Only after I had been debrief, yelled at by my boss and seen to in the medical wing did I sling my bag over my functioning shoulder and finally escape to my hide away.
I sighed as my bruised feet hit the cool floor of the basement. Slowly padding over to the camp bed shoved into the corner I rotated my aching shoulder.
It was lightly bandaged, the flesh already beginning to knit itself together when I’d finally made it to the medic. The process was slow but there was no sense in setting stitches when as soon as I drank a pint it would be beyond the need of such drastic measures.
So, as they always did with flesh wounds, they cleaned it to avoid infection and recommended a quick feeding, preferably from my own bloodline. As pain lanced through my shoulder I felt more than a little disgruntled that the only person of my immediate bloodline was nearly 4 hours away.
Our family was small, consisting only my mother and I, and I’d never looked into the branches of my family tree, I had never needed to in our little hometown. So while seeking familial blood was an easy feat for most vampires, having diluted branches all over the USA, it proved nearly impossible without extensive research for someone like myself.
I really should have gotten a vial off of mama before moving.
Feeling very small for a moment in this big city I stared at my hideout. It wasn’t anything special, a well insulated basement, originally intended to be a storm bunker. The Council owned the building, a training facility of sorts, situated not far from the HQ. The walls were a bleak grey. The heat of the furnace warmed the room but couldn’t penetrate the concrete floor. The deep green camp bed beneath me offered little comfort, but saved me from the harsh ground below. A small workbench graced one wall, various tools hooked onto it. The rest of the room was filled with piled junk, broken equipment, and the odd filing cabinet.
When I’d first arrived in Chicago six months ago, they had housed me for three weeks, offering me time to get my bearings and find my own accommodation. That hadn’t gone so well. While I could have asked for more time my pride stopped me. The idea of admitting I couldn’t settle in the ‘big city’ made me sick to my stomach.
While training I had become friendly with the janitor of the fitness centre and so when my temporary lease ran out at HQ I had appealed to him and he’d set me up a small sleeping area in the basement. While I saw little of him, usually working until late at night, he did leave me little gifts. The most appreciate was the mini fridge, already stocked with water, some fruit and a couple of bottles of blood. I had nearly cried when I’d walked in to find it tucked in the corner, buzzing lightly.
My red duffle bag sat next to it, a small selection of my clothes stuffed inside. My ruined lace dress was already shoved in a plastic bag. The rest of my belongings, the few boxes I had brought to the city with me, were sat in storage, gathering dust. But right now, with no place I could truly call home, I didn’t have the luxury of keeping them with me. At least with just one bag, if I had to move fast I could go in a moment.
I stared at my phone for a moment, anxiety eating away at me. Then with a frustrated sigh I threw it on the bed and went to the fridge, pulling a bottle of blood from it. The cool temperature of it didn’t bother me after several months. Unable to heat the blood effectively from my make shift home I’d had to get used the chilled liquid. While I fed from donors when I could, sometimes the hunger would not wait, demanding fulfilment, even if from a disappointing source.
It had been nearly a fortnight since I had spoken to my mother. I had promised to check in every week, but after our last conversation, when I had yelled at her for smothering me, she had not called. But after my encounter with Bastian tonight I was suddenly fearful my little secret was about to unravel.
The stipulation of me moving to the city, against my mama’s wishes, was that I was to live with Bastian. The only way she could be sure her ‘baby’ would be safe in the big bad city was for me to live with the one man she trusted would protect me from all the horrors of the world.
The hit our relationship had taken that day he’d left me behind in that backwards town had shaken me. And I wasn’t going to crawl to his door like a naughty child and beg for his care. As a woman I could care for myself, I didn’t need anyone to look out for me. And while the hospitality of the janitor was welcome, I wasn’t seeking his help, or anyone else’s.
I suddenly couldn’t avoid the night’s events any longer. The stunning shade of Bastian’s eyes filled my vision and for a moment I nearly dropped my bottle. It had been so long since I had seen that vivid green, the deep brown of his thick hair, the gentle warm tone of his skin. While it wasn’t as deep a shade as my own, it had the brush gold hue that no amount of fake tan could achieve. But today it had looked washed out, the dark bruises under his eyes stark against his pallor.
Clearly he hadn’t been feeding properly.
Shaking my head, fighting the deep wave of concern that crashed over me, I stood, working out the kinks in my sore muscles. Bastian was a big boy, he could take care of himself. After all, I expected no less of myself.
But it wasn’t like he was new to this game. He had been in the city for nearly 7 years. Not only that, but he had been hunting for much longer. His ‘talents’ had developed when puberty had hit, as it did with nearly all half demons. He had been honing his abilities since he was a teenager, learning his limits and teaching himself. What could possibly be causing him to forego something so important?
The shock of seeing him was like a physical blow, a burning ache in my chest. While our friendship had been damaged when he left, he had still maintained contact, in the form of letters. I had refused to answer his calls, so he had resorted to a more physical kind of contact. I’d known when I’d moved here where he worked, where he liked to drink coffee and eat, all noted in delicate writing, delivered to me every second Tuesday of the month – I’d had my mail redirected when I moved, so my mother wouldn’t question why he was still sending me letters after I had ‘moved in’ with him – I knew exactly which parts of the city to avoid.
Six months and I hadn’t once bumped into him. He wasn’t supposed to be at this club, he was supposed to work across town. But I hadn’t read the letters for weeks, hadn’t known. He must have changed jobs.
But then I hadn’t meant to be at the club either. If I had done my job properly I never would have seen him.
A vibrating on my wrist made me freeze. The small silver band buzzed every three seconds, warning me that someone had just breached my security wards I’d bought several months ago. Instinct had me reaching for my gun, until I realised I had checked it back into the weaponry unit at HQ. Cursing I grabbed my switch blade and shifted to press myself along the same wall as the only door into the room. A small alcove allowed me to hide myself in a blind spot, waiting to see who’d enter my secret home.
Resistance came the instant the intruder tried to get inside, my last line of defence a chunk of metal wedged under the door and a wooden plank across the entrance. After several hard slams again thick steel the wood splintered and flew across the floor. The door banged open, the hinges twisting to breaking point. The soft whisper of feet on the dusty concrete. A shadow against the neighbouring wall.
Bastian’s full frame came into view, his steps slow but sure. Carefully searching.
Relief filled me, my heart still pounding in fear. I stepped out from my dark hiding place, tucking my blade away. His head swivelled in my direction, curiosity dancing across his features.
“How did you find me?” I asked. I had no doubt why he was here, I knew he was burning with questions. I just couldn’t figure out how he had found me so quick.
He surveyed my make shift room, his eyes quietly calculating, “I have a lot of connections in the city Garnet, plenty enough to find someone of your description.”
I clenched my jaw in silent frustration. More than once my appearance had been a hindrance. While I had tried to at least dye my hair to make my colouring appear more natural the dye would not take, no matter how much I used. So when I could I would wear my telltale locks under a cap, so at the very least should I have bumped into Bas he wouldn’t have immediately recognised me. Theoretically.
Then he turned the full weight of that beautiful gaze on me and suddenly my knees felt weak. I sucked in a sharp breath and nearly took a step back. Shining emerald eyes bore into my soul, my heart quivered. I felt lightheaded, I couldn’t breathe. Heat flushed my body and settled between my legs.
His skin once more looked like brushed gold, shimmering in the slight light. The sharp angle of his cheeks, the strong line of his jaw. That gentle pout, the soft curl to his luscious hair. His strong shoulders. Those hard abs. That lickable skin. The mouth watering V hidden beneath those low riding jeans.
With a violent mental shove I pulled my eyes from his enrapturing form. I gasped for air, fighting the shaking trying to take over my body.
“God, Bas, did you even shower between fucking her and finding me!?” My eyes water with the desire to stare at him again, to devour him with my eyes. Then with my body.
His breathing was nearly as ragged as my own, “What the hell Garnet?”
“You’re still glowing.” I told him through gritted teeth, focusing on the anger, allowing it to wash away the lust. The ‘glow’ was an enticing aura that clung to the person when they had fed deeply. It was something that enhanced the natural abilities of the demon or angel, and took at least an hour to fade to a controllable level.
The creak of the work table. I finally looked at him, my temper allowing me to maintain control. The rigid line of his back greeted me, his palms pressed against its worn surface. “Damn it.”
The curse was a bare whisper on his lips, but I heard it all the same.
Letting my anger hide my insecurity at what had just happened, I continued, “I may have been barely a child when you left Bas, but I thought I deserved more respect than that. I am not your next conquest.”
His head turned so I glimpsed his profile, almost perfect in its proportions, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to…I was just…”
“Just what?” I snapped.
He stood straight and finally turned, careful not to make eye contact, “I wanted to see you. I wanted to know you were safe.”
My heart thudded painfully in my chest, throbbing gently at the hole in my shoulder, his gentle confession disarming all my anger.
“And now that I’m here…” he shook his head, studying our surroundings once again, “What are you doing Garnet? Living in a basement? How long have you been here?”
I set my lips in a hard line, “Nearly six months.”
His jaw all but dropped, “Six…good god Garnet. What have you been doing, avoiding me all over the city? How did you even manage that?”
I faltered, suddenly feeling very foolish, “Your letters,” I whispered, “You told me where you spend your time in the city. The rest was just luck.”
This time he flat out stared at me. I wavered under his heavy gaze, fighting the sensation of a chastised child. His jaw bulged in a familiar gesture, one that told me he was only just maintaining control of his temper. His chest heaved, nostrils flaring. Then his eyes flickered to my injured shoulder. He stepped forward, hands reaching towards me.
With surprisingly gentle fingers he studied the area, rotating it in small circles. I watched his face tentatively, waiting for that telltale tick of his left eye that would tell me he’d completely lost control of his anger. But if anything the tension in his face eased. His intelligent eyes flickered to mine, softening. His pretty looks had a habit of making him look dumb, but one look in those sharp eyes and you knew, like a shiver on your soul, you knew.
“How bad is it?”
“It fine, I can barely feel it anymore,” My voice came out husky.
His eyes tightened in suspicion. Then his long clever fingers pressed directly on the wound. I flinched and his lips jerked, satisfied he’d caught me in my lie.
I flushed, my eyes sliding away from his, “It’s healing. It’ll be fine in a few days.”
He shook his head and took an army knife from his back pocket. With an expert flick of his wrist a shallow cut appear on his arm, the thick blood welling on his skin. The rich smell of coffee and silk sliding on my bare skin. My eyes fluttered, his steady heartbeat filling my eyes.
“Drink, Garnet.” The gentle caress of his voice.
My whole body gravitated towards him. My lips connected with his skin, warm and inviting. The pulsing glow that clung to him enveloped me. His thick blood filled my mouth the world exploded into decadence. The vivid taste of vanilla stroked my tongue and the scent of him made my head spin.
Suddenly my skin felt too tight, my face flushed. My skin tingled where his body met mine, the steady hand on the back of my head, his long fingers threaded through my hair, his chest pressed against mine, my hand gripping his wrist, the other on his back. His shoulder moved under my hand, hard muscles shifting, pulling me closer. His low moan filled my ears and another wave of electricity shot through my body.
And then it was gone. The delirious sensory overload, the exciting rush of sparks, seconds away from a burning blaze. Gone. I almost whimpered at it’s absence. Then, like a sharp slap from reality, I controlled myself.
Forcing my fangs to retract I looked at Bastian. His eyes shone bright, the pupils eating up the crisp emerald that gleamed. A steady blush coloured his cheeks, his jaw rigid with control and his hands fisted at his side. The smouldering look in his eyes made staying away from him almost impossible.
I could feel the skin rapidly knitting together, the aching pain subsiding until it was just a ghost of a memory. Sliding the dressing off my skin I stroked the almost unblemished skin, the faintest pink pucker of a scar remaining. With a slightly astonished gasp I shook my head.
Despite our fight and the 7 years without contact my body clearly still recognised Bas’s as near familial blood. While it couldn’t help to heal any major damage, it made quick work of a flesh wound. Only blood of the family line could heal true injury, but a bond forged from childhood would do a damn good job of anything minor. Not that it was common knowledge.
Jaw still aching from the need to bite his soft skin again I gave my thanks.
He nodded once in return, holding a handkerchief to his wrist. With another disdainful look at the room he spoke, “I think it’s time you left here.”
Agitated I turned away and started nervously playing with an empty bottle on the work bench, “I’m fine, it won’t do me any harm to stay here a little longer.”
In tight clipped words he told me, “Get your bags. Now.”
I spun around the stare at him in unbridled outrage, astonished at his controlling tone. Swallowing hard I stood my ground, “No.”
“Garnet,” That dangerous tone, “I am not negotiating. Now pack your bags. You’re coming with me.”
“No.” His hands curled into tight fists. I gave them a panicked glance. This was not going how I wanted it to. But then, I hadn’t exactly expected him to confront me in the basement of the fitness centre. “I’ve done just fine on my own. I don’t need your help.”
“You’re living in a basement! How is that fine?” I flinched as he yelled at me.
I crossed my arms over my chest, protective, defensive, “I have hot water and a place to sleep, plenty of food and clothes. I’m working, I don’t need anything else.”
“Don’t be so fucking ridiculous! A camp bed by a furnace, sneaking into the locker showers and living out of a bag is not a good life!” His frame shook, his emerald eyes burning with anger.
I unconsciously shifted protectively in front of my little ‘bedroom’, “I’m not leaving. Especially not with you.”
His eyes narrowed, “What do you mean ‘especially not with me’?”
I said nothing, lips tightly pressed together. He had no right to know how much his abrupt departure had hurt me, had bruised my heart. His whole frame shook, hands fisted by his side. I swallowed hard when I saw that tell tale tick in his eye.
But then as I took a step back, preparing for his enraged words, his whole body went slack. All the tension drained out of him. Confused I just stared. He took two quick steps towards me and cupped my jaw. He tipped my head back, gorgeous eyes connecting with mine, impossibly warm, a depth of emotion in them I couldn’t comprehend.
“Come home Garnet,” he whispered, his smooth voice gentle, “Please.”
My eyes watered. Bas never said please, never laid that vulnerable plead at another’s feet. The desperation to be sure I was safe was clear in his unwavering stare. My mouth dry and my throat thick with emotion I simply nodded, caving under his beautiful gaze, his exposed emotion.
When he released me I turned to pack my few belongings into my bag. He watched me patiently in silence, never rushing me. Finished I slung the bag over my head and fixed the strap across my chest. It was a quiet relief, a small concession on Bas’s part, when he didn’t automatically move to take my bag. The tiny gesture made my heart ache.
When we reached the door he finally turned and spoke, “Don’t think that I’ve forgotten about your little adventure earlier this evening either. You haven’t gotten out of that one.”
I fought to bow my head in shame, and instead held it high, met his reproaching stare in a silent challenge. For a fleeting moment he almost looked pleased with my show of spine, before turning away and ascending the stairs.
And with one last longing look at my little retreat for the past several months I turned out the light and follow him out the building.