The Order Ch. 05bypurefire©
She didn't expect the outing to be as much fun as it was. As Nadia quietly walked beside Spencer, she found herself smiling. After meeting at the library, the group, which included Anthony, Spencer's best friend and his date, Valentina, and Felix, Janine's pseudo-boyfriend, quickly decided to walk to the local ice cream parlor. There, they sat and enjoyed the largest sundae the parlor had to offer. Spencer found it cute when she took her time eating and went so far as to feed her when he felt she did not have enough. Nadia found the action adorable, especially when she watched the way he wolfed down as much ice cream as he could.
"It's a weakness of mine," he announced when Janine pointed out his enthusiasm, "I love ice cream."
They decided to go bowling, mostly because the alley was across the street from the parlor. There, Nadia became impressed by Spencer's skill. If he didn't bowl a strike, he only had two or three pins in the way. "You bowl a lot?" she asked him.
"No, I just have good aim."
He made sure to stay next to her while they waited for their respective turns. Nadia didn't get the shakes when with him, but she told herself that this was the first time they were together in a capacity that had nothing to do with school. Not all cases of romantic relationships began with instant attraction. "Why did you never tell me how you felt?" she asked him after he bowled another strike.
"I don't know. I guess I figured that if I never said anything, I'd never get shot down."
"Big risk grants big rewards."
"I know," he said with a blush, "I'm glad you came out tonight."
Nadia looked into Spencer's bright blue eyes and felt her stomach flutter at the sincerity in his gaze. "Me too."
Now, as they walked down the street, she felt her smile widen when Spencer's hand brushed against hers. She knew what the action meant, but decided against taking hold of his hand. It was not a good idea to move too fast. Glancing at the digital clock posted outside of the town bank, she blinked in surprise. It was nearly one in the morning. She had class at nine and though logic told her to call it a night, she didn't want to leave.
"You guys want to go to the fountain?"
Nadia looked at Valentina's round and excited face and found that she could not say no. There was something about the blonde's green eyes she found infectious, especially when she became enthusiastic. "The one on Spring?"
"Is there another one?" Spencer asked.
"Yeah, there's one on Merlin," Janine answered, "But that's a farther walk and it's smaller."
Looking at Nadia, Spencer said, "I'm in if you're in."
Nadia smiled as she nodded her consent. She remained silent as she walked next to Spencer, baffled by the way things in her life were quickly shifting. It seemed as if her luck improved the closer she go to uncovering the truth. She had to get back to that paper before the end of the week; there was still information of Forcas she needed to find and there was also information on The Brethren she still had yet to learn. Something told her that learning about The Brethren would no doubt bring her closer to the concrete evidence she needed.
She wondered what Andrae was doing. With the exception of when they were together, she never knew what he did. For all she knew, he could have been watching television in his apartment while enjoying a cigarette. He certainly wasn't thinking about her; his earlier actions made that perfectly clear. He was the kind of man who took what he wanted from a woman and then walked away without even a farewell when he was done. That's what heartbreakers did; she was lucky he showed his true colors before it was too late.
Nadia pulled herself out of her thoughts and looked at Spencer's concerned face. Smiling for his benefit, she said, "Sorry, I got lost in my head."
"What were you thinking about?"
Someone she shouldn't. "I was thinking that I've always wanted to play in a fountain. Ever since I was a little kid." She didn't tell him the truth of her thoughts, but she playing in a fountain had been a dream of hers ever since she watched a movie where a group of kids did just that. "It looks like it could be fun."
"Care to test that theory out?"
Nadia stared at Spencer's sparkling eyes and knew that he was serious. "It's the middle of autumn."
"And it's uncommonly warm for the time of year. We can keep each other warm in this pathetic chill." He looked at the rest of the group and caught their approving looks. They had no problems going through with the ridiculous idea. The only person to convince was Nadia.
"Only if we get caught." To prove his point, Spencer slowly began to strip out of his clothing. He smiled when the rest of the group quickly joined in and nearly laughed at the disbelieving look on Nadia's face. "Come on, let's go play."
Nadia stood and watched as everyone stripped down to their underwear and felt her face heat. Valentina and Janine were tiny stick figures. Compared to them, she was a whale... What a great way to ruin the mood for everyone; her fat rolls jiggling about was exactly what they wanted to see. "I..." She looked at Janine and Felix and watched as they entered the fountain and immediately began a small water fight. They looked so carefree, so fun, so...
"You know you want to."
She looked over at Spencer as he stood in his boxers. The mischievous gleam in his eyes made her pull her lower lip between her teeth. Common sense told her that they could get caught by the police, but common sense didn't make a bit of difference to her hands as they pulled her jacket off. Nadia felt her face heat at the cheers she received from the rest of the group, but their encouragement gave her the bravery to strip down to the white tank top she wore underneath the pale blue one and deep red boy shorts. "I can't believe I'm doing this."
"Come on, you're the only dry one here," Spencer laughed as he held his hand out.
Walking forward, Nadia took hold of his hand and said, "If I get arrested for this, you're paying my bail."
Nadia gasped as she entered the cold water, but was glad that she was easily able to acclimate. She gaped again when Janine splashed her with water and immediately retaliated, starting a water fight that could have been considered an epic battle. The carefree feeling washing over her helped her to abandon all thoughts of Andrae. Spencer was sweet and very concerned for her safety, a trait proven when he hurt himself while catching her when she slipped. "Thanks."
This was exactly what she needed; one night of fun without any worry of confusion or anger. Sure, her attention span would pay for it in the morning, but that was a small price to pay for the pleasure of forgetting about him.
* * * * *
Where the hell was she?
Andraemalek took a frustrated drag from his cigarette while he looked at her apartment from his window. He'd seen when she left her apartment at the tail end of seven; she wore another one of those outfits that made him want to lock her up in a room and buy her better clothes. The light blue jeans hugged her curves deliciously and paired with the tank tops she wore... It wasn't right that she wore the things she did. Didn't she remember what happened the night they met?
Who was she with? Based on the direction she took when she left, she was headed for the library. But she held no books in her hands and her hair was left unbound to be mussed by the faint breeze. No, she wasn't going to study.
Glancing at the clock on his microwave, Andraemalek noticed that it was nearly three in the morning. She had class at nine. Nadia was always home and in bed before midnight when she had an early class. What could she have been doing to keep her out so late?
Or should he have asked who?
With a growl, he took a final drag from his cigarette and walked away from the window. He wasn't supposed to care about what she was doing or who she was with. She was a grown woman and could do what she wanted. There was also the fact that she was a mark. The only concern he should have had was whether or not she was out giving information. The fates of both demons and The Brethren lay in her hands... her beautiful, soft, small hands that made his blood boil when they touched him timidly. "No," he chastised himself. He was not allowed to think of her as anything other than a mark.
He'd seen the look on her face when he narrowed his eyes and walked into his building. She was hurt and offended. It bothered Andraemalek to know that he was the reason for her distress but he did what he had to do. His job was to make her attached to him, not to find reasons to attach himself to her. The sooner he focused on the mission, the sooner he could go back to the life he was accustomed to.
Andraemalek paced the length of his unfurnished living room for long minutes, forcing himself to get a grip on reality. She was nothing but a woman; a measly human woman who would be dead before his next birthday. The ridiculous hold she had on him was nothing but a phase, an affliction he could conquer.
She was nothing to him.
With a growl, he glanced at the window once more before he grabbed his jacket and walked out of the apartment.
* * * * *
Nadia was surprised they still hadn't been arrested for their play. Lord knew that they were loud enough to wake the dead. And they had reason to be; aside from the water fights, there were breath holding contests and dancing to music they sang themselves. She hadn't had this much fun since her uncle was alive.
Bernie wouldn't have approved of her staying out so late on a school night. He would have stayed up until she returned home before he gave her the lecture of a lifetime. As much as she would have hated to be lectured, she would have given anything for a few more minutes with him. He could have answered so many questions for her, could have pointed her in the right direction to the evidence she needed.
Nadia shook herself out of her thoughts when she heard the concern in Spencer's voice. "Yeah, just got lost in my head again."
"I figured, but you looked really sad all of a sudden."
"I was... I was thinking about my uncle."
Spencer placed his hand on her lower back as he led her to the far end of the fountain. He didn't think that Nadia wanted the rest of the playful group to hear what she had to say. "What were you thinking?"
"That he would have my ass for being out so late." She ran her hands over the cool surface of the fountain to keep from having to look at Spencer. "Of all the things to think about..."
"Don't worry about it. He died when you were little, right?"
"No, when I was seventeen. The day before my birthday."
Nadia smiled ruefully as she shook her head. "I'm ok. He just pops into my mind from time to time."
"You sure?" Spencer sputtered at the sudden splash of water in his face. "I guess so." He smiled at her musical laughter as he filled his hands with water. "By the way, you're so paying for that." He sputtered again at a second splash of water and laughed when he saw Nadia wade toward the rest of the group. Spencer gave chase, loving the way her hips swayed from side to side as she tried to evade him. Soon the rest of the group joined in, causing yet another large water fight. His revenge on Nadia had to be put on hold as Anthony and Felix began a mock wrestling match. As referee, he had to make sure no rules or bones were broken.
Nadia took the opportunity to begin twirling. She did not know why she did it, but it seemed like the best idea. The feeling of the cool water around her hips, the crisp air brushing over her skin and the sounds of laughter in the background made her happy. And when she looked up to see the stars shining above her, she felt weightless, as if nothing could touch her.
"Yeah?" she replied as she continued to twirl. She would be dizzy in a minute but she did not care.
"Isn't that your friend?"
Nadia stopped twirling and looked at Janine's apprehensive and confused face before she turned to look at what held her friend's attention. "Damn it." Wading to the dark end of the fountain, she prayed that he would go away. "Go away, go away, go away," she silently chanted to herself. What was he doing here? How did he find her?
"Get out of the fountain, Nadia." There was something about seeing her parading around in her underwear in public that set his blood to a boil. It wasn't too difficult to find her; the sweet scent of her skin paired with the unique berry-esque tint of her exhilaration filled the air around her. Andraemalek looked from the two petite females staring up at him in shock and the three confused males and clenched his jaw. They were all in their underwear. Didn't she know what could have happened with everyone in such a state of undress? "Nadia, now."
Nadia flinched at the hard tone in his voice. He wasn't happy to see her, that was obvious, but she knew he wouldn't leave until she got out of the fountain. How humiliating; he was acting like a jealous boyfriend.
The booming baritone voice made her jump in surprise. "Hold your friggin' horses!" Taking a breath, she prepared herself for what was to come. As she slowly waded out of the fountain she gulped. Andrae's eyes were hard, daring someone to say something to him. His arms were crossed in front of his chest, his legs braced apart. Classic battle stance. Standing next to the fountain, she stared at him for long moments, waiting for him to say something.
"Nadia, who is this?"
Nadia glanced at Spencer's confused face and felt herself sigh when she heard Andrae clear his throat. It was an obvious warning. A warning for what, she did not know. "He's a friend." She refocused her attention on Andrae and felt her eyes narrow when he only looked at her clothes before piercing her with his hard gaze once more.
She was suddenly freezing.
"God damn," she mumbled as she walked to her belongings. She heard everyone else exit the fountain but found that she did not have the courage to look at them. They probably figured that she was in some sort of controlling and dominant relationship with the large, overly attractive, scary person burning holes into her back with his eyes. Of course they did; how could they believe otherwise?
After ensuring that she had all of her items, she turned to the group who looked from her to Andrae warily and said, "I'll see you later."
Spencer stepped forward and frowned at the abrupt farewell. "Just like that you're going to go?"
Nadia glanced at Andrae and watched the way his eyebrow rose in question before she said, "Yeah, it's really late anyway. I need some sleep if I'm going to function in class tomo- later this morning."
"No," Spencer said, "You were with us first."
Nadia saw Andrae take a threatening step forward and quickly put herself in the middle to keep him from attacking Spencer. She didn't know if the larger man was capable of such unprovoked violence, but there was something in the look in his eyes that told her not to test it. "Spence, I'll call you tomorrow, ok?"
"No she wont," Andrae interjected. She would have nothing to do with any of them after this moment.
"Andrae!" Nadia mouthed an apology to everyone to the group before she angrily walked to him. She gasped in surprise when he took hold of her arm and pulled her away. He did not hurt her, but his grip was warning enough to obey. It wasn't as if she could do anything else; with her clothes and shoes in her hands and potent rage coursing through her veins, she could not think straight. "You humiliated me."
Andraemalek looked down at her just as she sent him a scathing glare and almost laughed. Had she been a demon, she would have been able to seriously harm him with whatever abilities she had. Luckily for both of them, she was only an angry human woman.
An angry human woman walking down the street in her underwear while drenched in water.
Growling in frustration, he pulled off his jacket and draped it over her shoulders. When he realized that the covering went down to her knees, he grunted in satisfaction.
"You had no right to do that." She ignored the sizzle that when down her spine at his scent. It was all over the jacket and was quickly wrapping itself around her.
"You were playing in the middle of a public fountain in your underwear. I'm supposed to be OK with that?" Granted, she lived in a town so quiet, there were no cars in the street, but anything could have happened.
"Considering we're nothing but neighbors, yes." Nadia stopped walking and tilted her head up to look at his surprised face. "Yeah, that's right. How did you find me anyway?" They were at least twenty minutes from the apartment complex and no one save Janine knew where she was going.
"I could smell you." He could also smell the navel lint she called a man as well. The peon had his hands all over her. Just how close did they get?
Again with the comment about her smell. "What are you? A bloodhound?"
Andraemalek felt himself smile at the half accusation. "Close." Letting his eyes roam over her body, he frowned when he realized that she hadn't put her shoes on. "You're walking barefoot."
Nadia hadn't realized that she had no shoes on until he pointed it out to her. Her rage had made her an imbecile. "I don't care," she declared, "I'm too pissed off right now to think about some damned shoes."
It was then that he allowed himself to experience the scent of her anger. It was comparable to the smell of burning toast; harsh, thick, and extremely unpleasant. And it was all directed at him. Glancing away from her, he watched the nearby stoplight go from red to green and considered making peace with her. She was right; he shouldn't have cared about what she did. She was only a mark and deserved to have as much fun as possible before her death. But did she have to let that flap of peeling skin put his hands all over her?
With a grunt, Andraemalek took a step forward and lifted her into his arms before she could protest. Ignoring the drops of water that lightly rained down from her curling hair, he held her close and silently continued the journey to her apartment. He felt relief when she relaxed in his arms. It was incredibly difficult to ignore the way she felt in his arms; Nadia was soft and every plush curve fit into his frame perfectly. He wondered how she would feel pinned beneath the weight of his body, her succulent legs wrapped around his waist in -
"Did you have to carry me the entire way home?"
He hadn't realized that they'd reached the complex until she'd spoken. Saying nothing, he walked to her door and set her down so that she could find her keys. While she looked, Andraemalek looked down at her hair. The once straight locks morphed into shining, unruly curls that looked soft to the touch. With the added decoration of the water droplets reflecting the moonlight, her hair was a dark pillow. "Your hair looks nice like that."
"Whatever." Nadia quickly unlocked her door and walked into her apartment. After throwing her belongings on the couch, she turned to face him, her hands on her hips. "What the hell was that back there?"
So much for her being relaxed. Andraemalek crossed his arms over his chest when he caught another whiff of her anger. Though he would have loved nothing more than to argue with her, he wasn't in the mood. Not when she stood before him only wearing his jacket over her underwear. "You were prancing around in your underwear for everyone to see."
"Five other people saw me. Five." Nadia held up a hand to emphasize her point. "Besides, I wasn't going to jump into the fountain fully dressed."