Prologue: The Crux.
“Tell me what makes your blood
boil, and what makes your skin
soft. I want to know
how your soul tastes before you
take your clothes off.”
“Ugh, I’m starving!” Teya groaned, rubbing her stomach.
She’d just eaten a good portion of a ten-point buck, and still she was hungry, Kal smirked. She’d been insatiable since they were children. A hunger for life, love, passion, and, of course, food. “How can you still be hungry…?” He remarked.
“I’m always hungry after a hunt,” Teya joked, slapping Kal’s arm playfully. “All that running.” Truth was, she liked the running--it cleared her mind and let her give herself go to the animal inside her. It let her be free--truly free, Teya thought to herself. She loved the heavy feeling in her chest and limbs after a long run, and the languid weight of it pulling her back down to the ground beneath her feet. She loved the grime of her sweat mixed with dirt in her hair and skin, and even the moss and mud trapped under her nails.
Kal followed her into the Pack House through the heavy, wooden, double doors leading into the house from the surrounding wooded area. “Watching you eat always makes me the opposite of hungry…” He teased her.
“Keep it up, and we’ll see who’s laughing when I’m picking up some hot stranger tonight at the bar, and you’re stuck here alone with your right hand and a sock,” Teya shot back.
“My hand and my sock?” Kal joked. “I’ve never been so lucky!”
“Want a sandwich?” Teya asked.
“I want your venison stew…” Kal suggested. He knew she’d be annoyed. “Please?” He stuck out his bottom lip in an attempt to cajole Teya into conceding and making his favorite meal.
Teya turned from the path leading to the dining hall, and made a left up the main staircase instead. “I'm not hungry anymore,” she explained.
“No! T, don't leave me!” Kal raced to the foot of the staircase to dramatically call after her. But his eyes followed her backside as it ignored him and took her with it up the stairs and, probably, to her room.
The rest of the hunting party joined them in the front hall, gathering their various kills, men and women, adults and elders alike, in preparation for the upcoming holiday. There was a spirit of pride and renewed faith in the air in the Darkling sector now that the Dark Goddess had returned to them.
Just then Oxir, Kal’s mother came up behind him, young kids following her from their classroom and ambushing their returned parents with laughs, giggles, hugs, and endless questions. Oxir asked, “What’d you do to her now?”
“I asked her to make me food,” Kal smiled.
She playfully slapped him in the back of his head and remarked, “Just like your father… Shut up.”
“Is that not okay? I didn’t ask her to make me a sandwich!” he called after his mother who was walking away from him, rolling her eyes. Kal turned to race up the stairs two at a time, to apologize to Teya.
* * * * *
When Kal pushed open the door to Teya’s bedroom, Teya was laying there in a nest of fluffed pillows. Her teal-dyed waves put up in a messy bun atop her head and wearing only a smug smile.
Kal’s eyes traced over Teya’s long olive-skinned limbs, and his mouth went dry. Like a caress, his hazel-brown eyes devoured Teya’s face: her high, prominent cheek bones, her faintly-dimpled chin, her full, pouting lips. And her dark brown eyes, almost black, were fathomless. Kal could get lost in those eyes, and content to be so. He had. Frequently, Kal reminded himself. All he could think to say, an obvious disconnect between mind and body at the moment, was, “I thought you were mad?” It came out as a croak, with his dry throat.
Teya’s heart was thrumming in her chest as Kal watched her. When she moved to sit up and pull her long legs beneath her in the center of her bunch of pillows, a stray teal lock falling across the nape of her neck. Teya shook her head slowly and replied in a languid voice, like molten gold, “Nope…”
“Then…?” Kal nearly slurred; he was drunk on the sight of her. “What is this?”
“Diffusing tension…” was Teya’s curt reply. “I read a book about primates that said that some species of chimp use intercourse to diffuse tension and avoid fights…”
"We’re not chimps,” Kal smirked.
“Maybe I just like seeing you naked,” Teya teased.
“Oh, well, if you just wanted to see me naked…” Kal smiled, grabbing the hem of his shirt and pulling it over his head. “You could've just asked.”
“After this long, should I have to?” Teya teased, climbing gracefully off the bed with three mattresses piled high. She sauntered to him and pressed her palms flat against the sculpted pectoral muscles of his bare chest, his golden-brown/olive skin so much like her own. They were two pieces of a puzzle, Kal and her, Teya thought, suddenly happy. They always had been… And she just couldn’t keep from staring at Kal in that moment, and wondering how sometimes it just felt like she was drowning. Like it was all too much.
“What is it?” Kal asked her, his eyes crinkling as he smiled at her, guileless and pure. In this moment, Kal was just with Teya. And he loved her… But sometimes he questioned whether she loved him back. Or whether something was missing.
“Come here,” Teya ordered, cupping the nape of Kal’s neck in her hand, pulling him towards her. With their breath intermingled and hot, “You smell,” she teased him, before molding her lips to his and letting out a little moan of satisfaction as he responded instantly.
Kal walked her backwards towards the bed, picking her up to carrying her the rest of the way. And Teya wrapped her arms around his shoulders and her legs around his waist, their chests pressed together till she could feel Kal's heart pounding to the beat of hers to match it. The two of them fell to the soft bed and feathers shot out of the mountain of pillows, floating in the air around them, fluttering like they were plucked from bird’s wings.
Kal moved to trace a fiery path of kisses down Teya’s throat and collar bones, teasing her erogenous zone of her neck. He whispered, “I love you, T…” And he felt her freeze momentarily beneath him before pushing him away to look into his hazel-brown eyes.
“Don’t ruin it, Kal…” Teya smiled sadly at him and said, “You know we agreed to keep this casual.”
“You agreed,” Kal reminded Teya. He was struck by her words like he was every time they came to actually talking to him about it. Talking about a potential future. But he did love her. And he would be patient and wait for her as long as it took… Taking her any way he could get her, Kal told himself.
“We agreed it’s for the best,” Teya went on. “Now just...kiss me.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” Kal joked and brought their lips back together. When Teya was ready, she would come to him and agree to be his mate, Kal told himself.
Golden eyes flicked across his mind's eye. It had started as a vision, but now occurred frequently within his dreams. Whether it was one or the other now he could not tell.
A faint knocking occurred and Na'im's eyes opened. The ceiling was pristine white, and drew his mind away from the current situation. He was partly dazed being so suddenly roused from sleep with the dreamlike vision still dancing along the edges of his consciousness.
The knocking happened once more reminding Na'im of what had made him aware in the first place. Where are the servants? Na'im wondered as he sat up on his bed. Sitting still for a moment to orient himself, he remembered that he was in his bedchambers. Whoever was at the door was there for him. He swung his feet over the side of the bed frame, and stood up.
Na'im's bare feet sank into the plush carpeting beneath his feet with every step he took. One. Two. Three- the steps he counted toward the door halted as it knocked again. More hesitant, curious to see if the occupant was actually present.
Na'im placed his hand on the doorknob and turned. When he pulled the door open all the way his hands fell limp to his side and a single word left his lips in a whisper. "Sef...." Na'im's breath caught for a second. A tall, slender built man stood one or two inches taller than him. The high cheek bones went higher in a disarming smile. Golden eyes stared at him sincerely, just looking and taking him in the way Na’im was absorbed in him. His hand raised, fingers lightly tracing the ritual marking beneath Sef's right eye, confirming the man before him was real.
Sef's arms wrapped around Na'im's waist, pulling Na'im against him. The limbs went below the open flowing hooded top he wore. The shirt below long enough only to reach his waist. When Sef touched him and held him, Na'im's clothes were disturbed enough to present skin as a reward. Every inch of him that Sef touched burned. Even his clothes began feeling too small for his body.
Seconds passed within the warm embrace before Na'im hugged back. His arms wrapped around Sef's neck not adding anymore contact. Wanting to be more physical but afraid to initiate anything.
"Hey." Sef's voice spoke in his ear and a small shiver ran down Na'im's spine. He pulled away enough to stare into Na'im's silvery-gray eyes and Na'im into Sef's golden ones.
"I missed you." Na'im whispered again. The moment seemed so private and so he stepped back forcing Sef to follow, before he closed the door.
The moment passed. Sef lifted his hand to caress Na'im's face. His thumb running along Na'im's full lower lip.
"Can I kiss you?"
A light shade of pink dusted across Na'im's cheeks. Sef didn't wait for the answer as he leaned in, his plump lips laying flush against Na'im's full ones. Na'im let out an appreciative moan in response and it was not long before he reciprocated the kiss.
They pulled apart for a second before their lips met again. More urgent, deeper, passionate. Na'im placed a series of feather light kisses onto eager lips. He pulled away once more to run his fingers along the shirt sleeve covering Sef's arm before clasping his hand. He laced their fingers together, pulling Sef to the bed. When they reached the edge Na'im sat down, Sef following along resuming their kisses. His hand running beneath Na'im's shirt hiking it further up the pale ivory skin.
Sef's kisses followed a path of the slender expanse of skin along Na'im's neck. Another moan. The two slowly freed each other of their shirts, and Na'im stopped. His eyes turned to the newly exposed shoulders. His hand flitted to, as if involuntarily drawn, to the rich brown skin before him.
"What is this?" Na'im spoke while being gently pushed onto his back.
"You know what it is." Sef whispered, his voice husky as he continued with the flurry of kisses- forehead, cheeks, nose, lips. When he reached the neck and collarbone Na'im swallowed.
"You got a tattoo."
"Yes." Sef stopped for a moment to look into the eyes of his lover. "Is it going to be a problem?”
Na'im touched a random marking tentatively, tracing along the skin and ink that brought the body of a bird into existence. It was one of many. The blackened marks of ink were smooth to the touch rather than raised, he had had it for a while now.
How could anything Sef did be a problem? Na'im wondered looking at his lover. He just shook his head and embraced the older man. Sef kissed him once on the lips before resting his forehead against Na'im's. He lay gazing into Sef's eyes before the older man smiled and whispered, "I have a present for you."
Na'im looked at him inquiringly, his hand drawn automatically to his most cherished present from Sef which hung around his neck. He just smiled. If they stayed like this forever he would be happy.
“Understand something, woman,” Kal jokingly delivered to Teya his half-hearted ultimatum, “If you’re gonna spend all night with an attitude problem, I’m just gonna find someone else who actually wants to spend tonight with me…” “You understand something, man… If you call me ‘woman’ one more time, I’ll drop kick you.” Teya threatened. Knocking back another shot of absinthe, her throat burning deliciously with the microscopic silver flakes in the green alcoholic liquid, she shot back, “And one more thing… If you keep threatening to go off with someone else, I will too. And we’ll just see who comes crawling back first.” Setting down the shot down on top of the bar, she regarded her lifetime friend and longtime lover with feigned annoyance. “Now, I don't know what you’re so upset about… I said I was sorry.”
“But you didn't mean it,” Kal replied. “Not really.”“Who are you to tell me what I do and don’t mean?” Teya remarked, only slightly peeved.
Khalil leaned against the bar from where he was seated on his stool, Teya standing between his legs with her left arm draped over his shoulders, and his right hand on the small of her back. “Gillem!” Kal called to the bartender to get her attention.
Gillem gave Khalil a head nod, to signal that she’d heard the customer trying to get her attention, while she took someone else’s order further down the bar. Then the Shifter bartender made her way to where Kal and Teya were standing wearing a backless, silver, sequined, halter top paired with skintight leather pants and leather ankle boots. Her dyed-red hair was up in a messy bun hanging at the nape of her neck, clinging to her sweat-dampened skin.
All the bodies packed in the place made the air hang thick and heavy with the smell of sweat and pheromones. And the animal in them called to each other through it. To dance, to feel, to give it to the pull of it all, to give in to the animal.Teya ordered for them, “Two more shots of absinthe, please, Gillem…”
“Anything you want, N’Ima,” Gillem leaned over the bar to kiss Teya’s cheek in greeting, addressing her with the Mu’Nosi term for sister.
* * * * *
He didn't know why he was there. He knew what made him want to go to the place but he didn't know why he actually went. Why he actually came.
The music of the club had a heavy sexual aura that all the Darkling patrons seemed to feel as their bodies twisted and turned sensually. Some danced together without touching, but the synchronized movements seemed to suggest there was some deep connection that caused their gratification. Some patrons did touch, and the only way to describe it was sex with clothes on.
Sef had trailed his hand to the most intimate part of Na'im, still covered by constricting pants, eliciting a moan from the younger boy. The name of his lover riding on his exhausted breath. Sef deepened his kiss as his fingers undid the pants restraints.
Na'im swallowed. The club was shrouded in shadows forcing him to carefully make his way through the crowd. Darklings could see in the dark, Na'im reminded himself, and he could not. A few patrons turned to him as he passed, faces painted in curiosity, hunger, he thought, and some with disgust. A few daringly called out to Na’Im. Touched him. The pulse of the music met his heartbeat and led it. Na'im once again questioned his being there.
Sef lay on his back while Na'im lay atop him, panting. His breath hit and cooled Sef’s body beneath him. His fingers trailing along the flock of birds tattoo distractingly, Sef's body moist with a lingering sheen of sweat. Sef suddenly let out a heavy breath, making Na'im turn to look at him questioningly.The further he went, the more compact the bodies were. He needed somewhere where he could breathe. Na'im pushed his way through the crowd brushing up against heated bodies as he did so. The single, long-sleeved, maroon shirt still caused him to feel hot. The hands that un- or intentionally brushed against Na’im’s skin made him feel hotter.
Korinta, Na'im called out to the Lightling goddess in his head, knowing full well that she would not be caught in such a place.After skimming through one more couple, Na’Im finally broke through the throng of Darklings, sparing one glance behind him before allowing himself to look around.
In any given corner there was a couple making out, lost to those around them. Some were more conscious touching their neighbour and partner simultaneously. There was a couch on the far end. When Na'im's eyes adjusted to the direction he was looking in, he saw yet another couple necking. Something caught his eyes, and he noticed a head bobbing up and down in the man's lap. Na'im's face flared with a flush and he turned to see the man staring into his eyes. A smile on his face. Na'im looked away.
* * * * *
Khalil continued looking out at the crowd, his thumb running up and down Teya's back distractingly as she ordered the drinks.
"Well that's a sight you don't see everyday." Kal's voiced was tinged in amusement, drawing Teya's attention. She looked down at him then followed his gaze to the dance floor, her eyes turned gold as the room had grown darker with the lights dimmed as the night wore on.A few couples had evolved to touching each other, they would be seeking out the back rooms soon enough. Among them, standing out despite his dark clothes and hair that blended with the atmosphere was a tall, slender boy. His hair pulled over one shoulder revealing the cuffed chain earring he fidgeted with that he wore in his other ear.
"Poor soul. Looks like a lost, little sheep has wandered into the wolves’ den," A smile spread on Teya's face as she continued observing him.Kal chuckled, "Not so far off. He looks like he could use a friend." He continued suggestively.
"Is that your choice…” Teya didn't bother to pose it as a question as Kal hadn't stopped looking at the boy. "What makes you think he'll be willing? He looks like he's looking for someone.”"He looks like he's looking for something." Khalil smirked and winked. Teya rolled her eyes affectionately.
"What makes you think that something is you?”
"Is that a challenge?" Kal finally looked to Teya to see her staring back. A bit of his smugness died out as he sat gazing into her eyes. He pulled her closer between his legs, leaning his face to hers. His lips touched hers and whispered sultrily against them, "Rock, paper, scissors. Winner take all?"
Teya's head fell back in a short burst of laughter. She forgoed words and held out a fist. Kal did the same.
The two started the silly game--Teya threw out rock; Khalil, scissors. A smug smile spread across her face, but Kal retaliated quickly, "Best two out of three," and she complied but with a mild annoyance. Kal won the next two rounds. Why was Kal so persistent when it came to this random Elfling boy? Teya wondered fleetingly. Did he already know him and want to keep Teya from finding out…? Did Kal have a thing for this boy?
"Here I go," he reached back to take the alcohol waiting for him, before he slid off the stool, and made his way to the unsuspecting Lightling boy.
* * * * *
Sauntering through the dancefloor expertly, dancing his way through the intertwined, gyrating couples rather than forcing his way through brashly, Na’Im saw a tall, muscular, dark-haired, olive-skinned man approaching him, holding a shotglass high above the mosh to protect his precious drink. The man had to be over six feet, easy, Na’Im thought as he sized him up. And he had the most interesting eyes of hazel-brown, which pulsed to gold as they fixated on Na’Im's face--probably shining in a cold sweat, and even paler than usual.
Just then the song changed to some human world music of some guy crooning about, what else but unrequited love, a fast-paced, bass-thumping piece about “needing to know” and wondering if he’ll ever be “taken there”. Where? Na’Im wondered too as he tried to find a place where he could hide or escape the obvious attentions of this mountain of man flesh making a beeline right for him. Na’Im had a harder time seeing in the dark than the Darklings obviously did and he suddenly felt vulnerable, and then the man got closer, and a dazzling smile spread across his chiseled face, his jaw line for days covered in a day-old stubble. The man’s sleeves were rolled up to reveal heavy black tattoos twining themselves around his toned upper arms, the part of his chest that was exposed, and from the looks of it, probably onto his back too. Na’Im swallowed convulsively and tried to find a friendly face in the crowd to seek refuge in.
“They say, around the way, you ask for me,” the man’s voice crooned through the large speakers, “There’s even talk about you wanting me. I must admit that’s what I wanna hear. But that’s just talk until you take me there…”
“My every thought is of this being true. It’s getting harder not to think of you…” the man singing went on, controlling Na’Im inner thoughts, it seemed. And he felt suddenly hot all over and wanted to leave, but the strange man was still headed his way. Plus, Na’Im was literally backed up against a wall and surrounded on all sides by people that could do him real harm given a reason. Any reason. He didn’t wish to provide them with one just yet… “If it’s true, don’t leave me all alone out here, wondering if you’re ever gonna take me there. Tell me what you’re feeling, ‘cause I need to know.”
When the man reached Na’Im at last, he felt small beside him--even though the man was only two of three inches taller than him, technically. “You look lost,” the man remarked on Na’Im huddled against a wall in the corner of a crowded club.Na’Im replied, “I’m not lost. I came here for a reason…”
“And that would be?” the man asked, a truly curious and slightly amused look on his face.
“It would be none of your business,” Na’Im snapped. He didn’t know why he felt angry or frustrated. He just did. And it was directed at this...guy. He told himself it was nerves--he was nervous, was all. He’d never been to a Darkling club, and he didn’t know anyone here.
“If you’re here all alone, you might want it to be…” the muscular, irritating man remarked, a further glint of humor flickering across his turned-gold eyes.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Na’Im regarded the taller man with wary suspicion. He shouldn’t have come to this place, he thought to himself.
“It means that if you’ve taken a look around, you’re the only one of your kind here… that makes you fresh meat and fair game,” the strange man explained. “And not everyone here is as decent as me…”
“As decent as they come, I’m afraid,” the weird man smirked in what he assumed was pure charm, running his free hand through his shoulder-length, straight black hair from his forehead to the nape of his neck.
The way the man emphasized the word made it sound like an obscenity--the way it rolled off his tongue in a low, husky purr. Na’im didn’t like the way his lower abdomen clenched in the presence of this strange guy.
* * * * *
“What is he doing?” Teya asked no one in particular, when Gillem came back over to take her growing pile of empty shot glasses.
“Making a grade-A asshat of himself,” Gillem replied, offering Teya a mug of something clear and stronger.
“What’s this?” Teya looked at it and then at Gillem.
“Something that’ll burn the lining right off your stomach,” Gillem explained. “You seem tense… And it’s only gonna get worse as the night wears on, babe.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” Teya accepted the mug and narrowed her eyes at the Shifter till she walked away to tend to other demanding customers. And then Teya turned her eyes and her attention back to Kal and his new Lightling friend, listening in on their conversation from clear across the club.
* * * * *
“What’s your name?” Kal asked the brown-hair, Elfing boy.
“That also falls under the category of things that are none of your business, I’m afraid,” the boy snapped, his pointed ears twitching angrily like a cat’s.
“I promise I’ll leave you alone if you tell me your name, and let me walk you outta here,” Kal insisted.
“What if I don’t want to leave?” the Elfing eyed him daringly.
“Then you’re stupid.”
“Is this your strategy for making friends? Because if so, it’s terrible and you need some serious work on it,” the Elfing remarked.
“Friends? Oh, no. You misunderstand me, friend,” Kal’s voice dropped three octaves lower and it rumbled deep in his chest like the engine of a muscle car. He paused and stepped even closer to the boy, cornering him with his arms braced against the wall on either side of the Lightling’s head.
His arms were like tree trunks--thickly corded with muscle, and Na’Im tried to appear fearless, never breaking eye contact with the man. This was exactly what his uncle and father had always warned him about--Darklings and their lack of social training. Territorial animals!
The man continued, “I came here to hit on you, get you to drink with me, and take you to my bed.” His voice was just a sultry whisper at that point, tickling the clammy skin of Na’Im face. Only when the man backed away and pushed away from the wall, offering his hand instead, did he say, “My name is Khalil…”
Na’Im felt hot all over again and hollow as he offered his name, but not his hand, “Na-Na’Im Lhadirwa…” He couldn’t even finish introducing himself before Khalil cut him off.
“Lhadirwa?!” Kal whispered in shock, so as not to draw the attention of any unsavory characters. The kid was Elf royalty?! What the shit?!
* * * * *
“What are you doing?” Gillem appeared behind Teya to ask.
“Just enjoying the show,” Teya smirked.
Shaking her head in disbelief, Gillem remarked, “You’re a bigger person than I am.”
“What do you mean?” Teya spun on her stool to look at Gillem.
“Well, if that was my mate...I would be a little jealous of him hitting on someone else,” Gillem explained.
“Then, you don’t know Kal and me… First, he’s not my mate. It’s nothing so official. And second, we’ve been through everything together. Nothing and no one could separate us,” Teya responded.
“That’s some strong bond, sweetie,” Gillem wiped up the bar. “Maybe you ought to reconsider the lack of labels before someone else scoops him up and you lose your chance to come clean…”
“About?” Teya arched one teal-tinted eyebrow at Gillem, daring her to say it out loud. The truth they both knew… “Anyway, it’s kinda hot watching Kal flirt with someone else…” Teya smiled over the rim of her mug.
* * * * *
Na’Im took his chance to walk away while Khalil was distracted, and muttered, “Excuse me…” before brushing past Khalil and squirming through the packed dance floor straight for the bar. He’d be safe at the bar, right? He would sit at the bar, have a couple of drinks, within reason, and chat with the bartender, Na’Im tried to reassure himself. He was safe, and that Khalil was just trying to frighten him… Right?
As Na’Im broke free of the oppressive crowd, he nearly slammed into the bar and into a tall, severe-looking woman with teal and cobalt blue hair hanging loose and wild around her shoulders and down to the small of her back. He’d never seen such hair… he thought to himself in mesmerized awe. It was like a waterfall, pristine and untouched. He felt momentarily compelled to reach out and run a hand through it, but decided against an action that could get him punched in the face in a Darkling den. Just then the woman turned on her stool like she was going to get to her feet, and Na’Im was stunned. He watched her dark brown-black eyes like a wolf’s pulse to gold like the bass thrumming through the club, pouring out of the huge speakers.
“Are you alright?” she asked him, her golden, glowing eyes searching his face with a look of curious concern.
“Y-Yes…” Na’Im stammered. He never stammered! Why now?! he screamed internally.
“Good,” the concern went out of her face for him, and she slid down from the high bar stool with animal litheness, her long legs landing gracefully and when she stood at her full height, she too was taller than him. Even if only by an inch or two. Were all Darklings so...BIG? he balked. Why was he so SHORT?!
“I’ve never seen a woman like you,” Na’Im found himself blurting to her. He couldn’t fathom why her approval--that of a complete and total stranger--mattered to him, but it did.
Looking back down at him, an amused smirk tugged at the corner of her mouth as though she was trying to decide whether or not to smile. When she spoke again, her voice was low and sultry, but authoritative. It was not the high chirping of the Lightling women he’d met in his life. Something about it was erotic, and at that recognition, Na’Im felt guilty. He needed to leave, he told himself. But then she spoke, “I’m sure you haven’t, Elf…” and she reached out and brushed his long brown hair behind his ear to expose his prominently-pointed ear. “But that’s no reason to be a stranger…”
“Are you flirting with me?” Na’Im dared.
And this time she decided to smirk. Amused at his expense. “Would you like me to…?”
“Don’t know just yet…” Na’Im began. “I just had an interesting experience with a Were man across the dancefloor. A guy named Khalil…”
“I know,” the woman replied curtly. “I was listening…”
“You have your tricks. And I have mine,” was the only explanation she offered. “But I’ve never met such a gentleman before… At least not here,” she remarked, lifting her hair off of the nape of her neck to fan herself. “It’s refreshing.”
Just then, the Were man named Khalil burst through the crowd on his heels and stopped in his tracks to let his golden-hued eyes flicker between Na’Im and the tall, stunning woman. What was wrong with this guy?!
"You aren't trying to step in the challenge are you?" Khalil looked to the woman inquiringly.
She just raised her hands in mock surrender before folding them beneath her chest. The action made them larger than they were and Na'im found himself staring. He quickly averted his eyes to her face to see her staring at the other man.
Khalil approached her, placing his arm around her shoulder, drawing her in. "It's not over yet, Teya, but you're welcome to stay at the bar."
"What a gentleman," the woman now identified, stated. Her words dripping in sarcasm. Na'im found himself wondering how they knew each other but before he could inquire, which maybe was a good thing, Teya grabbed a drink from the bar and moved toward the dance floor. Though as Na'im now knew, that didn't mean she was completely removed from the conversation.
"So..." Khalil's voice sounded and Na'im almost reeled seeing how close the other had come to him. He tried his best to hold his surprise before moving toward the bar, sitting on a stood and firmly ignoring the man whose face he could still envision in detail. He looked at the drink menu and ordered picking the strongest drink he laid his eyes on.
If I get something strong, perhaps I'll look a bit intimidating, though he knew that wasn't true. Proven correct when Kal sat on the stool next to him. And turned toward him.
Kal stared at the Royal elfing, with his chin propped up in his open palm. The bartender came by, spared a glance between the two before placing Na'im's drink with the parting words, "Here you go, cutie." Now Na'im had something to focus on as Kal spoke.
"Now, why would a Royal be at a place like this? And a Lightling, at that."
Na'im took a sip of his drink and promptly sputtered. Whatever it was burned his throat and stomach. Khalil thought him amusing and chuckled at his expense.
"Gillem, can I get a Slow Comfortable Screw?”
Na'im's eyes widen a fraction and it seemed to be the response Kal wanted as he smiled suggestively. "You need to ease your way into it..." Kal’s voice trailed off. Na'im swallowed. "Taking it straight is a bit difficult. It's hard to swallow."
Na'im now was positive the tall bronzed man was doing it on purpose. His face was now as red as the other's shirt, he imagined.
Gillem returned within the minute and fixed the request, placing it in front of the the Elf, and disappeared again. Not many people were at the bar, but they came and went with drinks to keep them elated on the floor. The ones who remained at the bar had exceptional service.
Na'im followed Kal's instruction and drank the fruity concoction instead. It certainly tasted better than his first which Kal drank and looked at him over the rim.
Maybe he's not that bad. He knew Teya and she seemed like a good girl. "It's good..." Na'im spared Kal a withering side glance.
"Oh. He speaks. I was getting a bit jealous with you flirting with Teya."
"I wasn't flirting." Of course he was listening to them. The whole club could be eavesdropping...
"Then have you ever met a man like me…?”
Kal leaned closer, his words sliding off his tongue, a seductive whisper full of self-confidence.
Na'im wanted to say "no" to shut down his ego. But his conscience wouldn't allow him to tell that lie. His stomach knotted. He drank.
"Lightlings must be really amazing. Look at you strutting into enemy territory." Na'im took another sip, and heard Kal say something about a Screaming Orgasm before another drink appeared next to him.
Na'im couldn't pass up the chance to cement the might of his people. "Elves, Witches, and Fae folk are amazing...well, Elves and Witches..."
"What about the Fae...?" Kal reached his hand to Na'im's wrist fiddling with the line of bracelets. The boy didn't pull away.
"Fae folk- Fae folk are..." A face flashed before his eyes.
Kal whispered, "Are?"
Then, Na'im continued, "...Are not nice people." This caused Kal to chuckle, and he brushed his fingers against the exposed flesh of Na'im's wrist. It earned a glance from Na'im who started to turn red once more.
"What are they really like?"
Na'im started on his new drink. He didn't know how many Kal had, but the Were seemed unchanged.
"They leave without any warning. No reasons. It's hard to form relations with them...How do you trust someone so distant...?" What am I saying?
"That is a problem." Kal reached his hand over to tuck a stray lock of hair behind Na'im's ear.
What is happening…? Na'im thought as he regretted looking into Kal's eyes. They held him. His smile reaching them and making them brighter.
Na'im couldn't look away. Seeing this, Kal's lips rose in a smirk and he leaned in, closing the distance between them. Na'im noticed Kal's full lashes and eyebrows before they all blurred, and their lips touched.
The strong alcohol mixed with the fruity, the scent dizzying to Na'im's senses. Kal's lips moved and coaxed his into action.
Half a minute passed, the sounds of kissing sounded foreign to his ears. He felt like an observer rather than a participant. Before he could ponder it longer, it was over. Kal pulled back instantly regaining eye contact.
"I need to...go pray." Na'im's voice came as barely a whisper.
Kal touched his wrist halting his actions, sliding a glass toward him. "First. Have a drink."
Maybe I could forget this happened. Na'im touched the condensation settled on the outside of the glass. He stared at it, contemplating, and thought better of it. He slid off of his stool though his feet weren't sturdy enough to hold his weight. He tottered to one side, and found himself steadied by Kal's arms on his shoulders.
"Why don't I take you out of here?" Kal's voice was deep, crisp, and husky.
At least he hadn't used the situation to be inappropriate. Na'im nodded. "A-alright."
Kal smiled, drank the last drink on the bar, and placed a hand on the small of Na'im's back. As they walked out Kal spotted Teya against a wall- one foot propped against it, her arms still folded with a drink freshly topped in her hand. She was probably with someone, Kal knew. She could if she wanted; she could have her pick.
Their two gazes met. When Teya noticed Na'im, her eyes narrowed at Kal, and he winked at her. Na'im just kept staring at the floor.
Teya watched Kal lead Na’Im out of Gillem’s club, smiling at them over the rim of her mug. Good luck, boys, she thought to herself with a knowing smile. Then she spun around to face the bar and looked at Gillem to signal her to come over.
Gillem walked to her and leaned across the bar, and asked, “What can I do for you, N’Ima…?”
“Can I use the house phone?” Teya smiled.
“Sure,” Gillem walked off to get the land line. Very few places on Mu’Nos were comfortable including technology from the human realm, so phones were rare. Limited pretty much to business or professional environments and mostly in urban areas. Gillem’s bar had some pay phones in the back and house phone land line. Handing Teya the phone, Gillem walked away to tend to her customers.
Teya dialed Yulie’s number. Yulie-Maria de Luna Garces… Yulie had been Teya’s friend-with-benefits for just over four years and Gillem’s bar had been where they met, Teya recalled. Yulie had been a human once--decades ago; three to be exact--and grown up in the cultural Mecca of the time: New York City. She had been turned and left for dead in an abandoned Church. And when Yulie had come back as a Vampire, she’d had to stumble around in the shadows for decades in the human realm before gaining some self-control and discovering Mu’Nos. Yulie had gladly taken Mu’Nos as her home, and remade herself in the Darkling culture--her new world.
Yulie answered the phone, “Haven’t heard from you in awhile, sweetness.”
“I don’t suppose you could be persuaded to come to Gillem’s bar?” Teya girlishly twirled a lock of her teal hair around her left index finger.
“Will your sexy self be there…?” Yulie asked.
“That is why I’m inviting you,” Teya teased.
“Oh, this is an invitation?” Yulie laughed, her thick Spanish accent coming through.
“It most certainly is…” Teya murmured seductively.
“Give me half an hour,” Yulie replied.
“Okay… I’ll just sit here by my lonesome at the bar waiting for you,” Teya responded in feigned disappointment.
Khalil and Na'im entered a room Kal reserved at a nearby tavern. Na'im stepped ahead, casting his gaze around the room. Khalil locked the door to make sure they weren't interrupted. He then turned to look at Na'im's back, struck by what he saw on the exposed neck. Two overlapping, black diamonds, like a venn diagram, punctuated by a perpendicular line pierced through it like an arrow, minus the head and tail, entering one diamond and coming out through the other. Khalil felt compelled to kiss it, and so he did.
Startled, Na'im flinched away from him, turning to face him, "I-"
Khalil placed a slow, languid kiss on the Elf's now soft, smooth, exposed lips. His hands slipped around the smaller man’s slender waist and settled on the small of Na'im's back before pulling slightly away. His lips so close, Na'im could feel the ghostly touches as Kal whispered, "No more talking." And he connected their lips again, the kiss getting deeper within seconds.
Khalil coaxed Na'im backward toward the bed. The back of Na'im's knees hit the frame and he tumbled back, grabbing Khalil's shirt pulling him with him. Kal made a sound of approval in the back of his throat as he fell upon the young Elf. A gasp escaped Na'im's lips when his back touched the firm mattress. Khalil used the opportunity to slip his tongue into the warm confines of Na'im's mouth.
Na'im's mind ran blank for a moment. The only other person he'd ever kissed on the lips, or been intimate with, was Sef; his lover of four years. Khalil's weight lay heavier upon his own small frame- though not unpleasant. Khalil's facial hair grazed prickly against Na’im’s smooth face, tickling him.
They were as different as night and day. The intense taste of peppermint lingered in his mouth and he couldn't tell if it was from his drink, or Khalil's. But it pervaded Na’im’s senses, and he felt drunk on Kal's breath; high off the feel of the body beneath his hands. No more alcohol, was his first coherent thought when he regained the ability to form words. An ability that was quickly lost when Kal's tongue left him feeling heavy and bereft.
Sef trailed open mouth kisses along his jawline. There was a nip at his collarbone that elicited a moan. From himself? Na’im wondered, in a sensorial daze. Sef doesn't bite...or does he…? Na'im's mind floated in a heavy fog. With his eyes closed, the lips attacked him all over. Not Sef… This was not Sef, Na’im had to remind himself. He had to keep the past and present separate. What was he doing?
Sef haggled with a merchant as Na'im stood watching their lips move. He wanted to be the one speaking to Sef, not looking at him talk to someone else. And he was mesmerized by Sef’s lips, he had to admit. Not long after, Sef walked past grabbing Na’im’s wrist as they went. They stopped shortly after, in an area they couldn't be so easily seen, behind houses.
"What's wrong?" Na'im asked, concerned.
"I’ve been wanting to do this..." Sef lowered his lips to Na'im's, kissing him softly. He then placed a soft peck on his forehead before pulling away, “...for weeks.”
Na'im turned red and looked at the floor in embarrassment. He looked back up when he heard, "I also wanted to give you this." There was a pendant symbolizing 'love' hanging on a chain dangling between Sef's fingers.
"...Sef." Na'im wrapped his arms around Sef's neck and kissed him back.
There was a stronger bite on Na’im's neck that drew a slow, drawn out moan from his throat, “Sef…” And then he opened his eyes to see Khalil above him.
Who was Sef...? Kal wondered. This was equal parts intriguing, insulting, and just plain fucked up. But he was turned on. Kal grabbed the Elfling’s wrists from where they had been draped around his neck and shoulders, pushing them up over Na’im's head, pressing them into the bed. This caused Na’im to feel helpless under the will of the Darkling. But he wasn't scared. He was burning up. And somehow, though Na’im knew it should feel wrong, it felt...right. It felt good to yield control to another. But did he trust this man? Na’im wondered. A darker part of him asked, “Do you really care?” That was what Na’im feared most…
Kal ran his hands along Na'im's arms, shoulders, chest, stomach - his muscles clenched then - waist, hips - and settled there before making the return journey pulling the hem of Na’im’s shirt up over his head and off. He threw it to the floor, and even that action Na’im found enticing. Na'im turned, facing off to the side; he drowned looking into Kal's eyes. And Kal didn't like the fact that he was looking away, so he placed his lips over Na’im’s ear. First nipping at the earlobe before running his tongue at a tortuous pace up to the Elven tip. He nipped there too. Na'im turned back to look into his eyes, willingly being captured in his heated gaze.
"That's a good Lightling." Khalil whispered hotly into the now-sensitive ear.
"Lightlings...are always go--od." Again with the biting. This is Dark… this is against the Light, Na’im urged himself to remember as he lay there ensnared by the spell this Darkling was beginning to cast over him. A spell of eroticism and hedonism. All that the Light preached and warned against…
Kal chuckled against Na'im's lips before he continued kissing him. Kal had to admit he liked it. The body beneath him was like an expanse of cool silk that warmed on contact. Those same hands cooled the skin of Khalil's back, beneath his shirt. Na'im pulled away enough to look Kal in the eyes, Na’im’s bottom lip caught between his teeth in a frown. Kal would question what the issue was, but he felt the Elf’s slim fingers dancing along the hem of his shirt.
Khalil could be cruel and make the Elfling ask for it, but something told him that would not come easy. He also didn't want to stall in his ministrations so he rocked back into a sitting position and pulled the shirt over his head, slowly, making a show out of it. The further up Kal's shirt rose, the higher the colour in Na'im's skin went. It reached his cheeks the same time Kal's shirt came off. Kal looked at Na'im looking back at him, not his face but his chest and arms. His tattoos, Kal assumed Na’im was thinking as the Elf propped himself up for a better look. Yeah, he did it for the dirty looks… Kal thought with a smile.
Na'im looked at the black ink embedded into Sef's skin before him. His fingers drawn to it by some invisible force. Yes, he was supposed to be wary of it, confused. But he couldn't stop the fascination that came with it. "Why?" and "what does it mean?" The questions that flitted through Na’im’s mind as he touched it.
Na'im traced a random marking tentatively, following along the skin and ink that brought the body of a bird into existence. It was one of many.
The skin had still been smooth as if the new markings being there didn't matter at all. Na'im's fingers continued to trace along the patterns earning a low grumble.
"You like that....?"
“You like that…?” Kal asked, looking at the Elfling curiously. The feather light touches felt nice on his skin. He wanted more, wanted to be greedy. This boy looked so inexperienced, that Kal had to wonder who had taught him this… To touch like that and give those sultry, needy looks. This Elfling prince had secrets and Kal found himself interested in discovering what exactly they were. Before he could do anything, Na'im threaded those same slender fingers into the hair at the nape of Kal's neck, pulling his lips in for a kiss filled with need, passion, want.
Kal didn't see any reason not to oblige, and pulled Na'im closer turning both their bodies expertly so the next time he pushed Na'im back down, his head was not supported by the mattress. Kal's hand trailed a blazing path from his bellybutton to his neck. It was followed by a series of searing kisses in its wake that made Na’im’s eyelids flutter closed. As the blood rushed to Na’im’s head, his back arched into Kal's waiting hands- and tongue as it flicked over Na'im's erect nipple, pulling it between lips and teeth.
Breathing became harder, and Na'im's breaths came in short sporadic gasps and pants. He had to fight to keep his eyes open to stare at Khalil's hazel-brown eyes turned gold with lust and hunger. It was the animal inside of him, Na’im knew, that looked as though it wanted to devour him and smoldered in the recesses of Khalil’s mesmerizing eyes. But Na’im wondered what Korinta would think of his behaviour, and if he should be enjoying it like this… he didn’t understand, Na’im had to admit, if only to himself.
Sef stared at him as if pondering the meaning of life. With his intelligence it wouldn't be surprising if he had been devising some sort of strategy. It allowed Na'im to stare back into those rich hazel-gold eyes, with silver and bronze flecks intricately weaved into the mixture.
"Na'im..." Sef's voice startled him to attention.
"...Sef?" He responded affectionately. Though he hoped not enough as to.... "Is something wrong?"
Why was he apologizing? Na'im looked at him, confused. "You did nothing wrong," Na'im tried to assure him though he didn't understand what was happening.
"You know what people will say… how they’ll look at us if we walk down the street together," Sef explained, looking crestfallen. “Mu’Nosi people don’t take kindly to miscegenation…”
Na'im could only nod. His mouth dry as he willed himself not to think where the conversation was going.
"But. I can't stop myself from loving you-" there it was. Na'im's breath caught. "I don't expect anything to come from it. I just don't want to be around you with these feelings with you thinking that I see you only as a pupil…..or friend." Sef went on.
"Sef-" Na’im whispered affectionately, cupping Sef's face in his hands and smiled. Na'im continued staring into those lovely golden eyes wanting the older man to understand. “Don’t ask me to send you away. I can’t…”
"I can't..." Na’im repeated. Khalil looked down at the boy beneath him as he spoke, his face trapped between Na'im's hands. Both of Kal’s hands halted--one tangled in Na'im's chest length brown hair, the other settled on the waistband of his pants. Na'im's own fingers had previously been gripping at Kal's shoulders making red ribbons of blood blossom in the wake of his nails. "I-I can't do this." Na'im spoke again, moving so that his entire body lay squarely on the mattress.
"Can't or won't...?" Kal inquired, his voice still deep and rough, filled with his sexual haze. He placed a few unbridled kisses along Na'im's jawline.
"Does it matter?" Na'im snapped, not entirely sure who he was cross with. Possibly himself. “I’m not doing it.”
Kal rolled off the Elfling, settling next to him, laying on his back and stared at the mosaic cracks in the ceiling. When he spoke, his high had faded enough bringing his voice back to the usual sultry drawl. "It's important to put yourself first sometimes."
Na'im stalled. "I-I can't. And I don't want this." His stomach muscles pulled together creating an uncomfortable sensation that repeated once, twice, three times.
"Because of Sef?" Kal inquired and heard a gasp. Na'im turned to look at him, the word "how" tumbled off his lips, and Kal clarified, "You mentioned it."
Na'im coloured, ashamed, "I'm sorry."
"It's not what you think."
"I don't judge." Kal responded. And waved his hand in dismissal.
"I should go," Na’im’s voice trembled as though he were afraid. For some reason, that tugged at Kal’s heart...if only for a moment.
"You can stay if you like, Na'im." The way his name rolled off Kal's tongue caused him chills along his arm. "Leave first thing in the morning. I won't touch you. Voluntarily at least. I can't make promises about what happens when both our eyes are closed." He accented the end of his words with a wink.
Despite it all Na'im found himself smiling, however small. "Thank you for the offer. But I really do want to leave, Khalil." The name sounded so foreign. It sounded nice on his lips. "I want to go."
Khalil nodded and watched Na'im gather his shirt, putting it on and redoing the button of his pants. When he stood, and moved to the door, Khalil followed after him still shirtless and rumpled. He paid for the night and would use it one way or another even if that meant more drinking and sinking into a deep slumber.
Na'im stood in the doorway looking at Khalil leaning against the wall, his arms crossed making his muscles and tattoos more prominent.
Kal looked at the Elf and saw his internalized struggle. He looked as if he had a thousand thoughts racing around in his mind, and even more words forming on his lips.
"I-" Na'im started and was immediately cut off by Kal's lips. The kiss of a lover wishing the other a good day. That they would see each other sometime soon. "Don't be a stranger." Were his final words as he stared into Na'im's almond-shaped, silvery-gray eyes.
The last image Kal had of the boy was his back and the intricate yet simple marking on his neck.
Teya spotted Yulie the moment she walked into the bar. The music pulsed around her in a way of energy and her fluorescent-pink lipstick shone brightly in the now darkened club.
When Yulie spotted Teya, she smiled with amusement, shimmying her way between dancing couples to where Teya was sitting at the bar. “Miss me?” Yulie asked the teal-haired, olive-skinned amazon with legs for miles.
“You have no idea… I was totally ditched, and I just can’t have that on the eve of the summer solstice. It’s depressing to be alone during the holidays…” Teya groaned. She had one leg crossed over the other at the knee, and a laid back posture, half-leaned over the bar and wearing a pair of skintight dark blue jeans, knee-high black combat boots that laced all the way up the back of her calves, accentuating the muscular tone of her legs. And up top she wore an asymmetrical, off-the-shoulders, black, linen, midriff top with a shredded hem, adorned only by a white and silver graphic crescent moon on the front, and a full moon glowing and luminous on the back. Her eyes glowed gold in the dark so she could see with no effort at all, and she smiled down at Yulie.
Yulie stepped up beside Teya and kissed her proffered cheek, her sapphire-blue eyes twinkling, “So nice to know that I’m a second choice…”
“Oh, sweetie… I don’t have the patience to deal with feelings tonight,” Teya smiled sarcastically. “Let’s just follow tradition and keep this thing casual, okay?”
“Just the way I like it,” Yulie remarked, combing a stray sandy-blonde curl behind her right ear.
“So, do you wanna get outta here?” Teya offered.
“I just came from my house… I don’t want to go back home again,” Yulie replied.
“We can go to my place.”
“Mmm,” Yulie moaned appreciatively. “Sounds like a plan…”
“Let’s go,” Teya hopped down from her stool, calling Gillem’s attention so she could pay her bill.
Teya and Yulie fell into Teya’s bed in a heap, the lights out and both of their eyes glowing in the dark--gold and red contrasting one another. Yulie was kissing around Teya’s neck, throat, and collar bones, while Teya was fumbling with Yulie’s mini skirt and laced corset. When Teya had loosened the laces of Yulie’s corset enough to slide down to her waist, she cupped Yulie’s face roughly and crushed their lips together in a bruising kiss, forcefully and greedily. Teya needed this and Yulie wanted it. She didn’t know why Yulie kept coming back for more detached sex and no love, but Teya would never turn the Vampiress away. Their tongues dueled together savagely, and none could be the victor in this battle of wills and bodies--of power and lust. Mindless lust with nothing to gain but distraction and empty souls. That was all this ever would be, Teya admitted to herself.
Digging her fingers into Teya’s teal, cobalt and green hair, Yulie moaned as the She-wolf took her lips and tongue and plundered her mouth. She would relish the moment when Teya pillaged her body as well. “Mmm, yes,” Yulie groaned against Teya’s lips.
Teya kissed her way down Yulie’s throat to her bare breasts and pushed her onto her back, tracing a path lower and lower down the small-framed, curvaceous body. Settling at the apex of Yulie’s thighs, Teya lowered herself onto her stomach between them, spreading Yulie’s legs with her hands, gently and maintaining the searing gaze the entire time. “Moan for me,” Teya ordered as she lowered her lips to meet Yulie’s most private place, not blinking once, torturing the Vampiress blind.
Yulie’s hands were clenched around the wooden headboard of the bed, and as her head fell back on the pillows, her eyes shut tight, and her teeth gnashed, she cried out her first climax, “Ahhhhh! Oooh, yes!”
Teya raised herself up to take a breath and lick her lips clean and admire her work, Yulie’s thighs trembling beneath her steely grip. “Just the way I like it,” Teya repeated Yulie’s previous statement from the bar.
Teya woke up in her bed, laying on her right side facing the open window, with the long curtains billowing into the room, nearly touching her face. Teya pushed herself up from her pillow, onto her right hip and looked out the window in silence while rubbing her eyes. She croaked, “Yulie?” and went unanswered until she rolled onto her left hip and saw a note left on the pillow. A note? Teya wondered with a wry smile. How romantic… She reached over and took the note and read it,
You were snoring like a chainsaw all night. I just couldn’t sleep, so I’ll be at my place… If you want to see me. Call me sooner next time, ‘kay?
Just then there was a soft knock at her door, and Teya’s head whipped in its direction, her eyes focusing and her vision clearing. “What do you want at this ungodly hour?” she whined at whoever was on the other side.
“It’s me,” came Kal’s reply from the other side of the door. He added, “You dressed?”
“You care?” Teya threw back. “Just come in, fool…” she whispered loudly, “before you wake someone up.” She stuffed Yulie’s note beneath her pillow just as he was coming in.
Kal cracked open the old door, squeaking on its hinges loudly, just enough to slip inside and quickly, quietly close it behind him. And then he approached the bed and flopped down in the place where Yulie had laid down her head hours before. In the place where Teya had had sex with her hours before. Before Yulie left her alone, Teya thought her herself. Then Kal asked, “How was your night?”
“How was yours?” Teya countered.
“Oh, I asked you first,” Kal grinned a shit-eating grin as he smelled the sweat and two women’s perfumes intermingled in the sheets beneath him.
“Well, I kept true to my word…” Teya shrugged her left shoulder, tipping her head toward it in a nonchalant gesture while looking at Kal. “You went after the Elfling boy, and I called in an old friend for some girl time.” Her slow-spreading smile was anything but modest--it was self-satisfied and smug, and frankly, the sexiest thing Kal had ever seen.
“I can smell that,” Kal remarked, closing his eyes and tipping his head back to sniff the air. “Smells like you…”
“Is that good or bad?” Teya asked.
“Mmm, always good,” Kal replied, opening his eyes again and leaning over to press a kiss to Teya’s upper arm before laying back down and tucking his hands behind his head on top of the pillow.
“So, how was your night?” Teya asked again. She added, “Did you get anywhere with the boy…?”
“Yes and no,” Kal replied curtly.
“Mhm,” Teya began, snuggling up to him and resting her head on the right side of his chest, “And what does that mean?”
Kal untucked one arm from behind his head to comb his fingers through her hair and untangle the knots--which soothed both of them for some reason. It had since they were young children, he recalled at moments like this. “It means…” he paused to sigh, “that we were going for it, and then he stopped. And I wasn’t gonna force him, so I asked him why but when he didn’t really want to talk about it, I just told him that he could go. So he left.”
“Hmm, interesting,” Teya murmured.
“What do you mean?” Kal asked.
“It’s interesting that he came all the way to a Darkling bar, alone, and he actually managed to get picked up a hot guy, and then he just chickened out,” Teya clarified. “I had high hopes for him… He seemed different. Brave…”
“I guess so… But he seemed distracted the whole time, just in and out of the moment,” Kal explained.
“I guess you’re not as all-engrossing as you thought you were,” Teya teased.
“Or maybe he had someone else on his mind,” Kal suggested.
* * * * *
Na'im stepped out of the royal teleport station in the Elven royal city of Tuneid. The King was the only one who held the key to the teleporter near the royal palace. It was this way with nobility and other dignitaries all over Mu’Nos, that had enough accumulated power to warrant having their own station built and sanctioned. However, Na'im didn't particularly mind. The night, or rather the early hours of the morning, was cool and refreshing. The walk would help him sort through his thoughts.
His shoulders slumped as the weight of his guilt bared down upon him. He felt ashamed for what he did and allowed to happen...no matter how good it felt in the moment. How could he have gone to a Darkling club? Being alone only made it worse. Perhaps if he was normal it would not have been as bad, but he was the nephew of Gaeleath, the Elven King. The one who had taken him in, and watched over him, fostering his growth and education, since he had been orphaned at the young age of eleven. Na'im sighed, disheartened. He had mentioned who he was when he introduced himself too. Khalil knew now. Khalil... Na'im silently thanked the gust of wind that cooled his flushed face. If he had spent any longer with the Darkling man he would have gone against just about every rule the Lightlings preached about! Though the summer solstice would be taking place soon enough and he could cleanse himself. The thought added to his shame as he thought about the Light goddess and the pilgrimage he would have to take to her temple. But even more, worst than all, was the betrayal he committed toward Sef. Na'im had been hurt, and confused, but acting irrational was not the best way to deal with things. He trusted Sef, and loved him, and that was what made everything worse, Na’im told himself. He wanted Sef. Wanted the Fae to hold him, lay little kisses along his face like he always did, tell him everything would be okay. Na'im needed reassurance. Why did you leave...? He needed an explanation, but he perhaps shouldn't think about it when he didn't know anything.
"That's a good Lightling." Khalil's voice drifted along his consciousness just as if the Were was right alongside him.
Na'im startled and looked about him. The darkened sky was littered with stars, small lights hanging on the merchant boats drifting in the still water ways. Tall pillars covering in twining ivy, and other greenery, slowly consuming their structure, and hand lit lamps which lit the main road all the way home. He let out a grateful breath seeing the man wasn't actually there. I need sleep, Na’im thought.
The base of the palace came into view. He was almost home and sped up his pace. The thought crossed his mind that the palace would be closed which creates the problem of how he would get inside. It proved unnecessary as when he got close one of the night guards spotted him.
He earned a suspicious look as he simply stood there staring until the man uttered, "Welcome back, Master Na'im." Na'im had broken from whatever spell he had been under and stepped forward.
Though he didn't feel it, he stood straight and lifted his head to make eye contact. "Thank you." He then hurried past, and into the door held open for him. He ran up the steps that seemed too excessive in their number as he tried to reach his room. When he reached his bedchambers, Na’im quickly discarded the clothes he wore in favour of his favourite sleepwear--white harem pants that were fitted at his ankles, and a sleeveless, hooded robe.
When he fell into the large bed, the scent of the sheets wafted to meet his nostrils. After his encounter with Sef he has changed the sheets, but the pillows still held traces of him. Na'im pulled one of the pillows to his body in a hug, inhaling deeply. He closed his eyes and the golden eyes appeared behind his eyelids. He could no longer be sure if they had been Sef's eyes as a premonition that he would show up, or a forewarning of his encounter with Kal.
Na'im pulled the pillow tighter to his body and buried his face in it. Those eyes haunted him, being his last thought as he drifted into a fitful sleep.
Kal sought out his mother, Oxira, to bid her a good morning. And Teya found her father, Dvorak huddled together with the Alpha and other generals of their pack. And coming down the stairs behind Teya was Agira, her mother, with her hair disheveled and her shirt buttons mismatched. What the hell?! Teya balked. Not again… Her parents were tacky and embarrassing.
When Agira saw her daughter at the foot of the stairs, she smiled lazily and stopped to drape her left arm around Teya’s shoulders, “Good morning…”
“Ugh, N’mah, it’s noon,” Teya remarked, rolling her dark-brown eyes at the black-haired, lily-skinned woman with eyes so much like her own, and using the Mu’Nosi term for my mother.
Agira’s lighter brown eyes twinkled as she replied, “Mmm, I know, N’at.” Mu’Nosi for my daughter. “And a good day it’s shaping up to be. Don’t you think?”
“I guess so,” Teya grumbled, her eyes flickering between her mother beside her and her father whom Agira was gawking at. Teya could believe that Dvorak was a handsome man, had he not been her biological father. And her mother was beautiful, even into her 40’s, it was true. But, how many married couples could Teya think of that had to be divorced in order to stomach sleeping with each other? she wondered, sarcastically. Couldn’t they be like everyone else’s parents? Either happily married or even more happily separated?
“Don’t turn your nose up at me, dear…” Agira warned playfully. “I can smell that vampiress on you, you know. And that’s much worse than canoodling with one’s ex-husband…”
“Ugh, whatever,” Teya snapped, whispering loudly. “Fix your hair! You look like a damned cockatoo.” And she strutted away with her arms folded across her chest and her shoulders back confident in her jibe. Whenever her parents were in the same room, there was a connection between them so electric, it could dwarf a lightning storm. Even now, after their divorce ten years earlier, it still sparked rumors, whispers, and curiosity from their other pack members. After all, Dvorak was the Alpha’s lead general, and constantly in the public eye… But, that meant that the Alpha gave him much leeway in his personal life.
And then Teya’s eyes alit on Kal and he made an expression momentarily that turned her insides to gelatin and her knees to water. Just the slightest hint of a smile which crinkled the corners of his eyes--his eyes smiling at her too. Teya knew how she felt about him, and everyone did except for Kal. She would tell anyone else gladly, but just not him… If Teya told Kal that she loved him, he would think he had some kind of power over her. Some control because she had given into weakness and admitted her feelings. And she would never give anyone power over her if she could help it. She would only ever obey her Alpha and her Goddess.
Dvorak stood there, tall at six-foot-four, with a beefy, stocky body build, and his olive skin glistening with sweat already. Emerald-green, feline-esque eyes found Agira and rolled in his head till they landed on Teya. Then they lit up as they only seemed to do for her--his only child. He had shoulder-length, brown-black dreads tied back in a loose bun at the back of his head. When he was finished speaking with Aelin, he bowed his head respectfully as she departed and he moved to approach Teya and Agira whom had rejoined her on Dvorak’s approach.
“N’at!” Dvorak greeted his daughter with wide open arms and a ready smile. “How was your night? You went out with Kal to celebrate, did you not?” he asked, wrapping her in a welcomely-suffocating bear hug with a grip like steel.
He released Teya as she replied, “Yes, N’kah. We went to a party at Gillem’s bar...”
“That hot Shifter girl,” Dvorak smiled. “I remember her.”
“Ugh, N’kah, she’s my age… that’s gross,” Teya teased him. “She’s literally young enough to be your daughter.”
“Ah! But she’s not my daughter, is she?” Dvorak joked when Teya shoved at his chest playfully.
Agira inserted herself into the conversation at that point, asking, “Oh, and since when do you like them young?”
“Since I woke up looking at you,” Dvorak replied dryly.
“Well, so much for romance…” Agira sighed. “This one just does his business and wants to leave it at that…”
“Like father, like daughter,” Teya mumbled.
“I heard that,” Dvorak narrowed his emerald-green eyes at her. “Why do you keep pushing that boy away? He’s strong and loves you. He would make a fine mate…”
“I don’t want to talk about this,” Teya grimaced.
“Or do you want someone else?” Agira pried.
“No!” Teya blurted.
“Then you do consider Kal a good candidate for a possible mate?” Agira pried some more.
“So, I don’t understand the issue here,” Dvorak folded his arms across his broad, chiseled chest just like his daughter, and his brow furrowed in confusion.
“There is no issue!” Teya insisted. “Can we just drop this?”
“I want grandchildren eventually,” Agira began.
“And I want a life that is mine,” Teya began.
“And I want your father to stop being a bum,” Agira snapped. “But we can’t always have everything our way, can we?”
“Well, I want your mother to stop inserting herself into family business…” Dvorak returned with spite. “If she wants to check out on family, then she has no say in family matters.”
“Oh, be quiet, you old mutt!” Agira growled. “She’s still my daughter… And some things between women will always remain a mystery to men.”
“What is it now?” Dvorak groaned.
“She had a lady friend over last night…” Agira explained with a salacious smirk.
“Oh…” he teased in sing-song. “And do you prefer her for a mate?”
“I have two points,” Teya began, her voice laced with annoyance at the tedium of the current conversation. “First, two women cannot give you biological grandchildren… And second, I doubt she’d be welcome here as my mate...even if I did consider it to be that serious. Which it’s not.”
“What? Why not?” Dvorak asked.
Agira leaned in to whisper, “It’s a vampiress…”
"Teidis…” Dvorak growled.
“Please don’t call me that,” Teya groaned.
Not even remotely phased by his daughter’s interruption to whine, Dvorak went on, “Please don’t tell me that you’re cavorting with other races…”
“Like I said, it’s nothing serious… just for fun to pass the time,” Teya explained.
“Hmph,” Dvorak grunted. “Well, keep it that way. Are we understood?”
“Yes, N’kah,” Teya bowed her head respectfully and made her way to the kitchen to find something to eat that wasn’t off limits for the celebration.
* * * * *