|Ardeur, Chapter Twelve
I woke up to the sound of birds chirping on my windowsill and moved to slide out of bed to shut the window. The sharp pain in my temple and the thick feeling of my tongue when I pried it from the roof of my mouth were the first indications that something had gone down while I was sleeping. You got out again, didn’t you? How are you doing this?
Shadekar’s snide laugh slid like oil through my head and made me wince. “Nice jammies you’ve got there, Sister Mary Floozy Pants.”
“Jammies? What?” My eyes turned to look downward, and I jumped at the sight of the yards and yards of pristine white cotton that covered me from the buttoned collar at my throat to the frilly trim that dangled over my toes. “How in the hell did I get into this? I know you sure as hell didn’t put me in it.” I fisted my hands in the soft fabric and looked around for clues as I pulled the nightgown off and threw it in the garbage bin. “What the hell?”
My bottom was covered in the most modest pair of underpants I had ever seen. They covered me from the top of my thighs to above the dip of my belly button with even more of the virginal white cotton. The crowning insult of the entire outfit was the matronly brassiere that had my chest in a strangle hold, the likes of which none of the bras I’d ever been forced to wear could compare with.
“Ooh, baby. Now that is some sexy shit there, Blondie.”
Shade, shut up. This is your fault. Who the hell did this to me?
A pair of dark blue eyes under a fringe of unruly black hair played behind my eyes and I groaned. Shade let me see Azrael carrying my sleeping form back to my room, wave his hand over me to change the outfit I’d had on to the one I’d woken up in before he put me in bed and left quietly.
It took me all of five minutes to get dressed, brush my teeth and run down the hall. I knew that Rae would be in his office by now. I threw the solid oak door open without knocking in my hurry to find out just what he’d seen while Shade had been in control. “Rae, what the hell hap…?”
My sentence stopped abruptly as I skidded to a halt behind a tall man with cropped brown hair and the widest shoulders I’d ever seen. “Oh, sorry. You have company – I’ll come back later.”
Rae leaned over to peer around his guest and smiled when he saw me. “Afternoon Ardy, nice to see you’re wearing more than what I last saw you in.” He waved at one of the chairs in front of his desk. “You might want to stick around. I think you know my guest – Brody?”
The big guy turned and I looked up into a pair of eyes I’d thought never to see again. There they were, the eyes I’d seen in my dreams every night and the dimples – oh, God. He still had the dimples and the roguish smile that had charmed me even at the tender age of six.
My right hand trembled and it rose to dart out and touch the solid chest that was level with my face. “Oh, shit. You’re real.”
Brody’s laugh at my comment was rich, husky and warm like the whisky that I had the night before. His own hand, so much bigger and more tanned than my own pale one, came up and caught mine before I could snatch it back. “I’m real and damn happy to have finally found you, again.”
“Again, what?” I looked up at him, confusion clouding the blue of my eyes. “You found me before?”
Azrael rose from his chair and rounded the hand carved oak desk. “I’ll leave you two to catch up. There are a few things I need to, um, yeah. I’m just going to go.”
If either of us heard Rae leave, we showed no sign of it. We stared at each other, mesmerized by the fact that we were finally together again.
“I brought your bag.” Brody held up the tattered and patched up satchel that had carried everything I owned for the last seven years.
It took a moment of confused blinking before I realized what he was talking about and was able to form a coherent thought. “I, um. How did you get it?”
He deposited the bag on the chair next to me and then reached to take my other hand inside of his large one. I couldn’t help but look down at our hands and notice the differences between us, the obvious ones and the not so obvious, before I pulled my hands free and stepped back out of touching range. It wasn’t because I didn’t want him touching me; I just never allowed anyone to touch me, ever.
Brody was dark where I was light, callused where I was soft, and relaxed when I was freaked out despite being thrilled to see him. I opened myself up a bit to taste his energy and what I found had me stumbling back to look up at him, eyes gone wide with wonder. Whatever he was hiding behind the broad shouldered all-American boy looks had eyes that glowed gold when it had looked back at me.
“What are you?”
His eyes flashed gold at my question and then I knew. I felt warm fur brush across my skin and the scents of the forest blew over my senses. “Werewolf?”
“Yep. Just like the rest of my family.” He sat down in the empty chair and smiled up at me before reaching out to take my left hand in his. “Sit with me, please? I’ll explain what I meant about finding you again.”
My denim-covered ass parked itself in the chair my bag was in and I pulled my hand from his. I reached back to jockey the bag around so I’d have more room to keep my trembling hands out of Brody’s. I took advantage of the distraction to settle my emotions and smooth my frayed nerves before turning around to face him once more. “Okay, explain.”
He leaned forward, elbows on knees and let his hands hang loosely between us. I knew he was giving me the option to take them or not and he was going to be disappointed because I wouldn’t, couldn’t touch him back. I wanted to, so much, but the fear of rejection ran deep. Shade had been successful in that endeavor. I would never be comfortable with anyone touching me.
“Do you recall much about what happened just before your accident? Maybe someone was calling out for you to stop?”
I nodded, the events before the BMW slammed into me replayed in my mind.
“That was me. The voice that tried to stop you from running out in front of that car was mine. I’m the one who called the ambulance and took care of you before it arrived. I stood outside the hospital every damned day while you were there, praying to a God that I don’t believe in that you’d be okay.” He turned his face up toward mine and caught my eyes with his own golden ones. “If I hadn’t had that bag of yours, I’d have never known to go see Dr. Martals or how to find you after you disappeared from the hospital.”
The mention of my doctor’s name snapped my attention into focus. I pulled my bag around to my lap and ripped it open in search of the notebook that held the details of my life. It was the only place he could have found information about Celine and – oh, shit. “How much of this did you read?”
He at least had the decency to blush before responding that he’d read most of it and had seen that I’d remembered him throughout the years. “Even my birthdays. Why?”
“You were the only person who was ever nice to me; the only person in twenty five years to show me something other than contempt, disgust or fear.” Brody reached out to take my hand in his and I scooted back in my chair, the wooden legs scraping against the hardwood floor. I stood and hedged toward the door. “I’m sorry, Brody. I’ve been looking forward to seeing you again since that last time in school but, I can’t. I’m too afraid that you’ll reject me too once you know what I am.”
The doorknob was in my hand before I knew it and I was out the door, running down the hall without hearing the words that he spoke next.
“I know what you are and I’m okay with it.”