Ice Cream Daemon and I glared at each from opposite corners of my porch.
Well, I was doing most of the glaring and he was doing most of the smirking. “I can sit here all night,” he said, leaning against the railing as if he truly planned on camping out here. I thought of the day he’d invited me to the pool. When provoked, the boy could be as determined as he was annoying. “You want to get ice cream, I’m coming with you.” The car keys dug into my palm. “I don’t want you to go with me.” “I. Don’t. Care.” For a second, I entertained myself with visions of flying across the porch and slashing him with my keys—not in that beautiful face, though —like a ninja. He ran a hand through his hair, knocking it off his forehead. “The only other option is for me to have Dee get you some.” “She’ll eat it all before she even got back here!” His lips twitched. “Now, that’s very true. Then I guess you’re going to take your happy little butt,” he gestured at my front door with one hand, “back into the house, where there is no ice cream, no chocolate syrup.” I sighed. It wasn’t like I didn’t understand why I couldn’t roam around by myself. There was still an Arum around and since I was glowing like a disco ball, I was a target. But I’d reached my acceptable Daemon-limit for one day. “Or sprinkles the color of the rainbow,” he continued evilly. “Or those cool little spoons they give you at this perfect shop in town.” Taking a deep breath, I folded my arms. “You’re so wrong.” “Oh! And there’s definitely no soft serve in your house. Or ice cream cones. Or ice cream in general.” I groaned, fighting the urge to bang my head off the side of the house. “God, I hate you sometimes.” Daemon flashed those white teeth. “No, you don’t.” Instead of arguing with him, I stalked forward. “Come on. Let’s go.” “Finally. You see reason.” Before I could respond or do anything, he snatched the keys from my hand. “Hey!” I yelled. “What do you think you’re doing?”
Daemon was already beside my sedan, opening the driver’s door. I hated it when he pulled that super-speed crap. He sent me an innocent look. “Sorry. I do not trust my life in your driving hands.” I rolled my eyes as I stomped toward the passenger side. “Fine. Drive. Whatever.” He chuckled, and my skin pricked with irritation and… and I didn’t know what else was there. Amusement? Yes. No one got to me like Daemon. One moment he had me ready to go atomic on him and the next I was feeling all sorts of things that didn’t make sense. But he had saved my life. How many times now? Three? Probably more if I counted the bear and when he stood up for me to the other Luxen. Geez, I was a nuisance. And he stayed with my after the dance. Not because he felt obligated, but because he knew I was scared. Deep down, Daemon could be a decent guy when he wanted to be. We argued the whole way into town: over the radio station, the speed limit, if my brakes needed replacing, and why I should get better tires before it snowed. When we finally arrived at the Mom and Pop style diner, Daemon got out of the car first, hitting the automatic locks before I could open the door. “Argh!” I slapped the unlock button and threw the door open. “Jerk!” Casting a sly grin over his shoulder, he opened the door for me. “Ladies first.” Weary, I inched forward, half expecting him to let it shut in my face, but when he didn’t, I muttered, “Thank you.” His deep chuckle sent a shiver over my skin. “You sound so sincere,” he said, slipping around me. “So, what are you in the mood for?” There was a sudden image of him pressed against me, his hand on the bare skin of my stomach. My chest warmed. Maybe I kept thinking about that moment because Daemon was asleep and therefore could open his annoying mouth. Daemon leaned in and murmured, “Ice cream, Kitten. I’m talking about ice cream.” “I know.” I shoved him, but it was like trying to move a mountain. He didn’t go anywhere, and I gave up when he dropped his arm over my shoulders. He steered be away from the cluster of small booths and toward the glass case that bore the sign ICE CREAM FOR ANY SEASON. The moment I saw the buckets of creamy goodness, my stomach rumbled. There were so many options. Mostly a lot of fall themed flavors—pumpkin, pumpkin spice, apple butter (ew), pecan pie, and so on. Daemon ordered a combination of fall flavors that
made my stomach turn, and I settled on a bowl of chocolate and vanilla. Of course, I had the girl behind the counter dump syrup by the truck load and make it rain with sprinkles. Taking our bowls to a booth by the back window, we sat. There was only two other people in the diner, and if it wasn’t for the oldies station playing on a radio, the silence would’ve been unbearable. It was already pretty damn awkward. I dug into my ice cream like I hadn’t eaten in two weeks. I wasn’t a big ice cream eater, but man, when I had a craving for it, it was bad. And this was perfect. The syrup was like a little chocolate lake in my bowl. Glancing up, I found Daemon watching me with hooded eyes. “What?” He shrugged on shoulder. I felt heat creep across my cheeks. “Are you watching me eat?” “Yes.” He popped a huge mound of ice cream in his mouth. “That’s not creepy or anything.” Self-conscious, I spun the spoon through the goop. “Can you watch someone else?” One side of his lips tipped up. “I don’t want to watch someone else.” My stupid heart toppled over like that statement was a declaration of love. “Do you always do what you want?” He coughed out a laugh. “Not quite, Kitten. And besides, there’s hardly anyone else in here. I think the other lady is like eighty-five. You’re better to look at.” “Geez. Thanks.” “You’re welcome.” I rolled my eyes. Silence fell between us, and I struggled to find something to talk about. “Do you come here a lot?” He didn’t answer immediately and the lines of his striking face tightened. “We used to.” It took me a moment to understand what he meant and I felt my chest tightened. “You used to?” A far off look crawled into the green eyes. “We used to come here every week with… Dawson. Like Dee, ice cream was another food group for him.” I looked away, aching for him and Dee. “And you don’t come here anymore with Dee?” “No.” Probably because it was too hard for them, and I had a feeling that Daemon avoided anything that reminded him of his brother. I wondered why he would’ve picked this place, because I could tell by his stiff movements, the memories hurt.
I bit down on my lip as I toyed with the spoon, no longer hungry. I didn’t know what it was like to lose a sibling, but I knew how it felt to lose a loved one. Whoever said the pain lessened upon time was full of it. Sure, the grief didn’t come as often, but when it did; it was like being stabbed in the heart with a dull butter knife each time. “Kitten?” “What?” I looked up. Leaning forward, he reached across the tiny table, his hand shot out wicked fast and then his thumb was on my bottom lip, smoothing over it gently. I sucked in a sharp breath and my stomach hollowed. What was he doing? Our gazes locked. I ordered myself to move back or knock his hand away, but my body just flat out refused to listen to common sense. Instead my body started reminding me of what it felt like to wake up that morning, with Daemon’s hands on me, his weight a delicious, heady new experience, and how in that moment, nothing seemed to matter except him and me. Daemon smirked. Heat swamped my cheeks. Sometimes I wondered if he really could read minds and was just lying about it. His fingers lingered along my chin for a few seconds too long and then he leaned back, picking up his spoon. “You had ice cream on your lip.” “Oh.” His lashes swept down, shielding the brilliant green gaze. “Okay. I lied.” I blinked. “About what?” “The ice cream.” Staring at him, I tilted my head to the side. “You were lying about ice cream being on my lip?” Daemon nodded. “Why?” My lower lip tingled pleasantly. “Why not?” I shook my head. “You make no sense.” “It makes perfect sense.” He dropped the spoon in his empty bowl and then sat back against booth. The smirk slipped into a frown, puckering the skin between his brows. “Your lips are soft.”
“I…” I had no idea what to say to that. How he said it didn’t make it sound like a compliment, like it was somehow my fault that my lips were soft. “What? You prefer them to be chapped and rough?” “Yes.” “Okay, whatever.” I pushed my half-finished bowl back. My lip was still tingling. “I’m ready to go home.” Those ridiculous, envy-inducing lashes swept up, and I was caught in the intensity of those luminous eyes. Air leaked out from between my lips like one of those silly girls in movies. Who was I kidding? Daemon turned every member of the opposite sex into one of those silly girls. Aaaand my damn lip was still tingling. He opened his mouth, but then he snapped it shut. A muscle popped in his jaw. “Let’s go.” Having no idea what prompted his mood swing, I went to grab my trash, but Daemon beat me to it, sweeping both our bowls up. I followed him outside, thinking this was going to one hell of an awkward ride back home. Out of habit, I started toward the driver’s side, but remembered that Daemon had commandeered by car keys and apparently thought I was death behind the wheel. Daemon stopped and turned. “What are you—?” Unprepared, I bounced off Daemon’s ridiculously hard chest so hard I stumbled back. His arm snaked out, catching me around the waist. My hands went up, landing on his chest to steady myself. Feeling like an idiot, my gaze rose to his. Everything froze. Or at least, we did. I don’t even think Daemon breathed. We were so close almost every part of our bodies touched, much like it had that morning. Warmth cascaded from the top of my head down to the tips of my toes. His hand slid off my hip, up my back to where it stopped just below the edges of my hair, leaving a humming path in its wake. When he lowered his head and his lips brushed over my ear, I may’ve lost the ability to breathe. “You need to be more careful, Kitten.” I felt myself nod. Daemon didn’t let go. His hand balled into the back of my shirt, catching the edges of my hair. A shuddered rolled through him—or maybe it was me? I didn’t know. The sense of anticipation and acute yearning warped things. His chin brushed over my cheek, and for a moment I thought… I don’t know what I thought. And it didn’t matter, because he let go and
pivoted around. It felt like he was still there, though, with his arm around me and his lips dangerously close. It was a sensation I knew would linger, just like the confusing feelings he drew out of me every time we were around each other.