Year Five of the Addergoole School, at the time of Book Seven
The doorbell rang while Ashley was doing the dishes after dinner. She wiped her hands on the towel, wished briefly, before the thought was subsumed beneath a wave of be-a-good-girl, that her roommates believed in more clothing on her than apron, panties, and high heels, and headed to answer the door with a wiggle in her walk just for them.
When she saw the two strange men standing outside, for a brief moment she thought maybe this whole thing was a dream that she was on the set of a porn movie. The one in front certainly had the look, the appeal... what was wrong with her? She was licking her lips and she didn’t even know these guys. The man in back looked equally stereotypical, though in a totally different way. He practically hulked over his companion, his huge bristly beard visible over the other man’s head, and... was he wearing furs, seriously?
Okay, they had to be friends of her roommates. For one, what friends she had left knew better than to visit her at home. “How can I help you gentlemen?” she asked, in the sweet-and-sultry voice that always seemed to get the best results.
“Here what for visiting Meshach and Shadrach,” the big man rumbled in a vaguely interrogative tone. “We come in, da?”
She turned to look at the guys, flopped lazily on the couch and watching something on TV.
Meshach sat bolt upright at hearing the voice, turning to the door. “Professor Fridmar? Da, I mean, yeah, be welcome.”
Ashley stepped out of the way. Weren’t they going to invite the handsome one in, too? He was staring at Shadrach very intently. Very. “Shad?” Gawd, even his voice was sexy.
That got him out of his seat as well. “Mike? Yeah, c’mon in guys.”
Ashley melted back against the wall, as far out of the room as she could be and still be in sight. Maybe they wouldn’t want to play tonight; the big man didn’t look like the playing sort.
“We’re just stopping in for an alumni check-up,” the blonde man, Mike, said as he shut the door behind them. His gaze lingered on Ashley, and she found herself blushing hotly.
“Hey, that’s cool. We’re doing pretty good here, really. Making friends around the university, classes are nothing compared to what we had with you guys, so yeah.” Shad seemed to relax as he answered. What had they been expecting?
“I see you’re making friends,” the blonde answered dryly, his eyes still on Ashley. She could totally drown in those eyes…
“I read a book,” Meshach answered glibly. “You know, ‘How to Make Friends and Influence People’? I guess it took. But I don’t have to tell you about influencing people, of course.”
“Of course.” Finally, he looked away from Ashley to study her roommates. “It does seem as if a few of your lessons took, at least.”
“Oh, yeah, your magic lessons were really invaluable,” Shad agreed.
Magic? Magic? Ashley squeaked . She’d wondered, sometimes, about the holes in her memory, about the extremes to which they could push her (that party last week, the one she could only remember a third of, but that third was mortifying to even think about recalling). Magic. Like on Buffy, or Charmed.
“Talk of that in front of her?” the big one, Professor Fridmar - a professor, really? - asked with some surprise.
“Oh, don’t worry, she’ll forget it,” Meshach replied dismissively.
“How many times you flashy-thingy that poor girl?” Shad quoted, and both of them laughed.
Ashley’s lower lip quivered. It was one thing for them to talk like that when they were alone, but in front of other people… it just wasn’t nice. Maybe they were doing it for her own good? Like a witness protection plan. They were nice and protective of her, and took good care of her. Even if they had … flashy-thingied her?
“What your name?” the big man asked her. Was he trying to be friendly? He wasn’t very good at it, although there seemed to be a sincere attempt.
“Ashley,” she told him shyly. The blonde was frowning now. He still looked handsome when he frowned, but she didn’t want him unhappy, did she?
“So Ashley is the new Eris?” he asked casually, directing the question towards Shad, it seemed.
Who was Eris? Shad was shrugging; was that some ex-girlfriend or something? Neither of them had ever mentioned previous relationships; they barely ever talked about their high school at all. “She’s better behaved,” he answered just as casually, with a warm smile for Ashley for being a good girl.
“Not even Faded.” Fridmar frowned, looking over the three of them.
Ashley frowned back at him. She was right here! And, at nineteen, she should hope she wasn’t faded! Shad was shrugging again, like it was no big deal.
“You take what you can get, you know?”
“And you, Meshach? Is there a new Joff, or is Ashley enough for both of you?”
Joff? What? Joff was a boy’s name, wasn’t it? Ashley tried to back out of the room. She didn’t want to hear anymore. Why were teachers from their old school asking about their love life, anyway?
“Ashley’s just fine. She’s a good girl. Come here,” Meshach added, snapping his fingers.
She knew her cue when she heard it, and came over to him, settling down at his feet. She was a good girl, after all.
The blonde man seemed to have something on his mind. “Agmund…” he said to the furry one.
“Da?” he answered, turning to his companion.
“We can’t allow this to stand,” the first one sighed, seeming put-out about it. “You know we can’t.”
Ashley huddled closer to Meshach. What were they going to do?
“Hey now,” Shad said with a frown. “What’s the big deal, Mike?”
“That you’re asking at all suggests the problem is bigger than I thought.” The blonde paused. “What does Ashley want?”
“She’s happy here. Aren’t you, honey?”
“I’m happy here,” she agreed. That just made the teachers frown even deeper.
“All right, Agmund, do you want to take the boys, or the girl?” the one called Mike asked. Ashley pressed herself against Meshach. He’d protect her, right?
“I take girl,” he said, making it sound as if he was going to throw her over his shoulder and walk away with her.
“Sure you want to do that, Mike?” Shad asked easily. Ashley looked between him and the big furry professor nervously.
“Do you remember the difference between us and the Nedetakaei, Shad?”
On the other side, the “professor” took a step closer, crossing half the room with that stride. Ashley tried to place herself behind Meshach, but there was no room between him and the couch.
“We follow the law, they don’t,” Shad answered lazily.
“And we look after the humans. We don’t enslave them, and we don’t rule over them.”
After humans? What did they think they were, then? Ashley stopped to stare at them, getting more nervous every minute.
“So, what, you want us to find an Ellehemaei girl? They don’t grow on trees, you know. Well, except the ones that do. But I don’t know where Holly and Juniper got to.”
“Have you tried just talking to the girls, the old-fashioned way? You’re good-looking boys, I can’t imagine it’d be that hard for you.” He paused a moment, glancing her way. “Especially in this case. What you did was a little bit like sandblasting a soup cracker.”
She blinked.. Soup cracker? Sandblasting? What? She was still trying to figure out what that meant when the other one came up beside her. “Come, Ashley, we go for walk. Mike has personal business to discuss here, da?”
“Oh, come on,” Shad was retorting angrily. “Like that works for anyone but you Daeva types.” She looked between them. “A walk, yes,” she agreed nervously.
Meshach just scooted out of the way as the man reached down to take her hand, leading her out of the room. Mike’s answer to Shad’s retort was lost to the thudding of the man’s feet on the tile and the thudding of her heart in her chest as terror coalesced there.
“What’s going on?” she asked nervously. Mesh and Shad wouldn’t let her get hurt, would they? Could they stop this guy, if he wanted to do something to her? Would they try?
“Not going to hurt you, Ashley. Those boys did things to you, not nice things. Some you may not even know about. We make it right, best we can.”
“Not nice things?” She squirmed a little, thinking about that party last weekend. How had he known? “It’s not that bad. They take good care of me.”
“Will be okay. Trust us.”
Copyright © 2009-2011 Lyn Thorne-Alder with Elasmo. All rights reserved.
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