The Assignment Ch. 02byJazCullen©
Demetri stared out the dirty window trying to work out what his next move was going to be. He had already decided he wasn't going to kill Mara. It sometimes took him a while to reach a decision, but once made, he never veered from it.
So, now he had two choices. Convince the Council she was no threat to them or hand the assignment over to someone else to complete. He knew without a doubt that if the assignment was passed on, then Mara's life was forfeit. He was one of the strongest of his kind when it came to the subtle art of mind control. Only Caleb was a true match for him, and he doubted even his friend could breach Mara's defences. No, if he gave up the assignment then Mara would surely die, and he found himself oddly loathe for that to happen.
So the only option left was to convince the Council she could be trusted and he wasn't sure himself if she could be. He had sensed no real deceit in her so far, but that didn't mean she wasn't hiding it behind her tight shield.
He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. He could feel her eyes on his back and knew she was waiting for him to respond to her last comment. Her acrid scent was escalating along with her fear, and it was irritating him no end. Why didn't she just bloody relax and let her natural scent shine through, that wonderful thick sweet aroma of honey?
'Because you've kidnapped her, and she thinks she is going to die, asshole,' he berated himself. He knew his silence was no less a torture than leaving her hanging naked in that cold room last night. He closed his eyes and tried to block out the sight of her hanging unconscious, and then her damaged wrists later on. He mentally kicked himself again for falling asleep. It had been so monumentally careless of him.
Fuck, he needed to talk to Caleb. Maybe his friend would have some idea on how he could proceed. He turned from the window, his green eyes automatically going to Mara. She was so tense, so frightened and her haunted expression irritated him immensely.
"Eat your fruit, Mara," he finally said, his voice cold and hard as he watched her swallow hard. He allowed a small smile to creep across his face. "I promise you it will not be your last supper."
If he had thought his words would calm her slightly, he was mistaken. She just seemed to shrink further into herself with a slightly wild look in her big brown eyes. He cursed under his breath and dug his cell phone out his pocket and hit the speed dial for Caleb. He was surprised when Rhianna answered.
"Hey Annie," he said. He was so surprised at the little redhead answering his call, he didn't notice the look of confusion which suddenly crossed Mara's face. Even if he had noticed, he would have had no idea why she was looking so perplexed, because he would not have realised that his tone had turned soft and a genuine smile was splitting his handsome face. A smile which reached his cold green eyes and turned them from their usual glacial stare into something more warm and inviting.
Rhianna had debated on whether or not to answer Caleb's phone when she saw it was Demetri. Caleb had been cursing the air blue after talking with his friend the night before, though he wouldn't tell her what Demetri had said to piss him off so much. Her curiosity finally outweighed her ambivalent feelings towards the dark haired vampire.
"Hey, Demetri," she answered. "Caleb's in the shower at the moment, swearing because he has to go into the office."
Demetri's smile broadened. He could just imagine how pissed his friend was at him right now. "He's a big boy, I dare say he'll get over it," he remarked dryly. "I really need to talk to him, Red. Can you get him to call me when he gets out?"
Rhianna sighed, softly. "I don't know about that. He's pretty pissed at you at the moment. Was muttering something about you needing to disappear to some remote area for at least three centuries."
"Yeah, he's told me something similar already," he laughed, shaking his head. "I thought you were pissed at me, too."
"I was, but after listening to Caleb vent I figured you needed all the friends you could get right now," she laughed back.
Demetri felt a rush of warmth, as the little redhead so instantly forgave him. She really was something else. He could see now why Caleb was so protective of her. If he didn't protect her, she would blindly see the good in just about anyone and probably end up getting herself hurt. He wouldn't like to see anything bad happen to little Annie.
"I'm sorry, Annie," he said, softly, and he truly meant it. "I was an ass the last time we talked."
She laughed again, her tinkling little peels of laughter so lovely to hear. "Yeah, you were, Demetri, but I forgive you. I'll convince Caleb to call you, as soon as possible. When are you coming home?" she asked, her tone eager as if she really wanted him to come home soon.
He frowned. "I don't know yet. That's why I need to talk to Caleb. Have him call me soon, and you take care, Red." He closed the phone when she rang off and slipped it back into his pocket with a thoughtful expression on his face.
"Who's Annie?" Mara asked quietly, and his eyes snapped to hers quickly.
The first thing he noticed was the acrid scent of fear was considerably lessened, the second was she didn't appear as tense as before. Something to do with his conversation with Rhianna had settled her down somewhat, though he didn't know what it was. He pondered her question for a moment and pursed his lips.
"A friend," he finally answered, and then sighed deeply. The little redhead had snared him just as badly as she'd snared his best friend. He now had another name to add to his very short list of people he would fight to the death to protect.
"Girlfriend?" Mara asked, softly.
"Well, she's a girl, and she's a friend, so I suppose technically you could call her a girlfriend, but she's not your definition of the word," he remarked, drolly. "I don't do girlfriends, Mara."
He saw her puzzled expression, and then she blushed scarlet, and he could only imagine what she was thinking inside her head.
"I don't do boyfriends, either," he clarified, just in case she had misinterpreted him. "I like women well enough. Truth be told, I indulge in them liberally, but I don't form emotional bonds with them. I lack the finer emotions, which women seem to crave." He had no idea why he was telling her this. It really was none of her business.
He watched her nervously pluck at the banana in front of her and walked over to sit down and pour himself a new cup of coffee. "I meant what I said, Mara. You can eat without fear. It won't be your last."
Mara eyed him warily for a moment, and then split the banana skin and started eating. He hadn't lied to her so far, so she would trust he was telling her the truth this time. His behaviour was quite confusing. He said he lacked the finer feelings in life, and yet the warmth in his face and tone when he had spoken to the woman called Annie called him a liar.
She didn't know what to make of him. Last night, he had almost killed her, and then he had helped her and was now being almost friendly to her, trying to put her at her ease, so she would eat. It didn't make any sense, but she was too afraid to let a little hope creep inside her. If she started to hope, he may be softening towards her, and it proved to be false she really didn't think she could handle it. Her nerves were already shot to hell as it was.
She finished her banana, as she watched him pour her a cup of coffee and push the powered creamer and sugar over to her.
"Tell me how you discovered us, Mara," he said, quietly, as he sat back in his chair and stared at her intently with his piercing green eyes. "I know everything there is to know about you. You're twenty six, no family, a qualified archaeologist. You can skip all that part, just fill me in on the relevant details."
She swallowed, nervously. "I was on a training dig six months ago," she began, haltingly. "It was in these very woods, not too far from where we are right now. I came across a skull which looked to be a few centuries old. There was no other skeletal remains, just the head which was remarkably well preserved for being so old. The teeth....," she swallowed hard again and licked her lips. "The teeth were odd. The incisors were way too long to be a normal set of teeth, and yet, the rest of the skull was clearly human. I don't know why I thought of vampires. Maybe it was my love of watching old horror movies, which made me think the skull belonged to a vampire. My curiosity got the better of me, and I started to research online. The rest you already know."
Demetri had sat forward, as she talked his keen gaze searching intently for any sign of deceit. He couldn't see any, and he frowned slightly. Was she telling him the truth? Could he trust her?
"What did you do with the skull?" he finally asked.
"I put it back, but I buried it much deeper than it was when I found it," she answered. "I didn't want one of the other students to come across it."
Her answer puzzled him. Why would she hide something which could have undoubtedly made her name in the archaeological world? He pondered that even as his mind raced ahead on another tangent. If she re-buried the skull then they could go and dig it up again, and he could at least know for sure that part of her story was true.
He regarded her thoughtfully for a long moment. "Why didn't you announce your find?" It was the burning question in his mind at the moment, one he really wanted answered. Maybe he would be able to understand what motivated her.
She seemed confused by the question, or maybe she was confused by her answer. Whichever it was, Demetri was left none the wiser.
"I don't know," she finally said. "I just felt this...compulsion to put it back. Maybe, I felt the need to do some more research before I went back and retrieved the skull. I don't really know why I put it back and never told anyone about it."
She unwittingly answered his next question in that one answer. No one else knew about the skull, which meant he could remove it and secure it somewhere safe. He sat quietly for a long time digesting everything she had told him.
If she was to be believed, then she was the only person to have seen the skull, and she had kept her discovery secret. There would be no other loose ends to tie up. After this little nightmare, Mara would most likely spend the rest of her life sleeping with one eye open, too afraid to ever open her mouth about vampires. The question was, could he convince the Council she would keep quiet?
He highly doubted it, and he couldn't lie to them and tell them he had altered her memories. Two of the Council were well skilled in detecting deception and despite his own powers, he was under no illusion he would be able to fool them. They would know instantly he was lying, and then he would be in serious trouble, too.
His cell phone vibrated, and he pulled it from his pocket relieved to see Caleb's name.
"I'm only calling, because Annie begged me to," his friend said, shortly. "You'd better not have said anything to her about your current activity."
"I said I wouldn't, and I didn't," Demetri sighed. "Caleb, can we cut through all this macho bullshit? I need your advice." He listened to his friend breathe quietly for a moment, and then finally sigh loudly.
"If it's anything to do with your assignment, Demetri, I don't want to know," Caleb said, tiredly. "I don't want to be involved in it. I want to be able to look Annie in the eye and tell her I knew absolutely nothing about it if it ever comes out."
Demetri ran a hand through his hair and stood up, walking out the front door to have his conversation in private, when he saw Mara pretending she wasn't listening intently to the call.
"Caleb, I need your help," he said, quietly. "I find I am unable to complete the assignment, and I don't know what to do about it."
"Tell the Council to assign someone else," Caleb said, bluntly. He really didn't want to be involved with whatever mess Demetri had gotten himself into.
"If I do that, whoever takes over the assignment will terminate Mara," Demetri protested. "That does not sit well with me."
"Fuck!" Caleb cursed, loudly. "I told you I didn't want to know, Demetri!" He couldn't believe the selfish bastard, formerly known as his best friend, was dragging him into his mess.
Demetri waited for a moment, hoping he would calm down. "I can't breach her natural shield, but I believe she is telling the truth, Caleb," he finally said. "You know the Council won't accept anything less than a full scan of her mind. Mara isn't out to reveal our existence. She doesn't deserve to die, because I can't read her."
Caleb uttered another long string of curses. He knew he couldn't not get involved now, and he was livid about it. Despite his anger at his friend, he also felt a little spark of curiosity too. He had never heard Demetri ever talk in favour of a human before. He either sided against them or remained neutral. Just who was this woman Mara?
"I am so going to rearrange your face when you get back," he finally sighed, but most of the venom was gone from his voice. "You know you only have two choices, Demetri. You either hand over the assignment, or you take this Mara woman under your protection."
Demetri groaned, loudly, as Caleb verbalised the one choice he had been studiously not thinking about. He had no desire to be saddled with a human woman for the rest of her life. Taking Mara under his protection would be effectively doing what Caleb was doing with Rhianna. Claiming her as his special mate.
He recoiled at the very thought. It wasn't that the brunette wasn't attractive enough, because she was, and his body did react to her, but then his body reacted to every beautiful woman he came across, and he didn't want to keep any of them permanently either. There had to be another way to keep Mara alive which didn't involve him having to keep her as part of his life.
"You know, this call is costing me," Caleb remarked dryly, when he didn't respond for a long time.
Demetri sighed wearily and ran his hand through his hair again. "You weren't much help either," he retorted, but there was no heat in his tone. "I'll work something out, somehow. I'll be home soon, Caleb." He terminated the call before his friend could say anything further.
Mara had tried to listen in to the second call Demetri made, but he headed outside, so she wasn't able to glean any more information. This was the second time she'd heard him talking to someone called Caleb. She wondered if he was a friend of his, too. If they were friends they seemed to argue a lot.
She decided to take the opportunity to go to the bathroom, while he was still outside. She was all but resigned to her fate whatever it eventually turned out to be. She was at the mercy of the mercurial vampire, who had kidnapped her, and there really wasn't anything she could do about it except hope that the longer he kept her alive the less inclined he would be to kill her.
Demetri was back inside and gathering up his belongings into a canvas rucksack when she came back from the bathroom.
"Help me pack up," he said. "You can fold up the blankets on the cot."
She watched him warily for a moment, and then moved to do as he said. His sudden desire to leave frightened her. Was this it? Was he going to make her pack his stuff for him and then take her somewhere and kill her? She tried not to tremble as she finished folding the blankets.
He didn't speak to her again, as he quickly and efficiently transferred his belongings to the back of the Jeep. In less than half an hour, the only remnants of their stay in the broken down house were the chains and pulley system in the horrible room she didn't want to enter ever again.
She expected him to get in the Jeep once everything was packed away, but instead he pulled out a brand new spade and slammed the rear door closed. Mara couldn't stop the little cry of fear, which bubbled up inside her.
When Mara uttered her cry, Demetri turned to look at her with a puzzled expression. Her beautiful face was devoid of all colour and her big brown eyes were fixated on the spade in his hand. Her acrid scent was off the scale, and he couldn't help wrinkling his nose in disgust at the pungent odour.
She backed away from him slowly, her eyes wild as they swung from side to side, as she tried to work out which direction to start running in. Demetri's puzzlement lasted a second longer before he finally worked out what was wrong with the girl. He dropped the spade to the ground and reached her side in two long strides.
"Mara, calm down," he said sternly, his hands gripping her upper arms, as she started to scream and try to get away. Her body twisted violently in his grasp, and she kicked out, catching him hard on the shin. He grunted and wrapped his arms tightly around her, effectively forcing her into an immobile state as she whimpered in terror.
"Mara, I'm not going to hurt you," he said calmly. "Your life is not in danger, I swear it." It wasn't technically the truth. Her life was in danger and would be until he came up with a solution to the Council's edict.
Her trembling didn't decrease nor did her small whimpers. It was as if she couldn't hear him. He did the only thing he could think of to reach through her terror. He threaded his hand into her thick brown hair and tilted her head back and brought his mouth down on hers.
The instant their lips touched Demetri groaned softly, as a spark of electricity shot straight down his spine and his body hardened instantly. His mouth slanted over hers, as his tongue pressed for entrance into her hot depths. She was immobile underneath his assault and then her lips moved hesitantly against his before they parted, and she was kissing him back with a passion, which surprised him.
His hands roamed down her back pressing her tightly against his aching body, as their tongues duelled frantically as the kiss turned wilder as desire flared between them. Mara's softness against his hardness was making Demetri's head spin, and he couldn't stop himself from rubbing his lower body against her.
The kiss turned from one into two and then a third one as liquid fire shot through his veins, and he was lifting her up and pressing her against the side of the building, one hand searching for her breasts as the other lifted her right leg and hooked it around his hip so he could press more firmly against the heat of her body.
"Mara," he groaned against her lips as he ground hard against her, rebelling when he felt her stiffen at the sound of her name on his lips. He was hot and hard with need, and he didn't want to stop kissing her, but her stiffness was seeping through his passion, and her lips were no longer moving against his when he kissed her again.
With a muffled oath he pulled away from her, his green eyes intent on her face as he took a step back.
Mara stared up at the beautiful vampire in shock, her breasts heaving with the strain of the harsh, ragged pants coming from her mouth. He had kissed her! He had done more than kiss her; he had ground his erection against her and fondled her breasts through her T-shirt, and she had responded to him.
Dear God, what kind of person did that make her? The man had kidnapped her, tortured her and was about to head into the woods and murder her and she had kissed him back with a passion she had never experienced before. She had actually wanted him!
Demetri watched the conflicting emotions crossing her face and raked a hand through his hair, as his heart thumped loudly in his chest. The explosive spark, which had ignited between them with a simple kiss, quite literally stunned him. It appeared to have stunned Mara, too, but at least she wasn't terror stricken anymore. He sucked in a deep breath and took another step back from her to give her more space.