Dominion tried to hold his tongue as he saw his pathetic self as a child. It looked nothing like him, of course. Moving from dimensions changed the appearance, but the eyes were still a dead give-away – large and blinking, innocent. It was a part of him he wanted to forget, but he couldn’t. He had no memories of what happened to him before he met the aliens, when he had a normal life. He didn’t think he had any memories of the times he helped lovers anymore, either.

Yet, there it was. He remembered the fear. The panic. It was the first time since . . .

Dominic opened his eyes and looked around. He was no longer in the tunnel. There was a deep growl behind him, like a werewolf. He turned toward the sound, but was not afraid. “To save everything, you must be with Angel.” The growling hadn’t stopped, but a man emerged. A man he had never seen before.

Who is Angel, and who are you?” He was a muscular man, but he continued to growl. “A little boy innocently hanging out in my private estate? No one knows this location!”

You’re not Booth.” This was not the wolf Dominic should have been seeing. “I don’t know you, who are you?” Why had he been brought to him?

I am Hero,” the man said. “Tell me how you made it in here.”

I am traveling through dimensions. I have news that I am supposed to share.” Dominic bit his lip. “I know how to stop the end of your universe, but you’re not involved.”

A boy. Blue and transparent.” The man began to bend down and transformed into a wolf. A white wolf. “Are you really trying the excuse of being Apocalypse Boy?”

“I miss that,” Mistress said, interrupting Dominion’s thoughts as they watched Dominic’s memory together.

Missed what? “That cute little kid over there?” He gestured to Dominic, his past self, as the memory continued to play out. “Worthless. I doubt something like a message even had purpose.”

“Not you as the boy. Although, I appreciated the manners better,” Mistress added. “No, I mourn the loss of the powerful legend we held. The alien gods got rid of it shortly after sending you away. The mythological folklore of us, it was a protective measure. Even a wolf that could tear us apart would never try to because he knew who we were. The legend of a boy and girl, giving a warning about how the world would end. Only those who believed, survived. It’s gone now. No dimension or world remembers.”

“Good. It wouldn’t help us, we’re not kids anymore. Barely feel human.” Dominion watched as his younger self faded away.

***

“Hero, the White Wolf, is down below fighting,” Mistress said, as she pointed off the bridge. “These two are the ones who need to reach the next dimension. Do you sense the other one?”

“You think the gods would be stupid enough to actually give me that kind of ability again?” Dominion scoffed, but he did have some tingles coming from above. In his mind’s eye, he saw a young woman walking. Yeah, they were that stupid. He pointed his finger above him. “Last bridge up. They should trust you more than me. Don’t you have anything?”

“Yes. I have a similar feeling I got from the star-crossed magnets, just not as strong.” Mistress glanced toward him. “I just wanted to know if the gods would give you power as well. They don’t trust you, but they did yank you out of Hell for this.” Mistress grabbed onto the side of the bridge. It was held together with steel bars, interconnecting each other. Holding onto it tightly, she climbed up the smooth surface. Any other mortal would fall, but not Mistress with her training.

Shimmying up the steel bars, she received a few cursory glances before she landed where she planned – right next to the girl walking. She had not even noticed her, occupied with something else, as Mistress jumped down on the bridge.

 


Roxie

I looked back and saw Alexandra coming toward me with two drinks. “What kind are they?” I asked as she gestured toward it. “It’s not White Wolf Lime, is it?” I shook the container.

“Nope, Roxie. One is Blue Forest and the other is my shake.” Alexandra handed the drink to me. “White Wolf Lime is absolutely bitter. Besides, aren’t they in like a war with Hero’s agents or something? Hero never endorses anything.” She grinned. “He’s too freakin’ cool for it.”

I shrugged and walked away. “Doubt it, he never cares about anything, or White Wolf Wash would have been brought down , too. White Wolf Burger, too.”

“Let’s not go there,” Alexandra said. “Obviously wrong, but they’ve got awesome burgers. Hey, is that Jason over there?”

I took a sip as she waved to Jason, but then everyone was rushing to the side. What was going on? Alexandra and I got shoved forward by people in the back that also wanted to see. I tapped on someone’s shoulder. “Hello, sir? What’s going on?”

He gestured in front of him. “Hero, the White Wolf himself, he’s fighting down below!” He tried to break through the crowd. “It’s so packed that I’ll never get close to see him, though.”

“Oh, I knew I should have walked on the left instead of the right,” Alexandra kicked herself. “Who’s he fighting?”

“I don’t know,” the man spoke again. “At this rate, I never will.”

“But you will.”

I looked behind me at a really odd looking woman. She wore a strange kind of shiny hide that I’d never heard of or seen before. She had deep black hair, but her eyes? Her eyes were hard to place. The color or the friendliness behind them. Foreign? “Are you speaking to me? Who are you?”

The woman propped herself up with the bridge. “I used to be Vanessa, but, as the one who named me says it doesn’t fit anymore, I go by Mistress. May I have a drink? I have not drunk for almost a month.”

“You mean a shake?” Alexandra handed Vanessa a shake. “Or what?”

“Anything.” As Vanessa took the drink, it suddenly disappeared.

“What the heck?” Alexandra and I both looked at each other. Did that drink just disappear? “Where did my shake go?”

“Probably back a few years, to a dark abyss.” Vanessa growled. “Tomfoolery of the Nightmare King.” She looked back toward the women. “Nevermind. You need to get a little closer to the action, don’t you think?”

“Oh no, they don’t.”

Alexandra and I watched as a girl approached. This one though, was carrying a whip nearly ten feet long. We backed up together. Who had such a weapon out in broad daylight? Who even owned one? The two began to speak like enemies. I felt like I was eavesdropping on one of those public conversations that should have been private. Looking toward Alexandra, I didn’t know what to do. It was awkward.

“Sya.” Mistress moved toward her. “What are you doing here?”

“Who are you and how do you know my name?” The woman with the whip snapped it.

“I am someone from a future you are not a part of. In my time, you’ve already been sent to Hell.” She almost smiled, unable to help it. “I am Mistress. You will remember me as the legendary Apocalypse Girl.”

“Eh? Everyone looks different, but not that different. When did you start dressing in leather?”

“When I realized that wearing something that said ‘don’t screw with me’, worked better. I have changed from my former self but Dominion’s change is a thousand times worse. Save yourself grief, and just tell me what you did to this world.”

“Go away,” Sya said. “You might have learned a thing or two about speaking better from Dominic, but that won’t save you, Vanessa.”

“His name is Dominion.” Mistress held her ground against the girl with the whip. “I am Mistress to you, only those I choose can use that other name.” She turned slightly to glance back at Alexandra and me. “Roxie, head as close to the bridge as you can.” We didn’t move at first, as we watched the movements of the whip. What if the other girl got angry and used it against us? “Get out of here, unless you want to get hurt,” Mistress said more strongly.

“Oh, damn.” Alexandra pulled on me. “Let’s get closer to the bridge side, something is going on up here and I don’t want to be a part of it!”

A good point. Neither this strange Mistress girl or the girl with the whip was someone I wanted to get to know! What a day to pick to hang out. I should’ve gone shopping instead.

After watching them leave, Mistress turned back toward Sya. “Physical violence doesn’t faze me. Leaving me dead for dragons, does. That’s what was supposed to happen, right?”

“Ooh, you are good.”

“No, I’ve just become informed over the years as to what the paradox was that sent Dominion away.” Mistress laid her eyes into Sya’s being. “And you.”

Sya. It was hard to even look her in the eye. Sya had convinced Mistress that she was the next chosen one to take her place. Since Mistress’ village had not survived, Mistress felt obliged to help her. She learned after Dominion left to Hell, that the paradox part that had changed…was Vanessa.

Vanessa’s life – her life – had been snuffed out by Sya, by being trapped by dragons. The last person she was supposed to see was Dominion as a boy, taken there by the Nightmare King. She gave him information that he could have never received in his own time, before being left to die by a dragon’s claws. A paradox that she had set right now, but still burned to think about. “Why? Why were you working with Armageddon?”

“Because we both have the same goal,” Sya answered. “Now, Roxie and Hero’s son will never be born.”

“No.” Vanessa shook her head. “It will not happen. The magnets will attract. They are destined to be together.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Sya laughed as she twirled her whip over her head. “It was just a few tiny changes. Minimal details in the lab, but wow, are they going to affect Hero and Roxie. I don’t care if they meet, or even if they do have the boy. You still can’t win.”

“You have no extra power, do not pretend like you do, it’s unbecoming and makes you even more inferior to me.” Vanessa turned her nose up. “It’s blissful ignorance to believe you shall beat me.” Besides, she knew with Hero taking care of the project below, and them fighting up there, it would only be about a minute before Hero’s senses would send him up. She could already hear the sound of claws climbing up through the bridges.

He arrived, but he didn’t seem to be focused on Vanessa like she presumed he would be. Instead his eyes instantly went toward Roxie. The scent had been so powerful, that his attention automatically shifted to his true magnet.


Hero

I heard a commotion up higher, the sounds of a whip beating down. I quickly finished off the project, and headed up to put a stop to whatever had been going on. While I climbed up to the fourth bridge though, I took one big whiff and almost fell backward off that bridge. The scent! What was it? A new attack? A new power? I approached the one emitting the scent. Young, nineteen or so, just like me. Dark hair. Dark eyes. Light complexion. I slowly walked on all fours, watching her.

“What?” she asked me, almost in disbelief.

I couldn’t move my eyes away from her. “Who are you?”

“Me?” She gestured to herself then she pointed away from her. “You have some random teen trying to drag a whip out into the air and you’re asking about me?”

Teen? I glanced toward my right and saw what she meant. How could my senses have been confused enough to forget that? I bounded away to the two who seemed to be creating mischief. One was a teen – a young teen holding the whip. The other was a woman, unarmed yet facing the whip like it meant nothing to her. “Enough!”

The two stopped. The teen girl holding the whip seemed less willing to stop, but she did not move against the woman.

“Give me that weapon,” I demanded. I approached and grabbed the base of the whip in my teeth. Seizing it, I brought it up to the air and lashed it down in an empty corner. Enough to frighten them. Foolish, thinking that fighting was fun.

Okay, it was fun, but it had an intended purpose that neither of these humans had. I let the whip fall out of my mouth to the floor. “I don’t know what is going on between you two, but no one is going to get hit with a whip.”

“The whip is more for show,” the girl that had held the whip said. “We were just playing together. We’re tomboys, aren’t we, Mistress?”

The woman showed no signs of agreeing with her. The only agreement was the words used, but even they were staccato and cold. “Yes. Playing.”

No, that was not playing. I wanted to scold them longer, but I was losing my concentration. The woman with the strange scent was plaguing my senses. “The one who pointed you out, is she with you as well?” I looked back toward the strange-scented girl.

“No,” she said sternly. “I simply pointed them out.”

“You have a strange scent around you,” I warned the girl that caught my interest. “Too strange.”

“You have a strange scent, too.” Her words were softer, almost slurred. “Wolf.”

When she said that word, why did it make my back tingle?

“You clearly have something in common,” the woman who stood against the whip said. “Perhaps you should go out?”

“This isn’t a time for jokes! I want the names of your institutions, all three of you.” I kept my eyes on the strange-scented girl. “What is your school and profile information? You still attend?” My eyes moved down her body. “Or maybe not.”

“I have one year left. I am Roxie Malone. Nineteen. Charlotte, district nine, under command of the representative Leon Ward.”

“Us, too,” the others chimed. I did not believe them. In fact, the more I studied them, the more I began to wonder about their residency at all. Their clothes were different from the usual style. The hairstyle was less common. There was a strange accent to their voice I had never heard before.

I glanced back at the one called Roxie. Had she been a fighter too, or was her information true? Her clothes and dialect were natural and in order. Yet that smell – that wonderful smell. It seemed to only intensify around me.

Roxie Malone. Age, nineteen. Charlotte in district nine. It was a good point to get some research done on her. As for the other two?

By the time I looked back, those two troublemakers were gone. Was that smell so insane on my senses I could not even keep mere humans from escaping me? Well, at least the girl with the strange scent was still there.

***

“Have fun?” Dominion asked as Mistress shimmied back down the pole. With the chain between them, he wouldn’t be able to go too far.

“Bunches.” She jumped off the pole and landed next to him. “Sya was there. She said that something happened in a lab before they were even born. I do not think the gods gave us the power to go farther back past birth.”

“Those assholes don’t even give us much option before they meet,” Dominion said more emphatically. “There’s no one worse than infallible aliens.”

“I disagree.” Mistress looked back toward the pole. “The paradox saved me. I was supposed to die among dragons because of Sya’s betrayal.”

“One death is one death.”

What? Mistress couldn’t believe what he said. One death was one death? What did that mean? “You believe I should be more enraged by the alien gods than by Sya? The one who was supposed to have betrayed me to have me killed?”

“I’m saying,” Dominion said, almost annoyed, “that death might not be the worse thing out there.”

Just…just…ignore him, she thought. Ignore him. Let the anger go. Calm. Relax. “Fuck you, Dominion.”

“Ohh.” Dominion almost cracked a smile. “Such language, Mistress. I’m not the only one who changed.”

“You are the only one who seems to think being angry at Sya or Armageddon is useless,” Mistress pointed out. “That the alien gods are the only cruel ones. Did you forget they are the ones who are responsible for you being sent to Hell? For all the . . . the messed up things that happened?”

Dominion was nowhere close to smiling anymore. “I know.” He lowered his eyes to the ground. “I know a great deal more than you. You may have been up here watching all the crooked turns, all the destruction caused, but you don’t know what I’ve seen.”

His eyes. Mistress couldn’t place it. They weren’t the boy’s eyes she once knew, nor were they the beast of Hell that scared the gods. Yet, they were . . . real. Cold but warm. Lukewarm, yet genuine. Almost familiar.

He looked away, almost as if he was shielding his eyes from hers. “I can feel that events are fine. Hero now knows Roxie’s information and he will set up a date with her, so he can find out about her scent. Their destiny is back on course.”

“At some point things will change, though. Do you see what happens during their date?”

“No. The change probably happens during the date. We’ll be there so we’ll fix it and get out before we even have to see the new happily ever after between the magnets.” He pulled himself upright. “Let’s go.”


Roxie

I returned to school the next day, my mind anxious to talk to my friends about what happened. One of my friends though, Alexandra, was surrounded by a large group of people. She was talking about how she had hung out with Hero in a human form. He had even taken her into a foreign district for supper.

“It was amazing,” Alexandra told everyone, “and I wish it could have lasted longer. Boy, does he have a chest up close, too.” She sighed, and grabbed her heart in a cheesy fashion. “I wish I could be . . . Roxie!”

Suddenly, everyone stopped to look at me. Déjà vu, again. At least I didn’t have a drink in my hand this time. What was up with me being the center of attention the last two days? “Hello?”

“Roxie! You!” Alexandra ran up to her. “You, Hero wanted to know nothing except you. You, your family, your interests, and even your hobbies. He is so stuck on you, if Bladon were here, he’d be jealous. How did you do that?”

“Me?” I looked around again and shrugged. That couldn’t be true. What would the hero of the world want to do with me? I wasn’t gorgeous or model-skinny, and I didn’t wear pounds of makeup. “Nothing. I barely even saw the fight. He just jumped the bridges and then he was just there. Staring at me.”

“If I were you and he was into me? I’d find any way I could to contact that wolf,” Amber, another one of my friends said.

“Not until she turns twenty-two,” Alexandra reminded me. “You can’t do anything until twenty-two without permission from your parents.”

“Hero’s the hero, defender of everything,” someone in the crowd shouted. “If he wants her, I bet he could get her.”

That ‘her’ they were discussing, was me. I didn’t like the sentiment, or the way the guy in the crowd said it. A date would be okay, and that would be easy to get from my parents. But, he made it sound like something else. It couldn’t be any love at first sight; I couldn’t even see him after the fight. There had been a crowd in front of me watching the action, so I only saw bits. So how could he see me?

And his eyes – those eyes disturbed me. A sweet man who cared about the world should have more dreamy eyes, but his had looked like a wild beast, ready to maim. That way of thinking though, it was prejudice. He was still human. His eyes, they weren’t an animals. Just his stare.

“It’s romantic.”

“It’s sweet.”

“It’s pheromones.” A nerdy guy with glasses approached me. “You should be careful. He was busy fighting, no reason to notice you way up high unless it’s pheromones.”

“If it were pheromones, it would be for everyone,” Alexandra disagreed. “Hero has never shown interest in any women.”

“Others are attracted more to certain smells. Hero isn’t completely human; we all know it.” He looked at me. “Just, be careful. If it’s your scent, he wants sex.”

“Oh, shove off.” Alexandra knocked him out of the way, but I didn’t forget his words.

Could he really smell me? Way up there? And, why me?


Hero

“I don’t see what the problem is.” I kept my feet reclined on a table in front of my usual chair. The world had been run through territories, and each one always had an official. It wasn’t easy, and most times when I had a problem, we could get it worked out with just a few leaders.

I wasn’t getting any respect with my request though, so I had to drag out more than fifty percent of the officials to a conference headquarters.

A woman doesn’t just appear with that scent, there must be something to it. “How much money have you all saved since I’ve been protecting your people? Helping to come up with plans to protect and defend better?” I knocked my black boots together twice before standing up. My leather jacket fell off the chair as I strolled over to their ‘prestigious’ arching desk area. “I want one thing.”

“This is not acceptable,” one of the territory leaders said. “We have certain laws in effect. Waiting until twenty-two keeps things steady. Those who violate the rules are given harsh punishments, and those who wait, are often better off. Better schooling, better jobs, and a better economy for all.”

I wrinkled my nose. Were they seriously giving me basic information like I didn’t know it? “I hardly ever request anything. I want this.”

“We can’t do that,” another one said. “Mister Hero, perhaps we could raise what the government pays you for your annual salary?”

“Who are you?” I stared at the new man. I hated new people. They didn’t understand a damn thing, and pretended they didn’t have a newbie status, when it was so obvious. He didn’t even bother to do research on me. “What do you think you pay me, huh?”

“I don’t know off the top of my head,” he admitted.

“That’s because it’s nothing. I’ve had over thirteen billion since I was ten. I told everyone to stop paying me.” I wasn’t some super awesome hero that saved people for money or the fame. I only saved people because I could. Because if I didn’t, people would die, and I’d feel guilty. I hated guilt. I had enough of that in my heart, and I didn’t need anymore. I growled at the new guy, being sure to put him in his place. “Don’t even try and use the money.”

“He’s right,” a man to my left answered. “He’s right. He’s been defending our planet since he was just a child. He hasn’t demanded much.”

“It’s a girl,” another one said.

“It’s a woman.”

“It’s a woman still in school and under her parents care.”

“Legal age used to be eighteen, twenty years ago. She’s already nineteen, Hero’s age approximately.”

“No. The fact is, Hero, legally, there is no way we can do this,” Bose said. Bose was the closest thing I had to any pack. He was the one that was there the first day the human race discovered me. Without him, I probably would have been forced to fight against the humans to save myself. “You need to forget this,” Bose said, “I don’t see good things coming from it.”

I moved over in front of Bose and leaned my arms against the table, hiding my face. “I need her.”

“Hero, this fascination is some primal need lingering inside. It’s not who you are anymore. You are a well-respected man, who defends and helps.” Bose set my application in front of him. “Do you really need this, Hero? You don’t even know her, and I am sure everyone around this table agrees. Without a legitimate reason, I do not want to do this.”

I hit the desk area in front of him. Even though I was a hero, and even though I was responsible for saving millions of lives, I was only nineteen. It didn’t matter what I did, I still needed parental permission to do certain things too. It was one of the many things I hated about the world. When I was five, I watched men take whatever they wanted. My family defended what was theirs, and took what wasn’t. It was a little barbaric, but it was better than this. It’s not like I was asking to own the girl – it was just a date. A simple date.

Since I didn’t have any parents or family, my so-called ‘guardians’ were the territory officials. I had to get fifty percent of them to agree to things that I wanted that were deemed ‘too adult’. Like a date.

And I couldn’t get it. If I wanted, I could kill them all right now in the next five seconds. But, I never would. Still, they made me so mad at times.

I grunted. “I told you, there is something to her scent. I am not here for love or hugs. I want to figure out what is going on with her.”

“And that’s it?” Bose pushed the subject. “That’s all? You are a figure people look up to. If there is anything unscrupulous . . .”

“She may be a dangerous project or hired by a project to distract me. I need to get close enough to figure it out. Damn it, Bose!” I flew off the handle. “I’m not a child. I’m nineteen, and I’ve experienced more in my life than you ever will. I am not looking for a relationship; I want to examine her closely. That’s it.”

“Well . . .” Bose rubbed his chin. “I can see that. Parents often take credits for dating, though.”

“Fine, give them one million,” I said.

“One million is a large number of credits. I think that a lower number may go over better,” Bose said. “Try not to go nuts digging for information, and dress for your part. You know the media.”

I knew everything there was to know about projects. Anything the government dug up, I was there for. Everything from my childhood, I had been there. This Roxie woman, she couldn’t be an average girl, and I had to confront her.


Roxie

I held my breath as I heard the press beating on the windows. A date. I was upset that my parents had set me up without my knowledge, but it was with Hero. The Hero. Thoughts lingered about his eyes the last time, but my friends had reminded me of so much more. He wasn’t an ordinary man, and maybe his eyes were just a sign of that? Something primal that he inherited. He was, after all, in his wolf form when we first met.

His actions in the past spoke louder. He had never hurt anyone, and he’d saved the world multiple times from other projects. I couldn’t even walk to a single class without someone mentioning he saved someone they knew, or when he saved them one time. I lived in a territory that Hero seemed to take care of the most. Even fights once a month concerning him weren’t a huge deal unless you were there when they broke out. It was neat while I was hanging out with my friends for something to happen just a few bridges below. Still, we couldn’t even get close enough to see it.

That thought, that he didn’t even see me, kept pestering my head, but I had to put it out of my mind.

He had touched just about everyone, in some way. It had to be in my head, but then, what that guy said about the pheromones? It haunted me too.

But, it was one date. In the public. There shouldn’t be anything to fear. When the car came to a complete stop, I could barely make out the name of the restaurant where I was supposed to meet HeroerohH. The door opened up for me and I stepped out. Since I was going on a date with Hero, I expected some form of press, so I put on a long blue dress. It was shorter on top but elegant and not needy.

When I was a little girl, I imagined what it would be like to be famous. People wanting to know everything about me, snapping pictures while I walked gracefully across a red carpet. I knew the feeling now, and it wasn’t wonderful, it was terrifying.

There were the biggest muscle bound guys I’d ever seen holding back the press. Everyone wanted a shot of the girl who Hero had chosen to date.

Chosen. Why did he choose me? Beauty wise, it’s not like I was that fine. No, I had to keep the fear down. Walking down the red carpet, I tried to pretend that I didn’t expect someone to approach and smash into me. The bodyguards had all the bases covered.

The restaurant opening was beautiful, flowers, and glass decorations adorned it. I moved forward into it. It wasn’t empty; it was packed with people and everyone had grown quiet as I entered.

Okay. After a minute, a few went back to talking. A man came up to me and introduced himself as Bose. He gently locked my arm with his and led the way.

Hero was there. It was rare to see him in his human appearance, especially up close, but the eyes were a dead giveaway. He was dressed in a suit, white – I guess his trademark color. He even wore a tie, white with silver stripes. His arms were on the table, and I could see his metal cufflinks. Heads of wolves. I felt so dressed down compared to the place, the limo, and now the wolf that protected the world himself. That outfit, it had to be custom made to fit his large size so well. I had no idea how much he even made, but I wasn’t expecting all this. When we met he didn’t seem the type to be in a suit. Even now, those eyes – they shined straight out from that suit, tearing it away and wanting to tear at me.

Ah! I needed to stop this thinking. He was here for a date, not to kill me. Why would he want anything else to do with me? Although, my brain did whisper that there were many more beautiful girls than me in this world. Way more beautiful. I had to confess.

I was seated by Bose, Hero’s escort, when a waiter came up to us. Not surprisingly, there was no wait.

“The usual?” the waiter asked Hero. Hero didn’t nod. The waiter turned toward me. “And you, ma’am?”

“Um, whatever he’s having,” I said, not even knowing the menu.

“Are you sure about that?” The waiter asked me. “It’s more of an exclusive piece.”

“She said she wanted it. Give her a slice of mine. If she wants more, I’ll pay for the health waiver,” Hero spoke. His voice was rarely heard on media. He hardly liked to be on media. If he had been, it was usually something that couldn’t be prevented and that same recording would be shown for weeks. It was another reason people had respect for him. He’d never be caught on some money grabbing commercial. That voice was better than TV anyhow, it was deep and sultry. Brave. Everything a girl could imagine. His whole body was perfect, except for that stare. I could have fallen for a man like that, except for that stare.

“Yes. Sorry.” The waiter cleared his throat. “I will make a note that one piece will need to be more done than the others.”

Oh, that didn’t sound good. “I don’t like well done.” I had to speak up. I hated well done, it was so tough and flavorless. That night wouldn’t be going down in my history as the greatest night except that I choked down well-done meat.

“It won’t be well done, but we will keep it within a legal standard of ‘done’ for people.” The waiter fidgeted, uncomfortable with having to explain.

As he left, I looked back toward Hero. He made me so nervous, why couldn’t he look at me normally? “Hello?” I didn’t know what else to say. Was he going to speak to me again?

He didn’t answer quickly, but then he finally said something back. “Hello.”

Well, that was a start.


Hero

That scent, it was stirring visions inside my head, of things that I would never do. I saw myself flinging the condiments, napkins, and silverware off the table. I saw myself jumping over the table and stabbing her right in the chest. I even saw myself reach over to touch her chin and kiss her tenderly.

What was wrong with me? Killing without much persuasion, I’d done that, but I wouldn’t do that to someone I didn’t know on a date in public. She was still innocent until proven guilty. The thoughts of kissing and forceful mating? I couldn’t explain those either.

Bose had set up a whole week before the date. I was angry at first, wishing I could just meet her immediately. As time went by, I became less crazy with need, but as soon as I smelled her coming to the restaurant, I couldn’t control myself again. A growling ‘mine’ thought kept running through my head. I wanted her, on that table, now. To kill her or to kiss her.

And that was not me.

I moved my feet up and down, trying to keep myself under control. Instinct said to grab her and run, but I was not an animal. True, I was a werewolf, but I was not the beast of my ancestors. I was an intelligent creature who had always risen above dangerous instincts. I could do this. That scent was just there to throw me off. I’d prove she was an enemy in disguise, take care of her, and this primal instinct would go away.

It needed to. I couldn’t go out and stop others if I couldn’t stop staring at her.

Her eyes. Those eyes had never seen war, never seen bodies, and never seen blood. An ordinary woman’s eyes. No sign of an enemy, although a part of me screamed she had been – the part that didn’t want to get messed up with her.

It was easier to kill an enemy than love a woman. I’d done one thousands of times, and I’d never done the other.

Look at those eyes of hers. Curious, but scared. Frightened. She shouldn’t be frightened, unless she had something to hide. I wrinkled my nose slightly, narrowing my gaze on her. When I had taken her friend Alexandra around the world with me, she had no fear.

What if this was her first offense? She could be working with a project. Yeah, that scent. What are the chances that someone would smell like that on accident?

Enemy. Paid to distract. Paid to make me hurt like this. I was almost one hundred percent sure now.

As the food came, I dug right in. I had to test Roxie Malone to see if she was on the up and up. My slabs of meat were always large, several inches thick. I couldn’t stand cooked meat, even ‘rare’ wasn’t rare enough for me. Only warming up the meat a little was perfect. The inside, delicately raw. Naked. I craved the cold between my teeth. Being in a world that undercooked meat was considered dangerous – I had to pay a waiver fee, but it was nothing. I just wanted the meat that I needed. But even as ‘done’ as hers was, she should complain about it. I had that setup before she said anything about ‘well done’, and I already paid her waiver fee. When dealing with the enemy, lying was sometimes necessary.

That wasn’t normal meat like people ate off their plates every night. If she were a project wolf, she would complain. Then, if she were just working for one, it wouldn’t bother her. It would at least get me closer to the truth.


Roxie

I tried making conversation. Twice, but he couldn’t even seem to hear me. A couple of times, his eyes wandered over me, but overall, he kept staring straight at my face. When his food arrived, he didn’t look at me anymore. The steaks were round slabs of raw meat like something just cut up down its belly.

“Ma’am.” The waiter brought out my piece. A single piece, but it was twice the size of a steak. At least it was plainly cooked. After seeing him eat, medium rare would have looked even nicer than what they considered ‘done’. I grabbed my knife and fork, cutting into the top. The plate became drenched in blood as I used the knife. My good graces made me continue though, I couldn’t wimp out on my first date. As I took a bite, I noticed the meat was different, but it wasn’t bad. Surprising. As I took another bite, something happened.

I jumped in my seat as I felt Hero holding my leg below the table. What was he doing?

“Roxie. Be honest.” Hero leaned in closer to the table. “Who are you?”

Who was I? “Roxie Malone. You paid my parents for a date.”

“But why did you get under my skin so much?” He held her leg tighter. “Truth. Are you an enemy?”

An enemy? I wasn’t an enemy at all but the shock made me lose my grip on the fork. I bent down to pick it up.

Once under the table, I felt myself being pulled all the way down by Hero.

“You have to be an enemy. Who else are you?” He held my arms tightly as he sniffed my neck. “Perfume doesn’t even block it; it’s just an irritant. What is it?”

I tried to move away, but Hero only held me even stronger. I don’t believe this, was the world’s greatest hero threatening me? And, why was that making my stomach feel warmer?

“That scent. It’s real.” He smelled beneath my armpits. The act caused shivers up my spine.

Hero was a good guy. I should have felt downright frightened, especially after being accused of being an enemy. Yet, I wasn’t. Not all of me. There was a part of my mind, right now, that wasn’t frightened. A sensation in my ear. Something thumping.

He sniffed my neck again. “Your scent is spiking even more – this isn’t a trick. That’s not perfume, it’s from you yourself.” He groaned against my ear. “Do you want me to lose it?” He moved my head to look into his eyes. As hungry as before, yet I discovered something new. “You have the hard eyes of an enemy again, but you aren’t one. So what are they? What are you?”

Neither of us moved right away. My breathing was getting deeper, and far from relaxed. I didn’t trust myself to talk.

“Oh, no. You’re a project he whispered to me. “I knew it.”

“Project wolf?” I shook my head back and forth. “I swear, I am not an enemy. I can’t transform. I am completely human. I don’t even know about fighting, you have to believe me.”

“Sir? Ma’am?” The waiter said from beside the table. “Are you alright? Will you be eating your meal down there?”

“Just give us a minute,” Hero said as he turned his attention back to me. “You were adopted around three, weren’t you?” His eyes became lighter as he stroked my hair. The hard attitude, it was changing into something else. “That’s it, you’re a…” He sniffed me once more. “A project wolf, Class Z. The last of the project wolves.”

“I have no fighting ability, really.” I felt my head, I was not at all myself. The thumping in my ears was getting stronger. “I was adopted when I was three but . . . I-I’m not a project. I can’t be. I’m not a wolf.”

“Sure.” He didn’t believe me by that tone.

I didn’t know what to do. He thought I was an enemy. “I can’t even fight, and I wouldn’t be here if I were a project. I’m telling the truth, please don’t hurt me.”

“I get it.” He stroked my hair again, leaning forward even more. “I’m not going to hurt you. You’re from group Z. I am from group Y.”

“Does that make a difference?” I asked.

“Yeah. You should be extinct.” Hero inhaled my scent again. “I don’t remember much, I was only around five,” he admitted. “Some groups from the past were so gone, it didn’t even go in the records, but I do sort of remember. You aren’t my enemy.” His grip on my dress tightened. “You weren’t created to fight. You were created to help the population of Y.”

Oh no. That hungry look was coming back into his eyes.

“That’s the scent, and that’s the reason.” He pulled my face back toward him, kissing me briefly. “You belong to me, even if you don’t know it yet.”

Did I belong to him? No, no I wasn’t like that. I wasn’t a project wolf and I wasn’t created for him! I tried to pull away.

“You can’t resist, it’s against your nature.” He breathed into my ear.

“I don’t need anything,” I pleaded. “Stop,” I said the words, but why was my body bending toward him? “Please stop?”

“I’m not doing anything, you’re the one arching to me,” he moaned. “You stop.”

But I couldn’t, it was instinctive. I heard him cuss from behind me. My scent must have been driving him mad. I couldn’t even smell anything, yet my body was being driven mad by him. The thumping in my ears was so strong, and now, a strange purr came from me.

“Why did you have to be so close?” he growled at me, as if it was my fault. “When I was fighting, if you weren’t there, I’d be right in the head. Not an animal, I’m not just an animal.” He tried to push me away, but he brought me back toward him. I didn’t rebel. My body couldn’t – it wanted him.

Everything screamed inside for him. My hands clasped against his.

“Don’t, don’t, don’t,” he warned in my ear. “We aren’t animals, we run on more than instinct. Roxie Malone, I don’t know you. You don’t know me,” he tried again. He grunted. “We’ve got to keep it under control.”

“No control,” I purred. I didn’t even know I could purr. Then again, maybe I did. Maybe I had always known I was a bit different. Feeling Hero against me, the whole world made sense. I needed to be completed by him.

“Can’t, can’t, can’t,” Hero repeated. “Won’t do it, I will not let these animal feelings control me. We are better than this.” He managed to push me away. “You need to get out of here. Don’t get close to me again. Leave me. Please.”

“No,” I pleaded. “I can’t do that, I can’t leave now. I think I love you.”

“You have to, or I am going to do something a hero is not supposed to do!” he yelled at me. “This is fake, what you feel is fake. It’s lust, and it’s not real love.” Hero moved his whole body away even further from me. “Get out of here, don’t come near me again, Roxie.”

I wouldn’t have it, though. My mind couldn’t think of anything but staying with him. I moved back toward him, kissing him against his will. It only took a few seconds for him to respond back.

“Go, get out of here,” he warned me one more time as he seized my lips into another kiss. “What the hell are you. Why did you have to survive? Why do I have to have someone? Why. Can’t. I. Stop. Tigress?”

I groaned, almost in pain. What a tigress was, I didn’t know, but I wanted it to be me. It was strange, almost a lust, but not quite. I didn’t want him to be with me sexually, as much as I wanted to be near him. Forever. “Love me?”

“No. Love isn’t like this. I can’t, I know I can’t. We can’t fall into this,” Hero urged me, but his body couldn’t agree with his mouth. His ridiculous mouth, he needed to stop resisting. “There’s something about Z’s, I was too young to remember, but I . . . there’s just . . .”

I grabbed his mouth with mine, shutting him up for good.

“Hero, what is going on?” Bose’s voice came from beside the table.

Neither of us answered as I felt Hero hold my neck in his mouth gently.


Mistress kept her eyes trained on Hero and Roxie’s table. Most likely the gods would give them some kind of edge to know when the past began to change so much, they would need to interfere. However, the alien gods didn’t always want to be predictable. They often liked to be mysterious.

Not to mention, it was the destined boy that always had the power of magnetizing lovers. Mistress did sense which one was a lover on the bridge, and so did Dominion, but some things had changed. They weren’t protected by a particular alien and they were older. Also, Dominion was not on any favorable lists. When he was once the wonderful boy, Dominic, he cared a great deal. He wanted nothing more than to let everyone have the best happy ever after they could achieve.

Dominion was not the same man. So many changes, Mistress would not risk it.

“This has got to be the stupidest plan alive. I can’t believe you have us spying beneath a table with a tap,” Dominion cursed beneath his breath. “Isn’t this below you?”

“It was better than your plan,” Mistress grunted. “Turn into a dragon, grab the lovers, demand they love each other, demand they have sex, and have them find another dimension. Didn’t you learn anything over the years?”

“Yeah, how to take punishment,” Dominion sneered. “Screw those two. They aren’t the magnets, it’s just their son. All they have to do is hump and find their way to the other dimension, that’s it, and what the hell is that bumping?”

Mistress rolled her eyes. “How do you not know that, can’t you see their present and future?”

“Not all of their future. What’s the bumping?”

“Haven’t you been paying attention? They are having sex beneath the table.”

“Great.” Dominion scoffed. “That’s about the only thing I can thank those lousy alien gods for, letting us have blank moments when that crap happens. At least we can skip the dragon part. Let’s just drag them to the next dimension and drop them off.”

Mistress tried to remain calm. Many times, she was in control of her emotions. However, Dominion was getting on her nerves. “We will do this correctly and let them find their own way to the other dimension. The less we are found to interfere, the better things fare. This is the way it has always been, and thus shall always be.”

“Aw, yeah, heaven frickin’ help us if these two found out it took a crap of hard work to actually make them find each other,” Dominion rebutted. “Destiny wants them together? Destiny can kiss my ass; we’re the ones doing all the work.”

“You know, I never thought this day would come.”

“What day?”

“When I actually care more for people than you do.” Mistress shot him a glare that flashed ice in her eyes. “I was created from a village that did not want me to have any physical attachments, only a duty to see my work through. You were the one who cared above all for them. All of them.” She looked away. “Even when their problem was solved, you took it that extra mile. Remember all those you had helped?”

Dominion slouched down against the bar in the middle underneath the table. “I don’t remember anything, and whatever I did, that was a long time ago. That was just the naïve, stupid boy you first saw visit the wolf. That kid’s gone, nothing but a voice of the long-since-dead, Mistress.”

Mistress leaned against the bar beneath the other side. They were almost visible beneath the table, but the commotion of Hero and Roxie’s table was drawing everyone’s attention away from them. “That boy once gave me a name. A name you wish not to use anymore.”

“Nothing’s in a name,” Dominion said. “That’s why I just go by ‘Dominion’.”

“I was hoping Lucinda was wrong.” Mistress looked out to see Hero coming out from beneath the table, his entourage sweeping in to help. “I thought there was something left of the boy I once knew. You did save me.”

“And I always will.”

What? Mistress stole a glance his way again. He didn’t care about the alien gods they served, about the magnets, about anything. He was crude, stubborn, and nothing like his old self. Except, that phrase. “Why? Why care for me, and no one else?”

Dominion met her eyes, stealing a glance at her. He didn’t say anything but the strange eyes she saw on the bridge appeared once again. Almost human. He looked away.

A trace. A small trace. Something caring, buried deep, had to reside there. Sympathy? Empathy? A sense of equality for being on the same playing field when they were younger? Whatever it was, it made her sit back up. He may not act the same, but those words were something the boy Dominic would have said. Before she could think of what to say next, Dominion spoke.

“There.” Dominion pointed toward the couple. “Right there, I felt it.” Dominion moved slightly, watching the scene. He could feel something different. Memories came in and out of his head, nothing solid, but he knew at that moment was where something had gone wrong.


Hero

I rolled out from beneath the table, panting. I could barely open my eyes, but there were no people around, except my usual team.

“I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it! Help him up!” Bose yelled as people pulled me up. Before I knew it my pants had been fixed and my top was re-buttoned. “What were you thinking?” Bose gestured around the empty chair. “You are damn lucky I had everyone pulled out of this restaurant. That is going to cost you by the way, the owner is very upset.”

I shrugged, still not understanding what it was I had just done. I tried to put it together. Naked, so some spur of the moment fight. By the table. Everyone yelling and redressing me. My memory was a fog though, it was like someone tried to knock me out. Slightly dizzy. Enemy attack? No, an enemy attack wouldn’t make Bose angry.

“Don’t shrug at me, everyone knows what happened beneath that table.” Bose grabbed his head. “Okay. Okay. Just tell me what happened?”

Beneath our table? Beneath our . . . oh shit. If I was naked but it wasn’t from shifting, and Roxie Malone had been under that table with me, then that meant I had been right! I had been right. The last accusation before I started losing my memory.

“She’s a Z,” I said, my voice heavy, and I didn’t want to think why. “She attracts project wolves. I figured it out a little too late.” I lowered my head. What had we done?

“One of you ladies, please help the young woman out,” Bose said, gesturing to one of the female team members that had been assigned to help watch our date.

As she went in, I heard Roxie scream. Her voice was panting and she was fixing herself back up. She turned to try and leave the table, but more people came by and held her. I could smell the scent on her. Me. There was no doubt what happened.

I had marked her. Damn it!

“It’s okay, nothing to be ashamed of,” everyone tried to tell her. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t want to give her any clue to what happened. Did she remember what I couldn’t? Was it her ploy to catch me off guard?

Roxie yelled, flailing her arms. “What was I doing under a table, half dressed?” She looked toward me, wide-eyed. “What did you do? What can’t I remember?”

“What?” Bose looked toward me.

Nope, she was the same. “To keep them from getting too attached . . .” I covered my face. When they get turned on, their mind blanks out, as does a Y.

Basically, the same as me.

Beastly. Primitive! I tried so hard to distance myself between the disgusting project wolves. Yet, in the end, I still was one. Further proof had been seen tonight. Only after a proper mate is found, do multiple acts with the same Z or Y release a mind. Z’s were not made for attack, and they didn’t even transform. In fact, they had never had the ability to even change shape. Their only goal was to love. They were supposed to honor and obey, breed with their mate or mates, and produce healthy offspring. Living in a bliss, believing they were in love, when it was nothing but the scent in control.

Just animals. In the end, the two of us were still nothing but the animals the scientist wanted us to be! “She doesn’t remember and she won’t.” I tried to keep the roughness out of my voice, but I know I failed. This was sick.

Controlled not by nature, but the chemicals of science and nature together.

“Oh. That is a blessing.” Bose sighed as he looked behind the girl at the ‘control advisor’. I knew what was coming next, and I couldn’t stop it. There was no way around it. I had to do this. I couldn’t just tell her what happened.

What we did was so wrong. What I did was so wrong. The hero of the town, defying the law and having another nineteen-year-old? The media would be hounding me. It was hard enough to fight when they interrupted with their pictures and the gawkers. How could I concentrate if someone yelled out about what I did? Even though it wasn’t my fault, there would be a complete slant against me. Oh, the headlines, I could already see them.

There was no way I was ever getting into that position with that female again. Unfortunately, I knew what was coming in the future, and saying that wouldn’t get me far. I knew myself too well.

No. Not without some boundaries agreed upon. One nineteen-year-old wasn’t worth the world.


“Hero is about to turn her out of his life forever. He won’t be able to deal with her, and he is going to start protecting another district so that he never has to know her fate.”

Mistress groaned. “How did it fall this far off course? Did they move as fast last time?”

“I think so, but something’s different.” The file the jerky aliens gave them was in his hands. He tossed it on the ground. “There’s nothing really helpful in there, only events between them. We’ve got to get more information to figure this out.”

“What do you suggest? The amulet?”

“Shit no. I’ll do some burglary – with a little bit of Hellish style – and get some information about the world that’s actually useful. Meet me here in five hours. We need to know everything we can. Just seeing this file isn’t enough. They are going to have some heavy guards around the areas I need to get to.” He held up his wrists. The chains glowed.

Mistress didn’t answer.

“Sya and Armageddon did crap before Roxie and Hero were even born. We need to know what it was, and you know that, too. None of those jerks put it in here.” He opened the file. ‘From the official community of alien gods, a collection of research to make the elder children perform better.’ He scoffed at the wording. “Hero and Roxie are attracted to each other through pheromones. In the past world, Hero remembered the events. Also, the wolves can’t go back to the dimension they need to, due to complications.” He closed the file. “Two sentences. Two.” He held up two fingers. “They didn’t even bother telling the complications. Do you want to rely on just this?”

“We could watch the shadows of the lovers.”

“I said I don’t want to see the ever afters.”

“Trusting you away from me isn’t smart.” Mistress was not budging. Her power was not as strong as Dominion. She didn’t want to leave the table, but he was right. Two sentences was not nearly enough information. They should be using the amulet, but for some reason, Dominion resisted it.

A part of it made sense. His past with a powerful amulet was partly responsible for his demise too. He didn’t want to depend on an amulet again. He would use it as little as possible, but Mistress wanted the opposite.

This time, it could set him free. Hell, it could not have been pretty. As much as he rebelled against it, seeing what he once treasured. The happy ever after’s. The reward for the hard work they went through. That feeling of accomplishment, of setting things right. That could save him.

“Can you still teleport?” Dominion tried again. “Did those jerks take away the power to disappear and reappear wherever you like? Considering we’re hiding beneath a damn table, I’m betting yes.”

Mistress looked at the chain in her hand. There was little choice. She had to give Dominion some space. “What would I do to let you go?”

“It’s a vocal mechanism. Just say I release you.” Dominion smirked. “That’s it.”

“What keeps you from taking off for forever?” She was not stupid.

. “Just add the time I can be gone. If I’m not back by then, I am choked unbearably until I get back here again.” He wiggled the chains. “Come on. Old friend.”

“You can become a wolf, I saw it.”

“I can become anything I want.”

“Then become a regular wolf, and blend in,” Mistress said. “Dragons do not exist here.”

“If you are that worried, I’ll just be a chameleon dragon. No one will see me.”

“You can do that?”

“Yeah.”

“Then why didn’t you offer that at first?”

“Did you forget who I am again?” Dominion sneered. “Destruction is sort of my thing.” He quickly pulled his sneer into a mild smirk. “One hour. It’s all I need.”

It was of little use. Dominion wanted to find everything he could before he depended on the amulet. “Please, do not make me regret this.” Mistress held up the chain in her hand. “I release you from your bonds, Dominion, for one hour. After which, you return, so that your reign of terror does not go unchecked.”

Done. She did it. Dominion’s bonds shattered like glass. The fiasco with the projects had taken away all the attention, so he did as he promised and transformed into a chameleon dragon, mimicking the starry sky to his destination.

***

Mistress remained loyally beneath the table as Dominion returned. He dropped two new files at her feet. “You have two?”

“I stole one from Hero’s den,” Dominion admitted, pointing to the blue folder. “He keeps all information about projects. Then, while I was reading that, I was pointed to an even better place for top security information.”

“I don’t know about a moving sky suddenly throwing down flames on buildings,” Mistress said uneasily. “Am I going to hear how much damage you caused through this world’s social media receptors?” She almost growled.

“Careful. With that tone, one might confuse you for Roxie Malone. Besides, they’ll just claim projects or something. What’s it matter? It’s better information.” He pointed to the red one. “History. Economy. Everything we really want is in there. Those jerks gave us a pamphlet, that’s a freaking encyclopedia. Hell, I even know the circumstances the asses didn’t tell us. No need for an amulet at all. Turns out that instead of it being a steady dimensional hole, it only shows up once through puberty for a few months, and then once every ten years afterward in that same place.”

“Are you kidding?” Mistress was stunned. “How in the world did Sya and Armageddon tie DNA to the dimensional holes?” She lowered her head. Great. “One chance. There is no way they’d build a life together on just a small chance.” She eyed the amulet around his neck. “As much as we have learned, it is still limited knowledge. Nothing beats experiencing the real time.”

Dominion grasped the amulet and sneered. “Forget it. You’re lucky I used it once.”

“Then just hand it to me and I’ll use it.”

“It’s supposed to be shared. You’re just an average woman, you can’t handle it.”

Ooh. Mistress met his sneer back. “I can try.”

“Damn it.” He took the amulet off and held it between them. Mistress touched the top of it. Seeing the happy ever after or not, Dominion did not want her hurt. They watched the past through their eyes, running fast like a microfiche film.

Roxie seeing Hero on the bridge. The first date. Watching Hero trying to willingly protect Roxie. Roxie forgetting. The attacks. The opened dimensional hole. The verdict. Choosing to stay with her, instead of coming back.

Dominion and Mistress looked at each other after it was all done. Dominion ripped the amulet back and shoved it back in his shirt. “There! Happy?”

“They were happy.” Loved. It was a good feeling. Mistress stared at the hand that touched the amulet. What she felt. She never felt it before. She felt the happy ever after. A warm embrace enveloped her. The cruelty of life, for those brief seconds of seeing lovers united, it was gone.

She had always felt the magnetic lover’s destruction. That was her duty, to force apart the magnets that were bringing dimensions too close together. The lonely bitterness, the negativity of love lost, it was what she used to. But this? “It was cozy and warm.”

Dominion’s feelings about the event left him unchanged. If anything, he looked more bitter. “Like I said, a waste of time. That will never happen the same way again. Just cold shadows.”

Cold shadows or not, Mistress didn’t care. She had an overwhelming urge, the urge Dominion must have felt when he was a boy, to get Roxie and Hero through this ordeal. To get them their happy ever after back that had been stolen from them.