One of the key dynamics in the Demon Trappers series is an event between Riley and Beck that occurred two years before the first book. This is that interaction (I call it the “Riley kicked to the curb” scene) and it sets up their tumultuous relationship. It explains why Riley detests him so much and why Beck really had no other choice.
Denver Beck didn’t expect to find a fifteen-year-old girl on his apartment doorstep, but there she was. Riley Blackthorne’s deep brown eyes peered up at him with nervous anticipation as she clutched a paper bag close to her chest.
What’s she doin’ here?
“Yeah, girl,” he said. “What’s up? Is Paul okay?”
“He’s fine. I just wanted…” Riley clutched the bag tighter. “This is a nice place,” she said abruptly.
“No, it’s a dump,” he replied, “but it’s all I can afford right now.” Which was why his apartment faced the interstate and had a tendency to flood when it rained heavily. Once he’d saved up enough money, he’d buy his own place if he could find one cheap enough.
More fidgeting. “Dad told me how awesome you were last night when you caught that Three.”
Yeah, awesome. He was sliced in more places than he could count and felt like shit.
But singing his praises wasn’t the reason why Riley was at his door at eight in the morning. Did Paul know she was here? Probably not as he was usually in bed at this hour, which is exactly where Beck wanted to be after a full night’s trapping.
“If that’s all, I need some sleep.” he said and began to shut the door.
“No! I was just, well…” Riley was more agitated now, as if all her careful plans were going up in flames. “I was thinking of going to a movie this Friday and, ah, it’s about these guys who fight off aliens and, ah, I thought maybe we could go…to… together.”
“I don’t wanna go to a movie. I’ve got trappin’ to do.”
Her face fell, then she seemed to rally. “Maybe we could go to the coffee shop and you could tell me some trapping stories.”
When he shook his head, Riley took a deep breath and with the rustle of paper she pulled something out of the bag. It was gift wrapped with a pretty bow, proving she’d taken a lot of time with it. She shoved it out in front of her, her hands shaking and her cheeks flushed.
“This is for you, sort of a late birthday present,” she said. “It’s a book about a boy whose mother is a human and his father is a Greek God in Olympus. So that makes him a demigod. He gets into all sorts of trouble with crazy mythical creatures who try to kill him. It’s a great story.”
She’s tryin’ to give me a damned book.
There was no way he could tell this girl he couldn’t read. Only Paul knew that secret.
When he didn’t take the gift, Riley began to fidget again. “I babysat some extra hours,” she explained. “I bought it because you remind me of the guy in the story, because he’s full of awesome.”
Beck exhausted brain finally processed exactly what was happening here. Why hadn’t he seen it sooner? Riley was in a newer pair of jeans that seemed tighter than usual and her hair had been curled. She was wearing makeup, not much, but you could tell it was there. The top she wore was a bit too tight.
My God, she’s comin’ on to me.
Now what should he do? Take the present and hope that’d be the end of it? Pray that she never asked if he’d read the story? No, that wouldn’t work. She would track him to the ends of the earth to see if he’d liked it. The problem wasn’t the gift; the problem was Riley wanted way more than he could give her.
If he turned her down she’d take that as a challenge. She wouldn’t believe him if he told her that her father would rip his heart out if he came anywhere near her. Not with that look in her eye.
The only way was to make this short and brutal so she’d stay away from him, before he began to think this might actually work.
“Beck?” she asked, offering the gift again. “I’m sure you’ll like it.”
“I don’t read kiddy books,” he said, his gut knotting at what he was about to do. “What are ya doin’ here, girl? Don’t ya know it’s not right to come visit some older dude on yer own?”
Riley reeled back as if he’d slapped her. “You’re not just some guy, Beck.”
“Yeah, I am. I’ll be twenty-one next year and yer…what…twelve?” he asked, deliberately lowering her age.
Her eyes flashed and then narrowed. “I’m fifteen and I don’t care how old you are. I thought we could hang together and—”
“And then what? Date? Yer crazy. I don’t have time to waste on some skinny kid. Run on home, now. I got better things to do.”
“But—” she began, her lower lip quivering. “I don’t understand.”
Lord, is she stubborn. “If ya thought we were goin’ hook up, then yer just plumb crazy. Yer not my kind of woman.” He took a menacing step forward. “Now get out of here and leave me be. If ya come back, I’ll tell Paul what yer up to.”
Riley’s jaw dropped open. A second later the book hit the ground and she took off up the street. After a short distance, she staggered to a halt and shot him a horrified look, tears flooding down her face. When she started walking again she had her cell phone out, probably calling one of her friends to tell them just how much of an uncaring bastard he was.
“Sweet Jesus, why did ya make me do that, girl?” Beck murmured. His heart ached to see her like that. She was such a nice kid and someday, she’d be a really fine woman.
He’d have been happy to take her to a movie when she was older and he was a journeyman trapper. Maybe Paul would say it’d be okay. But not now. Not with everything riding on the line. If he made one mistake, his only chance to better himself would be history. If he went too far with Paul’s daughter–same result.
Right before he closed the door he scooped up the present. Another guy might have thrown it in the trash, but instead he hid it in his closet, out of sight, touched she’d thought of giving him a present. Maybe someday he would be able to read it, though he doubted Riley would ever want to talk to him again.
The next stop was the refrigerator and a beer. Make that two.
When he and Paul went trapping tonight he’d have to tell his teacher exactly what had happened.
I hope the hell he understands.
© 2012 Jana Oliver