Daylight was burning away quickly and Drina was losing hope. They spent what little time they had visiting different vendors asking about Marcus, the boy who was saved. Very little information could be said that both Drina and Hestar didn’t already know. Marcus went missing not very long ago before the festival started. Everyone had different theories as to how it could have happened. Some said it was the king’s spies who crept in on their territory while others blamed the gypsies. Few were even bold enough to say Drina was part of the conspiracy. It took a bit of time to calm Hestar down from such comments, her ruffled feathers making Drina smile. Her passion to defend her was admirable, yet they didn’t have time to deal with this. Any arguments caused were only delaying them further.
The market had slowed down by the time they made their way to the last vendor. It was a younger teen whom Hestar knew. “Hey Kent, where is your dad today?”
The young lad stiffened at the sight of Hestar walking towards the stand. Kent nearly dropped the food he was serving as the customer reached for it before it could fall. They scoffed at his aloofness, complaining as they walked away. Kent had forgotten all about them at this point.
“H-hestar! It’s good to see you!” Kent checked his outfit in a rush, wiping his hands on his apron. Clearing his throat to lower his tone, he tried to appear more manly. Drina frowned. His obvious attraction for Hestar was clear as day. The thought of this boy pinning for Hestars attention posed a minor threat to Drina. Her mind knew he was too young and that he held little to no chance, yet she felt the cold nip of jealousy. Glancing towards Hestar, she already seemed aware of his crush. She smiled warmly, waiting for him to finish talking while they reached the counter.
“Oh, uh… Hey there. He’s busy today and left me in charge today. I manned the entire shop alone. Looks like I gained his confidence to be a manager.”
Hestar nodded enthusiastically while she tilted her head. “Oh, that’s impressive. Maybe one day you will take over the business too! Seems like you grew up into a reliable man!”
Kent puffed out his chest at Hester’s compliment, almost making Drina scoff aloud. Was he that gullible? Hestar gave him a wink, then promptly introduced Drina.
“You may have heard of my friend here already, right? She was the one who did the seance at the festival and saved Marcus.”
The boy’s face faltered a bit while Hestar continued, “Drina and I were wondering if you knew anything about him at all.”
“Uh.. sure. I know Marcus. He’s my friend. I wouldn’t say he was a close friend, but we talked often.”
Any previous feelings Drina had against this kid dispersed. Right away she was on the attack, eager to learn more about their relationship. “What did you two often talk about?”
Kent suddenly crossed his arms bashful. “Nothing important, just like… you know … girl stuff. He mostly was bragging about a girl we like, saying he was going to date her first because he was older than me.” His face burned brightly as he avoided looking at Hestar.
Drina frowned even deeper. “Do you know anything about his disappearance?”
Kent widened his eyes at the question. “N-No, I don’t. He just sorta went missing one day. At first, I thought he might have asked H-.. the girl we like out first, but when I saw her walking alone, I thought he stopped coming by because he got rejected or something.”
Drina leaned in over the counter, peering at him with intensity. “Why would you think that?”
Kent took a step back into the wall of his stall, intimidated by Drina’s aggressive questions. Hestar reached her hand out and touched Drina’s arm, frowning at her. “Don’t mind my friend here Kent. She’s a little overly concerned; we all are.”
Lightening her smile towards Kent, she asked him the question. Gentler than Drina had. “Why would you think the reason was the girl?”
Drina took a step back from the counter, allowing Hestar to take over. Kent relaxed and took a moment before he sighed.
“Marcus came here to brag again the day before he went missing. Told me he was going to ask her out and that he was going to prove how big of a man he was. He wasn’t quiet about it either. I told him he was just full of it and he got angry with me. He left and then a few days went by where he didn’t come around. I… I didn’t think much of it. The reason dad isn’t here today is that he’s with Marcus’ family. They are really good friends and so he went to help them out as much as he could.”
Hestar lightened up, this time eager for his answer. “What did they find out? Did your dad tell you?”
Kent shook his head. “All he told me was that Marcus doesn’t remember anything. He doesn’t remember anyone at all. Claims he has amnesia.”
Drina’s heart sank. Turning her attention to Hestar, she could tell she felt the same.
“Thank you, for letting us know kent.” Hestar reached into her pocket and pulled out a pouch of coins, “Here, in case you didn’t make much in tips. Treat yourself to something tasty, ok? And don’t forget to close up proper or your dad won’t let you run the shop again.”
Kent took the coins with a little shock, nodding his head feverishly at her request. Hestar blew him a kiss before turning to walk away. Drina couldn’t help but shake her head at her with astonishment. With one last look towards Kent, his hand still hung in the air unmoving, Drina turned to follow Hestar.
Falling in close to her side, Drina nudged her. “How can you be so shameless? Poor kid.”
Hestar stuck her tongue out a little. “What? I can’t have a little fun once in a while?”
“With a lovesick boy? I would say you are being mean.” Drina sighed with disappointment. “What I don’t understand is how any of that relates to Marcus going missing. Bragging about being in love with you and asking you out? Should I worry about the competition?”
Hestar burst out into a laugh, peeking to make sure they were out of view from Kent before linking her arm with Drina’s. “Competition? Naw, no one stands a chance with me in this town while you’re around.”
Drina fought a smile that won the corners of her mouth as Hestar continued to tease her. “Also, I couldn’t help notice how much you grilled Kent. Was someone a little jealous?”
“Jealous?” Drina feigned ignorance, “I have no idea what you are talking about. How could I be jealous of a kid who’s in love with you? Who even said I was in love with you. I’m a poor traveler in the hands of a gentlewoman who’s showing me around town.”
Hestar giggled. “Oh, so I guess it was my imagination. Pity. I adored you too.”
With a hearty laugh, the girls walked down the street towards the hostel. With nothing else to do, Drina hoped that after a good night’s rest, they could get an early start in the morning. Although something bothered her deeply about the news Kent shared with them. Why would someone kidnap a young kid like that? There was no way it could have been a coincidence. Drina rolled the thought around her tongue before clicking her tongue.
“Hestar, do you know anything about anyone disappearing in the past?”
With a frown, she shook her head. “To be fair, we have a lot of traffic and transient people. Anyone who stayed at the hostel didn’t usually stay for long. I also never got close to anyone in town aside from those at the market. Even then, I’m a regular customer to them, nothing more. I don’t go out to the pubs much either.”
“But you’re adored by so many people here. Every vendor and shopkeeper brighten up when they see you.”
Hestar psshed, “All because they know I bring coin and business to their doors. Nothing more than that. The only person I have close to me is Lulu. She is like a mother to me. Gave me purpose in this town. I just do what I can to help the hostel and put all my time into that.”
They walked a moment in silence when finally Hestar stared back deeply into Drina’s eyes. “Do you think once we solve this mystery, that you may stay here at the hostel? With me?”
Drina’s heart skipped a beat. Could she possibly see a future with her here in this town? Drina broke into a grand smile, unable to hide her excitement at the possibility.
“You’ll have to convince Ocen. She’s keen on leaving as soon as we can to catch a ship at the eastern sea out of Castromnia.” Drina bit at her lip, unable to finish her sentence without being giddy. “You know she’s damn near impossible to reason with.”
Drina felt a sudden pull on her arm, stopping her in her tracks to face Hestar full-on. They stopped in the middle of the empty street as Hestar wrapped her arms around her hips, pulling her in close.
“Do you think she’ll say yes?” Brushing her nose against Drina’s made it hard to think. Sliding her hand up along Hestar’s neck, Drina chuckled.
“It’s a high probability. The odds even look good in your favor.”
Drina closed her eyes to lean in for a kiss when a dangerous tingle trickled up her spine. Shooting her eyes wide, Drina paused. Where was that feeling coming from? It felt the same as before as if someone was watching them and they weren’t happy about it either. This triggered an idea. Drina broke from Hestar’s embrace and grabbed her hand tightly. Pulling her down the street Drina scanned the sides of the road looking to find the alley they shared a kiss in before.
“ Drina… What are you…”
Drina remembered that feeling from before. She stopped short in front of the alleyway entrance, recognizing the surroundings. With a quick glance around, the coast was clear from any followers. Drina pulled Hestar into the darkness. Hestar raised an eyebrow with a knowing smile. “Wow, can’t wait to get your lips all over me, huh?”
Drina pushed Hestar against the wall, her confidence based only on her suspicion. This might be the best way to draw out the spectator watching. “More than you know.”
Pressing against her body, Drina dove in for a steamy kiss unhindered. Releasing the grip on her energy, she tried to keep her attention on any malicious presence. All the while trying to keep up with Hestar’s tension. It was much harder in practice than she thought. Hestar’s tongue explored her mouth thoroughly, her hands taking part in the excursion. The feeling of her hand against Drina’s exposed skin sent shivers throughout her core.
On second thought, this was a bad idea. Drina groaned into Hestar’s mouth, unsure how to slow the spiraling train of pleasure she started. All she needed was to replicate the same response they got last time and she could follow it. Wherever the spirit lingered, the owner wasn’t going to be far behind. The only issue other than the one at hand was that Drina didn’t know any spells to attack, only to protect herself. The best thing she could do was activate her powers, and quick at this rate. Hestar’s hands weren’t going to wait, and Drina’s will was breaking. Taking a steady breath, Drina began to channel her power towards her eyes while she moved her hands along Hestar’s body.
It was a challenge to focus, especially since Drina had never had to control her power alongside a second task. She thought she had it balanced when Hestar proved her wrong. Breaking from their kiss Hestar nibbled along her neck. Growling, Drina braced herself by planting both her hands against the wall behind her. Opening her eyes, Drina could see her breath in the air. The way her energy chilled the air was drastic. Hestar paused at the base of her neck, feeling the sudden change in the air.
“Are you ok?”
She pulled Drina’s face to hers, spotting the change in her eyes. It must have been working. Drina clasped her hand over the top of hers, whispering weakly.
As much as Drina was struggling, they needed to keep going. It was taking much longer than she expected for a reaction and it almost made her doubt there was even a stalker. Hestar smiled wickedly, unaware of her hidden agenda: use them both as bait.
“Need me to take the lead then?” Her voice was laced with allure, although Drina didn’t quite understand what she meant. Drina spoke with an absent nod.
Hestar grinned, pushing Drina off her and flipping them around. The sudden change surprised her, and even more so when Hestar grabbed her leg. With a firm grip, she held Drina’s leg against her hip. It took Drina a moment to realize what she had agreed to. Oh! She meant ‘take the lead’ as in… sexual lead…
Drina swallowed hard while Hestar traced her hand along her side. From the side, she then brushed her fingertips along the inside of her beltline. Chanting internally, Drina kept eye contact with Hestar while focusing her power. The world shifted to the hazy film, giving shape back to the ghosts that floated about them. Hestar pressed in close to give her a tender kiss, all the while her hand snuck down into her clothes. For the first time in Drina’s life, she was praying for the ghost to show up. What was taking so long? This wasn’t how she wanted to spend her first night with Hestar!
Prepared for Hestars sweet slender fingers to invade, Drina finally felt the small prickle against her skin. In an instant, it flared from a small trickle to a bursting loud blast as the stalker had finally spotted them.
With a heavy sigh of relief and fear, Drina shoved Hestar hard into the other side of the alleyway wall. Within the confusion, Drina turned towards the dark alley and whispered darkly.