I’ve been alone and on the run for so long I’ve forgotten what a person’s house is supposed to look like. This one obviously belongs to someone trying to stay off the radar. It’s a small apartment in the middle of town, cramped in between twenty-nine other rooms.
It’s nearing dawn already, because we’ve been on our feet all night. We had to wait all day to leave the church so that Asher wouldn’t be in danger from the sun. Asher had led me through shadows to meet Beau as dusk approached. It’s been hours since then, which included a half hour stop at a small fast food joint. For someone who never eats himself, Asher never forgets to make me eat.
From the outside the apartment doesn’t look like much – a worn wooden door with the number nineteen hanging off crookedly – but the inside is an entirely different matter. While distinctly untidy, with a lived-in feel, the apartment just screams money at me. Equipment is sprawled over shelves and desks that reach the length of one side of the room, screens and wires and devices I’ve never seen. Another wall is hung with weapons of every description, while a third holds a wide-screen plasma television.
Beau doesn’t waste time trying to hide any of the clothes or remotes strewn over the leather couches or the glass-top coffee table. As soon as the door is closed behind us, he says, “Sit,” and then disappears into the kitchen with Asher in tow.
I’ve taught myself over time to trust no one but Asher, so I feel genuinely uncomfortable being alone in a stranger’s living room. I move to sit, but don’t know if I should touch anything, and so I stay standing, staring at the devices around me. There is a rack of CDs over near the shelved weapons, and I decide to focus on this glimpse of normalcy while I wait. A few of the band names I’ve heard of – I used to own a few of the Living End’s CDs when I was younger – but most are bands I’ve never heard of before.
I glance at the clock. Almost six. So much for getting any sleep tonight.
There is a shining silver blade hanging on the wall, beautifully crafted with the appearance of being light as a feather, and the slight residue of protective charms glinting off of it. If I’d ever had an expert to teach me, I would have liked to learn how to use a weapon, but my mother made do with guns and could only teach me to do the same. Besides, my co-ordination is terrible and I’ve been doing well enough with nothing but aether spikes for years. I reach up and brush the back of the blade with a finger – the metal is smooth and cold on my skin.
“You like that, honey?” Beau’s voice interrupts my thoughts and I jerk away from the knife. I don’t know if it’s acceptable to touch other people’s weapons, and I don’t want to annoy someone who knows how to use all of these anyway. I glance quickly at Asher and immediately wish I didn’t. The look on his face tells me I’m probably not here to make friends.
Beau steps into the light, removing his hooded jacket, and I get a good look at him for the first time since our meeting. He’s taller than Asher, but just as lean and toned. He has these intense green eyes, the colour of the ocean on a cold day, and a thin angular face. His short brown hair is spiked aggressively as though he’s attacked it with a tub of hair gel, but one side is windswept and flattened.
And his face… I’ve seen it before. He was wearing a glamour then, but it’s definitely the same person.
“You’re the hunter,” I stammer, backing away. “You’re the one who was following me. You work for the Fey elders!”
My aura flares gold almost of its own accord, and his responds, burning a deep black. He doesn’t move, but I’m already pulling an aether spike from my aura. Before I can hurl it, Asher has a hold of my arm and is gently easing the bolt from my hand. I didn’t even see him move.
“Ash, what the hell are you doing?” I suddenly feel betrayed, wondering if maybe I was wrong to trust Asher all those years. Has he just delivered me to the Fey?
He seems to know what I’m thinking, because he puts his hands under my chin and turns my eyes up to meet his. I can tell he’s using vampiric charms to calm me, but on occasions like this I can forgive him that.
“Beau’s here to help, Shay,” Asher tells me, and I know by his voice that he’s not lying. “He’s a mercenary. He doesn’t work for the Fey elders, I swear. They banished him, just like you.”
“He’s not like me.”
Beau and Asher exchange a glance.
A clock somewhere else in the apartment chimes six o’ clock. Asher raises his head and turns back to Beau. “I have to go. The sun will be up soon. I’ll be back later tonight.”
He moves closer to the Aerie, leaning forward to whisper in his ear. I’m not sure, but I think my Fey hearing catches most of what sounds like, If you let her get hurt… I’ll kill you.
He brushes a hand through my hair, reassuringly. Then he’s gone, leaving only the door to shut softly behind him.
And I’m left alone in the apartment with Beau.
Continues in Part Five
Part four of my collab with Steve Strodder. This part is written by me. Enjoy!