Charlotte Chapter One

Timeline: April 22, 2005

The sun had risen to its’ zenith as the light burst through scattered clouds creating brilliant beams of light as they fell upon the earth. The small town of Charlotte rested beneath the brilliance of the sun, and framed by lake Champlain.

Ramiel had pushed the girls hard to get here, in the last three days they had stopped only to sleep, or for the bathroom. Honoré had never seen him act this way before, she had seen him be in a bad mood, but never be cold toward Lyla. When questioned about it he only replied, “ I have some place I want to be.”

Now they had reached his destination, but no one knew why, until he stopped in front of a store that was selling “Champ” souvenirs. He took out an old map that looked as though it had been worn, and he placed a small mark next to the figure of a sea monster.

“Now we are here we can get some rooms and get started.” He placed the map back into his jacket and took off again toward a nearby hotel. Lyla checked them into two rooms that were next to each other, one for Honoré, and the other for Ramiel and herself.

To the relief of the girls, the first thing they did was stop for lunch. Ramiel was still very quiet.

Lyla had been quiet, too, wondering if she’d done something wrong or if he was angry with her. She knew that he almost never was upset with her and in times past when she thought he was she’d always been mistaken. But she couldn’t shake the feeling that one of these days she was going to take something too far and he’d really be mad. She knew she pushed him.

She snuck another look at him while he examined his map. The temptation to read his mind, to go deep and root out whatever was bothering him was always there for her. And for most people, she didn’t hesitate to do just that. She’d done it before and she knew she’d likely do it again. But not unless it was absolutely necessary.

She’d learned a lot of things as a mind reader. One of them was that it was very possible to know too much. There are things that she just didn’t want to know. And sometimes eavesdropping on someone else’s thoughts before they had finished deciding for themselves what they wanted or needed could lead to disaster. People changed their minds all the time and since she couldn’t constantly monitor what everyone was thinking all the time, then she remained in constant danger of acting on knowledge she shouldn’t have, and that was no longer relevant.

So Lyla let him be. She had to force herself to let Ramiel work out whatever he was going through on his own. It was better to be there for him than to try to fix his problems for him.

Lyla tried to fill the dead space with small talk with Honoré. “Have you an idea what you’d like to eat, Rey?” Her voice sounded soft and shy, like she was walking on eggshells around Ramiel. She didn’t like sounding that way but she couldn’t help it.

“Bacon cheeseburger, rare, with extra cheese, and all the toppings. Fries with gravy. Large chocolate milkshake,” Rey said, as if she’d been waiting to be asked that question for days. “And tuna salad, to go, for Hamilton.” She couldn’t help but smile.

“I will have a cheeseburger also, and whatever lager you have on tap.” He was busy writing in what looked like a journal.

The cafe was fairly busy, and since they were seated on the patio there was lot’s to see. The shopping district was crowded with a variety of stores, enough to fulfill any shopping desires Honoré and Lyla might have.

“So,” Rey said. “Are we going monster hunting or something?” She tried to make her question sound light, but deep down she was nervous. She still hadn’t forgotten her failure at the waterfall, and was worried that she’d fail her friends again.

“Of sorts, at least I was hoping to. You guys can relax and shop if you would like though.” Ramiel just spoke calmly and without looking up.

“Um… Why? Has this Champ thing hurt people?” Rey looked over at one of the nearby souvenir stands blazoned with a cartoonish rendition of the monster.

Lyla ordered a light fruit salad. While their meals were being prepared, she gazed at the various stores. One appeared to be a clothing store. Those usually held her interest since life on the Trail seemed to ruin most of the clothes she liked to wear best. Today she wasn’t so interested in that, but she put on a smile for Rey. “Why don’t we find you a new windbreaker? Something that will keep the morning dew and rain off?”

“That would be a wise thing to do. And it is not a hunt to kill, but a hunt to see if we see it.”

He finally looked up, putting the journal away into his inner pocket. There was excitement in his eyes. Apparently it was not a joke, he was actually sight seeing.

“Okay…” Rey was confused, and it probably showed on her face, and she looked at Lyla. She was pretty sure she was missing something, probably something important, but at that moment, her milkshake arrived and successfully distracted her.

She took several long, hard draws on the straw and then winced, putting her hand to her head. “Ow. Brain freeze.”

Lyla looked at Ramiel with hopeful eyes. Perhaps he isn’t still upset, she thought. When his moods broke, it was like sunshine through the rain clouds to her. “Maybe we can rent a boat!” The thought of spending a little time with her friends on the lake sounded like a welcome change to her.

Ramiel practically drained his lager, and ordered another one. As Honoré enjoyed her meal a passing couple caught her attention, a man in his thirties, and a younger woman in her mid twenties. As they passed by on the sidewalk the woman looked at Honoré, her sea green eyes seemed ethereal, and haunted. Her grip tightened on the man’s arm and she sped up. Honoré was unsure about what was going on with the woman, but she felt something inside, like a memory trying to surface that cannot fight it’s way through to break the surface, a feeling reminiscent of deja vu.

“Yeah, maybe, yeah that would be fine.” Ramiel took a few more bites of his meal, and finished the beer.

Rey watched the couple disappear down the street, and pushed her plate away, her appetite now gone. She wanted to go running after the woman, to beg her to tell her how she knew her, but she couldn’t bring herself to move. “What did I do…” she whispered. What did I do to her that made her look at me like that?

Honoré closed her eyes and tried to find that memory, try to help it surface, afraid that if she didn’t, she’d lose it and never know.

Lyla put her fork down and gave up on her meal. She looked curiously at Honoré. “Rey? What are you doing?”

“A couple walked by. The woman recognized me, and when I saw her, I almost remembered…” Rey’s voice was twisted with anguish and frustration as a single tear slipped out and rolled down her cheek. “I can feel it. The memory’s there, but something’s stopping it. Like a wall, and it can’t get out…”

Lyla smiled reassuringly, but she had a serious gleam in her eyes. “Now don’t get all upset.” Lyla got up quickly and hurried after the two, hoping they hadn’t vanished by now.

Lyla followed the couple around the corner before she managed to catch up to them. The woman looked over her shoulder just as Lyla was close enough to shout out to them. If she had to guess Lyla would say the woman was around five foot four inches tall, although her slender physique made her appear much taller. The look in her face said go away, but more of a pleading than demand.

“Sir! Ma’am!” Lyla said as she hurried to catch up. When they paused to look at her, she was able to close the distance.

The gentleman, was taller by several inches, dark brown hair, brown eyes,attractive.

“Is there something I can help you with?” He spoke pleasantly, and smiled a warm smile. His wedding ring caught Lyla’s eye as he his arm around the girl, resting his hand on her shoulder. A quick glance confirmed the matching ring on the woman.

“I’m sorry. I…” she reached out to touch the younger woman’s arm as her eyes seemed to focus at some point through the other woman’s head. She opened her mind to allow the thoughts of the girl to rush in and answer her own burning question. Why did seeing Honoré disturb you so?

Her question flashed invisibly into the woman’s mind, lodging deep inside to cause thoughts to bubble to the surface, revealing themselves to Lyla’s mental perceptions. Lyla was well-practiced in her power; no one ever could tell just how deep she could go and no one ever knew their deepest secrets were being probed. Lyla hoped her power worked just as well on this woman.

Don’t let him see her, echoed to the surface of the woman’s’ mind. It was literally that an echo. Like two voices speaking at once, a new experience for Lyla.

Seeing a a stranger grab his wife’s arm, the man pulled away, freeing his wife from Lyla, though the woman resisted just long enough to finish the communique with Lyla, but not long enough to make her husband suspicious. There was hesitance in the woman, but she followed suit as her husband pulled her away.

“You have us mistaken for someone it seems young lady, now leave us. ” He hailed a cab and the two climbed in, disappearing down the street.

Lyla could do naught but stand staring with her jaw hanging loose for a moment.

Ramiel had finished his meal and second drink by the time Lyla returned to the table. Honoré was getting pretty anxious to see what Lyla was up to.

Lyla sat back down next to Rey. “I think that man didn’t recognize you. And I think that the woman was desperate that he didn’t.” Her mind reading had gone deeper than anyone knew and it left even more questions. Something she’d gleaned just before contact was broken was something about the man… something terrible that involved Rey.

Lyla looked sympathetically at Rey, knowing the girl would likely freak. She took Rey’s hand. “Listen honey, I think you did something for that guy. Something his wife very much doesn’t want to happen again. I don’t know what it was, but that’s my impression and I’d bet anything it’s true.”

“But why?” Rey slumped in her chair. It was always like that, trying to find answers about her past only gave her more questions. She looked back out onto the street. Hamilton, did you see that man and woman who walked past me? Did you recognize either of them?

“So why not find out who it is and see if you can meet her without her husband knowing. That way you know.”

Hamilton stirred, peaking out of Honoré’s bag. He is right miss. I did not see anyone.

“But how?” Rey asked, with an almost hysterical little laugh. She reached down to scratch her familiar’s head, something she’d discovered was very calming for her. “Unless you can track her, I don’t know how to find her. I don’t even know where she went. And what do I say if I do find and talk to her. Hi. I think I did something horrible for your husband, but I don’t remember what it was. Can you tell me please?” She shook her head. For all that she was 18, she felt like a scared little seven year old.

“You could ask around, someone with looks like that is hard to miss. I am sure you can find out who she is.” Ramiel ordered his third lager. ” Or you could let this rare chance at finding out something about your past slip away and flitter in the wind.”

“No drinking alone,” broke in Lyla as she dragged his beer across the table to herself. She took a swig and spoke again. “Anyway, Ramiel has a point. Also, don’t forget who your friends are. I can track the Dark Man half way across a continent. Tracking this chick, whom I have now met in the flesh, is a piece of cake.”

Ramiel frowned and flagged down the waitress, ordering another lager to replace the one Lyla swiped.

Rey frowned at Ramiel’s ordering another drink, but said nothing. Lyla would be able to help him stay in line. She was good at manipulating him that way. “When I go to see her, will you come with me?”

“Me? Or both of us?” Ramiel asked.

“Both of you,” Rey replied. “In case something happens.” She reached for her mostly melted milkshake and took a sip.

Lyla had taken a sip of her beer, but wasn’t guzzling like Ramiel. “And that means she’s going to need you sharp, Ramiel. Beer isn’t going to help.”

Ramiel gave her a dirty look. “Ok fine. Last one.”

Honoré took a fry (one that didn’t have any gravy on it) off her plate and offered it to Hamilton. “I don’t think there’s going to be any trouble, but…” Oh my, a french fry! came Hamilton’s excited reply. Should I? Or shouldn’t I? He sniffed it and flicked his tongue for a quick taste. It usually upsets my tummy so. But apparently the temptation was too much and he chomped a large bite and immediately wolfed it down.

Mmmmm, delicious! Oh yes, that hits mrph! spot! mwrph! Oh dear.

His body convulsed as he heaved. mwrph mwrph mwrph mwrph mwrph MWHLAAAP!!

Lyla neatly slid her chair back out of range.

That had better have been on the floor, and not on my bag. Or on me. Honoré took her napkin out of her lap and carefully maneuvered herself so she could look under her chair.

It did not take her long to find the mess Hamilton left. She felt the warmth as it soaked into her pants, although most of it had missed and landed on the floor.

“I do not know if I want to go, I did come here to find champ you know.” Ramiel drank from his water glass for the first time that meal. “But I suppose I have little choice in the matter.”

“Of course you have a choice,” Rey said, wiping the cat puke off her pants, then grabbing one of the extra napkins so she could wipe up the floor. This is so gross, Hamilton. You’re lucky I love you so much.]

“Okay, but you might want to consider how she might react if three strangers come up to her instead of one. But, if it will make you feel better I will go.” Ramiel glanced at Lyla and turned his attention back to Honoré.

Rey shook her head. “No, I didn’t mean for you to walk up to her with me.” She grimaced, and snagged another napkin to finish cleaning up. “I was hoping you’d be there, nearby. For moral support, and in case something happened.” She sighed, and looked at Ramiel. “Why are you making this so difficult? If you’d rather go hunting Champ, then do that. It doesn’t really matter to me.” She looked away, not wanting to meet his eyes. It was a fib, of course. It did matter to her, but she didn’t want him to feel obligated to come. After all, it wasn’t his problem.

But what if the man was the one who beat her up when she failed before? Honoré shook her head slightly and forced the thought out of her mind. How’s your tummy, Hamilton? she asked her kitty friend.

Just fine now, thank you, he returned happily. May I have another french fry?

I don’t think so, Rey said. Not if you’re going to puke again. You can have a bit of my burger, and then that’ll be it until we leave, and then you can have the tuna salad I got you. She broke off a tiny piece of the burger patty and offered it to him. Oooo! I love meat. Carnivore, you know. Of course, the grease makes me yak, but this will be delicious! He leaned forward delicately to take it from her fingers.

If you do and it gets on my pants again, I am going to be very cross with you. And I’ll keep the tuna salad for myself. She straightened up, wiped her finger tips on a napkin, then picked up her burger and continued to eat.

Ramiel leaned on the table staring at Honoré. “Well if you want me there then I am going to be there for you. It is nice to know you are wanted, that is all any one really wants. So I am yours, but later you are going to help me find that champ.” Rey put her burger down, and quickly swallowed what was in her mouth. “Ramiel, if I didn’t really want you there, I never would have asked.” She looked down at her plate. “It’s just that you made it sound like it was a big imposition, and I…” Her voice trailed off, and for a moment, she wondered if Ramiel was saying yes, only so that she’d help him. “I’d have helped you find Champ even if you didn’t come with me.”

Lyla was looking down at her unfinished salad, but her warm hand sneaked under the table and touched Ramiel’s thigh. She looked up at him when he noticed and smiled warmly as if to let him know that she, too, appreciated that he was there.

His eyes stung with pain as he looked at Lyla. Her touch could be like heaven he thought, but most of the time it burned like the fires of hell. He stood rather quickly from the table, bumping the edge as he did. He steadied the table and took a a couple steps back.

“If I didn’t want to help you I wouldn’t. I just thought — never mind. I will be waiting over there, when you’re ready let me know. ” He walked a good distance away, but remained within eyesight of the two. His reaction caught Lyla off guard and she couldn’t hide her surprise as he fled the table. She could tell she upset him somehow and the thought made her chest hurt.

“Why does it always end up like this?” Rey asked Lyla. She stood and followed him. Her hazel eyes looked at him, and he could see indecision in them. “Ramiel, I…” And then she gave in to impulse; did something she never remembered doing to anyone since she was six years old. She hugged him. “Thank you,” she whispered.

Ramiel laughed a small timid laugh, and returned the hug. “For what, being an ass? Guess I am just having trouble keeping things internal. I have no troubles or ulterior motives to helping you. It is a good opportunity for you to learn of your past. I just hope that you are prepared to face it whatever the outcome may be.

“Hey, I promise to be a good boy from here on out.”

Rey smiled. “No, thank you for caring. And I doubt I’ll ever be completely prepared for learning about my past, but I can’t let that stop me,” she said. Her smile faltered, but she resolutely put it back on her face. She took Ramiel’s hands and walked backwards, drawing him back to the table. “Come on and finish your lunch, or Hamilton will eat it and then barf it up all over the place.”

As if it had been an invitation, Hamilton jumped up on the table suddenly and went straight for the tuna salad. Lyla shooed and waved her hands at him; he dodged by hopping back down. Arr! Foiled by the wench! He followed the sentiment up with a plaintive mew.

Rey giggled. You’re being very silly. And I told you, you can have the tuna salad later.

Ramiel allowed himself to be pulled back to the table. ” So when do we start?”

“When we finish eating. While Lyla tries to find the woman, Hamilton can have his tuna salad.” Rey scooped Hamilton off her seat and set him gently down in her bag.

“I’d like some place quiet and comfortable to concentrate, if possible,” Lyla requested. “I barely can tell what’s going on around me when I do this, and I’d hate to fall off my chair.”

“Would back at the hotel be okay?” Rey scratched the spot behind Hamilton’s ear that he liked so much, then picked up her mostly cool burger and took a big bite.

“That sounds good to me, we can wait for you, maybe we can check out the town for a bit. How long will you need Lyla?”

“Um, might it be better if I stayed out of sight for a while?” Rey took a sip of her melted milkshake.

Lyla told Ramiel, “I just need a few moments, really. It takes a lot of effort and strength of will to focus, but not a lot of time to find out what I need to know.”

“Okay so we all go back to the room, you can change your pants, Lyla can have quiet, and I can be there for whatever to happen.”

“Sounds good to me,” confirmed Rey.

Cut scene…….. after the cab ride……….

The man looked at the girl without word for the entire trip back home. He was waiting for her to speak, and she did not. The cab left them at the curb in front of their house, a secluded house in the woods. She moved quickly to get inside the house, but he grabbed her by the arm before she could get very far away.

His voice was cold, and calm. “Who was that, Sarah?”

She looked away form him whimpering, ” No one, I have no idea who it was.”

“Well, we will have to discuss this further inside I think.” He pulled her to the house, and disappeared inside.

If there were neighbors they might have heard her protest and swear that she had no idea who that woman was, or they might have heard her cries of pain, or perhaps they would have seen the sorrow on his face as he left the house.

The trio of travelers had retired to one of the hotels rooms in order to give Lyla the time she needed to try and locate the quarry. It took her longer than normal. After all she had barely met the woman. But after nearly an hour, she was successful.

It looked like an argument was taking place; the man threw the girl to the couch screaming. “Why do you lie to me!” His hand moved as though it would strike the woman, but it did not, however the reaction was the same, she jerked on the couch as though she had been struck and then lay there whimpering. The man turned rapidly, heading out the door, tears of his own ran down his face.

Lyla looked on at the scene, searching for anything that could help, a letter lay on the table, address side up.

1117 Cherished Isle, Mr. and Mrs. Neary

Lyla was tired, but relayed the information to Ramiel and Honoré.

Ramiel had gone and gotten soda for everyone, “ So what do we do now? This is your show here Rey, you make the call.”

Now that the chance to actually speak to the woman presented itself, Rey found herself wishing she didn’t have to make the choice. But she did. “Let’s go, before I lose my nerve and chicken out.”

What did I do for him? Something to harm someone else? A love charm to force the woman to love him? She grabbed her bag, unwilling to go without it.

Lyla smiled and stood up. The far-vision took a bit out of her, but she was still ready to help.

The cab ride took twenty minutes, but the scenery kept it form being boring. When the cab stopped, it was not in front of a house, but by a gate.

“Here you go, it is private property, can’t get in without a pass. Just buzz the call box and they will let you in, since you are expected. Have a nice day.” With that the cab drove off.

“So do we go over the fence then?” Ramiel was stretching out his arms, getting ready.

“Good question. But maybe they will want to speak with Rey,” Lyla mused.

“You saw him leave, right?” Rey stared at the gate, and at the call box. Her bag was hugged to her chest, and she reached in to scratch Hamilton as she thought. In for a penny, in for a pound, eh, Hamilton? she said to her familiar. She looked at Lyla.

“I don’t suppose you got a name?” She looked at Lyla hopefully.

Lyla nodded. “Neary. Mr. and Mrs. Neary is what I got. But I don’t know either of their first names.”

Rey searched her memory, hoping that the name might pull something loose.

“Sarah,” Rey said, her voice barely above a whisper. “I think her name was Sarah.” She looked at her companions. “Here we go.” With a trembling finger, she reached out and pressed the button.

After a long pause a female voice comes over the speaker. “Hello?”

“Hello,” Rey said, clutching her bag tighter and hoping her nervousness didn’t show in her voice. “Is this the Neary residence?”

The gate buzzed, and started to move. ” You need to get out of sight, don’t let him see you.” The intercom clicked, and sounds of tires on gravel could be heard.

Ramiel grabbed the girls and moved them off to the side, behind the large bushes. Though he kept Rey closer to him, so Lyla was not touching him.

Lyla had realized that the buzzing probably meant Mr. Neary was leaving with the car so she immediately disappeared into the bushes.

Rey stayed where she was, but fought back the urge to try and peek out through the branches to see him driving by.

It was a mid size SUV that passed the bushes, and drove off down the road. The gates clanked shut behind it as it passed.

“Hello, are you still there?” The petite voice called form the com box.

“Yes,” Rey replied, moving a little from behind the bush. “The SUV is gone, and I don’t think he saw me.” She deliberately didn’t mention Lyla and Ramiel’s presence.

“Look he won’t be gone very long, he had to get a few things in town. You can come in if you want but you can not stay long. I can get out of here tonight after he has left on his trip, we could talk longer then.”

The gate buzzed.

“I’m coming,” Rey said, and gestured for Ramiel and Lyla to follow her.

Lyla reappeared and moved quickly to slip inside the gate.

Once inside, they realized how large an area this guy owned. It took nearly ten minutes at a fast pace to get to the house on foot. The area was filled with trees, acres of trees.

Sarah met them outside, the large house. They could feel the cool air blowing up from the lake, and hear the waves lapping against the rocks.

“Our house overlooks the lake, this is a peninsula that jets out about a mile into the lake itself. I would welcome you inside but I don’t want Paul to know you were here.”

She looked at each of them and smiled.

“Lyla. I guess we sort of met,” Lyla said and held her hand out to shake.

“Why don’t you want him to know I was here?” Rey watched Sarah’s face, wondering yet again what was going on, though her face was calm.

“Because he wants you to do it again, and we can not allow it.” Her answer was brief and her face held the urgency of her words.

“Do what? I…. The doctors say I’m suffering from some kind of amnesia because of the… attack.” Rey’s voice dropped to almost a whisper. “I barely remember anything. When I saw you walking past the cafe and you recognized me, I kind of hoped…”

“You were attacked?, Oh, never mind, there will be time for questions later. I will say this for now, you and your parents helped him imprison us, and he wants you to do it again.” She suddenly went still and looked toward the gate, ” He must have forgotten something, he is returning. Go now and I will meet you later. Where are you staying?”

Rey told her the name of the motel and her room number. She looked at Ramiel and Lyla. “Let’s get out of here.”

Lyla nodded. “Righto.” The situation was bewildering to her and she was eager for answers, but clearly now was not the time.

Rey looked at Sarah. “What’s the best way to get out of here?” “There is a small walking path over there it will get you to the gate without him seeing you. I will meet you later tonight, once he is gone I can make sure he can not make it back into town.”

The trio dashed off down the trail, just making it behind a bush before the SUV pulled into the drive. Paul stepped out of the vehicle and was pleased to see Sarah waiting for him, she took his arm and lead him into the house.

Once outside the gates Ramiel was the first to speak up, ” Great! Now we have to walk all the way back into town.”

They had not gotten far when Ramiel spoke up again, “Hide here they come.” The SUV drove past them without notice, and not long after was when a cab pulled up.

“This is the strangest fare ever, some lady calls says pick up for three people walking toward town, so I figure she meant you guys.”

That night a terrible storm hits the small town of Charlotte, it is a severe thunderstorm and residents are advised to stay in. Honoré has received a phone call from Sarah saying she will be in tonight.

Ramiel and Lyla had given Rey her privacy with Sarah. Leaving Ramiel alone with Lyla, with no where to go. The severe rainfall had made visibility zero, and thunder danced in the heavens.

Ramiel stood starring at the curtain of rain. “Great.”

Lyla stood in front of the mirror over the hotel’s dresser and shiver. She hated thunderstorms. She’d hated them since she was barely more than a little girl. She made no sound to respond to Ramiel. She didn’t trust her voice to not betray her fear.

A sudden, loud crack of thunder made her jump. She sucked her lip and shivered as she clutched her arms and tried to stop trembling. Her own reaction made her feel ashamed and stupid, but she just couldn’t help it. She gave up trying to pretend she wasn’t disturbed by the storm and leaned on the dresser.

The darkness of the night made her reflection clear between the flashes of lightening. He was at war with himself, go to her and be in pain, or stay here and be a bastard. He turned to look at her leaning back on the window sill.

“What is wrong with you?”

Lyla shuddered and this time it had little to do with the storm. Here she was, alone with him after telling Rey she needed some time alone with him to work out whatever their problems were and now she only felt guilty. Now his attention was on her and she felt unable to speak.

A rush of feelings welled up inside her. She had a lot of reason to feel guilty over the way she’d treated Ramiel. Out of fear, she’d held him at arms length despite her need to be near him. They shared rooms and shared beds but they didn’t share themselves because she feared to become just another woman he’d slept with.

She’d raped his mind. Not all at once. And never so that he’d noticed. But she’d read his mind bit by bit, night by night or week by week for years because she couldn’t help herself. It was the only way she knew how to be close to him. It was also a violation of his privacy. She knew how he felt about her, knew how he desired her, and yet she never let him share any part of her in return. So it was a kind of rape. She loved him but it had gotten twisted somehow, and it had all gone wrong.

Maybe some part of him knew what kind of monster she was. That was what she feared most of all. Lyla knew she was a bad person. She’d lied, cheated and stole from men and women who were only guilty of finding her attractive and she never felt bad about doing any of that. Yet she did feel awful when she considered that Ramiel might think poorly of her.

Maybe it was the storm. It was easy to blame the storm. That was what was making all her feelings bubble to the surface, she’d decided. No matter what she blamed, though, she couldn’t stop the single, shuddering sob that tore its way free of her breast.

Ramiel closed his eyes pretending he did not hear it, he did not want to know if she was hurting. He knew he was being an asshole, but he had to put space there, he was tired of seeing her prance around in front of him and not be able to touch her. He knew he loved more than anything or anyone. She is the only one who had ever given him peace. She had no idea what depths his darkness ran. Would she care? Who knew?

Sometimes he thought she knew how he felt about her and was just teasing him for her own pleasure. Not that he cared, but lately he had not been able to fight his frustrations over her.

“Fine, I will be in the shower if you decide to talk.” With that he disappeared into the bathroom, Lyla could hear the water running in the shower. He had left the door open.

Lyla remained standing at the dressing and cried because she couldn’t stop it. She looked in the mirror and saw the door. She could walk right out of the room, out of the hotel, and out of his live forever to end the pain.

It was down to a choice. She had to go in that bathroom and end this confusion and risk everything, or she had to walk out that door and never come back.

She couldn’t walk away. Instead she unbuttoned her blouse and began slowly walking toward the bathroom. She let the blouse slip to the floor and then released that catch of her bra and left that hanging on the doorknob. She could hear the water of the shower running now and heard it splash against his skin.

The door swung silently, respectfully inward at her touch. Then with a simple motion, her skirt and remaining clothes were left on the floor on her way to across the bathroom. She waited just long enough to see Ramiel’s outlined shape turn toward the shower head and she slipped inside.

She reached out for him and put her arms around him. “Ramiel,” she whispered. “I’m yours. I love you and I want you to be mine, but I’ve always belonged to you.”

When he quickly turned around in surprise at her presence, she clasped him tight. “Please, Ramiel, don’t hate me anymore,” she said in a pained voice. “I didn’t want to be just another woman to you after you had me, but I don’t care anymore. I want you to have me, all of me and I don’t care what happens after. Just… hold me?”

His body tensed under her touch, he stood completely still. His voice choked as he tried to speak. “Not funny Lyla, not this, not those words.” He pushed her back and turned the water off, grabbing a towel as he stepped out of the shower.

“This is one thing I can not joke about.” His eyes filled with tears, something Lyla never thought she would see. He had quickly wrapped a towel around him and grabbed another one in his hands. He stepped back into the shower and wrapped Lyla in the warm fuzzy towel. He picked her up in his arms and carried her into the other room.

“I know I’m being an ass, and I’m sorry. I’ll hold you until the storm passes,okay? I’ll keep you safe from the thunder. Please don’t tease me about how I feel for you. I don’t know how you found out, and I don’t care what you think of me. I love you always have, always will, and I will always be with you to protect you, but please don’t tease me.”

Her body stiffened with tension. Word fell form her mouth in haste, but they were heartfelt and honest. “I’m not teasing. I’m telling you the truth. I want you. I’ve always wanted you, but I’ve always been afraid to end up just another woman you’ve had in your life, nobody important. I can’t be just another woman to you, Ramiel. I can’t stand that. I’m so afraid of that I’m doing something I’ve never done with any man, ever. I’m being completely, utterly honest with you. I won’t lie to you. Not about this, not ever.”

“I have fought my feeling s for so long because you are all I have ever known for family. You are my sister, and yet you are not. You have been all I have ever desired, even with Rachel, it was you on my mind. I was trying to move past my feelings for you and I failed.”

He moved her so he could look into her eyes. He was silent for a few moment just taking her in. Then he pulled her close to him and kissed her, soft and gentle, but then it became more intense. He pulled himself away, “Sorry.”

Lyla made a soft, wordless complaint when he drew away, and pulled herself to him. “Please don’t stop!” she said in a lusty whisper.

That was all he needed, what control he had retained was gone. Ramiel was like a child at a dessert bar; he wanted everything. He started with kissing her, deeply and fiercely, bringing small moans from deep within her throat. He did not stop with simply kissing her mouth, he moved lower, covering every part of her body, moving his hands over every inch of her, smelling her, tasting her, until he reached her lower lips and kissed her there just as passionately.

She responded to his touch aggressively, raising her legs high and apart to give him access, and curling her fingers in his hair. Every touch made her shudder — the thrill of him made her feel everything like it was all new to her. She gasped and moved against him, encouraging him to go as far and as deep as he wished.

Ramiel brought her to the edge of climax many times, always slowing down right before she toppled over that edge. He had been with many women and knew very well how to read their bodies. Lyla was different; he loved her, cherished her, wanted to give her every pleasure he could. Usually he did whatever the woman wanted, and knew exactly what needed to be done to get them there. He was being very careful with Lyla, not giving her what she wanted, but what she needed, what he desired to give her, and it was evident with his every touch and embrace. He was enjoying himself, it was clear to Lyla that she was not just another woman to him, she was the only woman.

After some time had passed, and many near orgasms, Ramiel turned Lyla over onto her stomach, and reached into his bag. Within moments Lyla heard something being poured from a bottle, then she felt his warm strong hands glide across her back. He had warmed the oil by rubbing his hands together, and was massaging her back. His experience showed here, as he massaged not just her back but all the right spots.

“Erogenous zones are wonderful things,” he said. “In fact there are certain points that can be pressed, rubbed that stimulate you. Stimulation similar to that of rubbing the clitoris.”

Lyla sighed with pleasure. She felt his hands and luxuriated in his touch while imagining what she was going to do for him next. But then she felt something else, too, something unexpected. It couldn’t have been a hand or any other appendage, yet it was soft and gentle, almost as if the air itself was touching her, working on her body. She trusted him completely and gave in to even this new and unexpected sensation so quickly she felt herself tighten in the sudden grip of orgasm as he somehow turned her over again — while something wonderful continued to touch her. Yet she knew her body, having starved for his touch for so long, was only just beginning to awaken for him.

“Wha— how…?” she could barely speak through the rush.

He smiled a knowing and wanting smile. His towel was not enough to hide his excitement, but then not much could. He leaned in against her, pressing himself against her.

“I have many talents my dear.” He kissed her again, exploring her as he did.

She reached for him and pulled tossed aside the towel that was in the way. “If you show me yours, I’ll show you mine,” she said with a promise in her voice.

A wicked smile spread across his lips. ” After you my dear. ” He leaned back a little, hands far from her. Some unseen force continued to manipulate her clitoris drawing further astonished but very pleased gasps from her.

As the power faded, she sat up from the bed then grasped his hardened member, feeling its warmth. She didn’t have to bend over far to kiss it, lick it playfully, and then take him in her mouth. With practiced expertise, she took him down her throat as far as she could and kept him there as long as she could before she needed breath.

He threw his head back with pleasure, his eyes going wide. An airy moan escaped his lungs. He had pleasured many, but few could do the same for him.

There was but a slight distraction when Rey suddenly opened the door to their room, but Ramiel didn’t notice. Lyla gave her a slow wink, but there was no way she was going to let any interruption stop what was happened between herself and Ramiel now. As quickly as she’d appeared, Rey was gone again.

Lyla let him slip free from her lips, then pulled them both together, letting him slip between her legs. It was time now, and she wanted it all.

Ramiel put his hands on her thighs, lifting and pulling them simultaneously while lowering her with one arm, putting her on her back. The look in his eyes was a mixture of love, lust and something naughty. He could not help but smile. ” You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. I love you.”

The next thing that happened was a bit of a surprise for Lyla to see. He did not want things to cool down so instead of getting out of bed to get the protection, he simply looked at his bag, made a small motion with his hand, and a condom lifted out of the outer pocket and landed in his hand.

He leaned over Lyla tucking the condom under the pillow. He whispered in her ear. “If it is alright I would like to feel you first, but trust that I will put this on in time.”

“I love you — and I trust you,” Lyla told him. As a very active woman, she had taken care to make regular checkups and use a caution with other men. She knew he did, too. It was all part of why she was so comfortable doing anything with him; he always made her feel safe, and now that they were at last making love, she found that she still felt very safe with him.

He waited for her acknowledgment and then slowly, carefully, slid into her. The combination of her being tight and excited, along with him being rather large meant that he had to make small motions at first, sliding slowly back and forth working himself into her a little at a time, until he was sure he would not hurt her, then he thrust the rest of the way in. Bringing a gasp of pleasure from both of them.

He brought himself in and out slowly for a while, enjoying the moans and motions Lyla made with every stroke. Until he was to the point he wanted more, and from the way she was grabbing at his arms and back he could tell she wanted more as well. That is when he placed the condom quickly and effortlessly into place, and thrust hard, and fast, building intensity with each motion until Lyla was screaming with sensation and pleasure.

She barely had the control to even think of it, but she wanted to know that he was as thrilled to be with her as she was with him, and if there was anything at all she might do to make it better for him. But as her tendrils of thought touched him, she received everything she needed to know. She needn’t have worried at all as her powers instantly told her that Ramiel was more truly happy than he had ever been in his life, and that this moment was everything he wanted.

As her first true feelings of happiness flooded her being, she let herself go matching his pleasure in a great, explosive tide of orgasm. Such relief, love, and pleasure flooded her being that her body would not stop with just one orgasm, but she came again and again. She knew he came, too, and it only drove her to greater heights of sensation until she thought she would die of it.

And then her body and his were spent, exhausted in a dreamy haze of completion they’d barely dared to dream of since their first adolescent fantasies. Their deepest desires were finally answered, and with that answer came new hope for them both of a real future together as far more than friends and foster-siblings. Lyla clung to him and whispered, “I love you Ramiel.”

After a long moment of panting rest, something floated to the fore of her mind. He’d done something wonderful to her, something that was both physical and not physical, using a power that he also used to retrieve the contraceptive.

“That thing you did,” she said. “Touching me without touching me? With the power that you’ve showed me tonight and which you used to retrieve the condom? I don’t know how you did that but… “

She pulled away from him so he could see the intense look of her eyes and know she was telling the truth. “I’ve never felt anything like that before. And… I want you to know that you can touch me that way any time you like. Or use your power on me any way you want to.”

He smiled a truly wicked smile, his lips thinned and his eyes glowed with joy. It was the kind of look little boys have when you know they have done something they were not supposed to do.

“Oh, I think you may regret those words, but I will definitely take you up on it. ” He kissed her, pulled himself away and then scooped her up in his arms. He disposed of the necessaries, and took her to the shower, bathed her from head to toe, then took care of himself quickly. He repeated this to dry them both off, then carried her to the other bed in the room, pulled back the covers and curled up with her. “I love you, too.”

Clean, warm, and curled up with her man, her last, fading thoughts before she let sleep take her was that he might be as naughty as she hoped he would.

Lyla had spoken with Rey to tell her that they intended to let her have a private meeting with Sarah because she also needed to work some things out with Ramiel. There was something going on with him that she needed to corner him and confront him to suss out.

It was seven o’clock when there was a knock on the door to Honore’s room.

Rey nearly jumped out of her skin at the sound, and then blushed in embarrassment. She went over to the door and peeked through the eye-hole thing to see who was there.

Sarah was waiting on the other side. ” It is Sarah, may I come in?”

Rey undid all the locks and opened the door. “Come on in.” She locked everything back up behind Sarah. “Please, have a seat. All I have to offer you is some soda, or some of the crappy coffee that came with the room.”

Her smile was warm and friendly, her eyes the color of water, her hair nearly black with dampness.

“Well even crappy coffee is warm. I will take that and a towel if you have one. Thanks.” She made herself comfortable in one of the chairs near the corner table. She began drying her hair with the towel Rey had handed to her.

“You must have many questions, and I am not certain it is an easy story to tell, so let me start by saying that I hope you can help us. Some years ago Paul came to your parents for help with something, and they gave it to him. We remember you; you called us, but we don’t remember much of what happened after, except waking up and being trapped together.”

She took a drink of her coffee.

“We were once two separate beings, Sarah, my human self, and Sylfie a water spryte. Paul was our friend, and we cared for him greatly but he changed over time wanting us for more, and when we said no he turned to you and your family.” Sarah paused to allow Honoré to think on what she had said.

“Oh my god,” Rey whispered, horrified at what she had done. “I am so sorry.”

“It is not your fault little one, you didn’t seem to be in possession of your senses then. Besides, I’m not sure you did more than call me. But I was hoping maybe you could help us get free.”

“I have not aged since Sylfie and I became one. Paul wants to capture another Spryte, and repeat this with himself so he will stop aging. I have given us some time tonight, with help of my family, to bring the storm and keep him out of town.” When she spoke there was an echo to her voice as though both Sylfie and Sarah were speaking in unison.

“I’ll do my best,” Rey answered. “I just don’t know where to begin.” She looked at Sarah, hoping to be able to see Sylfie as well.

Honoré opened her senses trying to catch a glimpse of Sylfie, the water Spryte that is bound within Sarah. What she perceived was a halo effect surrounding Sarah, faint at first, gradually growing brighter. The aquamarine of her eyes seem to glow in unison with the aura.

“The magic used were supposed to fuse us entirely, but we were stronger than Paul realized. We retained our own inner self, and so far we think we have him believing we still love him. “

Rey nodded absently. Have you heard about this sort of thing happening before? she asked her familiar. A spirit being merged with a human being?

Hmmm, not that I am aware of. But miss, if this Sarah had abilities of her own, it might explain it. There is a great many things that are possible in this world. I would not be surprised if Sarah was a conduit for spirits, maybe even unknown to her.

Sarah continued her explanation of why she was sitting in this room. “I am hoping that if we can contact your parents, or maybe if they have taught you what they did, we can be set free.”

“They’re dead,” Rey said, though for the first time she felt some regret. “Murdered in the attack. And I don’t know if they taught me anything. As far as I remember, I was the only one with any true ability in my family.”

Rey sat on the edge of the bed and thought hard. Had she been the one to do this horrific thing, or was it someone else? Please, let me remember what happened…

More memories slid to the surface and flashed through her mind. The dark man giving her parents an amulet, and then her parents talking to Paul, telling him they could do what he asks. Rey hissed in anger. “Bastard.”

She opened her eyes, not remembering having closed them. “The man who helped my parents enslave me gave my parents an amulet. I think they used that to bind the two of you together.”

Sarah’s eyes grew wider, as recognition filled them.

“It’s a small amulet,” Rey said, “with lots of detail on it, but I can’t remember clearly what it was. Do you know where the amulet is?”

“Yes, he keeps it with him at all times.” Her expression became more somber. “I have never tried to take it, he says it would destroy both of us if we did anything to it.”

“He could be lying,” Rey said, unnecessarily. “But the choice is up to you. Continue to exist as you are, or try for the chance of freedom. If I can get a look at the amulet, examine it, I might be able to reverse it. I don’t know if I can do it, but what I will promise you is that I’ll try.”

“We would resign to living as we are, if we could be free of him, and stop him from repeating it. Though at the same time we long for our lives as the were. He was our friend, our love and he became warped through it all, he betrayed us. Yes, we would love to be free, so if we can get the amulet and see, that we could do.”

“Alright. If you can’t get the amulet, then I’ll see if my friends can, without harming him. Where does he keep it? In a pocket? On a chain around his neck?”

“I think it may be around his neck, I’m not certain. He always reaches for it there, but I have not seen it.”

Talk of Ramiel and Lyla reminded Rey of something. “May I ask you a question, about the lake?”

“Yes, you may ask.”

“I feel rather silly asking about this, but Champ, the thing they say lives in the lake. Does it exist?” Rey was a bit embarrassed. “We came here to try and spot it,” she said, and hastened to explain. “Not to try and catch it or anything, just to see it with our own eyes.”

“There are many wonders in the lake. Most of the tales associated with “Champ” are of our kine. But yes this fabled creature does exist beneath the surface of the lake. Many do all over, but not all love to tease the humans as he does.”

There was no joking in her voice as she spoke.

“Thank you, Sarah.” Rey paused for a moment. “What would you prefer I call you?”

For the first time that night she smiled. “This town knows us as Sarah, and that is fine with both of us. Sylfie is a human calling anyway, in our language our name is far too difficult to say.”

Rey nodded. “Would you be willing to tell it to me anyway? I’d like to hear it.”

“You have called me once, and I trust you will not again. So yes I will tell you once more.” What followed was a very melodic high pitched sequence of sounds. It was evident that there was strain on Sarah’s vocal cords as she did this. The sound was very haunting and beautiful at the same time.

“Thank you. Your name is beautiful.”

“Thank You. We should make a plan to get the amulet. He will be back in the morning, the storm only kept him out of town for the night.”

“Agreed. I’ll go get the others. They’ll be willing to help, especially with who’s involved.”

Rey peeked out the window to how badly it was raining. “I’ll be back in a second. Hamilton will keep you company.”

Rey knocked on the adjoining door, but there was no answer. She frowned and knocked a second time, and still no answer. “Plan B.” Rey walked over to the phone and called the room next door.

The phone in the room next door rings several times. When it is picked up it is immediately hung up again. When Honoré tried it one more time she got a busy signal.

I don’t suppose you can hear what they’re doing? she asked Hamilton.

I do hear some movement miss, but not sure what is going on, the little cat said as he popped his head out of the bag. Perhaps if you listened through the door you could hear more than I, or I could hear better. Or maybe you could see if they have their window open. Hmm are you worried about them miss?

I think, no, in fact I’m hoping they’re having sex. The two of them are walking time bombs and the tension between them is getting disruptive. But if they’re having sex with each other, I don’t want to disturb them. If it’s Ramiel with some woman he picked up, I’m going to throw that bucket of half melted ice and water on him. Rey picked up Hamilton, went over to the door and listened. Four ears are better than two. Ears were pressed against the door listening for sounds, of what Honoré hoped was tension relief. There are very faint but distinguishable sounds. It was a definite possibility of two people fooling around with each-other, but who was in the room. Was Lyla and Ramiel together for the first time? Or was Ramiel with someone else while Lyla was out in the rain, or at the lounge all alone?

Honoré opened the door and moved silently past the bathroom to peer into the room. Once the bed came into view, she saw two figures on the bed, two very familiar figures. There was an unimagined beauty in the act, as the two shared what should have been an intimate moment.

Lyla sat up from the bend then grasped his hardened member, feeling its warmth. She didn’t have to bend over far to kiss it, lick it playfully, and then take him in her mouth. With practiced expertise, she took him down her throat as far as she could and kept him there as long as she could before she needed breath. She then began working him, stroking with her hand in sync with the thrusts of her mouth.

Ramiel threw his head backward as his back arched with pleasure, his eyes going wide. He was on his knees, one hand rested near his feat as the other grabbed a handful of Lyla’s hair. An airy, pleasure-filled moan escaped his lungs. He had pleasured many, but few could do the same for him.

Rey backed wordlessly out of the room and closed the door as quietly as she could. As Rey was backing out of the room she noticed Lyla look at her and wink. Then without braking her rhythm continue her work.

Rey’s eyes widened and she tried not to giggle.

She returned to Sarah. “They’re busy, and may be a while. So, what time do you expect Paul to return tomorrow morning?”

“We think he will be in early, but we will be able to get out of the house without him suspecting, so long as we are not overdue returning.”

Rey thought for a moment. “Do you know if he has tried to contact my parents yet?”

“I would assume he has. He may even know that they are dead. He would not tell me about it though.”

Rey nodded. “Would you consider him to be dangerous?”

“More than some, yes. He really has a gentle heart, but we became an obsession to him and he took drastic measures. He knows some combat and magic. We have never wanted to learn how advanced his skills are though.” A yawn escaped form her mouth before she could cover it.

“We apologize, but today has taken a lot out of us, if we are to be home when he gets there and rested, we should be going. He may try to get through as the storm let’s up. It will not last much longer. We can be by for brunch, say ten o’clock. The cafe where I first saw you will be fine.” She stood gracefully and took her exit.

The next morning Rey found that Ramiel was already up, about, and in a rather good mood. He was even smiling. His hair was pulled back in a low hanging ponytail. He wore a black t-shirt and black jeans, making his white hair pop in contrast.

“Good morning Rey, did you have a good talk last night?”

Lyla was up and about, too, having woke much earlier than was her normal habit. She seemed to be ready for the day, having already showered and changed. She stayed in earshot as she prepared the small carafe of complimentary coffee.

“Kind of,” Rey said. “We have to meet Sarah at the cafe at ten o’clock. I learned something that will make you angry, and something that ought to make you happy.”

“Angry? Well let’s hear it then. But I’d rather be happy today.” He smiled and leaned against the wall.

“If you do get unhappy,” Lyla told Ramiel in a sultry voice, “maybe I can find a way to cheer you up. Coffee?”

His naughty smile appeared. ” Oh I can think of a few things that you could do to make me happy.”

“Oh please,” Rey said, making a comedic retching sound. “Not before breakfast.” She smiled, obviously pleased they had finally dealt with the tension between them – at least for now. The smile turned slightly sad. “I found out more about what Paul went to my parents for.” She told Lyla and Ramiel everything Sarah had told her last about what Paul had done, especially who had given her parents the amulet.

Ramiel looked lost in thought for a few moments. “Don’t worry I’m not upset.” His smile returned. “But I am ready for food, man I’m starved.”

He prepared to head out for the cafe down the street. “No worries, we will get this amulet, and if nothing else bust it up right. I can take this guy, after all he has done a horrible thing.”

He turned to look at Honoré. ” And I don’t want you beating yourself up over what happened to them. It’s not your fault, it is his and his alone. Okay maybe your parents a little, but hey we can give them the benefit of the doubt and say this Paul lied to them saying it was what everyone wanted.”

“Now I do have to say this though, there is something much deeper going on here if it involves the Dark Man, and we most likely will not find out what that is.”

“Sounds like pretty hefty magic to me,” Lyla remarked. “I think of the three of us, you are the most expert on that, Rey. Not to be the pessimist here, but have you considered she might not be telling you the truth? Or not telling the whole truth?”

“Of course,” Rey said with a nod. “But I don’t think I can learn any more until I get a chance to look at that amulet and talk to Paul.” She frowned. “And see if I can contact the ghosts of my parents.” She cleared the dark expression from her face and looked back at Lyla and Ramiel. “Grifter rule number seven. Insinuate yourself and play along with the mark until you know what’s up, then decide on a strategy.

“My parents’ wouldn’t have cared, as long as he paid their price. And I’m not going to beat myself up over it. This time there’s something I can do to help put it right.” Rey smiled, hugging her ever-present bag to her chest.

She looked at Lyla, her happiness obvious, then back at Ramiel. “Ramiel,” she said, in a playful, I’ve-got-a-secret voice. “I’ve learned something about Champ too.”

“Oh, do tell.” He slowed his walking so that he was right next to Honoré. He slipped his arm around her shoulders, and fell in pace with her. “What secret do you have? hmmmmm.”

“It’s not some cock and bull story, booked up to draw tourists. It’s real. And if you’re very nice to me.” She grinned, her eyes sparkling with mischief. “I just might ask it to come and say hello when we’re done here, so you don’t have to camp out on the lake and hope for it to decide to put in an appearance.”

Lyla raised an eyebrow and smiled at Rey. “How nice is ‘very nice’?”

Rey made a face at her. “Not that nice.” She looked up at Ramiel. “No offense, Ramiel. You’re beyond drop dead gorgeous, but I’m not interested in you that way. Especially now that you and Lyla have worked things out.”

“Worked things out? That’s an interesting statement, tell me Rey, how have we worked things out?” He kept his arm around her, and his voice had filled with a playful tone. Rey had never seen him act this way before. He was having fun.

“Even a blind man could see it,” Rey said. “When I first met you, there was so much sexual tension between the two of you it could be cut with a knife. I tried to get a hold of you last night, to come to my room so you could be in on the talk where we’d start planning what we were going to do, but you ignored the knocks on the door, and then took the phone off the hook. Now, this morning, you’re relaxed. Happy. Playful even. It’s about time the two of you finally did something about it. Just promise me you’ll keep the noise down next time.” She grinned.

Hoping to get a reaction out of Rey he decided to push this playfulness as far as he could. “I’m sorry but that is one promise I can not make. There’s nothing I love more than to hear the screams of pure sexual enjoyment, as the body begins it’s convulsive climax, coming from beneath me. Especially the sweet sounds that my dearest Lyla makes. Though the sounds are only second to the sensations of her body.” He grinned at Rey.

Lyla turned her face away to look at some convenient passing car and let her hair fall to hide the blush and smile that was there.

Rey just shook her head and chuckled. “You weren’t exactly silent yourself, you know. And before you start offering up any more details, you might ask Lyla if she minds me knowing.” She shrugged. “You know, the whole kiss and tell thing. You’re starting to tread on the borders of TMI-land.”

Her cheeks were still slightly rosier than normal when Lyla turned her face to the both of them and said, “I don’t care if the whole world knows.” Her smile was radiant.

“My Lyla may be more of an exhibitionist than I am, maybe. But alas my attempts to play with you are to no avail.” He sighed. Faking with drama, he placed the back of his hand on his forehead, “Woe is me, whatever shall I tease you with now?”

“Poor Ramiel,” Rey said with a smile, patting his hand soothingly. “I may be an amnesiac, but I’m not completely naive. I’m sure you’ll eventually find something.” She grinned. “But not today.” As she said it, she knew it was probably a mistake and that he’d take it as a challenge.

“Oh yeah, we’ll see.”

They had ordered food when Sarah arrived, she seemed to be in better spirits today. She sat down an quickly ordered food.

“I am sorry to be late, but it took a while to get out of the house. How is everyone this morning?”

“Good,” said Lyla. “Does Paul know you are here?”

“Pretty good,” Rey replied, eagerly anticipating the stack of french toast with sausage she’d ordered. “Does Paul suspect anything was going on?”

She shook her head no as she took a drink of her juice.

“Good,” said Lyla. “Does Paul know you are here?”

Setting her drink down she answered verbally this time, “No on both accounts. At least I think the answer is no.”

Ramiel piped up, “So what you are saying is that you have no idea. But you are hoping the answer is no.”

Lyla chuckled a little.

“Well, yeah. I was very careful, and I normally come into town for the morning today, so here’s crossing my fingers.”

“What are Paul’s plans for the day?” Rey asked.

“He will be working on things at home. Most likely he will be researching things, he knows about the death of your parents, and now he is trying to find another way.”

“What kind of weapons does he have in the house?” Rey asked. I don’t suppose you can sniff out whether or not she’s telling the truth, Hamilton?

Yes miss, I think by the way her ears are that she is sincere, but it always so difficult to tell with you humans. Perhaps if your species would grow a tail, then it would be much easier to sense these things. Oh, wait I think I saw her ear move, maybe…ohhhh I smell eggs…mmmmmm Stay on focus, Hamilton. I’ve got a side order of Canadian bacon coming for you, remember? Nice and lean. Shouldn’t bother your tummy at all.

Sarah thought for a moment, trying to recall if there are any weapons back at her house.

Right miss, I will focus on Bacon. MMMMMmmmmm treats for me.

After a long pause, and the delivery of ther food, Sarah answered the question. “I don’t recall any weapons. Paul is more of a hands on guy, and he has been practicing magic.”

That worried Lyla. “Hands on? What do you mean?”

“Martial arts, boxing, more of that type, oh and he can use knives if he has too. He was the geeky kid when younger so he took classes, and he hasn’t stopped since then.”

Rey thought about what offensive magical abilities Paul might have, and if he might have a familiar, when a horrible thought just struck her. “Sarah, can Paul call on your sprite half’s abilities?”

“If he can he never has. The merging did not work as it was supposed to, we were both of higher will than he anticipated. That or something was not done correctly.” She dug into her food before it was cold. Rey was relieved. She looked at Ramiel. “If it comes down to a fight, do you think you could take Paul down without hurting him too much?”

“Yeah, I could probably take him, but no promises on the damage level.” Ramiel smiled and continued his meal. Under the table he reached over and put his hand on Lyla’s thigh.

While the two had been talking, Lyla had been picking at her food. His attention immediately brought a smile to her lips. She wanted to lean into him and cuddle up and forget about sticky problems with potentially powerful wielders of strange magics. Alas, that was not the life they had chosen. “Everyone has a weakness. Sometimes it’s obvious. Sometimes not.”

Lyla looked directly at Sarah. “If it came down to it, are you going to have a problem if we have to shoot Paul?” “Ummm, I guess not. If that is how it has to be. It is not our way, we would prefer it to be different, so it if there are other ways then we would prefer them.”

“I’m sure Lyla meant that having to shoot him would be a last resort kind of thing,” Rey said. She’d been thinking the same thing, about how far they might have to go to succeed, but didn’t want to think about actually killing Paul.

Sarah cleared her throat, “Well he is usually in his work room for long periods of time, I know he will be there this evening. Or is there some other time you would like to try for the amulet.”

Lyla wasn’t quite clear on the goals. “We should know what exactly our goal is here first. I know you said Paul put a fairy spirit of some kind into Sarah’s body and sealed it there. Rey also mentioned that he wanted to do it to himself, too, for the longevity benefits. We also know that an amulet of some kind was used to seal what was done to Sarah and the sprite.

“But I need to hear from you, Sarah, as to what you want. Do you want to be two separate people again? Do you just want us to stop Paul from doing to another sprite what he did to you already? Or both?”

“If possible, both.”

“We’ll do our best,” Rey said, giving Hamilton a piece of the bacon. “But I won’t be able to do anything until I can take a look at the amulet. I think we should try to get it tonight.”

“Fine by me. That gives me the rest of the day to do whatever I want.” Ramiel gave Lyla’s thigh a squeeze. She looked at him with bright, hungry eyes and a sultry smile. Unfortunately, another thought intruded upon her fantasies. It was with some reluctance that she decided she had to make a suggestion. “Unless you need help with some research, Rey?”

“Unless the public library here as Spirit Binding for Dummies, I think there’s anything I can research. And I think it’s too much of a risk to try and use Paul’s library. But there a couple of things I can do, but I don’t know if it’s anything you can help me with, Lyla. Does Paul drink tea or coffee while he researches?”

“He doesn’t let me meddle in his work,” answered Sarah. “Even if he does drink anything I would not be able to slip soemthing into it. So I think we should use the element of suprise to get to him.”

“Well, let me put my two cents in here.” Ramiel sat his glass down and slid the now-empty plate away from him. “We can sneak up, or rather approach him while he is distracted, and jump him, so to speak. Our main goal is the amulet, as seperating these two is the only way to stop him from trying to repeat this.”

After a brief pause and a glance at the looks of confusion he continued. “The only thing that will stop him from trying this indefinitely is to crush him. Well the only way other than killing him. If we free these two then he has no reason to go on with his attempts. Because once the amulet is gone he has no way of oing it.”

“I’ve got pretty quick fingers. It’s possible I could distract him enough to slip away with his amulet without his knowing,” Lyla put in. “I’d have to be… very close to him to do that, though.”

Rey nodded. She had considered suggesting it, but had decided not to. In her mind, it really depended on Ramiel. Given the relationship between the two of them, would he be willing to let her try?

“But my concern would be is that he’s seen you, and I don’t know what he thinks of you, or even if he’d be willing to let you get that close.” Rey looked at Sarah.

Sarah flushed a little in the face. “Well If he would do that, hmm, I don’t know. But I guess I am not against it.”

Ramiel looked at Lyla, then at Rey and Sarah. “That would make us push this plan back at least a day. Lyla is good, but it might be suspicious if she just happens to show up at his house. We will need to plan for him being in town for that course of action.”

“It sounds like we do have some time before he figures out how to achieve his goal,” Lyla mused. “What do you think, Sarah?” Sarah was about to answer but Ramiel interupted before she could say anthing. “Come on Lyla, married men are not interested in a long term get to know. They want the excitement of a cheap thrill, no commitment, no names sometimes. So do you really want to spend the next week getting to know this guy?”

“Nope,” Lyla smiled. “I don’t want to get to know him at all. I just need enough time for what he thinks will be a quick hook-up, or not even that much. But if he’s sitting cooped up at home, I can’t do that. I have to wait until he goes out — if he goes out. If he doesn’t then it’s not going to work and we’ll just have to do it your way.”

“So you want to waite around untill he somes into town?” Ramiel lost some of his excitement.

“What do you say Rey? You want to hang around here a few more days waiting for this guy to come into town in hopes that he wants to cheat on the person he loves enough to imprison her, them??”

“There’s another option,” Rey said softly as she picked at her food. She’d lost her appetite. “I could arrive at the house when he’s home, and tell him I know he’s been looking for my parents. And offer to help him.” This was the method she liked the least, even less than shooting Paul.

“Or not.” Ramiel said. “All that would do is get in. Once that happens there is no telling what he might do, especially once he knows you can not do as he wants. No I am still for the element of surprise. He knows what Lyla looks like, he will suspect soemthing then we have lost our chance.”

“Sarah, you wouldn’t happen to know if he is planning to go out tonight, do you? Go downtown, meet someone, anything like that?” Lyla wondered.

“Not off hand, but I could call you if he leaves, or not. Let you know then you can go from there.”

Ramiel smiled his wicked little smile, “Just make sure you give Lyla enough time to get her slut on,” he laughed lightly.

Lyla stuck out her tongue at him, but she smiled.

“Let’s go with that, then,” Rey said. “If he doesn’t go out, then we’ll have to come to the house. Is there a way we can get in without going through the gate?”

“Only off the lake, but you would need a boat. It doesn’t matter though, his office, so to speak is a private building on the grounds. He will not know if anyone coems through the gate or not.”

“Trying to take him on in there may be like trying to beard the lion in his den,” Rey said. She tried to take a bit of her french toast, but ended up setting the fork down.

“True, but my money would be on the our lion,” she said with a wink at Ramiel. “He’s armed.”

“Good, I will call you once I know something.” Sarah tidied up her place setting and stood from the table. “I had better be on my way then.” She excused herself and continued about her day, dissapearing around the corner.

“You guys going to spend the rest of the day together?” Rey asked. She felt both envious and repulsed at the same time. She was jealous of their intimacy, and the fact they had each other, but the thought of her having sex with anyone was, well, icky.

“Why you wanna join?” Ramiel was the first to speak, and his voice was more joke than not, but you just never knew with him.

Lyla turned to watch Rey’s response with interest. She expected Rey to blush and refuse, but one could always be pleasantly surprised.

Rey didn’t blush, but she did refuse. “No thanks. There’s some stuff I need to do before we try to get the amulet tonight.”

Ramiel clutched his chest. “Your words pierce as though they were arrows. To turn me down, oh milady you have an iron will to do such a feat as that.” After his rather dramatic speech he looked at Honore and winked.

Rey giggled. “You can be very silly, Ramiel.”

“Perhaps one day I will be able to show you how well I can please someone as well.”

Rey’s smile faltered a bit. “Maybe.” She turned her attention back to her now cold french toast.

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