#1589

She doesn’t knock. She doesn’t have to. Daren senses her presence somehow, not so much a tingling on the back of his neck as a disturbance in the air of laughter unheard. Blade held down at his side, he makes his way to the door and opens it part way, one foot positioned to block it from being pushed farther. “What are you doing here?” he demands flatly.

“Is that any way to greet me after so many years, brother?” The woman on the other side of the door frowns as if injured by his callous greeting. “I thought you’d be happy to see me.” Daren sighs, keeping a firm grip on the door handle with one hand and his knife with the other – still out of sight, though he has no doubt she expects him to be carrying it. “What are you doing here, Mage?” he asks, trying for a slightly more civil, though no less threatening, tone.

“I’ve been worried about you, of course,” She lays a hand over her breast as a show of sincerity and he almost laughs aloud – like she even has a heart in there. “I wanted to see how you’ve fared since we both got out of that awful place. You’ve been terribly hard to find of late, you know. You were living on your own for some time,” she inches closer, lowers her voice with a smirk, “but that’s not true anymore, is it?”

“Leave him out of this,” Daren snarls before he can bite back the response. Mage chuckles, her smile smoothing sweetly. “He’s very handsome, this friend of yours. And he must be rather rich, too,” she adds, eying the glimpse of the apartment she can see past Daren. “I wonder what he sees in you, Brother?”

“Call me that again and you’ll have a knife in your throat,” He moves his hand just enough to catch light on the blade held at his side. Mage’s cool green eyes flicker to the blade and back and she laughs delightedly. “Such a temper! They couldn’t break you of that, could they? Good,” her eyes narrow, a feral grin he knows too well, “I like your anger. It suits you.”

Daren refuses to rise to the bait this time. “You should leave,” he growls. “Now.”

“I see your hospitality hasn’t improved much,” Mage shakes her head woefully. “Won’t you even invite me in? Offer me a drink for old times’ sake?” When Daren doesn’t respond she sighs, pouting her disappointment like a child denied a toy. “Fine, I’ll go. But do say hello to your companion for me, won’t you?”

“Fuck off,” Daren slams the door in her face, a gesture of finality and dismissal that betrays his unease. As he pockets the knife he hears her laugh softly on the other side of the door and murmur, “See you around, brother dear.”

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