I gazed around his room in the dim glow of a small lamp in wonder. The walls were painted a deep navy blue, several bookshelves lined the walls. Standing up, I walked across to the dresser looking at the photographs lined up across the top. That must be their dad, I ran my hand over the faded picture. He looked so much like Darren; they could be brothers. There’s Angelique, she looked younger as she laughed happily at the camera hugging the three boys close. They looked almost the same! I picked it up and looked at the date stamped across the bottom. July 14, 1990, my eyes widened in shock, I wasn’t even born yet! Striding quickly back across the room I sank back down on the bed, they’re older than they say! I sank back against the pillow staring at the ceiling in shock, they did say they aged slower. I squeezed my eyes shut tightly trying to fall asleep and finally gave up after almost an hour.
Rolling out of bed, I made my way out into the dark hallway and crept down the stairs. Maybe a drink will help settle my nerves. I slid past the den and stopped in my tracks; Darren was sitting in one of the armchairs wide awake. His chin was resting on a clenched fist as he stared at the fire crackling in the fireplace. He looks so sad! His eyes had darkened to a stormy gray as he gazed moodily at the blaze, he looked so lost in thought. I tried to walk away quietly so I wouldn’t bother him but my foot caught on a snag in the carpet and I tripped. Reaching out to catch myself, my hand made a loud report against the wall. An embarrassed heat crept across my face as Darren stuck his head out into the hallway.
“Oh, it’s you Dusty.” he said quietly, his brow furrowed, “Are you okay? Could you not sleep or something?”
“I was going to get a drink to see if it would help,” I said meekly, a resigned expression crossed his face and he strode past me.
“Come on, I’ll find you something,” he said quietly, leading the way to the kitchen. I followed after him silently, his shoulders bowed as he walked. Like he was carrying the world on his shoulders.
Bending down he fished a bottle of rum from under the counter, sitting it on the counter he got two glasses from the cabinet and grabbed a bottle of Coke out of the fridge, “rum and coke?” he asked giving me a sheepish look, “I was after a drink too don’t worry.”
“I wasn’t talking about that kind of drink,” I said flushing brightly, “I have my last final tomorrow, I don’t need a hangover.” he frowned and looked at the bottle in his hand before setting it on the counter.
“Do you just want coke then?” he held out the coke, I nodded my head silently. He poured me a glass and leaned back against the counter watching me as I sipped at the drink. Pouring himself a half glass of the coke he spiked it with a healthy dose of rum, “Some rum might actually help you sleep you know, it’s not as bad as the other ones. Mostly just warms you up and helps you sleep.” I sighed and slid the glass across the counter, he smiled and poured a tiny amount of the rum into my glass.
Taking the glass back I sipped at it hesitantly, the rum immediately warmed my chest. Burning a trail to my stomach, I hissed and put the glass down quickly, “That’s hot!” I said scowling at him.
“It has a burn, yes,” He said patiently, taking a long drink of his own, “It’s a slow burn, though so it shouldn’t be that bad.” he smiled again, “Unless you’re a lightweight?” I glared at his challenging look, taking the glass I downed the contents in one gulp and snapped the glass back against the counter.
His eyes widened in alarm; I felt the heat slowly spreading through my chest then my stomach was suddenly on fire. I choked, tears jumping to my eyes as he snickered, “water!” I croaked, he quickly filled my cup from the sink and gave it to me.
“I didn’t say chug it, are you crazy?” he was barely hiding the laughter in his voice as I took a long drink of water. No! That made it worse! “Whoa easy there!” he lunged forward catching me as the room swayed in front of me. I slid off the stool into his arms as the rum finally hit me, the room was a blur and my head felt heavy.
“I need to lie down,” I slurred, my tongue felt like it was wrapped in thick cotton, the searing heat from the rum was spreading sluggishly through my stomach. Jesus, that must be expensive stuff! He barely put any in my cup! He swept me into his arms and walked back toward the den.
I clutched his arm as my stomach threatened to reject its contents at the sudden movement, “No put me down!” I said weakly, he immediately stopped and set me gently on my feet.
“Are you okay Dusty?” his face swam in front of me, supporting me gingerly with one arm he slowly led me to an armchair where I collapsed.
“What kind of rum was that!” I scowled at him, he burst out laughing, sinking to the sectional in front of me.
“Well, it wasn’t the cheap stuff that’s for sure.” he snickered, “I didn’t know you were such a lightweight, Jesus Dusty why did you chug it like that?”
“I was trying to prove a point,” I said weakly, the swaying room was making me feel nauseous again. I slid down to the floor and put my head between my knees.
“A point? What point?” he slid to the floor and stretched out in front of me so that he was looking up at me from the floor, “Oh wow, you’re looking kind of green around the gills.” sliding away he rolled to his feet and ran to the kitchen. I glanced up when I heard him come back into the room, he was holding a small glass in one hand and something small and white in the other. “Here take this,” he said briskly, placing the glass and two small pills in my hand.
The sweet smell of orange juice wafted up from the cup and I eyed the pills giving him a wary look, “What are these?”
“It’s just Aspirin,” he said sitting beside me Indian style on the floor, “That should help a little, I hope anyway. You don’t drink do you?”
I downed the aspirin with a gulp of orange juice and turned to him with a scowl, “No I do not,” I snapped, “I’m not a lightweight, it’s just been so long.” The sweet tang of the juice was already negating the burn in my stomach, my vision was a bit clearer, “I was in a car wreck a few years ago, a drunk driver hit my family head-on.” The horrible shredding of the metal echoed through my head and I shivered, “My mom was hurt the worst, it paralyzed her from the waist down.” I rolled up my pants leg pointing at the long slender scar on the inside of my thigh, “I had a piece of metal embedded in my leg, I almost died, I lost so much blood. My dad and my little brother were on the other side of the car; they just had a few scrapes and bruises. Not that I was supposed to be drinking before, I was underage. But after that, I never wanted it again.”
He was looking at me horrified as I finished my story, “Oh my god Dusty that’s horrible, I’m sorry I asked.” he frowned, “I won’t ask you to drink again, I’m sorry.”
“No, it’s fine,” I was still a little woozy, “We need to know more about each other, we’re stuck together, right?” the words tumbled out before I realized what I had said and I clapped my hand over my mouth in horror.
His eyes narrowed and he crossed his arms over his chest, “Is that what you really think?” his voice sounded somber and pained, “Am I really that bad?”
“No! There’s nothing wrong with you!” I stumbled over my words shakily, “I don’t mind...I mean…” sighing I gave up trying to talk and buried my face in my hands. My cheeks flamed; I knew I was blushing again.
I heard him slide across the floor and his arm wrapped around my shoulder, “It’s okay, I get it, you don’t have to try to talk anymore. You’re still tipsy, I won’t listen to a word I promise.”
I peeked up at him between my fingers, “I’m sorry, that sounded horrible I shouldn’t have said that.” he laughed.
“Can I help you sober up?” his grin tilted sideways and he got a mischievous look in his eyes, I was immediately guarded.
“That depends,” I said warily, “What are you going to do?” he threaded his fingers through mine and pulled me closer.
“Let’s learn a bit more about each other.” his face was a breath away from mine, my mind went blank.
“Uhm.” my breath seized in my chest and a blush flamed across my face again, “No wait don’t get that close!” I stammered, trying to disentangle myself.
“Why not?” he didn’t let me move, nuzzling my cheek with his nose, “You smell so insanely amazing Dusty.” inhaling deeply he pulled back looking at my horrified expression, “I think it’s working, what if I do this?” he leaned over and kissed my cheek. My heart erupted into palpitations and I lurched away.
“Knock it off!” my head was clearing swiftly as he laughed lightly letting me go and clutching my fingers again, “You can’t!” My voice failed me miserably.
“I can’t what?” he said impishly, pressing a soft kiss to my knuckles. My skin heated under his lips and he smiled victoriously, “I’m trying to help you sober up.”
I pulled my hand away and tried staggering to my feet, Oh no! The room swayed drunkenly at my sudden movement and I stumbled into him. He wrapped his arms around me as I crashed into him and suddenly, we were lying flat on the floor. The mischief instantly faded from his face; I was sprawled across his chest. I felt his heart lurch against me as he looked up at me. So close! His skin burned me through our shirts. A warmth stole through my body as I gazed into his stormy blue eyes. All I have to do is...his lips were so close I could feel the whisper of his breath across my lips. He gazed at me soberly as I warred with the voices in my mind. I can’t! Liam! Why me! I need to move! But I couldn’t, I was as frozen as he seemed to be. I felt his hands run slowly up from my sides until he was cradling my face.
“If you don’t move, I’m going to do something I’ll regret,” he said softly, my heart ricocheting off my ribs. Move! I tried to force my limbs to move but I couldn’t look away from his eyes. Hooking his fingers behind my head, he pulled me closer and molded his warm lips against mine.
My heart lurched and stopped completely as a solid heat coursed through my veins, his mouth slanted softly across mine. Wait! My mind rebelled instantly but I ignored it. He held me tighter, sitting us up and leaning against the armchair holding me to his chest. I felt a faint stinging pain wrap around my wrist and pulled away with a gasp looking down at my hand. The mark wound its way up from my thumb wrapping around my wrist. I gazed at it in shock as it twisted in an intricate design until it reached my ring finger. The thin tendrils twisted into an elaborate tribal design and faded into my skin leaving a faintly raised wheal across the back of my hand in the shape of the design. His breath left his chest in a hiss.
“No…” he whispered looking at his own mark as it wound up his arm to his elbow, instead of fading the lines stayed bold and thick against his skin, “I’m sorry Dusty, that was supposed to be your choice.” his face was pale as he looked at my shocked expression.
A lance of pain crossed his face and he turned toward the doorway swiftly, I whipped around once again barely catching a glimpse of Liam as he disappeared. It doesn’t bother me; the shocked thought crossed my mind. Wait what? Darren turned back to me; his face twisted in the agony his brother must be feeling.
“I’m sorry,” I mumbled, folding my hands in my lap and looking away, “I really should have moved.” feeling ashamed I stood up quickly, it did work, the errant thought made me stop. I felt completely sober.
“I need to go talk to him.” The grimace on his face made me wonder what Liam was thinking, they could hear each other's thoughts, I could only imagine what he was hearing from Liam.
“Okay,” I said quietly, as he gathered his long legs under him and stood up. Patting my shoulder, he turned and strode out of the den after Liam. Should I go after him and help? I immediately wanted to follow him. What is wrong with me? I bit my lip and sat in the armchair quickly, the pull grew stronger the farther away he got. This must be the bond they were talking about. Tapping my finger against the arm of the chair I fought the impulse, forcing myself to sit still.
A loud crash from the pool deck broke the silence and I jumped to my feet instantly. Micah and Melissa nearly ran into me in the hall as I sprinted to find out what the noise was.
“You couldn’t just wait, could you?” Liam was standing over Darren when we spilled out the door. Darren didn’t even try to defend himself as Liam swung again. His fist connected solidly and the splatter of blood across the wood made me sick instantly, “You pulled the same damn thing with Abigail, she was everything to Micah and you just took her away. Now she’s dead, are you going to kill Dusty too?”
“Wait Liam stop!” not thinking I threw myself between them as he swung again. Liam’s fist stopped an inch from my face. The impact of the air made my hair waft away from my face briefly.
The torture in his eyes was almost too much to bear as I met his gaze. Reaching up I grasped his hand unclenching his fingers. Feeling him shaking, I wound my fingers through his carefully. He fell to his knees in front of me clutching my hand like a lifeline. I felt a faint twinge in my chest at his pain, why can’t I feel anything? The horrifying thought crossed my mind as I ran my fingers through his dark hair. Micah swiftly pulled Melissa back inside leaving the three of us alone on the deck.
“Dusty,” my name was a pained whisper on his lips, “I can’t. I can’t stay here and watch this.” pushing himself to his feet he removed his glasses with his free hand and leaning forward, pressed his forehead against mine, “I don’t blame you for this, but I need time to think.” I saw the wanderlust in his eyes and nodded silently, “I’ll stay close enough to help protect you but other than that I’ll leave you alone.” his gaze slid to Darren, the anger barely hidden in his gaze. Reaching down he hooked his glasses on my pocket and turned away quickly, shifting as he leaped off the deck and disappearing into the dark.
Darren pushed himself to his feet behind me and I turned quickly to check on him, fighting off the tears I felt threatening, “Are you okay?” I said reaching up to inspect his split lip. He stilled under my hand, his eyes wide, glancing after Liam he turned to look at me again.
“I’m fine, I deserved that,” he said brushing my hand away, I lowered my head avoiding his gaze. Liam, please don’t go far, I found myself begging internally, I know I can’t stop you but I still don’t want you to go!
Darren wrapped an arm around my shoulders pulling me back into the kitchen, “He’s going to be okay, isn’t he?” I was shocked at how monotone my voice sounded. I'm supposed to love him, right now I can’t even bring myself to worry about him. What the hell is wrong with me?
“He’ll stay close,” Darren said quietly leaning against the counter, “You only have about two hours until you need to get ready for your last class, you need to at least try to get a nap.”
I shook my head and unhooked Liam’s glasses from my pocket, skimming my fingers across the smooth gilded frames I smiled. At least he left a part of himself with me. “I’m not sleepy,” I murmured looking up at him. He tilted his head to the side regarding me with a concerned expression, “The math final won’t be that hard, I’ll be fine with some coffee.” walking silently past him I went into the den and sank into the sectional.
After a minute he joined me, sitting down beside me he watched me as I stared down at Liam’s glasses in my hands, “Do you want me to go away?” he said quietly, “I can leave you alone if you want.” For some unnamed reason the thought was abhorrent to me I shook my head.
“Are we bonded now?” I glanced over at him; he was biting the inside of his cheek as he watched me.
“You’re not marked, but you are bonded.” he said slowly watching my reaction, “I’m sorry I really shouldn’t have done that.” he looked ashamed.
“What happens now?” I said quietly, I felt way too calm, I should be upset but I can’t. I felt drawn to him.
“I’m not doing anything else,” he said stubbornly, setting his mouth in a mulish line, “Do you want to talk about it?”
I thought for a second, “No, I’m fine.” leaning over I settled my head against his shoulder, “I feel like I should hurt but I can’t, it’s making me feel guilty.” crossing his arm over my shoulder he tucked my head under his chin.
“Don’t feel guilty, this is my fault.” I heard the loathing in his voice, “If Abigail were still here then you would have bonded to him. Every shifter has a bride, but the alpha takes precedent in our tribe. This is my fault,” he repeated, “Don’t you dare feel guilty.”
So, I really was meant to be with Liam, the thought sobered me. That explained the shock when we first met, how quickly he got under my skin. I frowned and brought my fingers to my lips; I can still feel him. Something hot touched my fingers and I brought them away quickly, a tear glistened on my fingertips. I’m crying? Darren’s hand curled around mine bringing my fingers to his lips.
“I’m sorry Dusty,” it seemed like his penance as he said it again. Gathering me tighter against him, he squeezed me gently. I felt torn, part of me wanted to push him away and go after Liam but another stronger urge was pushing me to stay, I trembled as the feelings tumbled over in my mind fighting for dominance. I felt him bury his nose in my hair, I don’t want this...but I don’t want him to let go.
“Don’t let me go.” my thoughts tumbled out of my mouth unbidden, “Please.” I breathed. He tensed.
“I’ll be here as long as you want me to be,” he said quietly, I felt his hand stroke my back and shivered. His hands...the ghosts of the searing trails Liam burned across my skin tingled alarmingly.
I fiercely shoved the thought away, He walked away from you! My mind hissed at me selfishly, sounding like a devil perched on my shoulder. He’s hurt it’s not your fault or his, this couldn’t be stopped, a calmer more logical voice overcame me. The thoughts swirled madly, I just wanted to escape. Pulling away from Darren I buried my face in my hands as the flood of tears boiled over again.
“Stop that!” his voice sounded fierce, I looked up at his glacial gaze, “I don't like watching you cry like this.” he sounded so bitter, “Your heart is going to pull you all over the place, you have two anchors. Liam and I, but that idiot walked away. This has happened before you know,” I clammed up immediately looking at him in shock.
“With our mom and dad,” he said quietly, “Our dad had a twin brother, Michael, it wasn’t quite the same situation. But dad was born first the true Alpha, Michael found mom first though. She was attached to both of them. Things only got worse, it turned into a blood feud. Michael turned on us and sent the hunters after our family in the first place.” his expression blackened, “He’s the reason we’re almost gone because he couldn’t back down. He just wanted dad gone so he could be alpha, he wanted her back but she didn’t want him anymore not like she wanted dad. It broke him when the hunter killed dad and she still turned away from him. He stole a blade from the hunters, the one I tried to give you earlier. It’s a neodymium blade, the metal is poisonous to us.” I felt nauseous, immediately guessing what he was about to say, “He used that blade to kill himself.” my stomach turned over as he fell silent.
The story floored me; I didn’t know what to say. He leaned forward propping his elbows on his knees and steepling his fingers under his chin, letting me process it. Hesitantly I reached out and touched his shoulder. His torrential gaze turned to me and in a flash, he had pulled me across his lap. I froze as he traced my jaw with his finger.
“I don’t want to break my bond with my brother.” he said gritting his teeth, “I’m going to fix this.” his eyes tightened briefly before he set me back to the side and stood up. I watched stunned as he swept out of the room.
After a few moments of silence, I heard a curse from somewhere upstairs and a heavy slam. “Dusty!” Melissa came racing down the stairs wide-eyed, her hair mussed from sleep, “They need you!” She looked terrified.
I took the steps two at a time ahead of her following the thudding sound. Rounding the corner, I froze in shock.
“Give it back!” Darren snapped pounding on the locked door. I heard a muffled reply from Micah, “I don’t care, I can’t do this!” he snarled back through the door at Micah.
“He tried to stab himself Dusty,” Melissa whimpered, staring at him fearfully, “Do something please, Micah can’t keep him locked out long!”
I flew down the hall wrapping my arms around him firmly, “Darren stop it this isn’t going to solve anything!” he instantly stilled.
“If I’m gone you can be where you belong,” he said stiffly, “Don’t stop me, I won’t live like our dad did, I don’t want my brother to hate me.”
“He doesn’t hate you!” I heard Micah snap through the door, “These things happen, he’ll hate you more if you kill yourself, you idiot!” The door cracked open and he glared at Darren, “Think about mom, we’re all she has left.” I felt his arms go slack under mine.
“Please.” I choked, I felt myself shaking. He turned slowly in my grasp and wrapped his arms around my shoulders, bowing his head. My heart was pounding, oh my god he was going to kill himself! Leaning against his chest I sighed in relief.
Micah stepped out of the room slowly keeping the blade tucked behind his back, “Come on Missy,” edging around us he grabbed Melissa’s hand and they disappeared into his bedroom. The door snapped shut behind them leaving us alone in the hall.
Unwinding my arms, I reached up and grabbed his face bringing his gaze to mine, “Are you insane?” my voice shook, I realized I was terrified. He studied my pale face silently, slipping his arms down lower to wind around my waist.
“Do you actually care or is it just the bond talking?” his voice sounded eerily monotone as he threw my words back at me. The usual blaze in his blue eyes had dimmed, he looked lost, “Even Abigail didn’t really love me you know, I could see it in her eyes, no matter how much I loved her.” he never broke eye contact, “She loved Micah more, it almost tore us all apart.” my heart wrenched in my chest as he gazed at me solemnly.
I was lost in the storm of emotion in his eyes, they looked murky in his bitterness. “I actually care.” I shoved my doubts to the back of my mind, I’m sorry Liam, I love you. “Please stop trying to hurt yourself, I don’t want you to go.” He studied my face carefully and suddenly let me go backing away.
“That’s what she said too,” he said bitterly, turning he started to walk away. Damn it! I cursed soundly in my mind as I quickly cut him off. He looked down in shock as I shoved him into the wall.
“I don’t like repeating myself!” I growled; how dare he compare me to another girl again! Seizing the front of his shirt I stepped up on my tiptoes and pulled him down to meet my lips kissing him firmly, damn it, why does he have to be so tall? He was too stunned to move at first, a beat passed and his arms wound around me lifting me as he kissed me back.
The acid boiled through me again scorching me from the inside out. The burn from Liams kiss was nothing compared to this. It was searing, I felt like I was walking into the sun. His tongue invaded my mouth exploring hotly. My mind reeled at the new sensation, how is it even possible? Vaguely I felt his mouth leave mine as he kissed my jaw and then we were moving. He carried me down the hallway slowly, his lips never leaving my skin. Before I knew it, he collapsed onto his bed pulling me to his chest. I felt a faint tinge of remorse, you’re a whore, my mind whispered to me. I brushed it away, he needs this, he rolled so that I was lying beside him and nuzzled my neck. My skin reacted alarmingly to his touch; goosebumps spread rapidly from where his cheek brushed against me. Feeling me shiver he stopped and bowed his head, the weak sunlight filtered through the window glinting off the platinum frosting in his blonde hair.
“You need to get ready for your final,” he finally whispered after my breathing slowed, “Thank you Dusty.” his voice cracked as he glanced back up at me, “I didn’t want this to happen, but I promise you. I will make this right for you, one way or another.” he pressed a chaste kiss to my forehead and stood up, “Go get ready, I’ll take you to class.”
About the author
I am a single mom of four who is also a published author! I use writing as a second income to help me raise my kids so every little bit helps! I write Erotic Fantasy novels and poems. if you love my work thank you! I appreciate your time!