5.14 What Price

Hunter took a deep breath. “Forest, I need to ask you something.”

Forest was dragged out of a complicated calculation about the expected return and feasibility of moving into a new method of black market distribution. “Huh? Sure.”

“I don’t know how to say this,” Hunter began awkwardly, “but I’ve been doing some reading at the spiritualist shop. I know you’re into some serious stuff.”

Forest started to think of how he could deny any accusation of wrongdoing. Better to let Hunter play his hand. He shrugged and smiled. “I try to keep my hands in a lot of stuff.”

“You might be the only person who can help,” Hunter said.

Forest was stunned. Help? This wasn’t where he expected the conversation to go at all. “Tell me,” he said.

“There’s this girl. Eliana. She was behind us in high school. I went over to see her last night, and…”

Out poured the description of the frightening stranger and Eliana’s contradictory behavior. “I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m sure it’s something supernatural. I can’t describe what it was like to be around this guy, and his eyes–“

Forest knew those eyes. Hunter didn’t need to describe them. “I’ll do what I can,” Forest said quickly.

“Thank you,” Hunter said breathlessly. “I know you’re involved in some stuff you don’t want to talk about, but do you have any idea what happened there? Is Eliana in any danger?”

Forest offered up his best comforting smile. “I’ll see what I can find out,” he said, “but you shouldn’t let yourself worry too much. She’s probably OK.”

Hunter nodded. “Let me know if you learn anything.”

“Sure,” Forest said. “Thanks.”

“For what?” Hunter asked, perplexed.

Forest kept his face unreadable. “For coming to me.”

“You’re my brother, Forest,” Hunter replied. “I trust you.”

When Hunter had gone, Forest sat back to think.

So Hunter was sweet on Eliana Baerwyn, Sean Flynn’s new personal assistant.

Flynn had hired Eliana last month, and it was obvious there was some kind of back room dealing going on, though Forest didn’t know what it was. Eliana’s father, Robbin Baerwyn, had turned up on business expenses on a regular basis. He and Flynn had some kind of pay-for-favors thing going on. But whatever deal had involved Eliana was much bigger. Now Valerie Ursine-Mentary, one of Flynn’s high-ranked minions, was meeting with Robbin regularly.

All of this would be none of Forest’s business, except for Hunter.

If there was one guy who really believed that blood was thicker than water, it was Hunter. He wasn’t stupid, but he trusted Forest anyway, and he chose not to ask uncomfortable questions. 
Forest set his coffee mug down on the table so gently that it made no sound. Being too interested in someone Flynn found interesting was dangerous. Hunter was the kind of white knight who just might try to ride in and get himself badly hurt. Forest would have to find some way to direct his brother’s attention someplace safer.

The next day was Snowflake Day. With a hungry baby living with them, half the household was up at dawn to the sun rise over the glittering snow. Not a bad day for a holiday.

Enigma was up with the sun to attend to her newly-built pack of local dogs.

There were citizens to protect, small creatures to hunt, and newspapers to destroy.

The whole Sample family, human and canine, packed themselves up for a day at Avalon Festival Grounds. Ghostwriter planned a holiday performance that was not to be missed.

Charles was eager to show his baby grandson the celebration. Veronica had some kind of tournament she wanted to compete in.

Everyone had their own kind of fun in mind for the afternoon, even Enigma.

Adam was late, so Sky and Leah got started on duo music without him.

Forest listened with half an ear. He was still mulling the problem of Hunter over in his mind.
So when he looked up from his phone, he was caught completely by surprise.
“Uh, hi. I didn’t mean to surprise you. I was just trying to get to… the concessions…”
There had to be something he could say that would evoke some tenderness from her. “It’s good to see you,” he managed.
There was pity in Ali’s eyes. “Forest….”
But her attention had already left him.

“Adam!” she said. “I heard you were going to perform today. I can’t wait to hear you play!”

Oh. That’s why she was here. Forest should have guessed.

Forest stepped back silently as his rival drew near.

“I haven’t seen you since high school,” Adam said. “I didn’t expect to see you here.”
“I took a job as an assistant at Mighty Pen Monastery,” Ali said. “The hours were really long. I have more time now. I was thinking maybe we could take some time to, you know, talk again.”

“You want to talk?” Adam demanded. “After I called you every night for weeks, and you refused to answer?”
“I’m sorry, Adam,” Ali begged. “I never meant to hurt you. It was complicated.”

“If it was complicated, YOU made it that way!” Adam shouted. “You were everything to me, and I never even got to find out what drove you away. If you wanted to talk, you missed your chance!”

“Adam, I…” Ali almost whispered.

“I came here to make music,” Adam said. “Maybe you should go home.”

Ali hung her head, and Forest could see the tears drip twinkle as the fell into the snow.

Adam turned and walked away. He didn’t even look in her direction as he set up his drums.
Ali stayed for the whole performance. She watched Adam, and Forest watched her. 

It gave him a lot of time to think, mostly about love — the joy and pain and ecstasy that it caused, the sacrifices one felt compelled to make for it.

When he looked at Ali, he felt like his heart would explode. If he never had her again, at least she had once belonged to him, and he would never forget.

And Adam. It was for this imperceptive fool that Ali had broken Forest’s spell. If Adam continued to fail to appreciate Ali now that she was free, did Forest have an opening to lure her back of her own free will? So many variables.

At the other end of the festival grounds, there was more for Forest to consider.

For Hunter and Eliana, the rest of the world might as well not exist. They were so unconsciously beautiful together. And they might not know it themselves, but they were already deeply in love.

Forest shoved his hands into his pockets. He knew what he had to do. He made quick goodbyes to his family and headed home to prepare.


Wow, when Adam walked onto the lot, Ali tried to talk to him, and he immediately started shouting at her. He even slapped her! I was so taken by surprise that I was only able to get a snap of the head-spinny aftermath.

That is one raw, heartbroken boy.

0 thoughts on “5.14 What Price

  1. Huh. I am torn between "awww, romantic!" and "uuuh, danger!" 😉 This chapter actually made me like Forest a little more than before, because he actually wants to help his brother, without getting something in return. A small sign of humanity.

    Hopefully they will find a way to let Hunter and Eliana be together, they match perfectly! 🙂

  2. I swear, sometimes I think this generation really is all about Forest. I would never have created a character as messed-up as he is all by myself, but now that he exists, I spent too much time thinking about what motivates him. There are absolutely things he cares about, and even though he's kind of cold and calculating about it, his family is one of them. (Game-wise, his relationship value with everyone in his family is very high. Everyone else, I think, has someone they are not-quite friends with.)

    And yeah, I think that Hunter and Eliana are kind of made to be together. Their story has more to tell :).

  3. Oh, Forest. It's so complicated for him! I wonder what he's going to do… will he help Hunter win Eliana? Or will he try to "protect" Hunter's heart by ruining the whole thing? His motives seem to be pretty good in this case, but his methods aren't always… like with Ali!

    Speaking of Ali, that was an amazing scene between her and Adam!

    Did Veronica do well in her tournament?

  4. To be clear, Forest wasn't concerned about protecting Hunter's heart; he was thinking about Hunter's body. Eliana is tangled up with Flynn somehow, and Forest thinks Hunter is the kind of man who would take on Flynn to rescue her and get himself hurt or killed. Of course Forest is right.

    Veronica did all right. She didn't win, though. She'll never admit that she's slowing down, but there is a little bit of evidence in that direction :).

    I was totally taken by surprised at Adam! I've actually never seen a slap.

  5. Yeah, I got that Forest was worried about Hunter getting himself killed going after Flynn… but I still like to think that he has a shred of sentiment about Hunter, too!

  6. Wow. What an eventful chapter!

    I love how Forest is developing as a character. Anyone who messes with those he cares about (family in particular) does so at his own risk. I think if Flynn does try to hurt Hunter, Forest will not let it stand. I get the feeling that what Forest lacks in athleticism, he makes up for in intelligence and in that regard, he could give Flynn a run for his money as it were.

    You're right about Hunter. He wouldn't be out of place in Arthurian legend. He is the perfect knight. Chivalric, gallant and brave … when you're unknowingly taking on the vampiric emperor of the underworld, not a good thing. I can suddenly see why Arya loves him so much in my game though … he really is Prince Charming to her fae princess.

    And Adam *shakes head*. He's another white knight who would NEVER hit a woman in my game! I don't know what he was thinking!!!! Even if Ali did break his heart, violence is never the answer! I'm ashamed at him. It'll be interesting watching Forests attempts at courting her the old fashioned way. I love Adam's grunge band look though … still handsome as ever.

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