Tanner rapped his knuckles several times against Winter's dorm door. The halls were basically empty now that break was in full swing. No one answered the door and he sighed to himself and turned down the hallway to begin wandering. Obviously Winter was off somewhere with Blake's two friends.
His lips pressed together in frustration. It was only a matter of time before Aion was upon them if he had survived the Land of the Forgotten. He turned the corner and nearly ran directly into the girl he was looking for.
"Winter!" He held out his arms to steady her as she jerked back.
"Oh. . .Tanner you scared me!" She confessed and glanced up to him. Winter's eyes seemed to narrow in response to his playful attitude. What if Randy was right about Tanner having a hand in Blake's disappearance?
"Why were you in the girl's hall?" She questioned and shrugged her bag further up upon her shoulder.
"Looking for you, actually." He sighed and reached out to grab her hand within his own. "I was going to ask if you would go grab some coffee with me."
She stood silently and eyed him up and down for a few moments, but she did not remove her hand from his.
"Where at?" She questioned and seemed to be intent on his words.
"Just down the road." He motioned with his hand. There were several small shops located just up the road from the University of Illinois. He figured a small walk through the dirt wouldn't bother her too much.
"Raymore Cafe?" He questioned and glanced to her footwear. "You might need some boots though."
She nodded her head in agreement and reached within her pocket to pull out the key to the door. She slid the key into the lock slowly and glanced back to Tanner.
"It'll just be a few minutes." She stated to Tanner and closed the door behind her. She sighed and pulled out her cellphone to text Randy and Simon.
"Find him yet?" She typed quickly and then turned to grab her boots from the closet. She tossed her hair up into a ponytail and slid on some long socks. She was very curious as to why Tanner was so insistent on hanging out with her. His advances only seemed to increase with Blake's disappearance.
She paused for a moment and gazed toward the window longingly. It was beginning to rain, again. The drops drifted gently against the glass and she frowned.
Had Blake really left her here after seeming so interested, was she being lead on? She slowly tightened the laces on her boots and looped the string between her fingers. She was beginning to miss Blake, but she had not known him long enough to be attached to him. She could keep her options open, as long as she was being objective.
She opened the door slowly and Tanner glanced up to admire her appearance. She half-smiled toward him as he reached out to offer her his hand. She hesitated and eventually gave up her hand to him.
"When's the dance again?" Tanner asked and stooped down to look into her eyes as they walked.
"Saturday." She answered curtly and dropped his hand once they got over a large puddle outside. She clenched her umbrella in her fingers tightly. He nodded at her answer and pointed ahead to where the restaurant strip lay.
"Winter?" Tanner reached for her shoulder again to catch her attention. "Yes?" She questioned and turned her head to respond.
"Do I stand a chance with you? I don't want to get my hopes up." He asked softly. Winter sighed as they stood out in the chilly afternoon. The light of a streetlight hung over their heads and illuminated Tanner's sharp features. For a moment, to Winter, he looked almost like a ghost within the rain.
"I guess you'll just have to find out." She thought about it for a moment and smiled.
He smiled in response to her answer and moved forwards toward the restaurant. His long strides almost forced her to run to keep up with him as they advanced forwards.
"So what do I have to do to get you to come to the dance with me?" He asked playfully once they reached the entrance. She was out of breath from the fast pace of their walk and the muggy temperatures of the afternoon. Darkness was beginning to fall around them.
"Blake already asked me Tanner." She responded and reached out to grab the handle of the door.
"Well what happens if he doesn't come back to school?" Tanner asked and placed his hands within his pockets. Winter pulled the door open slowly and then glanced back toward Tanner with a half smile.
"I'll give him another day to get in contact with me and then I'll let you know." She lowered her head as Tanner followed her in.
A perky thin waitress stood attentive for them as soon as they approached her. "Table for two?" She questioned and the pair nodded their heads. They were set by the window in a booth. A small candle illuminated the hard wooden table. The atmosphere was fairly quiet with soft music playing in the background and the occasional waitress talking.
Everyone was gone on break. Winter rested her chin within her hands and watched Tanner move. He noticed her staring at him and smiled. "What's up?" He asked and tilted his head.
"Tell me about yourself." She waited as he seemed taken aback by her question.
"Anything." She waited a few more seconds before he answered.
"Well I'm not from around here. . ." He mumbled and seemed uncomfortable in his seat. "Where are you from?" She followed up.
"Colorado." His eyes wavered from hers.
"What about you?"
"Here." She responded and seemed very intent on asking him more questions. "What program are you in Tanner?"
Again he stuttered "Sports management." She raised a brow. She didn't know if that was even a program here.
The waitress returned "are you two ready to order?"
"Yes!" Tanner pulled out his menu and ordered the first thing from the top. This human was very intrusive of his life. He glanced down at the wrist watch he wore. Typically, most humans would be content with just looking at him. The spell worked to fabricate loops and lies so he himself would not have to scramble for answers. This human seemed to avoid the Mind Teaser spell that he had placed upon her, rendering it completely helpless.
Earlier he had tried several spells to upon her. Forget spells and all types that did not seem to work on her at all. Tanner bit his lip as he watched her order from the thin blue menu. The only explanation he could think of was that she was protected by the magic of Aion's crystal. Which meant he would have to persuade her not with magic- but with his own charms.
He groaned loudly and Winter and the waitress looked at him questionably.
"You don't have the flavor of latte I like." He groaned again and peered up at them as the waitress left.
"How do you expect me to like you if I don't know a thing about you?" Winter asked him quietly and swirled her straw within the glass of ice water the waitress had brought them earlier.
Tanner shrugged and rested his chin within his hand. He glanced at his watch and muttered "I guess I'll just have to tell you."
Winter opened her mouth to respond, and her phone lit up. She raised a brow curiously and peered at it over the glass. When she read the message she quickly snatched her phone up within her hand and rose out of the booth.
"I'm sorry Tanner, but I have to go." She whispered, her voice cracked as she spoke. He stared at her intensely and grabbed her wrist as she turned to leave.
"Winter, what's going on?" His voice had a hint of concern within it. She fought the urge to cry and sniffled. She breathed deeply "my grandfather passed away and they're just now telling me." Her lip quivered and she pulled away from his hand to head toward the door. The air hit her face suddenly and was enough to push her over the edge. Tanner followed after her and placed her forgotten jacket over her shoulders.
"I just can't help but feel this is a coincidence. . .those girls had spoke of him!"
Her neck lowered and large tears began to roll down her cheeks. "Tanner, why didn't they tell me sooner?" She asked emptily and let her eyes fall down to the ground. She walked slowly back towards the dorm, soft sobs followed along with her.
Tanner accompanied her and he frowned at her responses.
"I'm not sure Winter." He answered honestly and placed a protective hand around her shoulder as they walked. It was getting chillier outside.
"When did he pass?" He reached within his jacket pocket to pull out a handkerchief, which she took thankfully. "Like, a day ago." She sobbed and increased her pace to walk faster.
"Hey, hey, Winter stop." Tanner's voice commanded and she was blindly turned to face him. "You can't be alone like this." He stated boldly and he placed both of his hands on her shoulders. "Get it all out now." She didn't dare tell Tanner that the police had investigating a murder.
She nodded her head as her lip quivered again and she leaned forwards to press her head against his chest. Her shoulders shook with every motion, and muffled cries sounded out within the darkness.
"There's no one left for me." Were the only words she spoke the rest of the night. Tanner glanced up at the streetlight that hung over them. Rain continued to fall all around his eyes and hair the longer he kept his head up. He sighed and peered down toward Winter. He draped himself over her to keep her warm and dry from the rain, but he doubted he was doing a great job.
This small human was pulling at his heartstrings the more time he spent with her. A half smile crossed his stern face and he placed a hand a top of her head as she cried. He ran his fingers soothingly through her long hair and ran them up and down her back to comfort her.
Tanner reflected on his actions. He had known it was her grandfather when he killed him, but felt sympathy for her now knowing the fact that she had no family remaining. It was easy to play tough, but when facing humans he had sympathy for their strong emotions.
To this girl he was not Asmodian, he was just Tanner. He wasn't a caster's spirit that everyone made fun of and looked down upon- he was just another human to her. The thought of Aion seeming so happy here in his ignorance crossed his mind again. A shroud of guilt clouded his mind and he sighed as she pressed her face deeper into his jacket to cry.
He wasn't sure how long they stood there for. And at the end of that time frame he embraced her within his arms and lowered his head to place it atop of hers in a gentle hug. They stood together soaked in the rain beneath the lamp post.
"It'll be okay." He whispered.