Search (The Empire Chronicles #2)

By: Alyssa Rose Ivy


Chapter One

Toby




She gazed down at me with a look of complete ecstasy before arching her back. I held on to her hips, letting my eyes take in every inch of her perfect body that was now completely on display for me. She moaned my name, making it even harder for me to stay in control. Casey was like a drug, and nothing was ever enough. I reached up to cup her breasts, and she moaned again. This time, it was louder, much louder. Then suddenly, there wasn’t a moan anymore; it just stopped.

I woke up with a start. Another damn dream. I’d been having them with increasing frequency, and despite the disappointment I felt when I realized I was completely alone in my bed, I didn’t mind the nighttime illusions. I was convinced that they’d become more than dreams soon enough. I lay in the darkness for a few moments until I remembered the news I’d received just hours earlier. Casey wasn’t human.

Throwing on some jeans, I knew what I had to do. I walked out onto the balcony, glad for the easy access to the night sky. I let myself transform, enjoying the sensation of heat and power that came with extending my wings. I climbed onto the railing and jumped.

The night was quiet—or as quiet as two a.m. ever is in New York City. I crossed over the Hudson before heading higher into the clouds. I couldn’t risk flying low for too long in the city. The less time I spent near populated areas the better. The wind rushed over and around my wings, adding to the experience. There’s no feeling like it.

I thought about Casey. Did she know the truth? Had she been playing me? Those possibilities didn’t make sense. Why would a royal Pteron live in a tiny apartment and serve coffee? It didn’t add up. The obvious answer was she didn’t know. That option sounded better to my ego, but it could also mean she was in even greater danger than we thought.

Even if she was in the dark about who she was, it still left too many questions. What about her sister? Surely Robert Laurent hadn’t impregnated someone other than his mate twice. There was no way Casey had made Vera up. The emotion on her face when she described her sister’s disappearance wasn’t the kind of thing you could fake.

I thought about Casey the entire flight. There was only one way I would get answers. I needed to talk to her whether she liked it or not. Eric had given me the information for a reason, and the only reason that made any sense was that he wanted me to help her. Maybe the bear understood just how much I cared about Casey.

When the sun showed the first signs of rising, I turned back to my apartment and reluctantly landed on my balcony. The only upside of the morning was that I’d get to see Casey soon. After a quick shower, I got dressed and headed toward the first stop of the day—Coffee Heaven.

***





“Can I get you the usual?” Casey’s glossy lips quirked into a friendly, yet hesitant, smile when I walked up to the counter.

I put a hand down in front of her. “No. I want something different today.”

“Oh.” She stepped back. “Like what?”

“Surprise me.” I smiled, studying her as inconspicuously as possible. I needed to get a read on her. Did she know? Did she know I knew?

She crossed her arms over her chest. Her Coffee Heaven apron partially covered her red t-shirt. “You know you’re opening yourself up to trouble by asking that.”

“Trouble? This is a coffee shop. What kind of surprise drink could you make me?”

Her expression was neutral, but something was different. Her eyes seemed wider that morning, like she was seeing everything for the first time. I knew the feeling. I’d experienced it myself too. I was sure of one thing. If Casey did know, she’d just found out. That wide eyed look didn’t last long. Soon it would be replaced by a complacency of someone who’d seen more than anyone else around them.

She turned her back to me and started making something in a blender. That wasn’t good. Blender meant cold and sweet. I was a black coffee guy. She was doing it on purpose. She was trying to pick a drink I’d hate. Maybe some would take that as an insult. I took it as a compliment. She was going through the effort to annoy me. That meant she cared.

A minute later, she placed a light brown frozen drink in front of me. “Enjoy your surprise drink. If you change your mind and want your usual, just let me know.” She smiled again. This time it was more natural.

I picked up the cold plastic cup. “I’m guessing this costs more too?”

“You really worried about the price, Toby?” She rested a hand on her hip.

I loved how she said my name. It rolled off her tongue. “No.” I pulled a partially wrinkled ten from my wallet and set it on the counter. “Keep the change.”

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