A new beginning
Cameron stretched as she came down the stairs in the farm house that was now the center war office of the base. She normally didn't sleep in the house, prefering to rough it with her fellow hemmings outside but she had been comforting Avani when she fell asleep. It was normal, however, that when she awoke Avani was gone. Lately she hadn't been sleeping well and would wake early to run or train.
Shawna Vea was sitting in what used to be the living room as Cameron rounded the staircase. Sitting in her comfy wing backed chair, writing in one of her journals.
Without looking up she said, "Good morning, Cameron. Sleep well?"
Cameron smiled and walked over to her. "Yes. Sleeping on a bed was a nice change from the past few weeks. Have you seen Avani?"
Shawna Vea's brow creased. "She wasn't in bed?"
Cameron's heart only spiked slightly. It was also typical of her best friend to vanish without anyone knowing in the middle of the night. "No," Cameron replied. "I wonder where she's gone off to now."
Shawna looked back down at her journal. "Well, she'll turn up. Kyle left some papers in the office for you to look over for the new base camp. I'll have one of the junior officers bring you breakfast."
Cameron smiled tightly. "Morning paper work, my favorite," she said sarcastically. Shawna Vea chuckled as Cameron headed for the office across the way. As she closed the door behind her she could hear Shawna calling for one of the younger girls that were charged with keeping the headquarters clean.
Cameron looked around the room. It was one of her favorite rooms in the place because it reminded her of her mother's study at their old house. Floor to ceiling book shelves, pictures, art work and Nik-naks lined the walls. Cameron walked around the desk and sat down in the comfy rolling chair her and Avani had fought over until Cameron had won the fight over what chair to buy to replace the old one.
The papers that Kyle had left were tedious things. He didnt need her permission to order anything or issue orders to have something built but he always had someone double check the paperwork to make sure he wasn't making some fatal error.
Cameron started sifting through them when an envelope addressed to her in Avani's writing fell out of the stack.
Cameron stared at the envelope. Avani's scent was fresh on the paper and it made Cameron anxious for some reason. Avani never left notes unless she planned to be gone for a long while. Quickly Cameron opened the envelope and read the letter within.
Her heart started to beat faster as she read over Avani's words. She was sending a daeva to the camp but swore that he was different. That he hadn't chose his fate. Avani explained how she had been there when he changed and he had been defending himself and her from an attack. She explained that she believed this daeva was the third greater power and that he needed to be protected.
Cameron had to stop for a moment and control the transformation that wanted to rip through her body at the anger building. It had been less than a week since her compound had been attacked. They hadn't even buried the bodies yet. And now her best friend wanted her to protect one of the beasts.
Cameron clenched her jaw and continued through the letter. Avani apologizes for not being there but told of how she had heard Jerral calling her name through the connection and how a tiny light had finally appeared at the other end, leading her to him.
The last bit of the letter were orders for Cameron to take the daeva, Hunter, with her on her recruitment journey. Shawna Vea would have a notebook of all her noteworthy contacts that hadn't joined the cause yet. It would be safer for Hunter if he was on the move and the camp would be safer without him in it. He would be arriving at nine a.m. at the end of the drive and would have an opal earring stud in his left ear.
Cameron looked up at the clock sitting in the desk. It read eight fifty-five. She looked out the window to the field beyond. It occurred to Cameron that from the tone of the letter that Hunter was the man Avani had been running off to over the years after relationships failed or other tragedy struck. It made perfect sense that she had gone to see him after Jerral had disappeared.
Cameron swore under breath and took the letter out to Shawna Vea. Shawna looked confused at Cameron.
"Read this. It's from Avani. I have to go to the border of the drive. I'll return shortly with something that we have to keep secret," Cameron said tight lipped.
Shawna nodded and Cameron portalled for the border. As her surroundings came into focus, so did the scent of daeva, that wet dog smell. There at the edge of the drive stood a man wearing cowboy boots, jeans and a black t-shirt. Cameron quickly flicked passed his red eyes to the man's left ear where an opal stud gleamed in the early morning light.
Hunter sized up the woman before him. She was prettier than... than even Avani. She had caramel skin over a lean body that housed yellow eyes and thick, black curly hair. He could feel his heart race with the urge to transform and attack but it also raced for another reason. He wasn't exactly sure what it was but this female hemming was powerful, perhaps that is what made his wolf so anxious.
He swallowed even though his mouth was dry as a dessert and said, "Where's Avani?"
Hunter noticed that the hemming was flexing her hands which were transforming back and forth between cat claws and human hands. He was impressed. Not many Hemmings could control their bodies that way. For most it was all or nothing. He wondered if she had even heard him through her concentration. So he asked his question again.
The hemming clenched her jaw, her eyes blazing that beautiful yellow. "She isn't here."
Hunter's heart stopped. "What the hell do you mean she isn't here?"
"She lied to you. She left a letter here for me like I assume she left for you this morning. She must have known you wouldn't come here if she wasn't here. So she lied," the hemming said flatly. It was obvious that she wasn't any more thrilled about this situation than he was.
"Then I'll do us both a favor and leave," Hunter turned to walk through the woods where he could transform and run off his anger and hurt when the hemming called out.
"You can't go," she said.
Hunter stopped but didnt turn. "Why should I join the lux army and risk my life?"
"We are all risking our lives. Everyday. You might as well risk it for something that might save your soul," she said. "For something you care about. And you care about Avani, that much is obvious. I'm not sure how it's possible but I can see it your eyes."
Hunter turned. "Fight for her even though i can't have her?"
The hemming met his gaze for the first time. Yellow against red. It unsettled him the way those yellow eyes seemed to pierce through his red ones to the soul she spoke of.
"You may not be able to have her but if she can fix this world then perhaps you'll find your mate. Perhaps you'll find happiness," the hemming had finally controlled her transformations and stood absolutely still as she watched him.
Hunter wondered if she really meant what she said or if it was just part of her plan to get him to say yes to it all. He wondered who she was and what she was to Avani. Especially if she cared so much about doing as she was asked.
"Why do you care if I stay or go? What's in this for you?" Part of him wondered why he was fighting this arrangement. He had always wanted to show Avani that he wasn't all bad. He had tried so hard to prove that he was still the man she had met at that bar. This could be his opportunity so why was he pushing so hard against it?
The other part of him was already assessing how he could trick the lux and rip her throat out if she stepped just outside the barrier that kept him from stepping on the path to the house.
The hemming clenched her jaw. "I care for the same reasons I just told you. I want to live a life. If we can win this war and create a new world, perhaps everything will be different for everyone."
Hunter stood considering and was about to reply when she stepped across the border. She said, "And Avani is my best friend. She asked me to keep you safe so that is what I will do to the best of my abilities."
Cameron watched his nostrils flare as she stepped over the border of the property. She wasn't a coward. She would face him.
Hunter blinked a few times as his nostrils filled with the full scent of her. There was definitely something about her that was different than anything he had encountered before. And she was loyal, so loyal that she would face this daeva her best friend had sent. She would protect him, not that he needed it but she would offer it. And he decided.
Cameron held out her hand. "The easiest way in is for me to portal you to the HQ so that no one catches scent of you. From there we can go wherever we need to go."
Hunter looked at her hand then back up to her. He gave her a crooked smile before taking her hand. It bugged Cameron that the smile suited him and made even his red eyes handsome.
"My name is Cameron Rose Wilder."
"Hunter Warren. Nice to meet you, Cameron."
Cameron gave him a tight smile then portalled them to the house. She immediately released his hand when the house came into focus. A chill went through her at the sudden absence of his touch. Cameron hated herself for it.
"Hunter Warren," Shawna Vea said from her chair by the wall.
Cameron and Hunter turned to her as she spoke. Her eyes glowed as she assessed the hemming.
She titled her head to the side. "At least that's what you go by. You are a strange one indeed. You feel love but ... you also feel the pull."
Hunter looked away from the darshana. He knew she wouldn't like what she saw in his past.
"You do not like it either, Mr. Warren," Shawna turned her stare from Hunter as the glow faded. She addressed Cameron, "Avani left me her book of contacts a week ago. She informed me that she had planned for you and her to travel and recruit these big players that still refused to see the blood shed, the imbalance. It will be up to the two of you instead."
Hunter bristled. "Wait so I am not only joining the enemy army but I am supposed to help raise it?" Hunter placed to the door. "Avani is absolutely crazy."
"She doesn't want you to stay at the camp because it's dangerous for you and honestly it could be dangerous for our people too," Cameron explained. "In my letter she explained that she thinks your story, how you didnt necessarily do anything to deserve turning into a daeva will show people that the world isn't right anymore."
"Tell my sob story and make a whole bunch of luxes feel sorry for me? Sounds great," he paced toward the door again like he itched to run out it and never look back. Cameron couldn't figure out why she didnt want him to do that.
She stepped toward him. "They won't feel sorry for you. They feel terrified for their children, their friends their lovers. They may fear you. They will feel angry that Avani chose to trust you. They may not even believe you. But it's what Avani wanted us to do, so we must try."
Hunter stared into those yellow eyes and hated the truth in her words. He clenched his jaw and his fists at the same time. "Fine. I'll do it. For her."
Cameron shook her head. "I'm glad you agree to do this willing but you're going to have to have a better reason."
Hunter felt his temper rise. "But you just said-"
Cameron put her hands up, "I said we have to do it because she ordered us to. But that still isn't the reason. A soldier will do as he is told. A warrior will do as he's told with a passion driving him. You have to believe in something for others to believe you."
Hunter stared at her then looked out the window. He didnt know What he was fighting for. All of his life had only been for survival and those few stolen moments with Avani.
"I'm going to pack the few things I have here. We can stop and buy you clothes on the way out of town," Cameron said turning for the stairs
"I can portal to my apartment and then meet you somewhere, " Hunter retorted.
Cameron turned back to him. "Your apartment is most likely being watched. And portaling can be tracked."
"Then they'll already know I'm here," Hunter crossed his arms. "I'm a big boy, Cam. I can take care of myself for an hour. I'll meet you at the grocery store in Clara just before the City border."
Cameron pinched the bridge of her nose. "Fine. I need a breather from you anyway. One hour. We meet in the parking lot at Clara. If you dont show, I'll hunt you down and kill you for the trouble."
Hunter laughed. "Oh, darlin," he smiled devilishly and Cameron's hackles raised, "I would love to see you try."
Cameron snarled but he was already gone. She glanced at Shawna to see the darshana smiling.
"What?" She asked harshly.
"You two make quite the pair. I think you'll be successful in your venture," Shawna went to her chair and pulled a black notebook from behind it. She handed the book to Cameron. "This is the notebook that Avani left with me."
Cameron flipped through the pages. "There's over thirty tribes, packs and covens listed in here," Cameron said looking up at Shawna.
Shawna nodded. "I don't think she intends for you to visit all of them personally. Hit the key targets and have them move on the others on your behalf."
Cameron nodded. The book was sectioned by race then alphabetical from there. Cameron went to the hemming section and found the phone number she needed.
"I want to start with the Rover pack. They should be sympathetic to us plus Avani already softened them."
Shawna nodded her agreement. "You better be to getting your stuff packed. And talk to Kyle. An hour will go by fast."
Cameron nodded as she added items to her mental list of things to do and climbed the stairs to pack.
An hour later Cameron was standing in the war room talking out her plan with Shawna Vea.
"I'll text when I have more troops heading in. I recently purchased another compound location outside of the City. Kyle can start setting up a new base camp there. He already has all the details," Cameron said looking around one last time.
"You have left this bbn place in prime condition, Cameron. You need to focus on your mission or you will face more trouble on the road," Shawna said.
Cameron sighed. "The Creators send us things to test us, right? This is a test to see if I'm worthy enough of being a lux, isn't it?"
Shawna sighed and looked out the front window of the house to the gravel road. "It will be hard to work with your mortal enemy but I think you will quickly find that Avani was right. He is different. He loved after the change. He was sent by Ariadne possibly."
"I'll let you know in a few days," Cameron smiled at her old friend. "Goodbye, Shawna."
Shawna smiled, "Goodbye, Cameron Rose."
Cameron portalled to the market in Clara. She appeared on the edge of the parking lot by the trees so that it would seem to passersby that she had walked out of them. She found these tactics helped keep too many humans from noticing her in the crowds. She scanned the parking lot for the daeva.
Hunter sat in his Jeep scanning the crowd for Cameron's black curls. He finally spotted her as she walked out of the tree line across the parking lot. He flashed the headlights to get her attention. He watched her turn and take a deep breath as she approached.
She had changed into a tan sweater and black jeans tucked into scarred hiking boots. Her brown leather jacket was worn too and so was the pack on her back. Hunter tallied up a few points in her column for not being the city girl he thought she was.
Cameron put her bags in the back and climbed into the passenger seat. She had to control herself from transforming but it went away easier this time than it had at the edge of the driveway. She noticed that he had changed into a button down denim shirt over black jeans and cowboy boots. He still wore the opal earring in his left ear.
"Where are we headed to?" Hunter asked as he put the Jeep in drive.
Cameron took a deep breath, "The Rovers are in Canada. They agreed to meet us halfway between here and the Canadian border. There is a camp site about eight hours from here that we can stay for the night then drive the rest of the way tomorrow."
Hunter nodded. "I brought snacks just in case the plan included a lot of driving. It should hold us until we can make camp. If that's okay with you?"
Cameron blinked at him. He was almost like a normal man. Other daevas laughed a lot or made lude jokes all the time. But here he was acting completely normal. She added points to his column for several things.
"That sounds fine to me. I can drive the last three or four hours if you want. That way I dont have to shout directions at you for the camp."
Hunter turned the Jeep onto the north ramp of the interstate.
"You get points for the Jeep," Cameron said as she stared out the windshield.
Hunter smiled and asked, "What?"
Cameron didnt look at him. "You get points for bringing the Jeep. For being mindful enough to know we would need to travel the old fashioned way. I was going to rent one once we met up so I guess you get points for saving me money too."
Hunter chuckled. "You get points for the fact that it seems you are not the city girl I thought you were."
Cameron looked at him. With his face sideways to her it was easy to forget what he was. But she couldn't. "It just goes to show how much you don't know about me"
"Oh I figure that I'll come to know quite a bit about you, Cameron Rose. As we are raising an army together but I can wait to start asking all the questions until tomorrow at least." Cameron narrowed her eyes at him. He smiled, "But for now, how about some music?"
It was six oclock that evening when Cameron pulled the Jeep into the clearing that she had used many a time for camping trips and hunts. They hopped out of the Jeep and unpacked their bags.
Hunter was pulling his tent out of his pack when he looked up. Cameron was standing in the middle of the clearing with her hands on her hips. He added more points to her column as she took a deep appreciative breath of the forest air. It clearly settled her and that spoke volumes to Hunter. He rarely found anyone who was as comfortable as he was in the woods. Even though it was where all the hemmings belonged very few chose to spend much time there. He smiled and continued to set up camp.
Fifty-five minutes later the tents were up and a fire was going. Cameron was sitting on a log they had found for a bench with the notebook Shawna Vea had given her.
Hunter finished stacking the extra fire wood and stared at her. She was so used to being alone even though hemmings were pack animals. Hunter couldn't stand her sitting there looking so peaceful without anyone next to her. It didnt seem right. He walked to her.
"Hey," he said with a smile.
She didnt look up from the notebook but replied, "Yes, cowboy?"
"I know I said we could wait until tomorrow to start getting to know each other but, I can't."
Cameron looked up and raised an eyebrow at him. "I wont promise to answer them all."
Hunter nodded. "I was just wondering if you would tell me about how you changed."
Cameron swallowed and looked down at the notebook again. "That isn't something you need to know about me."
Hunter cocked his head to the side. "Why not? You know about mine."
Cameron huffed out a breath. "Yours was need to know information for our situation plus it was told voluntarily by Avani in her letter. You have no need to know how my life started." So angry and frustrated Cameron stood. "I'm going hunting." She threw the notebook into her tent and walked past Hunter to the denser part of the forest.
Hunter was frustrated too. He was normally so smooth and this female for some reason had him off his game. Beating himself up for being insensitive Hunter turned. "Cameron, I'm sorry for prying."
Cameron stopped but she didnt turn around. "Its okay. We're both out of our element right now. I'll be back with dinner." With that she continued to walk out of the camp before transforming into a mountain lion.
Hunter watched her go. He had a feeling that dealing with Cameron Rose was going make him face some things he wasn't sure he wanted to face. He ran his hands through his hair then went about getting things ready to cook.