Chapter Four

Aria ​​

Tonight, was a rare night off, and I made the most of it in the only way I knew how. Ice-cream and a new book. I usually cleared out the shelf at Goodwill of the cheapest used books, and romance was my favourite. The single orphan liked to read about love, friendship and found family. So, sue me.

I sat out on the back deck until the insects started to eat me, then headed inside.

Inside the trailer, I still slept in the same room that I had since I was child. Billy had decorated it, with all sorts of crystals, and dream catchers. When I’d been younger, it had been so lame, but now he was gone, I loved it.

I flipped the pages of my book slowly at first, getting into the characters and setting, and then quicker as the romance started to heat up. It was a taboo love story, where a young actress was falling for her bodyguard, and it was steamy.

I was just turning to the first, eagerly anticipated sex scene, when a sound from the living room floated to me. I stiffened, dropping the book and staring down the hallway.

The front door was locked, I’d made sure of it, hadn’t I?

I sat up slowly, wishing I was wearing more than I was. I had on tiny cotton shorts that crept up my ass, and a thin camisole without a bra. It was too hot for more. Happenstance was breaking a hundred degrees some days, and nights in the trailer were sticky as well.

I inched toward the door, wishing I’d brought my weapons into my room. Billy had left me a taser, pepper spray and a gun without bullets. All of them were in a drawer in the sitting room.

“Hello?” I heard myself call before I could think better of it.

Great, Aria, warn the robber that you’re coming.

“I’m on the phone with my boyfriend, he’s a cop,” I called along the hallway. I paused just outside the sitting room. Maybe I’d imagined it. Maybe it had been outside.

As time ticked past, my fear dropped. I was being silly and wasting my free night hiding in my own trailer. Steeling myself, I stepped out and looked all around the room.

I froze, taking in the sight before me.

A crow sat on the breakfast bar, calmly standing on the back of a book. It let out a caw when it saw me.

“You!” I shrieked, throwing reason and logic out the window. I was sure at that moment that it was the very same crow that had been on my car this morning. “Get out of here,” I cried, and grabbed the nearest thing I could, a folded newspaper, and chucked it at the bird. It hopped to the side, and ruffled it’s feathers indignantly, like I was the rude one.

“I said get out!” I rushed at it, and this time, it moved.

It flapped toward the door, and I reached for the handle, wondering how the hell it had gotten in to begin with. I pushed the door open, and the crow flapped out.

“I see you’ve noticed my pet. Well done, Ivo,” a deep voice said. I stumbled back, shock robbing me of my thoughts.

Stone. He was here, staring at me.

 “Hello, Aria. I confess I planned to take this slower, but I couldn’t wait any longer,” he said, in a deep voice that seemed to rub along my bones.

“What are you doing here?” I asked, my voice sounding breathy and anxious to my ears.

Get a grip, Aria, this guy seems dangerous.

He advanced a step, and my hand shot out. I held it out before me as if the move alone could prevent this powerful stranger from coming in if he decided to. When in doubt, brazen it out.

“I’ve been looking for you for a very long time. Imagine my surprise when I saw you this morning, at that hovel you work in,” he said. “William hid you well.”

“You knew Billy?” It didn’t seem likely someone so young and rich looking would have known Billy, but how else did he know his name? I thought about the rest of what he had said.

“We’ve never met before,” I stated flatly. Stone surprised me by laughing. It was a wicked sound.

“You still want to play?  It’s time for the games to end, Aria. I’ve found you. You’re caught. Don’t be a sore loser, princess,” he said. I suddenly realised that while I was trying to figure out what the hell was going on, Stone had stepped into the trailer, his powerful body taking up every inch of space. I wouldn’t be able to move him if I tried.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. You must have me confused with someone else. We just met. But in case you did really know my godfather, you should know, he passed away six months ago.”

Stone nodded, looking satisfied. “I am aware. I’d never have found you if that interfering old fae had still been around.”

What the hell? Maybe this guy was crazy, stranger things had happened.

Stone advanced further into the trailer, making me panic.

“If he wasn’t dead when I found you, I would have killed him myself for keeping you from me for so long,” Stone said, making my heart stop. His eyes lowered down my body taking in my tiny shorts and see-through camisole. “Though, I have to give it to him for keeping you so… untouched… for me.”

His word sent blood rushing to my cheeks. “What the hell are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about the fact that at least your godfather managed to keep human hands off you, or else I’d have to go on a killing spree, before I brought you home. I’m talking about your purity… I can smell it, Aria. It’s mine, just like you body, heart and soul is.”

Blood beat in my cheeks, and I couldn’t meet his eyes for a moment. He could tell I was a virgin? Everything in me cringed at that. The rest of the words were confounding. His??

“I don’t know you, and I want you to leave this trailer right now, or I’ll call the cops,” I said stiffly.

Stone’s face was still a moment, and then he grinned. I felt the blood draining from my face. His smile was positively wicked. It made all the blood rush around my body, and a primal need to run burned in my legs.

“Go ahead,” he said, advancing another step. “I’ll kill anyone who comes between us.”

I stepped back, aware that I wasn’t going to be able to stop this man from entering, so I had to think of something else. Did I really think the Happenstance police department could take him? No, probably not. The aura of power he wore was so thick, I felt like I could see shadows coating his legs.

“What are you?” I gasped out, as he continued his slow advance on me.

Stone stopped at my words and tilted his regal head to the side. It was like being watched by a wolf that isn’t quite sure if they want to eat you for dinner or play with you a little more.

“You really don’t know? You, Aria, don’t know what I am?” he asked slowly, disbelievingly.

“I really don’t know. What, are you famous or something? Or a debt collector? Nothing here is worth anything,” I spat out, finally backing against the drawer where my small collection of weapons sat. I fumbled for the taser. Stone looked down at the noise of rummaging, but seemed unconcerned. I wrapped my hand around the taser and could have cried. The plastic in my hand gave me confidence. “You won’t get anything out of me, so you might as well go.”

He chuckled, but there was nothing funny in it. The sound sent my overwhelmed nerves into further disarray. “I won’t get anything out of you? That’s funny. You’ve become funny in your old age, Aria, darling.”

Suddenly, he seemed to have crossed the room before I could register it. One minute he was by the door, the next he was right in front of me, close enough to smell. He smelled like night-blooming flowers, and warm, dark things. Like midnight fires, and deep, still lakes. I had no idea what those things smelled like, but a rush of images accompanied his scent, flying through my mind as I inhaled him.

“I’ll take everything from you, every single thing. Your innocence, your fidelity and your power… You best make your peace with that now,” he continued. I slowly registered his threat. Alarm filled me.

“What the hell do you mean?” I demanded, my voice weaker than I’d like, but my hand was strong on the taser, I just had to pick my moment.

“I mean that I, Stone Acanthus, own you, Aria Sunsong, and I have since the day you were born. Your time hiding and running is over. It’s time to come home. My home, as mine.”

I didn’t take in those startling and bizarre words; I couldn’t. Instead, I held his dark, molten gaze, as I pulled the taser from my bag, and in one, quick motion shot the prongs right into his neck.

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