Authors: Rose Wulf
The first ten or fifteen years were easy once he learned
what was normal and what wasn’t in Izzy’s world. He just stood back for the
most part and judged her father’s declining sanity. Twice in the past
twenty-one years Izzy—or her father, and her through him—had been targeted by
demons. Both times due to her father’s idiotic, dangerous business practices. A
handful of times other non-demonic, but still serious, threats had popped up.
And Darr had handled them all with equal efficiency.
In all honesty, though, she’d never really needed a
full-time demonic bodyguard.
And for the first decade and a half he’d been fairly bored
with the work. Until one day he’d woken up and realized that little Izzy
Duchane had matured sometime while he wasn’t paying attention.
She still preferred to go by Izzy, her orange-red hair was
still a mess when she woke up every morning, and she was still too trusting of
strangers. But aside from the additional fact that she was, of course, still
, nothing else remained of the child
he’d met just over two decades earlier. Izzy was thirty-two years old,
full-bodied, confident, assertive, and a daily temptation.
Most of the time that temptation came in the form of lust.
Today, it seemed, the bigger temptation was not to cripple her. Or, rather, not
to physically restrain her. The woman was pushing his last nerve.
big a deal,” Izzy continued, unaware of the fact that he’d tuned out her entire
Darr leaned back against the counter, schooling his face
into neutral as she cocked a hip as if her body language could make her point
Well, it does make a point … but
not the one she means.
“I don’t know why you’re asking my permission,” he
replied aloud. Resting his palms over the cool granite surface behind him he
added, “You can go wherever you want.”
Izzy heaved a dramatic sigh. “Yes,” she acknowledged, “but
this time I need to go
can’t really be bringing my demon bodyguard with me to my best friend’s
Restraining his scowl for the moment, Darr said, “I could
lie if you want.”
“No, I don’t want that,” Izzy returned immediately before
stalking up to him so as to stick her finger in his chest. “I want you to
to do this my way.”
How many times were they going to have a variation of this
argument? It probably wasn’t a good idea to keep count.
“Sorry. Not happening.”
Izzy’s brown eyes lit with frustration and she stepped
back, hands on hips. “Come
How dangerous could it really be? I know how to defend myself!”
“If I could see the future, I’d tell you,” he said. “But
since that’s not in my repertoire, I’m going with you. Because
is all it takes.”
Her mouth opened with obvious intent to continue the
argument, but she paused and something else flickered in her brown gaze. A beat
later her breath rushed out in a sigh of defeat and she turned, waving absently
as she said, “Fine, I give up. You can come. But you have to be as
, okay? Britt asked me not to bring you.”
That was because Britt was both terrified and attracted to
him at the same time. And seeing as how it was her bachelorette party Izzy was
attending over the weekend, Darr figured she probably didn’t want to spend it
fighting an unrequited ache for another man. But he couldn’t tell Izzy that
much because the knowledge would just make her uncomfortable. All Izzy knew was
that her friend didn’t like being near him.
“Don’t worry,” Darr offered as he trailed after her. “I
don’t intend on making small talk.”
To this comment Izzy barked out a laugh and turned a
teasing grin to him. “Actually, I would
to see that. Darr-the-dangerous making small talk!”
He let the scowl slip through this time. She knew he hated
Izzy laughed again and brushed him off. “I’m going to be
upstairs packing. You don’t have to follow if you don’t want to, it’s not like
I’ll be out of range.”
Darr inclined his head and took a seat on her sofa. He
generally tried to let her have her privacy in her bedroom now that she’d
reached maturity. ‘Generally’ being the operative word. She still sometimes had
nightmares about the harder times from her childhood, like her mother’s murder
and the one time another demon had managed to lay hands on her. When she had
nightmares, she preferred him to stay, to stand guard so that she knew she was
Those were the nights he stood guard
“I thought I asked you not to bring him!” Britt hissed as
soon as the women were alone in their cabin. The three of them—Izzy,
bride-to-be Britt, and mutual friend Letty—were sharing the largest lakeside
cabin of the small resort. Britt’s future sister-in-law and her close friend
were sharing the other, smaller cabin next door. Darr was currently walking the
property, judging its safety and likely wondering why he’d argued to come at
Izzy sighed and sat on the foot of her chosen bed. “Come
on, Britt, when do I go anywhere without him? He’s supposed to protect me and
he can’t exactly do his job if I’m two hours away.” By car. Which he would
probably not bother with, since he was a demon and they had much faster ways to
travel. Even after all these years she still didn’t understand how that worked,
but work it did.
Britt pursed her lips and looked away. “I told you, he
creeps me out. I don’t want to be having nightmares this weekend.”
“I don’t see the big deal,” Letty interrupted, settling on
the foot of her own bed. With a teasing grin she added, “He’s deliciously sexy.
Hell, I’d show him my address if he let me.”
Both Izzy and Britt looked at her in confused silence.
Finally Izzy repeated, “Show him your address?” Letty had
said it like a sexual innuendo, but how in the world did that count as a sexual
Shrugging, Letty replied, “It’s something my aunt said.
When I asked her about it once she explained it as ‘when a man looks at you
between your legs’.”
“Oh my God,” Britt exclaimed, turning her back as if to
ward off the thought.
Izzy burst out laughing and collapsed on her mattress.
“Wow, Letty, that’s a new one!” Because it was easier to focus on how amusingly
silly that comment was than to think about Darr and Letty—or Darr and anyone—in
an intimate way. She imagined there
to be some nights Darr snuck off while she slept and hooked up with someone
somewhere, because no way could a man as sexy as him go over twenty years
without any action. But she didn’t really like to
about it. Those thoughts only brought up pointless jealousy
and useless pining or self-pity.
“Could we please talk about something else?” Britt
insisted, acting as though her face wasn’t flushed.
Letty’s grin was apparent in her voice. “Oh, fine, fine.
It’s more important that we talk about your sex life, anyway. How are you and
Jude? Compatible in the sack, I hope.”
Izzy did her best to contain herself as she pushed to a
sitting position and watched her best friend turn redder.
Britt released an indignant scoff. “Is sex all you can
think about today?”
“Apparently,” Letty replied. With a shrug she added, “In my
defense, I haven’t gotten any in
Makes me want to try dating again.”
Izzy stood and crossed the space to sit beside Letty,
looping an arm around her shoulder. “Silver lining, Letty. At least you’ve had
action in the past few years.” At the look of horror both women replied with,
Izzy offered a helpless gesture. “Downside of a studious demon bodyguard. He
Letty laughed, exclaiming, “I’m telling you, Izzy, I could
give you tips on what to do about that.”
Britt spoke up practically before Letty was done. “Why do
you keep turning the conversation back to that guy? I thought I said I didn’t
want to be thinking about him.”
Izzy sobered and looked away, realizing she’d done it
again. Britt had pointed it out to her several times over the years and it never
stuck. Apparently she had a bad habit of rounding all conversations back to
But how can’t I?
He was the
most reliable, stable, and longest-lasting aspect of her life.
She’d had a mother for a mere eleven years. Sometime during
her teens her father had distanced himself from her, or she from him maybe.
They’d had their share of disputes as she’d grown. She’d had a few boyfriends,
some good friends—all of whom were gone now. Britt was the next in line behind
Darr in many ways, as they’d met in high school, but Darr was hands down her
rock. The single being she most trusted and relied on. So of course he was
always on her mind.
Or it could be
Nope. Not going there this time. Really, there was no sense in
“Sorry, Britt.” She paused, stood, and said, “It’s early
enough, what say we throw on those new swimsuits and go sunning?”
Britt broke out in a smile and gave her a short hug. “I
knew I loved you,” she joked before moving to her discarded suitcase. Behind
them Letty made a squeal of delight and sprang to her feet as well.
Izzy moved to her suitcase as well and extracted the new
bikini Britt had talked her into purchasing. She hadn’t worn something so
provocative since her mid-twenties, but Britt assured her she could pull it off.
So when it was her turn in the spacious bathroom, she took her time examining
her figure in the large window. She wasn’t indecent, thank goodness, but she
was definitely flaunting her C-cups. And she was so immensely glad Darr had
always been insistent on her staying in good shape. If she had any more of a
belly she’d be too embarrassed to leave the cabin. But the emerald-green bikini
was very flattering against her paler skin and bright hair.
She had the uncharacteristic urge to take a bathroom selfie
and was suddenly glad she hadn’t brought her cell in with her.
Letty whistled when Izzy stepped out. “Isolde Duchane, I
haven’t seen you in a bikini this good since college. I approve.”
Izzy cringed at the use of her proper name. Really, of all
people to prefer a nickname,
should have understood.
“I told you you could rock that,” Britt declared with a
proud grin and a hand on her hip. “Are we all ready, ladies?”
Maybe he should have given in this time and let Izzy come
to this resort without him. He hadn’t actually seen the suit she’d picked up at
the mall with Britt the week before. And that was a good thing. Unfortunately,
now that he had seen her, he couldn’t look away.
Izzy walked ahead of him, beside Britt, with a towel over
her shoulder and her hair up in a frizzy ponytail. Flip flops on her feet,
sunglasses over her eyes, and her arm looped through Britt’s, she looked like a
woman without a care. He ought to have just taken pride in that and moved on,
but damn it all his eyes were practically glued to that ass. Perfectly round
and oh-so-barely covered by the smooth, simple, emerald-colored fabric. He
could envision holding that ass in his hands, preferably without the swimsuit
at all—and that was as far as he’d allow that fantasy to go.
He never expected he’d feel this way about the human he’d
willingly tied himself to. At most he’d anticipated spending the first few
years after her death feeling confused and maybe sad. But now… He didn’t like
to think about it at all.
“—Can’t bodysurf on a lake!” Britt exclaimed with a laugh
as Darr tuned back in.
Letty laughed and clapped Britt’s shoulder. “You can if the
boats are going fast enough!”
The women slowed, looking for a good spot to spread out
their towels, and Darr slowed obligingly. He had, after all, promised to be as
inconspicuous as he could. It was simply hard to be inconspicuous when he was a
6’6” ‘hard ass’ demon, as Izzy often said. They chose a spot, Izzy
considerately taking the spot closest to the shade line, and Darr rested a
shoulder against a tree trunk. They’d be sunbathing and swimming for a couple
of hours, probably. It was fortunate they’d chosen a smaller resort. Darr had
only discovered two other pairs occupying the other cabins. A couple in their
sixties and a father and son who’d been leaving to fish the lake.
His attention shifted as he noticed the other half of the
bachelorette party approach. Britt’s future sister-in-law, Ainsley McManus, and
Britt’s cousin who happened to also be Ainsley’s good friend. He forgot the
cousin’s name. The cousin was the only one not wearing a revealing bikini, but
he barely registered the needless detail. They may as well all have been
wearing baggy sweats for all he cared.
“How many demons get to spend their days watching a bunch
of human women flaunt bodies like that?”
Darr slid his gaze to the side to study the newcomer. It
was Zahk, one of his few friends. They’d met centuries earlier before Zahk had
been sold off to a master who’d shortly died and thereby given Zahk his
freedom. They’d reconnected sometime in the past decade quite by accident, but
Izzy had encouraged their friendship. And so long as Zahk continued to respect that
his priority was Izzy’s safety, Darr was happy to spend time with his friend.
“More than we know, probably,” Darr finally replied. “What
brings you out here?”
Zahk moved to lean against an opposite tree so he could
face Darr and still see the women. “Come on, why can’t a guy check in on his
friends from time to time? You’re terrible about answering my calls.”
“You know I can’t leave Izzy alone.”