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LION BLOOD

LOVE IN A TIME OF VENGEANCE

BOOK ONE


BY A.J.JONES



COPYRIGHT 2016 A.J.JONES


SMASHWORDS EDITION





This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

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I would like to thank all of those who have supported me through my writing endeavors. It was a great pleasure.

Thank all of those who took the time to read my book. If you enjoyed it, won’t you please take a moment to leave a review at your favorite retailer?

Thanks!

A.J.Jones

About the Author

I have been writing stories and poetry more for myself since eighth grade. From that time I have been writing here and there. Until two thousand and ten, I finally decided to sit down and take my writing to another level. I wanted to make it a career. A career where I make my own hours, spend more time with loved ones, and be able to be as creative as I want.



The fictional story presented in this novel is loosely based from the Greek myth of Theseus and Phaedra


Cover art by SelfPubBookCover.com/Ravenborn



References

Wikipedia

Werewolves.com

Predator Conservation

LongRidge Writers Group

Lions.org

World Of Baby Names by Teresa Norman

Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Herbs

Roses For Love/Rose Color Meanings

Geology.com

Grammarly

Word Porn

The Writer’s Circle

Writer’s Digest.com





TABLE OF CONTENTS

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

CHAPTER FOURTEEN






CHAPTER ONE

Leander De Le Coeur watched the five foot two mahogany toned woman. He sat incognito in a corner booth. She stood at the counter waiting for her order. Her black kinky twists pulled atop her head. Some had fallen from the deep purple hair tie. They draped lazily on her shoulders. He noticed her brown eyes scanning the screen on her phone.

He didn't want her to see him just yet. His uncertainty of how she’d react after leaving her three years ago kept him from approaching her. He knew of other reasons as to why he couldn’t make an attempt at re-entering her life. Most of them pointed to her death. But his main reasoning was the broken heart he’d let her with. Even though he knew his absence was for the best. The guilt gnawed at him daily.

She looked up from her phone. She made small talk with the blonde aged waitress. She flashed a smile. It was evident the waitress liked to talk. The mahogany woman entertained her conversation.

He stretched his six foot four frame and adjusted his long legs for comfort. His pecan brown hands embraced a small white cup of coffee. He turned his attention to the wall on his right. His light brown eyes looked over the vintage posters and license plates that decorated it. The restaurant had a warm friendly feel to it. Even the waiters and waitresses made it feel like home. He shook his head sadly as he glanced over the wall once more. He knew he could never go back to his real home. His blood family. At least not until he found the truth to clear his name.

The aroma of breakfast hung in the air. His sensitive nose picked up on that. Evening fell upon him and the other patrons. His keen hearing focused on the ringing bells tied to the handle of the glass doors. As an elderly couple took their regular seats a few feet away from him. The nightfall breeze stole in the scent of rain. His soul ached for the impending precipitation. He loved a good downpour. It washed away things seen and unseen. He looked down at the ring on his right ring finger. The gold lion head setting had been designed to look ferocious. In its roaring mouth sat a large ruby. In the stone the family crest was etched. A lion headed man with a human body. He held a gold bow in one hand and gold shackles in the other. Staring at the ring brought back the a memory of of the first time he met his brother. He thought about the day his father gave it to him him the ring.

August 21, 1819. Briar Creek, NC. De Le Coeur Manor.

Leiandros De Le Coeur stood at the head of the round dining room. He held a glass of wine in one large pecan brown hand. He held firmly to his golden lion headed cane with the other. The sun’s rays laid on his bald head. Their light heat caused his skin to glisten. He pulled a white handkerchief from his pocket. He wiped his head. The cloth fell over his scarred eye. It ran from the top of his right brow down to the top of his right cheek. That and his leg were a clear reminder of how brutal life could be.

He looked to the right. His son, Leander, stared back at him with the same light brown eyes. Leiandros smiled proudly.

“Come here,” his regal voice echoed. Leiandros placed the wine glass down on the table. He glanced down at a mahogany box. It sat next to the glass. He returned his attention back to Leander. “We need to talk.”

Leander came to him jovially. Leiandros scooped him up in his arm. With the help of his cane he limped toward his study. He entered and closed the door behind him. He sat Leander on the enormous oak desk. He watched his father as he searched the book shelf.

“I always forget what book it is. The centuries are catching up to me,” he grinned. “Ah, there it is.”

He pulled on a book. It had a red cover with a black lion headed statue on the front. Gold shackles were on its wrists. In its hands were gold shackles and a gold bow and arrows. “I have something to show you. It’s time you know about your family history.”

The book didn’t fully pull out. Leiandros slid the book back in place. Suddenly the entire shelf slowly opened. A gust of old wind blew against Leander. He hopped down from the desk. He walked toward his father. He grabbed his hand. He peered into the opening. He saw nothing, but darkness. He felt his father moving forward. He realized he was taking a step forward. He stayed close and hesitantly followed.

“Don’t be afraid,” his voice resounded in the blackness. Each step his father took was followed by the tap of his cane.

Leander realized, as he trailed behind his father, he was going down spiral stairs. He breathed deeply. He coughed. The dank earthy smell mixed with dust didn’t sit well with his lungs. The cold chill that ran down his spine caused him to shiver. He reached out to the right of him. He felt the frigid hard roughness of stone.

It seemed as if they were going down the dark abyss for some time. His legs ached from the numerous stairs. A sigh of relief escaped his lips when his father stopped.

“We’re here,” he released Leander’s hand. “Don’t move. I’ll get some light.”

He did as his father told him. Even though he heard his father’s footsteps he was frightened. His father’s prescence was already a powerful one, but he felt alone. Suddenly, candles and torches sparked alive causing the place they were in to illuminate. He looked around in amazement. The room they were in was covered in white stone. He extended his hand out. He touched the smooth wall. It was a sharp contrast from the earlier barrage he felt. He looked up at the ceiling. It was covered in gold.

“Come here, son.”

Leander observed in front of his father standing next to two white coffins. He hesitantly ambled closer. He noted the two covers. One was carved in the shape of a man. He was naked except for what seemed like a white sheet over his midsection. He seemed to be at peace. The other was a woman who looked the same. Her sheet cover her midsection and breasts. Two gold handled swords were stood in the chest of each coffin. He squinted his eyes and saw strange symbols carved on the blades.

“What are those,” he pointed to the swords. “Who are they?”

“They are our history,” he strolled over to him. He took his son by the hand and lead him to the shadowed far right wall. “Those symbols are hieroglyphs. They are very sacred and powerful. Those swords are never to be removed. Do you understand?”

“Yes, father,” he glanced back at the coffins. “Are they dangerous?”

“More than you’ll ever know,” he said nostalgically. Leiandros pointed to a black stone wall. At the top was a golden sun. Within the sun was the carving of the same statue that was on the book cover. The sun’s rays turned to roots as they grew further down. “Here.”

“Are these hieroglyphs too,” Leander stepped closer.”

“Yes. They are our names.”

Leander watched as his father told him each name. He noticed he skipped one. When he was finished, he turned to him.

“Why did you skip that name,” he pointed to the top.

“It is a name we don’t mention. It’s not good for anyone.”

Leander said nothing.

“It’s time for you to know who and what you are. You’re a child of the sun. You are born from the ancient bloodline of the Nubian lion god, Apedemak.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means Apedemak has blessed you. Right now, the lion inside you sleeps. But, there will come a time when your lion will awaken. When that time comes, don’t fight it. Claim your power,” he placed his hand on Leander’s left shoulder. “Secrecy and discretion is very important. It is how we have survived all these years. Us and other families. There are those who wish to do us harm. They want to destroy us.”

Leander nodded his head.

“We don’t live by the rules of the humans. We have our own set of rules and laws. As long as we follow them, we will be safe.”

Leander nodded again.

“The ring you see me and your uncle wear are our family crest. Your aunt wears a bracelet. Your mother wears a necklace. You have a ring also. It’s upstairs. You must guard it with your life. It is who you are.”

“I will, father.”

“As you grow, my son, you will learn so much more.”

The voice of one of the waitresses greeting a customer brought Leander out of his remembrance. He glanced at his ring again before placing his hand on the table. When his father told him of his heritage, it was his birthday. He turned two in human years. Twenty four in lion years.

A foreboding presence swept over him. It caused a memory he tried to keep locked away to force itself to the front of his mind. It flooded his mind like a raging waterfall. He tried to fight it as he took a deep breath. It angered him. A luxury he couldn’t afford. He had to keep all his senses in control. He glanced at the young woman again. He looked down at his coffee cup. He blamed himself for what happened that night. If only he’d listened to his instincts.

Briar Creek, NC. May, Two thousand thirteen.

The De Le Coeur French chateau styled red brick home stood tall and regal against the backdrop of the descending sun. The shades of night seemed to quickly chase away the chariots of day. The tall white columns stood like beacons against dusk. Each of the twelve tall rectangular windows held a candle on the sill. They flickered as if each flame waited for a visitor. Leander De Le Coeur waited at the front gates. His black Chevy Suburban purred. The tall spiked iron gates opened slowly. He stepped on the gas and he roared through. The gravel road leading to the front of the manor sent small rocks flying from under the tires. On each side of the driveway stood white magnolia trees. They towered like giants. He noticed the small white petals from neighboring flowering dogwood trees made the path look snow covered. When he got to the front of the manor he turned the truck off, he parked, and stepped out. He closed the door behind him. He proceeded to sprint up the five red brick stairs that lead to the heavy oak door. A large lion shaped knocker adorned it. Its ferocious snarl held a heavy metal ring in its teeth. Just as he reached for it he heard a soft voice behind him.

“Leander.”

He turned quickly. He saw Phaedra Shan standing a few feet behind him. He noticed her five foot seven frame emerged from the shadows like a phantom. Her brown hair hung wild to her shoulders. He noticed blood splatters on her cafe au lait skin and her white dress. Her brown eyes looked glassy and crazed.

“What happened,” he fully turned to her. He sniffed the air. The blood scent seemed familiar to him.

“Nothing,” she shrugged her shoulders. “I was hunting.”

“Either nothing happened or you were hunting. Pick a lie.”

“Fine,” her face went grim. “Your mother needs help in Amina’s garden.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” he sighed. He felt something wasn’t right. “She doesn’t go into the garden at night unless it for a family gathering.”

“Yes,” she shifted uncomfortably. “She asked me to keep a lookout for you.”

“I find that hard to believe. Since my mother barely parts her lips to speak to you,” he snarled. “I’m just the messenger. Follow me, please.”

He turned to the door. He stopped. His instincts kicked him hard in the gut. The soft spring wind had a force to it as if telling him to go inside. Don’t follow her. He spun back and Phaedra was gone. He stepped down the stairs. Another shove of spring wind moved him back. His curiosity tugged at him more forcefully than the wind pushed him. He hesitated for a moment. He walked to the far left. The spring breezes danced occasionally through the pines and wisteria vines while the azaleas bushes swayed at the trunk of the trees. His search took him to a cobblestone stone path. It lead him deep into the forest. The breeze swirled and embellished the path with white and pink petals. He looked up at the wisteria vines. They formed over him like a natural ceiling. The purple flowers bloomed on them and hung like amethyst chandeliers. He walked further down the cobblestones. He approached a clearing. As he traveled further, he noticed Phaedra stood on the right side of an empty fire pit. It sat darkened by previous blazes.

“What do you want,” he shoved his hands in his jean pockets.

“A moment with you,” she took a step toward him. “I know you went to see Mtima today.”

“Yes, I did. But, it’s none of your business.”

“I know,” she took a step toward him. “But, I wish you could’ve been with me.”

“What,” he repressed a feeling of disgust.

“Mtima is not the woman for you. She’s not strong enough to be part of this family.”

“Keep her name out of your mouth. Mtima has been a part of this family since she was five. We raised her and she’ll be better for our family then you’ll ever be,” he growled.

“You don’t believe that,” she took another step toward him. He took a step back. “I can change your mind.”

“With all my heart, I truly do. You’ve already slithered your way into our family. There’s no way you’re going to get another chance to ruin us,” he clenched his teeth.

“I’m not trying to ruin anything,” he voice registered a childlike innocence.

“I’m not my father. What my father did was a mistake.”

“Are you saying your brother was a mistake,” she paused.

“The only mistake is that you’re my brother’s mother and my father was fool enough to fall for your treachery.”

“Don’t be so cold, Leander,” she strolled toward him like a cat on the prowl. “Let me show you how much I need your love. How much you need mine.”

Before he could move away she pounced on him. He fought her while trying to ignore her declarations of love.

“We can rule the De Le Coeur pride together,” she said amongst the struggle. “Or, have one of our own.”

“Stop,” he fought.

“I can’t control what I feel for you,” She placed her hands on his heart. “Tell me you feel it too. You desire me as much as I desire you.”

As much as his mother and father taught him to respect women he didn't see Phaedra as such. Especially with her past treacherous actions. He shoved her harder than he should have. His apologetic feelings came and went as she forced herself on him again. He shoved her once more. He witnessed her shocked expression as she tripped over her own feet. She fell to the ground hard. He watched her as she limped her way to a standing position. He straightened his clothes and waited for a moment. Their heavy breaths filled the space between them.

“I will tell my father of this,” he spoke. “Maybe, he’ll finally be done with you.”

An ear splitting scream pierced the stillness of the night. He looked toward the manor. Phaedra’s sinister giggling made him return his attention back to her.

“I don’t think you mother is going to make it to the garden.”

“You told me-,” it finally dawned on Leander.

Another scream assaulted his sensitive ears. He ran with all his speed from the garden. He finally made it to the chateau. He banged and knocked on the front door. No one answered. He darted to the right side door. Luckily it wasn’t locked yet. He pushed it open. He scanned the room and realized he ran into the kitchen. He noticed the hallway ahead. Before he could step foot towards it, a force yanked him up by the collar. It threw him against the right kitchen wall. He tried to regain himself.

“Your mother,” a familiar voice roared angrily. “You harm her and think you can walk back in my home as if nothing happened.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he roared back. He focused and saw his father staring vengefully at him.

Leander had no time to explain. His six foot four build compared not to the six foot five build of his father. Not because of his height, but his strength. The light from the hall gleamed on his father’s bald head. The rage in his eyes glared like balls of golden fire with an iridescence. He tried to run, but his father snatched him up. He pummeled him until Leander fell to his knees. Any attempts to block his father’s blows deemed useless.

His father grabbed him by the back of his neck. He dragged him from the kitchen to his study.

“You spilled her blood. Now, I’ll spill yours.”

He heard and felt the cracking of his ribs as his father gave him a blow to the left side. His insides jostled within his body. He felt his essence slowly spilling out from any lacerations his father caused. Suddenly it all stopped. He laid on the floor. His energy gone from futile fighting. He moaned in pain as someone lifted him up. He used what strength he had left to stumble with whoever helped him. He moved his lips. His words choked and gargled in his throat.

“I don’t know what happened,” his uncle’s voice found his ears. “But, we need to get you away from here.”

He thought he heard his aunt. He wasn’t sure. He passed out from the pain.


****



Leander felt the coolness of a soft breeze caresss him out of his torturous slumber. The softness of the sheets and comfortable bed soothed his aches. He tried to move his hand to his chest, but the pain wouldn’t allow him. He groaned annoyed at the fact he couldn’t move like he wanted to. He sensed someone near him. He opened his eyes.

“Leander.”

“Uncle,” he recognized the voice. He saw a tall shadow looming over him. He blinked a few times to focus. He looked to the left and right. He realized he rested in a safe place. He noticed the controlled rage and gloom in his uncle’s eyes. He saw the flicker of an iridescent glow as he leaned closer.

“You’re at my home,” he sat down on the edge of the bed. His locs draped loose. They outlined his face like a dark hood. “Your father evidently wasn’t as mad as he let on. He would’ve killed you if he were.”

“Why did he attack me,” he tried to sit up. His body reminded him of his agony.

“Rest, nephew,” he placed his hand on his shoulder.

Leander heard a menacing growl rumble in his uncle’s throat. He didn’t know if he should be afraid or cautious.

“She got into your father’s head. From what your father told me she said you raped her. Phaedra said you attacked your mother because she didn’t approve your relationship.”

“That’s a lie,” he grumbled angrily. “All of it. I never violated Phaedra. We never had a relationship.”

“I know. I sense no trace of falsities in you.”

“My mother. What happened to her?”

“You’re mother...” he hesitated. He hung his head low as if trying to conceal his emotion.

“I need to see her,” Leander tried to move. He groaned. “Where is she?”

“Please, wait until you’re healed,” he leaned back.

Leander fought through his distress. He put his feet to the floor. His uncle helped him up. He stumbled his way to the door. He steadied himself against the doorframe. He looked over his shoulder at his uncle.

“I can sense her sadness. Her anger. Her heart is broken,” his breaths were labored.

“She’s in the room next to this one. To the right,” Issa motioned with a nod of his head.

Leander stepped out of his room. He used the wall to steady himself as he made his way to his mother. He rested midway. His condition made the trek seem endless. He noticed the door partially opened. He heard soft sobbing. He swept the door wider. He stepped in the room. He saw it decorated for a queen. Shades of gold and red curtains hung from the ceiling. He parted them as he moved further in. He glanced around. He saw obsidian statues in the four corners of the room. They had the head of a lion and the body of a man. They stood protectively watching over his mother. Purple curtains draped from the large canopy bed. His aunt Amina was kneeling down by the right edge of it. Her head hung low. Her chocolate brown curls unkempt. She turned to him. Her brown eyes no longer human, but of the lioness which raged within. They were red rimmed from her sobbing. They also showed the deep pain she felt in her heart. The same iridescent glow that flashed from his uncle’s eyes flashed in Amina’s.

“Leander,” she sniffed. “Your mother…Adia.”

He staggered into the room. He reached out and ripped the curtains back. His heart sank. He walked around Amina and stood at the head of the bed. He stared at his mother. He took in the sight. Her copper brown shoulders uncovered. Her large dark braids were messy and sprawled all over the white silk pillow. A blood soaked gauze bandage wrapped around her neck.

“What...happened,” he slowly fell to his knees.

“That stray,” Anima growled. “She did this!”

He reached over and placed his hand on his mother’s heart. Her breaths felt long and shallow. He stared into her sad eyes.

“Mother,” he choked back tears. “I will avenge you. She and anyone else involved will know my wrath. I will ensure whatever evil that was done to you I will place upon them three fold.”

“No,” her voice raspy. She placed her hand on his. “Let them be for now. Their time will come. You will have your day.”

“How can you be so calm and forgiving,” he felt his rage ignite. He quickly suppressed it when he saw tears spilling from her eyes. He reached over. He lovingly wiped them away. He had to be strong for her.

“Not...forgiving.”

“My sister lays here fighting for her life,” Amina stood over him. Her fist clenched. “Your uncle told me why your father went in to such a deranged frenzy. Please, nephew. Tell me the atrocity that stray speaks of is not true.”

“It’s not true,” he let a single tear fall. “Like I told uncle, I never touched her. We never had anything. I came home from seeing Mtima. Phaedra met me at the front door. I saw the blood on her dress. I didn’t think much of it because I really wasn’t in the mood to deal with her.”

“What next,” Amina growled.

“She told me mother needed me in your garden. She spoke of loving me and Mtima not being the one for me. The only thing that happened was when I pushed her down to get her away from me. I think she hurt herself.”

“Your father will hunt you down. He won’t stop until you’re brought to trial,” Issa said as he walked into the room. “He is an Elder. He’s on the high court. He will not stop until you’re sentenced to death.”

“For something I didn’t do. Is he even interested in finding the truth?”

“Evidently not.”

“I will stay in hiding until I find the evidence I need to clear my name,” Leander turned to his uncle. He stated with conviction. “I will clear my name.”

“No matter how much wrong he’s done to Adia he won’t allow anyone else to harm her,” Issa huffed. “I don’t know why he would think you would hurt your own mother?”

“Why should Leiandros care about Adia now,” Amina screamed angrily. She turned from Leander and faced Issa. “He didn’t care when he broke her heart.”

Leander stood. His face grim. His heart angry. He kissed his mother on the forehead. He turned to his uncle and aunt.

“Tell no one of my whereabouts. As far as you know I’ve disappeared.”

“But, Leander,” Amina’s emotions softened. “What about your mother? Mtima.”

“No,” he paused. “My life is in danger and I don’t want anyone else involved.”

“We’re all involved,” Issa rubbed his hands together. He took a deep breath. “You’re going to break that girl’s heart. Your mother’s heart is already broken.”

“I have to uncle. Mother will understand.”

“Mtima doesn’t even know what she is. Who she is,” Amina replied.

“I’ll handle that problem when the time comes,” Leander looked back at his mother. Her eyes closed. Her chest slowly lifted and fell. Her tears still slid down her face. She had fallen asleep.

The clanging of dishes and silverware pulled him from his nostalgia. He looked around and saw the waitress flouncing toward him.

“Sorry to bother you,” she timidly spoke. She held a coffee pot in her hand. Her hand shook. “You seemed deep in thought. I just came over to see if you needed anything else.”

"No, thank you," he smiled.

"You know,” she grinned. “Since I’ve been working here I’ve noticed you usually get something besides coffee.”

“I’m not hungry today, love,” he gazed at the waitress.

He noticed her blushing through light caramel skin. She gave flirtatious signals. A nibble on her bottom lip. The seductive sparkle in her eyes. He could visibly see her youth. He noticed her small waist and narrow hips. Her wavy brown hair pulled back in a neat twist showed the beauty she probably wasn’t modest about.

“How long have you noticed," he inquired. He felt like he needed to be watchful of the female. He'd been very careful for the past three years. He didn’t want anything to throw him off his mission.

He viewed the mahogany woman. He noticed she and the waitress finished their conversation. She checked her order to make sure it was correct. He turned his attention back to the waitress. He watched her refill his cup.

"Thank you.”

“No problem,” she winked. "I've noticed you for the past few months. You kind of stand out.”

“Really,” his intuition flared. “Why do you say this?”

“Well,” she placed the pot of coffee on the table. “I love your accent. I can’t place it. You speak like you have a growl to your voice. You always dress like you’re going to a business meeting. This isn’t exactly the type of place you dress up for. And, I figured your favorite color must be red because you always have something red on. Like that ring on your finger.”

“Sometimes it isn’t about the place, but the person,” he beheld the ring. He smiled. “Yes, red is my favorite color. Very perceptive.”

“True,” she smiled back. “And, thank you.”

He caught a glimpse of her name tag before she disappeared to the back.

“Trisha,” he said. He grinned as he lifted his cup to his lips. Before the brown liquid had time to warm his belly, his grin faded. “You’ve been noticing me for other reasons.”

“What,” she smiled nervously.

“Don’t think me stupid,” he took another sip of his coffee. He placed the cup down. “All this time you’ve worked here and today is the day you decide to speak to me.”

“I finally got the nerve to speak to you.”

“You’re investigating me.”

“For who,” she looked around uneasily.

“Him,” he growled. “I smelled his scent when I walked in. I have it to memory. His very prescence emits danger.”


CHAPTER TWO

Leander’s senses ignited. For a brief second his heart swelled with love and joy as memories of a much more gleeful time played in his mind. His nostrils flared. His eyes set upon the dark clad figure that slid into the seat across from him. He stared into eyes that were like his. He noticed the mixture of the pecan tone and café au lait complexion. An adequate blend of their father and his brother's mother. His loose black curls were pulled back into a ponytail. The expression on his brother's face exuded the seriousness of the situation. He looked over and noticed Trisha had left them. She slithered behind the counter.

“How fortunate am I,” he said as a smirk crossed his lips. “Looks like the human was good for something.”

“How’ve you been, Amir,” Leander leaned back. He rested his hands on the table.

“Fine," he leaned forward and placed his arms on the table.

Leander glanced around as he took a deep breath. His eyes stopped on the mahogany woman for what he hoped wasn't the last time. He noticed she finally put her phone in her small black leather backpack. She tied the plastic bag her meal rested in. She headed toward the door. “Mtima,” a sly grin spread on Amir’s lips. “I didn’t get a chance to visit her today.”

“You’ve been around her,” Leander slowly turned back to Amir. He seethed inside knowing Amir had been around Mtima. “Don’t bring Mtima into this, brother. That’ll be you biggest mistake

“With you being gone and all, someone had to keep her company,” Amir chuckled maliciously.

“You have allowed yourself to become weak because of that treacherous woman you call a mother," he gave his full attention to Amir

“Watch your mouth about my mother. At this moment she holds your life in her hands,” he snarled.

“No one holds my life in their hands,” Leander leaned in and scowled at Amir. A low threatening growl rumbled from his chest. "I will prove my innocence since you're too much of a fool to see the truth. The one responsible for all of this chaos is the same one who claims to be innocent. There’s nothing innocent about her."

“If you would’ve seen how she was that night-,”

“I would’ve laughed in her face. She’s a liar,” Leander didn’t break his gaze. “Why would you defend someone who didn’t tell you about your real father until you were a year old?”

“A low blow even for you, brother.”

“Just trying to get the point across,” Leander smirked.

He looked passed Amir toward the glass doors. The woman had left. He noticed the wet parking spaces. He was engrossed in his conversation with Amir he didn't notice it raining. He looked down at the table and saw his brother's arms crossed over the top of each other. He watched him slowly uncross them. The glare from a silver handled dagger temporarily blinded him. He quickly recovered. The handle was sculpted into intertwining lion tails. A large ruby sat at the bottom of it. On the left and right guard rested rubies of the same size.

"So, this is what it has come to," he slid from the booth. He stood and watched his brother mirror his actions. “You’re not interested in the truth. You never were.”

"I am. Father is a different story.”

“When he’s enraged he’s deaf to reason.”

“Come with me, Leander,” sympathy dripped from Amir’s words. “In my heart I truly wish you no harm.”

"Not until I have proven my innocence, brother," he gestured toward the dagger Amir kept hidden. “You allowed the poisonous tongue of your mother to destroy our lives. Now, you try to pull at my heart strings. I have no sympathy or mercy for those who wish me harm over a lie.”

“I don’t want to lose the only family I have,” Amir reiterated.

“Help me get the truth, Amir,” Leander pleaded with him. “Find your mother. If your heart changes, I’ll allow you to take me in with no hesitation.”

“My mother wouldn’t lie about something this serious.”

“Your mother is the queen of lies.”

“Father-,”

“Stop trying to please him and do what’s right.”

Silence answered Leander. He stared at Amir as he looked down. He shook his head sadly. He brushed past his brother. He walked toward the door. He abruptly stopped. All his senses flared. He immediately felt something was wrong. He heard a scream. He turned and saw the blade of the dagger coming toward him. He dodged the attack. He pushed his brother against the wall causing the pictures and other mementos to crash to the floor. Leander saw the change in his brother. His eyes revealed the animal hidden inside. His top and bottom canines descended. Leander sneered.

"Careful, brother.”

“Of what? You,” Amir roared. “Do you even remember your Medjai training?”

“How quickly the sympathy you asked for has left you,” Leander receded. “As for my training, come find out.”

“I hope my mother sees your head roll,” Amir raced toward him. “I’ll be the one to chop it off!”

Leander stumbled back when Amir roughly shoved him. He quickly regained his balance. It wasn't quick enough. Amir tackled him to the floor. They fought like territorial lions. Growls, roars and the frightened screams of the waitresses intermingled in the cafe. The scared and confused patrons stared on.

Leander got the upper hand. He easily raised Amir in the air and slammed him on a table. It broke in two.

“How about that training.”

He watched Amir as he rolled around disoriented. His sensitive hearing heard whimpering next to him. He turned to his left. He saw Trisha huddled in the corner. He walked over to her. He kneeled down and held his hand out to her. He noticed the fear in her eyes. He looked down at his hand and realized her reason. His hand wasn't the same hand that held his cup of coffee from earlier. Tawny colored fur covered it. Elongated fingers stretched out. Curved claws finished the tips. He ran his tongue across his teeth. He felt the sharp points of his upper canines.


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