A face is the only thing that is uniquely yours. Millions of others will have the same interests, body shape, and desires. You'll eventually lose yourself in the current of sameness, the acceptance of your plainness. But no two faces are ever the same, not even that of identical twins. There's always something different, always something special about each and every one of us.
When everything has been taken from you, one comes to appreciate the beauty of having something that no one else has, no matter its imperfections. But even then my vision of imperfection could be the definition of your beauty. No one is ever truly ugly, not when there is always someone somewhere to bask in the glow of a person's flaws.
I am one of those people, the ones who thrive in imperfection. But I could only find that blissful peace when gazing into the flaws of one man. A man who was currently fucking the brains out of a writhing woman that most certainly wasn't me.
No, she was one of those girls. One of the whores who busted their asses to gain the attention of a famous man who would forget her when the alcohol finished its steady burn through his system. A groupie, I believe they're called now.
But as I watched him, the one man that gave me peace, pound into the woman all I saw was imperfection. Red lips so swollen they had to have been plumped by Botox, limp bleached hair that was dark at the roots, and breasts so large and shiny they looked plastic. When I looked at that woman all that I saw was a whore.
As her moans grew louder my disgust reached its peak. I knew he liked to sleep around, and I couldn't blame him for it. His band had hit number one on the Top 100 last year and their first lengthy tour was almost over. He had a reason to celebrate.
But his taste in woman wasn't usually so…superficial. He didn't normally look for Barbies with smiles as fake as their breasts and brains so small that all they could contain were sex positions. The woman under him was as Barbie as any could get and I was highly disappointed in my little drummer boy.
I had been watching him since I was sixteen for reasons unknown. My visions never explained themselves, they just happened. But I knew they were there for a reason. I was supposed to find this man, this whorish drummer, and befriend him. I caught that much from a rather vivid vision of us laughing at my kitchen table in matching bunny pajama bottoms. But why I was supposed to help someone like him was beyond me.
For one, he was a shifter, one of many breeds that were created to kill the very abominations I was hunting. But I didn't need his alliance seeing as I had I had a pack of werewolves that already protected me with their lives. They weren't forthcoming to strangers and bringing in a man reeking of stale sex and alcohol would put him at the top of their shit list.
Second, he was a man, the very gender I avoided at all costs unless they were in my pack or a convenient distraction. My distaste of all creatures with a dick stemmed from my rather unpleasant incident with the vampire that kept me as his pet for seven years. The only reason I tolerated the testosterone filled wolves that lived in my house was because they were the ones that saved me from that living hell.
So the nonexistent relationship between my drummer and I was looking quite bleak; a possibility that was growing ever dimmer as he finished with the Barbie and rolled over to slur sweet words in her ear. They were lies, but sweet ones.
I drank in his tousled dirty blonde hair and intoxicated blue eyes, a dangerous combination of features that fooled many into thinking he was innocent. The crooked smile broke all pretenses of that particular illusion, however, for they produced a devilish pair of dimples on each tanned cheek.
I despised those dimples; they made it so much harder for me to hate him. And I did hate him, in a way. He complicated my already hectic life and dominated once peaceful dreams. The visions pushed us together and it was getting harder and harder to resist the pull. Soon enough I would have to confront this man, this stranger. This despicable manwhore that refused to leave my consciousness.
I sighed and turned my back on the cuddling couple, unwilling to cause myself further corneal scarring, and willed myself out of the vision. It took hard work and a considerable amount of concentration before I returned to my body, slowly blinking my eyes open.
The first thing I noticed was the sky: cloudless and pure blue with the occasional flash of a bird streaking through the promising heavens. If it could speak it would tell of rebirth and the hope of a better day. It was too bad that I had long ago learned to stop hoping. Hope only brought disappointment and pain.
The second oddity was the excited murmuring of a large group of people. My pack was large, but it definitely didn't hold enough people to account for the thousands of voices echoing around me.
There was a sharp jab to my side and I glanced to my right to find an irritated young woman standing there. Her blonde hair was soaked with sweat, doubtlessly from the sweltering heat that choked my lungs, and she was scantily clothed in a green bikini top and denim shorts.
Blue eyes raked over me with disdain and she sighed with exasperation before handing me a bright pink bottle of water. I took it and drank greedily, reveling in the cool trickle down my dry throat. She mumbled something along the lines of "stupid Americans" in Spanish and waited for me to find my bearings.
"Thank you," I gasped and let her help me to my feet. She nodded tersely and took her water back before walking away and disappearing into the crowd.
I ignored her rude dismissal and took in my surroundings. Old white buildings lined a crowded cobblestone street, completely packed with people of every color and size. There wasn't much else I could see, being relatively shorter than the men surrounding me, but I could see a massive pole standing tall in the center of the masses.
A young woman was trying desperately to climb to the peak of the grease-slickened menace where a small pig lay pierced at the top, obviously dead. I fought the urge to gag at the sight but managed to suppress it when she slid down and landed in a heap at the base, pouting as she wiped the grease from her arms.
I watched countless others try and fail, trying desperately to remember how and why I happened to be here before a burly man that appeared to be in his mid-twenties took on the challenge. Even from a distance I could tell that he was attractive with curly brown hair that fell into his green eyes but there was something unnervingly familiar about him…
The crowd erupted into applause, screaming one name: "Travis!" He winked and blew a kiss towards a group of particularly enthusiastic females before gripping the pole in his strong hands. It took watching him flex his impressive muscles all the way to the top of the slick pole to remember exactly who he was and where I was.
He was Travis Hastings, Beta of the pack of wolves I was assigned to track. But right now that crucial piece of information seemed insignificant in the face of the revelation of exactly what ground I stood on.
I was standing in Buñol, Spain on the last day of August, the same day of the annual Tomatina festival. The festival where thousands threw tomatoes at each other like madmen until one sane person finally remembered to turn on the hose. And, thanks to Travis, it was all about to begin.
I glared up at him as the starting hose blasted, showering the crowd in a light spray of water. Well, almost the entire crowd. The droplets landed on my skin but rolled off like water to oil, collecting in a puddle at my cowboy boot-clad feet. I smirked at my reflection, pleased to see that at least some of my abilities still functioned.
The revving of trucks shook me from my distraction and my gaze snapped to the pole to find that Travis had already slid down it and was walking in the opposite direction I was standing. Wonderful. Just peachy.
I sighed and started to shove my way through the crowd, keeping my gaze locked on the back of Travis's curly head in order to avoid the malicious glares I was getting from the people that happened to be in my way. Snippets of stranger's futures that evaded my shield flashed through my mind from the contact but I gritted my teeth and focused on Travis while the fruits started flying.
It started like a food fight in a high school cafeteria: with one idiot. Then it turned into two, then four, then sixteen, and then it morphed into an all out war with every man for themselves. Apologies were saved for later and built up aggression was released.
To say that I dodged a few tomatoes would be an understatement and to say that I didn't throw any of the mushy fruit back at the offending asshole would be a lie. But I didn't enjoy the festivities like everyone else. No, they just pissed me off and deterred me from my task.
Travis got caught up in a few juvenile throwing matches and once a group of girls tackled him to the ground but he always managed to disentangle himself right before I could get to him. But only after he glanced over his shoulder for the fifth time did I realize that he knew that I was following him.
I smirked when he tried to jog through the thinning crowd. I was making him nervous, as he should be. No one wanted to mess with a pissed off fae. But unfortunately for him, he couldn't outrun this one.
With the thick of the crowd out in the center plaza and only a few hagglers left I broke out in a sprint, my worn boots silent on the ground in well practiced stealth. Travis's body began to contort into his beast but it was too late: I was already on him.
I grabbed the back of his stained wife beater and spun, using the momentum to propel him into the wall of the nearest building. He growled, furious green eyes landing on me. Instead of attacking like I expected he only watched, the anger slowly draining from his face.
He straightened, eyeing me with suspicion now. "What do you want from me, fairy?"
I smirked at the wariness in his voice. "Not all fae are fairies, you know."
"Stop avoiding the question and answer me truthfully and directly. I have no time for fae word games."
I pretended to pout as I walked closer, noting the clench in his jaw. When I was within touching distance I stopped. The last thing I needed was for him to try to grab me without having proper reaction time. When he didn't move I sighed. "I need to speak with Landon."
Travis instantly stiffened. "What business do you have with him?"
I shrugged and backed up until I was leaning against the opposite wall of the alley. I hooked my thumbs through my belt loops and regarded him seriously. "My Alpha requests his audience."
Travis's eyes narrowed. "You lie. Fae have no Alpha."
I rolled my eyes. "It's more of a nickname for a close friend." I murmured absently. Reid wasn't actually my Alpha; it was more that I viewed him that way. He cared for and sheltered me and I aided him in return.
Travis watched me suspiciously but didn't retort. There wasn't anything for him to say, he knew I was truthful.
His gaze traveled down to my hands and his eyebrows rose. "Why are you wearing gloves?" His voice no longer held suspicion, just simple curiosity.
I flexed my fingers in the cloth coverings and shrugged nonchalantly. "I'd rather not see more than I have to."
He frowned at me and inhaled. Confusion clouded his face again. It would be a cute look on him, if I ever thought men were cute. "What are you? I haven't smelled anything like you before."
I stiffened and met his gaze with my hard one. "That's none of your business." He flinched at my icy tone but I thought nothing of it. This was just who I was; a cold, heartless bitch who didn't have an ounce of feeling left in her.
I glanced towards the fighting people, all blissfully unaware of the turmoil that they would soon face. Gods I wished I was like them.
"May I see him now?" I asked slowly, careful to hide the layers of emotion out of my voice and silently praying that he would grant my request without any questions.
He appraised me for a moment longer, green eyes as cautious as they were curious, but he relented a stiff nod. "I'll require a blood oath first."
I sighed and pulled my pocket knife out of my boot before extending it to him. "Pick your poison." I said bitterly, gesturing to the multitude of fresh cuts covering my inner arms.
His eyes widened and he caught my gloved hand before I could move away. I tensed with a startled hiss but he didn't allow me to jerk out of his grasp. He traced over a puckered wound without touching, muttering in a foreign language under his breath. "Why didn't they heal?"
"Some fae aren't lucky enough to have self inflicted wounds disappear at whim." I evaded smoothly. There was no way in hell that I was going to tell him that I had lost almost all of my fae abilities when I hadn't even told my own Alpha. And besides, it was irrelevant to the topic at hand.
"Any day now would be nice."
His lips thinned and the look he gave me told me that he didn't believe a word I just said but he released me before returning the knife to my hand. "Forget it. More than enough of your blood has been spilled. I'll make do with your word."
I forced my face into a mask of blank indifference but inside I was shocked. Why would he care about the blood I spilled? Me, an insignificant stranger who could quite easily murder both himself and his whole pack. He was placing a hell of a lot of trust in a person who could turn around and stab him in the back.
I shook my head slowly, completely blown away by his strange kindness. No one ever trusted me, not truly. Even Reid, my closest friend, didn't tell me everything about pack activities. But here was Travis, throwing such a sacred expectation around like it was as common as air.
Understanding that he would expect some trust in return, I extended my gloved hand to him with a small smile. "In this land I go by the title Lena and I am under the care of Alpha Reid Montgomery. Surely you recognize the name?"
Travis smirked and nodded, slowly starting down the alley with me in tow after firmly grasping my palm. "Who wouldn't recognize the name of one of the most powerful werewolf leaders ever to have lived?"
It was still strange for me to think of Reid like that. Like the powerful tyrant he was in the first centuries of his life. But it was who he was, not who he is today. Or that's what he always told me.
"What use would he have for a fae?" Travis asked no one in particular.
It seemed like he was speaking more to himself than to me but I decided to provide him with an answer. "Fae tend to trust only the eldest of the other races. With age comes wisdom and predictability. They use their previous knowledge of you against you in order to make sure that your allegiance to them is true." I could feel Travis looking at me but kept my gaze fixed firmly ahead.
He shook his head and sighed. "You know that not a word you said is relevant to my question, right?"
I smirked and glanced into his green eyes. "But it is. Reid is old, and therefore he is trusted by many different species of fae. When he came into contact with one of my race he knew he had to obtain one and here I am." I gestured to myself with a soft sigh. Reid had gotten what he'd been looking for, but I was too fucked to be of much use to him.
It was in my moment of distraction when Travis did the unthinkable: he touched me. His heavy hand dropped on my bare shoulder, sending a never ending reel of possibilities into my brain.
One was of a small blonde girl and a wedding ring. Another of what he would have for breakfast sometime next week. Yet another of him shifting into his beast, though what species was unclear, in front of a scattering of human witnesses. And the fragments continued, never stopping until I shoved up my mental shield, blocking most from my brain.
I leapt away from him, my chest heaving from the exertion and head pounding from the onslaught of information. I massaged my temples with shaking fingers and shuddered when I felt Travis move closer.
"Don't touch me." I growled, hunching my shoulders when his fingers brushed my throat.
"I'd rather not see more than I have to." He repeated softly and I saw the moment it dawned on him in his catlike eyes. "So you're the Seer everyone's been talking about."
I frowned and turned to watch him suspiciously. "What do you mean everyone?" I demanded coolly, hands fisted on my hips and fury bubbling behind my lips. Whoever had spread the rumors was going to pay. With blood.
Travis just shrugged and continued walking; glancing back at me to make sure I followed. I grumbled about being treated like some household bitch and was rewarded with his deep chuckle. "From what I hear, you're about as far from a domesticated dog you can get."
I glared at the back of his head. "I wouldn't taunt me, if I were you." I murmured, my voice dangerously calm.
Travis shuddered and glanced back at me with a small smile. "Not taunting, sweets, simply stating the facts."
"Enlighten me then. What are the facts?"
He paused and pondered my question for a long moment. "You're a Seer, somewhere in her mid-twenties. Captured by a vampire at age sixteen and kept as a pet until a powerful werewolf Lord rescued you a few years ago." I stiffened at the accuracy of his blunt statement. Not all of it was true, like Reid being a Lord, what a crock of crap, but most of it was frighteningly precise.
"I had no idea I was such a celebrity." I muttered.
Travis shot me an apologetic glance over his shoulder. "Not a celebrity, a victim kept under wraps. Apparently, your rescuer tried to keep you as secluded as possible."
I snorted. Well wasn't that the truth.
Reid did try to keep me on pack grounds for as long as possible but I just couldn't stand all the testosterone. Female werewolves were rare and there were only two on the entire thousand acres of land. I tolerated them as long as I could before leaving to find my feet. I always came back but sometimes it took months.
But how these people knew the painful details of my life was beyond me. I was always careful on my excursions away from the pack. Someone from the pack must have told them, a fact that I dreaded thinking of. But it was the only reasonable explanation unless...
"Is there some supernatural tabloid or paparazzi that I'm unaware of?"
I tried to knock the pack possibility off the list but Travis just laughed and held the door open to an extravagant five-star hotel, bowing as I passed by. "Tabloid? No, everything travels by word of mouth. They don't want to be responsible for the unavoidable exposure of immortals. But the paparazzi are, unfortunately, a damning part of everyday life."
I followed him across a soft red carpet with gold embroidery to a, you guessed it, gold elevator where we waited for the mechanical box to make its way down to us. "How can there be a paparazzi but no tabloid? Don't the two come as a package deal?"
"Not exactly. They just take pictures and sell them to liable supes on street corners. The pictures themselves aren't revealing but the information that they tell to buyers is."
I stalked into the elevator and ignored the people who stared. I was far too used to it to be bothered. "So my life story is being sold at street corners? Lovely." I muttered sarcastically but Travis just laughed and shook his head.
"Don't flatter yourself, honey. You aren't important enough that they would go against Reid's orders."
So Reid had tried to do some damage control after letting one of his pack members slip the paps my information on a café napkin, then. Well that didn't mean anything. He and I were going to have a serious talk when I got home.
The elevator stopped and we stepped out onto the thirteenth floor with a soft ding signaling our arrival. I glanced up at Travis with a quirked eyebrow. "The thirteenth floor? Really Travis?"
He shrugged and continued down a hallway covered in the same red carpet and gold paint that was in the lobby. "What can I say? I'm a rebel."
I found myself doing something that I hadn't done in years: smiling. Just a small twitch of the lips but it felt…nice. Completely exhilarating.
"You coming Lena?" I blinked and realized that I was standing in the middle of the hallway staring off into space like an idiot. I shook myself and jogged to catch up with him. He eyed me for a minute and his lips curled up in amusement.
"What?" I asked, defensively crossing my arms over my chest.
He shook his head and pulled a room key out of his pocket. "You do realize that I have a charity concert in about a half hour, right?"
I frowned and shook my head. "No, but what does that have to do with anything?" He was in a band?
"If you want to meet Landon before midnight you have to go and I don't happen to have any spare dresses lying around."
"Why can't I just meet him here now?" No Alpha would ever be in a band. Right? But judging by the incredulous look Travis was sending me, I was wrong.
"Landon is the drummer for the band I play in. Reid must have told you that before he sent you."
I shook my head and walked into the room numbly, lost in thought.
Landon couldn't possibly be my drummer boy could he? I mean it just wasn't possible. There was no way I would ever befriend an Alpha shifter, they were even more dominant than werewolves, depending on the species. It couldn't be…
"Earth to Lena!" Travis called as he dropped the practically forgotten pig onto the table nestled into the corner of the room I didn't bother inspecting.
"What's the name of your band?" I asked, my voice strong despite the inner turmoil I was in.
Travis frowned and took a step closer. "I didn't do anything, did I—?"
"Answer the question, Travis!" I shouted, my anger cracking the numb shield I had built around my heart so long ago. I could feel the fire burn beneath my palms, an all too familiar warning of my unruly temper.
"Alright alright, Jesus! Does the name Blacklisted ring any bells?" He shouted right back but concern clouded his eyes when I fell back onto his messy bed with a loud sigh.
My drummer boy was in Blacklisted. "Fuck me," I whispered.