Seated at the bar, Dante was facing the wall of liqueurs and specialties from several worlds. With a glass of bourbon in his left hand, the half-demon tapped his pen on the tablet. He was working on the orders and tallying up the previous night’s profits. He looked up as the elevator doors opened and yet he didn’t look back at it. A curious expression flitted over his features before he spoke.

“Surprised to see you here.” He drank from the tumbler and licked his lips as he scrawled the next amount down and on the tablet added another bottle to the whiskey list.

“Really? Why is that? You have the best whiskey in town. Why wouldn’t I stop by, Dante?” Senias went back to his French accent easily enough. He stood at the bar near the demon and looked over at him.

“And we’re not open for business yet, not that you care. Whiskey is not why you’re here, Jean-Michel and we both know that.” Dante reached over the bar for a glass, though, being polite. “By all means take a seat and regale me as to why you truly are here.” The club was empty at this time, but in just a few hours it would be packed with patrons, flooded with the multitude of scents from drink to colognes and trembling with the beat of music. Something told him that he wouldn’t be bored if the appearance of the Tasker was any indication.

“I know when to come to enjoy a quiet drink. And yes, I do have some business I’d like to discuss off the books. That’s if you don’t mind…” He smirked. “Nothing bad.”

With her hair down in loose ringlets and a fresh from bed blush to her cheeks, Mira walked behind the bar and poured two drinks, one for herself and one for their guest, into the glass already there for him. He liked a good Scotch, of this she was sure from the years they’d enjoyed one another. Setting it down in front of him she gave a smile and moved to the other end near her brother to keep things civil given the time of day. Sipping her drink as she had always done, the succubi left the chatter to the men for the time being.

Seeing that the demoness enjoyed from the same bottle and having not smelt a thing from the glasses, Raudine eagerly took a drink. He let it move over his tongue and then around his mouth and down his throat. So many people just slammed their whiskey. Perhaps for the less expressive spirits that was fine and dandy. But this was well-aged and perfectly conceived. He put the cup back on the bar and looked down to Mira.

“Another, my dear? This is very good, the notes are rich with oak and … what is the sweet flavor?” He smiled as he waited.  

“Of course. You know, the flavors are just something special I knew you couldn’t resist.” As the Scotch was enjoyed Mira’s eyes sparkled. She slipped off of her stool and poured him another drink, but then stoppered the bottle. She licked her lips as she watched the reaction to her added little touch.

“I can hear your heart race a little, so why don’t you tell me the full reason, then? You probably have decent stock in your own cellar. That leaves only a few reasons why you’d be here. Tell me what you want Raudine?” Dante inhaled deeply of the air and looked towards his sister with a lifted brow.

“I wanted to talk about the issues being had with trade through the other side. Several of my contacts have complained. I have reason to believe you are in, as they say, a similar boat?” His eyes smiled for Mira and he nodded a quiet bow.

“I thought Taskers were not allowed trade for profit with the other side? Isn’t that what Crimson calls a conflict of interest?” Dante smirked.

“Oh, let’s not get into details. I don’t get into your business now do I?”

“Sounds like you’re trying to. And assuming a lot.” the demon tapped his fingers on the bar and then took another drink.

“Okay, look, this is the situation all around, but my wares, they come through the main portal and so because of the wars I now have things slowed immensely. I know what is happening, but I can do nothing about it while I am here on this side, you see. If I were to use the main portal to go through, Crimson would know. But, if I were to use … another portal…? One in which Crimson is not watching…?” he winked ever so slightly.

“And if I somehow, miraculously get you over to the other side, what would be in it for me and mine?” Dante asked. He was always about the deal.

“Increased flow.” Enjoying the first sip of the second glass of whiskey, Raudine tried to continue his speaking with Dante. “I can defend your trade flows as soon as I get over there so that the trickle can once again become a stream and then a river once things are set proper.”

The half-demon looked to his sister. Their business had slowed quite a bit and people on this side who expected certain valuables and magics had been disappointed in them as of late. That wasn’t good for future business. What the Tasker was offering? That wasn’t so bad, really. Dante couldn’t really go through and do much more than hire mercenaries and hope for the best. If this creature in front of them could do it for the simple favor of going… he’d be bound by an oath to get it done… Dante scratched the side of his jaw while he considered it.

“You know that I have very astute contacts on the other side. I can help with this situation you speak of. I’ve been in wars there, before… as a …. Mage…as…” The Tasker tried to think of the word. What had he been about to say? It had slipped his mind. Why? He gazed down at the drink as his tongue and cheeks grew a bit heated.  

“As a what?” Mira had a very excited expression on her face. She’d finally found the proper poison! She couldn’t believe it! Really?

“Waaa..as a…”he realized he was slurring his words. Jean sat there with the glass in his hand, Mira hopped from her stool again and made her way down the bar. Her nails slid across the polished wooden surface and tapped the bar in front of him, to get Jean’s attention. He looked up at her and the world shivered. “You little vixen, what’d you do? Why?”

“Sometimes the love ‘em and leave ‘em thing doesn’t settle well with me, Frenchie. I feel I have every right to pay you back for the human. That was a slap in my face.” She brought her hand back, “And so, now I get to slap you.” and with that, she did.

“Bitch!” he growled. He held onto the bar well enough to keep from falling, but his head was spinning.

“Hey!” Dante snapped. But he was actually very lost. Sure his sister had enjoyed the man from time to time and they had wondered why Raudine hadn’t been killed the last few times, because she drew power from him during the process. He remembered Mira being absolutely tipsey from the drawing and yet, Raudine had walked out of her bedroom alive! He’d just accepted the idea that the man was a human born Magi. It happened. But Mira had kept trying to figure out the mystery that was Jean-Michel Raudine for years and years. Had she finally done it?

“Don’t… she’s… you poisoned me? Because you’re jealous? Of my… my Councilor?” Sen was trying his best to get her to monologue or at least, get himself enough time to find something. He hated throwing up, but if he had to swallow his fucking fingers and do it, he would. His stomach cramped hard.

“Well, you have been ignoring my sister for him lately, Raudine. Perhaps you deserve some of this?” Dante got up from his seat. He looked over to Mira, “Though, this is entertaining, it’s definitely not good for business, my sweet.”

“It will be, brother. You have no idea what you have there in your pocket, now, do you?” Mira smiled as she watched the Tasker struggle.   

Senias felt his eyes shift to magical sight – which meant his pupils were now slitted and an impossible green color that would insure they knew he wasn’t just a Magi.  He tried to look away from them both and it just so happened, his now magic-seeing gaze swept over the tumbler he was holding. There was an odd blue glow to the glass.  “What have ye done to me?” he threw the drink at Mira but she shifted and reappeared behind him. The glass hit the far wall, taking out another bottle, spilling liquid down to the floor.

Mira’s giggle had the Tasker rounding on her. Stumbling, he landed against … Dante.  “Focks sake…” he muttered, a hand going to his head, which was starting to feel both euphoric and pained at the same time.  He’d forgotten his accent altogether. He couldn’t really think very clearly at all.   

“Dragonsbane sister? I am impressed.” Dante helped keep Raudine on his feet.

“But… how did ye know I’ve dragon’s blood?” Now Senias was actually beginning to get concerned. He hadn’t felt this drunk in centuries! It kind of felt good. But he was trying to keep in mind where he was and who he was with.  How had she figured it out? How much did she actually know? That’s why he turned the phrase “dragon’s blood”. Meant he was a descendent and he wasn’t denying that. He wondered if she knew the truth or just part of it. Mira had a loose tongue… not just physically.  

Mira’s nose crinkled a little, “Lucky guess. Besides not many can survive the nights we’ve had.”

“Were ye gonna let me drink the whole thing to my death?! I thought you enjoyed me more than ta do that,” he gave her a pitiful look and tried to turn things back to a high spirited level. Maybe he’d make it out of this and still win the moment?  He chuckled and kind of made to lunge for her a wicked grin on his face.  

Rolling her eyes at him, the succubi looked at her brother, “Let him fall, perhaps the blow to his ego will do him good.” She moved for her drink and sipped it as her brother helped Jean to his seat instead of simply dropping him as she’d suggested.

“Both of you give it a rest.” Sliding his own glass down to the tipsy Tasker, Dante closed his books and tablet to give his full attention to the current situation. “What does it matter how she figured you out, she did.”

“Don’t act so surprised, like I said not many survive me.. Not even lycan if I don’t watch myself. With you there have been times I was literally drunk off of you and yet you suffered nothing from the encounter. So I started adding bit of this herb and that to your drink over the years and when I came up with nothing I went to my father. He suggested dragonsbane.”

Senias didn’t hide his eyes anymore and he looked between them both. He chuckled and then laughed.  Leaning over to the bar with one elbow, he raised his other hand and pointed between them both. “You’re lying. Your father doesn’t give two shites about helping with your vendettas.” He knew they were lying not because of the bullshit he’d just spewed – only half of which was true, but also because they apparently didn’t realize his magical sight provided a bit of truth seeing.  “You can’t bullshit a bullshitter. Especially not one older than either of you.” He put his face over in the hand leaning on the bar.  “But go on. Keep weaving your story. It’s … it’s pretty.”

It was Mira’s turn to giggle softly. Her bright eyes remained on the Tasker as she walked back around the bar. She’d have someone clean that mess up. Right now, she just wanted to show she finally had the upper hand with the Tasker. Slowly, she shook her head as her gaze drifted over Raudine. She took the bottle from the side and drank several gulps right in front of him. Her lips glowed a bluish color, reminding him that she was immune to the magical poison.  Licking her lips, the succubus sat the bottle down and sighed, “I can weave all types of pretty lil stories. I can start with that once upon a time involving a vampire and twist it with Crimson only to be dabbled with a certain human family all along the way.”

“Can’t forget the lycan’s, sister.” Dante grinned as he watched his sister and had to admit that she was breathtaking when she really worked her magics and mysteries. “As interesting as all that is and I’m sure he’d like to know exactly what all you know, let’s get back to why you are here. Obviously, we have the upper hand, now. Let’s see – you say you’ve heard of goings on over through the portal and you’re business has suffered. You want to do something about it, but don’t want Crimson to know. So you came to us for a way over to handle the problem, and in return you will help our trade routes that are being affected by war, as well. My, that’s a HUGE undertaking for little ole – you… right?” Neither twin were even close to buying the idea that the Tasker was willing to be so helpful to them and only mildly interested for himself. There had to be another reason.

“I’m here for a tit for tat. I know better than to think there’s anything to be had with demons… even half breeds… without them gaining something of it.” Senias looked between the two of them.

“Why not try again and tell me the real reason you are interested in what’s going on.” Dante’s gaze glittered and had to admit to himself that the shift of the other man’s eyes had caught him just a little off guard. His sister still didn’t seem so shocked. Was she lying to the both of them? After all of these years, how had she figured out this creature was dragon blooded? There would definitely need to be a conversation had later.  

“My best friend just went into the other side… after he has left it be for a century or more. He’s scared for his pack. I’m scared for him. I need access to the other side without Crimson knowing. If I can help him… calm the wars… even just calming them? It really could help your trade. I’m not focking lying about that.” Senias felt that truth was better than a lie right now. He’d not wanted to bring Devon up or let them know that the pack on this side was without a leader. But if Devon were lost, they would be even worse off. Devon had to come back. He couldn’t just leave the pack as it was. He faced Dante, “It’d be worth the energy spent to send me. If I can help make trade less dangerous…”

“I’ll consider it.” Interesting that the pack had been left without leadership. That could work in their favor. Before Dante could say more his phone rang. Glancing at the screen he rose from his seat and lifted one finger up in a sign that a pause was required so that he could answer the call. He stepped away from the pair letting them know that it was quite private indeed.

“I’ll get you across but it will cost you.” Mira spoke soft and low once Dante was well and truly out of earshot. She had to be quick though because he wouldn’t stay gone long. “There is an item I want you to locate for me.”

“What is it?” the drunken dragon asked, his curiosity piqued.

“A dagger with a gold hilt and inlaid with rubies. The blade is about 8 inches, twisted and created of several metals. You’ll have to be sneaky as asking about it will draw unwanted attention. Being what you are should make locating it rather simple since it resonates strong magic.”

“What kind of magic? Where was it last tracked? That’d make it easier…” Senias asked.

“I know it was last tracked to the city of Iona, which is just on the other side of the portal. I’ve heard rumors of maybe dragons having it but I’m not positive on that.” Mira gave what she had but left out that the item in question could kill demons. She intended to get the piece and turn it over to her father to destroy.

She could hear her brother coming back and so added on, “The buyer is offering generously for it so I need to find who currently has it to make the offer.”

“I’ll be your agent, so long as you can get me through with no issues,” he then turned to see Dante re-enter the room.

Ending the call Dante returned to the others and felt left out of something between them. “Did I miss something?”

“No. What would make you think that?” Senias smiled and at first, seemed like he was going to try and stand. He wobbled a bit, before looking toward Dante.

“I think that because I know my beautiful sister and her manipulative ways.” He cast a look her way and smiled, “Whatever she’s trying to con you with I wouldn’t fall for.”

“It just so happens I’m in the position to believe you on that one,” Senias leaned forward and folded his arms on the bar in front of him to make himself a pillow. “I… I need…” his eyes rolled back into his head and he seemingly passed out right there in front of them. However, his human body was not breathing.

“Brother… I don’t think he’s breathing.” Mira sounded a little worried as she watched the redhead and listened to his pulse become fainter with each new beat of his heart. Shaking his shoulder she snapped, “This isn’t funny Frenchie wake up.” Her eyes got large as saucers when there was no response.

Dante’s gaze narrowed as he moved closed to the slumped body on the bar stool. “What do you mean he’s not breathing?” Pulling the Tasker by the shoulder Dante watch as he slid from the stool. “Fuck Mira how much did you give him?”

“It was just supposed to be enough to subdue him! I…I don’t want him dead! I just…I just wanted to hurt him! I swear, Dante!” Mira leapt over the bar, not caring what was spilled. She grabbed Raudine’s shoulders and shook him. “Frenchie! Wake up!”

The ding of the elevator was the only warning the twins had before their club was invaded once again. Dante looked up to see the blonde doctor running toward them, followed closely by Gabriel Kennedy.

“Help me get him to the floor properly and not… lopsided…” Samantha ordered. Dante did as she needed, while Mira backed the hell off. The look of irritation that she got from her brother told her that maybe she’d gone just a teensy bit too far this time.

“He just collapsed… I’m not sure what’s going on…” Dante tried wearing a halo while backing up to stand next to his sister and offer her his arm and shoulder. She was upset, visibly so – though he doubted it would matter to these people.

“I need to figure out what to give him to get him back. What was it that you two used? Which poison and how much?” Sam looked over her shoulder at the two demons.

Neither were going to be forthcoming and admit a damned thing.

“I need to be sure or getting him out of this could be lethal!”  

“I don’t know what you’re talking about…” Mira tried to pretend the poisoning away.  

The doctor took vitals and looked across to Gabriel, “You know CPR, right?” She hoped they wouldn’t need it, it seemed like the Tasker was getting a few breaths here and there. But this wouldn’t last if he’d been poisoned.

As the duo whispered where the unresponsive man was lying, Dante caught sight of one more stumbling on rather unsteady feet from the open doors of the elevator. The vampire Councilor?

Sam shook her head and immediately moved to begin breathing for Raudine. Gabriel held Sen’s head back to make sure his airway was clear. He’d take turns with her if he needed to. “Should I call an ambulance?” he asked, wondering if they’d be able to get away with it.

Sebastian glared at the scene he was passing and was before the two demons in an instant. He ripped Mira out of Dante’s arms and slammed her against the nearest wall, his hand around her slender throat.  “Are you really that fucking stupid or just that naive?” He was pale, sweaty looking and breathing hard which showed that something more had been going on than they realized at the time.

Before Dante could take a step in his sister’s direction he felt as if his body was weighed down and unable to move. This was his club how was this possible?! “Don’t you dare hurt her, or I swear I’ll..”

“You’ll what exactly?” Sebastian narrowed his gaze on the sister while speaking to her twin brother, “Unlike this child here, I’m neither a fool nor a novice and you’ll do no more than allowed while I’m in here.” Sebastian grasped her chin with one hand and forced her head up so their gazes met. “It’s dragon’s bane. I can smell it on her. How much did you give him?”

“Dante…” Mira pleaded as she felt her body betray her and refuse to move as she wanted it to. She was just as stuck as her brother. Her heart actually raced a little when control was lost to the vampire. There was no way a simple vampire would be able to overcome her brother’s sigils and wards and be able to overtake them so easily! “I…I don’t know… maybe a cap full in the whiskey.” Mira blurted out when it was obvious they had lost the upper hand. “I just wanted to… to make him drunk…”

Smoothing his hands over Sen’s face Gabriel was listening for any sign of a response. “I don’t feel anything…” What was going on? Why was he not responding?

With a snarl Sebastian let the succubi go and moved quickly to kneel on the floor beside Sen’s head. “Will hurt me more than you so better be worth it.” Sebastian held his arm out to Samantha, “Take my blood and give it to him..”  

“Wh…what?” Sam hesitated.

“I said, it’s dragon’s bane Sam, we don’t have verbena and the five other herbs to mix or the time to create the syrup with it that would counteract it, but my blood will heal him – enough… theoretically.” His arm shook faintly and he knew it wouldn’t be long before his stomach cramped and he was dry heaving. At that point he’d be useless so they needed to act fast while time was on their side.

Sam took a new needle, large gauge, and began drawing Sebastian’s blood. Her eyes remained locked on his as she did this. So many questions were bubbling there. But she had a job to do right now. She had to save this creature. He meant so much to both her best friend and her lover. So much that they could actually feel him – and what was happening to him right now.

She took the needle out, folded his arm up and commenced to sterilize a portion on Senias’ neck. “If you don’t want to see it, don’t look,” she whispered to Gabe before inserting the needle into the carotid. The newly introduced blood would go directly to the heart, where it would be pumped out to all other organs that needed it.  

She took a pad from the kit she had with her using one hand and pressed on the wound before retrieving the needle.  Putting the thing in her portable sharps box, Sam then took note of the heartbeat again. It was still painfully low, but it was there. She looked up at the both of them. “It’s getting faster.”

“Good, once he comes around get him out of here. Don’t waste time either.” Sebastian was telling both Gabriel and Samantha to help Sen out of the club. Sebastian wouldn’t pull back his hold on the twins until all three were in the elevator heading up.

Tapping Sen’s cheeks, Gabriel worked on getting him to come around and looked from Samantha to the vamp, “Easier said than done. Let them go and help us get him up and out of here. If they so much as breathe a word or take a step I’ll have this club raided and them imprisoned for trafficking across portals.” Sen was more than either he or the two of them put together could manage even semi-conscious. Best way to handle it was to let someone with the supernatural strength pull Sen up and help get him out of the club. It was just common sense.

“Fine.” There was no way that Sebastian was going to let on that his strength was slowly failing him or that soon he’d be little better off than the dragon currently was. Instead, he let the twins go and moved to pull Sen up to his feet and with an arm around his waist Sebastian hoisted him over one shoulder. “Let’s go now.” the look he gave Sam would let her know he was rushing for a reason.

Sam turned to face the twins, looking between them, studying them as Gabriel and Sebastian moved to the elevator. She didn’t let her back to them. She looked to Mira and said simply, “I hope you never find yourself in his shoes and the only person who could help refuses to do so. Don’t play with potions you don’t understand… or with creatures you don’t understand. It’s wrong.” She shook her head in disappointment before continuing to follow the others across the floor as the elevator opened.

Once the elevator doors closed with the trio inside, Dante leered at his sister.

“Once again your dabbling has brought trouble into our home. Better hope he makes a full recovery or we’ll be dealing with Crimson and the Council yet again. Tell me, was it worth it?”

Mira simply smiled in that sarcastic way of hers instead of answering. They were both shaken by what had just happened, but neither wanted to admit it. She new Dante would strengthen the wards and sigils to keep that from happening again. And she would tinker with her measurements better for the next time it was needed. Life went on. And now, she had a real dragon under her thumb! Oh, it was very much worth it in her book!

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