I have been thinking about Ria’s parents for a long time. What their stories are, how they came together to make Ria—the spontaneous meeting that changed the world.
And no, I’m not being dramatic. Although Ria is not the one, she’s the catalyst for the one.
Cue the fake stadium roar that kind of sounds like a ghost instead.
Aderyn proved to be more of a mystery than Tatiana did, but his growth into mortality has made him such an interesting person for me as does his connection with the children in this story.
I rather enjoyed the surprises he’s brought me. So, let me introduce him to you:
New York City was heavy with fog and exhaust as Aderyn Tanguy returned to Tisch Hospital to check on his person of interest. Little Avery’s long limbs reanimated with uncanny energy, but the pale sheen to her dark skin drove suspicion into his gut.
The night before she’d been so close to death that he pulled out every trick he had to keep her heart beating, but he left her weak and steady when her mother arrived for visiting hours. This, however, was miraculous and not his handiwork.
Her wide nostrils flared as he stepped into her new room, closing the door behind him. “Morning, precious. How long have you been awake?”
She blinked at him, long lashes and wild eyes. Her nostrils flared again.
Cachu hwch, he’d given her everything she could handle, but she’d died anyways.
Freshly awake. Must have been. Avery sat with her hands bunched in the white sheets around her lap. Disinfectant and bile lingered in the room. No hints at fresh blood. She hadn’t bitten anyone yet.
Thick canines pressed against her plump mouth as he breached the end of her bed.
“Where’s your mother? Hmm? Had any other visitors?”
Uninhabited hunger dilated her pupils, but she posed him little danger. Vampires rarely attacked healers. Most creatures didn’t. Perks of being a phoenix. The phoenix.
“It hurts.” Her words slurred, saliva sputtering from her thick lips.
“I know it does, precious. I know.”
Her fingers loosened from the sheets, but Aderyn grabbed her face and immobilized her with his gaze. Delving into her mind produced a blur of muted colors and bright red blood. Cold. Sharp. Prickling. Pain. The soft edges of a face passed through her vision before nothingness.
She didn’t remember anything. Just as well.
Aderyn snapped her neck, cringing at the blow that rebounded within him as he laid her back against the white pillows. “Sorry, precious. You didn’t want that life, no way.”
Layers of lemongrass lingered on her pillow, but no other traces were distinct enough to lend to a trail. Pushing back the curtain for the yellowed window. Entrance after he’d left was possible, but no clues. The place was clean, as it should be.
Eyes closed on the way out the door, he’d take the memory of her with him—the one’s full of hope instead of death.
Fog danced with his boots on the streets of lower Manhattan. Four blocks north, he used a payphone to check in, popping a quarter and dialing his handler.
“What?” Fury seethed in the breath on the other end of the line.
Why was the big guy answering the phone? “Sir, no go on the mini-human.”
“Minimal.” Aderyn leaned over the payphone box and cleared the smell death from his sinuses with a shift in the air. Lemongrass weaved through wind.
The phone clanked dead, and he replaced the receiver.
Not an investigator, Aderyn scouted the street. Beyond the wet gravel and litter, the ghost of other paranormals laced through the human scents.
At his back squatted a small storefront with a sparkling window. Inside, a mane of blonde curls shook and shimmied under the command of two equally pale hands. Her hair shifted to reveal startling blue eyes, lined with extravagant lashes, and guarded by a spattering of freckles. They looked right through him.
Her smile rivaled the sun.
And it disappeared before the ching of storefront bells revealed her again.
An elegant one-shoulder shrug lifted the sage in her hands. “Well, when you have to answer a question with a question, you’re in deeper than you want to be.”
Disposable lighter flicked under her thumb, the sparks refused to light, and he took it from her before he thought not to. Aderyn ignited the fumes spitting from the top.
“Well, you’re handy to have around.” She leaned in, dropping the end of her bundle into the flame and blowing it out to plumes of smoke. Stepping around him, her fingers trailed over his shoulder, and she waved her smudge stick in the corners of the entrance.
Holding the door open, she peeked out. “Pure enough to follow me inside?”
“Lock the door. My foot traffic doesn’t start until the afternoon.” Smoke circled in on itself as she looped the store and stubbed the stick out gently. “Back here, bad news.”
She disappeared behind a waterfall of beads, fingers catching the cascade like a mating dance. The back was warm and dark, illuminated by Christmas lights. As the heat closed in around them, Aderyn caught the hints of nutmeg and clove.
“Did you want to talk about your trouble?” The space maneuvered him beside her, but she didn’t seem to mind. Her touch danced up his arm, filling his senses like a drug. “Or forget about it?”
The way her thumb brushed his mouth drowned him in hope. This type of thing didn’t happen. Not to him.
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