Vala eminence, p.7

Vala Eminence, page 7

 part  #4 of  Vala Series

 

Vala Eminence
 


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  Stalking through the hallways of Vala, Denver grumbled just about every curse in his vocabulary. I can't believe him. This whole arrangement must be his way of subtly trying to save my soul or something equally as stupid. Who says I want to be saved to begin with? Maybe he's in on the whole thing with Lucien too and… who am I kidding? I saw his “heart.” There is no way he could be evil and working with the demons. Still, he annoys me.

  He went around a corner and as he turned he noticed Teague was walking next to him. The kid's blue eyes were as wide as saucers.

  “What?” Denver snapped.

  Teague stumbled over his feet and nearly crashed into the wall. “You say a lot of bad words.”

  “So?”

  “That's not good.”

  “Do you think I care?” Denver stopped and folded his arms in front of him. “Why are you following me?”

  Teague's gaze went to the floor and he spun one of his feet in a slow circle in front of him. The whole thing reminded Denver of a five-year-old who just got caught doing something he shouldn't have. An almost hilarious image, coming from a prepubescent teenager who was supposed to be sixteen.

  “Well?” Denver tapped his fingers against his forearm.

  “I-I-y-you…” Teague sighed and then huffed quietly. “I saw you walking and I wanted to say ‘hi’, but then when I got close you were saying all of the bad words. You seemed like you needed to get it out of your system, so I followed you to wait until you were done to say ‘hi’. But maybe I shouldn't have?”

  For whatever reason, the kid always had a way of making Denver feel guilty over the smallest of things. Teague made Denver want to have a conscience more than anyone else he knew — even Cheyenne — and he didn't understand why. It's not like he had any personal attachment to the kid.

  Denver was able to push the nagging, sinking sensation in his stomach aside. “It's a little creepy to follow someone around and not say anything. Since you didn't know better, I'll let it slide.”

  “Right, of course, following people is creepy.” Teague shoved his hands in his pockets.

  “Sorry for snapping,” Denver mumbled. It lifted some of the guilt off of him at least. Much like love, the emotions of guilt and regret were new to him. Love, he liked. What wasn't there to enjoy about floating on a happy cloud and feeling invincible? Guilt, regret, those were not as pleasant for him and he'd do whatever it took to make them go away. Goodie-two-shoes-ville, here I come.

  Teague offered a small smile and a nod. “It's okay.” Had Denver been talking with anyone else, there would no doubt be more suspicion over the fact that he gave an apology for anything. Another reason he didn't mind being around Teague — the kid didn't have any expectations of him.

  Silence, and it was a silence that lasted for longer than Denver expected. Usually, Teague asked a million questions. Everything under the sun was fair game. For the most part, Denver entertained Teague's curiosity. There had yet to be a topic to come up that was uncomfortable to talk about. So why was there suddenly so much hesitation and awkward silence between the two of them?

  As if Teague could read his mind, he glanced at Denver with large, sad eyes. “They told me it was a bad idea to be friends with you.”

  “Who? Wait, I'm guessing your sister and her boy-toy and his brother?” Denver asked, referring to Jewl and the twins. Because Teague had no clue about whom he actually was. The story Jewl had been fed was that she was Teague's older sister, and both were a product of Aphrodite's love affair with Jewl's father. Denver liked Jewl enough to not shatter her world by telling her she would someday be a mother. From what he knew of her, Denver gathered she had some issues when it came to her relationship with Anj. Then again, who wouldn't have issues with Anj? He was annoying and a handful.

  Teague went quiet again, but nodded after a few seconds had passed. “Mostly, uh, the Seer. I mean, Anj? Yeah, that's his name. He doesn't like you. Z is for Horns hasn't said much. He's so quiet now whenever your name comes up. I don't think he likes you either. Shiny Things, I mean, Jewl, she tells me I can be friends with whoever I want to. Then the brothers agree, and it's confusing.”

  “It's simple, do you want to be my friend?”

  “Yeah.”

  “Then be my friend.” Denver waved a hand in front of him. “They're going to tell you what you should and shouldn't do a lot. It's what they're good at. In the end, you make your own decisions and judgments. If you think I'm cool to be around, then that's your prerogative, not theirs. You following? They may be onto something. I'm not a nice guy.”

  “You're nice to me,” Teague said softly.

  Shrugging, Denver started walking again. “It's as much of a mystery to me as it is to them. Probably because you haven't irritated me yet. No offense, you're dumb as a brick, but since it's not your fault and you're trying to get smart, it doesn't frustrate me too much. Besides, I like that you're probably the most honest person on the planet. Too many people lie. It gets old fast.”

  Nodding, Teague's smile returned. “They think you're going to make me do bad things. That because I don't know a lot, you'll teach me to do things that aren't the best and disguise them as something that's okay. They use big words like manipulation and corruption, and have side conversations with themselves thinking I'm not understanding them. But I'm following along. I'm not an idiot. I'm just trying to reconnect with what I do know. Does that make sense?”

  “Sure. You're trying to relearn everything in your brain. It's not like you're dumb and can't understand things. You just don't remember. I get it, you don't need to explain it to me again.”

  “Sorry,” Teague mumbled.

  “Chill, I already know you have the memory of a goldfish. It's part of dealing with whatever happened to you,” Denver said. Note to self, do not go time traveling because it makes your brain like Swiss cheese. He clapped a hand on Teague's back. “And that's why I don't mind hanging around you and helping out. Consider you my good deed for my homework this week.”

  Teague scrunched up his nose. “So you're only being nice to me for school?”

  “Nah, I'm nice to you because you don't annoy me. I told you that. When you do annoy me, trust me, I'll be just like I am to everyone else. But Mr. Thantos told me to do something nice for a change, and since I need all the extra credit I can get, I'm taking him up on the challenge. So what can I help you with?”

  “I don't need help,” Teague said. “I came to you because I thought maybe you did since you were saying all of those bad words. Something made you angry or sad.”

  “Angry, yes.” Denver let go of the teen and put his hands into his pockets.

  “What's wrong?”

  Denver growled quietly. He didn't want to, but his frustration with the whole Mr. Thantos situation was starting to get the better of him. “The homework I just told you about. I'll be honest and say it's not an assignment I'm looking forward to.”

  Frowning, Teague glanced over at him. “Why not?”

  “Because I don't like people all that much, and he's a stupid…” He met Teague's gaze and stopped himself. “He's right about too many things.”

  “Then he's not stupid.”

  “No, but he still makes me mad. I don't like it when he's right. It rubs me the wrong way.”

  “Because that means you're wrong.” Denver shot Teague a glare and the kid bristled, putting his hands up defensively. “I just mean, that's why it makes you mad. I don't like being wrong either. It makes me angry with myself. I should have known better.”

  Denver shook his head. How was Teague so good at hitting the nail on the head? “It's like I get that I've messed up big time. Him telling me to do all of this is like rubbing my face into the mud. It's not cool.”

  Nodding, Teague returned his attention to his hands. “I know someone who needs your help. If you're wanting some ideas, that is. Because you can try and help me, but…”

  “You're scared and not ready for all of the answers to come at the same time. Yeah, you'
ve told me that before.” Denver couldn't help but wonder just how much Teague was holding himself back from returning home again with that kind of an attitude.

  Another nod, and Teague exhaled sharply. “There's also a couple of other things I need to do first. Deep inside of me, I know I'm here for a reason, and my biggest fear is that if I remember everything I forgot and go back home… it'll happen before I do the thing I'm supposed to do.”

  “That's a distinct possibility,” Denver agreed. “So who should I help if it's not going to be you?”

  “Z is for Horns.”

  Denver's fists clenched at his sides. “No.”

  Gasping, Teague tilted his face up and looked at Denver with the most wide, confused and pathetic blue eyes. “No? Why not?”

  “First of all, he's not going to want my help. Second, you know how I don't like most people? He's one of them I loathe with a passion. It goes beyond simple dislike, and that's saying a lot. His brother is annoying and I dislike him. Zes ignites violent urges inside of me. So unless you think helping him involves a good punch in the face, you need to give me a different idea.” Denver scowled. Zes, of all people he had to name Zes.

  Sniffles could be heard coming from Teague. When Denver risked a peek at the kid, he saw the teen boy wipe at his eyes. “Why are you crying?”

  “My heart hurts,” Teague said. “I don't know why, but it hurts .”

  With a groan, Denver raked his hands through his hair. “I don't know what he needs help with anyway. He seems to be recovering from his breakup just fine. Pretty sure he's going to be okay kiddo.”

  “No, no, he's not going to be okay. I know it, deep down inside of me, I know. Maybe he's part of the reason why I've come back.” Teague blinked a few more tears from his eyes, and then laughed. “I know I shouldn't be crying, and that it's not a thing that men do, but whenever I think about him and how much he's hurting it feels like something inside of me has died.”

  Denver frowned more. What was the future like? Was this Teague's not so subtle way of connecting to a memory from his other life? Of course Zes would be important to Teague, even if it was only in the boy's subconscious. The twins were close and nothing but death would ever change that, he imagined. This has got to be connected with Lucien and what happened to Cheyenne and Zes in the underworld. If it'll help her, then helping him can't be a bad idea.

  Pushing his pride aside, Denver sucked in a slow breath. “Okay, I'll see if I can do something nice for Z is for Horns. Only because I can't stand it when you cry, kid. It's like looking at a kicked puppy or a sad kitten or something. It's just not right. But you gotta learn to buck up. If you let sad things make you so upset, someone could use that against you. Plus, what if you have to be strong in order to fight? You can't fight if you're scared and bawling your eyes out. That could get you killed. The Dark doesn't care about how you're feeling. It's still after you right?”

  “I still have nightmares about it and sometimes I hear whispers when I pass by shadows, but it isn't as bad as when I first got here.” Teague shrugged. “If the teachers can't help me, I don't think you can either. Because, the black angel seems to know everything about how to stop the Dark from getting to me. He can't do anything, and no one is stronger than him.”

  “Yes,” Denver mumbled.

  “Huh?”

  Shaking his head, Denver tapped his chin as he tried to connect everything together in his mind. There was a reason the demons, the Dark, were so afraid of Teague or else they wouldn't try to attack or torment him so much. Just like there was a reason whatever was going on with Zes was so painful for the kid. There was also a reason behind why Cheyenne wanted Zes so much and why he was a part of Lucien's contingency plan. He might be onto something with why he's been brought back to the past, but I don't think he gets why he scares Lucien so much. Lucien may be a monster, but he doesn't go through so much trouble to get rid of people he doesn't feel threatened by. The idea of a demon being frightened of an innocent kid caused Denver to laugh.

  Teague tilted his head to the side. “What's so funny?”

  Denver smirked. “I just figured something out and I feel super smart. Look, buddy, I'll catch you later. Try to stay out of trouble until then.”

  “I will. I always do!” And the kid beamed with so much pride, Denver wanted to give him a cookie.

  Waving, Denver made his way back to Hermes Hall where his dorm room was. Once back in the comfort of his own territory, he kicked off his shoes and settled in on the couch.

  With all of his new revelations on life came the difficult task of coming up with a plan to test all of his theories. If he wasn't the school jerk, doing everything he needed to might not have been so hard. Because practically everyone hated his guts, the hardest part would be to get the necessary parties to put their trust in him. Being nice isn't the way to go. There's no way anyone will buy into that. If Cheyenne thinks it’s weird when I compliment her or show her sympathy, fat chance playing sweet and nice is going to do much for Zes. It'll only make him more suspicious of me. No, I need to come after him from a different angle.

  The only thing the two had in common was their love for Cheyenne, and that was not something they could talk about. Or was it? Zes had to have noticed all of her bizarre behaviors too. Maybe he was just as worried. Denver didn't know much about love, but he imagined that once a person started, they didn't just stop. At least, Denver couldn't ever stop loving her. Maybe Zes was different. Cheyenne talked about degrees of love and most of that went over Denver's head. Someday he might understand it better.

  It would be a lot easier for him to talk to Zes if he had a school-related reason to do so. The two didn't share any classes or after school activities. For being so popular, neither of the twins participated in any clubs or sports. Even Denver played football, and he was the worst of all outcasts. School became so boring without anything to do outside of homework.

  He checked the clock. “I think they said they were going to the Old Union one of these nights,” he mumbled. That was one place the twins frequented often. Anj lived to dance, or something equally as lame. He liked to think he was good at it, but the guy could use some formal training. For someone who was self-taught he was decent enough. The only reason anyone probably thought he was amazing was because he was so confident.

  Catching Zes while his brother went out dancing was probably Denver's best bet. The Old Union was loud and had a number of places where the two could talk uninterrupted. Plus, Anj would be occupied with Jewl on the dance floor instead of looming around his twin like a bodyguard. Denver thought it cute that the guy wanted to protect his brother. Given all of the drama and adventures of the year, it seemed like a natural enough reaction. Seeing as how Anj was blind as a bat and worthless with his magic, however, the entire effort came across as vain. Must be a sibling thing. I'm glad I don't have any.

  Chapter Six

  Like usual, the first thing Denver saw upon entering the Old Union were the regular patrons hanging out around the bar. Most of them he knew by name. Some of the women had even been his conquests once upon a time. A fake ID and a good story got him plenty of “fun” once upon a time, but reflecting back on it he only saw how pathetic he was. Just wanted to be another one of the cool kids in the demon club. The change of heart had everything to do with Cheyenne; she filled his soul in a new way. It could have only been the newness of their relationship experiment, but he didn't even look twice at the people he used to get friendly with.

  He was on a mission, and he was determined to not let anything get in the way of it. Instead of going to his lessons with Mr. Thantos, Denver canceled so he could practice his new soul-spying trick and plan how he was going to start up his conversation with Zes. It took Denver the whole two days to find a way to start talking that didn't come across as unnatural. He'd never been good at scripting his life. Everything was easier when he went with the flow — even if it did get him into trouble.

  “Denver, babe, why aren't you coming o
ver to hang out with us?” he heard one college-age woman call out. He wanted to say her name was Megan, but he honestly couldn't remember. She'd told him it one time, and that had been ten months ago.

  Ignoring her was easiest. Engaging her in any kind of verbal exchange would result in her taking up too much of his time. Once she would start talking, she wouldn’t stop and his window of opportunity to sequester Zes was small.

  He found the twins sitting in their usual booth next to the dance floor. Anj had his back to the entryway with his arm around Jewl's shoulders. She was snuggled up with her back against his side and her legs spread out on the seat of the booth. Across from the “adorable” couple was Zes. He had himself squished into the corner with his legs slightly spread to give some boundaries to his territory. The Noel girl who bothered Cheyenne so much sat next to him. Her body language also suggested she was trying to maintain some kind of personal space because she sat with her arms in tight against her and her legs crossed at the knees.

  Looks like they're on an awkward double date. How sweet. Denver doubted Zes actually wanted to be on a date. Which was another reason Denver hated Anj so much, the guy always liked to do things that were more in his best interest than anyone else’s. What the twins did was their business until it interfered with his own. Having Noel with the group would make it more difficult for him to get some one-on-one time with Zes.

  It was a good thing Denver was patient. He found a place to sit in the next booth over from the twins, keeping himself inconspicuous as he sat down with his back to the group. After ordering a few appetizers and a soda, he was ready for a potentially long night. Glad the food doesn't suck or this would be the pits. He killed most of the time by playing games on his cellphone. Every so often he'd try to eavesdrop on what the twins were talking about. Like usual, Anj hogged most of the conversation.

  “Prom is exactly two months away,” Anj said. Even if the twins sounded similar, Denver knew enough about their personalities to tell the two apart based on word choice and topic alone. Anj also had a firmer tone to his voice, exuding confidence.

 
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