It's been a while since I've uploaded anything. But here you go. I hope you guys enjoy it.

Disclaimer: I do not own Fable or Albion. But these characters and the story is all mine.

Warnings: It's Yaoi. It strays slightly from the Fable series. It's based on Fable 2 mixed with a little 3.

Please Enjoy

The whispers were something I could always handle. I knew what they said about me. What they all really thought. Yet, in the darkness when no one else was around, they came to me for comfort. I never asked what they needed comfort for. I never cared. As long as I received what was due to me. And I always did. Because they knew not to fuck me over. They knew I wouldn't hesitate to rip their sick little heads from their disgusting bodies. They feared me. And they would never admit it.

Not in this town. This low little town that was only good for what it imported. A town full of thugs, whores and criminals. The only positive was the sparkling ocean that spread from its dirty shores. An ocean that spoke of lands far away so much better than our own. Yet I'd never been given a chance to see them. I was never given a chance to even leave this sinful town. This was all I knew. Hatred, sin, and booze.

From the moment I was born in this vile town to a worthless whore with no way to take care of me. I was lucky. More than lucky. I was a fucking miracle. Born healthy and with a will to survive. Sometimes I wondered if I had known back then what I knew now if I would have tried so hard to survive. It's only human nature to fight to survive however. And survive I did. My mother was killed when I was barely four, leaving me to fend for myself. And fend I did.

I was lucky to make it to the ripe age of seventeen. Of course, I had to follow in my mother's footsteps. But I was much smarter than she had ever been. No one owned me. I owned myself and I worked for myself alone. No one could control me no matter how many had tried. They stopped fucking with me a long time ago after they found a patron of mine floating by the port with his insides ripped out. Ass deserved it, after all. How dare he refuse to pay me after the service I gave him? I learned my mistake. Money upfront. No questions asked.

"He's really here?!"

The excited voice of a familiar female caught my attention. I glanced up from my place at a small rickety table in the only bar in town. Quite a popular place actually. I focused on the girl as I sipped on my own beer, curious as to what she was talking about.

"I saw him with my own eyes!" Another whore exclaimed to her. "He was by the graveyard outside of town. Apparently, he's headed this way. To Bloodstone!"

I narrowed my emerald eyes at her slightly, flicking my tongue at the way her breasts bounced as she spoke. Stupid whores.

"The others went to greet him." A male entered the conversation, making no effort to hide the way he looked the girls over. "I wonder if they're prepared for what they're going to deal with."

"They're not gonna fight him are they?!" One of the female whores gasped, batting her eyelashes.

The male simply shrugged at her question. "They'll probably try but they won't get no where."

I narrowed my eyes when the male glanced my way. He watched me for a moment before quickly turning his attention back to the girls before him.

"Course they won't! No ones a match for a Hero!"

My black painted nails dug into the wooden mug I held between my hands. Quickly, I downed the rest of my beer before slamming the mug down, catching more attention then I cared for. I sent a glare at those who dared to stare at me while I got to my feet. Idiots. They were all worthless idiots. I moved away from my table and brushed by the male from before; giving him a glance I knew he'd understand before leaving the godforsaken bar.

The ocean breeze was cool against my exposed skin even though the sun shone bright in the sky. The bar was placed along a string of buildings, all facing the ocean and the stone docks where a few boats happened to be. A few stalls were scattered about and I pretended not to notice the looks I received as I exited the bar. I was use to the stares by now.

I contemplated returning to my home for something warmer to wear but I decided against it and started to walk down the side of the stone dock. Sand mixed with gravel crunched under my boots as I made my way toward a particular stand. I sent a few glances of my own toward a few men who gave me certain looks. How dull it all really was.

I had to stop in my little trip however, due to the crowd that had formed near the stand I was heading for. I gritted my teeth and shoved my fists into the tight pockets of my tight pants. How troublesome. Ever curious, however, I moved past a few townsmen to see what the crowd was all about. I froze in place at the male that stood before all of them.

Tall, dark and absolutely gorgeous. Oh, and did I mention dangerous? Quite dangerous. From the look of it the male had defeated one of the toughest thugs in town. And now was receiving a warm welcome from everyone. I rolled my eyes at the way the people around here worked. Annoyed and no longer interested, I pushed my way through the crowd and toward the center of attention.

I caught his attention a bit sooner than I expected. I simply sent him a glare before brushing past him and toward my original destination. I could feel those light eyes on me for a moment but ignored them as I approached the old man at the stand. The man's attention was also on the other until I cleared my throat.

"Siam!" The toothless old man grinned at me, leaning over his stand to peer at me. "What do ya think of all this?"

I only shrugged, glancing at the center of attention. He was greeting all of the townspeople like he actually cared about them. "Waste of time." I told the elder softly. "Do you have it?"

Renald blinked his old grey eyes before another grin came to his lips. "Have I eva let ya down?" He reached down behind his stand and pulled up a leather sack full of the items I had asked him to get for me.

"What will this cost me?"

His grin twisted and he held out his free hand. "The usual."

With a sigh, I slipped my hand into his and shook it. "Come by later." I took the sack from him and twisted it around my wrist. "If I'm not outside, just wait for me."

"Always, my dear." He winked at me, sending an unpleasant shiver down my spine.

I flashed him a small fake smile before turning to leave his stall. My mood seemed to sour even more when I saw the crowd had not dispersed. With a low growl, I made my way past the center of attention, gaining his attention once more, before pushing through the crowd again. I clutched the sack to my side as I finally made my way out of the crowd that had seemed to grow in the past five minutes.

I cursed under my breath as I started to walk along the dock once again. The ocean breeze was cool against my pale exposed skin but I really didn't give a damn. It felt nice and for a moment, I contemplated jumping into the dirty water. But one glance at the filthy water changed my mind. Plus I had things I needed to take care of.

I shifted direction till my boots clicked against broken cobble stone. The handsome brunette at the stand I was heading toward quickly caught my gaze and I couldn't help but smirk softly. His tanned features flushed slightly as I paused before his stand. I eyed over his goods before giving him a good once over, causing the faint flush in his tanned cheeks to deepen.

"S-Siam." He spoke softly, offering me a soft smile. "How can I help you?"

My lips curled over my straight teeth in a smirk. "I can think of many ways, Nathan."

His eyes widened slightly and I noticed the way his hands clenched tighter against the edge of his stand. "I-I..." He sucked in his bottom lip, biting it slightly.

I chuckled softly and waved a hand at him. "I just need a few things." I noticed how he watched me move to pick up a few apples. I purposely moved in a way I knew would catch his attention. I'd been trying to get Nathan to come my way for years. Ever since he came to Bloodstone over three years ago. So far I had little luck, but the way he blushed when I advanced on him gave me hope. One day, he'd come. I just had to be patient. Unlike most in this town, the male had morals after all.

"Did you meet the Hero? I saw you coming from that way."

His words turned my mood south rather quickly. "I saw him." I stated as I slipped another carrot into my sack. I was more thankful to Nathan then I thought he realized. Before he came, I was stuck eating meat and pie. Disgusting things I really didn't want anything to deal with. He brought me fresh fruit and vegetables that I knew he grew on his own.

"What was he like?"

I shrugged at his question while reaching across the stand to hand him the gold I owed him. "I'm sure you'll meet him later." I noticed with slight pride how Nathan's hand twitched and his face flushed when our skin touched.

He gave me a soft smile as he pocketed the gold I gave him. "I hope so. My mother told me many stories about him when I was younger."

I huffed softly, letting out air through my nose. Ageless. Stupid Hero. "Then I hope he's everything you hold him up to be."

Nathan tilted his head slightly, looking me over with soft eyes. "Do you not like the hero?"

I waved a hand at him and twisted my sack around my wrist once again. "I'll see you later, Nathan." I didn't give him a chance to respond as I spun around and left down the alley beside his stand. I made my way up the slop toward the street behind all of the buildings. Bloodstone was perched against a rather large hill or a small mountain. Not sure which. Either way, the higher you went, the less buildings and less people but the steeper the trek. At the very top, sat a large and abandoned mansion that no one bothered to go near anymore.

It didn't take me long to reach my humble home. Placed at the end of the second street it was high enough to be away from the main crowd but low enough to get exactly what I needed without a hassle. The two story home was left to me by my mother and I had no way to leave it. It was home whether I liked it or not. The home was a bit larger than most around but I didn't care really. It had everything I needed. That was all that mattered.

I pushed open the large wooden door and entered the warm home before locking the door behind me. I glanced around the large living area before moving toward my small kitchen. The place had been a wreck when my mother had left it to me. I had spent the next thirteen years of my life making the place nice enough to live in. Cleaning, repairing, and redecorating. The house was mine now and held no memory of my mother. And that was exactly how I wanted it.

I put away the produce I had just bought into the cabinets of my kitchen before heading upstairs. The upstairs was separated into three rooms which I had done all on my own. Before, it was one huge room but I had turned it into two large rooms with a hallway separating them on either side of it and a small storage room at the end of the hallway. I moved to the room on the left which happened to be my bedroom. The bed was large and comfortable enough for me to sleep in. A pile of mismatched blankets sat atop it along with mismatched pillows. It sat between two large windows that overlooked the ocean when the dark drapes were pulled back. Also handmade by me.

I moved through my bedroom to the attached room. The bathroom was quaint considering I had put it together myself and no one else I knew had anything like it. A small sink was pushed against the wall with a cabinet above it. A small mirror I happened to find was glued to the cabinet door and it was more helpful than I had first realized. Across from the sink was a large white tub I had received from an old patron of mine. He insisted I had a way to clean myself and who was I to object? Too bad the old fool died. He was quite helpful in getting me things I didn't know I needed. Like the sink. And the large white bowl beside the sink. Industry hadn't exactly reached Bloodstone but I heard that the main cities, the ones near the castle, had indoor plumbing. The old coot seemed to know a lot about it so I let him go wild in my bathroom. And before I knew it I had running water, hot and cold, from the well outside and an indoor toilet. Considering the background I had come from, I had made quite a place for myself. Though I really did owe a lot of it to that old coot. He was a good man. Much different than any of my other patrons. He actually seemed to care about me.

"I should visit his grave soon." I whispered softly to myself as I moved to the sink. I poured out the remaining contents of my sack into the sink and made sure Renald had given me all I had asked for. Once again, the man hadn't let me down. I pulled the two glass bottles from the pile and placed them beside the tub. Bowerstone sure did have plenty of nifty things for a castle town. And Renald knew just who to talk to in order to get them for me. Soap was a pleasure I never knew existed until a few years ago.

I grabbed the other bottles from the pile and placed them in my cabinet. The remaining materials made my nose scrunch but I picked them up anyway and left my private room to head across the hall. A bed sat alone in the room with only a wick lamp on the windowsill. The only window in the room and the drapes were always closed shut. I moved to the small dresser in the corner of the room and opened the top drawer. Again, my nose crinkled. I dug out the ripped open wrappers and replaced them with fresh and unused ones. A boy had to be safe after all. I had rules which I would break for no one. No matter what the cost.

I tossed the empty wrappers into a trash can near the door before leaving the room, shutting the door behind me. For a moment, I leaned against the door and stared at the dusty wooden floor. I closed my eyes, taking a deep breath and holding it in as I tried to calm my rapidly beating heart. I released the breath a moment later, pushing off the door and moving back across the hall to my room.

Glancing out the window, I noticed how early it still was so I moved to my large dresser in the corner of the room. I stripped of my tight clothing, tossing the dirty clothes into a woven basket until I was completely bare. I ran a pale hand through my thick and dirty black hair as I searched my dresser for suitable clothing. I found a simple black button up shirt and black slacks that would do just fine. I decided for once I would wear underpants and grabbed a pair of black undergarments from my small selection.

After gathering my clothing, I grabbed a fluffy white towel made of cotton, also a gift from the old coot, before heading into my bathroom. I hadn't bathed in a few days and I could already feel my skin crawling with dirt and other things I'd rather not remember. I placed my clothing and towel on the sink before turning the brass handles of the bathtub. Steaming water poured into the bath and I moved to the sink while I waited for it to fill.

My reflection caught my attention and I looked it over for a moment. My features were soft for a male and I assumed I looked more like my mother than my estranged father. I couldn't remember her face clearly so I wasn't exactly sure. I ran calloused fingertips over my soft jaw line and tilted my head, wondering if I would ever grow facial hair. I was seventeen already and the only place that had grown hair was my privates. I was more woman than man. Though the member hanging between my legs at the moment strongly argued that statement.

I tsked at my reflection, rolling my vibrantly green eyes at myself. I had to give my mother credit for one thing. The woman had been gorgeous. She had to of been to create me. Not that I was being cocky or anything. I knew I was good looking but I also knew I looked completely different than any other man I had seen. I was thin, pale and slightly short. My pale skin only made my thick choppy dark hair and green eyes all the more vibrant. All the more feminine.

I spun away from my reflection to turn off the water and stared down at the now half full tub. Carefully, I stepped inside, hissing softly at the steaming water. I could see the dirt disappearing into the water as I sat in the water. I rubbed the water over my skin, washing the dirt away and revealing even paler skin. I grabbed one of the bottles from beside the tub and twisted it open. I poured the liquid contents into my hands and began to lather the soap over my dirt covered body. I took my time in washing every nook and cranny I could find. By the time I was finished, the water had cooled a bit so I twisted the brass knob on once again, letting hot water pour into the soapy water. I pulled the plug at the bottom of the tub and let the soapy water fade away as I used the new hot water to wash the soap from my body and wet my filthy hair. I grabbed the other bottle from the floor and pour a little of the contents onto my wet hair. I massaged the liquid into my hair until it lathered up enough. I twisted my head to place it under the spout and let the hot water wash away the soap and dirt from the past week.

I stood, shaking my wet hair around me as I turned the water off. My hair fell against my face and neck, sticking but I didn't mind. I stepped out of the tub and grabbed the clean towel, using it to dry my now clean body. I already felt better and by my reflection, I even looked better. I ruffled my hair through the towel, drying it till it was slightly damp. It fluffed out for a bit but rested against my face and neck like I preferred it to. I shook my bangs out of my eyes even though I knew they'd fall right back.

Once dry, I dressed in my clean clothing and ran a comb through my mess of hair. It flattened slightly but still seemed like a mop on my head. I shrugged in defeat before leaving the bathroom to grab the small bag of gold on my dresser. I shoved it in my pocket and left the house, locking the door behind me.

The cool air felt good against my flushed skin as I made my way down the steps toward the ocean. I almost seemed to bounce as I headed down them but I wouldn't let anyone see me do such a thing. Such a childish thing. I reached the bottom and exited the alleyway to be greeted by another crowd. Apparently, the "hero" had moved to the BenCrest bar since I had been gone.

A growl came from my lips but I moved past the large crowd easily enough. I found Mary's stall empty so with a sigh, I took the bouquet of roses I need and left the gold for them behind her stand where I knew she'd find it. I didn't have time to wait for her to stop ogling over the hero. I had things I needed to do.

I made my way past the shops and stalls to a path that circled up and around the hill. Roses in hand I made the trek up the hill and past large cast iron gates. Rows of gravestones fanned out in front of mausoleums and everything in this area just seemed dead. I made my way through rows of gravestone, glancing up at the large solid black door that lead to Wraithmarsh beyond our little town. If anyone could make it through Wraithmarsh, they'd be greeted by our pathetic little town. Oh what a joy. No one ever made it through Wraithmarsh. Everyone came to our town by boat. Except the "hero" of course.

I found the gravestone I had been searching for and planted myself on my knees right before it. I pulled a single rose from the bouquet before placing the rest of the roses against the headstone gently. I laid the rose beside me as I shifted on my knees.

"The Hero came today." I spoke softly to no one. "Just like you always said, Sebastian." He may have been an old coot. But he was an old coot that took care of me, and cared for me. "He's just like you said. Strong, vibrant, vigilant. And gorgeous too." I shrugged as I raised my eyes to the clouded sky. "Too bad you had to croak before he came. You couldn't hold out another year could you?" I forced a smile to hide the stinging in the corner of my eyes. Okay, so he was more than just an old coot. "Look at all you've missed out on." I bit my lower lip and closed my eyes tightly to force the stinging away. "Barbara finally marrying that piece of shit barber. Mary having her little boy. And the Hero coming to our pathetic little town." I lowered my head, opening my eyes to stare at the gravestone. "I've done well without you. You left me pretty set, you know? But..." I bit my trembling lower lip as I lowered my head till my chin touched my chest. "I miss you, Sebastian... It's cold without you... Lonely." I pushed down the emotions that were dying to surface. "But I'm okay... I'm doing okay. Like you always said," I raised my tear filled eyes and smiled at the gravestone, "I'm a strong little fucker." I couldn't help but laugh softly at my words. "So don't worry about me. Rest well, my old friend." I touched the cold stone tenderly before rising to my feet. "My old love." I whispered softly before turning from the stone to walk down the row of gravestone.

I paused at another worn stone before tossing the single rose upon it. My mother may have been a stupid and pathetic whore. But she had given birth to me and did her best to take care of me when I was young. Most women in her situation would of let me die or abandoned me. But she took care of me. I owed her that much.

"You clean up quite well."

The deep voice snapped me back to reality faster then I would of liked. I glanced at the tall, dark haired man who stood a few feet away from me and vaguely wondered how he had escaped his crowd of followers. I ignored his comment and turned back to my mother's grave. This "hero" was quite rude.

"I didn't mean to bother you." He spoke softly and I could tell he was moving closer to me.

I was tempted to respond to him but I kept my mouth shut in fear of saying something I may regret. Sebastian had rubbed off on me a bit too much. Damn him for teaching me manners. Old coot...

"Your mother?" His voice was soft and too close for comfort now. I glanced out the corner of my eye to see him standing beside me, nearly towering over me. I hated being reminded of how short I really was.

Again, I ignored his question and reached out to gently run my fingers over my mother's headstone. I said my silent goodbye and quickly turned to leave. I heard the "hero" speaking something softly before his footsteps seemed to follow mine.

"You're ignoring me." He stated the obvious. "May I ask why?"

I paused where I was, letting out a hard breath through my nose. "What do you want?"

"It speaks." His voice held a playful tone as he approached me. "I only wish to chat. Is that a bit much to ask?"

I refused to turn and look at him as he stood beside me so I opted to stare at the tips of my boots. "Chat of what?"

"Perhaps as to why you're the only person in town who doesn't seem... interested in me."

"Does that matter?" I snapped my head to look up into his light eyes. "I'm of no importance and you can not expect everyone to fall in love with you. I'm nothing like those ignorant fools, so let me be." I hissed at him through clenched teeth.

His facial expression remained unchanged. "You speak as if you've had proper training."

I growled softly and turned away from him. "Fool. What does that matter? I speak as I do because I choose to."

"You do what you can to separate yourself from the rest of the townspeople." He pointed out.

My teeth clenched together and I found myself walking again. Walking away from him. I had no time or reason to speak with this man. A man who would have no understanding of me or my life. It was a waste of time. But still, I heard his boots crunching behind me.

"Are you always this rude?"

"Are you?!" I hissed stopping and turning around only to find myself in contact with a strong chest. I stumbled backwards slightly but held my ground as I stared up into those light eyes. "Let me be."

He raised a dark eyebrow at me as he stared down at me. "You seem so eager to be alone even though you were just wishing to not be alone."

I felt the heat rise to my face quickly. He had heard my conversation with Sebastian. How dare he listen in! My lip curled over my teeth in a scowl and I sent him a glare that would make most people run away. But not him. Of course not him. "How dare you."

He shrugged lightly, offering me an apologetic smile. "I didn't mean to listen. But I couldn't help it. It's quiet up here and you were speaking loud enough that I could hear."

My scowl stayed in place as I looked him over with vibrant eyes. He raised another eyebrow at my look but I was tired. What a waste of time. I spun around and started walking again, attempting to leave but just as I knew he would, he followed me.

"Alright. I'm sorry. I am. But I need your help."

I didn't stop as I made my way to the path back to the town. I could see the sun glistening against the ocean and I vaguely wondered if I could push him off the side of the cliff. No. I'm sure he'd survive it and then come back to kill me.

"The young boy at the produce stand told me you'd be willing to help."

I paused in my step, glaring at the blank air before me. He just had to bring Nathan into this. "What could I possibly help you with?"

"A place to stay."

His words caused my stomach to spasm and I spun around to face him once again. "There's an Inn above the bar."

"It's full." He shrugged, giving me a vibrant smile that most others would of fallen for. "And word is you're the only one around who has an extra room."

My eyes narrowed at him as my fists clenched to my sides. "I'm sure there are plenty of people just dying to take you in."

He tilted his head to the side, allowing his long dark hair to blow slightly in the breeze. "Though that may be true, I do not wish to kick someone out of their own bed for my sake."

"Too bad." I flicked my hand at him and moved to leave once again.

"I'll pay you."

I paused, raising an eyebrow and glancing at him over my shoulder. "How much? And for how long?"

A smirk tried to hide in his smile as he looked at me. "I'm not sure how long I'm going to be here. There's many things I need to get done. But I'll pay you 100 gold a night."

100 gold could feed me alone for a whole month. It was too tempting of an offer to refuse and he knew it. The hidden smirk in his eyes told me so. I could practically feel Sebastian nudging my back, telling me to take his offer. So, for the old coot, I said, "Fine."

He held out his strong, tanned hand to me. "Name's Derek."

I stared at his hand for a moment before turning away from him. "Siam." I started my way down the path once again and I was sure he wouldn't stop me this time. Instead he followed beside me.

"Siam. Not a friendly guy, are you?"

I cut my eyes at him. "That is no concern of yours."

"Well, since we're going to spending a good amount of time together in the same house, it'd be nice to know why you obviously dislike me so much."

I shifted my attention away from him as we approached the town. "Again. Not your concern. I'll play my role of a host considering you're paying me but expect nothing more."

I could feel his eyes roaming my body and I wondered what he was looking for. Or looking at. It seemed that since he approached me in the graveyard, he hadn't taken his eyes off of me. It seemed the "Hero" was interested in me instead of the other way around. But what type of interest, I wasn't sure yet.

The crowd from before had dispersed and everyone was back to doing their normal daily tasks. But I could still feel their stares. Why was the hero following me of all people? I knew their thoughts and only sent glares to those who dared to glare at me first. Nathan sent me a soft smile as we passed his stand and I flashed him a grin that made his cheeks flush. A sense of pride swelled in my stomach and I knew he'd come to me very soon.

"He's quite infatuated with you." Derek's voice was warm against my ear and it took me a moment to realize my face was flushed.

I sent him a glare and separated the space he had invaded. I turned my attention back to Nathan and found the male staring at the "hero" oddly. I ignored his look for now as we passed and headed up the stairs to my home.

"He thinks highly of you." Derek continued. "He told me you'd be happy to help me. Looks like the boy doesn't know you that well."

"Shut it." I snapped at him as I turned down the walkway to my front door.

Derek whistled, catching my attention as he looked over my home. "He wasn't kidding. You do have one of the nicest houses in the town."

I rolled my eyes at him as I unlocked my door. I was sure he'd seen much nicer homes in his travels considering he had been all over the country. I pushed open the large door and was greeted by the warmth of my home.

The gasp behind me caused me to flinch and look at the tall male over my shoulder. His eyes were slightly wide and it seemed to be the first real emotion I had seen from him. "This place feels more like home than my own." He spoke as he entered my home, glancing around. "You fixed this place up all on your own?" He asked, turning from the kitchen to look at me.

I wondered what all Nathan had told this male about me. Too much it seemed. "Yes." I answered him, moving past him to head upstairs, knowing he would follow me. "I had no choice. This place was unlivable."

His boots clamped on the stairs behind me. "It's remarkable really. How old are you?"

My eye twitched at his question and I paused at the top of the stairs. "Seventeen."

He was silent for a moment. "I have a son your age." Damn ageless Hero. "But it seems none of my children have inherited my "hero" gene."

His words caught my attention. Did that mean he was the last "hero"? Or was there some random child out there that had magic swirling in their veins and just didn't know it yet? What would it mean if our land no longer had a "hero"? We'd be screwed, wouldn't we? Not that Derek could die easily. But still. It was slightly frightening thought. Just cause I disliked "heroes" didn't mean I didn't understand all they did for our country.

"Siam?" The poke to my pale cheek caused my hand to react quickly, slapping his hand away.

"Don't touch me." I started walking again, leading him into my bedroom. "You can stay here."

I heard him inhale sharply and glanced over my shoulder at him. "This is your room. I told you I didn't want to kick someone out of their bed."

"This is the only place I have." I told him while walking toward the other door. "The bathroom is through here."

A gasp and suddenly the male was beside me, looking into the bathroom with wide eyes. "You have a bathroom indoors?"

I shrugged and turned to walk away from him. "I know the right people."

"I'd say so." A soft chuckle came from his lips. "I don't even have this back home."

"You're welcome to use it. And anything else you may need." I stated while moving over to my dresser. "After all, you are my paying guest." I stated with a shrug as I started to unbutton my shirt to change clothes.

"Wait a moment. I already told you, I'm not kicking you out of your bed."

"I have another. I can stay there."

"Why can't I stay there?"

A sigh escaped my lips as I slipped the black fabric from my skin. "It's not fit for a hero. I use it for work. But it's suitable for sleeping as well." I folded the shirt and placed it back in my dresser since I hadn't worn it long.

Derek was silent as I continued to undress and I was more than fine with that. I placed my pants back into the dresser as well after brushing some dirt from the knees. I grabbed a tight black vest from my dresser and tugged it on. It didn't do much for hiding my body but that was the point. I kicked my boots to the side as I tugged on the tightest pair of pants I owned. After releasing a breath, I slipped on my only other pair of shoes. Black boots that were much more worn then my other pair.

"I can't allow you to sleep in there."

His voice startled me slightly considering I had forgotten he was even there. Running a pale hand through my hair I turned to glare at him slightly. "And why is that?'

His dark eyes skimmed my body causing me to suddenly feel a little self conscious. "You said it's for work. I'm sure you don't want to sleep where you... work." He spoke the word like it really was. "In fact, with me here, paying you to allow me to stay here, do you even need to work?"

His statement caught me off guard. When had I not worked? What would I do if I didn't? No, I didn't need to work. But he wouldn't be here forever and I had to keep my patron's interested. "I have expectations."

Derek's eyes shifted away from me to stare out my large window, overlooking the ocean. "Perhaps. But there's no need for you to work every night. Leave them wanting more."

I wouldn't take advice from a "hero". But Sebastian's voice echoed through my mind, stating the same thing. How dare he speak like Sebastian. Like he actually cared about me. "I have a prior appointment." I bent down to the bottom drawer of my dresser and tugged it open. I sat there for a moment before grabbing a bright emerald jewel. One of many Sebastian had given me. I stuffed it in my pocket, slamming the drawer shut and getting to my feet. "I won't be gone long." I turned to see him eyeing me once again. "Make yourself at home."

I left the room before he could say more and headed downstairs. I bit my lip, debating whether I should leave him alone or not. With a shrug, I left the house and headed back to Renald's stand. I wasn't surprised to find his stall empty so I headed into the bar, stepping into a hushed silence. With a growl, I moved past the stares and up the stairs to one of the many rooms of the inn. I found him sitting on his bed, counting a bag of gold. He looked up at me startled as I shut the door behind me.

"Siam! What are ya doing here?" He gathered his gold back into the pouch and placed it on his nightstand before standing to greet me.

"As I'm sure you've heard, the hero is staying with me."

"Ah yea! Nathan told me." He grinned as he looked me over. "So ya made a house call."

With a soft growl, I approached him and shoved him to sit back on his bed. I didn't give him time to object, though I knew he wouldn't, as I crawled into his lap, slipping my arms around his neck and straddling his waist.

"You and ya fetish for old men." He tsked but the gleam in his eyes told me he wasn't really scolding me. "Sebastian was a lucky bastard."

My nails dug into his tan and dirty neck at the mention of the name. "I brought what you want. Don't make this worse on you."

He held his hands up in defense beside me. "Yea, Yea."

I reached into my pocket and pulled the emerald out, placing it on the nightstand. "That's all you get." I slipped out of his lap and to my feet.

Renald gaped at me for a moment. "Huh? That's it?"

I gave him a smirk as I placed my hands on my hips. "I'm on break till the Hero leaves. You'll get yours after that." I tapped his dirty nose with my finger before leaving the room as quickly as I could. A shiver ran down my spine as I left the bar. It was the first time I had denied someone and it felt better than I expected. Now, I finally had an excuse to turn down all those I really wanted nothing to do with.

With the smirk seeming to stay on my lips, I made my way back to my home. The stares, the glares, the whispers. They didn't bother me as much as they did before. They were easier to ignore as I pushed open the door of my own. My mood quickly turned sour, however, when a puff of black smoke escaped out the open door.

"What in all hell are you doing?!" I exclaimed, running to the kitchen where Derek had caught something I couldn't recognize on fire.

"Oh! You're back." He flashed me a smile as he cast a spell, putting the fire out effortlessly. "I was trying to make you dinner. As a thank you for letting me stay here. But, it seems my cooking skills are... lacking." He shrugged, apologetically.

With a growl, I shoved him out of the way and tried to figure out what he was trying to cook. Beef. A nice cut of beef. He must of bought it while I was out. It was... A nice gesture. "Just, go preoccupy yourself." I waved my hand at him as I moved to grab a cast-iron pan from one of my cabinets.

"You cook?" He asked, sounding surprised.

"I'm multi-talented." I told him with a shrug. I wasn't sure why. But I was in a better mood after leaving Renald. Mainly because I escaped without having to swallow his disgusting old man juice. He had been wrong. I didn't have an older man fetish. Sebastian was just an exception. And he wasn't even that old! He was forty-six when he past away. Much younger than Renald. Who knew how old that man actually was.

"Cooking, cleaning, redecorating, rebuilding." Derek released a soft chuckle. "Quite the housewife aren't you?"

Of course he had to ruin it. "Don't call me that." I snapped as I tried to light my stove.

"I apologize. It was meant to be a compliment. You have more ability than most men." He was beside me, offering a smile as he snapped his fingers against the coal, lighting it for me. "My talents seem to come in handy however."

I gave him a nod, which was mean to be a thank you as I poked at the coals, waiting for the stove to heat up well enough. "I raised myself." I wasn't sure why I was telling him anything. "Most things I know, I've taught myself or..." I trailed off, thinking of Sebastian before shifting to grab a few spices from my shelf. Spices that Sebastian had gotten for me and a shelf he had made. Everything reminded me of him.

"I saw the bouquet you placed." Derek's voice was softer now, holding a tone I couldn't quite read. "Whoever he is, he obviously meant more to you than your mother."

"My mother got herself killed when I was barely four." I spoke through gritted teeth as I seasoned the chunk of beef. "I took care of myself until four years ago. Sebastian took over for me and I let him. He taught me a lot. Things I needed, and things I didn't." I explained to him. "He did more for me in three years than my mother ever did."

"But you don't hate her." He stated, leaning back against the wall beside the stove.

"She birthed me. She feed me. Kept me alive while I couldn't fend for myself." I shrugged as I rubbed the cold meat. "She did more than most whores would of done. So I have to be grateful. Sebastian taught me that."

"Sounds like a pretty amazing man." Derek spoke with no tone of sarcasm or deception.

I glanced at him. "He was. He took care of me when he didn't have to."

"He must of loved you a great deal."

His words struck a cord in my heart. For a moment, my chest burned and I had to stable myself against the counter. I swallowed hard, shaking my head and gaining back my control. Love was something Sebastian and I never discussed. I didn't believe in it and for some reason, he respected that. So he never said the word to me. But he said many similar things and around the time before he died, I had started to wonder if perhaps love was real. But then he was gone and that thought gone with him.

"I was his life for three years." I told him, repeating something Sebastian had told me over and over. "A reason to fight whatever disease was flowing through him. But apparently not enough." I opened the stove and slipped the pan with the seasoned beef within it before closing the door. I moved past Derek to wash the seasonings from my hands in the sink.

"Don't say that." He spoke softly, watching me with light eyes. "I'm sure he fought as long as he could."

I shrugged at his words while drying my hands against my pants. "Dinner should be done in an hour."

Derek eyed me for a moment before nodding. "There's something I need to take care of. I'll be back for dinner." I flinched when he reached out for me and stared at him with narrowed eyes. His hand retracted, something flashing in his eyes that I couldn't read. He moved past me and without another word, left the house.

I stared at the closed door for a few minutes before huffing in agitation and moving to my living room to find a way to relax for an hour.

I had the table set for two and even managed to boil some potatoes while I waited for Derek to return. I glanced out the back window of the living room before opening the stove. Steam hit my face but I didn't mind. The smell made my stomach growl as I pulled the beef out of the stove and placed it on top. I hadn't made a real dinner since Sebastian had passed. And it seemed my stomach was craving it. I was cutting the beef into servable portions when the door opened, catching me off guard. I glanced over to see Derek step inside, quickly slamming the door behind him. I raised an eyebrow at this but went back to cutting the beef.

"It smells amazing." Derek commented as he moved closer to the kitchen.

"It's almost done. Wash up." I told him as I placed the cut beef on a separate plate.

A soft chuckle came from his lips. "You sound like my wife. Only, well she doesn't cook." He laughed at his own joke that I didn't get. But he moved past me to the sink to do as I told him.

"Your wife doesn't cook? What good is she then?" My words were meant to be a tease but when I glanced over to him, Derek was tilting his head at me like he was actually contemplating the question.

"Someone warm to go home to." He told me with a shrug of his toned and strong shoulders. "I go through so many villages and inns that it's nice to have a place to call home with someone warm waiting for me."

I stared at him a moment before carrying the plate of cut beef to the table and placing it down. "I suppose. But doesn't it bother her that you're never home?"

Derek made his way over to the table and flashed me a smile. "She hates it. But she knew what she was getting into when she married me. If she's unhappy, there's nothing I can really do about it."

My emerald eyes stared at him for a moment and he glanced up, catching my gaze. "That's an... Interesting way to look at it."

He smiled, flashing white teeth as he sat down at the end of the table. "It's reasonable. I shouldn't feel guilty for something I have no control over."

I nodded at his statement and took my seat across the table from him. "Let's eat."

Derek's smile shifted to something I found more genuine. He helped himself to the food I had prepared in front of us and I hadn't realized I was staring until he looked up at me. I bit my lower lip and waited. He raised the beef to his mouth and took a large bite, chewing it around in his mouth. I noticed the way his dark eyes lit up and the smile twisted into a grin.

"This is delicious! You're not just a cook. You're a great cook." He laughed as he continued to eat.

My shoulders relaxed as I started to eat my own dinner. I guess his opinion of my food really did matter. I did make it for him after all. If he didn't like it, I would have wasted something he had spend a good deal of gold on. I made a mental note to take some to Nathan the next day.

Dinner went by with little conversation since Derek really seemed to be enjoying my cooking. I wasn't normally talkative anyway so I was comfortable with the silence. I found my gaze drawn to him more often than I would have liked to admit. He was stunning in all forms of the word. He was tall and had such a fit body, I could even see through his clothing. He was toned which I assumed he had to be to fight the things he fought. All his traveling had to keep him in such good shape. His skin was a golden tan and I vaguely wondered if it was natural or just because he spent so much time outside.

I watched his strong calloused hands as they moved from the plate to his mouth. The sword he had placed on the ground beside him had to cause those and I felt a little less feminine when I noticed I had a few of my own. But it was his face that drew my attention the most. He was a fighter. A warrior. So he was bound to have plenty of scars. But not one graced his lovely face. From what little skin I could see, no scars graced him. Perhaps he never allowed anything to get close enough to cause a scar.

That thought send an odd chill down my spine. It was fear mixed with something I couldn't quite name. He was the most powerful and dangerous person in all of Albion. He could snap me in a million pieces and leave nothing behind. But something told me he wouldn't do that unless I gave him a real reason to.

My thoughts were drawn back to his face. His chiseled jaw and firm features. His lips were fuller than would be expected for a man like him and his eyes were the most intense pearl white that I had ever seen. The eyes of a Hero. His hair was a deep black that seemed to glisten blue in the sunlight. It was long and from what I could tell he kept it pulled back into a low ponytail, though his bangs and a few strands of hair rested against his face.

"You're quite handsome yourself."

His voice surprised me and snapped me out of my own head before I noticed I had been staring at him. I blinked, narrowed my eyes and shoved a piece of beef into my mouth. I didn't like being caught considering he wasn't even looking at me. His eyes were focused on the ocean outside of the window beside the table. I tired to ignore his words even though I could feel the heat come to my pale cheeks.

"Why are you here?" I asked softly, trying to keep my tone as casual as possible. I did have to deal with him for a while plus he was paying me.

"A couple reasons." He answered, dragging his gaze from the ocean to meet mine. "The king sent me here. I can't disclose as to why. But it's also a bit of a leisure trip."

I raised an eyebrow. "A what?"

A smile came to his lips. "I've never been to Bloodstone. I've been all over Albion. Seen every nook and cranny. But I've never come this way. Never had a reason to. I was told it was impossible to pass through Wraithmarsh and I saw no reason to spend a week on a boat to get here."

I hummed softly and lowered my gaze to my half eaten meal. "Bloodstone is a wasteland on its own."

His soft laugh caught my attention. "I like it here. It's vastly different than any other place in Albion."

"I'm sure you've been too much nicer places."

"That depends on your opinion of 'nice'." His smile caught my gaze. "Bloodstone is full of the most real people I've ever met. Rough, honest, and brutal people." He chuckled, shaking his head. "I absolutely love it. And the ocean is a great plus." His gaze was drawn out the window once again. "I haven't seen the ocean since I was very young."

I followed his gaze out the window and saw the golden sun setting over the ocean. "It's the only thing about this retched place that I like."

Derek's gaze drifted back to mine once again. "Being here your whole life... I can't blame you for being the way you are."

I blinked at his words and tilted my head slightly, confused by them. "Pardon?"

He shook his head with a smile and finished off his plate. "You're a lovely person. Even with such a hard exterior."

I stared at him for a moment before narrowing my eyes. I couldn't tell what he was trying to play. So I ignored the statement and got to my feet, moving to take his clean plate along with mine. He only smiled at me as I took our dishes and placed them in the sink. I started the water to fill the small tub up because I knew if I didn't wash them now, then bugs would get to them. I flinched when he moved beside me to start wrapping up what was left over. I watched him, slightly surprised that he knew what he was doing.

"I'm not completely inapt in the kitchen." He told me with a soft smile. I glanced away from him, annoyed that he kept reading my thoughts. Not that he could actually do that. It just seemed like he could read people very well. I didn't like that.

I washed up the dishes and let him help me clean up the rest of the kitchen. I placed the plate I made for Nathan in the cold storage along with the rest of the leftovers before heading back into the kitchen. I found Derek leaning over my couch to peer at the collection of old worn books I had. Most of them had come from Sebastian but I found a few of my own.

"You have quite the collection. Is this how you taught yourself to speak so proper?" He asked, taking a dark leather book into his hands to look over.

I nodded at his question, assuming he could see me as I approached him. "Sebastian taught me to read."

"Cleaver man." Derek replaced the book before turning to give me a smile. "He tried to turn you into a proper young man, hm?"

I shrugged and moved past him to the staircase. "Key word is 'tried'."

Derek raised an eyebrow at me before following me up the stairs. "From what I can tell he succeeded."

"Yes. His dream was for me to always be a whore." I stated sarcastically.

I heard a soft growl come from behind me. "We all do things we wish we didn't have to, to survive."

I shrugged once again and led him back into my bedroom. "He did what he could to make sure I wouldn't have to. His efforts were in vain."

The warm hand that suddenly grasped my bicep nearly caused me to punch the owner in the face. I hated being touched when I didn't want to be. I was twisted around to face Derek who had a look in his eyes I couldn't quite read. "It was not in vain. Saying that is a disgrace to his death. He did all he could for you and made you a better person for it."

I growled at his words and tried to pull my arm from his grasp. "Don't talk like you knew him!"

His eyes flashed in pain, grasping my arm tightly before suddenly, I was released. "Don't speak like you know me."

"I could say the same to you." I hissed softly, rubbing my bicep where he had grabbed. "You don't have to be so rough."

Derek's expression completely changed at my words and I found my arm in his grasp once again. Only this time, it was gentle as he looked over where he had grabbed me. "Did I harm you?"

His sudden change in mood caught me off guard and I pulled my arm from his gentle grasp. "I'll be fine. I've had worse." I rubbed it, looking it over. There'd be a bruise for sure.

"That doesn't make me feel better." He said softly, reaching out for my arm once again.

I twisted away from him. "Don't touch me." I hissed at him as I moved across the room to my dresser.

"I'm sorry." I could hear the sadness in his voice but I wasn't going to let him off that easy.

"Well next time, don't fucking grab me like that!" I growled at him. "I'd think a guy like you would have control over his strength."

"I do." He sighed softly, moving to sit atop my bed. "You just struck a nerve."

"I struck a nerve?" I spun around to face him, still rubbing my bruising arm. "Sebastian is my only nerve. Learn that. Respect that."

He nodded, glancing up at me. "Understood. But-."

I held my hand up to cut him off. "Don't 'but' me."

With a sigh, he nodded and got to his feet. "I am sorry." He took a few steps closer to me and when I didn't back away he gently grasped my hand in his. "Forgive me?" He raised my hand to his lips and kissed the back of it softly.

In reflex, I ripped my hand from his and rubbed it against my pants. "Yea, sure. Just don't do it again."

A smile I had become accustomed to grace his lips. "I won't."

"Good." I slipped pasted him to head toward the bathroom. "I'm going to wash up then leave you alone."

"What? Wait. No."

I blinked and turned halfway to look at him. "What?"

"I told you I wasn't kicking you out of your own bed. I'll sleep on the couch downstairs."

"No. That couch will kill your back. Trust me, I've tried." I rubbed the back of my neck. "Listen, I'm fine sleeping in the other room."

"No you're not." He stated, glancing at my bed. "If it's alright with you, I think we both could fit in your bed."

I blinked at his suggestion. Of course two people could fit into my bed. That was the whole point of it. But no one other than I have slept in it since Sebastian. Besides, sharing a bed with the hero? The thought didn't sit well with me. But I thought about it for a moment. I really didn't want to sleep in the other room and neither of us could sleep on the couch downstairs...

"Fine. But stay on your side." I pointed to the left side of the bed before turning to go into the bathroom. I shut the door behind me once I heard no objections and did my business. I washed my hands and face before brushing my teeth. Once done, I headed back into my bedroom to find Derek already half naked.

I gasped softly at the sight and quickly covered my eyes and flushed face. "What are you doing?!"

"Getting ready for bed?" He said with a soft chuckle.

I peeked through my fingers to see him standing before me, shirtless. My eyes widened and closed my fingers. "Do you sleep naked or something?"

"Well no. But usually I don't have an actual bed to stay in. It's warm so I thought it'd be fine to sleep in my undergarments. I don't want my clothes to dirty your bed."

I took a deep breath and lowered my hands from my face. "Do you have a clean outfit?"

He shrugged, lifting the bag he usually carried over his back onto my bed. "Cleaner than these, yes."

I sighed and grabbed his dirty shirt. "Undress. I'll wash your clothes tomorrow." I held my hand out for the rest of his clothing.

He blinked at my hand however and simply stared at me. "But what am I supposed to wear tomorrow? Or to bed?"

"Your undergarment is fine to wear to bed." I told him even though my pale cheeks were still flushed. He was more attractive without his shirt on than I had expected. "As for tomorrow, you can borrow some clothes from me."

Derek's pearl eyes looked me up and down before he started to laugh softly. "I don't think your clothes will fit me."

"Not mine." I moved to the small dresser opposite of the bed near the door. "Sebastian's. He was about your size." I tossed Derek's dirty shirt in the basket with my dirty clothes and kneeled down in front of the dresser. "You're broader but it should be fine for a day." I pulled open the drawer and started to dig through the clothes.

"You kept his clothing?" Derek was suddenly kneeling beside me.

I paused at his words before pulling out a white button up shirt. "I couldn't just toss them."

I felt his warm hand on the back of my neck causing me to tense for a moment. But he simply rubbed it for a moment, in a comforting motion before removing his hand. "He was lucky to have you."

I glanced at him from the corner of my eyes, curious as to why he would say such a thing. Half the things he said made no real sense to me. But his words were always genuine. Perhaps Sebastian was right about this man... But only time would tell if I could trust him or not. For now, he was still on my list.

"I was lucky to have him." I corrected him as I pulled out a pair of black slacks.

"Lucky to have one another." He said with a soft smile.

I searched his pearl eyes for a moment before shoving the clean clothing into his chest. "Don't tear them up." I told him while getting to my feet.

"I won't."

I moved to the bed and started to pull the dirty clothing from his bag. I crinkled my nose at the dusky smell while tossing them into the basket. "It's a wonder you don't smell."

"I travel a lot. I tend to wear the same clothes." He said as he placed the folded clean clothing on top of my dresser. "Thank you by the way. For everything."

"You're paying me."

"To stay here. Not for you to cook for me and clean my clothes."

I shrugged as I handed him back his bag. "It comes with the job. If you buy the food, I'll cook it for us. As for the clothes... Well I don't want you stinking up my house." I leaned close to him and took a whiff of him. I crinkled my nose and glared softly at him. "Better yet, go take a bath before bed."

Derek raised an eyebrow at me. "Picky one, aren't you?"

"Shut up." I waved for him to follow me into the bathroom. "I have plenty of soap and shampoo."


"For your hair? Sebastian had managed to get me some a while back and I've been hooked ever since."

"So that's why you smell so nice compared to everyone else."

"Because I actually bathe?" I smirked softly at him as I grabbed a towel for him. "Or perhaps simply because I actually care about my appearance and scent." I handed him the clean towel before gathering what he would need. "I can't stand being dirty for too long. And with my line of work, I get dirty pretty often. You'll be surprised how good it feels to have a clean scalp." I held out the bottle full of blue liquid. "This is the shampoo. The reddish one is the soap." I placed them on the floor beside the tub.

Derek was smiling at me with a look in his eyes I couldn't read once again. "You really are the perfect house wife."

My cheeks flushed red. "Shut up! I'm not perfect and I'm sure not anyone's wife."

"But a man would be lucky to have you as his."

Again, his words threw me for a loop. I rolled my eyes at him as I turned toward the door. "Stop saying pointless things." I said while slipping out of the bathroom and shutting the door. I paused at the door till I heard the water start running before moving away from it. I tugged off my shirt as I moved across the room to toss it in the basket. I pulled off my pants before tossing them in as well. Finally I grabbed a pair of shorts I usually wore to bed and slipped them on.

I lit the candle on the stand beside my bed and glanced out to see the sun had almost set. The small light lit up the room and I smiled softly to myself. I shifted to my side of the bed and pulled back the covers for the both of us. The bed was rather large, even for two people, but with me and Sebastian, it had always felt smaller than it actually was. Since we were always pressed together. Even in sleep.

I sat on the edge of the bed, hearing it creak slightly under me. I ran my fingers over the soft fabric covering my pillow and wondered if Sebastian would be okay with this. With me sharing a bed, our bed, with someone other than him. Knowing him, he'd be honored to have the Hero sleep in his bed. Even though I was making him sleep on the side I usually slept on. I wasn't willing to let him sleep in Sebastian's spot. I would do that.

I lay down on my side, burying my head slightly into the pillow and inhaled the faint scent of Sebastian. I bit my lip and forced away the sting in my eyes before pulling the blanket up over my mostly bare body. I found myself staring at the dancing flame of the candle until I heard the bathroom door open. I blinked my dry eyes and shifted to look up at Derek.

He was grinning at me with the towel around his waist. Though he was obviously naked, my eyes were drawn to the grin on his lips. "You were right. I haven't felt this good in... Well perhaps never." He chuckled as he moved over to his bag on the floor. He pulled out something black and I looked away when I noticed he was changing into it. I heard him shift, putting the towel in the basket but then I heard nothing.

So I shifted to glance at him again only to see him staring at me, his long dark hair loose and drying around his bare broad shoulders. I blinked at him. "What?"

He shook his head and lifted the blanket so he could slip inside. The sun had set and my eyes had grown tired while he was in the bath. I felt the bed dip, urging me to roll inward toward him but I fought against the natural pull and moved a bit closer to the edge. Once he settled, I shifted to blow out the candle, leaving us in darkness. The only light being the moon shining through the windows.

"Sleep well, Siam."

I closed my eyes at his words, pulling the blanket up to my chin as I faced the wall. "Goodnight, Derek."

I shivered slightly at the coldness but ignored it as I grabbed the plate I had prepared the night before. I quickly left the cold storage area and made my way back into the kitchen. It was midday and I knew Nathan would be getting ready for lunch soon. I had managed to finish the laundry and it was now hanging in the backyard to dry. I even cleaned the bathroom and the kitchen. My morning had been busy since I awoke earlier than normal.

The sun hadn't been up long when I was pulled from sleep. I was sure Derek hadn't meant to wake me but he had. He was fully dressed and about to leave when I had stirred awake. He had apologized for waking me and told me he'd be back by dinner time before leaving. I couldn't fall back asleep so I busied myself with chores around the house.

I tugged on my boots before leaving the house with the plate in hand. The air was warm as usual but it felt nice against my naturally cool skin. I made my way down the stairs and toward Nathan's stand. I was pleased to see him there but not pleased to see a local girl chatting with him. I continued toward him and smirked softly when he noticed me. His cheeks flushed slightly as I stopped in front of his stand and smiled at him. I stay silent however since the girl I stood beside was still talking. I wasn't going to make Nathan think I was rude by interrupting.

"Alright Mina." Nathan told her with a smile. "I'll see you later, okay?" He tried being polite.

She tilted her head before noticing me beside her. Her dull eyes darkened when they landed on me and I felt the urge to smirk. "Oh. Fine then. Bye Nate." She waved at him, winking and blowing a kiss before sauntering off.

I noticed that Nathan barely paid her any mind once she said bye. But the fact that he let her call him "Nate" struck a cord inside me. "I thought you hated being called 'Nate'." I stated, raising an eyebrow at him.

"I do." He sighed softly. "She just doesn't listen."

I hummed, shrugging before holding out the plate for him. "Here."

His bright blue eyes focused on me for a moment before he took the plate from my hands. "What is it?" He sniffed and brought the plate to his nose. His eyes lit up and he pulled away the cloth that covered it. "You made me lunch?"

I smiled softly at him, leaning forward against the edge of his stand. "I made it for dinner last night. I thought you might like some."

His eyes glistened slightly as he grinned at me, his tanned cheeks still flushed. "You always take care of me."

I shrugged, smiling at him. "I hope you like it."

Nathan glanced around before flipping his stand sign to 'closed'. "Join me?" I nodded at his question and followed him away from his stand toward the stone edge by the ocean. He sat down, letting his feet dangle over the water and I did the same, sitting mere inches away from him.

"I heard you took the hero in." He said as he shifted to let the plate rest in his lap.

"I heard you told him I could." I leaned back slightly placing my palms on the ground behind me.

A sly grin came to his lips as he raised a piece of beef to them. "I couldn't lie to him." He popped the meat into his mouth and I felt a sense of pride at the look that crossed his features. "This is delicious." He stated, a bit in shock before continuing to eat. "How did it go?"

"Alright I suppose." I shrugged, shifting my eyes away from him to look up at the clear blue sky. "He's a bit obnoxious though."

"Did he tell you why he was here?"

"No. Something about the King told him to do something. He wouldn't tell me what though."

Nathan hummed as he chewed. "Did you get along with him?"

"I tried. He's not that bad I guess. He woke me up really early this morning when he was leaving though."

"He left?"

"Probably to do whatever he needs to do." I shrugged with a sigh. "I thought he might wake me. That's why I wanted to stay in the other room. But he wouldn't let me."

I glanced at Nathan when I heard him start to cough. I tilted my head as he rubbed his chest, swallowing hard. He coughed slightly and took a deep breath. "H-he wouldn't let you? Then where did he sleep?"

"With me."

I didn't think it was possible for someone's eyes to grow that wide. "He what?!"

I flinched at his random outburst and narrowed my eyes slightly at him. "He just slept beside me, Nathan. That's all." I tried to clarify.

He seemed to relax but I could tell his shoulders were still tense. "Right. But why?"

"Because he said he couldn't kick me out of my bed, nor could he let me sleep where I work. It was kinda the only option."

"And you were okay with that?"

I shrugged, reaching out to gently rub his flushed cheek. "What choice did I have? He's paying to stay with me so I don't have to work for now."

Nathan's eyes lit up and he placed the mostly empty plate on the ground beside him to turn toward me. "Really?"

I nodded, letting my hand slip from his cheek to rest on his neck. "I'm not sure how long he's staying. But for now, I'm unavailable."

A smile came to his lips as he leaned a bit closer. "So you're free tonight then?"

"I-" And suddenly I was in the water. I gasped, sucking in a bit of water before pushing to the surface, grasping for the stone edge.

"Siam!" Nathan grabbed my hand and effortlessly pulled me back onto the edge. I coughed, spitting out salt water as I bent over on all fours. I shivered at the cold and tried to force the salt water I had swallowed out of my body. "Are you alright?" I felt his warm hand rubbing my wet back and vaguely heard the sound of a dog barking.

I whipped my mouth with the back of my hand and glanced over to see a rather large dog trying to grasp onto the stone edge as well. With a gasp, I gently pushed away from Nathan to grab the dog. "H-help me." I said to Nathan since the dog was heavier than I expected.

Nathan obeyed and helped me pull the large black dog onto the stone edge. He shook his fur, getting Nathan wet but not really affecting me since I was already drenched. The dog barked and was suddenly on me again, pushing me back into the dirt as it started to lick my face.

"Ah! What the hell?!" I tried to push it off me but it was too heavy. "Doggie! Get off me!" I couldn't help but laugh slightly since I happened to love animals.

Nathan wrapped his arms around the dog's neck and pulled it off me finally. I sat up, whipping the sticky wetness from my face and glared softly at the dog. "A bit high strung." Nathan said with a chuckle.

I smiled softly and reached out to rub the dog's furry black ears. "Why did you attack me like that? Now we're both wet and stinky." He barked and licked my face again.

"He likes you!" The voice caught our attention and the dog took off once again toward the voice. Derek was smiling and waving as he walked toward us. He bent down when the dog reached him and he pet it with a grin. The dog barked and circled him before running back over to me. "He likes you a lot."

I raised an eyebrow at him as the dog sat beside me, his tongue hanging out the side of his mouth as he panted. "You didn't tell me you had a dog."

Derek smiled at me as he approached Nathan and I. "I don't. I found him wondering all alone."

"You found him?" I ran my finger tips over the dog's head gently as he leaned his head into my touch. "Where?"

"In Wraithmarsh."

Nathan's attention seemed to be caught at his words. "You were in Wraithmarsh? Why?"

Derek shrugged at his question and leaned down beside me, holding out his hand. "I had a few things to take care of."

I blinked at his hand before slipping mine into it. I was quickly, effortlessly pulled to my feet so fast I nearly stumbled. "And you just found him?"

"More like he found me." He placed his hand atop the dog's head. "He was terrified out there all by himself. I guess his owner didn't make it as far as him."

I shivered at the thought. "What do you plan to do with him?"

Derek gave me a sly smile. "Well~ I couldn't just leave him. And I was hoping to find someone around here who would take him in. I can't really keep him since I travel so much."

I bit my lip as I glanced down at the dog. His fur was a bit long and the color of the deepest black. His eyes were a cool blue and he reminded me of someone. But I just couldn't place who. The dog glanced up at me, curling his lips back into what looked like a smile. My heart melted a bit at his sweet look and I found myself petting his ears softly. I leaned down to be eye level with the dog and smiled at it. "Want to come home with me, boy?" He barked, jumping up onto all fours with his long furry tail wagging excitedly. I laughed softly and rubbed his face between my hands. "Oh, good boy. You'll protect me, hm?" He barked again, licking my face.

"You look surprised."

I looked up at Derek's words and noticed he was looking at Nathan. I tilted my head at the bright blue eyes that were staring at me. "What?"

"I..." He shook his head, a soft smile coming to his lips. "I've never seen you act that way. Not ever in the three years I've known you."

A slight smirk made its way to my lips as I stood up straight. "Guess there's still a lot you don't know about me."

His cheeks flushed pink and he glanced away. "I suppose so."

I couldn't stop the small bubble of laughter that escaped my lips. "Come on, boy. Let's get you home." I smiled at the dog. "Get you some food, even a bath cause you smell like swamp." I crinkled my nose while glancing at Derek. "Or is that you?" I approached him, looking him over. "You didn't ruin them did you?"

"Of course not. I gave my word." He looked down at me with a smile.

I narrowed my eyes slightly and leaned close to get a whiff of him. "Hmm. You smell fine. So it is the dog." I turned back to the black dog who was sitting obediently by my feet. "Come on, boy. Let's go home." I turned to Nathan and flashed him a smile. "Would you like to come?"

Bright blue eyes glanced between me, the dog, and Derek. "I can't."

I nodded at his answer, knowing he had to mend his stand but I still felt a bit disappointed. "Alright. I'll see you later." I smiled, gave him a wave and started to my home with the dog following beside me obediently.

I could hear the chatter of townspeople behind me but as usual, I ignored them. I knew they were speaking mostly about me and the Hero staying in my home but I paid it no mind. I had to. For my own sanity. But at the same time, I couldn't blame them for their suspicions. I was the most well known whore in town and now the Hero, who had never come to Bloodstone, was paying to stay in my home. I could only imagine the type of rumors floating around about me. Of course, none of them spoke badly of the Hero. I was the seducer. The bad one of the bunch. But I didn't care. As long as I got my gold in the end.

I blinked when a large furry black head lay down on my thigh, knocking me from my thoughts. Ai stared up at me with ice blue eyes, letting his head rest on my thigh as my legs dangled over the side of the stone pier. I curled the sharpened stick of lead between my pale fingers as I reached over to gently stroke his soft ears. Ai tilted his head into my touch and soon slipped his eyes shut. I continued to pet him as I glanced around, gauging my surroundings.

BenCrest bar was spilling out a few drunkards and a few stalls were empty, signaling the end of the day. The sun was low in the sky but there was still a bit of time before it set, cloaking us in darkness. The ocean water splashed softly against the stone I sat on the edge of and I noticed a few ships were docked. My eyes shifted away from the people behind me to focus on the white parchment on my other thigh. I held it still with my free hand as I skimmed over the words I had written not long before.

Crinkling my nose, I shifted the book closed and placed it on the ground beside me. I removed the lead from my hand to place a top it before returning to stroking Ai's head gently. He seemed to appreciate the attention, curling his large body closer to me till his tail was brushing against my other thigh softly. I smiled softly at him, grateful for his presence. He filled me with a sense of being protected and he was always alert. Even if, at the moment, his eyes were slipped closed. His ears were perked up, twitching at every sound around us, proving he was still alert. No wonder he survived through the wasteland.

My eyes shifted from him to the horizon where the sky met the sea. It was a comforting sight and I vaguely wondered if Derek would be home by now. It was almost dinner time but I made no effort to get to my feet. If he was that starving, I was sure he could make himself something. Or burn my house down trying...

A sigh escaped my nose as I closed my eyes, rubbing a hand over my forehead. I couldn't have him burning my house now because I wasn't there to make him dinner. Course, the man wasn't that inapt in the kitchen. He could put the fire out with his magic before my house burned to the ground. Atleast I had that soothing thought.

"Damn..." I breathed out softly, feeling Ai's ears twitch against my hand. I knew I should return home soon but I was too comfortable to move. The air was warm but not sticky like usual and I could already feel a cool breeze coming in off the ocean. It was the perfect weather in my opinion.

"Lonely." The softly whispered word struck me like a jolt causing me to snap my head up at the figure I hadn't realized was there. I coiled backwards, hating that he had snuck up on me. He had the perfect way of doing that. I never knew he was there unless he voiced his presence or I happened to look over and see him. Damn Heroes...

"What?" I snapped softly, watching as he moved to sit on the edge of the stone pier with me, leaving my book between us.

Pearl eyes met mine as a soft smile came to his lips. "You look lonely."

My fingers paused over Ai's ears before relaxing again. "I'm fine." I told him, forcing my eyes away from him to stare out over the ocean.

I could see him look me over from the corner of my eye and I wondered what he could possibly be looking for. "You're in a sour mood."

"You would be too if every person in town was calling you a manipulative whore." I spat the words, my lips curling into a scowl as my fingers stopped moving over Ai's ears. He shifted, lifting his head to stare up at me with eyes that said too much for a dog.

"Who called you that?" Derek asked in disbelief.

I shrugged, trying to let the anger fade away. "Name's don't matter. At this point it doesn't matter. They've said worse things."

"Do they always treat you this way?" I could see him glance behind us.

"Always have. Probably always will. Hypocrites really." I said with a soft sigh, moving my hands to press against the ground behind me, leaning back a bit. "Call me names by day; beg for me by their side at night." The words were less harsh than I was sure they should have been.

Derek was silent at my words as he turned to focus forward. It was only the truth even if I wasn't taking patrons for now. When he was gone, I would and they would come running back like the pathetic little things that they were. What other choice did I have? Atleast a vacation was nice. Gave me time to focus on myself. Though boredom was one hell of a curse.

"These are amazingly well written."

I snapped my eyes to the side at his words, a snarl coming to my lips. I snatched the book from his hands and clamped it shut; holding it to my chest like it was the most precious thing in the world. "Do not read what is not yours!" I snapped at him, setting him with the worse glare I could muster. For a Hero, he was damn rude!

"I apologize." He offered me a soft smile. "It was too tempting." He could hold back the soft chuckle.

It was like he thought angering me was funny. "I don't give a damn. Just because it's tempting doesn't mean you should do it."

Derek shrugged, still smiling at me. "You really are something else."

His words washed out the flame of my anger like a sudden flood. "Why do you keep saying that?"

Pearl eyes settled on me. "Because it's the truth. I'm not saying it's a bad thing. If anything, it's very good." His eyes flashed with something that I just couldn't read.

I narrowed my eyes at him for a moment before letting it fade, releasing a soft sigh as I got to my feet. "You say strange things." I brushed the dirt from my pants as I kept my book close to my side. Ai got to his feet, wagging his tail slightly as he looked up at me. "Let's go. Dinner is calling."

Derek released another soft chuckle as he got to his feet. "Yes, darling."

I snapped the back of my hand against his arm. "Don't call me that!"

The playful smile didn't leave his lips as he watched me. "But you're the perfect wife."

"Stop saying that." I sighed softly, turning to walk away, knowing he would follow. "People are going to talk more if they hear you saying stuff like that."

"Does it matter what people say?" He asked, falling in step with me.

"No. But it is bothersome."

Derek shrugged, letting his hands slip into the pockets of his pants. "You'd think their opinion would improve after you took me in."

"Yes, one would think hm?" I hissed softly. "Seems it's only worsened."

"It'll get better with time. It's not like what they say is true. You're not seducing me into your bed every night. I'm there by choice."

Again, I slapped his arm but couldn't hide the hint of a smile on my lips, echoing the playfulness in his eyes. "If you hear what they say, why don't you stop it?"

"Trying to stop it is like admitting what they say is true. It's better to let it fade." He told me with a shrug before rubbing over his stomach with a large tanned hand. "Now can we hurry? I'm starving."

I tried not to laugh at his words but the look on his face made a soft string of laughter escape my lips. "Yea, yea. Shut up and I'll feed you."

The loud knock at my door jarred me from whatever dream I had been in and startled me to almost falling off the side of the couch. I groaned at the pain in my neck as I shifted to get to my feet, flinching when a thud was heard. I glanced down at the open book that had landed on the floor with a sigh. I bent to pick it up, winching at the cricks in my back before placing it closed on the arm of the couch. I had to get a new one or stop falling asleep while reading there.

The knock sounded again making me realize what had woken me in the first place. I rubbed my eyes with the back of my hand as I approached the door while rubbing my lower back with the other. Ai was already beside the door, sitting patiently with his nose toward the door like he was waiting to pounce if he had to. I raised an eyebrow at him but shrugged it off as I tugged on the old brass handle, pulling the large door open.

Nathan stood before me, a bit disheveled and out of breath. Panic set in at his appearance and any amount of sleep vanished. "What's wrong?" I asked, looking him over for any sign of a wound.

He shook his head, causing soft brown hair to bounce around his head. "I-I'm fine." He gasped out softly, waving a hand at me. "I just ran here."

I tilted my head slightly, watching him as he tried to catch his breath. "You ran? Why?"

And suddenly, it was like realization set in his features. He was frozen for a moment before he stood up straight, trying to fix his rumbled clothing and hair. A faint blush rested on his sun kissed cheeks and a pit in my stomach curled. Was he... Was he really here for what I was thinking he was? Had all my effort finally worked?

"I..." He paused for a moment, shaking his head like he was trying to find the right words. Pale blue eyes focused on me as the blush began to spread across his cheeks. "I need to ask you something."

I blinked at his words. "What is it?"

His teeth sunk into his bottom lip as he glanced away for a bit before returning his gaze to mine. "Don't... Don't take this the wrong way, please." I swallowed hard, nodding as I let my hand fall from the handle of the door. "I just... I want to know."

I furrowed my brow, chewing on the inside of my cheek in impatience. "Then ask."

"Are you sleeping with the Hero?"

His words, the seriousness in them and the way his eyes flashed made something in my chest tighten. I couldn't tell what was in his eyes. Anger, disgust, hurt. I couldn't tell. Maybe a combination of them all. "W-What?" I gasped softly, my eyes widening. "I-I told you! He is just sharing my bed." But I knew, with the tone he used that he hadn't be referring to just sleeping.

"Rumors are spreading like wildfire..." He swallowed hard as he gazed at me, the darkness in his eyes fading. "I just... want to know the truth. From you."

"W-Why does it matter?" I stumbled out, utterly confused as to why he was asking me.

The darkness returned, swirling in his eyes like a storm. "Why aren't you denying it?"

"B-Because! It's preposterous!" I gasped softly. If it had been anyone else... Anyone but Nathan asking me these questions I would have responded with anger but... But I was too much in shock to be angry.

"Is it?" He snapped, causing me to take a step back and Ai start to growl from my side. Nathan realized his mistake quickly and the tension in his shoulders faded slightly, letting the darkness in his eyes swirl away as quickly as it had come. "I'm only asking because I'm worried." His voice was softer this time, comforting.

Ai stopped his growling but I still found myself with a small sense of fear in my stomach. I had never seen Nathan act in such a way. "I can handle myself." It was an abused statement but it was all I could muster.

Nathan shook his head, rubbing a hand over his face. "That's not what I'm worried about... The things people are saying about you..." He inhaled sharply, gazing at me with warm eyes. "I just don't want you to get hurt."

"By what?" I tried to swallow the lump forming in my throat. "Their words?"

He shook his head again. "By him." The darkness returned to his eyes but it was light, like it was hidden by other more important things. "I know you can handle whatever anyone says about you... But, Siam... If what I've heard is true... I don't want to see you get hurt."

Then it all snapped into place. Nathan was worried about me. Worried that somehow, someway, Derek may hurt me. Emotionally, physically, who knew? He was worried which meant he cared. The tension eased from my body and the fear was replaced by something a bit warmer. I stepped forward, reaching out to place my palm against his warm cheek softly.

"I'm not sleeping with Derek, Nathan. Anything you've heard is probably a lie. I've told you the truth and I expect you to remember that. If things changed, you would be the first to know."

Something flashed in his eyes but he leaned into my touch gently. "Would it change?"

His words made me pause. I hadn't thought of Derek in that way. Sure, I didn't hate him anymore and in the short amount of time he spent in my home, I'd learn to deal with him. He had his quirks and I'd come to adapt to them. But not once, had I looked at him in anyway other than what was. He was my guest. Nothing more. But just because I hadn't considered it before didn't mean it wouldn't happen in the future.

"No. It won't change." I hissed out softly, pulling my hand from Nathan. "He's not Sebastian."

Again, something filled his eyes that I just couldn't read but a smile hid whatever it was. "No one ever will be. But there's still a hole to be filled and one day, someone will fill it." His words struck me hard but before I could respond, he was turning to leave. "Sorry to bother you out of the blue like that." He raised his hand in a wave. "I have to return to my stand but I'll see you later okay? Bye!" He gave me a smile before he disappeared around the corner.

I stood there for a moment, staring at the space he once occupied before slowly taking a few steps backwards and slamming the door shut as hard as I could. Ai jumped at the action and watched me with thoughtful eyes but I ignored him as I moved away to find something to occupy my hands.

There was a cool soft breeze flowing through the cemetery but it didn't bother me as I knelt before the headstone, placing the rose I had previously bought against the stone. Ai sat beside me, quiet and alert like a comforting statue. His eyes were focused on the stone before us as I lifted my hand to run my fingers over his ears. He leaned his head into the touch but his eyes stayed on the headstone. His presence was more comforting than I could have ever expected. And I would never forget that it was Derek who brought him to me.

"Hey Sebastian." I spoke softly, letting my eyes linger over the letters that were engraved into the stone. "I... Wanted to apologize. For not coming to see you. You know me... I'm stubborn and I wasn't ready to forgive you for leaving me." I shrugged, letting my fingers fall from Ai's ears. "I don't think I'll ever be ready... But, I'll start coming to see you more often from now on, okay?" I smiled softly, tilting my head back to gaze at the clouded sky. "Even if you're not here... Even if you're not listening or... you can't hear me." I felt the small prickle of tears at the corner of my eyes. "I'll come to talk to you. Probably more for myself than for you." I let out a soft laugh as I lowered my head, focusing on the stone as I whipped away a few stray tears with the sleeve of my shirt. "Things have changed, hm? Now you have to listen to me ramble on and on instead of me listening to you. Can't be that bad though." I smiled softly, reaching out to rub my fingers over the indented words. "After all, I enjoyed listening to you..."

Ai nuzzled his nose against my outstretched arm, a soft whine coming from his throat. I let my hand fall in my lap as I glanced at him, his blue eyes showing more than they should. I tilted my head at him before starting to stroke his head gently. "This is Ai." I said softly, shifting my gaze back to the stone. "He keeps me from being too lonely. So don't worry about me, okay? I have him. And Nathan. He's always around too. And even Derek..." I shook my head at the name that left my lips. "Your wonderful Hero." I couldn't help the soft smile that came to my lips. "Did I mention he's staying with me? That's your fault you know. I could practically hear you begging me to let him stay. So I did, for you." My smile grew slightly as my fingers moved over Ai's soft fur. "He's not half bad. Annoying at times... He keeps calling me the perfect house wife." I rolled my eyes at the statement before continuing. "But he's tolerable. Even funny sometimes. So I guess all your talk about the great Hero grew on me. Rather... He's growing on me, I guess. He's not... that bad."

A loud clank caused me to blink and turned my attention from the headstone. Ai's ears perked up, his head turning to face the large wooden barrier that separated us from the Wraithmarsh. I stared at the wood, narrowing my eyes slightly as another clank was heard. Fear surged through my veins but I found myself frozen on the spot. Ai wasn't barking or making any odd sounds so I assumed that perhaps I was only imagining things.

But another sound echoed over the graveyard. A louder bang that caused me to scramble to my feet before the barrier snapped. I watched with wide eyes as a section of the barrier eased open and a familiar figure stepped out. Ai stood on all fours by my side but otherwise made no other movement, watching Derek with the same curiosity I felt.

Derek's shoulders were slumped over a bit, his hair fallen from its tie and cascading around his broad shoulders. He didn't seem to notice me as he twisted around, slamming the barrier door shut with a loud bang that caused me to flinch slightly. A glowing blue light came from his hand as he waved it over the door, sealing it shut with his magic. He was still for a moment; his body slumped over before he suddenly stood up straight.

He pulled a ribbon from somewhere within his folds of clothing and pulled his hair back from his face as he turned toward me once again. Finally, Pearl eyes landed on me as he paused in tying his hair back into its usual ponytail. Surprise flittered across his gaze before a warm smile came to his lips as he started his way toward me, pulling the ribbon from his hair and letting it blow around him.

"Could I ask a favor of you?" He asked as he approached, giving Ai a soft smile before focusing on me.

"What is it?" My voice was soft but only because fear was still fading from my veins. There was nothing to fear. It had only been Derek coming through the barrier but it still had scared me slightly. Besides, he had looked... So tired when he walked through that door. I'd never seen him like that. So even the great Hero had his limits.

Derek's smile grew as he held out the ribbon to me. "Would you mind? I'm never good at this type of thing and it always ends up falling out."

"Why not cut it?"

Pearl eyes widened at my question in mock horror. "Cut it? Are you mad? It took ages to get this long." His lips quirked up into a faint smirk. "Besides, I thought you liked it."

I blinked at his words before rolling my eyes at his false flirtation. It was something I was starting to get use to. "I do." I teased back, taking the ribbon from his hands. "But you shouldn't keep it just because I like to roll around in it."

The look in his eyes and the way his tanned cheeks tainted pink made my heart stop for a split second. His embarrassment quickly faded to be replaced with a smirk. "All the more reason to keep it." His eyes flashed with something that made my stomach curl slightly. "Besides, why would I want to displease my wife? You do make my food. I'd rather not be poisoned, thank you."

My heart thumped at his words. He teased me constantly about making a good housewife but when had he started to call me his wife? IT felt like a game. It always felt like a game. He'd toy with me, I'd take the bait, get angry at him, attempt to toy back and then we'd end up laughing about it. But this... This was completely different than normal.

"Don't be ridiculous." I scoffed, curling the ribbon around my fingers while trying to force away the heat that had come to my cheeks. "Poison wouldn't kill you." I turned away from him, saying a silent goodbye to Sebastian before leaving toward the gates. Ai followed beside me obediently and I could hear Derek follow as well.

"No, but I'd be the worst kind of sick for a while." He said while stepping up beside me, watching as I twirled the ribbon around my fingers. "And I'm sure, though perfect as you are; you're not the type of wife willing to take care of a husband he purposely poisoned."

Again, his words sent a rush of heat to my cheeks that I tried to hide with my dark hair. "Doesn't mean I wouldn't take care of you if you fell ill." I waved a hand at him, noticing how his eyes focused on the flush of my cheeks. "If I wanted to be rid of you, I wouldn't poison you. If I had it my way, you wouldn't even know that I had done anything till it was too late."

Derek hummed softly, a thoughtful smile coming to his face. "So you're one of those. Strong, silent but loving." He said with a nod as we began the trek down the sloop that led back to town. "Yet, if you're fucked over you will make your husband pay in the worst kind of way."

"In other words, I'm crazy."

The laughter that reached my ears caused a smile to tug at my lips, happy that the strange atmosphere from before had dispersed. "Not so much crazy as insane. Taking on a Hero." He made a tsk sound as he gazed at me, a playful smile on his lips. "What makes you think you could handle me?"

I flicked my tongue against my teeth, offering him a soft smirk. "You'd be surprised what I'm capable of."

Pearl eyes gazed down my body leaving me feeling more exposed than I would have liked. "I wouldn't mind finding out."

There it was again. I wasn't sure what he was teasing about anymore. When had the conversation gone from teasing about trying to kill him to...? Something much more sexual. Or was I the only one who felt that tone?

"Like you'd ever get the chance." I glanced at him, trying to sound more confidant than I felt. "I'm too good for you."

"Ah, that you are." He sighed, rubbing the back of his neck through his thick tendrils of hair. "Sebastian was a lucky man." He whistled, giving me a soft smirk as he ran his fingers through his hair. "I thought you were going to do something about this." The sudden subject change cleared the air and I could see that we had already reached town.

"I am." I felt the tension in my shoulders roll off as I glanced around. "But you need something better than a ribbon." I rubbed the soft silky strand of fabric that was wrapped around my pale fingers. "It's no wonder it doesn't fall out more often. As much as you move, you need something better than this."

"And you have something in mind?" He asked, giving me a curious gaze.

"I do. I just need to find the right person." I told him as I glanced around the oceanfront street. It was nearing dinner time so the stalls were closing up and people were spilling into the bar. I noticed the glances we received but I ignore them as I led him toward the bar. Derek was silent as he followed me, only offering smiles to those who greeted him.

The bar was more packed then I expected and I wondered when the last time was I had even been in here. The morning Derek arrived flashed in my mind but I pushed it away. That was a few weeks ago and I hadn't had the urge to return since. My emerald eyes scanned the crowd, searching for someone in particular. The noise of the bar hushed a bit when people noticed me, or perhaps the Hero behind me, but I ignored them as I made my way toward the redhead I had originally came inside for.

The redheaded whore nearly stumbled over her chair when she realized I was approaching her. Her painted lips parted to say something but I held my hand up, stopping her. Her eyes widened slightly but she stayed where she was, watching me cautiously. My eyes landed on her vibrant red hair that was pulled back into a high pony tail, cascading down her mostly bare back. She was pretty; beautiful if you wanted to be generous. But that was not why I had approached her.

"I need to cash in that favor you owe me." I told her softly, knowing she would hear me over the noise of the bar that had started up once again.

Her green eyes, which paled in comparison to mine, shifted to the man standing behind me before focusing on me once again. "What is it?"

I motioned to the band in her hair with my hand that was wrapped in the ribbon. "Do you have spares?"

Ariana blinked, her black coated lashes sticking together a bit as she did so. She reached up to touch the band that held her hair back. "Do you need one?"

"He does." I tapped Derek's chest with the back of my fist. "If you can't spare any, then can you tell me where Renald is? He'll find some for me since I know that's where you got them from."

She shook her head with a bit more effort than necessary before she reached into a small bag that was attached to her taut skirt. "I can spare one. I do owe you after all. And it is for the Hero." Her eyes lingered on him a bit longer than I would have liked as she pulled out a black band from her bag. "If you pull too hard, it'll snap so be careful." She dropped it into my outstretched hand. "It's probably a good idea to get some spares from Renald though."

"Thank you." My fingers curled around the band as I let my hand rest at my side before turning away from her. Derek paused for a moment before giving Ariana a smile and a thank you of his own before following after me. She was one of the nicer whores but that didn't change the fact that she was a whore. She was only so nice because I saved her life once. Well, Sebastian saved her life but only because I asked him to.

"What did she give you?" Derek asked from my side, following along as we headed back home.

"It's a hair band. I'm not sure where Renald got them from but they work well at holding hair back for long periods of time without falling out." I put the bands between two fingers before spreading them apart to test its stretching ability. "Sebastian used to wear one but I think I buried it with him."

"I've never seen one." He said, watching as my fingers moved apart.

I shrugged, pausing at the bottom of the stairs that lead up toward my home. "Guess there's things even a Hero hasn't seen." I smiled at his soft smirk as I stepped up onto a step. "Come here and turn around." I told him. Derek did as told, stepping in front of me and turning his back to me.

A soft growl escaped my lips when I realized that even one step up I wouldn't be able to tie his hair properly. He was too tall. I moved up another step before reaching out to gather his hair in my hands. I was finally even with him which gave me the ability to pull his hair back comfortably. I brushed my fingertips along the sides of his face, feeling something stir in the pit of my stomach. I ignored it as I tried to pull all of the loose strands of hair back. His bangs and a few chunks that fell down either side of his face were too short to pull back so I left them were they were as I combed through his soft hair, pulling it up to bunch together. I was careful as I moved, shifting to put the band between my teeth as I pulled the hair a bit higher than his usual low ponytail. Once satisfied, I held the hair in place with one hand as I grabbed the band and started to pull the hair through it, looping it around a few times. Derek made no sounds of protest as I tugged his hair, tightening the band to make sure it stayed in place.

"There." I said with a soft smile on my lips, letting my hands fall to rest on my hips. "That's much better."

Derek turned around to face me, his hand going to feel the band in his hair. I noticed the dusting of pink on his cheeks and wondered if that was normal for him. Wasn't he too old to blush like that? I pushed the thought from my mind as he smiled at me, his pearl eyes glistening slightly. I swallowed hard, the feeling in my stomach returning. I'd never been at an even eye level with him before and it was strange to see him eye to eye like this. "Does it look okay?" He asked, running his fingers over his bangs and the chunks of hair that fell on either side of his face in front of his ears.

I nodded, forcing down whatever was boiling in my stomach. "It looks better. Less messy. I don't know how long it'll stay like that but I can just fix it again if you need me too."

A faint smirk came to his lips. "If you prefer it that way." I blinked at his words, tilting my head slightly in confusion. "I could probably do it myself though."

That thought hadn't occurred to me honestly. "I suppose you could." I said with a shrug, turning to move up the stairs. "But it wouldn't look as good."

"Ah, that is true." He chuckled softly as he followed behind me. "Hm, I never noticed."

I glanced over my shoulder at him at his words. "Never noticed what?"

His eyes weren't on me however. Well they were, but not on my face. Pearl eyes were focused some place much lower. I felt the heat come to my cheeks as his gazed moved upward to meet my eyes, the faintest of smirks on his lips. "How well those pants fit you."

Whatever retort I had was frozen in my throat. I couldn't tell if he was playing with me anymore. But he had to of been. It wasn't possible for the Hero of Albion to want a whore like me. There were plenty of reasons but the main one... I was a boy. A seventeen year old boy. Who knew how old Derek really was.

"Stop saying stupid things." I finally managed to speak but it held no amount of my usually snappy tone with him. Derek simply shrugged at my words and continued to follow me up the stairs. But I couldn't help thinking he was watching my ass the entire time for reasons unknown.

The popping sound of sizzling bacon echoed through the house, the scent filling every nook and cranky. I watched it start to curl as I pushed it around the iron pan with a wooden spoon, waiting for it to cook all the way through. Heavy footsteps could be heard from upstairs but I brushed them off as I moved to pull out two thick slices of bread to lay on a plate. I shifted around the kitchen, gathering a few things I may need.

Ai watched me with bight eyes as he lay on the couch, his head resting on his crossed paws. I glanced at him, giving him a smile before tossing him a piece of crisped bacon. He eagerly jumped down from the couch to eat it from the floor. I watched him for a moment before turning back to the stove to pull the crisp bacon strips onto one of the pieces of bread. Lettuce coated one side and I grabbed the sliced tomato I had cut earlier to lay over the bacon. I pressed the two sides together before wrapping it all together with a piece of cloth.

"Are you really making me breakfast?" The deep voice caused me to glance at the staircase where Derek was standing, leaning against the banister with a faint smirk on his lips.

"Don't start." I sent him a half glare as I turned to make another sandwich, this time with the eggs I had fried up with the bacon.

He chuckled softly as he made his way toward me. "You've never made me breakfast before."

"Well, if someone hadn't woken me up this morning, I wouldn't be doing this." I snapped at him, though the strength of it was weak.

"You could have gone back to sleep. It's not like I meant to wake you." He perched his hip against the edge of the counter near me as pearl eyes watched my movements.

"No point. Once I'm awake, I start to think of everything I need to do and then I can't go back to sleep." I told him as I pressed the sandwich together.

"I'm sorry." His apology sounded genuine but I wasn't really mad at him anyway.

I shrugged, shifting to lick the excess grease from my fingers. "Don't worry about it." I picked up the egg and bacon sandwich with my free hand and turned to face him as my tongue lapped at my fingertips. I nearly dropped the sandwich when I saw his normally light eyes darken as they watched my tongue flick out against my fingers. Quickly, I returned the appendage to where it belonged and held out the sandwich to him, trying to force down the blush that had started to come to my cheeks. "Here."

Pearl eyes watched my mouth for a moment before they focused on the sandwich I held out. "You really did make me breakfast?" He asked as he took the offered sandwich with a smile, the darkness fading from his eyes.

"Lunch too." I told him, holding out the cloth wrapped sandwich. A smirk started to form on his lips and before he could say anything I glared at him. "And if you say anything about me being a perfect wife I will keep it for myself."

His eyes held a hint of playfulness as he took the cloth wrapped sandwich in his other hand. "But it's true." He said as he moved over to the leather bag on the kitchen table that he usually kept strapped to his side.

"I am no one's wife. I'm a boy remember?" I told him, grabbing a wet cloth to clean my hands. "I have a dick. Wives don't have those."

Derek let out a chuckle as he placed the sandwich into his bag, closing it with a snap. He attached it to his side with one hand before turning to me, taking a bite of his breakfast sandwich. "I'm well aware that you have a dick." His tone made that odd feeling in my stomach return. "But that still doesn't mean that you won't make someone a very nice house wife."

The growl that came from my lips wasn't up to its usual standard. "I'm not the commitment type."

"You were in the past." He pointed out; shrugging at the glare I set him with. "I'm not saying anytime soon. But someday, someone will come along that you may want to rethink not being a commitment type."

"Both of you are idiots." I said softly as I turned away from him to start cleaning up.

"Hm? Both of us? Who else?" He asked before taking another bite of his breakfast.

"Nathan." I sighed softly, moving the left over food to make my own breakfast.

"Nathan's a lot smarter than you think." He said, finishing off his sandwich. "Kid's sharp like a whip." He grabbed his sword from beside the couch were he had left it the previous night. He smiled at Ai who had returned to the couch as he attached the sword to his back.

"Doesn't matter." I told him, turning to watch him as I nibbled on a piece of bacon. "No one will replace Sebastian."

Derek raised an eyebrow at me as he turned toward me. "Who said anything about replacing Sebastian?" He shook his head, a smile on his lips. "I'm just saying that someone will come along that will fill that hole he left behind." He narrowed his eyes at my glare. "Don't give me that look. I know what heartbreak feels like and you can try to hide it all you want, but Nathan and I see right through. He may have known you longer, but I'm better at reading people."

I wanted to yell at him. Tell him that he didn't know what he was talking about but I couldn't bring myself to do so. After all, he was right. When had I started to succumb to Derek? When did I start to let him win a few times? With a soft sigh, I lowered my eyes to the floor while crossing my arm over my chest, my fingers wrapping around the bicep of my other arm. "The two of you can say whatever you wish. Doesn't mean I'll listen."

"You're really stubborn." He said with a sigh. "Fine, but eventually you'll listen to us." He shrugged, his smile returning as he moved to the door. "Thanks for breakfast, and lunch." He patted his leather bag attached to his waist. "You really didn't have to."

I shrugged, watching him. "I wanted to."

Something akin to happiness flashed across his eyes as he opened the front door. "Well thank you either way. I'll be back by dinner time."

I waved at him as I turned back around to the counter. "Be safe."

"Always." He said before leaving, closing the door behind him.

I stared down at the small pile of bacon and eggs I had made for myself before picking the plate up and turning toward Ai. "Here boy." I placed the plate down on the floor, ignoring the strange look he gave me before heading back upstairs.

Ugly creatures. Full of evil and selfishness. That's all humans were at the core. Always doing whatever they could to put themselves farther in life. Disgusting hypocrites, every single one of them. Lost in world they had created. Hating it all the same. I was a simple ant within a much larger ant farm. Stronger than some, lost more than others. Did it ever matter? Good; evil. One in the same sometimes.

I hissed softly, cursing as the flame licked against the tip of my finger. I pulled my hand from the flame, watching it dance back and forth in the slightly breeze. I pressed my finger tip to my lips, licking at it softly as I stood up straight. I ignored the sounds coming from within the building I had paused at. The back way around the BenCrest bar was easer than going around front. It was late, probably past midnight and drunkards were spilling all over the place.

The candle that had been lit by someone unknown to me sat alone against the wall, casting small shadows against the wood. I had no idea why it was there or why someone placed it there. I kicked the dirt around it with the toe of my boot, spreading dirt over the flame to snuff it out. If it was left unattended much longer it could burn down the bar and anything else around. Not that it mattered. With a Hero in town, nothing bad would really happen.

I gritted my teeth, turning from the turned over candle to return my trail down the back alleyway. I was alone which was unusual enough considering Ai followed me everywhere. I had left him home, sleeping at the foot of the bed with Derek. He noticed when I left but made no move to follow me. Perhaps he knew I just wanted to be alone. Derek on the other hand... Well the damn hero didn't even notice I left. This was fine by me.

I only wanted some fresh air. Moments to myself which were rare anymore. Even if Derek spent all day in the Wraithmarsh, I still had Ai following me everywhere I went. I didn't mind, but his thoughtful eyes were starting to make my skin crawl. Like he knew more than a dog should have. Like he could read my mind sometimes and I preferred to keep my thoughts to myself.

I shoved my hands into the tight pockets of my pants, rolling my shoulders slightly. The night air was cooler than I expected but I didn't let it get to me. My bare arms would do fine against the breeze as long as I kept moving.

My thoughts were jumbled. Mixing together like an odd puzzle that was never meant to fit into place anyway. Derek's words echoed through my mind and I tried to push them aside. He and Nathan could preach all they wished. I was never going to find someone to fill the hole Sebastian left because I didn't want to find someone. Maybe it was selfish of me. Maybe it was downright stupid. But it was how I felt.

I wasn't that willing to just hand my heart over to anyone. It took Sebastian years to gain my trust, let alone my love. Though we never called it that. We never said we loved each other. It was too generic. He knew if he said that word that I'd get pissed. So he found other ways to say how he felt. He was better at showing me than telling me. Because that's how I was. My actions spoke louder than my words. They always had. That's what made me a horrible liar. My actions always gave away the truth. I was too emotional but it didn't matter anymore.

Nathan was someone I didn't want to be without. I wanted him to stay around but things were different now. When they had become different, I wasn't sure. But they were different. I no longer had the urge to seduce him into my bed. The attraction was still there but it no longer felt right. My body wasn't something to just give away anymore.

I paused in my step, staring at the ground with slightly wide eyes. When did that happen? When did I start to feel like my body actually mattered? I hissed softly, running a pale hand over my face and through my hair. It was Derek. I knew it was him. It wasn't like he had done anything in particular. It was just his presence that did nothing but remind me of Sebastian. And just when I was starting to push away the old coot...

I shook my head, starting my path again. Perhaps it wasn't a bad thing. Sebastian had done more for me than anyone without ever being asked to. He didn't deserve to be forgotten. Especially by me. So I silently thanked Derek for reminding me of the old coot. Not that I would ever say it too his face. Derek seemed to echo anything Sebastian had told me. I should hold my body higher than I do. That it was something sacred. It wasn't like Sebastian ever forced me to stop whoring myself out. He knew he couldn't. I'd do what I wanted no matter what anyone else said. But somehow... All it took was for Derek to say it once and I had stopped.

I couldn't stand the thought of them touching me anymore. The thought alone made my skin crawl. This body was mine and I would do what I wanted with it. Let who I wanted touch it. And punish any who dared to touch it without my permission. Derek gave me a way out and I took it. Even if it was only temporary... But I was pretty sure I wouldn't be able to go back to whoring myself out.

The gasp from my throat didn't have time to escape when my wrist was suddenly grabbed and I was thrown against a hard wall. I had no time to react when a hard larger body was pressed full against mine, pinning me back against the brick wall. My back flinched at the pain but I forced my eyes open to calculate what had happened. The face that came into view was vaguely familiar and sent a red flag up into my mind. It was too dark to really see his face but I knew what he wanted. I could tell by the way his hands were moving up my sides.

"No." I gasped out, pushing my palms against his chest but found myself shoved harder against the wall, the back of my head knocking against it hard. I saw a flash of white pain, biting my lip as I tried to focus. I didn't have time to move when he snapped out, grasping my wrist to pin above my head with one hand while either of his legs pinned mine down. I couldn't move. He was too strong for me to fight.

It wasn't the first time I had been attacked but usually, I could sense it. Tonight... My mind had been elsewhere. I should have been focused. Now I was trapped. I just had to wait for him to slip. One moment of weakness.

"I didn't ask permission." His voice was deep but I could smell the alcohol on it. An incredibly hot hand pressed against the groin of my pants, fondling what was hidden beneath them as his head moved to my neck. His breath was sticky hot against my skin as I tried to turn my head farther away from him. "You could scream if you wanted, I wouldn't mind."

"Like hell." I hissed, turning to snap my teeth at him. He moved away just in time to avoid getting his ear ripped off by my teeth.

"Feisty." He whispered the lust obvious in his voice. "I like it. You weren't like this before. Has the Hero made you this way?"

Of course. He was a patron of mine. One that didn't stand out but still, a patron. I struggled against the grip he had on my wrist to no avail. He was much too strong for me and I hated the feeling that started to cross my chest. There were few things I feared and this would not be one of them. This male would not be the death of me.

But the cool sharp point that suddenly pressed against my throat told me otherwise. "You're his fuck toy now so none of us get a taste, is that how it is?" I could hear the smirk in his voice as he pressed the knife a bit more against my throat. I couldn't even swallow, let alone talk or he would cut skin. "Life doesn't work that way."

The clatter of the knife hit my ears before hard lips pressed hard to mine. I squirmed against his lips, trying to turn my head but his free hand had wrapped around my neck, holding my head in place. The wet appendage that demanded entrance to my mouth put a sick sensation in my stomach. I did not want this. And there was no way in hell he was going to violate my body.

There. There it was. I parted my lips, letting him enter my mouth enough to clamp down hard on his tongue. Copper filled my mouth as teeth sunk through a meaty flesh. He groaned in pain, shoving me harder against the wall but I refused to let go, clamped down like a steel trap. He released my wrists to wrap both of his hands around my neck, quickly cutting off any air I had. But even that didn't stop me. I clamped down harder till I felt it give way.

He growled, pulling back enough to whip the blood from his mouth as I spit out half of his tongue onto the ground. I saw white for a moment, his fist connected hard with my jaw before sliding down the wall to my knees. That bastard. I twisted to run but he grabbed my wrist, the knife in his hands once again. I flinched, prepared for that blade to slice into my skin but it didn't come.

A sudden hot heat flared and I glanced up to see him suddenly engulf in flames. His hand fell from my wrist as he started to scream and fall to the ground in agony. And then, in an instant, he was gone, turned to ash like he had never existed in the first place. I was frozen, staring at the place he once was, the only proof being the reflection of the knife he was going to use on me.

Adrenaline faded from my bones to be replaced with a mixture of relief, fear, and anger. My stomach lurched and I rolled over onto my knees, letting my stomach empty onto the ground. My arms shook as I held myself up, staring wide eyed at the ground at the blood. Was it mine? Or was it his that had spilled into my mouth when I bit off his tongue? I couldn't be sure.

And then there was a soft warm hand rubbing up and down my back. When did that get there? I twisted, backhanding whoever dared to touch me before landing on my ass with my teeth bared. The anger quickly vanished when pearl eyes set on me. Derek knelt in front of me, a hand rubbing the cheek I had hit. He only had pants and his boots on, no shirt. He must have left the house in a hurry.

I didn't notice till then how erratic my breathing was, loud against the silence of the night. I could feel my hands shaking and my heart pounding within my chest but the fear had faded when I saw those pearl eyes.

"Guess I should have known better than to touch you after an attack." His voice was soft but held a bit of roughness too it as he rubbed his cheek. "You hit pretty hard though."

I could only stare at him, my eyes wide and my breath coming out in pants. That fire had been his fire. He saved me... He killed for me. He killed to save me. What man other than a Hero would do such a thing?

"Are you alright?" He asked, reaching out toward my face. I flinched, turning away with my eyes closed tightly. He let out a heavy breath. "Siam. You know I won't hurt you. You're safe now."

"Y-You killed him." My voice came out shakier than I would have liked as I glanced at him from the corner of my eyes.

Derek's face clouded with something I couldn't read as he pulled his hand back to himself. "He was going to kill you."

It came crashing down hard on me like a pile of bricks. He was going to kill me. He almost had if Derek hadn't shone up when he had. I was doing fine on my own at first but my attacker had the element of surprise. Bloodstone was a tough town but people didn't go around killing each other very often.

I can handle myself. The words were on the tip of my tongue but I just couldn't speak them. Derek just proved them wrong. I couldn't handle myself. Maybe in certain situations I could but... Not in that one. I swallowed hard, bringing a hand to my neck, rubbing my skin for any nicks. I winced at the touch, knowing I would probably have bruises from his hands.

"You saved me..." I whispered softly, gazing up at him.

Derek's face was twisted slightly in an emotion I had never seen on him before. Worry. He released a sigh, lowering his head till his bangs covered his eyes. "Why were you walking around by yourself? You know what these people say about you." His voice shifted from soft to a bit louder, his anger showing through. "It's late and you left without saying anything." His head snapped up, his eyes setting me with a glare that made my heart almost stop. "Don't ever do that again. Ai is always with you for a reason. He can protect you when I can't."

"I don't need protection." I snapped without meaning too. Derek had saved my life but sometimes... My age really showed through. "I was doing fine on my own."

"Really? That's not what it looked like to me."

I winced at his tone, feeling like a child being scolded by their parents. Only this was much more serious. I knew Derek was right. Deep down I knew it. But I had too much pride to just accept that I couldn't take care of myself. I'd been doing fine up until then so why would anything change all of a sudden?!

"Why did you help me?" The words were whispered and it took us both a moment to realize I had even said them.

Derek released another heavy sigh, rubbing a hand over his face. "I wasn't just going to sit back and watch him slice you apart." The anger had faded from his voice. "I figured you'd be grateful."

"Thank you." The words came out faster than either of us expected. Pearl stared into emerald for what seemed like forever before a soft smile came to his lips.

"I'm just glad your alright. He didn't hurt you right? You have blood around your mouth." He glanced down at my mouth, tilting his head slightly.

I whipped my mouth with the back of my hand, grimacing at the copper taste in my mouth. "I bit off his tongue." I told him as I rubbed my head, searching for any blood that was actually mine.

"You what?" Derek's eyebrows shot up, hidden in his bangs as he watched me check myself.

"The bastard forced himself on me." I spat saliva mixed with blood onto the ground. "Disgusting... He deserved that." I flicked my hand at the pile of ashes behind Derek. "Damn asshole was going to-"

I was cut off when warm lips were suddenly on mine. I was frozen, eyes wide as Derek placed a soft kiss to my still bloody lips. His eyes were focused on mine, every emotion within them completely unreadable to my shocked mind. My heart thumbed softly in my chest but I made no move to push him away and he made no move farther.

Finally, after what seemed like forever but was probably less than a minute, Derek pulled away, his face as serious as it had been when he kissed me. His tongue flicked out, running along his bottom lip to rid himself of the blood he gathered from my lips. All the while, his eyes never left mine, searching them.

I managed to swallow, trying to push down the lump that had formed in my throat. My tongue slipped out to run along my lips, tasting blood and a hint of some spice. I let my tongue roll around my mouth for a moment and the urge to suddenly jump Derek made my stomach surge. I made no move however, forcing every nerve in my body to stop screaming at me.

"W-What..." Was the only thing I could get out.

Derek's eyes shifted to the dusting of pink on my cheeks before an ever so faint smile came to his lips. "Hell if I know." He shook his head, letting his hair fall around him and I noticed that it had fallen from its band at some point. Probably when he had been sleeping earlier. "Come on." He got to his feet and held his hand out to me. "Let's go home before Ai claws through the door to come find you."

I stared at the large tanned hand for a while before I slipped my smaller, paler hand into it. Derek pulled me to my feet effortlessly causing me to nearly stumble into his chest.

"Can you walk?" He asked, releasing my hand. I nodded at him, wrapping my arms around my aching body in a hug before following him back toward the home we temporarily shared together.

I was stubborn. Not stupid. So I didn't leave the house without Ai beside me again. Besides he was good company. It had been over a week since I had been attacked and it hadn't been mentioned again between Derek and I. I didn't tell Nathan but he noticed the bruises around my neck with a wiry eye. They were fading now but still there.

But the bruises were the least of my problems. Derek had kissed me. He kissed me, with no explanation and had yet to mention it since. I know that I had been a bit out of my wits that night but there was no denying what he had done. Derek had kissed me. And since he had kissed me, I couldn't seem to look at him the same way. Before he was just a guest in my house but now... Now I wasn't sure what he was.

With a soft sigh, my knees connected with the ground as I reached out to place the rose in its normal spot, near a few wilting ones. The sun was close to setting, signaling dinner time but I stayed where I was. Derek could wait for me. I had Ai beside me so I was safe. The large black dog had wrapped itself around my knees, protecting my back as I faced the headstone with a soft smile on my lips.

"I can't help but wonder what you would say, Sebastian." I spoke softly. "I could see it now." I waved my hand in the air. " 'The Hero kissed my lover! What an honor! Oh please great Hero kiss him again!'" I giggled softly at my own dramatic words, shaking my head and letting my hand fall back in my lap. "Or would you get angry? I doubt it. You rarely got angry." I shrugged, linking my fingers together in my lap. "You always had more control over your emotions than I. I envied you for that, you know. I'm still a kid. I know that and no matter how much I fight it... That's not going to change any time soon." A sigh disappeared in the breeze as I lowered my head to look at my hands, picking at the black paint on my nails. "But... Even though you were triple my age... I never felt like a child when I was with you. You worked hard to make sure I didn't, didn't you?" My lips curled up into a soft smile as the corners of my eyes began to prickle. "You were good at that. Making me feel older than I am. Keeping me in line. Is it strange that Derek's doing that now?" I bit my bottom lip, staring at my hands.

I was no fool. I may have been controlled by my emotions but I knew what was happening around me. Slowly, somehow, Derek was becoming the rock I had lost when Sebastian had died. Sure, we argued and bickered like an old married couple but... In the end he'd always make me smile. I had become accustomed to the way he spoke and the way he teased me. If anyone else said the things to me that he did... Well, they wouldn't have a chance to say them again. But Derek was different. I knew there was never any malice in his words and they always had a way of praising me. Even if it sounded like he was teasing me, he was boosting my confidence at the same time.

I flinched at the footsteps beside me. Ai only flipped his tail over as Derek moved to his knees beside me. I swallowed hard, angry at myself that I hadn't heard his approach. I had been too wrapped up in my mind to notice him. And that was very unlike me... I raised my head, glancing at him from the corner of my eyes.

Derek sat identical to me. His hands were folded in his lap and his head was bowed slightly, causing the hair that wasn't tied back to fall forward, covering his eyes from me. My heart skipped in my chest when I realized he was paying his respects to Sebastian. Warmth flowed over my skin as I shifted my eyes to rest on the headstone before us. We were silent, the only sound being the ocean not far away and the soft breeze blowing through the graveyard.

A warm hand wrapped around the back of my neck gently, careful of the bruises while rubbing it a bit and I didn't push it away. I let Derek keep his hand there, rubbing my skin and brushing the strands of hair away. My fingers tightened around one another as I stared forward at the headstone. The urge to cry wasn't as strong as it once had been and it dawned on me that the pain of Sebastian's death was finally fading. I was slowly moving on but not forgetting. I'll never forget. I tried that already and it sure as hell didn't work.

I glanced over at Derek, expecting to see a soft smile on his lips but what I did see shook me to the core. His face was turned away from me, his eyes focused on the headstone. His eyes were narrowed slightly in what looked like pain and I could see the tears in his eyes just dying to escape. He closed his eyes tightly, willing them away as he chewed on his bottom lip. His fingers tightened around my neck slightly as he turned his face to the side, hiding it from me with his hair.

I swallowed hard, a tightness forming in my chest as I reached behind me to grab the hand that was around my neck. Derek didn't make any movement as I pulled his hand into my lap, brushing my fingers over it softly in a comforting manner. Confusion didn't come close to what I felt but I wasn't going to ask questions. Derek may not have known Sebastian but that didn't change anything. Derek knew me and he knew what Sebastian had done for me. Perhaps that was why he felt a little emotional toward him. I wasn't going to pry and deep down, it felt nice to have someone else care for Sebastian.

Derek's fingers wrapped around mine, squeezing them for a moment before he pulled his hand away from mine, straightening up and giving me a soft smile. The pain was gone from his face but his eyes were still swirling with something I couldn't read. I really was bad at reading peoples emotions.

"Are you ready to go?" His voice was soft and tender, leaving me with a strange feeling in my chest.

I nodded before crawling forward a bit to place a kiss onto the cold headstone. I said a silent goodbye before getting to my feet and brushing the dirt from my knees. Derek watched me silently before reaching out to run his fingers along the top of the headstone, pausing where I had kissed it before turning back to me. His smile was back in place as he motioned toward the gate.

I returned his soft smile and began walking with him on one side and Ai on the other. It was the first time Derek had not teased me about something or pointed out something embarrassing. It was nice and I enjoyed the silence as we made our way back home.

It was foggy. Strange. Like a dream. Perhaps it was a dream. I wasn't sure. I hadn't remembered waking up that morning. My body felt light and it was like I couldn't control it. I couldn't tell where I was but it was foggy. Too foggy to see. Just a white mist everywhere. They said the Wraithmarsh were full of fog. A white mist so thick you'd be lost for days and die trying to find your way out. And in the middle... In the middle!

Panic sent in and I could feel my heart start to thump hard in my chest. Finally, my body felt solid as I spun around, searching the fog for anything I could recognize. My veins rushed, sending a spark of fear all over my body. Where was I? Why was I here and how had I gotten here? I breathed in deep, feeling the cool night air filling my lungs as I glanced around. The ground was soggy beneath my feet and I vaguely registered that I was bare foot. This couldn't be real. It wasn't possible.

A loud painful screech caused me to clamp my hands down hard over my ears. It was close. I could feel it. Sense it. So I took off running into the fog. My hands fell from my ears as I ran, ignoring the squish of the mud beneath my feet. I had to run. I wouldn't live if I didn't run. I could feel it, surrounding me, pinning me. The fear was overwhelming but I tried to push it away as I just ran. The fog was never-ending and I couldn't see where I was going. I was bound to run into something at some point but I threw caution to the wind as I ran as fast as I could.

And then it was like time slowed. My feet became heavy and I couldn't run faster. I slowed, forcing my legs to move but they just wouldn't. I was pinned to the ground, my feet not able to move as my eyes searched around me frantically for an explanation. And when I found it, it was like my whole world froze.

There, hovering to my side, was a Banshee. It's long tattered red cloak brushed against the ground as its arms reached out toward me. Only darkness was in the sleeves of the cloak and the hood of it hid whatever was underneath. But I was too frozen to do anything. The piercing scream surged through my head, more painful then anything I could have imagined. I fell to my knees, clamping my hands over my ears as my body shook. It was going to kill me. I was stuck and it was going to kill me. My only fear... Death.

"Come with me, Siam." The voice was haunting, a whisper inside my mind that sent chills all over my skin.


"Siam!" I flinched, feeling hands on my shoulders shaking me slightly as the world around me crashed. I pushed against the chest that belonged to those arms and continued to mumble "no" over and over again. "Siam." The voice was strong and determined as a warm hand cupped my cheek gently. "Wake up. It's okay. Open your eyes. It was just a dream."

My eyes snapped open and my brain screamed at me for it. The sudden light hurt and I turned away from it, closing my eyes. I rubbed my eyes with the back of my hand before finally opening them again to see Derek above me, his face a type of worry I hadn't seen before. It faded when his eyes locked with mine and a soft smile came to his lips. He let his hand slide from my cheek to my neck as he searched my eyes.

Warmth replaced the cold fear as reality surrounded me. It was a dream. Just a dream. I was safe. In bed with Derek. Slowly, I released the breath I didn't realize I was holding. I let my racing heart calm down as I reached up to brush a chunk of hair behind Derek's ear. His eyes widened a fraction at my action but his smile remained.

"I'm sorry." I told him softly, letting my hand fall against my chest.

He shook his head, causing the chunk of hair I had brushed away to fall forward again, brushing against my flushed cheek. "Are you alright? You scared me."

I swallowed hard, letting the fragments of my dream fade into the back of my mind. "I'm okay... It was only a nightmare."

"Do you have those often?" He asked.

I shook my head, enjoying the feel of his soft hair brushing against my cheek. At some point in the night, his hair had fallen from the band and now hung like a curtain down his shoulders and surrounding me. "I haven't for a long time. Everyone has nightmares sometimes though."

"What was it about? You were squirming and panting 'no' over and over."

I blinked at the look in his eyes and it dawned on me what he thought my dream had been about. "No, I..." I licked my dry lips, giving him a soft smile. "It was a Banshee."

Relief filled his features and his shoulders seemed to relax. "A Banshee hm?" His head hung for a moment causing his bangs to tickle my nose before he leaned back and sat on the bed beside me. "Just a Banshee..."

"Just a Banshee?" I sat up, tilting my head at him. "They may not be dangerous to you, but they are to me."

Derek shook his head, his hair cascading around him as he glanced at me with a warm look in his eyes. "I know that. And they're still dangerous to me. If I gave one an opening, I'd never make it." He shrugged, running his hand through his hair to get it out of his face. I noticed then that he was bare from the waist up. I knew that I was as well but I made no move to cover myself. After all, we'd slept in nothing but our undergarments many times. But something stuck in my stomach as I glanced down over his tanned, toned chest. The room was still a bit dark, the only light coming from the moon shining through the open windows. The moonlight cast shadows over his chest as he moved to pull his hair behind him in a messy ponytail. A lump formed in my throat as I lowered my eyes to his stomach where a very obvious trail of dark hair led below the blankets that pooled around his waist.

"Siam?" I blinked, snapping my eyes up to meet his. His eyes were narrowed in a thoughtful gaze as he raised an eyebrow at me. "Did you hear me?"

I swallowed the thump in my throat as I shook my head. "I'm sorry."

A smirk quirked up his lips as he tightened the band around his hair. "I asked if you've seen a Banshee before."

I bit my lower lip, knowing he had caught me staring in a way that was less than appropriate. "Yes." I admitted softly, the feeling in my stomach disappearing as the memory of the Banshee floated back through my mind. I glanced away from him to Ai who was curled up at the end of the bed, his ice eyes focused on me.

"People don't usual live to tell they've seen one." Derek pointed out.

I shrugged, rubbing my bare arms that had suddenly become cold. "I was really little. Four or five I think... A banshee broke through the Wasteland Barrier and attacked the village." I shivered at the memories that flowed through my mind. Running. It was all I could do. Run for safety and try to block out all of the screams. "I don't remember much... Just hiding in a small barrel when it past by me. I've never been so scared in my life." I shook my head, my eyes focusing on my hands that were folded in my lap. "It didn't notice me though. I have no idea why... It should have. Call it dumb luck I guess." A faint laugh came from my lips as I shifted to pull my knees to my chest, wrapping my arms around them and tangling the blankets around my waist. "What I remember most is the aftermath. I don't know what happened to the Banshee. Someone killed it I think. I just remember finding my mother." The words suddenly stuck in my throat. I'd never spoken about it with anyone. Not even Sebastian. He'd never asked about what had happened to my mother. He assumed I would tell him when I was ready thought I never had any intention of telling him anyway.

My mother was a whore. A whore who died by the hand of a Banshee when I was four or five. I loved her. Respected her for taking care of me while she could. But I felt no remorse anymore. I did when I first saw her laying there, her emerald eyes open wide in fear and her face contorted into a scream. I broke down crying like a young child would at finding their mother dead. But my remorse was soon filled with hatred and anger that she had left me alone. She may not have had a choice, but it was something I couldn't forgive her for. She birthed me, fed me her milk, gave me a floor and a blanket to sleep on but that was all. I went hungry and alone too many nights to think she was the perfect mother. I knew she cared about me but like every other person in Bloodstone, she cared more about herself. And then she was dead. Like she had never existed in the first place.

"Siam?" A warm hand was on my shoulder, rubbing it gently to gain my attention.

I released a soft sigh, letting the memories fade as I glanced up at Derek. His eyes held a hint of sadness that didn't sit well with me. "I'm fine. I was more terrified of the Banshee than finding my mother dead. It's in the past now. The Barrier was rebuilt and we've had no problems since."

"But you're still afraid."

His words struck a cord deep inside my chest. "I don't want to end up like my mother." The words were whispered and out of my mouth before I could stop them.

"You won't." Derek's voice changed, holding a hint of strength as he spoke. "I'm here." His hand squeezed my shoulder gently. "You're nothing like her, Siam. You're smart, cunning, and more stubborn than a bull." His tone held a hint of laugher as he smiled at me. "You're stronger than she ever was." His hand fell from my shoulder, the back of his knuckles brushing over my arm as he lowered it to my side against the mattress.

A sense of pride swelled in my chest as I glanced up at him. Again, his light teasing was meant to give me confidence. He was a strange one. That was for sure. "Thanks."

Derek just shrugged at me as he shifted to lie back under the blankets. "It's the truth." He laid on his back but his eyes were still focused on me.

I nodded at him as I shifted to lay back down as well. I curled my hands under the pillow as I laid on my side, facing him. "Goodnight, Derek."

His smile grew slightly as he slipped his eyes shut. "Goodnight, Siam."

The attraction was there. I couldn't deny it no matter how hard I tried. I'd never admit it to anyone, but it was there. Hot and scorching to the point that I'd have to grit my teeth. How could someone not be attracted to Derek? Well of course, if one were a man who didn't like other men, which would be obvious. But it made sense as to why women flocked around him. It wasn't just his natural good looks, it was his charm and personality as well.

I wasn't oblivious to his good looks when I first met him. I just didn't care back then. The night he had saved me from being raped and killed was the first time I noticed how utterly handsome he was. As strange as it was. Maybe it had something to do with the soft kiss he had planted me with. I wasn't sure. I only knew that the odd feeling that had started in my stomach was lust.

Derek was naturally handsome. His skin was tanned from all his travels but held no hints of any scars or blemishes. Flawless almost. Atleast from the amount of skin I had seen. Which was a lot. Caramel colored skin covered taunt and toned muscles that outlined his entire body. If one were into such a thing, he was a god. Muscles had never mattered to me before but I couldn't ignore the slight pull of my stomach every time I saw Derek without his shirt on.

His hair was something I found myself drawn to on more than one occasion. Especially since he preferred for me to pull his hair back into its normal ponytail for him. I never argued because I loved the soft feel of his hair between my fingers. Whether pulled back, or cascading around his shoulders, his hair always framed his face perfectly like a dark halo. I also happened to know the utter black of his hair was natural. Because he had quite a trail of matching hair flowing down from his belly button and below his pants. But that was the only body hair I had seen other than his legs. And even that wasn't too thick and dark. It was... Just right.

But those eyes... They got me every time. I cursed myself every time he caught me staring. They always held a hint of playfulness when he looked at me and warmth I hadn't seen since Sebastian. No matter what his face portrayed his eyes showed every emotion, swirling together in a beautiful pearl around dark pupils. Even if I couldn't read those emotions all the time, it still made my chest swell to see them swirling around like that.

As I said before, his good looks weren't all that Derek had up his sleeve. His charm was something that grew on me and now I found myself eager to hear him speak. To see what he would say to me next. He teased me constantly but it was never in bad taste. His teasing was always a way to praise me while trying to make me laugh. It usually worked. He was a gentle, caring man who always tried to help others. He wasn't just a Hero to me anymore. That title had faded long ago. Sure he had saved my life once but he didn't do it because he was a Hero. He did it because he cared about me. But how deep that care went, I had no idea.

Sometimes I thought he looked at me like his son. After all, he did have a son my age. But then those pearl eyes would flash with something hot that sent my stomach haywire and leave my head reeling. No man looked at his son that way. Not that I knew of anyway. So was I a second wife to him? He teased me about it all the time and spoke like I was his wife. But it was always in a playful tone so I couldn't take it too seriously. After all, when his job was done in the Wraithmarsh he would leave and continue on his Hero journeys.

That thought sent a painful spike through my stomach that made me swallow hard. I bit my lower lip as I watched Derek in the mist of a group of women outside of the BenCrest bar. It had gotten dark not long ago and he had yet to return home for dinner, so I went searching for him with Ai. My midnight colored dog had led me directly to him and I found myself just staring at him, watching Derek as he laughed at something one of the women said.

They weren't all whores. I could pick out a few whores, Ariana being one of them but the others were housewives. Some married, some not. All blushing like little girls and complementing him on something. The sight did not sit well with me yet I wasn't sure why. It seemed like he was enjoying the attention and I was sure he was used to it. He was Albion's great Hero after all.

My teeth grit together as I watched one of the whore's place her hand on his arm, gaining his attention. He didn't brush her off and even seemed to enjoy the touch. Well of course he did. She was pretty after all and his wife was miles and miles away.

"You look like a jealous lover."

The deep voice snapped my attention back to my surroundings. Ai sat obediently at my side, watching the stranger who had decided to stand beside me. I realized I had crossed my arms over my chest so I let them fall to my sides and whipped the glare from my face as I turned to face the stranger. Deep blue stared at me and I had to hold back a gasp. I didn't recognize the man but there was no doubt in his beauty.

The moonlight gave me perfect light to scan his face. A set of sharp eyes, a pointed nose, high cheek bones and full lips. His skin was light, almost as light as mine but just a few shades darker. His shoulder length hair cascaded around his shoulders like a waterfall of gold. I'd never seen such a color on someone yet it looked perfect on him. He was taller than I but didn't tower over me like Derek did. This man was perhaps only a few inches taller, making him a normal height for a man of... Well he looked to be in his early twenties.

"Pardon?" I asked, raising an eyebrow at him.

A smile came to his full lips as he glanced over at the crowd surrounding Derek. "I was just thinking that you looked like his lover who had come to witness him flirting with a group of young girls." His laugh was soft yet deep, unlike anything I had heard before. "You look ready to murder one of them. Hell, perhaps all of them." His crystal blue eyes met mine again, glistening with humor.

"I'm not his lover." I told the stranger, forcing my eyes away from him to Ai, who was still just watching the man beside me.

"Then you're free?"

I snapped my eyes up at him, narrowing them slightly at his smile. "I'm not a whore."

The stranger's smile faded as he tilted his head at me. "A whore? I was not implying that you were. I was simply asking if you were untied."

I blinked, finding the way he spoke a bit strange. "You're not from here." I stated, knowing if he was, I would have seen him before. That golden hair was hard to miss.

"I am not." His smile returned before he blinked. "Oh! How rude of me." He took a step back, facing me as he bowed his head slightly. "My name is Gordon Fellwellow." He stood up straight, the smile on his face genuine. "I'm from Bowerstone. I'm in town for a few days with my family."

I hummed, looking him over while shoving my hands into the pockets of my tight pants. "Didn't think people vacationed to Bloodstone."

He shook his head, taking a step forward and returning to his pervious position beside me, only he didn't face the crowd. He was facing me. "We're not on vacation. My father has business with the owner of the mansion at the top of the hill."

I blinked at his words, turning to face him. "The mansion?" I glanced behind him at the large looming mansion in the distance that overlooked Bloodstone. "I thought that place was abandoned."

"It's not. Though it sure looks like it. We visited earlier and I have a feeling the place may be haunted."

I shrugged. "Those are the rumors."

"Do you know much about the mansion?" He asked, genuine curiosity in his eyes.

"Just what I've heard around town. I doubt any of it is fact. I hardly notice it's there anymore. No one goes up there. The trail is too steep and it's too creepy. Why is your father looking at it?"

"He wants to buy it." Gordon said with a smile. "He wants to turn this town into..." He trailed off, pressing his lips together as he thought. "Well, in his words, 'A respectable town with respectable people and less violence.'"

I raised an eyebrow at him. "We don't have a lot of violence around here." I pointed out. "But having more respectable people wouldn't be such a bad thing." I found myself drawn to the crowd again to find that Derek still hadn't noticed me standing a bit far away.

"Do you think so? I was hoping to not offend you." His voice held so much trust that it was hard not to believe the man. People from Bowerstone were different. Hell, people from anywhere but Bloodstone where different. Even Nathan was as open as this man when he had first came to Bloodstone.

"I'm not offended." I waved a pale hand at him as I shifted my eyes to glance at him once again.

The smile that graced his lips dazzled me a bit. "Good. I didn't catch your name."

"That's because I didn't give it." I told him, eyeing him for a moment before deciding he was okay. "I'm Siam."

"Siam." He said with a smile, tilting his head to the side. "What an interesting name. And such interesting eyes." He leaned forward a bit, peering into my eyes. I knew he meant no harm but he had invaded my personal space and it made my skin crawl. "You remind me of a Xinlin lady I met once." He leaned back, out of my personal bubble.

My nerves still at his words. "Xinlin? You've meet someone from Xinlin?"

"I have. Are you Xinlin by chance? You sure look it. The eyes, the dark hair and the pale skin even though you live by the ocean." His crystal blue eyes glistened. "And the way your lips naturally curl at the tips. And Siam is a Xinlin name I believe."

I shook my head at him. "I never knew my father and I know little about my mother, so I don't know honestly. But it's a possibility I'm sure."

"I'm positive you have Xinlin in your veins." He told me with that perfect smile of his. "I had the chance to visit there once and you look a lot like their people."

I glanced down at Ai who had decided to lay at my feet. He sensed no danger so I figured Gordon really was a genuine man. "It'd explain why I don't fit in with everyone else."

"There's nothing wrong with being exotic." His smile remained but his tone shifted to something I couldn't name. "Rarity is the true beauty. And you, Siam, are indeed rare."

I blinked, glancing at him from the corner of my eyes. "Are you hitting on me, Mr. Fellwellow?"

His nose crinkled in a cute way. "That's my father. It's strange to be called that. Please, call me Gordon."

A hint of a smile twitched on my lips. "Alright, Gordon. Are you hitting on me?"

"Is it that obvious? I was never very subtle with these things." A faint pink blush came to his cheeks as he pressed his fingers together in front of him in a nervous manner.

I couldn't hold back the soft chuckle that came from my throat and my smile spread across my lips. He blinked at my laugh, his blush deepening but his eyes never leaving mine. "You're cute." I admitted with a smile, shifting to face him fully. "How old are you?"

"Twenty-two." He answered, his hands falling to his sides but the blush remained.

I whistled softly, shifting to place my hands on my hips. "Sheltered weren't you?"

"Considerably so." He said with a sigh, his shoulders slumping a bit. "My mother did everything in her power to keep me at her side. Even now." He shook his head causing golden locks to flow around him. "She thinks I'm fast asleep in the Inn with her. But I couldn't sleep. Not with all this going on." He motioned to the crowd outside of the bar. "Besides, it's the first time in a long time I've been outside of Bowerstone. I wanted to see Bloodstone for myself."

"It's not much honestly." I shrugged while letting my smile fade into a soft smirk. "At your age, I'd think your mother would be trying to marry you off."

"You'd think, hm?" He laughed softly, glancing at the bar. "But she seems insistent of having me at her side. And I have yet to find a reason to tell her no."

I hummed, letting out a soft chuckle. "I don't blame you."

"You didn't mention your age." He pointed out, his crystal eyes landing on mine once again.

"I'm seventeen."

Gordon's eyes widened a bit in surprise as he looked me over. "Really? You seem older."

"That's a first." I said with a soft smile. "But yes, I'm seventeen."

He hummed, glancing me over before nodding. "Still quite attractive from your age. You're growing well."

I blinked at his words, unsure if I should be flattered or not. But the faint heat against my cheeks still showed through and I saw his lips quirk up into a smile. "Thank you, I think."

He nodded at my words. "You never did answer my question."

I tilted my head to the side. "What question?"

"I asked if you were free."

Ah, that question. I bit my lower lip, glancing at Derek whose eyes were pinned to me. I froze for a moment, caught in his intense gaze and unable to shift my eyes away. I couldn't read what was in those pearl eyes because he was too far away but his mouth was set in a tight line. Ariana was tugging on his arm, saying something to him but he only inclined his head toward her as if he were listening. But his eyes were glued to mine.

"I..." I swallowed hard, tearing my eyes away from Derek's to meet concerned crystal blue.

"Are you alright? You're completely flushed." Gordon made to reach out to me but snatched his hand back before he did. Ah, the manners of those who lived the higher life.

I nodded, rubbing my cheek with my palm before tucking a chunk of jet black hair behind my ear. "I'm fine. And yes, I am free."

His eyes lit up and I couldn't help but notice how his smile grew. "Would you care to join me for a stroll around town then?"

I glanced at Derek but his focus was already off of me and on one of the girls around him. My chest contorted in an odd way before I met Gordon's soft gaze. "Sure."

I didn't think it possible, but his smile grew. "Lovely. Perhaps you should lead the way. You know your town better than I do."

I patted my thigh, bringing Ai to his feet. "Alright." I gave Gordon a soft smile as I began to walk away from the bar. Ai followed along on one side while Gordon walked along on my other side.

"You have a lovely dog." Gordon spoke softly, glancing down at Ai who gave him a glance of his own.

"Thank you. His name's Ai." I reached down to run my fingers along Ai's ears for a moment before shifting up straight as we walked.

"Ai? Doesn't that mean Love in Xinlin?"

I nodded, glancing at him from the corner of my eyes. "I read it in a book once and it just seemed to fit him."

"Dogs are rare nowadays. Have you always had him?"

I shook my head slightly. "I've only had him for a little over a month. He's a loyal dog though. Smarter than I ever thought possible."

"I've read somewhere that dogs can see into your soul. They're able to see good and evil inside of someone. That's what makes them such good companions."

I smiled softly. "Ai is the best companion. My silent protector."

Gordon returned my smile. "I sure wouldn't want to anger him. He looks like he could be vicious when needed."

"He hasn't yet but I have a feeling that if I were in trouble he would be. So he never leaves my side."

"Where did you find him? He looks much older than a month."

A let out a soft laugh. "Well yes. I'm not sure how old he is. Derek found him in the Wraithmarsh and brought him back here. I love animals, so I took him in."

"Derek? Do you mean the Hero?"

I paused, glancing over at him. His expression was innocent enough. "Yes."

"That was him back there, wasn't it?" I nodded at his question, shoving my hands into my pockets. "You know him personally?"

"Something like that. He's here to do something in the Wraithmarsh so he's staying with me until his job is done. The inn was full at the time and he offered to pay me to allow him to stay with me. I couldn't turn down the offer so he's be staying with me since."

"How nice." His tone was light and held no hint of sarcasm. "Do you live alone?"

I nodded at his question, not really wanting to go into full detail about my life. "Tell me about you." I said, glancing at him with a soft smile. Gordon's cheeks flushed slightly but he did as asked and started to speak about himself.

I learned a lot about Gordon as we walked around Bloodstone. His father was a member of parliament and was a stuffy old man that Gordon rarely got along with. He told me about his home, his mother, and the simple life he lived in Bowerstone. But what really caught my attention was his intelligence. He was an avid reader and had an interest in medical science. He tried to ask personal questions about me but I would brush them off with a simple answer and try to return to conversation back to him.

He was pleasant company. Like Nathan. We spoke about books mainly. My personal collection paled in comparison to his at home but we had read many of the same books and found ourselves speaking about them. It was nice to gather someone else's opinion on a book I had read. Hearing what they thought and how they saw it from their point of view. It was nice.

I wasn't sure when his hand had slipped into mine. Probably when I was preoccupied telling him about a book I had read. I didn't pull my hand from his when I realized it was there. I simply let him hold my hand, finding his hand smaller and colder than a certain Hero's.

"I should return home." I said as I glanced up at the sky. The moon had shifted and it looked to be near midnight.

"Do you have to?" Gordon asked, his fingers curling around mine in a soft squeeze.

I gave him a soft smile as I turned us down an alleyway that lead back to my home. "Yes and you should return to the inn. God knows what your mother would do if she found you gone."

Gordon winced at the idea. "You're right. I should head back."

I nodded at him before pausing in front of my home. "Can you find your way back from here?"

He nodded, glancing at the set of stairs not far away. "I just head down there and turn right, correct?"

"Yes." I turned to face him, glancing at the home behind me. "This is my home."

"Oh." He blinked in surprise but made no effort to move.

I laughed softly before stepping forward to plant a soft kiss against his cheek. "It was nice to meet you, Gordon." When I pulled back, his cheeks were flushed red and I couldn't help but smile.

"It was a pleasure to spend time with you." He pulled my hand that he held toward his lips to kiss the back of it softly. "I hope to see you again. Tomorrow perhaps?"

"Sure." I smiled softly, pulling my hand out of his grasp gently. "Have a good night."

"You as well, Siam." He smiled softly as he bowed his head a bit before taking off down the stairs.

I watched him leave till his head disappeared down the stairs. I sighed softly, running my hand through my hair before glancing at the back of it where he had kissed it. Perhaps I led him on. I hadn't mentioned that I wasn't looking for anyone but he said he was only in town for a few days. He'd be gone and forget all about me eventually.

I glanced down at Ai whose ice blue eyes were glancing up at me. "I'm tired, how about you?" I smiled at him, bending down a bit to rub his ears. "Hungry too. I never had dinner. What about you boy?" A soft whine came from his throat and I knew he was just as hungry as I was. "Come on, let's get something to eat and head to bed." I stood up straight and turned to walk down the path that lead to my door. But before I could even open the door, it swung open, revealing a very angry looking Derek.

"Where were you?"

I blinked up at him, retracting my hand that had been reaching out for the door handle. "Walking around." I told him, narrowing my eyes at him till he let me pass him into my home.

"It's late." He said, closing the door after Ai followed me inside.

"Ai was with me." I motioned to the black furry dog that was now gobbling down the food I had left for him in his bowl. I moved into the kitchen to find it different than I had left it. Everything had been cleaned up and put away. "You cleaned up?"

"I waited for you." Derek said, his voice a bit darker than I was used to.

"And I waited for you." I snapped back, moving to grab an apple from the basket on the counter. "In fact, I got so concerned that I went looking for you." I turned to face him, leaning back against the edge of the counter with one arm crossed over my chest. "Little did I know you were busy entertaining the local whores."

Something flashed in Derek's eyes as he moved across the floor toward me. "They stopped me on my way home. I couldn't exactly be rude and tell them off because I'd be late for dinner."

I shrugged, taking a bite of my apple, enjoying the sound of the crunch and the slight sweetness in my mouth. "It doesn't matter to me what you do. I'd just appreciate it if you were on time for dinner. I work hard to cook you dinner, you know."

"You sound like my wife." He said with a sigh, pausing a few feet away from me. I noticed how his eyes averted away from me like he was afraid of what I'd see in them. "Though she never cooks for me really."

I tilted my head slightly, taking another bite of my apple. Something seemed a little off about Derek. He had abandoned his usual long coat and his hair was pulled from it's band to cascade around his shoulders. His jaw was tense and I could see that his shoulders were too through the white fabric of his button up shirt.

"Guess I take better care of you than your own wife." I said with a shrug.

"She has children she has to take care of."

Again, I shrugged. "So? And I have nothing better to do than cook, clean and make you as comfortable as possible?"

"I don't ask you to do those things for me."

"That's not the point." I took another bite from my apple, twirling it around with my tongue before chewing it up and swallowing it. "I'm not your wife. Yet I do things for you that she doesn't. Shouldn't that say something?"

"I've been married to her a long time, Siam." Derek said, finally shifting his eyes to meet my gaze. "It's not about taking care of each other anymore. It's about the children."

I narrowed my eyes at him slightly. "Do you even love her anymore?"

"I never loved her." He stated causing me to nearly choke on a bit of my apple. He narrowed his eyes slightly at me as I coughed, rubbing my throat. "Are you alright?"

I nodded, waving my hand at him as I forced down the piece of slightly chewed apple. I inhaled deeply before shifting my eyes to his once again. "Y-You never loved her? Then why did you marry her?"

"Heroes have to carry on their gene someway. Whether their children show the gene or not, it is in their blood and perhaps my children will have children where the gene shows."

"You married her for the kids?"

He nodded, running his hand through his hair a bit roughly. "We both agreed on it. I told you, she knew what she was getting herself into."

"What if either of you fell in love? With someone else? What then?" I asked, truly curious.

"We'd cross that bridge when we came to it. I'm no fool. I know she hasn't been faithful to me, but it's not like I have been to her either." I raised an eyebrow at that. "I'm almost certain our youngest isn't actually mine."

"Isn't that like, really bad?" I asked, tossing my apple core into the trash before grabbing another one. "The Hero's wife sleeping with other men?"

"It's to be expected." Derek said with a shrug, his eyes holding no amount of pain or anything akin to it. "I've spent more time in your bed than I have in hers." His words shot to the pit of my stomach. "So it's expected for her to get lonely and find comfort in the arms of another man."

I crinkled my nose as I chewed on my apple. "That just doesn't sound right to me. If you were my husband, I wouldn't go around fucking other guys. Sure, loneliness is a bitch, believe me, I know." I felt the scowl come to my lips. "But I wouldn't try to find comfort in the arms of someone else. That's just wrong. Whether you're in love or not. It's marriage. A commitment. The ultimate one. And if she can't keep her legs shut until you return home then..." I growled faintly, shaking my head. "She doesn't deserve you."

Derek was silent and I glanced up, hoping I hadn't said something wrong. But he was only gazing at me with a strange look in his eyes. "Did Sebastian teach you those morals or is that all your own?" He finally spoke.

I rolled my eyes at him, unsure if he was teasing me or not. "It's all mine. You can't teach morals. If you could, this town wouldn't be such a hell hole." I tossed another apple core into the trash basket.

"So if you were my wife, you'd be faithful?"

I narrowed my eyes at his question, trying to find what he was trying to get at. His tone was different than normal and his jaw and shoulders were still tense. "Of course I would. It'd be hell, having you away for long periods of time, but I'd find something to preoccupy myself with. I'm not that much of a sex demon. I could wait till you returned home."

Derek stared at me for a while. His gaze had shifted into something I just couldn't read and it made my stomach flare. But I could feel a pit a bit lower than my stomach flare as well. I swallowed hard, glancing away from him as I pushed off of the counter. After he didn't say anything for a while I moved to walk past him.

"It's late. We should get to bed." But before I could pass him, Derek stepped in front of me, blocking my path. I glared up at him but my glare faded at the look in his eyes.

"We got off topic." He said, staring down at me with fierceness in his eyes I hadn't seen before.

"Did we?"

Pearl eyes narrowed at me. "You didn't tell me where you had been all this time."

I blinked, furrowing my brow. "I told you I was walking around town."

"For three hours?"

I did not like the accusatory tone he had. "Yes, for three hours." I narrowed my eyes up at him. "Why does that matter?"

"Were you alone?"

I flinched at his question. He was angry. I could tell he was angry the moment he opened the door. But I didn't know why he was angry. "No. Ai was with me, you know that."

"I'm not talking about Ai." I hadn't realized when I had started to back away from him until my back hit the edge of the kitchen counter. Derek had followed my every step and now I was pinned against the counter as he leaned down, putting his palms on either side on me against the counter. "I saw you leave with that stranger."

"Are you implying something here, Derek?" I hissed at him, trying to not seem as afraid as I really was. Derek was scary when he was angry.

"And if I am?"

The sound of my hand connecting hard with his cheek echoed through the house and caused Ai to jump down from the couch and run over to my side, growling softly. Derek let his head snap to the side at my slap and I wished I had punched him instead but I probably would have broke my hand if I had. I could feel the sting in my fingers already from the slap as my hand curled into a fist against my chest.

"How dare you." I hissed, moving to the side as he pulled back from me, rubbing the cheek I had slapped. His eyes were still focused on me but the anger had faded a bit. "I told you before that I was done being a whore. I expected you to remember that! And even if I had slept with Gordon, be it for gold or my own pleasure, it is not your business!" I snapped at him, my voice louder than I expected. I wasn't afraid anymore. Something had snapped and I was angry. Very, very angry. "Just because I act like a wife to you does not give you the right to act like my husband!" I growled out before turning away from him and heading toward the stairs. "And since you suddenly want to start acting like my husband, you're sleeping on the couch." I hissed out at him before stomping up the stairs toward my bedroom. I let Ai slip inside the room before I slammed the door shut, making the walls shake.

Maybe I was acting like a child again, but I felt like my anger was completely justified for once. I growled incoherently as I stripped off my clothes, throwing them onto the floor before going into the bathroom. I twisted on the water of the tub with a flick of my wrist before going to the sink. Intense emerald eyes glared back at me as I looked into the mirror. I stared at my reflection of a while, my hands wrapped around the edge so tightly that my knuckles were white.

What gave him the right to say things like that to me?! What the hell was he thinking? It was not his business what I did or who I did it with! Why did it suddenly matter to him now?!

I swallowed hard, easing my grip on the sink as my glare faded a bit. How could he think I would do such a thing after I told him I wouldn't? I didn't want to whore myself out anymore. I didn't need to. I wasn't a whore for the fucking pleasure of it! I needed the money and at the time, it was the only thing I was skilled at.

I spun away from the sink and turned off the hot water that had filled the tub more than halfway. I noticed Ai sitting in the doorway of the bathroom, watching me with worried eyes but I didn't acknowledge him. I stepped into the scorching hot water and sat down, hugging my knees to my chest. My muscles relaxed at the heat but I could already feel my skin turning red from the heat. It wasn't hot enough burn but it was a bit painful. I ignored it however as I glared at the surface of the water.

I had left home to find Derek because I was worried. It wasn't like him to be late for dinner. I didn't accuse him of anything! He was surrounded by whores and did I accuse him of doing anything with them? No! Sure, it bothered me to find him there, surrounded by them and seemingly enjoying it but I didn't say anything!

I swallowed hard, my glare fading as the hot water licked at the skin around my collar bone.

So what right did he have to accuse me of such a thing? I thought he knew me better than that! I never say things I don't mean, especially about serious subjects like whoring myself out. I had told him the night I was attacked that I would never sell my body again. No matter what. I thought he had listened to me...

My chest contorted as I slipped down into the water, closing my eyes and holding my breath as I dunked under, staying there until my lungs couldn't take it any longer. My head popped out of the water as I gasped for breath, feeling my throat start to swell as I leaned back against the wall of the tub.

He didn't trust me. He didn't believe my words. And that hurt. It hurt more than I could have ever expected.

A soft sound came from my throat as I threw my arm over my eyes, pushing back the tears that threatened to fall. My anger had quickly faded into hurt as my chest squeezed tightly. My throat tightened and I couldn't hold back a few choked sobs as I let the tears slip from my closed eyes. It hurt a lot. Why did it matter what I did with Gordon? Why didn't he believe that we had walked around town for three hours? Was I that untrustworthy?

A soft whine caught my attention and I lifted my arm a bit to see Ai sitting outside of the tub with his muzzle resting against the edge of the tub, his eyes watching me. I could see the sadness in his eyes and I shifted to rub my wet hand over his soft muzzle.

"I'm okay, boy." My voice sounded more strained than I would have liked but it was only Ai, so I didn't care. He whined again, nuzzling his head into my hand as I ran my fingers along his ears. I bit my lip to hold back a few more sounds as I shifted to rest on my knees in the water to lean on the edge of the tub and stroke Ai's ears softly. "Really. I'll be okay."

Ice blue eyes gazed at me like he didn't believe my words and he whined again, moving forward to lick my cheek softly. I closed my eyes tightly, a few tears escaping down my cheeks but Ai just licked them away.

"I-I don't know why it hurts so much Ai... That he doesn't trust me... It just does." I admitted softly. "I thought... We were doing well. We were actually getting along and I was starting to enjoy his company..." I sniffed, opening my eyes to see Ai staring at me with a look in his eyes I couldn't read. "But things never last for me, do they? I messed up somewhere and now... Derek doesn't trust me."

Ai growled softly, reaching forward to nudge my cheek with his cold nose. I smiled softly at him, rubbing his ears gently. "Maybe I shouldn't have gone off with Gordon. But, you liked him right? He was safe. You would have let me know if he wasn't."

I sunk farther in the water, resting my chin on the side of the tub so I was eyelevel with Ai. "It's not like Derek is all that innocent. He was flirting with all those girls." I growled out softly, my anger from earlier returning a bit. "So if he can be bothered about me with Gordon than I can be bothered about that, right?"

Ai just stared at me, tilting his head to the side a bit. I sighed, slipping away from the edge of the tub and letting my body sink into the water. The tub wasn't long enough to let me spread out fully, but I bent my legs and let my back float over the water, my hands resting against my chest as I stared at the ceiling.

"I don't get why he's bothered in the first place. I didn't do anything."

I stared at the ceiling a bit longer before sitting up, surprising Ai who had laid down by the side of the tub. I pulled the plug of the tub as I moved to wash myself. I scrubbed my skin harder than necessary, leaving red blotches against my pale skin. I ignored them as I washed my hair, also scrubbing as hard as I could. Once I felt I was clean enough, I stepped out of the tub and grabbed a towel to dry myself off with. I wrapped it around my waist as I moved to run a comb through my tangled hair. I was silent as I brushed my teeth and found myself staring at my reflection again.

I narrowed my eyes at what I saw before turning away and walking into the bedroom. Ai jumped onto the end of the bed, circling a few times before he settled down. I bit my lower lip before dropping my towel and slipping under the blankets. I was finally sleeping alone so I could sleep naked if I wanted to. I curled up under the blankets, nuzzling into my pillow before settling down. I glared at the other side of the bed through the slight darkness before sitting up slightly.

"Ai." He lifted his head at my call. "Come up here." I patted the spot beside me. "Come sleep with me."

Ai stared at me for a moment before getting to his feet and moving to lay beside me on his stomach. I laid down, wrapping my arm around his large body while nuzzling into his warm furry neck. His scent was familiar and lulled me into a restless sleep.

My eyelids were heavy causing every blink I made to take a bit longer than normal. I felt Ai pressed against my thigh as I walked, glancing down at him occasionally to see him looking at me with worried eyes. I hadn't slept very well. Ai's warmth was nice but it wasn't enough to let me sleep comfortably. I couldn't lay still, tossing and turning. I couldn't stop think about Derek and what had happened between us. It bothered the hell out of me. Anger had faded into hurt that faded into a numbness that made my chest tight.

Derek was gone when I came downstairs that morning. I was worried that he had left for good until I found his travel bag tucked between the side of the couch and the bookcase. The relief that filled me then made me a bit angry. But I forced those emotions away and tried to stay calm for the rest of the day, occupying myself with house work. Doing laundry, dusting, cleaning the bathroom. Anything to keep me busy and not thinking.

I knew Ai was just as tired as I was. Every time I tossed or turned, he would lift his head to watch me till I settled down again. I felt bad for keeping him up but he didn't seem to mind. He just stuck closer to me than normal and I was okay with that. His warm fur was a comfort I hadn't realized till then how badly I needed it.

The waterfront was littered with people going about their daily routines. I shifted the empty leather bag over my shoulder, glancing around at the stalls. I had found a rather generous mound of gold on the kitchen table that Derek had left for me. I knew it was payment for the time he had spent at my home so I decided to spend a little of it. I was running low on a few things anyway.

I shifted to move toward Nathan's stand but paused when a flash of gold caught my eye. I paused, watching as Gordon was being tugged behind a rather short and slightly pudgy light golden haired lady. I assumed she was his mother and by the look on his face he wasn't keen on where she was trying to drag him. She paused, glancing around the waterfront outside of the BenCrest but she kept her fingers around his sleeve tightly.

I raised an eyebrow at this, tempted to approach but I decided not too. His mother probably had no idea about what he did the night before and I wasn't willing to get him in trouble. Though, if I wasn't in such a low mood, I probably would have done it anyway. I just wasn't in the mood to mess with him, or anyone for that matter.

"Siam!" I paused, glancing over when Gordon called my name. His eyes were bright and the smile on his face was pleasant. His mother perked her head up when he called my name and her eyes were narrowed considerably at me.

With a sigh, I forced a soft smile and waved a hand at him, moving to walk over. Gordon's smile grew as I made my way over but his mother looked at me in a way that didn't sit well in my stomach. "Hey, Gordon." I said softly, stopping a few feet away from him.

"I was hoping to see you." I tugged his arm out of his mother's grasp as he stepped toward me. "Are you busy?"

I shrugged, motioning to the leather bag over my shoulder. "I was just going to do a little shopping." I glanced over at his mother whose dull blue eyes were glaring at me and her lips were curled into a scowl. "Want to join me?"

Relief crossed his face. "I would love to."

"You already have plans with me, Gordy honey." His mother said, her voice shrill as she grabbed onto his arm.

Bright blue eyes narrowed slightly as he glanced at his mother. "I told you I wasn't going to go to the mansion with you. I already told you I was going to see Siam today."

I blinked at his words but noticed the way his mother glared at me. "This boy?" She gazed me up and down as she crossed her arms over her plump chest. "He looks disgraceful."

"Mother." Gordon snapped softly, staring at her with slightly wide eyes. "Siam is not disgraceful in anyway. He's intelligent, funny and a pleasure to be around."

I tilted my head at his words, noticing the faint blush on his pale cheeks. Yup, somehow I had led the guy on.

"He looks like a common whore."

My anger flashed as I snapped my eyes to his mother. My emerald eyes narrowed as a scowl came to my lips. "You're lucky old hag." I hissed softly, my fingers wrapping around the strap of my bag tightly. "Any other day I would have snapped you in half for saying that."

She flinched at my words, inching closer to her son who stared at me like I had three heads. "He's no pleasure at all." She whispered to Gordon.

A growl came from my lips. "I treat people the same way they treat me. Get used to it around here." My anger faded at bit. "Not that you'd last long with that attitude. Be careful what you say, old hag. Not everyone around here is as nice as I am." I gave her one more good glare before turning around and walking away. I was in no mood to deal with someone who thought they were better than me. I was never in the mood for such a thing but especially today.

I noticed Nathan watching me from his stand so I made my way over, letting the anger fade back into numbness. His blue eyes glanced behind me before landing on me with a soft smile on his lips.

"Hey Siam." He said softly, tilting his head at me slightly. "You don't look too well."

I waved a hand at him as I looked over his selection. "Just tired is all." I grabbed a few things I wanted before placing them in my bag.

"Even Ai looks tired." Nathan moved out from behind his stand to kneel beside me, running his fingers over Ai's ears. "You didn't sleep well?"

I shook my head, picking out a few apples. "It's a long story." I slipped the apples into my bag but before I could reach for another, my hand was grabbed and I was pulled to look Nathan in the eyes. His blue eyes searched mine as his fingers held my wrist firmly. "W-What?"

"You've been crying."

I flinched at his whispered statement and tugged my wrist free from his fingers. "I'm fine, Nathan."

"What happened?"

I sighed softly, not able to feel even a tiny bit happy at the concern in his eyes. "I... I don't want to talk about it. Please, Nathan. I'll tell you just... Not now."

He hummed softly before shifting to move behind his stand once again. "Fine. But I know it's serious. You never let your mask slip."

I froze at his words. How did he know about my mask? I supposed Nathan know more than he led on. I forced down my shock as I smiled softly at Nathan. "I'll tell you when I'm ready." I reached into my pocket before handing him the gold I owed him.

"Fine, fine." His comforting smile was back as he took the gold from me. "You know where to find me." His eyes glanced past me, his smile slipping a bit before his eyes focused on me once again. "Take care."

I nodded at him. "Thank you. I'll see you later." I turned to leave, offering him a soft smile and a wave. I paused once I turned around however, nearly stumbling over my feet at the golden haired man in front of me. "G-Gordon."

Gordon glanced behind me at Nathan before his eyes settled on me, his expression unreadable. "May I speak with you?"

I bit my lower lip but nodded. "Sure."

He motioned for me to follow him, so I did but not before glancing back at Nathan. His blue eyes were narrowed in thought but he just waved me on so I followed Gordon away from Nathan's stand. The blonde's shoulders were obviously tense and I wasn't willing to deal with him yelling at me for what I said to his mother. He led me not far away from Nathan's stand to the corner of the large building Nathan's stand was beside. We were out of ear shot of anyone unless yelling occurred but near enough people that I felt comfortable. Gordon sure was a polite guy.

"I'm not going to apologize for what I said to her." My voice was even and clear once we stopped walking and Ai planted himself down by my feet.

Gordon turned to look at me, his eyes a bit wide. "What?" He shook his head, golden locks flowing around him. "I... That's not why I wanted to speak with you." He licked his lips in a nervous manner before he stood up straight. "I wanted to apologize to you for what she said."

I stared at him, searching his eyes for any ounce of deception. But his crystal blue eyes were open and hid nothing. He was being honest and that surprised me a bit. "Are you serious?"

He nodded, folding his hands behind his back. "She was quite rude to you. You didn't deserve that. I know how my mother is, so I should have thought better before I called out to you." He glanced away to the ground, a faint blush coming to his pale cheeks. "I just wasn't thinking. I was too happy to see you."

I cocked an eyebrow at him. "So, what I said to her... Doesn't bother you?"

He met my eyes as he shook his head slightly. "Not at all. In my opinion, you were being very nice to her. No one had ever spoke to her that way and it was about time someone did. You're right. If she had said something like that to anyone else here, I'm sure she wouldn't walk away unharmed."

I shrugged my shoulders, my hands finding their way into my pockets. "Half the people around here are whores. I'm probably the worst person she could have said that too. She's lucky, Gordon." I flicked my tongue in a agitated manner. "I was already in a bad mood. But I'm too exhausted to put my effort into her."

"Did you not rest well?" His expression changed to one of concern as he took a step toward me. "Did something bad happen?"

My head rolled to the side before backwards as I cracked my neck. "My sleep wasn't that restful, no."

"You... Were fine when I left you last night. Did something happen?" His eyes widened slightly. "I'm sorry, you don't have to tell me. It's not my place. I'm just worried."

I hadn't realized the anger that flared at his words or that I had shot him a glare which resulted in his quick apology. I let my anger fade with my glare and offered him a soft smile. "It's nothing, really. I just didn't sleep well."

He nodded, a smile coming to his lips. "If you're sure." He glanced behind me at something before focusing on me once again. "I know you said you were shopping, but may I still join you?"

"What about your mother?" I asked, a bit of a teasing tone in my voice.

Gordon laughed softly. "She can handle without me. I'm angry with her. She needs to realize she can not control who I wish to be with."

His words made me realize something. "Gordon..." I bit my lower lip, glancing down at Ai who was focused on something behind me. I chewed on my lip for a moment before glancing back up at Gordon. He was watching me with curious crystal blue eyes. "You need to know... It's nothing against you, it's really not. I'm just... Not looking for anything right now."

He continued to watch me with a curious gaze before it seemed to dawn on him what I meant. His smile faded and his brow furrowed. "Just because you are not looking does not mean something won't happen."

I nodded at him, glancing away. "I know that. But, well, you leave in a few days so it would be pointless anyway. I didn't mean to lead you on. I don't make many friends and I enjoyed your company. I didn't realize till you left last night how you took my company."

"Is my soon departure the only reason?" He asked, taking another step forward. "Or is there more? Is there someone else?"

I shook my head, biting into my bottom lip. I didn't want to lie to him. I could tell him that it was because of Sebastian. That I wasn't ready to move on from him which was partly true. But I wasn't willing to divulge that much of my life to this stranger. "There is no one else. I just..." I sighed softly, looking up to meet his eyes. "I don't see you that way."

"You just met me. That's to be expected."

My teeth gritted slightly. Damn he was stubborn. "Gordon..." I let out a soft sigh, closing my eyes to rub a hand over my face. Derek's face popped into my mind and I snapped to attention, my eyes opening and my hand falling to my side. "I'm just not looking for it right now."

Slowly, as Gordon looked me over, a small smile came to his lips. "I see. I knew I wasn't just seeing things last night." He tilted his head to the side, his smile genuine as he watched me. "But I thought, perhaps I could give it a try."

I narrowed my eyes at him slightly. "What do you mean?"

He shook his head, glancing behind me before meeting my eyes again. "I hope he treats you well." He stepped forward, catching my hand in his as he leaned forward to plant a soft kiss against my cheek. "He's lucky to have your affection." He whispered against my skin, giving my hand a squeeze before pulling back and releasing me. He only smiled at my confused expression as he moved to walk past me. "Perhaps when I return, our friendship will continue." His smile warmed my heart, like Nathan's usually did as he walked away from me. I turned to watch him leave toward BenCrest but a flash of light caught my attention.

Nathan was watching me with a coy smile on his lips from his stand while Derek stood across from him, his pearl eyes locked on me. My breath hitched in my chest and a strange warmth spread over my skin. His eyes were intense as they looked at me, narrowed but it wasn't a glare. It was like he was thinking, trying to read my own expression. I was too tired to slip my mask in place so I only stared back at him. Being angry with him now would be pointless. It wouldn't solve anything and I knew that.

I was tempted to turn away and return to my business like I had never seen Derek at all. But that would be childish and I'd still have to walk by him to get where I wanted to go anyway. So with a soft sigh, I moved toward them noticing the way Nathan's lips twitched like he was trying to hold back laugher. I narrowed my eyes at him as I stopped beside Derek, ignoring him.

"What's with you?" I asked the brunette who shook his head, biting into his lip.

"Nothing. Nothing at all."

"Liar." I narrowed my eyes at him.

"Okay, okay." He let out a soft chuckle. "I've just never seen you so caught off guard before." He shook his head, placing his hands on the edge of his stand as he shifted to lean forward. "Hey, since you don't want him, can I take a crack at it? He's quite handsome."

The urge to laugh at Nathan's words was strong but I pushed down and let a soft smile come to my lips. "He's leaving in a few days, but help yourself."

"Is that why you turned him down?" He asked, glancing at Derek.

"No." I tried to seem casual as I slipped my hands into my pockets but I knew my body was tense. "I'm not interested in him that way." I glanced at Derek, my eyes narrowed slightly. But he was just simply staring at me, his eyes unreadable.

"I wonder why. He's your type."

I was curious as to what Nathan was trying to pull. I glanced back at him finding the sly smile still on his lips. "He's handsome, sure. Unique. And very intelligent. We have a lot in common." Nathan's smile grew when he glanced at Derek beside me. "But it's like us." I flicked a hand between Nathan and I.

The brunette raised an eyebrow at that. "Like us, hm? Well that doesn't solve anything." He threw his hands in the air as he leaned back. "Can I have him or not?"

I couldn't hold back the soft chuckle that escaped my lips. "Yes Nathan. Have at him. I haven't touched him." I shook my head at the grin that came across his lips. "I have more shopping to do. I'll see you later." I waved at him, getting a wave in return as I turned to leave. I glanced at Derek who nodded at Nathan before moving to follow me.

We were silent as we walked away from Nathan's stand, Derek a few steps behind me and Ai at my side like always. I stopped by a few stands to gather the things I had originally set out to get. All the while Derek was silently watching me but followed behind me obediently. Sometimes I would catch him about to speak but he'd snap his mouth shut like he wasn't sure what to say. I wasn't going to tell him to leave me alone. His presence kept the warmth in my heart that lifted my mood slightly.

I shifted the leather bag over my shoulder that had grown a bit heavy as we ascended the stone steps that lead toward our home. Derek was still silent as he followed behind me. I was curious as to why he was home so early but I didn't want to break the silence. I was scared to. Scared to hear what he had to say and that we'd fight again. I didn't want to fight with him. Our normal "fights" were pleasant and left me smiling. But last night's fight was completely different. That was a real one. One that left my heart and pride a bit damaged.

I entered our home, leaving the door open for Derek before moving into the kitchen, placing the bag on the counter. Ai jumped onto the couch, curling up to take a nap as Derek shut the door softly behind him. My palms pressed against the edge of the counter as I stared at the bag in front of me.

"Siam." I had felt it coming. I knew once we were alone and in the comfort of our home he would say something. But his tone was soft and close to my ear. I didn't move, knowing he was behind me but not willing to turn around to see him. "Siam..." His tone suggested he was just as tired as I was. "I don't deserve it, but please, look at me."

I winced at his words, glad he couldn't see my face. I just shook my head, closing my eyes tightly as I stayed put. "No." I breathed out.

I heard him sigh behind me as he took a step toward me. "I want to... apologize. For everything I said last night. You didn't deserve it. I can't explain why I acted the way I did. I know it was inappropriate and... Very wrong of me. I don't feel like an apology is enough, however. I crossed a line that shouldn't have been crossed. I could never apologize enough for what I said. I guess even an old man like me has childish moments."

I hadn't expected him to apologize without being asked to. But I could tell without looking into his eyes that his words were genuine. Derek had never lied to me before so why would he start now? My eyes slowly opened, staring at the leather bag. "I'm sorry I hit you..." I whispered softly.

"I deserved it." He stated from behind me. "I truly am sorry, Siam. I wish there was someway to make it up to you."

"Do you really think I would sleep with some man I hardly know?" I asked, shifting to glance at him over my shoulder.

His pearl eyes were filled with a sadness that didn't sit well in my stomach. "No. I don't. I told you... I can't explain why I acted that way. You were right... You're not my wife and it's not my business what you do."

"That's not the point." I said, shifting to fully face him, pressing my back against the counter. "I have nothing to hide from you. What hurt was... That you don't trust me. That you didn't believe the words I spoke to you."

Pearl eyes widened slightly as I watched him, finally really seeing him for the first time all day. His hair was pulled back into a messy ponytail with strands escaping along his face and neck. His clothes were rumbled slightly and it looked like he hadn't slept at all. "I hurt you?" His words were whispered and his eyes swirled with a pain that made me inwardly flinch.

I hadn't meant to admit he had hurt me, it just came out. Too late to turn back now. "Yes, you did. I thought you knew me better than that. That I mean what I say, no matter what."

Derek nodded slightly, his jaw tense as he looked down at me. "I do know that about you... My emotions got the better of me last night. It won't happen again."

"I don't care about that. My emotions control me all the time. Just remember the facts before you react." I glared at him softly. "And you won't be late for dinner again because of those stupid whores. Next time you're late, it better be because you're dead somewhere."

Sadness faded from those eyes to be replaced with something more warm. "It won't happen again."

"Damn right it won't." I glared softly at him, feeling the sense of normality surround us.

The tenseness in his shoulders and jaw faded as he watched me with a faint smile on his lips. "So, we're alright?"

I nodded, giving him a soft smile as I pushed off of the counter. "Yes. But if you make me cry again, I'll rip your dick off."

Derek's breath hitched and I mentally cursed myself for once again speaking without thinking. "You cried?"

My heart clenched at the sadness in those beautiful eyes. "I... Well, you hurt me!" I snapped, turning away from him to start removing the food I had stuffed into the leather bag.

"Siam." His voice held a hint of panic to it as he grabbed my wrist gently, forcing me to turn to face him once again. Pearl eyes searched mine before I turned my head away from him. "I'm sorry." He whispered, his fingers curling around my chin to force me to look up at him. "I'm truly sorry."

I searched those beautiful eyes before tugging my wrist free from his grasp. "It's my own fault really."

"No. Don't say that." He shifted, sliding both of his palms over my cheeks to my neck to cup my face between his larger hands as he leaned down toward me. "You did nothing wrong."

I bit my lip, feeling the warmth from his skin sink into mine and spread over my body. "I'm not a bad wife?"

He shook his head, a soft smile spreading across his lips. "I've told you time and time again that you're the perfect wife. Especially if you're willing to be faithful even when I'm gone for long periods at a time."

I wasn't sure why I was acting the way I was. At some point, his teasing about me being the perfect wife had settled in my mind as a compliment and I didn't want him to ever think I was anything but. I hadn't felt so comfortable with a person before since Sebastian. And it took him months to get to the point that Derek and I were at. But what point was that? I had no clue.

"I wouldn't be the perfect wife if I wasn't." I told him softly, glancing up into intense pearl eyes.

His eyes softened as his thumbs brushed over my cheeks gently. "I need to work on being a better husband."

I nodded in his hands, giving him a faint smile. "You can start by helping me put the groceries away."

A soft chuckle came from his lips as he leaned forward to press them against my forehead softly. "That I can do."

Things settled back into normality after Derek had apologized a week ago. But the normality wasn't really all that normal. He teased me as much as he had before but there was a hint of seriousness to his words when he spoke to me about being his wife. He set me with an intense gaze more often that made my stomach twist into knots and I was more open to him casually touching me. In fact, I craved his touch. Just a simple brush of skin would make my stomach and chest twist. It was a pleasant feeling even if I didn't quite understand it.

When did I become the type of person to crave such a thing? It didn't exactly bother me but it made me think more often. I couldn't help but consider what Nathan and Derek had told me weeks ago. But deep, deep, deep down, it was starting to feel like Derek was replacing Sebastian.

"No." I growled as I got to my feet, surprising Ai who had been laying silently on the ground beside me. He got to his feet as well, tilting his head up at me with curious ice blue eyes. I glared out at the seemingly never ending ocean but the glare was only half heartfelt. "No one can replace Sebastian." I spoke to no one in particular. More to convince myself than anything. But Nathan and Derek's words haunted my thoughts, reminding me that even though no one could replace Sebastian didn't mean that someone wouldn't come along to fill the hole he had left me with.

I swallowed hard, my glare softening at the glistening ocean. A while ago, Sebastian had brought me to this place. A small little peaceful oasis far away from the town. After taking a sanded path by the boat house and then through a small cave, he led me to this untouched beach cavern. The clear ocean lapped at the sand and rocks giving me the chance to just relax. I loved it here. But I loved it more when Sebastian was with me. I hadn't been here since Sebastian's death but the urge to come was strong so I followed the familiar path with Ai. Having him with me comforted the pain of seeing the place again without Sebastian.

"Let's go, Ai." I placed my hand atop his soft black head gently before turning away from the ocean to head back to town. I hadn't realized till then that I wasn't actually alone. I blinked in surprise at the tall, dark-skinned man leaning against the opening of the small cave.

"It's not too smart to leave your back open like that." Derek said, pearl eyes looking over me.

I rolled my eyes at him. "I have Ai for that. What are you doing here?"

Derek sighed softly, pushing off of the wall and walked toward me. "I came to find you."

I glanced at the sun in the blue sky. "It's barely afternoon."

"The town's been attacked."

I just stared at him for a moment, trying to see if I had actually heard him right. "W-What?"

"I took care of the Banshee." He uncrossed his arms from his chest as a look of relief crossed his eyes. "But I couldn't find you. I was... worried."

The word Banshee had me frozen to the spot. "A-A Banshee?!" I gasped out, stumbling back against the large rock I had previously been sitting on, causing Ai to growl beside me. "How the hell did a Banshee get into town?!" Fear overtook my body without my permission and I found myself leaning against the large rock for support.

Worry flashing in his eyes, Derek approached me, reaching out to pet my hair gently. A casual touch I had grown used to and even craved usually. But I was too shocked to notice. "It's alright, Siam. It's gone. I took care of it."

I smacked away his hand, glaring up at him. "Did anyone die? What happened? How did it get into town?!" My fear faded into worry as I pushed off of the rock to stand up straight.

He bit his lower lip, staring down at me with a look I couldn't read. "A few people didn't make it. Many were hurt. I did what I could. But... I was preoccupied looking for you."

My eyes widened and I reached out to grasp his thick dark coat. "Nathan?"

"Told me I might find you here."

Relief washed over my body and I was leaning against the rock once again, my fingers falling from his coat. I let my head hang, my chin hitting my chest while Ai licked my hand gently. I lifted my hand to pet his head while I stared at the sand with wide emerald eyes. "How did this happen?" My voice was soft and a bit breathless

"It came from the Wasteland." Derek tensed before me, his eyes narrowing. "A couple of idiots summoned it."

"Summoned?!" My head snapped up at his words. "Who would do such a thing?!"

"Two idiots who didn't realized what they had to begin with." He released a sigh, shifting to run a hand through his thick hair that had fallen from it's tie at some point. "I took care of it, Siam. It won't happen again. I was going to rebuild the barrier into the Wraithmarsh anyway. Now I need to since the Banshee ripped it apart." I shivered at his words. "This time, I'll make it much stronger. So nothing can get through. Ever again."

I took a deep breath while pushing off of the rock. "Then go rebuild it."


"Go!" I snapped at him a bit harsher than I meant. I bit my lip, trying to soften my expression. "We can't afford something else coming through right now."

"But you-"

"I can handle myself, Derek. I'll stay home until it's rebuilt, okay? You shouldn't be so worried about me anyway." I moved to walk past him, Ai following beside me. "I can take care of myself." I patted his arm gently, giving him a soft smile that made his eyes soften before leaving through the dark passage back to town.

Derek was a liar. Or he just wanted to keep me sane. Probably the latter. Because the damage the Banshee did was much worse than he mentioned. Half the town was destroyed, roofs crumbling and bodies littered the streets. Bodies I recognized. People I had known since childhood. I narrowed my eyes at the sight before me. There was only one person I cared about. One person other than Derek who mattered.

"Go home." The silky voice spoke beside me. "I'll handle everything. Now that I know you're safe. Nathan's waiting for you."

I glanced at Derek before nodding and heading toward my home. Ai kept close to me, keeping his head down like he didn't want to look at the devastation around us. I couldn't believe this had happened. It was so familiar. Memories swirled around my head but I pushed them away. I swallowed the lump in my throat as I opened the door to my home. Relief washed over me once again when I saw Nathan sitting on my couch.

"Siam!" In a second, I found myself engulfed in warmth I hadn't felt in over a year. His arms wrapped tightly around my body as he held me to his chest, burying his head into my neck. "You're safe." The relief in his voice was evident.

I blinked, biting my lip at his hug. It wasn't normal for Nathan to touch me in such a way but I knew the circumstances called for throwing normality out the window. "Nathan." I gasped slightly, brining my arms up to return his tight hug.

"I was so worried... Derek wouldn't let me go after you so he made me wait here." He pulled back to search my eyes and I noticed the streak of drying blood on his cheek. "You are okay, right?"

I nodded, looking up at him. "I had no idea what was going on."

He nodded, a soft smile coming to his lips but his eyes held a different emotion. "I'm glad you didn't have to see it."

I bit my lip, glad I didn't have to see it as well. I wasn't sure I could handle watching people die like that again. With a soft smile, I reached up to cup his cheek gently. "You're shaking." I stated, shifting my eyes to look him over. He was covered in blood and I realized that I was too since he had hugged me so tightly. I crinkled my nose slightly but it didn't bother me as much as it once would of. "Let's get cleaned up. You need a nice hot bath and then I'll make you some soup, okay?"

Nathan stared at me for a moment, the silence and his eyes causing me to squirm. "You've changed."

I blinked at his words and let my hand fall from his cheek. "Pardon?"

He shook his head. "It's not bad. You're just... back to how you were. Before Sebastian..." He leaned forward slightly and gently, ever so softly, pressed his lips to my forehead. "I knew Derek would be good for you." He whispered softly against my forehead.

"He's not replacing him. No one can replace Sebastian." I growled softly, staring at the floor.

"Of course not. We've been through this before. Someone could fill that hole." He gently started to run his fingers through my hair. "You just have to be willing to let that someone in."

My teeth sunk into my bottom lip. "And you think that someone is Derek?"

"Sort of." He paused, letting his hand slip down the back of my neck. "No one can compare to Sebastian. So, I think, that maybe you need more than one person to fill that void."

It didn't take me long to realized he was talking about himself. I had noticed that ever since Derek had arrived in Bloodstone the relationship between Nathan and I had shifted. I had abandoned the urge to have him in my bed long ago. His friendship was much to precious to risk with such a thing. I had noticed the hole inside filling every time I was with Nathan or Derek. Nathan was my best friend and I needed him to be that.

I reached out to gently take his free hand. "Let's get cleaned up."

His fingers curled around mine. "Okay."

I was sitting on the couch with my back against the armrest and a book in my hands when Derek finally came through the door. I glanced up at him, noticing the way he walked. His shoulders were slumped and his hair was pulled back into a messy ponytail. He was covered in mud and dirt and looked more exhausted than I had ever seen. He shut the door behind him softly before pulling off his mud covered boots to leave by the door. I closed my book and sat it on the back of the couch as I watched him, letting my fingers stray to the head in my lap. Ai shifted slightly, letting me pet his ears gently. Derek pulled off his sword and placed it by the door along with his coat before finally turning to notice me. He flinched slightly and I could see the tiredness on his face.

"What are you doing up? It's late." He asked, glancing around our home.

"I was waiting for you."

"You didn't have to." Even his voice showed how tired he really was.

I shrugged before gently pushing Ai off of me to get to my feet. "I wanted to. I was tempted to go look for you but I knew that would just upset you." I moved toward him, looking him over. "You're exhausted."

"But I did it." He breathed out softly with a faint shrug. "Nothing is getting into Bloodstone through the Wraithmarsh. Ever."

I smiled softly, reaching up to pat his dirty arm. "Come on. Let's get you cleaned up and off to bed."

The smile he gave me sent warmth through my veins. "I'd like that very much."

I returned his smile and grasped his wrist, leading him upstairs. I could tell how exhausted he was by how he dragged himself behind me. He had to of worked so very hard. I had never seen Derek this exhausted before and it worried me slightly. I hoped he hadn't overworked himself. I pulled him into the bathroom and released him to start the hot water, filling the tub slightly.

"Undress and sit." I pointed at the toilet causing him to raise an eyebrow at me. But he did as told.

Before Derek had come to town, I had hated the idea of a "hero". Even though Sebastian spoke so highly of him, I hated him. But losing Sebastian had changed me. In more ways than one. I had become colder but I had become more rational. Derek had proven himself to me and long ago, I had stopped looking at him as the "hero" and as just a person. Just Derek. In the past few months, I had become a second wife to him. He took care of me, just like Sebastian had. Nathan was starting to fill the rest of the void but I wasn't even sure what part he was filling. Perhaps, I was too stubborn to accept that these two were starting to fill what Sebastian had left behind.

I grabbed a washcloth and wet it in the hot water before turning to see a fully naked Derek sitting on the toilet. The sight took me back for a moment, my eyes scanning over tanned skin stretched over toned muscles but I forced my eyes to his as I approached him. "You're too tired for a bath." I grasped his knees, spreading his legs slightly as I knelt between them, causing his eyes to widen slightly and his tanned cheeks to flush a light pink. I did my best to ignore what I knew was right in front of me. Too close to my twisting stomach for comfort. But I had a job to do so I couldn't let the obvious allure of Derek get to me. I reached up, rubbing the cloth over his face to whip away the dirt.

Derek didn't object to this so I continued to rub the cloth over his body, removing as much dirt as I could. I bit my lip at the way his muscles twitched under my touch and I could tell how exhausted he really was. He really did overwork himself. I was busy cleaning his chest when his arms shifted to wrap around me, bringing me into the chest I had been cleaning. I blinked, staring at the wall behind him as he held me tightly to his warm chest. Once again, I was pulled into a hug I hadn't expected.

"I thought I had lost you." His words were soft and breathless against my ear.

I felt the heat come to my cheeks and the cloth slipped from my hands to the floor as I shifted to wrap my arms around his waist. I didn't know what he meant by those words. I just let him hold me as I focused on the warmth his body radiated into mine. My stomach twisted and my heart flushed with warmth. Both feelings I was used to Derek causing me but this time... It somehow felt much different. He may have been naked with his arms wrapped around me but the sexual tone was no where to be found. It was a few minutes before I felt his arms relax around me and we released one another.

"You didn't lose me." I smiled softly at him as I pulled back to look into his saddened pearl eyes. "So don't think about what could have happened." I got to my feet, holding my hand out to him. "Come on. Let's go to bed."

Pearl eyes looked me up and down. "I'm hardly clean."

"You're clean enough." I shook my hand in front of him to remind him it was there.

With a sigh, he took my hand and got to his feet. I smiled softly and pulled him back into the bedroom. I led him to the bed and released his hand to pull the blankets back, careful of Ai who had already made himself comfortable at the foot of the bed. I motioned to the bed, telling Derek to get in but he just stood there. He glanced down at himself causing me to roll my eyes even though I knew my cheeks were flushed.

"I don't care if you sleep naked. It's warm tonight besides, I know how tired you are." I waved my hand at him. "So just, stop thinking and go to sleep."

He raised an eyebrow at me before moving to slip into his side of the bed. I smiled softly to myself as I removed my own clothing, letting it just drop to the floor. I pondered getting naked myself and the flush of warmth over my skin made me shiver. After all, Derek was naked and it was a warm night. With a shrug, forcing down any wrong thoughts I could, I tugged off my undergarment and slipped under the blankets. I shifted to get comfy and noticed that Derek had already passed out. I glanced at him, a soft smile coming to my lips before I blew out the candle and went to sleep myself.

It was the first time in over a year that I had woken to such warmth. For a moment or two, I thought I was still dreaming. The strong arms wrapped around me made me feel safe and the strong chest I was pulled back into reminded me I wasn't alone. The horn of a boat blowing in the distance stirred me from my dream and when the arms, chest and warmth didn't go away, I snapped open my eyes. The sudden light hurt so I rubbed my eyes with my free hand before noticing my other hand was entangled with someone else's.

I blinked, looking down at myself before glancing behind me to see Derek fast asleep. I was cradled so gently in his arms that it surprised me. Then I noticed how my body curved into his like we were meant to fit together. I quickly pushed that thought from my mind and shifted to get up. But his arm held me tightly in place. I bit my lip, glancing around to find a way of escape. Carefully, I lifted his arm off of my waist and slipped out from under him without waking him. Relieved, I smiled at him, moving the blankets to cover him a bit more before leaving to get ready for the day.

Three days past as the town easily rebuilt and Derek remained asleep in our bed. Worried didn't even come close to describing how I felt. I didn't leave the house unless I had to and when I did, I was quick and made it home as fast as I could. Nathan told me it was probably because of all the magic and effort he put into the barrier. He needed to rest and refuel. But that thought didn't stop me from worrying.

It was Sebastian all over again.

I was finally starting to come to terms with the fact that maybe, just maybe someone was starting to fill the void Sebastian had left. And maybe, just maybe, that person was Derek. But now, it was like I was losing him all over again. He wouldn't wake no matter how hard I tried. I felt useless and it wasn't a feeling I was used to.

"What's happening to me?" I whispered softly as I dropped to my knees before a familiar grave marker. I placed the rose I had brought against the stone beside the many others as I shifted on my knees. "I have changed, Sebastian. I've changed and I don't know how it happened." I bit my lower lip as my fists tightened on my knees. "Nathan said it's a good thing... That I'm opening up... and I'm not as cold as I used to be. He says it's because of Derek. But he hasn't done anything..." I took a deep breath as I closed my eyes tightly. "But he had to of done something... I wouldn't be this upset and worried if he hadn't..." I felt my shoulders start to shake. "I haven't been this comfortable with someone since you, Sebastian. I felt guilty at first but... I don't. It feels like I'm losing you all over again..." I swallowed hard against the lump in my throat. "I don't know what to do, Sebastian. I... I need you here. To tell me what to do. To tell me what's going on and why... Why I feel this way." My fist pressed against my chest, the tightening inside causing it hard to breathe.

"You're falling for him."

The familiar voice sent a chill over my body. I snapped my head up and glanced around to find the source of the voice. But I saw no one. Just an empty graveyard. I swallowed hard, thinking it was only my imagination and turned back to the headstone. The sight before me knocked me backwards onto my ass and caused a yelp to escape my lips. It wasn't possible. Couldn't be possible.


The male that stood behind the headstone smiled softly, his ice blue eyes glistening. "What? You look like you've seen a ghost." His jet black hair was pulled back into his normal low ponytail and his skin was just as pale as I remembered.

I was quickly on my feet, reaching out to touch him. My fingertips connected with the cold flesh of his cheek and I snapped my hand back to my chest. "T-This isn't possible." I managed to say, my eyes never leaving him.

He tilted his head in the way he always had and moved from around the headstone. "Is it really? You find it hard to believe that I'm real when we live in a world of werewolves, vampires, demons, banshees and tons of other things?"

I took a step away from him, holding my hand to my chest. "You're not real. You're my imagination."

Sebastian shrugged, the shine in his ice eyes so familiar that it made my skin crawl. "If you believe so."

"A-As many times as I've been here this past year and you've never shone yourself!" I snapped, finally letting my nerves shift from shocked to angry. "Were you here the whole time?!"

His lips curled into a smirk that was all too familiar. "I had no choice. Think of it this way; I've watched you. Waited everyday for you to come by. It's taken me this long to figure out how to show myself to you."

"Show yourself..." My anger faded away into pain. "So you are a ghost..."

"Something like that." He winked at me, stepping forward again. "Disappointed?"

"W-Why? Why are you still here?" I gasped softly, staying where I was.

"I couldn't move on knowing how much you were suffering. You do well at hiding it from everyone. But we both know you could never hide anything from me." He chuckled softly and I felt my heart start to swell in my chest. "I had no choice in leaving you. But I do have a choice in making sure that you're okay when I'm gone."

I bit my lower lip, feeling my body start to shake. "I... I am okay."

"I know that." His smile made my heart thump in my chest as he walked closer. "Ever since Derek came along. You've been okay." His smile twisted however. "But will you always be okay? You're falling for him, Siam. I know it. I can see it." His eyes narrowed slightly. "And he's not always going to be here. Once he's done with whatever it is he's doing, he's leaving. Leaving you behind."

I hadn't thought about that. I held my hands against my chest to keep them from shaking. Something just wasn't right. "I-I thought you adored the "hero"."

"I do. I always have." His ice eyes darkened. "But you are mine. Hero or not, I will not stand to see you hurt."

I swallowed hard, knowing Sebastian would always feel that way. Even in death. "I know he won't always be here. I-I know that..." I knew being his "second wife" wouldn't last forever. It was a game after all. Atleast... It was a game in the beginning. It didn't feel like a game anymore.

Sebastian's smile returned to being soft. "But it doesn't stop how you feel." He paused for a moment. "He will awaken. Nathan was right about him needing to recuperate. He put a lot of effort into that barrier." He glanced at the large steel door that was much stronger than the previous wooden one. "But what will happen once he awakens? Once he finishes what he came to do and leaves? He has a family, Siam. A wife, whether he loves her or not. And children."

"I know!" I snapped at him, feeling the stinging in the corner of my eyes. "I know all of this! That he's going to leave me and probably never look back. That I'm just some kid to him that's taking care of him for the moment. That's all he sees me as! That this is just some game to play while he's away from home. I know this!" I growled, glaring at Sebastian. "I'm not an idiot. But we both know I have no control over my emotions. It's always been my downfall. If I had control, you and I would have never happened! But it did! And... It was more than I could have ever expected! I know what I'm getting myself into! And that... It's stupid. And childish and just completely worthless..." My fists tightened against my sides causing my nails to dig into my skin. "But what other choice do I have?! Nathan? He's great. Amazing and wonderful. He's the path I know you would want me to take. But I just can't. He's my friend. My best friend. I can't love him the way I loved you.

"And I know falling for Derek is a mistake! But I can't help it! I don't even know why it's happening..." I took a shaky breath. "I fell so effortlessly into routine with him... It was like I was with you all over again! I missed that. I've... needed that! So maybe that's why... I know he's not you. You two are so vastly different that it drives me insane! I don't know what to do, Sebastian! This is all just driving me insane! I can't control it anymore. I can't hide it anymore. From anyone! And I HATE this!"

Sebastian stared at me as I tried to catch my breath from my rant. I released all I had been thinking about the past few days in the manner of a few minutes on the one person that would ever understand. His eyes scanned over me and I wondered what he was thinking. "This is tearing you apart. You've never snapped on me like that."

I felt my mask start to crack and all I wanted to do was run into his arms like it used to be. But I couldn't do that. Because things weren't the same. They would never be the same. "Tell me what to do."

"I can't do that." He shook his head but slowly, held his hand out to me. "But I can give you another option."

I glanced down at his pale hand. "What?"

"Come with me."

His words struck me like lightening. "W-What?"

"Come with me. Take my hand and come with me. We can be together forever that way."

I flinched, glancing at his hand. I heard barking in the faint distance but his offer was tempting. Too tempting. And too wrong. Because Sebastian would never...

"Siam!" I spun around at the voice, relief flooding my heart at the shirtless man I saw standing at the gates of the cemetery. He was awake. He was alive. "Get away from it! Now!" He yelled to me, his face in a panic I had only seen once before.

The shriek that pierced my ears next nearly caused me to fall over from pain. The familiarity of it sent sharp spikes over my skin. I covered my ears and spun around to see Sebastian twisting. His form quickly dispersed and I was frozen in fear at the large dark hooded figure that took his place. It hovered over the ground, its tattered red cloak draping over the dirt. A banshee. My nightmare come to life right before me.

The barking and the Banshee's shrieking meddled together and I found myself frozen in place. I wanted to run. I had to run. But my feet wouldn't move. Just like my nightmare. I could hear Derek yelling but I couldn't hear what he was saying. I closed my eyes, preparing for the worse but it never came. I was grabbed from behind and shoved to the ground, landing on something large and fluffy.

I opened my eyes in time to see Derek's sword, now engulfed in flames due to his magic, slice through the Banshee effortlessly. Its dying shriek was loud and piercing as it fell to the ground before turning into dust. I was frozen in place, staring at Derek as I rested against Ai. It all had happened so fast that my head was reeling.

Derek was quickly in front of me, his sword on the ground and his hands on my shoulders shaking me slightly. He was speaking but I just couldn't hear him. My ears were ringing from the Banshee's shriek and I was too stunned to understand his concern.

"-am! Speak to me! Are you okay? Did it hurt you?"

His voice finally reached through the ringing and reality crashed hard atop me. Sebastian wasn't real. Though it spoke like it knew me, looked and acted just like him... It wasn't him. Sebastian had really moved on. Though that was good, the pain in my chest didn't feel that well at all. His words... What he said to me. What did any of it mean? The Banshee knew more than it should of but that's what they did. They lured you with their knowledge of reading your mind and used it against you. If I had taken Sebastian's... No, if I had taken its hand I would be... I knew. The whole time I spoke to it, I knew it wasn't Sebastian. But I was too upset to care. I wanted to believe it was him for my own sake. But when it told me to come with it... I knew. I knew it wasn't him. Sebastian would never let me take my own life.

"Siam!" Derek's voice brought me back to the present and I glanced up into his eyes, noticing how they glistened with unshed tears. His hands were cupping my face, his thumbs brushing away the tears I hadn't realized were falling from my eyes. "Siam. Speak to me. Please..." His voice was soft and cracked slightly.

I swallowed hard, forcing down the lump in my throat. "I... I'm okay." My voice was cracked as well, my throat pinched from my urge to cry.

"It didn't hurt you? It didn't touch you?" He shifted to look over my body but his hands stayed in place.

I shook my head, unable to stop the hot wetness falling from my eyes. Ii was the second time I had been so close to death and the fear alone had my heart racing. I didn't want to die. That was never an option. But it almost happened. Again. I almost took that Banshee's hand disguised as my former lover. But Derek... Derek saved me. Again.

I lunged forward, wrapping my arms around his neck tightly as I clung to him, letting the tears I was trying to hold back fall. I felt childish, weak. But I couldn't stop it. His arms wrapped around me tightly and I felt myself being lifted into the air. I couldn't release him, burying my head into his neck as I cried. He cradled me like the child I still really was and started walking. I didn't pay attention to where he was going. I didn't care. All I could focus on was that I was alive and it was all because of him.

When I awoke, the first thing I noticed was the large bundle of fur tickling my face. I crinkled my nose, blinking my eyes open to see Ai curled up on the bed beside me. My eyes stung and my head ached but I slowly sat up, letting the blankets fall from my mostly bare body. Ai awoke as well, shifting to rest his head in my lap, looking up at me with ice blue eyes that sent chills down my spine.

The events of before hit me hard like a rock when I looked into those familiar eyes. Sebastian. Ai's eyes were exactly like Sebastian. I glanced away from Ai, letting my hand pet his head gently as I glanced around the room. I was alone and it seemed to be morning outside. The last thing I remembered was being in Derek's arms. I wasn't sure what happened after that. I assumed he brought me home and put me to bed. But where was he?

I shifted to get out of bed but my body screamed at me to stay put. Everything ached and I wasn't sure why. I glanced down to see hand shaped bruises on my waist and upper arm that hadn't been there before. Derek. He had done this to me when he grabbed me. I bit my lip as I looked over the bruises around my waist. He had been in such a panic that his control over his strength went out the window. He just grabbed me and threw me onto Ai. Out of the Banshee's way...

The Banshee. My skin crawled at the thought and I wrapped my arms around my body. I winced, however, and glanced down at my hand. It was swollen and wrapped with a white bandage. I realized it was the hand I had touched the Banshee with. It had hurt me; I just hadn't realized it at the time.

I let my wounded hand rest in my lap while the other went back to stroking Ai's ears gently. I was alive. I was alive because of Derek. Because he risked his life to save mine. But I was still so conflicted. Everything I said to the Banshee... Everything it said back. It was things the real Sebastian would have said to me. Minus the taking my life part. How dare that thing defile the memory of my former lover... I hissed softly, causing Ai to glance up at me. The Banshee only spoke the fears I already had but didn't want to think about. It didn't tell me what I should do about it. Just like Sebastian would have done. He would have given me options and let me make my own decision. But what options did I have now? I wasn't exactly sure...

"Siam?" I looked at the shaky voice to see Nathan standing in the doorway with Derek behind him. "Siam!" He quickly moved from the door to kneel on the bed beside me. "You're awake! Derek told me what happened. Are you okay?" He asked, cupping my cheek and looking over my bruised body. I could see the pain in his eyes and I vaguely wondered why it was there. I could hear Sebastian's voice in my head telling me, "Because he cares about you."

I opened my mouth to respond to him but only a cracked sound came out. I tried to clear my throat and after a moment I found my voice again. "I'm okay."

A smile filled with relief crossed his face and he leaned forward, placing a gentle kiss against my forehead. "I'm glad... I'm so glad that you're okay." He pulled back to look me in the eyes. "You should rest, okay? Are you hungry? Thirsty? I'll go get you something." He smiled at me before getting up and leaving the room as quickly as he had come.

I took a deep breath, relaxing back against the headboard and glanced over at Derek who was leaning against the doorframe. We stared at each other for a moment before I patted the empty space on the bed beside me with my unharmed hand. He pushed off the doorframe and sat himself down beside me like I had wanted. But he made no move to touch me like Nathan had.

"You saved me. Again."

"Ai saved you." He said, causing me to look up at him confused. "His barking woke me and he led me to where you were."

I glanced down at the dog in my lap, petting his ears. "But you saved me. You both did..." I bit my lip, glancing up at him. "Thank you..."

Derek shook his head, giving me a soft smile. "You don't have to thank me. I didn't even think when I saw you so close to that thing. I just reacted like before." His pearl eyes scanned over my bare upper body. "I suppose I should have thought more. Though tends to be thrown away when it comes to your safety."

I ran my unwounded hand over my waist, wincing slightly at the bruises. "You saved my life. I don't care if I'm hurt. What matters is I'm alive because of you."

"You were pretty clear before that I never touch you like that again."

His words made me blink in surprise. It was true that the only time Derek touched me was soft brushed of skin or placing a hand on my head. Other than that, he rarely touched me. He had actually listened to me back then and respected me enough to obey me.

"Sometimes... It's okay to touch me like that." I told him softly, staring at my wounded hand, my face heating up slightly. "Sometimes, you need to. And in this case, I'm more than glad that you had."

"I thought I was going to lose you again." His voice held a hint of sadness and again I was confused by his words. Anger swelled in my stomach and it was one of those times when I wished I had more control over my emotions. I was such a child... It wasn't the time to be angry. He had saved my life. But I couldn't stop the words that came from my mouth.

"Why would it matter if you did? You're just going to leave once your job is done and never look back." The fake Sebastian's words were really haunting my head even though this wasn't the time to bring it up. I couldn't help it. Derek had seen me at my weakest and I was not okay with that.

He was silent. So silent that I thought he might have left. But the tilt in the bed assured me that he was still sitting beside me. I didn't regret the words I had said, I only regretted the timing. Now was not the time to discuss this but it was too late now. The fake Sebastian's words were swirling around in my head and I couldn't force them away.

"Do you truly feel that you mean nothing to me?"

He spoke so suddenly and so fiercely that it sent a surge of fear over my body. I had angered him. I kept my eyes on my wounded hand as I spoke. "I wouldn't say I mean nothing to you. Obviously, I mean something to you or you would not have cared to keep me safe from the Banshees and that man... But in the end, we both know that you will leave. You will go home, to your family, and forget all about me."

"Some of that may be true... But forgetting you? That's not possible. What kind of man do you think I am?"

I shrugged, rubbing over my bandage with my free hand. "I don't really know. I hardly know you. I know of your adventures and what type of strength you have. I know about your children and what they mean to you. I know you love to tease the hell out of me and call me your wife. I know you'll risk your life to save me. But for a hero like you, you're not really risking your life."

"You know me better than that. We've spent over two months together. Everyday."

"You were gone most everyday..." I shook my head. "What does it matter anyway? You'll still leave because you have to. You're a hero. It's what you do. Whether you want to or not." I sighed softly. "And I'm just some kid that let you stay with until you had to leave again."

"You are much more than that. And it angers me that you would even say that." He growled softly, his anger faint but evident.

I couldn't say it. I couldn't let him know what was really going through my head. I couldn't let him see how insecure I really was. I had to stop being such a child. "I'm sorry. For bringing this up. It wasn't the right time."

I heard him release a breath and felt a warm hand atop my head, spreading warmth over my cool skin. "What the Banshee said is really getting to you, hm?" My body tensed at his words and I looked up through my bangs to see him smiling softly at me. "I heard your rant. I didn't know what was going on until I saw Sebastian. Until I saw what it really was. It was cruel trick that Banshee played. Cleaver for a Banshee. But cruel either way."

I was still stuck on his first sentence. He had heard. He had heard what I said. What I yelled at to the fake Sebastian. He had heard it all. He knew. He knew everything and yet he was acting like it wasn't that big of a deal. "H-How much did you hear?"

"Around the, 'what other choice do I have?' part."

I felt my hands start to shake and my chest began to swell. He had heard more than he was ever meant to. He practically heard my love confession for him. And he seemed relatively calm about it. "What... But then..."

"We need to talk about it. We do." He ran his fingers through my thick hair softly. "But not right now. You need to rest. We'll talk about it later." I just nodded my head, finding the more I tried to think, the more it hurt.

Derek made me stay in bed for a week after my run in with the Banshee. He'd leave in the morning, stating that there was more work he had to do with the barrier and that I had to stay in bed. Apparently, there were other ways for things to get through. He left Ai with me and I would spend most of the day slipping in and out of nightmare filled sleep. Nathan would stop by around lunch and bring me something to eat and company I desperately needed. Then, once he left, I found myself either reading or sleeping until Derek returned home around dinner time. He'd clean up, give me a kiss on the forehead, and make dinner for the two of us. He wouldn't let me leave the bed and I had begun to realize how guilty he felt about hurting me. We'd chat for a little while but never about what we really needed to talk about. After dinner, he'd wash up and slip into bed with me where he'd hold me against him until we both fell into peaceful sleep. Then, in the morning it would start all over again.

I was sick of it. My hand would be messed up for a while, I knew that, but my body was already healing and they were only bruises. I could get out of bed but Derek just wouldn't let me. So, once he had left that morning, I managed to get of bed myself and make breakfast. But once Nathan came by he put me back to bed and stayed with me until it was almost dark. Knowing Derek would be home soon, he left me alone with Ai.

I growled slightly from my place in bed and threw the covers off of me. Ai whined softly, poking his head out from the blankets I had thrown onto him. I got to my feet, steadying myself against the bedpost before heading into the bathroom. My sides did ache but I was too sick of being in bed. I needed to get out. I needed fresh air or something. I was not a home body.

I tugged off the flimsy clothing I wore and tossed it to the floor before running the water for a hot bath. I hadn't bathed since before the Banshee incident over a week ago and it was really starting to bother me. I bent over the tub, on my knees while I watched it fill with steaming water. I let my unwounded hand's fingertips skim over the surface of the water and I felt a shiver down my spine. I could feel eyes on me and I knew just whose they were.

"I need a bath." I stated, not moving.

"You could have waited till I got home."

"I can take care of myself." I snapped at him, glaring at the water.

"You're hurt."

"I'm fine." I pushed off the side of the tub and easily got to my feet. I winched at the slight pain in my side but turned to face Derek anyway. The fact that I was fully naked slipped my mind. "See? I'm not that weak."

Pearl eyes gazed over my body, pausing below the belt before he glanced away. "It still looks bad."

I looked down at myself, rubbing my undamaged hand over my waist. "It just looks worse than it is. I know you feel really bad for hurting me, but I'm fine Derek. Really, I am. So stop feeling bad." I lifted my eyes to meet his and saw a flash of pain cross through those beautiful pearl eyes. "You can't keep me locked up in here forever."

I could tell by the look on his face that I had hit the nail on the head. His shoulders relaxed and he approached me, reaching past me to turn off the water. "I can try, can't I?"

I smiled softly at his words. "Didn't anyone ever tell you that you can't lock me up? I'm too much of a free bird."

He face relaxed and a soft chuckle came from his lips. "Nathan tried. Sometimes, I have a hard time listening."

"Yea, I noticed. Now shoo. I want to bathe." I patted his arm.

But Derek just shook his head and before I could become angry, he started to pull off his own shirt. I stared at him as more and more tan and toned skin was revealed. I swallowed the lump that was forming in my throat and I glanced away to the steaming water when he started to remove his undergarment, praying that my body would obey my mind for once.

"W-What are you doing?" The heat in my face was hard to hide.

"Joining you."

I snapped my head up to look at him. "What?"

He shrugged, smirking softly at me. "Maybe it's jealousy. But I find it unfair that Nathan got to bathe with you."

My chest swelled and I felt the blood in my veins start to rush. "He told you about that?"

"I think he might have told me to test me. Honestly, it doesn't sit well with me. I thought he was your best friend."

"H-He is." I gasped softly. "We only bathed. Nothing more."

Derek hummed softly, rubbing a hand over his chin. "He made it seem differently. But again, I do believe he was testing me."

"Testing you? For what?"

He shook his head, waving a hand at me before moving past me to step into the hot water. He winced at the temperature but sat down into the water anyway. "Come on, before the water gets cold. Though you seem to like your baths scolding."

I swallowed hard but stepped into the water anyway. Bathing with Nathan had felt much different than this. I hadn't been this tense. This nervous. I sat myself between Derek's spread legs just as I used to with Sebastian. But the thought didn't bother me. It only seemed to comfort me. That what we were doing was okay. Even if it really wasn't.

The hot water relaxed my muscles and took away the pain in my sides. I found myself relaxing into the water and back into Derek's warm toned chest, pointedly avoiding his lower area. He grabbed the bottle of soap from the window sill where I had placed it before and popped it open, pouring some into a small wet washcloth. Slowly, he began to rub the soap covered cloth over my chest and arms, avoiding my bandage that I was keeping on the edge of the tub. He was cleaning me as I had done for him not long ago. But this time, almost like last time, the air was different.

He paused at my waist before letting the cloth go to float in the water and shifted to drip water over my exposed body. Though I had only known the man for less than two months, I felt more comfortable in his presence than I ever thought possible. He was gentle for a man his size. He had seen things I would never see even in my worst nightmares. He sacrificed more than anyone to keep our land as safe as he could. He was a gentle, kind man with a bit of an attitude. Which I didn't mind. He kept things interesting.

"Do I remind you of your son?"

The words came out without thought. I hadn't even been thinking it but they came right out. I had thought of it earlier since we had yet to have the talk he promised me. Perhaps this was my subconscious way of starting the conversation.

Derek's hands paused over my shoulders before he placed them in the water near my waist. He was silent for a while and I wondered if again I had upset him. But then he shifted, slipping his arms around my waist under the water and gently pulled me back against his chest, holding me. A soft gasp came from my lips as I felt the hardened member pressed against my lower back. That alone made my stomach swell and something lower twitch on it's own. I knew the intense look he had set me with on multiple occasions wasn't just my imagination. "I would never treat my son this way."

It was the comfort that made me fall for him at first. Having someone by my side every day. Someone to fall asleep next to and wake up with. I had grown attached to him. To his company. But the more I got to know him, the more I grew attached to his personality. He made me laugh even though I would rarely let him hear me. He made me smile and realize that life wasn't all that bad. He was... filling the hole Sebastian had left.

"Then what am I?" I spoke softly, shifting to rest my hand over his arm under the water.

Again, he was silent and all I could do was gaze at his arms around my waist. Perhaps it was still too early for this conversation. But I had been left alone in bed for the past week. It was all I could really think about and I needed answers. I could push away the lust that had come to the surface when he pulled me back against him as long as he gave me the answers I wanted.

"I don't know." He finally spoke with a soft sigh.

My chest contorted at his words. I slipped my eyes closed and leaned my head back to rest against his shoulder. I felt his arms tighten around my waist while I dug my nails into his arm.

"I wish... I had an answer. I do." He continued beside my ear. "But I do know that it's not possible for me to forget you. I've grown attached to having you by my side and I don't see that changing anytime. You're different than anyone I've ever met. Spunky. Sassy. You're never afraid to speak your mind and I used to think there wasn't anything you were afraid of." He paused when I squeezed his arm again. "But you are. You're afraid of being alone. Of losing what is most dear to you." He turned his head slightly and nuzzled his nose into my cheek. "I fear that as well. I had never had that fear until I met you. I used to think nothing scared me. Until that Banshee attacked and you were no where to be found. It scared the hell out of me." His breath was warm against my ear. "I went overboard just to rebuild the barrier. For you. I was only thinking of you. I could only think, 'what if another Banshee came and I wasn't here? What would happen to Siam?' I couldn't risk it."

I released a breath and turned my head slightly, coming in contact with his neck. I twisted my body till I was kneeling between his spread legs. My arms wrapped around his neck while I forced myself to ignore the hardened member between us. For once, our eyes were level and I didn't have to look up to see him. I was highly aware of how bare we both were but I tried to focus on our conversation.

Pearl eyes stared into mine and I could see all the swirling emotions within them. My fingers twisted into his slightly damp hair near his neck as I searched his eyes. I still didn't know what to think. I wasn't sure what he was saying.

"You mean more to me than I would like to admit." He said softly, letting his hands rest on my thin hips. "I didn't realize it until the Banshee attack. But it also stirred when you were almost... When that man nearly took you. What these feelings mean, I can't be sure. All I know... Is I can't stand the thought of you being with another man." His eyes narrowed slightly, showing an anger that surprised me. Was that why he had kissed me back then? Had he been laying down some type of claim that neither of us even realized till now? And why he had acted the way he did many nights ago after I met Gordon? "Yet, I shouldn't feel that way. You're free. You can't be caged and I can't control what you do. And it bothers the hell out of me that I can't."

I bit my lower lip while starting to stroke his hair.

Derek sighed softly and let a small smile come to his lips. "I wish I could say its okay that you're falling for me. I wish I could say its okay that I'm falling for you as well." He reached up and cupped my cheek with his wet hand. "But I don't know if it is okay. I am married. I do have children. One that's your age. And I am a Hero. Always traveling. Never home. I can't always be by your side. To protect you. To... be with you."

"I understand." I gave him a soft smile. "But I can't stop how I feel. I told you before I'd be faithful. I'm your second wife and there's nothing either of us can do about it." I tried to lighten the mood even though I felt more self conscious than ever as I smiled at him. "You started it after all."

Derek's handsome face twisted for a second and he closed his eyes, tightening his grip on my hips. "I need to tell you something. Show you something." His grip loosened and he began to rub warm fingers over my hips under the water. "Will you allow me to?"

I tilted my head slightly, confused. "Yes."

His eyes snapped open and stared into mine for a moment. He searched my eyes before leaning forward slightly and gently, ever so gently, pressing his full lips against mine. The spark it created went right to my chest and I felt it start to swell. I moved to return the kiss but he pulled back too soon for me to do so. I stared at him, confused and surprised.

He only shook his head. "I need you to promise me something."

I narrowed my eyes slightly but still nodded. "Alright?"

"Promise to not hate me. To not... be angry with me."

His words were so sincere that it scared me. What did he have to tell me? It was so important that he thought I might be angry with him. Now I really had to know. But I couldn't keep half of that promise. "I won't hate you. I promise."

He seemed to accept this. "Let's dry off and get dressed. I need to take you somewhere."

I nodded and did as he wanted. We stepped out of the bathtub and dried off in silence. My previous lust had faded into the background, left on the back burner for now. My mind was running, trying to figure out what he could have to tell me. It was important. I knew that much. The more I thought about it. The faster I moved. I dressed quickly enough in normal clothing and I was happy that I was actually getting to leave the house. Once we were both ready, Derek grabbed my hand and led me downstairs. He walked right past his sword, which surprised me, as we left the house. Ai, as usual, stuck close to my side as we left.

The cool night air caused me to shiver so Derek pulled me closer to his warm body as we started to walk. His fingers curled around mine, keeping me close to his side and I realized how open he was being with me. Perhaps he had been just as self conscious as I had been and it was a relief to know I felt the same as him. I knew it was a relief to know he felt the same as I did. At first, it had been about lust with Derek but that faded as quickly as it had came.

It was a familiar route we walked. We took the cobblestone stairs down to the beachfront street. We passed closed stands and the bar which was spilling drunkards. They didn't seem to notice us as we passed by. He led me up the path to the cemetery and I was becoming even more curious. I saw the moon was full in the sky and glanced back at Ai who was following behind us obediently.

The iron gates of the graveyard creaked as Derek pushed them open, leading me inside. I had never been to the graveyard at night for the simple fact that I had no need to. It was much creepier than I had imagined. The moon lit the area, giving it a glow that sent a chill down my spine. Derek led me through a row of familiar headstones till we stopped at Sebastian's. Derek released me and I glanced around, confused as Ai sat beside Sebastian's headstone.

"Why are we here?" I asked softly, watching as Derek knelt before the headstone.

"I need to show you something." He patted the ground beside him. I got on my knees beside him and watched as he pulled something out of the pocket of his pants. "He made me swear to not tell you but with the current events and..." He glanced at me, an ever faint blush on his cheeks. "You deserve to know. The real reason I came to Bloodstone." He unfolded the piece of parchment he had pulled from his pocket and held it out to me. "Read it."

I stared at the worn piece of paper before taking it from him, glancing at him. "What is it?"

"Just read it." He shifted his eyes back to the headstone.

I narrowed my eyes in slight confusion before turning my attention to the writing on the piece of parchment.

Dearest Brother,

I wish I could write to you with much better news considering we haven't spoken in so long. There is much to say between the two of us but perhaps that is for a different time. Right now, I have something more important to tell you. I've fallen ill and I'm not sure if I'll recover this time. It seems my mother's curse of an illness has finally caught up with me and like her, I believe I don't have much longer.

I'm not writing to beg you to come see me before I die. This letter has nothing to do with me. Though, admittedly, a visit would not be a harmful thing. I am writing to you for a favor. A favor we both know that you owe me. It's not a hard one and you can consider it my dying wish. That way I know you will fulfill it.

My soon to be death has come unexpectedly and I have someone that I'm going to leave behind. He's a young one who needs me more than he would like to admit. Leaving him is the last thing I would ever wish for but, as we both know, I have no choice.

I ask of you, my brother. To take care of him. To make sure that when I'm gone, he's alright. I honestly don't know how my death will affect him but it terrifies me that he may do something stupid. He's brash, childish and my world. I wouldn't be able to rest peacefully if he were to suffer more than would be expected. I ask you to come to Bloodstone and check on him from time to time. I know you're a traveling Hero but I also know this shouldn't be too much to ask. From one brother to another.

I warn you. He's hard to deal with at first. Always fighting and rarely accepting. I found my way into his heart and I wish for you to do the same. Albeit in a much different way. Befriend him. Protect him. Be for him what I can no longer be.

But, if somehow, his odd charms drag you in as they did me, then I ask this of you.

Cherish him. Love him. And never harm him. Or I will come back and haunt your ass.

This is what I ask of you, Derek. As my brother. Take care of him for me. He'll need you more than you may ever know. But I beg of you to not let him know of this. I have my reasons.

Oh, and Derek, though things between the two of us have always been strained, you will always be my older brother and I've always looked up to you. Never forget that I do love you. Take care. Be safe. And thank you again.



My hands gripped the parchment so tight I thought it might rip in two. The hot tears that fell from my eyes splattered across the yellowed page and I didn't realize till then how much I was shaking. I couldn't tell if it was anger or sadness. Perhaps a mixture of both. Derek was silent as he knelt beside me, his pearl eyes focused on the headstone while Ai watched me with eyes that seemed far too intelligent for a dog.

"B-Brother..." I finally managed to speak out. "You're... his brother." Derek nodded but kept his eyes on the stone. "He... He never told me." I stared down at the written letter, focusing on what I knew to be Sebastian's handwriting. "He spoke so highly of you... All the time. I had... no idea." My throat started to tighten as I hugged the letter to my chest.

"I'm sure he had his reasons."

I closed my eyes tightly. "It's been over a year. Why did it take you so long to come?"

"I had been away from home for quite a while and once I returned three months ago, my wife handed me that letter. I was gone the next day, heading here. I hadn't realized it had been so long since his death. I would have been here sooner had I known."

I opened my tear-filled eyes and watched as Derek ran his fingertips over the cold stone. "You... You have to tell me. Everything."

"Are you angry with me?" He glanced at me from the corner of his eyes.

I shook my head, gripping the paper against my chest. "I am angry but not at you. I'm angry that he kept this from me. That you kept this from me. But... I suppose I understand why."

Derek released a soft sigh and bent back on his knees, letting his shoulders relax. "Sebastian was my younger brother. We had different mothers but still, the Hero gene ran through his veins. We grew up together for the most part and we waited to see if the Hero would show in him. But it never did. He was around your age when the sickness took his mother." He paused, shifting to look at me. "After that, he disappeared. I met up with him a few times after that during my travels and he would always tell me he was doing fine on his own. I always thought he secretly hated me for being a Hero. I had no idea... He spoke so highly of me."

I nodded at his words, biting my bottom lip. "He did everything he could to change my opinion of Heroes. I never understood... But I do now."

A soft sad smile came to Derek's lips. "I hadn't heard from Sebastian in over seven years when I received that letter. I was pained to hear he was dying. I hurried here as fast as I could but, obviously, I was a year too late."

I could see the tears in his eyes. I wanted to ask him so much but it wasn't the time. Sebastian's death had affected him as hard as it had me, I just hadn't known until then. Sebastian had asked his brother to look after me. To care for me in his absence. He even approved if the two of us... ended up feeling the way we did. Oddly enough, that was all I needed. Sebastian's approval.

Slowly, I got to my feet while folding the parchment back up and slipping it into my pocket. "Come." I held my hand out to Derek who only looked up at me confused. "Let's go home." With a soft smile, Derek placed his hand in mine.

Logic was a cruel thing sometimes. Depending on the type of person you were, you either listened to it or you ignored it. I was one to listen to it because I knew in the end, if I didn't, I'd only end up hurt. Logic was simple to understand. The logical thing to do would have been to ignore my own feelings and let Derek leave without a clue. But would that have been so logical? Perhaps, but it wouldn't have set well with me.

"I'll return as soon as I can." His voice was soft but I could hear the strain hidden within it. He smiled down at me softly as he adjusted the bag over his shoulder.

I forced a soft smile, tilting my head at him slightly. "No need to hurry. I'm not going anywhere."

His beautiful eyes flashed slightly as he reached out to place his heavy hand atop my head. "I will return soon." He stated before leaning down to press his lips to mine gently. The gesture surprised me and I only stood there, letting the warmth of his lips spread across my skin. He pulled back before I could react and smiled softly at me. "I don't expect you to wait for me however." I followed his glance to the chestnut haired male leaning against the side of my home, pointedly averting his eyes to the sky.

"I told you that I am not going anywhere." I said, catching his gaze. "I shall wait for your return."

Derek's face seemed to relax at my words and his smile turned genuine. "I'll make it worth your wait."

I felt the heat come to my cheeks and before I could stop myself I lunged forward, wrapping my arms around his neck and plastered my lips onto his. I heard the gasp of surprise from Nathan but ignored it as I did all I could to pour how I felt into that one kiss. Strong warm arms wrapped around my waist tightly and held me as our lips pressed together warmly. I didn't want to break the contact. I wanted to grab him and drag him back inside where he belonged. With me. But I couldn't do that. So after a few moments passed, we released one another and he gave me another sad smile before turning to Nathan.

"Take care of him in my absence."

Nathan stood up straight and pressed two fingers to his forehead in a salute. "I'll do my best."

Derek released a soft chuckle before returning his attention to me. "Take care."

My hand ached to reach out for him but I only nodded, offering him a soft smile. "You as well."

He nodded at Nathan and after giving me one last look he turned and walked away, down the road and down stairs out of my view. He didn't look back and I vaguely wondered why. My teeth began to chew on my bottom lip as I stared at the spot where he once stood.

"Will you be okay?" Nathan's voice was soft beside me as he gently laid his hand on my shoulder.

I forced a nod before turning to gaze up at him. "He'll return. I know he will."

He nodded with a sad smile before squeezing me against him in a one armed hug. "Of course he will." He grabbed my hand and turned me back toward my home. "Let's go inside. I made you something for dinner." I swallowed down the sharp pain in my stomach and forced a smile as I followed Nathan into my home.

He left because he had to. He had come to Bloodstone at the request of his dead brother to make sure I was doing okay. But he couldn't stay forever. We both knew that. He never had a real job to do but he ended up saving the town from a horrible Banshee attack and rebuilt the barrier to the Wraithmarsh, guaranteeing that it would never happen again. He also saved my life twice. But not because he was a Hero and not because it was what Sebastian would have wanted. Derek saved me because he cared about me. Because the thought of losing me left him devastated. He told me that before he left.

He had to leave. I was safe. The barrier was secure. And he had a family waiting. A family he had only seen for a day before he took off for here. I knew I had to let him go. I knew I couldn't keep him from his family. I wasn't that kind of person. I didn't want to take him from his family. Whether he loved his wife or not, she was his wife and I was just a boy who had fooled himself into thinking he could be Derek's second wife.

I didn't doubt Derek's words or his feelings. I knew he cared for me. He had showed it on multiple occasions. But whether he would still feel the same once he was away from me, I wasn't sure. I was secure in my feelings for him because I didn't fall that easily. So when I did, I fell hard and for good. I forced myself to hold onto the words he left me with and prayed I wouldn't be a fool for doing so.

I had come to the realization that I knew exactly how Derek's wife felt. The pain of him not being around everyday was more than I had expected. Even though he promised to return soon, the two months were long without him. I tried to keep myself preoccupied with Nathan and Ai but the void would make itself present sometimes. Derek had made sure I was set when he left so that I wouldn't have to be a whore anymore, not that I wanted to be. But boredom was a curse. As were the men who still came to me, begging for me.

After a week or so of this, it was trying on my nerves. I had told Derek I would be faithful and I had no urge not to be. Even if I wasn't really his second wife, I still belonged to him. So I had to figure out a way to preoccupy myself. I did have knowledge. Knowledge that Sebastian and Derek had both taught me. So after a little while debating it and talking it over with Nathan, I decided to teach the people of Bloodstone how to read and write properly. I did it for free and had many that came to me to teach them. After all, pretty much all of Bloodstone was illiterate.

Children were rare in Bloodstone but I had managed to take in two of them that were just like I had been. Mother's that were whores yet didn't give a damn about them. The first one, named Rai, was around three years old and had been left alone at the bar. Nathan brought him to me and I didn't have the heart to turn him away. Nearly a week later, a young baby was left on my doorstep. Again, I had to take her in and after conversing with Nathan, we named her Shay.

My home changed as well. The room I once used for work was converted into a bedroom for Nathan. At first, it was meant to be for Rai but he refused to sleep in a room alone. So I allowed Nathan to move in with me and let Rai and Shay sleep in my room with me. The smaller storage room that held nothing really would eventually be converted into a bedroom for Rai once he was comfortable enough to sleep alone.

Nathan was a great help around the house between my students and my new children. He was more than anything I could have ever asked for. He was my best friend. He filled half of the void Sebastian had left behind and for now, that was enough for me. Between Nathan, Ai, Rai, and Shay, I was a happy person. As happy as I could be with the hole inside that had yet to be fully filled by a missing Hero.

"Nathan." I called softly as I finished putting my worn books back on the shelf. "Can you watch Rai and Shay for a bit?" I turned to the other male who was attempting to get Shay to try her mashed carrots.

Warm eyes blinked at me before he smiled. "Of course. Where are you headed?"

"I wanted to stop by to see Sebastian. It's been almost a week."

He nodded at me as he pushed the spoon of mashed orange into my blonde baby's open mouth. "You've been busy lately. Don't worry, I can handle them." He smiled, glancing at Rai who was on the floor playing with an old wooden train.

"Thank you." I smiled at him before leaning down to kiss the top of Rai's dark head. "Be good for Nathan."

The dark haired boy looked up at me with a wide grin. "Okay Papa."

I chuckled softly before moving to grab my boots to tug on. Ai jumped down from the couch he had previously been napping on and approached me. I waved at the three of them before disappearing out of the door, letting Ai follow before shutting it behind me. The salty sea air felt cool against my skin as I made my way down the stairs to the waterfront. People waved as I passed and I returned their gestures. It was amazing how much had changed in only a matter of a few months. These people no longer looked at me with hatred but with respect. Though I was sure that there were people around who still didn't like me.

I made my way up the hill toward the graveyard with a light heart, knowing Ai was following behind me. I didn't get to visit Sebastian as much as I would have liked so I treasured the times when I did get the chance. I ran a pale hand through my dark hair to make sure it wasn't a mess even though no one would really see me. I still wanted to look my best whenever I visited Sebastian. Because deep down, I hoped he was watching every time I did.

I came to a halt when I reached the gates of the graveyard. My breath hitched when my emerald eyes landed on the figure kneeling before Sebastian's grave. I was still for a moment, hoping that just maybe it was Derek. But the longer I watched, the more I could see that it wasn't him. The figure was too small to be Derek. Though the male that kneeled on the ground was larger than I, he was still smaller than Derek. Not as broad but perhaps as tall. I couldn't tell since he was kneeling. He had the same jet black hair but it was short and choppy, clinging to his pale neck. His back was to me so I couldn't see his face as I slowly began to approach. I couldn't fathom who would be at Sebastian's grave other than me or Derek.

Suddenly, the male stood up and I could see how tall he actually was. Shorter than Derek but still he towered over me. I swallowed hard, stopping in my tracks as the male stood still before slowly turning his head to look over his shoulder at me. The gasp that came from my lips caused his pearl white eyes to widen and Ai to growl softly from beside me. I could only stare at his profile, sharp features and pale skin. Sebastian. He looked like Sebastian. Except for those eyes. Pearl white eyes just like Derek's. Eyes of a "hero". He was taller than Sebastian had been but shorter than Derek. He wasn't as broad as Derek but still had more muscle to him than Sebastian did. He was familiar looking yet such a stranger.

We only stared at each other for a while before finally, he glanced away to return his attention back to the gravestone. I watched as he bowed to the stone before turning away to walk toward me. I was frozen in place as his eyes pored into mine but it wasn't fear I felt. I wasn't sure what it was. He stopped a few feet before me and allowed his pearl eyes to gaze over me.

I felt the heat rise to my cheeks at his gaze and forced myself to look away to Ai who was only sitting beside me, watching this man cautiously. I crossed my arms over my chest, self-conscious before shifting to meet his gaze once again. "Can I help you?" I asked softly.

His dark eyebrows arched slightly but his eyes remained unreadable. He was silent for a moment, just staring at me until I felt even more uncomfortable. "Are you Siam?" His words were soft yet his voice was deep. Unique in its own way.

"I am." I narrowed my eyes slightly. "Who are you and what do you want?"

Pearl eyes narrowed in return as he gazed over my body once again. "Demetri. I came to meet you."

His name was familiar but I couldn't place it. "What do you want with me?"

He took a step forward, watching me closely. "I wanted to meet the person who stole not only my uncle's heart, by also my father's."

Demetri! Of course. He was Derek's son. His son that was my age. Though the male before me did not look even close to seventeen. I felt a chill run up my spine at the way his eyes flashed. Derek had said that none of his children showed the "hero" gene yet. He wouldn't have lied but this man was obviously Derek's son. The resemblance between Sebastian and Derek was too clear.

"H-How..." I shook my head, biting my lip.

"I didn't come to cause trouble." He spoke smoothly. "I just wanted to meet you, perhaps speak with you and get to know you."

I swallowed the lump forming in the throat. "How do you know of me?"

Demetri inhaled softly as he averted his gaze to the side. "When my father returned home a few months ago, it was obvious something had changed. He informed us that Sebastian had passed on and he was too late to say goodbye. I thought that was what was wrong but it wasn't long before I noticed the issues between him and mother. So I asked him about it. He told me all about what had happened on his visit here. All about you." His pearl eyes landed on me once again. "Not long after that, he divorced my mother and left, saying he had things he needed to take care of. My hero powers began to show not long after. I decided to seek you out and perhaps find my father in the process."

I inhaled sharply. "He left your mother?" I shook my head. "That idiot... That's not what I wanted."

"But it was what he wanted." He spoke, offering me a soft smile much like Sebastian's. "Am I wrong in assuming my father is here?"

I nodded at him. "I haven't seen him since he left months ago."

"I see." I couldn't read the look in his eyes as he gazed over my body once more. "Then perhaps you would allow me the honor of getting some answers from you."

I raised an eyebrow at him but, considering he was related to the only two men I trusted my entire life with, I decided perhaps it wouldn't be too bad to give him what he wanted. "Fine. I don't know what I can tell you but I'll answer your questions." I took a few steps toward him. "I have dinner waiting at home, so you're more than welcome to join us. But there's something I have to do first." I gave him a soft smile as I moved past him to kneel before Sebastian's grave. I felt his pearl eyes on me as I bowed my head and tried to focus. I wasn't pleased that my alone time with Sebastian had been interrupted but at the same time I was more than curious about the male watching me.

What have I gotten myself into, Sebastian? I tried sending my thoughts to him anyway. I don't have the time I wish I had to speak with you so I'll make this quick. I'll try to come back alone tomorrow to give you my time but for now, you know I love you. I miss you. Nathan's fine. Rai is finally starting to pronounce words correctly and Shay is working on solid foods. Watch over us. I bowed my head a bit deeper before opening my eyes and getting to my feet.

Demetri was still watching me when I turned around to face him. His eyes held something I couldn't read and for a moment, it was like I was watching his father all over again. Eyes with emotion that I could never read. Though, by the time Derek left I could read his emotion pretty well. This kid was much different than his father. I could already tell. But he was no kid. He may have been my age but he looked far from it.

"Father told me about the relationship Sebastian and you shared." He spoke into the cool air, searching my eyes as if he was trying to read my emotion as well.

"Did he?" I hummed softly as I approached him. "I wonder what else he told you about."

"Of what you and he shared as well."

I paused, blinking in surprise as I felt the warmth come to my cheeks. "Did he now?" I bit my tongue, trying not to snap at the male. I was working on my temper. "Like what?"

Demetri shrugged, letting a soft smirk come to his lips. "I know what you have and haven't done."

My eyes widened slightly at his statement. "He told you too much." I hissed softly as I started toward him once again, brushing past him. "Come along." I told him as I started toward the path to town.

"You mentioned an 'us'." He started as he followed along beside me, a head taller. "Father never said you had anyone else."

"He didn't tell you about Nathan?" I glanced at him, noticing how he was watching my movements. He was just like his father. Hopefully, they didn't have the same taste or I'd be fighting off a hero.

"He did. But he didn't mention he was living with you."

"That's a recent turn of events." I informed him, watching how his eyes shifted. "And no, I'm not fucking him." I snapped softly.

Demetri flinched at the vulgar word. "Then why is he living with you?"

"He's my best friend. My only friend around here really. I changed careers and he moved in to help me."

"So you're not longer...?" He trailed off, casting his eyes away from me.

I narrowed my eyes slightly before shifting them forward. "No. I haven't since your father first arrived here." I was a bit upset at how much Derek had told his son. In the few months we were together, he spoke little of his family. I only knew names and ages. That was about it. But he had told his oldest son all about me. Perhaps they were closer than he led me to believe.

"Then what do you do?" He asked, his tone fading into a casual one.

"I teach. The lot around here doesn't exactly know how to read and write. Or even speak properly. I'm working to change that. Though I do it for free. Because Derek left me..." I glanced at him, noticing he was staring at me as we walked, waiting for me to finish. "He left me quite set."

His pearl eyes flashed with something I couldn't read. "He always planned to return to you." He stated before glancing away from me and at the town we were now entering.

I only nodded at his statement, eager to change the subject. It was obvious it made him uncomfortable. "Did you come through the Wraithmarsh?"

Demetri's mood shifted and he sent me a smirk I hadn't seen before. "My first success as a Hero. Not bad, hm?"

I blinked at him, unable to keep a smile from coming to my lips. "It is impressive. Just like your father."

He nodded, glancing away one again. "I can only hope to become the type of hero he is."

"You better. It's always better to be kind than evil. It's easier to give in to temptation but more rewarding when you don't."

Pearl eyes glanced at me, a faint blush on his slightly pale cheeks. "That's what father always told me."

I smiled at him as I led him up the set of stairs toward my home. "Derek's a good man."

"So are you." He said softly, causing me to raise an eyebrow at him. He only shook his head and focused his attention ahead of us.

Once we reached the second street, I could see Nathan outside our home with Rai and Shay. Rai was running around, trying to catch a firefly as Nathan held a giggling Shay. He noticed us as we approached and his eyes landed on the male beside me. His eyes widened before he gave me a questioning glace.

"Papa!" Rai exclaimed when he noticed us approaching. He ignored his firefly and took off toward me; his arms open wide with a grin on his face. I smiled and knelt down, catching him in a tight embrace. "You came back." He giggled, wrapping his arms around my neck as I lifted him up.

"I always come back." I told him with a smile, letting him wrap his legs around me so I could carry him.

"Whose dis?" Rai said, leaning over toward Demetri and looking him over with light blue eyes.

I chuckled softly as Demetri stared down at Rai, his eyes soft. "Rai, this is a friend of mine. His name's Demetri."

"Dem... Demtthrree..." He crinkled his tanned nose as he tried to pronounce Demetri's name.

A faint smile came to Demetri's lips as he reached out and gently took Rai's small hand in his own. "You can call me Dem."

A grin came to Rai's face and he tugged on Demetri's hand before opening his arms to him. I leaned toward Demetri offering Rai to him. For a moment, he seemed surprised and unsure of what to do. But I knew he had younger siblings, so I trusted him with Rai. Demetri glanced at me before slipping his arms around Rai and lifting him out of my arms to hold him. Rai giggled as he wrapped his small arms around Demetri's neck and hugged him.

"He likes you." I told him with a smile, glancing over as Nathan approached us with Shay. "Nathan, this is Demetri. He's Derek's son."

My chestnut friend blinked before nodding at Demetri. "Nice to meet you."

Demetri offered him a soft smile. "It's nice to put a face to a name." He shifted, to let Rai rest on his hip as he held him. "Though, I wasn't told about these two." He motioned to Rai and Shay.

"New developments." I told him with a shrug. "I'll explain later. For now, let's have some dinner."

"That sounds very nice." Demetri said with a genuine smile.

Rai took a quick liking to Demetri and wouldn't let the male put him down, even at the dinner table. I knew I spoiled him but I felt in a way, he deserved as much love as possible. I had a limit though and Rai knew it. He never pushed it. He was a good kid. Demetri didn't seem to mind keeping Rai in his lap as we all ate. In fact, he seemed to enjoy it. Dinner revolved around Rai since the boy enjoyed talking when he could. Though half the time it was hard to tell what he was talking about.

Once dinner was done and everyone helped clean up, it was bed time for Rai and Shay. Shay was already asleep in my arms as I led Demetri and Rai upstairs. Rai was half asleep in Demetri's arms as we entered my bedroom. I smiled at them as I moved to Shay's bassinet to lay her down. I kissed her forehead before covering her with a warm blanket.

"He sleeps with you?" Demetri asked softly, noticing I had no child's bed.

"For now." I told him as I folded back the blankets of my bed for Rai, careful of Ai who was already sleeping at the foot of my bed. "Once he gets a bit older I plan to get him his own bed but for now, he sleeps with me."

Demetri approached and laid Rai down on the bed, doing his best to get the boy to let go. Rai was too tired to object and released Demetri to curl up into the blankets. With a soft smile, Demetri covered the small boy before turning to me. I blinked, not realizing I had been staring before giving Rai a kiss on the forehead.

"Sleep well." I whispered to him softly, brushing his dark hair back from his forehead.

"Mm papa..." He responded softly, nuzzling into the pillow.

I smiled softly at him before turning to Demetri. The male was giving me a look I couldn't quite read so I ignored it, grabbing his wrist and pulling him out of the room. I shut the door as quietly as I could before heading back downstairs with Demetri behind me.

"Did he fight it?" Nathan asked as we descended the stairs from his spot on the large couch, a book in his hands.

"Nope. He was too tired." I told him, glancing back at Demetri. "There's an Inn by the water but you're more than welcome to stay here."

"I wouldn't want to intrude."

I shook my head at him as I made my way into the kitchen. "You're not. Hero's have a way of wiggling their way into my home."

"And your bed." Nathan said with a soft laugh.

I felt the heat on my cheeks as I shot him a soft glare. "That makes me sound like a whore."

"You're no whore." Nathan said with a smile as he got to his feet. "You're the complete opposite."

"I am no prude!" I snapped at him.

He couldn't hold back the laughter that came from his lips. "Of course you're not."

I growled softly, knowing he was only joking but the heat on my face was vibrant. "You're an ass sometimes."

Nathan grinned before giving me a wave. "Yes, yes. Well, I'm going to take a walk by the water." He sent Demetri a soft glare as he opened the front door. "Don't hurt him." His face softened quickly after his words and he said a quick goodbye before leaving the home.

I shook my head, trying to calm myself as I started to put away the clean dishes. "Ignore him. He says stupid things sometimes."

"They're not stupid if they're true." Demetri said as he sat himself down at the table.

"But it isn't true. I never... Did anything like that with your father." I told him, biting my lip.

"But you did share a bed with him. And you stole his heart."

"It's not like I meant to." I grumbled, closing the cabinet.

Demetri released a soft laugh. "I wasn't implying that you had." His tone was light as he watched me move about the kitchen, cleaning a bit. "My father told me a lot about you. I'm sure he didn't expect me to come find you on my own."

I glanced at him, flinching slightly at the look in his pearl eyes. "Why did you come exactly?"

His eyes narrowed slightly in thought as he leaned back in his seat, crossing his arms over his chest. "He spoke so highly of you. I was curious. I wanted to prove him wrong. Maybe find some type of flaw about you." His eyes flashed as he glanced up at me. "That you're a mistake."

The word sent a spark down my entire body. My chest began to tighten and I did my best to not let the pain show on my face. It was a word I had been called too much in my childhood. I was a mistake. Never meant to be born and never meant to survive. But I did. Sebastian was the first to get it through my skull that I wasn't a mistake and yet here was his nephew trying to prove that I was.

Pearl eyes watched me closely, his face an amount of seriousness I hadn't seen on him yet. "After all, how am I supposed to take my father leaving my mother for some whore he met in a sinful place such as this?" He was still as he watched me. "A whore he had barely spent two months with. It was ridiculous no matter how highly he spoke of you." He shook his head, flicking his tongue against his teeth in an agitated manner. "So I had to see for myself."

I swallowed hard as I leaned back against the counter, meeting his intense eyes. "And what did you discover so far?"

He was silent for a moment, only watching me. Then, the darkness in his eyes faded away and his body seemed to relax slightly. "I can't say if you are a mistake or not. That is not my place. But I can see that what my father spoke of you is true. You are genuine and keep nothing from those around you." A faint smile ghosted his lips. "Your eyes show everything. Even if you try to hide, your eyes give you away."

It was like a bubble burst within my body. Relief flooded over me as I sunk back against the edge of the counter. "I have nothing to hide." I told him softly. "Why would I hide anything? I'm not some whore who would use your father for his fame or anything like that. I can't blame you for assuming such a thing. But that is not me. I rely on no one." I told him, standing up straight. "But in the end, we all need someone to lean on. Derek became that person for me. The one person I didn't have to hide from or deceive. The one person I could be vulnerable with and not feel like a weakling."

"I don't trust you." He stated suddenly, glancing away. "But that doesn't mean I don't like you. If you are as you say, then with time, I'll come to trust you."

"That's good enough for me." I shrugged off the tension in the air and pushed off of the counter. "Now I'm sure you're tired from your long trip. Did you decide if you wish to stay here or not?"

Demetri's expression changed rather quickly. A smile came to his lips as he gave me a nod. "I'd like to stay if that's alright."

"Of course it is. I did invite you." I smiled at him. "The question is would you like to stay with me or Nathan? I say steal his bed for being an idiot." I rolled my eyes as I spoke, earning a soft chuckle from Demetri.

"You have Rai and Shay. I wouldn't want to intrude on that. Besides, I'm sure my father would kill me if he knew I shared your bed." He shivered at the thought causing me to laugh softly.

"True. Then Nathan's it is! He'll live. It's a large bed. You'll do fine." I gave him a grin as I led him upstairs.

It had been about a week since Demetri had appeared at Sebastian's grave and he seemed to be enjoying his stay with us. Rai really enjoyed having Demetri around and so did Nathan it seemed. I was curious about the two of them. The morning after the first night Demetri had stayed, Nathan wasn't exactly happy with me. I hadn't warned him that he'd be sharing a bed with Demetri but it seemed it didn't matter anymore. They were getting along very well now.

I sat on the edge of a stone statue by the edge of the water with Shay in my lap watching Demetri and Nathan chase around Rai and Ai. Shay giggled as I bounced her gently on my knee, holding her under her arms. Her light blonde hair bounced with her causing me to smile. Her tiny hands reached out for them before waving around excitedly. I smiled at them even though the aching in my chest hadn't gone away.

Since Demetri came, it was more obvious that Derek wasn't around. He cared, I knew that. He wouldn't have left his wife or told his son all about me if he didn't plan on coming back. But it still hurt that he was away. We never got the chance to really... clear up things between us to a full extent. It was all I could think about since Demetri had arrived. He was the perfect combination of Sebastian and Derek. Inside and out. It was strange but comforting at the same time. Having Demetri around gave me more hope that his father would come back soon.

Suddenly, Ai skidded to a halt, causing Nathan to stumble over him and fall to his knees. The brunette cursed softly as Ai began to bark before taking off. I got to my feet quickly, holding Shay to my chest as I approached them. Demetri helped Nathan to his feet but wasn't quick enough to stop Rai from running after Ai.

"Rai!" I called, running up to the other two males. "Don't run off!" Panic set in when I noticed where they were running to. Rai was faster than I thought a kid his age would be. "Shit." I pushed Shay into Nathan's arms. "Take her." He did as I asked and I quickly spun around, taking off after my dog and my son.

I ran as fast as I could but running wasn't something I was used to. Ai and Rai were too fast which made no sense. Rai was three. How could he be so fast? I urged my legs faster, nearly colliding into a whore stepping out from the bar. She squeaked at me but I offered an apologetic wave as I urged forward. Running up the steep sloop that left town was harder than I expected. My body wasn't used to such excursion.

I could hear Ai's barking as I neared the cemetery gates. But it was when Rai started to squeal loudly that fear overtook me. I was not going to lose him to anything. No way in hell. I picked up speed, nearly falling as I turned a sharp corner into the cemetery. My feet skidded to a halt when I saw what was before me.

Ai was sitting on the ground not far from the Wasteland barrier, his tail wagging back and forth as Rai was picked up into the air by a stranger, giggling profusely. I inhaled sharply, taking off once again toward them but as I neared them, my feet slowed as realization set in.

"Well aren't you a cutie." The male chuckled deeply as he held the giggling child to him. "It's not everyday the "hero" gene shows so young." He ran tan hands over dark hair with a smile. "Where's your mommy?"

Rai giggled and reached for the male's face. "No mommy. Papa!"

"Well, we should get you back to Papa." Pearl eyes flashed as he leaned down to Ai, petting the dog's black fur. "I missed you too, boy."

"Derek!" I snapped, a bit breathless from running.

The male tensed for a moment before looking up. His eyes widened slightly while Rai began to wiggle in his arms. "Papa!" He wiggled out of Derek's arms, landing on the ground effortlessly before running toward me. My eyes stayed on Derek as I knelt down to catch my son, my arms slipping around his tiny waist as he grabbed my shoulders. I forced myself to look away from Derek to meet Rai's light eyes.

"Don't ever run away like that again, Rai." I told him sternly. "You scared me." I gently pet his thick hair.

"Is papa mad?" Rai's face scrunched up as his light eyes filled with tears.

I shook my head, gathering him up in my arms as I stood up straight. "I'm not mad anymore. Just don't run off like that again."

"Yes, papa." He wrapped his arms around my neck and hugged my tightly, nuzzling into my hair.

"Papa." The deep voice reached my ears causing me to look up. Derek hadn't moved from his spot. "You're a Papa now?"

I swallowed hard, rubbing Rai's back gently. A warmth starting to swell in my chest. "It just kind of happened. I couldn't leave him without a home."

A soft smile came to the face that I had missed more than I realized. "Of course you couldn't."

I bit my lower lip as I started to approach him. "You're back."

"I am." Pearl eyes flashed as they gazed at me.

"For how long?"

Pearl eyes narrowed slightly as he moved to meet me halfway. "For good."

Those words struck me like a lightening bolt, freezing me in place for a moment. I swallowed hard as I knelt down, placing Rai on his feet. He stared up at me curiously but soon focused on Ai who started to lick his small cheek. I stood up straight and before I could stop myself, I pounced on Derek. He was prepared, obviously, and caught me effortlessly, wrapping his strong arms around my waist tightly as my arms wrapped around his neck.

"I missed you too." He whispered softly as he nuzzled into my hair, holding me tightly.

My chest began to swell as his warmth filled me. He was back. He was finally back. And for good, so he said. Back for good. With me. For me. He let me back onto my feet as my hands slid to his shoulders. He was so much taller than I remembered. He bent down slightly, keeping his hands on my hips. Those pearl eyes gazed into mine, swirling with emotion and proving that he had missed me just as much as I had missed him. My hands slipped up his neck and pulled him down as I arched up. Our lips met softly but sent sparks throughout my entire body, flooding my senses with a familiarity that I had missed more than anything.

Our moment was broken however, when I felt a small hand grasp my pant leg and tug. I pulled my lips from his reluctantly and looked down at a curious Rai. He was eyeing Derek differently now while holding his arms up at me. I let out a soft laugh, letting my hands slide down Derek's chest. The other male released me with a soft chuckle as I bent down to pick up Rai. The boy clung to me, watching Derek with slightly narrowed eyes.

"Rai, don't be like that." I told him softly, perching him on my hip. "This is Derek. Demetri's daddy." At Demetri's name, Rai's expression changed and he lit up, his light eyes flashing. "He's going to be staying with us from now on." I blinked, glancing at Derek with hopeful eyes. "Right?"

A smile came to those delicious lips. "That's right, I am. I hope that's alright, Rai." He bowed his head slightly.

Rai pouted lightly but nodded. "Now I have to share Papa's bed?"

I blinked at his question and felt a warmth come to my cheeks. Derek simply laughed, ruffling Rai's hair gently. "Yes, now you have to share."

"Okay." His pout grew but there was a hint of a smile in his eyes.

"Looks like it's time to get you your own bed, Rai." I told him with a smile. He only shook his head and clung to my neck. I let out a soft laugh before looking up at Derek. His pearl eyes were watching me lovingly which sent a spark of warmth down my spine. "You're really staying? For good?"

He nodded as he bent down to pick up his bag, throwing it over his shoulder. "I'm officially retired. It's Demetri's turn to take over the Hero responsibilities." He narrowed his eyes slightly. "Which reminds me, how does Rai know who Demetri is? Or you for that matter?"

"Well... See." I let out a nervous laugh. "Demetri's been here for about a week."

Derek's eyes widened slightly. "He came here?"

I nodded. "He told me he wanted to meet me for himself. He's a really nice guy actually. Reminds me of you. And Sebastian."

"I... Was afraid of that." Derek started to chew on the inside of his cheek as he glanced away toward Sebastian's grave.

"Afraid of what?" I asked, tilting my head slightly.

"Well, he is your age."

I knew what those words meant. I knew exactly what Derek was implying. Normally, I would have been mad. Very mad. But, I couldn't find it in myself to get angry. It had been too long since I'd seen him and we still had other things to talk about. To work out. I didn't want to fight with him.

I reached out, grasping his larger hand to catch his attention. He glanced at me as I squeezed his hand. "You should know by the way I welcomed you home that you have nothing to worry about. I told you I would wait and I have. You promised to make it worth it."

He raised an eyebrow at my blush but a smile spread over his face as he curled his fingers around mine. "I did, didn't I?"

"Let's go home."

Derek didn't seem all that surprised to see his son. In fact, it was almost like he had expected Demetri to come to Bloodstone on his own. He wasn't angry at his son. He was happy to see him and they even shared a hug. Derek even gave Nathan a one armed hug which the brunette was more than happy to return. It was surreal to watch Derek speak with his son and Nathan while Rai wiggled around in Demetri's arms. It was surreal to even see the male. I had spent months dreaming of him and wondering if he would ever return, and here he was. Back much sooner than I ever expected.

Shay yawned in my arms, nuzzling her face into the crook of my neck as I patted her bum gently. Her tiny fist curled against my collar bone and I shifted to press a soft kiss against her light hair. I glanced down at Ai who sat obediently at my feet. His ice blue eyes were focused on the group not far away but when he noticed I was watching him, he tilted his head up to meet my eyes.

Not long ago, I had come to realization that Ai wasn't a normal dog. He was far too intelligent. Though, sometimes he acted like a normal dog, I knew he wasn't. I wasn't sure if anyone else had realized it. I thought Derek probably had and that's why he brought Ai back with him. Ai was Sebastian. At first, I thought it was my aching heart that had put that thought into my head but no. Sebastian's soul was within this dog. How that had happened, I wasn't sure. But I just knew it. I felt it in my bones that Sebastian was beside me. Watching over us in a much different way than I had ever expected.

Ai curled his lips over his muzzle slightly in what I knew was a smile before nudging his head against my leg, urging me to join the others. I smiled down at him before moving to approach the others, knowing he was right beside me. Derek's pearl eyes shifted to me as I stepped up beside him and a familiar smile graced his lips. He placed his hand on Shay's head lightly, not stirring her from her slumber against my shoulder.

"She's beautiful." I smiled up at him, watching the emotions swirl in his eyes. "You've thrived since I've been gone." A bit of sadness slipped into his smile as he titled his head at me slightly. "Perhaps you didn't need me after all." His tone held playfulness to it but I knew he was more serious than he meant to lead onto.

I rolled my eyes, reaching up with my free hand to flick his nose. "Don't be stupid." I felt the blush on my cheeks at the way he smiled down at me. "I wanted to make you proud. To have something worth coming back to."

Pearl eyes shifted to meet another set of pearl before he leaned down to press a soft kiss to my cheek. "You alone are more than enough to be worth coming back to."

His whispered words sent tingles over my skin and a pit of disappointment bundled when he pulled away from me. I didn't want him that far away even though he had only straightened up. Closer, I needed him so much closer.

"Siam." Nathan spoke softly, approaching me and reaching out for Shay. "Why don't I take Shay and you two go for a walk?" He said with a smile. "I'm sure there's plenty you need to talk about."

I glanced up at Derek who nodded at me. I bit my lower lip but surrendered my daughter over carefully, not wanting to wake her. Nathan cradled her in his arms, smiling softly at me. Demetri stepped up beside Nathan, slipping his arm around the boy's shoulders while he adjusted Rai on his hip.

"We can handle the kids." Demetri said with a wink.

I let out a soft laugh at Nathan's faint blush, nodding at him before turning to Derek. The tanned male smiled at me as he held out his larger hand. Eagerly, I slipped my smaller pale hand into his, enjoying the warmth his fingers sent through my body as they curled around my hand. I let him lead us away from the others, too focused on the warmth in his hand to think on anything else.

He was real. He was solid. He was back. He was really back. I felt the pricking of tears at the corners of my eyes but I blinked a few times to shoo them away. But the happiness that swelled in my chest didn't go away. He had said he was back for good. He was retired and Demetri... Demetri. He was the new hero.

It's not everyday the "hero" gene shows so young.

Suddenly, I froze in my tracks, causing Derek to pause, glancing at me with a worried look crossing his features. "Siam?" His voice was soft as he looked down at me.

"You said..." I shook my head, swallowing hard as I looked up at him with slightly wide eyes. "You said Rai has the "hero" gene."

Derek blinked at me, tilting his head slightly like he wasn't expecting me to bring that up. Hell, I knew there were more important things for the two of us to speak of but that was nagging me. "He does."

"How...?" I shook my head. "How is that possible?"

"Not every Hero is born from another Hero. It may run in the family but sometimes it skips many generations. Demetri bloomed late but Rai is already showing signs. I'm sure Demetri can see it too. That's probably why Rai is already so attached to Demetri. Blood or not, being a Hero makes Rai family to us. Of course, he would be anyway if he wasn't a hero." The flash in his eyes caused my breath to hitch slightly.

I had known there was something special about Rai when I had first taken him in. He was more intelligent than children his age usually were. But he was also stronger. It made sense now. No wonder he had run so fast after Ai and I couldn't catch up. Ai had sensed it too. He knew Rai was a hero. And that was why he spent every moment he could beside the boy. A protector. Family...

"You left your wife." The words came out before I could stop them and sounded a bit harsher than I had meant.

Derek's eyes narrowed slightly before he glanced away from me. "Let's find a quiet place to speak."

I narrowed my eyes in returned but did notice that the two of us were already drawing a bit of a crowd. Villagers, people I recognized were watching us like they were debating about approaching or letting us be alone. Derek was right. This conversation we best to be had some place where we could be alone. Rumors were a harsh thing and even though I had earned the trust of most of the villagers, some still didn't like me. They couldn't forget that I had taken care of a few of their lowers who dared to do me wrong. Not that I could blame them. I'd still take down one if they dared to screw me or my family over. But I had a feeling that wouldn't happen again.


At my answer, Derek started walking again, his hand never leaving mine. We were quiet as we walked away from the town but I didn't mind it. My focus was back on the warmth of his larger hand around mine. He had never touched me this long except in our sleep. I missed him more than I had realized. Probably more than he realized. But he had said he missed me too... There was something between us. That could not be denied. But what was it? Derek had returned to me like he had promised. I didn't expect it to be permanent but he had said he was retired. He left his wife and his other children behind to stay with me. That had to mean something big right? For him to make such a... large decision.

The darkness surprised me for a moment, considering I hadn't been paying attention to where we were going. I blinked, glancing around before I realized where he was taking me. I hadn't been there in a long time. Too busy to even try. When free time came around, I would run off to visit Sebastian's grave. Even if I knew Sebastian was with me inside of Ai, I still felt the need to visit his grave as often as possible. I had a feeling he could still hear my thoughts from there.

Sand crunched under our feet as Derek led me out of the small cave. The ocean was beautiful against the sunlight and lapped against the sand softly. My hand slipped from his as I moved forward, letting the warmth of this place fill me. I had missed the tranquility of it and made a mental note to return here soon with everyone. My fingers splayed over the large rock that had once been my thinking spot. It was as rough as I had remembered and couldn't help the soft smile that came to my lips when I thought of the time Sebastian and I had spent here.

"You really are beautiful."

The deep voice snapped me from my thoughts and I glanced up to see Derek watching me with unreadable eyes. My cheeks flushed lightly as I shifted to pull myself onto the rock. I sat, letting my feet dangle down the side. I had always known I wasn't unattractive. After all, I had more customers before than all the others whores combined. But to hear it from someone who mattered... To hear it from Derek was a whole other story.

"Thank you." I managed to whisper, shifting my eyes from my boots to the ocean that lay out before us.

"I wasn't sure what I was expecting." He began, his feet crunching the sand as he made his way toward me. "I wasn't really sure if you'd wait for me. Half of me expected to come back to find you with Nathan." That caught my attention. I tilted my head in his direction, narrowing my eyes slightly. He held his hands up in defense, a light smile on his lips as he moved to lean his hip against the large rock I sat on. "Can you blame me really? Given the situation... Anyone else would have taken what was before them."

"I'm not like anyone else." I growled out softly, letting my anger fade. For a man who seemed so confidant, he really wasn't. First he thought Demetri would steal my attention away and now he said he thought Nathan would have.

"I know that." His voice was soft as he reached out to place his hand over mine. I glanced at down at his hand, letting him lift my hand to bring it to his mouth. "You've always made me feel things I hadn't before. I'd never been so worried over someone before. You make my confidence falter." He pressed his lips to the back of my hand softly, causing my heart to jump slightly. "I know better than to doubt you. But I couldn't help it." He closed his eyes softly, keeping my hand against his lips.

I swallowed hard, trying to calm my increasing heart rate as I watched him. "I had my own doubts." I confessed softly, causing his eyes to open slightly, pearl meeting emerald. "I thought that, perhaps, once you were away from me and had time to think... You'd change your mind."

"I thought the same." He spoke after a few moments of silence. "But about you." A soft chuckle escaped his lips, his warm breath cascading over my pale skin. He lowered my hand from his mouth and placed it back where it was, against the roughness of the rock. But his hand stayed with it, curling large fingers around my smaller hand. "For a while, I wondered if I had gone mad." He shook his head, a smile on his lips. "I'm more than quadruple your age even if I only look double. I couldn't help but wonder what an old man like I could have to offer you. I thought you'd realize it yourself and move on to someone you could relate to more." A sigh came from his lips as he shifted his eyes to look over the ocean. "But I forced myself to believe in your words. You're not the type to say things you don't mean."

I bit my lower lip, watching his handsome face as he stared across the sea. What amazing confidence we had in each other. "You left your wife." Again, the words were out before I could stop them but this time they weren't harsh.

Pearl eyes shifted to me before they closed, another sigh coming from him. "I did."


Derek opened his eyes, meeting mine. "What did Demetri tell you?"

"Just that you left her. And you confessed everything to him. He knows more about me than... I would have liked." I shifted, crossing one leg over the other.

"I apologize for that." His fingers squeezed around mine. "But he asked and I didn't have to heart to lie to him. And once I started talking about you..." He paused shaking his head with a soft smile. "I couldn't stop."

I felt the heat on my face but it also spread down my body and settled in the pit of my stomach. "Tell me Derek... Why?"

He inhaled deeply, releasing my hand. The urge to pout at the lack of contact was heavy but I pushed it aside, watching him as he ran a hand through the bangs of his long hair that was pulled back into a familiar ponytail. "It felt wrong." He said after releasing a breath. "I thought I could pretend that nothing had changed. But I just... I couldn't touch her." His brow furrowed as he shifted to lean his back against the rock, focusing on the sand beneath his feet. "Of course she noticed the difference right away. It was like she already knew. She asked me if I met someone else and I couldn't lie to her. She didn't deserve that. She didn't seem all that surprised when I told her either." His shoulders jerked in a shrug. "That changed however, when I told her about you."

"You told her about me?" The breathlessness in my voice was something I couldn't hide.

"She asked. I figured she deserved that much. She was angry. A lot angrier than I could have expected. She demanded the divorce before I could say anything else to her. So I dealt with it. It was what she wanted and I wasn't going to argue it. She told me it was Demetri's choice on what he was going to do but the rest of our children stayed with her. I wasn't going to argue that. She is a great mother after all."

I glanced down at the sand, chewing on my bottom lip as I let his words sink in. I should have felt guilty for his family falling apart. It was my fault after all. But I felt no remorse. Derek never loved his wife. He had told me that long ago. But he respected her and cared for her. This was bound to happen whether I was included or not.

"So... That's it then?" I asked softly, after a few moments of silence.

"That's it." He answered with a shrug, shifting to glance at me. "I hadn't told her I was already planning to return to you. She assumed that on her own. So, once I was set free and dealt with a few other things, I returned here." He shifted, turning to me as he reached out to brush his warm fingers over my pale cheek. "I couldn't wait to return."

The warmth from his fingers spread over my cheek and down once again settling in the pit of my stomach. I reached up, wrapping my fingers around his wrist. "I couldn't either."

The corners of his lips twitched up into a smile as his palm slipped over my cheek and his fingers slipped into my hair. "Is it strange?" He asked softly, as I leaned into his palm, letting my fingers rest against his hand. "To abandon everything when we've never even told each other exactly how we feel?"

"I didn't think words were necessary." I spoke just as softly as I turned me head slightly to press a soft kiss on his palm. "After all, I'm not that good with them. My actions tend to speak for me." I glanced at him, noticing how he flinched slightly at the gaze I set him with. "I waited for you. A married hero quadruple my age that is the brother of my former lover. What did I have to offer him that his wife couldn't? She could give him much more than I. Children, for example. But he already has those." A soft smirk spread over my lips as his eyes glanced down at my hand that was reaching out for him. "But I still waited." My fingers curled around the fabric of his coat as I pulled my self to the edge of the rock and closer to him. "I didn't wait in a bubble. I grew and changed. To become something he could be proud to come back to. So that perhaps one day, he would call me his lover and be proud to do so." His hand slipped from my cheek as my other hand slipped around his neck, pressing fingers into the back of his neck. "Those actions speak louder than any words I could have said."

I wasn't prepared when his lips collided with mine. His arms wrapped around me tightly as he held me against his chest the best he could given our position. My fingers tightened around his coat, urging him closer as his lips moved against mine. The warmth spread over my body, again settling in my stomach. My fingers slipped, digging into his hair as he pulled me forward, causing my body to twist to the side. The slight pain in my waist was nothing as I allowed him to part my lips with his tongue and slip inside. He tasted just as I remembered and I grateful for the height of the rock I sat on. It made us even for once.

That wet appendage slipped around my mouth, curling with mine and emitting a soft sound from my throat. I felt his fingers press into my back, sending warmth everywhere. But then he slipped, removing his tongue from my mouth and pulling back. Pearl eyes searching mine as I panted lightly through my nose, licking my lips. A smile rested on his lips as he moved forward, pressing them against my forehead.

"Do my actions speak for me?" He asked softly against my skin.

"You're here, aren't you?"

I felt him smirk against my skin before he pulled back; greeting me with a look in his eyes I hadn't seen before. Though a smirk rested on his lips, his eyes swirled with more emotions than I could count. But one was more evident than any others. Love. That realization sent shivers over my skin and I had to look away before I became overwhelmed.

Derek nuzzled his face into my neck and hair softly as I let my eyes slip shut. He loved me. That was evident. So obvious, I couldn't believe I hadn't seen it before. We never spoke of what he was going to do after he left. I had assumed that he would do what he normally did. Pretend that nothing had happened between us and once he could, he'd come back to visit. We'd finally speak about what was between us, share a few nights together and he'd be gone again to visit sometime in the future. This was completely different than anything I had expected. It never occurred to me that he would leave his wife. Or that he would retire. Or that his son would even come meet me. But thinking about it, all his actions over the past months spoke volumes of how he felt about me.

He left his wife, though it hadn't been his plan to. It worked out that way. But only because he couldn't keep how he really felt inside. He couldn't hide what we had. So she found out and left him. He told his son everything about me because when he started to speak about me, he just couldn't stop. And he retired because... Because he didn't want to have to stay away from me any longer and he had his son to replace him. The thought didn't settle exactly well with me. If Demetri took Derek's place than what would really become of him and Nathan? The thought flittered from my mind when I felt warm lips press against my neck.

I wanted to ask. I needed to ask for my sanity. To know that what I was thinking wasn't just some fantasy my mind had created in a desperate need for acceptance and love. I had to hear it for myself. But I didn't want to force him to say it. His arms around me and his lips against my neck were enough for now.

"I care for you more than I ever expected." His breath cascaded over my neck, causing me to shiver slightly. It was like he could read my mind. Like he just knew I needed to hear it.

"Is... that bad?" I asked softly.

Derek was still for a moment before he pulled back to meet my eyes, a soft smile on his lips. "As long as I don't smother you with it, I suppose not."

My breath hitched and I found my fingers clutching against him tightly. "Smother me. I don't care. I want you to."

Pearl eyes widened slightly at my words and I saw his throat tightened as he swallowed. "Do you have any idea what you're asking for?"

"Does it matter?" I licked my lips, noticing the way his eyes followed my tongue. "I know what I want and we both know nothing will stop me until I get it."

His lips twitched into a smirk as his eyes met mine once again. "You're something else, Siam."

The way he spoke my name sent a wave of warmth over my skin and settled in my heart this time. "I think you can handle it."

He chuckled softly, pulling me closer to kiss me softly. "I'm sure I can. Or I'll die trying."

"No dying." I hissed softly, glancing at him as I lifted to press a kiss to his lips.

"Agreed." His lips moved against mine gently.

I didn't believe in love not that long ago. It was feeling that didn't exist in my world. But... Sebastian and Derek taught me otherwise. Being loved was a rarity for me. It had only happened once before with the brother of this man I had come to need desperately. With Sebastian, it was simple. I had learned to love him over time. At first, he was just some old coot that showered me with love and affection when all I did was beat him off with a stick. He was persistent and slowly, I began to change. I began to love him. Perhaps, it was because I had wasted so much time with refusing to love Sebastian that I felt the way I did now so quickly.

Love was fragile. Like glass. All it took was one crack before it began to splinter and fall apart. But it was also like a diamond. Unbelievably strong and passionate. Love could outlast almost anything if given the chance. I had felt it once. It's warmth and understanding before it was ripped away from me. It was my own fault I had wasted so much time. I refused to let that happen again. I let myself fall and prayed that Derek wouldn't let the fall kill me. So far, he hadn't. He was agreeing to stay with me. To be with me for the rest of our lives. He hadn't spoken those words but he didn't have to. I could feel it in his touch and those eyes that gave away every emotion he tried to hide.

I fell for what I once hated. Someone I hated for no real reason. I fell and he fell with me. The Hero of Albion was mine. All mine. And there was no way in hell I was ever going to let him go. They'd have to kill me first and I doubted Derek would let that happen.

"We should head back." His soft voice broke me from my thoughts.

I hummed softly and let him pull away so I could slip down the rock to my feet. "We have a family waiting for us."

Derek smiled softly as he held out his hand for me. "Our family."

His words sent a rush of heat over my cheeks as I slipped my hand into his. "Sebastian would be proud." I told him softly.

His smile grew as he pulled me against his side. "He would be, wouldn't he?"

"You can see it in his eyes." I told him, glancing up at him.

Derek's smile shifted into a bit of a smirk as we began walking. "Yes, you can."

I smiled up at him, pressing into his side as we walked, heading back home. Our home. A home I had desperately wanted to leave long ago. But now, it was full of love and people I would never want to be without. And it was all thanks to Derek. Though, I doubt I would ever admit that to him. I still had some pride after all.

Well there you go. I hope you enjoyed it because I loved writing it. This story means a lot to me so please so review and let me know what you think. Be nice, please. I spent a lot of time on this. Thank you again for reading.