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“Kai, wait!” Lavanya’s words fell flat as the infirmary’s door slammed shut.
She groaned. That girl would get an earful later if she thought she could slip away without explaining herself.
A chuckle pierced her thoughts.
Lavanya crossed her arms, her leather jacket cool under her hands. “And what’s so funny, Ghost?”
The young healer didn’t turn around as he rummaged through the miles of drawers and cabinets on the far side of the room. “What’s funny? The fact that you’re her guardian, yet she never listens to you.”
“Kai does listen to me.” Unless she was hiding something, Lavanya speculated.
And from what happened last night, Lavanya knew something was up with her ward. She knew Kai was innately strong. The girl had fighting skills that surpassed many in the guild, even before she was admitted into the hunter program. It had been only a few years since Lavanya had brought her back here, and besides her terrible academic record, Kai was already a junior hunter. But even then, she shouldn’t have been able to knock a powerful vampire down to the ground. Lavanya could, but not Kai. She was only human. Something was up.
“Pathetic of you to get hurt and not her,” Ghost said. “Maybe she should be the senior hunter, and you the junior.”
“Would you hurry up?”
“Oh. Am I interrupting your day?” A tinge of sarcasm laced itself into his words. “I never knew you had important things to do.”
Lavanya pinched the bridge of her nose, low heat swirling around in her witchstone underneath her shirt. “Look. I didn’t mean to disturb your reading. It’s not like I planned to crack my back or twist my ankle, though. Now if you’d fix me up, I’ll be on my way. Thank you.”
“You weren’t just disturbing my reading.” He slammed a drawer shut. “I was about to discover who the double agent was.”
Lavanya rolled her eyes. This younger generation was populated with children. “It’s not like your book will disappear in the next few minutes.”
Ghost walked over, supplies in hand, a frown planted on his pale face. “But the moment is gone.”
Lavanya scrunched her nose at him as he sat down in his rolling chair. She knew if it wasn’t for his healing abilities, Ghost would probably be stuck on library duty and far away from her at the moment. If only this boy wasn’t a magus. Or at least got more sun rather than hiding down here. Maybe he had a vitamin deficiency.
She watched as he took off her boot and sock. He carefully pushed her jeans up, revealing the black bruises around her ankle. She had tripped as her and Kai fell into her car. It was embarrassing to go down in front of another hunter, particularly someone who she was in charge of. Once Ghost was done, she’d tell Kai to keep her mouth shut about it. No sense in the entire guild knowing.
Ghost wrapped a clean bandage around her ankle as he whispered a spell into the cotton. Nothing appeared to be happening, but she could feel something move along the fibers. She closed her eyes and opened them. His energy emanated as a mesh of grey and purple aura and shot down his arms into the bandage.
Lavanya had to hand it to him. Even though he was pale from the lack of sun and his body looked like it could break from being so small despite his height, he knew what he was doing. And he did it better than most healers here at Wyraj.
That still didn’t make his attitude any more tolerable.
“Would you not stare at me with those eyes?” he asked, not looking at her. “The color is worse than your original one.”
“Pardon me. My eyes are beautiful. Whether they are emerald or any other jewel color.”
“Jewels or not, they are disturbing.”
“You just don’t want people to know your part witch.”
“Being related to you in any way makes me cringe.”
She bit her tongue. Kids these days. She blinked twice and his aura disappeared. “There. Satisfied?”
“With that, yes,” he grumbled. “With the loss of excitement for my book. No.”
“So sorry for your loss.”
“I wouldn’t have had the interruption-” he unwrapped her ankle, the pain completely gone “-if you knew how to heal yourself, witch.”
“My duty is on the field and watching over Kai, not-”
“All witches can instinctively heal. Yet I’ve never even seen you soothe a burn.”
He was right. Lavanya couldn’t even do that. She refused to learn healing magic since her sisters had all passed on before they could teach her. Not that Ghost knew anything about that. And he really didn’t need to rub her lack of ability in her face.
“Are you going to heal me or are you going to waste more precious reading time?”
The door opened and two familiar hunters walked in.
“What’s with all the noise?”
“Looks like another fight, Bear!”
Darius walked over, Goldi riding on his back. The girl hopped off and danced passed the row of empty beds over to her and Ghost.
Goldi grabbed onto the bed’s railing and pushed her face into Lavanya’s. “Lava, Lava! You need to get onto Darius. He got hurt!”
“He did, did he?” Lavanya peeked around the girl’s face at the young man.
Everything from his dark, wavy hair to his chiseled body and tanned complexion appeared fine. In fact, as with every time she saw him, he looked flawless. The perfect body for the nearly perfect man. Beautiful.
It was only when he turned to shut the door did she notice the bloodied bandaging.
“What happened?” She leaned in his direction, wincing when her back protested.
“What about you? You don’t look like you’re in the best condition.” He walked over.
Darius picked Goldi up, making the girl laugh, and set her on the other bed beside them. With each move he made, Lavanya took in his muscles. He worked hard for those and it showed.
“She cracked her back and sprained her ankle.” Ghost said, interrupting her thoughts. His specialty. “Oh, and got bit.”
“Ghost!” Lavanya smacked at him, but he ducked just in time.
“Cracked your back?” Darius asked. “As in your spine?”
“Well . . .” She could feel her necklace heat up as if it were blushing for her. “A vampire kind of slammed me into a wall last night.”
“And bit you?”
“Yes. But not for very long. The wound has already closed up.”
“She’ll live.” Ghost grabbed another bandage roll. “Unlike my precious time.”
Darius brushed off Ghost’s remark with a wave of his hand. “I only need a bit of troll ointment and I’ll be fine. Besides, you’re a powerful healer, Ghost. I’m sure you’ll have Lavanya fixed up in no time.”
“Fine.” Ghost dropped the bandage on Lavanya’s lap and headed for the cabinets again.
“Don’t have to be so rude,” Lavanya muttered.
Darius chuckled and leaned closer, his rich chocolate eyes catching hers. “What’s with him today?” he whispered.
Lavanya lifted a hand in front of her lips and whispered back, “The same as always. He had to stop reading.”
“Of course.” He stood back up. “By the way, I saw your ward limp off a second ago. She looked more tired than usual. Did she have a run-in with a wall too?”
“No.” Ghost said before Lavanya could. He walked over to them, jar in hand. “She saved Lavanya. Right?”
Lavanya wanted to punch him. Too bad it was ill-mannered for a patient to do so.
“She saved you?” Darius’s voice filled with surprise. “That’s amazing. I know she’s a talented trainee. But taking down a vampire who caught you?”
Lavanya flicked her wrist. “She didn’t take him down, per se. She merely pushed him off and we escaped. But she is learning from the best, so there’s no doubt she was able to do it.”
“Heh.” Ghost threw the jar to Darius, who caught it easily. “If you were the best you wouldn’t be here right now.”
Lavanya chuckled, her necklace burning. “If you were faster, I’d be gone by now.”
“Looks like they’re going to fight!” Goldi cheered. “Oh no!”
Ghost snatched the bandage roll up and unfurled it. “Lift your shirt so I can get this done.”
“How charming of you, sir.” Lavanya took off her jacket – she noticed the bloodstains and whimpered a little. It was one of her favorites. She set it down at her side and slightly lifted up her shirt.
Ghost wrapped the bandage around her lower torso and whispered another spell. She could feel the sensation as her muscles and bones relaxed.
He wrapped further up, pushing her shirt up more in the process. Lavanya peaked over to Darius’s attentive eyes. He was watching Ghost work, which always captivated many of the hunters. But Lavanya didn’t mind him having a chance to stare at her built physique either.
The sensation faded and Ghost began to unwrap the bandages.
“So,” she fluttered her lashes, catching Darius’s attention. “Where are you and Goldi headed after this?”
Goldi waved her arms from side to side. “I’m going to my dance class in the gym! Today we’re learning the basics of ballet.”
“Sounds fun,” Lavanya said. “And you Darius?”
“I’m heading by Uncle’s office to give him my report from this latest mission.”
Her stomach churned a little.
Ghost snickered behind her. “You should do that too, shouldn’t you, Lavanya?”
“I’ll do that later. After Radulf’s eaten. I have to make sure Kai goes to her lessons today.” She turned back to Darius. “Which, if you’re not busy tonight, maybe we can grab a bite to eat, ourselves?”
Darius nodded. “I’m sure Goldi will be getting out of her tutoring lessons by then. We can meet you in the dining hall.”
Lavanya smiled her sweetest. “That would be fantastic!”
She let go of her shirt and slipped on her sock and boot before swinging both legs off the bed. Darius offered his hand and she accepted it and hopped down.
“I’ll see you two later then.”
She picked up her jacket and scooted past Darius, making sure to leave very little room between the two of them.
“Have fun with Kai and Uncle!” Goldi waved to her.
“Have fun dancing with Madame.” Lavanya waved back.
She opened the door and walked out to the hallway. When the door clicked shut, she exhaled deeply.
There was no way she was going to survive tonight. Not only was she obliviously shot down by one of the best hunters in the guild, but she also completely forgot about reporting to Radulf. And he wasn’t going to be happy with her or her mess up.
Lavanya grabbed her witchstone and gripped it for dear life. It had been speechless when the vampire had attacked her – as speechless as she had been. But now the very faint pulsing mimicked her own heartbeat.
She stared down at the purple stone, its form wrapped in a cage of thin silver, which connected up to a similar silver chain. Her witchstone reflected her thoughts and emotions. Even her health and energy. It glowed when she enacted her ability to see others’ auras. And it pulsed when she called on its power. She and it were connected, just as her sisters had been when they were still alive.
And right now it mimicked her concern for when she faced Radulf.
She rushed down the hall, past all the shimmering weapons. She needed to eat something before she could decide on what to say to him. If she didn’t, she was sure she would faint. And then she’d be subjected to more of Ghost’s complaints.
Lavanya didn’t slow down until she was up the stairs and in the central dome. Her eyes caught on the mural crafted into the marble floor as the morning light cascaded crystal reflections onto it. She always stopped to admire it, as a reminder to how this guild was built.
Vines wrapped around a golden eagle as its wings threw ice shards in all directions. Storks flew towards it – her favorite part – their wings stretched out between the shards. Letters shaped from grey stone spelled out the guild’s name: Wyraj.
It was an odd name to pick for a guild, Lavanya thought. And it had confused newcomers who stopped and stared down at it. Even Kai.
Lavanya smiled as she remembered her ward looking at it for the first time. The girl had struggled to sound it out. Going from ‘wir-aj’ to ‘wee-rak’ to just giving up.
“Veer-ai,” Lavanya said now. A place where hunters and families alike could live. A place she called home.
Lavanya took in a deep breath before expelling it slowly.
She would have to tell Radulf the truth about the attack. It was her duty as a hunter for the guild. She just had to figure out how to tell him. And how she thought her attacker had been Sadiq of all people.
© E.N. Chaffin 2019. All rights reserved. Any reproduction without author permission is against the copyright laws of the United States of America.