May 16, 2014
The clock ticked midnight and I closed my eyes, letting the sound of the Big Ben echo through the square, the neighborhood, the quiet city of London. The sound was rich and bombastic, carried away by the slapping wind, and I would’ve smiled at its familiarity had I remembered what it was like to smile from the heart.
Another sound invaded the quiet while the bells began to diminish. That sound was rougher, rugged, that of a motorcycle. Across the square from where I was sitting, a bike appeared, its rider draped in dark leather clothes, thinking himself to be a cool gangster, but I knew better. He rounded the square dramatically, riding over puddles on purpose so he could splash water like the little kid he was, and then stopped right next to me. Show-off, I thought disapprovingly as he removed his black helmet and, as if he was in a hair-conditioner commercial, flipped his dark gold hair so the silky locks wouldn’t simply be messy, but orderly so. Then he opened his gold-flecked brown eyes that seemed like molten honey that melted many a woman, and gave me a grin full of dimples and sin.
Killian Darrow was nothing if not a charming son of a bitch, but no one should underestimate him; he might be a pretty boy, but he had a mind sharper than a scalp, held ruthlessness within that he mostly concealed, but let pop out here and there. All in all, though, he was good people, and he was one of mine. That, including his intelligence and the excellent job he was doing for me, made him of deep value to me.
He was also my ward.
“You look just the same as you did a couple of years ago,” he said as a way of greeting while I rose to my feet. He scanned me from head to toe and back, and his lips curled into a mocking smirk. “Your fashion statement also stayed the same.”
I glanced down at my black hiking pants, black cape on top of black, baggy tee, black hiking boots, and black scarf and gloves, and knew he was right. “It’s necessary,” I responded dispassionately. “It helps me blend better.” Because if I were to wear what I truly wanted, I would’ve attracted too much attention, and that wasn’t acceptable.
“I know that,” he said, tucking his hands in the pockets of his leather jacket. “I just wish I could see you in other clothes, because as far as I’m concerned, your wardrobe consists of this outfit only.”
He wasn’t wrong, but talking about my attire was not the reason we were meeting tonight in such a secluded part of the city, with no one around but us. “Killian,” I said, giving him my hard stare, the one that had once made his knees shake, but now only made him arch an eyebrow. “While I love talking to you after so long, there’s a reason we’re meeting today, isn’t there?”
Noting the urgency in my tone, he narrowed his eyes and stepped closer. “Why the rush?” he asked, and then wrapped his toned arms around my waist and tugged me close. “I want to spend some time with you. Chat, like old times. I rarely see you as it is, you now wish to make our relationship a distant partnership instead?”
While he was my ward, and I was responsible for him in every way that mattered, Killian didn’t seem to comprehend that our relationship was always short-termed. It wasn’t because I didn’t want him in my life or something like that; the opposite was true. But I had a mission to accomplish and promises to keep, and, unfortunately, taking care of him wouldn’t help my cause. That was one of the reasons why, when he was sixteen, I sent him to a special academy for gifted kids like him. Now, at twenty-four, he had graduated that elite academy and became a private detective who specialized in unearthing unfindable pieces of information in both legal and illegal ways, through so many connections, I myself lost count of.
“Killian,” I said as gently as I could, but it was hard; after so many years of existing, emotions were hard to express. But I still tried, still fought to keep at least some small piece of humanity in a time which, at least for me, nothing was humane anymore. “I do not wish to hurt you, but I’m not here to play.”
He tensed his grip of me, but after a few silent minutes he sighed in defeat and stepped back. His beautiful face was now solemn, all hints of charm gone, replaced by the man Killian Alexei Darrow truly was. “I know that,” he said with a grim smile. “You’re here for what I told you I found.”
Heart echoing a small indication of guilt, I nodded in confirmation. A few days ago, while I was roaming South America, Killian contacted me that his years-long research for me was finally over. He’d unearthed the most difficult piece of information, and I flew all the way to the land I’d forsaken a long time ago so he could share it with me. “I’m proud of you,” I said, and it was the truth; I was proud of him. He proved himself to be not only exceptionally smart, but also stealthy and sneaky more than I could’ve ever imagine. To find what he did required years of experience and tries, yet after a few years in the field and with little experience, he did it.
Smiling a big, accomplished smile, which turned him into the little golden boy I’d raised, he took a seat on the bench I’d deserted. Settling myself next to him, I waited almost impatiently as he took out a piece of crumpled paper out of an inner pocket in his biker jacket and straightened it, making the scribbles more intelligible. “Here it is,” he handed it over, and, almost greedily, I took it, and scanned the precious paper I held in my hands.
A family tree, but not just a family tree. The Knox family tree, beginning with Solomon and Patricia Knox, and continuing with the Morgan family...
“Amazing,” I murmured, eyes wide as I followed the lines the connected the people in this family together. Brothers and sisters giving birth to more, and more...
But the family tree paused with two names I knew all too well. The names of sisters, daughters of a famous woman. I knew them, but had never realized they were connected. Never realized they were related to the Knox line. Never knew there was a chance like that.
The wonderment disappeared, was replaced with cold interest and pure determination. “I see,” I said icily, crumpling the paper in my hand and putting in my pocket. “This leaves me no choice.”
Killian gave me a puzzled look. “What do you mean?”
“It means,” I elucidated, “I have been given another task to fulfill.” Because I knew the story behind Elena Morgan and her daughters, Reyna and Anya. Because I knew that, in addition to Killian, these two teenage girls were the last of a kin I had to keep safe as part of the vow I’d kept for so long ago, and intended to continue keeping.
“I don’t understand,” my ward said, lost.
“I didn’t expect you to,” I said, looking at him. “But let me explain as best as I can. Do you know who the Morgan family is?”
“Of course!” he exclaimed, insulted. “Elena Morgan is like modernized royal, as loaded as Queen Elizabeth, if not more.”
“True,” I said, the cool wind brushing against my skin and tousling Killian’s unruly curls. “But she died three years ago, leaving behind her husband and two girls.”
Killian nodded vehemently. “I remember,” he said, “California was – and still is – in an uproar because of that.”
That was also true. California was Elena’s – and the Morgans as a whole – domain, or rather “kingdom”, and the Californians treated the Morgans like English people treated their own queen. Even the werewolves, who almost never gave humans more political power, especially territory-speaking, respected the so-called royal family and allowed its reign.
But now that the “queen”, Elena, was deceased, there was no “heir”; Reyna was yet to be eighteen, which meant she couldn’t be “coronated” yet, and Martin, Elena’s husband, wasn’t considered part of the “royal” lineage and therefore couldn’t by Law get Elena’s property. There was a power vacuum that affected both races, human and werewolf alike, and it meant someone needed to fill.
For three years, West Coast Pack, the werewolf pack that controlled the entire west coast of the USA and even a piece of Canada, took California exclusively under its wing – the werewolf packs usually only owned the territory, but mostly did not rule over all of it, letting the majority in the state, which in this case was human, take care of its needs – but the Californians were itching for their royal family – or any sort of royalty, really – to come back. And that spelled trouble.
“To be honest,” I said now that I processed all that, “I don’t care about politics and stuff like that. But since your new little tidbit gave me no choice, I now have to meddle in this.”
“That’s dangerous, Devil,” Killian said, addressing me by the title I’d gotten myself. “I’ve made some research on the situation there as part of another job, and found some seriously disturbing news about mafia men who have intentions to claim the empty throne.”
That was why I hated royalty, modernized or otherwise. No matter what, strife and death always ruled. Only musing about the ramifications of Elena’s death made my head hurt, but now I had to voluntarily take a step into this three-years-long mess. I hated dealing with humans, always did and probably always would, but, as I told Killian, that family tree had given me no choice. Because both Reyna and Anya Morgan were in danger, and it was my responsibility to eliminate even the barest of threats.
“Don’t worry, Kill,” I said, rising to my feet again. “I’m hard to assassinate.”
My ward’s face colored. “I’m allowed to fret about my guardian!”
That would’ve been correct if I’d been any other guardian and he was any other ward. “You’re wrong,” I said, narrowing my eyes as I put my hands on his shoulders. “You’re not allowed to fret about me, because the moment you do, you put yourself in danger. I’m tough. I’m much stronger than some puny humans playing GTA. I can take care of myself.” I paused, letting it sink, and added, “And you can take care of yourself as well.” Because he studied exactly that in Dengen Academy.
He made a face, looking so young and innocent even though I knew otherwise. But we’d already had this conversation thousands of times, and he knew that no matter what argument he used, my response would be relentlessly the same. “Fine,” he said, standing up with anger. “I’ll leave you to it, then.”
Hating that I’d hurt his feelings despite the fact I was hurting him for him, I clasped his hand. “I wish I could be the perfect guardian for you,” I told him, letting some of the remorse I felt color my words, “but circumstances are still the same.” And would probably stay the same at least for another century.
He squeezed my hand in response, showing me his maturity and growth through the simple act. “I know, Eve,” he said, calling me by my name for the time in the last few years. “I know.”
And yet, even knowing, he wished it wasn’t like that. I wished that, too, but I had a long time to learn how to come to terms with circumstances. Killian was merely twenty-four. He had years ahead of him before life erased the remains of his naïvety. I’d already gone through this, and learned the hard way to, eventually, accept.
But, as I watched Killian putting his helmet back on and vooming out of the square and into the darkness of the London night, I couldn’t help but wish I’d taken another course when I first met him as a baby. Still, I now had a chance of redemption with Reyna and Anya, because while I corrupted one boy’s life, I was given the chance to help and save two girls from harm.
A drop fell on the ground from the suddenly cloudy sky, rippling through the puddle next to me. I looked down, saw a pair of icy-blue eyes tinged with purple looking back at me, settled in an unusually beautiful, young, regal face framed by long, charcoal smooth hair, and clenched my hands into fists.
I could save these girls. I would save them, and I would do a better job at making their life easy than what I did with Killian.
I would not disappoint you, Solomon, I thought with grim determination as I walked through the wet asphalt . I would keep my vow to you. I would keep your kin safe.
I would be the sister I should’ve been five hundred years ago.