I don’t sleep much. I don’t have the time, for the most part. And when my plate gets full, I sleep even less.
Last night, after watching for a few hours, I prepared for the dinner tonight.
When the boys walk in hover around the smallish dining table, I realize the only foods I’ve put in my belly in twenty four hours are the tastes while preparing the meal.
I went decadent for our first meal, lobster tail and shrimp with asparagus and the largest salad I have created in quite a while. I usually grab something on the go, since I only feed myself. Last week I literally hunted for my food, cooking a furry mammal thing over a fire and picking purple fruit from trees. Back home in my own world, I get to eat my favorite shellfish magicked in from some fishing village on another continent. I’m a damn fine cook, when I put my mind to it.
My stomach rumbles when I sit at the head of the table.
I wait for a few minutes, watching the boys. They don’t speak, even to each other. They can’t still be processing, can they? They are White Knights, after all.
I am nothing if not a great hostess, even following privacy rules about not foraging through your guests brains. However, auras are viewable. Theirs have identical sparks.
“Would you like to pray? Offer thanks for this fine meal?” I gesture at the spread. Everything sparkles in the candlelight from the chandelier above and the many dancing flames on various candles sprinkled through the dishes.
Silence. They pace slowly, gazing at the feast before them and me, sitting at the head of the table.
I unfold a napkin and drape it over my lap. Picking up a fork, I spear a lovely bit of asparagus and slip it between my teeth. Chewing, I watch them.
They look at each other, speaking volumes without telepathy and without saying a word.
“Sit. Eat. Talk. This is the question and answer period, guys. You can ask anything, but don’t expect an answer to everything just yet.”
“Who the hell are you?” Logan opens.
“Dude, you’ve got the pic and about three names. Pick one.”
“Garrett sent us to find Kathleen,” says Nick.
“And you’ve found her. Good job.” I stand and pick a bottle from the rack behind my chair. “Maybe there’s a vintage here that will help you acclimate. You’re a little slow on the uptake.”
“Garrett said you can help us.”
“He’s right.” I open the bottle, a deep red from the plateaus of Skull Ridge. Sure, there’s some kind of etiquette that goes with serving wine and food. Something about reds with red meat and whites with shellfish. I don’t know. Nor do I give a damn. I open the bottle that I want, the bottle that goes with my mood. Tonight I open a bottle I don’t mind sharing. Plus, how can you extend the wine tasting rules to vintages that do not originate on the same plane as the rules?
They watch me carefully as I walk around the table and fill their goblets. Logan wraps long fingers around his and examines it. Red wine and blue crystal mixes in the light to a royal purple, a natural effect, not my magic.
“What’s your plan?” I ask, even though I already know the answer.
“Ok, seriously, what the hell?” Logan says setting down the goblet with enough force to rattle the vases in the center.
“Hey, be careful. I’d rather not have to go back to the place I got those goblets simply because you don’t know your own strength, Logan.”
“How long have you been watching us?” Nick asks. Perceptive.
“Off and on longer than you think. Not as long or as often as I probably should have. Moreover, I was out of town when you made your decision to come here. Would have had a much better welcome if you’d just called first,” I grumble sitting back in my chair and sip from my goblet. Mmmm, it is a fantastic choice for tonight. I smile at the boys.
Logan paces again, unable to contain the energy thrumming through his entire body.
I sip again and enjoy the show.
“Who the hell are you?” Logan demands again as if he just can’t wrap his head around me.
I let silence grow before rising from my chair and facing him, stopping him from wearing a hole in my rug.
Nick body tightens, weight on toes.
I meet Logan’s eyes, a more intimate moment than I intend, the feel of his lips a soft memory on my own. My lips twitch.
“I am the one who can help you protect the portal. I can draw you a map. I can give you the ingredients, the spells and weapons. But you have to play on my terms.”
“This is not a game, Witch.” He may be a little upset that I played them, especially him. He may be a little pissed that he was that easily played.
“Watch the name-calling, boy. I am only part witch.” It still prickles to be labeled. But witch is the most apt, I guess. “Sit down and eat your supper. We have a while before the world ends.” I wave a hand and make him sit. He doesn’t like that. He slips his hand into his jacket.
Nick doesn’t like the display of power. All his muscles taut, he adjusts his weight, his fingers sliding along the handle of the gun at his back.
“Boys, boys, relax. We really have plenty of time. There are a few things you need to know before you go up against the monsters at the portal.”
Nick sits. They are like petulant children.
“Look, here is what is going to happen in the next few days. You will rest. You will eat. You will get your minds and bodies ready for the battle. It is a battle, mind you, not the war. You will not get chances like this very often. So you will take advantage of my hospitality to make sure you do not make stupid mistakes because you are tired or have low blood sugar.” I pierce each of them with a stare. Both of them avert their eyes before I do. “If you do not believe anything else I say, believe this: I have a vested interest in this thing going the right way. But understand I will not put you on the field if you are not ready.”
They look at each other again and reluctantly take the first few bites.
I am a damn good cook. They haven’t eaten since yesterday. They eat now.
“What do we call you?” Nick asks between bites.
I debate this in my head. Finally, I say, “Call me Kimi.”