The coffee sobered Sarah up even more, and as she waited for Axin to speak, she couldn’t help but stare at his eyes. They held the flicker of orange flames, mirroring the fire behind him, and it brought calm to her.
“A Japanese legend? I didn’t know I had become that. Where did you hear it?”
She set her cup on the end table and pulled her legs up onto the seat to curl under her. “I have a client from Japan. He has this stunning piece of art in his home, that shows the smoke and tells of the Legend of the Shadow people.”
Axin raised his brows with a smile.
“I guess sooner or later it was bound to happen. After almost a thousand years of watching over the living, someone was bound to write stories about us.”
He nodded. “Yeah. I don’t live here alone. Well, I do in this house, but the Shadow World has many of us.”
Sarah ran her eyes over the house. “How is this place real?”
“I built it.”
Her eyes shot back to Axin, shock making them go wide.
“You built this place?”
“Yeah. You had a talent for architecture even at a young age. When I saw the drawing of it in your room one night, I… kinda… fell in love with it. I wanted a home like that, so I built it.”
“Why have you spied on me my whole life?”
His smile fell and he moved his gaze away from hers. “It’s a long story. And I wasn’t spying on you. I was watching over you. Protecting you. You lost the people that were meant to look after you, and you needed someone to keep you safe.”
Mentioning her parents stirred an uneasy feeling in Sarah.
“I had my grandmother. And besides, many kids lose their families. I don’t see you playing guardian angel with them. If anything, I ended up okay. My grandmother did the best she could, and I like to think I turned out alright.”
He grinned, meeting her eyes. “Yeah, you did.”
“So why me?”
He took a moment, narrowing his eyes at her as he thought.
“I felt obligated to, Sarah.”
“Why? What makes me so special?”
“There are many things that make you special. Especially to me.”
Anger flared in Sarah. “Are you going to avoid all my questions?”
His brow shot up, a hint of a smile playing on his lips. “I’m answering them as best I can.”
She shot up off the chair, her unimpressive five foot six height barely reached over Axin’s head. She glared down at him, her arms crossed over her chest. “I’m not in the mood to play games, Axin. You've tormented me my whole life, made me terrified to go to sleep, and made me think I was crazy! I couldn’t tell anyone, because who would believe me, and I had to live thinking I might one day lose my mind completely. Now you want to play games, and mince your words? Either start telling me the truth, or take me home and leave me alone.”
His smile fell and he nodded. “Okay. I’ll tell you the truth. I’m sorry about causing you so much pain in your life. I never meant to hurt you. I care about you too much. Please, sit down, and let’s try that again.”
Sarah stared at him for a moment, putting on a much braver face than how she felt inside. His red eyes softened as he nodded towards the chair.
With an annoyed sigh, Sarah sat down and waited.
“Ask me again,” Axin said, all traces of amusement and light-heartedness gone from his face.
“Why have you followed me my whole life?”
He nodded. “Straight to the hard ones. What I said is true. I feel obligated to keep you safe. To watch over you.”
He let out a breath, closing his eyes and Sarah saw the pain that washed over his face.
“The truth, Axin.”
“The truth will make you hate me. I hoped I would have more time to spend with you before that happened.”
“Why would I hate you?”
He opened his eyes and met her gaze, the glow in them a raging inferno. “Because… I killed your parents.”