Saturday, September 28, 2019

Storm Born Chapter Thirteen

â€Å"You're late,† I told him, trying to act like my robe wasn't lying out on the hallway floor. He glanced around, and I couldn't help a small breath of pleasure. Every ounce of him was charged and ready, that muscled body in a fighter's stance. His dark eyes held a hard, savage expression as he assessed for threats. He was magnificent. He looked as though he could have single-handedly torn apart an army then and there. I wrapped my arms around myself, from neither coldness nor modesty. â€Å"I was walking up your driveway and felt something†¦something dark.† His body relaxed, the animal fierceness in his eyes replaced by that smoky sensuality as he seemed to notice for the first time that I was naked. â€Å"A Gray Man. He had to go keep an appointment with Persephone.† Kiyo's lips twitched into a smile. â€Å"Were you in the shower?† â€Å"Sauna. I impaled him with a mirror.† â€Å"Nice.† We stared at each other, a thick tension building up in the air between us. â€Å"Well,† I said finally. â€Å"Thanks for checking in. You can leave now.† â€Å"Eugenie – â€Å" My confusion and lust took their rightful backseat to my indignation. â€Å"I have nothing to say to you. I don't want to say anything to you. Get out.† â€Å"Not until I've explained everything.† â€Å"Like what? How you wanted to get me pregnant, just like everyone else?† He blinked, clearly surprised. â€Å"I – what? No. Of course not. For Christ's sake, I used a condom.† â€Å"Yeah, I know. I was there.† I could hear the irrational sulkiness in my voice. â€Å"Why else would you have done it, then?† His eyes traveled from my face down my entire body, and then back to my face. â€Å"Why do you think?† I swallowed, attempting to ignore the warmth left from where his gaze had touched me. â€Å"Okay. I get the mechanics of it. But you can't sit there and tell me you being in that bar was a coincidence.† â€Å"No. It wasn't,† he said simply. I waited for more. â€Å"That's it?† He sighed and leaned against the wall. â€Å"I was asked by a friend to find you and mark you so we could keep track of you. I didn't know why; I had no idea who you were at the time.† â€Å"What? Someone told you to sleep with me?† â€Å"Er, no. That was my own, um, improvisation. I could have marked you other ways.† He smiled meaningfully. â€Å"But you were too charming and pretty.† â€Å"Hey! Don't use that fox sex magic on me. It's already caused enough trouble. Who told you to do that? To mark me?† The flirtatious smile disappeared. Silence. â€Å"Look, you're supposed to be the big honesty advocate. If you aren't going to play that way anymore, then I'm going to kick your ass out of here.† A glint of amusement flickered in his eyes. â€Å"I think I'd like that.† He paused. Finally: â€Å"No one you know. Her name is Maiwenn.† â€Å"The Willow Queen.† I took satisfaction in seeing his surprise. â€Å"I know more about the gentry than you think.† â€Å"Apparently. When she found out who you were, she wanted to watch you and find out where you stood on your fath – on the Storm King prophecy.† I met his questioning look with incredulity. â€Å"Are you seriously asking me? You think I want to see gentry take over the world?† â€Å"No, not really. But Maiwenn wanted to be sure on your position. She opposed Storm King before and has no desire to see an invasion. She'd rather put resources into the Otherworld, into staying there and making that home.† â€Å"Smart lady,† I said bitterly. â€Å"I wish they'd all stay there.† â€Å"Don't knock the Otherworld. It has its appeal.† â€Å"Yeah? So, what, you consider yourself one of them?† â€Å"I consider myself part of both worlds. It's who I am. It's who you are too.† â€Å"No. I'm not part of that world.† I stared past him without really seeing, suddenly feeling tired. â€Å"Sometimes I don't even feel a part of this world.† He crossed the distance between us and sat down on the bed. Those dark eyes brimmed with concern. â€Å"Don't say that.† I looked away so he wouldn't see my eyes getting wet. â€Å"I don't know what's going on anymore. Everything†¦everything's changed. I can't turn around without someone trying to rape me. I can't trust the people I love.† I turned back to him. â€Å"I can't trust you.† His hand reached out and touched my cheek. â€Å"Yes, you can. Eugenie, I didn't sleep with you to get you pregnant. I didn't even sleep with you just because you're hot – though that was a definite perk. I liked you. I still like you. I want us to have something.† He'd moved his hand down my neck, to my shoulder, and then to my upper arm. His fingers lazily traced the outline of Hecate's snake. Goosebumps rose on my flesh. â€Å"Don't look at me like that. I don't want to get pregnant.† â€Å"Contraceptive technology is a wonderful thing.† â€Å"I can't be involved with you.† â€Å"Why not?† The words hurt coming out. â€Å"Because†¦because of what you are†¦Ã¢â‚¬  The hand dropped. â€Å"I'm the same – â€Å" â€Å"I know, I know. The same as me. Kiyo, you've got to understand†¦. I've got a lot to deal with right now. I just†¦well, I just can't. Not yet. Maybe†¦Ã¢â‚¬  I looked at him, at the kind and intelligent face, at the smoldering body so close to mine. â€Å"Maybe some day, we can†¦Ã¢â‚¬  Something on my face must have given away my feelings, that no matter how terrified of getting close to him I was, I still liked him and wanted him. The old mischievous smile appeared on his face, and his hand cupped my chin. He pressed his lips against my cheek. â€Å"Then let me be your friend,† he whispered. I closed my eyes and let his heat envelop me. â€Å"Friends don't breathe in my ear like that.† â€Å"We'll be special friends.† â€Å"Kiyo – â€Å" He drew back a little, still smiling. â€Å"Seriously, Eugenie. If we can't be lovers, I still want to be in your life. I want to help you through this. I want to protect you.† I stiffened, and my old snarkiness reared its head through the emotional miasma. â€Å"I don't need protection.† â€Å"Do you have any idea how bad it's going to get for you?† â€Å"I've handled it so far. I'll handle it again.† â€Å"God, you're amazing.† His spoke with admiration. â€Å"But you're also annoyingly difficult. Let someone help you. Let me help you.† I stared stonily ahead. His expression darkened. â€Å"They're going to come after you! Do you think I can just sit around when people are trying to hurt and rape you?† The heat in his voice seared me. He wasn't angry at me; he was angry for me. He regarded me in a way no one had ever looked at me before, an expression that said I meant so much to him that he would take on hell itself to protect me. That intensity wrapped around me. It thrilled me. It scared me. I didn't know what to do with it. Again, he read my face. This time, he pulled me over, crushing my body against his. I didn't fight it. â€Å"Let me help you,† he repeated. â€Å"How? You live an hour and a half away.† He pressed his face against my hair. â€Å"I'll commute.† â€Å"Oh for God's – â€Å" â€Å"I mean it. I know I can't be with you all the time, but I'll do what I can.† â€Å"You're going to trail me like a bodyguard or something?† â€Å"I'll do it as a fox if it makes you feel better.† I laughed in spite of myself, tightening my hold on him. I knew we shouldn't be locked in this kind of embrace, but honestly†¦after everything that had happened, it was comforting. And a turn-on too. But mostly comforting. â€Å"What's that like anyway?† â€Å"What's what like?† â€Å"Being a fox. Is it weird?† â€Å"I don't know. I've always been that way. It's the only thing I know.† â€Å"Yeah, but†¦why not just stay human all the time?† â€Å"I'm stronger as a fox. Comes in handy in a fight.† â€Å"You're not too shabby as a human.† â€Å"Women think foxes are cute.† â€Å"Not that cute,† I grumbled. I could sense his smile. â€Å"It's a good way to let your instincts take over.† â€Å"Which instincts?† In one movement, he had me flipped onto my back. His hands held mine down while his body pressed against the rest of me. Those lips hovered a few breaths from mine. â€Å"All of them,† he growled. My breath was coming out in rapid bursts, and a voice in the back of my head was yelling, Hey! Remember how you don't want to be involved with Otherworldly people? I knew that voice was right, but it was kind of hard to pay attention when my body was melting against his and one of his hands had slid down to the side of a breast. â€Å"I don't think friends are supposed to lay like this.† â€Å"I know,† he said. â€Å"Or bodyguards.† â€Å"I know.† â€Å"Or veterinarians.† â€Å"That I disagree with.† He crushed his mouth to mine, and it was powerful and ravenous and furious and wonderful. I couldn't think or do anything coherent in that moment, only let him keep kissing me and kissing me. At last he broke away. He sat up, and I could see his body tremble. The look in his eyes was still hungry and yearning, and there was a visible struggle within him, a warring of two halves. One must have won, because he took a deep breath, and that animal need faded – slightly – from him. â€Å"I need to go,† he said at last. â€Å"I've got to work in two hours.† â€Å"Okay.† We stared at each other for a long time. I pulled a sheet up, letting it cover part of me. A grin lit his features. â€Å"Thanks. That helps.† He stood up and moved toward the door. â€Å"Hey, would you mind meeting Maiwenn? She wants to talk to you in person, see what you're like.† â€Å"You seem pretty chummy with her,† I said. The words came out sharper than I'd intended, but he looked unfazed. â€Å"She's a good friend. And I believe in her philosophies. She wants both our worlds left intact. So do I. She can be a good friend to you too.† â€Å"Is she strong enough to come over here?† He nodded. â€Å"If she'll do it, I'll meet her. I'm not really keen on going over there anytime soon.† â€Å"I'll tell her.† He took a few steps out the door, and this time I called to him. â€Å"Hey†¦Kiyo.† â€Å"Yeah?† â€Å"All these people and†¦things are coming after me because they think I'm going to be Damien's mother or something†¦but seriously, do you actually think any of it's true? Do you really believe this prophecy could happen? Roland – my stepdad – says prophecies are a dime a dozen in the Otherworld.† â€Å"They are,† Kiyo said slowly, a slight wrinkle between his eyes as he thought. â€Å"And most don't come true. But a lot do, a lot more than you'd think growing up here. The thing about prophecies is†¦well, people sometimes read the wrong things into them. Or, in trying to avert them, they only make the prophecy come true.† I shivered, half-wishing he would have just said prophecies were a bunch of crap. â€Å"You mean like Oedipus? How his father got rid of him to beat that prophecy?† â€Å"Exactly. Doing that only ended up making it happen.† Seeing my dark look, he smiled. â€Å"Hey, don't worry about it. I told you most don't come true. And besides, you're not trying to have kids, so there's nothing to worry about. Concentrate on the now.† I gave him a faltering smile back, hoping he was right. â€Å"Thanks.† He held my eyes for a few seconds before stepping out of the room, only to return a moment later with my burnt mirror. He set it on the dresser, regarding it with displeasure. â€Å"Sorry I wasn't here sooner.† â€Å"Hey,† I said, mustering some bravado, â€Å"I told you I can take care of myself.† Those dark eyes flashed. â€Å"I know. You're a dangerous woman.† I wasn't entirely sure if he referred to my fighting abilities or something else. When he was gone, I lay back in bed with a sigh, thinking I might not move for a week. Things just got weirder and weirder around here. Suddenly I felt a faint pressure build in the room. I sat up straight. Red eyes peered at me from a dim corner. â€Å"Volusian? I didn't summon you.† â€Å"You gave us permission to come if we acquired information.† â€Å"Yeah. I suppose I did. I didn't really think any of you would actually listen to me. What's up?† â€Å"I've come to tell you Otherworldly interest in you has increased.† I stared at him stupidly a moment, then pointed to the bloody athame I'd used on the Gray Man. â€Å"Gee, you think?† He shook his head. â€Å"More than these scattered attacks. Before, others were interested in you simply because of your heritage. Now, after seeing you†¦some are more excited still. They find you†¦attractive.† I could tell the concept baffled him. â€Å"Great. Now I'm fertile and hot. So what's this mean? Should I be expecting daily attacks?† â€Å"More like†¦organized attacks.† â€Å"Groups?† â€Å"Worse.† â€Å"Worse than a group of guys trying to have sex with me? How?† â€Å"For now, only creatures and gentry who can cross over in physical or elemental form will try. But we are weeks from Beltane, mistress. When the doors open†¦Ã¢â‚¬  â€Å"Jesus,† I breathed. â€Å"Everything with a dick is going to come looking for me.† He didn't bother with a response. But when I said nothing more, he asked, â€Å"What will you do?† â€Å"What do you think? The same as I've been doing. I'll fight them off.† He stayed quiet, but I could feel his disapproval. â€Å"What else do you expect me to do? Submit?† â€Å"I expect you to not sit around and wait for the inevitable. You might as well be from one of the bride-by-capture societies. Always being on the defensive will get you nowhere; eventually someone will overpower you.† I laughed without really finding anything funny. â€Å"So, what, I go on the offensive? Head over and just start taking on random gentry and spirits?† â€Å"No. You start claiming your heritage. They attack you because you let them, because you kick at one and then wait for the next. You make yourself a victim, yet you are Storm King's daughter. In his day, his rule stretched farther than any of the current monarchs'. His kingdom may be gone now, but his legacy makes you royalty. If you acted like it, they wouldn't attack you so brazenly.† â€Å"I doubt they'd give up wanting to father Storm King's heir just because I started calling myself a queen or a princess.† â€Å"Oh, they'd still want you, but they would go about it differently. They'd approach you with respect. They would try to woo you. Now they only treat you with disdain. They treat you like the victim – the piece of flesh – that you have let yourself become.† I didn't really like the thought of a bunch of gentry bringing me flowers and chocolate, but I liked it better than rape. â€Å"Yeah, but joking aside, I can't just go in there and say, ‘Hey, I'm Storm King's daughter, treat me with respect.'† â€Å"Well,† he said dryly, â€Å"it would be a start. However, you will drive home your connection to him most when you stop relying on those.† He pointed at my weapons. â€Å"They make you human.† â€Å"I am human.† â€Å"You are half-human. If you want them to respect you as one of the gentry, you need to remind them of who you are. You need to draw on the power within you, on your father's legacy.† I thought about what Roland had said, about how he had purposely buried my power. Faint flickers of the vision came back to me, how I'd reached for power just before it ended. â€Å"No. I won't use gentry magic.† Volusian sighed. He pointed to the burnt mirror. â€Å"Mistress, why did you use that as a weapon?† â€Å"Because a Gray Man caught me unarmed.† â€Å"Had you been in full control of your magic, you would have needed no weapons. You could have destroyed him as soon as he crossed your threshold.† I tugged the sheet up and wrapped my arms around myself. The thought of power like that terrified me†¦and yet deep down, I saw its appeal. I didn't like being defenseless at twenty-six any more than I had at twelve. Volusian sensed this. â€Å"Your true nature knows I am right. It longs to be realized.† â€Å"If I give in to this nature, I'll become gentry.† â€Å"You'll never be fully gentry or human. That you must accept. You must simply take the best of each.† â€Å"Even if I wanted to do this† – I swallowed, still uncertain if I wanted the kind of power he was talking about – â€Å"I wouldn't know the first thing about tapping it. Roland can't teach me about gentry magic.† â€Å"Then you'll have to find a gentry teacher.† â€Å"Where will I find one who won't try to rape me first? I don't really have any friends over there.† â€Å"Don't you?† He looked at me expectantly. â€Å"You mean Dorian.† â€Å"Of all the rulers in the Otherworld right now, only he has ordered his people to leave you alone.† â€Å"Seriously? But why? He told me himself he wants to see Storm King's invasion happen.† â€Å"Most believe he gave the order simply because he wants you for himself. I, however, suspect he also probably acts out of some ridiculous sense of altruism – and his own pride. Of course, some of his people won't heed the warning, but you will find less of them attacking you than others. Like Aeson and his followers, for example.† Apparently Aeson was alive after all. I'd forgotten to ask Kiyo about that in the wake of all the other drama. â€Å"Still†¦Dorian made the attempt, huh?† I thought back to my encounter with him. Of all the gentry, he had been the one I almost felt comfortable with, which was startling, considering how odd he was. And he had helped me. â€Å"But I know he wants to have sex with me too. He didn't really make that a secret.† â€Å"Of course he does. Which is why he'll help you. He'll help you because he thinks it'll bring you to his bed. And because being close to you will impress his rivals and allies alike. They'll think you're lovers, even if you aren't. He'll like that.† You'll return to me. You won't be able to help yourself. I shivered, and Volusian continued: â€Å"You'll benefit as well. Go to him as an equal, and he will treat you as one. His attitude will go a long way to influence others.† â€Å"If I do this, I'll have come a long way from being feared by the gentry to cozying up with one for political reasons. That's quite a leap.† â€Å"Not really. Not if you consider how far you've come since your trip to Aeson's.† â€Å"That's an understatement.† I rubbed my eyes. â€Å"I don't know, Volusian. I still don't know if I'm ready to approach Dorian. I need to think about it.† â€Å"As my mistress wishes. But I would advise you to think fast. Decide before Beltane. Siding with Dorian will offer both magical and political benefits.† â€Å"Noted. Thanks for the update. And the advice.† He bowed, and I stood up to send him back. Before I did, I couldn't help messing with him. I was still naked, after all. â€Å"Hey, Volusian, you haven't been checking me out, have you?† He gave me his trademark bland stare. â€Å"I assure you, mistress, the only allure your bare flesh has for me is to remind me how easy it will be to slice open.† I laughed. If not for the fact he was actually serious, he'd be so much fun.

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