Authors: Lorelei Moone
No way, that's just the hormones talking.
Heidi still couldn't believe that the first guy she ran into on her first stint in the outside world was going to be her mate. Fate was clearly playing a very cruel joke on her. She wanted to punch something - someone - and yet... She had to admit that he was rather handsome.
After lifting her bag onto the bed, she started unpacking the few belongings she had chosen to carry. All of it fit easily into the very impersonal steel filing cabinet in the corner - the only thing that could even be interpreted as storage in this room.
She hid her assortment of weapons underneath her clothes, and slammed the drawer shut with a loud crash that echoed off the bare walls.
There wasn't a sign of anything remotely nice in sight. The bed was made of tubular steel with the occasional patch of rust breaking through the lacquer. The filing cabinet would have been primer gray at one point, except the paint had started to flake off, revealing the bare metal underneath. The room had no carpeting, dirty walls that probably hadn't seen a fresh coat of paint in years, and a bare bulb where a lampshade should have been.
The flooring provided the only source of color: a sea-green type of slippery vinyl that reminded her of the old school in Rannoch.
What a dump.
And the downstairs wasn't any better either. Worn desks with computers that looked at least ten years old, and all of it dusty. Didn't anyone ever clean this place? And was it just Aidan and Jamie working for the Alliance in Edinburgh, anyway? Quite a depressing presence for such an important city.
Heidi rubbed her eyes, which had gotten a bit sore after the long trip, and tried to focus on her last exchange with her dad before leaving.
Do your job, follow orders, do us proud,
that's what he had said.
In the end, it's always us against them.
It made perfect sense when she was still home, and she had been reasonably confident she would do a decent job. Now, she wasn't so certain anymore. How was she going to focus on her job, when a coworker provided such a big distraction?
Heidi took the mobile phone out of her pocket and stared at it for a while, before finally dialing home.
"Hello?" Heidi's mom answered almost immediately. She must have been sitting by the phone, waiting for this call.
"Hi, Mom," Heidi responded.
"You made it? Did everything go okay? How was the trip?" So many questions, and Heidi didn't feel like answering them in much detail at all.
"Fine. I'm fine. I just wanted to let you know I'm here, before going out to dinner with the Alliance people."
"Oh, sure, darling. Well, take care of yourself, you're in the big city now."
After the emotional goodbye earlier today, this long distance exchange with her mother was difficult for Heidi. She struggled to keep it together, to answer concisely without letting the concern in her mom's voice tug at her emotions.
Between her confusing feelings for Aidan downstairs, the depressing room, and the uncertainty of whatever lay ahead, Heidi felt completely alone. This wasn't the beginning of an adventure as much as it felt like a banishment away from everything she knew.
"I will, Mom. I'll be fine," Heidi said, hanging up before one solitary tear escaped from the corner of her eye and rolled down her cheek.
This was hopeless. The longer she sat here on her own, the sorrier she would feel for herself and she did feel quite hungry... She dusted herself off, wiped her face with the back of her hand, and headed back downstairs. She could only hope Aidan hadn't left yet.
"So, this is the place," Aidan said triumphantly, pointing at the gilded sign outside the historic looking building. Its name, The Coach and Horses, was written across an old fashioned illustration of the same.
the best fish and chips in the city, though perhaps Aidan had just said that in an attempt to impress her, Heidi thought.
"Great," she responded, but her tone didn't quite match his excitement. She wasn't comfortable with the idea of sitting through dinner with the man, not because she didn't trust him, but because she couldn't trust herself.
"So where is - what do I call him? Mr. Abbott?" she asked, as they stepped through the wooden paneled door and into the cozy interior of the pub. It wasn't very busy inside, but Aidan opted to lead the way towards the back of the pub where there were even fewer people.
"Jamie. He... well, he keeps his own schedule. I should probably let him know you've arrived, though," Aidan said, while pulling out a chair for her at the nearest unoccupied table that caught his fancy.
"Sure." Heidi observed Aidan as he took out his phone and tapped out a quick message.
His movements, even while they were just walking the short distance between the office and the pub, seemed deliberate. Like he never did anything without a purpose. He gave the impression of a born predator with an iron focus. That's probably what struck Heidi the most about him, when she allowed herself to really watch the man. The wolves she grew up with, even those a generation before Heidi, were a lot more playful than Aidan seemed.
But his body language changed significantly when he was talking to her, like he wasn't being himself. They hadn't spoken about it yet, but she assumed that the strange pull she felt towards him was throwing him off balance as much as it did her. He was just a lot better at concealing that fact.
Heidi looked up to find a cheerful looking girl in a too tight white t-shirt and black apron featuring the pub's logo smiling down at her. "Ready to order?"
"Oh. Hi, Aidan, I didn't see you there," the girl added. She blushed and looked away at her notepad, while scratching the side of her face with the back of her pen.
"I'll have the usual, please," Aidan said, while putting his phone away again. His eyes glanced up at the waitress, but then almost instantly settled on Heidi.
"You said the fish and chips were good here, right? So I guess that's what I'll have. And a Coke, please," Heidi said. Coke was the first thing that popped into her head. A big change from the largely homemade offerings of Rannoch, plus Heidi didn't drink, never had.
"Two fish platters, a Guinness and a Coke, coming right up." As soon as she finished repeating the order, the girl made a quick escape, and they were on their own again.
All the tables around them were empty, and despite the ambient noise of conversations, and cheers for some football game on the TV nearer the entrance, they might as well have been completely alone.
"What brings you here, anyway?" Aidan made a first attempt at small talk.
"What is a girl like me doing in a place like this, you mean?" Heidi teased, and immediately regretted it. This wasn't how you handled a professional dinner with a new coworker, not at all.
"Something like that."
"I guess I want to make a difference," she said.
They stared at each other for just a moment too long, until Heidi caught herself and looked away. This really wasn't how she had imagined her first night in Edinburgh would go. She felt an urgent need to express how weird everything felt. So far away from everything she had known all her life.
She wondered if Aidan felt a similar conflict of emotions towards her.
Did he even feel their connection like she did? All the stories she'd heard growing up told of these bonds being mutual. Always.
On the other hand, the way the waitress had acted around them just now suggested that perhaps he was just a little bit of a player. Perhaps he couldn't feel it. She'd be damned if she was going to be the first to say something if that were the case.
"Fancy finding you here," a male voice interrupted her thoughts.
Heidi looked up to find another huge man towering over their table. He was almost as broad and equally athletic as Aidan. The two were roughly the same height.
"Jamie." Aidan's voice sounded cheerful enough, but Heidi could detect a hint of displeasure in him anyway. "Meet Heidi. Heidi, this is Jamie Abbott."
"Oh, right," Heidi mumbled, while getting up and offering her hand to her new boss. Their boss.
She felt her cheeks burn up a bit, as though she had been caught. In this light, neither of them would be able to see that, right?
Jamie took her hand, shaking it firmly. "Welcome to the team, Heidi. Sorry I couldn't be there earlier when you arrived. I had some things to attend to."
"No problem. Nice to meet you."
Jamie pulled up a chair and joined them. "Organizing a welcome dinner without inviting me, huh? I'm surprised, Aidan."
"I couldn't let her go to bed hungry on her first day, could I? Just trying to be civil," Aidan protested.
Their banter would have seemed light-hearted to the casual observer, but Heidi found herself having a little extra insight, at least into Aidan's feelings about the matter. He wasn't pleased at all that Jamie had turned up.
On the one hand, neither was Heidi, but on the other, she did feel a bit relieved. With him around, at least she'd be forced not to do anything stupid on her first night away from home.
Jamie ordered his dinner as well, along with a beer of some description, the name of which Heidi didn't recognize. The three of them chatted until the food arrived.
Apparently it wasn't just the two - now three - of them that were stationed in Edinburgh on Alliance business. There was another guy, their computer expert, Kyle, who was away visiting family. Heidi was the first female on the team. Quite the responsibility, she thought.
Throughout dinner, Heidi felt occasional glances and intermittent stares originating from Aidan's direction. Whenever Jamie asked her something, and Aidan was just observing, he kept observing her. It was unnerving, especially since she felt her body react involuntarily.
A persistent heat collected inside her lower abdomen, making her skittish and uneasy. She already knew Aidan could tell - that explained the dark stares - but could Jamie as well? Surely he'd be able to smell the change in her, if he paid just a little attention?
It was embarrassing to say the least but she couldn't control it. By the time dinner was done, and it was time for her to retreat to her room, she was relieved to get away from Aidan at least for the night.
How long until she could no longer control her urges? How long before
decided it was time to take action, even if she didn't?
After Aidan and Jamie had walked Heidi back to the office, leaving her there by herself with much difficulty, Aidan was much too restless to head home and go to bed himself. He said his goodbyes to Jamie, and instead he opted for a walk towards the center of town. The Alliance premises, which occupied one of the many downtrodden buildings near the harbor, was only a fifteen minute walk away from the city center.
The Alliance was on a budget, but that was only part of the reason why their office was in one of the less scenic areas of what was otherwise a very attractive city. Edinburgh attracted many tourists every year, and the Alliance was hell-bent on keeping a low profile. Luckily, these same tourists rarely ventured beyond the Castle, the Royal Mile and select other sightseeing hot spots in the area.
The diverse crowd made Edinburgh a nice place to stay for people - or bears - who enjoyed the company of others, but didn't like them to stick around long enough to ask awkward questions.
Aidan wandered the familiar streets heading towards the Old Town, passing by busy pubs and restaurants, many of which he'd visited previously. But he wasn't looking to join the bustling nightlife. He was after solitude - a chance to clear his head and think about all that had happened today. And of course, about Heidi.
Rather than turn onto the Royal Mile that led to Edinburgh Castle, he crossed the street and continued straight on towards Holyrood Park, a huge green patch right in the middle of the city that also contained Arthur's Seat, the distinctively shaped hill that could be seen from pretty much anywhere in Edinburgh.
Although it was a popular destination for tourists as well as anyone else looking for a bit of privacy like he was, it did get very quiet at night. It was the one place where Aidan occasionally allowed himself to shift, but only on dark, starless nights.