Daybreak Ch. 04bypurefire©
Charisma opened her eyes slowly and looked around the strange room cautiously. Damn, it wasn't a dream. She really hoped that the events of the past twenty-four hours were some type of food induced hallucinations that would make her reconsider her decision of letting Marie coordinate the procurement of their materials. She couldn't attribute it to drugs or alcohol as she did neither. But everything was real, and there was no going back.
She'd awakened to a nightmare.
The small island of shopping bags in front of the closet piqued her curiosity. How had they gotten there without her knowing? She prided herself on being a light sleeper; a grandfather clock that ticked too loudly a few rooms away was enough to keep her up all night. That she'd slept through the sea of bags being placed in the room only served to remind her of the life she'd been thrust into.
There were thousands of dollars worth of clothes, hair products, and footwear in the bags. A pair of very nice and comfortable looking sneakers that had to be the same price as her living room couch rested on the top of two other boxes of expensive shoes. Everything, down to the lacy underwear she'd blushed over was designer. Charisma knew that the men were wealthy and could probably afford to buy a few small countries, but that still made her hesitant to wear the clothes. At the same time, the clothes she wore last night were nowhere to be found. If she expected to leave the room at any point, she had to wear the clothes.
It took her twenty minutes to find the bathroom, shower, dress, and head downstairs. There had to be some kind of maid or personal shopper in residence she had to thank. The clothes, while expensive, were simple and fit her style perfectly. The hallway was quiet, giving her and odd feeling in the pit of her stomach. Charisma wasn't scared, but she knew that something was off. As she continued her walk, she chalked her uneasiness up to being in a strange home for even stranger reasons.
A small black Schipperke sidled out of a room and looked at her curiously. Charisma smiled in greeting as she said, "Good morning, Euan." Was animal form the only one he'd take, she wondered.
Charisma whipped around and felt her eyes widen at the sight of Euan standing a few feet behind her. She turned and looked at the dog then faced Euan once more. He was fully clothed. "Oh."
Euan smiled at the deep blush that took over Charisma's face. As a partial empath, he felt a flush taking over his skin as well. "Don't worry about it."
She only nodded as she turned to continue her journey downstairs. There was absolutely nothing she could say that would potentially get her out of trouble.
"Just so you know, I prefer being golden when in animal form. And my eye color never changes."
Charisma made a mental note of the information she was given before she continued on. She shook her head as she descended the stairs. The sounds of a television game show brought her to the kitchen. A large plasma screen television set was mounted over the large entryway. Save Euan, everyone was gathered around the large island. "Hello." As the men nodded in response, she moved to the seat Jameson vacated for her. "Thanks,' she murmured.
"Are you hungry?" Draco asked.
Charisma shook her head slowly. She rarely ever ate breakfast, primarily because she didn't like breakfast food. She loved to cook everything served at breakfast, but never cared for the taste.
When Jameson's arm brushed hers, she looked up at him. The deep stare he gave her sent shivers through her body. "Um, where is your maid?" She felt another flush take over her skin when the men simply stared at her. She'd never felt so vulnerable in her life. "It's just that I'd like to thank her for getting me all the clothes." There was another moment of silence as the brothers looked from her to Jameson and back. It was then that she realized that they didn't have a maid. Another blush took over her face.
"We'll thank her for you," Alexis said. He felt the sides of his mouth quirk up at the uncomfortable look on Jameson's face. "We need to discuss strategy," he added as a second thought. The statement was directed to his brothers.
Charisma watched the men stand and knew she had to do something before she lost her mind to anxiety. "Would you mind if I cooked?"
Roman stopped short and looked at her curiously as he said, "You can cook?"
She nodded slowly in response. Cooking was the one thing she knew she could control when life got out of hand. It was her sanctuary, her emotional outlet. The more she cooked, the calmer she felt. Even if she wasn't around her superior cutlery, an opportunity to calm down was much needed.
"Go for it," Roman said on a wink.
"Just don't burn the house down," Liam added, "I paid a lot of money for the crap you see in here."
Charisma only nodded as she frowned in confusion. She waited until the men left before she looked at everything she had to work with. The refrigerator was filled with almost every ingredient found in the supermarket. There was an extensive collection of cookware and spices and bless their macho hearts, they had the best appliances on the market. This wasn't her kitchen, but damn, it was close.
The next few hours were spent delicately mixing everything she needed for the large lunch/dinner she'd improvised. She didn't know if any of the men were vegetarians or vegans, so she created sides to satisfy all consumption standards. The more Charisma cooked, the calmer she became and the more she believed everything would work out. The only element missing was the calming polyphonic sounds of ancient chanting. She'd become obsessed with the unique form of music when she helped an old friend study for a music history exam and found that if she cooked while listening to it, she would create mouthwatering dishes. Not that what she currently cooked wouldn't be mouthwatering; it just wouldn't have the extra edge the music added.
Cooking brought her mind to her personal responsibilities. Marie had to be contacted as soon as possible; there was a chance that her overly-obsessive assistant would file a missing persons report if she thought anything was wrong. There was also the task of canceling any dinners she had planned. She'd let Marie take care of that.
Thoughts of her parents flooded her brain and for a moment, she considered contacting them as well. There was something about seeing Jameson with his brothers that made her long for a sense of family and belonging. Though she'd never really felt like part of her adoptive parents' family, especially after the death of her brother, she figured that it was never too late to try again. But did she really want to involve her parents in her life after everything she'd learned? It wasn't safe for anyone, especially her. No, she would wait until things were safer before she initiated contact. Marie would be the only one she called.
The image of Jameson's face caused Charisma to pause her actions. While all the men in the house were delicious in their own way, the grey-eyed fire thrower was the only one to make her stomach flutter when he was near. Charisma had been around her fair share of hot men and even found herself nervous around them, but there was something about the look in Jameson's eyes. He was not only curious about her, but he always managed to make her feel naked when he looked at her closely. It was as if he knew exactly how to knock down the walls she'd spent years building to keep the control she desperately needed over herself.
She could have been looking too much into it. Jameson gave her more attention than anyone else because he was sent to find her. He most likely found it upon himself to ensure her safety.
Her safety. It would have been nice to know how she ended up here, but the people who had the answers died before she could remember them. Charisma doubted her adoptive parents knew anything about the abilities she had and while Jameson and his brothers knew about such matters, they knew about as much as she did. And on top of all that, she had to avoid getting kidnapped by a demon that fed on the souls of humans to survive. "Surreal..."
Charisma looked at the entryway and found Jameson leaning against it causally. Based on his positioning, he'd been watching her for some time. He'd taken his hair out of the queue and the midnight sheet that surrounded his face gave him an oddly angelic look. Lord, the man was beautiful. "This whole situation," she replied as she stirred the small pot of soup she'd left to simmer, "I'm sorry if I embarrassed you earlier."
Jameson smiled as he walked into the kitchen. As he braced his hands on the island, he forced himself to stop staring at her. He'd watched her for the better part of ten minutes and in that time, he'd found himself itching to touch her. Charisma was so serene, so in control of her environment. He wasn't supposed to feel this attracted to her, but at the same time, he knew that he'd never feel the same about any other woman. It was as if... "Don't worry about it. I'll throw a couple of fireballs at them if they give me shit." He felt his stomach knot at the sound of her musical laugh and had to take a step back. "When did you want to call your assistant?"
"As soon as possible would be best."
He nodded as he said, "We'll give her a call later."
"I have to be here when you call to make sure that it's really her."
"Why wouldn't it be?"
Jameson chose not to answer the question. "Later." He turned to walk out of the room but stopped when she called his name.
"You said that your father was part of this 'High Council?'" When he nodded, Charisma asked, "Do you know where he is?"
"The High Council thought it best to keep that information from us, just in case we ever decided to set the old man free. Not that we would."
"I take it that you aren't his biggest fan."
Jameson shrugged. "I don't hate the man, but it's hard to appreciate someone who only created you to win wars." Too late, he realized he said too much. "What are you making?"
"Early lunch, late dinner. Pretty simple."
Jameson looked at the pot of soup she stirred before glancing at the other dishes littering the countertops. Roasted chicken, grilled vegetables, two pies, a large plate of salad, and other foods he couldn't identify sat waiting to be devoured. What he saw looked nothing like a simple dinner. But if she wanted to call it that... "Draco and Roman will feel like kings."
"They love food that much?"
Charisma laughed as she reached for the vegetables she'd set aside to chop. It was nice, simply talking to him. Jameson made her feel like she mattered, that she belonged. "I'm surprised you're still here and not out looking for clues."
"After sunset." He watched the way her delicate hands efficiently chopped the vegetables. Her long, slender fingers barely grazed the surface of the zucchini she worked magic on. Jameson wondered what it would feel like to have those beautiful fingers graze over his skin that way, gently exploring and memorizing every bump and ridge of his hardened body. Would her skin be softer than it looked when he mimicked the action?
"Can I go?"
Jameson looked at her incredulously. Luckily, she could not see the expression on his face as she continued to chop vegetables. "No, you're staying."
"Why do I have to stay?" The way she saw it, Charisma had every right to tag along. Those monsters were after her and she wanted to be there when the men found out why.
"I need to know you're someplace safe."
She paused in her task of chopping to look at him and ask, "Wouldn't the safest place be wherever you are?"
A knot formed in the pit of his stomach. What exactly did she mean by that? The way she phrased the question was indicative to the fact that there was something else lying beneath the surface. No, he didn't have the luxury of thinking of that. Crossing his arms over his chest, he said, "Listen. I was sent to protect you and until I'm sure that you're not in any danger, I have to play things safe." He'd already taken the first step by reactivating the protective cloak that concealed the manor. She couldn't leave and no one save his brothers and Nadia could enter.
"Sent by whom?"
Jameson stared into her curious pale green eyes and knew that he head to leave the room. There was no way he'd be able to keep from touching her if he lingered even a moment longer. "Someone you'll meet soon."
Charisma frowned when he abruptly turned and walked out of the room. How rude. Here she was, trying to know a little more about this life and all he could do was turn around and leave. What was that supposed to mean?
* * * * *
"And you say she gets paid to do this?"
Jameson nodded at Draco's question as he, along with the rest of his brothers, walked through the abandoned section of the city. Though they usually separated and checked parameters in pairs, they decided to go against protocol. If Alexis' intuition was right, they needed to stay together to avoid complications. After dinner, where everyone, including Euan, the resident vegetarian enjoyed their meal, he'd spent the better part of a half hour dragging the twins away from Charisma. Each wanted her recipe secrets and it was quite obvious that she was a true chef; she didn't share her secrets. So now, as they patrolled, Jameson had to listen to the dozens of questions Draco put to him.
"Maybe we should employ her."
"Drake," Jameson admonished with a shake of his head, "It's bad enough the girl had to deal with this. She doesn't need you hounding her for food all day."
"He wouldn't have to if she'd just give us the recipes," Roman defended.
"And you think paying her to cook for us would make her obligated to?"
"Duh, Lex," Draco answered, "If she works for us, we won't need the recipes."
Alexis only rolled his eyes heavenward.
Jameson looked up at Euan's falcon form flying overhead and heard the ear-piercing shriek exactly two seconds before the two Chinese fighting stars whizzed passed his ears. He turned just in time to see the dozen Mordecai rushing for them. As he prepared to launch a massive fireball at them, Liam rushed forward to attack. "Damn it, Liam," he muttered as he swung a left hook at the tall, disfigured demon that advanced. The demon actually had some sort of combat skill as it blocked his hits before landing a solid punch to his midsection. Jameson retaliated by kicking the demon back into the twins who took turns plunging a blade into three different Mordecai. They high-fived each other before turning to simultaneously punch the disfigured demon that stumbled toward them.
"Son of a bitch bit me!" Liam roared as he used the protractible blades strapped to his wrists to stab the oversized demon. Newly angered, he turned away from the quickly molting form and aided Alexis as he battled four eager demons. Together, the two men worked quickly to dispose of them.
"Keep one alive!" Jameson shouted as he set two more demons on fire. He smirked at their tortured screams and sidestepped the wayward arm Liam ripped off the still living Mordecai. He stepped forward and held the screaming demon by the neck as he commanded, "Tell me what I want to know."
The demon said nothing as it tried to staunch the bleeding that came from his missing arm he knew he was dead no matter what he did, so the only question was which method of death was less painful.
"Start talking." Jameson emphasized the gravity of the situation by allowing his hand to heat to the point of burning.
"Before the full moon," the demon cried, "Lord Zaide needs her before the next full moon!"
"That's in ten days," Alexis interjected.
"What does he need her for?" Jameson asked. When the demon only remained silent, he increased the heat pouring out of his hand. "What does he need her for?" He stepped back in surprise when the demon suddenly was consumed by flames. It screamed and begged for mercy as it writhed on the ground until finally, only a pile of ash remained.
"Why did you kill him?"
Jameson looked at Alexis as he said, "I didn't." He burst into flame himself."
"Since when does a Mordecai have those kinds of resources?" Liam asked.
"Since he's more than ready to kick ass and take names," Jameson answered on a sigh. How he loved it when things became more complicated. "Let's go back to the manor."