Home > Ash Bear (Daughters of Beasts #3)(5)

Ash Bear (Daughters of Beasts #3)(5)
Author: T.S. Joyce

The man arched his eyebrows. “Okaaay.”

“I don’t get it either. Better get back to the concert, human. It smells like smoke out here.”

Chapter Four

When Ash saw green eyes reflecting in her headlights, she slammed on the brakes of her Jeep and skidded to a stop inches away from the black-maned, scarred-up lion in the road. She’d come barreling around the curve, just like every night, because she was the only one who lived out this way. Never having to worry about other cars on the one-lane wilderness road, she had always set her own speed limit.

Grim was so massive, he would’ve totaled her Jeep if she’d run into him. He still could if he had a mind to get inside of it, but he backed away from the headlights, and she could see it. His eyes were green, not gold. Just pure, bright green, like rain-bloated moss. Hello, The Good.

Grim hunched in on himself and groaned in pain as he Changed back to his big, muscular, tattooed human form. Looked so painful she couldn’t rip her gaze off him if she tried. He was letting her see it, so she should be brave enough to stay in it with him. Sometimes she didn’t like Changing alone either.

On hands and knees, Grim shivered in the road, his head down as though ashamed. He wouldn’t look at her.

She should pull around him and speed away. That’s what smart girls would do, but she wasn’t one of the smart ones.

“Are you sick?” she asked as she shoved open the door.

With a soft grunt of pain, Grim rocked back and rested on his bent legs, rolling his head backward so he looked down his nose at her. His skin from neck to shoulder was badly burned.

“Ooooh no,” she murmured, echoing his position and kneeling down with him.

When she reached out and touched his neck lightly, he winced, but his eyes never left hers. They were muddying to a brown color instead of green. Brown and green and gold. Grim had problems.

“Would The Bad have hurt me?”

“The Reaper,” he rumbled. “His name’s the Reaper. And I don’t know. I don’t have much control over that one.”

“But the green-eyed good one?”

Grim frowned. “What do you mean?”

“The lion with the green eyes. The Green-Eyed Good.”

His frown deepened, causing wrinkles on his forehead. “You saw green in my eyes?”

She nodded once and tugged at his arm so she could see how far back around his neck the burn went. “Stupid lion. Whatcha gonna do? Kill the Red Dragon?” She shoved him in his good shoulder. “Don’t do that anymore.”

Grim’s breath was steady as he studied her. Her attention dipped to his thighs. Or more specifically to his long, thick dick. She tried to stop looking but couldn’t.

“It happens every time I Change,” he murmured, looking down at himself.

“What does?”

“I get hard. I don’t freaking know why. Changing doesn’t exactly feel good. It’s the adrenaline maybe.”

“It’s…”

“It’s what?” he asked. He was so direct when he asked questions, it made her want to answer instead of chickening out.

“It’s real pretty.”

“My dick is pretty?”

She clasped her hands tightly in her lap. “If you’re looking for a girl with good words…that’s not me.”

“You talk clear enough to me. Okay. My dick is pretty.” When he shrugged, she smiled.

“I’m a shrugger, too.” She pulled her shoulders up to her ears to demonstrate.

He shrugged.

And then she shrugged faster.

And then they both started wiggling their shoulders double time and she couldn’t keep a straight face anymore. She cracked up.

And there it was, that stunning smile of his. It was right at the very corner of the left side of his lips. It made his face go all crooked. She liked crooked things. And Grim? He was a very crooked type of thing.

“The hot springs are far away from here,” she said apologetically. “They would help the burns, though.”

“I’ll be healed by morning,” he assured her. Huh. Tough man. Dominance sometimes made a shifter heal even faster. He must be very dominant.

“Are you the Alpha? Of Rogue Pride? Of Remi and Juno?”

“Not on purpose.” He stood and held out a hand to her.

She looked at it and then him. Brown eyes. Pretty human brown eyes. She slipped her palm against his and allowed him to pull her up. He was very strong. She was surprised how easy he did. She wasn’t some teeny girl. “Why are you here?”

Grim took a couple steps back and rested his hands on his hips, stared off into the woods, then shook his head. “I don’t know. I just…wanted to come here.”

“You mean the Green-Eyed Good did. He wanted to come here.”

“Smells like you,” he murmured. “The whole forest smells like you. Like your bear.”

Ash wrung her hands nervously. “You smell my bear?”

“Yes. She’s…she smells pretty.” Crooked smile, there it was, and now there was a spark of life in his eyes to match.

Ash giggled and kicked at a clump of snow with the toe of her shoe. “No one’s ever said that before.”

“Well…” Grim looked around. “Okay. I should go.”

“Go where?”

“Back to the bar. All my damn clothes are back there. And my Crew. And my cell phone. I need to figure out when we’re leaving in the morning.”

“Oh. Well I saved your boots and wallet and cell phone. They’re in my Jeep. But if you want to go back to the bar, it’s ten miles thataway.” She pointed down the mountain helpfully. “Your pretty dick’ll freeze off, though, if you hike it.”

“I’ll be all right,” he murmured with such confidence that she utterly believed he would be just fine. Strong man.

“I made meat?”

Grim turned and cupped himself. His skin was looking paler, and he had gooseflesh. He must’ve been very cold out here. “What?”

“I have food I made last night. It’s nothin’ five star. Pot roast and mashed potatoes and gravy and carrots and stuff.”

Grim shifted his weight. “Well, hell, that sounds five star enough for me.”

“I can share. With you.”

Grim scratched his jaw and studied her with a canted head, as if she was some sort of bug that needed figuring out. It was a quiet few seconds before he murmured, “I won’t Change again tonight. The Reaper is sleeping now. I can take a couch or the floor or something. I swear I won’t come onto you.”

“Well, that’s a little tragic. It’s okay if you don’t want to come onto me. Everything’s okay,” she said, making her way to the Jeep. “I got heated seats so your ass doesn’t freeze.”

“You mean so I don’t freeze my ass off?” he asked.

Ash giggled. That was the saying. She’d forgotten it. He made good jokes.

When he got into the passenger’s seat, he admitted, “I don’t want to see my Crew again tonight.” His voice was so quiet.

“Why?”

He rested his elbow on the edge of the window and stared out if it, away from her, biting his thumbnail. He wouldn’t answer, but that was okay. Sometimes she didn’t like to talk either, so she put the Jeep in gear.

But then he spoke up. “I don’t like the Reaper. I don’t like that part of me. I don’t really like being around people after I’m him.” Grim looked over at her, but she didn’t understand what he was trying to say with his pretty eyes.

“Why?” she asked again.

“Because I’m ashamed.” He reached forward and turned up the radio dial, and that was that. Conversation over. He was ashamed of the Reaper, and she bet he hadn’t admitted that to many people.

That made her feel special, and she wanted him to feel special, too, so she gave him a present. She reached over, rested her hand on his thigh, and squeezed it gently. Shifters loved touch. It was a comfort. It was her way of saying, ‘It’s okay with me that you are how you are,’ without her messing it up with actual words.

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