Izdahl tried to salvage as much patience as possible, while he listened to Armando’s explanation of his ability and how long the architect had known he’d had it.
“I wasn’t trying to hide anything from you,” Armando told his lover. “I only needed to process what has been going on with me. I guess I didn’t know the best way to bring it up with you. And a lot of time has passed since this…this happened.”
Izdahl clenched his fist, as he tried to keep hold of his temper. He stared at Armando, as he considered a series of responses. None of the words that came to his mind could fully express the anger he was feeling.
“Say something,” Armando pressed. “Please.”
“Whatever I say clearly doesn’t matter to you. I’ve asked you before not to keep things from me. You haven’t listened…” Izdahl let out a long breath.
Throwing aside the sheets, he left their bed. He strode to one of the large windows and opened it.
“What are you doing” Armando asked, his voice strained with dejection. “Where are you going?”
“Away.” Izdahl stepped out on the roof and released his wings, snapping them in fury. He hovered and turned to face Armando. The architect was looking at him with his arms folded, a stubborn expression now on his face.
“You’re not even going to apologize?” Izdahl asked, sounding incredulous.
“I haven’t done anything wrong,” Armando responded. “I told you that already. I don’t appreciate you trying to force me to feel guilty.”
“I don’t want to force you to do anything.”
“Then be reasonable; let’s talk.”
“About what?” Izdahl beat his wings, transforming his anger into a cold blast of wind that he sent at Armando.
“You’re clearly upset and I understand why,” the architect began. “I think—”
“I don’t care what you think right now!”
“Lower your voice,” Armando ordered. “You’re going to attract attention.”
“The neighbors aren’t that close. Besides, I don’t give a fuck—”
“Come here.” Armando’s conciliatory tone changed and his eyes narrowed. “Or else.”
“Or else what?” Izdahl challenged. “What are you going to do?”
“I will take you out of the sky,” Armando stated.
He wasn’t sure how but he knew that he hadn’t made an empty threat. A chill went through Izdahl, though he opted to remain in the sky.
“You’re going to fly up here and get me?” he taunted Armando. “Is that another secret of yours? Have you developed wings and—”
“I’m serious, Izdahl,” Armando said. He raised his hand and Izdahl began to feel a sharp pain through his head.
“Stop it, Armando…”
“You’re not going to fly off like some bratty Nitelge teenager. So, come to me.”
“Alright,” Armando gritted out. “Fine.”
Izdahl felt his energy suddenly dip severely and he struggled to stay in the air. Armando gave him a feral grin. Izdahl laughed softly, defiantly beginning to enjoy himself. He rarely saw Armando this agitated and the architect’s arrogance brought out the mischief in him.
“You should know by now that I’m no one’s puppet.” Izdahl flapped his wings again, sending another cold blast at Armando.
“Izdahl, this is really beginning to—”
Ice crystals appeared in Armando’s hair, when Izdahl playfully wielded his powers. Izdahl chuckled at the frustration on his lover’s face. His amusement was rapidly wiped away, as Armando reached out. Izdahl’s wings closed; then he tumbled to the roof. He landed on his left foot at an odd angle and lost his balance. He was able to stop himself from falling off the roof by quickly releasing his wings again and strongly beating them to fight against gravity. Otherwise, he would have crashed to the ground. When he steadied himself, he glared at Armando, who had doubled over in laughter, holding his stomach.
“You’re usually so graceful,” Armando said, as his amusement tapered off. “I really didn’t expect that awkwardness. I thought I could bring you out of the sky but actual proof is so satisfying.”
Izdahl quickly crafted a sphere of water and froze it just enough to form a large snowball. He hurled it at Armando, landing it squarely on the architect’s mouth and silencing him.
“I bet I can make you kneel,” Armando threatened, as he brushed the remaining snow off his face and chest. His lips curled with pleasure, when he saw Izdahl look apprehensive.
“Don’t you dare!” Izdahl warned. He hovered back through the window and, after slapping Armando on his rear with a wing, he floated to their bed. Armando closed the window and followed him, tugging gently on some of Izdahl’s vibrant silver and blue feathers.
“Is your leg alright?” Armando asked. “It looks like you hurt it, when you fell.”
“I’m traumatized by that whole experience,” Izdahl said. He affected a dramatic expression. “Take me to the hospital. Or better yet, to my mother’s. Only she can heal me now.”
“Izdahl, I’m serious.” Armando knelt to take a look at his leg. There was a large throbbing bruise already developing that extended from his lover’s left ankle up to his calf. Armando touched the mark gently and was about to express regret, when Izdahl stifled any desire to issue the apology.
“While you’re down there…” A lecherous smile crossed Izdahl’s face.
“You’re clearly fine.” Armando grumbled and slapped Izdahl on his ass. He stood to face his lover. “Now, please believe that I didn’t mean to upset you.”
Izdahl wrapped his wings around Armando and pulled him closer.
“I figured something was going on with you,” Izdahl began. “I could sense another change but it wasn’t clear. I received a hint from my mother recently. She uses her ability to heal usually.” Izdahl gave Armando a warning look. “Don’t think you can start punishing me like she does…If you want, you can talk to her about how she handles being able to see and touch souls.”
“How many of us can do that?”
“As far as we know, there are four on this planet, including you. We’re not sure how the ability develops. We understand that even less than how someone is born with the ability to wield the elements, especially fire.”
“So you and I are freaks of nature,” Armando joked.
“Clearly; you more than me,” Izdahl responded, laughing.
Armando pretended to punch him and Izdahl fell back on his bed, hiding his wings moments before his back hit the luxurious comforter.
“Pull them back out,” Armando requested.
“You really like them, don’t you?” Izdahl asked.
He lay on his stomach and released his wings again. Armando stroked the base of Izdahl’s wings, causing pleasure to ripple through his body.
“Are you sure we’re okay?” Armando asked, softly.
“Yes. I don’t like being upset with you. You know that. And it really bothers me when you’re angry with me…So, any other secrets?”
“It’s not a secret.” Armando paused and kissed Izdahl on his right shoulder. “Neither was the part about the souls. But there was one other thing…Dominic came by my office last week and Syrik had to help me out. I told Syrik not to tell you because I know how you get worked up over Dominic.
“Syrik told me about it the same night it happened,” Izdahl replied drily.
“Even though I asked him not to do that!”
“Yes because he was genuinely worried,” Izdahl put away his wings and sat up. Armando mirrored him. “He said you would have felt comfortable telling me yourself, if you didn’t have to be concerned about me getting upset. So, I need to be calm about Dominic. Unless he goes too far, I won’t address him directly.”
“I think Syrik got the message across to him. I don’t expect to see him again.”
“Should he not get the point, I make no promises about his safety.”
“Let’s talk of another topic,” Armando murmured.
“What is it?”
“I think I need to see the statue of Zaitis again.”
“Then, think again.”
Izdahl held up his hand to cut off his lover’s next words.
“I have an early meeting. You can try convincing me tomorrow night why going to that statue is a good idea.”
“He arrived much faster than we expected,” Kiana said, laughing. She moved the blanket aside to completely show the face of Hanzo, the newest addition to the family.
Armando and Izdahl smiled at their nephew and then at each other. The two had been at the symphony enjoying a performance that had showcased Dmitri’s skills. By the time they’d been notified that Kiana had gone into labor and arrived at Kiana and Syrik’s home, Kiana had given birth. At Syrik’s request, they’d picked up Nyrese, who’d been staying with Jonas and Fiona, to give her parents time to focus on Hanzo being delivered.
“When can he play with me?” Nyrese asked. It was the most important question to her. She’d been staring apprehensively at her new little brother, since the introduction a few minutes earlier.
“It might be quite a while,” Syrik responded, chuckling.
“But you’ll have fun getting to know him,” Kiana added.
“If you say so…” Nyrese responded. She ambled over to stand between her two uncles. She held on to each of their hands, vying for their attention.
“You two still love me, don’t you?” Nyrese asked them plaintively.
“Ny, your mother and I haven’t stopped loving you,” Syrik chided.
“Then why did you have another baby?” she questioned, eyes the color of Syrik’s demanded an answer.
“We can love both of you,” Kiana assured her. Nyrese didn’t look convinced.
“Grandmother and Grandfather had your uncle Izdahl, after I was born,” Syrik said. “Do you think they cared any less about me?”
“Yes.” Nyrese responded, being crafty and contrary. She’d known what the expected answer was and refused to be compliant.
Kiana, Izdahl and Armando laughed, understanding that Nyrese was very much Syrik’s child. Outdone by his daughter, Syrik playfully grabbed her and threw her up in the air. Then he tucked her under his arm like a package, making her shriek with laughter.
“Can we give her back to the masked woman who brought her to us?” Syrik asked Kiana.
“No, I think we’ll keep her,” Kiana responded, grinning at her husband and oldest child.