The Order Ch. 12bypurefire©
This had to be the longest week of her life. Nadia shook her head in amazement as she considered the weight of the past five days. She'd lost her virginity to a half demon, half god assassin, been kidnapped and tortured, graduated college weeks early by default, theoretically moved, and begrudgingly admitted that she was in love with the same half breed that took her innocence. And to top it all off, there was still a bounty on her head, making it impossible for her to go back to the life she was accustomed to. A life on her own.
A life without Andrae.
She should have been grateful that it was only a matter of time before she was able to walk away from him. He'd betrayed her trust and continually went against her wishes. Nadia didn't need a man like that in her life, not when she'd fought hard to live as she wanted. That didn't stop her from wanting him, however, and the realization sent her into fits of rage and disappointment. How desperate for companionship was she to actually think that being with the demon sent to kill her was a good idea?
But he didn't kill her.
The lurking fear in the back of her head kept Nadia from getting any rest. Tired of pacing the length of Andraemalek's room, she walked to the kitchen to get a glass of water. Luckily, the route to get there was quite simple considering she had no twists or turns to take in the large mansion, but Nadia was still nervous. Large houses had more history than the standard apartment. Based on what she knew about The Brethren, the house had more than a lot of history.
Of course there were no lights on downstairs. Nadia grumbled as she struggled to see through the dark haze of the mansion's lower level. If she remembered correctly, there was a large ceramic pot- "Dang it!" she gasped as her toe made contact with the very object she sought to avoid. To keep from shouting in pain, she continued to grumble as she searched for a light switch. She smoothed her hand over one side of the wall then the other before she stopped to take a deep breath. It was a simple light switch. She could find a simple light switch. Again, she smoothed her hands over the walls and extended her search to include the outer wall that led to parts of the house she'd never seen. Nothing. Where in the hell-
"What are you doing?"
Nadia jumped as she whirled around then shielded her eyes against the bright glare of the kitchen lights. She noticed Andraemalek approaching through her heavily hooded eyes and took an instinctive step back. She couldn't get too close to him; she always lost control when he was too close. "I was looking for the light switch."
Andraemalek watched as she tried to get her eyes to adjust to the new light and held in a smile at her appearance. Nadia wore a simple blue tank top but matched them with striped pajama pants that were too long and at least two sizes too big for her. Her hair wasn't messy, which only meant that she hadn't yet gone to bed. "Why aren't you sleeping? It's almost four in the morning." He knew because he had to listen to Liam grumble while he healed his shoulder wound.
Nadia walked into the kitchen as she said, "Not tired." She began to search through the cupboards for a glass and frowned when she found every single one of them empty. "Where are the cups?"
Andraemalek only shrugged as he asked, "Where is Caleb?" He figured his brother would have kept himself glued to her for the simple purposes of reading her mind. When he'd returned to his room to find her missing, he was sure that they were together, which added to his surprise when he found her slowly walking toward the solarium.
"Said something about having calls to make after Liam threw a fit at having to watch me before he stormed upstairs." Nadia almost cheered when she spied the lone bowl hidden away in the dishwasher. Knowing that it was the only usable item in the kitchen, she rinsed it and filled it with water. "He's a very angry man."
"He has a lot of unresolved issues."
"Who doesn't?" she countered before she drank. The cool water satisfied her thirst, but it did nothing to shake her unease at being watched.
She had a point, Andraemalek realized. As it was, he had one very pressing issue to resolve with her. "Nadia, when this is over-"
"Why don't you just kill me now and get it over with?" She'd expected the anger because she deliberately pricked his temper, but nothing could have prepared her for the panicked desperation in his eyes. She forced herself to keep from caring; after she was long gone, he would continue to go on with his life, killing others for money. "It's not like I have much to live for anymore." Nadia rinsed the bowl once more before setting it back in the dishwasher. "No matter what happens, I'll always feel like I have a bounty on my head."
"Not if you stay with me." Andraemalek searched for a reaction; a glimmer of happiness or even surprise, but there was nothing for a long minute.
"Oh yea," Nadia found herself laughing cynically as she turned her back to him. Looking at the cupboards she said, "I'll just stay here with you and your eleven brothers-"
"We're never all here at the same time. Unless something really big happens."
"That does nothing for me. What am I supposed to do? Play housemaid?"
Andraemalek shook his head as he said, "Nadia, I don't live with my brothers. You could stay with me."
"Where? In the underworld?" Nadia turned to face him and jumped back in surprise when she found that he stood behind her. She really didn't like it when he snuck up on her like that.
"Wherever you wanted to live." If she wanted to go back to her apartment, he would go with her. Andraemalek didn't care where they went; he only wanted her with him.
Nadia refused to give into the tenderness in his eyes. "That's rich."
"And what do you expect me to do? Wait around while you go off hunting?" He was out of his demon mind if he really thought she would live her life that way.
Andraemalek couldn't look into her wide brown eyes as he said, "Maybe I'm starting to see that contract killing isn't my only talent. I could go back to working with my brothers."
"That surely makes life a lot safer for you." Nadia put emphasis on the last word to remind him of her human status. There was no possible way for them to make a relationship work - that was if she even wanted a relationship, anyway. "Even if you chose to work with them, I'd never be safe."
The validity of her statement angered him. "What do you want me to do, Nadia?" He was doing as much as he could already. What more did she want?
"I want you to find a way to get me off the hook." Crossing her arms over her chest, she began to pace impatiently. "I have a life to lead."
Andraemalek watched her pace for a minute, unsure of what to do. Never having been in a situation that turned him into a bundle of emotions, he didn't know how to express how he felt. She had no problem telling him how she felt, even if it was a half truth, but that didn't help. The frustrated way she ran a hand through her hair prompted him to say the first thing that crossed his mind. "What if I said I wanted you to live that life with me?"
Nadia abruptly stopped pacing and stared at his tense face. He couldn't be serious. "What exactly are you saying?"
He took a breath and stared into her curious eyes, suddenly uneasy at the new emotion taking hold of him: terror. Andraemalek was terrified of her reaction to his thoughts and because of that, he remained silent.
The flicker in his eyes did nothing to deter her. "Well?"
"We have a long day tomorrow. You should get some rest."
Nadia let out a long slow breath as he walked passed her and out of the kitchen. Even now, after everything, he kept things from her. How was she supposed to consider his words if he didn't give her the whole truth?
Why did she care so much?
* * * * *
Nadia tripped over her own feet at the sight of the two strange but gorgeous men standing at the bottom of the staircase. Had she not been holding onto the railing, she would have pitched forward. Gaining her feet, she looked from one to the other, appreciating their looks. The men stood at the same height, but that was as far as their similarities went. The one with the very serious look about him had unruly brown hair and deep brown eyes that bore into her. His straight patrician nose looked almost too perfect and led to a beautifully trimmed mustache and goatee. As she got closer, she noticed the sickle-shaped scar on his cheek. It gave him a menacing quality while at the same time balancing the perfection of his nose.
The other man had a sheet of midnight hair that covered his shoulders and illuminated his stormy grey eyes. A strong angular face framed a tempting mouth and thick, expressive eyebrows. It was obvious that they too were members of The Brethren, as evidence by their presence in the manor. This left her Brethren count to six.
"Nadia, it's nice to meet you," the raven-haired one said. He watched as her step wavered again and took a step forward in the event that he would need to catch her. The last thing he needed was to listen to Andraemalek rail at them for her clumsiness.
"Hi," she said as she stood on the step that put her at eye level with them. She remained silent, unsure of whether or not they were angry like Liam or domineering like the demon she had no choice but to sleep next to last night. No, she would not think of him. Grey eyes seemed friendly enough, but the brown-haired man still had yet to say anything.
Grey eyes glanced at the other one has he said, "I'm Jameson and he's," he placed his hand on the other man's shoulder, "Alexis."
Nadia didn't know if she should hold her hand out or simply nod in acknowledgment. Alexis' very serious stare unnerved her and made her want to march back up to Andraemalek's room. Would he start yelling like Liam?
"No," Caleb said as he descended the steps. He smiled mischievously at Nadia's glare and looked at his brothers. "Nice to see you two."
Nadia watched as the three men took a moment to say hello and almost smiled at the almost barbaric way they pounded each other on the back. Were all siblings like this, she wondered. Was this the kind of camaraderie Andrae meant when he talked about his brothers?
"He told you about us?"
She focused her attention on Caleb and scowled at his surprised expression. "Didn't I tell you to get out of my head?"
"I would if you'd learn to think quietly." He turned to Alexis and said, "She thinks you're mean."
"I do not," Nadia defended.
"You wondered if he yelled like Liam does."
"No one yells like Liam does," Jameson laughed. He stepped back when Nadia brushed passed him and followed her into the kitchen. She was a tense human, he noticed, but he told himself that it was probably because of what she had to endure. He stood behind her as she stared into the kitchen and asked, "Never been in here before?"
"Yeah, I have, but..." Nadia looked at the kitchen and frowned at the various appliances that littered the countertops. Coffeemaker, toasted, microwave, and even a juicer sat waiting to be used. One the center island was a box of her favorite cake next to a large ceramic mug with the letter "N" boldly stamped on it. "But it wasn't like this."
"Guess D wanted to make you comfortable."
"Not possible," she said to Caleb, "He's still in bed." She looked at the brothers and narrowed her eyes in exasperation at the looks they gave her. "It's not even like that."
"He still could have gotten it," Jameson said as he inspected the box of cake, "It's not like he needs a car to get around."
"I got the stuff," Liam said as he walked into the room. He slapped his brothers on the back as a greeting as he continued, "Euan is too nice to mention his confusion at her drinking out of his bowl."
"There were no cups," Nadia said, "All I found was..." She did not want to think about how he drank from the bowl, especially if he engaged in animalistic bathing-
"He showers just like the rest of us," Caleb said.
Nadia glared at him before she looked at Liam to ask, "Do you know where he is? I'd like to apologize for-"
"Do I look like his keeper?" Liam growled.
"Well, no, but-"
"He's not here. That's all you need to know."
"Cheer up," Jameson said as he put an arm around her shoulders, "Liam likes knowing he intimidates people. So stop acting intimidated."
"I'm not, I just-"
"Get that arm off her if you ever expect to use it again."
Everyone turned to watch as Andraemalek walked into the kitchen. He too looked surprised by the change in the room but said nothing. He was too busy thinking of ways to dismember his brother.
"Do you guys not eat or something?" Nadia asked.
"We eat, just not here," Jameson answered. He slowly pulled his arm off her when Andraemalek took a threatening step forward. "We usually come here to sleep or relax and even then it's only for a few hours at a time."
"What about guests?"
"You're the first one we've had," Caleb answered.
"Are you going to eat or not? I didn't spend my valuable time getting all this stuff to have you sit here and stare at it."
Nadia only looked at Liam for a second before she shook her head and walked to the fridge. Did he buy the entire supermarket? There was enough food inside to feed a football team after a long game. She spied the large tub of vanilla yogurt and grabbed it, knowing that Liam and Alexis' close scrutiny would put a damper on her appetite. She looked at Liam and walked to the draw he motioned to. Spoons. Wonderful. She decided to stay near the fridge as it left a good five feet of space between her and the brothers. She listened and nearly choked on her yogurt as Andraemalek relayed a terrifying story of having to face a group of demons. Had Alexis and Jameson not showed up, he would have probably been taken to the underworld as The Order's prisoner. Christ, if they managed to get him, there was no telling how long she had before she was caught. Nadia's heart began to pound at a furious rate; The Order was an extremely powerful group of demons. Who was she to first allow eleven innocent men to risk their lives for her and second think that she could actually walk away from everything? She was dead. She was-
Nadia looked at Caleb when her distress was quickly replaced with annoyance at Liam for his abrasive personality. She frowned at the blonde and blinked in surprise when he winked at her. Was that his sick way of comforting her? She mentally told him to get out of her head before focusing her attention on the conversation.
"It's only a matter of time before they find a way around the spell."
"What spell?" Nadia asked Andrae.
"The manor is cloaked. No one can find it and those who aren't Brethren or given passage don't remember how to get here."
That certainly explained why she abruptly fell asleep in Euan's car. What a nifty insurance policy to have.
"They should know but now that the Vartek are dead," Jameson said. "The best assassin in the game switched sides, the second best was killed by the first, and three hundred demons weren't enough to bring him in."
"So he goes in himself."
Nadia almost dropped her spoon when she heard Alexis speak. His voice was like a cool breeze on a hot summer day; surprising and completely pleasant.
"What the hell does that mean?" Liam asked.
"He goes in and strikes another bargain."
"What kind of bargain?" Andraemalek asked. He had an idea of where his brother was headed but did not want to think of the possibility of carrying out the plan. The Order wanted him to pay and they would force him to endure the most brutal of their torture.
"The kind that gets you killed, of course." Alexis ignored Nadia's outraged gasp as he said, "Offer yourself in her stead."
"They'll kill him," Nadia said. She looked at the men in the room and became enraged by the ridiculous plan. "You can't do that."
"It seems like a very logical and workable plan," Jameson said. "You won't have to worry about dying while shopping for groceries."
"But that means he'll die."
"Isn't that what you want?"
Nadia stared at Caleb in horror when she realized that he was completely serious. "No, I don't. I..." She looked at the five men huddled around the island and felt rage take over her. It was bad enough that she had to deal with the repercussions of her quest for revenge. She refused to have the added guilt of Andraemalek's death on her shoulders as well. "That's a stupid idea."
"But it gets you off the hook," Andraemalek said. He watched the emotions play over her face and for a moment felt guilty. He knew what Alexis tried to do and because he had to protect her, he played along.
"I'm not listening to this nonsense," she said with a shake of her head. Throwing her spoon in the dishwasher and putting the yogurt back in the fridge, she glared at the men. Then she walked out of the kitchen without a backward glance.
"You were always good at kicking people out without telling them to leave," Caleb said to Alexis. He figured his brother's plan was too difficult or could easily be foiled, hence the reason he only wanted Brethren to hear it. While he appreciated the move, Caleb felt that Nadia should be present. "So what's your plan?"
"Exactly what I said," Alexis replied. He leaned in to emphasize the importance of his words and ignored his brothers' unanimous look of shock as he explained the details of his plan. His methods were quite radical, but it would work. They only had to trust him.
"No, I won't do it," Andraemalek said. His brother was insane if he thought- "No, think of something else."
"This is the only way," Alexis defended. "I know it's risky, but unless you can think of another way to save your human, this is all we've got."
On a growl, Andraemalek looked to his brothers and realized hat they'd sided with their older brother. Even Liam, the outspoken on of the group, remained eerily quiet, a sign that if he deviated, Andraemalek would be on his own. He glanced at the entrance to the kitchen and sighed in frustration. Nothing ever was easy for him. "All right, fine. But his had better work."
Yes, I know... No sex and barely any action. Things will pick up soon, especially since it's the beginning of the end of this tale. Thank you guys for the comments thus far and the support. I'll update soon.