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

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

Like he had control of that. Ha!

He needed her to settle down so his inner lions would settle down with her. That had been his intention, but when she’d talked, she’d interested him. He couldn’t figure her out. She was shy, and she spoke differently than anyone he’d met before. He liked it, though. She was different from all the viper females of his old Tarian Pride.

Grim racked the balls without looking at her. People reacted better when his focus wasn’t on them. Even humans. Even puny, weak humans had some long-buried instinct that they were in danger around him. Sometimes it helped if he didn’t look at them, but with this girl, it was hard not to. He’d never seen anyone like her.

She had sky blue hair that was down to her shoulders and black at the roots. Her eyes were bright as the sky, and even though blue wasn’t her favorite color, it was his. Everyone else in this bar looked exactly the same—except her. It was as if a light was shining brighter on just her, casting everyone else in shadows. She was an impossible woman not to pay attention to.

Big tits, big hips, and she had that hourglass figure that he’d always wished for in a mate, if he’d been allowed to take one. Her tank top flattered her curves and showed the top of her cleavage, and he couldn’t deny his attraction to her. But he also liked the way she felt. It was like a stream of goodness was seeping into his skin from her. Did she realize she was like that? That she could feed the dark ones like him or the dragon shifter at the end of the bar who was still paying him too much attention? Ash was a feeder. And he was an eater. An eater of the good, and he would drain something pretty and sweet like her.

It was a good thing the Rogue Pride Crew was leaving tomorrow because Grim would pay this girl way too much attention.

“What’s your name?”

“Ash. Ashlynn. But just Ash. My dad picked it. He’s Bash. I’m his first daughter, and he likes words that rhyme.” She wrung her hands in front of her lap and said, “Oooh.” Her cheeks turned bright red.

“You’re doing good,” Grim said as he rolled a pool stick on the table to make sure it wasn’t a shitty, wobbly one. It was about as decent as an abused bar-pool-stick could get, so he handed it to Ash. Ash. Pretty name for a pretty woman.

Her skin was smooth and pale, like some ice princess. Even more so with those bright baby blues and blue hair. She was a stunner, and it was hard to look away. “Do you have any tattoos?” he asked.

“No, but I like yours.”

Grim smiled. He couldn’t help himself. He didn’t often get compliments. Something dark and sickening roiled inside of him, but he ignored it. That was just the Reaper waking up. He would want the body soon, but Grim was used to it. There were plenty of big predator shifters here to keep him from killing anyone. Probably.

His good lion faded away like he did every night. Typical weak move. He rarely took the body. He always gave in to the Reaper.

“Your name is Grim. Does it rhyme with your dad?”

He grinned and gestured for her to break. “No dad, no mom, no rhymes. Grim isn’t my real name. It’s just what everyone calls me.”

“You don’t have a family?” she asked as she slammed the cue stick into the white ball and broke up the balls at the other end of the table.

Huh. Well done.

Ash loosened up when he wasn’t focused on her, so he chalked up his pool stick and didn’t look at her when he said, “I was raised by my grandmother. Her name is Rose. No rhyming.”

“Roses are pretty,” she uttered softly.

That they were. “I grow them in front of my trailer for her.” Holy fuck, what had possessed him to say that out loud? Grim cleared his throat, lined up, and hit the two ball in. And then the one. He missed on the six, though, just so she would play with him longer.

“We used to have roses,” Ash said, lining up a shot. “Clinton pulled them all up and threw them on the roof of our trailer. Twice. Now, no more roses.” She talked so much easier when she was busy.

“What color roses?” he asked.

“Pink.”

Grim hid his satisfied smile. “That’s my grandma’s favorite color. I cut the thorns off and mail them too her every two weeks during the growing season. Her mate used to get them for her, but he died before I was born. And I was the man of the house, so I always got her pink roses so she would know…how…special…”

“She’s very special,” Ash said with wide eyes and a curt chin nod. “I like her.”

Good God, he’d just poured his fuckin’ heart out to this girl. He’d never told anyone that.

Did he like this? Was it okay? He didn’t know. Maybe that beer was stronger than he thought.

The Bartender, Layla, showed her knack for perfect timing and brought a pitcher of ice water and two glasses to the table next to the pool table. Grim poured them both glasses. Time to sober up and stop talking, motherfucker.

The Reaper growled.

Fuck you.

The Reaper growled louder, rattling around in his head. Grim closed his eyes tightly for a three-count until the monster eased away and then brought Ash one of the waters.

“Does it hurt?” she asked softly.

“Does what hurt?”

“The Good and The Bad?”

Grim didn’t understand, so he handed her the water and took his turn at the table. Another two balls in and a purposeful miss on the third.

“Mine hurts,” she said quietly as she lined up for another shot. She sank the eleven in the corner pocket. “And I only have The Good.”

Grim narrowed his eyes at her. “Who told you?”

“That you have two?”

“Yeah. Who told you I have two animals? Was it Remi?”

“Oh, Remi is loyal to Rogue Pride. She barely says anything. It hurts sometimes that she doesn’t talk to me like she used to. It’s supposed to be like this, though. She’s supposed to pick her Crew. It’s supposed to hurt. It means she’s doing it right.”

Grim leaned against the wall, gripping his cue stick as he crossed his arms over his chest. He really didn’t understand, but before he could ask, Ash shrugged up her shoulder and said, “No one had to tell me. I can feel The Good and The Bad in you.”

Huh. This girl was hella interesting. “And you aren’t scared of The Bad?”

“I haven’t seen him. How can you be scared of something you can’t see?” She looked at him with such wide-eyed innocence that, for a moment, he wished he was a normal shifter with one animal. One who had a shot at staying stable. One who had a shot at not disappointing everyone. At disappointing her. If she saw “The Bad” she would run away and never come back.

He hadn’t named the Reaper. He hadn’t named the dark lion. The Tarian Pride had. A Pride full of monstrous, murderous lions had named the two most important parts of him—Grim and Reaper—and he was standing here looking at this good girl, wishing he was a little less dark so he could talk to her longer.

But it wasn’t the way of the world. Not for him.

Grim leaned over, lined up the shot, and scratched on the eight ball. “You win,” he murmured. “It was nice to meet you, Ash.”

“Where will you go?”

“Now?” he asked, setting his cue stick in the rack in the corner.

“Yes.”

“Now I’ll go where The Bad tells me to.”

And then he forced himself not to look back as he made his way down the hallway toward a back exit. Because he knew exactly what he was giving up. He was giving up an evening with a nice girl who could make him feel a little bit normal. But the Reaper didn’t care about such things, and there were woods out back.

The Bad was a-scratchin’, and it wasn’t his choice to answer the door or not.

The Reaper did what he wanted.

Chapter Three

Grim was almost as wide as the hallway. Shifters tended to be bigger, especially the males but, holy crap, Grim was bigger than Kong. He walked like an Alpha. Felt like one, too. Was he the Rogue Pride Crew Alpha? She needed to ask Remi more questions about her new Crew.

Ash had done something wrong, she could tell, because he was leaving so fast. He’d barely lost the game of pool, and now he was running out the back door.

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