Earth Bound:A Hidden NovellaBy: Colleen Vanderlinden
To my amazing readers, especially those of you who fangirled so hard over our brawny god of fire that I knew I had to tell his story.
Heph watched the landscape pass as he sat in the passenger seat of the demon's big black truck. It needed a tune-up, badly, he thought to himself, but the demon was almost as touchy about his truck as he was about his woman.
In other words, better to just keep his mouth shut.
The neighborhood changed as they drove, from disaster-torn areas to well-kept ones, and then, finally to a main street so they could find something to eat.
"I'm starving," Nain said.
"I'm getting a whole basket of those sliders. Maybe two," Heph said as he switched the radio on, turned it to the alternative rock station. Kurt Cobain's voice came growling out of the speakers, and Heph sat back and enjoyed it.
Nain looked over at him with a look of disgust on his face. "How can you listen to this shit?"
"Don't let your wife hear you say that," Heph warned, and Nain snorted. "Besides, we can't all be stuck in the 1960s."
"No, much better to be stuck in the 1990s."
"Is it my fault the best music was made then?" Heph replied. "Yes, definitely two baskets of sliders."
Nain shook his head, and they drove on.
"Molly will be happy. You made an insane amount of progress in Hamtramck already," Nain said after a while.
"Once that's done, I'll move on. Downtown is already being repaired, but East English Village is pretty bad," Heph responded.
"Why didn't you tell us you were doing all this shit? I could have gotten volunteers or something. Why keep it a secret from Molly?"
"Not keeping it a secret," Heph said, shrugging. "I'm doing it because I like to, and because these people deserve better than for us to leave their neighborhoods looking like war zones because some of us can't get over our fuckin' power trips."
"So you don't want help?""
"No. I don't need it." Heph looked out the window. The diner was about a block ahead. Would three baskets of sliders be too many? "Besides, people from the neighborhood come and see what I'm doing and they usually end up lending a hand."
Nain pulled the truck into a parking spot in the front lot of the tiny diner on Eight Mile and they both climbed out. Heph looked around. The parking lot was mostly full, and cars rumbled past on the busy street. He breathed in, the smell of exhaust and hamburgers making him grin.
Gods, he loved this world.
He loped toward the door, pulled it open. Nain followed behind him, glaring around as if he was expecting an attack.
"Nobody here," Heph muttered. "There's a witch somewhere around, but nothing we need to worry about."
"You just don't want your second lunch interrupted," Nain said, and Heph laughed. As they made their way to one of the booths near the window, Heph heard a crash behind him, dishes breaking. He turned, and one of the waitresses, dressed in her black apron and white shirt, was staring at him. She was pale, and seemed unable to take her eyes off of him, despite one of her coworkers asking if she was okay. As he watched, she seemed to snap out of it, shook her head and started cleaning up the mess. Heph shrugged and turned around.
He slid into the booth opposite Nain.
"Will I look like a glutton if I get three baskets?" Heph asked.
"Yes," Nain said. "But who cares?"
"How many are you having?"
Nain paused. "Two baskets, probably."
"Three it is, then."
The waitress who'd dropped the dishes after they'd walked in made her way over to their table, set tall glasses of ice water in front of them.
"Can I get you something to drink?" she asked, and her voice was sweet. Soft. Heph looked up at her to find her watching him again.
"Hello," Heph said, and a very pretty blush stained her pale skin. She had long mahogany hair, pulled up into a messy bun. Eyes the most arresting color Heph had ever seen, like warm amber.
"I'll have Coke," Nain said.
Heph shook himself out of it. "Same," he said, looking away from the waitress.
"Okay. Are you ready to order, or do you need more time?"
"I'll have two baskets of cheeseburger sliders. Fries," Nain said.