Here I introduce you to a new member of the MacKenzie family and hopefully intrigue you a bit more. (Language warning)
Sound came first to Riley. Though she could only catch a few words, she could tell someone was yelling. She wanted to tell them to stop, that her head hurt too much for this constant barrage of noise but her lips stuck together. As sight, or in reality, the sensation of light, came to her, Riley could tell someone was very close to her. It wasn't the noisy person. It was a warm, almost hot presence that blocked out most of the light trying to reach her. She found herself grateful.
"Get the fuck away from her!" The voice now seemed familiar to Riley, though she still wished it would shut up. Screaming and profanity was not what she needed right now.
Riley flinched when the blissful shade of whoever was near her seemed to fall towards the floor. Upon opening her eyes in a squint, she could see the shape had not fallen but was squatting in front of her. A dark shape reached out towards her face and tilted it up to the light. Riley groaned and tried to drop her face back into the shadows.
"Leave her alone! Don't fucking touch her! If you hurt her, I swear I will fucking kill you!" The rabid voice was starting to drill into Riley's sore head. Though it was painful, she cracked her dry lips apart.
"Shut up, Gavin." Riley mumbled the words, unsure if they came out in a recognizable form.
"What did she say?" Gavin's voice was coming from Riley's left. She tried to turn her head but the movement made her entire body want to collapse in on itself. "Did you fucking hurt her?"
The crouched figure laughed. The sound was surprisingly deep though not mirthful.
"That's how super villains laugh." Riley said. She had meant to only think it but it seemed her brain was doing what it wanted without her permissions. "You...you laugh like a super villain."
"What is she saying?!" Gavin demanded from the bright left side of the room.
The figure, Riley had assumed him to be a man based solely on the one sound he emitted, stood up.
"I believe she wants you to stop the caterwauling." He said. "If I had to make an assumption, her head is a bit tender and you are not helping."
There was a pause in which Riley could hear a whoosh of mechanically moving air.
"She also called me a super villain." He continued. "Bit melodramatic but not entirely inaccurate."
That voice. Riley's brain slammed the words into the forefront of her consciousness. You know that voice.
She knew she wasn't thinking about Gavin. He had been the one yelling, but the low voice. The voice from the dark figure who had just stood in front of her.
You remember that voice. Riley shivered as she thought of him lifting her chin. You remember that touch.
"Age?" The name came from her sore lips without a hint of a quaver.
The shadow passed over her again before again seeming to fall to the floor. Riley opened her eyes wider, though they shrieked at the incoming light.
The man crouching before her had short black hair perfectly in place. His brown eyes were ringed by dark lashes and the skin in the corners had pleasing laugh lines. His generous mouth was also turned up in a smile that crinkled the skin. His skin looked warmly tanned, even in the unhealthy light of whatever room she was in. Riley looked at the man she had been madly in love with for years. The one, if she were being honest with herself, she still had intense feelings for even now. Even in this situation, she couldn't help wish he would touch her face again.
It had been five years since she last saw Age Jager. Five years since she...stepped out of that world.
And now you're right back in it. She thought. How stupid of you to think you could just walk away without consequences.
"Hello...Riley, is it?" Age smiled wider, showing perfectly straight white teeth.
That smile, the wolf smile, made Riley's training kick in.
She flexed the muscles in her arms and legs first to see if there was any pain and just how and by what she was being held. Her legs were cuffed at the ankle straight to the chair. Riley shifted her weight while looking down.
Damn. The chair's bolted to the concrete.
Her arms were also cuffed to the sides of the metal chair with her hands duct taped to the wrists. She had no use of her fingers and a quick flex told her she wouldn't be getting her hands out of their silver taped mitts.
Riley rolled her head on her shoulders. Her head was the only thing that hurt.
Not a blow to the head. She decided. Must have been drugged. But how and when?
Gavin began yelling for her again and Riley managed to look at him this time.
He was tied up in a similar fashion to her, though his hands didn't have duct tape. His face was red, probably from the screaming, but he seemed to be intact. His chair was bolted to a wall instead of the floor.
Riley gave a weak smile to her fiance. In looks, he was very much unlike the dark Age. Gavin's looks were almost nondescript. With mouse colored hair, cornflower blue eyes and a pale complexion, Gavin was the kind of guy who worked his entire life in the same office without ever being promoted. Gavin was staid but kind. She did love him. Maybe not in the fiercely passionate way she had felt for Age, but she loved Gavin and felt she had a future with him.
Had. She emphasized the word. The thought gave her a pain in an area above her stomach but below her heart. That pain intensified when she saw Gavin looking at her. His open face, he'd never win at poker, was full of love and deep concern for her. When his eyes flicked to Age, Riley saw an intense hatred she never would have guessed in him.
The entire exchange took only seconds but was enough for her to realize she was going nowhere unless Age decided she would. She smiled at Gavin to reassure him then looked back at Age who was still crouched, eye-level with her.
"Let him go." Riley demanded.
Age smiled his wolf smile again and shook his head.
"You have no bargaining power here." Age reached out and shook the bolted chair. "I know you've already assessed the room and your situation. Even if you did break out, do you have any idea where you are other than a concrete room?"
Riley maintained eye contact.
"Let him go." She said again.
Age reached out to move a red curl from Riley's face and tuck it behind her ear.
"I told you not to fucking touch her!" Riley could hear clanging as Gavin tried to wrench himself free from the chair. For the first time it dawned on Riley that Gavin, who cursed once in a blue moon had been uttering profanity since she woke up. This clearly was a new side of him she had yet to see.
Age tilted his head towards Gavin then back to Riley.
"Why doesn't he want me to touch you?" He asked, frowning. "What does he think I'm going to do to you?"
Riley shrugged as much as she could in her restraints.
"Does he think I might...violate you?" Riley tried not to grin at Age's word choice. If it was unlike Gavin to curse, it was even more so for Age. Despite what he was and what he did, cursing was something he never engaged in.
Again Riley shrugged.
"Maybe." She said. "I mean, you did capture us, ties us to chairs in what I can only describe as a murder room and you are singling me out for attention."
Riley nodded her head to take in her wrinkled moss green evening dress. It was hiked up, showing the tops of her stockings.
"It does look suspiciously like you might be thinking it." She summarized.
Age stood up and took a step back from Riley, a look of shock on his face.
"I would never!" He protested.
"You're not a good guy." Riley said. "You already admitted that."
"That doesn't mean my mind would go there." Age smoothed his face of emotion until only a small frown remained. This he turned on Gavin.
"Mr. Davies, I assure you, while my intentions in getting you both here tonight are not of a legal nature, I would never stoop to...sexual molestation." Age closed his eyes and gave a small shake of his head as if to clear the idea from his mind.
Riley couldn't help it. She laughed. The idea of Age's utter disgust that someone might think him a common rapist brought the absurdity of the entire situation to a head. Both men looked at her in concern.
"He won't touch me." Riley said when she caught her breath. "He has never once in his life touched me or anyone else in a sexual manner." She looked Age straight in the eyes when she emphasized the last two words. Age's frown stayed put but he seemed somewhat mollified by her words.
"Not that I believe it is any of your business, but I happen to be asexual." Age told Gavin while still looking at Riley. "I will assume you don't know much about it, but I will tell you that, in my case since those who identify as asexual can do so in myriad ways, I simply do not feel sexual attraction for men or women. I never have and doubt I ever will. It does make the job easier."
Age looked at Gavin now. Riley felt a stab of pain again. She had been passionately in love with Age but he had...been Age. He could be kind, despite what he was, but he had made it very clear when he first realized her affections for him that it wasn't going to happen. He explained that what she was looking for in a relationship wouldn't be fulfilled with him.
"I do not feel this is the proper time or place to explain this, but since I don't plan on killing you, I might as well educate you. When you do leave here, you will have a bit more knowledge and perhaps a desire to learn more about people around you." Age moved to a metal table, also bolted to the floor, and leaned against it. He could now see both of his captives. "I assume Riley has told you nothing about me. Or about herself, I will assume."
He raised his eyebrows and frowned deeper.
"Must I continually call you Riley?" He asked. "It doesn't suit you, and frankly it seems a bit unimaginative given your bloodline and coloring."
Riley wanted to blush but managed to quell the reaction. Age was right and she hated it. She couldn't have found a more stereotypical Irish sounding name unless she had stuck an O' on to it. Her red curls, pale skin and green eyes did make her alias name choice seem pathetically unimaginative.
"That life was left behind me when I walked away from the last job." Riley said. "The name died with it."
"But, Riley?" Age gave a small shake of his head. "I'm afraid it will all come out before the night's over so I will overrule you in this instance."
Age looked at Gavin.
"My name is Age Jager." He formally introduced himself. "I know you to be Gavin Davies and this," Age gestured towards Riley. "Is my former partner, in the work related sense, Tana MacKenzie, known these last five years as Riley Kavanagh."
Age shook his head again. Riley was starting to find this tick getting on her nerves when she knew she used to find it so adorable.
"Do you want to explain things to your fiance or will I?" Age asked her.
Riley looked at Gavin's shocked face. She could see a a trace of hurt warring with disbelief.
"Tell me why we're here." Riley said. "You already said you wouldn't kill us, so you must want something. Tell me what it is so we can go."
"I believe you will find I was speaking directly to Mr. Davies when I said that." Age leaned back further until the table was taking his full weight. "I did not extend that offer to you."
"If you wanted me dead, it would have happened already." Riley countered. "You managed to drug me. I'm guessing you had something put into our food or drink at the party. If you got past my defenses there, you would have finished the job. You're not one for the whole 'let me tell you my evil plan before I kill you, Mr. Bond' type villain."
Age crossed his arms over his chest.
"I did not want you dead then because, as you have guessed, I need something." He admitted. "However, should you turn me down, it doesn't mean I will let you live."
Age's voice lowered until it was almost a growl.
"I also never said I would let Mr. Davies go in one piece." His words were very much a promise. "Alive simply means that."
Riley felt an icy shiver up her back and she had to fight to keep eye contact with Age.
"Do want you want to me but let Ri..Riley go." Riley felt hurt by Gavin's hesitation at saying her name.
Age frowned in Gavin's direction.
"You have nothing I need." Age said. "You are here because I believe my dear Tana may love you. If this is true, she won't let you suffer much. However," here he turned back to Riley, "I don't think it needs to come to that. I think once Tana hears my proposition, you will be let go in one solid piece, minus a fiance, of course."
Riley lowered her head. Her life as Riley Kavanagh was over and she knew it. All she could do at this point was keep Age from hurting Gavin any more than he already had. While it was Riley who looked down, it was Tana who looked up.
"I don't care what you want." Tana said. "Let Mr. Davies go and you have an automatic yes from me. I'll be back in the fold, so to speak. He doesn't need to know any more than he already does. You tell him more, he becomes a liability to the Covenant. Telling him our names is already something no one outside the Covenant should know."
Age grinned widely and clapped his hands.
"I told them I could bring you back." Age smiled and walked towards Tana to place a hand on her shoulder. "There's a war coming and it is necessary we gather our strength. We've always known where you were, but it was deemed appropriate for you to have some time away after...well, you were there."
Tana clenched her teeth and fought to keep the images from rising. She couldn't stop the nightmares after Angel's Fall, but she could force the thoughts to the back of her mind when awake.
Age, still with a hand on her shoulder, knelt eye level with Tana. He looked truly sorry for her. In that instant, she felt an old well of the love she had for him rise up.
"There's no other way." Age said in a gentle voice. "I argued to leave you in your make-believe world, but They insisted you were needed. I would rather you come back to us with an air of compliance."
Age smoothed back another curl and softened his voice.
"Perhaps...perhaps after its over, should we win...perhaps." Age lowered his eyes. "Perhaps you can start again, a new life with a new name. In this moment, you are needed far more than that man over there needs you. We can make him forget, if that helps. Stage an accident where he wakes up with amnesia and you are gone, lost to the sea. You can make him forget."
Rebel tears spilled from Tana's eyes despite her best efforts.
"I love him, Age." She said quietly. "I loved my normal, boring life with him."
Age nodded. She knew he didn't understand completely. He had been born to the Creed, whereas she had remembered a life before it. She remembered a time when the monsters she believed in were imaginary and her fears were easily soothed away. The Lovecraftian nightmare she came to know couldn't be forgotten no matter how much she had tried.
"If you truly hold any love for him, you must come back." Age said. His voice was still gentle. "Without you we may lose this war and what will his life be then? Do you think he's ready to learn of the Horrors? Humanity cannot defeat them but we can. We know Them."
Tana with tears streaming down her face, looked towards Gavin. He had gone silent, straining to hear the whispered conversation between her and Age.
"Why now?" She asked. "What has happened that makes me so necessary?"
Age sighed, causing Tana to turn back towards him.
"Your cousin." He said quietly.
"Phil?" Tana didn't believe it. "He quit the family. He's a detective in Louisiana. He's straight now." She could hear herself babbling the words and bit down to stop the flow.
Age reached into his pocket and brought out a small knife. He carefully cut into Tana's wrappings. Once the the tape was gone, he unlocked her cuffs before placing the keys into her tingling hands.
"He's back in the fold, so to speak." Age stood up and began to walk towards a door Tana hadn't previously seen. She knew Age had kept her from seeing it and marveled at just how weak-willed she'd become over the last 5 years.
Tana followed his progress. At the door, he stopped and turned towards Tana one last time.
"He's become a Finder." Age's voice came to closest to fear Tana had ever heard. "I won't force you, Tana, but we do need you. Should you choose the side of the angels--" He quickly cut off his words, seeming to regret the choice. "Should you wish to help us again, you know how to locate me."
Age walked out of the room, leaving the door open so she could see a well-lit warehouse beyond.
Tana looked at the keys in her hand and turned towards Gavin who could no longer meet her eyes.
"The blood of the Covenant is thicker than the water of the womb." She whispered to herself, knowing what she was left her no choice as to what she had to do..
My lofty dreams of being a famous & brilliant writer were literally smacked out of my head. Now I plan to fill the void with copious amounts of subpar writing!