TTD: Part 2, Chapter 2

I hear the knocking, but I don’t respond. I’m exhausted, cranky, and lonely, and the last thing I want to do is talk to Chetna again.

It may not be Chetna, but I’m still not in a good place to talk to anyone right now.

I hope to the sweet Earth that it’s not the Golden Bane-of-my-existence.

I get it; I’m being an ass. 

The knocking comes harder, louder. I just keep hoping that it will go away, but inevitably, the knocker barges in.

That has to be Jason.

I don’t acknowledge him, even though I can hear footsteps in between the beats of the music. Then, someone snatches my tablet out of my hands. 

 I look up and ready to unleash all of my pent-up frustration on him… But it’s not Jason Kachina.

Chetna walks in with a woman with dark eyes and prominent eyebrows. She’s staring at me. Electricity tingles through my nervous system like a LiveWire when our gazes touch for a fleeting moment. There’s pressure in my head, not quite a headache but it doesn’t let up either.

It’s dominance—big, blaring, in-your-face dominance. The magic is unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. She isn’t just stronger or more suited to leadership than me—I can tell it’s bigger than that. She’s the kind of person that could be Alpha—probably is an Alpha.

The mana inside me roils sensing such a strong shifter coming into my personal space. My new tiger instincts scream at me to either make room for the dominant woman or attack first because that would be the only chance I’d probably get—stupid, overreactive instincts—but paralyzing self-preservation keeps me from doing either.

Instead of fight or flight, instead of asking the very reasonable question about who the intimidating stranger is in my bedroom—I mean it’s obvious she’s the bodyguard since there’s only one person Chetna would bring into my room so late, but still—I pick up the remote for the speakers I took from your closet and kill the sound before blurting some stupid, sassy remark that I can’t even remember.

But it’s bad. And it must have been rude, because I see the formidable shifter narrow her eyes at me out of my periphery.

I swear in that moment, time stops. Every sense, every thought focuses on the way she’s looking at me, but I’m learning from that fear I feel around Alpha and I do everything I can to keep from making direct eye contact with her.

There is nothing besides irritation in her expression. No strange sense of greed, no bizarre spark in her eyes that I’m avoiding that makes me tremble and doubt.

She doesn’t miss a beat before telling me off, but I feel like those moments last an hour, because as she’s scolding me, I realize she’s not a threat, even if she is barging into my room late at night.

Relief rushes through me, but it doesn’t relax me.

I don’t know how to act around her. She’s got dominance that scares the furry pants off me… but at the same time I know in both my skins and in my spirit that she’s not threatening. No more so than one of my former Elders disciplining me. Less so than my Dad grounding me—yes, haha, I get the irony but it’s still not funny.

This woman is dangerous. That part is clear from the instant reaction I have to her presence, but she’s not dangerous to me the way I feel Alpha is.

I wonder what it is about her that makes her different from all the others, but because I’m in a bad mood anyway and she’s not holding back, I don’t have any patience left in me by the time she drops the mother of all slanderous names.

Smirkums. Smirkums! S. M. I. R. K. U. M. S. 

Kill me now. Deadass, just… ugh.

Of all the things in in the world she could have called me… Smirkums?

It’s so dumb I can’t even call it low-hanging fruit.

And it gets right under my skin. Despite my best intentions, my head whips up, and her gaze ensnares me.

My nerves tingle from head to toe, and white noise replaces my thoughts.

Trapped is the best way to describe it. I can’t tear my eyes away from her, even if my life depended on it. The instinctual fear that I feel when Alpha looks at me isn’t there, but the compulsion keeping my eyes locked onto hers is just as scary as it is different.

I don’t understand why she has this hold over me—why her dominance means so much to me. 

 As she holds my eyes with magic I cannot quite name, my mind feels like its fracturing–no, growing. It’s such a weird thing to try to put into words, but have you ever seen a video of a snake shedding its skin? The way the old skin looks so crinkly and the new skin looks so smooth and vibrant?

Well, that’s what it feels like is going on inside my brain. My mind… my spirit… I feel awake in ways I have not felt before, which is saying a lot considering I recently shifted into my tiger skin for the first time.

Things I’d never paid attention to before start blaring in my subconscious, forcing my attention to stretch. The woman’s posture is suddenly is very important to me… but I can’t turn away from her gaze to really look at the slope of her shoulders, the angle of her head, the exact way her hands hang at her sides.

Holding her eyes isn’t painful, but it is difficult. I don’t have a choice about it because I can’t turn away, but holding that eye contact without dropping lower to the ground takes huge mental exertion. It feels like trying to both swim against a strong current and breathe through heavy smoke.

Trying to keep from gasping or gaping any more than I probably already am, I manage to utter: “Who are you?”

“Sialuk Taqukaq,” she says.

I recognize that name, and not from Chetna. Jason has said it before; I can’t remember when or where, but I know he talked about her in front of me.

I wish I could remember clearly what he’d said about her, but recalling their connection at least gives me some hint about who Sialuk Taqukaq really is.

“You’re a bear,” I blurt out.

There’s a flicker of warmth in her gaze, but there’s no change in the magic holding my eyes to hers.

“Good guess,” she says.

I shake my head, trying to understand why she’s getting under my skin. The way only one other person naturally did…

“Like Jason?” I ask, even though that’s the stupidest way to phrase something as complex and unique as what I’m really asking. I doubt she’s a secret a mythic shifter, like Jason or me, but there’s something about her, something that’s more than her bear skin, that reminds me of the Golden Ass Hat.

Also side note, because we’re not really close yet, I remember that saying Jason’s name out loud then makes me want to vomit, but given the way Lucky’s holding my eyes, I don’t think it’s the right time to whip out my own nicknames. Anyway, just thought I’d mention it because I know you’d find it funny.

“No,” she says. “I was born in the bear sleuth.”

She doesn’t get what I mean, but fair enough. I’m still not sure I can put into words what I’m really asking.

“Did you know him when he stayed with the bears?” I try a different way.

She doesn’t frown or blink or give away any emotion or reaction to my question, but there’s a subtle pressure in my skull. It’s not localized, and it’s hard to tell it’s even there, but my tiger instincts prickle in my subconscious, alerting me to the strange sensation.

There’s no jolt of adrenaline coming from my new instincts, so I file that odd feeling away for later reflection. Or I’m burying it because there’s already enough questions in my life I can’t answer.

“He lived with my family,” she says.

And it all makes sense, or so I think. “So… you’re like brother and sister?”

“That’s the closest you’ve come so far,” she says.

I don’t like being bodyguarded by the Golden Asshole’s sister. Not at all. But… if I have to be saddled with a bodyguard, choosing an intimidating bear who could even be as strong as Alpha isn’t so bad.

“Oh. Well, you’re stronger than Jason,” I say, because I’m not going to tell her the person that really comes to mind. She might be my bodyguard, and she might not inspire fear, but I don’t trust her. Especially given how she’s holding my eyes with that unknown magic this whole time.

I’m expecting her to have something to say about that, hoping I might learn more about who the bear really is behind those eyes, but instead… she just keeps staring at me.

And then, I notice.

The pressure in my head that pushes my mind to stretch grasps tiny details in my peripheral vision. Her eyebrow rises higher and higher up her forehead until she’s giving me such a sassy look I could be seeing my own grumpy reflection.

“What?” I ask, because I don’t think that expression has to do with the compliment I just paid her.

“You’ve been exceedingly rude,” she says.

I feel my face growing hot and my temper surging. On top of feeling awful in general, I do not need this woman barging into my room and rubbing my face in how much I’m struggling, no matter who she is or what magic she has.

I know I’ve been an ass. Why else would I shut myself in my room away from everyone in the first place when I’m already so lonely?


But instead of shouting or snapping, an apology bubbles up from my chest. A real one, one that I mean even though I’m not emotionally in a place where I normally would be able to feel my remorse.

“I’m sorry for being rude, Ms. Chetna,” I find myself saying. “Please forgive me.”

I say the words staring into Sialuk’s eyes, but I mean every bit of it for Chetna. I don’t know how Sialuk managed to drag that genuine regret out from under everything else I’m feeling. Not understanding what is really going on between me and my new bodyguard is confusing and overwhelming and honestly scary, too.

My feelings are at a boiling point, and even though my consciousness is growing the longer I hold eyes with Sialuk, my emotions are growing faster than anything else. 

I can feel a meltdown coming on. Maybe a spectacular outburst. Definitely a consolation bowl later, whatever happens.

And then, the incredible happens.

Sialuk drops my eyes, willingly. Just like that. She turns her head to address Chetna, and I get this exhilarating rush all over me. It doesn’t settle me down; it does the opposite. You know when you feel the burn lifting weights? It feels amazing to set the bar down at the end of a set, but there’s a roaring in your muscles because you can’t wait to go again? It feels like that.

I’m both relieved that I’m not stuck in Sialuk’s gaze… and I can’t wait to feel it again.

My reaction, if anything, is scariest of all. There’s a side of me so curious to feel it again I almost want to catch her eyes again, right then and there. Then there’s the part of me that remembers my fearful reaction to the ravens, and I wonder it the opposite side of the spectrum isn’t any better.

I’m trying to make myself feel scared, but I just don’t. I’m confused. Thrilled, but confused.

I drop unseeing eyes back down to my tablet, trying to process through all the emotions ricocheting off one another. I want Sialuk’s eyes on me. I can’t explain it, I don’t understand it, and I’m trying my best not to make mistakes. At least keeping my eyes on the tablet is safe. Smart, I keep telling myself.

“So why does this kid need so much protection?” Sialuk asks Chetna. “Did that big mouth land her in hot water?”

I keep my eyes firmly on my tablet, but I can’t control the inciting words coming out of my mouth.

“Did no one tell you? I’m a mythic shifter like Jason.”

I get excited when I see her boots turn toward me out of the corner of my eye… and it makes me angry. With myself. There’s too much going on inside and I’m doing everything I can to hold myself together and getting riled up over Sialuk is making me feel out of control.

I’m getting really angry with myself, actually. And you know I’m already exhausted and in a bad mood, so you can where this is going right?

“What is your animal skin?” she asks me.

I’m giddy as I say, “A tiger. Pale gold and black, gold shimmer. Just like Jason.”

Her voice sounds calm as she immediately asks, “How long ago did you shift for the first time?”

“A couple days ago,” I say. It’s maybe almost been a week by now, but details-shmetails. I’m just trying not to look up into her eyes again.

Next thing I know, she’s saying, “Okay, Smirkums. You have twenty minutes before we’re going to dinner.”

The repeat worst-name-of-all-time pushes me over the edge. Boil over, baby!

“Did you just call me that again?” I snap.

“Sure did,” Sialuk says.

“You can’t talk to me like that,” I almost yell.

“I am your bodyguard. I will tell you what I think all the time and I won’t sugarcoat it for you. Get used to it. We are going to dinner. Be ready.”

She completes the forceful declaration with a movie-perfect turn on her heel and she strides back out of my room.

“Sucks to suck! I already ate. And even if I was hungry, I’d rather eat literal dirt off the ground than share a table—”

She shut the door without slamming it.

Definitely for the best.

I slump down onto the bedspread, dull grey linen, and let the tears roll.

I hope Sialuk does come back to get me for dinner. I’d been lying; I didn’t actually eat earlier. I’m just lonely, angry, tired, and stressed… and hangry.

Very hangry.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.