The Chosen One Ch. 07byboneams©
Thanks to Julie for the editing, and all my beta readers for the feedback. I have to give credit to MizT for begging me to return to Predjama. It's only fitting that the trilogy started here, and I know everyone likes the castle. So for MizT, welcome home sweetie.
4:30pm, just outside of Predjama Slovenia.
Kevin maneuvered the small rental car along the narrow road leading to the town of Predjama. His eyes darted to the passenger seat and saw that his future wife, Laura, was still napping. Her excitement about staying at the castle had finally given out and sleep had overtaken her.
Adam Dawson peered out his own window as he remembered the last time he had been on this road. The memories of the mission to rescue his fellow SEALs, the final fight between his point man and Viljem Kordic, the first time he had ever laid eyes on his loving wife, all flooded his mind.
As the car rounded a slight curve in the road, Adam saw the immense castle come into view. He tapped Kevin on the shoulder and motioned him to pull over to the side. With the soothing vibrations of the car now missing, the two sleeping females began to wake up.
Laura slowly sat upright and rubbed her eyes. She turned to look at her lover who was smiling back at her. "Wow, I really needed that nap. Are we there yet?" Kevin kept smiling and pointed out the window.
The young woman's excitement began to grow again as she jumped out of the car and looked down at the small town. She could make out figures moving about on the streets, then her eyes drifted further toward the castle that was embedded into the side of a cliff.
Kristine stood next to her friend as she stared in awe at the sight before her. "I almost forgot how beautiful the castle is at this time of day. I loved walking up here and just watching as the shadows caressed the front."
Laura continued to stare at the massive structure. "I still can't believe that's going to be mine someday."
Kevin and Adam were leaning against the car as they listened to the two women talk as they admired the view. Kevin shook his head in dismay and then looked at his team leader. "Can you believe that, Adam? We aren't even married yet and everything is already hers."
Adam slapped Kevin on the back and laughed. "Welcome to the joys of being married, little buddy." He cleared his throat to get the others' attention. "If you two are done admiring the view, I'd like to get the logistics portion of the trip over with."
The group returned to the vehicle and Kevin made his way down the winding road toward the town. As he slowed down when he reached Predjama, Kristine had her face pressed to the window, looking for anyone she might recognize from her years of living there.
Kevin had to stop a few times to let the residents, along with some excited tourists, cross the street. Finally, he made it to the small parking area just in front of the castle. He pulled into an open spot beside some tourists busily snapping away with their cameras.
The four friends got out of the car and Laura excitedly ran to her mate. As she wrapped her slender arms around his neck, she squeezed tightly. "Thank you for bringing me here."
He patted her small butt and tried to walk to the trunk to retrieve the luggage. Kevin had a hard time walking as his lover held tight to his powerful neck. "Um – you're welcome, sweetie, but it's going to be hard getting to the castle with you hanging on me."
She released her hold and allowed him to move away. Adam was watching the tourists as they milled about and turned to Kevin. "Kev, let's leave the luggage for now. I think the new curator might take the announcement of our arrival and plans to stay for a vacation better without our luggage in tow."
The group made their way to the front of the castle. Kevin walked arm in arm with his lover as they passed tourists leaving the area after their visit. When they reached the front, Laura looked up and admired the sight before her. She lowered her eyes to gaze at a small woman dressed in 18th century style clothing.
Kristine saw the woman too and moved past the others to greet her replacement. She stood idly as she chatted with a small group of visitors. When the dark haired curator looked past them and saw Kristine, her face beamed with happiness.
Elaina Cesnik bid the group farewell and moved gracefully toward Kristine. When she stood just in front of the former CIA Officer, she placed her hands on her slim hips. "Please tell me you're here to get your old job back."
Kristine wrapped her arms around the woman and kissed each cheek of her smiling face. "It's so good to see you again, Elaina. How are things with the tours?"
The slightly younger woman released Kristine and took a step back. "You know as well as I do that the tours can take a toll on you after a few years, Kristine. Thank God that's the last one for the day."
Kristine grabbed her arm and led her away from the small drawbridge connecting the outside world with the front door. "Come on, I want you to meet some people. I think you'll be very interested in meeting one of them."
Elaina rolled her eyes and mumbled. "Just what I need; more people and more forced smiling. God, I'm tired of smiling."
The two women approached two muscular men and a petite woman who were, again, admiring the castle. Elaina noticed that one of the men wore a baseball cap and was pointing out features of the castle to the woman. Her gaze turned to the other man and found him watching her and Kristine approach.
When the pair reached the small group, Kristine let go of the other woman's arm. "Elaina, I would like to introduce my husband, Adam Dawson."
She shot a startled look at her predecessor. "You mean there's someone in this world brave enough to handle you?"
As Adam stuck out his hand, Kevin turned to listen in on the conversation. "Nice to meet you, Elaina," Adam said as he gently shook her hand.
Kristine turned to Laura, who was all smiles and showed genuine excitement, as she looked at the curator. "This lovely beauty is Laura Ericson, at least it's Ericson for now."
Elaina shook her hand and was instantly captivated by her enthusiasm. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Laura. Welcome to Predjama castle."
Laura didn't release the curator's hand as she continued to smile. "Oh, what a lovely place this is. I can't believe I get to stay here for two whole weeks."
Elaina chuckled and pulled her hand back. "I must have misunderstood you. The castle is not open for boarders. The only ones who can stay...."
"And last but not least, Laura's future husband and my very dear friend, Kevin. Kevin would you be a dear and remove your hat and sunglasses," Kristine said as she waited for Elaina's reaction.
The young werewolf knew what was coming as he removed the items. He ran his fingers through his thick hair and waited. At first she just stared at him as if he was just another tourist, then her eyes widened and her shocked expression told him she just realized who he was.
Elaina's mouth fell open as she watched the rightful owner smile back at her. "Oh my God. I'm so sorry, Sir, I must look like a complete idiot right now. I must say, the resemblance to Baldomr is uncanny," she gasped as the image of the painting in the upstairs study flashed through her mind.
Kevin laughed and stuck out his hand in greeting. "Don't be so hard on yourself, Elaina. I should be the one to apologize for not calling first, but it couldn't be helped." He shook her hand as gently as he could and then pulled his hand away.
"The tours are over, so why don't we all go inside," she replied and turned to enter Predjama castle.
The group made their way to the small drawbridge, and Laura couldn't help but look down at the old, dried up moat. She gasped in awe as she studied the now grass covered trench and thought about invaders falling into it as they stormed the fortress so many years ago.
As Elaina opened the large wooden door, Kristine pulled the tour sign out of its holder and turned it around. Now that it was indicating the closing of the castle for tours, they could wonder around inside without being disturbed by overly curious tourists.
Elaina pulled the lacing on the white cotton bodice she wore as part of her tour guide uniform. After freeing herself, she tossed the garment on a small wooden chair that sat in the corner of the foyer. "I liked it better when I could just wear a nice dress. Now they have us dressing up like monkeys to better fit in with the history."
The current occupant waived her hand toward the study off to the right of the foyer. The group of four, led by Kristine, entered the study and Laura couldn't help but gawk at all the artifacts. "I could spend a life time looking at all the things here."
Elaina laughed at the comment as she listened to the same words for the millionth time. "This is just a small sampling, my dear. We started bringing some things down from the third floor because of all the recent interest in the castle's relics." She watched as the new guest reached up to a crystal decanter. "Oh please be careful, dear, some of the items in this room are very delicate."
Laura pulled her hand back as her face took on a bright crimson shade. Now embarrassed over her intrigue, she moved to sit next to her mate. "Sorry, it's my first time in a castle."
"Oh don't fret, dear. Just be careful is all." The young woman ran her hands through her dark hair and looked at Kevin. "So, Mr. Dvorska, what can I do for you, Sir?"
Kevin fidgeted and hoped the curator wouldn't balk at the idea. "I have to be honest with you, Elaina. My job has given me a few weeks off and I'd like very much to spend it here. We won't get in the way of the tours, I promise."
Elaina clapped her hands and her smile brightened even more. "That is the best news I've had in years."
"Well, like I said we won't get in the..."
Elaina started waving her hands at the idea of him staying upstairs and out of the way. "No, you have it all wrong, Mr. Dvorska." The woman moved to stand in front of him. "There is a stipulation in the rules about the castle being a tourist attraction. If the rightful heir stays at the castle, the tours are cancelled and all visitors mustn't come any closer than the parking lot."
Kevin got a sad look on his face as he thought about all the people who came to study the splendor of Predjama castle. "Now I feel bad. I don't want the castle closed on my account."
"On the contrary, Sir, you'd be doing me a favor. Two weeks off is rare and now I can visit my sister in Trieste. Hell, stay three weeks for all I care."
The group chatted on about how to secure the castle from visitors. Kevin could tell the curator was excited about the small vacation. She kept going on about how many times she repeatedly answered the same question for each group. Kristine laughed and added her own memories of when she had conducted the tours.
After the trip down memory lane and Elaina's constant reference to needing a break, she stood from her chair and thanked Kevin once again. "If you'll excuse me – my lord – I think I will just go put a bag together and get out from under foot."
Kevin checked his watch, as his stomach began to grumble. "I don't know about anyone else, but I could use some food and a beer."
Adam stood and started walking toward the foyer. "I'll go get the bags and after Elaina heads off to her sister's we'll go down to that diner we ate at last time we were here."
Laura moved closer to her mate and wrapped her arm around his. Her head was turning back and forth, as she continued to stare at the various artifacts around her. Suddenly, an idea flashed in her mind and she looked up at Kevin.
Tugging on his arm to get his attention, she flashed an impish smile. "Do you think I have time to look around? I promise not to touch anything."
Kevin laughed at her exuberance. "Kristine, can you show this excited little girl around before she has a heart attack?"
The two women left the lower study and Kevin went to the window overlooking the town. As he pulled the thick curtain back, the small town of Predjama came into view. The daylight was fading and he could make out lights coming on in homes, the street lamps beginning to flicker to life.
He smiled when the image of his great, great grandfather standing by the same window entered his mind. He began to wonder how many times Baldomr Purgstall or his wife Nevanka had looked out the same window. "I bet you two had a hell of good time in those days."
The image in his mind changed to a different scene. One of which had a man dressed in royal robes that looked like him, bending down and asking a human woman to marry a man that was only part human. Had she known before he asked her? Had she screamed in fear upon learning of the secret he kept inside?
As Adam entered the foyer with the bags, he set them down which caused Kevin to break away from his reflections of the two last inhabitants. He turned to his friend and Commanding Officer. "Hey, Adam, do you remember how to get in touch with Aviano?"
"I think so. Why?"
Kevin's face radiated excitement as a new image flooded his mind. "I think I have an idea on how to make this trip a little more special."
Kristine moved closer to the large floral painting that hung on the stone wall that was part of the interior of the castle. When she turned around, Laura still had that child-like look of wonder. She laughed to herself as she pictured her exploring the vast upstairs rooms filled with artifacts. "You're gonna love this, sweetie," she said as she pulled the painting away from the wall revealing a staircase leading down into the bowels of the castle.
As the entrance to the lower caves came into view, she smiled as Laura's look changed from wondrous excitement to that of astonishment. "This is one of the entrances to a series of caves beneath the castle. If you follow the stairs down, there's a party room of sorts and even a small river that leads out of the castle."
Laura's mouth hung open as she peered down the opening. "Can we go down there – please?"
Her pleading tone made Kristine giggle with amusement. "Maybe tomorrow, dear. We have so much more to look at than a damp old cave."
Kristine moved the painting back into place and put her arm through Laura's as she guided the young woman back toward the front of the castle. As the pair moved closer to the grand staircase, they saw Elaina descending with a few bags.
The young curator was dressed in plain jeans and a sweatshirt. She now looked like any other person walking around Predjama. She gave Kristine a hug and then looked at Laura who still had a look of awe. "It was nice meeting you, Laura, and I hope you four have a nice time here." Elaina chuckled softly and moved closer to Laura. "I would say if you break it, you buy it, but if you're marrying Mr. Dvorska, you sort of own it anyway."
The young bride-to-be lowered her head in embarrassment. "I won't break anything, I promise."
Elaina bid everyone goodnight and opened the front door. As she turned to look at the small group of people, she had a huge smile on her face. "Really, Sir, if you want to make it three weeks, I won't object."
The happy curator left the castle as Adam picked up the hastily packed luggage and headed for the stairs. "I'm gonna toss these bags in the upstairs library and then I suggest we get something to eat."
The group waited on Adam as Laura happily ranted to her lover about all the wonderful things she had seen on the lower floor. When Adam returned, the group walked out into the cool night air and began the short walk to town.
It took only ten minutes to reach the diner. They settled into a corner table where Laura snuggled next to Kevin as he scanned the dining area and patrons enjoying their meals. She noticed his intent scrutiny and slapped his arm. "Hey, you're supposed to be on vacation! You're not supposed to be a SEAL for two whole weeks."
Adam nodded politely to the server as she placed four menus on the table. After taking their drink order, she darted off toward the back. Adam pulled his menu open but looked at his friend who was contemplating Laura. "Kev, she does have a point. I'm pretty sure we can let our guard down a little while we're here."
Kevin looked back at his boss with a bemused expression. "Who was it that was telling me a few days ago, it's better to be prepared than dead?"
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw someone moving and he looked over to see a young woman buttoning her long coat as she headed to the front door. She had long black hair and a youthful exuberance about her. The coat did nothing to hide her slender body.
Out of sheer habit, the young woman studied the customers to see if they needed anything before she left for her other job. Her attention stopped on the group of four at the corner table where her focus was drawn to the young man with his back to the wall.
As she remembered the night he had walked into Crook's Creek Pub, she smiled and slowly moved toward their table. As she got closer, she saw that he wore an expression of recognition. She stuck her hand out as the gentleman studied her face. "Kevin, I believe, is it not?"
Kevin shook her hand, but then looked down in obvious embarrassment. "You remembered my name, but I guess my memory isn't as good as yours..."
Kevin smacked his head with the palm of his hand as the memory came back to him of that one meeting. "That's right, I'm sorry, Alina." He turned to Laura who was giving him a piercing look. "Allow me to introduce my fiance, Laura, and this is Adam, and his wife, Kristine."
"It's very nice to meet all of you. I wish I could stay and chat, but I'm on my way to my other job. "Would you have time to stop by Crook's Creek Pub for an after dinner drink? We could talk more then." Her childlike smile captivated everyone, except the future Mrs. Dvorska.
By the way Laura was squeezing his leg, Kevin could sense that she was a bit annoyed at his demeanor towards the younger girl. He gently patted her hand as he tried to reassure his mate. "That's a nice offer, Alina, but not tonight, perhaps another time. It's been a long day for us and we already have plans for the evening."
She nodded in understanding and smiled at the two couples. Once she was out the door, Laura's grip got even tighter and Kevin had to pull her hand free. Even though she couldn't really hurt him, she did have a grip that could leave some bruises.
Kevin looked at her with bewilderment as he placed her hand in her own lap. "I swear, honey, I didn't do anything wrong, besides, I met her before I ever knew you existed."
Her eyes narrowed and she pushed the menu closer to him. "Instead of looking around for danger, or other women, I suggest you look at the menu for food, not fun."
The two couples stepped out into the cool night air, their hunger now satisfied for the evening. Kevin wrapped his powerful arm around his petite mate and rubbed her arm as the goose bumps became more prominent.
Adam copied his friend's actions as he pulled his wife tighter against him. He looked up and down the almost deserted street. Only a few tourists had ventured out into the night, cameras at the ready to capture the picturesque setting.
Kristine's eyes went to the brightly lit tavern across the street. She began to wonder if any of the townspeople she remembered had ventured out into the beautiful autumn night. "I know you said we were going back to the castle, Kevin, but I really wouldn't mind a glass of wine at Crook's Creek. I just want to stop in for a minute to see if there's anyone I remember from when I lived here."
Kevin looked down at his mate and wondered if she would feel threatened again if Alina even looked their way. "Are you going to get jealous again if we have just one drink? You know you're the only one in my life."