Chapter five will be available next Tuesday . . .
Kal’s steps were silent as he walked up the stone-paved path to the large ranch home snuggled between rugged palms and dunes held down by long grasses. Cocoa Beach was a ten-minute drive, the Atlantic an easy five-minute walk. The house afforded him a large private yard that kept his neighbors at arm’s length. It had been remodeled only a few years ago and had all the bells and whistles, not that he used the modern kitchen much. It was the walled garden that had attracted him. With mature fruit trees and a shallow koi pond, it had spoken to a part of him he hadn’t known he possessed. Turned out he wasn’t the only one it spoke to.
His parents thought he’d been crazy for wanting the solitary living space over the condo with a communal pool and private beach, even as they’d bought it for him as a graduation present, a consolation, he’d always thought, for having to work at a secondary lab in the hopes of someday transferring to the nearby NASA facility.
A tiny lizard skittered from his front door, and Kal juggled his keys with a doggie bag sporting the Sandbar’s logo. He hadn’t gone back to his office after lunch. He was debating if it was worth the hit his pride would take to go back at all. His colleagues had likely known before he left what he was walking into, and if they hadn’t, they soon would. It was obvious he had been given this task so they could shut down his research, send him to learn at the elbow of a classmate. But the chance to reclaim his family’s status kept his mouth shut and his resolve firm.
Dr. Trisk Cambri. Enclave security and their own private genetic engineer, he thought, grimacing as the key smoothly turned and he entered, shoes scuffing on the stone entryway. Her dark complexion and ebony hair made it easier for her to move freely in the human world than the fair, almost white hair that most elves were born with. Some said dark elves were the originals, and that the light hair and green eyes their race now almost exclusively possessed was a result of generations of captive, selective breeding by the demons. That dark elves usually had a stronger genome supported the theory. Kal didn’t care, but he couldn’t help but wonder if Trisk’s thick hair would be coarse or fine in his fingers.
He shut the door behind him, tossing his keys into the empty flowerpot on the table beside the door. “Orchid? You around?”
The clatter of dragonfly wings pulled his head up, and he smiled as a glimmer of light barely visible through the expansive, open floor plan flew from the distant living room and adjoining patio to him in the entryway.
“Hi. What’s up? You’re home early,” a high-pitched feminine voice called as Orchid came to a silver-dusted halt before him. The pixy was a dangerous secret, his friend and confidante, an attentive ear at the end of a difficult day, a way to feel special when the darkest hours of the night insisted he wasn’t. The entire species was on the brink of extinction, and he was honored that she trusted him. Most pixies lived in the deepest wilds, where predation kept their numbers low but their existence a continued secret. He’d risk everything for her, and he didn’t know why. She was like a piece of him he hadn’t known was missing.
“I brought you a flower,” he said, but she’d already spotted it, her tiny angular face lighting up with avarice.
“For me?” she said, wings blurring to nothing as she darted to his hat, now in Kal’s hand. A bright silver dust spilled from her, vanishing before it hit the polished floor. “Oh my God, look at the stamens on that thing. Thank you, Kal! I’ve not had hothouse lily pollen since Easter.”
“Then I’ll steal you another tomorrow.”