Authors: SM Reine
Tags: #werewolf romance, #such tasty pickles, #angel romance, #paranormal romance, #witch fantasy, #demon hunters, #sexy urban fantasy, #sexy contemporary fantasy romance
Of Wings and Wolves
Copyright © 2012 SM Reine
Published by Red Iris Books
Series by SM Reine
Gwyneth Gresham stood in the
doorway of the new world with an infant cradled in each arm. She had expected something monumental to mark her passage into an entirely different universe—choirs and trumpets, maybe, or some kind of alarm bells. But she was only greeted by an empty cave with a note written on the wall in chalk. It read,
The nearest town is ten miles north. Follow the rising sun. Ask for me at the book shop
She turned back to see where she had come from and found nothing but smooth wall. The door was gone. The babies’ mother was on the other side, just two steps away, yet utterly unreachable.
Gwyn’s heart gave a nauseous flip-flop, and she hugged the twins tighter. The boy squirmed. “It’s okay,” she whispered. It was only the first of a thousand lies she would have to tell, now that she was in the Haven.
She climbed the tunnel leading to the surface and stood on the brink of a wide wilderness. The trees sparkled with autumn, a cool breeze promised winter, and the ground was carpeted with rotting leaves. It might have looked like home if she hadn’t left behind a rainy spring evening on the other side of that door.
, the note said. Heck of a walk.
Gwyn took off her shawl, wrapped it like a sling, and slid her grandniece into the side. The boy remained against her shoulder. One free arm would have to be good enough.
The girl sought out a breast and mewled in protest when she only found shirt. “Don’t fuss, babe. Your mama will be back soon,” Gwyn promised.
She glanced down the tunnel one more time, but it was empty.
Gwyn began to walk. The babies slept.
Their mother never followed.
Twenty years later.
It wasn’t often that Summer
had a cooler head than her brother, Abram. In fact, she could count the number of times that he had freaked out on her toes and still have an entire paw left over. But on the rare occasions that he did lose his shit, Summer relished it. She liked pretending to be the superheroically calm twin for once.
“You’ll be fine,” she said, trying to channel her grandma’s reassuring gravity. She loosened Abram’s tie, twisted it around, and cinched it tight again to make the knot symmetrical. “You’re more qualified for this position than anyone else in the entire world. They might as well send home all of the other candidates right now.”
Abram’s lips tightened and his jaw clenched, which was, on his personal “Panic Scale,” the rough equivalent of screaming and running in circles. “That’s optimistic.”
She beamed at him. “It’s a good day for optimism.”
a beautiful day on the Marut University campus—the kind of balmy March afternoon that was so rare a ditch day should have been spontaneously and unanimously declared by the student body. Who wanted to be learning when it was seventy degrees out and the air smelled like blooming flowers? Nobody. That’s who.
wanted a chance to earn fifty thousand dollars.
This was the semester in which MU had opened its new archaeological studies wing. The aging university had received that particular blessing from the owner of Adamson Industries, who recently announced his intentions to hire a student intern—a job that meant awesome elbow-rubbing, prestige, and a fifty thousand dollar scholarship.
So instead of swimming in the lake, getting drunk on the beach, or any other wonderful way to spend such a day, over a hundred hopefuls were sweating it out in suits on the quad. And the interviewing students weren’t alone. The CEO of Adamson Industries was the richest man in the world, but he hadn’t been seen in public for years; just about the whole town was crammed into the quad, hoping to catch a glimpse.
“Nobody even knows what the internship entails,” Abram said.
Summer had been bouncing around to get a view of the library doors, but she stopped at her brother’s voice. “Huh?”
“You said I’m the most qualified for the position, but we don’t even know what the position does yet. I’m just an art major. And I’m eighty-ninth on the interview list.” He tugged on his sleeves again, even though the line of his jacket was already perfect. She flicked his knuckles to make him stop.
Summer had no idea how they planned to choose the intern out of so many candidates, but each student had been assigned an interview block that was only three minutes long. Abram wouldn’t get long to make an impression.
“Being eighty-nine just means that the eighty-eight people before you are wasting their time,” Summer said.
He rolled his eyes, but she could tell that he was trying not to smile. “It
that this Adamson guy will be bored by the time he gets to my interview…if he even shows up for it.”
“Shut your pessimistic mouth, Gresham. I’ll hear none of it.”
She shoved him lightly, and he shoved her back, but they couldn’t really get into a fistfight while Abram was dressed for his interview. Nothing like grass stains to ruin that good first impression. There wasn’t enough room to tussle properly anyway; everyone was trying to gather around the library doors, and the crowd filled the quad all the way back to the English department.
Abram eyed the crowd and started tugging on his sleeves again. “You should be interviewing, Summer. You’re so much more charming than I am.”
“You’re the one dying to talk Mr. Adamson into building a new art department. I don’t even want a job.” Summer flicked his knuckles one more time. “Stop that. You’re ruining the illusion of being the perfect candidate.”
He lifted his eyebrows toward his nonexistent hairline. Abram had recently shaved his head again. Between his cue ball skull and massive shoulders, he looked a little bit like a thug. But a very professional thug. “The illusion? I thought you said that I’m the most qualified person in the entire world.”
“Oh, you know what I mean,” Summer said.
“I don’t think I do.”
“You’re perfect. That’s what I mean. Also, shut up.”
The crowd chose that moment to push toward the library doors harder than before. A young woman teetering on the grass in heeled pumps bumped into Abram’s back, and he staggered. Summer grabbed his arm to keep him from falling.
There was something hard and crusty under her fingers, near his left elbow. She tugged his sleeve out so that she could see.
“I got hungry,” he said with the sorrowful tone of someone who had just been caught at the scene of a murder. He fidgeted with his sleeve again, and Summer realized that he had been trying to turn the cloth so that the stain would be hidden at his side. “I had a tofu dog while you were in class this morning, and I accidentally leaned on the wrapper.”
Summer’s jaw dropped. “And you tried to hide it from me? That was three hours ago! I could have washed the jacket by now!” Abram opened his mouth, but she cut him off by flicking him again—this time in the forehead. “Not a word, baldy. Wait right here.”
She fought her way out of the crowd and hurried for the nearest bathroom. There was no chance that she could reach the library with the mosh pit on the stairs, but Hanlon Hall was next door, and the sidewalk in front was empty.
There was more commotion inside the building than she expected. Summer rushed past student services, and it looked like nobody was actually working at their desks. Everyone was leaning through the windows and doorways to stare down the hall.
Summer practically had to punch her way to the bathroom. “Sorry, sorry,
,” she whispered as she elbowed past a cluster of instructors. Nobody even glanced at her.
She shoved through the doors. Every stall in the restroom stood open and unoccupied, and nobody was in front of the mirrors.
Ah, sweet solitude.
She yanked a fistful of paper towels out of the dispenser on the wall and soaked them under a faucet. Summer’s black curls almost swung into the line of fire, but she pushed them back before they could get wet. Then she grabbed a paper cup and filled that, too. She was willing to bet that Abram hadn’t thought to hydrate himself when he bought a tofu dog.
Summer looked at herself and plastered a preemptive apologetic smile on her lips.
Back into the trenches
Something in her teeth caught her eye. She leaned into the mirror, peeled back her lip, and tongued her right canine. Was that rabbit fur caught in her fang? Oh man, she must have been walking around with breakfast sticking out of her teeth all day.
Picking the fur out with her thumbnail, she flicked it into the trash and rushed for the door again, paper towels and cup in hand.
The door slammed open—and slammed into someone.
Summer hadn’t been expecting her momentum to be interrupted, so she dropped the cup. At least, she
have dropped the cup, if there hadn’t been a very broad chest covered in a very expensive suit in her way.
She stared at the wet spot on the jacket as it spread. Her smile vanished. “Oh,
Summer looked up to see who she had hit.
It wasn’t a faculty member. In fact, she wasn’t even sure that he was human.
Only a god could look like
The rest of the world completely vanished as she stared at this towering man. She was tall for a woman and she still had to look up to meet his gaze.
He had blue eyes, so bright and pale that they were nearly colorless, like the way the sun burned away the sky on a hot day. And those eyes were set in the kind of face that Summer had only ever seen carved on marble statues: dimpled chin, high cheekbones, strong nose, lips that tilted into a frown. The sweep of brunette hair falling over his forehead saved him from looking too old-fashioned; it was a modern cut to match his modern suit.
His modern, expensive,
Apologies failed to escape her mouth. She moved to dry him off with the paper towels—wait, except that those were wet, too. That wasn’t going to help.
What are you thinking, Gresham?
Trick question. She wasn’t thinking at all with him looking at her like that.
The instant her hand moved toward his jacket, he caught her wrist and held it tight. “It’s you,” he murmured, his voice somehow both silken and rough. Her jaw dropped open, leaving her gaping silently for a full ten seconds before she could respond.
“Me?” Summer asked. Her ears were ringing in the aftermath of those two little words. She never wanted to hear another voice again.
He used her wrist to tug her closer, and his smell enveloped her. Summer was used to all the normal smells of a human, both natural and artificial, and he had none of them—neither sweat nor cologne. Not even a hint of laundry detergent. Instead, he smelled like a hot breeze blowing over dry grass, the ash of a forest fire, the musk drifting from a forest of ancient trees.
“Forget about me,” Summer said. “What are
The question made his eyes spark. Was that a response on his lips…or something else?
But someone new was there, touching his arm, trying to catch his attention. Summer realized that everything had gone quiet because of a shocked silence. Everyone, from staff to faculty, was staring at her for splashing water on some gorgeous guy in Hanlon Hall.
“Running late, sir,” said another man, tapping his wrist. Ordinarily, his ginger hair and freckles might have caught her eye—Summer liked the nerdy types—but she could barely even see him now. Her standards for men had been instantly, irrevocably ruined.
The god she had run into finally looked away, and Summer breathed for the first time in minutes.
She stared at his retreating back. He was followed by four people, all of whom clamored for his attention—clearly some kind of entourage. Her eyes dropped to the seat of his trousers. This god wasn’t just in possession of an incredibly broad chest and smoldering eyes. He also had the nicest butt she had ever seen.
He took a last glance at her before turning the corner, and Summer realized too late that he had caught her staring at his ass. His gaze scorched straight to her core.