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   Chapter 13 NO.13

Damsel[ed] Rescue Required (3 of the Damsel[ed] Series) By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 11649

Updated: 2018-03-06 11:58


"What the hell do you think you're doing now?"

I'm hungover, I think, when I awake to the swirl of voices and a rag pressed to my eyes. My vision is blurry, darting up into the pin-prick glow that wavers before my broken sight. My breath escapes me in a dry puff. Can't see. Can only smell the perfume-sweet scent of a crowd of bodies, hear the odd click-click of hard soles and the tap of fingertips on a hard wire frame and the swish-swish of linens. I turn over, swiping the stale taste of blood from my teeth with the dart of a dry tongue. "Ugh."

A boot's square toe meets my side. "It's a perfect opening to execute Owl's plan. We have him secured. Now, we engage Fallout."

I continue a survey of my injuries. My left eye is swollen from a well-aimed punch, eyelids stitched shut with a layer of blood and pressed behind brittle, stinging tears. Captured. That's what happened to me. That's why movement jabs my muscles with a hot poker, why I can't move my hands or feet, or at least, why when try, stabbing pins race up my wrists and ankles. "Motherf—"

"Owl is dead."

"What's the difference? We carry it on in her honor." There's a smell of aged paper and corroded leather that reminds me of my uncle's library, the one full of cloth bounds and the clipped heads of hydrangeas so soft and white my fingers stretch to touch them. I ache at the thought, ache for a home that I can never return to, as unreachable now as the memories themselves.

"What's the d-difference?" It's a female voice, but it cracks on the 'd.' "The difference is that none of us want to be a part of this!"

"What we have is each other. Without Syndicate, you're nothing."

"I want to leave!" The voice, rising to a desperate pitch, a plea. So high it squeaks. "Everyone wants to leave."

"To what? Dead family? Prison? This is all you have."

I let my eyes fall shut, my skin prickling at the moaning of the second woman's sobs. They're a low, mournful sound, the type that echoes down, deep, deep, to your marrow.

"It's just a bad situation is all, " I offer, squirming into an upright sit. Floor joices sigh and squeal beneath my weight, stucco taking shape against the broad of my back. It itches my chill skin through my jacket. "A cult of kidnap victims with no leader."

That square toe slams into my stomach. Jolts me like a ragdoll. Without my wings, that's what I am. I steel myself against the pain, jarring my teeth into my cheek to fight back a wave of nausea.

"Now this one talks. Just how strong are you without your manipulation powers?"

I make a 'pshaw' sound under my breath, and though she can't tell, I'm rolling my eyes.

"What a ridiculous decision. Trying to taunt us."

Confidence made me lose sight of common sense. "I'll give you that, " I say, bobbing my head despite the ache smoldering at the base of my neck.

"You must know about the layout of your father's organization."

My stomach becomes lead, and a cool shiver flows up my spine, all pins and scalpel heads. "Owl was insane." I let my voice drift to a low drawl. Try to keep it calm and even. "I'm sure you know that as well as I do. She's a human-darwinist.' You can't believe what she believed. All my dad ever wanted to do was earn himself a quick buck—"

"You've turned on your kin."

The good wing, all creamy feathers and muscled flesh underneath, flexes, while the broken one can only twitch, damaged nerves smoldering as plaster-chips poke the broken feathers.

armed as a bodyguard in front of an alchemy store. I recognize him immediately. Dark waves. Chiseled muscles. His name is Jacob, the neutral leader. Before she can jab out a cry, the man's got his hand on her face and shoulder. But I can move just as fast. I ram my foot into his hip and Jaylin wrenches free, stomping his instep and slamming her elbow into his eye. He goes sprawling. Thrown twelve feet on his back and still skidding, shouting. "There's a war going on! CATALYST!"

Jay's milky skin has gone bloodless. I wrench her to the nearest exit, a beige door beside a water fountain and a Coke machine. She's cold, too, almost faint, her breathing a ragged pant. "He's going to kill me, " she says as I drag her.

I pull her out into the parking lot, which sparkles under the sun and the weight of a crisp blue sky. "I'm not going to let that man—"

"Heaven, 'that man' is the closest thing to a dad I got." She tears out of my grasp so her eyes meet mine. Dark and deep and muddy. "I disowned him." Her chest heaves, her hands are shaking, and she stuffs them into her pockets.

"Maybe. But he won't touch you, alright?" I throw my arms around her, pull her into a hug that might be too constricting, but when I'm holding her, I know no one can hurt her. "I'll keep you safe."

"I literally tried to rip off your mask."

"I'm still gonna protect you." I don't have Poison, but I have you. I despise you down to your pretty little bones, but I can't hate you. Angel trusts you, and if that's a risk he's willing to take, then so will I.

We sit on the curb, letting the rainwater soak into our jeans and slosh in our shoes. She leans her head into the curve of my shoulder, her nose just brushing the crook of my throat. She smells of honey and cologne, sweet and musky in the same draw of breath. I hold her against me, appreciating the warmth of her body, the feel that I can fit another person into my arms and shield them from all harm. The silence between us is soft, like a quilt draped over our shoulders, a warm presence. As an hour passes, Juniper's blue Prius arrives, a buggy car with spindles for wheels. June honks and I rise to my feet.

"Hev, You can't bend the world—"

"Shut up. Yes, yes I can. I have superpowers." I brush a wave from her eyes. "Now let me help you with your bags.

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