“Yes, that’s what she calls herself… Sort of a boyish name, you think?” Jake asked as he stole another carrot from the chopping block.
Shade frowned and swatted his hand away from the vegetables as he grabbed the chopping block to pour the minced food into the stew.
“It’s a strong name. I think it suits her.” He said with a smile.
“Do you think she’ll do alright here? I mean, considering…”
“I think she’ll do just fine. No offense, Master Jake, but you’re in a lot worse shape than she is and you’ve survived for eighteen years.”
Jake made a face at the man and looked out the window.
“Where is the little spark anyway?”
“I sent her to Amy to be measured for clothes. Well, more like coaxed her. She is still convinced that being naked is best.”
“I have to say that it it’s quite exhilarating.” Shade said with a grin.
“I mean, not to say that she doesn’t have a beautiful body but I mean, she’s a lady.”
“No she isn’t. She’s just a female. She is far from a lady and you know that.”
“But in the technical sense she’s a ‘lady’.”
“Funny, though, she’s the only shapeshifter I know who has been able to smell that you aren’t all human.”
Shade set the lid on the big pot of stew and sat across from his master at the small table in the kitchen. He took a swig of ale and drummed his fingers on the table.
“Yes, that was surprising. It’s not like I try to hide it.”
“I wonder what Pure has to say about all this. I mean, she can sense things, right?”
“Pure doesn’t know the future though.”
“True, but she could at least tell me if we are compatible. You know?”
“Compatible? Do you intend on courting your shapeshifter slave?” Shade said with a raise of his black eyebrows.
“No… but I’ve heard that some Shifters find that one owner and stick to them. Asher and Vlad said that the twins were theirs. I was just wondering if I was Timber’s.”
“Only Timber would know that; not even Pure can sense that sort of relationship.”
Jake got up and stretched. “I’m going to go check on her and see how everything is going.”
He left the kitchen to find the fitting room.
Jake knocked on the door and the older of the twins stuck her head out.
“Jakey…” Sookie said, smiling. “What can we do you for?”
“How’s everything going?”
“She’s a fighter but Amy finally got a measurement on her legs and everything.”
“May I come in?”
“I’ve seen it all.” Sookie gave him a look. “I mean, she shifted in the carriage on the way here and so…”
Sookie made a face but opened the door, following her younger brother with her blue eyes.
Jake put his hands on his hips as he looked at Timber lying in a big tangle of fabrics, hissing at Amy when she tried to get them off of her.
“Hello, Amy, is everything going well?” he said, knowing very well that it wasn’t.
Timber turned to him and scampered to his side, the fabrics still wrapped around her body. Her wrists were bound again by the Nicosia shackles but it didn’t hinder her in her escape from the middle aged maid.
Amy sighed, wiping her brow of sweat and setting her hands on her buxom hips.
“Milord, the youngin won’t work with me. She refuses to put the dresses on I brought.”
Jake looked down at Timber as she watched Amy with a careful eye and then she looked up at him.
“Are you causing trouble?” Jake said with a smile.
“They are touching me.” She said.
Jake laughed a little. “I told you that they would have to touch you to get your measurements.”
“I don’t want to be measured.”
“You are a difficult one, aren’t you?”
“I do not enjoy being bumbled over.”
“Are you shy? Are the twin’s presence making it harder for you?” Timber nodded a little and Jake turned to his sisters. “Sookie, Camilla?”
“Oh, all right…” Camilla said, looking downhearted. “And I wanted to pick out a dress for her too…”
The two left the room and Amy began to pick up a little.
Timber stood up and shook her head, her curls bouncing a little.
“Is that better?”
“If that’s all you need, I will go find Father to ask him a question.”
“Will you measure me?” Timber asked softly.
Jake blinked at the proposal but smiled and patted her on the head.
“I’m not a seamstress, Timber.”
“Do not leave.” She said, pulling slightly on his arm. “I do not like her.”
Jake sighed and moved her dainty hands off his arm.
“I’ll stay for a little while. Now,” he said, pushing his shapeshifter to the maid. “Please comply with Amy for a little while.”
Timber hung her head in submission as she scuffled over to Amy. When Timber was more preoccupied with Amy, Jake slipped out the door and went to find his father.
As he walked along the hall, he could hear something slinking behind him. He turned quickly to be face to face with Asher, Camilla’s snake-Shifter.
“Asher… Dammit, I told you not to slither up like that.”
She smiled devilishly and stuck out her tongue a little.
“I smell blood… Did you cough up again?” she said, sticking her tongue out again.
Jake smiled a little at her because it was a habit that Asher could never get over. Since snakes smell with their tongues, she forgot that her nasal passages were in good working order as her human self.
“This morning but I’ve been fine for the rest of the time.”
“Hmmm…” she said, her piercing green eyes studying him. “I smell lots of blood.”
Jake made a face at her as she seemed to glide past him in that snakelike way she walked. As she turned the corner, Jake coughed a little and then went into a coughing fit. He leaned against the wall for support and pulled at his shirt. He hated getting a surprise attack in the middle of daily activities. It wouldn’t have been so bad if not for the fact that it hurt him so much to cough that it sometimes debilitated him. He wiped his mouth off, a streak of bright red showing on his hand. He scoffed and wiped it on his pants. No reason to make his Father hate him even more…
He walked to Oslos’ study and knocked softly on the door.
“May I come in?” Jake asked, opening the hidden door panel in the wall.
“If you must. What do you need?” Oslo asked, his pipe still firmly in his mouth.
He looked up at his son as Jake sat down in the chair in front of him.
“I was wondering if there was anything I could do to make up for not getting you a proper Shifter?”
Oslo stared at him for a moment and Jake feared he had said something wrong. But Oslo, instead, sat back in his chair and pulled the pipe from his mouth, smoke billowing from his mouth. He poured the tobacco out into the ashtray only to stuff more in and light it with a match.
“What can you do to make up for your stupidity?” Oslo asked in return. “I’m not quite sure. You’re a sorry excuse for a son and I’m ashamed to even claim you as mine sometimes. What with that disruptive and irritating cough you have…”
“I try my best to keep it underway, Father, but sometimes I can’t help it.”
“And you’re weak. I don’t mean just physically but emotionally. You’re too emotional, boy.”
Jake made a face and gripped his pants to keep his mouth in check.
“Father, what can I do then? I want to fix what I’ve done.”
“Don’t worry about it, Jacob. I sent word to Rafael to see if he can get me a Shifter from where he is.”
Jake was flabbergasted. He stared at his father with his mouth open, feeling cheated and thrown aside.
“Y-You sent word to Rafael?”
“Yes. At least he can deliver what I want.”
Jake wanted nothing more than to punch his second cousin square in the jaw whenever he brought the Shifter to Nicosia Manor. Rafael was everything that Jake wasn’t (except good looking and included being a prick) and Oslo adored him like he was his own son. Rafael didn’t let that lie either. He would flaunt his relationship with Oslo like a cocky rooster. Maybe I can teach Timber to bite Rafael… Jake thought.
“But, Father, don’t you think it’s a bit cumbersome for you to send word to Rafael who is all the way in Lakewood when you have me right here? It’s a waste of paper and a long journey for the postman.”
Oslo gave a glare to Jake that made him realize he had spoken too much of his mind and he hunched over like a submissive wolf.
“I’ll write to whom I want, whenever I want and damn the costs and comforts of those around me. Get out of here…”
Jake nodded and left the room, feeling even worthless than ever.
When Timber was finally released from that hell, she headed toward Jake’s room, smelling him out so she wouldn’t get lost. She opened the door and found the room was dark. She thought that he wasn’t in there except she saw him move on the bed and the light shined on his eye.
“Oh, it’s you…” he said softly.
Timber shut the door behind her and sniffed again, making sure that there was no blood. There was a past trace of it, but nothing poignant in the air as of yet.
“Masta Jake?” she said softly, peeking over the mattress to look at him.
“Are you in pain?”
“A little… Not physical pain though.”
Timber blinked slowly at him and lifted herself up a little. She knew she wasn’t allowed on the bed but licked him softly on the cheek in a feeble attempt to comfort her master.
Jake smiled and pulled his arm from beside him and rubbed her cheek like one would any normal pet.
“I cannot fix it.” She said.
“I know. I’ll be alright though. It’s nothing to be worried about.”
Timber turned her head, trying to understand. She knew these emotions because she had felt them at one time herself. But it was so long ago that she didn’t understand them quite as well as she would have liked. The blank look on Jake’s face let her know that something was bothering him fiercely –she had learned his face very quickly on their journey to Gregory.
“I do not understand… but I can try.”
Jake laughed an emotionless laugh. “You’re one of the few who would take on that task. Even I don’t really understand the reasoning. By all logic, I should be as estranged from my father as he is to me. But for some reason, I feel I need to show him that I’m worth more than a broken kid with a lung problem.”
“Showing you are brave is not bad.” She said, laying her head on her arms to look at Jake. “Small people get strong because they are cornered.”
Jake wondered why Timber’s speech sometimes came out weird but he understood her reasoning.
“So it is… Where did you grow up?”
“By myself… In the woods.”
“No one cared for you?”
“I am a runt, I’m not priority. There are normal cubs to look after.” She said with a small smile.
Jake frowned. “That’s not nice.”
“It is no different than what situation you are in.”
Jake thought about it and realized that she was right.
“I see… I guess we’re more alike than I would have thought.”
“Two people with eyes the same can help each other, right?”
Jake had to laugh. It was sweet but totally twisted up in what was supposed to be said.
“Yes… That’s true.”
“Then I help you.”
Jake nodded a little and felt better for once. He finally had someone that was on his side. It felt good to have someone understand him for what he was and not what he tried to be.