The college was old and the halls echoed every step as if it were vacant of all life though she knew at that particular time of day that was anything but true. As Angela made her way through the place she was reminded of all the old structures in England with their spires and tall ceilings that echoed the life within them. The damphyr was lost in those memories as she turned a corner and ran smack dab into someone. They were both knocked off balance and reached for one another to steady themselves.

She smiled apologetically, “Pardon me, I wasn’t paying att..” The words faded away as she realized who it was she’d run into. “Mrs. Weylyn, what a surprise running into you here.”

“I could say the same. Hope the days have been good to you since last I saw you. You look much refreshed,” Eva was always polite when it came to people she wasn’t sure of. She didn’t really like vampires, persay, her past was tangled with them – she had been a slave of a vampire coven, three of her pups had been born into it. So being near them was not her cup of tea.  However, she wasn’t the type to back down from any situation. Not to mention, it seemed odd for the woman to be here on campus… and the scent she bore was familiar in a not so pleasant manner.   

Brushing her pale hair back behind her ear, Angela continued to smile, “I’m feeling much better thank you.” She lifted the pocket watch on its chain up to show the lycan female. “Purchased this recently and just doing some research on it.. I’m trying to get my life back into some semblance of normality.” She glanced down at the watch in her hand and cleared her head of anything else. She wasn’t sure if Eva Weylyn was capable of reading minds, but she had heard the woman was very talented nonetheless. The last thing she needed was this Alpha on her trail.

“OH! We have the Tasker in common!” Eva smiled in a friendly manner and snapped her fingers. She was trying to eliminate any concern from the half-vamp by being very friendly. “He’s very good with things like that. He gave me a knitting stand once that apparently was hundreds of years old. He may have got it from your shop, actually.” Eva looked at her hand, “May I? I love trinkets like this. Do you know anything about it upfront?” She would let her gaze move into her magical view, but she didn’t want to alert the girl, who might also be using magic.  Instead, Eva simply relied on her personality and her keen observation skills.  

“I remember his interest in the piece when I brought it to him. He bought it right then and there with no haggle over the price. I’m happy to hear that it went to you.” As Eva held reached for the watch, Angela felt her breath catch a moment before easing, “It belonged to a lord from the early 1900’s, not extremely old, but the details are quite exquisite so I thought I could get some of it’s history to give to those interested in purchasing it.”

The lycan female held the watch very gently and moved it in her hands with precious care.

Angela watched the way the Alpha took the piece to study it. “Inside is engraved my beloved and all the roses are so precise and perfect. The tarnish on the gold seems to make them look more alive don’t you agree?”

“Oh, yes. It’s as if time has kissed it. I hope you got the information you needed?” Eva held the watch out to the girl again. “Or is the professor not here? I came to see him for an entirely different reason, unfortunately…”

“I didn’t see him, sorry if it was something important you may have to try another day.” Angela took the watch back, “You seem very familiar with him, are you close?”

“He and my mate have always been friends, you know? Well, he’s helped find one of our pups a job and I need to know more about it. Children with too many secrets bother me. Call me nosy. I call me a mama who knows when her pups are up to no good,” she giggled quietly. “Since he’s not here, I suppose I’ll have to wait on my investigation.”  Eva straightened her relaxed stance for a moment and asked, “Do you have children? Or have you dealt with them?”

Glancing away a moment to hide the flash of pain, Angela cleared her throat, “I had two girls and a boy.. The plague took my girls and nearly took my son.” She smiled just a little, “He grew up and had a family of his own.. I watched over them all and yes the secrets of children can indeed lead to trouble.” She dabbed at her eyes with the backs of her knuckles and took a deep breath, “Continue to be a good mama, children need us nosy from time to time.”

Eva felt the pang of sadness and felt guilty that she’d caused it. Something in her gut was telling her to go against her normal shying away from a creature like Angela. The Goddess had a way of leading her and so, she wouldn’t ignore it.  

“You know, since the devil isn’t here for us, perhaps we could make good use of the time anyways?” Eva smiled. “I know a good restaurant not far from here. I made breakfast for the younger pups, but didn’t enjoy my own. Want to go grab brunch? No men for once… it’ll seem like a vacation for me.”

A quick glance at her watch and Angela shrugged her shoulders, “Brunch sounds delightful.” She really shouldn’t but if she declined there was more of a chance in Eva becoming suspicious. At least this way she could ease things between them and perhaps lessen the chances of being caught.

Eva turned around and walked with Angela back out to the quad. It was actually a brisk day, one of the first signs of fall weather in the upper-south region of the country. All the leaves were still bright green, but the temperature was shifting.  

“I’m sorry that I brought up something painful. I… I know what that kind of loss feels like. For years I didn’t know what had become of my first pups. I was a slave, you know?” she smiled as the pain of that flitted across her features. “I now know that my pups are alive, but I’ve only found two of them. One I have known only from afar. I’ve not actually met him since holding him at birth. The girl is… I hope she’s alive. Her brother said she was. He won’t tell me where she is, because he says it is her right to privacy. He’s right. Didn’t stop me from being very angry with him for a while. But…I at least have him in my life.  He’s a doctor at the clinic, you know?” she tried to perk up on that.

It amazed Angela at how open the lycan was being with her. It was no secret that vamp’s and lycan didn’t care much for one another. The fact that she was only part didn’t seem to matter either. So this was rather surprising all the way around. “No, I didn’t know that. But you have quite a few now is that not right?”

“I lost the first two pups I made with Devon. I’m from this world and being in the other world, it… it took it’s toll on me. A lot of stress, I suppose. And back then, all of these medical miracles weren’t around to help save premature babies.”  Eva swallowed. “I just wanted you to know, I understand. I hope I’ve not hurt you too much. You seem like a nice person. The world doesn’t have enough of nice people – especially our style of people.”  

There was genuine sympathy in the look Angela gave Eva, “It’s alright, it was a long time ago.” As they walked, Angela felt her guard relaxing and that was dangerous around this particular female. “After my husband died I no longer desired a big family. Our girls were already gone at that point and my son was all that I had left. I taught him to survive and he did a very good job at it. He never lived as a vampire.. So he died at the age of 85 like a human with his human family around him. At that moment I let go of them and went my own way. I haven’t had contact since.”

“I think some women are simply born to be good mothers and then others want to be good mothers but never quite succeed at it. You are the first type and I am the second.”

“No.” Eva said the word very confidently.

“You watched over him his entire life. You’re the first kind of mother, too. Just because his life was lived as a human means nothing. Mine are longer lived, is all and because of how we lycan believe, I have more of them to look after. Doesn’t make you any less a good mother, Ms. Garrett.”   

Eva pointed out a lovely little veranda open on the side of a colonial home shaded by huge oaks that were probably older than the old house itself. There were people here and there eating and drinking and talking. The staff were attending to them all.  “Pick us a table and I’ll go fetch the host to be sure we’re served proper.”  

Feeling a gaze on her, Angela looked back over her shoulder to catch sight of Director Skinner watching them as they entered the veranda. She looked away first as she moved to a table in the shaded, cool area. There was a slow smile as she thought of the director, but she quickly shook the thought away.

What on earth was she doing here? Ezekiel Skinner tried not to let his gaze rest on Angela Garrett for longer than it took his mind to register the fact that she was  still on campus. She should have been back at her shop by now. They had … discussed… all that had needed to be handled earlier. He didn’t like the idea of her not being neatly in her own place. He especially didn’t like her being near his place.  

Eva smirked from the shaded area near the hostess stand. There it was; fleeting though the gazes were, it was there. That was the scent she couldn’t place earlier. Pricey cigars and very expensive cologne of mixed herbal and floral extracts that only the mage wore. So… Ms. Garrett had been around the Crimson Director earlier and hadn’t mentioned it. Interesting.

She walked back out to the table where Angela sat, the hostess right behind her.  

“Here we are. My friend would like to eat here this morning. Can we get some mimosas and a menu?” Eva pretended not to have noticed a thing.  The hostess smiled and nodded. She made sure to take note of the table and would send the proper staff to them.

“So the other world isn’t agreeable to you physically, has to make you wonder if ours really is that agreeable to theirs doesn’t it? I mean your man seems fit and all, but..” Angela shrugged and sighed, “Eh doubtful it’s too damaging, after all he’s been on this side for several years now.”

Eva hadn’t actually thought of it that way. She sat back in her chair and nodded. “So far, he’s shown no signs of strain. Nor have the others who came through. I hope that’s not the case. But since you’ve mentioned it, I believe I see more medical exams in their futures. Even if they don’t want them,” Eva smirked. A waitress came to them holding a platter with two lovely golden drinks.  “Ahhhh… fresh juice and alcohol in the morning. I love this place.”  

“First time I’ve been here.” She took the drink and tasted it. The flavor was refreshing and actually delicious. “I usually talk to whomever I’ve come for and then get back to the store. Yvette does well enough but she is still very novice in many aspects of it. So I don’t get out often right now.”

“I’ll be happy to change that just to have an adult to talk to sometimes,” Eva smiled.  “A non-male adult, that is. I feel like I’m surrounded by too many of the creatures.”  

“So, Yvette? She human? I didn’t get to meet her, I don’t think. You know… when all the fuss went down?” Eva sipped her bubbly drink while waiting on Angela to respond to her innocent meanderings. Meanwhile, Skinner had seated himself with people he had come to meet, his fierce blue gaze upon her.  

Refusing to be intimidated by the Director, Angela laughed softly, “Well I’m sure you feel out numbered in your brood of boys and yes she is human. She’s been with me since she was 12.” She had the upper hand where Skinner was concerned so she felt no threat what so ever from his leering gaze in their direction. “She panicked when we were back at Pandora in the mess. I think they did something to her head while she was recovering because she doesn’t remember any of it.”   

“Oh, well, that’d be a blessing. Good to know. I won’t mention a thing about it if I see her.” Eva held up her drink for a toast, “To screwing with people’s heads for our convenience.”  The lycan was studying Angela and she kind of liked the wickedness in her aura. It was playful and not all encompassing. That was more like her own aura. Nice.  While looking that direction, she caught sight of a familiar aura.  What was Gabriel doing here?

“I can definitely toast to that Mrs. Weylyn and by all means call me Angela.” She sipped from her glass and glanced towards Skinner to see his gaze no longer on them. Looking over her shoulder she marveled at how small the city suddenly seemed that they were all meeting at this place by coincidence.

“Well, then please call me Eva.” their glasses barely touched and then they were drinking a nice swallow.

Gabriel moved past their table and bee lined right to the Director’s table. His conversation was short, clipped and to the point. “Let me make this brief as I have a full schedule and I’m sure you have business to attend to.” Gabriel didn’t take letting the man know he wasn’t staying long. “Find another to do your bidding and carry out your tasks. Raudine is seeing to matters for me and will be busy for quite some time doing so. Try calling him away again from his delegated duties and our next meeting will be very different.”

“Good morning to you, too, Councilor. Anything else you want to threaten me about before I actually get a good start on my day?” If Skinner was surprised by this, he didn’t show it.

He leaned down to speak soft and low to the man, “Don’t cross me Skinner it won’t go well for you.” He turned and made his way back to the table where the ladies were seated.

Ezekiel glared at the retreating human. It was always that way with the Kennedys. They had to have the last word and then they’d run. No matter. Skinner knew where they hid their skeletons. He also knew that it was only a matter of time before new closets would be opened. Unlike these mortals, he could be patient with his time. He reached over to take the paper from the table and began reading.

Gabriel smiled warmly for them as he rested a hand on Eva’s shoulder, “Enjoying an afternoon drink I see.”

Angela smiled up at him at him, “Passing time with a friendly face.”

“You’re welcome to join us, though…” Eva didn’t like being interrupted while making so much progress.

He looked down at Eva, “Hate to interrupt but could I possibly steal you away to help me for a short time?”

Her mouth opened to resist, but her eyes saw his face and she huffed a sigh. Tipping the glass up to finish it off, she placed it on the table in front of her.  

“Sorry, Angela. I’m afraid I have to help out this time.” She opened the little pouch she had with her and took out a ten to place on the table for her drink and a bit of tip.  “Hope we can get together some other time, though?”

“Definitely another time,”Angela shook her head and pushed money back, “On me this time, next time it’s on you.”

Eva smiled and took the bill back. “Definitely.”  She walked away with Gabriel at her side.

As the pair walked away, she wondered just how close the two really were. “Oh do go away..” she muttered with a sigh. She new Skinner could hear every word.

“Be careful of befriending that one. She’s definitely as sneaky as you, my dear… and has a few years on you to spare.”  He spoke quietly so that no one around him would hear, but he knew she had enhanced hearing. Then, he ignored her and continued reading his paper.  

 

****

“What’s so important, Gabriel?” Eva asked as they got at least half a block away.   

Continuing to walk towards his SUV, Gabriel answered, “I need your help finding Sen’s son. We need to find him before  Sebastian does.” Eva was smart and to add to that she could track people a hell of a lot better than he could.

“Why in the world would Sebastian want a thing to do with Sen’s son?” Eva feigned ignorance. Damn she was glad Devon wasn’t here. She’d be called on her bullshit immediately. There would be two reasons that the fang would be looking for the young man. She just wanted to be clear on what Gabriel’s opinion was before she actually decided on whether to help or not.    

Pausing in his steps Gabriel looked around then right at her as he realized they were alone, “Because he’s the result of the affair that tore them apart. It’s because he breathes that Sen is no longer with him. What better way to hurt him as he hurts and make him feel what he’s felt than to take his son from him.”

“Gabriel…” the voice he heard was disappointed and hushed. “Sebastian wouldn’t take a child from Senias. He wouldn’t take a child from anyone knowingly. He lost his children and knows that pain. He’s got one hell of an evil streak in him, but not that evil.” Eva was genuinely taken aback.  “And Senias made the decision to have the affair… as you two so easily put it. It was mating. Dragons can’t help it. He could’ve chosen a better time or actually asked properly about it if the two were in a relationship at all, but he didn’t. Sebastian didn’t understand that about dragons back then. But the point is, the break-up is Senias’ fault, not the kitling’s fault. Starr is innocent of causing anything between that fang and your dragon. So why would anything be held against him?”  

“Men seek vengeance just as women do Eva.” He gave his friend a questioning look, “You’ve never been in the Sebastian corner before this. I thought you didn’t care for the fang. Besides, how can you be so certain that he wouldn’t hurt the son to get back at the father?”

“My problem with the fang has nothing to do with any of this.” Eva sighed. She wasn’t going to talk about her problem with the fang. “You’ll just have to trust me when I say he’d not bother the boy. At least, not based on him being Sen’s son. Look, you’ve apparently talked to the dragon recently for all of this to have come up. Where is he? I’m looking for Russ and Senias usually knows how to find our boy.”

“He went to talk with Sebastian…” Gabriel had one hand up finger combing his hair when he paused, “ Wait.. you know is name. How do you know the boy’s name is Starr? Have you seen him Eva? Do you know him?” The tone was almost accusational as he stared right at her.

“Yes. Why wouldn’t I?” The little lycan’s glare matched that of the man she had helped raise. Usually being just as accusatory with the Kennedy that was being accusatory with you threw them off guard. Unfortunately, she had nothing else to jump into from here and no convenient doorway to leave by.  Eva looked over her shoulder as if she were nervous.

“Devon knows the boy, too. Just hasn’t seen him in ages,” she said as if that was a valid defense here.  

“Well we need to find him, Eva. So any ideas where to start looking?” If they had seen him then surely she has an idea where we could at least start their search. Who knew being Sen’s lover was so complicated or came with so much baggage. He almost chuckled thinking about it all.

Eva huffed again. “Why should we bother him? His drakkar hasn’t wanted a thing to do with him before the Council. Why would he want anything to do with him now? I’m not gonna help if it’s just to see them yell at each other about this.”  

“Because I’m sure Sen had a good reason for distancing himself from his son. I want to fix this for him Eva, but I can’t even try if I don’t know where to go. I know how it feels to have a bad father in your life, but I just don’t think that’s the case here. Sen is at least owed a chance to explain to Starr.” Gabriel wasn’t lying, his father was horrible and Sen wasn’t in that league at all.

“If you promise to talk to him and not bring Sen into it…” Eva looked worried. “I hate breaking the boy’s trust. But if you think it’s important, I need to ask Sen where Russ is.”

Confusion marred his handsome features, “Russ…why? What does Russ have to do with this?”

“It has everything to do with finding Starr. They’re best of friends, thick as thieves, those two. If I can get some idea of where Russ is, he can then definitely get in touch with Starr. But the same rules apply, young man.” Eva narrowed her gaze on Gabriel. “We talk to him. Not your dragon. It’s like putting a fire in the same room with gasoline. You don’t want to do it. Not right off.”   

“Fair enough madam, I appreciate this Eva really I do.” Gabriel smiled for her and his dimples showed.

She nodded. “I tried to catch him here, but I guess you had him busy. So… call him. Ask him to get you in touch with my boy and then I’ll talk to him.” She rolled her eyes, “Look, I don’t use phones. I don’t like too much technology,” she said stubbornly.

Pulling his phone out he texted Sen to have Russ call him. That was nothing unusual, there were times when he’d ask the young Tasker to do things for him when Sen was busy. Once the phone rang Gabriel handed it over to Eva to answer.

“Well, hello stranger. Recognize your mama’s voice or’ve you forgotten that, too?” Eva smirked as she spoke to her pup.

“Well, I wanted to make sure you knew you were welcome to come home and visit us anytime you can make it happen. But then something else came up. So, I need you to help me out, Russ. I need Starr to come home.”

“Yeah. I know. If it makes things better, it’s not his drakkar. It’s Gabe. He wants to meet and talk to the boy.” Eva’s eyes were on Gabriel now as she spoke and listened.

“Not the estate, Sen will be there.. Give him some place else and we’ll go there.” Gabriel insisted.

“Where?” Eva whispered to Gabe.

“Hell, I don’t know.. A cafe, a park.. How about my office downtown? No one’s there today except security and they won’t bother us.” Gabriel offered up.

“Need to bring him to the Kennedy Corp. Administrative office in downtown Whitley.” Eva paused as Russ apparently needed to say something else to him. She sighed. “Might as well. She’s affected by all this, too. Besides, I’ve never seen the two separated  for much of anything. But, you know, it’ll take us about…15 minutes to get there, so just give us that?”

Eva smiled. “I love you.” Her smile got even bigger. She handed the phone back to Gabriel. “I think I’m still the only person in the world that he says that to.”  Russ was gonna always be her pup. Devon had his respect, but she had that mean-assed heart and she adored the boy.  When he met his mate, that gal was gonna take a beating from Eva before she gave her consent.  

“He’ll always be your baby that’s for sure. The rest of the world has to watch themselves around him, but you…well you will always be able to get away with everything with him.” Gabriel smiled, “And why wouldn’t he say he loves his mama, saying anything else would be a lie.” At the SUV Gabriel held the door open for Eva to get in before making his way to the driver seat and taking them downtown.

“He knows I won’t push things if I don’t need to. I respect him for who he is and love him. I found that with all of you, that is the best way to be. To let you be who you are, so long as you’re not hurting yourself or others who don’t deserve it.” Eva smiled as she looked over at Gabriel. “I hope you take that to heart right now.” She touched his hand before letting it go so he could drive. Gabriel was about to meet both the most beautiful of the kids – of all of their kids – and the most trying.