Lover in Stone, Installment No. 4

Installment No. 4
#gargoyles #shifter #romance #MFRWauthorscdane
Oh, man, this is so not good. Angelia stepped into the room, yet no one acknowledged her presence. Not a good sign at all considering the occupants of the room were hypersensitive Vampires. They continued arguing as if she wasn’t there at all.
Aro, her boss, paced. His violet eyes snapping, his fangs barely sheathed.
Upon the dais abutting the far wall of the gallery sat two of the Vampyres of the Triumvirate, Godrick and Kristov, who watched him march, bemused expressions clapped onto their faces.
The third Vampyre of the Triumvirate, her dear father Anton, remained on Aro’s level, leaning against the wall, his blonde head resting on his arm. The lesser Vampire ignored Anton, preferring to address the Vampyres on the raised platform instead.
“She is a sworn member to the Literati, do not forget,” Aro fumed, barely veiling his threat to the ancient members of the Triumvirate. He shook with his insubordination, yet couldn’t seem to help himself. “She has pledged her oath,” he seethed, his fangs lengthening.
“She is merely human!” Anton raged, slicing across the room with his claws unsheathed. The Vampyre veered from his assault at the last second, swirling back to his original post along the wall, his control tamped. “She will never survive this mission,” Anton hissed, his demeanor deflating as if his body wasn’t like iron.
Angelia barely tracked her father’s averted assault on her boss it happened so fast.
“She is my daughter,” he groaned, not caring to shield the torment of his dilemma from the others in the room. Or from Angelia, whose heart strangled in her breast to see him so defeated.
To heck with tradition and protocol. Angelia clapped her jaw shut and went straight to her father to comfort him.
She couldn’t not. He was extremely upset. She could see it in his silver eyes, the centuries weighing heavy in them when usually they sparkled bright.
The sight of them turned her blood to freezing slush.
This meeting was about her and her blunder with the Scriptum. They were convening to decide an appropriate punishment. So, what mission were they talking about?
Anton’s fingers curled around her hand, and for an instant, Angelia didn’t know if she felt trapped or comforted. But she held her ground. Whatever retribution was due her, she’d face it. Even if she was glad her stomach was empty so she wouldn’t vomit. Much.
Puking wasn’t exactly a hallmark of bravery, so she took the tight smile her father gave her, and let him lead her to a wooden chair situated a little off-center of the room.
To sit? Oh, heck, no. She wanted to bolt.
But that would make her a coward, and she already had a long list of inadequacies chalked up against her. Angelia took the seat her father offered.
Then watched him trudge to the dais like a man heading for the gallows. She gulped past the knot gripping her throat.
Okay, she could do this. She had signed on with the Literati knowing full well what was expected of her. Of course, her father had been beyond livid when she’d done it. He’d threatened to kill Aro as soon as he’d found out she’d daubed her blood to the contract. He’d accused the Vampire of treachery and deceit. Even went so far as to say the only reason Aro would want his daughter was because she was human.
A lovely revelation that stung like a mother. Yet, she’d refused to cry over it. So what if that was the only reason Aro and the Literati wanted her. For once in her life, being human had some merit. And Anton’s fears that she’d be traipsing all over the world, going into places where only her kind could go? Remained unfounded.
Angelia hadn’t left her desk for ten years. No Indiana Jones adventures for her. Nope. Since her debacle with the Recovery Team, she got the drudgery, the research where the only excitement came from getting off her stool to stretch her back.
The Scriptum had been the first and only thing she’d ever been assigned to because she was human, and that was because Aro and the other Literati couldn’t pry their greedy little fingers under its cover.
And I’ve bumbled my one chance to prove my worth.
Her shame and guilt overrode her fear like a three hundred pound jockey.
“Aro, sit.” Godrick commanded quietly. But then, his authority wasn’t to be breached, so he didn’t have to raise his voice. The chairman of the Literati plunked his butt at the long table, his alabaster fingers drumming on his briefcase.
Angelia cringed inwardly. Inside that briefcase would be her contract, with her stamp of blood on it.
“Angelia Delacroix.” This time the voice that spoke carried a soft undertone, and it did wonders to soothe her. Which would be the intention, of course. Kristov had always been kind to her.
“Yes?” She sat up straighter, facing the Triumvirate. Her poor father had paled beyond pale, throwing wide the door to her fear so it crept back in subtle as an elephant.
“We are sorry for having kept you in the dark while we weighed our decision.”
Angelia decided to study her boots rather than watch Anton suffer. If she was going to face her punishment with any dignity, she couldn’t look at him. Not if she wanted to keep her backbone, spindly as it was.
Because he was her Papa. She’d cave like the weak little girl she was, and he would happily bundle her up in his arms to comfort the both of them.
She knew that. Anton adored her.
Even after his son had been born, Angelia still resided in the same cherished place of his heart.
“Is there anything you can tell us about the disappearance of the Scriptum, Miss Delacroix?”
Huh? Angelia dragged her gaze off her shit-kickers to gawp up at the Triumvirate. The disappearance of the Scriptum?
“She doesn’t know a blasted thing,” Aro griped from behind her.
Angelia turned to her boss, still too stupefied to play catch up.
“She was completely unconscious. And we did a mind sweep.” Aro swept his hand out, indicating the two Literati Ghouls who sat like well-preserved, sagacious corpses at the long table with him. “She knows nothing of the theft.”
“The theft?” Angelia’s jaw finally worked just enough for her to say something, but it fell back open as she stared at her boss. This meeting wasn’t about her punishment? She felt the one-two punch of relief and panic. “The Scriptum has been stolen?”
She didn’t need a verbal answer. Anton’s distress hadn’t been about the punishment she was going to receive, it was about this mission. And—ding, ding, ding—her brain finally grasped what was taking place.
She was being assigned to retrieve the Scriptum. Hence, the mission Anton had referred to. Angelia swung around to look at her father, her worry for him beaming out of her eyes now that her cowardly butt was no longer on the line.
“Miss Delacroix, it is our understanding you are the only one capable of retrieving this artifact. Is this so?”
Angelia turned her attention to Kristov. The only one? “Yeah, I guess. I mean, I’m the only one who can read it.”
Which didn’t exactly mean she was the only one who could retrieve it. Did it? Excitement revved in her belly, tingling her skin.
Was this finally it? Was this her chance to prove her worth, to show everyone she wasn’t entirely useless and clumsy? She’d waited a decade for her Indiana Jones crusade, and now it seemed as if it was finally going to happen.
She bowed her head so no one would see the flush of anticipation coloring her cheeks.
“You will not be expected to endure this treacherous journey alone, Miss Delacroix, if you should accept the terms of your contract.”
Blah, blah, blah…treacherous journey?
Okay. She needed to get focused here. Indiana Jones and his stunts were fictional—she was about to embark on the real deal.
“You will be escorted through Hell by Merrick the Chimera, the Guardian to Hell’s Archway. Is that acceptable to you?”
Angelia didn’t know whether to collapse into her chair from fright or shriek like a teenager at a rock concert.
A Chimera.
Taking her straight to Hell. The real Hell. Not the figurative one.
The information rendered her dumb. She didn’t know how to respond. Her emotions hovered, immobilized by the colliding of two climactic moments in her drear life.
It was a few moments before her situation finally melted over her, and she sucked in a fortifying breath.
Okay. Right. She could do this. She had been waiting ten years for such a chance, and had always known that the places she could pass where Aro and the rest of the Literati wouldn’t be pleasant.
Hell as a destination had traipsed across her imagination more than once.
But a Chimera to guide her? She’d be safer than a glass of holy water at a Literati Convention.
But wait. Kristov had asked her something. She glanced up, not hiding her confusion, or her embarrassment.
“I’m sorry. Could you repeat the question?”
“We asked whether your escort would be acceptable to you,” Godrick repeated, his patience a trifle thin. She couldn’t blame him. As much as he respected Anton, he had always wondered how the Vampyre could be so smitten with a dull-witted human.
“Ah, yes. Yes, it’s acceptable to me. I mean, yes. He is acceptable.”
~S.C. Dane
~Installment No. 5 coming Tuesday, February 10, 2015.

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