Authors: Matthew Burkey
“Getting to her might not be that easy, after all he was the one that organized that strike against the Herald’s operating base in New York.”
“He’s not as smart as he thinks he is,” Marcus responded. “If Janus says that he’ll have only minimal security then I believe him.”
“It would make sense that he would surround his daughter with protection.”
“He very well might have,” Marcus stated, annoyance creeping into his voice. “But they won’t be expecting the hybrids, we’ll need to send a few of them along with our team. Oh and get me some Darklings as well, they are always good cannon fodder.”
“We should be careful…”
“I’m tired of being careful!” Marcus snapped. “Capturing her would allow us to force Franklin into surrendering under the guise of peace.”
“And then you intend to destroy him?”
“Him and the rest of his filthy kind.”
“I’ll admit that I was totally surprised when you called.”
Gabriel looked across the table at Alex and resisted the urge to chew on his lip or otherwise look as nervous as he felt. Underneath the table his feet were drumming against the ground so hard that he was sure that he was going to wear a hole in it. He took a deep breath and forced himself to calm down.
“Well, I’ve got this thing I have to go do.”
“Say no more,” Alex responded, holding his hand up. “I’m just glad that you did. What’s good here anyways?”
They were sitting in Gabriel’s favorite diner in downtown. It was your typical small town all american burger joint, which was why Gabriel liked it. It was some place that he felt very comfortable in, which helped ease his anxiety level somewhat. Hopefully it would keep him from making a fool of himself.
Or spilling food all over Alex.
“Pretty much everything,” Gabriel finally managed to get out. “I’d stay away from the house burger though, they put a ton of garlic on it.”
Alex laughed. “Trying to make sure that you get a goodnight kiss, huh?”
“What? Wait, no that’s not what I meant! I just thought that you and garlic didn’t mix!”
Alex laughed again. “Relax, I am only kidding. Is this your first date?”
The waitress came around again this time they ordered and handed her their menus. She returned a few moments later with their drinks.
“Um...well, yeah it kinda is.”
“Not even any girls before?” Alex inquired with a raised eyebrow. “You’re telling me that this is your first date period?”
“You aren’t having fun?” Gabriel asked, suddenly worried that Alex wasn’t enjoying himself.
“I’m having fun,” Alex responded, grinning. “You need to learn to relax.”
“I haven’t really had time for that lately,” Gabriel mumbled.
“Okay, first thing you need to know about dating, don’t talk about work, at least not on the first date.”
Gabriel nodded, he was fine with not discussing the ongoing war between the vampires and the lycans.
“You had on archery gear when I first met you, right?”
Alex nodded and took a drink. “Yeah, it’s something that my dad got me into when I was little.”
“Cody is pretty good with a bow too. Actually, pretty good might be an understatement, he’s amazing with his.”
“So I have been told,” Alex answered. “I’m not too bad myself. What about you, did you ever try shooting?”
Gabriel shook his head. “Not really, I’m much better in hand to hand and with my blade than I am with ranged weapons.”
“Hand to hand, we may have to test that later,” Alex said with a grin.
Gabriel swallowed hard, feeling the anxiety start to work its way up again. He needed to relax, Alex was flirting with him that was all. It was a good thing and supposed to make you feel good...not like a nervous wreck. He took another deep breath and hoped that Alex didn’t notice.
“So, do you have any vampire related questions?”
Now it was Gabriel’s turn to laugh a little. “Now that you mention, there are few things that I have been curious about.”
“Go ahead and ask then.”
“How old are you?”
“Seventeen, why do you ask?”
“Cool, I mean I know that vampires can live for hundreds of years but I wasn’t sure how old you were.”
“We age normally until we get out of our teens and then things start to really slow down for us,” Alex explained. “If I wanted to I could make myself look older once I turned twenty but most of us maintain our youthful good looks. Anything else?”
Gabriel chewed on his lip a moment before asking his next question. “Do you drink blood?”
Alex nodded. “Otherwise I’d die. We drink animal blood, my coven has a few people that voluntary donate blood for us as well. I haven’t ever fed on an actual human though. That’s something that my dad has tried to get us away from.”
“Fair enough,” Gabriel said, hoping that the relief didn’t show in his face or his voice.
“Did you really think that I was going to bite you?” Alex asked, with a smirk. “I mean I might but not like that.”
Gabriel turned red at that comment. Their food arrived before shortly afterwards, thankfully stopping what would have otherwise been a fairly awkward silence.
“How long have you been into guys?” Gabriel asked, taking a bite out of his burger.
“I don’t really know. I guess I might have been about thirteen. All my friends were noticing the girls, and I was too, however I was also the only one that was noticing the guys. I told my dad about it, it’s actually not all that uncommon in the vampire world. What about you, when did you come out?”
“Last year,” Gabriel answered. “I think it was more traumatic for me then it was for anyone else. I sort of made a big deal about it, my family really didn’t seem to care.”
“And your friends?” Alex asked.
Gabriel twirled his straw around in his glass before responding. “I didn’t really have all that many friends and after I came out they sort of stopped talking to me. I guess they couldn’t really handle it. Luckily, the Guardians don’t seem to care or at least my team doesn’t.”
“I bet they were actually pretty happy about that.”
“Because you’re hot,” Alex said, dipping a french fry in ketchup. “And you would be some serious competition for them, especially if you played up that nice guy angle.”
“I always thought that girls went for the bad boy.”
Alex waved his hand dismissively. “Women want to be treated with respect, at least all the worthwhile ones do, bad boys can be fun but nice guys, well let me tell you from experience, we can be bad when the situation calls for it.”
Again, Gabriel blushed. He was starting to realize that Alex could have the same effect on him that Ethan appeared to have. At least with Alex there was the possibility of a relationship, even if he was a member of the undead.
“It’s cute how you blush at every innuendo that I make,” Alex responded.
“I’m just not used to it.”
“You aren’t used to people hitting on you?”
Gabriel shook his head.
“Well, I’d get used to it if I were you. Even if you aren’t wearing ridiculously tight clothing I’m pretty sure that everyone can tell you’re ripped and then there is your eyes...has anyone ever told you how gorgeous they are?”
Gabriel laughed. “I bet you say that to everyone.”
“About the clothing thing?” Alex asked. “Actually, I do. Guys look so stupid when they do that, just buy a size that fits! About the eyes, not really. You do have very pretty eyes, it was the first thing that I noticed about you. What’s the first thing that you noticed about me?”
“Um, to be honest your arms, something about the tattoos, I guess.”
“I would have also accepted my eyes, chest, or even my hair.”
“You’re pretty good at this putting people to ease thing, you know.”
Alex shrugged. “It helps when you really want to make the other person feel at ease.”
“Wow, you are good at this,” Gabriel responded. “I’m guessing that most people just throw themselves at you after lines like that.”
“Actually, at this point in the date they are usually begging for the check.”
“I hope you don’t think that I’m going to be begging,” Gabriel responded,arching an eyebrow. Though that wasn’t entirely the truth. Part of him wanted to do exactly what he had said but no matter how good looking or smooth Alex was, he had told himself he was not going to let things get that out of hand on their first date.
“I don’t think that you even know the meaning of the word.”
They finished the meal talking about various sports teams, what there was to do around the area now that Alex was a permanent resident and their dream vacations. Gabriel paid and they exited the diner, heading back outside.
“I’ll refrain from kissing you,” Alex said, with a smile as he unlocked his car.
“I know that dating can be a little scary, so I promise that I’ll take everything slow.”
He embraced Gabriel in a hug, which sent shivers down Gabriel’s spine. He felt the muscles in Alex’s back, arms, and chest. He gave him hug back and then let go, afraid that if he didn’t then he wouldn’t be able to stop whatever it was that came next.
“I had a really good time tonight, be careful on your work thing.”
“Will I hear from you again?”
Gabriel nodded emphatically.
He watched Alex drive off and turned around and headed back toward his car. Gabriel didn’t get very far before he felt someone slid up behind him. He whirled around to see Ethan emerge from the shadows, one of his rather arrogant grins plastered all over his face.
“Well, that looked like it was fun.”
Gabriel made a face. “Were you watching us the entire time?”
“Not the entire time,” Ethan responded, with a shrug. “Just toward the end, why didn’t you want to suck face with him? The way that you two were making eyes at each other I’d figured you’d be ripping each other’s clothes off.”
Gabriel rolled his eyes. “I’m not you or Tony and why are you here? Following me around makes it look like you are pretty bored or way too obsessed with this whole Valentine thing.”
“I’m not that bored,” Ethan responded, with a frown. “But I do think that you are making a mistake, I mean dating Alex. You don’t know anything about him.”
“I’m learning more about him,” Gabriel snapped back. “You know that I am not going to spill any secrets to him or anything. You should trust me more than that.”
“I trust you,” Ethan grunted. “But I don’t trust him.”
Gabriel rolled his eyes again. Part of him was actually happy that Ethan appeared to have been spying on him. Maybe that meant that he did care. Of course the other part of him was utterly revolted at the fact that he an audience all night long.
“Why are you really here Ethan?” Gabriel asked.
“I told you-”
“I don’t buy for a moment that you were afraid that he was going to try and hurt me.”
Ethan shoved his hands in his pockets and all of a sudden looked very uncomfortable.
“I’m not going to stop seeing him,” Gabriel continued. “We actually had a really good time tonight and I plan on seeing him again. He’s not going to hurt me and I don’t need you spying on me.”
“Don’t!” Gabriel snapped. “You knew I had a crush on you since the first time that we met and you flaunted it every chance that you got! Now, I might have a chance with someone who actually likes me back and doesn’t use me as just a way to inflate his ego.”
Gabriel really didn’t know where those words had come from. He looked at Ethan’s granite grey eyes and was struck by the amount of emotion that he saw there; including the same vulnerable look he had seen in the locker-room after Gabriel killed Sainte-Pierre. But it felt good finally saying it and to finally get it off his chest and out in the open.
“Is that really how you feel?” Ethan asked, in a low voice.
“Yes,” Gabriel responded. A hard lump had just formed in his throat. He had spent the better part of eight months wishing for something to happen between him and Ethan but had always known that was nothing more than a dream. Ethan was straight and that wasn’t going to change. Gabriel might as well get over that fact and move on.
Gabriel wanted to say something more but Ethan had already turned around and started walking back down the street. He watched him go, taking note for the first time that his usual cocky and smooth swagger seemed to have disappeared. Gabriel shook his head and headed back to his own car.
Gabriel had gotten used to the fact that he would never be able to tell his parents or Sean the truth. But he would never really get used to lying to them, even if it was for their own good. Nor would he ever get used to Everett putting suggestions spells on them every time that he had to leave the country for an extended period of time. It was easier for the others, their parents were Guardians or they had been at one point.
“Don’t worry about it,” Everett said, as Gabriel climbed into his car. “There is no permanent damage from the spells and it makes it easier on them.”
“I still don’t like lying to them.”
“Which also prove what a nice guy you are.”
Everett pulled out of the driveway and headed toward the airport. They would be taking an Aegis jet down to Rome with one or two stops in between. Their gear and weapons had already been packed up and sent ahead to the airport with the pilot. Gabriel was actually kind of nervous at the thought of anyone but Elise at the helm. He shook the thoughts off; every one of the Guardian pilots were supremely qualified for flying them on a simple mission like this and back.
The plane was sitting fueled and ready to go, apparently just waiting on Everett and Gabriel. Tony and Marissa were finishing up loading several bags and pieces of equipment, all of which looked very expensive. Gabriel grabbed his backpack and then headed up the ladder, Everett close behind.
“So, how was the date?” Tony asked, as Gabriel belted himself in. Tony dropped into the seat next to him, flashing him a rather mischievous looking grin. It was the same grin that got them into trouble on numerous occasions.
Gabriel sighed heavily. He knew that they would be asking for details, well everyone except Ethan.
“It was fine,” Gabriel shrugged.
“Just fine?” Everett asked, taking a seat across from Gabriel. Marissa joined Everett opposite Gabriel and Tony.
“We had fun.”
Gabriel shot Tony an annoyed look. “Not that kind of fun. He seems really nice and down to earth and I think that he is actually pretty into me.”
“Compared to the last guy you were drooling over,” Marissa tossed in. “Ethan’s hot but he can also be a jerk and I think some part of him likes the fact that you go all doe eyed when he walks into the room.”
“Speaking of Ethan,” Gabriel said, as the plane started to roll down the runway. “He sort of stalked me on my date, well at least toward the end. He showed up and tried to warn me about the dangers of dating Alex.”
Marissa waved her hand dismissively. “He’s just jealous that you’re not undressing him with your eyes anymore. Alex seems pretty harmless and I hope that he trusts you.”
“He said he did,” Gabriel nodded. “But it’s Alex that he doesn’t trust or really like all that much.”
“That’s just because he can’t get past what happened with Valentine last time we trusted him. I know that it sucks but life does go on,” Tony muttered. “And I agree with Marissa, I think he’s partially upset that you aren’t throwing yourself at him anymore. Good for you by the way.”
“And he’s probably still slightly irked about the whole Ryan and Elise thing.”
Gabriel winced slightly. That was part of the reason that he wanted to wait and not bring up the whole Alex thing until after they had been seeing each other for a while. He knew that Ethan was going to have a hard enough time dealing with that relationship.
“I feel kind of bad about that.”
“Don’t,” Everett said. “Ethan is a big boy, he can learn to deal with his feelings like a big boy and that does not mean stalking you or Ryan and Elise on dates.”
“Seems like we are dumping a lot on him in the middle of everything that is going on,” Gabriel started, picking at his jeans. “I feel kind of like I am the one acting like the jerk.”
“He’ll deal with it,” Tony added.
Gabriel nodded, although a small part of him still held out hope that Ethan had shown up that night to actually express his own feelings for Gabriel. It was a long shot and completely wishful thinking and probably not entirely healthy. He pushed those thoughts away. They had a mission to attend to, it was better that he focused his mind on that.
“Did you guys find anything else about this Eve character?” Everett asked.
Marissa brought out her tablet and started tapping through images and files. “Not really, our intelligence on her is rather lacking. From what we can tell she’s mostly an information broker. She seems to know a lot about a lot of things.”
“How come we didn’t know about her before?” Gabriel asked.
“Apparently she likes to stay under the radar, well under the radar,” Marissa responded.
“I wonder what Sainte-Pierre was doing with her?” Tony mused. “He had his own pretty powerful connections, I’d think that he could find whatever he needed to through those.”
“It might help to know what he was looking for,” Gabriel pointed out. “Or anything at all, face it with Sainte-Pierre we’ve been doing nothing but fumbling around in the dark.”
“Which is why they wanted us to meet with this Eve,” Marissa remarked. She stood up and moved toward the back of the jet, looking for something to drink, she settled on a bottle of water and returned to her seat before continuing with her train of thought. “Anything is better than nothing.”
“She does have a point, as women often do,” Tony sighed. “I really do hate it when they do that.”
Gabriel smiled and then looked over at Everett before continuing. “Can I ask you something?”
“Depends on what that is,” Everett responded.
“Are there any spells to allow entrance into a person’s dreams?”
Everett’s eyebrows went up at that question. “Some yes, although it’s pretty hard to accomplish and generally speaking Guardian’s minds have barriers put in place to prevent such things from happening. Breaking through the barrier into your dream world would be exhausting, even if you weren’t a Guardian.”
“Is there something wrong?”
Gabriel let out a long sigh. He really didn’t want to talk about the nightmares but considering what Everett had just said, it might be beneficial to get some of it out in the open. Maybe the young mage would have a suggestion on how to get rid of them.
“I’ve been having nightmares,” Gabriel explained. “Ever since I became a Guardian.”
“Can you describe them to me?”
Gabriel went on to describe them in great detail and how they were the same every time. By this time both Marissa and Tony had gotten pulled into the conversation as well. At the end, Everett was sitting there with a very puzzled look on his face
“It does seem odd that they would start right after you were inducted into the Guardians. I haven’t ever heard of anything like this before. Like I said, usually, once you become a Guardian there is no way around your mental barriers.”
“Well, that’s not entirely true,” Marissa tossed in. “If a Guardian dies and is then brought back the barrier needs to be reapplied but you haven’t died, so I guess that blows that theory out of the water.”
“Sounds freaky dude,” Tony added.
“I can set up a ritual to see if your mind has been breached, at least then we would know if it’s an outside influence or just an overactive imagination.”
“Cool,” Gabriel nodded. “Thanks.”
“In the meantime I really wouldn’t try to worry about it,” Everett suggested.
“That’s a lot easier said than done.”
“Might make it easier to forget once we actually land in Rome,” Marissa remarked. “Eve wants to meet us at her private island, she said she would have a car waiting for us at the airport.”
“Gee, that doesn’t sound creepy at all,” Tony mumbled. “Nor does it sound tactically like a good idea. Ethan and the rest of the team would flip if they heard this, right? Which is why I am guessing you and Jonathan left out that little tidbit.”
“That might be somewhat accurate.”
“Does anyone else think it’s a bad idea to go wandering around a private estate of a supposed information broker?” Tony asked.
“We won’t be entirely unarmed,” Marissa explained. “Eve as agreed to let us bring our weapons along, just to make sure that we feel safe. She’s also going to allow us to transmit her location back to the Guardians. She really wants us to trust her.”
“Funny how she is being so helpful now,” Gabriel muttered. “Where was she when Sainte-Pierre was out there running amok before?”
“I don’t know but I do intend to ask her,” Marissa responded. “And hopefully she’ll be able to give us some answers. Look on the bright side at least you get to see Rome.”
“I’ve never been to Rome,” Gabriel mused.
“You aren’t really missing much,” Tony said, pulling his phone out. “Lots of old buildings and whatnot.”
“Ancient buildings,” Everett corrected his fellow Guardian.
Tony gave Everett a look of annoyance. “Like I said a bunch of old buildings.”
Ryan was a little nervous that he had been assigned to work with Ethan in Paris. They hadn’t really talked since he admitted that he had feelings for Elise and now they would be spending the next several days together. In close proximity. Ryan could only hope that they could both act like adults about the situation.
“I forgot how smelly this city was,” Ethan grunted.
They stepped out of the car in front of the Hotel De Sers, the five star resort in which Faye was staying. Thankfully, the portal from Aegis made traveling to the Paris fairly simple.
“It’s not so bad,” Cody said, with a shrug. “Bloody swanky looking place though. Good thing that I brought my suit.”
“Whatever,” Ethan grumbled.
“We’ve got rooms on the third floor,” Elise stated, heading inside. “Faye should be checking in a few hours, we’ll go over the security arrangements then. Until then I suggest that we get some sleep.”
Ryan, Ethan, and Cody followed Elise into the hotel, surprised at how luxurious it was. They had all been in nice places before but nothing nearly this fancy. Elise checked them in and then directed them upstairs toward their rooms. Elise got her own, the three boys had to share.
“Shouldn’t you go running to her room now?” Ethan inquired, as soon as Elise was out of the room.
Ryan tried to ignore the remark. “I thought that you said you were okay with this whole thing?”
“Doesn’t sound like you are mate,” Cody responded, flopping down on the bed. He grabbed the remote and started to flick through the channels on the TV.
“I suppose you want me to go around acting like nothing is going on?” Ethan asked. “You’re dating her, Gabriel’s going out with that vampire…”
“Wait a second!” Ryan snapped. “How did you know that Gabriel went on a date with Alex?”
Ethan shrugged as he peered out of the window. “It’s not like he is that hard to follow. After the first time that the two of them met it was pretty obvious that they wanted each other.”
“So, you just took it on yourself to follow him?” Ryan asked. He was mildly annoyed that Ethan would have done such a thing and it hadn’t even happened to him.
“I was concerned,” Ethan responded, shrugging again. “Being all smitten can have a way of making you not think straight. Well, in Gabriel’s case that’s probably not a fair statement seeing as how he doesn’t really do anything straight.”
“Did he buy that?” Ryan asked.
“He may have implied that he didn’t entirely believe me.”
“I wonder why,” Cody interjected. “Seriously mate, that was pretty messed up. You should be happy he’s not drooling all over you anymore.”
“He looked at you guys too.”
“Not the way he looked at you,” Cody stated.
“Yeah, we’re all repulsive,” Ryan added. “Everyone except you. I think Cody is right.”
“You’re going to miss the fact that he’s not as into you as he once was,” Ryan responded.
“Whatever,” Ethan snapped, finally looking away from the window. “Call me when our friends show up, I’m going to go take a walk.”
“Want some company?” Cody asked.
Ethan left the room, almost slamming the door behind him. The two remaining Guardians in the room exchanged confused looks.
“Where do you suppose that he is going?” Cody asked.
“Who knows,” Ryan responded. “You cool with hanging out there, I’m going to go see if Elise wants to hang out for a little bit.”
“Oh right,” Cody said, waggling his eyebrows. “I’m sure the two of you just want to hang out.”
“We haven’t even had a first date yet, Cody. I’m not going to just sleep with her.”
“I never implied that you were Tony,” Cody grinned. “But you do what to snog her right?”
“Cody, I’m a teenager do we really have to discuss whether or not I want to go further than kissing with a terrifically hot girl?”
“Probably not,” Cody shrugged. “Although I do believe the bro code requires that anything you do you share with your bros.”