The first time I saw Vaughn he was fighting.
My friends grabbed at my arms, trying to pull me back from the fray since all they saw was a dangerous Were in a whirlwind of rage. But me? I saw a novus in pain; there was something about the way he held his shoulders and tensed his jaw that spoke of a soul acting out, using physical pain to mask the ache inside. He faced off against Gage, an alpha, who had five years on Vaughn and about forty pounds.
Vaughn didn’t seem intimidated, his bare feet sliding on the dirt-packed ground as he rounded on his opponent with his fists up to his face. I’d heard rumors about the dark-eyed, filthy, and mistrustful Were novus who’d shown up alone at our gates a few days ago. Apparently this wasn’t the first fight he’d been in since we let him into our walls.
Gage landed a punch on Vaughn’s jaw, and his head whipped to the side. I was certain Vaughn would go down—that kind of hit was a knockout nine times out of ten, but Vaughn stayed on his feet, a cut along his eyebrow dripping crimson blood into his eye. He spat a wad of red spit on the ground and slammed his fist into Gage’s ribs.
The older Were gasped as the breath left his body. His friends surrounding the fight taunted him for letting Vaughn get a hit in, and when Gage turned back around, his sneer made my blood run cold.
Dare wasn’t far away, and I knew the alpha’s son could break this up. Most of the crowd jeered, wanting to see a winner and a loser, but I wanted this to end. I spun on my heel to take off on a run for Dare and slammed right into a solid chest. I stumbled back with a cry, almost losing my footing, but fingers wrapped around my wrist, and hauled me upright. Dare’s green eyes focused on mine, his brow furrowed. “You okay?”
A cheer went up behind us. Vaughn was on the ground on his back, Gage straddling him and pummeling his head. Vaughn was still fighting, still swinging…
“Please break that up,” I begged Dare. I was asking a lot. Fights were entertainment around here, and Dare wouldn’t be popular for stopping one, but this didn’t feel like any other fight. The reckless desperation in the way Vaughn fought turned my stomach.
He studied me carefully as he considered my request, and then, thankfully, he nodded. He marched past me, cutting his way through the crowd. He hauled a snarling Gage off Vaughn, who quickly leaped to his feet and advanced again.
Dare hollered for someone to hold Vaughn, and Dare’s brother, Bay, emerged from the crowd. He clasped Vaughn around his chest, pulling him back while Vaughn shouted threats at Gage.
I stepped up next to Dal, a Were who trained with Dare and Bay. Her eyes slid to me before focusing back on the interrupted fight. “Seems you’re a distraction.”
“What?” I asked, watching the crowd disperse.
“Vaughn was close to getting Gage on the ground, then something made him look over here, at you and Dare. Gage took advantage and took him down.”
Heat bloomed in my face at her words, but I refused to believe that. “I’m sure he was looking at something else. We’ve never even met.”
“Mmm hmmm,” Dal murmured. I rolled my eyes.
Bay was making his way toward us, his arm gripping the bicep of a limping Vaughn. “Let’s get you to medical.”
“‘M fine,” Vaughn muttered in a deep voice. I hadn’t heard him talk before. His tone sent a shiver down my spine.
Dal and I separated so they could walk between us. As they passed, Vaughn wiped at his mouth with the back of his hand, streaking his skin crimson. He lifted his head and stared right at me. His dark eyes met mine. Our gazes held.
I saw everything, all of it, right there in the depths of his bottomless pupils, swirling and burning. The pain bubbling in there, mixed with beauty and desire, scared the shit out of me. I took a step back, the force of his stare nearly knocking me off of my feet.
He dropped his gaze and I inhaled sharply, my head dizzy with lack of oxygen. Then he was past me, striding into the Hive, hiding those dark eyes.
My hands were shaking, my heart slamming against my ribs like a warning drum. I knew one thing for certain, no matter how drawn I was to this newcomer, I wasn’t prepared to handle what I saw in his eyes. I didn’t think any of us were.