Asher smirked as he leaned against the rail. He stood on a sidewalk overlooking the docks - Boss stared at him from a distance.
“Looks like Boss knows you’re here,” Tallulah said, her arms crossed with her hip popped to the side. A chilled gust of wind blew; Tallulah pulled her coat close, rubbing her gloved hands against her dark brown cheeks.
“He knew before I entered the village,” Asher replied. “He is a formidable spirit.”
“I heard he got into trouble, so he’s not allowed to live in the sea anymore.”
“He is also a twit. Now, I believe you told me that the young Kingsley was average, gullible even. Yet, he did not sway against me.”
Tallulah sighed. “I told you he couldn’t keep a girlfriend, not that he wanted a boyfriend.”
Asher’s plan didn’t include flirting with Leo. Still, his priorities drastically shifted the moment the bundled human stepped inside the shop. The sweet, salty smell of the sea lured the spirit in. As if pulled towards the human by an invisible force. An energy he was all too willing to allow himself to fall into. The moment Leo left, Asher was stuck with the annoyance that he allowed himself to get worked up over a human. But Asher needed him.
“How was Ben and Faye’s relationship with their son?”
“Strained at best.”
Good. That could be useful. Boss and Leo departed the ship. A moment later, the giant sea spirit started towards a ramp connected to the sidewalk. Asher tapped a sharp nail against his chin. “Can you lure Leo to the store?”
“Yeah, it should be easy enough.”
“Do it. We have little time to waste. Now, go. I do not want this bottom feeder to grow suspicious of you.”
Tallulah nodded and walked away. The brute’s footsteps were almost echoed, but Asher still had a moment. Leo stopped to speak to someone, smiling wide. He inherited his father’s dark hair and rich amber skin, but his mother’s fiery emerald eyes. Though, barely a flicker reached Leo’s in comparison. It looked as if they did little to prepare their only child for the dangers of the world.
“I’m surprised you bothered to show up,” Boss said with a grunt. “I didn’t expect a thief to care that a couple of pawns died.”
Asher straightened himself, adjusting his coat. “Come now, is that any way to speak to an old friend?”
“Fox spirits make terrible friends.”
Asher smiled despite himself. Angry energy whipped around him. “You are upset that I did not announce my arrival.”
“I can’t stop you from coming here. But I can tell you to stay away from Leo.”
“Quite a hostile tone for one human. Are you fond of him?”
Sharp teeth stuck out of Boss’s curled lips. Some things never changed, lucky for Asher.
“Look, Leo’s parents caused him enough grief while they were alive. They were shit parents. I’m not going to sit by while you try to dig your grubby fingers in him too.”
“I am here to make sure my business is in order after the tragic demise of Ben and Faye Kingsley. I did not know they had a son. To think, my most dedicated employees would keep such a secret from me.”
Boss sniffed the air. “A rare truth, but I doubt this is the first time employees of yours have passed away. The Kingsley’s owed you a debt, didn’t they? Whatever it was doesn’t matter now. The dead owe no debts.”
Boss’s attention to detail was, at times, the worst trait Asher found the sea spirit to have. Too many times they crossed paths over the years, and each time, Asher found himself inconvenienced.
“Normally, that would be true.”
“Stay away from Leo, fox.”
“Or?” The hair on the back of Asher’s neck stood up. Waves crashed against the docks, alarming several humans in the market; dark clouds grew in the distance with a faraway shout of thunder. Asher bit the inside of his lip to force his amusement back into his throat. Pestering Boss became a source over the years, but a habit Asher couldn’t afford to indulge this trip. He bowed slightly. “My apologies, Deputy, I do not mean to test you. When my business has concluded, I will leave. With no trouble to Sea Breeze.”
Boss was quiet for a moment, then scoffed. “Your pretty words won’t make me believe you. Be gone sooner rather than later.” He turned away from Asher and stopped. “Don’t think that because I’m the Deputy Ruling Guardian, that I won’t come after you.”
The words prickled Asher’s skin. “Is that only in regards to Leo? He seems...rather dull to get so emotional about.”
“He’s a rare type of human, I can’t really explain it. Avoid trying to find out for yourself.”
Asher bowed to Boss’s back until the heavy sound of footsteps became lighter. He brushed back his hair, a flash of fang peeked from his smile. The ignorant shoppers returned to their routine when the waves settled. Asher gazed at them. He did enjoy humans, a thief needed someone to steal from, after all. Humans plowed forward, always grasping for stars they would only reach in their dreams. But as long as they did, he would keep his pockets lined.
Now, to see how young Leo will benefit me, Asher thought as he walked back to the antique shop. He spent the bulk of the day neck deep in records the Kingsley couple left behind. He grew more proud of the time and energy he put into grooming the couple. They made themselves almost indispensable. The sound of a shattered valuable item sent Asher bounding up the stairs from the basement.
Tallulah swept up the remains of a gold-trimmed tea set from the floor. Splintered shelves laid on the floor. Asher crossed his arms, hard eyes dug into Tallulah. She shrugged. “Sacrifices had to be made.”
“To get Leo here.”
“How is destroying my merchandise going to entice him?”
Tallulah set down the metal dustpan and picked up the handset of the rotary phone. “ Leo is a fixer. He’ll drop everything for anyone if he thinks he can help.”
“A rather weak plan. You assume he will come so late to fix a shelf?”
“I know he will,” Tallulah said.
“How is Leo in a confrontation?”
Tallulah tilted her chin up, pondering. “From the stories I’ve heard. He’s more of a runner than a fighter. But he’s got some bite to his bark.”
Asher picked up a piece of broken china, examining the sharp, delicate edge. Yes, sacrifices needed to be made, but that’s what pawns were for.