On Monday, a week before school started, Damien met Jill for the first time during the day since they started seeing each other. Jill had the day off and Damien told Rob and Chelsea he would be busy, feeling bad that he once again had to lie to them about Jill.
They’d had to reschedule their lunch meeting the Monday following Damien’s fishing trip when Jill sent him a text telling him something came up that required her attention at work. He was upset at first but soon forgot about his frustration when Jill sat in front of him in the bookstore café. Her dark hair tied up in a loose, messy bun at the top of her head. Her beauty still astounded him despite having seen her almost every night.
“Hey, sorry I’m late. Next round of coffee is on me as punishment.” Jill replied, laughing as she scooted the chair back to sit down.
“It’s okay. I’m just glad I’m finally getting to see you during the day. Which reminds me,” Damien started, closing the book he was reading, setting it on the table. He leaned forward, his elbows resting on the tabletop. “Jill, I’ve been meaning to ask, why could you only meet me at night before? I know you work during the day and all but every job has their off days, right?”
Jill closed her eyes, taking in a deep breath to calm her anxiety. She knew he would ask this question eventually. When it finally came, she suddenly found herself at a loss for words.
“Yes. That’s true. In all honesty, Damien, I don’t know how to answer that question. As I’ve said before, it always seemed like you were either busy with school or going out with your friends. After dark seemed to be the only time I could actually see you and spend time with you without getting interrupted. I know that’s probably not the answer you’re looking for but in the positive light, at least we’re getting to meet in the day, now.”
Damien couldn’t help but feel as though Jill had inadvertently dodged his question but out of respect, he didn’t pressure her to answer. “That’s true. Guess I should count my blessings with this one but it still seems odd to me.”
“In time, I will tell you more. For now, I just ask you to give me your trust.”
The smell of espresso met the sweet aroma of pastries in the café as Jill talked to Damien about some of the few things she could remember without him knowing how old she was. The endless chatter of voices unnerved her senses, bringing about a feeling of unease since she hadn’t really made it a point to get around big crowds.
When the conversation shifted to Damien, Jill had to cover her mouth to avoid bursting out laughing after he told her about all of the times he’d tried skateboarding and nearly broken something every time.
“I’m not kidding, I broke my hand just trying to stand on the damn thing. I thought Rob was going to crack a rib, he was laughing so hard. Chelsea pulled her mother hen routine, scolding Rob and racing over to me. I tried to tell the girl I was fine but she didn’t listen. She’s always been like that,” Damien chuckled as he spoke of his memory. “What about you, Jill? Do you have any friends around here? Maybe some you hang out with?”
“I guess technically you would call them friends. We don’t really ‘hang out’ per se but there are rare times when we get together and socialize. Otherwise, I tend to like my peace and quiet. In case you haven’t taken notice, I’m not really social.” Jill responded, the harsh reality of almost always being alone since Lucius died came back to the forefront of her memories.
Upon realizing the sudden downtrodden shift in Jill’s mood, Damien took her hands in his. “At the very least, you do have one friend. I’m open to talking if you want to.”
Jill felt her face heat at his touch. A friend. At least I have one friend. A gentle smile fell across her face.
Damien took their empty cups and threw them in the trashcan. He noticed that Jill appeared to be a bit stressed in the growing crowd.
“You want to go somewhere quieter? I’d like to share a special spot I like to go when I want to escape the world. Want to see it?” Damien asked as he held out his hand, eagerly awaiting Jill’s answer.
Curious and elated that Damien was sharing another secret with her, Jill took his hand, letting him lead her out of the bookstore.
Damien led Jill to an old wooden bridge lying over a small river sourced in the mountains. Jill often used the woods around this place as her hunting grounds and was very familiar with it.
“I like to come here to think. It’s quiet, isolated and calming. The sound of the river settles me down during those times I’m really stressed out.” Damien rested his elbows on the old beams as he spoke. The manner in which he spoke was as though he was describing a dreamscape.
Jill leaned her back against the beams, using her hands as supports. “I know this place. I come here too. It’s a relief against the usual bustle of the town. It’s amazing to me.”
“How much we have in common. When I first saw you moving in, I must admit I had no idea what to expect. I came by your house night after night to see if I could learn more about you. It surprised me when you caught me. Scared me almost. I thought you would be angry and tell me never to get near you again. I never could have dreamed you would have actually given me a chance to talk so openly with you, Damien.” Jill’s heart fluttered like a bird behind her ribs as though she were starting to care for someone for the first time in centuries.
Damien stood up, turning around to lean against the wood. The frogs began to sing as the sun sank beneath the horizon. The air was cool, signaling the arrival of autumn to Montana.
They stood quietly for a while, just enjoying each other’s company.
Curious Damien asked. “Jill, I’ve never heard you talk about where you live. Do you have an apartment in town?”
Jill’s jaw clenched, her hands gripping the wood so strongly, she nearly forgot to keep her lycan strength in control to avoid splintering it.
“I’m sorry, should I not have asked?”
“No, no. It’s just,” Jill didn’t want to lie to him. She never really lived anywhere. Sometimes she would stay at the gym in her room, other times she spent the night in the woods as a wolf. “I stay with a friend most of the time. I have a room at his gym since I fight there a lot.”
“You fight? What gym?”
“Solstice. The owner, Gabriel, is a friend of mine. Since I have good standing there, he lets me keep a room upstairs,” Jill pushed her shoulders forward, flirting. “You’re welcome to come visit sometime if you like. I like to watch movies and read after working out.”
“Sure. I’d love to come by. My old man and I have driven by it a couple of times but I’ve never been. I tend to do my running in the morning before school.” Damien replied, meeting her attempt at flirting with one of his own.
“Sounds good to me. I do most of my running at night.” Jill giggled at her inside joke. “It’s getting late though. We should probably be getting back. I happen to know college is in full session for you soon. If I can ask, what exams were you studying for over the summer?”
“Prelims and placement tests. A few of the courses allow us to see if we can test out of them. I grabbed as many as I could to lower the course load. Took some summer courses too. What can I say, I don’t like a ton of downtime.”
“I can understand that. I don’t like too much down time either.” Jill replied, hopping down from her spot she had taken on the wood rails during their talk.
They walked back down to where Damien parked his truck. He pulled open the passenger’s side door to let Jill get inside, closing it for her before making his way to the other side.
“The gym. I sent Gabriel a text to let him know I was coming.”
Damien didn’t understand why but he felt a hint of jealousy at the mention of Gabriel’s name. “The friend you mentioned?”
“Yes. Don’t worry, he’s just a friend.” Jill chuckled, finding the subtle hint of jealousy in Damien’s voice cute.
Damien dropped his head to the steering wheel. “God, I didn’t mean it like that.”
“It’s fine. Thanks for the lift.” Another chuckle.
Without a word, once again feeling embarrassed, Damien started the truck. He backed up on the main road to head to the gym.
The last week of summer seemed to speed by as Damien spent the rest of his time catching up. Although he and Jill started texting each other more often, Damien chose to spend the time with his father and prepare for the upcoming school year.
Damien spent the night in his room doing his last-minute checks to make sure he had everything he would need for his classes including his laptop. He couldn't help but feel elated at the fact he was able to go back to school to finish his degree, grateful that his grades for the prelims and placement tests had been high enough to get him out of taking a few of the courses.
Once he was sure he was finished he turned on some soft music that had rain mixed into it and fell back on the bed, watching the fan blades while they spun casting shadows on the ceiling.
His mind went to Jill. He hadn’t seen her since their talk at the bridge but he couldn’t help but think about her. She was so beautiful, strong and independent. There was something about her
drawing him towards her though he wasn’t sure what it was.
The piercing sound of a wolf howling in the distance made Damien get up from his bed, walk over to the window and open the shutters. The moon was full with a burnt orange tint giving the night an almost supernatural air.
The fall moon. Damien thought, remembering reading somewhere it had another name. The hunter’s moon.
The next morning, Damien didn’t remember falling asleep. He’d been watching the moon and listening to the wolf howling until late into the night. The sound was comforting to him.
He rubbed his eyes with his thumb and forefinger to get the sleep out of them, his focus falling on his phone. That’s right! It’s the first day of classes.
“Morning.” Damien said, practically running into the kitchen, excited about getting to start college.
“Wow, you're chipper. Have a nice dream or something?” Charlie chuckled, taking a drink of his coffee.
“Got some good sleep this time around. No idea what the change was, maybe it was the music. Did you see the first fall moon last night?” Damien asked, curious.
“Sure did. Beauty, wasn’t it? Night critters were happy to see her round and fat up there.” Charlie chortled.
Damien stared curiously at the words his dad used to describe the moon. “You hear the wolves?”
“What? No, but there were plenty of bats and frogs singing.”
“Oh. That’s odd. Gotta be heading out for an early class, dad. If you beat me home it's because I started my internship up at the hospital.” Damien replied, still confused.
Unfortunately, he didn’t have time to dig any deeper into why his dad hadn’t heard the wolves since he was already running late.
“Alright, be safe out there. Make us proud.”
Damien grabbed his sunglasses and leather jacket, accidentally slamming the door on his way out to find it pouring rain and cold.
Go figure. Damien thought, disturbed at his sudden change of luck. He hugged his jacket close, throwing his backpack over his shoulder to run to his truck and jump up into the cab. Charlie had started it to get it warmed up while Damien got ready.
The old man really did look out for him, he'd have to thank him when he got home.
The classes during the morning were always the hardest since Damien wasn’t usually an early riser but he was glad when he got to meet Rob for lunch in the main building. It faced the main road cutting through the college and was the central hub for most of the college students' needs.
“You seem in high spirits today, bro. No monster wolves haunting your dreams last night?” Rob teased taking a bite of a French fry.
Damien focused on his chicken wrap. “That’s not funny Rob. Speaking of wolves, I heard one howling last night at the fall moon.”
“Yeah! Wasn’t that cool? I didn’t hear any wolves though. You sure you didn’t imagine it?” Rob asked.
Rob hadn’t heard the wolf either? Damien was sure he’d heard one. It was almost as though it was singing. The sound so comforting it put him to sleep.
“Hey, you start your internship today, right? Excited?” Rob asked.
“Hell yeah, I am. Been looking forward to it since the beginning of the summer,” Damien replied, full of anticipation. He’d been brushing up on his medical terms since summer began. He wasn’t excited to get started. He was anxious. “Where’s your internship?”
“Tech department of course. Looking forward to working with you, man. Gotta go though, shift starts in thirty. If you're heading out I'll walk with ya.”
Damien grabbed his trash and his backpack, the scrubs he'd need hung in his truck. “Sounds good. Let’s go.”
When Damien arrived at the hospital, he chose to park in the parking garage to avoid getting soaked by the rain since it’d chosen not to let up all afternoon.
Once through the double doors, he walked up to the nurses station where a rather young looking doctor stood talking to a cute blonde holding a clipboard.
Upon seeing Damien, the doctor walked up to him, holding out his hand. “You must be Damien Pierce. I'm Kyle Langston, one of the leading physicians. I'll be the one overseeing your training hours. Do you have any questions or are you ready to start learning some things around here?”
Damien shook the doctor’s hand confidently. “Nice to meet you, sir. I'm excited to learn how things work.”
Kyle laughed a hearty laugh, patting Damien on the back. “Don’t worry, tonight's not going to be too hard. I'm just going to take you around and see where you are. That way I can see where I need to focus and where I can relax a bit on your training.”
Kyle led Damien around the different aspects of the specimen labs, gauging what he knew through random questions and seeing where he still needed some help. He introduced Damien to Mackenzie Wilder, the lead lab technician.
“Mack here, is your first go to for any and all questions regarding lab work. She's pretty good at what she does so usually I don't have to get involved in anything. Mack, this is Damien Pierce.”
Mackenzie reached out her hand. “Ah, so you’re the new meat. Pleased to meet you. I've been expecting you. Dr. Langston mentioned we were getting some newbies around here. I'm grateful since I've heard you were quite the Brainiac.”
Damien took Mackenzie's hand, slightly suspicious. She was lead lab tech and yet she didn't look much older than he was. Shaking off the feeling, he just smiled. “Nice to meet you. I promise to work hard.”
“Damn straight you will or I'll be kicking your sexy ass all around this place.” Damien stood baffled, the confused look on his face made Mackenzie laugh a surprisingly adorable laugh. “Don't worry about it, I haze all the new meat. Come on, I'll show you around.”
The rest of the shift was spent with Mackenzie leading Damien around the labs. She showed him different machines, explaining how each type worked, where to find certain containers and charts that would need to be filled out daily.
At the end of the shift, Mack punched Damien in the arm, playfully. “Hey, not bad for your first day. Maybe I won’t have to hold your hand as much as I thought. See you back here soon, Damien. Feel free to contact me if you need to. I’m a pretty good study buddy.”
Damien nodded to her, shaking her hand. “Thanks Mack, I will. See you later.” He replied, taking his backpack and heading out of the sliding doors.
Tired and hungry after the night at the hospital, Damien decided to try to run across the street to the burger joint built in the style of an eighties diner to get something quick to eat.
He was just about to go back across the street to his truck when he was suddenly grabbed by the arm and thrown into the brick wall of the alley next to the restaurant.
The impact was so hard it caused him to drop his food to the cold, wet ground. His head hit the bricks, dazing him for a few moments before he could figure out what was going on.
Two men dressed in all black suits looking like they belonged in some science fiction movie stood before him. There was definitely something different about them.
The feeling they gave him was different from the one he had when he was around Jill, Mack or Dr. Langston. His sense of danger rose to a level he'd never experienced before.
“Damien Pierce?” The taller of the two with a goatee and dreadlocked hair spoke to him in a smooth yet deadly voice. It almost sounded sinister.
He wore sunglasses despite the rain and almost pitch black sky. The only source of light came from a few street lamps.
“Maybe. Who's asking?” Damien staggered as he got up from his knee, his back braced against the wall to give him some sense of security.
The shorter man with the shaved head slammed him hard in the face with what felt like a set of brass knuckles, bruising his cheek almost instantly. It felt like getting hit by a truck or kicked by a draft horse. His vision blurred to the point it made him nauseous.
“Wise guy's got balls. Got to give it to you for guts.” He flicked his cigarette to the ground, stomping it out. “Nothing personal, but we're here to kill you.”
“Kill me?” Damien had no idea why anyone would want him dead. His heart pounded in his chest. His mind ran through any option he might have to help him escape. A sense of helplessness quickly filled him with doubt that escape was even possible.
The taller of the two stepped forward and grabbed Damien by the collar of his jacket. He lifted and threw him halfway the length of the alley. He flew through the air until he landed hard on the gray lid of one of those heavy green dumpsters, knocking the wind out of him. The slick surface of the lid made him slide to the ground, landing on his side with a thud.
The memory of getting hit by the SUV ran through Damien’s mind as he tried to catch a breath. His ribs ached with each attempt as he tried to lift himself up.
A sting in his leg made him look down to see blood pooling from the knee to the ground. His leg was broken.
Damien closed his eyes. His shoulder burned, feeling as if it had been fractured at the collarbone. His back hurt and his head felt like he might have a concussion. There was no way he could escape with the injuries he'd sustained.
The men walked down the alley towards Damien. Their steps slow like predators stalking prey they knew couldn't escape them. They seemed to relish the idea of finishing him off at their leisure.
Damien resigned himself to the thought he could actually die. There was no one outside since it was raining so trying to call out for help would be next to useless. He couldn't move or hope to fight them in his current state.
From the way he’d just been thrown, he doubted he could fight them regardless.
"That's a good boy. Just surrender and we'll make this quick." The shorter man loaded a clip into his firearm. His gaze shot up just as someone jumped from a roof above the scene.
Jill's sudden arrival brought Damien's hope back to life. It was like she dropped out of nowhere, her long coat blowing as she landed from what had to have been at least six stories high.
Water splashed into Damien's face forcing him to shake it off to get the dirt-mixed rain out of his eyes. Jill positioned her body in such a way it could serve as a shield between Damien and the men.
She looked over her shoulder. “Damien, how badly are you hurt?” She asked, her voice low and holding a more threatening tone than it usually did.
It took Damien a moment to think. “My leg's broken, my back hurts. I’m pretty sure my collarbone is fractured and my head feels like it could explode. Otherwise, I think I'm okay.”
A low growl escaped Jill’s throat as she turned to kneel next to Damien with no fear of exposing her back to the men.
There was something different about her. Almost as though her whole persona changed in response to him being in danger.
Taking an old tarp off of a stack of mattresses, Jill started covering Damien, making him look at her in question. Her hand cupped his face so gently it made his heart flutter in his chest. Her thumb lightly brushed the bruise on his cheek. The look in her eyes was so filled with pain, it made him feel like he'd just swallowed rocks.
What’s going on? Why is she looking at me like that?
Damien thought, his own gaze meeting Jill’s.
“No matter what you may hear, please do not uncover yourself, okay?”
Damien nodded, not understanding why her voice held such a strong sense of desperation. It almost seemed like she was afraid to do what she felt she had to.
Her smile was saddened. A deep longing behind the words as she wrapped his knee with some material she tore from the inside of her coat to serve as a temporary tourniquet.
After Jill covered him, Damien could only see the silhouette of her boots as she turned on her heel.
“You had no right to hurt him. You filthy, bloodsucking parasites had no right to touch him. I'm going to make sure you regret every injury you inflicted with interest.”
The intensity in Jill's voice was unlike anything Damien ever heard from her. The voice he knew was soft, seductive and reassuring. This one was almost more of a low rasping growl than actual words.
Bloodsucking parasites? Sounds Damien never heard before followed the short exchanges accompanied by cursing from the two men.
Gun shots rang out as the men tried to defend themselves. Ripping, tearing, screams of pain and what sounded like a dog snarling and whimpering joined the gnashing of teeth as the fight went on.
Something metal bounced off of the concrete in front of Damien's face, making him scoot back to avoid getting hit by whatever it was.
The pungent copper smell of blood joined the scent of stale alcohol, trash and cigarette smoke until the screams of agony dissipated into the silent patter of rain on the concrete.
An eerie sense of quiet fell over the alley after the short battle.
Damien strained to hear any indication that Jill would be alive.
The sounds of footsteps made him stiffen. Fear gripped him as he thought he could have been wrong. His mind imagined Jill being killed.
The suddenness of Jill uncovering him made Damien jump, his eyes blurred as they tried to adjust to the brightness of the street lights behind her. The muscles in his body tensed as Jill proceeded to blindfold him using another strip of cloth.
“Jill, what's going on?” His voice shook with uncertainty as she covered his eyes.
She sighed, helping him stand to his feet. His weight supported by her body. “Forgive me. I'd hoped to introduce you to this a bit slower. For now, let me lead you. I'm taking you to the hospital.”
Jill led Damien through the carnage of the fight to the black Mustang Gabriel lent to her on occasion. She helped him slide into the passenger's side and closed the door before walking around to the other side of the car.
After she closed the door, Jill started up the engine and shifted gears into reverse. Her foot landed firmly on the accelerator, halting the car before shifting into drive. The force of her foot back on the accelerator made the car tires screech in protest as they peeled out.
“Jill, what the hell is going on?!” Damien was almost yelling as he ripped the blindfold off. His wet clothes made him shiver against the cold of the brisk fall night adding to his already irate mood.
“Damien, take it easy. You've taken a lot of damage. Let's get your injuries looked at first and I give you my word I will tell you.” Jill replied, her voice monotone as she reached to turn on the heat.
“Here, I thought you might need this so I brought one.” She handed Damien a blanket which he quickly cocooned himself in.
He threw up his hands under the blanket, his frustration joining anger at the fact that Jill had been keeping so many secrets from him. He knew they hadn’t really told each other everything but he'd nearly just been killed!
Where the hell had she come from anyway? It's like she dropped from the sky or something. He wanted an explanation.
When they arrived at the hospital, Jill helped Damien into the emergency room where Dr. Langston stood as though he’d been waiting for them. He guided them to a room immediately and proceeded with his examination.
“Looks like a hairline fracture of your collarbone.” Dr. Langston said, looking at the x-rays. His finger rested against his mouth, his elbow in his hand as he studied the images.“Your leg is definitely broken at the knee. We'll be sure to take care of that for you.”
Damien fought hard not to blink at the bright light flashed into his eyes. “No dilation. That's a good sign but there is some evidence of a minor concussion. Good news is there's no significant damage to your back, just some bruising. What did you get yourself into Damien? You hadn't been gone an hour.” Dr. Langston asked, his voice serious.
He glanced at Jill. The two seemed to understand what was going on between them. “Don't worry, I'll put in your medical leave for at least six weeks. Try to keep as much pressure off of your leg as possible. I'll prescribe some pain medication in case you need it.”
Damien tightened his jaw, squeezing his eyes closed against the pain as Dr. Langston wrapped his shoulder, setting it into a sling. He knew he wouldn't need six weeks to recover. The wounds he usually got healed within a matter of days depending on the severity.
“Honestly, I don't know what I got myself into.” Damien said, annoyed. He didn’t want to freak the doctor out by telling him two grown men with the strength of the children of Hercules and Samson hurled him into a dumpster halfway down a dark alley. God, what am I going to tell my dad, Rob or Chelsea?
Jill stood next to the door, standing guard and watching.
“Well whatever you did, it looks utterly painful. There's definitely going to be some bruising and some soreness. Just take it easy and rest.” Dr. Langston nodded to Jill. The two of them left the room into the hallway.
“It was the vampires, wasn't it?” Kyle spoke low enough to Jill so Damien couldn't hear. He'd chosen the examination room furthest away from the reception desk once he saw Jill walk in.
“Yes. Demetrius is aware of his existence now. They openly tried to kill him, Kyle. If I hadn't gotten the call from Mackenzie when I did, he would have been killed.” Jill answered, her voice laced with the remaining fear she might have not made it in time.
It was by sheer luck Mackenzie managed to get a hold of Jill after she saw the two vampires corner Damien in the alley.
“Looks like it's begun. We'll do what we can Jill, but most of us here are just trying to make a living. So far, Kain, Gabriel's pack and I have remained off the radar of Rayes. Be careful.” Kyle’s reply was sullen, his mouth downturned in a worried frown. His grip on his clipboard tightened to the point the plastic cracked.
Jill nodded to him. “Luna watch over you and yours, Kyle. Don’t worry. I'll do what I can on my own.”
“Luna watch over you, Jill.”
Damien tapped his foot anxiously as they rode in silence. He hadn't even been on his internship for a day and already he needed to take medical leave. Jill hadn't offered up anything about what she and Dr. Langston talked about or the information she promised him about why he was attacked in the first place.
“Okay, seriously. What the hell, Jill?” His voice was more frustrated than he meant it to be but he still felt like she owed him an explanation.
“In time. For now, you should be resting. We're dropping by the gym so you have a safe place to stay for the night. I'll take you home in the morning.” Jill tried keeping her own frustration at the situation under control.
“Solstice? Why there?” Damien replied, pissed at himself at the twinge of jealousy he was feeling.
“You'll see. I know you’re mad. All I ask is for you try to control your temper. You can throw your fit at me later.” Jill smirked at the look of defiance on Damien's face at her comment.
Jill looked at Damien in her peripheral, fighting back a giggle at how adorable he was as he sat fuming. It was a new side to him she hadn’t seen before. Much different from the shy, sensitive guy she’d come to know.
Even injured he took her breath away. The rips in his shirt and jacket revealed his toned muscles. His bicep on the armrest almost seemed to beg her to reach out and touch it. To caress the soft hills and valleys of the rippling muscles along his arm.
From the mood he was in, Jill decided to keep her paws to herself. She knew for her kind, an argument like this often ended in some rough, hot make-up sex. It was something she looked forward to when she had him as hers. Apparently, he was an explosive firework when he wanted to be.
She decided to give Damien some of the information she promised him on the way to the gym. “The men who attacked you were vampires. Their Lord, Demetrius Stone wants you dead.”
Damien whipped his head around to look at her. His eyes raised in a mocking array of confusion. He spoke half-chuckling. “Vampires? Like 'I vant to suck your blood', vampires?”
“Yes, though I've never heard them speak that way.” Jill knew humans had come to mock vampires throughout the centuries in both literature and the movies.
Some of the changes were so laughable, Jill rolled her eyes at the idea that humans thought they understood anything about vampire culture.
“Come on Jill, there's no such thing. If there were, why in hell would they want me dead? What would I have that could possibly threaten a vampire? I've never even met one until you showed up.”
“They fear the soul inside of you, Damien.” Jill felt the sting of blame in his words. She couldn't deny the possibility of her interaction being the reason the vampires located him so quickly.
“Wait, what? The soul inside of me?” In all the time Damien knew Jill, she’d made him suspicious about the night visits. He never imagined it would link to something having to do with vampires.
A thought occurred to Damien as he directed his attention to the floorboard in front of him. His hands grew cold and clammy, his fists tightening into balls on his knees. “If those men were really vampires then what the hell are you to be able to kill them?” Damien asked, raising his eyes to look at her.
Jill kept her eyes on the road, staying silent. Her sensitive ears focusing on the rapid heartbeat in Damien’s chest. Her greatest fears were quickly becoming realized despite her efforts to avoid exposing him to the darkness of their world.
Stopping in front of the gym, Jill sighed deeply, preparing herself for whatever Damien might say in response to what she was about to tell him.
“Listen to me carefully. The soul inside of you is known as the soul of a Purifier. To a vampire like Demetrius, it is a threat which must dealt with no matter what it costs him. Since they have become aware of your existence, you have to be very careful. Do not go out after sunset and never let anyone into your house neither you or your dad don’t know. Vampires can't enter anywhere they aren't invited.”
Jill paused to get out of the car and made her way over to the passenger’s side door, opening it to help Damien out before continuing.
“Nobles can enter without being welcomed but it tends to injure them. They don't usually get involved personally in anything unless it's a social event calling for their presence. They also have humans working for them as well. You have to be skeptical of everyone, even the ones closest to you.” Jill’s eyes almost glowed, holding Damien’s gaze.
“Jill!” Gabriel marched up to his car once they pulled up. His hair was dark and fell just to the middle of his neck. His body was built like a lean mixed martial arts fighter with well-developed muscles that bulged when he flexed them above his head. His shoulders were broad with a copper tone to his skin. Exotic with a slight accent, Gabriel was definitely someone a woman would drool over.
“Hello, Gabriel.” Jill replied, exhausted from the night’s events.
Damien felt the burn of jealousy when Gabriel wrapped his arms around her. His hands moved down to her lower back in the most sensual way Damien had ever seen. His hands lay flat rubbing her ass as though he were her boyfriend.
Damien had to turn away, scoffing as Jill kissed Gabriel's cheek. Her hands resting on his hips.
Gabriel's attention turned to Damien, placing his hand on his own hip. His other one still holding Jill close to him. “So, this is him? I have to say, he looks more like a vampire.” His laugh was mocking and deep. “You can do better in your choice, Jill. Maybe one of your own kind?”
Jill shoved him off. “Like you? Give me a break. You wouldn't fare any better than Kyle or Ray in the ring. My den still open?”
“Never doubted your skills, Jill. Just not sure this one's worth risking so much for. Seems like a real pussy to me.” Gabriel replied, poking fun.
Damien growled. Who was this guy? He'd just insulted him personally on multiple levels.
“Fang off, Gabriel. He's had a rough night. Now is my den still available or not?” Jill's apparent lack of patience made Gabriel raise his hands in surrender.
“It's still up there. I keep my promises. You keep your standing, you have a room. So far, with how you've been fighting, I don't see that going anywhere anytime soon.”
“Good. Now if you don't mind, I have to get this poor thing off of his injured leg. Kyle’s orders.” Jill grabbed Damien's hand and pulled him into the gym. His eyes met the ferocity of Gabriel's as he went passed him.
When he stepped through the doors there was a huge variety of workout equipment in the main room where some of the most ripped guys Damien had ever seen pounded the punching bags, sprinted on the treadmills and lifted weights.
Each one stopped to watch as Jill pulled him through the gym. Some with a look of disgust on their faces, others almost laughing at him.
Even the women seemed inhumanly strong in build. Most of them were attached to their choice of man. Neither one hesitating to hug, kiss and touch openly in the same manner Gabriel had Jill when she walked up to him.
Further through the halls, there was another large room containing a fight cage where two guys were going at each other in ways so violent it could get them sanctioned.
Wait, were those claws and... fangs?! Damien shook his head, blocking out the thought. There’s no way.
“Jillian.” The voice came from a man Damien recognized as Alexander Kain, the bartender from the bowling alley. He was shirtless and covered in sweat like he'd just gotten done with his own round of fighting.
“Kain. Just get finished wiping the floor with Scott's tail again?” Jillian asked, half chuckling as she spoke.
“As are most of my nights when I decide to come, to my greatest dismay. He's hell-bent on taking my place as alpha. Says I can't cut it anymore.” Kain laughed, taking a drink of water from his water bottle. The gesture mocking his opponent’s blatant accusations.
Alpha? Damien had so many questions he didn't know where he would even start. He'd known Alex for a while, sometimes exchanging words with him when he waited his turn to bowl.
To see him outside of work like this was confusing. It seemed like he knew Jill on a more personal level.
Kain briefly turned his attention to Damien. “Good to see you outside of work, Damien. Must say that was one sun's hell of a game you bowled the other night. You have some skill. Perhaps consider joining a league?” He turned his attention back to Jill after taking in Damien’s current state. “I'm taking it those injuries are from a vampire attack? If so, he's lucky he got out alive. I hope you have a plan, Jillian. Have you considered turning him?”
Jill let go of Damien's wrist, getting in close to Kain's face. “That is never an option, Kain. Not as long as I can help it. You know damn well we live a cursed life. The vampires are growing in number while ours are falling faster than we can make pups.”
“It was just a suggestion. I will honor your request, old friend. However, he might be safer if you did.” Kain replied, hugging her. “I apologize if I angered you, Jillian. I just don't want to see you hurt. It ripped my heart apart to see my childhood friend hurting as badly as you were back then.”
Jill returned his hug, reassuring him that she understood. Their touch was sensual in nature as well. From what Damien observed so far, to almost everyone in the gym, this public display of affection seemed as though it were normal.
“Damien, what's wrong?” Jill asked, her head tilted in curiosity.
He hadn't noticed how flustered he’d gotten. He turned his attention away, making both Jill and Kain chuckle.
“Better take him to your den, Jillian. I think he's a bit overwhelmed.” Kain walked off, ignoring the jeers Scott was giving him from the opening of the men's locker room.
Jill led Damien up a flight of stairs into a long hallway toward a room with a golden plate mounted on the door labeled with her name and the title of “Cage Champion.”
She hadn't even closed the door all the way before Damien backed himself against the wall as far away from her as he could.
His heart pounded in his chest. His eyes widened with a mix of terror and disbelief.
Sighing, Jill proceeded strip down to her panties and bra like Damien wasn’t in the room.Her body was beautiful. It was perfectly toned and built like any one of the women he'd seen downstairs.
Damien felt his good knee get weak as Jill pulled out a pair of black shorts with pink stripes down the side and a black spaghetti strap shirt.
Her long dark hair, she pulled up into a ponytail, stretching her arms above her head. However, it was the array of different scars on Jill's shoulders, back and hips that grabbed Damien's immediate attention. They served as the proof of what she'd said about her fighting was true.
There were some he swore she couldn’t have gotten from cage fighting. They looked more angry. Almost like whatever inflicted them intentionally tried to pull huge pieces of flesh off of her body.
Turning her attention to Damien, she sat down on the couch, crossing her gorgeous long legs. “I can imagine your mind is swimming with any number of questions. If it makes you more comfortable, you can sit on the bed to prop your leg up and I’ll stay over here on the couch to talk.”
Damien couldn't move. He was too hypnotized by the Aphrodite sitting before him almost naked. A mix of fear and sexual interest battled inside of him as he fought not to stare.
Seeing he was paralyzed, Jill sighed, getting up to help him. She set up a pillow to rest his leg on while still making it easy for him to sit or lay down comfortably.
“Here. You need to get off of your leg until it heals. I’ll stay away to give you space. I gave you my word I would answer your questions and get you home in the morning and I will.” She gently led him to sit down on the bed, propping his leg up for him. “If you're worried about what your dad, Rob or Chelsea will say, I'm sure I can help with that too.”
Damien had to work to pull his thoughts together in his mind to get a sense of clarity. “Okay, what the hell have I stepped into? Who were those men down there? Why did they touch you like that? And how the hell did you know I was thinking about what to tell everyone when I got back to my house?”
Jill's hand on his face made him stop. “Easy. You're going to have an anxiety attack at this rate. Maybe you should get some sleep. I'll answer what I can on our way to your house in the morning. Your mind will be fresh and you can quiz the sun's hell out of me.”
“Sleep?! How the hell am I supposed to get any sleep after what I've just seen?! No way are you getting out of this, Jill!” Damien replied, beyond angry at all of the secrecy.
He had no idea how he was going to get calmed down enough to sleep with the storm of confusion in his brain. Let alone in the presence of a woman with the ability to take on two armed vampires.
“Okay, I'll answer one question, then you're getting some rest, got it.” Jill replied in surrender, seeing Damien was set on getting an answer out of her.
Damien had so many he couldn't choose just one so he blurted out the first one that came to his mind. “Why did those men touch you like that?” The coy smile on Jill's face froze the rest of his words in his throat. “What?”
Smoothly she got into his face. Her thigh landed between his legs, pressing against his groin. A heat ran up his body as he felt her eyes searching his. Her thumb ran the length of his lips, flicking his lower lip in play.
“Why the sudden worry about who touches me or how? Are you jealous?”
A hard lump formed in Damien’s throat. The deep tone of silken seduction in Jill’s voice drove him into a desire he never thought he could feel again.
With as much effort as he could, he tore his eyes from her and quietly replied. “No, it's just...I've never seen it before between two people who aren't involved with each other. Are you sleeping with them?”
Jill burst out laughing. “That is such a human thought. No Damien, I'm not sleeping with any of them. For my kind, touch like that is normal. It promotes closeness and loyalty. It's never sexual unless we're courting or with our mates.”
Jill’s usually icy green eyes darkened with a primal lust. She leaned in so close her breath blew hot in his ear as she spoke. “Then it gets so hot no human could watch without getting embarrassed.”
Damien couldn't help the rise of the goose bumps on his skin. The reaction completely contradictory to the growing heat in his groin. His heart continued to pound inside his chest like a drum.
Jill ended her flirting, pulling away from him. “Now, sleep. We'll talk more in the morning. I can see in those gorgeous eyes of yours you still don't understand. I promise you will.” She smiled the soft smile Damien was used to, turning off the light. “If you need me, I'll be on the couch. You will be safe here, I promise.”
Damien watched Jill as she walked over to the couch. Every movement so graceful and sensual he had to avert his eyes against the growing feeling of desire inside of him.
Stretching out to lay on her side, Jill had to fight back a smirk at the internal struggle her handsome roommate was going through. She rolled over to face the couch, wrapping up in a plush blanket with a body pillow.
Damien turned over to the side of his good arm, trying to avoid staring at Jill's back as his heart beat rapidly behind his ribs. The growing heat in his body made him clench his teeth against the memories trying to escape the recesses of his mind.
He fought sleep as long as he could before it eventually took him. The subtle hint of betrayal lingered in his chest. Jill hadn’t told him about the danger he was in and he’d nearly paid for it.
Jill waited until she heard him breathing deeply before she got up and walked over to the bed, scooting the chair up beside it.
The bruises Damien sustained had already started healing up and fading. It didn't surprise her. Lucius had been able to heal minor injuries like bruises almost overnight. No doubt the fracture and the break would be healed within a couple of days.
Jill couldn’t help but feel horrible at the circumstances he’d undergone to get introduced to her world. She tried so hard to take things slow with him. “I’m sorry. I never intended for any of this. I know you must be so angry at me, probably a bit betrayed,”
Leaning down next to his ear, Jill continued. “Damien, you don't understand. I will do anything to keep you safe. Anything to have you as mine.” A single tear fell from her eyes, landing on her knuckles on the edge of the bed.