Home > Strange Angels (Strange Angels #1)(14)

Strange Angels (Strange Angels #1)(14)
Author: Lili St. Crow, Lilith Saintcrow

“Hey. Dru. Hey.” He snapped his long brown fingers. “Hello. Sitting right here. What happened?”

Oh Christ. The lump in my throat went down, after a short wrestling match. I swallowed convulsively twice and found my voice, weak and watery but still mine. “Fuck off.”

His eyebrows shot up. He had actually scraped his hair back behind his ears with both hands, and now he looked very young as he stared back at me. His mouth thinned out, and I thought he was actually going to get up and walk away.

Then he settled back in his chair, arranging his long, gawky limbs as best he could, and picked up his cup. He took a long slurp of whatever was in it, and his eyes turned even more greeny-gold. They caught the fluorescent light and glowed at me.

Graves just sat there like he had all the time in the world.

I finally picked up my coffee cup. It seemed like the thing to do. The crap inside it was ice-cold, but it tasted better than the remainder of the zombie’s smell in my mouth. I took a gulp, set the cup down, and grimaced. My face wrinkled up, and I almost spewed cold ash-tasting coffee sludge across the table.

He didn’t move.

I listened to the soft strains of canned Muzak, trying to place the song. It was hopeless. Some pop anthem strangled by the gods of commerce. The words curdled in my chest. I couldn’t tell anyone what had happened.

Who would believe me? That’s why it’s the Real World, the night world, and not the normal world. People don’t want to know—and the things that eat people or grow fur or tell the future don’t want people to know. It’s a perfect marriage, complete with lies.

Pressure mounted in my throat. I had to say something. I leaned forward, resting my elbows on the table too. “I can’t go home tonight.” The hitch in my voice almost turned into a sob.

His eyebrows drew together. He was perilously close to unibrow; I guess nobody had held him down and administered a good plucking to the caterpillar climbing across his forehead. His earring winked at me.

Graves took another slurp. The unibrow wriggled. Then he pushed the cup away. His knuckles were chapped, I saw. I guess chicks didn’t dig hand lotion either, in his book.

“Okay,” he said quietly. “Do you have a place to stay?”

I blinked at him. Oh, no. Christ. Don’t try to solve my problems, kid. You have no idea. “I’ll find somewhere.” It was the truth. Even if I had to go back to the house. The thought sent a cold chill up my back. Could someone have called the cops? No, they would have caught me in the bathroom—but it was snowing. Maybe the cops couldn’t get out to our house in all the snow. But the snow did funny things with sound, and our house was so far away from everyone else’s.

The hamster wheel inside my head started up, trying to figure things out from this new angle—and running smack into a wall again.

You’re taking this really well, Dru. You just shot your dad. How are you going to explain this to the cops?

Well, technically, with as fast as zombies rotted, there wouldn’t be anything other than a broken door and a bullet hole to explain. I could say it was there when we moved in, that my dad worked nights, and that’s why he couldn’t come to the door—

A dry sob caught me unawares. I folded my arms across my stomach and hunched over. I rested my forehead on the cool, slick material of the table, and it felt good. Almost as good as the cold porcelain of a toilet when you’re really, really sick.

My stomach roiled again.

Don’t throw up, Dru. Don’t you dare throw up on that floor.

Dad’s voice echoed in my skull now, the usual mantra while I worked the heavy bag. Work through it, sweetheart. Come on. One more for Daddy. Do it. Come on, girl, that’s not going to cut it! One more for me! Come on!

“Jesus,” Graves whispered. He sounded a lot older than a sophomore now. “How bad is it?”

My teeth chattered. I almost choked on a laugh. How bad is it? It’s so bad you have no idea. That’s how bad. “Just go away,” I said to my knees. How had I managed to tie my boots? I didn’t even remember getting dressed. I was out in public here at the mall. What was I wearing?

Jeans. I could feel socks. I had my boots on. I plucked at the edge of my T-shirt and saw it was red. I was wearing Dad’s spare Army jacket, and there was a heavy weight in the right pocket that had to be something deadly.

Jesus Christ, I’m armed in public. Dad would kill me.

“Dru?” His voice had gotten deeper. “How bad is it? You really can’t go home?”

I blinked. I had my gloves on, and someone was talking to me. I uncurled, sitting up. The world fell into place, colors and sounds not running like tinted water over glass. The Orange Julius was across the food court, and its sign suddenly seemed like the most wonderful, brightest beacon of hope in the world.

I smelled french fries, hot grease. I wanted to eat. My stomach growled so loudly I hunched my shoulders, hoping he couldn’t hear it.

Graves shifted in his chair again. Then he pushed his paper cup across the table. “Take a drink. Your coffee’s cold.” Still in that quiet, oddly adult voice. No teenage bluster at all in the words.

I grabbed it, sucked at the straw. The taste of strawberries and fake ice cream exploded against my tongue, cutting through and erasing the stink of reanimated death.

He hauled himself up to his full gawky height, scraping the chair back unmusically against the flooring. “Stay here, okay? Just for a second.”

I nodded and took another long swallow. He strode off, using those long grasshopper legs to his advantage. By the time I finished the smoothie he was back, sliding a tray across the table. It was a bacon cheeseburger and fries, with a vanilla milkshake I grabbed at. I wolfed the burger in what seemed like two bites while Graves settled back in his chair, tapping his fingers at the edge of the table. He didn’t shuck his coat, but he did take a few fries. He’d even brought packets of ketchup, and the only reason I didn’t tear into one was because the thought of the thick red inside made the food back up in my throat.

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