Monday, September 19, 2016

Only With The Heart - Chapter 10 - A Paranormal Romance story by Kallysten

If you are new to this story, you can find chapter 1 here.
If you missed chapter 9, it's here.


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ONLY WITH THE HEART
CHAPTER 10



Ellie’s assignment took her all of fifteen minutes. It would have been even faster if not for the fact that her client, a man in his late forties, insisted on explaining to her how he hadn’t known the woman he’d met on the internet and brought home after their date was a vampire until she flat out told him so while sitting right there, on his sofa.

From the look he gave said sofa, Ellie had to wonder if he’d get rid of it by putting it on the curbside or burn it in his backyard.

“I can show you her profile on the app,” he offered, already pulling out his phone. “That way you can punish her for what she did.”





Her interest perked up at that. All he’d said on the phone was that he’d accidentally invited a vampire inside his home and needed her invitation revoked so she wouldn’t be able to come back. The agency received anywhere from two to half a dozen such calls every week, often from the same clients. It wasn’t the most thrilling part of a Special Enforcer job, but it was what paid their bills.

“Punish her for what, exactly?” she asked, her eyes scanning the man’s neck, looking for bite marks, before she took a glance at the picture of a lovely dark-skinned woman labeled ‘Hope.’ “You didn’t mention on the phone that she’d hurt you.”

His face turned a fairly unattractive shade of puce and he pocketed the phone again.

“Well, no, she didn’t hurt me. But she pretended to be human, tricked me into inviting her inside my home. There’s got to be a law against that, isn’t there?”

“So she first told you she was human, then after your date she said she was a vampire?” Ellie asked, though she had a suspicion it wasn’t how things had gone.

The client’s face was now veering toward crimson.

“She didn’t say she was human, no, but—”

“I’m sorry, but there is no state or federal law nor any local statute that forces a vampire to revel their status to everyone they meet. It sounds to me like she acted quite decently, telling you who she was before things got any further. I’ll need a flat surface to prepare my spell. Is there a table or counter space I can use?”

As she drove away from the house, now safe again from all vampires, Ellie couldn’t help but think of Taylor. Hope looked nothing like her, and still, as Ellie had cast the spell that would disinvite Hope from her would-be date’s home, it had been Taylor’s face that floated through her mind.

Was this what dating would be like for Taylor, from now on? Apps, profiles, awkward first dates, and the need to decide when to inform the guy that she had fangs? Ellie couldn’t even imagine her friend doing anything like that. It didn’t seem like her style at all.

Then again, the only person she’d ever dated was Lance, so for all Ellie knew she was wrong about that.

And it wasn’t as though Taylor seemed ready to date anyway. Ellie knew it hadn’t been her choice to step away from her relationship with Lance. Ellie loved her brother, but there was no denying that he’d acted liked an asshole in this whole debacle. If Ellie hadn’t been consumed by grief at the time, she’d have told him so and kicked some sense back into him; afterward, it had seemed pointless.

As much as she tried pulling her mind from that train of thoughts, once it started all she could do was feel the ice growing again in the pit of her stomach. Without thinking about what she was doing she pulled into the parking lot of an all-night grocery store and went in. She was out again in only moments with a single shopping bag. She drove to Taylor’s place, where she’d helped her friend move weeks ago but where she hadn’t come back since. She didn’t know why she hadn’t come back. Maybe she was just as much of an asshole as her brother.

There was no answer when she knocked on the door. Of course. So soon after nightfall, Taylor would be out. But how long would she stay out? Was it worth it to wait for her?

What was the alternative, though? Going home, sitting down on the sofa with Evan, watching whatever was on the television in silence until it was time to go to bed, at which point one or the other would claim not to be tired and watch TV a little longer, only to fall asleep on the sofa? Her heart ached just thinking about it.

She sat down in the hallway, her back to Taylor’s door, the shopping bag in the middle of her crossed legs, and pulled out her cellphone. She sent Taylor a quick text message—at your place with B&J— and didn’t have to wait long for a reply.

ETA 30 min

A tired smile pushed to her lips. She put her phone away, leaned her head back against the door and closed her eyes to wait.



* * * *


Evan’s hands were shaking.

He couldn’t make them stop.

They’d been shaking from the moment he’d left Lance’s kitchen, and no amount of breathing exercises had helped so far. At first he’d thought James’ panic attack might have triggered one of his own, but that wasn’t it. His breathing was fine, his heartbeat normal, his mind clear and calm.

He just couldn’t stop his hands from shaking.

They were still shaking after he took a long shower, still shaking when he put on the instrumental music that had never failed to soothe his nerves before, even when he’d been in the middle of the ‘week from hell’ and taking exam after exam in medical school. They were still shaking when he uncorked a bottle of wine and poured himself a glass while sitting at the dining room table.

He wrapped one shaky hand around the wide glass, started drawing it up to his lips, close enough that it was all he could smell—and almost dropped it when the shaking stopped.

“Fuck,” he murmured, setting down the glass again and raising his hand, open palm toward him, to stare at it. Little by little, the shaking was returning.

“Fuck that,” he said, more loudly, and pressed both his hands hard on the table to push himself up.

The bottle in one hand and the glass in the other, he walked to the kitchen and dumped both in the sink, running water and dish soap in to dispel both the color and smell. He dropped the bottle in the trash, pulling the bag out even though it was only halfway full. One knot; a second one on top of it; he took the bag to the trashcan outside. It made a satisfying sound when the bottle hit the bottom of the trashcan and broke.

He made up his mind right then and there, and only jumped back inside for a minute to grab his wallet, his keys, and lock the door behind him. He didn’t stretch, didn’t warm up, just started running from outside his front door, down the driveway and to the sidewalk. He turned left, the way he always did. His keys bounced in his pocket to the rhythm of his feet hitting the pavement, a light jingle that was familiar by now.

He’d never liked running all that much, but these days it seemed like the only way to completely empty his mind. Time seemed to lose meaning once he found his stride. Sometimes, he ran a little faster, sometimes slower. Whatever time of day or night he ran, he followed the same path. Muscle memory helped him jump over cracks in the sidewalk or uneven paving and habit guided him past block after block of houses, all perfectly lined up, cars in most driveways, an occasional toy abandoned on the front lawn. A few businesses marked the end of the neighborhood, then the library, and a little further a church.

Evan always stopped running when he reached the front of the church, though not from respect for the building. He had faith—even now, he still did—but he’d never cared much for everything that came with organized religion. He walked the rest of the way, his heart still hammering in his chest even when his breathing was returning to normal.

The graveyard’s gate creaked ever so lightly when he pushed it. He walked along the gravel paths with nothing but a sliver of moon and his memory showing him the way. When he rested his hand on the white marble stone, it wasn’t shaking anymore, though Evan was.

“Visiting hours end at nightfall,” a loud voice announced behind him, the beam of a flashlight sweeping around Evan.

He turned slowly toward the guard, a familiar apology on his lips, though it wasn’t needed. Upon recognizing him, Samwell, a gray-haired man wearing a slightly too large uniform, sighed loudly.

“Oh, it’s you again, Doctor. You know I need to ask you to leave.”

“I know, I know,” Evan said tiredly, already walking back toward the gate and the guard waiting there.

“Visiting hours start again—”

“At sunrise,” Evan finished for him. “I know. I’m sorry.”

Samwell’s expression, even in the darkness, veered more toward pity than sternness.

“It’s all right, Doc. Just, you know. Doing my job.”

“I know. Good night, Samwell. Sorry for the disturbance.”

Returning home, Evan walked. He always did. His heart felt too heavy to run any more.

When he reached his home, the house was dark, the driveway empty. It had been a long time since a toy had spent a night forgotten on the front lawn.



* * * *



The end credits rolled on the television, accompanying the soaring music. Lance yawned and stretched as he sat up. He turned to the armchair and opened his mouth to tell James to go to bed, but closed it again without a word when he realized James was asleep, curled up with his cheek on the padded arm rest.

Should he wake him or let him sleep? Better to let him sleep, surely. At least he wasn’t having any nightmares tonight.

Leave him be or try to carry him to his bed? He’d be more comfortable in bed, no doubt there, but after seeing him go through a panic attack earlier, Lance wasn’t eager to tempt his luck and risk triggering another one if he startled James awake. Yawning again, he grabbed one of the two blankets he kept by the sofa and draped it over James. A corner brushed his cheek and he jerked awake instantly, his head snapping up, his eyes blinking wildly as he looked all around him and pressed himself against the back of the armchair as though to disappear into it.

“Sorry,” Lance said, annoyed with himself. “I didn’t mean to wake you. But since you’re awake, you might as well get to bed.”

“Bed?” James repeated, still blinking as though to chase sleep away.

“Yes, bed. The bedroom’s down the hallway, remember?”

Another slow blink, and James turned his head to the television. The credits were still rolling.

“But… I didn’t get to see how the movie ended.”

“You can watch it tomorrow if you want. It’s late. You’re tired. Go get some sleep.”

Lance could practically see the cogs turn behind James’ eyes as he tried to think of an excuse to stay up. But why, though? If he’d fallen asleep on such an uncomfortable armchair, surely he had to be exhausted. No excuse came, and James, with a defeated look on his face, stood and, muttering a goodnight, made his way to the bedroom. Too tired to try to figure out what he was missing there, Lance made himself comfortable on the sofa, punching his pillow into shape and arranging the blanket so it covered him from his feet all the way to his chin. He closed his eyes, ready to let sleep take him—and immediately his mind demanded that he examine the situation with Taylor all over again.

He tried to chase the thought away, tried to think of something else, tried to recite to himself the state capitals—something that never failed to put him to sleep—but nothing worked. Taylor’s image was there, front and center, and her eyes were full of accusations.

It didn’t help that soon the already familiar sounds of James having a nightmare reached him from the end of the hallway.

Blindly, he reached for the remote control he’d dropped to the floor. A few presses of his thumb, and the music was soaring again, a spaceship appearing from the bottom of the screen. It was only seconds before slow steps announced James’ return. He didn’t say a word but climbed back onto the armchair, winding the blanket he’d left there around himself like a cocoon. He fell asleep again before the movie even reached the end of its first act; Lance followed soon after.


Chapter 11

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