"What do you mean she's going to kill you? I thought you were the most powerful being this side of the Quaterjarnexal Complex?" I pitched my voice low to mimic his. It was pissy. I know, but I was trying not to think about the ex-girlfriend thing, and I was hungry. It had been most of a day and three countries since my half-eaten sandwich.
"Don't you think it's odd that your sister happened to end up working with Angelica?" He spat out her name like it left a bad taste in his mouth. "The prophetess sees you standing against the one killing the doorkeepers, and suddenly a powerful monster decides to model for your identical twin."
I relaxed my angry stance a bit while I thought about that. When he said it that way, it did seem odd- odd and a little scary. The thought of someone targeting Ashley made me fiercely protective. I was the big sister after all. I was so caught in my own thoughts, I missed Ax stepping closer until I felt his breath on my face. Heat radiated off his body.
"And Rebecca," he said letting his lips brush the shell of my ear. "I am an incredibly powerful being."
He turned and stalked off still dangling Ashley over his shoulder like a limp sack. I stumbled forward, caught myself and took off after them. The sidewalks were a sea of commuters in dark suits moving single-mindedly towards the Metro station. No one was paying any attention to the man-shaped dragon trailing wisps of smoke and carrying an unconscious woman over his shoulder. I had to push my way through the masses of commuters to keep up with them.
Tantalizing food scents wafted from street food vendors, and my stomach growled. I wasn't sure if it was breakfast or dinner. I looked longingly at the people standing at counters eating bowls of rice and vegetables with chopsticks as I rushed past them. Ax must have assumed I'd follow him because he was carrying my sister. He wasn't bothering to drag me by the hand anymore. The protective mate thing must be wearing off. At least it wasn't hard to see them. He towered over most of the crowd.
"Wait, wait! Where are we going?" I puffed catching up to Ax and Ashley. He'd stopped in front of a concrete and glass skyscraper. I stepped out of the stream of people to meet them.
"Why are we stopping here?"
"There is someone I need to talk to , and I need a safe place to put her. Somewhere safe but out of our way." He jostled Ashley, and she moaned softly.
"Oh for Pete's sake, Ashley, wake up." I grabbed my sister and helped Ax set her on her feet. He held her upright while I lifted her head and pushed the tousled curls out of her face. "Come on Ash, time to wake up."
"What?' Her eyes fluttered open. "Where am I?" She saw Ax and instantly snapped awake. "You," she said stabbing a finger at him. "You set us on fire." She patted her hair and eyebrows checking to make sure everything was still there.
"It's okay, Ash." I put myself between them, but she continued to glare over my shoulder at him. "You're okay we're in Tokyo."
"Tokyo? The one in Japan? How did we..." Her voice trailed off. "Never mind, don't tell me. I don't want to know."
"I have a condo here. You can freshen up." Ashley touched under her eyes, I think imagining what the remnants of her make-up must look like. My normally polished sister was a raccoon-eyed mess. I felt a little bad for taking pleasure in that, but it was her fault she'd freaked out and fainted.
Ax ushered us through the revolving glass door and into the building. he pushed the down button for the elevator, watching Ashley closely for signs of hysteria. when the polished chrome doors slid closed, he turned his attention to me and stepped in close. His hand moved to the small of my back radiating warmth through the thin cloth of my shirt.
Standing this close to him was making it hard to think. I took a step back and bumped into the wall of the elevator. "I thought you didn't go out much. Why do you have a condo in Tokyo?"
"I don't go out much," he said. "But I do go out. Japan is an important place for dragons. I find it easier to keep a den here than to find a suitable place to stay when I visit."
The doors opened to an entryway that looked like it had been chiseled out of the bedrock. The soft lights and rich oak doors were at odds with the glass and chrome of the rest of the building. Ax took a key from his pocket and unlocked the door. "After you."
He motioned us inside, and Ashley rushed off to find a mirror. I stood inside the cool dark room and looked around as much as the dim light would permit. A huge tatami platform bed sat in the center of the room, and the walls were lined with bookshelves. A doorway to a long hall was tucked between the bookcases. I could hear Ashley banging around and muttering to herself in a room off the hallway.
Ax stepped in close behind me, the heat from his body toasting my back. It was like warming myself in front of a campfire. His hands closed gently over my upper arms. When I moved to step away, they tightened squeezing in and holding me in place. I started to protest, but the words caught in my throat as he bent to nip at the tender skin under my ear.
Holding only my arms in his strong hands, he pulled me back against the hard, hot length of his body. His tongue played along my neck, and the part of my brain that hadn't melted decided it didn't care if he was a dragon. I was also sure now that he had male parts because they were pressing against my butt.
"I have to go out for a while." His breath was hot against my ear, and the low rumble of his voice set off tremors deep in my body. "Make yourself at home. I won't be gone long."
"What? Wait. What?" My brain stopped its slow melt stuttering over the herd of unanswered questions stampeding in my head. I squirmed out of his grip and picked one to start with. "What do you mean you're going out? Going where? Don't you need me to come along and use that hummer thing?"
"Something about the killer's mist is familiar. I have an old friend who might know what it is." He held up his hand to stop me before I could interrupt. "I can't take you and your sister with me. Nushi gave up eating the flesh of young woman centuries ago, but it's better not to tempt him."
I gave an involuntary shudder. It was too easy to forget the handsome man in front of me was one of the monsters. "What am I supposed to do while you're gone?"
"Rest, relax, make yourself at home. This will be your home soon, mate. One of them anyway. Stay inside; you'll be safe here."
He turned and left me standing with my mouth hanging open.
Mate. Holy crap.
I shook myself and went to find Ashley.
She was soaking neck-deep in an enormous stone tub filled with lavender scented bubbles. I guess it was important for dragons to stay calm.
"What are you doing Ash?"
She arched an expertly groomed brow. "I'm taking a bath." She said it slowly like she was speaking to a child.
"I can see that. Why are you taking a bath?" Ashley had gone from delicate flower to smart ass. She'd learned monsters were real and travelled by fire. Leave it to my sister to cope by soaking in a tub.
"I felt singed. Mmmm, it's not as good as a massage with Sven, but at least Mr. Hottie has a decent bathroom. Speaking of which, he sure is a step up from the newt boy. What was his name? Doug? Deck?"
"Dex. His name is Dex, and you know I hate it when you call him newt boy."
"Whatever. No one is going to cal Mr. McSteamy a boy."
She was right about that. Ax was definitely all man. Except he wasn't a man, he was a dragon. It was too easy to forget that. Every time I started to think of him as a man, he'd do or say something to remind me he was a monster. He had friends who used to eat women. My stomach pick that moment to growl.
"Ax went out. I'm going to go look for something to eat. Maybe there is some popcorn or rice in the kitchen. Do you want something?"
"Carbs? god no." Ashley leaned her head back against the tub and closed her eyes.
There was no kitchen. I looked behind every door. I found a room filled floor to ceiling with locked drawers. There was a guest room, and an opulent master bedroom with a bed big enough to hold an orgy or a dragon. I wasn't going to spend any more time thinking about that one. There was no food in the entire apartment. I sat on the tatami mat willing my stomach to be quiet.
"I thought you were fixing something to eat." Ashley came in wrapped in an enormous bath towel. She looked fresh and beautiful. I was rumpled and starving.
"There's no food."
"Well go out and get something." She was talking to me like a child again. "I love Tokyo. I came here when Chic did that spread on Fairy-kei girls." At my blank look she went on. "You know, baby doll colors, short skirts. Anyway, I fell in love with the city. It moves so fast, and the fashion isn't like anywhere else - leggings or knee socks with heeled boots, mini skirts and short swing jackets. I can't wear it. My breasts are too big." She looked down at her towel clad body and flopped on the mat next to me. "But I love it."
Funny, I'd never thought of my breasts as big. "Let's go out. Get dressed, Ash. I'm starving." I was whining. I knew it, but I really don't do well when I'm hungry.
"I'll go out later. It's only...what...ten in the morning here? I want to press my clothes and try to save my job. I can't believe I ran out on Angelica. You go; I'll wait here."
"I don't speak the language. How will I order anything?" Until today my international travel had been very limited. I also didn't like the idea of Ax coming home and finding my twin sprawled out wearing nothing but a bath towel.
"Don't worry. The Japanese are very polite. You can kudsai and domo arigatou your way to a bowl of noodles. Just go Beck. Don't be a baby." She laid back and closed her eyes.
Dismissed, I grabbed my bag and headed out. I had a moment of panic when I realized I didn't know how I was going to pay for my food. I hoped my credit card worked. On the street I quickly found a store front food stall that looked like it would take a credit card. I was reaching in my bag for my wallet when I felt the buzzing. I wondered how my cell phone which barely worked outside NYC could be ringing in Tokyo. I dug around in my bag for it and found the hummer. And it was humming.