Elian Darkan stopped his car at the edge of the county line. He was on the Athens-Washington County line. He pulled out his phone and saw the message from Caleb.
Have fun at home. Remember you always have a place in my pack.
Putting the phone up, Elian snorted. The young pack was that a young pack. Broke off from their various parents packs, they knew little of the history of the Werewolves and therefore did not know that he was a Darkan. It was easy to be a stupid wolf who knew nothing of the wolves with them. They knew the laws and the rights of the wolves and he was able to learn how to be a wolf from them.
The car was still running so Elian didn’t want to stand around idle that much, he was running low on gas, to excited to get to town before he changed his mind it wasn’t until he had been long past the last gas station that he noticed that he was running low on gas.
The wind picked up and Elian could smell cinnamon he figured that someone was baking except underneath of it was the smell of roses. He stopped as he got inside and took another lungful of the smell. Yes, he was correct; Raven had been in the area recently. He slammed the car door shut and quickly put it in gear and took off, racing towards town. Kraton came up on the side and Elian knew that he was almost there. He would pass Raven’s house before he got to his own but he hoped that Raven wouldn’t see him. He wasn’t in his old car. He had gotten a new on when he had changed his name. It had been easy to file the papers to get his last name changed.
His newer car had been bought after he had left Caleb’s pack and had started on his way back home to Belpre. It was a 2015 Impala, black. The only real unnecessary expense that he had bought. He caught the light at Farson Street and sat and looked all around. Not much had changed in the town in the months he had been gone. He really hadn’t expected it to. Belpre was slow to change.
Living in the forests and woods of North America gave him an appreciation for the small town. He had been living as a wolf for too long. The clothes on his body felt weird. He’d not stayed in his human form for more than a few hours each day over the past few months. The life had become boring to him though.
His house looked as he had left it. Given the dead of winter that had been passing, there was no yard work to be done, Elian was thankful for that. He parked his car in the driveway; the clicker for the garage was inside the house. He was scared to get out of the car. Scared to try this kind of life, the life had for first twenty three years of his life. The backpack in the back seat called to him and he grabbed it and opened the driver’s side door before he could have second thoughts about what he was going to do.
The porch creaked a little when he put his full weight on it but he was used to that and it was cold outside. The cold didn’t bother him anymore, not like it used to. Before he turned into a wolf he could handle some cold temperatures but now that he was a wolf, he could handle anything down to around thirty below and he wasn’t sure about any colder than that because he hadn’t been in temperatures colder than that. He opened the door to the house with the key and was greeted by the blast of warmer air. He moved to the thermostat and saw that it was only set at sixty five but it was still a little warm for him. He dropped the temperature down to sixty and dropped his backpack on the floor. The smell of the house was simple. There was the faded scent of him before he had sealed it up. No one had been inside since then.
The smell of Marie and of blood was long gone from the house and he was so happy for that. He sat on the couch to relax and get used to the sounds of a house again. The couch creaked and groaned as his frame sat down in it. He was nearly a hundred pounds heavier now. He had found out that even as a human he wasn’t eating enough to satisfy the werewolf gene he had. He ran too much and didn’t eat enough. He had been sickly skinny and the other weres of the pack he had taken up had been shocked that he had been able to turn at all fully without unimaginable pain. He had supplied that he had passed out changing back and that he had been in pain. He also never shared that he was a Darkan.
The clothes in the car were not going to unpack themselves. Almost none of his clothes he had left would fit him anymore. He had stopped in Columbus and had picked up nearly an entire wardrobe on his way home. The regular clothes were in the car and the nicer clothes, those were being shipped down. He had found that if he threw enough money at people or if he bought enough things, stores and businesses would do whatever he wanted. It had been odd at first but it was something that he had easily gotten used to.
Somewhere along the nearly one hundred and fifty mile trek he had made with the pack right after he had joined them that he had figured out that the money was something that was going to change him. He had tried so hard to not let it change him before he had turned. That was the point in his life that he figured was the before and after. It wasn’t before he had money and after he had money. No, it was before when he thought he was human and after when he knew that he wasn’t.
It took him nearly an hour to put up all of his new clothes and put the old ones that weren’t going to fit into the bags to drop off at the BAM store. The first time he drove anywhere, he would take the clothes to the store that was down the road. Moving to the window, he looked down into the garden and saw that it had been cared for. Someone had covered and taken care of the roses as well as weeding and everything else. Even in the dead of winter the garden still looked nice.
It was just a minute and he was heading out the back door. The smell of Raven permeated every single section of the garden. The difference between the rose smell of Raven and the fading smell of the dead roses were two very different smells. He was surprised by that. It was definitely something that he would have to look into. Caleb had told him he would notice changes when he accepted his life as a werewolf and if this was one of them he could live with that. It was early morning and the sun was now coming up and lighting up everything. He had things that he had to get gone and one of those things was talking to Jess Gilliam at the library.
The job at the library was something that he loved but he wasn’t ready for a commitment like that right now. His whole life was set on its side and while running from everything had helped some to adjust to the physical changes to his body but the rest of his life, that’s he hadn’t figured out yet. His life was his and wholly his but he needed to figure out what he wanted out of it now and that was the crux of the problem.
He was a child when it comes to the life of the Mystics. He needed to take a fast course on life as one and he wasn’t sure if he wanted Raven to be the one to teach him. There was always James Atrian, his lawyer but he wasn’t sure about that as well. Raven had known that Marie was controlling him but the anger he had felt about that was long gone. She had never explained herself but Elian really hadn’t given her a chance to. He was sure he knew why she had never helped him in that aspect. The Matians would have come down on them like a ton of bricks and there was a very small chance that she would be able to save herself as well as him from them.
The abuse he had taken from having his mind controlled was long gone. He’d worked through it with the help of his pack and the late night talks to Caleb about it. That had taken a while to get over but it was good. He was sure there were lasting effects but he had no way of figuring those out. Living in a shell was going to do nothing but ruin his life. He
Shaking his head to clear it, Elian got ready to walk to the library. He looked at the watch on his arm and saw that it was after nine. The library would be open and Jess would probably be there. He took one last look around the garden before he moved through the house and locked both doors behind him as he left.
The street hadn’t changed that much or so he thought as he looked at the place where the Belrock used to be. There was a for sale sign on the sign that used to show the specials. Elian quickly snapped a picture after he crossed the road to that side of the street. This might solve a few of his problems with the coffee shop of his mother’s. He knew that it was still doing well. Raven kept James up to date on everything and James kept him up to date. Even though Raven could keep him up to date she never did. She was letting him have his space and he was thankful for that.
Putting up his phone, Elian continued onto the library, passing the People’s Bank that was on the corner and the location of the Rockland Community College. He stopped to look at how far the construction had gone in the short time he had been gone. The main section of the college was done and the apartments behind looked like they were almost done being refitted. Even given the land that was being taken up by the bank and the library, the place was huge. The church that had been there took up a lot more space that it seemed it should. The parking lot on the other side of the road where another bank had been but had moved to another section of town was completely done.
The library looked the same as it always did. The small horseshoe was empty but it almost always was early in the morning. Elian looked at the two garden beds in the center of the horseshoe and then to the other two gardens that flanked the windows. The medium trees had been chopped down and there was what looked like two trees and two rose bushes lining the walkway to the back of the library.
The door to the library opened as a patron exited the building. He watched as the lady looked around and then started to move around to the back of the library. Elian chuckled to himself. He remembered from when he was working and even going there as a patron that some people could never remember which door they went in.
Laughing, he went inside the library himself. He stopped as soon as he was inside the second set of doors. There was a smell on the air. He wasn’t sure what it was but it wasn’t a bad smell. Of course the smell of humans, of decay and perfume was everywhere but there was something else. It was a smell he equated with a library but this library had never smelled like it before. No it was what the older libraries he had been inside smelled like. It was old paper. He followed the trail to the back of the library where it was strongest. There he found Jess standing with a cart, pulling books from the shelf and checking them off a list.
Jess stacked nearly a dozen books before she felt his eyes on her. She turned and stared at him for nearly a minute before the opening of the front door created a draft and Elian was sure it wafted his smell to her. She relaxed as she took in a deep breath. Looking around, she waved for Elian to follow her. She pushed the cart to the front and then they moved to her office.
“Elian Coats.” Jess looked him up and down making him feel like a piece of meat.
“Actually…” Elian piped up to correct her but she just smiled at him and held up a hand.
“Shush. You know when you started to come here, I knew there was something about you but I never could put my finger on it. I had no issues letting Rae work here. I could do with a Vampire in case something came up. Then the smell of crushed leaves started to waft off you all the time. This nose couldn’t quite smell the water but when you changed for the first time…The Darkan’s back from the dead and you with a nice Vampire bodyguard. The Darkan’s have never been happy with jobs where they aren’t running it. It’s not in your blood and your mindset Elian. I hired you knowing that when the time came you would leave. I knew that Rae’s time here was numbered. I wasn’t quite ready for the both of you to leave at the same time. Of course, Rae didn’t up and leave town.”
Elian kept his mouth shut about the fact that Rae wasn’t what she seemed. Raven had never spilled his secret and he wasn’t going to start doing it to her. No, he wasn’t. He wasn’t sure how the Witch didn’t know that Rae was actually Raven Shadow. It seemed that like him, the Witch hadn’t even thought of that fact. What was dead was dead and there was no way to bring it back.
“You’re right; I don’t want my job back. I was a little messed up when I left town and I am still just messed up enough right now that there is no way that I can be reliable but I would be able to cover shifts if you are shorthanded. I can be called in for a few hours or even less or more. I know that you have to get approval through Marietta and they may not want to let me do that but I’m putting it out there.”
“Are you going to take the coffee shop back from Rae?” Jess asked.
It was then that Elian figured out that Jess knew more about Rae and him than she was letting on. What game she was playing to that end, he had no clue. Gilliam wasn’t a name that he recognized from what little Raven had taught him on Witches. There wasn’t another smell under or over the smell of old paper so she had to be a regular Witch unless she was hiding herself like Raven did.
“I see that you are thinking about things. I am a regular Witch. Just a plain little Witch that survive the culling of Witches in America during the Salem Trials. I wasn’t alive then but I my mother was.”
“Rae hasn’t taught me much about Witches.”
“And nor would she. You needed to learn about you first and then since she is a Vampire, you would need to learn about them. Faes, Witches, and Immortals would come after you learn about what impacts you the most. You hold power in your blood and allegiance in your name. I am glad to see that you changed your name to Darkan legally. There will be those that don’t believe it but one whiff of you and they will.”
“Thanks, I think.” Elian hated that the whole of the Mystic world seemed to be built on smells. Given that Raven was able to manipulate her smell so easily it seemed like it was crazy. He was so new to the world but it seemed way too easy to fake a smell and for someone to pass themselves off as someone they are not.
“Where did you go there? You looked like you were thinking about something?” Jess stared at him for a few seconds before she leaned back to relax in the chair.
“I just was thinking of something I need to do.” Elian looked at his watch and was surprised at the time. He had wanted to get to the coffee shop between rush times and that was now. “Soon.”
“I’ll call up and ask about getting you hired on as a filler. You may have to be a filler at all locations but I think you won’t mind that. Is the phone and address correct, the ones I had before?”
“Yes.” Elian stood up. Jess stayed seated, writing on paper and just sticking her hand out for him to shake. Elian did and then wandered out of Jess’s office and out of the back room of the library in general.
The jog back to his house was quick. He pulled his car keys from his pocket and started out of the driveway, waiting for the light to change so that he could pull out when traffic was stopped the other three ways.
Driving to the coffee shop was rote. He barely thought about it. His mind and body seemed to know when the turns were without him really paying attention to anything but traffic. It wasn’t that long of a trip really, only about fifteen minutes. He found a spot empty in the small parking lot that afforded him a view of the whole interior of the shop.
Raven was at the counter and she was seated, staring at something that was open on the counter. She looked towards the register and then grabbed a piece of paper off of it and looked at it, making a notation in the thing she was staring at. She looked up at a customer who just walked up to the register. She grabbed a carafe from behind herself and poured it in the cup the girl was holding out. As soon as the girl walked away, Raven went back to the paperwork she was obviously working on.
Elian shut off the car and sat watching Raven for nearly an hour. She worked on the paperwork, rung out customers, and filled up cups when people came up for a refill. Elian was surprised that there was no one else there.
Eleven rolled around and a man entered the shop and instead of sitting down at one of the tables, he grabbed an apron and moved into the back of the place. It wasn’t until Raven stood up that Elian noticed she didn’t look like Rae. She looked like Raven. Her hair was the pitch black and she was dressed in really nice clothes. Clothes that matched what he was wearing. Casual clothes that just by looking at them one could tell the items cost a lot of money. Her hair was pulled back in a simple ponytail but she looked well. He wondered what had changed about her in the months that he had been gone. What had made her go from Rae to Raven.
When the parking lot started to fill up, Elian finally left. He had a phone call to make and some things to figure out with James about buying land that the Belrock used to be on and getting it tore down and build up into what he wanted.
James Atrian was sitting beside Elian in the Belrock. The owner of the property was sitting across from them. It was the large table that had always been filled with gossiping old men. She had papers spread all over the table listing of the property values that had been appraised by people she had hired. James of course had done his own looking into and their appraisers had valued it at a lot less.
Elian figured that if the both of them weren’t Werewolves, he would have had a headache and that James would have ripped his hair out.
“Ma’am. I have sworn statements from the Health Department and the local code enforcers that no business would be allowed to move into here. This building is too old and there is too much wrong with it. I am sure that you did sink money into the building to get it fixed up a little when the previous renter was here but I think it was too little too late. It’s freezing in here and you said you’ve had the heat on for a few days so that it could warm up so that people could look around. Its sixty three degrees in here. I know that only one set of heaters works and that only one air conditioner works as well. I don’t know what you think you are really going to get out of this place but what you are asking is not it. If you had torn down the existing structure you might get closer to that amount but not now you aren’t. Anyone moving in would have to tear and rebuild, factor that into the price you are asking and it’s outrageous. No business is worth that. My client though is willing to offer that price for the entire lot. The land the Belrock is on and the land and buildings that the strip mall is on.”
“That’s highway robbery!” Tina Sidenstricker yelled as she slammed her hand down on the table. Papers scatter but none fall to the floor.
“It’s the only offer you are getting. We are willing to play hardball and I don’t think you are going to like it.”
The woman just stared at the both of them.
“Belpre is changing. The addition of the hospital and the college changed the business route of the city completely. You will find that businesses will leave you. What incentives will you offer to keep them here?” Elian just smiled at her ask he talked. The price she was asking wasn’t out of his range, for either the whole area or just the Belrock. He didn’t want to have to pay that for something that he would have to sink a lot of money in. He could start over elsewhere, do what he wanted in a new place but this was the best location. It was within walking distance of the college. “Another strip mall will pop up and what will you do then?”
“I am good to my businesses. My renters will stay.”
“What if a new strip mall moves in just a mile down the road? The owner coming in and sweet talking your businesses with promises of building to suit? Lower rent than what you are charging as well as maybe a month or two free? Would they stay then?” James closed up the folder that he had opened in front of him and then moved to put it up. Elian closed his notebook and started to do as James did, get ready to leave.
Tina sputtered and stood up, thrusting out a hand.
“I think that we can come to an agreement. Please just stay. I’ll get my lawyer here and we can talk money.”
Elian smiled at how easy it was.
The Mystics have always had a hard time fitting in anywhere. Where Faes could live, Vampires hated. Where Wolves can live, no other race considered it a livable place at all. Witches and Immortals could live with humans and have no issues. To have a place to call home is to have a place to belong. The Mystics belong nowhere.