When you play with fire...

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Chapter 8

As far as love goes, I only ever loved two people in my life. You get to hear about one of them. Consider yourself lucky. Not many know about her. I don’t think she would be glad that I’m telling this part of both of our history. I think she must hate me, but it’s important.

I met her in a bar. When I wasn’t directing my men to find and kill young Elementals. I did enjoy partaking in human activities. Alcohol is flammable. I find it amusing to show off to the drunken humans. They are often unable to remember me the next day. More reason to enjoy lighting their drinks on fire.

Her name was Lisa. She was the bartender, one of the only humans in the building who ever remembered me and what I could do. Most would have reacted in fear, but she was not afraid.

I believe that is what initially drew me to her, truthfully though we bonded over much more than just her bravery. She also wanted more from life than what it had offered her so far.

I think I offered her what she wanted, something outside of the normal. A chance to be a part of something that wasn’t exactly… Safe.

She was normal. Brown and blue eyes, as generic a combination as there possibly can be. Still, there was a unseen beauty to her. That many would have overlooked.

I tried to tell her when she first started talking to me that it would be safer if she didn’t. Even humans must make their own choices though. She chose me.

We never married. I was busy and if any of my enemies found out I had a wife they might come after her.

You probably don’t believe that I would care about her safety so much. After all I take care to portray myself as heartless. The hottest part of a fire is the centre. I must make sure everyone knows just how dangerous I am. I protect my centre.

Somewhere along the lines Lisa fell pregnant. I was ecstatic, admittedly not because fatherhood appealed to me. The Elemental gene needed to be passed on to create the next generation of Elementals. While I slaughtered children the same age as my own. I would have an heir.

The heir to everything I created, the future leader of the Peacemakers. Side by side we would make the world safe again for the humans.

I wanted a strong son to raise but the universe had other plans. I had talked on and on with Lisa, some of those talks even became arguments. About the future our son would have. I was determined that the baby grow to conquer what was left of the Elementals.

Then the day came when I was handed my daughter. She was so small, I felt an instant need to keep her safe. Even though she was not the son I had spent months preparing for.

She yawned in my arms and opened her eyes. They were big and the colour of melted gold. Gold. I was so happy that I held her until Lisa wanted a turn. Gold. I didn’t know what kind of Elemental that colour stood for as I had never seen it.

Yet, the colour was so outside of the norm that she had to be carrying the gene. Lisa wanted to name her, and she was kind enough to allow me to choose. I chose a strong name, the kind of name that holds power behind it. Or would in the future.

Gabrielle. She was beautiful. I was often away working with my Peacemakers. Whenever I returned to the safe location I had organised for my family she would greet me with a smile.

I remember the day she took her first steps so clearly. It was cold so I’d made a fire for us to sit near. I don’t feel the cold, but I didn’t want Lisa to be uncomfortable.

Lisa and I were chatting when she shushed me and pointed to the corner. I turned to see Gabrielle standing on wobbly legs. Gripping the red fabric of our lounge with one chubby hand.

She looked right at me, right in the eyes. I saw the determination in them as she put one shaky foot in front of the other and walked to me. It was like a scene from a movie.

She wobbled as she got closer to me and I caught her in my arms. I was stunned that she had walked, but more stunned by what happened next.

There was the smell of burning cloth. I looked down and my shirt was smoking. I pulled Gabrielle away from me and her tiny hands were sparking. She giggled and a miniature lightning bolt narrowly missed my face.

“Lightning… Eric what does this mean?” Lisa and I were equally surprised. Something that doesn’t happen very often. I held my daughter and realised that she was going to be powerful. Maybe even as powerful as me.

“It must be very rare… For me to have never even heard whispers of such a thing” my love of information was easier to fulfil than ever thanks to my Peacemakers, if there was lightning Elementals out there. I would know about it.

“She’s going to be strong… Just like I planned. Just like I wanted!” I was filled with excitement. Beyond whether they were a boy or a girl, what really mattered to me was Gabrielle’s power.

How loathsome I must seem to you. What kind of father puts power as the most important part of their child. The answer is, my father died when I was a boy. Everything I know I taught myself. No one can teach you how to be a father.

The worst part of all this, was that Lisa would have agreed with you.

“How can you be more excited about the sparks she made than the fact that she just took her first steps?!” Lisa took Gabrielle out of my arms and held her to her chest. She looked at me, and I wondered what she saw.

“Your daughter is not a weapon, she is not a pawn. Eric, I need you to stop thinking about what she will be and focus on her now. She is only two! She needs her father to be proud of her!” if you will think back to past arguments that I’ve been in. You will know how this went.

“I am proud! And I will continue to be proud years from now while she stands at my side! Protecting you and every other human from those who would see you harmed!” I could picture it now. Gabrielle, lightning spraying from her outstretched hands. Standing tall and proud next to me.

“Eric what you are doing shouldn’t involve her… It’s dangerous work!” I promised myself. That I was done being angry. That I would keep my cool now that I was a grown man.

“What I am doing is protecting you!” it was so infuriating. How could she not understand? I was doing this for her! It was dangerous, but Gabrielle was strong enough. I knew she was.

“Not anymore” the words were soft, but the tone was final. I looked up at Lisa and my anger evaporated. She stood as if to protect Gabrielle from something frightening. She had never been afraid of me. Now she was.

“Lisa…” I reached up intending to take her hand in mine but stopped. My hand was smoking. Too hot for her to touch. I looked at it, and felt that old feeling of regret. That wish that I were simply human. Sometimes being special isn’t worth it.

“I’m taking Gabrielle away, we’re going where I hope you will never find her. I will protect her… Even from you” I didn’t try to stop them. I didn’t chase after Lisa and beg for her forgiveness.

I just stayed there kneeling beside the fire. I sat there, and wished for Daniel to be there. Hand on my shoulder. Telling me that it was going to be alright.

That was the night that I wrote him a letter informing him of the existence of my daughter. I enclosed a photo with it. I resisted the urge to let him know that I missed him. I kept it formal and direct, but I did do one thing that was important.

I left hints, here and there scattered through the letter. Hints I knew a man as smart as Daniel would notice. They were to tell him something so secret, so dear to me. I fear even sharing it with you would bring danger.

So, I will say only one thing to you. Gabrielle isn’t my true heir.

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