Authors: C.V. Hunt
Ash slid off my back and faced the ocean. She stood as still as a statue.
, could you run up the path a little way? I have to shift back,
I told the girl.
Abby looked back and forth between Ash and me.
Go ahead Abby. Just for a few minutes. We’ll meet you there,
Ash told her.
The girl disappear
ed down the path. I shifted back to human behind Ash. She stood watching the ocean. I unzipped her backpack, taking out my muddy pants. I pulled them on and waited for it: the moment when she would break down and I would have to carry her ass home. It never came.
“I can take her home if you need some time,” I told her.
She half turned to me. “No, it’s okay. I’m ready to go.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, I just wanted to see it.”
She slipped past me and headed toward the underground house. I looked out over the cliff and shivered when the cold air rushed over me. I turned to follow her. We walked the distance in silence. The crash of waves faded, replaced by the rustle of wind through the trees.
Abby jumped out from behind a tree and yelled, scaring the shit out of me. I yelped, struggling to stay human, and growled at her. She laughed, taking in my full height in my human form.
“Holy cow! You are really tall,” Abby said.
“No, you’re just really short,” I half barked. I was still pissed that she had scared me.
The girl looked at Ash.
“I heard that,” I told her.
I marched past both of them and only looked back once to make sure they were following. They moved soundlessly. I spotted the right tree, crouched down under the roots and slid down into the concrete room. I felt a movement in the air behind me: Ash and Abby.
Dim light outlined the doorway at the bottom. It felt colder in the room than it did outside
and the temperature dropped as we descended the stairs. Ash was right behind me, hidden by my tall frame, when I hit the call button. Abby hopped around at the top of the steps. I looked up at the red light where the camera was.
Josh’s voice boomed through the speaker. “The dog’s back and he’s all muddy. Someone grab the hose.”
“Open up,” I said.
Lex and Jenny laughed
in the background. I stepped to the side so they could see Ash.
hit!” Josh yelled.
Gasps and frantic whispers were followed by th
e speaker cutting out. The lock shifted in the door.
Abby stood at the top of the stairs staring at us.
“Come on.” I motioned for her to follow.
I pushed the door open
and warm air hit us. Ash and I entered the orange mudroom. The tiles were warm under my cold naked feet. I heard people approaching. Ash removed her backpack and sat on the floor. She started taking off her muddy boots. Abby lagged on the stairs.
The gargoyles busted through the door, their faces terrified. They looked at me, then at Ash’s frail figure struggling to get her shoes off.
Lex rushed toward her. “Oh my god, Ash!” She started helping her out of the ill-fitting layers of soaking wet clothes. “Josh, go run her a hot tub of water!” Lex cried. She looked at me. “Where’s Sarah? And what happened to your arm?”
ed back into the game room as Lex pulled muddy clothes off Ashley. Ashley’s pale skin contrasted with Lex’s dark complexion, making Ash look that much more sickly.
“I left a note for Sarah at the hotel in Port Angeles before I went searching for Ash,” I told her and looked at my arm. “My arm… a hazard of hanging around fucking bloodsuckers.”
Lex and Jenny both gasped and looked at Ashley.
“I didn’t bite him. He cut himself to feed me.” She
looked at the floor, embarrassed.
Lex barked at Jenny Chi: “C
all Sarah’s cell, tell her we need food for Ash.”
Jenny’s long black hair whipped around as she ran back in the house. Lex had Ashley down to her t-shirt and jeans. Lex grabbed Ashley’s pants and started pulling on them. Ashley grabbed the waist of her pants and looked at Lex like she was crazy as her teeth chattered.
“Ash, you need to get these wet clothes off,” Lex said.
with him.” Ash nodded her head toward me, embarrassed, and shivered.
I laughed. “For fuck’s sake, I’ve already seen you naked.”
I had seen her naked quite a few times. If I hadn’t stayed and taken care of her after Verloren had died, she would have died too. She had tried the exact same thing after his death. She didn’t eat, she didn’t move, she didn’t take care of herself. I had to bath and feed her. No one else could handle her emotions; she had made everyone else feel her pain.
I pictured her naked
. It was a mental image seared into my brain. She’d been healthier looking then and my mind wandered to her hidden body jewelry. Lex helped her to her feet.
Ash’s mouth drop
ped open as she huffed. “Jason Zurk!”
asked her. Then I realized I wasn’t blocking my thoughts. I started laughing at her.
“You pervert!” she yelled.
“Hello, who’s this?” Lex asked, looking beyond me.
I turned and watched Abby step out from behind the door.
“Lex, this is Abigail Porter.” Ash motioned for Abby to come closer. “Abby this is Lex.”
Abigail looked up at Lex and then at Ash. She whispered: “She’s really pretty.”
Lex laughed nervously.
Abby looked up at me. “And she’s your girlfriend?” She asked like it was unbelievable. She turned back to Lex.
You should get a new boyfriend. He’s mean.
“I heard that,” I grumbled.
“See,” Abigail told Lex.
Ash snatched up her backpack and stormed through the game room toward her apartment. She was still pissed
about me picturing her naked and her hands were becoming lethal. Lex and Abby were on her heels. I followed behind them toward my own apartment. Ash shoved her door open and spotted Josh coming from the bathroom where he’d started her bath water. She glared at him just because he was a man.
“Out!” she yelled, pointing to the hallway.
Josh looked at Abby, confused, and threw up his hands in surrender, and edged around Ash. Jenny came jogging down the hallway. She almost fell over herself to stop when she spotted Abby. Jenny followed Ash, Lex, and Abby into the apartment. Ashley slammed the door. I caught a lot of ‘men are fucking perverts’ over the next hour.
I was glad
I had hardwood floors throughout my apartment as I tracked mud everywhere. I trashed my jeans, showered, and then cleaned the floors. There was a lot of commotion when Sarah got home. I grabbed a few beers and sank into the black leather sofa. I fell asleep watching TV. I woke up to someone knocking on the door. With my eyes half open and stumbling, I flung the door open.
Trying to open my eyes, I recognized
a faux hawk and the glint of a silver septum ring against dark skin.
Lex looked me up and down before she spoke: “Think you can eat twice in one night? We didn’t let Abby feed from the body.”
I followed her eyes and realized I was in my underwear. I was too tired to care and closed my eyes, almost falling asleep. I jerked my head up and my eyes opened.
“Can it fucking wait till morning? I’m exhausted from running. Why does it matter that Abby didn’t feed from the body?” I grabbed the doorframe above my head to keep me from swaying on my feet. I yawned and stretched.
“Because it might create another link if you cleaned up after the girl. She does have Ash’s telepathy,” Lex said, as she stepped closer to me.
I let go of the door and stumbled back. She came in and shut the door behind her. I blinked
, trying to clear sleep from my brain.
She advanced on me again as I looked at her
, dumbstruck. What was she doing? We were almost eye-to-eye. She ran her hands down my stomach and hooked her fingers on the waistband of my boxers. My mind cleared as it dawned on me what she wanted.
“Maybe I can help wake you up,” she whispered.
The first thing I realized when I woke up was that I was naked. I sat up and felt around in the dim red light of the alarm clock, which read after two. I wasn’t sure if that was middle-of-
the-night or afternoon. I listened to the sounds from the game room and imagined it was the afternoon. Then it dawned on me why I was naked.
“Alexius?” I managed in a raspy voice.
No answer, I was alone. She’d already left. Shit. I thought about what Sarah had said. Was I causing Lex emotional damage with these one-night stands? If I was, this wasn’t the way I had planned on talking to her about it.
Great way to bring it up — fuck her, then ask her, ‘B
y the way, you’re still cool with me just using you for sex, right?’ I would have hell to pay if she wasn’t cool with it. I flipped on the bedside lamp and looked around the white room. I tried to let my tired eyes adjust by staring at the black furniture. I ran my hand through my hair and rolled out of bed.
I dragged out my morning routine in the apartment. I was stalling, trying to figure out a way to talk to Lex before I saw her. I listened to Ash’s emotions. She seemed
in a decent mood. I think she was as about as happy as she was going to get — given the circumstances. I was hoping she wouldn’t fall into even more emotional pain now that she was here.
I couldn’t stay in the apartment all day. I stepped out in the hallway and listened carefully. The girls were at the
pool. I looked down the hallway. Josh played video games by himself. I went that way, knowing I wouldn’t have to talk about anything stupid with him. We could just play video games without any of that girly shit.
When I got to the game room I found Hania at a table with a laptop. It was just the two guys. Good. But when Hania looked up from his typing, I knew I wasn’t goin
g to get away clean. He eyed me and I knew he knew about the tattooed girl. I avoided looking at him.
I sat beside Josh on the sofa as he finished his game. I waited for him to tell me when to jump in.
“Jason,” Hania beckoned in his old fragile voice. He motioned for me to join him at the table. Shit, this is why I avoided the girls. I might as well start punching myself in the balls now. I sat beside him and his eyes lit up. He extended his hand. Once he laid his palm against mine he would be able to see my thoughts. It was similar to Ash, but she only saw what you were thinking or could remember. A born knowing would see every thought I’d ever had. I hadn’t let one of the born knowing in since Jessica had died. She was the redheaded witch who’d worked with Verloren and me at the store in Indiana.
I looked at Hania’s old, knobby hand, debating whether to touch it. If I didn’t he would probably cast a spell on me anyway and make me do it. I laid my palm down onto his and watched his face. A look of indifference fell on his wrinkled features and his eyes stared at nothing in particular. I could feel a slight pressure in my head as he looked around for the information he wanted. It never hurt,
but it was an unusual sensation and made me feel vulnerable. When Jessica had probed me, I would think of vulgar and sexual things I wanted to do to her, just to get her to yell at me. That wouldn’t apply here.
After a few minutes Hania sat back. I looked at Josh, hoping he was too distracted to listen.
Hania closed his laptop. “It’s true,” he said quietly. “You found her.”
I looked at the table
and took a deep breath.
“I think over time you’ll realize the harder you try to resist it, the stronger the pull will be,” he said.
I mindlessly touched my chest, acknowledging the aching sensation. Just as I had found Ash, I knew this feeling would lead me directly to the tattooed girl. I dropped my hand and looked at him. “I don’t fucking want it. Look what it did to Ash.”
“If you go to her, it would break the bond between you and Ashley.” He smiled crookedly. “At the risk of sounding cliché, love conquers all.”
”Yeah, right,” I said.
He chuckled. “Did you ever wonder why the demon didn’t infiltrate Verloren’s mind? He couldn’t. The demon could never force Verloren to do anything against Ashley because Verloren loved her. That’s why you still had your mind when Jesse was controlling you. You love her, it’s not a hundredth of the love that Verloren had for her. But you do love her…
just like you love Lex.”
I glanced at Josh, just as a warning to keep silent. He didn’t seem to have heard.
Hania chuckled. “Don’t worry, it’s not like that. There are so many varying degrees of love that you kids don’t understand. You loved Verloren too. That’s one of the many reasons you can’t let go of Ashley. You see him in her. You see the same void that she does, the place where he should be, right beside her. Now both of you see him in Abby. What Ash did to that girl was wrong, but I can’t condemn her. She’s given Sarah back her title of ‘mother’.”