Hank frowned as he listened to their conversation. They were speaking loud and energetically. No whispering or secretive actions. But both Mark Caten and Preyuna seemed to be doing a masterful job of shielding whatever they were actually talking about.
Trying to figure it out gave him a headache. He could tell it had something to do with Isellta and the prison level. Other than that….headache.
Then, Caten turned the conversation to his late night plans. Hank completely zoned that whole part out.
Hank thought instead about his own late night plans. He looked over at Dave and smiled.
Dave was standing at attention. His gaze straight ahead. His weapon in his hands. His mask covered his entire face.
Dave took a deep breath and exhaled.
Hank’s ears heated up.
So cute! I want to tear off that stupid mask and just kiss him! But not here. Not in front of Caten.
After our shift is finally over and we’re free, I want to take him away from this place. Go to a nice restaurant. One where we’ll have to dress up in suits or be kicked out.
His ears turned even warmer.
My Dave in a suit…I’ve never seen him in a suit before.
And he’s never seen me in one. We’re either dressed for work or dressed for casual. Does he even have any suits? I’ll have to double check our closet.
Hank snapped to attention as Preyuna storm-clouded towards the door. He moved out of her way.
She flung the door open, narrowly missing Dave, and left.
Isellta laid his head against Jay’s chest and closed his eyes. And his entire world was red and brown – anise and cloves. He relaxed.
I could stay here and hide. I could be safe. But I don’t want anise and cloves. I want to be engulfed in orange. Such very bright orange. Vibrant tangerine.
“Jay? I’m sorry. I don’t mean to hurt you and I know this hurts you. I’m sorry. But if she knows…if she can…” He sniffled. “If she will release him, oh Jay! What else can I do?”
Jay took several minutes to respond. “I’m not mad at you. You have to remember this, Isellta. I am not mad at you.” He rubbed the middle of Isellta’s back, ruffling his feathers and smoothing them back down. “Promise me. If she hurts you, you’ll come to me. You’ll tell me. I’ll protect you. I’ll keep you safe.”
“Also, don’t you ever go back to that fra nae shi place. I came so close to losing you. I don’t want to live through that again. You hear me?”
He snuggled against the guard’s neck. “I’m sorry, Jay.”
“Shhh. It’s okay.”
“I’m sorry. I never wanted to hurt you again. I’m so sorry.”
“Shh. I got you.”
Mark Caten’s office door banged open.
Isellta cringed. He held onto Jay for a second longer before releasing him. He lightly stroked the guard’s face. “Esh ka mae, Jay.” His legs trembled and bowed as he turned to face Preyuna.
Jay stayed close to him, ready to catch him at a second’s warning.
If he changes his mind….I want to tell him to change his mind, but I can’t. Just like how he couldn’t convince me to stop walking through that barrier spell. The barrier spell…Oh. Shoot.
“Preyuna, what are your plans for Isellta?”
She arched an eyebrow. “I didn’t realize I needed to spell it out for you, guard.”
He clenched his fists and tried not to think about that. “Besides the obvious. Will he be free to come and go as he chooses and associate with who he chooses?” Even as the words left his mouth, Jay knew the answer and he hated it.
“You want to know if I will let him entertain your company.”
“It’s more than that. Are you going to reactivate the magical barrier around him?”
She tilted her head and smiled. “Did you really think I wouldn’t?” She whispered into her hands and pushed her magic at Isellta.
A powerful force slammed into Jay, hurtling him to the other side of the hall. He landed on his side. “Ugh…”
Jay raised his head and watched Preyuna lead Isellta away.
Isellta tripped and stumbled.
Jay rose automatically to run to him, to keep him from falling. Then, his brain caught up to his instincts.
Preyuna wrapped her arm around Isellta’s waist.
Isellta’s wings hung limp on his back as she led him into her bedroom.
Jay sank to his knees and sat there alone.