** Continuation of October 24th, 2010 post. Please click here for Chapter 6.
Seven years after my escape I woke up with the smell of vomit in the air was so thick I thought I could taste it. At least until I opened my eyes and realized that I was actually tasting vomit and, ew, wearing it in my hair as well as on the half of my face that was laying in the puddle of vodka, orange juice and whatever else my stomach had ejected after I’d passed out on the flimsy mattress I called a bed. I sat up and blearily tried to recall what I had done the night before that would have resulted in my waking up covered in ick, wearing the least amount of clothes possible without being naked with what was sure to be the worst hangover on record building inside my head.
Shade chose this moment to shake himself, and me, awake with a groan and a very heartfelt, “Oh, shit.” The demon in my head cackled with glee and gave a hearty push against the barrier I kept him locked behind only to find it firmly slammed down and bolted up tighter than the biggest Stanley lock on the planet.
“I see you’ve discovered the results of how much fun we had last night. Ooh, eau-de-vomitus. Nice choice of perfume, Ardy. Couldn’t have picked a better one myself.”
Any reaction I could have given Shade would have set off further cackling and torment so I gave him nothing but blankness as I rose and headed for the tiny closet that was my bathroom and stripped off the short shorts and camisole that Shadekar liked to dress me in. I gave the tap for cold a spin, gritted my teeth and stepped under the biting spray. No need to mess with the tap for hot water, there wasn’t any.
By the time I’d washed the filth from my hair and scrubbed the rest of myself as quickly as possible, my teeth were chattering and a blue tinge had crept over my quivering lips. I wrapped my one ratty towel around the multiple layers of goose bumps that made up my skin and padded out to the duffel bag that held my meager supply of clothes. The shorts and camisole I’d been wearing were hanging on the edge of the towel rack to dry and would probably be there for the day. Leather took forever to dry.
“So, what’s the plan for today, Blondie? Can we repeat last night? That was, undoubtedly, some of the most fun I’ve had since you took over the show. Hands down. Wanna know what we did last night? Well – more like what you did last night. Devil’s in the details don’tcha know.”
“Oh hells no. I do not want to know, Shade. You just keep that bit of info to yourself and I’m tight with that.” I could sense he was gearing up to tell me anyway and quickly slammed the lid down on the garbage can I pictured Shadekar living in. I’d never actually met the bastard but always pictured him as a character I’d seen on a children’s show when I was younger. Oscar the Grouch had nothing on my inner demon however, when it came to attitude. Shade had it in spades.
Getting dressed was done rather quickly. I threw my hair over my shoulder after a quick toweling and let it dry on its own while I walked down to the clinic on the next block. The nurse behind the counter knew me well and winced when she got a look at the dark circles under my eyes.
“Rough night again, Ardy?”
“Hey, Julie. You could call it that. Any chance Dr. Martals is in? I need the usual.” Lucky for me the staff at the clinic I frequented whenever Shade got out of his cage were a friendly, understanding bunch and never questioned why I needed a rape kit or a toxicology report run every now and then. Unfortunately, the now and thens were becoming more and more frequent. He had overthrown me twice already this month and there were still two more weeks left in it.
Julie nodded and quietly led me back to an exam room where I sat and waited for Dr. Martals. It had been pure luck that I had found this clinic – and her, when I’d stumbled in one morning after a particularly bad night courtesy of Shade. My face had been a mass of bruises to match the ones that covered my ribs, hands and shins but the quiet doctor had come in, patched me up, run a rape kit and toxicology screen without asking a single question. She’d then sat next to the table and looked me in the eyes. “How long has your demon been doing this to you?”
I must have blinked at the petite brunette with the soulful brown eyes for what felt like hours before I finally managed to choke out a question and ask how she knew that I carried a demon. Dr. Martals smiled and calmly told me,
“I’m psychic, Ardeur. I can see him in you. How long has he been overpowering you?”
As much as I didn’t want to tell anyone about Shade, the fact that she could see him and knew what he was doing to me somehow made it easier for me to tell the psychic what was going on and I spilled my proverbial guts out to her that afternoon on the table in her clinic. I’d been back at least once or twice a month in the last six years since my escape and she had taken care of me each time. The tally in the column which counted people trusted had gone from zero to one that day. It wasn’t much, but it had been a start.
Dr. Martals stepped inside the room and frowned when she saw me. “Again? That’s two weeks in a row, Ardy.” Celine, as she’d asked me to call her, put down the chart she’d been carrying and came over to the table to look me over. I stripped when she asked me to and lay still while she completed her pelvic exam. “Well, you’re still a virgin. He hasn’t taken that from you yet. Let’s draw some blood and see what else our little darling has gotten you into.”
Celine drew my blood and promised to run the tests herself. She did this for me to avoid any questions from lab techs who got a curious when they saw the slight irregularities in my blood. I was human, for the most part. The odd bits that weren’t human threw the lab people into a tizzy and I’d learned to avoid that type of thing when at all possible. Lucky for me, the doctor agreed with me on that point and kept my secrets locked safe inside her head. There was no file in the clinic’s records with my name on it. No paper trail that could lead anyone who might be looking to find me in the direction of the clinic.
I dressed and waited quietly while Dr. Martals put my blood in the locked refrigerator that only she could access. The stern look she wore when she turned back to face me was expected and my eyes rolled in response to it. “I don’t know how he got out, Celine. The shielding was still up this morning but I was covered in booze and other crap when I woke up.”
“Damn. That’s not good.” She stood silent for a minute and I could tell she was thinking of some way to keep Shade from taking over and getting out of my room when I was asleep. How he’d managed to get out with the shielding Celine had shown me after the last time was beyond both of us. We talked through the spell and confirmed that it had been done right. “I think it might be time for you to go to the sanctuary I told you about. I fear for you.”
“No. I can’t. Not yet.” I swung my legs off the table and jumped down to the floor with a soft thud of combat boots on linoleum. “I’ve got your number. I’ll call if the time comes that I need to go there.” Neither of us realized in that moment just how prophetic those words would be until much, much later.
I left the clinic and stood out on the sun warmed sidewalk for a moment letting the heat soak into my skin while I debated what to do with the rest of my day. Fatigue from the lack of sleep was dragging at me, making the decision an easy one – back home and catch some sack time. A good nap, followed by lunch at the shelter downtown and a bit more digging on the internet at the library before sealing myself into my bedroom was the plan of the day.
At least that was it until my eyes caught sight of the two men – one short, the other tall – standing outside the building where I’d been living for the last seven months. It was the longest I’d ever stayed anywhere and had always managed to evade them before they found my latest hiding spot. Clearly I’d overstayed this place one day too many.
I ducked in between two buildings and thanked my lucky stars that I’d taken my duffel bag with me when I’d gone to the clinic. The loss of my clothes from the night before and the soap that doubled as my shampoo was a minor thing in the grand scheme of it all when you compared them to the possible loss of my freedom.
Wesley and Boyd spent the better part of the afternoon loitering outside my front door. One scanned the street while the other ran between their outpost on the stoop and my apartment to check that I hadn’t snuck past them via the back door. I hadn’t, of course, I was trapped three buildings over and would have been instantly visible to them had I left my hiding spot. Shade was screaming and pushing with all of his might to catch their attention and I was hanging on with every scrap of energy and power I could muster to keep him locked down. One chink in the armor and I would find myself overpowered and back in the custody of the men who had put the demon and I together like a poorly matched china set. The pieces worked together but the end result was not pretty.
My saving grace came four hours into the standoff when a large truck pulled up and parked on the curb directly in front of where I’d been hiding. It completely blocked any view of the store fronts and allowed me to slip out of the small alley I was in and duck in to the convenience store two doors back without being seen. Mr. Chen, the owner, recognized me and smiled when I held up a finger to my lips and made my way back to the rear of the store where the employee entrance led out to another alley.
I picked my way through the debris until I felt safe enough out of earshot to allow for a full run. One did not run quietly in combat boots no matter how small they were. My size sixes were bitty but they made one helluva racket when their soles slapped against the pavement while I sprinted halfway across town. Most people would have overlooked me for a teenager running to meet with friends until they got a good look at me under the rim of the baseball cap I’d tucked my hair up under and saw the eyes, wide with fear that dominated my face.
The shout that would have slowed me came a second too late as I ran pell-mell into an intersection unaware of the BMW speeding toward me until it slammed into my body and sent me sailing through the air to land on the concrete 40 feet away on the opposite side of the road. The last thought in my head before I blacked out from the pain and shock of the impact was that I would finally be free of Shadekar and the bastard would finally be sent back to the hole he’d been summoned out of.
The sound of thick rubber soles slapping against pavement caught Brody’s attention as he walked back to his apartment with his bag full of the groceries that would be his dinner in a few hours. Fear, the smell of it thick and acrid on the air tickled his nose and he turned to scan the crowd behind him to see where it originated. Hazel eyes turned glowing amber behind his sunglasses as he spotted a young girl running full tilt toward him and the intersection at his back.
Whoever she was, the girl was fast and she overtook him before he knew it. Her scent washed over his as she blew by and he inhaled the mingled scents of fear and something he hadn’t smelled on anyone else but one person. The girl who’d lived in his memory for the last nineteen years. Ardeur, with her scent of tangerines and death, had just blown past him and Brody turned to call out to her when he heard the sound of an engine speeding for the intersection she was barreling toward.
Brody dropped his groceries and ran after her. He called out for her to stop, watch out – but his shout came too late. She ran out into the road.
He watched, horrified, as the BMW slammed into the tiny woman and threw her forty feet across the road. The world around him stopped while he watched Ardeur skid across the pavement and land in a heap of denim, leather and blonde hair at the base of a streetlamp.
The world sped up again and he burst into action, yanking the cell phone from his pocket and running toward her while he punched 9-1-1 to call for an ambulance. His sheer size and werewolf speed got him to her side before anyone else did and he nearly cried out with joy when his ears picked out the sound of her heartbeat. It was faint and thready but her heart was beating and it was the best thing he’d heard in a long time.
He pushed the long golden strands of hair, coated and sticky with blood, aside and looked down at the face that still bore a resemblance to the girl he remembered while he prayed to a god he’d never believed in that she would survive. The dispatcher took the information he relayed to her and he flipped his phone shut, tucking it back into his jacket pocket.
Recalling all of his training over the last eight years of military service, Brody did a quick triage of Ardeur’s injuries while he listened for the sound of sirens in the distance. The blood in her hair was coming from a tear in her scalp and a gruesome gash in her forehead where the white glint of skull peeked through. He gingerly ran his fingers over the curve of her head and sighed with relief when he didn’t feel the telltale give of a shattered skull. It didn’t mean she couldn’t have internal injuries but he had no way of detecting those out here on the street.
“Hey, buddy, what do you think you’re doing? You could hurt that girl worse than she already is.” A hand came down on Brody’s shoulder and he turned his amber eyes up to look at the man who had dared touch him. His lip curled up in a snarl of menace that had the older man backing up, hands held up in defense in front of him. “Alright, I get it. I’m backing off.”
Another one of the bystanders dropped a large satchel at his feet and Brody spared it a glance before resuming his examination. The wail of sirens he’d picked up a moment ago was getting closer and he was determined to find which injuries were the worst so the EMT’s could focus on those when they arrived.
By the time the ambulance wailed up, lights flashing and bathing everything in bursts of red and white light, Brody had determined that Ardeur had broken both legs in various places, her right arm and several of her ribs were broken as well. The sound of booted feet running toward them was preceded by doors opening and shutting as the paramedics vacated their rig and ran over to where he knelt with Ardeur.
Brody stepped back and gave them what details he could while he watched the medics work. When they loaded Ardeur on the stretcher he followed and stopped them before they loaded her inside the rear bay of the vehicle. He leaned in, pretending to kiss her cheek, and inhaled all of the scents that clung to her. They would be useful in helping him find where she’d been in the last few hours and to track her down later. “Don’t you die on me now. I just found you and there’s a lot I need to know about where you’ve been the last nineteen years.”
With Ardeur safely loaded inside the ambulance, Brody caught the driver before he got back in the front of the vehicle and asked what hospital they were taking her to for treatment. The paramedic replied, “Legacy Meridian, in Tualatin. You family? If you are, you can ride with us.”
“Not family, no. Just an old friend.” He slapped the side of the rig and cursed as he turned and walked back to pick up his jacket by the lamp post. “Take good care of her.”
He slung his leather jacket back on over the broad set of his shoulders and was about to walk back across the street toward the grocery store he’d just left when an elderly woman touched his arm and smiled up at him. “You left your bag, son.” Brody looked down at the satchel she held up in her wizened old hand and realized that he’d forgotten to send Ardeur’s bag along with her to the hospital. He thanked the old woman and slung the bag over his shoulder, his feet turning instead toward his apartment. All of the clues he needed about Ardy’s life, he realized, were right there in the bag dangling from his shoulder.
Come back on November 6th, 2010 for a look at Chapter 8 of Possession is Nine Tenths – Ardeur.
Copyright © 2010 Danielle Gavan
All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, locations, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or have been used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, locales, or events is entirely coincidental. No portion of this work may be transmitted or reproduced in any form, or by any means, without permission in writing from the author.