Chapter 11 - Demetri
When Demetri heard that his father was overseas and was unavailable to speak until his return, he was furious. No one that he came across could tell him where the Pride Father or Vasili was. He was fairly certain that several of the ladies that cleaned the house would probably never come near him or his room again. He may not have done anything other than seethe as he stormed away from them, but the reek of terror permeated the hall and it only made him even angrier.
Days and nights melted together as he kept to himself, mainly because his temper was getting out of hand and he knew that he would lash out if he didn’t get it under control. The last person he talked to literally wet their pants when he received the same answer of ‘I don’t know, sir’ and the shadows in the hallway started breaking the lights. It was then that he realized that maybe he should just stay away from everyone in the house...mainly for their safety.
His mind keeps rewinding to the conversation he'd heard through the crack in the door to his fathers’ study. He knew that there were things that needed to be discussed, but given his mood it might end up in a fight that would be difficult to win. He wanted answers, and his given search results were only serving to aggravate him. So, he took it upon himself to do his own investigation into who Vasili’s granddaughter was and what they had to do with each other. After all, if his father and his business associate could involve themselves in his life without his knowledge or permission, why couldn’t he involve himself in their subterfuge? He had his own ways of doing things. All he had to do was wait for a response from a contact he had within The Collective...and even that was taking too long.
Demetri knew that his father had kept a lot of things from him, which wasn’t anything new. After all, he was rarely around anyway so why should he bother to take time out of his busy schedule for him? His father is so work focused that he was surprised that the Pride Father even remembered that he had a son. Just what did he do for work anyways? Anything that he thought was thrown out the window when he saw the armed men walking down the hallway...armed men that, incredibly, absolutely no one saw. To him, that kind of thing screamed mercenary not mafia. Which, to be honest, was what he had originally thought his father did for a living.
How else did he amass all this land and wealth? Couldn’t possibly be something legal. So he had thought that he was in charge of the Russian Mob. But now Demetri wasn’t so sure. The men he saw in the hall that night didn’t give him the feeling that they were just there for some random ‘family business’. And now remembering some of the eavesdropped conversation, he knew that Vasili and his father had been in the military together. So which one of them had the idea of letting Vasili reach into his head, and the head of his own family, to forget things? None of this sat well with him. If anything, it made him wonder just what else the two men were capable of, or if they had done this to other people.
His head was a jumbled mess as memories had begun to resurface and at night it was worse. He wasn’t sure if he was dreaming or remembering things, spending more than a fair share of time in the shower trying to either cool off or wake up so he could be convinced that he wasn’t sleeping. Nothing he smoked or drank could make the headaches subside and he was almost at his wits end. With the small amount of sleep he’d had, it was getting hard for him to stay focused and his room was almost in a constant state of darkness.
Demetri felt that maybe with a change of scenery his mind would clear up a little and he would be able to focus. Locking himself in his room, in the house he was steadily growing to despise, was irritating what few unfrayed nerves he had left. He decided that the best way he could unravel his dark thoughts was to go visit a place he and his mother used to go to. A place where he could remember sitting on the grass in front of her while she was on a stone bench and she would teach him how to play the gusli.
With the fond thoughts of her tender smile in mind, the shadows that had been engulfing his room began to dissipate. As he closed his eyes, he remembered how her black hair would flow around her face when the breeze would blow through it. How her storm grey eyes that matched his own would sparkle when he played a particularly hard set of runs right on his instrument. And her laugh...gods how he missed her laugh. Even though she had been gone for over fifteen years, he still missed her. The one person that could calm his temper. The one that showed him how to be compassionate even when others weren’t with him.
As he goes to the wardrobe where he stored his instrument, a sharp pain stabs through his head and Demetri falls heavily to his knees. It wasn’t the first time this had occurred over the last few days but it was definitely the worst. His hands grip the sides of his head while his teeth grind almost painfully with the effort to keep from screaming out in agony. The last time this happened he waited it out as it was only a few seconds long. This time it seemed as if it wasn’t going to go away and it was steadily getting worse.
Demetri could feel his panther trying to push its way to the surface and he fought it as hard as he could. All this does is make the searing lance of pain in his head sink even deeper and his panther even angrier. He doesn’t remember crying out in a keening wail that made someone break down his bedroom door. He vaguely recalls feeling soft hands reach out to pull him close, holding his head against their chest, listening to the rapid heartbeat that begins to slow the longer they held him. It doesn’t register until too late as an odd smell permeates his nose and his mind starts to fog over and darken, eyes fluttering open to see a woman with dark hair wiping his own sweat covered hair from his eyes. Blinking a few times in confusion, he can see her mouth moving but hears nothing as he slips into the familiar darkness of sleep.
-- -- -- -- --
It was going to rain again.
Just like it always does this time of year.
Demetri shuffles his feet in the straw on the floor of the stables, the horses having been long gone but no one had taken the time to clean it out. It was because of this neglect that they met here. Away from the prying eyes of his father and her grandfather. Away from the nosy ladies that cleaned the rooms and dusted in the hallways. Just a simple place that they could be themselves and not have everyone hovering.
His hand went to his pocket again and he fiddled with the small box that was in it, his nerves ready to shatter with how anxious he was. Would she accept the gift he got her for her fourteenth birthday? Would she think less of him for what he wanted to ask her? What if she didn’t feel the same way he did? So many questions assaulted his mind as he moved the straw around more, not realizing until he looked that he'd made her initials in the dirt underneath. He sighs heavily and pulls out a small, silver pocket watch and flicks it open to look at the time.
He was so enamored with watching the second hand tick around the watch face that he hadn’t heard her come into the stables. The change in light was more of a clue as she closed the front door the rest of the way and he looked up in time to see her bright smile light up the room. She ran towards him, arms open and a happy grin adorning her beautiful face. Her long, light brown hair waved behind her, blowing forward as she ran into him and wrapped her arms around his chest. He staggers slightly with a loud expression of air as she runs into him before wrapping his own arms around her.
“Demetri! I’ve missed you!” She leans back and looks up at him with those bright hazel eyes, a few freckles dusting her nose and cheeks looked just a bit darker than the last time he saw her. “Why do you have to grow so much? I just crushed my nose into your chest bone.” Her giggle echoed in the emptiness of the building and he couldn’t help but smile down at her.
“I missed you too, Ana.” His smile grows as he looks down at her. “Maybe I’m not growing and you are shrinking.”
She steps out of his embrace and punches him lightly on his upper arm with a closed fist. “Don’t be a jerk. You’re going to be as tall as your dad. Maybe I might grow a few more inches. At least get tall enough that I don’t get a crick in my neck looking up at you.”
He smirks. “What if I like being able to look down and see your pre… well, maybe I don’t want you to grow any taller.” He snaps his fingers. “I know! I’ll get Rufus to mix me a potion that makes you stay this tall forever.” His voice breaks slightly as he laughs, a strange mix of a deep baritone and off pitched youth.
“You wouldn’t dare!”
Her eyes dance with mirth as she sticks out her tongue and all Demetri could think of was that she was so damn cute. With a grin he reaches out quickly and grabs her tongue with his finger and thumb. She rolls her eyes and then makes a few odd faces as he stares at her with a smile.
“Now, say something.”
She snorts as she crosses her eyes at him and they both fall to the floor of the stable laughing hysterically. After a few more minutes of snorts and guffaws, they lay there silently staring at the cobweb covered beams of the roof overhead. She wipes at the sides of her face, removing the tears of joy from earlier as she turns over on her side to stare at the profile of his face. She watches him for several quiet moments as he tries to gather his thoughts, not sure how to continue.
“Hey you. What are you thinking so hard about?” She pokes him in the ribs and he snickers. He had hoped that getting older would make that one rib quit being so ticklish, but no such luck as he tries to scoot away from the finger that keeps prodding him.
“If you want to know what I was thinking about, quit poking me.” He turns on his side to face her, effectively covering said rib. He blows an unruly lock of his dark curly hair out of his face, annoyed that it had fallen out of the leather wrap he had put it in at the base of his neck. After he does this a few times unsuccessfully he watches as her bottom lip juts out and she blatantly pouts as she sits upright.
“You are no fun. But at least I know you still have that one rib that I can make you smile with. I’ll stop growing if you keep the rib.” Her mouth returns to that brilliant smile and he can’t help but smile along with her.
“Deal.” His eyes open up a bit wider as he sits up straight. “I just realized something. You’ve been speaking in Russian this whole time. You’ve improved a lot! And to think, I’ve been speaking English.”
She sits up and blinks repeatedly as she plays over their conversation so far. “Holy shiz! That’s so awesome! I didn’t even pick up on it until you said something.” She claps happily and bounces a bit on her butt where she sat in the dirt.
“Neither did I, but I just did and yeah...it’s pretty awesome.” He sits up cross legged in front of her, his hands rubbing on his jean covered knees. “So, um, happy birthday.”
“Oh, yeah.” She sighs and stares at the floor. “Happy belated birthday. I missed being here for yours yesterday. Sorry.” Her head snaps up and her smile returns before he can say anything in return. “I almost forgot! I got you something! Dummy me, right? I had been here way before you but I had to run back to my room and get the key because I forgot it.”
“Key? You were here before me?” He watches her scamper up and go over to an empty stall. He was still brushing the straw off of his rear and backs of his legs when she returned with an oblong metal box. She still had straw all over her back from the shoulders down to her feet.
“Oh yeah, I came here as soon as they let me off the jet. Gramps was so pissed. I had to tell him that I would pee right there in front of everybody if he didn’t let me go.” She shrugs with a giggle. “I wanted to make sure it was hidden before you got here. You always show up, like, way early.” She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a very old looking key and hands it to him. “Here. I’ll hold the box and you open it.”
Demetri takes the key from her and his gaze goes down and he sees what looks like a flattened ammo box. “You sure you didn’t booby trap this thing? That’s why I’m the one opening it.” He points at his chest. “In my direction.”
She shakes her head and laughs. He hadn’t realized that Ana was wearing the earrings that he’d given her for her birthday the last time he saw her four years ago. The small, metallic studs glinted in the dwindling light as she pushed the box forward. “If it was booby trapped, I wouldn’t be holding it.”
“How do I know that? You can be tricky, you know.” He puts the key in and turns it slowly until it clicks. “Well, so far so good.”
“Oh my gaawwd, you are taking foreevver. Open it already!”
“Well, you stopped speaking in Russian. That only means that you really aren’t pranking.” He opens it slowly and then stares down at the item nestled within. “Anastazia, what is this? It looks...old and expensive.”
“It’s a necklace. My great grandfather wore this when he was the Alpha of his pack. When he didn’t have any sons, he gave it to my grandmother and made her promise that she would give it to her first born son. That was before...you know...” She shrugs a little and lets out a small sigh. “Then when she had her daughter, she kept it because she didn’t think her daughter would have any sons either.” She shakes her head a little, the light winking off of her earrings. “I told her about you...I talk about you, like, all the time. She told me that you were the closest thing to a son that she would ever have. I don’t know what she meant by that, but...I thought it would look good on you too. I hope you don’t mind.”
Demetri reaches in and takes out the beaded necklace with reverence. The cord was braided leather with silver and turquoise beads, polished to a perfect shine. At the end was an obsidian arrowhead that cut his thumb when he grazed the edge of it. The cut on his thumb was gone almost instantly as his panther healed quickly so he didn’t pay it any mind.
“It’s...I can’t...This is a family heirloom. A pack heirloom. I’m not…” He stops when a slender finger lands on his lips and he looks down to see her staring up at him with those eyes of hers.
“I don’t care about that. I know you aren’t pack. I just thought that we could be...a mated pair until we found the third. Do you want to be?” She moves her finger from his mouth and pulls in her bottom lip to chew on it slightly. “I mean, you don’t have to. I just thought that…” She sighs deeply and looks down at the floor. “I know we can’t be together, you know, like that til we are both old enough. I get that. But it doesn’t mean we can't, you know...make promises. Right?”
He swallows hard and looks down at her, staring at the top of her head. She had beat him to it. Beat him to ask if she would be his forever mate. How could he refuse her? Of course he would make that promise, he would do it over and over again every time they had a chance to meet until they were both old enough to leave the confines of their homes. He’d known she was his mate for what seemed like an eternity.
“I would be honored.” He watches as her head rises up and she looks into his eyes. Moments pass as they both just stare at each other until he coughs, the loud sound disrupting their gaze. “Would you like to put it on me?” He opens up his hand that had been holding tightly onto the necklace and hands it to her.
“Actually...if I do, then you have to explain where you got that from.” Her chest heaves with a heavy sigh. “When we finally are able to get together and be officially mated, then yeah. I will totally put that on you. Until then…” She leans down to pick up the box that she had set on the floor and opens it. “We will keep it here and hide it. Ok?”
“Ok, we can do that.” He places the necklace back in the box with a great deal of care. She was about to close the box when he reached out to stop her. “Wait. I have...I have something for you too. I think once you see it, we can put them both in here and come get them when it's time.”
“Something for me? What is it?” Her wide eyes blink as she looks over the open lid of the box. “Oh! Come over here, I’ll show you where we can put it ok?”
He gives her a nod and follows behind her, picking off pieces of straw that had made their way into her hair. Inside the second to last stall, she goes to a corner and moves a small pile of straw out of the way to reveal a loose brick in the floor. It was just big enough to put the box in and still be flush with the floor when placed back on top.
“I used to hide things in here from you all the time when I would come and visit. There is another box under this one. The key opens both.”
“Really? This is the ‘uber super secret you will never find it ever’ hiding spot?” He chuckles as she turns to look at him, surprise written all over her face.
“You actually remembered what I used to call it?” She giggles again as her cheeks flood with color. “I didn’t think you had heard me.”
“You know, I do listen when you talk. I like hearing your voice.” Demetri’s face softens as he smiles. “You’re the bright light in my dark world.” Her blush deepens so much that her face starts to get blotchy around her ears.
“Yeah, well...look at you, making me all embarrassed.” She half heartedly slaps his upper arm and chuckles. “What is it that you have?”
“Close your eyes first.” She closes them slightly and he chuckles. “All the way. I have this in my pocket so you know it isn’t trapped.” Her face turns a complete shade of crimson and it takes a moment for him to realize why she is blushing so badly when she speaks softly.
“In your...pocket? And you are taking it out, and putting it in my hand…”
“No! It isn’t that! Oh gods no!” By this time his face was burning so badly that he knew it had to be as red as hers. “Why would you even think that? No, it's small and fits in your hand…” He stops and his face burns even more. “I mean, wait. Oh for fu...damn, I am messing this up so bad.”
He had lowered his gaze, staring at the floor in the hopes that she hadn’t seen him blush as bad as she had. Instead, she stood there quietly before lifting up her hands and holding them palms up in front of him. She trusted him. She trusted him not to do anything gross or inappropriate. With a deep breath he takes the small box from his pocket and places it in the middle of her left palm and waits.
“It’s light. And it is small.” She opens her eyes and stares at it for a moment before lifting her gaze up to him. “Demetri, what is this?”
His mouth had all but dried up and when he tried to swallow down his worry and apprehension it just got stuck in his throat. What if she said no? She had already said she wanted to be his mate, but this was him asking. She could still back out...even after all the searching they had done together to find their third. He had to do this now before he lost all of his courage to do it. It was better for her to refuse him now, then later when his heart had already been set. Turning the box around in her hand, he kneels down in front of her and opens it, watching her eyes widen as she tries to look at him and what was in the box.
“Anastazia Moonrunner Rabinova, would you be my forever mate?”
He watches as her lower lip trembles and her eyes grow wet with tears. There is an uncomfortable silence that fills the air in the stable and he isn’t sure if it is from the question he asked or the impending storm. He watches as a range of emotions fly across her face and the smile she gives is one that he swore he would commit to memory for the rest of his life.
“Demetri Konstantin Sidorov, I accept. I would be honored to be by your side for the rest of our lives!”
He lets out a whoosh of air along with an exuberant yell, standing up quickly and grasping her small face in his large hands. He places a huge kiss on her forehead before he rests his own forehead on hers, eyes closed and a bright smile on his face. When he opens them all he can see is her eyes staring at him adoringly.
“I love you Ana. I will wait an eternity for you if I have to. Do you believe me?” He holds her face still and waits for her to answer.
“I do. I do believe you. And believe me when I say that I will wait for you...Here.” She takes his hands from her face and places the small box in them, closing his long fingers around it. “Put this in the box with your necklace and we will get it when we are able to be on our own. Hopefully by then we will have our third and we can buy him a gift as well. Ok?”
Demetri nods and places the small box inside the larger one, nestled safely by the top of the necklace. He squats down and locks it, taking the key out and putting it in his pocket. It would be safer for him to have it since he lived here. That way she wouldn’t have to explain what it was and what it opened. He stands up and turns to face her, taking her soft hands in his.
“The next thing I want to do might be a bit scary...but it’s safe. Ok?”
“Scary? Like what are you talking about?”
“I want to blood bind us.” When her eyes get wide he continues quickly. “All it does is bind us as a pair. If another panther smells you he will know that you are mine.” Her features soften but there is still doubt in her eyes. “Can I show you? Here, do what I do.”
She nods slowly, her eyes never leaving his face. He holds up his left hand and tilts it to the side, stretching his thumb out so that the space between it and his index finger is opened up. She watches his hand before raising up her own and holding it in the same position as his.
“Now, this is where you have to trust me Ana.” He takes her left hand in his right one and lifts it to his mouth. “I am going to bite you here. With my panthers teeth. You will bite mine in the same place with your shifters teeth. It will put a mark on you and I. Do you understand now?”
The look in her eyes showed that she understood as soon as he had explained it to her and it warmed his heart. She was so incredibly smart that it scared him sometimes. But he wanted to make sure that she knew how serious he was about this. This was forever and he would never back out of it. He would have to die first.
Demetri opens his mouth and places the tender area between his teeth and waits for her to do the same. He hadn’t realized how large his hand was until she placed it in her mouth. His index finger brushed her earlobe and his thumb almost did on the other side. Her eyes sparkled as she nodded, the white glow of her eyes lighting up the stables as his own orange glow mixes with hers. He can feel her tiny, sharp fangs graze his skin and his own emerge to gently push against her skin. They both stare at each other for what seems like an eternity before biting down and piercing each other's flesh.
Her blood was amazing. It was metallic and sweet, tasting almost like the fresh honey they got from the beehives kept in the valley below. His eyes flutter closed as his teeth retract and he runs his rough tongue over the pierced flesh to close it. He knew it would still leave a mark, as any injury done by another shifter would. But this mark would be his, and his alone. Only one other mark would mar her skin but they hadn’t been able to find him yet. A gentle lick across his own hand makes his eyes open and he stares at her with a newfound gaze.
He smiles and lowers his hand, pulling her small body against his. She was so warm as she wrapped her thin arms around his waist. He didn’t want to let her go, but the sun was setting and the clouds outside were grumbling with the approaching storm. They needed to get inside before someone came looking for them and it was actually quite surprising that someone hadn’t already. After holding each other for a few more quiet minutes they stood back from each other, hands still clasped as their eyes locked and each one had a vivid smile.
A large crash interrupts them as the doors to the stables burst open and several armed men come running in to surround them. Demetri moves Ana behind him and backs up into the stall, forcing her into a corner so he could stand in front of her and protect her. With it being so dark, there were plenty of shadows around and he tried to pull on them to attack the men who were already inside the stall.
He didn’t have a chance to do much as incredibly bright spotlights fill the stables, obliterating any shadow that he could see. He was momentarily blinded and it was all the men needed to take advantage of the situation. The largest one of the group had come up and grabbed him by the arm but he’d fought with his father enough that he knew how to defend himself.
With a quick side maneuver he danced out of the grip of the armed man and punched him hard in the side, smiling as he heard the satisfying crunch of ribs breaking under the body armor. There is a solid sounding grunt as his fist connects in the same spot again before a meaty hand grabs him by the front of his shirt and a fist makes hard contact with his face. Black dots cross his vision and he can feel his face begin to swell.
“Leave him alone!” He turns to see her try and run at the one holding him but is caught by another. “No! Let go of me!”
“Don’t you touch her!” It was all he could yell as another set of strong hands grabbed a hold of him. Whoever had her was taking her away from him and Demetri was not about to let that happen. “Let go of her or I’ll kill you! I swear I will kill you if you hurt my mate!”
Time stood still in that moment as he watched the one holding Anastazia look down at her. The voice that came from the man was warbled as if they had something masking their voice. “Is this true, girl? Is that boy your...mate?”
“Yes. Yes he is. And if he doesn’t kill you...I will.” Her voice had taken on a tone he had never heard before and it both chilled and excited him. This was not only the voice of his beloved, this was the voice of a girl that would kill for him just as much as he would for her. Their eyes lock and his flares a vivid orange while hers matched the light blue glow of the spotlights.
“What have you done, boy?” This voice was also masked but came from one of the larger men holding him. When he doesn’t answer he is put into a headlock and the arm slowly starts to cut off his air. “Answer me! What have you done?”
“I...marked my...mate. She is...mine by...blood bond.” He gasps between his words, fighting to keep his airway open even though his arms and head were being held. “We...marked...each other.”
“No...you lie!” The other man nods his head at another standing by him. “Check her hand. In the recess between the thumb and first finger.”
She tried to get away but the one holding her was much stronger and she was held fast. She did still struggle but her strength was starting to ebb and fear was starting to replace the ferocity in her eyes. When the other man holds up her hand to let the one holding her see, the one holding her curses loudly and reaches up to hold her head against his shoulder.
“Do it. Get it over with.” The one behind him grumbles and he struggles against the men holding him, his own strength seeming to leave him.
A hand clasped over his mouth as he watched her struggle, the glow in her eyes fading as her eyes began to close. The arm around his neck tightened up when he tried to break the hold that was keeping him from protecting her. He was losing air quickly and there wasn’t much time for him to come up with a plan. Demetri watched with crazed eyes as Anastazia’s body went slack in the arms of the other man and he lost all perception of time as his panther ripped its way from inside of him to wreak havoc on everyone and everything around him.
She had been marked. Against her will and by someone neither one of them knew. He hung his head as he grasped her right hand and held it to his face. It was warm, but not like it had been before they were attacked. He rubbed his thumb over her cheek, mentally hoping that she would open her eyes for him and then they could just leave here and never look back. But she was still just laying there, her chest rising and falling in slow but shallow breaths. He had to get them out of here, but first he had to hide something.
Putting her hand across her stomach, he rose and walked over to his wardrobe to carefully remove the case that held his instrument. While she had her secret hiding spot, he had his own. After opening the case and removing the gusli, he pulls up at a corner of the bottom of the case. The fabric rises easily to show various envelopes, an art book and other small trinkets. He pulls the key from his pocket and drops it in before pulling the fabric back into place. It doesn’t take long for him to put the instrument back in and then close the case. He had just put it away and closed the wardrobe when his door burst open and the same men from the stables started to fill his room.
“Get out of my room!” Demetri shifts quickly into his half panther form and jumps onto the bed, covering her body like a shield. His voice is a mix of his own cracking voice and the deep growl of his panther. “Haven’t you done enough?!”
The one that had been holding her circles his hand in the air and others file in to surround him. He kept his gaze on the one that stood there watching them and that was why he didn’t see someone approach from his left, shoving something against his side. The electrical current that flowed through his body made every one of his muscles tense up and his panther retreated with a loud scream. He wasn’t sure if it was him or his panther that had made the noise, but he was aware that he was on the floor now and no longer over his mate.
“What have we...done to you? Why are you doing this?” His body is still lax from the electrical prod as he is lifted up by the same two men that had held him before. The one that had held her steps forward and pulls off his glove, raising the bare hand up to Demetri’s head as his masked voice speaks.
“You won’t have to worry about why in a few moments. You will forget just like she did. It’s for the better.”
Demetri tries to move his head but is held in place by a set of incredibly strong arms that traps his own arms and body along with legs that kept him from moving his own. The hand makes contact with his forehead and it's as cold and clammy as death. He can feel the man's nails elongate and bury themselves under his skin just under his hairline along with the feeling of something cold slithering its way into his mind as a dark whisper rides in with a fog that settles over his eyes. He can see someone picking up his beloved and leaving his room with her before everything turns dark.