CARNAL, The Beast Who Loved Me (10 page)

BOOK: CARNAL, The Beast Who Loved Me
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“That’s right.”

“Well,
you
didn’t agree to that?”

Free’s brows came together for an instant before his eyes cleared. And slowly, very slowly, he formed a ghost of a smile. “I didn’t agree to that. I only agreed to protect the human population from the Rautt. How I do it was not part of the deal.”

“Exactly.”

“I suppose you have a suggestion to go with your insight.”

“I do.

“The Rautt killed the humans who had technological knowhow. Probably the military strategists as well. But a lot of those people had already passed on gene pool proclivities. I’m going to bet there are some alive, right now, who could meet the challenge of designing weapons that would bring an end to this.”

“What would stop those humans from also designing the means to imprison us?”

Rosie raised her chin. “You’ve been here twenty-five years.” Free nodded. “You made friends with any of the humans in Farsitsit?”

“Farsuitwail. I don’t know that I would call them friends, but there are people I deal with regularly.”

“Okay. Those people see you as people. Not animals.”

“You’re suggesting it’s possible to make weapons that could simply wipe out the Rautt and solve all our problems?”

“Weapons exist elsewhere that could do that. Yes. There’s no such thing as life without problems, based on what I’ve seen so far. But people do manage to live in peace. Sometimes for long periods of time.”

Free took in a big sigh. “I have another son.”

“I know. Crave.”

Free’s eyes jerked up to hers. “Yes. Crave. I don’t know for sure if he’s alive, but I can’t…”

“One step at a time. What do the humans have going on in the way of education?”

He cocked his head. “I don’t know, but I can find out.”

“Good. Kellareal is a close, um, family friend. But I don’t agree with what he’s done here. This isn’t freedom. It’s just another kind of servitude. And twenty-five years is quite enough to repay
any
debt.”

Rosie went back to work feeling a small consolation knowing she’d planted the seed of an idea that might eventually stop the cycle of Exiled sacrificing their children to monsters. She didn’t know what Kellareal had been thinking when he set this up, but she didn’t like it.

She went through the motions of performing her tasks. Dandy tried to be pleasant. That is to say, pleasant for Dandy, but Rosie was too traumatized by the scene she’d witnessed to care. Her mind was busy thinking of ways to wipe out the Rautt without using her abilities as witch or demon or both.

The next morning she woke from a bad dream and rose before it was light. She thought she’d go down to the kitchen for water, then try to go back to sleep, but part way down the stairs she realized there was quiet conversation in the back of the house. Focusing her attention, she could hear bits and pieces. Enough to know that Free was talking to Serene about his conversation with Rosie the day before. She wanted to eavesdrop, but she’d been born with her parents’ memories intact, including her father’s ardent sense of right and wrong.

That voice in her head said to turn around and go back to her room. Quietly. So she did, where she lay in bed wondering, for the thousandth time, if she shouldn’t just go home. Nothing was keeping her there. She didn’t need Kellareal for transportation or permission or to help her find the way. She’d just been letting life take her along like a leaf floating on a river. Every day she’d made the decision, consciously or unconsciously, to give it one more day.

Maybe she wanted to see what would come of Free’s and Serene’s discussion. Maybe it was the beginning of the end of their quarter century of bondage to a misbegotten deal. If she’d played a small part in that, she’d feel good about it. She decided to wait a little longer and see.

When she woke again later, a stream of light was coming through the shutters on her window like a vestige of hope and she found she was feeling a little more like herself.

That day she was more open to Dandy’s attempts to engage her. She even managed a laugh when one of Charming’s friends spilled a glass of cider on his own crotch. His friends were merciless, including Charming.

“Cub. You didn’t really shit yourself! The john’s just over there.”

“Wait till the sun hits the leather! Ouch!”

“You’re gonna be begging for mercy in a really high voice.”

The kid turned a bright red, not appreciating the laughter at his expense, even if it was all in good fun. Rosie approached the table, sending a rippling wave of magic-laced intention ahead of her.

“What’s so funny?” she asked.

Charming and his two cohorts turned and pointed at Cub, whose pants were perfectly dry.

“He spilled cider…”

Rosie looked at them like they were crazy. “The glass of cider is full.”

They looked at the glass and, seeing that it was full, regarded it like it was a snake about to strike. Cub, on the other hand, looked at her like she’d hung the moon. He was just as confused as the others, but he didn’t miss the fact that his reversal of fortune coincided with Rosie’s arrival.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER FIVE

 

Carnal hadn’t slept in his parents’ house in so long he couldn’t remember exactly when the last time had been, but he still thought of it as ‘home’. The incident with Blaze had left him with such a profound sense of loss and guilt that, for the first time in memory, he felt like he had no discernible direction. The status quo with the Rautt seemed pointless, in addition to being fruitless.

They had his brother, dead or alive. What they’d done to his best friend was shocking even for Rautt. For days after it happened he fought vomiting every time he thought about it, but there was another memory that had slid in behind the horror and paired itself with the recollection. The girl behind the bar.

She’d looked at him in a way… well, it had seemed to him that she understood everything he was feeling. It was all there, in her eyes. Her very green eyes. He got the feeling that she not only saw what he was feeling, but felt some of it herself. He knew it could have been his imagination. After all, he was out of his mind with grief at the time, but he didn’t think so.

He pushed the ale away and stood, having decided it was time to grow the fuck up and face the fact that drinking wasn’t going to make the pain go away. It just made good sense go away. It was time to get the hell out of Humantown, connect with his family, and face life without Blaze.

That newfound wisdom was bolstered by his curiosity about why that human girl had been behind the bar in the Commons. It had also been growing, nagging at him, and overriding the power of his usual distractions to distract. Humans were rarely invited to the Exiled settlement, and employing one of them was simply out of the question.

 

Carnal arrived in the dead of night, but at least it could be said that it was deliberate, since he was sober for the first time since Blaze’s death. He closed the door slowly enough that even Exiled ears wouldn’t be disturbed in sleep, climbed the stairs with the same stealth, and closed the door to his room.

It was a dark night, no moonlight coming through the shutters to make out where his bed was, but it didn’t matter. He knew his own room well enough to find the bed in the dark.

He pulled his boots off and set them on the floor one at a time, let the leather vest fall from his arms, and pulled the Henley over his head. That left him in heavy cotton pants comfortable enough for sleeping. So he pulled the covers back and crawled in. When his body came in contact with what could only be another person, he said, “What the…?” and pulled back, but not fast enough.

He didn’t remember exactly how he’d managed to fly across the room and hit the far wall, but once he slid to the floor, he jackknifed to his feet, ready to face the attacker, who seemed to be a woman.

“Who is that?” she demanded. “What are you doing in here?”

Carnal could hear footsteps from upstairs.
Charming.
And from downstairs.
Free and Serene.
Within seconds the room was full of people. Charming found the matches by the lamp and lit it.

Carnal looked at Rosie, who was wearing a white shimmery nightie that left little to the imagination, along with a confounded mix of interest and confusion.

“Brother,” Charming said simply, “welcome home.”

Carnal stared at Charming for a couple of beats before turning his attention to Free and Serene. “What is this human doing in my room?”

It sounded like an accusation. Hearing that tone, Free’s jaw tightened. He didn’t like the entitlement he heard in his son’s tone. “Not like you were using it.”

Quickly interjecting in hopes of keeping things from escalating, Serene said, “She’s a friend of Kellareal’s. He asked your father for a favor.”

Carnal looked back at Rosie, who thought it best to sit on the bed, pull the covers over her lap, and keep quiet while the family hashed things out. But while that was taking place, her eyes were wandering over Carnal’s upper body, which was tan and defined in a way seldom achieved by human males. He was a living, breathing work of art. She remembered what she’d overheard Charming say about Carnal ‘fucking his way through Farsuitwail’. She had no doubt that he’d had plenty of opportunity to do exactly that, between the divine body and the cocky attitude that exuded male confidence.

The next time he looked her way, she gave him a fine impression of her Auntie Elora’s little wave and said, “Hi. I’m Rosie.”

He cocked his head to the side as if considering that while his eyes fell to her breasts. “Yeah. I see that.”

“She’s not for you,” Charming said in a way that caused Free and Serene to exchange a worried glance with each other.

Carnal turned to his brother with a little smile. “No? I think she’s old enough to decide for herself,” he taunted. Charming took a foolish step forward, but Free put out his arm and stopped his youngest son’s progress before it became a middle-of-the-night sibling scuffle.

Carnal laughed at that, then turned toward Rosie. “So. What do you say, human? The bed’s big enough for both of us.”

Rosie started to get up. “I’ll sleep downstairs on the couch-thing.”

Serene stopped Rosie and pulled the covers back over her. “No, you will not. Carnal will sleep in, um, his other brother’s room.”

“Crave’s room?” Charming looked and sounded astonished.

Even Carnal, who seemed to Rosie like the sort who’d be hard to surprise, looked stunned at that.

“Yes, Carnal,” his mother said. “Go get some sleep. We’ll talk about this tomorrow.”

For the first time, Carnal looked at the decidedly girlie surroundings. “What in crapnation have you done to my room?!?”

“Carnal!” Serene took on a no-nonsense mother voice that was deeper and almost boomed. “Go to bed.”

He looked at his mother. “I’ve been defending Shit City for seven years. I’m not a child, Serene.”

“Then don’t act like one. Go to bed. We’ll talk tomorrow and you
will
be respectful to our guest.”

Carnal looked back at Rosie. “With all due respect.” He could not possibly have said that with more sarcasm. He picked up his stuff and, on the way out, with arms full of boots and discarded clothing, bent and gave his mother a kiss on the cheek.

She smiled. He chuckled. They all filed out closing the door and Rosie was left alone in the ‘crapnation’ room that belonged to the eldest son. She turned off the lamp and replayed the event in her mind again and again while sleep evaded her. One thing was certain. There was something about Carnal, something besides the obvious.

 

Rosie woke at the usual time, got ready for work and, as usual, found that everyone else had gone by the time she made her way downstairs. Serene had left something for her in the warming oven. When Rosie took it, she made a mental note to thank Serene for looking after her in that way. It was a kindness beyond mere hospitality.

BOOK: CARNAL, The Beast Who Loved Me
6.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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