Groaning, his eyes flickered open. His memory was foggy...something about a cliff. And an aching pain in his side...he shot up in bed, looking around wildly at the red curtains and bedsheets.
"Don't be afraid." The woman's voice cooed to him.
He looked at her, thin waisted but wide hipped, with a beak nose and large eyes. Dark red hair pooled down her shoulders and her large blue eyes watched him under thick black lashes. "What do you remember?"
He didn't like this woman, or her soft voice. But something compelled him to answer her. "A cliff and water...the sea, I think." He watched her warily, and even more so as tiny flames danced above her nails. "Nothing more? Not even your name?"
He thought hard, but finally shook his head.
"Don't you worry." The flames disappeared on her nails. "You will remember in time, Adrian."
Mari woke with a start, her eyelids heavy. Daylight poured through the circle windows, and through them she had a perfect view of the ocean. Her gaze shifted to Leon, who sat in the armchair in front of her, his feet kicked up on the coffee table, and reading a book with one hand clutching a mug. He had changed into a gray shirt and his normal red coat, with brown boots. The golden cord tied his dangling blond hair back, and his gray eyes stared intently at his story. "Morning." He said without looking up. "Sleep well?"
When she didn't respond right away, he continued. "I sure did. I have the needle mark to prove it." Putting his book on his knee, he moved his collar to reveal the puncture mark on the side of his neck that had hints of a larger tattoo under his coat. Coldly, he stared at her. "We had a plan. I don't make a plan to chuck it out the window halfway through the night."
She rubbed her temples. It came back to her in one wave. "I know."
"Oh, you know?" His cold words nearly made her flinch. "I didn't realize you knew. I just didn't get that impression when you jumped off the balcony and nearly got yourself killed—if I hadn't done something." Almost as an afterthought he muttered, "and not a 'thank you' either."
"Thank you." Her lips pressed into a thin line at his glare. "I mean it. I could've been fish food but you stepped in." She was being sincere, and she tried to show him that with her expression. "I was stupid. Emotional. I went way off track. I-I screwed up big time. You told me to act as if we were never there, but I left a big mess for the king and Harry to find. It would've worked—your plan I mean. But I messed up. I'm sorry."
His eyes were wide in surprise for only a moment before he hid his thoughts with a frown. Hesitating, he stared down at his leather bound book. "Sorry doesn't change anything."
Mari nodded solemnly, but she was already thinking about the security footage she had seen, and what the scarred man had said about Adrian. What had he known so much about? Why did he have to get involved? Why did he hide something like this behind her back? She must've muttered the words aloud, because Leon tilted his head at her.
"Your partner meant a lot to you?"
Last night's shock seemed to have melted, because tears welled up in her eyes with his words. She buried her face in her palms and quietly sobbed. Misery rolled into her, as well as the reality of his death. Her shoulders shook from trembling so hard. Adrian is dead. A harder wave of despair shook her. If her trainer, or even Adrian saw her, they would shake their heads in disappointment at her state. She hadn't shed a single tear since she was a child, but it all came rushing out of her now. It wasn't until then that she heard Leon's soft words, "I'm sorry, so, so sorry..." and his arms around her. She let him pull her into him, and laid her head on his shoulder. His hushes quieted her, and he hummed a tune she didn't recognize. It was a simple melody, with many repeats, but it silenced her.
When her breathing had steadied and she relaxed, she pulled herself off him reluctantly, half angry that she had let him get so close, half upset she had let him see her in a weakened state. But all the care in the world had left with her tears.
Sighing, whether it was relief or exhaustion, Leon stood and made his way into the kitchen before she could apologize to him. She stared at her folded hands and listened to the tune he still hummed. It was pretty, and catchy, and sounded nice in his lower voice. So she stayed quiet and pulled her knees into her chest.
When he returned, he had another mug. It was yellow with a purple starfish on it; he held it out to her and waited until she took it from him before he sat down and gathered his own, orange mug. "Drink it, it'll make you feel at least a bit better."
She sipped it and didn't expect the taste. It was honey and creamy tea, warm enough to make her trembles ease. With the next few sips, her shaking died down to a light quivering. Her eyes burned, and she felt as if she could sleep again, even if she woke up not too long ago.
Leon stared blankly at the coffee table as he sipped his own tea, lost in thoughts she couldn't begin to imagine. His lips were curved downwards a tad.
When she was half way done with her drink, her voice had leveled back to normal, if a bit raspy. "Thank you."
He tore his eyes off the blank spot he had been staring at and turned his gaze to her before he nodded. It almost seemed, to her, that he had paled, but she couldn't be sure.
"I know a bit about what you're going through." He said, after a long time. "I had to learn the hard way that tea is much better than alcohol in times like these." A hint of a smile crossed his face, but it faded almost instantly.
"You're very kind for a Man of the Triton." She spoke without thinking and wish she hadn't. She had nearly forgotten about what he was, and she was a fool for it. "I've overstayed my welcome, I apologize." She remembered why she was there in the first place, and that she was in pajamas. Placing the mug down—if she hadn't been so distressed she would've been suspicious of it—she stood and rubbed her palms on her pants. "You helped me get what I sought, and I am forever in your debt."
"I'll get my things." She started up the stairs before he could speak. In her room, she changed into a spare brown coat and white blouse with gray pants and her normal black boots. Shouldering her pack, she began pulling her hair into a ponytail as she came back down.
Leon was staring at the ashes in the fireplace with a small frown and turned to her when he saw her nearing. "What is it you want, Lynn?"
She stopped, a bit caught off guard from the question.
"What we found last night, did it satisfy you? Are you happy?"
"No." She meant it to answer both questions.
He nodded and traced the scar on his chin in thought. "Well, my job, as a Miracle Worker, is to leave the buyer satisfied and happy. I haven't done either of those things. I was thinking...under my oath, I have to help under any circumstances, if I am hired."
"What are you trying to say?"
"I mean," he dropped his hand from his face and placed it in his pocket, his gray eyes cool, "my job isn't technically complete. Whatever it is you have to do, let me help."
"Okay." She was as surprised as he was at her quick answer. It was true she needed his help, and he was by far more sensible than her. But he has a triton, a tiny voice said in her head, he isn't trustworthy. He certainly seemed trustworthy enough, from what happened last night.
"Okay." He repeated incredulously. "Then put your bags back."
"Okay," she shook her head in embarrassment of her repetition. She spun on her heel and went to put her bags back before he could say the word again. When she came back, he was digging through books on a tall shelf adjacent to the fireplace. He already had four in one hand by the time she reached the last stair.
"So, I think killing the king of Atlantean Bay isn't the best idea." He was saying without looking at her. His normal light hearted sarcasm was starting to pick up again. "What you want is to find out what...your friend...was up to, right? Well it seems he knew enough to be a threat. It's why he was targeted. He knew bad stuff, or good stuff, however way you look at it. Stuff on the Pure Bloods. All we have to do is find out what he knew and then boom we're on the road to avenging him."
She nodded, her hole of hopelessness starting to fill with determination at his words. "Leon, can I ask you something?" She had said as he plucked books and stacked them on his coffee table.
He paused in examining the spine of one and stared at her. "Depends on what it is."
"What did you steal last night? From the king's room?"
He smiled and winked at her. "Don't worry about that. Worry about these books you have to read."
She frowned at the stacks. "Why do I have to read these?"
"If you want to know dirt on Pure Bloods, you have to go back to the beginning. Understanding where they come from is important. For your purposes, more accurately."
"How will this get me closer to what Adrian found?"
"You have to know the enemy before you fight him. If you want the king of Atlantean Bay to crumble, we start with the base of his throne and destroy it as we go." The certainty in his voice sent chills down her spine.
She sat down on the couch and opened the first he gave her, listening to his words as she wraveled herself in the history of the royals.
About the author
I’ve been a storyteller for as long as I can remember. Every chance I could get I was either writing, drawing, or telling anyone who’d listen my stories. Throughout high school I self published three books on Amazon. Enjoy my short stories!