Behind the Darkness
“Why do I get such treatment when today is supposed to be my day?” Raven jokingly commented to Avina.
“Raven, if you want to see the sun tomorrow, I strongly advise you to stay away from Miss Daphne.” Of course, Avina didn’t have to mention why. Everyone knew the reason for her warning. She had noticed how Lorcan watched the exchange between her cousin and Daphne aggressively.
“Why?” He asked. And then he looked at Daphne and with almost a whisper, “Are you married?”
This man was too brazen. And somehow, she didn’t dislike him. She found him funny. “No,” she replied with a smile.
Lorcan frowned at her response. Yes, she was not married. She had no one. But damn it, she already had a mate. Who was sitting two chairs away from her?
“Do you have a boyfriend?” Raven asked again, imitating her smile.
“No,” retorted Daphne.
Her smile fell off. Staring at Raven directly, he was no fool. Of course, the lady must have had a mate. And if he was not mistaken, it must have been the red-eyed one who was looking at him with a desire to kill. The waves of his anger were perfectly detectable. The demon was not very clever at hiding his emotions. But Raven liked a challenge.
“No boyfriend, no husband, and no mate. I don’t see the problem in wanting to court the lady”. Raven provoked on purpose.
“You are impossible.” Avina couldn’t help but smirk.
“Happy birthday Raven.” Daphne’s voice caught his attention once again.
“Thank you,” Raven raised his glass and sipped the sweet liquid with a hint of acidity without taking his eyes off her.
“How old are you now?” James joined them.
Raven leaned in to take a look at the boy sitting on the other side of Daphne. “Seven centuries,” he replied.
“A baby indeed.” Avina interrupted.
“I’m not a baby.” He replied, looking upset, “But compared to you, I would be a baby. And you would be like a grandmother to me.”
Avina rolled her eyes at the stupidity. “Will you finally return to the Realm of the Mortals tonight?” she asked.
“No. I’ve decided to stay at least a few more days”.
“Is that so?“Avina put her drink on the table. “And when did you decide such a thing?” she inquired.
“I realized how much I missed my dear cousin.”
“Yes, I’m sure that’s why you had a change of heart.”
The rest of the evening went by without a hitch.
The unmistakable chatter was owed to Daphne, Raven, James, and Avina. The rest, or rather the demons, remained silent.
When the occasion came to an end, the Demons left with Lorcan. James, Daphne, Queen Avina, and Raven stayed for the tea with some sweets afterward.
Avina then excused herself, saying she had to attend to some affairs of the land. James followed her. In his case, he just wanted to sleep.
And when Daphne, seeing herself alone with Raven, tried to escape, Raven offered her a walk outside. She could have refused his offer. But she didn’t think that such a troublemaker would be a danger to her.
“Unbelievable!” Raven said. Surprised at the story of Daphne and her brother. Serving the King of Demons for so many years, rescuing this Lorcan, and so on and so forth.
“Well, yes.” Daphne sighed.
“At least look on the bright side of all this.”
“And what would that be?”
“The years you’ve managed to live. Being lucky enough to watch the world change. And then you get to meet your mate”.
“Where do you get the idea that I have a mate?” She raised an eyebrow.
“Please, dear, don’t treat me like a fool.” She remained silent, looking straight ahead. The grass under her feet was as fresh as the air that was shaking her hair. And the waters of the ocean that were crashing on the rocks. “Why aren’t you with your mate?”
“It’s a complex question.”
“Nothing is simpler than accepting fate.”
“Well, then my case would be the exception. You shifting dragons have mates?”
“Yes.” Daphne noticed for the first time since she had seen him tonight, the longing in his eyes.
“She died a long time ago.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to...”
“Never apologize for something that was not your fault. Apologizing is admitting your fault. She was a mortal, beautiful, fragile, but with a terrible temper.” Raven’s words came with a melancholy smile. “We had a great life together.”
“But why did she die?”
“We cannot make a mortal into something else. We cannot give it more years of life. Not as in other Realms. She died of old age. Many are lucky enough to find their mate within their own Kingdom, others like me, found her in the Mortal Realm”.
“Is that why you live there?”
“Partly yes. I like your world Daphne, I like to see how mortals live their lives to the fullest, knowing that someday they will wake up and not have the strength or beauty they used to have. Only the wrinkles of life.”
“Not everyone appreciates such a gift.”
“That’s true too.”
“Perhaps one day you will find someone again.” Daphne placed a hand on his arm in a gesture of understanding and sympathy.
“I’m sure I will.” Raven looked up at the dark sky. “This is one of the things I miss most here.”
And so she did, finding thousands of shining lights in the sky. “It’s certainly beautiful.”
“See that one?”
“There are really so many, I can’t distinguish any of them.”
“Take a good look.” Raven leaned in, pointing his index finger at the sky. “See that wiggly line?”
After a few seconds of trying to decipher it, she opened her eyes, “Yes, I see it. It looks like an S? a reversed S?.”
“Exactly, you have a good eye. If you look closer, there are about four more stars that form the head. They call it the Dragon. In the Mortal Realm, it is related to the myth of Hercules and his Twelve Labors. According to the myth, the Dragon guarded the golden apples in the gardens of the Hesperides”.
Daphne couldn’t help but be drawn to the story behind the constellation, but she had no idea what Raven was talking about. She wasn’t much of a reader, and it wasn’t as if she had the energy to read every time she finished an assignment from Rothvaln. Daphne was embarrassed to ask about this Hercules and his Twelve Labors. So she didn’t dare. She would ask James, for sure he would know.
“Am I interrupting?” Lorcan suddenly appeared behind them. He had met James a few minutes earlier, and when he told him that Daphne had been left alone with Raven, jealousy began to tease him.
Raven and Daphne turned around. “Not at all,” Raven said.
“Did something happen?” Daphne asked Lorcan. She wondered why he would appear before her with the urgency reflected in his devilish face.
“I need to talk to you.”
“Fine. Raven, wait for me for a moment.”
“It will take longer,” Lorcan said.
Raven surveyed the demon. Obviously, Lorcan didn’t like him being around her at all. No doubt the demon had to be her mate. Man, what a mood this guy has! he thought.
“Don’t worry, Daphne, we’ll see each other tomorrow.”
Lorcan narrowed his eyes, not liking at all what the dragon-man had just said. The fucker was planning to get close to his demoness again.
Once they were alone. Daphne asked him. “What did you want to talk about?”
Lorcan only had his eyes on her.
“Well?” she spoke again.
More silence. Which was bothering Daphne.
“Are you going to talk or not?” she said again.
“What were you doing with him?” It was a completely ridiculous question. He knew that. But stupidity always comes with jealousy.
“As you saw, we were just talking.” Now Daphne copied Lorcan’s impassive stance. “Is there a problem with that?”
“Why did you tell him that you didn’t have someone?” Lorcan reached out to her even more. Daphne had to raise her face to look at him directly.
“Because it’s the truth, Lorcan. We are mates, but we are not together. So the answer applied perfectly to his question.”
The frankness of her words made Lorcan keenly observe her. His completely black eyes were full of desire, longing, and pleading. He could not help himself. His hand rested on her cheek. He caressed her as if he wanted to carve his footprints into her. Daphne did not move; she would not. That would mean abandoning her conviction. But the effect he was having on her was too much to ignore entirely.
She let him touch her face and let him lean slowly by allowing his lips to get close enough to perceive the scent of cedar and tangerine bottom notes. And yet, she still remained motionless.
Her gaze, which had been resting on Lorcan’s lips, now found his face. And for the first time, she could see that behind the darkness of his pupils, there was a winding, almost purple shape. So engrossed in her discovery that she had not noticed his smile. A half-smiling.
Lorcan watched in delight as those amber eyes had turned into pure black, just like his. He could also notice those serpentine shapes behind her dark stare. Without a doubt, it was the most beautiful image he had seen. His demoness was changing. His Daphne...
His smile slowly faded as he remembered what he had told her two nights ago, and it made him recoil once more. How to love this woman when he could not even offer her the title of Queen? How to give her immortality when she doesn’t even love him? After all, that was the only way to make her live as long as he did.
Lorcan turned away from her. “You should go back. It is too late.”
“Good night,” she said and started walking.
“Wait.” His voice made her stop in her tracks. “I’ll take you.” Before she could even get a glimpse of him, he took her by the hand, and they reappeared in front of her bedroom door.
“Good night, Daphne.” And Lorcan vanished.