The Mysterious Stranger – Part 7

Tessa couldn’t feel much at first. Then, slowly, she began to gain feeling in her arms and legs. She curled her toes and felt the sensation of silk on her skin. Her hand slid and she felt the same beneath her fingertips. Then there came the directional knowledge that she was lying down on her back and whatever she lay on was rather comfortable. Much more plush than her old twin mattress back at her apartment.

Even though her eyes remained shut, Tessa began to feel dizzy and lightheaded. A dull throbbing pounded at her temples. She took a deep breath in and let it out before opening her eyes. The room around her was unfamiliar and dimly lit. A few candles burned out of sight, casting a dancing glow upon the walls and ceiling. They smelled of lavender and pine, an odd combination but none the less soothing.

Even in the dim light, she could see the walls were covered in a rich burgundy wallpaper, embellished with golden Victorian designs. She saw the tops of velvet curtains to her left and the ornate door molding to her right. From what she could determine, it was still dark outside. Although, the curtains were so thick that it would have blocked out any sunlight from entering the room anyway.

Taking a risk, she rolled her head and peered around the room. She was alone, but that didn’t comfort her in the least. The furniture, including the bed she lay upon, was decadent and antique. She would have thought these pieces better fit a museum than a modern home. She recognized the Italian influence in the craftsmanship.

Tessa then lifted her arm and realized she was no longer in her club outfit, but clad in a plush cashmere robe. Her underwear was still on, but her other clothes were no where in sight. She sat up, urgency driving her motions rather than the increasingly painful headache.

Then, the only door to the room opened and a long beam of light pierced what darkness there was left. A silhouette filled the doorway and for a moment, Tessa was terrified. When the figure stepped over the threshold and she could distinguish Christopher’s handsome features by the candlelight, she let out a breath of relief and pressed her hand to her chest to calm her racing heart.

Christopher came to her bedside instantly and placed a tender hand on her shoulder. “How are you feeling?” he asked.

Ignoring his question, she countered him with a more important one. “What happened?”

She searched his face for answers while he paused to formulate the answer. “You were attacked. From what I could determined, he drugged you and tried to…” He let her finish the sentence for herself.

Even through the pain, she could remember now. “I met that guy in the club,” she told him. “I think I remember when he spiked my drink, but I didn’t realize it at the time. He was a pretty nice guy up to that point.”

Christopher’s expression turned hard and she knew the time for sympathy and worry for her was over. “What were you thinking? You shouldn’t have let him come anywhere near your drink. Do you do that often? Let men buy you drinks to get you intoxicated? Don’t you realize how dangerous that is? Let alone the fact that you shouldn’t be drinking at all.”

Tessa would have normally rolled her eyes at his scolding, but she knew he was right. She normally didn’t let guys buy her drinks. Lance, the man who drugged her, had been the only guy who came anywhere close to convincing her to drop her guard.

“You should be thankful I followed you to the club to make sure you’d be alright,” he said.

“You followed me?” she asked, unsure of how to feeling. When Lance had told her something similar, she was furious. But when it came out of Christopher’s mouth, so harshly like a father reprimanding his young foolish daughter, Tessa indeed felt thankful and flattered.

“Yes,” he confirmed. “I had considered coming in to bring you out, but I knew that other students would be there and I would rather the school administration didn’t think I frequented clubs.”

Tessa, forgetting that she was wearing almost nothing underneath the robe and the fact that Christopher was a werewolf, threw herself into his arms and hugged him tightly. She wouldn’t let him hear her cry, but she did let a couple of tears slide down her cheek to wet the front of his shirt.

Instead of pushing her away like she suspected, Christopher enveloped her in a warm embrace. No where in the world seemed safer than right there in that moment. Tessa never wanted to leave it. “Thank you,” she whispered, knowing that he would hear her perfectly.

“How are you feeling?” he asked, all anger gone from his tone.

“My head hurts a little,” she complained, not letting her grip loosen for anything.

A few beats passed and Christopher gently pulled her back and seemed to inspect her head for a moment, as if looking for anything wrong. “You did take a nasty fall in the alley.” He then looked into her eyes. “I don’t suspect you have a concussion, but the headache could be a side effect of the drugs.”

Gazing into his eyes reminded her of something she had seen in the alley just before she passed out. “Lance, the guy who attacked me, he had golden eyes. Like a wolf. And you did too. Did you two fight?”

Christopher sighed heavily and nodded. “Yes, we did. You were not hallucinating, if that’s what you think.”

“So, is that something werewolves can do? Make their eyes go gold like that?” He nodded mutely. “Can you do it again?” she asked like an eager child.

Christopher cracked a small smile, the first she had seen from him since earlier the day before. He blinked long and when he opened his eyes, she could see the pale green color of his irises fade and morph into a sinister golden hue, just like she saw before. Tessa tried to bite back a grin, but it was no use. Apart from his healing display that night at dinner, this was the first time she caught a glimpse of his wolfish side. It was thrilling, despite all her apprehensions about his werewolf nature.

Yes, she had been scared of what he was, terrified that he would turn out to be a beast in princely disguise. But when he had come to her rescue and saw what a true beast could be, Tessa wasn’t quite as afraid anymore.

“Does it hurt when you do that?” she asked.

He shook his head. “On the contrary, it’s relieving sometimes. It gives the wolf a little more leash and there’s a cooling sensation over my eyes. It’s hard to explain.”

Tessa let her grin loose and placed her hand over one of his cheeks, letting her fingers trace just under his eye, as if to test if this was an illusion. She felt Christopher shudder a bit under her touch and she was unsure if it was from pleasure or fear. After all, he had never revealed this to anyone. Suddenly, Tessa felt honored to be his confidant.

Christopher snatched at her wrist, pulling her hand away so he could turn to look out the open door. Thinking someone might have been standing there spying on them, Tessa looked too. She saw no one.

“What’s wrong?”

“We have company,” he replied curtly.

Tessa listened, but could hear nothing. “Who?”

Christopher didn’t answer. He stood from the bed and motioned towards the footboard. “There’s a change of clothes on the bench. Your other clothes are being laundered. They may be a little large on you, but they will have to do until your other clothes can be cleaned. Stay here.”

With that, he rushed out the door and closed it firmly behind him. If he thought she was going to obey like a trained dog, he was wrong. She did, however, change into the pair of sweatpants and t-shirt that was thrown across the upholstered bench behind the foot of the bed. They were indeed, very baggy on her, but were infused with his delicious scent.

She tiptoed to the door, knowing Christopher probably had one ear listening for her disobedience. Tessa cracked open the door and slid out, making her way down the halls that she had never traversed, getting lost once or twice trying to find the stairs that led to the front door. When she did finally make it to the stairs, she dropped onto all fours and crept up to the banisters along the second floor landing, getting a perfect view of the front door.

She heard the voice of a stranger and Christopher, talking very low and seriously, coming from the dining room. Tessa, taking a risk, padded down the stairs in her bare feet, the wood flooring cold against her exposed skin. She wasn’t sure what drove her to be so curious and nosy. Perhaps she wanted to be closer to Christopher. Perhaps she wanted to find out what brought about such a focused glare from him when he realized that someone had come to visit.

Whatever it was, she immediately regretted it when she came to the dining room doors and peeked around the corner. There, stood a man, tall and formidable, at least a few inches taller and broader than Christopher. He was facing away from her, but Christopher could have easily seen her head poking around the doorframe.

Being so dangerously close, she knew that he must have spotted her. There was no doubt of it. Either for her sake, or for the sake of his guest, he didn’t draw attention to her. But that wasn’t necessary.

The man turned and looked straight at her. His dark eyes were fierce and a tiny gasp escaped her. The stranger gave her a smile that might have made anyone else feel comfortable, but it did the exact opposite for her. Tessa wanted to run to the safety of Christopher’s side, even though Christopher was smaller than this man.

“You must be Tessa,” he said amiably without threat or ulterior motive behind his tone. But her blood still ran cold.

To Be Continued…

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