He saw Laura sitting on the couch, then tossed the shopping bag onto her lap. “Picked you up a new jacket.” Michaels headed toward the kitchen, then grabbed a soda out of the fridge.
Laura took the jacket out of the bag, then made a squealing sound before trying it on. The jacket was hooded, with straps in the front and a sort of corset tie in the back. Erilon assured him it was very fashionable at the moment. “Oh my god, I love it!” She spun around, making the tails of the jacket swirl out like a skirt. Then she came to a stop, and started shifting nervously.
“Laura?” Michaels raised an eyebrow. “Something wrong.”
“No.” Her voice was soft, then she brightened a little. “Oh, Diana called. She said if you don’t mind, she’s free this weekend. I told her to drop on by.”
It was possible having his reporter girlfriend over right now wasn’t the best possible idea, but then again, he didn’t get to spend anywhere near as much time with her as he liked. Plus Laura still needed a couple things for the trip and she and Diana loved going shopping together. “I’ll pick up some wine.” When Laura didn’t respond, he looked up at her again. “Laura…”
“Michaels I…” She swallowed. “Okay, this is weird and it’s weird but I want to try something, okay, just to…” She took a deep breath. “Can I try something? I just want to see, okay, if…” She trailed off again.
“Okay.” Michaels slowly nodded. He shrugged. “What is it you want to —”
“I like the coat.” She took a deep breath, then looked up at him. “Thanks, Dad.”
The drink fell out of his hand. They’d done the formal adoption to ease the process of getting her into the university, but… “Laura…” His throat wouldn’t quite let him form any more words.
“It’s okay, right?” She stared at him, blinking back tears. “Cause it felt good but I…” She wiped at her eyes. “It’s okay, right?”
“Yeah.” He spread his arms, then grunted as she threw herself into them for a hug. “Yeah, it’s okay.” He hugged her tightly until he felt her breathing go back to normal. “You know this means I get to break out the no daughter of mine is leaving the house dressed like —” He grunted when he felt her fist lightly connect with his ribs.
“Fine, but I’m breaking out the ‘you’re old’ card.” She grinned up at him.
“You mean more than you already do?” He tugged one of her braids.
“Thanks for the coat, Dad.” She went up on her toes kiss his cheek, then grabbed the bag and headed toward her room.
Michaels swallowed, then went into the next room to grab a towel for the spilled drink. He saw Gabriel entering. Gabriel blinked at him, then raised an eyebrow. Michaels swallowed again, then wiped at his eyes. “Laura called me ‘Dad’.”
Gabriel’s face broke into a wide smile.
Adaeze stretched, then glanced at her daughter. Mbali was giggling. “What?”
Mbali put a hand to her own forehead, then moved her hand to touch Adaeze’s forehead, then moved it back. “I’m taller than you.”
“You don’t have to keep reminding me of that.” Adaeze shook her head as Mbali started dancing her way across the deck. She sent a mock glare up at her husband, then pointed at Mbali. “Your fault.” He was staring off the side of the ship, his gaze distant. “Liam?” She walked over and put her hand on his arm, making him jump. “Liam, what’s wrong?”
“I…” He gave a small shake of his head as the far away look left his eyes. “I’m sorry.”
“For what?” She stared, feeling a chill go down her spin. “Liam?”
“Your grandmother is dead.” He met her eyes. “My queen.”
“Oh.” She stared at him, taking a few deep breaths. Then she turned to the helm. “Set course for the islands.”
Petrus gave a gleeful shout before forming himself into a ball and splashing into the water with the other children. Ama began splashing him as soon as he surfaced, and Petrus laughed as he retaliated. Jurgen laughed, then glanced at where Adaeze was sitting. “You know, I thought Liam’s ability to hold his breath was impressive.” He glanced at the water. “Aren’t you…”
“Wait.” Adaeze shook her head.
He was squirming by the time Mbali finally surfaced, shooting out of the water almost the full length of her body and catching hold of one of the ropes to start pulling herself back onto the ship. He couldn’t quite stop himself from giving a relieved chuckle. “Aren’t you worried about those shark things?”
Adaeze rolled her eyes at him before giving a pointed look to where Liam was over on one of the small rocky outcroppings with Zuri and Mikaere, collecting something. “No.” She smiled at where Petrus and the other kids were moving onto the sandbar, whooping and hollering. “Most Ilael vessels do not have so many children. The risk is too great, so they grow up on the islands.” She smiled. “But there is no place in the world safer than the vessel upon which my husband sails.”
“I wish…” He stopped himself before wishing aloud that he could have brought his other two brothers. He sighed. “I wish.”
“I know.” Adaeze watched Mbali dive back into the water. “I would like to send Mbali back with you. To learn horses and mountains. To learn that even though it is the sea to which we will return, we too take life from the land.” She exhaled. “And perhaps to learn from Diantha how to fight.”
Jurgen laughed, then looked out at the sandbar again. Ama was showing Petrus how to spear fish. “One day.”
“One day.” Adaeze nodded.
“No.” Adaeze shook her head.
“Adaeze…” Liam gave her a pleading look.
“You’re not going alone.” She folded her arms. “Efua and Mikaere will —”
She cut off as he dropped to his knees in front of her, then bowed forward until his forehead touched the top of her foot. “Please.”
Her eyes closed, and she swallowed. Then she nodded. “Go.”
My PTSD is being treated.
I’ve quit the job that caused the PTSD.
I have books worth publishing.
I have the right to vote.
Let’s do this.
I would have thought that a reasonable human being would know these things. However, I’ve lately encountered several who purport to be reasonable, rational, even logical. And yet they somehow fail to grasp these concepts.
1 – Yes, I am bisexual. I am attracted to both men and women. That does not automatically make me attracted to YOU and does not obligate me to sleep with YOU.
2 – I am a switch. Currently I am submissive. The fact that I am submissive does not obligate me to perform any sexual act YOU desire.
3 – I have a master. The fact that I have a master does not obligate me to obey YOU.
4 – I am kinky and enjoy BDSM. That doesn’t mean I am without boundaries and it does not give you the right to ignore those boundaries.
5 – I sometimes like to be spanked. That does not mean you may touch me without permission.
6 – I am currently submissive. That does not obligate me to clean up after YOU.
7 – There are other people who are allowed to handle my toys. That does not mean YOU get to handle my toys.
8 – I used to work in mental health care. That does NOT MAKE ME YOUR THERAPIST OR YOUR DOCTOR.
9 – I like hanging out with my niece and nephew. That doesn’t mean I like all children nor does it mean I’m obligated to entertain or be responsible for your children.
10 – Yes, that notebook does contain notes for the story I’m working on. No, you may not help yourself to it and I am not obligated to share it with you.
11 – Yes, I type fast. No, that does not obligate me to type stuff up for you.
My cats, of course, disagree, but just look at this little fellow. Don’t you just want to give him chin scritches?
I feel bad about making him go back outside, but my cats made it clear that they will continue to destroy all of my worldly belongings in their attempts to capture him.
“Feel the air against your skin.” Jurgen swung the quarterstaff near Rien. “Trust your ears.”
Rien stuck his tongue partially out of his mouth as he screwed his face up in concentration behind the blindfold. When Jurgen aimed the next blow, slowed, at him, Rien suddenly swung his own staff up. It hit Jurgen’s staff, though the angle wasn’t quite sufficient to completely deflect the blow. Still, it brought a smile to Jurgen’s face. “I got it.” Rien ripped the blindfold off. “I hit it.”
The sound of activity from the hall drew his attention, and a moment later Rutger came bursting through the door. “Rien, Rien.” Rutger grabbed his little brother’s hand. “Come see what I got.”
Jurgen watched Rutger drag Rien out of the room, then gave a small shake of his head. “Hello, little brother. I missed you too.” He tossed the quarterstaves into the corner, then followed the boys out. A whoop of glee from Rien had him quicken his pace, and he emerged into daylight to see two stallions, both nearly golden in color save for their black socks. “Well now…” He glanced at where Liam was standing, then frowned at his brother’s expression. “Liam?” He put a hand on Liam’s shoulder. “Everything alright?”
Liam opened his mouth, then closed it again. “The horses are twins. Such a birthing is considered sacred.” He turned back to look at where Rutger was stroking the nose of one of the stallions, while the other butted up against him for a share of the attention. “A gift for a prince.” He exhaled. “I hope he understands the magnitude of what he was given.”
“Things aren’t alright, are they?” He folded his arms. “You’re back sooner than I expected.”
“Diantha’s with child.” Liam looked back at him.
“Yeah, she…” The smile died on his face. “Liam.” He started shaking his head. “No.”
“They’ll not survive the birthing, Jurgen. Efua can…” Liam sighed. “I’m sorry.”
“Yeah.” Jurgen looked away. “Me too.”
“Are we sure this is a good idea?” Michaels put the car in park, then turned to look at Matthias.
“We need information, and we can’t risk compromising Adam to get it.” Matthias nodded.
“Yeah, but given what this guy can do…” Michaels shook his head.
“That’s uh…” Matthias exhaled. “Why I brought you. Erilon’s tapped into your head pretty good, so she can monitor things and counter him.”
“Not.” Michaels gritted his teeth. “Comforting.”
“It seems a reasonable plan, however…” Erilon’s eyes reflected back from the rear view mirror. “I’ve never directly tried to match Khait before and I have no idea what his current strength levels are at with the talisman in play. Please try very hard not to make Bridget or Abigail feel threatened.”
“Maybe I should wait in the car.” Matthias sighed.
“That’s not the worst idea you ever had, but we are going to need to intimidate and interrogate some people and uh…” Michaels shrugged. “I happen to know you’re not bad at that.”
Matthias winced. “Yeah.” He opened the car door and got out.
Michaels followed him up to the porch, then rang the doorbell. After a few seconds, a lovely young black woman opened the door. She looked them over, then turned and looked over her shoulder. “Bridget, the scary men are here.”
“Tell them to come in and ask them if they want coffee.” Another voice came from the kitchen.
“Come in.” She smiled and stepped back so they could enter.
“Thank you.” Michaels entered, Matthias a step behind. “You must be Abigail. I’m Detective Michaels…” He gestured. “This is Matthias Jarlson.”
“Thats a lot of werewolf.” A male voice came from behind them, making him jump slightly. A young man leaned against the wall, a slight smirk on his face.
“Khait, you promised to behave yourself.” Abigail pointed at him.
“Simply making an observation.” Khait tilted his head at Matthias. Then his eyes widened slightly. “Wait…” He grinned. “Jarlson?” He suddenly started laughing.
“Khait…” A brunette woman who must be Bridget stepped out of the hallway and folded her arms. Her voice was heavy with disapproval.
“Yes.” Matthias squared his shoulder. “Jarlson.”
“Ah, Jarl…” Khait gave a low whistle. “Now, he was fun. They don’t make Vikings like that anymore.” He rolled his eyes. “Now they all lose to cheese boxers.”
“Chee—” Matthias blinked.
“It’s Packers, Khait, not boxers, and that’s football.” Abigail snickered. “Not real Vikings.”
“Oh.” Khait blinked. “Is that why they don’t have axes?”
“Can we…” Michaels pinched the bridge of his nose.
“Sorry.” Abigail directed them further into the house. “We are working on getting him up to date on modern culture and there are still areas of misunderstanding.”
“Such as why they call it football in the first place.”
“It’s an American thing. Americans insist on calling proper football ‘soccer’.” Abigail chuckled. She had a trace of a British accent. “Oh, did you want coffee?”
“I suspect…” Michaels took a deep breath. “That we are going to need it.”
Abigail and Bridget had both fallen asleep on the couch. Khait put a blanket over each of them before returning to the table. The professor had grabbed one of Bridget’s empty notebooks, and was on his way to filling it. “Mermaids.”
“Yes, but stealthy and generally hostile toward humans.” Khait shrugged. “You people dump a lot of nasty things into the oceans.”
“Yes, well…” Professor Kravitz shook his head. He frowned a little. “You were at that protest where the…” He tilted his head. “The cop that tried to arrest Bridget got run over by his own police vehicle.”
“He lived.” Khait grinned.
“I…” The professor took a deep breath. “Right. Okay.” He put the pen down, then picked it up again. “The…” He hesitated.
“Earlier, when you were talking about the dragons…” He looked up at Khait. “Erilon insisted the subject be changed.”
“She had a point. The dragons don’t like certain information getting around. It’s not…” Khait gestured. “In their best interests.”
“But dragons are immortal.” Kravitz started taking notes again. Continue reading War: Chapter 7
“Okay, this Wren person?” Abigail leaned back on the couch, folding her arms. “She sounds like an utter bitch.”
“I cannot say I object to the notion of her getting her comeuppance.” Professor Kravitz accepted the tea Bridget handed him, then glanced at where Khait and Erilon were glaring at each other. Considering one of them was a glowing woman of fire reflected in a mirror, it was more than a little bit surreal. At least Khait had stopped glowing. “Adam is a good man.”
“That was our assessment as well.” Magda leaned on the back of the couch. “He saved someone very dear to me.” She took a deep breath. “Tomer, my crew and I will make sure your students stay safe. We wouldn’t ask if —”
“I already agreed.” Professor Kravitz glanced at Khait. “Admittedly, before I knew…” He exhaled. “Abigail, I…” He looked back at her. “Your boyfriend kills people by kissing them.”
“Only if they deserve it.” She winced a little. “We clarified that with him a lot.”
“I am not permitted to kill anyone that doesn’t register as at least a five on the scale of bad unless Bridget gives permission or it is necessary to save the life of another.” Khait didn’t stop glaring at Erilon.
“I don’t even want to know what registers to you on the scale of bad.” Erilon folded her arms.
“We clarified that with him a lot too.” Bridget nodded, then grabbed a notebook off a side table and offered it to the professor. “See?”
He took it and started flipping through it before paling a little. “Absolutely no killing professors for giving a failing grade?” He stared up at Abigail.
“Oh, you weren’t in danger from that.” She sat up and spoke hurriedly. “He likes you.”
“If we could get this back on —” Magda started to sigh.
“We should probably clarify where Matthias ranks on the scale, cause uh…” Laura tilted her head.
“Khait, no killing members of the…” Bridget blinked. “What was it again?”
“The Crimson Crusaders.” Laura grinned.
“Hang on, time out.” Abigail made the gesture, then pointed at Laura. “The vigilantes out in Washington are your people?”
“Who, exactly, are —” Professor Kravitz took a deep breath. “Alright, I’ve met Laura, Erilon, and Gabriel. Magda is obviously a werewolf. The others—”
“Werewolves and witches.” Erilon was still glaring at Khait. “Couple of full mortals in the group, but they either stay out of trouble or come packing a lot of ammo. Since you three are also mortals, you’ll be staying out of trouble as well.”
“Bridget and I can take care of ourselves.” Abigail shot her a dirty look.
“I can confirm that.” Khait nodded. Then he shrugged. “They manage to keep me in line most of the time. That’s more than anyone else has ever managed.”
“That’s not…” Erilon made a growling sound. “Entirely unimpressive.”
“Gee.” Bridget rolled her eyes. “Thanks.”
“Uh…” Bridget took a step back, and her eyes widened when she noticed the younger woman’s eyes were glowing red. “What?” Khait took a step toward the young woman, and the big woman, Magda, immediately put up a hand. Her eyes changed to gold, just like Joseph’s had when he shifted. “Shit.”
The woman vanished. Professor Kravitz stumbled backward, staring with his jaw hanging open. The young woman, Laura, immediately put her hands on her hips. “Bring her back, right now.” She narrowed her glowing red eyes.
“You brought a werewolf to the office of one of my friends.” Khait shook his head. “You have five seconds…” He growled. “You’ve got a body? You hypocritical little —”
“Khait…” Abigail exhaled. “You want to make some introductions?”
“Oh my god.” Professor Kravitz started to straighten.
“It’s okay, professor.” Bridget quickly rushed over to him. “Relax, you’re safe.”
“He was safe before.” The girl, Laura, shook her head. “He’s a friend of mine.” She glared at Khait. “And I’m not about to let you within ten miles of anyone I consider a friend. You’ve got five seconds to explain what the fuck you are doing here or I’m going to make you bleed from every single one of your orifices.”
Khait laughed. “Oh, I dare you to try, you backstabbing bitch.” He pointed at her. “You betrayed me!”
“You burned down Rome!” Laura glared.
“Not even a quarter of it.” Khait scoffed.
“Do you know how many Christians got fed to lions over that stunt?” She took a step forward.
“Nowhere near enough.” Khait matched her move, glaring down at her.
“Uh —” Bridget swallowed.
“Enough.” Professor Kravitz drew himself up to his full height. Bridget blinked. Five years and this was the first time she’d ever heard him raise his voice. The two arguing… Oh god, her eyes were glowing too… demons also both shut up and turned to look at him. “Laura is, in fact, a friend of mine and I owe her and her companion my life.” He turned toward her, and she gulped a little. “Bridget, what the hell is going on here?”