Listen up! Important announcement time!
This is Chelsea’s last Monday… because we’re moving to Thursday!
And we’ll be publishing twice a month!
So, you on the 14th!
And now onto the story!
Chelsea breathed in the heady fumes of the oil paints. She had finally finished her reference outline. It had taken months. Much longer than she had spent with Jackson Hawk in real life. Now she needed to figure out the right colors.
Oil paints were expensive though. While she had plenty of money in the bank, demon hunting didn’t bring much in. She didn’t have the resources to start the painting again. She’d need to experiment on the outline. To build up layers and find the right shades.
She smiled and applied a bright green to the stiff cloth. She wanted to start with his eyes…
The white warehouse apartment with its high windows faded away as Chelsea dabbed at the square of paint, finding the exact shade of green. He’d left her, but she’d pushed him away. And who knew if they’d ever cross paths again. She had to get this right the first time.
“What is that smell?” Amber’s raspy voice cut through Chelsea’s fugue.
She turned, watching Amber out of the corner of her eye. “Oil paints.”
“Hm.” Amber poured a cup of coffee, never quite looking at Chelsea. “Those fumes will prep you for tonight.”
Chelsea swallowed. “What’s up tonight?”
“Dronkes.” Amber’s voice took on an edge of humor. “We’re starting you out small.”
Chelsea giggled as she moved to the sink to clean her brush. “Um, my first hunt was nightlings, remember?”
Amber snorted. “Not really. You weren’t the only one who took a blow to the head that night.” She settled on a stool at the kitchen counter. “But honestly, stuff like dronkes are what pay the bills. It’s a decent score, but not a ton of work. And more importantly, it’s not too dangerous.”
“Too dangerous?” Chelsea glanced over her shoulder at Amber. The other hunter still wasn’t looking at her. She held in a sigh. Things had been weird between them for a few days now. It had all started with that moment. A grappling session that had turned too intimate for fight practice, but not quite something entirely sexual. It had been charged nonetheless, and it made for poor sleep in the lone bed that they shared. Chelsea had taken to napping once Amber finally got up in the afternoons.
And there had been no fight practice since.
Amber turned, her dark eyes studying the portrait of Jackson Hawk. “Dronkes are basically ferrets, though with septic claws. Also, a pheromone that makes people act really, really drunk. They’re pretty valuable on the black market, and some nimrod lost his mated pair.”
Chelsea nodded. How hard could be to capture a couple of ferrets?
The ragged tear in Chelsea’s arm wept blood on the dirty table at Boney’s haunt. Amber’s makeshift bandage had soaked through.
Fucking magical ferrets…
The little fuckwads hadn’t been at all impressed with the traps Amber had bought, and the longer the fight went on, the more drunk the hunters had become. Four hours and several truly bad bites later, they were collecting a decent cash prize though.
The young kid who had hired them, and provided the cure for the dronkes, thanked Amber profusely. He kept touching the crate with a shaking hand and talking about his uncle Bart… who apparently might not kill him now.
A woman’s low voice shook Chelsea out of her head. “Hey there, that’s looking painful.”
Chelsea sighed and looked up at the older woman. Warm brown eyes inside a smattering of lines smiled back at her. “Let me sew that up for you before it gets infected.”
Chelsea nodded, the flaming pain in her arm once again coming to the foreground of her consciousness.
The statuesque woman seemed familiar as she pulled smallish metal box out of her bag. A sinking feel washed over Chelsea when the box contained a curved needle and thread, as well as bandages.
Chelsea pulled her injured arm against her chest. “Are you a hedge doctor?”
The woman laughed. “Nothing so scary was that. I used to be a nurse before I took up demon hunting. And I like to keep hunters out hedge doctor hands when I can.”
Amber crashed into the chair beside Chelsea. “And for that, we thank you, Judith.”
The woman’s name hit Chelsea in the chest. She had met the woman before, the night that Alex had died. For a moment, Chelsea was once more standing in the rain watching Alex slam into the brick wall, his head snapping to the side.
Then Amber’s raspy voice pierced the scene. “So have you heard from Jackson lately?”
Judith shook her head slightly, eyes on Chelsea’s arm. “He usually checks in by now. He knows I worry. But nothing for the last few weeks.”
Chelsea’s stomach flipped. She didn’t know how she had missed it. This was the woman who Jack had mentioned over and over. A stream of red-hot jealousy streaked through her, forcing Chelsea to swallow bile. Jackson “She’s just an old friend” Hawk…
Damn him anyway.
Chelsea hoped none of her turmoil showed on her face. If it did, neither Amber nor Judith reacted. Then again, Judith seemed absorbed in her handiwork and Amber still wasn’t looking at Chelsea.
“There you are.” Judith smiled at Chelsea once more. “I’ll stop by your place in a few days and see how you’re doing.”
Chelsea nodded, not trusting herself to be polite. Disgust replaced anger quickly. She’d never been the jealous type, except where Jackson was concerned. And there couldn’t have been a worse person for her to lose her cool over. Hell, she had even seethed over Amber and Jackson’s friendship.
Her eyes cut over to Amber. Tall and heavyset with muscles, right now the abrasive hunter stared into space, a scowl twisting her pouty, full lips.
Chelsea sighed. Jackson Hawk was long gone, and Alex dead. Amber was her only real friend these days, and Chelsea needed to fix whatever had happened. She did the only thing she could think and headed to the bar. “Boney, I need a pitcher of whatever beer is cheapest and six shots of good vodka.”
The thin, dark man’s eyebrows rose, but all he did was nod before pouring the liquor into a tumbler and handing her two glasses. Chelsea scooted back to the table and slammed one glass in front of Amber, harder than she intended. A certain dark satisfaction coursed through her when Amber jumped and finally met her eye.
Chelsea tipped the tumbler, pouring them both drinks. Amber sat rigid, now unable to look away, or even blink. Chelsea picked up her glass, glaring at Amber until the other woman joined her. They drank in silence, downing the shots one by one. By then, Boney had dropped off their pitcher and mugs. Chelsea poured again, still standing, eyes narrowed at Amber.
Slowly, as they sipped at their beers, red crept up Amber’s broad chest. It crawled up her neck, towards her face. Chelsea refused to look away first.
Amber finally broke the staring contest to fill her mug. “What?”
“That’s what I want to know. What is up with you?”
“Nothing.” Defensiveness boiled every word out of Amber’s mouth.
Amber glared at the floor. “Look, it’s…” An ugly scowl twisted her round face. “It’s not about you, okay?”
Dark eyes lifted and Chelsea couldn’t breathe. The tightness, the sheen of unshed tears, everything about these eyes screamed pain. Chelsea clutched at her throat, unable to look away.
Amber’s raspy voice came out hard and heavy, nearly guttural. “Fuck off, Chelsea Childling.”
Keep the Adventure going!
Any donations would be appreciated