• C.A. Lightfoot

The Guardian - Chapter Eleven

Summary: While celebrating her friend's Rising day, Dover has an interesting encounter with a demon.



Chapter Eleven

Brooks and Dunn were lamenting the light of a neon moon, when Dover skidded her way through the doors of Harry’s. Running almost two hours late wasn’t, exactly, a surprise, but she felt the tingle of guilt as she scanned the crowded bar for signs of her friends. Often, Guardians were too busy with their Charges, training, or prayer to really go out for a good time together. Tonight offered a rare occasion to get together without weaponry involved, not that Dover expected any of her friends to be unarmed.

Harry’s boasted a u-shaped bar with anything a Southerner could ask for behind 3 feet of mahogany, a well-loved dance floor abutting the much-abused stage and a grandfathered smoking permit. It was, Dover often thought, a throwback to the bars of her youth, filled with rowdy cowboys and the scent of stale smoke.

At home among the crowd, she spied a few of her friends on the dance floor, pressed against one another for a two-step. Embry had Elise on the scuffed pine, the two conversing under the music. Dover caught sight of a few familiar Guardians, including the man of honor, at a set of tables just beyond the bar and slid through the crowd to say hello.

She tapped Elise on the backside as she wove through the dancers, sliding on the sawdust covering the floor. Her boots glided happily as she reached the far end of the floor, roping Matthew into a hug the second she was in arms’ reach.

Matty stood at just under six-feet, with windswept dark hair, deep brown eyes, and a serious sort of demeanor most mistook as ingrained solemnity. Dover, having indoctrinated the Guardian when he Rose, always found him to be warm, kind, and with a dry sense of humor she enjoyed.

Tonight, in honor of his fifth Rising, Matty wore a pair of brand new Ariat boots, pressed blue jeans, and a button down of true black. On his head, killing the tall, dark, and handsome vibe he’d obviously been going for, there sat a cockeyed jester’s hat in a shade of shocking pink. Dover arched a brow at the choice of headgear, rewarded when Matty shrugged one shoulder.

“Elise’s Rising gift.” He explained under the music as Brooks and Dunn gave way to a familiar Garth Brooks tune. “I think I like it.”

“I love it.” Dover grinned, flicking one of the golden bells at the end of a spike. “Sorry I’m late. I was…ya know.”

She stopped herself from explaining she’d been checking on each of her Charges methodically. He would want to know why, would offer his help. Dover didn’t mind Matty’s help, not at all. Her training of him had forged the young Guardian into one of the best, especially given his short tenure. For now, however, Dover found her trust in the Arbor strained, she would play this one close to the vest.

“I get it.” Matty answered, his handsome face alighting with a small smile. “How about I get you a beer and you take a turn with me?”

Dover lifted a brow, aware that her Northern-raised protégé had only recently tried to learn to dance. “Are you sure that’s safe for my toes? I might get a Call, you know.”

Matty’s face collapsed into a scowl. He responded by setting his own drink down to grab Dover’s hand, twirling her onto the dancefloor, her laughter audible even over the music.


Hours into a damn good time, Dover made her way toward the bar. The crowd had begun to thin out, leaving only those hardcore partiers to close the place down. Though some of their cohorts had already been called off to handle their Charges, most of Matty’s friends had managed an entire evening out. Several had already joked that Raziel might want to mark this on her calendar.

Dover hummed along with the stereo system as she reached the bar, sliding onto a battered stool. The bartender appeared busy at the other end. He offered a quick “I see you” in the form of a nod. Dover drummed her fingers on the damp mahogany, glancing over her shoulder to where Embry was busily chatting up another Guardian.

“Quite the group that dragged you in here.”

The voice might have been plucked directly out of the telenovelas her mother loved when she was little. Masculine and deep, just the hint of a rasp. She could tell from his accent that he was not a native Georgian, but had been in the area long enough to pick up some of the compulsory twang.

When she turned to locate the source of that smooth voice, Dover found her heart skipped several beats before it slammed mercilessly against her chest.

He draped his body carelessly against the high-backed stool, his posture radiating calm control. In fact, the male oozed power and preternatural grace.

That face…Creator, she had never laid eyes on something so beautiful, even amongst the Host.

Dark blond hair fell over his eyes in careful, though a somehow nonchalant manner. A beard, some shades darker than that styled fringe swept under high cheekbones and over his angular jaw. Storm-blue eyes observed her with a hint of good humor from beneath thick, dark lashes. A smile, inviting and ruthlessly disarming, spread over his supple lips beneath a long, straight nose. When he raised his glass to that smiling mouth, Dover noted large palms and masculine fingers with buffed, blunt nails.

The man wore a tailored leather jacket in dark brown, paired with well-worn jeans, and a blue button-down shirt the shade of his tempestuous eyes. On his feet, Dover noted a pair of boots, scuffed with wear. He appeared to be neither an office worker nor a man who worked outside. In fact, she could hardly determine anything about him from clothing alone. All Dover could figure out from a cursory glance was that he posed no threat. Indeed, his smile was warm and affable.

Everything about this man invited her to move closer, to let her guard down. It was this feeling that tipped her off.

Demon.

Since he seemed intent on hiding his Hell-eritage, Dover allowed some of her guard to remain down. What chance did a single demon have in a room filled with Guardians?

“Bold of you, assuming I needed to be dragged.” Dover told the stranger, hoisting a smile onto her own lips. She found it difficult not to return that infectious grin. “We work in private security, so not much down time.”

Her companion lifted his chin with a soft cluck of his tongue. “That explains the amount of concealed carry going on.”

Dover’s grin widened. “Dover. Ellis.”

“Tarc Desmond.” He did not offer his hand, as though aware it would likely give him away. The demon called Tarc lifted the glass to his lips, keeping to himself as the harried bartender approached to, finally, take Dover’s order.

She asked for a pair of beers, aware that someone from her group was now watching her carefully. Dover gestured with her left hand, assuring the watcher that she did not need assistance. Whatever the handsome demon wanted did not appear nefarious. Not yet.

“Alone?” She asked, turning back to her companion as the bartender moved away once more.

“Just unwinding.” Tarc replied, that deep voice raising the hair on her arms in a most irritating fashion. “I’ve had a long day, preceded by several long months. Thought a solitary drink might settle the nerves.”

Dover nodded, shifting on her stool to face him more fully. “Trouble with work?”

His answering smile told her that he, at least, suspected she knew what he was. Their conversation might be friendly, but one wrong move on either side would mean Atlanta’s nightlife would take another hit. Dover remained on her side of the invisible line drawn in sawdust, curious as to the urbanity and civility of the demon beside her.

“Something like that,” he replied to her question. A nod requested a top off of his drink from the barman who deposited a pair of beers on the bar in front of Dover. “You see, I’m ruminating on a problem I can’t seem to find the answer to.”

“Ruminating?” Dover asked, her brow lifted with amusement. “There’s a five-dollar word.”

“I know, but I like it.” Tarc replied. “Something very strange is going on and it’s putting lives on the line. I can’t seem to figure out how or why it’s happening. The more time goes on, the higher the stakes.”

The sudden stiffness of hair on the back of her neck had nothing to do with his good looks or smooth voice. Dover found her hand hovering over the neck of her beer bottle. Her encounter with the necromancer came screaming to the forefront of her thoughts. The new flesh of her burned hand began to itch beneath the bandages. She caught the gaze of the demon beside her, astonished to find he had turned away to peer into the amber of his glass.

“Sounds like a pain in the ass.” Dover replied, her voice thick. “What do you think you’ll do about it?”

Tarc’s smile widened, but he did not raise his eyes to hers. He tipped the sweating glass between his thumb and forefinger, as though deeply contemplating how to reply to her question.

“The next, logical step would be to get a fresh set of eyes on it, you know? A little outsourcing.”

After tipping her own drink at her lips, Dover nodded. “That’d be one way to handle it. New eyes, new insights.”

“Exactly.” Tarc replied, seemingly pleased with her answer. “Finding someone to take that second look hasn’t been easy, though.”

“No?”

“Not at all. I’m beginning to lose hope.”

She felt it then, that tickle at the base of her neck that she always likened to intuition. The blue-eyed demon finally lifted his gaze to meet hers. For a moment, Dover simply met that gaze, watching the silver streaks visible amid that deep cerulean. Her thoughts drifted back to the necromancer and what that creature claimed.

My commander would have your aid in this.

Could this beautiful male before her be the mysterious commander that necro had mentioned? Had he tracked her here to feel her out? Would he dare make a move when surrounded by Guardians?

“Well, in any event, my time here is done.” Tarc finished his drink, laid down a bill on the bar and slid from the stool. “It was nice to meet you, Dover Ellis.”

He moved to walk away, no more a threat than he had been at first sight. Dover’s heart beat furiously within her chest, wondering if she was making a mistake by allowing him to leave. Should she stop him? Interrogate him? Should she call the Arbor to have him watched?

None of those options sat well with her. As the distance opened up between their bodies, Dover surprised herself by calling out over the din of music and voices.

“Don’t give up hope.” The Guardian said, not surprised when he turned to face her. “You never know when help will come around.”

Though he seemed surprised, Tarc smiled once more, nodding his head in farewell.

Dover watched him move through the crowd until his body vanished. A familiar presence made itself known beside her. Without turning to him, Dover sighed.

“Ever have that feeling that trouble is coming right at you?”

Embry’s response was tense, though tinged with amusement. “And you know you won’t be able to get out of the way? Yeah.”

Dover exhaled explosively. “Alright. One more round and then it’s back to work.”

In response, Embry sat a glass on the bar in front of her and slid into the stool Tarc had just vacated.

“Dove?” Her friend’s face appeared drawn, tight.

“Yeah?”

“That was a Commander.” Embry replied softly. “That was a Legion Commander and he didn’t pose a bit of a threat to you.”

Tension snaked up from her tailbone along the ridge of her spine, spreading out with acute awareness that whatever was happening had to be connected. Dover swallowed the Jameson in one go, looking back to where the demon had disappeared.

“If anyone finds out I even had that conversation, that I didn’t shoot that male in the face, I’ll be thrown from the Arbor.”

“I know.” Embry agreed. “Which is why I covered you with a charm the second he smiled at you.”

“What the hell is going on, Em?”

“I don’t know, honey, but you need to sort it out. Fast.”

1 view0 comments

Recent Posts

See All