(Cass Part 3… continues from here)
“Why do you come here?”
I didn’t startle at his voice. I’d heard him following me, heard him swear and scramble at a couple of the jumps too. Couldn’t deny I’d been grinning then either. What did surprise me was that he didn’t sound out of breath.
“The view,” I said as I braced my hands on my hips and looked out at the city. “Why do you?”
“The view,” he echoed and I turned towards him. “Uh uh, don’t look,” he said softly and I stopped.
II didn’t know why I was following his order, the command in his voice. I wondered if he had some kind of deformity, unlikely in this age of medical marvels and plastic surgery but what other reason would he have? Was he scared I would recognise him and if so why.
“Who are you?” I asked as I felt him approach, heard the scuff of his boots on the concrete, smelt his soft musky aroma.
He laughed shortly, an angry sounding laugh. “No one you know princess,” he said and gave my pony tail a tug
“That’s easily enough remedied,” I said as I tilted my head away from his hand. “What’s your name, I’m -”
“My name would mean nothing to you,” he interrupted. “Just like yours means nothing to me. You’re just a hot girl I saw on a roof one night.”
That shut me up because in all my life I had never been ‘just a girl’. I was my father’s daughter or my brother’s sister. The only other person who had ever seen me as just me was Luka, his own family connections important enough that he knew what it was like, so he saw the individuals in the family, not just the family.
The silence stretched out, something almost tangible building in the air until I latched onto a word, an idea. “Girl eh? Is that the reason for your secrecy? You’re out past your curfew?”
“Oh sorry,” he said sounding not at all apologetic. “Should I have said you’re just the hot as fuck woman I saw on a roof one night princess? If I curse and use the right words will you be reassured that I’m an adult?”
I shook my head and laughed. Between my family and my job as a teacher to kids aged between 4 and 18 there wasn’t much he could say that would shock me. “Not in the least,” I assured him.
“Here.” He grabbed my hand from my hip and lifted, guided it up and over my shoulder then I felt the rasp of a short beard, the heat of his skin. He led my fingers up the straight slope of his nose, the rise of his eyebrows,, back down to his full lips and bearded chin. He let go and my hand dropped as he said. “Satisfied I’m not a kid now?”
I rubbed my fingers on my thigh, trying to ignore the tingling. “I don’t know, I have seen seventeen year olds trying to grow beards,” I said teasingly.
His low laugh wafted his breath over my ear, confirming my memory of him being tall.
“I’m older than you princess, trust me on that,” he murmured.
“Trust you? I don’t know you,” I reminded him.
“There’s nothing someone like you needs to know.”
Someone like me? It sounded like he did know me but who the hell was he? I shrugged as if I didn’t care. “I know you’re a shifter. I know you’re new in town.”
“How can you tell?” he asked lazily, his voice unperturbed. I shrugged again. I owed him no explanations. “So you’re like your dad,” he said after it became obvious I wasn’t going to answer.
I stayed silent, kept my eyes on the view. It wasn’t a comfortable silence, he huffed out a breath in irritation then asked, “What does your boyfriend think about you running around meeting other men on rooftops?”
I laughed and felt his irritation increase. “You’re funny stormtrooper,” I said with a grin he couldn’t see.
“Stormtrooper?” he asked, irritated but curious.
“Sure.” I shrugged. “Nameless, faceless, can’t hit a damn thing.”
“Yeah?” He scoffed. “Just what it is you think I was shooting for?”
The comments about him being no one, names being meaningless, then the jabs about my father and my boyfriend, about ‘someone like me’… I had no clue what those things all meant but I had no doubt he knew.
“That’s the question isn’t it? Why did you follow me? What do you want?”
“Is it really so hard to believe I just wanted to see you, talk to you again?” he asked in a husky tone, his mouth dangerously close to my ear.
He didn’t know me as well as he thought he did because I was my mother’s daughter too and I could feel that he wasn’t being sincere. I sighed, feeling strangely disappointed that this stranger had ulterior motives.
I sighed. “Yes Stormtrooper, it really is.”
Just as I had the night before I left him standing alone as I made my way home. Unlike the night before I hadn’t shaken that restless feeling, if anything, talking to him had left me more unsettled.
I didn’t know what had changed in the past weeks but I’d gone from being happy, feeling like my life was if not perfect, pretty damn good, to feeling like something was missing. I’d lost my direction, my true north, my ship was unmoored and drifting and I had no idea why…