Not His Plans
Apollo Ulfr saw the dancing lights against his closed eyelids before he felt the presence in the room.
He rolled out of the bed, grabbing the knife from underneath his pillow as he did so. Crouching by the bed, scanning the room even as his eyes became accustomed to the dark, suddenly he felt it and knew it was her.
Annoyed, seeing as it was the dead of night, he was naked, had not long before sent the Beniessienne whore to her own bed and he’d already told the witch his plans (and these were not the plans he’d shared with her, hence the whore who had left), and last, he was in Fleuridia to collect his children from boarding school so he could put them in a safe place before darkness settled on the land, he straightened, doing so speaking.
“Witch, I told you the time and place you were to bring her to me and this is not—”
She interrupted him, her voice, as usual, wry but there was an underlying urgency to it that made his skin prickle.
“If you want to meet the Ilsa of my world, I suggest you change your plans.”
Through the dark, Apollo narrowed his eyes on her slim shadow.
“And this means…?” he prompted when she said no more.
“This means, the Apollo of my world has found her.”
When last they spoke, she’d explained what that meant.
The Apollo Ulfr of the other world, his twin, was not a good man.
And he’d harmed Ilsa. Because of this, she was evading him.
Now his twin had found her.
Gods damn it. He’d waited bloody years to have his wife back. He wasn’t going to let the other bloody him in a parallel universe take her away.
Without delay, Apollo bent to collect his clothes from the floor, commanding, “You’ll take me to her.”
“Is that a question?” she asked in reply.
Yanking up his breeches, he cut his gaze to her shadow. “No, it’s bloody not.”
Thankfully, the maddening witch, who could be sly and perverse, instantly lifted her elegant hands with her long, slim fingers tipped in scarlet-painted nails and he saw the green mist start to light the room.
“Bring your weapons,” she warned.
“Of course,” he murmured, having yanked on his shirt, he pulled on his boots and moved quickly to the chair where he’d thrown his cape and saber.
“All of them, Apollo,” she went on.
He didn’t respond.
He swung his cape around, quickly buckling it on its slant across his chest. He did the same with the scabbard that held his saber. He donned his knife belt, shoved his blade into the sheath and moved to the wardrobe. Bending low, he pulled the knives out of the box at the bottom and shoved them in his boots, one on each side.
The green mist had encompassed the room and he and the witch were both fading by the time he moved to her.
Although he didn’t fall, he felt the ground give way beneath his feet and all faded to black.
When he felt solid beneath him again and their environs came into sharp focus, at what Apollo saw, his blood coursed scalding through his veins, he opened his mouth, and he roared.
Tenderness and Pain
Five minutes earlier…
I ran up the steps as fast as I could, one of my hands carrying my keys (always ready, always), the other hand in my purse, digging into the side pocket where I kept my phone.
The ass**le had found me.
Three years on the run and he’d found me.
Oh well. Fuck it. I’d planned for this.
It was go time.
I made it to the shabby landing where my apartment was located and sprinted down the hall, my breath coming fast, my heart beating hard, my skin cold. But my head was clear.
I’d been preparing for this.
He wasn’t going to get me again.
Quickly, I shoved my key into the lock and turned. Repeat with the deadbolt. I opened the door, dashed inside and slammed it shut.
It was a crap door. But not crap locks since I’d sweet-talked my creepy, ogling landlord with a lot of batting of lashes and broken promises to give me a significant upgrade.
Now I was counting on those good locks to give me time.
My apartment was not in a great area of town, as most of them weren’t these last three years. Cheap and not my style.
I liked nice things. I was a label whore. I wanted a good life.
It was a flaw in my nature that cost me a lot.
In other words, everything.
Also, my apartments were chosen so the landlords wouldn’t blink when I jumped the lease seeing as they probably lost tenants regularly for a variety of shitty life reasons that the people who were forced to live in these shitty places always had.
Then again, this apartment was rented like all my apartments were, on a fake ID. So even if a landlord wanted to find me after I jumped the lease three, six, nine months early, he wouldn’t know who to look for.
I turned the lock, threw the deadbolt home and engaged the chain.
Then I ran to my bedroom. Having pulled out my phone, my thumb moved over the screen to hit a contact I had programmed in as A-ICE so it was top of the heap.
I made it to my bedroom as I hit go on the phone.
Three years ago, I’d never phone the police. Pol had taught me not to do that.
For the three years I’d been on the run, I didn’t get them involved either since I’d learned that lesson well.
Now, I’d need them to clean up the mess (maybe).
I made it to the safe in my closet before I heard, “Nine one one, what’s your emergency?”
“My husband—” I started, jabbing the first two digits of the code into the keypad on the safe but hitting the third wrong when I jumped because I heard a loud thump on my front door.
I shook my head and closed my eyes hard.
Focus, Ilsa. Focus. I told myself, opening my eyes and clearing the code on the safe.
“Ma’am?” the 911 operator called. “Your emergency?”
“My husband found me,” I told her, hitting the correct digits and the release button and gratefully hearing the whirs of the door opening on the safe. “His name is Pol Ulfr. Apollo Ulfr. He’s a drug dealer in Portland, Oregon. He’s abusive and I’ve been running from him for three years. Now he’s caught me. I’m in apartment 3D at twenty-six, sixty-one Rampart Street.”
I heard another thud on the door.
Therefore I added, “And he’s right outside my door.”
I reached into the safe and wrapped my hand around the grip as I kept speaking.