The shadows swayed around me, dancing to the tune played by a swinging lamp overhead. I squeezed my eyes hard against the distraction of the wavering light and yawned widely.
I was exhausted.
I'd searched for the leader of the human hostiles over half the Earth and even across time. I finally thought I'd run him down. But I wasn't sure. This time would be too young for what I was looking for. The human too old in the time I'd left.
Unless, as I was beginning to suspect, he knew how to breach the layers of time.
The tavern across the way had dusty windows that rolled the light in funny ways. But inside the atmosphere was raucous and the inhabitants rowdy. Spirits of the liquid kind apparently dominated.
I'd been standing in the shadows for hours, my feet screaming in my soft boots and my lower back threatening to take me to my knees on the hard, filthy ground. My spies told me the leader had gone into that tavern. But, unless he was a woman, or ninety years old, he hadn't come out yet.
In my exhausted mind, the human had become spirit-like. Though I'd followed him for weeks, I'd not been able to cast eyes on him once. He'd always stayed just that far outside my reach. I sighed and leaned against the damp wall at my back. I was starting to think he was a figment of everyone's imagination.
I was seriously considering entering a wrinkle and going into the tavern after him when the door opened again and a man and a woman emerged from it.
The woman was small. Tiny really. She wore a long, light colored dress that skimmed her arms just below soft, white shoulders and dipped low into her cleavage... what there was of it. The man was tall and dark, with a wide-brimmed hat pulled low over his face.
His rough looking shirt stretched tautly around his massive forearms as he reached to tuck one of the woman's curls behind a pearly ear. Giggling sounds emerged from beneath a truly ridiculous hat, which featured tall feathers of some sort and a bunch of fruit shaped items at the side.
He leaned down and pulled the woman's glove encased hand to his lips. "Are you sure you aren't cold? The night is damp."
The woman shivered theatrically and I rolled my eyes.
Then she spoke, and the voice emerging from beneath the stupid hat brought my hand to my weapon. "I trust you can keep me warm. I have a yearning to stretch my legs and clear my lungs of dust. ‘Twas a long and tiring journey this eve."
Etta. Damn her to Hell. She'd gone in without talking to me first. I was gonna filet her wings and eat them for my evening meal.
Despite my resolve a sound of murderous rage flew from my throat and the man's head came up, the face unreadable in the shadow thrown by his hat. But I swore I could see his eyes shining from beneath the hat, the glint of lamplight flickering angrily there.
"Who is it? Show yourself." He reached for something behind his back.
I sighed, and stepped from the shadows. "Ian Lavelle?" I kept the shadows around me so that he wouldn't notice my strange clothing. I hadn't taken the time, as apparently Etta had, to clothe myself in period dress.
He cocked his head and the hand came out from behind his back. It held a long, deadly looking knife. I relaxed. A knife wouldn't kill me. It would hurt like hell. But it wouldn't kill me. "Who asks?"
Etta had turned to me and was making go away faces with a non-verbal emphasis that was very entertaining. I studiously ignored her.
"I am Nuria. I need to speak with you."
Finally Etta gave up on non-verbal communication and scoured me with her shrill tones instead. "The gentleman and I are busy, strumpet. Go away and let us be."
I kept my gaze fixed on the "gentleman." He stood tall and looked wary, but he held the knife comfortably against his thigh and watched me, seemingly relaxed. "What would we have to discuss? I don't know you." He took a step toward me, ignoring Etta's tiny hand on his forearm, and pulled the hat from his head. "Or do I? There is something very familiar about you."
I shrugged, trying for nonchalant as my body tightened against a wave of pure lust. He was beautiful. His face was golden brown, with a square jaw and almond shaped, dark brown eyes. His nose was long and narrow, with a slight bend in the middle that might have come from having been broken at some time. His mouth was twisted in a wry smile at the moment, but was wide, with full, sexy lips that begged to be nibbled. He strode toward me on legs that were long and densely muscled. His massive thighs strained tight, well worn pants, which he wore tucked into high, black boots. The boots were dusty and well-worn.
As if he'd traveled far.
He stopped in front of me and reached out, taking a strand of my waist-length, white gold hair between his fingers. "You don't exactly look like you belong here." He said the words without surprise, confirming for me that he was a transplant into the eighteen hundreds himself. His eyes slid down my body, taking in my soft, black sweater and skintight black leather pants. Where his eyes touched, my body hummed and warmed so that, by the time he'd assessed the soft leather of my boots, I felt as if it might be prudent to just pull him into the shadows with me and find out if he was as yummy beneath the rough clothing as he appeared from the outside.
Before I could push past my unrestrained lust and respond, the knife was at my throat and I was pressed tightly against him. I gasped, feeling the long, impossibly hard length of him pressed tightly against my chest, groin, and thighs.
He looked down into my face, mere inches away. His eyes were deep pools of emotion which I couldn't quite decipher at that moment, with his yummy self all pressed against me. "Who... or should I ask... what the hell are you and why have you followed me here?"
"Damn it, Nuria. I had it under control. Why did you have to interfere... as always?"
I glanced past Mr. Lavelle and looked at Etta, now standing just behind him with her arms crossed over her flat chest, her tiny monster face folded into a scowl.
"Hello?" I said to her. "Knife... throat... danger..."
She flicked a dismissive hand toward me. "Serves you right. Stupid Mon..."
"I demand you release me immediately, Mr. Lavelle." I interrupted Etta with a pointed look. "I assure you I wish you no harm. I just have a few questions for you."
He looked down at me, his soft lips parting slightly as if he were considering nibbling something. Something close at hand. Something that wouldn't at all mind being nibbled..." I shook my head, working hard not to be drawn into his irresistible web. Then he laughed softly, the sound rumbling through my chest and down to my special place.
I fought against a shiver of delight.
"Hurt me? Do you really think you could?"
I frowned. Now that just pissed me off. "I could definitely hurt you, Mr. Lavelle. In many ways."
He searched my face for a moment and the smile finally slid away. "Yes. I believe you could. In many ways." He released me finally and slid the knife back into the spot at the small of his back where he kept it. He turned to Etta. "So, I guess you two work together?"
I sighed and Etta scowled.
He looked from one to the other of us and nodded. "But you're not happy about it. Okay. So, what do you want from me, Monad?"
I jerked in surprise. Etta's pretty eyes widened in alarm.
I forced my face to blank out and looked at him. "What did you call me?"
He chuckled huskily, forcing me to squeeze my thighs together in self defense. "I recognize your electronic signature. You needn't bother denying it."
"Well, that answers my first question." I murmured.
He grinned. He had pretty, white teeth.
The better to eat you with my dear.
I smiled at the unbidden thought. The tavern door opened and two men stumbled out, leaning heavily against one another and singing drunkenly. I glanced at them and then back to Ian Lavelle. "Can we go somewhere else? I feel like a fish demon out of water here."
He grinned and shook his head. "I don't think so. He reached up and dropped his hat on his head and stepped away from us. Before I knew what he was doing he'd turned and was walking down the street. "G'night ladies."
Suddenly the night air sparked and wavered and he was just... gone.
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