I think here would be a good spot for a quick look back. My name is Layla, Layla Derelict. I turned down an awesome job managing a huge resort in Isla Paradiso in order to honor my grandmother’s dying wish – to come back to the childhood farm and take care of it. Protect it, she said. I figured she was just rambling because of the morphine. Little did I know at the time, but pretty soon the gorgeous farmland I now call home would be crawling with the living dead.
Enter Sheriff Sergio Quezada. He’s a sexy, dark, brooding type of guy – just my type to secretly pine after. Too bad he thinks I’m totally nuts. I’ve called him out to my house after I was nearly attacked by a dead, naked woman with messed up teeth. He didn’t find anything and basically told me that without proof, he’s no better than a pacifist in a war.
He did call me just an hour ago, though, and tell me to be careful and stay in my house. He sounded nervous, like he’d found something in his investigation. He told me to lock the doors and not move unit he got there. Why didn’t I listen?
Damon. An ex boyfriend who went missing three years ago, supposedly. Well, he showed up again, just to give me some creepy ass messages about ‘waiting for my return’ or some crap. All I know is he is freaking me out and he keeps popping up places. Pretty weird for someone who’s supposed to be a missing person.
Enter Jeremie Oakes. I knew him from my past, but that isn’t a good thing. My memory, which is sixteen years old, has him looking just as he does now. He’s all but admitted to having powers outside of this realm of understanding. Oh, he also says his clan, or fold, or whatever, are interested in me. In me! I am as lame as things get!
Damon follows Jeremie’s every command. I am still trying to figure that one out. I would have asked, but around that time, I got the wind knocked out of me – all because of blonde hair and a voice I never really knew but somehow couldn’t forget.
She’s beautiful and gentle and sweet. She is everything anyone could want in a mother. Except for the fact that she has the same sallow skin as Damon, the same fangs, the same glowing eyes. I don’t like how she looks at Jeremie. As if she owes him everything.
There is so much to ask, so much to say. But instead of doing any of that, I go upstairs, get changed, and pack a duffel-bag. When I come back downstairs, I sit in the living room and all eyes turn to me. Jasper seems unconcerned and has plopped himself on the hardwood, licking his paws clean.
“I have to go soon. The Sheriff will be here,” I mumble, feeling like an idiot.
Angelina smiles softly. “We will wait for you both to leave before departing. I do not believe the police would overlook the fact that two people, previously resumed missing and dead, are walking out to the ferry.”
I tried to smile but grimaced. “How… how are you two… here?”
“We told you that Jeremie has the power to bring back the dead,” Damon insisted, his tone excited as he spread his arms. “And here we are. Risen.”
“At what cost?” I whispered. Both he and Angelina looked down to their laps while Jeremie smiled.
A knock from the front door startled me out of my chair. “Out the back,” I hissed, opening the backdoor and watching the three file out.
“We will speak more when you return,” Jeremie said graciously, standing and stalking out the back door. Angelina and Damon followed closely.
Once we were all outside, Jeremie reached out and took Angelina’s hand in one of his. I could tell she didn’t like the touch, but she did nothing to shake out of it. Damon placed a hand on Angelina’s other shoulder, his lips tilted into a smirk.
“How will you know when I’m back?” I asked, trying not to see the anger in Angelina’s once placid face.
Jeremie smiled and lifted his hand. He snapped once and their three framed winked out of existence before my eyes.
The sound of footsteps slamming down the porch made me reel around. The dark blur moving toward me slowly took shape into the Sheriff, and he was calling my name with something like alarm in his voice.
“What the hell are you doing outside?” he demanded, nearly colliding with me. He reached out, hands butterfly soft against my face and then my hands. “Are you alright? What happened?”
I pulled my hands away from his quickly, jittery. “Nothing,” I answered dully. I never liked to lie, especially not to police officers. “I thought I heard something out here but there… the wasn’t anything. Just the horses. I need to get them to the stable.”
“I’ll do it,” he offered. “Just get your dog rounded up and your bags. Meet me at my truck, got it?”
I nodded quickly and retreated into the house, my mouth dry. For the first time all day, I was thinking about something other than the weird shit that kept happening around me. I was thinking about Sheriff Quezada’s hands on mine and how amazingly, deliciously wrong it would be to have it happen again.
The ride into town was painfully awkward, although I prided myself in not asking anything about hand holding. I also managed to think about the Sheriff wearing underwear only twice. Okay, three times. Still, it’s a massive feat. He’s hot and his cologne was something like a spicy, musty mix of man and woods.
We drove through town and took a ferry across to another small islet on the other side of the mainland. I had never noticed the house out here. I’m not sure if I even knew this islet was here.
It didn’t look like much from the outside, but anything was better than being out in the cold sprinkles that had started up.
“It’s one of our safe houses,” Sergio informed me over the roar of the ferry boat and Jasper’s excited yips as water splashed the windows. “No one aside from the state department and our agency knows it’s out here. You should be safe, but just to be sure, I’m going to be sticking close by.”
The rain died off long enough for us to disembark from the ferry. Jasper started digging holes immediately but I was more curious about my temporary home. The beach was tiny, but more than enough room for two. Well, two and a dog. I might even learn how to fish…
The bungalow was sparse but well supplied. The kitchen had enough food for a post-apocalypse, a small table for eating, and a couch, two chairs, and a tv. The bedroom was sparse – a queen bed, dresser, and mirror. The bathroom was a bathroom – not much to report there.
“I’ll be here on the couch,” Sergio was saying as he led me into the back bedroom. “You and the dog can take the bedroom. Leave the door unlocked, I want to be able to check in on you if I need to.”
“The couch doesn’t look too comfortable,” I mumbled, instantly regretting it. “I mean… we can take turns. Like, I get the bed one night, you the next?”
He kind of half smiled at me and shook his head. “Don’t worry about it. Half of my marriage was spent on a couch a lot less comfortable than this one.” He nodded goodnight and went out into the main room, leaving me pondering his words.
Jasper was in bed and fast asleep before I had even changed into my negligee. Sometimes I wished I was a dog. At least then I wouldn’t have weird people flocking to me all hours of the day – and night.
Sighing, I slipped into the cold bed, snuggling into the starched pillow case. “Night, Jasper,” I murmured.
A soft doggy snore was my only answer.
I woke up at the butt-crack of dawn with Jasper whining to be let outside. I didn’t want to wake Sergio (he was super adorable while he slept), so I changed into my swim suit and layered some clothes over it, opened the door quietly, and slipped out of the house.
Jasper did his business, delighting in kicking sand everywhere afterward. We then went out onto the dock, soaking up the early morning rays and watching nurse sharks cruise by in the shallows.
I began to dose off, the heat and the sound of the ocean just the right amount of soothing. I think I dreamed, because every time I opened my eyes, I saw my mother’s face –
monstrous and looming-
her mouth curled into a snarl.
How her teeth would feel on my skin, draining all my blood.
How lifeless I would look when Sergio found me, drained and dead.
It took me a good thirty minutes of reminding myself that I was alive before I really believed it. About that time, Sergio came out dressed like an average guy on an average day. He was carrying a plate of something that smelled heavenly.
“Hey,” he greeted with a faint smile, setting the plate on the cooler next to me. “You need to stay inside unless I’m out here with you. I can’t really protect you otherwise.”
“I have a feeling you can’t protect me from myself,” I grumbled.
“Nothing,” I signed, kicking my feet over the side of the lounger.
“How about some waffles?” he offered, sounding like he was really trying to keep the mood light. Thank God he didn’t press about my big mouth, or hear me scream, or notice the sweat soaking my arms.
“Waffles? Sounds delightfully mundane. A.k.a., amazing.”
He raised an eyebrow but didn’t press. He grabbed the plate and took my elbow with his free hand, steering me toward the house. I let him touch me and pretended it was more intimate than just making sure I didn’t lose my footing.