Authors: Lynnie Purcell
“And now he’s sent you to get revenge…blah, blah, blah,” I said firmly shutting away the fear.
“Can you skip the dramatic part and get to the part where you try to kill me?”
“He hasn’t sent me to kill you, Eve. No, not to kill. Revenge is for people without vision, without purpose. ” He gestured with the knife negligently. “You can look at this is an invitation to visit with the greatest Watcher of all time.”
“I’m going to have to decline,” I said.
He moved closer at my reply, bringing his inexplicable dryness with him. “I’m really not
asking,” he said.
A flicker of movement from the dark woods behind him caught my eye. Hope replaced the fear.
“It’s good you’re not asking...cause I have no intention of going.” I prepared my body to move, coiled like a tightly wound spring. The man’s eyes narrowed as I leaned forward, ready to run.
Daniel had finished fighting the Nightstalker. He crossed the short distance between the man and the woods and attacked the man with a fast lunge. I spun out of the way as they fell to the ground and rolled beyond me, kicking and punching. Lightning shattered the space between us, throwing me to the ground. All my air whooshed out as I hit the ground right on top of a shattered piece of metal from the car. My neck throbbed with painful fire and automatic tears of pain welled into my eyes as I landed.
I raised my head, everything swimming, and saw Daniel and the man, now standing, dance
around the road. In the distance, another car sped toward us, heedless of the danger. The bright lights counted down the time we had left until an innocent got caught up in the chaos. I couldn’t let that happen. Blood dripped from my neck, merging with the rain coursing down my body, as I stood again. The sounds of their fight meshed with my throbbing head in a symphony of
destructiveness. Every step was a battle against passing out. As I tried to make my way over to Daniel, to help him somehow, another flash of lightning hit the road and Daniel and the Seeker were thrown apart. The Seeker ran into the darkness, the rain increasing to hide his passing.
Daniel rolled to his feet and started forward, but he stopped before he had taken even two steps.
He stood in the road for a minute fighting against two powerful urges, panting heavily. His back remained tense, his fists clenched in his anger; his shirt was ripped in places and his hair was plastered against his forehead in dank realism. I stumbled across the road to make sure he was okay, my ears ringing from the second lightning blast. He noticed the movement of my
stumbling feet and ran to me, forgetting about his anger in an instant. The headlights down the road were much closer now.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
“Yes….no…I don’t know,” I said.
He grabbed my hand, a spark dancing between our fingers. “We can’t stay here,” he told me.
The headlights started to slow at the sight of the car fire, and the people’s thoughts from inside reached out to graze my mind. I heard their panic as they, a couple, wondered if someone was hurt. They hadn’t noticed us standing here. Yet. Daniel tugged on my hand to get me moving, and we ran to the woods. We passed by a much smaller fire as we ran, the charred remains of the Nightstalker Daniel had killed.
“This area isn’t safe. The Seeker is in here somewhere,” Daniel said, still all business as we walked.
“Mmhhhh,” I agreed.
My knees started to tremble from the hit to the skull. A trickle of the blood coursing down the back of my arms, down my hands, caught his attention. He stopped and looked at my arms,
which the asphalt had grazed in my fall. “You’re hurt!”
His worried face slid in and out of focus. He stepped around me to take a closer look and noticed the wound on my neck. I focused on the blurry trees as he disappeared from view, fighting
against the urge to pass out.
“You’re really hurt,” he said.
“I thought we covered that?” I asked.
“I can’t fix it here,” he told me. “I’m going to call Jackson to pick us up. Do you think you can walk?”
“Walk? No. Stand? No.”
I swayed, and he caught my arm. All the adrenaline from the fight had left my body, and I felt impossibly weak. He pulled a small knife out of his pocket and cut a strip of fabric from his shirt.
He pushed it against the back of my head. “Hold this here,” he commanded me.
Not knowing what I was agreeing to, I held the fabric in place without argument. Daniel flipped open his phone and pressed the speed dial. He talked to Jackson for a long couple of minutes, forcing me to sit as he did. I sat on a low rock, wet with the passing rain and kept staring at the trees.
“He’s going to meet us on a back road. I’ll carry you,” Daniel finally said, his conversation over.
He helped me stand then pulled me into his arms. He was gentle, but his touch made my neck hurt worse; anything and everything made it hurt worse, including the soft which fluttered through the trees.
I had no idea how long we walked. It felt like days. Water dripped from the trees above, and crickets and wildlife made music in the dark. The rain had passed with our attacker’s departure, but the forest was still drenched with the storm. Daniel talked to me constantly, to keep me conscious, not that I could have repeated back to him anything he said. As he talked, and I fought the darkness, a slow realization crept into my thoughts. Perhaps, it was being on the edge of unconsciousness, or the loss of blood making me crazy, but I suddenly knew what I had to do. It was obvious. When Daniel set me down next to an old dirt road, I felt weak, but strangely alive. I knew what had to be done, and that gave me purpose.
While we waited for Jackson to pick us up, Daniel checked on my wounds. He took the shirt
away from my neck and touched it with gentle fingers. It stung and throbbed, Daniel’s touch only making it worse. I kept up a long string of expletives under my breath to keep from crying.
Finally, along with my flow of words, which would have made a sailor blush, he moved on to my hands and arms. “These don’t look too deep. When we get back, we’ll need to clean it. Your neck on the other hand…”
I nodded at the ground, understanding the seriousness of the wound, but determined to downplay it. “It’s not that bad…” I said.
I sensed him rolling his eyes, but he didn’t comment. He circled around and lifted my chin with one finger, delicately, sensing my emotions. “Hey, it’s okay.”
His green eyes glittered around the moisture from the rain, which was clinging to his face and eyelashes. He words cleared the dizziness and the chaos of my conflicting thoughts. The
realization I had made while we had been walking found words on my lips.
“It’s not okay,” I said slowly, staring at a large bush where water was dripping down constantly from a tree above it. I picked up a rock off the forest floor and weighed it in my palm for a moment. “I’m sick of this.” I threw the rock at the bush.
“Getting hurt?” he asked, thinking I was upset about my wound/
“Being hunted. I’m done. I’m through.”
Daniel sighed. “You can’t just turn that off, Clare. It’s part of who we are.”
“But you can fight it,” I said.
Daniel was hurt. “You think I’ve just been sitting around amusing myself? I’ve been trying to get answers! I’ve contacted everyone I can think of to find out why Marcus is after you, and how we can prevent him from getting what he wants.”
“Answers don’t matter,” I decided. “Not nearly as much as stopping this from happening again.
I’m sick of the tension, of waiting around for the next attack. I’m sick of always having to be guarded and feel like I’m in a small little box of silent terror. I won’t do it anymore.” I swayed a little as I stood up. “I’m done running, and I’m done pretending like everything is normal.
Nothing about my life is normal. And...I have to protect Ellen. What if she had been with me instead of you? She’d be dead.”
“You’d both be dead,” Daniel corrected. His face was narrowed in thought, his eyebrows almost touching his nose.
“Right.” I hated I wasn’t more able to protect the people in my life, but was no less determined to do what I had decided. “I’m going to take the fight to Marcus. He’s the one hunting me…he’s the problem.”
“Do you know what you’re saying?” Daniel asked me.
“Yes,” I said automatically.
“Do you?” He stepped closer, generating an aura of alarming intensity.
I wasn’t intimidated enough to step away. I had a purpose, and that made me stubborn. “Yes.”
He doubted me. He expressed his doubt in words that were careful, precise. “It means more
death, possibly people you care about. It means having to kill again. It means fighting hard, and, perhaps, fighting for a long, long time. Marcus isn’t an easy target. He’s paranoid. He switches locations often. No one knows where he’s going to be on any given day…only his most trusted companions, and even they are sometimes left in the dark. He has an army of loyal fanatics, who are all as paranoid as he is. A whole army of Seekers and Nightstalkers willing to do his bidding for money, power, whatever…and we have, well, four of us, not including Han and Beatrice,
who I would never ask to fight.”
“I would rather fight than run,” I said. “That’s my choice. I don’t care about the odds. I don’t care why he’s after me…I just want it to stop. I just want to stop him from doing it to anyone else.”
Daniel’s lips moved to form a reply, or perhaps to tell me about the mysterious plan he had, but he was cut off by the sound of tires ripping through the dirt road. We both turned at the sound.
Jackson appeared over a hill in a large, rusted truck, his grin irrepressible despite the danger we were all in. Daniel kicked at an unoffending pine cone and looked down at his hands where my blood drenched the tips of his fingers. His face contorted with a strange emotion. Fear at what my blood could do? Or irritation at the interruption? I couldn’t tell.
“We’ll talk about this later,” he said.
“Yes, we will.”
“Need a lift?” Jackson asked.
“We wouldn’t mind one,” Daniel said.
“I thought we weren’t supposed to take rides from creepy-looking strangers?” I asked.
“I could leave…” Jackson threatened playfully.
“On second thought, a ride would be great.”
“Crawl in stomach first,” Daniel commanded me.
I crawled in the large covered back, ignoring Jackson’s mocking smirk. Daniel crawled in after me. He sat next to me and put his hand on the cloth to keep it in place on my neck. His hands were gentle, his presence a reassurance that everything would be okay. Jackson turned the truck around without any more banter, and drove us down the unnamed mountain I would remember
The two men blurred in and out of focus as I fought a sleepy darkness. Now that I had verbalized my choice, had expelled the energy of that choice, I was incredibly tired. Daniel kept in constant contact with me, his thoughts working hard to keep me conscious as he filled Jackson in on the story. I tried to focus on their words, but I simply couldn’t. It was as if they were speaking in a language I didn’t understand; a language I was too tired to understand.
It didn’t take us long to get to Daniel’s house. I felt every bump, every jar, and every painful shift in the road. The mansion I had come to love as a second home stood stark against the darkness. Bright flowers and manicured hedges were bent from the deluge of water the storm had brought. The moss on the stone wept with the rain, dripping a constant waterfall on the steps and ground. Jackson pulled the truck to the broad steps of the front of the house, and Daniel helped me out. He took the pieces of his shirt away as he helped me up the stairs.
“I can fix it, but it’ll mean stitches. I’ll need some things, though.”
“Stitches,” I repeated.
Jackson had followed us up the stairs. “I’ll go steal some stuff from the hospital,” he offered.
“All right. You know what to get?”
“I think I can manage,” Jackson said. He reached out and very gently ruffled my hair. “Learn to use those feet. They’re great for not falling down.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” I said.
Jackson’s answering grin was lopsided. He turned and started back down the stairs. Daniel shut the door behind us, shutting out Jackson’s departure. “He won’t be gone long,” he assured me.
“How bad is it?” Beatrice asked, stepping out through the door which led to her lab, her warm brown eyes full of worry. Her auburn hair was thrown into a messy bun and her youthful face was tight with anxiety.
“I’m okay,” I said.
Daniel sighed, annoyed. “She’s not okay.”
“Come sit down,” Beatrice said. I followed her to the long dinner table, and heard her ask in her best mother voice, “Daniel, dear, what happened to your shirt?”
“Clare’s using it. I’ll go get another one.” He kissed my hand and released me. “I’ll be right back.”
I nodded and sat, setting my heavy head on the table. I didn’t care the table was antique and beautiful, I just cared about resting. Beatrice didn’t comment about me dripping blood on her table like she normally would have. She simply reached out and rubbed the arm that wasn’t
holding the pieces of Daniel’s shirt in place. Her hand was warm and electric; it told me I would be okay, though she kept a solid wall between our thoughts. Something I was grateful for. I wasn’t in the mood for thoughts. But even through the wall, I could sense her agitation and fear.
She hesitated for a moment, searching for ways to keep me conscious. “Han would have come
down but he’s testing some of the more recent blood we took from you. He thinks we might have discovered something quite interesting.”
“Interesting?” I asked dreamily.
“Yes. Very. I was getting quite vexed at your blood to tell you the truth.” She said it as if she thought I would take offense at her hating my blood. “I had a tiny moment of…irritation and I slammed the sample down a little too hard. It broke and mixed with another sample I was
working on for a friend of mine. I started to clean it up when Han noticed the most bizarre reaction. He checked in the microscope to be sure, of course, and he was right!”