Anstice got out of the car and within seconds Keir was next to her taking her hand as if she was going to bolt. And truth be told, she considered it for about two seconds after Keir’s last words. Yeah, it added to her already freaked out mind and her quivering legs that were barely holding her up. Besides, running after they just saved her life didn’t seem very tactful.
The house was on Post Street, a wealthy—maybe the wealthiest—Street in Toronto. There were no sweet quaint houses in this area. Every one of them spoke money with colossal mansions on substantial properties right in the heart of the city. Keir’s was no exception.
He led her up the steps to the front door where she hesitated. Keir’s fingers tightened around her hand. His body went still, eyes watching her calmly, the churning darkness she witnessed earlier having settled.
“Are you going to tell me what’s going on now?” She tried to keep the shakiness from her voice, but failed miserably.
Keir released her hand then tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear. “Go inside, Anstice.”
She touched the strands he had fixed then met his eyes. “Is it safe? Are you safe?” Because ever since he’d been around danger had been chasing her. But it was a stupid question really. If it wasn’t or he wasn’t—he certainly wasn’t going to tell her, but it was human nature to ask stupid questions when in shock, freaked out and scared.
“Safest place you can be is with me.”
Jedrik came up behind and put his hand on her shoulder and gave a light squeeze. “You were friggin’ great tonight, Anst.” He glanced at Keir then abruptly removed his hand from her. “Most women would’ve fainted at the sight him, but you held it together. Made the call to get help.”
The exotic woman held out her hand as she came up beside her. “Delara.” Anstice shook it politely. “You need some antiseptic on those cuts. Come on.” She gestured to the open door and Anstice looked at Keir. It wasn’t like she needed his consent, but…yes she wanted it. He gave her a chin nod and Anstice went inside after Delara.
When she failed to hear Keir behind her she peeked over her shoulder and saw him speaking to Jedrik. She heard the name Zurina and something about healing, but that was all she caught. Her date seemed to be in pretty good shape considering he’d been on the ground and unconscious a half hour ago. She did notice heavy bruising around his neck and a swelling under his left eye. She suspected he’d be black and blue come morning. Well, it was already morning pretty much.
“Sit.” Keir gestured to the leather couch facing the fireplace.
“Keir, what’s going on? Who was that guy? He didn’t die. I mean he just—”
Keir took her hand and pulled her to the couch. “Sit before you fall down. You’re still in shock.”
She sat because he was right. Delara came over with cotton swabs and a brown bottle Anstice knew to be iodine. Good choice. Delara went to sit beside her when Keir grabbed the iodine and cotton from her hand.
“I’ll do it.”
Delara’s brows rose and it was obvious by the sudden stiffness in her body that something happened that was unusual. Was this woman Keir’s girlfriend? Wife? No, he didn’t wear a ring.
“Waleron know about her?” she asked.
Keir remained silent as he crouched and took hold of Anstice’s arm. The bush definitely did a number on her, but she’d take these measly cuts over that fang guy and his teeth any day.
“Stop thinking about it.”
“I can’t,” she whispered.
He made some kind of noise between a grunt and a curse then applied the antiseptic to a swab of cotton and began cleaning her wounds. She was capable of doing it herself, but she had a funny feeling Keir wouldn’t allow it.
Delara continued, “I’m a Tracker Keir. I know what she is, so I suggest you tell Waleron asap.” She ran her hand through her oddly cut jagged strands. It looked like Delara had taken a knife and cut her own hair. “I’m going to look for Balen.”
“Not alone you’re not.” Keir’s voice was firm. “Either wait for Zurina to heal Jedrik or take Galen. Never alone.” Keir’s hand lay still against Anstice skin and she was having a hard time focusing on the conversation when all she could think about was his hand on her body—everywhere. “And call Damien. We need him here.”
Waleron? Damien? What was a Tracker? She opened her mouth to ask when suddenly Delara spun around and left the room. Great. Left alone with sexy badass who she was intensely attracted too and currently caressing her arm with a cotton swab.
His hand touched her chin and her breath hitched. He turned her head so she was looking directly at him. Heat. It was no longer the calmness in his eyes she saw earlier. Instead it was blazing passion that made her body tingle from head to toe.
If he couldn’t hear her heart pumping madly, it would be a miracle. His finger trailed down her cheek to the cut along her jawline. The rough pad of his skin, the intimate caress, the way he was looking in her eyes instead of at her wound.
“Babe.” He continued his caress down her throat to her collar-bone where he stopped.
She held her breath.
They stared at one another. It was as if everything was in slow motion. She couldn’t move. She didn’t want to move. No, that was a lie, she wanted him to grab her around the neck and pull her towards him. She wanted the taste of his lips. The feel of his body crushed against hers.
“We need to talk.”
And that was the end of that. She pulled back as reality slammed the door on her desire. They sure did. And then she had to get out of here and curl up in bed and forget this night ever happened. No. Forget Keir ever happened. He was dangerous. Her feelings for him were dangerous.
“Tonight shouldn’t have happened. Shit went down and…Jesus babe I should’ve been more careful.”
“You weren’t there. How could you be more careful?”
“Damn right I wasn’t.” He was pissed, not at her but at himself. He stood up and strode to the mantel and leaned back against it. “He was a vampire.” She didn’t just hear him say that? He meant the guy was pretending to be a vampire. He looked at her sharply and she crossed her arms over her chest as if a barrier would help. “No babe. Not make-belief. He’s a vampire and they do exist.”
He just read her thoughts and was saying the pretend-vampire wasn’t pretend at all. Shit. No. She so was not ready for this.
Keir watched the disbelief take form in her expression. Bright green eyes widening, the slightly parted lips and the tensing of every muscle in her body. He had the urge to wrap her up in his arms. Maybe even throwing her over his shoulder and carrying her up to his room for the next twelve hours.
Fuck. The red haired Healer was making him hot as hell and he had other shit to think about. Balen for one and Waleron coming down hard on his ass for bringing Anstice here without his knowledge.
“Vamps live amongst us and remain hidden from humans.” Then added. “Most of the time.”
“Stop it,” Anstice said shaking her head back and forth. He felt her withdrawing from him. He was a Sounder, but all Senses had the ability to feel emotions to a point. And this was exactly why the existence of what walked in the shadows of the human world had to remain in the shadows. Anstice thought he was crazy.
“Real, babe. And you need to get that fast. That vamp tonight wanted you and his horde has one of our own for collateral. Not liking that one bit. We protect our own. This shit doesn’t sit well with any of us.”
“And who is us?”
Keir didn’t like how quiet her voice was. She was definitely going to freak out—soon. “We’re called Senses, descendants of witches from a place in Spain called Zugarramurdi where we were developed by the Goddess Enid.” He heard the creak of leather as she shifted on the couch. “We have certain abilities related to the senses—I’m a Sounder meaning I can detect sounds that others may not be able to hear.”
She had both palms flat on the edge of the cushion. She was tipped slightly forward and without even entering her thoughts he knew she was considering running.
“We live by an oath to protect humans from…others that also share this world. Not going to tell you everything now, babe. You’re looking ready to bolt and I can’t let you do that.”
“Yeah well, pissing on my intellect doesn’t sit well with me. How long did it take you to memorize that story? Or do you and your friends make up new ones each night for the fun of it? See how many women fall for it.”
Keir strode towards her and watched her brilliant green eyes momentarily widen with fear then she raised her chin and met him head on. Good, she needed that bravery, but the sarcasm had to go. “I’m getting this is freaking you out. And I get that you think I’m full of shit.” He leaned forward. “But you need to drop the attitude.”
She got up into his face. “Attitude? I have every right to a little attitude after what I’ve been through. This is bullshit.”
She was their Healer and she’d have to accept it whether she wanted to or not. “You may not like the truth, babe. But it is what it is.”
Nope, she wasn’t getting it and the woman was a filly running from the wolf. Normally, he’d have said it was smart of her to run from him, but not this time. The vamps wanted this woman—bad.
It had nearly been him instead of Balen sitting in some cage being tortured. Jesus, if that had happened Anstice would’ve already been in their grasp.
“It is what it is? Really? I can’t believe you just said that.” She pushed her finger into his chest and he had the urge to grab it and place it in his mouth and sweep his tongue over her succulent skin. “And I certainly don’t believe you. None of it. Do you think I’m stupid? Obviously, you do. God, to think I let you in my house. You probably even paid that guy at the restaurant the other night to scare me. Did you pay the guy tonight too?”
“Does that make sense Anstice?” He wasn’t used to being yelled at or being accused of frightening women. And he didn’t like it one bit.
“No, of course not. But neither does your story. I’m beginning to think you and your friends got bored and decided to screw with people’s minds. Mine to be exact.” She swept her arm around the room. “And by the looks of this place, you have enough money to do whatever the hell you want.”
She tried to shove past him, but he grabbed her hand and swung her back around. He took hold of her jaw. “I’m not liking being accused of that shit you just through in my face, babe. I never fuckin’ lie. Ever.” She tugged on his hand to try and break free, but he held tight. He was pissed. He got why she was having trouble swallowing what he’d just shoveled into her life, but he’d never harm her. He was trying to protect her and every word out of his mouth in the last few days had been the truth.
“Let me go Keir. I want to go home.”
It was the glistening in her eyes that made his insides clench—unchartered territory and it didn’t sit well with him. He was trying to save her ass and she was throwing him a shitload of crap and then has the nerve to fill her eyes up with tears and making him feel guilty. Fuck. He was so screwed with this woman.
“Are you forgetting that first night I met you. You think that was some kind of game? The blood was real and you damn well know it, Anstice.”
He watched as each emotion took over her face, until it settled on defensive. He dropped his hands from her when she fought to get away and she instantly ran for the front door. He followed then leaned against the small table in the foyer and crossed his arms. “Senses also have telekinesis. Door won’t open unless I let it, Red.”
She yanked and tried to turn the lock. “So what now? You’re going to keep me a prisoner until I believe your stupid story?”
“We need to get something straight, Anstice. This. You flying off the handle, not good. You need to take a step back and get a handle on your shit.”
“My shit? My shit? Really? Did you just say that?”
He shrugged. “I told you I don’t lie. You’ve seen proof tonight that vamps roam the streets. You’re pulling on a door that should open but doesn’t. Open your eyes and see the truth. Shocking I get it, but those vamps are real and they want to take you. So yeah, your shit needs to stop. Now.”
“I’ll take my chances on sorting out my shit on the outside,” Anstice said trying to turn the lock. Of course, it wouldn’t budge. He’d never allow it.
She whirled around. Keir felt her rage mixed with fear pouring into him. He smelled it, tasted it like acid on his tongue. He had no idea why he felt so much of this woman, but he knew that it was stronger than any he’d ever experienced.
“I trusted you,” she shouted. “I saved your life. I let you in my home. I introduced Jedrik to my parents. Why? Why are you doing this to me?”
“I need you to be safe,” Keir said in a calm quiet voice.
“Why me? Why did you involve me in this sick game of yours? I want out, Keir. Or is that even your real name?”
The tears in the rims of her eyes were teetering on edge. She was hurting. He’d done this to her and there was no way to take any of it back. This was who he was. He needed control of the situation and right now that meant Anstice. “You must know that you share some of these abilities, Anstice. You hear my thoughts. You get images when you touch anyone wounded. You healed me. You saw the vamp’s fangs. Saw what he could do. Stop hiding and face what is right in front of you.”
“No, I can’t. It’s impossible,” she said.
“Bullshit. Stop lying to yourself.”
She pounded her fists into the door. “Open the door, damn it.”
Jedrik came running up the stairs from the walkout basement. “What the frig is all the yelling?”
Keir looked him up and down—no wounds. Zurina must have Traced here and Healed him. “She thinks I’m lying about the vamp.”
Jedrik laughed. “You break the news all sweet and nice or did you take the direct approach. I’m betting you used direct and she couldn’t handle and now you need me to smooth things over.”
“Don’t need you for shit.”
Jedrik nodded towards Anstice who was leaning with her back against the door watching them both. Her eyes were wide and wild, red hair hanging in disarray around her shoulders and her breathing harsh. Her dress was ripped, cuts all over her skin—she looked like she’d been through a war.
“Anstice.” Jedrik approached.
“Don’t come near me.”
Jedrik stopped, holding up his hands. “That guy tonight will be looking for you. We’re here to keep you safe.”
“By telling me there are vampires walking the streets? What’s tomorrow night werewolves?”
“You tell her about CWOs?” Jedrik asked.
“Shit no.” Keir couldn’t wait to see her reaction when he explained the Center World Others. Bugs from the center of the earth that rose up and stole bodies from graves. That was going to be harder for her to take in. Then there were the Senses tattoos—Scars. Ink coming to life was by far the most farfetched for a human to believe.
But she wasn’t a human, was she. Anstice was a Senses.
“Never seen a werewolf. Extremely rare, but yes they exist.” Keir stood up straight and walked towards her. “I’m here to protect you. You walk out that door you’re either dead or become some vamps pet. So, leaving is out of the question. I don’t fail. Ever. That means you’re under my protection and you follow my rules.”
“Jesus man,” Jedrik said shaking his head. “Ever heard of being subtle? Maybe we should call Waleron in to erase her memory.”
“She’s our Healer.”
“No friggin’ way? A Healer? No wonder you wanted her protected. Shit man, she’s our savior.”
“Rules? Are you for real? You have rules for your game? Figures.”
He knew her move before she even made it across the hallway towards the kitchen. He grabbed her around the waist and pulled her up against his chest. “Babe, I don’t think you’re really listening to me here.” When she went to open her mouth he put his finger to it. “Quiet.” When she clamped her mouth shut he continued. “I have a man being ripped to shreds right now, maybe even dead, by a horde of vamps that have a strong interest in you. I should be out looking for him, not standing here trying to explain shit to a woman who thinks I’m lying to her after I’ve saved her ass twice. So, what you need to do is calm the fuck down and think this through.”
It was then that the first tear slipped from her left eye and slid down her cheek.
Okay, maybe he’d been harsh. Fuck. Crude. Fine an asshole. But the rules changed in the Senses world. She couldn’t just walk out of here and live her life the way it was anymore.
Keir felt her hands on his chest, smelled the papaya shampoo in her hair, the whisper of her breath against his neck as she stared up at him. She was trying to be brave, but inside her mind was chaos. She didn’t know what to believe.
“I’ll put her in Deep Sleep then Dreamstep with her,” Keir said. Dreamstepping was unpredictable. He didn’t know if he could control where the dream would lead, but if he could, it allowed him to manipulate her thoughts. He couldn’t have her trying to leave every chance she had.
“Frig, really? That shit is dangerous. You want to take that chance? We could just lock her up for a few days and see if she comes around.”
“Not locking her up, Jedrik.” Keir rolled his eyes.
“You’ve never done this have you?” Jedrik asked.
“Not precisely. I’ve entered another’s dream with their consent and while I was awake, only they slept. So I was able to pull out at any time. Dreamstepping is different. She may fight my intrusion. She won’t want me there. I must convince her mind to let me in. Then I will have to lead the dream so she can see for herself the truth. It is the fastest resolution.”
“Frig, this isn’t good. I’m so not going to be the one to tell Waleron what’s going down because man, he’s going to be pissed.” Jedrik said. “Better hope he has lots of Pez on him when he finds out about this.”
Keir felt Anstice pushing at his chest and he looked down at her seeing the tears now staining her face. “Be still, baby.”
She met his eyes and he sighed. Christ, she was beautiful. He gently wiped the tears from her cheeks and felt his body react to the caress. Fuck. This woman was going to drive him crazy in more ways than he possibly knew how to handle.
He silently said the DS words and Anstice’s eyes slid closed and she fell limp in his arms. He picked her up and carried her to his bedroom.