Enveloped in the scent of sandalwood, musk, and leather, either I was lulled to sleep or passed out as he carried me through the park.
“Tora,” Kaige whispered in my ear. “Wake up, Sleeping Beauty. Wake up.”
A warm hand gently squeezed my shoulder. I was too exhausted to move or even attempt to open my eyes.
There was a quiet sigh, and a different voice spoke. “Should I get a wheelchair, Mr. Hunter?”
“No,” Kaige said.
A car door shut, and then the door next to me opened. Strong arms slid under me. My eyes fluttered open, and I glimpsed Kaige’s face next to mine.
“Come on, Tora. I need to get you out of here.”
I feebly batted his hands away. I wanted to be left alone, but he pulled me into his arms and carried me. My body relaxed against him and I began to drift away again.
Warm liquid ran down my body. A painful sting seared my side but quickly dissipated. Kaige’s musky scent enveloped me as he lifted me. Curling up against him, I breathed him in. The rocking motion as he walked soothed me. He lowered me down on a soft mattress and wrapped me in warmth. Letting out a small sigh, I fell into a deep contented sleep.
“Tora. Wake up, Tora.”
I stirred and cracked my eyes open a slit.
Kaige’s face wavered in front of me. “How many fingers am I holding up?” I started to close my eyes and roll over, but he placed a hand on my shoulder and gently pushed me back. “Open your eyes.”
I opened them for half a second, long enough to register the number of fingers he held up. “Three,” I mumbled, rolled over, and promptly fell back to sleep.
At some point, I woke, warm and comfortable. Carefully, I took a deep breath. My side was a little sore yet, but at least it wasn’t the screaming pain from earlier. I stretched and my muscles protested. An arm tightened around me, and I froze. My eyes flew open and I had a moment’s panic that I was blind; I couldn’t see anything.
“Finally awake, huh?” Kaige’s slurry voice rumbled next to my ear.
Glancing over, I saw his outline. Oh, duh. I wasn’t blind. It was dark out. “Where am I?” This wasn’t my bed, and the room smelled like Kaige. “This isn’t my place.”
He yawned and stretched beside me. “I know. It’s mine.”
“I told you to take me home!” Damn. We never dated and here I was, already sleeping with him. At least, in this case, sleeping was in the literal sense of the word.
He leaned on his other side and turned on a light, bathing the room in a soft glow, allowing me to see the massive oak bed.
He turned back to me and lay his head down next to mine. “I did bring you home. If you recall, you didn’t specify which home I take you to, so I brought you to mine.”
“But…but…” I needed to get home, feed my cats…My thoughts were interrupted by his hand sliding over my stomach under the blanket. Grinning wickedly, his hand rose to my breast, and he pinched my nipple. My eyes went wide when I realized his hand touched bare skin. I lifted the blanket and looked down. “I’m naked!” Shocked, I felt my heart about jump into my throat. Oh, Lord.
He laughed and turned away when I tried to punch his shoulder. Sitting up, I winced as pain lanced through my side—being slashed through muscle hurt, a lot. Pulling the blanket up with me, I wrapped it around myself and gave him the evil eye. “What time is it?”
He glanced behind him. “Three.”
My stomach dropped. “In the morning?”
“Mm-hmm. That’s why I was sleeping until you woke up.”
Rubbing a hand over my face, I suddenly remembered work. I’d never gone in, never called, nothing. And it wasn’t just work I’d missed, but pretty much the entire day. Groaning, I lay back down. “I was supposed to go into work tonight, last night, whatever. Shit. They probably think I quit.”
“No. I called in for you.”
Surprised, I looked up. “What did you tell them?”
“Let’s see.” He rubbed his chin with his thumb and forefinger. “I told them you were in an accident and a little banged up but otherwise okay. The boss-dude accepted that. Oh, and he sends you his get-well wishes.”
“Thanks for doing that.”
He crossed his arms behind his head. “No problem. And you can say, ‘Thank you, Kaige,’ for patching you up. Go ahead, look.”
Hesitantly, I pulled the blanket out and looked down. I could see something white but not much else; it was too dark. “Where’s the bathroom?”
He brought his arms down and rolled out of the bed. “Follow me.”
Scooting to the edge of the bed, I secured the blanket tighter around myself and stood. Pain shot up through my ankle, making me wince. “Ah, hell. I must’ve broken it.”
He came around to my side and before I could protest, swung me up into his arms and walked across the room, through a doorway, and into a luxurious bathroom, although bathroom wasn’t really the correct term—more like, la bath. The sunken-in whirlpool tub could easily hold five people. And the shower? It was a walk-in glass monstrosity with multiple jets and a rain showerhead about three feet in diameter. Obviously, it was made for two…or more. He gently set me on my feet.
I tightened the blanket around myself again. “Do you have a ménage à trois in here or what? I mean, why the massive bed, tub, and shower?”
“Every now and again.” He gave a wolfish grin. “But mostly, I like big things.”
Narrowing my eyes, I regarded him. He seemed like the type who would do threesomes. “It’s that whole ego thing. That or you’re trying to make up for size.”
He laughed. “It’s the ego, believe me. Do you want a shower?”
I watched him saunter into the shower wearing nothing but dark-blue, tight boxers. He turned on the showerhead. “I’m afraid the jets will hurt too much.” Hooking his thumb along his waistband, he started to pull his boxers down.
My lower jaw about hit the floor. “What are you doing?”
“You’re hurt. I thought I’d help.” His lips turned up in a slow, sensual grin.
I glowered at him. “I don’t need any help.”
“Sure you do.” He stalked toward me, and as my eyes traveled up to his face, he grabbed the blanket where I had it balled in my hands and yanked.
“Hey!” I grappled for the blanket, but it fell to my waist before I was able to get a hold of it. Hiking it up to my chest, I took a quick step back out of his reach and pierced him with my glare. “What are you doing?”
He raised both hands, palms out, and gave me an innocent look. “Just trying to help, that’s all. Honest.”
“I don’t think that’s all. Really.” I balled the blanket at my chest with one hand and pointed to the door with the other. “You can go out now. I don’t need your help.”
He smirked. “Sure. Have it your way. I wasn’t going to do anything.”
“Uh-huh. Like I believe that.” I pointed to the door again. “Out. And, um, thanks for helping me.”
He turned to leave. I watched his mighty fine ass when he walked away and let out a sigh. If only I wasn’t so screwed up. As it were, if we ever got together I’d probably kill him in a jealous snit or at the very least severely maim him. Rather than dwell on what shouldn’t be, I concentrated on the task at hand.
I teetered in front of the tub and dropped the blanket, checking my reflection in the mirrored wall behind the tub. Not only had he put me back together, but he’d cleaned me up too; all the blood was gone.
Gauze was taped along the wounds on my side, leg and arms, and I was bruised pretty much from head to toe, though the bruises were already healing to a sickly yellow. Gingerly, I peeled the tape and gauze away from my skin only to discover large, butterfly bandages the size of my hand lined the gashes under my breast, along my side and leg, and smaller ones were on my arms. “Dammit. I have to take those off too?” With a groan, I started peeling them off, one by one. It was nasty work, and I dropped them in the wastebasket as I pulled them off. Maybe I should’ve had Kaige help me. After all, he did put them there.
Once the last bandage was off—I’d counted thirty of them—I studied myself in the mirror. The bleeding had stopped, and the wounds were healing into deep, red scars. At least I hadn’t needed stitches. Why was I healing so fast?
I tottered into the shower and ducked under the spray. The water felt like gentle kisses over my skin and was warm and soothing. I hadn’t realize how tense or how badly my muscles ached until now. Slowly, my whole body relaxed.
On a silver shelf were two different kinds of shampoos and conditioners: one of musk and sandalwood, and one of freesia—he must have women here a lot—and one couldn’t leave out the jasmine and vanilla-scented body wash.
Kaige poked his head in the shower. “Hey, Tora?”
“Kaige!” I spun around, wet and naked. “Do you mind?”
He raised an eyebrow in amusement and lifted a towel. “You might need this.” His eyes roamed down, then back up and narrowed. “How did you heal that quickly?”
Turning around, I mooned him. “I don’t know.” I glanced back to see him still standing there with a scowl on his face. “Honestly, I don’t.”
“Uh-huh. We’re going to talk when you get out. I’ll leave the towel on the counter.”
Sighing, I rested my forehead on the shower wall. Great. Just fricking great. I stayed in the shower for as long as I could to try to prolong the moment before I had to explain things to him. Finally, I turned the water off and shuffled out of the shower. After carefully drying off, I wrapped the towel around me and went in search of Kaige.
I didn’t know where he was, so I followed what sounded like a movie playing on full blast. His place was huge. I limped through his bedroom, carefully down some stairs, past a dining room, a masculine gourmet kitchen, and into the living room where I found him reclining on a black leather sofa.
He was stretched out, his arms crossed behind his head, his legs crossed at the ankles. He looked like a Gucci model, lying there in nothing but his tight, dark-blue boxers. He seemed mesmerized watching numerous cars and buildings blow up and explode on a theater-sized, flat-screen TV. Boys and their toys.
“Is the TV big enough? Oh, wait.” I waved a hand at the TV. “What am I asking? You like big things.”
He brought his arms down from behind his head and raised himself up a little, making his abs crunch and propped himself up on one elbow. “You know me.” He grinned, sat up and slid his feet to the floor. He patted the space beside him. “Come over here.”
I tried to walk without limping to show him I was fine, but I couldn’t help the wince.
“Still hurting, aren’t you?” he asked softly.
“It’s not that bad.” Grimacing, I slowly lowered myself beside him. “It’s better than it was.”
“All right.” He nodded. “I want to check you over, get you bandaged up again.”
“Do we have to do it now?”
A smile ghosted on his lips. “Yes. Unless you want to tell me how you managed to get slashed up like that first.”
Grimacing, I pulled the towel up higher. “Fine. Patch me up.”
He stood. “Lie down. I need to get a few things.” He disappeared down the hall.
I crawled onto the couch, spread out face down and then slowly rolled over, feeling the pull of the muscles in my side. I breathed out slow and winced in pain as I finished the roll and pulled the towel closed around me.
A few minutes later he came back carrying a can of antiseptic spray, some gauze, paper tape, and a pair of wicked-looking kitchen shears for cutting through meat and bone.
My eyes widened.
“Don’t worry. I’ll be careful.” He sneered, his eyes mocking.
“Just make sure you don’t poke me or anything. You could probably kill someone with those shears.”
He held them up and studied them. “I suppose you could.” His eyes traveled back to mine. “Like I said, I’ll be careful.” Setting the items on the coffee table, he sat on the edge of the couch next to my hip. “I need you to open the towel.”
“Right.” I didn’t move.
“What’s wrong?” He seemed genuinely concerned.
“I just…” I shook my head. “Nothing. It’s nothing.” He’d already seen me naked, and I didn’t think he’d try anything. I moved the towel aside.
He traced a finger along the healing gashes. “Now are you going to tell me what happened?”
“I told you. I got in a fight.”
“This was more than a simple fight. Who did this to you?”
“I don’t know.”
He didn’t say a word, just gave me a stony look.
“Truly, I don’t know. She came out of nowhere and started attacking me.”
“She?” He frowned. “What did she look like?”
How was I supposed to explain her furry face, long teeth, and canine nose? Evasive was probably best. “She…looked like a…girl.”
He rubbed his hand over his face in exasperation. “Tora,” he muttered.
“Seriously, I couldn’t tell. She had her face covered.” That wasn’t exactly a lie seeing as her face was covered until her veil fell off.
His expression darkened. “Tell me everything that happened.”
“You’re not going to believe it.”
“Everything,” he growled. “I want to know exactly what happened.”
“Fine.” I heaved out a sigh. “I’d stopped at the park and walked around for a bit, except before I’d left, someone attacked me. I didn’t realize it was…a girl until she talked. First, she slammed into me and knocked me into the fountain. I got pissed and got up, and then I’d fought back and slammed her into a tree. But she managed to cut me before I could throw her into the tree.” I shrugged. “That’s it.”
Kaige scowled. “That’s it, huh?” He stood, paced away and then turned back. “You expect me to believe that cockabullshit of a story? Those…” He pointed to the gashes. “Are not simply cuts. And those sure as hell didn’t come from a knife. Those are fucking claw marks.”
I gasped in shock that he knew I’d been clawed.
“You said she knocked you into the fountain? You were standing by the trees, weren’t you? You weren’t wearing any shoes when I got to you.” He shoved a hand through his hair in agitation. “Fuck, she knocked you right out of your goddamn shoes!” Jaw clenched, he made a fist, and his eyes flared into an eerie gold and blazed into mine.
I shrank back against the couch, my breath catching in my throat. Holy shit, what is he?
Abruptly he turned away, inhaling and exhaling deeply, clenching and unclenching his fists. After a minute, he turned back and sat beside me, letting out a long breath. His eyes had turned back to their normal hazel-green with gold flecks.
Talk about weird. I guessed they changed color when he got extremely pissed. Did they change color during sex too? I relaxed somewhat but stayed on guard.
“I want the truth, Tora.” His voice was calm. “How did you fight her?”
I ran a hand over the gashes along my side. “I don’t know,” I said quietly. “Honestly, I don’t. Something came over me.” My mouth felt dry and I licked my lips. “I didn’t even know what the hell she was until…” Abruptly I stopped. Craptastic. I’d backed myself into a corner.
His eyes narrowed in suspicion. “Until what?”
I stared at him blankly, not sure what to say.
“Tora.” He placed a hand on the back of the couch and leaned over me, his biceps bulging. “Please stop trying to evade me. You’re not leaving here until you tell me the truth.”
Damn. I had to tell him about Booger. “Someone helped me. He shot her. He knew what she was. I don’t know who he was, though. I didn’t get his name.” Booger wasn’t his real name, so I could truthfully say I didn’t know.
“He said…” I could barely choke out the words. “He said she was a werewolf, and that for some reason she was out for me. He wouldn’t say how he knew, though.”
His eyes narrowed again. His jaw clenched, and his nostrils flared. He didn’t speak for a few moments, though he hadn’t seemed surprised about it being a werewolf, which made me wonder about him.
He gently ran his hand along the healing skin. “And you fought her back?” he finally asked. “What are you, Tora?”
I shrugged. “Isn’t that the mystery? I wish I knew.”
“Well, whatever you are, you seem to heal fast. These will probably be closed up completely in another two days.” He leaned toward the coffee table and picked up the antiseptic spray. “Time to play doctor and patient.” He waved the can of spray back and forth.
“Ugh, no.” I groaned. “Okay. I think I’m ready, Dr. Hunter.”
“Well, I rather like that.” He grinned. “Call me Dr. Hunter anytime.” He opened the towel more, completely exposing me.
I shivered and not because I was cold.
He held the antiseptic spray about six inches away from my side and aimed. His eyes shifted to mine. “This might hurt a bit.”
I gritted my teeth and nodded in assent.
He sprayed along the gashes, sweeping the can back and forth.
“A bit?” I gasped out. “Holy shit, this hurts like hell, more like double motherfucking hell!” It actually stung more than when the bitch had cut me open with her claws. I tried to squirm away.
“Don’t move! Goddammit. You’re making me get this stuff all over the couch. Damn, woman. You didn’t move the last time I did this.”
“That’s because I was unconscious,” I retorted through clenched teeth.
“Hold still,” he ordered and grabbed me by the shoulders. “Or I’ll knock you unconscious again.”
“I can’t. It hurts.” I whimpered.
“Christ, Tora. You managed to fight off a werewolf and get yourself clawed in the process, but you’re going to act like a weenie with this?” He shifted up and placed his knees on either side of my legs, sat on my hips to avoid the gashes below my knee, gripped both of my hands in one of his and raised my arms above my head, effectively trapping me in place.
“Hey! What do you think—”
Before I could utter another word, he sprayed me again. “Ha! You can’t squirm away now.”
It burned. I tried to get away but to no avail. He held me in place. I couldn’t do anything but lay there, so I gritted my teeth and took the pain. Soon, though, the pain began to subside and the numbing effects kicked in.
“Now I need to do your leg.”
“No.” I groaned. “Can’t you leave it? Please?”
“Nope.” He shook his head, seeming to enjoy torturing me. “Not unless you want to end up with a nasty infection in your leg and end up having to cut it off.”
“Fine. Go ahead, Dr. Hunter. Make me hurt.”
He let go of my hands and scooted down the couch.
My fists clenched the towel, and I tensed up and gritted my teeth while he sprayed my leg. It didn’t hurt quite as bad as my side, but it still ranked right up there with hurts like being flayed alive.
He leaned back on his heels. “See, that wasn’t so bad.”
“For you, maybe.” The sting quickly subsided. Even my side didn’t hurt anymore. “What is that stuff? That’s not regular antiseptic spray.”
“No. This is the Shiznit spray.” He turned the can so I could see the label.
Sure enough, Shiznit spray. “You’ve got to be kidding me. Really?”
“Hell, yeah. This is the Shiznit. Tell me, do you hurt anywhere?”
I moved and stretched. “No.” I moved again. “No, I don’t. Huh. The Shiznit’s got the shiznit. How long does that stuff last? I might need that so I can go to work tonight.”
“Work? You can’t even walk and you think you’ll be able to work?” He set the spray on the coffee table and picked up a box of large butterfly Band-Aids. He took one out, peeled the backing off and held it out to me. “Can you hold this?”
I stuck it to my index finger.
He pressed the torn skin right under my breast together and then placed the bandage over the gashes. It was big enough that it covered across all four cuts.
While he worked down my side, I got another Band-Aid ready. “If you haven’t noticed, I’m healing fast. I should be okay for work this evening.” I hoped. “I can’t afford to take off two days of work.” My eyes flicked to his as he peeled the bandage off my finger. “Unlike you, of course.”
Once he was finished with my side, he closed the wounds in my leg. The lacerations along my arms weren’t as deep and were closing on their own. Rolling the gauze out along my side, he measured the length needed, cut, and proceeded to do the same along my arms and leg. I held the gauze in place while he taped it to my skin.
After he was done fixing me up, I closed the towel over me. He rubbed his chin and looked down at me, a mischievous look on his face. “You sure you don’t want to hang out with me here today? You could spend your time…healing up.” He waggled his eyebrows suggestively.
The idea was tempting, though the aftermath wasn’t. “Sorry, but no. I’ve got people to piss off and cats to feed.”
“Who are you pissing off?”
“This guy at work, Dani.” I sat up, surprised there wasn’t any pain, slid to the edge of the couch and stood. “He and I always have our pissing matches. Honestly, I bet he missed me.” I turned away from him, opened the towel, and wrapped it tight around me.
“So I can’t talk you into staying here?” He pouted.
I let out a half-laugh. “It’s tempting, believe me. But no, I actually need to get home.”
He gave a long, dramatic sigh. “Okay. I’ll take you home.”
“Thanks. Um, I need something to wear. I’m not wearing this towel home.”
“Right. Let me see what I can find.” He wandered off and then came back with a pair of blue sweatpants and matching shirt. “These should fit.”
Taking them, I looked at the tag. “You have women’s clothes here?”
He managed to look a little sheepish. “Um, I have women over…a lot.”
I lifted the sweats. “So someone left these here?” It wasn’t that I minded wearing someone else’s clothes; I totally didn’t want to wear something that belonged to someone who undoubtedly had been with him. Call me weird.
“No. Those I bought for occasions such as this. I like to be prepared.”
“Huh.” I couldn’t think of a retort and only stared in surprise. Summer thought I should date a guy who had so many women over he had clothes on hand for just in case?
No, thank you.