Heku : Book 1 of the Heku Series by T.M. Nielsen - HTML preview
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Emily drifted in and out of sleep all through the night. When dawn came, she opened her eyes and looked at Chevalier. He seemed relaxed and content. She cleared her throat before speaking, “Déjà vu, huh?”
He smiled over at her, “Why yes… it is oddly familiar.”
“Did you really kill Keith?” She already knew the answer.
He sighed, “Yes.”
“I'm sorry he made you do that.”
“I'm not, I've wanted to do that for months,” he said matter-of-factly. He didn't seem upset at all by the thought of killing someone, “Kyle called me back when he heard the shouting and smelled blood.”
Chevalier's jaw tightened, he was still angry.
“Your life would be so much simpler if you'd have kept going,” Emily told him, pulling her seat back into the upright position.
“He was going to kill you.”
She whispered, “I've never seen him that mad before.”
“He didn't deserve to share this planet with you. I just wish it hadn't come down to…” He quit talking, his jaw flexing again in anger.
She reached out to touch his arm and ran her fingers along the hard muscles and veins, “Thank you.”
He raised an eyebrow, “You aren't mad?”
She shook her head and was silent, her mind deep in thought for the next hour.
“Who is Ulrich?”
Chevalier considered not answering for a moment, but then decided against it, “Do you remember the story I told you about Elizabeth Winchester marrying a heku? The one that started all of this?”
“Ulrich is the one.”
She sat up straighter, “And what's his claim to me?”
Chevalier glanced at her.
“I heard you talking to Sam.”
He sighed, “He's been watching over his family. He thinks I may corrupt you.”
“Corrupt me?” She made a face.
He decided not to go into further detail.
“Where is your Coven anyway?” she asked, looking out toward the flat plains.
“I can't say. It's safer not to speak of the location.”
“Why is that? No one's in the car but us.”
“It's just safer, take my word for it.”
“End of subject, gotcha.”
“Kyle packed some sandwiches, are you hungry?” He reached behind the seat and pulled out a small cooler.
She dug around and pulled out a sandwich and a cold drink, then winced while eating. It felt like Keith knocked some teeth loose. After eating, she curled up in the seat and watched Chevalier.
“Can I help you with something?” he asked, grinning when he noticed her watching him.
“Kyle seems very nice,” she said, watching his reaction.
“Yes, he is.”
“Does he know about me?”
“Then why didn't he try to bite me?”
“I told him not to. I gave him precise instructions to take care of you but never to feed. I told you, Emily, my coven won't defy me,” he said, gritting his teeth.
“You trust them enough to be outnumbered by them a thousand to 1?”
“Implicitly.” He glanced over at her, “It's going to be ok, don't worry about it. I'll always make sure you are protected.”
“I can't go home, can I?” She knew the answer but wanted him to say it.
She was silent beside him.
“There were two choices. You could either come with me, or stay there and be taken by Ulrich. I asked Kyle to sell off your ranch,” he said quietly.
Emily looked away when her eyes filled with tears, “That was my Dad's ranch.”
“I'm sorry, it's too dangerous now.”
“Why was Kyle so surprised that you were taking me to your coven?”
“It's complicated,” Chevalier said, tightening his grip on the steering wheel. “Heku don't normally want to spend time with a mortal, we feed and we leave, it's that simple.”
“But with me?”
“With you, it's different. I don't know why, but I'm drawn to you. It may take some time for the coven to get used to a mortal being around longer than a few hours.”
Emily turned to face the window. Eventually, she drifted off into a sleep full of nightmares.
The sound of lapping water woke Emily up. The blinding light shone in her eyes as she struggled to see through it. The car was silent, but she still felt as if she were moving. Undoing the seat belt, she opened the car door and stepped out onto damp wooden planks. They were on a ferry, no land in sight. She looked around, the Bugatti was the only car on the large ferry, and she couldn't see any people.
There were voices on the wind, but she couldn't make them out, so she made her way to the back of the ferry and saw a recess in the deck that led to stairs. As she descended, the voices became quiet. She emerged into a small room with a table in the center. Chevalier was seated there, a warm smile on his face.
There were 2 others with him, a beautiful woman with dark hair and a stunning face, and an older man who looked away quickly when Emily met his eyes.
“I'm sorry,” she whispered. “Am I interrupting something?”
Chevalier stood up and motioned for her to come closer, “No, we were just visiting. Emily, this is Storm and Walen… please come and sit.”
Emily sat in the chair on his right as Storm watched her closely and Walen avoided looking at her. She hadn't looked in a mirror, but could only imagine what she looked like with the bruised neck and face.
“These are the highest ranking officers in my coven. They met us so we could go over some details of your arrival,” he explained.
Emily looked over at Storm and was shocked by her beauty. From what Emily could understand of their conversation, things were pretty normal. Word had gotten out that Chevalier would be back soon, and everyone was excited. Kyle had let Storm know that she was coming too, and preparations were made for her arrival. Talk turned to politics within the city walls, and the words they used were strange and confusing.
Emily suddenly felt terribly uncomfortable, “I'll leave you be then and go back up top.” She stood up and walked up the stairs quickly, feeling the eyes boring into her back.
She shivered as the cool ocean wind brushed past her. The breeze had gotten stronger since she went down, and the dark clouds began to look ominous above her. She went back to the car and sat inside, leaving the door open for fresh air. She could still hear the voices, but was thankful she couldn't make out the words. Emily found her bag behind the seat in the car and dug around inside until she found her book. Propping her bare feet on the dash of the car, she settled down to read.
The sound of engines startled her. She jumped slightly, and then heard the chuckle beside her.
“Good book?” Chevalier asked, smiling.
Emily watched the small boats surround the ferry, tossing ropes to attach themselves to the hull. She looked over at Chevalier nervously.
He grinned, “It's ok, they are going to tow us in. We're almost there.”
She looked out the windshield and noticed a large island coming swiftly toward them. A tall cement wall surrounded the island, blocking her view from anything on it and a pier jutted out from the beach, lined with armed guards and fierce looking dogs. The dogs stiffened, their hackles rising as the ferry drew nearer. Emily sat back against her chair.
“It's ok, they won't hurt you while you are in the car.” His eyes were now protective, no longer amused.
“While I'm in the car?”
“They protect the pier, only heku can get by them.”
“And the cement fence?”
He watched her reaction, “Well guarded.”
Emily felt like she was heading to a prison, a place where she would be watched and carefully monitored, a place which she would never be able to leave. She started to panic, her breathing picking up rapidly.
“Emily, calm down.” Chevalier touched her arm softly.
She opened the door, jumped out, and ran as Chevalier called from behind her. She had to get off the ferry, had to get away from the fortress. She could swim well, there had to be land close by. As she neared the back edge of the ferry, strong hands wrapped around her waist, pulling her back toward the center.
“Where are you going?” Chevalier asked softly into her ear.
“Away, let me go,” she demanded, but his hold on her strengthened.
“You can't jump off the ferry, Emily.”
Her heart was pounding loudly in her ears, her breathing coming faster as she struggled against his hands.
“Stop it, you're going to get hurt… I'm not going to let you drowned.”
Her nails were digging at his hands, trying to pry them off of her. She had to get away from him. No matter how hard she tried, his fingers wouldn't move, they held tight and steady. She screamed, maybe the Captain would hear her and come save her from the prison they were nearing. He said it was a city, not a fortress, guarded by dogs and armed guards.
“Let me go, Chev, right now! I have to get back.” She'd given up trying to move his hands and was squirming to get out of his grasp. He turned her quickly so she was facing him and he locked her eyes.
He concentrated on her, and just as he thought he might be able to control the situation, her eyes shot to the side and she brought up one knee, hitting him hard in the groin. His grip didn't lessen, but he wasn't able to lock her gaze again.
“What's wrong? Tell me.”
Anger flowed through her words, “You said it was a city, you didn't tell me it was a prison, Chev, a place to keep mortals out and what? Also keep them in? Are we going to play the hostage game again?”
He sighed, “It's not a prison. You can come and go as you wish. Once I get orders out to the coven, no one will harm you and no one will hold you hostage. I wouldn't do that.”
She glared at him, “Then let me go.”
“Not tonight, it's late and a storm is coming. Give it a try, Em, I'm breaking a lot of rules bringing you here, but you'll see, you will be like royalty to them. Give them time to show you how much you mean to us. Give me time to show you how much you mean to me.”
His distraction worked. Before he was done speaking, the ferry came to a stop and was tied to long posts on the pier. Storm was off the ferry first, barking orders at the armed guards in a language Emily didn't understand. Most stared straight ahead, while others peered at her from under their hats.
“Now get in the car before the storm hits.” He was leading her back to the waiting Bugatti. She crawled in and fastened her seat belt. It was too late, she couldn't get away. Her heart sank as Chevalier drove down the pier and into the fortress.
Once inside, things looked better, she had to admit. The island was lush and green and full of wildlife. Birds of all colors flew around and small squirrels played in the trees. There were beautiful houses lined with flowers and exotic bushes. Each home was well spaced from the next, giving off an air of privacy. Many people came to their doors and waved as they drove past, most stopped and stared curiously as they noticed her sitting beside him.
The winding road led up a small hill that was free of any buildings and they drove out onto a large mesa. Centered, was a mansion with tall granite pillars and rows of intricately designed windows. High turrets reached up from the four corners, and she could see armed guards in them.
A small bridge emerged, and as they crossed it, she looked down to see a swift stream full of orange and white Koi. The house sat back away from the rest of the city, but as they drew closer, she noticed the armed guards again. Four of them were standing outside large black double doors. Emily looked nervously at Chevalier.
“This is my home, welcome,” he said, smiling.
The closer they got, the bigger the mansion appeared. At first she thought it was about the same size as his home in Colorado, but it wasn't, it was much larger. Storm was already at the door, though Emily couldn't imagine how she'd beat them there. She was standing calmly between the 4 guards and watching their approach.
As Chevalier pulled the car up to the front door, a stout man ran out and opened his door for him. Emily jumped as another man appeared at her door, out of nowhere, and opened it, bowing to her. He put out one gloved hand to help her out of the car. She looked at his hand, unsure she wanted to trust him enough for the help, but in the end decided she had no choice, she was gravely outnumbered.
The guards each saluted Chevalier as he walked past, though he was ignoring them and was focused on something Storm was saying. Emily followed behind them, already feeling left out and afraid. One hulking maid looked up at her and growled, her teeth coming into view. Storm looked at her, and she instantly shrank back and out of sight. Emily was watching where the girl disappeared and ran right into Chevalier. He chuckled and took her hand.
She turned to look into the house and couldn't help but gasp. The front room was massive and two stark white columns of stairs led up to a second floor. The stairs were lined with golden handrails and covered in soft red carpet. There were doors lining the large room, but none of them were open, so she couldn't tell what was in them. Chevalier led the way up the closest staircase and Storm followed.
“This is Anna,” Chevalier said, and a stunningly beautiful heku appeared at her side and smiled warmly. Anna had long blonde hair and she was tall and muscular, “She will get you anything you need and will be at your beckon call. Don't hesitate to call on her if you want to find something or need to go somewhere.”
It already felt like she was being abandoned by him. He seemed to have felt that and strengthened his grasp on her hand, “I'll be around, of course, but she is here to help you.”
He led the way down a long hallway that had only two doors in it. The left door, he pointed out, was his room, and the right was hers. The door opened suddenly and they walked inside. The ante-chamber they stepped into was larger than her room in Colorado and was done up in black and red. Victorian era couches and chairs were placed around the fireplace which was being stoked by yet another heku. Double doors opened up from the ante-chamber into the bedroom.
Emily froze in the door, unable to take in the vastness of this one room. A large bed draped with black netting was front and center in the room. Four large wardrobes made of dark cherry wood were across from it, and a chandelier hung from the ceiling, its crystal décor throwing intricate rainbows beneath it. While checking out the room, she peeked through the black French doors and noticed a bathroom similar to the one in Colorado. The floor was dark blue granite, and the jetted tub was larger than the other and also dark blue. Eight showerheads lined the four walls of the double shower and the glass door was etched with a dolphin.
When she turned around, they had been joined by a few other people, but Storm was gone. Chevalier was talking to an older man and motioned Emily over to him, “Em, this is Gordon. He'll be your chef, just tell him what you want and he'll make it for you. I've told your maid, Helen, to stay out of here unless given permission to enter. No one is to be in here with you without your prior permission.”
He smiled, knowing this was all foreign to her, “That should give you some privacy. They are anxious to have you here and to serve you, I'm sure they would be able to make a pain out of themselves if you let them... ah, Margaret.”
Chevalier turned to a tall, bulky woman who waddled when she entered the room, “Emily, this is Margaret. She is your tailor, again anything you want, and she will make it for you. You still have most of the clothes that you left Colorado with, but I'm sure you'll need more.”
Margaret was staring oddly at Emily's dress, and when Emily glanced down, she gasped. She had forgotten it was covered in dry, caked blood.
“I'll get to work right away, I'm thinking black is your color, Dear?” Margaret seemed warm and sincere.
“She's not a heku, Margaret. Keep the colors light and the clothing comfortable.” He smiled at Emily.
“Yes, Sir,” Margaret said, wobbling off as fast as she could go.
“Chevalier,” Emily said, looking at the crowded room.
With one glance from Chevalier, the entire room emptied out in an instant, the door shut behind them.
“Yes?” he asked, moving closer to her.
“I don't need all of this, it's too much,” she protested.
“Let them treat you like you deserve, it's good for them, and they are looking forward to it.” He moved another step closer, close enough to embrace her.
She felt his protective arms and relaxed a bit, still unsure about what she'd gotten herself into, “I don't want this, Chev. You said you lived alone, peace and quiet you know?”
“Oh I do live alone, these heku don't live here, they are my servants. You won't hear a thing, I prefer the quiet myself.” He expected the protests.
“Do they know... know anything about me?” she asked, almost afraid of the answer.
“They know what I've told Storm to tell them, enough to keep them from harming you, but that's it. They don't know anything about your past or your abilities.”
She nodded and pulled away from him, again glancing around the room.
“I have a meeting, I hope you understand. Why don't you get cleaned up and changed and then have a look around the castle. You may go anywhere except my office.” He grinned, remembering how that had made her mad before.
“You're leaving?” Panic filled her voice, but his use of the term 'castle' didn't escape her notice.
“Just for a little while. You are safe here, and Anna is here in case you need anything.” He kissed her forehead lightly.
“What if I need you?” she asked, and grabbed his arm, hoping to go with him.
He pulled away gently, “Anna can find me anywhere.”
Chevalier smiled softly and left the room, shutting the heavy doors behind him. The silence was almost painful and her body shook with terror. Here she was, alone, in the middle of a city full of heku that could kill her before she even knew anything was wrong. The one person she trusted left her in the care of more of the heku. A night alone with Keith wasn't looking too bad now, it seemed safer than her current location.
She noticed her bag sitting on an ancient chest at the foot of the bed, so she quickly opened it and pulled out a clean change of clothing. The French doors leading in to the bathroom didn't seem secure, there was no way to lock them. Walking across the sizable bedroom, she locked the double doors and went back to the bathroom.
The shower felt good. It calmed her aching muscles and she was able to wash the blood from her face and hair. She kept glancing out into the bathroom though. She felt like eyes were on her and the glass door to the shower wasn't helping. She wondered if she could get a lockable door.
Jeans and a t-shirt, her favorite clothing, made her feel much better and a lot less conspicuous. She'd always hated shoes, so opted to go barefoot, and went out into the ante-chamber. Anna was standing in the corner waiting for her with a welcoming smile.
“What would you like to do, Lady Emily?”
Emily winced at the title, “Just Emily, please.”
Anna's face dropped nervously and then returned to a smile, “Anything you wish. Where would you like to go?”
“The kitchen? I'd like to find something to eat please.” She reached to open the door, but it opened before she could touch it. A heku stood at the door and bowed when he saw her.
“I can call Gordon, what would you like to eat?” Anna was at her side.
“I'd rather just make it myself, if that's ok.”
Anna bowed, “As you wish, Child.”
Emily followed her though the castle. She felt silly calling it a castle, though, like there were kings and queens and fairy princesses running around in today's society. She watched everything around her as they made their way to the kitchen, and noticed that any time they encountered a heku, they bowed and disappeared. Everything was immaculately clean and beautifully decorated. She supposed Chevalier would have it no other way.
Anna opened the door to the kitchen and quickly whispered something to whomever was inside. When Emily entered the kitchen, it was empty, so she looked around. There were 14 stoves and the ceiling was lined with pots and pans of all sorts and sizes. There were three doors, one lead to the pantry, one to the walk-in refrigerator, and one to the walk-in freezer.
Emily stopped and turned to Anna, “I thought heku didn't eat.”
“We don't, Dear,” Anna responded politely.
“Then why the kitchen and the food?”
“For you, Child,” Anna explained, smiling again.
Emily grimaced. She hated that everyone was calling her Child. She went to work making her dinner. She was starving and all of the travel was wearing on her and she was ready for a good meal and bed. Anna was quiet as Emily went to work cutting up vegetables for a salad while the steak and large potato broiled. Filling her plate, she looked around for a place to eat and saw Anna standing at a door, waiting for her.
She stepped out into a vast dining room with a large table that ran along the middle. The candles on the table were lit and the lights were turned low. She sat at the end of the table and began to eat as Anna disappeared behind her. She counted 82 plates at the table and felt odd the entire time she was eating, alone at a table large enough for most of the residents of Cascade.
Anna reappeared just as Emily was done eating. She stood up from the table and went to grab her plate, but it had vanished. Her eyes were wide when she turned questioningly to Anna.
Anna smiled proudly, “You won't lift a finger here to clean, it's all done for you.”
Emily sighed. This would be harder than she thought, “What time is it?”
Without looking at a watch or clock, Anna responded, “It's almost 10pm, Child.”
Emily winced at the name and politely asked Anna to return to her bedroom. She was feeling exceptionally tired by the time they reached the long hallway with the two doors. She watched Chevalier's door closely as they walked toward her own door, but it didn't open. Anna opened the door to the ante-chamber and stepped inside. The fire was dying down and the room was warm and pleasant.
Emily turned to Anna, “That's all, thanks Anna. I'm just going to bed.”
“Yes, Child. I will wait here for you in case you need anything.”
Emily frowned, “You don't have to wait here, you'll get bored.”
“No, never bored, call me if you need me,” Anna said, and walked over to wait in the corner.
Emily walked through the double doors and locked them behind her. It was childish, she knew, to lock the doors against heku, but it felt better than not doing it.
As she got closer to her bed, she noticed it had been turned down, and a soft silken pink nightgown was lying on top of it. She scanned the room, making sure no one was in there before undressing and pulling on the nightgown. She hadn't noticed before, but there were floor-to-ceiling curtains lining one side of the bedroom. Emily went up to them and pushed the heavy velvet curtains back, revealing a large balcony that overlooked the fields beside the castle.
She tried the door and found it unlocked, so she stepped out into the cold night air. The storm had passed, and the island was eerily quiet. Her eyes were just scanning the horizon, looking for any sign of life when she jerked as arms wound around her waist.
His voice was amused, “Sorry, Em, it's just me.”
“Don't do that!” she reminded him, calming her breathing.
She turned around and pulled away from his grip, blushing deeply as she noticed him admiring her in the silk. Instinctively, she wrapped her arms around her torso, covering herself.
“I hear you don't like your chef, would you like another?” He was concerned.
“No, I can cook for myself.”
“Oh I have no doubt about that, but why not let poor Gordon do it for you?”
She suddenly felt like a child that was about to get scolded.
He started to wonder if pampering Emily was going to be harder than he first thought, “I'll tell you what, let them do it for you. Let them do their jobs for a week… and then we'll compromise, deal?”
“Now come inside before you catch pneumonia.” He took her hand and pulled her back into the dark room, shutting the door behind them.
He suddenly swept her off her feet, cradling her in his arms. His skilled lips met hers and pressed passionately against them. The kiss, the way he held her, it all seemed too intimate and she tensed, her hands pushing against him. He didn't stop as his tongue traced the outline of her lips and forced them apart. He growled slightly as his tongue explored her mouth. She gave up and stopped resisting, her hand wound through his black hair, balling into a fist.
She couldn't remember the walk to the bed, but she was suddenly being laid down on it. His body pressed into hers as he lay on top of her, his kiss becoming stronger. Her body curved up into his, and she could feel his hands gently brush against the outside of her breast. She could feel his chest pressing against hers as her breathing came faster. Her inner being was yelling at her to stop, to let him keep the desire he had for her. She knew that if he were to get his way, things would change, and he would know the kind of person she was.
He hissed her name into her ear as she pushed him off of her. He rolled to her side and took her hand in his, running his tongue gently along the inside of her wrist as she shivered.
“Chevalier, no…” she said, but his lips pressed against hers again, stopping what she was going to say. He ran his hand from her waist down along her hip and squeezed her outer thigh. She felt incredible to his touch, and he craved more. His lips again explored her soft mouth, tasting her sweet breath.
His mouth left hers and traveled down her neck, pausing at the vein, exploring its throb with his tongue. He kissed down her neck to the top of the nightgown and brought a hand up to lower it. She gasped and took his hand away, moving away from him. The bed was large enough to move to the edge and be far enough away from him he couldn't reach.
He looked up at her, desire burning in his eyes, “What's wrong?”
“I've told you, I can't.” She shied away from his eyes.
“Keith's gone, you're no longer tied to him, you're free.” He scooted closer to her and reached out. His hand landed on her waist and he pulled her closer to him.
“Please…” she looked up at him pleading.
He sighed, “Fine, for now, but I wish you would tell me why.” He pulled her close to him and embraced her, burying his face in her soft red hair.
“Not with you, Chev, ever,” she said plainly. “If that's why I'm here, why I'm getting my every wish granted, then you might as well send me back to the mainland.”
He grinned, “It's not why you are here.”
“Then why am I here?” she asked, and propped herself up on her elbow.
“We'll talk later, for now, it's late and you should get some sleep.” He was off the bed in an instant, but walked slowly, mortally, out of the room.
The voices drew closer. The woods surrounding her were dark and closing in around her. She was running as fast as she could through the tangled roots and branches, running to save him. She knew he was here, lost in the black trees but she couldn't find him, her frantic searching becoming more hectic as the voices called to him. She had to find him… she had to find him before they did.
“Emily?” Chevalier woke her, gently touching her arm.
She sat up and looked at him, her breathing was rapid and she'd broken out in a light sweat. The room was dark, it was still late at night, but his face shown in the dark like an angel. She buried her face into his chest, finding comfort in his arms wrapping tightly around her.
“It was just a dream.” He shushed her like you would a toddler, but she didn't shrink from it.
She felt herself falling back to sleep. The images from the dream seemed far away when he was by her. She fell asleep in his arms and didn't dream.
Small beams of light streamed into the room and fell on the dark bed. Emily was still cuddled in Chevalier's arms, her fists clenched tightly to his shirt. She relaxed her grip as she began to wake up, for a moment forgetting where she was. The memories from the past 24 hours came creeping back into her mind, and she pulled closer to him.
“Good morning,” he whispered to her.
She nodded, not wanting to move. The bed was extremely comfortable, and she was warm under the down blanket.
Chevalier grinned, “If you plan on staying in bed all day, then we should have some food brought in.”
She sighed softly, “What time is it?”
“It's almost one.”
“In the afternoon?” She sat upright and looked around the room. He reached around her and pulled her back down.
“Why didn't you wake me up?” she asked, and watched his face.
“Did you have somewhere to be?” He was grinning again.
She shrugged and snuggled deeper into his arms.
“Did you have plans today?” she asked, not sure she really wanted to know.
He kissed the top of her head softly, “Yes.”
She squeezed her arms tighter around him, “You're leaving again?”
“No, you and I have some more training to do.”
“Ugh, why?” She didn't even want to think about the weeks they had spent with Steven.
He smiled, “You can't become more adept at what you can do, without practice.”
She frowned and looked up at him, “You brought Steven?”
“No, I left him back on your ranch with the rest of the ashes. It'll be good for him.” His tone was light and amused again.
Emily scooted away from him and propped herself up on one elbow, “Then who am I going to be practicing on?”
His face showed indecision as he considered what exactly to tell her, “There were some problems while I was away, and I need to deal with them. I thought you could practice while I did it.”
Her breath caught, “You want me to ash them? Are you kidding me?”
He took her hand into his, “Em, you have to practice. You can't do so on anyone but a heku. Why not on ones that are about to go into stasis anyway, for crimes against the coven?”
“No, I won't do it, Chev! I won't be a monster around here, people afraid to so much as look at me.” She got out of bed and headed for the wardrobe, “Oh there goes our punisher, don't tick her off or she'll turn you into ash.”
Chevalier grimaced and then appeared in front of her, “No one will know, Em. I wouldn't do that to you.”
“No,” she yelled and stopped in front of him, meeting his gaze.
“You need to practice, to learn more control.”
“Not like that.”
“Then how?” He raised an eyebrow.
“Don't make me do this,” she pleaded.
A low growl erupted from him, “I won't force you to do anything.” He was able to calm himself some, “How do you propose to hone your skills?”
She shrugged and walked around him, opening up the wardrobe. It was full of pastel colors and flowing fabrics. She rifled through them and noticed they were all delicate, feminine dresses, “Great.”
Chevalier watched with some amusement as she went through the other wardrobes, finding slight variations from the first. She stormed back to her suitcase and removed the jeans and t-shirt, then disappeared through the French doors into the bathroom.
Chevalier sat to wait for her on one of the velvet covered chairs. He sighed when his phone rang, “Yes?”
“There's a problem, Sir. Ulrich is going to the Elders,” Storm said, sounding concerned.
Chevalier frowned, “To do what? The Elders will…” He paused and lowered his voice, “The Elders would kill her if they knew how many of us she's turned to ash, so he can't tell them about her. What exactly is he going to complain to them about?”
“He's going for a type of custody battle, Sir. Claiming you have taken his granddaughter from him. He's also planning on saying it was more of a kidnapping. I know what he wants to do. He wants the Elders to bring Emily in to them so they can ask her themselves.”
“Sir,” Storm continued. “I know you already know this, but if she leaves this island and comes anywhere near the Elders, it would give Ulrich the chance to take her back.”
“I know, Storm,” he growled at her. “Tell the Elders I'm contesting his claim and I'll be there in the morning.”
“Yes, Sir, we'll have everything ready.”
Chevalier shut his cell phone and slammed it down on the table, shattering it into several pieces. His eyes burned with rage.
After a few minutes, he was able to regain control. He had to tell Emily he was leaving again, this time for longer, and he could only imagine how she was going to take it. She emerged from the bathroom, still sulking, but she froze when she saw him.
“What's wrong?” She stayed back away from him.
“I have to go away for a few days.” He stood up, but noticed that she took a step back.
“I'll come with you.”
“You can't. I need you to stay here.”
Her eyes narrowed, “Is this about me?”
“No, Emily, it's just something I have to do. You'll be safe here, and I'll be back before you know it.” He tried to reassure her with a smile.
“Is Storm going?”
“Well, of course she is. Won't matter, I'm leaving today anyway.” She headed over and zipped her suitcase shut.
“Emily,” he said, his shoulders slumped. “Please don't do this, just stay until I get back.”
“Why should I, Chev? This has all been a misunderstanding, and if I get back now, I can let Kyle go and get back to the ranch where I belong.” She was watching the floor.
“It's already gone, the ranch has been sold.”
She looked up at him suddenly, angry that the tears were flowing so easily in front of him. She fought to keep the tears out of her eyes but wasn't having any luck, “It's gone?”
She turned away from him as the tears started flowing more easily.
He silently moved up to her and wrapped his arms around her waist, “Emily…”
She jerked out from his grasp, still not turning around.
“Emily, just stay here, I beg you. When I get back, we'll figure things out.” He granted her wish not to be touched.
She mumbled something quietly under her breath, but he caught it, “If you come back.”
“Just a few days… I'll be back, I promise. Why don't you enjoy yourself? Go out and look around the city, it's safe for you now.”
She shrugged and halfway nodded.
Chevalier took one step toward her and then reconsidered and left her alone in the large room.
As soon as the doors shut, she grabbed a nearby vase and threw it against the doors, shattering it in a violent crash. The sound made her feel a little better, but she quickly realized she was alone yet again.
Emily sat on the bed and looked around. She started to feel uneasy and bored in the room, so she sighed and headed out the doors, determined to look around on her own.
Anna met her gaze as she left the bedroom, “Yes, Lady Emily?”
She ignored the title, “You get a day off, Anna.”
“Pardon me?” Anna asked politely.
“A day off… no following me around? Go home… visit family…”
Anna looked at Emily, confused.
“It's a hint, Anna, I'm exploring alone today.” Emily cursed under her breath as she reached for the door and it opened before she reached it. The heku outside her door bowed to her again.
“And stop bowing!” she screamed at him.
She could feel Anna and the door heku watching her as she left the hallway. Emily looked both directions and decided that left looked interesting. The entire place seemed abandoned. She couldn't see a single living thing, but she knew they were there, hiding from her for some reason. Maybe it was Chevalier's idea of privacy, but for her, it was just creepy.
Some of the doors were locked, but most opened up into rooms that were breathtakingly beautiful, yet smaller than the one she was in currently. She found a library. It was as large as the city library in Great Falls, but the books were all older and didn't fall into any organization as far as she could tell. She accidentally ran into the kitchen again, and not feeling hungry, she just shut the door.
It had been hours she'd spent going through the castle, opening doors, and exploring old rooms full of antiques and art. As she rounded a dark corner, she screamed, and then laughed at herself when she recognized the suit of armor in the shadows. She studied the armor for a moment, and as she reached out to touch it, a hiss sounded from the shadows nearby. She drew her hand back and turned to the noise, but couldn't see anyone there.
She screamed again as a voice sounded behind her, “Emily?”
Emily spun, ready to attack, but calmed instantly, “Kyle!”
He grinned at her, “I have something for you, please allow me to show you.” He motioned down an adjacent hallway.
She followed him through the confusing hallways, “Kyle? Is it… well is it all gone?”
He nodded to her.
Another large door opened with invisible hands, and they stepped out into the bright sunlight of day. Kyle immediately pulled on sun glasses and began to walk across a lush yard toward outbuildings. Emily had to almost run to keep pace with him. As they came closer to the building, she noticed it was a barn, and her hopes began to grow.
“Do you have animals here?” she asked, getting excited.
“Not many, but we are getting more soon.” Kyle opened the large door and let Emily inside.
Emily froze and her entire body suddenly erupted with emotion, “Patra!”
She ran to the mare, and wrapped her arms around the horse's neck. Patra responded by picking at Emily's red hair with her mouth. Emily pressed her face into the horse's powerful neck and let the tears go. When she regained some composure, she turned to Kyle, who was standing silently by the door, trying not to watch them.
Kyle barely had time to react as she ran and threw her arms around him, “Thank you, Kyle, thank you.” The tears were streaming again.
Kyle stood still as his eyes darted around to make sure no one was watching. He wasn't sure how Chevalier would take the situation. They had all been issued strong orders not to touch Emily.
His shirt became wet with tears. He gently pulled her off of him and moved a step back, “Just a gift, Lady Emily. I thought you might enjoy a taste of home. I put some personal items in the barn's storage shed also.”
Kyle's eyes were understanding and deep with wisdom. Emily could tell that he was exceedingly old. His eyes told a story of things known only to those with a long history.
“Let me get you a saddle,” Kyle said, heading toward a side room in the barn.
“No thanks, Kyle, I have this.” With one quick jump, she was on Patra, leaning over and hugging the horse again.
“Very well, is there anything else you require? Shall I ride with you?” He hesitated, it seemed innocent enough, and he worried about sending her out alone, but it was well known that the girl belonged to the Chief Enforcer.
“Oh please, come with me!” She sounded truly excited.
Kyle nodded and proceeded to saddle a beautiful buckskin mare. Only a few minutes had passed before he was on the horse, looking graceful and comfortable, “Shall we?” he asked, heading out the barn door.
The ride was just what she needed. The mesa was large enough to break into a full gallop, and she enjoyed the feel of the wind through her hair. The freshness of the air was exquisite and she instantly felt better. Kyle kept up with her easily, never speaking, and letting her lead the way. Emily brought the horses to the tree line and then set out along the edge of a small forest.
Kyle saw him an instant before Patra reacted. He yelled at the strange heku, but it was too late, the horse was startled. Patra reared up to paw at the stranger, whinnying loudly. The sudden change sent Emily off the back of the mare, and she landed with a thud on the ground. In less than a second, Kyle was off his horse and had the intruding heku by the neck, a fierce growl erupting from deep within him, and the young heku was terrified.
Emily sat up slowly. It all happened so quickly, that she wasn't sure what was going on. Her head throbbed where she'd hit the ground and when she touched it, her hand became wet with blood. She covered the gaping wound with her hand and stood up, steadying her feet underneath her.
“Kyle, don't, it's ok,” she said, seeing the seething way that Kyle was watching the new heku.
Kyle stiffened and smelled the air, then spun on Emily, his hand still wrapped tightly around the other heku's neck.
Emily recoiled back a step. Kyle's eyes were fierce, “Get back to the barn,” he ordered.
“Let him go, please.” She could tell by the look on the strange heku's face that he was on the brink of death.
Emily met the new heku's eyes and saw something that made her fear him, he was watching her, his breathing was fast and his lips were drawn back into a grimace. Suddenly, he was fighting to get to her. Kyle's hands were the only thing restraining him.
“Now!” Kyle yelled at her.
She was on Patra quickly and kicked her hard into a gallop, racing for the barn, too afraid to look back. Once in the safety of the barn, she dismounted and tied Patra to a post. She could hear a sharp inhale from the shadows around her and she ran, without thinking, trying to make it back to the house.
The house full of heku.
She froze halfway between the barn and the house, suddenly unsure of where to go. She could feel the blood running down her neck and back.
Emily spun, the house was closest, the barn opposite it. To her left was an empty field, and to her right was a steep drop to the houses below. She couldn't see anyone, couldn't hear anyone, her senses heightened with fear.
Someone touched the back of her head and she turned on them. It was Anna, “Come, Child,” she said as she pressed a towel hard against the flow of blood from her head.
Emily couldn't move. She watched the heku's face to see if she was going to attack.
Anna just smiled warmly, but her teeth stood out sharply, “Please, come inside where I can look closer.”
Emily took a step away from her.
“It's ok, Child, you can trust me. I won't hurt you… please… Kyle has the other. He can't get to you now.” Anna was holding a towel drenched in blood, but it didn't seem to bother her.
Emily took one tentative step forward.
Anna smiled again and motioned for the door, “Come, you need to get that looked at.”
Emily realized that if Anna wanted to hurt her, she could do it outside. She didn't feel she had an option other than to head inside with her.
Anna pressed the towel back to Emily's head as they walked through the castle. They headed to the third floor, one Emily hadn't been on, and she looked at Anna cautiously.
“There are some medical supplies up here, a precaution necessitated by your arrival,” Anna explained.
Anna led Emily into a small room that looked similar to a doctor's office. She sat on a chair as Anna pulled back the blood matted red hair and hissed slightly, “He's not going to be happy about this,” Anna said, mainly to herself.
Emily winced as Anna poured a stinging liquid into the cut, but it subsided and the pain numbed.
She could tell that Anna was trying to suture the cut, “Do you know what you're doing?”
“Yes, I do,” Anna said, her voice light and comforting.
It was over in a few minutes and Anna was handing Emily a white pill, “Take this.”
Emily hesitated and looked up at Anna.
“It's for the pain.”
She shook her head, “I don't take pain medications.”
Anna frowned, “He won't like it if you are in pain.”
“He,” Emily stressed, “Will have to live with it.”
A flash of concern crossed Anna's bright face before the smile returned, “As you wish. Let me take you back to your room, you might want to lie down.”
Anna was shaking. Emily caught it only briefly, but hopped down and followed Anna back to her room. She stepped inside, shut the doors, and looked around at the emptiness.
How had she gone from complete bliss to fearing for her life in an instant? Was this how her stay here was going to be? Chevalier assured her no one would attack her, yet he was out of the way for a day and it happened.
The sharp knock on the doors shocked her. She stared at them, unsure if she should open them or not.
“It's me, Kyle,” the soft voice said from behind the door.
Emily relaxed, “Come in, please.”
She was glad to see him, happy to see him calm and relaxed. Emily smiled brightly when he stepped in and shut the doors. She was finally not alone. She was with someone she could trust.
“I came to apologize,” he said, wringing his hands.
“No… Kyle, that wasn't your fault!” She was afraid he was going to apologize and then leave again. She took a step toward him.
He looked unsure and continued, “It was… I should have been closer to you. I could have stopped him before your horse reacted.”
Emily shook her head, “I don't blame you, Kyle. Did you…” she said, and then paused. “Where is he?”
Kyle watched her for a moment, “I left him for the Chief Enforcer to deal with.”
Emily's eyes grew wide, “What will Chev do to him?”
Kyle shook his head, “I don't know. It's not up to me.”
Kyle bowed slightly and turned to leave.
“Stay, please,” she said, and took a step toward him.
He turned toward her slowly, “You wish for me to stay?”
A blush rose to her cheeks, “Yes.”
He thought about it for a moment and then nodded.
She smiled, “Tomorrow, can we try again… take the horses out?”
Kyle smiled warmly at her, “Anything you wish.”
Emily frowned, “It's not an order, Kyle. If you don't want to go then say so and I'll go by myself.”
“No, it's not that... Yes I do want to go.” He walked over to a plush chair and sat down.
She stood for a moment and remembered the blood in her hair, “Let me take a quick shower, you won't leave though, right?”
“I will not.”
“Ok… I won't be long.” She grabbed clean clothes and headed for the bathroom.
“Shall I get you something to eat?”
“I am kinda hungry.” She paused at the French doors and turned around.
“I will get Gordon to make you something, what would you like?” He moved so quickly that Emily's eyes couldn't see him. To her, he just suddenly appeared at the double doors.
“Something simple, tell him to surprise me.” She disappeared into the bathroom.
Kyle opened the doors and spoke to Anna, then returned to the now empty room. He walked the perimeter of the room, his senses reaching out for anything abnormal. As he passed the doors to the balcony, he stopped to lock them, and continued to survey the room. He paused for a moment outside of the French doors and briefly glanced over them.
He was startled to see her in the shower, the glass doors hiding nothing from his keen eyes. He marveled at her tone body, the soft whiteness of her skin, and the perfect curves she hid beneath unflattering clothing. He inhaled deeply, salivating at the aroma of her blood and picturing the throbbing vein of her neck in his mind. Kyle jerked suddenly, aware of what he was doing, and then proceeded to ascertain if her room was secure. He cursed himself, that brief lapse in judgment could cost him his life. Chevalier made it abundantly clear that Emily belonged to him and was to be left alone, yet here he was, walking around her bedroom while she stood naked just a few yards from him.
“Much better,” she said, stepping out of the bathroom. She was brushing softly through her hair, making sure she didn't brush near the stitches.
“Your meal should be here soon.”
He felt like keeping formality would save him from further distractions.
Emily nodded and sat down next to him. Kyle stood up nervously and began to stoke the fire.
“May I ask you a question?” Emily asked.
Kyle nodded, still focused on the fire.
“What exactly were Chev's orders? I mean… what did he tell everyone about me?” She waited for him to turn, but he sat where he was, facing away from her.
“I'm not sure he meant for you to hear them.” His tone was even and controlled.
“I'm sure he didn't… but I still want to know.”
“Then, my Dear, you should take that up with him.”
Emily nodded, “Why is everyone so afraid of him? What has he done to deserve so much compliance?”
She could see that Kyle was smiling, “He is Chief Enforcer, which is enough.”
“Enforcing what exactly?”
“The laws and rules of the faction.”
“And what does he do if they aren't obeyed?” She leaned toward him, anxious for an answer.
Kyle turned and looked at her, “You are full of questions, aren't you? Again, something you should take up with him.”
Emily wrinkled her nose, “Faithful to the last drop. Have you ever defied him?”
Kyle's mind quickly replayed the image in the shower, “No.”
Kyle stood up and headed for the door.
“Please don't leave,” she said, and stood up.
“I'm simply answering the door, your meal is here,” he told her, opening the double doors.
Emily hadn't heard the knock. It was frustrating how much better they could hear than she could.
Kyle returned with a tray and sat it on the table by Emily's chair. The smell of the food drifted up to her and she realized she was very hungry and the food smelled delicious. She looked down and gasped at the size of the hamburger and the mound of cheese covered fries beside it.
“Wow, Gordon must think he's feeding an army,” she commented, stealing a French fry and savoring the taste.
“Are they to your liking?” Kyle sat down again.
“Oh… very much, these are amazing.” She picked up the hamburger and took a bite, chewing slowly. Suddenly, she felt awkward eating in front of him. She grabbed the plate and held it out for him.
Kyle chuckled, “No, thank you.”
Emily shrugged and set the plate back down, “What do you all eat anyway? I'd think with a thousand of you here it would be hard to keep the blood supply going.”
He frowned slightly, it wasn't natural for her to speak of such things, “We have our ways.”
“Not going to tell me, are you?” She grabbed another fry.
Kyle smiled, “No, I am not.”
Her mood became more serious, “Did anyone come looking for Keith?” She took another bite of the steaming hot hamburger.
“Yes.” He grimaced when he remembered what Keith had done to her, and his hands balled into fists.
“Cassi,” he said, and watched for a reaction. When she frowned, he felt bad for telling her.
Emily looked over toward the curtained window and then back to Kyle, “What time is it?”
He smiled, “8:40 pm”
“How do you do that?”
“Tell the time without a clock.” She was curious as she'd seen no clocks or watches in the entire building.
Kyle cocked his head to the side curiously, “I just… know the time.”
Emily raised her eyebrows, “How?”
Kyle smiled, “It's a natural ability. If you would like, I can get a clock in here for you.”
Her mouth was full of fries, so she just nodded vehemently.
She pulled her knees up into the chair and wrapped her arms around them as she watched the fire.
“I should be going now,” Kyle said, and stood up.
“No!” The sound in her voice made him jump.
“Is there a problem? Something I should know about? Is someone bothering you?” Kyle surveyed the room again. It hadn't dawned on him that with her human senses, he would be well aware of an intruder before she would.
Emily stood up, “No, please, don't leave me alone.”
Kyle frowned, “It's not proper for me to stay.”
“You mean… Chev would be mad if you stayed all night?” She guessed.
He didn't answer.
“Please, Kyle, I can't be alone.” Her eyes were pleading.
He sighed and looked toward the door, “I can ask Anna to stay in here.”
“I don't want Anna, I want you… I don't know her, and I don't like how she calls me Child.” Emily set her jaw and her eyes narrowed.
Kyle laughed softly, “Alright, I will stay.”
She grinned, “If Chev gives you a hard time, tell him to come talk to me.”
Emily yawned despite herself and headed for the large bed. She noticed how Kyle had returned to his seat by the fire. She guessed that in bed, she wouldn't even be able to see him. Standing behind the bed's curtain, she slipped off her jeans and crawled into bed in her t-shirt and pulled the cool sheets up around her.
“Good night, Kyle,” she called out, and all she heard in return was a soft laugh.
The dream was different this time. She was still running, but it was along the beach. She could hear footsteps behind her, coming closer. They were running. The voices echoed off the rocks around her, calling out to her in patronizing tones. It was Keith, he was coming for her, his cold, dead hands just inches from her neck.
“No!” she screamed, hoping someone, anyone could hear.
“What are you screaming for, Slut? You owe me… you owe me my life and I'm going to take it out of you.” Keith was slurring his words like he'd been drinking.
She pushed herself harder to try to get ahead of him.
“You wait till he fucks you, Em. You wait until he sees what a slut you are, the dirty whoring slut.” His hand touched her hair briefly, “I kept you around because I felt sorry for you, you know that? No one will want you, Emily, no one!”
His hands touched her arm…
“No!” Emily screamed, clawing at the cold hands on her arm.
“Emily,” Kyle said softly. “It's ok.”
Her eyes adjusted to the dark quickly and she saw Kyle's face. He was afraid and touching her arm softly. It was Kyle that had touched her, not Keith.
Kyle sat on the edge of the bed and gasped when she fell into him, pressing her face against his chest to block out the images of Keith in the dream.
He hesitated and then wrapped his arms around her lightly, “It was just a dream. Keith isn't back.”
“How did you…”
“You were talking in your sleep. I apologize for listening, but it's hard to block it out when you are screaming.” He sounded truly sorry and she'd heard that before, it must be true.
She grabbed onto his shirt, her hands shaking, “Are you positive? What if he's a heku now? He'll come back and kill me.”
“He's not one of us, that I can promise you.” Kyle fought back the grin.
Emily nodded and lay back on the bed, pulling the covers tight around her. Kyle stood up to return to his chair, “Wait, Kyle, sit with me.”
The look on Chevalier's face as he demanded they stay away from her flashed into his mind. Chevalier also told them to give her whatever she wanted. He saw both sides and decided he would rather face Emily's wrath, than the Chief Enforcer. He looked down to tell her no and noticed her pleading eyes, and how her whole body shook with fear.
He lowered his shoulders and sat down on the edge of the bed, as far from her as he could get. It wasn't long before she was asleep again.