I shuddered and left my boyfriend to get dressed while I ran the shower as hot as I could stand. My mind glided over the past night, remembering the events as if there were happening to someone else. Like I’d watched it all happen.
I’d known what was going on despite the battle for my self. I heard the Venatori crash through the windows of the warehouse once Ye Pan had crushed my body with his power. My father had to feel the power.
I remember looking up just in time to watch the muzzle flash of my father’s gun go off. He’d fired at Ye Pan and I watched it travel through the air. The power of the dragon before me slowed it. The air around it solidified until it stood feet away from him hanging in mid air.
And then his command puppeted me towards my father and the others. Walker among them. There was a knock at the bathroom door but Sage didn’t wait for me to say anything as he stepped inside closing the door behind him. “You okay? You won’t have enough time to eat.”
I nodded. “I’d gotten lost in the memory. That wasn’t good.” I turned off the water and grabbed the towel that hung inside and dried off before stepping out into the cool air of my bathroom. Sage set clothes down on the counter.
Sage smiled. “Get dressed. Hurry so you can at least eat something.”
The door opened, and I smelled coffee and I did as Sage instructed. I didn’t think it was his suggestion more than the desire for coffee. But I had a feeling just letting Sage run the show for now was why I wasn’t panicking about sleeping in, about not hearing my text messages go off. By the lost memories. There was much to trouble my mind. But Sage took care of it, took care of me. I smiled as I applied the eye liner and then stepped out of my bathroom ready for the rest of my day.
Sage grinned. “I like that shirt.”
I had paid no attention to what he’d chosen for me. I looked down to see the skeleton climbing out of a rib cage with the fires of hell behind it. It was one of the few long sleeved t-shirts I owned. I chuckled at the irony. “That’s how I feel today.” I wrapped my arms around him and kissed his neck and whispered in his ear, “Thanks to you.”
Sage laughed and pulled me to sit next to him. “Eat. I did nothing, Nox. I was just here.”
“You have no idea what you did, Sage. But you did more than just be in this room with me.” I opened the Styrofoam box that Sage had brought and found a large omelet of roasted vegetables and sausage. I looked at him, “You ordered ahead?”
He laughed. “I did. Apparently Ms. Shelia caters to a lovely young man who likes to cook with her.” He ate a few spoonfuls of his own oatmeal. “I think she has a crush on you.”
I grinned at him. “Why wouldn’t she?” I ate a few bites of my omelet before I added. “She kept me fed during some pretty rough times when bullies decided I shouldn’t eat for a week of breakfasts in a row.”
Sage wrapped his arm around him. “We’ll I’ll make sure the bullies leave you alone now.”
I laughed. “I don’t have to play nice now. The last time Aaron decided my breakfast belonged on the floor and I was a punching bag, he got in one good shot before he was lying on the floor choking. He ran away with his tail between his legs. Him and his buddies. I think that had more to do with Walker than me but I’ll take it.”
“My boyfriend, the big bully.” Sage laughed.
I stuck my tongue out at him.
Sage raised his eyebrow at my action. “You remember what I said about that.”
I grinned at him. “I do.”
“I don’t think it’s quite the reprimand it should be.” Sage grinned.
“I’m okay with that.”
Sage shook his head and finished his breakfast and his coffee before he swiveled in his stool and watched me eat my food.
When I put the last of my omelet into my mouth Sage turned me in my bar stool, my knees were on the outside of his. Sage stood up and put his hands on my shoulder. “Stick it out again.”
I gave him a look of defiance but I obeyed after a moment. I stuck my tongue out him even more childishly than before. Sage chuckled before he put his lips around it and sucked on it. It tightened things below my belt. I hummed in pleasure and Sage bit and my eyes opened wide in surprise. He chuckled against my lips as he let go and licked my lips. “You always taste good.”
I laughed. “I try.”
“We should go. I’ll walk you downstairs. You gonna be okay?”
I nodded. “Yeah, I’ll be fine. Thank you for your help.”
Sage pulled away. “There will come a point when you need to take control back, you know?”
I nodded. “Soon as we walk out the door. I’ll be the adult I’m supposed to be. If that’s all right with you.”
Sage laughed. “Let’s go. I can be whatever you need, whenever you need it, Nox.”
I joined Sage and pulled him against me. “I’ll be whatever you need me to be, too. Just let me know what that is.”
Sage grinned. “We are doing pretty good, I think.”
I kissed him in agreement. His lips were soft and warm and I wanted nothing more than to stay here in his arms but the Dragon Council wouldn’t wait on me. I broke the kiss and smiled at him. I was so far down the rabbit hole there was no coming back up. I only hoped I didn’t scare him away. There was no I could handle it.
I stepped out from between the bar stools and grabbed my phone and keys. Sage was already standing in the open doorway leading into the hall waiting on me. “I’ll go check on Drake. Make sure he gets to school on time. I like your father. He’s good with Drake. The three of us spent time together while you were out doing your thing.”
I took a deep breath and tried not to sound angry. I’d wished Dae’lin had stayed out of it. But family was important to Sage – more so than the family I wanted to have – he wanted everyone to be happy which included my relationship with my father. Sage must have gathered my thoughts because he took my hand in his and squeezed. “I know you are trying. He knows too.” He smiled at me. “Did you know he has a standing monthly appointment with Dr. Silverman to discuss you.”
I shook my head. “I’m sure it’s just an excuse to take her out for lunch.”
Sage shook his head. “He said you’d say that. But he said it was in her office. Officially recorded. And the discussion notes are in your files if you ever wanted to know what they said about you.”
“I know. I’ve skipped past them. I don’t want to know what other people tell Margo. If it’s important enough for me to know she tells me. And if it’s not, then whatever they are trying to do to help I see in the real world.”
Sage grinned. “So if I spoke to Dr. Silverman about you, you’d not read it.”
I stopped in the hallway and looked at him. “I’d….No.” I shook my head. “I wouldn’t read it. I don’t plan on keeping things from you. But I’m difficult to live with. You can ask Jace or Dorian and even Dae’lin. I don’t want to know when you need to vent because I’ve been a dick, or I said something I didn’t mean. Or because you are just plain fed up with how I react to stress. I can’t say it’s not tempting because it is. To know what someone feels about me for real in their own words unfiltered by my needs it’s comforting and scary all at the same time. We’ll work this through. If it doesn’t work out, I don’t want to know all the ways I fucked up.”
Sage sighed and walked pulling me along with him. “I think that’s the hardest part in all of this. You are the first person to put yourself down.”
“Years of practice.” I said.
Sage stopped and pushed me up against the wall pinning my shoulders to it. My pulse quickened and I could feel my pores dripping with sweat. I swallowed hard, and I saw the look of concern deepen as he saw the fear coursing through my body. He shook his head and then kissed me deeply. He pushed me further into the wall. If he’d had super human strength, the dry wall would be damaged. But Sage was just human. A human with human magic but still just human.
He pressed his body against mine and he framed my head with his forearms against the wall. I had no choice but to look into those big blue eyes of his. I saw sorrow and hope, happiness and despair. Sage was conflicted. “I need you to do two things for me.”
I nodded. And Sage continued. “You won’t say anything bad about yourself. I don’t even want you to think it.”
I sighed and dropped my gaze from his eyes. I gave him a slight nod before he continued. “You won’t let anyone step all over you. That includes yourself.”
My eyes flicked up to meet his as I asked, “What do you expect me to do?”
“Stand up for yourself. You aren’t a child anymore, Nox. No one treats you like dirt. You have the ear of the most powerful vampire in the world. You beat one of the oldest dragons. Not only did you beat him, Nox, you over threw his control of you.”
“Who told you that?”
“I saw it all happen. Walker and the others all had video feeds.”
I felt deflated. I saw the memories floating out. The weakness of my mind – the control that had been taken from me. Sage kissed me hard and brought me back from them. “No.” Sage bit out in a cold white heat I hadn’t expected from him. “You don’t beat yourself up. There is nothing wrong with you. Shit happens. It wasn’t your fault.”
Sage pulled away from me and took my hand in his and pulled me towards the elevator and down to the conference room level. He got off the glass death trap with me and turned me towards him and dusted off my shoulders as if I had something on them, straightened a fake tie at my neck and kissed my cheek. “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
I couldn’t help but smile at his joke. “Casablanca.” I grinned.
“You’ve seen that?” Sage asked.
I shook my head. “No but I know Humphrey Bogart when I hear it.”
Sage grinned. “We’ll have to watch it together one day – soon.”
I nodded, “Any time with you is well spent. Thank you, Sage.” Three little words sat at the tip of my tongue and I held them back. I wasn’t ready to utter them and I was certain Sage wasn’t ready to hear them.
He smiled at me and pushed me off toward the large conference room. “Good luck,” he called out after me.