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   Chapter 17 NO.17

Damsel[ed] Rescue Required (3 of the Damsel[ed] Series) By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 12031

Updated: 2018-04-03 09:53

Cut me some slack here. I fight. As fiercely as a teen drowning in his own sweat can. I kick, land a hit in the soft flesh of my opponent's belly. Ram my elbow into the rib-cage with a hard crack to the sensation of jelly yielding around bone. Surprisingly painful, too.

My attacker gnashes their teeth together with a hiss of air. Behind me, stacked brooms hit the floor in a bump-bump-bump of aluminum on slimy floor, I try to scream, I really do. But as soon as I draw up a gasp of hair, a hard thwack across the base of the skull has my head smashed down into a blue plastic bucket. My nose is pressed flat and my mouth fills with blood. Kind of hard even to speak, let alone scream. I'm pinned down by fingers digging into my neck, holding my face to the bleach-smelling plastic as I squirm and shout "Spit, spit, spit, spit, spit!"

"Sorry!" The voice is murky to throbbing ears. "Sorry. Didn't mean to hurt you, Angelos. But you can't let anyone know we're here."

My brain is mush. It takes seconds for me to recognize that sweet, peppy voice. A whole minute for me to still my squirming.

"Sarah?" The nice Syndicate lady who phoned in an anonymous tip that had the city shut down during Owl's charge. I like Sarah and Ivy. Really. But it's hard to sound excited with your bloody face mashed at the bottom of a bucket. "You scared me."

"You scared me! And Ivy!" The pressure across my neck lifts. I jerk my head up to shifting stars and blurs of blue light, like a million Neptunes are orbiting around my eyeballs. Ivy's sitting across the pile of fallen brooms, bent forward and clutching her stomach. She raises her head, flicking her ponytail against her shoulders. Her eyes meet mine and narrow.

"Sorry, " I murmur. "But, you know, you shouldn't fake-kidnap someone with a history of being kidnapped." I spit a big bloody glob into the bucket. Ivy rolls her eyes and flips me off to Sarah's nervous laughter.

"Old habits die hard. But that's not what we're here to talk about."

I shake my head. My cupped hands are filling up with black blood, but the sting in my mouth hurts far less than the truth. A truth that jabs and coils inside me like bramble vines. I can't even take out two friendlies. In a fight with my dad's guys, I'm screwed.

"It's isn't?" I snap, hissy. I don't consider myself a catty person, but after being beaten up by the two nicest people in the history of niceness, I could give Gats a run for his money. "Please enlighten me." I roll my wrist in a flourish. Sarah shakes her head, blue-gray eyes soft in the light trickling under the door.

"You sound like Fallout."

My bloodied teeth are bared. "Don't compare me to that freak."

"Don't be a brat." Sarah glowers. "Freak."

My pulse pounds in my left temple. I made a mistake, saying that. We're all freaks here, and if Sarah was more anger-prone, I'm sure she'd have my teeth for calling Fallout that. Freaks. Spraypainted on monuments, printed on picket signs. They aren't supers, they're just...

"Jerk, I mean." My face goes hot. Her arms are crossed over a heaving chest and I rush to fill the silence before she uses it to scold me. "It's not him being a super that makes him evil and weird and scary." I spit into the bucket again and run my tongue over my incisors. They're wobbly. "I'm Sorry." And I am.

Sarah lifts her fingers to her face, inspecting her cuticles.She scratches one with her thumbnail. "Whatever. You're just grumpy we're here. Messing up your perfect high school life."

"Huh?" My voice is a squeak.

Her eyes are dull. "You're not an average high sch

beside Monopoly we can bother with that won't take us out of the house (and maybe into enemy hands).

Gats sulks in a bean bag chair. Shiro sketches in his drawing pad in the room's far corner. Heaven and Jaylin sandwich me on the couch, plates of cake balanced on our knees. I stab it with my fork until it becomes a yellow mound, bleeding creme.

And that's how Heaven spends her birthday: lying to make us feel better, staring at a Disney musical she probably doesn't even like. When she leaves with Jaylin in tow, she smiles weakly at us. Kisses me on the cheek and ruffles Gats' hair. He cowers at her touch.

At nine, I crawl into bed and Gats crawls in with me. I make no mention of it. I let him sleep with the covers pulled over his head. And sleep comes painfully to me.

This nightmare: Poison's wings are severed. Silky white feathers float on a breeze of ash. The limbs are broken and the exposed veins opened and ground to milky power. tossed on a mountain of charred bones.

In the dark of the night, Poison's sprawled across strands of bone-white grass. I kneel. I pick him up by his shoulders. His face is stained with blood, and he's cold in my hands, bony thin.

My brother's last breath is a scream.

I wake up cussing in a puddle of sweat. I need to take a shower. Heck, I need to stop sweating. Silver glints over my throat.

In blue-black blur of night, it takes me precious seconds to make out its shape, curved and thin. The teethed edge, leaving a pink impression just below my Adam's apple, like a little chain.

And I thought today couldn't get any better.

"I don't want to kill you, " Shiro blurts. His eyes are wide, blacker than mine. It makes his face even whiter in the clip of moonlight. The vinyl handle of the kitchen knife trembles in his hand. "But if you're the leader of Syndicate, I will."

My breath leaves me in a whoosh. I lift my hands slowly from the sheets. Shiro freezes, and in a second, I have his wrist plucked from my throat. I don't know when I learned to act so quickly, just that when people try to kill you, you sort of get in the habit of acting first. Shiro yelps, and its so soft its a grunt.

"That's it, " I say, throwing over the sheets. Gats is a lump under the white wool, the heat of his skin bleeding into my ribs. He rolls over and sighs, his snore a little purr. "I'm resolving this Syndicate crap right now."

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