Suffocating, that is what Aezriana had been doing since the moment Zagan had disappeared from the realm and left her alone to deal with the darkness surrounding her. Like a rock thrust into a pool of darkest night, she felt her power rage against the confines of her new prison. She had walked along the dreary halls of the realm, finding it difficult to think of anything other than escaping. The last experience she’d encountered in the dark was with the male held up in his room. She had made it a habit to pace outside his door, curious about his healing and for some reason desperate to see him again. The rumors whispering in the air was that the Duke had succumbed to madness and refused to leave his room. She brought her fingers to her lips and remembered the warmth or was that possessiveness that tempted her body into fiery temptation. Many nights she had fought with the images wrestling in her mind and was determined to avoid him at all cost. Yet, as the days trickled by, she always found her way back to his quarters. Her hand languidly hesitated on the door with a desperate plea silent on her lips.
Grima stood in the deep shadows outside Haures’s room and watched the female dare to knock on the door. The long flowing gown wrapped around the female’s curves sensually and a pang of jealousy pricked at her gut. Although she was the only servant to enter the Duke’s room, she took it with great pride that it was her blood that gave strength to his body. Many nights she had sat at his bed side, coaxing him to feed, when his stubborn nature refused to eat or drink. Now as she stood in the dark watching the female fight the desire to knock on his door, the jealousy gave her courage to step into the soft glow of the torches to make her presence known.
“What are you doing here? You have no business disturbing the Duke at this late hour”.
Her words were harsher than she expected, but Grima was determined to keep Haures and this female apart. She stood in the corridor hearing the gentle whispers on the air and a shiver raked down her spine. The female was beautiful in the soft glow of the light, her long auburn hair flowed perfectly over her pale skin, but there was fire flickering along the hem of her dress. The creature had kept her presence hidden since coming back with Zagan, but she refused to believe that the Duke would be interested in entertaining such a creature.
Haures heard words outside his door, muffled beyond the old oak, but he was intrigued. There had been times of late when he felt like he was being stalked from outside his door, but he had no energy to breech the entrance to find out whom or what came to watch over him. He stood by the fireplace, the warmth of the embers chased away the ghosts that haunted his mind, and he waited to see if his visitors would find someone else to torment. His demeanor had changed slightly since the last time a visitor had graced his room. He could still recall what she smelled like and many nights he had recalled the way she felt in his arms. He had been cruel in his life to those he loved, betrayed a deceased wife and isolated a son, but after days of being alone in his chambers, he had time to reflect on the wrongs in his life.
The way the elderly woman addressed Aezriana frightened and incensed her at the same time. It was no secret this female had command over most of the female demons while Zagan was away. She raised a brow and tried to control her tongue as best she could when she spoke. The audacity of some females around the realm was nothing like where she came from, and it took all her strength not to accost the female in the darkened corridor.
“I wanted to make sure he was alright and it is none of your concern why I am here”.
Her tone was brass, a little high pitched from her frustration, but it was her thundering heart beat that coursed the blood through her veins like a raging river.
“Are you his watch dog? Last I remember it was Zagan that rules here not you”.
She had probably pushed too hard, and in the back of her mind, she expected to be punished for being so bold. Not having an ally she could trust, it was no surprise this female would accuse her of disturbing the male inside instead of keeping him much needed company. The flare in the woman’s eyes caused Aezriana some alarm and her hands gripped the flaming material that continued to glow around her. Her nature had been out of control since entering this realm, and the longer she remained in the dark, the less control she had over her elemental powers.
Grima’s tone was defensive, unlike most demons in this realm, having her actions questioned especially from an outsider didn’t sit well with her. Her eyes darkened matching the anger raging through her veins, but if she raised her voice too much, she was sure Haures would come barreling through the old oak door.
“I have lived in this realm longer than you have been alive. How dare you question why I am here?”
Stepping closer to the female currently defying her questions and refusing to leave, Grima stared into the emerald eyes of the only female in the realm that could take the Duke’s attention away from her. She was determined to make her claim even if deep down she knew she had no right.
“Leave this corridor and never come back. You have no right to be here.”
Snarling like a feral beast, Grima could feel the demon beyond her soft flesh scratch against her instinct to appear in the corridor.
Turning towards the door, Haures’s eyes lingered on the dead vines that protected the old oak door that led to the corridor. He had a feeling something was wrong and by the sound of the voices outside there was no better time than the present to check it out. His boots were heavy along the cobblestone floor when he stalked across the room. It was warm in his chambers making it natural for him to only be dressed in a pair of breeches and boots when he sent a command for the door to open.
“What is the meaning of this?”
It hadn’t taken long for him to recognize the two females standing outside the door. Grima looked like she was about to take the disagreement to another level and as Haures looked at Aezriana his crimson eyes flared at the flicker of flames along her dress.
“Grima leave us.. “
He wasn’t sure where the protective streak came from. He had no reason to want this female to stick around. Grima had been providing the care he needed to physically get back on his feet, but it was the other female that stirred his desire to feel alive again.
“I will not need your care tonight and I will make sure the female gets back to her chambers unharmed”.
Grima’s jaw practically dropped when Haures appeared in the entrance to his chamber. His bare chest, expansive and muscular, took her breath away, but she kept her composure. That was until he dismissed her as if she didn’t matter. She would have another opportunity to get the female for the disrespect the Duke had given, but for now she would leave the two of them alone. Her eyes moved from the Duke to the female, before she took a few steps away and disappeared down the corridor.
Aezriana was about to speak, when the male appeared and then her mouth went dry. When the elderly female was sent away, it felt like a chill had stolen what warmth she felt, and now she had one more enemy to worry about. She watched the female disappear into the darkness and felt a pang in her stomach.
“You didn’t have to do that. I could have handled it without your interference. Now she will find every reason within her power to make my life here miserable”.
Internally she was shaking, and her voice showed that slight trepidation, as her words flowed into the musky air. Her hands were clammy when she finally had the nerve to look the male in the eyes. He was a magnificent being, his eyes crimson, his raven hair which hung along his broad shoulders, and she could barely think with him staring at her like a piece of meat. She couldn’t control the flames on her dress as they inched up with every breath she took. She stepped away from him in fear the flames would burn him and because he intimidated her.
“I don’t need a protector. I need someone to help me get home”.
Once Grima was out of the way, escaping down the hall like a child that had been scolded, Haures took the female’s words into consideration, but didn’t agree with her assessment of his behavior.
“If she gives you trouble, she will deal with me”.
Adamant about this female being under his protection, he gave her his full attention noticing the way she avoided being close to him. The flames seemed to be out of control, and he wasn’t sure how to calm her nerves, but maybe a peace offering would help. He heard the concern in her voice, the way she tried to be strong, when underneath that beauty was a creature missing her home, but what could he really do to ease her sorrow.
“If you would like me to walk you to your room I can manage or if you’re not afraid I might devour you for dinner, my chambers are at your disposal. I promise no harm will come to you.”
He waited to see if the female would allow him to at least offer his company. He didn’t know how to address the subject of ‘home’ when his son was the one that brought her here in the first place. Patience wasn’t an virtue he had these days, but the thought of her being under duress worried him.
“I don’t want to go back to my chambers, but being in there with you isn’t a good idea either”.
She felt vulnerable, her emotions reflected in her inability to control her power, and inside she was screaming to get away. How can these two emotions exist together? Aezriana wasn’t sure, but the longer he watched her harder it was to refuse his open invitation. Before she had time to think it through, she was walking through the entrance to his chambers and hearing the slight chuckle echoing behind her. The flames gathered around her dress seemed to calm when she entered his living quarters. She refused to look at the male directly, and instead kept her eyes on the fireplace.
”I’m not the enemy here, female. It would do wisely for both of us if you would try to accept that”.
Haures followed behind her, watching the way her body moved with the soft material of her dress, and noticed the flames seemed to relinquish their hold once she was settled in his chambers. He moved over to the fire and watched the flames dance in the silence of the room. He lifted his head and turned to look at her with hooded eyes.
”How many nights have you come to my room? Grima would not have thrown such a challenge had you not been here before.”
It wasn’t something Aezriana had expected to asked, and when her eyes lifted to meet his curious gaze, she felt heat flow over her skin. She swallowed slowly before she answered his question.
”I haven’t slept well since I have been here. I know I was told to stay in my room, not to explore the halls, but I always find myself outside that door”.
She wasn’t about to explain she was drawn to him, not when everything inside her screamed to keep her emotions to herself, but she was new at this. She licked her tongue over her lips, wetting them in nervousness, and wasn’t sure what more he wanted to hear.
”If she is mad at me for being here, then I guess she has a right, but you invited me in, so .. what does that mean?”
She held his gaze, his body was wrapped in the glow of the fire flickering behind him, and yet she couldn’t take her eyes away from his face. Was that a slow grin she saw threatening to break beyond his stoic features? She wasn’t sure, but she would love to see such an emotion cross his lips for once.
“It means, I have a weakness for females who believe I need to be the one protected.”
It was unusual, but Haures could actually relate to her inability to sleep, having had his own nightmares to awaken him at night, but her confession was surprising. He extended his hand and beckoned her to come closer to the fire.
”Come here, female. I promised you I wouldn’t hurt you and I am a demon of my word”.
Suddenly take back by his words, she hesitated at his request, but found her feet moving forward. She wanted to believe she was safe in his chambers, but all she could remember was the way he greeted her the last time they were together.
”I am no one’s protector”.
She grinned at him and her words were a gentle whisper on the air. After finally getting the flames along the hem of her dress to extinguish, she attempted to relax her shoulders.
When the female stepped forward, there was part of Haures that knew he had made some head way. There had been nights when her vision had been the only thing keeping him among the land of the living, and half the time he wasn’t even sure she was real. Now as she stood next to him with the fire embers giving off small warmth, she was the most exquisite female he had seen. Her bright emerald eyes looked at him with want, something he noticed the last time they were together. He was sure that after that night, that one passionate kiss, that she would have avoided him like the plague.
“Perhaps we can protect each other, Aezriana.. “
Her name rolled off his tongue easily enough, but as his crimson eyes lowered over her body, his body regained the arousal that his dreams created. His voice was thick and low in tone, which made it quite clear he wanted another taste of the morsel standing timidly beside him.
“I don’t know what you have heard around the corridors of this place, but I am not the devil as everyone wants to believe. I have been lost in my anger, and maybe have done a few things I regret, but I’m not a complete monster. “
Why Haures needed her to believe that, he wasn’t sure, but as he watched the reaction flow over her features, he wanted to believe that maybe she could see him differently. “I have made a lot of mistakes in my life, but I would never hurt you.. “
“I’m the last person to place judgment..”
She liked the sound of her name on his lips, the way his tone deepened and his eyes watched her. She turned away from the heated look and concentrated on the glow of the fire place.
“I was sent to keep Zagan occupied. To keep him distracted so I think you and I are even in making wrong decisions. Can we call it a truce and let it go for now”.
She was feeling self-conscious and suddenly she wanted to hide.
“Maybe I should leave.. I mean I really shouldn’t have come here.. “
She turned to leave like a scared rabbit and her mouth turned dry when she noticed his bed was still turned down and the plate of food on the table had hardly been touched.
“I don’t belong here.. “
His hand was on her wrist before she had a chance to move to far, and she turned to look back at him with fear, confusion and surprise in her eyes. She didn’t know him, only what she knew through Zagan and the rumors whispering around the realm, and now she was trapped in his chambers with no escape. Sadly enough, she didn’t want to escape as much as she wanted to understand how these emotions could be suffocating her thinking and causing her to flee to a demon that could hurt her.
His hand moved faster than he expected, but when she said she wanted to go, Haures forgot all caution when panic began to sit in. He had been in his chambers for what felt like an eternity, a kind of darkness swept over his life, but now with this feisty red haired beauty in his room, brought something alive in him that couldn’t be explained.
“If I let you go, will you come back? I don’t want to face this room alone anymore.”
Confessions weren’t something he was good at, his secretes were his own, but now he felt like this one female could be the answer to finding his way again. “I want you to promise I will see you again.. “
Where was this coming from? Wasn’t he a monster, wasn’t he the reason Zagan was a mean demon, and yet there she stood before him and his pleading eyes glared at her. She wasn’t cut out for this, not when all she wanted was to go home, to see her family and be free of the darkness. He was darkness incarnate, the brooding devil of her nightmares, or so the rumors spoke and yet here he was pleading with her to come back. She looked down at the tight grip on her wrist, the pain slightly crept up her arm, until she lifted her eyes to truly see him for the demon he is.
“Everything inside me is screaming to never come back, to leave you here and yet .. “
A heavy sigh escaped her lips, that last time she saw Zagan he was in anger at the things his father had done, and now she was looking at a different side her friend’s agony.
“I’ll come back… “
He hadn’t expected to grip her wrist so tight, but frustration at his son’s name dripping from her soft lips brought out a mane streak that was hard to control. He had things to figure out, maybe things would never change, but the thought of never seeing Aezriana’s beautiful face was all he could think about and it made him slightly insane. He released the hold he had on her arm the moment the words of agreement escaped her lips. Maybe he was asking too much, maybe he had no right to want to spend time with this creature from another world, but she had made an impression and he wanted to know more about her.
“Then you may go.. “
His wrist let go of her arm matching his words that she was free to go. She swallowed slowly and then made her way across the floor without another word. Her heart hammered in her chest when the groan of the dead vines revealed the opening of the door and then she ran into the darkness. She had enough control over her body to dissolve into a soft mist and then made her way back to her room. She had no business wanting to spend time with Haures at all, now Grima would be all over her and her life would get more complicated. She needed Zagan to come home, to be there to help her adjust, but more importantly she wanted to go home.
Haures thought about what the female had said about his son. She had been sent to distract him, to keep him occupied, but occupied from what? And who had sent her? She was gone in a matter of moments, anxious to get away from him, but he could tell it was more of a fear of what might happen, than actual fear of what he was. His eyes lingered over the door as it closed and then he turned his attention back to the fire. So many questions lingered in the air, but right now, all that mattered was that she would come back and chase away the darkness that was slowly sucking the life out of him.