F I V E

When I woke up, the room was still awash with gray light. I sat up quickly, suddenly realizing why there was an edge of worry and fear to my thoughts. I blinked rapidly and looked across the room to my desk. He was still there. He sat in the chair, facing away from me as if he belonged there. I felt annoyance rise in me as I continued to stare. He was reading something—Hamlet. His fingers touched the worn pages with surprising gentleness and I felt myself wondering what those fingers would feel like if they touched me.

"Are you alright?"

His voice startled me and I jumped a little. I licked my lips and swung my legs over the side of my bed. "Y-yes."

"Hamlet is a very interesting character." He commented, closing the book carefully. "I can't decide if he is crazy or not."

I rubbed my head, feeling a lingering bit of an ache coming on from my episode. "Scholars have been debating about that for centuries."

"Isn't that what your paper is on? Maybe I misread your thesis . . ."

More annoyance with the darkly handsome man surged forward. "Stop going through my things, would you?"

He shrugged and turned around to face me. Once again I was struck by his features. His dark eyes assessed me levelly. "A re you hungry?"

Despite the quiet rumble my stomach gave at the mention of food, I shook my head. "No."

A frown appeared on his face, briefly marring the beautiful features. "You should eat."

"You're not my dad," I snapped back. "Would you just leave already?"

"I can't," he said firmly, moving toward the door.

I realized then that my feet had taken action and I was notably closer to the door. Now that he stood between me and my goal, I back away. I didn't like the tingles that flitted over my skin when he looked at me. "You're an annoying SOB, you know that?"

The words were out before I could stop them and for a moment he looked deathly angry, but then wry laughter left his lips. I crossed my arms and glared it him. So far every attempt I had made to be rude had been shoved back in my face. He rolled his eyes. "Just sit down, Vera."

A feeling of dread floated through me as I sat heavily on the bed, nodding slowly. He grabbed my desk chair and pulled it into the center of the room. He sat facing me and crossed his arms. "You're not going to freak out again, are you?"

I frowned, crossing my own arms in defiance. "It's called a panic attack. And I wouldn't have 'freaked out' if you had been around."

"Answer the question," he snapped back, clearly irritated.

Finally! Smirking in satisfaction I shook my head. "As long as you stay exactly where you are."

He conceded with a dip of his head. "Spring break is next week. We're going to stay with Kea and Isaiah."

"You make it sound like I don't have a choice." I bit out. "I have plans, by the way."

"No you don't." he replied, his voice firm. "There's nothing in your calendar. And, you don't have a choice, by the way."

"You can't do that!" I spat, feeling heat rushing toward my face and tears pricking at my eyes. "Just because you've gotten away with all of this so far doesn't mean you're going to get away with this too. I have a life. I have friends. I don't know who you think you are, but you can't make decisions for me. I'm an adult." I felt much stronger once those words were out. I'd made my point—a fairly good one too, or so I thought.

His movements were much too quick for me to register and before I knew it, he was leaning over me, his heavy weight pushing me into my mattress. Immediately I struggled, trying to push him away, but his hands captured mine, and then he was kissing me. His lips felt like velvet against mine. The smell of fresh air and damp earth filled my nostrils and I was lost. He pulled his lips away from mine to catch his breath and planted a kiss on my neck—the spot where he had bitten me at the club—and my mind went blank. He nibbled and licked, his hands slipping from mine, down my sides, and over my thighs. I let out a gusty sigh and then jerked as he bit more roughly. "Ow!" I cried out. The pain brought me back to the present and I scrabbled and scratched at him, trying to push him away. The pain—oh, God. I felt my lack of food coming up my throat and I pushed a little more harshly against him. "Please," I gasped. "I feel sick."

He pulled away immediately and I stood, hurrying over to the wastebasket below one of the open windows. I heaved, but nothing came up. Groaning, I wiped at my mouth and shoved my head out the window. When my stomach felt less queasy and the pain in my neck had fallen to a dull throb, I re-entered my room, looking anywhere but at him. He caught my arm as I attempted to walk right past him and I looked at him briefly. "Just remember the power I hold over you,"

I swallowed, wondering what that meant. Then he leaned down and kissed me again, and I realized what he had been talking about. Every kiss left me feeling more like a pile of jell-o than a person, weak kneed. I jerked my arm out of his grasp and went back over to the bed. Ever since he started coming around, my life had taken a dangerous spin. I'd had more panic attacks in the last week than I usually had in a month. "Don't kid yourself," I said back, eager to have the last word. "I don't understand it."

"Believe me, you're not exactly my first choice either," He replied back, a hint of laughter in his voice.

Annoyed and feeling more insulted than I should have, I went back to my bed to sulk. "What does that mean?"

"It means, Vera, that you're not my type at all. In fact, you're the complete opposite."

"I expect you like leggy blondes with little brains and big boobs," I snapped back, reaching for the bottle of advil I kept next to the bed.

He snorted. "Something like that,"

"Then why are you here?"

"If I had a choice, I wouldn't be."

Ouch. I thought as I took yet another blow to my ego. "Then just go,"

"I can't," he said simply. "It's too late for that. Next week we'll go to Corvallis. Isaiah has a cabin there."

"We have to leave why?" I asked, still annoyed.

"You'll understand when we get there," he said quietly, looking out the window. "I have a phone call to make. Stay here. Don't leave. If you do, you'll regret it."

His words lost all sense of the personal moments they had just shared. It was cold and calculated again. His face set in stone. Etched with pain.

"What happened to you?" I asked gently, looking at his terrifyingly handsome face carefully.

"Remember what I said," he answered, ignoring my question. Then he turned and left the room.

I swallowed thickly and stared at the door. What the hell had just happened? I took deep breath and let it out slowly, hoping to calm my pounding heart. No such luck, of course. I looked back at the desk and spotted something yellow. A heavy weight settled over me again as I stood and reached for it. The familiar yellow sticky note brought more worry to mind than I thought I could handle, but I still pulled it from the thin book of Shakespeare's complete works.

I'M SORRY

xXx

Eli held the phone to his ear, listening to it ring on the other end. "Hello?"

"Cole, it's me."

"Eli? Where the hell are you?"

"I'm in Salem. Oregon. The same place as the last time you asked." Eli replied, rolling his eyes. Just because his older brother was Alpha did not mean he had the right to mother hen him. "I—I found her."

"And? Please don't tell me you're in jail again."

In the background he could hear someone—it sounded like Caleigh, Cole's mate—gasp in shock. "Eli's in prison!" She demanded.

Eli snorted. "Don't kid yourself. I'm not in jail. I just wanted to fill you in. I—Cole . . . do you mind going somewhere Caleigh can't eavesdrop on us?"

He heard her sigh in the background as she left the room. Cole was laughing softly. "What's going on?"

"I—I don't know how to do this. I don't know how to be—I'm not—not like you. I don't know how to make her look at me and not be scared or full of hatred."

"You are an asshole," Cole said fondly. "Maybe you should go to the library and read some books or something. They have to have books on dating right? I'm not sure I can help you. This girl . . . I know girls are alike, but I don't want to tell you something only to have her be insulted."

"Understandable. I wouldn't want that either. This is dumb shit." Eli snapped. "I mean—she won't even make a good mate. She's tiny and she can't defend herself. And she has these panic attacks and she's—"

"Not blonde and doesn't have big boobs?" Cole suggested, laughing.

"That's not even the half of it. She throws up when she's in pain. And she's such a geek. She's like in love with Shakespeare or something."

"Whatever you do, don't say that to her face."

"Why not?" Eli grumbled, running a hand over his short hair.

"Because that's like me saying that you're a prick because you play baseball."

"Hey!" Eli protested. "I'm not a prick!"

"Exactly my point, Eli. Don't make fun of her. She'll only hate you more."

"Great," he responded moodily. "She already hates me . . . but, when I kiss her—"

"You already kissed her? What the hell is wrong with you?" his older brother demanded.

"How else was I supposed to get her to shut up?"

"Oh, God. You know what? Just find out what she likes and use it to your advantage. If she likes to be kissed, then kiss her. If she likes Shakespeare then read Shakespeare. Flowers, that sort of thing."

Eli hung up, a sudden idea coming to him. That scrapbook. The one he had found hidden under her mattress . . . maybe that would give him some hints. He slipped out of Vera's dorm room and jogged into the rain, heading down the street. He was renting a little one-room flat above a pizza parlor. It was a mess, but he knew exactly where her book was. He found it on the coffee table buried under a pile of old newspapers and last month's National Geographic . He looked at the brown leather cover with curiosity. He untied the leather cord keeping it closed, and opened the first page.

To Vera,

Happy birthday,

Love, Mom

Below the carefully penned words was a picture of what he guessed to be a young Vera—maybe six—and a pretty black haired woman—probably her mother. He turned to the next page and scanned it. The first few pages seemed to be memories belonging to Vera's mother. There was a small journal tucked into the third page—a pregnancy diary kept on and off for nine months—and a few pressed flowers. Quotes from Shakespeare, the Bible , and favorite books. Then, with another flick of his wrist there was a journal entry dated almost seven years previously. The handwriting was small and messy—the lines crooked—and signed sloppily, Vera.

He turned skipped toward the back of the book, spotting pictures of Vera and friends—mostly with a tall blonde—and school portraits. There were scattered journal entries—dating things that seemed to be important, her grandmother's death, a new puppy, the start of her senior year. Then, he hit the jackpot. Two pages, side by side, both titled, My Favorite Things. List after list. Names, books, plays, movies, music, anything and everything.

Eli grabbed the corner of the pages, preparing to tear them out so he could carry them with him, he stopped suddenly, realizing that Vera probably wouldn't appreciate that. So he got out his phone and took two pictures of the pages. Then he closed the book and tied it shut again. He went over to the dresser and grabbed clean clothes and his toothbrush from the bathroom. He had a feeling it was going to be a long night . . .

A/N: Hey guys, sorry for the wait! Been super busy with school. I hope you enjoy this. Tell me what you want from these characters too! More action, more romance? Let me know and it could possibly happen! Thanks for reading! Review please!