She placed the small white bag of pastries in the passenger seat of her Jeep and steered out of the parking lot. If she didn’t hurry, she’d be late to teach her first class. Today she was teaching skiing for beginners. It was mainly kids under ten and she was looking forward to it. As she rounded the last bend before the turnoff to Fontana Lodge, she noticed the same gray truck tailing her that she’d seen as she’d left the literacy center.
Her fingers tightened around the wheel as alarm jumped inside her. It could be nothing, but after she’d been kidnapped a few weeks ago, she paid extra attention to her surroundings. Hell, she still couldn’t believe those two monsters had managed to surprise her outside the grocery store. She’d let her guard down since moving to Fontana. In Miami that never would have happened. In Miami she hadn’t been allowed to go anywhere without one of her father’s bodyguards. Well, until she’d met Jayce. Then she hadn’t been allowed to go anywhere without him. Sadness welled in her chest whenever she thought of him. He’d been her first love, her first…everything. Her throat tightened and she tried to block out memories of him. She couldn’t allow herself to travel down that emotional minefield.
For as long as she could remember, the men in her life had always been so annoyingly protective. She’d never missed that overbearing presence until she’d been at the mercy of two evil assholes. If it hadn’t been for Connor and Liam Armstrong…She shuddered and locked those thoughts up too. There was no sense thinking about what might have happened. It would only drive her insane. After the cops had started digging around the shed she’d been held in, they’d discovered “mementos” from other victims. And body parts. So far they’d found at least five female victims, but Kat didn’t doubt there would be more on that property.
She swallowed back the bile in her throat. Thanks to two strangers that saved her life, she now had two new friends and an entire pack of shifters she wouldn’t hesitate to call on for help. The fact that her friend December was obviously involved with one of them made her feel even better about them.
As she neared the turnoff, the truck behind her sped up even faster. Her unease turned to worry. She gunned the engine and took a sharp turn. Even with the chains on her Jeep her vehicle swerved slightly against the slick, icy asphalt. Keeping her eyes on the road and her rearview mirror was difficult. When she saw the truck continue past the turnoff, she still couldn’t allow herself to relax.
Instead of heading for the main parking lot, she zoomed straight for the valet. As an employee she wasn’t supposed to use it, but one of the guys had a crush on her and usually let her get away with it. She was probably being paranoid but she didn’t care. Better safe than sorry. Especially after what had almost happened to her.
Pulling to a stop, she pushed out a relieved breath. Her heart pounded erratically and she knew she was likely overreacting. The truck hadn’t been following her. She was just letting her imagination run wild. As she grabbed her purse and pastry bag, her loud ringtone sliced through the air. She jumped and let out a startled cry.
When she saw the number, all thoughts of gray trucks and kidnappers dissipated. It was Jayce. She swallowed hard as she stared at the caller ID, a knot forming in her throat.
Kat missed talking to him. So much so that she actually ached to hear him say her name once more in that gravelly, sinfully sexy voice. It was so distinctive she’d know it anywhere. But she knew she shouldn’t. After she’d ended things, he’d called her a dozen or so times. She’d been strong eight months ago. She could be strong now.
She silenced her phone and shoved it into her purse. When Randy waved at her from behind the valet stand, she plastered a smile on her face and opened her door. She still had time to scarf down some food before she made it to the bunny slopes.
Shoving thoughts of Jayce’s gray, hungry eyes from her mind, she reminded herself why she’d walked away. He didn’t have a place in her life anymore. He’d given that up when he’d decided she wasn’t good enough for him.
December felt Liam glance at her as she steered in front of the lodge’s valet. He’d spent all day with her at the bookstore and still couldn’t take his eyes off her. It might put her a little on edge, but it was incredibly flattering to have such a sexy man like Liam so unequivocally focused on her. And she was grateful he’d unloaded and stocked her new shipments today. While she’d had to get used to his unfamiliar presence, having him around hadn’t been that bad.
“We don’t have to stay long,” she murmured before one of the valet guys opened her door. He’d been quiet on the ride over and she couldn’t tell what kind of mood he was in.
As she took the parking ticket, he rounded the vehicle to her side. Something told her that under normal circumstances he would have insisted on driving, but it was almost as if he’d sensed her need to stay in control and had decided not to push.
“We’ll stay as long as you want.” His voice was low and sensual and even though she tried to fight it, her cheeks heated up as warmth curled through her and settled low in her belly.
Liam wrapped his arm around December’s shoulders as they headed into the main lobby of the lodge, almost like he was staking a claim on her. Part of December wanted to pull away from his hold, but she didn’t. She loved the feel of his strong arm around her even though it was making her feel off-kilter. As they strode through the lobby, she motioned to their left, since she knew where they were going. Kat had called her earlier and told them to just meet her at the martini bar on the west side of the hotel.
Some guy Kat worked with was having a birthday. December thought she’d met him once or twice. In fact, if she remembered correctly, Kat had tried to set her up with him, but with their conflicting schedules it had never worked out. She hadn’t told Liam that, though. He was oddly possessive about stuff. Not creepy or anything, but she was coming to understand that his human and animal sides constantly battled each other.
She’d seen it in his eyes earlier when she’d insisted on driving to the party. He hadn’t wanted to let her. Truthfully, she was surprised he’d given in. The small act had allowed her to relax a little. He’d been a big help at the store today, but he’d also been an even bigger distraction.
It was impossible to focus on customers when he was there. Everything about him was pure male. He practically reeked of testosterone. Normally men like that annoyed her, but with Liam it was hard to keep her hands off him. And after seeing him without a shirt this morning, she kept envisioning what it would be like to run her hands up his muscular chest and down his equally muscular back. Everything else would be just as tight and firm. She absolutely knew it.
When they entered the bar, she was impressed by the changes. A new owner had taken over a year ago and it showed. No more moose heads and garish track lighting adorning the place.
The purple and pink lights created a soft glow around the darkened room and the plush bar stools were definitely an upgrade. It was still early and the place wasn’t crowded yet. She immediately spotted Kat sitting on one of the leather couches in one of the corners of the expansive bar. Naturally she was surrounded by four men.
When Kat spotted them, however, she made a beeline in their direction. “Oh my God, I’m so glad you guys are here.” She grabbed December’s arm, pulling her away from Liam, and dragged them to the bar. “I need a drink.”
Kat pulled up a stool and December did the same. She glanced at Liam. “Don’t you want to sit?”
“No.” He didn’t even glance at them. Just took on this warrior-type stance as he surveyed the room. No doubt looking for possible danger.
After everything that had happened the past few weeks, she was actually thankful for his overprotectiveness. Though she wouldn’t tell him that. It would be as good as giving him the go-ahead to act like that all the time. And that so wasn’t happening.
“You’ll never guess who called me today. Twice,” Kat said as she motioned for the bartender.
“Your ex?” December asked, even though she was pretty sure she already knew the answer.
Kat looked surprised. “How’d you know?”
“Because you get this crazy pissed-off look every time you mention him.” December grinned at her friend. Kat was pretty quiet about why they’d broken up, but a few times when she’d been drunk, she’d opened up to her about how he’d broken her heart and what an asshole he was. “So what did he say?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t answer the phone.”
Kat shrugged and her scowl deepened. “Because screw him, that’s why.” She grabbed the mixed drink placed in front of her and downed half of it in one gulp.
“Uh, Kat?” December raised her eyebrows.
“I know, I know. I just need something to take the edge off. He hasn’t called in months and now out of the blue he’s started up again. He just has that effect on me. I’m so antsy right now and I hate it.”
December shifted uncomfortably in her seat and contained the urge to look in Liam’s direction. Yeah, she understood how a man could have that effect. And she hadn’t even slept with Liam yet. As far as she knew, Kat had actually lost her virginity to her ex-boyfriend. She was one of the few women December knew who’d waited so long to have sex. It was definitely easy to get twisted up over your first. She looked at Liam again and he was still standing soldier straight surveying the bar.
Shaking her head, she smiled at Kat. Maybe tonight they both needed to loosen up. “Want to do a shot?”
Jayce moved through the crowd of yuppie assholes with ease. The loud party in the martini bar of Fontana Lodge was in full swing. Thanks to his extrasensory abilities the scent of alcohol was the most pungent thing here tonight. It was worse than a fucking brewery.
He hated other people touching him and the stench of most humans, shifters, or vampires was enough to make him want to live alone the rest of his life. However long that might be. After five hundred years there weren’t many things that could kill him. Not that plenty of supernatural beings and humans alike hadn’t tried.