Dirty (JUST BREATHE Ephemera Book 3)

Dirty
Just Breathe Ephemera, Volume 3
Kendall Grey
Contents

D
IRTY

Copyright © 2012 by Kendall Grey

Published by

Howling Mad Press, LLC

P.O. Box 660

Bethlehem, GA 30620

U.S.A.

www.howlingmadpress.com

All rights reserved as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior permission of the Author. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.

Edited by Jennifer Sommersby Young

Cover design and additional art by Renee Coffey

First E-book Edition: September 2012

This short story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

The author acknowledges the copyrighted or trademarked status and trademark owners of the word marks mentioned in this work of fiction.

E
PHEMERA
[ih-fem-er-
uh
]
noun, plural.
Items designed to be useful or important for only a short time, especially pamphlets, notices, tickets, etc.

[
F
rom
Dictionary.com
]

Dirty

Landers, California

June 20, 1992


Y
ou need to get laid
.”

Rolling her eyes, Jetta Briggs cradled the phone between her ear and shoulder and straightened an unruly stack of patient folders. “I’m not having this conversation with you, Mom.”

“Come on. Tyson is the perfect male specimen. He’s strong and sexy. Give him what he wants. Who knows, maybe he’ll finally ask you to marry him.” Mom had been nagging her about Tyson ever since he brought in his Rottweiler puppy for vaccinations, flashed his million-dollar smile, and inexplicably asked Jetta out on a date. That had been four months ago.

Maybe Mom was right. Not about the marriage crap, but the sex.

It wasn’t that Jetta didn’t
want
to have sex with Tyson. She didn’t know how—not with
this
body, marred by heart surgery scars and scrawny from lack of tone. Exercise restrictions sucked.

Plus, the distance between them lately wasn’t helping. Seemed like Tyson’s mind was elsewhere a lot.

She placed the folders in the re-file basket and stood away from the check-in desk. The phone cord stretched as she shuffled around to the front and loaded a fresh batch of sign-in forms onto the clipboard for tomorrow. “Okay, I’ll have sex with him tonight.”

“You say that before every date.”

“I mean it this time.” Maybe.

“You’re thirty years old, hun. You’re gonna have to give it up sooner or later.” Mom sighed. The soft chimes of the bangle bracelet she always wore teased the speaker. “And I want grandchildren one day.”

Jetta snorted. Thirty years old and still a virgin. What a prize she was. She pulled her purse out of the cabinet and rummaged through it for her keys. “Okay. I’ll get right on that. I gotta go. He’s probably on his way over.”

On cue, Tyson’s police car rolled into the lot. High beams brightened the semidark office through the picture windows. He parked in front, cut the engine, and gave a curt smile. Jetta waved and smiled back.

He really was gorgeous. And sexy. And built like a world champion boxer.

Maybe dating her was payment for a bet he lost to his buddies or something.

“Have fun with him. Call me tomorrow with the details.” A smile snuck into Mom’s voice. “I love you.”

“Love you too, Mom. Bye.” Jetta hung up, slung her purse over her thin shoulder, and flipped off the lights. She started to loosen her auburn ponytail from its rubber band, then thought the better of it.

Still too chicken to try looking sexy for Tyson.

When she got outside, he exited the car and joined her at the door. As usual, her heart tap-danced at the sight of his muscle-defining uniform. With a sweep of his hand, he removed his cap, revealing freshly cut short, reddish hair and keen brown eyes. She inhaled a breath of his spicy cologne. She had no idea what brand it was, but man, she loved that rich scent. His thumb brushed her breast and sent a line of tingles on a race to her gut. He slid his free hand down her side and rested it on her bony hip. She flinched. Couldn’t help it.

He let her go with a hands-up “surrender” she’d expect from a criminal, not a cop. Great. Intimate moment number 732 successfully diverted. Damn it.

“How you doing? Good day?” His voice was edgy. A little raw. She wondered if his irritation had to do with the murder case he’d been working on. More likely it was her.

She nodded, finished locking up her only claim to fame, the Briggs Veterinary Clinic, and faced him. No need to bog down the mood with talk about the poor victim of cruelty she’d had to euthanize. The third one this week. If she ever got a hold of one of those assholes who abused animals—

Jetta shook the dark thoughts from her head. “Yeah, not bad. You?”

His predatory eyes glittered, sending jolts of familiar current to the crux between her legs. Happened every time he got close. Like his proximity tripped her sex-switch when it bumped into her clumsy, defensive force field. He might as well have been Baryshnikov asking Dumbo for a dance.

He glanced around the empty parking lot, hand on the butt of the gun hanging from his hip. “I’ve been busy. How about we take a drive out to Joshua Tree? I picked up some sandwiches. We can eat and talk.”

She didn’t like the tenseness in his shoulders. His face was hard, like a stone carving—unyielding and unreadable.

He was going to break up with her.

Her sex drive downshifted to neutral and then reversed. “Okay,” she said softly and followed him to the patrol car.

Well, it wasn’t surprising. They’d been dating for months, and she barely had the courage to kiss him, let alone sleep with him. He’d made his interest clear on several occasions, but she … she just couldn’t do it.

Jetta got in the car and glanced down at herself. Stick-thin arms and legs. Flat chest. Curveless body. She was practically androgynous. If Tyson ever saw the skin and bones under the scrubs, he’d run away screaming. The only things she had going for her were an okay-looking face and a gentle disposition.

Not good enough for a guy like him.

Tyson made small talk on the thirty-minute drive to the national park. Jetta stared out the passenger-side window, afraid to meet his eyes, afraid to see the disappointment within. He held up a wrapped six-inch sub, but she waved it off with a “no thanks.” She could hardly eat half a sandwich when she was famished, and tonight she’d lost her appetite.

“You gotta eat, Jetta.”

“That’s okay. I’m not hungry.” She shifted in her seat.

Near the forest entrance, Tyson pulled off the road and parked the car down an embankment. One of the advantages of dating a cop was you didn’t have to worry about getting hassled for bending the rules. Not that anyone was around to bother them.

He turned off the engine, tossed the sandwich into a bag, and dropped it to the floorboard. Scrubbed his face. Tapped the steering wheel.

Yep. Totally breaking up with her.

He turned to her. “I’m ready to take our relationship to the next level.”

Uh … what? A tremor quaked through her skinny arms, and heat flushed her skin. “I’m not sure I understand what you mean.”

He laid a hand on her thigh. Waaay up her thigh. Part of her thrilled at his searing touch and the promise of what might follow. The other part trembled with fear.

“I mean” —the hand slunk higher, his shoulders squared, and he leaned in to her lips— “I wanna have sex with you.” Peppery breath brushed her cheek. In the dim light of the waning moon, his eyes shone black with a hint of—
red?
No way.

Jetta’s fragile heart picked up speed. She swallowed hard.

A seductive scent bled into the car. His fingers stroked her sex through her work scrubs. She clenched her legs together. No. This wasn’t right. It didn’t feel … right.

She pushed against his wrist and inched away from him. “I don’t … think I’m ready for that yet.”

A cursory glance around confirmed they were still alone. Off the beaten path. In a forest. After hours. A bitter taste filled her mouth.


I’m
ready.” His voice took on a sinister tone. “I think I’ve waited long enough.”

Who was this guy? The hairs along her arms and up the back of her neck bristled. All traces of the man she trusted disappeared, replaced by a snarling monster she didn’t recognize. Her broken little heart took off on an awkward sprint.

Nostrils bowing with fast breaths, he grabbed her by the shoulders and yanked her close.

“Tyson, please—” She swallowed the bile erupting in her throat. “Please take your hands off me.” Her voice cracked. Tears collected at the corners of her eyes.

Order lost its balance and tripped into a bottomless pit of chaos. This couldn’t be happening. He was a
cop
, for Chrissakes.

He lunged, pushed her into the seat with one arm, and unbuckled his belt with his free hand.

“No!” Jetta flailed under his weight, beat uselessly against his heavy muscles and the insanity that seemed to have claimed his mind. Terror, anger, and panic swirled together, mugged her brain. Her frail heart continued hammering. She prayed for an adrenaline rush that might give her the energy to lift a car, but it never came.

Now she cried in earnest. Sobs choked her words, chopping them into small, unidentifiable pieces. “Don’t do it. Please don’t do it! I’m a virgin. I don’t want to die …”

Her pleas went unheeded as the man she almost loved took her body against her will. Though she was physically inferior and no match for his strength, her unwavering resolve to stop him never floundered. She kicked and hit and scratched and bit with all her might. Even as cold acceptance of her fate settled in her bones, she rallied against it amid revolting grunts, jabs, and threats until he finished.

When he pulled out, chest heaving and irises glowing red like a demon’s, he curled his lip and backhanded her across the face. Her jaw popped and fell loose. Broken. She denied the pain access to her mind—swallowed it, buried it deep in her gut with sheer willpower.

She couldn’t see through her left eye, which had swollen closed after he’d elbowed her a few minutes before. What she could only assume was blood pooled between her legs.

“Bastard,” she said, but without the use of her jaw muscles, the word came out as formless garble.

“You make me sick. You pathetic, weak piece of shit.” Tyson spit in her face. The saliva sizzled like fiery worms burrowing into her skin. What the
hell
?

No. This is a bad dream. Or a hallucination. It’s not real. It’s not happening.

Oh, yes, it was. And she had two choices. She could go down like a victim—a frail, pitiful damsel in distress who accepted her death—or go down like an unwavering soldier, guns blazing, determined to make her death mean something.

A strange calm descended over her—the same feeling she got when she worked with the animals she loved. A cold, detached sense of purpose. A total lack of emotion that allowed her to do her job with great efficiency.

Despite the agony shrilling from nearly every nerve in her body, Jetta wouldn’t give Tyson the pleasure of her tears.

Weak.

If she lived to see the sunrise, no one would ever call her weak again.

Her resolve hardened into rock as he gripped her throat. She met his stare head-on. No fear, intense focus.

The light of uncertainty flashed in his demonic face for a split second.

Pressure on her larynx increased. Airflow ceased. Her eyeballs bulged from their sockets. Blood flow to her head stopped.

Victim.

No. Never again. Jetta held onto his gaze with the strength of a thousand elephants.

“Die, you fucking bitch.” Lips trembling, he put more muscle into the murder.

With nothing left but sheer determination, she clung to the last thread of life, refusing to let it go.

Moments later, when the lights went out, her dead eyes remained locked on his.

You will pay, Tyson.

J
une 23

L
ight
. Pain. Confusion.

Rage, shame, humiliation.

A woman’s face. Vivid green eyes. Tawny skin.

Thirsty.

Jetta’s head tilted up. Water trickled into her mouth. She shut her lids.

Cold.

Sleep.

J
une 24

S
oft blades of vegetation
. Scent of fresh grass. Cool breeze.

Jetta ground her jaw back and forth, raking bottom teeth across top ones. Better.

What had happened? Where was she?

A woman’s face. Neither old nor young. Native American. Vivid green eyes. Tawny skin. A smile. Long, brown hair tied into a braid and curled around her shoulder like a cat’s tail.

Squatting, she took Jetta’s elbow and helped her to a sitting position. “Drink this.” She held out a carved wooden cup.

Jetta brushed a hand across her forehead and accepted the offering. Reddish-brown liquid sloshed inside. “What is it?”

“Hawthorn. Treats chronic heart failure.” The woman nodded to her chest. “And gives you strength.”

How did she know about the heart condition? Jetta looked down, rubbed her sternum, and in the process, realized she was naked and covered in dirt. Whoa. Cheeks flooding with heat, she set the cup on the ground, drew her knees up, and wrapped both arms around herself.

Unwanted memories of being exposed and vulnerable filtered through her brain, kindling a sudden flare of anger in her gut.

Tyson had raped and tried to murder her.

“I don’t know what you think you’re doing, but—”

“My name is Neena. I found you beside an abandoned police car a few days ago and healed you.” The woman gestured to the elixir. “Drink.”

Jetta’s mind rumbled with questions, but Neena’s direct, curt stare suggested it was best to do what she was told. She grudgingly sipped.

The concoction had a slightly bitter flavor with a hint of berry. After the first swallow, her head cleared. With the second, her body seemed to stretch beyond its physical boundaries. On the third, her bones filled with slow-flowing biological mortar. By the time she finished, the mortar had bonded with calcium and hardened into skeletal concrete.

Strange, heavy energy shook and invigorated her. The hawthorn must’ve been infused with some kind of stimulant. Whatever it was, the drink did wonders. For the first time in her life, Jetta felt strong.

Had to be her imagination—a hallucination brought on by a fever. Or something worse.

Shame and guilt seized her thoughts as she caught a bare breast in her peripheral vision. She had to get away from here. “Any chance I could have something to wear?”

Neena’s sparkling emerald eyes narrowed. She stood swiftly as a doe, then disappeared into the foliage. Jetta scoured her surroundings. Thick forest. Mountains in the distance. Clear, sunny day. How had she gotten here?

Pain—both physical and emotional—tugged at the frayed strings of her memory.

She glanced at the dirty arms hugging her legs. They looked different. Thicker. She balled her hands into fists. Her biceps curled in reply. What was this?

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