The Blood of the Everlasting

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Chapter 28

I woke up to sunshine pouring in through the window. I rolled over and looked at the clock on the hotel nightstand. It read 5:00 p.m. That meant it was eight in the morning in Seattle. I stretched, smiling, thinking about last night. I could feel a muted echo of Andreas still, silent and strong, like the bass notes holding a melody together. It was like the best drug ever. I shook my head in wonder. He was in the shower, and he felt content.

Feeling daring, I threw off the covers and slipped into the bathroom, and then into the shower to join him, hoping to pick up from where we left off last night. He looked delicious soaking wet and naked. He wiped the water out of his eyes and wrapped an arm around me, drawing me close underneath the showerhead. “Good morning, beautiful,” he said, kissing me ravenously.

I stood on my tiptoes to reach his lips, he was just that tall and I was short. I wrapped my arms around his back and ran my hands across his slick skin, relishing in the feel of him. He was feeling particularly randy, but so was I. I was picking up muted emotions from him still, plus, well, his body informed me of the rest, as I felt his hard member pressing up against my stomach as he growled into my ear.

I laughed. “Are you sure this is what you really want, or are you just feeling what I want?” I teased, trailing my teeth across his chest.

He lifted me up, pressed me against the wall, and slid home, slick and wet in between my legs. I gasped, and wrapped my legs around him. “I don’t care,” he rumbled, rocking back and forth inside me. “Either I really want you, or you really want yourself and I’m just picking up on it. Either way it works for me.”

Oh lord, either way it worked for me, too. We had hot, delicious morning shower sex, until a loud knock at our hotel room door brought us back down to earth. At first we ignored it, but the knock grew more insistent.

Finally Andreas paused. I whined. “Who the hell?” Someone just kept knocking.

He slipped out of me mournfully with a sigh. “Reality calls,” he muttered, shutting off the shower and grabbing a white fluffy robe. I grabbed the second one, and we both stepped out to the door.

He cracked open the door, and Aislinn came bouncing in, full of life. “Felix gave me a ride,” she said lightly, explaining her presence. She swept her gaze from Andreas to me, both soaking wet and wrapped in robes, guessing, rightly, what had been going on, and he smile broadened. “Am I interrupting?” she teased. “I do apologize, but we have business to attend to, don’t we?” she asked brightly.

I groaned and rolled my eyes. “You have the worst timing,” I accused.

She flung herself casually onto the bed. “Hey, this was your idea,” she pointed out. “Don’t blame me if I’m early, blame Felix.” She beamed innocently.

I stalked off back to the bathroom to wash up, grumbling. “You might want to set the shower to cold!” she called out as I left the room. For a split second I hated her, I really did. Andreas was amused, I could feel it. I hated him, too, for a split second. In fact, they could both take a dive off a cliff.

An hour and a half later we were parked on the roof of a parking garage in downtown Seattle. I was freshly dressed in a lovely pale green silk summer dress and strappy cream espadrilles that Andreas had bought for me from the gift shop at the hotel while I had been in the shower. The outfit actually made my horrible bleached blonde hair look halfway decent. I no longer hated him.

Andreas had ported us back to Felix and Aislinn’s penthouse. Felix was nowhere in sight. I had gotten the impression by then that he wasn’t very sociable. Aislinn drove us downtown in a blue sedan while I pulled out my phone to call Grant to ask him to tell the fairies to come meet us. I noticed I had a text message. Lucas had replied: “I hate texting. Never do it again.” I chuckled, and proceeded to dial Grant’s number.

“Where are you at?” he asked.

“Oh, the fairies will know,” I said breezily. They always did. Sure enough, not seconds after Aislinn rolled the car to a stop in the garage, two fairies came blazing in through the open window, full of energy and ready for action. I practically had to bat them off of me. I opened the car door and climbed out for some space. Aislinn popped the trunk and started rummaging in it, while Andreas and I stood at the edge of the garage railing looking out.

He was uncomfortable and nervous. I knew the feeling. It was my turn for once to take his hand and squeeze it reassuringly. “See that floor?” I said, pointing up towards the tenth floor of the building next to us, a tall steel and glass affair with no frills, just a steel and glass box. “That’s where his office is.” It was, at most, two hundred feet from where we stood.

He frowned. “I don’t like this, Rhiannon. You shouldn’t be going in there alone. What if he double crosses you?”

I turned him towards me and looked him straight in the eye. “If anything happens, you’re so close I could look out his window and see you. There’s just a pane of glass separating us. I’ll port out if I have to, or you will port in when trouble strikes.” I touched his face, and stood on my tiptoes to kiss him tenderly. “It’s a glass wall, my angel, not a gold one. I won’t be alone.”

He was unhappy, but resigned. “Be very careful. Don’t trust him. Don’t let him get close, and don’t give him what he wants, no matter what!”

I nodded. “Frank and Myrrh will be there to keep an eye out.”

Aislinn handed me a taser. “Just in case you find yourself in a tight spot,” she said soberly. I nodded, and stuffed it into my purse. She handed me an earpiece, and I fitted it in my ear. “We’ll be listening the entire time, ok?” She handed me a little electronic device. “This will disrupt the electronics in his office. Place it underneath his desk. He has a panic button there,” she informed me. I slipped it into my purse with a nervous nod.

Andreas didn’t want to let me go. He clung to my hand fiercely, his worry over something happening to me rolling out from him. “Don’t worry, he won’t hurt me,” I said to him, pulling my hand away. “I’m too valuable to him alive, remember? If anything happens I’ll pop out of there faster than you can say Rumplestiltskin.”

Aislinn sighs. “What is it with humans and that damned gnome? You know, that story isn’t entirely truthful,” she grumbled.

I let out a surprised laugh. “There really was a Rumplestiltskin?”

Aislinn sniffed. “Of course.” She crossed her arm and gave me a droll look. I wanted to ask her more about it, but we were interrupted.

Andreas growled. “Cut it out you two, we’re burning daylight.” He grabbed me and stared into my eyes, radiating strength and passion. “Get in, get out, and we’ll get on the way, right?”

I nodded my head, and stepped away reluctantly, but determined. I was nervous, and a little scared, but I shoved those feelings aside, instead focusing on the quiet strength of Andreas, using that to ground me. The fairies flew into my purse, and I turned and walked swiftly to the elevator, a woman on a mission.

Reaching the ground floor, I crossed the street and entered the lobby of the building next door. I strode straight for the elevator banks, punching the button for the tenth floor, heading straight to TerraGen’s offices, the offices of my enemy. Once the elevator doors closed, Frank and Myrrh came flying out of my purse with a shower of glitter.

“Oberon’s beard, but it’s hot in there!” swore Frank, wiping his forehead.

“You two have to hide!” I whispered furtively. “I’m supposed to be alone,” I pointed out. If Lewis knew I had brought backup, surely he would, as well, and then I’d be truly screwed. I was nervous enough as it was, without having to deal with any of his henchmen. I wanted to keep this civilized.

Frank rolled his eyes. “Fine!” He and Myrrh pirouetted in mid-air, and popped into invisibility. “Not being seen is what we do best,” one of them whispered in my ear. I sniffed. I couldn’t even smell them. I found that noteworthy. Invisible fairies had no smell.

The elevator came to a stop on the tenth floor, and I stepped out, forcing myself to relax. I could feel Andreas a bit, still, and his subtle strength reassured me. I took a deep breath, and marched down the hallway to the glass doors emblazoned with the TerraGen Dynamics logo. I paused, gathered my courage, and pushed the doors open.

I found myself in a typical modern reception area, with pale wood and glass accents, and colorful modern art hanging on the walls. Two hallways split off from the receptionist’s desk, going left and right.

The receptionist was a trendy young woman with dark blonde hair. I stretched out with my senses, trying to get a feel as to whether or not she was a skin-walker, but she was simply human, radiating a comforting sense of typical humanness. No blank slate there. “Can I help you?” she asked with a polite smile.

“Umm, yes,” I said hastily. My nerves were starting to come back again full force. “I have an appointment with Marshall Lewis.”

She looked down at an appointment calendar. “Rhiannon Maddox?” she said brightly. I nodded my head. “This way, please.” She stood up and ushered me down one of the hallways to a large corner office, and closed the door behind me, leaving me alone in the room. My palms were sweating as I stood there. This had to be Lewis’ office. A leather couch lined one wall, and a large black desk occupied the corner.

“Be calm, Rhiannon,” Andreas’ voice whispered in my ear. “Don’t let them see fear.” I walked over to the window and looked out, at the parking garage across the street. Andreas stood at the edge of the railing, watching intently. Could he see me through the glass? I put my palm on it, wondering, but he remained silent.

I strolled, as casually as I could manage, over to his desk, and pulled open drawers, rummaging around. I figured, what was he going to do if I pilfered through his files? I stuck Aislinn’s little device on the bottom of one of his drawers, buried beneath a stack of files, and flipped the tiny switch on its side, turning it on. I saw a file with my name on it. I gasped, and pulled it out, setting it on the desk top and flipped it open. I stared at my life, in text format. It included nothing I didn’t already know. It was a detailed outline of my entire life, much like those I had stolen from his Chicago building. Flipping through the pages just pissed me off and made me feel violated, like my entire existence was open on display for strangers. Who did he think he was? They certainly had been keeping a close eye on me. A very close eye. The more I thought about it, the more indignant I became.

“That’s better,” murmured Andreas. “Stick with that feeling.”

The office door swung inward, and in walked Marshall Lewis wearing a dashing pin-striped suit, and a stranger I didn’t recognize. He had sliver-blonde hair, and wore a sedate grey suit with a royal blue tie adding a splash of color at the neck.

I sneered at them both and slammed the file shut.

“A little light reading?” Lewis asked me, closing the door firmly behind him. “Is that how you get your rocks off?”

“Spying on me?” I spat, standing up from his desk chair and wagging the folder. “Is that how you get yours off? Who’s he?” I gestured to the stranger with a frown.

Lewis nodded to the man, as if commanding him silently. The man’s features shifted and changed, and within a few seconds I found myself staring at the man I knew to be my father. “Rhiannon Maddox, meet Daniel Harlow. Your father.”

I scowled in distaste. “My father is nothing but a lie,” I said softly. My hands were trembling with contained anger. Whoever that man was, he might have given me life, but his role as my father was nothing but a lie.

“So, Miss Maddox,” Lewis said, shifting uncomfortably on his feet – his discomfort gave me pleasure – “I do believe we have terms to discuss.”

I walked around to the front of the desk, leaning backwards against it as casually as I could. I forced an insincere smile. “Indeed we do.”

He cleared his throat. “I believe you have something I want.” I didn’t think he liked this situation. He was probably used to having the upper hand.

I smiled at him again, flashing him teeth. “Indeed I do.”

He clasped his hands behind his back, and forced a smile of his own. “What will it cost me to get it?” he asked, very politely, the epitome of politeness. We were being so very civilized.

I laughed and sauntered across his office and sprawled on his leather sofa underneath the window. “See now, Lewis, if you had just tried negotiating from the beginning instead of trying to take me by force and terrorizing me and everyone I care for, you might have had better luck!” I shrugged smugly, stretching out on the comfortable sofa, putting off the air that I was perfectly at ease and relaxed.

He frowned. “Everyone makes mistakes, but, ah, I am willing to right that wrong.”

I smiled broadly. “Excellent! First of all, I want to know, Daniel,” I said acidly, “Who killed my mother, and what am I supposed to tell my grandmother?” I demanded. “I’m beginning to think maybe she isn’t as cuckoo as everyone says, maybe she knew you weren’t her son, since she never seemed to know who you were!” I accused.

Daniel Harlow, the man wearing Jonathan Maddox’s skin, looked very uncomfortable. “It’s hard to fool mothers,” he stammered. He didn’t look me in the eye, just kept his gaze on the tiled floor. He said no more, and there was a lengthy pause.

“Tell her!” Lewis finally ordered him with a vicious stare.

Daniel looked up at him in a panic, and then looked at me helplessly. “Warren O’Dell killed them,” he said, morphing swiftly into the form of Warren O’Dell, a face I was familiar with from his pictures.

I went numb. A chill went down my spine. I dropped my jaw in shock, as the awful truth of his revelation hit home. “You did,” I whispered, utterly horrified. My father had killed my own mother, and the very man whose place he had taken. I clenched my fists, digging my nails into my palms, letting the pain keep me focused. “Why?” I shouted.

Lewis answered on his behalf. “When your father fulfilled his job, he was recalled. Your mother was a necessary casualty.” He shrugged, as casual as a man talking about the weather. I was appalled.

Daniel looked desperate. “They wanted me to kill you too, but I talked them out of it, you were innocent, you were human, and I loved you.” His voice cracked with emotion.

“Liar!” I spat. I jumped up off the couch and slapped him across his lying face. “Liar! Murderer!” I backhanded him, and gave him a right hook to the jaw. His head flew back. It felt good. I swung back to take another punch, but Lewis grabbed my arm.

“Careful, Rhiannon,” he said calmly. “We don’t want to cause a scene, do we?”

At the same time I heard Andreas’ voice in my ear, soothing, telling me to relax, to focus, that he was right across the street waiting. I swallowed hard, and stepped back, tense, but forcing myself to remain calm. I focused on the vague pulse of Andreas from beyond the window, anchoring me.

I stepped away from Lewis and my father, and walked towards the door. The time had come to finish this, I thought bitterly. “Nikumbha, I summon you,” I whispered underneath my breath. I touched the door and leaned on it, and then turned back around. I straightened my skirt and looked at the two skin-walkers, standing there in the middle of the office. “These are my terms,” I said softly but firmly, “and they are non-negotiable. You will leave my friends alone. You will leave me alone. You will not harass me, or track me, or try anything to get me ever again,” I ordered forcefully. “As far as you are concerned, I will cease to exist.”

“And in exchange you will give us the key,” Lewis stated flatly.

“I’m not done yet!” I roared, taking a step towards him. The room felt like it had increased in temperature by a few degrees, and I could feel the subtle snap of energy that always accompanied Nikumbha’s approach. “You will give me my father!” I shouted. “And in return, I will let you live.”

I felt, rather than saw, Nikumbha materialize behind me. I saw the expressions of terror flash across Lewis and my father’s faces. They were, quite literally, frozen momentarily in fear. Nikumbha had that effect on people, I thought grimly. I shoved my fear down, deep down, I wasn’t going to fear the rakshasa today. I turned around and looked at Nikumbha, standing tall and blue, dripping venom. “Demon!” I shouted at him. “I have a gift for you!”

Nikumbha laughed hoarsely. “Little witchling, you surprise me more every time I see you!” he rasped.

Lewis, having recovered from his paralysis, ran to his desk, and reached underneath to hit his panic button. I laughed at him. “Don’t bother, Marshall, I disabled it first thing.”

I looked up at the fearsome demon, swallowed any residual fear, committed to my course of action, and held out my hand. “Tell me what to say!” I demanded him.

He laughed uproariously. “Oh, this is too rich! Be careful what you wish for!”

Marshall Lewis and Daniel Harlow rushed towards us, and jumped on Nikumbha with a snarl. I side-stepped out of the way swiftly. They fell right through the rakshasa’s shimmering form.

I ran off to the other side of the room, distancing myself from the angry skin-walkers. The fairies materialized next to me, brandishing their little swords. Lewis and my father both charged after me, hell-bent on destruction. I jumped on top of the desk, and kicked Lewis in the chest. Frank and Myrrh swarmed my father’s face, poking him in the eyes and nose with their sharp little sticks. Sufficiently distracted, he batted them off of him.

Lewis let loose a primal roar, and shifted into a lion. He bunched his shoulders, and leapt at me. I dodged to the side just in time, kicking him in the ribs as I tumbled off the desk. I concentrated briefly, and turned invisible. I jumped up, and saw that my father had turned into a snarling wolf, and was jumping at the fairies, trying to bat them out of the air. They were keeping him very occupied.

Lewis growled deep in his chest, trying to sniff me out. I took advantage of my lack of smell, and jumped right on his back, wrapping my arms and legs around him. We wrestled. I could no longer focus on staying invisible, as I struggled to simply stay one step ahead of the angry lion.

“Rhiannon Maddox!” boomed Nikumbha in an unusually deep and clear voice, a far cry from his familiar rasp. “Repeat after me!”

I kicked the lion in the nose, as he clawed me, drawing blood. I ignored the pain.

“Beneficium accipere liberatatem est vendere!” thundered Nikumbha, and the words sunk in deep, through the confusion and chaos of the fight, emblazoning themselves into my brain.

I jumped up and ran, dodging and diving out of the lion’s path, and I shouted the words. “Beneficium accipere liberatatem est vendere!” Just as I finished the last syllable, Lewis caught me, and knocked me down, jumping on top of me with a terrific roar. He knocked the wind right out of me, and I heaved and gasped for breath.

Suddenly there was, standing over the lion and me, a massive man, with pitch black skin that shimmered in the light with energy. His long white hair flowed down his back to his waist. His red eyes, red aura, and wicked sneer underneath a long, straight nose were the only clues to me that this was Nikumbha. He wore only a loin cloth. He seemed almost human save for the four arms, cast all in photographic negative, but when he opened his mouth and shrieked, it tore straight into my bones, jarring me to my core. He reached down and snatched the lion clean off me with one wickedly clawed hand, and tossed him, as casual as a stuffed animal, across the room to the other side. Lewis landed with a thud. The wolf jumped at Nikumbha, but he knocked him out of the air, sending him careening into the wall. Both Lewis and my father shifted into their natural forms, and crouched there, terrified, in shredded suits.

I felt it then, the power of demons, pouring into me. I felt as though I could bend the universe to my very whim, and I tingled with the unknown, untapped power, I crackled with it, and my hair floated out away from my head in a halo of static.

Nikumbha took a step towards them, rage and delight radiating out from him in powerful waves of crackling energy. “Nikumbha, stop!” I ordered.

Surprisingly, he actually did. He stopped in mid-step, frustrated, angry, but impotent. I had summoned him in corporeal form, and he was bound to do my bidding. I shuddered with relief. “What may I do for you, Rhiannon Maddox?” he said in between clenched teeth, shifting back and forth on his black feet, his giant muscles rippling with tension. His four hands were all balled up into fists.

Daniel Harlow and Marshall Lewis both lay moaning in pain and fear.

I had come here prepared to give him Lewis. I had changed my mind. I licked my lips. “I owe you a favor, demon, and for that favor I want to give you Daniel Harlow, my father,” I shouted.

Nikumbha turned and looked at me, shock and delight spreading across his midnight features. If he hadn’t been so terrifying, he could almost be beautiful, in an unearthly foreign sort of way. He let out a peal of hysterical laughter. “This gets better and better! I accept your gift,” he said, bowing towards me, “You’re off the hook, witchling, until we meet again.”

Daniel scrambled painfully to his feet, and ran towards the door. “Where do you think you’re going?” shouted Nikumbha. He reached out a hand and snatched my father up in one fell move, and hoisted him up, until he was dangling helplessly by his neck, easily two feet off the floor. “Let’s go, daddio,” he crooned. With a ripple of energy, the two of them vanished, leaving behind the acrid smell of sulfur, and taking away with him the dangerous power that had filled me that I hadn’t dared to touch. I trembled then, understanding why demons weren’t allowed to roam free. That kind of power…

I shook my head, clearing my thoughts and walked swiftly over to where Lewis cowered. He had pissed himself, he was so scared. I wrinkled my nose distastefully at the smell. I bent over him, pulling him close by his shredded shirt. “Now listen carefully,” I said softly, and as menacingly as I could, “You will leave me alone. You will leave my friends alone. If you ever come after me again, I will send a demon after you, and after your family. Demons love skin-walkers, you know. Best thing since sliced bread.” I sneered, and then I spat into his face. It felt good. He was too scared and shocked to reply. I think I had made my point.

Andreas teleported into the room, and rushed toward me. I let Lewis go, and stepped away, turning towards the angel. “I think we’re done here,” I said softly to him, burying my face in his chest. “Can you take me home?”

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