The Company of LiesBy: Lisa Olsen
Thanks to my team – Beckie Pimentel of Lady Bex Editing Services, Marilyn Weaver, James Olsen, Randi Pandi, Laveda Kasch and all my Streetbots – you are all awesome, covered in awesomesauce and itty bitty awesome sprinkles.
“All you did was touch them and they keeled over?” Ethan kept coming back to the moment when her story of escape from the Company’s clutches took on a decidedly supernatural twist. The early dawn sunlight made it too bright to look at him for more than a quick glance, but it was enough to see the deep furrow over his cornflower blue eyes.
Cady laid a hand over her heart, eyes wide and earnest. “I swear, that’s all I did. I wasn’t trying to blast them or anything.” And here she’d thought the demon riding shotgun on the back of her neck was a dud, completely dormant. It turned out it was something of a passive defense mechanism. There were worse things to get stuck with when having a demon forced into you, she supposed.
His fingers brushed over the palm of her hand, making it twitch, and she threaded her fingers through his to keep him from tickling her any further. “So why isn’t it doing anything to me?” he asked, his hand relaxing after a few moments.
“I have no idea.”
She’d pulled her long tangle of hair back into a messy braid that blazed fiery red wherever the early morning light hit it. The end was loose and starting to unravel without a scrunchie. A missing hair tie wasn’t the worst of their problems though – no purse, no money, no phone, no ID. Ethan didn’t even have a shirt and his chest was liberally smeared with his own dried blood from the ritual knife that’d drawn Ash from his body. Before too long they’d have to stop, Rikard’s Jeep was almost out of gas and hopefully an opportunity would present itself. Luckily, the signs said Eugene was just up ahead.
“Maybe it doesn’t work on a Reaper,” Ethan ventured, and her eyes fell to the tattoos that started on his hand and curved around his muscular arm all the way up to his bare shoulder. Should she tell him? She’d kept her initial telling of the escape to a more bare bones account the first time through, not wanting to overwhelm him with details. She’d neglected to tell him exactly how large a part Rikard had played.
“No, it does.”
“The guards don’t count,” he disagreed with a shake of the head. “They might have a demon bound to them to give them added strength or speed, but it’s not the same as the magics that bind a Reaper. It could be that those same rituals afford some protection to me.”
“No, I get the difference, but it dropped Rikard like a hot potato. Twice.”
“Oh, right. I’m still a little fuzzy on that. You knocked Rikard out in the hallway, and then still got him to hotwire the car for you and break us through the barrier before you drained him again?”
“Not exactly.” Cady shifted uncomfortably in her seat. “Rikard was the one who conked Alma on the head so I could pull you out of the ritual room.”
“After you took him down in the hallway? Why would he do that?”
She’d been asking herself the same question for the past few hours of driving. While she was still unsure about Rikard’s motivations, she was pretty positive Ethan wouldn’t approve of them, or that kiss of goodbye or thanks, or whatever that was. She wasn’t sure herself why she’d done it, the guy had been unconscious at the time anyway.
“I guess maybe he felt sorry for us,” she hedged. “I’m just glad he did it. There’s no way I could’ve gotten us through the protection spell to get out of the complex without him. Thank God you taught me the basics of the spell or we might still be back there.”
Ethan was quiet for long moments and she started to wonder if he’d heard her at all, but a quick glance showed him to be lost in thought. “Rikard’s not that bad of a guy sometimes, but don’t let yourself think he’s your friend, Cady. Whatever his reasons, if it went against the Company’s best interests, you can be sure he had a selfish motive behind it.”
“I don’t doubt it,” she sighed, thinking any altruistic tendencies the Fixer had probably originated below the belt.
“I’m more interested in this new ability of yours. Do you feel different? Can you still sense the demon inside of you?”
Instead of concentrating as he asked, Cady took the exit for Springfield. “Hold on a sec, I don’t think I can focus on demons and driving at the same time, and the sun’s glare is starting to get to me.” What she wouldn’t give for the pair of oversized sunglasses sitting on her dressing table back home!