“There are…things you don’t know about me,” Julian Craig said gruffly, his faint British accent slipping into his voice. “Things I didn’t know how to tell you.”
Rose Kinley forced herself to smile. “Whatever it is, I’m sure it’s not as bad as you’re making it seem.” And he was making it seem bad. Her heart thudded in her chest as she stared at him. They were in the Florida Keys, a virtual paradise, and the moment should have been perfect. Julian had taken her to a private home on the gleaming water, and they were standing on the balcony as the waves crashed below them. She’d been dating Julian for nearly two months—two of the best months of her life.
Rose was pretty sure that she was falling in love with him.
Julian. Tall. Dark. Handsome and so very sexy with his powerful build and those mysterious, golden eyes. When he came into a room, she couldn’t look away from him. She’d actually felt pulled toward him from the very first moment that they met.
“Rose, do you believe in monsters?”
A surprised and nervous laugh escaped her. “Monsters?” She put her hand on his chest and felt the strength beneath her touch. “You mean the boogeyman?” She smiled, teasing.
He shook his head and Julian didn’t smile.
The moments ticked by. Is he serious? Her own smile vanished. “No, I don’t believe in monsters. I’m not a child to be scared of the dark.” She stared up at him. “I know there is evil in the world.” This was so not the conversation she’d anticipated when he brought her to such a romantic setting. So much for those plans. “Robbers, killers…I know they’re out there. I see stories about them on the news every night.”
“I’m not talking about bad humans.” For a moment, she could have sworn that his eyes gleamed. Sometimes, they seemed to do that…to be brighter. To almost glow. A trick of the light or the dark or something, she was sure. No way were his eyes actually glowing. “I’m talking about real monsters,” he continued gruffly. “And, love, you need to believe in them because they are out there.”
Her heart lurched in her chest. No, Julian, please, don’t be insane. You were so wonderfully perfect. “Are they?” Rose asked him carefully. Her friends had warned her, but had she listened? Oh, no. If a guy seems too good to be true…
“Yes, they are out there. They hide in plain sight and humans just don’t see them.”
If he seems too good to be true, then he probably isn’t all that good in the first place.
She swallowed and her hand fell away from his chest. Rose pulled in a deep breath and despite the heat of the night, it seemed to chill her lungs. “Do you…see any monsters right now?” Probably something she should know.
He growled. Goosebumps rose on her arms because it was such a deep, animalistic sound. That was one of the things about Julian. He had sort of an animal attraction vibe going on. A wildness that he barely held in check. Maybe that wildness was what had first drawn her to him. She’d taken one look at Julian and thought…
He isn’t like other men.
Now she knew why…it was because the guy might just be certifiably insane. Monsters walking around with humans? Sounded like he’d definitely taken a break from the meds.
“I’m dead serious, Rose. Fuck, I knew you wouldn’t believe me. I have to show you…”
She backed up a step. “I-I thought we were just going to have a nice night out. You don’t need to show me anything about monsters—”
His left hand lifted. A strong, powerful hand. One tanned by the sun with long fingers and…and claws that were sprouting from the tips of those fingers.
Rose shook her head. That wasn’t possible. She squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, but when they opened again, the claws were still there—and growing longer with each moment that passed. Long and wicked sharp claws.
“I’m one of the monsters, love.”
Her head whipped up. She stared into his eyes and they were definitely glowing. That wasn’t normal. Glowing eyes. Claws from his fingertips. Oh, my God. Even his face shape had altered a bit, becoming sharper, harder.
She took another stumbling step back. “This isn’t funny. I don’t know how you’re doing this, but stop the joke.”
“It’s no joke.” His voice had changed, too. Gone deeper. His words were more growl than anything else. He lifted his right hand, and it was changing, too. More claws. Long and dark and sharper than a knife.
Rose shook her head—over and over—and then she did what any smart woman would do when her lover suddenly sprouted claws. She turned and she ran.