Kisses of Fire
Eileen Raven Scott
Aruni sat down in front of the fireplace and listened to the flames whispering. Slowly she wiggled her fingers, stiff from the autumn air and held them into the flames. The fire hugged her skin and it only took a few moments, until the warmth came back. Ash jumped onto Aruni's lap and cuddled up, purring. Aruni stroked her soft fur and sighed.
„Oh, I'm so fed up with being different. I hate this masquerade.“
She glanced over at the pile of gloves, hats, hair bands and hair clips on her dressing table by the window and pulled a face. Ash rubbed her head against Aruni's hand, as if to say she understood. Aruni stroked her cat's ears, before putting her down gently. She got up and slowly walked over to the window. Absent-mindedly she touched her short horns, while she looked out into the night. Then she closed the curtains. Nosy looks from passers-by were really not what she needed right now.
Aruni shivered and turned up the heating as high as it would go, but the temperatures never reached those of her old home. Central heating for humans was simply not designed for temperatures above 45 degrees Celsius. Aruni sighed and started getting undressed. She dropped her blazer, blouse and black jeans in an untidy pile on the old velvet armchair in the corner of her bedroom. Then she began to unravel the black bandage, which hid the red shiny skin around her middle and her tail. She draped it tidily over the pile of clothes and slipped into a pair of black silk pyjamas. For a moment she stared into the candle flame on her bedside table, then she blew it out and crawled into bed.
Ash finished licking her fur clean, before she leaped down from the fireplace and came over to the bed. With an elegant jump she landed on the soft duvet, where she curled up for the night.
„My sweet little flame, I am so lucky to have you,“ Aruni whispered. “Sleep tight.”
Aruni woke up with a start. Next to her, Ash was growling just as loud as her. Who on earth was ringing her doorbell at this time of night? Dragging her duvet with her, Aruni scrambled out of bed and stumbled to the door, letting out a series of hot curses. Whoever was out there was hammering on her door now. Every single other person in the house was probably awake by now and soon someone would be calling the police.
Of course Aruni suspected who might be waiting outside her door making this racket and she wasn’t happy to see him at all. Every single one of Lierd’s visits had meant trouble so far or at least a bad mood on both sides. One look through the judas hole confirmed her suspicion. Aruni growled under her breath and pulled the duvet closer around her body. She was trembling of cold and anger. Aruni opened the door a tiny bit and peered out. Ash jumped up onto the bookshelf opposite the door and crouched down behind a tall vase.
„Open the door, Aruni! What's the matter with you?“ Lierd barked. „Have you suddenly developed a sense of shyness amongst the humans?“ He barged past her into her flat and looked down on her from his impressive height of nearly two meters and twenty.
„Am I interrupting anything?“
„Not at all.“ Aruni grunted. „What do you want, Lierd? It's night, for hell's sake.“
„Exactly. The night before Halloween, where you should be at the ceremony. You could bring some humans to sacrifice, there are enough around after all.“ He licked his lips.
There was a choking sound from behind; Aruni and Lierd looked towards the bookshelf. The cat coughed up a furball, which then fell onto the carpet with a tiny plop.
Lierd looked at Aruni. „See? She doesn't like it here, either. How long are you planning on staying?“
Again, Aruni snorted angrily and crossed her arms before her chest. „She likes it here. And so do I. How often do I have to tell you that? If you just came to persuade me to come with you, you can leave right now.“
Instead of an answer, Lierd laughed. He stepped a little closer and stretched to his full height like a male cat defending his territory. „Are you threatening me?“
Ever so slightly, Aruni’s horns started to glow, but then she just shrugged and took a step backwards.
Lierd grinned and walked past her. On his way he bumped into her shoulder so hard that Aruni nearly dropped her duvet. He walked over to the fireplace and sat down in one of the leather armchairs in front of it. Aruni stood in the doorway for a moment and then sat down at a safe distance and watched her unwanted guest.
„Why are you wearing bedsheets? “ Lierd asked, after having stared into the flames for an eternity. „Is that a new fashion in the human world, that I haven't heard of yet?“
The gentle tone unsettled Aruni even more. His eyes had a strange sparkle to them, was he planning something? But then again, it was probably just the reflection of the fire.
“I was sleeping,“ she said quietly.
„You sleep?“ Lierd truly sounded astonished. „You need to sleep? I didn't know that. Why didn't I know that? Since when do you need sleep?“
„It's different up here. My human side comes out more on the surface. But I also slept down below. Secretly. If you could excuse me a moment,“ Aruni cringed at the human expression and backed towards the bathroom door. She was angry, that Lierd had found out this weakness. After all, she was defenceless in her sleep. If it was to become known down below, who knows who would take advantage of it. And she knew very well that Lierd could not be trusted. Aruni leaned against the closed door and grabbed her bathrobe. In the corner next to the bathtub she spotted a pair of purple running trousers, one blue and one red sock. Unfortunately no underwear, but the most important thing was that Lierd wouldn't be able to stare at her bare skin. She slipped into the soft material and pulled back her hair into a ponytail. Then she took a deep breath and opened the door again.
Lierd wasn’t sitting in the armchair anymore. Nervously Aruni scanned the room. A sound came from the kitchen. As quietly as possible, she sneaked to the door and looked directly at the impressive muscles on Lierd's back. He was standing in front of the fridge and staring into it, probably looking for beer, which he wouldn't find. As usual, he had taken off his shirt. Human clothes were not his favourite thing to wear.
„You don't have to tiptoe, I know exactly where you are.“
Aruni didn’t even have time to say anything to his comment, because in the next second he stood so close, that his body nearly touched hers. Aruni breathed in his smoky scent, it reminded her of home and there was an ever so tiny pang of homesickness. But next to the usual scent there was something else, a trace of perfume. It smelt definitely feminine, flowery but deadly. Jenna. Aruni didn’t say anything.
„Yes, I was with Jenna,“ he said and squared his shoulders. „There's no need to sniff me.“ He shoved his hands deep into the pockets of his perfectly fitting black jeans. Lierd bared his sharp white teeth a little. A deep growl caused Aruni to look into his eyes. His own fire was burning in them, wild and impossible to tame.
„Aruni,“ hissed Lierd. „Don't look at me like that. I know what you’re thinking and you‘re wrong.“
She looked away. Taking one step back at a time, she kept going until she bumped into the kitchen wall. Lierd stayed where he was and leaned on the small folding table in the middle of the room. There was a loud snap and the next minute Lierd fell backwards like a cut down tree and landed wide-eyed on the kitchen floor. He cursed loudly, but then got back on his feet in one smooth move. Looking down on the pile of plywood and plastic pieces, he said: „I'll buy you a new table tomorrow. Go back to bed.“ Then he left the kitchen. A few moments later the flat door crashed closed. Aruni let out a long breath.