The police station was noisy and crowded. Apparently it didn’t matter what country you were in, everybody had problems, some nastier than others. A few people stared at Riley as she was escorted to an interview room. She could imagine what they thought had happened to her, and almost all of those guesses would be wrong. The cops stared as well — they would know the truth — and some pointedly moved out of her way.
That’s me, the Riley of Mass Destruction.
At least she hadn’t totally trashed the graveyard, not like last spring in Atlanta. That battle had required a few of Heaven’s angels to put Oakland Cemetery back together.
Maybe someday she’d go back to this graveyard, see what it looked like in the sunlight. It was probably pretty, or had been before a demon had paid it a visit.
The interview room was chilly and that didn’t help. She huddled in a rough blanket, shivering, knowing that some of that was from the wounds. Though Beck had treated those, and a paramedic had bandaged her, he admitted the Holy Water he’d used was a few days old. To be most effective, it should be recently blessed by a priest.
Beck must have guessed what she was thinking. “Brennan is fetchin’ some fresh Holy Water. I’ll treat yer wounds again once we’re at the hotel.”
“Okay.” Another shiver overtook her, but she tried to ignore it. “Are you still sick?” she asked.
“I’m good. Just some stomach flu thing. Not a big deal.”
It had been big enough to keep him from picking her up at the airport. Now, as she studied Beck closer, she could see the dark circles under his eyes and his sallow skin.
He nodded. “I’m good now that I know yer safe.”
Riley forcibly pushed her worries aside: they’d both be feeling better soon, and then they’d start over, make this a real vacation.
No one is going to ruin my time with him.
A woman police constable delivered a large cup of strong tea, laced with sugar. A scone was offered, and since Riley hadn’t had anything to eat since the plane, she wolfed it down. A second and a third followed in short order and she made them disappear as well.
Beck took hold of her hand and squeezed it. “That’s better,” he said, nodding. “If yer eatin’, yer gonna be all right.”
Riley smiled wanly just because it would make him happy.
The door swung open and two cops entered, both in suits, both with stern expressions. Three dead bodies would do that. Riley knew how this went: they were the detectives and they would have all the questions. Hopefully she would have the right answers.
Two hours later it was all over. The cops had asked all their questions and Riley had tried to answer them as accurately as possible. Now, as she rose from the chair in the interview room, her balance faltered and Beck had to steady her.
“Let’s get you to the hotel,” he said. “A good night’s sleep will help a lot.”
Riley forced herself to concentrate on taking one step at a time as they were led out the station house’s rear entrance. A young man with light brown hair waited for them near a sleek black car. He looked to be a bit older than Beck.
“Riley, this is David Brennan,” Beck said, gesturing. “The real one.”
The man looked chagrined at the comment. “Pleased to meet you, Ms. Blackthorne,” he said, his accent American. “I’m sorry for what happened.”
Makes two of us.
“Brennan’s a demon trapper from Los Angeles,” Beck explained. “He’s been working at the manor for the last six months or so.”
“I’m hoping that someday I’ll be a grand master,” Brennan added.
That comment jarred her. “Why would you want to face that kind of hell?” Riley asked, bewildered.
“Why not?” he said.
Maybe Brennan didn’t realize that the death of a Fallen angel was required for entrance into that small, but lethal group. Or that the majority of people who encountered one of Lucifer’s angels died on the spot, or surrendered their souls to Hell. Maybe he thought he’d be one of the fortunate ones, though the odds were against him. Against all of them.
For a second, Riley didn’t want to get in the car with him. What if this was just another trap and Beck didn’t realize it?
“It’s okay. You’ll be fine,” Beck said quietly.
More than his reassuring tone, his use of “you” instead of “ya” told her he’d finally calmed down. Told her he trusted Brennan, which meant she could as well.
When the car pulled onto the street, Riley was surprised to see that there were only a few reporters queued up in front of the police station, not like the horde there would have been in Atlanta.
“Where’s all the news guys?” she asked.
Brennan’s eyes met hers in the rearview mirror. “Grand Master MacTavish made sure there was a news blackout, at least for the time being. The few that are here are just sniffing around, hoping to get thrown a bone or two.”
“He won’t be able to keep it quiet for long. Not with three bodies,” Riley said.
“MacTavish knows that. There’s a lot of questions that need answers,” Beck said solemnly.
Yeah. Like who had me kidnapped and how they knew I was coming to see you.
# # #
To Riley’s relief she’d been ushered into the hotel via a rear entrance, not through the main lobby where everyone could stare at the girl with the bloodied and torn clothes. That had been Beck’s doing, and at his insistence Brennan had made the proper arrangements.
“Thank you,” she whispered. Beck gave her a faint smile in return. She could see the guilt on his face — he was blaming himself for this disaster, and it would be hard to convince him otherwise.
“I’ll take it from here,” Beck said once the room key was in his possession. He accepted a plastic bag Brennan offered him.
“There’s bandages and tape in there, as well as freshly-consecrated Holy water.” Brennan frowned, then continued. “Call if you need anything. I’m staying in town overnight.”
Then he was gone, as if he couldn’t wait to get away from them.
It was only when Riley reached their room that she realized something was missing. “Ah crap,” she said sinking onto the bed. “My backpack and suitcase are in Robbie’s car.”
No cell phone, no passport or clothes. No shampoo, makeup, or any of the special small presents she’d brought over for her guy. Not even the new dress she’d bought just for him.
The tears she’d held back began to gang up on her.
Beck quietly stripped off his coat and then dialed the number from the business card the police inspector had given him. He explained the situation, got his answer, and then ended the call.
“The cops are checkin’ them for fingerprints. They’ll have someone bring them over when they’re done.”
“Oh, good,” she said, sniffling. But that meant some forensics dude was going to be seeing her new underwear, the royal blue lacy ones she’d bought just for this trip. Just for Beck.
“You need a shower,” Beck said. “Then I’ll treat yer wounds again.”
He was taking charge, just like he had that night when she’d returned from her journey to Hell, shell shocked and so very frightened.
Afraid she’d totally lose it now that the danger was over, which would just upset him further, Riley refused Beck’s help and took refuge in the bathroom, closing the door after her. Even when it proved difficult to get her jeans unzipped and her bra off with her numb fingers, she refused to ask for assistance. It was even harder to strip off the bandages and get the shower set properly, but eventually she was under the water, feeling it sting and burn in so many places besides her arm and shoulder. The blood made the water pink and she had to swallow repeatedly not to vomit.
Why couldn’t it have been like I planned? Why does everything go wrong?
By the time she had climbed out of the shower there was a pair of Beck’s sweatpants and a roomy tee shirt lying on the counter, though she hadn’t heard him bring them in. Riley pulled on the pants, tightening the drawstring so they wouldn’t end up around her knees. After dousing her wounds in the fresh Holy Water, she clamped her eyes shut as pain rippled through her body. Trying to visualize the cuts healing didn’t work, instead her mind went muzzy, her heart beat picking up speed and she found it hard to breathe. She clung onto the sink until the dizziness and nausea passed. Treating demon wounds was ugly, but not usually this bad.
When Riley finally looked in the mirror, she winced. The dark circles under her eyes stood out against pale skin and there was a big bruise on her left collarbone. A single tear tracked down her cheek now, dropping into the sink, a wet testimony to how much this sucked.
She’d dreamed of this day for months, how she’d step off the plane and Den would be there to hold her, kiss her, tell her how much he loved her. She’d saved up extra money to have her hair trimmed and even added special highlights. Then there was the manicure and pedicure, and a few special new clothes. All with one goal in mind: spending time with the man she loved.
Now she was sliced and bruised and sick, all because some idiot had wanted to meet a demon in person.
A tentative tap came at the door. “Riley? You okay?”
No. It’s never going to be okay again.
She couldn’t hide in the bathroom forever — her wounds needed bandaging — so she didn’t bother to put on the tee shirt, just clutched it close to cover her chest. When she opened re-entered the bedroom Beck’s worried eyes watching her intently.
“I have some hot chocolate for you,” he said.
Usually her heart would have melted at his thoughtfulness, but not this time. She really wanted to tell him to leave her alone.
Instead, she bit her tongue as he played nursemaid.
“These wounds aren’t as deep as I thought they’d be,” he said with obvious relief. “You were lucky.”
Unlike the three people who died.
Riley refused the drink and settled on the bed, letting the tee shirt fall away. There was no amount of hot chocolate in this world to fix this mess.
Beck laid out the bandages, one by one. “We make a good team, you and me. One of us gets hurt, the other is there to help,” he said.
She didn’t reply.
“You want to talk about what happened now, or in the mornin’?”
“Morning,” she mumbled, buying time. Or maybe never. He’d heard what she’d told the cops and MacTavish. Wasn’t that enough? Why was he pushing her like this? Why couldn’t he just back off?
She ground her teeth instead of talking as Beck applied fresh bandages. He carefully placed one on the knife wound and then helped her pull on the tee shirt.
“That’s better,” he said.
No, it’s not.
Afraid she’d say something hurtful, Riley climbed in the bed. She pushed aside the down comforter. She wouldn’t need it, not with Beck lying next to her. The guy was a constant furnace, summer or winter.
She laid on her right side, facing the wall, her left arm throbbing with each heartbeat. When Beck slid in next to her a light kiss fell on her cheek.
“I love you,” he said. “I missed you so much.”
It was what she wanted to hear, but deep in her heart there was still that weird unease, a sense of foreboding. No matter what Beck thought, this wasn’t over. Whoever had tried to make her a demon sacrifice wasn’t going to back off.
Maybe the next time she wouldn’t be so lucky.
(c) 2013 Jana Oliver
All Rights Reserved