“So then I moved here. Free-lancing and waitressing. Fun stuff.”
“Sounds like a perfect, normal story,” Markus reached round Lenora’s back to hold her hand.
She bit her lip and blushed. To him, it was a sweet habit she had whenever she talked about herself. If he only knew… she forced herself to smile and look into his eyes, all the time praying that he would never discover the truth.
“Normal is perfect,” Lenora declared. She gave Markus a peck on the cheek. She laid her head on his chest and pulled her legs up on the couch.
He turned the old TV on and flipped channels before stopping on a ‘90s sitcom. Canned laughter surrounded them as Lenora drifted off to sleep.
Normal was perfect. Lenora bit her lip until she tasted the rusty taste of blood. Normal was last year. Things were quickly falling apart. She glanced around her small apartment. The cheap furniture sat as a silent reminder of how quickly life could turn around. Two months ago, Markus had broken up with her in front of their favorite diner. She had begged him not to leave her. She snorted. What would Willow say if she could see that? Lenora knew what she would say. Take him out. Destroy him. He’s not good enough for you anyway.
Lenora shook her head. A month after the break-up, almost to the day, Shane showed up at her door with an apology and a plan. They weren’t supposed to be together any more, but he didn’t care. As long as they behaved, acted totally human, the Council would leave them alone. They just had to lay low, pretend that they were normal.
It worked, too. For a couple of weeks, they went to work, had date nights of dinner and a movie, went grocery shopping, and paid the bills. They lived like a normal young couple. Until Willow called. Apparently, her, Kendra, and Ian also defied the Council and came together, but they weren’t even trying to be human. It wouldn’t be long before they came to Lenora’s little town to “get the gang back together.” Willow would want vengeance on anyone and everyone who had ever hurt Lenora or Shane.
Lenora grabbed her wristlet with her ID and keys and threw open the door. She had to go before she lost her nerve. Markus had to know about Willow. Obviously, she couldn’t tell him everything, but at the very least he deserved to know about the danger.
Shane was working third shift this week, so Lenora had to go alone. She knew exactly where to find Markus. Thursday night was double-drink night at his favorite bar. She ran the block and half from her apartment to the bar and slipped in behind an already stumbling couple. She bit her lip and fought the urge to race back outside. Markus sat in the same corner of the bar they had shared. His arm draped over the shoulder of Tammy, his new girlfriend. I could still run. He hasn’t seen me yet. Maybe I can get Willow distracted or something. She shook her head and forced herself to walk around the bar. Markus had clearly already had a couple of drinks; he didn’t even see her until she stood right next to him.
“Lenora!” He did a double-take. They had only seen each other for brief moments since they broke up and none of those moments included much talking. “What’re you doin’ here?”
“We need to talk.”
“I’m kinda busy.” He kissed Tammy on the cheek. She smirked at Lenora. Lenora narrowed her eyes. Maybe getting rid of Tammy wouldn’t be so bad.
“This is serious, Markus.”
He exhaled loudly. His whiskey-breath made Lenora’s eyes water.
“Please.” Her eyes searched his face, desperate for a response.
“Fine.” He plunked down a few dollars and finished off his dark beer in one long swig. “I’ll be right back,” he told Tammy. She shot a dagger-glare at Lenora. Lenora allowed herself a quick smirk in retaliation.
Markus followed Lenora out into the crisp night air. He crossed his arms over his chest, waiting for her to say something.
Lenora hugged herself, trying to hold in her resolve and warmth. A slow-motion image appeared in her mind. Markus, writhing in pain, with living flames twisting around his body like a nest of vipers. Willow overseeing his death with a detached gaze. Lenora could almost smell the searing flesh.
“Well?” Markus’ prompting brought her back to the present.
“You have to leave town for a bit.”
“You and Tammy and her kid. You should just…go. Just for a few days.”
“Why the heck would we do that?”
“It’s…uh…it’s complicated. Just please.”
“Look, I have…old friends who might be showing up here and they’re not exactly fond of anyone they think hurt me in any way. It would be best for everyone if they don’t have the opportunity to meet you. Ever.”
“Old friends, huh? From when, high school?”
“Yeah, well…” Lenora bit her lip and closed her eyes. The picture of Markus’ possible death flashed in her mind. “I didn’t exactly go to a normal high school. Some of my friends were…dangerous. They have special abilities and that may have messed with their sanity a bit.”
“You told me that everything about your past was ordinary. You told me about the school you went to. None of it ever sounded weird before.”
“I lied. Look, you can be ticked off. I know I would be, but you also have to listen! Willow could be here any time and she already hates most people. If she finds you…”
“Too late.” Willow stepped out of an old pick-up truck. Lenora blanched. She could see Kendra’s and Ian’s silhouettes still in the truck, but they didn’t worry her.
Markus stepped back, frowning at the flame bouncing in Willow’s palm.
“You never should have hurt a Fae, Markus.” Willow smirked. Let the games begin.