Elyse was sitting crisscrossed on the bed coverlet, the knitting needles laying forgotten across her pillow. She had begun making herself another shawl since her old scarf had gone missing, but irritating thoughts strayed the girl from the task at hand.
Soft snores filled the hot stuffy air; her chamber mates were already asleep. She startled slightly when the grandfather clock struck three o’clock in the morning.
The infamous witching hour.
Despite her resolve, her control broke yet again. An image of the red-headed demon burst into her mind, her heart beating quicker just at the thought of him. Would Azrael laugh hearing of their stupid fable regarding this time in the night? Yes, she could already imagine him, a smirk pulling at his lips while he teased her. Little bird, he would start, –
No, Elyse, stop! Stop thinking of him.
But how could she cease? The demon had crushed all the sins one would expect from a creature of brimstone and fire and in place of her mistaken assumptions, a faint tendril of hope was now growing. Hope that would be her downfall if misguided.
Although, so far, Azrael had only fanned the flames of that hope. He had not taken advantage of her in her weakest moment and instead lent her a helping hand, not demanding anything in return.
The blonde knew for certain now that this was no passing fancy. Mathias paled in comparison to her demon. She could even begin to...
Do not go there, Elyse.
Her fingers lunged for the knitting needles, in an effort to distract herself. One stitch, two stitches, three stitches. Soon, the girl had added several lines to her budding shawl.
“Making me another scarf, little bird? I am flattered,“a husky voice whispered in the darkness, making Elyse let out a surprised squeak.
How was he here?
Amused green eyes watched her response with interest while butterflies erupted in her stomach against her will. The blonde checked her surroundings; thankfully no one had woken up. Otherwise, how could she have begun to explain a handsome man’s presence in their all girls orphanage in the middle of the night? Sister Ann would have seen straight through the demon’s façade and banished him again with her esoteric incantations while Madame Tildi would have brought out her fearsome frying pan. Feeling the mattress dip slightly, Elyse snapped out of her thoughts. Graceful as a feline, Azrael crouched at the foot of her bunk, arranging his hands so near her feet, she could feel his unnatural warmth.
Sweet burnt cinnamon wafted to her nose.
Her eyes narrowed. Around his corded neck, there was a familiar blue scarf. Her scarf.
“That is mine,” the blonde tried to be stern. Her hand reached to grab it back. A dark part of her mind admitted it looked fetching on him, especially draped across the ivory skin of his pectorals. Why was he always bare-chested though?
Completely shameless, Azrael flashed his sharp grin again, catching her extended hand in his grip. “It is mine now.” Not letting go, his claws danced across her palm, slightly ticklish.
Is he talking of my hand or the blue scarf? She snapped out of her stupor and claimed her hand back, pressing her hands in her lap, away from the demon.
“My mark is upon your skin and your craft is upon my flesh. I find it quite fitting. Unless you wish to claim me more permanently, Mistress?” Azrael bowed his head, a daring look lightening his otherwordly orbs. The submissive position the usually proud creature adopted had Elyse tensing.
What was he up to now? How could she, a human girl, mark an unpredictable demon like him? The idea was as ridiculous as the request. Besides, the tattoo on her shoulder already brought her enough of trouble as it was. His unsummoned presence here was proof living proof of it.
Heaven only knew what would happen were she to mark him as well.
Instead, the blonde petted his collarbone gingerly, being careful to only touch the blue scarf and not the wide expanse of skin, caressed so temptingly by the warm candlelight. Hopefully that would appease him.
This only earned her a snort of derision from the demon. Nevertheless, Azrael still stretched his neck like a feline, leaning into her gentle touch. The devilish harshness of his features was finally tamed as his eyelids closed, soaking in the attention and pleasure. The moment felt strangely intimate.
“By marking me, I envisioned lingering wet kisses that would result in what you humans call a ‘hickey’, not–” the blonde interrupted his monologue and ended her ministrations. Emerald eyes watched her accusatorily now, making her harrumph. The demonic cat would first have to answer her question before being petted again.
“How is it possible you are here tonight? I had not summoned you...,” she trailed off. At least I do not reckon I had.
“Your thoughts have called to me.” Outraged, Elyse began sputtering, but Azrael pressed one long finger to her lips, effectively silencing her. “No, I have not heard what your thoughts were. But, as our bond grows, my summoning can be triggered by even the slightlest longing in your soul.” His words sent goosebumps down her back. The connection between them was strengthening and the side of her governed by self-preservation could not help but ponder if it was wise to be so deeply attached to a demon. Not just a demon, but a Prince of Darkness, as that book had referred to him. On an unconcious, purely human level, it unsettled her.
There was fleeting emotion in his eyes as she mulled over the escalating situation.
Suddenly, a clawed digit tapped her nose. His jaw clenched. “Besides, you have been stubborn again. Last night I had made my surprisingly pure intentions clear, yet you still avoid me like the plague in the dream realm.” Stretching from his kneeling position, the powerful man took the liberty to seat himself on her bed, trapping her against him and the window wall. The mattress springs groaned at the massive bulk added on top of them.
His intoxicating scent made it hard to focus.
Elyse shook her head. “It has not even been a day yet. You cannot accuse of me of such.“The demon narrowed his gaze disbelievingly and a soft snarl escaped his lips.
Azrael grabbed the forgotten shawl from her stiff fingers and threw it a haughty glare. “I take it that it is a human custom to knit until the wee hours of morning then?”
Caught red-handed, the flustered girl mustered the urge to stick her tongue out at him. Knowing Azrael, the creature would interpret the gesture wrong. Perhaps, even take it as an invitation of another kind.
Never one to admit defeat, Elyse stirred the conversation in a different direction. “So you noticed my presence in the dream realm then. Have you been missing me, Azrael?” the blonde teased him, hoping to lighten the charged atmosphere between them.
“Always,” he quietly said. She had expected a mocking reply, not this...This fervently uttered word that had felt too much like a vow.
Ever so slowly, his head lowered to her face, the shadows of the chamber licking at his skin as if he belonged with them. Her heart beat rapidly, threatening to leap out of her ribcage. She started to shift her legs, wishing to give him more space.
A sudden shot of pain in her knee ceased her movements. She gritted her teeth, waiting for it to dispel. “Little bird!” The concern in his voice was unmistakable even through the haze of agony.
She breathed out in relief when it stopped. “It is alright, this happens occasionally,” Elyse waved off the worried red head who was hovering next to her. The demon growled loudly. Her sleeping chamber mates stopped snoring then. A low warning sound to silence him escaped her lips.
He ignored it as he scooped her up in his arms and settled her more comfortably in her bed. Next, his fingers hitched her night slip higher and bared her troublesome right leg. So fast had he moved that she had not had time to protest.
“Shh, let me soothe the pain away,” he said, working on her flesh methodically.
“It is within your powers? Samuel’s injury was fresh, but mine–”
“I was able to save that mortal’s life and you consider I am incapable to take care of my own mate’s pain?” he did not look up from his task, but his tone implied he had just been insulted.
The confusion his words caused vanished as a calming, mystical energy enveloped her joints, banishing any echoes of the agony away. His power seemed to find its way inside the deepest parts of her and heal her. It felt right. Contented, she sighed and traced her hand across her demon’s back in gratitude.
The digits encountered scarred flesh along his spine. Oh no...
Morbid curiosity led her to slip her fingers underneath the scarf, inch them across the length of his strong shoulders and to her horror, more marks marred his broad back. Elyse gasped and removed her hand; too focused, Azrael did not notice how she flinched seeing the full extent of his past pain. Hunched over her leg like he currently was, his back was on full display under the damning light of the candle burning next to him.
Messy scars webbed over his pale skin. Only the work of a demented mind could have done that. How had she not seen it before?
“Azrael,” Elyse choked out. Startled green eyes landed on her distraught face. “What happened to you?” she pointed to his back, needing to touch him again. An overwhelming desire to protect the demon came over her.
For once, Azrael was speechless. An intense emotion crossed his face quickly before she could study it. “Azrael?” she tried again. He flinched out of her reach, as if she was the one to hurt him so.
“You can see them,” he spoke quietly, avoiding her gaze. His fists clenched so tightly at his sides that his knuckles turned white.
“Of course,” she wanted to take him into her arms, but his form was backing into the shadows, away from the candlelight, away from her. “Please do not go, I did not mean to upset you.”
Her pleaded whisper fell on deaf ears. The demon had disappeared, leaving her with a pained heart that hurt so much more than her leg.