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   Chapter 11 NO.11

Damsel[ed] Rescue Required (3 of the Damsel[ed] Series) By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 10818

Updated: 2018-02-20 15:25

Hours ago...

"Are you trying to kill my boy?" June stood in the foyer of Fallout's so-called 'lair, ' a complex so excessive in chandeliers, silk dividers, handcrafted mahogany finishes, the faint musk of expensive incense, the woman had to bite back a laugh. Her jaw was ground, her eyes narrowed as she leaned in a creaking doorway, glowered down at by a bristling-winged Fallout. Square-jawed and wrinkle-free, Fallout had become a handsome-featured specimen who looked little older than his eldest son. An effect of his aura. The bastard had broken oath and taken the capitol down with it.

"He's my son, " Fallout had said, tossing back hair that glimmered like black silk under the golden glow of seven softly clinking chandeliers. "Now that Owl's dead, I'm entitled to him. I doubt you disagree." The last line was spoken below his breath, a growl in his resonant, booming voice.

June glanced at her feet, a moment of visible weakness on her part. But what else could she do? Show him the tears forming in her eyes? She let her fists clench around the hem of her shirt, let him see the evidence of her rage.

Then, she looked back up and gushed. "Give me the antidote and I'll give him to you in a month." Gushed. She had to gush, the words had to burble together, because her eyes were squeezed shut and her knees trembled together, knocking. But she wouldn't cry in front of the villain. So, she bit back the crooked sound rising from the back of her throat. She was giving away her firstborn child— she created him, she should have some claim over the boy she raised—to this man, to this creature.

Fallout slouched forward, eyes narrowing into angry little points. His whole face, turned ugly and squished together with a scowl. "A. Month." He said the words just like that, hissed through a jaw clenched so fiercely it was a superpowered miracle he didn't chip a tooth. "He should be here now! Weeks ago, in fact."

June rubbed the red rings around her eyes. "There's a school play."

"And?" When the villain leaned forward, Juniper did as well. He smelled of cinnamon crumbs and the sickeningly sweet odor of cigar smoke.

"You'll tear his life apart." Even to Juniper's ears, the words slid off her tongue surprisingly smoothly. "It's Romeo and Juliet. Give Angelos that."

Fallout glanced over her head at some point in the distance, perhaps the silky beams of sunlight pouring through the windows. His eyes widened to their natural width, a tiredness appearing in his now-slack features that hinted of his true age. A second ellipses into minute of silent. And then the villain sighed. "I just want my son."

So do I, June wanted to say, her heart clenched, but she nodded, smartly keeping silent as Fallout turned on his heels. Feathers fluffed through the slits in his jacket. "Fine, " he said. "The antidote is yours, but in a month, you'll return the boy to me or I assure you Gatsby and Cleo's girl, Catalyst, will die. Do not make me prove the soundness of my word."

Juniper nodded though he couldn't see her. Nodded because her mouth was sandpaper and her tongue was heavy. She didn't want to be a part of this, tired of playing a pawn, first of Curtis, now of Fallout. Tired of making sacrifices


"So you and me, we do a little shopping, like a girl's night. Makeup counter. Nails done. Pedi-mani stuff."

I flinch before I can control myself. She bursts out laughing, a chaotic sound, like the wrong cords of a guitar being played as we crowd down the stairs—Lord knows we're not taking the second elevator—behind Juniper, who moves with slow, measured steps, red-taloned nails drumming the metal banister. Her head is hung.

"Jay, I have actually been stabbed, and that sounds way less scary than sitting still and having someone paint my nails."

A sound breaks from the back of Juniper's throat at the word 'stabbed', half hiccup and half squeak. She's hunched, like guilt is a weight pressed on her shoulders. So, I swallow what's left of my pride. Not much of anything, unsurprisingly. "I mean, if I have to—"

"Hevvv, " Jay says. I've never heard anyone draw out the 'v' in my name before, and it sounds like the rev of an engine. It's in the way she says it, slow and building in sound, like a low, rising purr. "You do this for me, rest up for a few days, and I'll help you free Katris. Sort of a birthday present. I have some choice words for him, anywho."

We're strolling step in step, her arm wrapped around my shoulder, her lips so close to my ear I shudder. I drop my voice to a grunt, speaking into my sleeve at a whisper, so quiet a non-super would only hear the scrape of air on nylon. "You're trying to stall me."

"You're too tense, " she says. "Can't plan a rescue until you're at your best, and besides, I'm actually getting sick of borrowing your terrible clothes."

I smile weakly against searing sunlight. "Fair point."

It makes my stomach sludge. Angelos and Jay have just escaped a murder attempt, Katris has been captured by a brutal organization which is being torn apart by women seeking to fill Owl's newly created power-vacuum, Gatsby hates me, and here I am, agreeing to a shopping day. But I do need a break, I decide, if only to clear my head. I let my hand slip into hers, let her wobbly leg prop up against my strong one.

I might have more to learn from the villain than I first thought.

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