“Happy sweet sixteen to me.” Raphael was sure there was a cosmic joke somewhere to be found, but was too hard-pressed to appreciate the humor in his current predicament.
Forcing himself to slow his pace, he stepped away from the fountain and reached the side of the Fairy House, now in the shadow. His heart throbbed in his throat as he cleared the corner and kept walking toward the bridged archway delimiting the neighborhood. A red bus slowed down and stopped at the curb on Tagliamento Street. At a leisurely jog, he passed the arch and reached the bus stop, then hopped on the running board as soon as the bus exit doors opened.
Passengers stepping out complained, but Raphael pushed through the crowd until he was safely ensconced in the middle of the cabin, sandwiched between the afternoon commuters. He dared one peep out of the large window and saw the Controller staring at him. The man shook his head with a pronounced grimace on his face. As the bus lurched forward, Raphael waved at the demon. “See ya.”
Then a sweet scent he had never forgotten hit his nostrils and he turned, his heart beating as fast as his wolf’s as he faced a familiar pair of green eyes. A feeling of belonging descended upon him like a warm blanket.
“Hi,” the girl of his dreams said.
Two years had passed since the night of the botched robbery, but he thought of her every day. “You’re my mate and I’m in love with you,” he hurried to say, in case she would disappear again. It had been love at first scent for him, and he had known he would never love anyone else in his life. His wolf pranced around to be acknowledged.
Her eyebrows shot up and her lips curved in an amused smile revealing dimples on her cheeks. “It’s nice to see you.”
“You’re so beautiful,” he whispered. His wolf demanded that he nuzzled her throat, and Raphael’s breath hitched at the image.
At the same time, the girl’s eyes lit and widened, casting a spell on Raphael who couldn’t see anything else but her.
“Tickets, please.” Walking among the crowd, the bus controller advanced toward them, and Raphael swore under his breath.
When he realized he had done so before the girl, he almost swore again. Polite company wasn’t something he was used to. The catacombs inhabitants had never complained about his colorful outbursts. “I didn’t mean to curse—”
She laughed then. “It’s okay.”
Shifting his weight from leg to leg, he glanced at the bus controller, then back at the girl and sighed. “I don’t have a ticket.”
“Me neither.” The girl’s smile deepened as she offered her hand to him. “Come with me.”
A sense of déjà vu possessed him as he took her hand. All his senses went in overdrive, while his wolf roared to be let out.
“Hurry—” She pulled him toward the back of the bus. The bus controller was almost on them when they reached the next stop. The girl jumped down as soon as the doors opened and he followed her to the sidewalk.