This is for KC who 1) begged me to put a new story on the website and 2) threatened me to add her to the Mac/Ferrymen Inc universe.
Her prompt was 'imagine meeting your ex in the middle of the woods while they are at the edge of a cliff'. (Not apologizing for the direction this took, KC, bc, like most unknown woodland paths, we don't always know where they will take us)
If this feels like an unfinished snippet, I won't take offense. The M/FI world is growing more and more complex and many of the shorts I'm writing for it are simply introductions to characters and ideas. When/If I choose to bring all of this together, these small stories will be immensely helpful to avoid too much world-building.
The dog pulled right instead of going straight down the normal trail. Not wanting to start out the walk in a bad mood, Kelsie let him go where he wanted. The trail was familiar to both woman and beast but was rarely used due to the hilly terrain and the lack of shade. It being a cool morning at the beginning of autumn, the trail would be more pleasant than usual.
It wasn't until they were about a quarter mile up that Kelsie noticed the vegetation lining the trail. She'd been too wrapped up in her own thoughts to even consider the fact that the plants on either side of her had a strip of dead growth.
Stopping to take in the view, she immediately felt the hairs on her arm stand up. This wasn't a prescribed burn. No burn would be able to make a perfectly sized line right down the middle of the rest of the growth. It was more as if someone had spilled industrial weed killer about a foot away from the main path. The forest beyond was green and healthy, as was the grass that touched the trail. It was a simple strip of brown that made Kelsie realize her little nature preserve was not the safe environment she had assumed.
Part of her wanted to drag the dog back to the car and drive off. The other half, the half that got her into the most trouble and definitely came from her mother's side of the family, was curious to see who or what lay at the end of the damage. She could make guesses, but wouldn't know unless she found a tangible trace. Kelsie could get that trace if she were willing to step into the path of death, but her father's cautious nature was in her as much as her mother's incautious one. To say the two battled in her constantly would be to ignore the fact that she rarely listened to either before doing whatever she wanted.
The real reason she didn't turn around was the little brown and white pup she was walking. He sniffed from one side of the trail to the other but didn't seem unduly worried about the warning omen less than a foot from his snout. If he wasn't scared by whatever created the dead path, she figured it was good enough for her.
The two continued at a more sedate pace than the dog would have preferred. Kelsie didn't know how far the dead path stretched and briefly wondered how new it could be. If the park rangers weren't aware of it, it would only be a matter of time before their attention fell on it. It also meant the damage was more recent than it looked.
After two miles the trail split. The dead path continued down the disused trail and, of course, the little pup wanted to follow it. Kelsie took a deep breath and stepped off the manicured trail to head into the woods. The dirt trail grew rockier and had more grass and weed coverage though the dead path didn't fade.
"If it has to be a demon, let it be one I know." Kelsie whispered as she continued down the tree lined path. "I don't think Jada would appreciate it if I let her dog get consumed."
The path curved round a bend then came out at a beautiful cliff ledge. The water below glistened in the early morning sunlight and a lone figure sat on the edge. His dark tousled hair gave you the urge to run your hand through it and something about him made you want to touch him.
Kelsie nearly laughed with relief at the sight of the man sitting forlornly on the ground. He turned a pair of dark soulful eyes on her before giving her a grin that would have melted the very soul of most people.
He rose, limbs moving in fluid motions that would have made undulating waves envious of his easy grace. Everything about him was designed to elicit the more sensual side of human emotions. Kelsie was immune to his effect, but still liked the idea he never bothered to 'turn it off'' around her.
"You were not what I was expecting." His low baritone vibrated through her midsection.
"I would say the same thing, though I hope my presence isn't unwelcome." Kelsie held the leash as the dog whined to get nearer to the new person.
The man smiled at the dog then back at Kelsie.
"It is always a pleasure to see you," the man placed both hands behind his back. "May I ask why you searched for me? I am not, as far as I know, emitting."
Kelsie took a deep breath through her nose. She could pick up none of the telltale scent of pheromones that would be ever present were the incubus hunting.
"You left a death trail," she said simply. "Diya, did you really not notice?"
She waved a hand behind her to show the identical dead grass trails that ran along.
The incubus tilted his head in a fetching way and frowned at the patches of grass.
"Not mine," he said simply. "Those are death hound trails. I did not bring them with me, but Creek is running her hounds today."
Kelsie's breath caught in her throat. How she had missed the trail of death hounds was beyond her. How the dog at her side didn't freak out about them was another mystery she would need to solve. She was going to give Jada a stern talking to about the lack of training her mutt had as soon as she got back to the house. Assuming she did get back. Creek had never liked Kelsie and would have no problems turning her death hounds loose for sport.
"She's not here," Diya was looking down at the small dog who still whimpered for his attention. "What is this?"
Kelsie also turned her attention to the dog.
"Do you mean breed?" She asked, still worried about the new revelation of the park's visitors. "Because I have no clue. He's Jada's dog, not mine. I'm just doing her a favor while her leg heals."
Diya frowned again.
"No, what is it?" he emphasized. "Not a death hound. Not a construct."
Kelsie did laugh at this.
"It's just a dog, Di, nothing else."
The incubus shook his head.
"Everything is something else." He said in a grave tone, crouching to examine it from a safe distance. "You and I know that more than most."
Kelsie shrugged and sat on the grass to pet the mutt that strained to get to the incubus.
"Dogs aren't like that." She said. "Dogs are simply what they are and this one wants you to pet it."
Diya stood straight and backed away from the pair.
"If this does belong to Jada, I should not touch it." He sounded regretful. "She would not like if took any part of it's short life."
Kelsie reached under the dog's neck to show Diya the flat disc hidden among the rabies and registration tags.
"You will take nothing from him." Kelsie said, flipping up the symbol on the back. "Do you want to pet him?"
The incubus broke out into a smile that Keslie knew was genuine. He walked over to the pair and sat in the grass. His face beamed as the small dog climbed into his lap for attention. The incubus sighed happily and scratched the dog behind the ears with both hands while telling him he was a good boy.
Kelsie didn't laugh again. Her heart pained her as she watched the demon so thoroughly gleeful to be petting the dog. It had never occurred to her that an incubus could be lonely.
Only once the dog had settled with it's head on Diya's lap and the pets became slower and rhythmic did Diya acknowledge her presence again.
"I like real dogs," Diya's tone was conversational. "They are nothing like death hounds."
Kelsie shook her head but didn't respond.
"Why did you never have a dog?" The incubus asked, turning his dark eyes on her. "When we were together, I mean. I could have cared for it. I would have cared for it."
The question startled Kelsie, as did the emotion in Diya's face. It wasn't the placid, sensual mask he normally wore, but was raw and intense in a way she had never seen on any demon that wasn't actively trying to kill her. To her utter amazement, she realized Diya looked hurt.
"I don't know what to say to that," Kelsie admitted. "I guess I didn't take you for a dog person. You could have one of your own, you know. Though, I don't know who would watch it while you worked."
Diya dropped his eyes back to the content pup at his feet.
"I don't want a dog of my own," he did not raise his eyes to hers. "I wanted a dog with you."
"Seriously?" Kelsie's voice came out sharper than she intended it. "You're an immortal incubus. What we had wasn't a relationship. It was...a fling. You couldn't get my soul, which was a novelty for you and I was curious to see how well trained your kind actually was. It was fun but we both went in to it knowing what it was."
Diya still looked down at the dog he was petting. His sensual lips were pressed into a hard line.
"We could have been happy," his voice was barely a whisper. "I could have made you happy if that--" Diya's voice hardened as he floundered for a good curse. Finding none, he simply sighed a name in frustration.
"Mac?" Kelsie echoed the name Diya said. She had no clue how to handle this conversation. It was surreal to her. "You think Mac is the reason we're not together?"
Diya did look up this time. She could feel a heat surge from him. Even the dog, which had been sleeping, yelped and ran towards Kelsie. She sat quietly, knowing the incubus wouldn't dare try to hurt her. She knew for a fact that his sudden anger wasn't directed at her.
"He is truly evil," Diya's voice quavered with fury. "No matter what you think of my kind, that man is the real unholy abomination."
Kelsie blinked a few times in confusion.
"But I was never in a relationship with Mac," Keslie said, not bothering to dispute Diya's claim about the other man's personality. "We...we're cousins. Didn't you know that? What in the hell made you think we were in a relationship?"
As if a candle's flame caught in a sudden gust of wind, Diya's anger flickered then went out completely. The incubus before her opened his mouth several times like a fish out of water.
"You...you left me after he came along," Diya's voice held no command. "You cast me out of your life and never gave me a reason. You just left me and went away with him."
Understanding hit Kelsie full in the face. Even the dog seemed to feel the utter despair that now wafted from the demon. The pup slunk low, tail thumping until he was curled up in Diya's lap again.
"Holy hell," Kelsie did not think about the irony of her words. "You were in love with me."
Diya lifted his head, his eyes blazing as they locked with Kelsie's.
"I am in love with you," he held himself proudly while still petting the dog in his lap.
Kelsie propped one elbow on her crossed thigh and bit down on the edge of her thumbnail. The two sat staring at each other for a full minute. Diya blinked and looked away first, the fire in his eyes flickering out.
"Earlier you called my cousin an unholy abomination," Kelsie's voice was hard. "I won't tell you he's not. Our family line is...a little bit different. That much you could sense."
Diya did not meet her eyes again.
"I'm not a demon," Kelsie continued, "and neither is Mac. That bloodline you claim, that whole angelic/demonic struggle that most humans are so eager to write books about is not what I am. You know how earthbound your kind actually is, don't you?"
Kelsie let the little knot in her stomach unfurl. She felt the pulsing blood as the small part of her she always kept a tight control over race through her being, filling her with power.
The whimper that she heard came not from the small dog, but from the incubus as he saw Kelsie's full birthright bloom.
"You know there are things to fear," Kelsie's voice was no longer recognizable to her ears. It pulsed from her mind into Diya's, who was cowering and cradling the dog in his lap as if to protect it. "I am the thing to fear. I fear no hell for I am the hell. Do you still love me, knowing what I could do to you?"
Diya buried his face in the dog's fur and shook until Kelsie reigned her essence back into a little knot like her mother had shown her so many years ago. Soon no trace of the terrible power could be seen or felt.
"I won't hurt you, Diya," Kelsie's voice was her own again but it still caused the incubus to shiver. It was some minutes before the demon released the dog and managed to shakily look up at Kelsie. He flinched when his eyes met hers, but with great effort he gathered his courage.
Diya took a deep breath and slowly let it out.
"Your power is old," the demon said, voice still quavering. "Older than mine and older than this earth."
Kelsie nodded but said nothing.
"Your kind...I had only heard stories," Diya's words came in short bursts. "Tales to frighten us. Tales of beings that sired our own in the dark days before the True Formation....I thought them only lore."
Kelsie stood, tugging gently on the dog's leash. It reluctantly left the incubus' lap.
"We've always been here," Kelsie said. "I'm not the first nor will I be the last. Our bloodline will continue."
Kelsie started to walk back the way she had come, but turned after only a few steps to Diya who still sat on the ground, head in hands.
"Seeing that we do have a history together, I'll let you in on a secret," Kelsie waited for Diya to look at her before continuing. "A change is coming. My family seeks to bring the true glory of our bloodline back to this plane. If I were you, I would be very careful as to who or what I aligned myself with in the coming years."
Diya didn't turn his gaze from Kelsie's at the news as she had expected. Instead, he stood up and walked towards her. He reached a tentative hands towards her face. When she didn't move, Diya's warm fingers brushed back a few strands of Kelsie's hair that had fallen from its band.
"I would die by your side, even if it meant Hell itself was torn apart," he said, looking into her eyes. "Say the word and I am at your command."
Kelsie grinned, only one corner of her mouth arching up.
"They always say you should never get back with an ex because it only leads to regret," Kelsie said, "but this...this could be fun."
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!