I didn’t normally buy into pity parties—that just isn’t my style. However, there are always exceptions to the rules, and if one more thing went wrong today, I’d hang up my fictional hat, throw my hands in the air, and jumping feet first into a pool of, “Oh, woe is me!” tears.
Breathe, I commanded, and shut my eyes against the sight of the mangled counter. The acid ended perilously close to where a couple of our employees were standing, including Aida, while Davin ranted. It wouldn’t surprise me if they didn’t show up to work again…ever.
I cracked one eye open to where he lay not far from where I’d been seated by an officer, and the white sheet covering him barely moved when breezes blew in through the propped-open front door. A corner lifted when a particularly strong breeze rushed in, (smelling of the Chinese restaurant next door and water from the pending rainstorm, my spastic senses noted), and revealed a couple of fingers.
My overactive imagination needed little more than that to prompt the image of Davin and the ruin that used to be his forehead. I squeezed my eye shut again, and swallowed against the rising gorge that was my lunch trying to revisit the world outside my stomach. Sweat broke out along my body like water droplets appearing on a dry sidewalk just as the rain starts, and my breathing was shallow and weak against throat-scrabbling panic trying to emerge as a scream.
I can’t puke on a crime scene…I can’t puke on a crime scene…I can’t—“puke on the crime scene,” I finished with a strangled whisper.
“Who sat her next to the body? Get her the hell out of here before she passes out, throws up, or both!” a deep, resonant voice commanded, with a small slap of reprimand in his words and just a hint of southern drawl.
Large, warm, and calloused hands took mine and helped me to stand. Though I didn’t open my eyes, for fear any sight might trigger regurgitation, I recognized the soothing energy as Kyne’s. I didn’t resist or put up any barriers against his power, just let it wash over and through me as it coiled around my mind like an extra warm and fuzzy blanket; all comfort, and devoid of his kind’s usual naughty tones.
A persistent tugging at my hand had me floating through the store as though I was wrapped in a fluffy cloud, and my feet met nothing to trip them up as Kyne guided me to the kitchen.
“Don’t go overboard with her. I still need to speak with her, and I need her to be coherent,” the same deep voice said, and though the forceful tone had lessened into something closer to professional politeness, it still conveyed an order not to be trifled with.
“I didn’t mean to go this far,” Kyne said, voice drifting like smoke on a puff of spring air, “and I didn’t expect her to fall so willingly under the spell, or I wouldn’t have put that much power behind it.” He was dismayed, but nothing could touch me in the cozy haze of brain fog.
“Well, snap her out of it,” the man said, annoyed.
“I need a—ah! Chair,” Kyne said.
The same gentle pressure willed me down, and the moment my bottom touched the seat my mind began to drift toward sleep. How did I not realize I was this tired?
“Erryn, you need to come back to us now—the girls need you to come back to us,” he added.
Just as sweet dreams land was imminent, Kyne’s words wrenched me back to reality with the pain and force of a snapping rubber band.
I gasped, a small one I’ll grudgingly admit, and my eyes flew open. In front of me stood Kyne, and the worry line between his brows decreased a fraction. He gave me a small, apologetic smile and stepped to the side to reveal the other man.
A shock of recognition slammed through me when I met his eyes, which were the bluish grey of a distant mountain range seen through a haze of rainfall, and full of anger like a vicious maelstrom. He was a full-blooded Drakken. Having been around Danika recently, combined with the stress of the day and being taken over and forcefully snapped out of Kyne’s power, meant I was way off balance, mentally. That much rage directed toward me dropped me from the chair to my knees, and bowed my head, on instinct. A small whine escaped my throat as I waited for something awful to happen, but nothing did.
Silence, aside from the blood and adrenaline coursing through me and causing what sounded like the tide rushing the shore to pound in my ears.
“I see, you’re a half-kin,” he said, his voice, and more importantly to me, the word, neutral.
I remained where I was, frozen, not sure of what to do. Most full-bloods had some degree of emotion toward us, be it loathing, disgust, pity, and so on, but I had yet to meet a full-blood who treated the word as though he’d just said; ‘I see, you’re a chair,’ for all the importance it held to him.
Embarrassment rushed through me like a hot wave, followed skipping on its heels by horror. Sure, the dominant-submissive garbage was commonplace among the Clans when it was just Drakkens, but it was rarely aired in front of anyone outside our kind—like Kyne.
I fairly jumped to my feet, and almost clobbered the poor guy in the chin with the top of my head, as he’d come over to lend me a hand up. I stumbled back at the shock of his nearness, and tripped on the chair I’d just been sitting on. I ended up falling on the side of my left butt, my hip, and my elbow, all which sent a painful jolt up through me and I swore jarred a couple teeth loose. The chair tangled in my legs, for dramatic and mortifying effect, and I barely had it in me to look at the two men.
They both huffed small, astonished laughs, until the tears began to fill my eyes, and then they scrambled in a panic to help me up. The battle between amusement and not wanting to upset me into a full-blown crying session, waged war on their faces.
I blew out a breath and winced as my body let me know how much an inept idiot I’d been.
“That could have gone better,” I said, and bent over to right the chair.
They didn’t need any more prompting, and masculine chuckles rung against the stainless steel of kitchen appliances. With as much dignity as I could roundup, I sat back down in the chair and gave them the best, ‘Really?’ look I could manage. Kyne shook his head to clear away the remaining vestiges of amusement, and it left me to get a better look at the other guy.
As I said, he was a full-blooded Drakken, and based on his eyes and hair–the soft grey of an overcast dawn and cut almost too long on top, styled, and nearly buzzed to the scalp on the sides–he was from one of the grey clans. They dealt primarily in weather creation and manipulation, and the power that brooded below the surface of his being was heavy, like the air before a torrential downpour.
Though he was bulky compared to our usual lean frames, and Kyne next to him, it wasn’t unpleasant to watch the strength of him move beneath the attractively tailored black suit as he reached for a notebook and pen in a jacket pocket. The crisp whiteness of his shirt made his light tan darker than it was, and his tie was a solid graphite that brought out more grey than blue in his now suspicious, I’ve-got-the-look-of-a-cop, eyes.
The smile was gone from his lips, which were not quite as full as Kyne’s, and now set in a frown. He flipped open the notebook and my stomach tightened and fluttered at his scrutiny. Nervous, because he and I both knew I’d probably lie to him, and excited because he was hitting all my yum buttons. His narrow jaw line, clenched in anticipation for our conversation; his cheekbones, which were just a touch wider than the rest of his face; and an aquiline nose with nostrils flared as though expecting a fight, were just what the doctor ordered. Or perhaps, I bit my lip, and not in a way that I was trying to look seductive, he’s scenting the air.
His lips parted a touch and his tongue ran over them, as though he was wetting his lips, but it was a way for Drakken to scent their air with their tongues and not look like freakazoids. He pulled his tongue back in and surprise flashed through his eyes for a moment, before they became unreadable again. Once again I flushed with embarrassment, as I realized he smelled my desire like the aroma of baking cookies right around when they’re done.
I wanted to hide my face in my hands, but refrained, and sat up straighter and tried to appear like an adult—instead of the frumpy, jeans and t-shirt wearing teenager I felt like at the moment.
“I’m Special Agent Warren Berg, DSR, and liaison for all clans east of the Mississippi,” he said, and introduced himself, the slight Southern accent getting a hint stronger at the mention of Mississippi.
Accents in Jacksonville tended to be hit-or-miss. We were the No-Man’s-Land between the fast talking Hispanic accents in southern Florida, and the heavier Southern drawl of Georgia. His was just enough that it lent a sexy, instead of redneck, sound to his melodic voice.
“I’m Erryn, and this is Kyne. We are the owners of the bakery,” I said, and he probably already knew all this, but when someone introduces themselves you do so in return. Manners, and all that jazz.
“Why don’t we start by you telling me what happened?” he implored, and poised his pen, ready to write my every word as fiction until proven otherwise.
I recounted the events, and Kyne did as well when it was his turn. It didn’t satisfy Special Agent Warren, but I suppose if I wasn’t being told everything I wouldn’t be satisfied either; in fact I knew exactly how he felt. A conversation with Lord Kieran would be happening soon if I had anything to say about it.
“So you’re telling me you don’t know why he was here, demanding you give him this unnamed girl?” he asked, again.
I shook my head, and kept to the same line; “He just spouted off the weird poem, like we’ve said, and then he, well…” I swallowed again at the thought of Davin’s forehead.
“Right,” he said, and finished his notes. He snapped the notebook closed and put it and the pen back in their jacket pocket. He tried leveling one, final, intimidating look at me, and though it was a struggle I kept eye contact. It went against everything in my, ‘behavioral training,’ but I did it.
Special Agent Warren gave a final harrumph and looked around. “I was told by witnesses that three young girls were spotted coming back here. I’d like to speak to them as well.”
Panic clanged in my head like a fire alarm.
“You don’t need to speak with them, do you? They didn’t see or hear anything, and they’re just kids,” I reasoned, with just a hint of pleading thrown in for good measure. I didn’t think it was a suspicious amount of pleading, but the ball of worms in my guts really did not want to think about the backlash I’d get if the DSR liaison spoke with the girls in my care. It wouldn’t bode well for my well-being.
I didn’t know much about the DSR liaison position and how the clans regarded it, but anything to do with sharing information with humans always put them in a bad mood. Especially if it meant they couldn’t punish–see kill–whoever pissed the clan off, all because the humans were involved once the DSR got their hands on it/them. The clans tended more toward tortuous, painful ends, whereas the humans were quick about it, if they ever went to court. It took all the fun and vengeance out of it.
His eyes narrowed and frown deepened, which sent my pulse racing in a confused amalgamation of apprehension and attraction.
Gah, get a hold on yourself! He’s a full-blood and you’re a half-kin. Not to mention getting involved with him is no bueno since he’s with DSR. But the way those pants fit ever so nicely, and those long legs…Piss and vinegar.
My libido wasn’t listening and insisted on turning me into mess of conflicting thoughts and emotions.
“Here’s my card. I’ll give you a reprieve for today, but I want to see them at my office sooner rather than later. Don’t make me come looking for you,” he said, and handed Kyne his card. He nodded to us both and left without so much as a goodbye.
The biggest problem I was having now was a small part of me did want to make him come looking for me.
I was so screwed.