Chapter One

Opening my eyes slowly, I found myself in a tree. I was only vaguely aware of my surroundings. I couldn't quite place them, but they were familiar. A yell from beneath me caught my attention. Looking down, I found there was a struggle going on below between a man and a woman. The woman also looked familiar. Too familiar, in fact. Focusing in on the woman's face I found it was… Mom! She was fighting with some guy… at the bar she used to work at. Panic struck me and my breathing increased. I looked around in shock. I was back in La Luna Noche, the day that she died! I tried to climb down to get to her… to help, but I wasn't able to. I fell out of the tree and just kept falling…

I shot up in bed, breathing heavily and covered in a cold sweat. It had only been a nightmare. Mother had been dead several years now. Sighing deeply, I turned to look at the clock. 4:45, it read; the red numbers glaring malevolently in the darkness of my room. I groaned and rolled over. I would be at the first day of my last year of high school in a few hours.

'Joy...' I thought to myself sarcastically, shaking the effects of the dream off, 'Get a grip on yourself, Ravana Castico.'

I got up and stretched, muscles rippling gracefully under my pajamas. Unexplainably, I had always naturally had a lot of muscle for a female. It didn't show physically, as much, but I could bench-press more than half the guys I knew. I knew I was lean, well toned and powerful. It had always been that way, but it hadn't really caught my notice until I moved to Washington. Ever since I'd moved to live with my real family, I felt as though I was different from those around me, being stronger and more agile. It was depressing sometimes, being that I always stood out.

Yawning, I went to my vanity and picked up my hairbrush, still pondering about how life had changed since I had moved to live with my brother. I remembered that I hadn't always felt so out of place. I hadn't always had to walk down the city streets bearing odd glances with people skirting around me to get out of my way. Back in New Mexico, I blended a bit better with the people around me. Having bronze-tan skin and black hair was not uncommon, and the kids that I grew up with had been just as strong as me. The only things that really set me apart were my eyes. They were brown-violet in color and a large, almond shape; heavily veiled with long lashes.

I cast myself a distasteful look in the mirror. My full lips pursed in irritation as I pulled my long black hair into a braid. I didn't find myself terribly attractive, but I sure didn't feel as though I should be avoided the way I was. I might have been a bit anti-social to those outside my group, but I didn't see how that would provoke someone into going out of their way to keep from me. I cast myself another look as I set the brush down.

'Oh, well... it's not as though I'm looking for a male anyway. I don't like men.' I told myself as I padded my way to the stairs. It was the truth. I'd had a very bad encounter with a man and the only other men I'd let near me since then just seemed to want to tear my heart out and eat it. With a curl of my lip, I flew down the four flights of stairs just to get to the ground floor. Living in a mansion had its disadvantages. Having four flights of stairs to get to and from my room was one of them.

Then again, just living in a mansion itself was a disadvantage. Once people found out where I lived or that I had money, they instantly were my best friends in the world. I couldn't go anywhere without people hitting me up for money. It was tiring. Because of it, I longed to go back to live in New Mexico. That... and I missed my home there terribly. Tina, the one who had raised me when my mother died, had said I was always welcome to come back once I was out of school. I planned to do just that. I missed my godmother and god-siblings dearly. I longed to once again be accepted for who I was. The only thing that made me hesitate to go back was... the past that I would be going back to. There was someone waiting for me in New Mexico that I never wanted to see again.

Sighing heavily I made my way to get some breakfast. As I walked into the kitchen, I nearly ran over my brother, Trent.

"Why are you up so early, Ravana?" He asked with a look.
"I should ask you the same question, Trent." I replied, sticking my tongue at him as I passed, "You know I don't allow people to call me by my real name... are you asking for a few more scars to add to your collection?"

My brother was twenty-three this year; in his last year of college and, because of this, thought he was all that and a bag of chips. It annoyed me to no end, but I had effectively ignored it thus far.

He was born and raised there in Washington. Unfortunately, the fact that I hadn't been raised with him, caused a clash in our beliefs and values. My parents had gotten a divorce when I was three, and I was sent to live with my mother. Thus, leaving my father with custody of Trent. Father was a big-wig in the surrounding areas. He could have obtained custody of both of us, but he hadn't wanted me. He sent me and my mother off with less than pleasant words towards me. Trent and I grew up apart. However, after both our parents died, I was sent to live with Trent... in attempt to unite what was left of the Castico family. We had only been living together for six years so far, and drove each other crazy, to some extent.

I had no hate for Trent, but when I first moved in, I couldn't help but to look at him in distaste every time I laid eyes on him... he that looked so like the father I despised. Even my mother had grown to hate father so much; she had stated, specifically in her will, that if she were to ever die early, I was to go live with my godparents. This suited my father just fine. He despised me right back.

In all truth, no one could blame my mother for hating him. After all, he had beaten her within an inch of her life... who would blame her? I had never gotten over the fact that father had gotten custody of Trent. And yet, Trent worshiped the ground that Father had walked on and still treated his memory like Father had been some sort of god. In the first year I lived with Trent, I'd almost wanted to kill him for his views on our father. In the end, we agreed to disagree and Trent stopped mentioning Father.

We lived alone in the great mansion. That in itself had been a hard task to pull off. My mother had died when I was seven and, like her will had stated, I was sent to live with her best friend, my godmother, Latina Sandoval. We all called her Tina for short. Trent and I had no contact with each other from that point on. Though, even before that, we were practically strangers to each other. To me, at that young age, he was just someone who sent me a card every Christmas and, in return, got one back. It had never registered in my young mind that I even had a brother, aside from the semi-adopted ones I was living with at the time. All of this changed with a drop of a hat. Father fell ill and died without much notice, not leaving much of a last will behind. He left all of his possessions, the house, which had been in his family for ten generations, and enough money to pay the taxes on it for the rest of our lives... plus some for living expenses. Not to mention the life insurance and all that happy stuff. All of it went to me, much to my surprise, and Trent. But, other than that, he left not a clue as to what we were supposed to do. No godparents for Trent... nothing.

I had been ripped from my home in New Mexico and drug all the way to Washington, just to find out that Father had had no plan for our lives. By that time, I was twelve, and I had already gone through one parent dying, then shifting my life to match that of an other family's. I had been fed up and was not going to do that again. I'd pulled my brother aside and discussed it very calmly with him. He'd expressed his dislike of going back to New Mexico with me, saying that he was in his last year of high-school and didn't want to be uprooted. So, I prompted for a new plan. We would stay in the house given to us, without another family to worry about. He had been skeptical that it would work, but decided that it was the most satisfactory choice.

After that, we'd had to jump through so many court loopholes that Trent almost lost his good grades and the scholarship that came with them. Fortunately, he eventually got it worked out with the judge. The only reason being that we had enough money to live off of for a very long time and the fact that Trent was almost eighteen. In addition, Trent had a well-paying job already. So, at age seventeen, Trent shouldered the responsibilities of a parent and, with a small amount of adult supervision, took care of me... somewhat.

Even though I was not hard to take care of, I had been grateful to him ever since. He gave up a lot of liberties just to take me in when he could have just given me to a foster home. He decided that, even though we didn't know each other, he needed family just as much as I did. Loosing a parent was something that brought us together, even when our differences threatened to tear us apart. At first I loved him begrudgingly, only because he was my brother and I had to. Then, when I matured a little, I saw what he had had to give up for me. When my eyes were open, my heart opened towards him as well. I turned from the cold-hearted doll I had been, into a caring human being. Once my heart opened for him, his heart opened to me and we actually became true siblings. From that point on, we had our ups and downs, but nothing could ever tear the relationship we had apart.

Still reminiscing about what life had thrown at me, I sat with my bowl of cereal. A moment later Trent bound into the room, making karate battle cries and hitting me with his socks.

"Trent! You retard! Stop hitting me with your socks!" I yelled.
"I don't have to!" He yelled back playfully, hitting me with his socks once again.

I lashed out and tore one of the socks from his hand, making my own battle cry. I grinned evilly and we tore out of the kitchen, yelling and hitting each other with socks.

About an hour later, I trudged back up to my room, took a shower and dressed myself, having decided to go bug my friends, Zoë and Jamie. Zoë was not going to be happy about my little intrusion, but she'd have to deal. If I had to be up this early, someone had to suffer with me.

Zoë and Jamie Tellerman were my two best friends. They were twins, but, oddly enough, they didn't look much alike. They both had black hair, but where Jamie had long and usually braided hair, Zoë's was short and spiky with really long bangs. Where Zoë's eyes were silver, Jamie's were green. Were Zoë was tall… Jamie was short. Where Jamie was frail and childish-looking, Zoë was tough and had a whole lot of attitude. All in all, the only thing alike about them was their hair and skin color and their birth-date.

Grabbing my leather jacket and gloves as I left, I took off on my motorcycle; pausing just long enough to remember that I was supposed to wear a helmet. Curling my lip in disgust, I pulled the helmet on and I tore out of our mile-long driveway and up the street. I rode through the nice little suburb we lived in, then across town. Driving into one of the nicer neighborhoods, I pulled up in front of a nice, crisp white, two-story house. Parking my motorcycle and tossing my helmet carelessly on the back seat, I easily vaulted the fence, as I had done so many times before. I paused to pat their two Doberman Pincher guard-dogs, who came up to sniff at me playfully and I trudged my way across the dew-dampened grass. Standing underneath the balcony that connected to the twins' set of rooms, I looked up to eye my chosen path. With a yawn, I leapt up and grabbed the ledge of the balcony. Reaching up, I grabbed the railing, and swung myself over. Landing silently on the balcony floor, I quickly padded up to the French-doors so that I was not seen by the neighbors or anyone else. With a light tap on the doors, I was surprised to find Jamie already awake and sitting up reading a book. Grinning at her gasp of surprise, I pointed a finger at her and made an odd movement like I was laughing, but no sound emerged from my lips.

"Hey, Girl, how's it hangin'?" I asked as she opened the door.
"I should ask you the same thing. How did you get up here anyway?" She responded.
"Pure talent, girl, pure talent." I replied with a grin. "So, is 'it' up yet?"
"If the 'it' you're referring to is my sister, then, no."
"Ooo, can I wake her up?"
"Only if you wish to die a slow and painful death, then, fine."

Silently, I padded into the bathroom that adjoined the two sisters' rooms, and filled a glass of cold water. I steped out from the bathroom, through the door on the opposite from Jamie's, entering the den of the sleeping dragon. Standing a safe distance away, I threw the contents of the glass on Zoë. She shot up in bed as if she had been burned, then turned to me. Once she was coherent enough to look at me with a face of pure rage, I gave an evil laugh and tore out of the room, knowing well that she was right behind me. Managing to reach the balcony without dying, I leapt off, landing gracefully on the ground. Zoë came to the railing and said,

"Well, you might as well come back up. Since I'm already wet I might as well take a shower, so you're safe from my wrath, for the moment." Zoë said groggily.
"Aw, you could never hurt me, you like my money too much." I joked.

She laughed and said,

"Yah, how do I love you? Let me count... your money."

I laughed at her favorite quote and made my way back up. It wasn't true, what she said. Though, she would occasionally ask for me to buy her things, she was one of the few people that hung out with me because she liked my company, not my money. As I made my way through the doors, Jamie stated,

"Ha! You're lucky you're good friends with her, or else you wouldn't look as pretty as you do now."
"Yah, I believe it. She's got a temper almost as bad as me."

Jamie started to laugh at my comment but it froze somewhere in her throat, coming out a squeak of surprise.

"Hello, ladies, what are you up to?" Came a voice from behind me.

Freezing, every muscle tense and ready for attack, I turned to face the intruder.

"Aubrey! Don't do that to me! You scared me half to death!" Jamie screeched at me.

I winced, cursing my kind's heightened hearing. I had just come from a run in my wolf form when I saw a young lady leap from Jamie's balcony, Zoë at her heels. Protective of the Tellerman family, I'd gotten ready to attack the young woman that came flying from the balcony, pausing just long enough to ponder at how a human had managed the drop so gracefully. Zoë and Jamie were my friends and my first instinct was to eliminate any threat to them, naturally. In my hesitation, however, I'd been able to hear the comment made from Zoë, indicating that the lady-stranger was one of Zoë's human friends. I found this quite intriguing. Humans did not easily befriend our kind, being that, to them, we seemed kind of distant and dangerous. Which was one hundred percent correct, but for different reasons than their own.

My race, the Loupa, was the equivalent of the human myth of the Werewolf. But, instead of the ugly, nearly hairless creatures the humans viewed us as, we shifted into a form only slightly larger than a normal wolf. There was no difference other than that. I supposed what had spawned the human views was our halfling form, but, even so, we were no where near as atrocious as the creatures the humans had thought up. In this form, we had the head of a wolf, but still had the ability to speak in human tongue. Our bodies were that of a human heavily furred, with claws instead of fingernails; our posture slightly hunched, due to our back legs being more wolf than human, and with a tail protruding from our tailbone. Naturally, we were more muscled than the average human. In fact, our natural abilities had led the primitive man to hunt our ancestors down. Ever since then, even with the knowledge being lost to the humans, humans were wary of us on an instinctive level. Thus, causing them to shy away from our company. However, oddly enough, this woman seemed right at home.

"So, who might you be?" She asked, eyeing me suspiciously.

I grinned at her cautiousness. For a human, she seemed very adept at sensing a threat, as, earlier; I had intended to be one.

"I'm Aubrey Night, I'm one of Zoë and Jamie's more... unusual... friends." I answered, holding out my hand in a friendly gesture.

She eyed my hand, then reluctantly took it, saying,

"I'm Ravana Castico, one of Zoë and Jamie's school friends."

Instead of shaking her hand, brought it to my mouth, planting a gentlemanly kiss on her knuckles. She gave me a look that said, 'I will set you ablaze right now.' I grinned again and gave a bow.

"Lo seinto, mi' lady, I'm sorry. I did not mean to offend." I apologized.

She said nothing, but glared.

"Um, Raven," Jamie interrupted, "You do realize you gave Aubrey you're real name...?"

She paused in her glare, a confused look forming on her face, then turned to Jamie, genuinely surprised.

"You're right. That's odd, I've never let that slip to a stranger before." She stated, looking confused once again.
"What's so wrong with that? I think Ravana is a beautiful name." I said.
"If you have any value of your life, you might not want to call her that." Jamie cautioned, as Ravana positioned her fiery gaze on me.

I threw my hands up in mock defeat.

"I am sorry, my lady," I said, giving another bow, "What else am I to call you?"
"Raven will do fine, thank you... and what is with this, 'my lady' thing?" She asked, raising an eyebrow.

I grinned at her again.

"Because, my lady, you hold yourself in such a queenly manner, that I could do no other than to call you that." I replied in a knightly behavior.

She smiled then, a smile of pure amusement that lit up her face and took my breath away. Jamie looked at me, surprised, then turned to Ravana.

"Wow, Raven, you should smile like that more often. It really brings out your eyes. Actually you should just plain smile more often." Jamie said.
"I agree." I put in with a smile of my own.
"You know what?" Ravana inquired of me thoughtfully, in and obvious attempt to change the subject, "Your smile reminds me of that of a wolf."

Jamie shot a glance at me.

"You like wolves?" I asked.
"Ooo, I love them. Given the chance, I would prefer to be a wolf than a human, you know?" She replied, sitting down.
"Is that so?" I pushed, ignoring Jamie's fleeting glances.
"Yes." She answered, looking thoughtful.
"Hey, did you guys know that tonight is supposed to be a blood-moon?" Jamie asked, desperate to change the subject.
"Really?" Ravana inquired, perking up a bit, "And on my birthday too… come to think of it, I was born on a blood-moon as well. I've only seen it twice before... once on the night my mother... well... it's beautiful, isn't it?"

All the color drained from Jamie's face as she turned to me, expecting me to do something. Humans born on a blood-moon were called blood-children, and often killed off by those of my race. They were stronger and more agile than normal humans and many of their traits matched some of our own. This alarmed many of my kind and caused most them to kill off blood-children when they saw fit. On rare occasion, though, there were some who chose a less violent solution. To change them into one of our kind. This was something that had been banned, for it rarely worked. Humans rarely survived the process. It had been found, however, that blood-children could be successfully turned. No one quite knew the cause.

Instead of attacking, like Jamie obviously expected me to, I smiled again and said,

"Well, that's very interesting. Did you know that that is supposed to be bad luck?"
"Oh, really? Well that would explain a lot." She joked, laughing a bit.

Her laugh struck a bell in my mind, and I found myself a bit calmer. Surprised, I sniffed the air around her and found her scent completely relaxing to my senses. I turned to Jamie, a bit wide eyed. I felt a gentle pull at my mind, and I followed the mental path being created. These were often used between my kind to communicate in a human's presence.

'What is it, Aubrey? You seem alarmed.' Jamie asked through our mental link.
'Jamie, I think this human is the one. I think she is meant to be my Hembra.' I replied.
'Are you absolutely sure?' She asked, alarmed.

I sniffed the air again.


I couldn't believe it myself. In all my twenty-five years, I had never heard of a human becoming one's Hembra. The term "Hembra" in our race was equivalent to that of a human wife. The difference being, like the wolves that we shifted into and run with, we mated for life and there was no word "divorce" in our native vocabulary.

Among the males of my race, each year they gained, the more wild and uncontrollable they became. Growing more lethal each year they lived, until they became merciless killing machines, not caring about their prey, man or beast. The only way to save them from this fate was to find their Hembra... the purity for their soul and serenity when the spirit was at war. Otherwise they must face the gaping darkness that threatened to swallow them whole. Thus, turning them into a beast that could not be allowed to live.

I inhaled deeply, allowing her calming presence to surround me. I had found the one. I no longer had to worry about such a fate. I could rest easy in knowing that I would not turn into a wild beast and betray my kind as so many before me had. The only thing I had to worry about was getting Ravana to realize it herself. And, her being a human would make it a lot harder than exactly ideal.

Aubrey, as he had introduced himself, was... interesting to say the least. Tolerable was a more accurate word. He was different from the other men I had ever met, but the only thing that truly disturbed me was the way he kept looking at me. Possessively, his ice-blue eyes moved over every inch of my face, as if trying to memorize every detail. It flustered me a bit, but even I had to admit that there was something uncontrollably alluring about it. I mean, with his all-seeing ice-blue eyes; handsomely detailed face; strong; muscular build; spiky, black hair; and a heart stopping smile, what girl in her right mind wouldn't be attracted to him?

'Don't kid yourself, girl, you're feeling the beginnings of love.' Zoë's voice sounded in my head.

My heart stopped for a moment before I remembered about Zoë's little "gift" of telepathy.

'Shut up, Zoë, I didn't ask for your input!' I exclaimed mentally.
'I won't shut up. Not until you admit that what I said is right.'
'And, what, believe in love at first sight?'
'You remember what your godmother said about instinctive love.'

I paused and didn't reply, thinking back to what Tina had said,

"If ever you should run into someone that you can't help but feel attracted to, and, for no apparent reason he starts coming after you… don't overlook it. Especially if you feel calmed by his presence. If you feel safe with him, that is all you really need..."

The long forgotten words echoed through my head. Sighing at the irony of the world in general, I stood to leave, saying,

"Well, it's been nice meeting you, Aubrey, but I have to go. See you later, you two."

Without waiting for reply, I leapt from the balcony, once again, and took off on my bike.

To blow off some steam and to think on the uncomfortable situation with Aubrey in peace, I merely drove around on my bike until it was time to get to school. I couldn't seem to get the picture of his piercing blue gaze moving possessively... almost lovingly... across my face, out of my mind. It was as though his very eyes had branded a tattoo on my soul. With a clipped growl of frustration, I shook it from my mind. I had to ignore the entire situation. Making my way to school, I made it to my first period class just as the late bell rung behind me. The teacher glared, but said nothing more.

Scanning the empty desks, I picked out one in the back, closest to the window and plopped down onto it, staring blankly and pretending as though I was listening to what the teacher had to say. The only thing of value that I caught out of his speech was the fact that the teacher that was supposed to be teaching the class had had a baby over the summer and wouldn't be back until next month. Until then, we had this really old guy, who spoke in a monotone voice and made it perfectly clear that he didn't want to be there any more than we did. With a roll of my eyes and a curl of my lip, I took out my notebook and started sketching; effectively ignoring him as I did so.

The rest of the day passed uneventfully. By fourth period, I had gone through four lectures on how this was our senior year and our last year to improve. I couldn't take it any more. My opinion was; if you didn't have a plan for your life by now, you were a whole lot of screwed anyway. Why listen to a whole bunch of stupid lectures telling us just how screwed we were? Not bothering to find out what the rest of my teachers had to say, I went out to lunch and decided to skip the rest of the day.

For lunch, I rode up to my favorite little coffee shop. As it was noon, and most people were off work for lunch, it was a little more packed than I would have liked. I considered myself a solitary animal and preferred small, secluded shops and restaurants to shop and dine in. But this was my favorite place to hang out, and it wasn't too busy, so I decided to stay anyway. As I stood in line, however, I found that this hadn't been the greatest idea in the world. While staring off into space, waiting for my turn, I felt the hairs tingle on the back of my neck as someone stepped up close behind me. Every muscle went tense as a semi-familiar voice whispered into my ear,

"Hey, sexy, how 'bout you and me ditch this place and find somewhere a little more... alone?"

My eyes widened and I whipped around, feeling my long hair come into contact with what I hoped to be his face, whipping him. Turned to face him with a glare, but lost the glare quickly, not expecting to be face to face with his shoulder. I was so used to being taller than most people, I lost my steam as I looked up into his face. Looking into those familiar ice-blue eyes of Aubrey's, I was momentarily lost for words. I regained my composure quickly, however, and socked him in the arm.

"Aubrey, you ass!" I hissed at him, "You're lucky you're one of Jamie's friends and I know you. Otherwise I would have pounded you into the ground without hesitation."
"Well I would like to think that my looks would get you to hesitate at least a little." He stated smartly, rubbing his arm with a smirk.

I gave him a look that said, "Don't bet on it.", and he lost the smirk, shrugging.

"It was worth a shot." He said with a sigh, nodding toward the cashier, letting me know that I was next.

I ordered my usual, and sat down in my favorite corner by the back window. I liked to watch the busy traffic from there and it was semi-secluded. I hadn't, however, stopped to think that Aubrey might follow me.

"Ah, so you did want to get me somewhere secluded." He joked as he sat down.

I glared at him, but couldn't stop my lips twitching upwards into a slight smile of amusement.

Usually, I would have told him to get lost... if he was any other guy... but I was finding that I kind of liked his company. Plus, I was curious to find out why he was following me around like a puppy.

"You're not too social, are you?" He asked after I stopped glaring and returned to my coffee.

My eyes widened in fake shock.

"Really? What was your first clue?" I asked of him, my voice dripping with sarcasm.
"Ouch. Sarcasm. I'm hurt. Whatever did I do to bring the ice-princess out of your personality?" He asked, pretending to look hurt.

I raised an eyebrow at him, casting him a chilly look.

"I don't respond well to... male ego. And you drip of the stuff." I stated as-a-matter-of-factly.
"Hey, now. There's a difference between being confident of one's abilities and ego. I just happen to be very confident." He said, giving me an innocent look.
"Yah, confident on your looks." I stated with a roll of my eyes, "Well we already shot that theory down. Men are men. It doesn't matter to me if they're good-looking or not. In the end, they all want the same thing."
"Wow. That's harsh." He commented, looking solemn all of a sudden, "Show me the guy that broke your heart, I'll deal with him for you."

My eyes widened at him. I hadn't meant to imply that my heart had been broke before, but I supposed it was because of that I was so icy towards men. However, I was most surprised at the severity of his voice and the fact that he sounded like he was really serious. There was the protectiveness again.

"My dear, Aubrey... we weren't talking about any other man other than you. I do not believe that I said anything as to my heart being broken."
"Is it me, or did the temperature just drop a couple of degrees?"

I laughed. I didn't mean to, but I couldn't hold it back. He was trying desperately to break the ice with me and I found it kind of cute. If not slightly pathetic.

"Yes, fear me and my iciness." I stated, noting his slightly flustered look, "I take it you're not used to having women so blatantly throw your charm back in your face."
"No, actually. Usually I have them throwing themselves at me without my even trying." He replied, then added after my slightly disgusted look, "I'm serious. No ego added. But I have never met someone immune to my attempts to woo her."

At his words, I raised an eyebrow and looked him strait in the eye.

"Oh? Is that what you're trying to do? Are you trying to woo me?" I asked of him, my voice dangerously quiet.

He leaned closer across the table.

"Maybe." He replied in a whisper, a wolfish look in his eye.

Looking into his eyes, my heart rate increased for a second. His eyes reminded me of that of a wolf in the middle of a hunt... and I was the prey. Blinking a few times, I cleared my head and stood up, taking my empty coffee cup to the garbage. I did not like feeling like prey. It hurt my pride, as well as being a very unfamiliar feeling. I had only met one person that had made me feel as such... and that was my ex-boyfriend after I broke up with him.

I sensed Aubrey come up behind me before I felt his hands go to my shoulders in an attempt to calm me. This, however, failed terribly. I didn't like to be touched and I tensed and pried away from his grasp. Turning to face him with my composure back, I smirked up at him.

"And what, may I ask, did you intend on doing if I refused you?" I asked of him.
"Keep trying." Was his answer; a wolfish grin plastered on his face.
"Oh? Well... I have an idea..." I stated, my smirk becoming wicked as I sauntered to the exit, "Let's make you work for it!"

And, with that, I tore out of the coffee shop, not stopping to see if he was following. If he wanted prey, I'd give him prey... but on my own terms. We were going to do that the old-fashioned way. The sound of his footfalls gaining on me reached my ears. I frowned as I ducked into the next alleyway. He was gaining way too fast for my liking. I had never been outrun before in a chase and I wasn't about to start now. The alley lead to a dead-end, but, by the look of it, there was another road on the other side of the wall blocking the alley. Using the wall of the building to my right as a push-up, I leapt from the building and vaulted over the wall that had previously blocked my way, barely skimming my knee on the top as I went. I landed gracefully, but jarred my ankle a bit. Rolling the joint to keep it from getting stiff, I took off at a slight jog from there.

Surprisingly enough, the other side of the wall was an alley too. With a shrug, I quickly ducked out of the alley, just in case Aubrey decided to scale the wall as well. Once out of the alley, I looked around at my surroundings. Instantly I was reminded of a market at some renaissance fair. Only, the shops were actual small buildings and such instead of tents. Walking down the narrow street a bit, a certain shop caught my eye. I headed toward it, but paused, looking around nervously. Though no one was actually looking at me, I got the feeling that I was not welcome here. The hair on the back of my neck stood up in warning, as though it was dangerous being there. Now, I was not usually the type of person to be driven away by unfriendly territory, but I wasn't stupid. I didn't want to start some type of commotion at that moment, so I opted to come back when I was more in the mood for a fight... or had someone who new this area of town a bit better. Because, in all truth... I had never been in this part of town before.

Turning into the closest alley, I headed down it and got ready to jump the wall again. Before I could even think about jumping, however, a pair of strong arms encircled me and trapped me against the building. My arms were pressed between my chest and his own, feeling the rock-hard muscles there. I looked up into his eyes and glared at his smirk.

"So, I caught you. What's my prize?" He asked cockily.
"Um... congratulations?" I offered sarcastically. "What did you think you were going to get?"
"I don't know..." He stated with a smile that said that he knew exactly what he wanted, "But something nicer than a congrats."
"Oh, well, sorry to disappoint you."

He brought his face close to mine.

"You could never disappoint me." He stated, staring deep into my eyes.

My heart rate increased gradually as we got lost in each other's eyes. I knew that he was getting closer, but I couldn't force the haze out of my mind long enough to make my body do something about it.

"I saw you heading for that shop back there... why'd you turn away?"
"I had the feeling that I wasn't really welcome around those parts. I supposed that I made too obvious a target... and I'm not stupid enough to stay in an unknown place that practically vibrates unfriendliness towards me." My reply was almost slurred as I stared into his gaze, as though it had taken a lot of thought to say something.

He mumbled something unintelligible, sounding like, "Uh-huh", in his own reply. Neither of us seemed to be able to move. I was truly trapped in his gaze, and, it seemed, he in mine. Lord knows what that would have led to, but the moment was interrupted, however, by someone slamming the lid down on the dumpster down the alley. I jumped in surprise at the noise and his arms tightened protectively. I started in a nervous laugh and quickly ducked under his arm, heading away from him. I swore I heard him sigh in frustration, but ignored it as though I imagined it.

He caught me around the waist, his strong arm bringing me to a halt.

"I thought you said you didn't feel welcome in that part of town." He said into my ear.
"Oh... right... yah." I muttered, trying to wrench out of his grasp to go the opposite direction.

His arms only tightened to stop me once again.

"No, it's ok. I know this part of town. Half of these businesses are owned by family." He stated, holding me there a bit longer, but letting go when he sensed my distress.

I took a few steps from him, taking a deep breath to calm myself. I didn't like feeling week or vulnerable, and this man made me feel both. With great effort, I shook it off and forced myself to look him in the eye again. With a half smile I replied,

"Sure, ok... I guess I'd like to check the area out... but don't get any ideas."

He threw up his hands defensively.

"I would never do such a thing." He said innocently.
"Yah... right." I replied with a roll of my eyes, turning from him and slowly sauntering away.
"Hey, by the way... you mentioned something about being an easy target, what did you mean by that?" He asked, quickly catching up.
"Oh, you know... cute little rich girl in a shady part of town is too bright a target for my liking." I replied with a sigh.
"Cute little rich girl? Where do people get that?" He asked, looking genuinely confused.

I looked up at him as though he'd gone crazy, pausing in my step.

"As if you didn't know? I do believe I introduced myself properly." I stated with a raised eyebrow.
"Yah... Rava- ...Raven Castico..." He said looking thoughtful, then his face lit up in realization, "Oh my G-... You're Raven Castico from the Castico Manor." I merely nodded in response. "Holy-, you are definitely not... well..."
"What you expected? Yah, I get that a lot. What'd you expect? Prettier? Skinnier? Taller? What? I've probably heard them all."
"Definitely not prettier. In fact... I thought I would absolutely hate you. I imagined some blonde, air-headed ice-cube that had the intelligence and personality of a brick wall."
"Thanks." I stated, my annoyance plastered visually on my face.
"Sorry... I didn't mean to offend you, but..." He smirked and continued, "I'm not disappointed."