Next she moved to the undergarment racks and picked out panties and socks. Some T-shirts, tunics, and a sweater went into the cart. After a bit of dithering she decided to get Aspen the cute little camouflage-patterned jacket made of waterproof nylon and synthetic fleece. If her new friend was out in the woods and needed to hide her presence, it would be easier that way. It was also too big and long enough to come to the middle of the girl’s thighs. A thought made her glance back in the cart at the other clothing she’d picked out.
Lots of bright, cheerful colors and vibrant prints.
She chewed her lip for a moment before taking half the bright colors and replacing them with more somber choices in green and brown.
With Aspen’s shopping done, she moved to the men’s section. Rowan would be a little harder to shop for. She settled on a few pairs of jeans and some thermal pants for the cold months ahead. She added some button-up flannel shirts and a package of green and brown T-shirts. Her cart looked like a hunter’s wish list. She grinned to herself as she placed a men’s camouflage jacket in the cart. It was very similar to Aspen’s jacket but with a thinner lining. Hopefully it would be warm enough for the winter months.
She stopped and squeezed a plastic-wrapped package of men’s flannel pajamas bottoms. From what little Aspen had told her Wren was under the impression she and Rowan had been kicked out of their homes with nothing but the clothes they were wearing at the time.
Wren had been raised to share what she had. It seemed normal for her to pick up some clothing for her guests since they were in need, but would they see it that way? She didn’t want to seem as if she was bribing them. It would be nice to have friends, though, she thought wistfully. Despite the reason they were in her home, she was enjoying the company. Of course, that might change if Rowan turned out to be a complete dick.
She dropped the pj’s into the cart with a sad sigh. It made her a little sad that her appearance disgusted him so much. She thought he was very handsome and sexy. Why it surprised her that the attraction wasn’t reciprocated, she didn’t know. Stupid girl with stupid hopes, she decided with a bitter smile.
The back of her neck prickled. A covert look around assured her no one seemed to her paying her any attention. With a mental shrug, she returned to her shopping. A quick glance at the men’s underwear made her blush. Nope, Rowan could get his own or go commando.
Finished with clothing, she steered her cart to the shoe department.
Once there, she was a little apprehensive. She’d forgotten to check shoes sizes. Deciding she could come back later, she picked out a two pack of stretchy slippers for Aspen and some slipper socks for Rowan. It wasn’t perfect, but at least they would have something to wear around the house for however long they stayed.
Her neck prickled again. She looked around and locked eyes with a man wearing the store uniform of khaki pants and hunter green polo. He was older, but it was hard to say just how much older. Thick silver hair, cut short but still long enough to show the beginning of waves, and a short square beard gave the impression of age. Maybe in his early fifties? But his perfect golden skin seemed to contradict her assessment, with only a few lines and creases. Lean muscles were clearly defined under his tight shirt. His snuggly belted pants showcased narrow hips and long legs. He was tall, well over six feet. He sure as hell wasn’t built like an old man.
He gave her a wicked grin and winked slowly. Her heart fluttered in reaction. Feeling herself blush furiously, she looked away, staring at the damned slipper socks in her hands.
When she managed to peek at him again, he was standing right in front of her. With a little gasp she went back to looking at the socks. She shook her head a little to make sure her hair was in her face.
“Finding everything okay?” the man asked with a light German accent.
She nodded, taking another peek. The name tag clipped to his collar said Vilhelm
. She could see a hint of curling silver chest hair under his unbuttoned collar.
“That’s good,” he all but purred. “Your husband should like these. They are very soft and warm.” One long finger stroked over the socks in her hands.
“I’m not married,” she blurted out and promptly blushed again. Why the hell had she told him that?
“Ahh,” he said, stepping closer. “A boyfriend perhaps?”
She shook her head, risking another glance up. Warm and, if she wasn’t mistaken, interested, black eyes caught and held her gaze.
“Well, I hope they aren’t for you,” he said when she didn’t speak. He brushed the hair from her face. “You are much too pretty to be wearing men’s socks.” His eyes twinkled, inviting her to join the teasing.
Pretty? Her? Yeah, right. That snapped her out of her trance. “I have to go,” she mumbled, dropping the socks in the cart. She pushed away before he could say anything else. No one had ever called her pretty before. She savored it, even knowing he was just flattering her with a lie.
WITH A FAINT smile Vil watched the pretty young thing practically running away from him So sweet, so shy. So very young. He brought the fingers that had brushed her cheek to his nose and took a long sniff. The faint scent of pears went to his head. The faint smile widened into a wicked smirk of pure delight. He flicked his tongue out to taste her. Delicious.
Her flavor burst over his tongue, ripe and sweet with innocence. She looked like a frost maiden, but what was one doing this far south? It was a safe bet his brother didn’t know anything about her. That surly bastard was possessive as fuck of his toys and didn’t let them leave the confines of the North.
Nick had created them several millennia ago to combat the loneliness of living in such an isolated region. Few humans knew anything about them. When folklore and belief began to twist Nick and Vil into different shapes and change the way they interacted with the world, Nick had retreated, taking his frost fey with him.
He snorted at the thought of what humans would think if they knew the real “Santa Claus” was a snarky, sarcastic bastard with a taste for whipping his lovers until they came. Somehow, he didn’t think they would be quite so willing to nearly worship him if they knew.
Vil had gone with him for a while but, being the more curious of the brothers, he had spent more time with the humans. When the lore of the Krampus began to wane, he’d fallen into a deep sleep for a few centuries. Not that he really minded being a demonic figure said to punish wicked children. Fear was a wonderful motivation for good behavior, in his opinion.
If she was living in the area, she couldn’t be a pure blood. It was far too warm in this region for a frost maiden to survive year-round. Even in the dead of winter the Pacific Northwest stayed above freezing most of the time. The summers could be brutal with heat and humidity.
Thoughtfully he finger-tapped a pattern on his thigh. From her reaction to his flirting, she was not only shy but had very little self-esteem, which was sad because she was exquisite. Snowflake-kissed skin and, even rarer, winter eyes. If she’d been among her people, every male in the area would be courting her. Too bad for them, he thought with another smirk, she’s mine
. He casually pursued his prey, careful to stay out of sight. Every so often he brought the fingers that had brushed her skin to his mouth for another taste of pear.
Maybe he was wrong. She had the skin and eyes, but nothing else about her seemed to match what he knew of the frost fey. Her hair was too dark, for one, but if she was a half-breed, that could explain it. He did love a mystery.
Too bad he had to stay in the store and couldn’t follow her home. With a quick thought and a touch of magic, he attached a magical tag to her. It would allow him to find her at a later date by following the scent of his magic. It wasn’t a solution he liked, but since he had accepted his work schedule, it was a type of promise, and he didn’t go back on his word.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t promise to catch and bed his little maiden. There were too many variables that could cause him to be forsworn. If it wasn’t for her ability to choose, he could in fact make the promise to himself, and the magic would force a situation where the promise could be fulfilled.
With a sigh of disappointment after she left, he returned to his department, which was delightfully close to the toy section. It gave him a wonderful view of the children in the store. So many to meddle with. The children in this century were horribly spoiled little creatures. Their sense of entitlement was so great he couldn’t decide if he should use his power to punish the children or their idiotic parents for raising such ill-mannered little beasts.
He grinned as a child threw a fit across the aisle, kicking and screaming at his mother when she denied him the toy he wanted. It seemed the Krampus was desperately needed in this century. Now if he could just tease his brother, Nick, out of his grouchy, asshole mood, life would be good. Hmmm, but he’d wait on contacting Nick until he had a chance to catch his pretty little frost sprite.
Vil licked his lips in anticipation.