Fingers chilled and trembling, I opened the driver’s door and stepped out. Inhaling the scent of pine and soil, I forced my body to phase. The second my wings spread out from underneath my tank top, two of the Terriers whipped around, sniffing the air.
They shrieked shrilly, a cross between a bird being strangled and a bobcat, and headed straight for me.
“Jasmine!” Dez roared, kicking off the ground. He’d made it halfway into the air when the remaining Terrier intercepted. Grabbing on to him, it slammed them both into the soil, their impact eating up several feet of ground along the shoulder of the road.
Too late to reconsider the act of stepping out of the vehicle, I crouched and shot into the air, tucking my wings back. I was fast, but these things cut through the air, their outstretched hands inches from me. My stomach and chest seized as I powered through the air, reaching the tallest point of the nearest tree.
I grabbed the thickest branch, snapped it free and whipped around. The touch of the closest Terrier whispered over my skin as I swung the branch with every ounce of strength I possessed.
The branch cut through the Terrier’s elongated head. Black liquid spurted and the red, beady eyes rolled back as it fell down to earth, skull shattered. A plume of black smoke rose as I swung at the other Terrier. Having seen its buddy take a homerun swing, it darted out of my reach and then arced in the sky. Moving incredibly fast, it gripped the end of the branch and tore it free from my grasp, flinging it aside.
“Shit,” I muttered, flying back and then dipping down. Hair streamed out from my face and then fell forward as I landed on the ground in a crouch. Popping up, I lurched back a step and the Terrier’s claws caught the front of my tank top, tearing the fabric across my stomach and barely missing my skin.
Another burst of black smoke erupted, signaling the end of the Terrier that Dez was dealing with. He spun around, his eyes electric-blue pools. Loose soil and rock flew into the air as he pushed off the ground, catching the last Terrier from behind. A quick twist of his hands, and he’d snapped the creature’s neck. He flung black goo off his hands as he pinned me with a dark look.
Before the last puff of rotten-smelling black smoke evaporated, Dez was in front of me, his large hands slipping under the hem of my torn shirt.
“Are you okay?” he demanded. His warm palms flattened across my tummy, shocking me. “Jasmine.”
Heart pounding, I gripped his arms. “I’m fine. It didn’t cut me, but you—”
“I told you to stay in the car!” He withdrew his hands, but then clasped my shoulders. The pupils of his eyes stretched thin. “What were you thinking?”
“You were outnumbered.” I slipped out of his grasp and shifted into my human skin. The residue of adrenaline was a bitter taste in the back of my mouth. “I couldn’t watch and do nothing, but your leg—”
My words ended in a squeak as he pulled me into his arms, holding me tight against his hot, bare chest. His hand balled in the mass of my tangled hair as his wings curled forward, closing me in. I stiffened at the feel of him, so very warm and alive. When he held me last night, the embrace had scattered my senses, but it was nothing compared to this.
Dez shuddered. “When I saw you get out of that car, my freaking heart stopped.”
Muscle by muscle, I relaxed into his hold, allowing my cheek to rest against his chest. I could feel his heart pounding. “I couldn’t just sit and watch again.”
“Again?” And then his powerful arms tightened around me. “Your mom? This was different,” he said quietly, his chin dipping down. “I could’ve taken on five more Terriers, Jas.”
Closing my eyes, I didn’t respond to that.
His lips brushed the top of my head. “There was nothing you could’ve done to help your mother. You know that, right?”
“Yes,” I said, my voice muffled. Females weren’t expected to defend themselves, let alone fight, an ideology Danika and I strongly disagreed with. If our mother had been trained, she might’ve escaped the attack with her life.
He held me for a second more and then let go, stepping back. When I opened my eyes, he was in his human skin. I’d seen a lot of the males running around shirtless, but for some reason, seeing Dez in that state made me feel as if I’d never seen a male stomach before.
His chest was cut and his stomach finely chiseled. He was broad, yes, but his muscles weren’t bulky. His jeans hung dangerously low, revealing those curious indents on either side of his hips. There were little nicks in the skin of his stomach and chest; old injuries I imagined had to have been serious for them to leave a scar. Somehow those blemishes didn’t deter from his masculine beauty but only enhanced it.
I was staring.
Forcing my gaze up, I saw that he was grinning slightly. My cheeks flushed. “You can’t be too upset with me for getting out of the car.”
He arched a brow. “I can be as upset as I want to be over it.”
I shook my head while I struggled to keep my eyes on his face. Now, I knew how most guys felt. It was a lot of work. “You promised to hunt a demon with me. I can’t stay in a car while we do that.”
Sinew stretched and muscles bulged as he folded his arms. Good God... “Well, technically this would count as hunting a demon, so—”
“No, it doesn’t. We didn’t hunt anything. They just popped out of nowhere.” I glanced over my shoulder, back to where they had appeared. “Why so many?”
His stare turned icy when I faced him. “They’re hunting for the mansion. They know a Warden clan is nearby and they’re trying to find it.”
I gasped, horrified by the idea of these things descending on a homeful of children. “Is... is that common?”
He nodded. “More common than you realize. They just don’t usually come out during the day. They’re getting bolder.” His lip curled in disgust. “We must get back. I need to report this to Garrick immediately.”
How had I never known about this? Demons were getting that close to our home on a regular basis? How much did I not know? In a daze, I walked back to the car. Dez drove this time. I was cool with that.
Dez had gone straight to my father when we arrived home, and I had gone in the opposite direction. As much as I wanted to hear what my father had to say about the Terriers coming out in the daylight, I didn’t want to be present if Dez decided to tell him I’d gotten out of the car.
And if Dez did tell him that, there was a good chance that my father would put a stop to my conditions.
I paced the length of my room, unable to sit for longer than a minute, it seemed. It had been this way since dinner. I hadn’t seen my father or Dez there.
Sprawled across my bed, Danika was... what exactly was she doing? Back against the mattress, arms flattened at her sides, she pressed her thighs together and lifted her legs straight into the air, holding still about six inches off the comforter. After a few seconds, she moved her legs up about a foot. Then she repeated the whole process.
“God, we need hobbies,” I muttered.
She laughed. “I’m working my stomach muscles.”
“Like I said, we need hobbies.”
Dropping her legs down, she sat up. Two thick braids bounced off her shoulders. “At least I’m being productive. You’re just walking back and forth.”