Sunday, January 23, 2011

Late afternoon sun is just hitting the horizon as I step through the Shadow Gate. Exton Park is beautiful, a mixture of manicured lawns and deeper woods. Since it isn't far from where I would meet Mortuis when on missions, I've crossed here many times in the last sixty years. Stepping deeper into the trees, I find a secluded spot, check for life signs and change. Much as Mortuis would appreciate my Court leathers, I would rather embrace my new freedom and be just me, Nadji Romanavich.

I run my hands down over the silken tunic, the tight jeans, and coined scarf on my hips. I shiver. Oops. It is much colder here than in the Other Realm. I toss a silk/wool cloak over my shoulders. It was a gift from Keon the year before, and the deep wine color brings a smile. I know I look good, but I want to look like a dying man's saving draught to Mortuis.

I step onto the stone path that winds through the trees. It will bring me out close to the Manse with only a few minutes walk. I breathe deep, enjoying the feel of freedom, and catch a wisp of masculine scent. Human. There is also the scent of steel. I hear a cry just off the path and don't even think about it. he has her on the ground, knife cutting off her blouse when I find them. She is whimpering, begging him to stop.

He flips the blade in his hand, then grins. I catch the flash of fang just as he lunges. He misses, but that is because my boot has snapped his head to the side. I have knocked him off her and she scrambles backwards to the tree.

"Don't run, Leetle Seester. It will only excite him more. Ease around the tree. Let me become his focus." She eases behind the tree, hunkering down. Smart girl, listens well. The attackers eyes track me, and I smile sweetly, swaying as if drunk. He scents the air, drinking in the sweet scent of cinnamon and tamarind. I watch as he gathers himself. There is a sickening crunch as my foot meets his throat. The momentum rolls me, but I flow to my feet. He doesn't.

I edge around the tree, keeping up the facade that he is alive. I get his victim up and moving. It isn't long before I find an officer and turn her over to him. He is one of the Shifters who patrol the park. I give him the true facts, knowing he will modify what needs to be modified for the official record. He calls it in and I go my way. My way... I smile.

In moments I am before the Manse's gates. I smile and buzz for admittance.

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