The mirror in my room reflected something I’d rarely seen: me in a new suit. I’d chosen pants–black–since healers could do little with burned flesh and my calf was a pit of scars. However, they made sure it remained operable, and though it was atrocious looking I knew I’d gotten off light. It’d taken a few weeks of physical therapy, in conjunction with the training I was doing to qualify for my new job, but the limp was gone and it only ached on rainy days.
No one could tell me what became of Apollo and Daphne, though I knew for sure she’d never returned to the sewers. The magical passageway was still there when I checked it out, but everything that had been in the chamber was gone–even the marble tree. Oliver reassured me that, if nothing had changed, we’d have likely seen something on the news if Apollo had gone on another rampage. The only indication I’d gotten that everything had turned out okay, was a bouquet of Laurel tree flowers that never died. I truly hoped it was a good sign.
I’d pulled half my hair back into a clip, and put on minimal make-up. The shirt beneath was a royal blue long-sleeved button-down, the jacket was black to match the pants, and I’d thrown on some new black hush puppies with a low heel and straps across the toes. The outfit was a congratulations from my parents, as well as their version of holding their breath; we all knew I’d never lasted long at a job, but we were all hoping this was different.
“I could have given you better, you know,” a familiar, low, sensuous voice crooned from my bed.
I shrieked like a banshee and spun around, nearly stumbling backwards into the mirror. He lounged across the bed, propped up on an elbow, his expensive suit as out of place in my apartment as a ball gown in a dive bar.
“I didn’t invite you in!” I scowled, breathless.
“Well, I am not a Vampire, so your invitation is not needed. Though, if you want to be technical, you have invited me into your life for the foreseeable future,” he said, reminding me of my debt to him. His honeyed words like a drug, loosening the muscles in my body and making my brain fuzzy. My eyes dropped, and I started to smile.
No! The word slammed through my mind like lineman with little resistance on the scrimmage. I straightened my slumping form, and glared at the demon.
“Stop that,” I growled. He wasn’t shocked at my resistance, but instead his grin broadened. “Why do you look like the cat who ate the canary?” I asked, not trusting his intentions one iota.
“This is going to be fun, little Mid. Try not to get too attached to Oliver; he does not always do what is best for his partner’s continued existence,” he purred, and promptly disappeared before I could say anything–or ask him what he was talking about.
My doorbell rang, and I swallowed the yelp before it came out. I’d need to steel my nerves if I was going to last even three days with the Omnies.
I strode over to the door, and opened it in what I hoped was a cool and calm manner. Oliver was on the other side, a half-smile greeting me.
“Nervous?” he asked.
I straightened my shoulders. “Of course not; lead the way.”
“Good. You’ll do great,” he reassured, and turned to head toward the stairs, me following behind.
We walked down the flight of stairs out to my stoop, where Viktor was sweeping, again. It was odd, to see him doing this when I knew who and what he was, but also not odd, because this fit him, too.
“First day?” he asked gruffly, and paused his work to lean on the broom.
“Yes,” I said, with only a slight tremor of excitement making my voice wobble.
“Don’t get eaten!” Techur called, then cackled, and Dan, Hank, Justin, and Gil followed suit. They appeared from the side of the stoop, their yellow eyes dancing at my expense.
“Useless mutts,” Viktor grumbled, almost affectionately, and the little pack laughed again. “You should all be at work.”
“We wanted to see the mouthy meat off for her first day,” Techur countered, “and our bosses know we’re coming in a little late.” Then he turned to Oliver. “You watch out for her, Omnie, or I’ll rip your throat out.” There was a grumbling assent from the other Shifters, then Techur winked at me, and the group loped off to work.
Viktor harrumphed. “You make strange friends, kotyonok, but it suits you. Be careful,” he said, fondly, then went back to sweeping.
“No parting words for me?” Oliver joked as we made out way down the last few stairs.
Viktor didn’t stop sweeping to respond; “I do not need to say anything; you know I could do far worse to you than rip your throat out if any harm comes to her. I trust that it will not.” His accent deepened for a moment, and I’d turned to face him when he started to speak. There was a darkness there, etched into every line of his being, that spoke of someone far more dangerous than I knew. Viktor was still relaxed when he said it, but it was the calm before a potential and violent storm, and though Oliver didn’t tense up, he couldn’t quite relax the same way as the Vucari.
There was a tense moment where neither of them spoke, then Oliver tilted his head to the right and tilted it downward in the same show of respect Viktor had given him at the meeting.
“As you say,” Oliver said, then unlocked the car for the two of us to get in.
If I though my life was interesting before, it was nothing compared to what was likely ahead of me. I wanted a job, but you know what they say: be careful what you wish for.