This is my first fiction story, so I guess the phrase "here we go" is proper?
A quick note: there will be a change between third person to first person. Only the prologue is in third person, and I did this so there would be a less biased perspective for introducing some characters and concepts vaguely. In this chapter there will be more questions raised than actually answered, and trust me, everything will be explained. You just have to read the rest of the story to find everything out. (:
Also, this story is currently lacking a beta, so excuse the mistakes. I'm in the process of finding one.
Read and review please!
FULL SUMMARY: Everything is not as it seems. Who knew there was another universe out there? And that dragons, werewolves, sorcerers, and various shape-shifters all existed? I certainly missed the memo. Stranger than I've ever dreamed it to be, the world of Vitarius is based on the caste system by kingdoms that branch into smaller more defined species such as mentioned werewolves and various other mythical creatures. Funny thing about all this, I end up being permanently bonded to a mysterious albeit reluctant dragon lord. In exchange for his protection and power, the contract we sealed in blood demands I give him something of equal worth in return. Only problem is, that thing may be too precious to truly give away.
RATING: For language, violence, and sexual content.
"Thou ought to be nice, even to superstition, in keeping thy promises, and therefore equally cautious in making them." ~ Thomas Fuller
A small body clad in a powder blue nightie skipped down a long white hallway. Pictures of near and distant family members that lined the windowless walls whizzed by, a mere blur to the child who only had one thing on their mind that evening.
Nine o'clock was always when the bedtime rituals came to a close with Charles Gallagher reading to his more than enthusiastic audience, comprised solely of his eight year old granddaughter, Jena Gallagher.
Refreshingly innocent and curious, the girl was nothing like his son, her father, at Jena's age. Benn had been more interested in demolition and chaos than listening to his old man narrate seemingly insignificant tales. That was pleasingly not so with his grandchild. Jena showed intense fascination with the strange world he spoke of. Often times she'd recite the stories word for word. Charles would always watch with a warm smile, encouraging her with a proud twinkle in his eye.
"Why is the dragon a good guy in this one?" She had asked one night not so long ago.
Smiling knowingly, he answered, "Just because our world sees them as princess stealers doesn't mean other places and people do. Not everyone shares our beliefs, Jena-bear."
That had made her think. Two days later the child came back to him proclaiming that if he was nice, Jena would he more than happy to be friends with the dragon and the knight. Ironic thing was the knight was actually the antagonist – only proving that Earth's nonsense biased ways were still poisoning the minds of the young. He supposed it was progress nonetheless though.
Tonight, after tucking Jena safely under the covers of her double bed, Charles settled himself at her side. Once they were both comfortable, he continued on with the epic adventures of strange creatures roaming the eastern plains of a different world in search of rich treasures whose meaning eluded the young girl. Soon he came to the battle scene, paused, and considered the prudence of explaining bloodshed to an eight year old.
Curious forest green eyes watched him, silently begging for the next part.
"Why did you stop grandpa?" Jena continued to probe his face for an answer, despite not receiving a verbal one right away.
Charles rubbed his balding temples, tuffs of wispy white hair still prevalent on the sides and back of his head. For a man of sixty, he did not look it. The only obvious hint to his older age was the extremely receded hairline. Sporting laugh lines and a few wrinkles here and there on his brow and around his eyes, the man looked more like a fifty year old with a leaner body just starting to show signs of hunched shoulders and lost muscle mass.
This all went unregistered to an impatient Jena who continued to badger him for an answer for another minute. What seemed like pure luck saved the man from going on as Rosemary, his wife of forty years in five days, came bustling into small bedroom.
"Charles, someone is here to see you."
Flicking his blue eyes up to his wife, Charles immediately knew by the tone of voice used who his particular visitor was. The time they chose to call on him should have given it away. However, Rosemary and he had found a way to communicate around the matters they wished to keep from Jena. She was now their child, she was in their care and they would do their upmost to shield her from any potential danger.
"Right. I'll finish this tale another time. G'night Jena-bear."
Leaning over he kissed her head of black curls before winking at her. "Don't give Grandma too hard a time; she doesn't understand the art of storytell–"
"Oh, you old bag of bones," chided Rosemary, swatting playfully at her husband as he scuffled by.
Jena smirked, watching the exchange with amusement, albeit she didn't entirely understand the camouflaged things she was missing.
Rosemary pursed her lips, still a vibrant ruby red from meticulous lipstick application, and turned soft green eyes onto the little girl patiently waiting for her goodnight kiss and hug. Running pale withered hands over her long plum skirt, she fixed her clothing before reaching over and sharing the usual words of departure for the evening.
"Grandma, why can't I meet the person here?" She asked out of the blue when Rosemary was about to shut off the lights and cast the pale leaf colored room into darkness.
Raising both gray eyebrows she gazed down at Jena in surprise. The child was naturally inquisitive but it would seem the appetite for knowledge grew by the day. Everywhere she turned Jena was asking more and more questions, though not all of them were welcomed. Like the current one.
"No dear. It's late, your bedtime and Grandpa has business to take care of with him."
Cocking her head, "What kind of business?"
"The important kind that doesn't involve nosy little girls staying up late."
With that statement all questions were blocked. Lights were turned off and the sound of her bedroom door closing officially ended further inquiries. She burrowed deep into her featherbed, quickly falling asleep – off to the dream world where all children escaped to at night.
Little did she know that twenty minutes later someone came in to check on her, though it was neither of her grandparents. The figure hovered for a short period of time, watching the small rise and fall of Jena's side; eyes glowed in the darkness, before closing the door once more and she was none the wiser.
Chapter 1: Crossroads
(12 years later)
A monotonous but easily ignorable drone buzzed in the background of the small café I was currently seated in. Acquaintances, friends, couples, and families were all munching away at their lunch while trying to outdo the group next to them in what I thought was a vain attempt to be heard. Try as they might, there would always be someone that could speak louder and continue the vicious cycle.
This little screaming war was not present at my small two seat round table. I believe it would have something to do with the fact that I was currently alone. Katelyn Anderson, my best friend since freshmen year in college (which was last year, coincidently), was still getting her order.
God! I felt sorry for the poor boy trying to please my very particular friend. Katelyn always ended up ordering the first thing she said, but would change it at least four more times before returning to the original order. If it wasn't for that fact that she did it with such honest cluelessness I would have thought Katelyn did it on purpose.
Or maybe she did....
Several minutes later saw Katelyn sitting across from me with a fruit salad, sandwich, and large sized iced coffee with a name I didn't even bother to try and pronounce. Coffee was coffee, right?
"So, what are you doing today? I was thinking we could hit the beach, since neither of us is working this Friday. It would be a great way to kick off the weekend!" Her cheery high pitched voice seemed to have no problem with carrying over the power struggle for volume around us.
Shrugging, I took a sip of my own iced – mocha? – coffee before saying, "I have Government with Mr. Kent at one... and if I'm not mistaken, you do too."
Honestly, I was hoping to dodge the bullet of going to the beach. Hanging out with friends outside was fun and all, but sunburns still hurt like hell when you forget to put on sunscreen. Besides that, I had the insecurity of every other woman when it came to her body in a revealing piece of cloth.
I was not vain. Heidi Klum was not even close to sharing the same league as me, though I didn't mind the fact that my hair wasn't blonde. As far as height and physical features like eye and hair color went, I was satisfied. So what if I was only 5'6''. That was close to standard sized anyway.
It was the weight that concerned me….
Katelyn frowned, dirty blonde eyebrows furrowing with displeasure. "What about after?"
"You want to go to the beach at three in the afternoon?"
Okay. That was a lame excuse and even I knew it.
Nodding her head slowly, like I was the clueless one, she said, "Yes. Lots of people go later in the day. If memory serves, didn't you tell me it was healthier for the skin or something?"
"Yeah. The sun is no longer at its zenith; you won't burn as much..." I paused to take another taste of my nearly finished drink, "what about Jake?"
"What about him?"
It was my turn to pucker my brow. "Didn't you say you two were going on another date?"
"I haven't had any real quality time with you in a while, Jena. He'd understand that I want to hang out with some of my friends for once. Besides, he has to work tonight anyway."
Ah. So there was the reason. I was taking a close second in preference to her boyfriend of nine months? Hmm… guess I should have seen that blow to the ego coming.
"Please? We both could use a good start on our tan before school gets out," she offered with puppy eyes and clasped hands in what, I'm sure, she thought was an irresistible way.
Too bad for her, I can be a stone cold bitch when it came to my studies and avoiding possibly embarrassing situations. If I could get out of people seeing me in a bathing suit then my day was officially made. Sad, I know.
"No. We have class to get to in twenty minutes. Let's go."
Pretending I never saw the big brown eyes she tried to widen, I grabbed her hand and dragged Katelyn out the door, half-eaten sandwich and all.
Simultaneously the entire class groaned when Mr. Kent announced there would be an extra chapter to do for homework that week. Government was not a particularly stimulating topic to most people, and reading about it only seemed worse.
The mutual discontent with the professor was evident by the grumbling students as they exited the large lecture hall, picking up a current world events article we were supposed to do, plus our extra reading assignment by next Tuesday.
Shuffling through the line of students, I reached over and snatched up the packet as I passed it by like some twenty others before me. Katelyn babbled happily at my side about all her plans for the weekend. Most of them revolved around Jake when they weren't working.
Good, I thought with relief. That meant I got out of cramming my one-hundred-and-twenty pound body into a two piece.
"What are you doing tonight?" she asked, "it is Friday," the blonde reminded me.
Sighing, "What I've been doing on every Friday since the semester started. Study, go see my grandfather, petition for world peace, all that jazz."
She whistled humorously, "'Petition for world peace'? That's a new one."
Katelyn scrunched up her brow in confusion as we exited the liberal arts building. Both of us threw our hoods up and dashed out into the May showers. The rain had started sometime during the last half-hour of class.
Quickly making it to the other side of the college campus, we slipped into the dorms with a mass of other dripping wet bodies.
What's worse than a wet dog? A crowd of drenched college students.
"I don't understand. Isn't he like… eighty something and senile? Why would you spend your Friday night with him when you could be trying to get Chase Worthington to ask you out and do things more interesting than listening to an old man talk about nonsense?" She wasted no time in picking the conversation back up again.
Of course, she had to bring up him as a means to dangle temptation in front of me. Chase Worthington was a junior recently declared business major who I so happened to think was cute.
Let that be a lesson to myself. Never tell your best friend that you thought a guy was cute. They seemed to want to translate that into you saying 'I want to date and or screw him.'
I rolled my eyes, "I told you. He's seventy-two, and he's not that bad, just a little forgetful and hard of hearing when he wants to be. Besides the guy was the dad I never had."
We climbed the winding stairwell to the third floor, turned left down a hallway and came to our dorm room. I, being the one on top of things, had the key. I swiftly unlocked the door and we both entered into the confines of our small living arrangement.
While my part was clean, Katelyn's was anything but.
Her clothes were strewn across her bed and shoes were laying everywhere, a couple books left open in various locations. My bedroom was separate from hers by a wall so we each had our own sleeping space. Thank the heavens! Her mess stayed in her area and my organization remained in mine.
"Your parents divorced right?" Katelyn asked, going to the door on the far left wall that led into a little square room that acted as a closet for our outdoor wear.
I nodded, even though my friend couldn't see me do so. "Yeah, they split when I was six. So?"
"So, why didn't they have joint rights to take care of you again?"
"Because," I grumbled for what had to be billionth time, "my mom was ruled an unfit parent by the court and my dad is a selfish jackass that signed his rights to me away. My grandparents on my dad's side took me in and raised me."
"Out of a sense of debt for his care, you're visiting your grandfather?" Katelyn asked for clarification as she came out of the closet and entered her room, rummaging through her piles of stuff for whatever it was she was looking for.
"No. I love my grandfather, and my grandmother died several years back. He doesn't have anyone else and he's not as horrible as you make him out to be."
Katelyn chuckled and poked her head around the corner to smirk at me. I was still standing just inside the doorway with my arms crossed over my chest, a scowl no doubt tugging the corners of my lips down.
"Honey, the guy thinks that different dimensions exist and claims that Bill Gates is from one of them and has a set of horns no one can see."
"Okay," I conceded grudgingly, "he isn't quite as sharp as he use to be. He's still the only relative and family I have and I know that he doesn't have forever to live."
There was no response so I took that as a sign that Katelyn didn't have any way to reply back.
Sighing with relief that the uncomfortable conversation was finally over with, I walked into my room on the right and began to unpack my work and lay it out on my desk along with the rest of the week's homework that was yet to be completed.
Charles would not be expecting me till five, which was two hours from now. That gave me time to start a dent on the ridiculous amount of assignments. How Katelyn managed to party every weekend and not get kicked out of college was beyond my comprehension.
Both of us were sophomores in college and as respectful citizens of the United States, were not allowed to drink yet as we were both under the age of twenty-one. It didn't seem to stop the flaxen haired beauty from somehow sneaking into clubs and getting wasted on an occasional basis though.
"Are you actually doing math?" The loud high pitched voice of indignation sounded right next to my already ringing ears.
Jumping out of alarm, I twisted around to see a pair of mocking brown eyes staring back at me.
"Yes. It's a concept you often chose to ignore, Kat. You know, getting things done today rather than tomorrow or, I don't know, never?"
Katelyn fisted her hands on either side of her hips, cocking a light gold eyebrow.
"Are you questioning my study methods?" She asked with mild irritation.
I smirked, "No. I'm just stating that your opportunity cost to do homework when contrasted to sucking face with your boyfriend is much higher than my own."
"Ugh! Not Civics too! It's bad enough that you actually can bring stuff in from Government already."
Staring with a blank expression on my face, it was my turn to arch an eyebrow. "Umm… that was a basic Economics concept, for one. And two, Civics is technically the same thing as Government."
"Whatever. I'm getting laid tonight and you're not. I can understand that much–"
A shriek of laughter went up when a sudden pillow went flying at Katelyn's head.
Too bad it missed her smug face.
"Then stop badgering me with my homework and I'll let you go do… whatever it is you're going to do."
Grinning like the Cheshire cat straight-out of Alice in Wonderland, Katelyn did a dramatic about-face and skipped into her room to get ready for her date… or whatever the hell it was.
While she was texting in class, Jake had dropped a surprise that he was getting out earlier than expected due to little traffic coming and going from Greg's, the restaurant both he and I worked at. I couldn't say I was shocked. The tourists didn't start swamping us for another two weeks or so, when most public schools went on summer break.
Later, around four-thirty, I finally shut down my homework station for the evening and stretched my stiff muscles. Throwing on a pair of dark washed skinny jeans and a v-neck green knit sweater, I deemed myself worthy of visiting my grandfather for a few hours. Once my Converse were on I grabbed my keys, raincoat, and cellphone – then I was out the door.
Despite the rolling gray clouds over head and the constant pelting of rain, the ride over from my dorm to my grandfather's house was a relatively smooth one. Once out of the city and on the freeway, there was little traffic clogging the lanes.
I pulled onto the dirt gravel of the private drive that wove through a thick wood for a quarter of a mile or so. Upon parking my Pontiac Vibe at the end of the long driveway, just in front of the moderately sized house's attached garage, I grabbed the half gallon of milk I picked up on the way. Knowing Charles, he probably was running low, again.
I entered the house after knocking on the door and called out to my grandfather, as per usual. Charles normally came hobbling around some corner as I got further in. When I reached the kitchen, there was still no sign of the cute old man, and I started to wonder if he didn't shuffle off to his back enclosed three seasoned porch to watch the rain storm.
Deep down, though, I knew something was off. Chalking it up to paranoia, I shrugged off the foreboding feeling that pressed at my shoulders like a deadening weight.
Back when I was a kid, we had often curled up on a comfy love seat to stare out the large glass walls to watch rain drip past the trees and fill the lake just some hundred yards or so beyond the property line marked by a small wooden fence. Rosemary always would bring us hot cocoa to drink while we talked about surprisingly serious topics for someone that had been of my age at the time. Once in a while I'd get lucky and get Charles to tell me another one of his many tales.
Story time had ended a long time ago. It had been years since I last asked or received one of those charming old fables about warring kingdoms and noble and breathtaking searches for various objects and people of importance that could save the balance of things. Yes, I had grown up. I don't recall exactly when, but somewhere around my fifteenth or sixteenth year, I stopped hearing about those kinds of things and started to have solid conversations about reality only. Make-believe was over as the magic of blissful ignorance wore off.
"Grandpa? Hey, I put the milk in the fridge. Good thinking I grabbed some too, you were almost out…"
When I stepped out of the dining room and into the square, nearly all glass walled room that was my grandparent's porch I stumbled upon something I never expected.
A very large black cat (if that was what you could call it) was resting on our spot. Fabric of all the furniture had been shredded and tuffs of white were floating around. Chairs, tables, and lamps were knocked over. Everything was in ruins. But the most sickening sight was the blood that coated the walls, the floor… and the cat who had just taken notice of my presence.
What the hell?
It wasn't and over sized house cat, I idly noticed in my frozen state of horror. No, the large furred creature now stalking towards me was a gigantic sized black panther.
And it looked pissed. Black ears were pinned to its skull and sickly yellow eyes glinting with bloodlust as its lips curled back in a ferocious snarl.
So eloquently put in one of my friend's favorite terms, it was that time where I was supposed to run like hell. I didn't have a problem with that, thanks to years of being on a high school track team.
Doing a one-eighty, I dived through the doorway I came through and began to race out of the dining room and down a long windowless hallway filled with pictures. Blood was splattered everywhere. How had I not noticed the stinging scent of iron in the air before? Was I that blind not to notice the hallway over from the entrance was covered in freaking blood?!
The sound of pounding paws smacking the hardwood floor, claws scrapping with each down beat, was incentive enough to run that much faster. Who in their right mind would let that thing out of a cage and where was animal control when I needed them? A better question yet, how did that thing even exist? It had to be twice the size of an average panther.
A blood curdling roar erupted from behind me, just as I burst into my old bedroom the black beast pounced. I dodged, but not well and the cat ended up crashing into me and sending us both rolling two or three times on the carpeted floor.
Grace must be my middle name. I landed on my stomach, the wind knocked out of me. My long raven black hair spilled all over my face. The cat wasn't so fortunate and slammed into an old dresser with a deafening crack.
Scrambling to my feet and throwing myself into the connected bathroom, I shut and looked the door. While it probably wouldn't hold Gruesome back once he stopped seeing stars, it could stall him for a few moments at the least, and hopefully for a few minutes if I was lucky.
Knowing how much karma loved me, I would say I had a minute tops.
Thankfully Charles had the foresight to keep everything on one level, and add a window to my bathroom that was more than large enough for someone of my stature to fit through.
Once I found my grandfather, and that was starting to look more like an 'if', I'd have to remember to kiss that shiny bald head of his.
Fumbling clumsily to the window, my nerves started to show as my usually steady hands trembled while I struggled to undo the latch that held the pane in a secured position. Finally wrenching the damn white wood frame up, I stood on top of the toilet seat and began to carefully but swiftly work my body out.
When I was half way through, just about to slip my hips out the window, a loud bang came from the locked door. It was quickly followed by a snarl and a heartbeat later a massive black paw punched cleaned through the thick wood, unsheathed claws stretching out, trying futilely to grab on to anything in hopes it was me.
Figuring I had about thirty more seconds to go before I'd be screwed over permanently, I stopped being so neat with my movements and began to frantically wriggle and kick my way through. Unfortunately I rammed my kneecap hard into the side of the window in my less than refined floundering.
The good news? I got the hell out of the bathroom; but ended up landing awkwardly on my side some feet below.
Nothing felt broken, and I didn't really care as I pushed up and forward at the same time, tripping for two steps before gaining my balance back.
I ran once more. Deciding my car would be a safe option.
I flew around the side of the house, my small navy blue sedan coming into sight in a minute flat.
Quarter of a minute later and I was just reaching the car door when big bad and ugly decided to show up again. This time, he had a friend.
The similarities between the two were uncanny. The only difference I found was that the new black panther had more amber colored eyes than yellow.
Skidding to a halt then beginning to back away from the two fierce cats, I threw my hands up in an attempt to placate the demonic looking creatures. Too bad it didn't seem to work.
Both large predators stalked towards me with rolling movements, miraculously elegant and deadly.
One of them, the one with dark honey eyes, lunged but stopped short of when a ear shattering roar seemed to shake the very ground I stood on. Leaping back just in time, the black cat barely dodged the outstretched claws of an elephantine tawny lion.
Brilliant green orbs glared down the hissing smaller felines. For whatever reason, both panthers were spooked – now they were the ones doing the backing up!
What sounded like "Dexter" was spat from the yellow eyed black cat.
Odd. I don't recall animal sounds ever coming close to mimicking the English human language.
Another roar from said lion silenced the menacing hissing. The two contemplated the new arrival with dubious looks before turning and fleeing into the forest just beyond the yard of green grass that surrounded the house.
My wide green human eyes met calmed cat ones.
The quite was broken a moment later by a loud scream being ripped from my throat.
Wincing, the ginger-gold lion grumbled, giving me a not so subtle glare of annoyance.
"Do you mind!? " It said, hissing petulantly.
Staring open mouthed at the cat with incredulity was all I could do at first.
The strain of weathering all this shock was finally too much for my mental capacity. My vision began to blur, blackness narrowing my sight until everything went dissolved away. Last thing I remember was hearing something that sounded like 'fuck' being muttered before I completely blacked out.
Blackness was all around. At first there was nothing, and then a buzzing sound rang in my ears. That dull hum grew in amplitude until I could make out several voices bickering in harsh whispers.
"What the hell were you thinking?" Came a moderately high pitched voice. Female?
A grunt followed. Probably someone else agreeing.
"You'd rather I had left the girl for dead?"
That was clearly a male voice, with a strange roll of vowels… and l's. For some strange reason I found it oddly comforting; like I heard that accent before, though not as strongly or spoken with such consistency.
"If you had 'left her for dead' we wouldn't have a new bargaining chip." The deep timbre of the third person held a refined drawl, distinguishing it from the previous two.
Bargaining chip? Whoever was talking now sure knew how to keep a cool voice and level head. However, it was the way he spoke about whatever it was that sent chills through my quasi-lucid mind and body. Somewhere deep inside, I think I realized they were actually discussing me.
"Laz, you can't be serious. She's human and therefore a liability with no significance whatsoever." I think it was the female again?
Someone sniffed, and then a low fourth voice abruptly made itself known. "He could be on to something...."
Second voice: "When did X get here?"
"When our guest decided it was time to wake up," the new person (X?) said cryptically.
I recognized my cue when given. Only one thing, my head hurt like a bitch and my eyelids refused to open for me.
What I wouldn't give for an Advil right about now.
"Sharai, go get something for her to drink. She'll need it shortly," the fourth voice spoke again.
Everything drew quiet. The lazy fog that had been clouding my mind throughout this strange conversation did the exact opposite of what I'd expect; it thickened. Right before I lost the last grips on consciousness, I could have sworn I felt like something (I'd later learn it was someone) pushed me over the edge and I fell into oblivion once more.
. . . .
Groggily I woke. My eyelids felt like cement bricks as I pushed them open, trying to see where I was. After several moments of intense struggling I managed to peak out beneath my long black lashes, the world around me was blurry.
It focused, then I suddenly realized I was lying on my back on a couch, staring up at the high dome ceiling of some room I had no recollection of ever seeing before. Tame hues of gold colored the new location. Everywhere I turned the paint job was of a dull dark yellow, wood of mahogany, furnishing of more antique style.
Sitting behind a large desk across the room from me was a man, head bent over his work, left hand scrawling across what I assumed to be some document or another of importance. He didn't seem to realize I was awake. That was fine. It allowed the chance to get my head to stop spinning.
Once said problem was taken care of, and the objects stopped moving, I was able to concentrate on the figure across from me.
He had a full head of silver hair… which wasn't too odd considering I had seen aged men with all their hair before, and it being gray. But this dude was missing a few of the things that went along with that natural appearance.
For one, the hair was not remotely flimsy, but thick and full as mine was. It was the type of hair someone under middle age had. Another thing I noticed was it wasn't gray or white but actually a silver color – or very glossy light-gray…. But what really made me do a double take was when the guy glanced up, finally: He was young!
Staring straight back at me was a pair of dual colored eyes. His left eye was sky blue, the other one a pale green. And what did I think of these strange features?
My god! This man is the first person with heterochromia I've ever met.
Smart, I know. Especially when I probably should have been having a panic attack about where I was and who the hell he was.
"So you are awake this time," he sounded like he was gently murmuring this observation more to himself than speaking to me directly.
Blinking, I sat up on the elongated plush couch I was on. Confused as hell and a little weirded out, I kept my mouth shut and let Mr. Stranger do the talking. At least until I knew if he was going whip a gun out or not.
The way he intently stared at me with such calculatingly intellectual eyes was nerve wracking. The silent type, he seemed like he could kill on a moment's notice. Bearing in mind I was still recovering from my last run in with danger, it could have been me just being overly suspicious.
"This is good news. Dexter will be pleased to know that your life isn't on his head."
Why would I have died if he saved me? Did they not know what fainting was?
Narrowing my sight in perplexity I asked, "Dexter?"
"The twit who was the cause for your brush with death, and the now lucky bastard that managed to save you."
Dang. Someone had an attitude problem.
Probably just woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, I told myself. Little did I know that he was actually that clinical and indifferent all the time.
"Uhh…" What was I supposed to say to that?
Folding one hand into a fist with the other wrapped around the knuckles, he placed his elbows on his desk and peered at me. The pale thin lips that previously had been relaxed into an expressionless position were now a taut line.
"Forgive me. I'm Xavier Cordeaux."
Holding out his left hand, Xavier stayed stationary at his desk. Apparently I was expected to go to him. Arrogant ass. I didn't like him already.
Standing and moving to the other side of the desk on wobbly legs (my side and legs still hurt from the fall), I took his offered appendage, feeling his long dexterous fingers wrap around my smaller ones in a vice grip. He had me fooled. Despite his lean figure, obviously the man had hidden strength.
I winced at the sound of my voice. Contrasted with Xavier's lyrical deep baritone my high soprano was scratchy and dry.
Extracting himself from his chair, Xavier strolled around the massive desk and towards the door of his office… study… thing. Gesturing for me to go first, he opened one of the thick wooden doors with an expectant expression, standing regally to the side.
Now that I thought about it as I approached him, everything about Xavier was sophisticated. The crisp white button down dress shirt he wore under a black satin looking robe left hanging open still was business like when stood up against my jeans and sweater. He had what appeared to be a serious case of bed-head and the rumpled doo worked for him, despite the rest of his appearance being cultured.
"Where –" I stared but was cut off.
"Are you?" He finished the question for me, arching a naturally bent light-gray eyebrow. "You are in my home. If you want to get particular – you are in my office now on your way out the door."
Well wasn't he just subtle? I known him for a total of five minutes and I could already tell the guy had a stick up his ass. What was with him? Geez.
Ushering me out like some ominous all powerful figure, he swiftly closed the door behind us and began to lead me down a long hallway, sporadically decorated with some doors on either side.
"Where is your home located exactly?" I asked dryly.
Xavier was one hard man to keep up with. His long strides made it so I had to walk twice my normal pace to keep stride with him.
"This house is twenty miles north of your grandfather's property, on the other side of the lake."
Well at least I was close by….
Wait. Why in tarnation was I here!? Here as in Xavier's house that is. And how did he know that that was Charles' house and not mine?
"You are with me now because you were attacked and needed protecting," he answered curtly.
… Did he just read my mind or did I unwittingly ask that out loud?
"Why don't you tell me," Xavier replied with a bored tone.
My mouth went slack-jawed as my eyes bugged out of my head. How attractive I must have looked gapping at him like I just found out the sky was actually green not blue.
"Did no one ever tell you it is rude to stare? And close that mouth of yours, it's not becoming of a lady."
Ouch. Xavier had a tongue on him, didn't he?
"As for how I know about your grandfather," pursing his lips, "we are old acquaintances."
Uh-huh. Excuse me if I find that hard to believe. Xavier looked to be no older than twenty-six, sure he knew Charles really well. I think not!
"You are quite tiresome, aren't you?"
Finally getting irritated enough, I crossed my own arms and glared back at the silver-haired weirdo, coming to a halt as we stopped at the intersection of another corridor.
"Can't you say something nice or non-cryptic?" I asked scathingly.
He deadpanned, "Why would I want to do that?"
Deciding there was not enough time to wait for my reply he turned on his heel and took a right, obviously expecting me to continue our little game of master and dog.
"What are you?" I asked as we entered onto the top of a grand horse-shoe staircase.
In hindsight, it probably would have been better to ask this before letting him lead me from a room to some other location, but after seeing that blood bath my priorities had been slightly skewed.
"My species is what you would call a sorcerer."
Right, and the Easter Bunny is my insurance agent.
"We would like to think of him as the mad genius that keeps us sane," came male voice that I recognized as having the strange l's.
Glancing to my right when we came to the ground floor of the foyer I spotted the owner. He had vibrant ginger hair spiked up to the side, a tall lithe frame that was about 6'1'', and bright green orbs I recognized from the lion that had saved me earlier. A lopsided grin was on his handsome face, mischief that looked all too comfortable on him sparkled in his eyes.
"So she lives?" The man asked, continuing his confident stride towards them, hands shoved nonchalantly into the pockets of his black slacks.
Xavier sighed, "Yes. You miraculously managed to save someone."
I could have sworn I heard him grumbled "for once" after, but Xavier said it so low I couldn't be sure.
The redhead must be Dexter, since Xavier said that was who saved me. Only problem was, I distinctly remember a lion in place of a man….
"Dexter Churchill at your service. Sorry about the scare earlier, I didn't think a human would be there, let alone one that would faint at the sight of a lion," he confirmed for me with a shark like grin.
Note to self: Dexter uncannily resembles the traits and personality of a predator in more than one way.
"Not to be rude, but what the hell is going on? Do you really expect me to believe you," I pointed crudely at Xavier, "are a sorcerer?" I moved my index finger next to the Simba-wannabe, "And you to turn into some over sized furry cat?"
Both men looked at me with raised eyebrows. Dexter seemed highly amused while Xavier had a passive expression.
"You more or less walked in on a power struggle and raid. Those things that attacked you are goons that work for Sykes… stop pointing!" Xavier glowered at me.
"Umm, what?" Hey, you couldn't blame me for thinking they were crazy.
Xavier waved me off. "This isn't the time and place to explain. Come, you should get a chance to say your goodbyes."
"My goodbyes!? What are you going to kill me now?" I shrieked.
Narrowing his two colored eyes, Xavier spoke with great strain, "Don't be stupid. Why would we save you if we were just going to kill you ourselves? "
"Because the guys in the white coats missed you on inspection day?"
"You can go ahead and insult each other all you want, but you're eating into your time with Charlie," Dexter pointed out from the sidelines.
We both turned to the redhead after that. Xavier looked like he wanted to smack Dexter, I probably just looked plain clueless.
"I think you mean Charles," Xavier pointed out mildly.
That got my attention. Fear exploded in my chest as I turned my wide eyes back to the silver headed man.
"What's wrong with him? What did you do?"
"We did nothing. If I remember correctly, didn't you walk into his house and there was blood everywhere?"
Dexter seemed to find it prudent to stop me from having a panic attack in the middle of the front foyer for he grabbed my upper arm and gently toed me towards the left. Xavier followed gracefully after us, watching with mind numbing detachment as we weaved through several halls until we came to a bedroom.
Throwing open the doors with a loud crack, Dexter dragged me through the now splintered door frame and pulled me over to the bed where a frail looking body was seated. A woman was standing off the side, watching with interest as the three of us unexpectedly made our entrance.
My eyes were glued onto the all too familiar form lying on the bed. Forgetting about the strange man holding my arm, I ripped away and was at my grandfather's side in an instant.
Blood coated his clothes. The fabric was so tattered and soaked with the crimson liquid I couldn't make out an actual wound, though I saw a few bruises and cuts on his face. Heart sinking like a ton of lead, I stared at the one person that had always been there for me. He looked like death was leaching the life right out of him, his skin was so pale.
"We don't think he has a lot of time left. Sykes made sure his drones had poison capabilities, and it would seem it was put to use." Xavier stated factually from somewhere over my shoulder.
Excuse my French: What the fuck?
Did they not care? What was wrong with these jackasses? Wouldn't they try and help a person in need?
"We did try and help him," Xavier answered my internal question. "But there was some strong magic used to create that kind of toxin…."
Magic? That was their great fucking explanation? Magic!
"Understand, little human, Xavier is one of the best people to help him in your world or ours!" Hissed the blonde woman that had been there before us.
Whatever, I wasn't interested in their stupid excuses and explanations. I wanted my grandfather to live!
"There has to be something someone can do!" I turned my now blurry vision to the three complete strangers standing erect behind me.
Dexter was the only one that looked remotely remorseful or moved. Blondie seemed annoyed and Xavier… was himself.
"Unless you can suddenly find another powerful being with a lot of magic to fuse with mine or his, then I don't see any other option than death."
Okay, so Xavier needed someone else powerful to help him out? If I went along with this insanity, would it save him? Deciding I really had nothing to lose, I focused on the silver-haired man, blinking away my tears with great effort.
"What about letting her bond with you, X?" asked Dexter with a hopeful glance towards me.
Xavier snorted. "Let a human tie itself to me? I think not. Besides, she has nothing I could possibly want in return."
"Humans do have their own power source," pointed out the blonde. "It isn't like ours and it's weaker, but it could be enough. You're supposed to be pretty good on your own. Maybe all you need is an extra little boost."
Shaking his head, "No. She has to give me something of value in return, and I want nothing from her."
My hopes were quickly plummeting as my desperation soared higher than ever. There had to be something! I wouldn't take no for an answer.
"Perhaps I do."
All heads, including my own, turned to the doorway. Leaning against the frame was a tall, lean, muscled, portrait of Adonis. Black mussed hair framed his oval shaped face that ended in a well formed jaw. Naturally arched ebony eyebrows and a subtle nose finished his handsome features off. But it was the eyes that held me to him.
Incandescent teal eyes burned into me.
Such an intense gaze should be illegal.
"I might be able to help him, but there is a price – a high one – to pay for the sparing of his life." He spoke concisely, with such a deep rippling tone it made my spine shiver.
"The decision is yours. I'd choose quickly though. He doesn't have much time left."