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Age Of Aquarius - Book 1
Harmonic Dissonance - Chapter 7
Jase stared out the window at Main Street sipping his coffee. The idea that his mother's body might not be in the grave haunted him. He had Phil file the paperwork to have the body exhumed the morning after Mike was released. It would be just a matter of time before they knew for sure. His thoughts wandered to the bedroom. I have more pressing issues a lot closer to home.
Mike hadn't been able to sleep through the night for the first three nights. Jase remembered what it was like the first horrible weeks after he'd survived the incubus the first time. He wouldn't have survived it without Mira. Mike, it seemed, was having an even harder time. He was facing more than fear. Mike was facing a crisis of faith. Mike would wake screaming, looking at his hands as if they were bathed in blood. Last night Mira had joined them. Her influence combined with Jase's kept the nightmares away. Mike had slept.
Jase pointed towards the kitchen as Mira shuffled into the room. Pot is full. Your mug already has cream and sugar, hon. Just pour and go.
Mira held the mug reverently sipping the coffee like it was the elixir of life. You make the best coffee, Jase.
I have to do something to keep you coming back.
She snorted and moved up to the window to see what he was looking at. You're up early.
Dreams were getting too weird.
Mira nodded. Know what you mean.
They looked out of the window nearly absent of thoughts for several minutes. Jase finally sighed. This is getting too easy. I spend more time trying not to share than trying to.
Mira nodded again. You know the three of us spent most of yesterday in silence?
Didn't seem like it.
Mira smirked. Well with a magpie like you in the house, there is no absence of conversation. But I meant, out-loud. She sipped her coffee. What if we can't shut it off?
"I'm going to talk with Mr. Wong about that during my checkup." Mira nearly spilled her mug and Jase spit his coffee against the window at the sudden addition of sound to the room. Mike pulled himself from where he'd been leaning and went to get his own mug.
"Damn, Mike. You scared the shit out of us!" Jase waved his hand at the coffee running down the glass. Purgo. The glass sparkled for a moment and Jase noticed it was clearer than a few moments before. "Remind me to clean the windows. I had no idea they were so dirty."
Mike flopped down on the couch and patted the cushion. Mira smirked at Jase. Restraining the impulse to leap onto the couch, Jase walked over, sat, and just snuggled up against Mike's chest. Once Jase was comfortable, Mike looked at the window and sighed. "You realize that's amazing don't you?"
"How you can just do shit like that."
Mira flopped down on a floor pillow. "It's no use trying to compliment him about it, Mike. He doesn't get it."
Jase sighed. "It's just a simple evocation." He pointed an accusing finger at Mira. "You can do it to."
Mira smiled. "Not like you. I can do it but it takes concentration and effort. It's frankly easier for me to grab a rag and clean than to do it magically."
Mike kissed Jase on the cheek. "I can't do it at all."
Jase chuckled. "Well I think it's safe to say that you can do things neither of us can."
Mira nodded. "I can't heal wounds with a touch."
"Or chant a person's soul back into his body." Jase added. "Face it, Mike. You've been trained by a master sorcerer for the past five years. You've had more formal training than either Mira or myself."
Mira gave Mike her most severe look. "The bitch has better hair too."
Jase nearly spilled his coffee laughing.
Jase looked from the empty coffin to Detective Johnson to Phil. "Why isn't she in here?"
Phil was flabbergasted. "How should I know! I was at the funeral. It was open casket for Christ sake!" His pointed at the empty space. "She was THERE!"
Detective Johnson took notes thoughtfully. "Apparently, the body was either removed before burial or after burial. Bodies don't just vanish."
Jase had to bite back a contradiction. He gave Phil a harsh look. "I want to know everything about my mother's death. I want the coroner's reports, police reports, news clippings, everything!"
Phil nodded. "I'm on it."
Jase looked at Detective Johnson. "I assume the removal of a corpse from a graveyard is a crime?"
Johnson nodded. "Last I heard. You making an official report?"
"Yeah, what do you need me to do."
"I've got a few questions and then I'll get started."
Jase watched quietly as Mira and Mike sparred. Mr. Wong had insisted that Mike return to his daily practice almost as soon as he go home. At first Mike only practiced his forms but after a couple days, Mr. Wong had Mira join in. When Mira sent Mike to the mat for the third time, Mr. Wong put up his hand. "Stop."
Mike brushed himself off and grimaced at Mira. "That was a good kick."
Mira frowned but said nothing.
"The kick was adequate." Mr. Wong corrected. He looked at Mike harshly. "You fight like you are dancing on glass. Fear is the soul stealer, Michael; it serves you no purpose."
Mike snapped. "I'm doing the best I can!"
"No, you are hiding."
Mike grabbed his towel. "Yeah, well you murder someone in cold blood and see how you react."
Mr. Wong's eyes softened. "You took the life of another, but it was not murder."
"Easy for you to say." Mike spit.
Mr. Wong nodded. "Yes, it is." He held out his palms. One began to glow and the other started absorbing light. "I hold life and death in the palms of my hands. My choice decides who will live and who will die. I have given life and taken it away more times than I can recount." With a flick of his finger, the punching bag was blown across the studio and exploded against the wall. "It is a matter of choice. Decisions should never be made from a place of fear. You may choose not to take life, but do so for the love of life and not the fear of extinguishing it."
Mike lowered his head. "I'm sorry."
"That is enough for today. Take time to think on my words and to look into your heart. You will make the right choice." Mr. Wong looked at Jase. "Would you do me the honor of repairing the bag?"
Jase nodded. "Sure, no problem." He looked at the tattered remains of the bag and waved. "Restituo." In a swirl of stuffing and leather, the bag reformed as it flew back across the room and reattached itself to the support chain.
Mike was still studying his feet after Mr. Wong left. Mira put her hand on his arm. "It'll take time, Mike." She looked at Jase. "Jase was a wreck for weeks after his first encounter with that thing."
"Months." Jase closed the gap and took Mike's hand.
Mike choked. "I'm just glad I've got you guys. I think I'd go insane dealing with this on my own."
Jase pulled the man he loved into his arms and rocked him through the tears.
Jase let the steam and hot water wash away the stress and tension from the past couple weeks. He and Phil had gone through every piece of information about his mother's death and could find nothing unusual. Detective Johnson had fared no better. The board had selected three candidates for the position of CEO and Jase had been required to interview each of them over the last three days. He was glad he was back on speaking terms with Vincent Castanio. The man's observations had been invaluable.
Jase heard the shower door open and he felt Mike wrap his arms about him. Jase sighed and leaned into the embrace. I'm sorry about last night, Jase.
Jase hugged Mike's arms tighter. It's cool, Mike. It was over half a year before I could think about sex again.
Mike held him tight. "I think of it all the time. God I want to, Jase. But every time we get close to it I freak."
Jase turned in Mike's arms and rested his forehead against Mike's. "You know, we had our first break through in the shower."
Mike smiled. "I know. I was hoping..."
Jase tilted up and kissed Mike gently. "You don't have to, Mike. I'll wait as long as you need."
Mike slid his hand behind Jase's head and brought him into a needy, almost painful kiss. "I need this, Jase. I've got to get past the fear." His eyes were pleading. "Please..."
Jase pressed himself against Mike's hard body and began to stoke the fire. I love you, Mike.
I love you so much... Mike groaned as Jase's lips tugged at his ear.
Jase struggled to keep himself from going crazy with lust. After so many weeks of only dreaming about Mike, his need was killing him. He could tell Mike was in the same shape. He had Mike panting and moaning as he hooked a leg over his lover's hip.
Mike gasped. "Lets get to the bed."
Jase shook his head and pulled Mike into another breath stealing kiss. "Right here, right now." Jase slid forward so that Mike's shaft was held between his cheeks.
"The condoms are in the night stand." Mike hissed but his resistance was tenuous at best.
"I don't care. I'm not afraid." Jase pulled himself up, kissing Mike before he could object. With slow, deliberate intent, Jase impaled himself on Mike's throbbing member. He bit Mike's neck as he was breached and he felt Mike's hands gripping him with abandon.
"Oh god..." Mike lost the ability for speech. Their first time had been the most incredible experience of his life. This surpassed their first incomparably. To be connected without any barriers, totally exposed, lit Mike up like a Christmas tree. His hips began to thrust upward and he latched onto Jase's neck.
Jase was seeing stars. Every stroke was a tortured heaven. His body rode hard, scraping against Mike's hair. Neither of them would last long. The connection was overloading everything. Jase felt as if they were one undulating form of pleasure and need. Mike had no space left in his heart or brain to fear, they were consumed in the echoing passion. All too soon, Jase was crying out and releasing himself against Mike's passion. Mike echoed Jase and unleashed a torrent of heat into Jase's trembling body.
They sank slowly to the tiled floor and gasped for breath. Their hands wandered slowly as their thoughts returned to something close to cognitive. As Jase shifted his weight, he felt Mike still hard within him. Reflexively he squeezed and was rewarded by a guttural moan. Rising up, Jase sat deliciously down again. Jase threw his head back and sighed. He looked back into his lover's eyes and smiled. "Now that we've had another break through, want to take this to the other room?"
Mike bent forward and licked Jase's nipple. "That would mean I'd have to move." Mike flexed his abs and caused his cock to brush Jase's button. I'm happy where I am.
Jase squirmed a little as Mike did it again. With a lusty sigh, Jase brought his lips to Mike's ear. "So am I."
Mira gave Jase a happy smile as he stumbled into the living room. "What time is it?"
Jase groaned. "I have an 11am meeting at TMC."
"Serves you right."
Jase gave her a dark look as he poured himself some coffee. "What the hell does that mean?"
Mira rolled her eyes. You were at it till past 3am. There are some things about this connection that are really a pain in the ass.
Jase felt color flush his cheeks. "You didn't!"
Mira laughed. "I did everything I could other than shoot myself to get you guys out of my head!"
Jase saw Mike's look of horror as he stood in the doorway. Mira took sympathy on the big guy. "When I realized there was no way for privacy, I left and stayed out till they closed the bars."
Jase frowned. "How do you know we were at it till three?"
Mira sighed. "Bars closed at two, Jase. I spent an hour sitting in the Jeep wondering if you guys would ever go to sleep!"
Mike was red as a beet as Mira pulled him down and kissed his cheek. "I didn't mind, really. I'm just glad you're working through this faster than Jase did. Maybe if he'd had you, it wouldn't have taken so long."
Mike grinned self-consciously. "Thanks, Mira."
She gave him a wicked grin. "My pleasure. How many girls get to experience two hot guys going at it in their heads?"
"Just Joking!" Everyone knew she wasn't.
Jase yanked out a ledger in triumph. "Found it!"
Phil came over, adjusted his reading glasses and looked over the accounting. "This is a payment ledger for a trust your Grandmother set up before she died."
Jase nodded. "Exactly."
Phil shrugged. "I don't see a connection."
Jase pointed to the regular payments. "Checks going out to Saint Brigid's."
Phil nodded. "Yes I see that. Your Grandmother was a very charitable woman."
Jase frowned. "Maybe, but I've been going over the estate for more than a week. I can tell you that all her charitable donations come from a different trust account."
"Ok. I see you point, it is odd." Phil shrugged and pulled off his glasses. "Why should something set up to give regular support to Saint Brigid's be of any significance? Even with it coming from an unusual account, you have dozens of medical charities that are supported by the estate."
Jase frowned. "Mira's attacker had been a patient there till shortly before the attack."
"How did you know that?"
"Detective Johnson made a connection and told me I should get more aware of where my money goes."
Phil frowned. "I hate to mention this, Jase. Since I manage your estate that would basically implicate me as doing what? Release a killer from a psychiatric hospital to maim or murder my primary client?"
Jase shook his head. "Nah. You didn't exactly set up that death magic to have an alibi."
"Then I really don't see how one is connected to the other save for strange coincidence."
Jase shrugged. "Neither do I." He looked over the trust paperwork again and frowned. "I just found a weirder coincidence."
Phil took the page from Jase and read it. "This trust was set up 13 years ago. I still don't see it."
"Phil, this trust was set up the same month my mother died." Jase paused to let that sink in. "Why would my grandmother establish a trust to make regular payments to a private psychiatric hospital the month my mother died?"
"This is beginning to sound like the plot of one of those daytime soap operas."
Jase got up and started pacing. "Phil. My mother dies and the same month my grandmother sets up a trust to make regular payments to a psychiatric hospital. When we dig up my mother's coffin, it's empty. A delusional, violent patient of the same hospital just shows up in Provence and happens to attack my best friend. Oh, and let us not forget that said patient has been possessed by the demon who attacked me in the city. A demon, I might add, that I vanquished, so had to have been summoned back by someone. That same demon then possesses my boyfriend and tries to kill me on my mother's grave."
Jase waved his hands at the room in general. "If -all- of that is simply coincidence, then the universe has an amazing sense of humor!"
Phil sank into his chair. "Yes, there are too many coincidences to write this off as happenstance." He looked up at Jase. "What do you want to do?"
"Is the guy you used to find me still doing PI work?"
Phil nodded. "Larry Manzki? Yes, I think so."
"I want to know what is going on at Saint Brigid's and how it relates to my family."
Phil received a fax from the PI within a couple days. The report detailed the institution's history, financial status and personnel. Jase frowned when he looked it over. "Well that's disturbing."
Phil took off his glasses and looked over at Jase. "What is?"
"Just about a year ago, Saint Brigid's was purchased by a conglomerate of hospitals."
"You've lost me again, Jase."
"It was about three months after that I was first attacked."
Phil stroked his beard thoughtfully. "And your father was attacked after you had vanquished the demon. I was attacked a week after that."
Jase nodded. "None of the weirdness started till the hospital changed hands. What do you want to bet that when they changed hands they changed policies?"
"That would be logical. Most large medical management companies insist on consistency of service from facility to facility."
Jase frowned. "What if what ever treatments my grandmother was paying for with the trust were not part of the corporate policies? I still don't know what it means, Phil. But I think it all goes back to my mother's death."
Phil sighed. "I have gone over it and over it in my mind, Jase. You mother was an alcoholic. She was in and out of treatment facilities for several years. You probably don't remember most of that as your father tried to shelter you from it."
Phil nodded. "Your father was a conservative, reactionary son-of-a-bitch, but he would never intentionally have let you suffer with the problems associated with an alcoholic parent. I suppose that is one of the reasons he arranged for you stay with the Castanio's so often."
Jase thought about that. Before his mother died, he had spent at least two weekends a month with Mike. Afterwards, Mike spent as much time at the Manor as he had spent at the Castanio's house. "It never occurred to me to think about why."
"You were four years old when you met Mike. You were nine years old when your mother died. You were too young to be aware of those things."
Mira woke to a sense of dread clawing at her stomach. Her eyes locked on the front door. Why is it open? Mira caught sight of movement in the shadows and she rolled from the bed. She heard the sound of a silenced pistol being fired. Mira spun and waved her hands. "Lady Nocturna, Mistress of Night, steal his will and darken his sight!" Mira had never resented her singsong form of magick, but in emergencies the application was difficult. Darkness shrouded her attacker but she could feel her spell struggle against some other magick and was found wanting. JASE!
Mira's gaze was locked on the barrel of the gun as the trigger depressed. She twisted, trying to roll out of the way but the bullet seared into her flesh and she was knocked to the floor. All she could focus on was the blinding pain.
The figure spun as Jase burst into the room. "MIRA!" Jase had no time to react, as there were three successive flashes from the pistol. He wasn't even sure exactly what happened next.
For Mike, time slowed. He launched himself past Jase and spun. The bullets were like something out of a special effect's movie and nearly hung in the air as Mike closed. He knocked each shot aside without thinking and imposed himself between Jase and the attacker. Time returned to normal less than a breath later.
Jase raised his hand. "Expuli Expulsum!" The shadow was launched backwards by the force of Jase's magick and slammed into the far wall. It crumpled to the floor as Mike dropped to one knee and cursed. "Shit!"
"Are you hit?" Jase was torn between running to Mike and checking on Mira.
"No, but Mira is." Mike was shaking his hands. "Fuck, those bullets burn!"
Jase leapt over the couch and knelt beside Mira. Blood was soaking into the carpet and her body was shaking from shock. "Mike, it looks bad!"
Mike was beside Jase in moments. "I'll help her. You deal with what ever that is!"
Jase left Mike with Mira and moved around the couch. The form was moaning as Jase lashed out, "Evincio Hostes Hostium." Jase felt his spell latch onto his opponent and anchor him in place. Jase raised his hand and extended his will. "Accendo!" The air flared with a pure white light and Jase looked down at their attacker. Oh Shit... The crazed eyes of Larry Manzki stared back at him.