Excalibur ~ World from Ashes

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Chapter 14

Eating at the table with just Jace was rather awkward. It felt like I couldn’t really sit still and he didn’t look as if he were enjoying it either. As I took another bite of the salad that I had piled into my bowl, I chewed slowly before I glanced up at him and decided it was definitely time for some conversation. Honestly, Jace and I never really talked all that much unless Zak was around to help ease along the conversation. The most I knew about Jace was that he’d been with the gang for many years, he enjoyed guns and handling them, liked to spar with people –usually because he could kick their as- and had a bit of a sweet tooth, oddly enough. Other than that, I didn’t know him at all.

“S-so… Um,” I winced as I tried to put together a coherent thought for us to go off of.

“What is it?” his voice was sharp as he stabbed at his chicken, tearing it apart with the knife and then put it in his mouth.

“I…” with a sigh, I rolled my eyes. What the hell, might as well take the plunge. The worst that could happen was he got mad at me, which was often anyway so why not, “You don’t like me very much do you?”

Jace stopped, his gaze lifting from the plate to look at me in what I could only assume was shock, “The hell? Where did that come from?”

“Well… I mean… You’re always getting mad at me, and you don’t like talking to me, and then there’s Tristan…”

Jace sighed heavily and rolled his eyes, “Dude. I get mad at everyone. I don’t like to talk to anyone, and as for Tristan, that’s none of your business.”

I gulped a bit, “So then… you don’t hate me?”

“Why would I hate you?” Jace asked, flustered as he shook his head, hands hitting the table rather hard with each eating utensil between his tightened fists.

“U-um… I… don’t know.”

Jace stared at me, his green gaze hard. I didn’t think he was buying that at all and it was proven to be as he spoke again, his voice sharp with irritation, “You do know. That’s why you’re telling me this. Why do you think I hate you? Don’t make me ask again. I really hate repeating myself.”

“I… I’m sorry, Jace. I just thought that it was because of Tristan,” my fingers dropped my fork and I put them in my lap where I intertwined my hands and wrung them together.

Jace watched me for a long while, taking in what I said and then shook his head with a heavy sigh. He looked off to another part of the room for a moment before he returned his attention to his food as he sat across from me at the huge dining room table. Jace cut the chicken and took another bite. I was pretty sure he wasn’t going to answer me, so I turned my gaze down to the salad and went to continue eating.

“I can’t control how Tristan feels. If he likes you, he likes you. That’s fine and its none of my business. I don’t hate you for it. I don’t hate you at all, Valkyrie. It’ just… Seriously why the hell are we having this conversation?”

I glanced up at him and noted that his face was flushed red as he glowered at his chicken. I stared dumbfounded at him. No way! I thought as I watched him. He was redder than a beet across his face as he stared intently at his chicken with a look on his face like he wanted to throw it across the room. So, in essence, Jace just didn’t know how to express himself? Which resulted in his falling back on being ‘angry’ with everyone and coming off as an ass. I gave a soft laugh.

Jace looked up from his place, his eyes narrowing at me, “What?”

I shook my head, trying to contain my giggles which were growing in intensity, “N-nothing… pfft!” I sputtered and then doubled over the table, my hand on my mouth as I tried my hardest to stifle the laughter.

Jace looked livid now, although there was a mix of embarrassment going on too. I couldn’t tell if he wanted to sock me or leave the room, “The hell are you laughing at?!”

“S-sorry! It’s just… Oh man… Jace,” I tried to breathe properly as my laughter was making it hard to talk, “You’re actually a big softy aren’t you?” I grinned at him as I pulled myself up from my doubled over position across the table.

Jace’s eyes grew wide in shock, the utensils fell from his fingers and he stared at me like I had just revealed the biggest secret of the planet. Which honestly didn’t help him in the least because then I took in a deep breath of revelation that I’d hit the mark. His face grew taunt as his blush spread from his cheeks to his ears and more. I thought he was going to burst if it continued.

“Seriously!? Wow, Jace. I never would have pegged you for that.”

“Not a word!” he growled at me.

I couldn’t take him seriously anymore. I laughed at him and he seemed shocked at this. Jerking in his seat, he stared at me for a long while, his mouth opening and closing like a fish, which didn’t help my laughter at all. I think he was trying to figure out how to deal with this new situation and was failing. Of course, I wasn’t helping him at all with all of my laughter.

“S-sorry, I just… I can’t… This is too much.”

“If it’s too much then stop! Jesus Christ, quit laughing already, it’s not funny.”

“Oh… Oh yes it is,” I giggled.

He ground his teeth and narrowed his eyes, giving a slight growl at the back of his throat. Before I knew it, his napkin, all balled up in a tightly wound bunch of tissue, came hurling across the table at me. It bounced off my head and rolled across the table. I picked it up and threw it back at him which seemed to surprise him further as he simply leaned off to the side to avoid it.

“W-what the hell was that for?” he cried, his voice strained.

“Because you threw it at me first. It’s only natural I would throw it back, teddy bear.”

Jace stood up abruptly and rushed around the table. I flew out of my seat and bolted for the door. Food forgotten completely I laughed hysterically as I raced for the doors at the other end of the room. Jace was right behind, with a look of murder in his eyes. I knew he wouldn’t do anything to me worse than wrestle me to the ground and make me cry ‘uncle’. Still, the fact that I’d finally figured him out was a relief in more than one way.

As I shoved open the doors of the dining room I went pelting across the hallway toward the front of the manor. My laughter left a trail behind me as Jace shot after me, his voice yelling at me to stop and if I didn’t he would make me regret it. It had been some time since I’d laughed like I was, and it felt rather good to do so. I glanced over my shoulder and shot Jace a grin as I ran.

He shook his head, rolling his eyes a bit and I could have sworn I saw a small grin on his own lips as he chased me. However, the fun and games ended when I crashed into someone who took hold of my arms very tightly and then used my forward momentum from my running, and threw me to the ground on the other side of them.

“Valkyrie!” Jace’s voice screamed my name.

After hitting the ground with the force of a freaking two ton truck, I gasped heavily as I tried to breath, the air lost from my lungs. I lay on the ground, completely stunned and in shock at what the hell had just happened. Opening my eyes slowly, I tried to focus on who it was that stood over me. The ringing in my ears was loud and as I slowly got my bearing back, I coughed hard to try to loosen my lungs so I could breathe again.

Next came shouts, and a lot of gun fire. I winced as I pulled my body off to the side and attempted to get up. An elbow to my back sent me sprawling to the floor and Jace hollered for me from the hallway he was currently trapped in. Shit! Shit! Shit! The hell is going on?! I can’t believe this is happening! I thought as I tried to get up again. A boot to my stomach sent me onto my back and I coughed hard.

Worse yet, I didn’t have my gun on me because I had left it in Tristan’s room where we had been sleeping. Grinding my teeth, I tried to roll over and get back to my feet, but several pairs of hands dropped down on either shoulder. As I was hauled up, I spotted Jace utilizing a tall closet down the hall to keep from being shot. He kept popping out to see where we were, but he didn’t fire at as, probably because he was afraid of shooting me.

“Jace!” I shouted and pulled on the guys that were holding me. The ruckus by now had garnered the attention of most everyone that was still around in the manor. The few men that had attacked put me in front of them and thus halted any retaliation that the group may have given. I struggled vainly, pulling and twisting in the hands that held me tightly.

Finally, I straightened my body and sent a hard kick right behind me into the kneecap of one of the men holding me. He released my arm and dropped to the floor, clutching his knee. Whirling around, I slammed my fist into the side of the other guy’s face as hard as I possibly could. I felt the skin around my knuckles break and burn painfully, but I tried to ignore it.

Gunshots filtered through the air as I moved, Jace finally firing off his weapon from down the hall. One of the men that had been shooting at Jace took the bullet and fell back, stumbling before hitting the wall behind him. He crumpled to the ground in a heap and I struggled to free myself from the other man that held me. Until I heard the familiar click of the hammer being drawn back on a handgun and the press of cold steel to the side of my head. I froze.

“Fire off another round, and I’ll put a bullet through the little bitch’s head,” the voice of one of the men growled.

All shot ceased in the room. My heart lurched to my throat as I turned to glare at the man. My mouth opened and I almost said something, but for some odd reason Tristan’s voice resounded in my head, reminding me that my impulsiveness was going to get me killed one day. I bit my tongue. He would hate it if I said something and did just that.

“What the hell, Ray,” Jace’s voice called from the hallway, “What did Dane offer you to turn on Tristan like this?”

“A couple of interesting things really, not that you would bother with any of it.”

“So basically it just means you’re weak minded and easily swayed, pathetic,” I said, unable to hold back.

The man named Ray drew back and cuffed me across the cheek. I stumbled from the hit, hissing as I felt a burn in my mouth and the taste of iron. His fingers reached out and took a handful of my hair, bringing me back to stand there. I ground my teeth, breathing heavily as I tried not to shout in pain.

“Valkyrie!” Jace called out, he’d leaned out from behind the tall case and had seen the man slam his fist into my face.

I grimaced slightly as I glanced back over my shoulder at Jace as best I could. With the way I was being held, it was a little difficult to move. Ray shook me roughly and I winced, my hand reaching up to grip his wrist that held my locks of black hair. The other man that I had socked in the jaw still held my arm so tightly I was sure it would bruise later.

“Don’t worry Jace. We won’t kill you. Maybe you’ll be able to build up Fukkatsu in Tristan’s place.”

“W-what!?” I yelled, “What does that mean! What the hell are you talking about ‘in his place’? What happened to Tristan!?” I started struggling again only to feel something pierce my back a moment after. There was a sharp crackling sound and I let out a scream as everything burned painfully. Ray released my hair and I dropped to the ground, my body writhing violently. When it faded, my vision was going dark.

“Don’t try anything, Jace. The threat still stands, I’ll kill him if you so much as move a muscle.”

Arms hauled my limp body up and I heard Jace’s voice scream for me one last time before the doors of the Manor closed and I dropped into darkness.

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