Shopping was very therapeutic. Normally, when I mentioned shopping, everyone in the house disappeared. Including my oh-so courageous husband. I’d see nothing but his back in full retreat. “Hey, who’s going to go with me?”
“Baby, I love you with all my heart, but nowhere in our vows did I say that I would brave what you call shopping. Rather go through a full blown fire fight, my darling Moonlight,” Roark would tell me, grinning like a fool. Apparently, I can be a bit of a whirlwind when it comes to shopping. After the first time, my husband refuses to go anymore.
However, now I have a little sister who loves it just as much as I do. Which is awesome! It was great getting to show Cali around Monte Vista.
It was even better getting to watch the cloud that had settled behind her eyes slowly dissipate. The more time I spent with her, the more I knew someone was tampering with her thoughts. It wasn’t anything overt. In fact, that was what made it so dangerous. Insidious thoughts, playing upon natural fears. Cali didn’t strike me as a weak-willed girl, but most anyone would be nervous meeting their boyfriend’s family for the first time. And we are certainly a bit different than most families. So it was only natural that she’d harbor some doubts. And that’s what these thoughts preyed upon.
They twisted them, made them worse. I hadn’t tried to block them yet. I had to be careful there. The mind is a delicate thing. And I hadn’t broached the subject yet with Cali. Today would be a perfect time to do that.
But first, there was a lot of shopping to do. And of course, that meant shoe shopping!
After we staggered out of the last shop with our spoils, we dropped off the bags at my car. I surveyed the car, pursing my lips. “Hm… well, we can always make a run back home, drop off then come back,” I mused. Perhaps we’d gone just a little bit overboard. Nan’s car was full. There wasn’t a space left in the trunk or in the back seat. Maybe my family was right… Nah! I grinned at Cali. “C’mon, let’s go find us something to eat. There’s a couple different bistros around. The food is to die for!”
I lead her through the streets, enjoying listening to her chatter. I also enjoyed talking with her. My past wasn’t necessarily a secret, but I hadn’t told anyone outside the family about my time in Bridgeport. It was almost a bit of a relief.
“Cali… why would you think he deserves better than you? He loves you. You’re so good for him.” I’d put my hand on her shoulder, wanting to comfort her.
She looked surprised. “I-I didn’t say anything-“ She stopped, blushing a little, remembering I was a telepath. Then it all came out, like a torrent. These thoughts of being worthy, of being a liability to Alduin. How she was determined to remain with him at any cost, then wondering if he would be safer if she left him. Her mind was a confusing miasma of conflicting thoughts. Not all of those thoughts were hers. The fact that she’d been in such turmoil made my blood boil. But I kept my tone even, letting the rage cool.
“Cali,” I told her slowly. “I think someone’s been projecting thoughts – doubts – in your mind. Do you know anyone who would do that?”
“That’s possible? Someone can actually do that?” Though she seemed genuinely shocked, I could tell by the way she said it that a part of her hadn’t at least wondered. She hadn’t known it was possible, but she had known that these thoughts weren’t normal.
I nodded slowly. “Yes, very possible.” I told her a bit about myself, how my own powers worked, even about my mother and her deplorable shields. “…Sweetie, you’re actually very susceptible to something like that,” I finished seriously.
I’d been thinking exactly the same thing. There was something there. With what little I’d been able to glean about the Guardians and the Caste, I knew that both sides were ruthless. Why they would bother trying to break Calysta and my brother up, I didn’t have an answer, though I had a couple theories, but nothing concrete. That wasn’t important at that moment. What was important though, was making sure those thoughts stopped.
For lunch, I took Calysta to one of my favorite pizzerias in town and we took a corner booth. She told me everything she knew of this ‘Natalya’. I was silent for a moment. “I’ll work with Roark. As a vampire, his shielding is second to none. With him helping, we can make a shield that no one can penetrate. They’ll never be able to implant another thought in your mind again.”
“I would love that. Sometimes, I think I’m going mad. One minute I’m determined never to let go of Alduin, then the next minute, I feel like I have to leave him to protect him. If someone’s really messing with my brain, I want it to stop.”
I nodded. “It will, I promise.” It was good to see that her spirits were lifting. We finished our lunch and decided to just walk around the town a bit before returning home.
“Are you going to tell Alduin about all of this, Calysta?” I asked her, genuinely curious.
I had to grin at that. “What do you think?”
It faded a little though when she voiced her concerns about my brother’s state of mind. I’d noticed a few things about him, as well. But not even I’d picked up on all of it. I had known that transversing the barrier between life and death wouldn’t be easy. From what I’d been able to find, there had only been a handful able to do it in tact before. I knew pain went with the territory. But hearing Cali talk about it made me both proud and worried at the same time. Still, she needed assurances.
So I gave her the advice that it had taken me a while to learn. And truth be told, sometimes I still had to remember it myself: “One thing I’ve learned. As hard as it is and as hard-headed as we Wyverns can be, it’s easier when we share our burdens. I think you should talk to him, Cali. He obviously doesn’t need a reminder. It might help him to talk to you. He’s always been private. And knowing him, he’s trying to spare you. So talk to him. You can’t help him if you don’t ask.”
She thanked me, promising to tell him. I wasn’t quite through yet. “Oh? And Cali? Don’t keep apologizing. It will just make him feel guilty. He has a tendency to take on the world’s problems. He came back for you. And ya know what? He told me he’d do it a hundred times over if it meant being with you.”
Maybe I shouldn’t have told her that, but somehow, I didn’t think Alduin would mind in this case. And the smile it brought to her face was well worth it.
I was about to reply when my eyes widened as my gaze saw something on the other side of the street.
Cairo Moretti. He’d been the subject of my latest case. He’d proven to be quite elusive, which for me, is saying something. I wasn’t going to get the opportunity again, so I held up a hand. “Hold that thought, Cali. There’s someone I need to talk to. This’ll be real quick. I’ll get right back to you, okay?”
I dashed across the street as Calysta murmured, “Oh sure, I’ll wait right here.”
My conversation with Mr. Moretti didn’t last long. Truth be told, the case was an easy one. Cairo has some information I needed in locating a certain item. But it all flew out of my head when I felt something. A presence. I snapped my head around and saw Cali talking to someone.
Based on the descriptions that I’d been given by Calysta, I could only assume the woman was the infamous Natalya. One corner of my mouth curled up. Well, well. I’d wanted to have a “chat” with her. Now was my chance. I dashed back across the street.
“…want to be with Alduin, then I won’t stop you. I’m even here to offer my help, and after you’ve seen what I can do, you know I’m capable of helping him.”
I had all I could do not to sneer as I reached them. “Is there a problem here?” I asked, my fangs bared in what might be called a smile… or a snarl, depending.
The relief in Cali’s voice as she introduced me to the woman was more than evident. It tickled me to no end when I caught the thought of These dragons are quickly becoming the bane of my existence. I took that as a compliment. In my line of work, I consider it a good day’s work if at least one person would love my head a platter. Looks like today was going to be a good day.
So she was going to be polite, was she? I saw no reason to be polite. In fact, I kept my perusal of her deliberately insulting, a head to toe examination, my lip slightly curled as if I found her lacking. Which, I did, in fact. I brushed a hand over Cali’s elbow. You okay? I asked her. Calysta was a smart girl, but she was still too trusting, even after everything that had happened to her. And if what I heard Natalya say was any indication, she knew just what to say. Offering her a way to help my brother was the surest way to gain Calysta’s cooperation. Then Natalya could name any price and I knew her well enough to know that Cali would pay it. Not while I was around, she wouldn’t.
I made sure that the sorceress could see that promise in my eyes.
While we had a bit of a stare-down, Cali stiffened beside me and I could hear the whirlwind of thoughts. She’d seen someone else, someone named Ashley. I knew Ashley was the woman her brother Allen had fallen in love with. But she’d left Allen and had supposedly left Monte Vista. Yet, here she was. Go, Cali. Go to her.I can handle Natalya. Truth be told, I was looking forward to this. And it would be much easier without Calysta there. I wouldn’t have to pull any punches, so to speak. Natalya tried to stop her, but Calysta blew her off and told her to speak with me. Just how I wanted it. And the death glare I was getting from the sorceress made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
I waited for Cali to dash off. Then I turned to the little witch with an insolent grin. It was time to give her a taste of her own medicine. I dropped my shields, letting my senses extend outward. When it touched Natalya’s mind, I added a little something extra, something that would slip right past her shields.
I’ll never get in Alduin and Calysta’s way again. It was only appropriate, after all.
“Get out of my mind!”
“Just a taste of what you’ve been putting my little sister through,” I told her nonchalantly, looking at my finger nails as if they were more interesting than her. Which… they were. But knowing what she’d been up to, that darkness reared up. I took a step toward her, my red eyes flashing. “Understand this, sorceress. If you ever even think of touching any of my family – and that includes Calysta now – I am going to make you pay. You hear me? And you heard Cali. She wants nothing to do with you. From now on, when it comes to her, you answer to me.”
“I answer to no one!”
I arched a brow at her. I wasn’t above returning the favor to her. Not when she was trying so hard to interfere with my brother and Cali. So I pushed a thought at her. Wrong. I answer to Luna.
“Need I remind you, girl… You owe me your brother’s life.”
I threw my head back and laughed. “I don’t owe you a damn thing. Want to know why?” My lips curled up in a vicious smile. “Neither I, nor my brother, owe you a thing because if it weren’t for Cali ordering you to do it, you never would have done it. That… and from what I know of, you were unable to actually bring him back without the help of…” I pretended to have to think of the name, “I believe his name was Ettore, wasn’t it?”
The sorceress stepped forward, trying to loom over me, but I just grinned up at her. I could almost see the wheels turning in her head, trying to figure out just the right tack to take with me. She really must not have realized who she was dealing with. Finally, she chose one. An appeal to my protective nature, must be.
“I care about Calysta. I just want to keep her safe. And whether or not you admit it, her exposure to your brother – to your family in general – points every single supernatural creature out there right to her. Her best bet for survival is to stay under the radar, to be as normal as possible. Her being with your brother will only corrupt her.”
“That’s the best you can do?” I asked, rolling my eyes. “Really? I guess being an all powerful sorceress makes it so you don’t have to think on your feet as much, hm? You really don’t know how to deal with people, do you, Natalya? What happened to your offer of ‘helping’ my brother?” My lips curled into a snarl. I was fed up of her, fed up of her lies and machinations. “I can only imagine what your ‘help’ would be like, you viper!”
My fury gave me power. She couldn’t even speak, too busy was she trying to fight off my assault on her mind. Get out…. She closed her eyes, though it didn’t do her any good. I had too much steam and too much determination. I was still burrowing. Calysta can never be a Wyvern. Her hands clenched into fists at her sides and she was shaking. Stop it. Damn you. Stop. A sound escaped her throat, something between a yell and a gasp. I need Ettore. I went deeper. I wanted her secrets. I’ll help him alright. I’ll help him fill the missing pieces of his soul with hatred for her. Alduin won’t be able to stand the sight of Calysta.
There it was! I knew it! Fury swept through me. The bitch! I wanted to cause her pain. I wanted her to scream for even thinking of doing that to my brother. My brother, who loved that girl so much, he lost parts of his soul to return to her. She would take that from him, fill him with hate. No, no she wasn’t going to! I wanted her to bleed, even if it was more metaphorically than actual blood. So I went deeper. The subconscious is an odd thing. There are so many twists and turns. If you are delicate and circumspect, there is no pain, no intrusion. But I didn’t want that. I wanted her to feel pain, I wanted her to know I was ripping out her most horrendous and painful memories.
With the subtlety of a jackhammer, I went digging. Images and thoughts, voices and figures whirled past. I could only guess at some of the scenes. I thought I saw someone that resembles Cali. I was willing to bet that was her father Adam. But I didn’t want that. I wanted something worse. I ignored the fact that Natalya had fallen to the ground, her hands digging at the sides of her head. “No, no, no , no, no!”
I watched with no emotion whatsoever as I found a particularly vile memory. There was blood and pain, excruciating pain. A man with white wings: Ettore stood over a young Natalya. Her own blood covered the dagger, the bed she lay on, as well as the floor. She was begging for it to stop. I forced myself to watch the scene unfold. If I interpreted what I was seeing right, this was when she came into her powers.
But there was more to learn. I left that scene, and went deeper, further back. I’d know what made her tick. She’d never touch my brother when I was done with her. “Noooooooo!” she screamed. With a bright flash of light, I found myself alone on the street. I had to hold my own head, sucking in a breath. I hadn’t taken a breath since I had begun the mental assault. I had to bend over, bringing myself under control. I was shaking from the effort I’d had to expend. Finally, I straightened and looked at the spot where the sorceress had been. She’d been… butchered, for a lack of a better word. She’d been little more than a child. I could feel pity for the child she had been, yet I felt very little for the woman that had stood there just moments ago. She was dangerous. Very dangerous. She wouldn’t touch my brother or Calysta again. I’d see to that.