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Authors: Courtney Lyn Batten

The Corollaria (9 page)

BOOK: The Corollaria
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And then, with an intense tingling sensation prickling along her skin, she found Luke. His gray eyes found her a second later, and he pushed through the crowded platform.  He paused before he reached her, and her stomach twisted in a tight knot. She wanted his arms around her. His stormy eyes narrowed, his lips thinned into a straight line.
The muscle in his jaw twitched.

Emily followed Luke’s gaze to her hand, clasped tightly with Curtis’s, and felt the blush color her cheeks. She started to withdraw her hand, and for a mome
nt Curtis’s grip only tightened. When she looked up, his dark eyes were on her too. A moment later, he reluctantly released her fingers and looked away.

“What time is it?” Curtis asked Luke finally after a tense, seemingly endless, minute of silence.

Luke’s eyes were still on Emily when he spoke, his voice rough, “It’s close to six.”

Curtis nodded, with worried eyes he surveyed the entrance to the street above.  “Is it, uh, dark yet?”

Luke finally looked at him, and furrowed his brow a moment. Truthfully, Luke felt sick. His hand was already shaking. He wanted so badly to touch her, to make sure she was okay. He felt fiercely protective with Curtis standing here, knowing what he was, what he had done to her. The image of Emily’s bloody neck made a jolt of heat vibrate along his spine.

“Close enough,” h
e said evenly. Luke’s hand reached out to grab Emily’s. But he paused, curling his fingers into a fist. Emily saw the muscle in his jaw jump again. Her stomach dropped to her knees as Luke turned away and headed to the exit. Curtis and Emily were fast on his heels.

A surge of anger, hurt and rebellion bubbled up in Emily, and she reached for Curtis’s hand as they weaved through the cro
wded terminal. Her slender fingers clutched and curled around his. Pulling her along, Curtis swallowed hard as they ascended the stairs.

It was twilight. A soft splash of light still brightened the graying blue sky. Emily released Curtis’s hand as they stepped onto the busy street corner
. Cool crisp autumn air swirled around them.  Emily looked up through her lashes at Curtis, and he offered her a small smile. There was a look in his eyes she couldn’t quite decipher.

“Emily,” Carson’s familiar voice called. She could feel the relief and then grim determination from him
tickle the soft hairs on her arms. She tried to manage a smile, but it felt off.

Carson looked the same as always though, brawny and serious. She could imagine him as a bodyguard or a bouncer at some hip club. But the smile he managed to offer her, just a small crooked lift of one side of his mouth and the accompanying softness in his eyes gave her that brotherly connection she always thought she should have with Luke.

Next to him, Jenny smiled tightly. Her lips were painted red, matching the color of her short hair. Her gold eyes studied Emily and then Luke and Curtis who both stood somewhat awkwardly at her sides.

              Her lips quirked up and she rolled her eyes, “Well, let’s not waste time standing around drowning in teenage angst. We gotta hurry.”

The five of them turned and begin walking quickly down the busy sidewalk.

“Where are we going exactly?” Emily asked after a few minutes. Her legs already ached from the hours of walking and her whole body still felt weak from her blood being drained.

“The Hidden City,” Jenny answered her. She looked at her from the corner of her eye, then hooked her arm with hers, pulling her along. “We have to go through Central Park.”

Emily felt off-balanced. Luke was a werewolf. Carson apparently too.  Curtis was a vampire.  Her blood gave vampires immortality. There was another vampire who had once been in love with her grandmother supposedly and wants her blood and who knows what else.  Luke was her wolf, who apparently didn’t want her, and now she was questioning whether her feelings for him were even real.  Or the product of something else. 

Her head was spinning,
her mind reeling.

And now Jenny. How did she fit into all of this? Was she like her and Carson was her wolf?

A few blocks in the distance she saw the beginnings of Central Park. Trees with colorful leaves and lots of people milling about decorated the landscape.  Emily stopped walking, resting her head against her hand as she leaned against a light pole.

Luke felt tense. It was an entirely unfamiliar feeling for him.  He was trying to process the surge of emotions inside him. Emily was in danger. That was the only thought he could focus on. Distantly he recognized the possessiveness he felt when he saw Curtis’s hand laced with hers, but tried to ignore it. 
That was proving to be an impossible feat.

Mine. Mine. Mine,
the wolf chanted.

He glanced behind him.
Emily was slumped against the light pole, looking shaken and defeated. Everything inside him came undone in that instant. Without pause or hesitation he was suddenly in front of her. He pulled her hands from her face and ducked his head to meet her eyes as all pretenses fell away.

Her blue eyes glimmered in the twilight, watery and afraid. His large warm
hands gently cupped her cheeks. His thumb captured the one tear Emily let fall. The need to comfort her outweighed every other thought.

“Shhh
,” he breathed. Luke leaned forward and rested his nose against her cheek. His mouth was so close to hers, the warmth of his lips seared her skin. “What’s wrong, honey?”

A week ago, he would have never touched her like this. Especially not with Curtis a few feet away. But, just as in the alley after she had been attacked, all he could think about was her well-being. Nothing else registered. The need to touch her was overwhelming.
Consuming.

Emily didn’t know how to tell him everything that she was thinking. She could barely form a coherent thought with him so close to her.  Luke continued to coo softly, his deep husky voice made warmth blossom in her chest.

Luke slid his hand down to her neck. His fingers traced the not fully healed scars left from Samuel.

Luke pulled back and frowned. She raised her hand and covered his,
taking in a deep shaky breath.

“I just don’
t understand what’s going on,” she whispered. Over Luke’s shoulder she saw Curtis and Carson and Jenny standing a few feet away. Emily and Luke’s proximity, the intimacy of their moment, registered, and she blushed furiously, looking down at her feet.

“We have to go to the Hidden City and meet with the Faerie Queen. We need her help to protect you,” Luke told her. He pulled his hands away and
roughly ran one through his hair.

“You’re my wolf,” she whisp
ered, still looking at her feet. There was no way she could look at him when she said that.

Luke swallowed thickly, and then curled his finger unde
r her chin, raising her eyes up to meet his. All the air was suddenly sucked out of their little bubble. The traffic noise faded to a low hum in the background and a soft breeze tickled her face.

Luke felt her words more than heard them.  It was inexplicable. A surge of emotions rose so quickly to the surface.  He didn’t want to fight them. He just wanted her.

“Yes. I am.”

Luke leaned forward.  H
is lips touched hers, a soft warm caress.  Everything inside Emily felt undone.  Her eyes fluttered close and she leaned against him. Luke pressed his mouth more firmly to hers, and lost himself in the moment as their lips continued to just delicately brush against each other.

Carson cleared his throat.
Emily’s already flushed cheeks burn with what she was sure was a deep rich scarlet.  Luke pulled away with, Emily noted, a faint rosiness to his cheeks too. His eyes locked with hers for a moment, and there was no mistaking the want that smoldered there.

Curtis felt
awkward and alone. And, he realized with some surprise, somewhat relieved. He knew, no matter how he felt about Emily, that she belonged with Luke. The vampire he had become, that wanted another taste of her blood and what Samuel had promised him, struggled with the lingering humanity in Curtis that simply wanted her to be okay.

When Luke turned around, he noticed this resignation in Curtis and felt a stab of guilt. He also noticed the barely restrained annoyance in Jenny’s face, and the urgency in Carson’s eyes.

Luke smiled to himself and, this time, grabbed Emily’s hand.

Chapter 8

 

 

A
heavy darkness had descended on the park as the group walked into a thick copse of trees. Emily felt something peculiar tickle her skin, and she squeezed Luke’s fingers in response. He turned his head and smiled, and for a moment it was so real and genuine and just so
Luke
that her heart soared in response.

But, as she glanced over at Curtis, she couldn’t help but feel guilty. She’d basically chosen Luke. And kissed him right in front of Curtis.  She’d never wanted to hurt Curtis. She sighed.  She wasn’t even sure how to make this situation right.

Luke couldn’t help but feel a small pebble of guilt in his chest at the calmness, the rightness, of having Emily’s hand in his gave him. 

Her wolf
.

Exactly how much of what he felt for Emily was the wolf's doing, and how much of this was his own heart?

Luke didn't know for sure. But what he did know was that Emily deserved a hell of a lot more than a guy who was only half there. She deserved something real and genuine. She deserved... a guy who looked at her the way she looked at him. And with that realization the smile fell right off his face.

Emily frowned, her footing slipped and she stumbled forward. Luke caught her, effortlessly, as Jenny came to a halt in front of them.

“Okay,” Jenny announced. “We’re here.”

Emily looked around
a furrow puckered her brows.

They were standing in a dense cropping of trees, markings on two of which immediately caught her eye. Somehow, they were both familiar and strange.
Something had changed about the woods as they moved through it.  Emily looked down at her feet as a light twinkle caught her eyes. And then, suddenly, as if someone turned on a switch, the whole forest floor lite up with strange shimmering turquoise colored leaves and flowers.

Emily
looked at Curtis on her right. His eyes were wide with amazement and disbelief.

Luke’s gaze was steady on Curtis’s face as he looked at Emily. He wasn’t exactly sure what he was looking for, but he didn’t find it in his dark eyes.

Jenny led them silently between the two trees. The air shimmered as Emily passed through and when she opened her eyes she was suddenly standing in a large clearing. A beautiful city, with white stone and marbled buildings, stark against the green foliage that surrounded it stood in front of her. There were giant sloping peaks for roofs, narrow bustling streets and large almost Grecian looking columns, decorated with brightly colored tiles and paintings. And flowers. Bright burst of reds, dark seductive purples, pinks and oranges worthy of a sunset spilled out of windows, down iron trellises and crowded the stone walkways.

“Jennifer,” a
warm gruff voice said, stepping forward. A tall man with broad shoulders and shaggy black hair eyed Jenny with a mixture of surprise and weariness.

J
enny smiled a little sheepishly. “Hi, Randall.”

Several other men, all built similar to Randall, flanked his sides. They were dressed in black armor, with
swords slung over their shoulders. The handles of their daggers that were sheathed at their sides, glinted in the soft moonlight. The men’s eyes raked over the strangers with apprehension and suspicion.

“Jenny, I didn’t—”

“We need to speak with my mother, Randall. It’s important,” she interrupted him. Her tone was serious and grave with a small note of pleading. There was a shakiness to it that made Carson wrap his arm around her waist and squeeze her hip. A muscle in Randall’s jaw twitched.

Randall studied her for a long silent minute, taking in the electric gold of her eyes.  Finally, he nodded and then looked at Curtis. Jenny and Carson followed his gaze.

“He’s with us,” Carson said, frowning slightly at the way Randall had looked at Jenny. His arm around her waist tightened in response. 

“Vampires are not—” h
e began, but a man to his right with his black hair tied back into a messy ponytail at the nape of his neck and a dark, scratchy-looking goatee stepped forward.

His hazel eyes were trained on Curtis. “Son?”

Curtis eyes widened and he swallowed hard. He was suddenly and inexplicably ashamed. He nodded solemnly. His father’s arms were around him instantly. After a moment, he composed himself and stepped back, his hands still firmly gripping Curtis’s shoulders.

“Who did this to you?” John asked his son.

Curtis swallowed hard, his voice shook. “Samuel...”

The small group of Hunters gasped. Curtis was born to be one of them. To protect the Hidden City. To kill demons and vampires. His enemies. Every Hunter that stood in front of him that night felt a sick revulsion reel through them.

BOOK: The Corollaria
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ads

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