Elves held more in common with Humans than they allowed themselves to be aware of. Similar facial features, build, yet what set them apart was the air of superiority Elves carried and the indignant attitude they could show with anyone not catering to their whim. They were the upper echelon and normally Athena would avoid them. She never had a reason to travel into Elf District. Not until her friend, Sabriel -an elf- managed to become engaged to a wealthy Elven lawyer. Even so, Athena never thought she would be riding, chauffeured, into the sparkling glass city towards their shared apartment home. She couldn’t help but bite her bottom lip as they passed ‘Elf Only’ signs, the pale faces of those walking from store to store, and the sweet smell of clean air; quite the opposite of West Compton and the Edmond Housing Projects. Clutching her bag, Athena wondered just how she would blend in among the Elves. It was one thing to visit her friend, but it was an entirely different thing to travel with them on this destination wedding.
She tried many times to decline. After seeing the ornate invitation, she knew she couldn’t afford it, especially when Paris was the location. Traveling had always been a wish of hers, but it was never in the budget. At least not when she only had a few months to prepare for it. That didn’t include extra money for spending, but her Elven friend promised her it was all taken care of. On the trip she wouldn’t have to worry about anything.
Athena didn’t want to take advantage of Sabriel, or her fiancé, but when the blond green eyes elf practically begged her to go, and later be in the wedding, she couldn’t take the second-hand embarrassment and agreed, but only if she could at least pay for her own hair and flight. It was an odd compromise, but Sabriel wanted Athena there and agreed to the terms.
Driving through the Elf District just slapped her with that memory, reminding her of who and what she was dealing with. They were out of her league and she knew they were going to remind her of it. Before she could tell the driver to take her back home, and possibly incur his anger, the sleek black town car pulled into the pristine marble parking garage of Sabriel’s building. As he should, the driver opened her door and grabbed her suitcase from the trunk for her.
She thanked him, and he departed, leaving her to walk the garage towards the elevators alone. Glass elevator doors opened as she pressed the button for the floor she wanted to go to. Inside the elevator was just as immaculate; marble flooring, reflective gold sidings, matching marble, and gold floor buttons. She was sure the circular orb in the top corner was a camera with audio and color picture. She couldn’t even say it was boarder line gaudy, because it was designed impeccably well.
Athena looked up from the flooring as a long hallway with a singular door at the ended opened to her. She double checked the apartment number and made sure she was at the right place. It was the only door on its floor, save for the emergency stairwell to the right and left of the elevator. Dragging her peach tone suitcase, Athena made mental notes in her head trying to put aside the anxiety of being around so many Elves. Of being out of place. Before she could know, the door swung open. Sabriel engulfed her in a tight hug before stepping aside to let her in. She didn’t need to know that everyone else was here, early, she could hear them chattering just around the corner.
A body floated up to them and with a small gesture took Athena’s bag where she assumed the others were. Holding onto the cross-body bag, Athena looked around the foyer. She’d only been here one other time and she still marbled over the architecture.
“I am so glad you came,’ Sabriel held a half-drunk flute of champagne in her hand, which nearly sloshed out onto the floor when she extended her hand. “Everyone else came early, so don’t think you are late.”
“Are you sure about this,’ Athena asked. Sabriel’s well arched brow rose. “I mean,’
“Oh no. You don’t get to bail out on me now Athena! Lysander was even excited about you coming and you now it takes a lot to get him excited!”
She had to admit Lysander was a nice person. Her perception of Humans wasn’t that they were inferior, just different, and after discovering Athena could speak Övüsi, among other languages, his interest in his fiancé’s human friend grew to somewhat of a friendship between them.
“I want you here. We want you here, Athena. I don’t think this would be fun if I didn’t have you to talk shit with every night.”
Sabriel led them to her bedroom, opposite of where everyone else was before depositing her glass on the dresser next to the door.
“Should I be in here? I mean, aren’t Elves you know…. territorial?”
“Only with people we love and are bound to, besides, knowing Lysander, he’d think we were doing something and would ask to watch. Men are pigs, regardless of the race,’ she joked, though Athena found it less than funny. She walked to a large four mirrored vanity and from it she picked up a black envelop. As she grew closer, Athena could see her name scrawled on the front in white ink.
“What is this,’ she asked while working open the wax seal. Her fingers brushed against something rectangular and plastic and she shoved it back toward Sabriel. “I can’t take this.”
Closing her hands around Athena’s Sabriel shook her head. “Please do. The last thing we want is for you to feel let out when we do go to dinners and shop. Think of it as an early birthday gift okay and whatever you don’t use, keep it for something else.”
“I’m not a,’
“Charity case, Athena, fuck, we know, okay? Just let us do this. I would never set you up, especially around these snobby ass motherfuckers.” She mumbled.
“Should I ask how much?”
“I won’t tell you.”
Arm in arm, Sabriel led Athena back to the others sitting around the living space. Multiple sets of eyes looked in their direction and Athena tried to put on a natural smile, though she was sure it looked like a grimace. Lysander was the first to speak, his loud boisterous voice making Athena wave in his direction. He walked over, dressed to the nines, and pulled her into a hug.
“Glad you made it. I thought Sabriel was going to call the wedding off if you didn’t come.”
“Yeah, I highly doubt that, you two were meant for each other.”
Sabriel cut in with a swift head shake, ‘I had the wedding coordinator on speed dial.”
Pushing her fiancé away, Sabriel led Athena to everyone. She was greeted tersely. She knew when someone was looking down their nose at her and no matter how much Sabriel tried, she wasn’t going to sell a human being in their presence as being okay. She knew Elves were the upper echelon, but the ones in front of her? They were clearly in a whole different league of power, that much she could feel from their icy stares and sharp, in-genuine, greetings.
It didn’t take a rocket science to know she really wasn’t wanted around. The next week was going to be a whirlwind.
“If we are done fawning over the Human can we get back to the matters at hand?”
A woman, tall, slender, with long white hair and sharp gold eyes stepped into the room. At the crease of her arm was a gold and cream Chanel bag, clearly custom as Athena had never seen it on the shelves and trunks of bootleg stores. On her face were a pair of large circular shades with nearly black lenses. Her wear was just as elegant; linen pants and a smooth peach tone blouse. Gold heels completed the look of rich soccer mom and Athena honestly wanted to laugh. For so much money, they dressed, no better, like normal rich people. They just had pointed ears and unusual eyes.
“Melisandre,’ Lysander disregarded his sister’s grand entrance, but acknowledged her presence none the less.
Athena watched as she greeted Sabriel. Growing in West Compton, Athena knew when someone was fake. Just from the way they two women hugged, she knew Melisandre was anything but real.
“We have the venue, the catering, the music, flowers, dresses, and yet Sabriel hasn’t determined who will stand beside her as her maid of honor!”
“I’ve already chosen my best man,’ Lysander brought his flute of champagne to his lips, finishing off the golden liquid in one smooth gulp. “Kandomere,’ Lysander pointed his empty glass to the glass patio where another Elf stood.
Athena took in his thicker figure, broad shoulders and chest encased in a bespoke custom blue pin stripe suit. It was a well-structured and fitted to his form and from here she could see diamond cuff links in his crisp white shirt. Beneath the jacket of the suit was a purple vest. Rounding out his look were a pair of black shoes. He looked like he had an important job. The only unusual thing she could say about him was his blue hair. She’d seen many Elves, but they all had ‘normal’ hair colors.
Sabriel had mentioned Lysander’s friend before, but this is the first time Athena laid eyes on him.
“That is wonderful,’ Melisandre said though she looked to Sabriel. “Well, sister, have you decided?”
She couldn’t help herself and eyes fell on her when she let out and snort or laughter. Athena sobered quickly when she realized she had made that noise aloud. Turning away, she focused on a new glass of champagne.
“I thought long and hard about it. There is only one person I would ever ask. I mean, we use to talk about this all the time. I Just thought she would get married before me. She has such a good heart and I would be foolish not to ask you,’ Athena felt a hand on her shoulder and turned around to see Sabriel, teary eyed and smiling, ‘would you be my maid of honor?”
“I stand behind no human!” Melisandre shouted suddenly.
Athena took Sabriel’s hands in her owns. “I don’t want to make waves,”
“Don’t let what someone else thinks make you say no Athena.”
Athena nodded, this meant a lot to Sabriel and she didn’t want to let her down. She couldn’t live at the whim of others. If she was going to last this week, she couldn’t let the will of Melisandre stop her. They were both adults and letting another adult boss her around wasn’t how she planned to spend this holiday.
Sabriel yanked Athena into a tight hug just as the sliding doors of the patio opened.
“Tell me you are not canceling my friend,’ Lysander walked over to Kandomere who shook his head.
“I gave you my word.” He replied, Athena looked up curiously after Sabriel released her. Kandomere had an equally unusual accent that sounded very thick, earthy if that was possible. He was not a native American that was for sure.
She watched Kandomere and Lysander talk among each other, a few inside jokes had the two Elves smiling. Dimples formed in Kandomere’s cheeks as Lysander said something that brought humor to him. They weren’t the normal circular dimples she was used to seeing in children. They were longer, forming half circles around his mouth. Unique. Something fluttered in Athena’s stomach. It was a foreign feeling and it made her a little nauseous.
She wanted to excuse herself, but Lysander led Kandomere in her direction. She stood, stuck, in place because fleeing now would seem rude. Cologne filled her nose as they grew closer, mere inches apart she felt like she was falling apart. Sabriel nudged her side and Athena noticed that Kandomere had spoken to her.
Kandomere had seen her when she arrived earlier. Among the expensive furniture and ornate decorations, she wore a plain black dress. The thin straps tied around her neck and the low back gave him a glimpse of a tattoo in a language he didn’t understand but looked familiar to him in some way. In a city of slender women and long legs, Athena stood almost a whole foot shorter than him with thick thighs and a slight hour glass shape. He caught himself staring as Sabriel had led them down the hall, the way her hips swayed when she walked.
He was never one to turn away thoughts of women or bedding them. Elves and human alike had kept his sheets occupied, however, none such at this captured his attention in such a way. To say the very least? He was intrigued.
“Kandomere,’ he repeated. He realized something was amiss in her gaze. She seemed out of it. Maybe because there were so many Elves around her.
Finally, she placed her hand in his own.
The small dainty fingers felt foreign to him. Her grip was loose as he shook her hand. Before Lysander could utter how this was the human that spoke fluent Övüsi, she excused herself to the bathroom. Sabriel followed, he wasn’t the only one that could smell something wrong. For a second time he watched her, jaw loosely clenched as the rounds of her bottom, dare he think it, jiggled, with each step. A growing need he realized, catching himself before it could show to those around him. He didn’t need his lust smelled by anyone in the room, save himself.
“She really is a sweet girl. Sabriel’s been trying to warm her up since she told her about the wedding. I think she’s nervous being around us.”
“We can be an intimidating race.” Kandomere stated.
Lysander suddenly smiled and Kandomere eyed him, his face betraying no emotion, though he was curious. “You have more contact with humans, maybe you can help her adjust or something. Melisandre is already upset about her being here.”
“I am no human keeper.”
“I don’t want to break up any fights.” He tensed as his sister followed behind Sabriel and Athena. “Nor do I want my fiancé to have to pick.”
“You know the outcome of her choice?”
Swallowing, Lysander nodded. “Like I said, Athena is a sweet girl. I have no reason to hate humans or her. She’s does nothing but make Sabriel happy. I want her to stay happy.”
Kandomere flipped his wrist towards him to glance down at his watch. He did enough human watching with his job at the Magical Task Force. He sighed, and Lysander clapped his back.
“At least until she feels comfortable, my friend.”
“I knew I could count on you.”
Athena made it to the bathroom with Sabriel on her heels. She managed to turn the corner before the Elf and lock the door behind her after getting inside the bathroom. Athena rested her body against the door heavily, exhaling deeply as she tried to refocus her thoughts. She looked down at her right wrist as they swarmed with heat suddenly. Elven script inked into her brown skin glittered like gold.
Her mouth mumbled the words and just as quickly as the script appeared, if vanished. Only then did the dizzy feeling stop. Athena turned on the faucet and ran cool water on her hands. She splashed a little on her face, hoping it quickly cooled.
Three hard knocks and Athena dried her hands and face before opening the door with a half-smile. Sabriel and Melisandre stood there waiting for an explanation of her abrupt departure.
“Are you alright?” Sabriel asked worriedly. Melisandre was less than concerned. “You spaced out. I thought you were going to be sick.”
“It’s fine, everything is fine.”
Athena tried to reassure Sabriel everything was okay, but the look on the other woman’s face said it all.
“You’re lying,’ Melisandre said. “I didn’t even have to smell the deceit on you to know that. You humans are so easy to read.”
Athena didn’t forget the abilities Elves possessed. Their heightened sense of smell, the ability to read minds, the strength, all of it kept Athena on edge when she was around them. She couldn’t keep them out of her head, so she always kept her thoughts on a mental lock down around them. If they peered too much they would hit a black wall. Keeping an empty head was physically draining and gave her headaches, but until she wasn’t around them, it would have to stay up; even if it was just her and Sabriel.
To ease some of the concern Sabriel was wearing on her face, Athena pursed her lips and tried to say this without causing a huge commotion.
“You remember my father, when we went to see him last year?”
A smile came to the woman’s face as she recalled the memory. “That festival was amazing, what about him?”
“I’m twenty-one in a few weeks.” Athena looked down at her wrist before securing eye contact with Sabriel. “I thought he was lying when he mentioned that…. that, thing is real. My father doesn’t know specifics, just the overall outcome. He’s going to be happy and freak out at the same time when I tell him.”
There was a pause of silence and Sabriel’s grin spread across her red painted lips. Athena let out a squawk as she was yanked up and off her feet into a hug. “That’s so good,’ she whispered, and Athena just wanted it to go away.
Sabriel placed her friend back on the floor and cupped her own cheeks with a toothed smiled. “Well,’ she said, her eyes trailing back to the other room.
“No. I will deal with all of that later. It’s not important right now.”
Melisandre knew something was not right with the human. There was no scent of sickness and she could not pry into the human’s brain for the answer she so desperately sought out. She would find out and reveal the human for the lowly being she was.
“I hope we do not plan on acting like an insecure petulant attention seeking child for the next week.”
Melisandre stormed off, her heels clicking along the tile flooring until it was unheard. Fiddling with her fingers, Athena had to get herself together before she went back into the living room.
“Can I ask who it is now? I never seen anything like what happened out there with you.”
Athena never felt anything like that before. Sure, she had crushes on boys in school, some back where her father lives, but she never acted on them. When guys did approach her, and they dated, it never made her feel the tingles she had just now. The warmth that spread from her belly to her limbs was comforting. The steely gaze of his eyes and the feel of his hand in her, Athena had been overwhelmed that first encounter; it was a sensory overload. All five senses engaged at once with the man that she was forever bound to now.
“You should say something,’ Sabriel insisted when Athena avoided her prior questioning. “You don’t want that hurting,’
“I’m not saying anything.”
“Who is it!”
Sabriel would ask and ask until Athena gave in, that much the young human knew. With a hand pressed to her forehead she made Sabriel vow not to say anything. An Elf giving their word meant more than any oath and she knew Sabriel would not go back on it.
Giddy, Sabriel listened intently. “The um……accent, sort of, the one with blue hair,’ she finally spoke, knowing Sabriel would guess is right away. There was only one Elf in the apartment with blue colored hair. As realization set in, Sabriel’s giddy smile turned into and undignified squeal of excitement.
“Very unexpected turn of events, but that makes it more intriguing.”
“Do not say anything. I think I’ve embarrassed myself enough for the day.”
“That’s a minor setback!”
Athena rolled her eyes. “I almost threw up. That is past being a minor setback.”
“He would understand.”
“I don’t want to risk that right now,’ Athena replied. “I can make it through the week. It might just be a fleeting thing. It could be just some wrong thing that’s not actually the thing I’m thinking it is.”
“You’re going to over think it.”
Rubbing her temples, Athena bit down on her bottom lip. The mental block was going to be harder to keep up. Her father had mentioned it was only fair to let it down. “It’s not really him. I’m just surrounded by Elves and maybe the opulence of it all triggered something.”
“That sounds like bullshit,’ Sabriel replied. “Complete. Utter. Bullshit.”
They returned to the group after what seemed like forever. Kandomere could still feel that something was amiss. Sabriel had a smile on her face which widened when he met Sabriel’s eyes. He was a well reserved man, so when Athena rejoined the group he watched her without watching her. He could hear the rise and fall of her chest as she breathed or how she moved around the room until she was seated on the couch, just out of reach but still apart of the group. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see she had crossed her legs, warm brown thighs made his mouth water and he was thankful for the waiter passing by with tumbles of whiskey.
Kandomere started to wonder if she was as sweet as Lysander said her to be. He took a few steps across the room as Lysander and Sabriel went through their itinerary for the week. Sightseeing, wine tasting, and other frivolous activities Kandomere was less than enthused about. He wasn’t even sure why he agreed to the entire week in the first place. MTF Headquarters had many case he could have at least gotten a head start on. Instead, he was packed for an entire week out of the country. Mindless days of nothing culmination into one night he only needed to be present for. It was a traditional wedding with all the pomp and circumstance that comes with high Elven society.
“Everyone has their own portion of the suite, but pretty much everyone is paired off and share a living area and kitchen, but I don’t think we’d be cooking that much this week. There are dozens of restaurants I want us all to try.”
Lysander wrapped an arm around his wife waist as he spoke. There were two other women and men gathered, bringing the wedding party to a grand total of nine. And odd number if everyone was sharing, but she figured she was the odd one out. That wasn’t an issue, she much rather has a suite to herself if it meant peace at the end of the day.
“And I know she hates surprises like this, but Athena,’ Sabriel said in a loose sing-song voice. Kandomere managed to make his way to the couch she was sitting at and before sitting he loosened the buttons on his suit jacket. He saw a full cushion away, but he could see Athena grip the couch beneath her fingers.
“Could you maybe sing that song?” Sabriel asked. “At the wedding, the one from the festival.”
Melisandre furrowed her brow, mostly because Kandomere had chosen to sit near the human and so much attention was being shifted to the human! Unacceptable. And what was this festival they kept referring to? She herself had been to every festival this year and last. That human had never been on the guest list or even one of the hired help.
“Oh, that wasn’t really a love song Sabriel.”
“I still loved it and you have a beautiful voice.”
Kandomere sat there, intrigued at what this song could be and that Lysander and Sabriel though it was appropriate for an Elf wedding.
“No more?” Athena said, her head cocked to the side.
“Okay, no more, please?”
“You beg a human?” Melisandre snorted. Lysander eyed her, and she quickly closed her mouth. It was unusual Kandomere thought. The relationship between the human and Sabriel. They were close, friends, with a relationship that wasn’t based on what one could gain from the other. They cared greatly for each other, that much Kandomere could feel. It was a strong feeling, swirling around the room and bouncing back and forth between the two women.
Kandomere’s head turned to Athena who seemed a little perturbed towards Sabriel. Sindarin was an ancient dialect of Elf language that many knew of but could not speak. It was said it was only passed down by tradition and Kandomere had only heard it once in all his life. How could a human know about it? As an agent his curiosity got the best of him. He cleared his throat and only then did Athena look his way. She had warm brown eyes accented by thick arched brows that fit her oval shaped face. Plush and full lips had been brushed with a clear lip gloss and he was sure there was a beauty mark on her lip.
“Sindarin,’ he spoke, eyeing her face as she registered him speaking to her. “It’s an ancient tongue. Said to have been forgotten.”
Melisandre rolled her eyes. “And what of it? Are we going to find more reasons this human is worthy of being around us? What is she some exceptional human that is going to chance the plight of all their kind?”
“Mel,’ Lysander said, ‘watch it.”
“Oh please, look at her. You brought this charity case in here and expect us all to just be happy about it!”
“She’s no charity case Melisandre!” Sabriel shouted. For once Athena fear her friend. There was so much authority in her voice that she tensed on the couch. “She is my friend and if anyone in this room cannot handle that, respectfully, then you are free to refund your trip and go home.”
It was silence after that. A small smile twitched at Athena’s lips. That was the first time Sabriel really took up for her in front of other Elves like this.
Kandomere had no qualms about Athena’s presence.
The evolution of Elves had allowed them to feel greater than humans. Harsh opinions and attitudes had created a great rift between them and humans that was growing wider by the day. No side wanted to submit to the other and there were always bitter words tossed around.
Yet, Melisandre would be strung tight the entire week. Kandomere knew that much. He could hear the thoughts rolling in her head about the human, how Sabriel was undeserving of her brother, and beneath the carnage of her vile thoughts like him and how much she wanted him back. They had date, years prior to this moment, but he ended the relationship when their values and morals started to drift apart. The more Kandomere worked with other races the less Melisandre understood him and why his views changed. Angry words, tossed glass, and little reconciliation led to a tight strain between each other. So, to know Melisandre still thought ‘fondly’ of him wasn’t a surprise, the Elven woman was selfish, and he knew her lust was only for her benefit. He had no intentions of going back down that road with her.
“We can finish the details after we land. We have to get to the airport,’ Lysander kissed his fiancé’s temple as everyone stood up to gather themselves. Waiters quickly cleared away glasses and disappeared from the room.
As everyone walked towards the elevator, their luggage already sent to the plane, Kandomere kept a distance from Melisandre, though it put him closer to Athena. Standing behind her, he focused on her even breathing. She was a sheep among wolves.
“Kandomere,’ came the crisp voice of Melisandre. She managed to make her way beside him. She reached up to touch him and he quickly grabbed her hand.
“Melisandre, don’t,’ he leveled his gaze on her. This week was not going to turn into a moment where they remember what they used to have and try to rekindle it. He was far from that chapter in his life now and he knew Melisandre was as well.
This was all of convenience and he wanted no part of it.
Flustered, Melisandre drew her hand back. Her icy gaze didn’t bother Kandomere as she hoped it would, however the way his icy blue eyes stared at her was torturous.
In front of them, Kandomere watched Sabriel nudge Athena in the side. There was a sly smile on both of their faces before Athena shook her head. He was curious about her knowledge of Sindarin, who she was, and now why they were having a silent conversation among themselves.
“You never know,’ she suddenly said.
Athena cocked her brow. “I do know.”
“No, you are guessing based on what you think will happen. I can tell you’re creating false realities in your head right now.” Sabriel tapped the side of Athena’s head lovingly. “Let it flow yes?”
“That was my advice to you and Lysander,’ she replied in a breathless whisper. Clearly, she had something or someone on her mind. He’d been trying since she walked into the apartment, but reading her mind was so hard. It was nothing, but darkness and he continuously hit a wall each time he tried.
“It worked so you should use it for yourself.”
Athena looked up at the small mirror in the elevator just above the numbers for each floor. Leaning against the wall of the elevator revealed the Elf behind her, Kandomere, and his icy gaze.
Maybe she should try.
Fate was a fickle thing. The parking garage was full of two seaters which were quickly filled before Athena could even question the travel arrangement. Sabriel came up behind her and with hands on her shoulders, steered her towards a black Lexus with tinted windows.
“So, this has nothing to do with what you told me. He had already told us it was okay and besides, it’s only for an hour and a half so don’t freak out.”
As she approached, Kandomere looked up from his phone. He hadn’t brought work with him, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to check in periodically. He said nothing as he opened the passenger door for her. She slid into the seat, quickly clicking the seat belt as Kandomere walked around the back of the car to the other side. For the time she was alone in the car she admires the interior; black leather accented with silver. It was a sophisticated color combination she guessed for a fan of sophistication like Kandomere. How matching were the car and man.
The driver side door opened seconds later, and Athena knitted her hands together in her lap. Her cross-body bag on the floor between her legs. The engine purred to life softly and wordlessly Kandomere joined the other cars leading out of the parking garage.
It was silent between them, Athena toyed with a loose piece of thread at the hem of her dress and Kandomere kept his eyes on the road. She’d only seen a few streets of Elf District so as they passed through gated communities and pristine store fronts she knew this was the above average life a lot of people in her neighborhood dreamed of.
“Sindarin.” She was startled by his smooth voice again. His lip tilted upwards slightly as she jumped. “I mentioned before that it was an ancient language. You never answered how you knew it.”
Athena had to figure out a way to answer the question without telling too much. It held a special place to her. Even if he was who her heart claimed him to be, she wouldn’t just tell him so willingly.
Kandomere mentioned it only because sitting in a car silent, when he curiosity was peaked, would be unbearable. “How do you know it?” He asked again. The voice he used as an agent creeping through firmly.
Athena kept her eyes focused on the road. She wasn’t sure if she could handle looking him in the eyes again. She had to admit the feeling she got when they held hands that moment had been unexpected and uncomfortable, but now that she was aware of the connection, she wanted to feel that warmth again. Yet, she wasn’t sure if she could keep her guard up and her mouth closed.
“I found old books,’ she lied, he knew, but didn’t push. “It looked similar to Övüsi and they had similar phonetics. It actually took a bit more time to learn to write and understand written texts.”
“What other languages do you speak? Spanish?” He wondered.
“Nunca he estado en ParÍs, ¿verdad?”
“J'ai. Vous êtes pour un festin.”
Athena, happy with the exchange of languages, grinned. “Sono? Ho sempre desiderato vedere la Torre Eiffel. Un sogno.”
“Woher weißt du so viele?”
Athena was stumped then. Her knowledge only in six languages, no telling how many he knew. “German.” He explained in English and she made an ‘O’ with her mouth.
“I don’t know that one,’ she replied.
They fell into a comfortable silence after that. For Athena the lull of the engine and Kandomere’s smooth driving and lane shifts made the perfect combination for her to fall asleep. She was sure the jet lag and time difference would wear on her body more than theirs so getting a few extra hours or so of sleep would help. She didn’t want to lag tonight.
The Elf noticed that she had gone quieter than normal. Only when he saw her head loll to the side did he notice she was sleeping. The car was cool, and he noticed she was closed in on herself to keep warm. Reaching forward, he turned on the heat, so the car could warm up for her. He would not deny that he was curious about the human inhabiting his car. Her knowledge of multiple languages did intrigue him. There was some depth to her, unlike the shallowness he was used to.
He wondered to himself. As he did, between changing lanes for the airport exit, Kandomere tapped his thumb on the steering wheel. He couldn’t earlier, but now that she was sleeping he wondered if he could read her mind. If the mental block was relaxed enough for him to see through it.
Kandomere reached down, his fingertips lightly brushing Athena’s arm. Because she was sleeping there needed to be a physical connection. He hated to intrude, but he had been feeling odd since her arrival. Something within him warmed. He thought it was lust and longing to fulfill a primal need for physical contact, but he felt sullen when the mood passed, as if that wasn’t enough for him.
Elven relationships were not rare. A relationship between humans and elves was not as common, but not rare that it would cause such a fuss. At least not in Kandomere’s world. Unless an agreement was made, any woman he was with it was mutual and monogamous. Though his work with MTF got in the way many times he was always devoted to who he was with.
With Athena’s arm just beneath his fingertips he focused on reading her mind. It was a jumped mess and he smirked at images of himself hidden there. She was a smart girl, her thoughts, even while she slept were a puzzle, but one thing stood out over them all.
“Oh, mi amor,’ he whispered, the endearment falling from his lips so easily.
He lifted her hand to kiss the back of it. As he did, he noticed a flash of gold appear on her right wrist. It was written in Sindarin and because the letters were small he could not read it. Pulling Athena’s hand from his mouth, he watched the script disappear little by little. Athena soon began to stir, and he placed her hand down and removed himself from her thoughts. He cleared his throat as they came up on the airport.
Time had passed so quickly.
Kandomere was no fool. Such connections were not rare. Matter of fact it was common among Elves. It was a natural occurrence. A feeling of fullness followed upon realization of who Athena was to him now. He understood her fleeing the room earlier, he was just confused. A human having such connection was a conundrum. He was sure the answer lied deeper in her mind, but he was not privy to that and he already knew so much.
It was clear she did not want him to know about their bond. That she wasn’t ready, so he would play as if it was all new to him as long as he could. Kandomere knew it was her nerves keeping her tucked away from telling him. Sabriel knew so he could at least speak about it to her.
Such a connection could not be denied for too long.
It was said when an Elf found their kindred soul parts of them began to show on each other, but that was only when it was acknowledged, and it was a minimal change in appearance. Kandomere rarely let emotions splay on his face. His training as an agent taught him to be stoic and distant. It helped him not to form attachments to victims or cases that might make the less trained cry.
As the car rolled to a soft stop, Athena shifted in the seat. He knew it wasn’t the more comfortable sleeping arrangement and judging by the way she rubbed the back of her neck it had been rough.
Athena stretched and glanced at Kandomere briefly. “You have a peculiar mind,’ he said, tossing all caution to the wind, and indirectly confessing. “Forgive my intrusion,’ he added.
It took a moment for her to realize what he was saying. “You read my mind while I was sleeping?”
“I read the minds of anyone I encounter. If I find them interesting enough.”
Unbuckling her seat belt, she shook her head, unbelieving. Or in denial, whichever was fitting for the situation. Embarrassment flooded her cheeks as she opened the passenger door. Everyone else was gathering their carryon luggage and she then noticed the large private plane.
She should have known they were not flying on a standard aircraft. Kandomere could sense her discomfort. However, that did not stop him from reaching out to her. His hand gently wrapped around her wrist. Only when he had her attention did he let her go.
“We should talk about it, mi corazón.”
Athena knew the interior of the plane was going to be immaculate. She wasn’t disappointed when she saw the leather chairs, mini bar, and other amenities not on a regular plane. Continuing to think on a sub par level kept her grounded among all the lavishness. Off to the side she noticed their luggage had been brought aboard. An all Elf staff awaited them as they began taking their seats for lift off. Of course, even though the plane was privately owned, they had to obey standard flight laws. Athena had chosen a seat next to a back window out of sight from everyone else. When she had sat down, the set nearly engulfed her large frame and she knew she would be curling into the soft cushion to finish sleeping. Athena didn’t pick this spot for just the uninterrupted sleeping possibility; she chose it because it was out of the way. Out of the way of the Elves, Melisandre, and subsequently, out of Kandomere’s mind probing. He’d done enough of that while she had been sleeping and there was no way she wanted to be near him less he try to look again. It had been a goal, as soon as she realized he was her kindred soul, for him not to find out. Yet, fate, fickle bitch, would let that happen anyway. She knew Sabriel was right, she couldn't keep it from him forever. Maybe it was good he knew now.
“So,’ Sabriel said with a smile as she plopped down in the seat next to Athena. “How was the car ride?”
“He knows,’ Sabriel’s eyes widened and Athena was quick to stop her before she started squealing. “He only found out because I went to sleep.”
“What did he say?”
Athena looked over the top of the seat in front of her. Kandomere was engrossed in conversation with Lysander, but it was like something urged him to look up and when he did Athena turned her head away. She knew she had to take it easy with this bond. Kandomere would eventually start to feel her emotions and she didn’t want that happening sooner than necessary. Besides, there were steps to this.
“He wants to talk about it.”
“And you should. You know he’s not going to just go away now that he knows.”
“Why did this have to happen now? I mean, I’m not ready for this!”
She knew this day would come. Her father had predicted it and more or less ordained it. She was slowly approaching her twenty-first birthday; what kind of gift was this supposed to be! Athena had been expecting a human man. Maybe someone from the same town as her or at least someone she had more in common with than a love of languages.
“Your dad must have offered up a virgin or something.”
“This isn’t a joke Sabriel. I don’t know what to do with an Elf!”
“We might be a different race, but the anatomy is pretty much the same Athena.”
Unabashed, Sabriel stood up. “And you need to do something soon. Melisandre and Kandomere used to date. You two might be kindred souls but if she wants something she won’t who or what is in her way to get it.” Athena bounced her head on the back of her seat, feet swinging since they didn’t fully touch the floor.
She wasn’t in the mood to compete with Melisandre, an Elf, for Kandomere’s attention. That was what she feared. She wanted her kindred soul all to herself. No competition. Just fluffy love and cuddled on a couch. Looking down at her friend, Sabriel let out a noise of disapproval. “Kandomere!” She suddenly shouted, the entire cabin glancing her way, their way. “Athena wants to talk.”
“Sabriel!” Athena shouted.
“Thank me after he fucks you raw with the Paris skyline in the background,’ she hissed. From he way she looked, Athena knew Sabriel was over the cat and mouse game and she wasn't even apart of it.
“What could the possibly have to talk about Sabriel?” Melisandre snorted from her seat towards the front. The grin she wore faltered when Kandomere excused himself from Lysander. Nearly breaking her neck, Melisandre’s head turned as Kandomere walked past her towards the human runt trying to shrink herself in the seat.
“Language stuff. She speaks like fifty of them,’ Sabriel lied.
In the seat, Athena chewed on her bottom lip as she watched Kandomere get closer and closer though the gap between the seats. His scent, even as a human, was easily smelled. It reminded her of oak trees and open fields. Manly and inviting at the same time. Fiddling with her fingers, she gave him a half smile as he stood just a two feet from her.
“I understand the severity of this.” He released two buttons on his jacket and sat next to Athena. He was careful of his hands, though they wanted nothing more than to touch her. “It requires a delicate touch before it advances.” Kandomere knew Athena didn’t want to speak to him. Sabriel’s intentions, though good, put Athena in a terrible spot. “However, as a human your attraction to me is perplexing.” He pointed towards her right wrist. “That as well.”
“It’s complicated.” Athena whispered. “I’m sorry. I know Elves don’t really like humans and,’
“You assume so.”
“Your gorget gives off that impression.” The script went unnoticed by anyone that couldn’t read it. ‘Elves above all...above all Elves’ wasn’t as welcoming as he probably thought it to be. It was part of the reason she felt so bad about their situation. He could do so much better than her. She was surrounded by examples.
“It’s of sentimental value. I wear it out of habit.” He looked down at the silver piece. “I can remove it if it offends you.”
Athena shook her head. “Let’s not go changing things just yet.”
“I do admit that this is uncharted territory and by the look in your eyes it was unexpected.” Kandomere kept his gaze ahead and felt eyes from the others turning away from their direction. “But it does make you uncomfortable nonetheless.” In one fluid moved he removed the gorget and placed it in the pocket on the inside of his jacket.
The Elf wasn’t sure how much clearer he could be in his intentions. It might have been thrown on him suddenly, but the idea of there being someone specifically made for him to protect and care for didn’t frightened him. Even if she was human, that meant very little in the grand scope of things. She was still a woman. A beautiful woman. He was sure was intelligent.
“This situation makes me uncomfortable.” She admitted. “I’ve dated, but nothing comes close to this feeling and yet it’s a weird feeling. I don’t know what to do.”
“Why? Courting is the same, I assume, for everyone.”
His wording made Athena smile, the notion not missed by Kandomere’s icy eyes. “What?”
“You call it courting and expect me to not be nervous.” She tilted her head to the side and he watched her brows knit together.
“What is it hermosa?”
“Courting implies more than dating does. There are more expectations that come with courting.”
“I use it to show I am serious. I’ve only ever dated few other people. And dated,’ he mumbled something in Spanish Athena didn’t quite catch, ‘is such a dated term, no?”
She wondered for a second and if this was an appropriate time to even ask this question, but he had to know it wasn’t just the racial difference that would be an issues. “Kandomere,’ he relaxed against the seat, ‘how old do you think I am?”
“Oh,’ he was speechless and that rarely happened. “Is that a trick question,’ he let out a nervous laugh, a piece of his stoic facade chipping away.
“No. How old?”
Kandomere knew she was young. That much was evident. Mid twenties? He was honestly nervous to answer. “You should tell me.”
“I’m twenty, my birthday is coming, but right now, I’m twenty. You can see the layers of complication now can’t you?”
Compared to him she was a child and he didn’t want to use the word child. Young woman. Fuck. Thinking back on how he lusted over her in the apartment, he probably shouldn’t have been so primal in his thoughts. Yet in still, she was an adult. Athena looked out the window, she could see it starting to clear as they were soon going to take off. She made sure her seat belt was in place while Kandomere sat there in thought.
“A week is enough time to figure this out,’ he said while fastening his own belt.
“How do you think that?”
“Because, young or not, Elf or not, I believe this happened for a reason Athena.”
A flight attendant appeared, her blue skirt and crisp white shirt were neat and proper, to give instructions, which she floated through in a sweet voice and Övüsi. The plane comes to life moments later and Athena grips the arm rest. This isn’t her first flight, but that doesn’t mean she’s a pro flyer. Not to mention this was her longest flight ever and she was nervous about the large body of water they were going to cross in a few hours.
She was about to close her eyes when a large hand covered hers. Kandomere pried her grip from the armrest and instead intertwined their fingers. His thumb rubbed circles on the back of her hand. The motion was calming and Athena willed the rest of her body to relax, eventually falling asleep.
Athena woke up to a dark blue sky and expensive sheets. She was still in her black dress, but her shoes were somewhere on the floor. Her bag was on the chair across the room and the curtains were open, revealing starts and lights from the streets below. Like a cat, Athena stretched and crawled out of the massive bed. It was quiet so she assumed she as on her side of the suite. Opening the bedroom door, she was surprised to see Kandomere sitting at the kitchen island with a newspaper in his hand.
“We were going to wake you then realized you would need the sleep more than we did.” Kandomere turned around and it was then she noticed he had changed. In a black cable knit sweater and matching slacks he looked normal. Compared to the intricate suit he had on earlier. His hair was still combed back. It was a relaxed professional look.
“Where did everyone go?” Athena asked. She walked further into the living room and took in the spacious room she thought her room was large, but the living area was the size of her whole apartment back home.
“Dinner,’ he replied. “I told them I was fine staying with you until you woke up.”
“Thanks, you didn’t have to do that.”
“No, but, I wanted to.” Kandomere folded his arms over his chest as he watched Athena walk around the room. “Have you eaten already?” She wondered, fingers touching a sculpture standing in one of the corners.
He had. It had been room service, but if she wanted something, he could sit through another meal. “About two hours ago. If you are hungry we can go to a cafe. I’m sure there is one not too far from here.”
Athena shook her head. That meant she would have to go shower and change out her travel clothes, too much work when the hotel had food service. Looking around she spotted the menu on the coffee table between the couch and armchairs. Glancing at the time, she had plenty of time before the kitchen closed to order a meal.
“For the first night this is fine. I didn’t think I would have slept so long.”
Kandomere watched as she took a seat on the plush couch before drawing her knees up under her. Her brown eyes scanned the menu while she nibbled on the corner of her bottom lip. “You do not have to be so apologetic. If it helps, Sabriel did try to wake you.”
As Athena ordered, using French, Kandomere moved to the same couch, sitting at the opposite end of Athena. The couch was large enough they had space, but if he wanted he could reach out and touch her leg. Which, he wanted to do. He was about to ask her more about herself when she suddenly jumped up from the couch. He heard her rustling about in her room before she came back with a camera. Athena bypassed him and threw open the balcony doors. He heard the shutter of her camera and her excited squeals. Even though the sun had long set, the lights of shops and restaurants illuminated the streets. He let her enjoy herself; he hoped he could take her around the city so she could live in the moment and not through a lens.
Kandomere inhaled her sweet scent. The wind blew and her dress fluttered against her legs. She as a vision. One he hoped to look at for a while.
“I am sure Sabriel will have some activities for us this week, but until we are needed for wedding duties,’ Kandomere joined her on the balcony and stood behind her; she could feel his warmth and she wanted to lean into it, ‘we could tour parts of the city together.”
Lowering her camera to the table, Athena knew he was asking for a date. Baby steps and that was good.
“If you want nothing to do with me then you don’t have to,’ he added when she didn’t answer right away.
She started at his mouth, realizing for the first time just how full his lips were. They sat on his face, slightly pouted. He had a dimple in his chin too. “No, I would like that.” Sabriel’s wedding was of course at the forefront and she was ready to help out whenever she could or was asked, but the thought of seeing the city and not just being in it was enticing. “Oh!” Athena was suddenly excited, especially with the Eiffel Tower in the background. “Can we go to The Louvre and the Palace of Versailles, and,’ Kandomere smiled and nodded his head. He wasn’t sure they could do all of that in one day, but he would take her where she wanted to go.
“It makes no sense to be here and not go! I mean all of this,’ she waved her arms around and then brought them back to fold them across her chest. “I know I won’t be able to see everything.”
Kandomere reached out, mostly on reflex, and rubbed his hands up and down her arms. She relaxed into the warmth of them, fingers fiddling with the button on her dress. He could have easily pulled her back into the room where it was warm, but this gave him a reason to touch her.
“What are you thinking?” Kandomere whispered as his hands fell from her arms.
There it was again. The itch to stare at his lips. “Nothing important.” Lie.
“Good,’ he replied. “I don’t want you to overthink it.”
An hour later, Athena was relaxed shoulder deep in the tub. A glass of red wine and a bowl of chocolate mousse complimented the relaxed nature of the bath she was soaking in. With her hair pinned up on top of her head, Athena gave a little stretch and sighed heavily. After eating, Kandomere had excused himself. Apparently he couldn’t stay to far from work and his partner needed to bring something to his attention. She wasn’t sure if he was back, but she hoped everything went okay. She shut her eyes, thinking on how this entire trip had changed knowing Kandomere was her kindred soul. She also thought about how bad she had wanted to kiss him.
He was practically a stranger.
A stranger she was sharing a suite with.
A stranger she was sharing a soul with.
A stranger who was clear in his actions that he wanted this.
Sabriel mentioning she should take her advice was starting to ring in her ears.
Athena pried herself from the cooling water after finishing her wine and dessert. Oiled and dressed for the night she walked back into the living area. She wasn’t sure if Kandomere had returned, but it was no or never and she had to act on the adrenaline pumping through her veins. He wasn’t in the kitchen area on or on the balcony. The only other place to check as his room and the door was closed.
Throwing caution to the wind, Athena went up to his door and knocked. Her bottom lip was going to have a hole in it by the time this week was over if she didn’t stop chewing on it. Her hands were about to turn the knob, maybe he was in the shower, to open the door when Kandomere beat her to it.
It was impulse, the sudden lift on her toes to press her mouth to his. It caught him by surprise and the slight embarrassment of not really knowing how to kiss itched at the back of her throat.
“Oh that’s cute,’ Athena pulled back, brows knitted in confusion.
“Melisandre,’ Kandomere said sternly. “Don’t,’ he sighed. It wasn’t was Athena was thinking, not in the slightest, but he could see it clear on her face.
“Well it is, cute. Pathetic, but cute.”
Kandomere turned around to tell her leave, but he saw Athena high tail it back to her side of the suite. He went after her and managed to grab her arm before she slammed the door in his face. “Wait,’ he let her go when she struggled to get her arm away from him. The door clicked shut in his face and he ran his hand roughly down his face, a string of curses in Övüsi.
On the other side of the door Athena slumped down against it.
She should have known better.