Home > Ash Bear (Daughters of Beasts #3)(4)

Ash Bear (Daughters of Beasts #3)(4)
Author: T.S. Joyce

She should find out what she did wrong so she could learn and be better.

So…Ash followed him.

She followed him down the hallway and out the back door, catching it as it swung closed on her. She followed him down the narrow back stairs and past the blue dumpster. She followed him into the packed parking lot and past the clusters of Rhett Copeland fans, all here to hear his music from outside of the packed Sammy’s Bar. She followed Grim straight into the woods and walked and walked until he stopped, far away from everything.

That gray thermal sweater showed the lines of his muscular back. He was tensed up and breathing heavy. “Why are you following me?” he asked in a voice that sounded like it was more animal growl than human tone.

“So you won’t be alone,” she answered.

“It’s not safe to be around me.”

Ash looked back toward the bar, but they were too far away for her to even see the lights. “Not safe for a bear or for humans? There is a difference, Grim, whose real name is not Grim. Humans bleed easy. I do not.”

“What do you want from me, Ash? Say it quick so I can get you to go away.”

Ash shrugged. She was a shrugger. She shrugged, then went and sat down by a tree and rested her back against the rough trunk. “To be near you. So you won’t be alone.”

Grim cast her a golden-eyed frown over his massive shoulder. “How could I ever be alone if I have two animals inside of me and a Crew inside that bar?”

“The animals aren’t your friends and neither is your Crew. You didn’t ask them to come out here with you,” she pointed out.

“I hunted them last week.” He turned slowly and stalked closer. “I set up a drinking game in the woods, and I listened for them to get closer and closer.” His voice had gone low and feral. “And then I tried to kill them.”

Ash picked up a stick and broke it in half, then drew a circle in the snow so she could give her attention anywhere but his scary eyes. “I killed a lady bug last Thursday. It was an accident. It was on my jeans, and I scratched my leg. Killed it with my bare hands. I also ate pizza three times last week, and now my jeans don’t fit. We all feel guilty. Stop hunting them.”

“That’s just it, Good Girl.” He knelt down in front of her, and she could hear it so clear—the growl in his throat. He hooked a finger under her chin and lifted her face to his. “I don’t want to stop hunting them.” He snarled up a lip, and she could see it. She could see him losing himself. Ash wasn’t talking to the same man who had been nice to her in the bar, and it made her angry. It made her want to yell at the imposter who was trying to intimidate her.

His eyes flashed a chocolate brown for a moment. He gritted his teeth, angled his face away. Sweat broke out on his forehead.

“Can you hold it?” she asked.

“It’s not like taking a piss, Ash.” Whooo, that voice wasn’t human at all anymore.

“I know a place if you can hold it.”

When he looked back at her, his eyes were gold again. “I want to rampage.”

“But we could rampage together, away from all these humans, and then sit in the hot springs after we’re all done.”

Grim’s dark eyebrows drew down. “What’s the hot springs?”

“Big-ass hot tub. Hold it like piss, Grim. And then we can have more fun.”

For a moment, he knelt there in front of her with wide eyes, lookin’ at her like she was crazy, but that was okay. Everyone did that when she opened her mouth. She was used to it.

He had pretty eyes when they were all wild and gold like this. The moon was full, and she had good vision on account of the bear that lived inside her, so she could make out even the little green specks in the middle. His black mohawk was all spiked up, and his beard was thick but trimmed. He had really nice lips. The kissable kind. At least, she thought so. She hadn’t kissed that many people.

She’d never been into tattoos, but Grim’s were like artwork on a canvas. She shouldn’t say it, but if she didn’t, she might never get the chance to. So…she inhaled deep, closed her eyes, and rushed out, “You’re pretty.”

“Ash…” Grim’s voice broke on her name.

And when she opened her eyes again, his face was red and he was shaking. His closed fists were punched against the ground, and every vein in his forearms and neck was popping out.

“The Bad?” she whispered, fear flooding her.

“Run,” he barely got out before his body broke into something monstrous.

A lion with paws the size of her head and a pitch-black mane ripped out of him and landed with his legs splayed on either side of her hips. His lips were curled back, exposing long, razor-sharp teeth, and his gold eyes were full of more hate than she’d ever encountered in her life. There were no green specks in his eyes anymore. Only fire-yellow.

His breathing was ragged as he leaned closer, closer, until his forehead pressed against hers. and then he pushed her back into the tree behind her. This was a terrible position to be in, sitting, un-Changed, under a monster with his weapons ready. Teeth and claws and anger. Be ready, Bear. Her voice shook as she asked, “Grim?”

The lion tensed, eased back, lifted an enormous paw with his claws extended, and then time slowed. Something deafening rattled the woods, a roar she hadn’t heard in years. The moon was blotted out as a massive creature covered the sky, beating its wings as it landed behind Grim, crushing the trees under its talons.

Grim turned, a snarl in his throat as he faced the Red Dragon. Vyr Daye. Vyr was home in Damon’s Mountains. Fully Changed into his fire-red dragon and narrowing those icy blue, reptilian eyes at Grim as he lowered his horned face low enough to the ground that his dragon-smoke breath blew across the woods like fog.

And The Bad…that deranged animal with too much dominance in one body and no control… charged Vyr. He charged a dragon twenty times his size.

“No!” she screamed, and Vyr reared back. She scrambled to her feet, but it was too hard to see. There was too much smoke, and the lion had disappeared into it.

She could hear it—the terrifying sound of Vyr’s Firestarter clicking in his throat.

And then there was fire.

It lit up the fog, illuminating the lion’s silhouette as he skidded to a stop just in front of the line of inferno the dragon had made.

Fourteen seconds. She counted them in a whisper to calm herself down. She was real good at counting. Counting came naturally. Fourteen seconds Grim The Bad stood at the fringe of the fire, looking up at the Red Dragon. Fourteen seconds, and then he turned and disappeared into the woods. He didn’t look back. She waited to see if he would.

Vyr watched him go, his scaly nostrils flaring with each infuriated breath, and then he glanced at Ash, swiped his massive claw through the flames, extinguishing them, and dug a smoking trench in the earth as he did. And then he bunched his muscles, lifted his great horned face to the sky, and beat his wings. The wind was so strong she plugged her ears and stabilized herself against the trunk of the tree until he was gone.

What…the hell…had just happened?

Pressing her sweating palms to her cheeks, she looked where Grim had disappeared into the woods. She lifted her attention to the sky where Vyr was just a speck in the distance, then back to where Grim had disappeared again. She didn’t understand.

She’d never seen Vyr as a dragon. From rumors, he’d been a beast when he had Changed in Damon’s Mountains when he was younger. But Vyr was very different now. He’d found a mate. He’d been lucky. He’d found a crew with Nox and Torren, but now he was back? For what? To blow fire at Grim but not kill him?

She didn’t understand anything.

Part of her was angry at that. She never understood why people did what they did. Nothing made sense but numbers.

“Was that a dragon?” a human asked from a few trees away. He was swaying and had a beer bottle in his hand. Probably wandered out here to take a leak and got lost.

Huffing a frozen breath, Ash stood and gathered Grim’s boots, wallet and cell phone from the back pocket of his tattered jeans. His clothes were ruined, but she could keep the other stuff safe. She marched toward the drunken human and stopped right before she passed. “Fourteen seconds he had to kill the lion, and he didn’t.”

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