Touching the cut on my cheek, my fingers come away bloodied. I hiss as the salt from earlier tears mixes into the wound. Nick reaches over, cups my face in his hand and wipes away more blood with his thumb. Now it is easy to catch his eyes with mine.
In them, I read the surface stuff: the concern for me, the “innocent,” worry that he will tell the story right, fear that his brother will jump the gun and run into danger without thinking, and maybe they have made a mistake letting my attacker run into the darkness.
I pull his hand into mine, rub my thumb over his palm, and read the deeper stuff: the paralyzing fear that they will screw up, that they will take too long to find the guidance that they need, the world will end in a blaze of Evil. Underlying it all is the constant pain of sacrificing a “normal” life for one that unceasingly puts their lives on the line.
I also read history: the things they have done to save people, the scars on his soul he is terrified are making him evil rather than strong.
There is something else…something he hides so deep I’ll have to pry to find it.
Like a kid, though, he focuses on what affects his life in the moment, not seeing the bigger picture. He does not see that what he and his brother do is less like chopping off the head of a hydra where two grow in its place and more like tossing a pebbles in a pond, ripples hitting ripples until the entire surface boils lightly with the effect.
While I have him, I make the subliminal suggestion that trusting me is a fantastic idea. Nick is easy. He wants to trust people. I will need a bit more time with Logan.
“I got a bad feeling from that trucker downstairs. Is that what you mean by strange?” I lean down to pull my boots off. “Didn’t get a good look at him. But that’s because all I saw were his eyes.”
I feel more than see the look that passes over my head between the brothers. “And they were very weird. Guys like that usually hang out at a place about five miles north of town, outside the limits.”
I go to the closet on the far side of the loft, grab one of Leslie’s skirts.
The tunic and jacket are long enough to keep me modest while I remove my jeans carefully over the scrapes on my knees. I can feel Logan appraising my legs. Perfect.
Nick gallantly turns his back to me, “You mean there are other guys like that? Guys with weird eyes?”
“Sure.” The skirt glides up and over my hips. It is long and makes me feel like a gypsy. However, I have to be careful when I walk. The fabric catches on my scrapes.
The bathroom is in the dark side of the loft. I click on the light before stepping in and rummage through the medicine cabinet. “This town is on a couple of major roads and highways. Strangers, tourists, truckers pass through all the time. They all have places to which they flock. For shady drifters with strange eyes, it’s an old barn in the woods.”
The first aid stuff lands in a pile on the counter in the kitchenette. Nick stands to help me with my jacket so I can examine the scrape on my elbow. I think I’m more pissed at the damage to the jacket.
“I didn’t find any weird stuff happening here.” Nick says.
“Nah, nothing weird happens. It’s kind of a typical southern town minus the usual crazies, which makes it unusual. The absence of, at the very least, Civil War ghosts in a town where so many died, in a town where the houses still stand…well, that’s just weird in my book.”
Pulling out a dishcloth, I run it under the faucet until the water warms the entire cloth. “I mean we’re smack in between New Orleans and The Crossroads. And all we get are weird people passing through. You’d think we’d rate a little higher on the supernatural list.”
Outside, the fire escape rattles.
Logan has a knife in his hands. Huge one, too, it is about a foot long and scratched from frequent use.
Nick peers outside. “There’s something out there,” he says. “Stay with Chloe. I’ll go check it out.” Nick pulls a gun from the small of his back and eases by Logan and into the night.
Logan closes the door behind him. The curtain, he pulls almost all the way, leaving a small slit he can look through. I stand behind him, close, but not touching and reach up to flick the light off.
Logan’s heart pounds. It can’t be healthy to be in such an alert state all the time, adrenaline coursing through your body. Oh, yes, they need desperately to relax or the both of them will fall dead before they even see the battle.
Logan keeps looking into the night. I pull a candle from the cabinet above and light it with a glitter of magic. Even that tiny bit tugs at him. He turns to see me struggling to pull myself up onto the high counter.
He slides the knife into its sheath under his jacket. His hands encircle my waist to lift me. He peers at the cross in the ruffles of my shirt. However, it is dark and he is not sure he sees what he thinks he sees.
“That girl you’re looking for? What’s her name?”
Logan drops his gaze to the floor. “She changes it pretty often. We don’t know what she’s going by now.”
“But when you knew her, what was her name then?” I dab the dishcloth over the scrapes on my hands.
A definite beat before he answers, “Kathleen.”
“What makes you think Kathleen is in trouble?” If he insists this is his story, I’ll play.
“Her uncle hasn’t heard from her in quite a while. She’s usually pretty good about keeping in touch with family.”
Do you know that when you lie, threads of black spider web through your aura?
I turn to my bloody elbow. Logan reaches to help me. Skin touches.
I get an image of the man who has sent the brothers to me. Crap. I’ll have to dig further. Garret is not Evil. He’s just well-read, experienced and has an over-developed need for vengeance not specifically directed at me.
Logan’s cell rings. He pulls it from his back pocket and answers.
So close, I hear Nick’s voice. “Nothing is down here. Get the address of the barn Chloe was talking about. I’m gonna check it out.”
“Not without backup.”
“Just some recon. Won’t take long.”
Logan hands me the phone. “I’ll text it,” I tell Nick and hang up. Tapping the phone, I keep half an eye on Logan who turns back to the door. He peers out as if he could see his brother. However, Nick is already down the street and behind the wheel of their old pickup. I hand the phone back to Logan.
Pulling my skirt up just above the scrapes on my knees, I hiss as it drags over the scrapes. Logan picks up the cloth and warms it under the faucet. Wringing out excess water, he turns his attention to my knees.
I suck air in through my teeth. It hurts. Not like a bone-crushing spell, but like a stupid paper cut you forget about until salt from the French fries you can’t turn down slips into it and stings.
Logan purses his lips and blows away the pain like a parent for a child.
My heart skips.
Yeah, no, that cannot happen. I am the one who has to stay in control here.
He looks up and focuses on the scrape just under my glasses. Gently he slides them from my face and places them on the counter beside me. He uses the corner of the cloth even more gently to clean my cheek.
Easy peasy, I have his eyes.