The Order Ch. 07bypurefire©
Nadia glanced at her watch for what had to be the tenth time in four minutes as she rushed out of the academic building. She wasn't sure if it was seniroitis or the intense need to make sure that there wasn't a dead man on her couch that made her as anxious as she was, but she was sure that she would be on edge for many more days to come. Throughout the three hour lecture she'd had to sit through, she was a ball of nerves, unsure of what to expect. How was it possible, she wondered, that one man was able to enrage her one minute, turn her to mush the next, then manage to bring out such compassion in her that she could have almost sworn that he was a charity case? It was amazing; she had virtually no effect on him, but the simplest of his stares ripped her concentration from her.
On a muttered oath, Nadia shielded her eyes from the brightness of the sun and stopped when she spotted the unmistakable copper glow of Spencer's hair in the sunlight. Rushing forward, she pushed through the students trying to enter the building. She muttered again when she tripped and nearly fell on her face. Ignoring the urge to yell at the student who tripped her, she continued forward and did not stop until she'd placed a hand on his shoulder. "Spence... Wait," she panted as she tried to keep her bag from falling off her shoulder. "I need... Need to..."
Spencer raised an amused brow as she watched Nadia struggle to collect herself. He should have been angry with her and in the most innocent of ways he still was. But it was difficult to think of anything other than the reflection of the sunlight in her hair and the seductive shape of her lips as she slowed her breathing. "Talk to me?" He led her toward a vacant bench that was strategically placed near the path to the parking lot. "Catch your breath."
"I'm good." Nadia took one last deep breath and nearly shook her head at the poor state of her stamina. She'd barely run one hundred feet and she looked as if she'd trudged through a triathlon. "I just wanted to - I feel really bad about..." She stopped herself and took another calming breath. In the midst of everything she'd gone through with Andrae, she'd forgotten about Spencer and the rejection he probably felt. It was her fault; she'd decided to leave with Andrae to avoid a scene. In the process, she'd acted no better than - "I'm really sorry about what happened that night."
Spencer did not need to be reminded of what night she spoke of; the memory of it replayed in his mind constantly. "What happened? Why didn't you just say that you wanted to leave?"
"I didn't, I swear." She looked down at the ground and stared at an ant as it wandered over the concrete. "It's just that my friend-"
"That big guy ready to kick my ass?"
Nadia sighed at the memory. "Yes, him." Bringing her eyes back to Spencer's inquisitive ones, she thought of an easy, uncomplicated way to explain Andrae. "It's just that he's really protective of his friends." Did he even have other friends? In the time she'd known him, Nadia had never seen Andrae with anyone else. He certainly had enemies though. "And so he pretty much flipped out when he saw us all playing around in our underwear."
"And you left because?"
"I wanted to avoid a fight." Nadia stood so that she didn't have to crane her head back so far when she looked at him. "I didn't want anyone to get hurt. Especially you."
That one statement alone was enough for Spencer to change his mind about being upset with her. Focusing his attention on the students walking along campus, he asked, "So he's not your boyfriend or anything, is he?"
Ignoring the incredibly uneasy feeling washing over her, Nadia hesitated. She looked at her surroundings, wondering if the unease was a result of Spencer's question or her own questions regarding her relationship with Andrae. "I really don't know how to answer that other than to say that a relationship with him would never work." He wanted nothing to do with her on a personal level, outside of sex and the occasional medical aid, anyway. "Well, now that I think about it, that would be a no, wouldn't it?"
Spencer smiled at the confused look on her face. She was too adorable. "I should be really pissed at you right now."
"You mean you're not?"
"No, but I really should be." He put his hands in his pockets as he thought her words over. "So I've still got a shot?"
"You still want one?" Nadia felt her stomach tighten when he nodded. Squinting against the glare of the sun, she smiled. Spencer may not have been the type to be able to throw her around like a rag doll, but he did have a sweet nature she found endearing. "So, um, I have to go, but do you want to hang out?"
Spencer had to keep from shouting with joy at the invitation. Smiling at the now inquisitive look in her eyes, he said, "I'd love to, but I have to check my schedule."
"Is that some weird way of trying to get me to beg for it or something?"
He allowed himself to laugh at the quickness in which her attitude changed. Nadia was suddenly ready to do battle. "No. Midterms... I have one for all but one class."
"Yikes." Knowing the stress involved with midterms, Nadia felt for him. "So get back to me."
With a smile, she turned to walk away but stopped when she heard Spencer call her name. As she turned, she held back a gasp when he pulled her into a fierce hug. Unused to the spontaneous show of affection, she remained still but slowly adjusted to the feeling. Spencer's hug was nothing like the fire of being in Andrae's arms, but it did have the power to make her melt. "Thanks."
Spencer waited until she'd stepped back before saying, "Anytime." Sensing the imminent flush of excitement about to take over his face, he took another step back and cleared his throat. "So I'll see you around."
"Yeah." Nadia smiled one last time as she turned and walked away. It was funny; though she did enjoy Spencer's embrace, she wasn't left shaking. Her skin didn't feel tight and her body didn't throb with need. Not to say that that was what she needed to fully enjoy a hug, but it did surprise her that her knees didn't wobble in nervousness. Different people evoked different feelings, she supposed. Spencer was nothing like any other man she was used to, but that worked in his favor.
As Nadia walked home, she thought of her patient. Answers. She needed answers about what happened and would be damned if she didn't get them. It was stupidity for Andrae to actually think that he could break into her apartment, seek medical attention, and then think that he could simply leave as if they'd only had a cup of coffee. There was something about him that told her that she had to watch herself. It wasn't only the crazy emotions he brought out of her whenever he was near, but there was something else... A secrecy that left her uneasy. She had to figure out what it was before... Before what? Other than her wanton antics, there was nothing that happened to her that could be considered dangerous. There was the night she was almost raped, but if it hadn't been for Andrae, she might be dead.
At the cross walk near her apartment complex, Nadia stopped when a chill raced down her spine. Never before had she gotten a shill so intense. Granted, the weather had cooled several degrees, but that wasn't it. There was nothing out of the ordinary; students, citizens, and the occasional car went along, shops and gas stations functioned as they always did, and she followed her usual routine. Was something wrong with Andrae? Was this a rare instance in which female intuition urged her to get home? "I knew I should have called for a paramedic," she mumbled as she hurried along. Ignoring the glare of the sunlight as she passed the local mirror shop, Nadia nearly ran the last few blocks to her apartment. As she neared the complex, the chill became less intense. A good sign, she figured. But she had to be sure.
The key to the door was in her hand before she'd made it to the stoop. Hastily, Nadia opened the door and let out an audible sigh of relief to find Andrae on the couch reading one of the books on demons she'd checked out of the library. Her blanket and pillow were put away, but he remained in the sweatpants she'd lent him. There was a strange buzz in the back of her neck at seeing him on her couch wearing her clothes. "H-how are you feeling?"
He looked up and felt his breath catch at the sight of her; with her back blocking the sunlight, there was an ethereal glow surrounding her entire body. Bolts of dark, raging fire burst through the midnight cloud of her hair, illuminating the creamy texture of her soft skin. Even after she'd entered the apartment and closed the door behind her, Nadia continued to glimmer in the dimmer light of the apartment. "Better. See? No infection."
"That's good to hear." She walked to the kitchen and on the way, dropped her bag onto the counter. A glass of water would surely calm her suddenly raging hormones. The cool liquid did nothing but remind her of the heat his touch evoked.
What was wrong with her?!? She'd only been home for two minutes and already she was acting like a sexually repressed teenager. With a sigh, she placed the cup in the sink then walked to the living room where she stood at the end of the couch. Before she could speak, she was left having to take a surprised step back when Andrae suddenly stood. "What is-"
"You walked back by yourself, right?" Andraemalek barely paid any mind to her as he walked to the window. Anger rolled over him at the faint but familiar scent of rotting fruit that lingered around Nadia. The bastard thought that he was smart; based on the fact that the scent was barely strong enough for him to detect, Nyx stayed six, no, seven feet behind as he followed Nadia home. But the winds went upwind of him, spreading his filth on her. Staring at the seemingly deserted quad, he waited for something, anything that would help him pinpoint Nyx's location. Andraemalek knew that he was still outside, toying with both his victim and her protector. "Did anyone follow you?"
"Follow me?" Nadia frowned in confusion as he made quick work of shutting the blinds. "What are you talking about?" Walking to stand behind him, she placed her hand on his bare back and gasped at the heat permeating off his body. She knew that he had a lot of body heat, but never did she expect... "Why would anyone follow me home?"
Andraemalek turned, ready to make up a far-fetched explanation of the dangers of living alone but stopped at the scent that wafted off her. New potent rage coursed through him, and had he not had the fierce control that he did, he would have surely punched a hole in her wall. "What were you doing with him, Nadia?"
If it wasn't for the eerily calm tone of his voice, she wouldn't have thought of taking a step back. But she did, and felt her heart rate accelerate when he took a step forward. "What are you-"
"You were with him. The one with the red hair." Spencer was his name. The navel lint who had dared to put his hands where they did not belong.
"How did you-" Shaking herself out of that line of thought, Nadia asked, "Why do you need to know?"
That was the exact opposite of what he wanted to hear. "Tell me."
"How did you get stabbed?" Crossing her arms over her chest, she tilted her head in curiosity. She waited only a minute before saying, "Tell you what, when you're ready to tell me about how you got that wound I had to patch up, I'll be more than happy to tell you what you'd like to know about me and Spence."
He felt his blood boil at the almost tender way she referred to the pond scum. "Don't play games with me."
"Practice what you preach." With a shake of her head, Nadia turned to walk away but instead gasped when he hauled her up against the hard planes of his chest. The rush of blood charging through her veins filled her ears as she struggled to keep herself from melting into his arms. She knew his game but this time, she refused to play. Administering a fierce slap that immediately made her feel wretched, Nadia stepped back and stared into his surprised eyes. "You don't get to put your hands on me without my permission."
"You didn't seem to have a problem with that when I-"
"Trust me when I say that hell will freeze over before anything like that happens again." Nadia walked to the far end of the living room, knowing that she would contradict herself if she remained near him.
"Stay away from him, Nadia."
"Or what, Andrae? You'll make him disappear?"
She did not know how close he was to making that happen. Nadia had no business associating herself with the peon. He was beneath her. He was navel lint.
"Spare me the unnecessary jealousy." Nadia walked into the kitchen and began to pull out ingredients for dinner. "You staying for dinner or are you well enough to go home?"
Andraemalek glanced at the windows before he said, "I'll stay, if that's all right with you."
He sensed the faint scent of her anger and sighed. He was good at upsetting her, he noticed as he walked to the kitchen. The adorable way in which she huffed about was indication enough of her annoyance. "Can I help with anything?"
"Can you cook?"
"I make pretty good take out." In actuality he did not require the daily nourishment humans needed to survive. He hadn't eaten since he'd had cake wither. But she didn't need to know that. Andraemalek smiled at the annoyed glance she shot him as he leaned against the counter. "I can cut some stuff up if you'd like."
Nadia didn't look at him while she separated the vegetables. It was difficult enough knowing that he was topless; she didn't want to look at the blatant temptation. "How good are you with a knife?"
In response, she simply slid the cutting board over to him. "Just dice them up, please."
Her polite nature always managed to cause such intense guilt that he was barely able to deal with it. Saying nothing, Andraemalek simply searched for an appropriate knife and worked on his task. When Nadia wasn't aware, he would stop for a moment and watch her. She seemed so at eased with cooking... With him. There was nothing like the feeling of doing something so utterly human with her. Such a simple thing, making dinner. This being the first time he'd ever done anything like it, Andraemalek had to admit... It was fun. From showcasing his talent with a blade to watching the quick and efficient way Nadia sautéed the chicken they would have, he thoroughly enjoyed himself.
He sighed. Did she really have to continue to give him reasons to keep her alive? Wasn't it enough that he'd already admitted to himself that he didn't want to kill her, that he wanted her? Apparently not, especially when she cast him sweet, shy smiles that did nothing but focus his attention on the sweet smell of berries permeating off her skin. She was happy.
She was happy to be with him.
"Done with those vegetables yet?"
He'd been done with them for a while but decided to look busy to have a reason to stay in the kitchen. "Just."
Taking a step back, Nadia motioned to the sauté pan. "Dump them in." She watched as he complied before she took a step forward to mix everything together. The air was suddenly filled with the intoxicating scent of chicken and vegetables, accented by the spices she'd used for extra flavor. Taking a deep breath, she said, "Smells so good."
Andraemalek took the opportunity to step forward and bury his nose in the crook of her neck. Inhaling deeply, he murmured, "Good enough to eat." He chuckled when he tensed in his arms and pulled her closer. Her soft rear touched his thighs because of their height difference, but he liked the feeling.
"You're going to get me burned if you keep this up." What happened to her order for him to keep his hands off? And why couldn't she control her suddenly pounding heart? Taking a breath, she pushed him away and turned off the stove. She grabbed two plates from the dish rack and evenly distributed their meal. She'd learned her lesson with the cake.
"Is that all we're having?"
"Yeah... I need to lose some weight."
Andraemalek waited until she'd carried their plates to the living room before he asked, "Why?"
"Why do you need to lose weight?"
Because I'm a beached whale, she wanted to say. "I have no stamina and even less endurance."
Casting her a smoldering look, he said, "I can definitely help you with that." He grinned when the scent of her nervousness wafted to him. "I am, after all, a personal trainer."
"Speaking of," Nadia said as she rushed to the kitchen to pour a couple of glasses of cranberry juice, "What are you doing about work for the next few days?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, you can't exactly work with a messed up side, now can you?"
Andraemalek waited for her to take a seat on the floor before he spoke. "You'd be surprised by what I'd be able to do with a messed up side."
"I always am." To prove his point, he leaned down and pulled her in for a rough and consuming kiss. His lips showed no mercy as they slanted over hers. Damn, but she was sweet. Nadia's soft lips molded to his and coyly mimicked his moved perfectly. And when her tongue tentatively brushed his bottom lip... With a growl, he pulled away.
Nadia let out a frustrated whimper as she watched him settle beside her. "What did I tell you about that?"
"Nothing you actually meant."
"Did you brush your teeth this morning?" It was the absolute worst question to ask after a kiss, but she was in desperate need of a subject change.
"Yes. By the way, if you have a problem with people using your toothbrush, I'll replace it later."
"You used my toothbrush?" When he only nodded, she said, "There's a spare in the medicine cabinet."
"I know. I saw it."
Nadia couldn't suppress her surprised laugh. He used her toothbrush. "Well, as long as you saw it..."
"Eat your food before it gets cold," he said on a laugh. As he ate, he thought of a strategy to defeat Nyx. It was obvious that he was waiting for the perfect moment to strike. The problem was figuring out when the perfect moment was. Andraemalek was sure that he would try to strike when there were no witnesses, which meant after dark. That meant he had to spend every moment with her after sunset. Andraemalek didn't have a problem with that, but he was sure that she would. That was something she would have to deal with on her own time. The only person allowed to kill her was him.
"You must have been hungry."
Andraemalek looked at Nadia as she quietly finished the rest of her food. It was then that he realized that he'd long ago cleared his plate. Shrugging, he said, "That was good. And I need to regain my strength." She didn't need to know that he was merely a day away from having a scar that looked decades old.
Putting her fork down, Nadia turned to look at him and cautiously asked, "Can you please tell me how you got that wound?"
He wanted to tell her to drop it, that though he was appreciative of all she'd done, it was none of her business. But the look in her big brown eyes made him cave. "I came home and there was a thief in my apartment."
"Oh, my God."
"Yeah. I tried to fight the fucker off, but he stabbed me."
Placing a hand on his shoulder, she said, "Andrae, you really should have called the police."
"The only thing I could think of was making sure no one broke into your place." At last, one statement that wasn't a blatant lie. The touched look on her face warmed him and made him want to kiss her again.
Clearing her throat, Nadia stood up and moved to put their plates in the sink. "I think I'm going to go take a shower."
"I'll do the same." At the panicked look in her eyes, Andraemalek smiled and said, "I need to get a change of clothes anyway."