Before the demon’s fist could hit its target, he froze. Not in the sense that he stopped his movement, but as though someone had pressed pause and he was now suspended in time.
“Who said it was your decision on who could dine here, hmm?” a low, sensuous voice asked from my left. Though I credit myself with not gasping outright, I did nearly jump out of my skin at the man who sat beside me and seemingly appeared out of thin air.
“But he’s an Omnie, sir,” one of them grumbled, belatedly adding the honorific on the end, like an afterthought to save his hide. The newcomer’s eyes flashed scarlet, and when he turned to face the speaker, an overlaid image of countless, needle-sharp teeth, a snake-like nose, and horns similar to a Blackfaced Ram curling tightly on the sides of his head, took over the more human one he was projecting. This was accompanied by a low rumble and hiss I’d only ever heard in alligators, and as much as it shook me down to my soul, it certainly cowed the troublemakers and they fled, hurried apologies on their lips.
The last to leave was the man the newcomer had frozen, and though it was fleeting, the lead troublemaker shot a scalding glare at the man next to me before beating a hasty retreat.
“I could have handled it,” Oliver said evenly, and sipped his drink.
“They are nothing more than vermin, and need to be put in their place by the proper authorities,” the man replied nonchalantly, implying said authority was not Oliver.
Most supernaturals ran with their own set of rules, and tended to ignore, avoid, or eviscerate the Omnies. They were more in place for mortal peace of mind than anything else, but even I couldn’t deny that Oliver truly thought he could do some good with his job. Make a difference, so to speak. You wouldn’t think such headstrong idealism would remain with someone on the job as long as him, but somehow he managed.
“Well, it’s your place of business, but now you might have a time explaining why you ‘saved’ me,” Oliver replied.
“As if I care what those upstarts say or think of me,” he replied coolly, then his attention turned to me and I froze like a rabbit who caught sight of a predator. “It was so nice of you to bring me such a gift, Oliver; I’m not sure what to say.” His voice was low and seductive, and he gathered a lock of my hair over his long, graceful fingers. He leaned forward to inhale my scent, letting the hair slide over and out of his grasp, and I couldn’t keep from shivering.
“So intoxicating–the power, the fear, the desperation; it makes for quite the heady cocktail, likely to attract all manner of beasts,” his voice lowered further, and I met the now normal, shocking ice blue of his eyes.
“Ones like you?” I asked, voice hot and finding my usual ill-advised sass in the face of something that could flay my soul for eternity if he wanted.
There was a moment when everyone in the diner held their breath in awe of my audacity, including Oliver, when the man let out a burst of laughter.
“I can see why you’re in the company of Oliver, though it’s not likely a good idea to remain there for long. You’re a fascinating thing,” he said, and ran a finger lightly down my cheek, though my glare did nothing to divert him from his touch lingering for a moment on my jaw. “If you ever find yourself in dire straights, just call out my name and I’ll be there,” he crooned, and leaned over and whispered his name in my ear, his breath hot on my skin.
Before I could tell him I’d rather see the inside of whatever Hell he came from than ask him for help, he’d vanished, and the tension fairly bled from the patrons and staff of the diner. Even after he left, however, his name echoed in my skull like the sounding of a deep, persistent bell.
“Drai rarely gives out his name. You sure do know how to liven up my day,” Oliver said, sounding almost impressed, and giving the shorthand of the demon’s name. It didn’t do to go around saying their full names, unless you wanted their undivided, often irritated, attention. I shot him the same look I’d given the demon, and it had a similar, lackluster effect.
“Well, that was my goal for the day, to liven yours up. This is all your fault, you know. I knew we shouldn’t have come here.” I slumped in my seat and looked at the remainder of my uneaten food, appetite now gone despite my earlier hunger. “I don’t think I’d be a good addition to the Omnies–as you’ve pointed out, and as we’ve witnessed, I’m nothing but a boatload of trouble sailing on troubled seas,” I said dourly, and pushed a cold fry across my plate with a finger, not wanting to meet Oliver’s gaze.
“You may not want to join the Omnies, but I would like your help with the current disturbances. How about you reserve your answer until this case is over?” he offered, but once again kept his voice incredibly neutral. Though I knew his opinion on the matter, I appreciated the effort.
“Fine,” I grumbled, not liking the continued sensation of something ominous on the horizon, which only seemed to take a step closer with my agreement.
“Wonderful,” Oliver said and smiled, genuinely happy.