Elian was at the Athens county line, running across the entire Belpre area. He wasn’t as territorial as Caleb and his pack had been but he was sure that once he started to acquire a pack, he would be. Still he liked to run the line at least once a week. It was a habit that was left over from when he was with Caleb. It wasn’t a bad habit. A little over a week ago, a drunkard had spent a while crossing back and forth across the county line at the Belpre/Coolville area. Elian had tracked him into the city just to make sure that the person had got back home safely. Elian had stopped tracking him at the center of the town.
The smells of the area were known to him. Every single smell of the area was normal. The second something different came across he knew. The smells of the Mystic races were mostly still an unknown to him. Still he wanted to know the smells. He would learn them all. He had the time and the will.
Raven hadn’t given him a book of smells to learn it from, not yet. He knew that it existed but he hadn’t asked her about it. He knew that the smell so of a Mystic and the smell of the real item different some but being able to tell the difference meant everything. He knew that he was young and only time would fix that.
Raven, Charity, and James were still keeping him in the dark on some things but he was fairly sure that when the time came, they would tell him. James had opened up on a lot of things, Raven on some, and well Charity, she was a closed book to him.
Stopping at the edge of a small hill, Elian looked down onto the land in front of him. It was February so everything still looked dead. He could smell the plants waking up slowly though. There was life in everything around him. He couldn’t wait until there was sun and warmth and green all around him when he did his runs.
The water at in the Ohio River was muddy and brown from the rains the night before and the water was frigid but there was something about it that Elian loved to look at. It was early in the afternoon and Elian was finding that it was the best time of day outside of full dark. He was only a mile out from the edge of the river and it called to him. He could smell the fresh water and it was like a siren. He started trotting off towards it before his mind caught up with what his body was doing.
There was one spot that was near the base of his property that was his favorite spot to sit, in human or in wolf form. It was always in shade and always colder than everywhere else but it also gave him protection from sight yet he could see everything. It was a perfect place to change forms to and from wolf. He dropped into the little divot in the land and shifted. His clothes were clean and dry and his phone was still in in his pocket. What shifted with him still surprised him to this day. Caleb had tried to explain it to him but it was all about dimensions and other things that Elian had no care to know about. He knew that anything in his pockets on his clothes would shift with him. Jewelry and other things like that would change as well but would not show up on his fur as a marking. There was some kind of magic involved but he cared little for the how.
There was something on the wind and it caught even Elian’s human nose. He fought the urge to shift to smell it better. He would be able to figure it out. The wind from the river was wafting the smell over to him. It was seaweed. He knew the smell from when he had vacationed just a few years before to the Virginia Beach area. It was an odd smell for the area. He wondered what was causing it and then he smelled the blood under it. It wasn’t human blood. It was the blood that smelled like seaweed. He wasn’t sure how he knew that. It had to be instinctive.
Wanting to know more, Elian leaned a little forward to get a better view. Standing at the edge of the water was a man. He looked to be over six feet tall. The man was super skinny though. He looked sickly. Elian almost pulled back into his little cove except there was something about the man. The man reached his hand out and a spout of water rushed up and into his hand.
Barely controlling his gasp, Elian reached down to his side and pulled the dagger that was sheathed at his side out. He wasn’t sure who this was but Elian didn’t like it. As soon as this stupid court thing was done, Elian was going to assert his right with the council and Belpre and maybe father than that would be claimed as his. He would demand that those visiting would have to alert him.
The man pooled the water into an orb and he raised it to his lips. His mouth started to move and Elian heard nothing. He wanted to move closer but as soon as he started to move the man released the orb and it held it shape as it fell into the water. He watched it speed along just below the surface, against the current, picking up speed and disappearing in seconds. The man turned from the water and Elian moved from his cove to follow. This couldn’t be good.
Elian dialed Raven’s number but it went right to voicemail. It had been doing that a lot over the past week. He wasn’t sure what it was about and he hadn’t seen her in person in that week either. It wasn’t that odd but he was starting to take it personally. He opted to not leave a message at all. The man was heading somewhere near the far end of the town, away from downtown. The man knew where he was going, never once course correcting like he was following some kind of path. When the man turned to head up the bank instead of following the river, Elian knew where he was headed. Raven’s. It was the only thing that made sense. He didn’t want to jump the gun but he did want to make sure that Raven was safe.
The man stopped right on the property line and he seemed to take a deep breath. Something happened within seconds, his entire body seemed to shift and then he looked like his skin was purple. Elian rubbed at his eyes, thinking that he was seeing things until the wings sprouted from his back and then that’s when Elian knew. This man was a Fae. A water Fae. He wondered what the Fae was doing here at Raven’s. He was only left to wonder until the Fae stepped up and punched in a code in the device outside the door. He watched as it flashed and he was allowed in.
Raven would be in the sunroom reading if she was following her normal pattern. Elian moved to where he could see inside the room. He watched as the Fae moved into the room. Raven started and before she could do a thing he grabbed her and was kissing her. Elian felt his wolf form start to take over but when Raven gave in and grabbed him around the neck and pulled him on top of her in the chaise, the wolf just seemed to die.
The Fae pulled back and his face moved like he was talking and then Raven was laughing. She pulled away from him and he moved to another chair. He was grace and litheness in a way that Elian had never seen. There was an intimacy between then that Elian had never seen between her and anyone. In fact other than the interactions with co-workers at the library and the coffee house, he had never seen her with anyone but James and Charity. He knew that she had to have lovers but to see one and it be a Fae and a Fae that looked like that guy did.
“That’s a smell I haven’t smelled in years,” a voice said, making Elian spin around to face whoever it was. His hair was slightly long and brown. He was slightly shorter than Elian and the scent of him was on the breeze. It was rum. Strong rum that mad Elian’s mind cloud at the smell of it. He had smelled it once before. He had thought it was a drunkard but it had been this man. It hadn’t been a human but this Mystic, whatever it was. He was dressed in pair of faded jeans and a plain looking t-shirt but all of it looked expensive.
“Lord Darkan, I am Alexis Wrenwood.” Alexis bowed deeply and without an ounce of mocking in his voice or his demeanor.
The name shot through Elian’s mind. The one that Raven had said would be the first to arrive. He hadn’t expected the man this early and neither had Raven. It couldn’t be good that he was here this early.
Alexis stepped up and reached out his hand to shake Elian’s. As soon as he was within a foot, Elian could smell it. The smell of Raven was all over him. There was another smell on him as well. The smell of sex. Elian had his hand mostly out but pulled it back. He was sure that growl escaped his throat but he didn’t feel sorry about it.
“That’s a jealous look if I ever saw one. You know that the last time a Darkan fell in love with a Shadow…”
“Dmitry Darkan. I know and I know what happened to him and the duel that happened between him and Victor Shadow. I am not jealous.” Elian felt pride that he knew something like that. Alexis looked shocked.
“That’s…” Alexis grabbed his hand and pulled him close and stared into his eyes. “Oh, you are a Darkan all right. The smell and the eyes. The haunted, aged eyes of the visions. Oh, little wolf.”
“I am not little!” Elian said as he threw the man’s hand off of him. Alexis just laughed, the laugh came from deep in his stomach and Elian wanted to just slap him.
“The little wolf that has his hackles in a rise. Raven, Atrian, and Charity are coddling you way too much.” Alexis moved quicker than Elian could register and he was on his back with both hands pinned above him and a dagger pressed into the skin over his heart. “Think before you attack a man that is over two thousand years old.”
“What?” Elian just stared at the man. There was no way…he was an immortal.
“You and I we are going to Athens. We can talk and fight and then maybe you can fuck someone.”
“I see the fear in you.” Alexis rolled off of him and moved towards a sleek looking sports car that was parked beside Raven’s car. There was a jeep parked on the other side of her car. A jeep that he had never seen before. It was coated in mud. He looked back inside the house and then back at Alexis. A night with him sounded better than being there, even if he didn’t know the man he was going drinking with.
Elian was ensconced inside a bar within thirty minutes. It usually took that long at slightly faster than normal speeds hit the city’s edge but Alexis had taken them to the center of the city right by campus in that time. It was a little hole in the wall bar that was dark and smoky and it was loud but not too loud. Conversations could happen and it not be yelling.
Alexis was at the bar ordering drinks. He was friendly with the bartender without it seeming like they were friends. Elian wasn’t sure that they were friends.
The bar smelled of alcohol and smoke and nothing else. The smoke was from the cigarettes and Elian was surprised that they were allowed to be smoked inside. Ohio didn’t really allow that kind of stuff anymore. It wasn’t until Alexis came back to the table and set down two drinks that Elian figured it out. Alexis sat close to him, close enough to where Elian could feel the puff of each breath but all he smelled was the smoke. His distinct smell of rum was gone. Elian lifted his own arm and smelled. All he inhaled. He smelled no earth and no water.
“Smoke, a Mystic’s best friend. Cigarette smoke will cling to us for hours and no one can smell what we really smell like.”
“Raven figures that since Belpre really doesn’t have bars, there is no way for you to hide with that. If you can hit Marietta or Parkersburg or even Athens, you can get away. It something that I am sure that she has never even thought to tell you.” Alexis slide over a drink to Elian.
Elian just eyed the drink, taking a sniff before he took a tiny sip.
“And that tells me all that I need to know. Did she or he survive?”
“What?” Elian was perplexed by the question. He really had no clue what the Immortal was asking.
“You are a new wolf. There is only one way to make a new wolf like you. You fucked some girl and bit her. I know all about what it means. I also know the look of the love you feel for Raven.”
“I don’t love her.”
“No, you don’t allow yourself to love her. You were hurt by her and I can understand that. What was the name of the girl who you fucked?”
“Marie Harper and she was just a plain human, I think. She was paid off by…” Elian stopped. He wasn’t sure that he should be telling him this.
“If this relates back to the Matians, don’t worry. All will come out during the trial and I will be fair to both sides.”
“So you are on the court?” Elian asked. He took a larger drink of whatever it was that Alexis had given him. It was just sweet enough to taste nice but not sickly. The burn of the alcohol was nice. He hadn’t really drank much since he had changed.
“Yes. I have been for a while. Albin, another Immortal couldn’t take it any longer. I was chosen because I take no shit.”
“The Matians had her infiltrate my life and seduce me. I was unaware at the time but due to something…”
“Scents. Everything of the Mystics goes back to scents.” Alexis interrupted. He took a long drink of whatever it was that he was drinking. Elian wasn’t sure what it was either. It looked like wine but it didn’t smell like wine.
“I have figured that out.” Elian laughed a little. It was a little barbaric.
“I thought so. There are ways to hide scents. Me I don’t have to. Even the most seasoned hunter takes me for a drunkard when they cross my path. I have a perfect defense. I don’t think there is a single person who knows the scents of all the immortals much less more than two. What did this Marie do?”
“I guess the Matians were afraid of something and wanted me killed after she was done with me. When I bit her during sex, she freaked out.”
“I’ve traced your lines myself. If you hadn’t changed…”
“…the family would have become human. I know. Raven told me. No great family had been lost to it but there have been lower families who died off from it.”
“So you were conned into fucking her…”
“Must you be so vulgar?” Elian asked. He didn’t think he had ever heard sex referred to as fucking so much.
“I call it as I see it. I’m old enough to be allowed. I can figure how messed up in the head you were after that. I’ve met wolves that have turned that way. Usually it’s to plant the seed of a child and the mother is trying to steal the line but it never works out. What happened to her?”
“Raven slaughtered her.” Elian said. It was the first time he had really spoke about it since it had happened. At least the whole truth of it. What Raven had done could only be considered a slaughter.
“I’ve not known Raven for a long time but I know of her and I think that Marie was lucky that something worse didn’t happen to her. The Matians would have tortured her for information before killing her. Raven saved her from that.”
“She didn’t need to.” Elian had found that he hated Marie. As much love as Marie had made him think he had for her, he hated her as much now.
“No, she really did. Every single piece of information that she would have given them would have led to your death. Look at what they are doing now. They are taking it to the highest level. They are scared of the two of you. Of course, they are unaware of who exactly Rae Smith is.”
“Are you going to tell the rest of the Court?”
“Raven will be. Bryar knows who she is and I am pretty sure that Madeleine does.”
“Bryar?” Elian latched onto the name. It sounded like a girl’s name but not at the same time.
“The Fae part of the council and the man who locked lips with Raven back there.”
“And you aren’t jealous? I can smell her on you.”
“I fell in love with Amelia Cork nearly a hundred years ago. I was content to live my life with her. That she was a Vampire didn’t really matter to me. Then she was killed in front of me. I avenged her legally over the past one hundred years. Imagine my surprise when I arrive in this small town on the order of the court and standing there with black hair is Amelia. If it hadn’t been for the Vampire smell on her I would have thought that she had been reincarnated. When she is not working on your case or at the coffee shop, she and I are fucking but the love for Amelia. Raven is not Amelia. The body is the same and it responds the same but the mind…”
“So does she sleep with all the guys?”
“I have no clue on that. She told me about a Fae that she had told the truth to but it wasn’t until Bryar entered her house that I figured out who the Fae was. She is over a half a century old. Take a life time for a human and let’s put it at fifty years to compensate for fact that humans live longer now but lived shorter before. That’s nearly eleven lifetimes. Eleven lovers, if she was a human and didn’t sleep around. I know of myself and I know of Bryar, that’s a very low number.”
“When I was with Marie she seemed to be jealous but now…”
“You broke her heart, which is a feat to do let me tell you.”
“No, there is…” Elian shook his head. Raven wasn’t into him. His small love for her was for saving him and for protecting him. It had to be.
“Raven has shadows in her eyes. She has been hurt recently. I didn’t ask because let me tell you I am not turning down hot as fuck sex with her on any day.”
“Yes, thank you. Please continue with the part that interests me.” Elian took another drink of his drink and found that it was empty. He frowned a little at the drink and within seconds another was set down by a waitress. There was also another drink for Alexis who tipped his up and drained the dregs before setting it at the edge of the table.
“Sorry. There is a status of the heart that the Mystics call a burned heart. I can see in your eyes that she has burned you.”
“Burned me?” Elian asked as he took a long draw of his drink. It wasn’t affecting him that much. He would be able to drink several of them before starting to feel any effects. “What do you mean burned me?”
“A burned heart can affect any Mystic but it’s more common in wolves and vamps. Immortals and Fae not so much. It’s most common in witches but those witches rarely live long. They are the ones that become dark. Witches are the closest to human. They feel that kind of stuff more than the rest of us Mystics.”
“Betrayal. When the Darkan’s were killed, it broke Raven’s heart but it wasn’t that bad. She could have got over it in about fifty years but the death of her parents at the same hand? It burned her heart. Her love for Charity, it’s still there but it’s jaded now. Her heart is so full of anger and vengeance that there is no room for any other new emotion. She will as easily fuck or kill you if she doesn’t like you. Psychopath doesn’t cover what she can turn into.”
“Will she…drink human blood?” Elian asked. He watched as Alexis’s face contorted into a mock outrage at the notion.
“No, she’s not suicidal. She wants to live. She wants to live to kill all the people who have harmed her. She would never drink human blood. She’s too attached to life.”
Elian nodded and drank again from his drink. He was near the end of his second one. A third was placed in front of him and he just looked at it. He could feel the effects of it now and he wasn’t sure that he should drink the one placed in front of him.
“I’ll protect your virtue, Lord Darkan. Unwind. You’re so stressed that I think a night of fun would be good for you. You’ve not hung around many Mystics your age and I think a night of fun with some our ages would be fun.”
“Our ages?” Elian asked. He could feel the slowness of his body and hear the slight slur to his words. “What is in this?”
“Fae wine. The Fae are good at making things to intoxicate people. You’ll stay at about this drunkenness for the rest of the night. Stop drinking and it will go away.”
“Are you trying to kill me?” Elian asked. He wondered if this was the Matians way of getting rid of him. He felt bed for Raven; she would have to kill him.
Alexis leaned close and Elian could feel his wet breath on his ear and Elian wasn’t sure why but it made him excited. He had never felt aroused by a man before. He blamed the wine. “I wouldn’t have to get you drunk to kill you, little wolf. I am the reason why other Mystics flee Immortals. I am the fighter that forced the other four to join in the fight. I may be the youngest of them but I am the most ruthless and I have spent my entire life getting better at killing so do you want me to show you what I mean?”
Elian could hear more than just the threat in all of that. He could hear the truth and he was sure that he would die if he tried to fight the man. He wasn’t stupid and the alcohol wasn’t effecting him that much. He was fine right where he was at and he was happy to just sit and watch.
“No, Alexis Wrenwood. I think that I am fine where I am.”
The Fae live in their trees and among the other Mystics. There are those, though, that like to live among humans. Humans pass off seeing a Fae as a trick of the eye. Even seen someone with purple skin walking down the street? Turn back and find that it’s just a skinny, tall human? That was a Fae hiding among the humans. Run from them at all cost.