Between a King and the Devil
Dagen walked out of his garage as I was driving away. I parked across the street, got out, and leaned against my car. He reluctantly walked out to me.
“You looked perfect tonight. I’m not used to the attention. I didn’t like it.”
“I’m worried about Leo. He’s on my mind. He’s also the one I go dancing with. I’m sorry I called you, Leo.” Dagen nodded and held my hands.
“You need to let them both go completely. We will find someone else to bring Henry out of the White.”
“No, I won’t ignore Leo. I can hear the battles in the White while I sleep. Henry’s voice wakes me up. I can’t ignore Henry.”
“What exactly does he say to you?”
“This morning it was, ‘Have a good day, my love.’”
“He’s not going to let you forget him.” Dagen grabbed my shoulders roughly. I didn’t flinch.
“You want to hurt me? Go ahead. You owe me a couple of deep puncture wounds.”
“The Clans are announcing me as MacTernan leader tomorrow.”
“Congratulations, am I in your Clan? Is there a secret handshake?” Dagen’s grip loosened as he stared at me.
“I only hold the spot for twenty-five years, then you take over. It’s your Clan.”
“Twenty-six years. Am I required to kill you for it?”
“No, I will give it over to you willingly.”
“Good because I won’t do that.” I ran my fingers across Dagen’s forehead, putting a stray lock of hair in place. “Maybe I can find someone who looks and sounds like you. They won’t smell like wood coals and mint or make my wolf spin in my chest like a ballerina, but maybe I won’t fall in love with them.
“Don’t say that.”
“I wish I could tell you what you’re taking from us, but Malou told me not to.” I pulled my hands off Dagen and really looked at him. “If you change your mind, come find me. I’ll keep my ‘no new people’ offer for a few days. I have a vampire friend. He would be more discrete than a wolf.” I looked up at the house. I can send someone for all my stuff. Thank you for putting it in the closets. It felt like I belonged here for a few hours.”
Dagen put his hand on my arm.
“Alerie, it’s not unreasonable for me to want you all to myself.”
“Oh, I almost forgot I talked to Meyer. He was angry at you for telling your friend I sleep with everybody, and he was angry at me because he wants me to date him, not you. I don’t think he’s angry anymore.”
“Thank you,” Dagen lightly traced my chin with his thumb.
“I apologize for making you uncomfortable tonight. I wanted you to feel proud to be with me. All I have is what I look like and how I treat people. I’m sorry what I can give you isn’t enough.”
“Alerie, please, I don’t want to end things. Come inside with me.” My hands started trembling, giving away how much I wanted to touch him.
I shook my head. “I’m not going to change my mind, and neither are you. There’s no point anymore. I’ve never done the casual hookup thing, but I can’t do casual with you.” I got in my car. He kept his hand on my door jam. “Please, Dagen. It’s all I can do to make myself leave.” He slowly pulled his hand off the car. I closed my door and drove away.
Pax texted when I was a few minutes down the road. “Where are you? Emma said you were coming over to play. I’m on my way.”
“I was delayed,” I typed. Dabbing my eyes with a tissue from a shoebox.
“Do you see a black limo?”
“Yes,” I answered.
“Follow it,” he typed.
The car’s taillights flashed, and I knew I was following the right person. The car pulled over, and Pax stepped out.
I followed into the parking lot. A man emerged from the limo and walked over to meet me.
“Allow me, ma’am.” He helped me out of the car and extended a hand toward the limo.
I walked toward Pax. His new body looked just like he appeared to me.
“You aren’t going to snap my neck, right?”
“No, my pretty. I hear you are a shadow monster now.”
I nodded my head and showed him my trembling hands. “Please, by all means.” I put my lips on his and felt the heat of his breath and the tingle of his magic on my tongue, but the intense spark from before was missing.”
“What is the sugary taste on your tongue?”
“Heartbreak and ice cream.” I climbed into the limo. Pax followed after me.
“I rather like it.” He extended his large hand. “Tell me all your troubles.”
I curled myself toward Pax and set my hand in his. He handed me a tissue, put his arm around me, and closed his eyes. While he read my mind, I had a good cry.
“It will all be okay, Little Worm.”
At the edge of Emma’s loud party sat a moss green, tufted couch. I sat on the middle cushion and swirled the amber liquid around the ice cubes in my glass. A tall glass of absinthe over frozen honey cubes was my poison tonight. Alcohol does little to dampen my mind. All I felt was pleasantly calm.
I decided on a simple fitted, black strapless dress. Black seemed appropriate while mourning so many private losses, plus I find myself uncomfortably warm inside most rooms. Overstimulation clutters my mind and heats my skin, making it harder to think.
I enjoyed a spectator’s view of the large room and the only entry point from my perch. Dagen arrived with four of his Clan friends. I should have waved or shown myself, but I wanted to watch him hunt for me. It’s not vanity on my part—he only came here to find me.
Dagen’s ninja skills were lacking. He passed by me twenty feet to his right. I nestled back into the cushion, allowing shadows from the lights above to hide me as I watched him mingle inside the crowded room. It is harmless cruelty, something I recently discovered I enjoy.
After watching Dagen become increasingly agitated, I resituated myself on the cushion tossing my hair, letting my scent waft into the room.
My hungry pureblood leaves behind a certain bouquet all wolves recognize. I’ve been told it’s like the call of their mother’s voice, but in truth, it’s more like the scent of her milk waiting to be suckled from the breast. A second cruelty hard-wired into the primal brain of my kind.
Eight wolves from the crowd whipped their heads in my direction. I stood, crossed my arms, and ran my fingers lightly across my bare neck. Displacing the light perspiration collected at my collarbone.
Dagen smiled and strolled unapologetically through the crowd. His traveling companions scanned the small area I occupied. Finding it acceptable, they relaxed and found drinks. Like me, the alcohol would not impair them.
“How are you,” he asked, bending down to kiss me and scanning my eyes for his answer. His question was multifaceted.
Did I need his pureblood to soothe me? Yes, I would benefit from his special attention.
Was I embarrassed by last night’s problem? No, I can’t help that I’m worried about Leo. He’s on my mind.
Did I give any thought to his ultimatum? I can’t give up Leo and Henry completely.
“I’m worried and hungry and alone, but I will endure.” Dagen wrapped his arm around me and pulled my shoulders to his chest.
“You are not alone. I’m only here for you, and I can fix hungry.” His smoldering voice plucked at a string deep inside my chest. The chord reverberated through my muscles, out to my skin, and into the air around me. I was glad I chose to wear underwear.
“Hmm,” I murmured, gagging on the fire in his eyes.
Pax walked up to me with a chilled bottle of champagne. The hunt was easier for him. His blood still flowed in my veins.
“I hear there is reason to celebrate. My beautiful shadow friend is newly single.” Dagen’s head whipped toward Pax.
I closed my eyes and shook my head. “What a pretty bottle,” I commented, reaching for his face as he pecked me on the mouth.
“My favorite, Krug Clos d’Ambonnay.” Dagen made a sound of approval and moved closer to the bottle, tilted his drink back, emptying it down his throat. Pax smirked and filled his glass.
Pax produced two champagne flutes from his jacket pocket and filled them, handing one to me.
“Wow, that’s my new favorite drink.” I smiled, swirling the golden liquid in my mouth.
Pax looked at the bottle closely. “Why wouldn’t it be.”
I found myself seated between the newly named MacTernan King and the devil’s right hand. Calling Pax by his biblical name seemed antiquated—he lives in the present. The syllables in his true name fill my mind with terror and my scars with pain.
Change marched over my life, leaving behind a barren mud-covered field. Henry in the White enabled by a corporate band of fixers. His wings tipped in fire and dripping with demon ichor. Leo happily trapped in the Grove while he heals, running free in wolf form with my second father, teaching him how to let me go.
The problem is I’m heartbroken by them all, and no amount of distraction will fix me.
Pax ran his new large hands over the fabric of my dress.” It’s soft and harsh at the same time. Very fitting for you.”
“Thank you, I didn’t want to come, but Emma guilted me into it.”
“Emma is quite put out. She lost a bet we made. I could smell the power in your blood the first time I encountered you. I told her you were my old friend, and you would not incarnate into anything less than the perfect hunter.”
“You would think if I were actually an old man Dagen and I would get along better,” I snickered.
“All things change, Little Worm. Enjoy what’s in your hands today. Tomorrow it may be dead or simply gone,” Pax raised his eyebrows. Was he toying with his words or giving me a subtle hint?
“He is particularly interested in your small buttocks.” Pax pointed toward a man in the crowd. “What purpose does this area of your body serve?”
“Sitting on, I suppose.”
“Primates use this area to attract suitable mates. Perhaps you should paint yours red and learn to shake them provocatively.”
“Oh my God, no.” I laughed. “Those are not the men I’m looking for.”
“You still seem sullen at the loss of your angel suiter or is it the old wolf today.”
“I hoped for something beyond me, and now I will suffer for a bit.”
“My kind does not create such situations. I don’t need anyone.”
“Hmm, that’s a strange-sounding life. But It does sound oddly freeing—to not need anyone.”
“What would you do with all your extra time?”
“Hmm, I have no idea.”
“The beauty of death is once you let go of the corpse rotting in the ground, you can be reborn into something new.” Pax winked and motioned to refill my glass.
I relaxed into the middle cushion. Dagen offered me his hand. I took it slowly, letting the tingling sensation grow between us before pressing our palms together, creating a jolt of desire. His ultimatum was becoming impossible to ignore.