The next morning, Piper hurried down the stairs toward the front door. Her suitcase thumped after her. Daniel had just texted to say he was out front to drive her to the school for the decorating party or whatever it was Anna had planned, and Piper had to escape the yellow miasma of her bedroom and the suffocating atmosphere of the house. And Mom. Mom was working on plans for how Piper could monetize her abilities…such as selling protection packages like some kind of mafia godfather. The very idea made Piper sick to her stomach. She’d taken little Sandy’s sachet and tucked it in her pocket, a physical reminder of why she’d never become what Mom wanted, and that was a good thing.
Mom had always thought Piper should figure out a way to get more power, more ability. She’d never understood that Piper would have paid someone to take away what she had.
Piper stepped outside, closed the door, and leaned against it. The sun warmed her face despite the crisp air that chilled her fingers. It was a new day, a new chance. Today, everyone would realize she was just Piper, and if someone was becoming The Pestilence, it wasn’t her.
She opened her eyes to find Daniel striding up the steep driveway, wearing another button-down and boring khakis again. Jeans had always looked better on him, but maybe this was what Dr. Daniel looked like. His shoulders and chest still filled out the striped shirt, and yesterday when she’d slid against him, it’d been clear there was nothing but sleek, hard muscle beneath his clothes. The sun brought out the Irish-red highlights in his deep brown hair, and a slow smile broke over his handsome face.
A pang of regret soaked through her. How many times had she waited for him, just like this, right here? When he’d been hers. When they’d been off on some date, off somewhere, anywhere so long as they were together. To kiss. To touch. To lay in the back of his truck bed on sleeping bags and watch the stars together. If she could have, she’d have frozen that moment and stayed in his arms forever.
She fought to swallow down the memories, to remember that nasty little thing called reality.
But then his gaze slid over her, climbing up her bare legs and over the casual cream skirt like a touch. Over her pink silk blouse with the lace peek-a-boo that felt like his hands touching her. Heat spilled through her.
Color climbed his neck as he pulled his gaze away from her chest. He cleared his throat, meeting her eyes. “Sleep well?”
She touched her lips with her tongue. She wasn’t drooling, was she?
“Oh, um, yep.” Her voice rose on a quaver. Yikes. She definitely should have texted one of the girls to pick her up instead. Far less temptation. Even if today they thought she might become Satan.
He reached for her suitcase, paused, then pointed at it. “Can I get that for you?”
“Okay.” Gee, Piper. You’re sounding more brilliant all the time. She held out the suitcase handle awkwardly.
His fingers grazed hers. Sparks danced between them, like the heady electric heaviness before a summer storm. Their eyes locked.
Piper’s tongue traced her lips, and Daniel’s eyes narrowed on the movement. She forgot how to breathe. How would it feel to kiss him after all these years? How did grown-up Daniel taste?
When he used to kiss her, her body would go hot and wet almost instantly. Clothes became this horrible invention that kept their skin apart. And when they actually had sex? Holy hell, if having him move inside her wasn’t enough, her world exploded after, into hypersensitivity and certainty, where she could hear every heartbeat, feel every breath like her own.
She stepped forward half a step. Her suitcase pressed against her knees, trapped between she and Daniel.
He stared down at her lips. His hand tightened over hers. His breath brushed her face, and he still smelled like toothpaste and soap.
Her eyelashes fluttered. Lust ricocheted through her body like a loose bullet, setting everything it touched on fire. Her insides coiled and tightened in liquid desire. She came up on her toes. His lips hovered over hers. She could feel him, the heat of him, the solid strength of him.
Until he let go of her hand and her suitcase. He took a step away from her. Then another.
He cleared his throat again. “We can’t,” he said, voice rough.
Piper shook her head and smoothed her skirt with trembling hands. “Of course. We better, uh, get going, right?” Because lordy, he’d already gotten her going too easily. Ten years hadn’t cooled a thing. If anything, what burned between them was even hotter.
She started down the driveway, her face on fire, destination his beat-up old blue truck. The same truck they’d laid together in the back and stared at the stars.
A lifetime ago. An eon of nonexistent possibilities ago.
So why couldn’t she seem to get it through her head?
Daniel followed Piper down the driveway. A second ago, all he could think about was how good Piper’s lips would taste, how she’d fit into his arms. Because he was still a moron who couldn’t learn a lesson the first time around, but needed his heart stomped on three or four times just to get the information to his head. And other body parts very interested in reacquainting themselves with Piper.
Piper had switched her shoes for more sensible flats that only emphasized how petite she was.
Ten years ago, he’d made the mistake of thinking just because he wasn’t always Fomorian meant it wasn’t really a part of him. But blood always showed eventually.
“Hey, uh, Piper?”
She turned. “Yes?” Her voice was breathy and expectant. Like she anticipated he’d ask her something else. Like he’d kiss her, or carry her off and make love to her all day.
Desire tightened around his neck and other parts of his anatomy like a vise. He frowned. “Remember that toad from yesterday?”
She blinked, and her face turned bright pink before her gaze slowly tracked down. Toward the large brown toad squatting in the driveway behind her. Following after Piper like a loyal poodle. And looking a lot like the one he’d spotted at the accident yesterday. Coincidence?
Piper’s shoulders fell. “You again, huh?”
The toad hopped a step closer.
She frowned at it. “I’m sorry. But I’ve got enough weird to deal with already. Go find someone else to stalk, okay?” At which point she looked up at Daniel and cringed. As though she just realized she’d been talking to a toad. “It’s, uh, nothing,” she said in a strangled tone, before she spun and hurried the rest of the way to his truck, hauling on the handle. She finally got it open and climbed inside.
The toad remained where it was, but as he passed, it craned its neck to stare up at him. The fine hairs on the back of Daniel’s neck rose as he and the toad exchanged a look. “Sorry, I think you’re staying here.” Great. Now he was talking to the toad, too.
He left the critter in his dust as he hurried to the truck, putting Piper’s suitcase in the back before he climbed behind the wheel and hauled the groaning door closed.
He eyed Piper. “You okay?”
She opened her mouth, paused with a small frown, then turned to him with a tight smile. “No. But I’m going to figure it out. It’ll be okay.” Her smile warmed somewhat. “You don’t need to worry about rescuing me.”
Of course he didn’t. She was the most incredible woman he’d ever known—and that had been before, when she was really just a girl. She was more than capable of saving herself.
But that didn’t mean he didn’t want to.