Home > Reckoning (Strange Angels #5)(14)

Reckoning (Strange Angels #5)(14)
Author: Lili St. Crow, Lilith Saintcrow

If I ever had been.

Ash dug his bare heels into the dirt and glared at me. Orange sparked in his irises. He set his chin and took a firmer grip on the door handle.

When he’d been almost-eight feet tall and all hairy, at least he’d been less trouble.

I tried for patience. “Look, you’re not even cleaned up. You’ve got dirt all over you. People will stare.” That’s a bad thing, in case you’re wondering.

His ruined chin thrust out further. Here in the sunlight, you could see the scars clearly. They were a reminder I could’ve done without. I remembered him trying to change back into a human shape, and the sobbing when he finally had a human throat again was the kind that will stick in your dreams. If I didn’t have so many other nightmares, it would’ve been a starring attraction.

Of course, I was dreaming other things nowadays. Things that might or might not have been happening. True-seeins, Gran called them, and I hadn’t been wrong yet.

If she was dead, ibn Allas, I would be, too. There was something in that scene I wasn’t getting, and I didn’t have time or energy for enough heavy brooding to figure it out. At the very least, Christophe suspected I wasn’t dead, and he wasn’t stupid. He’d found me before.

He would do it again. He’d probably also try to drag me back to the Order, where I was “safer.” No way, no day. I didn’t like the idea that someone in the Order could sell me—or, God forbid, sell Graves out—again.

And here I was wasting time arguing with a half-Broken werwulf who couldn’t even talk.

“Oh, what the hell.” I threw up my hands. “Get in, then. But don’t make any trouble, or I’ll . . .” I decided to leave the threat hanging. What could I do to him? A big fat pile of nothing, that’s what. At least when he was all tall and hairy, I didn’t feel so bad about locking him up somewhere safe and going about my business.

He didn’t waste any time. He was in the backseat in a trice, bouncing up and down so hard the springs groaned. “Settle down,” I told him. “We need this car.”

I opened the driver’s side door, did a sweep of the sun-drenched meadow. No sign of Graves, and the clouds stacking up to the west told me there would be rain before long. A spring storm, maybe. That would be all sorts of fun and mud. I could even smell it on the wind, grass and trees sensing a long drink coming and releasing their little perfumed cries of joy.

The touch throbbed uneasily inside my head. I tasted citrus, but only faintly, and it wasn’t wax-rotten. Trouble coming, but nothing specific enough for me to take any precautions. Best thing was to just get everything done as soon as possible, so we could leave in a hurry if we had to.

I’d left Graves a note under his plate. Went to town, be back in a bit. Keep the fire going. I thought of adding I’m sorry, but I didn’t. What did I have to be sorry for?

Other than getting him bit and dragged into this whole ungodly mess, that is. Still, he said he didn’t mind. Did that mean I only had to be sorry for liking him, or for getting him kidnapped and tortured by vampires, or what?

He liked being a part of the Real World. I don’t know if I exactly enjoyed it, but I knew I’d never want to be one of the oblivious. Did that make me an asshole?

I couldn’t even figure it out anymore, and it wasn’t the kind of problem I could do anything about. I sparked the car, the engine roused, and Ash made a little squeal of glee.

“You sit yourself down and put your seat belt on,” I barked, and he did. He rolled the window down, though, and spent the entire bumpy ride down the ridge and down the county highway with his face in the slipstream. Don’t ask me, I don’t know.

We would have been okay, except for the Charleston Chew.

I didn’t realize Ash had kiped it until we were outside the big wide Sav ’n’ Shop grocery store that used to be a Winn-Dixie when I was young, and I heard the man shout “Hey! Hey, you!”

I turned incuriously, and he was bearing down on us—the manager, a big potbellied good ol’ boy with furious little piggy blue eyes behind thick horn-rim glasses, pasty cheek flab under a greased dark comb-over. His polyester tie flapped and the wide yellow sweat stains under his armpits married the fussy shine on his wing tips to make the picture of what Gran would call “a bitty-ass man too big for his britches already.”

It wasn’t her most damning epithet, but it was close.

I looked at Ash. Who tore the wrapper open and made a small hmm of contentment. That was when it occurred to me. I didn’t pay for that. He must’ve just grabbed it.

“Oh Lord.” Give me strength. Jeez. I yanked the balky cart to a stop. It had a screechy wheel and wobbled alarmingly, but it was the best on offer. The clouds were coming up fast and the smell of rain was an overpowering, sweet green haze. Stormlight gathered, yellow–bruised in all the corners, making every edge stand out sharp. The shadows had turned to deep fuzzy wells. “Ash. Where the hell did that—”

“Stop right there!” Piggy Eyes was really worked up. He almost plowed into us. “You gonna pay for that? Huh?”

“I paid for everything else, sir,” I drawled, and Ash took a huge bite. He chewed sloppily, observing the scene with bright-eyed interest. I cursed inwardly. “I didn’t see he had that, sorry. Here.” I was already digging in my pockets for the change.

An ugly flush spread up Piggy Eye’s cheeks. He was obviously unmollified. “That yourn? He retarded or somethin’?”

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