** Note: There is a prologue before the first chapter **
Shadows of the Past
Copyright 2013 Brandy L Rivers
Flashing lights swirled her headache to new heights as the siren drilled into her throbbing skull. Perfect, just what I need after driving all flipping day.
Amethyst Lakes had just reached Edenton, so being pulled over just added to the layers of crap she was already shoveling. Trouble was the last thing she wanted to deal with, especially after the mess with her ex-boyfriend and her stay with the Silver Council.
Maybe moving all the way to Edenton wasn’t the best decision, but Amethyst needed a change. Everything in San Francisco reminded her of Carl, and that just made her sick to her stomach. Her mother had been on her case to do the one thing she couldn’t stand to do, and when she finally did, it all went wrong.
She still couldn’t believe he’d committed suicide. It just didn’t make sense. He was never in love with her.
A burly mountain of a man climbed out of the police SUV, and she just knew he was going to give her grief. Menace poured off of him, and he hadn’t even managed to make it to her door.
Lovely. Little towns are notorious for dickhead cops with a power complex.
Hopefully Fallon was right, and her being Other wouldn’t be a big deal. The town was supposed to be 90% anything but human, with a little of everything calling the town home. She wouldn’t have to hide what she was.
Pretending to be human was laughable. Her purple hair couldn’t be dyed, and no human she had ever met had violet eyes. As a full blooded nymph, she had no glamour. Public school had been a nightmare because she never fit in.
The cop was almost to the window. She took a deep breath and hid all emotion before reaching toward to the glove box.
Amethyst nearly jumped out of her skin when his big meat hook of a fist pounded on the glass, making it shudder.
Right, probably should have opened that first. She immediately rolled down the window and smiled up at the cop.
“Evening officer.” She didn’t bother lying with calling it good.
His feral energy rolled through the car, nearly suffocating her. She couldn’t help watching the throbbing vein in his head that looked ready to explode. To top it off, the big brute was a werewolf, and he looked like he was about to lose control of his beast.
“Do you realize you were going eighty in a forty?” His jaw clenched and she heard his teeth grind.
What was this guy’s problem anyway? She wasn’t arguing. She was even being nice. So, why did he have to scowl at her like that?
And okay, she was doing twice the legal limit. She nodded and plastered a semblance of a pleasant expression on her face. “I’m sorry. It’s been a really long day, and I wasn’t paying attention. I can get my registration and proof of insurance. They are in the glove box. My ID is right here.” At least her voice was calm and cool, even if she would have loved to slap the cop for the way he glared at her. His eyes searched her face, seeming to focus on her eyebrow ring and purple hair.
“Why were you reaching for the glove box, ma’am?” he snarled his question as if he was ready for her to attack, and she noticed his hand was hovering above his gun on his hip.
Checking his badge, she smiled wider and squashed any thought of using her natural gifts to get out of the ticket. “Officer Simons, I was just reaching for my papers.”
“Out of the car,” he barked.
What? Really? She bit back her irritated groan and climbed out of her Jeep with her hands open and out. “If you want the registration and proof of insurance, it’s in the glove box.”
“Why are you being difficult?” he snapped, getting right in her face as he towered over her.
She wasn’t afraid yet. If she needed to she would push right back, but not until he gave her a really darned good reason. For now, she would cooperate. Maybe he would chill out before things went that far.
She raised one eyebrow. “How so?”
He leaned over her with a scowl. “I’m bringing you in for questioning. You’re awfully fucking difficult.” He spun her around, and shoved her against the vehicle to cuff her. Then he reached in to her Jeep, grabbing her keys.
Okay, maybe she shouldn’t have been so calm, because most of her options just took a hike with those blasted cuffs. There was enough iron content to subdue most of her powers and blister her wrists if left on too long.
Stunned, she blinked a few times, but she managed to keep her voice calm, even if the steel burned. “Why are you doing this? I haven’t done anything wrong. I’ve been patient and cooperative, and you’re just bringing me in?”
“Yes,” he snarled, and literally dragged her to the SUV, her feet barely touched the ground. He stuffed her into the backseat and slammed the door before climbing in and doing the same to his.
He was seriously stomping all over her rights, and he hadn’t even buckled her in. What a creep. Hopefully the rest of the cops in this tiny town weren’t such jerkwads.
Amethyst desperately tried to brainstorm a way out of the situation before Fallon found out she had been pulled over and carted off to jail. She could just see the druid, who was her best friend and like a big sister, storming into the station to bust her out.
Taking a deep breath, she calmly told him, “You can’t do this. Besides speeding, what did I do to you? I plan to pay the ticket, and I am cooperating. You didn’t even read me my rights.”
“You aren’t under arrest—yet.”
“Then why am I in cuffs?” At least she held back her snort, but now she was pissed.
“Just shut up,” he bellowed, making her eardrums hurt.
She slumped back in the seat and tried to remain calm.
It was a short trip to the station. He radiated rage and hate. He must have been having one crappy day. Officer Jackhole screeched into the parking lot and slammed on the brakes, which sent her face first into the partition, and it hurt.
While she was still stunned, he yanked the door open and dragged her out of the vehicle.
This time she snapped at him. “Can you just take my arm and let me walk before you hurt me? I’m not resisting, I’m not fighting, I’m just trying to figure out what you think I did.” There was only a thread of anger in her voice, but as a wolf, he was going to smell that on her anyway, so there was no point in hiding it.
He was almost two feet taller than her, and obviously liked having superhuman strength, because he didn’t let her walk. He grabbed her around the upper arm and half carried, half dragged her inside. She knew his iron grip would leave a bruise.
Then the officer slammed her into a chair as another big man stormed out of his office. She felt a slight rumble through the floor, and the air seemed to grow dense as he scowled at Officer Simons.
Great, more testosterone and more rage. At least this one didn’t seem to be pissed at her.
* * * *
“Simons, what the fuck are you doing to this little lady?” Sheriff Hayden Hunter demanded as he crossed the main room in the station. The most unusual woman sat in the seat next to Kevin Simons’ desk.
She was put there by the big werewolf who towered over her menacingly. Thankfully, she mostly seemed confused and slightly angry. He did sense her distress and pain, even though she hid it quite well.
He took another look at the curvy little woman. She was around five foot one. Long purple hair tumbled around her shoulders in soft waves with natural highlights and lowlights you couldn’t get out of a bottle. Violet eyebrows arched perfectly over eyes that sparkled like amethysts. Her lush mouth was also tinged with lavender without a trace of makeup on her lovely face.
In a word, she was breathtaking.
Even her piercings were enchanting. There was a ring in her eyebrow, a tiny amethyst stud in her nose, and another placed near her lip like a beauty mark. There were little rings all the way up both ears. He was willing to bet there were more interesting piercings hidden under her clothes which.
Normally, piercings would have turned him off. They only managed to enhance her delicate features.
Her coloring was that of the water fae. Either nymph or siren, but siren had glamour and most wouldn’t flaunt their differences on Earth, so nymph made more sense.
Being a nymph would also explain the pain because they had a strong reaction to certain metals. At least steel was better than iron, but he was going to resolve that issue as quickly as he could without making it obvious that she had a weakness.
Hayden had a feeling this little nymph was the one Slater and Brody had already told him about. Neither of them seemed real sure as to which flavor of fae she was, and neither Fallon nor Jess offered a hint.
Simons seethed rage. Ever since he’d caught his wife cheating, his calm and peaceful façade had fallen away, leaving the hulking, raging beast. His gaze cut down to her, but her eyes were trained on the far corner of the room.
“She was doing eighty in a forty, and she was reaching for a weapon when I pulled her over.” Simons growled in the young woman’s direction.
Hayden closed the distance with a snarl. “Back off of the girl. Now.”
She sighed and managed a calm, almost patient tone. “He stopped me from reaching into my glove box for my proof of insurance and my registration. I gave him my ID, and he also has my keys. I told him to look in my glove box for the rest of my documents. I would have gladly allowed him to search my Jeep. I don’t even own a weapon.”
“I’m sorry for Simons’ behavior.” Hayden shot him a look, and warned, “And I am sure he will be,” he glared at Simons, and fought back the urge to smash his face in, “after he thinks his actions through and he realizes how big a mistake he’s made.”
A rough time at home didn’t give Simons the excuse to be an asshole. Softening his expression, he moved his attention to her. “You’re Amethyst Lakes. Am I right?”
“Yes sir, I am.” She didn’t sound happy that a cop knew who she was. Hayden didn’t blame her. She had already dealt with the Silver Council, which was basically the mages’ version of the police, only worse. She was probably worried they might hand her over to the Council, which he would never do without a really damned good reason.
“Here’s what I’m going to do, Amethyst. I’m going to excuse the ticket this time since Simons flew off the deep end.” He gave his officer a challenging look, daring him to open his mouth. When he didn’t, he turned back to her. “Please, do not drive that fast in my town in the future.”
“Yes sir.” She nodded once, not sucking up, not offering excuses, but not arguing either.
“Can you come into my office for a moment? I would like to talk to you for just a minute, and I will remove those cuffs.” Hayden wanted to take them off that second, but didn’t want to let Simons know exactly what she was or how bad certain metals were for her. Unfortunately, he didn’t trust his old friend right then.
“Sure.” She stood up and didn’t bother glancing back at Simons, who just glared at her.
“Just through that door. I need to have a word with Simons first.”
“Yes sir.” She went into the office without argument, and he shut the door before turning back to Simons with a lethal glare.
“You need to take some time off. I know your situation with Stacey is getting to you, but you can’t be pulling this shit. Miss Lakes is moving into town to leave behind some terrible experiences thanks to an ex-boyfriend. None of it was her fault. Slater already explained her circumstances. She is one of Fallon’s friends. So you are going to give her a break. You hear me?”
“Fine, how much time off?” Simons bit out. His hands were clenched into fists, as his whole body shook with rage.
“Tonight and tomorrow. Paid, and I will check on you then. We’ll figure this out.” Hayden nodded toward the door. “Go, and when you see Amethyst next, apologize. I will check her car, but I can guarantee she won’t have a weapon. Piercing gear perhaps, but that’s her profession.”
“All right,” Simons growled and turned to leave. Hayden just hoped his officer would get his shit together before he did something he would regret and couldn’t just apologize.
* * * *
Amethyst fought back tears. The cuffs were really hurting now. The longer the steel was in contact with her skin the worse it was going to be. She wouldn’t cry though, she wouldn’t give him the satisfaction.
Simons was a big bully of a wolf. He was insanely tall, with brown hair, and muddy brown eyes that seethed rage. Heck, his anger rolled off of him in waves.
The sheriff came back in. “I’m Hayden Hunter.” The deep rumble of his voice caressed over her ears, and she had to fight back a shiver. “Here, stand up so I can get those damned things off of you. I am sorry about his reaction, but he knows squat about fae and their possible reactions to steel.”
Amethyst stood up and turned her back to him, not really wanting to. He felt like a predator, even if she didn’t think he would hurt her. She was drawn to him, but she didn’t trust that instinct after Carl and his obsession.
The cuffs fell from her wrists. She turned around, rubbing her raw, blistered skin. “Thank you.”
His voice was low and quiet. “Sorry, I would have removed them faster, but I didn’t want him to know metal is a weakness. I don’t have the same aversion, but I know enough fae who do.”
Her eyes snapped up to his. “You’re not like me.” She took a shaky breath as she stared into his deep, dark eyes. They were the color of molten chocolate. And yes, he was Other, fae in fact, but not any type of water fae. His gaze was irritatingly soothing, but she fought her reaction. His tousled hair was the color of dark chocolate drizzled with caramel, and his skin was the color of honey. He smelled of musk and dark spices that reminded her of a home she only knew from ancestral memories. She had to fight her instinct to lean in and breathe his scent.
“You haven’t been to Faerie, and yet you are.” He smiled a little. “How old are you?”
She backed up without meaning to, and found herself against his desk. “Twenty-five. My family was exiled before I was born. But how did you know?”
“It’s all right, Amethyst, I won’t bite. Slater told me enough to know that you were born and raised down in California. Now come on, I’ll take you back to your car.” He held out her keys and license, which she took hesitantly. “And for the record, I am a different type of fae than you. Earth Fae, but I’m not one of the elitist who believe only my kind are worthy.”
“Oh, um… good.” She didn’t want to trust him, but she sort of did anyway. Goodness, he was almost a foot and a half taller than her. His shoulders were broad and defined. In fact, he was built like a warrior. He was all solid muscle, no fat, but not like a freakish body builder.
He dwarfed her, and it was a little intimidating in all the right ways. Swallowing back an unsettling mix of emotions, she looked up into his dark, mesmerizing eyes.
“Did Simons hurt you?” He asked softly.
“No, and I’m sorry I was speeding, but after the last few weeks, I just…,” she sighed, “I wasn’t paying attention to the speed limit, or my speed. I swear I didn’t argue with him.” Looking away, she blushed. She had only meant to answer the question, not ramble on and probably incriminate herself. He just flustered her so badly, but she kind of liked it.
“And yet, I think you could have handled him yourself if you had wanted to.” He grinned. “You seem a bit skittish, but from what Fallon told me, you have every right to be. She also says you can protect yourself quite well.” His eyes delved into hers, and it felt way too intimate for a stranger.
Shrugging, she shook her head. “I really don’t want to get into my past. Officer Simons didn’t hurt me, and he didn’t do anything wildly inappropriate. If he had, I would have resorted to magic, but only as a last option. Plus, I’m really not sure I could fight off a werewolf who is nearly two feet taller and more than three times my weight if something went wrong.”
“From what Fallon says, you did a couple times in San Francisco,” he murmured.
Heat infused her face as she bit her bottom lip. Fallon had taught her a few nasty tricks, and they had come in handy in the past.
“Do you trust me?” Hayden asked her softly as he stepped right in front of her, leaving her nowhere to go while he looked down into her eyes.
Her heart was pounding in her chest. He was just so big and edible, that he made her crave things she didn’t want to crave. Not so soon.
* * * *
Hayden just wanted to put her at ease, but he had a feeling that no matter what he did, she was going to be skittish. Well, there were a whole lot of things he wanted to do to the little woman, but she was a fraction of his age. She was certainly fae, but acted more human.
Shit, now he was curious who her family was. He only knew one fae who shared her last name. Paavo was from the water realm, and in a solid relationship with another fae of similar background.
“Well? I just want to help,” he said softly, hoping she would say yes because he was only going to heal her. Besides, her delicate wrists were raw and blistered, and he knew they had to burn. If she would let him, he could fix it easily.
“Why should I trust you?” She breathed the words, barely whispering, but she didn’t break eye contact. Amethyst was captivating. She was so little, and temptingly seductive without trying. Even in the cargo pants and plain tank, she was still feminine.
Of course she was afraid of him. He knew she’d been held by the Silver Council after being wrongly accused of enthralling someone. Hayden couldn’t wrap his head around why anyone would do anything so unjust to her.
“I just want to help you. I can take the pain away,” he promised. The burns were minor enough that he could erase the damage. Something major and he wouldn’t have been able to do much good.
Amethyst shoved her hands behind her back and shook her head before looking down at the ground.
It dawned on him then. “Do you believe all fae heal with lust or love?”
She didn’t answer, just shook her head again.
“Amethyst, I don’t heal that way, I promise.”
“I may be a nymph, but my brother is more siren. I know how we all heal.”
She nodded slowly. At least he knew her brother. Worst case, he could call him and have him talk to her.
“I only have to touch the burn, not even all of it. I can get Paavo on the phone to see if he can explain. He is an old friend of mine.”
“All right.” Her voice was soft, delicate, and her pouty lips turned down in a frown. One tiny hand came out, held in front of her, but she still wouldn’t look at him.
“Is that a yes?”
She nodded, and he wished he could see her eyes, but she kept her gaze anywhere but on him. He sighed and gently took her forearm with one hand, tracing over the burn with the fingers of his other as he focused his energy to smooth her skin and ease the pain.
* * * *
The big sheriff was oh so gentle, sweet even. His magic felt good, soothing the burn almost instantly. “Tha…oh…I,” she stammered as she remembered you weren’t supposed to thank the older fae. It wasn’t that he looked old, but his power had the feel of an elder’s magic. It hummed through her and wrapped around her like a blanket.
If he was even a tenth as old as she thought, she probably shouldn’t want to lick him like a giant lollipop. And she didn’t have much experience with too many fae outside her family.
“I may be older, but I’ve been here long enough to live as a human. Thanking me won’t insult me.” His smile was genuine and pleasant, his gaze stayed on her eyes when she finally looked up at him. “Can I see your other hand?”
She swallowed hard and let him. Again, he was gentle, nothing sexual there. She could have done it by stealing lust from someone, or well… she wasn’t going to think of that. Then again, he didn’t seem to desire her which was disappointing, even though she was not going to be getting naked with him, or anyone.
“Thank you. I should go to my Jeep. Fallon wanted me to meet her at In 2 Deep. She has the key to the apartment.” By that point, Amethyst could really use a drink, or two, to relax. Maybe she’d be able to keep her mouth shut then.
“I’ll drive you to your car, and then show you where the bar is. Then, if you’d like, I’ll show you where they live after you unwind a little. I’ll even help you unpack.”
“I can manage,” she frowned, tired of being treated like a stupid little girl, “but I would appreciate the ride to my Jeep.”
“I’m off duty, unless something comes up and I’m called back. Just give me a minute to change.”
“All right.” She managed a tiny smile before he left the room.
Her phone buzzed again, and she remembered her text messages. Crap. She pulled her phone out and saw several from Jamie and Fallon.
With a sigh, she texted them both back and told them she was coming but was delayed.
Her phone rang almost immediately, and she answered Fallon’s call. “Hi. Sorry. I’ll be there soon.”
“Why is your car abandoned on the side of the damned road?” Fallon was ticked, and rightfully so.
“Uh, one of the policemen had a bad day,” she muttered sheepishly. “He brought me down to the station because I was going eighty in a forty.” Feeling stupid, she sighed. “I just wasn’t thinking, and before you start, I wasn’t rude to him.”
“Stop, I know who you’re talking about,” Fallon sneered. “Simons caught his wife cheating. He probably saw your purple hair and thought you might be related to the little skeezeball. You look nothing like that little shit, though.”
“Oh, okay.” Amethyst shook her head. It wasn’t a surprise that some people didn’t like anyone different. “Sheriff Hunter is taking me back to my car.”
“And escorting you to the bar,” he said mildly.
Her eyes narrowed, and she pursed her lips. She didn’t need him taking her anywhere. “That’s totally unnecessary.”
“May I?” He held his hand out for the phone, and she gave it to him with a scowl. His mouth twisted into a grin. He told Fallon, “I’ll bring her to the bar as well. I’ll make sure she gets to your place if she leaves before you do. I’ll even help her bring her things up to her apartment.”
He paused and nodded, but amusement danced in his eyes. That made her wonder.
His smile was warm. “Don’t worry. I just want to make sure Simons’ welcome to town hasn’t rattled her too badly. She is extremely nervous.”
There was only kindness and protectiveness in his gaze and tone. The jerk, but then she realized that wasn’t fair. Why should he want someone like her? Crap, Fallon had probably already warned him. Not to mention that she was just a baby in comparison to the big delicious sheriff.
His deep, warm voice snapped her out of her thoughts. “We’ll be there soon.”
He handed the phone back to her before locking his firearm in the desk.
Amethyst finally let her eyes graze over his big body. He was scrumptious in his boot cut jeans that hugged those long powerful thighs. His worn t-shirt molded over his very impressive abs, sculpted chest and she couldn’t forget his big bulgy arms. Hayden didn’t look like a steroid junky, but he was powerfully built, with each muscle well defined.
She just wanted to trace every ridge with her tongue. No, no I don’t, or so she told herself.
Devouring his appearance was a bad idea and she knew it. He was not on her menu. Heck, she was fasting, and he was like an eight course meal with something spectacularly sweet and tempting for dessert.
Right, she needed to get off the phone and to get going. “See you soon, Fallon.” She couldn’t keep the irritation out of her tone, so she hung up before Fallon could reply.
“Come on. I’ll let you sit in the front seat, no cuffs involved.” He winked, and there was just a hint of something dark and salacious in his gaze.
She swallowed her first snarky remark and followed him to a giant SUV. “Does it need to be so big?” She knew she blushed when she glanced back at him. It didn’t just go for the truck.
His wolfish grin left her feeling all shivery. “Here.” He opened the door, picked her up, much too easily, and sat her inside.
“You didn’t need to do that.” Her voice squeaked.
She could feel his chuckle dance over her like an invitation. “You look nervous, and I don’t want to keep Fallon waiting. I’m afraid of what she’ll do if Simons shows up at the bar.”
“Right. That might not go over so well.”
He nodded. “She is very protective of her friends. In fact….” The corners of his mouth turned down as he wrapped his big hand around her arm, just above her elbow.
She flinched at the gentle contact, but saw the bruise in the shape of Simons’ hand when she looked where Hayden held her. His magic washed over her in a caress, and she had to bite back her whimper. Oh, that felt so good she closed her eyes against it, and tried her darnedest to fight off any reaction.
* * * *
“Amethyst,” Hayden murmured, trying not to spook her worse. He didn’t like that she jumped every time he touched her. “Are you okay?”
Her laugh was nervous. “Sorry Sheriff Hunter….”
“Hayden, call me Hayden, please. Most everyone knows me as Hayden.” Damn it, his voice was low and husky, he tried to dial back his lust, but it wasn’t happening. She was everything he craved, and it had been a long time since he’d craved anyone.
“Hayden.” She sighed and opened up her beautiful eyes, but she still looked nervous. “Can we just go get my Jeep, please?”
With a nod, he shut her door while she buckled her belt. He climbed into his seat and drove to where he knew her Jeep was parked. Simons had called it in before they made it the short distance to the jail. Fallon had already chewed Hayden a new one when she drove by Amethyst’s car. Thanks to Simons and those damned cuffs, Amethyst had been unable to answer her phone.
Thinking of Amethyst being manhandled put Hayden on the breaking point. He wanted to track Simons down so he could beat him into the next state. That wouldn’t help anything, and he reminded himself of that fact for the twelfth time in twenty minutes.
He pulled up in front of her Jeep. Before he could say or do anything, she hopped out of the SUV and hurried to her vehicle.
Hayden followed. “To make Simons feel better, can I please check your glove box?”
She nodded, but had her back to him as she unlocked the doors and climbed inside. He opened the passenger door, leaned in and looked. There was nothing there but the proper documents and a few CDs. “Just what I thought. I’m sorry he was so rough with you. I made him take a couple of days off. His family situation doesn’t excuse his actions.”
“It’s okay. Fallon told me about his wife. I hope it works out.” A little smile graced her lips. “And thank you for the ride.”
“Follow me, please?” Hayden asked. With as timid as she was, he didn’t want to give the impression he was commanding her to do anything.
His instinct wanted him to protect her, but he knew she wouldn’t appreciate that sentiment.
Amethyst seemed innocent, but so incredibly sensual at the same time. Hayden wanted to know her, in every sense of the word, but had a feeling he was going to have to take it really slow and work at gaining her trust.
She nodded, but rolled her eyes. Her attitude had finally started to come out, and he hoped that was a good sign. That maybe she was starting to trust him a little.