He hissed. Honest to gods, hissed with his fangs bared as he glanced out the bedroom door toward the living room. Of course, the sight of his fangs made me harder. His head swung around toward the door and then his tongue flicked out and the end separated into two points; that really got my attention.
His tongue flicked back into this mouth. "It's Benny."
I just stared at him. He looked down at me and frowned. "He knows I'm with you and he wouldn't interrupt without a good reason. I have to see what he needs."
"I... uhm... did your tongue just split on the end?" I ignored his comment about going to check the door, still focused on his mouth. I knew Snakes were different but that was just... wow.
He grinned. "Yeah. You like?" His smile faded as I failed to answer him. Honestly, I thought all the surprises were out of the way. "Baby?"
The hesitation in his voice pulled me out of my thoughts about Dav, his tongue, the rest of his very different body. His eyes searched my face. We both jumped when Benny pounded on the door again.
Dav looked away and backed off me to stand up. I could see how tense his muscles were. How did we go from seconds away from orgasm to this? Looking at him, I realized that I wasn't the only one unsure here. He turned away and his shoulders slumped as he left the bedroom.
"Dav!" I rushed off the bed after him. I caught him by the arm and pulled him to a stop in the living room.
"I need to answer the door," he said quietly, still facing away from me.
"I know." Dav seemed to be a man of action. I decided mine would speak louder than words and tugged him around. Pulling him close, I kissed him. I stroked at his mouth until his lips parted for my insistent tongue. Without hesitation, I twined our tongues together, urging him to kiss me back. I couldn't even feel a seam until he finally let his tongue separate under my prodding.
"Damn it Dav, I can hear you! Answer the door!" Benny’s muffled shout came through the door as he pounded on it again.
Dav pulled back, breaking the kiss. I was panting; touching him seemed to take my breath away. The way both sides of his forked tongue had touched and stroked my tongue back had instantly flashed a picture in my mind of where else that would feel good. My length was back to achingly hard from the visual.
"You don't have to worry. Nothing you can show me is going to make me run away," I promised.
Dav swallowed hard and then smiled at me, his eyes shining. "Thank you," he said quietly. He looked at the door, frowning. "Why don't you hop in the shower while I deal with Benny? You can get some sweats out of the dresser and I'll take you home afterward. There are towels in my bathroom."
Home. I held my frown in and kept my face blank as I nodded. "Okay." I walked back into the bedroom to use the massive master bath. The walk in shower alone was big enough to easily hold three men with a little room to spare. I stood under the flow of hot water, the last of the dizziness and fog washing away and leaving my mind numb. My stomach was another story.
I braced a hand on the stone tile walls, the cool surface felt so good I leaned forward and let my face rest against it too. Dav's place, while about the same size, was much nicer than mine. That wasn't what made me feel ill though. What if Dav was going to just drop me off? This was ridiculous. I had just had to reassure him that I wasn't going to run away from him and now I was afraid he was going to do the same thing to me. It felt like we were on an emotional seesaw, up and down, my turn to freak out, his turn to freak out.
"Stupid!" I muttered, "Have some confidence." I grinned at my silliness, giving myself a pep talk while in the shower of a Snake Carthera who, for some unknown reason, thought I was his mate. Carthera were a different breed than humans. It wasn’t love at first sight, it had to be some form of biology and pheromones but Dr. Pannar said once they met their mates they never cheated, never ‘fell out of love’ and changed their minds. When it was right, it was right.
“It’s crazy,” I muttered. It did explain the way I had been so ready to let him bite me though, beyond the fact that it was just kinky and hot as hell. Whatever this was would take trust on both our parts. I would just have to see what happened at my apartment.
I pushed upright and grabbed the soap, lathering up a washcloth and then scrubbing my body before I rinsed off and got out. I was a good six inches shorter than Dav but he wasn't a bulky man so I wasn't swimming too much in his sweats. They were soft and smelled like him, something that made me smile as I pulled them on. When I walked into the living room Benny was gone and Dav was on the phone.
"I'll see you later. Bye Mario." Dav hung up the phone, putting it in his pocket. "Hey baby, you look like you're feeling better; you’re not nearly as pale."
"I do; thanks." I walked into his open arms and he kissed me. This time I was able to enjoy the way his tongue really caressed mine as it split and the two sides caressed either side of my tongue, bringing back the thought for a whole other use for them. "I think I'm going to love your tongue," I murmured against his lips.
"Hmm," Dav hummed as he nipped at my lips, "I'll make sure you do."
His affection reassured that bit of me still nervous about him wanting to take me home. Even if he planned to just drop me off, I didn't think he intended to forget about me. Not if we were mates. Usually I wasn't aggressive with the men I dated but something about Dav made me sure I would fight for him. I didn’t believe in love at first sight but maybe this was more than just pheromones.
The bar was mostly quiet. The bouncer I’d seen with Dav the night before I passed out, Benny, was helping a guy behind the bar lug boxes that clinked as they set them down. Dav brought us to a stop when Benny shot him a look. He let go of my hand, sliding his up to squeeze the back of my neck.
"Hold on a minute Ellis, I'll be right back. You can sit here.” I watched as they moved off, heads close together as they looked at something Benny pulled out of his pocket.
I jumped and spun on the stool I had sat down on. The bartender behind me was opening the boxes and putting away bottles of liquor behind the bar.
"Want a drink?" he asked.
"Got some water?"
He nodded. "Sure thing." Grabbing a glass without looking he dug up some ice and then used the sprayer to fill it. Slipping a napkin under the glass that already had condensation forming on the outside of it; he slid my drink across the bar.
"Thanks. It's hot in here." The water was cold enough to make my teeth hurt but I drained half the glass anyway.
"Back door is open for the delivery. Since there isn't much going on in here during the day Dav keeps the a/c off. Plus the apartment is on the same heating system, I don't think he likes it to get too cold, but he is a weird guy." The bartender shrugged.
"Snakes like it hot."
The guy’s blue eyes filled with shock, probably at the casualness of my comment. His hands stilled, each gripping a bottle of vodka, as he studied my face. He wasn't running screaming but did he honestly not know?
"You do know you're working in a bar owned by a Carthera right? I didn't just spill the beans did I?"
He blinked and then put the bottles in the rack automatically, reaching for two more. "No. No, I knew. I just... you surprised me. Everyone's nervous around him, you know? Fear, wariness, or outright prejudice is what I normally see. Even other Carthera give him wide berth, most humans don't realize it but they avoid even touching him."
He looked to see if I understood what he was saying, with one eyebrow raised in a silent question.
"I'm not most humans."
The ride to my apartment was quiet. The radio was already on, a classic rock station I was a fan of too. I guided him to my apartment and we were lucky to get parking right in front of the building as Mr. Gundry drove away. I was glad the old man was out; he was a prejudiced bastard who harassed me for being gay. I could only imagine what kind of slurs he’d have for a gay Carthera. Then again… maybe Dav could bite him and get rid of my problem.
“What’s that smile for?” Dav asked as he put the car in park. “You look almost… predatory.”
“Oh, uh, just wondering how you feel about taking care of a bit of light work for me,” I snickered.
“My neighbor is a bit of an asshole. Just thought maybe if you bit him my life would be a lot easier.”
Dav leered at me. “I’d rather bite you.” He started to lean in.
“Not in the car!” I squeaked.
He pulled back and I swear, he pouted. I burst out laughing and he was silent for a minute and then joined in. When I finally stopped, I had to wipe tears from my cheeks.
“You’re not nearly as scary as everyone says.”
“Is that a complaint of some sort?”
I looked at the way his eyes sparkled and the smile on his face, so different from the shuttered look in the bar with his men. It was a look just for me.
“Not at all.”
Before he could come at me again, when I could see in his eyes he wouldn’t stop this time, I hopped out of the car and waited to see if Dav was going to get out. My heart pounded a little as I waited. When he opened his door I let out a breath of relief.
My little blue four door car was in my spot so Matthew must really have made it home. That eased a stress I didn’t even know I was under. He would be knocking on my door later demanding to know everything about Dav.
“I have a ground floor apartment, thankfully. Moving in would have been impossible without one.”
The entire walk to my front door Dav paced right behind me. I glanced over my shoulder, every nerve conscious of the tall, hot man behind me, his shadow cast across my body and the door.
“Well, home sweet home,” I said as I led him inside. My apartment wasn’t anything special but there was one feature that guaranteed I would stay when I first looked at moving to Matthew’s building. The ground floor units had a breakfast nook area with big windows. In my apartment, a table didn’t fill up the space but a piano did.
It was older and a bit dinged up, but I had rescued it when my brother went into the military. He said it was a calling, something he had to do. My parents threw a fit and said they’d disown him. When they followed through on their threat, I left too. Isiah was my twin, the more adventurous one, the more artistic one, the more… everything one. I think I shocked my parents when I left home, taking my stuff and Isiah’s piano. He was already at basic when I overheard them calling someone to take it to the junkyard.
That had been just vindictive of them. We weren’t trust fund rich, but my parents had quite a bit of money. They thought that meant we’d do whatever they wanted. The piano was more than just a piece of furniture and Isiah had been playing on it since he was four years old. He loved it. When I confronted my parents, a first for me, they tried to justify turning their backs on him. I knew then that I wanted nothing to do with such cold people. Isiah had always been there for me, and while I didn’t understand being able to carry a gun and kill, I did know that if our positions were reversed Isiah wouldn’t let me go. He’d stick by me and support me.
I had already been accepted into the nursing program at a local college, most of my prerequisites done through my private school’s college fast track program. I’d begun taking classes during my junior year. I’d also tutored after school, putting away a lot of money rich parents threw at me to keep their sons from failing. With that, investment income from a portfolio my grandma left me, and a lot of budgeting, I’d been able to afford an apartment where the piano took up most of the living room and finish school.
Matthew had convinced me to move here after I got the job with Dr. Pannar. I’d just started at the hospital when I met Natham, only two months after graduation. I liked my job, my apartment was decent if not palatial, and I did it all without the help of my parents. I had even just bought a new couch that pulled out because Isiah told me he was getting leave in a month and wanted to come visit. I couldn’t wait.
Dav plopped down on the couch and stared up at me. “Coming in?”
I stood leaning against the door, still, lost in my thoughts. I’d watched as Dav had prowled around my small apartment’s living room and kitchen but my mind had been elsewhere. He jumped up and walked quickly over to me. Pushing my hair out of my face, he looked in my eyes.
“Is this when you freak out? Having me in your apartment, risking your friends coming over and seeing me here?”
“You mean, Davis Retic, owner of one of the most popular clubs in town and all around hot man? Or Dav, the man who took care of a perfect stranger overnight, one that had puked on his Italian leather shoes, and then ordered him breakfast?”
I smiled but Dav’s serious look didn’t crack.
“I mean the dangerous Snake Carthera who everyone just knows will rip your throat out at the slightest provocation.”
That’s it. I was sick of his attitude and belief that I had to afraid or ashamed to be seen with him. I balled up one fist and pulled it back before I punched Dav hard in the chest as hard as I could.
“Ow!” I said, shaking my hand.
Dav’s eyes were huge and he grabbed my hand. “Ellis! Did you hurt yourself?” He manipulated my fingers and I grunted at the sharp pain in my knuckles.
I glared at him. “Hell yes. I just hit a stubborn jackass and he didn’t even wince. He certainly didn’t fly into a rage and kill me, or even hit me back. Oh no, the dangerous, unpredictable animal,” I said the word as if it were filthy, “tries to make sure I didn’t hurt myself. I am in real danger now.”
I yanked my hand away from his gentle hold. “I’m trusting you here. I’m willing to consider we are mates, even though I’m not a Carthera and I’m not sure of the scientific validity of this whole thing. But I’m trying. You’re throwing up walls that don’t exist; like you’re punishing me for something someone else did in your past.”
Dav looked down, his hands clenched into fists. I could see how upset he was even if he wasn’t saying a word. Maybe he wasn’t ready to tell me yet but that didn’t mean I was going to let him push me away and assume I would hurt him.
“I'm not that person; I wouldn’t hurt you Dav. I think the least you could do is to give me an honest chance to prove that.”
I watched as he struggled. Maybe this wouldn’t be as easy as all the mated Carthera I’d talked to made it seem. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.