Chapter One

Janis peered out of her window, acting like one of the senior citizens who watched everything on her street without being seen. The curtain she was presently hiding behind fluttered like the wind as she let it go.

After waiting five minutes, she peeked out from behind the curtains again. This time, she sighed with relief. There wasn’t anyone on the street for her to accidently bump into. More like they’d accidently bump into her.

Taking one last look around the room, she gathered her gear and made sure her long pants came to her ankles. The long sleeved shirt and gloves she was wearing should protect her.

Slipping out of her door, she jogged down her steps as the mental imagine of bouncing like a ball came to her. With quick movements, Janis entered her car locking the doors. She paused to give a sigh of relief. Knowing she couldn’t put it off any longer she started the car and headed towards the task she hated – shopping. There were always humans who didn’t care if they touched you. They acted like touching another was no big deal. To them it wasn’t.

It wasn’t far to the Sampson’s, where she would be able to get everything in one trip.  Being around others who could harm her with a simple touch of their hands always made shopping a hazardous outing. The sound of her heartbeat along with the longing for something she couldn’t have brought a lump to her throat. Quickly she changed the direction of her thoughts.

Humming a little tune in her head, she went over her shopping list while dreaming of clothes that didn’t hide all her skin from view.  Groceries were the last thing on her list, although she needed them the most. She’d waited longer than normal to go shopping, and ran out of food days ago — she was now starving.

First, it had been back-to-school season. She shuddered. Venturing into a store, when mothers and children with harassed fathers were looking for the perfect backpack and accessories, was like taking her life into her hands.

Beyond that, the thought of being shoved around was more than she could handle at any time of the year.

She had a condition, an extremely rare disease. One that burned her skin and caused her extreme pain if anyone touched her exposed flesh. She had been given a life expectancy of sixteen years. She was now twenty-seven and defying the odds one day at a time.

Living with this condition meant she had never gone out on a date or kissed a boy or…

After driving around the parking lot four times, she found the perfect spot. Not too far away from the store, but far enough away to discourage others from parking next to her.

One of her defense mechanisms was to stay as far away from others as possible. Long ago she started to classify herself as a race of one. It was like she was an alien on a foreign planet, causing her to live life on the defensive.

With her head lowered, she headed into the store never looking right or left. Her number one rule was to avoid eye contact with the natives. Eye contact encouraged them to approach her. Some were friendly. They just wanted to say hi or see if she needed help.

Others were rude. Some were even threatening. She’d been pointed at, then laughed at, more times than she cared to remember. One time she’d been caught between aisles in the store. Several people pushed her from side to side. She fluttered her eyes, fighting off her anger at the remembered pain. She never left the house with bare skin anymore. If she could have worn a face mask, she would’ve done that too.

Grabbing a cart she made a straight line for the plus size department, balancing the need for new clothes with the need to be done and gone quickly. She grabbed some pieces without looking at them and moved on to the pharmaceuticals. Alcohol, peroxide, and bandages were a must when you burned as easily as she did.

The lights in the pharmaceutical department were out making it harder to see. Walking slowly she tried to find the products she needed. A return trip before her next scheduled one was out of the question. Taking out her cell phone, the new one she’d purchased online, she turned on the flashlight. The only thing stopping her from having everything delivered to her door was the thought of living and dying with no one being the wiser to her existence. She felt her breath catch in her throat as a familiar feeling began to overwhelm her. Lifting her eyes, she saw several teenage boys, all grinning, whispering, and pointing at her.

Not good, her mind screamed at her. Nothing was worse than teenage boys in a group. Don’t make eye contact she reminded herself while backing up. She never looked behind her or she would’ve seen the boys who had broken off to go down the next aisle to cut off her escape.

One of the boys walked towards her as she backed up. “Can I help you, Miss?”

 She kept moving backward. Don’t look into their eyes. Don’t give them a reason to attack. Yes, she wanted to scream. Move out of my way, but she had learned on the playground as a child, that fighting back was unrealistic when human touch burned.

“My mama says it’s impolite to ignore people when they’re talking to you.” He reached out and grabbed her arm.

The heat of his hand went through her shirt sleeve, bringing with it intense pain.

“I don’t need any help,” she stuttered. “Please let go of my arm.”

“It’s too late for that now, Miss. Next time someone talks to you, maybe you should answer.”

The sound of their laughter had her ducking, trying to protect herself. They circled her.  Taunting her. Calling her names.

How could this keep happening to her? Did someone pay them to attack her? The need to protect herself drove her thoughts away.

Their hands were everywhere, tearing at her clothes. She retreated deeper into herself. It’ll all be over soon, she comforted herself. Where was a human when you needed one? Why were these monsters allowed free reign to hurt others? She’d never understand.

They tired of kicking her and began placing their hands on the skin that was exposed by multiple tears in her shirt. Pain of a different type ripped through her.

“No. Please don’t.” She whimpered and begged before she began to scream.

Her endurance came to an end. Please kill me, her mind begged as she wavered in and out of consciousness.

In the blink of an eye, he was there. That’s how she knew she was dying. Janis managed a smile or was it a grimace. The Angel of Death came for her, and he was more beautiful than she’d been led to believe. He was tall, standing close to eight feet, with navy blue eyes. She liked that they were a blue so dark she could get lost in them. But it was his features that took her breath away. He had immense fangs with slightly pointed ears and a wide nose. He wasn’t human.

In the end, it was all her mind could process. He wouldn’t hurt her when he took her to heaven. She’d endured too much pain on earth to believe she could go anywhere besides the golden gates. She passed out at the thought of her Angel of Death carrying her in his thick arms.

Nicolas looked down at the woman lying on the floor. She was beautiful or would’ve been if she hadn’t been battered and bruised. He’d noticed her when she first walked into the store. His beast sat up and took notice also.

He’d kept an eye on her as she threw clothes into her cart. Then he’d made himself walk away. He knew humans didn’t take kindly to being stalked. He would have known her anywhere. It wasn’t the first time he’d seen her. She had been in this very store about six months ago. His mate. He lost track of her the first time. That wouldn’t happen again.

He growled again at the males who were hovering in the corner, scared to move. They’d released their bladders in fright like the infantile children they were. As he approached, his second form receded, and his humanoid form appeared.

He crouched down so he could look each one of them in their eyes.

“I’ll hunt each one of you down and kill you if I ever hear of you disrespecting another female. Is that clear?”

“Yes, sir,” each one said with a shaky voice.

He took a picture of each male and sent it off to Rena before calling her.

“Rena, it’s Nicolas. I just sent you several pictures of young males. Find out their names and addresses for me.”

He waited until she finished speaking. “Rena, they hurt a female. They tried to kill her. If they ever do it again, I promised them I’d return the favor. Thanks.” He hung up his phone and turned as an adult male came into view.

“What happened here?” He was wearing a name tag that proclaimed him the manager.

“The young males over here were kicking and brutally mauling the female on the floor. I believe she’s unconscious.”

“I’ll call an ambulance.”

“No.” His voice stopped everyone. “You need to deal with the youth. I’m a doctor. I’ll take care of her. Watch her, but don’t touch her.”

He walked away with long strides. Going to another aisle, he grabbed what he needed. He returned with a blanket in his grip. Lowering himself next to her, he spread the blanket, before picking her up carefully and laying her on it.

The boys whispered to the manager while he tucked her away like precious cargo.

“The boys say you threatened them.” The manager spoke up.

“The boys are correct. I did. They should heed my warning.” Nicolas shrugged. “Their fate is in their own hands.”

“They’re under the age of eighteen. You can’t do that.”

“They’re over the age of stupidity, and they’re responsible for their actions. I let them live because they’re growing up in a society that doesn’t always teach their young limits. I suggest they thank me for the second chance.”

“When the cops get here…”

“You’ll tell them that if not stopped, these males won’t live a long life and neither will their next victim. I’ve seen males like this before. In the end, they needed to be put down.”

Turning, he picked up the female. She was a light bundle in his arms. He breathed in deeply, while his beast screamed ‘Mate’ as he left the store with her.