“Please stop screaming!” he yelled at me. “Or I’m going to drop you!”
I clamped my mouth shut, staring at the concrete below. Fear latched on to me, and I could feel it start to make my body lock up. “Am I going to die?” I didn’t want an answer but forcing myself to say something was the only way that I could stop that terror from taking control.
“I need you to hold onto me,” he instructed me as he ignored my question.
I didn’t need telling. I was already wrapping my arms around his neck and my legs around his torso like a boa constrictor around its prey. It didn’t stop me squealing when he let go of me.
“Please, shut up!” he yelled again.
The hand that had been holding onto me swung upwards, grabbing the metal beam beside the other. Instead of trying to pull us up like I expected, he shimmied across the beam to a supporting column like it was nothing more than a climbing frame in a park. With just as much ease, he climbed down the column.
Safely on the street below, I quickly unwrapped myself from around him, stumbling to the side where I could use the railing for support. My hands were shaking, and my legs felt like Jell-O.
But I was alive.
“What were those things?” I asked, the first of a million questions on the tip of my tongue.
I stared at him with mild irritation, despite the fact my hands were clutching so tightly to the pole my knuckles were turning white. “That helps.”
“They are grunts. The lowest levels of demons from the Dark World.”
Feeling my legs wobble, I lowered myself to the ground. At that point, the cleanliness of the New York sidewalk was the least of my worries. “I think I need a drink.” And maybe a psychiatrist.
“It is not safe here.”
My head shot up and I could feel my heartbeat, which had started to slow, speed up again. “Are there more?”
“Grunts work in packs of four. If there were more, we would know about it.”
“Then why isn’t it safe?”
“If grunts are not killed in a certain way, they emit a scent. It calls other grunts.”
I blinked. A scent? “Like a pheromone? Are they wasps?”
He tilted his head, thoughtfully. “Pheromones? I suppose that is close to their behavior, if that is what a wasp does?”
I let out a shaky breath and pulled myself to my feet. Wasp demons or not, I needed to get home and… I wasn’t sure what. I would probably get laughed at if I called the police. But staying where I was? That wasn’t a good idea.
I closed my eyes and sucked in a long, deep breath. Just one to calm myself. Even through my hands were still shaky – my whole body overloaded on adrenaline – I felt a little better when I blew that breath out.
I turned to the man.
My mouth dropped open as he pulled his shirt off.
He was ripped.
Focus, Kia. His abs weren’t important.
A random guy who fought wasp demons, seemed to have unimaginable strength and fighting skills, and had saved my life, was stripping in front of me.
“While I appreciate you saving my life, I am not going to sleep with you as repayment.” I wasn’t, and in the back of my mind, I knew it was a weird thing to say as I said it. I must have been going into shock: dealing with a strange man taking his clothes of in New York seemed a much more normal thing to deal with than demons.
The man arched an eyebrow. “Your dress,” he said by way of explanation. “It is ruined.”