"Thank God," I groaned as a bird poop-smattered sign proclaimed we had entered the Lone Star state. "I thought we'd never make it here."
Lily paused, thinking. For a moment her fingers were still instead of the incessant tapping along with the radio she'd been doing on the steering wheel for the past hour. "Isn't that a little sacrilegious?" she asked after a minute.
I took a long swig from Lily's bottle of Dr. Pepper that she'd bought a few dozen miles back, wrinkling my nose. Not only was the beverage warm, but it was also flat. Despite this, I decided to take another drink, but stopped when I noticed Lily's death glare. She continued scowling at me and with a sigh I handed it back to her. It wasn't until she continued frowning at me for another minute or so that I realized she was expecting an answer. "I'm afraid I don't follow your thought process. Are angels not allowed to dislike long car rides?"
Lily laughed, nearly spitting out what was surely a delicious mouthful of warm, flat soda. "That's not what I was talking about," she said after she managed to swallow her drink without choking. "You said 'thank God'. Doesn't that break an angel code of some sort?"
I shrugged, looking toward the setting sun. "I don't know. Frankly, I don't really care either. They aren't exactly going to send a legion after me just because I break one little rule. At least, I hope they don't."
Lily quickly went back to the skeptical face that she'd worn for the first hours after we met. "Are you sure you're an angel? You really aren't sounding like one. Or acting like one, but that's beside the point. I mean, you should at least be using big words like 'perdition' or 'penultimate' or 'precipitous' or something archaic like that."
Now it was my turn to laugh, which I did quite exuberantly. "Are you serious? Just because I don't talk like I'm a million years old doesn't mean that I'm not an angel."
"How old are you?" she asked, running a hand through her sandy brown hair. "I hope you can at least answer this question with something convincing."
"I'm not sure," I said simply. "There are a lot of things I'm not sure of."
She looked ready to accuse me of lying until she looked at me and saw the confusion that was no doubt written all over my face. "What do you mean, Asher?" she asked, her voice softer now, less reproachful.
I shrugged, meeting her bottle green gaze. "When I came down here to earth, something happened on the way. I'm not sure what exactly it was, but I lost a lot of things. Memories, abilities, knowledge. I lost almost everything. All I knew was what I was, my name, and your face. I knew I had to find you. If you were one of the only things I remembered, I knew you had to be important. So I tracked you down. And you sure didn't make it easy for me."
She looked concerned now, almost sad. Her fingers tightened on the steering wheel and she turned her attention back to the road, despite the fact that we were the only car for miles. "Were you my guardian angel?" she asked quietly, embarrassment tingeing her voice.
I smiled slightly. "I can't be certain, but I'd assume so. Why else would I remember you? But I didn't know anything about you, not really. The things I know now are just things I learned on my search for you."
"That's funny," said Lily, although she wasn't laughing. "You'd think that after 21 years of watching me or creeping on me or whatever it is guardian angels do, we wouldn't feel like such strangers now that we're meeting face to face."
I nodded. "It all does seem a bit strange, that I've probably watched over you for years and yet here we are, driving around in your Jeep and trying to get to know each other over a warm bottle of Dr. Pepper."
"You're welcome, by the way," she said with a grin, gesturing toward the half-empty two liter. "And one last question. How long did it take you to find me? And if it didn't take long, lie so that I'll feel better about my disappearing skills."
"About two years," I answered. "You did a fine job of going off pretty much every radar there is. I could find nothing on you, other than that you had died, which I knew couldn't be true. I had to start by just describing you to artists and using their sketches to show around towns and cities, hoping someone recognized you. I'm sure most of it was luck, and another part was just instinct. And I'm also pretty sure I don't age. Just giving you a heads up."
She raised her eyebrows for a moment, then gave a small smile. "Well, Asher, sounds like this is going to be quite an adventure for the both of us."
"Just stop the freaking car already," I growled, about two steps from yanking Lily out of the driver's seat and tossing her out the window.
"I'm fine," she hissed back, her green eyes blazing. "This is my car, so we follow my rules, and my rules say we don't stop until the driver wants to."
"Is this always how you get when you're tired? Because you're making even less sense than you usually do," I said.
She didn't respond other than to roll her eyes at me. I went back to maiming the empty soda bottle. " Look, Lily, it's nighttime, we're both tired, we're in Dallas, and we can't get anything done tonight. We should get some rest. Now, tell me, what exactly are your infallible reasons for not stopping, oh mighty driver of this hunk of junk?"
"Don't insult my Jeep," she snarled. "Say you're sorry."
"I am not apologizing to a freaking car!" I shouted, ripping a chunk of plastic from the Dr. Pepper bottle. "And quit avoiding my question!"
"You want reasons?" she spat back, the dark circles under her eyes giving away that she was about to pass out any minute now. "I'll give you reasons. First of all, I'm not tired. Second of all, there are probably some demons around here to kill. Third, I don't have the kind of money to just drop by a motel every night and crash there. Killing demons doesn't exactly make me a white collar worker, and the benefits suck."
"Fine then, I'll pay for it. But we're staying somewhere cheap," I muttered, glaring at the mangled plastic I held in my hands.
"Fine," she mumbled in return. After a few silent minutes of driving, we passed a dumpy little roadside inn, probably only one step up from a no-tell motel. Barely even slowing down, we screeched into the parking lot and ground to a halt in front of the office. I hopped out of the car and strode toward the entrance. Lily followed quickly, childishly trying to reach the doors before me, but her plans were foiled as she tripped over the curb and went sprawling to the ground.
I stood over her for a moment and she glared up at me, all ferocity and wild intensity. Then suddenly something in both of us seemed to snap, and we started smiling like kids. I hauled her to her feet and she rubbed her freshly skinned elbow, her sides shaking with barely restrained laughter.
"I'm beginning to think you were right when you said I was tired," she said, her words slightly slurred.
"C'mon," I said, half dragging her into the office, At the front desk sat a pudgy, balding man who no doubt had the complete wrong opinion about us.
"I'd like a room for the night. Two queens," I added hastily.
"Yeah, whatever," he muttered. "That'll be twenty five dollars."
I pulled out my wallet and traded him some cash for a room key, then pulled the semi-conscious Lily with me back to the Jeep. She pulled herself together long enough to grab her backpack full of weapons and lock up the car, then staggered after me to the hotel room. Inside, she collapsed on the nearest bed, burrowing under the ragged blankets like they were silk sheets. I sighed and looked around the room. The paint was peeling, the carpet with stained with something I felt I was better off not knowing what it was, there was no tv, and not even a clock. I shrugged, tossed my jacket onto the rickety table, then followed Lily's lead and crumpled onto the other bed.
I woke up to the hospitable sound of car horns on the freeway. With a groan, I snatched my cell phone from the nightstand. 8:13 a.m.. Rubbing sleep from my eyes, I disentangled my legs from the blankets and lurched toward the bathroom, grabbing a ratty towel on the way.
I showered quickly, then dressed in the same black t-shirt and dark jeans I'd slept in. I really needed to buy some new clothes. I'd left everything else behind when I finally found Lily.
I looked at my foggy reflection in the mirror and ran a hand through my wet hair. I noticed that Lily still hadn't moved and inch from the position she'd been in when I first woke up. She was curled up under the blankets, with only the top of her head exposed.
"Wakey wakey," I said loudly, staring at the reflection of the Lily-sized lump under the blankets. She didn't move or even make a sound.
With a sigh, I tossed my damp towel back over my shoulder. It landed on top of the sleeping girl with a satisfying thud. She reacted immediately, and far more rapidly than I would've thought was humanly possible. In one fluid move she seemed to explode from beneath the blankets, landing on her feet on the floor beside the bed, with a knife in her hand that had seemingly materialized from nowhere.
"Where the heck did you get a knife?" I half-shouted in shock as she scanned the room, realizing she wasn't under attack.
She looked to the dagger in her hand, arching her eyebrows and looking vaguely surprised to see it there. "It was under my pillow," she mumbled, rubbing the bridge of her nose. After a moment, she shambled over to her backpack and swapped the knife for some clean clothes, then brushed past me to the bathroom.
While she showered I went to the motel's continental breakfast and grabbed a few stale muffins and two cups of coffee. When I returned to our room, Lily was drying her hair with a towel, dressed in a simple t-shirt and shorts. She noticed me in the mirror and practically skipped over to me, snatching a cup of coffee and taking a long drink.
"That hit the spot," she said, polishing off the coffee and grabbing a blueberry muffin. "Are we all set to go raise some hell?" she asked through a mouthful of muffin.
"I think so," I said, stirring sugar into my coffee. "I figured we'd split up. I'll take downtown, you take the Jeep and just drive around. I'm thinking that this book with the blood we need will be kept in a bookstore or library. That's what I last heard, anyway. We can just stop at every likely place and look for demons, since there will likely be a very sizeable guard protecting this book."
"Sounds good to me," said Lily, slinging her backpack over her shoulder. "I'll call you if I find anything, and you do the same."
We swapped cell phone numbers then got into the Jeep and headed for downtown Dallas. Yet even though I should've felt excited, anxious, anything, I just felt numb. There was a buzzing in my head that I couldn't seem to shake. It was the feeling of knowing that I was supposed to remember something, but not being able to. Like a dream that slipped away right when I woke up, but I still knew that I had had it.
"Are you alright? You seem a bit less annoying," remarked Lily after a few minutes of silence.
"Yeah, I'm fine," I answered. "Just a little distracted, that's all."
She bit her lip, looking concerned not so much for me, but for our mission. "Shake it off," she advised. "You're no good to me dead."
"Thanks a bunch," I said with a scowl. When I looked over at her I could tell she was only joking, but she was still right. If I didn't focus today, I could easily end up injured at the very least. And that wouldn't help either of us reach our goals.
"I'm gonna get out here and look around," I said as we stopped at a red light in downtown Dallas. "Call me if you find anything. Wait for me to get there before you do anything."
"Be careful, Asher," she said as I hopped out of the Jeep and quickly darted to the sidewalk before the light could change again. She drove away and I looked around for a moment, gazing up at the buildings that towered around me.
"Here we go," I muttered to myself, and headed for the first group of small, privately owned shops.
Hours passed and I went from shop to shop, finding nothing. Morning turned to afternoon, and afternoon to evening, all without a single demon sighting. I didn't give up, though. Not seeing a single demon in a city the size of Dallas had me suspicious. They were surely gathering somewhere, and that somewhere was what I needed to find. Lily didn't call, so I assumed she was having no better luck than I was. Either that or she'd been captured and killed, but I tried to be an optimist and not think about that.
Just when I was starting to give up, I struck gold. I entered a quaint little bookstore, expecting it to be run by a sweet little old lady like most of the others I'd been to. And for a minute, I thought it was. The old woman sitting behind the counter looked just as innocent as all the others. That is, until I saw her face, saw the emptiness there, saw how her eyes were devoid of any emotion but rage.
I tried to play it innocent and browsed about the shelves, meanwhile sizing up the others in the store. There were two other workers, both demons, and someone who appeared to be a customer who was also a demon. Four demons wasn't too much to handle, and they still hadn't realized what I was.
Nonchalantly, I left the shop and walked a few yards away, close enough to keep an eye on the shop. I pulled out my cell phone and called Lily.
"Asher?" she said, answering on the first ring.
"Yeah, it's me. I found something."
"Good," she replied, excitement in her voice. "I've got nothing, so I'll be over there right away."
I rattled off the address, still keeping my eye out for any demons. "I'll wait for you before I do anything. But hurry, I don't have much patience."
She laughed. "I'll be there in five minutes. Try to survive until then."
"Alright, boss," I said and hung up. That's when I felt the knife point at my back.
"Don't move, and don't call any attention to us," growled a voice into my ear. "You're going to walk to the bookstore and tell us what you are. And if you don't think of something clever, you're a dead man."
[A/N: Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it. Please let me know what you think in a review, I'd love that! Thanks again! ~Darkhawk]