That big bully of a vampire worried too much, Nessa mused.
“You should have just jumped,” Morgan whispered, her voice faint, but malicious. “Then you wouldn’t have to worry about him anymore.”
“Shut up, bitch,” Nessa muttered, swallowing the knot in her throat.
She might despise this life, might despise the God who’d trapped her here yet again, but she wouldn’t do that to Malachi. The poor vampire, he worried so, and he felt guilty, although none of this was his fault.
She might hate her life. She might not care if she lived or died. She might not care so much that they worried about her. But she wouldn’t do that to him—wouldn’t jump while he watched.
Her stomach rumbled demandingly and she followed her nose to a street vendor. A hot dog, loaded with chili, onions and cheese, wasn’t going to do much more than ease the emptiness of her stomach but she wasn’t going to take the downtime she knew she needed. She needed a decent meal, a lot of calories, a lot of water, and a lot of rest before she’d feel even close to strong.
And she might . . . later.
Just not right now.
A glance up at the leaden sky didn’t tell her much about the time of day, but experience had her placing it at roughly noon. Gave her about five hours before the sun set. Five hours to make sure those vampires were dead. At least the old one. The two younger ones she could deal with even after sunset. The old one though—
A cold ache spread out from the slow-healing vampire bite in her neck. He’d sought to bleed her out and he’d been low enough on his own blood that his vampiric gifts hadn’t been particularly strong. When vampires wanted, they could leave bites that were almost surgically neat and their saliva had a rather miraculous healing effect. At least they did when the vampire wasn’t hovering just this side of death.
She finished up her hot dog and then turned the corner, heading for the subway. The red line would take her close enough to where she needed to go and it would save her much-needed energy.
She moved slowly down the steps, hating the weakness in her body, hating how heavy her legs felt, how gritty her eyes felt. She plugged some money into a machine and got her ticket before joining the other bodies waiting on the platform.
The train came to a halt in front of her and she moved on, surrounded by commuters, college students and construction workers. She breathed in the scents of life and felt a curl of envy whisper through her. These people were rushing home, rushing to work, living lives that revolved around work, family, dates.
Everything Nessa wished she could have.
Everything she never would.
The envy flowered into full bloom. Nessa glanced around at the faces of the mortals and wished she could be anywhere but here.
“Then go. No reason you can’t be anywhere but here.”
That insidious cow. She couldn’t linger for long, but she could sure as hell speak up often enough to drive Nessa completely insane. Or try to tempt her into something foolish.
On a good day, Nessa could ignore the bitch.
But today wasn’t a good day. On the bad days, it wasn’t just lucidity that took a vacation. It was her common sense and self-preservation. On a good day, she’d never even dream of using her magic where mortals could witness it.
Today, though, was obviously a bad day and if she was just a little stronger, she might have even done what Morgan wanted and let the magic carry her away.
Weak and tired as she was, flying wasn’t just unwise, it was dangerous. The ability to move herself from one place to another, miles away, was almost as easy as breathing when she was at full strength.
Nessa hadn’t been at full strength in months. Logically, she knew she needed to take better care of herself. On her lucid days, she did try. But there were other days when it seemed insanity had the stronger hold. Days when she couldn’t tell reality from the nightmares inside her head, days when she couldn’t separate the future from the past.
When she was stronger, the lucid days came more often. Those days, however, came with painfully clear memories. Memories she would do nearly anything to avoid having. Keeping her mind occupied helped—which meant Hunting like a demon. Or letting herself become weak enough, tired enough, that she slipped out of lucidity. Usually a combination of both worked best.
Except doing both tended to make people fuss over her like she was some kind of daft old bat or a reckless young child.
With a curl of her lip, she muttered, “I tried the daft old bat route—it wouldn’t stick.” So now she was stuck inside the body of a reckless youth.
Morgan had been young when they had stopped her murderous rampage.
If Morgan had lived, she would have been in her twenties, Nessa thought. She wasn’t sure. The years had all run together on her, but she knew this body was still in the bloom of youth. She wondered how many more years she was going to be trapped inside it. How many more years of emptiness and loneliness she must endure.
It was enough to infuriate her. A sharp hiss escaped her and she shoved to her feet. Danger be damned. Common sense be damned. She forced her way through the bodies, heading to the back of the train, looking for just a little bit of privacy. The closest she was going to get was the second to last car. One drunkard, a bored-looking woman who Nessa suspected was a prostitute, and a dozing commuter who would probably end his trip minus his wallet and briefcase if he didn’t wake up.
She met the insolent gaze of the woman and held it. Standing up, Nessa imagined the other woman would probably have a good six inches on her, and easily forty pounds. But physical presence didn’t always add up to everything.
Attitude counted for a great deal. Attitude and arrogance. Those two things Nessa had in spades.
Their gazes connected and Nessa smirked at the other woman, watched as the gaze fell away. In that second, when nobody was looking at her, Nessa let the magic take her.
In the back of her mind, she felt Morgan’s delight.
It left Nessa feeling more than a little sick, and downright furious.
She alit on the front stoop of the worn, run-down house on the lower east side of Chicago. “Honey, I’m home.”