-Chapter 4-

A small smile crept across his face as he set aside another painting, the second to last of his visions for the past week. From experience, he knew that he would sleep undisturbed for another month before he was plagued again. He could also feel that his savior was closer than he had ever been, and his visions agreed with his thought. His shadows swept around him, petting him, comforting him, and encouraging him. For so long, he had thought he would never be free of the prison that was his room, not that his jail keeper was cruel. Far from it, she was so concerned about him, and caring, that he was sure she was an angel.

She didn't even know she was his jail keeper. He was damaged. Blind at birth, he remembered that he had once relied upon his younger brother for almost everything, until the sickness took away even his consciousness. Then, one day, he had awoken here, alone and scared until the mysterious shadows had introduced themselves to him. His caretaker had also explained to him that he had been seriously wounded. His shadows told him that she had patched him up and that, for the two weeks when he was unconscious, his caretaker had helped to heal his body through human practices. She didn't know it, but the shadows had kept her from seeking out a doctor, for which he was grateful.

His shadows had told him that he was in a house, a safe place from those who had harmed him in the first place, and they kept him from being frightened when his caretaker had first come to him to change the bandages on his eyes. She had chatted, acting as if she knew him. Had she seen what he was? She had to have seen his wings, because he knew she had changed his clothes at least once for him.

No, his shadows had soothed him, keeping him from panic, and probably from doing something worse, like leaving the safe house and becoming vulnerable to his enemies. The shadows had hidden his wings. Everyday, his caretaker came to see him. The shadows urged him to remain in his prison, for, until his savior could free him, he would be in greater danger should he leave without that protection. He listened to the shadows. He knew not from where they came, but he knew that they had his survival in mind. He just prayed that they were indeed on his side.

His shadows guided him to put another canvas up, his last. The shadows promised to bring him more canvas and more paint. Without his shadows, he wouldn't be able to paint in the first place, or at least he didn't think he could. He told them the colors he wanted, black with red for hair for one of the people in his vision. Fire-gold for the red angel who had begun to rule his dreams. A stab of dried blood and darkness for a crime that the painter was helpless to prevent and could only record. His shadows watched from the door, swirling around him to guide his color choices and his strokes as once more he put the brush to the canvas. Screams of the helpless victim tore through his mind, through his arm, and onto the canvas, where red consequently bled.

---

Blean took one look around at the empty white apartment he had just rented and came to the conclusion that his suitcase looked rather lonely in the middle of the large space. Unlike Chicago, though, he was in a town he had always considered as his home, and, after the full and decorated rooms of his friends' home, the emptiness and plainness of the place he was hoping to eventually call home was more pronounced. The space was wonderful, with two bedrooms, a large spacious living room, an open kitchen, and a large bathroom, which boasted a large tub and shower.

The landlord of the small apartment complex called Corman Apartments, Fred Corman, waited nervously at the door, noticing Blean's disappointment in the empty space. Mr. Powler was paying him seven hundred dollars a month to live here, far more than his other tenants were paying him. "Mr. Powler?" Though Fred was a fairly large man who worked out at the gym every day, he was glad his customer was paying for privacy because as the red-haired man turned to focus his strange eyes on him, he felt like he was looking at something far more dangerous than he could imagine. "Feel free to decorate the space for your comfort. Paint, put up pictures, re-carpet, whatever you wish." After all, the strange man was paying more than enough to cover undoing any changes. As Blean nodded, Fred smiled. "Well, I'm on the first floor, should you run into any problems. My phone number is on the phone and either my wife Lula or I will be happy to help you out." After Blean nodded his thanks, the man fled.

"You didn't have to frighten the poor man," Sin's voice called from the kitchen, where he had been exploring the safety of the stove and microwave. After reassuring himself that his friend wouldn't die from a gas leak and that the microwave wouldn't blow up in his face. Of course, he had shamelessly eavesdropped on the landlord's conversation. "I don't think he could have left faster than he did." He joined his friend, and motioned to Blean to take off his jacket so that he could check his wound, which Kelly had re-bandaged just that morning. Though Blean healed quickly, two days weren't enough to heal it all the way.

"He'll leave me alone. And my shoulder's fine, mother." Blean grinned, and then grunted as Sin punched his other shoulder. "You didn't have to follow me, anyways."

"Kelly would have killed me if I hadn't made sure you didn't have a problem with the apartment." Satisfied with the way the wound was healing, Sin fixed the bandage and smiled at his friend, not mentioning that he had been more scared than he had in a long time when he had seen Blean unconscious and bleeding on his front lawn. The red angel was more of a brother than Sin had ever had. He cleared his throat. "She still wants you to stay at our place." He handed Blean a cup of tea from a thermos Kelly had prepared for them. "I would also prefer you to stay with us. It would be safer."

"It's safer for me to be far away from you both, in case the vampires have followed me. Besides, it wasn't hard to find an apartment. The Coven pays me enough that any owner with an objection stops arguing fairly quickly." He had a large fat bank account that usually sat still in the bank. Sin had free reign to investing it so Blean probably had more than he knew.

"Yeah, well, Kelly worries about you." Sin looked around the space, knowing that Blean hadn't brought much of anything with him. "She's going to flip when she hears about this."

"I'm going shopping today," Blean protested. "It'll give me an opportunity to look around at the same time for new people. Don't tell Kelly about my apartment for a few days."

Sin raised his brow. "Sounds like you plan on staying." A smile began to spread across his face.

Blean shrugged, slipping his wallet into his pants pocket. He had paid Mr. Corman in cash, enjoying the way the man's eyes seemed to pop. "I need to establish a home base somewhere and Blithe is as good as any place. At least I'd have a place to stay without bothering you and Kelly." He gave Sin a knowing look. "You both have yet to leave the honeymoon mode."

A light blush peppered the Dark Angel's cheeks. "At least I have a love life. What about you, Powler? I've never seen you with a girl." He smirked. "Kelly's ready to find you someone. Especially because you're back in town."

"Oh no," Blean groaned. "She'll try to set me up with Belle."

Sin chuckled, setting the thermos on a windowsill. "I don't know if she'll have you after all the times you've rejected her." The view looked out on one of Blithe's many small ponds near the city's only park. "Not a bad view here."

"It won't be a bad apartment, either, once I'm through with it." Blean mentally began painting the walls a warm yellow. "I forbid you to allow Kelly to visit until I'm done decorating."

"Maybe Belle could help you." Blean winced as Sin teased him. Even though Belle had blatantly shown her interest in the red-haired angel, and in fact, was one of few humans who knew what Dark Angels were, Blean saw her only as the annoying younger sister of his family group, much to Kelly's disappointment.

"I'll do it alone, and I need to start now." He wanted to leave before Sin found something else to tease him about. Ever since marrying Kelly, the Dark Angel had become insufferable. Blean didn't begrudge Sin his happiness. Sin had been through enough in his lifetime that he had earned that happiness. However, Blean was just an observer of that happiness, despite how Kelly and Sin tried to include him in their happy family.

Sin's voice stopping him at the door. "Kelly says that we have a newcomer in town as of three months ago."

Slowly, Blean turned to glare at him. "And you didn't tell this to me on Thursday? Why?"

"She's female, for one, and you were too busy bleeding all over my floor. I decided saving your life came first." Sin smirked. "You're looking for a male stranger, not a female."

"Yeah, but she could have brought a male with her," Blean hissed. "Tell me about her." He was suddenly all business, all senses alert, and his red-gold eyes had turned stone cold.

His demeanor had no effect on Sin. "Where? On your floor?" Sin looked pointedly at the lack of furnishing in the apartment.

"Tell me tonight, then. I deserve a day off anyways," Blean grumbled, relaxing. He lifted his arm just in time to catch a small black object. "A phone?"

"Yeah, welcome to modern day, caveman. It's a cell phone, so call when you're in trouble. It has a tracker in it so that if you can't talk long, at least I know where you are." Sin turned and grabbed Blean into a great hug. "Though you're the only red angel I know, you're still a part of the Coven, and of my family, no matter what that Messenger of a Messenger of a whatever, that stranger says. That will never change, and families and Coven members look out for each other." Sin began to move out the door, swallowing the sudden lump in his throat, then stopped for just a moment. "Welcome home, Blean."

Blean also had trouble swallowing, as he watched Sinlon walk down the hallway to the elevator, and then disappear from sight. He was home, and, had some work to do.

---

So much had changed in the past six years, Blean thought, looking around and noticing every difference. He noticed that Blithe had grown quite large in the time he had been gone, with new neighborhoods, new houses, and downtown had really become the business and shopping center of the town he still called home. Observing the curious looks sent his way, he pushed his dark sunglasses higher on the bridge of his aristocratic nose to protect his sensitive red eyes from the bright sunlight. Fortunately, his skin wasn't as sensitive, so he was able to blend in more with the crowd in a green t-shirt and blue jeans that rode low on lean hips; his wings were tight against his back and created no bulge in the tight shirt, thanks to his Creator's wish to keep him inconspicuous. He adjusted the black fedora over his hair so the red strands wouldn't stand out. However, he hadn't taken into account that strangers were still noticed in Blithe, even though the town had grown in size, and when a stranger as handsome as him moved to town, not only the females noticed.

His eyes eagerly took in the new changes and he imagined living here for the next few years, and seeing Blithe grow even more, and found himself looking forward to the occasion; that is, if his boss would let him. He looked towards the Heavens and said a little prayer. He would love to be near his only family, and watch the Soulani twins grow up and see whether they turned out to be Dark Angel or human. He would love to see Belle marry and settle down with some poor soul who couldn't escape her.

Six years ago, he had walked these streets happy and carefree. With time changing, and so many horrible events behind him, his emotions had changed, and his way of looking at things were no longer the same. There were too many things he had seen that kept him from being carefree. He had seen deaths and escaped death, or, he mused with a wry smile, rather he had been rejected by death. He had flirted with it and given it. Happiness was fleeting, especially the farther he was from home. When experiencing it, he didn't fully enjoy it; the memories of those who no longer experienced life clamoring for his attention distracted him from fully enjoying anything.

He turned down another street. The walk from his apartment to Main Street took him about half an hour, plenty of time to think about the vampire situation and his story-seer. Why did the vampires want the story-seer anyways? If the story-seer was anything like his older brother Kunan had been, he would only see things occasionally, and most likely those things wouldn't be beneficial to the vampires, unless they forced him, and the vampires were not above forcing anyone. They were emotionless beings that only lived to kill.

Where would the story-seer be hiding, if he was smart enough to be hiding at all? Could it be that the story-seer didn't even know the danger he was in? But no, if he was a story-seer, he would have been told he was in danger by his visions, and would hopefully stay put. But if that were true, wouldn't the man know to seek out Blean? Blean walked faster, his thoughts whirling in his head. He was so confused. Where was the man and how long would it take for it to be too late to find him?

---

"You're fired! Get the hell out of my shop, Melody! I don't want to see you back in here!" Screaming stopped several of the sidewalk traffic as a young dark-haired with red highlights was chased out of a candy shop by the owner. "You've lost me too many customers from your hot-tempered ways. And forget getting a reference; I wouldn't want to curse any business with you!" He threw her purse out, and she barely caught it before he slammed the candy shop door and flipped the open sign off.

There was silence before the witnesses began to move again, murmuring amongst themselves about the incident, and leaving Melody alone on the sidewalk, staring at the door of her second job. It wasn't her fault that Wilma's grandson didn't deserve the special chocolate after having beat up on the Amy's scrawny bookworm daughter. Not believing that the grandson needed a reward, she had refused to serve Wilma, who had ended up calling for Daniel, her boss. It hadn't been the first time Melody had refused to serve a customer who she decided did not deserve the sweet reward they were purchasing, and other times, she would reward out of her own paycheck, those deeds she saw as good, that were not otherwise being rewarded, which also angered Daniel. She had known that Daniel wouldn't stand for her actions very long, judging by the way his mouth always tightened to an almost invisible line whenever he looked at her.

Sighing, and knowing that she would need to find another job to offset her first job, Melody brushed off her crimson shirt and black pants and shouldered the black purse that held her cell and wallet, and began to walk towards her first job, hoping to get in early and ask for extra hours. The walk would take twenty minutes, and even though she had expected Daniel to fire her after Wilma's complaint, she was still shaken that it had actually happened. She needed that money. The bill collectors were at the door. The electricity had been turned off, and she needed to come up with money fast.

Her black heels clicked loudly on the pavement as she hurried towards Mama's Italian, a rather popular Italian restaurant where she waitressed full-time. She dug around in her purse to call Mama, the owner, and explain that she was going to be early, and was enthusiastically relaying what had happened at Daniel's when she suddenly rammed into a rock wall. "Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow," she cried, bouncing back and clutching her nose, which, though still whole, was the first thing to connect. The rock wall sprouted rock arms and caught her before she stumbled and fell on her butt on the pavement.

"Easy there." She clung to his arms as his warm voice enveloped her, causing her whole body to warm and her tanned cheeks to blush. He radiated heat, even as he helped her settle back on her feet. Gradually, she lifted her eyes from the black tennis shoes he wore, up the blue jeans that left nothing to imagination, causing her to blush even more, over a well-formed chest, to a sharply sculptured face, shadowed by a concerned frown, and eyes hidden by dark sunglasses. She guessed that his hair was a shade of red, judging by the light red of his eyebrows, but his head was covered by a black fedora.

It took her a while to gain her breath enough to apologize for knocking into him, but he had already beaten her to it. "I'm sorry; I wasn't watching where I was going." A wry grin lit his face. "Too busy taking in the sights, I guess."

"No, I'm sorry, it was my fault." She rubbed her nose, wrinkling it, and trying to figure out how sore it was, and how long it would take for it to stop hurting. "I'm not even really hurt."

"Mmhm," he hummed, hidden eyes focused on her face, causing her to wrinkle her nose again as she straightened her purse. "How's the nose?"

"It's fine." She touched her nose again, just to be sure, and then shot him a smile, flashing straight white teeth. "Are you new in town?"

"Recently new, as of Thursday, but I used to live here six years ago. I've just decided to move back to town, because my family's here. I missed Blithe, but I hadn't realized just how much it had grown." He moved out of the way as someone walked by, unconsciously inserting his body between the stranger's and hers. "Are you sure you're okay?"

"It's not the first time I've bumped into someone, although it's the first I walk into a brick wall," she muttered under her breath, but he heard and began to laugh. It was somewhat stifled, as though he was holding himself back and was used to it, but still it encouraged her to chuckle as well. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to compare you to a-"

"Brick wall?" He finished. "That's okay. My brother seems to think I am sometimes, at least as smart as one."

"Oh really?" She laughed. "That's not very nice. Brick walls can be very smart. After all, they protect against the elements and give some manor of security and privacy, sometimes. It's a lot of work to provide all those things. I think he was paying you a compliment."

This time his laughter was fuller, and his own smile softened the lines in his face and she lost her breath seeing the transformation. This man needs to smile more. The thought flitted through her mind, causing her to blush again. Some noise came from the cell she still had clutched in her left hand. "Oh, oh, sorry, Mama. I just ran into someone, quite literally. I forgot I had you on the phone…yes, yes, I'll be there soon. I'm sorry, Mama. No, I'm sure he has better things to do…I'm not answering that. No, I'll talk to you later. Bye!" The boisterous female voice was still talking as Melody hung up. "I'm sorry, sir. I have to go. I hope you enjoy you're stay here in Blithe. Sorry for running into you; it really was my fault."

He grabbed her arm, effectively halting her. "What is your name?"

She shook her head. "I'm sorry. I've got to go." Her hazel eyes darted around, suddenly afraid for some unknown reason. He wasn't just a friendly man, she suspected, but someone who was used to getting what they wanted. Sure, he was a handsome man, but she was not going to get involved. She hadn't been involved with someone ever since her last boyfriend's mysterious death, and wasn't planning on changing that. "Please let go."

Something in her voice must have betrayed her fear, because he released her very quickly, though she could still feel the heat of his touch on her skin as if it were still there. "I'm sorry. Like I mentioned; I'm new in town, and other than my family, I don't know anyone. I guess I'm just grasping at anyone I make contact with, even quite literally." He bowed to her, an old-world gesture that caught her off guard and left her feeling awkward.

She didn't say anything more to him, not even looking back as she scurried off, tucking her cell phone back into her purse, refusing to be distracted any more if it caused collisions with strange men. It was to her relief that she saw Mama's just ahead.