Gray smiled at Briar as he squeezed her hand. He glanced over at the quaint coffee shop they had just exited, sipping his latte. Briar sipped her own drink, a chocolate-drizzled frappe, smiling back at him. Gray laughed as she came away with a whipped cream mustache. Leaning over, he kissed it off her, and she giggled. Her laugh was so damn cute. Gray stepped back to look at her, marveling again at how beautiful she was. Tonight, the frosted air chilling the people around her, she was bundled up completely. Fur-lined cream parka, brown scarf pulled up over her face, tall ugg boots. Of course, the boots were equipped with razor-sharp knives that could saw through bone in seconds, but still.
Briar's pale skin glowed in the light, and her amber eyes shone. Her matching hair spilled down her back, fluffy and inviting. Gray grinned, running his thumb over the back of her hand.
"Like a drink, beautiful?" A soft, low voice purred from the shadows. They turned, seeing a man in his thirties leaning against the wall. "The coffee shop opens to a bar on the left, as I'm sure you know."
"Thank you, but I just got a drink." Briar replied smoothly, holding up her frappe.
"Sweetie, I meant something a bit… stronger." The man replied, and Gray couldn't help but notice his eyes raking along Briar's figure. He clenched her hand tighter.
"Oh, sorry. I don't drink." Briar looked calm, but Gray felt her fingers clench and knew she was angry. And worried.
"There's always a time to start." The man leant forward. "I know some that would knock you off your feet, young lady." Gray growled. The man looked over at him, as if seeing him for the first time. He didn't look impressed.
"Oh, I see." He murmured. "I can get you away from your boyfriend, love. Just say the word, m'kay? I'll take you wherever you want to go." By the look on his face, it was obvious he wanted her nowhere but his bed.
"Again, thanks for the kind offer. Purely for me, I'm sure." Briar responded, giving him a glare. "But I think I'll be staying with my boyfriend." The man wrinkled his nose.
"If you're sure, hon." Briar nodded.
"That's right, now." Gray found himself saying. "Get the hell out of here before I shred you." The man laughed, not knowing that Gray was in fact perfectly capable of doing such a thing. Briar's hand, still holding Gray's, twitched towards her boots. "Leave." Said Gray. And yet, the man remained still. And then he did the unspeakable.
With his treacherous, filthy, disgusting, perverted, atrocious, appalling, odious hand, the man slapped Briar's butt and then her thigh, murmuring "damn".
Gray broke. Letting go of Briar's hand and his drink, he lunged forward with a vengeance. The man, taken by surprise, had no time to react before Gray pinned him to the wall. Pulling his arm back, Gray threw a striking blow. Blood spurted out of the man's mouth, but he still struggled. Squirming, he threw Gray off of him, but Gray's wings snapped out from his back just in time to catch his fall.
"Gray!" Briar said, clearly concerned that any passerby would be able to see the wings. Gray quickly retracted them, though it was grudgingly. Or atleast, his body did. His mind wasn't focused at anything at all but the man in front of him, wiping his mouth. Curling his body, he ran at the man again, but this time he was ready. His fist connected with Gray's right eye, and the pain sent an electric shock through him. But he had felt much worse before, and it did not deter him. He jumped forward, hitting the man in the chest. He was heavier than he looked, but the man still reeled. Gray took the chance to pick him up swiftly and slam him against the wall again. The dark man's head connected with the brick in a satisfying crunch, and when Gray released him there was a dark stain on the happy red wall.
Briar ran between a trembling Gray and the side of the cafe, grabbing his shoulders.
"Gray! Pull yourself together!" Tears streamed down her face, piercing Gray with concern. Pulling her close he muttered into her ear.
"Did he hurt you?" Briar pushed away, looking horrified.
"No, but Gray-" Her sentence was cut short as she stooped over, grabbing the knife from her boot and throwing it over Gray's shoulder. He whirled as he saw the man falling away, blood spurting from his shoulder joint. Glancing at his hand, he saw a curved blade. Gray suddenly did not want to know what, or who, he had intended to use it for. Snatching Briar's hand again, he pulled her down the closest alley and hid her in the dark, panting.
"Gray." Her voice made him shiver and hold her closer. He was in trouble. "Gray, I-"
He shushed her. Kissing her forehead, he waited in the shadows until all sounds drowned out any movement. Never letting go of her hand, they raced back to the woods they had entered from. They unfurled their wings and flew all the way back to the cottage.
Arslan greeted them, brows furrowing. When she saw Gray, she screamed. Luke came dashing over, and his face paled at the sight of his brother. Mika walked up casually, eyebrows raising slightly.
Gray just shook his head, leading Briar inside. Collapsing on the couch, he dragged Briar to a sitting position next to him. Arslan and Luke quickly filed in.
"Luke." Arslan said. "Get a wet washcloth." Gray started to object, but one look silenced him. Briar sat still next to him, a beautiful statue. Arslan walked over to them, grabbing Gray's face. "Gray." She said. "What happened?"
"We were walking, after coffee." Looking around, he was slightly surprised that they had dropped their drinks before remembering why and filling with rage again. "A man came up and tried to get Briar away. When she refused, he…" Gray trailed off, looking away, but Arslan didn't let him.
"What, Gray? I need to know." Her voice trembled. Luke walked in and gave her the wet towel, and she released Gray's face to start dabbing at his eye. He flinched. Mika leaned against the doorframe, watching inquisitively.
"He… touched her." He managed. Seeing Arslan's quizzical look, he rushed to explain. "Not… in a friendly way, mind. Not a tap on the shoulder. He slapped her," Gray said, face flushing and fury biting, "he slapped her butt and her thigh and said "damn". He said "damn"!"
Arslan snarled, dropping the rag to embrace Briar. Something was wrong, Gray realized, as Briar didn't react at all. She hadn't said a word. Arslan got there first, but seemed to see something else in her expression Gray didn't. Gesturing to Mika and Luke, she left the room. The rest of them followed, leaving Gray and Briar alone on the couch.
Gray turned and brushed the still flowing tears from Briar's cheek. He kissed her nose.
"What is it, love?" She turned to him.
"Gray." She whispered. Before he could respond, she kissed him.
It was sudden, and Gray had no time to think. His reason flew from him as he dug his nails into her back, kissing her back fiercely. Tasting salt, he realized that Briar still hadn't stopped crying. He kissed her cheek.
"Love." He murmured, pressing his face into her hair. Briar's hand wrapped into Gray's hair, ruffling it. He pulled away first.
"What's wrong?" Gray asked. Briar shook her head.
"Gray, you don't understand. You mean everything to me. And, with your slightly weaker powers… less training… I was so scared. I can't lose you." Gray squeezed her.
"Briar. Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, there was a boy. He had unusual hair, weird family ties, and even odder powers. Then he met a beautiful girl that far surpassed any expectations. She was lively. Gorgeous. Funny. Witty. Charming. In a matter of months, she had him wrapped around her little finger.
"One day, someone tried to take her from him. He fought him, and she got upset. But just remember there is one rule: don't touch her. No matter what. No hurting her, okay?" He kissed her neck. "There. Capisce?" Briar laughed.