“I don’t wear leather pants,” he said, biting into the garlicky and buttery goodness.
And that was a damn shame. “Still. You have the look.”
He rolled his eyes. “You just like me for my body. Admit it.”
His lashes lifted and his eyes glittered like jewels. “I feel like man-candy.”
I busted out laughing. But then he asked a question I hadn’t expected. “What are you going to do about college?”
I blinked. College? Sitting back, my gaze dropped to the small flame. “I don’t know. I mean, it’s not really possible unless I go to one near a buttload of quartz—”
“You just broke a rule,” he reminded me, lips forming a half smile.
I rolled my eyes. “What about you? What are you doing for college?”
He shrugged. “Haven’t decided yet.”
“You’re running out of time,” I said, sounding like Carissa, who loved to remind me of that every time we talked.
“Actually, we’ve both run out of time, unless we do a late acceptance.”
“Okay. Rule-breaking aside, how is it possible? Do online classes?” He shrugged again, and I sort of wanted to stab him in the eye with my fork. “Unless you know of a college that has…a suitable environment?”
Our meals arrived, staving off the conversation while the waitress grated cheese over Daemon’s plate. She eventually offered me some. And the moment she left, I pounced. “So, do you?”
Knife and fork in hand, he started cutting into a piece of lasagna the size of a truck. “The Flatirons.”
“The Flatirons is a mountain just outside of Boulder, Colorado.” He cut his meal into tiny bites. Daemon had such delicate eating habits, while I was slopping my spaghetti around my plate. “They are full of quartzite. Not as well-known or as visible as some places, but they are there, under several feet of sediment.”
“Okay.” I tried to eat my spaghetti in daintier bites. “What does that have to do with anything?”
He peered up through sooty lashes. “University of Colorado is about two miles from the Flatirons.”
“Oh.” I chewed slowly and then suddenly my appetite vanished. “Is…is that where you want to go to school?”
There was another shrug. “Colorado isn’t a bad place. I think you’d like it.”
Staring at him, I forgot about the food. Was he getting at what I thought he was getting at? I didn’t want to jump to conclusions, and I was too afraid to ask, because he could be suggesting that it was a place I’d like to visit versus living there…with him. And that would be super mortifying.
Hands cold, I set down my fork. What if Daemon did leave? For some reason I’d been operating on the assumption that he wouldn’t leave here. Ever. And I’d accepted, on a subconscious level, being stuck here, mainly because I really hadn’t considered finding another place that was protected from the Arum.
My gaze dropped to my plate. Had I accepted staying here because of Daemon? Was that right? He’s never said he loves you, an insidious and annoying voice whispered. Not even after you’ve said it.
Ah, the stupid voice had a point.
Out of nowhere, a breadstick tapped the tip of my nose. My head jerked up. Sprinkles of garlic salt rained down.
Daemon held the stick between two fingers, brows arched. “What were you just thinking about?”
I brushed off the crumbs. A pitching sensation filled my stomach, and I forced a smile. “I…I think Colorado sounds nice.”
Liar, said his expression, but he went back to his food. Strained silence descended between us, which was a first. I forced myself to enjoy the food, and the funniest thing happened. With Daemon’s light teasing and the conversation turning to different subjects, like his obsession with all things ghost-related, I was having fun again.
“Do you believe in ghosts?” I asked, chasing after the last of my noodles.
He cleared his plate, sat back, and sipped from his glass. “I think they exist.”
Surprise flickered through me. “Really? Huh. I thought you just watched those ghost shows for entertainment.”
“Well, I do. I like the one where the guy yells, ‘Dude! Bro!’ every five seconds.” He smiled when I laughed. “But in all seriousness, it can’t be impossible. Too many people have witnessed things that can’t be explained.”
“Like too many people witnessing aliens and UFOs.” I grinned.
“Exactly.” He set down his glass. “Except the UFOs are total bunk. Government’s responsible for all Unidentified Flying Objects.”
My mouth dropped open. Why was I even surprised?
Rhonda appeared with our check, and I was reluctant to leave. The whole date thing was a way too brief moment of normalcy both of us had been sorely lacking. As we headed to the front of the restaurant, I wanted to grab his hand and wrap my fingers around his, but I refrained. Daemon did a lot of crazy things in public, but hand-holding?
So didn’t seem up his alley.
There were a couple of kids from school seated by the door. Their eyes got all saucer-sized when they saw us. Considering Daemon and I had this hate-hate relationship for most of the year, I could understand their surprise.
It had started to flurry while we were inside and a thin coating of snow covered the parking lot and cars. The white stuff was still coming down. Stopping by the passenger side, I tipped my head back and opened my mouth, catching a tiny flake on the tip of my tongue.
Daemon’s eyes narrowed on me and the intensity in his gaze caused a nervous fluttering low in my stomach. An urge to go forward, cross the distance between us, hit me hard, but I couldn’t move. My feet were rooted to the ground and the air expelled from my lungs.
“What?” I whispered.
His lips parted. “I was thinking about a movie.”
“Okay.” I felt hot even though it snowed. “And?”
“But you’ve broken the rules, Kitten. Several times. You’re owed some punishment.”
My heart jumped. “I am a rule breaker.”
His lips tilted up on one corner. “You are.”
Moving lightning fast, Daemon was in front of me before I could say another word, cupping my cheeks, tilting my head back as he lowered his. Lips brushed against mine, sending a shiver down my spine. The initial touch was feather soft, heartbreakingly tender. Then the contact evolved with the second sweep of his lips and mine parted, welcoming him.
I really liked this form of punishment.
Daemon’s hands slid down to my hips, and he pulled me against him at the same time we were moving backward, stopping when my back pressed against the cool, damp metal of his car—hopefully his car. I doubted someone would want a couple doing what we were doing on their vehicle.
Because we were kissing, really kissing, and there wasn’t a centimeter of space between our bodies. My arms found their way around his neck, fingers sliding through silky locks covered in light snow. We fit everywhere it was important.
“Movie?” he murmured, kissing me again. “And then what, Kitten?”
I couldn’t think around how he tasted and felt. How my heart was jackhammering as his fingers slid under my turtleneck, splaying along my bare skin. And I wanted to be bare—completely and only with him, always him. He knew what the “and then what” was. Doing things right…and dear God, I wanted to do those right things right now.
Since I couldn’t get my mouth to work between his drugging kisses, I opted to do the show-not-tell thing, sliding my hands down to his jean-clad hips. Hooking my fingers in the belt hoop, I tugged him against me.
Daemon growled, and my pulse pounded. Yeah, he got it. His hand slid up, fingertips brushing against lace and—
His cell phone went off in his pocket, shrilling as loud as a fire alarm. I thought for a tiny instant he was going to ignore it, but he pulled back, panting. “One second.”
He kissed me quickly, keeping one hand where it was while he dug out his phone. I burrowed my face against his chest, breathing rapidly. He left my senses spinning in a delicious mess that was out of control.
When Daemon spoke, his voice was rough. “This better be really important—”
I felt him stiffen, his heart rate picking up, and I knew instantly something bad had happened. Pulling back, I peered up at him. “What?”
“Okay,” he said into the phone, his pupils becoming luminous. “Don’t worry, Dee. I’ll take care of it. I promise.”
Fear cooled the heat inside me. As Daemon lowered the phone, sliding it back into his pocket, my stomach dropped. “What?” I asked again.
Every single muscle in his body locked up. “It’s Dawson. He made a run for it.”
I stared at Daemon, praying I’d misunderstood him, but the keen desperation and the hint of fury in his ultra-bright eyes told me I hadn’t.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
“No. I completely understand.” I tucked my hair back. “What can I do?”
“I need to go,” he said, grabbing his keys from his pocket and placing them in my hand. “And I mean I need to go really fast. You should go home and stay there.” He then handed me his cell. “Keep that in the car. I’ll be back as soon as possible.”
Go home? “Daemon, I can help you. I can go—”
“Please.” He grasped my face again—his hands warm against my now-cool cheeks. He kissed me, part longing and part angry. Then he backed away. “Go home.”
And then he was gone, moving too fast for any human eye to track. I stood there for several moments. We’d had an hour, maybe two, before everything went to shit? My hands tightened around the keys. Sharp metal dug into my flesh.
A ruined date was the least of my problems.
“Dammit.” I spun and jogged around the SUV. Climbing in, I readjusted the seat from Godzilla setting to Normal so my feet could reach the pedals.
Dawson would’ve gone to one of two places. Yesterday, Daemon had said Dawson tried to go to the office building, which was the last place he’d been kept. That would logically be his first place to check.
Go home and stay there.
I pulled out of the parking lot, gripping the steering wheel. If I went home and waited like a good little girl, I could curl up on the couch and read a book. Write a review and make some popcorn. Then when Daemon came back, as long as nothing horrific happened, I’d throw myself in his arms again.
Making a right instead of a left, I laughed out loud. The sound was throaty and low, courtesy of my screwed-up vocal chords and anxiety.
Screw going home. This wasn’t the 1950s. I wasn’t a fragile human being. And I sure as hell wasn’t the Katy Daemon had initially met. He was going to have to deal with it.
I gunned the engine, hoping the boys in blue were busy doing other things besides monitoring traffic tonight. There was no way I’d beat Daemon there, but if they ran into any trouble, I could run distraction or something. I could do something.