Suzanne’s room was very spacious with several bookshelves around her room, there was a fireplace with an ancient looking cauldron that was expelling some sweet smelling fumes, and there were numerous jars in a china cabinet next to the fireplace. Her bed was small but neatly made with a midnight blue comforter and a single pillow. She was sitting on a chair by the heavily draped window reading under the light of a small lamp.
“Find a seat, cher and I’ll bring the books to you. I got you Magick Most Evil, Creatures of the Night- the English edition-, and Succubae and Shadows.” She produced the books from a drawer of the desk next to her. Suzanne walked toward Dani who was sitting on the bed and gave him the books. They were the books have been searching for but he couldn’t find, and here was Suzanne and she had gotten them for him. She must have foreseen something because he had not asked her to get him the last book she mentioned – Succubae and Shadows.
“How did you get these? I searched for them in almost every bookshop in the country and I couldn’t find them”
“Ah, but there are shops that carry this sort of books that you don’t even know exist. You cannot begin to fathom how many books and artifacts these shops possess. Maybe one day I’ll take you to one of those shops.”
“Suzanne, when did you move out here to the middle of nowhere?” Dani enquired, because the house he knew as Suzanne’s home was, in fact, far away from where they were.
“Oh, do not worry, Cher. This is only for a little while. This is my country getaway, if you will. Since Oak Havens is not far from here, we decided that Rowan would arrive here and the next day by nightfall, we would return to my house in the city. This place is so well hidden, the road that leads here is not even in the maps and none of the people that live around here venture into these lands because these are the devil’s lands. See how it all works out?” Suzanne cackled and put her hand on Dani’s shoulder. They looked at each other for a little while without saying a word. Dani could see how alike Rowan and Suzanne were – their smile, their walk, their way of thinking, their eyes looked alike- Suzanne’s were darker than Rowan’s-, even their hair color was alike – Suzanne’s was two shades darker and graying at the temples, put up in a chignon that made her appear younger. It was stupid of him to realize that just now, but what could he do? He was right, nothing.
Dani got up and thanked Suzanne for her hospitality and the books and exited the room
“I will see you soon, Daniel” was the last thing she said. To Dani, it was comforting and unnerving to hear her say that; it was prophetic and not necessarily in a good way.
Dani found his way back to his room to pick up his keys and wallet and get ready to leave. He was putting his key in his pockets when he felt someone staring at him from the hallway. Rowan had come out of the shower and her hair was wet and the supple skin of her shoulders glistening in the light of the day. A towel was wrapped around her body and her legs were exposed -strong and shapely. Just by seeing her like that, he was feeling something uncoil inside him, a strong desire taking hold of him. And just like that, she walked away from him and into her room.
Making sure Merrick the wolf was nowhere in sight, he followed her into the room and closed the door behind him. The room was very nondescript and unimportant; all he saw was Rowan standing in front of him, half naked, the towel slipping from her ripe, round breasts. Not sure of what he was doing or about to do, Dani stepped forward and motioned Rowan to come closer. She walked toward him and stopped at a minimum distance from Dani – bodies almost touching, mouths inches away. He took her hands and held them away from her body, letting the towel fall to the floor. Dani looked down at her, admiring once again her naked form. She just looked at him, watching his expression change from awe to desire.
Their faces moved closer and Dani’s mouth was hovering over Rowan’s; his eyes holding Rowan’s gaze with an iron grip. She could feel his breath catching, his muscles tensing; her body was reacting too – her breath was quickening, her spine was tingling, her body was trembling with desire. She closed the distance and her lips descended upon Dani’s in a searing kiss. Hands roamed up and down bodies, mouths wrestled, bodies yielded. Dani burned with passion and his mind brought back those images of him taking Rowan, of her begging for it, images of all the things that he had never done nor imagined doing to a woman before and it overwhelmed him. He let out a scream and almost collapsed. It was mind blowing what this woman could do to a man with just a kiss.
‘Shit, he’s still intoxicated’ thought Rowan as she held him and kissed his neck in a soothing manner. Rowan walked Dani to a chair and helped him sit to rest.
She dressed hastily in black pants and a white button down shirt. She kneeled beside him and checked his temperature once again while muttering some healing spell she hoped would improve Dani’s condition; it didn’t help much for his fever was rising steadily.
“You can’t leave the house like this. You are going to have to stay until nightfall. You are coming with us to Mum’s house and you’ll stay there until the intoxication disappears, understand?”
Dani only nodded, not hearing a word she said and she knew it, but she said it anyway. Rowan put him to bed and raced to her mother’s room.
“Mum, Dani’s intoxicated. He had too much of my blood last night. He had a horrible reaction to it last night and I had to stay with him through the night and now he’s had a relapse”
“What happened?” Suzanne asked wanting to know about the relapse; unnecessary as it was for she knew what Rowan was about to say.
“He came into my room…and we kissed, then he collapsed” Rowan explained, blushing a little for having to tell her mother about that. Not like her mother cared about her personal life, but it was always sort of embarrassing saying something like that, especially when your mother knew exactly what went down.
“Hmm…let me think for a moment…oh yes, take the small blue jar from the top shelf over there and put three drops of the liquid into a cup of tea; that will make the symptoms go away and strengthen the body to fight the intoxication. And do not give him any more blood to drink and try to keep your hands off him, you know what happens.” Suzanne spoke rather coldly. Without another word, Rowan retired from her mother’s presence with the jar in hand and went into the kitchen to make the tea. Damn the power…and goddamn the horse tranquilizers.
Dani woke nauseous and very weak; he remembered how and why he was like that and felt puzzled. Rowan came in with concern plastered all over her face and carrying a cup of tea.
“How do you feel, Dani?”
“Huh?” seemed to be all Dani could come up with for an answer.
“You’ll feel better when you drink this” and she put the cup to Dani’s lips. Without a question, he drank the witch’s brew. The tea was not very tasty, but once he finished drinking it, he felt the world come into focus again and felt his strength returning to him.
“Thank you, Rowan” mumbled Dani
“Rest, Dani. Don’t strain yourself. You’ll be up by nightfall” she kissed his forehead and left.
Rowan found herself once more in her mother’s room, waiting to hear what her mother had to say. Suzanne stood by the bed looking at Rowan who stood by the fireplace with her arms crossed.
“Why did you deal with Mephistopheles? You know how treacherous he can be. Look what happened to Faustus--” Suzanne would have continued her lecture if Rowan hadn’t kicked the china cabinet and screamed
“It is easy for you to say that, you have spent the last five years on the other side of the bars, with your books, people, magic; whereas I had to endure countless hours in a chapel praying to a god I laugh at, you didn’t have to blow the doctors so they wouldn’t put so many drugs in your food, you weren’t submitted to unnecessary punishment or harassment. I knew that Mephistopheles would get me out just because my soul was on the line and you know he will deliver as long as he gets my soul. What was I to do? You couldn’t carry out your plan and there was no way I would be left alone for a minute in that goddamned place! You weren’t the one who looked in the mirror and tried to cheer herself up pathetically or couldn’t even mutter without having someone shut you up! Is that life? I waited for you, but you weren’t able, no one was and no one was willing to put themselves on the line for me! I thought that…never mind what I thought, you know what else?! I am kind of glad I chose Mephistopheles! He was the only one who did something!” Rowan was venting. She had almost blown the cover she was working so hard to keep up.
“Shut up! You know not what you say, child. I am so sorry for not being able to get you out of there! I did all I could! I cried every day that went by and you were still locked up! Cherie, I missed you like crazy and knowing you were there cooped up for so long kills me every time I think about it!” Suzanne was crying by the time she finished, and ran to embrace her daughter
“Maman! Je m’excuse, I’m sorry. It’s not your fault.” She sobbed into her mother’s chest, both women cried and hugged for a long time unaware that outside the door, a still-intoxicated Dani was listening in, nearly heartbroken hearing such a dreary story. Yes, Dani had a heart, regardless of how vehemently and often he denied it.
The whole ordeal made Dani more confused and overwhelmed every passing second and he couldn’t shake the feeling that this was just the beginning. That, in itself, was a very scary thought.
Afternoon gave way to darkness and caught Suzanne and Rowan packing, and Dani resting and thinking about everything bad that had happened to him that year. First, there was the fight that he had with their previous bassist who was quickly replaced with James; Second, the time he got so drunk he lost the keys to his house and someone broke in; next, Toni walking out on him without an explanation and taking Luna. The latter was the worst of all and the most obscure to him – what had he done to make Toni break up with him? He was never unfaithful, he never raised a hand to her, he gave her everything she asked for, he was a model husband, hard to believe as that was; he had thought of everything and anything that could have been a reason to drive her away, but none seemed to fit; he couldn’t make sense out of it. It made him sick to his heart to think of all those years that he spent with her, how she was beside him at every moment, how she gave him a happiness he didn’t know existed; before and after Luna. His daughter was another sad story and the second worst thing was losing her along with Toni. He didn’t dare take Luna from her mother because it felt so wrong, he didn’t want to hurt his daughter or Toni by taking Luna away. Toni barely talked to him whenever he went to visit Luna and that drove him mad. She just seemed so indifferent, but he loved her so fucking much. Why was she doing this to him? And now this…Suzanne had a daughter he hadn’t known about and she was challenging his feelings and confusing him so much. It was impossible for him to find answers to all those burning questions - why he had a slave, why he was caught in the middle of an old and powerful family feud with all sorts of evils twists- and of a family that wasn’t his-, why the legends that had obsessed him for years had come back to life to haunt him, how Faustus was related to Rowan and Suzanne and why Suzanne didn’t do something to prevent that from happening if she had the gift of foresight; why Rowan had not used her powers sooner to free herself, why he was sick all of a sudden- all of those thoughts eluded him. Was Rowan still reading his thoughts? Did she know about what he had done earlier in the day? Should he get involved with her? Should he ask Toni to go back with him…all these thoughts plagued him and made him sick to his stomach, he just didn’t know what to do or say. Why him?
It occurred to him that Rowan could listen to him and help him get back with Toni; certainly the most ridiculous thought he had ever had in his life, but who was he to tell what made sense or not anymore? He needed someone to talk to that was not himself and someone who could provide some insight and shed some light on some other aspects, besides answering the rest of the many questions he had…he had so many nowadays that couldn’t even remember half of them. He never showed any sign of weakness and he was about to admit he had problems to someone like Rowan. The whole situation was absurd, so he did what anyone with half a brain would do: go to sleep and hope the problems were gone by the time he woke up; and since he had a whole brain he gave himself over to a dreamless slumber.
“Dani, wake up. We are leaving and you’re coming with us” Rowan softly shook Dani awake and pushed some stray strands of hair from his face
“But Toni, I don’t want to go to rehearsal” Dani whined putting the pillow over his head.
Rowan wanted to laugh but she didn’t.
“Umm, Dan…It’s Rowan” that woke Dani with a start. He sat up and rubbed sleep from his eyes and gave Rowan a pained look
“I...I...I’m sorry. Didn’t mean to say that” he looked down and closed his eyes to keep himself from crying. ‘I’ve gone soft…I’m a fucking pussy. Hoo-fucking-ray’.
Rowan took Dani’s face in her hands and whispered in his ear
“Is she your wife?”
“Was…She left me and took my daughter with her and I don’t know why she left me” Dani half groaned, half sobbed, losing his self control.
“She did not tell you at all?” Rowan asked feeling the pain Dani was feeling. It made her want to comfort him.
“She kissed me and walked out” tears were escaping his eyes. Talking to someone about it was even more painful than thinking about it.
Rowan cringed inwardly at Dani’s words; angry and painful memories stirred inside her and she felt deeply sorry for Dani.
“Do you resent her?”
“Do I? Not her, I resent the fact that I do not know why she walked away. I just cannot resent her, I cannot hate her, I can only love her and wish she would come back” he cringed saying the last words. ‘I want to die…it hurts so much’ he thought. The pain and uncertainty was going to drive him over the edge; not to mention that all the feelings he had always rebelled against were taking hold of him and accelerating that process...
“I’m so sorry, Dani. Tell me, what can I do to make you feel better? I can feel your pain so strong and unrelenting. Just tell me” Rowan offered. She was about to cry herself, she was somewhat human after all and the bond between her and Dani made her feel his need even stronger. They were so different but they were still the same.
“Just hold me for a while. I don’t want to do something stupid. Don’t let me go, please” Dani begged. He had left all pride, arrogance and his tough-as-nails-superhuman-son-of-a-bitch personality aside. He was so hurt he felt no shame; he just needed to be reassured, comforted. There was nothing wrong in that; simple, raw human need. Rowan held Dani to her chest and rocked him back and forth making soothing noises, like a mother would comfort a baby. It was heartbreaking to Rowan to see this man reduced to this – a man that had no regrets, no sympathy, no scruples, scorned everything and everyone, arrogant, egotistic, self confident…’hell, he seems less human than I do’ Rowan was ranting to herself while she comforted Dani. After a while, Dani pulled himself together and went to help Suzanne finish packing. ‘Poor soul’ thought Rowan, it seemed funny to her all of a sudden that she was talking about souls when she didn’t have one of her own anymore, not for long though.
Rowan stood outside the house facing the setting sun, thinking ‘I’m in for one hell of a ride with these two people…I bet he’s going to want to get back with her and I’ll have to make it happen. Hopefully, I can...I owe it to Dani…he gave me back my life and I shall give him his…are you happy, Mephisto?’ she went on with her ranting until she felt a chill wrap itself around her and a whisper grazed her ear, saying
“You know I am happy. Soon, you will be mine…just like your ancestor, beloved. You will be quite amusing, my dear…that mortal should consider himself lucky of having a slave like you” the voice chuckled sensually in her ear making Rowan’s body tense. Rowan knew who was talking, and saucily spat out a whispered rebuttal
“I am not a slave, piss off” It was the stupidest and most infantile thing she could have ever said, not to mention the riskiest – she was talking to a vengeful demon, for fuck’s sake.
“You test my patience, beloved. I do not play games, and you know that” Mephistopheles’ presence strengthened and Rowan felt something like lips settle on her neck, laying a mocking kiss on it, making Rowan stop breathing. ‘This is his idea of amusing? What a twisted son of a bitch.’
“You judge me harshly, pet. I can be nice…very nice and understanding if you play your cards right…”
The buttons on Rowan’s shirt began to undo and an invisible hand caressed Rowan’s cheek, seducing her and teasing her.
“Stop. Don’t touch me” she warned him, the less reasonable part of her wanting to give in to his caresses, the rest of her wanting to murder the yielding part.
“You know I can continue if I want to and there is nothing you can do to stop me, but just to prove you wrong, I will stop and show you I can be nice, pet. But beware; I may not be nice next time” Mephistopheles admonished a very confused Rowan. The chill ceased to caress her and she felt cold. She snapped out of Mephisto’s spell and buttoned her shirt quickly. She looked around and walked back into the house, feeling a little frightened and uncomfortable. ‘Ugh, stupid, self righteous motherfucker’ She thought rolling her eyes at the demon’s arrogance and condescension. The sad part of this tale was he wasn’t going away soon. Everything else she felt was just wishful thinking.
“Cherie, es-tu prêt a partir? Are you ready to leave?” Suzanne asked Rowan as she closed the door behind her.
“Yes” was all Rowan could muster. She wanted to put as much distance between her and that place, unsavory memories were flooding back and she wanted to be away from Oak Haven and its surroundings. Suzanne took Rowan’s hand and squeezed it reassuringly.
“It’s over, cherie. Let us put it all behind”
‘No it’s not, and you know it’ Rowan wanted to say, but didn’t. Rowan nodded and walked to her mother’s car. She walked into the house looking for Dani, when she saw him carrying a trunk with Suzanne’s books over his shoulder without a problem.
“Dani! What are you doing? You’re sick, you can’t be doing that kind of shit” Rowan’s hands were up in the air in a dramatic gesture and tried to take the trunk from Dani
“I can bloody well do it, Rowan. Stop worrying, I feel well. Like new” he smiled at her to let her know he was okay and sidestepped her on his way to Suzanne’s car. Rowan followed him trying to read him in case he was lying; turns out, he wasn’t lying. He truly was well.
“But you are still staying with us tonight, and that’s final” Rowan half scolded.
“Look, I don’t take shit from anyone – witch, demon, slayer, or mortal – so, don’t play mother with me. I was going to stay with you anyway so you didn’t have to lecture me, thank you very bleeding much” Dani responded rudely while he loaded the trunk in the car.
“Are you always this much of an asshole? I think I like you better crying” Rowan challenged Dani. If he didn’t ‘take shit from anyone’, neither did she. She was already bossing around when he was in diapers. Four years made a difference, a big one.
“What did you say?! You forget who you’re talking to, bitch. I own you, so you’re fucked.” Dani’s comeback made Rowan almost lose it.
“I am not your slave! I am not your bitch and you do not own me. You wish you did, you English piece of imbecile!”
“What?!? You’re English too!”
“But I am not a stuck up arrogant imbecile”
“Wanna take it outside, whore?”
“We are outside, git. Bring it on, fuckface”
“You’ll be sorry, Rowan”
“I don’t think so. You should be sorry, Dani”
Dani ran toward Rowan and grabbed her by the hair and yanked it, bringing her to her knees, Rowan reciprocated the gesture grabbing Dani’s dreadlocks and pulled him to his knees and head butted him, making him scream bloody murder
“You crazy Babylonian whore!” Dani yelled
“You fight like a woman! What the fuck happened to Mr. Tough guy from Hell, huh?” Rowan laughed.
“This Mr. Tough guy is going to kick your spell-casting arse!” he flipped Rowan and caught her in a headlock, tightening his grip on Rowan’s delicate neck asphyxiating her. She screamed and kicked until she saw an opportunity to escape – Dani’s legs were spread apart and she kicked back and hit him square in the kidneys. The painful kick threw Dani off balance and he let go of Rowan’s neck. Rowan jumped away from him and charged forward and punched him in the jaw, but Dani grabbed her arm, pulled her toward him and returned the punch, splitting her lip
“You son of a bitch! You made me bleed!” Rowan roared
“You ain’t seen nothing yet!” Dani roared back between breaths.
Rowan was about to kick him in the stomach, but he dodged and tripped her. As soon as she hit the ground, he descended upon her, flipped her over, sat on her and backhanded over and over like a madman.
Just when it seemed Dani was winning, Rowan whispered: “fire in the asshole!”
And Dani’s clothes went up in flames. Dani screamed and jumped off Rowan running around in circles and cursing her
“Ah! I’m on fire! Ah! Help me!” Dani screamed helplessly while rolling on the ground. Rowan put out the fire and snickered.
“That wasn’t funny! You set me on fire! And you ruined my favorite shirt!” Dani yelled indignated
“Well, I did tell you that you would be sorry” she laughed.
“Why, you little…” Dani threatened when he was interrupted
“Children, time to go” called Suzanne from the front porch. Dani and Rowan turned to see Suzanne sitting on a wicker rocking chair, wearing sunglasses and sipping lemonade from a glass with a cocktail umbrella. Merrick sat by her side like a statue.
“Had enough, you two?” she joked, watching the two fighters turn red from embarrassment
“Mum, did you watch the whole thing…from there?” Rowan stuttered, disturbed by the fact her mother had decided to watch instead of interfere.
“Oh, I really started paying attention when you called him a piece of imbecile, before that I can’t recall much”
“Suzanne, I’m sorry. Please don’t kill me” mumbled a very embarrassed and bruised Dani, which made Suzanne cackle and slap her knee.
“Cher, I’m not going to kill you. Why would I?” she continued to laugh at them. Suzanne thought it hilarious that two thirty something year olds were using grade school language to insult each other and coming to fisticuffs like something out of Mortal Kombat. This was going to be one helluva roller coaster; she didn’t think so, she knew so. It was always funnier when it actually happened.
“Are you burnt, Dani? Rowan, check him for burns” Suzanne ordered from her wicker throne. Why Suzanne asked questions was beyond anyone, even herself. She guessed it was one of those habits that you aren’t aware of but somehow you are. Life’s protocol.
Rowan approached Dani, but he stepped back in case she decided to set him on fire…again.
He lifted the remains of his shirt to exposed unmarred skin, to Dani’s and Suzanne’s relief.
“I knew what I was doing. I only meant to scare you and make you act like a headless chicken for a little bit…I didn’t mean to barbecue you.” Rowan shrugged
“Well, you won. It scared the shit outta me. I have high tolerance for weird and crazy shit, but being on fire is a bit too much.” Dani admitted defeat. He got his ass kicked, pulled, punched and grilled by a girl; ‘at least it can’t get any more embarrassing’ Dani reasoned trying to cheer himself up in a lame and miserable way.
“I would beg to differ, ducky. You have no standards for weird because you are the meaning of weird, so being on fire should be like a day in the park or something. I’m surprised you have not been set on fire before just for shits and giggles” Rowan just kept adding insult to injury, literally.
“Oh, you know about weird…if I’m so weird, you’re not that far behind, love. This is all coming from someone who sets people ON FIRE for fun and talks to animals.” Dani was getting riled up again and Rowan’s face was looking like a good target for his fist to sink into. He had to admit, his comebacks were going from lame to lamer.
“Well, you’d talk to animals too if the person next to you was an arrogant git”
As the insult parade raged on, Suzanne locked up the house, dug her house keys out of her purse and got in her car with Merrick in the front seat.
Dani and Rowan stopped kicking the verbal crap out of each other when they heard Suzanne’s car start and she said
“Kiddies, dinner’s at eight o’clock, so be there soon. If you want to continue behaving like grade school kids, be my guests. See you later!” She blew them kisses, mocking them and drove away.
“Suzanne! Wait up” Dani tried to run after the car, but gave up soon, knowing that Suzanne was not going to stop and that he was stuck with Rowan. Life was great, just great. Bitch.
“Well, what are you waiting for? Get in the car and drive, Mr. My-Ego-Is-Bigger-Than-an 18- wheeler” more mockery from Rowan who was still sore at being called a slave and a whore, because it was true in a way. It was not like she could help it.
“You say one more fucking thing and I won’t drive you because it’s my car!” Dani added childishly, making Rowan laugh and challenge him further.
“I want to see you do that…I dare you to drive away without me.” She said to an angry Dani.
“Fine. I will”
“Fine, go ahead. See you soon” Rowan mocked him. She had no idea they were still fighting; as a matter of fact, she couldn’t even remember why in the hell they were fighting in the first place, but it was kind of funny in a way – if you were Mephisto. His version of amusing was certainly was funny unless you were in it. What a son of a damned bitch that Mephistopheles was. Although, she had to admit, this was funny.
‘He must be having a laugh…that motherfucker is a twisted one’ mused Rowan while Dani drove away yelling out the window “See you later!”
Well, she was planning on seeing him very soon. Now kind of soon.