Dawn was still hours away but that didn’t stop her from climbing out of her sleeping bag and reaching for her shoes.
Four hours of sleep was more than she usually got these days.
Their accommodations left much to be desire. A small shed. Ran down. Lawn mower taking up most the space.
No one mowed grass anymore. There was no one left to mow grass. Others were few and far between, and the ones you did meet up with, wasn’t worried about yard work.
The place they’ve been staying the last two days was abandoned. The house burnt down and anything worth stealing had already been taken.
It’s been over a week since Julian and she have seen another living soul, and that group wasn’t one you wanted to be seen by.
Luckily, they hadn’t been. There were six of them and all of them giant asshole thugs who considered this area theirs.
They could have it. Once Jess found who she was looking for.
Careful to not wake Julian, she eased the door opened and slipped out. She’d never been one to be afraid of the dark. She was smart enough to know that whatever could get you at night, could get you just as easily in the daylight.
She went to the old truck parked next to the shed. They had known it wouldn’t have any gas, but they checked it anyway. The lawn mower too.
Gas was like gold these days.
No gas. Damn truck didn’t even have a motor.
Jess climbed up onto the hood then up onto the roof of the shed.
Stars were still out but they didn’t hold her interest any longer. She could feel him. Feel the miles between them. Her eyes were always drawn that way.
She ignored the pain in her chest. It was always there.
Once she had thought that she couldn’t hurt more than she already did. So wrong. True pain was knowing he could come for her and he chose not to.
He hadn’t come for her and he wasn’t going to.
And fool that she was, thought he would. Thought he’d be here the second he was able to.
He hadn’t come. Nor had he come in the sixty days since.
Guess he had decided that living with the pain was better than having to put up with her.
Because he did hurt. Not as much as he once did, not as often as he once had but some nights, she’d wake up gasping in pain and she knew it was his pain. Nights were the worse. That’s why she’d learned to only sleep when she had to.
Handling her own pain was hard enough. She couldn’t handle his as well.
In the beginning, things had gotten so bad that Julian had to start getting drastic in his attempts to lessen her suffering.
His love knew no bounds. There had been a couple of times when he’d literally had to hold her and beg her to return to him. As hard as all of this has been on her it has also cost Julian dearly. Seeing her that way day after day. Always being the one who had to hold on to her. Then one day, it had gotten easier. In some ways. Worse in others.
Kellum stopped missing her. He found a way to get over her.
Except for rare occasions.
It was possible his pain had nothing to do with her. If it did, wouldn’t he have come for her?
It didn’t even matter anyway. He didn’t come. He was hanging on just fine, she wasn’t.
Not even close.
Julian found her just as the sun was coming up and without a word, took her into his arms. That was one of the things she loved most about him. She knew he wasn’t too happy that she went out and didn’t wake him, but he wouldn’t beat her to death about it.
Instead, he’d go straight to making sure she knew she wasn’t alone. Thank God for Julian. She didn’t know what she would have done if he hadn’t made it out with her.
She couldn’t have made it through any of this without him.
“Where could they be?” She asked.
He gave a sigh of relief and she knew it was because he’d been worried about her state of mind.
How she hated that. Once she considered herself a strong, independent woman. Not willing to put up with bullshit from anyone. Now she was this person. The one finding it hard to go on without a boy. The one who could crumble at a drop of a hat.
All because of a boy. An alien king and some kind of magic bullshit spell he put on her. Why would he do this to her? Make her care, make her connected to him, and then just let her go? All his talk of them being fated, of them being mated, and not being able to live without each other, pure horse manure.
All he’d done is fuck up her mind and turned her into a weak, pathetic creature who was always in pain. Her very flesh ached and felt unnatural. The damn mark on her chest never stopped burning. Her insides felt shredded. She was barely hanging onto her sanity.
Worst part? If he materialized here right this second, she’d be in his arms before she could help herself.
The thought of his arms around her was enough to fill her eyes with tears.
Julian’s arms tighten around her.
“I’m okay. No meltdown today. There’s no time for one. We have to find Hayley and Macie.”
They’ve been missing for over a week. Or at least that’s when they were supposed to meet up. The last time they’d actually seen them was over a month ago. Hayley had been messed up because Sinful hadn’t checked in, and as much of an ass as he was, he always checked in with the girls once a week and brought them supplies. Always.
Then while Jess and Julian had been looking for him, the girls went missing. That wasn’t a coincidence.
She was really worried about all of them. “Think Thomas got our message? We can’t just sit around here waiting much longer.”
“We’ll give him another day. We need the rest any way.”
She longed for the days when a person could pick up a phone and find whoever they were looking for. Finding three people now was like finding a rain drop in a river.
They searched the two nearest towns. Towns that were not near, not when you were on foot. It took them nearly a week to get to the first one. Sunnydale. Yeah, some jerk renamed the town. It consisted of about ten people who mostly stuck to themselves. Next town was three days from there and didn’t bother with a name. It contained eight men. All ages. Decent enough folk. They had started up a trading post of sort. They had four working trucks and drove around finding supplies which you could wheel and deal for if you had something better to offer.
Sinful up till now, had been spending a lot of time there. Getting the girls, the things they needed. Getting drunk as often as he could.
No one had seen him in months.
Which was why they were here. It was time to see if Thomas knew where his brother was. He was an asshole thug, but he cared for his brother. At least a little bit.
“Hayley is a smart girl. She must be with Sin. She wouldn’t just go off on her own.”
No, she wouldn’t have. Not unless she had no choice. She also wouldn’t have taken off without telling them.
“If something happened to them then__________.”
“Bull shit. You’re not going to take that on you. All you’ve done is try and help those two. They know it and you should too.”
Feeling him place his hand over her burn mark, she looked at him. “It’s not bad.” She whispered.
At first, some days it had been bad enough to burn holes in her shirt. She caught his hand and kissed one of the scars he carried because of it.
“Maybe he found her.”
Savion. Maybe he had. Just because Kell hadn’t come for her didn’t mean Savion wasn’t looking for Macie.
Maybe. God, it all seemed so hopeless. If he did find them how were they going to get them back? Would Hayley even want to be saved? None of this had been easy on Macie. The child had always been quiet but these days she very seldom said anything. She never laughed and played anymore.
Hayley has been wondering for a long time rather she was doing her sister more harm than good. Was giving up her sister the best thing to do?
“Maybe.” Jess answered, her voice tired and defeated.
“Jess, look at me.”
He did this all the time now. Making her look at him. Grounding her. Anything to keep her from slipping away.
“Thank you. Now tell me what we are going to do.”
“Give Thomas another day. Hope he’s heard from Sinful. If not, then we go to Galveston.”
Galveston was the most populated city around here. Populated with every jackass and criminal that was left. Any smart person stayed away, but they’ve been hearing rumors that people were being taken there against their will. Just maybe that is what happened to Sin. God forbid Hayley and Macie too.
“One more day. Or we stop waiting for Thomas and we go find him.”
She knew Julian was worried about that. The giant asshole thugs were not a nice bunch. The first time they’d met them, the first time Sin found out his brother was alive had been a nice homecoming of sorts. It hadn’t lasted very long. A couple of the asses got it into their heads that they got to keep her and Hayley.
They only reason they were able to get away was because two of the goons had been drunk off their asses and passed out. Even then it had been one hell of a fight.
His mouth tightened but he didn’t disagree. “Okay, but I want you to get some rest. Some real rest, baby. I’ll watch over you.”
Since she was more tired than she’s ever been in her life, she let him lead her down from the roof top.
He tucked her in like she was a kid.
“I love you, Julian. I don’t know what I would do without you.”
“Couldn’t get rid of me if you tried. You and me, baby. Always. Even though you’d never admit it, I know you sometimes look in that direction and wish he was here but, baby, I let him have you once and he let you go. He lost his chance. You’re mine now. He can’t have you back.”
“Okay.” She fell asleep to his fingers running through her hair.