Copyright © 2011 Kinsey W. Holley
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
“You’re really not like everybody else around here, are you?”
She never could seem to look him in the eye. There was something about him that intimidated her, but in a very “God, I hope he backs me up against a wall” way, not a “God, I hope he doesn’t kill me” way. So she stared at his mouth instead, and the gooey feeling got worse. “No, I’m not.” It gave her a huge, dangerous thrill to sit here and admit something like that. “You’d be surprised how different I really am.”
His eyes searched her face for a long moment. They were sitting there, next to each other but not touching, and just before she became unbearably itchy (and gooey) beneath his scrutiny, he said gently, “I think I have a pretty good idea. And I’m glad you didn’t say anything, angel.”
“Yeah. I’m not from around here, and I’m not going to be here for much longer. I don’t have to care what people think. This is your home. You’re gonna have to see these folks for the rest of your life, so—”
“The hell I am.” Her throat constricted at his casual mention of leaving town soon. Well, she would be leaving town soon too. If she hadn’t already been so good at hiding her feelings, the urge to cry, or maybe throw up, would’ve been hard to resist. But a long-term relationship with Nash had never been in her future.
Why did she have to keep reminding herself about that?
He looked surprised. “You’re not going to come home for holidays or anything?”
“Hell, no. When I’m gone, I’m gone. There’s no one here for me but Wendy, and she can visit me in Marshall, or wherever I end up.”
In fact, she planned on dragging Wendy out of Luxor at some point. But she had to rescue herself first.
“Staying away might be harder than you think, Sara. No matter how much you don’t like this place, it’s your home.”
“It won’t be, not once I’m out of here. I hate this town! I swear to God, I do. I hate every person in it except for Wendy and maybe three other people.”
“What about the rest of your family?”
“Especially the rest of my family.”
The force of it overwhelmed her, leaving her shaking all over. “I hate this backwards-ass, narrow-minded, locked-in-a-fucking-time-warp piece-of-crap dump.”
“Hey. Hey, come here. It’s all right.” Nash took the beer from her hand, setting both hers and his on the coffee table. Then he wrapped one strong, warm arm around her shoulders and pulled her in tight against him. She inhaled deeply, savoring the scent of him, shivering as he gathered her hair at the back of her neck and laid a kiss atop her head. “You’re getting out.”
“December isn’t soon enough,” she said against his chest. “Tomorrow wouldn’t be soon enough.”
He laughed into her hair. “Well, I’m glad it’s not tomorrow. I need more time.”
“To get to know you better. Every time I turn around, you’re surprising me. I keep thinking I’ve got you figured out and then it’s like, hey, here’s something new.”
She shrugged, even as his words set her heart to pounding inside her rib cage. “There’s a lot of stuff I don’t know about you too.”
Her face was still pressed against his chest, and she liked it there, but he’d stopped stroking her hair. Something in his body, some subtle tensing, made her look up.
He wasn’t smiling. His brows knit together as he stared at her with an unreadable gaze. She got a sudden, sick feeling in the pit of her stomach—a feeling nothing like the excitement and arousal of two hours earlier, or the warm comfort of one second ago.
“What? Please don’t tell me you’ve got a wife stashed away somewhere. Or a girlfriend or a murder conviction or something like that.”
He mouth quirked in an embarrassed kind of smile. “No. No wife, no girlfriend, no felony convictions. Come here.”
He put his free hand under her knees and scooped her into his lap. Now both his arms, with those chiseled, bronzed biceps, were wrapped around her. One hand rested on her thigh—between her legs, scorching her right through her blue jeans—while the other one warmed her back through her cotton shirt. Lord, he smelled good. Whatever cologne he was wearing, she wished she could spray it on her sheets and roll around naked.
“What’d you do that for?” she asked in a shaky voice.
“Trying to get comfortable, so we could talk.” His smile said he knew he was turning her on. Somehow the hand on her back had slipped inside her shirt, where it now traced tiny patterns of fire across her skin.
She twisted a little, trying to get comfortable on his legs.
“Hmm. That’s good,” he said. “I like that.”
“The way you’re wriggling in my lap.” He ran his hand up to her stomach. She gasped as heat flared through her body, her legs going limp and tingly. Instinctively she covered his hand with hers, pressing it harder against her. If he moved it the teeniest bit downward, she’d start ripping her clothes off. It had been so long since—
“I didn’t know you didn’t like your family.”
“Huh?” Hadn’t he been about to kiss her?
“Your family. I didn’t know you didn’t like them.”
“Oh. Um, yeah. We’re not close.”
“Your grandmother raised you, right?”
Why were they talking about this? Why didn’t he kiss her?
“Yes. But I moved out when I seventeen.”
“Why? Why didn’t you stay there ’til you graduated and then go to college?”
“Because…it’s a long story. It just— It wasn’t a good place for me. I needed to get out.”
“Okay.” He reached up to pull a strand of hair out of her face. “What about your uncles? Are you close to them?”
“I don’t—no. No, not at all.”
“That’s a long story too. Why are you—wait.” She froze as she realized where this was heading. “Wait. Did someone tell you about my family? Is that why you’re asking?”
“Huh? No, I— Wait a minute, where you going?” She was wiggling again, only this time it was to get off his lap. He tightened his arms around her. “Wait. Wait a minute, stop. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to— Okay, yeah, I was prying. I’m sorry. I’m just trying to figure you out.”
“Figure me out how? What’s there to figure out? I don’t like my family. I didn’t have a happy childhood, and now I avoid them, even though it’s kind of hard to do in a town this size.”
“So that’s why you’re moving to Marshall?”
“It’s one reason, okay? If you want to know about my family, ask the guys at JP’s, but it’s not really something people talk about around here.” He’d either understand what she meant or he wouldn’t.
“No, that’s okay. I’m interested in you, not them. What about the werewolves?”
“The werewolves. You knew something about them. I don’t think most people around here know about werewolf culture, and if they do, they sure as hell don’t talk about it.”
“I wasn’t really thinking. It slipped out.”
“But it means you’ve read about werewolves, right? You’re interested in them?”
He still wouldn’t let her off his lap, but she put her hands on his chest to push him back. “Nash, why are you asking me these questions? Why do you—?”
“Look, I’m sorry, I—damn. I sound like a freak, don’t I?”
“No. Well, yeah, kind of.”
“Okay. Let’s start over.” He finally loosened his hold and she scooted back, her legs still in his lap. She tried to smother her moan when he started rubbing her foot, but she couldn’t help it. So, smiling, he went to work with both hands while he talked.
“It’s just that you’re nothing like I thought you’d be, you know?”
“No. What are you talking about?”
He let out a frustrated sigh, as if having trouble finding the words. She didn’t mind waiting, because what he was doing to her feet was almost—almost—as good as sex.
“All those times I sat in your section and talked to you, I had no idea, and even after I first asked you out, I assumed you were like everyone else around here.”
“Oh. And I’m not?”
That made him laugh out loud. “No! And don’t act like you don’t know that! I figured you were some sweet, backwards Apocalyptic babe who was working in the diner ’til you found someone to marry and have babies with. And then you’d spend the rest of your life in Luxor, hiding from the big bad world.”
That was exactly how she thought of everyone else in this town, even Wendy, and exactly what she didn’t want to be. But for a second, she was tempted to defend Luxor. Even if she hated it, even if she wanted out more than anything, it stung to hear an outsider talk that way about the people she’d grown up with.
“Well, if you thought I was so backwards and everything, what the hell did you ask me out for?”
That grin again. “Because you were so hot. And I was lonely.” His strong, supple fingers were massaging the balls and arches of her feet, and she decided that this was, in fact, better than sex. “And then I find out you’re taking college classes and you don’t want to birth a bunch of babies and grow old in Luxor. And that was cool, that was interesting. Then, tonight, I find out you don’t like your family—” now his grin turned evil “—and you have a thing for werewolves!”
“Hey!” Embarrassed, she slapped feebly at his arm, but she was too blissed out and enervated by the foot rub to sit up and really hit him. “I do not have a thing for werewolves.”
He reached under her to pinch her butt. “Maybe you do and you just don’t know it.”
“I don’t!” God, it was like he read her mind sometimes. Was he hacking her Internet account? How could he know about her fascination with shifters, or her desperate dream to meet someone, anyone, with fae blood? “I think they’re interesting, all right? I don’t think they’re evil. Just because they’re not human doesn’t mean they’re not, like, you know…”
“People,” he said quietly.