallway.

"We've got the next flight out."

"It looks like it's just the two of us.  I've basically been forbidden to recruit anyone else."

He scowls.  "I heard.  Don't worry though.  We'll get her out of there."

"We better, or else my estranged father will be getting a phone call."

His eyes grow wide, and then he turns to me.  "You can't be serious.  You know how dangerous he is, Alyssa.  You're mother would-"

"I'm very serious.  My mother would call him if it was me and she had to.  He's dangerous, he's crazy, but he's also very protective of her.  If he finds out, they'll all die, and I'll watch."

 


Chapter Seven

 

"I'm glad you called.  I've been worried.  Any word about your mother?" Kane asks.

I pull on my boots while slipping into my jacket, preparing to trudge through the rain, and then I sigh.

"Well, we're in Washington right now.  I think she just got a little crazy and ran off with some friends.  It’s happened before," I lie, using the council's cop out.  "They have a cabin up here, and right now we're trying to see if we can find it in this ridiculous wooded area."

"What section of woods?" he asks curiously.

I consider lying to him, but there's really no point.  It's not like he can stop me from going in there, and I don't want to lie to him more than necessary.

"We're in Fenshaw, it's mostly all woods to be honest.  When I track her down, I'll kick her ass for scaring Frankie and me."

At least I do well to mask my true fear.

"Alyssa, those woods are too dangerous.  Hikers go missing all the time out there."

That's because they don't know what sadistic bastards lurk out here.

The worry in his tone is genuine, and if he knew the truth, he'd never feel the same about the world he lives in.

"Don't worry.  Frankie knows a thing or two about the wilderness.  I'll call you later.  I doubt I'm going to have service once we get in there."

"Alyssa, just wait on me.  I'll come out there and help you."

My heart sizzles in my chest.  Knowing he'd do that makes the butterflies in my stomach ruffle.

"Don't be crazy.  Washington is too far away for you to have to come.  I'll take care of it.  Thanks though."

He exhales loudly, and then he murmurs, "Well, if you need me, you know how to find me."

Something about the way he says it… He almost sounds angry that I won't let him help.

"Thanks.  Really.  I'll talk to you later, Kane."

"Yeah," he murmurs, and then the line goes quiet.

"You ready?" Frankie asks as I pull the battery out of my phone.

"Yeah, you?"

He does the same - pulling the battery out of his own phone - and then he puts the pieces on the table separately.

"Dark users are too good with tech."

"And black magic," I scoff while zipping up my jacket and heading out into the rain.

"And these woods," he sighs.  "Stay close.  I really don't even want you in here.  Calypso will kill me for letting you come."

"She'll die if we don't find her."

He tightens his lips, and lets out a breath of defeat as we start heading into the creepy-as-hell forest.  It's daylight, but between the rain and the shadows cast by the thick, leafy limbs of the forest giants, it's dark as night.

The wind whistles through a hollow log beside us, and Frankie evaporates only to reappear several yards in front of me.

"Really?" I scold in a whisper.

He shrugs and starts walking again until howling erupts from the far north, making Frankie evaporate once more only to reappear in a tree.

"I'm supposed to be the one who's scared," I grumble under my breath.

"Sorry," he murmurs as he reappears at my side.

"No more evaporating just because the wind rustles too loudly."

"Fine," he huffs, his body tensing as we slowly make our way through.

"If you want to evaporate so badly, then do it and grab Mom."

"You know it doesn't work that way.  I can only travel short distances, and I have to see where I'm going and what I'm doing.  If I could just pop in where she's at, I would have already done it.  Not to mention, it'd make traveling a lot easier."

"I was being sarcastic," I mumble.

"Oh."

We continue walking in silence, making sure to investigate every shadowy form we see.  Suddenly, a large, white bird, resembling a hawk, shoots free from a tree and rushes by us, making Frankie squeal and evaporate simultaneously.

Unbelievable.

I walk up just as he reappears, panting for air with his hands on his knees.

"That's it.  Hand over your man-card.  I'm having it revoked."

He straightens up, adjusting his shirt, and then scowls at me.

"I've been around a lot longer than you, meaning I've heard more horror stories about these woods than you."

"Meaning you've lost your balls along the way," I add, mocking him further.

He glares at me, but he doesn't come back with anything else as we continue on, warily checking over our shoulders with each step.

"How far until we reach their holy ground?" I ask, swallowing when I feel a chill in the air.

"At this pace?  Three days."

I groan inwardly, and then I pull out a bottle of water from my pack.  The only way to get there is on foot, and since I can't evaporate around the woods, this is going to be one hell of a three day trip.

Hours pass, leaving me exhausted and Frankie so tense that he's stiff as a board.  I shiver as night really does descend, making me realize how much darker these woods can get.  Frankie collapses to the ground, showing his own exhaustion - proving immortals aren't immune to being out of shape.

"We'll set up here for the night.  I'll take first watch," Frankie says.  He turns his jacket into a pillow for his back and props it between himself and a tree.

Reluctantly, I plop down.  We can't see two steps in front of us right now, and we'll get lost if we keep trying to cipher our way through here.

"Wake me when you get tired."  I yawn while resting my backpack under my head, praying the night doesn't hold any surprises.

 

A chill slithers up my back, and I wake up to the pitch black to see Frankie’s eyes closed and his body limp as he snores.

Way to keep watch, Frankie.

I pull my jacket around me a little tighter as I stare at the streaks of moonlight escaping through the veil cast by the trees.  My heart beats too quickly when I see several shadows appearing and evaporating in the distance.

Dark users.

"Frankie," I whisper while tugging at his jacket, but he doesn't move.

I slowly stand to my feet to kick him in the stomach, but still he doesn't move.  It's then I realize his snoring is too deep.  They've put him to sleep because they want me alone.

Fuck!

"Alyssssaaa," a phantom voice hisses too close, and I whip around just as the shadow turns to nothing.

They're playing with me.

"How do you know my name?" I demand, trying not to sound as terrified as I am.

"Alyssssaaa," the voice hisses again, and then suddenly I feel the air being knocked out of me as I'm thrown backwards, my body thudding hard against the ground as I collide.

"That's gonna leave a mark," I mumble under my breath while trying to stand up.

I feel another strike just as I stand, and I'm knocked backwards again.  This time, I hit so hard my tongue gets chomped between my teeth, drawing blood.

I spit it out, steadying my breaths as I search for something to use my magic on.  But it's hard to fight back when I can't see them coming.

I scream as my body gets lifted from the ground by a force I can't see, and then I get whisked up to nearly the tops of the trees just as several other shadows rush into the party from behind us.

Just when I accept my fate, I realize these shadows aren't evaporating, they're just fast as hell.

Screams erupt, and I'm dropped from the monstrous height, screaming all the way down.  I brace for impact, but I feel swift, gentle arms catching me and then gently dropping me to the ground as the figures emerge more obviously.

Dark-hooded silhouettes rush from place to place as the dark users scream out their pain.  The mystery people don't speak or slow down.  Instead, they work together like a band of choreographed dancers fighting against my attackers.

Then I see it.  Their faces are masked and their heads are covered, but I see the glowing blue eyes as they drain the dark users of their energy with the ease only one creature can hold.

Night stalkers!

Here I was, foolish enough to think I was being saved, only to find out I'm someone's next meal.

I slide over, and then kick Frankie's foot, trying to stir him awake, but it's no good.  I watch in horror as the night stalkers continue to drain the dark users, deflecting their attacks as they feast, never fazed by their outnumbered circumstance.

Then I squeal as two lycans crash through the trees, roaring and shredding the dark users who were trying to rush the night stalkers from behind.  One of the lycans spots me, and it snarls as it pounds the ground with its heavy paws.

The beast I've only ever heard about but never seen is far more terrifying than I imagined it to be.  It's head is the size of seven human heads, and it stands six feet tall on all fours.  I cower back, covering Frankie, offering myself as sacrifice.

The rabid beast snarls and rakes the ground with its dagger-like claws, readying itself for a charge as the battle behind it rages on.  A pair of glowing blue eyes offer me a glance before a silhouette leaps over, kicking the beast in the stomach, sending it sailing.

I squeal, and shield my eyes momentarily.  When I look up, I see the lycan is licking its paw, and then it charges back into the fight, no longer acknowledging me as it returns to shredding the dark users.

"Frankie!" I screech desperately, and he finally stirs just as the last of the dark users retreat.

"What?" he murmurs through sleepy yawns, and my eyes look up once more to see the glowing blues fade before the unlikely rescue team darts away, disappearing from sight instead of coming to drain me dry.

Both of the lycans disappear, leaving us behind in the darkness without a threat.

"What the hell just happened?" Frankie gushes as he rises up to see the bodies of the dark users lying around like limp, drained rag dolls.

"Believe it or not, night stalkers and lycans just saved our lives."

"Night stalkers and lycans took down a flock of dark users to help us?" he asks in disbelief.

I look around, understanding his shock.  I watched it happen with my own eyes and I'm still struggling to find it true.

"Yeah.  These dark users were apparently fairly new to their abilities, so they died easier."

"Those had to be some badass mother fuckers to do all this even if they were new to the change," he murmurs to continue our very whispered conversation.

I step over the bodies of the men and women shriveled up, their eyes glazed over with death's glare. 

"That's creepy," Frankie shivers out.

"What's creepy is watching the dark ones of our kind trying to tear us apart and then watching our heroes be night stalkers and lycans."

Frankie shakes his head, still reeling from the absurdity of it all, and we continue to trek through the woods, not risking getting still again.

"How about casting an awake spell?" I whisper.  "I'd prefer to have a little backup the next time they attack."

"Good idea," he mumbles before he starts chanting under his breath.

 

"There it is," he whispers as we stare through the thick brush at the black tree in front of us.

My clothes are filthy, my hair is a tangled mess, and we've been on foot for two days - no sleep since the attack - for this?

"How is this supposed to help us find Mom?"

"Like the Tree of Gaya - the root of the light - this is the tree of Tartarus, the root of the dark.  If Calypso is close by, this will lead us there," he whispers, careful not to draw any unwanted ears our way.

Suddenly, a white hawk zooms down from the sky, barreling toward us as it screeches in protest.

"Get down, Alyssa!  Changer!" Frankie yells.

I squeal and duck, but the hawk doesn't attack.  Instead, it disappears behind the tree.  I pull my hands up, ready to go on the offense, when I'm startled from behind.

"Don't use that tree.  You'll awaken a thousand souls and yet you'll only have a riddle for what you need to know," a smooth voice says, and my eyes fall on his face in disbelief.

"Thad?" I gasp.

His lips thin, and then he nods while tossing a pair of pants beside the tree.  I look over my shoulder to see an a guy pulling them on, his bare body making me blush, and then I whip my head back around.

"I'll tear you apart if you try to touch us," Frankie threatens.

"If I wanted to harm her, I would have already done so.  I moved in next door to keep an eye on her once I found out she was living in a town full of night stalkers."

I tilt my head, still stunned into near silence.

"Why?  You're a-"

"A vicious killer with a taste for blood?" he laughs out.  "Not exactly.  Just because I'm a changer, it doesn't make me a killer.  I've only killed when necessary, never for a meal.  They have blood banks these days.  I happen to own a few.  Before then, I learned when to stop before I killed someone."

His smug tone doesn't match the sweet boy next door I thought he was, but at the same time, he just got a hell of a lot sexier.

Stupid bad boy complex.

"Changers don't stop, they kill for fun," Frankie objects, his eyes narrowing in scrutiny.

"It's amazing you say that, considering the same was once said about witches and warlocks.  You think you're the only ones who've evolved?"

Three girls and two more guys walk up to join him, all of them hiding their secret.  Then one girl's eyes glow blue, making me sick.

"Night stalker," I shiver out.

"She's not going to hurt you.  She's here to help," Thad says as he walks toward me.  "Your mom isn't here - never was.  But someone wanted the council to think she was."

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