I don’t know how I couldn’t have felt it before now. However, it seems like the bond had been growing, sinking its long roots into my heart without me knowing about it. I must have been too wrapped up in my last chosen to have even considered the little lost Raven a possible lover. Yes, she is gorgeous, and I was interested in her past, but at the same time, there was no way she could be mine. Even if she was, could I risk a repeat of the last time Father found out about a chosen?
Speaking of Father, I glance down at my watch grimacing. My father will be excepting me by his side soon for the monthly reports. I never understood why he demanded them in person or even wanted a report at all because it was always the same bleak news. It was a small part of the complicated deal I had struck up with him that allowed me to stay in the overworld and shrug off my duties as the crowned prince. I never liked them, I hate the responsibility and weight that came with the crown. Yet it is my birthright, the magic runs deep within my blood. More than that a few of my brothers’ lives depend on my successes. I feel my lips pulling down into a frown as I watch a minute tick by.
“Somewhere you have to be?” Kiela asks
I nod, looking up from my watch at her. “Sadly, yes...”
Her eyes flickered with fear. I can tell she doesn’t want to be alone. She shifts uncontrollably on the bed as she whispers, “Can I come with you?”
I wince Internally at the idea of this woman being anywhere near Father. No, I’m not going to let that happen. I need to hide her existence from him for as long as I can. Maybe I’ll find it in me to reject her? “I need to make a phone call. I’m going to miss a meeting today.”
Kiela shakes her head as soon as I say meeting. “You should go.” Her knees pulled up to her chest and rested her chin on them. She’s curled in on herself, it’s both cute and heartbreaking at the same time.
“No, it’s ok. It’s a... just my father wanted me to check-in today.”
I stand up from my chair and walk towards the door as I pull out my phone. Kiela watches me as I move, her smile now forced. “I wouldn’t want your father to get annoyed at you because of me.”
“I said he can live.” I walk outside, standing in front of the door. Slipping my phone out of my pocket I quickly dial the number to the underworld. I begin to fit it up to my head when I notice a golden slashes just under my wrist. It’s a thin line, not even the width of my pinkie, that only I can see. As insignificant as it may seem, I could never forget it’s meaning. It stands as physical proof of a deal made with a god. As long as it exists on my skin, it means neither party has broken their side of the deal yet. as I call one of my brothers.
The mark begins to itch, as my youngest brother answered on the other end of the line. “Rhyne, you’re late again.”
“Hello to you too, Azrael.” He was the closest to Father and the only one that knew I visited the underworld once a month. The secretiveness wasn’t my idea. Instead, Father was the one that thought it would be best to keep my other siblings out of this. “I’m actually not coming today.”
“What do you mean...?” He asked slowly, his voice edged with stress.
“I mean, I’m not coming in today, as in I will be staying in the overworld uninterrupted until further notice.”
Azrael snarled into the phone, then I heard the voice of my father yelling. I hear Azrael say, “yeah, it’s Rhyne.” Answering a question that Azrael’s phone didn’t pick up.
There’s a shifting sound like the phone being passed over, then my father’s voice comes over the line, “Rhyne, my second-born son and heir to the throne. Where are you?”
“I’m not coming in today.”
“You’re not coming in today?!” He snarls into the phone. I guess snarling runs in the family.
“No,” I state, agitation coming into my voice as I repeat. “I will be staying in the overworld uninterrupted until further notice.”
“That’s not a part of the deal, Rhyne!”
“i know Father,” my wrist becomes uncomfortable warm and I’m forced to switch which hand I’m using to hold the phone. Rubbing it against my pants leg, I wonder if Father feels it just as much as I do. “I just believe-”
I was cut off by him talking over me. “I’m coming there to check on you.”
“Don’t come back up here. It’s fine.” I sigh, rolling my eyes.
“No, I knew I should have personally checked up on you months ago. Now you forget who is king.”
“Oh, don’t act like you suddenly care!” I snarl. Yup snarling runs in the family.
“You’re not alone, are you!” My father suddenly accuses. It was yet another part of the deal that I spent my time here in isolation.
Pain comes over my voice, realizing that my own father was more worried about protecting his throne than his own son. No wonder my older brother, the firstborn, turned it down. After he found and lost his first love, he had decided he could live alone anymore.
I knew this next part of the lie was going to be hard. I had to believe what I was going to say without a doubt if I wanted the deal to stay intact. “Of course, I’m alone, father.” the words came easier then I thought they would. I realized that I had already accepted whatever was going on in between me and the girl in the cabin was just temporary. I felt empty like she was already gone even though she was just on the other side of a door. “I just don’t feel well, this body has caught one of the illnesses of the living world.”
The burning and itching in my mark ebbed away until it was nothing more than a low throb. My father’s voice is quieter now, he sounds uncomfortable at the show of weakness. “Well... get better, my son. I’ll visit soon if you don’t.”
I hang up the phone and look out at my forest. The trees that stood firm all these years, their bark hardened over time by the weather like skin hardened overtime against words.
Once I feel my muscles relax, and my emotions are back under control, I head inside, forcing a smile to my face as I look at Kiela. “I’m free for the day.“Her smile was still forced, I hope it will go back to normal soon. “You didn’t have to do that...”
“I wanted to.” I shrug at her. “Besides, you’re still injured. What kind of gentleman would I be to leave a lady wounded and alone?”
“You helped me enough. I’ll live.” She states, rolling her honey-colored eyes.
I retake my seat next to her, shaking my head. “Why do you want me gone so bad? You’re not going to rob me blind, are you?” I tease, trying to get her to smile.
Kiela shakes her head, missing the joke entirely. “your work just seems important.”
She says work that time instead of meeting. It made me realize she most likely doesn’t know what I use to do for work. I look away from her as my heart squeezes. fear choking up my throat, making my voice soft and hesitant. “I’m a son of death.... what do you think my work is..?”
“Something cliche like collecting souls or punishing people?”
“Yeah... something like that. I-“I swallow and find myself unable to tell Kiela everything. “I do a lot of things.”
When Kiela doesn’t reply, I look back up at her. She looks like she wants to say something but at the same time doesn’t. Her mouth opens and closes kinda like a fish out of water gasping for air. I wait for her to figure out what she’s going to do.
Under her breath, she mumbled screw it before speaking fast, not meeting my eyes. “I’m sorry, but I listened in on your conversation with your father, and I just...I want to know why you sounded so hurt...”
My whole body stiffened as I stared at her in disbelief. I feel my eyes flash gold as all attention is focused on Kiela small form. She keeps her head down and shakes slightly under my gaze.
“I’m sorry...” she whimpers softly.
I sigh heavily and try to relax my body. The damage was done, no point in getting angry over it. ” Death is a shadow to your footsteps and shall take those who get too close.” She looks confused like she doesn’t understand the damning words meant. So I Simplify. “I’m not supposed to be around the living. Hints me living in the forest alone.” I gesture around me at the cabin.
“That sounds lonely...”
I nod, not looking at Kiela. Instead, I favor looking out the window, watching a few of the red and yellow leaves fall from the tree branches. I don’t feel alone anymore, I answer her in my mind. i felt complete, and i knew it was the chosen bond, I could feel it blooming under my skin like a rosebud.
“Your father had you live alone.” it sounds more like a statement than a question
“Yeah, I can’t help but agree with him sometimes.”
“He sounds like a jackass,” she snaps.
I couldn’t help but laugh, my eyes looking at her in shock. “Don’t call Death a jackass!”
“Why not? Is he going to kill me?”
I almost whimper, thinking about my father getting his hands on Kiela. The gruesome image of this sweet woman’s face twisted in death, like the two women I loved before. I had never left so helpless before, I refuse to even feel like that again.
The shocked smile falling from my face. “Maybe...” I hear the pain taint my words.
“Let him. I’ve got nothing to lose.” Kiela huffs.
“Don’t say that,” I spoke softly, carefully. “You have everything to lose as long as you have air in your lungs.”
“Whatever.” She mumbles, falls back onto the bed, her arms laying spread outward beside her.
I couldn’t help but laugh at Kiela’s antics. For how dark the Conversations turned, her actions were surprisingly adorable.
“Don’t laugh at me!” She kicks at me, non-threatening. I quickly catch her foot, and with a light tug, pull her tiny body into my lap.
She squeaks, shoving my chest as she falls off my lap and spirals onto the floor. I chuckle while Kiela glares up at me, hair ruffled and in her face. Then I see the fear that shines in her eyes like a sun. She tries to hide it behind annoyance and anger, but I can still see it.
“Don’t touch me!” She growls.
I put my hands up in surrender, “I’m sorry, my lady. I won’t do it again.
She stands up, not even glancing at me as she pouts. “I need some air.” Then she storms out her body, still tense.
I stare at the closed door, I could stop the feeling that settled into the pit of my stomach. I was like a puppy who knows they did something wrong, they just don’t know what they did wrong. For some reason, I regret the last five minutes because a woman I didn’t even know that last night is mad at me. I tried to stuff the emotions away, rejecting what the fates have placed before me. Finding a queen has failed twice, though my father played a hand in at least one of their deaths. I refuse to do it again.
A while later, Kiela comes back to the cabin. Fling the door open while I sit at the table patching up some moth-eaten shirts I found hiding in the depths in the attic. With a determined expression on her face, she marches back over to my bed and flops down on the messy blankets. I glance up from my hands to sneak a peek at her, then that guilty sensation makes me glance away.
“I’m sorry if I upset you,” I whisper.
I hear the sound of hair rustling, “you didn’t upset me.”
“You acted like I did.”
She seems to pick her words carefully. “I just don’t like being touched... that’s all.”
Setting down the stitching, I take up the chair next to the bed once more. honestly meeting Kiela’s honey eyes with my own. “I won’t touch you again then. I promise, my lady.”
Kiela smiles softly at me. “Thank you.”
“Of course, my lady.”
She chuckles, “why do you call me that?”
My heart skips a beat, and I blink at her. My tongue-speaking before my mind could bite it. “I want to.”
“But why?” She presses, a sassiness coming into her tone. “Cause I sure am not yours, and I sure as hell am not a lady.”
Damn, this woman was cruel without even trying. But she has a point, she’s not mine, I have no one. It still cuts deep nonetheless. .” I umm... liked the term when it was fashionable to use when referring to any female. I’m ah,” * I scratch the back of my neck looking down. “I’m a bit old-fashioned. ”
I feel a set of soft feathers press under my chin. She uses her wing to gently make me look at her. She smiles softly and sweetly again. “You should smile more...”
I blink at her, raising an eyebrow. “You bash me for the way I talk, then tell me to smile?!”
An embarrassed blush spreads across her cheeks. “sorry...I was just trying to make conversation...terribly but still...”
“You give me whiplash.” I huff.
Kiela looks confused by my statement, “what?”
I Exasperatedly waved my hand in front of me. “You are friendly then moody then friendly then drunk then friendly then secretive.” I can tell this does help at all, so I just sigh and move my head away from her wing. “Forget it. ”
She lets her wing fall and seems to be thinking, then her smile brightens up. “oh! ... I’m sorry... I’m kinda bipolar, I guess...” she gives a nervous laugh.
I raise an eyebrow at her, her gaze shifts to the ground sheepishly. She was so awkward it was adorable, she seems to do good at that. I couldn’t help the smile that took over my lips. “It’s fine.”
She looks up at me and returns the smile with a dizzying one of her own. Her wings kinda puff out cutely like a surprised raven. I almost say that out, but this time I managed to bite my tongue before I did.
“What?” Kiela says, tilting her head. I guess I didn’t put the breaks on my train of thought in time.
“Hum?” I ask, trying to fane confusion.
“you wanted to say something...” she trails off, but the curiosity is evident in her tone. “tell me.”
“I’m ok.” Her lip kinda pokes out in a cute pout like a little kid. I smile, caving under the adorable look, “little raven.”
She blushes hard at the nickname. I chuckle Kiela’s reaction, probably enjoying it more than I should. It takes her a second to recover, mumbling under her breath. “stupid death jr.”
I feel my own face heat up this time. Out of everything Kiela could have called me, she chose that? She giggles at my reaction.
“Death jr.? that’s what you are going with?”
“Yup!” she chirps happily.
I roll my eyes, running a hand through my shoulder-length hair. Half hiding behind the long brown strands. Letting my thoughts drift off of her only for her to bring me back to reality. “Tell me something about yourself.”
I tilt my head in her direction, interested to see what she wants to know. “like what?”
She shrugs half-heartedly, though her nonchalant doesn’t cover up the curiosity in her bright brown eyes. “Anything.”
With the great topic she so graciously provided, start to rumble off the fundamental info. “I am the son of death and Selene, the goddess of the moon. Mom... she’s alive, but she’s not allowed to see anyone. The last time I saw her was a long time ago, and ‘Father’ and I don’t really get along. I was always a mama’s boy. I’m a bit defiant against my nature. I have seven brothers but no sister.” I cough, mumbling the next words fast. “which is why I’m bad at talking to females...”
“You’re not that bad at it.” Kiela contended, which I didn’t expect to happen
“Thanks,” I smirked at her playfully teasing. “I did manage to get you to stay here overnight.”
She rolls those beautiful orbs of hers, “yeah cause that was totally how that went.” she surmises with a smile.
My shoulders shake with a lighthearted chuckle. “Yeah! That’s absolutely how it happened.”
She playfully throws one of her wings at me, causing me to duck out of the way, clutching my stomach as I laugh harder. This leaves me open for her backswing, the soft feathers clipping my chin. Her other wing comes around and hits my shoulder with about the same force as a raven’s wing.
“Don’t laugh at me!” Kiela whines.
I gasp for air in between laughing. “I’m sorry, my lady.”
Her bottom lip pushes out in a cute pout as she crosses her arms. Her wings fold loosely behind her as she gives up on her assault against me. Long after my ribs start to ache, I finally manage to get myself back under control. It was nice to finally be able to laugh so freely.
Kiela shakes her head at me, then shivers slightly. Tucking her wings closer to her body. Her greedy little hand getting a hold of my jacket. Pulling on the oversized black leather coat tighter around her body. I smile softly, watching her snuggle in and relax.
“Little Raven,” I whisper right before there’s a light knocking on my door. Kiela’s eyes flicker up to mine as her body stiffens slightly.
A frown starts to pull at my lips as a knock from the door echoes around the room. The sound followed by a deep booming male voice, “come out come out wherever you are!”