A/N: Hullo all, I’ve uploaded another chapter for an early welcome to 2016. Enjoy! 🙂
If a chaste kiss could ever be described in that way, it was what Fred felt in that moment. A simple touching of lips made the electricity that usually ran up his arms to his hands course throughout his body. The desire that had gone when he comforted Cheska returned twofold.
She drew back.
Passion overcoming his better judgment, he leaned forward and captured her mouth with his.
Cheska stiffened with a startled gasp. Her reaction woke him a little. He slowed, the kisses becoming gentle – tentative even.
Then she melted in his arms.
Elated at her response, the electrical current surged from him engulfing them both in a sweet caress. She shivered underneath his touch. Every touch she placed on his skin drew him closer to the edge. Her kisses became more demanding.
A previous scene played out in Fred’s mind. Cheska had used him to get rid of her ex-fiancé. She had kissed him as proof that they were lovers. Her kisses were enthusiastic and…inexperienced. The revelation brought him back to reality. At its heels, guilt and self-recrimination had him pulling away.
During that sensuous haze, Fred had somehow ended up on top. His shirt was open and Cheska’s hands lay on his bare chest. The heat from her palms matched the look she gave him. Their breaths mingled in the space between them. The sensations threatened to overwhelm him again. His instincts blared a warning: If Fred gave in, he would completely succumb to his need. He would take her. Gods help him. It would hurt her.
“I…” he began. The vulnerability in her eyes stopped him short. Fred rolled away from her. Lying on his back, he cursed himself. Gods, I’m an idiot. I’ve taken advantage of her. Twice. I’m acting like a hormonal teenager! I can’t believe I just let this happen. He saw Cheska sit up, not looking at him. What do I tell her? How did I get myself into this? His brows furrowed, remembering who started it. Why did she kiss me?
As if hearing his thoughts, Cheska turned to him. Her face scarlet, she said, “I kissed you before.” Her blush deepened. “Not recently. I meant before all this – when we were younger.”
It was obvious she didn’t want to talk about what just happened. Had his ability affected her, too? Still, he was grateful for her attempt to remove the awkwardness that loomed over them.
“That,” his voice sounded husky. Fred cleared his throat. “That was eleven years ago.”
“Why did I do it?”
“I’m not sure. You rescued me in the tunnel and, at some point, you kissed me.”
“Did,” she hesitated, “anything change after that?”
“Nothing changed. You were angry with me for a while – taking off and being an idiot.” Yes. Nothing changed. I was a bit infatuated with Electra – you. But…nothing changed. Fred studied Cheska. The sunlight played on her hair turning wisps of it into the color of copper. The rest of it were disheveled from the fingers he had run through it. Her mouth was swollen and her blouse rumpled. Fred could imagine what he looked like by her appearance. All hinted at what had elapsed moments ago and what could have occurred. He averted his gaze and sat. With deliberate care, he buttoned up his shirt.
“Weren’t you going to check on my well-being?” Cheska asked.
Fred dropped the button he was fiddling with and looked at her. Cheska’s mouth curved into a teasing smile, though she barely spared a glance at him. Her face was to the window with eyes closed.
Puzzled at her sudden shift of mood, he answered her seriously: “I just wanted to know if you were alright.”
“You saw that, didn’t you?” The smile vanished. Her head drooped. “What I did to Louis. After everything he’s been through.”
His heart twisted at the sight of her unhappiness. Electra’s life was overshadowed by tragedy and secrets. A stark contrast to what she currently has as Cheska.
“He’ll understand,” he assured her.
She fixed her gaze on the floor. Did Cheska believe him?
“You should go,” she said at length. “They’re waiting for you.”
She was right. Not knowing what else to say, Fred shuffled towards the door leading to the corridor Louis and he had taken. In Cheska’s current state of mind, his hand hovered on the doorknob, reluctant to leave. Fred twisted to check on her. She hadn’t budged from her position. Her eyes were transfixed on the garden outside.
“Cheska,” he called.
“I’m not going to disappear, Fred. Go,” she replied, her head still turned to the window.
It was a dismissal and a promise. A shadow of the girl he knew from before. At least, she’s changed. Electra had a habit of disappearing for days whenever she was in a mood.
“I’ll be back,” he said unnecessarily.
“Please don’t tell Louis,” Fred heard her say as the door closed behind him.
The guard stationed outside the room whirled with a start on seeing the doctor. “Sir” was the only thing the poor man could come up with. His eyes darted to the door, to Fred, then the hallway and back. From the man’s stricken appearance, the doctor could imagine what was going on the former’s head at that moment.
“At ease,” Fred raised a placating hand. “I came through a different route.” The guard seemed skeptical. “Well, there is. I came to check on the patient. She’s awake, by the way. Please see to it that she’s comfortable.”
“Y-yes, sir,” the man stammered. He appeared to take in Fred’s appearance then glanced at the closed door.
“Is there something wrong?”
“Sir.” Flustered, the guard motioned at his mouth. “It – it’s pink.”
Blood crept up Fred’s face. He had thought to fix himself in the next room and failed to recall the guard posted outside the guest room. The surprise to find a person standing by the doorway had apparently caused him to forget about the state of his appearance.
“Thank you for telling me,” Fred replied, straightening his shirt. “I’m just going to use the room next door and…Yes, that’s what I’ll do.” He pivoted towards his destination, resisting the urge to make a run for it.
Inside, Fred stared in shock at his reflection. His mouth was smudged with pink. Cheska’s lips had tasted like berries; the flavor of her lip balm. His blond hair stood in places. His shirt was askew – a sign that he had been too distracted to focus on the task. The reality of what and would have transpired between them sank in. It looked like spending time with Cheska was becoming dangerous for him.
Sighing, he put aside thoughts of her and started the process of making himself presentable.
All eyes were on Fred. A satellite footage of electricity coming out from a window was paused on the screen.
“Oh, yeah. There’s more,” Gerry said. He clapped his hands and commanded, “Resume playing.”
The screen came alive. Soon, everyone in the conference room watched a figure with blond hair release bolts of electricity from his fingers towards the mercenaries.
“Stop,” Louis said, putting his hands together. The screen went blank. His gaze not leaving the doctor, he said to Gerry: “Do that again, agent, and you’ll get what you deserve.”
Fred hadn’t been prepared to see the faith Louis had for him. The younger man trusted him that an explanation was in order.
“Dr. Williams, would you please explain,” Mr. Roucan said.
“I’ve had it ever since the accident – before I left the academy.,” Fred replied. “At least, that’s what I suspect.”
“When did you discover that you possess this kind of power?”
Power. Fred hadn’t thought of it that way. It was always just an ability that was increasingly becoming more of a liability than an asset. Keeping his emotions in check wasn’t enough now that it was getting out of control. Still, people would jump at the chance of having this kind of power. His time with the Hyena Quarter taught him that. They would have used him as their assassin if Zafeera hadn’t helped him escape.
Mr. Roucan was a businessman. To have expanded and maintained his empire was evidence of how good he was in his work. Would he exploit someone’s ability for his own benefit?
Fred answered warily, keeping specifics to the minimum. However, he had to reveal his association with the Libyan resistance and Zafeera. This led him to relate how he’d escaped to Russia.
“Another guardian,” Mr. Roucan mused. He sat at the head of the table, rubbing his chin absently. His eyes were fixed on the folder laid in front of him.
The spy swiveled towards his employer. “We’ll have to reorganize a few things, factor in the rebels,” Gerry said.
“This is beyond our jurisdiction.”
“We’ve been working behind your government’s back for years.” Mr. Roucan glared at him, but the spy paid no heed. “Without us, our neighbors would have torn apart your lands; claimed territories; and exploited our natural resources. I told you it was a bad idea to give those bureaucrats the run of this city.”
“First, our neighbors would never have these lands. Second, establishing a government was a solution to keep other countries from putting pressure on us. Third, it was also time for someone to lead our people.”
“You mean someone acceptable.” Gerry rolled his eyes.
Mr. Roucan gave him a flat stare. The spy smirked. He raised his hands in surrender. Their audience frowned at them. Louis looked troubled; Fred, curious and surprised; and the doctor’s mom, shocked.
“The guardians won’t be happy to hear that their tunnels have been breached,” Mr. Roucan continued, ignoring the effect of the conversation to those in the room.
Gerry tapped a finger against the glass table. Then he said slowly: “We’d have to work with them, won’t we?”
His employer stared at him.
“They don’t work as a team, Roucan.” He shook his head. “That’s why there’s always just two for each country – one Guardian, one successor-slash-apprentice. I doubt they’ll play nice with their peers. Heck, I doubt they’ll play by our rules.”
“The guardians never had a common enemy before,” Louis interjected. He gave the spy a scathing glance. “This is the first in history that someone posed as a threat to them.”
“We’d better be the first to open communications with the guardians,” Mr. Roucan said. “I’d avoid angering them further by waiting for them to contact us.”
“I already did,” Louis said. He tilted his head to the side, eyes glazed. “They’re coming. Tell the men to act…natural, Allan.” His sight refocused. Louis gazed at the spot behind his father.
Fred followed Louis’ line of sight. The wall shimmered like light reflected on water. A nose appeared followed by a face, then the rest of the body of a guardian as he crossed the portal. When both feet were firmly planted on the floor, the wall became corporeal once more.
Another portal opened from the ceiling. A woman dropped down and landed soundlessly on the table top. Her hair flowed in a cascade of platinum around her smooth pale face. A steady stream of guardians entered the room from their respective domains.
Twenty guardians, young and old, filled the conference room. Half of them stood waiting while bewildered household staff brought extra chairs and tea. The group wasn’t a talkative bunch. Some briefly exchanged pleasantries with the other visitors as they waited for the meeting to start. Others were quiet and brooding. They carried a presence in their surroundings. The majority of Mr. Roucan’s staff noticed it and seemed intimidated by these strangely clothed individuals.
The guardians’ behavior didn’t help. Most of them only acknowledged Louis and Mr. Roucan, save for one. The youngest guardian – a boy, had eyes trained on Fred. The boy had one leg folded underneath as the other swung to and fro, his foot not touching the floor.
Finally, when it appeared there would be no more guardians coming in, Louis called the meeting to order. Fred reported the incident in the chapel and the ambush. The inquisitive faces that he received made him uncomfortable though they didn’t question him. He was grateful when his report was finished without the guardians mentioning his ability. Then it was Gerry’s turn to give a summary of Libya’s recent military activities.
“This is grave news,” the woman robed in colored geometrical patterns said. The silver hair identified her as the second guardian to have arrived early.
“Indeed,” a wrinkled old man in a fur-trimmed coat agreed. “We would like to speak with Guardian Zafeera before deciding on our next course of action.”
“Like I said—” Louis began.
The aged man regarded him with a piercing stare. Both exchanged meaningful looks. Louis frowned then his face settled into a neutral expression.
“Doctor,” the old guardian addressed Fred. “Would you please contact your chauffeur and ask after our Libyan refugees?”
Fred didn’t have a chance to respond. A smartphone was offered on his right. It was his. He shot a questioning look towards Allan who held it.
“Your mother asked us to have it charged for you, sir,” Louis’ bodyguard explained.
The smartphone’s screen lit up after Fred pressed the power button. The battery had enough fuel to make a quick voice call.
“Hello,” Tony’s voice came through the speaker. Before Fred could put a word in, the chauffeur continued: “Sir. She woke up and the Messenger returned. He took them—”
“Tony, wait.” Fred glanced up and saw all of the room’s occupants were watching him.
Could they hear him? He had a sneaking suspicion that guardians weren’t just chosen by their strength of character but also for their special talents. He dreaded to think one of them could hear his thoughts. Fred had a hunch that the guardian who requested the phone call was a telepath. Could the man hear his thoughts? Would he listen in on his thoughts?
“Do you know where they’ve gone?” Fred asked in a low voice.
“He mentioned an assembly.” Tony had calmed though Fred could hear a tinge of anxiety in the chauffeur’s tone. “How is Cheska doing?”
“She’s well,” Fred replied quickly.
“What do you mean well? Something happened, isn’t it? I want to talk to her,” Tony demanded.
“Cheska isn’t here with me.” Movement in his periphery caused Fred to raise his eyes to have a better look. Louis moved towards him. “I’m in the middle of a meeting, right now. I’ll ask her to call you after I’m finished here.”
“I’m sure those fellows up there will understand. They’re her flesh-and-blood after all.”
Right. He doesn’t believe me anymore. Fred sighed.
“I heard that, sir. Let me talk to her then I’ll stop harassing you.”
“This is really a bad time, Tony.” He shifted in his seat as the guardians’ eyes bore on him. “Call her phone if you’re that worried.”
“I can’t. She left it in my flat.”
Louis gestured at Fred to hand over the phone.
“Louis wants to talk to you.” The doctor gladly surrendered the phone to the younger man’s waiting hand.
“Hello, Tony,” Louis said. He clapped Fred on the shoulder and smiled at him in sympathy. “Yes. She’s in the guest room at the opposite side of the mansion. I’m afraid it’s not – Not possible. Sorry. We’re very busy at the moment. You’ll have to take Fred’s word. Because he’s a doctor. Ah, and my sister’s memories have returned. Goodbye.” Louis disconnected the call, gave the device to Allan, and mouthed “battery’s dead” to Fred. Then he sauntered off to his vacated chair.
“Well, doctor,” the old guardian prompted.
“Zafeera and her brother were taken by someone called the Messenger. They left to attend an assembly.” Fred’s gaze observed their reaction – rather, the “lack of it.”
“She has woken,” a young voice rang clear. Everyone turned their attention to the youngest guardian. His leg had stopped swinging and sat straight. “Come, guardians. They’re waiting for us.” He jumped down from the chair, turned about to face the window. He glared at the inanimate glass for a couple of seconds. When it became ethereal, the boy stepped through the portal.
No one moved for a moment, yet the door to another land remained open.
“I do believe he has spoken and we must acquiesce,” the old man said tiredly. Slowly, he walked to the portal. His decision to follow compelled the guardians to act as well. One by one they crossed the doorway.
The last to enter was Louis. He paused mid-stride into the opening and turned to Fred, saying: “What are you sitting there for? Let’s go.”
Copyright © 2014-2016 Cecilia Beatriz. All rights reserved.
A/N: Well, I must say it was nerve-wracking writing the first part of this chapter. I used romance novels I’ve read as reference for that portion. It’s a relief that we’re back to discovering more about the people guarding the mysterious tunnels. Can’t say I’m looking forward to another development between Fred and Cheska very soon… If you can advise me about writing stuff like this while keeping it wholesome, please PM me.
Though I’d love for you to like the chapter, suggestion and comments will be greatly appreciated. 🙂
If you liked the story, feel free to share it with your friends.
Advanced Happy New Year, everyone!