Stay (Page 27)

“We did, but not like you. You know one of the reasons I left home?”

“I thought it was because you wanted to be with the bears.” Which I understood on some level. It was probably hard to stay with humans once you knew you were more. She probably wanted to learn more about her abilities and other form.

“That was part of it. I also wanted to protect Casey from all the crap that came with being a bear. Especially the guys.”


“Yeah. He’s better than a lot of them, but he still hurt her. I should have protected her better.”

I shrugged. “You do what you can do.”

“Yeah.” She looked away. “That’s a few of the reasons.”

“But there’s more?” I wasn’t really in the mood for small talk, but maybe it would help pass the time.

“I knew my parents couldn’t pay for both of us to go to college. Casey’s the smart one.”

“You were willing to give up your own education so your sister could get one?” Either I had misread her, or Vera has a lot of hidden layers. I’d never pegged her as that sort. I wondered if I’d have been willing to do the same? Probably not. I was selfish most of the time. The realization bothered me more than it should have.

“She’s the most important person in the world to me.” She spoke with such conviction that I needed to know more.

“You guys were close growing up?”

“As close as sisters can be, well until I started pushing her away. I didn’t want her to turn out like me.”

“And what were you?” I leaned back. This conversation was getting more and more interesting.

“I knew what guys wanted and how to use that to my advantage.”

“I see.”

“What?” She was in my face in a blur. “You of all people are going to judge me for that?”

“Why shouldn’t I?”

She laughed dryly. “Don’t pretend you’re any better.” She sat back down.

“I don’t use my body to get what I want.”

“No, you just use girls to feel good about yourself. It’s the same thing.”

“I don’t use girls. I just enjoy them.” At least I used to. Sex was starting to bore me, which scared me more than most things.

“You mean you discard them.”

“You don’t even know me.” I’d been chewed out by women before, but aside from Allie they had all been ones I’d slept with. Allie got a pass because she was the queen, but Vera didn’t have that excuse.

“What happened with my sister?” She glared at me.

“I saved her.”

“Before that.” She crossed her legs and leaned forward. “What happened?”

“I didn’t know what she was. We had fun.”

“And you found out what she was and discarded her, isn’t that how Toby explained it?”

“It’s not something I’m proud of.” I’d beaten myself up about it enough. She didn’t need to do it herself. “Why does it matter now? She’s with Toby.” And in much more serious danger than I ever was to her.

“Because I’m trying to understand you.” She ran her tongue over her bottom lip.

“To understand me?” I laughed. “Why would you bother doing that?”

“Because we’re spending time together. I might as well.”

“I think you’re right.” I stretched, leaving my hands behind my head. “We are alike.”

“I never said we’re alike. I said you were just as bad.”

“Same thing.”

“No. It’s not the same thing.” She rested her elbows on her knees.

“How so?” I was enjoying the banter way more than I should have. Why was this girl getting under my skin?

“I used guys who wanted to be used, who were using me.”

“And the girls I sleep with aren’t using me?” And she thought I was sexist?

“Was Casey using you?”

“Leave Casey out of this. She’s not who you’re really talking about, and you know it.”

“No. I don’t think the girls are using you.”

“I’ve never misled anyone. I’ve never promised more than I was going to give.”

“But you don’t think they expect more? That they don’t expect there to be a next time?” There was a vulnerability in her voice and in her expression that made me pause.

“Who are we talking about now?”

“You. The girls you use.”

“Ok. I was just making sure we weren’t talking about you.”

She blinked in surprise. “Why would we be? I’d never be dumb enough to sleep with you.”

“Oh yeah?” I smirked. “Dumb enough?”

“I’m sure you’re uh good, but plenty of guys are.”

“I assure you I’m more than good, but don’t worry. I have no interest in touching you either.” That was completely untrue. I had plenty of interest in touching her, touching her everywhere, but it wasn’t an option.

“That’s not what your eyes were doing yesterday.”

“Admiring a beautiful woman is different from wanting to bed her.”

“Beautiful?” She asked.

I loved watching her reactions. She was so easy to read. “I’m guessing the bears you spend time with don’t use that word much.”

“I doubt you do. Besides, what does it even mean? Who defines beauty?”

“Are we getting philosophical now?” I walked over and sat down next to her. I was drawn to her like a moth to a flame. I knew she was dangerous in that she was a real distraction, but I couldn’t resist getting close to her. Once we found Levi and Allie though we were going to have to part ways.

“I’m just asking a question. You’re the one who used a term you can’t define.”

“You don’t think I can define beauty?”

She shook her head. “No.”

I responded instantly. I didn’t need to think over my answer. “Beauty is strength. It’s eyes that are clear and bright, and it’s a gracefulness that very few people have. It’s a glow.”

“And I have those things?”

“Yes, but you’re also sexy.” So damn sexy it was killing me.

“And sexy is different?”

“Of course.” I leaned in, unable to resist getting a whiff of her intoxicating scent. I could look but not touch I reminded myself.