Viola knew better than to follow whatever weird instincts she’d developed since… since… then… but when she drank tequila common sense was always the first thing she lost. Followed shortly, of course, by her mental filter, her coordination, and, embarrassingly enough, her clothes. She glanced down at her long black coat and buttoned it up to her neck. Better safe than sorry.
She kept her back plastered against the side of the building as she followed the low growls of a pair of Flians into a damp alley. She cursed herself for leaving her Network phone in the hotel room she called home. Not that she was sure it worked anymore. Undoubtedly Duke had deactivated hers within hours of her brother and sister quitting the Network.
She hadn’t voiced her resignation, but that didn’t matter. She couldn’t be part of the Network. Tracking demons led to fathers disappearing, demonic possessions, years of uncertainty, living out of a suitcase, and… and… oh sweet mercy. She sagged against the rough bricks as a fresh wave of sorrow threatened to buckle her knees. She pressed a hand against her mouth to stem the sob burbling in her throat.
Once she was certain she wouldn’t make any sound, she shoved her hands in her pockets without looking at them. Logically she knew her hands were clean, but every time she saw her fingers she expected them to be covered with blood. With Amy’s blood.
At the sound of heavy footsteps, she stiffened. Viola craned her neck around the corner of the building. A familiar flash of blond hair moved in and out of her line of sight. A small smile tugged at her lips. Duke. It figured that he was on rotation the one night she’d dared to venture out of her room in search of something to fill the aching, gaping emptiness in her soul.
She eagerly soaked up sight of him taking down the two Flians with precise, efficient movements. Her fingers curled in her pockets as if wrapping around the dagger she no longer carried. Her feet twitched with the desire to dash down the alley and help him. She knew which pressure points rendered a Flian unconscious and how to hogtie one with a bungee cord or, if necessary, a shoelace.
She couldn’t join him, though. What if she hesitated like she had with Amy? What if she froze and the Flians hurt Duke? What if they killed him because he’d been too busy protecting a stupid, useless bag of flesh that seized up in fear? If they did survive after she froze, the disappointment sure to be in the blue eyes she adored would utterly destroy her.
No. It was best to stick to the shadows and deny her urges. It was safer for everyone that way. Maybe, someday, she could trust herself to Track again. Once she got the mess that was her life, and her head, under control, she could take baby steps towards reclaiming her ‘old’ life. The ‘old’ Viola. The one who dashed into danger without turning into a statue.
She hiccupped. The blond head at the end of the alley turned towards her. Startled blue eyes met hers. In her inebriated state, she lost control of her mental shield. She felt the familiar brush of Duke’s mind against hers. She understood the question he pressed into her brain, but turned her back on him and stumbled back towards her hotel.
“No,” she whispered to herself, though she knew he’d pick the words out of her mind, “I don’t miss it at all.”
She wondered if he believed the lie any more than she did.