Just a quick little announcement here. These next few stories are a little more… connected than normal for this series of shorts. So… for the summer… two stories a month.
See you on August 27!
The electronic beeping of her alarm roused Chelsea. She stretched in the early morning humidity and stepped over the pile of clothes in the hall. The warm shower washed away the night’s sweat, but didn’t let her feel any cleaner.
It wasn’t just the weight of a late summer storm that had her in a funk though. As she stepped out of the bathroom and onto a mostly empty bag of chips, she glared at the other reason her temper felt so frayed.
Amber snored away on the couch, TV flickering across her round face. She’d been staying at Chelsea’s dorm for nearly a week now and had done nothing but make messes and drink. As soon as Chelsea turned off the TV, Amber startled awake, rolling to her feet, fists up.
Chelsea waited until sleep and shock vanished from the monster hunter’s face before she spoke. “Mary Ignatius will be expecting you to leave today or tomorrow.”
Amber sighed, collapsed back onto the couch, and wiped a hand across her damp forehead. “I know.” She grimaced at her hand. “Gimme a moment.” She leaned over with a grunt and stuck one thick arm under the sofa. A few moments later she pulled out her phone. “Here. Boney texted me last night. He’s got a place for me.” She glared up at Chelsea. “I’ll be out of your hair tonight.”
For a moment they shared a glare, but then the tension melted into laughter. Despite Chelsea’s current annoyance with Amber’s cleanliness, she did like the woman.
Chelsea grabbed her pencils off the table and threw them into a bag. “How long do you think you’ll be in town?”
Amber shrugged. “Boney’s place comes with a reaver hunt attached. So at least until that’s done. Two, maybe three days, and then a week at the apartment.”
“Reavers?” Chelsea winced even as she said it. She’d sworn off monster hunting.
I barely survived the first and only one.
Amber, bless her, didn’t even flash a knowing look as she answered. “A type of vampire. Like the exact opposite of a nightling: animalistic, solitary, and ugly as sin.”
“They sound nasty.” Jackson had told her all about reavers.
“They are.” Amber sighed.
“So why is Boney pressing you into helping?”
Amber grimaced. “Because reavers are really, really dangerous. Mostly, nightlings will drain you or kill you quick. Reavers… reavers can change you into a reaver with a single bite.”
A fire burned down Chelsea’s spine as her hand fell to her hip. But no small hatchet hung there. A good thing since she didn’t want to hunt monsters.
Amber stood and stretched. “But you have to keep the population down or they become a problem.” She bent over to grab a shirt. “I’ll be meeting up with some folks tonight to talk strategy.”
“Well… have fun and give me a call when it’s over. I want a proper goodbye this time.”
“What? You want a Dear Chelsea note from me?”
Chelsea found herself laughing as she flashed the hunter a middle finger, but as soon as she closed the door, her laughter cut off. She wondered towards class, Amber’s words on repeat in her head until a familiar soft tenor invaded.
“Hey, lovely lady.”
Chelsea smiled automatically at Alex. Tall and lean, with long dark hair, they’d been dating for a few weeks. Not that she’d seen much of him since Amber had come. She couldn’t let anybody from school spend too much time with the hunter. Chelsea didn’t entirely trust Amber’s ability to hide who and what she was.
Alex wrapped an arm around her shoulder. “Tiggy is playing on campus tonight.”
She fought not to shrug him off and wondered at the instinct. She adored Alex. Considerate and sweet, with an eye for details that she envied, they’d been introduced by Sister Mary Clarence. The old nun had an instinct for people.
And she said she may have made a mistake with me and Alex.
Chelsea hurried to the door, and pushed her butt into the bar, opening it. “What time does Tiggy go on?”
Alex’s crooked smile grew. “The show starts at seven, he’ll be on at eight.”I could probably see Tiggy and have a drink before helping Amber with the reaver.
The sun-warmed hallway didn’t stop her shiver. She’d sworn off monster hunting. The frozen night where she’d killed a human minion and nearly died saving Jackson seemed like a half-remembered nightmare most days.
When she’d finally healed enough to come back to school, she’d promised herself never again. She’d avenged Dink, who’s only misfortune had been walking her drunk ass home.
No, you didn’t. You potentially killed the monster that killed Dink. You’ll never know for certain that you have.
Suddenly, she no longer walked beside Alex down familiar halls. No, she was back in the warehouse apartment she’d shared with Jackson Hawk. He had abandoned her, half-dead and in pain. Not that she’d known it then. No, she’d been sore and tired. Covered with bruises and finally awake. But more than anything, she’d been ready to fight again. She’d wanted to go one more round with a demon, any demon.
“Chelsea, are you okay?”
She shook away the memory, and forced up another smile for Alex. “Yeah, just in my own little world today.”
His dark eyes studied her face for a moment as his smile faltered. “Is it Anna?”
“A little.” Anna was Amber’s pseudonym. “She’s leaving tonight, and honestly, has overstayed her welcome by about two days. I can’t wait until my shrink faxes my note for a single. I’m not made to have a roommate.”
You and Jackson did just fine.
The urge to strangle the little voice in her head clenched Chelsea’s hands into fists.
Alex’s pleasant smile didn’t mask his skepticism. Unsure what to say, she laid her head against his shoulder and pulled him towards class. As they took their seats in the bright classroom, Chelsea couldn’t quite focus on Sister Mary Lazarus’s lecture on composition.
She was much too concerned with whether Amber knew where to get a spare ax.
You know she does.
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