Authors: J. Lilley
“What about your mum’s history, her heritage?”
He heard Leira’s indrawn breath. He knew it was rude of him, but he needed to know how much Rach knew. He didn’t have a clue what he would say if she asked him
he wanted to know.
Rach didn’t seem bothered by the question. “No idea,” she said with a grin. “My grandparents are dead. I sort of get the idea from dad that mum didn’t get on with them too much, I don’t know why. I can’t really remember seeing them about either, they just weren’t around. Dad’s parents were though, they’re smashing; they did loads with me and took me all over. Anyway, mum didn’t have any brothers or sisters, well not that I know of; so, there’s just me, dad, his brother and his wife, and their two gorgeous babies. Oh, and Gran and Papa of course, dad’s mum and dad; but they’re in Australia now; so really, just me and dad.”
Rach’s explanation helped Brios understand how it was possible that she didn’t seem to know much about Shalea; however, it didn’t help him figure out what to say to her about it. He smiled when he would have preferred to roar his frustration out loud. Brios could foresee that the situation might get very tricky if he continued to react to Rach the way he was and she remained none the wiser about her heritage. Luckily, the bell for afternoon school rang giving him a chance to walk away before he really put his foot in it and asked her what she knew about Shalea.
After a brief ‘see you later’ and a look at Leira to make sure it would happen, he left them; thanking their Gods for that chance encounter.
Normally, Geography guaranteed to engage his attention; but, today it seemed boring and bland. Gym, where he usually shone, couldn’t hold his interest. He even found himself staring in the big mirror behind the wall ladders wondering what Rach thought when she looked at him. Tall, with short dark hair that had a bit of a curl if he let it grow long enough; good abs; and a decent tan. He figured he was fit enough, but definitely no Robert Pattinson or Zac Efron.
‘Brother mine, tut tut. You told me we’re not allowed to sense in school, and I can almost sense that without being Shalean. Yup, you’re right, definitely no Robert Pattinson or Zac Efron; Barney Rubble maybe?’
Sometimes having an ultra smart kid sister was such a pain; like now, for instance.
‘Ha, ha, not! You, sis, are too sharp. Watch out you don’t cut yourself!’
He nearly slipped off the ladder when someone else’s—Rach’s?—thought popped into his mind. If it was Rach, she was wondering what he looked like in boardies.
He liked the sound of that thought, although he was startled to pick it up because he had trained himself not to send or receive during school hours. Although when he thought about it, hadn’t he been doing that all day? Another sign something unusual was happening.
‘Believe me you wouldn’t—look good that is.’ He could feel Leira’s giggle.
‘How many times have I told you, no projecting at school; especially picking up on someone else’s thoughts. That’s just rude.’
‘Well for our Gods sakes Bri, don’t let me then.’
‘I won’t tell.’ It seemed Andy had picked up the thought as well. ‘I try not to think of Sam McIlwain like that … in boardies I mean.’
Definitely Andy, and judging by Leira’s silence Andy had been projecting just to him, or no doubt she would have come back with some smart-arse answer.
Determined, Brios turned back to the asymmetric bars and began practicing. Never had he been so keen for an afternoon to end and the bell to ring. Every fiber of his being was focused on Rach.
As he left the school building at four her saw her standing next to Leira by the car park entrance, her bright red hair glinting in the sunlight. He sensed she was really aware of its color and didn’t much like it. It did clash somewhat with those awful sweatshirts the girls wore, but still, he thought it was beautiful.
Like a flaming halo
He hoped no one picked up that thought.
How flipping fanciful
Still, he’d bet his new iPad that color would be in her coat somewhere when she shifted; if she ever shifted. He’d never met anyone so unaware of what—or who—she was, as Rach. He wondered why. He couldn’t imagine not knowing about his heritage. To his mind it was criminal not to be given the chance to discover every bit of your person.
‘She really hasn’t got a clue.’
Leira could obviously sense his preoccupation.
His heart lept when he saw Rach. He supposed he should be much too young to feel these things so strongly, but he did. It wasn’t just rampant teenage hormones causing him to fancy just anyone female; this felt different. Well, it might partly be hormones, but it was also much more than that. If it
the Shalean side of him reacting to her it was happening when Rach was still really too young and it must be really powerful. He knew that was related to his role in the Sept. There were some perks in accepting the honor of being the next Patriarch; not just a lot to learn and absorb.
‘Thank you Leira,’ he sent to his sister, ‘for finding her, befriending her, and making her feel welcome.’
He could tell without even sensing, or looking that Leira was full of news. She might only be fifteen, but her sense of justice and her understanding of Shalea were as developed as a twenty-year old, perhaps more. She was gesturing wildly; her face red, her hair on end.
“Our Gods and Us,” he gave the Shalean greeting automatically. Rach’s eyes opened wide as his sister responded likewise. It seemed as if she had never even heard the greeting. “What’s up Lei?”
“Donald Farriday—among other things.” She was almost spitting tacks at him as she spoke. “A bully and a beast.”
“Well, I get the beast bit, but not the bully.” He glanced at Rach, who seemed to be holding back a grin.
“You wouldn’t.” Leira was definitely unhappy and still moaning about Donny. “He never bullies you.”
“Donny and I’ve been friends since we were tiny,” he explained. “Evidently, I shoved a holly leaf up his nose, so he fed me a mouth of muck. We were about two I think.”
“And they’ve stuck up for each other ever since.” Leira’s tone showed what she thought of that.
Donny had told him seven or eight years ago that he’d mate and live forever with Leira. He was obviously now starting to stake his claim; especially since Struan had started to be a nuisance recently.
Brios told himself,
that’s not fair. Struan’s a normal teenage boy. He just doesn’t have the responsibilities Donny and I have.
The problem was Brios didn’t really believe that. There was something not quite right about Struan’s attitude—he oozed animosity. That was the only way to describe it. He was going to have to keep an eye on Struan. He hadn’t liked the way he’d looked at Rach, and he knew Struan resented him for who he was and what he’d become one day.
He looked at Rach, who was now smiling faintly. “Donny doesn’t bully you Leira, he looks out for you. He fancies you,” Rach said with quiet certainty, her face red.
Brios nodded his agreement; he was glad that Rach thought as he did. Leira looked at them both in turn.
“Donny? Nah, you two are perfect for each other; you’re both mad. No way does he fancy me; and anyway he’s a nerd—a twit—a moronic male.”
Brios’s eyes narrowed in warning and she blushed. Luckily, Rach either didn’t understand Leira’s meaning about them being perfect for each other, or she chose to ignore it. He deliberately didn’t look to see which it was; in case he didn’t like the answer. He decided for now it was better to be ignorant. Rach was looking around the car park, a worried expression on her face.
“What’s wrong?” He had to ask, he hated seeing her so uptight. He was tempted to use his sensing after all. It was too late now though, Rach was answering him; well, sort of.
Rach sighed. “My dad was supposed to be here when I came out. He had to go to Glasgow, but said he’d be back by now. I’m not getting the bus to and from school until tomorrow.”
“Rach lives near us,” Leira informed him, a meaningful look on her face. “We can give her a lift, can’t we? Brios drove us in today.” She looked at Rach as she spoke.
To Brios’s amazement, Rach blushed even redder than when she’d given her opinion about Donny. He bet with that pale skin and red hair she’d blush really easily and hate it. He took a quick peek.
‘Oh help. Why do I have to go beetroot? It is so juvenile.’
Just as he thought, Rach hated it.
“Of course we can give you a ride home, but you’ll need to let your dad know. Can you contact him?” He hated the worried expression he could see in her eyes. He couldn’t understand why she didn’t use her gifts and sense to find out what was happening to her dad. Suddenly a thought struck him.
Perhaps she doesn’t even know she can project?
“His phone just keeps going to voicemail. I’ve tried loads.” She looked upset.
Brios was puzzled;
obviously, her dad does not know about her ability?
This was getting stranger all the time.
Leira opened her mouth to speak. Brios glared at her, and she shut it again.
“There are lots of places around here where you can’t get reception,” he explained, “especially on the way from Glasgow. We’ll wait with you, either until he gets here or he contacts you.” Brios held out his hand to her, wondering what would happen when they touched.
Rach smiled and it was as if the sun had come out. She took his hand, and then flinched and let go.
So, she feels the zing as well then
An electric tingle had gone right through him when they’d touched. There was a definite connection between them. Brios blanked out his emotion and took her hand back. This connection suggested things he dared not hope for.
“Static electricity,” he offered as an explanation, and he glared at his sister daring her to disagree. Leira shrugged. He could tell she was dying to talk, but as her elder and potential Patriarch she knew on occasions such as this his word was law. For now, his immediate concern was Rach.
Suddenly, there was a metallic rendition of ‘Human’ by The Killers, and as Rach held up her phone she smiled at him. Her choice of ringtone made him grin.
“It’s my dad,” she said unnecessarily. He nodded; he’d known who it was as soon as she had.
“Tell him we can take you home to save him from detouring.” She nodded back before answering the call.
“Hi Dad, are you okay? Right; yup, I was worried. No, no problem; one of the girls I met today—her brother will bring me home if you want … No … Okay …” She laughed. “Yup, I know … Nope, I’m not rolling my eyes—well not yet anyway. Honestly. I will if you want though … Funny dad, very funny … Yeah, love you too … Right, see you in ten.” She closed the phone. “Dad say’s thanks, but he’ll pick me up ‘cause, no offense—he doesn’t know you.” She looked at him. She seemed to be worried he’d get angry. He held his leopard under tight control; made sure his claws were sheathed.
“He’s right, I’m an unknown; but, I am trustworthy, Rach. I know this, and Leira knows this; and soon you’ll know too, and so will your dad. We’ll wait with you and I’ll introduce myself.” He didn’t need to use his senses to see she was pleased about that, or that her dad wouldn’t be.
It would be a problem if her dad didn’t like him. He’d been calling to the Gods for a connection like this for ages, and there was no way he was going to lose it now.
Andy and Alison wandered past hand in hand.
“Rugby practice cancelled,” Andy offered by way of an explanation. “We’re going for, er, coffee.” Alison blushed and dug him in the ribs. Andy grunted. “Hey! No need for that.”
‘Another asshole; it’s stupid to pretend he’s something he isn’t. We know he doesn’t even like girls in that way; why not just come out and be open about it? It’s not like any of us are bothered about him being gay.’
‘Leira!’ Trust his sister. ‘How do you know that?’
He saw her shrug mentally.
‘Ali told me; they’re really just friends, Andy’s gay, but scared to admit it. Actually, now I come to think of it, maybe he’s not being an asshole, but being sensible. Heck Bri, none of us—you know, his friends—care; but gay, Shalean, and plays rugby? Think what someone like that snake Struan would make of it; he’d have a field day—let alone some of those old council members. Hell, I bet some of them still think gay only means happy.’
She had a point there; something else for him to think about.
Ten minutes later, he was in his neat, but old, Polo and following the top of the range Mercedes driven by Rach’s dad. Brios had introduced himself and Leira, and reiterated the fact that they lived close by, essentially offering themselves up for inspection. Mr. Connor had been very non-committal, though his eyes had tightened when Brios had mentioned their surname; and then he’d said tersely, “Thank you for staying with my daughter.” Brios thought his voice conveyed anything but thanks. He’d almost looked into him, but stopped himself at the last minute. This friendship was going to be too important to jeopardize by checking up on her dad’s thoughts. For now at least, he amended.