Chelsea leaned against the wall of the haunt, Bentley at her feet, ears pricked and legs rigid; both stood ready to bolt.
It was hard to feel claustrophobic in Seattle, with its wide-open spaces and the saltwater wind in the air. Being trapped in a hunt by a hedge doctor managed to make this clean city with its artwork and parks feel tiny and airless.
Chelsea reached greedily for the proffered coffee cup with her uninjured arm. Hot, and somehow both bitter and smooth, she savored the drink. One of the hedge doctors had bought her one from the coffee shop downstairs when she limped in this morning. She was on her third. “I swear this almost doesn’t need sugar.”
Trees and cloud cover made a velvet darkness that hemmed in her flashlight. She couldn’t see much beyond her toes. But that didn’t matter in this well-kept wilderness with it distinctly defined paths.
At first, her brain rejected what she saw, but it was too obvious to dismiss. Tree roots were weaving through the undergrowth.
“Okay, Bent. Unless a cool monster comes up, we’re taking off. The damp is killing me.”
The dog whuffed from behind, sounding more preoccupied with whatever animal had pissed on the towering pine trees the night before.
“Don’t patronize me.”
Pale morning light barely brightened the tiny camper, but it was enough for Chelsea. She found her underwear quickly. The bright-white cotton glowed on the kitchen table. But her bra eluded detection.
She swore under her breath, not wanting to wake Carla. She didn’t exactly regret sleeping with the other monster hunter, but…
*Oh no, I exactly regret this.*
Chelsea watched the fire, ignoring the surrounding revelry. People laughed and drank, ate and flirted. These monster hunters could celebrate. They hadn’t seen Gene die. Torn apart by sea fairies.
*Neither did you. *
The cold spray tasted of salt. Despite the chill in the air, Chelsea leaned over the side of the boat, letting her tumble in the wind. She had thought the prairie to be endless, but watching the ocean merge with the horizon reordered her perception and her soul.
*I had forgotten what the true edge of forever looked like.*
It wasn’t a beach you swam at, even if the weather co-operated. And if the wind, rain, and fog ever did let up, the water would shock the breath from you no matter the time of year. Chelsea wasn’t there to swim though.