This scene takes place on the day after Christmas.
Was she trying to kill me? First the black bikini, then the top with a sheer back and no bra. The way she danced…I could fantasize for a century with that woman’s moves.
And that was as far as it should ever go. Every woman he’d fancied had tried to kill him. Sometimes more than once. Anything more than sex was a bad idea with his luck.
He flipped channels in what was now his usual chair, Shadow on his lap again. Didn’t know why he let the little buggers near him except for enjoying the warmth. Maybe because they liked him.
“That explains why I didn’t see him upstairs,” Carys said.
“You girls have a nice chat?”
“What did you hear?”
“Yeah. Hope might have a potential boyfriend at school. He’s been too shy to talk to her, so we told her to introduce herself.”
“She’s too young.”
“You sound like her father.”
“Pffft. She’s a child, though.”
“She’s smart. She’ll be fine. I think any boy will have a hard time measuring up.”
Annabelle hated it when William screened her boyfriends. Used to scare them off. Then ran background checks in modern years. She was too trusting. And too willing to give away his money.
“Ready to share your story?” he asked.
Carys sighed and sat down. “On top of what you know, I also have a strong sense of smell and all my previous ailments are gone.
Back in June, I went down to a remote village in a South American jungle to record their music. An old professor invited me to come along on his research expedition. Long story short, they did a ritual the last night without telling us what it was really for and infused me with the essence of their goddess. The panther is the symbol for their god of protection, and every one-hundred years they choose a Protector to guard their people. This time, it was me.
I’m supposed to be able to shape-shift at night, too, though I haven’t tried it since I don’t know what I’ll turn in to. I’ve been learning what I can do ever since, and practicing for the time they summon me for help. I got this bracelet, and the carved claw I sometimes wear, as gifts before I came back home. Like I said last night, I feel they will need me soon. You can bring on the cat jokes any time.”
“Is that why you didn’t tell me? ‘Cause you thought I would make fun of you? Okay, I might say one or two things in jest, but I know this hasn’t been a joke for you. I saw you take on that vamp behind the bar when you first came to town. You didn’t freak out. You took care of that girl and got her home safe. You’ve handled everything thrown at you in style. Don’t ever be ashamed of what you are, love. You’re a powerful woman.”
“Wystan is looking into the history of Protectors. These people only choose a new guardian every hundred years, so either the danger only comes along once, you have old people still trying to fight, or maybe they grew old at a slower rate. I have no idea how long I’m going to be expected to carry this role, or if I go back to normal after the job’s done. I’m going to have to test shape-shifting, too, one of these days, and I’m not taking the risk of harming innocent people.”
“I’ll help if you want me to.”
“Thanks. How long did it take you to tune out noises and scents when you were turned? I had to wear earplugs for over a week.”
“Can’t remember now, it’s been so long. I don’t think about it anymore.”
She brushed her hair back and leaned into the chair.
“You’re wearing the earrings.”
“Yes. They’re beautiful. I love black pearls.”
“I remembered the pendant you wore on Thanksgiving. The black suits you better than white. Exotic. That was the part of your scent I couldn’t figure out when I saw you at the bar. Now I know it’s jungle cat.”
“Thanks. I think. That night was overwhelming. It was the first time I’d been in a crowd of people so close together with these new senses. Doesn’t the loud music give you a headache? I have to take pain pills every time I’m in there.”
“Sometimes. I guess I got used to it.”
“Huh. Well, there’s hope, then.” She smiled at him.
“So what’s the story with your friend at the restaurant?”
“Hunter. He’s an old friend from high school. We were in choir together. I might set him up with Sarah.”
“Did you ever hook up?”
“No. Only friends. He briefly dated my best friend. I didn’t date in high school.”
“Why the bloody hell not?” She was gorgeous.
“When you wear glasses and sing in the choir, you don’t get asked out. I had lots of guy friends, but I didn’t date until college.” She shrugged. “I didn’t mind much. High school boys were so immature. They’re not real ‘cause they’re still figuring out who they want to be. It was all about status and popularity. I hung out with the honor students and discussed science and history.”
“Daniel your only ex?”
“No. There’s Victor. Ex fiancé. We were too young. Dan was kind of a rebound from that, and we split last May. Victor is married with kids now.”
“Was he your first date?”
“Not really. I went out once with a friend, and kinda dated a different guy shortly before meeting Victor. We kissed a few times, then he went back to his old girlfriend. That’s it, unless you want to count the boy when I was four.”
“You had a little preschool boyfriend?”
“Don’t mock, mister! Best boyfriend I ever had. It was pure, innocent affection with no head trips. We moved away from each other when I was seven. He took care of me even though I was the older one.”
“Cradle robber, eh?”
“By five months. Daniel is two and a half years younger than me.”
“So you like younger boys.”
“No, it just worked out that way. My mother was older than my father, and my grandmother was older than my grandfather. My grandparents were the only ones to stay together, so—”
“Not a proven method.”
“No. They were just as much in love when my grandfather died as when they got married, if not more so. The pool cue on the wall, that’s been shortened? That was Grandpa’s. He kept food in their mouths during the Depression with that. He was one of those guys who does the math for the whole table at one shot and runs it out. He could do that with either hand. I have a picture in my wallet of him from 1936. My mother always said I have his smirk.”
We watched the TV for a while.
“Why do you stay? I’m sure you could go anywhere if you wanted to,” she asked.
“Thought about that one a lot, haven’t you?”
“Yes. There has to be somewhere you like better. And don’t give me the curse excuse again.”
He sighed. Yes, there were many places he preferred more than Southern California, but finding Sunny to reverse the curse was important. Couldn’t be his true self hobbled like this. But…Carys was starting to be a second reason to stay. “Been in a lot worse places. Seen a hell of a lot of the world. New York was fun. Brazil was alright. Can’t stand Paris. The Orient was interesting. Met my first paladin in Japan.”
“Demons revel in anarchy, huh.”
“Most do. Vampires crave blood, violence, and sex. Everything boils down to the hunt.”
“You control your urges.”
“I’m old. It’s more about embracing that part and appeasing it in ways it can accept. I kill demons instead of humans because it’s still violence.”
“Go to bed, kitten. You’ve looked sleepy for the past half hour.
“I guess you’re right. We good?”
“Right as rain.”
She stood, ruffling his hair on her way out. “Night, William.”
First in a new series!
Carys Taylor has her life perfectly under control. Equipped with a nice inheritance, she goes where she wants, when she wants, pursuing anything that interests her. So when her old professor asks her to come on a research trip for his thesis, she's eager to tag along.
Until that ill-fated trip to the South American jungle changes her into a supernatural being. Now she's sprouting claws and stronger and faster than any human being in existence. The reclusive tribe calls her their Protector - but from what? And why now? Why her?
Carys is pulled into a world she never knew existed. Is she up to the task?