Home > Strange Angels (Strange Angels #1)(2)

Strange Angels (Strange Angels #1)(2)
Author: Lili St. Crow, Lilith Saintcrow

I’ve gotten kind of used to packing and unpacking, you could say. And trying to find toilet paper after a thirty-six-hour drive is no fun.

“Not this time, Dru.” He looked up at me, though, the bristles of his cropped hair glittering blond under fluorescent light. “I’ll be home late. Don’t wait up.”

I was about to protest, but his mouth had turned into a thin, hard line and the bottle sitting on the table warned me. Jim Beam. It had been almost full last night when I went to bed, and the dregs of amber liquid in it glowed warmer than his hair. Dad was pale blond, almost a towhead, even if his stubble was brown and gold.

I’ve got a washed-out version of Mom’s curls and a better copy of Dad’s blue eyes. The rest of me, I guess, is up for grabs. Except maybe Gran’s nose, but she could have just been trying to make me feel better. I’m no prize. Most girls go through a gawky stage, but I’m beginning to think mine will be a lifelong thing.

It doesn’t bother me too much. Better to be strong than pretty and useless. I’ll take a plain girl with her head screwed on right over a cheerleader any day.

So I just leaned down and scooped up my messenger bag, the strap scraping against my fingerless wool gloves. They’re scratchy but they’re warm, and if you slip small stuff under the cuff, it’s damn near invisible. “Okay.”

“You should have some breakfast.” Click. Another bullet slid into the clip. His eyes dropped back down to it, like it was the most important thing in the world.

Eat something? When he was about to go out and deal with bad news alone? Was he kidding?

My stomach turned over hard. “I’ll miss the bus. Do you want some eggs?”

I don’t know why I offered. He liked them sunny-side up, but neither Mom or me could ever get them done right. I’ve been breaking yolks all my life, even when he tried to teach me the right way to gently jiggle with a spatula to get them out of the pan. Mom would just laugh on Sunday mornings and tell him scrambled or over-hard was what he was going to get, and he’d come up behind her and put his arms around her waist and nuzzle her long, curling chestnut hair. I would always yell, Ewwww! No kissing!

And they would both laugh.

That was Before. A thousand years ago. When I was little.

Dad shook his head a little. “No thanks, kiddo. You have money?”

I spotted his billfold on the counter and scooped it up. “I’m taking twenty.”

“Take another twenty, just in case.” Click. Click. “How’s school going?”

Just fine, Dad. Just freaking dandy. Two weeks in a new town is enough to make me all sorts of friends. “Okay.”

I took two twenties out of his billfold, rubbing the plastic sleeve over Mom’s picture with my thumb like I always did. There was a shiny space on the sleeve right over her wide, bright smile. Her chestnut hair was as wildly curly as mine, but pulled back into a loose ponytail, blonde-streaked ringlets falling into her heart-shaped face. She was beautiful. You could see why Dad fell for her in that picture. You could almost smell her perfume.

“Just okay?” Click.

“It’s fine. It’s stupid. Same old stuff.” I toed the linoleum and set his billfold down. “I’m going.”

Click. He didn’t look up. “Okay. I love you.” He was wearing his Marines sweatshirt and the pair of blue sweats he always worked out in, with the hole in the knee. I stared at the top of his head while he finished the clip, set it aside, and picked up a fresh one. I could almost feel the noise of each bullet being slid home in my own fingers.

My throat had turned to stone. “’Kay. Whatever. Bye.” Don’t get killed. I stamped out of the kitchen and down the hall, one of the stacked boxes barking me in the shin. I still hadn’t unpacked the living room yet. Why bother? I’d just have to box it all up in another couple months.

I slammed the front door, too, and pulled my hood up, shoving my hair back. I hadn’t bothered with much beyond dragging a comb through it. Mom’s curls had been loose pretty ringlets, but mine were pure frizz. The Midwest podunk humidity made it worse; it was a wet blanket of cold that immediately turned my breath into a white cloud and nipped at my elbows and knees.

The rental was on a long, ruler-straight block of similar houses, all dozing under watery sunlight managing to fight its way through overcast. The air tasted like iron and I shivered. We’d been in Florida before this, always sticky, sweaty, sultry heat against the skin like oil. We’d cleared out four poltergeists in Pensacola and a haunting apparition of a woman even Dad could see in some dead-end town north of Miami, and there was a creepy woman with cottonmouths and copperheads in glass cages who sold Dad the silver he needed to take care of something else. I hadn’t had to go to school there—we were so busy staying mobile, moving from one hotel to the next, so whatever Dad needed the silver for couldn’t get a lock on us.

Now it was the Dakotas, and snow up to our knees. Great.

Our yard was the only one with weeds and tall grass. We had a picket fence, too, but the paint was flaking and peeling off and parts of it were missing, like a gap-toothed smile. Still, the porch was sturdy and the house was even sturdier. Dad didn’t believe in renting crappy bungalows. He said it was a bad way to raise a kid.

I walked away with my head down and my hands stuffed in my pockets.

I never saw Dad alive again.

CHAPTER 1

“Miss Anderson?” Mrs. Bletchley’s voice droned through my name.

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