Love in the Shadows Ch. 01bylustbealady©
*A warning this story has elements of violence that may be disturbing to some readers. It's also my first attempt at writing so any feedback is welcome. Thanks!
Maya's feet hit the pavement in a smooth steady rhythm. The old running shoes were worn too thing in the soles. She would buy new ones but she simply didn't have the money right now. New identities did not come cheap and waitressing didn't pay all that well.
She pushed the thought out of her mind. This was the time for silence. There were no demanding customers, no cramped apartments smelling of unwashed bodies, no thoughts of the nightmares she was really running from. There was nothing but the cold air in her lungs. The dark form of her shadow ran in front of her in the golden pooled light of the street lamps. She breathed deep and willed her legs to move faster, to embrace the speed and freedom.
She smelled him first, a brief bitter tang of old blood and burnt hair, before a force like a ton of bricks hit her. Her hip and shoulder scraped along the pavement and her head slammed hard against the ground. Before she slipped into unconsciousness Maya had enough time to think, "Fuck they found me."
The first time Odin saw her she stopped him dead in his tracks. He felt the air rush from his lungs and his cock harden like some oversexed teenage boy. He hadn't had a reaction like that to any woman in at least a thousand years.
She was all long legs and fiery hair. Dressed in baggy men's basketball shorts and a pale blue t-shirt she wasn't one of the perky girls in matching shorts and mid-drift baring tank tops. But even the shapeless cloths couldn't hide the bounce of her full breasts under the shirt, the bright mass or red curls, the smooth pale line of her neck, or the look of peace in her blue grey eyes. It was the look of a woman that was utterly alone and happy with it. She was gone in a moment turning a corner on the tree lined path.
Despite himself Odin came back the next evening waiting like some desperate peeping tom. He couldn't seem to keep his feet from wandering to that same curve in the path. He had almost given up hope as the shadows grew longer and the street lights flickered on. But then she came around the corner the same tall fiery beauty flying straight past him and this time the wind was blowing in his favor and he caught her scent just for a moment. She smelled of cedar and cloves. She smelled like home, warm wood and dark star filled nights. In that moment he knew he was doomed. He knew he would tell any lie and commit any crime just to have the chance to breath that scent straight from her skin.
He came back again and again. At first with the purely selfish desire to see her, to feast on her scent but quickly it became about more than just his pleasure. She was tall for a woman, no waiflike doe eyed beauty but she was still vulnerable and she ran every night in the growing dark along that tree lined path.
"Foolish child" he thought to himself as he felt an unfamiliar surge of fear and possessiveness run through him. Anyone could follow her here, prey on her in this dark corner of the city. So he told himself he was protecting her, watching over her. That was how he justified wasting precious minutes, time he could be out hunting and repaying his debt. Instead Odin waited crouched in the shadow of a massive oak tree breathing in the first hint of the coming winter. Later he would tell himself that the wind had not been right, that the stench from the docks a mile south was what prevented him from noticing the thick scent of old blood and burnt hair on the wind but if he was being honest it was the anticipation of her that distracted him. It wasn't until he heard a strangled cry and the crash of bodies hitting ground that he noticed the stench of demon on the wind.
Within seconds Odin was airborne a massive black raven against the darkening sky racing towards the smell of death. Fast as he was he arrived to find nothing but a streak of clove scented blood on the pavement. With a practiced grace the giant raven became a wolf as black as the night with silver eyes. He streaked across the grass following the scent of her blood.
Maya woke with a sharp pounding in her temple and the immediate knowledge that she was bound and naked. Her wrists were chained high above her head with iron manacles that cut deep bloody welts into her pale flesh and her ankles tied together with rough rope. She dangled from the ceiling barley balancing her weight on the balls of her feet, her heels an inch off the floor. The air around her was ice cold but not as chilling as the panic that filled her mind, a suffocating fear so sharp she couldn't breath, couldn't think, could do nothing but scream and fight against the chains.
Blood ran down her wrists snaking along her arms and the renewed pain of it brought her back into her own head, just for a minute but it was enough.
"Stop you fool." She told herself. "Remember your promise. You will not let it happen again. You will not be taken against your will again. You will die fighting first. You will not let your fear give the monsters strength"
The knowledge that this much was in her control was somehow empowering. It allowed her to resist the urge to scream when she heard the heavy screech of a metal door sliding open and a voice she knew too well.
"Hello my pet, so nice to see you again."
He circled her slowly with the easy pace of a predator. The dark silk of his robe swirled around him. A twisted figure lurched beside him, one of the many demons in the army he commanded. The demons could take on the shape of their victim's greatest fear but this one remained faceless because nothing scared this captive more than the silk robed man.
The demon carried a large lantern and the flickering light threw a soft glow over the man's perfect features. He was the most beautiful man Maya had ever seen. All high cheek bones, bronzed skin, and full lips. He had taught her the hard way that great evil can hide behind great beauty. His eyes were the most deceptive part of him. They were a rich chocolate brown that should have been filled with life but remained empty. She knew from experience that those eyes would fill with a feverish joy when he gorged himself on the pain his victims.
He stroked her cheek gently, "You have turned out to be far cleverer than I ever expected my pet. I am almost tempted to draw out our little game. To let you run from me a bit longer but the Council would not be happy to hear I had you in my grasp and let you go."
He bent his head to kiss her. He expected to taste the broken girl she had been eight years ago. Maya resisted, just enough to lead him on, and then opened her lips to let him in as if too weak to fight him.
He pushed his tongue inside her mouth. She fought back the bile that rose in her throat and then with all the strength she had bit down hard taking off the tip of his tongue. At the same time she grabbed the chains in her palms lifted her feet off the floor and slammed her knees into his stomach as hard as she could.
With the taste of her enemy's blood in her mouth and the knowledge that she would never be his victim again Maya felt a strange rush of power run through her. The chains bolted to the ceiling above her suddenly ripped from the concrete sending her crashing to the floor with her captor. She did not waste a thought on escape. She knew this icy dungeon all too well. She knew that within minutes it would be crawling with hundreds of demons coming to the aid of their commander. Instead Maya focused her new found strength on beating the beautiful face of her tormentor as hard as she could with the solid iron manacles still fitted around her wrists.
She got in two full blows before he threw her from him. His power exploded around her in a flash of green fire and she flew fifty feet backwards before crashing into the stone wall.
Maya's lips stained with blood curved into a smile as she slid to the floor. She had won. She was dead and she had robbed Ymir of the chance to gain that fierce light of joy in his brown eyes.
Covered in blood, Ymir, the Council's most trusted agent, and the high commander of the demon army stalked forward towards the girl who had dared to fight back. His normal control vanished as he pulled a long knife from beneath his robe.
"You dare resist me!" He roared. "I will cut the defiance from you piece by piece and feed your flesh to my demons as I feed on your fear."
He reached to grab her by her hair but before his fingers could close around the dark red tresses she vanished. Ymir stared at the spot where she had been, the only prey that had ever managed to escape his prison, the woman the Council insisted was the key to their victory. Somehow she had escaped him again. He threw back his head and screamed his rage.
Odin cradled his precious burden to his chest as he streaked through the night. Ignoring the sharp burn in his thighs and the powerful urge to turn back and rip her abuser to pieces.
He had almost drained his own life force tracking her to the hidden fortress and it took nearly every ounce of magic he had left in him to cloak her in night shadows long enough to escape that place of death. If he stopped to consider the man who had hurt her, the one who had marred that perfect pale skin with blood and bruises...
Even now thinking of it filled his vision with a red haze and almost made him lose sight of his mission.
"There will be time for revenge later," he promised her, brushing a soft kiss against her hair not missing a beat in his long stride. "First I must make sure you live."
Odin took her to the only safe place he could think of, his own home shadowed deep in the pine forests of the North. In his domain he could protect her while she healed. He did not stop to think what it would mean to open his sanctuary to a mortal. There was no choice. He would do whatever was needed to keep her faint heart beat from dying out.
He reached his home before sunrise. By all appearances it was a small broken cabin next to a wide frozen lake, a place for hunters and trappers to take shelter for the night. But the cabin was cloaked in an air of menace and shadow so thick that no human ever paused to consider sleeping there.
Odin took the creaking steps two at a time and kicked in the front door. Inside the cabin was warm, an oasis of light and heat in the heart of the frozen forest. What looked like a one room shack from outside, was two stories of rich wood paneling, warm thick rugs in browns and tans, and high skylights that reveled the light of the star filled sky above.
Odin strode through the front room, the door closing soundlessly behind him. He carried his charge into the bedroom and laid her on the massive bed piled with elk hides worn soft by age. He waved his hand at the fireplace and the fire roared to life filling the space with light.
Odin sucked in his breath as he took in the sight the light revealed and barked a harsh curse in a language that had not been spoken in over seven hundred years.
She was beautiful, all long pale limbs and soft curves. Her breasts were lush and round. His eyes followed the perfect hourglass of her figure, ripe and smooth laid out before him framed by a mass of deep auburn curls. The dark purple bruise that covered the left side of her face, the rough bloody scratches along her hip and shoulder, and the heavy iron manacles that had cut her wrists nearly to the bone were like ice water hitting his lust head on.
He went to the bathroom and began to fill the tub with steaming water and a mixture of healing herbs. Carefully he returned to the bed and unsheathed his dagger. The enchanted blade cut through the iron manacles and the thick rope around her ankles like a heated knife cuts through butter.
Gently, Odin carried her to the bath and lowered her into the healing water. He cringed imagining the pain of her wounds exposed to the disinfectants in the herbs but she didn't make a sound. Odin pushed her mass of dark copper curls aside and felt for her pulse. It was weak, barely a breath against his calloused fingers but it was still there.
He bathed her and dressed her in one of his cotton t-shirts not wanting her to face waking naked in a strange place again. He tried to push down the sense of possessiveness he felt watching her sleep in his bed wearing his shirt but failed. It felt to right to have her here in his domain. So he stripped off his own blood soaked cloths pulled on a pair of worn grey sweats and slid under the covers next to her. Wrapping his arms around her, he used the last remnants of his magic to send her into a healing sleep before exhaustion overtook him.
Odin woke hours later feeling the woman trembling in his arms. She was shaking as if she would break into a thousand pieces and crying out in her sleep.
"Shhhhh min kjaerlighe. You are safe with me. No one will hurt." He murmured in her ear soft nonsense words, promises of love and shelter.
Odin brushed his lips over her hair and loosened his grip around her so that she would not feel trapped. She stiffened for a minute and he began to sing very softly, a child's lullaby from his homeland in a language so long forgotten it normally pained him to use it. Somehow with her in his arms the pain of the memories could not touch him. Slowly she relaxed against him turning to nuzzle into the warmth of his body and falling back into a deep sleep. Odin sang and as he sang he traced symbols of power and healing over her temple calling on the strength of his ancestors in a kingdom long closed to him to heal the fragile mortal woman.
She was warm. That was Maya's first clue that something was wrong. She had not been warm in nine years. Eight years she had spent running from one cold city to the next, sleeping in cramped poorly heated apartments, and fighting through the night to keep away the deeper cold of the memories from that first year. Her second clue was the warm length pressed against her thigh that could be nothing other than an incredibly large erection. She felt the urge to rub up against that hot rigid length.
Maya never felt desire, never dreamed of warm aroused men pressed against her. The only man who invaded her sleep was a man of nightmares with a face of dark beauty and a light of sick joy in his brown eyes, which meant that this man was not a dream. He was real and she was in an unknown place with no memory of how she had gotten here.
Very slowly Maya opened her eyes to meet a pair of unnaturally green eyes staring at her. The man who loomed above her was not traditionally handsome. His nose was too long, almost hawkish, and clearly had been broken more than once. He had a jagged scare across his right cheek and he looked as if he had not shaved in days. His hair was a deep gray almost black. It hung down to his shoulders and was matted with dirt and thicker things she didn't want to consider too closely. He was also massive and naked from the waist up. His shoulders filled her field of vision and his arms bulged with thick corded muscles.
Odin looked into the blue grey eyes of the woman in his bed and waited for her to scream. She had awakened next to a strange man in a strange room. The evidence of her recent abuse was all too visible in the yellowing bruise on her temple and yet the eyes that studied him were filled with calculation not fear.
"Where am I and how did I get here?" She asked him, her voice cracking slightly.
"You are in my home. I took you from the soulsuckers and their commander and brought you here to heal." He replied.
"And who exactly are you?"
"I am Odin. I am a hunter of the soulsuckers."
Maya sat up slowly testing to see if this massive man would allow her space. He moved carefully away from her giving her room to ease up against the high pile of pillows behind her and take in the enormous room filled with firelight.
"Well I suppose if you intended to kill me you would have done it by now and the accommodations are certainly nicer than what I'm used to." She said. "I'm Maya."
And to Odin's utter shock she reached out for a handshake.
He stared at her as if she was fresh from the asylum and maybe she was, trying to shake his hand like they were in a business meeting and not half-naked in his very large bed. But after only a moment's hesitation he took her hand dwarfed in his own large calloused palm and gave her a smile that stopped her heart and made her never want to let go.
Maya moaned savoring the taste of hot venison on her tongue. She was wrapped in a navy wool sweater that hung to her knees and pair of black sweat pants. If she was being honest the moan was just as much for the sight of the bare chested man standing at the stove as it was for the delicious stew he had made her. She finished the bowl and he grunted in approval filling it again. Apparently her shirtless rescuer was a man of few words.
"So how exactly did you manage get me away from Ymir?" Maya asked as he placed a plate of thickly sliced black bread on the table next to her and returned to lean against the wall on the far side of the kitchen. It seemed that outside of the warmth of his bed he was afraid to scare her by getting too close.
"I traveled on the shadows." Odin replied.
"I'm sorry what?"
"I am a hunter of the soulsuckers. Only dark can battle the dark. The shadows are my world. I can travel through them and cloak myself in them so that no one can see me not even the soulsuckers or their commander."
She studied him carefully. "Are you telling me that you can hide so well that even Ymir and his demons cannot see you?"
Her eyes lit up for just a moment with a spark of hope. The thought raced through her mind, "This man may be powerful enough to help me. He can hide me from Ymir. With him on my side I could stop running." But the spark left as quickly as it had come. "Don't be an idiot." She told herself as reason won over, "He may look strong and he may have magic of his own but you cannot accept his help. You will get him killed just like all the others. You can only trust yourself, only risk your own life."
She sighed scraped the last bit of venison from the bowl and stood up. The sudden movement made the room tilt for a minute. He had the power to heal her but she was still weak. Maya knew that once outside of his presence his magic would begin to fade she would feel like she'd been hit by a Mack-truck or more accurately two hundred pounds of demon.
"Well Odin. Thanks for the rescue. I am in your debt and the best way I can repay you is to leave your home before Ymir and his army have the chance to track me to you."
She started towards the door and out of nowhere he was there blocking her way with a harsh command.
Maya shrank back from him. She folded in on herself, turning her shoulder to absorb the blow instinct told her was coming. But there was not blow, just gentle arms surrounding her, pulling her into a warm embrace.
"Forgive me min kjaerlighe. I forget myself," he said. "I would never hurt you but you cannot leave."
Maya hated it when the fear overwhelmed her. She hated the sharp spike of shame that hit her stomach in the aftermath of her reaction. She couldn't help herself, for just one minute she let her body sink into him. She gave herself over to the scent of dark earth and fresh pine and something simply male.
Odin fought against the panic he felt at the thought of Maya leaving and the rage that brought a haze of red to his vision when he saw her anticipation of violence. The scent of her fear was sharp in the air and he struggled to keep his embrace gentle, to project a sense of calm and safety as he hummed softly and stroked her hair.
Finally she spoke her voice clear and unwavering, "Odin, I need to leave. It is not safe for me to be here. They will find me and they will kill you. It does not matter how strong you are you cannot protect me against them all."