The magic of portals could be felt by Dante. His eyes moved around the ceiling of the club. Then he turned around toward the stairs to their private chambers. He made sure to step in front of his sister and what was happening.

“What?” Mira was confused. They had only just gotten rid of the Tasker and his entourage. What now?

He recognized the energy of the portal immediately, though he would never have guessed it would be coming from the staircase door that led to their private chambers. That area was peppered with demonic energy from their home realm. This was obviously a show of power and considering whom his sister had just poisoned, it… unfortunately… made a twisted sort of sense, didn’t it?

A swirling cloud of blue flecked with golden sparkles caught both twins’ eyes. And soon, Inea, the blond beauty that held Dante’s heart – walked through. The way she was dressed spoke to being interrupted, jeans and an undershirt, no shoes whatsoever.

“Nea… what brings you here?” he asked, though he had a very good hunch. Dante couldn’t help but lift a brow in question. Were dragons connected? Was the Tasker a dragon or dragon blooded like he’d said? Oh, shit – if he were dragon blooded, was he related to Inea? So many questions were flying through the half-demon’s head right then that he felt like he was getting a migraine.

Mira stepped up behind her brother and looked around his shoulder and down the stairs towards their private areas. At the sight of the female she relaxed and crossed her arms over her breasts. This one was familiar.

“Oh wow brother I didn’t know you were passing out keys to our rooms like candy these days. So who the hell is this one? Didn’t you tell me to stop having our meals sleepover?”

“I’m no meal, sweetheart. But you could be one for me,” Inea replied, her eyes glowing softly in the dim light of the staircase. She actually began moving upward toward them both. She had felt something tug her soul and now she smelled something that told her she was correct. Something had happened to Senias and it had drawn her here to the place of the deed.  

“Stop talking Mira.” Dante rubbed one hand over his eyes. Moving down the stairs a few steps to meet the blonde half way he suddenly became very serious, “Given how unexpected this is am I to assume that this visit isn’t a pleasant one?”

“A dragon was just attacked here. I can smell the dragonsbane. Are you going to tell me I should be pleasant?” She was continuing to try and make her way up the stairs. After all, Dante wasn’t stupid enough to do something so brazen, especially considering she had told him she was dragon.

“Dante, who the hell is she?” Mira demanded from the top of the stairs as she stared down at the pretty female that seemed very familiar with her brother.

“Mira this is Inea. Inea this is Mira. Now you know who she is.” Dante’s gaze hadn’t left his lover as he made the short introduction.

Inea realized he was intentionally keeping her. Her eyes narrowed as she looked straight into him.  “She did it, didn’t she? She hurt him? Because he doesn’t want her?”  Inea whispered to him.  ~ I told you, he and I are connected by something precious – our children, one dead and one alive. We may not like one another much anymore, but we will always defend one another. I warned you as soon as you wanted to know. Did you not think it fit to heed my warning, love? ~

“Awe gods really.” Mira rolled her eyes and turned with the intentions of walking back to the bar for another drink. “You’re bitch needs to pick better timing Dante. Tell her to come back during open hours like everyone else that wants your attention does.”

Inea took a step back and that should have been plenty of clue for the demon that she didn’t have to get past him physically to get to what she wanted. She disappeared and an instant later, she was picking Mira up by the throat and slinging her against the mirror behind the bar.  Her eyes became slitted and she growled at the idiot as she got up.

“This bitch will have words with you, silly dolt.”  She grasped the offensive smelling whiskey off the bar and throwing it into the air, the thing was portaled to another dimension – to a place Inea knew it would keep until she could be rid of it.  Her attention was back on Mira immediately, a spell coming to her hand.

“Inea don’t!” Dante was standing before his sister as she climbed to her feet and regained her balance. ~ She’s my sister and someone precious to me. ~  He had explained this to Inea. He had told her of their bond and their past. He shielded his sister with his own dark magic as his eyes shimmered with the energy use, “Don’t do this. Please let me explain.”

Inea growled again, but pulled the magic back into her palm and waited.

“He walked in here unprotected,” Dante began, taking a breath before trying to continue.

“And that was reason enough to try and kill him? Because he was foolish?”

“No, no… but he was taken by the doctor and his new kindred and should be recovering. She didn’t intend to kill him or she would have used all of the herb instead of a small amount. He’s been toying with Mira’s heart for years now – so just desserts as I see it.” He adored Inea and loved making her happy, listening to her laugh and seeing her smile. But he wouldn’t see his sister hurt not even by her.

“So the payment for toying with your precious sister is being fed a poison that she knew would have horrible effects on him? She didn’t mean to kill him, but she had no idea what dose to use and decided to go for it anyway? Do you hear what you’re saying? Do you understand how few of us there are in this world? And your sister nearly took out a lord because she felt jealous and petty?”

“What the hell are you babbling on about?” Mira had brushed herself off and was hurting, but trying to keep her composure, a feat to be sure considering the situation. She tried to move around Dante but was having no luck in the process. “I didn’t nearly take out any lord you airhead!” There was no way Frenchie.. Jean-Michel Raudine was and dragon lord. “I wasn’t feeling petty either!” She didn’t deny the jealous bit though.

The use of the term “lord” had Dante taking another deep breath. All these years they’d never figured out what kind of supernatural the bastard was, and now this? The half-demon knew a bit about draconic politics. There were only four lords, each of them millennia old with all of the experience and magic and gathered magical baubles in their lairs… things to kill or banish demons with, oh, surely. Shit.

“Of course not.” Inea stiffened. “You’re so blind by your own selfishness that you didn’t bother to look up common mythology? Irish mythology has the four wizards listed. They are dragons. Let’s see, perhaps you’re too lazy for a library these days. I believe you could Google it?  The four wizards of the four cities? His name is there. But this is how human civilization of that time viewed the dragon lords – as wizards of major cities that were progressive before their time. Semias of Morias, holder of the Cauldron of Dagda – see how closely that resembles Senias? It’s one damned letter, you twit. You just tried to kill a dragon lord. Do you understand what kind of hell is about to rain down upon you and your brother?”

“I didn’t…” Mira started to snarl a come back only to have her brothers hand firmly over her mouth cutting her off.

Dante took a deep breath and calmed himself down. “I wasn’t expecting what she did. Neither of us knew he was a dragon much less his draconic name any more than the public knows my demonic one.” There was tension in his shoulders as he went on, “We both knew he was supernatural and Mira has apparently been trying small bits of different herbs over the years in his whiskey. She wasn’t trying to hurt him, she was trying to figure him out.”

“That’s your story. And some of it’s true. Not all of it. And if I can see through that, so can anyone else who has Eyes of Truth cast upon them.” Inea looked from Angelus to Miranda. “So, can you lie better than your brother?”  

“I meant to hurt him. I meant for him to feel pain badly for stringing me along and then tossing me to the side for a human. I have been trying different herbs on him over the years, but then it dawned on me that he is kind of like a timex watch. Takes a lickin’ but keeps on tickin’. So I wagered dragon or not, the dragon’s bane would work, it’s toxic and hard to come by. I just really wasn’t sure on the amount to give him.” Mira wouldn’t try to lie because it was obvious this chick wasn’t buying it.

“He’s both bonded and befriended many along his life’s journey. He has connections to the top of Crimson, in every remaining dragon clan, on the other side, and laced throughout the underworld – not just through the two of you. So…doing anything to jeopardize him is foolhardy at best and suicide at worst.”

“The vampire?” Dante asked.

“Hmm… yes, that one. You might as well have attacked him, too. You know how demonic bonds work, lover. Draconic bonds are very similar.”

The twins looked at one another as if agreeing to tuck that information away for use later.

“Listen lovely,” Inea said, while looking at Mira, who was standing against her brother’s shoulder, his bulk the only thing keeping her back, though an attack would have been futile. “You can take my advice or you can continue to be a stubborn idiot and bring shame and ruin upon you both. Which will it be? Your decisions affect your brother and your father. Think quickly.”

Mira pouted, looked at her brother and then back to the dragoness. “What do you need to say?”

“I’d suggest that a peace be made with those who were attacked. Otherwise you’ll have targets on both of your heads and soon.” Inea’s chin tipped up slightly. “I came here to find out what happened and give you a lesson in tact and respect. A reminder that you may be the highest morsel on the food chain here, but that still makes you food. Others won’t be so kind.”

Dante stayed between the two women he loved like a barrier between two warring factions. “Point taken Inea.”

“Do good for those others to remember that this morsel has a very protective daddy and brother.” Mira was unable to resist. She turned and made her way to the office leaving her brother to deal with the blonde bitch from hell.

“Darius would have you take a lap if he could be here to see how you’re acting!” Inea took a step toward the heifer. Oh she wanted to slap that perfect face.

“Let her go Inea.” Dante stayed between the office and Inea. “Look she isn’t perfect and neither am I, but we are siblings. Raudine took his chances every time he walked through our doors and he knew the risks and the gamble. Just like you warned her now, I warned him the first time that he came for her. He came here to bargain this time. Maybe you should ask him about the times before that. None of us are saints and you knew that when this all started between us. Don’t make this a choice between you and her.”

“I’m not asking you to choose, lover.” Inea finally moved her gaze from the hallway where Mira had disappeared back to Dante. Her voice was calmer, now. “She’ll die an early death if she doesn’t grow up. And she’s lived quite a long time maintaining that attitude. I’m…I’ve been surprised… for years, now.”

“If her death comes early and by another’s hands I will avenge her because that’s what family does for each other. As I said before, Mira isn’t perfect but at least she is honest about herself and what you see is what you get. I hope that one day someone will come along that will curb that attitude for her and love her like I love you.” Dante was holding her gaze to let her know that he was being honest with her.

He had actually said the words. Inea had not expected that at all. It took her a moment to internally recover, though she showed no outward sign of acknowledgement. She needed more information and stopping in the middle of this without getting to it would be wrong.

“Why was he here?” she asked very suddenly. Information was the least he could provide considering she didn’t use her magic to transport his sister to another dimension and leave her there to stew for a week.   

Seeing no reaction to what he said, Dante took a breath and gave Inea exactly what she asked for. “He wants to get to the other world without Crimson or any others knowing about it because that Alpha of the Pack went over there for something. I was considering his request when I got a call and when I came back he had already made a deal with Mira. As you know once a bargain is struck with our kind there’s no breaking it. He either full fills it or his soul ends up hers.” Walking to the bar Dante poured himself a whiskey and tossed it back before setting the glass down on the bar with a thunk. “Might want to tell Senias to get ready for his trip.”

Inea watched him, but said nothing. She had not been expecting his words. Not in this manner. Not at this time – when so much more was at stake and going on. People were always so impetuous. Senias was always so impetuous. She had been impetuous as well, but to this level? No. Inea was pretty sure she was about to cross even her own line.

Without looking back at his lover, Dante walked to the door of the office, “You know your way out.” and just like that he walked into the office leaving Inea standing there in the club alone closed the office door behind him.

~ “I, Inea of Gorias, will take on the agreement made today by Senias of Morias, with conditions attached!” ~ the dragoness felt that might just get their attentions, speaking it out loud and to their minds.  

The office door banged open, Mira bypassing her brother to stare wide eyed at the blonde, “You what?!” Her lips pressed together as she crossed her arms over her chest. “And what makes you think that I’d let you?”

~Inea no! You don’t know what this means.~ Dante snarled as he pushed past Mira intent on reaching Inea before she made a mistake.

“What conditions?” The succubi had seen the way Dante looked at this one and for years this female had dug her claws deeper and deeper into him. Now maybe she had a chance to get him free.

“No… wait.”  Inea held her fingers out to Mira, beckoning her to a table she stepped to. She looked to Dante. “I want us to put all of our cards on the table. Right now. If I have to be the mediator and the guinea pig, both… I’ll do it.” She moved to one chair and pulled it out, “Brother sits here.” Then she moved to the other side of the table and pulled out the chair there. “Sister sits here. And I’ll have the middle.” She pulled the chair and turned it around so she could sit with the back on her chest.  Holding out her hands, “Well, I’m waiting.”

Dante waited until Mira had taken a seat then took his own. They both looked her way to see what she had in store.

“Now, lover, you just said that I don’t know what taking his agreement means. I want you to explain that to me. Because I am assuming that your beloved sister needs something from the other side and she’s willing to agree to send Senias there so long as he brings it back. However, dragon’s bane takes a lot of time to get through a human host-body when the dragon is too weak or stubborn to change to his natural form so the poison can be easily shed. So you may be waiting for some time on this to happen.  I am perfectly healthy and I have three other people who would happily go on this merry adventure with me to the other side to make sure both Devon and whatever it is your heart desires, Mira, get back here in a more timely manner.” Inea leaned forward to the brother, “And using my connections and magic will not involve Crimson’s eyes. Unlike using Sen’s.”  

Dante looked from Inea to Mira, who motioned with a shrug for him to be honest. He looked back to Inea and explained, “It means that if the task is not completed your soul is hers. When you die you won’t ascend to the stars like others, you’ll be encased in a stone or whatever she feels like putting you in until she has use for it.” Dante explained.

“Well, then, that would have to be renegotiated. I mean, you do realize how dangerous it is over there, right?” Inea smiled and put her elbow on the table, her chin falling into it as she looked Mira’s way.  

Mira gave a rough little laugh, “Why would I renegotiate my bargain to suit you when the one I’ve wanted all these years is already in a bargain with me?”

“What pray tell are you after? That’s also something important to know, because I didn’t realize souls were even involved. I thought this was a simple, ‘you scratch my back and I scratch yours’ situation.” This was very interesting to the dragoness.  “Why would I also wager my soul? I get your item, you send me through… seems pretty even to me?” With her other hand she sought out Dante’s knee beneath the table.  

“Because the dagger is not just any item. Besides Senias knows what bargains with us cost, he always has and that is why he never really does such business with us.” Mira leaned forward to rest her elbows on the table and smiled at Inea. “This time though he really wanted to get over there with no one the wiser. Guess he better recover faster than you expect huh.”

With a low rumble Dante reached across the table to grab his sister’s arm and squeezed lightly, “Stop baiting her and I mean it.” His eyes glittered dangerously at his sibling.

“I’m not baiting her. I’m simply telling her that I have no reason to bargain with her.” Mira yanked her arm free and rubbed the reddened spot.

“He was drunk on poison you gave him that almost cut his life. The bargain you’re speaking of is not valid. And I could take it to Darius and have him tell you that. You know this.” Inea challenged. She knew the demon lord. He was a lawful sort who honored proper deals. Sure, he could partake of treachery where it helped him. But this deal? Mira knew it was wrong. She would lose face with her father and she had already put both herself, Dante, and their businesses into jeopardy from the wrath of Sen’s well-connected friends.

Mira’s expression said a lot. Dante was right, she definitely didn’t hide things so well.  

“Not to mention, by continuing to hold this deal over Senias after poisoning him to influence his decision, you guarantee enemies you’ve never had before – two Councilors, an entire pack of lycan, a coven, and the enmity of every dragon and dragon clan. If you think business won’t be harmed by that…”   

“Let’s communicate then,” Mira broke in quickly. “Tell me what exactly you are going to offer that is different than what Raudine bargained? I get the you are your ties but what assures you carry it out if you aren’t willing to complete a bargain with me? The soul bit only assures that the bargain is carried out on your side. Like you said what’s to lose?” Mira’s eyes sparkled to show just how much she was enjoying this portion. She didn’t like what had been said about her actions before, but striking a deal with someone was always fun. Mira always made sure she came out on top.  

“I give you something of mine that is valuable for holding until I bring back your trinket and trade? Not my soul. Not his. And if this venture works, I may bring you more than just the dagger. I have no need for treasure at this point. I have plenty of it. I may even have some trinkets available to trade for other things.” Inea got up from the table and paced around it as she thought.  “Not to mention, if you send me through and we come back victorious, you will be gaining the respect of those who know you were willing to send me through to help end this war. The Alpha of Pack Weylyn and his mate, Senias, Kennedy, our clans… Clan Findias as well. They have a lot to lose if trade is completely cut off due to war.”   

Mira moved her index finger over her full bottom lip as she considered this alternative version of events. Dante kept his mouth shut. He wasn’t sure who was being played at this point. And so long as his sister wasn’t being harmed, why would he intercede?

“What are you offering that I hold?”

“I’ll bring you a sword that I believe you’ll find quite pleases your palate. It was supposedly used by St. Maximilian of Tebessa  – he spread Christianity to Africa. It’s in perfect condition. And it has magic laced within the blade. Magic that can tell you when a supernatural is within a 50 yard radius of your body while touching the weapon. I believe it would be considered a type of short sword, so it’s easy to maneuver. You can play with it. I don’t mind. So long as it is ready for pick up when I return.” Inea shrugged as she continued to move around their table.

“That’s… a very important piece,” Mira might as well have been drooling. “Alright, deal – but I have a stipulation. I want the dagger turned over to me in one piece, not one fleck of gold or one tiny jewel missing from it.”

“Oh, honey,” Inea placed her hands on Mira’s shoulders and looked at her from behind. Her magic might be a bit thick, but she meant no harm at all. She was amused. To Dante, this would probably be quite the show.  “When I handle a mission like this, the object d’art is treated like the most fragile of porcelain. This is my kind of adventure, you see. I just need all of the information you  have on your desired trinket.” She let go of the succubus to continue walking around the table. “In the meantime, “I get to choose the people I want to bring with me, correct?”  

Mira stood up and held her hand out for Inea to shake to seal the bargain. “Take whomever you like as long as I get the sword up front and the dagger in return.” She’d give over the requested information once the bargain was sealed.

“This removes all souls from your table, correct? Including Senias’?” Inea wanted to be clear before shaking on it.

“It removes Senias’ soul from the table. Yours wasn’t on there and won’t be included in this bargain.” There was no way she was going to repeat that the same way that Inea had and lose the hold she had on souls that weren’t even in this deal.

Inea saw what the demon had done, and wasn’t about to trip over the loftier goal of taking Mira from soul snatching business. She had to take her victories where she could. Sen’s soul was no longer in the bargain. Her soul had never been part of one. Inea took Mira’s hand in hers. The deal was made. They let go. “I’ll have you the sword before the end of the night. Now, what do you know of the dagger?”

“It’s a demon slayer. There are only nine in existence and I’ve found four so far, this will make five. As I told Frenchie, last it was seen was was the city of Iona which I do believe dragons reign over. I’ve gotten no further leads on it.” Mira explained the dagger just as she had to the Tasker before. “It’s gold handled dagger with pretty work and jewels embedded but the blade itself is the prize. If you can track slaying magics, you should be able to find it…eventually.”

“Very well. Dante, get ready for a trip. You’ll be going. I need to get to Derek of Weylyn and Largros of Findias and make sure they’re ready. I’ll expect the passage for all three of them and me – discreetly – to the other world.”

“Me?” Dante was surprised by this but not quite as surprised as his sister.

“Wait you aren’t taking my brother and Derek with you.” Mira stood up quickly and her chair tipped back to fall and clatter on the floor behind her. The witch was going to take both of the men she adored from her? Of course… that’d keep her from doing anything else that might be considered foolish, wouldn’t it? Had she been outwitted on this!  “Dante?!” Her expression was one of shock and anger.

“Oh, I’m sorry but I believe your words were – take whomever you like as long as I get the dagger in return?” Inea waited, her chin tipped slightly upward.  Her eyes looked to where Dante was laughing.

With a deep, husky laugh Dante watched his sister fume as his lover seemingly gained the upper hand on her. He gave a very elegant bow at the waist, “As you wish my lady.”

Inea took a deep breath and then raised her hand above her head to open a portal she could simply walk through. Magic poured from her palm like someone pouring a milky mist until the portal was ready.

“You really need to repair your sigils, lover.” she winked at the half-demon. It wasn’t just a good chess move to take Mira’s best protectors from her, it was a move to help Dante. She knew he’d love to have an adventure away from this world. He’d talked about it often enough. She was about to turn when she thought of something else, “Oh and… I love you as well.” The dragoness smiled for him, then stepped through the magic to disappear from the club.


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