|Posted by Sandi Bischoff on September 8, 2010 at 9:45 PM|
It was well after closing and the only sound to be heard was the gentle clink of glasses being restocked in the VIP section and the occasional murmur of whispered endearments between Fina and Eric. But Mikhail hardly heard any of it through the open door. His attention was monopolized by the photo card he lifted off the floor hours ago.
Sitting back in his leather chair, he idly swirled a glassof Cognac. The aroma from the slow moving liquid wafted up and engulfed his senses, relaxing him as he stared at the minute card. He had placed it in itscurrent location earlier and had all but forgotten it even existed, until now. Such a small insignificant thing yet it held at least one image of a face that had been plaguing his every thought since the object of his obsession stormed out of the club.
Lucky for both of them, the demon in him had kept his trap shut since then. Even that little bugger seemed perplexed by the whole situation. Or maybe the thing had developed a conscience and decided to take a breather for a while. Uh huh and he was to return to his former life and be the Czar he was meant to be. Not Bloody likely!
Mik took a sip of his drink before setting it down on the smoke glass top of his desk. Exchanging the snifter for his mouse, he moved it slightly to bring the laptop out of its slumber. He then slipped the card into the slot on the side of the computer and waited for the images to load while drumming his gloved fingers on the arm of his chair. Within moments the icon appeared and he began flipping through the multitude of images. Fortunately none of them exposed anything of importance, just general pictures of the staff, nothing really remarkable. It seemed hardly worth his time to destroy it.
He was about to just erase it when he came across the last picture. It was the one taken just before the camera was shattered on the dance floor. Mikhail clicked the mouse to enlarge a portion of the photo while lifting his glass once again. He sat staring at the angry blue eyes looking back at him. Moments after this photo had been taken that anger had been replaced by an almost tangible fear, but of what? What had her so scared? She had been quite fine and holding her own with him. He would never have pegged her as camera shy.
“Ms Avery, What has you so on guard?” He let his gloved fingers drift across the line of her frown on the screen. Something inside him splintered over the misery he had caused and for whatever had hurt her before him. That something made him want to take away the pain. For some God forsaken reason he wanted to see her smile rather than scowl at him, hear her laugh instead of cursing his very existence. He wanted… Did it really matter what he wanted?
A low whistle from the other side of the room pulled him from his thoughts. “My Brother…. You’ve got it bad.”
Mik took a deep breath before glaring at Jon over the top of his computer screen. He and the tiger had been through so much together that he was probably the only one who could speak as freely as he did. Well there was that and then there was the fact that since Jon became mated he was absolutely unbearable.
“And just what might I have so badly?” His left brow rose ashe smirked.
Jon flashed his Cheshire grin as he pushed off the door jamb he was leaning on. “Do I really have to spell it out for you, Alexei? You forget I’ve known you longer than anyone else here. I can see what no one else sees.” He rounded the desk and leaned back on the book shelf behind Mik’s chair to view the screen. “She really is something else, reminds me of Anastasia. Don’t you think?”
Mik frowned at his assessment. He hadn’t really thought about it but there was the same defiance reflected in her eyes that he had seen time after time in his sister. However, his sister would never have run from a simple photograph. “I don’t have any idea what you are speaking of. And need I repeat this again…” He turned narrowing his dark eyes on his friend. “Alexei isdead. He died in that basement almost a century ago.”
Jon rubbed his stubbled chin and carefully regarded Mik. “So you keep telling me, but I know he’s in there. And tonight he was out in full force. Didn’t you feel it? Didn’t you recognize the boy who wanted to protect what was his?”
Mik slammed the laptop shut and spun his chair to face Jon head on. “That boy saw his family slaughtered around him while he was helpless to move. He failed them when it came down to slaying the bastard who pulled the trigger. The only reason the first bullet didn’t kill him was the jewels his mother packed around his chest inside his shirt. They were so thick he couldn’t breathe, so thick they were the perfect armor to protect him. Only there was nothing to protect the Golden Prince from a bullet to the skull was there.” He snarled through gritted teeth.
Never one to back off a fight Jon pressed on into the open wound. “You were a child, Alexei. No one expected you to fight off an army. You and I trained well together,but I knew you were still too inexperienced to fend off that many and survive. Had we known what was happening, my family and I would have stopped it. You know that.”
Mik’s gloved fingers bit into the arms of his chair. “It was not your fight to win, Jon. Hell, your kind shouldn’t even have been anywhere near us!”
Jon grew quiet. “Very true. However, if we hadn’t, I’d most likely be dead with the rest of my family.”
“Or you’d be still living in that frozen tundra of Siberia.”
Jon chuckled at that. “And that was better than coming to America how? There I had to hunt and kill to survive. Here…” He spread his arms wide with a grin. “My only worry is how long I can keep my lovely wife in our bed before my cell rings. You know you have the uncanny ability to call at the most inopportune moment.”
A loud snort cut the air between them. “Life is not only about getting laid. You have a job here and regardless of everything else, you know I trust you more than all of them. Hell, I couldn’t even tell my own cousin I existed in this time and now my last blood relative is dead. But I get it… no more daytime calls unless it’s life and death.”
“It’s not just the calls, bro. You’ve been the most miserable guy I know since SHE left, again.” Jon let out a low growl. “I told her I’d kill her if she hurt you a second time. Let me make good on that promise.”
Mikhail shook his head as he rose and walked to the two way mirrors over looking the club below. “Hurting Giovanna would only cause a war. We both know the Gods would have your hide for it. Do you really think I’m prepared to lose you as well? My life is nothing but suffering, Jonathan. As a child, as a young man and now as a this Demon I’ve become, I am eternally cursed to suffer.”
Jon put a heavy hand on Mik’s shoulder and sighed. “Do you really believe that? Do you think they would have spared your life back then if you weren’t meant for something good?” He turned and opened the laptop revealing Sheridan once more. “Maybe what you’ve been waiting for is staring you right in the face and you are just too blinded by your own misery to see it. What if…. What if this woman is the one, Alexei? What if after all this time she is the one to set you free? Do you want to risk losing that?”
He looked back over his shoulder at the angry blue eyes set in a perfect porcelain face surrounded by a halo of silken blonde hair. “While I don’t believe there is to be a means to the end of my curse, I do believe that there is definitely something off with her.”
Jon watched him carefully. “Just as I said. You’ve got it bad.”
“You said that already. It’s getting a little old don’t you think?”
“I only speak the truth. Tell me you don’t feel the need to protect her or at least kill the one who has her running scared.” Jon folded his arms across his chest while he continued to prod Mik. “I can recognize the instinct. I happen to know it very well remember?”
“I am NOT a shifter, Jon. I don’t get those animal instincts you’re talking about. Whatever it is you think you see is just your overactive imagination.” He continued to stare at Sheridan’s face for what seemed like a lifetime. Though he protested against everything Jon was saying he couldn’t deny the fact, the reality, that he did feel something when he looked at her.Though what that was he couldn’t say.
“No. You’re not a shifter but you are a demon. And as a demon you do have certain animal traits. Of them I can plainly recognize the need to protect his mate… to the death if need be. Now couple that with whom you really are and you can see where I’m going with this.” Jon pushed away from the bookshelf and crossed the room to the door turning back at the last second to look once again at his friend. “Don’t make the mistake of closing yourself off to the possibility. We all deserve to find the one that completes us. Why should you be any different?”
Mik inclined his chin in Jon’s direction. “And just when did you become Oprah?”
“If you mean a middle aged, wealthy black woman… not since the last time I looked in the mirror. But if you’re talking about what I said,well, it took bearing my soul to finally see what was staring me in the face the whole time.”
“Fine for you. You have a soul or did you forget that.”
“Yes, I have a soul. Come on Alexei, just because you gave yours up to protect humans, you did not give up your heart as well. Protect your human. Slay whatever demons are after her but do not close yourself off to the possibility of love.”
Mikhail leaned on the desk in front of him as Jon left in silence. Could Jon be right? God he didn’t even want to explore the implications of that. Besides he and Sheridan couldn’t even be in the same room without fighting. He was a total ass toward her and deserved everything she gave him and more. It was completely unlike him to attack someone like he did. There was no excuse for it either.
Glancing back at the computer screen he let his fingers trace her features once again. “Well Ms. Avery, it seems you have found a most unlikely ally. I only hope when it is all over we are both still alive to savor the victory.”