Warrior Fae Trapped (Warrior Fae #1)

Warrior Fae Trapped (Warrior Fae #1)

K.F. Breene



Chapter One





Charity looked up in time to catch the rusty red metal door before it slammed into her face. Someone bumped into her backpack from behind before offering a murmured apology.

Grimacing at the near miss with a busted nose and public ridicule, she pushed out of the lecture hall and peeled off to the side. Students poured out around her into the dark of night, half-asleep and happy to be done with the late class and on their way home.

They had no idea how good they had it. None of them did.

She stilled in the moment, inhaling the crisp ocean air. Santa Cruz was heaven. The mild climate, the cool city buzz, and the thick nature in the surrounding hills. That she attended college here was beyond fantastic—it was a dream come true. One she feared she’d wake from.

“Night,” Donnie muttered as he passed by. One single look at his perfectly styled hair, uber-trendy clothes, and perfect face quick-started her heart.

“Nuuun.” What the heck was that? Had she suddenly started speaking in Wookiee?

She shook her head, desperate to be cool at least once when speaking to this guy.

“Nine—t. Night!” she finally got out.

He didn’t glance back as he walked away, his friend Mason falling in step. Together they were like a shining beacon of prestige and designer clothes. She would never earn a place in their super-trendy and wealthy social circle, but that didn’t hinder her from watching their nice backsides.

She grinned at the thought and swept her gaze out toward the trees, taking one more moment to savor the lush natural surroundings. A soft itch between her shoulder blades invaded her thoughts. Someone was watching her.

An unobtrusive figure caught her notice out of the corner of her eye. She glanced that way.

A dark-haired man stood just off the pavement beside a large redwood tree, mostly bathed in shadow except for a slice of light that cut across his lips, showing a grin.

He stepped forward, the movement strangely blurred, too fast for the nonchalance of his poise. His weight was perfectly balanced with a fighter’s grace, as though he were ready to spring forward.

Tingles of apprehension worked up Charity’s spine. Growing up in a low-income area with a lot of crime, she knew the signs of an attacker. She knew that her five-foot-five frame, small demeanor, and dainty features practically screamed: I’m vulnerable, take my money. Usually a hard stare backed with her fighter’s confidence could make a cracked-out thug think twice.

This wasn’t a cracked-out thug. This man was dangerous—she could read it in the loose readiness of his body, in the lean muscle gained from violence, in the predatory stare meant just for her.

Skin crawling in a way she hadn’t experienced before, she turned away from the trees and headed across campus, making for a bright patch of light from a lamppost. A muffled roar from the distant surf merged with her soft pants, her breath speeding up as something primal coiled within her, urging her faster. She glanced back, wondering if this character was as quiet as he was abnormally quick.

The space near the tree lay empty. The man was nowhere to be seen.

She ripped her gaze forward again, half expecting him to be waiting in front of her with open arms and a smile.

Nothing.

The concrete walkway ahead of her, which led down some steps and wove between buildings, lay dark but for that lamppost, and mostly empty. He’d vanished without a sound.

Laughter rang out to the right. Her heart skipped a beat. Two people her age, a man and a woman, sauntered out from a building, arm in arm.

She let out a shaky breath and kept her fast pace. The soft itch between her shoulder blades turned into a burn. Not only was the watcher still out there somewhere, monitoring her progress, but now he had company. She could feel it.

Adrenaline fueled her body, boosting her senses. She reached another set of stairs and took them two at a time.

“I agree,” she heard not far away.

Charity jumped and swung that way. A patch of trees sat in a large gap between buildings, collecting shadows and secrets. Nothing moved. No more voices drifted on the wind. Someone had been there two seconds ago, and now the area was deserted.

“What the hell?” Charity breathed out, moving again. She felt like prey. Like something being toyed with.

She increased her speed, intent on getting the hell out of there. She hadn’t survived one of the worst neighborhoods in America to get taken out here, just as her dreams were unfolding. To hell with that.

Around the last bend, before the walkway emptied out into the busier thoroughfare near the parking lot, a familiar smell greeted her. Designer fragrance heavily applied, mixed with lilac lotion.

Samantha!

A surge of protectiveness stole Charity’s breath. Her roommate was somewhere nearby, likely clueless to the danger pressing in on her.

Charity rounded the bend and, as expected, found Samantha sitting on an otherwise empty bench, so focused on her phone that she was oblivious to the night around her.

“Sam, what are you—”

“Oh my God!” Sam jolted and clutched her phone to her chest. Upon seeing who it was, she let out a deep breath and sagged. “Charity! You scared me!”

“What are you doing sitting out here by yourself?” Charity asked, stepping closer. She glanced around, her skin still crawling. The watchers were out there, somewhere, in viewing distance yet still hidden.

What did they want with Charity? Couldn’t they tell that she didn’t have anything worth taking?

A low laugh drifted on the night air, filled with sex and heels and wicked daggers.

Charity reached for Sam’s hand without thinking, grabbed her wrist instead, and yanked her to standing. “Did you hear that?”

“Hear what—are you serious right now? With the grabbing?” Samantha twisted away. “Why are you being so pushy? It’s really unflattering, Charity.”

Charity recoiled, strong and efficient when in combat mode, but completely out of her element when dealing with her elite classmates, Sam included. If making people feel small were a superpower, her roommate would be wearing spandex.

“Come on,” Charity urged, sans touching. “You shouldn’t be sitting out here by yourself. It’s dangerous.”

Sam crinkled her nose and shook out her wrist, though she started to walk. “Are you kidding? This campus has, like, zero crime. I’m fine. There were a ton of people walking by before you came.”

“Something is out here tonight,” Charity murmured, peering into the darkness surrounding them.

Sam flicked her long blonde hair over her dainty, bare shoulder. It wasn’t exactly off-the-shoulder sweater season, but Sam made it work. “Honestly, if you’d been in this much of a hurry after class, I wouldn’t have been waiting here all night.” Her right three-inch designer heel hit a divot and her ankle wobbled, but she continued her strut like a champ. “It’s been forever. What kept you?”

“My class only ends a half-hour after yours,” Charity said, feeling the burn between her shoulder blades lessen to an itch. That man and his crew had dialed back their attention. Good news.

“Yes. At ten.” Sam checked her watch. Diamonds glittered in the light of a lamppost. “It’s ten twenty. Where have you been?”

The path opened up, revealing a two-lane road flanked by sidewalks and backed by forest. Cars slowly passed by, pausing at crosswalks for pedestrians heading for the parking lots or the bus. Many of the students on campus dressed like Charity—jeans or leggings paired with sweaters and shirts. Only a small group wore the kind of wealth donned by the likes of Samantha and Donnie. They were the out-of-towners, mostly. The people not rich enough to buy their way into Yale, but plenty rich to deck themselves out in hundreds if not thousands of dollars of clothes and apparel.

Charity had no idea how she’d ended up riding the edges of their circle. It was madness. Plenty of people would kill to be in her shoes.

Well…not in her shoes exactly, since each had more than a couple of holes—the sole was coming off the right one, and the left one was always mysteriously damp. But people would line up to get the scraps Charity didn’t mind accepting, like random rides, a cheap room off campus, and leftover food (Sam thought leftovers were beneath her). A little attitude was a small price to pay for the perks and benefits of being Samantha Kent’s friend.

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