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Chapter 68 –The Calm before the Storm– Raine's POV

I made my way through the corridors to Talon's apartment. When I arrived, he opened the door and immediately dropped to his knees at my feet, with his head gently bowed.

I didn't think I would ever get used to that. Rather than just order him to stand, I crouched in front of him so that we were at eye level.

His glance cut up to me in surprise and then instantly dropped back to the floor in submission. I gathered his hands in mine and murmured softly, "Talon, look at me."

He raised his eyes to mine.

"I much prefer to talk with you like this, where I can see your kind blue eyes." I smiled and spoke bluntly, "I have seen your body. You have strength and power, the virility of a man, and you are not meant to kneel. You are meant to love and care for, fight and protect what is yours."

He could barely get the words out as he mumbled, "But I have nothing."

My heart twisted painfully.

Abruptly, a small fierce voice could be heard from the kitchen, "You have me."

I looked over to find Ivy watching us with wide eyes.  I saw it in her expression. She saw him like I saw him. She saw his potential, but more than that, she needed his potential. She desperately needed a strong male, who understood her struggles. One she could trust completely to protect and keep her safe. Somehow I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Talon had those qualities in spades. 

I brought my attention back to him and squeezed his hands. "She is right. You do have her.  She needs you and I need you to care for her. So, going forward, no more kneeling or bowing; instead, you work for me and I will happily pay you for your labor."

"What?!" he breathed in shock.

I grinned as I stood and pulled him to his feet, "I didn't say the job would be easy. Once we are done here, I have a tiger I want you to meet."

"Okay," he uttered. I am not even certain he heard the tiger part. Oh well, he would realize I meant tiger in the quite literal giant-kitty-cat sense, soon enough.

I glanced back to Ivy and asked Talon, "So, tell me what progress you have made."

He recapped, "As His Highness promised, pain medication was delivered yesterday evening, allowing her to be able to sleep comfortably through the night. And the Healer came very early this morning to look at her back." His expression turned grim.

Anxiety rolled through me.

I said, "Let me see her back."

Ivy stared at me worriedly. It was clear she didn't fully trust me. I waited patiently while her glance cut to Talon, silently asking him what she should do. He went to her and held out his hand. She immediately accepted it and followed him, but kept her body tucked behind his as they walked back across the room to me.

Talon had to gently tug her out from behind his back, to position her in front of me. She faced him while he wrapped his arms around her and carefully lifted up her shirt for me to see the damage.

She had several thick, red and angry-looking welts crisscrossing her back. I gritted my teeth together, trying to contain my anger, so that my response wouldn't scare her. But Talon could see my face and his furious expression matched mine. I took a moment to breathe and then asked, "What did the Healer say?"

He lowered her shirt back in place, and turned her so that she was facing me; protectively tucking her under his arm, close to his chest. Her small hands fisted his shirt tightly as she held onto him. He replied, "The Healer believes she will see some improvement over time, but the measure of which remains unseen right now."

I nodded and gently addressed Ivy, "Have you selected a room?"

"Yes," she whispered.

"Very good. I am arranging for supplies and clothing to be delivered to you today."

Her eyes lit up and she breathed, "Yes, some of it has already arrived. The items are beautiful. Thank you, mistress."

I smiled, "I am so glad you like them. For now, I just want you to focus on healing. In the upcoming weeks, we can discuss your options."

Stone cold fear rolled over her face as she pleaded brokenly, "Please don't send me home!"

The force of her response surprised me. My glance cut to Talon, looking for any clues. He nodded almost imperceptibly. Okay, he obviously knew more to the story.

I made a snap decision, but I was absolutely certain it was the right thing to do as I quickly reassured Ivy, "I have no intention of releasing you to anyone...Except for Talon. You belong to him now. I will draw up the papers for our signatures, to complete the transaction, later this week."

Talon's eyes opened wide in shock. He started to speak, but no words came out. Ivy snuggled closer to his chest in relief.

It was obvious to me that he was already completely taking care of her. But even more than that, it was clear she wanted him to and followed his commands willingly and without question.   I wondered if his affect was limited to her, or if others would so willingly follow him. I suspected the latter. There was just something about him. I couldn't put my finger on it or even really describe it. It was just him.

He struggled to get the words out around his emotion, but finally uttered fervently, "Thank you, mistress. I will take very good care of her."

I smiled. "Okay Talon, it is time for us to go. There is someone very special I want you to meet."

I purposefully did not address Ivy, so that he could handle our departure, in the way he saw fit. She stared up at him with fearful eyes, clearly not wanting him to leave. He placed his hands on the side of her cheeks and whispered, "Remember all of those beautiful clothes you saw earlier and loved so much? Why don't you sort through them and put them away?"

He suddenly looked to me in alarm and said, "I don't want anything delivered to her while I am gone."

I understood why. She wasn't ready for strange vampires to be coming and going without his protection. I gave him the phone number to the person coordinating the deliveries. He looked at me in confusion and said, "But they will not take orders from me."

I smiled and replied, "They absolutely will take orders from you. They have already been made aware of your new status. You are my employee. If you order them to do something, it is the same as if the order was coming from me."

He completely lost his decorum as he breathed in shock, "Fuck!"

I held back a giggle.

He extracted his cell phone from his pocket and dialed the number. After a brief conversation, he was satisfied with their response and hung up, still looking at me in amazement.

I murmured, "Ready to go?"

"Yes," his eyes sparkled. He gave Ivy a quick kiss on her forehead, and murmured, "I'll be back soon."

She nodded reluctantly and we walked out the door.

.

Interestingly enough, I never planned on Talon and Ivy until I was right in their respective scenes and it just made sense in the moment. I'm glad I did because I really like how the characters are coming out. I've even considered doing a short story just about Talon's life as a pet, but in my head, that's a really, really dark story, so not sure I could write it. Way too many ideas float through my brain...

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