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a little tea for two

Note: This is Chapter 23  in WINTER, retold from Winter’s POV.

L una had been inside the compromised woman’s house since noon, spending time with her basic friends, drinking in the now rare moments that she had enjoyed when she could more easily pretend to be one of them. She still clung to the idea of a simple existence and would a while longer. It was not unusual. Many of us grumbled with immortality’s pitfalls for the first few years or decades or, in some cases, centuries.

Lightning flashed, ripping the night sky apart. In the distance, the thunder echoed, releasing cold sheets of rainwater.

I leapt onto a window ledge and pulled myself up onto the balcony of the house across the street from Lucia’s. From there, I bounced up on the tile roof and crouched.

Rain lashed my face. I greedily inhaled the humid evening air. As the darkening sky thundered, I felt a rush of absolute freedom like the days of old when there was an abundance of hiding places in the world. An Immortal could run wild across borders and continents, consequences be damned.

Gathering power from the roaring skies, I enticed an electrifying current to glide through my body, shocking me into stark awareness. My summoning drifted across the street to Lucia’s house, sniffing out Luna’s etheric essence like a bloodhound.

A shadow moved across the window. Luna stared at me from inside. Her etheric receptors had answered my call even without her knowing it.

A second lightning flashed behind me and I leapt off to the neighboring roof, stretching my body high toward the dripping clouds.

Luna drew the blinds shut. Seconds later, the front door opened.

I jumped off the roof to sneak up behind her as she crossed the street.

She spun around, her radiant eyes locking on mine. Her lingering innocence gave me pause. My throat constricted into a dry knot. I had been the harbinger of bad news time and time again. This time, I yearned to deliver welcome news.

Her eyes widened. “What are you doing?”

“Waiting for you,” I said. “And watching the neighborhood to make sure no foul beasts lurk in the shadows.”

“And? Did you find any?”

I shook my head. “Besides you? None.”

The rainfall became heavier. Luna opened an umbrella and tried to get me under it. I stepped back. I cherished the little splashes of cold water on my skin too much to submit to her kind gesture.

“Is it really over?” she said.

I wished I could tell her what she wanted to hear. “It will never be over, Luna, not while Horror breathes, but this part has concluded. Düsternis called off the search for you, rattled at the death of an Immortal Magistrate and the incineration of the archives.”

“He now wants Chaos more than he wants me,” she said, pensively.

“Yes. Much more.”

“I can’t say I blame him.”

The need to build a protective wall around her boomed inside my chest louder than the thunder above.

“Will you come with me?” I said.

“To the condo?”

That is not the reason I am here, Luna Mae. “No, you’ll see.”

Minutes later, we walked through her apartment door. She paused the moment I flipped the light switch, her breath taken away.

I took it all in—the way her gaze landed on the new furniture, how she marveled at the restored walls, her hesitation as she stepped onto the Persian rug, her schoolgirl enthusiasm at seeing the white painted bookshelves crammed with brand new copies of her favorite books.

Her eyes sparked. “I don’t know what to say. Thank you, Jonas, but you didn’t have to do all this. I won’t be staying here long.”

“The least I could do,” I said. “And maybe you’ll reconsider leaving. In any case, I paid your lease up front for a year. This place will be waiting for your return even if you go.”

She stared at me a long while, saying nothing.

“You’re mad at me,” I said. “You think I overstepped.”

“No. I just don’t know what to make of you.”

“That’s okay. I don’t know what to make of me either.”

She walked to the pantry and checked out the newly stocked dry goods.

“Would you like some tea?” she said.

“Yeah, that sounds good.”

Despite everything, all the secrets and all the confusion I had caused, Luna didn’t want to gouge my eyes out, it seemed. Or maybe she had plans to poison that tea. It wouldn’t kill me, but it would cause a little suffering.

“By the way, I told the police I’d asked you to keep an eye on my apartment,” she said. “You’re off the suspect list.”

“That’s good to know.”

Maybe no poison then.

She handed me a cup and plopped down next to me on the couch.

“Merci, Sophie,” I said.

“This is so civilized,” she said as we were about to have tea for two.

“You don’t think me capable of civility,” I said, arching an eyebrow.

“You can be a total brute at times.”

Granted, it was well deserved. “Dimitri,” I said, becoming somber. “I lost my temper after that. I’m truly sorry. None of that was your fault.”

She nodded. It was clear she didn’t want to think of the events at the Sacred Vault. However, there was one thing that couldn’t be avoided.

I set the cup down and gazed into her eyes. “Luna, I can agree that Chaos came through for us. You must never forget that he can turn on you faster than you can spell boo. His agenda, if he even knows it, is so convoluted, so misguided and self-centered that you could never even hope to guess and if you did, it would change the very next day. Trust me, I learned the hard way.”

“He was your friend.”

I rubbed my chin, trying to decide how much I should reveal. “I was his mentor.”

She said nothing, but I sensed her growing disbelief at my words.

“At the Umbra Order after he escaped Horror,” I continued. “I helped him become a Shadow Warrior. In part, I am responsible for what he’s become.”

“The student spurns the teacher?”

“Like I said, his reasons, his causes, are too convoluted to make any sense of them outside of his own twisted mind.”

“Why did you help him?”

“I thought he could change, but his damage is too deep.”

She nodded.

“He will come back for you and when it happens, I’d like to be close.”

“I get it, Jonas, but I can’t let Chaos or Horror or Düsternis dictate my life.”

“Or me,” I said, pensively. “I get it.”

“Yes, but that’s beside the point. If I hide, it I stop living my life the way I want, then they win already, and I cease to be me.”

And there was a time when I would have wanted that. I would have wanted her subdued and molded to my desires. Not anymore.

“I’m going to tell you a final thing and then go. I see the unconquerable spirit in you, and I respect it. Despite my brusque manner, I would not bother if I did not think you worth the trouble.”

I got up and glanced about the room. “You have terrible taste in furniture,” I said to lighten the mood. “I hope you enjoy the new décor.”

“Jonas, stay.”

Did I hear that right?

“Are you sure?”

Her eyes glimmered. “No, I’m not.”

The thought of being forgiven exhilarated me. I reached down to stroke her cheek, my fingers sliding into her hair, pulling her head back to expose her delicate neck.

“I’m not a gentle man,” I said, more to myself than to her. This was all kinds of wrong.

“Of that, I’m sure,” she said.

I locked my fingers with hers and pulled her to her feet. Our eyes met and then I kissed her greedily, parting her lips with my tongue to get a taste of her.

She threw her arms around my neck. I half-lost my mind. I placed my hands under her butt cheeks and lifted her up, pressing her against my chest.

Wrong move. I had passed the point of no return. An urgency rose inside me, raw and ravenous. I wanted to quench the desire I had for her, but the more she gave, the thirstier I became.

She pushed against my chest with her whole body and wrapped herself around me, driving me to bliss and madness.

My exquisite witch shoved away from me and then pulled me close again before repeating the uncertain dance a second time.

“You’re nuts,” I said. “I like it.”

“Winter,” she called out my name, breathless.

I growled under my breath. I loved hearing my name on her lips.

“This is too much too fast,” she said.

I held onto her for a moment, then released her unwillingly. “Did I do something wrong?”

She shook her head. “It’s all too much, you know?”

Yes, I knew. This desperate need for contact, the need to keep her close and make sure she’s mine... It was almost devotional. No modern young woman would welcome it or understand it.

“I can stay to watch over you,” I said. “I can sleep on the couch.”

“I need time to process everything,” she said. “Touch base tomorrow?”

I brought her hand to my lips and kissed it softly before I left.

It was for the best that she asked me to go, but I lingered outside the door, finding it hard to walk away. For a moment I forgot myself, I forgot who we truly were. If we slept together, the combustible energy produced by the union of our etheric essences would be impossible to cloak or hide from the Eternals. The chain reaction of events that would likely ensue would almost certainly be of catastrophic proportions.

There was one thing I forgot to tell her. She should know that she had access to untraceable magic in the basic world now that she had activated her mist rider core and could manipulate earth energy lines that had no link to the Deep Down. She could now cast wards to guard her home like I did with mine. Such deep, ancient magic cannot be easily perceived by supernatural creatures.

After some thought, I decided against going back inside to tell her. The risk that I would submit to my primitive urges was too great. I might reveal anything then, even that I wanted her in my arms until the end of the world, until the sands of time covered all things.

***

Outside my condo, my gut burned with a searing jolt of magic. My blood gurgled as if tiny pebbles burst through my veins.

Shadow essence.

The door opened. Chaos stood in the doorframe, stark naked. He opened his arms wide, exasperated.

“You’re getting too old, Frosty, thought you had gotten lost,” he said.

Resisting the urge to blast him, I walked through the door. A giggling blonde in pink panties darted down the hall and vanished into the bedroom.

I spotted his sheathed sword in a corner next to a heap of clothes.

A dark-haired girl in her early twenties peeked out from the bedroom.

“Come here, little pussycat,” Chaos said, extending an arm to her, “there’s someone I’d like you to meet.”

The half-naked girl walked to us. Her playful eyes gave me the once over as the first move in her obvious game of seduction.

Chaos pulled her close. “My old chum is in dire need of charms such as yours, little Coco. You will find him fit and capable, and if the latest rumors are true, you are at just the right age.”

I pulled my sword from inside my coat and placed the tip at his throat.

The girl screeched and ran off.

“That’s entirely the wrong phallus you’re showing off,” Chaos said, eyeing my sword.

“Why are you here?” I asked him, pressing the sword into his flesh.

“Needed somewhere to lay low while regrouping,” he said, “and your humble abode is like a goddamn fortress.” He raised an eyebrow. “You do realize you are in my debt?”

I lowered the sword with a sigh.

“You are such a dramatic lad,” Chaos said. “I find it quite contemptable in a world full of such a lovely abundance of debauchery and vice.”

I gritted my teeth. “You need to leave.”

He stretched his arms above his head. “And how is your chosen one, the inscrutable Miss Luna?”

Finally, the question I knew was coming. “She’ll be gone next week.”

“Studying abroad?”

I nodded. “She chooses her own path.”

“You will have people on her?”

“Of course, Chaos, I’m not an amateur.”

“And you will not tell her who and what I am?”

Ending his life force would erase who and what he was. The temptation to remove him from all future scenarios became more appealing by the second. “Get out, old chum. Take your companions with you.”

“She’s not ready,” he insisted.

“You don’t think I fucking know that?” I said, losing patience.

He picked up his clothes and sauntered to the bedroom. Moments later he came out with the two girls in tow.

When he had them out the door, he walked back to me. His eyes blistered with brutality. “If you breathe a single word to her, I’ll be all on your ass like a bloody gadfly. My goodwill has limits.”

“She’s very intuitive. Sooner or later, she’ll figure it out herself.”

“Maybe, but she won’t hear it from you. It’s my truth, brother.”

“I’ll not lie to her if she comes to me with questions, not again.”

“Oh, yes, you fucking will, Chief Magistrate. And if you think you’ll be allowed to play house with her, think again, boyo.”

It was hard to keep the rage off my face, hard to subdue my darkest magic before it imploded. “I want what’s best for her.”

“Good, then we’re simpatico. Cause we can agree that you, my friend, are the worst thing that could ever happen to her.”

He closed the door quietly behind him, my wards bending to his will like soft reeds. A somber mood overtook me as his invasive aura finally dissipated. What if the madman was right? What if I was potentially the worst thing that ever happened to the pure-hearted girl who deserved none of this burden, who I watched grow up, the reluctant, yet courageous mist rider I had vowed to protect with my own life?

What if I was the Shadow Luna Mae had to escape?

 

Copyright Stella Fitzsimons, 2019. All Rights Reserved.

 

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