An odd feeling traveled up the back of my neck, more than a prickle of irritation. I didn’t like this feeling—this sitting back and watching someone run off to their death. It was helplessness and the only other time I’d felt that was when my sister lay dead before me. A wild range of emotion whirled through me, because instead of my sister, I saw Serena.
Anger flooded me like a dam bursting. I dropped my feet to the floor and stood. “I’m not going to be a part of this suicidal mission, Serena.”
Her eyes widened.
“No.” The temp in the room dropped and little bumps raced across her skin. The windows in the room iced over. “Not only is it suicidal, it’s stupid.
How will you get there? By plane?
Do you have money or an ID that the DOD won’t see in use? No.
Didn’t think so.”
She flinched as she drew back. “I can’t let this go. I can’t—”
“I get it. Finding out what Mel overheard is more important than your own life and—” I cut myself off before I said anything stupid. “You want to go back to Colorado, then fine. After we swing by Luc’s tomorrow, I’ll get your ass on a plane.”
Serena scrambled off the bed, taking the sheet with her. She opened her mouth, but I held my hand up, silencing her. “This will be better, because you’re right. It was a job and that job is over. You want to get more caught up in this shit, have at it. None of this is worth ending up dead. There’s better shit I could be doing besides babysitting you.”
Her face paled. Guilt simmered in my gut, because I’d struck where it counted. I’d hurt her with words. That’s what I was built to do, to be cold and apathetic. Worrying about her, fearing for her wasn’t in my nature. And caring for her? Fuck that. This— this coldness building inside was what I was used to, what I needed. It was what let me leave the room without looking back.
I wasn’t a human male.
I was Arum.
And it was about time I started to remember that.
Awkward and tense didn’t even begin to explain the atmosphere between Hunter and me as we drove to Luc’s club a little before noon. I couldn’t wrap my head around how fast things went south last night.
Through the time we’d gotten to know each other, something had been growing there, becoming more than mutual attraction and red-hot chemistry. There had also been a change in Hunter last night. He was warmer, more relaxed and gentle.
Even caring and protective and all the things he’d said his kind were incapable of feeling, but the moment I talked about finding Mel’s letter, he’d become the Hunter I first met: brutally cold and arrogantly withdrawn.
THERE’S BETTER SHIT I COULD BE DOING BESIDES babysitting you.
I closed my eyes and swallowed against the knot in my throat as the Porsche traveled the highway at breakneck speeds. He’d said staying with me had been more than a job to him and then he goes and says that?
That had sliced deep and was still cutting away every time those words replayed in my head.
I hadn’t expected him to be overjoyed with the idea of going to Colorado, but I’d thought he’d understand and support it.
Deep down, as stupid as it was, I even thought that he’d cared enough to go with me.
As he coasted the Porsche down the exit, I forced my eyes open.
They felt wet and I felt stupid for wanting to cry.
Take out the fact that Hunter was an alien and all that jazz, falling for someone like this was just plain begging for heartbreak.
High-stress situations amplified emotions. I knew this, and yet I’d allowed myself to fall for the extraterrestrial asshole.
Pushing my hair back from my face, I inhaled deeply. The light scent of his cologne invaded my senses, but so did the fresh air rolling in from the crack in the window.
I needed to prioritize.
There was too much to worry about than to fixate on my hurt feelings, no matter how badly I wanted to crawl into a bed and pull a blanket over my head. I needed to find money to get on the plane, pray that my name hadn’t been flagged, and get to the post office.
I had no idea. I wasn’t stupid enough to think I could slide back into my life like nothing happened.
All I could do is find the letter and hopefully there was something in there that I could use as leverage with the DOD to provide me with some sort of the future. It would be risky taking that information to them, since they obviously wanted me dead, but they were the lesser of two evils. But what if the letter was gone?
Then I was totally screwed.
Hunter’s voice drew me out of my thoughts and I glanced at him. His profile was stoic and the dark sunglasses shielded his eyes. There was nothing left of the man who made love to me repeatedly the night before.
I sighed and nodded.
The makeshift parking lot was mostly empty, with the exception of a few random cars. I climbed out, tugging on my shorts as the humidity immediately clung to my skin.
Stealing another peek at the silent male as we made our way to the front door, I felt my stomach tighten and then drop. No matter what happened from this point on, whether I lived another dozen decades or survived just the week, I would be leaving him soon—very soon.
And I wouldn’t forget him. Ever.
My chest and throat burned as the bouncer opened the door before we could knock. There wasn’t any small talk this time. He let us in and ushered us through the darkened club floor toward the office, closing the door behind us after grumbling something about Luc being on his way.
And then Hunter and I were alone again.
I sighed as I sat on the edge of the couch and thrummed my fingers on my knees. Hunter slid his shades into his back pocket as he paced the length of the office, eyes glued to the door we’d come through.
I couldn’t stand this silence.
Clearing my throat, I smoothed my hands along my legs. “So you’re going to Atlanta after this?”
Hunter stopped in the middle of the room and looked at me. His pale blue eyes were like bottomless pits—vacant and cold.
“That is the plan.”
I shivered. “Does he live in Atlanta or…?”
“No. Marietta. Big cities do not appeal to us.” He cocked his head to the side. “The noise, smells, and lights are too much.”
With how sensitive his eyes were, I could understand that portion of the statement. “Why the noise and smells?”
His hands opened and closed at his sides. “It’s too…human.”
And that was as much of an answer I got from him on that front. His eyes seemed to blaze as he started pacing again, making me edgy. “Would you stop?”
“What?” He passed me a cursory glance as he passed me.
“The pacing. It’s making me nervous as hell.” I wiped my sweaty palms along my jeans again. “I know you’re jonesing to get out of here, away from me and on your way, but do you think you can sit down for a few moments?”
Hunter stopped then, facing me fully. “You think that’s it?”
I met his stare, and he shook his head. “What?” I demanded.
He stared at me long and hard, as if he were peeling back layers of skin.
“You are a foolish woman, Serena.”
My mouth dropped open and irritation raged through me like a hot summer storm.
“I’m a foolish woman? Well, you’re a complete asshole.”
“So I’ve been told,” he replied calmly. “But that doesn’t change the truth.”
I shot to my feet, my own hands forming fists. A half smile appeared on his full lips, like I amused him.
That just pissed me off more. “You are a dick, Hunter. You know that? An emotionless dick, and you tell me I’m foolish? And stop smiling at me! It’s not funny.” I was like a volcano about to spew fire and ash in his face. “I’m about two seconds from knocking that smile off your face, you ass!”
That half smile had spread during my tirade, changing his features and warming his eyes. “Sorry.”
He didn’t sound or look sorry at all. “I didn’t ask you for any of this, you know? I didn’t ask you to keep me safe or to bring me here or to do anything —”
Within a heartbeat, Hunter was in front of me, so fast that I jerked back and would’ve toppled onto the couch if he hadn’t grasped my shoulders. He lowered his head so that his lips were inches from mine.
Unwanted, edgy desire sent my hormones racing.
“I like you like this,” he said in a low, deep voice.
I sputtered as I ignored the heat building between us like an overworked furnace. “You like me angry? You’re disturbed.”
he murmured. “And I know you didn’t ask for any of this. I know—”
Hunter let go of me suddenly and went ramrod straight, eyes wide and nostrils flared. I swayed unsteadily as he turned to the door, his head cocked again.
The unnatural stillness of him caused knots to form in my belly.
“What is it?” I asked, wrapping my arms around my waist. The temp in the room had dropped fast.
He glanced back at me.
“There is a Luxen here.”
Hunter shook his head.
“No. It’s not Paris.”
Icy fear slithered through me and into my chest, where it wrapped around my heart.
He turned to me quickly, placing his cool hand on my cheek. A moment passed before he spoke.
“I’m going to check this out.”
“I’ll be back,” he said, eyes like burning chips of ice. “If things go south…”
He didn’t finish, and I didn’t have a chance to say anything. He was out the door before I could blink an eye. The temp in the room rose a little, as if he took the coldness with him. My heart pounded against my ribs like it wanted to jump out of my chest and run screaming.
I waited about three minutes and couldn’t do it any longer. Mind made up, I darted toward the door and inched it open. The narrow hallway was dimly lit by the track lighting. I made it halfway down the hall when a flash of intense white light tinged in red lit up the club.
My heart dropped. I recognized that light. What had Hunter called it? The Source? There was a Luxen here and it wasn’t a friendly one.
Male voices rose, and then I heard Luc say, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you. Hunter is very, very hungry.”
What the…? Luc didn’t sound too concerned about what was happening, so I rushed forward. Coming to a halt at the end of the hall, my mouth dropped open.
Luc was standing off to the side, wearing a shirt that said something about zombies, and Hunter was in his true form, a thick solid mass with pale eyes.
On the other side of the room was another man.
One that was younger than me, maybe eighteen or so.
Unruly dark brown hair fell in careless waves across his forehead. He was almost as tall as Hunter, which would make him gargantuan, but not as broad.
His face…wow, there really were no words, and I felt like a creeper for even allowing my mind to go there for half a second.