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   Chapter 8 NO.8

Damsel[ed] Rescue Required (3 of the Damsel[ed] Series) By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 13165

Updated: 2018-02-01 10:58


When Jaylin takes my hand in the elevator, so much pressure fills my chest I think my ribs might crack. "Hey, " she says, blinking up at me with those big brown eyes of hers that must break hearts. "You good?"

My mouth opens to shape words, but no sound comes out.

I thought it would be Heaven. As my first "lover, " I mean. If there was someone I didn't expect in my life, it was Jaylin. When we were kids, I thought I'd fall in love with Hev. She's tough, blunter than a mallet to the side of the skull, pretty. Maybe I did love her, as a kid.

"Ang?"

When I swallow, my throat is dry and my tongue is like sandpaper. "Mmmm...hmm?"

"Not really the response I was looking for." She steps so close to me I smell faded perfume and stale coffee on her skin. Her hand slips up the back of my shirt and combs the brittle feathers of my wing. The touch is surprisingly tender, and I'm lost to it, caught in my own panicked spiral of thoughts.

When I grew older, say, fourteen, I thought it would be Gats. Not now. Not it two years from now, but like, as adults. I even had a fantasy attached, though that word holds all the wrong connotations. A story, I mean.

Jaylin frowns. "Are you with me?"

"Huh, " I say, "yeah."

We'd be sitting alone in a dim-lit bar, him, squinting at a dented wedding band before flicking it into the ice at the bottom of his drained bourbon, me, wiping my hands on my crisp white jacket, shaken from the day's list of patients.

"Look, " Jay says, "it's been a rough... couple of weeks. Month."

I'm already lost, thinking forward to the smell of bar cleaner and harsh alcohol.

"Hey, Angel, " Gatsby would say with his face in his hands. He'd have lost some of his accent by then, taken on an edge to his voice. For a reason I still can't explain, I always imagined he would become miserable as a grown man. The glamorous "teenage experience" would give way to monotony. Just under the facade, though, he'd stay the same: charismatic, spontaneous, handsome. "Want to get married?"

"Yeah, " I'd say, feeling all these adult emotions I didn't expect to have felt by now. Something like love, something like exhilaration, something like fear. "Why not?"

"I think we should run away, " Jaylin says, bending down to grip her hobbly knee. "Like in the movies. I dunno. Cash out whatever's in your college saving's fund, take Gats' car, get a fake I.D. You look older. We could get jobs. Hide out for a little."

I start to shake my head, but then her words click. Run away. Escape this war, my fate, the torture I've put my friends through.

All at once, I wish I could read her. Her expression, utterly calm and utterly blank. Dark hair tumbles over her shoulders, framing a pale, relatively scarless face. It's hard, in it, to see the girl I fell in love with, the girl who hurt me.

"Are you scared?" I ask her.

She levels her gaze to her feet. "Of your dad? Yeah."

"If you want to leave, I'm not gonna stop you."

"It's not that!" She slams her hands on the buttons, sending the elevator slinking back to the first floor. "I mean, yeah, your dad's scary. Yeah, I don't want to be near him. But I could care less about that." She bites her lip and lifts her head. When she juts her chin out like that, she looks like she can rule the world. "It's you, Angel. I want you far away from this place. I can run away, but that leaves you here. Unprotected."

"I don't want protection." I'm crossing away from her, her fist still wound up in my feathers. The words come out heavily, like a huff. "I'm tired of people trying to push me around, force me to go here, do that. I like you, Jay, but I still remember everything you've done."

"Ang—"

The words spiral out, too forceful for me to still while I hold my face in my hands. "I know that you don't want to hurt me and I know that you're trying to do better and stuff, but..."

"But you don't trust me? After everything..."

he doors creep open. My feathers brush the broken ceiling, a handful fluttering over us like blackened leaves on a November wind.

Gas hisses through the door, a misty, pink cloud that smells so sweet I think I'll throw up. Jaylin gasps. Cusses. I groan a little, that sugar-smell bringing images. The strength of Galaxy's—Heaven's—arms I melted into. Me, collapsing in a slurring, sobbing puddle on an empty street, mind frayed with nervous panic, wrists bitten by ropes the night Jay saved me.

"I hate that drug, " I mutter, lightness swelling up in my head with all the pressure of a bubble about to pop.

"The elevator shaft, " she slurs, tugging my shirt. "Angel! Right now!"

I glance up at the ceiling. It's split down the middle, sawdust and faded grain wisping from the split like jagged sort of snowflakes. My knees bang together, wings suddenly too heavy to lift.

Jaylin gave me a spritz of this stuff. This guy's giving us a cloud.

"I might fall." Fifty stories up, too. In a flash of red, I imagine it. Her, me, falling through the darkness to a point that feels like it will never come, then—BOOM! A crack of pain and whiteness, all around, as my eyes droop shut for what will be the final time.

"Give it a shot, " she says, twisting the hem of my shirt into a knot around her fist. "What else can we do?"

I glance up at the branches broken into the ceiling. Around us, a rumble building above us, below us, beside, the scream of swaying cables and hooks. Spindly fingers, pushing at the inch-thick doors, pale as porcelain.

We can surrender or we can take the risk. And suddenly, my mind is made up.

"Are... you... sure... ?" The words, pulled apart with pauses I have to wrestle my tongue through. The searing muscles in my wings stretch and contract, heavy like they're weighted with oil. All the moving parts inside me feel like they're smothered in this lethargic feeling, this feeling I've drowned myself in sleeping syrup.

She nods. I feel her head bobbing against my pounding heart, her cheek just brushing my collar bone. A rub of warmth.

With one glance at the darkness above, I pull apart the ceiling by its jags of dangling steel. A snow of dust drops into the elavator, filling my eyes and nose, drawing a taste of mold and damp concrete to my tongue. Jay's body pressed against mine, I shoot up into the unknown, wings beating, heartbeat slowing. Ba-BUMP, ba-bump, ba bump, bump, bump...

Like there's a fist squeezing around my lungs, I suddenly forget how to breathe.

This fluffy rush of pastel colors running through my head...

And down, down, down, I fall.

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