Home > Reckoning (Strange Angels #5)(9)

Reckoning (Strange Angels #5)(9)
Author: Lili St. Crow, Lilith Saintcrow

Where did that come from? My jaw had dropped. I stared at him. What the hell?

“You don’t think I can hack it.” He leapt to his feet, carrying the sleeping bag with him. He’d slept in his coat, too, and it flapped as he moved. I’d stitched it up, clumsily, and now I was wishing I’d done a better job. “Well, I’ve got news for you. I already have. Whatever it takes to make you see, I’m gonna do it. You get me?”

Silence stretched between us. “Um.” I searched for something to say. I settled for the absolute truth. “What? No. I don’t get you. What the hell are you on about?”

I got one long, very green look, his eyebrows—eyebrow, actually, since nobody had held him down and plucked him up yet—drawn together and his mouth a bitter scowl. I was struck once again by how cute he’d gotten. Those cheekbones, and those eyes.

How had I ever thought, even back in the Dakotas, that he was dull? Or gawky?

I had the weird sinking feeling I was missing something important. What a thing to wake up to. And the dream was still filling my skull like cobwebs, something important glimmering in its depths.

He filled his lungs, his chest swelling as if he was growling again. When he opened his mouth, though, the only thing that came out was a yell. “I love you!” he shouted, his eyes glowing laser green. “I love you, okay? I’m not some hopeless retard you pull along behind you because you feel sorry for him! I love you and I’m going to prove it!”

I had the exquisitely weird sensation of being transported to a parallel universe. Or of waking up in a movie where everyone knew the script but me.

A different kind of silence, now. It was the kind where something you can’t take back is still vibrating in the air, all around you. We looked at each other for what felt like the first time, Graves and me, and in that moment the last bits of the kid he’d been completely fled inside my head.

This was a new animal. And he was looking at me like he expected me to say something.

“I never thought you were a hopeless retard.” I sounded very small, and very young. I found out I was hugging myself, too, scooted back on the loveseat like it was a raft and the water around it was full of sharks. “You just . . . I . . .” Every word I’d never been able to say to him backed up, crowding around me and squeezing all the air out of my chest. “I thought I disgusted you,” I said finally. It was hopelessly inadequate. As usual. But Jesus. Waking up from a dream about one guy and having another one yell something like that, it’s confusing.

To say the least.

He actually cocked his head and stared at me like I was speaking in Swahili. “What?” As if all the air had been punched out of him.

“The, um. Sucking blood thing. And . . . I can’t . . . sometimes I just can’t explain things to you. I can’t tell you. It all gets balled up and you get mad and stomp away and—” I was actually working up a good head of steam here.

“I’m sorry.” The words jumped out. He hugged the sleeping bag, hard, tendons standing out on the backs of his hands. The flush on his cheeks had died away, so that under his caramel coloring he was ashen. “I was angry. Didn’t want to hurt you.”

Well, thank you sonny Jesus, we’re getting somewhere. Finally. “If it wasn’t for me you wouldn’t be in this.”

Bitterness, then. His shoulders hunched and his face turned old. A shadow passed through his eyes, turning them mossy instead of emerald. “Yeah. I’d still be cowering. Hiding in the fucking mall. I’m glad I got bit, Dru. If I coulda done it earlier, I would’ve.”

Jesus Christ. He’d seen the Real World by now. It wasn’t anything anyone sane wanted to be involved in. There’s a reason people run away from it. There’s a reason cops and governments sweep weird shit under the table. It’s because nobody wants to know. They don’t even have to work that hard; nobody goes looking for this sort of thing—the kind of weird where you can seriously die. They all go looking for the Saturday-trip, New Age, crystalgazing weird you can come back from.

Except Graves and me, we’d been stranded out in the black. Out in the place you can’t get back from and you just have to deal with. “You can’t mean that,” I whispered. My arms were around my knees. I was curling up into myself like a fern, or like he was shouting at me. My heart was triphammering. Wait. Let’s go back a couple seconds here. Did he really say what I thought he just said? “Graves—”

He flung out one hand, like he was blocking a dodgeball. “Bullshit. I do mean it. Best thing that ever happened to me, Dru. What was I gonna do—try to go to college with no money? Work my way through and hope someone would throw me a bone or two?” A swift snarl passed over his features, and his hair stood up in vital springing curls. “No way. This is my chance to be good enough. I’m taking it. You’ll see. You’ll just see.”

He dropped the sleeping bag. It hit the floor and keeled over, and he turned on his heel. Bare feet smacked the worn floorboards, and it took him less than a half second to undo the lock on the door. He plunged out into the morning, and the door slammed shut behind him. Shivers rolled through me, first hot, then cold.

What. The hell. Just happened?

A soft sound alerted me. I looked up, and there was Ash, crouched easily on the pulldown steps that led to the loft. He cocked his head, and greasy hair fell in his face. He was barefoot too, and he’d somehow lost his shirt. His narrow chest was dead pale, and muscle flickered under his skin.

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