Updated: 5 days ago
In front of the door of the royal study, the guard holds his hand up to deter Micah and Lazlo from entering. “The king is not ready for you.”
Micah stops, glaring in response, “then he should not have called for us.” He barges past the guard swinging the double doors open to the lavishly furnished room. Lazlo groans as he follows since he already knows how this will go.
Liam is in conference with Demetri, the palace commander. He watches as his brother charges towards him. He narrows his eyes at him and nods to Demetri. “We can continue this later, thank you.” Noting the tension, Demetri gives a curt nod followed by a speedy exit.
“Micah,” Liam stands behind the executive-style desk to greet his brother. “Thank you for coming.”
“Spare me,” Micah snaps. “We are here. What is it you want?”
Liam looks to Lazlo, and he shrugs his shoulders. “Have a seat,” he says gesturing to the plush leather chairs across from him.
“I think I will stand, thanks. Can we hurry this along?” Micah snaps.
“Okay, I will be direct,” Liam sits down and leans back in his chair.
“That would be ideal,” Micah replies.
Liam intertwines his fingers and locks his eyes on his brother. “The both of you need to return to your post.”
“No,” Micah challenges him.
“It is not a request,” Liam says firmly.
“My answer has not changed,” Micah replies.
Liam sighs trying to stay civil. “Neither of you have been relieved from your duty. The duty, might I remind you, you begged me for.”
Micah crosses his arms, “things have changed. Gatlin is more than capable of managing the outpost in our absence.”
Liam’s jaw flexes in frustration “While Gatlin is a competent leader, he is not the one who is assigned to be its commander. That, dear brother, is your mantle to carry. You need to continue until new leadership is assigned.”
“Then assign it, now,” he snaps.
Liam slams his fist on the desk. “There is more at stake than some female you found on Earth!”
Micah’s eyes bulge in reaction. “She is not just some female, and you know it! We are needed here, for her!”
Liam takes a deep breath to settle himself. It is always like this with his brother. They are at constant odds with each other. He rubs his temples then speaks in a calmer tone. “The female is recovering. The royal physician is caring for her. What do you think you can do for her that is not already being done?” He looks him in the eye. “She sleeps, Micah, and will continue to do so until she has recovered. I need you to return to your post until I can find your replacement.”
Micah walks to him and braces his arms against the desk. He leans in with a challenging stare. “Why are you doing this? You know who she is to us, who she is to you. Why are you fighting it?”
Liam stands to meet his challenge. “I do not have the luxury of following whatever whim crosses my path. The current stability of the region is trepidatious, and I will not allow the influence of some random female to jeopardize the only hope we have for unity. Now, you will do as I have ordered, or I will have you thrown into the dungeon!”
They are at a stand-off. Lazlo walks over and places a hand on Micah’s shoulder. Micah shift’s his gaze to him. He gives him an empathetic look, and Micah reluctantly turns back to Liam. “Fine! We will go. But see that nothing happens to Kyra. Should any harm come to her, brother, it will be you I will seek retribution from.”
“Go, Micah,” Liam growls, “before we both say something we will regret.” Micah scoffs as he turns for the door.
Emotionally charged from their interaction, Liam walks to the window and looks out. He waits to hear the door click, then braces his hands against the sill. He is so selfish! Doesn’t he understand who he is, what he represents? He can’t just abandon his duty because he met someone new. Liam runs his fingers through his hair.
He gazes out the window to the starving foliage of the palace courtyard. Rain has become so elusive that it almost seems mythical. Natural resources are scarce. Outposts similar to that on Earth are their only reliable source for supplies. The blue horizon of the ocean is a tease since it is another natural resource that has been exhausted.
This female is a complication that he cannot afford right now. He is confident that her story is complex. How was she on Earth, of all places? Speaking with the doctor, she has experienced extreme levels of trauma, and something prevents her from healing as she should. She must remain a secret, or everything could fall apart. The timing for her arrival could not be worse.
Micah flings the door open to their apartment. “My brother is an idiot!” he belts out as Lazlo closes the door. He begins pacing back and forth. “He has no idea what he is doing!” Lazlo leans against the counter and crosses his arms, watching him. “He is so stubborn!” Lazlo nods, waiting for him to calm down. Micah spins to him. “Aren’t you going to say anything?”
“I don’t know what to say,” he shrugs.
Micah becomes defensive. “What do you mean? Do you want to go back to Earth?”
Lazlo sighs. “The female is safe here. There is little to be done until she has recovered. We don’t know how long that will take or what to expect once she does.”
“What do you mean?”
Lazlo places a hand on his shoulder. “I would like to learn more about her. I think that can be best accomplished on Earth.”
Micah furrows his brow. He had not thought of this. He has many questions too. As he considers, his temper starts to subside. He looks Lazlo in the eye. “You are right. The answers to our questions aren’t here. Even if she were awake, I don’t think she would be forthcoming.”
“Let’s go back and see what we can learn. We can start with her phone,” Lazlo says as he walks to the counter.
“What are you doing?” Micah starts to follow him.
“Calling Gatlin to get a report. He will want an update as well.” He taps a small crystal pyramid, and a holographic image of Gatlin’s face appears. “Report,” he orders.
“Business as usual,” Gatlin replies. “Nothing new to report here. How is the female?”
“Resting, healing. She woke briefly then fell back to sleep. It will be several weeks before she fully recovers. We are en route to return. We are expected to be there in two hours.”
Gatlin raises a surprised eyebrow but decides not to comment. “Understood; I will have a full report ready and waiting upon your arrival.”
“See that you do. We have much to discuss,” Lazlo taps the crystal, and Gatlin’s face disappears.
Micah waits with Lazlo in his plushly furnished office. Blinded by the late morning sun, he walks to the wall of polarized glass and dims the beaming light. They both look over when the door opens, and Gatlin walks in with Kim. “Do you have it?” Lazlo asks from behind his antique desk.
“I also have her tablet,” he places both items down before sitting in one of the leather chairs across from him. He gestures to his associate, “Kim has been kind enough to volunteer hacking into both of them for us.” Gatlin grins at his associate’s annoyed expression. “Why don’t you set up your laptop on the coffee table and couch while we meet.” With an eye roll, Kim retrieves the tablet and phone.
“Anything new to report?” Micah asks as he sits in the leather chair next to him.
“Not really. The auction for the grimoire is moving forward as planned. There was a last-minute addition that I did not expect.” Lazlo leans in with interlaced fingers. “Atticus Severan made an appearance.”
“The vampire?” Micah asks in disbelief.
“Yes,” Gatlin replies.
Micah and Lazlo share a curious look. “What did he do?” Lazlo asks.
“He played poker. He is on pace to be at the auction,” Gatlin tells them.
“What would Atticus want with a grimoire?” Micah asks.
“I don’t know,” Gatlin replies. “I almost didn’t let him participate but didn’t have a reason not to allow it, so I let him. He inquired about the both of you.”
“Us?” Lazlo asks in surprise.
“Yes, I found that odd as well,” Gatlin says. Lazlo leans back in his chair with a perplexed expression, rubbing his chin.
“Do you think this has anything to do with?”
“I don’t know,” Lazlo interrupts Micah shaking his head. “When we found her, she was being chased by a vampire horde. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but now I wonder if there could be a connection.”
“Those scars,” Lazlo looks at Micah. “She said they were from vampire attacks.”
“What would they want with her?” Gatlin asks.
“I don’t know,” Lazlo replies. “It is not typical for vampires to hunt other enchanted beings. The consequences of that kind of action could insight unwanted repercussions. We just assumed that when we found her, it was a random act, but maybe it wasn’t.”
“But she is Fae,” Gatlin says.
“On Earth,” Lazlo reminds him. “Very much out of her natural element and away from her people. Working with a coven, which I still don’t understand.”
They all turn their heads when Kim announces, “I’m in!” Micah walks over picking up the phone from the coffee table. “If you tap on google maps, it will tell you everywhere the phone has been.” Micah nods as he opens up the app and follows the directory to her timeline.
Lazlo notices his surprised expression. “What is it?”
“She is very well-traveled,” he says to him as he walks over.
“Where has she been?” Lazlo asks taking the phone. Looking at the screen, he answers his own question, “I see.” He taps on the device. “What the heck was she doing?”
“Here,” Kim hands Micah her tablet. “I have to go. I reset the lock screens, so they don’t need a code.”
“Thank you,” Gatlin says with a head nod as Kim leaves.
Micah sits and starts investigating the contents on her tablet. “She was looking for artifacts.”
“Artifacts?” Gatlin asks.
Micah nods as he flips the tablet for him to see, “yes. Her email is loaded with….” Micah chuckles to himself.
“What?” Lazlo looks up from her phone.
“She was quite the freelancer,” he shakes his head. “I made her an offer to work for us too.”
Lazlo smirks. “Her phone is loaded with missed calls and messages.” He turns his attention to Gatlin. “Has anyone unusual come around looking for her?”
“I don’t think so. If they have, they have not made themselves be known by asking questions,” Gatlin replies.
Lazlo nods as he taps on the screen again. “I found her address.”
Micah’s head snaps up. “Where is it?”
He looks a Micah, “near Little Switzerland. You want to go and check it out?”
“Yes,” Micah stands placing the tablet on the desk.
Lazlo nods and looks at Gatlin. “We should return in a few hours.”
They pull into the parking lot of her apartment building. “That’s her car,” Micah says stepping out of the passenger seat of the Tesla.
“We will bring it back with us,” Lazlo says as he closes the car door.
“She lived here?” Micah scoffs at the nondescript siding and basic structure.
Lazlo looks at her phone. “That’s what it says, and it looks like she was on the second floor.”
They walk to the entrance and magic their way past the lock. “That is a lot of curries,” Micah says rubbing the burn from his eyes. Lazlo grunts in agreement as he leads the way up the narrow steps. He refers to her phone again when they are in front of her door. “Is this it?” Lazlo nods as he magics them in.
Shock comes over them when they see how small and basic the space is. Micah looks over when he notices Lazlo’s smile. “I can smell her.” Micah smiles and nods in appreciation as they both start exploring. It is so sparse that there is not much to look at. The white walls are bare, and the furniture is modest. “Reading through her texts, I don’t think she was going to be here much longer.”
Micah opens her fridge. “What did they say?”
Lazlo stands in front of her bedroom. “Something about moving into the coven house.”
“Fridge is empty,” Micah announces. “Food doesn’t appear to be a priority for her.”
“Micah,” Lazlo calls. He goes to Lazlo bent over the bed. “We are not the only ones to have been here.”
“What do you mean?” He waves for Micah to help him. They reach under gripping the box spring. When they flip it over, they see a crest burned into the floor. “What the…?”
“That is a vampire’s crest. This space has been marked, so others know that she has been claimed.” Lazlo looks around for other evidence.
“How did you know?” Micah stares at the crest in disbelief. “Is this…?”
“I don’t know,” Lazlo tells him. “I don’t think the female knows either.”
“Kyra!” Their heads snap around when someone calls out her name. “I saw your car. I know you are here!” They rush to the door tucking in close to the wall. “Mom is so pi….” Micah jumps out and grabs him as he enters the bedroom. Jeremy tries to struggle and scream against his hold with no success.
“Calm down!” Micah tells him. “There is no point in fighting. We don’t want to hurt you.” Jeremy struggles some more until he realizes there is no escaping his grip. “Okay, we just want to talk. I will move my hand as long as you don’t scream. Agreed?” Micah feels his head nod and uncovers his mouth.
“Where is my sister?” Jeremy demands.
“She is not your sister,” Lazlo says in a flat tone. Jeremy tries to pull away then makes an audible wince when Micah twists his wrist. “She is Fae.”
“Where is she?” Jeremy snaps.
“She is no longer your concern,” Lazlo says in a condescending tone.
“Why did you think she was here?” Micah asks. Jeremy cuts his eyes at him, then to her phone sitting on the counter.
Lazlo follows his gaze and sighs. “Who else would be tracking her phone?”
“That is none of your concern,” Jeremy growls, and Lazlo belts out a laugh.
“Can you tell us why she was here, working with the coven?” Micah asks.
He looks at them like they said something stupid. “She is my sister. She was born here. Where else would she go?”
Micah sighs, “I don’t think he knows anything.”
“I agree,” Lazlo says. “We can….”
“Lux caeca!” Jeremy yells. A blinding flash of light floods the room. Lazlo and Micah cover their eyes as Jeremy grabs Kyra’s phone and runs out the door. After the light fades, they rush to the window and watch as he drives away on his bike.
“That could be a problem,” Micah looks at Lazlo.
Lazlo groans, “we will have to increase security.”
The hotel bar is overflowing with people and enchanted beings, waiting for service. Gatlin is ping-ponging between drink orders and backroom admittance. The other two bartenders zip around to assist, but neither can engage with the enchanted since their sight is spelled to gloss over them. “A little busy?” Micah quips as he jumps in.
“Nice of you to join us,” Gatlin says pulling down on a beer tap.
“Hey, he’s back,” one of the other bartenders calls out.
Micah replies with an appreciative head nod as he reaches for vodka. “How did it go?” Gatlin asks as he slides two beers across the counter.
Micah starts to mix a drink. “We got her stuff and her car, and found her laptop, too.”
Gatlin gestures to a customer for their drink order, “I will let Kim know.”
Micah maneuvers past Gatlin, “we found something weird.”
Gatlin reaches for the whisky, “yeah, like what?”
Micah nods pressing a button to let in an enchanted “a crest.” Gatlin gives him a sideways look as he grabs a coaster. “Yeah, have no idea what that is all about.”
Gatlin places a bottle on the coaster. “There is nothing about this female that makes any sense.”
Micah nods reaching for some glasses. “A human claiming to be her brother interrupted us.” He reaches for bourbon.
Gatlin grabs a lime. “What happened?”
Micah slides a filled glass across. “Lazlo enlightened him that she is not his sister, and he used magic to get away from us.”
Gatlin smirks as he mixes a margarita. “Bested by her little brother. It sounds like you two have gotten a little rusty.”
Micah belts out a laugh as he allows more enchanted to pass. “Your one to talk.”
Gatlin is about to reply when his gaze fixes on the next patron. People step aside and stare as a tall, stylish man approaches. His half-buttoned collared shirt advertises his well-defined features. He looks as if he just stepped off the beach with his light olive skin and gray eyes. “Atticus, it is good to see you again.” He dips his head in acknowledgment then uses his hand to move the layers of light brown shoulder-length hair from his face. People make audible gasps as they watch him. “Here for another round?”
Micah watches him as his gaze shifts to the booth where Kyra sat. Atticus turns his attention to Micah and smiles. “It is good to see you have returned, your highness. I trust your travels were uneventful.”
Micah narrows his eyes. “I don’t recall going anywhere of significance.”
The corner of Atticus’s mouth curls. “Your establishment appears to be in good standing.”
Micah cocks his head. “You appear to have developed a sudden interest.”
Atticus lifts a brow. “The interest is far from sudden, but I do appreciate a prime location.”
Micah grins and is about to reply when Gatlin interrupts. “Should I buzz you in?” Atticus cuts his eyes at him as if he had just been insulted. He dips his head and lets his fingers drag along the counter as he walks with his sight fixed on Micah.
Micah’s attention breaks away from watching Atticus when he hears someone clear their throat. “Evening Isaac. The usual?”
“That would be great,” he replies as Micah reaches for the vodka. “I wanted to ask you about Karen.”
Micah returns to the counter and starts pouring. “Who?”
“The woman you had just hired,” Isaac replies.
Micah has to think for a moment then he remembers. “Oh, Karen, yes, now I remember.” Isaac waits for him to elaborate. “Um,” he stutters, thinking about what to say. “She has to work a different schedule for personal reasons. Sorry, Isaac, she won’t be available.” He slides his drink across.
“That is disappointing,” Isaac replies. “She looked like a good time.”
“Buzz you in,” Micah has to bite back the growl that is starting to form. Isaac nods, oblivious to Micah’s tone. He turns to Gatlin. “Things look like they are slowing down. I’m going to talk with Lazlo.”
Gatlin nods, “I’ll call you if I need you.”
Lazlo is watching the security screens of the game room when Micah walks in. “I see Atticus has returned.”
Micah leans against the desk next to him, and they watch, “yes. He made it a point to call me by my title, and he knew we were away.”
Lazlo looks at him about to say something when the small crystal pyramid on his desk beeps. They both turn just before Lazlo taps on it. A hologram of Liam’s face appears. “You two are looking grim.”
“There have been some interesting developments,” Lazlo says as he returns his attention to the screen.
“Developments?” Liam asks.
“We hacked Kyra’s phone and tablet. We found out where she lived and went to her apartment.” Micah shifts his attention between Liam and the screens.
“We found a vampire’s crest under her bed,” Micah tells him.
“Do you remember who Atticus Severan is?” Micah asks.
“I do not focus on Earth affairs, so no,” Liam replies.
“He is an 1800-year-old vampire, and he is in the hotel,” Lazlo tells him.
“You think there is a connection, then?” Liam asks.
“It is quite the coincidence if there isn’t,” Micah says to him.
“That would be quite the coincidence.” Everyone whirls around when they hear Atticus’s voice. Micah jumps to his feet when he sees him sitting in one of the leather chairs across from the desk.
“Clever,” Lazlo says looking at the monitor and seeing Atticus is still participating in the game.
“Children are so easily impressed,” Atticus crosses his legs reclining in the chair. Micah and Lazlo share an unimpressed look. “It has come to my attention that we share a mutual interest.”
“And what would that be?” Lazlo asks.
“So coy,” Atticus quips. “It is adorable that you think you have the wit to match my own.” He mockingly puts his hands up, “youth.” His expression becomes more serious as he looks them in the eyes. “The female Fae.”
“You will have to be more specific. There is more than one female Fae,” Micah says to him.
Atticus smirks, “to shay. The one named Kyra. I believe you visited her apartment this afternoon.”
“What does a vampire want with a Fae female?” Micah asks.
“That is not your concern,” he replies.
Lazlo’s chair creaks as he leans back intertwining his fingers. “We cannot help you.”
Atticus lifts an eyebrow. “It would be in the best interest of everyone if you offered your assistance.”
“We are Fae; our interests are our own,” Lazlo tells him.
Atticus rests his head on a bent elbow. “Do you know how this place came to be?” He continues when they respond with indifferent expressions. “I remember when your predecessors came and made their proposal with the enchanted of this land. The mutual benefits that were proposed and the payment that was offered. Payment has come due, and my good graces will come to an end should there be an implied debt incurred.”
“Nothing has been implied,” Micah says to him. “We are Fae, as is the female. The concerns of a vampire do not interest us.”
Atticus grins at him. Micah stumbles backward when Atticus appears in front of him. Atticus reaches out his hand to grab his neck, but Micah is just as fast. He grips his wrist and wheels to slam him against the wall. Atticus evaporates to smoke and takes advantage of Micah’s pivot. He materializes slammings him in the gut, sending him soaring across the room. Micah rolls on the floor, and Lazlo rushes to him with a sword in hand. He stands over him, ready for conflict, as Micah coughs struggling to his feet.
Atticus stands proudly, tugging on the corners of his jacket. “The female has been claimed and should be returned, directly. The repercussions, should you choose to challenge the claim, will not play out favorably for you.” A sinister grin appears across his face as he watches Micah glared at him in challenge, then he disappears.
Lazlo helps him to his feet. “You alight?” Micah nods, trying to hide his embarrassment.
“Lazlo, Micah,” Liam calls out to them. “Our forces are stretched too thin for me to send you additional support. What do you recommend?”
“We are not giving her up,” Micah proclaims.
“Agreed, but this is far from over,” Liam replies.
“We can make some adjustments here,” Lazlo interjects. “We should consider a contingency plan.”
“Losing the outpost is not something we can consider. It is a crucial supply point for us. I am not going to let our people starve over a female,” Liam tells them.
“I won’t let you hand her over to them,” Micah barks.
“Then find a solution!” Liam barks back just before his face vanishes.
Micah slams his fist against the wall. “I can’t believe him!”
Lazlo returns his sword to the concealed location under his desk. “We need more information.” He looks over his shoulder at Atticus is still playing as if nothing happened. Atticus looks up and winks at the camera as he puts a card on the table. “Why do they want her so badly?”
Micah sits on the couch scrolling through Kyra’s tablet in Lazlo’s office when he feels Kim nudge his arm. He looks over and sees a laptop is being handed to him. “Here, it’s done. You have access.” Micah nods taking it as Kim stands and places items in a bag. “I have to go. I have class.”
“Thanks,” Micah places the tablet on the coffee table and shifts his attention. He smirks when he sees the Elders Scrolls screen saver. He notices four folders on her desktop: Fae, Vampire, Coven, and Freelance. To appease his curiosity, he clicks on the Fae folder. Thumbnails images of parchments and old paintings fill the monitor. “You were trying to learn more about us, huh.” He shakes his head and closes the folder.
He clicks on the coven folder and scoffs. “What the heck?” Thumbnail images of grimoires, old relics, and enchanted beings appear. He groans when he recognizes some of the beings and the items. The door clicks, and he looks up.
“Find anything interesting?” Lazlo asks as he walks to his desk.
“I would like to know how she came to be in the service of this coven. She was working with some other than reputable individuals,” Micah closes the coven folder and clicks on the vampire folder. “Whoa!”
“What is it?” Lazlo asks as he sits behind the desk.
Micah looks up at him. “She knew about the crest.”
Lazlo looks at him in disbelief. “What?”
“I’ll put it on the big screen,” he says as he clicks to share. Lazlo spins in his chair as images of the crest from under her bed fill the display. “Look, there is more.” He clicks on a picture of parchment with lettering on it.
“What does it say?” Lazlo asks as he leans in.
“I think this is some of her notes,” he clicks on a word document. “Quench the blood hex of Lamia’s offspring bound to the night and shunned by the light. Touched by eternity’s stillness, forsaken from heaven’s blessings. Seek the celestial progeny and drink the seraph’s essence to break the shackles that bind the posterity to obscurity.”
“What does all of that mean?” Lazlo asks with a baffled look on his face.
“That she knew what they wanted,” Micah replies.
Lazlo turns to him, “is there anything else?”
“Some information about Atticus and other vampires. It looks like she was tracing their lineage and trying to learn more about them,” Micah replies as he scans through images and documents.
“Why have they staked a claim on her?” Lazlo asks rubbing his chin.
“We have a problem!” They both whip around when Gatlin bursts into the room. He picks up the remote on Lazlo’s desk, and video of Kyra’s parked car replaces the images from her laptop. They watch as two women try to break into it.
Micah puts the laptop to the side and walks over. “Who are they?”
“I don’t know,” Gatlin replies. “Coven, maybe.”
“Detain them,” Lazlo tells him. “Find out what they know.”
Gatlin nods, then flashes away when he snaps a crystal in half. He appears next to them, places his hand on their shoulders, then disappears before they have time to react. “What the heck?” One of them says when they appear in a white room void of windows or doors.
“Have a seat,” Gatlin says pulling out a chair from behind the table. They both look at each other and stay standing. “Suit yourself,” he says folding his hands on the table. “Would you like to tell me what your interest is in the car you were attempting to jack?” The taller of the two with a chestnut complexion and short pink hair purses her full lips and looks as if she is considering what to do. Gatlin leans back in his chair, “I have nothing but time.”
“That vehicle belongs to a friend of ours. We are looking for her. When we saw it, we thought there might be something inside that could tell us where she is,” she says.
“Does this friend have a name?” he asks.
“She does, but you may not know it,” she replies.
He smirks at her cryptic cleverness. “If she was a guest, then we could help you out and look her up in the directory.”
“This is ridiculous,” the brunet scoffs.
“Rebecca,” the other whispers.
“No, Juniper!” she growls. She cuts her eyes at Gatlin. “He is wasting time; we know she is here!”
“If you knew that, then why try to break into her car? Why not just call her?” Gatlin says smugly.
Juniper sighs, “we just need to find her. Would you be able to help us?”
Gatlin shakes his head. “Do you have a picture of her?”
She reaches into her pocket and pulls out her cell phone. She flips it around for him to see. “I don’t recall seeing her here.”
Rebecca rolls her eyes, crossing her arms. “You’re lying! Next, you are going to try and tell us you are not Fae.”
“Fae?” Gatlin raises an eyebrow at her.
She shakes her head turning away. “Yeah, okay, like I believe that! Explain how we flashed in here, then.”
“How are you connected to this person?” Gatlin asks.
“She is a fellow associate. She was working to acquire an item of interest,” Juniper tells him.
Gatlin nods, “And what would that….”
“Just stop!” Rebecca barks and Juniper cuts her eyes at her in a warning. “We are witches in a coven. She is part of our coven, and she was here for the grimoire.”
“That’s enough, Rebecca!”
“No, I am not doing this cat and mouse crap!” She slams her fist on the table looking Gatlin in the eyes. “She was here, working with another coven to acquire the grimoire. We lost communication with her, and we want to know where she is. If you have her, hand her over.”
Gatlin narrows his eyes at her. “I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“Don’t mess with us!” she growls.
“That’s enough!” Juniper grips her arm. “You are speaking out of turn!” Rebecca looks at her then scoffs spinning away. She crosses her arms and leans against the wall, glowering.
Juniper pinches the bridge of her nose shaking her head. “I apologize for my associate, but everything she said is true. We need to find her.”
Gatlin spreads his arms, “sorry I can’t help you.”
Juniper nods, “okay then. What now?” Gatlin sighs considering her question. “How long do you intend to keep us here? If we came looking for her, how many do you think will come looking for us?”
“What makes you think we have her?” he asks. “The only thing you have seen is her car. There is any number of scenarios that could have transpired for her contact with you to be interrupted.”
“This is true,” Juniper agrees with him. “We intend to continue investigating until we know what has come of her or until we find her. So, I ask you again. What now?”
Gatlin crosses his arms rubbing his face as he considers. “I cannot allow you to remove a vehicle that is not your own from the property.” Rebecca scoffs rolling her eyes. “We will assist you where we can with helping you find your associate. My number is in your phone for you. Call, and we can arrange a time for us to aid you with your investigation.”
Juniper looks at the contacts in her phone. “Gatlin?” He nods in affirmation. She purses her lips since this is not what she had intended. “Okay then, thank you. Can we look inside her car?”
“I am afraid not,” he says. “You say that is your associate’s vehicle, but it could very well belong to another guest. I will need more than your assumption.”
“I see,” Juniper replies. “Well, if that is all, we should go.” Gatlin waves a hand, and the door clicks. Juniper smirks when the exit appears. She lifts her phone, “I’ll be in touch.”
“I am looking forward to it,” he replies watching them leave.
“Send him up,” Lazlo says hanging up the phone. He looks to Micah from across his desk, “Jackson Ulrika is here. He is on his way up with Gatlin.”
“You called Jackson?” Micah places his beverage down and sits across from him in a plush leather chair.
Lazlo sips his drink, “yes. I thought he might be able to give us some insight about what was on the female’s computer.”
Micah raises an eyebrow, “does he know why you called him?”
“I may have implied something about increasing the marketing budget for the hotel,” Lazlo puts his glass down.
Micah chuckles, “do you think it is wise to provoke the werewolf pack leader?”
“I don’t intend to provoke him. I just want to know if he has any insight,” Lazlo leans back in his chair.
“Oh, I am sure he will have some insight,” Micah quips.
They both look over when they hear a click. Gatlin swings the door open, and a clean-cut professional with a cool expresso complexion walks in. Micah and Lazlo stand to greet him. “It is good to see you,” Micah says as he reaches out and grips his hand.
“It is good to see the both of you,” Jackson replies shaking Micah’s hand then reaches for Lazlo. “How have you been?”
“Doing well,” Lazlo replies. “How is the family?”
“Doing great! I think Kyree is going to make varsity this year. He is really excited. It will do good things for his college application,” he replies as he sits.
“Oh wow, that happened fast,” Micah replies reclining back.
“Tell me about it. One minute they are dressing up as their favorite superhero for Halloween, and the next, they are asking to borrow the car. I don’t even know how that happened. His sister is right behind him,” Jackson shakes his head. “We will be empty nesters before you know it. So, you are thinking of expanding on marking. There are definitely some avenues we can explore. There is still some untapped potential on social media platforms, and your website could use some sprucing up too.”
“That sounds great,” Lazlo says to him, “but ah, let’s table that for the time being. Send us a proposal, and we can review it.”
Jackson narrows his eyes at him. “You didn’t call me here for marketing, did you?”
Lazlo intertwines his finger on the desk and leans in, “sorry but, no, not really.”
Jackson leans back in his chair giving them a sideways look. “Should I assume this has to do with the Enchanted?” He rests a temple on a bent elbow when they reply with silence. “We have talked about this,” he says with a frank tone. “The wolf pack will not be involved with anything having to do with your business dealings regarding the enchanted.”
“We know, and we understand,” Lazlo tells him. “I would like your input about another topic.” He taps on the keyboard, and the large monitor behind him lights up. Images of parchment, the crest, and Kyra’s notes fill the monitor. “I was hoping you would be able to tell us what you know about any of this.”
Jackson groans and shakes his head. “What is this all about?”
“We have no intention of getting you involved,” Micah tells him. “We just need information.”
Jackson’s eyes shift between them. “I will look and see what you have, but that is all.” He stands from the chair and walks to the monitor. He adjusts his glasses as he focuses on the information. “Where did you get this?”
“It came from an acquaintance of ours,” Micah says.
Jackson looks over his shoulder at him, unimpressed by his response. “The translation for the parchment is pretty correct. This crest is associated with an old family, a very powerful family. Whoever the vampires have claimed is bound to be subjugated by them.”
“What else can you tell us about the translation?” Lazlo asks.
Jackson shakes his head and turns to them. “It is an old legend that the vampires have been chasing after since before the existence of the werewolf. It is said they are the children of the demon Lamia cursed to walk the night and live off the essence of others. Legend states that their eternal night will end when they drink the essence of the one who is blessed with the divine touch. Whatever that means.” Lazlo and Micah share a look. “Apparently, you know what that means.”
“No,” Micah says to him. “It is just our associate has a unique ability that may appear to others to be a divine blessing.”
Jackson crosses his arms furrowing his brow. He points to the monitor, “this is nothing to be messing with. If the vampires have claimed your associate, they will not be able to escape them. Atticus is not someone to take lightly.”
“You know him?” Gatlin asks from the couch.
“I recognize his crest. He and I have crossed paths. We have the understanding to stay out of each other’s way,” he says. He notices Lazlo and Micah become pensive. “Should I assume that you have had recent dealings with him?”
“We have a conflict of interest,” Lazlo tells him.
Jackson rubs his chin, “what is the conflict?”
“He wants something that we will not give him,” Micah tells him.
Jackson shakes his head, “he is not one to challenge. It would be in your best interest to end your conflict with him.”
“We agree with you,” Lazlo tells him. “We just don’t know how to do it.”
Jackson sighs and walks back to his seat. “How many humans does this hotel accommodate?”
“We have 150 rooms,” Micah tells him.
Jackson’s lips purse as he considers what to do. He looks them both in the eye. “The werewolf pack is sworn to protect humans, and Atticus knows this. I am not prepared to involve ourselves in this situation, but I will remind Atticus of our mutual understanding.”
“That could be a beneficial deterrent,” Lazlo says.
“I suspect he has been visiting?” Jackson asks.
“Yes,” Gatlin interjects. “He usually arrives around nine.”
Jackson nods, “okay then.” He stands, “I will be by later for a drink at the bar. On the house.”
Micah smirks, “of course.”
“I think I will be going,” he waves his hand for them to stay seated. “I know my way. I will see you later tonight.”
“Thank you, Jackson,” Lazlo says as he watches him go.
“Jackson!” Micah calls out from the bar when he arrives. Jackson raises his hand in greeting and pulls out a stool to sit. “What will you have tonight?”
“Whatever is on tap is fine,” he replies. Micah nods retrieving a glass. “How is it going tonight?”
“Pretty steady,” he replies as he tops off the glass.
“Hey, Jackson,” Gatlin calls out as he walks in from the kitchen.
Jackson nods in acknowledgment as Micah slides his drink across the counter. He looks over when he sees two enchanted enter, and watches Gatlin buzzes them in. “Business seems to be doing well. What is the item of interest?”
“A grimoire,” Micah replies bracing his arms against the counter.
Jackson looks over the rim of his glass furrowing his brow. “That’s an interesting item to part with. Is that a wise choice?”
Micah shrugs, “it has no value. We had the spells evaluated, and they appear to be innocuous.”
“Who did this evaluation for you?” Jackson asks.
Micah smirks, “an expert in the field.”
Jackson appears unimpressed by his statement. He shakes his head, “just because you don’t know what it can do; doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous.”
Micah is about to reply when Atticus struts in. Jackson leans back in his stool and grins when his smug expression changes. “Jackson,” he says in a low tone as he leans against the bar. “The hounds have decided to come out and play tonight.”
“Just stopping in for an evening beverage. How about I buy you a drink,” Jackson sips on his beer. Atticus scoffs and looks at Micah. “No? Nothing on the menu appeases your pallet?”
“Vulgar,” Atticus mutters under his breath. “Micah, should I assume this is your response to our earlier meeting?”
“Oh no,” Jackson interrupts. “This is me visiting a very human establishment. Just checking in with my business associates.”
Atticus narrows his eyes, and he turns his attention back to Micah. “This affects nothing. You will return to me what is rightfully mine. Your little pets mean little to me.”
Micah is about to respond when a motorcycle helmet slams on the counter, and he looks over. “Where is my sister?” Jeremy snaps, and Micah curses under his breath. “I know she is here! I want to see her!” Micah looks at Gatlin, and he nods.
“I cannot help you,” he says to him. “I don’t know where she is.”
“You are lying! I am not leaving until I see her!” When he raises his voice, two large men start to approach.
Micah shakes his head, “like I said. I cannot help you. I don’t know who you are talking about or where she is.”
“Tell me about her,” Atticus interrupts.
Jeremy turns to him, and their eyes meet. He blinks, then his speech slurs, “her name is Kyra. She is a witch, and she was sent here by the coven. She is part F….”
“That is enough!” Jackson says as he stands in front of Jeremy, blocking Atticus’s influence.
Atticus grins, sadistically, and steps into his space. “It would not be wise to involve yourself in this, mongrel. The boy is enchanted and is not subject to human amenities.”
“I will decide whom I protect,” Jackson’s eyes flash, and a baritone growl emanates from his chest.
“Is that so?” Atticus looks down his nose at him.
“Why don’t I buzz you in,” Micah interjects.
Atticus glares at him, and his eyes move, between the two of them. “Mind your manners, mutt; otherwise, I may feel the need to put a collar on you.”
Jackson sneers, “we will see who’s wearing a collar when the sun comes up.”
When Micah sees them squared off with each other he blurts out, “Atticus!” There is a long moment between them as he scowls then steps around. Jackson watches him with a stern expression as he disappears into the backroom.
“What the heck?” Jeremy holds his head. “What did you do to me?”
Micah sighs waving for security. “Your sister is not here. I am going to ask you to leave.” Jeremy’s head whips back and forth. When he is about to say something, Micah puts up a hand. “Don’t! It will not work out as you think. You need to go. She is not here.” Jeremy looks to Jackson, who is shaking his head, slowly.
Overwhelmed with frustration, he snatches his helmet from the bar. “This isn’t over!” he yells as security escorts him out.
“What was that all about?” Jackson asks.
Micah shakes his head. “A very long story that you won’t care about. Thank you for stepping in.”
Jackson sighs, “I couldn’t help myself. He is the same age as my son. I don’t know what you have gotten yourselves into with Atticus, but he is relentless. He will not be deterred.”
“I hear you, but I can’t give him what he wants. It isn’t as simple as just handing it over and walking away.” Micah points to his empty glass, “You want another?”
Jackson puts up a hand, “no, I am good. I think I may be a regular for a little while, though. I might bring a few friends with me, too.”
“Thanks, I think having you here will be helpful.” Watching Jackson go he cocks his head when he sees Isaac with a pretty young lady hanging off his arm. “Hey, Isaac, how are you doing tonight?”
“Pretty good,” he replies. “Let me introduce you to you, Becky. Think you can make an exception for us tonight?”
“An exception?” Micah asks as he mixes his drink.
“For Becky, here. She’s going to be my lucky charm for the night,” Isaac grins.
Micah narrows his eyes at her. “Sorry, Isaac. You know the rules.”
“Come on, Micah. I am one of your best patrons. You can bend them a little, can’t you?” Isaac pleads as Micah fills the glass.
Micah grins leaning against the counter. “I’ll tell you what. If she can recite the Lord’s Prayer, then she can enter.”
Isaac looks at Becky, clutching his arm. “Okay, Hun, go ahead. You can do it.” She purses her lips attempting to look bashful. “Come on, now. You said you wanted to have a good time.” Micah smirks raising an eyebrow as he watches her fidget. When she realizes that she has been discovered, she huffs and stomps out. “What was that all about?”
Micah shakes his head. “It wasn’t you, Isaac. We have been having issues with one of the local covens. Go on; I’ll let you in.” Dejected, Isaac picks up his drink and proceeds. Micah looks down at his wrist when he feels his watch vibrate. When he sees a message from Lazlo, “Gatlin, I got to go upstairs. You got the bar.”
The door opens, and Lazlo looks up from speaking with Liam’s hologram. Liam follows his gaze looking indifferent as Micah walks over and leans against the desk. “Liam is just checking in. He is looking for an update. How are things downstairs?”
Micah relaxes his posture and crosses his arms. “Well, Jackson stopped in just in time to see Atticus. They were having words when Kyra’s human brother showed up.” Micah shakes his head, “Atticus started compelling him, then Jackson stepped in. He is going to be a problem; we may have to deal with.”
“What do you suggest?” Lazlo asks.
“I don’t know, but Atticus noticed him, and I don’t think that is a good thing,” Micah’s eyes shift between the two of them. “Jackson was there to stop him this time, but he may not be there the next time.” Lazlo becomes pensive and nods. “Then,” Micah rolls his eyes and flings a hand in the air, “someone from the coven tried to sneak in with Isaac. That was easily averted.”
“Will the werewolves be able to deter the vampires?” Liam asks.
Lazlo leans in intertwining his fingers on the desk. “Their alpha is reluctant to get involved, but he will not allow harm to come to the humans. We can use that to our advantage, for now. We will continue to look for allies.”
Liam nods, “good; I do have news for you. The female is awake.” They both perk up becoming more attentive. “Her injuries are slow to heal, so the doctor wants to take her to the healing pools.”
“You have to let her!” Micah interjects.
Liam gives him an irritated glare, “of course, Micah. That is not her biggest obstacle.”
“What do you mean?” Micah asks.
“She is not eating,” Liam tells him.
“But why?” Micah asks.
Liam glowers at him, “I don’t know.”
“Well, have you asked her?” Micah’s arms flop to his side.
“I have more to do than to worry about a female!” Liam snaps.
Micah holds his temples and shakes his head. “I am coming home!”
“No! You are needed there!” Liam barks. “The doctor has her care well in hand. You need to stay focused on the outpost. You cannot let it fall to the enchanted of Earth. That would be detrimental to our people.”
“The outpost can spare us for an afternoon; besides, we have her clothes. She is going to need them,” Micah says flippantly.
“I will send someone to collect her things. Stay where you are. Deal with this situation!” Liam’s image vanishes before Micah can retort.
“What is his issue?” Micah snaps.
Lazlo stands walking around the desk to him. He places a consoling hand on his shoulder. “I am sure we can arrange for one of us to deliver her items without him knowing.”