T W E N T Y - F O U R
Zephyr led me from Persephone’s Herb Garden to the Courtyard.
We were quiet the whole way there, me waiting for him to speak first, while he seemed lost in his own thoughts.
I sighed, running out of patience.
It never was my strong suit.
“So....” I pulled him to a stop just a few feet short from the courtyard “What did you want to talk about?”
“I’m Sorry” he blurted out.
“I’m sorry for my behavior” his cheeks tinged pink “It’s just...the Lotus extract...and I’m not a drinker...and...”
I chuckled at his loss for words.
“Zephyr, it’s fine.” I said “You didn’t mean it. Everybody doesn’t mean what they say when they’re drunk.”
He looked away.
“It was the Extract that made me say those things out loud” he said, walking deeper into the courtyard “But it wasn’t the extract that made me think about them.”
I gaped at his retreating form.
Did he really just say that?
Then I remembered what my Pappy used to say whenever he embarrassed my Grammy at family parties with his tipsy remarks.
“A drunken man’s words are a sober man’s thoughts.”
“Whoa, hold up!” I caught up to him and yanked on his arm, getting him to stop his speed walking “You can’t just drop that bomb on me and then walk away.”
“Why aren’t you yelling at me?”
“Why aren’t you yelling at me?” He mumbled, his blush deepening “After everything I said...I at least expected some yelling.”
“I didn’t know I was supposed too” I snorted “Thanks for the memo though.”
“So you’re not mad?”
“Oh, I’m mad” I crossed my arms “Pissed actually.”
He gave me a confused look “But you just said...”
I waved my hand, dismissing his sentence.
“I’m not mad at the fact that you want me to have your babies” I smirked when he went beet red “Or the fact that you want to have my babies.”
“Then what are you...”
“I’m mad with the fact that for eleven years, you made me question my sanity” I growled.
His eyes widened.
I punched him in the stomach.
“You’re little Phoenix” I punched him again “Ring any bells?”
“Serenity...” he started but I growled at him, holding three fingers up.
“Do you know how many therapists my parents had to take me to after I was found alone in the forest, rambling to myself?” I yelled “Three! Three different shrinks telling my parents three different conclusions! One of them even suggested medication for me! Do you know what it’s like to feel like a crazy person? To have everyone in your life walking on eggshells around you all the time because they’re worried about upsetting you?”
I walked away, fuming at the memories, but also trying to keep my stupid tears at bay.
While I was angry at Zephyr for leaving me the way that he did, I knew that I couldn’t blame him for everything.
In all honesty, I was a little bit angry with my family for not believing me.
I felt Zephyr’s presence behind me and I quickly wiped away my stupid tears.
“If I was allowed to tell you back then,” he said softly “Then I would have.”
“It doesn’t matter” I muttered “What’s done is done.”
He turned me and ducked his head, trying to catch my gaze.
When he finally caught it, his beautiful eyes soften.
“It does matter” He kissed my knuckles gently “Because you are my little Phoenix. You’ve helped me, even after all these years, more than you can ever realize.”
“It’s true” he argued “Whenever I’m in a bad mood, I always think about that day. How you stayed with me for hours, not pressuring me to talk, and just comforting me while I broke down. You turned the worst day of my life into a day I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
I remained quiet and he pulled me into a hug.
“I’m sorry for not telling you sooner” he said from above my head “If there’s anything I can do to make it up to you, than all you have to do is ask.”
I pulled back “Really?”
He nodded “Whatever you think of just-”
“What did your Dad take from you that day?” I asked, my words spewing out before I had a chance to process them.
Zephyr looked taken aback “What?”
“What did your dad take from you that had you willing to jump into fire in order to escape it all?”
“Didn’t waste any time, I see” Zephyr muttered quietly, so quiet that I almost didn’t catch it.
“No point in me losing another night’s worth of sleep agonizing over an way to approach the subject with you again” I grinned “I’m a monster when I don’t get enough sleep.”
He chuckled “Well I think-”
“Nu uh” I slapped my palms against his lips “Don’t try and smooth talk me with smooth words in order to distract me from the truth. I need answers and I need them now.”
“I wouldn’t have died in the fire” he mumbled under my hands “In case you didn’t notice, I am the Devil’s son.”
“How could I have known?” I gave him a ’Really′ look “I was seven and stupid. Definitely not as smart as I am now. Oh, and you know, you didn’t really tell me who you father was at the time!”He chuckled for a few seconds before his face became serious.
“I want to tell you” When he noticed my protesting, he quickly explained “But I can’t. Not right now.”
“Because it has something to do with our quest.” He frowned “And that’s all I’m telling you.”
I sighed, leaning my forehead against his chest.
“But you will tell me?” I mumbled, “When the time is right?”
I paused for a moment, wanting to push the issue, but ultimately letting it go for another time.
“Can I see your tattoo?”
“What tattoo?” he teased.
I chuckled and pinched his sides.
“The matching one that goes with you buddies girlfriend” I lightly kicked his ankle “You know, the one like mine.”
“How do you know I even have one?” He tickled my sides and I laughed, pushing him away “Persephone could just be messing with you.”
“She wouldn’t” I said confidently.
“How do you know?” he countered.
“I just know” I smirked “Not let me see it?”
He smirked right back “Why don’t you come here and find it yourself?”
“TEASE!” I shouted, laughing “What happened to the guy who wanted to make babies until the bed broke?”
Zephyr turned scarlet red and covered his embarrassed face with his hands, groaning into his palms.
“I’m never going to live that down, am I?”
“Nope” I snickered.
“Fine” He straighten up to his full height before removing his shirt.
The rest of my snickering came to a halt and my mouth dried up immediately.
I swallowed thickly, trying to make the cotton feeling in my mouth disappear.
He smirked at my expression “Now who wants to make babies?”
I narrowed my eyes at him “Still you.”
He snorted “That expression says otherwise.”
I rolled my eyes “Just show me the damn tattoo.”
“With extreme pleasure” He purred seductively before turning his body slightly and lifting up his arm.
I caught the elegant writing that looked more like a brand than a tattoo.
I poked at his skin and he shivered.
“Will mine end up looking like that?” I said, leaning forward to get a closer look.
“Why not?” I asked, curious as to why our markings were so different.
“It really depends on the Hellhound” he said gruffly, turning away from me and putting his shirt back on “Shadow doesn’t like to coddle me. In fact, I’m pretty sure he’s a sadist when it comes to me.”
I smiled “What does it say?”
“Non ducor, duco” He translated ′I am not led, I lead.′
“Interesting” I said “Do they mean anything?”
Zephyr hesitated “...Sometimes”
“What does that mean?” I frowned.
“It’s open to interpretation” He supplied “Hellhounds are very intuitive creatures. They know what you need sometimes even before you do. Their markings, in a way, are sometimes things we need to hear at a particular moment in time, depending on what’s going on in their partners soul.”
“Is a story for another time” he smiled and grabbed my hand “Now come on.”
“Whoa, hang on” I pulled on our intertwined hands “Where are going?”
His eyes lit up and a beautiful smile crossed his face.
“It’s a surprise.”