As she was unlocking her bike, she muttered under her breath to Frost. "Alright you – I dunno what the deal is, but I can't go all invisible woman this time, ok? You can't protect me from motorists that can't see me."
Frost's only response was to stretch lazily, so Rain climbed on her bike and headed toward home.
JJ swore as the girl vanished from view once she left the ally beside the shop. She was there one minute and then poof, gone. He knew she had to be there, but for the life of him he could see where she'd gone. He texted Al, who told him to head for the coffee shop.
Alonso had hated bringing someone else in. But it'd been a week, and the girl was still guarded like Fort Knox. Between school and spending every second with her mother, there was simply no time. So he'd gone under the table, contracting one of the young kids that ran errands for the gang.
"Just get her alone," he'd told Nicky. "We'll do the rest. You just hang out at the coffee shop after school, and if she shows up, let us know and keep her there and we'll do the rest."
She'd given him lip, but he'd pulled rank on her and threatened to bleed her if she didn't shut up and do as she was told. It was a gamble, if she went to LBB directly things might get messy, but in the end she'd given him attitude but went along with it, as long as it didn't interfere with her other jobs.
And then of course on the very day he'd put Nicky in place, their target had finally gotten careless. Figures.
She felt better when a driver waved her ahead at a four-way stop. Stupid, but she' d begun to wonder. The idea of being invisible panicked her. She'd expected it to be exhilarating, freeing, but it only filled her with dread. If she disappeared, would anyone notice? What would happen to her mom? Would Myles just dump her into her old, all memories of either him or Rain washed away. The thought filled her with a chill that had nothing to do with the winter wolf padding along beside her.
She came to a stop at another intersection, pausing to let the truck that pulled up next to her go first. There was a guy in the bed and she turned to flash him a smile, grateful to have someone acknowledge her, but when her eyes met his, she froze. It was one of the creeps from the other day- not the one who had grabbed her, but he was grabbing at her now.
She tried to scream, tried to run, tried to do anything but her mind and limbs were frozen. She couldn't cry out, couldn't think, and he was pulling her to the truck, dragging her over the side.
And then Frost was there, leaping over them int0 the bed of the truck and snapping jaws around the man's torso. With a shake of his head, he ripped the man away from Rain and slammed him up against the back of the cab. Rain sagged against the side of the truck, winded and bewildered. Her brain couldn't keep up with what her eyes were showing her.
The driver – the goon that had grabbed in their first encounter- was drawing a pistol from inside his coat and trying to aim around his partner.
Frost smashed through the cab, tearing into it like a tin can. The man in his jaws seemed to dissolve, turning into an inky black smoke that poured out from between his teeth. It boiled over the edge of the truck, over Rain, and disappeared into the ground. The rest of the man's body was rotting away at a frightening speed, like time lapse photography. There was sagging skin, then bone, then dust, then nothing. Rain watched in horror, but Frost was moving again.
The driver had fled from the truck, and was trying to scramble away, when Frost pounced on him. He pinned him to the ground with one huge paw, snarling and snapping inches above the goon's face. The man screamed, then suddenly the sound of it was silenced, though his mouth kept moving. He clawed uselessly at the paw that held him, only to have his hands melt away into nothingness, as did any part of his body that Frost touched. The nothingness spread outward, consuming the man completely until there nothing left, not even ash. This wasn't a rapid-fire rotting like the other goon had done – this was pure eradication. The man was there, and then he was not. Rain had seen what she'd known to be a soul leave the first man's body – as surely as she knew it hadn't been a human soul. But this… There was nothing left. Nothing left of either of them now. Just an empty, beat-up pick up truck.
And then that too started to melt away under Rain's hands. She scrambled back, tripping over the curb and landing hard on her backside. Still, she back-peddled, only stopping when she hit her fallen bike. One minute, she'd been riding down the street, then attacked by goons in a truck, then there was nothing. Not a trace that anything had happened. Just her, her bike and the empty street.
And the big white wolf.
He walked toward her, and Rain scrambled to her feet, crouching low. She didn't know where she would run or how she hoped to escape, but all the nerves of her rabbit brain screamed at her DANGER! and she listened.
Frost stopped and laid down, making himself seem as small as possible.
"Do not be afraid, you are safe now."
Rain's eyes grew huge, and she felt all the blood leave her brain. He spoke. The giant winter death wolf just opened his mouth and spoke.
Well, ok, his lips hadn't moved, but she'd heard it all the same, a real, booming sound. His voice was like rumble of distant thunder, or the voice of an enormous mountain. It echoed through the air and through her mind, like those cheesy Voice-of-God sound effects, but there was nothing cheesy about it.
Frost could talk.
Frost could make people, and things, dissolve into nothingness, and he could talk. And he was telling her she was safe. Hold the phone. Her brain had too much catching up to do.
"What. The Hell."
Frost blinked, and cocked his head to the side. "I do not understand."
Rain sat her happy ass down on the concrete before she fell down. "You can talk! You ate some dudes for breakfast and now you can talk!"
"I have always been able to speak."
His calm tone of voice did little to soothe her. "Seriously?! You could talk all this time- you've understood every word I've said to you! You asshole! I've been talking to you all day and all you've done is the stupid strong silent type act- wtf dude? NOT cool."
She clenched her teeth and glared at him, embarrassment and anger chasing away the last of her fear.
"There is no need to transform your fear into anger at me. You are safe now, and can continue home." He stood and moved toward her again, but stopped when Rain started waving wildly.
"That's another thing- what the hell just happened?! Where are those dudes, and the truck? What did you do?"
"They are no more. You are safe."
"You said that already- what the fuck does it actually mean?"
Frost tilted his head again, and the RCA dog act started to get on Rain's nerves. She was totally over-reacting because she was scared, but she didn't care about that right now. Her world was upside down and she needed some answers.
"What happened to them? What was that black smoke? Why did that one guy rot? How did you make two people and an entire truck disappear?!"
Frost lay down again, the picture of a long-suffering doggie that just wanted to go for walkies. "The same way I am keeping the people around us from noticing an angry girl and a giant white wolf arguing in the streets. Their thoughts of us, and the very essence of the men that attacked you, are simply not. They have never been, and will never be again. I have Undone them." He yawned, as if bored with it all. "It is what Destroyers do."
Rain suddenly felt the need to be moving again. The talk of Undoing and Destroying and being unseen and unremembered chilled her. She righted her bike and climbed back on it, taking a second to steady herself. When she felt sure she wouldn't fall, she peddled up the street, knowing Frost would follow her.
"And how do I know all this stuff anyways – is that you again?"
She knew he intended to say yes, and that if she looked behind her, he would be nodding. Then the actual "Yes" filled the air, and it gave her the shivers.
"God, that was weird! Can you turn it down or something? Knowing what you're gonna say before you say it is creepy."
Frost nodded again, then retreated from her thoughts. At least, that was the impression Rain got. God, all this was giving her a headache.
"No, that is my doing as well. You will find that when I have been looking through your eyes, when I cease doing so, it will leave you slightly off balance."
There was a sense of apology before Frost pushed into her head exactly what he meant. A flood of sensory details flashed through her mind, both from her point of view and his. Seeing herself from behind, and just slightly behind and from her own eyes was disorienting, and she pushed it away. Frost was courteous and withdrew, leaving another apology for imposing on her in his wake.
"God, that is so weird."
"Agreed. But seeing your life as you do is the best way I can analyze what is a threat to you . Until I have determined where you are safe, I will be with you always, watching, as I have shown you."
Rain grinned and sung softly to herself, "Every move you make, every step you take, I'll be watching you. Stalker." She had meant it to be a joke, something to cheer her up, but the reality of it hit her too hard.
"Wait- like, every move every move?"
Before Frost's affirmative even registered, Rain was already freaking out. "Oh my god! Ewww! Even the shower? No – no way!" She slammed on the breaks, turning to face him. "We have got to lay down some ground rules buddy."
He raised one shaggy eyebrow, then glanced meaningfully to the little old lady picking weeds in the yard they'd stopped in front of. "Do you really want to do this here?"
"Gah!" Rain threw up her hands in disgust, but peddled forward again. "It's not like she could see me anyways," she said sourly.
"True," Frost answered, sounding too agreeable. "But it seemed like you wanted my full attention, and I can't give you that while trying to keep the neighborhood from noticing us."
"Ugh- that's another thing. No more making me invisible. Period." She frowned hard, growing more and more unhappy with this entire situation. "Unless my life depends on it or something," she added with a huff.
God, he made it sound so simple. Stupid death wolf could unmake existence- who knew what was and wasn't simple to him? Maybe he could make her rich, or famous overnight, or something more useful than just making her uncomfortable. And saving her life. Rain sighed. This was just too damned complicated.
She let the conversation go as they hit the hill at the base of her neighborhood. Trying to peddle uphill and berate him would just leave her sounding breathy and stupid. She already hated how pouty and childish she was coming off as. But didn't he understand what a big deal this all was to her? This was her life. And in the past 6 months, it had all turned completely upside down.
They topped the hill and she wheeled her bike into the garage, resisting the urge to raise the big door for him so he could come inside. She stopped, suddenly wondering where he had spent the night last night. He tended to wait outside for her when she went indoors, but he had been at her bedside last night, hadn't he?
"Where do you even go?" she asked, more to herself than expecting any real answer.
I am always with you, he said, though his voice was only in her mind now. She cast a quick glance around as she moved from the garage to the kitchen doors, but Frost was no where to be seen.
I am not so mundane as all that. There is no need for me to be seen right now, so I will remain unseen.
Of course, he would offer up such a gem right as she passing through the French doors. Her mother wasn't in the kitchen, but she'd be bound to hear if Rain decided to take that moment to talk to herself. She made a face and moved into the living room, dropping her backpack on the stairs.
Sure enough, a call echoed down from the upstairs. "Brooke honey, is that you?"
"Yeah Mom!" She turned with a finger to her lips to keep Frost quiet, like she had brought a literal stray home. But of course he wasn't there. He was "unseen" or whatever – stupid over-powered super-pup. She shook her head, feeling ridiculous and turned to go upstairs. Instead she came face to face with Myles.
His face was flat, but accusatory. That parent face of "I know what you've done, and I'm giving you the chance to tell me about it". Rain was instantly guilty, falling back and making herself small. "I-"
I what? What had she done? What did he even know? Could he see Frost? She fought the urge to spin around and search for him, knowing he wouldn't be there. But he was there, she could feel his hackles raise as Myles pressed in on her.
"How was your day, Rain?" His tone was conversational, but his eyes bored into hers, and that one word filled her stomach with dread. Every time he called her by her new name, fear thrilled through her. What would he do, when he felt Rain was slipping away? What would he do to any friends that tried to help her?
She felt an icy wind on her neck, and Frost's growl echoed through her skull. "No," she whispered, breath freezing in the air. Myles' eye widened, then hardened. "What have you done?" His hand cut through the fog between them, and Rain pressed back against the wall, willing Frost to be still. "You can't," she pleaded as ice formed in her hair. Myles leaned on the wall to either side of her, fire in his eyes, power crackling visibly between them.
And then he turned and swept up the stairs, smiling and reaching for her mother, who had appeared at the end of the hallway. "Hey you two – did you tell her about dinner? She needs time to get ready."
Rain stayed sagged against the wall, not trusting herself to speak. Myles turned, giving her mother his back as he said, "I don't know if she's up for going out tonight, it looks like she's caught a cold." Again, Frost growled within her, and Rain gritted her teeth to keep him silent. But her mother was rushing toward her, hand going to her forehead to check for a fever. Rain pulled back, afraid to let her mother touch her.
"I'll- I'll go take a shower, that usually makes me feel better." She pushed past her mother, escaping to the bathroom before something awful happened.
As soon as she was alone, she slid down the door, hugging her knees to her chest. She shook with silent sobs, until she felt her mother knock on the door. "Honey, is everything ok? Do I need to take you to the doctor?"
Rain jumped up and turned on the shower. "No mom, I'm fine. Let me shower, ok?"
She couldn't say how she knew it, but she felt Myles come up beside her mother and led her away. Something about the way he pressed at her, like he was leading with his mind as well as his hand- was that magic? Could she sense it now?
But then Frost was pushing back against the feel of it, and Rain threw a mental leash around the feel of him, with the sharp his of a mental NO! She stuck her hand in the water, the heat of it helping to chase away Frost's chill. Quickly, she disrobed and stepped under the hot jet, feeling more in control the instant she did.
"You can't do that!"
She gritted her teeth, whispering fiercely. It didn't matter that he could hear her thoughts, she needed to say the words. She needed to know he'd heard. Frost indicated he was listening, but otherwise remained silent.
"I told you – no more Destroying people! And even if you have to, you can't attack Myles- at least not here. Not with my mother…"
She didn't know what she was really afraid of. All she knew is that she would do anything to keep her mother safe. They'd figure something out about her step-dad, but her mother had to come first. It was bad enough knowing Myles was in her mind, she couldn't bare the thought of anyone messing with her mother's memories, even if it was for her own good. They would find another way.
Something must be done.
"I know! I know. Just…." She ran a hand through her hair, trying to ground herself in something normal. She should be worrying about split ends right now, not about crazy witches trying to do god-knows-what with her magic while keeping one hand wrapped around her mother's heart. It was too much.
"Just- only as a last resort? He's been playing at this game for months, he won't do anything stupid now if I don't."
Frost gave his affirmative and left her to shower in peace.
She managed to duck out of the bathroom and into her room without anyone stopping her. She curled up under her covers, unable to chase away the cold knot in her stomach. This was all getting out of hand- she couldn't deal with something this big. Maybe she should go back to Rook's, see what he had to say? He'd been the one to hand her over to Frost – was that right? What that how that'd gone? She remembered it seeming so peaceful, so right…
But now she had her mother to worry about, and she knew she couldn't keep Frost off of Myles for long. She couldn't guess how much Myles could see of Frost, but he knew something was up. Every time someone tried to get near her, he freaked out and ratcheted up the over-protectiveness- what would he do if he found out Rain had a supernatural guard dog? Would he relax, or freak out more? Would he try to get rid of Frost, only to end up like the goons and the truck?
And that was a whole nother ball of ick Rain couldn't wrap her brain around. Someone had tried to abduct her, on more than one occasion. Sure, it was clear Frost could take care of her, but it was also clear he had no regard for human life. Or any life but her own, it seemed. What would wind up collateral damage in his quest protect her? And what could she possibly do to stop it? He'd listened to her so far, but Rain had no illusions about where she really stood in this power play. Right in the dead center of the bullseye, that's where.
She definitely needed to talk to Jon and Rook. Of everyone involved, they seemed to have the most knowledge with the most concern for her as a person – at least Jon did anyways. It wasn't much, but it was the best idea she had.
Her mother knocked on the door, cutting Rain's thoughts short.
"Honey, how're you doing? Can I come in?"
Rain wanted to tell her to go away, as far away as she could, from her and Myles and Frost everything just get away. To stay safe. Instead, she called out a simple "Sure" and burrowed further down into her covers.
Her mom came in and sat on the edge of the bed, hand going for Rain's forehead. Rain flinched, but nothing bad happened, and Frost stayed quiet, so she tried to relax.
"What's wrong, baby?"
Rain bit her lip, tears welling up as she looked at the concern in her mother's eyes. She couldn't do this anymore. Everything was just too big and too confusion and more than she could handle, and all she wanted to do was curl up on the couch and stay in and watch a movie and just be them again, before all this mess started.
So of course Myles came to stand in the doorway, reminding her that nothing would ever be right again. She wrapped her arms around her mother's waist and buried her face in her lap and tried to pretend, for just a second, that there was nothing else in the world.
But tendrils of thought brushed over her, and Frost pushed back against Myles' attempts to see inside. Rain swallowed the angry scream building in her chest, letting out in a tired sigh instead. She sat back against her pillows, closed her eyes, and took a deep breath. She was proud of how even her tone was when she spoke.
"I'm fine mom. Just stress catching up with me. Everything's changed and so fast-" She looked over her mom's shoulder at Myles, letting all her weariness over this stupid situation fill her eyes. "Sometimes I feel like I'm not in control of my own life anymore." His expression remained unchanged, but the feel of him pushing at her mind lessened. Somehow, the fact that she was learning to sense magic failed to cheer her. She sunk further down onto her pillow, giving her mom a softer version of the tired expression she gave Myles. "I just need to rest for tonight, ok?"
Her mom leaned over and brushed Rain's bangs from her face, kissing her forehead before standing to leave.
"Let me know if you need anything sweetheart, ok?"
Rain swallowed down the tightness in her throat and did her best to smile. "I will Mom. I love you."
"I love you too baby."
Something about the click of her door latch sounded way too final, and Rain gave up and cried til she fell asleep.
When she woke several hours later, the house was still. She strained to hear, stretching her magic too without realizing it, until she brushed up against Myles. She could feel him, and feel her mother sleeping next to him, wrapped in his magic. She felt him feel her touch, and immediately she recoiled. Nothing seemed to follow her, but she felt spied on all the same. She wanted to get away, to be out of this space and just go somewhere neutral, so she got up and got dressed and walked right out the kitchen door.
She knew Myles knew she was leaving, and she could feel him coming downstairs as she wheeled her bike out of the garage. She didn't care. She had to get away from this place for just one minute so that she could breathe. The feel of his house and his wards, now that she knew what she was feeling, left her suffocated and weighted down. As she pedaled down the driveway, she felt the burden ease, and the cold night air felt good in her lungs.
She knew Frost was keeping her hidden, even though she'd asked him not to, but she didn't care. Honestly, not being seen riding around in the middle of the night was probably a good thing. She wondered if it was cover enough to let her go to Rook's without Myles following her, but she decided not to chance it. It'd be a helluva long ride anyways, and who knew when the feeling of freedom would fade and leave her wanting nothing but to crawl back in bed.
So she pedaled around the block, riding aimlessly but sticking close to home. She'd text Jon and find time to talk later – sooner was better, of course, but not right this second. Right now, the movement and breeze was exactly what she needed, and she did her best not to think and just enjoy the open night air.
When she finally decided to go home, Myles was gone, having undoubtedly followed her outside. She wondered if he'd lost her when Frost decided to do his thing, or if he'd gone out for an entirely different reason. He'd been gone all last week, and tended to come and vanish without any rhyme or reason as far as Rain could tell. Who knew how many nights he left the house in the still and the dark, and who knew what he did? She didn't know the first thing about witches, not really, so she had no baseline for normal.
She also had no more energy to care. If he wasn't there to harass her about Frost, or Zig, or whatever ax he had to grind at any given moment, Rain wasn't going to complain. She climbed upstairs and back in bed and just let it all go for tonight. She'd meant it when she'd told her mother she just needed to rest. She'd take whatever breaks she could get at this point.
Instead, she dreamed.
She stalked through the streets, hating this place already. The placid little homes sitting behind their perfect little white fences screamed peace and serenity, life and abundance. She wanted blood, and chaos, craved war and conflict. There was none of that here.
And yet, there was a spark of it here. A piece of her former power.
There had to have been, or there would be nothing to have drawn her here.
She swept through the streets, blood-red cloak streaming behind her in an icy wind that carried with it the sound of rattling bones. She would find it soon enough. And until then, well, people died every day.
The last of the patrons had left hours ago, but Jon hadn't gotten around to properly closing up until now. Rook had been pensive all night – which for him meant too loud and too jovial, but Jon had seen through it. Something had been bothering Rook, and though he wouldn't talk about, Jon sat at the table next to him in companionable silence, working on some minor bookkeeping. Rook would talk if he wanted to, or he would stay lost in his own head if he wanted to, and Jon would be there for him either way. For all the shit Rook gave him, they had a thing, and it worked.
When Rook had heaved himself away from the table with a mighty sigh and declared Jon and his paperwork to be boring, Jon stood up and went to fetch the push broom.
"There's always cleaning to do, if you're so bored," he said with a grin, handing him the broom.
Rook scowled, but grasped the handle anyways. "Yes, because sweeping is so much more interesting than watching you count beans."
Jon ignored him and moved off to stack chairs. As always, Rook abandoned the sweeping halfway through, and now Jon was finishing the last bit by the door. He went to hit the outside entrance real quick before locking up, but as he stepped out, something was wrong.
Lying across the doorway was a dead body.
Jon raised an eyebrow and called back over his shoulder into the darkened bar.
"Rook. You might wanna come take a look at this."
Rook rolled his eyes, but knew Jon was the king of understatement. The fact that he'd bothered Rook at all was a bad sign.
Sure enough, Rook recoiled spitting curses almost as soon as he'd hit the door. Jon leaned up against the frame and crossed his arms, calmly waiting for Rook to finish.
"I take it you know what this means?" he asked when Rook finally fell silent.
Rook raised a solemn face to Jon's, gaze dark and flat. "Moira." Rook couldn't even enjoy Jon's shocked expression. This was seriously bad news. His old boss, and the former avatar of Death itself had finally found him at last.
"The bitch is back, Jon."
Jon drew a deep breath, blinked a few times, then sagged back against the door frame.
"Well, is this interesting enough for you?"
Rook gave a sharp bark of sound, more a hoarse cough than a laugh.
"I guess we'll see, won't we?"
End of Book 1
Letter from the author:
Hey guys, thanks for reading! This story is what I managed to dig out of my first NaNoWriMo wordpile, back in 2013. Since then, I've done some polishing, cutting, clarifying, and all around made improvements to this mess of a work. If you'd be interested in beta reading the new and improved work, send me a message. Thanks again for reading!