Author's Note: Welcome to Danse Macabre, a different kind of story than what I typically write. Even so, I'm very excited about this fic. x3 Thank you, Vena, as always for giving me your thoughts. Anyway, read on! Enjoy, and let me know what you think! xD
The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.
- Carl Jung
"Darius? Darius! Where're you going? You're not supposed to leave campus on a – Darius! Can you hear me?" The sound of pounding feet slapping the pavement followed the high-pitched voice.
Damn. He recognized that voice. He probably should have just left the hood of his damn car up.
Darius shifted his BMW E93 M3 back to neutral, turned around and peered over the top of his Ray-Ban Aviators. Catching sight of the panting girl at the edge of the parking lot, he smiled.
"Relax, Jen, I have permission from the Academy. Just picking up our new transfer student." He checked his Rolex. Perhaps he should have just turned onto the street instead of shifting into neutral, in the middle of the lot, to see what Jen wanted. "l'm gonna be late if I don't leave now."
Jen toyed with the ends of her red hair and pouted, "Well, maybe I should go with you? I mean, I know it's no problem at all for you to get her, but she could use some… girl talk, probably. She'd be more comfortable with a girl, don't you think? And that way you won't be bored on the way to the airport."
His mouth twitched. Jen was always trying to ingratiate herself into his posse of friends. Give her an inch and she'd take him for everything he had. Remembering Brandon's attempt to turn down her proclamation of love, Darius quelled the laugh.
Didn't want to hurt her feelings, Bran had said.
Well, Jen had ignored all the hints, presenting false naivety until he'd cracked and told her straight-up he wasn't interested.
But today's task wasn't for leisure. He checked the time again. "Sorry, kiddo, but I really have to get going. Maybe next time."
He changed to first gear, raised the hood of the convertible for privacy, and hit the accelerator, leaving Llenroc Academy in the dust. As soon as he hit the expressway, he shifted gears up to fifth and sat back to relax into the drive ahead of him.
After hitting a steady seventy-five mph, he flipped open a mini-laptop that was hidden on the top of the dashboard. He logged into Guards and Escort Services, a family-owned and operated company, using voice recognition and the wireless internet that was connected through his cell phone.
"Login, Darius Logan. Password, Caput Draconis."
"Access granted," the automated voice told him.
Glancing between the files on the laptop and the road, he found the email his grandfather had sent him earlier the day before with his new "mission" – as they liked to joke around and call it. He hadn't had the chance to listen to the automated message that came with the file since it had only arrived this morning.
"Access file AO17. Summarization." He had a ninety-minute drive ahead of him. Plenty of time to study the file and have it clear in his mind what it was he'd be doing for – he skimmed the file – the next nine months.
"Case file AO17. Name: Aislin O'Reilly. Level: Ten. Instruc—"
There was silence as the playback feature on the case file stopped.
He'd scanned the email earlier and noted down the date and time of when he was to secure his client. He had also stamped in his memory the girl's picture, but there had been no mention of the case being a level ten.
He had never handled a level ten, and was surprised his grandfather had even entrusted a level ten to his care.
After all, the highest level was ten. The highest level he had under his belt was a seven. Darius would be living out of the girl's pocket for the next nine months. Talk about one hell of a pricey girl.
Their company had different packages their clients could buy, and a package was built based on what level of security their client needed. For instance, one woman claimed her husband was abusive and bent on murdering her if she attempted to leave. Needing the protection, she'd enlisted a guard round-the-hour until she could file for divorce. That was a level ten. What the hell did a teen need with the title Level Ten?
What seventeen year-old needed an around-the-clock bodyguard? Oh God, he grimaced. As long as she didn't require him to paint her nails or play girlfriend to her girly-girl, he could work through the nine months.
He prayed she was soft-spoken, sweet, intelligent, and knew how to keep her claws out of his pants. She was easy enough on the eyes, if the photo his father had sent him had not been digitally altered. Dark hair, light eyes, smooth skin. Then again, as Bran would say, all a man needed was a willing girl and pretty scenery to look at while he did the dirty.
"Continue," he commanded.
"Instructions: To be accompanied if outside Llenroc Academy. Observe any and all strangers who come into contact with AO outside the Academy. In-depth weekly reports must be sent back to base. Her father, Aaron O'Reilly, has made above and beyond donations in ensuring her privacy and safety. Make her comfortable."
He frowned at the laptop before returning his attention to the highway signs.
Make her comfortable? That had to be a joke. Darius wasn't a caretaker. He was just a bodyguard and occasional escort to the rare social gathering. How was an eighteen year-old male supposed to make a female teenager comfortable? Hand her a Wet-One when she had her period?
"Background on AO17."
"Full name: Aislin O'Reilly. Gender: Female. Medical History: Not Accessible. Ethnicity: European. Age: Seventeen. Height: Five foot, five inches. Weight: Not Accessible—"
He snorted. How typical.
"Pause. Quit." He leaned over and flipped over the laptop to leave the dashboard of his convertible smooth once again.
That was enough. He had his instructions and a brief background on the girl. He would question her once he picked her up about what she needed guarding from.
Rolling his eyes, he figured it was probably some new fad amongst heiresses: latest Prada purse, the most wanted purebred puppy, new Cartier diamonds, and a bodyguard to match them all.
They were all rich snobs, he thought. Rich, spoiled snobs.
Glancing at the side-view mirror, Darius merged into the lane to his right, and took his exit towards Hancock International Airport.
"Aislin, you've been assigned a new bodyguard. Do not – I repeat myself – do not get close to him. It's distasteful to see you so..." Her father waved his hands in the air with a look of disgust. "...so dramatic over a human."
Sitting in silence, Aislin could only stare at the framed pendant behind her father. The Queen's Pendant. Returning her gaze to her father, she readied herself for his lecture… and made sure her expression was as blank as his heart.
"Do not become attached to humans. In our world, there is no time for attachments or emotions. Sentimentality is for fools and only serves to make you weak." Rising from his leather chair, Aislin's father picked up his briefcase and pulled out what looked like her transportation documents. "In order to rule in this world, you have to be cold. Guard your mind, heart, and body."
Crushing the desire to argue with him, she cursed herself instead. After all, she should have known better than to let her father catch wind of her desire to visit Uncle Doyle's grave in the human world. Then again, it was hard to keep her father from finding out what she was up to when every Seelie on the estate was an extension of his eyes and ears.
Her father, Eamon, the shadow prince of the Seelie Sidhe, would expect nothing less. There was no such thing as comfort and warmth in their home nor in the Faerie realm, she thought with a touch of bitterness, especially for a prince who had to keep up appearances. When you were a prince, there was simply no time for your dead wife's brother. Even more so since Uncle Doyle had been human.
Not yet a year buried in Earth, and she was probably the only living relative to visit him. And to have to sneak her way over to the human realm, just because her father feared she'd be attacked there with no protection? Pah.
Her life might be in danger while among the Seelie Sidhe. After all, what Seelie wanted a half-human, half-Sidhe girl in line for the throne? As her father continued to remind her, she had to carve her path towards the throne and bind her destiny to it in order to keep it.
But, to think that of all the people who wanted her out for good, it might be…
"—listening to me, Aislin? Aislin." His lips thinned with displeasure as he regarded Aislin.
"Yes, father, I'm listening."
"This is the bottom line. You are not expendable. Humans are."
Humans, humans, humans. When the Homo sapiens species was pitted against that of the Sidhe, humans – Humans – were always expendable. Every human Aislin had ever gotten close to had been expendable and promptly replaced when destroyed. Though Father did not hate humans, he certainly didn't care for them.
"Like Mother, you mean?" Aislin's angry retort came out before she could stop herself. Wincing, her gaze skittered to the cream and gold marble floor. Mother was always a touchy subject for her father, and she couldn't help poking at his weak spot. She certainly could never leash her temper long enough when her father kept reminding her about what and who was expendable.
The silence that pervaded the room after Aislin's thoughtless quip grew. She glanced up to see her father sliding a drawer out from his wooden desk.
Had she pissed him off too much this time?
"Pack your things. You leave in an hour."
"Father! Be reasona—"
He slammed the drawer shut.
"One hour, Aislin."
She closed her mouth.
Figures. As soon as she mouthed off, he'd send her packing. Literally.
He picked up his gloves from his desk and after sliding his hands into them, he passed her the papers he had pulled out earlier. Even hand-to-hand contact was denied to her, she thought when his gloved fingertips brushed against her palms.
"Stay safe, Aislin," he said, pulled open the door by its iron handle, and left the room. That was most likely going to be the last comment she'd hear from her father for the rest of the year. It was fall, and she was being shipped off to start at a new academy with a new bodyguard.
A new bodyguard. Summer was over and autumn was here — and with it, the new school year. She was leaving the Seelie mounds and Uncle Doyle was dead. Of course she would need a new bodyguard.
Stunned, she couldn't quite muster up the energy in her legs to stand.
"Don't forget to glamour yourself and your Insignia," came the cold command that brooked no dispute.
She wanted to hurl her documents across the room.
As Aislin opened the door, she wished that her father had opened the portal to the human world to a place a bit more hygienic than a bathroom stall.
Yes, please, dump me into the closest toilet. At least he'd dropped her off in a woman's bathroom. How embarrassing would it have been if she'd ended up in front of a urinal?
Coming up sharp at her reflection in the mirror, Aislin peeped around the bathroom, looking left and right. Thank the Goddess, no one was here. She'd been tossed out of the portal and onto human territory once she'd gathered her things together. That gave her little time to mask herself.
She caught her image in the mirror again.
Aislin shrugged out of her jacket. Although she couldn't see her back clearly in the mirror, she knew what was there.
Inked delicately down the center of her back was the symbol of the Spear, a triangular arrowed tip that started right at the base of her neck and the pole made of Celtic knots going down the length of her back.
She squinted over her shoulder toward the mirror.
She knew others would die to have it – the power of it. Staring at her back, she almost wished she'd been born different. Elemental, Spiritual? Either would have given her less of a headache than the Talisman.
How oh-so exciting, to carry the Spear on her back.
It wasn't quite clear – but it was clearer than it had been a few months before when she cared to study it. In other words, her power was increasing, if she only knew how to center it.
No matter. Glamouring, at least, was second nature for the Sidhe. And Aislin's expertise in glamour was second to none in her House. Glancing back at the mirror, her back revealed nothing but pale, smooth skin unmarred by her Insignia. Focusing on her eyes, she dimmed the green glow so they looked perfectly human – although perhaps a bit of her vanity allowed them to sparkle just a bit – and the luminescence of her skin.
Glancing at the tops of her ears, she couldn't hold back a grin.
"Ought to have made them into points," she whispered to herself. It was a personal joke amongst most of the Seelie Sidhe to point their ears when they left the faerie realm. Their ears were, after all, quite rounded at the tops. Who knew what person first began to associate the Sidhe with pointed ears? Probably one of the Fae, she mused.
Taking hold of the two large suitcases that had been brought through with her, she wheeled them behind her.
All right! To baggage claim, and off to meet her new bodyguard, Darius Logan.
As she made her way down the terminal, she wondered who Darius Logan was. He couldn't be too conspicuous, she expected. It also wouldn't do to get close to him, if her history with humans was any indication.
Uncle Doyle had guarded her during the past winter, and of course that hadn't gone well. She paused in mid-stride, suppressing the emotions she knew could erupt. If only they had made it through until the end of spring, Uncle Doyle would have been safe. Once her sophomore year in high school ended, she would have been shipped back home.
Uncle Doyle could have been safe again, once she was gone from his life. If only….
She walked by a mother and child, and tears slipped down her cheeks.
It didn't matter. No human could see them anyway. Not through the glamour.
Stop. Stop it. There was no point in crying over something that couldn't be changed.
Shaking her head, she tried to rid herself of such depressing thoughts. She'd be content with the new bodyguard. Maybe she'd even become friends with him, and help keep him safe. Irony.
Her lips twisted in a wry smile.
Darius Logan. She wondered what his role was at the academy. Could he be one of the professors at the academy, or maybe a janitor? Oh, perhaps it was the dean himself? It was most certainly a human. It would never do to employ one of the Seelie to accompany her for the school year in the human realm. No full-blooded faerie that had come into his powers could last that amount of time without returning to the faerie mounds. Then again, a faerie who hadn't come into his powers could last in the human world much longer, but no Sidhe in his or her right state of mind would send a mere child. So, if it was human—oomph!
An arm collided into her midsection as she was hurrying by, catching her and startling her.
On the other end of it was a pretty young man. She looked above their heads and realized she had just reached her baggage carousel.
"Oh… Darius?" Flushed, she extricated herself from his arms.
There was a pause before, "Yes, Aislin?" His smile glittered.
"Oh, well, that was a lot easier than I thought it would be." She smiled at Darius.
He took one of her suitcases before extending his hand.
What a gentleman. A couple of her previous guards had never been so thoughtful.
"As you probably know, I'm Aislin O'Reilly. It's a pleasure to meet you."
"Darius. Just Darius, Aislin. I hope you enjoy it here, and please come with me."
How polite, Aislin thought pleasantly and followed him out the exit.
Darius checked his watch, searched for flight 503 on the Arrival screen and made his way towards baggage claim to meet Aislin at her carousel. It had just landed, and as he scanned the passengers that were around, he noticed a slim girl with jet-black hair. She held his attention long enough for him to see her shaking hands with the man and passing her luggage to him. Then, she tucked her hair behind her ear.
The flash of her side profile left him one hundred percent sure that the girl was Aislin.
Making his way toward her, he picked up his pace and kept fifty feet behind them, studying the man on her right. Intuition and a gut feel had him assessing the man who looked like he had popped out of Cornell University. Hair slicked back from a high forehead, eyes just on the side of being too small, a muscled figure under a polo with Cornell's crest on the back, and jeans. Estimated height at five foot, eleven inches and weighing in at around 180 pounds.
The adversary could not have come in with Aislin, or why hand the suitcase to him now? Why shake hands with him?
The man leading Aislin by the elbow towards the short-term parking garage looked over his shoulder, his eyes edgy as they scanned the crowd behind him before bestowing the girl beside him with a charming smile. The fool's eyes had slid right past Darius.
As far as he knew, Darius was the only one meeting her at the airport. Interesting, was his only thought, as he realized that his introduction to the little princess would be far more dramatic than he would have preferred.
Darius assumed Papa O'Reilly hadn't sent that one looking for his daughter.
Who was he, and what was his agenda? Why was the girl stupid enough to walk away with a stranger?
But, most of all, was the fool ready for the chase that Darius was planning? Years of honed experience, accumulated from the day Grandfather introduced him to GES, meshed into a plan that formed as he stalked his client and his newfound prey.
He shadowed their footsteps.
Author's Note: Okay, you have the first chapter. So, comments, critiques, or any thought of yours is and will be appreciated! Be on the lookout for chapter two coming out soooon~