Home > Blood and Snow (Blood and Snow #1)(8)

Blood and Snow (Blood and Snow #1)(8)
Author: RaShelle Workman

The sun had begun to set, making the glass buildings glow as though they were on fire. Heathcliff led us into an alley that, at one point, hundreds of years ago, had been a cow path. Sunlight dappled the brick buildings high above, but down near us, darkness prevailed, as did the dank smell of rotting trash, and fish.

I breathed through my mouth, with little relief.

"Where are we going, Heath?" Dorian asked, a hand over his nose.

Gabe shoved him. "You're such a baby." He glanced at me, worry creasing his forehead. "How are you handling this," he whispered.

I put a hand over my nose and mouth. "Gotta say Dorian has the right idea. The smell is awful."

Gabe nodded.

Heathcliff didn't seem to be bothered by it. He kept looking from a piece of paper in his hand and side-to-side at the old doors almost hidden in the walls. The alley seemed to go on forever, and I wondered how much longer.

Finally Heath stopped, and scratched his head. "I think this is it." He knocked, and we waited. After several seconds a young Asian boy in navy shorts, and a white t-shirt answered the door. He appraised us before asking in perfect English, "What do you want?"

I felt the hesitation in the brothers. They had their shoulders hunched, except Heathcliff. He said, "Hello," and gave the boy a smile. "Adam Henry asked me to bring something to Kenmei-sensei."

The boy stepped back, as though Heath had cursed. "One minute." The door slammed, and there was high-pitched shouting in Japanese.

After several more minutes, the door opened again, and an elderly Asian man opened the door. He wore clothes similar to Professor Pops. With a slight bow, he said, "Adam Henry has something for me?"

Heath, Dorian, Gabe, and I returned the bow. Professor Pops had been teaching the boys about different cultures since they were little. Sometimes he'd teach me too. And for that reason I knew that it was a sign of respect to return the old man's bow.

Heath pulled a folded paper from his back pocket.

"Are you Kenmei-sensei?"

A smile ignited the man's face. "Hai."

Heath handed him the paper. "This is for you, then."

With slightly shaking hands, Kenmei took the paper, and unfolded it. He searched whatever was on it.

The four of us shuffled back and forth waiting patiently, but I thought I'd gag if I had to stay in the alley much longer. The smell was more than atrocious.

Minutes later, Kenmei looked at Heath, and then set his gaze on Dorian, Gabe, and his eyes finally rested on me. A prickling fear surged along my spine. Looking into his dark eyes was like looking into the Universe. If anyone asked, I would swear I saw stars and planets rotating within.

"You are not one of Adam Henry's sons." It wasn't a question, but a statement.

I shook my head, placing my hands behind my back in fists. "No, I'm just a friend of the family."

"A good friend," he added.

"Yes," I agreed, working to keep the overbearing fear crawling along my appendages in check. His stare wearied me, and I turned away, checking out my feet, realizing I stood in a puddle of murky yellow water. Shifting, I moved closer to Gabe. He placed a hand at the small of my back, and I relaxed.

With a slight nod, he said, "Adam is expecting an answer. Won't the four of you come in? My grandson, Hiro-san will make you some tea."

Heathcliff answered as though he'd been holding his breath. "We'd love to."

"Excellent." Kenmei stepped away from the door, and put out a welcoming hand. "Please, come in."

Hiro barked, "Take off your shoes."

After the four of us had stepped in, Hiro closed the door.

"I'll be right back." To Hiro, Kenmei said, "Show them into the dining room, and get them some tea."

Hiro bowed. "Yes, Grandfather."

Kenmei shuffled down a long hall.

I rolled up my pant legs because the ends were wet, and removed my shoes, as I waited for my eyes to adjust to the dimly lit room. It'd been dark outside, but for some reason it seemed darker in here. I could make out that Gabe and the others were removing their shoes as well. When I finished, I stood.

Hiro said, "Follow me, please, and don't touch anything." He shook his pointer finger at us slowly, but seemed to be looking directly at me.

Did I have "klutzy" stamped across my forehead? Probably, I answered myself with a sigh.

I followed the boy. Gabe and the others followed me. We seemed to be taking the same route Kenmei had gone. It looked like the only way to get anywhere. The floor was covered in plush oriental carpet, the design intricate. The walls were covered in cream paint. Lights ran along the ceiling, but elaborately painted lamps covered them, which is why the room emitted only a slight reddish glow. Pictures of ancient-looking people, water dragons, and creatures that looked like they'd been pulled from nightmares hung randomly. The air smelled like incense, which was much nicer than the garbage stench outside.

As we padded along I got the distinct impression I was being watched. Paranoid much, I berated myself. It was just that I was in a strange place. It was unnerving.

Abruptly the hallway ended, and we had to either turn to the left or the right. Hiro led us to the right. Not too far after that, he stopped in front of double paper-looking doors. Sliding it opened, he ushered us in.

The room looked like a dining room. A large onyx table sat majestically in the center. Ten black leather chairs surrounded it. In the middle of the table a rock and bamboo water fountain gurgled contentedly. Directly above it hung an enormous chandelier. I couldn't see the ceiling though. It just seemed to go up and up and up, without end. That has to be a trick of the light, I thought.

Hiro patted a chair at the head of the table, and said, "You, girl. Sit here. The rest of you can find a spot. I'll be right back." Without another word, he left.

We looked at each other and laughed.

"That kid has more confidence in his little finger than most people have in their whole bodies," Dorian said.

We all agreed as we went to our seats.

"I wonder why he wanted me to sit here?" I asked, cautiously pulling out the chair, and sitting.

"Probably because you're cute," Gabe said, and the others agreed. He winked at me. I blinked, unsure. Gabe shook his head, a half-smile on his lips. "Snowflake," he uttered, grabbing my hand between his, and massaging it.

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