Inea wasted little time in beginning to push out her own investigations into what was happening. The dragoness hadn’t notice she had been working straight through the night to the next day. She had come to the end of her list of people to contact, threaten, or deal with and had redirected things all over so that she had time free in case she was needed. And that’s when she realized how alone she felt. Her other kindred, a human man that was bonded to her; she loved him, but they had become friends more than anything over the many years they shared. He had a family to enjoy this go around.  He definitely didn’t care that her other lover was getting his just desserts.

The dragon felt lost. She wound up at Dante’s Inferno before the night club was even open, she had been so efficient. Where was Mira? Obviously doing the same, right? Making sure her connections were aware of a move? Seeing what she could find out?  Pacing like a maniac?

No. Inea stopped her pacing. She probably looked a wreck. It was just… she had felt him. And now she couldn’t feel her demonic love.  What were they doing to him? She crossed her arms over her breast before closing her eyes and forcing herself to calm down. Mira had given Gabriel 3 days.  She had to last at the very least that long. Inea walked over to Dante’s favorite table and sat in his seat. She breathed in his scent, which still lingered despite the cleansers being used in the place.  
The night had been long and drawn out, even feeling like it’d never end at times. The next morning wasn’t much better as she’d gotten up, gotten dressed and while painting kohl on her eyes she’d realized a tong of shit was waiting on her now. Dante wasn’t here to bark orders and kick people into gear. To add to it she couldn’t even get his guidance thanks to the assholes at Crimson with their stupid restraints.

Pulling her dark, wavy hair into a ponytail, she slid on simple clothing to carry out the day. Adjusting her jeans properly over her boots, Mira left her private rooms and headed up stairs to start her day. Coffee was already brewed in the pot to which she was ever so thankful for. She still remember the day Dante had purchased it. He’d been so proud of the double pots. He’d always said one should never start a day off without a cup unless trouble was wanted.

As she snatched her pretty pink cup out of the cabinet, Mira smiled at the memory as she filled her cup with coffee, cream and sugar. Sweet for the sweet right? She hadn’t even taken notice of the other person in the club. Her senses were off with the numbness that had seemed to settle over her mind. She hoped the coffee would help. The morning shift was starting to drift in as she sipped her coffee and made her way into Dante’s office. Picking up the clipboard of orders she reviewed what was supposed to arrive on shipment and was trying to figure out who’d handle those, who’d re-stock and prep for the night crowd and who’d work where.

There was a short sigh before she could catch herself and she turned to close the door only to find it occupied. The fact that someone stood in it wasn’t the surprising part. It was more who it was that gave her pause. “He’s not here. So why are you?” Mira stepped past her uninvited guest and pulled the door closed, securing it she juggled the cup and clipboard to the bar where she took a seat.

“I needed to be here. I…I was going to offer you help or… just be here,” she was almost in a daze when she came close to Mira. Dante’s twin was the closest thing she had to him at the moment and of course, his energy lingered in the magic all over this club.

“Max, you and Art are on shipment duty. Make sure everything is accounted for and tell Bea that she is on bar tonight.” Mira stirred her coffee and wished she was smoking this generation. But no, she gave it up for the next hundred years.. Well it was shaping up to be a bad time to abstain from pleasurable things like smoking, drinking and sex.. Oh but what she would give for a good shagging right then. Just the reminder at how long it had been made her stomach growl. Abstaining was for quitters.. Another drink of coffee and Mira was flipping through the pages of her brothers writing as if they were written in Mandarin, no wait she spoke that. It looked like Doctor scribble and no one could read that shit unless they were cross-eyed.

Inea walked to the other side of the bar and sat on a stool, quietly waiting for Mira’s reaction. So far she hadn’t been told to leave. That was good.  

Mira was trying to ignore the fact the she was being stared at as she drank more of her coffee.

“I’m fine and the club is great, you can go back to where ever it is you belong and leave me to this.”

“Oh, I just thought perhaps we could see about pooling resources.”

It was only at that moment that Mira actually gave the other female a good look over. She appeared disheveled and as if she was losing it or damned near to it. Her brother’s lover was not her problem to handle and yet it seemed she was going to have to if anything was going to get accomplished.

“You’re a mess and useless like this. Coffee’s over there, cups are in the cabinet.” Pulling her phone out Mira thumbed through the contacts until she found the name connected to the little rat faced man that her brother used for the market when he was out of pocket and unreachable.

“I’ve not …” Inea hadn’t drunk coffee in quite some time. But it was offered and it might help. “…thank you. I’ll get a cup.”  The dragon went to the dispenser and then looked around to find where the coffee cups were stored, grabbing a normal white one, she poured the dark liquid.

“Ricket’s not available. He had a rather nasty run-in with one of the whalers from the other side. He couldn’t deliver on a deal and then got accused of shorting his other dealer. So that’s a no-go,” Inea said. She was standing there, looking over the shorter woman’s shoulder at the name on the phone as if that hadn’t been rude at all.

There was a narrowed gaze at the nosy female as Mira snapped her phone down on the bar. “Do you mind?” The succubus growled low as her bubble was invaded. Her lovers, her brother and her father were the only ones that ever drew so close to her.

“What?” Inea acted like she hadn’t a clue about personal space.   

“Hey! I got your message, but I was in class all day! You won’t BELIEVE who showed up yesterday morning!” Ashley Matthews happened to look up at that moment to see the two women behind the bar.  Mira was one of her best friends. The other? She didn’t recognize.

Inea pulled the cup of coffee to her lips and took a nice sip.

“What’s up? Why the emergency? Who’s your friend?” Ashley was nothing if not very nosy.

Standing up Mira moved a few paces from Inea as she rolled her eyes at her friend. “First off Dante was hauled off by Crim’s and with magic dampeners no less. Second who showed up? Third the emergency is my brother left a cluster for me to handle because he’s a wicked ass like that. And finally this is Inea… Dante’s latest piece.” Mira didn’t get attached to Dante’s lovers because they never lasted long. This one was clingy, possessive, nosy and a fucking mess, she wouldn’t last much longer at this rate.

“I am not just a piece, thank you very much,” Inea muttered before licking her lips and then drinking some more of the sweetened Sumatran blend. She let the coffee roll around on her tongue as if it were wine and then swallowed. She wondered why Angelus loved this stuff so much. Maybe he was onto something. It needed something though. “Do you have any cream?”

“My sister’s boytoy of all people… but wait, w…t…f.. Why did Crimson haul your brother in? I can call in my familial favors if it’s not too bad.” Ashley didn’t have any problems doing that for her best friend.  

“Creams in the beer cooler under the bar.” Mira ignored the disagreement and then looked at Ashley again. “So.. did your mom and dad roast him?” With a disgusted shake of her head, Mira waved one perfectly manicured hand in the air dramatically, “He’s says over the market, but they say treason and blackmail.” Mira snorted over the idea, “Trying to say he blackmailed a Councilor.” her brother had no use for Councilors and they both knew it.

“You need help here? I can use some extra money and I know how to bartend – just don’t tell mama.” Ashley smirked.

“Sure anytime Ash, but I mean the place will run a day or so with no kink’s. The market on the other hand won’t and the usual connection is in a bind so now I need to figure this out before things literally blow up.” Mira took a steadying breath and shoved a thumb in Inea’s direction, “Does she look stable to you?”

“I am perfectly stable considering the circumstances, you little shit,” Inea growled before pouring the cream she had found into the coffee. Her hands were a bit shaky.  

Ashley’s eyes locked on the woman drinking coffee across the bar from her. She took a seat in front of her and just kind of stared at her. Inea made another grumbling growl noise before turning away from the both of them to continue drinking. Why wasn’t she calming down? Angelus always calmed down when he drank this stuff?

“Did you say… Inea?” Ashley asked Mira.

“Yeah Inea, why?” Mira moved to stand beside Ashley and looked Dante’s female over again. “You know her?”

“Maybe,” Ash whispered in return.

“And if by circumstances you mean Dante being jailed, well that will get straightened out trust me. The last thing Kennedy wants is my father here in the flesh.” this part was not whispered.

Inea turned then, and put the cup back down on the counter.

“You’re sick.” Ashley could see the perspiration on the woman’s brow and upper lip. She looked clammy; feverish.  She’d seen that before, once when her mom had suffered a heart attack. But it hadn’t been her mother that looked like that.  

“I’ll be fine as soon as…”

“As soon as your kindred is out of jail?” Ashley asked.

Inea’s eyes blinked. She wasn’t sure what to say.

“You’re heartsick. Your bond is hurting you. I don’t think coffee is a good idea. It might make you even more nervous and edgy if you’re not used to it.” Ashley placed her hand on top of the cup and slowly slid it across the counter toward her and away from Inea.  

It was then that the shock wore off and Mira’s voice raised several octaves as she growled, “Are you fucking kidding me?!” She glared at Inea’s then, “Seriously?!” Her voiced dropped low as she leaned on the bar so that she was face to face with Inea, “He spaz’s about my interest in a lycan and goes and gets tangled up with a claw!” Her gaze narrowed dangerously on the dragoness, “He didn’t bond to you did he?”

“Perhaps.” Inea let her eyes move to the counter. “A bond is from both people when they love one another. And by the by – I never thought you should be forced from Derek Weylyn. He’s always been an honorable male. I’ve known him for centuries on and off and I told your brother as much.” Inea wasn’t sure if that made a difference in the half-demon’s eyes.

Snatching the cup up off the bar she marched to the sink and dumped it rather roughly.

“Yes, you definitely are useless to me now!” With one hand on her hip and the thumbnail of her other hand between her teeth, Mira paced and thought and paced some more as she looked at each woman over and over again.

“I’ve got my guardians and researchers looking over the possible methods of getting An…Dante out of Crimson Headquarters.  I have also asked for help to be sent to Gabriel Kennedy – should he actually be able to present a case. I can still be helpful. I need to be helpful, Mira.” Inea’s knuckles were white as she held onto the edge of the bar.

Mira paused and stared at Inea as if she had suddenly become stupid, “Can’t risk you getting hurt, I like my brother alive and breathing.”

“You hurt, he hurts, you die, he dies. You two did the stupid – even if it’s romantic, it’s not practical sometimes,” Ashley explained.

“So you’re benched as they say in the sports world …from what I hear.” She felt lost even if she wasn’t showing it. “Derek would know what to do.”

“You know how to run this business and all of the businesses you guys handle that’s up and up. You always complained because your brother wouldn’t let you touch the other stuff, right? That’s why you came with me and Mariah and took classes so you could show him you were capable. So what makes now anything but an opportunity to show him what you are capable of?” Ashley shrugged.

“She literally can’t do it all, whatever-your-name-is,” the dragoness stated. “She’s not saying she couldn’t try, it’s that the underground would suffer if she can’t come up with someone that knows the ins and outs of it like her brother does.” The dragon looked over at Mira, who seemed to have an appreciative look on her face for the explanation.

“Why would Derek be able to help you with that?” Ashley asked before turning to Inea and saying, “Ashley Matthews, by the way.”

“Sort of pleased to meet you, Ashley,” Inea whispered. When she noted the silence and looked to see the annoyance on Mira’s face she shrugged. “Well, tell her what she doesn’t know about Derek Weylyn.”  

Mira’s nose crinkled as she explained to her friend, “Derek isn’t the good boy that the Weylyn’s want him to be. He’s a lot like Dante and has been trading on the market for years under everyone’s noses.” Mira turned to look at Inea, “How did you know?”

“Like I said earlier, Mira – I’ve known Derek since we fought with the lycan for their rights to freedom from the elves and their rights to the lands they have on the other side. I also knew his true father. He’s never fit in completely with the Weylyn, even though he looks the part. Besides, I helped get him some of his best connections on the other side.” She smirked. “He introduced me to your brother once he started using your portals for smuggled contraband that he couldn’t get through a Crimson portal.”

The fact that Derek had introduced them was surprising. What Ash said next surprised her even more!

“And to think, my little sister once dated the guy. Heh… wow she picks winners. First a lycan smuggler and then a playboy dragon.” Ashley giggled.

Inea raised a brow at what the girl had said.  Oh… right… Largros. He’d probably had more than a great time with her kindred while they had been on the other side  – well, she’d keep that tidbit of information quiet. She’d been the one to set it up, knowing that her lover needed a bit of male attention.

“If we use your portal to get to the other side, I can create a portal that can get you close to the Weylyn Packlands. He’s bound to still be there. You’d have to deal with the pack, but…it’s doable.” Inea pointed out.  

“Let’s go.” Mira didn’t want to overthink things. She simply wanted to go get Derek, keep things running here and get her brother free so that life could return to as close to normal as it ever could be. “Faster we get there the faster we get back.”

“I’m going, too!” Ashley was up and ready. If Nathan wasn’t going to get her to the other side, she’d take any ticket offered to her!


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