After I got a few doors away from her office, I pulled out my phone and I looked at the last message Sage had sent.
Mysterious blue-eyed boy
Maybe. Soon. :)
I smiled. But here I was flirting with a guy when I had to deal with making an heir.
I can deal with maybe. My meeting didn’t go so well.
Mysterious blue-eyed boy
Do you want to talk about it?
It’s not something I can easily discuss over text.
The last message sent, and I walked up the stairs to my apartment. I might as well go start lunch now. I wasn’t starving but I could eat. I should eat.
I unlocked my door as my phone rang. It was just the default ring tone. I answered it, “Hello?” I didn’t even look at the name and number because it was so rare for it to not ring with at least a Venatori ring tone.
“Hey, Nox. Is it something you can talk about over the phone?” I smiled.
“I can. But it’s probably something better to do in person. I’m making lunch if you want to come over.” My heart raced and I could feel my palms sweating. I had just asked him out. I hated my anxiety!
Sage chuckled on the other side of the phone. “You are cooking?”
“Yeah.” I smiled. “I’m an awesome cook.”
“I think I could use a break. I’ll see you in a few if you give me an address.”
“I’ll text you the address.” And that’s what I did.
“I’ll see you in ten.”
I hung up the phone and panic set in. Fuck, I asked him over. I asked him out. I couldn’t breathe.
I needed to calm down. Sliding down against my door, I took a deep breath and preformed a calming exercise. Five things I could see. The coffeemaker. The water maker in the fridge. The picture of the night skyline of the City. The leather couch. And the fruit bowl on the counter. I could do this.
I stood up and listened for four things I could hear. A deep breath. That was one sound. The drop of ice in the ice maker. The hum of the air conditioning. The sound of my heart beat. I could hear it in my ears. But it was slowing down.
I was feeling better. Three things I could touch. The coffee beans as I pour them into the grinder. The counter beneath my fingers. The cool touch of my phone in my hand.
Two things I could smell. Coffee beans as they brewed. The soft scent of vanilla and cinnamon. I turned to the door to find Dorian standing in the door I had only left a few moments ago.
One thing I could taste? I smiled at Dorian and pulled a mug from the cabinet above the coffeemaker and poured a cup of coffee. I swallowed slowly feeling the warmth go down and the bitter taste. It wasn’t heaven, but it was helping to calm my nerves.
Dorian stood there watching me and waited until I was done drinking the coffee. “You okay?” he asked.
I nodded. “I just asked a boy to come over for lunch.”
Dorian’s smile widened. “Then I should probably leave. Dr. Silas called me asking about your propensity to leave in a huff.”
I let out a curt laugh, “Hah! She is a piece of work. I have a girl lined up to talk to.”
Sage was standing in the door when I said that and he was frowning, “A girl lined up for what?”
I sighed, “Come in. I’ll explain. Dorian, I’m okay. I have a few things to talk about with my friend.”
Dorian nodded. “I hope to see you again,” he said to Sage.
Sage came in and shut the door. “A girl?”
“Prearranged child bearing women. Is basically what I’m dealing with. Here in the Apex Unlimited community we are regulated. It’s not like outside in the real world. We are required to breed with other individuals and bear two heirs. I had five years to produce one, I’m down to one year left. You walked in when I was explaining to Dorian that I have a meeting with a girl to talk about it. The meeting I was in was to discuss the same thing. That woman who was at the club last night she was hounding me to do my duty.”
Sage nodded and took the cup of coffee from me. “And how do I factor in to all this? I’m not just some one night stand, Nox.”
“I know. I don’t want you to be. But I have to do this. I can’t get out of it not without a big penalty and big pay decrease and I wouldn’t be surprised if they kicked me out altogether. Look Sage,” I smiled at him hoping to lessen the sting of what I’d said. “I like you. I don’t want to hurt you but I have to do this.”
Sage put the cup down and pinned me against the counter. “I like you, too. These girls, you gonna marry them?”
I shook my head. “No. I only want to have access to my children. Let them live with me but that might not happen.”
“You want a family?”
I nodded. “Yes. I do.”
“And what about a significant other?”
I chuckled, “Well, I think I’m working on that.”
Sage grinned and moved away from me with the coffee cup in his hand and finished my coffee. “You said something about lunch?”
I nodded. “I did.”
Sage took a seat at the bar while I got out things to make for lunch. I could impress him, but I didn’t want to look anymore desperate than he did, or how I already sounded. Chicken salad spread on rye with Swiss and a good mustard should do it. I had a prepared humus from a few days ago, some raw vegetables would work with some crackers since I wasn’t sure what Sage would think of the uber health nut I had become.
I could feel Sage’s eyes on my back as I set things down. “You want something other than coffee to drink? I have some Orange Juice, water, beer, though it’s a bit early for that and, of course,y coffee?” I turned to Sage who was sipping at a fresh cup of coffee.
“I’m good.” He held up the coffee with quick grin before sipping at the steaming cup of joe and watching me with sparkling blue eyes peaking over the top of his mug.
I nodded and pulled a second mug down and poured myself another. I started another pot, this one was almost gone.
“You drink a lot of coffee?” Sage asked.
“Not usually. Just a morning thing, but it’s been a stressful morning.” I answered as the next pot brewed.
I set my now full cup down at the empty bar stool next to Sage and prepped our lunch. “It’s nothing fancy, I wasn’t expecting to be feeding anyone other than myself.”
Sage laughed. “Hey, I’m not going to complain. I’m not making it, and it’s not fast food. It’ll be the best meal I’ve had in weeks. This project my boss has me on is killing me. I should be working, but my brain is fried. I needed an hour off, and I told him so.”
“I’m sure that went over well.” I grinned as I spread the mustard on the rye bread.
Sage chuckled, “My boss, Eric, is great. He said, ‘I saw those typos you were hunting.’ He let me go clear my head for lunch.”
“What do you do?” I asked as I set the plate with the sandwich in front of Sage with the hummus, crackers and raw vegetables in the middle of the bar. I carried my plate as I listened to him.
I had to walk past him to get to the empty seat and caught the scent of lavender and jasmine. That was the scent I couldn’t place the other night – jasmine. I sat down in the bar stool and looked over at Sage who was smiling at me.
“I’m a security consultant. But honestly, I make my money hacking into other company’s computer systems to prevent the bad ones from getting in. We then offer them fixes and help combat the black hat hackers. What do you do?”
I grinned at him as I bit into my sandwich to delay the half truth I was about to tell him. But I didn’t want to start off this relationship with a lie, he would never believe the truth, anyway. “Technically, I’m a law enforcement officer. We call them hunters since that’s what we do. I hunt monsters for a living. Though I wouldn’t classify them as monsters.”
Sage laughed. “Fine don’t tell me.”
I shrugged. “No honestly, I do. My job is to protect humanity from the things that go bump in the night.” I knew he wouldn’t believe me so I did the one thing that could get me hunted – I showed Sage what I could do. I held the palm of my hand up above the bar and watched as the pattern of a single flickering flame formed above it.
Sage’s eyes grew big, and he backed off the stool and fell to the floor. I sighed and dropped my hand and the flame winked out. Instead of getting up Sage laid on the ground staring at the ceiling. He didn’t look at me as he asked, “What was that?” He leaned up on his elbows and looked up at me towering over him in the bar stool eating the rest of my sandwich. “And so what are you?”
“I’m half human. Half Venatori.” I could get into a history lesson but that didn’t exactly feel first date like – was this even a first date?
“So you all can do magic like that?” Sage was sitting cross legged on the floor staring up at me. I didn’t like it but I didn’t dare get closer.
“No, we can’t all do magic like I can. Few can do magic like me. The Venatori are faster, and stronger than humans, we can react faster and think faster. We can heal faster. We have special mental abilities – things like empathy, reading minds, photographic memories which help us hunt the other species who go rogue. All to protect humanity. I’m Magnus, we have the ability to bend the elements. But most Magnus can only bend one element at a time. Sometimes we can bend more than one element, but never at the same time. Except Cesari, which is what I am.” I wove four different balls in front of me and juggled them. “I can bend, fire, earth, water and air all at the same time.”
“And because I told you what I am, and revealed the Clandestine Providence to you I am now considered a rogue element and if anyone finds out they will come and hunt me down, and kill you too.”
Sage laughed, “All because you didn’t want to lie to a guy you liked? Why would you do that?”
“You already said it. I like you. I didn’t think starting off with a lie I would have to keep perpetrating would work for long if you kept weaseling your way into my life with ease.” I sighed and pushed my empty plate away as Sage sat down again in the bar stood he’d vacated.
“What lie would you have told me if I was not some guy you liked?” He was grinning at me before he took a bite of his own sandwich.
“I’d have said I was a security consultant of the physical type – a body guard so to speak.”
Sage smiled. “We’ll go with that if anyone asks.” Sage placed his hand on my knee and squeezed it before returning it to hold his sandwich, “I became a white hat hacker when I was young because I got caught hacking into the Pentagon computer system. They couldn’t try me as an adult so they trained me and let me continue to hit the normal circuits so I’d stay on top of things. They give me leeway to hack systems in my free time as long as I tell my boss the results and then I help them patch up their holes. I have a contract with them for the next 20 years or so, to pay for my crimes as a child.”
I grinned at him, “Are you sharing dark secrets to make me feel better about telling you something I shouldn’t?”
Sage nodded his mouth full of the last bite of his sandwich. I watched as he swallowed and my body tightened. Sage smiled. “That was a good sandwich. I’m sorry I freaked out over the magic thing. I thought you were joking – that this wasn’t serious to you. Your reputation precedes you.”
“I’m sorry you know more about me than I know about you.” I truly was, there was no telling what else he knew about me. He was friends with one girl I slept with, there was no telling how many others he might know.
Sage crunched into a celery stick slathered with humus and he tilted his head to the side. “Interesting anyway. I’ve never had humus before.”
I smiled. “New horizons for both of us it seems.”
Sage stood up and leaned against my leg that was closest to him. One arm was on the back of my bar stool the other was resting on the counter. He had me much trapped between him and the wall. I had room to move if I wanted to, but I didn’t.
I looked up at him, towering over me in the bar stool and his six foot plus height. It made me swallow hard looking up at him looking down on me with something very near lust filled eyes. I wondered how I was looking up at him. I knew what my body was feeling, and I wasn’t great at hiding what I wanted. And I wanted him in this moment.
He leaned down and whispered in my ear, “I like making you bite your bottom lip.” Sage walked away and deeper into my apartment. It was composed of one room and the separate bathroom. I rated that at least. But I had also renovated it to get the kitchen and bathroom I wanted.
Sage stopped in the open space between the couch and my bed and then turned around. “I like your apartment. Everything right where you need it. You don’t spend a lot of time here do you?”
“I do. Actually. Everything is just in its place. You’ll notice the dust on the tops of things and the dust bunnies that live in the corners. I’m not a neat freak, but things need to be put away or I get antsy.” I smiled as I sat facing him in the bar stool.
He was smiling while I spoke and looked like he was listening to every word I said. He must have practice listening to his girl friends. He clearly had them. “How many people get to see where you live?”
The smile on Sage’s face and bright sapphire eyes made my mouth go dry and I sipped at my own remaining coffee before I answered him, “You would be the first.”
“There was a guy here before?” The playfulness in his voice was apparent, but I wondered how much he was hiding.
“Dorian? He’s my friend, my guide when I was younger. He was checking up on me since he’s still technically my guardian.”
“So he’s like your father?” Sage asked taking a few steps closer.
“Yes, and no. He didn’t raise me. His name is attached to mine when the Academy required signatures of parents. Since I had none, he was one of two people who could sign for me that were not my teachers.”
“Who’s the second?”
I smiled but looked down as I answered, “My therapist. We’ve been speaking since I was six years old. Dorian has been with me since I was five.”
“You have a therapist since you were six?” Sage laughed, “So you are pretty messed up then?”
I frowned at him. My heart beat faster in my chest and my palms were sweating. I didn’t look back up. I felt the rejection in the air, I knew what would happen when I confessed. I could lie, but I didn’t want to. “I am.”
Sage closed the distance between us, I could feel his nearness and see his canvas Converse underneath me. He wasn’t touching me, almost like he was afraid of me. He spoke to me with one hand on the back of my chair just touching me and the other on the counter. “I bounced around from foster home to foster home after my parents died until Danny and Rosella took me in. They are the only family I know. I had an older brother, but we were separated. I was a problem child and the family that took them didn’t want to keep me because of it.”
I looked up and saw sadness in Sage’s eyes and I didn’t want them to be sad. I gave him a sideways grin before grabbing his t-shirt by the Captain America shield and pulled him in to kiss.
Sage halted his downward progress just short of actually kissing me. I opened my eyes and his eyes were right there smiling back at me. I leaned back so I could look at him with a frown. Sage ran his fingers over my bottom lip, “Not yet.”
A shiver ran through my body at the touch and I sighed, but I nodded as I closed my eyes, savoring it. Sage chuckled in the darkness of my closed lids. I felt his breath against my skin as he leaned down and whispered into my ear, “I’m glad you react so easily.”
I laughed. “You are so playing me.”
Sage kissed my check, “I’m not playing with you to be mean. But I will make sure you want more than just sex before I give you what you want?”
I opened my eyes and looked at him. He was so close I bit my bottom lip and let it go as I spoke in hushed tones “What do I want?”
Sage grinned, “Me, of course.”
I laughed. “Yeah, I can’t deny that.”
Sage took a step away from me and move towards the door. “I need to get back to work,” he said with sadness in his voice.
“I don’t have to get back to work until late this evening. I suppose I can find someone else to entertain me when you go.”
Sage laughed. “What are you doing tonight that requires you to work?”
I grinned at him, “I have to go to a bar with Walker so we can ask about a dragon who’s been robbing banks and revealing herself to the humans.”
“A dragon? Like a fire breathing, scales and all that?” Sage grinned. “She can’t be too hard to find. I mean aren’t dragons big?”
“Dragon’s can shift into human form. And they can still breathe fire while in it, so it’s not as easy as you made it sound.” I laughed.
“Well, as long as you don’t hook up with some lowlife bar crawler while you are out I won’t get jealous you are going out without me.” Sage teased.
“I have no intentions of hooking up. I’ll send you a text of my bed when I get home just to prove it to you.”
Sage laughed, “But you don’t bring your friends home – remember?”
“Okay.” I smiled. “Stay here a moment.” I went into my bathroom and pulled out the brown paper bag that housed my box of protection and crumpled the top and walked out with it. “Here.” I handed Sage the bag. I waited until he opened the bag and looked inside and he grinned. When he looked back up with those perfect blue eyes I melted at the dark lustful look in them. “I won’t be sleeping with anyone until you give me that back or tell me to fuck off, which ever comes first.”
Sage laughed and crumpled the top of the paper bag and leaned forward and pressed a light kiss to my lips. He pulled away with a smile, “That deserved something special.” I was still licking my lips where his lips pressed against mine. I opened my eyes feeling the pressure of my teeth biting into my lip again. He chuckled, “I will see you around, Nox. I still want that text with you in the picture of your bed.”
My breath caught as he opened the door to the hallway and smiled at me. I nodded unable to speak still. Sage laughed again. “Later, Nox.”
The door closed, and I stood there straining to hear his footsteps leaving. I listened until I could hear them no more.
The rest of my afternoon would be such a downer.