Home > Ash Bear (Daughters of Beasts #3)(14)

Ash Bear (Daughters of Beasts #3)(14)
Author: T.S. Joyce

“No, no, no, woman, sing it. Do you know the lyrics?”

Ash nodded. “I have a good memory.”

“Rap,” he demanded. Usually, if someone told her to do something so directly, she would wiggle away from it unless it was her dad, her boss, Audrey, or the Alpha she’d grown up with, Harrison. But Grim looked like he was impressed with her, so she whispered the next two lines of lyrics.

“Do it louder.”

She giggled and then inhaled deep. Then, at normal volume, she finished the verse, and when Grim joined her on the chorus, she cracked up through the first two lines. His voice was good for rap. Nice and gritty, and he seemed to have a good memory, too. She liked this. She liked this very much. So she lifted her voice and danced in her seat and sang every word of the rest of the song.

“Who are you?” he asked, his smile lighting up his whole face.

Well…no one had ever asked her that before, and it drew her up short. Who was she? “I’m Ash Bear, the daughter of Bash Bear, barbecue maker, bestie to Juno and Remi, under the protection of Damon Daye, and apparently Vyr Daye if the mostly-healed burn on your neck is anything to go by. I cook, rap, have blue hair and big curves, and like being happy. And I’m a bad talker, but I want to be better, so I keep trying.”

“Listen to you, Ash. You talk fine with me. You can work on anything you want, but I don’t see a single thing wrong with the way you talk.”

“Well, it’s different and easy with you,” she said softly.

An old-school song came on the radio then. Grim and Ash both said, “Ooooooooh!” and then burst out laughing before they could catch the third line of the first verse.

Grim danced in his seat with her, and he grinned so big when he hit a good lyric. Tattoos, huge muscles, and a mohawk spiked up just right, and he smelled like hot-guy cologne. Or deodorant. She couldn’t tell which. He was so, so, soooo pretty.

Her heart pounded hard as they sang together. She didn’t care if she missed lyrics or mumbled through a line. She was having so much fun she didn’t even notice that Grim had taken a wrong turn and missed the road for the movie theater in Saratoga. She didn’t notice anything until he pulled into the parking lot of Sammy’s Bar. It was early, only 6:30, so the gravel parking lot was mostly empty. Only a few cars were parked on the side, and one of them was Layla’s, the owner of the bar.

“I know you wanted to go to the movies,” Grim said, backing the car into a parking spot like he’d gotten a college degree in car reversing. “But I can’t do a theater. I know what I am and am not capable of, and being on a plane to get here was literally hell on my animals. Being in a crowded movie theater is a recipe for disaster. I would rather not traumatize you and every human in there for our first date.”

“Oh.” He said date, he said date! Ash reached over and patted his thigh. “It’s okay Reaper and The Good. We can go to the bar instead. They have delicious chicken wings, four for a dollar tonight. We can eat like sixteen chickens’ worth and play more pool or something.”

Grim put the SUV in park and relaxed back against the headrest, staring at her with pretty green eyes. The Good was bigger than Grim had said he was. “You’re an accepter, aren’t you?”

“What do you mean?”

“Doesn’t matter if I fail at something, you don’t pout or get disappointed in me. You just find something else to focus on.”

“Yeah, that sounds like me.”

“It’s a rare thing to find, Ash. In a good way. Most people would make me pay every time I fuck up, but I don’t think that’ll be how you handle hanging out with me. You’re gonna make it hard to hate myself, aren’t you?”

“Yes, that definitely sounds like me.”

He chuckled a warm sound that vibrated through her veins and landed in her chest. That’s maybe what joy sounded like. She wished she could bottle it up in a jar and keep it in her purse, listen to it when she got confused by people. It would make everything better.

“I know it’s not a real theater, but I talked to Layla, and she’s letting me use the screen and projector equipment left over from Rhett’s concert.

Wide-eyed, Ash looked behind them at Sammy’s Bar, and sure enough, the screen was still set up. It took up half the old brick wall.

“I asked Juno what your favorite movie was,” Grim admitted, pushing the door open. He jogged around the front of the SUV and opened her door for her.

“My favorite movie is Empire Records,” she murmured, completely stunned.

Grim reached over her lap and unbuckled her, then stopped, his lips right near to hers. “I know. I got it from the store where I got the roses. And popcorn, the movie-theater-butter kind.” He leaned in and kissed her so gently she melted. That’s the only word that could describe her right now. She slipped her hands to his neck and moved her lips against his. Grim moaned softly, and that tiny noise lit every nerve ending in her body on fire. Oooh, she liked him. And he liked her. She could tell. “You really did all this for me?” she asked against his lips.

She could taste his smile. He kissed her again, a soft peck, and then locked his arms against the edge of the seat and leveled her with brown eyes. For a moment, they were normal. It was just Ash and Joshua. Two people having their first big date, falling for each other, or at least that’s what it felt like when she kissed him. Like her stomach was dipping from a roller coaster ride. Grim was the loop-de-loop. And the loop-de-loop was her favorite part of roller coasters.

“Come on,” he murmured, offering her his hand like a real gentleman. No one would’ve expected a man who looked like him to be a gentleman, but she knew better than to judge a book by its cover. He was a great book.

She followed him to the rear of the SUV where he opened the back. As the door lifted slowly, it exposed a pile of blankets. The last row of seats had been folded down, making a place to sit.

“I’m gonna pop the popcorn and grab us a drink,” he murmured, blowing frozen breath into his hands.

“Will you tuck me in?” she asked.

He canted his head, studying her for a second, and then nodded toward the blankets. “Get on in.”

Ash crawled in the back, breathless and giggly and her cheeks all warm. From happiness, she supposed, like Grim said. She plopped her tooshie right up against the middle row of seats as her back rest and then enjoyed the butterflies as he covered her in blankets and tucked them all around her. He straightened her beanie, pressed his forehead against hers with a little growl in his throat, and sauntered off toward the projector. He fiddled with it for a few seconds. The previews started up on the screen, but she couldn’t take her eyes off his back as he jogged toward Sammy’s. Black shirt, dark jeans, scuffed-up tan work boots, and that raven-black hair. The thin layer of pristine white snow in the parking lot made him look so dark.

She really, really liked him. It wasn’t just her either. Her inner bear sat right under her skin watching him, too. Mesmerized with him. Awed perhaps. Definitely taken with Grim. Even after the door closed behind him, she found it hard to pay attention to the previews playing on the wall of Sammy’s. Her attention stayed rivetted on the doorknob as she and her bear waited for Grim to come back. She didn’t much like being separated, even for buttery popcorn. A growl scratched up her throat. It’s okay bear. He’ll be back soon.

And he was. Five minutes later, and he was cradling two cups of steaming hot chocolate against his ribs with one arm and a bowl of popcorn in the other.

That was her man. Hot chocolate and popcorn and a smile just for her. And his soft brown human eyes. Her heart skipped a beat.

The movie started just as he got to the SUV, and she pulled the edge of the blankets up for him. He got all situated and adjusted, right up next to her. How was a man this warm? Even for a shifter, he ran hot. He was like a six-foot-four, muscle-bound furnace. She wanted to do bad stuff with him, but snuggling was good for now.

About ten minutes, half a bowl of popcorn, and her entire cup of hot chocolate later, something kinda cool happened. The sun was setting and the movie showed up better against the screen, and just as Grim slipped his arm around her shoulders, the door to Sammy’s opened. Ash gasped with surprise but also happiness. Her best friends were here. Remi and Juno piled out of Sammy’s with Kamp and Rhett following, both talking to each other too low for Ash to hear over the sound of the song from the music store scene. Remi looked back at the movie and then at the SUV. She squinted and then smiled really big as she waved. “Ash!”

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