It's not Easter in Zora's world, here she is, and remember, while you can easily read this as a stand alone you can always check out the story, including the prequel, in Zora's Dawn:
Showering that evening Zora was thankful for the foresight of Axel. As much as she wanted to see Cairo she still felt too washed out from the jetlag. Her only other international travel had been a trip to Singapore with her father a few years ago. That was a relatively short flight from Australia so no jetlag problems. Staring in the mirror at the dark shadows under her eyes Zora wondered how it must feel for ordinary humans, who lacked the enhanced recovery of the supernaturals. Well, she wasn’t supernatural but she did have enhanced abilities, thanks to the spell cast on her family by Axel all those generations ago.
Abandoning the mirror and her thoughts she dressed in one of the new outfits purchased by the ever obliging Emma back in Melbourne, tailored black pants and a long sleeved top in a shade of gold that exactly matched the gold in her pendant. She added tiger eye earrings, bought by her father on the first anniversary of her mother’s death in an attempt to lift her grief. They hadn’t achieved that goal, but she had appreciated the gesture. Now she often wore them as a symbolic way of linking her parents. Her pendant, of course, she never took off, not since her mother had gifted it to her so long ago.
A memory of the box in the attic at her father’s house slid before her mind’s eye. It was her responsibility, but she still believed it was safest left there. Nobody else knew about it, not even her father. After her mother’s death she had placed a pendent, the twin to hers, inside the box. The box she had locked in a chest along with a small stack of books. She had never looked at the books, not since that day her mother had shown her the chest and the key. Given their current circumstances she felt even more certain that the chest should remain in her father’s attic, at least for the time being.
Pushing the memories to the back of her mind Zora left the bathroom. Powers was waiting patiently for his turn to shower. He stared at her for a few seconds, before brushing past her. Wondering if she had managed to get lipstick on her teeth – not unusual for her – Zora bared them at herself in the mirror, reassured to see them clean. She shrugged, perhaps Powers didn’t believe that she could dress suitably. Figuring he would be some time she decided to make herself a cup of tea, sit on the balcony with that incomparable view of the great pyramid, and relax. She could always redo her lipstick.
Powers, meanwhile, was staring at his reflection in the bathroom mirror. No matter how he tried to ignore it, Zora touched something deep inside him. His feelings for her were growing, about which he despaired. He was her guardian, he could not be anything else. She had come out of the bathroom looking like everything he ever wanted, a vision in red and gold. He was sure he had seen sparks coming from her pendant, just for a second as he went past her. It was as though her pendant recognized him, and that could not be either.
He wondered if he should talk to Axel about it, but hesitated. With all that was going on it seemed a trivial thing to be worried about. He was just going to have to control himself. He was not a hormonal boy, he was a grown man. Of course, he was also a hot blooded shape shifter, which did not help in controlling this attraction. Slapping the side of the bathroom sink in frustration he pushed away his thoughts. It was time for a shower, a cold shower.
Powers was so long in the shower that Zora began to wonder if he had slipped over. Sara, Sunny and Shax had all sent her messages to let her know they were on their way up to the main building, and Powers was still primping himself in the bathroom. She checked her watch, relieved to see that they were not late, not yet anyway. Coming back from the balcony Zora deposited her cup on the tray next to the kettle. She was peering at herself in the mirror, deciding if she needed to renew her lipstick when Powers emerged from the bathroom.
“Finally! I was wondering if you had drowned.”
“Oh ha ha, pot calling the kettle black there.”
Powers stopped behind her and frowned at her reflection. Zora pouted back at him, then pulled her lipstick out of her bag and started to renew it. As she did so she saw a strange expression cross Powers face before he strode off to the balcony doors. Shrugging, who knew what was in his head, she finished and blotted her lips on a tissue.
“Okay, we had better get going. The others are already up there.” Picking up her bag she twirled in front of Powers. “How do I look?”
He grunted, then said, “You look fine. You always do.”
“Fine. Powers I have to meet another Defender, I want to look like I belong in this group and that I’m not the outsider we both know I am.”
Powers stared at her for several long seconds, then stepped closer to her and took her hands in his.
“You do belong, you are one of us. You are the most special one of us and don’t let your fears, or Jake, tell you otherwise. And you look beautiful, like a dream.”
Zora blinked a little. Really she wished she could understand this man.
“Come on.” Tugging her hands a little before dropping them he started to walk towards the door. “You know I’ve just realized that I haven’t been seeing your thoughts so much lately.”
“Oh, Axel showed me how to close the bond.”
Powers stopped in his tracks. “Close the bond? You’ve closed the bond?”
Oops. She knew it would be a bad idea for him to know. What was she thinking, letting it slip. “Yes, but Axel told me to never close it, so that you will know if I need you. I only keep my thoughts private.”
Powers frowned at this news. Clearly he didn’t like being tossed out of her head. Well that was too bad. He didn’t need to know her thoughts, or to see her, when she was right there.
“I don’t like it. I have access to your mind for a reason, to protect you. I can’t do that if I don’t know what’s going on.”
“You don’t need to know what I’m thinking, I’m right here. And the bond is still open so if anything goes wrong you will know.”
“If I don’t know what you’re thinking how can I know if someone is threatening or harassing you unless I’m right beside you?”
Zora sighed. “Powers I can take care of myself. And you’re almost always beside me these days. Anyone would think you like knowing my thoughts.”
“Well I liked your mental picture of me in my black boxer shorts, very flattering.” Powers grinned suggestively at her.
“And that’s exactly why I’m keeping my private thoughts private!”
“Why, are you having X-rated thoughts about me?”
“No! Of course not! God, you’d be the last man I’d have those sorts of thoughts about. I mean okay there was that one time but I explained that.”
Aware that she was digging herself a hole Zora decided to retreat while she still had dignity. “Come on, we will be late.” As Powers opened his mouth she forestalled him. “And I’ll open the bond fully for this evening, but once we are back here my thoughts are my own again.”
Powers grinned, a self satisfied male grin. “That’s fine Zora. I know you like to dream about me.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Now let’s go.”
They walked up to the main building in silence, Zora stalking along with her back stiff with annoyance. Insufferable man. Remembering that he now had access to her thoughts she focused instead on the local Defender she would soon be meeting.
When they entered the dining room she saw that their group was all there, and that the local Defender and her Guardian had not yet arrived. That was good, she felt it would have been bad manners to arrive after their guests.
Taking her seat she smiled at Sunny, Shax and Sara who were closest to her. Joe was deep in conversation with Marcus who had a glass of red wine in front of him. Zora looked askance at it and seeing her look Sunny leaned close and murmured, “Don’t worry, it’s actual wine, not his ‘special’ wine.”
That was a relief. Sunny’s family was one of the human families who supplied blood to the vampire community – in convenient baggies that could be stored in the fridge. While vampires did drink from humans, it was only from consenting adults, so they supplemented with the bagged blood. Marcus preferred to drink his from a wine glass.
Jake was sitting halfway down the table glowering at Shax. Zora wondered if they had argued again, which led her to worrying whether it was a good idea that Jake was here at all. He didn’t approve of her and seemed to be always fighting with Shax. He appeared to her to be a disruptive influence, but he was a werewolf and as such had a right to be with them. And Axel had allowed him to come and he was bound to be a better judge than her.
Putting the problem of Jake out of her mind she accepted the glass of red wine Powers handed her. She couldn’t stop herself from taking a sniff before she took a sip, just to be sure. It had unnerved her to know that Marcus drank blood as casually as she drank wine.
Powers winked at her, then turned to look across the restaurant. Zora followed his gaze and saw two of the most beautiful people she had ever seen in her life coming towards them. The woman was tall and willowy, with long wavy black hair. Even from across the room Zora could see she was stunning, with large dark eyes heavily outlined in kohl. On Zora it would look like clown make-up. On this woman it looked dramatic and mysterious. The man walking beside her was also beautiful, in a masculine way. He was tall, with dark curly hair, a mouth that could only be described as luscious, and the most gorgeous liquid eyes she had ever seen.
She glanced at the women sitting with her. Shax, Sunny and Sara were staring at the new arrivals with the same stunned expression that she was sure was on her face. Powers was not looking at them, he was frowning at her. Of course, with the bond wide open he could see her reaction to the man coming towards them. Well tough. She smiled sweetly at him and fixed her gaze on the new arrivals. They had to be the local Defender and Guardian.
Axel stood to greet the newcomers, as did all the men in their party.
After kissing the woman on both cheeks, Axel shook the man’s hand before enveloping him in a hug. “Basma, Ziyad, great to see you both. Come, sit, and meet everyone.”
Basma sat but Ziyad remained standing behind his chair. They both appeared to be relaxed, smiling at the rest of the table. Axel had seated them to the left and right of him at the head, and began performing introductions, starting at Samantha on Ziyad’s left.
“And this is Zora, Defender.” Zora half rose from her seat as the introductions reached her.
“Ah yes, I have heard of you and the power of your visions.” Basma smiled at her. “I look forward to speaking to you about your experiences.”
“And you are so beautiful Miss Zora, we did not hear of your beauty.” Ziyad also smiled, with devastating effect. Zora could not take her eyes off him. His soft accent gave her name a foreign lilt that made it sound almost sexy. Feeling herself blushing Zora sank down in her seat, grateful for the soft lighting.
Flustered, she cast around for a reply that would sound sophisticated but found nothing and had to resort to, “Thank you Ziyad, and Basma I look forward to talking to you as well.”
Feeling like a clumsy fool she was grateful when the introductions moved past her to James. She picked up her wine glass to take a fortifying sip, noticing as she did Shax leaning towards her across the table.
“Egyptian men, they are beautiful aren’t they? And they are so charming, but watch out as they often can’t be trusted. Although as a guardian I am sure Ziyad does not come into that category.” Shax winked at Zora. “Those eyes, it should be a crime for men to have eyes so beautiful and sexy.”
Zora grinned, grateful that she wasn’t the only one to notice. “Do you mean they all have eyes like that? Why have I never been to Egypt before?”
Powers began to growl, a low animal growl deep in his throat. Glancing at him Zora put on her most innocent expression. “What’s the matter Powers? Has something upset you?”
Sunny and Sara, having been on the receiving end of Ziyad’s smile and lilting voice were both looking star struck.
“Wow, if I wasn’t married I’d be giving him some serious consideration. Well if I wasn’t also a Defender and him being a Guardian.” Sara picked up her napkin and fanned herself exaggeratedly.
“My goodness, that is the most attractive man I have ever seen, did you see his eyes? And his smile? And his voice, it’s sooo beautiful.” Sunny’s blue eyes sparkled with excitement.
A few seats down from her Marcus was looking as grim as Powers, while Jake was frowning even more heavily. Zora looked up the table, to see that Ziyad had taken his seat once the introductions had been completed, and was staring at her. Catching her eye he smiled and winked. Zora felt herself blushing again. Of course, as a guardian he was also a shifter and that meant exceptional hearing. He had no doubt heard them gushing away like schoolgirls. How embarrassing.
Shax broke into her thoughts. “Don’t worry Zora, I’ll bet Ziyad gets this reaction all the time. Did you see, Basma did not even notice.”
Basma certainly did not look bothered. She was listening to Axel, smiling and nodding as he talked. Just then the waiter came to take their orders, for which Zora was grateful since she was starving. She didn’t think it was because of the extra supernatural presence of Ziyad, more likely it was just her body clock still confused about the time.