Isobel ran down West 67th with her cello and backpack in hand. No telling how much time she had until the bastard caught up with her and finished what he started so long ago.
She threw her backpack in the passenger seat and set the cello down with much more care on the floor in front of it. One of the cons of having a boxy 1982 Mustang was that it didn't have a back seat for her to safely store her instrument but she'd be damned if she didn't love it anyway.
She slammed the door, apologizing when it rattled on its hinges, and took off down the street. She glanced back in her rearview mirror and met a pair of glowing orange eyes. The massive tawny wolf lunged forward and raked his front claws across her back bumper.
"You're gonna pay for that one," she growled, watching as the beast got farther and farther behind her. She stroked the dashboard with a sigh. "I'm sorry baby. I'll get you in for that waxing that you need."
She reached around the cello and pulled the hand written directions she wrote out on a napkin this morning and set them on the center console. She turned right on Terrace Drive and followed the curves of the road while cautiously keeping her eye out for deer. The last thing she needed was to total her car, again, on another stupid deer.
She was so caught up in protecting her car from the hoofed menace she almost missed the street. She took a sharp right onto Central Park Driveway, her tires squealing in harmony with the honks of the car behind her. She turned in her seat and flipped the red Camaro the bird. The driver sneered at her obvious immaturity and kept going but the satisfaction of pissing him off was still sweet.
Isobel continued down the street with a smug smile and checked the address on her napkin. At first glance, she thought that she had already passed it. But that was before she caught sight of a small house snuggled comfortably between two tall glass skyscrapers.
The driveway was overflowing with two pickups and a silver Porsche so Isobel parked against the curb. She waited for a gap in the traffic and jumped out and locked her car. More likely than not, no one would want a beat up lime green Mustang but, unfortunately for those who did, she wanted it, too.
She walked to the back of her car and growled at the scratch that ran the length of her bumper and up onto the trunk. If she wasn't so terrified of that goddamn wolf she would hunt him down and use his pelt as a nice blanket. She'd need that blanket if the people living here wouldn't let her occupy their empty room.
The house itself was…charming. The grass was perfectly green and equally perfect square hedges grew under the white railing that surrounded the porch. Four wide pillars spiraled up to the overhang that protected the chipping white swing and various potted plants that cluttered the porch and windowsills. Both stories of the house were covered in light gray paneling and leafy green ivy that climbed to the gently pointed roof.
Yet there seemed to be something wrong with the house. Maybe it was the fact that it had a decently sized front lawn that thrived in the shadows of not one, but two skyscrapers. But as Isobel continued on the cobblestone pathway and up the porch steps the feeling of wrongness began to make sense.
The house was inhabited by supernaturals. That didn't bother her, she was one, too. She could smell another werewolf on the premises, but the lingering tingle of magic and perfume told her that a sorcerer and a human were also residents here. She had a feeling that the one she would have the least amount of trouble from would be the sorcerer. Wolves were territorial, which had been her main issue at the dorms, and humans were just plain stupid.
Isobel didn't bother knocking. They knew she was here just like she knew that the sorcerer walking down the hall towards the door. It cracked open and a warm brown eye peered out at her from just above the chain.
"Who are you?" He didn't sound irritated or wary, just curious. He seemed confident in his abilities to protect himself and the house.
"Isobel Johnston. I called earlier this week about an interview for the open room. I know I was scheduled to come on Friday but things came up and it couldn't wait." She gave him a hard smile and he stared at her for what felt eons. He closed the door so suddenly she let out a low growl of surprise. She heard him remove the chain and then the door swung open.
The man leaned against the doorframe and extended an arm out to wave her inside. "It would have been nice if you told us you were a wolf." He muttered as she passed.
"I didn't think that it was necessary. If you had told me that there was another wolf in residence, I might have deemed it important enough to share." He chuckled softly and closed the door.
"Fair enough. I'm Grady, the house sorcerer and playboy." Isobel rolled her eyes and followed him down the hall and into the living room. Both the living room and hall had light brown walls and beautiful cherry floors but this room had a deliciously soft, dark green rug that tied them both together.
There were two armchairs perpendicular to a couch, the trio the same shade of brown as the walls. They sat in the center of the room, right in front of a massive plasma TV and a glass coffee table littered with books, empty beer bottles, and crumpled chip bags. The TV was flanked by two bookcases that rose up to the ceiling and ran the entire length of the wall. Even with its size, there was not a single space another book could be squeezed into.
On the wall opposite the bookcases there was a closet flanked by a small glass desk with a large, obviously expensive computer and a cordless phone. There was a picture frame next to the phone and Isobel found herself walking over to it.
"There's something different about you than the other wolves." Grady observed as she picked up the picture. It was of Grady and a Native American woman with eyes so dark they looked black and straight black hair that just brushed her shoulders. The woman had her cheeks puffed out and her eyes were crossed while Grady made bunny ears on the back of her head and had his tongue lolling out. Isobel had to admit, even with the dopey look on his face, he was very attractive.
"This look suits you." She pointed to the picture and Grady rolled his eyes.
"Avoiding the question?" Isobel shrugged and turned to inspect the man that she might be living with. He was tall, which wasn't saying much from Isobel's point of view. She was only five two and Grady had to be at least six four. He had short blonde hair that he spiked up down the middle, making the style not quite a Mohawk, but close. To top it all off, he was covered in lean muscle. Not a bad package, if she did say so herself.
"The answer isn't important."
His eyes narrowed and he sat down in an armchair. "Listen dollface, if you want to stay here, you're going to have to be straight with me. I can't just let you in here without knowing what kind of baggage you're going to bring with you."
Isobel circled the armchair opposite his and glanced over at him. "May I sit?" He nodded and she perched on the edge of the soft cushion. "You want the truth, yes?" Again, he nodded, but more impatiently this time. "The less you know, the safer you are."
Grady scoffed. "I hate to break it to ya, but I can take care of myself."
Isobel's eyes narrowed and she had the satisfaction of watching him squirm a bit. "Don't be so naïve. There is a human in this house, unless I'm mistaken." Grady's hands fisted on the armrests and he leaned forward, eyes blazing.
"Are you threatening Nadia?" He asked lowly.
She frowned and shook her head. "No, of course not. I'm telling you that although you might be able to adequately protect yourself, she can't."
Grady sat back and crossed his arms with a wry smile. "You aren't doing a great job of convincing me that you would be a good tenant."
Isobel smiled sadly. "I know, and I'm sorry. But I'm willing to do anything I can to convince you otherwise."
Grady's eyes flashed with interest. "Anything, you say?" Isobel crossed her legs and folded her hands in her lap with a sly smile.
"Anything within reason," she replied politely. He grinned and stood, wiping his palms on his jeans.
"What kind of host am I? Would you like anything to drink?"
"Water, if you don't piss in it first." She muttered and he chuckled on his way to the kitchen.
"Water, hold the piss, coming right up!"
She laughed and traced patterns on the arm of the chair absently. She heard a creak on the top step of the stairs and leapt from the soft cushions, putting her back to the TV. Judging by the heavy steps that were slowly descending, it was a male. And males, especially wolf males, scared the living shit out of her.
Grady returned holding a beer for himself and a tall glass of ice water for her. He only needed one glance at her face to know that something was wrong. He frowned and set the glass and bottle on the coffee table.
"What's got your tail in a twist?" He muttered and she growled, but not playfully. It was a warning, telling him not to piss her off. He put his hands up in surrender and backed away.
"Fine, fine! I won't get in your way, but you've got to tell me what's wrong first."
The sense of panic was growing stronger and stronger as the footsteps got closer and closer. Isobel found her back pressed against the bookcase before she knew that she had even moved. A whine rose in her throat as the steps got faster.
"You brought another wolf into my territory?" A deep voice snarled from around the corner and while Isobel cowered against the shelves, her wolf did something entirely different. Her ears perked up and she stretched, as if waking up from a nice nap.
Grady stepped in front of her just as the male rounded the corner. The air in the room sparked and grew heavy, the telltale signs of a very, very dominant wolf. To add to the dominance was a deep set power which fluctuated as he prepared to defend his territory.
"Now, now Killian, you're scaring her." Grady tried in a soothing voice but Killian would have none of it.
"Move now or you will no longer have a house to live in." The wolf commanded imperiously, his voice leaving no leniency.
Grady muttered something about impatient territorial wolves that couldn't handle a little estrogen and moved out of the way. Isobel instantly dropped her eyes to the floor but that didn't stop the growl from rising in her throat. Whether it was from fear or defiance, even she didn't know.
She heard his catch of breath and let her eyes slowly rise from his bare feet, over the jeans and snug white t-shirt he wore, up to his face. Killian had a strong jaw, perfectly curved, almost feminine lips, and piercing emerald eyes guarded by reddish brown eyelashes. His auburn hair shagged down to his shoulders in complete, charming disarray. He was tall, probably a good few inches taller than Grady, and had a body built like a swimmer; broad shoulders and a narrow waist.
Those emerald eyes were currently locked on her face and his lips parted in surprise. "Lupus de Luna," he whispered and Isobel's wolf leapt to her feet. She released an earsplitting howl that made Isobel want to cover her ears.
Mine, the wolf snarled to her and Isobel frowned.
Not yours. We're leaving before he hurts us.
Her wolf whined pathetically and paced the corridors of Isobel's mind. He won't hurt us, never hurt us. He loves us. Alrighty then! Her wolf had obviously had a little too much to drink last night.
He doesn't love us, he hates us. Now enough from you. Isobel tried to soothe her but the wolf slammed against Isobel's mind, trying to take control.
MINE! OURS! We aren't leaving him! Isobel propped a hand against the bookcase to gain control but couldn't make herself raise her gaze to Killian.
"I think we should leave now, before we cause any more trouble. I'm sorry we trespassed on your territory. It won't happen again." She started to leave but Killian put a hand out to stop her. She shrank away from it, wrapping her arms around her belly defensively.
"We?" He whispered and she nodded. "Ah, I had almost forgotten what it meant to be what you are. Please, don't leave yet. I have a few questions to ask you."
The woman was terrified, but Killian had no idea why. He wouldn't hurt her. Hell he wouldn't be able to even if he wanted to. She was a Lupus Luna, a Wolf of the Moon.
While he would never hurt her, it appeared that someone else had. She reeked of fear and had wrapped her arms around herself, as if trying to hold herself together. And judging by the wide berth she was giving Killian and the smaller but still prominent one she gave Grady, it was a male wolf.
For the first time ever, his wolf spoke to him. A gift from the woman, he knew.
Mine! It snarled and Killian growled right back at him.
Not yours, someone else's. Both of them growled at that.
We must protect her! The wolf demanded and it wouldn't be like Killian to not protect a woman.
Killian gestured to the armchair and she sat down carefully, her slight frame swallowed in its mass. He sat across from her, propped his elbows on his knees, and rested his chin in the palm of his hand.
He watched her, taking in every move she made. Golden curls bounced down her back and around her face whenever she moved. When she tilted her head just right, they fell over porcelain cheeks dusted with freckles to hide the wide brown eyes that she currently cast down to the floor. Long but extraordinarily pale lashes guarded those eyes and cast shadows over her cheekbones.
There was no denying that she was pretty, but she was so thin that it took away from her beauty. Her wrists looked like they would snap if he applied even the slightest pressure to them and he knew that if she lifted her shirt he could count every single one of her ribs.
"What's your name?" Her eyes snapped up to his at the sound of his voice and held, defiance flashing in their chocolate depths.
"Isobel Johnston. And you are?" Killian smiled at her hard tone. It was refreshing to have someone look him in the eye, even if that someone was scared shitless. Not many people were dominant enough to lock eyes with him and if they were, they couldn't hold his gaze for long.
"Killian Gray. You want to stay here?" She nodded. "Why?"
"I go to school at Julliard and used to stay in the dorms there but I found that I'm too…territorial to be comfortable with another girl in my room." She smiled ruefully as she explained and he smiled back at her. That seemed to relax her slightly as she put her hands in her lap.
"That's not the entire reason, is it?" He asked gently and the smile slipped off her face as her fear spiked again.
"No, it's not." She whispered. "And now that I've come here I fear that I've made a mistake. My staying here would put the entire house in danger, especially the human woman."
Killian leaned forward slightly and frowned. "Why would that be? The Lupus Luna brings peace to wolves by giving them a mind of their own."
"But not all wolves want peace. The one who sired me meant to kill, not to change. He's been following me ever since, trying to finish what he started. And I think he followed me here." Killian's wolf howled again at her sudden confession.
If you don't settle down, I won't feed you the next full moon. The wolf snarled at the threat but didn't speak again.
"Alright, if someone doesn't tell me what's going on she's not staying." Grady announced, apparently fed up that he was out of the loop. Killian glanced up at the sorcerer, menace the showcased emotion. The wizard glared at him for a moment before dropping his gaze. Not even powerful sorcerers could lock eyes with him for long.
"I have a right to know." He muttered and Killian sighed, gesturing to the couch. Once Grady was settled, he started explaining.
"The Lupus de Luna, or Wolf of the Moon, is a very rare breed of wolves. When a wolf is around one, they are able to separate their human half from the wolf. It makes it easier to control your wolf if you're able to speak to it." Grady glanced over at Isobel and Killian's wolf growled possessively but remained blessedly silent.
"So you're like a giant pair of wolfy scissors. You cut their souls in half." Killian rolled his eyes at Grady's childish explanation but Isobel paled.
"I've never thought about it like that." She whispered as Killian shook his head.
"No, that's not what she does. Once she's away from said wolf, the human and wolf bind together again, becoming one person unable to communicate through words, only through feelings and actions. Her presence is especially helpful at the full moon when all wolves have to shift. That way the human can reign in the wolf and keep it from running on a killing rampage like it would without the Wolf of the Moon." He explained and glanced at Isobel for confirmation but found her frowning.
"You didn't know that?" She shook her head and Killian leaned back in the chair and crossed his arms. "Explain." Her eyes narrowed at his demand.
"Don't order me around." She warned and Killian smiled slightly.
"Sorry. Please explain. If you do, you can have the room." He added when she hesitated.
"I was attacked about a year and a half ago on the way to my dorm on campus. It was a full moon and being human, I didn't understand the risks. He attacked me just as I got to the door." She trailed off and Killian gave her a moment to collect herself.
She cleared her throat and started again. "I woke up in a cage in the basement of an old house. I don't know where it was. I didn't look back or pay attention to signs when I escaped months later. The wolf that attacked me was there, he was the leader, along with about fifteen others with a high dominance. They…they beat me for months. Two would hold me down and the others would take turns have a go at me." She smiled without humor and tucked her legs under her.
"Out of all the things they did, rape wasn't one of them. Every time one of them got close to doing it, the leader would make them back away." She swallowed heavily. "One night, only one man came. My original attacker, the one with the orange eyes. He came into my cage and told me he was going to kill me. That he was tired of hearing me scream." Her voice was so soft that only Killian was able to hear her. Grady didn't ask her to speak up, but Killian was sure he would ask him about it later.
Isobel cleared her throat and her eyes met Killian's. "He came towards me with a knife but I…the details aren't important. I escaped and he's been following me ever since. He already took a chunk out of my car." Her eyes blazed with fury and Killian had a feeling that the bastard was going to pay dearly for scratching that car.
"As long as you're here, you're safe. If you go out anywhere, take me or Grady with you. If neither of us is available, don't go anywhere. When do you want to get your things?" He asked and she smiled, proudly displaying twin dimples.
"I've already got everything I need." She stood and went to the door but stopped and glanced back at him over her shoulder. "Thank you, both of you." He nodded and she spun on her heel, heading towards the front door at a brisk pace.
Grady leaned towards him and rubbed his jaw as if it ached. "She'll need twenty-four hour protection. The wards that I've put on the house could keep the Alpha of the United States out. As long as she's here and doesn't invite the bastard in, she's safe."
Killian nodded absently in agreement but kept his gaze on Isobel. He could see her fishing in her car through the crack in the open door. "What about school? We can't follow her into a paid college course every time she has class. People would get suspicious."
Grady shrugged. "Maybe we won't have to. It's already June and she's been in school for at least two years if she was captured a year and a half ago. Although looks can be deceiving, especially with wolves, she looks to be in her early twenties, old enough to be finishing up her degree."
Oh yes, looks were very deceiving. Killian was over four hundred years old now and he didn't look a day over thirty. He would never look a day over thirty as long as he stayed away from silver.
"Her job? If she has one that is." Killian heard himself ask, still lost in his own thoughts.
"We'll take turns picking her up and dropping her off. Relax, dude. I don't think I've ever seen you so worked up before; especially over a woman." Killian was beyond caring what Grady thought.
Isobel was walking back up the path and it saddened him to find her so relieved. In that moment he knew that this house had been her last hope for survival.
She closed the door behind her and turned to them with a small, hesitant smile. He searched her but only saw the black backpack slung over her shoulder and a battered cello case that she held onto with an easy, experienced grip.
"That's all you have?" Grady asked incredulously.
Isobel blushed, obviously embarrassed, and Killian was just about to reach over and punch Grady when she said, "I have money, but until now there hadn't been a point in spending it. I've been living in my car for the past month or so and there's not much room for extras in an old Mustang." She talked about her car with obvious affection and that made Killian smile. It was nice to know that something made her happy.
"Nadia will take you shopping when she has time." Killian announced and stood to gesture at the stairs. "I'll take you to your room and get you settled. Grady will make dinner." The sorcerer in question glared at him but Killian just quirked an eyebrow.
Grady started to stand but Isobel put a hand on Killian's forearm. "No, that's alright. I can cook; it used to be my job." Both Killian and Isobel gazed at her pale hand on his sun bronzed skin. Killian's wolf sighed in contentment and he could have sworn that he heard Isobel's do the same. Her hand tightened over his arm briefly and then she drew it back to her side.
Grady, on the other hand, seemed intrigued. "Where did you work?"
"At Carlota's. I used to be their sous chef but I decided that bartending was more my style and found a job at the Pub." The Pub was a small bar on the corner of 3rd Avenue and 64th Street that was constantly filled to the brink with drunken factory men that Killian didn't approve of, but if it made her happy then he would deal.
It started slow but Grady's smile gradually spread into a massive grin. "You just made my day, dollface." He kissed her cheek on his way to the kitchen. "I would pay to keep this girl in the house but unfortunately for her, she decided to come. Rent's a two fifty a month plus internet, long distance and maintenance. I'll make a fifty dollar deduction if you cook."
Isobel cringed away from his kiss and Killian managed not to snap his neck for doing it but she mustered up enough courage to nod at Grady. "I'll cook." Grady nodded and continued into the kitchen until he was out of sight.
Isobel glanced up at Killian before dropping her eyes but she managed to smile sheepishly. "Can you take me to my room please? This case isn't exactly light." It wasn't a lie, but it was close. Lies left a foul taste on his tongue and Isobel's words made him taste something bitter.
"Of course. Follow me."
Isobel followed him, but she followed him very closely. If she wanted to touch him all she would have to do was extend her hand out slightly. But he didn't seem to mind. Actually, he seemed quite comfortable with her proximity.
"When do you graduate?" A startled whimper left her throat at his loud words and Killian spun around, eyes scanning the upstairs hallway as he searched for danger. Isobel plowed right into his chest and he stabled her with a steady hand on her hip. Her breathing hitched as her fear spiked and Killian's gaze locked with hers.
His wolf peered out at her through vibrant amber eyes but he smiled despite the obvious aggression he felt. "You have nothing to fear from me, little blue jay." Was her wolf looking out at him as his was at her? Were her wolf's blue eyes overtaking Isobel's brown?
He brushed a thumb over her cheekbone and leaned down slightly, completely dispelling any thoughts she had. She jerked back, chest heaving as her fear rose to an almost unbearable level.
Killian's eyes blazed as he took in her shaking limbs and trembling lip. "Whoever tried to break you will pay." He growled and Isobel managed a shaky, breathless laugh.
"Tried?" She managed shakily and Killian nodded.
"You aren't broken. If you were, you would have been too afraid to refuse me." She smiled ruefully at his disappointed tone.
"My mom used to tell me that I was too stubborn for my own good." He laughed at her response and jerked his chin in the direction of a closed bedroom door.
"This one's yours. Mine is at the end of the hall, Nadia's is next to yours and Grady's is across from hers. The bathroom is across from yours and I'd suggest getting up before noon if you want any hot water." He talked about his housemates with reluctant affection and it sounded surprisingly sweet on his deep baritone voice. It made her smile.
"I really can't thank you enough. I'd be dead by morning if you hadn't let me stay here." And she meant it. That damn wolf had just figured out where she kept her car this morning.
Killian's eyes, which had just faded back to molten emerald flared amber again. "You won't have to worry about that bastard for long." The flatness of his voice sent shivers down her spine. She turned and opened the door to distract herself from his anger.
It was a simple room with white walls and the same cherry floors that the rest of the house had. A twin bed was nestled under a window covered by lacy black curtains that matched the comforter. A dresser was settled in the corner and a nightstand of the same dark wood sat next to the bed. The small closet rested on the wall opposite the dresser.
"I know it's not much but—"
"It's perfect." She interrupted and caught his smile out of the corner of her eye. She dropped her backpack on the bed and leaned her cello against the wall next to the dresser. Killian sat on the bed and handed her the backpack.
"Thank you," she murmured and unzipped the bag. It was unnerving to have a dominant wolf on her bed, if not a little frightening. She pulled out her clothes first, which consisted of a few t-shirts and a pair of ripped up jeans. That was basically what she wore now. She put the shirts in one drawer, pants in the other and when Killian wasn't looking, her bras and panties in one of the smaller top drawers.
Then she pulled out the two frames and was about to set them on top of her dresser when Killian extended a hand, beckoning for them. "If you don't mind," She shrugged and placed them in his waiting palm.
"Of course not. My room is your room." His amber gaze snapped up to hers and she froze, mouth open in shock of what she just said. "I mean, it's your house and you owned it first and—"
"Don't worry about it Bells," he interrupted with a chuckle. "But one day you're going to regret saying that." Surprisingly she didn't feel scared at the threat. He wouldn't hurt her, of that she was strangely positive.
Touch him! Her wolf demanded and Isobel decided to humor her for a moment.
Isobel snorted and turned back to her backpack. No way in hell. Now settle down. I know the full moon is at the end of the week and you're restless but for now I need you to help me. You know I'm not comfortable around dominant males.
Her wolf sighed and Isobel could feel her rubbing against her calf, trying to provide comfort. He won't hurt us. You'll see. Isobel silently thanked the beast with a smile and started assembling her folding stand.
"Inside joke with your wolf?" Killian asked and she smiled at him.
"Not really. She's trying to get me to…do things I'm too afraid to do." He glanced up from her degrees and cocked his head to the side, making him appear very wolfish.
"Like what?" He asked with obviously false innocence. Isobel bit her lip and his gaze fell to it.
"Touching you," she whispered and his eyes blazed amber.
"And you don't want to?" She shook her head rapidly to dispel the disappointment in his voice.
"That's not what I said. I'm too afraid to. I don't know you and you're very dominant. So dominant that sometimes it's hard to keep eye contact." She brought her gaze back to the stand and pushed the last latch down. She shook it a few times to make sure it was stable and then got to her feet.
"Don't think that this fear will hold up forever." She warned him with a small smile. "One day I'm going to spontaneously combust and start my sexual assault." He laughed and when his eyes opened again they were sparkling emerald chips. Now all she had to do was pray that he realized that she was joking.
"Good to know. Now if you're done, we should go downstairs. Grady gets pissy when he's hungry." She followed him down the stairs and into the kitchen where Grady stood, waiting impatiently.
He threw his hands up in the air and bowed to her. "Finally! The fanged goddess returns to her natural habitat." She brushed past him to get the refrigerator.
"Men who think women belong in the kitchen obviously don't know what to do with them in the bedroom." Killian made a strangled sound at her bland retort but Grady just rolled his eyes and crossed his arms.
"Cute." He muttered and she gave him a pinky wave as she dropped her ingredients on the counter. Chicken, bacon, basil, garlic, salt, pepper, tomatoes, parmesan cheese, and a box of rice and rigatoni. She could have made something more complex than Italian chicken with the supermarket's worth of food around the small kitchen but she had a feeling these boys wanted to eat, and soon.
"Frying pan?" She asked and Grady reached above her head to pull one off the top shelf. She set it on the burner and put it on medium high. She pulled the cutting board out from behind the sink and grabbed a knife from the block next to the stove.
She had just started dicing the bacon when Grady stepped up to her. "Can I help?" She paused for a moment then gestured to the bacon.
"Can you make it crispy without burning the shit out of it?" He snorted, appearing to take offense to her serious question, and took a handful of the diced meat
"Can I make it crispy without burning the shit out of it," he grumbled as he set the chunks of meat on the pan. She smiled and finished with the bacon before moving onto the chicken. She seasoned it with the salt and pepper and handed them over to Grady.
She turned the heat down to medium and minced the garlic. She threw that in the pan and wiped her hands on her jeans. "Let them sit for about seven minutes and then flip. Let the other side fry for about the same amount of time. If you burn the shit out of them remember that that's the only dinner you're getting."
Grady cast Killian an exasperated glance and shook his head. "Women nowadays. Mouths of sailors." Isobel quirked an eyebrow at him and he shut up. She smiled to herself and diced fresh tomatoes. She started grating the parmesan once Grady flipped the chicken and it was ready by the time he set the heat down to medium low when she requested it.
She threw in the tomatoes and basil then carefully layered the parmesan on the chicken breasts. Grady moaned once the cheese started to melt. "God, Isobel that smells amazing." She slapped his hand when he reached for a breast. The chickens, not hers, of course.
"One, it's hot. And two, it needs to simmer for another ten minutes. If you could get plates out, that would be awesome." She scolded, but ignored his indignant grumbling. While he set to work on that she filled two pots with water and set them on the stove. Once the water was boiling, she dumped pasta into one and the seasoned rice into the other. She turned the chicken off and set it on the only burner that wasn't hotter than hell.
Once the sides were soft she drained the water and gestured to the meal. "Serve yourself." She muttered and took one of the plates Grady held. After she had chicken and rice on the black plate she took a seat at the table and dug in. And God was it good.
Grady took the seat opposite her and Killian took the one to her right. They groaned simultaneously when they took a bite. "God Isobel, this is delicious!" She smiled slightly and nibbled on a bite of chicken.
"So," Grady began and she was already wary of what he would say next. "Your name is kind of a mouthful. Can we call you something else? Like Master Chef? Or Sailor? Or how about Mozart?"
Isobel rolled her eyes. "You can call me Bella if you have to. It's what my friends used to call me, when I had them." She smiled but didn't feel any reason to. Actually, she rather felt like crying right about now.
"Okay Tinkerbell, when do you graduate?" Grady prodded as she poked at her chicken with her fork, ignoring the twist that he put on her nickname. Killian was watching her with those hawk eyes, waiting for the answer she didn't give him earlier.
"Two weeks, on the twenty second."
"How long have you been in college?" He asked.
She pondered over the question and put another piece of chicken in her mouth to give herself time to think. "Well I'm twenty eight so I guess twelve years. I tested out of high school a year early and went to school on a full scholarship. I only decided to graduate since I've already finished all the courses that are as advanced as I am. There's nothing left for me there." She was going to miss that school. Grady was giving her an odd look and she frowned. "What?"
"Are you telling me that you're too good for Julliard?" He asked incredulously
She leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms, pinning him with a serious look. "That's exactly what I'm telling you. I spent two of those twelve years at the Paris Conservatoire, one at the Royal College of Music in London, and I think six months at Curtis Institute." Both Grady and Killian were staring at her, mouths open.
Killian was the first to recover. He cleared his throat and went back to his chicken, a private smile pulling at one corner of his lips. Grady seemed fascinated. "You'll have to play for us sometime."
Isobel sighed and speared a piece of chicken. "I'm playing at my graduation."
"Is everyone?" Grady asked stupidly. Isobel gave him a have-you-been-listening-to-me-at-all-in-the-last-f ive-minutes look. Even Killian glanced up from his plate with his fork paused over the last of his chicken.
"Dude, she's the valedictorian. How thick can you get?" Killian muttered and shook his head.
Grady put his hands up in surrender and started on his rigatoni. "Look, I'm a little over a fourth of your age. I don't pick up on these things as quickly as you do."
Isobel glanced at Killian who was glaring at Grady. "How old are you?" Emerald eyes landed on hers while she spoke and he held them until she looked away. It wasn't like a dominant male to lose a staring contest with those beneath him.
"Four hundred and forty three. Grady here, no matter how much he would like to deny it, is actually one hundred and eighty five. You're the youngest one in the house by a year, give or take a few months. Nadia turned twenty nine in February." Killian muttered unhappily, focusing on the chicken furiously.
Isobel looked at Killian up and down until he squirmed a little in his chair. "Neither of you look a day over twenty five."
Grady laughed and gave Killian a meaningful look. "Looks can be deceiving."
Isobel tilted her head to the side, tuning them out as she listened to a woman walking up the steps to the porch. Her breath hitched when the key turned the tumblers and unlocked the front door. She tightened her grip on the fork when the urge to defend her territory and her male taunted her wolf.
Wait a minute her male?
MINE! He's ours! She will die for coming on our territory! Tired of listening to the wolf, Isobel dropped her fork and stood.
"Goddamn wolves and their goddamn territories." She growled in a voice so low that only Killian would be able to hear if he was even listening. He was probably too busy listening to that human bitch.
Isobel shook her head, horrified with herself. The wolf didn't normally have this great of a hold on her thoughts and actions. She ought to get as far away from Nadia as she could until the wolf calmed.
"It smells wonderful in here!" The woman yelled and Isobel could hear her opening the closet and tossing shoes about.
Isobel gripped the counter and tried to steady her breathing. When the woman came into the kitchen she brought with her the scent of the sweet floral perfume that she wore. Sickeningly sweet.
"Who is our guest?" She sounded nice enough but Isobel could detect the barely concealed layer of suspicion.
"She's not a guest, she's our housemate. She'll be paying just a little less than one fourth of the rent." Thank God for Killian because his cool voice was the only thing that kept Isobel from snapping Nadia's neck in that instant.
"Oh really," She didn't sound the least bit pleased. Isobel almost laughed. That made two of them.
"Does she know?" Isobel asked.
"Some of it," Killian replied carefully and she heard the woman scoff.
"Please, you guys talk like you have bullhorns up to your face. I know most of the shit that goes down around here so there's no point in keeping anything from me. I'll dig it up." Isobel froze and both Killian and Grady cursed.
"Nadia, don't piss her off." Grady warned.
"Too late now." Killian muttered but didn't make any move against her when Isobel turned to face her opponent.
She got the satisfaction of watching that smug superiority wipe clean off Nadia's face as she met Isobel's gaze. The woman was a few inches taller, but that height wouldn't help her in the slightest.
"Was that a threat?" Isobel growled and Nadia backed up, her hands in the air and eyes on the floor.
"No, of course not." Nadia said quickly but Killian growled.
"Don't lie in my house Nadia." He warned and she glared at him.
"You should be backing me up! You brought this psycho bitch into our house now you can get her out."
Isobel laughed even when her wolf snarled for the "our house" comment. "Hate to break it to you honey, but this is my house too. And if you'd like to contradict me, we can take our argument outside and see who wins." Nadia paled but didn't say anything. "Alright then let's get this straight. If you stay out of my way and I stay out of yours, then we won't have a problem. But if you do get in my way, psycho bitch won't even begin to cover the result."
And with that Isobel walked out of the room.