Haunted Prey Ch. 09bypurefire©
Alauria opened her eyes slowly and found herself staring up at the ceiling. This time, she knew where she was, and the memory of last night brought a slow smile to her face. She knew that Lindsay wasn't in bed, which meant it was safe for her to take in the new level of intimacy of their convoluted relationship. As she stretched lazily, she let out a small groan at the wonderful soreness she felt. The man sure was thorough when it came to turning her into jelly. The simple memory of the way he touched her had her body heating, readying itself for another round.
Shock had her sitting up abruptly. She remembered to clutch the blanket to her naked chest as she stared at him in disbelief. Lindsay stood in front of the window again, but this time, he'd turned to lean against the frame so that he could comfortably watch her sleep. Damn, he'd seen the look on her face when she woke up. A fierce blush took over her face and she looked away from him, unable to make eye contact. The sigh he emitted sounded frustrated and she only had a second to look in his direction before he was sitting on the side of the bed, his hand on the bed trapping her between his arm and hip.
"Did you sleep well?"
She was only able to nod like an idiot as the blush on her face intensified. There was something in the semi-guarded look he gave her that made her nervous. A glint in his eye, much like the one he had when he was upset, made her curious about his emotional state. When it came to him, there was no telling how he was feeling. "Are you mad at me?"
Of all the things she could have said, she chose the most random question in the world. "Why would I be upset?"
She looked over his shoulder for a moment and took a breath to collect herself. Her face had finally cooled down, which meant that she didn't have to seem like a blubbering idiot. "I don't know. You seem kind of broody and dark."
He was, but not for the reasons she probably thought. "I'm fine. Are you ok?"
"What do you mean?"
"I was a little rough last night, toward the end." Lindsay smiled at the severe blush that took over her face again. She looked so innocent and vulnerable; it was amazing, the many layers she'd revealed to him the short time they'd been together. He leaned down and placed a soft kiss on her lips, not only to assure her, but because he couldn't resist sampling her sweetness. "Did I hurt you?"
Alauria shook her head as she pulled her lower lip between her teeth. He was being extremely gentle, but there was still a tense set to his body, as if he was holding something back. It was then that a harrowing thought came to her. "I wasn't bad, last night, was I?"
"Why would you think that?" When she didn't answer, he pulled back to look at her. She avoided eye contact and for some inexplicable reason, felt the need to obsess over her hair. "Why are you acting so weird?"
"Why are you?"
He let out a frustrated breath as he realized the moment wasn't going as he'd planned. This was a time for soft words and praise, not suspicion and accusation. It was time to try another tactic. "You don't have to worry about getting pregnant."
"What does that have to do with this conversation?"
"Nothing, but I thought you should know."
"I'm not worried."
Lindsay quirked a brow at her statement. As far as he knew, most women would have had a panic attack after having unprotected sex. "Why aren't you worried?"
She decided to focus her attention on the section of the floor that was illuminated by the sunlight. "I take Depo Provera. You know, the birth control shot you get every eleven weeks or so?"
"Oh, well I suppose that makes sense then."
This had to be the most awkward conversation she'd had in her entire life. "Why did you say that I didn't have to worry?"
"My father passed on this trait that makes it impossible for me to get you pregnant unless I really want to."
Alauria focused her attention on his suddenly nervous eyes as she said, "Interesting trait." He nodded, and she wondered if he thought she would become upset by that. "Only you can do this?"
"No, all twelve of us." He waited for her to say something, anything, to let him know that he wasn't wasting their time trying to have a tender moment. But she remained silent. "Fuck, this is awkward." Lindsay stood up and walked back to the window. Maybe if he wasn't distracted by her beautiful face, he'd be able to turn their conversation into something meaningful.
What was she supposed to say? Though they were speaking to each other, they weren't really saying anything. She had a feeling that no matter what she said at this point, it would get turned around into something even more complicated. "If I didn't know any better, I'd think that you regret what happened" Alauria felt her eyes widen and the enraged look in his eyes and gulped nervously as he stormed back to the bed. Relief washed over her as she realized that he wasn't upset that she might have found him out; no, he was livid because she had the audacity to even think her words.
"Are you deliberately trying to piss me off?"
"No, I'm trying to figure out why you're being so damned weird. You're the one who made me promise you forever."
"You remember that?"
"How could I forget?"
"I'm not being weird, Alauria."
"Yes, you are, Lindsay."
Even when she said his name in anger, he felt renewed. The hold she had over him would have been ridiculous had he been turned off by it. Hell, if she knew even half the things that crossed his mind when he thought of her, she would have never thought that he regretted making love to her. Why in the hell would she think that? Irritation made him forget realism. "If you'd get your head out of the clouds for five minutes, you'd see that I'm a little preoccupied trying to save your ass instead of finding new ways to kiss it." He closed his eyes in frustration when the weight of his words washed over him. What the fuck was wrong with him? "I didn't mean that."
Alauria said nothing to his comment; she simply wrapped the bed sheet around herself and got out of the bed. "Alexis said you would bring some of Nadia's clothes here for me."
It annoyed him that she so callously changed the subject. He saw the hurt in her eyes before he closed his and cursed himself for his stupidity. But instead of screaming at him or trying to hurt him back, she simply asked about some clothing, like what he said didn't mean anything. "Alauria-"
"I would really appreciate something to change into after I take a shower."
"The shelves in the bathroom closet pull out to take you to the main closet. The clothes are in there."
"Thank you." She turned to walk to the bathroom but stopped when he took hold of her arm. Alauria didn't completely turn to look at him, but she did shift enough to make eye contact. "What?"
"Can we talk about this?"
"What is there to talk about, Lindsay? Yet again, you've reminded me how important I'm not to you, and that slap in the face is not one I'll soon forget."
"You mean everything to me. I'm doing everything I can to keep you alive." He frowned when she pulled away from him but said nothing to it. "I'm going to take care of Raife, Alauria."
"I know that you will." She looked away from him when she felt the tears well up in her eyes and quickly turned to stare at the entrance of the bathroom. It did no one any good to get emotional over this. "But something tells me that no matter what, this whole situation with Raife will always come between us." With a sigh, she walked toward the bathroom and ignored him as he called out her name. She quietly shut the door in his surprised face then went to turn the shower on.
At the door, Lindsay cursed, enraged at himself for hurting Alauria once again. He saw the tears brimming in her eyes, and his gut twisted painfully at that. It seemed that the only think he knew how to do was either upset her or hurt her feelings. No damned wonder she refused to talk to him in the car. Changes would have to be made if he expected to keep her from hating him, but it seemed as if everything he planned made her dislike him even more. He was damned if he did and damned if he didn't. "Fuck." Before he remembered the meaning of impulse control, Lindsay stormed out of the room and did not stop until he was in the kitchen. He tore through the cabinets, searching for anything that had acceptable alcohol content. Distantly, he was aware of the fact that his brothers stared at him, but he didn't care; he needed something to numb out the feelings that were driving him to distraction.
"What the fuck are you looking for?"
"Alcohol, Liam. And lots of it."
"Is that a good idea?" Alexis asked.
It wasn't the question he asked, but the chastising and judgmental way he asked it that made Lindsay mentally count to ten. "It's a damned good idea, Lex. You don't have to deal with that woman on a day-to-day." He stopped and narrowed his eyes as he remembered that his older brother was the reason for the complications in his life. "I should kill you for what you did."
"What did you do?" Jameson asked as he turned the television off.
"It was going to happen whether or not I sent you."
"And that's supposed to make me feel better?" Lindsay roared.
"What is going on?"
"Never mind, Jameson," Alexis said. He never took his eyes off his enraged and obviously confused brother. Lindsay was always a mess of a man where a woman was concerned, so his behavior didn't surprise him. "You have more important things to deal with right now."
"No shit, Sherlock."
"Is this about the human?" Liam asked. Before anyone could answer him, he shook his head in disgust and said, "See what I mean? Nothing but trouble, the whole damned lot of them."
"Now is not the time, Liam," Alexis warned. "What are you going to do about Raife?" he directed to Lindsay
"Wait, this has to do with Raife?" Liam interrupted. His shock could not be contained as he looked at his brother. "Good fucking luck with that."
"Thanks," Lindsay murmured sarcastically. He really did not have the patience for this. "Obviously, I'm breaking the treaty," he said to Alexis.
"She must mean a lot to you," Jameson said. "Does she know everything?"
"No, and I plan on keeping it that way."
"How in the fuck is that fair?" Liam asked indignantly. "She may be nothing but a weak human, but she has a right to know why you turned her once pathetic life to shit."
"She's not weak or pathetic and if you insult her again, I'll forget that you're my brother and kill you."
"Can we please save this for later?" Jameson asked. Though he was used to his brothers fighting like raging bulls, he was more interested in how he could help the newest addition to their lives. "How are you going to do it?"
"I'm sure all the Prygorians have moved to the old tunnel system so it's a matter of getting in and passed all of the guards."
"That doesn't sound all that difficult," Liam said.
"No, but you forget how many of them there are." Lindsay leaned his hip against the counter and took a breath. The last time he'd been through the tunnel system, things did not go very well for him. He couldn't risk a repeat, not when it came to Alauria.
"We'll be fine," Alexis promised, "You just need to make sure that we don't waste our time getting you to Raife, only to have you change your mind again."
Lindsay really did not want to be reminded of the last time he'd set to get rid of the demon. The more he thought about it, the more a sense of foreboding washed over him. "I won't."
"And Alauria will stay here?" Jameson asked.
"You're not stupid enough to take her with us," Liam said incredulously.
"No," Lindsay said again. He crossed his arms over his chest as he thought aloud, "Raife knows I brought her here so I'm sure that there are some Prygorians around waiting to attack."
"Of course you had to make a treaty with the one breed of demon that no magic works on," Liam mumbled.
"We could just get rid of them before we leave," Jameson suggested.
"Too risky," Lindsay said with a shake of his head. "I'll call Maels and she can stay with the Naguals. They'd never expect us to send her there."
Lindsay sighed in annoyance at Alexis' question. "It doesn't matter at this point. The main focus is to keep her alive. If she hates me, that's fine; at least she'd be alive to."
"What is this really about, Lindsay?" Jameson may not have been as intuitive as Alexis, but he knew firsthand when someone was working overtime to make up excuses. Though Lindsay was set in protecting Alauria, he worked hard to either hide or protect himself from something. The something, Jameson didn't know, but he was sure that it had to do with the new woman in the house. "Are you only protecting a human, or are you protecting a mate?"
Lindsay didn't answer. He was aware of his brothers staring at him expectantly and normally he wouldn't care. But he had no real answer to the question Jameson put to him. His head told him that Alauria would have been better simply being a human that he protected; the sooner he got to this over with, she could go back to her life and never have to worry about being in danger again. But then there was the other part of him; the heart that he fought so hard to protect couldn't think of her being anything less than his mate. He was aware that considering her his mate meant nothing if she wasn't in agreement; they way they'd just left things meant that it was more than possible for her to want nothing more to do with him. Hell, this was too complicated for him to deal with. "I'll call Maels to come get her tonight. Be ready to leave at dawn."
* * * * *
It was official; Alauria was lost. She wasn't sure if it was the first left turn or the third right that put her off track, but she was somewhere in the house she was sure no one would find her. She should have paid more attention when Alexis took her to Lindsay's room. That actually wouldn't have mattered; her mind was too focused on Lindsay and the unbelievable conversation they'd had before she took a shower. She couldn't understand the point of it; she initially thought that he tried to have some unique form of pillow talk, but then he started talking about pregnancy. And then he pretty much shattered any possibility of them having a conversation that didn't end in hurt feelings. What was it with Raife that made Lindsay an idiot? If she could just figure out the history between them, she would understand the ridiculous treaty. Maybe then she wouldn't have the resentful feelings that made her want to hit him.
Another left turn brought her a small hall that led to a beautiful music room. There was a baby grand in the center of the white room, and a large shelving unit filled with instrument cases. From the shapes, she was able to make out a trumpet, a violin, a cello, a soprano saxophone, and what might have been a flute. Alauria wasn't aware that there musicians in the family. When she thought about it, she'd never bothered to ask; she was too busy trying to get things together with Lindsay. The good that did her.
The glossy black piano was too beautiful for her to resist. Alauria walked into the room and sat down. She hit a couple of experimental chords and closed her eyes in pleasure at the rich sounds that emanated from the instrument. Perfectly tuned. There wasn't a particular song she had in mind to play so she experimented, putting small melodies together. For a moment, she wished that she had her recorder with her; the semi-dark, mysterious tune was unlike anything she'd ever composed and would have been a random addition to her library. The good thing was that there was no way she could forget such a piece; she could easily ask one of the men if they had a recorder she could borrow and find her way back to the room.
A feeling of being watched prompted Alauria to stop mid-chord to look toward the doorway. Charisma stood quietly, taking in the music she heard. There was a mixed look of sadness and awe on her face and for a moment, Alauria wondered if her piece was really that touching. "Hi."
"You know, I've been here for six months, and I never knew this room existed."
"I was lost."
"Yeah, that happens a lot around here." The women laughed and Charisma took the light atmosphere as a sign to enter the room. She stood next to the piano and touched the cool wood carefully. "I was never good at the musical stuff. Cooking is my thing."
"Everyone has their specialty."
"You say that like you have someone in mind."
Alauria did. Lindsay was a pro when it came to keeping her confused and frustrated. She said nothing to Charisma's comment, however, for fear that her thoughts would find their way back to the man who'd turned her life upside down. "Liam could probably give lessons on how to scare people."
Charisma laughed softly. "He's actually kind of nice when he forgets that he's mourning Nadia."
"I'm going to have to take your word on that." She had no intention of finding out. As far as Alauria was concerned, she and the angry man knew each other well enough. "Was it hard, adjusting to life here?"
"Yes and no." Charisma leaned her elbows on the piano as she thought of a proper way to explain her answer. "The brothers that I've met so far are really nice; Draco and Roman are the most sociable ones I've met. They make it a point to make you feel like someone they've known for years. Slade... Oh, Slade..." She shook her head slowly as she laughed, "To say that Slade is a flirt is like saying that it's really easy to have a conversation with Alexis."
"So I don't want to meet him?"
"Oh, you do. Just make sure Lindsay's around to scare him off when you do."
Alauria looked down at the fingers she'd kept on the piano keys at Charisma's statement. "Yeah, I'm not sure it's like that between Lindsay and me anymore."
"He wouldn't have brought you here if you were only someone to protect." She would know; when she was the main objective for Zaide's evil plans, Jameson had been sent to save her. It wasn't until they'd realized that there were other demon hunters that should have dealt with Zaide, and the mutual attraction she and Jameson shared wasn't simply coincidence that Charisma knew that there was to be more to her life than being a chef.
"It doesn't feel that way."
"It never does."
Alauria sighed as she allowed herself to experiment with chords once more. She didn't want to think about what was going on between her and Lindsay; at this point, she simply wanted to be safe to go home. Everything else could be figured out later. "Does it get easier?"
"Ask me again in a year." Though she and Jameson were happy with each other, there were many aspects to their new lives together that they needed to work out, the most important being their guilt at being the ones to survive the effects of Zaide's madness. "It's still a little too new for me to give you an honest answer."
"Right." Alauria continued to play until she settled for a popular rock song she'd rearranged.
"I know this song."
"It's 'Broken' by that band, Seether."
"You made it sound almost like something Enya would have arranged."
Alauria laughed as she continued to play the piece. Charisma continued to speak, mostly about random, mundane things that would keep a conversation going and Alauria was more than happy to listen; it was obvious that the chef with new abilities needed a sounding board, one that was not full of testosterone. She'd come to the conclusion that she would have to be careful about her powers and relayed a story about healing herself after she'd accidentally cut herself while preparing dinner. "I don't see cause to worry about that."
"I do. If I can heal myself, then that means rapid cell regeneration. Which probably means immortality. I don't want to be around after Jameson dies."