Chapter 22

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Chapter 22

Madraeus stood and stretched. He had been alternately working on moving preparations and trying to decipher ancient texts for hours. It was nearing one in the morning. Happy to escape his unproductive pile of papers and dusty books, he wandered out to Rami's office. He was surprised to find it empty. Usually Rami informed him if he was going somewhere. He shrugged. Perhaps he should check on Whitney. She should be asleep by now. He would just slip in and make sure she was alright. 

Silently he opened the door to Whitney's kitchen and stopped. The sounds of groaning and cheering were coming from the living room. Madraeus rounded the corner and found Rami, Philtzer and Whitney packed onto the couch playing video games. Piles of paper covered most of the floor. Several glasses and cups along with a half-eaten bowl of popcorn were sitting in the middle of the coffee table. They were obviously having a good time from the amount of giggling and back seat driving that was going on. 

Not wanting to disturb their fun, Madraeus moved back out of sight and watched. He had to smile as he watched Rami bouncing around like a child as he zoomed around the screen in some weird contraption shooting randomly at things with a ridiculously over-sized gun. 

Madraeus smiled. It was good to see him happy. Rami tended to work too hard. He rarely spent time away from the office anymore. He used to go out at night and party or hunt or go to the theatre, but not anymore. Madraeus wondered why he had stopped. 

"Seriously you want meat flavored ice cream?" Whitney's incredulous tone caught his attention. A jealous twinge zinged up Madraeus' spine when he noticed that Philtzer was sitting with his arm around her shoulders.

"Absolutely! Meat flavored anything is good!" Philtzer replied. "I'm a confirmed carnivore, baby, and I say all food should taste like meat, even popcorn. Dude they even have meat flavored water and mints now!"

"Ugh!" she groaned and threw the handful of popcorn that she was going to eat back into the bowl. "Now I've lost my appetite." 

A sudden explosion brought their attention back to the screen. Someone had blown up and from the triumphant shouting coming from them all it had obviously not been Rami. That and Whitney jumping up and doing a goofy yet extremely provocative happy dance. In the middle of her celebrating she caught site of Madraeus and stopped.

"Ah, hi," she smiled nervously straightening her shirt, "come to join the fun?"

Madraeus raised an eyebrow. He wasn't really the giggling and dancing around type.

"Yes, Ray, come join us, you need a break!" Rami laughed. "Come enjoy some wanton destruction!"

"Thank you, but I don't play," he shook his head. 

"Oh come on ya big chicken." Philtzer taunted as he shoved himself up onto the back of the couch. 

"Actually I came to check," Madraeus took one look at Whitney who stood biting her lip watching him and wished he had stayed in his study. "I came to make sure you were going to be..." He caught Rami grinning at him from behind Whitney and frowned, "that is, that you were going to get some sleep before the funeral in the morning."

"Oh," that was a cold bucket of water on the fun, "I should I guess." Whitney said glancing around for the clock. "It is getting late."

"That's our cue, Rami," Philtzer grinned as he hopped off the couch. Rami followed his lead and stood.

"Thank you for the pleasant evening," Rami rumbled before following Philtzer out leaving Whitney and Madraeus alone.

For a moment an awkward silence stretched then Madraeus gestured to the papers as he stepped closer. "What's all this?" 

"Oh, I was trying to sort out the filing cabinet," she stammered turning to shut off the game. "Rami was helping until we got tired." 

"Are you getting anywhere?" he asked.

"Yeah, although there seems to be some discrepancies or something, I'm not sure what Rami meant. We kinda got side tracked when Philtzer showed up."

"Ah," he stood a moment longer staring at the papers, "Well, I will go and let you get to sleep."

He made it almost to the door when he heard her call, "Madraeus?"

"Yes?" he turned back warily. It was hard to be alone with her. There were so many things he shouldn't say or do and being alone with her made it hard to resist doing them. 

"I just wanted to say." He watched her haltingly cross the room still biting her lip. "Thank you for letting me see Grammy. It didn't really go like I wanted but," she gestured helplessly, "I really did need to see her."

He couldn't make the sound come out of his throat with her standing so close, so he just nodded. She stared up at him for a long moment. The need to touch her overwhelmed everything else. He reached out and gently cupped the side of her face. His thumb brushed against her soft cheek.  

"I just want you safe," he whispered fiercely. 

He knew that he was playing a dangerous game letting his guard down like this but he couldn't help it. She was staring at him in wonder again. 

He let his fingers slide down the side of her neck. He felt the marks left by Justin's teeth. He lifted her hair out of the way and brushed his fingers across the marks. They had been too jagged for him to close properly, but at least they were healing. He ran his fingers lightly along the tiny scars and felt her shiver. He could hear her pulse quicken. He wondered if it was fear that had her heart racing. He stepped back retreating behind his carefully constructed walls. 

"I should go." He whispered. If she kept staring at him with those huge green eyes there was no way he would be able to control himself.

"Goodnight, Whitney." He breathed and fled the room.

"But..." Whitney started. She let out a little whimper and then slowly walked to her bedroom. Sleep seemed like a dream and all she ever had anymore was nightmares.

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