But no man should look that good with a sucker.
“How do you look so human?” I blurted out.
A small smile played across his lips. “Our DNA melded with human DNA.
Same thing for the Luxen.
I could go into detail, but it will probably bore you to tears. We may look human and even act it at times, but don’t ever forget that we are not human.”
My heart turned over heavily. “Are you trying to scare me?”
Hunter arched a brow.
“I’m just telling you the truth.” Biting down on the sucker, he held the now empty white stick. “It’s probably a wise thing that you’re scared. Would you like another drink?”
I nodded, relieved when he got up to retrieve the wine bottle. Without him beside me, the air felt less tense and thick. I wished he’d put a shirt on. “How did I even get here?”
Hunter placed the refilled glass in front of me, and I grabbed it like a wino.
“You’ll be happy to know it was a very human method of traveling. Drove your car to a private hangar and placed you on a plane.”
I took a healthy drink.
“My car is still at the hangar?” The thing wasn’t a luxury vehicle, but I couldn’t afford a new one.
“Yes. It will not be touched there.”
I relaxed a little. “Will you tell me about what you are?”
“Already did that.”
Hunter tossed the white stick from his sucker into the trash, then propped a hip against the island.
My gaze dropped to the glass between my palms as I smiled a little. “You’ve hardly told me anything about that.”
“I think the less you know the better.”
Something in his voice caused ice to drench my veins. As I took another drink of the wine, my throat tightened.
The pressure spread to my chest.
A new threat appeared. “I can’t be the first person to accidentally find out about aliens. Not even Mel.”
“Nope.” He took a drink.
“Humans probably find out all the time. Either they are very smart and keep quiet or…”
“Or what?” I whispered.
Hunter’s pale eyes pierced me.
“Or they disappear.”
“Is that what’s happened to me? I’ve disappeared?”
Again, what he said wasn’t the most reassuring thing. So many emotions beat at me like a violent riptide threatening to drag me under.
I stopped myself from going for more wine.
“What is that supposed to mean?”
He regarded me coolly.
“You really want to know?”
I shot him a look. “Yes. I really want to know. I want to know everything.”
“The DOD may say one thing, but I know differently. The only reason you’re alive right now is because the Luxen stepped around the DOD and went after your friend.
Wherever there’s exposure, they are required to report it. They didn’t. That ticked the DOD off, and then when they issued a kill order on you, the DOD stepped in just to prove a point. And they want to know what the boys were fighting over.”
I wished he’d stop saying “kill order.” “I don’t know what they were fighting over.”
“You don’t?” He didn’t sound like he believed me.
“No.” I tugged a hand through my hair. “What are you really saying?”
“I think you know.” There was a pause. “The DOD’s protection of you is their way of giving the middle finger to the Luxen—and being nosy. It’s like a parent taking away a toy from an ill-behaving child.
It’s not because they want to protect you. They are just proving a point. But if you prove to be too much of a risk, they will turn on you faster than you could blink.”
A few moments passed as I watched the heavy branches swaying in the breeze outside. I worked at getting that plug of emotion down my throat.
My life wasn’t in my hands anymore, wasn’t even guaranteed. How was I not a risk? I knew about aliens.
I’d seen them. I couldn’t wrap my head around this.
I understood it and I was even processing it, but the full scale of what all of this meant was numbing.
And I knew deep down that there was a good chance I wasn’t going to walk away from this with my life. An alien race wanted me dead, an alien who was admittedly dangerous was protecting me, and the DOD could change their mind at any time and take me out. I was just expected to sit here and wait for someone or something to kill me.
I couldn’t do that.
It was more than just my life. It was about Mel, too.
She was murdered and no one— NO ONE —would be held accountable, especially if I was silenced.
Mel deserved justice.
He leaned against the island, his presence crowding as his eyes searched mine. “You’ve really stepped into some shit, haven’t you?”
Hearing it put like that, I had to laugh, because if I didn’t, I’d cry and probably never stop crying. “Yeah, I think I stepped in it and then rolled around in it.”
His lips twitched.
Our gazes met and held for a moment. Unnerved, I glanced away, pressing my lips together. I couldn’t stay here.
“What about my job?” I said, hopeful. “I can’t—”
“The DOD have taken care of that. Due to an emergency, you have been given extended leave,” he replied.
I didn’t hear Hunter move closer, but there he was, so close we were sharing the same oxygen.
His fingers under my chin again, tilting my head toward his. Our mouths separated by scant inches.
My stomach hollowed and a hot and uncomfortable feeling spread through me like an out-of-control wildfire. Heaviness settled in my breasts and then spread much, much lower.
Hunter’s nostrils flared.
Even with all the crazy stuff happening recently, beneath the sorrow and the anger, I was still a red- blooded, twenty- three-year-old woman sitting in front of a man, who may not be a hundred-percent human but had to have caused a panty-dropping crisis across the universe.
Maybe not a personality to brag about, but he oozed that kind of dark sex appeal that made good girls do bad, bad things.
Over and over again.
We were stuck here— together and alone. There was no mistaking the predatory edge that had crept into his expression and I was no squeamish virgin.
The fingers under my chin drifted up, spreading across my cheek. I held still. His gaze dropped to my mouth and then farther down, his stare so intense it felt like a caress.
His lips slipped into a smile that did nothing to ease the stark lust in his face. “Oh, Serena, you really have no idea of what kind of shit you’ve stepped in.”
After Hunter had disappeared into the study with explicit orders to not even think about stepping foot outside the cabin, I ran through my options.
Going home was stupid, but staying here wasn’t any smarter. I only had the clothes on my back, but that wasn’t the problem. I’d found my purse in the bedroom—thank God, Hunter had the sense to grab that minus my cell phone, but I only had a couple of twenties in my wallet. Not enough cash to get me back home. My credit cards were there, but I was too wary of using them since they could easily be tracked.
I had old college friends all over the States. There was Vee Winters, a fellow psych grad, who lived in Tennessee.
Vee would send me money no questions asked and would open her door to me, but I needed a phone.
I hadn’t seen a single one in the house.
Hours passed as I bounced from one room to another.
The sunroom quickly became my favorite place in the house. With all the plants, it gave the illusion of being outside— and not caged up all alone with the sexiest and rudest alien in the universe.
I wondered if he’d found a shirt yet.
The sunroom was several degrees warmer and tall, thick mountain ash and elm provided some privacy, but if someone were standing out front, they could see everything going on within the lower part of the cabin due to the floor-to-ceiling windows.
My stomached knotted as I considered my plans.
At night, I would leave. I had to.
Panic had built all day, spreading like a noxious weed. I felt trapped—I was trapped—and I had to get out of here, find some place in town that had a phone, and then, once I got to Vee’s house, I’d figure out what to do next.
When the sun started to go down, I stopped outside the study door and listened. I couldn’t hear a thing but knew he hadn’t left the room. If he’d gone all smoky alien, I still would have seen him at some point. He was in there, maybe asleep.
Hurrying upstairs, I grabbed my ID and the cash. Slipping my credit cards in my back pocket, I hoped I didn’t need to use them but wanted to be prepared. I checked the study once more, and when I heard nothing, I crept back through the living room.
At the entrance to the house, I squeezed my eyes shut and slowly, carefully unlocked the front door.
The click sounded like thunder to me.
Glancing over my shoulder, I expected Hunter to bust through the study door and tackle me, but when it didn’t happen, I murmured a little prayer and inched open the door far enough for me to slip out. I closed it at the rate of an ant’s crawl, wincing as it shut into place.
I turned around, tucking my hair back behind my ears. Hands and legs trembling, I darted around potted flowers that threw a heavy, sweet scent into the air, and dashed down the steep staircase that led off the deck and onto a gravel driveway. Cursing the flip-flops I was wearing, I hurried along. With the sun quickly fading, I knew it would only be a matter of time before I couldn’t see a foot in front of me. There was no artificial light out here—no lampposts or streetlights. Once the sun went down… I refused to think about it.
Deep shadows were already invading the thick, imposing trees crowding the driveway. There was no doubt in my mind there were a lot of furry creatures big and small in the woods around me.
My heart raced as I broke into a mad run down the uneven gravel, adrenaline jetting through my veins. I spared a brief glance into the tree line to the right and saw something move. A bear?
Anything seemed possible.
Fear zinged through my blood, constricting my throat as I hit the end of the driveway and came to a complete stop.
The road was narrow and covered in a thin layer of asphalt. The heavy hum of cicadas and crickets drowned out the pounding of my pulse. Mountain ash and elm were thicker here, their branches hanging over the road like thick, stubby fingers waiting to grab unsuspecting tourists.
I didn’t know which direction to take.
The back of my throat burned as I took a step forward but stopped. Who was I kidding? My breath came out in a harsh exhale. So close to tears, I blindly took a left and started walking as fast as I could.
I followed the road, passing cabins not as large as Hunter’s but still pretty damn big. For a moment, I considered stopping at one of them. They all had the large floor-to-ceiling windows, but there were no lights on. Trepidation filled me and a small voice spoke up in the back of my head, warning that this was a bad, bad idea.
As I made my way around a bend in the road, a pavilion came into view.
There was a raised portion, like a stage.