Jonas’ heart throbbed clear and loud under his hand, each beat pounding into his chest with swift, methodical strikes. He tried to slow his breath, but even now his breathing came out hard and heavy. He leaned back against the cold stone wall, eyes darting around the small battlefield before him, watching for movement. He’d aimed for fatal blows, but it was hard to tell if each truly was in the heat of the fight.
Pain lanced through his body and he groaned in pain. While still on the winning side, he wasn’t untouchable. On one side, the pain was good. Kept him from getting too big a head. On the other… swords and claws really hurt. He pounded the ground with a fist to keep focused. The wounds wouldn’t heal themselves, and he wasn’t yet done here. His body protested as he stood, but he pushed the pangs away with a grunt.
Jonas never really got over the stench. Coagulating blood, emptied bowels, torn skin and organs split open were all commonplace after a fight. The wet stone under Jonas’ feet didn’t soak in any of the filth either, and in the enclosed space of the cave the smell only got worse.
He walked over to the leader of the squad. If there was any useful information on Greyemeid, it would be on that body.
The deceased squad leader was an amazon, a tall, imposing once-human woman infused with immense amounts of corruptive energy. She had muscles and stature one would only expect to see on bulky men and combat skill to back it up. Even without her five compatriots, a fight against her would’ve been brutal. Jonas paused and looked around the cave chamber. Had they ambushed him as planned, he would’ve been dead or captured for sure.
His hands worked under the amazon’s armor, checking for a pouch, a journal, even a scrap of paper. He grumbled to himself. Greyemeid would’ve been tickled by the knowledge he was forced to search one of her soldiers so thoroughly.
After a minute or two of searching, Jonas came up with nothing. The amazon was practically naked by now and nothing worthwhile would come of digging deeper. But Greyemeid always sent her soldiers off with something. Every time Jonas had uncovered one of her schemes or disrupted her machinations, there were always orders that lead him to the next. He could tell he was getting close to her this time, too. The fights had grown harder, the plots more complex, and the consequence of failure more gruesome. This particular group had almost certainly been sent with the express purpose of killing him.
And that meant the only way he was getting out of this alive was to stop her for good.
Jonas picked up the amazon’s sword. Well, tried to. He lifted the handle up a few feet before dropping the thing back down. A freakish weapon to suit a freakish woman. The sheath was larger than any he’d seen. His eyes focused on it and he frowned in thought. On a whim, he turned the sheath upside-down.
A piece of paper fell out.
He scrambled to pick it up, but elation quickly shifted to curiosity. It was intricately folded in the shape of a heart. He didn’t see the amazon’s bulky hands crafting something so delicate, but then again, he’d never seen a woman wield a sword as large as hers. Pausing, he took a moment to look around himself again. An odd itch burned on the back of his neck, but his curiosity overwhelmed it. Carefully, he unfolded the paper and read the writing on it:
My dear Jonas,
It seems once more you have met my expectations, and I cannot tell you how delighted I am. Helga was one of, if not my most capable soldier, yet you have dispatched even her. I so wish I could’ve witnessed your victory, but alas, I cannot be everywhere at once.
I wish to offer you an invitation. Just outside the town of Brenville, there is a fine manor. On the first full moon of spring, I will be there, waiting for you, but only for a night. I would be delighted if you would enjoy my company on that radiant eve. If you cannot, of course, I will not blame you.
But the citizens of Brenville might.
Jonas grimaced. Blackmail twisted into a love letter. How typical. He crumpled the letter, shoved it into his pocket, and forced himself to stand through the pain. The full moon was two days from now, and Brenville was at least a day’s ride. Jonas would have little time to prepare, if any. Not only that, but trying to find rest or supplies in Brenville would be out of the question with Greyemeid’s forces occupying it. Surely Greyemeid would have that manor swarming with personal guards as well. His best bet would be stealth, but that would mean infiltrating the manor without the heavy armor that had treated him so well for so long.
No matter which way he looked at it, Greyemeid had the overwhelming advantage. But she would be there. She would absolutely be there. And that might be all Jonas needed.
He looked down to find his hands shaking. A smile grew on his face. Leaving the brutal cave scene behind him, he headed to the exit.
He had a long road ahead of him, and it wasn’t going to travel itself.
His heart beat heavy but controlled in his chest. Each breath stayed slow and deep, his nostrils soaking in the chilled night air of the forest. Amidst the sea of chirping crickets, Jonas could make out the hoots of owls nearby and the rustling of leaves in the wind. From the town of Brenville, however, he heard nothing. Not even the orange specks of torches lit the streets. Jonas had yet to see a single one of Greyemeid’s soldiers. Ten feet in front of him, the cover of the forest ended and Jonas had a good two-hundred foot dash before he could hide in the shadows of the mansion. His gaze drifted up to the shimmering moon. Any other time, he’d be crazy to try to sneak around in this light.
Sticking to his stealth plan, Jonas wore only tight leather armor covering his vitals, a longsword and buckler on his back. Wearing it at his hip would only make running clumsier, and his preferred weapon, a spear, was simply too cumbersome.
Keeping low, Jonas moved to the very edge of the forest. He’d been watching for movement for at least an hour, yet no sign of life outside of the lights on the top floor of the mansion. Greyemeid had made it crystal clear where she wanted him. Jonas didn’t know how much time he had, whether Greyemeid would wait for him until dawn or if she’d grow impatient halfway through the night. With the information he had, all he could really do was more forward as carefully as possible. One last long, calming breath before he took a stance.
Stay low, stay quick.
A blur of a shadow, Jonas burst forward. His feet beat into the earth, quick and light, the whir of a sprint of need and urgency. The crunch of fresh grass beneath his feet threatened to draw attention. Dew soaked through his boots. Attentive eyes kept careful watch for reactions, anything from a tiny twitch to a brazen bellowing of alarm.
Jonas threw himself into the cover of the manor the moment he reached it, throwing his back into the wall and giving his body a moment to come back down from the heat of the run. Each heavy but quieted breath let off a bit of the burning from his lungs. His sword and buckler dug into his back. He checked both in front and behind him, then crept along the side of the manor.
Taking the front door was out of the question, but he had spotted a likely climbing spot near the back. The manor was not a plain, cylindrical tower, it was an extravagant home, one with outcroppings, asymmetry, and balconies. Opportunities.
Jonas smiled as he approached the place. His eyes had been true. Vines and uneven walls could get him to the a second story balcony and from there he could find a way to the third and final story. With one last survey of his surroundings, Jonas threw himself into the climb.
Compared to the cliff faces he’d faced before, a stone wall with a wealth of handholds was nothing. He was on the balcony in moments.
Staying low, he peeked inside the doors leading inward. No sign of movement. He took a step back. No one? At all? Making the town look empty, he’d expected. Greyemeid likely threatened the citizens’ lives to keep them indoors. But why make the manor look abandoned, too? A visible patrol could be used to incentivize Jonas to use routes Greyemeid wanted him to take, but to hide everyone? And where could they be?
A drop of sweat snuck into Jonas’s eye and he winced. Perhaps her strategy was to withhold all information as long as possible. Let doubt do the work. Put the burden on Jonas to execute his approach perfectly with the weight of uncertainty hanging on his back. He wiped his eye clear and blinked the sweat out. The plan still held. If he kept his wits, moved with caution, he could make it to her.
Then things would get difficult.
Jonas pushed on the door, light at first, expecting to find resistance, but it gave way without much urging. Had Greyemeid expected him to come this way, or was an unlocked door simple confidence? He slipped in and guided the door shut behind him. Doubt had had its moment, Jonas needed to leave it behind.
The corridors revealed no enemies. Nothing but darkness. He made out intricate wooden walls, finely polished and decorated with framed paintings and thick curtains. The finer details, however, were lost to him. The bright moonlight hadn’t given Jonas’ eyes the chance to adjust, so he was forced to go by what light the windows let in. Fortunate for Jonas, the thick carpet absorbed all sound of his movement.
In this mansion, he was a ghost.
It took little time for him to find the stairs to the top floor. Orange torchlight flickered off the walls ahead. He took the stairs slow. Not a single guard had yet to show their face, but Jonas expected that to change soon. In fact, as he followed the curve of the staircase upward, his ears caught a snort.
Closing his eyes, Jonas let go of all his senses but hearing. The whistling of wind through barely-cracked windows. The crackling of lit torches above. And breathing. Rough, but not labored. Two people. Depending on where they stood, they could be staring right down the staircase Jonas was headed up. Even if they weren’t, he would have to assume they were. From the sound of it, they weren’t far at all, just around the corner. Carefully, Jonas fetched his sword and buckler off his back. He’d have to be clean as well as quick. His legs tensed like springs ready to burst.
And burst they did.
Long strides swallowed up the remainder of the stairs in seconds. The guards came into view: two salamanders. Mere steps away. The first reacted sluggishly, her sword only half-drawn when Jonas’ own came down. Before her body even hit the floor, he was turning. Three steps to his target. Two gone before she had her guard up. Jonas planted his leading foot next to hers, brought up his buckler, shoved it straight through her defenses and into her face. While she reeled, his blade followed through.
A second thud, and his opponents were done. Jonas allowed himself a moment of relief to shake off the rush of adrenaline now coursing through his body. He got lucky with those two. Either they were tired from standing at their posts, or simply inattentive. Salamanders never should’ve been so easy to take down.
Before him stood a grand set of double-doors, their their polished grain glimmering in the torchlight. If the sound of those bodies hitting the floor didn’t announce his arrival, opening these doors certainly would. Steeling himself, Jonas slammed his shoulder into the door and burst inside.
“Louder than I expected. And with such raiment? You could’ve tried something more formal.”
This was not the first time that voice had mocked him. A few inches taller than Jonas, Greyemeid dominated the room with her mere existence. Glowing torchlight bounced off her light tan skin, showing off a silkiness interrupted only by tough, gleaming red scales that faded to black at the tip of her tail. Her distinctive posture exuded boldness backed up by a powerful but feminine stature. Those golden eyes pierced right into Jonas’ own with overwhelming authority. She took smooth, wide strides toward him, crossing half the width of the room in moments with her long hair following her in a soft, controlled waterfall of oak.
Shield and sword still raised, Jonas’ gaze scoured the room. They were alone. In fact, the room was completely empty but for a circular dining table in the center adorned with nothing less than a feast. Steam still rose from some of the dishes and the smell hit Jonas a moment later.
His stomach grumbled of its own accord.
“Why are you waiting there? Put your weapons down. Come, take a seat,” said Greyemeid as she continued towards Jonas, but the moment she passed the table he took a step back, keeping his sword and shield up.
“What are you doing? What is this?” he asked, still checking around the room. Surely there were guards he missed?
She crossed her arms beneath her breasts. “Still haven’t caught on? I expected the lack of guards would be enough. Though from the sounds of it and the blood on your blade, the unfortunate salamanders outside already paid for your poor appraisal of the situation.”
“Poor appraisal?” Had he truly missed something, or was Greyemeid trying to confuse him? Could it be something with the food? Or was she waiting until he relaxed to attack? Or… “This is a sham, isn’t it? The real fight is elsewhere, and you lured me away from it.”
A smirk answered him. “Ah, that response is so you. Let me make things a touch more clear: this is a date.”
Utter silence gripped the room. Greyemeid’s words bounced around Jonas’ head, over and over, taunting him in echoes. The sword almost slipped from his grip.
“A date. Not the edible sort, either.” She stepped aside and presented the table to him. “See? Two chairs, a hearty meal, and even…” Puffing her cheeks out, Greyemeid leaned over the table and spewed a controlled stream of fire over the two tall candles on the table. “Candlelight. I know you are more the traditional sort.”
“A date?” Jonas’ weapon had fallen to his side. “As in, a distraction, right?”
Greyemeid chuckled. It was quite a beautiful laugh, now that he had time to appreciate it. It came from her heart.
Jonas shook his head. “What is your real plan?”
“You’re absolutely adorable. But I can’t blame you for your distrust, so perhaps a different approach is called for.” Her clawed feet clicked against the tiled floor as she walked to the far side of the table and sat down. Then, with a devious smile and a crooked finger, she invited Jonas over. “Sit down and I might tell you.”
So this was a, uh, negotiation of sorts? Jonas walked over to the table, but before he could sit, Greyemeid tutted at him.
“No weapons at the table.”
Jonas looked down at the sword and shield still in hand. Oh… kay? He shrugged and tossed them aside, then sat down.
“I… why are we not fighting?” asked Jonas.
“The intent is to save our energy for a more horizontal sort of wrestling later. Besides, who in their right mind starts their first date with a fight?”
Her wholesome laughter rang through his ears again, warm and full. He adjusted himself in his chair.
“Oh, Jonas, even if we can’t get past this point the entire night, I will have thoroughly enjoyed myself.”
“I didn’t come here to entertain you.”
“You might have fooled me.” She reached over and picked up the largest plate on the table. A fat, crispy, brown turkey sat atop it, steaming and gushing out the most savory smell. “Turkey? I prepared it myself, just like everything else before you.”
“I, guess?” His stomach growled again. He had to rush to get here, and the toil of all the preparation for this in was rearing its ugly head. “It does, uh, look good.”
“Wonderful. Let me cut it for you.” Her large claws handled the fork and knife with delicacy unbefitting such appendages. Jonas cocked his head, watching in silence as Greyemeid cut his serving, placed it on his plate, then did the same for herself.
He couldn’t help but notice her portion was much larger.
“Don’t restrain yourself, dear. It’s all for you to eat,” said Greyemeid.
Jonas scoped out the rest of the spread. She’d made everything, from whole grain sourdough to lamb dripping with juices to soft red cabbage and glistening fresh strawberries. Some of the dishes Jonas didn’t even recognize, but not a one smelled less than delicious. He settled on the strawberries, plucking them off one by one to drop on his plate, but stopped halfway through and looked over to Greyemeid.
She’d been watching him, head rested in a claw, smiling that sly smile.
“This is all poisoned, isn’t it,” he said.
“Eventually you will come to understand that this is, indeed, a date, and no, it isn’t poisoned.” She reached in, making sure to run her claw over Jonas’ arm as she snatched a strawberry off his plate and popped it in her mouth. Gaping, he watched her jaw move in slow, rhythmic circles and her lips, red as her scales, mush together with each bite, pursed like they yearned be planted on something. Greyemeid swallowed loud and deliberately, eyes on Jonas every moment. Her tongue came out to finish it off, rolling over her lips twice before sneaking back into her mouth. “It’s delicious,” she said.
He kept his eyes on the meal, hunting out the dishes that stirred his hunger the most, sampling at least a few bites from each before he was finished assembling his plate. Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw Greyemeid’s own arms moving about, doing the same. He adjusted himself again, hunched over and took his first bite.
He let out a long sigh, chewing in slow motion, each mashing of turkey exploding another round of wondrous flavor in his mouth. This dinner could last forever.
“I’m glad you enjoy it.”
Jonas straightened up in his chair, remembering he wasn’t alone with the food. “Yes, it is,” he said. Couldn’t forget his manners.
“You’ve been silent so far and I have many questions for you. Tell me how you came to be a soldier.” With that, she tore into a sizeable chunk of her turkey and looked at Jonas, waiting.
“Well, I’m not really a soldier. I mean, I’m not part of anyone’s army. Closer to a mercenary, really. I started out as a city guard for a city pretty far south of here. Did the rounds for a little while and it was alright. It was alright, but the more I saw, the more I realized that guard duty wore you down and lead nowhere. So I started wandering, training, picking up odd jobs. Led me to where I am today.”
“Are you happy with it?” said Greyemeid.
“Yes, I am. I’m most proud of my part in stopping your raid on the farming villages of Joulin.” He leaned in and pointed at her. “You were going to massacre hundreds of farmers and drive the rest off their land.”
“Food is a valuable resource, especially in these times.” She took a large bite of her turkey to accentuate her point.
“Farmers can’t fight! Can you really justify slaughtering hundreds of innocents just for some food?”
“Yes.” Greyemeid set her turkey down. “Why don’t you tell me about Joulin, anyways? I only know my side of that story. How did you come to join Joulin’s army?”
“Joulin is a small country. They can’t afford to maintain a large standing army, so—”
“I know that, it’s one of the reasons why I targeted them.”
Jonas glared at her. “Their small army meant when a larger one was needed, they had to hire a lot of outside help. I was glad to give it to them.”
“But how did they know my attack was coming? My force was small and they moved quickly and quietly. I made sure every scout that came across us died, some personally. There should have been no resistance.”
Jonas pointed to himself. “I’d been tracking you ever since the usurpation attempt at Keian. A combination of the clues I’d picked up over the months with the unexplained disappearance of a few scouts led me to a likely conclusion.”
“The days I still underestimated you,” she said, eyes hazy as they laid on Jonas heavy enough he swore he could feel caress him. “You know, it may sound a degree dubious, but I was not the instigator in Keian. I found it interesting and helped it along a bit, but the involved parties were too, hmm, volatile to try to manipulate.”
“I’m certain.” Jonas’ reply hit the air like a bellyflop. “Is this some sort of interrogation? Are you trying to learn how to keep me from interfering again? Because I will tell you, I’m not foolish enough to give such vital information away and I’d be insulted if you thought I was.”
Greyemeid waved him off. “It’s conversation, nothing else. Surely you’ve made conversation before?”
“Not with with my mortal enemy.”
Leaning back in her chair, Greyemeid sighed at the ceiling. “I wish you would not use such words. ‘Nemesis’ is leagues better. ‘Archrival’ I would settle for as well. ‘Other half’ if you’re feeling generous.”
“You are not my wife,” spat Jonas.
“You fight with me like I might be.” She grabbed a chunk of bread and took a bite. “Where did you go after the Battle of Ferryguard? You managed to cut down a division of a hundred of my soldiers using the pass they were supposed to use to cut off the reinforcements. I was most distraught being forced to retreat there, but I didn’t hear a word of you for several months after.”
“I had only ten men with me, two of which weren’t any real sort of fighters. We managed to hold off your division because the path they took was so narrow, but I didn’t get out without severe injuries. I was recovering.”
“Only ten? I heard it was closer to fifty.”
“You don’t think those soldiers of yours that ran from that fight had reason to embellish a bit?”
She tapped her cheek, thinking a moment before looking at Jonas and grinning. “You’re more wonderful than I thought.”
Jonas’ face grew hot faster than he could hide it. “I did what I needed to. And I wouldn’t have needed to if you didn’t attack Ferryguard!”
“It was an important station. Even though I didn’t take it, the commotion drew enough attention away from the river crossing north to allow my Lord’s army’s passage there.”
“At least a thousand soldiers died at Ferryguard.”
“And I lost twice that. It is an awful sort of competition to win.”
Jonas crossed his arms and scowled at Greyemeid. “Alright, if you’ve got so many questions for me, I’m going to ask you something too.”
“Please,” she said, eyes lighting up.
“What was the purpose of the infiltration at Gome? It was deep in human territory, no sort of strategic location, and was incredibly far from any of the fighting going on at the time. But apparently it was important enough for you to go personally?”
Greyemeid’s smile grew and Jonas swore he could’ve seen some red on her cheeks. “I was curious about something. Personal.”
“What could be worth that sort of risk? I almost defeated you for good there.”
“That was the second time we met face-to-face, wasn’t it?” said Greyemeid.
“I suppose it was. The first time wasn’t much of a fight, though. You fled too quickly. But you didn’t answer the question.”
“I wanted to know if you would come after me instead of continuing to fight on the front lines.”
It took Jonas several moments to come up with an answer. “Of course I would! You’re the most important individual in the war! Well, I guess the Demon Lord might be, but she was way out of reach.”
Greyemeid’s face glazed over again. “You may be the first person to ever fail to underestimate me.”
“That’s got to be an exaggeration. All th—Demon schemes!”
Something had grabbed Jonas’ leg, making him yelp and push away from the table. He was on his feet and ready to fight in an instant. When he looked down, however, all he saw was a mischievous tail tip waving at him.
“Is this a joke to you!?” he said.
“It’s a date, Jonas. It’s supposed to be lighthearted, but I think all this sitting still has made you a touch jumpy.” Greyemeid stood up herself and walked around the table toward Jonas. He took a step back, eyeing his discarded sword on the ground and almost made a jump for it when Greyemeid reached out.
But it turned out she wasn’t reaching at all. She was offering her arm.
Jonas stared at her arm, mouth hanging slightly open, a hundred thoughts running through his head.
“Have you never led a lady on a walk before?” she asked.
“I, well, of course I have.” He’d been taught how to be a gentlemen. “I was just thinking that this was about the part where we were going to fight. Like, you’d try to burn me to a crisp and I’d try to stab you with my sword.”
“You are certainly welcome to stab me with your sword, just not that one lying on the ground.”
A flush of heat ran through Jonas’ body.
“Come, you’re far too nervous. Let’s go for a walk around the manor,” said Greyemeid.
She took Jonas’ hand and guided it toward the loop of her arm, but he yanked his hand away and finished the deed himself. He wiped his brow and looked up to Greyemeid.
She was so much taller than she looked. Though, Jonas was never the tallest one in the room. Her scales were warm to the touch, not the chill Jonas expected, and she walked with grace even with rough claws on a smooth surface.
What was he thinking? This was the Demon Lord’s top general and one of her greatest fighters! He should be looking for a weakness, a moment when her guard was down so he could strike.
“Watch your step,” he said as they approached the stairs.
“Thank you,” said Greyemeid.
Why was he so cordial with her anyways? This entire night was all wrong. All during that meal he could’ve been trying to get some strategic information out of her, maybe found one of her personal weaknesses, or even snuck poison of his own onto her food.
Then again, it wasn’t like he was dooming the human race by simply being polite to her. She never made a move to strike him, he was just returning the favor. For now. Things could always change, and it wasn’t like the next time they met they wouldn’t be fighting. Tonight he would stay vigilant. Keep her from catching him with his pants down. Though it seemed like that’s exactly what she wanted.
He liked it much more when things were simple.
“Do you know who the artist for this painting is?” said Greyemeid.
“Huh?” Jonas looked to the wall where Greyemeid’s attention was. It was one of the paintings Jonas had passed on his way in, though he never bothered to see what it was. It showed skill, certainly, but beyond a calm portrayal of an open sky, Jonas saw nothing more. “I don’t know much about painters.”
“I confess the same. However, as my soldiers were escorting the lord of this manor out, he begged that I be kind to this painting in particular. He said his son had painted it.”
“I, uh, I’d say his son’s pretty good,” said Jonas. He gave the painting another look, but it didn’t help him find anything special about it.
“It made me think a moment. The man’s being taken from his home, not knowing if he’ll see it or anything in it again, yet the only thing he’s worried about is this one decent painting. It might be the relationships we establish are far more important than any other material possessions or attachments we may have.” Those golden eyes bore right into Jonas’, the hint of a smile on Greyemeid’s face.
At the verge of lulling into a trance, Jonas tore his eyes away. The woman was as blunt as a hammer.
The two walked through more of the manor, mostly in silence, with Jonas’ gaze unable to settle on one thing for more than a moment. Each time he looked up to Greyemeid, her chin was up and her eyes were forward, walking as if nothing could touch her. After minutes of silence, her wing cupped Jonas’ far shoulder, pulling him closer. He considered slapping it away, but saw no point in it. Greyemeid had already made her intention known and from the silence, she recognized that Jonas understood.
The real question was, then, what to do about it.
Eventually, Jonas lead them to the entry hall, a grand room with a ceiling fifteen feet high and a crystal fixture hanging down that bounced the light from the torches along every surface. Before the front doors he stopped, his feet digging into the patterned carpet beneath.
“I am not sure what sort of malignancy has taken hold of you, Greyemeid, but it seems for better or worse you’ve developed some kind of… affection towards me,” said Jonas.
“Has it been so obvious? I was trying the subtle approach.”
“If that’s true, I’m worried what the direct approach was.”
“It involved much less clothing.”
Of course. Rolling his eyes, Jonas got back on track. “This may not come as a surprise to you, but I just can’t see any way in which I can accept such an offer from the general of my enemy’s forces. Unless you plan on defecting.”
“You should know me well enough to at least know the answer to that.”
He shrugged. “Then I don’t know why you invited me out here in the first place. Unless you were going to ask the same of me.”
“I wouldn’t insult you so. Besides, you’re so much more interesting as an opponent,” said Greyemeid.
“War isn’t a game.”
“I never considered it one.”
Jonas threw his hands up in confusion. “Then why do you talk like it is?”
“‘That’,” she said, pointing out the front door, “is not. ‘This’”—she pointed between them—“is.”
“I’m not en—” Jonas cut himself off. That statement wouldn’t be entirely true.
“Not what?” asked Greyemeid, smirking.
“Just stop this. You’re confusing me. And wasting our time. As long as you’re leading monster armies against humans, this thing can’t be. It was crazy to think it could.”
“I expected as much. But I might have a touch of insanity and, as you know,” she said, leaning in, “I am extraordinarily persistent.”
As she pressed in closer, Jonas felt his face heating up again, but his feet too stubborn to step backward. He met her eyes this time, unwilling to give in, the heat rising faster and faster to the point he feared he might explode.
Those rosy lips planted themselves firmly on Jonas’s cheek and for one second, the world stood still.
Too soon, the moment ended. Greyemeid began walking toward the door, looking over her shoulder at Jonas. “It’s been so long since I’ve had a nice swim to unwind. I think I might indulge myself someplace homely. Until next time, dear!” The huge front doors yielded with a single push, her wings spread in a glorious display of maroon and black, and she launched upward.
Jonas half-waved until she was gone. The part about a swim would be some sort of hint about where and when he could find her next, but his mind could hardly focus on what it might be.
‘Next time’, huh. Yeah, there’d be a next time. And a more than a small part of him was excited for it.