The Order Ch. 09bypurefire©
There were hushed whispers. The sounds of a cracking fire in the distance. The soft whine of a dog. Where was the pain? She'd expected the pain. But there was only weightlessness. Sweet weightlessness. Was this death? There were no bright lights, no golden gates protecting castles made of thick, fluffy clouds. There was only the endless dark void she floated through. Both comforted and frightened, Nadia tried to think, to remember. There as pain, and fear... And then he came. Andrae. The demon. The animal sent to kill her. How could he?
How dare he?
A strange voice in the distance. An unfamiliar accent that was musical, soothing, telling her to relax, that she was safe. Warmth. Beautiful warmth soothing the pain away. She felt every muscle relax, pulling her closer to the heat. The voice continued to guide her, calm her. She was safe. If this was death, she gladly accepted.
Andraemalek watched as the bruises and marks slowly faded from her skin. She wasn't going to die, he'd been told, but she'd been close enough to death to prolong the process of saving her. It took two to help her while a large dog sat vigil; one to heal her body, and one to soothe the dark thoughts of her mind when they threatened to take control. She wasn't going to die, not today.
"It's going to take a few more minutes."
Andraemalek stared at the red haired man who healed Nadia. His blue eyes brightened as he worked. He wanted to ask questions but decided to wait until the job was done. The marks on her skin continued to fade until the natural color of her beautiful skin reappeared. She looked so peaceful.
"You need to stop thinking so hard," the other one said, "You're making it difficult for me to concentrate on her."
"Sorry," Andraemalek murmured. The abrupt apology had both men and the dog staring at him. "Help her," he admonished. He cleared his thoughts and waited.
"What happened to her?" the redhead asked.
"She was tortured by Nyx."
"Shit." The healer stood back and stared at the woman as he said, "She's lucky to be alive."
"Yeah," was all Andraemalek said. He watched as the man working to soothe Nadia's thoughts pulled away from her. His short blonde hair and misty green eyes should have been familiar to him, but they were strange and much too penetrating. "How is she?"
"It took a lot of work. She's pissed, D." The blonde haired man stood and rubbed the back of his head. "I couldn't get rid of the trauma from the torture, but I did manage to help her adjust to what happened." He looked at Nadia as he said, "She refused to let go of her anger. At you."
"I never thought that she would let go of that."
"Good." He took a step toward the large demon, unsure of how to act. Though Andraemalek had shifted back to his human form while he waited for the woman to be healed, he'd arrived as his demon self, shouting orders and looking ready to do battle. "Your thoughts were too loud for me to block out, so there were parts of your subconscious that she received."
"I don't care," Andraemalek replied. All that mattered was that she lived.
"Yeah, she'll live."
"Get out of my head, Caleb."
"Stop thinking so loudly." Caleb placed his hand on Andraemalek's shoulder and smiled as he said, "Even if it had to be like this, welcome home, brother."
"What took you so fucking long to come back anyway, asshole?"
"Liam, for five minutes, could you please put the temper away?" Caleb asked.
"No." Liam took a step toward Andraemalek as he said, "Darling brother here hasn't been home in over one hundred years and it's pretty obvious that he wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the human." He glanced at Nadia's sleeping form as he added, "By the way, why the hell would you come to us? Word is that she's out to expose demons."
"She is," Andraemalek answered. He controlled his temper because of Liam's. After one hundred years, some things never changed.
"Yet you're protecting her." Caleb said nothing to his brother's quick nod. This was interesting; his no nonsense, virtually unemotional brother went out of his way to protect a human he was sent to kill. A human he feared would die. "The Order won't like it."
"I'll take care of The Order," Andraemalek said as he looked at Nadia. She lay wrapped in her blanket looking small and vulnerable on the large bed. He decided against looking about the room; it had been his when he'd lived with his brothers. From what he knew of his family, they hadn't changed a thing. "I'll protect her, and the Brethren."
"So keeping her alive and hiding her is the best way to do that?" Liam asked. Under normal circumstances, he had no problems with his brothers using the manor as a safe house. But this wasn't normal.
"When did you go against the number one rule of not killing humans?" Andraemalek looked at his brother, expecting an explosion of temper. Liam was infamous for going off at the slightest provocation. Being contradicted was one of his largest pet peeves, meaning a shouting match was possible. Andraemalek would have none of that around Nadia.
"It's either you complete the mission or keep her for yourself, something Caleb sensed you wanted to do."
"You really expected me to keep my mouth shut about that?" Caleb asked when Andraemalek looked at him accusingly. He did not care that his brother had feelings for a human, or that he planned to protect her. His brother's life was just that; his. All Caleb was concerned with was the probable discovery of the Brethren. "Besides, I knew the humanity in you had to show itself sometime."
Andraemalek didn't say anything, only looked at Nadia's sleeping form. She'd want clothes when she woke up, things that she used everyday as well. "When do you think she'll wake up?"
"Sometime around morning," Liam replied. He felt his temper fade slightly as he watched his brother. Andraemalek was only concerned with the human. "What's her name?"
"Nadia," both Caleb and Andraemalek replied. They stared at each other for a moment before Caleb said, "D., you're pretty much stuck between protecting everything we're about and protecting her. You have to choose."
Andraemalek looked at his brothers for a moment before he said, "I have no idea why you just said that. Everyone in here knows that I already have." There was a long moment of silence before Caleb and Liam walked out of the room. Andraemalek immediately felt exhausted, as if he hadn't slept in years. He glanced at the large golden dog sitting vigil beside Nadia's bed and asked, "Anything you wanted to add?" He watched as the dog brought its expressive amber eyes to his a scant second before it looked toward the door. "I figured you'd agree with them," Andraemalek muttered. With a slight shake of his head, he remembered her needs. "I have to get some things together before she wakes up. Will you watch her for me?" He nodded in thanks when the dog gently placed a large paw on the bed. As he turned he heard a low whine, one that would not wake Nadia. Andraemalek almost smiled ash he said, "It does me good to see you too, brother."
* * * * *
Nadia stretched lazily as she burrowed herself deeper within the covers. She hadn't had such a peaceful sleep in... Ever. What time was it? She had class to get to and errands to run. Reaching for the bedside clock, she frowned when she only managed to bang her hand against the side of the bed. Opening one eye, Nadia looked around and immediately sat up at what she saw. Rich walls that reminded her of butter were accented by deep burgundy curtains and enhanced the dropped, picture frame ceiling. A large armoire rested against the far wall to the right and on top of it was a small round clock and two books. A dresser sat nestled between two windows and on it was what looked a lot like the hilt of the knife. A very old knife; knives didn't come encrusted with rubies and emeralds anymore, did they?
The edge of a very expensive looking oriental rug caught her eye and the deep greens and bright reds of the fibers accented the highly polished wood floors. A few wall sconces had burning candles in them to add to light bursting forth from the fireplace. There were no light fixtures. Where the hell was she? Nadia rested her head in her hand for a moment before she remembered. She gasped as everything rushed back to her. The man who tortured her... Andrae's admission... The voices... "Oh, God." She moved to get out of the bed but stopped when she realized that she was wrapped in her comforter. She wore nothing underneath. There was no possible way she could leave the room if she had no clothes.
Where was this place?
The soft mewl of a cat brought Nadia's attention to the far side of the room. The cat looked more like a miniature lion as it perched itself on the backrest of the high backed chair resting near the fireplace. Its amber eyes seemed to bore into her and she would have looked away had it not been for the fact that the cat motioned to the pile of clothes resting on the seat of the chair with its head. As she stood, Nadia grasped the comforter to her body and stepped forward. There was something strange about the cat, but it had a certain charm, especially when it turned its back to her. She said nothing, only looked at the clothes; there were two pairs of sweatpants for her to choose from, as well as a small selection of t-shirts and sweaters. Paranoid, she held the clothes to her nose and felt relief at the fresh scent of recently washed fabric. Nadia quickly pulled on a pair of black sweatpants, a dark blue t-shirt, and a hunter green sweater. The clothes hung off her, but they were clothes so she could not complain. For some inexplicable reason, she found herself saying, "I'm done," and frowned when the cat turned to face her. She wanted to thank the cat for the clothing and privacy, but told herself that the notion was idiocy; she would have been thanking a cat.
She needed to go home. As soon as she was in the safety of a familiar place, she could figure out her next plan of action. Nadia knew that Andrae had placed her here, which meant he was bound to return. To kill her? Probably not, but she wasn't in the mood to find out. "Shoes," she muttered. Shoes would be nice, especially if the ground outside was littered with stones or other sharp objects. At the sound of the cat mewling once more, she stared at it blankly as it used its paw to point to the armoire. She cast a cautious glance backward before she walked to the armoire and opened it. Then she frowned at the shelves of boots. They all seemed to be four sizes too big, but she didn't care. Nadia reached for the first pair she saw and stuffed her feet into them. She'd look weird walking in big clothes and even bigger shoes, but she'd make it home.
Nadia turned, ready to walk to the door, but found herself jumping backward and falling into the armoire at the sight of the tall man adjusting the t-shirt he'd pulled on. If she wasn't so damned scared, she would have appreciated the harsh beauty to his pale face. His long blonde hair fell in a straight blanket around his shoulders, framing and emphasizing the oval shape of his face. The crooked smile on his face displayed straight white teeth beneath his slightly crooked nose. Even from across the room, Nadia noticed his brilliant amber eyes. She looked to the chair, then looked back at him when she realized that the cat was gone. He said something to her, but she was barely able to hear over the rush of her blood racing through her veins. "I... What?"
"I asked you how you were feeling." The look of sheer terror in her eyes kept him from moving, though he couldn't help but smile at the rat's nest of hair perched on her head. She was a pretty thing, this Nadia, but he wasn't concerned with the way she looked. "I thought you'd be asleep for a few more hours."
"How did you get in here?" she asked as she righted herself into a standing position.
"I've been in here for hours."
Nadia seriously hoped he wouldn't have said that. "No, you weren't."
"Yes, I was."
His smile did nothing to placate her. "No, you weren't. I would have noticed you in here when I woke up."
"I'm telling you, I've been here since D. brought you." She was fighting the truth as hard as she could. He'd call Caleb in to help, but he'd gone with Liam to find information that would be useful to their brother. It was up to him to keep her calm. "You even looked at me when you woke up."
No. That wasn't what she wanted to hear. "There was only a cat..." Nadia's voice wavered when he nodded slowly. She began to laugh; lightly at first because she almost could have sworn that she was dreaming, then louder when she realized that she wasn't.
He was prepared to laugh along with her if it meant calming her down, but the notion stopped when she began to hyperventilate. He knew that knowledge of the supernatural was difficult for some people, but it should have been nothing for her. "Maybe you should sit down."
"No, maybe I should look up the asylum my Uncle Bernie was committed to." She moved to sit on the edge of the bed and rested her head in her hands. Too much was going on too soon.
"I wouldn't say all that." He sat on the edge of the bed as well, but made it so that they were on opposite sides. "My name's Euan." When she said nothing, he added, "I'm one of D's brothers."
"One?" A scant second after Nadia asked the question, she remembered the story she'd read about Royce the Rake. "Oh yes, that's right; the infamous Brethren." She looked over at him and caught his nod before she asked, "Aren't there twelve of you?"
"So where are the rest?"
"I'd like to go home now."
"Until everything is settled, you are home."
Naida sighed and tapped her foot in effort to calm her rising temper. "Listen, I don't know what he said to you, but I don't want to be here."
"We're trying to protect you."
"Then protect me someplace else."
Euan was quick to realize her distress at being in Andraemalek's room. "I can put you in another-"
"Listen, I get that you're trying to do your long lost brother a favor, but I'm not some chess piece to be shuffled along a board." Nadia stood and looked at Euan's surprised face. She figured he was like his brother; always used to having his way. "I don't know why, but I don't mind you looking out for me. But I don't want to be here. So it's either you take me back to my apartment so that I can get some things together before you take me to another safe house, or I'll be a pain in your butt."
As much as he wanted to intimidate her into submission, Euan remembered that she'd been through much in a short amount of time. She didn't need any more stress. "Anywhere?"
"As long as it's not here." Where his smoky scent covered everything. Where she was constantly reminded of how stupid she was. "What'll it be?"
Euan stood and took a breath as he said, "I'd rather have him mad at me than you... You can guilt trip me a lot easier than he can."
Surprised by the easiness of his agreement, Nadia said, "You're not like your brother."
"Thanks, I think."
"Trust me, it was a compliment."
That statement alone told Euan everything he needed to know. "I just need to get my shoes.
Nadia nodded and watched as he walked to the door. "Thank you for helping me."
"It's the least I could do." If it wasn't for her, his brother wouldn't be home. Euan moved to step out into the hall and as an afterthought said, "You have every reason to be mad at him."
"I'm glad you realize that."
"Don't hate him. He doesn't quiet understand how to handle human emotion."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"I don't have all the answers."
"It would be nice to meet the person who does."
"You already have. He's just not your favorite person right now." Euan said nothing more as he walked out of the room. He may not have known much more about humans than his demon brother, but he understood the look in Andraemalek's eyes when he looked at her sleeping form. His brother may have been able to lie to her about who he was but the look in his eyes...
Shoes. As soon as he got his shoes, he'd do what he could to help the human who brought his brother home after one hundred years.
* * * * *
It took Andraemalek much longer than he'd anticipated to get everything he needed for Nadia. Unused to packing for anyone other than himself, he'd spent the better part of four hours gathering what he thought was important. He'd made sure to take her oils and a few of her tank tops. He considered packing her textbooks for class, but realized that she would be too preoccupied with staying alive to think of it. In the end, he'd settled on three suitcases and a bag of her leftover comfort food. She wouldn't want to see him or have anything to do with him, he knew, but her life was more important than her feelings. Her feelings he could mend once everything was behind them.
Andraemalek shimmered into his room at the manor and was immediately aware of the fact that Nadia wasn't in bed. Before he gave himself a chance to panic, he set her belongings down and sniffed the air. There was a trace amount of her fear, but that could have been from waking in a strange place. The smell of her anger was present as well, causing him to frown. Did one of his brothers upset her? If Liam said anything to her...
It was possible that she was just in another room of the manor. He walked to the door and sniffed the air in the hall. Her scent was more prominent as he walked toward the staircase. Andraemalek followed the scent through the back of the house and felt his panic rise when it led him to the garage that housed his brothers' many cars. Euan's black Lexus LX09 was missing.
Where the hell did he take her?
He had to think. He was the most capable demon hunter to ever live. Surely it would be an easy task to track his brother and Nadia. He shouldn't have taken so long packing, should have been there when she woke up. She shouldn't have woken up to the sight of Euan's face, whichever one he decided to wear.
Andraemalek growled as he made a mental list of places his brother could have taken Naida. The Brethren used a number of safe houses, some not on the human plane. Someone in Nadia's position would have been the safest at any of those locations. He would start there.
She'd better not have run from him. The thought of Nadia willingly leaving him set Andraemalek's blood to a boil, especially since she employed the help of his brother. His blood. Her anger and hatred of him was understandable, but he would not tolerate her desertion, not after all he'd done and would do to keep her alive. She owed him her life.
Euan was going to die a very slow and painful death when he found them.