CARNAL, The Beast Who Loved Me (6 page)

BOOK: CARNAL, The Beast Who Loved Me
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“Scar,” Charming said, “this is Rosie. She’s going to help you out while she’s here.”

“Yeah?” said the man Charming had called ‘Scar’. Rosie saw no scar, but there was a lot of body covered from view. “Why would she do that?”

Charming’s smile fell. “Because Kellareal said.”

Scar leaned toward Rosie. “Well, in that case…”

Charming stepped in front of Rosie. “Like I said, she’s a guest. Should I tell the Extant you don’t plan to be nice?”

He sneered at Charming. “I’m always
nice
. Nice to humans. Nice to guests. Nice to everybody except our own kind, the ones we’re protecting humans from.”

“That’s really your answer?”

Scar stared at Charming, who seemed to have grown taller as he transformed from good-natured boy to serious messenger.

“No. Here’s my answer. I’ll leave the girl alone. Best I can do.”

“That is acceptable. Give us two ales.” Scar drew ale from wood barrels and set two pewter mugs on the bar. Charming took both mugs and motioned toward a table by the fire pit. “Let’s sit by the fire.”

Rosie sat across from Charming.

“Tomorrow morning,” he said, “I’ll introduce you to the people you’ll be working with. They’ll be nicer. I promise.”

Rosie smiled. “If you say so.”

“Don’t let Scar give you the wrong impression. The old ones like him, they remember how things were before we were Exiled. Some of them are having a hard time letting hard feelings go.”

“You mean
you
aren’t holding a grudge against humans.”

He shook his head. “It’s different for those of us who were born here. What happened before is history for me, but for him it’s
memory
. Makes a difference. You know?”

“I think so.”

“Charming.”

Rosie heard a raspy female voice behind her. Charming didn’t look pleased.

“Midnight,” he replied in a neutral tone that bordered on cold.

“You should introduce your guest around. Let us all get to know her.”

“There’ll be plenty of time for that. She just arrived.”

Rosie turned in her chair and looked up into a face that was beautiful and ferocious at the same time. The young female was grinning, displaying pearly white fangs. “I’d like to meet her
now
.”

Charming stood up. “I said no.”

“Let your friend speak for herself, Charming.”

The female he’d called Midnight continued to stare at Rosie, her grin looking more like a grimace.

Rosie stood from her chair slowly. At full height she was a good four inches shorter than the hybrid. “Say what you have to say, Midnight, is it?” When it became clear that Rosie would not be displaying any fear response, Midnight’s grin began to falter. “Well, you’ve met me. I’ve met you. Unless you want to dance, we’re done.”

Midnight blinked a few times, looking confused and uncertain about how to back down. Rosie reached down and picked up her mug. “Here. You want my ale?”

The female glanced down at the mug. “Drink after a human?” She made a disgusted face and turned to leave.

Charming leaned over the table looking impressed. “That was prodigious.”

“Yeah, well. It also looked a lot like jealousy to me.”

Charming sat back, looking uncomfortable. “It’s nothing. She wanted me to be her Promise.”

“Her Promise?”

“You know. Promise to be her mate.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah. Oh.”

“And you’re just not feeling the love?”

He smiled. “You have a funny way of putting things.” Rosie laughed. “And a great laugh.”

“Be careful. If you start complimenting me, you’re going to make me Midnight’s target.”

“Nothing’s going to happen to you here, Rosie. You’re safe. Some of the Exiled like to put on a show. That’s all. I hope it doesn’t make you too uncomfortable. Most are going to like you. I do. Just give it a chance.”

“Okay.” She wiggled her head, which Charming thought was very cute. “I like you, too. And you have a killer name. Lot of pressure living up to it, I’ll bet.”

“Not at all.” He grinned. “Being charming comes naturally.”

Rosie chuckled as she finished her ale, which warmed her so much that she no longer needed the shawl. “It’s been a long day, Charming. And since I’m working tomorrow? I guess I should turn in.”

“Yeah. Okay.” He turned the mug up as he gulped the rest down. “Let me walk you over.”

As they headed for the door, some younger males called out to Charming. “You leaving? Night’s young.”

“I’ll be right back,” he told them.

At the foot of the stairs, Rosie turned to Charming. “Thanks for making me feel welcome.”

“You
are
welcome. Sleep tight. See you tomorrow.”

Rosie found that someone had lit the lamp by the bed in Carnal’s room so she could find her way. It was a nice gesture. So she went to bed telling herself that no place is perfect. She took off her ankle boots and slid under the covers. Even though the ale still warmed her bloodstream, she laid the shawl on top of the covers. After some experimentation, she was able to figure out how to turn off the lamp without having to ask someone.

She lay awake mulling over how the hybrids were different from humans, aside from the fact that they were all beautiful. They had gruff voices that rasped, but not unpleasantly. They were tall and muscular with longer canine teeth and retractable claws, like cats. Judging from what she’d seen of Free and Serene, they were also capable of deep, abiding love. She fell asleep wondering what other differences were still to be discovered.

CHAPTER THREE

 

When Rosie opened her door the next morning intending to shuffle toward the shared bathroom, she found clothes and boots neatly folded just outside her door. She picked them up and saw that they were similar to what she’d seen other women wearing. There was a long sleeve moss green tee that brought out the green in her eyes, a rust and black print wraparound skirt, and brown combat boots. She gathered up the bundle and took it to the bathroom with her. In the privacy of the bath, she used magick for purposes of hygiene and making her hair presentable.

The skirt fell to just about an inch above the tops of the boots. She didn’t know which one of her hosts had picked out the clothes, but the fit was perfect so she wasn’t complaining.

When she arrived in the kitchen, Serene was drinking tea and seemed to be waiting for her.

“Good morning.”

“Good morning, Rosie.”

“Did you leave these clothes for me?’

“Yes. I hope they’re alright.”

“More than alright. You got the size just right.” She chuckled. “Well, I guess you can see that for yourself.”

Serene nodded. “There’s tea and breakfast in the warming oven.” Rosie poured tea and opened doors until she figured out which was the ‘warming oven’. She withdrew a saucer with biscuits and sausage links and sat down at the table.

Serene took another sip of tea. “Later today, after you’ve had a chance to learn your way around the Commons bar and kitchen, I’ll take you to the weaving barn and you can pick out some things for yourself.”

“That’s very generous. Thank you. So you weave everything you wear?”

“Except for the leathers. And furs, of course. We trade with the humans for undergarments.”

“That’s really impressive.”

Serene shrugged. “It works for us. You can keep the shawl you wore last night or choose another.”

“That’s very kind. I can’t imagine one more beautiful.”

“What happened at the Commons last night?”

The abrupt change of subject took Rosie by surprise. “Not sure what you mean.”

“Charming said you encountered some unfriendliness. I just want to make sure you’re not feeling overwhelmed. Or… frightened.”

Rosie laughed out loud before recognizing how inappropriate that was. She realized the mistake immediately because of Serene’s reaction. Of course, a human girl
would
have been intimidated and, almost surely, would want to leave.

“It’s probably an indication of stupidity, but I don’t scare easily.” That was the best cover she could come up with.

“Well,” Serene set her cup down, “I’m glad. If anyone makes you feel uncomfortable or gets out of line with you in any way, just come to one of us. You’re safe here, but I want you to also
feel
safe.”

“Thank you, Serene.” Rosie took a bite of biscuit. “You all have unique and interesting names.”

Her hostess seemed to give that consideration, like seeing it from Rosie’s point of view. “I chose Serene when we came here. Our lives are so full of war, I wanted to remind myself that my goal was to give my children a sense of peace any way I could.” She gave Rosie a self-deprecating smile. “I guess that’s a silly wish coming from one of a people who’ve promised to be on battle alert until the day we die.”

Rosie felt sympathy. It was an unmistakable tug at her heart that was familiar even though she hadn’t had many opportunities to feel sorry for others. “A desire for peace isn’t silly. Isn’t that what all sane people want?”

“I… suppose.” Serene wiped her hands on her apron and lifted it over her head. “I need to go. Charming should be down any time. Walk with me to the front door so I can show you which building is the Weavers’ Barn.” Rosie accompanied Serene to the front porch. “That one over there.” Serene pointed to a large structure past the houses and on a little rise. “Anything disturbing happens, if Free or Charming are not around, either come to me or tell someone to come get me.”

Rosie gave Serene a reassuring smile. “Got it, but don’t worry. And thank you. Again.”

Serene waved as she stepped off the porch and pulled her shawl around her.

Rosie walked back to the kitchen. Charming had come down and was standing by the oven scarfing down sausages. He flashed his boyish grin and said, with his mouth full, “These are good, aren’t they?”

“I don’t know,” Rosie replied.

He looked down at the last biscuit in his hand, which was half-eaten. “You didn’t have any?”

“Yeah, I did. They were good, but I’m full. You have it.”

He started shaking his head. “Nooooooooo. It’s not okay.” He held out the half biscuit in his hand. “Here.”

Rosie laughed. “I’m not taking your half-eaten breakfast, Charming.”

He looked down at it, then back up to her. “There’s nothing wrong with it. Take it.” He held it out again. “I don’t have plague or anything.”

“Promise?”

“Yeah. Don’t I look healthy?”

“Yes,” she smiled, “you do. I was kidding. I’m really full.”

Charming looked relieved. “Really?”

“Eat the biscuit,” she commanded.

He stuffed it into his mouth with a big smile. “Okay.”

 

Rosie retrieved her shawl from the bedroom, and walked to the Commons with Charming.

There was no one in the room other than a young female behind the bar.

“Present for you, Dandy,” Charming said. “You know the help you’ve been whining about for so long? Here she is. This is Rosie.”

While Charming talked, he reached over and petted the gray cat sitting on the bar. The animal’s eyes closed to little more than slits. It looked like it was in nirvana and rubbed its ears against his hand as if to say, “Pet more. Harder. Now.”

Dandy was tall with tawny hair and yellow-gold eyes like many of the Exiled Rosie had seen. She wore a black shirt, lime green and tan skirt with swirls in the print, and black boots. Rosie thought that she was probably very close to the same age Rosie appeared to be. Monq thought that was in the neighborhood of twenty-three.

BOOK: CARNAL, The Beast Who Loved Me
9.24Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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