She found herself glazing over into an inescapable daydream state where her eyes seemed transfixed on nothingness. Every arrangement or meeting she made whilst in this state, made her wonder whether it all actually happen; The people, the faces, the voices, the places, had it all just been a dream?
Every word shared with another person felt unreal. When the confusion became overpowering she just wanted to cry. Or was she already? She placed a hand on her face, feeling the wet trail of fallen tears. There were a set of eyes on her, watching, waiting, but none stepped closer. They kept their distance, though the concern they felt for her was evident in their expressions. Yet, she was tense. They weren’t the people she once felt safe with. These were strangers. But, this was all a dream. So, she was waiting on time. Soon, it would bring her back to reality, soon the dream would wear off…It had to.
“She’s still looking out the window,” Mr. McCormic said as he closed the door behind him. They were at his home, or rather their home. Mr. McCormic’s estate served as a shelter for anyone that needed residence. Resting at the end of a private, formal drive, the breathtakingly beautiful French Renaissance chateau inspired Mansion, housed many of the Staff of the Purple Hermit.
It sat on 77 acres of land, including a bright, blossoming garden. The interior was painted in a rich creamy color with beige, tiled flooring. The windows were white-rimmed, with glass panels, and a grand, double staircase stood at the center. There were 50 rooms, each styled in a mixture of well-established French designs, giving it a flair of both 18th and 21st-century living.
He welcomed all, so long as they kept their trouble to themselves. As a peacemaker, he preferred just that; peace and quiet.
The graying old man shooed everyone out. They were worried about the girl but she needed time to recover. No doubt this was all weighing heavily on her mind. He wasn’t sure what her mental state would be like after she let go of the denial she was in and realized that this was all real.
“I honestly thought she would have recovered by now. It’s been a week.”
“Give her time Kaleb. It was too sudden.”
Sudden was an understatement. He hadn’t meant to shift in front of her. The sudden intrusion of her brother brought it on. If he could, he would redo the situation and take him on in his human form, but it was too late. It couldn’t be undone; Goddammit. His intentions had been to at least explain everything to her first.
Not to mention shifting brought on an entirely new set of problems. While she was recovering, everyone was packing and leaving, but doing so discretely. Leaving en masse would attract attention. They had to be careful, but time was running out. There was no telling when they would show up.
“What now?” Kaleb had been dying to go inside and see her, but he wasn’t allowed to. Mr. McCormic felt his presence would only make things worse.
Too bad Kaleb’s patience was thinning. He was tired of waiting, and if her brother showed up again, she needed to be prepared.
The thought alone of that bastard made his blood curl. He wished he had killed him, but Butch’s interference saved the man’s life. He rubbed his shoulder which had been wrapped up and still healing. He didn’t know what kind of bullet Butch shot him with, but it wasn’t normal. It hurt like a bitch and was taking forever to heal. Seems they had gotten some fancy toys over the years and they weren’t to be taken lightly.
They lost three people dealing with them that night. Revenge was in order, but of course, Mr. McCormic wanted them to wait. Frankly, it was grating on his nerves. He wasn’t the only one either. A lot of them were out for blood. It wouldn’t be long before someone gave in to the instinct to kill.
“I know what you’re thinking.”
“Really, then let me do it.”
The man’s face became serious, “As much as I’d like to tear them a new asshole as well, we cannot. In the meantime, I need you to look into something for me.” He walked away. The “follow me” went unsaid, but Kaleb knew to trail behind him. “There’s someone who has been bothering me lately.”
They walked out the door leading to the backyard. There were rows of trees as far as the eyes could see. The estate was built on the edge of town. In fact, one would question if it was really in the town at all. The entrance was lined by exotic flowers of all kinds, creating a kaleidoscope of colors, a stark contrast to the dark shadows created from the towering trees of the forest that spanned both sides, and even further behind the estate. “Do you remember Jamoy Pardus?”
The name alone raised a growl from Kaleb. “How could I forget him.”
“I need you to look into him. I think he’s involved with this somehow.”
“His scent was at the restaurant that night.” He knelt beside the growing flowering quince as they entered the garden and lightly rubbed the soft, pink petals between his fingers. “I had someone else doing a check on him but they haven’t returned.”
“And you picked me because…?”
“I needed someone competent.”
Funny, he had never been called “competent” before. “Now the real reason…”
McCormic chuckled softly, not at all surprised by Kaleb’s skepticism, “No one else wanted to do it.”
“But you knew I would.”
“I figure you’d want to take your frustrations out on someone.”
Kaleb’s lips formed a small grin. “You couldn’t have picked a better target. So what do I have to do?”
“Find him. Question him. I want to know what his intentions are. If he’s a threat, he needs to be taken care of.”
“So we can take out random civilians but not the people that blatantly tried to kill us?” Kaleb was confused. Shouldn’t they be targeting actual threats?
“I don’t think he’s a random civilian. I think he was sent here. I have a hunch why, but it has to be confirmed.”
Now he had Kaleb’s full attention. “What kind of hunch?”
“Are you going to do it or not?”
Guess he would have to find out for himself. He nodded his head and was about to leave.
“Yes?” His back was turned to McCormic.
“Do not kill him unless provoked. Understand?”
“I thought my job was to take care of him.” The older man couldn’t see him but he knew the boy was smiling.
“Your job is to gather information and then it will be decided how to handle him. DO. NOT. KILL.”
“I hear you, I hear you,” He waved off the command, not taking it seriously.
McCormic growled, “Have you forgotten why you are here?”
Ah shit. Actually, he had. “Fine.” He couldn’t afford to get into any more trouble.
When the silence lingered, he assumed there was nothing left to be said and left on his little mission. He knew what his orders were, but he prayed Jamoy provoked him. Hell, he hoped the guy attacked him. The thought of tearing into him made him tingle with joy and all he needed was a reason.
“You really must eat something.”
She looked at him, at the food, and then turned her attention back out the window. It was raining again, leaving a slight chill in her room despite the window being closed.
“What are you looking at?”
Nothing. Something. Everything. It was a matter of perspective. Silence, however, was her answer.
If he wanted to say anything more, he didn’t, but she could still feel his presence in the room. She wondered where the rest of the spectators were. Did they grow tired of her already? Good. She hoped so. She was tired of having sets of eyes on her as though she were some exhibit at a museum. Mr. McCormic faithfully checked on her every day. He brought her food, a change of clothes, and tried to hold conversations even though his responses were always met with silence. She had nothing to say to him. What was there to talk about? There was no way she could hold a normal conversation after all that has happened. There was no explanation he could give her why her family was trying to kill her or why Kaleb had…She shook her head. She would not accept this reality.
“You know,” Mr.McCormic began, “what you saw is not what’s going to be the hardest to come to terms with.”
Oh, so it got worse. Slowly, she turned her head, allowing her eyes to meet his. “Are you…”
He appeared startled by her voice, but only for a moment. “Am I what?”
She didn’t say anything else.
“If you are asking if I am like Kaleb, then the answer is yes. Not the same animal, but I am as he is.”
Ah, she turned her head back to the window. She definitely was not going to accept this. It was just a terrible dream.
“In fact,” Oh how she wished he would stop speaking, “Everyone that works at the Purple Hermit shares that trait.”
Not Everyone. He needed to stop speaking now. Why had she asked?
“Everyone Marissa,” he repeated as though it were a fact.
“Yes, Marissa, everyone.” The emphasis he placed on the word tugged at her emotions.
She tensed, feeling a spark of rage as he kept speaking. “Not everyone,” she bit the words out, knowing damn well that everyone was not like that.
“Every. Single. Person.”
The next two seconds spanned out in a set of very fluid motions. First, the covers were thrown off her body, Second, her body sprang off the bed and barreled into a mildly stunned McCormic. Her ears were sensitive to a shrill, threatening sound that was echoing in the enclosed room.
“Everyone Marissa,” He smiled, and as the sound picked up, she realized that her mouth was open and it was coming from her. God, she really wanted him to shut up! Her hands went for his throat but he flipped her over with far too much ease. Her struggles were easily subdued and he kept going on and on in that irritating voice, “What? You don’t want to accept it?”
Again she tried to wriggle out of his grasps but his hold didn’t budge. He hoisted her up and dragged her to the bathroom mirror.
Her eyes widened as she got a clearer look at her reflection and instantly shut her eyes and turned her head. “Don’t like what you see?”
This is a dream, it’s all just a dream!
“Look!” He held her arms behind her back with one hand and used the other to force her head to face the mirror but she wouldn’t open her eyes.
He hadn’t meant to be this forceful with her, but the gentle way wasn’t getting them anywhere. She had to come to terms with this now. She may have refused to open her eyes, but he knew she saw it and sooner or later she would realize that this was the reality, whether she believed it or not.
“I cannot help you adjust if you will not allow me to.” Slowly, he released her. “You’re free to leave here any time you want, but I assure you, you won’t last long,” And then he left her alone in the bathroom.
As she heard the bedroom door shut she dropped to her knees. She covered her face with her hands and shook her head. He was wrong. Marissa knew what she saw, but it wasn’t real. It was her mind playing games with her.
At last, she rose from the ground and when she looked at herself in the mirror she gasped.
The bright, slit, golden eyes were not hers. They couldn’t have been. She rubbed her face, desperately trying to wipe away the error. When she looked at the mirror again and saw that they were still there, staring back at her, practically laughing at her, she screamed, bolted from the bathroom and, without thinking, jumped out the window.
He couldn’t get near her. He felt like such a stalker. Every night he crept around the estate like a burglar, hoping to catch a glimpse of her because that’s all he could do. He couldn’t get inside. Or rather, going inside was a death wish. So, he chose to lurk in the darkness, watching her as she peered out the window in that zombie-like state.
At the moment, he was pacing his house, waiting for nightfall. Salima was watching from the couch, head in her palms with a look of disgust on her face. No surprise there. Ever since he made her come with him that night to take out the police at the restaurant they had been butting heads.
She was tired of him going out of his way for Marissa. He was mated to her, not that human raised bitch. Yet, he was constantly trying to see Marissa, thinking of Marissa, wanting to bed Marissa. She remembered the night he had called the female’s name instead of hers. She almost killed him. Well, she tried halfheartedly and failed. He had stormed out of their bedroom and never came home. She suspected he went to her, but when he came back, her scent was nowhere on him. Either he didn’t, or he got rid of the scent to avoid a confrontation.
So what was she? His bed toy? She had prayed to the gods that Marissa was shot during that fiasco at the Purple Hermit, but as fate would have it, she was spared. If it was up to her, she would have gone inside and killed her. But, it wasn’t.
“I’m going out.” Her thoughts dispersed as Jamoy spoke to her.
She wasn’t going to ask where. She already knew. “Whatever.”
“Problem?” He groaned. He really didn’t want to deal with her tantrum.
“My mate is leaving to be at the side of another female. Why would there be a problem?”
Not this again. “I don’t have time for this.”
“’This’ meaning me. You don’t have time for me. You only have time for Marissa. But you know what,” She got up and stormed past him and out the door, “I don’t have time for this either.”
He had nothing to say to her as they walked outside and went in separate directions. He didn’t ask where she was going. Something told him he wasn’t going to get an answer.
He’s mine, and I won’t share him.