Haunted Prey Ch. 08bypurefire©
Lindsay looked at Alauria through the rearview mirror and sighed at the stubborn way she stared out the window. She sat behind Alexis, her arms aggressively crossed over her chest. Her chin was raised in a show of defiance, and her eyes were narrowed in annoyance. He'd tried to talk to her countless times during the long ride to the manor, but she ignored him. At one point, she stared at him long and hard, not once breaking eye contact until he felt sheepish enough to turn around and watch the roads Alexis drove. Never, in the centuries he'd been alive, had he ever been stared down by a tiny blip of a human. The moment would have been hilarious if his patience hadn't been worn thin; Lindsay was tired of her anger and worse, annoyed that she was treating him the way she treated her father. This was not what he signed up for. "Thanks," he muttered to his brother.
Alexis was astute enough to understand that his brother was not thanking him for the ride. He too glanced at the rearview mirror and felt the side of his mouth quirk up. "Your name is Laurie?"
"No, it's Alauria." She brought her attention to the rearview mirror and felt herself shiver at the intensity of the deep brown eyes staring at her. Lindsay's brother, she'd come to learn in the few hours they drove, was a very quiet man, not speaking unless he had something to say or ask. He seemed content to observe everything that went on around him. He never smiled, and his expression seemed permanently serious. The sickle-shaped scar on his cheek looked menacing. Amazingly enough, he was still devastatingly attractive. His coffee colored hair looked windblown despite the closed windows, but the oddity seemed to balance out his straight patrician nose and the serious set of his mouth. A goatee and mustache added sophistication, a trait that contrasted greatly with the black tank top and blue jeans that made him look rugged. His skin wasn't pale, but it wasn't bronzed either. Not that it mattered; the ridiculous tone of just his arms was more then enough to set a woman's loins on fire. Hell, it certainly made her curious about what the rest of him looked like. But that was only curiosity. As attractive as Lindsay's brother was, it was the emotionally stunted jackass in the passenger seat who made her heart race dangerously. "You two don't look like brothers."
So she could talk to his brother, but she couldn't talk to him. Lindsay felt his eyes narrow as he answered, "With the exception of Draco and Roman, none of us look alike."
"Why is that, Alexis?" She ignored the warning glare Lindsay gave her as she continued to stare at his brother through the rearview mirror.
Alexis almost laughed at the ridiculous direction the conversation was taking. He'd already known that Lindsay was the only other brother aside from Liam to have a problem keeping women in good spirits, but there was something off about the woman sitting behind him. Alauria was upset, yes, but he didn't think it was because of something Lindsay said. "We all take after our respective mothers. Drake and Rome are twins."
"And there are how many of you?"
"Twelve brothers in total."
"And I had to be blessed wit the jackass of the lot," she muttered to herself.
"For Christ's sake, Alauria!" Lindsay had reached the end of his rope. He let his anger take hold and shifted in his seat so that he could look at her. Had he not been as large as he was, he would have climbed into the backseat just so that he could shake some sense into her. "I told you I would take care of this. I know you're pissed, but fuck, man, I'm trying to make it right."
She knew that he was, but pride and irritation refused to let her see reason. "This is your fault in the first place, making bullshit treaties with the enemy." Alauria lurched forward when Alexis abruptly stopped the truck. Her broken concentration caused her to look outside the window to find them in the parking lot of what looked like a local restaurant.
"Lindsay, why don't you go get her something to eat?"
"Why don't you?" Lindsay snapped.
"It wouldn't look right to have someone as large as you arguing with her in the middle of a parking lot." Alexis glanced at Alauria through the mirror and came to the conclusion that the reason for her anger had nothing to do with what was going on. "I'm sure you'd like to stretch your legs for a bit."
Alauria felt her eyes narrow suspiciously at the odd tone in Alexis' voice. That didn't stop her from agreeing, however, because she knew that she needed a few minutes away from Lindsay to finally get her thoughts in order. "Yes, I do." They'd been on back roads and highways she'd never heard of for hours. It was about time she became part of civilization again, even if it was for a few minutes. She watched Lindsay angrily exit the truck and winced when he slammed the door. Alexis sighed at the action, and she was sure that he'd be doing a lot more of that before they reached their destination.
Alexis took his time getting out of the truck before opening the door for Alauria. He quirked a brow when she merely shifted to allow her legs to dangle, but said nothing to the action. "How are you handling all of this?"
"Just dandy." She glanced at him and found herself immediately chastised by the unamused expression on his face. Lord, the man made her feel like a child again. The ground seemed like a better place to focus her attention. "I don't know, really. It's like, one minute I'm teaching my students, minding my own business, you know? And then the next, he walks into the studio and turns everything upside down. And I could deal with it when I thought that he was just a complicated person. But I had no idea it would be like this; demons chasing after me and wanting to kill me simply because we hung out a couple of times."
"You and I both know it's more involved than that."
"I never slept with him if that's what you mean."
Alexis let out another sigh as he shifted to lean on the open door. "Alauria, there's a lot you don't know about Raife and Lindsay."
"Because he won't tell me."
"Because he doesn't know how."
She looked up at him and frowned at his unwavering gaze. "You're not going to tell me, either, are you?"
He remained quiet for a long time, choosing to stare at the customers walking in and out of the restaurant. Lindsay looked frustrated at having to wait on the slow-moving line, but he kept his composure. Alexis watched his brother continually glance at him, as if ensuring he didn't take the woman away. "It's understandable that being pulled out of your life and away from your family is upsetting, especially when you haven't an entire clue why. But he wouldn't be working so hard if he didn't care."
"I never thought that he didn't."
"So why won't you talk to him?"
Jesus, all it took was one quick glance and she felt like a petulant five-year-old being forced to apologize. "Because I'm annoyed," she confessed, "It annoys me that some stupid treaty with a demon he hasn't killed yet is more important than where I thought we were headed. Because I feel like I care about him more than he cares about me. Because despite the fact that I deserve more than he's given me, I don't want to walk away. Because I still want him. Because I'm not mad at him; I'm pissed that I'm not strong enough to kill this Raife myself. Because... Because..."
"Because I'm afraid," she sighed, "I'm afraid that I'll go through all of this, that I'll keep on falling for him, and then once this is done, he'll decide that I really wasn't worth the trouble and walk away." Alauria had no idea why she divulged so much information, but she felt lighter the second she let it out. It was easier to accept everything now, and there was a part of her that wasn't completely confident in Lindsay's promise to keep her safe, she believed wholeheartedly that he believed what he said. That would have to be enough for now.
"Legs in," Alexis suddenly announced. Before she had a chance to question his statement, he lifted her legs with one hand and gently repositioned her inside the truck. Then he shut the door in her face.
Alauria had a good mind to give him some words for his sudden animalistic behavior but stopped when she noticed Lindsay in the passenger seat. He was partially turned and held the small paper bag of food toward her. There was an odd look on his face, as if something he couldn't believe had happened. She figured he did not like seeing his brother's hands on her legs and was tempted to stick her tongue out at him. But then she remembered what she said to Alexis and couldn't find the heart to be petty. Lindsay was trying. Alauria accepted the bag he offered and whispered her thanks.
"I don't mind if you eat in the truck," Alexis announced, "Just don't spill anything major."
Hell, he didn't even have to look at her to make her feel like a child. She nodded silently and pulled a French fry out of the bag before she said, "You didn't get anything for yourselves."
"We don't eat much," Lindsay replied. He didn't say anything to the fact that she was speaking to him. Not like he could; he found himself too distracted by the way she nibbled on the French fry. How was it possible for him to be insanely jealous of a fried vegetable? He continued to glace at her periodically, satisfied that she was eating enough, and couldn't stop himself from taking advantage of her civil mood. "We're about ten hours away from the manor." She was only able to nod, as she'd chosen that moment to take a large bite out of the cheeseburger he bought her. Lindsay found himself smiling inwardly at the puff of her cheeks as she chewed. "We'll get you some new clothes after you've settled in."
"She can have Nadia's things," Alexis interjected, "They'll have to be taken in, but there's no use in wasting all of the clothes Jameson bought her."
"He still loves to shop."
"Worse than any woman I've ever heard of."
Alauria found herself smiling at the conversation Lindsay and Alexis were having. They seemed completely relaxed, as if there wasn't a demon attack just hours before. They were acting like brothers on a long road trip, and that observation alone made her realize that Lindsay wasn't emotionally stunted; he simply chose not to put his feelings on display. The way he laughed with his brother while they talked about the rest of their brothers was filled with joy and ease. It was filled with love. He cared about the people in his life and she had no choice but to include herself. She couldn't hold onto her anger anymore. Hell.
She chose to remain silent, using the food as an excuse for why she never jumped into their conversation. The time Alauria spent listening taught her a lot; Alexis really didn't like to talk. He knew how to phrase a thought perfectly so that the person he spoke to did all of the talking. Lindsay spent the bulk of the time relaying stories about his brothers while Alexis filled in parts he missed. The Royce men, it seemed, were older than Jesus Christ. The only reason she knew that was because of a story Lindsay retold about Slade, the youngest brother of the bunch, meeting the iconic pacifist and not knowing so until he was told. His excuse was that he expected Jesus to be taller. Alauria had to laugh at that story, but found herself sobering when Alexis mentioned Lindsay's mother. Lindsay immediately tensed and became withdrawn. It was quite clear that he didn't want to talk about her. As much as she wanted to ask about his change in attitude, Alauria decided to get the wrappers from her dinner in order before leaning back to rest her eyes. The truck was silent for a while and just as she was about to drift off to sleep, she heard Lindsay accuse his brother of mentioning things he had no business speaking of. Alexis' only reply was that it was a topic she would come to learn of soon and that now was as good a time as any.
"Says the guy whose eyes started glowing out of nowhere," Lindsay whispered harshly.
"Some things can never be explained."
"Bullshit, Lex. Don't sit there and preach about being honest when you're carrying that shit around."
"I didn't ask for this."
"Neither did I."
Alauria wasn't sure what happened next; one minute, she was listening to the once jovial brothers have an argument, and the next, she was sighing happily at the light electrical shock that came with Lindsay's touch. She smiled at his whispered apology before slowly opening her eyes. Intense green eyes smiled down at her and she found herself unable to look away as he continued to run the pad of his thumb over the expanse of her cheek. Alauria didn't realize she did the same until she felt the shock against her fingertips. Though there was a slight sting, she couldn't deny the fact that she enjoyed the sensation. She smiled; sleeping on a full stomach sure did alter her mood for the better.
"I guess I should just feed you whenever you get mad then."
She laughed at the ridiculous comment then sat up as she realized that the truck wasn't moving. Alauria looked around and it was then that she realized that they were in a very large garage filled with over a dozen very bright, very flashy and extremely expensive cars. "Where are we?"
"At the manor."
"Oh." Alauria pushed him away and immediately got out of the truck. She found herself glancing at the cars again and had to shake her head; there was probably a billion dollars' worth of cars in the garage. She was almost afraid to go into the house. His wealth shouldn't have intimidated her anymore, but it did; being in the presence of such expensive things made her feel awkward and out of place.
"Come on." Lindsay took hold of her hand and pulled her through the garage and into the kitchen. Things had changed since he'd last been to the manor. Where the black marble countertops were once bare, they were not littered with stainless steel appliances that rivaled even the most equipped of restaurant kitchens. A plasma screened television was mounted above the expansive entryway that led to the rest of the house. The fluorescent ceiling lights illuminated the chestnut wood and brought his attention to the many magnets covering the refrigerator. A lot of them were mini picture frames and in them were photos of his brothers and the two women he would soon call sisters. Correction; one he would call a sister. The other, he would never know to have the honor of giving her such a title. Lindsay found himself drawn to the photo of a red-haired woman whose smile made the depths of his soul bright. Her unusual grey eyes were happy and sparkled; it almost looked as if the mood reflected itself in the stormy pools. Mocha skin seemed to reflect the sunlight, especially when paired with the mess of deep red hair piled atop her head. He found himself drawn to her unnatural beauty; the woman was a work of art that could not be duplicated.
"Her picture always had that effect on people."
Lindsay quickly turned and had to hold Alauria steady. He hadn't realized that she'd plastered herself to his side in order to look at the photo as well. They must have been quite entranced; they never heard this new woman walk into the room. And she was in heels. Lindsay took his time appraising the tall and lithe woman who stood next to the large island in the center of the room. Her wavy brown-red hair barely reached her shoulders but did nothing but accentuate a pleasant round face. Pale green eyes regarded him curiously, but Lindsay found himself staring at her mouth. He'd never seen lips so red before and it was quite clear that the color was natural.
Alauria stood quietly as Lindsay looked at the woman in front of him. Amazingly, she did not become jealous, primarily because she knew that he was taking everything in. Like Alexis, Lindsay liked to observe and memorize details. She stepped forward and smiled politely as she said, "Hi, I'm Alauria."
"Charisma." Her smile was genuine as she stepped forward to take hold of her guest's hand. "Welcome to the manor." She shifted her gaze to the man quietly staring at her and waited for him to make a move. When he only nodded at her, she frowned; usually the brothers she'd met would have said something by now as a form of introduction. Well, maybe not Alexis, but that was because, according to Jameson, he detested speaking.
Lindsay watched as Charisma took a wary step back and began to rub her hands together. They were turning red, he noticed, but she didn't blush. Odd.
"Where the fuck are my wrist blades?"
Everyone turned to watch the tall man with copper red hair walk into the kitchen angrily. The alluring and musical tones to his voice did nothing to distract from the anger radiating off him, but Lord, he was another looker. A strong, square-shaped face beautifully framed full lips and a perfect nose. Crystal blue eyes completed his god-like look. He barely glanced at Charisma as he walked in, but he did stop and stare at the strange woman standing next to the fridge. "Who the hell are you?"
"Some things never change."
Alauria watched in amazement as the man's face changed completely the second he realized Lindsay was in the room. There was a moment of shock before both men rushed forward to pound each other on the back. Then the once angry man roughly shoved Lindsay back. Alauria would have become worried had Lindsay not laughed at the action.
"Where the fuck have you been?"
"Same place as always, Liam."
Liam looked from his brother to the quiet woman beside him and immediately felt his eyes narrow angrily. "If you're smart, brother, you'll take care of whatever problem she's in then never speak to her again."
"Liam," Charisma warned.
Liam held up a hand for silence as he continued, "These fucking human women are nothing but trouble and a fuck-load of pain none of us needs."
"It's been six months," Charisma pleaded. This was not the type of first impression Alauria needed. She looked worried that things would blow out of proportion.
"And I'm just supposed to forget what happened?" he shouted. He ignored the warning and comforting hand Lindsay put on his shoulder as he added, "She was my sister."
"She was my sister too," Charisma whispered, "I loved her too."
"And what are you going to say next, Charisma? That she wouldn't want us to go on like this? That she would want us to value every second that we have left?" When she said nothing, he balled his hands into fists and shook his head angrily. Her pale green eyes glistened with unshed tears, and the visible proof of the pain he caused her only served to enrage him even more. "Not all of us get the luxury of forgetting what she did for us by staying in the mansion he built for her."
"Liam, that's quite enough," Alexis stated from the entryway. Rage coursed through him at the scene unfolding. Charisma on the verge of tears. Alauria damned near ready to bolt. Liam red-faced and shouting. "This is not the way to deal with your grief."
"What the fuck would you know, Lex?"
"Go cool off, Liam," was all he said as a response.
"Don't tell me-"
"Why don't you show me what else has changed around here?" Lindsay asked. He was too shocked by what he'd witnessed to do much else. It was true that Liam only knew too emotions; angry and enraged. But to be there to see him rail on who Lindsay assumed was sweet-tempered woman... He refused to have any more of that around Alauria. As a precaution, he didn't even look at her because he knew the expression on her face would force him to pick a fight with his already livid brother. There was too much else too deal with.
Alauria watched Lindsay pull Liam out of the room with wide eyes. And she thought her family had problems. She brought her attention to Charisma who stood shaking. Her hands were extremely red, and she could tell by the expression on her splotchy face that she was in some kind of physical pain. Alexis walked to stand in front of her and murmured what Alauria assumed were words of comfort. She felt out of place; as if she was in the middle of some warped television drama that wouldn't cut to commercial.