After their brief chat, Jack had instructed Adelaide to gather what few belongings she had with her, reassuring her kindly he would see to it that she was provided with a whole new wardrobe as soon as he was granted access to McGordon’s accounts.
She did as she was advised and, as soon as she was ready, Tristan took her back to the basement car park and escorted her to his car.
“Are you okay with this?” he asked as they drove towards the outskirts of Jackson.
“Have I got a choice?” she replied lightly. Despite her joking tone, his face was serious.
“Dekker can be a bit of a handful to live with at the best of times,” he advised, “but now she’s likely to be deliberately rebellious. I’m not trying to worry you or anything, but you should know what you’re getting into.” Adelaide reached over and gave his hand a squeeze, smiling softly.
“I know you’re just looking out for me,” she said, “but I’ll be okay. Besides, it won’t be forever, right?”
“True,” Tristan shrugged, giving her a dazzling smile. “I reckon you can handle her anyway.” Adelaide gave a dry chuckle and turned to look out of the window. The tall trees whispered around them in the only breeze for days and she opened the window to let the cool air in. Various scents came to her from well-tended exotic flowers that adorned perfectly manicured lawns. Large, impressive houses peeked out at them through the trees, shutters open like eyes drinking in the sunlight.
“Dekker lives round here?” Addy breathed, taking in the neighbourhood passing by outside.
“Yup,” Tristan nodded, “just here on Heritage Hill Drive. You expect nothing but the best when you’re the daughter of a god.” Adelaide’s head snapped round to look at him, searching his face for any trace that he was pulling her leg.
“You’re kidding, right?” He shook his head.
“Valkyries are apparently the daughters of the Norse chief god, Odin. That might sound crazy, but nobody actually knows who Dekker’s father is and she never speaks about her mother. Apparently there was a falling out centuries ago and she disowned Dekker. So she changed her name, moved away from Denmark and hasn’t been back since. She spent most of her time travelling around, learning how to survive and defend herself. Like we said before, she’s immortal, not invulnerable, so if nobody can hit her, she can’t die.”
“Seems fair enough,” Adelaide shrugged. “I mean, the fighting thing, not the whole daughter of a god thing. Don’t think I’ll be believing that one in a hurry.”
“Yeah,” Tristan agreed, “I wouldn’t bring it up with her though, she’s pretty sensitive about it.” Adelaide nodded.
Slowly, Tristan brought the car to a gradual stop outside a large, red brick house that stood at the end of a decoratively paved driveway lined with vibrantly blooming Empress Lilies that perfumed the air around them. Two guards stood solemnly either side of an imposing, carved oak front door, their hands folded in front of them, barely seeming to notice the intense heat that beat upon them in their black uniforms.
As they climbed out of the car and gathered Adelaide’s things, the guards continued to stare straight ahead, not even affording the two of them a cursory glance.
“They probably already knew we were coming,” Tristan reasoned, following her gaze. Lifting the small carry-bag of her belongings onto his shoulder, Tristan locked his car and strode up the driveway, Adelaide in tow, nodding a curt greeting to the guards.
The large door looked even more imposing up close and Adelaide saw that several strange shapes and symbols had been carved into it.
“They’re runes,” Tristan said, motioning to them loosely, “don’t ask me what they mean though, haven’t got a clue.” Reaching forward, he pressed the doorbell and waited as a loud, ominous toll resounded through the house. Footsteps approached and Adelaide heard someone cursing as the lock turned and the door opened.
“What do you want?” Dekker’s voice drawled from inside. Adelaide had to wait a moment for her eyes to adjust to the darker interior. Dekker stood in the doorway, dressed in nothing but a bra and pair of loose jeans, hair cascading down around her shoulders. “Oh, it’s you,” she said as she recognised her visitors. “Come on in.”
Stepping to one side, she motioned for them to enter and Tristan led the way, taking his shoes off as he walked into the hallway. Adelaide did likewise before straightening up and taking it all in. The hallway opened out into a large open-plan lounge, decked out in a light, gilt wallpaper. An imposing fireplace took the attention of the room and a white corner sofa beckoned, facing a huge flat-screen TV connected to a myriad of consoles. A game was loaded up on the screen and, as Adelaide glanced around her, Dekker leaped over the back of the sofa and, picking up the controller, donned a headset and started playing again.
“Stairs are over there,” Dekker said, flicking up the mouthpiece on her headset and motioning to her left. My room is first on the right. There’s two guest bedrooms, take your pick.” With that, she was absorbed in her game once more, chattering away down the mouthpiece in a foreign language. Adelaide couldn’t understand a word of what was being said, but from the tone of Dekker’s voice and the rapid button-pushing, she figured it was insulting.
“Come on,” Tristan led her upstairs, carrying her bag with an apparent lazy ease. The stairs wound up to a landing with various doors coming off. Immediately to their right was a large door, painted black, with a Keep Out sign plastered across the top.
“Dekker’s room?” Adelaide asked. Tristan nodded.
“Best you do keep out, unless invited in, she’s very touchy about her personal belongings. Someone stole something from her a long time ago and she’s been on the defensive ever since.”
“I see,” Adelaide said, nodding sagely.
“This is the bathroom,” he advised, putting down a bag and opening the next door along. The room was tiled with glittery black granite which gave the place a dream-like feel. A large, claw-foot tub sat near one wall with and overhead shower and a small stereo built into the tiles a foot or so above the rim. A large toilet, bidet and podium sink took up the adjacent wall and opposite the bath, next to the door, was a radiator that doubled as a towel rack, covered with the fluffiest looking white towels Adelaide had ever seen. Needless to say, she was impressed.
“Dekker has an en-suite, so feel free to use this bathroom whenever. The heating system is rigged so that if you shower at the same time as her, neither one of you will notice.” Adelaide nodded to show she understood. Moving gently past her, Tristan placed down the bag and opened the next two doors, standing opposite one another as the landing began to turn a corner. “These are the guest rooms, pick whichever one you prefer.”
Walking slowly so as to take it all in, Adelaide stepped into the first room, jumping as Dekker swore loudly in English from downstairs, making Tristan chuckle.
The room was bright and airy with light blue walls, a large double bed covered with a white bed spread and translucent black curtains that billowed lightly in the breeze from the open window. A white canvas wardrobe and grey bookcase took up the wall opposite the bed and, hanging above a small, white radiator, on the same wall as the door, was a broad canvas picture of a forest, creating a serene mood. Stepping out, she wandered across into the other room and looked around. It was similar in layout, with the furniture in the same place but the walls were a green so light that it was almost white. In this room, there was no bookcase. The opposing wall was instead covered floor to ceiling with a mirrored wardrobe.
“Any preference?” Dekker’s voice made Adelaide jump and she spun round to see her standing, arms folded, leaning casually against the door frame. Adelaide felt herself blush as she once again took in the other woman’s attire, but Dekker didn’t seem to notice.
“I think I like the other one better,” she said, motioning to the blue room. “The mirrors would freak me out a bit.”
“Fair enough,” Dekker said with a shrug, “your choice.” She turned and smiled at Tristan who, with an exaggerated sigh, picked up the bag again and took it into the chosen room. “Take your time,” Dekker advised, “settle yourself in. I’m going to get take-out tonight. What do you fancy more, Chinese or Pizza?”
“Erm... either is good for me,” Adelaide mumbled, following them through into what was now her room.
“Pizza,” Tristan said without a second thought.
“Sweet,” Dekker said with a grin, “I’ll bring up the menu in a bit and we can order.”
“You’re taking this house arrest pretty well,” Adelaide pointed out. Dekker shrugged again.
“Can’t really do much about it right now,” she said nonchalantly. “Besides, it’s not the first time and probably won’t be the last.” She tipped them a wink and shot off back downstairs without a backward glance.
“I’ll leave you to it,” Tristan said as he placed Adelaide’s carry-bag on the floor. “If you need anything, just shout. I’ll be next door.”
“In the bathroom?” Adelaide asked before she could stop herself. Tristan chuckled.
“No, next door,” he said pointing to where the landing turned a corner. “That’s my room.”
“I didn’t realise you lived here too!” she said, a little alarmed. He nodded and smiled.
“Don’t worry, I’m house trained.” He winked at her too, mimicking Dekker and making her smile before disappearing. She closed the door softly behind him and sat on the bed, letting this sink in. Everything had happened so fast since the car accident and now her dad was in a coma, her brother was missing and she was roommates with the Werewolf who saved her life and a Valkyrie who might be up for charges of treason. The worst part was, she honestly didn’t think that there was a safer place she could be right now.
Adelaide let herself fall back against the bed cover and closed her eyes, exhaustion getting the better of her.