THE CRIMSON FLOW

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Chapter 2.1 - OLD HABITS

He pushed himself up into a sitting position, the soil of his lair sifting to settle in the space he’d vacated. Dusting down his clothing, he glanced askance at the young woman hunkered by his side. “Why do you insist on sitting in the half-dark?” He nodded to her phone which, as always, she carried in her hand.

A small laugh escaped her. “I don’t like blinding light when I wake up, so I don’t set any type of flares for others.”

“It matters not to me,” he said, shifting and standing as tall as the overhead ceiling allowed. He offered his hand to help her up. She accepted.

“I’ll remember that next time and have the chandelier lit for you, then.” She lifted her chin haughtily.

He stared at her, his eyes intense as he studied her face. He noted the slightly teasing smirk toying at the corners of her mouth, the glint in her eyes from the gradual fading light drifting between the cracks in the overhead veranda. Sunset-rose and peach-coloured rays strained through the filigree of cobwebs on the small rectangular window to his left. Her hair picked up the soft hues, making it warm, inviting, like satin or silk. She was beauty amid this abandoned wreck of a house. “I think you are making fun of my abode,” he murmured, looking away, defying echoes of near time-lost urges.

“What? This palatial pad you’ve found?” With a flamboyant wave of her hand she gestured the underground ‘haven’ which stretched from under the veranda to some 400 sq.ft back, towards a one-time stream. She looked around, her eyes searching the growing gloom at the opposite end of the room. The old wooden supports and upper floors creaked as the day’s temperatures cooled. The house had been deserted for many years, but local wildlife had made ample use of the dank cellar; deposits of said creatures mingling with the mould, lichen and general mustiness of a long-forgotten cabin. Wrinkling her nose, she rolled her eyes. “You’re lucky your sense of smell has dimmed anyway, believe me.”

His smile betrayed he’d detected the note of irony in her voice. “I am thankful for small blessings, then.”

She scoffed. “Why don’t you at least sleep up above? It may be old and more open, but it still has a roof and no-one is likely to come around here.”

Her concern was endearing. “Well, old habits...” he started.

“Need changed,” she said defiantly.

“When you have lived as...”

"Long as I have...” she concluded for him. “Yeah, yeah. Well, you can’t hide behind that excuse any longer, Cain, considering the recent evolution you have undergone.” She kicked at a small mound of soil sending a dusting of granules skittering across the grime-laden floor.

He stiffened. The subtle yet sharp reference to his true parentage hit a nerve. After a moment, however, he relaxed. With a non-productive swipe at his coat, he took a measured breath. “I cannot simply wave my hand, or glamour someone as you call it these days, and be admitted to five-star accommodation, Becky.”

She blanched. “Why not? I do! Well, technically, Craig and Nick do. But, through them, I get flights to wherever you are. I’m never stopped at customs or searched and I stay in luxury rooms. In fact, this time we have a villa.”

He looked at her, a little stunned. The two Fallen who had befriended them were closer to being likeable rogues than they were Seraphim. Their manipulation of security, airline staff, hoteliers and, in this case, it seemed, real-estate owners was not the type of crime which he bothered with. It was deceit on a low level as far as Cain was concerned and never did they do it with intent to harm anyone. That, and the fact they often brought Becky along, whose company he did so enjoy, made their rascality acceptable. His lips curved slowly into a smile. “They will never go to Heaven, you know?” he replied, adjusting his collar.

Becky gasped. Then she laughed out loud. “Why, Cain! Did you just crack a joke? Mercy me, another change, no less.”

A low rumble of laughter vibrated in his chest. It was one of the ‘reborn’ sensations he had been experiencing when in her company. He often thought about it. Here they were, two miserable souls for very different reasons, and yet they could still make each other laugh. He had not foreseen that aspect of their ‘relationship’. Initially, he had tried very hard to avoid her, but Nick and Craig, so well attuned to his whereabouts now, soon found him and Becky would insist they bring her along.

“And where are our illustrious friends?” he enquired.

“Upstairs,” she replied. “I’m sure they’ve sprinkled some fairy-dust and have the place sparkling by now.”

Cain laughed. “I doubt very much the dust available is anything to do with fairies. And besides, I think our angels would be deeply offended at being compared to such mythical imps.”

Becky smirked. “Careful! You could end up on stage with that wit.” They shared in the humour.

“Have they any news?” he then asked.

She sighed, her shoulders heaving as she did. “Not about Samael, no.”

Cain grunted, his mood suddenly sombre again. The Fallen had offered to aid him in his search for the General. It was only a matter of time before his father came looking for him again, of that he was certain. They agreed it would be advantageous if Cain found him first before he managed to amass another troop or worse, an army.

Becky moved closer, demanding his attention. “But, you may be interested in what they have got to tell you.” Her voice was quiet, almost timorous.

The implication triggered his vampiric traits; a lengthening of his fingers and nails, sharpening of canines and blackening of his eyes.

She laid a reassuring hand on his forearm. “Easy, Cain. It is perhaps mostly rumour, but you should hear nonetheless.”

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