Riley cleaned up the rest of the impromptu meal I'd served with a decidedly rigid set to his back. He was really more than a bit upset that he hadn't been anywhere near successful in trying to persuade me to give up my trip to the mines. Now with Gordon, Riley's werewolf buddy telling us there was another way down into the salt mine (other than the elevator used by the previous workers) it meant my little journey was more than a vague idea without much merit. Gordon had his own agenda -- I was under no delusion about that little tidbit -- but he wasn't actively arguing with me or giving Riley the time of day. The two werewolves were at odds with each other, and I saw no reason to fan the flames.
Without a word I left them, and went to my bedroom and gathered up my backpack and changed into my hiking boots, while stuffing a few of the more realistic maps into the front pouch of the dark blue bag. Scurrying back to the main living room, going for the aggressive approach, I held up the battery-operated lanterns and said, "Okay, lead on!"
Gordon laughed and said, "Esmeralda, I didn't mean we would leave right this second. We'll head out after I make a few contacts and a call or two to make certain that it is as safe as possible for us. There isn't much I can do about what we'll find, but I want to make sure to have a few backups in the event things go sideways. Give me about another two hours. That's if I can reach anyone with this nasty blizzard coating the town."
I really hated when people went all reasonable after getting my hopes up. Seeing no way to push him I said, "Fine, then I'll just go catch a quick nap while you make the necessary contacts."
Riley looked nonplussed by my abrupt spin and I heard him grumble slightly at Gordon, "What the hell are you thinking? She's ready to bolt down there right now and you've done nothing to dissuade her."
Gordon's laughter followed me as his words gave me further hope. "Riley, she's going with or without you. And if you are sure about her being Harry's pet, there is no way I would leave her to her own down there to her own devices. At least she'll have us with her to protect her from harm."
I nearly skipped the rest of the way to the room. I was happy. And I wasn't in the least tired but I wasn't going to share that with the boys. Their voices muted as I went back into the bedroom. I didn't take off my boots but instead took a minute to peek outside. Blizzard "Jimmy" was definitely hitting the Detroit area with a passion. The somewhat-plowed road was no longer visible except in small scrapes here and there. Another six inches of snow had easily fallen in the last hour and the flakes were spinning sideways with the gusts of winds buffeting the house. The window was frosty from my breath and I had to swipe my palm over the fog in order to see. A slight movement to the left of the front yard caught my attention. It was a small figure hunched over against the strong wind and the heavy snow. I thought at first it was a child, but the movement was more purposeful and not in any way playful like a kid. Children tended to frolic and dance when they walked, even in a blizzard. This person was not a happy-go-lucky kid enjoying the weather, but was plodding along through the snow drifts with a bit of effort. The sidewalks were nearly unrecognizable as such and the only thing keeping the person anywhere remotely on the path of the sidewalks were the snow-laden abandoned cars and tall flocked bushes and trees that lined most properties and defined the street.
I was surprised when the person stopped at the end of the walkway to my front door. After the day I'd been having, I didn't know why it would strike me as shocking, because it pretty much fit in with the chaos currently running amok through my world. The person had a thick gray winter coat on that went nearly to the ground, and a yellow knitted scarf wrapped around the face, and a black and green striped knit cap with a bright red pom-pom topping it. Quite a bright display for such a dark wintery night, but there was no way to identify if the body were male or female with the winter clothing and the wrapped features. I certainly wasn't expecting any more visitors. The figure continued to trudge up the walkway and didn't glance at me or any direction other than the front door. Black leather gloves covered the person's hands and I could now see black jeans and thick boots.
Not hearing the doorbell, but from the sudden pulse of air I could feel in my room, I assumed they had knocked and either Gordon or Riley had opened the door. Curiosity nibbled at my nerves and I waited to see if either of them would summon me. Shaking my head at my own foolishness, I grabbed up my backpack as it dawned on me that there could be something wrong. I bolted for the living room not knowing what I would find.
I caught myself on the threshold of the living room, feeling completely brainless. The two werewolves were laughing in a manner I could only think as 'stupid-frat-boy' flirting. And the reason for their silliness was standing framed in the entry way, in a puddle of melting snow and discarded outerwear. I had to hand it to the girl -- she could strip damn fast. Her deep-throated laughter automatically caused me to rethink the 'girl' and called her 'woman' since she wasn't a young thing. Her eyes met mine and she sketched a naughty wink as if we were sharing some secret. My secret was I didn't like her immediately. From the stupidity of the two men they liked her quite a bit.
"This must be Esmeralda! Isn't she the cutest little thing?" The voice was throaty and purr-filled. Yeah, she was definitely not going to be on my list of women to know. Every nerve in my body was ringing and I wanted to disappear. She made me feel like I was three and interrupting the adults.
Riley said, "Yes." He said it with puppy-dog eagerness, not because of manners, I decided, since he didn't even turn to see me much less introduce me to the visitor to my place. I was starting to feel like I wasn't exactly in charge of anything -- go figure.
Ever the gentleman, Gordon casually turned towards me and with a gracious gesture, indicated me and turned to the woman saying, "Miss Esmeralda Meredith, allow me to introduce you to Star."
I waited for the rest of the name but apparently like Cher, Madonna, and other pop stars that was all she had. I nearly said, Poor baby, don't you know your daddy? but quickly shoved that idea inside the back of my head. She wasn't any more human than either of the fur-faces, and I couldn't see her sprouting hair and howling while running a rabbit down. My initial observation was that she was definitely not werewolf or vampire, so that made her something bad. I know that sounds really mean, but I didn't care for her.
"So you want to go down into the mines? Whatever is there really shouldn't be disturbed." She had yet to leave the doorstep which gave me false hope she might leave. Her words, on the other hand, pissed me off rather rapidly.
I decided to keep my mouth shut and wait to see what else was offered. Gordon, not one to let a question go unanswered, said, "She is determined. That is why I contacted you, Star. We need you to guard the doorway and make sure that we aren't disturbed while down in the mine. We're using the back door and it could be a quick trip if the first chamber has been compromised."
She nodded and said, "For you, I will guard the doorway. But I haven't heard of anyone going down there since the Gatekeeper sealed the way. Are you going to open the passage yourself, or did you call on one of the others?"
That spiked my curiosity, I had to admit. Gordon preened from the reply, and Riley puffed up like a cat trying to look bigger. Whatever she was, I could easily see she attracted werewolves like bears to honey. Then I saw her ears. They were slightly pointed. I didn't need to haul out Grimm's Fairy Tales, or any of the books I'd collected over the years with Uncle Harry's assistance, to recognize that she was a glamourized gal from the fey realm. Mentally I slapped my forehead. Of course, Gordon had to contact creatures that had something to do with the sealing of the mines, and there seemed to be definitely an otherly aura about her.
She smiled at me softly -- deliberately winking again. I wanted to slap her so hard that my hand itched with the thought. She had gall coming into my home, (granted only temporarily mine, but still I paid the bills) and acting like she was in charge.
Something of what I was feeling must have leaked out because Riley hissed, "What the hell is eating you, Esmeralda?"
Trying to keep a calm demeanor, I said through a slightly tight jaw, "Nothing at all. I see you two are in capable claws -- I mean hands -- so I will leave you to discuss."
And I spun on my heel and tried to walk slowly back to the bedroom. I felt the bile in my mouth as I bit back more words not to mention a few choice swear words. I was pretty sure I wouldn't be able to resist a comment or seven if I stayed with the drooling werewolves and the slutty fey woman. Okay, I didn't know for sure she was a slut, but from what I knew about fey, they really liked their carnal pleasures with willing -- or unwilling -- participants.
"Esmeralda, you should stay. Star is the one who will keep us from being ambushed. At least from outside intruders. She won't be able to help us inside the mines but can assist us if we are harmed." Gordon was trying to be reasonable while all but spewing drool over this creature.
Star said, "Esmeralda, you are just so cute."
Yeah, she'd already said that. I wondered if she had a limited vocabulary or was just trying to see if she could tick me off enough to get me to use my words. I noticed a light glow around her and automatically figured that it was her glamour. Part of me wondered what it would take to disrobe her of the magic. Then the smarter part of me dialed that way back. The flip side of fey wasn't anything I ever needed to see, especially when she was supposed to get my back if nasty creatures came at us and we had to flee. I think if I got her to reveal the 'true' her, she'd be more than ready to help anyone or any creature trying to slay us. She had that edge.
Jawline still clenched I said, "Why, thank you, Star. You all just keep chit-chatting and let me know when we leave. I'll be in my room."
And with that I clopped back down the hallway to the bedroom. They'd all let me go, so it seemed I didn't need to be with them. I resisted cringing by mere inches. I wasn't willing to fuel her anymore than I had to -- and with her along for the ride it seemed I'd have some major tests down the road. I closed the door decisively and chewed on my thumb. This was a twist in the trip, to say the least. Now Riley knew I could pop in and out of places and so did Gordon from his comments. I didn't want to risk her knowing about my talents.