Lillian is waiting, unnecessarily large shotgun in hand, when Axel and I come running through the front door.
“Whoa!” Axel shoves me behind him, his body now shielding mine. “Mom, relax, it’s just us.”
She lowers the gun but keeps her finger on the trigger. “Where is it? Did it follow you here?”
“He took off.” I move around the two of them and head into the living room. “I can’t feel him anymore. If he is still in town, which I don’t think he is, he is far enough away that I can’t pick him up. I think he left, for now, went back to wherever he was from to tell whoever sent him that he found me.”
Relief floods over me as I catch sight of Alyssa fidgeting nervously on the couch. I was worried he had taken off and somehow gotten to her. I knew she would listen to Axel and head home, but I had still been worried.
She rushed to her brother’s side, arms wrapping around his waist. “Thank god. You guys were gone for so long that I was worried something had happened. You never texted me. I tried calling and it went to voicemail.”
“Broke it chasing after Eveline,” he explains. “I’ll have to get a new one tomorrow.”
I watch out the corner of my eye as Lillian peers out the window next to the front door, sliding the heavy locks into place. She must not feel completely safe because, while she is now sitting on the large chair I have only ever seen her sit on, the gun is still within arms reach.
“Did you call the hospital?” I ease myself down onto the couch, my muscles sore from the build-up and then letdown that I experienced earlier.
However, pain aside, now that I am no longer in ‘don’t get killed’ mode and back to normal I find myself not wanting to kill Axel for once. I still feel antsy, my body oddly itching to go for a very long run, but being that there is potentially still a pissed off Reaper in the area that is probably not the best idea.
The downside is that I am still very aware of Axel, and the fact that I can practically feel the heat coming off of his skin right now is making me ache in ways that are non-Reaper related.
I need to get my shit straight and focus on one thing at a time, starting with the energy-thirty killer who threatened me today.
Lillian nods her head. “Yes, but the doctor said there is still no change in her condition. I also called the police station and left an anonymous message stating that I had heard some man talking about your mother in a bar but that he wasn’t a very safe looking person. It was a long shot, and I could have done better had I had more time to prepare, but it got the job done. Officer Umphrey showed up about ten minutes later asking if your mother had ever frequented the bar I mentioned in the message. I informed him that I would have you contact him once you and Axel returned from running a few errands I had sent you out to do. He let me know about the tip and said that security would be issued for your mother during her hospital stay, just in case.”
I all but demanded Axel allow me to stop by the hospital before handing over the keys to my car, having been informed by him that I was looking a little too shaken to drive. However, once he brought it to my attention that the Reaper had seemed to be under the impression that my mother had died and it was in her best interest to keep it that way, I agreed to head straight to his house.
It was hard, not going to see her when the thing that had her hurt was out there, but I knew it was for the best.
“Eveline, is it true what Axel said about the Reaper being here to bring you back with him?” Lillian probes.
“Sadly. Apparently, his father and mine were in the same coven and, when my father left, he pissed off a bunch of people and now he owes them a bunch of money. He also said my father killed his, which is kind of badass and kind of scary, but he didn’t say when. It had to have been years ago though because I saw my father over the summer and he was not in any condition to be doing anything. Lillian, is it hard to kill a Reaper?”
“Virtually impossible.” She nods towards the shotgun by her legs. “That would do enough damage to keep one down long enough for Axel to take care of it, but it wouldn’t kill it on its own. Usually, Reapers are killed by their own kind, drained of all their energy, but sometimes the Nexxus resort to desperate measures when forced to and manage to take one down. Other than that, just like everything else, they die of old age. Even your father, who chose insanity of slaughter, will pass due to age.”
I throw my hands up in surrender. “Well, shit. So, basically, I am screwed. Well, unless I suddenly become an expert on killing something far more prepared to fight than I am, which we know isn’t going to happen, or agree to join his merry band of killers, which sure as hell isn’t going to happen. Decisions, decisions. This is literally a perfect example of kill or be killed.”
“Those aren’t your only options.” Axel takes my hand into his. “We will figure this out.”
I jerk my hand away, jumping off the couch so that I can pace. “For the love of god, stop with that. How many times are you going to say that? ‘We will figure this out.’ That is literally your answer for everything, isn’t it? Stop me if I am wrong, but we now have to figure out how to stop my powers from presenting early, stop me from wanting to kill everyone once I turn eighteen, and, now, how to stop the Reaper who attacked my mom from killing me or forcing me to come back with him to his coven. Did I miss anything? Yeah, I didn’t think so. I think we are now maxed out on things that need figuring. I get that you want to be optimistic, I really do, but maybe it is time to start planning on what to do when the bad shit happens instead of how to stop it. Maybe, instead of hoping for some miracle cure, I take my ass to California and you guys take that time to go somewhere I can’t find you.”
Lillian clears her throat, directing my attention away from Axel and back to her. “Eveline, while I understand that you are upset, I will have to ask that you keep a tight leash on that Reaper side of yours while under my roof.”
The authoritative tone in her voice sends my tunnel vision, and the dark eyes that come with it, running for the hills.
I hang my head in shame. “Sorry.”
“It’s okay. Things like this are going to happen, especially when you have to deal with all of this stress along with trying to handle new powers, but you will get used to it. When Axel was first learning control we had trees sprouting up all over the place. He got so mad at his father once that a redwood fell through the roof, almost took out half the house. No one was hurt, thankfully, but it was quite a sight.”
I muffle my laugh. Strangely enough, hearing that makes me feel better. “Thank you.”
“No problem. Now, did the Reaper give you any clue as to where his coven was from? If you can pinpoint a location then maybe we can trace your lineage back. It won’t help us stop your powers but it might help us track down someone who can help. Your father wouldn’t have just left his coven without talking to a member of his family first. Reapers, they don’t grow up knowing there is an alternative way. Someone in your family or someone in that coven would have been the one to tell him about it.”
I shake my head. “No, he didn’t. He had this strange accent but I have no idea where it was from.”
“Well, I will have a friend look into it anyway. Maybe she can figure something out. A Reaper leaving his coven for a human would have been big news and it might have made its way to our side of things.”
“Thanks.” I let out a sigh. “This is getting ridiculous. When did this become my life? It’s like I’m living out one of those cheesy novels Katrena is always reading. For once I just want to worry about normal shit, like what my hair looks like or what overpriced dress I am going to wear to Fall Formal.”
“Um, speaking of Fall Formal,” Alyssa chimes in, her cheeks reddening. “I know this might not be the best time to mention it, what with Eveline being stalked by a Reaper and all, but I got asked to go.”
“Who?” Lillian and Axel asked in unison, both of their tones a combination of curious and protective.
I can’t help it, I laugh.
Alyssa mumbles a response that seems to go unheard by the other but me, I hear her loud and clear.
I let out a small gasp. “Did you, did you just say Katrena?”
She nods her head slowly.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for it to come out that way. It’s not that I am shocked that someone asked you, I am just shocked it was her. No, that came out wrong too. What I meant to say was, I just didn’t know that you-”
“Liked girls?” she finishes for me. “It’s not something that has come up yet. Plus, you never asked. So, mom, can I do? It’s a senior’s only kind of thing, which means you have to sign some kind of permission thing, but I would really like to go.”
“Of course you can do but give the recent change of events, Axel will be there to supervise. He won’t be supervising you, of course, just keeping an eye on things, just in case.”
Axel scoffs loudly. “Might want to go ahead and call Kat to let her know its a no-go because me at Fall Formal is not happening.”
“Oh, it’s happening,” Lillian says with a great amount of certainty. “I know you think things like that are silly but I am certain that you can take a night off from trying to save everyone to allow your sister a bit of normality. This is something you’re going to have to get used to, Axel. You’re Nexxus, there is always going to be a risk that something wants to kill you. So, suck it up. That reminds me, you’re going to need a suit.”