Bargains

by Teresa Cain

Part 5

 

 

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An hour later, Aerael had finally ran dry and switched back to an incubus... at my urging, of course. It's hardly a secret I have this huge crush on him, and when he's sporting a pair of breasts (and better ones than mine at that), I start to wonder about myself. I am simply not secure enough to handle that.

Against my better judgment, I'd dragged Jade away from her cartoons and let her in on the situation. As usual, she was rather blasť about the whole thing. While Aerael and I sat at the kitchen table trying desperately to think of some sort of plan, she sat there eating double chocolate mint ice cream and reading comic books. I almost said something, but frankly, I was scared of her hair.

When I'd first met Jade, she'd had an ankle-length fall of green hair, but somehow those green tresses had changed into a writhing mass of skinny green snakes. I was just glad she wasn't turning people to stone with a look... still, I wasn't going to look her in the eye and find out for sure. But those damn snakes hated me. Ever had a hundred little green snakes hiss at you in unison? It's creepy!

And three of those damn snakes had gotten into my own bowl of ice cream. I pushed it towards them with a sigh and looked over at Aerael, glancing into eyes still puffy and red from crying. He was tracing idle patterns into the wood of the table, his mind more than likely still on Renaeka. I suddenly felt very alone.

"Might I remind you both that protection was part of the bargain we made?" I asked childishly, sinking back in my chair and folding my arms over my chest. "I don't really feel all that secure at the moment."

"Don't be such an ingrate," Jade said, not taking her eyes off her comic for one minute as she shook her spoon at me, spraying melted drops of ice cream over the table. "We keep you plenty secure. If it weren't for us, you'd be a two dollar hooker by now, letting yourself get humped in exchange for Subway sandwiches."

"Quiet, Jade," Aerael said wearily, rubbing his eyes. "Just read your little comic and let me worry about Roselyn's safety."

"One, Poison Elves is not a 'little comic,' it's a bloody work of art, and yes, there was a pun in that - "

"Which neither of us got since we don't read the damn thing."

"And two," she went on, ignoring him, "I promised I'd help protect her, and I will. I'm not scared of Eli Thorn."

"You should be," I said quietly.

She looked at me (as did her hair), her lips curving into a contemptuous sneer. "I don't fear any human."

"You should," a weary voice groaned from the kitchen door. "Except I don't think that Thorn bastard is really a human."

We all jerked our heads around to stare at Morte, who came limping into the kitchen and fell heavily against the table. Aerael jumped up to steady him, then let him lean on his as he got him into a chair.

"What happened to you?" Jade asked, raising one brow. "Boyfriend getting a little rough?"

"You left a balcony door open," he told her, eyes narrowing. "I don't think you need to be leaving Thorn any openings right now."

"So? This damn building is fifty floors high. What's he going to do, fly in like you just did?"

"No, but he might just walk up the side!" Morte turned wild, frightened eyes to me, and I blinked. "Why the hell didn't you tell us Thorn wasn't completely human?"

"Because he is human," I replied, confused. "What are you talking about?"

"I ran into the man right outside of the Dark Place, and he chased me up a wall. And he followed me as well! Now, I admit I may lack a few tidbits of knowledge when it comes to the mortal race, but I'm pretty damn sure they can't walk up walls!"

"He walked up a wall?" I blinked again, then grabbed my arms in a self-hug. "Okay, I've never seen or heard of him doing that before."

Aerael was knelt at Morte's feet, examining his calf. "What an odd cut. It's only a quarter of an inch deep, but it looks... cauterized?"

"He caught me with his sword as I dove off the building. Like a red hot razor cutting me." Morte winced as Aerael probed the wound.

"Well, I'll get Brier up here," the incubus muttered, naming a young witch that lived in the building below with quite a few healing talents. "She'll probably have to reopen the wound or something so it'll heal properly."

Morte looked vaguely green at the prospect, but nodded. "Sure."

"Are you sure it was Eli?" I asked as Aerael went for a phone. "What did he look like?"

"Sort of a cross between Indian and Oriental... long black braid, black eyes, dark skin... wearing harem pants and a vest... wielding a katana. Rather insane. Sound familiar?"

I groaned and buried my face in my hands. "That's Eli, all right."

"I always pictured a psychotic Amish man, myself," Jade said, blinking. "Eli sounds like a bigger freak than the things he hunts."

"He's very vain," I muttered, rubbing my temples with my fingertips. "A regular peacock. He's probably the only demon hunter in the world whose battle cry is 'Not the face!'"

Jade broke into a rash of giggles, and even Morte smiled, but the joke hadn't done me any good. I was staring at the gash in my teacher's leg and shivering in horror. One was already dead... Morte had barely escaped himself. How much longer would Eli amuse himself before coming after me? How many others in New York would suffer for my presence?

"How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?" I groaned, dropping one hand to the table and rubbing at my nose with the other.

"I think she's starting to flake," Jade commented, turning back to her comic and ice cream. "She generally thinks better when she's freaked, though, or so I've found."

"The man I called 'Dad' for 17 years is after my hide!" I snapped, pushing away from the table and getting up. "Dammit! This is so unfair! I got away from him, fair and square. I won! Why won't he just leave me alone?"

"Are you sure he wants you dead?" Morte asked curiously. I looked at him, blinking.

"That was my guess. What makes you think otherwise?"

"Well, when I was facing off with him, he said something to the effect of dragging you back home. Are you absolutely sure he means to kill you?"

"Oh, God," I whimpered, staring at him. "He wants to take me back home? Oh shit... oh hell... oh f - "

Jade waved her spoon at me again. "Lan-guage, child, language. "It is weird, though. He denounces you as his daughter, tortures you for years, you get away, and he almost immediately comes after you to take you back home? He is a freak."

"But why?" I wailed.

Her face curved into an evil little grin. "Eh, who knows? Maybe he's just a really sick sadist. Maybe he was getting off on torturing you. Maybe the whole thing was just a sick joining of physical and sexual abuse."

"Jade - " Morte snarled, but I raised a hand, shaking my head.

"She's right, he did get a kick out of it," I said with resignation, and Jade smirked. "He might have even got a sexual thrill out of it, too, but if he did, he gets it from every kill. I don't think it was just me."

"Maybe you added something a little... extra," she said with a gleeful smile.

"Jade, you are a sick bitch," I growled, shoving my hair out of my face. "But maybe that's just a monster thing."

"Most definitely a monster thing," she agreed, turning back to her comic once again.

I sighed and leaned against a wall, crossing my arms over my stomach and staring blindly across the kitchen. This was so unreal... and so unfair. And I wanted to start screaming and not stop until my head exploded, thus putting an end to the whole thing. My teeth were clenched so hard behind my tightly pressed lips that I could almost feel them start to crack.

"Brier said she'd be right up," Aerael said, coming into the kitchen. "Have you already told what - Roselyn?"

The last was a surprised inquiry as I suddenly ran out, shoving him hard enough to make him stumble back against the doorway. I fled into my room, slamming the door shut behind me and locking it, then dove into my bed. I curled underneath the covers, pulled my pillow over my head and finally let myself go. The blankets and pillow probably muted my sobs to the outside world, but they echoed in my own head, and the more furious the sound of my sobs made me, the louder I cried till I was nearly howling with fear and rage.

Not again. Never again. He wouldn't have me again. I would draw the line here and now, and this time, it would be him or me. But either way, he wouldn't have me again. Either I would see him dead at my feet, or I'd be dead at his.

God, why did I see the latter happening first?

 

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Bargains ©2000-2001 by Teresa Cain

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