The smell of fresh coffee drifted through the room in the early morning. The drapery had been pulled back from the huge plate glass window overlooking the Seine, though the diaphanous sheers kept anyone from seeing inside and obstructed his own view. Morning light had begun to flood the room Gabriel was staying in. There was also another smell mixed into the moment… not just the coffee and freshly toasted croissants.  

Gabriel’s mind struggled with the fog of sleep. The feel of someone on the mattress next to him brought him awake further. Luckily, the playful emotions he could feel kept him from overreacting when he felt a kiss on the back of his neck.

“Bonjour, mon amour…” Sen’s voice was like velvet so near his ear.  

The smells were pleasing enough, especially the very male one that he’d become accustomed to. His eyes were still closed when the kiss and those words made his breath catch just a little. Looking over his shoulder Gabriel let a sleepy smile creep across his lips.

“When did you get here? Shouldn’t you still be recovering?” He blinked and tried not to move too much. He was enjoying the nearness and the attention given how long it had been since they’d been so close. Sen’s hand was massaging his back right where he needed it and Gabriel was loathe to move much more. He even stopped trying to look for the moment. Sen had been ill and Gabriel hadn’t wanted to make things worse for him. So he’d tended and mended Sen to get him recovered only to have to leave soon after for Paris.

“I’m recovered enough to help you. Besides, wild horses wouldn’t have kept Eva here once she found out that the situation on the other side was done and Devon was hurt. She needed to go to her mate.” Senias stopped his rubbing and moved back up on the bed to be against the mountain of pillows and the headboard. He easily urged his kindred to him so he could hold Gabriel to him for the time being. The last memory he had was in the lair being close to Gabriel, actually being in his arms. Next thing he knew he had been startled awake by someone in the master suite bringing him food. He’d felt much better, though a bit weak yet. And most of all, he’d wanted to be close to his kindred again.

“Is Devon going to be okay?” Gabriel was wide awake then. He turned in Sen’s embrace so that they were facing each other. His hands slid over skin as he slid them around his lover to rest against his back. “Do they need anything sent over?” His gaze moved over Sen’s face as he visually took in any changes that the poisoning may have caused. “You look better.. That’s good.” For some reason Gabriel found himself at a loss for words for just a moment. He just wanted to lay there and look at the redhead as if time had stood still.

“So much, so fast,” Sen chuckled and thought back over the questions, “Devon’s going to be fine, physically. He just overdid it and apparently took down who needed taking down. They did need things sent over, so I came here as soon as Eva called me and spoke to Councilor Petrard and asked for their help on your behalf… of course. It was last minute and so I lied and told them you were busy on the back end making arrangements. Hope you don’t mind that.” He kissed the skin above Gabriel’s nose to keep him from scrunching his face when he heard. “ As to me? I’ve lost seven pounds. Maybe that’s what was needed to make me look better? Was it all in my face?”

“You looked just fine before.” Gabriel’s hands moved along Sen’s spine as if gauging for himself. “Still feel good to me.” He wanted to kiss him but didn’t. Gabriel knew that just one kiss would lead to so much more and he wouldn’t have the strength to stop.

“I missed you..” It was the only other thing that came to mind to say right then. Even as the words left his mouth Gabriel felt stupid for saying it. What was he some love sick teenager? “I should get up and shower. It’s going to be a long day.” He said it and tried to convince himself, but he didn’t really want to move. A very big part of him just wanted to stay in bed with Senias.

“Well, if you must. I believe you are on your own schedule right now, yes? Your only meeting is for tomorrow with the Councilor. And now that you have me here, I can help you cut the research time in half. I speak all the languages needed. Eva speaks French and English and some Portuguese, but I doubt she has the rest of it down. So you got an upgrade.” the dragon chuckled. Senias knew he wouldn’t be able to keep his kindred to himself for long, but he was going to try and enjoy actually being awake and aware while in Gabriel’s presence. “I missed you as well. But the dreams helped.”

“Dreams?” Gabriel was brushing his nose along Sen’s jawline. It felt good to hold him and to breathe him in again. The moment wouldn’t last forever but he could enjoy it while it did.

“Yes. Of you. How inappropriate of you to get into my head, Councilor,” Senias chuckled. He enjoyed the feel of the hands on his back. “If we continue like this, I’ll be tempted to make some of those dreams come true. So, you had better tell me if you have other plans for our day.” His face moved over Gabriel’s cheek in a nuzzle and a bit of a purr left his chest.  

Oh Sen had no idea how badly Gabriel wanted to stay right there. But the risk was too great and he had too much to see to. With a groan Gabriel leaned in and was so close to kissing him when his gaze went to the windows that the light was coming through. “Windows are open..”

“Oh, I’ve got the drapes pulled, but the sheers are thick enough to obscure views. I’d not take the chance you and I would be found out.” Senias begrudgingly left Gabriel’s warmth to crawl back off the bed.  “You’re too useful to me where you are. Wouldn’t want you to get fired.” He winked at the sleepy male.

As Sen left the bed Gabriel sat up in it and partially drew up his spread knees beneath the bedding and rested his elbows on them. His hair was just a little messy and he had that just woke up look upon him. “Yes because a simple Kennedy heir is useless.” Gabriel watched the solid built form of his lover as Sen moved around the room. “I’d hate to become worthless to you.”

“If I wanted any Kennedy heir, I’d have already had one. But…” Senias stepped to the table and poured Gabriel a cup of coffee. He brought it to the man.  “I decided that I would always hate them for what their ancestors had done to me, until your grandfather taught me that my hatred was misplaced. And then he introduced me to his grandson whom… was quite the curiosity for me.”

Sen returned to the table to begin making them plates from the delivered variety of breakfast goodies.

Sliding from the bed Gabriel sipped his coffee as he moved to stand behind Sen and kissed the spot just between his shoulder blades.

The dragon’s breath caught when the touch was made to the skin there. It left a shiver to move from that point all over him. He was glad he wasn’t holding his own coffee when Gabriel did that. The branded mark of the Kennedy Clan was always very sensitive.

“Then, to my grandfather I owe a thank you.” As he took a seat at the table Gabriel adjusted the pajama bottoms to prevent hurting himself. Setting the coffee cup aside he claimed a piece of toast to enjoy and waved off the rest. He didn’t much of an appetite right then, but he waved towards the chair beside him so that Sen would sit and eat.

“You sure?” Sen asked before finishing his own plate off and moving it to the offered spot along with coffee he had already fixed the way he liked it.

Gabriel simply nodded in response. His appetite was for much more than food, but time and place weren’t appropriate. He couldn’t help but enjoy the subtle lil teases though that were being exchanged between them.

“So, tell me what are the details here? Other than the research?”

After another sip of coffee, Gabriel explained, “Skinner thinks that Councilor Petrard is somehow involved demonically. I figured while we are here investigating that I would make use of the library they have here for some of my own puzzles.”

“Petrard being manipulated by demons? And here I always thought the man was a demon,” Senias chuckled. “What are we looking at in the library? What are the other things you’re brain is multitasking right now?” Sen took a sip of his coffee.

“I told you that I’m researching dragons to build a case for their removal from the blacklist. I want dragons to have a seat at Council just like the other races now have, right down to vampires. I am also determined to find out more about the twins for myself. I like to know my opposition.” He took a bite of toast and licked his lips.

Senias stiffened.

“I thought I told you not to worry with it?” he didn’t like the idea of Gabriel looking too closely at the twins. They were crazy enough to try and punish a dragon, they didn’t need to be meddled with by a human… Councilor or not.

As he picked up the napkin to wipe his mouth Gabriel felt the change in Sen. Tossing the bit of cloth onto his plate Gabriel finished off his coffee before answering, “Do you honestly think I’m going to let them nearly kill you and do nothing? I don’t know what it is about them that makes everyone seem to tread just a little lightly, but I will find out before I leave Paris.”

“Just because a bear pisses on your rose bushes doesn’t mean you take a stick into the den and poke it, Gabriel.” the dragon took a bite of his croissant.

“No one says you have to like it.” Gabriel stood up and started towards the bathroom. “I need a shower before we leave. Are you going with me to the library or do you prefer to stay here and sleep?” The Councilor wasn’t going to cow down to his Tasker in this matter. It would be best if Raudine realized it, but somehow Gabriel doubted it would be that easy. Good thing he liked a challenge. His dragon was indeed a very determined one.

“I’m here to help. I’m tired of being useless. Besides, you obviously have a streak of foolishness as thick as mine. Might as well be around when you trip over that like I did.” Senias reached over to the mini-bar, opened it and grabbed a mini-bottle of liquor to pour into his coffee. He’d need that.

“Nice to hear you have such faith in me.” Gabriel’s own spine stiffend just a little as he closed the bathroom door and set about his shower and usual morning routine.

“Yeah, yeah…” the dragon chuckled. They were both stubborn as hell, weren’t they? He sipped the coffee before moving to get better dressed.

When Gabriel exited the bathroom he was neatly dressed with everything in its place from his tie to his cuff links. His hair was even neat and perfect. Glancing at his Rolex he sighed, “They should be ready for us by now. Are you ready Raudine?” He thought it best to start now with the use of the alias name or he might let slip with the familiar in front of others – and that was unacceptable. Sen could be pissed at him later and Gabriel was very sure that when they were once again in the privacy of their rooms with the drapes pulled closed the dragon would be happy to show him. Until then, Sen would just have to stew. God only knew that the dragon loved ruining his best shirts as often as possible.

“I’ve been ready, Councilor Kennedy,” the Tasker was already standing at the door, holding it open for Gabriel. His attire was perfectly tailored to suit him and looked damned good for once.

“Perhaps that seven pounds helped out after all?” Gabriel moved his hands over the lapel of the Tasker’s suit. He smirked before moving past.  

“Mmmm… perhaps, Councilor.” The Tasker had a very proper look to his expression, something akin to having accepted a challenge. If they were going to go back to official coldness, he could do that. No problem. No problem… at…all.

*********

At the Chamber they were checked in and shown to the library. Unlike the Chamber back home, this one had windows and was very light feeling without all the stuffiness of a mausoleum. It was still very professional though, with suits and ties everywhere.

Senias began with the scrolls, to line them up by timeline. They had been quiet on the way over and continued this way. He also made sure that anything that pertained to the twins was on one table and dragons to the other. The middle table was for actual use.  

Gabriel pulled his notebook from his briefcase and immediately started to work. Although he was careful with the delicate pages, the man was very thorough with each and every paragraph. He had no trouble asking for help with anything he didn’t understand or needed translations from. In the first ledger he found shipping logs that listed names that he had become familiar with as being alias’ for the twins. They had tied in with the East India Trading Company when it was first starting out. That was a wise endeavour to make. It covered a lot of their shipments which were simply listed as art or furniture. Half way through the ledger Gabriel looked over at Sen to mentally ask, ~Did you know them in the 1600’s?~ He turned the ledger so that Sen could see the entries of the shipping log that he was currently looking at.

Senias had begun reading through a scroll from the middle ages. He was connecting it to a special easel so that there would be minimum touching when Gabriel asked his question.  He didn’t flinch and he didn’t pause. ~ Yes. Mid-century. Right when rich bastards were beginning to explore the New World. ~

Nodding in response Gabriel turned his attention back to the ledger and turned the next page. This let the dragon know it wasn’t a personal question but more one to work on yet another piece of a puzzle. He jotted the details down and moved along. It wasn’t about them right now, it was about his cases and this was how he worked. This was what made him so good at being a Councilor and a businessman. He poured himself into his work 100%.

Every now and then for the next four hours Gabriel would pause and ask Sen a question about the time frame he was working in. It didn’t always have to do with the twins, it was just his way of filling in blanks. Sen was around and knew about the eras they were researching and that made him very useful. In turn, the Tasker made sure that Gabriel at least had a drink now and again… what was allowed. This wasn’t a normal library with the rules of such. Respect was given to all pieces and no one had accidents around the books and parchments. Taking a break simply meant moving away from the priceless tomes.

When tea arrived Gabriel paused long enough to remove his jacket, loosen his tie and fix his cup. After taking a few sips further away, he moved to look upon the scrolls that Sen had already set up as he sipped his tea. “Of the Rose… I’ve seen this somewhere before.” Gabriel’s finger levitated just above the rose emblem that was on the parchment. “Two children born to Mary La’Severne, mother dies after childbirth.” He glanced at the tables in confusion and then back at the scroll. “There’s no mention of the children’s names or what happened to them. So no actual connection to the twins or dragons so why is it here?” He was mumbling more to himself than anyone in particular.

The Tasker shrugged. He made his way to the tea cart and took his time to make his own special blend from the bags provided. He would allow Gabriel to piece things together and would help where he could, but that didn’t mean he’d spoon feed the Councilor. Besides, it was entertaining to watch Gabriel work.

Rubbing his jaw Gabriel went back to the first ledger and flipped it back open to the shipping stamps and there was the rose. Now he had their family name at least. Turning his attention to Sen he grinned, “Their family name. It’s where they came from.” He didn’t repeat their mothers name simply because it gave him an odd chill to speak it out loud for some reason.

“Congratulations. You have found the human family responsible for the tragedy that would become the twins’ lives. The rose should look more familiar to you than just that, though.” Senias mumbled.  

“I don’t understand what you mean.” Gabriel was studying the design. Was there more to the family than he was getting here?

~ Crimson are not the only hunters there are in the world, Gabriel. ~  The dragon pointed out using his mental speak. He poured the hot water over the bags in his cup and moved them just a bit with his fingers.  

Hunters? The twins human lineage were hunters? Gabriel was trying to figure that one out.

Senias watched Gabriel as the man began moving through pieces of the puzzle in his own mind.

“It’s because of them isn’t it? The family became hunters because of the twins.” It was just a guess on his part as nothing hinted at such. “Why didn’t their father come for them? Where ever he was, he must have known about their births and their mother’s death. So why not come to collect his children? Did he not care about them? Was their mother just another human seduced?” A sickening feeling went right to the pit of his stomach and Gabriel found himself asking no more questions regarding the twins and instead his attention was turned to the other table.

“No, Gabriel. Darius adores his children and adored their mother. She fell victim to the same thing most supernaturals fall to.  Ignorance. Fear. Hatred… these are humanity’s greatest hits. You cannot rescue your lover or your children if you are a demon who has been banished.  You must rely on emissaries to carry out your bidding in this world and that takes time.” Senias had tried to keep Gabriel from finding out too much about the twins, but his kindred was not going to be dissuaded from it.  So… as things were found, Senias felt no qualms about confirming or denying things. “The family’s first dive into this ‘hunting’ you speak of was to learn how to banish a demon. And in doing so, they killed Mary.”

Pausing Gabriel looked at Sen, “That’s his name then?” Gabriel jotted the name down with the rest of his notes on the twins.

Sen took the bags in his hand and squeezed the flavored tea out of them before tossing them aside to the wastebasket. He took one cube of sugar and dropped it into the cup before sipping. ~ It’s not his full true name, but it’s the one I know him by. Lord Darius. By the way, the title is real.  It means he’s pretty fucking powerful and you’d best leave his children be. ~

Gabriel glared at his Tasker. The man sighed and shrugged before taking a seat nearby.

“There is more available on the family and the twins themselves… most of it has been transferred to electronic recordings. You can ask for access to them from Petrard when we meet with him, if you like.”

“I will.” Gabriel decided not to get into things with his Tasker right now. It pissed him off to know that Raudine probably already knew a lot about this, but was unwilling to share his knowledge. Fine.  He turned his attention to the other table, “Now let me see what they’ve brought me on dragons.” One of the books looked half charred and he wondered just which dragon it had gotten too close to. He had put his tea away and began moving through the charters and scrolls first. Some ledgers here and there. This took up a lot of their day. He was barely aware of his Tasker handing him water or food here and there.

What Gabriel noticed right away was a great deal of the stories of war and battle involved two very familiar males. Resting his hands on the tables edge Gabriel took a breath wondering just how deeply he wanted to dig on them. ~Spent a lot of time here didn’t you? I can tell by the stories of the two blood thirsty warlords. You and Evansworth if I had to guess. ~ Some of the depictions were pretty gruesome and Gabriel found himself skipping some of them. He couldn’t imagine Sen like the stories described him.

~ You wanted the truth. You wanted to be my kindred. The truth is not always flattering.  When one is accused of being a monster, sometimes one embraces that. ~  Senias sat on the edge of one of the tables and watched Gabriel closely. ~ Humanity hated and feared us. In turn, we hated humanity. Hate can lead a being into things indescribable. It can bond people who would normally never find common ground. ~

As he flipped open one of the books it was to a depiction of bodies upon on pikes. ~So this is what brought you two together..~ Made him wonder if such acts drew them together, what it took to rip them apart? The one scroll that Sen hadn’t bothered to unroll sat at the edge of the table. Gabriel didn’t have to unroll it to know what it was. Neither Warlord had ever been captured by Crimson or any other hunters. But one of them did turn himself over to the English Council and that Council had sent copies of his judgement to all the active Chambers around the world to present as an example to others. ~You didn’t open it up?~

~ It is my shame. I let him suffer for my freedom. I should have known, but I was trying to be rid of the bond. I ignored his pain. And then… there was no pain.  Skinner realized the connection. It took Skinner blackmailing me for me to realize my closest friend had been captured and tortured for nearly two centuries. ~

Gabriel didn’t open the scroll he’d let that alone for now. ~ I’m sorry, I won’t pry there. ~ He turned his attention to the books and moved through them rather quickly. He found mention of dragon attacks that had no witness statements, mentions of dragons that had no reliability and rumors that led nowhere. So aside from the battles and wars Sebastian and Senias specifically were involved in, there was no justification for their extermination order. He could get that overturned of that Gabriel was confident.

Having all that he needed, Gabriel stood up right and groaned as his back complained. He stretched and reached for his jacket and put his things into his suitcase. Rumpled and tired, Gabriel was ready to call it quits. Looking at his watch he knew why.  “Eight o’clock already? I suppose we should head back to eat and rest.”

“Councilor, what justification do you give when defending the lives of creatures that would kill so blatantly?” Raudine asked out of nowhere. He walked around the tables and looked back over at his kindred. “There are accounts of sickening  displays of death and carnage all over Europe, not just in France. These creatures can take out many, many people in a short amount of time. Their breath is like napalm, a burning spread that involves everything in its wake. That breath is engaged simply by a flared temper. So how can you expect us to reverse this decision?”

“The last dragon attack was in the late 1800’s and I’ve seen crime scenes involving demons, vampires and lycan that are just as gruesome. Every race has its monsters – including humans. If you don’t believe me look at WWII at how many lives the Nazi’ were responsible for ending. Are humans blacklisted? There are entire villages in South Africa that suffered horribly due to demonic possession. Whole towns in Romania that were taken by vampires and yet are still living with them every day. The native Americans have paintings of history with shape shifters.  Would you have all of them black listed as well? So what makes dragons any worse? Not all of them are murderers. Not all want to fight. Some simply wish to live peaceful lives and raise their children to do the same. If the Council is not willing to blacklist every race that sits upon it – then it should not blacklist dragons. Everyone needs a voice and should have a right to a fair trial and representation within the Council. They should be represented by one of their own without fear of complete extermination of his or her family.” Gabriel could present evidence for his facts and was very good at presenting case that he found such deep interest in.

“And what of the monsters?” Senias turned to place his hands on the top of the table. “The monsters definitely stand out in every case you mention. There are monsters within the dragon community that have taken out or been responsible for taking out entire villages…starting wars…” His blue gaze held Gabriel’s dark eyes hostage.

“This is true, I won’t deny that.” Gabriel stood his ground and refused to back down.

“…taken out two entire vampire covens… destroyed a full pack of lycan on the other side…”

“That was what the case documents state.” He agreed with the statement and stood there for the rest.

“…killed a Crimson agent while on assignment with not a second thought…” his eyes shifted, revealing elongated slits for his pupils instead of the normal human rounded ones. He added, “and killed a Councilor with his bare hands.”  

“Crimson demands obedience regardless of the cost. These things cannot be held against … him. These things are not and should not be held as relatable to the case.”  Gabriel crossed his arms over his chest.

“If we approve the reinstatement of the dragons as Council approved race, the race will be ordered to turn over their monsters, per protocol or be held in contempt. Are you ready for that?” Raudine asked.

“If they are not serving time to Crimson in one fashion or another then yes, I agree that they should be turned in for judgement.” He held up one finger, “But if the dragon or dragoness is serving Crimson or Council in one fashion or another I’d say their time is served, wouldn’t you? Crimson leader Skinner is a hard taskmaster and I’m sure that such dragons have given their time and then some.”

“Mmmm… that’s wishful thinking,” Senias’ chuckle told the Councilor he was done for now. ~ Your suggestion might pass for some of it. After all, I was acting on either Crimson order or Skinner’s orders for most of those times. Not the old war crimes, but I suppose it could be argued that Sebastian took on the time and punishment for that when he turned himself in for judgement. ~ Senias stepped over to the chair he had left his jacket on and picked it up.

As he watched Sen and waited, Gabriel added in a very softly and low voice, “I’ve never read it you know; the judgement.. I never felt it was proper.”

“It wasn’t.” The friendly green blue, human eyes had returned and were saddened when Senias thought of what his friend had endured. “It wasn’t his fault.” The man whispered before he moved to the door. Opening it, he checked around before motioning for Gabriel to exit. He was in Tasker mode, now. Stopping at the front desk of the Chamber, he asked for another car.

Raudine motioned then for Gabriel to move onward to the front door with him. They shouldn’t speak on this subject here. He wanted to. He wanted to be sure everything was handled. He wanted the dragons to be free. He wanted at least one person to know that Sebastian didn’t deserve what he had paid for. Or at least, not in his opinion. He wanted to be sure Gabriel understood above all others. So, once they were outside, waiting on their car, the dragon began to explain.  

“The families we targeted were adult children of the supporters of  those who turned against him for profit. They took his children and his wife and they tortured and killed them and made him watch. They strung him out for the sunlight to finish off. They never realized a hungry dragon would be flying across and see him. Release him. Nurse him to health with his magical blood…” the Tasker shrugged. “It was luck or maybe destiny that saved him and it was the thought of revenge that kept him alive.”

Gabriel listened without saying a word to interrupt. He could see that his dragon needed to tell him this. Sebastian Evansworth was not his main concern, but Senias was. And if he needed to get these things off his chest, Gabriel would listen.

“At least Sebastian didn’t make them watch when he brought war to the lands of their children and grandchildren. He didn’t even kill all of them himself.” Sen shook his head. He looked over at Gabriel. “At the time it happened, the Council wouldn’t hear his pleading. They refused him justice.  So he set his mind to finding and punishing these families himself. These people and the Council made him into the monster in those stories. And then he paid for it a second time.”

“Perhaps others should have been in that cell beside him.” It wasn’t that Gabriel was absolving the vampire, he was simply saying he understood and that others should be punished with him. “And by others, I don’t mean you.”

The car came up to the curb and Raudine opened the door for Gabriel.  

~ Me? What do you think made me into a monster, Gabriel? ~  

Once inside the car Gabriel settled himself and waited for Sen to be settled on the other side before answering.

~ The persecution and deaths of your own children and kindred. No parent should have to bury their child. Not to mention add in the fact that my ancestors branded you and bound you to them to serve them. I’d say that all mixed together to make for a pretty pissed off dragon. Am I close? ~

~ We have maybe one clutch in… centuries time.  Inea and I had one kitling survive from our first clutch. They killed her. They skinned her and I was away. Inea wiped out the village and immolated the church. I had to stop her from going farther. She left to return to her island and I was left to decide what to do next. The world had turned against us. We were no longer bringers of wisdom, protectors of villages and nature… we were monsters. All of scaley kind was now thought of as their arch enemy. The embodiment of their Satan. ~

Gabriel never thought of him as a monster and he hoped that Sen understood that. He dealt with monsters every day and he just didn’t see that in the dragon.

~ The slavery part was partially my fault. I needed this body to blend in and I never learned much of the magical arts. But, after years of destruction and as a slave to the Kennedys and after being blackmailed by Skinner on top of that? I wanted to die. I tried to die several times. But, my body is kind of stubborn and apparently I’ve got a streak of good luck that only works when I don’t want it to work. ~  There was an air of amusement from the dragon.

Even though he hated hearing this from Sen, he knew he needed to. After everything he’d read and everything he already knew Gabriel hadn’t thought that Sen could give him any more than he already had. He was about to be surprised.

~ So what was your streak of good luck? ~

~ Your grandmother decided to be my friend. I failed at ignoring her. And once she became ill, she made me promise … made me swear on her soul… that I would always keep Jonathan from irresponsible death and I would protect you from anything. I made the vow. She deserved that much. And slowly, I began giving a damn. ~ Sen rolled his head a bit to the side so he could look Gabriel in the eyes. ~ Though, keep in mind, it never kept me from being a monster. ~

There was a small smile on his lips as he thought of his grandmother going toe to toe with Sen. She was a tiny woman and it just didn’t seem possible that she’d win an argument with the centuries-old creature. However, everything he had been told about Amelia Kennedy told him otherwise. She always won.

~ She was something wasn’t she? I don’t remember much about her, only faint memories here and there.~

~She was a force to be reckoned with. She never liked anything supernatural. Didn’t want you to be spoiled with it like her own children had been. She never wanted me to tell you anything. She never wanted you to be a Councilor. She argued with Jonathan about that a lot. She banished me from the house lair because she accused me of having an illicit romance with her daughter, which was not true. Turned out she was really angry about Rose just knowing what I was. That’s not what she told Jonathan, though… hence, I bought the house downtown and established a secondary lair so close. ~

The car came to a stop and they both exited it. Gabriel didn’t even let him get the door for him. The Tasker and his Councilor made their way into the hotel and up to the penthouse suite. Gabriel went quiet for a while, and Senias couldn’t help but feel anxious about it.

Once the door was closed and locked behind them, Gabriel turned and had to answer that last bit.

“Are you telling me that my sweet grandmother stopped being your friend because my aunt Rose knew about you? I always wondered why my grandfather never reached out to any of the supernaturals to cure her. I remember Eva taking care of her and tending her, but I don’t recall anyone else ever doing so.” Gabriel removed his jacket and laid it neatly over a nearby chair, but his attention was on Senias and this little history lesson about his own family.

“She wouldn’t let any of us help her. She felt it wasn’t appropriate. She had her life to lead and if it was to end as it did, so be it. That was natural.”

Gabe removed his tie as he moved further inside. There was a table already set and waiting for them. Apparently Raul had called ahead to advise the hotel that they were returning and were hungry.

“I hated the banishment, but it’s true. She felt I had betrayed her. I only spoke to her the one time after that. She adored her grandchildren, but there were only two at that time alive… you and John. She wasn’t worried about John. She was worried about you. And she had every right to be.”  

“Why is that?” Gabriel was in the midst of removing his cufflinks. “I don’t understand what made us so different aside from our parents. I’m sure Aunt Rose and my Uncle were much better at raising children than mine were.” He set the two studs aside as he went on, “I’m not better than John is. He’s become successful in his own right. So why the keene interest in my fate?”

“I don’t know. I never understood that, other than what you’ve already mentioned.” Senias wasn’t sure what to say about that, about the danger Gabriel was in from the moment they had been officially introduced by his grandfather.  “John inherited part of the business when your father passed, just as you did, but it was held for you for when you were both graduated from college. He took care of most of the domestic interests on the West Coast and you remained on the East Coast or overseas…” Senias shook his head. “But you know your own story.” He took off the jacket he had on and moved to close the drapes. Turning from that job, he paused.  “She made me promise to always protect you. He gave me to you, not John. I’m not sure why things happened the way they did…”

“I’m not sure why either, but I’m glad it’s worked out this way.” Gabriel was unbuttoning his shirt as he chuckled low, “I always found you kind of cute in a dangerous way.” He glanced at the table of food and sighed, “I suppose we should enjoy some of this since they went through the trouble of setting it up.” It had been an interesting day of knowledge for him that was for sure. Now he just wanted to enjoy the evening with Sen though he was beginning to think that he’d get away with the stunt he’d pulled earlier before leaving this very room. Perhaps Sen had brushed it off.

Senias untucked his shirt and walked to the table to grab up a strawberry he sniffed it, then dipped the thing in the fruit dip and took a nice bite. “Mmmm… sour but, sweet….orange?” there was definitely some orange flavors in there. Or citrus.  Putting the top down he repeated the procedure, but instead of eating it, himself, he held it in front of Gabriel.

While pulling his arms free of the sleeves Gabriel took the offered fruit and bit it off leaving the stem and leaves in Sen’s fingertips. Chewing he had to agree, “Orange.. Interesting mix.” He folded his shirt and laid it with his jacket. This left him in his white undershirt and pants as he removed his shoes as well. He was still licking the flavor from his lips as he turned to see what else was on the table for their enjoyment.

Sen tossed the top and picked up a sausage ball to pop into his mouth before he began stripping his own clothes. He’d brought a bag with pajama bottoms and his toiletries, so he got those out and then turned to look over Gabriel’s shoulder. “Prosciutto is never a bad thing…” he saw the little tubes of the meat with the cheese rolled up inside and waited to see if Gabriel would take the hint.

Picking up one Gabriel took a bite and held it out to Sen in offering. “It’s decent, but I’ve had better.”

Senias took the left offer and shrugged. He’d had better, too, but this tasted damn good anyway.

The rest of the food was forgotten as he watched Sen and wondered what he was up to. Was he going to shower and head to bed this early? Usually the evenings involved music, reading or a movie before the dragon was tired enough for actual sleeping.  

“I’ll be right back. I didn’t get the shower this morning…” He took his bag into the spacious bathroom and turned on the water to let it heat properly. Then, he looked at himself in the mirror. He was shaved nicely, his beard in place properly and trimmed perfectly. He’d not looked this good in some time, he admitted.  

“Can you put on some music?” he called before stripping completely and opening the glass door for the shower. He just wanted to wash off and feel clean before rejoining Gabriel. His kindred had stopped asking questions and he was going to let it rest for now.  Time to ease into … whatever this night might bring.

As requested Gabriel went to the stereo and turned on some classic light jazz. He heard the shower going and so took the time to change into his own pajamas before taking a seat in one of the comfortable chairs. He picked through a local paper, but couldn’t really focus. It was very tempting to interrupt Sen’s shower, but Gabriel wasn’t quite that cruel. He put the paper down and opted for the paperback on the table, instead. He looked to the bathroom but shook his head. Sen had let him enjoy a shower alone so why shouldn’t he return the sentiment?   

Soon enough, the draconic man walked out of the bathroom with just his pajama bottoms on and a smile on his face.  He’d half expected an interruption – half hoped for one. But that was fine. He had no qualms about interrupting Gabriel.  He walked over to the man, who seemed very much into the book he’d obviously only just picked up and hugged him from behind, the moisture from the shower dampening Gabriel’s upper body.

“Ah.. you’re still wet.. Sen…” Gabriel half heartedly muttered as he tried to shift away.

When Gabriel tried to fight, Senias turned his head aside and let his wet face and hair move all over Gabriel from head to neck before laughing and letting go to hop backward from the man.  

“I just wanted you to know how clean I am…” he chuckled.  They were behind closed doors and closed curtains and he had no worries. If anyone were following, they’d know this was just how people traveled sometimes.

Setting the book aside as it was damp now anyways, Gabriel slowly stood up and turned to look at his lover.  His hand lifted to wipe water from his hair, face and finally from his chest. The white shirt was soaked and so he stripped it off leaving them on equal ground as he moved around the chair. “If you’d wanted me in the shower with you, Sen, all you had to do was ask nicely.” The stiff and starchy business man was gone for now and replaced with a more playful version of the normally rigid Gabriel Kennedy. Only his dragon could bring out this side of him.  He prowled forward as if on a hunt.

“Oh, no.. I thought you were hungry,” he pointed out before moving backward toward the back wall where the headboard was positioned. He was hopping over the bed in an instant and back around the room again. His low chuckles were controlled.

Gabriel stalked Sen and maneuvered him backwards towards the large bed. “I never pegged you for a runner Sen, I thought you were a fighter.” He chuckled and took another step towards his very energetic prey.

“Not if I fear for my own torture. You know where I’m ticklish.” That had been an accidental discovery and now he’d be forever stuck with Gabriel knowing his weaknesses. At the same time, Senias wasn’t sure if he didn’t like that fact – or if he enjoyed it.  When Gabriel made the move, Senias grabbed his hand in his and then they were both moving, hands together and fingers entwined. “Can’t tickle me like this, though,” he pulled his kindred in close to him and held him so he could feel every inch and smell him as well.

“Are you certain of that?” Gabriel nuzzled along Sen’s jaw and felt the scratch of the beard across his skin.

“Well, there are parts I don’t mind you tickling, touching, and teasing, that’s for sure.” He laughed into Gabriel’s neck as he let go of the other man’s hands. “So maybe I’ll leave caution to the wind tonight?”

“I find caution always seems to vanish when I’m with you.” Gabriel’s hands slid up Sen’s spine and his nails scraped the skin between his shoulder blades as Gabriel moved them back down to the waistband of the pajama bottoms. Sliding them inside he cupped hands full of his lovers ass and squeezed as their lips crashed together. He tasted the pang of toothpaste, the sweetness of the orange from earlier and then there was the coffee and musk taste that seemed all Sen.

Like earlier this was a challenge of dominance between them, but it was one they both ended up enjoying right to the end.

 

~  Rachel Diane Adams and Dawn McClellan © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 2018