“So that guy’s just your stalker then?” He nodded in indication of someone over my shoulder in his line of sight.
I turned to see who on earth he could be talking about, and spotted Stranger-Danger about thirty feet away, leaning up against one of the columns outside the entrance to my dormitory building.
Despite my earlier resolve, my heart fluttered at the sight of him. But then my stomach plummeted and a ripple of fear ran down my spine when I saw that Stranger-Danger’s eyes weren’t screaming “save me” like they normally did. They were promising murder. And their murderous intent was directed squarely at Michael.
I swiveled my head back to Michael and found him grinning from ear to ear, finger-waving at Stranger-Danger.
“Stop that.” I snatched his hand and yanked it down. Michael used the opportunity to link his fingers with mine and pull me closer to him. I was so discombobulated that I let him.
Michael was still laughing as I explained, “He’s not my stalker. I—I don’t even know his name. He’s just a customer at The Screamin’ Beans, the coffee shop where I work.”
“Well, let’s go meet him then.”
Before I could get a grip on the situation unfolding, Michael was walking me by the hand straight up to Stranger-Danger. As we got closer, I noticed that his eyes didn’t just look angry; they looked … blue?
“Hi, there,” Michael greeted my incensed-looking crush. “I’m Michael. I believe you know Lauren.” He released my hand in order to extend his in greeting.
Stranger-Danger didn’t accept Michael’s hand. He simply stood there, staring Michael down, his jaw clenched, his blue eyes spitting fire.
I knew I had to intervene—say something to alleviate the palpable tension between the two men. But I was at a loss. Stranger-Danger’s eyes had always been brown! I couldn’t have imagined that. Yet now they were a vibrant shade of blue that practically glowed. And what was he doing waiting outside my dorm? He couldn’t possibly have been waiting for me?
“Hi.” I thrust my hand out when Michael gave up and withdrew his. “I’m Lauren Novak. We um … spoke this morning. You came into The Screamin’ Beans. I work …” My speech faltered as he turned his startling blue eyes on me. He looked positively furious. I swallowed. “I work behind the register there.”
His gaze dropped to my outstretched hand, and his brow creased. For a moment, he just stood there, staring down at my hand like he didn’t know what he was supposed to do with it, his shoulders lifting and lowering with each unsteady breath he took.
I hadn’t bothered to put my gloves on when Michael and I had raced from class, and my exposed hand was freezing now. I was about to withdraw it in order to return it to the warmth of my coat pocket, when Stranger-Danger finally reached out and engulfed it in his.
“I’m Kai.” Smoke puffed from his parted lips as his warm, minty fresh breath met the cold air between us.
Kai. His name was Kai! As pathetic as it was, my stomach somersaulted at finally having a name for my Stranger-Danger.
His downcast eyes lifted to mine and held. And holy hell—they were brown now! I blinked. Still brown. What the ever—?
Maybe he suffered a rare iris condition? As well as an internal temperature condition. His body had been warm pressed up against me in the coffee shop this morning, but his huge hand felt unnaturally hot wrapped around mine now—particularly given how cold it was outside and how thin his jacket was. His hand had warmed mine instantly. In fact, my whole body felt warmer—as if the heat from his palm was flowing through every part of me. Even my ears felt hot.
I told myself it must be a guy thing as it occurred to me Michael’s hand had also felt crazy warm when he’d briefly taken hold of my own before.
“Kai what?” I pressed. I needed a last name to be able to stalk him on social media.
His furrowed brow morphed into a scowl. “Just Kai.”
He wouldn’t give me his last name? Dick.
I attempted to pull my hand from his, but he held fast, his grip tightening, squeezing my fingers. Okay, then.
Michael cleared his throat. I’d forgotten that he was still standing next to me.
“Nice to meet you, Just Kai,” Michael said as his arm came up across my back and his hand fell to rest upon my shoulder. He tugged me into his side, increasing the tension on my outstretched arm. Still, Kai refused to relinquish my hand.
“You should be careful in the woods surrounding campus if you plan to venture there,” Michael advised Kai. “You may want to stay away altogether. We’ve just heard that there was another wolf attack two nights ago. Isn’t that right, Lauren?”
I turned wide, pleading eyes to Michael. Oh, my God, if he told Kai about me being the black widow of campus, I’d never forgive him.
Michael met my imploring eyes with a warm smile and said, “I’ve never been afraid of wolves myself. So I won’t be keeping away.”
Whoa. He was definitely talking about me and not the woods.
I didn’t have time to revel in the flattery of it, though, because a second later, I was wrenched from Michael’s side and pressed up against Kai’s front—his arms banded tightly around me in what could only be described as a protective, territorial embrace.
I’m not crazy.
This is happening.
It’s not in my head.
“Be afraid,” Kai growled at Michael, his voice low and guttural.
Lord, help me, my nipples hardened. I was going to need a change of undies now.
Michael busted up laughing. When I looked back over my shoulder at him, he seemed oddly delighted by Kai’s angry, possessive reaction. “Thanks for confirming your feelings on the matter,” he said to Kai with a smug grin, before directing a wink at me and saying, “It’s been a pleasure, Lauren. I look forward to catching up with you later. Be sure to let me know if this guy gives you any trouble, okay?”
I watched Michael walk away, hyper-aware of the fact that Kai hadn’t let go of me—and that something long and hard in the front of his slacks was swiftly expanding and pressing against my lower belly.
He wanted me. Stranger-Danger was into me! I wasn’t crazy—it hadn’t all been in my head.
I was so excited that it barely phased me this time when I craned my neck to look up at Kai and found that his irises were back to being bright blue once more.
“Hi,” I said stupidly.
A frown still marred his forehead. He was looking down at me like he didn’t know how I’d wound up in his arms or what he was supposed to do with me next.
“Um … do you and Michael know each other from somewhere?” It had seemed that way based on their tense interaction and the manner in which Michael had appeared to be taunting him. “Are you here as part of an Oxford Ph.D. program, too?”
While his accent wasn’t British, neither was it American. As a monolingual American who was fairly ignorant when it came to accents and other languages, my best guess was that he was probably from somewhere in Europe—from one of those fifty-some foreign countries with cool accents.
“No,” he answered, his tone cross.
I swallowed my unease at the annoyed glare he gave me.
He looked like he was in his mid-thirties—too old to still be in school. Maybe I’d insulted him with the suggestion. And yet he’d confirmed to Jeff this morning that he wasn’t a professor at the university. So what was his deal? Why was he hanging around campus? More importantly, why had he been waiting outside my dorm?
He let go of me. Abruptly. Then he took two steps back, stabbing a hand through his hair.
I was instantly freezing without his body heat to shield me from the cold wind as it swirled around me. I shoved my hands inside my coat pockets.
“Let’s go inside,” he said. “It’s too cold for you out here.”
Bossy much? I hadn’t been cold at all until he’d ejected me from his arms like I was something foul or contagious.
“I’m not supposed to let strangers in the building.” I wanted to smack myself as soon as the idiotic words left my mouth. “I mean … are you here to see someone?” Duh! “I mean—what I meant to say was … we’re not supposed to let visitors inside the building unless they’ve used the call box first and confirmed with the resident they’re here to see that they’re—”
“I came to see you, Lauren,” he said, cutting off my embarrassed rambling and confirming my quiet hope.
I couldn’t contain the smile that tugged my lips. Because he was smiling now, too. An awkward, tentative half-smile that matched the guarded yet hopeful look in his eyes—that had gone back to being brown.
“Is that okay? If—if we talk for a few minutes? Inside?”
My knees went weak and nearly buckled. Pull it together, girl. I nodded and dug through the satchel hanging from my shoulder for my keys. “Of course.”
I waved my key fob at the temperamental entry panel to the building. It took three tries before it worked, and I felt his heat at my back the entire time. When the electronic lock finally clicked, Kai reached around me, his forearm pressing into the curve of my waist as he pulled the door open for me.
We just met; you’re not sleeping with him, I reminded my wayward sex when my clit pulsed excitedly against the seam of my pants.
Inside my dormitory building, the vestibule was bustling with activity as students crowded around the parcel lockers lining the entryway, punching in codes and retrieving packages. The old building’s acoustics were not conducive to holding an intimate conversation, but I didn’t know if inviting Kai upstairs would come across as too forward to a mysterious thirty-something-year-old guy from somewhere probably in Europe.
As I was weighing my options and contemplating how crowded the community lounge might be at this hour, he pressed his hand to the small of my back and directed me toward the stairwell down the hall to our left. “This way,” he instructed.
We were ascending the second flight of stairs when it occurred to me he’d picked the stairwell most convenient to accessing my dorm room. I told myself it had to be a lucky guess. In truth, I didn’t want to analyze it too much, because then I’d have to admit to myself the reckless, insane risk I was taking in leading a perfect stranger—who may have been stalking me for weeks—straight up to my suite.
When we reached the fourth floor at last and exited the stairwell, my steps slowed as it fully hit me what a foolish thing I was doing. Kendall was working tonight. She wouldn’t be home until after two a.m.
My suite was five doors down. The hallway was empty. And dark. The lights were constantly going out on the fourth floor. Building maintenance claimed it was an issue with the old wiring that caused the modern LED bulbs to burn out so quickly, but it only seemed to happen on the fourth floor—my floor. And I knew that it was really caused by the “friendly” trickster ghost who inhabited the building and only ever communicated with me through electricity. I’d nicknamed him Casper in my head.
The few remaining ceilings lights with working bulbs began flickering spastically as Kai and I proceeded in silence down the hallway. It was a frantic energy I sensed from my unseen ghost friend now, and I couldn’t help but wonder if he was trying to warn me away from impending danger, further compounding my anxiety.
I reminded myself that Casper was a trickster spirit. One of his favorite games was messing with the heat settings on my hair iron. I’d lost chunks of hair before thanks to him, and he’d fried two of my blow dryers, so he wasn’t necessarily motivated by what was in my best interest. He was probably trying to freak me out about Kai for the sake of his own amusement.
Nevertheless, my heart was racing and I was breathing harder than I had been while climbing the stairs by the time we reached the door to my suite.
Turning to face Kai, I avoided his gaze as I mumbled, “Um … sorry, I just remembered my roommate’s not home.”
When I forced myself to look up and meet his brown eyes, he was regarding me with an expression I couldn’t quite decipher. It wasn’t anger or annoyance, as I might’ve expected after we’d walked up all those stairs. It was a look that fell somewhere between amusement and pride. And yet, beneath it, I glimpsed something dark—something predatory—as his gaze swept down to my boots before slowly climbing back up to my burning face.
But his countenance was placid and his smile perfectly polite as he conceded, “Of course. I understand. We can talk out here if it makes you more comfortable. Or go somewhere more public, if you’d prefer.”
It’s not a challenge, Lauren. It’s a concession. He’s making a concession, not baiting you. But damnit, it felt like a challenge as he stood there looking all calm and okay with my decision to not let him inside.
Screw it. “She should be back any minute now, though,” I improvised. “So if you’re okay with … you know … being alone with me for a little while …” My words trailed off into a nervous chuckle as I turned toward the door and drew my key up to the lock before I lost the nerve. I was about to insert it when Kai’s hand closed over mine, halting me.
His hard front pressed flush against my back, pushing me into the door as he leaned in. I swallowed. His erection felt huge against my ass—the layers of clothing and winter coat separating us not nearly enough. And yet way too much.
I suddenly felt uncomfortably hot. I couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t think.
“No.” His own breathing sounded ragged in my ear. “Your first instinct was the right one, Lauren. You shouldn’t let me inside right now.”
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Thanks for reading!! 🙂 Many have emailed recently to ask when Seer is coming out, and I’m afraid I do not have a release date set yet. I will post the release date once it is established.
Thank you for your interest and enthusiasm for Kai’s story! I sincerely appreciate it. ♥