Authors: Brea Essex
by Brea Essex
Published by Astraea Press
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and events are fictitious in every regard. Any similarities to actual events and persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental. Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if any of these terms are used. Except for review purposes, the reproduction of this book in whole or part, electronically or mechanically, constitutes a copyright violation.
Copyright © 2012 BREA ESSEX
Cover Art Designed by For the Muse Designs
For my grandparents.
“Yet each man kills the thing he loves
By each let this be heard
Some do it with a bitter look
Some with a flattering word
The coward does it with a kiss
The brave man with a sword”
“I know well what I am fleeing from but not what I am in search of.”
~Michel de Montaigne
The light woke me before my alarm went off. I sat up and stretched, as did my black cat Nuada who always slept next to me. She turned around, plopped back on the bed and promptly went to sleep again. Climbing out of the covers, I headed to the window. I pulled back my curtains and smiled when I saw how lovely the weather was. Summer had passed, and school was in session again — I was officially a senior. Despite the cooling of weather, we still had a lot of sun.
The horrible dreams had stopped. Since I had returned from the Shadow Imperium, my nightmares had given way to my usual fantasies of Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom. So I love the
Pirates of the Caribbean
movies. Sue me, but let me just say I would give just about anything to be Keira Knightley in those movies. Hello, she got to kiss both of them! Just don’t tell Logan I said that.
That’s the other big thing that has changed since my return from the dimension of the devils: Logan and I are finally officially dating. After my disastrous attempt at a relationship with Andrei, I had told Logan I needed some time before we started going out. Andrei had turned out to be a devil. Literally — I’m talking black wings, creepy magic powers, and he lived in what can only be described as some version of Hell. Logan had traveled to the other dimension, called the Shadow Imperium, to rescue me. He’s an angel — yes, an actual angel — but according to the priest at the local Catholic church, Logan’s silvery-grey wings say that he’s something more. Apparently, angels usually have white or gold wings. We haven’t figured out what his wing color means yet.
Anyway, Logan battled Andrei in the home of the devils. Something happened when Logan touched him, and Andrei disappeared. We’re sure he’s not gone for good. We’re hoping, but we’re trying to prepare ourselves just in case Andrei comes back. Something tells us both he isn’t going to give up easily. He sure did seem persistent.
I sighed to myself and pulled my curtains closed. I shouldn’t be ruining a perfectly good day by dwelling on danger that may or may not be imminent. Besides, I needed to get ready. Logan would be picking me up soon. I grinned at the thought. Today would be our first real date. He wouldn’t tell me where we were going. His only instructions were to “dress up.” Looks like I was going to be figuring this one out on my own.
Flipping through my closet, I was thankful that my skin had grown back where my wrists had been rubbed raw by the shackles Andrei had thrown me in. The bruises were gone and my ankle had healed as well, so wearing heels wasn’t out of the question.
When I reached the emerald dress that I had worn on my date with Andrei, the one where he took me to Shadowbrook, my favorite restaurant, I froze. A wave of sadness and regret washed over me. I sincerely wished I hadn’t wasted my time or the dress on him. If only I had known he would turn out to be evil… if only I had known that I would end up with Logan, of all people. I sighed out loud. I should burn the dress; no matter if it was my favorite. It held too many bad memories.
I finally found a teal satin dress buried in the back of my closet. It reminded me a little of the teal satin pajamas Logan bought me when we were trying to hide from Andrei. Luckily, Logan returned to the hotel and packed our things, so I still had the pajamas.
That was when I remembered he had also bought me several dresses, which he brought to my house after my return from the Shadow Imperium. Maybe I should wear one of those. He purchased them just after he rescued me, telling me I deserved something nice after my long captivity. I knew it would make him happy to see me wearing one.
I laughed to myself as I recalled what he said while I was pulling the dresses out of their protective bags.
“I don’t have any sisters and my mom doesn’t care about fashion… and, well, I’m a guy… so I had one of the personal shoppers help me pick them out.”
I was secretly glad he had asked for assistance. He dressed well for a guy, but I can guarantee you that no teenage guy — even a supernatural one — knows the first thing about girls’ dresses. Don’t ask me how he knew my size. He must’ve looked at the labels from the things I ordered previously. Thanks to my foster mother, Genevra, force-feeding me — and yes, she made me eat meat — I had gained back the weight I lost while Andrei was holding me captive. The clothes should fit me perfectly.
I glanced at my bedside clock. I still had an hour or so before Logan would arrive. Plenty of time to try on all of the dresses and still get ready.
I reached for the first one. They all seemed to be from Logan’s favorite department store. The personal shopper had definitely chosen well. Finally I decided on an amethyst halter with an A-line skirt and a black lace overlay. I twirled experimentally, liking the way the skirt flared and settled. Staring at myself in the mirror, I loathed taking the dress off again, but I did have to shower and get ready.
Sighing, I removed the dress, hung it carefully, and slid the bag back over it. I put the other dresses I had considered on their respective hangers and returned them to my closet. Then I grabbed my robe and headed for the bathroom, which connected my room with my foster sister’s.
Tanis, my foster sister, was already in the bathroom when I opened the door, twisting her lengths of shining blonde hair into a messy bun at the nape of her neck. She faced me, one eyebrow raised. “So today’s the big ‘date day’, isn’t it?”
“Yeah.” I grinned at her. We had been getting along so much better since my kidnapping and subsequent rescue. Before, we’d occasionally been at odds, but my disappearance had worried her enough that she’d toned down her haughtiness and now acted at least semi-normal. She still didn’t know what had actually happened. No one did, save Logan and me… and, of course, Andrei. As far as everyone else was concerned, Andrei had held me captive in his house.
“Well, you deserve it after everything that’s happened with that psycho. I’m glad you’re finally with Logan,” Tanis told me.
“Thanks for not saying ‘I told you so’,” I said laughing. Tanis had been the first one to tell me I should date Logan instead of Andrei—even before things had gone wrong.
“I already know I was right. There’s no point in telling you. It would be redundant.”
“True! Now… can I get ready?” I asked.
Tanis laughed and walked out, shutting the door behind her.
The doorbell was ringing downstairs as I got out of the shower. Ignoring it, I pulled my robe on and started to slather on my moisturizer. It couldn't possibly be Logan already.
The bell kept ringing. Where was Genevra? I thought she was in the kitchen. Wandering downstairs, I threw the door open without looking out of the peephole to see who it was and found a rather surprised Logan on the porch.
He took one look at my robe and soaking wet hair and smirked at me. “I think it’s safe to assume you’re not ready yet.”
My face flamed. He was standing there looking perfect in black slacks, a grey button-up shirt, and a matching grey tie. The color reminded me of his wings, and I wished briefly he could go around with them visible. A bouquet of calla lilies and white heather was grasped in his left hand.
“No. Sorry. I thought you wouldn’t be here for another hour.” I stepped aside to let him in. “I meant to look a lot better than this when you arrived.”
He stooped to kiss me, tangling his free hand in my wet hair. “I think you look great,” he murmured. He pulled back and offered me the flowers. “These are for you.”
I took them out of his hand. “Thank you. Come with me to find a vase for them?”
As I was hunting through the kitchen cabinets for a vase — I couldn’t for the life of me remember where they were kept — Genevra appeared.
She took one look at me in my robe and started laughing. “Sorry! I didn’t hear the bell.”
Sometimes it seemed like she didn’t pay attention. “Where are the vases?” I asked.
She went straight for the china cabinet in the dining area. Pulling out two vases, she held them up. I pointed to one and she put the other away. “Of course you would choose the Waterford.”
“Sorry,” I mumbled.
“No need to be sorry. Maeve taught you well!” She moved to the sink to fill the crystal vase with water.
“Yeah, she did.” My mom had had a thing for anything designer. It rubbed off on me.
Genevra placed the vase on the counter, and I put the flowers in the water. “Why don’t you finish getting ready? I’m sure Logan can stand my company while he waits.”
He readily agreed and I headed back upstairs, leaving him in the kitchen chatting with Genevra.
I got ready as fast as I could. Normally, I’d take the time to straighten my hair, but I didn’t want to make Logan wait any longer than I had to. Using the diffuser attachment on my hair dryer, I soon had my hair in loose waves. I applied my makeup quickly and then went back into my room to get dressed. After I slipped the halter back on, I added accessories and put on some black heels. I grabbed a clutch from my purse drawer and started back downstairs.
Logan was right where I left him, sitting at the counter of the kitchen island, talking to Genevra. His lips split into a wide grin when he saw me. “You look fantastic,” he said.
“Thanks,” I replied.
“Is that one of the dresses I got you?”
“Yep. That personal stylist is good!”
“Actually, I picked that one out,” he admitted. “I thought the color would look good on you.”
“Well, then, you have good taste.”
“Not bad, considering my knowledge of women’s clothing is zero.” He glanced down at my high-heel-clad feet. “I seriously don’t know how you can walk in those.”
“I can’t. Well, not well anyway. I have to walk slowly.”
“You might want to change into flat shoes.”
“Oh.” I felt a little deflated. I had actually been feeling good about the way I looked for the first time in weeks. My unintended and unneeded weight loss, plus the bruises and welts from the shackles, had left me looking awful. We had spent a lot of time hanging out at my house, since I didn’t want to go out except for school. This was going to be my — well,
first venture into the “outside world” since our spur-of-the-moment trip to the Boardwalk. Even that hadn’t been for fun. It was just an attempt to throw Andrei off when he was following me. I wanted this day to be perfect, but now Logan was criticizing my shoes.
“I’m not sure the dress will look right with flats,” I finally said, acutely aware of the despondent note in my voice.
Logan must have caught my tone, because he gave me a worried look. “Don’t get me wrong. You look wonderful. It’s just that we might be doing a lot of walking and I want you to be comfortable.”
“Oh, okay.” I thought about my shoe situation for a moment. “Why don’t I wear the heels and bring a pair of flats just in case?”
He looked relieved that I wasn’t going to make a huge fuss. “Sounds good.”
As I was carefully walking back up the stairs, holding onto the handrail to balance myself, I overheard Genevra’s low tone. “Raena’s emotions have always been a little volatile, but she’s been even more touchy since her disappearance.”
Thankfully Logan didn’t respond, but Genevra’s comment cut me deeply. I hadn’t noticed how emotionally unstable I had been since my return. I wish she had said something to me about it, rather than whispering behind my back to my new boyfriend. Still, she was right. Maybe I should try to act a little more cheerful in the future.
Hunting through my shoe organizer, I grabbed a pair of flats from my closet. I didn’t feel like switching to a bigger purse so I could carry them with me, but I figured I could leave them in the car.
When I returned downstairs, Logan was standing in the foyer. “I hate to do this Raena, but I need to postpone.”
I stared at him, completely taken aback. “What do you mean, you need to postpone? You just got here.”
“My mom just called. She needs me at home.”
“Didn’t you just come from home?”
“She didn’t figure this out until after you left? Didn’t she know we had plans today?” My voice began to rise. I remembered my determination of just a few minutes ago to be more cheerful, but at the moment I didn’t care.
“Yes, she knew we had plans, but she didn’t know what time. She thought we were going out later. I left without telling her.” He came close and pulled me against him, whispering against my hair. “I’m
sorry, Raena. Please believe me.”
I drew back from him. “I believe you. But I don’t like it.”
He looked pained. “Neither do I. I’ll come back as soon as I’m done with whatever she needs me for. That is, if I’m still welcome.”
“Of course you’re still welcome! I don’t mean to overreact. I’m just disappointed.”
“Me too. I promise we will do something later, and we will reschedule our big plans for tomorrow, or maybe next weekend at the latest. Okay?”
“All right,” I replied dejectedly. I opened the door for him. He hesitated for a moment but said nothing more. I stood in the doorway and watched as he jogged down the walk to his car, got in, and drove away.