“I’m surprised you managed to make it back with him.” Mr. McCormic said while washing blood off his hands. He was handling Kaleb’s mangled body for some time after she struggled to get him back to the mansion.
That in itself was a feat. He woke up now and again and walked with her, but constantly blacked out. Not to mention, it took longer than it should because she had to travel the back roads and hide among the trees to avoid being spotted. By the time they got back, she felt like he looked. Mr.McCormic also had his hands full with the moving. The time to move was now. Some of the residents were already gone while the rest were lagging. Mr. McCormic suggested she leave with one of the older boys but she refused.
“You should get some rest. It’s late. I’ll look after him and…”
He could only shake his head. She wasn’t even listening to him. “I’ll check on you both in a few. Do get some sleep.”
Marissa heard the door click as the old man left, never bothering to look at him. All she could do was gaze at Kaleb who managed to shift back into his human form. Even in his sleep he looked troubled.
She was tired and fought to keep her eyes open but as the minutes ticked on, she found it impossible to do so.
The next morning, she awoke in the room Mr. McCormick had given her. Sadly, she was still in feline form and she stunk of wet fur.
Kaleb could shift back in unconsciousness but she still couldn’t figure it out. She didn’t know how she shifted, to begin with.
That dilemma could wait until another time. Right now, she wanted a long shower and food.
Slipping out of the room, Marissa wandered down the hall towards the room where Kaleb lay. Before everything else, she wanted to make sure he was okay.
When she poked her head inside, she saw that his bed was empty. Injured men shouldn’t be walking about. Did Mr. McCormic authorize this? Why would he? Then again he was a grown ass man and didn’t need permission to walk around, regardless if it was in his best interest or not.
“You’re up early.”
She almost jumped out of her skin at the intrusion of his voice behind her. Relief washed over her as she turned and saw him.
“You shouldn’t be moving around.”
He casually shrugged, not seeing the big deal.
As his appearance sunk in, she thought to avert her eyes but continued to stare at his damp body. His bare chest was marred with deep scars and dark bruises; his arms the same. Her eyes drifted lower, stopping at the hem of the towel that was threatening to fall off his hips.
“Did you need something?”
“Just wanted to see if you were okay.” He certainly looked okay. More than okay. He was deliciously fine. She flinched when he shook out his locs, sending water everywhere.
“Well, I am. So you have no reason to still be here.”
Her mouth dropped, feeling a case of de ja vu. Concern was pushed aside and quickly replaced with rage.
“I SAVED your sorry ass. You’d probably be dead if I hadn’t come looking for you.”
“Would you like a medal?” He retorted with the same hostility in his voice, “Thank you, but I never asked for your help.”
“You sure sounded like you needed help.” She snarled.
“Like I’d ask for the help of someone who can’t even change back!”
“Wait what?” The hell did that have to do with anything? She was new to this and had no clue what she was doing. It didn’t change the fact that she saved his life.
“Lover’s quarrel?” Someone snickered as they passed by.
“The damsel in distress is being bitter to his rescuer,” another quipped and they both burst out laughing.
Marissa was lost.
Kaleb was fuming.
The two young men were recovering from their fit of laughter when Kaleb sprang from his spot, caught the blonde who spoke last by the face and slammed him on the ground.
And…there went the towel…
Startled, the young man couldn’t even defend himself. Not like Kaleb was giving him the chance to. His fists were connecting too fast and far too hard. The poor boy just lay there, disoriented and bleeding, until his friend snapped out of his shock and tackled Kaleb. That, in itself, was a futile attempt. She blinked and somehow Kaleb had gotten the upper hand on him as well.
Marissa barreled into the raging blonde who recovered. She had him for a good two seconds before he casually threw her off and morphed into the massive form of his animal. How he changed so quickly was beyond her. The other had changed as well and surrounded them both. The mountain lions appeared fierce, but their stance was cautious.
Kaleb’s bright blue eyes were glaring at her, jaws slightly parted to reveal sharp fangs. He’d shifted along with them, his feline form towering over all of them. For a moment, he turned his attention to the pair closing in on him. He didn’t snarl, nor growl, or even hiss. He just watched them as he slowly.
Two against one wasn’t very fair. Or did he see it as three against one? She wasn’t his enemy and Marissa hoped he knew that.
When he pounced at one, the other went after him. With no time to think, she leaped and sunk her fangs into his tail and yanked him backward. A loud, painful yip escaped him. She felt victorious for a moment until Kaleb sent her a chilling glare.
Her moment of confusion was enough for her victim to get the upper hand. He took advantage of her shock and rammed into her side. Before she could catch her breath or get back on her feet, he hovered over her, practically smiling.
“You don’t belong here; neither you nor him.”
She growled at him in response, and he pressed his paw on her throat silencing her quickly.
There was a loud thud on the other side of them. They both glanced over to see his friend slumped against the wall, and Kaleb stalking towards them. Her attacker went after him and was dealt with accordingly.
Marissa didn’t move from her place on the ground. She merely watched on and was surprised that Kaleb hadn’t turned on her.
Spoke too soon. She hissed violently as he closed the distance between them.
It’s hard enough to earn respect as is. I don’t need a half-breed, and a female at that, playing hero for me.
That’s what this was all about? His stupid ego? She sprang up from her position, attempting to latch onto his throat only to be caught and subdued yet again.
Marissa was glaring daggers at him. Honestly, she was getting sick of being pinned. This wasn’t a fair fight. He was frigging huge.
His eyes seemed to grow wider, and then, just like that, His fur was gone, and his body snapped back into its less bulky, fully naked, humane shape.
“Get the hell off of me!” She yelled and pushed at his chest, but he didn’t budge. It dawned on her then, as she watched her slender fingers on him, that she was human again.
He sent her a mischievous, little smirk and shook his head. “I kind of like the view from here.”
Confused, she glanced down at herself and quickly, attempted to cover her body. Where the hell are my clothes? Her face felt like it would implode from the embarrassment. Her nakedness aside, she could only imagine what someone would think if they came and saw two guys passed in the hall and one laying on her in his birthday suit.
“Kaleb, seriously!” Had this been a different time in a more private place, this position would have been arousing, but right now she wanted him gone.
Kaleb chuckled lightly, before removing himself. He didn’t even offer to help her up. Instead, he grabbed the towel that was lying on the floor and tossed it at her.
She quickly covered herself as she got to her feet. Awkward as it was with both of them standing there, just watching each other, she felt like she needed to say something. He too looked like he had something he wanted to say, but didn’t.
“Go back to your room,” he spoke at last then entered his room and closed the door on her.
Marissa couldn’t begin to understand what had just happened; it was all just one big mess. How did she go from making sure he was fine, to a brawl, and then him just leaving her there, looking like she was about to do the walk of shame.
She looked at the one boy on the ground, who technically wasn’t even a boy, but a big ass cat, and then the other.
She looked up to see Mr. McCormick staring at her with a beyond perplexed expression. His own blue eyes were wide. He rested a hand on his hip while the other rested on the back of his neck as he took in the situation.
Again she looked around at the scene, then back at him.
“It’s not what it looks like,” She said, but when he didn’t seem convinced in the least, she quickly retreated to her room.
“I already figured it was Kaleb’s doing,” Mr. McCormic said from his seat.
Marissa had gotten her bath and stuffed her face before Mr. McCormick returned to question her. It felt good to be clean and full. Never again would she take meals and a good bath for granted. She was in the process of clearing her name; not like it took much work. He already suspected that she couldn’t have taken on the boys by herself. He just didn’t understand why she was there alone.
“I don’t know why he was mad with me. Sure I helped him, but it shouldn’t be that big of a deal,” She dropped onto the soft mattress and fiddled with the ends of the fresh bed sheets.
“On the contrary, it is a big deal for him.”
“Because his ego rivals the size of Jupiter?”
He stifled a laugh. “No, it runs deeper than that.”
Marissa scoffed. Somehow, she doubted that.
“What happened to Dominic?” She asked, changing the subject to more important matters.
The frown lines in the old man’s face deepened, “He was sent on his way, but promised to take you by force if need be. You should start gathering your things. I think just about everyone is ready to go.”
So she was finally leaving town for good? She thought she would feel a bit saddened at the news but she felt more relieved than anything else. The only thing that concerned her was why she was going through all of this just because she was a halfbreed.
“You don’t understand why you being a halfbreed is creating such a fuss,” He stated as he read her expression.
“I’m sure my mother isn’t the only felid that slept with a human.”
“She isn’t, but as I’ve told you before, half-breeds are not accepted by the clans. In fact, if they are, they are treated as poorly as possible. Sometimes they are even killed just for the hell of it.”
That greatly disturbed her. Species-ism was a thing? To think even creatures like themselves practiced discrimination.
“That doesn’t explain why my dad wants me dead.”
“Isn’t it obvious? Your father is our enemy. He slept with the enemy. Any man in his right mind would you want gone before that news got around.”
“How are you sure my father is really my father?”
“I told you, I knew your mother. In fact, I was there when you were born. He didn’t see me, but I saw when he left with you.”
Impossible. Her parents had been together for twenty five years. Melanie was born two years before her, and at the time her she was certain that her “Mother” and father were still together.
“My father would never—”
“You put that kind of faith in a man that is trying to end your life?”
True. Why should she? If he could put a hit out on her, why wouldn’t he cheat on his wife? Did her “Mother” know about this too? Or was she just another victim to that bastard as well? Marissa could only imagine the tale he had fed his wife when he brought her into their lives. And Melanie, did she know as well? Her entire life was built on a lie.
“How did they meet?” She was brimming with curiosity. There was so much that she didn’t know.
“Your father was sent to assassinate her.”
Assassinate? “Who is my mother?”
He merely smiled, and his eyes took on a distant expression as though remembering something pleasant, “A wonderful woman, with terrible taste in men.”
That was not the answer she was looking for. Realizing that he was not going to say any more than that though, she allowed the topic to drop.
“By the way, have you figured out why Kaleb was so angry with you?”
Aside from him being bitter about being saved by a girl? Hell no. And she didn’t care to find out either. To hell with him and his ego. To think she had been so worried about his safety only for him to bite her head off for something so insignificant. There was not a grateful bone in that boy’s body. The gentleman she had met was obviously a front. It was nice to see his true colors.
“I could not care less about why he was angry.”
“Kaleb has had a lot to prove for a very long time,” Marissa was waiting for him to get to the point. She wasn’t about to pity him because he had a pension for wanting approval, “He can’t handle being seen as weak. It’s not you who he’s angry at,” McCormick explained. “It doesn’t help that he’s never been fully accepted anywhere he went. In fact, one of the reasons I settled here was to make a home for him.”
“Ok and?” Despite the bitterness, she had to admit she was curious about their relationship and Kaleb’s past.
“Please be nice to him. He was wrong for his actions, but you must understand—”
“No, I don’t understand.”
“Don’t “Marissa” me, I’m not going to baby him. In fact…” She slid off the bed and stormed towards the door, “I’m going to give him a piece of my mind right now.”
The door slammed hard behind her.
The nerve of that man! How dare he tell her to be understanding to that…that… “Ugh!” In what universe did you tell the victim to be nice to her attacker? If anything he should be trying to be understanding to her! She was the one trying to get used to this. Her life was the one turned…no…thrown upside down in a matter of days and he had the audacity to berate her for it. And Mr. McCormic expected her to take it easy on him? Ha!
Arriving at Kaleb’s door, she banged on it with all the force she could muster. His voice, asking who was it, was drowned out by the abuse she was giving the door. He threw it open, ready to yell at the culprit, and received two solid thumps in his chest.
“Understanding?!” Marissa bellowed at the confused male. He couldn’t get a word out as she continued throwing her fists at him. He was forced back into the room as he tried to avoid being struck. With every step he took backward, she came forward with more force than before. His back hit the edge of the bed, halting his movements. He quickly seized her arms, and took advantage of their placement, spinning them around and pinning her on the mattress.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” He barked at her.
She managed to slip one of her hands away and slapped him hard across his face which made her feel slightly better.
He raked her with a harsh glare and secured her hands once again then held them above her head.
“Release me this instant!” She demanded.
“So you can hit me again? No. What do you want?”
Marissa wriggled under his grasp. What she wouldn’t give to be able to strike him again. Her palm tingled from the slap she gave him and left her wanting to do much more than that.
“I want an apology!”
Kaleb scoffed. As if he was going to give her an apology. More so, had she forgotten the hell he had gone through with her damned ex-lover—well that was more his fault—and her psychotic brother. A brother whom he had been shot by not once, but twice! She expected him to be grateful when she was the one who should be throwing out gratitude. Without her, he would be dead? Yeah right, if it wasn’t for him she’d be dead already!
“Well?” She asked.
The way she regarded him with so much hatred and her struggle to get free was amusing. Did she think she could easily subdue him? She wasn’t even aware of the compromising situation she was in. If he were any less of a man, he could take her right there and then and damn if he didn’t want to.
Without meaning to, he recalled the view of her naked body beneath his; the way her breasts sat up, calling his attention, nipples perked, her mouth, turned up in a scowl was devastatingly inviting, and it took every ounce of his willpower to not devour her.
God, he had wanted her so badly. He still wanted her. Shit, he had wanted her from the time he met her. For years he had to stay away from her, watching from a distance, waiting for when she realized what she was before making his move. And even then, he couldn’t wait, he approached her before she awakened, only to find out she had been touched by that son of a bitch.
A low growl rumbled in his throat.
He captured her lips, savoring the taste of her before she could pull away from him. To his surprise, she returned the kiss with as much urgency and passion as he did. They had kissed several times before, but that all felt like a fleeting memory; a dream even. His hands loosened, giving her the freedom she needed to escape his grasp.
Then she decked him in the jaw.
Kaleb reeled back quickly with a curse, and held his jaw while Marissa lay there with a victorious smirk.
“Serves you right,” Marissa jeered as she sat up. He fought the animalist urge to assert his dominance over her. That moment when she was “his,” short as it was, was long gone.
“I’m still waiting on that apology.”
“And you’ll keep waiting.”
The rebuttal was on the tip of her tongue, but she never got to speak it as something grazed her neck and plowed into the wall on the far side of them.
Her instincts kicked in immediately and she rolled off the bed and onto the floor. Kaleb, long sensing the danger, didn’t need to be told to duck. He was on the floor in a heartbeat just as a barrage of bullets, shattered the windows.