It was a good thing it was the weekend. For the first time without it being an emergency or vacation I missed a football game with my family. Evin also made me late for work that following Monday. I’d had to cast a spell to hold him still so I could run out the door. I would have stayed if I could have but I’d already promised to go in that day. Evin and I had so much pent up desire for one another. And with our talents we created some very unique and fun ways to play. It was, pardon my French, fucking amazing. Neither of us could get enough. Jack kind of snuck around the house and every now and then slipped food into my room. He was so sweet. After that weekend I watched him carefully, trying to figure out if what Jesse had told me was true. But Jack was the same old Jack. Other than being much more relaxed now that his link with Jesse wasn’t torturing him nothing had changed outwardly.
On Friday, Jesse and Jack left out first to get to Riel’s. Evin had warped over already to help set up the rooms. I rode with Davis, curled up in the backseat with one of my comics. Ashley and Cal would be heading out a few hours after us. Davis hummed quietly to himself as we drove. He had such a lovely voice. A few hours into our trip I had an idea. “Hey, Davis…”
“Yes, sweetie?” he replied, glancing at me in the rearview.
“The container realm… What kind of information can you gain there? Could you interrogate someone there? How deep into an aura can you read and how long would that take?” I inquired.
“What sort of information are you curious about?”
“Could you tell if someone was in love with you? Or maybe if they…wanted to take a certain step?”
“Oh.” Davis seemed surprised. “It really depends on how open the person is with their feelings to begin with. And I’m not sure if it’s that specific. You can experiment with it and find out,” he said carefully. “Can I ask what it is you’re curious about?”
“Mm, it’s kind of embarrassing, actually. I feel like I should have noticed sooner. Jesse told me last week that Jack’s in love with me. Like, he’s not just bit. He’s thinking about sticking around for life in a 'til-death-do-us-part kind of way,” I revealed.
“Ani, that’s awesome! So what’s the problem?”
“Jack hasn’t said jack about it to me,” I frowned.
“He may simply need time, babe. It can be scary when you realize you want someone that much. It took me two months to be able to say ‘I love you’ in return,” he pointed out thoughtfully.
“You mean you already loved me when I first told you?”
“Yes. I was being stingy. I wanted to bask in the knowledge. The way you looked when you told me…” he sighed, “it felt like magic. I hoarded that moment. But Ashley kept talking to me about it after that. And I realized that maybe it would hurt you not to know where you stand with me. Even if I didn’t love you I had to be honest with you. It didn’t matter that it terrified me. It eventually dawned on me that I simply wanted it to be as beautiful as when you told me. So I spent a few weeks planning it out.”
I was totally geeked at this news. “Aw, Davis.”
He blushed with pleasure and stared out the window, gripping the wheel. “Anyway, for Jack it may be a different reason altogether. I recommend you give him time to come to you on his own. When he’s ready he’ll share it with you.”
“Does he ever talk with you about me? Or about the future?” I tried asking.
“Hey now, that’s privileged information, sweetie. I promised him my confidentiality. I don’t care how sexy you look all curled up like a kitten back there; I’m not telling you anything,” Davis smirked.
“Fine, then,” I pouted a little but settled down, warm in his love.
He reached one of his hands back and held onto my knee. “Get some sleep, Aniella. It’s a long drive. I’ll wake you up when we’re there,” he promised.
“Mmkay,” I mumbled and drifted off. I dreamed of Aeryn going down on me. I wasn’t prone to wet dreams; normally any erotic dream I had was a lucid one co-created by Davis and I, Evin and I, or the three of us together. Occasionally I’d dream about someone sexually but it was never anything like this. This dream burned me from the inside out. It was as if my body knew it was getting closer to Aeryn’s and was sparking to life in a whole new way. I woke up moaning as I came. “Mm, someone’s excited to see us, Aeryn,” a familiar, playful voice sounded.
I opened my eyes to see Riel’s grinning face over me. “Riel, hi!” I hugged him tightly.
“Hey, Ani. You smell so sweet,” he chuckled.
“At least let us step foot inside first,” Davis laughed.
Riel moved back off of me and helped me out of the car. “Why were you in the car?” I asked.
“I was going to…” he trailed off and smiled mysteriously. “Never mind that. Come inside. Everyone’s eager to meet you,” he urged.
“Don’t worry about your bags. Someone will be out to get them shortly.” Aeryn informed me, putting her arm around my waist and guiding me up the wide steps leading to the mansion built into the side of the mountain. It was definitely an odd home.
“It’s so good to see you,” I told her.
“You, too. That was, ah, quite a dream you had there. You’re lucky you woke up when you did. Riel was very interested,” she spoke low.
I glanced back at Riel, who was talking animatedly with Davis. I’d bet. I'm very interested myself. I forced myself to turn my eyes forward, optically devouring the ornate and tasteful setup of Riel’s home. “He can read minds?” I whispered.
“Sometimes, yes… I have to say I’m flattered you dreamed of me.” Her eyes glistened as she led me through long halls towards the entertaining room.
“I’ve never had a dream so intense before. You’ve had quite the effect on me.”
She put a little dance in her step as I stroked her ego. “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet, Ani,” she crowed. “One of these nights you, me, and Riel should have a sleepover. Jesse’s shared with me some of the things you’ve done already. I’ve got a few more ideas for you. And Riel isn’t the Sex God for nothing,” she invited. Before I could reply (or blush at the implications) we arrived in a large, open room with glass walls overlooking a lush, full garden on two sides. The sight of his home and garden nearly had me swooning. Though Davis and I had worked on my color aversion there wasn’t much to be done for my Stendhal’s syndrome. That was okay, though. I’d faint and be perfectly content. I did have to hold onto Aeryn for dear life when I saw her other lovers in the flesh for the first time. Too much beauty in one room. Mark and Sam favored one another fairly closely. They both had the same red hair and green eyes. Sam looked rather youthful with his large eyes but I couldn’t tear my gaze away from Mark Ashton. I could see his aura and he was so much bigger on the inside. I tilted my head in wonder. Normally I had to concentrate or visit another realm to see someone’s aura. It was almost like seeing him naked and I found my body burning and flushing. He peered at me a bit curiously and shifted as if uncomfortable. I knew I was staring at him like a nut but I couldn’t stop. Aeryn formally introduced us all.
“Where’s Mejir?” Davis asked.
“My son is staying with Joey while I’m away. Beverly’s helping out,” Aeryn answered.
“Ani, you should put on your swimsuit. Riel’s got a hidden pool outside,” Jesse called to me from outside. He and Jack were coming in through the glass doors.
“Oh, cool,” I snapped out of it and went to hug the twins.
“I’ll call to check on Cal and Ashley,” Davis said, taking a seat at the chess table.
“So, Riel, I was in the kitchen earlier…” Sam began as he moseyed over.
“Yes?” Riel gave him his full attention.
“You do remember that humans eat food, right?” Sam cocked his head to the side and grinned devilishly.
Riel blushed, something I’d never realized he could do. Almost nothing embarrassed Riel. “Shit, I forgot to buy food.”
Aeryn stepped closer to him and hugged the tall blond. “I knew you couldn’t be perfect. Now I have proof,” she murmured, pulling his head down to give him a kiss. He tugged her into his body and lifted her up.
“Alright, alright, knock it off. They haven’t been here five minutes and you’re already putting on a show no one wants to see,” Mark scolded them. “I’ll go pick up some stuff. What do you guys like?”
“Someone should go with him,” Aeryn suggested. As Sam moved closer to Mark she added, “Not you, Sam. You two would never make it back.”
“I’ll go,” I offered.
“Do I need to tell you to behave yourself? Straight there, straight back,” Aeryn narrowed her eyes at Mark.
“I’ll be good.” He raised his hands in innocence. “Unless she begs me to take her. Then all bets are off.” His eyes scanned me appreciatively.
“Hey now. We should all get settled in before we start the games,” Evin glided in from the hallway.
“But waiting is no fun,” Mark remarked. His hand took hold of mine and when he smiled at me I nearly did faint. “Ready, Ani?”
“Yeah,” I replied breathlessly. I was going to need so much tea. Mark led me out to his sleek car and opened the door for me. He turned on music for us to listen to as he set off for the nearest town. We sat in comfortable silence for a while. He seemed tickled when I started dancing to some songs. We pulled into a small grocery in a small town after a few hours of driving.
“They may not have everything you like but feel free to get whatever you want,” he let me know as we walked in.
“Thanks.” I grabbed a cart and began filling it with goodies. I was very pleased to find they carried a decent assortment of teas.
Mark trailed after me with his hands in his pockets. The store owner didn’t seem to mind that Mark only wore an open vest over his bare chest. He examined some of the items on the shelves as if he had no idea what they were. Then it dawned on me that he likely didn’t have a clue what most of this stuff was. He’d been born a vampire and they didn’t require half of this stuff to live. I got caught up staring at him again and ran my cart into a stack of canned goods. Mark helped me clean them up and then took the cart from me. “It’s prob’ly safer this way… Why do you keep staring at me?” he wondered.
“Don’t a lot of people stare at you? You’re pretty hot, you know,” I replied.
“Oh, I know,” he crowed. He quickly sobered up and added, “But it’s different when you do it. Like you see something else.”
“Does it make you uncomfortable?”
“Only because I can’t figure out what you want… Do you guys eat cereal?” He stopped in front of the breakfast aisle. At least he knew what some of the food was.
“Not normally. We can skip this aisle. We do need eggs and milk, though… I think I can see your aura. That’s not something I can normally do without a lot of effort or without being in a particular realm. You have this glow and it took me by surprise.”
He scowled as we stopped in front of the refrigerated section. “Don’t go telling anyone about it. I thought I had it under control,” he sighed.
“Why don’t you want anyone to know?”
“I’ll tell you when we get in the car… Are you good? Will this be enough to last you? We can always come back later.”
“I’m good for now,” I said shyly.
Mark paid for the groceries (this town was small enough to be able to deal in cash) and then packed the car. We climbed in and he sped off back to Riel’s. “Most of the time I act like a jackass to throw people off my scent. My job requires me to do things most others can’t. The fewer people who know about it the better. The main reason for that is because there’s someone out there that Aeryn and I need to hide from. She’s not in this realm but she can see across the realms. My energy signature, and Aeryn’s, is very unique. When I turned Aeryn I made sure to mask her signature as much as possible. With mine it’s a bit harder since I’m a scaroth. I used to be a much more powerful creature a long, long time ago. All the way back at the beginning of the human race. The person that killed us back then cannot know that we’ve been reborn. We’ve both lived several times but we’ve always managed to evade her. Because we never remembered that far back. In this life we do remember. I remember more than Aeryn, though. And that’s dangerous knowledge. I don’t know why you can see it but please don’t say anything about it. I have to remain in the background,” he explained.
“I won’t tell anyone. I’m sorry you have to hide it. You’re so bright.”
He smiled mirthlessly. “And I can never show it. Sam and Riel are part of it, too. Thankfully, they don’t remember yet so they’re relatively safe.”
“Your lives are insane; you know that?” I observed in wonder.
“Only too well. Now you’re part of it. I might actually need your help with something. Those black clouds that took all the ghosts away; they’re from her. Well, some of them, anyway. Some of them are from this asshole I know.” His tone grew a bit angry. “But he’s harmless for the most part. And he’s not stealing ghosts or anything. He’s just a nosy bastard. Fuckin dick.”
His curse-filled tangent had me trying to bury my silent laughter in my hand. “Mark, Mark, please. What do you need my help with?” I attempted to get him back on topic.
“Oh, right. Sorry. This guy really grinds my gears. He was with us when all of that shit went down. He was the only one who escaped. He let the rest of us die. Obviously, I’m still pretty pissed about it.”
“That’s understandable,” I empathized.
“Aye. Anyway, I’ll help you look for them if you help me seal them away,” he bargained.
“You want me to take you through the realms?”
“If you’re up for it. I’ll even help you find the Djinn. Whatever the clouds have done with the ghosts, I doubt it’ll be a simple matter to find them. They might be gone for good,” he sighed. “But I do have some skills I’ve kept hidden. I’m a hunter. If’ there’s something to be found I can prob’ly find it. So what d’ya say?”
“I’ll help you.”
“Cool. I’ll set up to come visit you in Cali. I doubt we’ll be getting much work done during this trip. Also…” he trailed off and an evil glint came into his eyes.
“Tell me,” I urged, curiosity piqued.
“How much do you know about the condition known as being bloodless?” His glowing eyes flitted in my direction.
“It’s what happens when a scaroth goes an extended period of time without blood. They go a bit nuts,” I recited.
“That’s putting it lightly. It’s agony. We lose all control. Thankfully, it’s rare.”
“Why are you sharing this with me?” I questioned nervously.
“Being bloodless can also be inflicted as a punishment.”
Involuntarily, my eyes widened. “Mark, what are you saying?”
“You are aware of what Sam’s done to Aeryn. She’d be honored if you bore witness to his punishment. It’s already begun. Some day this week he’ll be ready to be locked away. He’s a young scaroth so it’ll happen fairly quickly. We’ve been starving him already. Watch his hair. When it starts to turn white that means it’s time,” he revealed.
I shivered violently.
Mark’s hand shot out and grasped mine. “I’ll take you out if it becomes too much,” he vowed.
“Okay.” I sucked in a deep breath. “Isn’t he your son?”
Mark nodded. “My clone. My lover. But what he did is heinous. That didn’t come from me. At least I hope and pray it didn’t.”
“You’re not sure?”
“I was sure up until he did it. But you have nothing to worry about. I’ve never pushed or forced anyone. Not just my scaroth lives. In any life. Scaroth are physically incapable of it except under very extreme circumstances. We all have a built-in romantic and sexual sense that we use to please lovers. But I’m a good boy with or without it. Every one of my thousands of partners was willing.”
“That’s a damn good track record,” I mused to lighten the mood.
“If Aeryn says it’s okay I’d like to add you to that list of the willing,” he flirted.
I squirmed in my seat. Dear god, how will I ever survive being locked up with these gorgeous creatures for the duration of this trip?