There before them in all its swirling glory stood the portal that would take them to the world each called home and that the young would soon be calling home. Since they couldn’t take the wagon through, Devon carried Nikita in his arms bundled in blankets while his mate and Zenlial helped the pups through. That left Largros, Dante and Inea to follow through behind them and carry through what few things they may need to.

While strange to them the pups and Nikita simply clung to the others and closed their eyes as they moved through the portal. When everyone was through, Devon led the way through security and gave his identity along with that of his mate and the pups. The hesitance of security to clear them had Devon looking at Zenlial for help in the matter.

“I am Councilor Zenlial Nedian. These are my comrades. We have just endured a very long and arduous journey to come back here, sir. Why is there an issue? We all save the pups are verified and registered on this side of the portal. We have the papers for the children…”

“I’m sorry but we are waiting for our supervisor to clear all of you. If you’ll simply wait a few minutes I’m sure everything will be fine.” The officer assured both Devon and Zenlial as he took down everyone’s names.

At sight of the group Mira made her presence known as she stood on the other side of security and simply smiled at her brother and looked around for Derek. She wasn’t just there for one of them, she was there for them both.

“What’s the hold up?” Raudine’s voice might startle the half-demon, and he’d love that. She’d not seen him since she almost killed him, after all.  Gabriel had been told through Inea’s friends in Iona that they would be arriving on this day from the other side. Being able to communicate in such a way was difficult, but it could be done, especially by dragons.  He wanted to be there to welcome home his brother and thank those that had gone to help.

At the sound of his voice Mira couldn’t help but be surprised to see Frenchy. “See you survived. Are you feeling better?” She gave Jean a head to toe look before returning her gaze to the group. Derek still wasn’t visible which concerned her more then the Tasker’s full recovery did.

“Yes…”

“No thanks to you of course. I’m sure you’d prefer he were still on death’s door.” Gabriel practically snarled at the vicious bitch when she had the nerve to act like the injured party.

The dragon growled low, even in the human form. He didn’t like this anger his kindred held against the demoness. She had not meant for him to become so ill. She probably would’ve apologized, if she had a chance. Gabriel just wasn’t accustomed to their back and forth. It had gone on for centuries, as he had explained to his human lover.

There was a soft little chuckle from Mira as she heard that familiar sound from Frenchy that told her that he was irritated, she responded then without looking back at the couple. “If I wanted him to suffer like that I guarantee he’d be some place suffering and you nor the fang would ever be able to reach him.” It was true enough, she could have turned her father loose on Jean-Michel and his suffering in the demon realm would have been endless. Her father was known for the delight he took out of such.

“Don’t make idle threats.” The way she put it sent a chill up Gabriel’s spine that made it quickly stiffen even more so if possible. ~ That mistake would have cost her dearly..~

~ Enough.  This is petty. And something’s wrong. Security is stalling. ~

“It will only take a minute sir..” The guard watched as Crimson officers surrounded the group.

“What’s this about?” Devon went on guard and became very protective as he put himself between the officers and the others. Everyone that stood behind him had fought to defend his Pack and for that he’d take whatever punishment was coming for the illegal crossing.

“Step aside Mr. Weylyn this doesn’t concern you.” The Crimson official was very serious and very straight forward. It told Devon something was about to happen and he’d best be prepared.

He had to hand Nikita off to Largros in order to control the situation and he was glad he’d done so.

Largros was confused, but he took the girl from the Alpha and held her to him, even quietly whispered, “Shhhh, it’s okay. We’re here to protect you.” at the slightest whimper.

“If it concerns any of this group it concerns me.” Devon wasn’t easily pushed around or bullied. He’d do his part to see everyone safely home.

The Crimson guard moved past the lycan to stand before the demon, “Dante de Salucet, by orders of Crimson and the Council you are under arrest and will remain in Crimson custody until your judgement.”

“What!?” Inea moved to try and intercept the man with the cuffs. The dragoness had every intention of blasting the cuffs and the one with them away from her love, but Devon had his hands on her wrists and turned her to face him. The Alpha had immediately turned towards the dragoness to contain the situation before it got much uglier. Devon’s hands were holding Inea’s gently and as she looked into his eyes, “Not the place, to many innocent here. We will get this sorted out I promise.” Something had gone down while they had been tending to lycan affairs. The fact that Gabriel and Senias were present hadn’t slipped his attention. Had Kennedy done something to cause this? Eva had told him about what had happened prior to her coming over.

The dragoness’ eyes were lost. She was shocked and unsure of what to do. The only thing saving people was her trust in Devon. She trusted what he told her. Inea looked over her shoulder at Dante.  ~ I will not let you stay long like this… ~ Once the cuffs were on him, they would no longer be able to communicate or feel one another.

~ I know, it’s alright I’ll be fine lover. It’s the market, they’ve got nothing. ~ The sting of the magic actually burned his skin which told him they were blessed to keep him from escaping. It kept him human in every way as long as they were on him. Yet he made no sound. Dante assumed this was over the market and his trades, but the way Councilor Kennedy looked…  While everyone else seemed shocked, the half-demon took note of how he stood protectively before his Councilor. Something else was afoot here.

Largros watched, unable to understand and unwilling to intercede since he didn’t – plus he was  holding the non-responsive girl in his arms. Dante was in magical cuffs. He had never seen such happen. Not with Crimson.

“At least tell him what this is for. Don’t you have to tell him why he’s being arrested? He has to have a defender and the defender should know what he faces,” the young man pointed out.

“Conspiracy to commit treason and blackmail of Crimson Officials.” The deep voice spoke from behind Councilor Kennedy.  Raudine turned and he couldn’t believe it. It was like Skinner was truly rubbing it in their faces – Captain LaSeverne moved forward to take control of the prisoner. Of course, someone from the twins’ very own family line would be the best to keep one of the twins from escaping. They had spent their lives perfecting their hunt and control of demons. The man moved forward, looking first to Mira and then took hold of Dante by one shoulder. “You have finally stepped across the line, half-breed. I knew one day you would slip…and fall.”  

To be honest, Raudine was finally pulling it together. The runaway train they had been on in France? They had done what they were tasked to do. But Gabriel was supposed to give a factual account of what was happening with Petrard – why would Dante be arrested? Unless, what he and his lover had discussed between one another had been used to color Gabriel’s report. This was the result. And it would do the very thing that he had been afraid of… the very thing he had warned Gabriel about.  It would put a target on his kindred. He looked down as the puzzle pieces finally meshed in his mind. Skinner had tasked him because he knew about the incident with Mira. He also knew Raudine had been entangled with the twins for a very long time. Had he been set up on top of everything else? And what else did the man know?

Ruby eyes glittered at seeing her brother shackled. In all their years together she had never seen her brother shackled. Yes he’d been called into Crimson and questioned on several occasions but never shackled and led away like some common thug. “You have no right! Dante…” Mira looked towards the lycan he’d come through with and towards the others that had been standing with him. “Help him! Why are all of you just standing there and letting them do this?”

“They can’t stop it. If they try, it’ll make things worse for your brother and you know it, Mira,” Jean-Michel moved closer to her as he cautioned her.  

“You did this to him didn’t you? He helped your ally and this is the thanks he gets?!” The look she gave said he should have left them to their own and it also said that this was far from over. “Oh trust me the worst is yet to come.” Mira spit on the ground at Councilor Kennedy’s feet in a promise of retribution. The two men had made enemies of her in this move and they’d regret it.

Zenlial and Eva kept the other two children with them and back away from the rest of what was going on. They were both in shock at this point. They’d not seen anything but heroics from the half-demon and some joking and cutting up here and there. Zenlial didn’t know much about him, but he’d seemed kind and funny. Eva knew how dangerous the twins could be, and it bothered her to know that Gabriel might be involved in what was happening.

“There must be some mistake. I don’t know what this nonsense is but it won’t hold.” Dante spit out disgusted over the fact that he was being charged with something he knew nothing of – for once. As the Captain put hands on him, Dante growled, which even in his current human state was pretty impressive.  “Of all the things… really? This is ridiculous! Raudine, you know this is absurd. Kennedy did it really upset you that much to have me in your head? This is taking it abit far wouldn’t you say?” Dante still wasn’t sure that this wasn’t some stunt pulled by the Tasker or his Councilor as a power play. A slap on the hand and remind him of his place kind of move. Raudine had done such in the past by having his clubs trashed, stash houses for the market raided and so on – simply to remind Dante he could be taken down a peg or two when necessary.

“I didn’t…” he couldn’t say he was innocent of having this done, could he? He just hadn’t believed Crimson would come after the half-demon without proof.  Raudine watched the drama unfold with the half-demon. He mind-spoke to his kindred, ~ I’ve known them for centuries, remember? He’s shocked. I don’t think he’s lying. But I can’t be certain without the sight… ~  Then there was a large guard in front of him, motioning for them all to step back so that Dante could be led away.

Inea’s eyes were filled to the brim. She couldn’t feel him. She could see him. But she couldn’t protect him. Not like this. It tore her up inside. She was shaking in Devon’s grasp.  

His gaze had been on the ground at the tip of his shoe, but had lifted at Dante’s words. As he watched the reaction of the half-demon, Gabriel was thinking the same thing; even as Sen spoke to him privately. ~I can see that.. But you must admit all that we found was pretty persuasive. ~ Had he made a mistake and let Skinner play him for a fool in this whole matter? That pissed him off and what occurred next sealed the deal.

That had the tasker turning to glare at Gabriel.  

The captain and other guards moved through the crowds at the security toward the security-only exit on this side of the portal. Dante would not be taken outside. He would be ushered through the underground network to a holding cell at Crimson Headquarters.  

Dante glanced over his shoulder towards his dragoness even as he was forced forward every step to the exit. “I’ll be out soon.. They have nothing…” He even grinned for her benefit because he didn’t want her worrying over him. The last thing he needed was Inea letting go on everyone for him.

“Tasker Raudine,” one of the Crimson Guards came to him and handed him a paper. “Your papers. Director Skinner thanks you for your help and Councilor Kennedy’s help in this investigation. As such, since you are capable of resuming your Tasking, he has another assignment for you…”

“What do you mean another assignment? Raudine is my Tasker and I’ve given him no other assignments.” Gabriel looked from the paper to the guard and waited for the man’s response.

“Oh, Councilor Kennedy, I understand your concern, but Taskers are not held to one Councilor at all times. You should know the rules.” The guard moved a bit closer and lowered his voice, “You should also know the rules about consorting with a Tasker. I believe Director Skinner is simply trying to negate any unpleasantries for you and Raudine. Unless you’d prefer me cuff him as well?”

“That won’t be necessary.” It was as if a ton of lead had suddenly dropped to the pit of his stomach. How the hell had Skinner found out?

The Tasker snatched the papers from the guard’s hand and shrugging, the guard went to catch up with the rest of the exiting Crimson.  

Senias felt sick to his stomach, not just nauseated, but like someone had punched him in the gut.  ~ Remember when I was asking why Skinner had set things into motion now and not before? It’s because of you. He’s isolating you. He’s setting you up to go down by the hands of other people and making sure I’m not there to stop it. Gabriel, you have to do something to stay out of Mira’s and Darius’ crosshairs.  ~  He looked over to the other half demon. She was speaking to someone on her cell phone. She was already working on either getting her brother out or taking Gabriel down. 

Standing stiffly at Raudine’s side, Gabriel listened to the words repeat through his head over and over again. How did a human stay out of a demon’s crosshairs exactly? ~It’s alright, he doesn’t have much or this would be worse than simply separating us.~

“This is just the first step. You have no idea how he really works, do you? What did you put in that report? I get that we were set up, but…” Jean-Michel asked, before he turned to look at Devon and his family and friends. Some welcoming home they had gotten.  He shook his head. He felt like his claws were tied. Turning back to Gabriel and the others.

There was a very deep sigh as Gabriel rubbed the bridge of his nose, “My report? You know what was in it, you were there.” While the others accusing him really didn’t effect him, the fact that Jean-Michel was buying into it and accusing him as well stung.

“Did you add anything that might have colored this toward Dante? You were very persistent in asking me about the twins. Did you use that and let this last fuckery from Mira color anything on that report?” He was asking because he wanted to know. He had not read the end result, never thought he had to. He’d warned Gabriel plenty about just dropping this. “Sometimes you’re like a fucking dog with a bone.”

It was as if cold water had suddenly been poured over him.  Gabriel’s spine stiffened as his hand dropped to his side and his chin tipped up just a notch.

“Of course I did. You gave me such vital information on them and though I seem to recall telling you it’d remain between us, you obviously think that means nothing to me.” His hand smoothed his tie into proper place and then proceeded to smooth out the wrinkles in his suit. These were obvious signs of his agitation though his voice never rose and he never made a violent move towards any of them.

“Go to them, Mate.” She could tell that the two men were getting heated in their discussion. Devon needed to mediate and also figure out what was happening. “Zen and I have the children. Inea and Largros as well.” Eva urged.

Pressing his cheek to Eva’s for a brief moment, Devon moved towards his dragon brother. He had faith in his mate and his elven friend to see to their family and to keep Inea busy and safe too.

“If you didn’t so this, Skinner used your… our investigation… to do it. You have to make it right. Apparently, I can’t help you.” Senias held up the paper between them.

“I’ll fix everything and life can resume.” Gabriel was like a statue as he stood there with so many gazes narrowed on him. He refused to act guilty or ashamed. He’d had a job to do and he’d done it. As to what went on between himself and Raudine, well that was their business and no one else’s.

“How ya want this to go?” Devon would back his brother regardless of how he wanted it to go and he would do what his brother wanted him to. If Sen wanted him to whip the Crimson pups ass he would. If he wanted Gabriel watched, he’d been doing that since the boy was born.

~ We only let our guard down once.  You know when it was. I suggest you look into that. ~ Raudine’s intense eyes held Gabriel’s gaze as he recalled their moments outside the vineyard.  Then, he turned to Devon. “Protect him. I can’t. I’ve been reassigned and threatened with more. Skinner knows what I am and that I’ve crossed a line with my Councilor. He can do a lot with that. So, Gabriel’s going to get everything set proper. He’s the best Councilor there is and he can do this. But if Skinner gets in his way, if people who might have been allies are turned into enemies – that’ll make things much more difficult.”  The Tasker’s gaze moved between Gabriel and Devon before he turned toward Mira. He needed to tell her. Perhaps telling her would help.

There was a rough snort of sound from the big lycan as he looked from his irritated blood brother to the rigid human.

“He doesn’t make it easy to protect him with foolish stunts like this.” Devon grumbled just a little to let Gabriel know he didn’t care for this recent action the Councilor had taken part in.

The fact that Devon was showing his disfavor had Gabriel tensing up even more if that were possible. His jaw clenched for but a moment before he took a breath and forced that chill to wash over him.

“If it seems to much of a burdened task Mr. Weylyn, by all means you can step down and I can see to my own affairs.” The words were cold, short and clipped as he gave both men a very chilled look before turning away from them. As far as Gabriel Kennedy was concerned he’d been accused quite enough for one day. He didn’t offer up explanations, nor did he correct any of their thoughts regarding the matter. He didn’t feel that he needed to do such things to those that professed to know him so completely.

“Just wait on him. Please…” the S was hissed from the Tasker’s mouth. At least Gabriel stopped his forward motion. Sen turned and took his brother’s arm.  “Welcome home by the way! From the frying pan into the fire, but you know, home sweet home!” the Tasker chuckled, though the mirth was absent of the sound.

“Hmm yeah guess ya could say that.” Devon watched the young Kennedy walk off from them just a few feet before stopping. He stayed with his back to them and Dev knew the pup was annoyed and irritated to the point where he wouldn’t even look at them. “Next time ya wanna throw us a welcome home party, don’t. We can do without it.”

“Believe me, I could have done without it as well,” the dragon whispered, his eyes looking to where Gabriel stood. Mira was still not far off. He had thought she had left. “Give me a moment,” he whispered to Devon before walking to the half-demon.

“Dante’s in serious trouble. Crimson brought in demon hunters from mothers family. I need you to help him. He won’t ask but I will..” Mira heard the approach of the male even before he was close enough for her to catch his scent. She ended the call and tucked her phone away knowing that once the message was received she’d get a call back. It could be hours or it could be days, but eventually he would call her and then she’d tell him everything. “Come to plead his case Tasker Raudine?” She didn’t call him Frenchy, her pet name for him which meant this was not friendly conversation by any means.

“We’ve all been played mademoiselle. Do not let your anger overthrow your senses. I forgave you. You can forgive him. He can make this right. He may be the only one that can make it right.”

“Can he? Guess we’ll all see won’t we.” Mira listened as she watched them all, but then her gaze settled on the human male that Jean-Michel was so taken with for now. Was this human as good as her former lover seemed to think he was? Was he worthy of all the mess that was being laid at his feet and would soon come in droves? Time would tell, and the Councilor wouldn’t have long to perform such miracles.

“I believe he can. But you have to work with him. He has to work with you. If not? You both may lose. At some point, you have to come to the practical conclusion. Best make it sooner rather than later.” With that, Raudine looked up to see Gabriel watching them. He gave his Councilor a two finger salute before turning to walk toward the underground doors that would lead him to Crimson HQ. The way he saw it, they had been played. But this was check, not checkmate.    

 

 

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