The Assignment Ch. 03byJazCullen©
"Hope everyone enjoys this chapter. Fingers crossed I have done it justice. I am sure I will hear if I haven't :-) Once again, LadyPineRose74 you have my eternal thanks for editing for me. I think I managed to post the correct version of the chapter too LOL!"
"What Council?" Rhianna's words rang around the kitchen, and Caleb hissed out a long breath, his amber eyes fixating on Demetri with a murderous glare.
"You are so fucking dead," he bit out angrily.
Demetri cursed under his breath and stared down at the dining table for a long moment before he met the little redhead's lavender gaze. "The Council is our ruling body," he explained, quietly. "An elected body, which changes every couple of centuries usually made up of five elder vampires. Just like our.....other friends....we need rules too, Annie."
He watched a slow dawning cross her face and was relieved she knew who he was alluding to. He couldn't mention Weres outright, not with Mara sitting at the table. It would only cause issues with the local pack, and Rhianna had a strong tie to them so he wanted to avoid that out of consideration to her.
"Our most prominent rule is the need to be hidden from the human populace," he continued, quietly, "From time to time, one of us meets a human we come to care for, like you and Caleb. In those circumstances, the bond is for life so it is not an issue for the human to know about us. They would do nothing to endanger the one they love, and they are therefore classed as under the protection of the vampire."
Rhianna nodded, as she listened, aware that Mara was listening just as intently to the dark haired vampire's explanation. The brunette had learned of vampires without this 'protection', and now, her life was up in turmoil because of it.
"So, if someone comes along like Mara, this Council acts?" she asked.
Demetri nodded. "One of us is sent to assess the threat and to resolve the situation," he explained, pausing and trying to figure out how to continue on without totally freaking Rhianna out. Caleb would have his head if she started going mental at him.
"Why you?" Rhianna queried. "What's so special about you that you were chosen for this task?"
Demetri looked at Caleb for help. He had no idea just how much of their other abilities his friend had told her. The cold hard expression on Caleb's face promised dire retribution later, and he stifled down a deep sigh.
"There are three levels in our world, Annie," Caleb said quietly, surprising her when he took up the explanation. "Youngling, Elder, and Ancient. The older we become the more enhanced abilities we have, abilities like mind control, the ability to detect deception, and the ability to alter human memories. Both Demetri and I are ancient. We can do all three, but we are more efficient at altering memories. It is not unusual for the Council to contact one of us when they have an Assignment which needs taken care of."
He had been making coffees as he spoke, his body tense. He crossed to the table and set the hot brews down and picked his woman up, sitting in her chair and settling her on his lap. She was going to be upset by what she heard, and he wanted to be close to her, to help her deal with the knowledge she was about to hear.
Caleb's tenseness wasn't lost on Rhianna, and she braced herself for what was coming. He only ever reacted like this when he didn't want her to know something and was forced into her finding it out against his objections.
"Did this Council contact you, Caleb?" she asked quietly, looking up into his beautiful face so she could read his expression. His amber eyes met hers, and he nodded unhappily.
"I turned the assignment down," he answered. "Told them I wouldn't be available for any new ones either. That's not who I am anymore, Annie. You took the person I used to be and you turned him into someone so much better, right from the very first moment I saw you. I told you I used to be a monster, Annie. I know you don't want to believe that, but it's the truth. I have done things in the past, which I've walked away from without one shred of remorse. I may feel remorse for my actions now, but it will never negate the fact that I did do those things."
She could hear the pain in his voice, see it in his eyes too. Pain and incredible self loathing. Her heart wrenched at his misery, and she reached up and touched his cheek lightly. "It doesn't matter, Caleb," she said softly. "Whatever I hear this day, no matter how bad it is, I will deal with it. I love you, and I will always love you. Whatever you've done, I will forgive you, and I'll try my hardest to help you to forgive yourself, too."
He groaned softly and buried his head in the side of her neck struggling with his emotions. She was just too forgiving. He didn't deserve her, and he knew it, but she was so wrapped up in his heart he couldn't be without her ever. He breathed in her sweet scent and kissed her neck lightly, before he raised his head again and looked deeply into her eyes.
"Most assignment were really quite simple," he said quietly. "The human mind is really quite weak, and it is relatively simple to erase their memories of vampires and plant a directive away from ever attempting to find us again. Sometimes, though, a human would come along with a natural shield so tight we would be unable to breach it. The only solution to that scenario was to dispose of the threat."
Rhianna had expected it. Caleb's tortured expression had told her the story, before he even opened his mouth. He had killed people to protect his secret. He had quite literally been an assassin for his people, him and Demetri both. It was difficult to relate the cold bloodied killer he had been to the man sitting with his arms wrapped around her right now. They seemed to be two completely different people. She sighed softly and rested against his wide chest, closing her eyes as she mulled everything over in her mind.
This was going to be hard to deal with, but she knew she would handle it. She'd handled all the other crazy things, which had turned her life so completely upside down the last few months. She sighed again and looked back up at Caleb, who was watching her intently, his expression concerned. She smiled gently and reached up and planted a quick kiss on his mouth.
"We'll talk about this later, love," she said softly. "For now, I want Demetri to explain to me why he accepted the assignment." Her lavender eyes swung to the other man who was watching them intently.
Demetri's cool green gaze met her angry lavender gaze, and he stifled down a groan. She was really going to give him a hard time. Not that he probably didn't deserve it, but it didn't make it any more palatable having to accept her censure.
"I took the assignment, because Caleb is the only one of my kind who can rival me when it comes to memory manipulation," he said coolly. "and I knew he would refuse it, because of you. Also, your influence on him was making him weak and that was irritating me greatly. The more you irritated me and I reacted to it, the more furious Caleb became me. I figured getting away for a bit would calm things down."
Rhianna felt a rush of anger as he tried to justify his actions by putting the blame on her and Caleb. She reached across and slapped him across the face hard. His head barely moved under her blow, but his eyes widened in surprise.
"Don't you ever use me or Caleb as an accuse for your actions, Demetri," she said coldly, her angry gaze boring into him. "You took the assignment, because you wanted to."
He glared back at her, equally as angrily. "I took the bloody assignment, because I knew I had the best chance of bringing it to a satisfactory conclusion," he ground out harshly. "I didn't know Mara was going to have a natural shield against us. I thought it would be a straight forward matter of getting in, finding out what she knew, and then diverting her away from her goal. And, I wasn't lying. I did want to get the fuck away from you and Caleb. I wanted to get as far away from you as I could, Annie."
She reeled back from the fury in his voice, and Caleb growled low in his throat.
"I've fucking told you about minding the way you speak to Annie," he growled angrily. "Watch you tone, Demetri! This is the only warning I'm going to give you."
Demetri snarled angrily at him, but held his peace, his furious eyes dropping down to the table.
Rhianna took a couple of deep breaths to try and still the rapid beating of her heart. Caleb's hands were clutching her so tightly she knew he was close to losing control. If she didn't calm down he would most likely explode and then all hell would break loose. She patted Caleb's arm soothingly and sensed him look down at her as he slowly relaxed, but she kept her gaze fixed firmly on Demetri.
"And, here I thought we were getting on so well," she sighed softly. "I thought I was part of your family now, Demetri?"
His eyes shot back to her and a slow grin crossed his face, the tension suddenly leaching out of his body. "Why the fuck did you think I wanted away from you, Red?" he asked though there was no heat in his tone. "You were making me as weak as Caleb, and I didn't like it. I figured some time away from you would let me get back to normal. Didn't work though. Instead of being normal, I found out I was unable to complete my bloody assignment. Which brings us right back to where we are now, sitting in this bloody kitchen and trying to figure out what to do."
She wasn't completely surprised by his admission. She had seen genuine pleasure on his face when she had entered the kitchen earlier, and he had kissed her forehead like a fond older brother, too. She knew he hated to admit to what he saw as his 'weakness', but it was important for Mara to see that despite being vampires, the two men around the table were human too. It would ease her fear a lot if she wasn't so hung up on the fact they were such deadly predators.
Mara was astounded, as she watched the little redhead interact with the two vampires. They were so volatile, reacting furiously at the drop of a hat, and yet, Rhianna just sat there calmly and didn't let it phase her one bit. She was so confident they wouldn't hurt her, and she'd even slapped Demetri. She couldn't deny the satisfaction she'd taken from seeing his smug face being slapped. He deserved it after all he'd done to her.
She took a deep breath. "So, what happens to me?" she asked hesitantly, and they all turned to look at her in surprise. She had sat so quietly they had almost forgotten she was there.
Demetri pursed his lips, an unhappy expression crossing his beautiful face. "I will contact the Council and let them know you're now under my protection," he said quietly. "Which effectively means I am now responsible for you. You will live in my home, and do as I say. You will never breathe a word about vampires to anyone. If you do so, my life will be forfeit just as yours will be."
Mara's big brown eyes widened, and she stared at him in shock. "Live with you," she gasped. "You don't mean like them, do you?" she asked pointing at Caleb and Rhianna. He didn't think she was going to sleep with him, did he? The very thought of it horrified her. Forced to have sex with her kidnapper? She beat down the little voice, which reminded her of just how she'd reacted to his kisses in the woods. That had been different. She had thought he was about to kill her and wasn't thinking clearly at the time.
Demetri's eyes narrowed at her horrified expression, and his lips curled into a cruel sneer. "Oh, don't worry, you're virtue is quite safe, Mara," he jibed cruelly. "I have ample willing bed partners. I don't need to resort to rape to get my pleasure."
He grunted loudly, when Rhianna's hand sneaked out and connected with the side of his face again. His disbelieving eyes turned to her. "Will you stop doing that, Red?" he said curtly. "It's really starting to piss me off."
"Well, you speak to Mara with more respect, and I won't have to do it again," she answered, sweetly. "Just for one moment try and put yourself in her shoes, Demetri. Take a long hard look at just what she's been through and what she's consigned to for the rest of her life and maybe you might actually feel a tiny bit of empathy for her and modify your behaviour accordingly."
She slipped from Caleb's lap and held her hand out to Mara. "Come on, Mara. You can stay here tonight and let this Neanderthal have some time to think over his actions. You'll be safe here. Caleb will protect you."
Mara couldn't help looking towards Demetri to see his reaction. In such a short period of time, she had become used to having no control over anything she did, relying on Demetri to tell her what to do and when to do it. She missed the deep frowns, which crossed both Caleb's and Rhianna's faces as they saw her do so.
Demetri rubbed his face and looked into Mara's deep brown eyes. He wasn't unaware of her dependency on him and the little redhead's words had struck home too. He softened the scowl on his face and managed a slight smile as he regarded her.
"Would you like to stay with Annie?" he asked quietly. "It's your choice, Mara. If you want to stay here, then do so, or you can come home with me. I'm happy with whatever decision you make." He forced himself not to look to see if Rhianna approved or not. She hadn't hit him again, so he figured he must be doing something right.
"I'd like to stay here," Mara answered after a long pause. She watched for any sign of displeasure on Demetri's face, but he was still smiling slightly so she allowed herself to relax.
Demetri reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet and a credit card. He pushed it across the table towards Mara. "You need some new clothes and whatever else women usually need," he said gruffly. "Just buy what you want there's no limit on the card. I'm sure Annie will have fun shopping with you."
His gesture surprised her. She hadn't stopped to think that all her possessions were now lost to her. She felt tears well up in her eyes, as she realised she had lost her precious photographs of her parents and her mum's wedding and engagement rings. She didn't care about any of the other stuff, just the few keepsakes she had left of her parents.
Demetri raised confused eyes to Rhianna, when Mara silently started weeping. His eyes beseeched her for help. He had no idea what was wrong with the woman now. He had spoken kindly to her, told her she could buy whatever she wanted. Why was she crying?
Rhianna took pity on Demetri. She could see how hard he was trying and how completely out of his depths he was. "What are you leaving behind, Mara?" she asked gently.
Mara scrubbed at her cheeks and stared down at the credit card blankly. "Little things," she whispered. "Some photographs of my parents, my mum's rings. Nothing valuable. Just reminders of my past."
Rhianna put her arms around the brunette and hugged her tightly. "I'm sorry, Mara, I really am," she said, quietly. She could feel her pain as if it was her own. She knew the pain of losing family, how important little keepsakes became. She shot Demetri a dark look even though she knew it really wasn't his fault. Mara would most likely be dead now if Demetri hadn't accepted the assignment. She might have lost her possessions, but she still had her life.
Demetri frowned as Rhianna led Mara from the kitchen. He looked at Caleb with a new kind of respect. Dealing with human women in some kind of relationship was so difficult, and yet his friend seemed to be able to deal with it so easily.
Caleb sighed, as he looked at Demetri's bewildered expression. He had intended to kick the shit out of him at the first available opportunity, but decided to be satisfied with the couple of punches he'd managed to get in and the two slaps Rhianna had given him. His true punishment was going to be learning to deal with Mara as a permanent fixture in his life.
His lips curved into a smile. "Welcome to my world, Demetri," he chuckled lightly, and then laughed harder as his friend groaned loudly and lowered his head to the kitchen table.
Demetri finally raised his head and stood up. "I need to get going, Caleb. I have a couple of things I need to do. I'll swing by tomorrow and pick Mara up."
Caleb raised an eyebrow at him, but didn't asked what he had to do. If he wanted him to know, he would have told him. "Call first," he told him. "Ask Mara if she wants to go home with you. Don't just pick her up like she's a piece of left luggage."
Demetri frowned slightly. Mara couldn't put off coming to his house. The sooner she got over her reluctance the better. He was half tempted to make her go home with him now. It somehow didn't seem right letting her out of his sight. He had made the decision to place her under his protection, therefore he should be keeping her close at hand.
"Let Annie do what you brought Mara here for her to do," Caleb said quietly when his friend frowned. "I will keep her safe, Demetri. Annie has adopted her, as she does all waifs and strays, which is what you knew she would do. Let her ease Mara into this new life she suddenly finds herself in."
He nodded reluctantly to Caleb. He knew he couldn't really take Mara home tonight, because he wasn't going home immediately anyway. Still, he couldn't help looking upstairs, as he headed to the front door. He inhaled deeply and scented Annie's light floral scent and then the overwhelming scent of rich, thick honey which was undeniably Mara. His body tightened instantly, and he forced himself to leave even though he was overcome with the desire to head up the stairs and take the brunette with him.
Rhianna showed Mara into the purple bedroom. It was the most feminine of the many bedrooms in the mansion, and she hoped the lilacs and deep aubergines would appeal to her. She watched the other woman's eyes widen, as she took in the sumptuous surroundings and plush bed linen.
"Wow," Mara breathed quietly. "This place is really amazing."
Rhianna smiled. "It's Caleb's place," she told her. "He likes to live in style, no expense spared. He has a flashy house and flashy clothes and cars. Typical spoilt rich man." Her tone was warm, as she spoke. She really didn't mind Caleb's wealth and his obvious enjoyment of it. He didn't really let it go to his head, just lived in the manner he was accustomed to.
Mara looked at her with a curious expression on her face. "How long have you and Caleb been together?" she asked.
Rhianna smiled, again. "A few months. We met at a nightclub he's part owner of with Demetri when I was going through a rough time. It was a bit bumpy at the start, and we still have our odd moments, but it's going pretty good."
"You really love him," Mara said quietly. "Doesn't it bother you that he's a vampire?"
Rhianna moved to sit down on the chaise lounge underneath the window. "Stopped my heart when I first found out," she admitted with a little laugh, "but then I figured it didn't really matter. It's not what he is that counts, but who he is. He's a very changed man from what he was like before we met. He was like Demetri before he fell in love with me."
She watched Mara closely, as she deliberately brought Demetri's name into the conversation. She started the first time his name came up, almost in terror, and then she relaxed and didn't seem as concerned the second time.
"Do you want to talk about it, Mara?" she asked gently. "About what he did to you?"
Mara frowned and sank down onto the edge of the bed. "What, about how he kidnapped me, convinced me he would kill anyone if I tried to attract their attention, and then took me to an abandoned old house and hung me naked from chains suspended in the ceiling, until I almost died?" Her voice was harsh, her bitterness thick in her tone.