Blood Moon 003: Bonfire (Original Draft)

Blood Moon 003: Bonfire (Original Draft)

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Julian hit the dirt with a thump then rolled to absorb the shock. When she jumped back up to her feet, she dusted off her legs and sleeves, then glanced back up at the second floor window. A pair of legs poked out, followed by an unwanted view of red polka-dot panties.

“Silvia, I can see up your skirt. Why on earth didn’t you just wear pants?”

Silvia slid out of the window, then dropped to the ground. Her landing was more graceful if you ignored the flash of her undies. “Because, you’re supposed to wear cute dresses when you go out with boys.” she complained, making sure her dress was twisted back in to the proper position.

“I’m sneaking you out to Clarity, on risk of death by the way, boys at clubs don’t really seem to be the cute dresses type.”

Silvia exploded in to giggles, then hand to clamp her hands over her mouth. Once she got it under control, she grabbed Julian’s hands and started dragging her towards the outer edge of the backyard. It was the exact opposite direction if they wanted to head to town for a club.

“We’re not going to Clarity! We’re going to have a Makeout Bonfire. But instead of making out, we’re going to tell ghost stories and pretend like we’re scared so the boys will get all protective and cute!”

“What?” Julian blinked. For a second she was worried, because a Makeout Bonfire sounded exactly like one of Margrit’s kind of things. She was relieved to hear it was just going to be ghost stories. That was a nice, innocent playdate with Caleb’s precious little sister. “…Okay, I guess that does sound more fun than dancing at the club. Did you invite Margrit and Angela?”

Silvia shook her head. Once they cleared the main homestead, she stopped near a large tree to pick up an equally large box. “No way. Margrit and Angela always get all the attention. I didn’t invite Lexi either because she’s getting just as bad. So it’s just you and me and all the boys!” She giggled again, leading the way in to the Silent Pines Forest.

Julian followed, her brows furrowing. “…The two of us and a bunch of boys? Who did you even invite?” This was adorable, yet absolutely horrifying. Apparently Silvia spent way too much time with crazy girls, because this was the most terrible of ideas. This was going to go wrong in a dozen different ways. Someone would be an asshole. Or the opposite would happen and Silvia will ADORE someone.

Either way, Caleb is going to bury them all in the Whelan wood.

Julian felt sorry for the poor idiots that actually accepted Silvia’s invitation.

“Lets see… Knucker, Owen, Chase, Dylan, a few other guys in the pack that I know won’t tattle to Caleb. Some others! Don’t worry, I made sure to invite boys for you too! And not Michael, so it won’t be awkward.”

Right. Not awkward. That’s just… Julian ended up laughing. “This is a terrible idea. Aside from telling ghost stories, what do you think we’re going to do with all of these boys? What happens if they decide we’re boring and they just make out with each other instead?”

Silvia’s expression went wide and surprised. “Does that happen? I have marshmallows and chocolate for smores. And some strawberry wine coolers I stole from Auntie Leelee. Do you think that will be enough? Maybe we should play some games too just in case.”

Julian ended up laughing harder. “No..! Um, I think we’ll be okay. Just… don’t you drink any of those wine coolers. You stick with the marshmallows.”

The tinier girl snorted, but was okay with this rule. The rest of the walk involved Julian trying to dissuade Silvia from any games that involved kissing. She didn’t care if they DID have a bottle handy. After a good trek through the trees they arrived to their spot. It was a small clearing in the Whelan wood where most of these silly bonfires were held. Julian always wondered why no one ever thought to move spots, because surely every generation going back to the 50s knew this was where teenagers got themselves in trouble.

She entertained the idea that it was enchanted to make adults forget.

Julian helped Silvia build up her fire and before long she was happily taking a break eating marshmallows out of the bag. The raven-haired girl was busy trying to make the perfect roasting stick.

There was a rustling noise in the brush to their right.

Before either girl could move, a lone figure staggered out of the shadows, arms outstretched. The fire flickered and leapt up and cast crazy shadows that left the arrival’s face obscured.

The thing uttered an anguished groan.

Silvia shrieked.

Which in turn startled Julian so badly that marshmallows got tossed all over the place.

Before Julian could even assess what was going on, Silvia lept to her feet brandishing her stick. “JULIAN DOESN’T LIKE ZOMBIES!” She shouted as a war cry, darting towards the figure to go thwack it.

“Silvia!” Julian was about ninety-eight percent sure that wasn’t a zombie but when she launched herself forward to try and grab Silvia’s feet before the girl attacked, she missed and landed face first in the dirt.

“S-Silvia!” Sure enough, that wasn’t a zombie’s voice. It was Knucker Polk. Apparently he’d decided to come even without Lexi, though they were basically joined at the hip. “Wait!”

When Julian lifted her head, it was to find Knucker haplessly grabbing at Silvia’s wrists. There was a big, puffy red mark next to one of his eyes, like something had scratched it; that eye was squeezed shut, which seemed to be interfering with his depth perception and making it harder for him to fend off Silvia’s attack.

“W- Hey- Julian fell!” he protested. “On the ground!”

It couldn’t be clear if it was knowing this was Knucker that made her stop, or his clever tactic of pointing out Julian that worked. Silvia stopped trying to kill him to skitter back over to Julian.

Julian cast Knucker that Gee Thanks look as Silvia grabbed her arm and tried to haul her off the ground. Deciding this was all good fun, Julian played possum and laid there as a giant lump of dead weight. After a few moments of Silvia’s fruitless pulling, Julian started giggling.

“That’s not funny, Julian! Angela said we all have to be extra careful not to let you pass out somewhere!”

“What? Tell Angela she’s dumb.” Julian grunted when Silvia dropped her. She sat up on her elbows and waved a hand at the boy. “Hiiiii Knucker. What happened to your face?”

Knucker turned slightly red.

“…Tree branch,” he muttered, flopping down next to the fire. “Sprang back and hit me.”

He sprawled out the second he hit the ground, his long limbs stretching out along the ground. He kicked at a rock with the toe of his sneaker, fidgeting with his hands. A moment later, he shrugged out of his denim jacket and tossed it behind him. It draped itself over a low-hanging branch and hung there.

“So… uh.” He squinted with his good eye at their assembled provisions. “So am I early?”

Julian sat up, wrapping her arms around her knees and grinning wide. “I’m afraid you’ve fallen for the most classic of traps. You-! Hrrmph!!”

Silvia crashed in to her back, slapping both of her hands over Julian’s mouth and holding them there. She looked perfectly natural standing on her knees with the haze-eyed girl as her hostage. Like this was a normal everyday thing. Julian seemed content to wait patiently too. She just shrugged her shoulders.

“She means YES you are the first one to get here! We haven’t been here long either. Do you want me to doctor you up? I brought a first aid kit and wine coolers.”

“Hrrmph rrm grrf.”

“Julian says she likes your tshirt. It’s really cute.”

“Uh. Thanks?” He didn’t look sure about… well, any of it, but to his credit he wasn’t getting up and running away, either. “Uh. Yeah, uh… If you don’t mind. Patching up my face I mean.”

For some inexplicable reason, his ears were turning red. He frowned and fished his cell phone out of his pocket, pressing out a text message.

Silvia released Julian in an instant and scampered over to her box of goodies. She blabbered as she searched. “I made sure to be well prepared since the LAST bonfire Lexi got bit and then- Oh, um- Wait.” Silvia paused, running it through her head trying to remember if that was information she was allowed to talk about with one or the other. She was starting to get confused about who knew which secret when it came to all her friends.

“It’s okay, I know about Lexi, remember? And I am pretty sure after Halloween Knucker knows about me too.” commented Julian with a grin, easing Silvia’s worries.

Silvia let out a rushed sigh of relief. “Whew. I thought I almost blew it like I did with Owen and Leo. This would be so much easier if we were one giant pack!” Out came her first aid kit. Once she dropped next to Knucker, she popped it open and dug around for the little alcohol cleaning pads. “This is going to hurt a TON. So don’t scream.”

Julian looked thoughtful for a moment. She wanted to ask about Lexi and how she was doing, but she got the feeling this wasn’t the time or place to do it. After all, there was no telling who and how many boys Silvia managed to agree to this silly bonfire.

“How are YOU doing, Red? Aside from losing a fight with trees.”

“…Oh! Me?” Knucker looked genuinely stumped by the question. He actually did a little half-turn, like there must have been someone behind him. “Uh. Okay, I guess…”

That flabberghasted expression stuck to his face right up until Silvia got the alcohol swab on his scratch. He hissed, biting his lip as she cleaned him up. Surprisingly, that was the only sound he made.

Meanwhile, Julian’s phone buzzed twice in rapid succession. When she checked, she found two new texts from Owen.

Please tell me you’re actually going to be there

It’s just you and her isn’t it

“Okay is good. You can definitely be a lot worse than okay.” Julian replied, taking a look at her messages. She grinned instantly and thumbed a response.

Hello friend. ;)

Thought we were going to Clarity, but apparently we’re having a Makeout Bonfire. I hope you’ve been practicing your kissy face.

“SO UM,” Silvia said as loudly as possible, making Julian glance up trying to figure out what ‘subtle’ thing the girl was trying to convey. Silvia dabbed a bit at Knucker’s eye before she picked out a band-aid to stick securely over his scratch. It had little baby ducks on it. “I was just telling Julian before we got here that we’re gonna tell ghost stories! I bet you know lots of good scary ones, right?”

Julian eyed her, raising an eyebrow and her hands in question. Did she miss the point somewhere?

Silvia widened her eyes and tilted her head gesturing to… Julian couldn’t even tell.


“I thought you could read minds, Julian! Can you get-” she lowered her voice as far as it could go, which unfortunately was not very far. Hiding her mouth from Knucker wasn’t helping either, “the spooky story book out of my box?”

Julian covered her mouth with her hand and desperately swallowed the need to laugh. “No, no I don’t read minds.” She crawled across the ground over to Silvia’s goodies box. Out came one of the wine coolers, that she immediately opened up and took a big swallow from. Then she resumed digging.

First she found a pair of dirty dice that she was pretty sure actually belonged to Margrit. Yeah, no. Julian hid those in her pocket. Next came an mp3 player with a tiny speaker and she set those aside. When she did find the book, she thumbed through a few of the pages.

Oh no. No these would not do at all. Julian was going to have to be a good wingsister and not let this tragedy happen. She’d spare these poor boys that kind of horror. The second Silvia wasn’t looking, Julian stuffed the book inside her jacket. This stupid book was getting tossed in the fire the moment she had a chance.

Then she pulled her phone back out and thumbed one more text.

p.s. don’t you dare bail. she’s trying so hard.

“It looks like you forgot, uh, the thing. But it’s cool. I think everyone is going to be plenty scared enough.”

Now that Knucker’s eye was bandaged, he wasn’t squeezing it shut anymore. He was still halfway wincing though, in a way that made him look a little unhinged.

“There’s a story about this spot actually,” he muttered, twisting his hands in his lap before settling them on his knees. He glanced around. “Nana told me.”

After a second he blinked, then held up his hands.

“But- but, uh, I don’t think I could tell it, I’m not really good at telling stories. I bet you guys know better ones?”

“I had a few really good stories…” Silvia lamented.

“I’m sure not a single one of us would be brave enough to sit through to the finish of those stories, Silvia.” commented Julian. “We don’t want to scare everyone away.”

Silvia tilted her head and thought about it. It WAS true that they couldn’t have a bonfire if everyone was too scared to hang out. Boys were always getting scared of stuff. Plus they needed something to do before others arrived, and a quick story from Knucker was just the thing.

The brown-eyed girl plopped next to Knucker, way closer than was appropriate then shot Julian a look.

Julian looked perplexed again, glancing from one side to the other to see if maybe Silvia was trying to beam her thoughts to some other poor hapless victim. Without a new person in sight, Julian shrugged her shoulders casting back a confused frown.

Silvia tried not to look frustrated and gestured her head to the other side of Knucker. Sit there! she mouthed.

Oh. Oh! Apparently Julian was Silvia’s Angela for the night.

Julian snatched an extra wine cooler from the box goodies, then crawled her way back to the pair. As she dropped in to a comfortable seat next to Knucker, she handed him the wine cooler. Like Silvia, she sat a little closer than what could be considered comfortable for the boy whose red ears betrayed him.

“Go ahead and tell the story anyway. I mean, if you don’t we have to play spin the bottle. And seeing as there’s two of us and only one of you so far…” she trailed off, taking a sip from her own opened bottle to hide her sudden smile.

Knucker did a very good impression of a deer in headlights for a second.

“Uh. Uh yeah, okay,” he agreed, leaning back as far as he could like he thought it would get him out of the middle somehow. “Well… I mean, it’s probably not true? Nana had a lot of crazy stories.”

He took a dubious look at the wine cooler in his hand, waited half a beat, and then downed half of it.

“Well… Okay. So there was this guy,” Knucker started hesitantly, wiping the back of his hand across his mouth. “He was a hunter, an out-of-towner who moved here with his family. I think this was… when Nana was a kid or maybe our age, supposedly?”

“So like, two hundred years ago?” Silvia offered in earnest. He WAS asking her, wasn’t he? As an after thought she turned to reach behind her and grab her box. On tugging it closer, she pulled out a wine cooler for herself and moved to twist it open.

Julian snatched it right out of her hands and tucked it away behind her. “More like sixty, maybe seventy years at most. His Nana has only seen one turn of a century.”

“Oh.” Silvia pouted. This time when she reached in to her box she pulled out a bottle of orange pop. She struggled with trying to pull the cap off. “What kind of hunter? Deer? Ducks? WOLVES MAYBE? That’s probably the scariest hunter EVER.”

Julian reached over to take her pop, twist off the cap with the sleeve of her jacket then handed it back to Silvia. A finger rose to tap against her own lips as she shushed the other girl. “Let him tell it.”

“Right! Soooo…?” Silvia leaned in closer. It was so she could hear better, obviously.

“Uh. Big game, probably? The normal type of hunter. I dunno, I never asked,” Knucker admitted. He shot Julian an alarmed look when Silvia started drifting into his personal space.

“Some people in town got really upset with him, though, because he wanted to build a cabin out here. The uh… the Whelans were pretty against it,” he said, shooting an almost apologetic glance at Silvia. “And I guess there was a whole big thing because it wasn’t actually on their property, but close to it, and also. You know people say bad stuff about the woods. Nana said he went to the town courthouse about it and everything and apparently he won the case because he actually did start building it.”

Julian was the picture-perfect air of innocence regarding Silvia’s shenanigans. Although it helped that she was now interested in this story and wasn’t paying too close attention. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard this one before. Besides the Whelan place, the cemetery and that stupid summer camp at the lake, I didn’t think anyone wanted to build stuff out here.”

Silvia gave a very serious nod. “The woods are dangerous. Not just because you’ll get eaten by a Whelan. Caleb says there used to be all kinds of things out there.”

“I wouldn’t say used to be.” commented Julian, shooting a glance towards the dark shrouded trees in the distance.

Silvia made a soft squeaky sound, but by the look on her face and the fact she was the only other girl there, one wouldn’t have guessed it was her. She shrugged a single shoulder and gave a flippant toss of her hair. “I’M not scared of stuff in the woods. Whelans aren’t scared of anything.”

“Is it still there?” Silvia suddenly asked. “We could look for it!”

“…Huh. I guess it is,” Knucker said, as if that had only just occurred to him as well. “But. It was never fully finished, I think? Because the hunter was sorta living in the woods while he built it, but then one weekend his wife and their kids came out to visit him.”

Now it was Knucker’s turn to give the trees a nervous glance.

“They… well I guess maybe they never made it, or maybe they did. But no one ever saw them again, and the hunter came running into town in the middle of the night screaming. He kept saying ‘the trees took them, the men in the trees took them’. People said they’d warned him what would happen.”

There was a long pause.

“But the guy was probably just crazy, and he probably killed them or something, and I’m pretty sure he was convicted of doing that,” Knucker finished awkwardly. Like that was somehow better than vengeful trees.

“The trees took them?” Silvia repeated. She didn’t like the sound of that, especially since climbing in the trees was her favorite pass time.

Julian didn’t look nearly as disturbed. Just thoughtful as she looked upwards towards the branches reaching over their fire circle. “It really could have been anything. Animals or craziness. Monsters. Probably not the actual trees.”

The raven haired girl sighed in relief. “Good because wouldn’t it just be awful if trees killed people. I think I saw a movie about that once. There’s nowhere you can run from trees!” Silvia, with half-sipped pop bottle and all, threw her arms around Knucker’s neck and squeezed before she pulled back to grin. “That was almost REALLY scary! Lets get some torches and start searching. Julian can find anything in these woods.”

“Don’t you think we should wait until the rest of your guests get here before we start wandering around? You don’t want them to find an empty bonfire and think something happened to us.” Julian suggested first. “Besides, Knucker hasn’t gotten any marshmallows yet.”

“That’s right, I was working on roasting sticks! Here.” A stick was thrust in to Knucker’s hands, then Silvia jumped up to fetch a new one to whittle down.

As Knucker fished a marshmallow out of the half-spilled bag and stuck it on his new stick, muffled voices could be heard not so far away.

“-asked you to come!” That angry bark was one Julian knew well.

“Now that’s just not true!” a less-familiar voice replied. “You don’t have……be fine.”

“…just trying to screw with…”

“Oh, come on, dude-”

“Shut up, you stupid nerd,” growled Owen as he came stomping into the clearing, glaring over his shoulder. A grinning Robbie Kilpatrick was two steps behind him; he gave Julian a friendly wave.

“OWEN!” squealed Silvia, throwing both hands in the air. One holding a threatening looking stick.

“OWEN!” chimed in Julian right after her, her voice slightly less shrill and a lot more amused. She even raised her hands too. Wine cooler in one hand and a giant marshmallow in the other. Very quickly she mouthed a THANK YOU, even as Silvia was bounding away from the fire and launching all one hundred pounds of body weight at him for a tackle. She never dropped her stick and it very nearly collided with Robbie’s head.

“And Senior Robbie Kilpatrick.” Julian continued, reciprocating his wave with a curious one of her own.

“Robbie is one for you!” chirped Silvia, tilting her head backwards and nearly upside down to grin at Julian. She had all arms and legs around Owen now. He was going to have to wrestle her off.

Robbie was- Julian swallowed the laughter. “I guess that makes this our first date? If I knew, I might’ve worn something a little cuter.”

“Did you break up with your two boyfriends, then?” Robbie asked, not missing a beat. “That’s too bad. For them, anyway.”

Owen- who seemed torn between prying Silvia off and dealing with the fact that her skirt was riding up- made an extremely disgruntled face at Robbie.

“Shut the fuck up,” he reiterated.

Robbie held up his hands in surrender and plopped down cross-legged next to Julian. He reached back to release his long brown hair from his ponytail, shaking it out and running his fingers through it. He shot a curious look at Knucker, who had been very quiet and very still since Robbie and Owen’s arrival.

“Hey,” he said. “Aren’t you in my math class?”

Knucker opened his mouth, but no words escaped.

“What the hell is he doing here?” Owen demanded the second he realized who Robbie was talking to, his eyebrows drawing together as he fought to get Silvia’s leg off of him while touching as little of her thigh as possible.

“Broke up with one of them. The other, more obnoxious one, is only my boyfriend when it’s his idea.” responded Julian with a cheeky grin. She popped her marshmallow in to her mouth so her hand was free to reach out and twizzle the edge fringe of his hair between her fingertips. With the way she shoved that marshmallow to her cheek like a chipmunk, it was obvious she was about to comment on it. But Owen’s ire had her casting a curious glance towards Knucker.

Silvia was having a grand time climbing all over Owen like she was some sort of monkey girl instead of a wolf girl. She also seemed to have completely forgotten she was wearing a dress.

“I invited him, OWEN, so you just have to deeeeaaal with it. He’s already told us a spooky story too.”

“I have a pretty spooky story too.” Julian offered.

Silvia tilted upside down again. “Really? What is it!”

“It’s about a little princess who wanted to collect a kiss from all the princes in the land.”

“Just like me!”

“Yep. So she invited all of the princes to a bonfire in the woods. But what she didn’t know was that her brother, The King, could see the bonfire all the way back at the castle.”


“Once he realized his little sister escaped to the woods, he shot off in to the forest to find her.”

“Julian NO!”

“When he found her and saw that those princes dared to touch his little sister – he RIPPED all of their heads right off. Then he hung them up in the trees as a warning to all others.”

Silvia jumped off Owen immediately. Straightening her dress all prim and proper as she made her way back to the fire and grabbed a new stick. “That is SO RIDICULOUS and the worst scary story ever.”

Julian just grinned, leaning to bump against Knucker. “I bet Red believes me.”

Why are you talking to me? mouthed Knucker, eyes wide. He cast a surreptitious glance Owen’s way.

Owen, free of his girl-shaped shackles, seemed more concerned at present with perusing the party’s dubious provisions. He came up with a wine cooler, making a face, but didn’t comment. He just shuffled over to lean against a tree and practice scowling at the world at large, which was what he always did when he was feeling particularly uncomfortable in a social situation.

“Is your other boyfriend joining us tonight?” asked Robbie, looking weirdly at ease with all the shenanigans going on around him. He didn’t seem to mind when Julian played with his hair, either. “Am I going to have competition on our first date?”

“I guess that depends on what our hostess had in mind for party guests and if she likes to share.” Julian smiled. “I’ve already kissed that one,” she pointed at Owen who received a super sweet grin. Now that the secret was out, there was no putting it back. “And if I try to kiss this one,” she thumbed over her shoulder at Knucker, not looking at all apologetic when she gave him a cheeky grin too. “he might pass out.”

Silvia giggled out loud, but quickly realized that this actually WAS her party and Julian kissing all of her boys would be the exact opposite of what she had in mind. A surly look came across her face as she rest her hands on her hips.

“You can kiss ONE and only one! All of the rest are for me.” she insisted.

Julian leaned close to Robbie and whispered loud enough for the whole lot of them to hear. “I guess that means you’re winning so far.”

Silvia giggled all over again now that things were back on track. She jumped up and down and pointed towards her box. “I brought music, Knucker! I know you and Robbie have some too. Who wants to dance with me?”

Apparently Knucker decided that Silvia was the lesser of two evils, because he scrambled to his feet and hopped over. Once he got there, though, he seemed lost.

“Do you, do you want me to get my iPod, or…” he began, shifting from one foot to the other.

“Sorry about… all that,” said Robbie, meanwhile, waving a hand in Owen’s general direction and giving Julian a lopsided grin. “He doesn’t want to be seen with me, I guess? I don’t know if he realizes we’re friends yet.”

“I can hear you,” Owen grunted, downing his wine cooler in one go.

Julian laughed. At least this time she looked a tiny bit sorry when she cast a wide grin in Owen’s direction. “I’m pretty sure that’s how we became friends too. You just kinda hang out with him until he stops trying to stuff you in small boxes.”

She grabbed the marshmallow bag and plucked one out, then reared her hand back ready to throw. “Quit scowling and open your mouth!” Whether he was prepared or not, Julian tossed it at him anyway.

Meanwhile, Silvia seemed prepared to dance even without music, just by the way she grabbed Knucker’s arm and started bouncing.

“Silvia he needs the music.” Julian called out, already crawling for the box and where she left Silvia’s little speaker and music player. Once confiscated she plopped back down to Robbie so he could get a look at what she scrolled through.

She paused on one selection, tilting her head to give Robbie a devious grin before she hit play. The soft, straight from the movie tune filled the air with Can you feel the love tonight.

“Julian!” Silvia complained with a stomp of her foot. “Play something with more bo-”

Julian was giggling again and already switched songs.

I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts~!

“UGH!” the smaller girl groaned out loud towards the sky. She made a beeline across the grass and practically tackled Julian, catching Robbie along in the dogpile in the process. Snatchy grabbyhands went everywhere.

“Oh god, help!” Julian shouted between gasped snickering. “Help!”

“I can’t help, she’s got me too!” Robbie lamented, twisting and wriggling to try and escape. Silvia might not have weighed much or been very big, but she was somehow very good at spreading herself out when she wanted to.

“…Should we help?” Knucker asked Owen quietly. Owen glared at him, and he took several steps back- only to bump into the person who’d just emerged out of the woods behind him. Knucker made a totally uncool noise and slid out of the way, prepared to stammer an apology… only to close his mouth with a click of teeth when his hair was ruffled.

“Hey, Puppy,” a wry voice drawled. “I think I’m going to have to marry you to appease your brother now, because I can see your panties.”

Leo leaned down and grabbed Silvia around the waist, hoisting her up off her feet. He grinned down at Robbie and Julian where they lay in the grass.

“Hey, DeWhitt, you wanna come take this wild woodland creature off my hands before I get rabies?”

“Nooo!” wailed Silvia, flailing her arms and kicking her legs. “She still has my music!”

Julian shifted to her elbows where she at least wasn’t half sprawled against Robbie. A range of thoughts and emotions crossed her face in quick succession. Surprise, confusion, brief annoyance, finally just amused acceptance. She sighed and kicked a foot out to gently shove against Leo’s knee.

“Maybe I should marry Silvia. She’s always on top of me.”

Silvia stilled her squirming to wrinkle up her nose. “Um. I’m sorry but I’m not interested in you like that, Julian! I like boys.”

“That’s too bad. I’d make a really good husband. Are you sure you won’t reconsider?” Julian asked, making the offer without even an hint of insincerity. She leaned to glance over her shoulder at Owen. “I’d make a good husband, right? You’d know!”

Silvia blinked before she erupted in to giggles and resumed her squirming. “No thanks! But now that Leo is here we can tell the REALLY scary stories.”

Julian flashed a wide grin. “Leo is a scary story.”

“So you have been listening to me,” said Leo coyly. He glanced over at Owen, who’d only barely managed to move and seemed to be stuck deciding whether to do as Leo asked. Leo solved the problem for him within a minute. “Okay, too slow. I’ll just have to tame the beast another way. Jules, be my DJ.”

Without waiting, Leo flipped Silvia around and spun her around in a wide circle.

“So I’m confused,” Robbie confessed, leaning in to speak into Julian’s ear from his patch of grass beside her. A strand of his hair bumped the side of her cheek. “Do I have competition or not?”

“But Knucker was supposed to have the first dance!” insisted Silvia. That didn’t stop her from giggling again though. After putting up a reasonable amount of fuss time and a few swats, she was happy to bounce along with Leo before Julian even managed to scroll through the rest of her Lion King soundtrack.

Julian skipped past several playlists of music that Silvia snatched from her friends. Margrit’s Makeout Mix was a definite no, and so was Angela’s Sexy Dance List. Cheer Practice Mix would be torture. None of these guys would be in to the wide range of Silvia’s favorite boy bands. Finally she found the perfect song.

It totally wasn’t just to hassle Leo. Definitely not.

With the music playing and a few less silly songs queued up, Julian turned to whisper to Robbie. “There’s a no kissing Leo clause, so you’re good. Unless you have the worst taste in music, cause that might be a deal breaker. So here, impress me!” she handed him Silvia’s ipod.

Weirdly, Leo didn’t say a word about the music choice. He seemed perfectly content to twirl Silvia around like she was actually a Disney princess while awkward teen boy idols sang embarrassing lyrics interspersed with Pitbull rapping. If he was holding back a comment, he was doing a good job of hiding it.

“You’re really not dating him, then,” Robbie said. His eyebrows went up. “Unless you have weird no-kissing clauses about all your boyfriends, in which case I might just want to be friends.”

Flopping onto his stomach and halfway across Julian’s lap, he propped his chin on one hand and used the other to thumb through Silvia’s music library.

“Oh, no,” he commented with mild dismay, tucking his hair behind his ear and looking up at her with mournful eyes. “No, no, I’m sorry. This is all wrong.”

On the other side of the fire, Owen took a seat next to Knucker.

“Just don’t be a total loser for ten minutes of your life,” he grunted.

“…Okay?” Knucker replied, bewildered- even more so when Owen passed him the bag of marshmallows.

“Make me a smore with double chocolate and only sliiightly melted marshmallow! No burning.” Silvia chirped at Owen and Knucker while twirling herself under Leo’s arm. “Oh! I have wine coolers if you want one of those. I couldn’t really get much else besides some pop, and Julian won’t even let me HAVE a wine cooler even though I BROUGHT them and got the strawberry cause it’s her favorite.” she lamented.

“If I’m going to die for absconding with Caleb Whelan’s little sister, I want it to be over something a lot more impressive than strawberry wine coolers.” Julian retorted. She finally grinned at Robbie’s crestfallen face.

“Not a great mix, huh? She tried. I’m pretty sure this is her first party.” Shifting to lean back, Julian rest her head and upper shoulders against a conveniently situated log. It was probably dragged there ages ago for sitting because all of the bark had been long since stripped away.

“Just friends is always a good start. I’d hate to steal one of Silvia’s potential suitors before she makes her pick.”

“YAY!” Squealed the dark-haired girl. “This is why I brought Julian and not Margrit or Angela!” Silvia grabbed Leo’s hands to spin him. “Everyone is for meeeee! I’ll get the best date for Margrit’s Saturnalia.”

Julian swallowed another grin, then reached out to poke Robbie gently at the shoulder. “Speaking of the terrors of Silent Pines, I was promised spooky stories and so far Knucker’s the only one that’s been bullied in to it. What stories do you have?”

Robbie tilted his head, considering.

“…I don’t really like scary stories much,” he said, as he fetched his phone out of his pocket and started to hook it up to the speaker in lieu of Silvia’s mp3 player. Selena Gomez got cut off abruptly, only to be replaced with the soft tones of a Ra song.

“The metalhead doesn’t like scary stories?” Leo asked as he dipped Silvia until she was almost bent back double. “Huh.”

“Well, the world’s scary enough, don’t you think?” Robbie replied. “We don’t need to make stuff up to be scared of.”

Owen and Knucker were having a hushed conversation on the other side of the fire- an uncomfortable one, if Knucker’s face was anything to go by. Owen stopped talking whenever he thought Julian was looking.

“I like you.” Julian announced the second it popped in to her head in that weird little place where those sort of thoughts sprang from. Robbie was unphased by the nonsense of Margrit and Angela. He played and teased, she liked his music, and anyone that didn’t like scary stories was a kindred spirit in her book. Owen needed another person like this in his life. Especially right now.

Speaking of. She tilted to the side just a bit to peer at Owen and Knucker, her mouth twisting up in that curious what are you up to sort of way, without actually meaning to do it. It wasn’t as if she really needed to know, but unlike the rest of her friends who could talk circles around her with conversations IN conversations, Owen practically broadcasted when he didn’t want her listening. Which really just made her want to try to scale that wall.

“So Robbie is good?” Silvia’s question drew Julian’s attention back. Probably because it took all of three seconds for Silvia to swat Leo aside and come to a leaping splat next to Robbie. All sparkling brown eyes and devious smile. “I want to braid your hair all viking style!”

“Hey.” Julian protested. “I thought you invited this one for me?”

“Yes, and now I know he is Julian approved!” Silvia was already reaching to pluck at strands of his hair.

Julian gave a deep sigh. “The chaperone never gets the guy.” Shifting to her knees so she could inch back to Silvia’s box of goodies, Julian flashed Robbie a quick grin. “Good luck!”

Robbie gave Julian a quick wave and a bit of a disappointed look, but within seconds he was absorbed with letting Silvia plait his hair and telling her about the various bands on his Spotify playlist.

“I think I’ve been dumped,” Leo confided as he pulled up a spot next to the box of refreshments. “I’ll just have to accept defeat. What about you? Going to assert your first pick of the boys as is your right, oh fearless alpha?”

Julian gave him a good hard shove to the shoulder, but it was followed up with a laugh as she settled to a seat and started digging around in the box.

“I’m pretty sure tonight I’m just fearless bodyguard and not the uber alpha.” Two bars of different chocolate were fished out. Julian weighed them both in her hands deciding which she wanted. Once she did, she reared her hand back and tossed the other across the fire where it smacked against Knucker’s shoulder. His confusion earned him a cheeky grin.

“I was prepared to fight handsy half drunk college guys off her at a club all night. This is way better.” With quick fingers she pried open the wrapper and broke off a piece of chocolate to pop in her mouth. Her head tilted with a thoughtful expression. “…well, better for me anyway. Not better for the idiots that actually accepted an invitation from Silvia Whelan, of all people, to join her at the Whelan Wood in the middle of the night well within the reach of her brother.”

She side-eyed him pretty hard. “So, idiot, did you come here because you totally love adorable teenage girls, or was it just to harass the broody wolf king?”

“As great a motivation as both of those things might be,” Leo answered, “It’s neither one.”

He fished through the supplies until he came up with another candy bar, ripping it open with his teeth. He glanced around at the gathering of teens with a small smirk. Robbie had ended up with his head in Silvia’s lap (whether for his comfort or for better access to his hair wasn’t clear), and Knucker and Owen were still whispering furiously.

“Anyway,” added Leo, “I’m not scared of Broody Wolf.”

“That makes us the only two people in the world.” Julian snapped off another piece of chocolate to pop in her mouth as she gave Robbie and Silvia one more cursory glance. Silvia was chattering away working on what looked like a way more complicated braid than was necessary. Robbie seemed to handle her just fine.

Which meant Julian was officially a worry free chaperone. At least until Silvia got bored with Robbie and went after poor Knucker again.

Julian flopped backwards in to the grass and leaves, then crossed a leg over her knee. All she had to do was tilt her legs to get a good look at the others when she needed to. But for now she content to eat chocolate and stare up at the sky.

“I guess that means you took fifteen minutes away from your serious Leo business to make a little girl happy.” she added with a flash of wicked grinning. “How sweeeeet of you. Too sweet for extra sugar, you’ll die.” Julian reached up to snatch that chocolate right out of his hands.

He held it up out of her reach and pushed her back down onto the ground with one hand. Like a cheater.

“She reminds me of… Violet,” he said, biting off a piece of chocolate bar and glancing over at Silvia with a strange expression. He shifted his weight to pin Julian’s shoulder firmly against the ground, his thumb fitting snugly into the groove of her clavicle. “So yeah, maybe I’m a bit inclined to be nice to the kid. But nah. I didn’t come out here just for her.”

He stretched out his legs, tipping his head back to look at the sky. They were far enough out of town that the stars were bright dots in the sea of black above the treeline.

“I did it for you,” he said matter-of-factly, after just long enough of a pause for it to seem sudden. “I did it to make you happy.”

Him being soft for Silvia because of her similarities to Violet was expected. Silvia could melt the heart of Satan, Leo pretty much had no chance in that department even without her ties to Violet. And of course he was going to be a huge jerk and use his vampire mutant arm to keep her from stealing his candy. But she could roll out of that easy.

Well, she would have. If he hadn’t gone and said something completely weird.

At least he was looking at the sky and not at the completely slack-jawed, open mouth, mid-retort look of utter confusion plastered all over her face.

Wait, no.

Julian let out a breath, forcing the tension and confusion to melt. She was being stupid and reading in to things. Mixing things up like she always did. Leo didn’t say stuff like that in normal every day places unless it was immediately followed by snark and messing with her.

“By getting yourself betrothed to Silvia?” she finally said. Julian probably should have slapped his hand off her shoulder at that point, but instead she smacked his side with the back of her hand. “You could have just brought me some coffee.”

“…First one up makes the coffee, remember?” was his rejoinder. He looked down, narrowing his eyes. “And that’s pretty much been all you. Besides, what’s the point of being best friends with a pretty blond barista if she doesn’t get you free coffee?”

Was it just her, or did he actually sound a little annoyed?

“Besides, at worst I’m stuck being her date to Margrit’s dumbass party, let’s be real. As daunting as that fate is, pretty sure I’d survive.”

“I can’t help it if I always wake up before the vampire does. And if you’ve ever been there while Angela is making the coffee, you’d know why I never ask her for it.”

This was new. Him being irritated with her all the time instead of the other way around. Although she couldn’t figure out what the problem was right this moment. It made her want to both fight him and tease him.

Or the third more frustrating option. Fix it. She didn’t even know what she was trying to fix.

Julian reached up to gently tug on the sleeve of his jacket. “Not that it matters, I wouldn’t let Silvia pick you anyway. But I still don’t know why you thought showing up here would make me happy.”

She paused, twisting her mouth to the side in a thoughtful frown. “Beyond the fact I like to see your stupid face, and the thought of you drinking wine coolers with Silvia’s harem is kind of funny.”

He tilted his head.

“You’re happy when your people are happy,” he said by way of explanation, taking another bite of chocolate. When he’d swallowed, he went on, “You know, that’s one thing you two actually had in common. You collect people. But it’s different with you.”

He wasn’t talking about Silvia anymore, obviously. What had gotten into him all of a sudden? Normally getting him to talk about Michael was like pulling teeth. Vampire teeth.

“Anyway, I’m not drinking wine coolers, I’m not fourteen.” He set his half-eaten candybar on his lap and reached into his jacket, flashing her a metal flask. “I’ve got the good stuff.”

“Hey. I’ve confiscated some contraband too.” She opened up her jacket, flashing the pocket where a book still made it’s home. Most of the cover was obscured but the title header Goosebumps peeked over the inner liner.

“I thought everyone was collecting me. Owen is the only one that didn’t point at me and say you’re my friend now.” Julian finally knocked his arm out of her way so she could sit up proper, straightening her legs and crossing her feet at the ankles. She gave that candy bar a fleeting glance and Leo a wide innocent grin, but didn’t go snatching for it. That would be too easy.

“We really, really don’t have much of anything in common.” she admitted with a wry, almost embarrassed laugh. The kind where you really didn’t want to laugh, but it was still stupidly funny. “I love dressing up for fancy things. He’d actually go with me to a ballet and I wouldn’t have to drag him kicking and crying. He likes music with great piano compositions.”

“….aaaand then we’d have absolutely nothing to say. It’s actually easier talking to him NOW.” she leaned until she bumped gently against his shoulder. Holding her wiggling fingers out, gesturing both at the candy and the booze, still undecided on which one she wanted.

“Walter told me hindsight’s a bitch.”

“So you’re not still all hung up on being Mrs. Michael Hightower?” he asked her. “…Good. Y’know, I think Rapunzel over there actually digs you. Maybe you should try going out and having a little fun with someone living for a change.”

He gestured at Robbie, who paused in the middle of an explanation about something involving female-fronted metal bands when he noticed the scrutiny. He returned Leo’s glance curiously, lifting his hand from the grass to wave, and went right back to chatting with Silvia.

“He seems like a good kid,” remarked Leo, finally pressing the remainder of his chocolate into Julian’s grabbing hand. “They’re all good kids. You missed this kind of crap, didn’t you?”

On finally gaining ownership of his candy, she passed her own chocolate over to him. She followed his gaze towards Robbie, tilting her head just a bit to give it some thought.

“Robbie is nice. He might even be deal with the one hundred and one ways Julian Hollinger is creepy nice. But he’s not-” she paused that thought and pushed it aside for the time being. Going over the pros and cons of dating Robbie Kilpatrick wasn’t a big deal. It was the fact she kept comparing him to the idiot sitting beside her.

“…you know, it was never going to be Mrs. Michael Hightower level.” she turned to frown at him. “It probably wasn’t even going to be New Years Kiss level. Ignoring the fact I thought I would be dead before long, it still wasn’t going anywhere. I wasn’t in love with him. You and Angela were freaking and nothing was happening. …Granted I really wish it didn’t have to end the way it did. But it was going to. I was already thinking about it before all the unplanned kissing.”

Julian broke off a piece of chocolate to pop in her mouth, as apparently that was just the way she liked to do it, regardless of the kind. She leaned close to him again, dropping her voice down to a whisper.

“Besides, how am I supposed to tell some normal guy that there’s ghosts and shadows just hanging out all the time? You can’t really slip that in to a conversation.”

“Hey, you do whatever you want,” he said, staring at her from inches away. That perplexed, irritated look was back. He wasn’t moving away from her, though. “You’re really good at that.”

A buzzing sound cut through the tension.

“Fuck,” Leo swore under his breath, and wiggled his cell phone out of his jeans pocket. He looked down at the screen and rolled his eyes. “Fuck, no, I am not on babysitting duty tonight.”

Julian leaned to try and get a peek at his phone, but didn’t try too hard and stopped just as quickly to draw her knees up to her chest. The last piece of stolen chocolate was stuffed in to her mouth before the wrapper disappeared in to her pocket and her arms went around her legs.

“I wonder if that’s what all of them are saying when it’s their turn to babysit me.” she remarked, lifting a finger to aim at his phone. “They think I haven’t noticed, but Angela has some sort of tag team thing going on. Margrit has me doing dance practice every day after school until her showcase. They think I’m going to wander off in to oblivion somewhere.”

“They’re probably right.” Julian muttered, shifting to rest her chin on her knees. For a moment she went quiet, scowling off in to the distance at nothing in particular. When she finally released her legs to stretch them out, she leaned back on her hands.

“I could help you with David.” She cast him a quick squinting look. “I know you’re going to say fuck that, but I want to talk to him. It doesn’t have to just be you and Michael.”

Surprisingly, Leo didn’t immediately object. A considering expression crept across his face, and he glanced off to the side like he sometimes did when he was weighing possibilities.

“We could give it a whirl,” he said, after a moment. “You’re not going to be a very good bodyguard, but he seemed kind of reluctant to hurt you on Halloween and All Saint’s. Maybe you could help him at least consider not trying to kill all of us.”

There was a pause, and then…

“Is it getting that bad?” he asked, his tone nonchalant. Like he was asking her opinions on the current music playing (some haunting goth metal number). “I meant it when I said you aren’t going to scare me off, you know.”

Julian was already trying to run all the things she wanted to say to David through her head. There was a whole lot of whys and you jackass. But the most common one was I’m sorry, which felt like such a stupid thing to say to someone who lost his mind and killed a bunch of people.

“It’s… different.” she finally responded. “The shadows are always here now. They creep in too close when I don’t watch them. Sometimes I don’t know where I am, um, I mean I know exactly where I am, but if I blink I see something else. Like instead of you and these dummies, there’s nothing but trees and shadows. And if I blink again, there’s silhouettes of people that aren’t ghosts, but they aren’t alive either, so…”

She shrugged her shoulders. “I think this is supposed to be normal. I keep remembering things now, like it’s always been this way and I just… forgot? That’s really the only part that gets to me. You don’t forget this kind of stuff.”

Julian sighed, lifting a hand to rub against her temple. “…it’s fine though. It’s not all scary. Sometimes it’s actually kinda pretty.” She shifted, leaning close to him and pointing her finger upwards towards the sky. A sheepish grin crept across her face.

“I can see your soul reflected in the stars.”

He went stock still, shoulders stiff as a board.

“…If you think my soul is pretty,” he said quietly, barely above a whisper, “you’re not seeing what you think you are, Jules.”

His hand caught her wrist, and this time when he looked at her his expression was… stricken. Guilty?

“You don’t really know who I am,” he told her seriously. “If you knew the things I think, the things I’ve done. The dreams I have-”

He broke off, glancing around like he’d suddenly remembered where they were, and shut his mouth with a rueful grimace.

“Forget it,” he muttered. “Just forget all of that.”

“I know what I see. …Maybe I get all the stuff in the middle mixed up and wrong, but I know the kind of person I’m looking at.”

He made a big mistake in grabbing her wrist, because Julian captured his arm with her free hand and wasn’t going to let go without Silvia-esque wrestling in the grass. She examined his face with a scowl. Not sure if she wanted to shake him to death or just kiss him until he stopped being so dumb.

“If you want to be the bad guy, and feel terrible about stuff forever, that’s fine. But you don’t get to say stupid shit like if you knew and then actually expect that to work. What can you tell me that I haven’t already been told. About you, or someone else, or have seen.”

The hand that wasn’t clinging to him gestured towards that little spot on his chest. “I see you and you’re just going to have to deal with it like everybody else does.”

“You’re an idiot,” he seethed, trying to yank his arm away. “And I am not talking about this right now.”

When she still didn’t let go, he scooped her off the grass and straight into his lap with the most stubborn look on his face she had ever seen. His arm locked around her waist.

“Oh no,” he deadpanned, loudly. “What am I doing? I think Jules is stealing me with her irresistible wiles. I can feel it happening. Who invited me here again? Why did I come? I feel like there’s something I’m forgetting. Something small and cute.”

“You sonofa-”

“NOOO! She’s not supposed to use wiles!” squealed Silvia. In a matter of seconds, poor Robbie was rolled away in her mad dash to scramble to her feet.

Julian was absolutely furious.

“FREEZE.” Julian threw out a pointed finger at Silvia, who stopped so suddenly in her tracks that she pinwheeled to prevent herself from stumbling forward. “I’m invoking my rights as fearless alpha!” she hissed through her teeth.

Then she grabbed Leo’s head and kissed him. All rough fury and biting annoyance, before she let him go and shouted at him. “YOU’RE the idiot, you asshole!”

“That’s not very romantic, but-”

Silvia couldn’t even get the sentence out. Julian shoved herself far enough away from Leo to rear her fist back and take a swing at his stupid, stubborn, asshole face.

He didn’t even try to dodge.

Her fist caught him squarely in the jaw, his lip splitting open. Mute, he pressed a thumb to his mouth and wiped away a drop of blood. He stared at it, eyes wide and bewildered.

A few seconds later, he laughed. It was a strange laugh, forced and kind of hysterical all at once.

“Maybe you should go,” Owen growled. He’d left his spot on the log and circled around the fire to stand a foot or so behind Julian, a scowl on his face and his hands balled into fists as he glared down at Leo.

“…Right,” Leo agreed, still gingerly touching his face- which was weird, because he was a vampire, she couldn’t have hurt him that bad. He slid backward and hauled himself up onto his feet.

Holy shit. Why did she do that.

No, wait, she knew exactly why she did it. He fucking deserved it.

But it didn’t stop that sudden wave of immediate regret. She could keep her temper in check with everybody else, but with Leo it was just- Damn. She really couldn’t control anything when it came to Leo.

“I’m not done talking to you. I’m not done YELLING at you.” Now that she was standing and shaking out her throbbing hand, she was aware of Owen directly behind her. She just punched a guy with a bunch of witnesses. There was no way this could possibly get worse.

Julian let out a hiss of breath and made the move to leave herself, but Silvia was suddenly clinging to her. Scrawny arms pinning her own in place and making it impossible to take another step.

“It’s okay!” chimed in the girl. “Punching people is how we solve problems in the Whelan house! Nobody has to leave!”

“Actually,” a new voice interrupted. “Everyone has to go home right now.”

Caleb Whelan stepped out of the treeline, Dylan on his heels. His scowl was downright murderous; Owen’s paled in comparison.

“Silvia,” he said, “get your ass home now.”

“Sorry, kiddo,” Dylan told Silvia as he grabbed hold of her and picked her up in a completely unnecessary fireman’s carry. “I had to tell him.”

“…Sorry Caleb,” Robbie said immediately, standing up and dusting himself off. He exchanged a glance with Owen. “She’s been totally safe, though, no shenanigans. Promise.”

Caleb shot him a look, but the full force of his frown ended up turned on Leo.

“I didn’t see why she punched you, but I’m betting you earned it,” he told him bluntly. “Get lost.”

“Already gone,” Leo replied, and just like that… he was. Apparently he wasn’t worried about what any of the onlookers would think.

With Leo out of the way, Caleb leveled his gaze on Julian.

“You TRAITOR!” wailed Silvia. A few other choice insults were heard as Dylan carted her away, although none of them involved curses. Just colorful, very creative strings of words.

Julian crossed her arms and stared Caleb down right back. The object of her ire was gone, but she was still seething just a bit. She struggled with it until expression faded from a heated scowl to a stiff, sheepish grimace.

“She really was okay. …and so am I.” she made sure to stress towards Caleb first, and then a pointed glance to Owen. If anyone wasn’t okay it’d be Leo – and oh god. Why WHY did she have to hit him? There were a million better ways to handle a snarky asshole!

Oh shit, she kissed him too. Kissed him and then punched him.

Julian slapped her hands against her face, knowing her cheeks were probably burning by now. When she finally dropped her hands, she at least got some measure of composure back. Enough to face the others, anyway.

“…aaaand now that I’ve shown you why domestic violence totally isn’t the way to show affection. Thank you for being cool for Silvia. Iiiii’m just going to goooo.” She pointed with both fingers in the direction of the Whelan House, already shuffling quickly on her way.

The minute hand hit twelve with a click and Julian wondered just how much trouble she would get in to if she threw a Whelan family heirloom out the window. It was already wide open. All she had to do was snatch it off the wall and toss it.

Julian threw her arm over her face instead.

It was three AM and she hadn’t fallen asleep. At first it was just because she couldn’t stop rolling her massively stupid behavior over in her head. When she finally she wasted enough energy feeling dumb, it was too hot in the room, so she opened the window and let the frosty autumn air in. After that… the second she started to drift she’d catch something moving. A shadow. A dead Whelan. Her own hair sliding down her cheek and startling her awake.

At this rate she was going to have to sneak out of the guestroom and go crawl in to bed with Silvia. Julian could not think of anything more embarrassing than that.

Oh wait.

The minute hand ticked by again. With a soft groan, she shuffled up to her knees and reached up on the wall to snatch the offending clock. She turned it over in her hands until she found the battery compartment and stole them.

Fuck this clock!

“I couldn’t find a boombox,” a voice interrupted her clock sabotage, “and the window was already open, so I couldn’t throw rocks. I settled for something more my style.”

Leo was sitting on the windowsill.

“Hi,” he said, giving her a wary look. “What the fuck are you doing?”

Julian squeaked, fumbling the clock in her hands when she jumped. Then went tumbling right off the edge of the bed with a soft thump. Which was the best outcome that could’ve happened, because if she screamed there probably would have been a pack of snarling wolves bursting through the door.

She lay there for a second, shielded from view by the bed. This was so a deja vu moment. She vaguely remembered threatening to shove him out the window the first time this happened. Julian thought about doing it now and then finding a closet to hide in.

Picking herself up, at least to the point where she could peer over the mattress at him, she frowned.

“It’s an evil clock.” she explained slowly. “…you shouldn’t be sneaking in to Whelan windows.”

“…I didn’t want to wait until Monday to talk to you,” he said. “I’ll take my chances.”

He hopped down off the windowsill and walked over to stand by the bed. His fingers combed through his hair as he stood there, eyeing her.

“We need to talk,” Leo began, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. “About a couple things.”

She groaned softly, dropping her head against the mattress. There went her feeble plans of hoping a night or two away from home would make that whole thing seem funny and unimportant later. She could shout for somebody, if she really wanted to be a grade A jackass. But… no, this was better. Otherwise she’d never have the guts to go back home.

Julian sighed and shoved her way back to her feet. She held up two fingers and found anywhere to look at but him. The ceiling fan worked.

“Okay, fine. I’m sorry I hit you. But you were being stupid and I actually meant to hit you several days ago when you were REALLY being an asshole, but didn’t think it was worth it, and then you had to go and try and get Silvia to protect you, and I know I over reacted to usual Leo bullshit snark like I ALWAYS do, but you just do that to me.”

It all came out in a big blurt of nonsense to the point she was squeezing her eyes shut and gesturing her hands at him like she wanted to strangle him again.

“So I’m SORRY.”

For a moment, he didn’t say anything. There was no sound except for her heartbeat and the rustle of wind in the curtains.

“You are unbelievable,” he finally told her.

His hands were on her cheeks again, then, his palms blazing hot against her skin. He took a shaky breath.

I’m sorry,” he said. “I was being an asshole. I am an asshole. I just… Shit. This wasn’t supposed to happen.”

For a moment she thought he was going to make her do that squishy fishy face he liked to do when he was getting all serious. She even grabbed his hands getting ready to pull them away before he squeezed her. Instead he apologized. Apologized.

Julian laughed.

“What. Is that IT?” she asked, all wide-eyed and baffled. “You come up here all dramatic just to say you’re sorry? Leo, I thought you were going to try and tell me you’re LEAVING again. I can deal with you being a pain in the ass. …okay, maybe not well. I just didn’t want you to not talk to me. I thought you knew that you can talk to me.”

“Of course that’s not it,” he answered. “Don’t be stupid.”

Leo’s thumbs brushed over her cheeks. He stared back at her for a minute, brow furrowed, like he was having some kind of internal debate with himself. Then he suddenly leaned forward, his fingers sliding up into her hair.

“Fuck it,” he breathed, as he closed the gap between their mouths and his lips touched hers.

Leo was being stupid, but he didn’t care. He’d been putting this off for months.

Then what was- Oh. That’s not what she was expecting him to show up for.

Julian made a soft sound of surprise, her whole body leaning in to him. This must’ve been where the phrase weak in the knees came from. Without something solid in the way like anger or fear or extraordinary circumstances, the rush was dizzying. She went from wide-eyed confusion to heavy-lidded wonderment, sliding her hands down his arms until they stole away under his jacket to find a new home. Her arms curled around him, fingers gripping in to the fabric of his shirt.

And she kissed him. Kissed him like she wanted to do for way longer than she should have.

She wasn’t pushing him away; she didn’t even hesitate. She was totally on board with this utterly insane, stupid idea of the two of them doing whatever the hell Leo thought they were doing.

It wasn’t the angry, frustrated kiss Julian had given him earlier, but it wasn’t gentle and sweet either. There was a bit too much tongue and too much invitation involved to be called sweet. Leo kissed her like he couldn’t get enough, because he really couldn’t. His hands slid from her hair and down along her sides until they met her thighs.

Without missing a beat, he grabbed her and picked her up clear off the floor.

“If I screw this up, just punch me again,” he said, in the moment he came up for air, before he navigated them in the direction of the bed. He sank down into his seat like a stone with Julian on his lap.

What. Really? There wasn’t going to be a fight? He wasn’t going to tell her he was just being an asshole, or that she was just confused? He was going to let it happen without freaking out? Holy crap. Holy crap.

Julian was going to start laughing again, and then he’d think she wasn’t serious.

Very quickly she retracted her arms only to sling them around his neck and bury her face just under his ear. Maybe he could still feel her grinning against his skin. She shifted on his lap until she was comfortable and sure she wasn’t going to start giggling. Julian could touch. She was actually allowed to touch. Which meant now she was drawing her fingertips down his neck and trying to decide where her hands would go first.

“I should have punched you two months ago.” she murmured, brushing her lips against his ear. “Pretty sure I also promised to bite you once.”

That must’ve seemed like a good idea because her mouth was suddenly on his again. All soft kissing and subtle nipping of teeth.

“I told you not to threaten me with a good time,” he replied between kisses. Everything she was doing just felt… nice. Not even just because it was sexy. He couldn’t come up with an explanation that wasn’t embarrassing as fuck, so he didn’t try. He just focused on what he was doing.

Which presently was tracing his fingers along the bottom hems of her impractically short and flimsy pajama shorts, and trying to make up his mind about where to put his mouth.

Before he could think about it too much, he settled on the spot right at the base of her neck, between her collarbones. His lips grazed her skin, quickly followed by his fingertips curling and digging into her thighs.

“Are we seriously doing this?” he wanted to know, pressing his face into the curve of her throat and taking a deep breath. “You, me. Tongue. This is going to be a thing?”

Oh hell. He was determined to keep saying things that were going to make her laugh. And the worst part is that it was great. Julian kept waiting for that other shoe to drop. The nervousness to creep in. The second guessing or the doubt. There was none of that. Just her biting in to her bottom lip and nearly shivering, even though everywhere his fingers touched left a trail that was blazing hot.

She dug her hands in to his hair and gripped, leaning in close like she was going to kiss him again only to tug his head back. “I don’t know. Is that the best you can sweet-talk? I was expecting better with all that clever snark.”

Julian held him long enough to flash him a cheeky grin, then she captured the edges of his jacket to shove off his shoulders and down his arms. It was stolen in the span of three seconds, with Julian tilting back just a fraction to drop it pointedly on the floor.

“Does that answer your question? You only get two more guesses. Four if I count your shoes.”

Well, shit. Okay then. If Leo had had any remaining restraint, out the window it went.

“…You remembered I go commando,” he commented, tilting his head and giving her an absolutely wicked smile. “I’m flattered.”

His hands crept inside her t-shirt. It was tempting to just toss her down on the bed, but he’d much rather take the time to do this right. There wasn’t any rush. He would rather commit every single touch and kiss and every little shift in her expression to memory, because this… Yeah. This. He pressed his palm against a spot just below her navel, fingers splayed.

“Hey Jules,” he said, in a tone she’d never heard him use. It was affectionate, but there was just a little bit of something dangerous in it. Like he was coaxing her into some kind of trouble, but promising her he was going to keep her safe at the same time. He leaned in and grazed his teeth- very, very carefully- along the underside of her jaw. “Does this mean we have to revise the house rules, or can we only do this in Caleb’s guest room? That seems a little impractical…”

She sucked in a quick breath, and Julian knew she was in all kinds of trouble. Fingers trailed behind his ear and down the side of his neck, her nails tracing invisible lines over skin. He was always kind of sparky, but this was a whole different sort of feeling. She wanted to pin him and make him hers in what she was sure some silly alpha-wolf instinct she picked up from hanging out with Whelans. Just as much as she wanted to spend hours touching her tongue to the sparks and seeing if it jolted him.

Yeah. That sounded like a very good idea.

Julian nuzzled softly against his cheek, hooking a finger in to the collar of his shirt to tug just slightly out of place. A kiss brushed past just under his ear, and her breath fell warm against the lower curve of his neck only for a second before she flicked out her tongue to steal one of those sparks.

Yup. That was buzzy. Julian giggled under her breath.

Wait. Did he ask her a question?

“I could be convinced to change the rules. Which one were you after? You can have my cereal.” she muttered as if it were an after thought, too busy delicately placing her hand against that warm glowy spot in his chest, and wondering how she was going to get his shirt off without having to pull away and break contact.

He laughed, low and muffled against her skin.

“Am I losing you?” he teased. His hands smoothed over and up along her sides, the pads of his fingers trailing a path along her skin. Without warning, he scooted back on the bed and rolled them both over, planting one hand against the mattress to keep from crushing her underneath him.

“Jesus fuck, Jules,” breathed Leo, more to himself than to her. He stared at her for a moment, watching her hair fanning out around her on the bedspread and his thumbs moving in small concentric circles over her rib cage. Her t-shirt was bunched up above his hands, exposing her ribs and most of her stomach. “You’re going to get me in trouble.”

“You are trouble.” Oh, she liked this. Julian now had easy access to get her hands just about anywhere she wanted them, and as an added bonus she could move her legs freely too. She was already shifting one knee up to bump gently against his hip. Seeing how far she could stretch and how much pressure it required to shove one of his shoes off with her foot. There was a very triumphant look on her face when there was a soft thump on the floor.

And he had to go and stare at her with the blue-eyes. It was killing her. She wondered if he knew how much he said with just eyes alone. If he knew that was why she couldn’t ever stop thinking about him.

“You’re the idiot that keeps kissing me in Caleb’s house.” Julian raised a hand to draw her fingertip down the bridge of his nose, mimicking the tap at the tip in that frustrating habit he’d recently picked up. Then she was gripping his shoulders. Her fingers curling and crawling, nails catching the fabric of his shirt and very, very slowly drawing it up. It would have been easier to just grab it and tug it right off his head, but this was so much more fun.

“I told you,” he said, voice going rough and a little ragged around the edges. “I’m not worried about Caleb.”

He could have just pulled his shirt the rest of the way over his head, but he let her take her time. When she was done he blew his ruffled hair out of his eyes and kicked off his remaining shoe.

“You don’t seem to be complaining much,” he noted, in that same almost-crooning pitch as before. He ghosted a kiss along the curve of her throat, letting his lips linger just long enough to tease. “So you’re the one who likes it.”

As if he didn’t like it just as much. Not the location, obviously, just the part where he was getting his hands all over and his mouth all over her like something straight out of one of his recurring nighttime fantasies. Part of Leo wondered if he was really awake, but the sensations were all much too sharp, much too real to be a dream.

Besides, if it were a dream it would already have gone wrong somehow.

He sucked in a breath, his forehead dropping to her shoulder. He grabbed her hips and squeezed just a little tighter than he needed to, because he needed a physical reminder that she wasn’t going to suddenly crumble into ashes in his hands.

She made a soft, overly contented sound and if she had been thinking about it she would have considered it awful and silly. But Julian was way too wrapped up in the fact that this new sexytime voice made her want to melt. This was going to be a weakness. Heaven help her if he ever figured that out.

Though every time she could feel his mouth graze her skin it happened too. She was so blissfully screwed.

When his head dropped to her shoulder, she circled her arms around him and run her fingers up his neck and in to his hair. Julian turned her head to kiss his cheek before she grabbed his face in her hands and squeezed. Now he was making that dumb fishy face.

“Hey. You think too much.” she murmured, shifting until she caught his eyes with hers. Her gaze fell to his mouth where she brushed her thumb gently at the corner. “You make me want to give you everything you thought you could never have.”

His heart stuttered in his chest.

Leo had lied to her face before. Julian scared the shit out of him. Just not for the reasons she feared.

“You’re babbling, Jules,” he told her, twisting his face free of her hands only to plant a kiss in the middle of her palm. Half a beat later, he nipped the tip of her thumb- not hard enough to draw blood, though, he made sure of that.

Then he was sliding back on the bed just enough so he had room to pepper kisses down and across her stomach, stopping just shy of the waistband of her shorts. He wasn’t quick about it, either. If she moved so much as a muscle, he stopped where he was and mouthed at her skin until she relaxed again. His hands stayed firmly on her hips all the while.

He wanted to make her just as crazy as she’d been making him lately. And he really, really wanted to keep that blissed-out expression on her face.

She might have complained about him pulling out of her grasp, but suddenly it was incredibly hard to put words to thoughts. Her breath hitched and he stopped. Something tickled, she’d tense, and he paused. And every time he moved again something in her stomach twisted. It was deliciously sweet and horribly frustrating all at the same time.

What was she going to say again? The soft humming sound that followed surely wasn’t it. There was a fleeting thought that maybe this should be awkward. At the very least shouldn’t she be hesitant or shy? Her previous relationships were seeming real chaste by comparison, but Leo nibbling his way down her stomach only felt natural. So intoxicatingly, annoyingly, now she couldn’t stop squirming natural.

“You-” Damn. Only one curt word and it was a breathy squeak. Julian swallowed. “Do you want me to sock you in the face again?” she finally managed to spit out. The phrase didn’t have any heat or frustration in it – at least not the threatening kind. In fact the words were an octave higher than normal and slipped in to being a whisper before she even finished the question.

“Is that what you want, sunshine?” he asked softly into her navel, right before he outlined it with his tongue. “Because you say the word and I’ll stop.”

Julian probably didn’t realize it, but she was the one behind the wheel right now. She’d been driving this whole goddamn time, ever since he’d first met her. Leo had tried to drag her into his chess games and he was the one who’d wound up the pawn.

“It’s okay,” he told her, rubbing his face against her stomach and breathing in. “Seriously. Whatever you want.”

“Well I don’t want you to stop!” she practically mewled, gesturing wildly with her hands. “I don’t want you to ever stop.” For the first time she sounded just a tiny bit like she wasn’t sure, but only in that way where she didn’t quite know how to do what she wanted to do. He was lucky she didn’t reach down and pull him by his hair back up to her mouth where she’d forgo the verbal lecture in favor of a tongue lashing. …or push him down as now she was entertaining some very wild and seedy thoughts about all of the things she could make him do with an offer like that.

Her cheeks flushed then, not from embarrassment, but because she was already thinking way, way too many dirty thoughts ahead. There were a million things and she wanted ALL of them.

She rose up on her elbows just so she could get a good look at him, her teeth digging in to her bottom lip. Before she knew it, all that uncertainty faded and she grinned. If he didn’t know he was in trouble before – he definitely knew it now. It was fearless curiosity and deliberate wickedness all in one.

“I bet it helps that you like it when I get all bossy, hmm? I think I’ll make you a checklist.”

If she thought that was going to faze him, she was wrong.

“Okay,” he agreed, hooking his thumbs into the waistband of her shorts and giving her a look that was so full of heat it probably could burn. “Is getting these out of the way on the list?”

There was probably something more in that look, too. Something he couldn’t help; something that plainly told her how literal he was being when he said things like whatever you want.

And then- because she’d told him not to stop, after all- he ducked his head to place a barely-there, closed-mouthed kiss between her thighs. It was just enough pressure for her to feel it through the fabric.

It wasn’t like Leo wanted to stop, either. He kind of wanted to keep going until he’d kissed every inch of her skin and then some.

“Tch.” She might have fainted with the way all function melted out of her arms and she dropped back to the mattress with a bounce. He hadn’t even really done anything yet beyond smoldering looks and subtle intimate touches, but all thought was already blacking out of her head to be replaced with feeling and sensation.

How did she not know. How did she not know until just now that she was so completely out of her mind smitten with this dumbass?

She pressed her fingers to that spot between her eyes, then slipped her hand down almost like she was going to cover her mouth only to tap the pads of her fingers against her mouth and bite in to a nail. There was a strange smile and expression on her face. Somewhere between almost self-conscious giggling and contented cheshire grin.

Julian’s other hand rose, pointing and gesturing with a flick for him to carry on. She didn’t trust herself to speak without sounding totally infatuated or caving in to laughter.

Well, that was a yes if he’d ever seen one, Leo figured. Even so he eased into it, tracing the edge of her shorts legs with his tongue before he slid them even so much as an inch. He wasn’t sure if he was going easy for her sake or his, to be honest.

Words kept catching in his throat. Things he didn’t have the guts to actually speak aloud. Stuff he hinted at instead through touch, through brushes of lips and tongue.

“Hey gorgeous,” he coaxed again instead, as he playfully tugged at her shorts leg with his teeth. “Don’t pass out on me now.”

He slipped his fingers into the band of her shorts and pulled them down past her hips, pressing an open-mouthed kiss to the newly-bared upper portion of her thigh.

If his intentions were to drive her insane – it was working.

“Hm trying not, but you’re being all you.” Her response was so soft it wouldn’t have been audible to anyone with normal hearing. The only hint that she said anything at all would’ve been the way she splayed her hand and gestured a circle in his direction when she said you.

The room was almost unbearably HOT, even with the window wide open. Her fingers curled in to the collar of her tshirt and tugged, but it offered no respite.

Julian realized it was probably all him. She squirmed again, her suspicions confirmed when she shifted enough to bump a knee against him and graze his bare side with a curl of her toes.

Fucking Christ, this was so awesome.

Leo could barely believe he was actually getting away with this. That he had Julian half-naked on a bed, with her poor excuse for pants hanging off one ankle and nothing else to stop him from getting an eyeful, because apparently Julian didn’t think she needed underwear at bedtime. He took a deep breath, his forehead dropping to rest in the dip between the top of her thigh and her stomach.

“Feeling’s mutual,” he informed her, a little breathless himself. Without thinking about it, he repeated a sentiment he’d shared earlier that night. “Hell, Jules, if you had any idea…”

Before he could say anything too stupid or damning, Leo shifted a couple inches to the right and placed a very wet kiss directly on her clit.

“Oh HELL.”

She said it way, way too loud.

Her hand slapped over her mouth and a muffled sound followed. Whether it was a growl or a sigh wasn’t too clear, but it must have at least been a good one because the stiffness from the sudden surprise was gone in an instant. Julian was pretty sure he just vaporized every bone in her body and even the tugging the fabric at her shoulder wasn’t helping to cool her flushed skin.

After a moment, when Julian was sure she hadn’t just alerted the entire Whelan household that they were up to no good, the hand clamped over her mouth curled over her lips.

“Okay,” she giggled in a whisper against her thumb, “You’re safe.”

“I mean,” he began, his lips still close enough to brush her skin, “It’s not like I’d stop just because someone walked in.”

In the wake of that statement, he pressed his tongue between her folds and licked, running his hands along her inner thighs in an almost reassuring way. He kind of kept waiting for her to call it quits, but damned if she didn’t let him cross every line and keep right on going. At this point Leo was so far over the line he couldn’t even see it. All he could see was the little flickers of enjoyment and absolutely terrifying trust that kept crossing Julian’s face.

“If you’re feeling a little too hot,” he suggested, between long, slow sweeps of his tongue, “you could just take off your shirt, you know.”

Her response was somewhere between a whimper and a laugh. She might have even shook her head, but it was hard to tell if it were a refusal or just writhing movement. She had a retort somewhere. Something about him being kinky and what the hell made him think she could even move right now.

Well. Aside from the way her stomach would clench when she sucked in a breath. Or how her hips shifted when she brushed a leg against him. Oh hell, why did she do that? Now there was a whole different angle of cool wet tongue and she was completely wrecked. There was that mewling sound again as she bit in to her thumb.

Julian pried her hand away from her with every intent to try and wiggle out of her shirt, but a twinge of feeling had her gripping in to the bed sheets instead. The only word she could get out then was his name in a mumbled sigh.

Oh, shit. That was a sound that was going to be burned forever into his brain.

“Sorry, sunshine,” he breathed, kissing a spot he’d noticed made her particularly twitchy. “Lemme get that for you.”

With a second, lingering parting kiss that promised I’ll be back, he slid up to peel her out of her shirt. This was one thing he did make quick work of, but he still paused long enough to kiss her firmly on the mouth before the t-shirt went up over her head.

He stopped, the jerk. Though, thank god her brief disappointment didn’t come with a sound of it’s own. That might have actually been embarrassing.

She could taste herself on his lips when he kissed her. Which was such a heady mind blowing thing, that when her shirt was gone and frosty night air sent a chill across her skin, it didn’t even occur to her that she was naked. Totally nude with a guy when she was that girl who never wore strappy shirts just because she didn’t want people to see the fish shaped birthmark on her shoulder blade.

Julian lived her whole life just by feeling her way through it. And this was just. He didn’t know what he DID with honeyed tones and being so… him.

Before her shirt even left his fingertips she grabbed his head and tugged him down. Her mouth met his hard and fast. Telling him with a desperate kiss all those things she couldn’t seem to explain with actual words.

With the exception of his knees bracing against the bed, he pretty much just fell on top of her when she drew him down. The moment she started kissing him like that, all of his carefulness shattered, leaving him raw and trying to kiss her straight into the mattress.

His hands were starting to shake. Hopefully before she noticed, he put one to use steadying her hip while he slid the other back down to tease where his tongue had left off, because as much as he wanted to get back to that, he was going to have a hell of a time breaking away from what he was doing now.

Even so, he couldn’t do anything to stop the shudder that went down his spine.

But she did notice.

First there was that wide-eyed surprise when fingers grazed parts of her that were still buzzing from his tongue. Then a dawning realization set in. Her lashes lowered, slow and blinking as she smiled against his mouth. A look that spoke all kinds of promises. She affected him. She had control here; she could do things to him.

In an instant she changed the pressure, still holding him tight by sliding her hand in to his hair, kissing him soft but licking her way in to his mouth with a movement that definitely couldn’t be mistaken as sweet.

Her knuckles brushed against his skin, just over his heart, before she traced a single finger down his chest and over his stomach.

Yep. Leo was officially in trouble.

And even though he was totally screwed, he was smiling, because Julian looked and felt amazing and he hadn’t had this much fun in years. He inhaled sharply when her trailing finger got a little too close to the waistband of his jeans, and then he was breaking the kiss to sit back and just look at her- never mind that his hair was sticking to his forehead, that his pupils were totally blown.

“I thought maybe I’d make this all about you,” he confessed, a little bit quieter than he meant to. His own fingers traced a slow circle, and then he nudged his index finger halfway inside of her. “I’m good with that.”

Julian stopped breathing all together. She just couldn’t because everything clenched up all at once. Her toes, those muscles between her thighs, her stomach, her heart. Even her mouth was locked open where she was going to gasp but just got frozen in wonderment.

Once she finally gained control of her limbs again, she pushed herself up on an elbow. Chewing in to the side of her cheek, knowing there was this stupidly wistful look on her face, but not being able to knock it off. Especially when shifting just sort of drove things a little bit closer HOME and she had to squeeze her eyes shut just so she could force herself to not get lost in it.

She retracted her hand, lifting up a finger as if she were going to recite a lecture, but instead reaching forward to hook it in to the waistband of his pants. Without even looking.

When she did open her eyes it was with a tilt of her head and a questioning squint. “But it’s not just about me?” she murmured first, and with it the button was undone.

“You can say the word and I’ll stop. Whatever you want.” she promised. And oh god, she meant it.

This was not what Leo had thought was going to happen when he’d come through the window. This train had gone way, way off the rails somewhere along the way.

But it wasn’t like he could say no to that.

“Jesus Christ,” was what he actually said, mostly under his breath as his finger slid further inside her, pushing deeper until his knuckles got in the way. He dipped down closer to kiss her neck. His own throat felt thick, like there was a piece of wadded up gauze caught in there; he swallowed, but it didn’t really help.

“Okay,” he began, reining in his runaway brain. “Okay, sunshine, let’s not get too crazy. I’m going to keep taking care of you-”

He gave a shallow thrust of his finger, at the same time brushing a small circle around her clit with his thumb, like he was demonstrating.

“…And if you want to take care of me too, that’s cool,” he finished, pressing his face against the hollow of her throat and trying to remember how to breathe.

He said it like he never thought he was part of the equation. Like he didn’t think he could be. Almost as if he were afraid to be.

Julian didn’t know it was possible to be out of your mind feverish over someone but want to wrap them up and soothe their fears away at the same time. To feel the heat of their hands pressing in deep and making every little nerve fritz out from head to toes in a deliciously sinful way, and still want nothing more than to kiss them, touch them, love them until they were happy.

Holy crap. How did that even happen.

Well. Now she was definitely going to take care of him.

Julian really wanted to go about it like some sort of hot and foxy sex goddess, but that was so very hard to do when just one thrust of a finger could make her squeak. Her attempt at a sultry expression didn’t get very far either. It was all tender smiles and nuzzling gently against his cheek. But at least she was very good at getting her hands on him. Stroking her fingers at the back of his neck and caressing her thumb along his jaw.

She ran her knuckles feather light against his stomach again, this time following up with a teasing scrape of a fingernail. It’ll only took the one finger hooked in to his pants to slide the zipper down.

“It’s not too scary for you, I hope.” she teased in a whisper against his ear, nearly giggling again in the process. Because yeah. The century old vampire couldn’t possibly be scared of this.

“I’ll make it,” he answered. Probably. Leo did absolutely nothing to help Julian get his pants off, because frankly he was already wound tight enough that he was counting on her having as many obstacles as possible. It had been a while since he’d done this, and much, much longer since he’d done this with someone he actually gave a shit about. And, well, he had the hormones of a sixteen-year-old boy. It’s not like he thought he’d come in his pants or anything, but he didn’t want it to be over too fast.

His free hand smoothed up over her stomach to skirt along the underside of her breasts. Her skin was so soft. He was pretty sure he could just touch her like this for hours and never get bored. Between her little tiny twitches and the heartbreakingly-sweet looks she kept giving him, Leo couldn’t take his eyes off her. Even when it felt like too much.

All the while, his hand kept up a slow but steady rhythm, his finger sliding in as far as it could with each push and his thumb teasing her from outside. As he pressed just a little bit harder, his middle finger wiggled in alongside the first.

“jesus.” she hissed softly, her hand left his face for her arm to drop and hit the mattress. Fingers gripped in to hair at the top of her head. There it went again, that clenching, coiling feeling. The one that sent a rush of heat burning to her ears and made her mouth dry.

Julian was not one of those girls who was all innocent and pure and virginal. She may not have had sex before or gotten much farther than some handsy pawing with some guy, but she knew herself well enough. And that now seemed like a dull bunch of nothing compared to Leo and his uncanny ability to set everything on fire.

It’d be all too easy to just lay back and let him touch her. To soak it all in like a lazy cat. But it was so much more fun to see how she could make his jaw tighten and give her the sparkle blue-eyes.

Her thumb brushed against his side as she slid her hand just under the fabric of his pants to squeeze against his hip. On the opposite side she shifted her leg up, using her toes to catch the waistband and push them off. But that came with some interesting consequences, making her bite hard in to her lip and give a faint whimpering sound.

Did she have any idea how expressive her face was? Leo could practically feel what she was feeling just by watching the shifts in her features.

He was biting his lip too now, a low laugh vibrating in his chest and into the skin just below her collarbone, where he’d been about to put his tongue. Instead he nipped, not hard enough to break the skin but definitely hard enough for her to feel it.

“Damn, Jules,” he swore, with a note that sounded a little too much like reverence slipping into his voice. “You gonna be okay there?”

Julian sucked in a sharp breath and shook her head. She was not okay and that was perfectly awesome. She loved the way he laughed and how he said that stupid nickname. Being called Jules didn’t seem so bad when he said it like that.

“…shut up, Leo.” she mumbled with way too much affection for it to be serious. It was about time she made HIM not-okay.

Her hand left her hair to brush through his and then tug gently at his ear. A distraction, because at that same moment she was moving the other one. Knuckles brushing against muscle in a slow, almost hesitant motion. Not from any sort of timidness or shyness. Julian just didn’t want to miss even the tiniest flicker of a reaction. When she found what she was looking for, her fingers curled but didn’t grip. There was just a feather light touch.

That’s how HE started this after all. Agonizingly slow, teasing touch.

Leo shut up.

His eyes snapped to a close for a brief moment, his hands jerking to a stop as well. His fingertips curled against her breast, blunt nails biting into soft flesh. He’d already been hard, but now it was almost painful. He hadn’t really been prepared for her to touch him, turns out. Least of all to be a tease.

He kissed her again, hard, like he was trying to map out every inch of her mouth. Meanwhile he picked up the pace just a little, angling his fingers just the right way into her core.

She wanted a reaction? She was going to get one.

Oh shit. That was powerful scary. Blacking out the whole world and any conscious thought scary.

Her hand slapped against his shoulder and squeezed. Breath escaping her nose in a staggered rush when she lift her head off the mattress to push back against his kiss. She met him with equal measure, and somewhere between warring with his tongue and stealing his breath away there was that bite she promised. Sharp teeth tugging on his bottom lip.

Julian very nearly forgot she had a personal mission when she squirmed under him and made a muffled sound against his mouth. A splayed hand rubbed downwards first, before fingers circled and gripped. Oh god, she didn’t know it could be so rock hard and his skin still be so soft. She ran her thumb up the length of him.

“Fuck,” Leo swore, but it was lost in Julian’s mouth and didn’t come out with any clarity.

This exploratory bullshit she was doing was going to kill him, he was pretty sure. Every touch was like another lit match dropped on a pool of gasoline. The world didn’t exist beyond the two of them anymore; there could have been an earthquake happening and Leo wouldn’t notice.

He also really wanted to bite her, especially once she’d started it.

He broke away from her lips to nuzzle at her neck, his breath washing over her skin as he exhaled shakily.

“So sunshine,” he crooned, kissing her hard in the spot where her pulse was hammering just as his thumb flicked at her clit. “What do you want to do from here? More of this?”

“Aah, what..?” she squeaked out, her voice getting caught somewhere in her throat. This was so unfair. How could he expect her to even form words let alone answer questions.

She could feel her heart trying to pound it’s way out of her chest and she could feel his pulsing beneath her fingers. Julian squeezed. Testing the pressure of her grip and mimicking his motion through brushing her thumb casually over his tip. Just to see if it was as easy to press his buttons as it was to press hers.

More of this? More of everything.

“Leo…” was what she ended up saying, though. Only his name, but it still held the same meaning. Soft and pleading and just a little bit frustrated. Julian squirmed, finally letting him go only to curl her arm around him. The palm of her hand sliding softly against his skin before she drew her nails along his spine.

Fuck,” Leo repeated, in an absolutely wrecked voice.

He pressed his face into the pillow beside her for a moment, trying to clear his head. He really, really couldn’t fuck this up, and he was liable to do that if he didn’t keep a hold on rational thought. She wasn’t making that easy for him, though.

“Okay,” he said like she’d actually answered him straight, turning his face back toward her and staring down at her with barely-restrained wonder and a whole lot of unrestrained heat. His free hand traced comforting circles up and down along her side. “Okay, I’ve got you. …Jesus, Jules, you sure?

Sure about this. Sure about me.

Oh god. Oh god, she was going to laugh again. But he was being so absolutely sweet and adorably sexy about it. Julian didn’t know those two things could even go together. If there was even the tiniest sliver of doubt in her, that was just obliterated by the look on his face. With the blue-eyes all fierce and earnest at the same time.

She hadn’t been more sure about anything in her entire life.

Julian gripped his face with both hands, tugging him down to place a soft tender kiss over his mouth. …okay, maybe it didn’t stay so soft. Once she started it was very hard to stop, so once she finally pulled away she was breathless. Breathless and hopeless, and there was really no other way she could answer.

“Yeah, I’m sure.” she whispered against his mouth. “Light me up, firefly.”

There was absolutely no way he could refuse.

His fingers slid slowly out of her, stroking down along her thigh, and then he wrapped them around himself- fuck they were wet– so he could get the right angle when he pressed his dick against her (fuck, that was wet too). His other hand gripped tight at her hip.

Leo kissed the tip of her nose like she was his sweet little housewife, unable to suppress the small grin that popped onto his face because he knew she’d like that about as much as his new habit of poking her there. (Never mind he’d only started doing that to stave off his own urges to kiss her senseless).

Without giving her time to process it, though, he pushed partially inside of her. He inhaled sharply, eyelids falling almost to a close.

Whoa.” it slipped out in a whispered sort of reverence, and was possibly the dumbest exclamation someone could make in the middle of getting busy. But. Whoa. Julian could not think beyond that one word.

Everything tensed and clenched, then just melted in to a rush of feeling. There was no telling what bits of the mental stuff was her or him – it didn’t even matter. The physical was trying to take it all over, and that was so thrillingly new. She could feel him down there; heartbeat pulsing, little twitches of movement. And holy crap, that was not enough.

Julian’s hands slipped down his chest, grazing his sides until she curled her fingers in to his hips. Yeah. Definitely not enough. Her teeth sank in to her bottom lip when she braced her feet against the mattress and ever so slowly twist her hips up.

That was – okay, now she couldn’t breathe. There was a soft whimpering sound when she forced herself to exhale.

“Whoa,” he echoed with just a hint of laughter, both hands on her hips now to keep her still for a second while he counted backwards from ten and then pushed the rest of the way in. He made a noise in the back of his throat and leaned down to kiss her, his tongue outlining her bottom lip like he was trying to coax her mouth open again.

Then he tightened his grip and rolled over onto his back.

Julian was now sitting on top of him in a way that was reminding Leo heavily of the last time they’d been on this bed. He’d wanted this just as bad that night, and now it was really happening. And he’d been wrong about being as far inside of her as he could go, as it turned out. Gravity brought her sliding down just a little further around him, making him twitch and gasp.

“You wanna take the wheel for a while?” he asked, his fingers splaying as he dragged them down along her upper thighs.

“Oh damn.”

Whoever said the first time was supposed to be awkward and painful and kind of unpleasant was dumb as hell. Well, maybe it hurt a little, but it wasn’t that kind of pain. It ached in this throbbing, filling, fantastic sort of way. She brushed her hand just under her navel where everything was coiling up. So weird, so awesome.

Her hands hovered over him for a moment, almost as if she wasn’t sure what to do with herself now that she was on top. But he could see the second it occurred to her. When her expression went from uncertainty and slowly transformed in to the most dangerously wicked look. That raise of her eyebrow and the twist of her mouth wordlessly speaking ‘I’ve got you now.’

In fact everything was written across her face in vivid detail. How her mouth opened ever so slightly when she rest her hands over his and and widen her legs and brace her knees to make sure she had proper balance. When she bit in to the tip of her tongue as she gave a testing twist of her hips. The flush in her cheeks when she moved just the right way to sent a jolt of heat up her spine.

Leo was absolutely okay with being had.

His eyes stayed glued to her face as she rocked herself on top of him. He let her take her time, let her get used to it; his own hips were flat against the bed. He didn’t move much at all, other than the slow brushes of fingertips against her legs, her belly, the curves of her breasts. Anywhere and everywhere he could think to touch.

Then, once her movements got a little more sure and steady, he rolled up to meet her.

There was the sound again. The soft hmming cheshire cat purr that came with her curling her arms up to tap her nails against her own shoulders almost like she was hugging herself. Julian didn’t need her arms to brace her weight. She could rise and fall, twist and squirm just with the power of her legs. Who knew being a dancer would come in handy for THIS.

Even when she tilted forward and her hair fell from around her shoulders to tickle his skin, it wasn’t necessary. But she placed her hand by his head anyway, holding herself over him as she examined his face. There was no hiding the adoring look, and she didn’t even think to try. Julian was too focused on him. He was being so careful with her. Careful was good.

But she also wanted to see him lit up too.

Julian tapped the tip of his nose with her finger, then his mouth. Brushed her thumb against his chin. She leaned down, tilted his head to the side and ran her tongue up the length of his neck. From collar bone all the way to his ear.

A breathy sound slipped from Leo’s lips when her tongue hit a spot just behind his ear.

He was more than lit up already. He was on fire.

He shivered, his hands kneading and scraping at her back. All sorts of filthy ideas were rattling around inside his head, but he was having too much fun with what they were doing to try any of them just then. What he did instead was thrust harder inside of her, grabbing her ass to keep her from moving too far away.

“So much better than a dream,” he told her, not really paying attention to what he was saying. “You feel so good, fuck-”

“Do you dream about me, firefly?” she whispered against his ear, nipping his lobe with her teeth and sucking gently to soothe it. Julian really didn’t expect an answer. She was already giggling and biting in to his neck.

The giggling died real quick though when something just sort of churned. She nearly melted on top of him, burying her face in to his neck as she took in a deep shaky breath.

Julian shifted above him again, sliding her hand down to rest against that glowy spot in his chest. Whatever teasing thoughts she had were gone in the wake of that wistful, blissed look. He pushed harder and she controlled the pace. A fluid rock of her hips, a little quicker. Enough that she was having trouble keeping her breathing even between the soft hums and quiet gasps.

She gave him a flirty smile, and that was it. He was done.

He grabbed her hands and wove their fingers together, then slammed them hard against the wood of her front door. Finally; he had her against a vertical surface and he could actually do something about it. He brushed his lips against her cheek. She shivered, and he moved lower, licking her throat.

“Ohhh hell.” She sounded breathless.

“Just me,” he shot back through a grin that widened when she laughed. The sound turned into a gasp when he nipped.

“Leo…” she began, voice trembling.

“I won’t,” Leo promised her. “Not if you don’t want it.”

“Shit.” Somehow, he felt it when she got that flash. Like he was seeing it too. He slammed on the breaks- again, he wasn’t exactly sure how- before they got to the part where he said things he wasn’t ready for her to hear.

And then he realized how tight she’d gotten.

Shit,” he swore again, lower and with a note of desperation. He felt himself pulse. Groaning, he used his hands to guide her into a motion that ground her against him just the right way. “Jules…”

“Ohhh hell.”she didn’t mean to mimic it. She didn’t even know what she did. Not that it mattered, because it created such a weird overlaying effect. More than he meant to give her, more than she could probably handle, but intoxicating.

Then he pushed.

And she shattered.

“Leo, you-!”

There wasn’t a single part of her that wasn’t shuddering or shivering or squeezing. Julian at least had the presence of mind to slap her hands over her mouth so that high pitched sigh came out of a muffled groan. Locked in place until her hands dropped away and she nearly fell on top of him. She dug her fingers in to his hair and kissed him feverish and hard, still making those soft sounds even as she thrust her tongue in to his mouth. It was the only way to keep herself from waking the whole Whelan household.

A wild, keening noise was torn out of his lungs. Leo rolled, flipping them over again so he could pin her to the mattress as he shuddered and jerked and kissed her until they were both out of breath. Sweat dripped down into his eyes, blurring his vision and plastering his hair to his skin. He felt like he’d taken a punch to the gut, with how hard he’d just come. Like his insides had been scooped out.

“Feeling good?” he breathed, when he finally found his voice and managed to extricate himself from their lingering kiss. His fingers wound their way into her hair, combing through silky brown strands.

That was it. She was dead. Good and dead, because there was nothing else in the world left to experience that was going to top that. She might as well go ahead and die now and leave on a high note.

Feeling good. That was such a drastic understatement. And she LAUGHED about it.

Once Julian realized the volume was too loud, and a guy probably didn’t want to hear the girl he just had sex with laughing at him, she clamped her mouth shut and bit in to her cheek. The stupid, sleepy, blissed out grin refused to go anywhere though. With that buzzy feeling still echoing through her skin, it felt so much like being drunk. Just without all the hazy forgetfulness.

“Good.” she confirmed with a quick nod. Julian wiped the sweat from his forehead with the palm of her hand. Brushed her thumb just under his eye and then again at his temple. One look at the blue-eyes and all teasing quips she had flew right out the window.

“No regrets.” she said pointedly, catching his eyes. It wasn’t the question he asked, but it was the answer he needed to hear.

“Well damn, I’d hope not,” he told her, slipping back into something closer to a normal tone. He grinned lazily, giving her a once-over before he pulled out and flopped back next to her on the bed.

He needed a shower in all the best ways right now.

“…Okay. Good talk,” Leo observed after a brief pause. “I think maybe we left a couple things out though.”

I should tell her, he thought, turning onto his side. He smoothed his fingertips down along her neck and over the lines of her shoulder. She deserves to know.

“…But it can wait,” he said, shutting his eyes. He would tell her, but… not now. He didn’t want to ruin the moment.

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