“No, you jerk!” she said, accompanying her denial with another slap.

“What the hell is it with you women and hitting me?” he demanded in a half growl. “A simple answer would have been enough.”

“Maybe if you hadn’t acted like an ass**le today and ditched me, you wouldn't be getting slapped upside the head,” she pointed out, sounding furious, but he noted that she was still clinging to him.

He felt his temper snap with that accusation and the reminder of why he'd left her alone. “I wouldn't have ditched you if you hadn't made it so f**king obvious that you didn't want me around!”

“What the hell are you talking about? I never acted like I didn't want you around,” she said, shivering violently against him as she tried to shift in his arms to get closer, confusing him even more.

“You couldn't get away from me fast enough in the hardware store,” he snapped even as he released his hold on her h*ps and wrapped his arms around her, simply because he couldn't help himself.

The only person in his entire life that had sought him out for comfort and accepted him unconditionally had been Marta. As a small child she'd always preferred to go to him for company, attention, and comfort. Even his father, who he knew loved him, held him at an arm's length, probably because he blamed him for his mother's death.

According to the midwife and the physician that had overseen his birth, his delivery had been the most violent birth they'd ever witnessed. His mother had died in agony as she gave him life. As much as his father had tried, he hadn't been able to stop the tale of his birth from reaching the small village they’d lived near.

Things probably wouldn't have been so bad if he'd grown at a normal rate, but he'd been small for his age and grew at an alarmingly slow rate. The villagers took that as a sign that there was something wrong with him and avoided him, although not outright. No one would have done anything to anger his father since they counted on his generosity for their livelihoods.

His family had been one of the richest and oldest families in Germany. At the time, owning more land, homes, and businesses than even Hitler, but none of that had meant anything when the shit hit the fan.

“What the hell are you talking about? And can't we have this discussion in the house?” she demanded through chattering teeth.

“Fine!” he snapped, walking towards the house. He didn’t miss her tiny sigh of relief. What had scared her this badly? he wondered as he took the back steps two at a time.

Once they were in the dark kitchen she didn't release him as he’d expected. Instead, she reluctantly raised her head to look around, her heartbeat increasing even faster as a new wave of fear hit him hard.

“The light?” she whispered harshly.

Frowning down at the woman trembling in his arms, he reached out and flicked the switch on, encompassing the kitchen in bright light. As soon as the light was on, Cloe was out of his arms and across the room in what seemed like a matter of seconds, further pissing him off.

“Maybe you should just leave if my presence disgusts you so much,” he said tightly, running his tongue over his fangs as they threatened to shoot out. He was pissed.

Beyond f**king pissed.

She hadn’t run off and abandoned his sister, he understood that, but it seemed as though she still had a problem being around him. He wasn't about to put up with the same small town bullshit in his own home. After a lifetime of being treated like a pariah he was done.

If Marta needed extra companionship so badly then maybe they should move so that she could have it without his pride taking another hit. He really couldn't fathom anything more insulting than the woman he was stupidly falling for thinking that he was lower than dog shit. Call him crazy, but it wasn't exactly a flattering comparison.

“What are you talking about?” Cloe asked absently as she wrapped her arms around herself and looked around the kitchen as if she expected something to jump out at any second and attack her.

“Every time I come within touching distance of you, you can't get away from me fast enough. If I had known that you were going to buy into the little town drama I would have saved us all the trouble by throwing your ass out the first day you came here,” he said, running his tongue over his fangs as they poked out of his gums once again. The scent of her fear wasn't going anywhere and he was having a hard time ignoring it.

She paused in her wild search to roll her eyes at him. “I don't have a problem with you, you jerk. Well, besides screwing me over so you can have a hissy fit.”

“I don’t throw hissy fits,” he cut her off, but she continued as if she hadn't heard him, which was damn frustrating.

“My problem is space,” she finished, bending slightly so that she could shoot a nervous look beneath the kitchen table.

Frowning, he couldn't help but do the same. “What exactly are we looking for?”

“Nothing,” she said quickly, too quickly, but he decided to let it go.

For now.

“Uh huh, and what are you talking about? Space? What the hell does that have to do with anything?” he asked, wondering when she was going to relax. They'd been in the house for over five minutes and she was still giving off the scent of fear as she shivered her ass off.

She shot him a glare as she said, “I don't like being cornered or trapped in small spaces. I need space.”

Her words ran through his head as he remembered that she hadn't taken exception to his presence, other than annoyance, until he’d crowded her against the paint samples, which he’d done because she’d been driving him crazy at the time and he kind of enjoyed pissing her off.

“Oh,” he said, feeling like an ass.

“Yeah, 'Oh',” she snapped back. “If you hadn't gone off pouting and had stuck around to help me, I wouldn't have been locked up in that shed all night,” she bit out, making him wince.


“So......,” he trailed off not exactly sure how to broach the subject, “I don't disgust you?” he asked, immediately wishing that he hadn't.

“The only thing that disgusts me about you is the food you try to serve Marta,” she said, shooting a nervous look at the door and damn near jumped to the ceiling when it was suddenly thrown open.

Marta stormed into the room, shooting him a narrowed eye glare that instantly disappeared when she spotted Cloe.

“Are you alright, dear?” she asked Cloe, walking as quickly as her cane would allow her over to the young woman who was still shivering as she held herself tightly.

Cloe forced a reassuring smile for Marta. “I'm fine. Just a little cold. I was stuck in the shed all day,” she explained and he couldn't help but notice that she hadn’t blamed him, but apparently that wasn't going to stop Marta from placing the blame squarely at his feet.

“This would not have happened if you had helped her,” she said accusingly as she took a step towards him, her hand noticeably tightening around the top of her cane.

“Marta,” he warned tightly. He was done with all the bullshit.

“You should have been helping her today instead of sulking!” Marta snapped, further testing his patience. He was not about to stand there and allow his younger sister to yell at him like he was an errant child.