The city lights lit up the evening sky as the clouds above reflected a warm bronze onto the beach and waters not far away. From any balcony or terrace below, one could hear the music from the various clubs that dotted the streets all of which were only steps away from the ocean. There was an array of different music from various cultures, but one rhythm stood out. The smells of the local cuisine filled the air to the point that spice could almost be tasted on the breeze. Cuban food was some of the best. 

Dante sat on the terrace of the penthouse flat taking in the scents and sounds while enjoying a tumbler of fine bourbon. Still dressed in the grey sweat pants and white muscle shirt from his earlier exercise, Dante’s amber colored eyes stared out at the water as it rushed up onto the beach over and over again in a rhythmic pattern. He was relaxing a little after the past two weeks of mess that the doppelgangers and Tal’Secus had created for he and his sister. She could do what she wanted – the club was closed for the time being. He needed this time to himself.  Well, and the time he planned to spend with his lover. He was waiting on his lover’s arrival at this very moment. Knowing her as he did, the incubus understood that the wait would not be long.

Feeling that rush through his system that made his nerves tingle when others were around, Dante lifted his glass to drink from it. He had a smirk on his face beneath the tilted glass. No matter his excitement, he stayed seated with his back partially to the opening. He knew it was her because none other than his twin Mira could manage to get within a room’s distance of him without setting off his magical alarms.

Inea always prepared for her time with Dante by using the best of her magic to confound his defenses. She had requested this beach house. She loved the warm beaches – anywhere. Each had it’s own special qualities and it was her goal to someday be able to say she had been to absolutely every warm beach in the entire world.  She moved to him from the other room wearing a diaphanous gown over her well-maintained body and nothing else. Her hands moved over his shoulders and she massaged those strong muscles while allowing motes of her powerful magical energy to tingle over his flesh.

“This place is perfect as always.” She sighed once she had spoken.

“I thought you wanted me to sell this place? Weren’t you growing tired of it?” Dante tilted his head back to look at the beautiful woman that he’d been waiting on.

Her blond hair moved into her field of vision on the left side as she leaned closer to him, “I was mistaken. I can be mistaken, you know. But I wasn’t mistaken when I sent Seamus to warn you about the agents on your doorstep.” She kissed the side of his face and the shell of his ear while continuing to massage well-worked muscles.

“Oh your pet’s surprise visit to me did indeed stir some trouble up as I’m sure you are well aware of by now.” Dante groaned low, “The intel was very useful and I’m grateful for it. It came at a price though, as I had to listen to Mira repeat all her dislikes over our involvement and demand yet again to know who you are or for me to end this.“  

She moved around the chair so that she could lean upon the balcony banister while watching him. His frustration with his sister was very evident by the way that he ran his tongue over his double fangs on the top left of his mouth.

Why won’t you tell me who she is brother? Afraid I’ll rip her pretty little guts out?” he said in a higher pitch.

“I’d love to see her try.  It’d be cute. You do an imitation of her so well, Dante…” she giggled. Nea had met Mira and had known her for some time, actually. She had flitted in and out of their bar on several occasions. She just knew how to remain as low key as possible, at least around the people that she didn’t want noticing. She had wanted Dante to notice her about a century or so ago. And he had.  

Dante could still hear his sisters ranting demands. “Do you love her? Well do you?!

“Well do you?” the lovely sorceress asked, a wicked smile upon her face. Her hand stretched out toward him, beckoning him to join her no matter what his answer.

Reaching for his lover’s out stretched hand, Dante grasped it and used it to tug her to him and into his lap.

There was a quick squeal and giggle from her as she was swept off her feet once again.

“Need you really ask? I don’t generally keep bed companions around for this long. Tends to get tricky and strings begin attaching. Seeing as neither of us care for such strings I never thought you’d care to hear such frivolties.” His hands smoothed over the soft fabric that covered her thighs as a slow grin moved over his lips.

“Oh, I don’t mind if you do or don’t, it does little to change my point of view, my dear demon.  All others have bored me for so many years until you and none others have taken my attentions from you. I’d say you can take that as you like.” She nibbled at his chin before he could get away.

“Hmmm….” Dante rumbled for her as Nea’s lips teased his skin. “I want to keep what we have. I don’t want anyone to ruin things between us.” Dante had his reservations about putting his feelings really out there simply because his sire had been banished for doing such. He trusted Nea as much as he trusted his own twin. But that didn’t mean she’d never use his feelings against him.

“That doesn’t mean you have to share me with anyone, including your very paranoid sister. Nor does it mean I will ever reveal you to those I keep company with. After all, I like being able to save you some trouble now and again.” Nea sighed as she leaned back a bit to look him in the eyes.

Chuckling, Dante lifted his tumbler to take another drink of the whiskey within it before offering her a drink from it.

“Did she like the net? I picked it out myself,” Inea admitted before taking a drink. He knew she could be very, very wicked. This shouldn’t have been a surprise to him.  Like Dante, Inea walked the blade between one world and set of rules and another.  You tended to need a wicked streak when you lived such a life.  And irritating Mira was kind of a hobby.

Remembering the net Dante stroked his knuckles beneath the beauties chin. “Fun and games are one thing, but remember beautiful, in the end she is still my sister and very precious to me.” Nea had found a sadistic pleasure out of secretly tormenting his sister throughout the years. For the most part Dante had been able to curb her worst pranks, but generally he just sat back and let it work itself out. This time he had not been able to do much.

“They would have done worse had it not been for me.  Besides, you needed to be surprised and angry and show true emotion. Had you not, they would have suspected that you were warned by someone.” She let her eyes flutter closed and purred for him.  She would not do such for any other. She trusted no one else save her fiery haired kindred.  Was it dangerous to trust a half-demon? Perhaps for anyone that the half-demon did not love.  Inea knew the truth despite his words. “That would have been dangerous for the both of us and Mira as well.”

“I adore you and the way that you look out for me and mine.” Dante brushed his lips against hers and licked her taste from his bottom lip.

“I will always look out for you while I dabble in my many circles of influence. Just as I look out for myself. And that lesson was well learned not once but twice.”   She curled into him just a bit more, but made sure their faces were close. She was shapely, a classic beauty rather than a twig, but he was still large enough to handle her as if she were nothing. That both calmed her normally cautious demeanor and excited her.  

Dante loved the feel of her against him and as her scent caressed over his senses the half demon pulled her closer to breathe it in deep. “You have me looking out for your well being too, Nea.” He’d used informants, the market and even the rare magic items he had to keep her safe. If that wasn’t enough to prove his feelings Dante wasn’t sure what would.

“Oh? Who’ve you been protecting me from, handsome?” she asked, now playful as she let her fingers move over his strong chest.  “I know you protect me from your ferocious sister. Who else?”

Watching her fingers tease his chest and move over the material covering it, his amber eyes watched her face as he answered, “The Tasker Raudine. He’s been following your trail for several years now.” His hands  dropped to grip her hips as he drew her in. “He’s gotten so very close at least a time our two.”

“He has no business sniffing so close.  If I need someone with his talents, I’ll let them know, and I’ve not had need of that one for a very long time,” the tone of her voice spoke enough for anyone to know she didn’t like what she heard. But Dante could also read emotion. Speaking of the Tasker irritated his lover.  “I would have expected it from some of the other Council or Crimson, but not him.”   She was being honest in that assessment. It was odd for him to be looking or seeking anything from her.                         

“Others like who?” Dante stood up from the chair while still holding Nea against his chest.

She placed her arms around his neck and waited to see what he was doing. Dante enjoyed moving her wherever he wanted and she didn’t mind it in the least.

“I have an enemy in Councilor Evansworth and any of the Elvish Councilors and their cohorts might decide to seek me out over past transgressions against them. I and their kind are not on speaking terms for the most part.” She shrugged as if it were nothing. “That’s why it surprises me to hear about Jean-Michel… or whatever he happens to be going by, now.”

Dante carried her to the balcony and set her atop the railing. “Should I be jealous of him? You know I don’t do jealousy well at all.”

Inea stretched languidly in his strong hands, showing him that she trusted him to hold her. Then, she sighed and looked at him, a smirk highlighting her dimples.  

“Being jealous of him would be as productive as me being jealous of Miranda, my sweet. We have a connection from our past that shall never be extinguished.  What connects us is precious to me – not him.  You, my love, are precious to me. Not him.”  She leaned forward to kiss his lips.

“Well now that you put it that way I’ll not be jealous at all of him.” Dante shared another kiss with her as he held her safely perched before him.

“Good. Now, anything else you’d like to discuss before I find some real clothing and go out for food and dancing with you or are we to enjoy each other first before going out? Or…” she whispered in his ear, “…are we not to go out at all?”

“Yes.” Dante kissed the side of her neck and nuzzled just behind her ear. “What can you tell me of Morfesa?” He was certain that she knew the name just by her stiffening reaction and the way she leaned back from him to look him in the eyes. Dante held Nea by the waist so he knew that she wasn’t falling anywhere without him.

“Why do you want to know about Morfesa?” Inea, for the first time, was actually not open to immediately discussing something.  

There was a hint of frustration to him as he plucked her from her perch and set her safely back upon her feet. “I need to know because I like to know about all the players in a game that I am now a participant in.”

“You and your sister placed yourselves into these games, Dante. I don’t know if the profit on each side was too great or if your tastes for adventure couldn’t resist the temptation of it. But you made this decision on your own. I’m merely trying to keep you safe and whole without getting you in over your heads.”  Inea moved past him, gently pushing his grip aside. She moved into the room with the demanding grace of a queen.

“I’d hate to end up the next beneath a net I can’t break from at the whim of Skinner or those like him.” Dante watched his lady as she spoke and took in the motions that spoke louder than any words she would speak.

“The information you desire might be much more dangerous than that net or that man.” Her shoulders slumped slightly, and she looked down at the ground before her. Her heart or her mind?  These deadly forks in the road of long life could be so very troublesome. Turning, very slowly, Inea’s sparkling ice blue eyes held the half-demon in their serious gaze.  

“The question is, which game are you more concerned about?” Her decision was made. Heart. But she had to tread carefully. For his own sake. Plausible deniability was often a life saver amongst supernaturals.  

“Well now, lover, that would depend on each game’s outcome wouldn’t it?” Dante could feel the tension that was building between them just as he could feel her hesitation at responding to him. His amber gaze narrowed and his large hands rested on his own hips, “The games I play are more for profit than anything as you well know. But this game with these players seems to be about much more than mere profit.” He’d never hidden himself or his transactions from her. When they’d become more than the usual one night fling, he’d stopped concealing his life from Nea. She knew he bartered in everything from valuables, magic items and souls to slaves themselves. It all depended upon which realm the barter was taking place and upon which world.

“What do you already know, Dante? I need a starting point. Otherwise, we’ll never be able to enjoy this time together,” she stepped forward, ready to share more than she had ever done before.  She had been very, very cautious considering her past and knowing what dangers just her presence might be.  Alas, he was her connection, a reminder that life cannot always be lived under constant worry and concern. For what sort of life was that? “My life has been lived longer moons than your life has seen. I could tell you all of my story, but I fear it would take years to do so. My connection to Morfesa is a very long-lived one. It has never been a personal connection, this I grant to you. I need to know which parcel of information you would like concerning Morfesa.”

Taking her hands in his Dante lifted them to his lips to press kisses on her knuckles as he looked into her eyes and spoke against them, “I have never asked anything of you Nea. I accept what you give of yourself as you give it and make no demands upon you or yours. I know the group that is part of this and I’ve never paid attention to anything the Cabal may do – until now. I know they want to replace the Council and eventually the government of this world. They want me to stand aside and look the other way while they do as they like. My connections were mentioned which makes me think that eventually they will want more than my silence and blind eye. I also know that my sire is aware of it all. If not he would have contacted Mira by now and expected to be filled in after that meeting that was conducted.”

“I’m afraid you may be correct in that assessment. I’ve been watching from afar and from as close as I can creep without being noticed. The Tal’Secus Cabal has membership from powerful people of a wide variety of races. They’ve become powerful through funding and magic not of this world. They seek to control Crimson and the Council so that they will have no interference in the future. But my opinion is – anarchy is not necessarily freedom or a positive thing. Morfesa is one of them. He is as powerful a sorcerer as I am. Your father plays a dangerous game in trying to remain one step ahead of this Cabal, though… it is entertaining. I hold loyalty to myself, not them.”

“I may not have as many years experience as you do Nea, but I have been battling and working my trade and skills for more years than I ever cared to admit. As the son of a blacksmith I thought my life would consist of a family and my own shop one day after my apprenticeship was completed. I believed that, like my father, I would grow old watching my son carry on my trade.” Like Nea he didn’t share of himself often. In this instance he was sharing of his life before realizing that he was half demon and that he’d been adopted by the father and mother that he knew. His sister hadn’t been so lucky. “I don’t know what to ask you specifically. So let me ask this. What do I need to know about Morfesa?” He thought that perhaps asking this way would make it easier for her to answer as she only had to give him what he asked for in this matter.

“That he has his own agenda, aside from Tal’Secus. That if his goals are met or taken away from him, he will no longer have need of the Cabal. His absence and the absence of his resources could weaken the Cabal immensely.” Inea let her tongue wet her now-dry lips.

“What is his agenda?”

“He wants what we all want. To be welcome in our own world.” Inea shrugged. “We are dragons. We are hiding in plain sight. Like any other supernatural, we always will when humans are around. Unfortunately, we’re also hunted. Crimson agents who know about us are to report us immediately and kill us if at all possible. And believe me, my love, it is very much a possibility. There aren’t many of us left.”

He stood taller, his eyes watching her. The puzzle piece that had been missing had now been put into place. They weren’t just powerful sorcerers and wizards that defied age. They were creatures of myth and magic, just like him and his sister. Only…condemned.  

“And you told me…about you…?”

“Because it was going to be your next question, my demon. I could feel it coming. How would I know about him being a dragon, about there being dragons? Because I am one. I know their desires and I know Morfesa more than any other wants freedom from this. Skinner wants to be sure he’s as high on the food chain as possible when it all goes down. He really is a sorcerer. A human of blessed genetics. And he’s dangerous. He’s playing a dangerous game placing his feet on both sides of a crevasse over molten lava.”  

Dante placed his steepled fingers to his mouth while staring at his lover and thinking things through. His silence prompted more from Inea. She always hated it when there was nothing but silence.  

“Morfesa is using the Cabal to further his own designs – to insure that one way or another, we get power back and no longer have to worry about our lives or the lives of those we care about. He has several paths toward that end – they have been planned and primed for centuries. I believe this situation with the doppelgangers trying to take over the Council was just one of many. Now they have to replace Councilors and you can be sure he’ll get to them to be sure they will agree to releasing this hold Crimson has over the dragons. He’ll be sure they’re loyal somehow.  Who knows what other tricks he may have up his scaley leg? I’ve tried to keep you prepared without speaking the full truth. If they question you and you know about me… or them…. And didn’t turn us in?” Inea sighed. “It seems that methodology is now at an end.”   

“So my concern is not just a feeling, but is actually something that should be taken seriously. I need to speak with my sire on all of this. Thank you for answering my questions, Inea.” His hands came down and he moved forward to her. He smiled, touched her face to be sure she knew that this didn’t change anything. When she looked up at him, Dante drew her close, “But first I promised you a night out with no troubles. So get dressed and we’ll go to eat and see what the nightlife on the beach is like here.” Letting her go Dante grinned, “I need a shower before anything else.”

“Do you?” Inea smiled for him, pleased that her admissions were met with the same practical mindedness that she knew him for all along. He’d not even hesitated or skipped a heartbeat. For her, that was the ultimate proof of his love.  Playfully, she pushed him toward the bathroom. “Do I get to wash you so we’re both fresh for the night?”

There was a slow grin, “Oh sweetheart, I would never deny you or myself that pleasure.” He stripped off the undershirt and walked towards the large bathroom with it’s shower big enough for a group of people. “Better hurry my beauty or I’ll start without you.” Dante stripped off the sweatpants along the way not the least bit bashful or modest. His body was free of piercings or tattoos except for one design that was a spiral pattern of beads in different shapes that was on his upper left bicep. It looked a bit faded but resembled a permanent modification. Only he knew that it wasn’t.

Inea was already in the bathroom, right behind him when he gave her the warning. All she had to do was untie the top of her flowing gown and let it fall to the floor. Her sunkissed skin had only two permanent fixtures upon it. One was a symbol of her original homeland, a trident with a scrolling design down the handle that was tattooed permanently and magically to her outer right thigh.  And then, there was a large, though faded marking beneath her right shoulder blade, the marking of a Celtic dragon covering a portion of black shield…


~  Rachel Diane Adams and Dawn McClellan © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 2017