Home > Ash Bear (Daughters of Beasts #3)(2)

Ash Bear (Daughters of Beasts #3)(2)
Author: T.S. Joyce

Ash craned her neck to look at him because Remi and Kamp were making out now and were in the way. “Um. Thanks. Thank you.”

The man, Grim, didn’t answer.

Ash couldn’t find it in herself to say anything more until Layla gave her the second shot. Awkwardly, ever awkwardly, Ash lifted the glass in a silent cheers to him, tapped the bottom of the bar top to ward off angry spirits like Beaston had taught her to do, and then she drank it fast. And when she opened her eyes from shooting that throat-searing booze, he was watching her again. Eerie yellow eyes taking in everything.

“S-s-something…” She dropped her gaze and quit.

“Something is wrong with you,” he said.

Frowning, she forced herself to look at him when she said, “I was going to say that about you.”

“I know.” He turned to the TV. “I was guessing what you were thinking. I figured that’s what you were going to say about me. It’s what everyone says.”

“Oh.” She spun her shot glass slowly on the bar top. “You didn’t mean that about me?”

“Nope. There’s nothing wrong with you.”

Ha! “Wrong.” You’re wrong. Say it like “you’re wrong.” But the words wouldn’t come out.

Grim inhaled deeply, looking annoyed. Everyone did that around her—looked annoyed. Not Juno and Remi, though. Ever since they were cubs, they’d taken her under their wings and stuck up for her.

“Move,” Grim snarled at Remi as he stood.

Remi shoved him hard in the shoulder. “Fucking make me, prick.”

A snarl ripped from him, and he leaned within inches of her face. Remi laughed and said, “Just kidding. I just like to make you mad.” And then she smiled sweetly as she switched to the next bar stool. “But if you hurt her feelings, I’ll kill you, then Change into a bear and piss on your body and set it on fire and let the ravens pick your bones clean.”

Ash leaned forward and enlightened her with, “Ravens wouldn’t want to eat a body that tastes like bear piddle and kerosene.”

Grim snorted and took the seat beside Ash. He dipped his attention to her hands, which she was wringing. She pulled them into her lap and dropped her gaze. Sometimes she hated being submissive.

“Blue hair, black at the roots, but your eyes are blue like your hair. They look bright. Little nose and curves that could give a man something to hold onto when he fucks her. Quiet. Which is surprising since you’ve done your make-up and hair with confidence, but you keep looking at the bar top. That’s not something wrong, though. It tells me your submissive. Right or wrong?”

“Right,” she breathed.

“You wore a tank top in the dead of winter. You don’t get cold.”

“Bear.”

“Mmm,” he murmured, nodding. Approval? He hadn’t asked her animal. That part had just slipped out.

“You’re fine. Me?” he said, arching one dark eyebrow. “I’m not, but I would never say something is wrong with you. That’s like the pot calling the kettle black.”

She didn’t understand. “Kettles are black.”

“So are souls.”

“Not yours. Not all of it,” she rushed out on a breath. “You have good and bad.”

Now Grim was frowning. She couldn’t hold his gaze. Couldn’t. He felt too big. Too scary, too exciting, but too scary. But so exciting.

Her heart was pounding like a drum.

Grim glanced at the neck of her tank top and back up. A slow, crooked smile took his lips. “I hear that racing heart. Don’t be prey, pretty blue-haired lady. The bad in me likes it too much.”

“Should…should I go?”

“Nope. Just relax. Enjoy the music and sit by a strange stranger for an evening. No one will hurt you here.”

From down the bar top, Kamp griped loudly, “I can’t even fuckin’ believe you’ve had an entire conversation with her, and you haven’t said a word to me in three days.”

“Well, you’re a fuckface, and she isn’t,” Grim muttered, staring at the television once more.

Well…that was sort of a nice compliment. Kamp was a fuckface, but she wasn’t. Huh. She liked that.

The tequila shots were kicking in, and everything felt hazy. “Hair school.”

Grim took a long drink of his beer and then turned to her. “That’s where they did the blue?”

She nodded. “I got it done at the hair school because it’s only fifteen dollars for a cut and color and blowout on Tuesdays.”

“Do you want to be a cosmetologist?”

Wow, he knew what that was. But she was messing this up. Take your time to say it right. “I do hair and make-up just for myself. I serve barbecue. For money. For work.” She cleared her throat and took a deep, steadying breath. “I mean barbecue is my job. Not hair.”

Grim’s eyebrows shot up like he was impressed. She giggled with relief. That was her move. When she did something good, she laughed. “Last Tuesday, the students at the hair school were working on bright colors. So I figured, why not? It’s not my favorite, though.”

“Why not?”

“Blue is my least favorite color. It’s like skies on a hot day, but I like it when it’s stormy. Not because I’m sad. I mean, I like cloudy days.”

“Your hands are shaking.”

“Talking is…” She looked at her phone but it was 11:11, not 10:10. She made wishes on 10:10 not 11:11, but she still poked her finger on her phone screen and made a wish that he could understand her. “I’m no good at talking.”

“But you work in barbecue. There must be talking involved.”

She shrugged up one shoulder. “I’m strange. Too. Also.”

Grim lifted his chin higher and looked down his nose at her. He was much taller and was very thick with lots of muscle. His eyes had softened to a light brown, and he had a big beard. He was young, maybe her age, but his eyes looked like they had seen a hundred years. His skin was pale white, but covered in black tattoos. He was the most striking and handsome and terrifying man she’d ever seen.

There was this loaded moment when he looked at her lips, and she thought he might kiss her, but instead, he dropped his attention to her empty shot glass. “Do you want something else?”

Oh. He was one of those boys. The ones Juno and Remi warned her about. The ones who wanted to get girls drunk and take them home. Disappointment swirled in her chest.

Grim turned to Layla who was walking by behind the bar and slid a five-dollar bill and a credit card across the counter. “Can I get her an ice water, close out my tab, and get some quarters?”

“You got it,” Layla said, taking his cash and card.

Okay. He wasn’t trying to be one of those boys. He was getting her water. Okay.

Grim asked, “Do you like games?”

“Head games? No, I’m no good.”

Grim chuckled. “I’m not good at head games either. I mean pool.” He angled his head and got a thoughtful look on his face. Or maybe a confused one. She wasn’t good at reading faces. He thanked Layla when she brought him a receipt to sign and a stack of quarters. To Ash, he asked, “Do you want to play pool?”

“Yes,” she whispered fast. But the guilt kicked in. “I’m no good.”

“You keep saying that, but I have this feeling you’re very good.”

“Oh,” she said, heat firing her cheeks as she shook her head. “Wrong.”

“I don’t mean at pool. I think you are good in general, aren’t you?”

Ash shrugged. “I donate blood on Fridays.”

He had a nice smile. It was slow, like he didn’t give them easy, and she liked when he gave them to her. A person had to probably earn smiles from a man like him. A man who had good and bad.

She stood and followed him as he made his way to the pool tables in the back.

Bad was okay.

As long as the good in him was bigger.

Chapter Two

Truth be told, he’d asked the shy, curvy, blue-haired beauty to play pool because the pool tables were in back, away from the audience crowded around the bar and stage. She’d seemed so uncomfortable, that his instincts to fuck everyone up had become a little overwhelming. He would need to Change tonight and give the Reaper his body.

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