Authors: Elisabeth Morgan Popolow
Darius breathed heavily and said, “I am so exhausted, but so glad I can finally let down these shields.”
In an instant most of his energy came flooding out and spilled around the room in a black cloud. It choked and blinded me and I felt as if a thousand weights were pressed against me, crushing down. Darius snapped his fingers and it was all gone, all streamed into him in a great river of black aura. As soon as it was out of the air I could breathe easily again and the pressure was lifted.
Darius turned his head to Sang. “We will visit Hira after we have rested. The change of power in the air has me very tired.”
Sang said, “Okay, but you gotta promise.”
Darius smiled. “I promise.”
He wrapped an arm around my shoulder, brought me into his side, and did the same with Sang. Sang and I looked at each other under Darius’s arms as he tussled our hair and let go. I remained where I was but Sang didn’t budge and we both let our heads relax on Darius’s chest.
Then Sang stood up and sat next to Caen, placed his chin on the other man’s shoulder, and linked hands.
Darius smelled like vanilla—my favorite scent—and I unbuttoned the top of his shirt and touched his bare skin with my cheek. He shuddered and his hold on me grew stronger. I chuckled and raised my head so that I caught his lips on mine and he drowsily returned it, biting my lower lip and sucking at the tiny drops of blood that gushed out. I pulled away and hugged him as we sat together, loving the musky smell of him and the way that the curls in his hair just glistened with no light. I noticed that Sang and Caen were cuddling and grinned to myself, happy that everyone was okay and comfortable.
Well, almost everyone
. We just had to see Hira and find out what was wrong with him. I hated hospitals.
It wouldn’t be that bad, would it?
I’m sure Hira would be fine in no time. Darius would be sure to hire someone to find a cure fast. Did I mention that I hated hospitals?
* * * *
It was midnight when I peeled open my eyes. Sang and Caen were gone and I was still on the couch leaned against Darius. He smirked down at me and with an index finger stroked my right cheek up to my forehead where he pinched a strand of hair and let it slide through his hand.
“We both woke up at the same time,” he told me. “I’m going to get some wine. Sorry.”
I scooched away from him and he got up and grasped a bottle of red wine from his cabinet next to the couch. Then he popped off the cap and poured it into a glass on the coffee table. As he took a sip, I noticed how the silver glow of the moon cascaded into the room and bathed everything in a faint halo.
Darius turned to face me, chocolate curls bouncing up and down as he did so. The thick waves of his hair obscured his face so that the only thing visible was the glint of two amber orbs. I brushed his hair away from his face with my hands and gazed into his gleaming eyes.
“You sure do love red wine, don’t you?” I said.
His eyelashes were so long they swept against his brows like tiny wings. “Yes, my dear, I love red wine. I have always held it dear to my heart. But I love you a lot more. So much more.”
“I know,” I uttered softly.
His lips pressed against mine in a passionate fervor and I tasted the bitter sweetness of the wine. When we broke apart, he planted a kiss on my forehead and eyelids and then a chaste one on the mouth again before he collapsed against the back of the couch and peered at me through half-open eyes.
“I am so very tired, my dear. That meeting drained a lot of energy from me.”
I was about to open my mouth to answer when I realized that he was sleeping. I stood, scurried into my room, grabbed a blanket, and quietly went back downstairs. I threw the blanket over his body and watched as his chest rose and fell with each passing breath. I delicately touched the tips of his silky hair and loved how peaceful and calm his face looked as he slept. As I was about to leave, his arms encircled around my waist and pulled me onto the couch beside him. He spooned me as I lay there and I wriggled under the cover and rested my head on the arm of the couch next to his face.
Everything was so silent. So serene.
I had a bad feeling brewing in my stomach that this peace was not going to last long and I hated myself for feeling this way. Usually when my stomach told me something, it wasn’t lying.
* * * *
I hated the smell of hospitals. Always have and always will. Antiseptic and cleaning agents did not go well with my nose. The fluorescent lighting was painful to my eyes and the boring theme of gray and white was enough to drive me crazy. It was like going into a home appliance store for me. I could only be in one of those for about five minutes before I lost my mind. Well, the same applied to the hospital, only hospitals are burdened with sadness and so much grief.
We had to take an elevator to the fifth floor of the ER to see Hira. When the elevator halted, I lost my footing but Sang caught me in his arms. I told him thanks and he gave me a cheery grin before his face slipped back into that somber expression he wore since we got back from Las Vegas.
Sang led the way as Darius and I followed him to the shifter’s room. He stopped when we got to a white door with a tiny square window on it. On the wall by the door was a name slot that read
Before Sang opened the door, I tugged at his T-shirt and asked, “You sure this is the right room? The name doesn’t say Hira.”
He took my hand in his and said, “This is the right room. Hira’s human name is Tom.”
He turned the metal knob and we entered. The smell of Pine-sol and Clorox blasted us as we walked inside and I gagged.
Darius chuckled. “Are the scents too much for you, my dear?”
I choked. “Way too much.”
Sang shushed us and approached the bed. I quietly came up beside him and looked at its sleeping occupant. Hira’s shoulder-length red hair was sleek with sweat. His body was enveloped in about four layers of light blue blankets and an IV was hooked to his right wrist. A heart monitor beeped steadily and upon further inspection I noticed that his usual pale pallor was like that of a ghost.
Sang gingerly touched his cheek with the back of his fingers. His worry and grief contorted his face. His crimson eyes brimmed with tears as he moved his hand through Hira’s hair and rubbed his forehead.
Darius stood behind Sang, his face unreadable. I laid a hand on Sang’s shoulder as he began to sob. Darius placed a hand on his other shoulder.
“Don’t worry, Sang. I promise we’ll find out what is ailing our friend.” His voice was almost a whisper.
Sang sniffled and wiped his eyes on an arm before backing away from the bed.
“I’m going to go and speak with the doctor,” Darius informed us before leaving the room.
I said, “It’ll be okay.”
Sang chewed on the sides of his mouth. “I don’t know Lily. There are other shifters sick like this and one died last night.”
I didn’t know how to respond. I mean, everything would work out, right? Hira couldn’t possibly die. He just couldn’t. I wanted to believe so badly that he’d get through this but some tiny part of me uttered
in the crevices of my mind. I slapped that thought away and focused on reassuring Sang.
“It’ll all be okay. Hira will be fine. I’m positive that he’s gonna be okay.”
Liar. Liar. You aren’t sure at all. You’re a skeptical cynic. Liar. You’re a liar.
I locked those annoying thoughts away into a safe inside my head and told myself to stay strong. Don’t doubt. Just hope.
“Thanks, Lily.” Sang hugged me and I pecked him on the cheek.
“I’m gonna make dinner tonight,” I announced. “I make a mean beef stroganoff. And maybe a chocolate cake.”
He grinned faintly. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a light green tendril of aura enter the room and turned to the doorway to see Haru standing with a vase of roses in her arms. Haru was a homunculus—or artificial human—and worked for the government. We had met a couple months before when a psycho vampire had captured Sang, Hira, and I and she had been there to help us escape. We had been friends ever since.
“Hey,” she said and strode inside. I saw that her red hair, which once touched her shoulders, was cut into a shorter style that reached the tips of her ears. She looked cute.
“Hey you!” I hurried over and hugged her, careful not to touch the delicate flowers. She set the vase on a tiny table beside the head of the bed and frowned as she examined its occupant.
“I have to go now guys,” Haru told us sadly. “I’ll stop by at the mansion tomorrow. See ya.”
“Bye,” Sang and I said in unison.
Darius came back just moments after and sighed. “The doctor still does not know what is truly affecting Hira and the other shifters so I am going to contact a doctor that I know and have her come to take a look at him. Now let’s leave.”
Sang and I scrambled after Darius as he left the room. Sang shut the door and we took the steps to get out of that horrible place. I welcomed the scent of the fresh spring air as we made our way to Darius’s black limo.
Sang gazed out the window as the vehicle left the hospital grounds. I grasped his hands and kissed them. I put on the happiest grin I could and hoped that Sang would be all right.
Darius was silent the whole way back home. I decided that right when we got there, I’d start baking a cake. Maybe that would cheer Sang up, even if just a little.
It was three in the morning when Sang retired to bed after devouring four pints of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. I was left all alone in the living room, watching a show about ghosts with a bowl of popcorn on my lap. After one more episode, I finally decided to go to my room.
As I ascended the stairs every little noise made me jump. I always got like this after watching shows about ghosts. Don’t ask me why, I just did. So when the floor creaked as I tiptoed down the hallway, I nearly hit my head on the ceiling with fright. Biting my lower lip I glanced around to make sure nothing was there and entered my bedroom as silently as possible.
I yelped in terror as I noticed the figure of a person sitting on my bed.
“Did I scare you, my dear?” Darius asked with a light chuckle as I stepped farther into the room. Relief washed over me like an ocean wave at the sound of his voice. He was wearing his black robe with the leopard trim, the muscles of his chest exposed. I exhaled and bounced on the bed next to him.
“I thought you were a ghost,” I murmured, rather embarrassed.
He laughed. “If there were a ghost in my house I would’ve noticed it, I assure you. Now tell me what is troubling you.”
I laced my fingers together and sighed. “I’m just worried about Sang and Hira. I just don’t know what to do about it. Hira’s so sick and we don’t know what it is…”
His hand coiled around mine. “I am having a very excellent doctor come to ascertain the illness so do not worry. Whatever happens, happens.”
“I know,” I whispered.
He let go of my hand and leaned into me. He smelled faintly of vanilla, and the wavy cascade of his hair was so soft against my shoulders as his lips found mine and pressed strongly against them. I was a little annoyed when he pulled away and licked the side of my neck, sending a shudder throughout my body.
“You smell so wonderful,” he uttered and before I could react, plunged his fangs deep into my flesh. A current of wild ecstasy tore through me as he drew on my blood, one hand reaching to the front of my shirt and cupping my breast while the other steadied my back. I began to feel weak and heavy as he continued to suckle on my throat pleasure bursting inside me like a firework.
Darius pushed me down onto the bed and straddled my legs, never leaving my neck as he gracefully moved like a cat to get me in the position he wanted. The overwhelming pleasure of his bite made me moan loudly and finally release the building orgasm between my legs. He slowly raised his head and unlatched from my neck, his lips smothered a bright scarlet as his gleaming amber eyes locked onto mine.
I loved how the moonlight hit his face at an angle so that his eyes glistened like wet jewels. A small grin curved his lips as his right hand played in the tresses of my hair, curling and uncurling the strands around his index finger. He licked the blood from around his mouth and crushed his mouth against mine. I returned the kiss and began to wriggle out of my jeans when a loud creaking sound stopped me.
“Do you hear that?” I whispered while pulling my jeans back onto my hips.
Darius listened intently. The creaking grew louder and louder. “Yes. Someone is coming.”
I turned my head toward the door as it swung open and in walked Sang. His hair was an unruly mess as he came beside the bed and stared at Darius and I. Darius climbed off of me and cleared his throat.
“Sang, what are you doing up so late?” he asked.
Sang’s crimson eyes were tiny slits as he drowsily replied, “I couldn’t sleep so I was wondering if I could sleep with Lily but it looks like
got here first. Move over.”
Darius and I parted ways and made a spot in the middle of the bed. Sang clambered onto the bed and lay down in the center. I shrugged and joined him and Darius decided to do the same. We were all crammed on my little full-sized mattress and I was worried that I was going to fall off. Sang reached to his feet and brought the covers over us.
“Goodnight, Lily, Dari,” he said plainly before he closed his eyes and wrapped an arm around my chest.
I tried my best not to move as I nestled my head on the pillows. Half of my butt was off the bed but I was happy that Sang was able to go to sleep. I grasped his hand and let my eyes shut.
“Sorry we didn’t get to—you know,” I said to Darius.
He laughed. “It’s all right. Another time perhaps.”
I couldn’t help but giggle. Sang’s interruption had been perfect. “Yeah. Another time.”
* * * *
I was on the floor when I woke up. Darius and Sang weren’t in the room so I guessed that they’d woken up before me and left. A really sweet and delicious scent wafted into the hallway and I skipped down the steps and went into the kitchen.