|1| . revised 4/2/21
Wind tears through the trees, biting at my skin as I struggle with the buttons on the thick, leather jacket I managed to score at the thrift store last week. I force my sluggish feet to move forward through the snow, each step more exhausting than the last.
More than six inches of this frosty abomination as fallen over the past two hours, the slush now soaking into the bottom of my jeans so that it can melt against my always warm skin.
A twig snaps behind me and I whirl around, fists up and ready to strike. I scan the seemingly empty streets, my eyes straining to see through the thick flurry around me.
The feeling that I am being watched has more than doubled since yesterday when I found the small note that had been tucked under the mat by my door.
‘You need to leave,’ it had warned.
It was vague as hell but it was more than enough to deter me from continuing my plans for the day and head for the airport instead.
Maybe I am being followed. Or maybe this is just the general wave of paranoia that comes with walking the streets of Salt Lake City alone at night. The crime rate here may be statically lower than other places in the U.S but, from what I have experienced in my life, statistics don’t always ring true.
Another gust of wind tears at me and I cram my hands back into my pockets, trying hard not to dwell on the fact that there are places in the world that aren’t experiencing sub-zero temperatures right now; places where it is warm year round and people are currently lounging by the pool sipping brightly colored cocktails.
Why the hell did I pick Utah as my hiding place?
‘Because they know you love the warm weather. Because you knew this was the last place that they would come looking for you,’ I remind myself. ‘Looks like you were wrong again, doesn’t it?’
Warmth floods into the hall as I open the door to the one bedroom apartment that I have been calling home and step inside, taking a moment to gather my thoughts and look over my belongings. Everything looks just as I left it, so why does this do nothing to ease the heavy feeling sinking over me?
My stomach growls nosily as I slip out of my drenched jeans and into a semi-clean pair of sweatpants, kicking at the pile of dirty laundry that has accumulated on the floor.
Despite my persistent tone and frequent calls to the airport, there had been no last minute cancellations that I could scoop up. I had even gone as far as to let them know that price was of no issue, a comment that would have usually landed me a cushy seat in first class, but had gotten me nowhere closer to leaving.
Thanks to this blizzard there wasn’t a train, plane or bus leaving town until tomorrow morning.
My fridge is practically bare and I pull out the three day old carton of Thai takeout, praying that nothing has begun to grow on it.
Most days I would have just sucked it up and trekked down to the twenty-four-hour convience store down the street but that is not an option for me today; not when there are people lurking the streets leaving ominous notes outside my door.
It has been a day and a half since I remembered to eat more than a handful of stale potato chips and, while this might not seem like much because the average person can go a good few days without eating before it becomes too much, it is far too long for someone like me. Thanks to the thing that I have become, my body requires some from of nourishment every four hours before it begins threatening to shut down and one hell of a migraine kicks in.
A familiar chill crawls across my skin and I turn, launching the knife that was hidden at my waist across the room. It buries itself in the wall, only inches away from the person who decided to attempt to sneak up on me.
I cock my head to the side in amusement and takin the unforgettable man standing in front of me. I take in the platinum blonde hair styled perfectly into a quiff, tall lean build and the calculating ice-blue eyes of someone who has spent far too much time learning to kill with minimal effort.
He looks more like a model than a killer. Even now, after having to have marched his way through inches of snow just to get here, there is not one thing about him that is out of place.
It has been a year and a half since I last as Jeremiah Regal, the man who was my partner during my time at the Department of Supernatural Affairs, but even if hell had frozen over and he had decided to change his signature look, I would have recognized that arrogant smirk.
He glances over his shoulder at the knife as if it were never even a threat to him.
“Glad to see those instincts of yours are still intact,’ he muses casually, removing the knife from the wall so that he can twirl it between his fingers the same way one might do with a coin. “Too bad your aim has gone to shit.”
I brandish a second knife. “That was a warning shot. Trust me, Jeremiah, my aim is just as good as you remember. Now, tell me what you want.”
“For you to cut the act.” His voice is cold, void of all emotion. “Stop pretending like you weren’t expecting this to happen. I have been watching you all day and you have been your version of paranoid. You knew this was coming, you just didn’t know when.”
He’s right, I have been expecting this. In fact, there has never been a time when I expected the DSA to give up their search for me. It is the reason why I have kept my guard up all these years.
Too bad the airline had to be so set in their ways. It would have made my whole damn life to know that Jeremiah had arrived here to find nothing but stale food, dirty laundry and a note telling him to go fuck himself.
“Would you believe me if I said that I volunteered?” He spins the knife one last time before tossing it over to me.
I catch it between two fingers with ease, sliding it and its twin into my jacket pocket.
“Who all did you bring with you?” My eyes flit towards the door and, from where I am standing, the lock remains in place. This means that Jeremiah either managed to slip in after I came home without me noticing him or he hasn’t been following me as long as I assumed he was. “Max? Jenna? The Chief himself? Don’t try to fool me into believing that you came alone because, after what happened in Tulsa, there is no way they’d ever been dumb enough to let you come on your own. You may have sweet talked your way out of trouble for letting me slip by but they wouldn’t have sent you all this way without backup. Not after someone like me.”
He gives an appreciative nod. “Peter; he is out in the hall in case I need him. I considered bring him in with me but I didn’t want to spook you before we had a chance to talk.”
“Peter, huh?” I run my fingers through my knotted hair before twisting it up into a messy bun. “The DSA must be feeling pretty lost without its two best agents roaming the streets. Tell me, how did you manage to get him on a plane?”
Jeremiah removes the heavy, grey pea coat and drapes it across the back of the chair seated at my poor excuse for a dining room table. “He was pretty much game for anything once he heard that it was you I was coming here to collect. As it turns out, there are more than a few people willing to leave the comforts of home if means lending a hand in bringing one of the DSA’s most wanted. Peter, however, was an obvious choice being that I knew he wouldn’t go soft if things went south and I needed to get a little rough with you.”
I slide into the empty seat across from him and rest my hands on the table, Jeremiah mimicking my actions. It is a simple gesture but it lets me know that he is not currently plotting a blitz attack.
“The obvious choice, eh? I guess that means he’s still a bit sour about my breaking his nose?” I smile, thinking back to the last time I saw the mall waiting in the hall.
Peter is more muscle than he is anything else, brains included. He possesses twice the strength of most Fae males and is three times as lethal. The one and only time we ever squared up against each other ended with his nose in multiple pieces; a grudge he seems to be holding onto tightly.
Taking a loss like that from the one and only female field agent in the DSA would have done more than leave a bruise.
Jeremiah lets out a soft chuckle. “Maybe just a little.”
“How long will we be taking this trip down memory lane before we reach your point? What exactly are you doing here?”
“You escaped a maximum security prison, leaving six guards injured and two more dead, went on the run, and then added that little stunt in Tulsa to the list,” he begins, reaching across the table to place a pair of crystal cuffs in front of me. The long faded scars on my wrists twinge, my body remembering what happened the last time it came in contact with a pair similar to those. “I am here to bring you in.”
There are very few things in this realm, or any other realm for that matter, that can keep someone from using their magik but these particular crystals happen to be one of them. Slapping a pair of those bad boys on someone results in instantaneous pain that engulfs your entire body; pain that grows stronger the more you struggle. That torture doesn’t end until they are removed and, even then, the memory of that pain lasts a lifetime.
My mind has already begun to formulate an escape plan. “Not happening. You might as well go ahead and call Peter and whoever else you might have lurking around out there and let them know your little plan is a no-go”
I push back in my seat, moving away from the table and towards the closet where I stash my emergency duffel bag. If the DSA was dumb enough to send only the two of them to collect me then I stand a chance of getting out of here with only minor injuries.
“Someone has been killing Ayngels,” Jeremiah announces, ignoring the order I just gave him and letting me know that he is now well that he no longer answers to me. “We have already located five bodies over the past three weeks; all of them severely mutilated with their wings torn off. Not cut off but torn completely off.”
My posture goes stiff. “You think it’s a Son doing this?”
“Not think, we know it is one of them. There are only two creatures in all the realms capable of taking down an Ayngel, let alone ripping its wings clear off, and I am staring at one of them. You have been hiding out in a variety of shit-holes for the past year and a half, which means you aren’t a suspect. The problem we have is we don’t know which Son is responsible and we don’t to screw up and accuse the wrong one.”
“Sounds like you have one hell of a personal problem on your hands.” I remove the bag from the closet and toss it over my shoulders. “None of this has anything to do with me; not anymore. Any loyalty I might have had to the DSA died the moment they locked me away for no reason.”
Jeremiah finally moves, rising from his seat. “As ironic as this is going to sound, I am here to offer you a deal. If you come back with me willingly and help us catch the Son behind then murders then you will get your life back. That means no more warrants, no more contracts, and no more running. The Chief is willing to overlook all your past offenses as long as you are willing to adhere to the rules that are to be set prior to your acceptance of his offer.”
“See, I knew you had your reasons for volunteering to come. So, that’s it?” I tap my foot impatiently, waiting for him to tell me the bullshit hidden inside his offer. “I catch your killer and I get to go free, just like that? Doesn’t add up.”
Jeremiah lets out a sigh, sliding his arms through his jacket as he eyes his watch.”Look, I don’t have the time to go into every detail of the deal because I am already behind schedule. The Chief will bring you up to par once we arrive but, as it was explained to me, there are no added stipulations.”
“Why me? Why go through all the trouble of tracking me down just to try and convince me to hunt down a Son?”
“You know why. So, we doing this or not?”
I consider all of my options for a moment, aware that declining means having to fight my way out of here. I fling the front door open, smiling up at the sandy-haired agent looming in the doorway.
“Hey Eden, you’re looking worse for wear these days,” Peter greets, scowling once he catches a glimpse of my cuff free wrists. “What, no cuffs? Damn, you sure as hell know how to suck the fun out of a perfectly good vacation.”