Chapter 12 - Polova
When Polova first heard Demetri's pain-filled scream she had been sitting at her vanity getting ready for the day. She knew he’d been having a hard time lately, especially after their last few conversations. When Demetri hadn’t constantly shoved her away without more than a few words she had thought that he didn’t mind her advances. Apparently that wasn’t the case and she had gotten the hint, even if it was quite literally, at the hands of the Pride Father who almost choked her to death. Then there was the night when she had told him that his father was gone. To say he was extremely agitated was a gross understatement. Of course, her attempt at being seductive had backfired greatly like it usually did. The cursing behind his door went on for several hours with only a few quiet breaks in between each loud string. Considering that the doors to their rooms were quite solid and provided more than adequate sound protection there was no doubt that his obscenities were being shouted and screamed at the highest decibels possible.
There was the fact that he hadn’t come out of his room in days. She had thought about knocking on his door to see if he was alright but then she could hear him growling and thought better of it. The few cleaning ladies that were there to attend to their en suite bathrooms and laundry had given his room a wide berth and even with gentle prodding would say nothing about Demetri. Now, all she could do was sit and hold him as he cried out in pain, his hands gripping the sides of his head while his face was a contorted mask of agony.
Although she had hoped that the time alone would spark something between them, this was the last way she had wanted it to happen. She was thankful that the resident doctor had been walking by when Demetri had let loose that horrible sound again because she had no idea what to do after she had found him in a crumpled heap on the floor. The doctor had quickly produced a vial of some kind of foul smelling liquid from the deep pocket of his white lab coat, covering the end with a gloved finger after popping the cork. He shook it a few times before removing his fingertip, smearing said substance under her adopted brother’s nose. Demetri had looked up at her then, his pupils so blown out that she couldn’t see the grey around them and he looked at her in confusion as she murmured soft words to him before his eyelids closed. It wasn’t long until his ragged breath started to even out and his hands fell from the sides of his face.
“Do I even want to know what that putrid liquid is, Rufus?” She smoothed out a few more locks of Demetri’s hair as she rubbed a thumb across his forehead above his eyebrows. His skin was clammy and almost ashen in color. Her forehead scrunches up with concern as she looks up at the doctor as he puts the recorked vial back into his pocket. “What is happening to him?”
Sergei had hired the doctor long before she had ever stepped foot into the Sidorov household and she had never seen him without the pristine white lab coat accompanied by the thick, black medical gloves on his bony hands. His hair was practically nonexistent with how short he kept it so you couldn’t tell if it was a dark shade of brown or black. His face was just as thin and elongated as the rest of him was, giving the impression that he had absolutely no muscle on him at all and he was just skin and bones. That and the slightly pointed tips to his ears along with pale skin and the sunken features of his face made him look even more unsettling. The good doctor also had a distinct British accent that only got thicker when he was irritated.
In all honesty, she thought he was incredibly creepy. There were whispers among the people that came in contact with him that he wasn’t a normal shifter, but she hadn’t delved into the local rumor mill too much. Information was usually twisted and misconstrued by the time it reached her ears so she never really paid any mind to the gossip in the hallways. Now that she was alone with him and Demetri was incapacitated she wasn’t so sure that ignorance to the rumors had been the best route to have taken.
“I do hope that what is occurring is not what I think it is. If it is, seeking the safety of your room is the best option available.” He leans down to press two fingers against Demetri’s neck before muttering quietly. “Of course, evacuating the complex would also be highly recommended but there isn’t enough time for that.” He stands up and taps on a small device in his ear. “This is Doctor Rufus Westbrook. Please place the compound on alert until further notice.” There is a pause as his mouth turns down, morphing his face into his characteristic look of annoyance. “No, this is not a drill. Be prepared to activate the filigree on my signal.” He taps the earpiece again and nods to her. “My apologies Lady Polova. Perhaps we should move the Pride Son to his bed, hm?”
She nods slowly, holding Demetri’s head still as she slides out from underneath him. Rufus moves to the other side and picks up the Pride Son’s large frame with ease and she follows behind him. The surprised look on her face is evident as he turned to lay Demetri’s still form on top of the comforter. The doctor’s raised eyebrow spoke of a tiny bit of amusement which did not match the still downturned position of his lips.
“As usual, someone automatically assumes that due to my lack of musculature that I am unable to do anything more than lift my own lungs for breath. If you must know, I am much stronger than I look.” He points to Demetri as he continues. “Just so you are aware, at this moment Demetri is exactly 90.72 kilos, which is significantly less than his previous weight of 101.15 kilos. While his weight loss is not alarming considering the levels of stress that he has been experiencing, it is still problematic. As a panther shifter his caloric intake should be quite high, enough to keep both his body and the panther within adequate healthy parameters. He has not been eating, or staying hydrated. Even by human standards he is not following a healthy...diet.”
He folds his arms and stands so straight that she wonders if he sleeps on a piece of wood. A very straight piece of wood. With no pillows. The thought makes her shiver slightly as she goes over to sit on the edge of the bed, thankful that she slept on a bed that was just as comfortable as this one. She moves another lock of his black hair from his face as his mouth moves in a silent conversation with someone only he can see.
“What do you suppose he is dreaming about?”
“With any reasonable amount of luck that is exactly what he is doing.” She looks up at him with a raised eyebrow of her own. “Dreaming, my dear. My hope is that he is dreaming. If he is gaining his memory back then that is...how do the humans put it? Ah, yes! A whole new ball of wax. Wax that we should avoid at all costs.”
“I don’t understand. When did he have an accident?” She gives Rufus a confused look. In the years that she has been here, Demetri had always been standoffish and not really willing to go outside much, with the exception of a few clubs or raves. So unless he tripped in the hallway and hit his head on a side table she was fairly certain that Demetri had never had any kind of head trauma. At least none that she was aware of.
“Oh, there was no accident. There was an incident. One that, in my own personal opinion, never should have happened.” He shrugs as he looks down at Demetri and lets out a long breath through pursed lips. “I am not looking forward to seeing what kind of catastrophe awaits when his memory has returned. Not. At. All.” He lifts up the sleeve of his lab coat enough to look at the large watch underneath on his left wrist and mutters softly. “With any luck the death toll will be substantially smaller this time around, if not averted completely.”
“Dea...death toll?” Polova’s eyes were open so wide she was sure that her eyelids had disappeared. “Is that why you put the compound on alert?”
“Ah, so your ears work correctly but the brain takes a moment to warm up. It’s understandable, given your age and propensity at not listening or straight jumping to conclusions. But yes, that is why I put the compound on alert and I am certain that I didn’t stutter.” His haughty tone of voice made her want to slap him. With a sigh he steps forward and leans down to push back Demetri’s hair away from his forehead. “I want you to take a good look at his face. Tell me what you see.”
Polova gives Rufus a withering look and then turns her gaze to Demetri’s face. She takes in the several days worth of stubble that had crept up along his jawline and chin and how pale his skin was. There was a small freckle by his right ear that she had never noticed before and she lets herself smile a bit as she studies his face a bit more. As she runs a finger along his hairline, she feels them before she sees them. Four small, but very distinct scars.
“What are these?” She rubs one and the smooth scar tissue moves slightly under her fingertip. She leans forward to look at them closely, taking the opportunity to give Demetri a soft kiss on his forehead.
“That, my dear, is where his memories were taken. Taken by an Alpha and his labyrinthine ways of thinking.” He lets out a snort that is accompanied by a brief scent of sulfur. “As if he had any kind of control over the situation to begin with. To be frankly honest, I am quite thankful that I was here to help with his initial training before everything went straight to hell. And I mean that in every sense of the word.”
“Whose training? Demetri or the Alpha? I am confused.”
“Ah, my dear sheltered child. The one that you constantly pine over. Who else would I be speaking of?”
His smirk is a trademark of his whole overbearing demeanor and she wanted to just find one of her sets of Prada’s and stab him with the heels. With a great sigh, Polova sits up straight and smooths down the front of Demetri’s shirt, letting her hand rest on his chest as it rises and falls with his even breaths. She watches as his face lightens up and he smiles in his dreamlike state. Her next breath catches in her lungs as she watches him actually blush and then smile again before his mouth starts to move with unspoken words.
“He has never smiled like that before...so happy. So genuine. It changes his whole face, Rufus.” She turns her head to look up at the doctor who was still hovering nearby.
“Believe it or not, the young Pride Son used to smile frequently in his youth. He was quite the jester and had an exquisitely sharp sense of humor. Even if it was at the misfortune of those at the receiving end at times. Demetri was never cruel about things thanks to his mothers attentions and I have a very engaging tale dealing with a crate of fresh horse manure, empty plastic eggs and fireworks that was rather...eventful.” The curl of his upper lip said more than what his unspoken words could. “But that will have to be told at a later date. Now is not the time.” Rufus looks at his watch again and a small plume of smoke flows out from both of his nostrils. “Speaking of time, I do believe we have about six minutes to get to safety. Come along.”
“Safety? From what?” She stands up next to Demetri’s bed and points to his prone form. “From a man who is reliving something he has forgotten? He can’t even move!”
“That is exactly what I am saying, dear girl. Now please.” He extends his long fingered, bony hand as his eyes fixate on something behind her. “You need to trust me. He will be fine. It’s you and the rest of us in the compound that need to take shelter. If you do not come with me of your own free will then I will have no choice but to carry you. Against your will. And trust me on this, you are not strong enough to fight me.” He leans down and she swears she can see small flickers of flame dancing in his eyes as well as smell sulfur in the air near his face. “In either form.”
With a slight nod she takes his hand in hers, her eyes watching as smoke flows out of his nose like a slow burning cigarette. The smell of sulfur is increasing and her eyes widen as she takes in his appearance. Just what the hell kind of shifter was he? His hand was so warm that she wondered how it was that the gloves didn’t stick to his skin. She takes another glance at Demetri over her shoulder when she hears him laugh, a deep and robust sound that she had never heard from him before. The heated hand of the doctor tugging her towards the door shakes her from wondering who it was he was remembering.
“Time is of the essence, Lady Polova. We need to go. Now.”
He pulls hard on her hand and she almost loses her balance, falling just enough for him to catch her by the elbow of her other arm while his hand still holds hers. With her being this close to his body she can feel heat radiating from him in waves. With the one hand still holding her elbow in a firm grip, he releases her hand and taps at the device in his ear again. This time she can hear his voice coming from the hidden speakers around the compound.
“This is not a drill. I repeat, this is not a drill. You have three minutes to find a filigree protected room. There will be one more warning to get to safety. This is not a drill. Code Level Six priority.”
As he took her down the hall they were passed by several of the cleaning ladies that were being pulled into a nearby bedroom by another woman she didn’t recognize. The heavy doors closed behind them loudly followed by the sounds of locks and a slight hum that she hadn’t heard before. Several other rooms were being filled up with other people that she knew worked at the house, the young ones having a perplexed look while the older ones held outright fear in their eyes. It wasn’t long until they came to her room and Rufus finally let go of her arm, tapping at his ear again.
“Final warning. You have ninety seconds to find a filigree protected room. This is not a drill. If you are found outside a protected room…” He pauses for only a moment as he gives her a gentle nudge into her room, following her in and closing the doors. “Then may the gods you worship have mercy on you and take you quickly.”
Polova’s eyes widen as he pushes on what she had thought was a decorative piece on her left door, a thin line opening up above both doors and a soft sheet of incredibly sheer material falls over in front of them and begins to hum as it stiffens. She wants to get a better look at it but is led away as the doctor pulls her away from them to stand by her bed.
“What is going to be on the outside of your room is not something you want to be a part of. When his temper reaches the breaking point, and it will, you will hear things that will make you question your own sanity.” He steps around to look down into her eyes and she gasps slightly as she watches thick wisps of smoke leak out of his nose and mouth like a macabre incense burner. “I will protect you if he breaches the first filigree, but I am not sure it will be enough. Here, get on your bed and push the small star in the left hand corner of your headboard. It will surround your bed and give you more protection.”
“Protection from what? And what is this filigree you keep talking about? Rufus, you are scaring me. What-”
Rufus turns his head towards the door as she hears what could only be described as the sounds of large fingernails being drug down a chalkboard. She had done it once herself and had regretted it then, but this time there was something ominous with it that made her skin crawl and her panther hissed in fear. Polova didn’t have time to register that she had been picked up and tossed onto her bed, the doctor slapping his now ungloved hand over the star on her bed with a hot sizzling hiss and a gossamer veil of thin fabric like the one in front of her doors encases her bed on all four sides. It distorts the view slightly of her room, but she could still see where the doctor had taken off his lab coat and gloves, as the small heap was on the floor in the place where he had been standing. She couldn’t see where he had gone but judging by the light coming from the large open doorway of the bathroom just off to the left of her bed he had stepped in there.
With her breath catching in her throat she watches as a large, emaciated looking panther emerges from her bathroom. She can see the ridges of its spine as well as the ribs and every other bone that moved under the hairless black skin. The ears resembled something more like a large bat and its tail was split in two with each end holding a small flame at the end. With a twitch of the tail ends the fire spreads up the long lengths, igniting in small peaks of fire along each spinal bone tip until it reaches the head of the beast between its ears. The head turns and her eyes widen as the eyes light up with flames and the mouth drips what looked like lava onto the floor of her room.
The creature turns and takes a low, protective stance in front of the entry to her bedroom as the growl from it sounds like a wet gurgle before more lavalike liquid drips to her floor and sizzles. The fire tipped tails wave through the air, leaving a trail of light behind them and her guts threatened to upheave everything she had eaten that morning for breakfast. Outside her door were muffled noises but she could still hear what sounded like a high pitched screech mixed in with the same scraping noise as something large barrels into her doors hard enough to make them bow inwards, stretching the thin material between the doors and her room. It was an impulse to jump and she grabbed a hold of her blankets, her heart thudding so hard in her chest that it was a physical ache. Her panther wanted to shift and leave but the doctor had told her this glimmering fabric would keep her safe. Now she was stuck behind a weird curtain with only a fire covered cat-thing to keep her safe. What in the hell was he?
She didn’t have enough time to ponder that question again as another loud crash at her doors made the thick wood crack and the shifter, who she could only guess was the doctor, dug his claws into her floor as if waiting for something. She could hear it let out a gurgled screech at the doors right before they blew open, ripping through the shimmering fabric to engulf her room in total darkness. It was accompanied by the now almost deafening shrieks of whatever came in with it mixed with the garbled, hissing growls of Rufus and she couldn’t help but scream in fear herself as the thin fabric around her bed fluttered with an unnatural breeze of something wicked trying to get past it to her.
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