Authors: Matthew Burkey
Of course all of that was drowned out by the noise that was bursting forth from his tent mate’s throat. Apparently, Cody really did snore like a freight train. Or an F5 tornado. Hell, the sound of jet engine would have been blissfully quiet compared to the decibels that were currently assaulting his ears. Gabriel finally gave up and shimmed out of his sleeping bag. He grabbed his sweatshirt and headed out of the tent.
He checked his watch, to find out that it wasn’t nearly as late that he thought that it was. Then again, none of them had really gotten much sleep lately so it wasn’t surprising to him that they had all turned in early. He grabbed a flashlight and started to walk along the shore of the lake.
“Is it safe for you to be out alone?”
Gabriel whirled around, striking out on instinct more than anything. His attack was deflected by a bare arm.
“Whoa, easy there.”
Gabriel looked at the person that had seemingly come out of nowhere.
The vampire flashed him a wide grin. “You do remember me.”
Gabriel did his best not to blush and stare at the young vampire in front of him. Alex’s hair was still cut short, though instead of wearing archery gear, this time he was wearing nothing more than board shorts, sandals, a sweatshirt, and a backwards baseball cap.
“Um...sorry about that.”
“My fault really,” Alex said, flashing Gabriel another grin. “I’ve been warned that sneaking up on Guardians can be dangerous, possibly even deadly to your health. Of course so is being a vampire these days.”
Gabriel winced slightly at that comment. Although Valentine and his coven had stayed completely neutral in the conflict with the lycans it was no secret that the Guardians were killing their fair share of vampires. He could only imagine that every vampire out there was probably more than a little nervous about meeting a Guardian, at least at this moment.
“Sorry,” Gabriel said, relaxing slightly.
“Don’t be sorry,” Alex responded, with a shrug of his broad shoulders. “It’s not like were the ones that started the war or anything. You guys are just doing your job.”
“I know that you and your coven haven’t taken sides. It has to be hard for you though, from what we can tell nearly everyone has been sucked into this conflict.”
“That’s more or less an accurate statement,” Alex said, as they started to walk along the beach. “But to be honest my dad and his coven have always tried to maintain peaceful relations with everyone, including the lycans. We don’t see them as the animals most of our kind does.”
“Isn’t it dangerous to be out and about like this? And what are you doing here?”
“My dad thought that a change of scenery might do us all some good,” Alex responded. “I’m actually going to be enrolling in Highland in the fall.”
Gabriel nodded and stopped himself from saying something stupid. At least with Alex there was an outside chance, however slim it might be, of developing a relationship. Ethan was a lost cause and he knew that, that still didn’t stop him from staring at him however. They walked a few more feet in silence before Alex spoke up.
“Are you sure that it’s safe for me to be out here with you? How do I know that your archer friend or big brother aren’t going to come out of nowhere and take my head off?”
“Cody is asleep, either that or he’s sucked the entire camp down his throat.”
“That was him?” Alex asked, with a raised eyebrow. “I thought that it might be rhinos in heat or something.”
Gabriel laughed. “They told me that he was bad, I didn’t believe them so I got to share a tent with him, next time I suppose I should listen.”
“You know when I met you, I told you that you were cute... I wasn’t lying.”
Gabriel blushed, he wasn’t used to being complimented, especially from a guy that looked like Alex. Then again, he wasn’t used to being complimented on his looks regardless of who it was. He suppressed the urge to let out a nervous giggle.
“You haven’t dated much, have you?”
Gabriel gulped. “I haven’t dated at all.”
“Are you kidding me?” Alex asked, eyebrows raised. “A smart, cute, witty guy like you and you haven’t been on any dates?”
“There aren’t exactly an abundance of gay guys at my school,” Gabriel sighed, kicking at the sand. “It’s hard to find anyone else that’s out let alone anyone to actually go on a date with.”
“We could change that.”
Uh oh, did a smooth and very good looking guy just ask you out on a date? No, not guy, vampire, Gabriel corrected himself.
“Are you asking me out on a date?” Gabriel finally managed to get out.
“Yes,” Alex nodded. “I thought that part was pretty obvious.”
“Wow...it’s just that...well I’m not entirely sure that we should see each other like that.”
“Worried that I might be a spy or something? Guess Ethan really did get to you.”
“It’s not that!” Gabriel blurted out, instantly feeling not only annoyed at himself but extremely stupid for not jumping at the chance to go an actual date. With a good looking guy. That was into guys. So what if he happened to be vampire.
“Look, I’m just not sure that it’s allowed.”
“I didn't realize that they controlled all aspects of your life.”
“Then why won’t you even think about a date with me?” Alex asked, smirking slightly. “I mean I know that you were practically drooling all over me back in Montana.”
“Well I guess that part is true.”
Alex chuckled. “Look, I wouldn’t be bothering you with this except I know that you are attracted to me and you just admitted that you haven’t really had any experience dating so here is a chance to fix that. And if I do say so so myself, I am pretty damn hot.”
“Wow, you sound like Ethan when you say stuff like that.”
“Well, he is pretty hot too,” Alex admitted. “You know that it would be a line to tell you that you are way better looking than him, right?”
Alex rolled his eyes. “Yes, you are. And you are nicer and you don’t want to stake me on sight for something that I didn’t really have anything to do with.”
“Complicated,” Alex suggested. “A bad boy? All deep and brooding?”
“That’s a nice way of putting it,” Gabriel responded. “I assumed you would have said jerk.”
“Oh a lot of things to call him crossed my mind,” Alex said with a grin. “I just happen to want you to like me so I thought that I probably shouldn’t start off disparaging your friends.”
Again Gabriel had to resist the urge to giggle.
Good lord, what the hell is wrong with me, he thought. One cute guy starts complimenting me and flirting with me and I go all valley girl stupid. Pull yourself together!
“He takes some getting to know,” Gabriel acknowledged. “But he’s really not a bad guy, I promise. After what happened with your dad and that bad intelligence, well he did lose his best friend and then shortly afterwards he broke up with his girlfriend.”
“Who is still on the team with him, right?”
Gabriel nodded, kicking a rock as they came around a bend in the shoreline. “Yeah, they have a good working relationship though.”
“My father never meant for things to go that badly,” Alex admitted. “He got betrayed too.”
“I know that and I think deep down so does Ethan. I doubt that he’s willing to let all that go, at least not yet.”
“Shame, I am a pretty awesome guy.”
Gabriel cocked his head at that comment and gave Alex a half smile. Maybe he was only attracted to arrogant jerks, although to be fair, Alex seemed to at least able to poke fun at that part of his personality. He was pretty sure that he had never seen Ethan do that.
“You can’t stay dateless the rest of your life.”
“Can I see your phone?”
Gabriel handed his phone over to Alex, who typed in his number before handing it back. “You don’t have to call me but I was wondering if you wanted to grab dinner sometime or movie, assuming that you could get your overlords to approve the plan.”
Gabriel gave Alex another smile. “Um, thanks.”
Ryan should have been prepared for the assault on his ears that he knew would come with Cody sleeping in a tent not all that far from him. But even knowing that and with the ear plugs, he still wasn’t able to fall into a deep sleep. It should have been easy given how tired he was and how much work they had been doing lately. After tossing and turning for close to an hour, he slipped out of his tent and built a small fire again.
Of course part of the reason he was having trouble falling asleep was Elise. No matter how much he tried not to think about her, his mind always ended up coming back to thinking about her. Tony was right, which really shouldn’t have surprised him since the subject was something to do with a women. He needed to talk to Ethan and then get his feelings for Elise out in the open. Neither were conversations that he was looking forward to having.
“What on earth are you doing out here?”
Ryan turned around to see Elise emerge from her tent. She was wearing one of Ethan’s old sweatshirts, which looked too big for her frame.
“That’s a dangerous pastime,” Elise said, with a smile. “Cody keeping you up?”
“Nope,” Ryan said, with a shake of his head. “I brought earplugs and he appears to have quieted down for the night. Either that or Gabriel stuffed a sock into his mouth. I was just thinking.”
“This business with the lycans and the vampires,” Ryan responded.
“It’s been a long three months,” Elise agreed. “But we both know that the council won’t authorize any action against the vampires, at least not directly. Chances are whatever ally Sainte-Pierre had is the cause behind the whole thing. He knew that it would only take a spark to ignite the old rivalries between the two groups.”
“And make our life a living hell,” Ryan grunted.
“No doubt that was part of his plan,” Elise responded. “There is a reason that he is doing this though, maybe trying to soften us up for something else.”
“Like what though?” Ryan asked. “End of the world stuff?”
“I really don’t know,” Elise admitted. “Though it probably wouldn’t hurt to start checking into all the end of the world prophecies out there. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around why anyone would want to betray us in the first place.”
Ryan shrugged. “Weakness in being human I suppose, our emotions can get the best of us sometimes.”
Elise shook her head before poking at the fire. “I just never thought that I would say the day when Guardians started turning on each other.”
Ryan sighed heavily. She had a point, there was something extremely unsettling about the fact that one of their own had betrayed them. As far back as Guardian history went, there had not been any instances of actual traitors. Some had left the order on less than honorable terms but none had flat out turned against them. It made Ryan wonder what had gone so horribly wrong that you would want to do such a thing. The Guardians weren’t perfect but more often than not they were the only ones standing against evil that threatened to tear the world apart.
“Speaking of human weakness,” Elise started to say, averting Ryan’s gaze. “Are you ever going to ask me?”
Ryan’s heart leapt up to his throat and his palms started getting sweaty. He resisted the urge to get up and run away, which would have left Elise with the impression that he wanted nothing to do with her. Instead, he cleared his throat and stared intently at the fire, trying to come up with a response that wouldn’t make him sound overeager or dismissive.
“Um, what are you talking about?”
“You are good at many things Ryan,” Elise stated, with a thin smile. “But you are not good at lying or hiding your emotions, at least not as good as you think you are.”
“So, are we both going to keep ignoring this?”
Ryan sighed heavily again. He never really wished for something bad to happen but he found himself wanting something; a zombie, vampire, demon, well anything to really pop up and interrupt this conversation.
“There really isn’t a lot to talk about,” Ryan stated, jabbing at the fire with his stick. “Yeah, I mean I have started to have feelings for you. You’re cute, smart, funny, nice…”
“I like you too!” Elise blurted out. “Wow, that made me sound really desperate right, didn’t it?”
Ryan laughed. “Not really.”
“So, if you like me why haven’t you said something?”
“It’s complicated,” Ryan huffed. “You’re my friend’s ex-girlfriend.”
“Key word being ex-girlfriend,” Elise reminded him.
“Ethan’s my friend, we both know that the tough guy act is just that, an act,” Ryan responded, picking at his sweatshirt. “I just don’t want to see him get hurt. He hasn’t talked about what happened between the two of you to anyone, for all I know he might still be madly in love with you.”
Now it was Elise’s turn to sigh heavily. “What happened between us isn’t really your concern. It’s been a year and Ethan will deal with it.”