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Devour (Devoured #1)(10) by Shelly Crane

“So he’d just hit you for no reason?” When I didn’t answer he leaned over me, placing his hands on the bars above me, towering over me. “Has he done this before, Clara?”

“No, never. He’s always been gentle with me.”

“Has he ever beat a guy like that before?”

“No.”

“I’m sorry, Clara, but I think he’s got a problem. State is coming up isn’t it? Wrestling is a really big deal in this town,” he said with inflection.

I stayed silent as I looked out at nothing in the dark. I mentally waded through his behavior lately. He’d been very snappy, even with me, and his dad, the mayor, was on him more than anyone about making his town proud. Oh no, it was true.

“I want you to be wrong,” I confessed softly.

“I want to be too, but I don’t think I am,” he said just as softly.

The moon was shining streaks of white through his dark hair and his brow ring caught the light, twinkling. I reached up and touched it before I even realized what I was doing. He shivered and I finally looked into his eyes that were already watching me. His eyes were so violet, even in the night, and they captured me. I could literally have stood there all night and just locked gazes with him and smelled him. This close, he smelled like soap and something else, something delicious.

His face took on that familiar twist of enjoyment but he seemed to keep in reigned in for the most part.

His hand came down to smooth my cheek.

“Are you ok? You seem very...torn,” he said finally.

I could think of nothing with his hand on me. Absolutely no words came to mind as I just stood there and let him touch me and held his gaze. And then he leaned in slightly, carefully, testing me. More, more. Then when he was so close I felt his breath on my lips, I put a hand on his chest to stop him.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered. “I can’t.”

“Because of Tate?” he asked and I heard the edge there.

“Yes.”

“He hit you, Clara,” he growled. “He hurt you. How can you even think about him right now?”

“I know what Tate just did was horrible but I have to talk to him. I can’t kiss you when I’m still dating someone else, even if it is on the rocks. I’m not like that.”

He nodded and seemed to calm down.

“Alright. You’re right. I respect that.” He leaned back and took a deep breath. “Come on. I’ll get you home.”

~ ~ ~

Pastor was waiting on the porch for me.

“Coach called. You ok?” he said and came to pull me into a hug.

“I’m fine. Pastor, this is Eli Thames. He’s new.”

“Thank you, son, for walking her home,” Pastor said and shook his hand.

“No problem, sir. I’m glad to help.”

“Well, you need a ride home?”

“I just live a little bit that way,” he pointed and started making his way. “See you tomorrow, Clara.”

“Bye. And thank you,” I called.

He nodded and lifted a hand in acknowledgement as he walked away.

Pastor took me inside and passed me to Mrs. Ruth, who took me straight upstairs for an inspection. She removed my shirt and even through my bra I could see a faint spot showing right between my breasts.

“Clara...I can’t believe Tate did this to you. I think it’s needless to say you can’t see him anymore and we need to file a police report.”

“No! Wait... He didn’t know it was me, I came up behind him. I need to talk to him first, to understand what happened.”

“Clara...I don’t think it’s a good idea but...I’ll talk to Pastor about it.” She ran her hand down the back of my hair. “You want to stay home from school tomorrow? I’m sure that would be quite alright.”

“It’s ok. People will just talk even worse if I’m not there. They’ll say Tate killed me or something,” I joked and tried to make light of it. “I’ll go, I’m fine.”

“If you’re sure. I’ll make you pancakes in the morning, ok?”

“Mrs. Ruth, it’s ok. I know the twins keep you up at night. Really, I’m fine. You guys are doing just fine at taking care of me. You don’t have to try so hard,” I said with a smile.

“Oh, honey. It’s been a pleasure having you stay with us. Your parents are so proud of you. I guarantee it.”

“Thanks.”

“Night. Let me know if you need anything. You know I’ll be up,” she said wryly making me laugh.

“Ok, thank you.”

She closed the door and left. I collapsed on my bed, wondering how the day had ended like it had. Pulling my knees up I felt the sting in my chest and buried my head under my pillow. He hadn’t known it was me coming up behind him…but still. Why would he punch someone he when he didn’t even know who it was? Just because it was me still didn’t make it ok for it to be someone else.

I lay down just like that, my bra on and jeans, face under my silk pillow case and feet hanging off the side of the bed. I closed my eyes and realized my subconscious had been invaded when I was standing back at the school gate. I was leaning my back against it and there was a presence over me. It wasn’t ominous though I felt if it had been seen by someone else they would have thought so. He leaned in, his face shaded and dark like before, his breath overly warm and powerful before my lips. He spoke.

“I’ve waited a very long time for you. Please don’t hate me.”

“Why would I hate you?” I whispered, fearing my voice would no longer work.

“I’m not a good person. I’m an evil thing that has fallen under your spell,” he muttered and ran the back of his hand down my cheek and neck.

“Eli?” I asked, testing my theory.

“Is that who you want it to be?”

“I want you to be who you are.”

He hesitated then the shadow lifted from his face as he inched closer and I was struck by his face. He was unlike anything I’d ever seen. He looked like him, but not. He was so completely breathtaking with his gorgeous ruggedness and imperfections and he was looking at me like I was the only thing he wanted in this whole world.

“What did you mean you’re an evil thing, Eli?” I asked.

“I am...something I can’t describe. I’m not worthy of you in any sense of the word but I must have you. Do you understand? You have ensnared me, bewitched me, and I can no longer exist without you with me.”

“I barely know you,” I whispered.

“But I know you,” he said cryptically against my cheek, kissing my scorching flesh. “Open your eyes, sleeping beauty.”

I gasped, aware on my bed, and felt my cheek where he had laid his soft lips. It was still too warm to be normal. I sat up and looked around. Oh man. My imagination was working overtime. Was I becoming one of those pathetic girls who couldn’t get a boy off her mind to the point of obsession, usually ending in restraining orders and timed served at a mental health facility?

When I lay back down and closed my eyes, I was alone.

The next morning I woke with a start. A quick glance at the clock showed I was borderline running late so I hurried to jump in the shower. The bruise was a little more angry today but still not horrible. I put my hair up in a ponytail and worried over my wardrobe. I’d have to pick something to hide the bruise. I put on my black turtleneck under my school vest and earrings with a necklace so I didn’t look like I was trying to cover anything up.