Updated: May 20, 2022
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.”
Micah nods with a defeated grin. “I just don’t understand him. He values his political agenda more than he does his own feelings. You saw how he was with her. We know what it is like. It has to be agonizing for him right now. Why is he fighting it so hard?”
“I don’t know,” Lazlo tells him. “What I do know is that she is safe, and she is being cared for. If she were here with us, we would have already lost the outpost and possibly her too. We need to figure out a way to deal with Atticus.”
Micah nods in agreement. “Do you have any other ideas? The werewolves might work out for us.”
Lazlo shakes his head, “not right now. I am still working on it.”
Rebecca jerks the glamour bracelet from her wrist as she storms out of the lobby. She scoffs when she sees Juniper by the car talking to Jeremy. Why is he here? She throws her hands up, “Well, that was a waste of time!”
Juniper sighs and drops her shoulders. “What happened?”
“That stupid Fairy bartender wouldn’t let me in.” She spins flopping against the car, crossing her arms. “I had that incubus eating out of palm, too.” She shifts her gaze to Jeremy. “What’s your deal?”
“I am looking for my sister, which is what you should be doing!” Jeremy snaps.
Rebecca rolls her eyes. “Your sister defected. She betrayed us. She probably got here and switched sides as soon as she was with others that were like her.”
“No, she didn’t!” Jeremy barks. “She is in trouble! She needs our help!”
Rebecca shakes her head and rolls her eyes. “You are so clueless. Let me enlighten you. We always knew this would happen. That is why no one ever trusted her. She was a walking disaster. You need to just forget about her and go home.”
“You don’t know her. She wouldn’t do that!” Jeremy thrusts his arms out. “You’re just jealous because you don’t have the talent she has.”
Rebecca is about to retaliate when Juniper jumps in between them. “Okay, that’s enough! Rebecca, we knew this was a long shot, but we had to try, anyway. Jeremy, your sister, is the reason we are here. We want to find her as much as you do.”
Jeremy shakes his head turning away in disbelief. “You don’t care about her. None of you do. You never have. I am not leaving without her.”
“Awe, her little brother, is going to come and rescue her,” Rebecca says mockingly.
Jeremy cuts his eyes at her. “That’s enough!” Juniper snaps.
Rebecca rolls her eyes. “This is such a joke. Just go home. You will only get in the way. I bet you have homework to do.”
“Rebecca, why don’t you wait in the car?” Juniper’s patience is wearing thin.
“Whatever,” Rebecca turns flinging the door open, then slams it shut.
Juniper looks at Jeremy, “there isn’t anything you can do here that we aren’t already doing.”
“What are you doing?” Jeremy asks. “What are you going to do now?”
Juniper sighs as she considers. “I am not sure. I have their number; maybe the best thing for us is to try and work with them or make it appear that way. We just need to get our foot in the door. If we can build some trust with them, we may be able to make some things happen.”
Unsatisfied with her answer he asks, “do you think that will work?”
Juniper shrugs, “I don’t know. I am open to suggestions. We have tried to sneak in twice and have gotten nowhere.”
Jeremy runs his fingers through his hair. “If we had more people.”
“If we had more people, what?” Juniper challenges him. “We could go in blasting. Then what? How many people get hurt in the process, and how do we stay inconspicuous?”
“Why do we have to be inconspicuous? We don’t have anything to hide,” Jeremy drops his hands to his side.
“Hasn’t history already answered that question for you? Society is not likely to welcome us with open arms. We need to stay discreet. Now, unless you have some other suggestion that would be helpful to our purpose, you need to go home. Barging into their place of business and making demands accomplished nothing tonight,” she turns walking to the driver’s side. She pauses and looks at him just before opening the door, “goodnight, Jeremy. I will let your mother know when to expect you home.”
Jeremy grimaces and clutches his helmet, holding it to his forehead. He curses in frustration as they drive off. He turns to walk to his bike and stumbles backward when Atticus appears. Atticus tilts his head to the side as he sizes him up. “We appear to have a mutual interest.”
Jeremy creases his brow. “Who are you?”
The corner of Atticus’s mouth curls. “Tell me, what is it like?”
Jeremy narrows his eyes at him, “What is what like?”
Atticus squares his shoulders and begins to pace a circle around Jeremy. “Standing in the shadows of others. Not being appreciated for your talents?”
Jeremy becomes pensive. His sister never dismissed him and always apricated what he could do, but she is missing. No one seems to be doing anything about it. His jaw flexes, “do you have a point?”
Atticus smirks stepping up behind him. Jeremy flinches and jumps away when he feels fingers stroke his neck. “My boy, the point is I have something you want.”
Jeremy gives him a sideways look, “how do you know what I want?”
“It is very easy to see,” Atticus is slow to say the words. “I can help you get that which you have lost.”
“And how would you do that?” Jeremy’s eyes study him, noting his slow gate and confident posture. He fumbles again when Atticus moves like an appreciation emerging in his space.
Atticus chuckles as he peers down his nose at him. “Shall I show you?”
Jeremy finds his footing and sneers at him. “I think I will pass.” He turns to start for his bike. Feeling a vibration in his pocket, he takes out his phone. He curses under his breath when he sees the word ‘mom’ flash across the screen.
“I will be waiting,” Atticus calls out to him. Jeremy glances over his shoulder as he puts his phone to his ear and walks away. His head lops to the side as he listens to his mother fussing at him.
“I must say,” Lazlo and Micah jump to their feet from the desk. Atticus leans back in the plush leather chair across from them. Pleased with their reaction, he grins and intertwines his fingers in front of him. “I am rather disappointed. I thought we could be civilized about this. Reaching out to those mongrels was unanticipated and juvenile. What do you think they will do?” He cocks his head lifting an eyebrow. “Do you honestly think they will come to your aid? Silly Fae, they do not share your interests, and I have no intention of pursuing the humans. There is no need to take what is freely offered, so your patrons have nothing to fear from me or my kin. You,” he points a finger, “however, you have placed me in a predicament.” He sighs and snaps his fingers.
The lights flicker. Micah and Lazlo become tentative ready to react. Vampires fill the room when the lights beam again. “Tell me, Fae, what are your intentions? Should I allow my brethren a little taste?” Lazlo reaches under his desk, and Atticus laughs. “Do you really think that will save you?”
Micah narrows his eyes. “Do you honestly think the Fae won’t retaliate if you assault us? What do you think my brother would do? You are a fool if you assume that he will be idle and not respond.”
Atticus considers, “this can all be avoided by returning the female to Earth.” He snaps his fingers, and the vampires vanish. The leather chair creaks as he stands then walks to Micah. “No harm will come to her. She will live out her days. I will not deny you her company, but I will act if she is withheld from me. Do we have an understanding?” Micha’s jaw flexes as their eyes stay fixed on each other. “I see that we do. You have twenty-four hours,” he tilts his head with a condescending smirk then disappears in a puff of smoke.
Lazlo looks over his shoulder at the monitor. He curses as he watches him lift cards from the table. “We need options,” Micah says.
Micah hears beeping from his pocket as he steps into the Crossroads. He reaches for his communicator and sighs when he sees it is Lazlo. He presses the pyramid-shaped crystal. “Hey, where are you off to? I tried to reach you on your cell, but it wouldn’t connect?”
Micah sees a vacant corner and steps out of the foot traffic. “I saw that we are out of tea.”
After a long pause, Lazlo asks, “you decided to get it yourself instead of sending someone?”
“Everyone is busy, and I am available,” Micah replies.
Micah can hear Lazlo shift in his chair. “Where are you going, then?” Micah considers if he should tell him. “Micah, what are you doing?”
“I am going to Dupont’s Apothecary,” he leans his back against the brick corner.
Micah can hear Lazlo’s chair scraping against the floor. “No! After what happened last time! She is not someone to trifle with. What do you hope to accomplish?”
“We have to do something! Wishful thinking is not going to deter the vampires. Liam doesn’t have the resources to help us, and we can’t give them what they want!”
“We will come up with a plan.” Micah hears his footsteps. “You need to come back.”
“We are out of options. We do not have the resources to hold the outpost. There is not enough time for an elaborate plan that will fail.”
“Micah, don’t do this. The cost will be too high.”
“The cost doesn’t matter. There is too much at stake to do nothing.” Micah taps on the crystal before Lazlo can reply. He looks around and steps back into the foot traffic.
When he rounds the final corner of a long row of shops, he jumps sideways. “Good morning,” Constable Easton says with a slight bow. “To what do we owe the pleasure of your company?”
Micah looks at him suspiciously as he straightens himself. “Just running an errand.”
Easton folds his hands behind him and nods. “Mind if I join you?”
Micah gives him a sideways glance. “There is no need. I am sure you have better things to do with your time.”
Easton shakes his head. “No, I believe that escorting royalty is a priority for me.”
Micah’s shoulders drop since his attempt at discretion has failed. “If you must, then.”
Easton nods as they walk together. “Where are we going?”
“Dupont’s Apothecary, for some tea.”
Easton’s brow creases. “That is an odd apothecary for tea. Are you sure you wouldn’t want to….”
“I am sure I wouldn’t,” Micah cuts him off.
“I see.” Easton pauses when Micah hurries his pace.
He stops and looks at Easton as he opens the door. “Thanks for the escort.” Easton narrows his eyes as he takes hold of the door and follows him in.
“Good morning,” a petite, young dark-haired woman says from behind the counter.
Micah glares at Easton, but he is oblivious. “Good morning, Ms. Brianne,” Easton bows his head.
She smiles, showing off her full lips. Bending her elbows and resting her chin on her knuckles, she attempts to be flirtatious. “Grandmother is expecting you.” Easton raises an eyebrow and turns to Micah. “I have tea, brewing for us, constable.” He shifts his eyes to her noting her adoring expression as she watches Micah.
“Come, your highness,” a voice calls from the end of a hallway.
Relieved to be separated from the constable, Micah walks past the counter and shelves of herbs. He follows the hallway to a curtain of beads. Pushing them aside, he steps into a small, dark room with a round table. “Sit,” an older woman with long, gray hair gestures for the chair across from her. “Shall I light a candle for you?” She waves a hand before he can answer, and a small candle ignites in the middle of the table. Long shadows cast as the tiny flame burns. “I have forgotten the comforts of light.”
“Aliyah, I am here….”
“Yes, I know,” she interrupts him. “Your mate is correct. The cost may be more than you are willing to pay.”
Micah lifts his eyebrow at her. “Tell me the future, fortune teller.”
“The outpost is lost,” she says.
“Then what choice do I have?’ he asks her.
She smiles at him. “You can do nothing and let it fall.”
He shakes his head, “no. That is not something I can let happen.”
“As you wish,” she dips her head.
“What will fend off the vampires?” he asks.
She flicks her wrist, and a medallion appears on the table. Micah reaches across picking it up. He slides his fingers over the engraved image of a two-headed bird. “Break the medallion, and the Gandaberunda will come.”
Micah nods, “thank you.”
“Your heir will be the one to bear the burden,” she says.
“My heir?” Micah looks astonished.
“Yes, your highness, in the not-so-distant future,” she says. Micah creases his brow at the thought. He has never considered the idea of children or heirs. He looks at the medallion again. “Would you like to reconsider?”
He thinks about what losing the outpost means to his people. He looks at her flexing his jaw. This woman’s talents are renowned, and she predicts a child to come. That would mean the future is determined, somehow. Is that even possible? What to do? Deal with what is now and let the future work itself out or do nothing and risk any possibility of a future. The answer seems obvious. “No, the cost is fair.”
She nods, “as you wish.” She snaps her fingers, and a parchment appears. She reaches across with a quill. He takes it from her placing the tip to sign. He winces when he feels a sting. The quill moves independently, drawing an emblem in his blood. When completed, he can feel it release its hold on him. He places it down, and the chair screeches when he stands. “It was a pleasure,” she says with an unnerving grin.
Micah cuts his eyes at her, and the motion of the beads announces him leaving. Walking down the hall, he frowns as Easton leans against the counter. All he wants to do is walk home in peace since he knows his irate mate is waiting for him. The idea of dealing with probing questions from Easton is not appealing. He attempts to charge past him in hopes that he will lose interest. “Have a good day,” Brianna calls out waving.
Micah swings the door open and curses when he sees Lazlo approaching. “Ah,” Micah turns when he hears Easton behind him. “It appears you are no longer in need of an escort,” and he disappears in a flash of light.
Micah walks to Lazlo, who is looking very stern. “Come on, let’s go,” Micah says without stopping.
Lazlo reaches out grabbing his arm. “What did you do?”
“What was necessary,” he says. Lazlo’s jaw flexes in response to his defensive tone. “There is too much to lose.”
“You should not have decided this on your own. What did it cost you?” Micah pulls his arm free and starts to walk away. “She has been wanting to get her hooks into you, and now she has.” He rushes to catch up with him. “I would have been here sooner, but all of the jump crystals were missing.” Micah reaches into his pocket and hands him a crystal. “So, you are not going to talk to me?”
Micah stops and turns to him. “Let’s just go; we can talk later.”
Lazlo shakes his head, “Micah.” Frustrated, Micah snatches the crystal from him, and they both flash away.
Micah rides the elevator as it travels to the top floor. He reaches into his pocket and touches the edges of the medallion. He wants to feel hopeful that this could be the item that tips the scale in their favor, but the conversation with Aliyah keeps replaying in his thoughts. Did he make the right decision? He scoffs when he thinks about his conversation with Lazlo. His points were valid, but Micah had to do something. He is always playing it safe and waiting for someone else to take the risk. Not this time; he is taking action to do something. He becomes stern as a sense of resolve settles over him. “Good evening,” Micah jumps, and Atticus grins when their eyes meet. “Mind if I join you?”
“Is there any point in saying no?” Micah watches as the numbers change.
Atticus steps up next to him. “You were so deep in thought you did not notice my arrival.” The elevator pings, and the doors slide open. Micah gestures for Atticus to step through. “How considerate,” Atticus nods. I hope you have heeded my warning. Micah stops gripping the handle on the door. “Let’s talk about it. Shall we?” He swings the door open, and Lazlo looks up from typing. He is about to speak when he sees Atticus walk in. He stands, and his eyes shift to Micah. “We have company. We ran into each other in the elevator.”
“So good to see you again,” Atticus says as he sits in the plush leather chair across from Lazlo’s desk. “Since the female has not returned to her apartment, I thought I would stop in and inquire. I do hope there is a reasonable explanation.”
Gatlin is working the bar as Juniper walks in. The dining room is moderately busy, and the bar only has three people with drinks in front of them. She steps up to the counter, and Gatlin looks up from his three patrons. Recognizing her, he gives them a courteous nod and walks over. Juniper notices their eyes as they watch him. She looks inquisitive since it is a full moon tonight, and they appear to be on the verge of shifting. “We meet again,” Gatlin says as he braces his palms against the counter.
Juniper smiles weekly, “we do.”
“Care for a drink?” he asks.
She shakes her head. “No, thank you. I am here to deliver a message.” Gatlin raises an eyebrow. “We do not wish violence or harm on any of your patrons, but we are done playing games. Return Kyra to us tonight.” One of the men at the bar notes the change in his mood, “Gatlin, is everything all right?”
Gatlin glances over, “thank you, Jackson. I can handle this.” Juniper raises an eyebrow at his dismissive statement. “Like I told you before, I don’t know what you are talking about. It
is not in your best interest to imply harm at any level. We do not take threats lightly. We will respond.”
Juniper nods respectfully, “I am sorry you feel that way.”
“Young lady,” she turns to Jackson. “Heed his warning.” Her eyes scan him and his company as they stand, and the sides of her mouth curl. “Have a good night.”
“What was that all about?” Jackson asks Gatlin as he watches her leave.
Gatlin shakes his head and sighs. “A Fae that was held captive by humans.” Surprise comes over Jackson, and Gatlin nods. “That is what all of this is about. The Enchanted of this realm thinking they can hold a Fae from her people.”
“I see,” Jackson says. “What has come of her?”
“She is home, recovering.”
“What do you make of the young lady?” Jackson asks
Gatlin shakes his head. “I don’t know. She is part of a coven. They have made several attempts to break in but have had no success.”
“Do you think her threat is genuine?” Jackson asks.
“I think their attempt will be genuine,” Gatlin smirks.
Jackson looks at him, unimpressed. “Your arrogance will be your undoing. Time and again, humans have demonstrated their ability. We are not afraid to embrace extremes when pushed.”
Gatlin nods, “it is the same with the Fae.” Jackson’s lips purse as he watches Gatlin greet his next customer.
The lights in the parking lot shine dimly as Juniper watches vehicles pull into the back row. When Elise, the coven mother, emerges from her SUV, Juniper pushes off from leaning against the hood and goes to her. “I take full responsibility for this failure, mother, my apologies.”
Elise’s flowing silver hair shines, accenting her aged complexion. “There is no need to apologize. We have gathered, and this will be concluded.” She places a comforting hand on Juniper’s shoulder, and Juniper tilts her head. “These visitors will know the consequences of their disrespect.” Elise turns to her company, “come! Let us gather.” Forming a small circle, she addresses the elders. “We all know why we are here. A sister has been taken from us, and mediation has been unsuccessful. Tonight, we will show these outsiders the power of the Descendants of Erebus. Regret and despair will be their companions this night. Go, and take your places….”
“STOP!” Everyone turns.
“Jeremy,” his mother calls out, surprised. “What are you doing?”
“Don’t do this,” he pleads as he approaches. “This is not going to work. What about Kyra? What if they….?”
“Enough, Jeremy!” his mother places her hands on his shoulders. “You should not be here. This is….”
She sighs and looks to the circle, “my apologies. Please, continue; I will join you in a moment.” Elise nods, and the circle dispenses. “Jeremy, this is the only way. If your sister could return to, she would have. We cannot allow this to ….”
“There has to be another way! What if she is trapped inside and can’t…?”
“Jeremy!” his mother snaps. “Think about what you are saying. Your sister is the most powerful witch in the coven. Do you really think there is anything in that building that can hold her?” She holds his gaze, and he starts to accept what she is saying. “This is the only way. They have taken her somewhere, and we cannot allow this atrocity.”
Jeremy shakes his head, “she can’t be gone.”
“I am sorry, but I am afraid she is,” she hugs him. “Go home; this will be over soon enough,” she steps back and looks at him. “I know she would be proud of you for not giving up,” she smiles. Jeremy’s head drops as he nods. “We will talk when I get home,” she rubs his arm then turns to join the others.
He watches her disappear then looks at the tall tower of glass. “I know you wouldn’t just leave. You are in there, somewhere, and I am going to find you! I am not going to abandon you!”
“Atticus,” Lazlo says as he sits down. “It is a little early for poker. Admittance is not scheduled to begin for another hour.”
Atticus leans back and intertwines his fingers. “Do you think I find your statement clever?” His gaze shifts between Lazlo and Micah, leaning against the desk. “Are you questioning my sincerity?”
Lazlo sighs, and his chair creaks. “There has to be some other arrangement that can be considered. What you are asking is not possible.”
“I see,” Atticus stands, and Micah jumps to his feet. “You will simply have to take her place.” When the lights flicker, Lazlo reaches under the desk for his sword. Atticus grins menacingly. “I think I shall enjoy this.” In a haze of movement, Atticus lunges for Micah. Lazlo swings his blade, and Atticus disappears in a puff of smoke. The lights beam, again and Micah curses.
Lazlo looks over and sees that his shoulder is bleeding. “Micah!” he calls out as he rushes to the minibar for first aid.
“It’s alright!” Micah snaps as he pushes up from the desk. “I was just grazed.” Lazlo walks over and presses a cloth against the bleeding wound. “It will be healed in a few minutes.”
Lazlo shakes his head, “I am sorry. It was not my intention….”
“I know,” Micah says as he holds the cloth to his arm. “I didn’t expect him to leave. Where do you think he went?”
Lazlo shakes his head. “I don’t know. Maybe he is returning with reinforcements.”
Micah nods, “Makes sense. Should we take this…?” The communicator beeps, and they both turn.
Lazlo taps on it, and Gatlin’s face appears. “Come to the bar. We need to talk.” He disappears before they can reply.
“What is that all about?” Micah asks.
“I don’t know, but we had better go and find out,” Lazlo says.
“What happened to you?” Gatlin asks when he sees the blood on Micah’s shirt.
“Atticus,” Micah says as he approaches the bar.
“Atticus did that?” Jackson asks, then shares a look with his companions.
“What is going on?” Lazlo asks.
“We had an interesting visit,” Gatlin says, “from the coven.”
“The coven, again. What did they want this time?” Lazlo asks.
“They gave us an ultimatum,” Gatlin says.
“You called us down here for their ultimatum?” Lazlo asks, annoyed. He waves, interrupting Gatlin. “We don’t have time for that. We need to prepare for ….” Everything goes dark, and the red glow of the emergency lights blink on. “What the heck?”
“What is this?” Jackson asks.
“I don’t know. Maybe we just lost power,” Micah says.
“Do you honestly think that is what is going on?” Jackson snaps. “You cannot be that naïve. You come down here with a bloody wound, and a coven has threatened you! What are you going to do?”
“He is right,” Gatlin says. “We need to evacuate the guests.”
“Were we going to do that anyway, so….” Shattering dishes interrupt Lazlo.
“Jackson,” says a guttural voice. “Do you feel that?”
“Yes,” Jackson replies in a low growl.
“What is it?” Lazlo asks.
“Coven magic. They are casting a demonic possession,” the guttural voice says.
“No,” Jackson interjects, “it is a legion possession.”
“What does that mean?” Micah asks.
Glowing, yellow eyes begin to shine from the dining room. The kitchen door slams open, “Kim,” Gatlin calls out to a yellow-eyed figure. “What is…”
“They are possessed!” Jackson calls out. “Come, we will stop the coven!” Windows burst as three shifting werewolves leap.
“We need to go,” Micah starts to back away as glowing, yellow eyes begin to gather.
A beep sounds from Gatlin’s pocket, and he reaches for it. “Sir!”
“No time to explain. We have a breech! Arm yourselves and avoid engaging the patrons at all costs. Fall back to the armory!” Gatlin orders.
“We are in rout!” he replies.
“Either of you have a jump crystal?” Gatlin asks as he hops the counter.
Lazlo groans. “They are in the room!” Micah exclaims.
“Guess we will have to do this the old-fashioned way!” Gatlin says. “It is fastest through the game room.” They both nod as Gatlin takes the lead.
“I can hear them,” one of the werewolves calls out. “They are chanting something!”
“Split up,” Jackson calls out. “Interrupt their circle, and their control will end. They will be in pairs; the caster will be guarded.” They separate, and Jackson follows the voice resonating in his ears. He knows who it belongs to, and he intends to take retribution. She has crossed the line using humans as weapons. He bounds through the wooded portion of the hotel grounds and finds her, chanting with her arms out while Juniper stands guard.
She spins when she feels his eyes on her. She flings her hands up in defense as the massive beast skulks towards them. “I wouldn’t,” she calls out. “This does not concern you.”
Jackson stands, letting his towering height loom over her as he approaches. She holds her ground and begins to whisper an incantation. “End this!” Jackson is barely understandable.
“You are on the wrong side,” Juniper tells him.
“I am not on a side. I am only concerned for the humans. Now, end this or….” He dodges when a burst of power streaks by him.
“No harm will come to the humans. The Fae have brought this on themselves!” Juniper calls out as she sends more blasts of power at him. Trees fall to the ground, and dirt sprays in his wake as Jackson springs away. He avoids her volley of fire as he charges at her. He stands up, reaching out to swipe at them. He swings and almost topples over when he feels nothing under his claws. He looks, and their image waves away. He curses then roars in frustration. He should have known what he was looking at. He lifts his nose in the air and sniffs.
Jeremy stands in the middle of the dark lobby. He looks around, trying to decide which way to go. He can feel the power of the coven as they begin to cast, and he knows he does not have much time. He reaches into his pocket, takes out her phone, and then pings her tablet. “Top floor,” he mutters. “That is as good a place as any to start.”
He looks for the elevator, and yellow eyes begin to appear. They hiss, “coven,” as he walks past.
Stopping in from the double doors, he sees that the arrow lights are out. He curses since he didn’t think about how the power outage would affect the elevators. His eyes follow the red glow of the exit sign. “The stairs it is, then.” He opens the door and looks up at the winding spire of steps. “You are so going to owe me when I find you.”
Gatlin opens the door to the game room and stumbles backward. “What is it?” Lazlo catches him.
He looks up when Micah curses over his shoulder, “vampires.” They look behind them at yellow-eyed figures closing, then red-eyed figures in front of them. “Anyone have any ideas?” Micah asks.
“Weapons?” Gatlin asks.
“There are none!” Lazlo says. Micah grits his teeth as he watches shadowy figures rushing at them. He reaches into his pocket. “No!” Lazlo calls out. Micah grips the medallion and snaps it in half. They cover their eyes as a gush of wind spins around them. “What the heck!”
A soft light burns and they drop their elbows. The shadows hesitate as a massive two-headed crane flaps its wings in front of them. It squawks as its heads move about. “What is that?” Gatlin asks.
“Aliyah called it a Gandaberunda,” Micah says.
“What does it do?” Gatlin asks.
“I am not sure,” he says. He looks at the crane, “clear a path.” The crane squawks and flies in the direction of red eyes. The vampires screech and cringe as it jets by them, and the three of them share a look.
“Go!” Lazlo yells. They hurry through the maze of poker tables and slot machines. Micah stumbles when a vampire lunges over a table. The crane appears and it falls, seething in pain.
Gatlin looks over his shoulder at yellow eyes closing in, “Faster!”
The crane breezes by, and the yellow eyes hiss, “legion!” They reach out to grab at then cry out in pain.
The crane squawks. “What is that smell?” Micah asks.
“Keep moving!” Lazlo barks. “We are almost there!” Gatlin crashes through the next door into a narrow hallway. They run to the end and jump down the flights of steps, pivoting from landing to landing. They barrel through the last door into the underground armory and slam to a stop.
“That was impressive,” Atticus says as he tightens his hold on one of the other Fae.
“Let her go,” Lazlo tells him.
He grins and lowers his mouth to her neck. “Why would I do that? She smells delightful.”
“Just go,” another Fae calls out, then winces.
“There is no need for heroics,” Atticus says. “We can negotiate a trade.”
“What do you want?” Lazlo asks.
Atticus grins, “hand me your prince, and you are all free to go.” The door crashes open, and the crane radiates a blinding light. The vampires writhe in pain and retreat into small, burning lumps.
“Let’s go!” Gatlin orders. They bolt out of the room and down the hall. “Roll-call!”
“All are accounted for! Orders?”
“Retreat! The outpost is overrun!” Gatlin calls out. “Fall back to the portal!”
“But!” Micah tries to protest.
“No buts! I am calling it! We will return and assess! This is over!” Gatlin barks.
“He is right!” Lazlo says as he holds the door open. Micah pauses and looks back as everyone files through. “I will deal with Liam.” Micah grits his teeth and shakes his head as they traverse the final set of stairs.
Jeremy buckles over to catch his breath. “This better be worth it,” he mumbles. He stands and starts down the hallway. He swings the door open and fumbles backward.
“Now, now, my boy. Is that any way to greet an acquaintance?” Atticus asks. The door clicks, and Jeremy panics. He rushes to leave, but Atticus appears in front of him and ticks, “I just want to talk.”
“I am not interested,” Jeremy replies.
“You don’t even know what it is I am offering,” he says as he strolls the room. “I must say I am impressed with your coven. They have masterfully swung the pendulum in our favor, but I suspect that this structure is doomed for destruction.”
“What makes you think that?” Jeremy asks.
Atticus shakes his head. “So young, so naïve, so much to learn. I recognize the incantation.” Jeremy scowls at him. “They do not know you are here, do they?” He grins at Jeremy’s stern response. “This is ideal, then.” Jeremy cuts his eyes at him. “Join me,” Atticus reaches his hand out. “We can bring her home together.” Jeremy’s brow creases. “We want the same things. Let’s help each other. I can show you what real power is.” BOOM! He jumps as he watches smoke trail up the window. “The clock is ticking. There isn’t much time,” Atticus taunts. Jeremy looks around and rushes to the window. BOOM! The building begins to sway. “Go on then, fly. You must know how.” Jeremy’s jaw flexes, and he startles when he feels Atticus caress his neck. “Allow me,” he says as they launch from the window.