Haunted Prey Ch. 04bypurefire©
"All right Julie, we made a lot of progress today." Alauria smiled at the young woman seated at the piano, extremely proud of their years of working together. At fourteen years old, Julie was ready to compete against pianists much older than she, and it was because of the passion and dedication the young woman showed to her craft. Alauria liked to take some credit for that; she'd been the one to take on the challenge of Julie when many other instructors had deemed her un-teachable. It helped that Alauria was new to instructing; she and Julie had to work together to find a medium that satisfied them both. Years later, they were equal when it came to proficiency. "If you'd like, you can stay a little longer."
"I wish I could, but I can't." The petite blonde grabbed her almost too large back pack before standing from her position at the piano. "Gran's waiting outside."
"She's always welcome to come sit in."
"She knows, but she can't. The stairs make her arthritis worse."
That certainly explained why she'd only ever interacted with the sweet older woman outside. Alauria made a mental note to start looking for buildings with an elevator or something on the main floor when her lease was up. It was the truth that she grew tired of having to carry everything up a flight of stairs or paying some of the neighborhood musicians to do it. "All right. Keep up the good work. I'll see you on-"
"Thursday," Julie finished. She smiled when her instructor smiled before turning to arrange the music scattered around the piano. "See you then!" Julie turned to run out of the room but stopped at the sight of the extremely large man standing at the door. At just five feet, she knew that she was small, but she might as well have been called a hobbit in front of him. "Excuse me, sir."
Lindsay quietly stepped to the side and smiled down at the young woman who rushed passed him. He heard her murmur 'holy crap' to herself and smiled in response. He was used to that kind of reaction, even expected it, but that never lessened his amusement. The only time he hadn't laughed was with Alauria, who once again, had no idea he was even in the room. Lindsay wanted to take offense to that; he was a tall man who had a lot of presence. How could she not have realized that he was in the room? "Hey."
Alauria felt herself close her eyes in dread. It wasn't that she didn't want to see him. It was that she did; so much that it hurt. He'd let another seven days go by before simply showing up again and while she didn't mind that because she only saw the majority of her students weekly, it was quite clear that he wasn't just a simple student. He'd made it known that he was a man who wasn't afraid to act on his attraction to her. That was of course, when he wasn't acting as if she didn't exist. "Hello, Lindsay."
There was something about the way she greeted him that had Lindsay narrowing his eyes suspiciously. Her voice was hard and detached, as if she was only going through the motions of speaking to him. She didn't even turn around to look at him. "Did I come at a bad time?"
"Not really. My next student isn't for another hour." She went back to arranging her music before she went to file it away. Alauria faintly heard him follow her to the back room and figured that she had to make conversation before she ended up staring at him like an idiot. "What brings you here today?"
She might as well have asked him what the hell he wanted from her. It wasn't as if he knew the answer to either question. "I figured that I should get you your payment for last week's lesson before the next one."
Seriously? He kisses her, ignores her for seven days, and then comes to her with that nonsense? Of course he had to be an asshole; she seemed to attract them like flies to honey. "Just write down your address and I'll send you the bill and some referrals."
"Referrals for what?"
Lindsay was too shocked by what she said to stop her when she brushed passed him to leave the room. She didn't want to teach him anymore. "Why would I want another teacher?" He didn't even want to play piano!
"It's not about what you want." Suddenly, she was a jumble of nerves and knew that there was only one way to calm her racing heart. Alauria sat down in front of the piano and immediately began to play Chopin's Revolutionary Etude. The tumultuous rhythm of the music forced her to focus on the movements of her hands and allowed her the opportunity to forget that he was in the room. Yeah, right...
Had he not cared about what she thought about him, he would have shoved the piano across the room. "Why don't you want to teach me anymore?"
Alauria waited until she'd finished the piece before she looked at him. He was leaning against the piano casually, and it immediately made her angry. "Because you have no focus, you look bored half the time you're here, and there is no passion for the craft. If you just want to know how to play music that's in front of you, go to someone who'll teach you how to go through the motions."
The dangerous gleam in her eyes as she looked up at him told him that she wasn't very happy with him. Lindsay wasn't sure how to react to that. "What do you teach, then?"
"I don't teach my students to play what's in front of them. I teach them to become the music." She stood and took a step back, making sure to keep the bench between them. As angry as she was, she was still ridiculously attracted to him and that put her in all kinds of danger. "I teach them to feel what they play. That's not something I think you're capable of understanding."
Lindsay ignored the insult, primarily because of what she said before it. She was definitely wrong about him wanting to feel; he wanted his hands all over - just not all over the music. He inwardly cursed Alexis for this new complication in his life. "Is it my lack of passion for the music that makes you want to get rid of me or is it something else?"
"Something else like what?"
"Like the fact that I kissed you."
Alauria cursed herself when she felt her cheeks heat. She looked away from his intense eyes for a moment, unsure of what to say. She couldn't deny the claim, not after the blush that took over her face. At the same time, she wasn't about to let him know that his kiss still affected her. "About that kiss..."
"Don't you dare try to act like it didn't mean anything to you." Lindsay would be damned if she tried to make light of the way she kissed him back. She wanted him just as much as he wanted her, which should have been all the reason he needed to keep away from her. But it was quite clear at that point that he couldn't.
"Did I say that?" She watched as he visibly relaxed. The movement of his body was enough to show her that it wasn't just a kiss to him. His body also displayed his mixed emotions about that. She didn't need him confusing the hell out of her while he tried to get things together in his head. "That's just another reason this whole teacher- student thing won't work, anyway."
He felt his eyes narrow when she casually waved, as if dismissing the notion. Her penchant for difficulty was quickly wearing on his nerves. "I don't want another instructor."
And she didn't want the risk of letting him ravage her on her piano. "You're just going to have to deal with it."
He was going to have to deal with it? Lindsay found himself laughing in spite of himself. She was definitely more comfortable with him. "What are you doing tonight?"
Alauria took a step back and shook her head furiously as she said, "No. No, you don't get to ask me out."
"Why the hell not?"
"You think you can just come in here when you want, kiss me, ignore me for eighty million days and that viola! I'll agree to go out with you? Please."
"It's just a date." He let out a frustrated breath when she only stared at him. "Look, I like you. And I don't like it."
"This is supposed to convince me to let you take me out?"
She had a point. "I'm just trying to figure out why."
Alauria crossed her arms over her chest as she asked, "And what happens if we go out and you still can't figure it out?"
"I'll just have to take you on another date."
The determined look on her face tugged at his heart. He had to admit that he liked her strength. "I could just kiss you again." The fierce blush that took over her face made him laugh again. "Natoli. Seven o'clock. If you don't show up, I'll try to leave you alone."
He was serious! Alauria only stared at him in shock as he wrote the name and address of the restaurant down on a piece of paper he pulled out of his pocket. He seriously asked her out to dinner. She seriously wanted to go.
"Hello there, Honey Bun."
"Oh Good Lord..." Alauria turned sharply and forced herself to smile. "Hi, Mom."
Alauria's mother looked from her flushed daughter to the large, good-looking man who stood near the piano. His gaze shifted from her to her daughter and there was a level of curiosity she couldn't make out. "I was just in the neighborhood and wanted to see how everything is going." She glanced at the man again and smiled at his cordial nod.
"Everything is fine. Lindsay was just leaving."
"Oh, this is your new student."
Lindsay quirked a brow at the revelation. She'd told her mother about him. "Former student. According to your daughter, I'm utterly hopeless." He stepped forward and held a hand out to her. "Lindsay Royce."
Aside from the general shape of the face, Patricia looked nothing like Alauria. Her daughter stood three inches taller than her and the sepia tone of her skin was shades lighter than her mother's mocha complexion. Alauria's eyes were also darker than her mother's and much more expressive. Patricia was still a stunning woman, however, as evidence of her infectious smile and soft facial features. "Pleasure to meet you." He focused his attention on Alauria, who looked ready to run out the door. "Natoli. Seven." Lindsay smiled at Patricia as he said, "I'll leave you two ladies to have some quality time." He felt himself whistling as he walked out of the studio, and damn if he didn't want to laugh again.
"Have you slept with him yet?"
"Jesus Christ, Mother!"
Patricia looked at her daughter's mortified face and shrugged nonchalantly. "I can see that you want to."
"I'm not having this conversation with you."
Patricia walked to the piano and glanced at Lindsay's perfect scripture. It had to be his; Alauria's print looked like chicken scratches. "Natoli? It's one of the finest restaurants on the bay."
"I know, Mom." She did not need to be reminded of how easily Lindsay could sweep her off her feet. "He's a very strange man."
"Strange or no, he's hot."
"For the love of..." Alauria felt herself stopping when her mother sat down and began to play Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3. The piece always served to calm her nerves during moments of stress with her mother. She let the melody of the piece ease her tension and soon, she found herself sitting on a nearby chair to watch her mother play. It was from the outspoken woman that she'd developed her love for the piano; she'd wanted to play as beautifully and as effortlessly as she'd seen her mother. There was never anyone who played better than Patricia Sanders.
"Are you going to go out with him?"
Alauria sighed as she said, "I'm not sure. I barely know him."
"That's the thing about dating, Honey Bun; you go out with someone to see what he's about."
How she hated it when her mother had a point. Alauria remained silent, taking in the music her mother played and hoped that she could get herself together before she spontaneously combusted. Lindsay would have been a wonderful complication to her life - if he wasn't so damned complicated. Because of him, she was a jumble of incoherent thoughts.
"You don't have to go out with him if you don't want to."
"I know that, Mom."
"Yes, but just know that if you don't make a nice cup of lemonade with the lemons he's throwing at you, I sure will."
* * * * *
Based on the amount of time he'd allotted for himself, Lindsay had exactly one hour to shower, find something to wear, and drive to Natoli. He'd cheated and only descended the stairs halfway to listen in on the conversation Alauria and her mother had once they thought he left. He was vastly amused by Patricia's boldness and wondered why her reserved daughter couldn't be the same. In actuality, part of his attraction to her was her reserved nature; there was no real reason for him to compare the two women. Lindsay liked Patricia; she seemed to be a very accepting woman. She wouldn't mind having him for a son.
He stopped at the thought. Since when was he thinking about what the title entailed? He was only going out on a date with Alauria. That did not mean marriage. Serious relationships weren't in the cards for him; with the exception of his brothers, the people he loved were always in danger - if they weren't immediately killed anyway. He didn't want to carry that with him anymore. He'd been through enough pain.
Lindsay knew something was wrong the second he'd walked through his door. There weren't any lights on like when Alexis cursed him to his fate, but there was a dark and ominous charge to the atmosphere. He set down the flowers he'd purchased for Alauria on his way home a second before he let an electrical charge flow into his hands. Lindsay stalked through the small foyer, prepared to blast at anything that jumped at him.
What he found made him livid. Sitting on his couch was the unmistakable form of the one demon he wished he could kill. "What are you doing here, Raife?" He felt his eyes narrow in annoyance when the black demon only smiled. Jagged teeth gleamed in the filtering moonlight, and Lindsay was sure that Raife's skin was even darker than the last time they were in the same room.
"Can't an old friend stop by for a visit?"
"We aren't friends."
Raife said nothing and looked around the room when the lights were turned on. "I like what you've done with the place."
"It'll look even better once you leave."
Raife laughed at the comment before staring at the ground. The demon lifted its yellow eyes to Lindsay's cold green ones. "There was a time when we were civil to one another."
"That was before you killed my mother."
"I couldn't go against my clan."
"Better to go against me than them, is that right?" Lindsay shook his head slowly and focused his attention on the bottles of liquor. A bottle of two of tequila dominated his thoughts and if it wasn't for the fact that he had to meet Alauria, he would have indulged. "What do you want, Raife?"
"I hear you're taking piano lessons."
Lindsay felt his hands ball up into fists. "I told you to keep your people off my ass."
"They were, until you started standing outside windows at two in the morning."
Lindsay wanted to blast the demon with a surge of electricity so powerful, it would block off all electrical power sources for the city. Lindsay wished he could, but he couldn't. Raife had made it impossible for him to do what needed to be done. "Get them off me, or I kill them."
Raife made no reply to the comment; the demon only smiled at Lindsay's anger. "I wonder what Rachel would think."
At the mention of the name that haunted him, Lindsay felt his body tense in rage. "Rachel is dead."
"Not in the biblical sense."
"What the fuck would you know about the bible?"
"It's a good read." Raife leaned forward to rest spiked elbows on its hardened knees. "I'm particularly fond of the Good Friday story. Interesting how a person can come back from the dead."
Of course the bastard would warp the tale for its own personal gain. Lindsay ignored the irritating sounds of Raife's hardened skin scraping against itself as he said, "She's dead to me. That's all that matters."
"But you promised to love her forever, remember?" Such promises needed to be upheld. It was only right.
"That was before," Lindsay said with a shake of the head, "things have changed."
"You could still be with her. Souls get reincarnated all the time."
Lindsay almost laughed at the argument. "Not hers, and you know it." Rachel could never be reborn, not unless he... No, he wouldn't think of that.
"Doesn't mean the soul isn't around. Waiting for the promises you made to remain true."
"Rachel is gone."
Raife had to suppress the surge of rage that took over. The demon would have loved nothing more than to rip the bastard's self righteous head right off his body, but rules and prior commitments prohibited the action. That didn't mean the demon slayer couldn't be reminded of his weaknesses. "Is this because of your little piano instructor?"
Lindsay remained quiet. He knew Raife's game and would be damned if he played. Alauria had nothing to do with the conversation, and he would do all he could to ensure her separation from the paranormal aspects of his life.
"Attractive enough, for a human. But if I remember correctly, you liked your women best when they walked the thin line between good and evil." Raife smiled at the murderous expression on Lindsay's face. Yes, this was the desired reaction. "You loved not knowing if the women you took would be next on The Brethren's extermination list."
Lindsay threw caution to the wind and walked to his collection of liquor. He grabbed the bottle of tequila and took three large swallows in quick succession. The sensation of liquid fire coating his insides did nothing to dispel the rage coursing through his veins. "Tastes change. People change. You should know that better than anyone else."
With narrowed eyes, Raife said, "She'll never come close to Rachel. Rachel was a woman who did what she had to do to get what she wanted."
"And look at what that got her," Lindsay said on a cynical laugh.
Raife watched the demon slayer take another three swigs of the fiery liquid and said, "It's not nice to break promises. People get hurt." When Lindsay only gave a suspicious look, Raife decided to add, "Karma, you know."
Lindsay knew exactly what the self serving demon meant. Enraged, he launched the bottle in his hand clear across the room. The sounds of glass shattering only made him wish that it was the demon's ceramic-like skin that created the sound. "Don't you dare threaten her!"
"I'm a demon. We don't make threats." Raife stood up, preparing to leave. The conversation was becoming boring. "But we do honor our words. Well, at least my kind doesn't. And I promise you that if you continue to betray Rachel's memory, your little chit will be the one to pay."
Lindsay watched with angry eyes as Raife prepared to teleport out of the room. "My loyalty to Rachel died the moment she did."
Raife stared at Lindsay for a moment before saying, "I just wonder if you'd be more inclined to keep your promises if your little instructor dies too."
* * * * *
He was a dead man.
Alauria shook her head furiously as she walked toward her apartment building. Normally she would have just parked her small Volkswagen Beetle in the parking lot, but as someone in the building was having a party, all available parking had been taken. That left her to park in the only other lot in the neighborhood -- four blocks away. And in four inch stilettos that made her want to chew her own feet off, she was ready to murder someone. She already had a victim in mind; he stood at around six feet four, had red hair, and infuriatingly sexy green eyes. Meet at Natoli, he'd told her. If she didn't show up, he would understand. Well she did show up; had even gone through the grueling process of dressing up for the bastard. It took her nearly an hour to straighten her curls and even longer than that to shower, apply makeup, and get dressed. The prettiest dress she owned, a simple black cocktail dress with a shimmering lace overlay, was her ensemble of choice.