Dee called that night, and even though I wanted to tell her that my time with Daemon hadn't been all puppy dog tails and rainbows, I lied. I told her he was great. He earned his keys and then some. Otherwise, she might make him take me on another outing.

I almost felt bad for lying when she sounded happy.

The next week crawled by. I had endless time to dread the fact there was only a week and a half left before school started. Dee still hadn't come back from visiting family or whatever she was doing. Left alone and bored out of my mind, I'd gotten reacquainted with the Internet intimately.

It was early Saturday evening when Daemon unexpectedly showed up at my door, hands shoved into the pockets of his jeans. His back was to me, head tipped back as he stared up at the cloudless blue sky. A few stars were starting to appear but the sun wouldn't truly set for another couple of hours.

Surprised to see him, I walked outside. His head whipped down so fast I thought he would pull a muscle. "What are you doing?" I asked.

His brows slanted low. Several seconds passed and then his lip tipped up at one corner.

He cleared his throat. "I like staring at the sky.

There's something about it." His gaze returned to the sky. "It's endless, you know." Daemon almost sounded deep. "Is some crazy dude going to run out of your house and yell at you for talking to me?"

"Not right now, but there is always later." I wasn't sure if he was being serious or not.

"I'm okay missing 'later.'"

"Yeah. Busy?"


"Other than messing with my blog, no."

"You have a blog?" He faced me, leaning back against the post. Derision pinched his features.

He'd said blog like it was a crack habit.

"Yeah, I have a blog."

"What's your blog's name?"

"None of your business," I said, smiling sweetly.

"Interesting name." He returned my smile with a half grin. "So what do you blog about?

Knitting? Puzzles? Being lonely?"

"Ha. Ha, smartass." I sighed. "I review books."

"Do you get paid for them?"

I laughed out loud at that. "No. Not at all." Daemon seemed confused by that. "So you review books and you don't get paid if someone buys a book based on your review?"

"I don't review books to get paid or anything." Although that would be sweet, which reminded me I needed to get a library card. "I do it because I like it. I love reading, and I enjoy talking about books."

"What kind of books do you read?"

"All different kinds." I leaned against the post opposite of him, craning my neck back to meet his steady gaze. "Mainly I prefer the paranormal stuff."

"Vampires and werewolves?"

Man, how many questions could he ask?


"Ghosts and aliens?"

"Ghost stories are cool, but I don't know about aliens. ET really doesn't do it for me and a lot of readers."

One single eyebrow arched. "What does it for you?"

"Not slimy green space creatures," I replied.

"Anyway, I also appreciate graphic novels, history stuff - "

"You read graphic novels?" Disbelief colored his tone. "Seriously?" I nodded. "Yeah, so what? Are girls not supposed to like graphic novels and comics?" He stared at me a long moment, then jerked his chin toward the woods. "Want to go on a hike?"

"Uh, you know I'm not good with the whole hiking thing," I reminded him.

A grin appeared. There was an edge to it.

Rough. Sexy. "I'm not taking you up on the Rocks. Just a harmless little trail. I'm sure you can handle it."

"Did Dee not tell you where your keys were?" I asked, suspicious.

"Yeah, she did."

"Then why are you here?"

Daemon sighed. "I don't have a reason. I thought I would just stop over, but if you're going to question everything, then you can forget it."

I watched him go down the steps as I chewed on my lip. This was crazy. I'd been dying of boredom for days. Rolling my eyes, I called out, "All right, let's do this."

"Are you sure?"

I agreed, with a hefty amount of trepidation.

"Why are we going behind my house?" I asked when it was evident where he was leading me.

"The Seneca Rocks are that way. I thought most trails started over there." I pointed to the front of my house, to where the tips of the monstrous sandstone-looking structures loomed over everything.

"Yeah, but there are trails back here that will take you around and it's quicker," he explained.

"Most people here know all the main trails that are crowded. There used to be a lot of boring days out here, and I found a couple of them off the beaten trail." I made a face. "How far off the beaten track are we talking?"

He chuckled. "Not that far."

"So it's a baby trail? I bet this is going to be boring for you."

"Anytime I get to go out and walk around is good. Besides it's not as if we'll hike all the way to Smoke Hole Canyon. That's a pretty big hike from here, so no worries, okay?"

"All right, lead the way."

We stopped off at Daemon's to grab a couple of water bottles and then took off. We walked on in silence for a few minutes and then he said, "You're very trusting, Kitten."

"Stop calling me that." It was a little difficult to keep up with his long-legged pace, so I trailed a few steps behind him.

He glanced over his shoulder without a misstep. "No one has ever called you that before?"

I picked my way around a large, prickly bush. "Yeah, people call me Kitten all the time.

But you make it sound so..."

His brows shot up. "Sound so what?"

"I don't know, like it's an insult." He'd slowed, and now I was walking beside him. "Or something sexually deviant."

He turned his head away, laughing. The sound had my muscles tensing.

"Why are you always laughing at me?" Shaking his head, he grinned down at me. "I don't know, you just kind of make me laugh." I kicked a small rock. "Whatever. So what was up with that Matthew dude? He acted as if he hated me or something."

"He doesn't hate you. He doesn't trust you," he muttered the last words.

I shook my head, bewildered. "Trust me with what? Your virtue?"

He barked out a laugh, and it took him a few moments to respond. "Yeah. He's not a fan of beautiful girls who have the hots for me."

"What?" I tripped over an exposed root.

Daemon caught me easily, setting me back on my feet the minute I was steady. The brief contact had my skin tingling through my clothes.

His hands lingered on my waist only a few seconds before he dropped them. "You're joking, right?"

"Which part?" he asked.

"Any of that!"

"Come on. Please don't tell me you don't think you're pretty." He considered my silence.

"No guy has ever said you're pretty?" He wasn't the first person to say anything nice about me, but I guess I never cared before.

Previous boyfriends told me I was pretty, but I never considered that a reason for someone disliking me. Looking away, I shrugged. "Of course."

"Or...maybe you're not aware of it?" I shrugged again as I focused on the trunks of old trees, about to change the subject and deny the other part of his statement. I most definitely did not have the hots for this arrogant guy.

"You know what I've always believed?" he said softly.

We were still standing in the path, only the sounds of a few birds echoed around us. My voice drifted away on a light breeze. "No."

"I've always found that the most beautiful people, truly beautiful inside and out, are the ones who are quietly unaware of their effect." His eyes searched mine intently, and for a moment we stood there toe to toe. "The ones who throw their beauty around, waste what they have? Their beauty is only passing. It's just a shell hiding nothing but shadows and emptiness." I did the most inappropriate thing possible. I laughed. "I'm sorry, but that was the most thoughtful thing I've ever heard you say.

What alien ship took the Daemon I know away, and can I ask them to keep him?" He scowled. "I was being honest."

"I know, but it's just that was" And here I was, ruining probably the nicest thing he would ever say to me.

He shrugged and began leading me down the trail again. "We won't go too far," he said after a few minutes. "So you're interested in history?"

"Yeah, I know that makes me a nerd." I was also grateful for the change in subject.

His lips twitched at that. "Did you know this land was once traveled by the Seneca Indians?" I winced. "Please tell me we aren't walking on any burial grounds?"

"Well...I'm sure there are burial grounds around here somewhere. Even though they just traveled through this area, it's not a stretch that some died on this very spot and - "

"Daemon, I don't need to know that part." I gave him a light push on the arm.

He had that weird look again and shook his head. "Okay, I'll tell you the story and I'll leave some of the more creepy but natural facts out." A long branch stretched across the path, and Daemon held it up for me to duck under, my shoulder brushing against his chest as I passed before he dropped the branch and took the lead again. "What story?"

"You'll see. Now pay attention...A long time ago, this land was forest and hills, which isn't too different than today with the exception of a few small towns." His finger drifted over the lower hanging branches as we walked, pushing the lower ones aside for me. "But imagine this place so sparsely populated that it could take days, even weeks, before you reached your nearest neighbor." I shivered. "That seems so lonely."

"But you have to understand that was the way of life hundreds of years ago. Farmers and mountain men lived a few miles away from one another, but the distance was all traveled by foot or horse. It wasn't usually the safest way to travel."

"I can imagine," I responded faintly.

"The Seneca Indian tribe traveled through the eastern part of the United States, and at some point, they walked this very path toward the Seneca Rocks." His gaze met mine. "Did you know that this very small path behind your house leads right to the base of them?"

"No. They always seem so far off in the distance I never thought of them as being that close."

"If you stayed on this path for a couple of miles you'd find yourself at the base of them.

It's a pretty rocky patch even the most experienced rock climbers stay away from. See, the Seneca Rocks spread from Grant to Pendleton County, with the highest point being Spruce Knob and an outcropping near Seneca called Champe Rocks. Now they are kind of hard to get to, since it usually involves invading someone's property, but it can be worth it if you can scale way beyond nine hundred feet in the sky," he finished wistfully.

"That sounds like fun." Not. I couldn't keep the sarcasm from my voice, so I offered a pained smile. I didn't want to spoil the mood. This was probably the longest Daemon and I had ever spoken without some statement earning him the finger.

"It is if you're not afraid of slipping." He laughed at my expression. "Anyway, the Seneca Rocks are made out of quartzite, which is part sandstone. That's why it sometimes has a pinkish tint to it. Quartzite is considered a beta quartz. People who believe in...abnormal powers or powers in...nature, as a lot Indian tribes did at one time, believe that any form of beta quartz allows energy to be stored and transformed, even manipulated by it. It can throw electronics and other stuff off, too - hide things."

"Ooo-kay." He shot me a stern look, so I decided not to interrupt anymore.

"Possibly the beta quartz drew the Seneca Tribe to this area. No one knows since they weren't native to West Virginia. No one knows how long any of them camped here, traded, or made war." He paused for a few moments, scanning the terrain as if he could see them there, shadows of the past. "But they do have a very romantic legend."

"Romantic?" I asked as he led me around a small stream. I couldn't imagine anything romantic about something thrusting nine hundred feet in the sky.

"See, there was this beautiful Indian princess called Snowbird, who had asked seven of the tribe's strongest warriors to prove their love by doing something only she had been able to do. Many men wanted to be with her for her beauty and her rank. But she wanted an equal.

"When the day arrived for her to choose her husband, she set forth a challenge so only the bravest and most dedicated warrior would win her hand. She asked her suitors to climb the highest rock with her," he continued softly, slowing down so we were walking side by side on the narrow path now. "They all started, but as it became more difficult, three turned back. A fourth became weary and a fifth crumpled in exhaustion. Only two remained, and the beautiful Snowbird stayed in the lead. Finally, she reached the highest point and turned to see who was the bravest and strongest of all warriors. Only one remained a few feet behind her and as she watched, he began to slip." I was quickly caught up in the legend. The idea of making seven men fight and face possible death to win your hand was unimaginable to me.

"Snowbird paused only for a second, thinking that this brave warrior obviously was the strongest, but he was not her equal. She could save him or she could let him slip. He was brave, but he had yet to reach the highest point like she had."

"But he was right behind her? How could she just let him fall?" I decided that this story sucked if Snowbird let the guy fall.

"What would you do?" he asked curiously.

"Not that I would ever ask a group of men to prove their love by doing something incredibly dangerous and stupid like that, but if I ever found myself in that situation, as unlikely - "

"Kat?" he chided.

"I would reach out and save him, of course.

I couldn't let him fall to his death."

"But he didn't prove himself."

"That doesn't matter," I argued. "He was right behind her and how beautiful could you truly be if you let a man fall to his death just because he slipped? How could you even be capable of love or worthy of it, for that matter, if you let that happen?" He nodded. "Well, Snowbird thought like you."

Relieved, I smiled. If she hadn't, this would've been a pretty crappy romance story.


"Snowbird decided that the warrior was her equal and with that, her decision had been made.

She grabbed the man before he could fall. The chief met them and was very pleased with his daughter's choice in mate. He granted their marriage and made the warrior his successor."

"So is that why the rocks are called Seneca Rocks? After the Indians and Snowbird?" He nodded. "That's what the legend says."

"It's a beautiful story, but I think the whole climbing several hundred feet in the air to prove your love is a little excessive." He chuckled. "I'd have to agree with you on that."

"I'd hope so or you'd find yourself playing with cars on an interstate to prove your love nowadays." I wanted to bite my tongue the minute the words were out of my mouth. I hope he didn't think I meant for me.

He gave me a hard look. "I don't foresee that happening."

"Can you get to where the Indians climbed from here?" I asked curiously.

He shook his head. "You could get to the canyon, but that's serious hiking. Not something I would suggest you doing by yourself." I laughed at the thought. "Yeah, I don't think you have to worry about that. I wonder why the Indians came here. Were they looking for something?" I stepped around a large boulder. "It's hard to believe that a bunch of rocks brought them here."

"You never know." His lips pursed and he was quiet for a moment before speaking again.

"People tend to look on the beliefs of the past as being primitive and unintelligent, yet we are seeing more truth in the past every day." I peered up at him, trying to gauge if he was being serious. He sounded much more mature than any boy our age. "What was it that made the rocks important again?"

He glanced down at me. "It's the type of rock...." His eyes widened suddenly. "Kitten?"

"Would you stop calling me - ?"

"Be quiet," he hissed, gaze fixed over my shoulder. He placed his hand on my arm.

"Promise me you won't freak out."

"Why would I freak out?" I whispered.

Tugging me toward him, he caught me off guard. I placed my hands on his chest to stop from tumbling over. His chest seemed to...hum under my hands. "Have you ever seen a bear?" Dread pushed through my calm and blossomed. "What? There's a bear - ?" I pulled out of his grasp and spun around.

Oh, yeah, there was a bear.

No more than fifteen feet from us, a big bear, black and furry, sniffed the air with its long whiskered muzzle. Its ears twitched at the sound of our breathing. For a moment I was kind of stunned. I'd never seen a bear, not in real life.

There was something majestic about the creature. The way its muscles moved under the heavy coat of fur, how its dark eyes watched us as intently as we watched it.

The animal moved closer, stepping under the rays of light that broken through the branches overhead. The fur had turned a glossy black in the sunlight.

"Don't run," he whispered.

Like I could move even if I wanted to.

The bear made a half bark, half growl as he rose onto his hind legs, standing at least five feet tall. The next sound was an honest-to-God roar that sent shivers through me.

This wasn't good at all.

Daemon started yelling and waving his arms, but it didn't faze the bear. The animal dropped onto all fours, his massive shoulders shaking.

The bear rushed us.

Unable to breathe past the ball of fear choking me, I squeezed my eyes shut. Eaten alive by a bear was so wrong. I heard Daemon curse and even though my eyes were closed, a blinding flash of light pierced my thin eyelids.

There was an accompanying blast of heat that blew my hair back. And then the flash came again, but darkness followed this time, swallowing me whole.

Most Popular