Cassandra's Curse Ch. 02bysimply_cyn©
It didn't take long for Raj to close his eyes and drift off to "sleep". Most folks, if they looked at him, would think him a corpse laying there; he lay so still and didn't draw a single breath. His heart hadn't beat in hundreds of years. Oh, he could breathe if he forced himself to ... but he hadn't in so long that it hurt to do so. His body didn't need it so he just didn't do it. As the sun rose and the city came alive, the night life crept away and vanished. Raj was simply waiting for it to return where he could prowl the streets again when the sun had disappeared once more.
Moving up to her bedroom, Cassandra quickly shrugged off her nightgown and pulled on her fitted jogging outfit; a plain baby doll t-shirt beneath a zipped jacket, mirror to the jogging pants that hugged each and every curve. Pulling on thick socks and tennis shoes, she glanced over at the television she had flicked on to catch the temperature as she tied the laces of her shoes. Seeing that she didn't need another jacket, she reached for her iPod before heading back downstairs and out the door, fitting the earplugs into place. She slipped the small sliver of music into her pocket before locking up with her key and started down the tree-lined street as the night sky grew even lighter.
Her feet seemed to move in time with the beat of the music blaring into her ears from the iPod Nano. It helped keep her mind on her work out even when her muscles started screaming that she had done enough. She always ran this trail twice ... to Barnes & Noble, then back home then to the store again for a total of fifteen miles and then the walk home to cool off for another five. It helped clear her mind for the day ahead and the rigors of her job. She was already on her second pass back to Barnes & Noble and she was looking forward to her cup of coffee.
She ran beautifully actually ... her motions were graceful as they were in everything she did. And she had speed but to start off with, she just wanted to limber up her muscles and get her breathing down before she pushed her body into a major workout. She ran more towards the city ... she liked to end her run at the local bookstore where she would always browse the new releases and end with a cup of coffee before walking back to her apartment for her cool down and hit the shower before work. Luckily, this Barnes & Noble opened early and gave her license to do just that.
Nijel was in the supernatural and witchcraft section of the store, as usual. He found himself here a lot. He was probably the only person who bought from this section and one of Barnes and Noble's best customer. It was here, the library or any number of other places he could get his hands on information. He was good at what he did. He kept people alive. That was his job; find out all you can to keep your people alive. He thumbed through the titles on the shelf, muttering to himself.
His fingers paused on a cover ... one he hadn't seen before. The title was in Saxon runes and he grabbed it and pulled it from the shelf to look at it, flipping the cover open to look it over. It was a chronology of vampire bloodlines. What the heck was it doing in Barnes and Noble? He flipped back to the front to see if there was any printing information. There was none; no author, no copyright, no publisher. Nijel's brow furrowed. "This is odd," he muttered to himself.
Nijel had several chronologies on hand back in his own personal library. Had he missed this one or was it new? He flipped to the back pages and scanned the ancient writing. No, this one was out of date; he had a newer one. With a sigh of relief he tucked it back onto the shelf and deftly pushed it out of sight. It didn't need to be seen by eyes that didn't know what they were looking at. Again he continued to thumb through the titles until a young woman approached him
The watcher's eyes snapped to his self-proclaimed assistant as she pointed to a picture of some demon or another and he arched a brow at her. 'Whatever is this for?'
She just grinned. "No reason ... I just thought it was cool. Don't you?"
Nijel grunted and rolled his eyes. "You need to learn to stay on task, dear."
The girl seemed to deflate some and closed the book. "Oh, okay Nijel. Sorry."
Nijel sighed and turned to look at the girl. He didn't want to hurt her feelings but she was so ... flighty. "Hope, why don't you go get a coffee and work on that study material?" He dug into his pocket and handed her his wallet.
The girl seemed overjoyed and grinned. "Yes sir! Will do." She grinned as Nigel turned his back and grabbed the pile of books they'd gathered on the table.
Cassandra pulled to a stop at the front of Barnes & Noble, drawing in deep breaths as her hands rested on her hips. Turning her face upwards to the sun rising over the horizon, she drank in the fresh air gratefully before turning her gaze to the now unlocked doors and smiled. Forcing her feet to walk forward again, her breathing tried to regulate as she entered the building. The smell of leather and freshly printed paper mingle with the aromas of Starbuck's coffee as they floated in the air, tickling her senses. She moved towards the escalator and stepped onto it so that it would take her upstairs to the coffee house first ... she needed some caffeine desperately.
Stepping off the escalator, she moved with sure steps on long legs towards the coffee house tucked into the southern corner of the upstairs store. The girl behind the counter noticed her immediately and smiled. "Cass ... good morning. Your usual?" Cassandra smiled and nodded, pulling the earplugs from her iPod out of her ears and tucked them into her jacket pocket along with the thin player.
"Yes ... that would be great Nicki, thanks" and took a moment to draw in a few more deep breaths as she waited for her latte to be done. Glancing around at the sparse shoppers out this early in the morning, she took the outstretched latte from Nicki and paid the girl before moving to take a seat near the window looking out onto the city. Sipping slowly, she took a moment to enjoy her latte before roaming through the aisles of books. She would have taken it with her but the proprietors didn't really want drinks roaming around the books and she couldn't blame them but she would have liked to keep moving. The best thing was to try and make it through her cup quickly so she could peruse the new releases before she had to head back. The sun was coming up quickly now and she had to be heading back soon to prepare for the work day ahead with a sigh. God, she needed a change in life.
A young girl, no more than twenty or so stumbled as she passed by Cass's table. The armful of books she had held in her arms suddenly flopped to the ground. The smaller books skittered and the bigger ones just fell with a big noticeable boom that resounded deafeningly, or seemingly so, through the quiet bookstore. The girl look startled "Oh wow wow wow! Jeez, I'm so sorry miss." She leaned down and started to pick up her mess, gathering the books once more and setting them on a table opposite Cassie's.
Cassandra smiled gently, setting her cup down and bent to retrieve a book that had slid near her foot. Handing it out towards the girl, her jaded eyes sparkled some as she spoke, "No worries ... you didn't do anything to disrupt me. You okay?" she asked, genuine concern etched in her brows as she looked at the girl.
The girl reached and took the book she offered "Thanks, yeah ... I'm fine." She pulled her reading glasses from her face to better see the woman and smiled. As she grasped the book she paused and spoke softly, "Whoa ..." Her eyes widened and she took the book, adding it to her pile.
Cassandra's eyebrows furrowed some as she saw the look on the girl's face, releasing the book to her hand "What?" Her hand involuntarily lifted to her face, wondering if she actually looked bad enough to comment on or if she had something on her face.
The girl just blinked and straightened the books up. She seemed startled and spoke again "Um, wow ... " She grinned and reached for Cass's hand."Hi, I'm Hope. I ... I ... " She blinked again. "Wow!"
Cass blinked, clearly confused as she reached for the girl's hand. She wanted to ask her what it was that had the girl so flustered but instead picked her coffee back up to take a sip. Seeing her still standing there as if she were expecting something, she couldn't resist asking, "Was there something I could do to help you?"
"Uh ... y-yeah ..." the girl trailed off. She'd forgotten about the coffee by then. Nijel's wallet was safe in her pocket as she grabbed the pile of books again and hugged them to her chest. "Yeah ... uhm, there's somebody I need you to meet."
Cass was completely baffled by now. This girl apparently had her confused with someone else. "I'm sorry ... but do I know you?" she asked, her jaded gaze looking the girl over. She was trying to remember if she had run across her before.
"Um yes, I ... I mean, no. I ..." She took a deep breath and tried to settle. "I know this may sound strange. I ... we ... I know you. Please, you need to meet somebody. He's downstairs." She blinked. She knew she must be coming across as some nutcase on crack. But, wow! She never thought she'd meet one; let alone here.
Cass glanced down at her watch. It was time that she started heading back. She was apparently not going to have time to browse the new releases and lifted her cup to drain the last of her coffee before glancing at the girl one last time. "I'm sorry ... I think you have me confused with someone else. I have to head back home to get ready for work ..."
Hope's eyes widened and she stepped in the way of the woman's escape. "No, no ... I can't have you confused. I ... " She glanced around. She couldn't talk here; she already sounded like a crack case. "Please, it'll take only a few minutes. You ... he'll explain."
Cassandra sighed gently, glancing at her watch one last time as she stood and tossed the cup into the trash. "Five minutes ... that's all I can spare but seriously ... I think you have me confused with someone else," she added. This was ridiculous but the girl looked so hopeful and anxious at the same time. They were in the middle of Barnes and Noble. It wasn't like she was following her outside.
Hope grinned from ear to ear and clutched her books like they were all she had in the world. She turned toward the escalator and before stepping onto it she glanced over her shoulder to be sure the woman was following her. When they met the ground floor she took a quick pace to the back corner of the store. It was an area not commonly visited except by a certain sort of person; somebody like Nijel or anyone interested in witchcraft.
Cassandra followed the girl, checking her pocket for her iPod and her apartment key ... something she did habitually after standing up after sitting. She glanced at her watch again as they started down some aisles and then up to see what section they were in. She noticed that this was one part of the store she had never ventured into before. "So who am I meeting?" she inquired curiously.
"You'll see." Hope said and darted into the section. "Um ... Nijel?"
An older man straightened up and looked at the young girl, looking rather irritated. "What now, Hope?"
The girl's eyes widened and she backed away a step or two. "Um ... Nijel, there's somebody ... uhh ... important you need to meet." When Nijel was again looking at the books she cleared her throat to get his attention. "Now, Nijel."
Cassandra stopped just behind the girl ... so Hope was her name. It was a beautiful name for a girl clearly lost when it came to common sense and Cass looked past her to the older gentleman before her. She was trying to figure out if she knew him somehow as well, clearly confused on what either one of them would want with her before glancing at her watch again. Whatever it was, they needed to hurry.
Nijel turned his attention again to Hope and sighed, reaching up to brush his salt and pepper hair back and adjusted his glasses as he eyed the young girl. "Fine. It better be quick." He looked at Cassandra as Hope pointed to her and he reached a hand toward her. "Hi, I'm Nijel. Pardon Hope. She's ..." he faltered off some as he cast her a meaningful glance. "She's a bit ...flaky."
Cass flashed him a brilliant smile, one of those that showed that not only was she smart but she knew how to use her charms. Shaking his hand gently, she distracted her hand from his and glanced to the girl Hope. "She's fine but I think she has me confused with someone else." Glancing at her watch again, she added with a soft sigh, "It was nice to meet you, really, but my time is short."
Nijel tensed when their hands touched but he let her go easily enough, only to meet her eyes evenly. He spoke to himself, but it was aloud. "It ... it can't be." He glanced at Hope and the girl nodded before he turned his attention back to Cassandra. "Wait, you can't leave yet."
Cassie's eyebrows furrowed some as she shifted her gaze from the man to the girl, catching the glance between them and wondered what in the hell was going on. "I'm sorry but what exactly is it that you wanted with me? I feel like I'm supposed to know something and honestly, I'm clueless. Do I know you? Hope mentioned that she knew me ..."
Nijel just grinned and reached for her hand again to guide her to a chair and spoke in very hushed tones only for her to hear. "I can't say much here and I know we must seem like a couple of insane cases belonging in an asylum. I know; but you have to trust me and not be afraid. We ... " He glanced at Hope then back to Cassandra. "I do know you. You're the one I've been waiting for."
Cassandra felt herself being led to a chair and even as that rational part of her screamed that it was time to go, that she was going to be late, that other part of her was curious about these two and what they had to do with her. "Waiting for? What do you mean? I really don't think I know either one of you at all ..." she trailed off.
He glanced at Hope again and she just nodded as he continued quietly, "That's because you don't, but ... you will; and you do now. You're ... " he paused. It would come off rude, but he said it anyway. "You're older than I expected but that's fine. I can work with it."
Cassie blinked some, hearing his words. "Older than you ... what?" She felt her feathers being ruffled, so to say. She was far from old. She was only twenty-five years old and had made quite the name for herself in that short of time. Pulling her hand from his, she stopped following him only to say in a soft hushed tone, "I really think it's time for me to go."
Nijel sighed and rubbed his temple. It seemed a nervous habit and he shook his head. "Wait, please. Let me speak. Sit a moment. I'll give you a ride to wherever you need to go."
Cassie sighed a moment and sank down into one of the plush chairs that littered Barnes and Noble, glancing upwards at the man. "Okay ... speak because I'm completely lost here."
"Yes, I know you are. Probably a bit scared too, no?" He grinned good-naturedly as he looked at her and he bent forward to speak to her alone, his tone hardly above a whisper. "Have you ever found yourself profoundly agile in physical activity such as any kind of martial arts or fighting sport? Or have you ever had the feeling like you could read a person's personality or soul? Like an aura?"
She tilted her head a bit, looking at the man strangely for a moment. Cassie had stopped thinking about her natural ability to excel in sports, especially kick-boxing a long time ago. Her brows furrowed as she gazed at him, feeling very much scared as he had mentioned. "Who are you really?" she whispered almost harshly. "Have you been following me?"
Nijel blinked and shook his head "No ... no. I haven't seen you until today. You can rest assured I haven't followed you nor have I hired anybody. As I said earlier, I'm Nijel. Nijel Harris ... professor and ... " His tone hushed again. "Master of Knowledge of the supernatural."
That last comment confirmed her suspicions ... he was crazy. They both were. She blinked some though as if she couldn't quite believe what he had just said. "Excuse me?"
He sighed. She thought he was crazy; of course. The slayer had NO idea who she was. She hadn't awakened yet. Thank God he had Hope around. He watched Cass closely and spoke softly in attempt not to scare her. "I'm a Watcher, Cassandra ... does that mean anything to you?"»
Her eyebrows furrowed even more. How did he know her name? "No ... no, of course not. Why would it?" She didn't like feeling like she was in the dark. She had always been in control and on top of things and now she just felt ... confused.
He took a deep breath and tried to soothe the situation some. "I'm a Watcher. I was sent here to seek out a girl ... a Slayer. I was told she most likely wouldn't have a clue who she was and it was my job to teach her. I ... that girl is you. You're Cassandra Blackthorne, yes?"
"How ... how did you know my name?" she breathed, his words lost on what he was saying. "A Watcher ... a Slayer ... what does that mean? Teach me what?" She had so many questions and suddenly she had forgotten about having to get home and get to work.
Nijel looked around the place; it was relatively uninhabited. He would've preferred not to talk in a place where unseen ears could be listening but it seemed it was a now or never situation. "A Watcher is assigned to his or her Slayer. It's our job to retain information to tell our Slayers what they're up against. It's our job to keep our Slayers alive by giving them the information they need to stay alive."
Cass tried to wrap her mind around what he was saying. "Keep them alive? What do you mean?" She could feel her jaded eyes widening some as she listened to him. This was ridiculous. What in the heck was she supposed to be slaying?
"I mean to keep them alive; meaning not letting them die by some stupid mistake due to ignorance."
She leaned down, resting her elbows on her knees as her hands came up to run over her dark hair pulled back in a long ponytail. This didn't make any sense. What the hell was he talking about? Glancing up at him she asked, "I don't understand ... you're calling me a Slayer. What exactly is a Slayer?"
He smiled and sat back some. "I was waiting for that question. A Slayer is exactly that; she slays things ... things of the supernatural." Again he hushed his tone, speaking just to her. "A slayer is mortal but ... she is supernatural in herself."
She just kind of looked at him, unable to really understand what he was saying, her features showing her confusion and disbelief. "So you are saying that you want me to be a killer of supernatural things? That's got to be the most ridiculous thing that I have ever heard of" and then as she realized how harsh that must sound, added "No offense."
Nijel DID flinch a bit at her accusatory tone but he took it all in and smiled again. "I know. You're probably thinking I'm some crack case old fool. You have to take it on faith and trust me, Cassandra. You must."
Cassandra sighed gently as she gazed at him. It was apparent that he was serious but it didn't make any sense ... none of it. She didn't know what to do or what to say to him. "I ... I don't know what to say," she answered honestly. She needed time to think ... it was all happening so fast. This isn't what she expected today of all things.
He sighed and rubbed his temples again. "I know. Of course you wouldn't. It's alright. But please, just trust me; let me teach you." Glancing around he added, "I rally can't talk here."
Cass watched him for a long moment, a part of her wanting ... no needing to reach out and take hold of this and see where it went. Her dreams ... her unspoken desires ... it all seemed to be becoming more clear as if those things that only came to her in the night were suddenly starting to nibble on her consciousness and she didn't know how to explain it. Even as the words came out of her mouth, she was surprised to hear them. "Okay ... I'll give it a chance," she said on a bare whisper even as she stood up. She was late and she was confused but at the same time, she was unexplainably thrilled.