I could tell that Ash was surprised when I walked down to breakfast the next morning. I chose not to admit that I didn't sleep at all. The entire night had been spent watching that stupid wallpaper and closing my eyes to watch my past replay itself like a broken record.
Laura was cooking once again. She flipped and omelet over for the fifth time before sliding it off the pan and onto a plate. She handed it to Ash.
"Where's Bonnie?" I was worried about the little girl after last night's events.
Her gaze flicked up at me. "School. If you're not going to eat anything…"
"Nope." I stuck my hands in my pockets. An odd tension hung in the air. Neither Ash nor Laura spoke a word more. Either the conversation had stopped when I walked in or it had never started.
I walked around Laura to grab a coffee mug from the cabinet. Before I held it in my hand, Laura had clicked the stove off and tossed the frying pan with a clang in the sink. She walked wordlessly and soundlessly out of the kitchen, leaving Ash and I alone.
"What was that?" I asked, filling my mug with coffee and taking an unconcerned sip.
"Really want to know?" Ash picked up his fork. "She doesn't like the idea of you attracting things like Jezebel in the house. She's afraid for Bonnie."
I tilted the mug. "Well, of course. She's her daughter. But for heaven's sakes the woman works for a paranormal agency. It has to be more dangerous than this normally. Why should she get worried over a little threat like Jezebel? You guys have got to have taken on creatures more serious than Wraith."
Ash shook his head. "Jezebel isn't a little threat. You should know that. In the agency Wraith are treated as nearly the highest level of demons. We don't know half of what they can do. Of all the books that were written on them, nearly none of it has been proven correct. The entire race isn't rare as so much as it is well hidden and because of that almost no one knows anything about them."
Curious, I walked closer to the counter where Ash sat. "Tell me what you know."
He dropped his fork, eyes never leaving mine. "First of all they were said not to have souls. Second, they cannot enter a building with being invited in. Brass is their major weakness. Lucifer created Wraith after he was cast into hell. They're the oldest and most rare form of demons known to Earth."
"That's it?" I snorted. "Pretty pathetic if you ask me. We already know that two of those theories are wrong. I do have a soul and I sure as hell can go wherever I want without being "invited in"."
"Well you try finding info about something that only crosses our path once ever hundred years," Ash snapped.
"Like I said. It's rare that we find your kind," he said simply. "Laura trusts you to a certain point. However, she knows that Jezebel is bad news. Not why or how, only that she's dangerous. If Jezebel was a werewolf or vamp, she wouldn't have a problem because she and the rest of us would know what were up against. We would be able to assume her next attack or appearance. But the fact is, we don't what to do with Jezebel because she's some obscure creature."
I cocked my head. "Well if you know me, wouldn't you know her?"
"No." He pushed himself out of his chair, and walked around the counter.
I leaned against the sink. I knew that he wanted to put his now empty plate in it, so I stood my ground.
"Well, I think you're wrong. She's exactly like me, which is why you should stock up on some brass bullets." I stabbed a finger against his chest, far away from where I knew his brass key lay. "If you don't, then you're all dead. Trust me when I say she's getting what she's coming for. Whatever the cost."
His hand closed around my wrist, gently pulling it down. "Which is why I said, she's nothing like you." He pushed me to the side.
"I really don't know if I should take that as an insult or not." I ignored the sudden vibrations that started spreading from where he had taken my wrist.
"I'll leave that for you to figure out. Right now we need to go."
"Where exactly?" I dropped my mug on the edge of the counter before following him into the hall.
"Toast more vamps for Ethan," he replied over his shoulder. "There's been a bit of a situation downtown. Too many bodies were left drained in alleys. It's beginning to look suspicious."
"You're not scared?"
"Of course not!" I exclaimed. "Completely and utterly pumped."
Ash laughed. "That sounded way too enthusiastic to be comfortable." He opened the door and we walked out into the cloudy morning light. He looked up at the thick sky. "And it's about to rain."
Great. Rain. I hated rain. It reminded me of only a couple days ago. The day when my entire un-life had been turned upside down.
We walked in silence for a while down the alley and into the sparsely occupied street. Ash walked on the outside, I on the inside, close to the buildings. A few people got out of their parked cars and slammed their doors. The noise was nearly blotted out by the quickly moving traffic along side them.
"Who is Bliss Fortuna?" I asked suddenly. "Or was, I should say." Sure I had asked him this question before, but he hadn't given me an answer.
Ash's glance flitted to the sky and back to me. "She was one of the well known young artists in the city. She had just graduated and was going to go to go to one of the top art schools in the country." He paused. "Then one day, ten years ago, she went missing. Completely off the map. You know the rest. Her parents gave up looking for her in '05."
"Right." I didn't know what else to say, so I asked another question. "You were surprised that I had a soul. What I'm wondering is what you thought was inside me, if it wasn't a soul. I mean, how could I posses Bliss if I didn't have a soul."
"Well if that wasn't completely random, I don't know what is."
I gave him a dirty look.
"Think of it this way." He said. "Everyone is made up of a single essence that has two parts: a soul and a spirit. The two pieces are meant to be connected permanently. It takes a great amount of power to break the two apart. The only thing that can truly shatter a person in half is Hell. When this happens, the soul is forced to torture others, while the spirit is left to be the victim of torture for all eternity."
At that moment we both stopped at the corner, waiting for the light to turn green so that we could cross the street.
"Most Wraith and other demons brought back from Hell leave their soul down there and return only with their spirits. Because of the torture endured by their spirits, they've gone-"
"Bad. Mad with pain," I finished his thought. "I think I got it." I said slowly. "But you said that I have a soul and I'm evil. That doesn't make any sense."
I was about to cross the street with the green, but Ash stepped in front of me and held up a hand. "No. If you didn't have a soul you would have killed me a long time ago, no questions asked. You would have killed or tortured Laura and Ethan too. Even Bonnie. But you haven't. From what I've seen you aren't what you think you are."
I snorted pushing past him. "You are an idiot."
"Deny it as much as you want but you've turned into a softie in these past couple days," he called after me.
I shook my head. He was insane, but maybe a little bit correct. I was changing. Drastically. It scared me.
"You know I have a knife in my pocket," I threw back over my shoulder.
I took a few more steps before realizing that Ash hadn't responded, not even in the form of a snort or a laugh. In fact, I couldn't even hear footsteps echoing mine as I slowed down to a stop.
We weren't on the main street anymore. The faint rush of traffic was at my back. Every sound around me was amplified as fewer and fewer cars bothered to pass between the ones that were parked.
I turned around. Ash had disappeared.
A gate swung in the wind slowly, creaking on its rusty hinges.
I slid out my knife. "Dammit Ash, this isn't funny!" I yelled.
Of all the things that had to happen….
I walked up to the gate. Pushing it open I found myself standing in a playground.
The swing's chains clanged together in the wind as I moved beside them. I begged them to silence, if only for a moment. My ears rung with strain as I tried to take in every movement around me from the whisper of the nearly bare bushes and the hiss of dead leaves dancing across concrete sidewalk.
I walked over to the school building that towered over the mulch covered playground. The metal handle on the double doors wouldn't budge. It was locked. That meant that he had to be somewhere in plain sight, if he had come this way at all.
No, he had to have come this way. It only made sense. There hadn't been any other little hiding spots or dark alleys in the area. We were far enough away from the house that I hadn't much an idea of the layout of the area.
I turned around searching for a blind spot, some area that wasn't easily seen when you approached the entrance of the park.
It took me about two seconds to find it. I wasn't stupid enough to call Ash's name. If he had been captured, or something like that, I knew that if I did, the thing that had him would attack me. Not knowing what it would be, I didn't want to risk another tedious death. Was it a vampire? Some sort of demon? Whatever it was, it had been silent.
I pushed open the other gate that lead to some sort of storage shed in a clear yard. A brick wall lay to the back of it, enclosing the area from the street into a secluded square.
The freshly painted shed door was shut tightly. I let the knob go and restrained myself from banging the door in frustration. Where was Ash? I finally admitted it to myself. I was slightly worried.
I ran my dagger free hand through my hair and turned around.
An olive skinned man held a curved blade feet from me.
My breath caught in my chest. Adrenaline shot through my veins. I sprinted at him with full force, slashing through the air with my single silver dagger. He dodged left, quickly pulling his blade back and lashing out at my side. Spinning wildly out of reach, I rounded back on him, aiming for his throat. I only managed to slice through air as he moved like a flash out of the way.
Pain shot up my arm. A wave of air threw me back. I hit the black fence hard, rattling the metal to the point where the noise echoed like thunder in the enclosed yard.
Instead of falling to the ground, a force held me up high against the fence. My feet dangled inches above the ground.
My attacker stood, watching me from a distance. His eyes were shielded by sunglasses, his lips pulled into a wide grin exposing his yellowed teeth.
"I wouldn't try talking, chica. I know what you are."
He obviously was using magic because it felt as though my throat was paralyzed. He wasn't letting me talk.
I smiled when I felt the blood trickle down my arm. Left paralyzed and mute, it was the best and only thing I could do to scare him.
"Smile all you want, but when I'm done with you-"
"What the hell?"
It was Ash who cut him off in mid sentence. He stood at the gate, eyes not on me, but my attacker.
"Got me a vamp, Ash. She was following you." The guy's grin widened as he pointed to me.
Ash hesitated before looking. His eyes widened. "Dammit, Felix, she isn't a vampire! Let her go!"
Felix's smile finally dropped into a steady frown. "Then what in Hell is she? She sure isn't human."
From my view it was obvious that Ash's limp grasp on his anger was weakening by the second. "Look, just let her go. She's a friend."
Felix studied me. I glared at him. With hesitation he flicked his hand and I dropped to the ground. The odd paralysis in my throat was also gone. With a growl, I sprinted at him with all of my strength.
I held back at the last second when I saw Ash run in front of him, blocking me from my target.
"Move," I snarled.
"No," Ash responded coolly.
We had a staring contest for what felt like a hours before I reluctantly backed down. I smirked at him before turning my gaze to Felix. The guy looked like a rat to me. He was a rat for as far as I was concerned.
"What is she, Ash? If you won't tell me, I'll kill her." Felix tightened his grip on his blade. "You know I will. No regrets, buddy. She attacked me."
I snorted. "You were going to start it. I saw you. Too bad I'm faster." I snapped my teeth and gave a cat like grin.
"I doubt it looking at that little scratch on your arm. If Ash wouldn't have shown up your ass would have been on its way back to Hell, where it belongs."
"She's a Wraith," Ash said, interrupting us. "Now will you please leave?"
Felix peered at me over his sunglasses. "You've got to be kidding me. That's impossible. They're rare... Like near extinct, rare. You know, cause of the fact that no one's willing to play the self sacrifice routine…"
When Ash didn't say anything, Felix whistled. "Hombre, if I were you I would have killed her on site. Wraith are no good news to nobody."
Ash patted him on the back. "Nice to know. Now go or I'll tell Ethan about your little rogue missions."
"Alright man." Felix's nose twitched. "Just watch it, okay?" He gave Ash a little punch before disappeared before our eyes, leaving a swirl of curling smoke in his wake.
"Nifty trick," I commented.
"Yeah it's a plus when you're half witch." Ash said. "Let's go or we won't make it downtown before dark."
"Hmm." I followed him back to the street, watching my wound eventually cease bleeding, leaving a thin white line as a scar that I knew would soon vanish also. "Where did you disappear to? You were behind me one second and gone the next. What's up with that?"
"Nothing. Just saw something."
We had only walked a few blocks before I noticed that something was wrong. Ash hadn't said a word more. His pace was slower than usual and less steady.
From my stance behind him, he didn't look like his usual self. I caught up with him so that our steps matched. "What happened?" I flicked my gaze over him. His face was pale, icy blue eyes dull, watching the sidewalk ahead without moving in the slightest. Then I saw it. A blotch of red along the collar of his shirt. It was only visible when he moved his right shoulder, uncovering his dark jacket from and revealing the blood beneath. I stopped him suddenly, placing my hand against his neck, trying to find the puncture marks that I was sure were there.
When Ash realized what I was doing, he grabbed my wrists and pushed them away. "I'm fine," He snapped.
"No you're not," I threw back at him. "Let me look."
He watched me for a few seconds, the chill gone from his eyes. In place of the powerful icy orbs were tired, weak, holes of melting water.
He stopped when I pulled the blood soaked collar of his jacket away from his neck. Instead of two clean holes, there was a jagged, clumsy open wound that barely missed his jugular.
"Jesus. What the Hell did it do to you?" I whispered.
His dark soul flickered around him. "Don't worry, I got the vamp. He's rotting in Hell at this very moment."
"Look, there is no way we can go hunt more of them downtown. You're going to die of blood loss before we even get to a bus stop."
"No, I'll be fine," Ash responded, swaying slightly before walking away.
"You should go back to the house. I can do this by myself."
"Were too far away. That would just be wasting time," He replied.
I caught up to him. "A hospital then."
"That would be a bad idea."
I breathed out trying not to scream at him. "You aren't fine. When I got bit by that vamp at the apartment I pretty near died. This one look like it half tore you up. You're going to get help whether you want to or not."
Ash let out a low laugh. "So now you care about me?"
"This is ridiculous," I hissed. "Come on, we're going back before you pass out."
Too late. Ash swayed once and his legs folded beneath him. I caught him under his arms before he had the chance to fall completely to the ground.
"God, you're heavy." If only Bliss Fortuna had bothered to work out and gain at least a little muscle. I heaved him up so he was leaning against my side. Luckily, he was semi awake.
Where to take him was the next question. I decided that the best place would be somewhere sheltered from the approaching rain.
As a near professional squatter, I had no trouble breaking the lock after I found an ancient and abandoned looking building. I dropped him as carefully as I could in the black and white tile covered foyer of the house.
I searched for his wallet in his jacket pockets. Finding it, I flipped through, taking a few bills.
His eyes were half open. I knew he was about to say something sarcastic or of the like.
"Stay here. I'm just getting some supplies," I said. "I'll be back. I promise."
I winced after closing the door. Why was I doing this? Why didn't I just run and leave him?
Because I wasn't a monster. I wasn't soulless. I was different.
He saved my life more than once. I owed him.
I made it to the main road and found a drug store in two seconds. Literally. I had used all my remaining energy to sprint and search every aisle for bandages, Betadine, and a stitch kit. Ash definitely would need stitches. However, since I had never actually stitched wounds before, I wasn't sure how it would turn out.
I paid the cashier at the counter and ran out. Already out of breath, I had to jog the rest of the way.
I eased the door open, checking to make sure no one saw me go inside. I dropped the supplies on the floor and knelt next to Ash.
His soul was still flickering, slowly and faintly. His pulse beat strongly from beneath my fingers.
I ripped open the suture kit and bottle of Betadine, gazing quickly at the directions. I poured the Betadine on the cut.
"This is probably going to hurt."
In truth it already looked pretty painful. Not that I cared about that in the slightest. I had to stitch it up or he was going to bleed out.
His eyes were closed and stayed closed even when I stuck the needle through for the first time. I stitched the entire wound, and he didn't even twitch. Talk about tough.