SPOILER WARNING: THIS STORY IS A SEQUEL TO THE RECENTLY PUBLISHED MASK OF THE DRAGON. IT NATURALLY CONTAINS SPOILERS. IT IS A ROUGH DRAFT AND SUBJECT TO CHANGE NOW THAT IT IS IN EDITING. THANK YOU.
Abby followed Marlon and Bryan into an alley where Wendel and his brother Richie had parked the truck. Truman was already half-way up the stairs with his nephew. She picked up one of the boxes and followed the men up the rickety stairs.
Bryan propped the box he held between the wall and his knee, unlocked the door and shoved it open. He walked in and she heard a click and a snap as the room flooded with light.
A single bare bulb with a pull cord switch illuminated concrete walls painted a peeling white. The creaky wooden floor was covered with an inch of dust and cobwebs decorated the corners.
Marlon coughed as he followed his grandfather, sitting the box he carried on the floor. "Geez, how many decades has it been since anyone's been in here?"
"Probably not since the nineteen-sixties," commented his uncle as he and Wendel sat her trunk down. "I'll go ask Sam if we can borrow the broom, in the meantime maybe open a window?"
"Sounds like a plan." Abby jerked on the rusty latch and managed to unlock the window but no amount of effort would get it open.
Bryan joined her, reached to his hip and drew his knife. He slid the blade between the window and the sill, and levered the window up couple inches before sheathing it. He worked his fingers into the gap and jerked the window open. "There we go, da-dang thing always stuck."
Abby put her hands on the window sill and looked out at the dingey skyline. At least it's better than the back of a building. Gladys' apartment was on the ground floor, and so the view from her room had been just an alley between the buildings. With a sigh, she turned to go help with the boxes, only to walk into Marlon's uncle with the broom and dustpan. "Oops, sorry."
"No problem," he replied, holding out the items. "Here, we got the stuff, I'll leave this to you."
She took them from him and sat the pan on the sill, then started trying to combat decades of dust. Once she had a decent pile she swept it into the pan, then looked around for a trash can. When she couldn't find one, she stared at the pan helplessly.
Bryan noticed her dilemma when he and his brother came back in. "Just toss the crap out the window," he said as he and Truman sat the headboard down. "It ain't gonna hurt the street any."
Abby nodded and worked in silence as the Samson boys did the same. At least, she was verbally silent.
"Will you quit acting like this is the best thing that could happen to her?" Aeneas demanded.
"Will you quit acting like it's the worst?" Dominic countered. "I hung around here plenty. She'll be fine. Better than dealing with the old bat's insanity."
"And have you forgotten where it got you?"
"Endin' up in limbo had jack to do with Wasp and you know it!"
Will you both knock it off? Abby thought. Life had been easier when the dragon was just a mask her guardian angel shared with her personal demon and her grandfather's ghost. I swear if I'd known what I know now, I'd have never had an imaginary friend.
Dominic looked up at her with a grin. "Then I'd never have got to hang out with my favorite granddaughter." He chuckled. "Never thought I'd made myself a costume when I made that dang stuffed toy."
Abby rolled her eyes. I'm your only granddaughter. She stifled a snicker. Guess you got too much blood in it from pricking yourself so much. She sighed. I wonder if I'll ever find that thing again. She thought back to the last time she saw it. Might have ended up anywhere that night.
"I'm sure if it's meant to be, it'll turn up."
"Earth to Abby," called Marlon. "This look all right or you want us to shift some things?"
She turned around and almost dropped the dustpan. While she was caught up in the internal conversation, the Samsons had put her furniture up. "How did you?" Despite the larger room, everything was in the same position it had been most of her life.
Marlon scratched at the back of his neck with a sheepish grin. "Spent enough time in your room, Abs. Think I know where everything goes."
"We'll leave you to get settled in," said Truman, smiling. Bryan's brother looked around the room and shook his head. "Doubt its the first time there's been a girl in here." He shot his younger brother a knowing look. "Right, Little Brother?"
Bryan's face turned seven shades of red. "Yeah, yeah, laugh it up Tru." He tipped his hat to Abby and grabbed his brother's sleeve. "See ya around, Dragonfly."
"You need anything, you call us." Wendel tossed a cell phone on the bed. "Take care, Abby. Come on bro, before we miss our ride."
Once they were alone - as far as he knew, anyway - Marlon crossed the distance and took her hand. "You gonna be OK Abs?" His thumb rubbed the back of her hand as he looked down at her, concern written all over his face. "I can crash on the floor…"
"That would be a poor way to reward your Prince Charming. Oughta at least let him share the bed with ya. Though that might lead to an entertaining show…"
Abby flung her arms around Marlon and buried her face in his chest to hide her reaction. She didn't want her boyfriend to misread her irritation and shock at the demon's reappearance. You shut up! Don't you dare make light of this!
"What's the matter, Abs?" Bjarte's voice was smug. "The baby bumblebee here pulled you out like the knight on his white horse. Even the princess rewarded her champion."
That's Marlon's name for me, not yours! Abby trembled and Marlon wrapped his arms around her, resting his cheek against the top of her head. "I'll be fine, Mars-Bars. But thank you… for being you."
"You don't look fine, Abs. You're shaking like a leaf."
"It's been a hard day," she replied. Abby pulled back to meet his worried gaze and shoot him a smile. "I just need to get some sleep I think. You better get home or you won't want to get up tomorrow for school."
Marlon sighed and nodded. He pressed quick kiss to her forehead and hugged her tight then let go. "All right, I'm goin'. But you need me, I hooked your laptop up and I'll leave mine on. OK?" He looked her in the eye. "I love you, sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite."
"If they do, hit 'em with a shoe and send 'em to the zoo," she replied, laughing at the running joke. She reached into her pocket and handed him her car keys. "I'll see you tomorrow." She leaned close and kissed his cheek. "Love you, too. Always."
Once he was gone, Abby scrambled to find her pajamas. It was then that she realized she'd forgotten to ask one important question. "Great. I've no idea where the bathroom is." She looked to the dragon. "You have any ideas?"
Dominic shook his head. "Been way too long since I've been in here, plus Wasp's lady did a number on the place a few years after they married so I heard."
Looking around, Abby noticed an old wooden room divider. Guess that'll work. She went behind it, clothes in hand. Just as she stepped into the sweats, a wolf whistle rang out. She spun around, tangling her ankles up in the pants and falling into the screen. It slammed to the floor with bang. She managed to shift herself halfway up when laughter rang out, She looked up to find Bjarte bowed over in amusement.
"HEY!" yelled Sam from below. "YOU OK UP THERE?!"
"YES, SIR! SORRY I TRIPPED!"
"BE CAREFUL, WILL YA? YA CRACK YOUR HEAD, THOSE WASPS WILL HAVE MINE!"
"YES, SIR! SORRY!" Abby jerked her pants up and pulled the sweatshirt over her head before getting to her feet. She picked up the screen, refusing to look at the demon.
"Cocky pervert," snapped Dominic. "Actin' like ya got power to burn."
"Pride is his master's vice, after all." Aeneas sounded just as disgusted as Abby felt, but he didn't show himself.
"Geez, you guys never change do you? Killjoys."
Abby ignored the trio, turning on her lamp and turning off the overhead bulb. "You all can jabber as much as you like," she said. "But I'm going to sleep!" She curled up under her blankets, then reached up and shut off her lamp. "Good night." She felt Dominic jump up on the bed and curl up beside her. With a sigh, she snuggled into her pillow and was almost asleep when….
Something crashed by the window. Jerking up, Abby switched on the lamp to get a look.
This is the end of the preview for this story. It is currently in editing and will be published in Paperback and ebook book form by Crystal Prism Publications 2017.