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Part 7

Paranormal Apprehension Agency

We fell for a long time. A fucking long time. I’d almost screamed myself hoarse by the time we hit the ground.

“You didn’t hit the damned ground,” Archer growled for the fifth time as I paced back and forth across the small patch of green grass that we were on. “The portal caught us long before the ground.”

I swung around and jabbed my finger at him. “I didn’t fucking know that did I, so in my head, I was about to be splat.” My voice got very high and screechy. “You let me think I was about to die. You are a fucking ASS—” I paused. “Hat. An Asshat.”

See, I had curse word variety.

Archer just ignored me, because the tall bastard was really good at that. He didn’t deserve his height. Or his broad shoulders. Or those amazing eyes. And he especially did not deserve his eyelashes.

“Can you stop cursing me out in your head and help me search for Rufus,” Archer said, arching an eyebrow at me.

I returned that with a smug look of my own. “You have to be kidding me? I’m hoping he actually went splat.”

Archer’s face was thunderous, scary and formidable when he took a step toward me. “That little asshole, as you call him, is very important. For both of our survivals. Trust me when I tell you, we don’t want him to go splat.”

Every instinct in my body told me to be afraid of Archer in this moment. That this was the Archer that filled nightmares … was whispered about as a scary bedtime story. And yet, I couldn’t find any proper fear—my fingers were actually itching for some chalk to rune the fuck out of him.

His eyes, those expressive, scary orbs that were still turquoise even though I could see the silver starting to run through them, remained locked on me. He never blinked. I wasn’t even sure he was breathing, and I knew this was some sort of domination competition that I was probably going to lose at.

Shit! I wasn’t losing to him. Not now. Not ever.

“Fighting me is not going to end well for you, Livra,” he said softly … menacingly. “I’m very old and powerful. Right now I need you, but that won’t be forever. Do not make an enemy out of me.”

My snort escaped before I could stop it. I knew it was stupid. That taunting him right when he was already stressed about that orange bastard and being back in the world of fae was a bad idea. And still … that didn’t stop me.

His eyes flared to the brightest silver I’d ever seen, almost glowing with intensity, and I noticed that Archer’s power felt different. Stronger, more … elemental in nature. Being back here was already changing him and I wondered if it was going to impact my power in the same way.

“Livra…” Archer said warningly.

I’d stopped paying attention to him and he knew it.

“Uh, yes?” I asked trying to keep my voice low and meek. I didn’t mean it of course, but he didn’t have to know that.

The smallest of twitch occurred along the edge of his lips, and I wondered if he was going to kill me or laugh at me. It could go either way at this point.

“Fuck,” a grumbly low voice said from nearby. “She didn’t die. Thought for sure the Otherworld would reject her lumpy ass.”

For once, I was actually grateful to see the fluffy orange piece of shit wander up to us, smooshed up face high in the air, looking all smug and shit. I mean, at least I thought that was smugness on his face. So hard to tell when he wore the face of a gremlin cross that fat cat who enjoyed lasagne.

Archer released me from his intensity, and I sucked in some deep breaths, trying desperately not to let him see how much he affected me.

“Rufus,” he said, eyeballing the cat now. “Where did you get to?”

The cat shrugged. Which was fucking disturbing to see. “Had to check on something first, but we’re good to go now.”

Archer nodded, and then swung around and started to walk away.

“Wait!” I said, calling out suddenly. “This world could have rejected me?”

No one answered, and I glared the hell out of both of them as I hurried behind. Up until this point we’d been at the bottom of a waterfall, with green patches of grass around, and a few trees blocking most of my view. I hadn’t been able to see much of the Otherworld –nothing seemed too crazy about it from where I was standing, outside of the fact that there was an odd energy that tingled across my skin, and the air smelled very fresh and clean. But as we left the clearing, stepping out of the enclosed space where the portal between the worlds resided, I let out a low, very audible gasp.

“This is nothing like Earth,” I said breathlessly, unable to make my feet continue moving. I hadn’t expected to be so shocked, but it really was astonishing.

“I love the way their tiny brains work,” Rufus said, pausing next to me. “Change a few details of the same scene and they lose their ability to function. Primitive beings.”

Even in my stunned state, I managed to kick him, sending him tumbling a few feet away from me. He was up and hissing as he lunged for me, but this time I was ready. I didn’t have chalk, but I could rune trace anywhere, and this time he was not getting those claws into me.

Tracing in fast circles, I sent a stunning spell at him, all the while waiting for Archer to break it up as he had done so many times. Only he didn’t. He just crossed his arms and leaned back against a tree, like he was curious to see what would happen.

This in itself worried me, because I had a feeling Rufus was able to beat my magic, just the same way Archer had, so last second I slightly modified my rune, adding a few more swirls to enclose him in a small bubble of power.

“That’s not a normal rune,” Archer said, straightening as he looked a little more interested. “You just manipulated a rune.”

I shrugged but didn’t remove my focus from the cat whose claws were mere inches from my face. My rune had hit him just at the right time, and I prepared myself for the fact that he might be able to break right through it.

The power swirled, and his eyes were all red and ragey, but he couldn’t move.

For about five seconds.

Then he broke through and was once again aiming for my face.

Archer did intervene this time, catching Rufus in his arms, and holding him tight against his body. He whispered something I couldn’t hear to the cat, and then set the murderous looking feline back on the ground.

“Watch your back,” Rufus hissed at me. “You won’t always have your protector around.”

I shrugged, not too worried about it. He’d have to get in line for the “kill Livra party.”

“How did you do that?” Archer asked.

I shrugged again because I had no fucking idea. “I’ve always been able to manipulate runes and—” I paused wondering if it was smart to give away any more of my secrets.

“Livra,” Archer said warningly.

“And I can create new runes.”

He stilled. The scary still. “That’s not possible,” his voice was a whisper, making him scarier than ever. “The runes are our oldest magic. They’re as old as the land itself and were literally set in stone for the earliest of our people to find. You’re talking about creating and manipulating original magic.”

I hadn’t quite realised it was that big of a deal, but … well, shit.

“She’s lying,” Rufus said, not sounding as angry.

Archer was still watching me with intensity, and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why that had my stomach in knots and my pulse racing. This guy … he was a lot, and he definitely affected me.

“Maybe now is not the time for this discussion,” I said, indicating out into the incredible land were standing on top of. “You said this was a dangerous world. You said that we needed to go through quietly and without causing a scene. Me manipulating rune magic again feels like a bad idea. With that in mind … we should hurry and move now, just in case anyone just felt what I did.”

Archer and Rufus had some sort of silent conversation then, and I turned back to the original view that had almost knocked me off my feet.

It appeared to be late afternoon here, the sun starting a slow descent across the sky. It was about the same size as the sun on Earth, but it had blue glow to it. Or maybe that was the pink shade of the sky. Or the puffy magenta clouds that were scattered around. Or the pinkish moon that was shadowing the blue sun.

You get the picture. Everything here was similar to Earth—as the assface cat said—but also completely fucking different.

And it was pretty. Really pretty.

The air was clear, and since we were on the edge of a rather large hill, I could see for miles across perfect green valleys and huge forested areas.

“This is the valley of the sunbeams,” Archer said, having finished his weird thing with the cat. “Here they harvest the energy that is filtered across a lot of the Otherworld.”

“How do you harvest energy?” I asked, wondering what he meant.

Archer pointed down to a few long, reflective surfaces. I couldn’t see them that clearly from up here, but they were very shiny and silver, and there were rows and rows of them, almost like a crop field. “Our sun is a lot like Earth’s. It contains elements that can be turned into energy. This energy can be used to power our homes, clean our water and air, and power the fae.”

“Like solar panels?” I guessed.

He nodded. “Yes, that’s probably the closest concept. Right here, in this valley, it’s the purest and closest place to the sun. It’s the warmest place in the Otherworld as well, with a direct proximity to the Kingdom of Light.”

“And let me guess, the Kingdom of Darkness is the farthest from the sun’s energy?” I asked.

Archer nodded. “Absolutely. But we have our own way to generate energy. We are as formidable as the Kingdom of Light.”

“We shouldn’t linger here,” Rufus said, for once not sounding sarcastic. “We are far too close to King Lessian’s territory. He will be searching for his daughter.”

I wondered then, for a brief second, if the cat’s animosity to me was because of my father. Time would tell on that one; I was not in the mood for a heart to heart with him right now.

My eyes remained on the picture-perfect scene—this felt like home here. Which pissed me off because I didn’t want to like anything about this world. I didn’t want to feel like I had fae in me. I did not want to care.

But I did.

Forcing myself to turn away, I focused on the reason we were here. “You said that you needed my blood to track the stone,” I said to Archer, “so why are we waiting until we get to your dark fae mountains? Why not just track it right here?”

He answered immediately. “Because the power required to track the stone is going to send up a strong beacon to anyone who is paying attention. Your father is definitely paying attention. I want to be on my land, surrounded by my army, when I put this plan into motion.”

Fair enough. An army certainly sounded like a good thing to have at my back.

Archer started to walk then, along the edge of the mountain, and down a small, worn path that had clearly been traversed many times before. “Who runs the dark kingdom when you’re on Earth doing your scary assassin things?” I asked him, following close behind.

“My second in command. Ranger.”

I waited for him to expand on that, but he was silent, moving gracefully down the mountain. I didn’t even want to think about how powerful that fae was. A fae Archer trusted to leave behind in charge of his kingdom when he was gone. Something told me I was going to find out soon though.

Our journey through the valley was uneventful, and even though I wanted to examine everything closely as we passed, especially anything that was foreign in nature, I managed to just keep my head down and my feet moving. Archer kept our pace high, and by the time he called it a day, I was exhausted.

We were long past the valley, which apparently had twenty hours of sunlight a day, and night had fallen bringing with it cold bitter winds. I was dressed warm, but somehow the chill still infiltrated.

Unlike me though, Archer and his Hellspawn looked right at home in the arctic conditions. “Rufus,” Archer said, when we stopped in the middle of a forest, somewhat sheltered by huge trees that had trunks at least ten feet in diameter. “I’m going to need you to find us some food.”

I waited for the orange bastard to complain, but he just slunk off into he darkness, and I shook my head, determined not to eat whatever creature he brought back. I probably would never be hungry enough to eat a giant fae rat.

“I can’t use my magic to light a fire,” Archer said. “Even though we’re skimming the edge of the territories, the inbetween still has magical alerts through it, and I don’t want to give your father any advantage.”

Leaning back against a log, I snorted. “He’s not my father. Seriously. At best, let’s call him the DNA donor.”

Archer shrugged, but didn’t disagree. “Fair enough.”

He threw together some logs, before grabbing two thinner sticks and a flat piece of wood. As he started to rub those sticks together, I leaned forward curious about what he was doing. His hands moved so fast that they were almost blurring, and with a burst of heat, flames licked up between the two sticks. Asher threw some dried grass and bush into the flames, and within a few minutes, there was a decent sized fire.

“Apparently you don’t need magic,” I said softly, finding that almost sexier than his power as a fae. Throw a flannel shirt on him and axe in his hands, and I’d have myself a good old fashioned woodsman. “What other secrets are you hiding Archer?”

I didn’t expect an answer, and that was exactly what I got.

Archer tended the fire while we waited for Rufus to return; I tried to ignore the rumbling of my stomach. “Didn’t you pack any rations?” I asked him.

Archer nodded. “I did, but this forest is teaming with wildlife, and we might as well take advantage of that. It won’t be this easy farther down the track.”

He did hand me a small water bottle, and I gratefully took a long sip. Cool, delicious water washed down my throat and I wondered why it almost tasted as good as wine. This was some Jesus water or something.

“Thank you,” I said as I handed it back, somewhat reluctantly. Never share wine was my motto, but since this was actually water, I guess I could let him have it back.

There was a loud scuffing sound then, and before I could panic, Rufus pranced into the clearing, dragging in his mouth a fucking woolly mammoth or something.

I was on my feet staring at the dead creature in horror. It was huge, like … the size of a moose, and it was very hairy. There were huge horns on it’s head, three of them, sharp and deadly. “How in the fuck—” I started. There was no possibly way this fat, ugly cat had managed to kill an animal this size.

Rufus ignored me, bringing his prize to his master. Archer looked impressed, nodding his head a few times. “A jackolight. Great work, Rufus. It’ll turn into jerky by morning and I can take it for the rest of our journey.”

Rufus nodded, dropping the black furred beast, before settling onto his haunches looking rather pleased with himself.

Meanwhile, I’m sitting there stupidly blinking at them both because WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?

Rufus must have noticed and he got up, moving a little closer to me. I watched him warily. “Told you to sleep with one eye open, bitch,” he whispered, that gravelled voice of his sending a trill down my spine. For the first time since I’d met that little rodent, I was wondering if I should have tried to be nicer to him.

Eh, too late for regrets.