Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Assassin's Retirement Chapter Twenty-One #blogstory #amwriting

The blog story, Assassin's Retirement, is back! Chapter Twenty-One is not titled. Couldn't think of something that wouldn't give things away. Enjoy!

Chapter Twenty-One

While Skyld issued orders to Crimson Comet and the Valkyrie as if they were his own personal army, Zane hovered over Midnight as he carefully stood still cradling Alonzo. Instead of taking him through the house by way of the kitchen, Zane lead Midnight around the corner to the back covered porch. Attached to the door frame was a gray box. Zane lifted the panel revealing a palm scanner and key pad. Since this entrance into his home was next to his bedroom, Zane had opted for an upgrade on the lock. In an ideal world, he should be the only one using the entrance. He'd never planned to have more people on his ranch or in his house. No one visited and though he had intended on making friends in town, that didn't mean he would invite them to his home. The last twenty-four hours smashed his illusion of privacy so, at the moment, he didn't care if Midnight knew of his additionally security measures.

In the protective confines of the covered porch, Zane scanned his palm again then entered his code. The door leading to the back hallway popped open a couple of inches. He caught the edge, swinging it open all the way to allow Midnight pass with his burden. Midnight needed to turn sideways and pull Alonzo closer to him in order to get into the house.

"First door on the right," Zane directed

Once in the room, Zane went around Midnight to turn down the covers of his bed.

Midnight was careful setting Alonzo down, which was impressive considering that Alonzo was taller and more muscular than Zane. The strain of carrying an adult male had to have taxed Midnight's strength. Or perhaps not if Midnight was Other with some crazy power like strength. Belatedly, Zane realized he didn't know what exactly the other band members from Crimson Comet were. Well, except Cord. He would need to table those questions for another time when this I.O.N./oracle issue wasn't breathing down his neck.

"Thank you. " Zane's throat closed over. He swallowed several times until he thought he could speak without his voice giving out. "Thank you for caring for Alonzo while I dealt with her."

Zane still thought the best course of action would have been to kill her. If Cord hadn't intervened or if Midnight hadn't come out with the blanket for Alonzo, Zane would have gladly gotten rid of her so he could give his full attention to Alonzo's care. But then they wouldn't know anything about scions, the bloodlines, or mantles. Nor would he have known a human, not an Other, was behind the Grendel murders. Did the mantle cause the person to go insane or were they already crazy when Ella approached them?

He helped Midnight use the quilt to wipe down Alonzo's body. "Alonzo needs…" Midnight trailed off, grimacing when Zane gave Midnight his full attention. Zane waited patiently, holding Alonzo up while Midnight finished removing the soiled covering. "Has he spoken to you about being Maricoxi?"

Zane pulled the bed's comforter up to Alonzo's chin before sitting on the bed next to him.  "Some. Last night. We haven't had time to become more acquainted," Zane admitted, pulling Alonzo's hand from beneath the covers so he could hold it.

"Maricoxi gain strength from their clan, especially the leader of the clan, the patron. In times of strife or injury, the clan comes together to…" Midnight looked away, his expression filled with conflict.

"There is nothing you can say that will chase me away from Alonzo," Zane murmured, hoping to reassure Midnight. He couldn't imagine what Midnight struggled with.

Midnight's mouth turned down into a deep frown. "You say that without knowing how your actions or reactions will affect him. It is not natural for Maricoxi to lead a solitary existence. I have been told it is a constant torture that causes physical pain. They are meant for clans. If there were other Maricoxi here, they would already be in bed with him. He can heal without their touch but at a much slower rate. Ideally, his patron would be the one to tend his guardian." Midnight finally met Zane's eyes, his expression one of determination. "He treats you with deference, protects you, is possessive of you as if you are his patron. You, your presence, would be the most beneficial to him but you also have to deal with Ella." Midnight's frowned turned into lines of angry when he said her name. Zane was glad to see he wasn't the only who held an extreme dislike of the woman. So I am offering to stay with him while you deal with everything else."

Zane heard the creak of floorboards down the hall. After the altercation outside, he had put his snub-nosed revolver back in his ankle holster, not that it would do him any good since he'd used all the ammunition. Quickly he crossed to the dresser and moved it away from the wall to reach the 9-millimeter hidden there. Taking the safety off, Zane firmed his stance and point the muzzle at the bedroom entrance. When the door swung open, Raine stood there staring at Zane. His right eye brow raised when Zane didn't immediately lower his weapon.

"I thought you guys could use some help with Alonzo. Who is going to stay with him while you sort shit out?" Raine leaned against the door jam.

Zane scowled before crossing to the armoire, taking out one of the shoulder holsters stored there. "I thought you didn't like me. Why would you offer to help?" Zane couldn't help but ask. Raine's attitude last night was still fresh in his memory.

Raine shrugged, looking uncomfortable. "I like you well enough. Jealousy makes me stupid. Cord has been so focused on you since Ella first gave us your file…"

"There's a file?" Zane ground his teeth. "Never mind. Go on."

"Cord is really good about gathering people to him. It's part of his Valkyrie nature, his attraction to unparalleled warriors. It's been the six of us for so long that his fascination with you was… surprising." Raine looked uncomfortable, as if he wasn't used to explaining himself.

Zane wasn't sure he understood Raine's explanation. "You don't like your bandmates? I thought you were like a family." Surely his initial assessment of Crimson Comet hadn't been that far off.

Raine's blue gaze darted up from where he'd been staring a hole into the carpet. "No, I love all of us together. Its just when he stopped collecting lovers, we balanced out. It took time and work for us to achieve the harmony we have now. The dynamics have been sorted and there is no more strife between us. We are not only much older than you, but we knew each other on a…" Raine scratched at his hairline as if searching for and discarding several explanations. It made Zane wonder what he was leaving out. "Professional level when Cord gradually brought us together. You are completely an unknown to us, and honestly, that makes me nervous, and not in a good way."

Zane hadn't expected such an honest and in-depth answer, but he was grateful to Raine for letting down his guard enough to level with him. It was one less question clamoring for his attention in the ever-growing sea of mysteries.

"Good to know, I think."

"Not that you're unattractive or anything," Raine rushed to say, as if that made everything better or took the sting out of his words. Zane deign to disabuse Raine of this misconception of Zane's response. Besides, watching Raine squirm was immensely satisfying. "But," Raine continued, "I realized last night that I needed to give you a chance."

"Why?" Zane found he really wanted to know.

"At the moment, I'm the only one who is causing the most strife for the group with my attitude. And…" Raine glanced at Alonzo, his gaze assessing. "I am a strong proponent of balance. If you came to us with Alonzo, that would help to even certain things out."

By the way Raine grinned, Zane's expression had given away his dissatisfaction with Raine's answer.

"A more in-depth exploration will have to wait for later," Raine added. When did he become a voice of reason? "You have Ella and six Valkyrie to contend with and we don't have time for me to wax poetic on my philosophy on polyamorous relationships. I can stay with Midnight and Alonzo, lend Alonzo my strength while you take care of business." Raine straightened from his position against the door post. Reaching over his shoulder, he withdrew a short sword that looked old but well cared for. "Between Midnight and me, we can keep Alonzo safe."

Zane's knee jerk reaction was to deny the necessity of any help. Skyld had always pressed upon him that they didn't rely on anyone. Usually, that was an easy tenant to keep when it had just been him. But Zane had invited Alonzo into his life and Alonzo had been injured protecting him. He was now responsible for another's welfare and since he couldn't be in two places at once, he did need the assistance they offered. Surprisingly, he sensed he could trust Midnight and Raine to do as they said. Was this surety, this knowing a bloodline thing? He guessed it was time to find out. He would trust them, at least until he eliminated the threat against Cord.

"I appreciate it," Zane finally said. Raine's expression turned from wary hopefulness to surprise. Did he think Zane would deny them or simply turn Raine away? In the grand scheme of things, answer didn't matter.

Midnight drew his shirt over his head and quickly took of his pants, shoes, and socks before sliding under the covers. Zane moved to help Midnight maneuver Alonzo to the center of the bed. He fought down the growing urge to lay down with them, the draw to be near Alonzo was incredibly strong. Instead, he carded his fingers through Alonzo's thick black hair, before brushing Alonzo's lips with a quick kiss.

When he backed away, Midnight pulled the comforter over them, his arm resting across Alonzo's chest as he molded his body to Alonzo's side. Zane waited for jealousy to rise and shred his insides but, curiously, nothing happened. Not that he needed the emotional complication, but Zane still wondered what it meant.

Turning, he was confronted by Raine, completely nude and holding his sheathed sword. Stretching his arms out, Raine turned slowly for Zane, baiting Zane to look at him and Zane did, happily. Raine's body wasn't perfect. Scarred and almost eye watering pale, it was obvious that Raine didn't spend much time in the sun. At one time his life, Raine's life had been hard and deadly. There was a scattering of dark freckled on his chest and the rounded cheeks of his butt… Raine stopped and looked over his shoulder, catching Zane staring. "I can guarantee you there is no one else like me," Raine smirked.

Midnight groaned. Zane barked out a laugh and shook his head, crossing to the bedroom door. No, Zane didn't think there was.

Table of Contents

Chapter One - Retirement
Chapter Two - Normal is not supposed to be this hard
Chapter Three - Caught
Chapter Four - Crimson Comet
Chapter Five - Mountain Magic
Chapter Six, Part 1 - Harbinger of a Nightmare
Chapter Six, Part 2 -
Chapter Seven, Part 1 - Stolen Answers
Chapter Seven, Part 2 -
Chapter Eight, Part 1 - No such thing as heroes
Chapter Eight, Part 2 -
Chapter Nine, Part 1 - Dead is supposed to be... dead
Chapter Nine, Part 2 -
Chapter Ten, Part 1 - Gathering Allies
Chapter Ten, Part 2
Chapter Eleven - Combustible
Chapter Twelve - Standing His Ground
Chapter Thirteen - Choices
Chapter Fourteen, Part 1
Chapter Fourteen, Part 2
Chapter Fifteen, Part 1 - To kill, or not to kill
Chapter Fifteen, Part 2
Chapter Sixteen - Maricoxi Guardians
Chapter Seventeen - Coincidence?
Chapter Eighteen, Part One - Guns Ablazin'
Chapter Eighteen, Part Two

Chapter Twenty - Mercy
Chapter Twenty-One

Thank you for stopping by and reading!!

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