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Authors: Lauren Stewart

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BOOK: Jekyll, an Urban Fantasy
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With nothing to do, Landon was flailing. Even if
this
lead turned out to be as bogus as the others, it would do him good. Get his mind off of what he’s lost. Make him feel useful. Maybe drink less.

Shit, they were
both
flailing. “How about this?” Mitch asked. “We each take turns on the wagon. I’ll pull while you ride, and then we’ll switch.”

“Sure. We’ll start tomorrow. That’ll give me enough time to find a cute, little red one.” Landon blew out a puff of air, staring at his hands as if they were already doing the shimmy-shake of withdrawal.

“So what do we do now, detective?”


Former
detective.”

“It doesn’t always have to be that way. You could get a job at another precinct.” Mitch didn’t know why he wanted to ease the guy’s pain. Because, frankly, he was the
last
person anyone should ask to find a silver-lining in anything. A tarnished, dented, and rusted-through one, sure. But not silver. Silver was for spoons rich babies were fed with. Even as a kid, Mitch had had to forage for his own meal, his mom a
bit
too preoccupied with keeping his bastard of a father from killing them all.

“Maybe, maybe not.” Landon shook off whatever thoughts had made his eyes distant. “Let’s worry about
now
. And
now
, we wait.” He opened the car door and ducked inside.

Mitch followed suit, sliding into the driver’s side. “I thought having an ex-cop around would actually
mean
we got to do cop-stuff. Like break down doors and water-board people until they talked. I was kinda looking forward to that part.”

“I bet you were. We
are
doing cop-stuff. Most of what cops do is wait until someone makes a mistake.” He reclined his seat and leaned backwards, stretching out his long legs as much as possible. “Hopefully, my friend was right and the guy he saw was Carter. Then we can assume Carter lives around here and will need to do some more shopping soon. When he does, we grab him.”

“And
then
we get to water-board the asshole?”

“Coming from anyone else, I’d assume that was a joke. But with you…”

Mitch slumped back in the car seat. “So basically, you’re telling me we do nothing.”

“Basically.”

That was unacceptable. Doing
nothing
wasn’t in Mitch’s vocabulary. He’d last maybe ten minutes. Tops.

Seven minutes later, Landon sighed. “Would you stop banging the goddamn steering wheel? It’s giving me a headache.”

“Was I banging the steering wheel?” Mitch looked at his fist as it smacked down again.
Huh. I guess I was.

Landon rolled his eyes. “This isn’t working. One of us is going to lose it. Probably me.” He ran his hands through his crew cut. “Okay, this is what we’re going to do. Since I can’t trust you to be alone…in public, you go back to your place. Watch porn, do your nails, whatever. I’ll set up surveillance on the liquor store.”

“I thought you couldn’t use department resources anymore.”

“I can’t.
None
of this is on the books. But I have a few friends who owe me.”

“I need to make some friends.”

“Stop being such an asshole and it may happen.”

CHAPTER VI

Eden stood in the hallway, shocked that Fields hadn’t immediately followed her out of the room where his daughter slept. Nor were there other guards running from all directions to tackle her. Did this mean that she really
was
free to leave? That she was a guest, a visitor who could go wherever she wanted and poke through her hosts’ drawers? No. She’d have to actually walk out the front door and see them all standing in a line waving goodbye before she’d believe
that
.

She tried the knob of the door across the hallway. Locked. Not knowing which way led outside, it didn’t matter which way she went. Every door she came to, she tried to open. All locked. She needed one of those damn keycards. Without one of those, of
course
they’d let her wander. As if the hallway was
so
interesting, it would keep her occupied until she collapsed of boredom and begged them to start poking her with needles or something.

They’d given her freedom to roam around a box. That wasn’t freedom. That was manipulation. A look-how-generous-we’re-being scenario while not actually giving her
anything
.

When she came to a corner, she put her back against the wall and peered around carefully to check for guards. Hopefully with their backs turned and their keycards sticking out of their pockets. Sure, because that was
definitely
the kind of high-quality-henchmen The Clinic employed.

“Wanna see something?” Carter was twenty feet away, limping as he took a few slow steps towards her.

She flinched, but didn’t bother trying to hide. He’d already seen her. So spy skills weren’t in Chastity’s repertoire. Or maybe Eden just couldn’t access the knowledge. She was determined to focus on the
good
changes, the perks of being who she was now. Or she’d never get through this. Then later, once she was free, she’d figure out a way to get rid of Chastity.

“How did you know I was there?” she asked, coming around the wall she’d unsuccessfully been hiding behind.

He was pale, his blue eyes looking black next to his skin. “I heard you yelling at Fields. Then the door opened, and you stopped screaming. I figured, if he was with you, you’d still be yelling.”

“You would’ve made a good police officer.” His dream-job, or so he’d said. She looked at the man she’d known so well. No, the man she’d
thought
she’d known so well. How much of who he showed her didn’t exist? How much of him was real?

“Yeah, I would’ve,” he said sadly. “I would’ve made a good husba—” He shook his head, as if it would shake the thought out of
both
their minds.

“You were drugging me, Carter. That’s
hardly
a great way to start a relationship.”

“I was doing it so you would be safe. Jolie lied about a lot of things, but
not
that. I know all about Turner, about you. They don’t want to hurt you.”

“Oh, Carter,” she said on a sigh. “When you don’t give someone the choice, don’t let them know who they really are…it hurts. Believe me, it hurts.”

He stared at the ground for a long time. Enough time for her to understand something. He still believed he was doing the right thing. That what he did, what he was doing, was for her. Because, regardless of what had happened, he still loved her. And that stung. Love that wasn’t deserved, that was warped and ugly, was
worse
than indifference or hate.

“Would you have taken the drug if you’d known about it?” he asked, not lifting his head.

She pinched the bridge of her nose, wishing her headache would go away. “I don’t know. I’ll
never
know. But everything would’ve been different if I’d known
what
I am.” All that fear, paranoia, and confusion. Her chest tightened, her head only hurting more.

Would she have met Mitch? Would Chastity have brought them together again and again until neither of them could avoid their connection? Eden would’ve missed the most amazing four days of her life, wrapped in his arms, having him inside of her. Was all of the joy Mitch had given her worth the pain and uncertainty Carter had caused? If she could go back and do it all again, knowing what she knew now, what would she have chosen?

“Are you going to leave?” he asked quietly.

“Yes,” she said instantly.

“Before you know everything? Before you know how you could help the other people? That’s not the Eden I know. The Eden
I
know would do whatever she could to help someone else.”

Sadly, that was probably true. Even if it killed her in the process. “Let’s get one thing straight, Carter. You don’t know me. You may
think
you do, but you don’t. Not now. Not ever. Or you
never
would have done what you did.”

He finally looked up, his expression that of someone fighting the need to argue, wanting to explain instead. “You’re wrong. I did what I did because of
you
. I just wanted you to be safe. Yes, I made some mistakes. Hell, I made a lot of mistakes, but giving you the medicine wasn’t one of them. Imagine what might have happened if I hadn’t.”

“Is this a Christmas-past kind of moment?”

“No. Because then I’d have to show you what happens to those of you who don’t get help. And
that
would mean taking you to a cemetery.”

If he hadn’t doped her, would Chastity’s behavior have put both of them underground? Maybe. But… “You don’t
know
that. I could’ve been fine.”

His brows came together. “Fine? With all of Chastity’s recklessness?” He shook his head. “I don’t think so.”

“Well, forgive me if your opinion means
nothing
to me.”

He shook his head sadly. “More of you die than live, you know. Without medication, even Jekylls die young. Almost like they’re
looking
for it.” He was probably right—Chastity’s life choices were
hardly
rational behavior for someone who wanted to see tomorrow.

But that didn’t mean someone else got to make the decision for her. “Well, thank goodness The Clinic is here to save us from ourselves.”

“You can believe whatever you want to believe, but they are helping other people.”

“Really?” she asked sarcastically.

“There’s a boy here. He’s sixteen.”

Oh God.
“He’s another prisoner?” Someone else she would have to free on her way out?

“You’re not a prisoner. He isn’t, either. He lives here and can leave whenever he wants.”

“I want to meet him.”
I want to ask him myself.
She’d know if he was lying, if they were
all
lying.

She walked about ten feet behind Carter, watching him. He moved like an old man, as if he’d aged fifty years since the last time they’d seen each other. Before she’d found the ‘medicine’ he’d been giving her. She’d thought it was heroin or maybe cocaine, his private stash, and had kicked him out for bringing the thing that had killed her mother into their home.

She stopped. “My mother OD’ed. What did she OD on?” Was it heroin she was injecting? Or something The Clinic had prescribed?

He looked over his shoulder, noticed she’d stopped, and turned. “She died from an overdose of heroin.” Then he started walking again. “Come on. He’ll want to meet you too.” He knocked on a door that looked
exactly
like every other door in the place. “Justin? It’s Carter. I want you to meet someone.”

She heard someone inside yell, “Hang on!”

“Do you live here too?” she asked Carter.

“No, I live in a shitty apartment nearby. But I’m here a lot of the time.”

“Home sweet home, huh?”

Before he could reply, the door opened.

“Hey, Carter. What’s up?” The boy wasn’t wearing scrubs, and he looked so…
normal
. Like any other teenager one would see coming out of school. When he saw Carter, he smiled. Then it slipped slightly as his gaze turned toward her, and a blush rose on his cheeks. “Who’s she?”

“This is Eden,” Carter said. “Can we come in for a sec?”

Justin shrugged and then stepped back into his room. “Sure, but you should’ve told me you were going to bring a— someone.” He scrambled to clear off a chair, tossing clothing and other junk onto the desk.

Eden felt something pull her into the room—something she couldn’t, or didn’t
want
to, struggle against. But on her way, she wiggled the doorknob, testing it. It wasn’t locked from the outside. And the interior lock was puny,
way
too weak to hold back a Hyde, even if he
couldn’t
figure out the absurdly simple release mechanism.

“Where do they put him when he transforms?” she blurted. “A cage?”

Both men flinched at her outburst. Carter shook his head, his eyes wide, while Justin looked at her like she was stupid.

“What?” he asked.

“Do they put you in a cage? When your Hyde comes out. Where do they put you?”

He glanced at Carter, confused. “Why would they put me in a cage?”

“He doesn’t know?” she asked Carter, her breath shallow. When he put a hand on Justin’s shoulder, she wanted to smack it off, feeling an immediate protective desire to keep every asshole away from him. But Justin didn’t cringe or grimace. He wasn’t afraid. In fact, the look he gave Carter was more like one of friendship, trust. The poor, deluded kid. If he only knew what
she
did. Not that she actually knew all that frigging much.

“She’s never been here before,” Carter said, “so she doesn’t know how it works.”

“Oh,” Justin said. “I go to sleep in a bed. They even give me a pillow,” he said, his eyes flashing wide as if it was a joke, smiling as if it was completely normal. “Once I’m asleep, they strap me up. Or so they tell me. And in the morning, I wake up. No straps. Ta-da!” He shook his hands, exposing wrists without scars or scrapes.

“And that holds you back? You don’t break out or anything?”

A shadow crossed his face, and he glanced at Carter who nodded. Was the nod giving him permission to talk about it, or encouragement to admit something he didn’t want to talk about?

“They tell me it might get harder,” Justin said. “That the straps will get bigger as I get older, and
he
gets more powerful. But hopefully, they’ll figure something out before that ever happens.”

“Can you really leave if you want to?”

“Yeah, but I don’t very much. All my stuff’s here. They
do
force me to go to school though, and that sucks.”

“You go to school? Like, a regular school?”

“Unfortunately,” he muttered.

“Tell her about your life before you got here, Justin.”

He gave Carter another look that matched the last. “Do I
have
to?”

“She’s not here to judge. She’ll understand. Eden and I grew up in a group home together.”

She glared at him. “Don’t say another word about that.” He was no longer allowed to speak of her past.
Or
her present, or future, or use
any
word that would put them in the same thought.

He took one step backwards, his hands up submissively. “Okay. I’ll wait outside. To prove to you that there’s no coercion here. No one is out to get you, Eden. Not here.”

BOOK: Jekyll, an Urban Fantasy
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