Authors: Kory M. Shrum
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Horror, #Dark Fantasy, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Supernatural, #Suspense, #Paranormal, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Lgbt
Worth Dying For
Kory M. Shrum
Copyright © 2016 Kory M. Shrum
All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is purely coincidental.
ebook formatting by
ll this screaming is hurting my ears.
“Nine, Eight, Seven—”
Ally presses her body against mine, counting down with the crowd.
I open my coat, letting her slip her chilled arms around me. I try to protect her from the worst of the unforgiving wind cutting across our cheeks and tearing at our hair. “I never understood the countdown. Are they trying to build tension?”
Her grin stretches wider and she squeezes me again. “Four,
“It’s not like we don’t know what’s happening.” I gesture at the swarm of bodies clustered on the balcony around us. My sides and back are protected by their mass, but leaning against the concrete railing leaves us utterly exposed in the front. If only we were more in the middle of the balcony, then Ally and I could be the queen bees of this hive, the drones vibrating to keep us warm.
I gasp, pantomiming shock. “Oh look, the New Year. What a surprise! I had no idea what was going to happen when we reached
Ally tugs me forward by the lapels of my coat. “Shut up and kiss me.”
The balcony erupts in chaos, everyone singing, cheering, and sucking on each other’s faces. The ruckus is blocked out by Ally’s palms covering my ears as we kiss. Her hair smells like some kind of fruity shampoo, and her lips taste like the wine she drank earlier. I kiss her deeper, my hands wrapping up in her hair. I don’t care who sees us or what they think.
Tonight is all about us. Me and Ally. Gideon, Rachel, and Maisie. We’re celebrating. After weeks and weeks, we finally have a plan for taking down Caldwell. And it’s a
Ally pulls back, laughing. “I can’t breathe.”
“You started it.” I pull her close again, kissing her.
to breathe,” she says, chest heaving.
“Right. Sorry. I forgot you have to do that.”
I assault her cheeks and neck instead. She devolves into laughter, hanging heavy and drunk in my arms.
,” she begs, trying to squirm away.
“I can’t. I’ll die.” But I do stop long enough for her to catch her breath, and because I know firsthand that if I torment a drunk girl for too long, my chances of getting vomited on increase tenfold.
Gideon and Rachel stumble forward from the crowd, arms around each other. Their dark eyes reflect the dancing lights coming from everywhere. Billboards. Lighters. The ball itself.
A boom makes us all jump. A second after the
and a dozen strands of red light rain down on us. Fireworks.
“We should head back,” Gideon says, pushing his black frame glasses up on his nose before tightening his hold on a sagging Rachel. “Or risk being crushed by the crowd.”
“Where’s Maisie?” Rachel’s glazed eyes slide from one face to another without really seeing anyone. She buries her chin in the neck of her jacket.
“Here.” Maisie shouts over the roar. “I’m freezing. So if everyone is done making out, I’d like to go check on Winnie Pug.”
Ally frowns. “We weren’t making out. It’s good luck to kiss on New Year’s Eve.”
“It is,” Gideon adds with a devilish smile. He leans toward Maisie. “Do you want a little kiss for yourself?”
My nostrils flare. “I will cut you.”
“I don’t need your charity slobber.” Maisie flips her hair over one shoulder. “I kissed that guy.”
We all turn and see a kid not much older than Maisie, also sporting the double black X marks of the underaged on his hands. He’s grinning, goofy but cute. His black hair hangs in his eyes. Black eyeliner encircles his eyes. Very emo and totally Maisie’s type.
What does one do when they find out their little sister has been making out with some unkempt boy on a balcony? How the hell should I know? A month ago I didn’t even know I had a little sister, but our father is evil so I stole her and here she is, safe—relatively, with me. So what if I don’t know what to make of her on most days?
What I do know is I’m not her mother and where she puts her mouth is none of my damn business.
I shrug. “Good for you.”
“Call me, Michelle!” The boy yells as the five of us start to push our way off the balcony into the club.
“Michelle?” I hold the door open for everyone.
“I couldn’t give him my real name, could I?” Maisie yanks her beanie down over her red ears.
Good point. We’ve been on the run for a month. No one knows where we are, and we have to keep it that way. Gideon’s fancy gadgets, money, and stealth skills won’t hide us from my murderous father for too long. We need to be careful until we
him to come to us, until we have him right where we need him to be.
I grab Ally’s hand and pull her into the club after Maisie. Rachel and Gideon take up the rear. For the few minutes it takes us to squeeze past the crowd toward the street, we’re warm. The collective body heat of a hundred revelers is welcome despite the sour smell of beer and sweat. And unless I’m mistaken, that
is vomit. Gross.
I reach forward and grab Maisie’s hand so we don’t get separated. She twines her cool fingers with their chipping black nail polish in mine and pulls all of us out toward the street. We regroup on the sidewalk as people shoulder past us on all sides. The fierce wind picks up right where it left off, gnawing ruthlessly at my cheeks. I wrap my blood-red scarf tighter around my head in a feeble attempt to protect myself.
Ally slips her arms around my waist, and I tuck her icy hands into my pockets. She is so cuddly when she’s drunk. I love it. I should keep her drunk all the time. She’s brilliant and can spare the brain cells, but alas, I guess there’s her liver to consider.
Maisie leads our little group in the direction of our hotel. Thank god, it’s only about five blocks away. I don’t know how much of this bitter wind I can take. I see more drunk people than I’ve ever seen in my life. I’ve only had two Shirley Temples, which left a sloshy feeling in my stomach that I tried to soak up with super greasy cheese sticks.
I probably feel as nauseated as the drunk people shambling around me.
As soon as I see the neon sign of our hotel glowing overhead, I break from the group and rush into the warm lobby. I yank my scarf off my head, pulling the breath-damp fabric off of my face.
“I’m sick of being cold.” I groan. “I’m so glad we’re heading—”
Gideon shoots me a look that I’ve memorized at this point.
Don’t say anything until we’re in the suite.
“—somewhere warm.” I roll my eyes and pile into the elevator with them. Rachel is so drunk she mashes the buttons for floors 14 and 16 before managing to hit the correct button, number 15.
Somehow we make it to the room, a suite at the end of a beige hallway with red carpet. Gideon slides the keycard in and out of the slot and the light flickers green.
Maisie is the first one in. “Winnie Pug? Pug-Pug where are you?”
The pug in question leaps off a white Victorian chaise and runs toward her. He presents his belly for a rub in three seconds flat.
The rest of us squeeze past them into the foyer of the suite. This hotel room alone is nicer than any house I’ve ever slept in, but that’s Gideon for you. Rachel made the suggestion that we sleep in an abandoned house one night on the road from Chicago to New York, and he snorted and arched his eyebrows at her. Then in the most self-righteous tone I’d ever heard, he said, “I have two legs not four.
do not sleep on the ground.”
Gideon throws his keycard on the lacquered table by the door. Ally and I kick off our shoes. Rachel pulls off just about every layer of clothing she swaddled herself in except her underwear.
“Well then,” Ally says, nodding at Rachel’s boobs. “Good night.”
Rachel stumbles into her unlit bedroom without a word of acknowledgement.
“Such a good boy,” Maisie coos, scratching Winston’s ears, then patting his fat belly. “You wanna go out? Let’s go out.”
I give Winston’s ears a good scratch while Maisie finds his leash on a table by the door and slips it over his head. He prances circles around her, too excited to make the harnessing easy.
“Take Gideon’s shield thingy.” I point at the device on the counter.
“It’s freezing out there,” Ally reminds her, still hanging on to me. “Go to the little pee patch and come right back.”
“Yes, Mother.” Maisie’s tone is annoyed, but she’s smiling. I think she likes the way Ally babies her, even though Ally can’t be more than nine years older than Maisie herself. But the kid is taking it well, the whole ‘never-unsupervised’ thing. This little two-minute jaunt with Winston is about as much space and freedom as she’s had in her months with us.
Gideon disappears into the bedroom after Rachel and softly closes the door behind them. I nudge Ally toward the couch.
“So what’ll it be?” I ask her. “Water? Juice? I don’t think we actually have Gatorade, but I can walk down to the store.”
“Water’s fine.” Ally falls back against cushions and grins up at me. A light pink blush spreads over her cheeks. She finger-combs her hair. “My hair is so pretty. I love my hair.”
I snort. “I love your hair too.”
“What else about me is cute?” she asks.
“Everything.” I fluff the pillow for her and search the room for a blanket. I yank a red velvety throw off the back of a chair as Gideon slips out of the bedroom and passes me on his way to the mini fridge. He grabs one of the wrapped water glasses from the bar above.
“Grab us one too.” I have zero problems assigning tasks to other people. Sometimes I wonder if it was a mistake going into death-replacing. Sure, I was a great death replacement agent, and dying for other people is cool, but I’m really good at bossing people around.
It’s like a calling.
Gideon fills two water glasses with some fancy bottled water from the fridge and hands me a glass. I don’t dare remind him that Ally vowed not to drink this water yesterday. She ranted about the effect of plastic on the environment for ten whole minutes. I could’ve reminded her that the planet is about to explode anyway, but that meant Gideon would’ve won the argument and I’m Team Ally all the way.
I put the glass of water in her hand. What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her. “Here you go. Drink up.”
She waves her water around. “I just feel so
, you know?”
I smile. “I can tell.”
She runs a hand through her hair. “It’s a new year. A new beginning. And we have a great plan for kicking Caldwell’s butt.”
“And you’re so cute and you
With arched eyebrows, Gideon closes the bedroom door behind him. Thankfully, the sound of the television comes on, affording us some privacy.
I sink down onto the sofa beside her. “I’ll do it again if you want me too. I’ll kiss you a
She bites her lip and I’m about to lose it. I lean forward to kiss her but she starts talking again, so I hang there mid-smooch, lips puckered.
“Life is so good right now. No one is stabbing us, burying us alive, beating us up, or kidnapping the dog,” she goes on, her voice echoing inside her water glass. Her face pinches. “That means we are probably about to die.”
I press my lips together and sigh. “Don’t say that. You’ll jinx us.”
It’s difficult getting her to sit up, but I manage it. I want her to drink this water. I tilt the glass toward her lips, encouraging her.
“This is good,” she says and frowns at the water. “Is this tap water?”
“Because I’m not drinking that $15 water Gideon bought.”
“It’s tap,” I say again. “You’re just too drunk to taste it.”
Ally shrugs and finishes the glass. Then she hands me her empty glass.
“You want more?”
“No,” she grins. “I want something else.”
“We’ve got chips, but that’s about it. And Rachel can’t close a bag to save her life, so they’re probably stale.”
She shakes her head, grinning.
Then I realize what she’s saying.
.” I smile. “Okay.”
She crawls over the pillow between us and pulls herself into my lap. She straddles me, wrapping her arms around my neck. She kisses me once on the cheek, probably a missed target rather than a sweet gesture, and then manages to get my mouth the second time.
She pulls back. “God, is it you or is it really hot in here?”
“We’re still wearing our coats.”
She laughs and looks down at herself. “Oh. Right.”
I reach up behind her and pull her jacket off. “Better?”
She snuggles up to me. “You’re still hot.”