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Andi’s clothes were not dry by dawn. She was tired and wet and cranky, and the phone Mr. No-Name had given her said it was six a.m. Someone should be coming to relieve her soon, right?
Then she heard it—the sound of a door slamming from afar.
Was it real? After her experiences earlier tonight, she doubted it. Then she heard another door, somewhere deeper in the house.
If whatever lived in this house wanted to torment her, pretending to be distantly slamming doors was an odd way to do it, which made her think that the sounds were real and that someone had gotten home a little early.
Good, then that person could take her the fuck away from here—after paying her handsomely, of course. Nothing about her patient had changed overnight. She’d done a good job, in spite of everything else.
She put her wet clothes in the bag the dressing supplies had come in so they wouldn’t drip and then decided to hunt down the person who’d slammed the doors.
Andi walked back to the entryway—the path seemed about two rooms shorter, but she wasn’t going to question that right now—and found herself in front of the main door, with the staircases behind her. She turned, and the spiral one up to the ceiling that’d caught her eye earlier was gone now.
Of course, it was.
She swallowed and fought the urge to rub her eyes again.
“Hello? I need to go home now.”
No one answered, not even to laugh. She stood equidistant between the two stairs—they both led to opposite wings of the house. She could waste hours looking for someone here. A splash of emerald green caught her eye—on the stairs to her right. It wasn’t pondwater from her escapade earlier. She’d never made it up to the front of the house; she was sure of it. No, it looked like someone had spilled…cough syrup. And there was a trail of it—heading up.
She was only seventy percent sure she hadn’t seen the trail coming in, but it was enough. She held the fur coat tighter around her waist and followed it up the stairs.
The green stains led her down endless halls, doors that were bolted from the outside, and past judgmental looking statues until they reached a door. Perhaps the second one she’d heard shut earlier? She leaned against the outside of it, and would’ve sworn she heard someone stirring inside. She rapped on it gently. “Hello?”
No one answered. But it, unlike the other doors she’d passed by, wasn’t locked. She twisted the handle and opened it up.
The room inside was huge—palatial even; it could’ve bunked an army. One wall was lined with books—the older, the better, it seemed—with chairs and a bar, and then another wall was just mirrors, which was a little creepy. They were all different shapes, with separate ornate frames, and all their glass was fogged. Who the hell collected this many mirrors, and why? Rich people—with bad taste.
And then, in the middle of the room, near the windows which were letting in light from the oncoming dawn was Mr. No-Name, lying shirtless in the middle of a very large bed. The green stains clearly led up the carpeting directly to him.
No, no, no…enough weirdness for the night. This was not something she would be investigating. Helllllll, no!
But Mr. No-Name’s features were softer now that he was asleep. And he looked…just like the pictures of Damian Blackwood that she’d googled up—the old, grainy ones that were scanned in from old newspapers with no originals. And…also a lot like the younger one with the same name she’d read about too—the asshole cousin with the fancy car and a different girl on his arm every weekend.
None of that explained why he was bleeding green, though.
There are dragons in this world, my dear. Real dragons.
She crept up to the bed’s edge. If only she knew how to drive, then she could just rifle through his clothes for car keys.
“Hello?” she asked again at the foot of the bed, tempted to knee the mattress. “Hey…I want to go home now.”
When he didn’t stir, she leaned in and caught a whiff of something that was the worst stink she’d ever smelled—no small feat considering she was an ICU nurse. Her nose wrinkled, her body recoiled, and then…bliss. Like a good night with girlfriends after drinking a whole bottle of wine, or like the haze you got before an Ambien made you go to sleep. Soft and gentle bliss. She was safe, and she knew she wouldn’t have to worry about anything ever again. Things…everything—her job, this job, her missing brother—finally felt easy.
And Mr. Blackwood—who’d already been the hottest man she’d ever seen in person—was now utterly irresistible.
Sure, he was bleeding electric green fluids from a gash between his ribs, and she should definitely be concerned about that—said a small and shrinking part of her mind—but why not just take a moment to appreciate the perfection of the rest of him, first? Andi put a knee on the mattress and slowly crawled up on the side opposite the bleeding to get a better look. She hadn’t seen him with his shirt off yet, after all. She hadn’t known the way his strong hands became muscular arms, the kind that could pick a girl up and carry her off without even trying. The way his shoulders framed his torso, and the way the muscles made his chest worth licking, down to a ripple of abs and a fine trail of hair leading down…
She was practically hovering over him now and while—this is out of character for you! Stop it!—howled inside from somewhere far away, the rest of her wanted to know everything about him. How he smelled, how he tasted, how it would feel when she touched him, and how it would feel when he touched her…preferably deep inside.
Would he mind?
She brought her hand up to brush the angular slope of his cheek.
“Hey,” she whispered.
His golden eyes fluttered open, taking her in, and they had an oddly inhuman sheen. “Hmmm?”
“Wake up,” she urged him. “Wake up enough to say yes.”
He blinked. “Yes to—”
She leaned forward and planted her lips on his, swallowing whatever he was going to say next. In an instant, his head tilted to make his mouth fit hers perfectly, letting her tongue push in, and his hands were rising up the inside of the fur coat she’d stolen downstairs. Then he was fiercely kissing her back, his lips urgent against hers, his tongue pressing into her mouth, and although she was the one hovering above him, it felt like she was falling in—into what, she didn’t know—but she never wanted to land. This was what she’d always been looking for, and she hadn’t even known it.
One of his arms circled her waist, pulling her closer to him, and his other hand slid up her ribs to hold her breast and swipe a thumb against her nipple as she melted into him. If need could be made manifest, she felt it pulse from him, and everything in her wanted to answer its call. She shivered and let go, her body asking him for more, ready for anything, when he rose up and pushed her back, roughly.
“What?” Andi wasn’t sure precisely what she’d done wrong when all she wanted to do was make him happy.
“Goddammit,” he said, his voice hoarse, looking at her, clutching his hand to his bleeding side. “Grim, please exchange all the air in this room now and don’t stop till I say so.”
“But I can explain!” she went on, even though she couldn’t, as a sudden breeze sprang up from nowhere.
“No…just…be quiet.” He put a hand out to stop her from talking, and she bit her lips to obey. He was so handsome and magical and smart! How had she ever thought she could ever leave his side?
“Listen, this isn’t you.” He rocked himself over to the side of the bed to stand, and Andi noticed the pool of green he left behind him had gotten larger in the meantime. “Just go outside, find Austin, and tell him to pay you and take you home. I need to go bathe.”
Andi was torn between staying quiet like she’d been told and mentioning the blood, like the nurse-voice inside of her demanded. Her fear of him being hurt quickly won out over her fear of disobedience. “But, are you okay?”
“No,” he growled without looking back at her. “You don’t actually want me, and I have a completely inappropriate hard-on. I am not okay.”
“Because of the green blood?” she guessed, trying harder to help him.
“What’re you…” he said, turning back, seeing the trail of green he’d left behind, looking down at his own hand covered in the stuff. “Shit. Sometimes the scales make it hard to feel things.” She didn’t know what to make of that, or what he said next. “Why aren’t I healing?” He reached for the wound and then gasped, before crumpling to the ground.
Andi watched in horror—was he dying? She’d only just found him!—and ran over to his side.
His blood was definitely green and seeping out of a large gash between his ribs. Fresh air was buffeting against her face now and kneeling on the ground beside him she could feel all her uncertainty return, closely followed by a steamroller of anxiety and a semi-truck of self-doubt.
What-what the hell had just happened? She’d almost jumped him—what the fuck? She knew she needed to get laid, but come on, have some self-respect, girl!
But nurse-mode came and saved her from a spiral of embarrassment and shame. Even if his blood was green—presumably, it needed a heart to pump. She felt for a pulse and watched for chest rise. He was alive, but something was hurting him—she could tell by the excruciated look on his face. She tugged his arm away from his chest to see better, positioning him until she could see the wound—where there was a thorn jutting out.
Or more like a stinger. Of a giant dead bee. And it was still pumping something bad into him.
What the ever-loving fuck? She desperately glanced around. There was a bar set on the bar with tongs for ice. She raced for them and returned.
“I’m pretty sure this is going to hurt,” she warned him, then grabbed the stinger and yanked it out. Poison still dripped from its tip, and suddenly the bar tongs were a lot shorter than she wanted. She threw the thing across the room—tongs and all—and looked back at him.
“Mr. Blackwood?” She shook him gently. He was still breathing evenly. She didn’t think he’d popped a lung—only the tear in his side kept leaking green blood. “Damian?” she prodded, taking a guess that seemed more possibly correct all the time.
He suddenly shook his head, and when he opened his eyes, they were as human as ever. He blinked at her, pushing himself up on his arms. “What’re you still doing here? I thought you were a dream. And…what happened to your own clothes?” His hand reached for his side while staring at her. “Is that…one of my grandmother’s furs?”
Andi clutched the coat defensively, suddenly aware she was wearing something that probably cost more than her monthly rent and not much else. “No. I mean…it may be…but I got lost, and I stumbled and fell into your pool.”
He looked adorably confused. “My…pool?”
“No.” She held up her hand and frowned at him. “You’re leaking green; you don’t get to ask questions. What the hell happened to you…Damian?”
He frowned at the use of his name, clearly surprised that she had figured it out. Score one for me, she thought.
“Did you get attacked by…whatever it was that attacked your friend?”
“Not today.” He glowered at her. “You’ve completed your duties by staying the night. Now go away.” He rolled up and onto his knees, to stand and walk away from her.
“You’re kidding me, right?” she asked, following him. “You dripped a trail of blood all the way to your room.” She pointed down at the ground, only the green stains were gone. They couldn’t have been all in her head. She’d seen them. “Don’t you want a report on your friend, whoever he is?”
“Is he alive?”
“Then it’s fine. I’m fine.”
“Like I haven’t heard that before.” She put her hands on her hips where they wouldn’t be tempted to touch him. “Look, even though somehow you turn me into a walking sexual harassment case, I’m not going to leave you when you’re bleeding. Even if it is green.”
“It was a huge gash! You’re lucky I didn’t call nine-one-one!”
Damian, now that she was sure it was him, took in a breath and released it, then held his arms up so she could inspect him. She walked a quick circle around him—he had abs like fucking whoa—andcouldn’t see the wound anymore.
She bit her lips and scanned the room. He was healed somehow, and there was no longer a pool of green blood on his bed, and she couldn’t see where she’d thrown the stinger or the bar tongs, despite the fact that there was no one else in the room to move them.
“Satisfied?” he asked her.
“Not even vaguely,” she said. She watched her phrase spark a challenge in his eyes, one he just as quickly quenched—his face losing all the softness it’d held when he’d been asleep or injured—returning to its cold and slightly disapproving baseline.
“Go find Austin. He’ll pay you and take you home. Forget all the rest,” he said. She didn’t move a muscle, and he sighed. “Please, for the first time in your life—I’m sure—just do as you’re told.”
Her resolve to get to the bottom of things wavered. She’d already known this place was impossibly strange, but somehow, he was the strangest thing of all. Even without the insta-lust and green blood. There was just something…improbable…about him.
“Fine,” she said with a sigh. She’d spent enough nights trying to convince doctors that things were going bad before lab values proved her right to know that no one wanted to listen to the unbelievable until they had to.
“Thank you,” he said with a slight nod of his head. He turned and started walking toward what was presumably a bathroom. “Grab clothes from my closet and leave the fur behind. It has sentimental value.”
Before she could respond, the door closed behind him.
Check back tomorrow for the next chapter of the story!
This is the fourth piece of a Instagram Collage Puzzle about the story. Come follow Kara on Instagram for more and see how the picture develops!