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Authors: April Zyon

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“She said she was done with the
painting, so we could just bring them back here. I think having them off the
island would be a good thing, that way they don’t have such a smallish place to
bump shoulders. Would he be okay, tracking on his own? He wouldn’t be hurt,
would he?”

“If he finds anything, he’ll
call for backup. It’s standard procedure.” Jason pulled the door shut behind
them and started walking toward the elevator but didn’t let her go, his arm
holding her close to his side. “It’ll take him a while to track down these
things, but he’ll have no issue doing it during daylight. They tend not to come
out in the day unless it’s necessary. Usually to try to kill one of us, and
then only in large groups. Unless they call in backup themselves, he’ll be
good. He’ll also be careful. He knows better than most what can happen to a
guardian when one of these things gets their mitts on us.”

There was a story there, Vivian
was sure. “What do you mean, he knows better than most?”

Pressing the down button for the
elevator, Jason made a face. “It was just after he was—well, for lack of a
better term—resurrected. He was in the field with two other guardians, training
with them, when they were attacked. The monsters stumbled on them. Best
description he could give. He said that they all just sort of stared at one
another, so the monsters definitely didn’t expect to find guardians there.

“Then it all hit the fan. The
monsters attacked, and the guardians defended, but one of the monsters got in a
lucky hit and put a guardian on the ground. They know as we do that there’s
only two ways to kill us—take our heads or destroy the medallion. Well, they shattered
the guardian’s medallion, and he exploded, for all intents and purposes. He was
about a thousand or so years old. Which means in real time his body was already
ashes. So, when the medallion crumbled, his body caught up to real time, and
poof
, nothing but ash.

“It scared James, bad. He and
the other guardian managed to kill off the other monsters as they were gloating
and get back to the Mountain. But he was shaken up for a month.”

“Oh God, that’s terrible.”
Vivian couldn’t wrap her mind around what Jason was saying. “That
would
be something that would stick with
you. To watch someone just explode,” she said, putting her hand over his heart.
He kissed her, then tugged her into the elevator that had finally arrived.
There were others inside, so they stayed quiet for most of the ride down to the
lobby, but not once did he let her go.

Vivian simply held on to Jason.
This was where she felt the most comfortable—in his arms. “I hope that Fia
feeds him.” Complete topic change, she knew, but when her stomach growled, her
thoughts shifted to James, who might be hungry. “She wouldn’t let him starve,
but she might make him apologize.”

“What I don’t get is why she’s
so upset that he invited someone over. Not saying it’s right, in any way at
all, especially since it’s not his house. The fact he did it in front of her,
though, likely means she said something to irritate him, and he did it to get
even. Which brings me back around to why she’s so upset about something like
that.”

He walked her off the elevator
and to a quiet corner of the lobby, relatively speaking. Vivian chewed her
lower lip for a moment, then sighed. “You know my father wasn’t a good man? At
all. As he would beat Fia, he would say that it was only because he couldn’t
get to me. Said that she was the poor substitute, and if she didn’t look so
much like our mother, he would just outright kill her.”

She knew she was explaining it
all wrong and rubbed her temples. “When we were teens, there was a boy who was
my age. I didn’t care for him, but Fia thought that he was just the next best
thing to sliced bread. He asked her out and then when he came to our home, he
locked himself in my bedroom. He told her that she was just a poor imitation,
second best.” She sighed. “Anyway, she wears her heart on her sleeve, and she
gets hurt easily because of it. She’s one of those people that what you see is
what you get, literally. She doesn’t hold anything back, and she lives in the
moment. What he calls ‘flitting around’ is simply her
living
. Trust me, after the crap we’ve been through, she has every
right in the world to flit about, if she so pleases.”

“Hey, sweetheart, I’m not
judging your sister, or you, for that matter. No one has the perfect life. It’s
what helps to shape us into the adults we’re meant to be. You both survived it,
that’s what’s truly important in the grand scheme of things. I’m not going to
make excuses, or come up with
what ifs
for
James. It’s not my place. I trust him with my life, and yours, so I know that
if he did wrong, he’ll make it right.

“There’s nothing we can do from
here, so try not to worry about it. As soon as he can, he’ll update us and
hopefully it’ll all be all right, at least for tonight.”

“We can hope so.” Vivian looked
up at Jason and smiled. “If you say that he won’t hurt her, then I trust you. I
also like James. Granted, I didn’t know him but for a moment, but I like to
think I’m a decent judge of character.”

“He’s a good man, but he’s
temperamental on the best of days. Though I have a feeling she matches him well
there. It’ll be fine. He won’t let her go out alone. He’ll protect her, and if
he can manage it, he’ll even talk her back into the house and calm her.”

“I hope so.” She sighed. “But
like you said, there’s nothing we can do about it, so I’m not going to worry
about it. I’m not going to worry about her, and I’m not going to worry about
him. I’m going to spend this night focusing on us.”

Jason lifted a hand and touched
her cheek. “Tonight is ours, however we came about getting it. Let’s have our
meal, gather up everything we’ll need, and then we’ll go to your house. I
really want to see it. You can learn so much about a person by being in the
space they call their own.”

“I can’t wait to have you there.
At least now I know why I bought a king-sized bed when I moved.” Vivian grinned.
“Fia has one, too. She’s got all kinds of strange things in her room.” They
shared a place, both preferring it that way. Neither wanted to be alone. “What
about later?” she wanted to know. “What happens next? You obviously have a home
somewhere.”

He stilled and blinked. His eyes
slowly went wide before he made a face. “Shit,” he muttered. Rubbing a hand
over his head, he sighed. “I hadn’t thought that far ahead. I should have, I
usually do, but shit. This time, I didn’t. I’m sorry, sweetheart. I guess it’s
something we definitely need to talk about, because I won’t be able to stay
here, and it’s not secure enough to leave you or Sophia behind.”

“Well, crap.” Vivian took a deep
breath and nodded. “Okay. Then we’ll come with you.” She didn’t have anything
to tie her here. She was a reporter for a newspaper that refused to do online
publications, so she knew that her time there was limited as it was. And she
knew that Fia would be ready to go at a moment’s notice. Her sister was liquid
like that. “Don’t stress, Jason. I promise that it’s totally going to be fine.”

“Gods, I’m sorry, Vivian. I
didn’t even think about the fact we’d have to go back to the Mountain after
this.” He pulled her in for a tight hug. “I hate the fact I’m going to uproot
you from all you’ve built here.”

Vivian simply hugged him back.
“Don’t worry about it. The only person that means anything to me here is my
sister, and she’ll have to come with us, so I don’t care. All that matters are
those that I love. Things are replaceable, but you aren’t, Fia’s not, and James
isn’t, so don’t worry. It’ll be all good. Promise,” she assured him.

“You say that now, but I have a
feeling Sophia will be a bit trickier than you, unless James manages to make
nice by tomorrow.” Holding her to his side, he started them across the lobby to
the restaurant.

“Well, let’s hope that he did,
but even so.” She shrugged. “Sophia will still come with us. She has this odd
idea that there’s someone out there waiting for her to come along. I can’t
remember what she called him now, but she swears that he’s been waiting for her
for a very long time. Before, I just figured it was her being fanciful or
whatever.” She looked at him and grinned. “Now, however, I have a whole new
respect for just how long you could have waited for someone to walk into your
life.”

“Sometimes you never find that
person. Sometimes it takes a good long while, and then there are times when you
find them early. I found you, that’s all that matters to me. Yes, it took a
long time, but the wait was well worth it. You’re so much more than I could
have ever hoped or dreamed up, Vivian.”

“Good, because you’re stuck with
me from now until forever.”

Stopping at the hostess stand,
he requested a table for two in a corner. Once they were seated, he took her
hand in his and squeezed. “Even if we had the rest of time together, it
wouldn’t be enough, Vivian. Nothing will ever be enough for me to enjoy all the
moments we’ll have. But I will have to settle for whatever time we are blessed
to share.”

“I plan on using every single
moment we have together to enjoy each other, often.” She looked him up and
down, and that fast she became hot and needy. “Okay, right. Food.” Otherwise
they would end up back in his room.

“Yes, then to your house to get
naked,” he reminded with a wink. Leaning in, he pressed a kiss to her lips. He
groaned when a throat cleared by their table. Drawing away, he turned a glower
on the waiter standing there with a smirk on his face.

“Would you like some drinks this
evening?” the young man asked. “Perhaps something with a little extra ice?”

Viv looked up and paused before
saying, “Water, no lemon, and lots of ice.”
What are the odds?
She
looked to Jason and put her hand on his thigh, giving it a squeeze when he
began to growl.
Crap
.

“A pint of ale,” Jason said,
dangerously.

“Pale, golden, or dark?” the
waiter asked, his smirk growing.

“Guinness,” Jason told him, his
eyes narrowing.

“Would you like any appetizers?”

There was definitely a twitch
developing near Jason’s left eye. “No.”

“Well, then, I’ll get your
drinks and be right back. Maybe you should peruse the menu while I’m gone, so
that you don’t waste any time getting to what you’d rather be doing.”

The waiter left just as Jason’s
thigh bunched in preparation under her hand. Had he not, she was sure Jason
would have been on his feet and in the man’s face. The words that came out of
Jason needed no translation—they were definitely not complimentary, even if she
didn’t understand the language.

“Jase.” Vivian put her hand on
his cheek. “Hey,” she whispered to him. “I love you. No one else but you. I
need you in my life. Period. He’s just an ass. Remember me telling you about
the guy who dated Sophia when we were kids?” She looked toward the man in
question. “Guess who’s waiting tables? He’s a complete ass and will do anything
and everything to push every button that you have. But you can’t let him, okay?
He doesn’t deserve to have any moment of our happiness.”

He let out a slow breath.
“You’re right. I know you’re right. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to tolerate
him speaking like that to you. I couldn’t care less what anyone says to, or
about, me. But when someone says something like that to you, there will be hell
to pay.”

“We’ll just get through our meal
and go from there, okay? We’ll eat quickly. If we have to, we’ll pick up food
for later or something.” She grinned. “Because I’m afraid with Sophia being
gone, the really good food is out. Unless she has some frozen stuff for us.”

“We’ll see,” he said. Sighing,
he handed her a menu. “Choose something before he returns, so we can send him
on his way. Maybe we’ll get lucky and spot the manager, so I can get his snotty
ass into some hot water. Nothing less than he deserves for his unwarranted
attitude.”

“Just keep in mind that this guy
will bring our food from the kitchen. I don’t want to eat anything that’s been
tampered with, if you know what I mean.” She felt a little sick to her stomach
at all the possibilities.

He froze at that and shot her a
look. “We’re not eating here,” he said firmly.

 

 

Chapter Six

 

Jason got to his feet, pulling
out his wallet and tossing a twenty on the table. “That will cover the drinks
and the time we wasted in here. Come on, sweetheart.” He held a hand out to
her.

Vivian placed hers into his and
gave it a squeeze. She moved with him toward the door and the elevators. She
was more than willing to get out of there, more than willing to run home and
have him all to herself once more. They made their way to his room and inside
quickly. “I just need to grab my bag, toss in my toiletries, and then clear
James’s room. Can you check out here for anything I may have left sitting
around?”

“Sure thing.” When he moved away
from her, Vivian began to walk around. Then she cocked her head to the side.
“Jason?” she called, stopping before a small bouquet of flowers. There was a
camera hidden inside. “Did you hide a camera?” she asked with a frown. “Because
if not, someone’s been watching you.” She shot him a look over her shoulder.

He came to her and pulled it out
of the flowers. “Son of a bitch,” he muttered. Dropping it to the table, he
used his phone to crush it. “Check the space quickly.” At her nod, he let her
go and jogged to the bedroom.

She had no clue what she was
checking for, but she began to search for anything that might be out of the ordinary.
She frowned again. “What the bloody hell is this?” There was some kind of weird
little black dot on the inside of a lampshade. “Jason?” she called a little
louder. “What the fa-hell is this?”

He came back out with a bag that
he tossed toward the door, which landed with a distinctly heavy sound. “Did you
just say ‘fa-hell’ to me?” he asked with an amused look. “What the hell is
‘fa-hell,’ Vivian?” He took the lamp from her, tipped it back, then let loose
another string of cursing in that same language as before from the restaurant.
She didn’t know the words, but the tone and way he spat them out told her all
she needed to know.

“It’s my way of saying
fucking hell.
I mush them together so it
isn’t quite as offensive. What are
you
saying when you’re cussing? And I know you are just by the look on your face.
What is that?”

“This is a microphone. Not only
was someone watching me, they were recording it, too. The cursing, you don’t
need to know. You’re much too young for most of what I said,” he told her. “We
need to leave now, and I have everything. So let’s get going.” He set the lamp
aside with a
thump
.

“What about James’s room?” She
slipped her hand into his. “If this was in your room, do you think there was
one in James’s?” Then she went pale. “Crapballs, we … oh God, someone recorded
us.” She didn’t like the thought that someone had watched her amazing and
magical joining with Jason.
Oh crap, and
the things that he told me?
“This is very bad, isn’t it?”

“Very,” he growled. He took her
hand and tugged her to the door. Grabbing up his bag, he ushered her into the
hall and toward the next room. They were inside quickly and came to a stop just
as fast. It was a disaster zone and a half. Someone had torn the space apart.
“Stay here,” he told her, dropping his bag and pulling a gun out from somewhere
under his coat. He moved through the area slowly.

Vivian panted, her back to the
wall, holding a table lamp in her hands she didn’t even recall grabbing, with
her shield firmly in place. She watched Jason as he swept the room with a
really big and really scary firearm. “Please tell me that this is just some
jealous woman upset with James?”

He shot her a look that clearly
said “no.” Then he disappeared from view for a few minutes before he was
striding back to her, tucking the gun out of sight. “The suite is clear. Son of
a bitch, someone did a number in here. I have no idea what they were looking
for, but we need to get all of James’s stuff together and get to your place,
fast.”

“Okay,” she whispered and put
the lamp down. She was shaking. She hated crime. She hated puzzles, and she
really hated the thought of being in danger. “What do I need to get?” She felt
the shield around her drop down now that Jason was close. “He’ll have a massive
bill, so don’t be shocked,” she muttered.

“I don’t care,” Jason told her.
Reaching out, he wrapped his hand around her neck and drew her to him. “You’re
safe, Vivian. I don’t know who did this, but when I find them, they will pay
for it. Mainly for scaring you. I need you to see if he left anything out
here—books, weapons, his toothbrush, anything personal that’s not hotel
property. You’re going to have to dig around a bit, but be careful, there could
be broken glass, given the mess. I’ll clear the bedroom and bathroom, then come
out and help you. Thankfully, the bathroom was only rifled, so it’ll be quick.”

“Okay, sounds like a plan.” Viv
looked around the room and nodded.
I can
do this
. Very carefully, she began to search through the broken and
shredded items before tossing what looked to be bits of a leather coat into a
bag. “I think James is going to be pretty peeved off. His leather coat got
ripped up.”
I have a feeling someone is
going to have their ass handed to them.
“Jason? You done yet?”

“Yeah, I’ve got everything I
could salvage,” he answered a moment later. He came out holding a different
gun, shaking his head. “James is going to be murderous when he sees this. It’s
one of his old six-shooters. One of a set. He always carries one with him when
we travel, though how he gets it through security, I’ll never know. He was
given these when he was barely a legal adult and carried them through
everything. Someone used it to smash something up and ruined the handle.
They’re going to be wishing for a quick death.”

She studied the butt of the
weapon and shook her head. “It’s a beautiful handle, and it looks to be worth
an absolute fortune.”

“Pearl inlay. Expensive in the
day, but he loves these things. Fuck,” Jason murmured. Shaking his head, he
stuffed it into the bag he had in hand. “Let’s get out of here. I have anything
he might consider important. Everything else is replaceable. When we get to
your place, remind me to try calling out there again. I have to let him know
about the room so he can work on cooling off before he sees the gun.”

“Maybe you should send him a
text or e-mail?” Vivian chewed her lower lip as they walked to the elevator.
“Or leave him a voice mail? Just make sure he doesn’t take it out on Fia. The
two of them are like oil and water. Please tell me that this mountain you’re
taking us to is a big enough place so that he won’t have to see her ever
again?”

“If she doesn’t want to see him,
she won’t,” he said. He shot her a look as they left the room behind, appearing
to be thinking hard on something.

“That’s good.” Once they were in
the elevator, she turned. “Okay, what’s on your mind? Did you figure out who
might have done that to your rooms?” she asked, a note of hope in her voice.

“Uh, no, I was thinking about
James and Sophia. This is going to sound crazy, and I’m likely way off base,
but what if what’s going on with those two is something more than we’re seeing?
I mean, look how she’s acting out of character around him and how he’s reacting
to her. You read the texts and heard the messages. You talked to your sister,
and she went off in a fit. There’s more there than just the obvious, Vivian.”

“Like what? Sophia is waiting on
that one special someone. She’s been dreaming of him for years, and from what
she’s told me, the winds have whispered his name to her time and time again,
and it’s not James. I can’t for the life of me think of what it was, but the
name isn’t James, I’m sure of that much.”

“Okay, you’re right, but I had
to say it. Sorry,” he muttered. “It would damn well explain a lot, though. Not
everything, true enough, but a lot. I’ve said it, now I can put it out of my
head. But I will say this—if I’m not actually crazy and end up being right,
you’ll so be hearing about this for the next century. Just putting that out
there on the off, totally insane possibility that I’m right. It doesn’t happen
often, but it could again someday.”

“Deal.” Vivian grinned, her fear
tamped down by Jason’s playfulness. “But if that were the case, wouldn’t James
know? I mean, you knew the moment you met me, right? So, he wouldn’t want to
bring another woman back and have sex with her.” She gave Jason a quick hug.
“If you’re right, you can so hold it over me, but I don’t think you are. Sorry,
babe.”

“Not necessarily,” he told her.
“Some of us recognize the signs, but others don’t, not immediately. Plus, he’s
the only one with a medallion up in his noggin. The gods only know what that
does to a guy. The rest of us all have them somewhere in our torso or leg. No
one has one above the neck except him.

“As for me, I thought there was
something about you, something important, but I didn’t put the pieces together
immediately. It started to click for me a little later, and then you were there
in the restaurant, and I knew I was right about us. It all depends on the
individuals involved.”

Vivian shrugged. “Well, let’s
just hope that when he finds his other half that he won’t mess it up. I could
be wrong, but I think James needs his other half more than just about anyone.”
He seemed to be lacking balance, seemed to be lacking a tie to the world that
would keep him in the light.

“Maybe,” Jason said as they
exited into the lobby and strode straight out the front doors. She noticed him
tense as soon as they were outside, like he was on alert, looking everywhere
and yet not lingering on any particular thing. At the truck, he loaded the
bags. They hopped in, and he took off, following her directions.

Vivian scooted closer to Jason,
her hand sliding easily into his. “Jason? Are you okay?” She looked around them
as well, trying to see what he did and failing. She instead directed them
toward her home, worried about him and the way he seemed to be sizing everyone
up for their coffins.

“Of course,” he said with a nod.
“Why do you ask?” He glanced at her before turning his attention back to his
driving and the surrounding area.

“Because you’re looking around
at people as if you’re fitting them for their funeral garb. Have I mentioned I
really don’t do the whole cloak-and-dagger thing very well? I was only in the
park that day because I was trying to figure out what it was about the case—the
murders—that was bothering me. I knew there was something missing, but that’s
the most I’ve ever done that was anything out of the ordinary, so to speak.”

“I’m assessing potential risks.”
He chuckled. “You did mention that before. And I believe you, given how twitchy
you are. Try not to worry. We don’t have a tail, and there’s nothing obvious
standing out to me, so it’ll be fine. Better to be overly cautious than to be
taken by surprise and unaware.”

“You would tell me if there was
trouble, right?” She didn’t know if he would or not, that was the troubling
part. He might just keep her in the dark to protect her from herself.

“Of course I would tell you,
Vivian. And you might be surprised at how attuned you are now that we’re bonded.
You’ll pick up on my emotions and feelings through the link we share. We can
even talk through it, or so one of the other guardians was telling us.”

“Really? That would be very
cool. To be able to talk to you via a private link. To have conversations
without anyone able to overhear.” She leaned her head back. Closing her eyes,
she yawned. “I guess I do pick up on your emotions and feelings, but I didn’t
even recognize it for what it was. I thought it was just me worried for you.”

“You’ll start to figure it out
as we get closer and the bond strengthens. Hector even said that he was able to
utilize Riley’s abilities with the link. Hector is a guardian, and Riley is his
soul mate,” Jason explained. “Not entirely sure how that works, but he said it
was pretty cool.”

“And what are his abilities?
Riley’s?” she asked with a frown. “I thought you said that the soul mates were
women?” she added, as almost an afterthought. “Okay, I’m confused. And I think
I did it all to myself.”

Jason laughed. “You are. Riley is
a woman, and she’s a VV like you are.
Her
abilities are to see the truth of all things. She’s a walking, talking lie
detector, to simplify things down to the barest of bones. She’s pretty amazing,
actually. You’ll like her. Oh, and then there’s Emily, Gaius’s soul mate. She’s
pretty special, too. I’m not exactly sure how to explain her ability. Probably
best to get that one straight from her.”

“Huh, okay. I think that’s
pretty awesome, that she can tell the truth from lies. I like that.” Vivian
looked over at Jason and cocked her head to the side. “I would be very happy if
you could use my ability. I’d rest easier knowing that you could shield
yourself.”

“We’ll have to see if we can,
when we have a moment to practice. Later, though. For now, my only concern is
getting to your place, getting ourselves secured for the night, and getting you
packed. We’ll need to be up and moving for the first ferry in the hopes that
the storm lets up by then.” So far, they hadn’t seen any rain, but they could
see storm clouds in the distance, and they were getting closer.

“Yes, otherwise your friend and
my sister will kill us.” Vivian sighed. When they pulled up to her home, she
looked over to him again. “Come on, let’s go inside. I want to sleep in my bed
with you tonight. I want to share a meal with you in my kitchen. Heck, I want
to watch freaking television with you naked on my couch. How weird is that?”

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