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Hyde an urban fantasy, p.1
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       Hyde, an Urban Fantasy, p.1

           Lauren Stewart
 
Hyde, an Urban Fantasy


  Hyde

  an Urban Fantasy

  Lauren Stewart

  Copyright © 2012 by Lauren Stewart

  Off the Hook Publishing

  ISBN 9780988170100

  Good Reads and Good Deeds

  Five percent of the author proceeds for this book will be donated to a children's charity. First on the list is the Diabetes Youth Foundation. So by purchasing and enjoying Hyde, you are also doing good for others. Thank you.

  …I thus drew steadily nearer to that truth, by whose partial discovery I have been doomed to such a dreadful shipwreck: that man is not truly one, but two.

  There was something strange in my sensations . . . an unknown but not an innocent freedom of the soul. I knew myself, at the first breath of this new life, to be more wicked, tenfold more wicked, sold a slave to my original evil . . .

  Robert Louis Stevenson

  Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, 1886

  Prologue

  Fifteen years ago . . .

  He woke up to the screaming. His mom’s. Different this time. More fearful. More frantic. He ran to the door and threw it open. His sister barred his way, somehow knowing what he planned to do.

  “Move, Shelly!”

  “No, Mitch,” she said, her eyes wide. “Don’t. Don’t go in there. It’ll kill you.”

  It. The beast. The creature that had been part of his life for as far back as Mitch could remember. Even longer for Shelly and his mom. They never talked about it. As if pretending it didn’t exist made life easier. Life wasn’t easy. Life was terrifying.

  Something had to change.

  His mom’s screams were louder. And then they stopped. Mid-cry, they just stopped. He pushed Shelly out of the way and ran down the dark hallway toward the living room.

  “Mitch, no!”

  Too late. It was all too late.

  His mother lay on the tile floor. The only part of her still moving was the blood pooling beneath her body.

  The beast stood above her, huge, smiling. Blood splattered across its neck and chest. It raised its head slowly. There was a flash of recognition in its eyes, then it blinked, shook itself like a wet dog, and launched toward Mitch.

  Mitch dove to the side. The beast barreled by him, into the hallway. Toward Shelly.

  “Help!”

  Her cry slammed into his mind, his heart. “Shelly!” He grabbed his baseball bat from the entryway and ran.

  The beast had her pinned in a corner. “Are you afraid, bitch?” it growled. “You should be.”

  Mitch swung the bat. Three years of little league and the last two of high school ball packed into one hit. Then another. But the hall was too narrow.

  The beast shoved Shelly against the wall and then flipped around, laughing darkly. “That all you got, boy?”

  Mitch swung again and again, sometimes making contact with an arm, a shoulder, stepping back as the beast advanced, toying with him. The bat’s length the only thing keeping the bastard from reaching him. Back into the living room, it pawed, trying to grab Mitch’s inadequate defense. If it caught hold, if it backed Mitch into a wall, everything would end—Mitch, Shelly, everything.

  A blow to its head stopped its laughter, a quiver rippling through its body. “Come here, you little prick!” it roared.

  Mitch aimed high for another hit to its face, one step closer to use the full force of the weapon. The bat rebounded in his hands as it struck flesh, sending a shooting pain through Mitch’s arms and shoulders.

  Again, he swung. Again, he struck.

  The beast stumbled, put its hands to its ears, still cursing. Another strike landed. Then another. The beast sank to its knees, its growls turning into grunts of pain.

  Mitch lifted the bat above his head. His legs were numb, his upper body vibrating as he pounded all of his anger, all of his fear, into the monster lying at his feet.

  “Mitch,” his sister begged. “Please stop. Please.”

  He didn’t. He couldn’t.

  “Stop! It’s dead. Stop,” she said, weeping.

  He felt Shelly’s arms around his waist, holding him, pulling him back from the edge. Finally overcome, the bat fell from his hands, and he let her guide him a few steps backwards. His foot caught on the rug and he sat down hard, Shelly sliding down beside him.

  She crawled on her knees until she was between him and the bloody bodies on the floor and hugged him tightly.

  Over her shoulder, Mitch stared at the creature. Watched it change, shrink, diminish. Until all that was left was the lifeless body of his father.

  Their father. Dear, old Dad. A man they had both hated. A man who had been filled with evil when he was human. Doubly-so each time he transformed into Hyde.

  Shelly held Mitch’s shaking body in her arms, stroking his hair, making shushing sounds, telling him it would be okay.

  Would it? Would it ever be okay? He slumped into her. “Oh, God, Shelly, what did I do?”

  “You had to do it, Mitch. You saved me . . . saved us. We can be happy now.”

  Happy?

  “He was a monster.” Her words stung.

  “Don’t say that,” he whimpered.

  “But he was. He was evil. He had to die.”

  “Please, Shelly, don’t say that,” he said through his sobs, his eyes still locked on his father. “Because . . . that’s what I’m going to be.”

  She stiffened, and then hugged him tighter, slowly rocking him back and forth. “No, we won’t let it. We’ll figure something out.”

  It was too late. His transformations had already started. Not as violently as his father’s—not yet—but they’d begun. When his tears blurred the image of his parent’s bodies, he rested his head on Shelly’s shoulder and cried.

  “You’ll never be a monster, Mitch.”

  “I already am.”

  CHAPTER I

  Fifteen years later . . .

  Eden’s heart was the only part of her not completely frozen. Her pulse pounded in her ears, easily doubling the beat coming from his chest. His muscular arms wrapped around her while he slept and she panicked. Her mind screamed, “Run!” but the rest of her body wasn’t listening. As if it wanted to stay right where it was.

  She hadn’t sleepwalked in eight years. She knew that. And it had never been like this. She would have remembered waking up in a room she’d never seen before.

  With a man she’d never seen before.

  Naked.

  Especially a man who looked like he did. Waking up next to that would be a memory you’d hold onto. Peaceful beauty that seemed impossible in the real world. Yet, there it was.

  And here she was. Naked. Lost.

  He stretched as he woke up. “Hey, I’m glad you stayed,” he whispered. The stubble on his chin scraped her forehead followed by a soft brush of his lips. His fingers curled around a lock of her hair. “Huh, your hair looks different. I thought it was red. That’s the last time I drink . . . whatever it was I was drinking.” His voice was low and guttural, as was his laugh.

  He stretched and adjusted his body toward her, holding her close to his chest. “Listen, I wanted to tell you . . . last night was— I’ve been going through a lot of— I just want to say— Fuck it. Never mind.” He ran a hand through his hair. “What time is it?”

  As he rolled his body on top of hers, she stared up at his profile. He was all hard angles—jaw, nose, cheekbones. The only softness in his face was his lips. Okay, maybe his eyes, but she wasn’t a great judge at this particular moment. No, she was more of a panic button permanently stuck in the ‘on’ position.

  His dark hair fell forward, and he shook it out of large hazel eyes to look at the alarm clock. “Wow, forty-five whole minutes of sleep. I feel like a new man. Wanna fe
el?” With a small grin, he took her hand and pulled it under the sheet covering them.

  Eden stopped her hand before she touched the erection already pressing against her thigh. I am not that kind of girl! Except that it seemed she was . . . or had been at some point she never wanted to remember.

  “What’s—” He let go of her and pushed himself up from her body, his brow furrowed. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

  Her mouth opened and closed as if she was trying to clap with it. Yay for me, she whimpered silently. She swallowed. “Did we—?”

  He studied her face. “Did we what?”

  How could she discuss something all evidence suggested they’d done, but she didn’t remember doing? “You know.” Yeah, that was perfect, Eden. Very clever. Geez.

  “You bet. In every possible way.” The smile filled his face, making his eyes dance and the corners crinkle. He brushed a fingertip across her lower lip and leaned toward her. “I have never—” His brow tightened again, and he tilted his head. “Stop looking at me like that. It’s weird.”

  His words freed her body from its stupor, and she pushed against him. “Get off me, old man!”

  “Old man? Ouch, that hurt.” He rolled to the side and laughed. “When they say it’s all down-hill after thirty, I didn’t think they meant it quite so literally.”

  She lunged out of the bed, grabbing a pillow on the way to cover her naked body. Getting a longer-distance look at him hurt more than it helped. He was fantastic-looking. Not old. Mature. Early thirties maybe? Again, her judgment shouldn’t be trusted—she was actually attracted to a naked stranger who she’d seemingly already had sex with. Yeah, so not part of her usual M.O.

  “Wait,” he said. “Are you really upset? Oh, shit. Did I do something unbelievably stupid while I was asleep or something?”

  You mean, like have a ‘one-night stand’ that may have included more horizontal positioning than actual ‘standing’. Oh, God. “Leave me alone.” Voice controlled. That’s a good sign you’re still sane. Isn’t it? “I don’t know who you are.”

  He sat up and took a long breath, his nostrils flaring and his eyes thin slits of anger. “Somehow I doubt that’s ever stopped you before.”

  “I’ve never . . . I . . . I have a boyfriend.” Kind of.

  “Oh, okay. I think I get it. This is one of those ‘I was so drunk’ things, right?” He shook his head. “It’s not my fault,” he mimicked in his falsetto.

  She should run. Run as fast and as far as possible. But then she’d never know what happened. Not to mention that he’d probably enjoy watching her butt bounce as she ran away. “How did I get here?” She waited for a reply that never came. All she got was an incredulous look and an eye roll. “Have we ever met before?”

  “Why bother asking? If we had, you’d just pretend it didn’t happen anyway.” He pinched the bridge of his nose. “Next time you decide to pull the ‘I’m not responsible for my actions’ thing, don’t let everyone in the club watch you pole-dance on the bar and jump all over me like that. It isn’t helping your case.” He gathered the taupe silk sheet into a loose ball and threw it at her.

  Eden dropped the pillow that barely concealed her and wrapped the sheet tightly around herself. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” She swallowed, wondering why she felt the need to explain anything to him. “I sleepwalk sometimes.”

  His laugh echoed off the high ceiling. “Come on, don’t do that. That’s just stupid. Totally ruins the whole night. A night I wanted to remember. For a long, long time.”

  “I . . . I . . . don’t remember.” She hated the stutter of her voice, hated her lungs that seemed incapable of full expansion. “Was I . . . drinking?”

  “Okay, fine.” He threw his hands up, the movement tightening his abs into six perfect squares covered with a small path of hair trailing down to his— Oh, boy.

  “Listen lady, it’s already ruined, so let’s go whole-hog. You were the craziest, soberest lay I’ve ever had. If that was you sleepwalking, I’d like to take the waking version out for a test-drive as soon as possible.” He dropped the volume of his voice as she skittered backwards toward the door. “So much for my charming wit.” He bowed his head—“Thank you for the lovely evening”—and tipped an invisible hat. “It was a pleasure. Too bad it had to end like this.”

  “I don’t do this. I must have been sleepwalking.” Even she had a hard time believing it. It was probably the lamest excuse ever given. But it had to be true, there was no other explanation. Even if she was the type to end up in a stranger’s bed—which she wasn’t—she had no memories of anything they’d obviously done. Was this some kind of prank? Was someone about to jump out of the curtain with a camera and scream, “Gotcha! Now can you sign this release form”? She looked hopefully at the window drapes. Please. She wasn’t that lucky.

  And, oh yeah, the soreness of her muscles was probably due to all of the mountain-climbing she didn’t remember doing. Looking back to the man in the bed, she decided no one was that good of an actor. A Roofie? No. How could he have given her a Roofie when she’d gone to sleep last night locked inside her apartment? Oh my God. Somehow she’d REM’ed her way into his bed.

  “Whatever,” he muttered. “Let me know if you’re ever ready to join me in the real world. The entrance is way over there somewhere.” He motioned toward the door.

  “What does that mean?”

  “It means leave. Now. Good to meet you, good luck with your boyfriend, and get out.” He flopped back on the mound of pillows.

  Eden’s legs were already jogging toward the door when she thought about what she was wearing. She pulled the sheet tighter around her and turned back to him with as much dignity as she could muster. “Um . . . where are my clothes?”

  Without lifting his head, he pointed to the far side of the bed. “Your skirt is over there. And your bra is probably out in the hall. Under my pants,” he grumbled.

  She tripped on the sheet as she shuffled over to grab the black skirt off the floor. On her way to the door, she stepped over five empty condom wrappers, cringing at each one.

  There is no way this is my life. She couldn’t even do five push-ups, and she assumed sex took at least some upper body strength. Embarrassed by imagining she’d just laid there and made him do all the work, she slammed the bedroom door behind her.

  As she walked down the wide, dark hardwood hallway toward the staircase, she reached down and snagged her bra by a strap, not touching the pants that were lying on top.

  Then she heard him call out, “If you want your panties back, they’re probably still hanging on the doorknob.”

  Eden slipped on her skirt and bra and began checking all the doors, first upstairs and then downstairs, passing through room after room of contemporary, elegant opulence mixed with sloppy, careless bachelor. She ran through everything she remembered about last night. Home from office hours. Last day of school. Mac and cheese for dinner. With little sausages— Oh, God, don’t think about sausage! She found one shoe in the foyer and kept searching for her other shoe and her undies.

  Watched a rerun of Bones because nothing else was on. The black granite countertops in the kitchen were layered with Styrofoam take-out containers and half-filled glasses except for one side of the island. Put on pajamas. Not clothes, pajamas. My light blue ones. Broken dishes and utensils littered the floor next to the island, covering her other shoe as if it had fallen off right before everything on the counter was swept off in a hurry.

  Could this get any worse?

  She flipped around and hurried back into the living room. Her shirt was lying over the back of a leather couch. Brushed teeth. Washed face. Then sleep. Sleep! Where is my stupid underwear? She gave up looking and headed for the front door. No club. No alcohol. No man. Definitely no man.

  She left the sheet at the base of the stairs and stepped out into the light of a new day. Oh my God, what’s wrong with me? Her underwear was right where he said it’d be—she just hadn’t expec
ted it to be hanging from the knob on the outside of the door.

  § § §

  After he heard the front door slam, Mitch pounded his head into the pillow. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. He’d thought—

  Argh! No, no thoughts were involved at all. He’d felt. Damn it, he’d felt more last night than he’d ever—

  Argh! Besides the sex—which was incredible—he’d felt connected to someone. Someone who seemed to know him in some bullshitty cosmic sort-of-way. Someone who wouldn’t judge him, but just be with him.

  The booze had built up the fantasy in his mind. The perfect woman—soft everywhere a woman should be and tight everywhere else, uninhibited, knows what she wants and where she wants it. Funny when she spoke—which wasn’t often—different from anyone he’d ever met. Thick, long hair he’d thought was red, but turned out to be a rich, dark brown. Either way, it was beautiful. Full lips, mind-blowing body.

 
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