Authors: Christine DePetrillo
Tags: #romance, paranormal,spicy
“I’m awake every night, but tonight I will be extra awake until you return.” Keane closed the distance between them, grabbed a handful of beads, and kissed Holly again. “Blueberry, right? That one might be my favorite.”
She winked and mouthed the words “See you.” He released the beads and let her open the door. When Holly fumbled back into the hallway, Leora was leaning against Holly’s bedroom threshold.
“I thought this was your room.” Leora angled her head to Holly’s bedroom.
“It is. I keep some of my clothes in the spare bedroom.” Holly swallowed, her dry throat almost painful. “You know, stuff I don’t wear a lot.” She gestured to the black dress with her hands.
“See? Exactly what I mean. Queen of your own kingdom. Can spread out your clothes to all the closets you wish. Nice shit.” Leora ground her teeth as Holly breathed a silent sigh of relief. Thank God Leora hadn’t wanted to see the spare bedroom. Not a ton of places for a six-foot, three-inch fantasy guy to hide in there.
Holly led Leora to the front door, stopping at the couch to grab her purse. “Do you want me to drive? You seem like you could use a little rest before we get to the concert.”
“Okay,” Leora said. “Thanks, Holly.”
“No problem.” Holly gave one more wistful glance to the hallway and what she was leaving behind tonight. Her only hope was that the concert would pass quickly, and Keane’s passionate mood would not.
As soon as the front door closed, Keane shrugged into his leather jacket and grabbed his keys. He peeked out the windows until Holly’s car disappeared down the dirt road. Outside, he hopped onto his motorcycle, left the headlight off, and tailed Holly. His keen night vision allowed him to follow her with ease though he had to keep a safe distance or risk being spotted. She hadn’t exactly told him
to follow her, but he had a feeling she wouldn’t like what he was doing.
No way I’m letting her out of my sight
She was gorgeous. Any man with a pulse would want to be with her. Any lunatic with a pulse would want to…no, he wasn’t going to let his mind finish that thought. He’d go to the concert. Keep an eye on both women from afar, and if he noticed anything amiss, he was prepared to charge in.
After twenty minutes of driving, Holly’s car turned into the lot in front of a questionable-looking tavern. The Borderline Rock House. Keane wondered if that meant borderline sanitary. The outside had peeling purple paint on scarred wooden clapboards. Black doors and window frames cut into the purple as an electrical buzz sounded from the partially lit sign above the main doors. Trash blew around in the parking lot, and he was pretty sure if he could smell everything, he would wish he couldn’t in front of this place.
He parked his bike behind a bus that perhaps belonged to the band Holly and Leora had come to see. The word
had been painted along the side of the bus in red, white, and blue and the
was dotted with what looked like a spray of sparks. At first glance, the bus could have passed for being in excellent shape. Perhaps the band owning it had made a name for itself. As Keane walked around the back of the bus, however, rust spots, worn tires, and three cracked windows greeted him.
Holly does not belong here
. He wanted to drag her away from this place before she entered. But he wouldn’t do that. She was an adult and could make her own decisions—even if they weren’t ones he agreed with. He would still respect her and be content to keep watch at a distance.
He entered the tavern after he’d counted twelve people entering before him. Didn’t want to risk Holly seeing him. She’d feel betrayed or as if he didn’t trust her to be careful, which he did. It was the nutcases he didn’t trust.
Holly and Leora scooched by some people and took their seats in the dead center of the tavern. Tables hugged the area around a small stage, and Keane felt boxed in. Not wanting to get too close, he took up residence on a stool at the bar. He ordered a beer to keep up appearances, promised himself he wouldn’t drink it, and focused back on Holly and Leora’s table. Leora had shed her black jacket revealing smooth, shapely arms, and several men swarmed around her. She laughed while Holly sipped the wine she’d ordered. Keane enjoyed that Holly didn’t seem interested in anything besides her drink.
Is she thinking about me?
He hoped at least a small fraction of her mind was remembering the touching and kissing they’d done earlier. He knew a large fraction of his still tasted her, smelled her, wanted her. In all his years, he’d never been able to taste or smell anything. Why now? Why Holly?
Keane could think of only one reason why. Love. The feelings he had for Holly ran deeper than any feelings he’d ever had. He’d been very interested in Melinda, but hadn’t had the chance to decide if he loved her. The last person he had loved with his whole heart had been Eliah. And that was a different kind of love. A brotherly love. What he felt for Holly was wild and free, illogical and impossible, perfect and wonderful. But how could it work?
Watching her now, he knew it wouldn’t be long before she achieved her important act that changed the world somehow. He’d be forced to move on, but his heart wouldn’t leave her. He was sure of that. It had found its home and would be useless to him elsewhere.
He picked up the beer bottle, shifted it from hand to hand, put the bottle back on the bar behind him, and swiveled to face the crowd again. The band had taken up residence at the microphones and instruments, and the crowd had settled some. Well, as much as a crowd of grunge-rockers could settle. Keane recalled the last concert he had heard. It had been while with a save a few years ago. The man was an engineer who, after Keane had saved him from dying in a warehouse explosion, went on to invent the first residential windmill. Now windy areas all over the globe had them, and they were generating tons of naturally powered energy.
This particular save had a sister in a jazz band, and Keane had stumbled upon her in a bar one night. Where else could a guy hang out when the night was long and sleep was never coming? He’d listened to her soulful voice and the musical genius of the band accompanying her. Jazz had become one of his favorite genres of music that night, and he foolishly wished he could have taken Holly to hear that band.
The wail of a guitar tore into the tiny bar, ripping him from his romantic thoughts.
Just as well.
He gazed back at Holly and Leora. They were huddled next to each other on one side of their table so they could see the band better. Leora’s head kept the beat with a sharp rocking up and down, while Holly’s head went side to side. It was like watching a couple of wind-up toys.
The band was decent, and Keane was pleasantly surprised. Drums, guitars, and keyboard all worked together to create a unique, enjoyable sound. The lyrics had taken his mind off things that it hurt to think about. He made a mental note to listen to more music during the day while Holly was at work.
When the concert was over, Leora leaned over to Holly and said something that made Holly nod. Leora got up from her seat and approached the band packing their equipment. This left Holly alone at the table. Keane did not like this. Though Leora wasn’t that far away, it still left Holly wide open. Anyone could sidle up next to her. Keane wanted that anyone to be him. He gripped the edge of his stool as Leora brought two band members over to Holly.
You’re jealous when you have no right to be
. Holly wasn’t his. She could talk to band members if she wanted. Short, grubby, no doubt uninteresting band members. Keane couldn’t decide with whom she fraternized, but he might politely discuss with her about not going out on school nights. After all, she was responsible for children tomorrow. She should be getting a solid night’s sleep so she’d be well rested and prepared.
Keane focused back on Holly. She was standing now, shaking hands with band members, smiling. This wasn’t good. Wait. Had she made a face? Did the band member she was speaking with have an odor of some kind?
Keane grinned as he picked up his beer again and pretended to drink from it. He knew he was being immature, but sometimes when you’re centuries old, you deserve a moment of acting like a child.
He studied Holly as she laughed, looked down to her shoes, and shook her head. Was she saying no to some question?
As the two band members went back to their packing up, Leora clamped her hand onto Holly’s arm, angled her head, and gave Holly a pleading look. Keane desperately wished his curse had come with enhanced hearing. Unfortunately, only his vision had improved to better than human, which had proven helpful, but now he needed to hear what was being said among the women. Needed to know if the band members were coming back.
Deciding he’d put his sight to use to read their lips, Keane leaned forward slightly and listened with his eyes.
C’mon, Holly. Look at these guys,
But I’m not up for it tonight.
It? What was It? Keane’s body felt as if it ought to be sweating.
You can have the taller one,
Taller one? Both men looked pretty short to Keane. Of course, most people looked short to him, and generally he liked it that way. Maybe Holly liked tall as well, because she shook her head again.
I’m tired. Maybe we should call it a night. I mean, we both have to get up early for work.
Holly fiddled with the beads around her neck, and Keane sensed the rise in her anxiety level. He had an urge to swoop in to her rescue, but couldn’t do so without compromising his anonymity and probably pissing her off.
You teach fifth grade, Holly, and you have a great class this year. Those kids could teach themselves. They won’t mind if you aren’t at one hundred percent tomorrow. C’mon, let’s enjoy ourselves.
Leora gave Holly’s arm a fake punch.
I don’t think so. I’m sorry, Leora. I don’t want to spoil your fun, but I’m not feeling myself.
Holly pushed a curl behind her ear and moistened her lips.
Was she sick? She hadn’t looked sick at home, but now her face was pale.
Do you mind if I go with them then? The drummer, Keith, wants to reminisce about the old days in the ’hood. Maybe make out a little.
Leora wiggled her eyebrows.
You want to go alone?
Yeah. I can handle these guys.
Leora tossed a look toward the stage. The two band members who had spoken to them waved, and Leora waved back.
They’re harmless, and I’ve always liked Keith. I need a little something after the fight I had with the asshole currently invading my home.
You sure that’s smart?
Holly touched her friend’s shoulder, and Keane loved that she could care for Leora when, in his opinion, she was acting selfishly. If Leora left Holly alone in this dive, Leora was definitely going on Keane’s shit list.
It’s what I need, Holly. To clear my head.
Leora patted Holly’s hand still on her shoulder.
Okay, but be careful and call me if you get into trouble.
There won’t be any trouble.
Leora shook her head.
Keith was like my older brother back in the day. Hoping to change that relationship tonight.
She elbowed Holly and raised an eyebrow.
I meant be careful in general. With what happened at school today, we need to be alert.
Leora’s expression turned serious.
Will you be okay driving home?
Yeah, it’s a short trip.
Lock the car doors.
Leora pressed a hand to Holly’s forehead.
Are you sick? You look pale.
Holly sent a glance around the bar, and Keane held his breath.
I feel…I don’t know…watched or something.
Shit. Keane nearly dropped the beer bottle in his hands as he searched for the quickest way out of the bar. He used to be better at undercover operations when he only watched demons he planned to kill.
Not humans he possibly loved.
“Watched?” Leora swiveled her head in all directions. “Everybody’s watching us here.” She leaned in closer to Holly. “I mean, take a look around, Holly. We’re the only babes in the place.”
“No.” Holly shook her head. “Not watched like we’re being checked out, more like…spied on.” Goosebumps rose on her arms, and she absently rubbed at them.
“All right. Forget it then. I’m staying with you.” Leora sat in her chair at the table they’d shared.
Holly scanned the bar. Sure, it was crowded, and she couldn’t see all the faces in the dim light, but someone was definitely watching her. She was sure of it. She was also sure she wanted to leave right now.
“Go, Leora. Keith is waiting for you, and I’m going to head home. It’ll be fine. I’m being silly.” She gestured to the band where Keith, the drummer, leaned against the stage. His eyes were assessing Leora with what Holly could clearly see was a mix of lust and something deeper. Leora was right about him being harmless. The way he was looking at Leora spoke volumes about his feelings, which if Holly had to guess, were honorable and then some.
“I don’t want to leave you if you’re creeped,” Leora said.
“I won’t be creeped if I’m going home. Don’t worry.” She patted her friend’s hand on the table, then gave her a little shove. “Go on. I want a full report tomorrow at lunch.”
Leora smiled. “You’re the greatest, Holly.”
“I know.” Holly laughed. “See you later.”
Leora gathered up her jacket and purse. “Toodles.” She walked over to Keith who led her to the back exit where Firecracker’s tour bus was parked.