“Help him,” Marianne begged, rushing to me, and reached for my arm.
The ground shifted when her hand touched my shoulder, an odd and profound trembling overwhelming my body. The aches and pains in my back and legs faded, muscles and limbs strengthening and contorting, becoming strong despite my prior fatigue. The room came into a vivid focus, allowing me to see everything clearly, even those things marred by my peripheral vision. My spine went straight as I stood upright and I lifted my head, nourished and guided by this unexpected surge of power.
Jackson’s free arm came back, rounding into a fist, and I didn’t hesitate. I snagged the bitch by the wrist and brought it back, applying just the right amount of pressure as I went. The bone broke cleanly, jamming through the skin -- pink, ivory, and vivid red creating a macabre anatomical art display. I didn’t know where this inhuman strength came from, and I didn’t really care. When I saw the blood pooling and escaping from Joshua’s mouth, I wanted to see the hairy werehound suffer.
Jackson dropped Joshua’s body, releasing the hand twined around his throat. He went limp, brown eyes sliding closed. As she turned to face me, I wasn’t afraid. The pendant against my skin throbbed and pulsed, very much alive and aware. The beating of the black blood center trapped inside the amber pounded in chorus with my heart, each pulse sufficing my muscles, eyes, and limbs with an unexplained, yet undeniable, energy.
“What are you?” she demanded, staggering and wobbling on unsteady legs. Both of her eyes were in bloody tatters, portions of flesh and egg white tissue drifting to her cheekbones.
“A person you never should have fucked with.”
It didn’t take a rocket scientist to predict her next move. She came at me like a brick shit house, balls-to-the-walling-it, wild and crazed. Her teeth shone in the light, large and bright, transcended only by the narrowing of her hollowed out eyes and the claws that lashed out. I shouldn’t have been able to perceive the moment; it was too fast, too fucking quick. Yet my body reacted instinctively, moving into a defensive position as I prepared for the offensive attack soon to follow.
Each violent thrust and punch I evaded or blocked, seeing what she intended before the blow found its mark. Each rage enhanced roar goaded me, driving me onward. As she lashed out with one hand, I encouraged her to try harder, to try again. I wanted to watch this beastly woman crumble.
I wanted to see her on her fucking knees.
A hollow pain struck my chest -- directly beneath Marigold Vesta’s amulet -- knocking me off balance. The strength began to ebb, and I heard Marianne’s weak cries flittering inside my ears. Through a thin haze I listened to her pleas, her desperate begging to return to her child once more before she crossed over. As I focused on her voice, my energy waned, and Jackson’s forehead butted my nose, breaking the vessels and creating an unbridled flow of blood.
Heavy punches from her good hand rained down upon my shoulders and face, sending me into a huddled ball at her feet. Her boots found the vulnerable hollow of my side, hard rubber soles leaving imprints behind on my skin. I attempted to cough the blood that was collecting in my mouth, forcing the bitter and warm liquid from the confines of my lips. The brutal blows continued, going on and on.
A solid punch sent me on my ass, forcing my chin up and back. As my back pressed against the couch, the familiar and welcome coolness of metal flickered against my palm. I grasped the gun as Jackson descended upon me, her features half human and half wolf. I didn’t know squat about werewolves, but I figured the general rule of thumb applied.
When in doubt, aim for the heart or the head.
Three Days to Dead and As Lie The Dead the first 2 in the series. This turned out to be one of my favorite finds of 2010.
Wyatt was pacing in and out of the narrow kitchenette, lips pressed together, eyebrows furrowed. He dialed another number, then listened. He had to be getting a lot of voice mails, but he wasn't leaving messages. Unless they were ignoring him, which was also entirely possible. Apparently, while I was unconscious and recovering from my dive out a four-story window, Wyatt had said some pretty cruel things to both of his former fellow Handlers Gina Kismet and Adrian Baylor.
I perched on the arm of the apartment's faded sofa and watched him dial again.
His face brightened. "Morgan, it's Truman. Look, has anyone else reported a minor earthquake this morning?" He listened. "Claudia's Gifted, right? Yeah, thought so. I felt it, too." Another pause. "No idea what it could be, but I wanted to make sure I wasn't imagining things. If you hear anything…. Yeah, thanks."
He snapped his cell phone shut and dropped it on the narrow counter.
"What are you thinking?" I asked.
He started, gazing at me with surprise. As if he'd forgotten he should be able to see me. "I'm thinking I started out the day hoping to relax after the memorial, and now that hope has been shattered."
"How do you figure?"
"Come on, Evy. Anything strong enough to affect the entirety of the Break like that isn't going to just go away."
"Doesn't mean we'll automatically get swept up into it." But even as I said the words, I knew how ridiculous they sounded. Ever since my resurrection, I'd been at the center of every major event affecting the city and its nonhuman inhabitants. Factor in my training-born need to protect the innocents of the city, and I'd probably get myself sucked into it anyway. "Dead" or alive.
"We've put up with so much these last few weeks," he said, almost sulking. "I just want a couple of days of peace and quiet." He didn't have to say "with you." The words were in his tone and in the way he was looking at me.
Three days ago, after waking up from a brief coma, I'd finally told him I loved him and hadn't repeated it since. He didn't push. I didn't want the inevitable discussion that would come with a revelation of feelings. I didn't want to talk about it or us, or anything else. Avoiding it meant avoiding any potential "next steps" in our burgeoning relationship.
It wasn't like we'd never had sex. Well, that was half-true. We'd slept together once, two weeks ago, right before I died and left my old body behind. We hadn't had sex since my resurrection—although we'd come close once—mostly due to my inability to figure out my own emotional chaos.
Before I'd died, I hadn't been in love with Wyatt. I'd loved him, sure, as a coworker and a man I respected. But being born again into the body of Chalice Frost came not only with handy teleporting powers but also with a powerful physical attraction to Wyatt. My head and my heart were on two different wavelengths, and I just didn't know how to reconcile them.
Sex with Wyatt now, as the people we'd both become, was a step I both craved and feared. I wanted him; I also didn't think I deserved him.
"Peace and quiet don't come with the job description," I said.
"Need I remind you we're both unemployed?"
I slid off the arm of the sofa and sank into the springy cushions. It was the same sofa from when I'd lived here before; nothing had changed except the inhabitants. The apartment had always been a haven of sorts, a place away from the chaos and bloodshed of our daily (and nightly) lives. It still felt like that sanctuary. But with the ghosts of my old life so firmly entrenched in each piece of furniture and carpet stain, it also felt like a prison.
Wyatt sat next to me, sinking the old cushions toward the middle. I let gravity tilt me sideways and rested my head on his chest. He draped his right arm over my shoulders in a gentle embrace. His familiar scent—spice and cinnamon and male musk—filled my senses. Relaxing and safe.
"Five gets you twenty your phone rings in the next ten minutes," I said, "and shatters the mood."
He chuckled, the sound rumbling through his chest, against my ear. He didn't laugh nearly enough. Neither of us did. "You do realize you've jinxed us by saying that?"