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   Chapter 7 NO.7

Damsel[ed] Rescue Required (3 of the Damsel[ed] Series) By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 9666

Updated: 2018-02-01 10:57


Heaven.

"Hey, Hev." Angelos' low voice is the first sound I registers when I curl up in the back of Gats' BMW, and with it, the vague comfort of Angel's size and strength. "It's okay. Can you hear me? Tell me what happened. Or don't. Whatever makes you feel best."

Gasping. That's the second sound. It rings out all around me, as desperate and frantic as I am. My lungs tight, as if the air's been choked out of them. The grief, a cloying, oily thing wriggling in my gut. What have I done? How could I have slipped? Why couldn't I save him?

Blackness slated before my eyes. I squeeze my eyelids shut to stop tears from rolling down my face. I won't become hysterical, I decide. I'll stay strong. Tough. If I hadn't lapsed before, then this wouldn't have happened. It's a mistake I won't make again.

"Good back there?" Jaylin asks.

I grind my jaw. Nod. Flicking my eyes open, I swivel my head toward the opposite window. That way, I can focus on my reflection to stave away the panic.

Starlight traces the curve of my chest so my dark, slumped form glows against the nightlight of the city. I've hurt so many people. How am I supposed to live with this? I keep asking myself questions, but the answers seem so faraway and my head throbs at the thought of them.

His eyes shine with something raw and a turbo-shot of it. I can't read them anymore and it sends a punch through my gut.

"I'm fine, " I say. "What are we going to do?"

He traces a strand of hair out of his face, squared jaw going slack. "What happened with Poison. Did he hurt you?"

I run my thumb over my bottom lip, wishing I could scrape away the memory of Poison biting it as easily as I scrape away the layer of scab he left. "No. He found me and I just... gave in." There. Gave in. The words, raw and cutting as I think back to the day I dropped a fistful of poppies onto Nebula's monument.

"What do you mean, 'gave in?'" snaps Jaylin, throwing the car into Drive. But I'm already back in that chill September day, grinding my heels into the asphalt, drawing in a puff of smoke-white air. Promising I would become an inspiration to girls like me, promising to hold up Nebula's legacy and make her proud.

"Heaven, are you alright?" asks Angelos, his hand reaching over the glove compartment to touch mine. When he does, bars of moonlight pass over his skin and outline the purple mottle of bruises etched across his wrists. The sight makes me sick.

"I was supposed to be a role model for other girls, " I mutter into my shoulder, cracking at the sound of his voice. I've missed him so much, and now that's safe with me, I let my fears bleed into his. "That we can be heroes. That we're so much stronger than we're given credit for. But look at me. Gats had to save me, Jay had to save me, I... I couldn't save you. And Poison? I let him break me. I let a boy..." Distract me. Pull me under his co

and my gut sinks. Angel grunts his ascent. Jaylin frowns at him.

"You know, " she tells me, "I used to think he was really hot like this. All silent and brooding."

Angel doesn't say a word to that. Doesn't even attempt an awkward smirk. As soon as the elevator opens, I flee into the hall to avoid the stranger. I don't even have to knock on the door; it's cracked open. Darkness seeping into the apartment room, the windows wide open, whisking the drapes across the floor on a velvety breeze.

My heart stops.

The apartment Toby and I never have the time to tidy is clean, almost unidentifiable. The pizza boxes and paper plates thrown away, the floor swept, the forms and homework papers stacked into folders according to purpose. Every pillow is in place. "Toby!" I cry. My voice is breaking. There's no sign of a struggle. I race into his room, and the bed is made and his clothes folded, stacked neatly in his dresser. "Toby!"

I tear into my room.

Clean. Horribly clean. The bed made up, too, my floor visible where once there was only a layer of clothes. But this I notice in seconds.

Blue armor is spread across my pink sheet, glimmering in the moonlight. Its familiarity makes my pulse hiccup. The cape, the gauntlets, the visored mask. The scrapes and scratches from long-forgotten battles, blade marks that tore its blue skin away.

Nebula's armor.

A postit, pinned to the helmet:

STARLIGHT CITY NEEDS YOU, GALAXY

"Toby!" I cry. "Toby!

But the apartment is empty, and I'm alone with my dead mother's armor. The day just keeps getting worse and worse.

Then again, how long has it been since I've had a good day, anyway?

***

This book went on hiatus for a while, but with the new year I plan to update frequently, though my schedule might be erratic until I work up enough material to pick a day don't won't be so busy. Chapters will be better edited and again...awfully sorry.

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