A black velvet-gloved hand knocked softly on the closed, locked door. "Time to wake up, love."
A low, disgruntled sound, like the rumble of displeasure from a stirring tiger, came from inside the room.
The immortal assassin considered punching his fist the flimsy barrier, and then glanced at a nearby window. I swore I would not use my ability or my superhuman strength while under this roof. Stupid of me. He knocked again. "It's 6:45. School starts in half an hour."
The creature inside yanked open the door. Tiny, fairy-like and swaddled in her favorite quilt, she brushed past the handsome fiend and went straight to the couch in the living room, where she dropped and pulled the quilt over her head.
Lucan silently followed and hovered over the teenager for a moment. She weighed perhaps a hundred pounds, had fragile porcelain skin, and played the flute like an angel. He refused to be terrified of such a flimsy creature. "Froot Loops, or Apple Jacks?"
A muffled "Whatever" came from under the quilt.
He went to the pantry and regarded the available boxes of cereal before selecting the freshest and carrying it to the kitchen table. There he filled a bowl with multi-colored presweetened O's (the sight and smell of which made his stomach clench) and then fetched the carton of lactose-free milk from the fridge to pour over them. "All right, love, come to the table."
Under the quilt, love mumbled something that sounded suspiciously rude.
He thought it a pity one could no longer foster children on an unsuspecting neighbor. "Come on," he urged her, "before the cats get it."
The teenager rose, now a scowling zombie, and came to the table. She glared at him through a veil of tangled blond hair. "What?"
I am the most feared Darkyn lord in the world, he thought. With a single touch I can shatter bone and rend flesh. I have slaughtered thousands. The most ferocious warriors among my kind quail at the mere mention of my name.
"Nothing." Meekly retreating to the kitchen, he checked his tea and finished preparing it before escaping with it out to the porch.
"That didn't go too well," Samantha, his sygkenis, said from her chair. She was sipping her tea and watching a blue jay busily raiding the feeder outside the screen. "Did you mention that she should try to get to bed earlier?"
"And risk having my head torn off my neck? Thank you, no." He eyed her. "Why don't any of you women ever have to wake her?"
She shrugged. "Because we're smarter than you. Uh, someone else wants attention."
Lucan glanced down. The household pup, a small Sheltie with silky fur, stood staring up at him with soulful brown eyes. "I know your game, dog. You've been out already, and you have personally sniffed every other blade of grass on the property. Twice. Now you simply want to chase squirrels."
At the sound of the s-word the pup's curled ears perked and he whined.
The door to the porch opened and the fairy's head popped out. "Where are my gray jeans?"
"I sold them to a passing gypsy," Lucan snarled back. "She'll be returning for you later."
The door slammed.
"They're in the dryer," Sam said helpfully.
"I know where the damned jeans are." He rubbed his burning eyes. "Do you know, I just bought her five new pair from that store in the mall with that seizure-inducing music blaring at unspeakable decibels. Two hours I stood there being deafened while she tried on every bleeding size zero jeans they had in the place. Did I mention that I didn't kill the sales clerk who was too busy talking to her boyfriend on the telephone to wait on us?"
"She won't wear the new ones until you've washed them at least twice," Sam reminded him. "And the gray jeans are her favorite."
"Bloody hell." He rose and snatched up his tea. "My mother would have married her off at thirteen to wife-beating widower with six children."
"Then it's a good thing that you're her mother," Sam called after him.
"I am not her mother. I am a Kyn suzerain, respected and feared by all who know me." He retrieved the garment from the dryer and carried them back to the closed, locked door. He didn't bother to knock this time. "Sweetheart? I have your gray jeans."
The door opened an inch. "I don't want them." The door closed.
"But you just said . . ." he closed his eyes and counted to ten. "Is there anything else I can get for you? A husband, perhaps? Daily beatings? Six or seven ungrateful children of your own to slave for?"
He left the jeans hanging on the door knob and turned to find the dog watching him. "I can sell you to gypsies, you know. They'd put you to work herding their stolen goats and sheep."
Completely aware of how much he was adored, the pup gave him a toothy grin.
"Oh, shut up." Lucan stalked past him and went into the household chapel.
It was not a very large place of worship, but it was spotless, and the machine waited with an open page displayed on its monitor. He sat down and read what had been written earlier.
"I should be part of this." He contemplated typing in a part for himself and his lover. "Samantha would love San Francisco. I could prove quite useful during the chapter on the rebellion. There are no teenagers in this story, which I believe makes it Nirvana."
Sorry, pal, the voice in his head told him. These characters have got to do it on their own. Do you know what time it is?
Before he could give her a piece of his mind, the door to the chapel opened and the fairy glared at him from haunting sea-colored eyes. "We have to go," she said, as if he were the one lolling about the place. "Now."
"Of course." He grabbed an insanely heavy purse and hunted through its contents for the truck keys. "When are you getting out today?"
"Early release schedule," she snapped. "Hurry up. I'm going to be late."
On the way to school, Lucan donned his shades and neatly avoided a female in an Infiniti who was more interested in her mobile phone conversation than the red light she had just run. "Do you need some lunch money?"
The fairy yawned and shook her head.
"Any papers I should sign?"
"Uh-uh." She closed her eyes and slumped against the inside of the door.
He clenched his jaw. "Would you like to join the exchange student program and spend the rest of high school living in a mud hut in the Congo?"
"It would be a very nice mud hut, I'm sure. Think of all the ferocious animals you could observe in the wild. Aside from yourself, I mean." He saw the way she was clenching her own jaw and fell silent.
As he waited in the ridiculously long line of cars waiting for their turn at the drop-off loop in front of the school, he glanced at the drowsy face beside him. Every time he looked at her, she broke his heart a little more. "I was only kidding about the Congo."
"Alaska would be better for you," he continued. "You'd have to live in an igloo, but they have six months of night up there. You could sleep off half your sophomore year."
She didn't open her eyes. "Uh-huh."
After several minutes he reached the front of the school, and watched the fairy stretch and gather her things. "I love you. Have a good day." He didn't make the mistake of trying to give her a hug, but once she had climbed out and glanced back at him he blew her a kiss.
She gave him the gift of a genuine smile before she joined the queue of kids trudging away from their cars.
On the way back to the house Lucan found a radio station that played Goth tunes and hummed along to Amy Lee. "Mission accomplished," he said, glancing at the rear view mirror. "Your turn."
In the backseat, TssVar, Hanar of the Hsktskt Faction, displayed extensive rows of razor-sharp jagged teeth. "I am the supreme ruler of the most feared species in the galaxy. Governments cower before me. My armies send millions fleeing in terror. Even now, hundreds of thousands of combat-trained battle-hardened warriors wait in readiness to carry out my bidding."
Lucan's brows rose. "Your point?"
TssVar's massive shoulders slumped. "Do I have to pick her up from school?"