Deck and Kyra approach the house from the empty field next door. A run down house in the middle of a small, backwoods town about an hour out from Miami is the perfect place to hide a few kids. Last night a few born werewolves kidnapped some turned werewolf teenagers to kill them. It sounds awful, but it’s not too uncommon. Unfortunately there’s always been tension between the born and turned weres, but lately acts of violence against each other is becoming more and more frequent. Maybe it’s because Alistair, the leader of the First Pack and all of the shifters, went MIA. Or maybe it’s because winter is leading into spring, the heat making more and more eructa crazy. Who knows? But it’s his job to catch the bad guys and save the kids. Deck is a member of the Shield Guild, an international army that services to the five families of the eructan world, the world of what humans would call monsters and things that go bump in the night. The Shield Guild has two duties; to protect all eructa and prevent humans from finding out anything about the eructan world. And that’s why he’s here tonight; to protect those turned weres.
So these born weres kidnapped some teens last night and the two of them got assigned the case. Yesterday they tracked them to West Palm Beach, and during the day Deck followed them here. Now with his vampire partner, they’ll go inside and free the young weres. He stops a few yards away from the house. “I’ll go around front, you take the back. Make sure no one makes a run for it, alright?” He whispers.
Kyra nods, her pistol full of silver bullets still raised. Silently they split up and Deck creeps to the front of the house. He peeks through the window; there’s a woman asleep on the couch with a beer bottle in hand. Perfect time to crash the party. Deck quietly opens the front door and holds his weapon up as he approaches the sleeping woman. When he’s close enough, Deck knocks the beer bottle to the ground and she wakes. He covers her mouth with his hand and points to the gun. The woman signals she won’t scream, but he can’t take that chance. With one brutal punch he knocks her out cold.
After she slumps back onto the couch, Deck handcuffs her. He can’t be too careful. The punch was harmless; she’ll wake without any internal damage, but he needed her out. She has crimes to answer to and he doesn’t have time to babysit. Kyra and he have to find those teens.
He searches the upstairs as he hears Kyra come in through the back. There are no more weres upstairs, but no kids either. “Deck! Deck, come here!” Kyra calls out from below.
He takes the stairs two at a time. “Where are you?” He calls out.
“Basement!” She shouts back.
When he gets to the basement, he finds Kyra holding down a man with her boot pushing on his throat. The kids are in dog cages behind them looking scared as hell. Before Deck can lend his partner a hand, she jabs his throat. When the man grabs his throat in pain, she knocks him out like he did. When he goes down without a word, Kyra lets out a sigh of relief.
Deck chuckles as she stands up. “What? Getting rusty?”
She smirks back at him. “No, he knocked my weapon out of my hand. If I had to, I would have killed him, but I figured I’d try to bring him in alive.” Kyra turns and points to the cages. “That’s what I called you for. I couldn’t find the key and the were wouldn’t tell me anything. Do you think you can-?”
Deck cracks his knuckles. “No problem.” He goes up to both cages and breaks the padlocks with his bare hands. Deck is a banshee, a creature that can change into any human appearance. His skin is pale and hair is white in true appearance, usually giving himself away to most eructa. The perk to being a shifter is incredible strength. All eructa have a gift; shifters are strong, witches are powerful, haunts are all-being, demons are smart, and humanoids like Kyra are fast.
They get the kids to come out of the cages and they crowd around them in fear. Kyra looks from them to the man on the floor. “You want to take the two perps to booking and I’ll take these kids home?”
Deck nods. “Sure. See you at home.” She nods and teleports the kids away as he grabs the male werewolf.
Two hours later, Deck teleports back to the foyer of the compound. His troop, troop 2113 to be exact, lives in a Floridian mansion in Doveport, Florida, a small beach town right outside Daytona Beach. He shares this mansion with his captain, seven other warriors, and two mates. It’s a great place in a great town, plus the Guild does a great job of building compounds so you’re living with your troop but you also have a space for yourself.
Deck decides to make sure Kyra made it back alright before heading downstairs to start his usual routine after a mission; unload his gear, undress, shower, go to bed. Sometimes he looks for something to do. So Deck walks around the house looking for her. He finds Kyra in the den watching TV with Elwood as he throws popcorn at her jokingly. She’s already changed into jeans and a blue cami. “Hey.” He greets.
The dhampire, Elwood, and avori, Kyra, meet his gaze. “Hey, buddy.” Elwood greets.
“Hey,” she runs a hand through her Champaign-colored tousled hair, “how was booking?”
The banshee shrugs. “Oh, annoying as usual. They gave me a lot of crap for knocking them out. Something about excessive force.” He cracks a smile.
Elwood laughs while Kyra rolls her eyes. “What? Would they prefer we kill them?”
“They said all the jails are overcrowded right now so…yeah. Death would have been easier to deal with for them. More paperwork for me, but less for them.” Deck replies.
She snorts. “Well, after seeing those poor kids in cages I would have been happy to oblige.”
“How were they?” He asks.
Kyra’s smile returns. “Alright, scared but they’re tough. They’ll move past it, I think. It’s the parents I’m worried about. They were still pretty shaken up when I left, but who wouldn’t be?”
He nods, taking that as a job well done for tonight. The captain might not even debrief everyone on it. It was nice having a by-the-book case after doing research and investigative work for the last few months.
Three months ago a huge case fell into the lap of their troop. Someone chained a reaper, making them their slave to kill and save whoever their master wants. The master started having the reaper kill tons of very old, very powerful eructa and other eructa high up in the government. While in the middle of this, Deck’s partner was kidnapped by a very powerful werewolf, Alistair. He’s the leader of the most powerful pack and all of the shifters at that. After they rescued Kyra, he ran off and hasn’t been heard of since. They can’t really go after him anyways. He’s a member of the Council, the leaders of the eructan government and Kristofferson, their captain, pretty much said those people are untouchable. Besides, Alistair claimed someone else asked him to kidnap and attempt to kill Kyra. Sheam, the reaper who chained the other reaper to do those killings, also claimed to be hired out for his services. As of now, the troop is assuming the person who worked with Alistair and the person who worked with Sheam are the same person. But after three months of investigation, they’ve got nothing. They have no leads on their mystery mastermind or on Ignatius, the leader of the Shield Guild. Kristofferson believes he may be part of the plot, but so far nothing they’ve found has revealed that. They’re at the point where they hope the mastermind makes a move or messes up. Until then, they have nowhere to go.
“See you guys.” Deck says as he heads towards the elevator to go downstairs.
Kyra’s smile falters. “Come on, Deck. Stay and hang out with us.”
He shakes his head. “No thanks. I’m beat.” Following a quick change, he takes the elevator up to the second floor where all the warriors’ quarters are. Right outside the elevator are Kenai’s quarters, Kyra’s twin brother. He shares them with his mate who is also a warrior, Anvy. She’s a recent recruit who’s been here around three months. Her partner and trainer, Caul, gripes about having a trainee as a partner, but Deck knows he secretly likes having a girl partner. He’s too macho to work with another guy.
As Deck passes by, the door opens to Kenai’s quarters. The male avori steps out whereas his wraith mate remains in the shadow of the doorway only wearing a black t-shirt and orange panties. They blush when he passes, but Deck wishes them a quick goodnight and heads to his quarters. He hears Anvy whine “Wait, Kenai. Come back to bed, baby.”
Kenai groans from behind him and responds “I will. Gunner texted me. I’ll be right back, baby.” After a few hushed whispers, a door closes and footsteps head downstairs. Deck escapes into his quarters.
He makes his way through the living room into the bedroom and then the bathroom. After stripping off his t-shirt and jeans, he hops in the shower. While he’s under the water, his thoughts drift back to Kenai and Anvy. The couple have only been mated three months and are still very much in the newly mated phase; they’re inseparable, always holding hands, calling each other pet names like “baby”, and giggling to themselves. There are only two other mated pairs in the troop; the captain with his mate, Lina, a human and his partner, Kyra with her vampire mate Robin. Kristofferson and Lina are very private about their feelings, but Kyra and Robin are still quite obviously in the newly mated phase. Whenever the two of them aren’t working, they’re either downstairs hanging out or up in their room alone.
Sometimes some of the others get jealous. They look at Kenai and Kyra and want what they have; a mate or a great relationship. They’re barely in their twenties and are already mated for life. Well, the others might want that, but not Deck. The mate lifestyle is not one he plans on living, one where he goes on missions and then races home to be with his mate. He likes fighting crime, working out and training, and then occasionally hanging with his shield brothers and sisters. There was a time when he enjoyed spending his free time with a girlfriend…but that ship has sailed. It’s better this way. No distractions.
Deck falls asleep alone and he dreams about red hair, gray eyes, and pale skin. When he wakes to the sound of an alarm, Deck finds himself holding a pillow. It takes him a second to drag his mind from the lingering dream, but when he does, the alarm kicks his ass into gear. The alarm. It’s only used during emergencies. Deck throws on a pair of red and white pajama bottoms and dashes out of his quarters. He finds everyone else doing the same in the hallway. All of the others rush down the stairs, even Robin who doesn’t technically have to respond but he’s probably just as curious as the rest of them to whatever’s happening.
They find Kristofferson with Lina in the meeting room, waiting patiently for them all to enter and take a seat on a chair, couch, or wall. Deck grabs a chair next to Kenai. “Morning, ladies. Sorry to interrupt your beauty sleep, but we have a bit of a problem.” Kristofferson greets, his dark eyes scanning the warriors.
Elwood yawns and scratches his sun-kissed brown hair. “I’ll say. It’s five in the morning, Kristofferson.”
His thin lips form into a cheeky smile as he swivels in his chair. “I know. Do I look like I enjoy being up this early, Elwood? It’s an emergency.”
“What happened?” Raven questions, her black hair still wet from a late night shower.
The captain sighs. “It’s the adhenes.” Deck straightens up at the word. He’s forever conditioned to respond to that word and it will always catch his attention.
Gunner shoots his commanding officer a puzzled look. “The adhenes? But they never ask for help; they always insist on handling manners on their own.”
Kristofferson continues. “I know. This was actually triggered by the Shield Guild because they believe the adhenes need help. Every night for the last five nights an adhene colony has been broken into. They don’t know who it is, why they’re doing it, where they’re going to strike, or what they’re taking. What they do know is that the break ins are escalating. The first two nights there were no causalities. The third and fourth night guards were injured, and last night a civilian was killed. After that incident, the Shield Guild decided to take a stand and try to catch these guys.”
“And how are they planning on doing that?” Caul inquires.
“By this,” the captain thrusts some paperwork on his desk, “an adhene colony has been assigned to two different sets of Guild partners from different troops across the world. You and your partner will switch off shifts to watch your colony with the other partners. You are all to report to your assigned colony immediately and meet with your partners, the head administrator of the colony, the security team, and let the residents of the colony know what’s going on. Communication between the colonies sucks so you’ll probably be the first ones to tell them about the break ins.”
“Great…” Kyra replies dryly.
“Everyone go suit up and pick up your colony locations on the way out. Move out, ladies.” He announces.
All eight warriors tiredly change into their black leather armor and gear up with a good range of weapons since they have no idea what they’re up against. When everyone’s ready to go, they all line up in their pairs to receive their coordinates from the captain.
“North Carolina? Cool.” Elwood exclaims as he and the witch teleport.
“Alaska? Are you fucking kidding me?” Caul bickers. Then he and Anvy are gone.
Raven frowns at her assignment. “Idaho? They have adhene colonies there?” She questions as her tattoo glows next to Kenai’s.
Last but not least, Deck reaches for his assignment. Is it bad that his heartbeat increases and a sheet of sweat has lined his forehead? It won’t be what he thinks…he just needs to get over this. Instead, Kristofferson hands the paper to Kyra. “Hey, captain!” He complains. Deck has always been given their assignments. He was her trainer after all.
The captain smiles. “Deck, Kyra’s finished with training. Now she’s pretty much your equal.”
Kyra’s grin is way too wide for comfort. “His equal? I like the sound of that.” She flips the paper over so he can’t read it.
“Calm yourself,” he warns, “he said pretty much and I’m still your commanding officer when Kristofferson isn’t present.”
Kyra reads the assignment silently and nods. “Sounds good.”
She touches his shoulder and he doesn’t like how she doesn’t just tell him the coordinates. “Where are we going?”
Kyra’s grin grows even wider. “East coast. It’ll be fun, buddy.” Her vague answer doesn’t settle his anxiety. She teleports them. At first they are just looking at a lake that looks a little familiar. His pulse skyrockets, but he turns around. After he sees it’s not what he thinks it is…it is. He recognizes the light gray estate with white trim immediately. Fuck, no. Of course the captain would send him here. This would be his idea of a sick joke.
Kyra gushes at the large colony. “Oh my god! This place is beautiful… It’s so big! And look! There isn’t another place for miles.”
Deck fists his hands and grits his teeth. “Kyra…this is Oceanum Ventosa, isn’t it?” She just nods, knowing he has some problem with this place. “I can’t be here, Kyra. We have to go.”
She places her hands on her hips. “Oh? Okay, just tell me why you can’t be here and we’ll go request another colony. Otherwise, let’s get to work.”
He glowers at her. “Seriously? I can’t have any secrets, huh?”
“Don’t you trust me, Deck?” She asks hopefully.
He wishes he could, but no. There’s too many secrets, too many emotions when it comes to this place. He’s only been here once and it’s enough to make him uncomfortable on the grounds. He storms past her to the estate. Kyra trails behind him. “That hurts, Deck. That really hurts.”
When they get to the front door, they knock. A man opens the door and the adhene affects him like they always do. His smile is brilliant and warms Deck at once. Fucking adhenes… “Hello, can I help you two?” His voice comforts and soothes him, making him almost forget his anger. Almost.
He looks over at his partner who seems absolutely blown away with her mouth open and green eyes wide. This must be her first time meeting an adhene. Deck turns back to the adhene. “We are from the Shield Guild. We’re here to meet with your head administrator.”
The man nods and motions them inside. “Of course. You are expected. Please follow me.” He leads them through the colony, moving with such grace Deck feels clumsy walking behind him.
He snatches Kyra and pulls her along, ignoring the adhenes walking in the halls, eating in the dining rooms, and lounging in the sitting rooms. The place is like a huge golf resort, but the guests never leave. They spend their whole life in one space. Most adhenes prefer that lifestyle, but he knows one that enjoyed living off the grounds. They arrive at an office of some sort and the man signals for them to go in. He hits him with another smile and Deck shakes the effect away.
They open the door to a middle aged looking man with gray hair dressed in a suit who is talking to two warriors dressed in black leather armor. The man turns to them with a smile. “Ah! You must be the other two warriors!” With his hands raised, he comes over to greet them. After vigorously shaking both of their hands, he says “Welcome, welcome! Now that everyone is here, we can begin introductions. I am Elyon, the head administrator of colony Oceanum Ventosa.”
Deck motions towards him and Kyra. “I’m Deck and this is my partner, Kyra. We’re from Florida’s Shield Guild borough.”
One of the warriors, a tall, lanky blonde female says “I’m Jecylia.”
The other, a very pale looking guy with some muscle and gelled up hair replies “And I’m Chandler. We’re from the Pennsylvania borough.”
Elyon claps his hands together. “Splendid! It’s a pleasure to meet you all. I wish it was under better circumstances, but here we are. Jecylia and Chandler filled me in on the break ins. Such a shame. I hate bringing the Shield Guild into the colony, but I would rather be safe than sorry.”
Deck nods. “I couldn’t agree with you more. I actually have a question for you, Elyon. Just out of curiosity, what’s your resident retention rate?”
Elyon beams and it hits him hard. “Why it’s been one-hundred percent since I have been in charge, lad. And I have been in charge for half a century.”
Deck nods sadly. “So…fifty years. Great.” So she’s still here. Great.
Elyon heads towards the door. “Great. Now I will take you to the security office to chat with them and then there is a meeting going on right now about the break ins among my more prominent residents. We will be popping in at the end for you guys to deliver your message. Afterwards I was thinking of introducing you to my elected successor. Yes, I am currently the head administrator here, but I am retiring next year and my elected successor has already assumed some of my duties. I just want you to meet him in case you ever have to deal with him.”
Deck, Kyra, Jecylia, and Chandler follow Elyon compliantly through the colony, passing more and more adhenes. After their quick stop at the security office, they are directed to the conference rooms on the third floor. Elyon stops them at one in particular. “My assistant will come out and let us know when to go in. I assume you guys know what to say?”
Deck looks to the others to see if they want to answer. Kyra, surprisingly, seems to recover from the adhene effect and answers “Yes, we’re just letting them know that we are here as strictly a security precaution. We don’t wish to make anyone uncomfortable or infringe on any rights here. As soon as the culprits are caught, we’ll be off.”
Elyon nods, pleased with her reply. Deck is too. She’s getting good at this. “Sounds good.”
After a while, his assistant comes out to get them. The four warriors follow the head administrator inside the conference room. There’s a bunch of tables forming a circle, all facing each other. Each table is full of adhenes of all shapes and sizes. Everyone stops talking when Elyon enters the circle with a raised hand. “Good morning, residents. I trust you have all been told the news?”
Everyone nods solemnly. “Yes, it’s awful. I can’t believe this is happening!” One lady cries out.
“What will we do?” Another exclaims.
“Relax, everyone! The Shield Guild is here to help. I brought them here to talk to you.” Elyon steps aside and the four warriors enter the circle.
Deck starts off. “Hello, everyone. We are from the Shield Guild and will be here for the time being. Our goal is solely to uncover the criminals and stop these break ins before more innocent people are hurt. Until that time, we will be patrolling…” His train of thought and words die right then and there. In that moment, Deck finds himself making eye contact with a girl from across the room. Tabbris. After twenty-five years…he can’t believe she’s really here. She looks almost the same; her hair is still a light coppery red, her skin is still as pale as his, and her eyes…they’re still light gray like a stormy sky.
This whole time he’s staring at her, and then he realizes Tabbris is staring right back at him.