Authors: Dannika Dark
Tags: #paranormal fantasy
“The drink went all over the table,” she laughed.
Inside jokes were always the best.
“Maybe if you quit picking at the labels on your bottle, you might not be tipping drinks all over the place.”
“He could have been a sport about it.”
Her plucked brows arched. “With
mouth of yours?”
Sunny got past her doubts and there we were, a couple of girlfriends laughing over drinks. We spent the next several hours talking over cheese pizza. The men occasionally joined in, but it was all about us. We had a lot of catching up to do.
“I need to get this one back,” Adam announced, stretching out his legs as he stood up.
He was right. I couldn’t risk staying out too late. If Justus came home early, I could expect a tongue-lashing.
“Will I see you tomorrow?” Sunny asked.
Adam frowned, rubbing his chin. “I can only afford a few hours out, but if you ladies want to do this again, we’ll come. Knox, you don’t mind driving again, do you?” Adam smiled. “I’m afraid I can’t fit everyone on my bike.”
“Maybe you need to sell that piece of shit,” he said.
I hugged Sunny tight and her perfume swirled around me.
“Thank you for believing me, for coming all this way. I’ll call you tonight, okay? We’ll talk.”
She squeezed back hard. “I missed you.” I could sense her tears closing in.
Adam and Knox did as men do when women turn on the waterworks—look confused and back away. When we reached the door, I glanced over my shoulder and saw her sit back down.
“Hey, where are you staying?” I yelled out. “We’ll drive you.”
“It’s just a short walk up the road, so don’t worry. You always ditch me before I finish my drink,” she said, waving a hand. “I’ll keep my phone on.”
I pulled the strap of my purse over my shoulder.
I turned my head, but Adam was talking to Knox who fell back a pace.
Knox reached in his pocket and tossed Adam the keys. “Take the Jeep. I’ll meet you back at the house. I got some cash I need to spend.”
Adam scratched the back of his neck. “With her?”
“Oh, you must have me mixed up with Casa-fucking-nova. Brother, I need a drink, so fucking
Knox lifted a heavy hand and tapped beneath my chin with a finger. “See ya, dollface.”
I leaned forward, whispering so he could hear. “Watch over my friend.”
The cold amber drink slid down his throat and lit a fire in his belly.
Knox scooped a handful of peanuts in his palm and crunched on them, dusting the salt from his fingertips.
He drove a long way to talk to Adam about the Trinity files—a private database owned by the agency he works for—that revealed a world of unexplainable shit. Then, he discovers his buddy is one of them. Talk about kicking a guy in the balls. That was the reason Adam wanted him to come up to Cognito.
Adam and Knox went on a number of dangerous assignments. In their line of work, you just assumed you were the good guy. Most jobs were for information: files, computers, and sometimes the occasional object. They did what they were told, and didn’t ask questions. That included hits.
Months ago, Knox’s partner hacked the Trinity files and came across a list of names. A background check found nothing out of the ordinary, so when one of the names showed up for his next assignment, Knox took a detour to Texas without his team to find Zoë Merrick. They never went after women, and this order was a hit. That’s when he found out Zoë was missing—which would have been fine with him, had he not run into Adam at her apartment. Adam wasn’t talking, and while that should have pissed him off, Knox owed him. They both agreed it was in Adam’s best interest to skip town while his team ran their investigation. Knox erased prints Adam left behind in Zoë’s apartment, and searched his property.
Towards the end of his service, Adam confessed he no longer felt that what they were doing was for a good cause. Knox stayed true and stayed in. Doubt was a plague that ravaged his conscience now that the facts were bubbling to the surface. They saw some weird things in their time, and as it turns out, had been treading in the world of Breed for years. The Trinity files were an inside database for the higher-ups only. It broke down different supernaturals, and a few names listed were ones they had taken out.
Adam fell off the earth, but after an unexpected phone call, Knox drove up and they shared information. Finding out Zoë was Silver took him by surprise, but he needed a good slap in the face to wake the fuck up from his purpose in life.
Knox curled his hand around the chilled glass and peered over his shoulder to check on the girl.
He had no shame admitting he would rather nail a woman than date her. He didn’t grow up with a mother, sister, or any woman in his life. His father had a fetish for cheap women that rubbed off on him. Knox wasn’t approachable, and at the end of the night, he rarely went home with a woman on his arm.
Her body was like sunshine—warm and intense—something he wanted to soak in with all his senses. Those wide eyes reminded him of azure skies along the southern coastline. Her hips were lush and curvy, leaving everything to the imagination with the layers of clothing she wore. Blond waves of hair spilled across her shoulders like particles of light. He knew she was a woman with class—real class—nothing like the women who came from wealth, pretending they were the very definition of it. Sunny was untouchable.
Knox’s chin touched his shoulder as he looked over it. A short waiter with a long goatee pocketed a few bills left beneath Sunny’s glass. His heart slammed to a stop when he saw the empty booth.
“Shit,” he muttered, throwing his heavy boots on the floor. He twisted around and caught a glimpse of her outside, running by the window. Knox had a choice, and while he could have let her go, that’s not how it went down.
He kept a safe distance behind, cursing himself as he stayed in the shadows.
Sunny shielded herself from the onslaught of rain with a small clutch over her head. The water on the dark streets shimmered like glass, collecting a shower of colors from the streetlights and neon signs. When she made it safely to the hotel, Knox took a position by a light pole and lit up a smoke.
Sunny tossed her wet scarf on the dresser. Cognito was miserable with all the rain. She switched on the dim lamp and stood by the window, watching a homeless woman squatting beside a dumpster with a bag over her head.
Marco was eating away at her conscience. In the beginning, he was an attentive lover. He treated her with gifts and expensive dates. She never liked dominant men; it was difficult to break it off with them when it was time. There was never a man in her life that matched his confidence. He was well traveled, educated, and cultured. He was also a liar.
Sunny leaned against the wall as the rain sprayed against the window. The room smelled musty, like a mixture of mold, sweat, and grandpa’s shoes. The yellow and brown striped comforter was stained, and it was criminal what they were charging her.
She thought about Knox. He took a stick to those men and she never thanked him. Whether it was the thought of him, or the damp chill in the air, a flurry of goose bumps scattered across her arms.
Her eyes snapped up when a person stepped behind a light post across the street. There was no hiding that frame of solid muscle. That was Knox out in the rain.
Was he watching her?
Without thinking, she ran out of the hotel to confront him. Her leggings soaked up water as she crossed the deep puddles in the road. Sunny stepped up the curb and touched his arm.
Cold drops of rain pelted her face as Knox spun on his heel and walked in the opposite direction. Fast.
“Wait!” she yelled, knocking into a newspaper stand.
He took off at animal speed, his heavy boots crunching on the coarse concrete.
“Knox wait, don’t make me run after you because I will—all the way to Jersey if I have to!” she shouted, “and I don’t even know where that is from here, so STOP!”
He slowed down and looked over his shoulder.
“What are you doing out here?” she asked, approaching him cautiously. His lashes were wet and she couldn’t see his eyes, but she felt them on her like heat. A shiver skated across her skin and her teeth chattered.
“You shouldn’t be out here,” he said. “You’ll get sick.”
“Where’s your car?”
“Adam took it.”
She figured as much when she noticed that he stayed at the bar for a drink, but never once did he offer to sit with her. The rain was deafening—but all she could hear was his breath.
“Come inside, let me make you a cup of hot coffee and dry you off. This damsel in distress owes you one.”
His shoulders hunched up as he tucked his hands in his pockets, watching her closely but never speaking a word.
“Or, I’ll just stay out here with you… in the pouring rain,” she said, folding her arms.
Once inside, Sunny made a beeline to the bathroom and grabbed a fresh stack of white towels. Knox was closing the dingy curtains when she entered the room.
“Those locks on the door are cheap.”
Well, wasn’t that an odd thing to say?
“It’s all I could afford on short notice; most of the hotels were booked,” she said. “Here.” She flung a towel across the room and he caught it with his left hand. By the looks of him, he needed more than a towel. “Give me your shirt and hat, I’ll wring them out and hang them up to dry. I also have a hair dryer.”
The shirt he wore didn’t leave much to the imagination. While it was the color of iron, the fabric was sheer when wet and she could see every line of muscle.
When she snatched the hat away from his head, the look on his face made her giggle. “Well, at least let me take this before you catch pneumonia.”
Sunny marched into the bathroom and wrung out the hat, folding it over the shower rod. She wondered why he wore it all the time because it covered up his beautiful black hair. It was probably the most boyish thing about him.
She tossed her wet clothes in the bathtub and slipped into a pink nightgown that draped past her knees. Zoë used to tease her about her old-fashioned gowns, but she liked them, and Zoë had no room to talk with her sweats and frumpy shirts.
“Are you staying at a hotel nearby?” she yelled through the open door.
“Don’t call me ma’am unless you’re taking my order—and I like extra pickles on my burger,” she replied. “Can you put some coffee on?”
Sunny dabbed the ends of her hair with a white cotton towel until the water was no longer dripping. She smiled when she walked into the room and saw Knox holding the coffee pot upside down, staring inside.
“I take it you don’t drink much coffee?” Sunny took the pot from his hands. “Sit down and tell me how you know Zoë, I mean… Silver.”
His eyes darted between her gown and her painted toes. She was a little confused as to why he avoided eye contact with her.
“What exactly is up with that? Are they an item or something?”
Knox laughed; it was throaty and rolled out like a long, suggestive caress that made her toes curl.
“Doesn’t he wish? Romeo can’t seem to catch that fish.”
“You rhymed,” she smirked. “That’s one fish who doesn’t want to be caught. He should cast out his line for another one because he’s wasting his time. She doesn’t trust men.”
“What about you? Do you trust men?” Knox sat down and ruffled his wet hair with the towel.
She slunk in the opposite chair and thought about it.
“I love men with no strings attached. I just want the frosting, not the whole cake.” She glimpsed down at his hand, absent of a ring. “No wife?”
A tight smile wound across his face, and he dropped the towel on the floor.
“I’m not hitting on you. I’m just making conversation,” she lied. There was something about Knox that reeled her in, and she wanted to kick herself for playing twenty questions. He was the complete opposite of the men she found attractive. He looked as if he lived a rough life, yet even with his brutal features, she couldn’t stop looking at him.
“Fuck no. Might as well castrate me, and I like my balls just fine where they are—firmly attached.”
She dismissed men like him, and while normally that kind of vulgarity would put her off, Sunny found it refreshing that he was real with her. It had been ages since she knew what real felt like.
What the fuck are you doing here?
Knox thought to himself as he scratched the stubble on his jaw. He tried not to stare at Sunny in her satin gown, and almost blushed like a bastard when she walked into the room. She looked like a pink flower, and he breathed in lavender perfume mixed with rainwater.