Chapter 3

The day my Internet was hooked up was better than having a hot guy check out my butt and ask for my phone number. Since it was Wednesday, I'd typed up a quick "Waiting on Wednesday" post for my blog featuring this YA book about a hot boy with a killer touch - can't go wrong there - apologized for my extended absence, responded to comments, and stalked a few other blogs I loved. It was like coming home.

"Katy?" Mom yelled up the stairs. "Your friend Dee is here."

"Coming," I shouted back and closed the lid of my laptop.

I skipped down the stairs, and Dee and I headed off to the hardware store, which wasn't anywhere near FOO LAND like Daemon had said. They had everything needed for me to fix that gross flower bed out front.

Back home, we each grabbed a side of a bag and hauled it out of my trunk. The bags were ridiculously heavy and by the time we'd gotten them out of the car, sweat poured off of us.

"Want to get something to drink before we drag those bags over to the flower beds?" I offered, arms aching.

She wiped her hands against each other and nodded. "I need to lift weights. Moving stuff sucks."

We headed inside and grabbed iced tea.

"Remind me to join the local gym," I joked, rubbing my puny arms.

Dee laughed and twisted her sweat-soaked hair from her neck. She still looked gorgeous, even red-faced and tired. I'm sure I looked like a serial killer. At least now we knew I was too weak to do any real damage. "Umm. Ketterman.

Our idea of a gym is dragging your garbage can to the end of a dirt road or hauling hay." I dug up a hair tie for her, joking about the uncoolness of my new small-town life. We'd only been inside ten minutes tops, but when we went back out, all the bags of soil and mulch were stacked next to the porch.

I glanced at her, surprised. "How did they get over here?"

Dropping down on her knees, she started pulling up the weeds. "Probably my brother."


She nodded. "He's always the thankless hero."

"Thankless hero," I muttered. Not likely. I'd sooner believe the bags levitated over here on their own.

Dee and I attacked the weeds with more energy than I thought we had. I've always felt pulling weeds was a great way to let off steam, and if Dee's jerky movements were any indication, she had a lot to be frustrated about.

With a brother like hers, I wasn't surprised.

Later, Dee stared at her chipped nails.

"Well, there went my manicure." I grinned. "I told you, you should've gotten gloves."

"But you're not wearing any," she pointed out.

Lifting my dirt-stained hands, I winced. My nails were usually chipped. "Yeah, but I'm used to it."

Dee shrugged and went over and grabbed a rake. She looked funny in her skirt and wedge sandals, which she insisted were the height of gardening couture, and dragged the rake over to me. "This is fun, though."

"Better than shopping?" I joked.

She seemed to consider it seriously, scrunching her nose. "Yeah, it's more...relaxing."

"It is. I don't think when I'm doing stuff like this."

"That's what's nice about it." She started raking the faded mulch out of the bed. "Do you do it to avoid thinking?"

Sitting back, I ripped open another bag of mulch. I wasn't sure how to answer that question. "My dad...he loved doing things like this. He had a green thumb. In our old apartment, we didn't have a yard or anything, but we had a balcony. We made a garden up there, together."

"What happened to your dad? Did your parents get divorced?"

I pressed my lips together. Talking about him wasn't something I did. Like ever. He'd been a good man - a great father. He didn't deserve what happened to him.

Dee paused. "I'm sorry. It's none of my business."

"No. It's okay." I stood, brushing the dirt off my shirt. When I looked up, she was leaning the rake against the porch. Her entire left arm blurred. I could see the white railing through it. I blinked. Her arm was solid again.

"Katy? You okay?"

Heart pounding, I dragged my eyes to her face and then back to her arm. It was whole.

Perfect. I shook my head. "Yeah, I'm okay. dad, he got sick. Cancer. It was terminal - in the brain. He'd been getting headaches, seeing things." I swallowed, looking away. Seeing things like I did? "But other than that, he'd been fine right up to the diagnosis.

They started him on chemo and radiation, but everything...went to shit so quickly. He died about two months later."

"Oh, my God, Katy, I'm so sorry." Her face was pale, voice soft. "That's terrible."

"It's okay." I forced a smile I didn't feel. "It was about three years ago. It's why my mom wanted to move. A new start and all that jazz." In the sunlight, her eyes glistened. "I can understand that. Losing someone doesn't get easier with time, does it?"

"No." By the sound of it, she knew what it felt like, but before I could ask, the door to her house swung open. Knots formed in my stomach. "Oh no," I whispered.

Dee twisted around, letting out a sigh.

"Look who's back."

It was past one in the afternoon, and Daemon looked as if he'd just rolled out of bed.

His jeans were rumpled, hair tousled and all over the place. He was on the phone, talking to someone as he rubbed a hand along his jaw.

And he was shirtless.

"Doesn't he own a shirt?" I asked, grabbing a spade.

"Unfortunately, I don't think so. Not even in the winter. He's always running around half-dressed." She groaned. "It's disturbing that I have to see so much of Yuck." Yuck for her. And hot damn for me. I started digging several holes in strategic places. My throat felt dry. Beautiful face. Beautiful body.

Horrible attitude. It was the holy trinity of hot boys.

Daemon stayed on the phone for about thirty minutes, and his presence had a swamping effect. There was no ignoring him, not even when I had my back to him - I could feel him watching. My shoulder blades tingled under his heavy stare. Once I glanced over, and he was gone, only to return a few seconds later with a shirt on. Damn. I kind of missed the view.

I was patting down new soil when Daemon swaggered over, dropping a heavy arm over his sister's shoulder. She tried to wiggle free, but he held her close. "Hey, Sis."

She rolled her eyes, but she was grinning. A look of hero-worship filled her eyes as she gazed at him. "Thanks for moving the bags for us."

"Wasn't me."

Dee rolled her eyes. "Whatever, butthead."

"That's not nice." He pulled her closer, smiling - really smiling, and it was a nice look on him. He should try it more often. Then he glanced over at me and his eyes narrowed, as if he just realized I was there, in my yard. The smile was completely gone. "What are you doing?" I glanced down at myself. It seemed pretty obvious considering I was covered with dirt and there were several plants scattered around me. "I'm fixing - "

"I wasn't asking you." He turned to his red-faced sister. "What are you doing?" I was not going to let him get to me again. I shrugged and picked up a potted plant. Yanking the plant out of its container, I ripped roots right along with it.

"I'm helping her with the flower bed. Be nice." Dee punched him in the stomach before squirming free. "Look at what we've done. I think I have a hidden talent." Daemon turned his eyes on my landscaping masterpiece. If I had to pick a dream job right now, it would be working with landscaping and the outdoors. Yeah, I sucked butt in the wilderness, but I was at my best with my hands sunk deep into the dirt. I loved everything about it. The numbing it brought, the way everything smelled earthy and rich, and how a little water and fresh soil could bring life back into something that was faded and dying.

And I was good at it. I watched every show on TLC. I knew where to place plants that needed more sun and ones that thrived in the shadows. There was a layered effect, taller and leafy, sturdier plants in the back and flowers in the front. All I had to do was put down soil and voila!

Daemon arched a brow.

My insides tightened. "What?"

He shrugged. "It's nice. I guess."

"Nice?" Dee sounded as offended as I felt.

"It's better than nice. We rocked this project.

Well, Katy rocked it. I kind of just handed her stuff."

"Is this what you do with your spare time?" he asked me, ignoring his sister.

"What - are you deciding to talk to me now?" Smiling tightly, I grabbed a handful of mulch and dumped it. Rinse and repeat. "Yeah, it's kind of a hobby. What's yours? Kicking puppies?"

"I'm not sure I should say in front of my sister," he replied, his expression turning wolfish.

"Ew." Dee made a face.

The images I got then were totally R-rated, and I could tell by his smug expression he knew it. I grabbed more mulch.

"But it's not nearly as lame as this," he added.

I froze. Pieces of red cedar floated from my fingers. "Why is this lame?"

His look said do I really need to explain?

And yeah, gardening wasn't the height of coolness. I knew that. But it wasn't lame.

Because I liked Dee, I clamped my mouth shut and started spreading the mulch out.

Dee pushed her brother, but he didn't move.

"Don't be a jerk. Please?"

"I'm not being a jerk," he denied.

I raised my eyebrows.

"What's that?" Daemon said. "You have something to say, Kitten?"

"Other than I'd like for you to never call me Kitten? No." I smoothed the mulch out, then stood, admiring our work. Casting Dee a look, I grinned. "I think we did good."

"Yes." She pushed her brother again, in the direction of their house. He still didn't move.

"We did good, lameness and all. And you know what? I kind of like being lame." Daemon stared at the freshly planted flowers, almost like he were dissecting them for a science experiment.

"And I think we need to spread our lameness to the flower bed in front of our house," she continued, her eyes filling with excitement. "We can go to the store, get stuff and you can - "

"She's not welcome in our house," Daemon snapped, turning to his sister. "Seriously." Surprised by the venom in his words, I took a step back.

Dee, however, did not. Her delicate hands balled into fists. "I was thinking we could work on the flower bed, which is outside - not inside - the last time I checked."

"I don't care. I don't want her over there."

"Daemon, don't do this," Dee whispered, her eyes filling with tears. "Please. I like her." The remarkable happened. His face softened. "Dee..."

"Please?" she asked again, bouncing like a little girl asking for her favorite toy, which was odd to watch given how tall she was. I wanted to kick Daemon for turning his sister into someone clearly starving for friendships.

He cursed under his breath, folding his arms.

"Dee, you have friends."

"It's not the same, and you know it." Her movements mimicked his. "It's different."

Daemon glanced over at me, his lip curling.

If I still held the spade, I might've chucked it at his head. "They're your friends, Dee. They're like you. You don't need to be friends with someone...someone like her." I'd kept quiet up to that point, because I had no idea what was going on and I didn't want to say anything that might upset Dee. Dickhead was her brother, after all, but that -  that was way too much.

"What do you mean, someone like me?" He tilted his head to the side and let out a long breath.

His sister's eyes darted from me to him nervously. "He didn't mean anything by it."

"Bullshit," he muttered.

Now my hands were clenching into fists.

"What the hell is your problem?" Daemon faced me. There was a strange look on his face. "You."

"I'm your problem?" I took a step forward.

"I don't even know you. And you don't know me."

"You are all the same." A muscle popped in his jaw. "I don't need to get to know you. Or want to."

I threw my hands up, frustrated. "That works perfectly for me, buddy, because I don't want to get to know you either."

"Daemon," Dee said, grabbing his arm.

"Knock it off."

He smirked as he watched me. "I don't like that you're friends with my sister." I said the first thing that came to mind.

Probably not the smartest, and normally I wasn't the type of person to fire right back, but this guy got under my skin and made me see red. "And I don't give two shits what you like." One second he was standing next to Dee and the next he was right in front of me. And I mean, right in front of me. He couldn't have moved that fast. It was impossible. But there he was, towering over me and staring down.

" did you move...?" I took a step back, words failing me. The intensity in his eyes sent shivers down my arms. Holy crap...

"Listen closely," he said, taking a step forward. I took one back, and he matched my steps until my back bit into one of the tall trees.

Daemon bent his head down, his unnatural green eyes taking up my whole world. Heat rolled off his body. "I'm only going to tell you this once.

If anything happens to my sister, so help me - " He stopped, taking a deep breath as his gaze dropped to my parted lips. My breath caught.

Something flickered in his eyes, but they narrowed again, hiding whatever had been there.

The images were back. The two of us. Hot and sweaty. I bit my lip and tried to make my expression blank, but yet again I knew he could tell what I was thinking when his expression turned annoyingly smug. Beyond annoying.

"You're kind of dirty, Kitten." I blinked. Deny. Deny. Deny. "What did you say?"

"Dirty," he repeated, voice so low I knew Dee couldn't hear him. "You're covered in dirt.

What did you think I meant?"

"Nothing," I said, wishing he'd back the hell up. Daemon being this close wasn't exactly comforting. "I'm gardening. You get dirty when you do that."

His lips twitched. "There are a lot more fun ways to get...dirty. Not that I'd ever show you. " I had a feeling he knew each way intimately.

A flush spread over my cheeks, down my throat.

"I'd rather roll around in manure than anything you might sleep in."

Daemon arched a brow and then spun around. "You need to call Matthew," he said to his sister. "Like now and not five minutes from now."

I stayed against the tree, eyes wide and unmoving until he disappeared back into his house, the door slamming shut behind him. I swallowed, looking at a distraught Dee. "Okay," I said. "That was intense." Dee dropped down on the steps, her hands in her face. "I really love him, I do. He's my brother, the only - " She cut herself off, lifting her head. "But he's a dick. I know he is. He wasn't always like that." Speechless, I stared at her. My heart was still racing, pumping blood way too fast. I wasn't sure if it was fear or adrenaline that was making me dizzy when I finally pushed away from the tree and approached her. And if I wasn't afraid, I kind of wondered if I should be.

"It's hard having friends with him around," she murmured, staring at her hands. "He runs them all off."

"Gee, I wonder why." Actually, I did wonder why. His possessiveness seemed a bit off the charts. My hands were still shaking, and even though he was gone, I could still feel him - the heat he'd thrown off. It had been...exciting. Sadly.

"I'm so, so sorry." She jumped up from the steps, opening and closing her hands. "It's just that he's overprotective."

"I get that, but it's not like I'm some dude trying to molest you something." A grin peeked through. "I know, but he worries a lot. I know he'll...calm down, once he gets to know you."

I doubted that.

"Please tell me he hasn't run you off, too." She stepped in front of me, brows furrowed. "I know you probably think hanging out with me isn't worth - "

"No. It's okay." I ran a hand over my forehead. "He didn't run me off - he won't." She looked so relieved I thought she'd collapse. "Good. I have to go, but I'll fix this. I promise."

I shrugged. "There's nothing to fix. He isn't your problem."

A strange look crossed her face. "But he kind of is. I'll talk to you later, okay?" Nodding, I watched her head back to her house. I grabbed the empty bags. What the hell had that been about? Never in my life had someone disliked me so strongly. Shaking my head, I dumped the bags in the trash.

Daemon was hot, but he was a jerk. A bully.

And I'd meant what I said to Dee. He wasn't going to scare me off from being friends with his sister. He'd just have to deal with it. I was here to stay.