Zach (A College Bad Boy Romance)

By: Jane S. White



He spoke wistfully of his home, and Aurora was able to listen to him for hours about the world of the Zodiac.

She learned that the Fire Realm's Celestial Beast was a mighty Phoenix, one that would be absolutely terrifying if encountered up close. She also discovered things about the wildlife. There were many animals roaming the deep forest – many of them appearing human. She thought of the beastly men who had attacked her sister when they first arrived and shuddered.

Finally, when Pisces could no longer keep his eyes open he bowed gently at her and summoned a servant to lead her to her sleeping chambers, so she would know where to go when she chose to retire. She was too keyed up about Luna to rest, but shut herself into the room and picked up the strange night clothes that had been laid out for her. She was surprised when a servant knocked gently to come inside and offered to clean her clothes. She allowed it and changed into the white gown, with a shimmering blue gossamer-like lace all around it. Aurora stared into the fireplace in her bedroom, sighing loudly to herself and hoping that wherever Luna was, she was safe.

Suddenly, she heard a commotion – two men's voices. It sounded like Taurus and Scorpio were fighting. She poked her head out of the bedroom and searched for them, but they were out of sight. The heavy doors at the end of the hallway were illuminated by a shroud of light, and she snuck up to them and pressed her ear against the door to listen.

“I just don't think it would work, Taurus! I know you're dedicated to this plan of yours but you need to have some flexibility here.”

“You have to trust me!” Taurus exclaimed.

“Fine. But if it fails, we do things my way,” Scorpio said darkly, before bursting angrily from the room. Aurora ducked behind the door as it slammed open and Scorpio stomped away, consumed by his own dark thoughts. She peered in through the crack of the door at Taurus before it closed completely. She expected him to look angry, but instead his handsome face was frowning tiredly.

She poked her head in, her amber colored eyes meeting his from across the room. It was the first time they had ever been alone together, and now she had his full attention.

“Are you all right?” she asked, before she could stop herself.

“Yes, thank you,” he replied.

“Scorpio is a jerk,” she whispered conspiratorially.

His face broke into a bright smile and he laughed, a cheerful sound that brought a smile to her own face.

“Scorpio is just concerned. We all are.”

“What were you fighting about?”

“We're heading out to the Fire Realm to try and rescue Cancer,” Taurus said. “And maybe the others if they're being kept in the same place. But if we can get even one Guardian out it will be a victory.”

“Why Cancer first? I thought Virgo was the one you made all these plans for.”

“Yes,” Taurus said glumly. “He inspired my journey to this realm. But the Fire Realm is weakest against the Water Realm. We have a greater chance of victory if we are able to liberate Cancer first and use the Dragon against them. I'm afraid the Earth Realm's Celestial Beast wouldn't be as effective.”

“Oh. That makes sense,” Aurora said, saddened by the almost tangible disappointment that Taurus felt at being unable to help his friend.

“We will try to seek word of your sister while we are there,” Taurus said kindly, his handsome face offering her a hopeful smile. “With any luck she is safe and sound in another realm. And before long, the other Guardians will have found a way to help us defeat the Fire Realm.”

“I wish we could just call around the realms,” Aurora grumbled. “Instead of trekking across the whole world to ask if they've seen Luna. With all this magic stuff you guys are talking about, it never occurred to you to make phones?”

Taurus laughed.

“We like our communication in a more organic form,” he said. “Phones are not our way.”

“But you have heard of them,” she pointed out.

“You're not the first from your world to come here,” he said with a wink. Aurora found herself blushing furiously and cleared her throat to change the subject.

“Right. Well when do we leave for the Fire Realm?”

Taurus looked suddenly alarmed.

“We? No, no. You misunderstand. This will be a journey for myself and Scorpio alone. You must stay with Pisces, where it is safe.”

“No offense to Pisces,” Aurora confided, gazing at Taurus' rippling, muscular body hungrily, “But I'd feel much safer with you.”

“But you're much too valuable – we don't know what kind of trials we may face.” Taurus shook his head sternly with a deep frown creasing his face. He didn't want her to go.

“I don't care! I can't just sit here listening to Pisces spinning stories while the two of you are doing all the dirty work. You're crazy if you think I'd just wait around in the Water Realm like a good girl,” Aurora said, her eyes igniting with a fire that made Taurus pause.

“You truly are the sun,” he murmured. “It's remarkable.”

She found herself fighting the urge to disengage from her anger and bask in Taurus' compliment, but it was too important for her to find Luna. She cleared her throat sternly and willed her smile away.

“Listen. Why don't we make a deal that will make both of us happy?”

“A deal?” Taurus said warily. The tired expression was back on his face, and she almost felt bad for bothering him. Almost.

“If you let me go with you to look for Luna, I'll do it.”

“Do what?” Taurus asked, puzzled.

“I'll train to be your sorceress,” Aurora said impatiently. “And help you save Virgo in return.”

Taurus studied her levelly for a moment, a faint flicker of hope, or maybe it was excitement, appearing in his eyes. It made them glow warmly and she felt pleased for having anything to do with making this incredibly handsome man somehow look even more attractive.

“All right,” he said. “But I have a feeling Scorpio won't like this very much.”

“Scorpio's a jerk,” Aurora said, turning to leave the room now that she had gotten what she wanted.

Taurus grinned.

“We leave at sunrise. Don't be late.”

Aurora smiled, excitement surging through her. There was hope.





Chapter 9


Aurora awoke before the birds and slipped on her clothes, which had been promptly washed and laid out at the end of her bed. She ran to the room where she had left Taurus the night before and burst in. Scorpio, startled, looked to the door, his eyes wide.

“What are you doing here?” he asked. “That was not appropriate.”

Pisces was sitting across from Scorpio, with Taurus at the end of the table, pouring over the blueprints of the Fire Realm. He looked up and offered her a faint smile. Then his face grew somber and he looked over at Scorpio.

“Actually Scorpio, Aurora is coming with us.”

“Like hell she is!” he exclaimed, pounding on the table with his clenched fist. He glowered at the doorway and stood. “You will stay here where it's safe and I don't have to risk my life every time you think you hear a twig snap and think it may be your precious sister.”

“Scorpio, leave her be,” Taurus said, his deep voice rumbling across the table and making Scorpio pause.

“But Taurus, you can't possibly think this is a good idea!” he exclaimed.

“She agreed to become the sorceress if we take her along,” Taurus said firmly. “And besides, if she went out on her own, there's no telling what would happen. What if the Fire Realm got hold of her and realized who she was? They would kill her in an instant while they still had the chance.”

Scorpio's dark, purple eyes stormed as he turned them back to Aurora, contemplating whether or not he cared if something were to happen to her.

“I think it's wise, Scorpio,” Pisces finally said. Scorpio turned to him, a helpless expression on his face.

“But - “

“If this is the only way we can both protect the Sun and get her to agree to harness her power, we may have no other option. I'm sure you will be able to set your personal feelings aside to see the bigger picture. This is for the greater good,” Pisces said firmly.

“Yeah,” Aurora interjected, her amber eyes sparkling at Scorpio. “It's for the greater good.”

“Erghh,” Scorpio said, putting his hands over his face in frustration. But he dropped the matter and stood, straightening his dark cape and turning toward Taurus.

“Are you ready?” he asked, pretending that Aurora wasn't behind him, dancing victoriously.

“There's just one more thing I need to ask you, Pisces,” Taurus said, closing a book with a muted thump.

“What's that, Taurus?”

“How do you think the Fire Realm suddenly got access to so much power? If I knew, I could plan better and...” he gestured toward Aurora. “Keep the sun safe.”

Aurora tried to hide her smile. It was flattering to be on the forefront of Taurus' mind. Nobody was paying attention to her though, so it wouldn't have mattered anyway if she had beamed outright.

“Honestly Taurus, there are many ways they could have done so. It's even possible they've figured out a way to summon all beasts at once. It's only been a rumor in the worlds as of so far, but perhaps they've stumbled on a power we've yet to understand.”

Taurus lowered his eyes to the map he had drawn, a brief flicker of worry creasing the skin between his eyebrows. It was barely there before it was gone. He was promptly back to smiling cheerfully, folding the map up and sticking it into the sack he was wearing around his waist.

“All right, Scorpio, let's go.”

Scorpio sighed deeply and walked briskly past Aurora, pushing through the heavy door, throwing it open with one hand. He wasn't limping as badly as he had been the night before, but Aurora noticed a slight delay in his gait that hadn't been there before. She hoped it wouldn't be a problem for him throughout their journey.

“Bye Pisces!” Aurora said cheerfully. Pisces gave her a sullen smile and nodded somberly. This made her nervous, but she didn't care. She couldn't just hang out in the Water Realm and pretend that everything was going to be fine. There was no way she would be able to sit still even just another night; not when she was so sure that Luna was in trouble. This was the only way she would be able to quickly discover her sister's whereabouts. Scorpio would just have to deal with that.





Chapter 10


“Do you know how to ride a horse?” Taurus asked, smiling gently as they neared the two steeds that had been prepared for their journey. Aurora couldn't keep her eyes off the dazzling mounts. A golden-brown horse huffed as she approached, and Aurora touched the iridescent blue face of the other horse gently. It bumped against her hand kindly and she smiled.

“Not at all,” she said cheerfully.

“Nghuh,” Scorpio groaned, slapping his hand against his face. “This is so absurd!”

“Don't worry,” Taurus said. “I'll teach you as we go. But we have no time now. You'll have to ride with one of us.”

“Speak for yourself, bull!” Scorpio exclaimed.

“All right,” Taurus said in his kind, rumbling voice. “Then you'll have to ride with me.”

“Good,” Aurora said. “I never want to be on a horse with Scorpio again.”

Scorpio grinned to himself and mounted the shimmering blue horse, exhaling in annoyance as Aurora struggled to get on the other steed. Taurus lifted her easily, his bulging muscles barely even flinching, and she sat proudly, grinning with pleasure. Taurus hoisted himself up, settling in front of her.

“Hold on,” he ordered, gripping her small hands tightly in his large ones and wrapping them around his solid, muscular waist.

Aurora was glad she was behind him so he couldn't see her blush. The fabric of his toga was much softer than she had originally thought, and she swallowed hard as she realized that her palm was pressed against the warm, bare flesh of his torso.

“You're ripped,” Aurora breathed softly as Taurus brought the horse to a trot.

“What?” he asked, puzzled by the expression.

“Nothing,” Aurora said, laughing to herself.

Taurus didn't reply. He was too busy following Scorpio out of the Water Realm and into the long, winding forest ahead.

***



They rode long and hard until lunch, when Aurora's stomach rumbled so mightily that Taurus could feel it against his back. She had been leaning back as far as she could to keep her large bust from pressing into his solid back, but had quickly given up the task and basked in the intimate closeness of the horse.

“Scorpio, let us rest. The horses must be parched.”

Scorpio gave a sharp nod and pulled into a thicket, hopping off his mount and securing it to a tree. Taurus did the same, and they watered the horses and took a look around. Aurora inhaled deeply; the smell of the forest was exceptionally refreshing. It reminded her of being in the mountains, crisp and unpolluted.

“Shall we hunt?” Taurus asked, peering into the foliage. The familiar feeling forest bathed him in golden light, and Aurora couldn't help but stare. He was perfect.

“If you wish,” Scorpio said.

“Good!” Taurus said, his face breaking out into a sunny smile.

“Hunt?” Aurora asked, as he unsheathed a long knife.

“It will save our rations if we simply hunt for food while there is no danger.”

“Ah,” Aurora said. This would probably take a while.

“Do you know how to build a fire?” Scorpio asked her.

“Not exactly,” Aurora said, her face twisting in concentration as she closed her eyes and tried to remember exactly how they had done it back when she was a girl scout. She and Luna had been tiny back then, and had been more interested in roasting marshmallows than anything else.

“Useless,” he sighed. “What kind of Sun doesn't understand fire.”

Aurora raised her eyebrow at him and he straightened his back dutifully.

“All right. While Taurus is hunting, I'll show you how. It may save your sorry life someday.”

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