Shadow & Soul is Demon’s story. My muse got interested in him right away as I was writing Strength & Courage. He’s a damaged man with a traumatic history and a tortured soul.
The man Faith knows is Michael. She met him before he became Demon.
Faith’s father, Blue, was SAA of the MC that was destroyed in the Perro war. He was killed in that war. Her history with her family and with the club is complicated; she has traumas of her own. She ran away at her first opportunity, and she has been away for a long time. But before she left, she loved Michael, and he loved her. When she finally comes home, they find that that, at least, hasn’t changed.
So theirs is a second-chance story. I’m aware that not all readers dig flashbacks, but that’s how Demon and Faith’s story wanted to be told—the past woven into the present—and I don’t get in the way of my muse or my characters. They want flashbacks, they get flashbacks.
In the way that memory usually works, each flashback is connected to something that happens in the present.
What I’m offering as a teaser is the first chapter, set in the present, and the first “memory,” set in the past. Both are in Faith’s POV. Possible spoilers for Strength & Courage.
Shadow & Soul is scheduled for release on 14 March 2015. A couple of weeks before that, I’ll upload it for preorder and do the cover reveal, etc.
I hope you enjoy!
Faith saw Bibi come through the automatic doors into the Emergency Room entrance. She sat and watched as the older woman strode with purpose to the reception desk. She was dressed yet, or again, in her signature snug jeans, low boots, and leather jacket, probably with a v-neck sweater underneath. Her bittersweet-chocolate-brown hair was down, just over her shoulders, and perfect. Even at one o’clock in the morning, Bibi Elliott put herself together if she was going to be seen.
Faith Fordham, on the other hand, was wearing ancient UGGs, white sweatpants, and a gigantic black hoodie left behind by some guy or another, and she couldn’t remember the last time she’d even brushed her hair.
She couldn’t hear the exchange, but she could see in the set of Bibi’s back that it was about to get heated, so she stood and took a few steps toward the desk. “Beeb. I’m here.”
The receptionist or whatever she was forgotten, Bibi spun on her heel. “Faith! Honey!” Her arms extended, she crossed the waiting room. Faith met her halfway and allowed herself to be hugged hard and enthusiastically. She’d spoken to Bibi regularly over the years, every few months or so, but she hadn’t actually seen her in…fuck. A decade.
“Oh, honey! Oh, I’m so sorry. What a way to come back home. Is your mama okay? Are you okay? What the hell happened?”
None of those questions had easy answers, so Faith pulled back and took Bibi’s hand. “Let’s sit.”
As she led her over to the empty row of thinly padded chairs—it was quiet in the ER on this midweek predawn—Bibi asked, “What happened, honey?”
“I don’t know much yet. They took her for tests.”
“Didn’t they let you go with her?”
Faith took a deep breath and met Bibi’s eyes. “I couldn’t, Beeb. This all is…my head’s going a thousand miles a second. And she was yelling, and they had her in restraints, and I just—”
She cut off abruptly, realizing that she was about to burst into tears. Bibi was still clutching her hand. With the other, Faith pinched her arm as hard as she could. She’d learned when she was a kid that doing so would make the tears die where they were. It worked, and there were times in her life that she’d pinched herself black and blue trying to maintain her composure. “I haven’t laid eyes on her in almost ten years, Beeb. I don’t even know what I’m supposed to do now.” She squeezed her mother’s best friend’s hand. “Thank you for coming.”
“Oh, my God, Faith. Of course I’m here. Of course I am.” Then Bibi got a look that Faith remembered vividly from her childhood. It meant that Bibi was on the job, and the relief Faith felt at that almost started the tears again. “Let’s start with what happened and work out from there.”
“I got a call. I guess when Sera got transferred to Tokyo, she set me up as Mom’s emergency contact. I don’t know why it wasn’t you.”
“Has to be kin, honey. Blood kin.”
Faith nodded; that made sense. “Okay. Anyway, I got a call that she’d been brought to the ER and they needed me here. She got hit by a car. She ran out in front of it.”
“It’s worse, I think. The driver had just left a stop sign, so she has a broken leg and some bruises and scrapes, but it’s not that bad. The worst part is that she was out on the street naked and completely incoherent. She’s still totally raving—or she was until they put her out. And they don’t know why. Fuck, it should be Sera dealing with this.”
Sera—her full name was Serenity, but she’d decided she was Sera when she was in seventh grade—was the oldest of the two sisters, a Type-A do-gooder. She was their mother’s pride and joy. Faith, a rebel from the time she’d learned to say ‘no,’ had preferred the bike shop to school, or anywhere else, and she’d found her home in her father’s heart. Until they’d both torn it all apart. Her mother, too. Maybe her mother most of all.
But when the dust had settled, Faith had moved on, alone and away from the rubble of her life and her family.
Bibi gave her a little shake. “Well, it’s not Sera. It’s you. And me. We’ll figure this out together, okay?”
Faith nodded. “Okay. I guess…I guess we wait. Will you stay?”
“I’m not goin’ anywhere, baby. I’m right here.” Bibi wrapped an arm around her and pulled her close. It was the most familial affection Faith had felt in years, and her throat clenched again.
She sat with her head on Bibi’s shoulder for a few minutes, finding calm in that motherly embrace. Then she said the thing that had really started her head spinning like a centrifuge. “She didn’t recognize me.”
Bibi had been rubbing a soothing circle on Faith’s arm. At that sentence, she stopped, and they were both momentarily still.
“From what you said, honey, it didn’t sound like she knew much about anythin’. Don’t wrap yourself around that axle. Your mama knows you. She’s been missin’ you all this time. I know.”
And that didn’t make Faith feel better at all.
There was a television on the wall, set to a channel playing back-to-back-to-back episodes of one of the Law and Order shows. The sound wasn’t on, but the closed captioning was. Faith leaned on Bibi and stared at the television, not really watching, not really paying attention to the captions, and not really thinking, either. All of her thoughts wanted to be thought at once, so she had put them on time out until they could take turns.
Bibi’s hand was back to rubbing her arm, but otherwise they were both quiet and still, except each time the doors back to the treatment rooms opened, when they both swiveled their heads. For a long time, a couple of hours at least, no one she recognized came out, and no one came looking for her.
And then, the doctor who’d invited Faith to follow them up to Radiology or wherever they’d taken her mother came through the doors, scanned the room, and headed for her.
Bibi had already taken her arm back, probably sensing in Faith’s posture that it was time for them to stand, which was what they did.
“Yeah, hi. How is she?”
The doctor seemed young, about Faith’s age. He was short and sort of doughy, but he had a kind face and a gentle demeanor. He was probably great at emergency medicine, where people came in frantic and needed a calm, kind presence.
“She’s sleeping quietly now. Why don’t you come back with me, and we can sit and talk with some privacy.”
“Um, okay. Can…can Bibi come back? She’s my mom’s best friend.”
He smiled warmly. “Of course. Right this way.”
The doctor—Faith reminded herself to try to read the name embroidered on his coat—led them through the swinging double doors and then off to the side. There was a little room with a comfortable sofa and a couple of upholstered chairs. The color scheme was blue and pale grey, there were quiet seascape prints on the walls, and there were boxes of tissues on all three little tables near the seats.
Jesus, Faith thought. This is the death room. She stopped in her tracks. “Wait. Is she—is…you said she was only sleeping, right?” She had no idea how she’d feel if her mother was dead. And that thought was on a long time out.
The doctor—Reid, no Riedl, was his name—indicated the sofa. “She’s sleeping, yes. Please, have a seat.”
“We’d like to admit your mother. Until we fully sedated her, she was still agitated and disoriented, and the test results we’ve gotten back so far aren’t showing us why. There are no drugs in her system, other than those we’ve administered. Her vitals are strong, if a little elevated from stress. The only signs of trauma are a result of the accident. Has she been acting oddly lately?”
Faith looked at her feet. The toes on her old suede UGGs had been worn shiny and dark, and she stared at the pattern of wear. Her mind had always sought out patterns and shapes, and she felt a little more centered as the part of her that wanted to turn shapes into things made its attempt to see something on her toes. A bear, she decided. A bear on a sled.
“I don’t know,” she answered. How could she know?
Bibi spoke up then. “I don’t think so, Doctor. I saw her a few weeks back, and she was fine.”
“No forgetfulness, or unexplained anger, outbursts of any kind?”
“No.” There was something in Bibi’s negative that Faith heard, though. She turned and gave her a look, and got a reassuring smile in return. “Nothin’ unexplained. She was a little upset. We’ll talk later, honey. Don’t have anythin’ to do with this.”
Dr. Riedl looked from Bibi to Faith and then nodded. “Okay. Well, I brought in a neurologist to consult: Dr. Tomiko. She’d like to do a complete workup, so we can see what might have caused this. With no signs of drug or alcohol abuse, then this is either something physiological or psychological. We’d like to rule out any physiological causes before we explore the psychological.”
Her mother had always been high strung and dramatic, but she wasn’t nuts. “If she’s not crazy, then what could it be?”
He shook his head. “Speculation at this point is premature. Let’s get some tests done. Dr. Tomiko will talk to you in the morning and walk you through everything. For now, we’re going to move her up to Neurology and keep her quiet and comfortable. Visiting hours are obviously long over, but if you’d like to stay with her down here until they take her up, that’s fine.”
Faith started to shake her head, but at her side, Bibi said, “Yes, thank you, Doctor.” The forceful insistence in her voice stopped Faith’s refusal and turned it into acceptance. She nodded.
Dr. Riedl smiled and stood. “Of course. She’s in Room 3, like before. You can stay as long as she’s there. She won’t wake, but you can sit with her.”
Margot Fordham was still beautiful, even bruised and scraped, her blonde hair matted. She was fifty-six, a few years younger than Bibi, but neither of them was ever going to go grey or get especially wrinkly. Or fat. These were women who intended to keep themselves together all the way to, and probably beyond, the grave.
So it was weird, and difficult, to see her looking pale and frail, in restraints, sleeping on the white hospital linens.
Her leg was set in a cast that went over her knee, and she was in a traction device the lifted it up a bit from the narrow bed or gurney or whatever it was. Faith and Bibi stood side by side and held hands, looking down at Faith’s peacefully sleeping mother.
She’d been screaming and cursing and begging when Faith had been led back to the room earlier in the night. They’d tried to calm her by telling her that her daughter was there. She’d calmed for a moment, asking “Sera? Serenity? Where’s my baby?”
When she’d seen Faith, she’d said, “That’s not my baby!” and gone even more wild.
Faith supposed that was fair. But it made it hard to feel like she should be here, waiting. Sera hadn’t even said she’d come home. She wanted Faith to ‘keep her posted.’ Okey dokey.
“Why was she mad at Christmas?”
“Hmm?” Bibi sounded like she’d been far away in her head.
“You said she was upset but it wasn’t unexplained. How come? You said club stuff?”
“Oh.” Bibi sighed. “Yeah. The club is…getting into some stuff again. Your mama found out at Christmas, and she was pretty unhappy about it.”
Faith had no reaction to the idea that ‘the club’ was going outlaw again—which, she knew, was what Bibi had meant. ‘The club’ wasn’t the club Faith knew from her childhood. That club had been outlaw her whole life. Her father, whom everyone, including her mom, had called Blue, had been the Sergeant at Arms of the club she’d known. But he was dead, killed doing club business, and that club was dead, too. Now the men who’d been her father’s brothers wore a different patch. They were the Night Horde now. And Faith was no part of them. Even if they’d still worn her father’s patch, she’d left that life behind the minute she’d turned eighteen.
Literally—she’d been packed and ready at midnight on her birthday. By the time her family had woken that morning, she’d been well on her way to San Francisco.
“Why’d she care?” Blue had been dead more than five years. She didn’t see how a club her father hadn’t even been a member of factored into her mother’s mental state at all.
But Bibi grabbed her shoulder and made her turn so they were face to face. Her expression was pointed, almost angry. “We’re your mama’s family, Faith Anne. She moved here to Madrone to stay close to us. She’s a part of us. So’re you and your sister. I know you know that. Deep down, you know you’re still part of us, and we’re part of you. It’s not the shape of the patch that matters. It’s the family. And your mama was upset that things could get dicey again for her family.”
Faith didn’t like the way guilt was making her stomach feel sour. She’d been the wronged party. One of them, anyway. If she didn’t want to forgive and forget, that was her prerogative. But Bibi was serving her up a big ol’ helping of guilt pie, and, standing at her mother’s bedside in the hospital, Faith was lapping it up.
The door opened, and a nurse stepped in. “We’re taking her upstairs now. Room 562. Visiting hours start at eight in the morning.”
Faith and Bibi stepped aside and watched as her mother was wheeled out. Then they were standing in an empty trauma room, which seemed strangely huge without the bed in it.
And Faith realized she had nowhere to go. Driving all the way back to Venice Beach just to return in the morning seemed insane. She couldn’t stay at her mother’s house—she didn’t even know where that was. And the thought of a motel room tonight made her ache with loneliness.
She turned to Bibi. “Can I come home with you?” Bibi would let her, she knew that for sure.
But the look on her face was uncomfortable and almost panicky. “Oh, honey, I…”
Faith felt panicky then, too. “Please? I’ll just crash on the sofa for a couple of hours. I promise I won’t be in your way, and I’ll clear out right away in the morning.” She had not at all expected not to be welcomed at the Elliotts’ house.
“It’s not that, honey. You know I’d be happy to have you stay, and we have plenty of room. It’s just…oh, hell. Honey…things are complicated.”
Whatever had happened to her mother—that was bad. Being back in the midst of all these family memories and feeling absolutely besieged by them all—that was worse. But having Bibi tell her no—that was unbearable.
But she bore it. She swallowed and tried on a smile. “Hey, no. It’s cool. I’ll find a room. I saw a motel right by the ramp I took to get here.”
Bibi was shaking her head. “Faith, listen. I’m not sayin’ no. But you need to know…Demon—Michael—is there. He’s stayin’ with us. Has been for a few months now.”
All at once, all those thoughts that had been wanting to get thought, they all died. Faith’s brain was a ghost town. She stared stupidly at Bibi, only one word in her head, rolling through like a tumbleweed. Michael.
Bibi picked up her hands and held them both. “He’s…he’s got a little boy, honey. Tucker. He’s two. Hooj and I are helpin’ ‘em out.”
Michael. Had a child. Michael was at Bibi and Hoosier’s with a child. His child.
Michael was the other injured party in the reason she hadn’t seen her parents since she was eighteen years old. More injured than he even knew.
It had been even longer since she’d seen him. Since she was seventeen. And a half.
She made an effort to pull herself together and put another smile on. “It’s been a long time, Bibi. If you’re okay with it, I am.”
Bibi gave her a long, considering look. Then she sighed. “Okay, then. What the hell. We live in interestin’ times.” She hooked her arm around Faith’s and led her back out through the ER.
Faith went along, lost in memory.
Several of the men were standing near their bikes when Faith pulled into the lot at Cali Classics Custom Cycles. She saw her dad and Uncle Hoosier talking together at the heads of their bikes, their helmets in their hands. Looked to her like something was up.
She honked, and all the men waved. As she parked, her father came up to the door and opened it. “Hey there, kitty cat. Did I know you were comin’ by?” He held out his hand, and she took it and happily let him close her up in a quick hug. He smelled like he always did, the scent she thought of as her daddy—leather, tobacco, and motor oil, a hint of British Sterling aftershave underneath.
“Poppy called and said he had a box for me.” She looked over the hood of her car at the men waiting for her father. “You’re heading out.” It wasn’t a question, just an observation—it was obvious that he was. “Does Mom know?”
“She’s out with Bibi. I left her a message.” He gave Faith a sheepish grin. “Guess you’ll have to tell her for me. I’ll be back tomorrow.”
“Daddy!” That meant it would just be Faith and her mother at home tonight, and that was a terrible combination. Since Sera had gone off to college the year before, their mother had noticed Faith and decided she was really lacking in the daughter department. Without her father as a buffer, all Faith and her mother did was bicker and glare.
But her father wasn’t paying her any attention. His eyes were focused on the hood of her car, the area between the two wide, black stripes down the center. “What the fuck, Faith Anne?”
As was always her immediate reaction to censure, Faith got combative. As he leaned over for a closer look, she crossed her arms and set her heels. “It’s Sharpie. I’m gonna cover the whole thing.”
Her dad turned at stared at her, his expression cycling from shock to anger to bemusement and back around. She thought there might have been a quick flash of pride in there somewhere, but maybe that was just wishful thinking. “Do you know how fucking long I worked on this damn thing?”
She did. She’d watched him do a lot of it. Faith wasn’t much interested in mechanics, but she was deeply interested in shapes and patterns and the way things fit together, so she liked to watch her father, and all his brothers, work, even though she didn’t want to learn how to do what they did.
This 1970 El Camino, white with black hood stripes, had been in the garage for about four years. She’d had no idea until she’d gotten up on her sixteenth birthday, five months ago, and found it on the driveway with a big orange bow, that he’d been restoring it for her.
It was the best present ever in the whole world.
A few weeks before, she’d cut school and driven out to San Pedro with her best friends, Bethany and Joelle. They’d been parked on a bluff, sitting on the hood, drinking from a bottle of peach brandy Bethany had lifted from her grandma’s cupboard. Faith had been drawing with a Bic pen on Jo’s white Chucks. She’d looked down between their legs and had seen that white space between the black stripes, and it had been a beautiful, gleaming blank canvas.
She’d had a couple of Sharpies in her backpack. So they’d all drawn in that white space. And then, later, Faith had gone back over it all, connecting and shaping the graffiti into art. Since then, she’d filled in the whole space. Now she was working on the rear end, too. No rhyme or reason. Just the next place she’d seen where art should be.
Eventually, she’d get metallic Sharpies and fill the black stripes with gold and silver.
Her father’s face finally settled on bemusement. “Fuck, kitty. That finish took weeks to get right.”
Now that he wasn’t mad, she relaxed her battle stance. She grabbed the edges of his kutte and smiled up at him. “I know, Daddy. I love Dante so much.” She’d named her car Dante. She had no idea why, but he felt like a Dante to her. Also like a ‘he.’ “But this is how I make him mine and not yours. Please don’t be mad.”
He stared down at her, his brown eyes crinkling, and she knew he’d get over it. Finally, he sighed. “Your mother is gonna have a stroke.”
Faith scoffed. “I’ve been doing it for weeks. Nobody even noticed until now. She doesn’t pay me any attention unless school calls. She couldn’t care less what I do.”
Her father shook his head. “That ain’t true, kitty cat. Your mother loves you. She wants you to do good is all.” Before Faith could give that statement the derision it deserved, he looked over Dante’s roof. “Gotta go, kitty. Sorry about tonight. Be good for your ol’ dad tonight, okay?“Good is hard,” she pouted.
He laughed and kissed her cheek. “Don’t I know it. Love you love you.”
“Love you love you. Be safe.”
He winked and trotted off. Faith watched as the men mounted their big Harleys and rode off the lot in a roaring rumble of black thunder.
Then she turned and headed into the work bays, knowing she’d find Fat Jack back there.
On her way in, she saw a guy she didn’t recognize rolling a Street Glide up to Diaz’s station. He was young and super cute, tall and lean, with shaggy, light blond hair. His coverall was folded down around his waist, and his plain white t-shirt was snug and showed off wonderful, muscular arms. And he was wearing a Prospect kutte—which was what she’d noticed first. Her dad hadn’t said anything about getting a new Prospect, but she’d been around home and the clubhouse a lot less since Dante had entered her life, so maybe she just wasn’t up on the news. If he was a Prospect, that made him at least twenty-one. But that was only five years older than she was. That was nothing.
She sighed. Yeah, right. She was going to die a virgin. Unkissed and untried forever. Her father would see to that. And Uncle Hooj, and Poppy, and every other man in black leather.
“Get your skinny ass over here, short stack.” Fat Jack had bellowed across the bays, and the cute blond Prospect, who’d just stood the Glide on its stand, turned, looking like he thought maybe it was him Jack had been calling. He saw Faith, and their eyes met for just half a second. Oh, damn. He was way more than just cute. But then his eyes cut away, and he went back to whatever shit job he’d been assigned.
She sighed and sauntered over to Fat Jack’s station. “Hey, Poppy. What you got for me?”
The man who was, for all intents and purposes, her only grandfather, despite their lack of blood relation, gave her a quick hug and a kiss on the cheek. “A strong word first. You leave that boy alone. He’s got enough trouble without you making more.”
Faith thought that was ridiculously unfair. She’d never caused any trouble for the guys in the club. She’d grown up with the members. She barely even noticed the hangarounds, and she didn’t think they’d ever had a Prospect that was worth a second look—certainly not since she’d been looking.
“What? I just noticed he existed. No big.”
“I’m old and fat, missy. I am not blind. If you’d been a Looney Tune, your eyes would have bugged out of your head about a mile. Don’t get no ideas. You are jailbait, and he needs a steady place to be. A home. So keep those new little titties to yourself.”
Well, that was weird and kind of gross, having Fat Jack talk about her boobs like he’d noticed them. She knew she was pretty cute, and, though they’d been slow to make their appearance, she thought these newish boobs were not too shabby—not huge, but not teeny, either. But he was not somebody she wanted to notice them.
Although it would be totally awesome if somebody somewhere that she did want to notice would notice. Not that that was ever going to happen. She was pretty sure her father had put the word out in the Greater L.A. Area that any man who even thought an impure thought about his baby girl would die a bloody death.
She knew for sure that she was going to graduate high school without even holding hands with a guy. Her father had seen to that on the first day of ninth grade, when he’d taken her to school on the back of his Softail, and the entire fucking club had ridden in formation behind them. Then they’d all sat there on their damn bikes in their damn kuttes wearing their damn black sunglasses, with their damn inked arms crossed over their damn chests and stared until the bell rang.
Her father might as well have locked her in a steel box. No boy would even talk to her. They panicked if they got assigned to a group project with her. Even when a new boy came in, not knowing who she was, she’d get maybe one flirt, and then somebody would say something to him, and there she’d be again, alone in her force field of threatened biker aggression.
They’d done nothing of the sort when Sera had started high school. But then, Sera had been a mathlete and in Model UN and on the student council and shit like that. She was hot, but not interested. And, anyway, Faith supposed she hadn’t attracted the kind of boys their father felt the need to guard against.
Apparently, he was sure Faith would. It would be cool to know if he was right.
While Fat Jack had his nose buried in a bike engine, Faith sneaked another look at the Prospect. Diaz was yelling at him, and his face was getting bright, bright red. Then he nodded and slunk off in the direction Diaz was pointing. Faith felt sorry for him. Prospects got treated like shit, that was the way of this world, but still she felt bad. He’d been blushing so hard.
“What’s his name?”
Fat Jack sighed heavily and plunked a wrench on his worktable. “Michael. For now, he’s just Michael.”
Michael. That was a good name. She hoped he wouldn’t do something to get saddled with some obnoxious road name. She knew how her father, who’d been born Alan, had ended up Blue, and it was gross. It had to do with a misapplied cock ring and an ER visit, and she would have given up a lot never to have overheard that drunken story.
“Box is under the table.”
Faith looked around to see Fat Jack giving her a sharply pointed look, one bushy white eyebrow high on his forehead. She grinned and pulled on his long beard. “Chill out, Poppy. Jeez. Let’s see what’s what.”
She squatted down and dug through out an open carton that had once held motor oil. Inside was a treasure trove—all different kinds of old sprockets and chains and washers and who knew what-all, a lot of them rusty. “Oh wow! This is fantastic! Thank you, thank you!”
She stood and hugged him, and he gave her one of his signature bear grapples, lifting her off the floor and leaning back a ways, so she was resting on his big belly. Then he set her down and clutched at his back. “I’m gettin’ too old for that, even with a little shit like you.” He nodded at the box. “Make me somethin’ cool.”
“I will, Poppy. It’ll be the coolest.” Faith didn’t care a whit about making an engine run the way it was supposed to run. But she thought the parts that made it work were fascinating and beautiful. She saw other things in them than engines or brake assemblies or whatever. She saw people. Or trees. Or sunsets. Or just shapes, big and elaborate and weird. She would dump a box like this out on the garage floor at home and wait to see what it showed her.
She had a soldering iron. Someday, she wanted to have a blow torch. A big industrial one.
She squatted again and took hold of the box—but when she tried to lift it, she ended up dropping to a knee. It was way heavier than she’d expected.
“Fuck! It’s heavy!”
Fat Jack laughed. “It’s full of metal, goof.” He looked down at the box, and Faith saw him realize that he probably wouldn’t be able to lift it, either. He’d been big and strong once, but he was somewhere past seventy. He still did his miles and kept his VP patch, but he was, as he said all the time, ‘getting too old for this shit.’
He sighed and then yelled, “PROSPECT! GET YER ASS OUT HERE!”
The new Prospect—Michael, Faith reminded herself—came back out through the door that led to the clubhouse, moving at a hurried clip. “Yeah, Jack?”
Oh, he had a nice voice. Soft and deep at the same time.
“This here is Faith. She’s Blue’s little girl. Take this box and put it in her car. Then get your scrawny ass back here.
Michael met Faith’s eyes again, and then cut away again just as quickly. Lifting the box like it was filled with bubbles instead of engine parts, he said, “Sure thing. Lead the way.”
Fat Jack gave Faith another pointed look. She rolled her eyes and kissed his cheek, then headed toward Dante with Michael in tow. He hadn’t even bothered to look her over, so she honestly had no idea what powerful sorcery Jack thought she had that was going to get the guy in such trouble.
“You can just put it in the back. Thanks.”
Michael tucked the box in the corner of Dante’s bed, just behind the driver’s seat. “Nice ride.”
“Thanks. My dad fixed it up for me.”
“That’s Blue, huh?”
“Yep. That’s him.”
He nodded. “Okay. See ya.” Halfway through his turn toward the shop, he stopped. “What’s goin’ on there?” He pointed to the center of Dante’s hood.
She shrugged, but he wasn’t looking at her to see it, so she said, “Just something I felt like doing. I figure I’ll do the whole thing like that eventually.”
“It looks good. That’ll be rad. They have these metallic markers, too. You could do the stripes with those.”
Faith looked hard at him. His left ear was pierced—just a thick ring through the lobe, with a hematite ball at the connection point. “Yeah. That’s what I was thinking.”
He turned and finally really looked at her. His eyes were a crazy-intense kind of blue. Her mother loved these dumb romance novels, the bodice-ripper kind, where the women were all virgins with heaving, alabaster breasts wedged into miles of heavy brocade, and the men were all pirates or highwaymen who were really nobles in disguise, the rebellious second sons of dukes and earls or whatever—Faith knew this because she’d read just about all of them in middle school, sneaking them from the box under her parents’ bed and devouring them in the corner behind her own bed as if they were the best and sickest kind of porn. To her twelve-year-old eyes, that was exactly what they’d been.
Before she got boobs, she got hormones, and she’d had a few fantasies about being one of those heaving-breasted virgins getting accosted by dashing highwaymen.
All the heroes and heroines in those books had gemstones for eyes—jade and emerald, aquamarine and amethyst. Even at twelve, she’d thought that was a dumb way to describe eyes. She’d never seen a single pair of real eyes that looked remotely like emeralds, and she was pretty sure real eyes the actual color of amethyst were a physical impossibility.
Her own eyes were a weird combination of brown, blue, and green that her mother called ‘hazel.’ The closest they’d come to a gemstone would be like a slimy, algae-covered rock on the beach.
But Michael’s eyes—they were exactly the color of lapis lazuli. Exactly. That was her story, and she was sticking to it.
He smiled. And Faith had no idea what kind of mystical power she might have over anybody, but at that moment, she herself was completely ensorcelled.
She smiled back, and for a timeless second, they just looked at each other.
Then his eyes fell, and the moment was gone. “See ya,” he said again, and this time when he turned, he didn’t pause. Faith watched him walk back to the shop.
She knew he’d never touch her. No man ever would, not as long as her father was anywhere within striking distance—and certainly no man in the club would come near her, even if she were of age. But if anybody ever would, she knew she wanted it to be him.
© 2015 Susan Fanetti