Category Archives: Confessions

Confessions: Secret Tales of the System

Reader Beware: For erotic romantic scenes between Crusader Couples. You have been warned.



It all begins at a Sweet-Sixteen party the System holds for one of its top agents, Ariana Sister. Derrick Reading, her partner and boyfriend, is sent on a case of his own with another agent, leaving her alone. Once the loneliness begins to set in, the boss Shannon Ryan comes up with something interesting to cheer her up. Shannon suggests another agent, Shane “Shadow” Morehouse be her partner until Derrick comes back. These are the confessions of those teenagers with the most in common, yet least likely to get together save for their own project. What does Shannon have in mind and what does she think she’s doing pairing them together? Does she even know what she’s getting herself and her agents into?

I had just turned sixteen. Sixteen, much too old for an orphan, but I lived to see it. Shannon, our boss here at the System, led the party the entire agency was invited to. Derrick Reading, my boyfriend and partner for the Dream Realm Crusader project, stood beside me through the entire party. I was having a blast, laughing, joking with my fellow agent friends. There was something wrong, though. I could tell. I could sense it. There was something in the air that suggested somewhat of a family for me. My own, not just the System’s agents. I didn’t know what to think. What to feel, what to believe.

That’s when I heard a voice in my mind, quite like my own.

Happy birthday, sister.

Definitely female, definitely telepathic. It had to be someone like me. I closed my eyes to picture the sender, but my mind-sight was cloudy. I shook my head, dismissing it until I could figure whatever it was out.

“What’s wrong, love?” Derrick’s calm voice whispered in my ear as he led me away from the crowded dance floor.

“Nothing, Derrick.” I tried smiling. AI’m having a wonderful time.”

His attention was averted elsewhere. I followed his gaze to see Shannon beckoning him from across the room. I let him go, turning to mingle at my own party. I’ve only been at the System for two months, so I saw the party as a perfect chance to really get to know the other agents.

There was an individual in the corner, hiding in the shadows. I barely knew him. Dark brown hair, sad brown eyes, Shane Athe Shadow” Morehouse was a loner. I’ve heard rumors about him and another agent nicknamed Lu-Lu being more than friends. Those same rumors told me Lu-Lu used to be Derrick’s partner. I’ve never met her, but could tell Shadow loved her.

I walked up to him, sensing his depression went deeper than the cup he was staring into. AHey, Shadow.” I called out. He looked up with a smile, then frowned with his eyes met mine. ACare to dance?”

Shadow shrugged, mumbling something under his breath.

I had to strain my ears to hear it. AExcuse me?”

He repeated himself, only just loud enough for me to hear. AI can’t dance.”

I smiled. ASure you can. It’s not that hard, come on.”

AWhat about Derrick?”

AWhat about him?” I countered. AIt’s just one dance, Shadow. I’m not asking you to go steady or anything.”

This got him to smile. He took my outstretched hand, leading me to the dance floor. AYou’re gonna regret this, Ariana.”

I smiled back. ATry me.”

I showed him how to dance when a slow song began to play. After a few minutes, he pulled me closer, wrapping his arms around me. He kissed my cheek, whispering in my ear. AOh, how I’ve missed you, Luna.”

I stopped, pulling back. AShane, I’m not Luna.”

Once looking into my eyes, he quickly apologized, pulling away from me. AI’m so sorry, Ariana. I just, oh, I’m so, so sorry.”

I followed him back to his hiding spot in the shadows. AIt’s okay, honest. I know all about her, though I’ve never met her. I’ve heard the stories about you two, and can understand perfectly.”

AWhat do you know about her?”

AJust that she was Derrick’s old partner, had been here since she was a little girl, and how crazy she is about you.” I told him.

ABut you’ve never met her?”

I shook my head. ANever, although I am very curious about someone I’ve yet to meet.” I sat beside him. AHowever, I still want to be your friend. Friends help one another when trouble hits.”

ASo, you think I’m in trouble.” Shane asked.

ANo, I know you’re in trouble.” I told him, nudging him enough to make him smile.

AMaybe that’s why Shannon wants us to be partners?”

That comment caught me by surprise. APartners?”

AYeah.” Shane said. ADidn’t they tell you? We’re going to be on our own project.”

AI can’t!” I told him adamantly. AI’m still on the Dream Realm Crusader project.”

AAccording to Shannon, the Dream Realm is at peace, so there’s no need for Crusading.” Shane replied.

AYou know what else I am, right?”

AIf you mean the Dream Realm’s Young Guardian, yes, I know.” He said with a grin. AI’m sure our project won’t interfere with your duties.”

ADo you even know what it is?”

Shane shook his head, then looked up. ANo, but I’m sure she’ll tell us.”

I looked up to see Shannon and Derrick heading toward us. I stood up.

AWhat is the meaning of this, Shannon Ryan?” I asked her, hands on hips. AHow could you split us up?”

AEasily.” Shannon told me. She crossed her arms. AI’ve already explained it to Derrick, and he’s agreed.”


AAriana, it’s the chance of a lifetime for me.” My boyfriend began. AI’ll be training side-by-side with an actual police detective.”

I turned back to Shannon. AHow long?”

AAs long as it takes.” She said. AMeet me in the Commons first thing tomorrow morning, all of you. We’ll discuss it then.” She took a deep breath and put a smile on her face. ABesides, this is your party. Enjoy it.”

That’s when she walked away, leaving the three of us staring at each other.

I couldn’t believe what I did. I mistook Ariana Sister for her twin, Luna. You’d think I’d know the difference by now. After all, I had grown up with Lu, and Ariana just got here two months ago. How could I do such a thing?

I’ll tell you how. I missed Luna. Sure, I knew she wasn’t supposed to be around for awhile. Ariana wasn’t to know of her twin sister until the Lord Guardian himself told us it was time. That doesn’t mean I couldn’t see or even talk to my own girlfriend.

Now, to make matters worse, Shannon Ryan herself put the two of us, Ariana and I, together on some unknown project. I was supposed to live with that? How?

Life as a System Agent just got interesting.

At her Sweet-Sixteen party, I wondered where Luna was. After all, she was sixteen today, too. I stayed in my corner as Derrick led Ariana away from me. I surveyed the room, watching agent friends having a good time, laughing, dancing, smiling. I was depressed.

I smiled when I caught her eye from across the room. What was she doing here? I stood up and moved to find out. She disappeared out the door, no one the wiser. I followed, catching her down the hall when she stopped.

AWhat are you doing here, Luna?” I managed to whisper, looking over my shoulder for followers.

She caught me in her arms and hugged me tight, kissing my lips. AHello to you, too, Shane Morehouse. I simply came to say goodbye.”

I held her hands. AWhy goodbye?”

AI’ve been sent on a mission back home.” Luna told me, tucking a piece of reddish-blond hair behind her ear.

I was happy to see she was wearing the earrings and necklace I gave her for her birthday last year.

AShannon told me about your upcoming project.” She continued. AShane, don’t forget who it is, and who I am to you.”

AIf you think I’m gonna mistake her for you, you’re crazy.” I told her.

AYou already did. I saw you.”

Uh oh. Caught.

AYou shouldn’t be here, Lu.” I told her, kissing her again. AI’m not complaining, but you know what Lord Guardian said.”

She nodded. AYes, Shane, I know, but I had to see her.” She looked up into my eyes with tears in hers. AYou don’t know what it’s like to keep this big a secret. You don’t know what it’s like to lose a part of you when you’re only five.”

I held her close, kissing her forehead. AI know I don’t, because I can’t. I couldn’t fathom having a twin then losing him that young. I can’t even begin to imagine how you’re feeling right now.”

My lovely Aluna Star hugged me tight until her tears subsided.

I couldn’t believe it. Me B second son of a prominent businessman B about to apprentice in New York with an actual police detective. It was too good to be true. I just wished Ariana could come with me.

Shannon told me what she had in mind. Shadow Morehouse, the best and shyest agent at the System, was going to be my girlfriend’s partner. I was torn. Should I stay and defend what’s mine or should I take the chance in trusting the two of them together while I’m gone? After all, I was her boyfriend, not Shadow.

I’d only known Shadow for at least four months, when he came in the limo to pick me up. Even now, I hardly know him. I don’t think anybody does, except maybe Shannon. Ariana, on the other hand, I felt I’ve known for years. I dreamed of her, reaching out for my help when she was in pain. When my family started to fight each other and I was caught in the middle, I thought of her. She soothed my own wounds, loving me. It was as if we were meant to be together.

When I first arrived at the System, I was partnered with Ariana’s twin sister Luna. Of course, being an orphan for most of her life, Ariana doesn’t know about her. I thought Luna was my wonderful Dream Girl, but I was wrong. She told me of her life here, and about Shadow, her boyfriend. At first I felt foolish for mistaking one twin for the other. I soon learned my Dream Girl would come to me in person when she was ready.

That was two months ago. Shannon Ryan, our boss and friend, had a plan. She told me how Aurora, the head counselor, examined Ariana the first two weeks in. Aurora explained the depression Ariana was in, and how my girlfriend yearned for a family. Shannon told me how Shadow didn’t have a family anymore, either. He’d been at the System since he was nine. That’s when Shannon came up with the idea to get the two of them, Ariana and Shadow, together on their own AHealing” project.

Reluctantly, I agreed. Especially when she told me the chance of a lifetime I would have.

And I thought my family life was tough.

I was to leave the morning after Ariana’s party. I didn’t want to go, but my detecting career depended on taking chances and making sacrifices. I was just worried Ariana would fall for him in my absence. Especially since Shadow couldn’t distinguish between the two of them yet. Heck, I couldn’t.

AWhat are you thinking so intently?” I heard Ariana’s voice interrupt my thoughts.

I smiled at her, kissing her nose. We were dancing to a romantic song that was playing. AWhy don’t you read my mind and find out?”

She frowned. AYou know I wouldn’t betray your trust by doing that.”

ANot even when I give you permission?”

Ariana shook her head. ANot even then. Besides, why read it when I can hear it from your own lips?”

I stopped dancing and led her to a table. AI was thinking about how much I love you.”

AHow sweet.” She smiled. AI love you, too, Derrick. Now, what else?”

Was I that transparent?

I cleared my throat. AI was also thinking about our upcoming projects. Apart.”


I watched her face turn from happy to depressed.

ACome on, Love, don’t look like that.” I scolded her gently. I touched her chin, making her look at me. AIt’s not going to be forever, you know. Just a few weeks.”

She was silent for a moment while she took my hand in hers. ATell me the truth, Derrick James Reading. What do you know about Shadow’s and my project?”

Yipes, a full name.

AVery little. Just that Shannon called it a healing project.” I told her.

Ariana released my hands and looked away in a daze. AHealing project? What does that mean?”

She looked back at me. I didn’t know, so I shrugged. AAsk her.”

ABelieve me. I will.” Ariana’s voice was determined. I’ve seen this kind of determination from her only once before.

It was when we were first partnered together. She was having nightmares of the Master Orthos, waking up in the middle of the night screaming. For the first two weeks, I slept in the bed beside her, just listening. I didn’t know what to do. It was so sad. Anyway, when Orthos came to her, threatening her life, she was determined to beat him. She did, for a while. So far, so good.

She stood up, found Shannon talking with Nick McNathaniels across the room, and started over to them.

ANow, don’t do anything rash, Ariana Moon.”

She stopped in her tracks and stared at me. AI promise, Derrick James.”

I was afraid of that.

After the party, Derrick and I got a chance to be alone. We headed to Lover’s Lane and Paradise Peak. The walk was peaceful, letting us lose ourselves in thoughts as we held hands.

I felt something from him then. Something akin to worry and fear. He was worried I would fall for Shadow while he was away. I turn to look at him watching me. Despite my Empathic feelings, I pasted on a smile.

He wasn’t fooled, I could tell. We stopped and sat on the warm grass by the ocean-side. He wrapped his arm around me, kissing my ear.

That’s when I felt it again. This time, even stronger.

AIf only I could do something to ease your worry, my Derrick James.” I whispered, leaning into his embrace.

He forced a chuckle. AYou can feel that, can you?”

I nodded. ALike nothing else, and you know what?”


AIt hurts me.”

He sat back and examined my eyes. AI’m sorry, Love. Really.” He sighed, turning his eyes to the water. He bent his knees up and rested his arms around them. AI’m just so torn right now, you know?” Without waiting for my reply, he continued. AI mean, I’ve always wanted to be a detective. Now I’ll get to train with one. This new case is like a dream come true for me.”

ABut?” I prodded softly, listening. I took one of his hands in my own, waiting for him to go on.

He turned to me. AThen again, so are you. You’re my Dream Girl, Ariana. You know that. Now that I’ve found you, I don’t want to let you go.”

AI don’t want to be let go, Derrick.” I told him. AYou’re my Imaginary Romeo-turned-reality. The moment we met, I knew you were the one for me.”

AYou hardly know me.” He admonished, turning away again. AYou came to the System straight from the streets, looking for shelter and love you’ve never had. I could just be an anchor in your eyes. Someone to hold onto for the moment.”

ABelieve me, Derrick James. You’re not.” I whispered.

Why was he talking like this? I knew he loved me with his heart, as I loved him. Why was he backing away from me? Did he want his fears and worries to come true? Was he trying to make his departure in the morning easier on me?

He didn’t respond for a while, and I had to resort to telepathy to read his mind. I just hoped he would forgive me for it later.

I didn’t have to meet his eyes to read his mind.

His mind whirled images of Shadow and I together, here on the beach.

He’s mature, suave and sophisticated. He can be a cool guy at times, making people relax and enjoy themselves. Ariana needs that right now, not me. I’m not like that. I’m too serious. Besides, he’s charming. She’s sure to fall for him. Why would she want boring old me when she can have him?

I had to answer to that thought.

AI want boring old you because I happen to love you.” I told him. He was startled and turned to me.

AThought you weren’t going to use telepathy on me?” Derrick asked, frowning.

AIt was a last resort, and you know it.” I supplied. AYou wouldn’t talk to me, so I had to see what you were so worried about.”

ADid you get your answers?” He asked.

AYes, I think I did.” I told him. AAnd I’m appalled. Why are you pushing me away when you know we’re meant to be together?”

I heard him sigh.

AI wanted to make it easier to leave you in the morning.” His face softened. AI was afraid Shadow would take advantage of your heartache and steal you away from me.”

Oh, Derrick! Was that all?

AYou know him more than I do. He’s in love with a girl named Lu-Lu. When we danced tonight, I could sense how much he missed her.” I acknowledged. AHe even called me by her name, if you can believe that.”

Derrick’s eyes perked, and he looked like he wanted to say something, but didn’t. He smiled. AI guess you’re right. He’d never choose you over her.”

I kissed him hard, then searched his eyes. ADo you have so little trust in me that you would think I would give in, even if he did?” I wondered. I wrapped my arms around his neck as his arms circled my waist. AI love you, Derrick James Reading, and only you. How could you think otherwise?”

I wanted to show him somehow that he would never lose me, that I loved him more than I had ever loved anyone, and that included Aaron Theodore.

I dared to do something I’d only done once before. Question was, were we ready, as a couple? Was he ready to take the plunge, and show both himself and me how much I meant to him? I know I was ready to show him how much he meant to me, but would he think he was taking advantage of me?

Enough thought. Time for a little action.

I kissed his lips with as much passion as I could muster, linking my Empathic feelings of love for him in the kiss. I let him see the sensual thoughts going through my head, making my heart pound. Stepping away from him when the kiss was broken, I kept my eyes on his as I stripped my shirt off. I had a bikini top on underneath, so it wasn’t as if I was topless on the beach.


Derrick gasped, taking me back into his arms and sending us softly to the ground, returning the passionate kiss once he removed both our pairs of glasses and set them on the grass beside us. He held himself over me, one arm wrapped behind my head as a pillow.

I couldn’t resist. I reached for the bulge in his khakis, gently caressing it. I saw his eyes close and heard the low moan of pleasure from his lips.

AGods, Love, you don’t know what you’re doing to me.” Derrick gasped when he met my eyes.

AI’m pretty sure I do.” I told him, tracing my finger up into his open shirt. Using both hands, I took it off him, reaching it over his head. AKiss me, Derrick James.” I whispered, closing my eyes. AKiss me like you mean it.”

He did just that, with as much passion as he could handle. His heart was beating fast, I could feel it as his chest touched mine.

I caught one of his hands in my own by touch, guiding it to my breast.

Know in your heart every part of my body is yours. I whispered in his mind as we deepened the kiss. I guided that same hand down further, cupping it in between my legs.

He broke the kiss, looking at me in shock. ALove BA

I only smiled. AIt’s okay. I promise.”

He backed away anyway, laying on the grass beside me. He moved his hand from in between my legs to my waist, kissing my exposed stomach before resting his hand there.

AWhat’s this long scar?” He asked, tracing it with his finger.

I couldn’t tell him the truth, that it was a C-Section scar from childbirth. I made something up. AI had my appendix taken out two years ago.”

He smiled. AIt’s nice, in a way.”

I grinned. Now we were getting somewhere. I didn’t sense as much trepidation in him anymore, so I kissed him again, deeper and more feverish. Again, I tried placing his hand in between my slightly open legs.

AI want to go further, but I can’t.” Derrick confessed, unable to meet my eyes. He didn’t move his hand, which was good. He gently caressed the area, which made me relax and moan softly.

AAre you afraid of hurting me?” I asked him. He nodded. ADon’t be. You could never hurt me. Not like this, and not when it feels so right.”

He met my eyes. AHave you ever, you know, done it before?”

I didn’t answer. Instead, I asked. AHave you?”

He shook his head. AI wouldn’t know what to do.” He kissed me gently on the lips. AI want so much to please you like this, but I don’t know how.”

How sweet?

AWe can learn together.” I told him. He smiled.

Now to find out.

AAre you ready for sex, Love?” I asked gently. AIn your heart and soul, as a man, do you think you’re ready for such a big step?”

AGods, yes!” He gasped. AEver since your mind reached my own, I’ve wanted to make love to you. I wanted to be the one to take all your fears, anguish, nightmares and pain away. I even believe I loved you before I met you in person. Once I saw your sad face, I wanted to soothe your ails and show you what love was all about, even if I myself didn’t know.”

I was speechless at that. Instead of responding, I unclasped my bikini top and exposed my breasts. AKiss them, caress them with your mouth and tongue. They’re yours for the tasting.”

He took my breasts in both of his hands, closing his mouth over one while squeezing the other. I closed my eyes and enjoyed it, a moan escaping from my lips. His tongue circled the one breast, his lips kissing the tip before teasing my cleavage and taking the other.

I raised my head and moaned aloud, wanting more.

My Romeo gave me more….much more…

His mouth circled my right breast with his tongue before trailing kisses down my stomach. He whispered, looking at me expectantly. AAre you sure about this, Love?”

I was in heaven. Of course I was sure!

I nodded, breathing AYes.”

He unhooked the button and slowly unzipped my shorts, pulling them down and off my legs, out of the way. Without using his hands, he untied one side of my bikini bottoms with his teeth, kissing the inside of my thigh as I watched. His teeth went to the other side, doing the same before he kissed the triangle of fabric in between.

My turn to pleasure him. I sat up and reached for his khakis and pulling them down off of him. I wrapped a hand over the shaft of his erect penis, making him moan as my lips kissed the tip. I took it in my mouth, suckling slowly, gently, cupping his scrotum with my hand and teasing it. I brought my mouth down the staff, using my tongue to taunt him.

His hands found my head, and he moaned. AGods!”

He’ll be moaning more than that before I was finished with him.

Knowing my bikini bottom was untied, I stood up, letting him see my nude body before I kissed his lips once more. I found one of his hands before it could wrap itself around my waist, guiding it to my already-wet sheath. AFeel that?” I whispered. AOnly you can do that to me.”

AAriana BA He gasped, burying his head in my hair. AI want be inside you. I want to know how it feels to have you around me.”

We lowered our naked bodies to the grass. I was ready for him to take me, but he didn’t. Not right away.

Instead, his fingers pushed inside my vagina, testing one, then two, in the tight hole. I gasped, arching my back to meet his finger-strokes.

ADoes that feel good?” He asked, kissing the inside of each of my thighs as his fingers explored me.

I nodded, moaning. I held my breath as his mouth replaced his fingers, and his tongue explored my clitoris. I spread my legs, allowing his head room to experiment more. I could feel a rush of heat throughout my body, holding on as long as I could to my orgasm. His tongue lapped in and around the hole of my vagina, making my legs shake.

AI’m going to explode!” I whispered, crying out as I let go to the rush of heat.

How did he know what to do, when he just told me he didn’t? That’s right, he has an older brother back home. I owe that man my gratitude, if I ever met him.

Derrick’s tongue licked one more time before he rose his body up to meet mine. His penis was hard and throbbing, so I knew he was ready. He laced an arm around my upper back and I arched it to greet his erection.

Threading my legs around his waist, I felt the tip of his penis touch the entrance to my now-soaking wet sheath. He was gentle, slowly inching himself into me. Once it was in all the way, he began slow, steady thrusts.

I held on for dear life, enjoying every movement of his perfect body in mine. He wasn’t too big it hurt, or too small I couldn’t feel him.

Just like my Imaginary Romeo, he was perfect.

As he moved, I moved, in perfect sync. I had so much love for him, especially now, I was sure my guess was a right one. We were made for each other. After all this pleasure as we made love, how could we not be?

His mouth found my throat, kissing it as his penis slid in and out of me. AI love you so much, Ariana Moon.” He whispered into my hair. AI don’t want this ever to end.”

So I made sure it didn’t. I took us both to the stars, our bodies entwined and pacing faster as we went along. With every one of my inner-explosions as he made love to me, he moaned and pushed harder, faster. We both climaxed at the same time, and I could feel his hot liquid shooting inside of me.

He collapsed beside me, out of breath. I stared at the stars with my hands laced behind my head, heart slowing and mind racing through what we just did.

Derrick was quiet so I turned to meet his soft brown eyes. His own head was propped on his hand, and he was smiling. Taking my chin in his other hand, he kissed me again. I licked my lips, tasting my sweetness on them. He looked down to my vagina, searching the area with his hand.

AI thought virgin girls were supposed to bleed when they first make love?” He asked, eyeing me.

ANever said I was a virgin.” I told him with a grin. AHow do you think I know so much about sex, and how to pleasure a man?”

Derrick reddened, embarrassed. I laughed.

AHey, my Romeo Reading.” I supplied. AWanna go for a midnight swim?”

I stood and grabbed his hand, pulling him up.

We were naked and slicking with sweat.

AWhat if someone sees us?” He asked, pulling my body against his. I could feel his penis slowly rising again. I wanted to take full advantage of it.

ANobody’s here, Lover.” I whispered into his lips as I kissed them.

He looked to the ocean when we parted. AOnly a short one.”

We ran and jumped into the water, catching each other’s embrace. When we were neck-deep in water, we started kissing, and petting, and teasing each other again. With him standing up, I kissed his lips, wrapping my arms around his neck as I took him inside me and move my body up and down to pleasure him again.

We saw it got really late and chilly, so we dressed and headed back to Fourth-Floor, where we began it all again on my bed by the balcony.

He may have been leaving in the morning, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t enjoy ourselves tonight.

To make her feel better, I took my Sweetling to Paradise Peak. We went to the top of Peak and looked down at those people below us by Lover’s Lane.

I knew exactly who they were from the moment I saw them. Ariana and Derrick. I sighed.

Luna spread a blanket on the grass before saying anything.

AWhat’s wrong, Shane?” Luna held me as she looked into my eyes.

I looked in the direction of the lovebirds. ALook at them, Lu.” I told her. AThey look so good together. It’s hard to believe they were totally different people before they met.”

I sat on the blanket.

Luna knelt behind me and started massaging my shoulders. AI know. It’s like they’re inseparable.” She paused. “I’m happy for her.”

AHappy that you’re not in her life anymore?” I had to ask. When it came out, I regretted it. I turned to see her eyes tearing up again. AOh, Lu, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say that.”

She surprised me by wrapping her arms around me and kissing my lips passionately. I could do nothing but hold on and kiss her back.

I guess she didn’t hear the question or the apology.

When we parted, we were laying down on the blanket, turned toward each other so we were leaning on our elbows and facing eye to eye. I glanced into hers and noticed one thing. They’d changed colors.

What were once ocean-blue were now silver-blue. In her, it meant one of two things. Either there’s going to be trouble or she was channeling some of Ariana’s empathic feelings. As I felt the necklace at my chest grow hot, I deduced it was the latter.

I reached out to play with her hair, which always soothed her thoughts in the past, but didn’t get any reaction. Either from her or the Dream Locket.

ALu, what?” I started, but didn’t get to finish.

AOh, Shane, I love you so much!” She began in a frenzy of tears, sitting up. AI’m going to miss you dearly!”

AI’m going to miss you, too, Luna.” I told her, caught off-guard. I gathered her in my arms and held her tight.

ACan I show you, Shane?” She began, playing with the button on my jeans as she spoke. ADo you think we’re ready?”

AYou’re feeling what she is, aren’t you?” I whispered, taking her hands in mine and making her look into my eyes.

Even without the Dream Locket around my neck, I could tell she was hooked in what Dixie once called an Empathic Pull. Where the powers of Empathy nearby were so strong, one Mystic twin felt what the other felt. This was especially true with these Mystic twins.

Luna nodded. AMaybe, but it’s true.” She supplied. AI’ve wanted this for a long time. I just hadn’t gotten the courage to talk about it until now.”

ADo you think we’re ready, Sweets?” I asked her. AThink about this. Shut down your Empathic sensors and just open your heart and mind. My hands are in yours, Lu. Do what you do best and see for yourself if what you ask for is the truth.”

She stared, so I kissed her. AClose your eyes and open your heart.”

Luna shook her head, so I held her. She was scared. AI’m afraid, Shane.”

AYou have never been afraid of me, Aluna Star, so don’t start now.” I scolded her. AI’m your Earthly Protector, and won’t let anything short of death hurt you.”

AI can’t.” Luna replied, shaking her head. AI’m so afraid now.”

AWhat are you afraid of? Losing me to her?” I asked. AIt’s not going to happen. I already apologized for my stupidity earlier. It’s sure not to happen again.”

She looked at me and sighed.

AFace it, you have no excuse.” I couldn’t help grinning. AI love you and you love me. We were meant to be together, decreed so by the Ancients themselves.”

AI know, Shane, but…” She looked down the Peak to the water, where we saw them skinny-dipping in the ocean. ALook at them. They’re so happy.” She turned back to me. AI want to be happy like that, too.”

AThan do me this one small favor.” I supplied. AClose your eyes, think of us, and ask yourself the question. Are we ready?”

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

I felt the Dream Locket heat up on my chest. I closed my own eyes and prepared to open my mind to hers. My heart fluttered. She wasn’t in an Empathic Pull as I first thought…..her feelings weren’t channelled from Ariana.

They were her own.

AOh, Aluna.” I moaned, taking the chance and kissing her lips. She returned the kiss fervently, showing me her answer. I returned the kiss once again, showing her that I, too, thought we were ready for such a big step.

ADo it, Luna. Open your heart.” I panted. Before I do something we’ll both regret later, I thought to myself.

I felt my cock growing at the thought of us making love. Suddenly, my jeans were too tight.

My Sweetling did more than open her heart to me. She took off her shirt to show me her breasts, covered only in a bikini top. My hands wandered and felt them.

“Oh, Shane….” Luna whispered. Her hands traced my t-shirt where they just barely touched my pecks. She moved closer to me and licked the fabric.

Now, my jeans were way too tight. Kissing her, I pull her to the blanket on the grass. My hand wandered to her delicate place. I rubbed it and made her squirm at my touch.

“You like that, Sweets?” I whispered, kissing her ear gently.

Luna smiled, nodding. “I love it, Shane. Don’t stop.”

“In that case…” I grinned mischievously, placing my hand up her shorts where it found her panties.

I tested one finger, then two inside her pussy, pushing them further and further inside of her.

“Oh, Shadow.” She whispered.

I kissed her lips as I slipped my fingers in and out of her hole. “May I taste it, Sweetling?” I whispered in her ear.

Yes, please. She sent to me. Taste me, Shadow.

I pulled down her shorts, then her bikini bottoms. I first rubbed it. “Absolutely beautiful.”

To my surprise, she spread her legs for me. I parted her folds and saw her juices ready for the tasting. I tasted her nectar, which was sweet on my tongue. I licked around and inside the hole, pulsing a finger in at the same time. I played with her clit, making her squirm and moan.

“Don’t stop!” she moaned. “I’m gonna come!”

My free hand reached for my own jeans, undoing the snap and zipper. They were definitely way too tight.

She wasn’t lying. I could feel her muscles tighten around my tongue and finger and her legs began to shake. I felt her sweet juices flow in my mouth and I lapped it up like a puppy.

To my surprise, she sat up and pushed me back down to the blanket, where she pulled down my shorts and started suckling my cock. Her mouth felt so good on it, her tongue did wonderous things. Aw, man, this woman was wonderful!

“Lu!” I gasped.

She looked up at me and smiled, teasing my balls with her hands.

After a few minutes of that, I couldn’t help it. I had to make love to her, to show her just how much I loved her, not just because I was her deemed Earthly Protector, no. I loved her for her.

I was the one to sit up, to which she looked up at me, puzzled.

“What’s wrong, Shane?” She asked. “Don’t you want me to do that?”

I kissed her full on the lips. “I want to make love to you Lu. That’s what I want.”

“In that case,” She began with a mischievous grin. Her silver-blue eyes sparkled and she did something else to surprise me. She positioned herself over my cock and slid down, slowly.

She winced in pain, but I knew that was normal. She was a virgin still, untouched by any man before me.

“It’ll only hurt a little, I promise.” I whispered, holding her close to me. “Relax and let it happen naturally. Okay?”

Luna nodded. I kissed her again, parting her butt cheeks just a little for easier access. She moved herself down my cock a little more.

“I love you, Luna.” I told her. “Especially now. It feels so good.”

Before I knew it, we were making love in a frenzy. Fast and furious, yet gentle and loving. Oh, Lu, you don’t know what you do to me!

Of course I do, Shane. I heard her voice in my head. I make you happy, just as much as you make me.

I laughed. “That you do, Sweetling. You make me very happy.”

I pulsated inside her, changing positions and speed before we finally came together and fell to the blanket in a heap, both naked and shaking.

We teased each other the remainder of the night until it was late and cold. We went back to the Ginger Room and did it all over again.

With all the Dominionites I fought over the years, and the hell I’ve been put through in the Crusade, I’d have to say it was all worth it, to see my Mystic love happy at last.

I woke up naked, wrapped in my Ariana Moon’s arms. She was still sleeping, snuggled in her own bed beside me. I saw she was naked, too.

She was so beautiful, lying there with her reddish-blond hair disheveled on the pillow. I loved her so much, and proved it last night. Or rather, we proved it to each other.

I was so worried about losing her to Shadow, but now, I’m not. I knew Shadow loved Luna, probably just as much as I loved Ariana. I’d led myself to believe I’d lose her, just as I’d lost Luna’s love months before.

Ah, well, I guess Lu and I weren’t meant to be more than best friends.

But Ariana and I were. We were meant for so much more. I could feel it in my bones, in my soul. I knew she was right when she told me herself we were meant to be together.

Then I thought of what she was. A Mystic. I’d made love to a Mystic, and a gorgeous one at that. I bet my brother Jake never believed I’d use his advice on a Mystic. The entire city of Hill View hated the Mystics with a passion. It was said they practiced devil-worship and cast evil spells to anyone that came in their paths.

I could never believe the rumors, and didn’t know why until I met one for myself. Ariana, her Aunknown twin” Luna, and Shannon were all Mystics, and they weren’t devil-worshipers. If anything, they were strong, courageous, loving, tender, and fun to be around.

I shook my head, my hands played with her hair.

She slept so peacefully now. It was hard to believe she’d ever been so sad and in so much pain. It was easy to see her inner-strength once she told me her tragic life story. She’d had to overcome odds I couldn’t even fathom. She’d dealt with inner-demons I couldn’t even imagine. She always put herself last in any venture, seeking to help others before herself.

She stirred beside me, opening her silver-blue eyes to meet mine. She smiled. AMorning.”

I kissed her lips. AMorning to you, too.” I said, and sighed, remembering what I had to do today. AReady to see me off?”

We switched spots, so now I was the one looking up at her face.

ANot really.” She frowned. AWhat time?”

I checked my watch. AI don’t have to report to Shan for a few hours, yet, so I’m all yours until then.”

Ariana smiled. AGood. That means I can try another of my fantasies.”

My brow raised. AFantasies, is it?” I pulled her to me for another kiss. ANow what fantasy did you want to try?”

She licked my nose, giggling as she rose. AFollow me and find out.”

Ariana disappeared into the bathroom without bothering to put her glasses on her face. Curious, I followed, leaving my own lenses on the table in between the beds.

I was met by Ariana’s very sensual, very nude body in the bathroom doorway. I had a feeling I knew what she had in mind.

ACare for a hot, steamy shower?” Ariana purred, her hand barely touching my erect penis.

AMm-hmm.” I met her eyes and moved my hand to the triangle of curls in between her legs. She gasped as one of my fingers found its way inside, testing it. She was wet, and ready.

We actually were able to make it to the shower before too long. Ariana and I washed each other, teasing all the right spots. Once we were clean, I couldn’t stop myself. I bent her over, examining her backside. She widened her stance, her hands gripping the towel-bars so she wouldn’t slip and fall, not that I’d let her. My wandering hands reached around her to feel her breasts, my lips kissing the inside of her neck.

ATake me where I stand.” Ariana moaned in pleasure.

I guided my penis into her sheath. Her hips moved in their sensual rhythm over me. She was so tight and it felt wonderful! I thrust in and out of her for only a short time before she took me out.

She had something else in mind, and all I could do was stand aside and watch. She turned the shower off, plugged the tub and kept the water running as she stared at me.

Sit, her voice echoed in my head. I took the cue and sat in the waist-deep water.

She turned the water off and sat, too, on my penis. ANow, for your fantasy.” She whispered, kissing me again.

How did she know this was one of my sexual fantasies?

My hands held her back, pushing her closer as my mouth devoured her pert breasts. She was so soft and fair, so warm and pliant. Her body began to move up and down my penis, making me moan in pleasure.

AIt feels so good!” I cried with eyes closed, enjoying the movement. ADon’t stop, Love, keep loving me.”

AI will always love you, Derrick.” Ariana panted. ANever doubt that.”

I could never doubt her love for me, not after all this lovemaking. If we ever got married, how would we survive? How could we keep up with each other?

As if reading my mind, she slowed and smiled into my eyes. AI’m sure we’ll find a way to survive.”

My hands moved from her back to her hips, guiding her body over me, pushing it just a little further each time. I wanted to go as deep inside of her as I could. She just felt so warm and tight around me. I loved it, and everything else about her. Her body, her mind, everything.

ADeeper, lover, deeper!” Ariana cried out, her head raised and wet hair slick on her back. AGods, yes! It just feels so good!”

Oh, my love, now you know you make me feel the same way. I thought to her, hoping she’d get the message. I held my breath, afraid to speak and break us out of our tryst and her out of her love-trance.

I felt heat all through my body, and a rush of pleasure went up and down my spine. I held my erection until I felt her muscles clenching around me. Then, I had to let it go.

Just like last night on the beach, we climaxed at the same time, hanging onto each other as the shudders of ecstasy moved through our joined bodies. Our hearts raced the same accelerating beat, our breaths in tune with the other’s.

I loved this girl B this woman B will all of my heart and soul.

AAs I love you.” She whispered into my ear, again reading my mind.

Ariana swore she’d never use telepathy with me, saying it would betray some kind of sacred trust we had, or something. Did she lie to me, after all?

Again, she smiled, shaking her head as if reading my mind. AWe’re joined together, my great lover. I don’t need telepathy to read your thoughts. I only need think of you to know what’s on your mind.” Ariana supplied, caressing my cheek. AThat’s what being my Earthly Protector is all about.”

Damn, she was beautiful, even wet! Speaking of wet….

AWe’d better drain the tub and dry ourselves off before we turn into a couple of prunes.” I teased her nose with a kiss.

She giggled, standing. Once she placed a towel around her body and winking at me, she was gone, leaving me sitting in waist-deep water, exhausted from lovemaking.

By the time I drained the tub and dried myself off, she was already dressed, her hair in a wet, playful ponytail. I quickly dressed without her noticing. When I was finished, I stood and watched her standing over the balcony.

She’s even hot from the backside! I thought to myself with a sly grin. And to think, she’s all mine!

I wrapped my arms around her waist, kissing the nape of her neck.

AGods, I do love you.” I moaned in her ear as I pulled her close for a hug.

She didn’t respond aloud. Her arms went to mine, her hands softly tracing them. Something was wrong.

ALove, what’s wrong?” I asked, kissing her ear.

Ariana turned in my embrace to meet my eyes. ADo you think we’re taking it too far, too fast?”

AWhy would you ask that?” I wondered. AWhat we did was right, and we both knew it going into it.”

AI didn’t pressure you into losing your virginity?” Ariana asked.

AI wanted it as much as you did.” I told her. AThere was no pressure, just pleasure.”

AYou don’t mind losing it to me?”

Where were her thoughts going?

AAriana, Love, you are the only one I want, or have ever wanted.” I supplied, hugging her. AWhy are you asking these silly questions?”

AI have to get them off my chest, Derrick.” Ariana said softly. AThere’s a lot of things you don’t know about me, or my past.”

ALike why you didn’t tell me I wasn’t your first?” I coaxed.

AExactly.” She said. AIn my own defense, though, it wasn’t for love.”

Okay, now I was curious. AWere you forced?”

She smiled. AGoddess, no.” She said. AAaron and I only did it to feel safe from Mrs. Gertrude. He sheltered me from pain, making me forget for awhile.”

Aaron? I recalled the story she told me about her past.

AIs he the one you grew up with in the orphanage?” I asked tentatively.

Again, she nodded. AHe fell in love with me, but I dreamed of another.” She said, and I waited for another soft smile. AYou. As my Imaginary Romeo, you came in my dreams, and I began to fall for you. I could never feel more than friendship for Aaron after that.”

We stared at each other a moment. Her glasses were on her face, but they didn’t cover those shining, happy silver-blue eyes.

AWe used up a lot of energy in the shower.” I told her, pulling from the embrace, and grabbing her hand. ALet’s go eat before I have to go.”

I woke up the morning after the twins’ birthday party with a start. I looked at the time and saw I’d slept in late. Again.

Well, I did have a wild night with Luna when we were finally left alone.

AYou’d better meet them before Shannon has a hissy fit.” Luna supplied from beside me. I saw she was already up, dressed and packed, ready to go.

At least she was smiling. It made me grin, too.

AYou’re right, Lu.” I quickly dressed and kissed her. AWill you still be here when I get back?”

She shook her head. ALandry’s taking me home to Hill View today. I’ve gotta stay out of sight, out of mind, remember?”

AIn that case,” I said, wrapping my arms around her and kissing her sweet lips. AYou’ll keep in touch?”

Luna smiled. AI’ll always be in your mind, Shane Morehouse. Just reach for me and I’ll be there.” She supplied, grabbing her pack and strapping it to her back. AYou know what they say: ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder.'”

ADon’t get into too much trouble, Aluna Star, you hear me?” I teased her. AAs your Earthly Protector, I don’t want to bail you out of it while I’m on this project with her.”

AI won’t. On that, you can rely.” Luna supplied, walking away. AI’ve gotta run, and so do you.”

I panicked. AWhat if she sees you?”

Luna winked. AAriana won’t see me. She’s already gone to the Café with Derrick.” She pat my cheek. ARelax, will you?” She laughed, then sighed, her ocean-blue eyes turning dark. AI’m gonna miss you, Shane.”

AI’ll miss you, too, Sweetling.” I kissed her lips again.

Feeling the heat of my ‘secret’ Dream Locket under my shirt, I sensed something different coming from her.

Instead of blurting it out, I read her eyes. AWhat’s going through your mind right now?”

Luna sighed. AI’m afraid, that’s all.”

AOf going home again, after eleven years?”

ANo, not that.” She shook her head. AI’m afraid what happened last night at our party will happen again. I won’t be there in person to stop it.”

I hugged her close. AI could never mistake her for you again.” I assured her. AI’m not sure anybody could.”

AThan why did you?”

I shrugged. AI missed you so much, I couldn’t help myself.” Before pulling away from the hug, I whispered the words she loved to hear, and I loved to say to her. AI love you, Luna. Now and forever.”

Luna smiled when we pulled back. AI love you, too, Shane.”

She reached for the doorknob, turning back to me. AYou’ll see; we’ll be back in each other’s arms before you know it.”

I smiled at that, watching her wink and leave.

Sighing, I headed out myself. Luna was already gone, which was probably a good thing. I headed to the Common’s Room in a run, hoping I would beat the two lovebirds there. I also hoped I would beat Shannon there, but there was no such luck. At least, not in the latter.

I opened the door to see Shannon sitting on a long table, her arms crossed and a scowl on her lips.

Before I could say anything, she stood and barked. AYou’re late, Shadow Morehouse.”

AI know I am, and I’m sorry.” I supplied, hands up in surrender. AI had to see her off.”

Shannon smiled. ASo that’s what took you so long?” She teased.

My cheeks reddened. ANo, that’s not what took me so long.” I playfully growled back. I looked around, not seeing Ariana and Derrick yet. AWhere are the lovebirds?”

ALovebirds is right.” Shannon giggled, herself blushing. AThey’re eating in the Café, making up for lost energy.”

ALost energy?” I repeated, giving her a look of suspicion.

Shannon kept giggling. ALet’s just say they had a wild night themselves. I left them alone for a while, so they could,” she coughed, hiding a grin, Acool off. They’re on their way here.”

I sat down and waited. Five minutes later, they came in, laughing and sharing loving smiles. As soon as they saw both Shannon’s and my smiling faces, they calmed.

I momentarily forgot she and Luna were twins, and how identical they looked. It wasn’t until I checked Ariana’s eyes that I was convinced she wasn’t my Luna. Was it always going to be like that? Was I always going to fool myself into thinking one twin was the other? I promised Luna I wouldn’t do it again, but, staring at Ariana now, I realized how hard it was going to be not to.

This must have been how Derrick felt when he was stationed with Luna. Fooled into thinking Luna was his ultimate Dream Girl or something.

I was snapped out of my daze by Ariana’s voice.

ASorry we’re late, Shan.” She said, sharing a teasing look with Derrick.

AWe, uh, slept in.” Derrick cleared his throat.

AYeah, I’ll bet.” I teased him, winking.

Shannon handed us three separate folders. AAll right, team, here are your instructions and itineraries.”

Itineraries? She was taking this ‘boss’ thing a little too far, but I couldn’t argue with her.

AReading, if you haven’t already, pack enough for two weeks.” Shannon told him. AEverything you need to know is in that folder. Where you’ll stay, who you’ll report to, that sort of thing. I’ve even given you a kind of money card with enough to get you by until you come back, if you use it wisely.”

ARight, Shan.” Derrick swallowed, staring at the folder in his hands. He looked through it, studying all the information in it.

I shoved the folder under my arm, waiting for her to tell us what to do. Ariana didn’t bother looking at hers, either. She only stared at her cousin with sad eyes.

Shannon turned to us next. ASister, you’ll be stationed in the Ginger Room with Shadow.” She addressed Ariana. AHe’ll be your partner until Derrick returns. This will give you the perfect chance to get to know one another better, given you don’t already. You’re to follow him on any case that comes up.”

AWhat about the Dream Realm Crusader project?” Ariana asked. AAnd my duties as Young Guardian?”

AThe Crusader Project has been put on hold.” Shannon told her. AThe Dream Realm is at peace, so there’s no need to Crusade. As for your Young Guardian duties, Shadow will be by your side on your patrols, in Reading’s place.” She paused, studying her cousin’s anxious eyes. AAnywhere you go, he goes, is that clear?”

Ariana sighed. AYes, Shannon. It’s clear.”

AGood. You and Shadow are excused.” Shannon said. AI have a few things to talk to Reading about before I send him on his way.”

Ariana nodded, then kissed Derrick goodbye. They stared into each other’s eyes for a moment, and I recognized the look on her face. It was the same one I saw on Luna whenever she used telepathy to talk to me, mind to mind. She was probably doing just that with him, soothing his thoughts.

ABe careful, Reading.” Ariana whispered. AI don’t want to lose you now that we’ve found each other.”

They shared one more kiss and the two of us were gone, leaving Derrick staring at our backs.

So it started, my partnership with Shane Athe Shadow” Morehouse.

We walked the halls of the System in silence. I didn’t want to say anything just yet, and I could tell he was nervous to talk to me.

I slipped my code-card into the slot and punched in my numerical code to open the door. He followed after a moment’s hesitation.

AWant help?” Shadow asked.

I shook my head, not speaking. I had to do this on my own. It was just like any other time I packed up and ran away from an abusive home. In my mind, it was another move to another place. Nothing changes, I guess. One more move to make, one more person to get used to.

I gathered what items and clothes I’d need for two weeks across the hall. My mind wandered, my actions almost automatic.

I thought to my party last night. How could I have been so open with him? Shannon was right, I barely knew him. What made me speak out?

Oh yeah, he was depressed, and I could feel it with Empathy. I hated being Empathic sometimes. It forced me to help those who were hurting inside, whether I wanted to or not.

Don’t get me wrong. I wanted to help him. I wasn’t lying when I called him friend. His depression only faded a little. He missed his own girlfriend Lu-Lu. I didn’t want to replace her, but I did want to help him.

Based on his reaction to the way Derrick and I entered the Common’s Room, he still missed her.

Well, Shannon did call this a Ahealing Project.” Could it be I had to ‘heal’ his mind and heart, with him doing the same for me?

AAre you mad?” Shadow dared to ask.

I stopped what I was doing and forced a smile. ANo, why would I be?”

AOh, I don’t know.” Shadow sighed sarcastically. AYou could be mad being separated from the one you love for two weeks.” He paused. AAm I close?”

I sat on my bed, staring at the view from the balcony.

AIf it’ll help, I’ve been away from Lu-Lu for months now.” Shadow whispered. AIt’s hard at first, but you get used to it.”

How could he dismiss her like that? As if it were no big deal being away from the one you love?

AIt still doesn’t take away the pain, Shadow.” I told him. ADon’t tell me it doesn’t burn you inside not being able to see her every day. Don’t tell me you don’t miss her, or yearn for her touch.” I sighed. AI’m not going to replace her, you know. My heart’s true love is Derrick’s. Chances are, I love him as much as you love Lu-Lu. Maybe more? Who knows?”

He was silent, thinking about my words as he sat beside me.

AWe can be friends, Shane.” I said softly, reverting to his given name. I wanted us to be truthful to each other, and that meant he couldn’t hide behind a codename. AWe might even turn out to be best friends once this is all over.”

Side by side, we stared out the balcony to the view of the sky above.

After a minute, he cleared his throat, making me turn to meet his eyes.

AYou know, the sooner we get started, the sooner it’ll be over with.”

I looked at him, nodding. ALet’s get started, shall we?”

I led her across the hall, giving her Luna’s code-card and her own number to punch into the security keypad. Once we were inside, I shut the door behind us.

AShane.” She spoke up, setting her bag on Luna’s bed closest to the door.

I never told her she could call me that. I’m Shadow to her, not Shane. AShadow.” I corrected her.

I tried not to meet her eyes as I headed to the bathroom.

AAs long as we’re partners, we don’t need to hide behind codenames.” Ariana said.

I turned on her. AIt’s not just a codename for me. I am the Shadow.”

AYeah, I know.” Ariana frowned sarcastically. AYou like to isolate yourself in shadows, invisible to the world around you.”

Where was she going with this? Was she trying to tick me off?

AIt’s different for me.” I told her.

Ariana’s face softened. AWhy is it different for you? What makes you name yourself ‘Shadow’ when your given name is Shane?”

AWhat makes you the Young Guardian?” I challenged.

AThe fact I help Dreamers with their nightmares and fears.” Ariana spat. AI’m Lord Guardian’s successor, as you well know.”

AAre you a different person in the Dream Realm than you are here?” I countered, pressing.

AI would say so, yes.” Ariana nodded. AThat’s only because. . .”

AYou feel safe there, hiding behind your Young Guardian persona.” I supplied with a so-there grin. AFor me, being Shadow is like that.”

I went to the bathroom to cool my temper before heading back out and facing the music again.

Don’t be mad at me, Shane. Please. I heard Ariana’s voice in my head. Her mind-voice was clearer than Luna’s was. I want to be your friend.

AIf you want to be my friend,” I cried from behind the bathroom door. AStay out of my head.”

ASorry, I forgot.” Ariana whispered. She was just outside the door. AYou’re not used to hearing a Mystic’s voice in your head.”

Actually, I was, but I couldn’t tell her that.

AI promise. I won’t do it again.” She said.

I opened the door to see her standing against the wall, waiting. AShe that you don’t.”

If this is how she was going to be, how was I going to handle it for two weeks? Shannon Ryan, I only hope you knew what you’re doing, pairing us up like this.

I shoved past her and slumped on my bed, reaching for my laptop and going over some old case-files on it. I heard her sigh as she sat on Luna’s bed, and I felt her staring at me.

AWhat?” I barked after a minute, not turning to her.

ANot so suave and sophisticated now, are you, Shane?”

AWhat?!” I exclaimed. This time, I turned to her, scowling.

She shook her head. ANever mind.” She rubbed her temple, eyes closed.

Just like Luna. She had what Luna called an AEmpathy kick,” when she felt the intensity of emotions being flung in her direction. My mood softened.

AHey, Ariana.” I started. Once I got her attention, I continued. AI’m sorry. Shan told me you were an open Empath. I forgot all about it. I shouldn’t have shouted like that. Forgive me?”

Ariana smiled. AI forgive you.”

I went back to my laptop and she went back to staring at me. I laughed this time. AWhy do you keep staring at me like that?”

ALike what?”

ALike you’re a tiger fascinated at finding fresh meat or something?”

Ariana giggled. AA tiger, huh? I like that description.” She said, grinning. AYou’re right, though. I am fascinated by you.”

ABy me? Why?”

ABecause you’re the ‘Shadow’, the best of the best here.” Ariana said. AI’m fascinated to know just how you got that way. I mean, what’s you’re story? When and how did you get here?”

I shook my head. AIt’s not a pretty story, I’ll tell you that.”

Ariana stared at me seriously. AIf you tell me yours, I’ll tell you mine.”

AI already know your story.” I told her. ABig Guy picked you up from the Juvenile Detention Center nearby. Shannon told me you were an orphan before coming here.”

Ariana nodded. AIs that all she told you about me?”

AThat, and you were a Mystic, and the Young Guardian.” I remarked. ANot much else.” I thought for a minute. AWhat did she tell you about me?”

ANot much. Just that you were a shy loner, not talking to anyone but those you trust.” Ariana supplied. ADo you trust me enough to tell me your story?”

Darn. I wasn’t going to avoid it. Based on the patient smile on her face, she knew she’d caught me, hook, line, and sinker.

She grinned. AWell?”

Might as well get it over with. I thought.

AMy parents died in a car crash when I was nine.” I started, remembering. AShannon’s aunt came and got me from a foster home a month later, bringing me here.”

AHow did you react to your parents’ deaths?” Ariana wondered.

AI was devastated and depressed, my dreams haunted by the story of their deaths, turning into nightmares.”

I heard her gasp softly, but I ignored it.

I could feel the emotion pooling up in my mind. The memories rushed back and I felt I was nine again. I haven’t thought of them in years, and now, I was telling an almost-complete stranger my life story. I wanted to cry, but I also wanted to stay strong. Tears didn’t get me anywhere, only deeper in depression. I learned that the hard way.

I couldn’t speak anymore, taking a deep breath and trying to bury myself in the laptop.

To my surprise, Ariana stood and closed the laptop on my crossed legs. She put it on the other bed and hugged me, tight.

AIt’s all right to cry, Shane.” She whispered. AIt makes the heavy burden of pain lighter, and easier to manage. So, go on, cry on me. Let me help you ease the pain. I promise I won’t tell anyone.”

Darn her Empathy.

I let the tears fall, holding Ariana as close to me as I could without suffocating her. Until that moment, I hadn’t cried a tear for my parents’ deaths, or anything. I’d always hidden it inside, holding my head high and pushing my emotions to the back of my mind. I’d never let myself cry for anything before.

I admit, I did feel better now that I had.

I rubbed his back, sitting beside him on the bed when he released me. I waited patiently as he blew his nose on a tissue and gathered his thoughts.

I gathered mine. He was just like me, I bet. I wanted to find out.

AYou don’t always have to be strong, Shane.” I said. AI think, over the years, you’ve learned not to show emotion, and that’s why you named yourself ‘Shadow’.” I took his hand. AYou believed showing emotion was showing weakness.”

His eyes gave him away. He thought I’d read his mind again, after promising him I wouldn’t.

AI didn’t need to read your mind to see all that.” I supplied. AI read your emotions, which mirror my own sometimes.”

ABut how did you know something that deep about me?” Shane managed to croak.

AI didn’t. I took from my own experiences growing up and applied it to you.” I said. ALike I said, your emotions mirror my own sometimes.” I paused, looking down. ADid you want to hear my story now?”

He squeezed my hand, making me look at him. AIt’s only fair.”

I smiled, then started my story. The story I hadn’t even told all of to my beloved Derrick James.

AI grew up in the Shore Point Home for Children, an orphan since I was five-years-old. I didn’t know I was different. I thought everybody was able to do the things I did. I was wrong. I was forced to hide my growing powers, for fear of abuse. Mrs. Gertrude or her spies would abuse all of us, just for being children. When I began to stand up for myself three years later, testing my newfound powers on Mrs. Gertrude, I would be beaten even more by her. Most times, I found myself crying and hurting in a dark room, wishing someone would take the pain away.”

I paused, taking deep breaths. The memories still haunted me to this day, but they didn’t bother me as much now as they did back then. How was I going to explain the next, most delicate part, to him? Would he even understand?

As if sensing my inner struggle, he touched a hand to my cheek. It gave me strength to go on.

My own hand touched his. AIt’s okay, I’ve cried myself sick over it long ago. I’m just finding it hard to explain without reliving it in my mind.”

AI know what you mean.” He nodded, taking his hand back. ATake your time. There’s no rush, you know.”

I nodded, gathering my thoughts. Where to begin?

ATry to think of the good times, if there were any.” Shane suggested. AMaybe that’ll help you go on?”

The good times. Yeah, right. I’ll start with the twins.

I smiled at my new partner. AThere were a pair of fraternal twins, Aimee and Aaron, who would be the only ones to I would even consider friends. We called ourselves the Three Musketeers, since we’d shelter each other and protect one another. The twins weren’t afraid of what I could do back then. In a secret place hidden in the attic, they would encourage me to learn my magic. While the other kids shunned me away, calling me freak, they would stand beside me. Aaron and I became close. So close, we lost our virginity to each other when we were twelve. I became pregnant with his child.”

I placed a hand on my stomach, closing my eyes.

AI had a terrible premonition.” I continued, my mind so lost in memories, I forgot he was still there. ABefore my thirteenth birthday, I would be beaten so badly, the baby would die. Neither of us wanted that to happen, so I told the twins I had to run away to save the baby’s life. I didn’t want to lose Aimee or Aaron. They were my best friends, my brother and sister. Aimee came up with something that would alter the courses of our lives forever.”

It was his turn to place a hand on my back. Feeling comforted, I leaned into his arm. He wrapped it around me, pulling me closer.

Was I betraying Derrick by letting Shane hold me like this? I looked down to my arm for answers, tracing the Blood Pact scar. Remembering the Pact gave me solace, and I went on.

AShe called it the Blood Pact. With a dagger I’d stolen from one of the other kids, I sliced this scar down each of our forearms. I called a spell just loud enough for the three of us to hear, linking us together in blood and thoughts. First Aaron, then Aimee. I healed them and myself before we headed to our separate beds for the night. It wasn’t long after that it was time for me to leave.”

He spoke, breaking me out of my memory-spell. AIs that when you came here?”

I shook my head. ANot yet. Somehow, I managed to get myself to a hospital so I could have my baby. Left alone in that hospital room to recover, I began to think. I was only thirteen, a child myself. How was I going to support a baby? So, I made the toughest decision I had ever made, to this day. I gave her up, sending thoughts of love and hope to my baby daughter through my mind. I promised her we would be back together someday, and I intend to keep that promise.”

I sat up, staring at him with pleading eyes. AYou can’t tell anyone, especially Derrick, about the baby. He wouldn’t know how to react. I’ll tell him in my own time, when I’m ready, when he’s ready to know. Until then, no one can know.”

AI bet Shannon knows.”

AOf course; she’s a Mystic.” I said. AMy first day here, she brought it up, and promised me she would tell anyone that didn’t already know.”

AWhat happened after you gave her up?” Shane asked, taking me back into his arms.

AI went home with another girl my age who had a pair of twins.” I continued, snuggling into his comforting arms. AHer parents took me in, and I was happy, at first. For the next year, I would be treated like a slave instead of a daughter, abused for any reason they saw fit. So I ran away, only to be placed in the Juvenile Detention Center, left to wait for another pair of childless parents and another abusive home. The cycle continued for another year until Big Guy rescued me.” I sighed, the memories haunting me. There wasn’t anymore to tell, so I concluded. ATwo months later, here I am.”

AThe cycle has really ended for you, hasn’t it?” He asked, kissing my head.

AYeah. Finally.” I whispered.

So we sat together for a while, lost in thoughts. He was lost in his memories and I was lost in mine. I snuggled closer to him, a thought coming to my mind.

AYou don’t think I’m taking advantage of you, do you?” I asked after a moment.

AI thought that’s what you thought I was doing?” Shane said.

I laughed. AOh, Shadow.” I sighed, shaking my head. AAren’t we a pair?”

AA pair of what, might I ask?” He joked lightly.

AA pair of good friends, I might reply.” I joked back, then said softly. AThat is, if you consider me one?”

Shane hugged me, kissing my lips. Funny, the empathic feeling I got from that wasn’t of true-love. It was of friendship-love. AI’d consider you a true friend.” He told me. AIt’s like we understand each other, thanks to our near-forgotten pasts.”

Forgotten pasts? Something dawned on me and I stood with a gasp.

AWhat?” He asked me. AWhat is it?”

AI’m gonna kill Shannon Ryan!” I cried with a laugh. Shane was confused so I went on, gesturing around me. AThis! She did this to us! She wanted us to help each other heal so we could get on with our lives. That’s why she put us together, and sent Derrick and Lu-Lu away. So we could do it with no distractions. Wait’ll I get my hands on her, she’s gonna get it!”

AYou know what I think?” Shane asked me, taking my hand and setting me back down next to him on the bed.

ADare I ask?” I teased.

He grinned. AI think it worked.” He paused. AAnd, I even think she had help.”

My eyes narrowed. Now that I thought of it, not even Shannon could do this all alone. AAre you thinking your girlfriend had a hand in this?”

AWell, yeah.” He said. AThink about it. Lu and Derrick are best friends, why shouldn’t we be?”

That was a new one on me. I didn’t think he’d had any friends here. None that I didn’t already know, and I didn’t know her.

AThey are? I didn’t know that.”

My arms folded and I stared at him, waiting.

AYou can’t tell Derrick I told you this.” Shane started. AYou aren’t even supposed to know, but Luna was his first partner here. It was about five months back, when we were first dating. I was the one to pick him up from his hometown when he ran away.”

AHe told me the last part.” I nodded, scowling. ANow tell me the rest.”

AI guess he fell in love with her, but she loved me. Not knowing what to do, she came to me for advice. I had none to give her, so we separated for a while.” He continued. AI began seeing them together, laughing and having fun around campus grounds. They worked well on cases, and I was insanely jealous of them. It nearly tore me to shreds seeing the girl I loved with another guy.”

ADid you ever confront her about it?” I asked. If Derrick never got over her, how was I supposed to live with that? AEver tell her how it was hurting you?”

AI disguised it as inviting her to a volleyball game in King’s Court.” He confessed. AI took her to a special place that only we knew about and talked to her about it. She felt awful, telling me how every time she kissed him, she thought of me. She didn’t want to hurt the poor guy, so she let him have his illusion of her returning his love.”

Derrick definitely wasn’t a ‘poor guy.’ I didn’t tell Shane that.

AHow long did it last after that?” I drilled instead. ATheir relationship, I mean.”

ANot long.” He assured me. AShe decided to put an end to the lie and tell him the truth. Luna loved me, and could never love him the same way. They declared a best friendship, she was sent away, he met you, and the rest is history.”

AWhy hadn’t he ever told me about her?” I wondered, curious.

AYou’re not supposed to know, so keep it between us, okay?” Shane looked serious. AFor now, just leave it at this. Derrick loves you; you love him. Luna loves me; I love her. Derrick and Luna are best friends, and I want us to be, too. That is, if you don’t mind?”

I smiled. He’d only repeated what I just asked him. AWe’re doing good so far as friends, aren’t we?” I supplied, nudging him.

AAnd it’ll only get better.” He touched my nose. AWe’re partners now. We’ll share things we won’t even share with our loves.”

Feeling better about the whole thing, I was the one to initiate the kiss to his lips. The Empathic zing only confirmed our words. We would become close in ways we could never be able to describe. In time, that true friendship would help us through any obstacle in our lives.

I only hoped Derrick felt like this with Luna. He needed a true friend as much as I did. If so, it would tighten all of our friendship bonds in the future.

Now I have to meet Shane’s girlfriend Luna.