“Dusty, pay attention!” Melissa hissed nudging me sharply, I started blearily. I should have tried to sleep like he said.
I was nodding off against my station as the instructor wrote several elaborate problems across the marker board in front of the class. He snapped his ruler against the board sharply as I started dozing off again.
“Today you have twenty-five problems that I want you to solve, you have no time limit.” he sat down at his desk, “When you finish, please put your equation sets on my desk and then you are free to go, begin when you are ready.” he picked up a workbook from his desk and started solving problems ignoring us.
Rubbing my eyes groggily I picked up my pen and opened my notebook. The numbers swam through my mind in a disorganized mess as I worked my way through the problems. Slowly the students weeded out, one after the other until Melissa was the only one left beside me. She was already done working, pretending to write in her notebook as she watched me out of the corner of her eye. Glancing up at the instructor she swiftly swapped our notebooks and wrote down the rest of the last three problems for me. I glared at her as she quickly swapped back and walked up to his desk laying her paper down, I walked past her placing mine on top of hers, and followed her out the door.
“What was that?” I snapped as soon as the door closed behind us, “I was doing just fine, I didn’t need you to finish my work for me.”
“Dusty, I'm worried about you,” she said quietly, stopping me in the hallway. Her earnest brown eyes bored into mine, “How is Liam doing? Is Darren okay? I thought he was going to hurt himself last night.” her small frame trembled.
“Darren is fine,” I said quietly, “I haven’t heard anything else from Liam, I don’t know where he is.” I ran my thumb over the rim of his glasses in my pocket, “He left last night.”
“Are you okay?” her strained voice brought me around, “I know he meant a lot to you.” I frowned at her. I still can’t feel bad, does this really mean we’re over?
“I’m fine,” the words automatically spilled from my lips and her eyes widened in shock. Turning I quickly walked away. I felt her stunned gaze burning into my back. Striding quickly out the front door I purposely avoided the cafe.
The campus was naturally almost empty, most of the students had already finished their finals and headed for home. Sinking into a small bench beside the sidewalk, I replayed the last few days over in my mind. So much had already happened, just last Friday I had my first date with Liam. I smiled thinking about what happened at his mother's office at Beau. He became a part of me before I even knew what was happening. My thoughts quickly turned nostalgic thinking about the elevator and what he said, “Damn it how else can I show you you’re beautiful?” the way he held me, “you are the most elemental woman I’ve ever met, you turn from fire to ice, and then from sunshine to rain. Promise me you’ll never change.” I held up my hand studying the raised wheal marking my skin, this little mark took it all away. A hand suddenly appeared, warm fingers curling around my outstretched hand. I blinked in surprise, glancing up as Darren laced his fingers through mine.
“You okay?” he said softly, pulling me to my feet and winding an arm around my waist, I glanced at the Corvette parked against the curb, I hadn’t even heard him pull up, “You look kind of lost.”
“I’m fine,” it was like I was stuck on repeat, saying the same thing over and over again to everyone I met, “I was just thinking.”
His blue gaze missed nothing, he saw the pain around my eyes and pulled me against his shoulder, “Liam dropped by the house while you were in class, we talked.” I raised my brow at him, “He said he’s going to move in with mom for a while, told me to tell you that you are welcome to the clothes in his closet and that you don’t have to move them.” I felt his shoulder tighten, “He also said that he’s sorry.”
My mind numbed, He was giving up? Just like that? My lip quivered before I could stop it. I took a calming breath pushing the thoughts away, okay, if that’s the way he’s going to be then I guess I really don’t have any other choice. I pulled my hand free from his and wrapped my arms around his neck, he didn’t even hesitate to loop his freed arm around my waist holding me tightly. A faint wave of grief bubbled up inside my chest but I forced it back. No more crying, I should have walked away when I met him. I should have never let him walk me back to the dorm. My body trembled under the wave of self-directed anger, feeling it as he stood back watching my face carefully.
None of this would have happened if I would have just stayed away from him. Looking up at Darren's concerned gaze I smiled lightly, “I’m starving,” I said meekly, a flicker of disbelief crossed his face, “I’m going to get some food.” turning away from his grasp I purposefully walked back toward the cafe. For once my thoughts were silent, he caught up to me quickly. I ducked into the cafe and sank into a booth. He sat across from me watching me silently as I waved for the waitress and ordered some food.
It’s like she’s broken, an unfamiliar voice whispered across my mind, what am I supposed to do for her? I looked up at Darren, I knew he hadn’t said anything. Glancing around the cafe I knew nobody else was close enough to whisper to me. Turning back to him I gave him a puzzled look.
“Did you just say something?” his eyes widened, I know I didn’t imagine that, “I just heard a voice.”
“No,” he cocked his head to the side, she’s hearing voices now? A frown marred his face, “Are you okay?”
“There it was again!” I blinked in confusion, “can’t you hear it?” he slowly shook his head looking at me like I was losing my mind.
“What is it saying?” he said quietly, propping his chin on his fist as he carefully studied my face, his eyes narrowed curiously.
“It said I was broken, and that I was hearing voices.” his jaw dropped, wait a minute, Dusty can you hear this? the voice was louder, I glanced around quickly, “Yes I can hear that.” his face paled.
“Dusty you’re listening to my thoughts,” he said in a choked whisper, “How is that even possible?” his brow furrowed, “Unless...no way.”
I faltered, “Wait what?” my phone rang shrilly interrupting us. I numbly pulled it out of my pocket, dropping it on the table as it slipped from my shaking fingers. Pressing send I held it to my ear “Hello?”
“Dusty!” my mom's enthusiastic voice came from the speaker and I nearly dropped the phone again, “Hey sweety, how are you? I’m sorry I didn’t call sooner; your brother has been sick.”
“Mom?” I wilted, it had been almost a month since I heard her voice, “I’m fine mom, what’s wrong with Tyler?”
“That’s great honey!” she said happily, “Oh you know, school systems now. Every possible virus thrives there, nobody wants to get their children vaccinated anymore. He caught some kind of stomach virus from that horrible girl he’s been seeing.”
“What girl?” my problems forgotten for the moment, I immediately jumped to sister bear mode, “When were you going to tell me he was dating someone?” I didn’t care if he was seventeen, he was still my baby brother.
“Her name is Amber,” her voice curled like she was grimacing, “Honestly, she’s about the rudest young lady I’ve ever met and she’s already gotten him in trouble twice for skipping school.”
“He’s been skipping school?” I felt my temper rise, Aimie placed my plate in front of me quietly and walked away. Darren was still staring at me blankly across the table.
“Calm down honey, we’re dealing with it,” mom's voice turned soothing, “So how were finals? Have you met anybody that interests you yet?”
“Finals were great, I’m pretty sure I passed” I glanced across the table at Darren, “Yeah, I guess you could say I’ve met somebody.” he met my gaze looking stunned.
I heard a clatter and a squeal, like she had dropped the phone “Oh do we get to meet him tomorrow?” she sounded excited, “Your dad says we’re leaving early so we can see you before the graduation ceremony, you’re getting your grades back tonight right?” I loved hearing her so happy, it made me smile, “I mean even if you didn’t pass, we can still come see you tomorrow, right?”
“Sure, I’ll let you meet him tomorrow,” I frowned as I looked across at him. Liam really wanted to meet them, “I’m not too worried about not passing. I had great professors this semester.” my stomach sank, Oh and I forgot to mention I dated one of them and now I’m bonded to his older brother. The unspoken thought grazed my mind sharply.
“Oh, I have to go honey,” she sounded apologetic, I heard a blaring alarm go off in the background, “I don’t want to burn dinner again, I love you!”
“I love you too mom,” the line cut off and I took a deep breath, Darren was still looking dumbstruck at me as I picked up the burger off my plate.
“You want me to meet your family?” he said quietly, I swallowed a bite and nodded at him frowning.
“Why not?” I grimaced pulling a pickle off the burger, “You’re not going to walk out on me too, are you? What were you saying earlier? About the mind thing?”
“Well, if I meet your family, I can answer my question myself,” he frowned, “But are you sure? I’m eleven years older than you, won’t they have a problem with that?” his face looked guarded.
“My family won’t care how old you are as long as I’m happy,” my face fell and I put my burger back on my plate, my appetite vanishing.
“But you’re not happy Dusty,” the warm concern in his voice made me look up, “You need to be happy too.”
“I don’t have another choice and you know that,” I said steadily meeting his gaze, “I’m not saying you can’t make me happy I just need a little time to adjust and I will be fine.” What do I have to lose? It’s not like I can make Liam come back, that would just hurt him worse.
“Finish eating Dusty, you haven’t been eating much lately.” he said quietly, “I’m taking you back to the flat when you get done, you can check your grades on our computer later.” he propped his chin on his hands, “You need to try to sleep some, the lines under your eyes are so deep they’re going to scare your family to death tomorrow.”
I pushed the plate away, “I’m not hungry anymore,” the food suddenly looked downright disgusting, then again, I barely had any sleep all weekend. I remembered reading about fatigue, it could mess with your sense of taste if you didn’t get enough rest, “Just let me go get some sleep, and then I’ll try to eat again.”
“Okay,” he said, watching me carefully, and waved for Aimie. She came across to our table giving me a hard glare.
What’s her problem? The fury confused me. Pulling out my wallet I handed her a ten and she walked away briefly. It was a relief when he didn’t try to pay for my food, then again, he knows you like being self-reliant, he probably wants to. I frowned; Darren knew more about me than I did about him. Right down to my aversion to people buying things for me. He read my frown with a puzzled look.
“What is it?” he seemed confused, “Did you want me to get that? I was going to but I know you hated it when Liam made you let him pay, I didn’t want to make you mad.”
I snorted, “That’s just it, I was just thinking that you know way more about me than I do about you.” his brows shot up, “It’s kind of sad really.”
Amarie brought the change back while he stared at me dumbfounded, gathering it up I shoved it back into my wallet and stood up, “Come on, before you wind up having to carry me out of here.” he stood up quickly, “I feel like I’m about to pass out.”
He gingerly hooked his arm under mine and led me out the door. The snow seemed too bright against my strained eyes, tucking my chin into my collar I shaded my eyes against the glare. Glancing down he shrugged out of his jacket and hung the hood on my head so that my eyes were shaded. A pang lanced through me at the simple gesture. The first time Liam kissed me. He felt me tense and frowned, that must be another memory, damn it I just keep hurting her. His voice brushed against the edge of my thoughts again.
“You’re not hurting me, I’m hurting myself.” I said, answering his thought out loud as I carefully picked my way over the icy sidewalk beside him, “I’m trying to forget but they won’t go away.”
I felt his grip tighten on my arm when my foot slipped a little on the ice, “I forgot you could hear me,” his eyes glinted, “You know, I taught Liam everything he knows, it won’t be so different being around me.” he tried to cheer me up, I frowned up at him.
Wrong, it’s very different! Even his smell was different, everything about him was foreign to me. He opened the door to his car, “After you.” he said with a small grin, I sat down slowly looking around the interior of the car. Wow, it's so nice!
“Oh, wow I love it!” I said looking around at the inside in wonder as he slid into the driver's seat, he smiled genuinely.
“I was always more of a classic American muscle kind of guy,” he said running his hand across the maroon trimmed dash affectionately, “those foreign cars irritate me, of course, this is one of the newer models, a grand sport” he turned the key and the engine growled to life, I buckled my seatbelt quickly remembering the hair-raising ride with Micah, “I had the body custom rebuilt to match the heavier frame of the sixty model corvettes, this thing is a tank honestly. I even had the motor replaced with a custom built Edelbrock three sixty-three crate engine” he said laughing as I instinctively held onto the seat for dear life, “Don’t worry you’re perfectly safe, if we hit something I guarantee it will be hurt worse than we are.”
I glanced across at him as he rambled off the features of his car, he really loves cars, doesn’t he? “I guess I just learned something new about you, didn’t I?” he shot me a confused look.
“You did?” a grin tilted his lips as he shifted the car into gear and pulled away from the curb, “I talk too much, don't I?”
“No, it’s fine,” he shifted again, watching me out of the corner of his eye, I smiled, “I had no idea you loved cars that much.”
“Well, not exactly all cars,” he chuckled, “I love the Chevrolets, the corvette isn’t my favorite either.” I relaxed my hands as the car accelerated smoothly. Why do I feel so safe with him?
“So, which one is?” I rested my elbow on the center console and cupped my chin watching him. Might as well start getting used to him now.
He raised a brow at me, “Sixty-nine Impala, or the seventy model Chevelle SS,” the edge of his lips curled in an impish grin, “Can’t choose to be honest.” he turned a quizzical eye to me, “Just morbidly curious, why do you care?”
I sat back into the seat sighing, “I want to learn more about you, like I said you know more about me than I know about you.” his face went slack in surprise and I turned my face away glancing out the window, “But if you don’t want me asking, I’ll just be quiet.” I watched in the mirror as he gazed at me curiously before turning to watch the road. He didn’t say anything else, I nodded off against the warm leather seat, lulled by the smooth growl of the motor.
A cold draft touched my face and I blinked open my eyes sleepily, we were back at the flat. Darren leaned over me, a guarded expression on his face.
“Am I going to have to carry you in?” he said, giving me a warm smile, I shook my head sleepily and stretched.
“I’ve got it,” unbuckling the belt I stood unsteadily, rubbing the sleep from my eyes, “You guys have a bad habit of waking me up you know that?” he laughed as I walked past him heading up the pathway.
He followed me silently, I could feel his eyes assessing me, she seems calmer now, I wonder… ignoring his thoughts as they brushed across my mind, I stopped by the front door waiting on him to unlock it. I realized the house was empty as we walked through the front hallway.
“Where are Micah and Melissa?” I asked, ducking through the doorway to the den and collapsing in an armchair.
“Micah took her out to celebrate her graduation, they should be back later,” I heard him call from the kitchen, a minute later he came back into the den juggling a bag of popcorn and two drinks.
“What are you doing?” I furrowed my brow as he tossed the popcorn on the sectional and handed me one of the drinks, I sniffed it suspiciously, orange juice again?
“I’m watching a movie while you get some sleep.” he pressed the panel on the wall exposing the massive collection of movies, “If you’re not going to eat at least drink that before you fall asleep, your blood sugar is going to drop and you’re going to get sick if you don’t.” my heart warmed at his concern as he calmly selected a movie and came back across to me. Pressing a button below the armrest of the chair I was sitting in he dropped it into the slot that popped open.
“What are you watching?” I probably shouldn’t have asked but I couldn’t stop my curiosity. He glanced up at me as he backed away and sank onto the sectional.
He grinned sheepishly, “Knight Rider,” I almost laughed but clapped my hand over my mouth quickly to stifle it, “Go ahead laugh,” he shrugged, “I love this movie, I don’t care who knows it. Kitt is my dream car.” The boyish grin on his face drove the fatigue out of me.
I stood up and came across to sit beside him, his mouth dropped open, “I’ll watch it with you I haven’t seen it in a while.” he almost dropped the remote when I snagged the popcorn out of his lap.
“I figured you would try to stay away from me.” his quiet words brought me up short, well fine I will stay away! Irritably I stood back up dropping the popcorn back in his lap, “No wait!” he reached out and grasped my wrist. Off balance, I teetered and fell back across the cushions.
“What was that for?” I scowled at him brushing my hair out of my face, “I told you I’m trying to be more comfortable around you.” he looked torn as he let my arm go, “I’m trying to make the best out of the situation that I’m in.” I sat up quickly, “I didn’t ask to be bonded to you, but now I can’t seem to keep myself from wanting to be near you.” crossing my arms over my chest irritably I turned away from him.
After a beat of silence, I felt his arm snake around me and he pulled me back across the cushions to sit beside him. Handing me the popcorn he sat back with a troubled sigh and pressed play on the remote. Pulling out another remote he dimmed the lights and focused on the movie, keeping his hands folded in his lap. I stared at his hard expression curiously in the light of the screen. The corner of his mouth was twisted down in a slight frown. I sat back with a huff ignoring him as I watched the opening credits. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him shift uncomfortably and turned to him again, He looked like he was holding his breath.
I sniffed at my hair self-consciously, “What do I need a shower or something?” I knew I didn’t smell bad, what’s his problem now? He cut a look at me out of the corner of his eye and didn’t answer, “You’re going to ignore me now too?” I could tell my remark cut him, he reached across and wove his fingers through mine warmly.
“No, you don’t stink,” he said quietly, “You smell very nice actually, I won’t ignore you either.” his voice sounded softer, resigned almost. Tugging on my hand he pulled me closer and wrapped his arm around my shoulder, “Is this what you wanted?” I felt my face heat.
“Uhm...” I stammered as my heart lurched, my bravado swiftly fading. Dark room, too close! I could feel his steady heartbeat against my side. He squeezed my shoulder gently and turned his attention back to the movie. I fell silent, he was so different. I remembered how he had been when we first met, he’s always been so flirtatious and open but now he’s so reserved. It’s like he’s an entirely different person away from his brothers. Frowning, I turned to watch the movie with him.
Am I supposed to just let this go? Liam is so upset, but I honestly do like Dusty. Can I tell her that? I wonder how she’ll react? His thoughts startled me, I listened intently as his thoughts tumbled around his head. She doesn’t seem to be able to fight the bond, but I know it’s still hurting her. I saw an image of the side of my face swim in his mind as he glanced down at me, Shit, I forgot, she can hear me. Is she listening now? I felt him tense, I don’t think she is. He let out a breath and his thoughts faded from my mind.
My mind was reeling, Holy shit, he likes me? I felt guilty for invading his mind like that, but wow! What does he mean I can’t fight the bond? The memories of Liam still hurt my heart. I thought about it briefly. How do I really feel about that? As I turned the idea over in my mind, I realized it made me happy. Is the bond really this strong? It makes me happy that he likes me but he’s so worried about Liam. I frowned; Liam likes me too. The thought sobered me and I tucked my face against Darren’s side. I don’t love him like I did, I still love him but it feels more like the love I feel for my family. I feel bad for hurting him but it’s not the same. I felt Darren shift as he glanced down at my sudden movement.
“You okay?” I could hear his voice through his chest, pulling my face away. I nodded silently. He didn’t seem to believe me. Picking up the remote he hit pause and turned back to me. “Why do you look like that then?”
“Like what?” I tried to keep my face expressionless, he frowned, “What?” I couldn’t let him know I heard his thoughts, clasping my hands together on my knees I watched him patiently. Reaching up he grasped my chin firmly and lowered his head to where I couldn’t avoid his gaze.
“Tell me what you were just thinking about then,” he challenged. I felt my face warm. Focusing on his mouth instead I shook my head stubbornly, “Was it that bad?” I watched as his lips twisted in confusion.
“No, it wasn’t bad,” I faltered, bad idea! Need to focus on something else! I shifted my gaze higher, stopping above his eyes.
“Why won’t you look me in the eyes then?” he said quietly tugging my chin down until his probing gaze met mine, my resolve shattered, “You’re lying to me.”
“I heard what you were thinking,” I whispered, his eyes tightened and he released my chin suddenly sitting back, “I’m sorry, I wasn’t trying to.” I could see him biting the inside of his cheek.
“It’s usually not something you can control,” he murmured, I flinched as he reached out again but his hand settled on the remote. He turned and flipped the tv off, watching me with a measured expression, “You heard it all?” I nodded silently as he gave me his full attention, “and your thoughts were?”
I bit my lip, “Well, it made me happy that you like me,” he watched me stoically, “I’m worried about Liam too, but what I feel for him doesn’t feel the same as before.” the corner of his lips turned down, “I do love him but it feels more like a brother's love, I don’t really understand it.” I fell silent after spilling my thoughts, he propped his chin on his fist studying me curiously.
After an uncomfortable silence he reached out to me, “I wonder…” the words were a breath on his lips as he carefully curled his fingers around my face. My heart leaped into my throat as he tugged me closer, I felt my face flame as he leaned over. Unable to speak I squeezed my eyes shut and held my breath as a small chill raced across my skin. “Open your eyes.” at his soft command my eyes snapped open.
I felt the air leave my lungs, hissing between my clenched teeth. His eyes were dark, a deep hypnotic blue as he gazed at me silently. A heavy weight settled on my chest, I felt like I was being held under water. His hand slid slowly down my neck and across my shoulder, I could feel the roughness of his palm so unlike Liam’s smooth hands. He must work with his hands a lot. The errant thought crawled across my mind languidly, what’s going on? I couldn’t move as he laced his fingers together behind my back and pulled me flush against him. My lungs screamed for the breath I couldn’t take; I could feel myself getting faint. Suddenly he blinked and the spell broke, I gasped for air.
Lying back against the arm of the sectional he had pulled me against his chest so that I was partially lying on top of him, “What was that?” I said weakly, I couldn’t push myself away. My arms felt like rubber, I didn’t even have the strength to protest against the way he held me.
He brushed my hair away from my face, his mouth set in a grim line, “You’re subject to an alpha's control,” confused. I frowned at him.
“Is it because of the bond?” I asked quietly wondering at his strained face, “Is that a bad thing? Why do you look worried?”
“Only shifters are subject to an alpha's control,” his quiet words stunned me into silence, “Brides are not.” my mind blanked in shock, “I was trying to understand why you could hear me, why now when you couldn’t before.” running his hands slowly up my back he brought some of my hair to his nose, closing his eyes as he inhaled deeply, “You don’t smell like the other humans, your scent is so sweet, almost like wildflowers. The only thing that bothers me, is that shifters born are always male. No female has ever been born to a bonded pair.” tucking my hair back behind my ear he continued softly, “I’ll need to meet your family to be sure, I believe your dad is a shifter. Your mother may not be his bride, I don’t understand it, but you most definitely have shifter blood.”
I finally found my voice, “But wouldn’t I have been able to hear you before? If I really do have shifter blood that is. `` It sounded ludacris.
“Not necessarily,” he ran his thumb across my lip, “Only members of a pack can hear each other, you would be from another bloodline. Which means that you would not share the mental link.” he patiently traced the corner of my mouth as he explained, “Once you bonded to me, by all aspects you became a member of this pack. When outsiders join a pack they submit to the alpha, once they have accepted an alpha they are connected by the mental link to that pack. They become a part of the family in a sense.” my thoughts were scattering helplessly he traced a path down my jaw and back up to my lips making a circuit.
What! My mind was seething chaotically, as I stared blankly at him. How is that even possible? My dad? A shifter? An image of his always warm smile and soft brown eyes sprang to my memory. No, it’s not possible. Because I’ve been watching him get older just like everyone else. They said shifters have long lives, so there is no way he’s a shifter. Another thought turned my thoughts to ice unless he isn’t really my dad. Come to think of it, my mom’s eyes weren’t green either. She always told me I got my aunt's eyes. I never thought much about it. Blue-eyed babies can be born to two brown-eyed parents, right? I felt frigid as the possibility hit me, I was there when Tyler was born, I’m pretty sure Randall is his dad but is he mine? I felt the blood rush from my face. Darren was watching me intently as if he were listening, a shocked expression crossed his face.
“I can hear you!” The awe in his voice was evident, “Your thoughts if I try, I can hear you.” he blinked, I saw a thousand expressions cross his face, “It’s fading in and out like a bad signal but I can hear you.” Okay whoa, what? I couldn’t speak, I was stunned.
He gently traced my jaw again, a small smile on his lips. How does he do that? Irritation tainted my thoughts as my skin hummed under his fingertips, the confusion slowly draining away from my thoughts replaced by a slow burn. It’s like he’s hypnotizing me, my head tilted unconsciously against his hand. I’m not worried anymore either, the chaotic thoughts of my family combusted, fading away. His touch was so soft, almost like he was handling glass.
“What are you doing to me?” I murmured sleepily, feeling drugged as my eyes threatened to close.
“I told you before you need to sleep,” he said simply, relentlessly tracing the path over my skin again. Chills raced across my scalp when his finger paused on my lip, “I’m just trying to help you relax.”
“Stop it,” my words slurred as my vision dipped dangerously, he was so warm. My body was relaxing against my will. I bit my lip sharply hanging on to the pain to keep me awake.
A small smile stretched his lips as he chuckled at my vain attempt to fight it off, “You’re amazingly strong.” he said tugging at my lip free from my teeth, “But not strong enough.” sliding his hands over my shoulders he grasped my waist and pulled me higher until I was lying completely on top of him. He drew my lips to his and my mind immediately shut down as he kissed me softly. No no no! I don’t want to sleep! Not right now! Releasing my lips, his victorious smile was the last thing I saw as my mind faded to unconsciousness.
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!