Aura

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27/Sink Or Swim I'm Diving In

The red Mercedes pulled into the familiar drive. We could see my mom’s SUV parked in the garage through the windows in the tan garage door.

Nash helped me out of the Mercedes. I noticed with a wince how the roof needed to be replaced, the white paint on the trim was chipping, and the cement in the drive was cracked beyond repair. Was this the price for my degree?

The front door was locked when Amber tried the knob. The tip of my leather bound shoe flipped the corner of the welcome mat over to reveal the spare key. Nash picked it up and jiggled it in the tight lock. We almost never used this door or the key. A brief glace back to the car told me Michael was staying behind in the driver’s seat.

The front door groaned proving just how unused it was. Amber darted through the door first.

“Hey wait! My mom might see you!” My fingers fumbled for her collar but she was fast. Amber walked briskly for the garage door through the kitchen. Our ancient garage door groaned to life at the press of a button.

“What’s she doing?” I turned to Nash who had begun sniffing loudly around the room.

Nash inspected the dark room with critical eyes. “Inviting the vampire in. The garage is the shortest route to get out of the sunlight. Its past his bedtime, I’m sure he’ll crash soon.” A yawn stretched his mouth. “Let’s get your mom and get out. I’d like to catch some sleep too.”

Amber followed Michael in through the kitchen. Unease settled in my gut when I noticed the kitchen light was off too. “Maybe she crashed after work, I’ll go check.” My pointer finger signaled one minute. Our house was a small two bed one bath single story. My mother always looked on the bright side when I complained how small our house was compared to my friend’s, it was easy to clean and cozy just for the two of us. Pictures of our adventures together lined the narrow hallway. The first fish we caught together, both of us too freaked to get the bass off the hook. My first goal at three with mud streaked down my face.

Two solid knocks on her bedroom door didn’t wake her. “Mamà?” I turned the knob and walked into an empty room. Her scrubs were laid out for tomorrow’s shift. She was here somewhere. I opened my bedroom door to find another empty room. She wasn’t in the bathroom either. Panic seized my lungs, the feeling of dread amplified when Nash held up my mom’s cell phone.

“It was on the counter in the kitchen.” Nash held it out for me to take.

“She never leaves without it. She has to be here. Her clothes are laid out for tomorrow too. Mamà! ¿Dónde estàs?” I frantically searched every room twice. My shoulder brushed the framed picture of my mother graduating college. The frame cracked at the floor’s contact. I cradled the frame and her phone in my hands. Tears choked any response I could’ve had. How did Seth get to her before us? Michael drove thirty over the speed limit! What do we do now?

Nash sat behind me with his legs to either side. He gently coaxed me into his arms and rocked us through my tears. “Sh sh, we’ll find your mom. We’ll get through this together.” I was wasting time crying but my body had no other function than to be useless.

Amber stepped over us and into the bathroom. If I had energy I would have told her to go away and give us privacy. Immediately, I regretted my thoughts as she sat beside us with a tissue box in one hand and a warm wash cloth in the other. I meant to thank her, but instead a sob replaced my gratitude. Maybe it was because my eyes were sensitive and swollen, but I could swear I saw an emotion cross her features. Pity perhaps? Empathy? Or maybe she knew my situation all too well, Michael after all gave the homeless a chance to live well as his servants.

“Amber,” Her head snapped to attention, the slight smile vanished. “Find out what the neighbors know. Look for anything that could be used as a landing pad.” Michael dismissed her.

Nash’s heartbeat thumped against my ear, drowning out Michael’s side of the conversation.

“You think he took the plane? Well that would explain how he could’ve gotten here first.” Michael replied with something about forced entry. “No I didn’t see any either. Jessica does your mom keep all the doors locked?” I nodded my head to the beat of his heart, the only thing grounding me. “The house looks clean, no struggle.”

“Now will you involve yourself? Seth involved another species.” Nash rested his chin on the crown of my head.

“So did you.” Michael countered.

A growl reverberated deep in Nash’s chest. “If I could keep Jessica out of this I would. This has gotten out of control. If I go talk some sense into Seth he’ll ambush me and I’ll die before two words are spoken. If I let this go, word of the pack turning humans will reach the High Alpha and we all will die. Could your vampire clan stand with me to at least make them pause and listen?”

“The illusion on war is still a form of war which breaks the laws. Then your pack and my clan would be punished. Besides, you’re forgetting one more reason not to involve the council.”

I looked up when the silence stretched on. Both men were looking directly at me. “Me? Why me?” My words were raw with emotion.

“You’re his daughter.”

“No I’m not.” I snapped irritably.

Nash tucked hair behind my ear. “Jessica, I was hoping your mom was here to explain this to both of you. But Alpha Charlie Davis was your father. There are too many coincidences for him not to be.”

“No.” Space divided us as I backed into the opposite wall.

“Jessica, it doesn’t matter what the truth is, if the council believes you are the product of a broken law they will kill you. If they find out you can do the same thing Davis could...” Nash attempted to smooth out my frown but retreated at my glare.

“If Davis had lived I have no doubt the council would have targeted him for his visions eventually. The High Alpha may not have believed him at the time, but once you met Davis it was hard to deny the truth.” Michael tilted his head with a thoughtful look pinching his brows together. “If she can see into the future also, maybe it’s time we all get some sleep.” I didn’t miss Michael’s interested glance my way. Well if he wasn’t interested in turning me into a vampire before, that look sure said he was now.

I caught his meaning and jumped from the floor with vigor. Maybe I would see where my mom was. My thoughts soured when I realized there was a chance I wouldn’t see anything. I had no control over it and most of the time my dreams centered on Nash. “I need the tea.” My demand was no surprise to Nash. He only stood and nodded.

Amber shut the front door and locked it. “Master, one neighbor confirmed a man was here at daybreak. Could it have been your mother’s boyfriend or brother?”

I shook my head. “No she gave up dating after...Davis.” A part of me rebelled at the thought but Nash was right, there were too many coincidences. “We are estranged from family.”

Amber continued without missing a beat. “No signs of air transportation, but the cab could have taken them to the air strip just outside of town.”

“That’s just Joe’s private field it’s for his crop duster.” Three sets of eyes gave me a range of emotion all saying ‘stupid’. Oh, I guess they could’ve used it. Joe probably would never know since he lived far away from the landing strip.

“Change of plans. I’ll need a list of ingredients to brew a tea.” Nash and Amber tugged on drawers in the kitchen for a notepad and pen. He began to list off common herbs and ones I’m pretty sure he made up. Amber was out the door within minutes.

Michael stretched until his fingers touched the popcorn ceiling. “If we are mistaken and your mother comes back. How likely is she to stab me with a wooden stake if I sleep in her bed?”

A genuine smile tugged at my lips. “Not very. Since we don’t own any of those. But we do have a gun.”

His smile was wicked in return. “Silver bullets?”

“No but I’m sure regular lead hurts too.” Nash chuckled at our exchange and led me into the other bedroom. My single bed glared back at me with contempt. My last night here, before college started, felt like a lifetime ago. The door softly shut behind us. Surprise flitted across my features when Nash laid on the bed and patted the space beside him. I hesitated but he made no move to pressure my decision. Again it felt like he was in my head probing for answers I didn’t have yet. According to Nash, he didn’t kill Davis. But what if he did? Nash believed Davis was my father. Maybe he lied to protect himself. If Nash was the reason I didn’t grow up with a father, which grated. If Nash was the reason my mother was so heartbroken and refused to date, now that thought boiled my blood. He had a reason to lie. But he also had reason to tell the truth. Cautiously, my feet inched closer to the bed. His arms wrapped around me and the blanket covered us both. We lay like that for an hour or more, time just seemed to slip away in his arms. Neither of us talked, just enjoyed the comfort of closeness. A light wrap at my bedroom door jolted me from my morbid daydream.

Amber came in at Nash’s gentle call. “I followed your instructions.” A coffee mug steamed from her hands. I took it, its warmth calmed my nervousness just enough. “I’ll be in the kitchen. If your mother comes back I’ll wake you.” Amber pushed her thick frames up her nose and turned on her heels. The door closed with a click behind her.

I could feel Nash’s gaze bore into the back of my head. The last time Nash made this tea, someone died. Although he didn’t specifically make this one, he still gave Amber the recipe. My earlier thought returned in a whisper. What if he’s tying up loose ends? He lied by omission to keep his alpha title. But what would my death change? Did I believe Nash or even trust him?

The cup tipped to my lips, the hot liquid spilled into my mouth and down my throat. Trust or not, I had to find my mom.

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