A/N: I know it's taken awhile but . . . as of quite recently chemistry is no longer my friend, so I've been studying my butt off . . . So, review please, because I'm pretty sure the last chapter only got three reviews :'( So, leave me some awesome support so I will feel compelled to keep writing!
S E V E N
Normally, she and T.J. would have fallen asleep there, together, or made out some more, but a sudden knock on Ellie's dorm room pulled them from their daze. Groaning, Ellie slipped off the bed and went over to the door, expecting it to be Lauren—sometimes she forgot her keys, or got so drunk she couldn't remember where she put them. But when Ellie opened the door it wasn't Lauren standing there, tipsy to the point of falling over. It was Peter. And he definitely was not tipsy.
"Peter," Ellie said faintly. Her voice sounded far away. "What are you doing here."
"I'd like to come in." he said briskly.
Ellie shook her head. "Now's not really a good—"
Peter cut her off, pushing past her into the room. "Who are you?" he demanded, crossing his arms and glaring at where T.J. was still laying on Ellie's bed.
"T.J.," he replied, slowly sitting up, unfazed by the larger man's presence. "Ellie, don't tell me this is him."
Ellie shut the door sharply and turned back to the two men. "Yes," she replied, crossing the room to stand by the bed. "What do you want Peter?"
"You came back here to him?" Peter snarled again, ignoring her question.
"Yes," Ellie replied anxiously. "It's not really any of your business."
"None of my business?" Peter scoffed, his blue eyes tightening in rage. "This is my business. You're my business."
"Don't kid yourself," Ellie commented dryly. "The only time you were ever really there for me was before the accident. After the funeral . . . you disappeared!"
T.J. cleared his throat. "El, what's going on?"
Ellie bit her lip, closing her eyes tightly. She'd never told T.J. about Hannah. He knew that her father had died, but not how. He didn't know that she had even had a twin. Let alone that Ellie could have prevented her death so easily . . . If Peter had gone that night instead of Hannah, she would still be alive. But before Ellie could explain, Peter was speaking, snatching the ideal moment to rip them apart.
"You know, the funeral. Her father's funeral . . . her sister's funeral . . ."
"Sister?" T.J. echoed.
Ellie's resolve began to crumble. Oh, Hannah . . . "P-Peter, stop."
"Her twin died the same day her father did."
"I'm sorry, twin?" T.J. asked, looking at Ellie, confused. "Ellie."
She felt the tears gathering again, the overflow of emotions getting the better of her. What a horrible day. To have to see Peter. To have him be such a jerk. To have to remember . . . again. "I—"
"She didn't tell you?" Peter asked, feigning surprise. "Ellie, why didn't you tell him?"
She whirled on him with surprising ferocity. "Don't you dare, Peter. Don't you dare. You've already screwed up my life enough just by coming back. Why can't you just let me do things my way for once?" She lunged at him, completely focused on punching him in the jaw—something she could do considerable damage to—but a pair of tanned, lean arms wrapped around her waist from behind, stopping her. If she wanted to it would have been all too easy to escape from T.J.'s grip, but doing that would only bring more questions to the surface. Questions she wasn't ready to answer yet.
"What else haven't you told him, kid?"
"Don't." she ground out through clenched teeth. "Call me kid."
"Did she tell you about her brother? The one who had a record by the time he was in high school? Or Hugh or Miles?"
At the mention of those names, Ellie went limp in T.J.'s arms. He sensed it and pulled her closer, tucking her into his side protectively. "I think you should go." He said firmly. "Now. Before I call Campus Police."
Scowling Peter turned around and threw the door open loudly. "We're not done, Ellie. Not even close." And then he was gone and Ellie was sobbing and T.J. was holding her and wondering why she was crying.
"Hey, hey." He said, lifting her chin and wiping at her wet cheeks. "Don't cry."
She shook her head slowly. "I have to . . . I can't help it."
"This has to do with . . . Hugh and Miles?" he asked softly, brushing her bangs away from her forehead. "Who are they?"
She let out a shaky breath and pulled away from him, wiping at her eyes. "Sit down. This is going to take a while."
He did as she directed and she went to her desk and took from inside it a soft leather bound photo album. It was the old fashioned kind, where you used photo corners and glue instead of plastic inserts. It not only held pictures, but newspaper clippings as well. Some she couldn't show him because they were from a werewolf newspaper and would certainly give her away, but others were from the Montana paper about her brother's deaths . . . Hannah's death . . . her father's death . . . The day Eli was arrested for drugs. The day he was arrested for kidnapping that girl. She cradled the book possessively before sitting next to him.
Ellie opened it, running her fingers over the first page. She'd started the book when she was eight. It was glued poorly and the handwriting was messy, but the two faces that looked out at her from that page were just as she remembered them. "Miles," she murmured softly, brushing his picture. "And Hugh, were my brothers."
"Were?" T.J. asked quietly, his arms slipping around her.
Ellie nodded, swallowing thickly. "They—they were killed." By monsters. She wanted to say. Humans. Poachers. "They never found out who did it. But, they—they were killed nine years ago. They weren't supposed to go out . . . our parents were out with friends . . . but they went anyway . . . and my other brother, Cole . . . he followed them. And . . . saw it. But, the men got away and the police—" There hadn't really been any police, of course, to them it would have just been two family pets in the wrong place at the wrong time. The words felt bitter coming out of her mouth. She didn't like lying to T.J. but she didn't wnt to know what he would do if he knew what she was. She didn't want to lose him. "And . . . then . . . three years ago . . . they went rock climbing. I volunteered to stay back and watch the rest of my siblings. And—And . . . their ropes broke and she—she—they died."
"Hannah was your twin," he said softly, looking at the next page she'd turned to. There was a picture of her and Hannah the day they had started high school. Ellie was wearing a summer dress and a little sweater and Hannah was wearing long dark capris and a red t-shirt. They were both grinning excitedly.
Ellie nodded miserably. "My best friend in the entire world . . ."
He closed the book gently and handed it back. "El, why didn't you tell me?"
She shrugged and looked away, wiping at her eyes. "I don't like to talk about it. It—It still hurts. There's been a lot of death in my family and a lot of uneasy years . . . I came here to get away from that. And now . . ."
"Now Peter is bringing it all back up," T.J. confirmed, his mouth settling into a grim line. "What a jerk."
"He's just jealous." Ellie assured him, smiling gently.
"What an ass."
She let out a choked bubble of laughter. "Be nice, T.J."
"I really don't know what you see in him."
"I—I really don't know either." She admitted, glancing at him shyly. "But . . . he's not making me any happier."
T.J. sighed and leaned back against her pillows again, his forehead creased. "Is there anything else I should know about?"
Oh, just the fact that I can turn into a wolf whenever I want. And I think you're my mate. Yep, no biggie . . . "Um—I bake."
"Like . . ."
"Like, I bake. I worked in a bakery before I came here. It's how I dealt with everything." Ellie said, flipping to the back of the photo album. Two years ago she'd started taking pictures of her decorations and pasting her favorites in the book. She handed it over somewhat nervously and watched, nibbling on her lower lip, as his eyes scanned page after page in silence.
"If these all taste half as good as they look, I think you've missed your calling."
Ellie laughed. "Maybe, I'll bake for you some day."
He grinned. "I'd like that. I'd like It a lot."
"I'm sorry I kept all of this from you," she said quietly, taking the book back before he could turn to a page that would ruin her for good. She put it back in her desk and then went back to the bed. "It's not easy to talk about and I don't want . . . I didn't want you to treat me any differently because I've lost . . . so many people. I was just worried that you would pity me . . . and I wanted you to be around me because you like me, not because you feel sorry for me."
"Babe . . ." he said quietly, closing his eyes tightly. "It wouldn't have happened that way."
"I had no way of knowing." Ellie replied, looking away. "I'm really sorry,"
"No, don't be. You don't have to tell me everything about your life, even though I want you to . . . Everyone has secrets and some things aren't supposed to be talked of."
Ellie glanced at him, smiling slightly. Moments like these reminded her how much older he was than she—two years. Nothing like the gap between her and Peter, but she was glad because of that. T.J. still had that element of fun that Peter had outgrown.
"I love it when you look at me like that," he said gently, sitting up.
"Like what?" she asked, shifting closer to him without even thinking about it.
"Like I'm the only man in your world." He replied, leaning in to capture her lips in his. "I'm hurt that you never told me about this part of you, because now I feel like I don't know you at all."
"I'm still the same Ellie." She said back, looping her hands around his neck.
"I might have to find out." He whispered, pressing his lips against hers. "And . . . I still have to convince you that I'm much better for you than Peter."
She shivered, but smiled as she pushed him back among the pillows. Sometimes she wondered if they were going too fast . . . but he never complained, and she certainly wasn't either . . .
The next day was Saturday and Ellie planned to do absolutely nothing. In fact, at ten a.m., she was still laying in bed reading when her phone buzzed on her nightstand. It was T.J.. Smiling as she opened it, Ellie quickly scanned the message. I'm at the park, care to join me for a game of one-on-one? Soccer.
The thought of being out in the fresh, albeit humid, air was appealing. She quickly texted back. Be there in ten. She jumped out of bed, suddenly more awake and giddy.
Last night they'd made out. But it hadn't just been that. It had been more than just kissing and touching. Just thinking about it made her cheeks flare with heat. T.J. had proven himself quite convincing when it came down to it. How could she even think about Peter after the way that T.J. had made her feel? The way he kissed her sweetly and tenderly, his hands confidently slipping under her shirt. She swallowed and closed her eyes tightly, letting the feelings settle over her in waves. But there was still something nagging at the back of her mind. Her wolf. That part of Ellie was just as torn. She was convinced that Peter would be the strong one, the one to provide, but . . . Peter had hurt them. More than once. He no longer felt stable.
Jerking out of her thoughts, Ellie quickly pulled a brush through her straight hair and then pulled it into a ponytail. She clipped back her bangs and shed her pajamas, trading them for a pair of exercise shorts and a sports tank top. Reluctantly, she took socks from her dresser and tucked them into her tennis shoes, before slipping her feet into black flip-flops. Nothing worse than sweaty feet. Especially since T.J. liked her feet. He thought they were cute. Ellie wrinkled her nose at the notion. Feet? Cute? No way. Then she grabbed her phone, her wallet, her dorm keys, and headed out, toward the park near campus. It was literally a five minute walk, and when she reached the park T.J. was already kicking a white and yellow soccer ball at the goal.
"Hey," she called, lifting a hand to wave. She wished she had remembered a water bottle. It had to be seventy-five already, at least, and she was already feeling parched.
He grinned and jogged to the net to pick up the ball. "Hey, you."
She came closer and dropped her things in the grass. Even that felt warm. Ugh. "How are you?"
He didn't answer right away, instead, he kissed her quickly. "Great,"
His smile was infectious, and Ellie couldn't help but grin too. "Good, me too."
"Let's get started?"
T.J. played keeper for the college and was superb. Ellie watched him absently as he dribbled the ball away from where they had met. He was wearing shorts and a sleeveless green jersey. She could see the lean muscle wrapped around his arms and the thick, hard muscles of his calves and thighs. Sighing lightly she sat to put on her socks and tennis shoes. He took another kick toward the goal and Ellie watched with admiration. She'd always wanted to play soccer, but it wasn't really ideal for a werewolf to play sports. Even when she scrimmaged with T.J. she had to be careful. If she didn't pay attention, she might give herself away. But, he was hot. Literally. And, sometimes she forgot. He always asked her why she had never played, and she'd told him that she had never been allowed—very true—because her mother had wanted her to learn to play the piano instead—very false. Piano was something she was good at, but only because of lesson after lesson when she was younger. She loved playing, but running and chasing after the ball was much more fun than that. It was more than fun too, it was almost a way of life.
Tying the laces with double knots, Ellie stood and went to join him. "You want me to shoot for you?"
He shrugged. "I was thinking just one-on-one this time."
She nodded, agreeing that it was more fun than anything else, and took the chance to leap around him and snag the ball with her right foot. It rolled away from him and she darted down field, shooting and scoring before he could even figure out what happened. She retrieved the ball and turned back to him, greening sweetly. "That's one-nothing now."
He laughed loudly and Ellie joined in, glad that she had caught him off guard in his environment for once. "You won't be so lucky next time," he said, winking.
She dropped the ball to the ground in between them, still smiling. "If you say so."
Then they were off. He was in much better shape than she was and knew much more about the sport, little tricks that kept him in possession of the ball most of the way down the field. He laughed as she shoved him, attempting to distract him long enough to steal the ball, and bumped her back. "That's illegal, you know. Another one and I might have to card you,"
Ellie stuck out her tongue and kicked at the ball. She hit it and it rolled and bounced right between his legs, heading back up-field. She grinned and darted around him, sending her right foot out to kick it again, but before she could, T.J.'s arms wrapped around her waist and they fell to the grass, laughing. "You're getting too good add this," he commented, releasing his hold on her so she could slid off of him. They lay sprawled on the grass in the sun for a few moments without saying anything. "You want to go to the beach? Cool off a little?"
Ellie turned her head and looked at him, smiling softly. "Maybe. First, let's sit in the shade for a minute. I'm dying."
They got up and wandered lazily to a patch of grass cooled by the shade of a clump of trees and collapsed. "It's . . . too . . . hot . . ." T.J. said quietly.
Ellie nodded. "Ugh, this humidity is awful. Nothing like back home."
"Lucky," T.J. said, forlornly, closing his eyes. "The only good thing about the humidity in North Carolina is the storms. We get lots of good storms."
"Mmm, I'm going to have to see those storms some time."
"Would . . . would you like to go home with me? Over break?"
Ellie sat up, her heart rate sparking anxiously. "Really?"
He sat up, chuckling, and ran a hand over his messy brown hair. "Of course, silly."
Ellie stared at him, her eyes still wide, her stomach churning with butterflies as he returned her gaze steadily. "I'd love to! But—but my Mom would kill me if I didn't go home for Christmas."
"Tell you what," T.J. said, leaning closer to run his hand through her ponytail. "What if . . . what if I spent half f break with you, and you spent half of break with me? We could go to your parents' house first—I've always wanted to go to Canada—and then we could come back to my parents' house until it's time to go back to school."
"But—But what about Christmas with your parents?" Ellie asked, frowning a little.
He shrugged and grinned again. "They've been trying to convince me to go home with one of the guys. Something about spending Christmas on a cruise or something? I'm not really sure. But, if they go we can come back and spend New Year's Eve with them—they throw a huge party every year."
"You really want to meet my family?" Ellie asked, a little confused. Weren't guys supposed to be afraid of the whole meet-the-family-thing?
He chuckled. "Come onnnnn, of course I do. As long as you realize that there probably won't be too many thunderstorms in our area . . . it is December, after all."
Ellie smiled. "I think I can handle that."
He laughed and pulled her closer, kissing her soundly. "God, I miss this."
Ellie pulled away, frowning in confusion. "You miss kissing me? We just saw each other last night!"
He nuzzled her neck, making her giggle. "So? If I had my way . . ."
She shivered and closed her eyes at those words. He was doing it again. Everything he did was pulling her closer. "You would what?"
He didn't say anything as he rolled over, straddling her waist. He grinned crookedly down at her and butterflies swirled in her stomach at the feel of his weight pressing down on her hips. "Do I need to finish that sentence?"
She shook her head mutely, staring at his intense eyes eagerly, wishing he would just kiss her already. You could really tell that the full moon had just passed, not even a week before. Her hormones were raging beyond control. It was taking all the control she had not to just beg him to sleep with her already. But, she promised herself that she would wait—wait until P-Peter . . . She'd promised herself she would wait for Peter, because surely they would end up together, right? But, now . . . now she found herself craving Peter less and less. And it was wonderful.
"Babe, what are you thinking about?" T.J. asked, leaning over her again, kissing that tender spot on her neck . . . the one below her ear that drove her crazy.
"Just you," she said, gasping a little.
"Yeah? What about?"
Ellie smiled a little. He was definitely fishing for a compliment. "Oh, I don't know. About you and your parents . . ."
He groaned and leaned back. "That is such a mood killer," he grumbled.
Ellie laughed, clutching at her sides until her face turned bright red. "I'm kidding."
He tried to glare sternly at her, but a smile of relief took over his features. "Oh good,"
"You can go on," she told him absently, sliding her arms under his jersey, feeling the sparse lay of dark hair near his navel. "Please,"
His eyes closed too for a moment. "Are you absolutely sure you've never done this before?"
She giggled and trailed her fingers up his stomach, feeling his muscles ripple under her touch. "Positive, although, I may have had a deprived childhood and thus . . . read a book or two to satisfy my curiosity."
He laughed again, leaning down to peck her on her lips. "You're cute."