Shit, he had dozed off, hadn’t he?
Kaleb’s eyes fluttered open to see that he wasn’t in the same spot Marissa had left him.
Well duh, He thought as he sat up and glanced around, taking in his new surroundings. Unless the forest had a sudden makeover by a highly sought interior designer, obviously he wasn’t in the same place. Its Chinese-esque style with chinoiserie wallpaper, ikat pillows, a bold shade of sunset oranges, gold benches and Hollywood Regency touches told him he was in the home of someone with odd taste.
“Up so soon?”
Kaleb’s fangs were already bared and a low growl rumbled from the depths of his throat at the dark-haired man that stood on the far side of the room.
As he approached, eerily gray eyes scanned over Kaleb’s body; his rage, completely ignored. “Your recovery time is remarkable.”
He reached out to touch the weakened male but paused as he noticed the heightened hostility. There was no growl, but he could see from the icy stare that touching him would result in him losing a limb.
“Now now, let’s be reasonable. That is no way to treat someone who saved your life.”
“Who are you? Where am I?” Kaleb demanded.
The man held his hands behind his back and walked across the room to where some folded clothes were resting on a chair. “I am Eesac, and this is the guest room.” He returned to the bed where Kaleb was seated and then handed him the clean fabric. “You were at death’s door when I found you in the forest. Another hour or so and you would not be here to growl at me.”
A bulb lit up in Kaleb’s mind as he took the clothing, “You know what I am?”
“Of course. Was my reaction to your hostility not evident enough?”
“Are you…” He let the question hang in the air.
Eesac smiled. “You’ve been resting for almost two weeks now. In the condition you were in, I didn’t expect you to be awake for a few more.”
He had closed his eyes for only a moment. Marissa left to find help and while he promised her he wouldn’t die, he had grown tired; far too tired to try to hide himself or keep his eyes open for another minute. He remembered fading into the darkness and floating in the peaceful abyss. “At death’s door” the man had said. Had he really been about to die?
His eyes focused on the strange, pale man that was his savior. He was cleaning the room, or so it seemed. There wasn’t an item out of place, but he was pushing things over as though that 1 cm difference mattered. OCD perhaps? The man looked back and again, there was that smile. Friendly as it was, it was also extremely creepy. Adding to the warning bells were the crimson splotches on his white buttoned down shirt that Kaleb’s sensitive nose alerted him was blood.
“Are you in pain?”
Now that he thought about it, no, he wasn’t. He removed the sheets from his body, discovering that he had been bandaged up very well, and recently too. He applied a little pressure to the area where he was shot. It only stung, but that was it. The wound was healing.
“You look surprised,” Eesac chimed.
Unsure of what to say, Kaleb just stared at the stranger, wondering just who or better yet what, the hell was he. His scent was completely foreign. He was certain he wasn’t human, but he wasn’t a Felid either.
“If you can move around well enough, the bath is just down the hall.” And then he slipped out the door. Kaleb was sliding out of the bed when Eesac poked his head back in. “If you’re hungry, there’s also some food in the dining room. The wife always overcooks. Please do say hi when you get the chance.”
Eesac was far too cheeky for Kaleb’s tastes. While dinner and a bath did sound good, he didn’t have time for that. Kaleb would say his thank yous and be gone. Two weeks was a long time. Who knows what had happened to Marissa.
He cursed at himself, he covered his face as he leaned forward, his locs spilling over in his distress. If she was hurt or worse…Kaleb shook his head. He couldn’t bear the thought of her being in harm’s way due to his weakness. He should have gone with her.
He slipped on the Black V neck shirt, and dark trousers that were left for him. Scarily accurate how the clothes fit him. His expression grew grim. Two weeks, yet he was as fresh as the fabric he wore.
With no phone or a clue of where she could be, he would have to rely strictly on his senses and what he knew about her. If she were alive, she would have found the safest place for herself. Considering his state, and the length of time that passed, she must have assumed he was dead by now. She probably wasn’t even in town anymore. If the felids were on the run the hunters then there was no way she would have stuck around if she couldn’t find him.
“Oh! And you know…” Eesac’s words trailed off as he saw Kaleb halfway out the ivory frame of the window. “She’s safe!” He blurted out frantically.
Kaleb froze in his place, “What are you talking about?”
“You’re going to look for Ms. Coldwell correct? She is safe.”
Skepticism was written all over Kaleb’s face. He still wasn’t sure if Eesac was friend or foe so his words meant nothing.
He slipped out the window, landing gracefully on the ground.
“If you go to her now you will only be putting her and your own life in danger!”
What if the man was right? What if leaving this place meant endangering her life? What if…No. He couldn’t gamble her life on “What if’s.” His resolve in place, he ran off to find her. He would only be assured once he saw it with his own eyes. At least now, however, he knew that she was definitely still in town.
“Goddammit!” Eesac pounded the window frame, causing spinally breaks in it.
“Oh, did our guest run away?” A female voice quipped from the open door.
“Find him and bring him back here by any means necessary,” He ordered.
The words were barely out before she dived out the window, landing on a set of dark paws.
Marissa was growing impatient by the hour. She felt like jumping out of her skin. Days had gone and still no sign of him. There was no doubt in her mind that he was alive and well, but she needed to see him. At least, if she saw him, whether he was still wounded or not, it would provide a calm for her erratic soul.
“Will you stop that? You’re making me Dizzy,” grumbled Felicia.
“You don’t have to watch,” Marissa snapped and continued pacing around the room they shared. Ever since she was coaxed into staying there with them, she and Felicia bumped heads. The petite blonde would never admit it, but Marissa could smell the jealousy radiating off her. Marissa towered over her barely 4ft frame. Not to mention, the second night of her stay they got into a physical altercation which ended with the leopard’s throat almost being ripped out. The loss took a toll on the blonde’s pride.
So why were they rooming together? Mason, the big brute that grabbed her, insisted that they try to work out their differences. The only thing that kept either of them from opposing him was his sheer size and strength. She wished she knew his species, but according to the others, even they didn’t know.
It had been two weeks since she arrived there. Auburn Valley was a mess. The hunters searched and wiped out anyone that wasn’t of the human variety. Hell, even some humans were killed in the dilemma. The town was thrown into a sort of post-apocalyptic state; disheveled buildings, burning vehicles, bodies strewn about. At this point most of the Felids in town had either escaped, were murdered, or are hiding away like the group she was with. A group that was strangely well held together as though they had been doing this for quite some time. They shared the same reason as her for staying behind while everyone else fled; unfinished business.
“Didn’t you hear me?” Ah, Marissa almost forgot about her. Felicia folded her arms across her sweater covered chest, her green eyes riddled with impatience and annoyance;
“You were still talking?” That comment earned her a growl. Really, Felicia had such a temper it was too easy to tick her off.
“Your friend is either dead or long gone. I don’t see why you’re trying so hard to go out there to get shot over a ‘feeling’.”
This time, the growl came from Marissa. “He’s not dead and he wouldn’t leave without me.”
“Why not? Is he your mate?”
“I’m surprised someone as bitter as you knows what a “mate” is,” Marissa responded coolly and walked out of the room, her black boots making nary a sound on the tiles. A dramatic slamming of the door might have been appropriate but she chose to just slide out quietly.
Kaleb wasn’t her mate. He had been her…boyfriend? Were they really a couple? They hadn’t established that anything was official. If anything, they were dating until he fell off the map.
Something about that still made her uneasy. Kaleb wasn’t the type to punk out because of a threat, even if he had gotten pummeled. So why had he really stopped speaking to her? There was so much about him that she didn’t know. Hell, she knew nothing about any of the males she talked to. This couldn’t be a healthy trend.
What preoccupied her thoughts the most were her feelings for him. She refused to believe it was love. It couldn’t be love.
She gripped her shirt, pulling on the fabric as though it would ease the pain she felt in her chest. Her heart was in shambles. When she returned to the forest and he was gone, she had no idea what to do with herself. Immediately, she was enveloped in panic and like a madwoman scoured the forest for him, calling out to him like she had when he was hurt at the bridge.
The de ja vu feeling gave her hope. Marissa was sure she would find him, laying under a tree, on the verge of unconsciousness, yet still ever the asshole. But she found nothing. And when she collided with a hunter, she lost it. Under the assumption that the worst had happened, she tore the man to pieces. It was the first time she had ever killed anyone. Mason almost became a victim when he arrived and tried to subdue her.
This feeling, she hated it. It made her feel weak and she was tired of being weak and vulnerable. If this was love, then the gods could have it back.
She hadn’t realized her walk took her into the living room. Their humble abode was tiny, and worn down. Tiny home for a tiny band of misfits. The group consisted of 7 people. Four guys: Carlos, Raghib, Aiden and Mason; Felicia and Scarlett made up the other two girls. They were in a three bedroom apartment. It was highly unkept at the moment with scattered articles of clothing on the floor covering the dull white tiles, the walls–a deep navy blue–were in need of repainting and the couches were torn and aging. One laptop was stationed in the far right corner and currently in use by Aiden. He was a meek, Asian young man with short, dark curly hair. He was never without his glasses, and always buried in that computer.
The punching bag in the opposite corner was taking a severe beating from Carlos. The brunette was a hothead. He ran a competition with Felicia when it came to tempers.
“Hey!” He called, and she blinked, not realizing that she had been staring at him, “Want to give it a try? You look tense.” Temper aside, he did seem like a nice guy.
“No, I’m good.”
“Ya sure? I mean, we can’t have you eating our comrades again.” An amused glint, sparkled in his hazel eyes.
“She was asking for it.” As Felicia’s words came back, asking if Kaleb was her mate, telling her that he could be dead of just left her, hitting something suddenly sounded like a great idea.
Carlos tossed her a set of gloves then patted the bag. Mockingly, he gave a slight bow.
She walked to the bag and eyed it like the foreign object it was. She had never done this before. Professional ass-kicking wasn’t in her resume.
“Just hit it,” Carlos coaxed and showed her a perfect quick jab.
She pursed her lips, then swung her arm out. She hit it, but It barely budged.
“Hit the damn thing with some life.”
She groaned, then swung at it again, gaining the same results. “The bag is faulty.”
“Felicia could easily give that thing beating,” Carlos said smugly. “Hell, she can at least move it when she touches it.”
Marissa’s eye twitched.
“Between her and Scarlett she was the better fighter. In fact, when we were in our clan, she was one of the best,” Another twitch. “How the hell did you manage to beat her when you can’t even budge—”
The uppercut Marissa sent in his direction connected cleanly with his jaw. She felt victorious for a moment until she saw his golden slit eyes staring back at her.
He rubbed his jaw silently, eyes focused on her. She took a step back, not sure if he was contemplating her murder or just speechless.
His mouth parted and rotated. She gulped.
“So you can hit with life.”
Was he actually praising her for hitting him?
“If you’re going to hit me just—”
He snatched her arm then dragged her against his chest. Roughly, He captured her lips in what was far from a romantic kiss. If the Mason hadn’t walked in, his lips might have still been on hers.
“Did I interrupt something?” Mason asked as the light-skinned boy left to his room.
Marissa was still frozen on the wall, speechless and confused. Was he turned on by her hitting him?
Confused as well, Mason helped her away from the wall. He led her to the blanket covered mattress on the floor.
“Carlos has been around only Felicia and Scarlett, I think a new female has him…excited.” Aiden said without his eyes leaving the computer screen.
“I hit him and he kissed me,” She spat while wiping her mouth. She eyed where he had disappeared to, wanting to snatch him by the throat.
“He’s also a masochistic asshole,” Aiden said.
Right, because that makes it less strange. Her rage over the kiss faded as she noticed the grave expression on Mason’s face.
“I’m glad you’re siting because there is no easy way to say this…”
She really did not need any more bad news in her life.
“I found your mat…friend. The boy you were looking for,” He began and she felt her heart sink already, “But the council has him in custody.”
Why was he still staring at her like that? His expression darkened even further.
“Tomorrow at noon, he’ll be executed.”