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Chapter 13

A little while later, Adelaide awoke softly to the setting sunlight shining through the window and onto her eyelids. The room was stiflingly warm and a thin sheen of sweat covered her brow as she sat up. She took a moment to get her bearings in this unfamiliar room before walking over and opening the window a little more.

The breeze from before had gone and the sun seemed to hang low in the air as if to taunt them all with the promise of a cool night ahead.

Grudgingly, she lifted her carry-bag onto the bed and fished out a set of plain white pyjamas that had been given to her by Melia as she was packing.

Opening her door, Adelaide glanced around before making her way into the bathroom. Voices drifted up from downstairs and she could make out Dekker’s sarcastic tone and Tristan’s infectious laugh. There was another voice amongst them but she couldn’t place it. Slipping into the bathroom, she locked the door before turning on the shower.

The cold water was such a relief to her and the towels afterwards were every inch as fluffy as she had wanted them to be. There was a mirrored cupboard above the sink and a post-it note had been stuck to it with the words open me written in a slanted but scruffy hand. She obeyed and opened the door. Inside were several bottles of various lotions, scrubs, perfumes and oils, all of very expensive brands. Another yellow note adorned a large bottle proclaiming itself to be body lotion and she plucked it up to read it.

I took the liberty of getting these for you. They were some

of your mother's favourites. If you run out or want anything

different, let me know, D.

Gingerly, Adelaide picked up the large bottle and removed the cap, breathing it in. The scent was soft and floral with a spicy undertone, pleasant and deeply familiar. She ignored the pang in her chest as she proceeded to use the lotion, feeling her skin tingle as it absorbed in.

The doorbell went as she was getting dressed and a small cheer went up from downstairs as the smell of pizza drifted up to greet her. Her stomach rumbled in response and Adelaide dressed quickly, all but bounding down the stairs.

“Look sharp, here comes trouble!” Dekker said with a smile as she reached the bottom of the staircase. “Hope you like pepperoni?”

“My favourite,” Adelaide said, following Dekker around the sofa and sitting down next to Tristan, who shuffled up to make room for her.

“Figured you might, it's always a safe bet.” Dekker placed the boxes down on a small glass coffee table before seating herself on the edge of the sofa's corner section, picking up a can of beer from the floor and taking a deep swig.

The other voice from earlier belonged to Delores, who was sitting between Dekker and Tristan, her raven hair tied back in a loose plait, her whole demeanour less businesslike in a gypsy-style t-shirt and jeans. She smiled comfortingly over at Adelaide.

“How are you settling in?” she asked, pulling a can of beer from the pack and handing one to her.

“Fine, thank you.” Adelaide said, taking it gratefully. “Though I think we need to talk and sort out rent and all that.” She looked at Dekker who waved her hand, as if dismissing the question.

“You're here on the Acting Chancellor's orders,” she said, putting her beer down and leaning forward to open the pizza boxes. “No need for rent or bills. Besides, you're doing me a favour.”

“I am?”

“Yeah,” Dekker grinned up at her, “as long as you're here, I don't have to deal with him on my own,” she jabbed her thumb in Tristan's direction before grabbing a slice of pizza and motioning for the others to help themselves.

“That's another thing,” Adelaide said, confused. "You live here too, so why does Jack... I mean, Chancellor Grey,” she corrected as she saw the warning look Tristan gave her, “need me here then?”

“Because Tristan isn't exactly objective.” They all jumped and spun round, Dekker reaching for the nearby TV remote and wielding it as a weapon. Standing there, in the now-open doorway, was Jack, his sharp suit traded in for a blue polo shirt and stone washed jeans. He looked less formidable, somehow, but still there was something deeply engaging about him.

“How did you get in?” Dekker asked, hostility clear in her voice.

“The door,” Jack said simply. “You know, big wooden thing with hinges. You were too engrossed in what was going on to notice.”

“Impossible,” she spat. Adelaide could feel the tension like a palpable force around them.

“Fine,” Jack sighed, resigned. “I used a dulling charm so that you wouldn't notice me until I was ready.” He reached up and held out a small, black stone with various shapes carved finely into the shining surface. “It's technically cheating, I know, but I wanted to make sure that everything is as it should be.”

“You wanted to spy, you mean.” Tristan stood up slowly, unfolding to his full height and then seeming to grow a little more.

“Can you blame me?” Jack asked, looking pointedly back at him, meeting his glare full force. “Put the damned remote down Dekker. What are you planning to do, mute me?” Dekker let out a growl and raised the remote as if to throw it. Tristan jumped towards her, hoping to catch it but missed. Adelaide gasped as Jack ducked, the missile missing his head by less than an inch and slamming into the wall with enough force to crack the plastic. “God damnit woman!” he yelled, straightening back up. “What the hell?”

Dekker lunged for him, hissing and snarling. It took both Tristan and Delores to wrestle her, struggling, to the ground.

“You should go,” Tristan grunted as he knelt on Dekker's back, pinning her to the rug. She bucked hard and nearly threw him off, but Delores pinned her arms down and called for Adelaide to grab her legs. Jack nodded curtly and took a small black plastic card out of his pocket.

“I just came to bring this.” He placed it down on the bannister of the stairs. “The PIN is 2411,” he said quickly, looking at Adelaide, “use as much as you want to get what you need, there isn't a limit.”

“Thank you,” she said, her voice strained with the exertion of holding Dekker's legs, nearly getting kicked in the head as her hand slipped and the right leg shot up.

“Get out!” Tristan yelled as Dekker gave another almighty buck which nearly sent him flying. Jack looked forlornly at the woman on the floor, struggling desperately to get at him, before turning on his heels and leaving, shutting the door behind him with a decisive click.

Tristan counted out loud to ten before unstraddling Dekker, getting quickly out of the way as she jumped up and pelted forward, wrenching the door open. She darted out after him but seemed to hit an invisible wall, flying backwards with the force of it.

“Bastard!” she shouted as she climbed to her feet. “He's bloody locked me in!” Tristan stepped outside tentatively and placed his foot over the threshold of the porch area, wincing as though waiting for the impact, but none came. He motioned Delores and Adelaide over and all three of them were able to step out and in without a problem.

“It must just be for you. A DNA locking spell, tricky stuff.” Adelaide couldn't help noticing the hint of awe in Tristan's voice as he said this.

“What happens now?” she asked, looking from Dekker, to the other two and back. Tristan shrugged.

“I should go,” Delores said, picking up her handbag from by the sofa. She helped Dekker to her feet before kissing her gently. “Call me,” she said softly, “when you've calmed down some.” She gave Tristan and Adelaide a gentle hug goodbye before leaving, closing the door behind her.

Dekker leapt over the back of the sofa and picked up her beer again as though nothing had happened.

“More pizza for us then,” she said with a grin, picking up a slice and biting a large chunk out of it. “Movie, anyone?” With a sigh, Tristan picked up the remote and handed it back to her.

"Is she always this changeable?" Adelaide asked, shocked by the sudden shift in the Valkyrie's mood. Tristan nodded.

“You think this is bad,” he muttered under his breath to Adelaide, “just wait until she's PMS-ing.”

“I heard that,” Dekker said absently as she flicked through the choice of movie channels, settling on a re-run of Lord of the Rings with a small cry of glee.

Adelaide picked up the card and examined it, amazed at the idea of somebody having no credit limit.

“I'll take you out tomorrow,” Tristan promised, watching her. “We should probably eat whilst we've got a minute's peace, though.” He strolled back around the sofa and sat down, Dekker immediately putting her legs up on him, making him frown in mock disdain.

“Come, witch!” Dekker shouted, pointing to the seat next to Tristan. “Come embrace your inner nerd.” She waited until Adelaide was comfortable before selecting the movie to play. She clapped twice and the lights went out around them, plunging the room into a cinematic darkness.

Adelaide pulled her legs up beside her and relaxed, feeling the warmth as Tristan put his arm around her shoulders, the friendly gesture relaxing her even more into her new life.

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