“It’s best not to associate with their kind.”
It was the third time during the conversation Armando Medina had made that statement. Kiana, his younger sister, sat staring at the wooden floor, bristling at the comment. For the past hour, the two of them had been engaged in a tense debate about Kiana’s choice in mates.
“What about your children?” Armando questioned, “What happens when they’re shunned?”
“Syrik and I will handle that,” she responded, folding her arms. Her trademark stubbornness appeared in her hazel eyes and Armando sighed.
“That’s what you believe. Kiana, I’m not convinced about this…this being you want to make a part of our family. You know I’ve always been against the relationship.”
“Can’t you at least meet him?” Kiana pleaded, “How can you judge him without doing that? All of them are not the same.”
“Alright Kiana,” Armando said, moved by his sister’s emotions, “Invite him over for dinner, in three days.”
Armando took a deep breath, preparing himself for the guest Kiana was bringing home. He promised himself that he would remain as calm as possible; he cared so much for his sister’s well being. Perhaps if he behaved in a reasonable manner, he could later persuade her to change her mind.
Unable to put off the event any further, he went downstairs to the foyer and awaited Kiana’s guest and—if Kiana had her way—the thing that would be Armando’s brother-in-law. A few minutes later, Armando heard the doorbell ring and then came Kiana’s greeting to Syrik Amasi. Armando was in the living room where they met him.
“Thank you for so graciously allowing me into your home, Mr. Medina,” Syrik Amasi said, bowing deeply. He was sharply dressed in a blue double-breasted suit of the highest quality.
“I see you’ve come as you regularly appear,” Armando stated, cutting through any pleasantries, “Show me how you really are when you completely transform.”
“Is this necessary?” Kiana protested, “Can’t you just be—”
Syrik gently laid a hand on her arm, quieting her. He looked at her, smiling softly and then began to change. Wings, which spanned roughly 12 feet, unfurled. Thick black feathers of varying lengths made Syrik’s already formidable 6’ 7” muscular physique that much more daunting. His grey eyes changed to a piercing black and the tips of his ears became pointed. Had Syrik smiled, his cuspids, which were now extended, would have added to his overwhelming countenance. He opted to forego that display, understanding that a more feral exhibition would only increase the distaste Armando had for him.
As Syrik was transforming, Armando caught sight of Kiana. He noted with sadness and frustration the expression in Kiana’s eyes as she viewed Syrik. There was no doubt his younger sister was completely in love with this monstrosity.
“Well then,” Armando said, stifling a scowl, “There’s only so much space in my home. Don’t take up all of it.”
Syrik chuckled softly and returned to his usual appearance.
“Shall we chat before our meal?” Kiana asked.
“Yes, let’s do that,” Armando agreed, stiffly. He led them to the living room and motioned for everyone to be seated. Kiana settled herself next to Syrik on a brown leather couch, across from Armando, who went to his preferred armchair. There was silence as the three stared at each other for almost a minute, unsure of what to say.
“Syrik, would you like something to drink?” Armando offered, “Perhaps some Kirberry wine…”
“Yes, thank you. It’s actually my favorite.”
While the same was true for Armando, he didn’t comment on that as he poured the wine. In fact, as petty as he knew it was, he disliked having even that in common with the demon.
“Oh, Syrik, what about the gift?” Kiana asked, eager to help him gain Armando’s favor.
“The gift…oh of course,” Syrik said. He put the box that he had brought with him on the coffee table.
“This is for you,” he told Armando, “Kiana mentioned to me your love of architecture. I come from a line of well-known architects. This is a three-dimensional replica of one of the city’s oldest and most famous buildings. It was designed by my grandfather, Erol Amasi.”
Unsure what to say, Armando merely murmured a thank you. He had passed by this building many times, admiring the greatness of the design and workmanship. While he was at Preva University studying architecture, he’d researched the architect. Upon learning that it had been created by a demon, he’d tried his best to avoid it, his severe dislike of demons taking hold. Yet, the building was too fascinating. And so, over time, he had stopped going out of his way to ignore the structure. He had even gathered more information on the techniques of Erol Amasi.
Awkward moments followed until Viktor, the family chef and assistant, informed the trio that dinner was ready in the dining room. A change of scenery did not help the atmosphere. Midway through the dinner, aware of the reason for Armando’s dislike of him, Syrik bluntly brought up the topic.
“Kiana has told me of the great loss to your family. I assure you that no one I hold in esteem was a part of the death of your parents.”
“I appreciate your concern,” Armando stated, a cold expression in his hazel eyes. He found it difficult to hear a demon speak of such a sensitive matter. It might not have been Syrik who was responsible for causing him and his sister to become orphans. However, it was certainly Syrik’s kind who was culpable.
Having a demon in his home was hard enough, knowing this aberration could become a relative by marriage was unbearable. Whatever was his sister thinking?
The more he considered how uncomfortable it would be to have Syrik as a part of his family, the more annoyed he became. He found himself virtually mutilating his steak. Had Viktor seen his employer demolishing and barely consuming the dinner he’d painstakingly created, the chef would have been distraught.
Armando had planned on at least going through the motions to hopefully appease his sister. However, he found he could no longer stand the tension and he boldly stated his feelings.
“I cannot in good faith allow you to be with my sister.”
“You have met me,” Syrik protested, putting down his utensils, “You know my intentions.”
“Stop this,” Kiana pleaded. Both Armando and Syrik ignored her, their voices rising in disagreement.
“I have seen what you present yourself to be. That does not mean you are someone I want in my sister’s life.”
“It is your sister’s life; she should decide.”
“As her brother and her last living relative, her choice in mates is supremely important to me. I reject you without any doubts in my mind,” Armando said, standing, “Now, please leave my home.”
Syrik took a deep breath, deciding not to take the disagreement to another level. He rose and bowed to Armando then turned to Kiana, giving her a small smile. He wiped away the tears that were beginning to form in his love’s eyes.
“I’ll see myself out,” he murmured.
Then he left the house without saying another word.
“Kiana, you must understand,” Armando began, “I only desire to—”
“Don’t speak to me!” Kiana shouted, turning to face him, “You don’t care about my happiness. You’re a tyrant and even worse, you’re a bigot.”
“You know that’s not true” Armando said, genuinely hurt by her words, “You’re being emotional. I’m only trying to protect you.”
“There’s no need to treat me like a child,” she said. “If you want to protect me, do it in a way that’s respectable. Insulting the person I love is not how you do that. And just to be clear, I don’t need your damn permission for anything. I’m old enough to make my own choices.”
“Kiana, maybe over time you will see what I’m trying to do.” He got up to walk over to her.
“I know exactly what you’re trying to do; punish Syrik. I know demons killed our parents but it was not him! You’re so blinded by your hatred.”
“Come on now, Kiana. Don’t get yourself so worked up about this. Soon you’ll see that I’m right.”
Armando reached out to give his sister a comforting hug but she moved past him, running up the stairs to her room. The two didn’t speak for the rest of night.
She’ll be calmer in the morning, Armando thought, as he drifted off to sleep. Unaware of the ripples his actions would cause, his slumber was peaceful. The next morning, he awoke, stretching his limbs. He was hoping that the stress of the night before would have completely gone. Today he would have more time to speak with Kiana. He would be able to—perhaps—help her see he was right.
He was in the middle of breakfast when he noticed he hadn’t heard any stirrings from his sister.
“Viktor, have you seen Kiana today?” Armando asked, as he refilled his coffee.
“No,” Viktor answered.
“Maybe she has gone to the stables to ride.”
That seemed plausible. Yet, at the back of his mind, something was steadily bothering him. He was glad to have Viktor across from him as a sounding board. He knew the assistant, who’d worked for him for the past three years, would be honest and he had come to highly value his opinion.
“Viktor, did you hear our argument last night?” he asked.
“Some of it.”
“Do you…do you think I was correct?”
“No,” Viktor responded, in his typical straightforward nature, “Kiana rarely exercises poor judgment. By not respecting her choice, you’ve made sure that her ultimate stubbornness comes to the surface.”
“Maybe I’ll wait until she comes to me. I’ll just let her have some space.”
He went up to his home office to work for a few hours. He expected Kiana to be back by lunchtime. She hadn’t contacted him and that nagging doubt had grown stronger. If she had been out, she hadn’t returned. He also hadn’t heard anyone making noise besides Viktor. Maybe Kiana had decided to stay in her room all day, sulking, not even eating. He’d just go to her room. He had to do something to resolve that nervous feeling.
He knocked firmly on the door to Kiana’s bedroom but didn’t get a response. She was probably just sitting on the bed, purposefully ignoring him.
“Kiana, it’s me. Please let’s talk.”
There was nothing. Concern was drilling into his head now and he opened the door. Kiana wasn’t there—and neither were most of the signs that this had been her room. The items on her dresser were gone; no silver mirror he’d bought her just two weeks ago, no jewelry box handed down from their mother, no cherished collection of mystery novels their father had purchased for her. Armando rushed to the walk in closet and saw that, except for the hangers, it had been stripped bare. Going into her bathroom suite, he saw that there were no toiletries either.
His sister had vanished and he felt a chaotic, destructive anger rise in him. That affliction, Syrik Amasi, had to be responsible for this!
“Syrik, what have you done?” Izdahl Amasi demanded. Izdahl had gone to his older brother’s house for lunch. Kiana Medina had joined them and Syrik had given an unconvincing version of “she was just in the neighborhood.” The meal had continued with little conversation about what Kiana’s presence could mean. After the meal, when Izdahl was able to get a chance, he had pulled his older brother aside, wanting to know what had truly happened.
“Last night, she called for me,” Syrik explained, an earnest expression on his face, “I had to go. You know how I feel about her.”
Izdahl sighed, understanding his brother’s predicament. He knew that while Kiana and Syrik were deeply in love, her older brother harshly objected to the relationship. Yet, nothing good could come of Syrik’s recent actions and he told his brother so.
“I couldn’t leave her there crying,” Syrik protested, “When I saw her face on the video screen…”
“It couldn’t have been easy to spirit her away in the middle of the night. How exactly did you get her and her things here?”
“I used a portal.”
“You used a portal to bring her to your home? Just brilliant. I thought you understood the rules against us doing that sort of thing. You know humans already fear us. If this ability of ours becomes common knowledge among them—”
“Stop lecturing me,” Syrik grumbled, pouring himself a glass of wine.
“Why don’t you think things through before you do them?” Izdahl asked, “Why is it that you’re older than I am but I’m more mature?”
“Your idea of being ‘mature’ is my idea of being uptight. Besides, I at least don’t have to watch the one I love from a distance.”
“My situation is complicated,” Izdahl murmured, bothered by his brother’s jab, “And stop trying to change the subject. You rushed to Kiana and brought her back here. In the process, you’ve probably angered her brother even more.”
“I can’t imagine his dislike of me increasing.”
An interesting scene caught Izdahl’s eye and he chuckled.
“Well, you’ll soon find out,” he told Syrik, “He’s at your house.”
“Yes, look at the monitor, you oaf.”
Syrik followed his brother’s line of vision to a large video screen, which was located directly opposite of his desk. He could see that Armando Medina was only a few paces from the front door.
“I’m going to speak with him,” Syrik said, his eyes narrowing.
“No, wait, I’ll do it. Go to Kiana. Both of you stay out of sight for a bit.”
“I shouldn’t have to hide in my own home.”
“You won’t be hiding. You’ll just be letting me prevent a difficult situation from getting worse.”
“You’re just trying to gain points,” Syrik accused. Then he sighed and after thinking for a moment, he nodded his assent. He knew that Izdahl was diplomatic and these circumstances required a more delicate hand than he was willing to use.
Izdahl made his way to the foyer as, Markus, the butler, was opening the door.
Armando Medina was standing there and his hazel eyes were flashing, restrained anger in them. Not for the first time, Izdahl took in Armando’s 6’ 1” height, his muscular body, square jaw and piercing eyes.
Why did someone with such hatred have to be this attractive? Izdahl wondered.
“Hello,” Armando said, “I came to see Syrik Amasi.”
Izdahl motioned to Markus that he would take things from there and the butler walked away.
“Please come in,” Izdahl said, “I am his younger brother. Syrik is otherwise occupied. What can I do to help?”
“You can tell your brother to get unoccupied right now.” Armando, who was normally polite, now became especially curt. If Syrik expected to hide his sister, it wouldn’t work.
“Perhaps we can go to the study and calmly discuss what is bothering you,” Izdahl suggested, “You’re clearly agitated.”
“I can discuss things right here.”
“Wouldn’t you at least like to take a seat? There are armchairs in the living room, a short distance away.”
“Didn’t you hear what I just told you?”
“Mr. Medina, I assure you, I only wish to help. I understand you’re highly annoyed right now—”
“With good reason! I am quite protective of Kiana.”
“I assure you my brother would do no injury to her—or anyone important to her.”
“Your brother took my sister and brought her into this demon territory. You cannot possibly expect me to believe—-”
“Kiana has made her decision!” Izdahl and Armando heard Syrik exclaim. He quickly made his way towards them.
“Syrik, you were supposed to let me handle this,” Izdahl reminded him.
“He isn’t going to listen to you. He only cares about what he wants.”
“I plainly told you I was not in favor of a union between you and Kiana. You understood my position.”
Knowing that the conversation would become more heated and that there would be little progress, Izdahl continued to try to help.
“Perhaps it would just be best to have this discussion at another time,” Izdahl suggested.
“I hardly think my level of disgust will change,” Armando stated, shooting Izdahl a derisive look.
“While I understand why you view my kind in the light you do,” Syrik began, “I–”
“You do not understand! You know nothing about me or my family.”
“I know I love Kiana. I know you’re trying to keep us apart and I can’t have that.”
“So you became a thief, entering my home and taking my sister.”
“She left of her own free will.”
“Where is she now?”
“She doesn’t want to see you.”
“No doubt you had everything to do with that.”
“You pushed her away because you’re a bigot.”
“How dare you call me that?”
“It’s what you are, you sanctimonious ass. Get away from my home. I now consider you a trespasser. I’d hate to get vicious about you being on my property. You know how ‘savage’ my type is.”
“Enough!” came a shout. Everyone turned to see Kiana standing at the base of the staircase, her face tear-stained.
“Kiana…” Syrik murmured.
“You don’t have to talk to him like that,” she said, walking to Syrik. She turned to her brother, “Armando, please go home.”
“Why didn’t you listen to me?” Armando demanded.
“Can you honestly ask me that after so many arguments? I’ve made up my mind. I’ll remain here.”
“Kiana, you just—”
“I don’t want to hear anything else you have to say!” Kiana shouted, “You’ve become too twisted for me to stomach this anymore.”
Her words driving into him, Armando’s shoulders sagged. Avoiding the eyes of the others, he left, replaying what Kiana had said.
Back at home, Armando rested his head on his desk, all of the sadness and frustration overwhelming him. His parents were gone and now, apparently, so too was his sister. He fell asleep, drained from the day’s events.
A large bird with dark blue feathers tipped with silver, settled outside his window, its head tilted to the side, intensely watching.