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Authors: Karen Lynch

Tags: #Vampires, #Fantasy, #Young Adult, #Romance

Relentless

BOOK: Relentless
2.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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Relentless

By Karen Lynch

Text Copyright @ 2013 Karen A Lynch

Cover Copyright @ 2013 Karen A Lynch

 

All Rights Reserved

 

Cover Designer: Nikos Lima

 

For my friend Tom Jackson

 

I hope my story brings magic to people the way you brought magic into the lives of everyone who knew you.

Preface

 

He put his mouth to my ear and his words sent waves of fresh terror through me. “I am going to savor you, little Sara. I had planned to have you now but why rush when we can take all the time we want later.”

“No…”

“But I think a taste first to whet the appetite.” His face lowered as he forced my head to one side, baring my throat. His lips touched my skin and his tongue lapped at the spot where my pulse beat. Blackness swam before my eyes.

“What is this?” he murmured and sniffed as if he was trying a new wine. His tongue touched my skin again. “You taste like –” His head whipped up and his eyes glittered like he had just been served a favorite dessert. “You’re a –”

Chapter 1

 

“YOU’RE LATE.”

Malloy huffed as he slid into the booth across from me. “Don’t get your panties in a knot. I got other business to tend to besides yours you know.”

I scowled and tapped my watch and he threw up his hands. “I’m sorry, alright? Jesus, you’re an impatient one.”

“You’re not the only one with places to be.”

He made a harrumph sound as if he could not imagine what someone my age had to do that was so important– if he only knew. I schooled my expression to hide the anxiety gnawing at me.

“Alright then, where is it?” he asked.

I patted my chest where the small lump lay inside my coat and lowered my voice so no one outside our booth could hear it above Lynyrd Skynyrd blaring from the jukebox. “Half an ounce, as promised.”

Malloy’s brown eyes widened and he leaned forward to rest his forearms on the table. Shorter than me by a few inches with a small pinched face and dull brown hair, he reminded me of a little brown field mouse. Not that I was fool enough to be taken in by his harmless appearance. You don’t survive in this business by being nice.

“Well, let’s have it then.” His eyes swept the dimly lit bar before settling back on me. I could have told him not to worry; the patrons at Jed’s were good at minding their own business, which is why I’d suggested the biker bar in the first place. That and the fact that Jed kept a wooden bat and a .44 behind the bar in case of trouble. No one was stupid enough to start something at Jed’s.

I reached inside my coat and pulled out a rolled up paper bag. Malloy grabbed for it but I pulled it out of his reach and put on my business face. “Payment first.”

“Ah yes.” He made a sour face as he put a hand inside his own jacket. His hand stilled. “This wasn’t easy to come by, you know. Maybe –”

“We had a deal, Malloy.” Damn it, I should have known he would try to pull this again, and on the one day I didn’t have time for games. My cell phone was lying face down on the table. I picked it up.

“What are you doing?”

“What do you think?” I did not look at him as I scrolled through my short contact list. “Half an ounce is worth ten of what you’re paying for it and you know it. But if you don’t want to do business I’ll have to go through someone else.” I bit my lip. I really didn’t want to go elsewhere and I was running out of time. If I had to wait even one more day to get what I came for, it wouldn’t matter anymore. A day? Hell, hours was more like it.

“Excuse me. I need to make a call.” I moved toward the edge of my seat, hoping he did not see through my bluff.

“Wait.” He sighed and pulled out a small square package wrapped in dirty gray cloth. Laying the package on the table, he covered it with his hand and slid it toward me. I did the same with the paper bag and we made the exchange at the halfway point. I stifled a sigh of relief when my fingers closed around the package.

I lifted the cloth-wrapped package to my ear and shook it before I sniffed it to confirm its contents. Satisfied, I tucked it into an inside pocket and picked up my soda, taking a long sip to hide my eagerness to get out of there. It was never wise to appear desperate or hurried to people like Malloy; you might as well paint a big red target on your back.

Malloy tipped the paper bag and spilled a small glass vial out onto his palm. His eyes glittered as he rolled the vial of yellowish-brown liquid between his fingers.

“Kid, I’d give my left gonad to know how you managed to get your hands on this stuff… and lived to tell about it.”

I let out a short laugh to hide my nervousness. “Who said I’m telling?” I set my glass back on the table and inclined my head toward the vial. “I wouldn’t show that off in public too much.” What I really wanted to say was, ‘Put that goddamn stuff away before you get us both killed’, but I refrained because it would not do to lose my cool.

“You don’t need to tell me how to handle my affairs,” he retorted, but at the same time he made the vial disappear with a sleight of hand that would do a magician proud.

“There is no way anyone can trace that back to me, right?” Malloy had a wide network and a reputation for discretion. But the contents of that vial could bring a lot of unwanted attention.

He sat up straighter. “Like I told you last time; I wouldn’t be in business very long if I gave away my suppliers. And I got to protect my own head, too. I move my stuff through some middle men who’d take the names of their business contacts to the grave. Ain’t no profit in talking. And those guys have no idea where I obtain my merchandise. You can be sure I ain’t telling anyone.”

“I’m glad to hear that.” I slid out of the booth. I’d stayed here too long already.

“Wait! I have some other items you might be interested in – if you can get more of this stuff, that is.”

I stood and put my hand over the small bulge inside my coat. “I got what I came for. If I need anything else, I’ll be in touch.”

He shook his head. “You know, you are way too serious for a girl your age. You ought to loosen up, have fun every now and then.”

I turned toward the exit. “Yeah I get that a lot.”

The sun’s glare blinded me after the bar’s gloomy interior and I blinked a few times, sagging against the heavy wooden door.
God I hate this.
My hands trembled as I pulled up my sleeve to glance at my watch. “Damn it.” I pushed away from the door, cursing Malloy for running late. My business with him would all have been for nothing if I stayed here much longer.

I pulled my short coat together and set out to meet Remy, making it to the bus stop two streets away just in time to catch the next bus. Sinking gratefully into a seat in the back, I leaned against the window and watched the streets and buildings flash by. We passed a football field where a practice game was in progress and I watched a group of cheerleaders waving red and white pompoms. My hand went to the lump in my pocket and the weight of the responsibility I carried made me feel years older than the girls on the field.

The bus line ended near an old brewery that went out of business two years ago and I jumped off in front of the padlocked gates. No Trespassing signs hung along the wire fence and the whole place had a sad, deserted look about it. My nose twitched as it always did at the smell of sour barley that lingered there as I hurried past it.

Behind the brewery was an older subdivision of duplexes and two storey houses, most of them needing a fresh coat of paint. Five years ago this was a thriving neighborhood, before the brewery shut down along with the automotive parts plant that had employed half this area. Now the lawns were overgrown and the cars in many of the driveways were badly in need of maintenance. A country song blared from someone’s stereo and in another house a young couple argued until a baby started to bawl loudly. I passed a group of younger kids playing road hockey but they largely ignored me. I did stop for a moment to rub the head of a familiar lab-shepherd mix that trotted up to greet me, but when he made to follow me I shooed him back. He stared after me forlornly, but I was too busy to play today.

At the last stop sign, I turned right and jogged down an empty street lined with tired looking boarded up old houses and yards that backed up to the woods. I slipped between the last two houses and ducked under a broken board in the fence of the last house. Grass and weeds had taken over the backyard, while ivy strangled the ancient swing set and covered the back of the house. I followed a narrow path through the grass to the back door where I gave a quick look around and then slipped inside.

“Remy, you here?” I called softly.

It was dark in the house except for the dusty bands of light that spilled in between the boards over the windows. Thankfully I knew the house pretty well and I didn’t need much light to find my way around. I left the kitchen and walked down a short hallway. On my right was the empty shell that used to be a living room and on my left was the closed door to the den. I pushed the door and it swung inward on creaky hinges.

“Remy?” I whispered loudly, trying to see through the dense shadows of the room. Silence greeted me.
Where the hell is he?
I spun around to go back the way I’d come.

“Argh!” I found myself face-to-face with a thin, pale grey face with large round violet eyes and a mop of shaggy gray-brown hair. I stumbled back and he reached for me, grabbing my shoulders in a strong grip that belied his slender build.

“Jesus, Remy!” I slapped a hand to my chest as he steadied me. “Are you
trying
to give me a heart attack?”

The troll gave me a lopsided grin, revealing a row of short sharp teeth. “You too young for heart attack,” he said with a fierce little smirk that would send a chill through anyone who did not know him.

“You late,” he chastised me.

“I’m sorry. Malloy was twenty minutes late and I got here as fast as I could. How are they doing?”

“Not so bad. Fren worried but I tell him if Sara say she get medicine, she will.” He gave me an expectant look.

I smiled and pulled the package from inside my coat to lay it in his eager hands. “Have I ever let you down?”

Remy immediately turned and headed to the kitchen with me close on his heels. Curious about the contents of the package that had come at such a high price, I watched as he removed the cloth to reveal a small rectangular wooden box. He lifted the lid and poured the contents out into a large shallow stone bowl, then picked up a smooth rounded stone and began to grind whatever was in the bowl. I moved closer and saw pale golden crystals the texture and color of coarse cane sugar. As Remy ground the crystals into powder the smell of rotten eggs and ammonia I’d gotten earlier grew stronger. I waved a hand in front of my nose. Definitely not sugar. Remy had called it
Baktu
when he asked me to find it but he hadn’t been too clear on exactly what it was, just that it came from some place in Africa.

He quickly reduced the crystals to powder then he spat in the bowl several times and stirred the mixture with a smooth wooden stick to make a thick paste. “Come,” he said at last, taking up the heavy bowl and heading for the stairs. I followed him quietly. My part was done and the rest was up to my friend now.

In the first room at the top of the stairs, a pallet of rags had been laid on the bare wooden floor and a small dark shape lay curled up on the rags whimpering. The upstairs windows were not boarded up so I could make out the creature’s rounded body and long spindly limbs. Kneeling by the pallet was a second creature and his ugly squashed face looked at us hopefully when we entered the room. I gave him a smile and pointed at the bowl in Remy’s hands and he grunted softly to his mate who replied in kind. I had no idea what they were saying because I didn’t speak boggie, but it didn’t take much imagination to guess that he was reassuring her.

Remy knelt beside the pallet and I stood behind him where I could observe but not get in the way. He laid the stone bowl on the floor and grunted at the boggies in their own language. Then he gently repositioned the female boggie until she lay on her back with her swollen belly bared to us. Boggies live in bogs–as their name implies – and they are usually covered in mud. The female was unusually clean and I wondered if Remy had done it in preparation for the procedure.

Fren, the male boggie, moved closer and took one of his mate’s small hands in both of his. His large eyes brimmed with love but it could not hide the fear I saw in his face. I wanted to tell him it would be okay but he could not understand me, and I wasn’t sure if everything would be alright. According to Remy, boggies normally have easy births, but Mol’s pregnancy had been very difficult. After being ill for months, she was very frail and her baby refused to come. Boggie pregnancies are not like human pregnancies where the baby comes after nine months. If the mother is sick or weak, the body will not go into labor. If the baby is not delivered, both mother and child will die.

I watched as Remy began to smooth the paste over Mol’s extended belly with gentle hands. She stiffened and made a weak mewling sound because her belly was so swollen and tender that the slightest touch hurt her. This close to her, I could sense her pain and fear, and a familiar urge awoke in me; the need to go to her and try to take away the pain. But I trusted Remy and right now he was Mol’s best chance of getting through this. I just clenched my hands and observed.

He finished applying the thick paste and laid the bowl aside. Then he spread his long hands across Mol’s belly and applied the slightest pressure against the bulge that was her unborn child. He started to chant in troll tongue and I only recognized a handful of words, but they were enough to tell me that he was praying. Trolls are deeply faithful to their god and they mix prayer with their magic in whatever they do. I had seen enough of Remy’s abilities to have great respect for his faith and his magic.

The paste soon dried to a brittle shell and I noticed that Mol seemed to be in less pain now and able to bear the weight of Remy’s hands.
Was it working?

Mol’s scream made the hair lift on the back of my neck. I fell to my knees beside Remy as Mol’s stomach began to contract so violently that her whole body shook from it. “What’s wrong?”

“This normal,” he replied, lifting his hands from the boggie. “Baby coming.”

“It’s coming?” I asked dumbly. Mol looked like she was being ripped apart from the inside, not about to deliver a baby. But then I had no idea what was normal for a boggie birth. Like most of the People, boggies are secretive and shy of humans. It was a sign of their gratitude and respect that I was permitted to stay and witness this event. Tears filled my eyes as I watched nature take over and Mol’s body find the strength it needed to bring her baby into the world.

BOOK: Relentless
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