Authors: Xavier Neal
“Wait. Wait. Wait. How the fuck is that possible? College is like four years!”
“I started taking college credits as freshman. Went to summer school. Did courses online. Wasn't that hard.”
“Wasn't that hard?” I snap. “Are you joking?”
“Studying came natural to me. I didn't have a lot of friends-”
Her mouth opens to say something, but she hesitates.
Why do I feel like she was going to deny anybody would wanna date her? If she said that we all know it would be a lie. Look at her. No. Seriously, look at her. She's could easily be a porn star with the way her body is stacked and a makeup ad model with her perfect complexion. Come on.
“I didn't have that problem.” Before I can ask any more questions, she picks her fork back up and asks, “What about you? Did you always know it was cars and motorcycles for you?”
I hum and reach for my juice. “That's one way of putting it. We were never really given a choice to consider other options. Madden needed more hands in the shop. He wanted a family business. We had always had an attraction for cars 'cause of our dad and bikes 'cause of our uncle, so it seemed to fit. College was never on the agenda.”
Melody questions, “Do you wish it was?”
My eyes cut over to her, hands still wrapped around the glass.
“Do you wish it would've been an option? I mean...if it had been, you wouldn't be here.”
In a whisper I confess, “I don't know that I
wanna be here.”
Immediately her face starts to burn bright once more.
“Yeah, being held hostage, not exactly the ideal way of meeting the girl of your dreams, but I think what matters is
Oh yeah. That...that totally sounded like a line. Shut up! Let me fix it
With a slow head shake she pushes her barely eaten meal away from her. “Drew, I'm not who you think I am.”
“Let me ask you something.” I mimic her last action. “If The Devil granted you your freedom, no consequences, no repercussions for walking away from him, would you go?”
She turns her head towards me to nod.
“Exactly.” Under the table I let my hand slowly slide across her thigh to her hand that's lingering in her lap. “You're just as much a prisoner as I am. Your chains may not be the same, your sentence may be a little longer, but you don't belong here anymore than I do.”
Instead of pushing me away like I expect, she folds her fingers with mine, an ease washing over her. Seeing the softness blanket her causes a tranquility to invade my own body unexpectedly.
What the fuck is that? Side effect of the pain killers?
In a whisper she confides, “You're the first person to touch me like this in years.”
“Good,” I reply.
She scoffs. “Good?”
“Yeah.” My hand squeezes hers tighter. “I honestly hate the idea of
touching you that isn't me.”
Her bottom lip slips between her teeth.
“About that kiss...”
“You regret it?”
“Fuck no.” The quick response causes her to jump slightly. “I just wanted to say, I wasn't finished when you walked away.”
Melody giggles and shakes her head. “I had to.”
“And I have to finish what I started. I'm not a man who likes to leave projects unfinished.”
“Is that what I am?” A cold expression crosses her face. “A project? Something to toy with to help pass the time by?”
“Finding each and every way I can make you whimper from pleasure is a project I don't take lightly.” Her mouth leaks out a small moan. “I'm not looking to just pass the time by with you, Mel. I'm looking to make the time with you mean something.” When her mouth shuts I add, “And I think you know that. And I think that's why you run. Because getting attached to something frightens you-”
“Because everything around me dies,” she blurts.
“I'm not gonna die,” I assure her. “Not here. Not on this bullshit mission for The Devil. I guarantee that.”
Melody looks away obviously not convinced.
Don't join her. Trust me here. I mean, I can see how you'd be a little skeptical, but I'm telling you. Have a little more faith.
Abruptly she drops my hand and stands. She reaches for the dishes. “If you're finished with your breakfast, you need to get started for the day.”
I nod. “I am but-”
“Hand me your plate please.” Once I oblige, she turns with both dishes in her hand. “I'll be out of your way shortly. Dishes and then I'll be in Eden if you need anything.”
Unsure of why she's trying to push me away again, I stare straight ahead out the window that's showing the gorgeous sight of the backyard area. “How will I contact you if I do?”
“There are intercoms all around the house. Find one.”
Keeping my back to her I continue to admire the way the green grass seems to stretch for miles, a dark forest area appearing to be much closer than it actually is.
Well if that isn't a fucking metaphor I don't know what is. I just hope whatever darkness Mel is hiding from me will eventually let my light touch it.
Oh yeah. I'm fucked. Royally fucked. I thought that kiss was a mistake. I thought that would be the ultimate 'I'm making a terrible choice' mistake, but I was wrong. Oh so wrong! All that kiss has done is spur me to keep making mistakes. To keep putting myself in a position I can't make it out of. But you know what? I'm tired of not being alive. I used to think as long as there was air in my lungs I was living. That as long as I woke up and went to sleep, that's all that mattered. Another day was won as best as it could be. I used to think all the tragic shit that happened in between was just one more tally on the long list of shit I needed forgiveness for at the gates of Heaven and as long as I made it to the end of the road, I was okay. My life had been lived. I've lied to myself for years. It's the only way I could stop from murdering myself. My own life was taken from me when I started working for The Devil and just because there's air in my lungs doesn't mean I'm alive. Hell, I'm more like the walking dead than anything else. I've always been worried about making it another day. In the process, I've failed to see my death clock has always been running. The Devil simply just adds minutes when he needs them. One day he won't. Shouldn't I live before then? Maybe I should run the clock out before he can. Is it bad I wanna run the clock out with Drew?
“Ouch!” I snap and quickly suck the blood from my pricked finger.
Stupid thorns. See? Mistakes.
Walking away to the opposite end of my greenhouse, I pass by my flourishing plants.
Unless you know a thing or two about plants, I wouldn't touch anything. There are quite a few things just lingering around that can kill you. You know why. You've seen why.
At my first aid station, I start to clean the prick, most people would've just brushed off.
Not in here. Can't risk that
“Melody.” Omar's voice echoes around my sanctuary.
“Over here!” I call back patting the spot dry before grabbing a band-aid.
His heavy footsteps make it easy to track him. Within seconds he's beside me. Frowning. “How'd you do that?”
“I caught it on a thorn.”
“You rarely ever make that mistake.”
“Thank you,” I sarcastically remark. “I'm aware.”
“How'd you do it?”
“It just happened.”
He folds his arms across his chest with a displeased expression. “That doesn't just happen to someone who lives and breathes greenery. That's like saying 'my gun just went off'. That's not an acceptable excuse.”
As soon as the bandage is around my finger I look up at him. “Did you actually need something from me or did you just come to accuse me, once more, of not being able to do my job?”
“Are you doing your job?”
“Wow.” I snap. “How many times do I have to repeat myself?”
“What happened this morning?”
“I checked in briefly this morning. I saw you walk into the bathroom. Audio seemed to cut out for a period of time. What happened?”
The memory of Drew's mouth consuming mine fervidly causes the unused muscles between my legs to clench like they did when it happened. “I gave him his medication and left.”
“After telling him there weren't cameras in there. Why'd you do that?”
“What does it matter if he knows he's not being watched while he pees? What does it matter if he has that little bit of information, Omar? He's a dead man anyway you look at it, right?”
I wanna be wrong. I want Drew to be right. I want him to wrap me up in his arms and whisk me away like some trashy paperback novel. I want us to live a long and happy life together in a house with a backyard and a bunch of kids running around, but while I'm stupid enough to dream about it, I'm not stupid enough to buy it. He's going to die. He's gonna die and it's going to be my fault. Hate me. Go ahead. I do.
“Why were you watching the feed anyway?”
“I told you. The way you look at him-”
“Hasn't stopped me from fulfilling my obligation.”
“Which is what matters. I would appreciate a little respect. We may not trust anyone in this business, but I've at least earned that much respect from you of all people.”
A brief hurt look crosses his face before he nods. Afterward he adjusts his jacket. “You need to pack an overnight bag. We're leaving.”
Doing my best to hide my annoyance I question, “When?”
“After their call.”
“Wherever The Devil wants us.”
I roll my eyes. “What am I supposed to bring?”
“He wants a Truth Serum and a Mind Eraser. Two of each.”
“Extremely,” he replies. “We are leaving immediately after the call. Do not linger.”
“Who's going to keep an eye on Drew?”
“Drew?” Omar raises his eyebrows. “You mean McCoy.”
I like his first name better, don't you?
His eyes glare, but he doesn't poke the subject. “He can fend for himself for two days. Melody-”
“He's not Jimmy,” I whisper before he can start with the speech.
“He's not.” Omar nods. Slowly he leans forward and growls, “He's worse. Do. Not. Forget. That.”
He doesn't say anything else as he stomps out the way he came.
There's no way he can be worse than Jimmy unless he sets baby orphans on fire, which would be the only way I think of that he could be worse. Is Drew messing with me? Is he using me as a pawn in a chess match with The Devil? I know. I know. I should be able to tell the difference and I thought I could until he kissed me. When he did that something inside of me snapped. Something I wasn't expecting. This is bad, isn't it? So very bad...
With my steel case now packed as requested, I head back into the main house where Drew is at the kitchen table, shirtless, clay clinging to him in such a fashion I'm hoping when he needs help scrubbing it off he asks me.
Oh God...what is wrong with me?
“You know when you blush you look even more beautiful,” he mutters, eyes still on the terrible replica he's created. “Just saying...”
The redness to my cheeks deepens. I do my best to shoo it away. I grip the case tighter. “How's it coming along?”
“Well...this version looks less like a dick, so that's something,” he claims with a crooked smile. Looking over at me he tilts his head at me. “How was Eden?”
I wiggle my bandaged finger at him. “Dangerous as always.”
A look of concern crawls on his face as he rushes across the room at me. “Shit, you okay?”
“Just a prick.”
“No need to name call me for caring,” he playfully says. When I roll my eyes with a smile at his humor he lifts my hand. “You sure you're okay?”
My body shutters at the touch rendering me silent. I nod.
“Okay,” he whispers softly, giving it a gentle stroke. His lips are slowly met by his tongue as he leans closer to me. Anticipating exactly what I want, exactly what I shouldn't want, I carelessly close my eyes and lean forward too. At that moment there's a ringing that seems to echo throughout the house.
“Right!” I snap and jump back. “Follow me.”
“What is that?”
Informing him on our way to his bedroom, I state, “The video conference ring tone.”
In a hushed tone, I explain, “You were only supposed to get one more call with Daniel before the event. I scored you another. Make it count, but remember it's being monitored.”
Drew's jaw slips open. “You...you did that for me?”
Slowly I nod. “But if The Devil gets wind that this call wasn't necessary, the consequences will be astronomical. Be. Careful.”
See? Stupid mistakes continue. The Devil didn't believe me when I told him that Drew needed the call. He's suspicious. Not as bad as Omar, but enough that I need to make sure nothing else happens between Drew and I. Call this my attempt at penance
“Why?” Drew whispers. “Why did you risk this for me?”
“I know what it's like to miss your family and not be able to get to them. No one deserves that. Especially not you.”
“Melody says you need to speak to the other one,” The Devil snaps on the screen a cigar dangling from his lips. “Why?”
“Sculpting your piece of shit art work is a bit harder than it looks,” Drew growls back.
“So?” He tosses a hand in the air. “How would talking to your look a-like help?”
“He's more informative than he looks.” When The Devil doesn't blink, Drew adds, “Or you can give me access to the outside world? The internet maybe?”
“So you can leave a trail for your computer genius brother to find you. I don't think so.”
The Devil pushes a button and Daniel's face appears on the screen. His face looks like it's healing faster since I recommended Nina treat with a special mixture I came up with myself, back in the early days to help Omar.
“Middle Man,” Drew sighs, relief clear as day on his stressed face.
That. That right there. That glimmer of hope is what The Devil feeds on. And that small glimmer of hope is what Drew needed to stay alive in this hell. That's what he needs so he doesn't become the heartless harlot I am. His hope...his hope might just get him out alive. Well that and if I stop doing my job.
Daniel, drops the wrench and smiles in the camera. “Triple D!”
“You look...you look like you have all your limbs.” Drew smirks. “Impressive.”
“Right? For three days in this bitch. Yeah.”
The Devil grunts. “Enough of the sentiments. Get. To. The. Point.”
Drew asks, “Hey, you remember our Jimmy Neutron routine for art?”
Daniel looks confused for a brief moment, but then nods. “Yeah. Good old Jimmy Neutron.”
“Was the trick to use a toaster oven or a hair dryer?”
“Hair dryer,” he answers. “You want the flexibility. Just like a custom paint job. Always need not only the ability for an even color but an even dry.”
Drew nods and The Devil snaps, “Is that it? Are you two finished?”