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The insistent beat and whine of the air as it spun and swirled and the voices of beasts and man rose and grew. Va sat on the stone steps of the mansion, arms spread as the golden fur melted to gleaming skin and the long wide tail receded into his body. He stood as the muscles and flesh reshaped and rewrapped themselves around the lengthening skeletal structure, the deep brown eyes stoic as he watched the silken robes fall from the bodies of the men and women surrounding the pool as they bent and crouched on all fours and grew tails and full coats of glossy fur.
When the transformation was complete, he ran a large palm across his chest, over his flat stomach, and down the length of his sex. The transformation always left him in a state of full arousal. He stroked himself once more before turning and heading up the stairs and through the beveled glass doors. He knew that he could seduce one of the novices, but then she would feel guilt and so would he. Better to dress and be on his way before he had to endure the piteous looks or the questions about the search for Cen.
He knew where she was, the bitch. No, he wasn’t truly angry, not now anyway. In a way, it was as many of the clan believed; she had left him because he had not pleased her. Maybe it was his sullen nature. She had assured him that he was not the cause, that it had simply happened, like the sun rising or the grass growing. She had fallen in love with a mortal. Va had held her as she sobbed this confession and because he loved her and had no other choice; he had vowed to wait her out. Hell, he had even lent his power to keeping her glow hidden. If you really loved someone, you did what was best for her, what made her happy. Right? And she seemed happy, didn’t she? With that balding prick and their two half-breed cubs. Her dampened glow had allowed her to look faded in keeping with her mortal mate, as he grew older. It was necessary to keep up the pretense. She would return to her old self once she let her glow have its way again. But to Va, she was still quite beautiful, and her cubs, now nearly grown bore the look of Cen, all dark with full manes and strong limbs. Their father’s genes, recessive, a mere whisper. Va wondered if the children were capable of change, if they would be granted power on their burgeoning day.
When Va was invited to dine with Cen and her brood on mortal religious and national holidays, he found joy in her children and in the happiness that she wore as she scolded them to eat more slowly or listened to their childish babbling. He even found pleasure in the love that lit her eyes as she beheld her mortal husband. Nevertheless, he found more joy in noting the mortal’s receding hairline and stiffening gait, a sure sign that his earthly life was ebbing and Cen would be his again.
Va settled back into life in human form returning to the business he and a kinsman had founded decades ago. Now, to all who cared to inquire, Va was an executive returning from a lengthy post abroad where he’d been needed to oversee the expansion of a subsidiary. He’d assumed the duties of another who had transformed during the last Sanga Harvest, and for a time, had lost himself in becoming reacquainted with the responsibilities of his new position as well as the physical and societal rigors of his human form. However, at the end of each day, when he fell exhausted into his large, lonely bed, thoughts of Cen and the pain that accompanied them plagued his sleep.
It was a high Holy Day for these humans, a celebration of the birth of a sacred prophet. Va brought a woman with him this time. Aileen was a kittenish thing who worked as an assistant to one of his business acquaintances. She seemed overworked, always underfoot, but a quiet sort. He’d taken pity on her. A couple of days earlier, he’d taken her to a late, but very long lunch, and just last night he’d taken her to the theatre. She’d proven to be surprisingly well read and a good conversationalist. When she dusted herself off, and wasn’t so harried, she was rather pretty and boasted endowments that were well hidden in her business attire. Besides, she was apparently adhering to a three-date rule that was becoming the norm for women in this era, and he was horny. Christmas dinner at Cen’s was their third date, if you counted the lunch. He was counting the lunch.
Vesta, Cen’s oldest was a beauty at seventeen, nearly burgeoning age. She sat across from Aileen, eyeing her with a critical eye and had apparently found her severely wanting.
“So,” Vesta asked as her fork rested, prongs flush, against the plate, “How do you know Uncle Va?”
Cen sent a quailing look to Vesta who simply pursed her lips and lifted a brow at her mother before turning her attention back to Aileen. Cen glanced at Va to gauge his reaction. He was grinning at Vesta.
Whenever Va entered her presence, Cen remembered everything, the long days in their furred form loping across the plains, tumbling and tussling at the water’s edge. She remembered him large and warm, his teeth tugging at her scruff, his cold nose nuzzling hers. When she saw Va, she missed him, but not enough to tempt her away from this ephemeral life, from her precious beings.
Her life with Gavin was so much . . . more. Maybe it was because it was so fleeting, a brief moment of sustained joy that Gavin had chosen to share with her, a brief respite from the endless churning that was Va.
With Gavin, existence was a calm lake on a sun-filled day, the two of them lazing in a rowboat just off shore with a watchful eye on their children as they romped on the beach. Not so with Va. He pulled and churned like a Spanish galleon in the middle of a stormy sea gleefully riding the waves. He liked it like that, and for long years she had also, or maybe she’d just wanted him and was willing to pay whatever fare was required.
She knew it was difficult for him. After all, they were bonded. This is why she allowed him in for brief moments. The dinners and occasional family outings soothed Va, allowed him to bask in her aura, to replenish himself. As for Gavin, he was none the wiser. Although Gavin was a sensitive being and may have sensed something, Cen had told him and the children that she had grown up with Va, that he had been and still was a close friend of the family. Having been the one who had severed the bond, however briefly, the least she could do was allow these brief moments.
Aileen smiled back at Vesta. “From work,” she said simply.
Va smiled down at his green beans. He liked that she was going to make Vesta work for it, and that Aileen didn’t seem intimidated in the intimate surroundings of a family unknown to her.
“You work with Uncle Va?” Vesta asked obviously trying to figure out how to open the can.
“What’s it to you?” Jon, Cen’s youngest at fifteen, asked around a mouthful of turkey.
“I wasn’t talking to you,” Vesta shot back.
“Children,” Cen began.
“I am not a child,” Vesta scowled at her mother.
Cen stopped, fork poised, mouth open readying her reprimand. A grinning Va caught her eye, and she smiled back at him, eyes and all, before her fork moved towards her plate again.
Gavin caught the look that passed between the two. His own fork rested unassumingly on the white linen table cloth, gleaming, stainless steel, bright, non-lethal in its present state, but the potential in its pointed spokes to jab, to rend, to tear at flesh and puncture bone was like a fervent whisper. He touched it, turned it over, spokes down, and lifted his spoon.