A holiday short to accompany Holiday Headlines
“Come here.” Smith smiled as he darted between the end table and chair, laughing.
Paige halted at the back of the couch. Smith stopped opposite her. They breathed heavy. Her fingers dug into the cloth. Eyes narrowed on Smith as she waited for him to make a move. His dark hair shielded the view of his gaze. His mouth curved into a mischievous grin when, rather than going around the furniture, he lunged over it and grabbed hold of her. She toppled into him.
“Your friends will be here soon, and I need to finish getting ready.”
“No you don’t, you’re perfect,” he whispered against her hair. “Besides Ty’s never on time.”
After a year together, she hadn’t tired of the deep rumble in his voice. “Do you think he’ll like me?”
“They’re both going to love you.”
She drew back slightly and gave a weak smile. It wasn’t every year she spent her holiday with paranormal beings, this from the same woman who recently returned from tracking a demon. Going on the road with Smith to track the supernatural seemed altogether different than befriending them. What would they talk about, blood?
God, what am I thinking? Maybe it wouldn’t be too late to call it off. In that same second, the doorbell rang.
“They’re here!” her voice squeaked. “I’m not dressed, the table’s not set—”
“You get dressed, I’ll let them in.” He kissed her forehead then moved toward the door.
Paige raced to the bedroom, her heart thudded beneath her rib cage.
“It’s just a vampire and a witch. No big deal,” she muttered as she sifted through an array of shirts in her closet. She tried on multiple tops. Short sleeved, long sleeved, a wool sweater, a silk button down, one with a plunging neckline. Crap, crap, crap. Paige tossed aside several others until she held in her hands the ideal piece of clothing.
Slipping the shirt on, she looked in the mirror. The forest green turtleneck was perfect—considering the company. Paige smoothed out her hair with her fingers then turned her attention to a pair of black dress pants.
“About ready in there?” Smith called quietly through the door.
Ready as I’ll ever be, she thought as she went to greet their guests. Paige turned the corner and made her way into the living room. Blood pounded in her ears, her palms became slick with sweat, when she spotted a tall man in a black trench standing near the door.
“You must be Ty,” she began.
He turned slowly. Long lashes accentuated his dark eyes, making them look even more wild and ravenous. His upper lip curled back to expose fanged teeth.
Paige stumbled back. Colliding hard into Smith, whose grip tightened on her upper arms, she steadied herself against him. “His teeth…” A slight, slender woman with enormous gray eyes and short choppy red hair emerged from behind Ty. She donned a black witch’s hat, which came to a sharp point.
“She’s got a…a…” Paige stuttered again.
Smith and Ty burst out laughing. The woman immediately looked apologetic and slipped the hat from her head. “I’m sorry, it was a joke, an ice breaker. I’m Dina.”
Paige stared between them. Ty yanked a pair of plastic fangs out of his mouth. His tongue ran over perfect non-fanged teeth. The twinkle in his dark eyes reminded her of Smith, who was probably behind the whole creepy introduction. Her heart beat a million times faster than normal, but looking at them now she knew they didn’t mean any harm. Weaving her fingers through Smith’s, she crossed the short distance and extended her hand. “It’s nice to meet you.”
It may have seemed like a cruel joke. Yet, after the initial introductions, Paige didn’t seem to have any trouble warming up to Dina, or Dina to her. They talked about Five Oaks and the previous winter and England, where Dina and Ty lived now.
“So what brought you back?” Smith asked.
Ty paused with his glass of red wine mid-way to his mouth. Dina’s fingers dug into his thigh and Smith knew there was trouble.
“I wondered if I might ask another favor of you.”
“What’s that?” Smith kept a smile on his face, but worried over his friend’s serious tone.
Silence stretched throughout the room, Smith’s unease grew. Ty only ever got serious about two things Conclave business and Dina.
His friend started slow. “You know the Conclave needs good scouts?”
Smith nodded. Their lack of scouts was the reason he took on missions for the Vampire Conclave to begin with.
“They sent me here to ask you to join us,” Ty said sounding uneasy.
Paige’s brows furrowed. “Join them?”
Ty was asking Smith for it all, to become like him. He looked at Paige, her beautiful hazel eyes glazed over in disbelief. He whispered, “I’ll have to think about it.”
“About what?” Paige’s voice came out broken. Pain and anger washed over her features. “What is there to think about?”
Ty stood. “We’ll stick around a few days and wait for your decision. I’m willing to change you both, if it’s what you want.”
“Change us both?” Paige shoved off the couch. “I think you should leave.”
“Give it some thought. Together you’ll save lives,” Dina said as she and Ty stood.
“We’ll be in touch.” Ty gave a curt nod and as fast as they came, they left.
Smith had never expected this. He’d definitely never asked for it, but he knew to dismiss Ty would be a big mistake. There was Paige to think about. If he refused the Conclave he might put her in harm’s way. He would never risk that.
“You know, I may not have a choice?” he said going to the door to look outside.
Paige came behind him and wrapped her arms around his chest. Her breasts pressed against his back, he felt the wild beating of her heart.
“There’s always a choice,” she said softly.
“You’re right.” His hand covered hers. And it’s being made for me.