BloodBorne Ch. 07bypurefire©
"He was looking for you, Xan."
Those six words haunted her as she desperately tried to concentrate on the sporadic conversation she had with Xion. Only it was nearly impossible to have any kind of conversation with anyone when those words were hanging over her head. There were too many variables to consider; she was Limani. She was meant to protect, not be protected. Why in the hell would she be this infernal key Sherlaine wanted?
"There's nothing she'd protect better."
Well that certainly wasn't true. She'd die before she let anything happen to Xion. But that didn't mean that she wouldn't fight tooth and nail to get herself out of a dire situation. And based on what she'd learned of what happened to keys like herself, she'd have no other choice; after hearing Alexis' outrageous hypothesis, she'd ripped the book in his lap out of his grasp and furiously read through the pages he'd marked with a paperclip. She ignored Liam's furious shouts of denial, searching for something, anything that would tear Alexis' theory to shreds. What she'd found however, was that Keys were amazingly valuable, as they were able to create bridges between dimensions.
And there were a lot of dimensions; not all had been uncovered. But there certainly were a few descriptions; a real life planet of the apes, dimensions filled with plant life so dangerous, a person prayed for a human-sized venus fly trap, and even a dimension dominated by flesh eating maggots that spit venom. What bothered her more than the possibility of flesh eating maggots was the fact that a hefty price was required if a portal was expected to open. As it was only humans who were gifted with the ability to create the bridges, the price was blood. The blood of the Key. How much blood, she wasn't sure; one account she'd read mentioned a goblet full. Another required the entire contents of the body. It depended on the portal to be opened; the more complex the dimension, the higher the price. That meant an increase in blood.
"I like this book. Do you think Alexis will let me play outside?"
Xan looked over at Xion, who'd paused in her intent reading of Bridge to Terabithia to ask her question. This had to be one of the rare occasions in which she was grateful to the silent leader; without his extensive collection of books, there would have been nothing to keep Xion's interest; her sketching would only get her so far before she felt the need to act like a normal eight-year-old. "That's a good question. But from what I know about Alexis, he'll probably just look at you before he shakes his head." Xan was able to imagine the scenario quite clearly; while it was clear that he was fond of Xion, he wouldn't allow her anywhere near the front door. Not after what happened at the cemetery. "It might actually be a better idea for all of us to stay in here for a bit."
"But why? It's going to get boring."
Somehow Xan doubted it. There were too many rooms in the house and too many things going on; even the person with the most severe case of ADD would remain entertained. "Let's make a deal; you read your book, and when you finish it, we'll find something spectacular to do."
Xion furrowed her tiny brow suspiciously. "Like what?"
"Well I can tell you now that there is a secret room in the house filled with nothing but video games. I'm thinking that once you give your brain cells a nice work out, we can kill them with mindless hours of Spyro." Xan hoped Liam had that game; there was no way in hell she was about to allow her sister to play war games. She smiled when Xion hastily returned to her book.
Xan glanced out of the window as a faint feeling of containment sizzled through her. Before this mess with Sherlaine, she was able to live a life she was comfortable with; she took care of her sister, spent time with her best and only friend and fought a few times a month to ensure her Xion's future financial stability. There were no worries about unknown demons who wanted to drain her of her blood to set other, worse demons free from one of those very scary dimensions.
She wondered how much blood was needed to open the portal. Self preservation told her it was a reasonable sacrifice to simply give Sherlaine the blood he needed - provided it was an amount she was comfortable sacrificing. After all, she'd been chosen as the key (she'd also read that the High Council chose specific humans they deemed strong enough to carry the ability). A pint or two wasn't so bad; she'd simply up her B vitamins and beet intake for a week or two.
But did she really want to be the reason some horrible event took place? This Zaide was put away for a reason and she was quite sure the only thing he had on the brain (provided the dimension he was trapped in allowed critical thinking) was revenge. She wasn't sure she could deal with being the reason any of Liam's brothers were killed. And if something happened to Liam...
He'd left her alone since the meeting in the solarium. Xan was sure it was because of the fact that she'd gone to great lengths to avoid him. Xion hadn't left her side, primarily because she kept them locked in their bedroom. Xan figured that Alexis had his brothers doing research that would allow them to develop strategies that would finally rid the world of Sherlaine. She still sensed his eyes on her, felt his touch. There was an emptiness within her she fought to ignore; missing Liam was not the smartest idea. But she did, and she didn't know how to deal with it. Xan hadn't decided on the path she wanted to take with him. Was it even smart to involve herself with a man who fought demons for a living? Considering her current profession, that was a stupid question. She had the choice to leave it all behind. He didn't. Liam said himself that the High Council employed him and his brothers to fight and kill demons as payment for their father's transgressions. His only way out was death.
That didn't seem to stop him from wanting a shot at a relationship with her. Dios he was stupid. What sort of relationship did he expect them to have when there was the threat of death over his head on a daily basis? Not death by demon, but death by a pissed off girlfriend. And there was Xion to consider; she was already fragile. She didn't need any more panic attacks due to random demon attacks.
Xan jumped when the large golden owl perched itself outside the window. It stared at her intently and she stared back, amazed that Euan could not simply knock on her door. She reached over to open the window and got it halfway opened before she realized that he clutched a note. The moment she took it from him, he flew away, leaving her to frown after him. With a shake of the head she opened the folded note and read the simple note from Alexis instructing her to go downstairs. While she wanted to become upset by the extreme lengths the man took to summon her downstairs, she appreciated his blatant attempt at maintaining her space and privacy. Either that or he probably thought she wanted to punch him in the face for adding another complication to her life. "All right kid, break time," Xan announced as she stood up and moved toward the door. "You need a snack."
"I'm not hungry."
"That's fine. You can keep me company then." Xan held out her hand and waited for her sister to take it before leading her out of their bedroom. She still couldn't get over the wealth of the house as she walked through the hallways; the carpet alone had to be worth a few hundred thousand. She shook her head as she trudged on, determined to focus on the mysterious reason behind her extravagant summons.
There were voices coming from the kitchen, one of which was distinctly female. Curiosity pushed Xan to hurry to the kitchen, where she found a new, ridiculously handsome man standing next to a pretty woman whose face was slightly flushed. Based on the protective way he kept an arm around her shoulder, she assumed that they were a pair. One look at the third finger of their left hands confirmed her suspicions. Xan moved her gaze to their faces; the woman, she noticed, was on the taller side, with the kind of figure that should have graced the advertisements for plus sized lingerie. Pretty dark brown eyes shone under the attention of the men who surrounded her; they looked compellingly slanted when she titled her oval face in thought. Xan found the dimple in her chin endearing when she smiled. The woman brushed a sepia colored hand over the expanse of one of her arms before she glanced at the man standing beside her.
And what a formidable looking man he was.
Under the fluorescent lights, his red hair looked more like maroon. Xan wondered how long it took to mix the exact color at the salon. It was a nice color though, especially since he chose to wear it on the longer side, framing his long, angular face. Thick sable eyebrows slashed over startling green eyes. He was a looker, all right, and it was a good thing she only had eyes for Liam; the woman would have had worries otherwise.
"Xan, this is our brother Lindsay and his wife, Alauria."
Xan blinked as Alexis' words cut through her thoughts. She then realized that Lindsay and Alauria stared at her expectantly, as if there was something witty or memorable she was supposed to say. "What's up?" she murmured. Alauria stepped forward to take hold of her hand and Xan gasped at the shock that went through her body at their touch.
"Sorry," Alauria said, "I still haven't quite gotten the hang of controlling that ability."
"Oh, so you're a paranormal too?"
"You could say that," Lindsay replied. He did not bother to step forward to take hold of her hand but stared at her. She looked very much like a boy, he noticed, but it was obvious that she was female. She wore a long sleeved shirt, making it impossible for him to see the markings his brother described. "Lex has told us a lot about you."
"I find that hard to believe considering he only says five words an hour." Xan glanced over at the quiet man and could have sworn that she saw the side of his mouth quirk up in a smile.
"He rarely speaks verbally," Lindsay said, "Quite the savvy texter, though."
"Bullshit," Liam countered, "He never sends me a text message." Outside of the random instant message or phone call, Alexis only spoke to Liam directly. The fact that they were one of the few brothers who stayed at the manor regularly did nothing to lessen Liam's annoyance.
"Sucks to be you," Lindsay said on a shrug. He turned back to Xan, whose brow was furrowed in thought. "Sherlaine, huh? When do we kill him?"
"As soon as Andrae's temper cools," Roman said. He leaned against the refrigerator, quietly regarding the new members to their private council. "He and Lex got into it."
"Is he all right?" Lindsay asked.
"He'll be fine," Alexis murmured from the kitchen island. "But his issues are not why you are here."
Xan barely noticed Xion seating herself at the island next to Alexis as she watched Lindsay and his wife. They seemed very in tune with one another, moving around each other like their own personal solar system. If she moved, he shifted, and vice versa. A living representation of consuming, life-changing love. She glanced over at Liam, who used that penetrating gaze of his to look straight into her soul. Did he know her thoughts, she wondered. "Uh, so you guys are here to sit around and make plans like the rest of them?"
Lindsay looked from Xan to Liam, who looked to be having some sort of conversation with their eyes. She'd ignited his brother's temper, but it seemed to be what she wanted; there was a glitter of relief in her brown eyes. "My brothers like to strategize, Xan. It's the only way to defeat a demon like Sherlaine."
"Do you know what kind of demon he is? Because no one else seems to."
"My guess is that he's some kind of Mordecai hybrid."
Xan turned her attention to Lindsay and felt her face flush at the knowing look he gave her. She had a bit of a thing for redheads, she noticed; Lindsay was the only other brother she faced who made her uneasy on her feet. She didn't even have an urge to give him lip. "You mean those human looking demons that drink blood like vampires do?" She'd fought a couple of those demons in the past. Strong fighters, but clumsy if not properly trained. If Sherlaine truly was one of them, if he was part of the clan, she had more to worry about. "Is that why he wants my blood? If he drinks it then he becomes the key or something?"
"He wouldn't want that kind of vulnerability," Alexis said. He pulled Xion's chair toward the island as she struggled to wiggle closer.
"For the record," Draco interrupted, "The only reason Mordecai drink the blood is because it's the fastest way to get to the soul, the real meat of their basic diet."
"What else is he mixed with?" asked Xan. Lindsay only shrugged, which meant that he had no clue what else Sherlaine could be. That was great. "So what's your strategy?"
"I have none yet," Lindsay replied, "But Alauria could be quite helpful, as long as she stays safe." The tail end of his statement was directed toward Alexis, who inclined his head in a silent acknowledgement of the command. "She can mimic powers that are around her."
"And what does that have to do with this situation? No offence," Xan murmured to Alauria, "But he's just said that he doesn't want you in the thick of it."
"We're pretty sure she can use her abilities as some sort of alarm system," Roman answered. "If she starts doing something none of us can do, then we'll know there's an unfriendly around."
"Doesn't that only work if were not around the house?"
"The protective enchantments around the house have been breached before," Alexis said.
Xan looked at him incredulously as she asked, "So you're saying that you think he's going to try to come here? In this house?" There was an infuriating silence that made her look at her sister. "You mean to tell me that I've been keeping my baby sister here when there is a possibility that she wasn't even safe? Why in the fuck didn't you take us someplace else?"
"This is the safest house we own."
"Oh, that's really comforting, Alexis," she railed, "I'll sleep like a fucking baby tonight."
"Calm down, warrior princess," Draco soothed. "We're not going to let anything happen to any of-"
"Lindsay, we're going to need your connections to strengthen our defenses," Alexis said as he abruptly stood. With a glance to his brothers, he said, "Chamber in the east wing. Ten minutes."
Xan frowned as she watched Alexis walk out of the room. Draco and Roman followed, each giving her an apologetic look that seemed to magnify her fury. Lindsay gave his wife a kiss before exiting, leaving her with Liam and Alauria. It was then that she noticed that Euan wasn't present. There was an uncomfortable silence in the room; Liam continued to stare at her while Xion stared off after the men who left the room. Xan looked at everything but the people in the room with her for fear that her sudden rage would explode.
"Hi there," Alauria said as she stepped toward Xion. "I'm Alauria. What's your name?"
"Hi Xion. Why don't you and I take a trip to the music room and I can play some music for you?"
"You can play an instrument?"
Alauria nodded as she said, "I teach people how to play the piano. I can teach you a little bit if you'd like." She held out a hand in invitation as she waited for an answer.
Xion glanced toward her sister. At her nod of approval, she jumped down from her seat and took hold of Alauria's hand. "I like to draw."
"You'll have to show me some of your work..."
Xan felt a warm smile dominate her face as she watched her sister walk away with Alauria. While her first instinct would have been to threaten the woman's life to ensure Xion's safety, there was comfort in knowing that Alauria had abilities; if the house went under attack, Xion would be protected. The same thing couldn't be said for her; Liam remained in the room. "Shouldn't you be with your brothers?"
"Why have you been avoiding me?"
"What the hell are you talking about?"
Based on the flush that took over her face, she knew exactly what he was talking about. Liam moved closer to her and quickly became annoyed when she took a hasty step back. "You've been avoiding me, locking yourself in your room with your sister and only coming out when you know that there is no chance of you being alone with me." It bothered him that she'd become the skittish kitten. Sure, he'd ruined the memory of her first time, but he would have at least liked to have the opportunity to set things right. He'd become accustomed to seeing her everyday, to talking to her one-on-one. "I want to know why."
"Since when is it a crime to spend time with my sister?" Her stomach flipped when he stepped closer, but she stood her ground, refusing to give him an ounce of power over her. "Get your head out of your ass and get a life."
He felt his face heat as his anger rose. "Don't bullshit me, little girl. We fucked and all of a sudden-"
"We fucked? We fucked?" Xan fisted her hands at her sides to keep from lashing out at him. "That's what you want to call it?"
"That's what it was." Liam's eyes narrowed curiously when her face reddened even more. So she had no problem avoiding the issue, but was ready to pitch a fit at what he called it. "You fuck someone you have no intension talking to ever again. Sounds like you, so that's what I call it."
"You really are a piece of work."
"Same to you, kid."
"I'm not a kid."
"Then stop fucking acting like one and tell me why you've been avoiding me."
She let out a frustrated breath as she stared at him. "Fine. Yes, I have been avoiding you." She held up a hand when he moved to interrupt her. "But it's only because you're asking me to give you something I'm not sure I should."
"What the fuck does that mean?"
"It means that while you know what you want from me, a relationship," she muttered with animosity, "I can't say that I want the same. My reasons still stand."
"Don't you think you should crack open the egg before making the omelet?" To say that he did not like what he was hearing was an understatement. Liam never really cared about rejection, but there was something about hearing Xan deny him that twisted his gut painfully. As it was, there'd been an emptiness inside him these past few days from not being with her. But how did he tell her that when they never had a moment alone? Better yet, how did he show her that he was serious about giving them an honest try?
"Why do you want this so badly?"
"Why don't you?"
"I told you why, Liam. What kind of relationship are we supposed to have when the only time we aren't fighting or ready to kill each other is when we're having sex?"
"A pretty damned pleasurable one." He smiled when she laughed at the statement. That right there was proof that they could make it work. "Look, I'm not asking you to marry me, woman."
"You'd be stupid if you did."
"Yeah, yeah." He shook his head in exasperation as he tried to reason with her. "Just give me a shot, all right. I like you."
While she felt her insides bubble pleasantly at the admission, she refused to let him know his words affected her. "You like me?"
"I fucked you, didn't I?"
"You have got to be kidding me!" Xan turned to storm out of the kitchen and let out an angry breath when he blocked her path. "Word to the wise, asshole; you want a girl to like you, don't call your stealing her virginity a fuck."
"You're the one who's acting like it. I'm fucking trying to give you something here."
"Other than the aneurysm building in my brain?" Her eyes narrowed when the side of his mouth quirked up in a small smile. "I don't want what you're offering me."
"Like hell you do." Before she had a moment to react, he pulled her into his arms and captured her lips in a hot, powerful kiss that had her clinging to him in seconds. Liam moaned when Xan fisted her fingers in his hair. She moved against him restlessly; her nipples were sensual pebbles straining against her shirt. They inflamed his loins and caused him to plunge his tongue into her hot sweet mouth. Her gasp of pleasure pushed him to thrust his tongue into the hot cavern rhythmically. It wasn't long before he had her pressed against the island, clutching him like a lifeline. Liam's cock was hot and heavy, ready to bury itself deeply within her depths. The memory of her tight heat around him pulled a groan out of him. He gripped her hips tightly as he ground at against them. Xan was hot for him, he knew, and he intensified her desire by increasing the pressure of his body on hers. He'd take her right now if there wasn't the risk of any of the family walking in on them. Whipped cream would taste amazing on her skin...