I slept the sleep of the dead, curled up in the familiar comfort of my own bed. I dreamed of Andreas again, only this time instead of chasing after him, we ran together through a field of highland heather. I awoke at noon, to find him sitting next to me on my bed, wearing nothing but his jeans. I smiled sleepily, thinking to myself how odd it was to have my own personal guardian angel. One with such nice tanned abs was definitely a bonus, however.
I stepped into the bathroom and took a piping hot shower. My overgrown nervous system seemed to have calmed down a bit since yesterday. The water didn’t sing, and the scratchy terry cloth towel didn’t feel like sandpaper. I was relieved at that. Combing my hair in the mirror, I noticed a subtle glow emanating out from me. With a frown of concentration, I turned it off. I was getting the hang of the glowing, I thought.
I threw on a tee-shirt and a pair of sweat pants and walked downstairs to the smell of freshly brewed coffee. Andreas had helped himself to my kitchen. He was sitting on a barstool with a mug, still wearing nothing but his faded blue jeans, and there was a second steaming mug beside him. He gestured for me to take it. I inhaled the fragrant aroma with a smile. Just as I took the first sip off of it, there was a knock at the door.
I opened the door, and Grant came storming in. “Where the hell have you been, and why haven’t you been answering the phone?” he demanded. “I’ve been trying to reach you all morning!”
“I’m sorry,” I apologized, as he stormed past me. “Something came up,” I tried explaining.
Grant rounded the corner into the kitchen, and stopped dead in his tracks when he saw Andreas sitting there, half naked. He rocked back on his heels, eyeing my strange guest warily.
Andreas looked up at him, his hands still wrapped around his mug. “I turned off Rhiannon’s phones,” he said firmly, by way of explanation. “She needed to rest.”
I cursed silently. This was going be awkward, I decided. “Uh, Grant, it’s not what it seems,” I said hastily, stepping forward. How does one explain the presence of an angel to one’s business partner? I could see it: Yes, Grant, I realize two days ago I was happily dating one man, who turned out to be a loser who dumped me. I consoled myself by picking up a random hunka-hunka-manliness last night and bringing him home with me, which is why you see a half-clad gorgeous man sitting casually in my kitchen looking as comfortable as could be. What else could I do but screw my way out of misery? I shook my head and frowned.
Andreas stood up, unfurling himself to his full six-foot height, and eyed Grant closely. Grant furrowed his brow, and sniffed.
“Grant, Andreas, Andreas, Grant,” I introduced them, gesturing to each, still at a loss as to how to explain Andreas’ presence. Andreas inclined his head politely, not even ruffled by Grant’s intrusion.
Grant turned and looked at me, as if a light bulb had gone off in his head. “Well, this explains a little,” he said. “I knew something was up, I knew it!”
I looked at him, confused.
Andreas arched an eyebrow. “So the human consorts with a werewolf,” he said sourly. “This keeps getting more and more interesting.” He took a sip of coffee. “Want a mug?” he offered Grant.
I just stood there, stunned. I shook my head. “Wait a minute, what did you say?” I asked Andreas. I looked at Grant. I folded my arms and tapped my foot. “Someone better tell me what’s going on.”
Grant poured himself a mug of coffee. “You’ve smelled odd for days, but I couldn’t place it,” he said to me. “We werewolves have a nose for things like that.”
I dropped my jaw, gaping. “You’re a werewolf?” I gasped in shock. I don’t know why I was so surprised. In retrospect, it made perfect sense. My hairball of a loner mountain man who was more at home in the wild than around people and had a cat who hated everyone – living with a wolf, what cat wouldn’t? Plus there was the fact that I kept craving red meat around him, and was switching moods practically mid-stream.
“Calm down, Rhi,” he suggested, taking a seat on a barstool at the kitchen island. “You’ve got an angel sitting in your kitchen, and you’re surprised I’m a werewolf?” he asked with a rueful chuckle.
Andreas smirked. “She was in the dark until last night, cut her some slack, wolf.”
I sunk to a chair, stunned. “Wow,” I breathed. “How could I not know? How could you keep something this big from me? How did you become a werewolf? What do you do on full moons? Do I need to get silver bullets now?” I had a million questions running through my head. What was real and what was just myth? I no longer knew.
Grant burst out laughing, his eyes twinkling. That was a good sign, his eyes never twinkled if he was mad. “I was born this way. We keep our existence secret from humans, same as angels. The best place to hide is in plain sight, which we’ve gotten pretty good at doing. No, I don’t turn into some mindless ravenous beast during full moons, that’s a myth spread by ignorant humans – people tend to fear what they don’t understand, which is why we’re so private about ourselves. We aren’t vulnerable to silver like vampires are, just to wolfsbane. I didn’t tell you because we just don’t tell people. Period. And I didn’t think you’d understand.”
I rubbed my temples. This was all just too much. I took a long, drawn-out sigh. He was right, though; up until yesterday, I probably wouldn’t have understood. “Well, now I get where Pierre’s bad attitude comes from.” I smiled at Grant.
He smiled back, in relief. “And why I don’t date your friends.”
I was full of questions about werewolves, and Grant was full of questions about how an angel came to be sitting in my kitchen. We spent the next few minutes exchanging information. Grant and Andreas explained to me that there were all sorts of were creatures. Lycanthropes, of course, shifted into wolves. Ailuranthropes shifted into felines, of which there were several types from around the world; he didn’t get into the various sub cultures. Were creatures were an offshoot of humans, and there was a large amount of variety, although he said, and Andreas concurred, that the species were limited to mammals. Lycanthropes and ailuranthropes were the most common, but there were also were foxes, horses, dogs, and many many other varieties. Grant explained that shapeshifting was controlled by the tides and moons; when he was young he shifted compulsively during full moons, but by the time he hit puberty, as with most shifters, he had developed control to shift whenever he wanted, although full moons still involved compulsive shifting. Weres kept their mental faculties when in animal form, but, he said with a grin, that it was hell on his wardrobe.
He asked how I came to be keeping company with an angel. I rolled my eyes, and Andreas and I explained the situation, although I breezed past the more personal details of my date with the vampire. When we were done, Grant sat there as stunned as Felix had been.
“That’s not possible,” he said shaking his head in denial.
I rolled my eyes and stood up, pacing. “Why does everyone keep saying that? I’m standing here, aren’t I?” I frowned at him. I was suddenly feeling a little edgy, full of nervous energy. “I’m sick of hearing about impossibilities, Grant! Tell me what is possible, not what isn’t,” I growled.
I strode over to the fridge and pulled it open. “Anyone hungry?” I asked, peering inside. “I’m starving.” I yanked out a packet of lunch meat and tore it open, shoving a slice into my mouth.
The guys were just staring at me. “What?” I spat. It was hot in here. I fanned the fridge door to cool myself down.
Grant looked at Andreas. “Uh, Rhi,” he said slowly, “tell me something, are you feeling a little off?”
I growled. “Off? I don’t even know what off is anymore.” I threw up my hands. My entire life was off. I had just found out an angel had done something to change my very being, and that my business partner – my friend was a werewolf, and that the entire world as I knew it was small. I thought I was handling it quite well, all things considered.
He stood up and walked over to me, sniffing. “Off, like you just want to run, full of energy, nowhere to vent it, like your thermostat’s gone up a couple of degrees, and you want another medium-rare steak and feel like biting my head off kind of off.” He looked very concerned.
I set the lunch meat on the counter slowly, and swallowed nervously. “It’s you, isn’t it?” Oh yes. I was overheated, hungry, irritated, and I wanted to pick a fight or, well, howl at the moon. My knees started trembling.
Grant nodded his head. Andreas jumped up in alarm.
My nostrils flared; I could smell fear, and sweat, and wolf and angel, and the smells set my heart racing. My hands started to shake, and my vision was swimming. The room was roasting. I took a step back, but ran into the counter. Andreas jumped clear over the counter, putting himself in between Grant and I. “Get out of here!” he shouted at Grant. “She can’t control it!”
I don’t remember Grant actually leaving, because I was panting so hard and I was so disoriented I didn’t notice much. I do remember Andreas grabbing me and pulling me down to the oak floor. His arms were wrapped tight around me, and he was whispering calmly into my ear, telling me to focus and concentrate. His voice was like an anchor, and I latched onto it, willing myself to the surface of reality, until finally the world stopped swimming, and the universe righted itself once more.
I took a big gulp of air and looked up at him with alarm. His tanned face, framed by his wheat blonde hair, peered down at me, analyzing me.
“You almost changed,” he said, concern in his face. “Grant’s gone, and without his influence, it seems the danger has passed. I felt it.” He climbed off me and offered me a hand.
I stood up slowly; my legs felt a little shaky, like they were new. “Wow,” I whispered. “That was…” I shook my head. “Weird.” I took a couple of steps while my head cleared itself. Andreas was right behind me like a shadow. “I’m alright,” I said to him. “Oh lordy, if this is the reaction I’m going have around him, what the hell am I going to do? I can’t avoid him.” I turned to look at Andreas helplessly.
He shrugged matter-of-factly. “Do what werewolves do: learn to control it. I’m sure your friend would be willing to teach you.”
He had a point. I ran up the stairs to find my phone.
Andreas came after me. “Where are you going?”
“To find my phone,” I said over my shoulder. “I’m going to ask him.” If Grant had some trick to teach me so I wouldn’t react like this around him, I was all for learning it as quickly as possible. Living like this was proving to be intolerable.
I found my phone in my bag. The voice mail light was flashing. I missed three calls from David “the rat bastard” Walker, and one from Kat. I rolled my eyes. What the hell did David want? He was out of my life officially, now, of his own decision, after all. I sat down on my bed and dialed up my voice mail.
“Hi Rhi,” came David’s voice. “I, uh, I want to talk to you.” The tinny tone of his recorded voice jarred on my nerves. “I don’t like how we left things the other night. I think I made a mistake. I’m really hoping you’d be willing to talk things out. Maybe give me another chance? Call me.”
I scowled. Fat chance. I’d sooner date a vampire. Again. I decided to call Kat back instead. She answered on the first ring.
“Hey girl! How was your date last night?” she asked.
Uhh, gee Kat, my date turned out to be a vampire who only wanted to drink my angel-tinted blood. I didn’t say that, of course. “He was a dud,” I said simply, with a shrug. Andreas came silently into the room, fully dressed and wearing his jacket, and leaned up against the wall, listening. I gave him a dirty look and mouthed the word “private!” to him, pointing towards the door. He either didn’t understand, or didn’t care. He just leaned there, hovering.
“Aww, I’m sorry,” she said sympathetically. “Wanna do dinner tonight? You can tell me all about it.”
I cringed. “Uh, now’s not a good time, Kat. How about we do lunch tomorrow?” Andreas looked at me warningly, shaking his head no. I stuck my tongue out at him. I wasn’t about to let circumstance dictate my actions.
“Sounds good,” she replied. “I gotta go, see you tomorrow!” I hung up. I looked at Andreas pointedly. “What?” I stood up and stalked out the room.
He grabbed me by the shoulder as I reached my bedroom doorway and spun me around. “There’s no time to socialize. We’ve got to go to New York City.”
I stared up at him. “Who are you, my travel agent?” I accused. “You don’t get the right to tell me where I have to go.”
I strode past him and back down the stairs, wanting a little privacy to call Grant.
“We have been summoned to see Ariel,” he shouted after me.
I paused on the step. That name was familiar. That was the name he and Felix had mentioned. I turned and eyed Andreas carefully.
“She might have answers,” he explained. “We need answers, Rhiannon,” he pointed out reasonably.
I sighed and went back up the stairs. I could always talk to Grant later. “If I’m going, I’m not going in this,” I gestured to my clothes. I closed my bedroom door. Andreas waited patiently on the other side while I changed into a clean pair of jeans and a blouse.
I called Kat up again, and got her voice mail. “Hey kitty cat, something’s come up, can’t do lunch tomorrow. How about I meet you Monday instead at Armandino’s Salumi?” It was her favorite deli, and not too far from where she worked. “See you there at noon!”
Satisfied with having accomplished that last detail, I packed an overnight bag, grabbed a jacket and threw my phone and wallet back into my big purse, and opened the door.
“Alright,” I said, stepping into the hallway and grabbing his hand. “Beam us to New York!”
He pulled his hand away and walked down the stairs. “It doesn’t work like that. I don’t have a port site there. We’ve got a plane to catch in two hours.”
“What?” I was confused. I tagged after him down the stairs. He opened the front door and stepped outside. “But you’re an angel, you can teleport and stuff like that.”
“You drive,” he said. “We’re going to the airport.”
I snorted, stopping at the doorway. “My car is totaled, remember? And what do you mean you can’t beam there? I thought you angels were all magical and all,” I said, wiggling my fingers in the air to emulate magic.
He frowned, and stepped back inside. “Do you have any idea how much energy that takes? I still haven’t fully recharged from yesterday. Unlike you, I didn’t get any sleep last night. Plus I don’t have a port site there,” he repeated with emphasis, as if that was supposed to explain everything to me.
I noticed for the first time the shadows underneath his eyes, and his tanned face seemed a little pale.
“Why don’t you teach me, then?” I suggested. “If I can do what you can do, why not this?” He looked at me like I’d just suggested he go jump off a bridge or something equally horrific. “Hey, I’m not glowing anymore, am I?” I pointed out.
He wandered into the living room. “There’s a world of difference between controlling a glow and mastering a port.” He sat and looked at me. “It takes a long time to learn to control a distance jump, it’s easier if we just fly.”
I put my foot down. “No!” I exclaimed. “Ever since you saved me I’ve felt like my life has been spiraling out of control.” I was fed up with it. I needed something real, something tangible, something to hold onto. “I’m not your prisoner, Andreas.” I stamped my foot. “We’re in this together, thanks to you, and the least you can do is teach me a thing or two. I’m not about to just go flying off to parts unknown completely unprepared and clueless.” I glared at him, and folded my arms across my chest. “Either talk to me, or teach me, but either way I’m not budging.”
He nodded his head. If he felt what I felt, then I knew he understood, whether he agreed with me or not. “Look, even if you knew how to teleport, you couldn’t port anywhere you haven’t already been,” he explained. “You need a port site to travel.”
“Then how did you port us here?” I pointed out, finding a hole in his logic. “Or have you been here before spying on me?” Did I just invite some sort of stalker angel into my life?
He waved his hand in dismissal. “No, no, it’s nothing like that,” he said hastily. “I’m blood linked to you, so where you can go, I can go.”
“Oh.” I took a breath in relief. That actually made sense to me, I could accept that explanation. “And you’ve never been to New York before?” I deduced.
He shrugged. “Not in a very long time. I don’t like concrete jungles, so I tend to avoid them.”
I shrugged back. “I haven’t been there, either. Ok, here’s my deal, take it or leave it: teach me to beam into the kitchen, and then we’ll do it your way.” I felt it was a reasonable request.
He looked at me, tight lipped. “Are you always this difficult?” He tossed his hands up in the air. “Fine, let’s get this over with. I’m in enough trouble as it is, and another half hour isn’t going to change that.” He stood up and approached me. He grabbed my hands in his, and gravely looked into my eyes. “Now, porting is part art, part skill,” he explained. “It’s very important that you pick a port site that’s clear. If you appear where a table is, for example, you’ll appear inside the table.” His face was deadly serious. “That’s liable to kill you.”
I gulped and nodded my head. The image of being imbedded inside a table was enough to make me shudder. Not a pleasant way to die, I gathered. “Does that happen often?”
He frowned. “Pay attention and be serious,” he ordered. “You might want to port and jump – arrive a couple feet off the ground. That’s a safer way to start,” he advised. “Now close your eyes,” he instructed. I did just that, my hands resting lightly in his. “You need to concentrate and focus like I taught you last night. Feel the energy. Matter is energy, energy is life, and the world is filled with it,” he said softly.
I furrowed my brow and stretched out my thoughts, tapping into the flow of energy surrounding me, permeating me, flowing into me. I started to sweat. I opened my eyes, and gasped. Andreas resonated radiant in front of me. Particles of light swirled all around him, and energy danced across his skin. It was beautiful. I reached out and touched his cheek, and the energy that sparkled on my hand joined and merged with his.
He frowned. “Focus, Rhiannon, don’t get distracted,” he ordered. “Keep your eyes closed.” I closed them again. “Now stretch out your attention to your kitchen. Find your port site, picture it in your head. Got it?”
I nodded my head. I was picturing my kitchen in my mind’s eye, like I was standing above and in front of the island. Keeping the image lucid and solid was an effort in concentration. I found myself tensing up my muscles to hold it.
“Good. Now you need to forge a link to it. Harness that energy, like you’re wrapping it into a rope, tethering you to your port site.” He let go of my hands. I tugged on the energy around me, exerting my will over it, twisting and forging it into a link connecting me to the kitchen, picturing a giant electric steel cable from here to there. I clenched my jaw with the effort. This wasn’t an easy image to maintain. My hands started to tremble as I focused.
“Alright, now here comes the hard part,” he said softly. “Take a deep breath, and give that rope a yank, and pull yourself there.”
I took a deep breath, and held it. I reached out with my thoughts, and grabbed the energy cable, and pulled. Instantly my world lurched and warped, and stretched into a long singular tunnel, which unfurled in an instant in front of my kitchen island. For a split second, there was no ground beneath me, no up or down, just falling down a spiraling tunnel, and then reality snapped back into motion with a gut-wrenching lurch, and I felt like my chest and head had been crushed. The world reappeared beneath me, and I opened my eyes, falling onto my kitchen counter, smacking my head on the faucet.
I had done it!
My stomach heaved. I ran to the sink and forcefully hurled, throwing up the entire contents of my stomach, until there was nothing left to heave anymore. My head felt like it was splitting into two. I sank to the floor wearily, burying my head in my hands. Static electricity crackled around me, and my hair felt like it was standing on end.
Andreas knelt down next to me, and touched my shoulder. “I told you it wasn’t going to be easy,” he said.
I clenched my jaw, trying to ignore the pain in my stomach and head. “I thought you meant difficult, not painful.” I gritted my teeth and stood up slowly, still feeling queasy, but not as much so.
“Do you have any pain killers around?” He started flipping through my cabinets. “Your head is hurting mine.”
“In the bathroom next to the stairs,” I said hoarsely. I rested my head on the counter, the cool granite soothing my pounding skull. I heard him rummaging through the medicine cabinet. He emerged with a bottle of Excedrin. I gratefully took two from his hand, and downed them with a glass of water. “Alright, you win,” I whispered. “Let’s do this your way.” I managed a wan smile.
He laughed softly. “I’ll call us a taxi.”
By the time the taxi cab had arrived, my head no longer felt like a mule had kicked my skull in. Thank god for Excedrin. I still felt a little weak and shaky on my feet, but Andreas kindly assisted me out the door and into the taxi.
We got to the airport, got our boarding passes, and made it through security in record time. We had a thirty-minute wait at the gate before the plane boarded. I bought myself a hamburger, downing it ravenously, replacing the breakfast I had lost. I felt much better afterwards.
“You know,” I said to Andreas while we sat in the uncomfortable airport seats waiting for our plane, “I do have a life. I can’t just pick up and leave any time I want.”
He snorted. “You think I don’t, either? You think this is any more convenient for me?” He folded his arms across his chest. “Besides, we can’t stay at your place too long. That bloodsucker knows where you live.” He stared down his nose at me. “He’s had a taste, believe me he is going to want more. Your house isn’t safe after sunset.”
Finally we boarded our plane. I stowed my bag underneath the seat in front of me. I claimed the window seat. “I always thought angels were supposed to have wings,” I whispered to Andreas, as the plane raced down the runway.
“And there’s an invisible man in the sky who tells you what to do, and we’re his messengers,” he said dryly.
“Great, I’m flying coach with an angel,” I said sarcastically. “No one would ever believe this.”
He shrugged his shoulders. “That’s our greatest weapon in staying hidden,” he replied quietly. “No one ever believes it anyway.”
We both slept almost the entire flight.