Charmed Souls (Black Souls Book 1), Page 2Abbi Glines
This was not what I wanted to do on my night off from work, but my other option was going home, and I never wanted to do that until I had to. I should have gone to the dollar movie alone, which had been my plan until Margo texted three times and then called all within five minutes insistent that I come to their party.
This was the first college party I had attended, and from the looks of it, this would be my last. I always felt out of place and awkward at these things. Margo took my purse and nodded toward her bedroom. “I’ll put this in there. Go get a drink!” She was way too enthusiastic about me drinking. I hated to burst her bubble, but I wasn’t drinking beer. I had never been desperate enough to drink beer. One taste was all I had ever needed to know I wasn’t touching that stuff again.
I watched Margo walk away with my purse, wishing I’d made up an excuse to leave. But I was here now and I’d try and make her happy by staying as long as I could mentally take it. Shifting my gaze back to the full apartment, I did a quick scan of the crowd again. More guys had facial hair now and the girls were more naked, but their actions were exactly the same as high school parties had been.
The dollar movie theatre was playing Rocky Horror Picture Show this week. Why hadn’t I gone there? This was going to be annoying. I was going to be forced to talk to people, that I didn’t know, in a social setting. I wasn’t good at that. I was already annoyed and no one had even bothered me yet.
I started to turn away from the scene to go find a drink that didn’t contain alcohol when my path was abruptly blocked by a guy. My senses first acknowledged that he smelled amazing. I was staring at his chest, which meant he was taller than me by several inches. Lifting my gaze, I took in his wide shoulders. Might as well get this over with, I sighed with the thought, then moved my gaze on up to meet his eyes- steel blue and intense. They were striking and made one just want to stand there and stare at them. No words needed to be said.
Forcing myself to look away from his eyes, my gaze dropped to his mouth, and I realized then, he was smirking at me as if we had a secret. Since I’d never met him, I knew we had no secret between us; yet, his smirk stayed intact. I waited for him to say something. I always let the guy speak first. Get it over with. Then they’d move on. This one was either giving me time to be impressed with his appearance, or he was struggling not to laugh at my obvious reaction to him.
“Excuse me,” I finally said, after an awkward moment of silence.
“Can I get you a drink,” he asked, but it was more of a statement. His tone had sounded as if I had been standing here waiting on him to bring me a drink. His smirk wasn’t amusement at me but because he was arrogant. He knew he was … stunning. His eyes were unique, his skin a nice tan color, and his hair was dark, much like my own; however, it was just long enough to tuck behind his ears; yet, it was tousled in that just got out of bed look. I knew how that must drive girls’ crazy, making them wish it was their bed he had visited. Unfortunately for him, I was immune to beauty. I knew all too well how empty it could be.
“No thank you,” I replied, trying not to let my annoyance at his confidence show. It wasn’t that I was against self-assured guys. People should be comfortable in their own skin. It was just the guys who thought their appearance was enough. Outward beauty was never enough and nothing I desired.
“I’ve not seen you around campus,” he said, unaffected by my obvious disinterest in his looks.
“Delvaux is a large campus,” I replied. It was also founded by my father’s great-great-grandfather, and one I didn’t get to attend, but he didn’t need to know all that.
He smirked again. He had to know he looked good doing it. It must be his go-to when reeling in the women. “It’s big, but you would stand out. If we had crossed paths, I’d have noticed.”
Smooth, but he was wasting it on me. I was sure there were twenty females in here who would simper and melt. He needed to take this talent elsewhere.
“Cat, you’re here and you’ve met Rathe.” Heath’s voice was a relief. The only guy I wanted to talk to in this place had come to my rescue. I glanced to my left to see Heath had come up beside me. The tight smile on his normally easy-going face intrigued me. He didn’t appear to like Mr. Romeo, and Heath liked everyone.
“Cat,” the guy Heath had called Rathe repeated my name. The way his voice made the simple three letters sound sexy was impressive. He was talented in the art of luring females in. I’d give him that. He just needed to steer clear of me. I wasn’t a female he wanted to lure. He had no idea what he was attempting to do. Not that I’d fall for his charm, but he was still playing with fire. I could warn him that he was wasting his time, but that always made men want to try even harder. My repel charm would hit him soon enough. It always took a few minutes longer for the more determined ones to yield to it.
“Not exactly,” I told Heath, wishing Rathe would walk away now. The tension in Heath was odd. Did he not invite this guy? Were they enemies? I couldn’t imagine Heath had an enemy. He was too nice for anyone to hate him. Even his crazy ex-girlfriends eventually liked him again.
Heath nodded his head at the guy who he’d called Rathe. “This is our new roommate Rathe. Rathe, Cat is our closest friend.”
Wait, what? This was their new roommate? I was positive Heath didn’t like Rathe, but he was living with the guy? Had he not interviewed Rathe first? What had already happened to cause this negative energy between the two of them? Heath was too nice. He made the worst mistakes with females, and now, he’d moved a guy in who he didn’t seem to care for very much. I really hoped I didn’t have to clean this up for him like I had to do with the last girlfriend. I hated messing with fate. It was always a last resort.
“Margo is around here somewhere,” Heath told me then. “I can help you find her,” he added, as he wrapped his hand around my upper arm. It was very possessive and unlike Heath. Was he planning on dragging me away to go find Margo? This entire situation was only getting more bizarre.
“She took my purse when I got here. I’m sure she’ll be back in a moment,” I told him. His hand didn’t release my arm. I glanced down at it, wondering what he was going to do next. Heath wasn’t the aggressive sort. This was very out of character for him. The only explanation for this could have been Rathe’s presence.
“Rathe! Come play with us,” a female called out from the living room. “We’re about to play beer pong. I told the others how you owned everyone at beer pong the other night at the Episolm party,” she added.
“Better get to it, champ,” Heath urged, as if he couldn’t think of a better idea. The way he spoke to Rathe was like he did to everyone else. He seemed friendly, but his body language was another story.
I turned my attention back to Rathe. Heath’s odd behavior had eased, but not completely since he was still holding onto me like a lost child he was going to lead to her parents. We were going to discuss that later. When we were alone.
Rathe was studying me as if he was trying to figure me out. He hadn’t acknowledged the other girl at all. This alone made me curious. He should have lost interest in me by now. The repel charm was subtle, but it was strong. I’d had to cast it to make sure men always left me alone. My natural charm had to be combated with a supernatural one. It was the only way to save them from themselves.
I studied him closely, trying to see if anything was changing in the way he was looking at me. I could feel he was uncomfortable with my scrutiny. I could read that easily enough in his unusual eyes. Maybe the charm was finally doing its magic. With a shift of his feet, he stepped back. “I’ll see you around, Cat,” he said, then walked over toward the awaiting crowd. Even the way he walked commanded attention. He had a swagger that had every female in the room panting after him. Except me. I turned my head away immediately.
I glanced back up at Heath and frowned as Rathe was taken in by the others. “Why are you holding my arm in a vise grip?” I asked, not so politely.
He immediately dropped his hand. “Sorry,” he muttered, as his cheeks slightly flushed pink. “I didn’t realize I was,” he said, as if that was an excuse.
“You acted weird around Rathe. That doesn’t bode well if he’s your roommate now.” This was my concern. If Heath thought he needed to guard me against Rathe, which was what it had looked like, then why would he let Rathe live in the same apartment as Margo? Had he found out things after Rathe moved in that he didn’t like? There was a protective spell around this apartment. One that alerted me if my friends were ever in danger; however, if Rathe was a problem, why was Heath letting him stay?
His brows drew together in a frown. “I wasn’t trying to protect you from Rathe. He’s a nice guy. He’s just a player. I’ve watched him around girls, and he goes through one right after another. When he saw you,” Heath paused, then shrugged and looked over my right shoulder to break eye contact with me. “I knew he’d zone in on you was all. I wanted him to understand you weren’t another girl for him to use and throw away. Even though, I knew you wouldn’t be interested in him.”
There had been times in high school where Heath had seemed oddly protective when guys got near me, but once I showed no interest, he eased up. He was equally protective of Margo, and it made me feel special that he had concern over me like he did his sister. I didn’t have a sibling bond with my sisters. Sure, we lived under the same roof, but they weren’t exactly the warm cozy kind of siblings.
“Did you introduce her to Rathe?” Margo asked, with the slur in her voice getting worse. Had she drunk more since she’d gone off to put my purse away?
“Yes,” Heath’s response was clipped, as if he didn’t want to talk about Rathe. If they were going to be roommates, then he needed to decide if he liked him or not. The apartment lease was in Heath’s name. He could kick Rathe out. There was no reason for him to feel uncomfortable in his own place.
“And he left her standing here? I was expecting him to chat her up,” Margo replied with a drunken giggle. Margo believed all men should want me. She wasn’t wrong, but she didn’t know the truth. My charm only worked on those who were attracted to me sexually. Margo wasn’t affected by the repel charm since she wasn’t attracted to other females. She saw the real me.
I was born into a family whose greatest power was their outward beauty. It was disgusting. I had fought against it most of my life. I refused to cause the same destruction I had been forced to witness. My mother and my sisters were a poison I didn’t want to be.
“He went to play beer pong with Chasity Arnold,” Heath said the girl’s name as if that explained it all. I had no idea who she was, but Margo did, and her nose scrunched up in distaste.
“Eww,” she muttered. “Chasity is so made up and fake. Her hair, boobs, lashes, and makeup all come off, and she’s a troll.”
“Be nice,” Heath warned her quickly, “and stop drinking beer. Go have some water. You’re slurring.”
She glared at her brother. “It’s true. Jeffrey Moore said he’s seen her before she puts all that stuff on. Even her boobs are taped to make cleavage, and her bra is stuffed with silicone blobs.”
“Cat, please shut her up,” Heath pleaded.
Margo spun around to stalk away, then remembered I was there and grabbed my hand. “Come on, Cat. He ruins all the fun.”
I went with her, not because I wanted to, but because I didn’t have a choice. Heath was right; she needed to lower her voice and drink some water. He had his hands full with this place covered with people. They hadn’t thrown parties here before Rathe. I wondered if that was bothering Heath. Having all these people in his home around his things. I would hate it.
Heath and I always got along because we agreed on most things. Everything but the girls he dated. For the most part, we were similar. I knew without asking he would rather be watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show right now too. Margo was the one who always needed people around.
Margo stopped after we had taken several steps away from Heath and let go of my hand to throw her arms around a tall red-headed guy with freckles and brown eyes. His amusement at Margo’s overzealous attack made me like him at first sight.
“Chip! I didn’t see you come in!” she exclaimed. I was willing to bet she hadn’t seen half the people come in because she had been too busy drinking.
“I’ve not been here long,” he replied, with an awkward smile while patting her on the back, unsure what to do with her overenthusiastic hugging. “Great party.”
She leaned back and dropped her hold on him. “Thank you! It was past time we had one. Heath’s ball and chain kept us from having any fun around here,” she said that part with a frown.
He nodded as if he understood, but I doubted he had any idea what she was talking about. Margo was blaming the ex-girlfriend on not having parties in the past. I disagreed. Heath wasn’t big on things like this.
Chip moved his gaze to me and smiled. “I’m Chip Manasco.” He offered his hand out for me to shake. He wasn’t going to wait on Margo to introduce me, and he was right not to. I wasn’t sure if she remembered I was behind her.
“Cat,” I replied, not giving him my last name on purpose. My last name being the same name as the University he attended would be the start of questioning that led to the fact I was related to the founder. I’d made that mistake in the past. It drew unwanted attention. I worked hard to go unnoticed.
“Nice to meet you, Cat.” He was very proper and didn’t appear to fit here either. Much like myself.
“Cat is my bestie!” Margo told him and then threw her arm around my neck and hugged me tightly to her. I returned her hug and patted her back. Smiling at Chip, I rolled my eyes.
Chip held his smile, and he reminded me of a professor instead of a student. His round glasses added to the look. He just needed khakis and a button-down. I wondered why he had come to something like this.
“She’s had a few drinks,” I told him.
He chuckled and gave a nod. “Do you attend Delvaux?” he asked me then.
Margo let go of me and shook her head with too much enthusiasm. “No. Don’t even get into that with her. Off limits,” she said, her eyes wide.
“Oh,” was his response as he glanced at her then back to me. I could see he wasn’t sure if he should apologize or not. Margo had made it seem like he’d asked me what color panties I had on.
“I know,” Margo said, raising her voice even more. “She’s stunning, isn’t she? But don’t flirt with her. She won’t like it. She’s not into dating guys!” Her loud voice had been meant to rise over the noise, but the timing was off. Everyone had just quieted. Turning my gaze back to the suddenly much quieter crowd that had now heard Margo’s loud announcement, I saw them all looking in our direction. Rathe was in the middle of it all with his hand suspended, holding a small red ball between his fingers. He’d been about to toss it into another cup of beer. His eyes met mine, and even from here, I could tell he was amused.
I hated attention, and Margo had just placed me in the center of it. Fantastic, this night had actually gotten worse, and I hadn’t thought that was possible. With a sigh, I looked back to the guy standing in front of me.
Chip’s eyes had widened at Margo’s announcement. Either it was because of Margo’s theatrical behavior or he hadn’t expected me not to be into guys. Although, that wasn’t true, everyone here would assume that it was after hearing Margo’s words. She hadn’t meant to say what the entire room had heard. She knew my sexual preference, or at least I thought she did. She was drunk and making little sense. If it weren’t dangerous, I think I’d enjoy dating. I chose to stay away from men to protect them. I was a Kamlock female, after all, and even though I was different from my sisters and mother, my soul was cursed like theirs.
Heath was headed our way with a scowl on his face, and I began to make my escape plan to get out of here. Margo’s announcement would
not only get me female attention but male attention as well. I was now a curiosity to those who weren’t attracted to me and saw my real appearance. I could leave now and go watch that movie.
“Margo, go get a bottle of water and drink it then get another one and drink it, dammit,” Heath barked at his sister then glanced at me to make sure I was okay before turning toward Chip. “Sorry, Margo’s drunk. Ignore her,” he apologized, but Chip didn’t appear to know how to respond. I didn’t either. This was just awkward. I gave Chip an apologetic smile. I bet he wanted to get out of here now, too.
Heath turned back to me. “Come on,” he muttered and took my arm again. I thought about tugging it free when I realized he was walking us toward the door. My exit. Hooray! I just needed my purse.
“My purse is in Margo’s room,” I told him, before we got too far away.
“Don’t move,” he replied, then sprinted for her door and was back in less than a minute. I had kept my attention on him, instead of looking around to see who was watching me. Heath was back so soon I had no time to feel curious gazes leveled on me. He put my purse on my shoulder then placed a hand on my back on our way to the door. If he could shove me out of it to get me out quicker, I was beginning to think he would. That thought made me smile.
When the door closed behind us, he took my arm to turn me around to face him. His expression was filled with concern. “Are you okay?” he asked, clearly upset.
“Uh, yeah, I’m fine,” I assured him. He appeared more worked up about this than necessary. Margo was the only thing he needed to worry about.
“Margo shouldn’t have said that.” He sounded angry again.
“She’s drunk. It’s fine. No biggie.” I shrugged. I didn’t care if a bunch of strangers thought I wasn’t into guys. I had no problem with it.
“That’s something for you to share. Not Margo.” He was saying this as if I needed to be reassured of it. I thought about his words a second and took in the concern in his eyes, and it slowly sunk in. Why he was so worked up…