The stranger's eyes had returned to their illuminated state, but the hint of fury that I'd noticed before was gone for now. I was pretty certain that this creature was a god of some flavor but he was too slick and pretty for me. A thought that I wasn't apparently able to keep from his probing mind. Sam had trained me to go unnoticed and look naïve when I actually was studying a monster or figuring out my escape plan. Those lessons were worthless with this man. He seemed to truly read my thoughts and anticipate most of what I was about to do. I had quickened his observational skills by showing off, and for that I cursed myself out in my mind. From the wincing expression that flickered across his gorgeous features, he wasn't a fan of swearing. Tough shit for him because I wasn't talking aloud but simply venting in my thoughts, so anything he heard was on him not me.
Rumbling slightly, he sat higher in his chair and regarded me with a rather pinched expression. I wasn't what he'd expected obviously, but that wasn't my fault. I hadn't tried to pretend to be anyone but me around him, in the dream state or in the cavern were we currently were talking. Or I should say he was talking and I was simply trying not to be too snotty. Jeff the cat, had curled into a tight small ball and was back to cat slumbering, near as I could see. My hand itched to return to petting him but instead I watched the creature. My skin was tingling with static electricity, so I figured that he was building up his resources to do something in the magical realm. Off-handedly I wondered what he expected me to call him. So far 'hoodie boy' was the only thing that popped into my mind but watching his quickly hidden cringe, I gathered that was another thought best to be kept to myself.
"I rather think Sire or Lord would be appropriate," he began before meeting my eyes and noticing my bored expression and lightly arched eyebrow. Neither of those words would pass my lips in this lifetime.
"Or Edwin, if you must." He sounded put out, but I was simply thankful that it was a pronounceable name.
Spitefully I smirked up at him and said, "Okay, Eddie it is."
He rolled his eyes and bit back some words. The power he was pulling out of nowhere-yet-everywhere was growing, but a bit trickled off after hearing me call him Eddie. Not a creature for nicknames, it appeared, but I didn't much care.
"Yes, Delilah, I am called Edwin." He didn't quite snarl but it was damn close.
There wasn't a chance in hell I'd ever call him Edwin now that he corrected me, if for no other reason than to be contrary. I was quickly coming to the conclusion that I'd been pulled towards him and his mysteries, and my chancing on him wasn't in the least a mistake. Jeff probably was one of Eddie's cat minions. More and more of what I'd seen was filtering through my thoughts, and I was quickly stacking up the tidbits and drawing my own conclusions.
"How do you do that?" He was really sounding upset about something he'd eavesdropped on inside my thoughts, but since they were darting around like a drunken hummingbird, I didn't offer a reply. I wasn't sure what exactly he'd been latching onto in my brain.
He grunted then said, "You have this nasty habit, I've noticed, of taking a nibble of information and launching forth a tremendous amount of facts that haven't been spoken."
I expected him to stomp his foot in aggravation, but his feet were flat on the ground, unmoving. It certainly wasn't my fault I was a quick study. I guess back in his world folks were a tad slower on the uptake. Probably was why they were all in such a muddled mess.
"That is what I mean!" He gestured to me with a nearly regal wave. I felt like giggling but resisted out of self-preservation if nothing else. Old Eddie wasn't tightly wrapped anymore, if he'd ever been. This time he did snarl.
"You have no idea what's expected of us. We are seen as the answer to any and all prayers, offerings and sacrifices! It is a tremendous amount of pressure." He was rocking softly in his seat while his eyes blazed with fury.
Yeah, he was spinning like a top, skipping and jumping now if only in his mind. No wonder it took forever for the symposium of gods and goddesses to make a decision if they were all like Eddie. I could feel the energy crackling in the cavern and wondered if he would actually explode.
He jerked up from the chair and spit out, "No, I will not explode."
It sure sounded more like he was reassuring himself rather than me. I nodded as if I bought his declaration hook, line and sinker. Jeff murmured something in cat talk beneath his breath that sounded pretty damned mocking to my ears, and from the blaze of fury that darkened Eddie's sea foam-colored eyes I was pretty sure that he caught it too.
Eddie drew himself up fully and the air that surrounded him actually was crackling ominously. The cat's fur was standing up on end in clumps so Jeff wasn't fully fluffed up but damn close. Jeff's ears had flattened slightly and I kept very still while the god creature basically postured dramatically. He really was seeking some reaction other than my calm face and Jeff's cat puss. Admittedly it was a fairly impressive display and had I been a vanilla human I probably would have been terrified. I wasn't.
"Fine, you aren't easily frightened. That will come in handy with your task." Again he was assuming I would simply follow his plans. I wasn't sure how he thought I could even find the trolls and their companions. From watching their lives unfold it was clear that all of them had their own set of skills -- magical and physical. I didn't think that those talents were dormant on earth, from the various creatures I'd personally seen walking among us. (And had defeated.) These monsters knew how to go undetected by the humans or masked their features to keep the villagers from bringing out the pitch forks and torches.
"You are quite correct, Delilah. They have grown more knowledgeable about all of their gifts and skills. They have actually trained each other in developing their strengths and spell-casting abilities." He sounded more than a bit concerned and that worried me.
I know my mouth gaped open at the idea of magically enhanced trolls. They were bad enough with their rudimentary spells while those girls had proven to be deadly. I bit back a sigh as I shut my mouth.
Eddie laughed and said, "I am not leaving you to find them on your own."
The flash of fury had left his eyes and instead they twinkled disarmingly with amusement. Somehow without asking I knew perfectly well I was not going to be in the least amused. The creature was again charging the air with a nearly suffocating amount of energy. Then he said, "I'll be with you."
My eyes widened at the notion of walking around downtown USA with a glowing god figure. That would be noticed in any place other than Las Vegas or Manhattan. He laughed loudly and said, "I won't be in this form."
The pit of my stomach knotted. I quickly made a leap and looked at Jeff.
"In a way," he acknowledged my glance. The air grew muggy and heavy with power. I felt myself sway and Jeff started growling softly. With a hiss he arched his back and flew off the bed. It didn't matter to Eddie -- he simply swiveled to follow the feline, and I saw an arc of blue-silver energy flow from Eddie's outstretched fingers and burrow right into the fleeing cat. The cat stopped frozen mid-air and simply crumpled to the ground. I found my hands drawn into fists and resisted seeing how my hunter power would work in this otherly place. The sides of the cat were moving so Eddie hadn't killed it outright.
I looked at Eddie with dead eyes. I didn't want to beg information or give him any sort of satisfaction with my visceral reaction to his magic and choice of subjects. Damn it, Jeff was my cat -- sort of -- I thought while still stunned at the dissipating energy. It was then I saw that Eddie wasn't glowing as brightly. In fact he appeared diminished and nearly mortal. Jeff stood up slowly and wobbled, before meowing pathetically.
Eddie was also swaying synchronized with Jeff's form. Another synapse fired in my brain and I said, "You are split between forms!"
Hissing at me, Eddie turned and said, "More than that. Your damned cat is fighting me claw and fang for his form."
Keeping my fingernails firmly embedded in my palms, I watched the two battle for the feline form. The cat's head dropped and a sigh escaped, then Jeff's face lifted and I saw that the eyes were now identical to Eddie's in coloring, and there was a superior glance and posturing that the small cat didn't have earlier. I grunted wordlessly my disgust at the hostile takeover of Jeff.
To my surprise Eddie spoke from the mortal form, not the cat's. "I am only an observer in this form. I have to change in order to speak with you or anyone else."
Slowly I said, "What good will that do me? I can't precisely come running back here if I have a question, now can I?"
Okay, a little snarky on my delivery but I was pissed. I'd grown attached to the furry little beast even while I'd pretty much realized that the cat had been destined to be mixed up in my mess.
"You misunderstand. Jeff is still here to perform cat behaviors, but I am joined in his form. When I need to speak with you I must do this." And with that, Jeff shimmered and became a human-appearing form of Eddie, but with none of the god-vibes of his dual form. To my dismay, Eddie as a man was stark naked. And I had been correct in my earlier observations about Eddie having a wickedly hot body. I blushed lightly and said, "That'll impress the locals."
I didn't spell out what I was referring to, because I was pretty much talking the whole package -- no pun intended. Eddie tilted the cat-human head and glanced down cursing softly. A flicker of power shot across from the god body to the cat body, and Eddie was clothed in blue jeans, boots and a rather tight black t-shirt. He'd still turn heads but wouldn't end up flying around the internet as the peek of the week.
"Obviously I need to work this out before we go out to find the four." He seemed to actually be surprised he'd been nude. I guess that Jeff, the cat, had not been as easy to push aside as Eddie had figured. I pressed my lips tight to keep from breaking out laughing. He threw me a dark glance and flipped back to the cat form, and the energy shot back to the Eddie near me. Thankfully I wasn't in between the charge, because I didn't want Eddie anywhere near my core.
"You think?" I said, slightly disturbed by the whole thing.
That royally superior look shaded his face as he regarded me from his god form. I was also somewhat queasy at the idea that those on the symposium had used creatures for their own ends.
"How do you think all those lovely maidens of old ending up birthing our offspring?" There was a notion I didn't want to explore too deeply, but it rang true.