Shadow Games

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Chapter 3

Serina felt lost. She’d helped Vincent acquire ritual tools and hadn’t bothered to ask questions. Now, 6 months later, the boy hadn’t returned. She sighed and sifted through her mail again without seeing it. Without opening it she tossed it down on her desk and rested her face in her hands. Nothing ever seemed to be getting better. Nothing she did had worked out the way she thought it would.

“Everything I touch turns to ash.” She murmured to herself.

“Not everything…” Came a low grumbling voice and Serina tensed. She brought her head up to see James standing in the doorway, his hands clasped behind him.

“I thought you were past the sulking stage and on to the self destructive one.” He said as he dropped his arms. His tone was only half serious and he hid his troubled expression behind one of his patented smirks.

“Guess I bounce back and forth sometimes.” She sighed and leaned back in her chair, crossing her legs. He gave her an impatient look and she rolled her eyes.

“I’m not that self-destructive, James… anymore.” She snapped and had to turn away when he looked disappointed with the use of his name.

“No, I guess you’re not. At least not from what I can tell of the condition of my cars.” James said, sounding more annoyed than concerned. This made Serina give her own little smirk, and she turned to face him again, determined to change the subject.

“So what brings you to my little haven?” She asked flicked the top piece of mail away from the others. James crossed his arms over his chest and looked down at them. When he looked up again he had switched from concerned father to king. Serina had decided long ago that she preferred the all business version rather than the constant troubled expression of her father. Even after years she still found it difficult to call James her father, at least aloud.

“I’ve had word from Micah recently.” He said and paused, watching her reaction.

Serina had allowed Micah to leave to investigate Lilly’s disappearance and presumed murder. He’d been scouring the country for years and had turned up very little. Serina had long ago given up the hope that he’d return to her side. She swallowed and found that her throat was dry.

“Oh.” She whispered. “Any news?” She said in what she thought was a clear and even voice. James gave a noncommittal gesture.

“He’s found a few leads and even fewer people willing to talk, but refuses to give up.” James sighed and leaned a shoulder against the door frame. “I guess this little vampire gang is more feared than I am.” He scoffed.

“He’s like a dog with a bone.” James spat then shook his head. Serina lowered her eyes.

“He loves her, even fell from grace for her. Maybe if I’d have been…”

“Don’t.” James interjected. “Sam wasn’t your fault.”

Knives cut into Serina at his name. No one had dared speak it around her and now James threw it out there as if it were common.

“Of course it was.” She muttered as she stared at the floor and James hissed out an impatient sigh. He was frustrated with her again.

“I have business to attend to, I would like you and your brother to be there.” He had changed his tone from conversational to business and Serina regretted her attitude. James had been trying so hard to make her comfortable with her family and she had fought against it every step of the way. She took a calming breath and nodded but before she looked up James had turned and strode angrily from the room. Serina sighed and rubbed her hands over her face. One day, she promised herself she’d be normal again. One day she’d move on. But for now she would have to suffer through her duties.


Serina sat to the right of James at a long table that faced an open room. To his left was Patrick, who was scanning through documents on his laptop. He rarely looked up but when he did he made sure he could see the person standing in front of them and the screen simultaneously. Serina leaned back in the oversized chair with her elbows resting on the arms and laced her fingers over her stomach. She tried to look interested but she was failing miserably. The current patrons were here over a territory dispute and James promised a resolution and dismissed them. She watched them go and stared at the doors as they shut with an echoing thud. She stared down at the table in front of her as she listened to Patrick tap the track pad on his computer and the scratch of James’ pen on the paper where he made notes of everyone’s issues. No one spoke, and the silence was starting to eat at her. She debated leaving, and finally decided to go when the doors swung open again. James and Patrick didn’t look up, being used to the coming and goings of patrons and servants. Serina on the other hand had been away from the official part of the kingdom long enough to have her curiosity piqued. As she lifted her head a stunning figure caught her attention.

He was tall, not lanky but gracefully thin. His skin was a dark charcoal gray, almost black and as she examined him she caught glimpses of darker markings peeking above his collar. They were tattoos nearly hidden by the odd hue of his skin. As if that wasn’t enough to catch anyone’s attention, his eyes were ghostly white as was his hair, which was a perfect stylized mess. Serina found herself sitting forward as she watched him glide to a halt before the three of them. The only thing that ruined his appearance was the arrogance that tainted his every move. He was beautiful and he knew it. As if his captivating appearance wasn’t enough, Serina could almost see the power rolling off him and washing over her. The man intrigued her and she unapologetically examined him from head to toe. He noticed and gave her a self-satisfied smirk as he returned the favor. But the moment ended when the girl behind him, who had gone unnoticed, cleared her throat haughtily. The man reluctantly turned away from Serina’s gaze to acknowledge her. There was a loving yet annoyed expression in his eyes and the girl stared back, openly defiant. She carried herself much like the man but they couldn’t have been more different. She was short and curvy, and where he was dark the girl was a few shades darker than pure snow. Her green eyes sparkled and her hair, as white as his, billowed in soft curls down her back. Serina looked her over and the girl ignored her.

James finished his last note about the previous patron and looked up.

“Alec…” He said with equal amounts contempt and business. Alec turned around and eyed James with the same mix of contempt then smiled diplomatically.

“James.” He answered curtly with a nod. James raised his eyebrow and tossed his pen down on the table.

“What brings one such as yourself to the mortal plain?”

Serina sat forward more interested in this than she had been in anything in a long time. Her intrigue hadn’t gone unnoticed. Alec gave her a dazzling smile and the girl growled quietly. In a flash the smile was gone and anger replaced it.

“Wiloe.” He snapped and her growl cut off but she continued to glare at Serina.

Again Alec turned to the three at the table.

“My business is with the fallen one in your employ.” He said flatly and James chuckled humorlessly.

“Micah hasn’t been here in quite some time. Apparently you’ve not been paying attention from on high.” He said sarcastically.

Alec took a breath.

“I’ve been here longer than I’d anticipated. Keeping watch of my ward.” His ghostly eyes indicated Wiloe, who haughtily ignored him. James leaned to get a better view of the girl and frowned.

“She looks familiar…” His brows drew down as he attempted to remember. This time Alec smirked.

“You knew her mother.”

At this James’ eyebrows rose in intrigue. “Is that so?” Now his gaze turned more thoughtful.

Wiloe rolled her eyes under his scrutiny.

“Amanda…” James growled and Alec’s lip cured in an expectant grin.

Serina looked between the two. Alec’s pull was still threatening to distract her, but the mention of Amanda had her on edge. When Serina had first agreed to advise James in an official capacity there had been an unexpected uproar. Amanda, the leader of a small group of fox shifters, took it upon herself to move her clan into previously disputed territory. James made it clear that the lands under dispute were to remain clear of either of the disputing sides, therefore Amanda took this as a green light to claim it for her own. This had been Serina’s first chance to advise James and she had given the situation serious thought. Her suggestion, which James agreed with, was to be as diplomatic as possible and take a small unarmed party to speak to Amanda. As it turned out, she saw this as trespassing into her territory and took offense. She quickly decided to claim wrongs done by James and demanded his head. This didn’t sit well with James and when Amanda made several attempts on his life he took decisive action. The skirmish was short lived when James decided to crush the little clan into the ground they so fervently wanted to take. Few ran and even less survived, among the dead was Amanda.

James’ eyes cut to Patrick then Serina as he sat back, his scowl cutting deep ridges in his face.

“Fool thing to bring Amanda’s offspring into my home, Alec.” James said quietly and laced his fingers together. Alec’s grin fell into a tight line and power rolled from him monstrous waves.

“She was barely able to lift her head when you decimated her people.” Alec growled, his lithe form moving fluidly in a way Serina knew could become dangerous.

“Be that as it may…” James started then sighed shaking his head. “As long as you keep an eye on her, she can prove herself better than her mother.”

“I assure you, she’s not her mother.”

“Of course not.” James said absently, dismissing the girl’s glare.

“Now, was there anything else you wanted?” He asked, his business tone coming back as he picked up his pen and started scratching out a few notes.

Alec paused as his ghostly eyes slid to Serina then back to James, unnoticed by all but her.

“I may have more business in the near future. If you’d be so kind as to provide myself and my ward with accommodations, we can retire for the day and continue business later.”

James checked his watch and shrugged, seeing that the late night would soon be morning.

“That seems reasonable…” He said as he raised a hand to have one of the servants come forward.

“Prepare two rooms for our guests and see to it that they have all they need.” With his command the servant nodded his head and was dismissed to do as he was told. Serina watched as the doors slid closed, forcing herself to avoid openly staring at Alec. This proved to be harder than she’d anticipated, as he was now openly staring at her as Wiloe spoke to him in hushed tones. Unaccustomed to the attention, Serina decided it was best to return to her room. As she stood suddenly, all eyes turned to her and she gave a halfhearted smile.

“I’m going to retire for the day.” She murmured in way of excuse and James nodded the only one to see her uncomfortable fidgeting was Patrick, who snapped his laptop shut and stood.

“I think I’ll do the same.”

Both Patrick and Serina rounded the table and avoided the pair still in whispered conversation. As she passed them, she felt Alec’s eyes on her and kept her eyes forward. She tried to look as if she were comfortable but feared he was picking up on her thoughts. By the way he turned to watch her leave she knew she’d failed and could feel the blush of her embarrassment.

As the doors slammed closed behind her and Patrick, Serina stopped and leaned her back against them. Patrick watched her with a bemused expression and she let her eyes slide closed. She wasn’t sure why but she was having trouble keeping her breathing under control. It had been too long since she felt anything. The seconds stretched on as Serina composed herself and Patrick waited.

“So…” He drew out in an impatient tone. Serina’s eyes flew open and she avoided looking at her brother. He gave her a sly grin and switched his laptop from one arm to the other.

“Oh really?” He asked with curiosity peppering each syllable. Serina shot him a look but Patrick only shook his head with a chuckle. She pushed away from the doors and brushed past him, her cheeks aflame.

“You’re attracted to Alec? Really?” He asked as he attempted to keep up with her.

“Hardly.” She breathed as she glanced away, trying to hide her face.

“Then explain your reaction…” He teased as he grabbed her arm, pulling her to a stop.

“It’s not a crime, ya know.” Patrick said, humor fleeing his voice as he noted his sisters pained expression.

“I know it’s only been…” He started but she cut him off as she pulled her arm from his grip.

“Don’t.” She spat angrily then took a breath at Patrick’s hurt expression and her anger died. She gave an apologetic look and sighed.

“I’m not right, not after what happened. I don’t think I know how to be attracted to someone anymore.” She admitted quietly and stared down at her scuffed boots. Patrick sighed softly as he wrapped his arm around his sister. Pulling her close he kissed her forehead as she stood there woodenly. Serina hadn’t been able to admit to herself that she hadn’t been interested in anyone else but she always found it hard to lie to Patrick. Finally she let her body loosen and she leaned into her brother.

“I’ve not had even an inkling of anything since… you know. I just assumed that I just never would.” She murmured as she bowed her head, embarrassed to say the words aloud.

Patrick stood, with his arms around his sister, not sure what he was going to say but felt he should be there with her none the less.

“I don’t want to sound harsh, but maybe it’s time you moved on.” He whispered gently as he rested his chin on her head. He felt her sigh heavily in defeat rather than anger.

“Maybe you’re right.” She conceded as she stepped back from his embrace. Serina’s face wasn’t blank as he’d expected but thoughtful. He’d been so used to her brushing off their comfort that he was unprepared to deal with her acceptance.

“Uh…” He blurted then looked around the hallway. “But did it really have to be Alec?” He joked weakly and smiled apologetically as she glared at him.

“I didn’t exactly plan having a reaction to a stranger.” She muttered.

“Well, might as well get the awkward ‘doomed to fail’ thing out of the way before truly moving on.” He said softly as he draped his long arm over her shoulder again and chuckled at her inquisitive expression.

“Ah… I forgot you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Alec.”

Serina raised an eyebrow in question.

“No, I haven’t. What do you know about him?” She asked hoping that the answer wouldn’t be as bad as Patrick was making it out to be. He grimaced comically and looked down the hall as they started to walk. He was deliberately making her wait and she was getting impatient.

“Well, for starters… he’s an angel.” Patrick finally started as they rounded the corner at the end of the hall, leading to yet another long hallway lined with doors. Serina nodded, unsurprised by this and motioned for him to continue.

“Seri, it’s hard to explain really… he’s like Micah but… more of an ass.”

“What do you mean by ‘more of an ass’?” She asked quickly.

“I’m sure you noted how arrogant he could be. Hell he practically oozes it from every pore. But not only that but he’s an angel of Death. Like, he could take your soul and deliver it to where ever it’s going.” He paused and looked down at her, letting it sink in.

“I guess that’s the power I could feel rolling off him. But you said ‘an angel of Death’ and not ‘thee’ angel of Death. There is more than one?” Again Patrick paused, taken aback by his sisters willing acceptance of such an odd but powerful person in their home.

“Well, I do believe there are multiples… he’s like their general, I guess.” He rubbed his thumb down the edge of his laptop several times before dropping his other arm from his sister’s shoulder. Serina looked thoughtful as she stopped at one of the doors along the hall. Patrick looked up to see that it was her personal study.

“You don’t seem to be too wary of this information.” He said as he watched her, a thought starting to form in the back of his mind.

“Why should I be wary? It’s only information. What I should be wary of is the man himself, yet I find myself more intrigued than cautious.” She crossed her arms as she looked up at him and the budding thought bloomed.

“So you’re done just playing at self destruction and are going right to the point.” He blurted, anger tinting the edges of his words. Serina’s eyes widened and her glare cut into him.

“What are you implying?” She asked dangerously.

“I’m not implying, I’m asking you if you’re interested in him simply because he could kill you with less than a second thought. He could kill you Serina and would be doing no more than his job. I’m sure if he had a list you’d be on it somewhere, he’d just have to wait till you got yourself killed.” Patrick seethed as he turned away from his sister, holding the laptop in his arms a little too tight. “Instead of tempting fate, you’ve decided to go to the source… Death himself.”

These last words were muttered softly with sadness. He squeezed his eyes shut as the casing on the laptop cracked.

Angrily Serina huffed as she stared at her brother’s back. He wasn’t right, but maybe in some small way he wasn’t wrong either. There was no way to explain why she’d been so attracted to a stranger, and for that stranger to be Death incarnate? An odd coincidence if there were such things. But maybe the air of arrogance and the raw power of death that surrounded Alec is what drew her in. He was a possible new adventure to perhaps tempt fate and have fate win in the end. But if that was the reason it was her subconscious taking control of her body and not her conscious mind. She huffed again and shoved Patrick forward. When he turned around she saw the sadness that laced his words shining from his eyes. She was stunned to see the lack of his laid-back manner that she hesitated.

“I don’t want to die.” She muttered and found that there was a ring of truth to her words. “Maybe there is still a part of my mind that thinks I should for what I did…” She held up her hand when Patrick tried to interrupt. “But that’s not all of me anymore. Maybe that part is what’s making Alec look…interesting to me, but it’s not all of me.” She could feel herself pleading with him, she wanted her brother to believe her so badly it almost brought her to tears. Patrick smiled just a little to show that her words had reached him and she found herself letting just the corner of her lip curl up too.

“Sometimes you scare me, Seri.” He muttered as he shook his head.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean for years you’ve been trying to off yourself in one spectacular way or another and when Death actually comes knocking, you want him… but not for the job he does.” He wiggled his eyebrows and laughed at the halfhearted punch he received.

“Just because my subconscious has a death wish, doesn’t mean I do.” Serina muttered ignoring his implication, a little embarrassed by the truth of her brother’s statement. Patrick saw that and grinned again.

“Maybe just ‘le petite mort’.” He teased and Serina’s jaw dropped. Again Patrick laughed and danced away from another punch that was sure to be a little harder than the first.

“I… you… shut up!” She blurted, unaccustomed to being this flustered over something small.

“You’re turning a very lovely shade of red, sis.” He smirked and leaned against the wall with a silent chuckle. “Alec really does have an interesting effect on you.”

Serina took a breath and let it out slowly. She couldn’t deny his statement. Alec was wreaking all kinds of havoc on her emotional state. And honestly she didn’t think it was a bad thing, she’d not felt this alive in a long time. Certainly not this flustered since… her face fell and she tilted her head.

“What?” Patrick asked as he witnessed her change in mood.

“I’ve not felt this… since I met Sam.” She waited for the pain to hit but was left disappointed.

“What? You love the guy already?” Patrick asked with a quirked eyebrow that brought her thoughts back to the conversation. She made a face that showed her confusion.

“What? No… it’s hard to explain. Just the feeling of possibility in life, giddy… alive.”

“Sooo… you have a crush on him.” He asked incredulously. Serina stopped and thought of how to explain what she was feeling, while still pondering the lack of pain at her use of Sam’s name so freely.

“No, it’s more of a… pre-crush.” She crinkled her nose trying to find the right words. “Like an animal attraction, completely instinctual.”

Patrick laughed and backed up a step. “So what you’re telling me… is you wanna hit it like a caveman?” He burst out laughing as Serina’s jaw dropped again but this time she wasn’t turning red in embarrassment. She was merely shocked that her brother would make such… well such an accurate observation. She closed her mouth and crossed her arms over her chest as she watched Patrick backing down the hallway away from her.

“Chicken!” She called after him as he turned and waved over his shoulder.

“Love you too!” He called back before disappearing around the corner.

Serina couldn’t help but smile as she shook her head and turned to the lavishly ornate door to her little study. She crinkled her nose at the thought of calling it a ‘study’ and shrugged a shoulder as she opened the door. As she looked around she decided on calling it her office. Granted it looked more like a shink’s office with the chase lounge and toned down colors. Serina put the mute decor out of her mind as she sat at her desk and wiggled her mouse until her computer screen came to life. A generic picture greeted her as she tapped in her password and waited for the operating system to boot up. She was greeted by another generic picture as her background and she scanned through her icons. She really didn’t know what she was going to do, just something to keep her mind occupied. Even as she clicked on the icon to play solitaire but she knew it wouldn’t be much of a distraction. Card after card popped up and she stared at them blankly. All she could think of was ghostly eyes watching her with, what she thought was mild interest. She could feel a warm sensation spreading through her as she thought of Alec. She was thoroughly infatuated with a complete stranger. Serina scoffed at herself as she clicked another card.

I’m acting like a teenage girl.’ She chastised herself and clicked another card. But she kept thinking to herself about every minute detail she’d been able to observe. Again she mentally shook herself and moved on to the next set of cards. Needless to say, the game wasn’t working. Finally she finished the game and gave up on the guise of being interested then sat back watching as the cards spilled from their slots in celebration. Absently she wondered where James was putting Wiloe and Alec for the night. She smiled as she entertained the thought of what may happen when she was overcome with a touch of melancholy.

Serina sat forward at her desk again and looked out into the dimly lit hallway. She had wondered why she chose to torture herself by laying claim to the particular room. It had been Sam’s little haven away from his duties and she’d spent many hours in it with him. She looked around the room and everything was a memory. The bookshelf where he’d browse for a new title to read as she perched on his desk waiting, sometimes impatiently. Her eyes moved to the chase, and remembered how soft it felt against her bare skin. She almost smiled then looked away again. She wasn’t sure if she was torturing herself or trying to keep a firm grasp on her memories as a way to keep Sam close to her. Either way it had been too much and the thought depressed her, she then had no choice but to go out and be destructive. Whether it was to herself or something else was never planned. She stared down at the neatly folded and sealed letter she’d been avoiding opening. The use of parchment instead of regular paper told her it had been from Micah and that made her pause. He’d never written her directly since he departed, not once. He only reported his findings to James most likely with the hopes that Serina would get the news, and she did... every time, if she wanted to or not. She had convinced herself to read it but hadn’t been able to break the seal, so instead she contemplated other painful things. But she’d run out of those quickly and instead put herself through remembering them all over again.

She decided to stop being a child as she picked up the letter and turned it over. The gold in the wax sparkled in the light and she used her inspection of it to hold off a few more moments. She wasn’t sure why she was so afraid to hear what Micah had to say, he’d left on good terms even if at the time she’d not been the best company. Maybe that was it. In her grief she’d treated him as if he didn’t matter, even ignored him when he quietly left the room as she dismissed him. That was the last time she’d spoken to him, and it took him three long years to write directly to her. Some friend she’d been. Serina finally cracked the wax and let the paper open to reveal Micah’s practiced script. It had always been beautiful and often times she’d wished she had been able to write like that. The hollow pit in her stomach began to swirl again, the previous warm feeling completely gone. As she glanced over the body of the letter she picked out random words here and there. Nothing of importance jumped out at her so she went back to the top. Before she got past the greeting she was interrupted by a soft cough, one letting her know someone was standing at the door way.

Serina raised her head, the letter forgotten when she saw Alec standing there. His ghostly eyes watching her and the warm feeling burst to life again.

“I don’t mean to intrude...” He murmured softly but his roguish grin told another story. Serina suddenly forgot how to keep her cool and fumbled the letter, letting it drop to her desk in the silence.

“You’re not intruding. I did leave the door open.” Finally finding her voice, Serina tried to sound cool, calm and collected but the way she let the tempo of her words come out made her sound exactly like she felt, flustered.

“Then if you’re not busy, do you mind a bit of company?” He asked as he stepped into the room and Serina watched as the light glinted off the little silver buckles on his jacket. Mesmerized she hesitated.

“I’m not busy at all, have a seat if you like. I’m just passing the time until there is something to do around here.” She said a little more calm than before. “I was just sorting through the piles of junk I’ve accumulated over the years.” She smiled and waved a hand to indicate the scattering of papers across her desk. Sadly she wasn’t just being funny, she had been making a valiant effort to get her affairs back in order lately but by the pile of papers on her desk, the effort hadn’t been valiant enough.

Alec deliberately took his time walking around the small room before coming to a chair that faced Serina’s and rested a hand lightly on the back as the other went behind his back. He looked as though he were posing for a painting and that thought nearly had Serina giggling softly.

“Do you often spend your days up while the house sleeps?” He asked as he stared down at her unashamed of his open inspection of her.

“A good bit of the days, yes.” Serina nodded as she sat back with her legs crossed and folded her hands in her lap. Her nerves had had time to calm as Alec did his examination of the room and she fought to control her hands that wanted to fidget all over the place.

“You don’t want to sleep, do you?” Alec asked quietly as he rounded the chair and took a seat, leaning back with his ankle crossed over his knee. Casually he rested his chin on his hand and watched her, waiting for her answer. Serina let her jaw set as she clenched her teeth. It didn’t matter if he was right she didn’t like being that transparent. It was bad enough that her family saw through her but complete strangers knew she was off. Nerves forgotten she moodily brushed her hair off her shoulder and looked away from him. Serina found herself trying to remember that she didn’t know this man and that she didn’t need to divulge her life story to him.

“No, I don’t.” She mumbled and kicked herself mentally. She wasn’t sure why she felt compelled to answer him but she did it none the less. As she looked up at him he was nodding thoughtfully as if following her thoughts and she felt her cheeks redden. Alec looked pleased as he smirked and Serina felt herself flush a deeper shade of crimson.

“You look awfully self-satisfied.” She said before she knew she was going to say it and he quirked an eyebrow. Serina looked back unapologetically.

“Bold words for someone that’s so easily flustered.” He murmured, his voice vibrating deep in his chest and for a moment Serina couldn’t speak. She was getting annoyed with her reaction to this man, wondering why they would be so strong.

Get a hold of yourself. She mentally spat at herself before bringing her attention back to the man waiting for a response. She swallowed back the initial lump in her throat and gave a smirk of her own.

“I’m getting used to you I guess.” She said more calmly than she thought she could manage with her heart rushing blood at warp speed through her body. She was afraid if she didn’t listen carefully she wouldn’t be able to hear him over the noise it caused in her ears.

“Oh that’s sad to hear.” Alec said with a mock frown. “I quite enjoy being off putting. It’s somewhat of a trademark.”

She sat forward folding her arms on the desk.

“Well I can’t imagine a lot of people being comfortable with Death.” She let the silence hang between them as Alec eyed her thoughtfully.

“No, they’re not. But you seem to be oddly comfortable now, excusing you’re initial reaction.” He raised an eyebrow suggestively and it made Serina want to squirm.

“I’ve been comfortable with the thought of death for quite some time now.” She murmured more to herself than him. He was intrigued by her comment and uncrossed his legs leaning forward with interest.

“Now I feel that I’m at a loss, which doesn’t happen often.” He admitted quietly as the light gleamed off his pale eyes. “I can’t lie, you do interest me, princess.”

Serina crinkled her nose and turned her face away when she realized she’d done it. Alec raised an eyebrow at her reaction.

“Have I offended you?” He inquired quietly. Serina looked back at him and studied his intense eyes.

“No.” She admitted softly. “I’ve yet to get used to my formal title. Please, call me Seri.” She offered a genuine smile and it didn’t feel as alien to her as it had in recent years. Again he was intrigued but hid it better than before with a smirk.

“Seri it is then.” He murmured and Serina let herself grin. “She even grins.” Alec chuckled and sat back, crossing his legs again.

“I do that every now and then.” She said and mimicked his movement, sitting back in her chair.

“From what I’ve heard, not too often anymore.” He pried and Serina’s stomach clenched.

“Be careful what you believe, sir.” She said a little more waspishly than intended and he raised an eyebrow again.

“I’ve heard many things about you, many of them hardly did you justice.” He smiled genuinely at the same time his eyes raked over her. Serina sat still, commanding her body to give nothing away as it wanted to squirm under his examination. “And others hit the nail on the head.”

It was Serina’s turn to be intrigued and she quirked an eyebrow. She knew people talked about her, a lot but had never ventured a guess at what they said, nor had she cared. But now she felt herself desperately wanting to know what this man had heard.

“And what were you told?” She asked nonchalantly as she moved some paperwork around on her desk. She was avoiding looking too hopeful or too interested or at him. By the way he looked back at her she knew she’d failed on all points.

“I’ve heard that you’re a raving lunatic…” He paused when Serina cringed. “And I’ve heard you were very beautiful, but awfully sad.” He gave her an apologetic look. “Then I’ve heard you were dangerous…” He gave her an incredulous look then continued. “And more often that you had a death wish.” His last words were quiet but they hung in the air like smoke. Serina had stared at her desk for the last few observations and her eyes remained transfixed on the broken golden seal that was attached to the parchment at the top of the pile.

“Well, I think they got a lot of it right really.” She confessed solemnly without looking up. She could feel more than see him lean forward. She imagined a look of interest on his face with maybe a hint of concern in his eyes, but when she looked up he was merely looking at her as if evaluating her.

“I withhold my judgment until I get to know you better.” He said blandly.

“Who said you’ll get to know me any better?” She asked haughtily then smirked to soften her words. Alec grinned, his self-satisfied look coming back immediately.

“Oh, I know you’ll want to see me again… one way or another.” He didn’t comically wiggle his eyebrows like Patrick had, nor did he do any suggestive motion. The confidence and tone of voice said it all to her. Serina found herself gasping in a short breath as her heart skipped. The man was dangerous, and she liked it.

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