Page 8

The back of her head hit the heavy down pillows at the top of her bed. She had a decision to make. Operate off what Kimmy said and her own old fears, or go with the flow, wherever it may take her.

Eyes on the ceiling, she fought a big, goofy smile. “We can get to know each other now, right?”

Another deep laugh had her feeling fuzzy. “I’m liking where this is heading.”

So was she.

Daemon stalked the woods surrounding his family’s home. Brutal winds whipped down from the looming mountains and rolled right into him. Dammit, it was cold outside. Cold enough he wished he’d picked up a jacket for once in his life.

Shoving his hands in the pockets of his jeans, he stared over the frozen lake he visited more times than he could count. Moonlight reflected off the ice, casting a silvery light that reminded him of a well-polished blade.

Being that he was out on patrol, the last thing he should be doing was standing here, thinking about his brother’s love life like a freaking nosy girl. There was another Arum close by. He hadn’t seen one since he yanked the other off his brother and disposed of him, but he knew it in his bones. Well, in his human bones. Whatever.

But instead of focusing on combing the county like he should, he was worrying…while his brother rested up in his toasty bedroom. Up there having no idea that Daemon knew what he was doing.

Talking on the phone with that human girl Bethany.

It wasn’t like chatting it up with a human girl was a code red. But when you combined the way Dawson had been staring at her, how he’d ordered Daemon to back down in class, and then how he’d threatened Andrew? Yeah, there was a problem.

A big problem.

Withdrawing his hand from his pocket, he tugged it through his wind-whipped hair. His brother had always been one to do whatever he wanted. Not because he didn’t give a flying monkey about anyone, but because Dawson was just that strong. If any of them was willing to risk being cast out by the Elders and forced to live the rest of their life in exile, it was his brother.

Daemon pivoted around and waited for his head to explode or something. Needing some sort of action, he shook off his human skin before he took a step. In his natural form, he was nothing but light and quicker than air.

Zipping across the lake, he headed for the Rocks. Once he got there, he’d have to tone down the shine. But it was the best place to keep an eye on the shadows and how they moved.

On the way up, he ran through his options.

Lock Dawson in his room and keep him from school, therefore away from the girl.

Scare the crap out of the girl so she stayed away from Dawson.

Throw all the phones away and slash Dawson’s tires.

Yeah, his plans weren’t so good. First off, he wasn’t into imprisonment. Spending those years under the DOD’s thumb in New Mexico was enough of that for all of them. Secondly, he had a mean streak the size of the Grand Canyon, but he wasn’t about threatening girls. And finally, Dawson had just gotten that phone after Dee accidentally zapped the other one, and he’d cry if anything happened to his Jetta.

Maybe there was nothing to be done. Maybe they all had overreacted. This wasn’t the first time Dawson went out with a human girl. Hell, even Daemon had swung that way a few times. Anything to take a break from Ash sometimes.

It wasn’t like Dawson was in love with the girl, thank God.

Feeling better, he shot up the side of the mountain like lightning. It was just infatuation, and it would fade.

Dawson and the girl had only known each other a few days. It wasn’t like it was too late or anything.

Was it?

When the phone beeped in her ear, Bethany pulled it back and frowned. “Wait. The battery is dying. Don’t go anywhere.”

There was a deep chuckle. “Don’t plan on it.”

Stretching down, she plugged the cord into the wall outlet, and then settled back against the pillows. “Okay. So you’ve lived in Colorado, New Mexico, and South Dakota?”

“Yep. And New York.”

“Wow. Do your parents travel for work or something?”

Silence and then, “Yeah, you could say that.”

She frowned as she plucked at the comforter. That wasn’t much of an answer. He had a habit of doing that whenever the questions got too personal. “Okay, so where were you born?”

Bedsprings groaned before he answered. “My family was born on a small island off of Greece. Not sure it even has a name.”

“Wow.” She rolled onto her side, now smiling. “Well, that explains it.”

“Explains what?” Curiosity marked his tone.

“You guys don’t even look…real.” At his laugh, she blushed. “I mean, you look foreign. Like you come from someplace else.”

Another laugh and he said, “Yeah, we do come from someplace else.”

“It must be neat, though. Greece? Always wanted to visit there.”

“I don’t remember much about it, but I’d love to go back. Enough about me. I saw your drawing in the art room earlier.”

She twisted her fingers around the phone cord. “The flowers in the vase?”

“Yeah,” he said. “Man, you’ve got amazing skills. It looked just like the example Mrs. Pan had on the board. Mine looked like an elephant trunk eating weeds.”

Bethany giggled. “It wasn’t that bad.”

“That’s sweet, but I know you’re lying. Do you draw a lot?”

“No.” Her gaze went to the painting in the corner. “I paint, actually.”

“Now that is cool—a real talent. I would love to see them one day, your paintings.”

She’d die a thousand deaths before she let him see the last one she’d done. “Ah, I’m not that good.”

“Whatever,” he replied.

“How would you know? You can’t judge by flowers.”

“Ah, I just know. That’s my talent, if you’re wondering. I just know things.”

She rolled her eyes, but she was grinning. “What a unique talent.”

“I know. I amaze myself.” There was a soft intake of breath.

“I bet you’re the type of guy not afraid of anything, huh?”

“Oh, no, there are things that terrify me.”

“Like what?”

“Muppets,” came his solemn reply.

“What?” She laughed. “Muppets?”

“Yes. Those things are terrifying. And you’re laughing at me.”

She smiled. “Sorry. You’re right. Muppets can be scary.” Closing her eyes, she smothered a yawn. “We should get off the phone.”

Dawson’s sigh was audible. “I know.”

“Okay, well, I guess I’ll see you…” She glanced at the clock and laughed. “In about five hours, then?”

“Yeah, I’ll be waiting for you.”

God, she liked the sound of that. Him waiting for her. “Okay. Good—”

“Wait.” His voice sounded urgent. “I don’t want to hang up.”

Her breath caught. “I second that.”

His laugh warmed her. “Good. Tell me about some of the favorite things you like to paint.”

And she did. They talked until they both fell asleep, their phones cradled between their shoulders and cheeks.

Chapter 7

Unable to remember the last time he had been this close to hyperventilating, which was amazing, since he didn’t really need to breathe, he glanced down at his phone. Again.

The text message from Bethany hadn’t changed in the thirty seconds since he’d last looked. According to the words on his phone, Bethany couldn’t wait for their late lunch date at two. He knew she wasn’t going to bail, especially since they’d talked on the phone every night since Wednesday.

But he was as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

His gaze flickered to the dashboard. Thirty minutes early. Should he go ahead and go in? Get one of those booths near the cranking fireplace? Bethany would like that, he thought, and so he did.

As he waited for her to show, he played a round of FreeCell on his phone. Lost. Played another, and because he kept glancing up every time the chimes above the door rang, he lost another two rounds.

Good God, it was like he’d never been on a date before. If he kept this up, he’d start flickering like the Northern lights. Not good.

When the tinkling sound came again and he looked up, every nerve in his body fired at once.

It was Bethany.

Her warm brown eyes scanned the rock formations in the center of the diner, over the tables, and finally to the booth he’d found by the fireplace. When her gaze met his, she smiled and therefore sucked the marrow right out of his bones…in a totally good way.

Heading straight for their booth, she only had eyes for him. Meaning she didn’t see the college-age guy’s stare follow her. Dawson so didn’t like how the human was staring at Bethany. Like he’d never seen a female before, and Dawson was more than ready to introduce himself. Every territorial instinct in him went off. It took everything for him not to get up and pummel the dude into the old wooden floors.

“Hey,” Bethany said, shrugging off her chunky cardigan. Underneath she wore a black turtleneck that fit her curves. “You haven’t been waiting long, have you?”

Forcing his eyes north, he smiled. “No, I just got here.”

She slid into the booth, tucking her hair behind her ears. He loved that her hair was down, spilling over her shoulders. Looking around the diner, she bit her lower lip. “It’s really cozy in here. I like it. Sort of homey.”

“It’s really nice. Great food.” He cleared his throat, wanting to kick himself. “I’m glad you came.”

Her eyes darted back to his. “Me, too.”

The waitress appeared, saving them from the awkward silence while they placed their drink orders. “Do you come here often?” she asked once the waitress left.

Dawson nodded. “We come about twice a week.”

“Your brother and sister?”

“Yeah, Dee and I come every Thursday, and the three of us come every Wednesday.” He laughed. “It’s kind of bad how often we eat here, actually.”

“Do your parents not cook a lot?”

Ah, a bomb of a question, considering their parents passed away before any of them knew what they looked like. “No, they don’t cook.”

The waitress was back, sliding their glasses across the table. An oven-baked pizza, extra green peppers, light on sauce, was ordered, along with breadsticks.

Bethany fiddled with the straw, folding it into little squares so that it looked like an accordion when she was done. “I swear, my mom lives to bake. Every day I come home, there’re cookies, fresh bread, or some kind of cake.”

An unfamiliar, deep sense of yearning built in his chest. What would it be like to have a mom and dad to go home to? All they had was Matthew, not that he was chopped liver or anything, but he didn’t even live with them. At least not since they were thirteen and deemed mature enough to get by on their own. Matthew probably would have kept them with him forever, but Daemon had needed space of his own.