Haunted Prey Ch. 15bypurefire©
At first glance, it didn't look as if the brothers spent a lot of time together, especially when it came to dinner. But as they all sat down to take their seats at the table, Alauria noticed the familiarity and routine the men seemed to have. Charisma was in control of the kitchen, cooking dishes Alauria had only seen in high class magazines. Jameson dutifully assisted her, while occasionally stopping to take breaks to murmur about a regular assistant Charisma had sent on vacation. Alexis and Lindsay set the table silently, and Liam grumbled as he learned that he would have to do the dishes for the third time in a month. Alauria volunteered to help, but was quickly denied by Alexis who used the excuse of her health to keep her seated. She felt fine and made sure to argue the fact, but there was no use in arguing with someone who made her feel like a five-year-old with one simple look, especially when he had his brother for back-up. So she sat and watched the family, yearning for a moment with her mother. Soon. She would see her mother soon and life would be a bit more normal than it currently was.
"Where were you just then?"
Alauria blinked herself out of her self-induced trance and smiled at Jameson's curious expression to mask her embarrassment. "I was just thinking about my mother."
"It's been a long time since I spoke to someone who had one of those." Jameson paused for a moment as he thought about the many beings he knew. "Well, a human one, anyway."
She smiled again at the sparkle in his grey eyes, as it helped her become a little less homesick. Jameson's welcoming and easy-going nature surely made him her second favorite brother, and someone she knew she'd make fast friends with. "I thought that you guys didn't get out much other than to go kill things that go bump in the night."
Liam snorted as he said, "Not Jameson. He shops more than a spoiled housewife."
Alauria smiled at Lindsay's laugh and appreciated the way Jameson let the insult roll off his shoulders. "There is nothing wrong with shopping."
"It's kind of weird when every person at every store in the mall knows you by name." Charisma gave Alauria a sideways glace as she placed a platter of salad on the table and tried to asses her mood. Alauria looked cordial enough, but one never knew.
"What are you complaining about?" Liam asked, "You're the one he shops for half the time."
"You should take some notes," Alauria said to Lindsay. She grinned at his loud laugh, then winced at the dull ache at the back of her head.
"Dinner's ready," Charisma said as she lifted another platter of food off the cart she'd wheeled into the dining room. She waited for the men to settle themselves before serving them and made sure to give Alauria a wide berth. She ignored Jameson's raised eyebrow; while he'd believed what she told him, he was positive that Alauria was harmless.
The second the food was placed in front of her, Alauria felt her stomach lurch in protest. She found it odd, considering the dishes looked and smelled wonderful. She decided to focus on anything but the food until the nausea passed, and found herself taking in the atmosphere of the dining room. Warm but attention-seeking red walls were beautifully accented by the white pained trimmings and ceiling. Just above the large mahogany table was an iron chandelier that utilized actual candles for effect. Large, scenic paintings adorned the walls and contrasted the mahogany triple curio cabinet that wonderfully displayed the sparkling silver. On top of it was a seemingly gleaming silver tea set. Along the opposite wall rested a bar cabinet which no doubt held expensive bottles of liquor. Behind Alexis' seat, wide French doors were propped open to let in the flower scented air from the garden. Alauria finished her mental tour of the room by glancing down at the large Asian rugged docked beneath the table. The room was enough to make royalty envious. The men sure knew how to spend the massive amount of money they had.
She breathed a sigh of relief as the nausea finally faded. With a victorious smile, she patiently waited for her queue to begin her meal and hoped that she didn't have to fight another bout of nausea. "Do you do a prayer or anything like that before you eat?"
"No," Liam answered with a sarcastic grunt.
"If you'd like to, you're more than welcome," Alexis said. He'd noticed the way Alauria's eyes narrowed at Liam's remark and took it upon himself to run damage control.
"No, I was just curious." There was a sizzle that went up her spine as she stared at Liam. For some odd reason, she only seemed to become more annoyed by his presence. His eyes were too blue and she itched to scratch the sarcastic look out of them. His hair was too bright as well; it looked like copper and almost hurt her eyes. And his skin was too pale; he was almost transparent.
"Is there something wrong?"
Alauria looked over at Alexis and smiled to cover the small flush that took over her face. "No, nothing. I guess I got lost in my head for a minute there."
"You're not feeling sick again, are you?" Lindsay reached over to take hold of her hand in the event he had to take her back upstairs. Alauria looked fine, but that didn't mean that she wasn't hiding anything. "You want to go back upstairs?"
"No, I'm fine, I promise." To prove her point, Alauria took a bite out of her food. A second later, she had to fight to keep the food in her mouth; she forgotten to make sure it was cool enough to consume first. Alauria heard Jameson cough back a laugh to spare her feelings and her cheeks burst into a fierce blush in response. Yes, she certainly was a poised one.
Lindsay merely shook his head as he went back to his food. While he enjoyed the meal, he wasn't used to eating more than once every few weeks. But Alauria wanted to know his brothers, which meant he would eat and allow her to bond with his family.
"Why the hell didn't you call me before?"
Liam ignored the confused look on Lindsay's face as he said, "You said she was sick before. Why didn't you call me?"
"She was fine when I checked on her," Lindsay replied.
"What the fuck is the point of having the ability to heal if none of you sons of bitches call me when someone is unwell?"
"I would say it would be to sit there and look pretty, but that would imply that you're attractive in some way."
Lindsay stared at Alauria in shock. The silence in the room told him that everyone else was in much the same condition. Alauria's complexion had gone pale, telling him that she wasn't feeling well again, but it was the confusion on her face that had him worried. "Alauria?"
"Why is everyone staring at me?" It was difficult to concentrate when the room was spinning so much, but she could tell that she was the focus of everyone's attention.
"You just called me ugly."
"What? No, I'd never..." Alauria clutched her stomach as a wave of nausea turned into a painful cramping in her abdomen. Her side was also burning again, which made her think that she might have had an infection of some kind.
"Not again," Charisma mumbled. Unwilling to take part in another one of Alauria's episodes, she quickly stood up to go back to the kitchen. She understood why Jameson didn't follow and decided to wait for his insight.
"Yes you did." Liam refused to let the subject drop. "I may be an asshole, but I'm not ugly."
Alexis shot Liam an exasperated look before he returned his focus to Alauria. "You don't remember what you said a minute ago?"
"No. Was it something bad?"
"You fucking called me ugly!"
"Yell at me one more time and that's not the only thing I'll do, you whining jackass." Alauria rested her elbows on the table so that she could cradle her throbbing head in her hands. She was fading fast, and though she knew that she'd just spoken, she had no recollection of what she'd said.
"Liam, back down." Alexis leaned forward to study the shaking woman at the table. Her hair hung in front of her face, blocking that view from him, but the way she rocked back and forth was indicative of her discomfort. "Does the memory loss come with the pain?"
"She's in pain?" Liam's original plan of intimidating the woman into submission was quickly changed at Alexis' words. He stood and walked around the table to help, but stopped behind Jameson's seat when she tilted her head up just enough to shoot him a scathing look.
"I'll rip your arms off and beat you to death with them if you touch me."
"Alauria!" Lindsay didn't care that she wasn't feeling well; Liam was his brother and there was no way he would let her behavior toward him slide. "That is enough!"
"I'm sorry, I don't know what's going on." She pushed her chair back, but did not move to stand. The room had to stop spinning first. "I think I should go lie down again."
"Here's a brilliant idea." Liam took a step forward before he said, "I heal you, and we don't have to deal with your bipolar disorder anymore."
"Let's just leave her alone tonight," Jameson suggested. He knew when a complicated situation was going to blow up, and desperately wanted to avoid that. Because Charisma was still in the house, he had to consider her safety.
"If I wanted your opinion, I would ask for it." Alauria abruptly lifted her head as horror washed over her. "Jesus, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean that." She stood the second her head cleared and took a quick step back from the table. "I should just go."
"Just fucking let me heal-" Liam stopped in his second advance when the stream of electricity flew out of her fingertips. He looked from Lindsay's puzzled face to Alauria's horrified one before taking a hasty step back. "What the fuck was that?"
"I don't..." Alauria looked down at her hands and felt her knees shake. This had happened before, right when she was going to... "Excuse me."
Alexis watched Alauria run out of the room and waited until she couldn't hear him before saying, "Sorry to state the obvious, but something is seriously wrong with her."
"Other than the fact that she's bat-shit crazy?"
"Liam," Lindsay warned, "Be careful."
"You saw the same fucking shit I did."
"We all did," Jameson placated. He masked his worry for the benefit of his brother as he considered taking Charisma to the house they'd been given until the situation was settled. "I thought she was fully human."
"She is," Lindsay said, "She shouldn't be able to do that." Not even if he'd dosed her with a current powerful enough to sustain a small building. Something was very wrong with Alauria. His first impulse was to run after her, but he knew that he and his brothers needed to rationalize what was wrong and what needed to be done. "She can't go home like this."
"How the hell did she get this way?" Jameson asked.
"Lindsay," Alexis sat back in his seat as he stared at his troubled brother and said, "Before she went demon, wasn't Rachel's ability power mimicry?"
* * * * *
She was tired and only wanted to sleep, but that infernal music grew louder with each repeated phrase. Who in the hell wanted to blast carnival music this late at night? Who wanted to blast carnival music at all? But as she tried to concentrate on sinking back into the wonderful blackness of sleep, one thing was certain: the music wasn't going away. Alauria sighed as her frustration mounted. One would think that the sheer size of the manor prevented such instances from occurring. At least she didn't feel sick anymore. The knowledge of that alone gave her the motivation she needed to get up and find the vile offender killing her ears. The room was dark; she remembered leaving the lights on when she'd burrowed beneath the bed's silken covers. Maybe Lindsay turned it off when he checked on her.
The insufferable music became even louder, and Alauria winced at the high pitch of some of the higher notes. Good Lord, this was horrible. She opened the door and expected to step out into the lavish hallway she'd become accustomed to. But all she faced was a dark and barren tunnel, comparable to the sewer systems she'd seen on television. The sight alone prompted her to take a step back to seek refuge in Lindsay's room, but she only managed to slam into the moist and slippery surface of the brick wall. The slimy texture made her shudder in disgust as she stepped away from it. A raw grating sound forced itself though the carnival music, and as Alauria turned right to see what made the sound, she gasped at the sight of the wall slowly working its way toward her. She looked left, but no walls moved on that side. That meant there was only one thing to do: go left.
The tunnel grew more dank and humid as she walked, a not-so-subtle hint that she was close to something. It was also a sign that she wasn't close to anything good. Alauria's heart rate increased with her growing anxiety, despite the carnival music's annoying volume. She heard the moving wall behind her, pushing her toward and unfavorable situation. There was a flicker of light in the distance that gave her hope, and she headed towards it, determined to ignore the rising stench she could only describe as death. The scent was thick and cloying, sticking to the back of her throat uncomfortably. But she pushed on, primarily because she had no other choice; the wall still moved behind her.
The carnival music slowly began to fade; with each step she took, the music became lower and more tolerable. Alauria took a ragged breath as she walked faster. The light became brighter, easing her anxiety and giving her hope that she would find someone in the house. It was obvious that she was dreaming; she'd figured that out when she'd opened the bedroom door. But now, she wasn't sure what to expect, a fact that became more prominent when Alauria found herself in the middle of a house of mirrors. The light bounced off the polished glass, making it impossible for her to see anything around her. She wasn't anxious anymore; the pain in her eyes due to the bright light prevented that. She was growing impatient, however, waiting for something to happen.
She sighed in relief at the sound of his voice. "Lindsay! Where are you?" The lights began to fade, making it easier for her to see. Yes, she was in a house of mirrors, with absolutely no feasible way out. "Lindsay?" His image appeared in the mirrors, creating dozens of images and angles of his tormented face. "Lindsay." She paused for a moment to walk to one of the mirrors. He stared off into the distance, lost in whatever he saw. "Lindsay, look at me. Please." Alauria gasped as Lindsay's tear-brimmed eyes focused on her. Her stomach churned hotly. It was almost as if she could feel the pain that registered in his eyes. "Lindsay..."
"I failed you. I'm sorry."
"What?" Alauria placed her hand on the mirror when he refocused his attention on the distance and banged on it when his reflection began to fade. "Lindsay, wait!" The image continued to fade, forcing her to use both hands to bang on the mirror. Still, he faded and she shouted in protest. "No! Come back!" Soon the image was gone, leaving only the reflection of the clothing she wore. Alauria watched as skin began to materialize in the refection and she frowned in confusion. She glanced up at where her face would have been and gasped in horror at the blue eyes staring at her menacingly. "No." She tried to pull away, but her hands where glued to the glass; she was held in place. Surely, this couldn't be her reflection. But as she thrashed her head, obscuring her vision with her raven curls, the reflection's blonde hair did the same. Alauria's heart pounded furiously. It became difficult to breathe. Fear gripped her. "No, you're not me! Go away!" The condescending laugh made her stomach drop.
Alauria felt her eyes widen when the reflection's hand forced its way through the mirror to grasp her neck. "No," she choked out. She couldn't breathe and her heart raced hard enough to explode. "Stop..." Patches of black began to swim before her. Her lungs burned. A cold sweat broke out on her skin. She was fading.
"No..." Alauria couldn't see anything for the darkness taking over. She was going to die in her sleep. "Rachel."
"Alauria, God damn it! Wake up!"
Alauria's eyes flew opened as her mouth opened wide. She sucked in a gulp of air and began to cough as her lungs soaked in the sweet necessity. She felt hands on her back, supporting her and bringing her closer to a warm, comfortable body. Her eyes darted around, taking in the familiar surroundings of Lindsay's room. The light hurt her eyes, but she didn't care; Lindsay's familiar scent comforted her and helped her to calm down. Alauria's heart still raced and she was sure that she shook, but she was safe in his arms. She was safe.
Lindsay kept himself from asking the many questions that ran through his head as he held Alauria. She continued to suck in large gulps of air and she clutched him to her shaking body. He stroked her back soothingly, allowing small waves of electricity to flow forth from his fingertips. Waiting for her to calm down was his best bet; the way she thrashed and moaned in her sleep clued him in to the trauma of her dreams. Instinct had pulled him from the company of his brothers to check on her and it was then that he found her wrestling herself as she struggled for breath. From there, it had been a fight to rouse her; he'd even gone as far as to slap her cheek. Nothing worked until she'd suddenly opened her eyes on her own.
"Lindsay," Alauria sobbed. As things became more focused, memories of her nightmare began to fade, leaving her with only glimmers of the world she'd been caught in.
"Are you all right?" His worry kept him from demanding answers, but that didn't mean that he wasn't going to get them. "What happened?"
"I had a... bad dream." She clutched him tighter, not wanting to lose on shred of the comfort he offered her. "I don't really remember."
"You weren't breathing." She was choking was the more accurate description for how he found her, but he didn't need to say that. "What's been going on with you?" There was no use turning a blind eye to what was happening to her, but he couldn't fix her problems until she talked to him. "You're not well."
"I don't know what's wrong. I'm so..." she paused, trying to remember the nightmare that had her so frightened. "I don't know, Lindsay." Alauria couldn't fight the tears that took over her. Wretched sobs wracked her body again, obstructing her ability to breathe. There was a small, condescending chuckle in the background. Confusion and fear paralyzed her and kept her glued to him. "I don't know."
* * * * *
Seven days. Seven days had come and gone without incident and Lindsay finally felt that it was safe to breathe easily. It helped that he monitored her actions when she was around the family. Alauria seemed fine; she'd made peace with Charisma and even managed to have Liam treat her with a modicum of decency. Lindsay even felt safe enough to leave her on her own to make arrangements to take her back home. He stood in the kitchen with his brothers and while they watched television, he convened with Alexis about his decision.
"Are you sure she's ready to go home?"
"It's been a week and nothing has happened," Lindsay replied, "She isn't sick anymore."
"You actually think that it's some sickness that made her act the way she did?" Jameson asked.
"Whatever it was seems to be gone now," Lindsay countered, "Not one bout of nausea or headache."
"It's your decision, but I think you should wait a while longer," Jameson said on a shrug. Yes, nothing had happened, but he'd learned early in life that nothing was ever what it seemed. "The last thing either of you need is to have her go through another episode in public."
"She'll be fine," Lindsay snapped. As he walked to the refrigerator to grab a bottle of water, he shook his head. "Don't worry; I've got it under control." There was a moment of silence and Lindsay knew that his brothers shared a look behind his back. "You don't have anything to say, Liam?"