Home > Storm (Ashes & Embers #1)(7)

Storm (Ashes & Embers #1)(7)
Author: Carian Cole

Niko is curled up on the front seat, deep in a doggy nap. I’ve gotten used to him in the short time we’ve been trapped together. He’s a beautiful dog, all gray and tan and white with a mask around his eyes. I’m no dog expert, but I think he’s part husky or malamute or something like that.

My gaze wanders over to his master. Sasquatch is also napping, inked arms crossed. The blanket is stretched out between us, covering us both. Even though, he’s about two feet away, I can still feel his body heat. His dark hair is falling over his forehead, covering one of his eyes. I fight the urge to reach across the truck and gently brush it away from his face and feel the silkiness of it between my fingers. It’s sinful how beautiful and shiny his hair is. What a waste to have that on a man! I wonder what kind of conditioner he uses. Probably some kind of hot oil that smells like coconut.

One of his eyes pops open and stares right at me. “What are you looking at?”

“How did you know I was looking at you?” How embarrassing to be caught staring at a person while they’re sleeping.

“I could feel it.”

“I was looking at your hair if you must know.”

He sits up and cracks his neck to the side. “My hair? You are so friggin’ weird, ya know that?”

“Shut up. I was just thinking it looks really soft and shiny. Maybe it’s a wig?” Ha. Now wouldn’t that be funny?

“A wig? I don’t think so.” He takes a sip from his water bottle and then looks back over at me. “When you’re running your fingers through it screaming my name, you’ll know it’s real, baby.”

“Dude, that will never happen. Like ever.” I have never met anyone so arrogant in my life. Does he really think women are just so taken with him that they will just throw themselves all over him?

“Wanna bet?”

“No, I don’t want to bet. You’re sick and twisted, and obviously, completely in love with yourself.”

“Well, someone’s gotta be.”

I roll my eyes at him.

“What? You don’t think I’m lovable?” he asks.

“No, not really, Storm.”

“Niko loves me.” Niko’s ear quirks in our direction at the mention of his name, but he doesn’t lift his head.

“Yeah, I’m sure he does, because you feed him.”

Storm looks disturbed by this statement. “You think your cat loves you, Evelyn?”

“I know he does. He sleeps with me every night, and he follows me around and does rubbies all over my legs.

Storm pats Niko on the head and the dog’s big fuzzy tail starts to wag erratically. “I know he loves me. He’s my best friend. I saved his life.”

“Did you really?”

He nods, still caressing Niko’s ears.

“Will you tell me about it?” Any story would be good right now. Time is dragging in this truck, and I am legit losing my mind without any television or internet. There are so many Facebook statuses I could have made during this ordeal—they’d get like ninety-nine likes each.

“I’ll tell you, but only if you hold my hand again while I tell you.”

“What? I don’t think so.”

Grabbing my hand tightly in his, he pleads with his sexy green eyes. “Come on. I like how it feels. I’ll behave myself. I promise.”

Even though, he’s an annoying ass, he is kind of cute, so I have to grin at him for his efforts “Is that even possible? For you to behave?”

He winks at me. “I guess we’ll find out.”

I sigh. “Fine. But only because I’m bored, and I want to hear how you saved Niko’s life.”

“Someday, I’m going to tell our kids how I saved your life after you crashed your car off the side of the road because you couldn’t even listen to the GPS.”

“I think not. And the GPS is useless. It sent me in the wrong direction. Now, tell me about how you saved the dog.”

“All right. So a few years ago, I used to drive by this garage all the time. It was an old junky place just piled with like old cars and shit. And one day, I noticed this puppy tied up outside, and I thought he was cute because he was really fuzzy and had these crazy huge paws.”

I slowly rub his hand and make little circles on his palm with my finger while he talks.

“So a few weeks go by, and of course, the pup is growing and getting bigger and taller. And then a few more weeks go by, and now it’s like the middle of the summer and hot as hell, and this poor dog is just tied up to a fence on the side of the building with no shade or anything, and I don’t even see a water dish or food. So I park my car and I go check on him, and he’s all happy to have someone pet him. There was an old food dish off to the side, but it was empty. He didn’t have any toys or bones or anything. It was late so the guy who owned the place wasn’t there, so I drove over to the pet place and bought the little guy some new dishes and some toys and a few bones. I went back and gave him some water and he drank three fucking bowls, and then he woofed down two bowls of food. I felt really bad leaving him. I just had this bad gut feeling, ya know?” He unwraps a pack of gum with one hand as he talks. I can see he is upset talking about this. I give his hand a gentle squeeze.

He pops a piece of gum in his mouth and offers some to me. “No thanks,” I say wanting to hear the rest of the story.

“Anyway, I had to go out of town a few days after I gave the pup the stuff, and I was gone for like three months. To be honest, I kind of forgot about him. But then, I had to go over to that part of town again, and I drove by him. Evie, it was awful. I honestly think the last time he ate was what I gave him. He was nothing but skin and bones, too weak to even stand up. I could see all of his little ribs, and he had ticks all stuck to him, just sucking the blood out of him. I got out of my car and ran over to him, and at first, I thought he was dead. He was just lying there in the dirt with flies buzzing all around him. But when I kneeled down in front of him, his little tail wagged a tiny bit. I think he remembered me.”

Tears spring into my eyes at the thought of someone mistreating a puppy so badly. “My God, Storm, what happened?” He looks at me for a moment, a single tear is sliding down his cheek, and it grips at my heart.

“An old man came out of the little building and started yelling at me to get off his property. And I got up in his face and I yelled ‘what the fuck did you do to this puppy? He’s dying out here!’ and he was like, ‘mind your own business, you fucking punk, and get off my property.’ There was just no fucking way I was going to leave him there. So I pulled a wad of cash out of my pocket and I threw it at this scumbag, and I said ‘I just bought this dog, and I’m taking him out of here and if I ever fucking see you again, or see another dog here, I will fucking kill you.’ And that douchebag picked up the money and ran off with it. I scooped the pup up and took him to one of those emergency vet places. He had to stay there for a month before I could finally bring him home. He was dehydrated and starved almost to death, had two ear infections, worms—you fucking name it. I visited him every single day, and we’ve been together ever since.” Niko looked up as if he knew he was being talked about. “Right, buddy?” Storm says to him. I swear Niko looked like he was smiling.

“Wow... Storm. That’s an amazing story. You really did save his life.”

“Now he’s spoiled rotten just like he should be.”

“He’s beautiful, and so lucky that you found him, really. I guess you’re not so bad, after all.”

“I have my good points.”

The man had a smile that could melt a glacier. Damn. I let go of his hand and break my gaze from his. “Can you throw me the crackers? I’m hungry.”

Reaching into the bag, he pulls out the box of crackers and hands them to me. “Why do you do that?” he asks.

“Do what?”

“You look away from me when I look at you.”

Ugh. Can he not just leave me alone?

I swallow my mouthful of cracker. “I don’t know. I didn’t realize I did it.”

“Are you afraid of me?”

“No... Not anymore. When we first met, I thought you were pretty scary, but now that I know you a little bit, no.”

He laughs. “You were pretty scared when I banged on your window. You jumped about a foot.”

“Ha ha.” I throw a cracker at him. “I wasn’t expecting anyone to be out there.”

“Are you afraid I’m going to see you? If you let me look at you?”

“Um? What does that mean? What do you see when you look at me?” So yeah, this is one of those times when you ask someone to tell you something and even though you really, really want to hear the answer, you’re afraid to hear it, too. Because it might be bad. Or, it might be really good. But usually, it’s bad.

He’s staring at me with this head tilted, his hair falling across his face. “I see a beautiful, cute woman who lives in fear.”

“Fear? What the hell, Storm. Fear of what?”

“Hey, calm down. I think you’re afraid of intimacy, of letting yourself feel. I think you hide in things that are comfortable to you, like with Michael.”

“Are you kidding me? And you think you know all this about me after spending a day and a half with me in the backseat of a truck?” My voice is loud. Way too loud for the small area we’re sitting in. But who the hell does he think he is? He doesn’t know me. At all. “And I’m not hiding in Michael, dumbass.” Hiding! What does that even mean? “What the hell are you hiding, Storm? Wearing goddamn eyeliner?”

He nods his head slowly at me. “Touché,” he says.

We’re quiet for a few moments, and I feel bad for yelling at him and making fun of his guyliner. I tend to do that when I get mad. I lash out at people and make them feel bad. Then I feel terrible afterward. Usually.

“Storm, I’m sorry I yelled at you.”

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