“You said you wanted something fast. This is the fastest thing I have.” He touched the car lovingly.
“And if you get one scratch on this baby, I will kill you and make it hurt.”
“Your car will be fine.” I glanced over at Serena.
She was standing near the Porsche, staring at it. Her head was tilted to the side, and even in the darkness I could see the bruise along her cheek and the swollen lower lip.
I turned back to Dex.
“Stay here with her. I’ll be right back.”
Dex nodded and I turned, heading back into the house. I grabbed what I needed quickly, and when I returned they were exactly where I’d left them.
But Dex had an odd look on his face.
“What?” I asked.
He pursed his lips, then said in a low voice, “She hasn’t spoken a word.”
“I doubt that will last.” I gestured at the Expedition.
“I need you to get rid of this SUV. Everything else has been taken care of.”
“All right, man.” Dex held out his hand. “Take care of yourself.”
I hesitated for a moment, and then I shook his hand. “Thank you.”
Grabbing the luggage, I tossed them into the trunk.
When I closed it, I found Dex standing beside me.
“I don’t know what you’re planning to do with her,”
Dex said, voice low, “but she’s a human, Hunter.
You’re going to have to be careful with her. They break easily.”
I snorted, but then in a moment of clarity, I turned to Dex. “Did you ever worry about breaking Eliza?”
The Arum met my gaze with equally pale eyes.
“Every damn day.”
“Then why are you with her?”
Dex placed a hand to his chest. “Because of what’s in here—what I feel for her will never allow me to hurt her.”
“You speak of love?” I shook my head as I clutched the keys. “Very foolish to rely on a human emotion to protect her.”
“It’s also very foolish to think we’re incapable of being more human than Arum.”
And with that, he was gone.
I stood there for a moment.
More human than Arum? Impossible.
Turning around, my gaze landed on Serena. Under the moonlight, her hair was a silver halo around her bowed head.
As I approached her cautiously, she looked up. Close as we were, I could see the deep purplish marring of the bruise across her cheek, the dried blood under her lip.
Shit. I wanted to kill Raz all over again.
When I reached around her, she flinched. “I’m just getting the door. That’s all.” I opened it for her and she climbed in and huddled in the front seat.
Closing it behind her, I had one last thing to take care of. Moving to the back of the Porsche, I bent and tugged up my pants.
Slipping my hand under the opal-encased tracking device, I knew removing it was a straight “fucked if you do and fucked if you don’t.” But without it, the DOD couldn’t track me.
And without it, I wouldn’t have the opal to enhance my powers and minimize my need to feed. I’d need a new piece of opal, one hopefully not wired with a GPS, and I knew where to get one.
I wrenched the anklet off my leg. A fissure of energy rippled through me, and then a red light flickered on the piece of opal. Holding it in my hand, I crushed the device, letting the tiny pieces sift through my fingers like dust. The only part that remained was the opal and I tossed it into a nearby bush.
In that moment, I hoped I knew what I was doing. I didn’t really have a plan other than to get another piece of opal, and then what? Anyone’s guess.
Mainly I hoped I wasn’t just delaying the inevitable for Serena and exposing her to more pain.
I stalked around the car and slid in behind the steering wheel. We needed to get to somewhere safe.
And I needed to get a good look at her to see the extent of her injuries. She would need to rest.
There were a lot of “she needs” in my thoughts.
Throwing the car into reverse, I spun it around, kicking gravel into the air as the tires squealed.
Good thing Dex wasn’t around to see that. Hitting the main road, I glanced over at Serena.
“You should put your seat belt on.”
Face pale, she slowly unwrapped her arms and fumbled with the seat belt until it clicked into place.
“Are you okay, Serena?
Raz, he…” I trailed off because I was sure I was going to flip my shit when I thought about what Raz had been trying to do her.
The trees crowding the road blurred and it wasn’t until we had left the community, easing onto the main highway, that she spoke.
“Where are we going?”
she asked, her voice sounding tired.
I shifted my weight in the seat, feeling her gaze on me. “Someplace we can hole up for the day.” A quick glance at the dashboard told me I had only a few hours before sunrise.
“Then what?” Her voice sounded stronger.
I smiled. “I’m hoping to figure that out at some point.”
Serena returned to staring out the windshield.
Her hands were opening and closing in her lap. I wondered if she even knew she was doing it? One of her hands, her left, looked pretty mangled. The nails were broken off, chipped and bloody.
Rage settled in my gut as I thought about all she had been through.
Honestly, I never gave two shits to the problems of humans or the perils they faced simply by walking from the kitchen to the bathroom, but with Serena, I thought about it. Fuck. I was obsessing over it.
Gripping the steering wheel with one hand, my eyes narrowed on the dark road. I didn’t realize what I was doing until I reached over and wrapped my fingers around her hand, careful to avoid her fingers.
Serena didn’t pull away.
She squeezed my hand.
And I squeezed back.
… I hadn’t known what to say. Even though my brain seemed to have caught up with the events over the last couple of hours and I was relatively sane, I just didn’t know what to say.
Was a thank-you in order?
Seemed inappropriate somehow, and by that time, I was so… numb to it all that I couldn’t say anything.
And I couldn’t stop staring at the hand wrapped around mine.
Hunter’s hand looked human, graceful bones and skin. His touch was much cooler, but besides that, it looked no different than any human male’s hand.
The way he held my hand, as if he was afraid of hurting me somehow, created a thick lump in my throat. It was a gentleness I don’t think he even knew he was capable of.
I stole a look at him.
He’d fallen quiet, and right now he looked like he always did: insanely good-looking and serious, a strange combination that had intrigued me from the beginning. But there was a taut pull to his lips. The hollows under his cheekbones looked more severe. In the shadowy darkness of the car, it looked like there were bruises starting to appear on his face.
Concern rose swiftly. He and Raz had fought so violently—a true death match. I’d never seen anything like that. It was straight out of a movie, and it was insane that he was still breathing and standing.
“Are you okay?” I asked, my voice hoarse.
His gaze slid toward me.
“Yeah, I’m okay.”
“How could you be okay after fighting like that?”
He didn’t respond immediately. “I’m used to it.”
Used to that? That made me hurt for him. “You must heal differently than…than humans do.”
“We do.” He paused, withdrawing his hand.
“When we take our true form, we heal.”
I murmured. My hand felt empty and cold, and nothing was said after that.
Dawn had begun to creep along the eastern horizon, casting the sky in vibrant hues of deep blues, by the time Hunter had taken the exit ramp and pulled into a small motel nestled in the valleys and farmlands. We were still deep in the middle of West Virginia, but had put several hours and miles between the cabin and us.
I waited in the Porsche while Hunter checked in.
Luckily he got a room along the back, so the car could be parked behind the motel. He didn’t seem to be worried that anyone would know who we were, but I kept expecting aliens and DOD officers to jump out of nowhere.
“The motel doesn’t look too shady,” Hunter said, grabbing our luggage from the trunk. “You should be able to get cleaned up and get some rest.”
Weary, I followed behind him, scanning the dusky lit parking lot.
Something struck me then. “Do you sleep? I’ve never seen you sleep.”
“Yes. Sleeping is my third favorite thing.”
“What are the first two?”
Opening the door, he cast a look over his shoulder.
“My second favorite thing to do is eat and I think you can guess what my first favorite thing is.”
I felt my cheeks redden.
I had a good guess.
The motel room wasn’t bad. The bed linens on the queen-sized bed seemed clean and smelled fresh, not of disinfectant but a nice wildflower scent.
There was one bed. No couch, only an uncomfortable-looking, burnt orange chair in the corner beside a small desk. Hunter placed our luggage by the desk.
Tired, I started to sit down, but Hunter suddenly appeared in front of me.
“I wish I could move as fast as you,” I said. “You never did explain how you move like that.”
Hunter arched a brow.
“It’s actually easier for me to move this fast. It takes more energy to move slower, at a human pace.
Don’t sit down. I want to get a good look at you.”
I was pretty sure he’d gotten a good and intimate look at me before the night went to shit. “I’m fine.”
Too tired to argue, I let him lead me into the brightly lit bathroom. Sitting down on the toilet, I winced. “I think I bruised my butt.”
“I can take a look at that, too.”
I grinned, ignoring the tender pull on my lower lip.
“I’m sure you could.”
Disappearing back into the room, he reappeared with a bottle of peroxide and a bag of cotton balls.
Now I knew what he had returned to the cabin for.
He placed them on the counter and then knelt.
Reaching down, he started to roll up the leg of my jeans.
“What are you doing?”
My gaze flickered over the faint red marks on his cheeks and jaw.
He raised his brows as he pushed both pants legs up above my knees.
“Cleaning you up. You’re kind of a mess right now.”
I felt like a mess. “You don’t have to do this.”
Picking up the bottle, he shook it. “Don’t argue with me.”
“God, you’re bossy.”
He smiled tightly.
“I’d never seen anyone fight like that tonight.
When you fought the Luxen in my apartment it was nothing like that.” I focused on the top of his bent head. “I think I forget what you really are.”
He tipped his head up, his eyes locking on mine.
“You should never forget that, Serena.”
“It’s hard. You’re so much like a human.”
“We’re very different. So are the Luxen.”