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Chapter 16: Stranger or Kin
Godric Gryffindor was a machine and Hermione didn’t like it one bit.
After their intimacy at the train station and the warm camaraderie of their conversation last night, after sleeping drenched in the sinfully sexy man scent of him, dressed in his clothing, sprawled on top of more of it, after having wickedly erotic dreams about him in which they’d had sex that would have made the author of the Kama Sutra blush, after waking to find him standing naked over her, she’d had expected a few hot steamy kisses, but all she had gotten was a quick brush of his lips.
There wasn’t even a horny comment, just a quick are you awake.
She’d blinked, unable to tear her gaze away from him. The man had, quite simply, the most amazing package she’d ever seen, and although most of the ones she’d seen had been by accident or in pictures, she still considered herself a fair judge.
“Uh-huh, I’m awake,” she’d managed breathlessly. Some parts of her more awake than others.
“Call me out.”
She’d obeyed, wetting her lips. Six and a half feet of muscle ripped, naked highlander had separated from the glass and reached toward her, and past her, retrieving his clothing.
He’d dressed, for heaven’s sake, covering up all that masculine nudity with swift efficiency. Then he scooped up the mirror and loaded it into the back of the SUV. He’d returned, scooped her up as well, and dumped her into the driver seat.
As he’d deposited her behind the wheel, he’d pecked her bloody forehead.
When he’d lowered his head, like an idiot, she’d actually puckered, thinking he was finally going to kiss her. She’d smooched air, putting her in a positively foul mood, no matter that the sun was shining and it looked like it was going to be a glorious, unseasonably warm autumn day in the Highlands, and she was alive to see it.
Behaving with all the automated efficiency of a cool, detached robot, with steely insides and computer chips dictating his every move, Godric had referenced one of the pamphlets he’d swiped from the train station along with the stack of maps, and directed her to a small town ten minutes away.
For the past thirty minutes, ever since he’d so unceremoniously ‘parked’ her in the corner booth of the little Scottish diner, he’d been oblivious to her, examining everything, asking the waitress he’d ensorcelled dozens of questions, and taking his time selecting his order.
Her stomach was growling. She was starved and wished he would acknowledge her, so that she could order. A cup of steaming cocoa or coffee would be heavenly. The skintight Lucky jeans that Ginny had sent with Harry for her to wear weren’t nearly as snug on her waist as they’d been when she’d first put them on, and they were in serious need of a washing.
She’d slept on the train in them, she’d slept on the ground in them, and quick cleaning spell she had done on herself could no way in compare with a nice hot steamy shower. It had been four days since she’d last had a shower, and if she didn’t get one soon, she might hurt somebody.
She looked out the diner window and spied a clothing store across the street. The least he could do after they ate was go over to the clothing store and Voice her some new clothes. So that she didn’t have to face Harry later that day at Hogwarts wearing the same clothes that he had provided for her.
Shoving away from the booth, she quietly made a comment about needing to use the restroom, and headed towards the back of the diner to freshen up a bit in the ladies room.
Godric had been using Voice since the moment he’d walking in the door. He wanted in and out fast, but there was items on the menu he was unfamiliar with. He had too much to accomplish today to permit the indulgence of the slightest of his personal desires, to waste even a moment of time.
If he was lucky enough to have eight hours free of the glass today, he could accomplish all of his goals. He’d only had three hours free yesterday, so he felt it reasonable to expect a longer reprieve today.
Hermione was feeling slighted, he knew. He hated that, but it had to be for now.
She seemed not to ken that he had an inferno of need for her raging inside him and that if he fed it the least bit of oxygen, the blaze would burn out of control and consume him, along with the entire day, leaving it in a waste of ashes around them.
Then nightfall would come and she would not be safe enough. He refused to bear such blame or take such risks with her life. By eventide she would be as safe as he could possibly make her. Until that time, he dare not begin touching her, or he’d not be able to stop.
He’d watched her sleep all night, studying the planes and angles of her face in the changing light, from moonlit night through a rosy dawn and finally in the brilliant blaze of full sunrise, committing them to memory. Were he a sculptor, he could now carve her face in stone, even if he was blind.
It had been agony to stand watching her, caressing with his gaze what his hand could not. It had been a joy. He’d learned centuries ago to suck from life what pleasure his hellish circumstances would permit.
When she’d awakened, she’d rolled over and stared up at him with sleepy sexy eyes. She had three cowlicks, unruly thatches of hair that curled wildly. Now he possessed an image of her that only a lover might know, how she looking in the morning with her face sleep flushed, her lips sleep swollen, and her curls askew in a caramel candy tangle.
She woke up looking soft and warm, more than a little bemused, and utterly sensual. It made a man want to scoop her into his arms and devour her.
He’d briefly envisioned himself stepping from the mirror, yanking her hard against him, and making love to her.
However, he had known better than to delude himself with the notion that he could be satisfied with doing so in a cave. She deserved for their time together to be in a lush bed, where he could take his time with her.
If anything her life and his vengeance was far more important than fulfilling his lustful hunger.
Today was for getting her to the safety of the castle and tomorrow would be for claiming his woman. Once she was safe, he would devote every moment of his freedom from the glass to the thorough claiming of Hermione Granger.
“I will go put your order in with the cook and it shall be out soon,” the waitress said.
Godric nodded, glancing over to where Hermione was sitting across from him. Last time he had looked up, she had been sitting with her arms crossed over her bountiful breasts, her lower lip sulkily and delectably pushed out, and she’d been tapping one foot impatiently under the table.
However, now she wasn’t there.
Where the bloody hell was she? Godric growled, he knew he should have been paying her more attention but where could she have gone. He eyed the man who stood, with his back to him, at the counter bar.
For some insane moment he wondered whether the interloper had anything to do with Hermione being missing. The man was tall and powerfully built, wearing black trousers, black boots, and a black leather jacket. His long black hair was braided and folded under, wrapped and bound by a leather thong.
It was a manner in which Highlanders had once worn their hair, before even Godric’s time. When they hadn’t been liming it for battle to make themselves look more terrifying to the effeminately tidy Romans.
The man thought much of himself; it was obvious in the way he stood, the way he held himself. He reeked of arrogance. Godric didn’t like him.
He scanned the diner, seeking the top of her head, but saw no sign of her.
He couldn’t use legitimacy on her, he couldn’t compel her, but he suspected a deep scan of the diner would be able to detect her magical essence. Hers was a unique imprint, a space of serenity and silence in an otherwise clamorous world.
He stretched his senses, casting a wide net, probing. Something probed back so unexpectedly and with such ferocity that he flinched.
He immediately slammed up mental walls, one after the next, sealing himself off. In order to seal out whatever the frigging hell that had been. They were walls he’d never needed before.
No one had ever been able to probe him, not even Salazar with all his dark arts. It had been one of the things that had so infuriated his captor. Salazar still couldn’t probe him, even after a thousand years of continually gaining more power and knowledge, though he’d never stopped trying.
He had been convinced that Godric knew spells that he was hiding from him, and he was determined to get them one way or another.
During none of Salazar’s attempted probings had Godric ever felt anything touch his mind. He hadn’t been able to get even that far inside his skull.
However, just now he’d felt a distinct push against his mind. A distinct presence, though he hesitated to say a single presence, for what had pushed at him possessed such complexity of character, such ancientness, that he was unable to call it exactly human.
Focusing his mind, he pushed back in the general direction from which it had come, trying to isolate it. The man at the counter suddenly whipped around his gaze seeking restlessly, scanning the diner.
Unusual golden eyes met Godric’s and locked with his. They were old eyes, aware eyes, and eyes full of fierce intelligence. They were the eyes of more than a mere Wizard. Godric shoved his way out of the booth and stalked toward him.
“Who the bloody hell are ye?”
“Who are you?” the man flung back coolly.
The man moved toward him as swiftly and surely as Godric stalked the man; there wasn’t an ounce of hesitation in him. They met halfway, stopping a dozen paces apart, and began circling each other, sizing each other up, like two dark, wild beasts, preparing to battle over territory and mating rights.
Godric felt a rapid battery of hammer blows against the mental walls he’d erected. He permitted them, analyzing them, and assessing his foe’s strength. Then he lashed back savagely.
It should have nigh split the man’s head. If his opponent felt anything, he betrayed naught. Who was this man?
“Where is my woman?” Godric snarled.
“I haven’t seen your woman.”
“If you’ve so much as touched a hair…”
“I have my own woman and I am sure that yours couldn’t hold a candle to her.”
“You have a death wish, Highlander.”
“Nay,” the man laughed. “Laid that to rest some time ago on an icy ledge outside a Manhattan penthouse.”
The man spoke nonsense. “Leave now and I won’t kill you.”
“Cannae do that. I’m picking up an apple pie for my wife. It is her favorite and tis her good graces that signify.” His tone was lightly mocking, his smile a hundred proof testosterone, spiked with dark irreverence.
It was just the kind of smile Godric usually wore. Och, aye, the man had a death wish. There was no telling what Godric might have done next had a hand not closed over his forearm at that moment. He glanced down, his muscles instantly sliding smoother beneath his skin. Hermione was gazing up at him, lovely as ever, and unharmed.
“Woman, where have ye ben? I instructed you not to move from the table.”
“I sat there for an half an hour,” she replied crossly. “I went to the bathroom. I’m starving, please tell me you finally decided on what to order, and I hope it included coffee. I can’t wait to get to the castle, I badly want a shower. I took a little towel bath in the ladies room, but I am starting to feel like a wild animal. Godric, why is that man staring at you like that? Do you know him?”
“Godric?” the man demanded. “Your name is Godric?”
“Aye, what of it?”
The man stared at him a long moment. Then he laughed, a darkly amused sound, and shook his head as if he’d been pondering an absurdity.
“Nay, tis not possible,” he murmured.
“What?” Godric snapped.
Hermione stood puzzled looking from one to the other. Suddenly, she sucked in a breath and cocked her head, staring back and forth again.
“Ye have my name. Give me yours.” Godric said sharply.
Godric looked down at Hermione. “Did this ‘Dageus’ say aught untoward to ye, lass?”
She shook herself, as if jarred from the thought. “How could he? This is the first I’ve seen him. Do you know…”
“You were gone when I looked up, and he was there.”
She shrugged. “He must have gotten there after I’d already left. Godric, do you know that the two of you…”
Godric turned his attention back to Dageus. “Ye may leave, but donna cross paths with me again, Highlander. ‘Twill result in bloodshed. I donna care for you.
“I donna care for you, either,” the man replied coolly. “But I’m not going anywhere until you release that waitress from your spell.” He nodded past Godric, to where the waitress was setting down two hot steaming cups of coffee on their table.
“What ken you of such spells?” Godric asked softly.
“More than you, I’d wager.”
“Nay, now stay out of my affairs.”
Hermione tried to interject, “Do either of you see the slightest re…”
“This village and all in it is my affair. This is my world, stranger,” Dageus retorted flatly.
“’Twas my world long before it was yours, Highlander,” Godric’s smile showed teeth, but no amusement.
Dageus went motionless but for that intense golden gaze, scrutinizing Godric thoroughly. Again Godric felt a push at his mind, more subtle than the last, yet much more forceful. He shoved back, much more forcefully, as well, and this time the man’s unusual eyes flickered the tiniest bit.
“You donna mean what I think you mean by that,” said Dageus.
“Thinking implies sentience and I see little of that in ye.”
“Look in a mirror, you’ll see even less. I’ll have your clan name, Highlander. What is it?”
Hermione piped up, “Speaking of looking in a mirror…”
“You’ll have my clan name and a battle. Tis Gryffindor,” Godric spat. “And yours?”
“Gryfin,” Dageus spat back.
Beside him, Hermione exclaimed, “That’s it! Didn’t you say you had seven sisters? Some of your family had to have survived. There have been rumors for centuries that the Gryffindor line still lives. That has to be it! I was trying to tell you, Godric. The two of you look alike!”