Soul Fire(10)

By: Juliette Cross



I pulled out my comm device and dialed Sorcha, my fingers trembling. Her pretty face popped onscreen, rattling her video mail message. When the red light blinked on at the top of my comm to record my message, I gave the camera screen my most desperate expression.

“Sorcha. Please, please answer your phone. I couldn’t go home. I need a place to crash. I cannot crash here.” I panned my device to record the Nightwing crest on the terrace, including the entrance to Lucius’s home. I glared back in the camera. “Sorcha. Call. Me. Back.”

A Morgon with white wings landed on the building across the way. He gave me an intimidating once-over, and then disappeared into his home.

“Crap.”

I heard Lucius speaking to someone inside. I dialed Sorcha’s number again. Straight to video message. I slipped my comm back into my pocket. Damn it. She always answered her phone. Always. Unless something dire kept her from it. Or something delectable. I remembered the way Corbin looked at her when they left, like she was a delicious dessert he finally had all to himself.

“Come inside.” Lucius stood in the arched entrance, a breathtaking silhouette against golden light. “I won’t bite.”

Sure you won’t.

I entered his living room, a multi-leveled space, dipping deeper into the room. Vast murals covered the stone walls and high ceiling. A giant mahogany mantle framed an oversized fireplace, the grate cold now at the end of summer.

“Did you call your friend?”

“Yeah. She’s not answering, but she’ll call me back soon.” If she knows what’s good for her.

“Excuse me a minute.” He stepped through an archway into the next room, possibly the kitchen. Glass and silver clinked together. He spoke low to someone else.

A shiver of apprehension skated up my spine. I was currently sitting in a Morgon’s home. I must be brave or stupid. Blaming the alcohol for my poor judgment, I wished Sorcha would hurry and call me back.

I sat on a claret-colored chaise of fine velvet next to a heavy, dark-wood coffee table. Backless like all the other furniture, obviously for the winged people who lounged here, the chaise rolled in a sinuous curve, curling up where the head would rest. If a piece of furniture could be considered sexy, this one most certainly was. Though it was meant for a Morgon to lounge sideways, I couldn’t help from stretching out onto my back, my body fitting into the soft contours. The feeling was decadent. I stared up at a colorful mural on the ceiling.

Painted in vibrant hues by a master, two figures stood in front of a castle window, a windswept mountain dusted with snow beyond. A man and a woman. Wait. A man and a woman? A pale, nude woman gazed into a moon-drenched night, her ebony hair falling to her hips. A look of sheer contentment and peace marked her delicate-boned profile. Dragons winged away in the distance. Behind the woman, a nude man, bronze-skinned, standing two feet taller than her, kept a gentle hand on her waist. His arm curved in the shadows between falls of her black hair. Rather than mirroring her gaze into the night, his eyes looked down on her with adoration.

“Do you like it?”

I startled and jolted upright. Lucius stood in the wide archway leading into the kitchen, staring intently at me. I felt caught in the act of something shameful.

“I, um,”—I cleared my throat—“yes, it’s quite lovely. I was wondering why…”

Brain, please start functioning again.

“Wondering why?” he prompted.

“I mean, why do you have a painting of humans on your ceiling?”

 In my parents’ house, ancient works by artists who worshipped the nude form adorned every room. However, the paintings that filled our halls were of picnic bathers, frolicking nymphs, or some other innocent diversion. The scene floating above me was more intimate, as if the painting wasn’t meant for just anyone’s eyes.

“Only one is human. This depicts King Radomis and his queen.”

A man in black livery entered the room carrying a cup and saucer. Lucius gestured toward me. The servant, somewhere in his forties, well groomed with dark hair and sharp features, walked stiffly over and handed me the black-rimmed cup and a folded napkin. “For you, miss.”

I cleared my throat. “Um, thank you.”

“For your headache,” clarified Lucius. “Thank you, Brant. That’ll be all tonight.”

“Good evening, Mr. Nightwing.”

He gave me a tight bow, possible scorn in his eyes, before exiting through another archway out of the living room.

I watched the man go, taking a sip of the tea. “How’d you know I had a headache?”

“Drink the tea. You’ll be feeling better soon enough.”

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