The Dark Divine Page 43

I gasped.

Daniel whirled around and crouched, as if ready to pounce. His eyes flashed when he saw me. He dropped his shirt and straightened up. "Grace?"

"Hi." My voice wavered.

His stomach muscles tensed. He brushed the stone pendant that lingered between his defined pecs. I couldn't help noticing the way his long, lean muscles and untamed hair made him look like a wild, powerful animal. For one small second, I wished he had pounced on me.

"What are you doing here?" Daniel didn't sound pleased.

I stood up. "I brought supplies." I pointed at the brown paper sack. He raised one eyebrow.

"Linseed oil and varnish." Why is my voice so shaky? "You keep promising to show me that technique, but you never deliver."

"You shouldn't be here." He held his hand over his pendant, pressing it against his chest. "Not after ... And your parents ... Does anyone know you're here?"

I swallowed hard. "I brought dinner, too." I pulled the lids off the containers. "I've got pork chops and rice and Mom's turkey a la king."

Daniel stepped closer. "That's nice of you, Grace." He stepped back again. "But you need to go."

"You want one or the other? Or some of each?"

Daniel opened the paper sack on the table and pulled out the bottles. I was surprised he hadn't put his shirt back on, but something fluttered inside of me because he didn't.

"Some of each then?" I scooped out the leftovers. "I thought we could eat and then get started. I've got a couple of Masonite boards in my bag."

Daniel wrapped his long fingers around the neck of the oil bottle--strangling it. I picked up the plates and backed away to the kitchenette. I put one plate on the counter and turned toward the microwave with the other. But the microwave was something from the dawn of the modern age, with dials instead of buttons. "How do you work this ... ?" I turned back toward the table, but Daniel was suddenly beside me. My eyes were level with the lean, all-too-capable muscles in his chest.

"You don't have to do this." He grasped my wrist,

I dropped the plate. It crashed between our feet. Shards of glass and grains of rice scattered across the linoleum floor.

"I'm sorry," I said. "I'll clean it up." I tried to pull out of his grip as I bent down, but he didn't let go.

He drew me up. "I can do it."

"No, it's my fault." I trembled in his grasp. "I'll clean it up." I looked around, as if searching for a broom. "And then I'll get out of your way."

Daniel released my arm. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah." I rubbed my wrist. "But it's late, and I should get home," I was being a chicken. I was failing. But at that moment I knew the truth might be more than I could handle. "We can do this another time."

"Grace, what's going on?" He placed his hands on my hips.

I looked down at the mess between our feet. "I forgot that I needed to do something."

"I know you didn't come here to paint. I can see it in your face." He paused for a second. "Is this about the kiss? Grace, did you come here for something else?" He brushed my cheek. "Because I don't think you're ready--"

"No," I practically shouted. "No, not at all. I came here because ..." But I couldn't say it. I needed to go. I needed to get out of there. I tried to pull away, but he held me tight around the hips.

"Grace?" he asked, his voice sounding hurt. "What's wrong:

"Nothing." Heat tingled up my neck. "Look at me then." I gazed up into his eyes. They were deep and soft and familiar. My brother had to be lying.

"I don't think you should be here just as much as you think you should go," he said. "But I can't send you away like this. Tell me what happened."

"Jude."

Daniel's eyes shifted downward. He moved the broken plate with his bare foot.

"I don't know what's wrong with him. He's not himself. He's making all these crazy accusations against you." I bit my lip. "He called you a monster. He said that you were using me. And he said other awful things about you. Things you did."

Daniel moved his hands away from my waist and crossed his arms in front of his naked chest.

"I refused to believe him. I didn't think you could do those things." I paused. "But he said that you were lying about the Urbat. I know it doesn't mean "Hounds of Heaven.'" I sucked in a breath. "You lied to me ... and now I don't know what to believe anymore." Daniel looked up at the ceiling. "I'm sorry, Grace. I should have stayed away from you. He told me to keep away from you and Jude, but I couldn't. I saw your name in that art class, and I had to know. I told myself that if you could look me in the eyes ... then maybe you could still love me. Maybe there was hope for me after all." A tear ran down his face. He wiped at it with his knuckles. "But I was selfish. I didn't care what it would do to you or Jude. All I wanted was your love, and now I know that's the one thing I can never have."

"Yes, you can." I touched his bare, sinewy bicep. "Just be honest with me. I can help you if I know the truth."

"You can't help me." He turned away and gripped the edge of the counter. "1 could never ask."

"You don't have to ask. I know what I'm supposed to do."

The muscles in Daniel's shoulders went rigid. "You can't possibly ..."

"I figured it out. I'm supposed to help you use your abilities to help people. I'm the one who can turn you into a ... a superhero."

"Damn it, Grace!" he roared. The counter creaked and groaned under his white-knuckled grasp.

"Who the hell do you think I am? A superhero? I'm not Peter Parker. I'm not your own damn Clark Kent. Your brother told you right--I am a monster!"

"No, you're not. I can--"

"I'm using you, Grace," he snarled. "You think I can he saved, but I can't. You don't even know what I'm capable of!" He swept the second plate off the counter. It exploded at my feet. I jumped back, my shoes crunching on broken glass. "I don't care," I yelled at him. "I don't care if you're using me. And I don't care what lies my brother tells about you. That person he's describing isn't you."

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