CARNAL, The Beast Who Loved Me (2 page)

BOOK: CARNAL, The Beast Who Loved Me
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Rosie put the fork down and sat back. She looked between the two other people at the table, closer to the physical age of peers than parents. Her eyes flicked to the clock one more time.


I have something to tell you. I need to go away for a little bit.”


What do you mean ‘away’?” Storm hadn’t wasted any time slipping comfortably into the role of father and nothing about the unusual character of their situation seemed to deter him.


I mean I’m going to take a break from what I’m doing.”

Storm choked out a laugh. “Take a break from what you’re doing? And what is that? You aren’t doing anything.”


Storm!” Litha’s tone was full of reproof.


Well, it’s true, isn’t it?”

Litha stared at him, angry because she was afraid he was hurting Rosie’s feelings and wanting very badly to be able to argue the point. The fact that he was right didn’t make him more endearing at that moment. Sometimes being consistently right was his most infuriating quality. This was one of those times.

Oddly they really had never gotten around to discussing what Rosie might
do
with her time. In the beginning every day of her existence was a new miracle, right up until those daily miracles were overshadowed by a missing father and a look-alike under house arrest. While everybody was thinking in terms of hour to hour, everybody forgot to talk to Rosie about what she intended to do with her splendid array of abilities and inconceivable list of possibilities.

Rosie wasn’t accustomed to the challenging accusation of paternal disappointment and had flushed pink in the face, either from anger or embarrassment or humiliation. It was impossible to tell.

Storm narrowed his eyes. “Does this have something to do with Glen?”

Rosie’s eyes jerked to Storm’s so quickly that she might as well have shouted yes. “Glen is no longer part of the picture where I’m concerned. Anyway, as I was saying, I’m going to be gone for a while. You’re not to worry.” She looked at Litha. “If there’s an emergency, Lally will be able to find me.”

She kissed Litha on the cheek and gave her a hug. Litha looked a little stunned, but patted her forearm and stroked her hair once, twice. Rosie approached her dad, who sat stiffly. She bent to kiss his cheek and hug him in the same manner. When she put her arms around his shoulders, he melted. He pushed back the chair, stood and put his arms around her.


Do I need to kick his ass?”

She put her arms around his waist and shook her head. With her cheek against his chest, she said, “No. You went right to the heart of the problem. All I want to do is be with Glen and I tried to force him to feel the same way about me. Maybe, if I spend a little time away… Maybe I need to think about doing something myself. I love you, Dad.”


I love you, Rosie.”

And she was gone.

 

As Storm’s empty arms dropped to his sides his mind presented him with a snapshot it had taken on a day when he’d been fourteen years old. He was in the car with Sol, pulling away from his parents’ house. They stood together in the shallow front yard holding hands and watched him drive away. His limited post-pubescent understanding had registered the look on his mother’s face as sadness, the sort that would be forgotten by the time she reached the kitchen and started thinking about what to make for dinner.

Now he knew that look wasn’t something so inconsequential as sadness. It was the face of loss as devastating as the discovery of a missing limb. He made a vow to himself that he would replace the years his mother lost with time and attention. Never too late.

He turned to Litha as his mind replayed part of the earlier conversation. “Who’s Lally?”

 

 

Rosie had waited longer than usual on a tabletop boulder on a windswept mountaintop of Prescient Dimension where she went when she needed to contact Kellareal. She spent the time rehearsing how she was going to explain that she wanted a change of environment, where she could take a break from her life and rethink the direction of things.

She knew she’d pushed things too far with Glen, but she also believed that, despite her feelings and desires to the contrary, the relationship wasn’t serious and wasn’t going to be. Not for a while. He’d made his decision. He was going wherever Z Team went and at least she had enough pride to know she wasn’t going to follow along like a camp whore. Even if he’d let her. Which he probably wouldn’t.

So she’d take a lesson from that and maybe look for a little adventure of her own while she was young.
While she was young.

The breeze that blew her wild hair back from her face grew a little softer. Kellareal appeared to float down from the sky wearing a long white robe that billowed around him, arms outstretched as if inviting embrace, and landed in front of her soundlessly. She knew he would want to be congratulated on the theatrical entrance, so she clapped.

He bowed.


Lally. How long do you think I’m going to live?”


You called me for that?” He picked up a pebble, sat down beside her, and threw it out over the canyon overlook. “We may have to rethink your summoning privilege if you’re going to abuse it, young lady.”


No, that’s not why I called, but since you’re here…”


Well, your elemental side is very long lived, meaning eons. Your human side is cursed with short life under the best of circumstances. Then there is the issue of fragility, the moment to moment uncertainty, the… risk, if you will, of being human. I tell you, it causes me to marvel constantly at their courage. Living under those circumstances, I’m not sure that I wouldn’t just curl into a ball and hope for sudden death to put an end to the suspense.”


If they only knew how cynical real angels sound, you would never get your own TV shows.”


Hmmm. No doubt.” He grinned. “But a few feather sightings would bring them right back around.”

Rosie giggled. “You’re hopeless.”


And is
that
why you wanted to see me?”


No. I need to get out of town for a while, change of scenery. Maybe I need to broaden my experience.”


Get out of town,” he repeated drily. “What does your mother think of this?”


She thinks she can get in touch with you if there’s an emergency and that you’ll know where to find me.”

The angel pursed his lips, stood and paced for a while. “Vacations are fun. Sabbaticals are informative. Quests are enlightening, sometimes cathartic. Retreats are rejuvenating. Treks are adventurous. This?” He stopped and looked at Rosie. “This sounds like running away. Hard to put a noble spin on running away.”


I’m not necessarily asking for your blessing, Lally. Just a place to…”

“…
hide?”

Rosie flushed. “It’s a favor.”

Kellareal looked at her for a long time. “I can’t decide without hearing the whole story. I want to know exactly what it is you’re running from and what you’re hoping to gain.”

By the time Rosie finished spelling it out, she was sorry she had started the whole thing. Spelling out what had brought her to that mountaintop sounded spoiled, selfish, childish and silly, even to herself as she said it. She supposed that was one of the angel’s goals in having her connect the dots out loud. She hoped that the worst of it, humiliation-wise, was over.


Have you thought about how long you want to be away?”

She hadn’t thought about it.


Do I have to decide that now?”


I might agree to help you on the condition that you agree to spend your time away working on your control.”


My control?”


Don’t play dumb. I’m talking about controlling use of your extra-abilities.”


I could do that.”


In that case, I might help. I suppose you can do a pay-as-you-go plan.”


Wait. What do you mean, pay-as-you-go?”

The angel took her elbow and pulled her to her feet. Standing several inches taller, he looked down into her face. “You’re right, Elora Rose. It is time for you to learn something of the world. First lesson, nothing’s free.”

 

 

 

A few minutes later they were standing on the periphery of an enclosure – a crude, gray stone wall. From what Rosie could see, there were homes and buildings built around a park-like area, but the overall impression of the place was of a fort. Through a break in the wall that formed a gate with iron bars, she could see that they were on a hilltop overlooking the lights of a large town.

The air was scented with the welcoming smell of wood-burning fires releasing white smoke into the atmosphere. The prominent feature of the compound was a long row of motorcycles, some of which had parts shiny enough to reflect in the cold moonlight.


Where are we?” Rosie asked.


It’s a project of mine, Rosie. A secret. You can’t ever tell anyone.”


Okay.”


Promise.”


I do.”


They’re what’s left of a Telstar Dimension hybrid experiment.”


Hybrid? You mean one of the worlds that went crazy with genetic engineering?”


Guess it depends on what you mean by ‘went crazy’.”


Okay. Let me put it this way. You start out with a wolf. You end up with a
Shih Tzu
or a Pug. You start out with a human, you end up with a ...”


The flaw in your argument is, the owners of dogs like that would say they’re an improvement on the prototype.”

Rosie blinked. “So you’re saying you’re taking me to a place where I should be prepared for…” She left the end of that sentence for him to fill in the blank.


Okay. Consider this your briefing in a nutshell. There were some experiments that went on for a couple of generations. People became concerned and even invoked religious invective to fuel a movement to eradicate all the produce of the experiment.”


Produce?” He nodded. “You mean the people?”


That is what I mean, yes, and I, ah, intervened. I saw an opportunity to solve two problems. There was a group of people… humans, here in need of protection, which is one of the ways hybrid skills might be used. The remnants of the human population were under threat from their own hybrid experiment gone awry. So I paired them up to keep the balance. The hybrids got freedom. The humans in this world got to survive.“

He waved his hand at the darkness. “This dimension hasn’t been ruined yet. It’s stark in places. Pretty in others. The main thing is that it gives them a chance.” He looked at Rosie. “You know?”


Wasn’t that against some rule?”

The angel pursed his lips and heaved a big sigh. “Rules need to be placed in the context of knowing the rule makers. And their agenda.”

Rosie studied his face in the darkness. “Lally, you’re an anarchist.”


Guess that depends on who you talk to.”


Are there others?”

He turned to face her. “What do you mean?”


O
ther elementals who think like you do.”

For a moment he thought perhaps Rosie saw him truly.


I don’t really discuss it with others. Anyway. The hybrids have been here for a while now. Some have started families. Their own take on culture is starting to emerge. Interesting to watch. The one in charge of the place is a solid fellow. He owes me a favor. Simple as that.”

BOOK: CARNAL, The Beast Who Loved Me
8.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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