I claw my way out of sleep, my breath coming hard and fast, my body drenched in sweat. I gaze around at the familiar confines of my room and the walls seem to shrink in upon themselves, becoming constrictive, oppressive.
Every inch of my skin hums with an unfamiliar energy, pulses with on basic desire. The need overwhelms me, overrides every other thought.
I spring up, throw the covers off, and dash downstairs. The kitchen door doesn’t even creak when I open it. My bare feet touches the dirt and I almost weep with relief. Every nerve in my body snaps to attention and an unknown force takes over. I run.
It doesn’t register when I jump the four foot high fence in the back yard. The familiar smell of the woods surrounds me, comforts me. The wind sings its ancient song in my ears and I cry out with delight as I run headfirst into the night. I can hear the startled sounds of the small animals and laugh when they scurry out of my path.
Alive. For the first time in ten years, I feel alive. Joy fills me as I run. There is no dark cloud hovering. It’s just me, the wind, and the dirt beneath my feet. My skin is hot and the breeze only fans the flames and I burn hotter from the inside out. My skin is stretching, twisting, screaming for release. It doesn’t scare me. I know it should, but I welcome it. I’m free. There’s no fear, no guilt, only sheer joy.
A howl sounds to my right and I shift in that direction. The cells in my body explode with the need to find that lonely howl. The fire intensifies in my blood, driving me towards the sound of the howl. I run harder, faster.
I’m not sure how long I ran, but I stumble at last, exhausted. The howl is still reverberating in my head and I can’t stop, can’t rest until I find it.
That voice. I’d know that voice anywhere. I skid to a stop and fall. My eyes focus on the dark angel coming out of the woods in front of me.
A chorus of howls rise up into the silence of the night. I stand, ignoring the pain from my bloody knees. Everything in me is screaming to run, to flee. Danger.
My body freezes at the soft command and my head snaps back to where Devon Cameron is standing. He’s no more than thirty feet from me. I can see every detail about him with perfect clarity. He is wearing a plain black tee shirt and a pair of worn, faded jeans. A hole is starting wear through the right knee. It’s tiny, almost unnoticeable, but not to me. His hair glistens with blue streaks in the soft moonlight, but it is his eyes that hold me captive. They glow in the moon’s soft light, their emerald color so brilliant, it almost hurts to look at them. I can no more look away then I can stop breathing.
“Are you hurt?”
I can only shake my head, words escape me. I try to say no, but what comes out sounds like a growl. It should bother me, but it doesn’t. It feels too good. I feel good. The fire inside blazes higher, igniting every nerve, every cell within. I welcome the heat. It chases away the dark, the nightmares, the panic and the fear. I embrace the fire.
Devon approaches slowly. His eyes glow brighter and I shiver under that intense gaze. A cold wind surrounds me, envelopes me in an icy cloak. The wind beats at me, slowly cooling the fire inside. I fight it. I need the heat. It eats the darkness.
The cold intensifies and I whimper, afraid as the fire dims and the darkness reclaims me.
Devon moves closer, each step slow and measured until he is standing in front of me. The fire inside burns out, leaving me cold and empty. His eyes soften, their glow diminishing, and he looks away, breaking the hold he has on me. I stagger away from him until my back comes to rest against a tree trunk. My sanity starts to return in slow degrees. With each second, I come back to the reality that is mine. The cool wind remains, but it is only a gentle breeze.
I close my eyes and lower my head and die a slow death inside as I realize where I am and what I must look like. I’ve been running through the woods in the middle of the night in nothing but my night shirt that barely covers my bottom. I’m a mess, filthy and bleeding. Oh, God, what must he think of me?
He moves closer. I can feel the heat coming off his body.
No, no, no, no, no! This can’t be happening. What is wrong with me? He has to be thinking I’m as loony as everyone says I am.
Strong fingers grips my chin and forces my head up. My eyes open and all I see is the blazing green of his eyes. The ice is gone. They aren’t cold or hard or even mocking as I’d feared. Instead, they’re full of concern.
“Are you okay?”
“Cold,” I manage to get out. With the heat gone, I’m freezing. His fingers are the exception. They are hot against my skin, almost like a brand.
“I can see why,” he grins and stares down at my bare legs. “What are you doing out here at this time of night? It’s almost 3am.”
“With no shoes on?”
“Do that often do you?”
I sigh and then my eyes widen with a sudden revelation. The dream. It was the dream of the wolf that had driven me out here. All the emotions in the dream had still been with me when I’d woken up. They’d morphed into the insane urge to run, hard and fast, through the night.
A small gasp escapes with another realization. I remember my dream! I never remember more than a few flashes and hazy images, but I remember the wolf. A smile spreads across my face and then another thought slams into me.
“Why are you out here at this time of night?” His face closes off faster than I can blink and his eyes harden again.
“I couldn’t sleep so I took a walk.”
I start at the sound of the voice in my head. That was definitely not my voice.
Oh, damn, there it was again.
Don’t trust him.
“You’re as white as a sheet, Cara. What’s wrong?”
What’s wrong? Besides the fact that I’ve lost my mind and am hearing voices? I’m just peachy.
“No, you’re not fine,” Devon snaps. “You’re injured.” He points to my bloody knees.
I frown at the accusation in his tone. It’s as if my getting hurt has offended him. Well, excuse me for falling.
“I said I’m fine.”
He snorts. “Come, I’ll see you home. It’s not safe out here by yourself.”
Safer than with him.
This is so very not good. Schizophrenia maybe? I think hearing voices is one of the early signs of the disease.
“It’s getting late, Alexandria.” Devon says, impatience clear in his voice. “You need to get home.”
My eyes narrow. There is just something about this boy that grates on my last nerve. He’s gorgeous mind you, but he’s also irritating beyond belief and very, very bossy.
“I can get home by myself, thank you very much.”
He reaches for my arm and I slap his hands away. Slipping around him, I start walking. It only takes him a few strides to catch up to me.
“You’re going the wrong way,” he tells me.
I swing around and start walking the other way.
“Are you always this stubborn?”
“Are you always this arrogant?”
“Yes,” he nods. “I am always this arrogant.”
I burst out laughing. I can’t help it. It’s such an outrageous statement, but he said it so matter-of-factly. At least he admits his flaws.
“How did you know we were going the wrong way?” I ask after a while. I don’t remember telling him where I live.
“I moved into the house below yours.”
Great, just great. He lives below me. Hmm…I wonder if I can see his bedroom from mine?
We walk in silence until we reach my house. My foot catches on the top steps of the back porch and I stumble again. He reaches out to steady me and his scent invades my senses. He smells of the night, of dark things, and there is a spicy undertone I can’t identify. He smells familiar to me, too. Not in the same way Morgan does, but familiar just the same.
“Good night, Cara,” he whispers against my ear.
I turn around and his eyes are glowing again. I can drown in those eyes if I let myself. Honeysuckle and the smell of freshly mown grass fill me and I’m able to break away from those eyes. He chuckles and before I can say anything, he’s gone, leaving me with bloody knees and voices in my head. What else could go wrong?