Without hesitation, I ran to the puppy, dodging a few angry cars. Drivers blared their horns and shouted obscenities, but all I could think of was pushing the girl out of the way when she came running from the sidewalk. But she never came. The puppy looked up at me, his wide, innocent eyes questioning my presence. He wagged its tail expectantly, and I stooped down to take him to safety. If his owner wasn’t running into the street, I could at least save the puppy before disaster struck. But the puppy didn’t seem to need rescuing. He spit the ball into my outstretched hand and trotted off to the sidewalk by himself.
The sound of an accelerating motor raged in my ears, and the oncoming shine of headlights suddenly blinded my vision. And it all clicked. I was the girl in Khit’s vision. Kneeled there, I could easily be mistaken to be the height of a little girl.
My feet wouldn’t move. Even with the sight of the crazy motorcyclist headed straight for me, it was like the wits had been stolen from my head and been replaced with fluff and feathers.
And then I felt a great push, and my head collided with the pavement, jolting me out of my reverie. Something warm and heavy was on top of me. The sound of a revving engine faded into the distance.
“What the hell were you thinking?” The heat coming from the body above me matched his angry words. “I thought I told you to stay put.”
Khit lifted himself off me before gently helping me up. But although his actions were gentle, a wild storm was raging in his eyes.
The crowd that had been waiting outside the restaurant had since migrated to surround me.
“Oh my God,” someone cried. “Are you all right?”
“She’s fine,” Khit bit out, pushing through the crowd with me in tow. His grip on my arm was growing a bit painful, and his hands twitched, as though he might just haul me up at any second.
“Are you sure she doesn’t need an ambulance or something?” another person asked.
“I said, she’s fine,” Khit repeated, his surliness rising to a roar. He continued down the street, away from the crowd. I had to run to keep up with him. When we’d reached a tiny alleyway, he pulled me in for privacy.
“Why in the world would you dart into the middle of the street?” The wildness of his eyes might have scared me more, had I not known he was only angry with me because he’d been scared for my safety.
“I heard a little girl,” I tried to explain. “She threw the ball into the street, and I thought she might dart after it.”
“So you darted after it instead.”
“No, I wanted to save her. It was pure instinct.”
“An instinct that could have gotten you killed!”
He threw his hands up in an exasperated gesture, but after a few seconds, his erratic breathing slowed, and his eyes no longer looked half-crazed. Instead, a pained look came across him, just before he threw his arms around me, drawing me close. “I shouldn’t be blaming you. It was my fault. I should have recognized you in my vision.”
“No, you shouldn’t have. You said the girl was blurry.”
“But I should have known it was you on instinct.”
“Oh, stop it.” I smacked him lightly across the shoulder. “It’s not like anything happened in the end. You saved me.”
He didn’t say anything for a long moment, only held onto me as though I had saved his life instead of the other way around. “Two attempts on your life in one day is two times too many.”
“That is kind of a weird twist of fate, isn’t it?” I replied automatically. He pulled me away from him, his expression stony. My eyes grew round and astonished. “You don’t think it’s a coincidence.”
My cell phone chose that moment to ring, jerking me back to the fact that we’d left my family hanging for a long time. It was Mom, calling to make sure we hadn’t left them.
“We’re coming,” I told her. “Sorry it’s taking so long. There’s…traffic.” Then I hung up and faced Khit again. “Whatever you do, don’t tell my family what happened.”
He shook his head. “Of course not. The last thing I want your parents to know is that their future son-in-law is some fox creature who occasionally has visions. That would not be a good impression to leave them.”
We hurried along to the car before my parents could call again. Both of us remained silent as we finally reached the car and drove back to the restaurant, lost in our thoughts, but sharing the same thought subject. Who could possibly be trying to kill me? I knew Khit believed Rina was the prime suspect, but I couldn’t think that of her. She was quirky, true, but she just didn’t send off any bad vibes. And she’d saved me from becoming sea lion fodder.
An abrupt movement from Khit had me lurching forward and the car screeching to a halt. My heart almost flew out of my mouth. Three attempts on my life, and this time, my own fiancé was the culprit.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, when I’d gained the leverage to speak again. But he wasn’t looking at me. His gaze was directed towards the crowd that was still gathered outside the popular restaurant, where I’d almost been hit by the motorcycle.
“I saw her again.”
He pointed an agitated finger out the window. “There. Don’t you see her?”
“Again I ask, who?”
“Rina.” He said the name as though I were no smarter than a pigeon.
I squinted, trying to pick the girl in the crowd, but I had no better luck than I had ten years ago with my Where’s Waldo? books.
“Damn, she just went inside. You really didn’t see her?”
I shrugged helplessly. “I’m sorry if I don’t have super fox vision like you. And how do you know it was her anyway. You’ve never met.”
“I saw her that day when you ate lunch together, remember?” He was still staring out the window, probably waiting for Rina to reemerge. When a minute passed, and she still didn’t, he sighed and started driving again. “Anyway, this is proof that she’s up to something.”
Khit rolled his eyes, turning his head to send me a quick get it together glare. “She’s following you. She’s been in both places where you were almost killed. She saved you the first time, so you wouldn’t suspect her. And then she tried to kill you for real the second time around.”
I frowned. He had a point about Rina appearing wherever I went. But if Rina was targeting me, what was her reason behind it? By now, I was fairly certain she was a shi’an, but the shi’an lived to protect humans from yaojing. If anything, her duty would be to separate Khit and me, not to kill me. Unless the shi’an believed I was better off dead than to be linked with a yaojing.
The rules of the supernatural world were getting more complicated by the second.
My family left early the next morning, leaving me to attend the last lecture before my big physiology midterm. After class, I decided to study at home, rather than at the library. The reason for this was Rina. She had suggested that we study together the rest of the day, so I told her I preferred to study at home alone. As her face fell in disappointment, I felt a tingling of guilt, but until I was certain she wasn’t trying to kill me, it was safer to keep a distance as much as possible. Khit hadn’t even wanted me to go to class, but I had insisted, knowing the professor would highlight the major points likely to be tested.
As I walked to the bus to go home, my phone rang.
“Don’t even think of taking the bus,” Khit said, before I could even say hello. He told me to wait for him, and in less than a minute, he appeared.
“I shudder to think how bad you’ll get with any daughters we may have, Mr. Overprotective,” I grinned.
“Well, better safe than dead, Miss Accident-Prone,” he rejoined.