“THIS IS NOT a day for venturing out,” Ruarc Bae growls in his best prince of darkness voice. “You should stay here,” he says. “Stay here with me.”
I ease out a breath. Who knew immortals had abandonment issues?
Warlocks are supposed to be evil creatures who care only about themselves—kind of like my mom. Which is probably why I connect so strongly with Bae. People stick with what’s familiar, even if it makes no sense. Even when it hurts.
Except, I’m convinced Bae isn’t evil. He’s more protective than putrid. More megaton hot than hideous.
Right now he’s sitting by the porch steps, butt on floorboards, back against a post, closest leg bent. Before I came out to join him, he was staring at a gemstone—a ruby the size of my fist. He says that stone is the only thing that can get him home some day. Back to a place Bae calls The Realm.
“Just be careful,” he says now. “Careful of who you talk to or touch.”
“Because you’ll get jealous,” I tease, “or because I’m a five-year-old?”
He looks at me, mortified. “Because I care.”
“I need to go to school,” I remind him gently but firmly. “That’s the whole reason I came back to Hellaway, remember?”
“To finish your senior year,” he groans, like saying it’s a chore.
“Because Hellaway High has the best AP psychology class around,” I add. “I need that credit for college.”
I’m desperate to get into that field. Maybe then, sometime in the future, I’ll be able to explain an insane childhood that only ended when my mother slit her own throat and I went to live with Aunt Lilia in Boston.
Four years later, my life swung full circle when I applied and was accepted back at Hellaway. Lilia and I talked about me boarding in. Finally we decided on wiping away the cobwebs and taking advantage of this creaky old Victorian that Mom left me in her will.
Lilia helped set me up for when summer break finished and the new school year kicked off. That’s today. Just as soon as she wraps up her current project (my aunt is a kick-ass bio-archaeologist no less), she’ll move here for the duration, too.
And warlock makes three.
A rumble of thunder shakes the porch floorboards a second before ominous clouds block out the sun.
“A morning storm,” I murmur, moving to the railing to examine the sky.
Bae is up and beside me in a flash. I’m not sure if he dematerialises and appears somewhere else in a blink or if he’s simply super-fast like a vampire from some cheesy horror flick. I do know that Bae has this amazing scent about him, like musk crossed with everything paradise. When he stands this close, I want to reach out, melt in and totes surrender.
“It’s a bad omen,” he says, glaring at the heavy sky.
Ugh. “You are so superstitious.” So totally paranoid.
He cocks a brow. “Am not.”
“What about the black cat you shooed away the other night?”
Bae’s luminous gaze narrows on mine. “I didn’t like its eyes.”
The same day Lilia had hugged me tight and driven back to Boston, I found Bae in the attic. Sounded like monster squirrels were slam-dunking coconuts at the rafters. Cloaked in shadows, he’d looked oddly withdrawn or uncertain. Beautiful in a not-of-this-world type way. Even now he won’t say how he came to call Hellaway home, only that he likes the weather (often bleak), the atmosphere (old-world). Go figure―he likes me.
And, sadly, when I say like, I don’t mean boyfriend hearts girlfriend―although he has mentioned that I’m the mirror-image of a witch he crushed on a few lifetimes ago. And, sometimes, when a certain effervescent feeling ripples up my spine, I turn around and Bae is there, a curious smile tugging on his lips, his amazing chest heaving on each breath.
Obviously I can’t kick him out. Firstly, a nuclear explosion couldn’t shift him. Secondly, my warlock is the most delicious looking hybrid demon ever created. I’m talking coal-black bed-hair and lidded eyes that glimmer like cut sapphires dipped in moonlight. He’s in awesome shape, too. First time I saw him sans shirt, I drooled.Thing is, he’s here, and—fine, okay—he cares. A lot. In fact, lately, he struggles to let me out of his sight.
Bae needs a hobby. An interest. A goal.
“I have an idea,” I say. “Tag along. You’re not doing anything for the next few hundred years. Might as well get your GED.”
He’s ancient as far as years go, but, physically, Bae looks my age. Eighteen tops.
His head angles and dark hair flops over his brow as he contemplates.
“I should go with you to school?”
“If you promise not to hang around every single minute.”
His winged eyebrows swoop together. “I can’t promise that.”
I flick a glance over the tatty jeans he’s wearing―the ones he must know I adore. His white button-down shirt is open, revealing his bronzed chest and hard-muscled abs. His gaze is pleading, begging me, please don’t go.
So darn hard to resist but...
“I can’t hole up here with you forever.”
“I could insist,” he says, lifting his chin. “Maybe conjure up some manacles.”
I give a cheeky grin. “I’m listening.”
He leans in, obviously tempted, before whirling away in frustration. I’d love to see that move in a long, sweeping cape. He’s gotta have one—I mean, he’s a warlock, right?
“Vow to me,” he says. “If you get in trouble, you’ll call. Just call out my name. Even think it. I’ll come, no matter what. No matter when.”
“What kind of trouble? Catching ebola from cafeteria meatloaf?”
When I snort, his gorgeous lips twitch at the same time moonlit eyes penetrate mine. “I like your sense of humor.”
“That’s because it’s bent,” I smile, “like you.”
As I finally head down the porch steps with a book bag in one hand, an umbrella magically appears in the other—Bae’s gift against the threat of rain. I smile (so sweet), but when thunder rumbles again, a shudder creeps up my backbone and I give in to the urge to look back one more time.
Bae’s face is tense, poor guy, like he’s sure he’ll never see me again.