The man looked at the stranger before him, until realizing he wasn’t much of a stranger, after all. His lips parted as he stared at his son, or at least who he thought was his son. He thought his son was dead. He disappeared 16 years ago. And now, the man standing before him looks just like the son who left him all those years ago.
Jordan looked at him, looking at his dark blonde hair, curly and all over the place, as usual. His green eyes no longer had the same look of innocence, they no longer had the brightness when he was a child. No, they were dark and dull, almost as if his son before him had become soulless. He stared at his face longer, noticing that he was beginning to grow a scruff, something Jordan had never been able to grow himself, not even at 52 years old. His son was now tall, taller than him by at least half foot, and under the dark green jacket he was wearing, he could tell that Nicholas had been blessed with the muscular body Jordan never had.
His eyes teared up behind his thick glasses before he spoke. “N-Nick...Is it really you?”
His son gave him a soft smile, and Jordan could see the tears threatening to fall. Nicholas cleared his throat. “It’s me, dad. In the flesh.”
Jordan took off before another thought, launching himself at his son, throwing his arms up around his neck, and he squeezed. He heard a guttural sob echo through the room, and it took him a moment to realize that the sound came from him. Nicholas brought his hands around his father’s back hesitantly, as if he were afraid he would disappear.
Emerson studied the scene unfolding before her silently. She couldn’t help it, she was taught to monitor people’s behavior and actions, and Jordan’s actions were definitely not of a father who was ashamed of his son. She reached out to read his thoughts, but all she heard was a series of My son and He’s back. She pursed her lips as she watched the two men embrace, although awkwardly.
She stared at them for a minute longer before clearing her throat. The dragon lady behind the desk had been squinting at them and judging the scenario before her, and Emerson was growing uncomfortable. This wasn’t a conversation to be had with an audience.
“I don’t want to interrupt your reunion, but...” she started. “Is there somewhere private we can talk?” She shot the receptionist a nasty look, which made her cheeks heat up and look away, and Emerson heard a quiet oh shit from her thoughts. She smirked to herself before looking at the men again, who both appeared embarrassed.
Jordan stepped away from his son and looked up at him. “We can talk in my office.”
The two of them followed him, and once they were out of the lobby, Emerson heard the receptionist release a large breath she had been holding. Good, she thought. She studied the office before her, noticing that it was nothing like the over-the-top entrance they had just been in.
Instead of a bright, cheery room, it was dark and cold. Literally. It was freezing. Even under her thick cloak, Emerson felt herself shiver and rub at her arms. The walls were painted dark and the furniture was all black, too. From the filing cabinets, the desk, chair, and large couch, there wasn’t a spot of color in Jordan’s office. She kept her mouth shut, not wanting to make assumptions.
Jordan gestured for the two to sit on the couch, and Emerson made sure to sit up straight and stay alert. She knew how things were in Selal, she didn’t want to take any chances to let her guard down. Nicholas, however, seemed to be much more relaxed regardless of the situation. He relaxed into the couch as his father brought his chair from behind his desk and sat in front of them.
“Can I ask where you’ve been?” he asked Nicholas.
Nicholas looked to Emerson, as if silently asking permission. She nodded, encouraging him to share with his father. “I’ve...I was cursed.”
Jordans eyebrows shot up and it looked like he was about to fall out of his chair. “Cursed?”
Nicholas chewed on his bottom lip before answering. “At least, I think I was? I made a deal with a mage and then the next day I-”
“Wait,” his father interrupted. “You made a deal with a mage? What mage?”
Nicholas shook his head. “I don’t know, he never gave me a name. But he also turned me back a few weeks ago. Emerson found me and has been helping me ever since.”
Jordan looked at Emerson and she stared back. It felt at though the man was trying to examine her. She didn’t let her gaze falter, she didn’t say anything. She just stared at him, letting him do his thing.
“Are you Emerson?” he asked.
Emerson felt his eyes wander to her cloak and his eyes widened. She knew that look. She cleared her throat and raised an eyebrow, waiting for a response.
“Thank you for helping my son. I thought...I thought he was dead.”
She nodded her head once in reply, not bothering to give him a verbal response. She was starting to grow uneasy, and she didn’t know why. She didn’t like the way he looked at her cloak, the same way many before have looked at it, so she figured that must have been why her stomach was churning.
Nicholas spoke quietly. “I thought you were dead, too.”
Jordan’s head whipped toward his son. “Why in the world would you think that?”
“Well,” Nicholas inhaled. “I made a deal with the mage to give my family a better life. But I guess since I didn’t specify all three of us, he twisted it to give you and Avery a better life. He cursed me as payment. I was turned into a wolf. I searched for you guys, but...I never found you. I didn’t know whether you guys were dead or if you left, so I spent the last 16 years alone in the woods. Until I found Emerson.”
Jordan’s eyes flickered over to Emerson quickly, and she was sure Nicholas missed it, but she didn’t. Emerson felt he was almost nervous. Something is off.
“I told Emerson what happened, and told her who you guys were, and she told me she knew you guys and would help me find you,” Nicholas explained.
“You know us?” Jordan interrogated Emerson.
She let a laugh slip past her lips. “Of course I know you guys. I grew up with Avery.”
Slowly, the gears starting shifting in Jordan’s head, and Emerson could almost hear them. She knew by now, she was completely sure, that something was off with Jordan Evans.
And she had to find out what.
“So tell me, Evans,” she drew out. “If I’ve known Avery for the past, I don’t know, 19 years? Why didn’t you guys ever mention she had a brother? Even before you thought he was dead?”
Jordan glanced around the room nervously, and Emerson could hear his heartbeat quicken. Perfect, she thought, I have him right where I want him.
“And maybe you can explain why every time the two of you were together, you spent your time whispering in corners?” Her blue eyes were glowing now, she was sure of it. Jordan yelped and jumped up from his chair, backing away slowly.
“You-You don’t understand.”
She stood from her spot, not dropping her gaze. “Then make me understand. Why spend all that time hiding Nicholas from the world? Why spend your time whispering to your daughter when you should’ve been talking to her teachers? While you’re at it, you can explain to me why you never second guessed why you were suddenly unconditionally offered Sun Crest, too, or why you never went to look for Nicholas. See, if you ask me, there’s something weird going on here. I know you’re nervous, Ev.” She flashed a smile. “Why are you so nervous? Are you afraid of us finding out the truth? Is there something you’re hiding?”
Jordan was shaking now, whether from anger or from fear, Emerson couldn’t tell. His emotions were so strong she couldn’t decipher them anymore.
“Emerson, stop!” Nicholas shouted, placing a hand on her arm. She looked at the man, glaring at him.
“No, Nicholas, you stop. There’s something wrong going on here. You never wondered why your family never looked for you? Maybe something weird was going on between you, your father, and Avery? Ever wonder why that might be?” she turned back to Jordan, eyes glowing purple. Her emotions were getting out of control now, but she couldn’t stop it. She was too far gone. “I don’t think your father is the man he says he is. There’s something wrong with this whole fucking situation, and I’m going to find out what it is, Evans.”
Jordan had successfully backed himself into a corner, almost whimpering at this point, but Emerson didn’t care.
“Emerson, please,” Nicholas pleaded. “He’s my father.”
She whirled to face him, and when Nicholas saw her eyes were that piercing purple from before, he flinched. Shit, he thought, this is getting out of hand.
“Your father is doing something suspicious. We need to find out what it is. Don’t worry, I’m not going to hurt him, if that’s what you’re thinking. Of course, we already know that’s exactly what pure thinking, isn’t it? The dangerous fae is going to hurt a human, isn’t she?” she spoke lowly so Jordan couldn’t hear her.
Nicholas looked away, a sudden tug at his heart telling him he was ashamed. Yes, he did feel as though Emerson was about to absolutely hand his father his own ass, he couldn’t help it. It was what he was always taught about the fae. They’re dangerous. They’re enslavers. They’re killers.
“Jordan,” Emerson spoke low, slowly stalking toward him. Her grip on her bow had gotten so tight she heard the wood starting to crack. She grabbed an arrow slowly and nocked it, but didn’t aim it anywhere. “You have five seconds to start explaining.”
When he didn’t speak, Emerson raised the bow. “Four, three, two, o-”
“Okay!” Jordan shouted. “I’ll tell you everything. Just...don’t hurt me.”
Emerson smiled, lowering her bow and putting the arrow back. “Talk. Now.”
“You have to understand that it wasn’t what I wanted, okay? I was forced.”
“You were forced?” Nicholas asked. He came to Emerson’s side, standing closer to his father now. “By who?”
Jordan took a deep breath and looked at both of them. “A mage.”
“A mage” they asked in unison. They looked at each other.
“Surely it can’t be the same one from before...” Nicholas said to Emerson.
She scoffed. “I’m willing to bet my bow on it. And my cloak. It’s not a coincidence your father was visited by a mage, then you made a deal with him, and now the fucker is harassing me. There’s something going on. And I think your father knows what it is.”
They looked back to Jordan, who had begun pacing without them noticing. He seemed to be having a conversation with himself, as if trying to talk himself in or out of something, and when Emerson tried to reach into his thoughts, she came up empty. That’s weird.
“Why did the mage force you to ostracize your own son? That doesn’t make any sense,” Emerson said.
Jordan looked her in the eye. “He didn’t tell me much. He came to me one day, before Nicholas was even born, and said that he needed me to do something, and that he would give me something in return. That something was Avery.” he laughed, drawing a hand down his face, then stopped pacing. “He told me that I would have a son, and he would be important. He said that I needed to hide him from the world, or make sure no one knew he was an Evans.”
“And you actually did it?”
“My wife and I didn’t know we could have kids. We were so excited to hear that we were going to have not one, but two children. And we were willing to do anything to have them.”
“Did he say why you needed to do that?” Nicholas inquired.
Jordan looked at him with pain in his eyes.
“A prophecy. He said he needed you for a prophecy.”