Chapter 9: The Beast and His Apology
Later, after fighting his grabby hands for hours, Jared had finally managed to pull me to the dance floor. The smell of beer was heavy on his breath, cigarette smoke soaked into his t-shirt. It was rather intoxicating, his hands claiming my hips, his body pressed so firmly against mine. The song was slow and sweet. I looked up at my best friend, my boyfriend, my smiling inebriated almost-lover. He was really so beautiful, tanned lean muscle decorated his forearms. His eyes were darker here, in this place made for hooking up and going home with strangers. They seemed to blink and probe right into the darkest corners of my mind. I didn't know if I even cared then. He could have all of my thoughts, if he so chose it. He could have whatever he wanted.
It was pretty clear Jordan wasn't showing up, but neither one of had mentioned this. Our friends were a pleasant distraction, all teasing us for our most recent behavior. The night had been filled with laughter and beer. I had managed to refuse every single dance offer handed out by my darling boy, until he claimed it was his favorite song and without so much as a question mark at the end of his sentence, we were on the floor.
"You really aren't a bad dancer," Jared told me in tone saved for facts. I shrugged, letting my hands hang loosely over his shoulders. I wasn't going to argue it. The alcohol was clouding my judgement.
"I'm ready to go home," I yawned. It was late, almost closing time. The bartenders were already rounding up bottles and ashtrays that littered most of the circular tables. Jared smiled down at me. I really didn't mind dancing with him right then, the air so thick and sweet.
"After this song," he whispered. "I'm not done yet."
"Alright," I couldn't help but grin. I allowed him to sway me back and forth to the old tune. The floor was close with drunken lovers, all moving in the same way me and mine were.
Suddenly the lights flipped on, flooding the place with an unsavory feeling."LAST CALL!" A young bartender yelled. The music had stopped and so had we. Jared left his hands on my hips, but looked back at the group of familiar faces all now piling toward the door. A few of them waved, drunkingly stumbling from the now well lit building. It was a rude awakening to such a dreamy night.
"Perfect timing," I smiled.
"Shut up, you were having fun." He tugged me even closer, challenging me with his nearness.
"Maybe a little bit." I yawned again. The buzz was wearing off.
"Since when did you get so old, Bailey?" Jared teased. "The girl I know could kick it with the best of them."
"I haven't stayed awake all night since… I don't even remember."
We were walking toward the exit now, Jared downing the rest of his luke warm beer. I made a face, shaking my head. "Looks like I'm driving," I stated, letting my hand guide Jared through the double doors. The parking lot was still full of people, we darted around a maze of bodies to the old truck we'd arrived in. We had parked on the outskirts, where the dark the light. The sound of cars peeling out into the night was distant, my bad boy so cocky was close.
"I'm okay to drive. Not human remember?" Jared slurred. I shook my head, hand held out for his keys.
"Hand em over, big boy."
"Bailey I'm fine" he grinned sloppily.
"You've had enough beer for ten human boys."
"Men," Jared corrected, then gave a hardy laugh at his own joke.
"Keys," He obeyed, fishing them out of his pocket and dropping them heavy into my open palm.
I unlocked the passenger side, opening the door and pushed him toward the vehicle. He was laughing, not budging at my pathetic attempts at forcing his obedience. I stopped pushing, letting my hands perch on my hips.
"I'll tell ya what," Jared turned to look at me, his height impressive, his eyes mischievous. "If you give me a kiss, I'll get in the truck."
I shook my head, standing up on my tiptoes and placing a very quick and chaste kiss on his grinning mouth. He laughed out loud, shaking his head and pulling my hips forward to meet his own. "Now now now, Bails." He gave me an accusing look. "You know that's not the kinda kiss I was talking about." He was right; I knew exactly what he wanted.
"You're so drunk," I couldn't help but laugh.
"I am not," He was smiling so wide I was surprised his face didn't crack into pieces. "I'm just right."
"You always are." I sighed begrudgingly.
"Now come here and show me how much you like me." I couldn't help it then, standing up as tall as my legs would let me, taking his face in my hands and pulling that perfect mouth toward my own. He let his eyes slide shut, enjoying the moment for what it was. For a second, we were perfectly normal, drunk and smiling, kissing each other like tomorrow didn't mean anything different than the day before.
"Fucking priceless," The sound of Dustin's voice was like cold water. I pulled away, looking over my shoulder at the last person in the world we needed to see. Jared grew hot, his fingers digging deeper into my hips, his skin fiery under my palms. "I knew it. I knew this shit would happen." I didn't let go of my boy, scared of what might happen if I did. He was drunk and amused, those long teeth like yellow stripes in the moonlight.
"I'm gonna kill you." Jared's voice was solid, so very different from the goofy sweetness I had heard before. I looked back up at him, willing him with my hands to look back down at me. Look at me, my thoughts echoed loud in my head. Look at me! "I'm going to rip the skin from your bones."
"Oh I don't think so." Dustin was drunk, very drunk. I'm sure I could smell the liquor pushing out of his pores. He was holding an unlit cigarette. He hadn't meant to stumble upon any more than we had wished him to.
"What are you doing out this way anyway, Dustin?" I was so tense.
"I had to take a piss and they wouldn't let me back in the bar." He answered, eyes so glazed and gone. He stumbled a few steps. "Not that it's any of your fucking business anyway. Go fuck yourself, you and your new boyfriend."
"You should run," Jared swallowed hard. His skin was like lava, burning to the touch. I felt myself start to shake. Jared was one thing, drunk Jared was another. I saw flashes of his mind, fur and teeth and bloodied flesh. I saw that creature then, bursting from his bones, crying out in a gnarled raging howl.
"Jared," I warned.
"You don't want to lay a hand on me, Jared. Not if you want that little girlfriend of yours to stay as picture perfect as she's always seemed."
"Go Dustin," I whispered. "Please just go." I was still facing Jared, but begging my ex-boyfriend to run. He had no idea, the things I had seen, they would shut him up.
We were parked far enough away to avoid prying eyes. The few people that hadn't been run off by the bouncer didn't even seem to notice our presence let alone the argument. I was shaking so bad now, I couldn't control the tremors. Jared's eyes never moved from the blonde bastard.
"I'm gonna tell everyone what a fucking terrible lay you are." He laughed out loud at that, leaning over to grab the lighter he had just dropped. What happened next will never make much sense. Jared, was gone. He was no longer held in my shaky grasp. He was there, standing over Dustin with a rather intimidating height. There were no more words. Dustin was taken off guard, the cigarette falling from his lips, he stumbled back two or three steps before falling on the gravel lot. Jared ripped him up, grabbing him by the neck and holding him a good foot off the ground. He couldn't breathe, reaching up frantically to free the gods hands from his throat. He was white, scared and begging. Jared's head straightforward, watching on quietly while the boy struggled for air. Then, just as quickly as he was airborne, Jared had slammed him full force into the ground.
"JARED!" I screamed, running forward but his body language caused me to freeze. He punched the nearly unconscious boy twice in the ribs. I heard them, bones breaking, that human body no match for the strength that was the beast. He punched again, this time those powerful fists making contact with his face. Bruises formed immediately. Dustin was gone, not quite dead, but not living either. Jared reared back again, this time I caught his arm. He froze, looking back, those sweet brown eyes a dangerous red.
"Stop this right now!" I screamed. "Get in the fucking truck." He did as I said, standing up and walking back to the truck, sitting down in the passenger seat without so much as a word. I knelt down and checked Dustin for a pulse. My hands shaking at his neck. He was alive. I dug in my pocket, pulling out my phone and calling the police.
"Yeah these guys jumped him….I don't know…I don't. I … he's really bad off. Yeah he's at the Ranch, off to the side near the gas station. No. Please come quick." I hung up, pacing back and forth in front of Dustin, watching his raspy blood soaked breathes gurgle from his lips. I had to wait for the cops. I walked toward Jared, rage now causing my shaking limbs.
"Bailey," he was back now, my goofy boy. I recognized that soft sweet voice. He reached forward, his legs now dangling from the passenger side. I moved away, careful to avoid contact. I couldn't have him clouding my judgement right now. Things needed to be fixed.
"You need to get the fuck out of here. They're gonna take one look at you and know it was you. You need to leave." My arms were crossed, something I had picked up from my mother in my youth. I refused to look at him, shaking my head, and looking down the darkened road for any sign of life.
"Come with me," He started but I held my hand up.
"I can't. I have to stay here and clean up your mess." I snapped, earning his silence. "You better fucking hope he doesn't remember what happened cause this could be the end Jared. You would go to jail for this!" I was yelling, pacing back and forth.
"I'm not worried about being arrested." He seemed so sober now, so serious. I wondered, had his anger burnt off all that alcohol.
"Of course you're not, Mr. Untouchable." I mocked.
There was a moment of quiet where I wondered if I had finally struck a nerve. I looked over, watching my boys face for a sign of hurt. His brow was creased in thought, his eyes studied the ground beneath his feet.
"I had to put him in his place, Bailey. He isn't allowed to talk to you that way." He looked up at me, our eyes meeting with scorching heat.
"You're ridiculous!" I screamed, tears forming at the rim of my eyes. "You nearly killed him!" I couldn't believe he thought his behavior was okay. "He doesn't matter enough to react this way, Jared. You gave him so much power now."
"He's not gonna say anything, Bailey."
"That's not the point." I hissed. "You can't do this to people. I could give two shits about what he's gonna say about me. I care about the fact that you could've ended his life over something so stupid. He doesn't matter!" I could see the blue lights in the distant, a sheer squeal of sirens. "Go home, Jared."
"Not without you." He tried to sound firm but I didn't budge.
"Leave right now. Go home. Sober up. I'll stay here with him until I make sure he's not gonna die."
"He's not gonna-"
"JARED just fucking go!" I screamed. "Get the fuck out of here. Quit arguing and leave. Seriously, I need you to go."
Jared's face fell, his eyes glazed over with a sad melancholy and he obeyed. Taking the keys from my outstretched hand he walked to the drivers side and started up the old truck. I refused to look at him, back turned on the vanishing vehicle. He was gone before the cops arrived. I watched on quietly as they loaded Dustin's limp body into the EMS vehicle. He would be fine, his pulse strong. I told them I had walked up on the scene. I told them that I had dated him before but we had ended things rather amiably and I really had no ill feelings toward him. I was a nice girl, picture perfect as he had so adequately stated before. The police didn't even question whether or not I was lying. They drove me home.
I was not two steps in the door when there was a knock. I sighed, turning back and opening the scene on my Jared. He looked shamed but irritated.
"I told you to go home." I was exhausted in every way possible.
"Do you still have feelings for him?" His tone was serious, respectful. I rolled my eyes, crossing my arms over my chest definitely.
"No." I responded dully. "But I don't want him dead either."
Jared scratched the back of his head, frustration etched into the wrinkles in his forehead.
"Bailey, I-" He paused, searching for the right words to say. There were none. As much as he said he loved me didn't make it right to nearly kill someone.
"No," I shook my head. "I want you to leave. I need to think for a little bit. You make it hard to think."
"No, Jared. You scared me tonight. You've never scared me before." I felt the sadness take over my body like I was doused with a wave. The tears stung my eyes. I refused them to fall. "I just need you to go please. I'll can't be around you right now."
"Bailey please," he pleaded. It was strange, seeing him way, all sad and vulnerable. I turned my back on him, letting the door click shut behind me. I slid down that very door, and then and only then, did I let the tears fall freely. Jared was still there, I could feel him. He didn't leave till the following morning, finally allowing my anguished mind to find sleep.
The morning only brought to light what had happened the night before. I called Dustin's mother, who had always been a fan of mine, to inquire on how he was. She sounded tired but happy. "Oh dear he's fine. Banged up but he's up and they have him on a liquid diet today. He's mad because he can't have a cigarette." I laughed at that, pausing only momentarily to casually ask if remembered what had happened.
"Oh yeah he said he was drunk and that this group of guys had been following him around the bar all night. This town is really going to hell in a handbasket." She sighed then. I had told her that I missed her and not long after I could hear Dustin groggily complain about what was on television. She got off the phone and I breathed a sigh of relief into my tear soaked pillow.
"Bailey?" I heard Jordan's voice echo through my empty home. My mother had left early that morning. A long awaited beach trip to the gulf, with her and her closest gal pals, had left me alone. I hadn't minded it, pretending to be asleep when she left to avoid the questions on my less than put together appearance.
"Rough night?" He sat on bench at the end of my bed. I nodded, not finding enough energy to sit up for company. "Yeah Jared came home long enough to change and then went for a run."
"Good. Let him get out some of that pent up aggression." The annoyance in my voice was evident. Jordan decided not to comment on it.
"What you doing here so early?" I yawned.
"I brought Cecelia." He smiled fully. "Remember? She's staying the night with you."
"Oh yeah. I'm sorry. She's gonna meet me on one of my worse days." Jordan shrugged, motioning for me to head with him toward the living room. I caught my reflection in a mirror, hastily wiping away the mascara that had pooled under my eyes.
Cecelia was a small girl with big dark eyes and long black hair. She smiled when she saw me, walking forward and wrapping me in a friendly hug. I returned it, oddly comfortable with the gesture.
"I'm so glad I finally get to meet you!" And I believed she was telling me the truth. She was dressed in a white sundress, a pair of shiny brown sandals strapped to her perfectly manicured feet. She was one of those beautiful girls that always seemed so put together, the kind of girl I always planned on becoming eventually.
"I'm sorry I look like this," I sighed. "I had a rough night."
"Oh I know. Jordan filled me in. I'm sorry about it. We know how Jared can be though. He will come around."
"I'm more worried about me coming around," I grumbled. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to drag you in this."
"No, no it's fine. It'll give up some stuff to talk about." She shrugged. "Help fight off that awkward silence."
Jordan left soon after, saying that Jared would be waiting for him. I fought the urge to send a verbal message to my best friend, instead giving his brother a friendly hug and wishing them both luck on their trip.
"Breakfast?" Cecelia was perky, standing up from her place on my sofa. "My treat."
"sure," I nodded. "Let me go get dressed."
Cecelia had insisted I call her Cece instead of her full name, saying it made her sound uptight. She ordered a bowl of fruit and oatmeal while I opted for a tall stack of pancakes so I may eat my feelings like one normally did in those situations.
We were sitting at the only diner in town, two cups of weak coffee were steaming in front of us while we waited on Margaret, our surly waitress, to bring back our food.
"So what happened last night?" She asked me pointedly. It was strange, but I felt like I had known her a lot longer than thirty minutes. She looked over at me with those black eyes, thick dark lashes blinking calmly in my direction. I rubbed my face, breathing heavy with the memory of it all. The pain was still there, dull and throbbing at the bottom of my stomach.
"Everything was fine and then Dustin, my ex, showed up and he was talking all this crap and I told him to leave and then it was all so chaotic. Jared attacked him. He really hurt him. I thought he had killed him. I mean, I knew he had a temper but… this was unreal. This was not even him." I groaned. "He doesn't understand why it bothers me."
"Oh he does," she nodded sadly. "Jared has always been like this. I'm sure you've never really seen it because he wants you to think the best of him. But he's done this before."
Cece sighed, thanking Margaret when she set down our food. I wasn't hungry anymore, nervous about all this new information.
"Well it was when he was younger. Jordan has always been so sweet ya know? Well Jared, especially when they were hitting puberty, felt really protective of him and he attacked anyone who said anything to him. I mean, it wasn't like crazy bad. But Jared is a lot stronger than any guy he's ever come into contact with. He was ashamed, especially after he met you. You made him better."
"Me?" I scoffed. "Seems like I made him worse last night."
"No," Cece giggled. "That's the beast that lives inside. Its' so natural to take care of something you love and he already has the temper he has. He would never lay a hand on you, if that's what you're scared of."
"Oh no," I shook my head. "I'm not scared for me. I'm scared for anyone who crosses me."
"Yeah. They aren't human, they don't always think like humans. Not to mention the fact that its's so close to a full moon. He always gets a little wild during this time."
I had to admit, I was a little jealous of how well she knew my Jared. I only knew the human side, the sweet, funny, hot headed Jared. She knew the dark parts, the secrets I wasn't able to know.
"I just need him to listen to me. I guess, I need proof that his logic will overcome whatever the hell happened last night… next time…at least. I can't stand back and watch him kill people. Dustin is an asshole, but he's a human. He had no way to fight back. I wish I could've stopped it before it got so bad."
"What did stop it?"
"Well I ran over and grabbed his arm and was screaming at him to stop…he just kinda stopped."
"Oh yes. That's part of the bonding process. It's one of the first signs, if you're touching him and you demand something of him that would benefit him, he has to listen. You're kinda like the voice of reason."
"But I was touching him last night before he attacked."
"Yes but were you telling him to calm down?" I thought back to the swirl of events. They tangled in my head like metal chains. I pulled at them, but eventually let them fall back with a clank. I closed my thoughts off to that horrible scene, focusing in on the buttery pancakes now sitting in front of me. They didn't look nearly as delicious as they'd seemed on the menu.
"Not sure," I sighed.
"The whole process is really kinda simple. He loves you but deeper than a normal guy ever could. He physically needs you. It's almost disgusting how much he needs you. Because of his and Jordan's wild side," she grinned. "They get a little dumb over us. They will kill for us, but they will also not kill for us…make sense?" She smiled fully. "Once you join, it all makes sense. You can see into their head, without being so physically affected by their moods. It's overwhelming. Hell, I was sixteen when It happened to me. All those hormones and then Jordan's twisty inhuman thoughts. I thought I was losing my mind."
When we finished breakfast, we walked back to my house. The weather was nice, thick white clouds covered most of the suns harsh rays. Cece talked about when she met Jordan, and the weird pull he had on her heart. They had moved so fast, Jordan so much more willing to accept the fact he was bound. Jared had always fought it, he had pushed away at it so hard that it had become almost a joke in their small circle of chosen.
"He didn't want to bring you into the madness," Cece and I had stopped walking now, sitting down on the front steps of my old house. "It's really kinda sweet. He was gonna refuse happiness to ensure yours. You know those bad boys, sometimes they have a poetic soul."
I watched the sun appear in the sky, a soft cool wind blowing all those fluffy clouds away. Cece leant back, sighing deeply.
"You know they sent us a body guard, eh?" she smirked. I made a face, looking around for a set of unfamiliar faces. We looked pretty alone to me.
"See," she pointed across the street. There was a dog there, watching us casually from his place in the shade. "That's Shinta." I laughed out loud.
"That's the neighbors dog." I corrected. "They've had her for as long as I can remember."
"Yes, we see a dog. It's really a shape shifter. She's a badass fighter. I've met her in her true form once. She's Amazonian tall, with fangs, and these yellow eyes. She's always watching when they leave."
"That can't be true."
"Oh yes it is," Cece was so nonchalant. "She's not friendly; very no nonsense, ya know?"
"I've been flooded with way too much information these last few days. I'm starting to go nuts."
"You're doing fine," Cece bumped me with her tanned shoulder. "You seem normal to me. I'm kinda glad. I knew one day Jared would admit his feelings and we would have to run off with them to Olympus. We will be two humans in a world made for gods. It's going to be a wild ride."
I paused, looking over at Shinta, trying to picture a oddly tall female with razor sharp teeth and big yellow eyes. I shivered, breaking eye contact with the Labrador retriever.
"Are you scared to leave?" I asked her. Cece tilted her head, as if deep in thought.
"Not so much. I'm gonna miss my family."
"Yeah. I'm trying not to think too much about that." It was true. I didn't like thinking about my mom, all alone, sitting in the house, wondering where I was. What would I tell her? Surely there were rules, and I couldn't tell her the truth. Would she think I was dead? Would she think I'm on some massive trip, running around with Jared, the boy who stole me away? It hurt to think about, so I hadn't, though I knew eventually there would come a time it was the only thing I would have to think about.
"I wonder what it's like though," Cece grinned cheekily. "Jordan is horrible at explaining things. He seriously just says it's real nice up there, Cece. You'll like it a whole bunch." She mocked him, over exaggerating his southern drawl.
"I haven't asked anything." And I wondered at that moment, why. Maybe it was the fact that Jared and me getting together was all I could comprehend at one moment.
"I've had years to ask questions," she yawned. "Want to watch some tv?"
Cece fell asleep early that night, curled up on the couch, clutching a pillow. The movie we had turned on was over, the credits rolling over a black screen. I walked out on the porch, breathing in the smoky air. Someone was burning leaves. I didn't usually smoke, thinking it a disgusting habit, but my nerves were bad, and I knew where my mother hid her stress pack. I lit one up, letting the cool nicotine sooth my nerves. The thick night rolled out like a wet blanket. I relaxed against the steps, trying my best to get out of the funk that Jared had tricked me into.
I wondered where he was. I wondered if he was laying somewhere asleep, or staring up at the same starless sky. The full moon was bright, pulsing. It meant something different now, something magical. I watched it ebb against the inky night. Shinta wasn't in sight, but I'm sure that meant nothing. Her yellow eyes were probably trained on my every move. I put out my cigarette and went to stand up to go inside, feeling just a little bit worse than the moment before.
Something stopped me.
Even with the chaotic mess that was my first encounter with Jared's' beast, I recognized him, so beautifully frightening in the distance. I didn't move, watching the creature walk toward me, that shiny silver fur like diamonds in the moonlight. The fear I should've felt wasn't there. Instead, I felt calm, relieved even. He pushed forward, till he was standing directly in front of me, those large black eyes staring intently into mine. I wanted to touch him, run my fingers through his fur, and understand this supernatural being.
Then he bowed, lowering his nose to the ground. It was a gesture of respect, an apology. I was in awe, amazed at this gigantic beast, bowing at my feet. I reached forward, carefully running my finger along his neck, shocked to feel the slick texture of scales. He nuzzled into my hand, eyes blinking up at me once more, before he ran back off into the moonlight.
It had all happened so quickly, I wasn't even sure if anything really happened at all. I let myself fall back down onto the steps. I was shaking, hands trembling in my lap. Had I really touched him? Had Jared's beastly side approached me in the middle of the night, begging forgiveness, promising respect? I held my breath, looking around for Shinta's yellow eyes. She was nowhere to be seen.