The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Forty Three

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[ CW: Strong language ]


The fallout was explosive and volatile.

People on the sidewalks froze, rounding on the garage where two young women were in the throes of a full-blown meltdown. Indifferent to their audience, the girls screamed and cried, taking their quarrel out from the garage and into the streets.

“Where are you going?” Em shouted, trailing behind May as she stormed out of the open bay doors.

“What do you care?” May snarled back without turning. Her face was drenched in tears that wouldn’t stop flowing; she focused her red eyes beyond the prying ones in the Rookery and on the sidewalks.

“Don’t do this, May.”

“Don’t do what?” May whirled back. Every inch of her – from her glistening face to the balled fists at her sides – screamed of hurt and heartbreak. “I’m leaving. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do when your girlfriend tells you she doesn’t want to be with you anymore?”

“You’re making a scene.”

It was a cruel and heartless thing for Em to say, and the hushed, incredulous whispering around her said everyone within earshot knew it. But they couldn’t see her glassy eyes, wet with unshed tears. Tact may not have been Em’s strong suit, but this was still killing her inside.

May huffed a hollow laugh. “How did you think I was going to react, Emanthy? We’re an us; we were supposed to do this together. I love you.”

“I know.” Em couldn’t bring herself to look at her. She didn’t say the words back.

“I can’t believe this,” May sobbed, raking her hands through her hair. “This can’t be happening.”

It was her very worst nightmare, come to life.

For a moment, neither spoke. The air between them sizzled like freshly seared skin; just breathing burned and stung.

“I’m sorry,” Em said. Her words fell at May’s feet like a stone. “I never should have brought you with me.”

“Why are you doing this?” May wept. She knew she sounded pathetic but she couldn’t help herself.

She was about to lose it all.

“You’re in the way, May.” Em’s eyes flashed. “Thanks to you, I’m a wanted woman. None of this -” she gestured around her with a wild wave of her arms “- is what I wanted. I never should have let you talk me into this and now I’m so far in I don’t think I can get back out. I can’t do this anymore.”

“You think this is all my fault?” May asked in a small, heart-wrenched voice.

“Yes, I do.” Em didn’t even need to think about it.

May’s breath caught in her throat. The crimson of hurt-turned-fury raced up her neck and across her face.

“Fuck you,” she growled dangerously.

Em buckled as though she had been punched in the gut, but caught herself quickly. Breathing deep, she drew herself up tall, despite the sadness blooming across her face like a bruise.

“Goodbye, May.”

She rose into the air, electricity licking and snapping in the space around her. With one last indiscernible look, she twisted around and took off skyward.

She was gone, and May was alone.

*

May ran until the aching of her lungs and the fissure through her heart became too painful to bear. But even after slowing, she marched on in the direction of nothing in particular. She had no idea where she was going, just that she had to keep moving. The rhythm of her footsteps kept her grounded; as long as she didn’t stop, maybe she wouldn’t crumble into the wreckage she felt like inside.

After what felt like a considerable amount of time – but could have only been a matter of minutes as far as May knew – the roar of an engine came up behind her. The car it belonged to was a refurbished roadster, and it coasted to a stop a handful of yards up the road. May watched the silhouette of the driver lean across the front seats and pop the passenger seat door open.

With a deep, shaking breath, May shuffled up to the car and slid into the open door. As she pulled on her seatbelt and clicked it into the buckle, she could feel Lety’s eyes watching her.

“You okay?” Lety asked, her voice uncharacteristically soft.

“No,” May answered.

Lety exhaled with a nod and shifted the car into gear. They drove on in silence, saying absolutely nothing for nearly an hour and a half. Miserably, May watched the city give way to rural landscape. Everything seemed to have a memory attached to it, no matter how tenuous, and every memory featured Em. Every time May thought she must at last be cried out, she’d spot a particular kind of tree, a bird, a road sign that would harken back to some adventure the two of them had, and the tears began again anew.

May’s single saving grace was Lety’s silence. She drove as if she was in the car alone, not even casting so much as a pitiful glance in May’s direction. Perhaps it came with the territory – asking too many questions or saying the wrong thing was enough to seal a criminal’s fate. But perhaps she was simply being respectful of May’s pain and giving her the space she needed to grieve.

Whatever it was, May was grateful – even if she couldn’t bring herself to say so.

Eventually, the bones of a new city built up around the highway. Lety took an exit and navigated the streets with familiar ease. By the time she turned into the parking lot of their destination, the day was old and May was exhausted.

Lety turned the car off and looked at May for the first time since she climbed into the roadster.

“You could stay,” Lety said after another silent moment passed between them. Somewhere in the distance, a lonely train horn announced its impending arrival.

When May didn’t answer, Lety touched the back of May’s hand with her fingertips.

“You wouldn’t have to run. We could keep you safe.”

It took a moment for the words – and their implication – to pierce the fog of misery surrounding May’s thoughts. She turned the idea over in her mind and discarded it just as quickly.

“I know,” she replied at last, shaking her head. “But no. I’m going to stick with the plan.”

Lety took the hint and withdrew her hand. Leaning forward in her seat, she regarded the train station with a wary eye. “Want me to wait out here? Just in case?”

May looked down at her bare and trembling hands and sighed. “You don’t have to do that. You’ve already done enough and it’s getting late.”

“I’m gonna wait.” Lety sat back in her seat and folded her arms as if she hadn’t heard a word May said. “Just poke your head out and give me a signal when you’re good.”

With a tiny laugh that sounded more like a hiccup, May slid out of the car and made her way into the station. Even this late in the day, the place was busy and it took her a minute to find the alcove of public lockers through the crowd. She hunted for locker number 13 and, when she found it, used the combination she had scrawled on her forearm to open it.

Inside the cramped space was her pack, crammed in tight. May struggled to free it and, when she finally did, an envelope fluttered to her feet. She glared down at it for a beat, repulsed by what she knew was inside. But bitterness wasn’t going to get her anywhere, so she heaved her pack over her shoulders and scooped up the envelope. Flipping it open, May found a one-way ticket to Mondova and a modest stack of cash.

“Shut up and go away money,” she grumbled under her breath. “Classy.”

She checked the ticket time, and then the station clock that loomed over the lobby like a full moon. Her train left in three hours. It would be the dead of night when she arrived in Mondova.

Outside, Lety had pulled up to the curb of the drop-off zone. She hung one strong arm out the window and pretended not to notice when people ogled the custom work she had done to the roadster. May stepped up to her and forced a small smile.

“I got it,” she said, holding up the envelope. “Train leaves in three hours.”

“You gonna be okay until then?” Lety asked. “I don’t mind waiting with you.”

“I’ll be fine,” May assured her. “You’ve done enough already. Thank you. For everything.”

Lety surveyed her for a moment, holding May in an inscrutable gaze.

“You’re going to be better than fine,” she said at last. “No matter what happens next, you’ve got this. Just keep moving forward and take no shit. Okay?”

May nodded. “Okay.”

They shared an awkward hug through the window and parted ways. May didn’t watch her drive away; she couldn’t stand to watch someone leave her for the second time in one day.

“I’ve got this,” May whispered to herself as she turned back to the station doors.

She didn’t really believe it, but she was going to have to fake it until she did.

Given where she was going next, she was going to need all the confidence she could get.


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Forty Two

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[ CW: NSFW – on-page sexy times. To read the SFW censored version, check out the chapter on Wattpad ]

May waited a long time for Em to finish her call with Jeremy.

For hours she sat, folded up on the car bench couch. She was trying not to worry about what kind of plan could possibly take so long to discuss, and failing miserably.

How much trouble were they in? How risky was it going to be to reunite with the others?

From there her mind wandered to the tension between Em and Jeremy. What was bound to happen now that he knew her truth?

No wonder they’ve been on the phone forever, May thought as she picked at the worn upholstery. They have a lot to talk about.

She didn’t want to think about what it would be like to face Jeremy again. To May, their situation – two people in love with sort of the same person – felt insurmountable; a towering mountain range with no discernible safe way through.

Eventually, she drifted off, her sleep marred by anxiety and filled with a long procession of dreams tinted by Jeremy’s rage toward her.

When she jolted awake, chased from sleep by some nightmare that scurried back into the gloom as soon as her eyes opened, it took her a moment to get her bearings. The office was dark and the only light came from a sliver of where the door had been left open a crack. May blinked and stretched – someone had covered her with a blanket.

As wakefulness set in, she caught the sound of low voices in conversation outside the office. She could make out the familiar lilt of Em’s voice and Grant’s gruff replies, but not what they were saying. May sat up, relieved that Em was finally off the phone, and padded across the room.

She hadn’t intended to eavesdrop, but when May heard the tears in Em’s voice, she froze.

“I love her so much, Grant,” Em sobbed quietly. Every word was weighed down with heartache. “I don’t know how I’m going to do this.”

“You’re just going to do it,” Grant replied in a voice that was gentler than May had ever heard from him. “And you’re going to do it because you love her.”

May forgot how to breathe. She stood in petrified silence, unable to think or react. What in the world was Em talking about, and what did it have to do with her?

Whatever it was, it was going to be bad. May vaulted back to the bench and curled up under the blanket. She took deep gulping breaths and willed her heart to stop hammering in her chest. Without wanting or willing them, visions of every horrible scenario that might happen when Em walked through that office door ambushed her thoughts.

But there was only one thing it could be; she knew it as instinctively as she knew how to breathe.

Out on the walkway, Grant bid Em goodbye with blunt words of encouragement. Em’s footsteps made their way toward the door, then stopped. May wished she could fall asleep on command; she wanted nothing more than to avoid what was coming.

The door creaked and then clicked shut. Em stepped lightly to the bench. May felt the gentle warmth of her hand on her shoulder, the tenderness made her want to cry.

“Maybe?” Em whispered, giving her a nudge. “Baby, wake up. I need to talk to you.”

May waited, pretending to sleep even though her eyes were clenched far too tight for it to be believable. She felt Em lean over her body, her face moving in closer.

“Please, May.” Em pressed a kiss to her temple. “Wake up, love.”

Turning her face, May kissed Em before she had a chance to react. Then she kissed her again, harder and more ardently. She kept kissing Em, each movement of her lips more passionate than the last, in a bid to put the inevitable off a little longer.

It seemed Em was of the same mind. Without breaking their embrace, she crawled on top of May and pressed their bodies together. Her hand slid behind May’s head, fingers twisting in her hair as she crushed in closer. Intensity bloomed between them and their bodies responded in writhing motion. The heat of their proximity set May ablaze; she squirmed to free herself from the tangled blanket before Em pulled it aside and got to work on her clothes. She shoved May’s shirt up, leaving a trail of greedy kisses up her body along the way. May finished the job, wrestling the shirt over her head while Em got rid of her own.

Drunk with desire, Em’s hands fumbled with the button on May’s jeans before pulling them and her panties down her legs with a hard, impatient tug. Before they hit the ground, Em had yanked May’s splayed body closer, kneeling in worship between her legs.

“Em,” May breathed, reaching for her with needy hands. Em replied by scooping up her body so May straddled her lap. She shifted, pivoting on the bench so she could shove May against the seat back, eliciting a gasp of surprise from her lithe lover.

They devoured one another in kisses. Em pinned May’s hands back against the seat, rendering her helpless and exposed. Being unable to act drove May into a bucking, whimpering frenzy. But Em was too engrossed in leaving bruising kisses down her throat and collarbone to notice. Her hips rolled, grinding delicious friction against May’s inner thighs. May pleaded in Em’s ear, begging for her touch where she needed it most.

It felt like an eternity of teasing before Em finally hitched May’s hips, her fingertips possessively digging into the flesh of her legs. There was no gentleness in how she took May, driving her fingers deep into her soaked and tender entrance with force enough to rock May’s entire body. May yelped as Em skipped the slow build-up; her fingers pistoned inside of May with a savage and desperate rhythm. Em twisted her hand, curling her fingertips and pressing her knuckles into all of May’s most pleasurable places. May’s body pitched with every movement, her nails scrambling for purchase against Em’s bare shoulders and carving angry red lines across her pale flesh in the process.

The sex was rough and urgent; May’s didn’t even realize she was screaming until she came, arching and shuddering like a woman possessed.

As May gasped for breath, Em collapsed against her. She pressed her skin into the heat and sweat of May’s, imagining they could melt together if she stayed there long enough. Slowly she circled her arms around May’s lower back and held her tight, nuzzling her face into her hair. May listened to Em’s slow and deliberate breathing. She knew that shallow cadence well; it was the way a person breathes when they’re trying not to cry.

May let the moment settle around them, cold and quiet like falling snow. Her fingers trailed along Em’s scored shoulder, down her arm and back again. They clung to this delicate hush and to each other, neither speaking a word and lost in thought.

But they couldn’t stay like this forever.

May swallowed down the lump in her throat and shifted so she could turn her face to Em. Reluctantly, Em pulled back. She kept her face cast down as she peered back at May through damp, glittering lashes.

With feathery softness, May tucked a lock of silver hair behind Em’s ear, smiling sadly.

“Go on and say it,” May said, her voice wavering.

“You’re leaving me, aren’t you?”


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Forty One

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[ CW: Strong language ]


May and Em shared an incredulous look between them.

“A phone call?” May repeated Grant’s words like they couldn’t possibly be true.

Grant closed the office door behind him, drowning out the noise of the garage. He held up the cell phone in his hand and pressed a button.

“I’ve got them right here,” he said, speaking loudly. “You’re on speaker phone.”

“Em?” Connor’s voice rang from the cell’s speakers. “May? Can you hear me?”

“Connor!” Em cried. “Holy shit!”

“Are you guys alright?” May asked.

“We’re okay.” There was a hint of hesitation in his answer. “I’m sorry we’ve left you hanging for so long. We’ve had to do a bit of damage control.”

“I’ll say.” Em’s expression turned sour. “What the fuck happened? I thought the reason you check in with the Loyals is to avoid making them suspicious. Why did they show up armed to the teeth?”

A beat of painfully uncomfortable silence passed before Connor answered in a small voice.

“It was Marina.”

“What?” May yelped, so shocked she felt as though someone had pinched her. She and Em looked to one another with the same wide-eyed look of disbelief.

“It turned out the Loyals have had her in their pocket for quite some time.” He sounded so defeated. “She traded her compliance to keep Myles safe. I can’t say I blame her to be honest.”

“They threatened to hurt Myles?” Em rubbed her temples. “Nevermind, I don’t know why I’m asking. Of course they did.”

Connor’s hum across the speakers told them Em was right.

“I’m so, so sorry, Connor,” May said. For all the struggles she had with her own family, they had never sold her out, no matter how disappointed they had been in her. A betrayal like this would have ruined her.

“I should have seen it coming,” Connor replied, unable to hide his hurt.

“Don’t beat yourself up for trusting your sister.” Em’s voice wasn’t exactly tender. From the fists balled at her sides to the pinch of her features, the rage she felt was written all over her, but she was trying to rise above it.

“So, what now?” May changed the subject, driving them away from such sensitive territory.

“It took a lot of work to convince Melanie we’re still on the Loyals’ side,” Connor admitted. “We told them we had convinced you both that we could offer you safety, but that we were really planning to hand deliver you to them instead.”

A shiver of fear raced up May’s spine. She had spent plenty of time worrying if that very scenario was true.

“That’s why it’s taken so long to reach out,” Connor continued. “We had to be sure we were in the clear. Things are going to be very delicate moving forward. That is assuming you’re still in, of course.”

Em pursed her lips and met May’s eyes. This was their chance; if they were going to back out, now was the time to do it.

May broke the silence.

“I think we’re in too deep to back out now.”

Em nodded. “What’s the plan, Connor?”

“Okay,” Connor did little to hide his relief. “Hang on a second.”

There was a shuffling on the other end, the sounds of the phone being handed off to someone else.

“Hey,” Jeremy grunted from the other end of the line.

Em froze and May held her breath. The only person who was happy to hear Jeremy’s voice was Grant, who smirked – the closest thing to a smile May had seen from him.

“Hey yourself, boy,” he said. “It’s good to hear your voice. You behaving yourself?”

“Never.” Jeremy’s smile, however small, came across in his single word reply. “How’s the Rookery?”

“Always surviving,” Grant replied. His eyes darted to the girls. “But this call isn’t about me. We’ll catch up another time.”

He handed the phone off to Em who handled it like it might bite her.

“What’s the plan?” she asked, jumping right to the point.

“I need to talk to you,” was his blunt response.

Em gave the phone a cutting look. “You are talking to me.”

“No.” He growled. May could sense him rolling his eyes. “Just you. Alone.”

Em looked to May, both of them gaping.

“Nah, you’re talking to both- “

“Babe,” May waved for her to stop. “It’s fine.”

“But- “

“It’s alright,” May insisted. This was the first time since discovering Em’s truth that she and Jeremy would have the chance to talk – May wanted to do the mature thing and give them the chance to decompress.

Reluctantly, Em gave in.

“Okay,” she spoke into the phone’s speaker. “Give me a second.”

She leaned in and gave May a quick kiss before slinking out of the room.

“You okay, Tiny?” Grant asked, giving May a stern stare.

“I’m fine,” May smiled. “Everything’s fine.”

Grant frowned, but he didn’t push. Instead he nodded and closed the door behind him.

May sat. She folded her hands in her lap and took a deep breath. Despite the phone call that she was no longer privy to, she felt better than she had in days. Getting back on the same page as Em had made her feel grounded after spending so long adrift. Whatever the plan was moving forward, they would be ready for it together.

She wasn’t sure how long she had sat there, staring off into nothing, when a soft knock came from the door. May jumped up and rushed to open it.

“Oh,” she said, breathless. “Hi, Lety.”

The shifter mechanic watched her carefully, dark eyes raking over her and seeing more than they let on.

She cocked her head. “The client just left. I thought I’d come see if you wanted to come back down to the floor.”

Biting her lip, May glanced down the walkway. Em and the phone had disappeared from sight.

“Actually, Em and I are just in the middle of something,” she remarked. “She had to step out to take a call, but I’d like to be here when she gets back.”

Lety grinned. “Is she your ride or die?”

May could only blink, uncertain what was being asked of her. “Huh?”

“You know, the person you’d do anything for,” Lety explained. “You and this Em girl – you’re tight?”

“Very,” May replied with a smile. “We’re an “us”.”

“Sure.” Lety shoved her hands into the pockets of her coveralls, the ones she always wore with the top half unzipped and tied around her waist. “Well, if you change your mind, you know where to find me.”

Leaning against the doorframe, May watched her disappear down the stairs before retreating back into the office. She kept the door open, just in case Em came back.


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Forty

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[ CW: Strong language ]


Em’s pale eyes snapped open at the sound of May’s frantic voice. She gasped, a sound like wind whipping through a mountain valley. In her surprise, the light surrounding her froze, then began swirling backward, rapidly falling back on itself until it seemed to implode into her. The light winked out into a firefly-like glow beneath Em’s skin and she dropped from the air like a stone.

May fumbled for the switch, filling the small office with the buzz of harsh fluorescent light that felt grotesque after Em’s cosmic display. From where she sat in a heap on the floor, Em blinked up at May like a newborn.

“Ow,” she moaned, gingerly rising to her feet.

“Are you okay?” May asked, jumping forward to help her stand. “What was that?”

“Practice,” Em answered, looking sheepish.

“Practice for what?” May glanced around the room – Em had used old newspapers to cover the windows. The smudged faces of strangers stared back her from the pages. The boxes from the corner were stacked in front of the door, which explained why May had to force her way in. “What is all this?”

With a resigned sigh, Em dropped onto the car seat bench.

“I needed a bit of privacy,” she said, motioning to the newspapers and boxes. “Not a lot of that to go around here.”

“Privacy for what, Em?” May pressed, eyeing her curiously.

Em raised a hand and snapped her fingers. Like a flint, a blue light flared between them. When she inhaled, the light spread like flames, dancing across the tips of her fingers and into her palm. She exhaled, blowing air between her lips that extinguished the light into nothing more than glittering dust.

“I’ve been working on my abilities,” she said in a quiet voice. “I’m trying to get better at controlling them, myself. It’s something I should have done a long time ago.”

May’s breath hitched. “Em, you don’t…” she was afraid to ask the question – stemmed from Jeremy’s accusation – that had secretly plagued her since she first woke up in the Rookery; the question that haunted her dreams and turned them into nightmares. She was afraid to ask because she didn’t know how she’d handle the answer. “Do you blame me for what happened? Is all of this my fault?”

Blinking with surprise, Em gazed up at her. “You? Fuck, no. Why would you think that?” She scooted over and patted the space beside her. May sat, feeling quite weak without warning.

“Because I ran right into a Loyal ambush,” she admitted, the words tumbling out of her like water. “Because I insisted we help WIND in the first place. Because I kept you from finding them again.”

“Woah, woah, woah,” Em shook her head and turned so she was facing May head on. “I was never trying to find them. Don’t let Jeremy get in your head. Even if I’d never met you, I still wouldn’t have gone back.”

She made to lay a hand over May’s. For a moment she hesitated before finishing the gesture. The sensation of Em’s hand on hers made May’s stomach flutter the way it did during those brief, innocent touches back when they first met.

“I know things have been tense between us lately,” Em continued, tracing patterns on May’s skin with her thumb. “But nothing about the way I feel for you has changed.” Her eyes locked on May’s and held her gaze tightly. “I will never regret falling in love with you.”

May hadn’t realized how badly she needed to hear those words. It was as though a dam inside her burst, letting emotions she had suppressed crash through her veins and rush to her head like a flood. She let out a sob and flung her arms around Em’s neck, kissing her hard. Em pulled May closer and held her so tightly May thought they might just meld into one. When the kiss ended they curled into one another and sat in stillness, breathing one another in like it was the very first time they’d ever been so close.

“I don’t blame you for anything,” Em murmured, her fingers lacing through May’s thick hair. “If anyone is to blame for anything it’s me.”

“Don’t do that,” May said, sitting back. “I’m sorry I was so hard on you, I was-“

“Justified,” Em cut her off, leaning her forehead against May’s. “Your reaction was justified. And I’m not trying to be a martyr – if I had listened to Welkin in the first place maybe things would be different right now.”

“Welkin?” May cocked her head curiously. “What about them?”

Em took a deep breath. Talking about Welkin since their disappearance had been hard for her. May waited patiently for her to be ready.

“When I first woke up as me,” Em began, gesturing at herself. “Welkin insisted I spend time practicing my abilities. They said I’m more powerful than Audrey was and I needed to learn to control it, especially with Audrey’s life force still such a big part of me. In case you hadn’t noticed, she had a short fuse and a taste for vengeance.”

“I have noticed,” May said with a grim nod.

“But I was cocky,” Em continued, looking down with sad eyes. “I didn’t listen to them. I was always such a brat to them and I kick myself for it every day, but especially now.”

“Hey,” May whispered gently, stroking Em’s cheek. “Don’t do that to yourself. Who doesn’t push back against their parents?”

Em huffed a small laugh. “Well, I’m making up for it now. I’ve been working on my control, meditating and stuff. I don’t get as tired as I used to, so Welkin was clearly on to something.” She looked at May, her expression resolute. “When we find them again, I’m going to make them proud. Both of you.”

A knock came from the door, followed by the sound of it hitting the pile of boxes and a gravelly, “what the fuck?”

Grant’s head poked into the room. He peered around the door to the boxes and then to the girls.

“Do I even want to know?”

“Sorry,” Em replied, flushing. She extended a hand and clenched it into a loose fist. When she pulled it toward her, the boxes slid out of the way so Grant could push the door in with a shake of his head.

“Sorry to interrupt, ladies,” he said, deftly ignoring the way Em and May’s legs were still tangled together.

“But you have a phone call.”


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Thirty Seven

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[ CW: Strong language ]


The air was thick and hot, hanging between May, Em, and Grant like an accusation.

“Murder, huh?” Grant addressed Em.

“That video was taken out of context,” May blurted, chancing a glance at Em who looked like she was going to pass out. “They attacked us first!”

Grant waved a hand and shushed May into silence. “Don’t care,” he barked. “Fuck knows I’m the last person who’s gonna judge anyone over a bit of street justice.”

Em groaned and dropped into a chair, cradling her forehead in her palms.

“Are you going to turn us in?” she asked without looking up.

“Of course not,” Grant replied. “Any friends of the kid are welcome here. But if you’re going to be hiding out with us, I’d better not get any shit from either of you.” He turned his hard stare to May. “We’re working here. Stay out of trouble and if we tell you to hide, you do it. Understand? There’ll be plenty of unsavory types on the lookout for you after that little show you put on.”

May felt like she was being scolded by a parent; Grant wasn’t mad, he was just very disappointed in them.

“I said, do you understand?” Grant repeated, looking between the two of them.

Em looked up, her features fallen and washed with fatigue. “We understand. Thank you, Grant.”

She received an unintelligible grunt in response. Grant stalked passed them both, heading for the door. He paused before exiting. “I’m going to give the crew their marching orders. You’ll be safe with us as long as you don’t press your luck.” He jabbed a finger at Jun’s workstation. “And if you want a single moment’s peace while you’re here, stay away from Jun’s shit.”

May raised her hands as if to show she meant no harm. The move seemed to satisfy Grant. He nodded and left the girls alone with their silence.

Em went back to hanging her head. She looked defeated and small. For the first time since she woke up, May felt a twinge of guilt over having been so relentlessly harsh with her.

Quietly, May dragged a chair in front of Em and sat down facing her.

“What do you think?” she asked in a gentle voice. “Can we trust him?”

Em spat a hollow laugh into her palms. “Ironically, yes.”

May’s eyebrows quirked. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

With a slow exhale, Em sat back. She looked May straight with an intensity that made her squirm. “Grant’s what you might call a crime boss. He’s very good at it too. This garage is just a front.”

“He told you that?” May hissed, eyes wide with disbelief.

“No, Jeremy did.”

“How would he-” May considered what she knew so far. “Is he “the kid” Grant keeps talking about?”

Em nodded. She folded her arms and stared off across the room. Her eyes grew unfocused and her lips pressed into a tight line.

“What is it?” May asked, shifting with unease. Being under the protection of an accomplished criminal was as alarming as it was comforting.

“I’m trying to figure out what to tell you,” Em murmured, her eyes still staring through something that wasn’t there.

“How about everything?” May challenged. “I deserve to know what we’re caught up in.”

A small smile tugged at the corner of Em’s lips. She shook her head and glanced back at May, her eyes softer now. “Not this time. This is one of those stories that aren’t mine to tell.” Rubbing her hands together, Em considered her words carefully. “Jeremy met Grant when he was nine. Grant and his team kidnapped him on his way home from school and held him for ransom.”

May’s stomach plummeted and her mouth gaped. Had she been asked to guess where this strange familiarity between Jeremy and a crime boss began, she never would have come up with this.

“Jeremy was still with the crew when Connor and Audrey met him,” Em continued. “Only by that point he was a full fledged member of the team.”

“Wait, what?” May was flabbergasted. “How old was he by then?”

“Thirteen,” Em answered after doing some math on her fingertips.

“How did he go from being a kidnap victim to a member of a gang of criminals?”

Em cringed. “That’s the part I don’t feel comfortable sharing. That story… it’s Jeremy’s.” When her eyes met May’s they were full of worry. “I’m sorry, babe. I know how important it is that we share things with each other, but this-”

“It’s alright,” May cut her off. And it was. After all, she had stories of her own. All she had to do was imagine Em telling Jeremy about what had happened to her back on the island of Hoku – the things Kane had done and the way the people of her village turned on her – to know why this was one secret Em had to keep. “I understand.”

They lapsed back into silence. From down on the garage floor, Grant’s voice drifted up as he addressed his crew. May couldn’t make out his words but she let her mind wander, filling in the blanks of his deep cadence.

“I’m sorry,” Em whispered, breaking May’s daze.

Blinking, May turned to her and forced a smile.

“It’s going to be okay,” she said. A mechanical response. May stood and reached down, offering Em a hand up from the chair she seemed to have melted miserably into. “Come on, let’s explore our new home.”

They stepped lightly from the control room. Grant had finished filling in the others on their temporary guests, but the group – ten in total – still milled around speaking in low voices. A few of them cast their eyes upwards when they noticed the girls emerge, but none lingered.

“A crime den.” May gazed down at the assorted characters that made up Grant’s crew. “Amazingly, not the weirdest place we’ve wound up.”

Em laughed, her mind casting back over the many strange and wonderful experiences they’d had since running away together. “Not even close.” Her expression turned grim. “Kind of fitting we’d end up hiding out with a bunch of criminals though.”

She made a good point – the pair of them were past the point of innocence now. May considered the crew. Some looked exactly like you’d expect – rough and shifty, scarred and guarded – while others were more unassuming, even surprising. But one thing was certain: they all had their reasons for being there. Each and every one of them likely had their own colorful stories full of questionable decisions made along the way.

A somber smile slid across May’s lips.

“We’ll probably fit right in.”


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Thirty Six

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May’s heart twisted and tore as she watched Em crumble in her arms.

She refused to believe the violent spectre Em had become was anything more than remnants of Audrey breaking through. May knew Em’s love – its strength and its light. Anyone who loved as strongly as Em couldn’t be so cold hearted, May was as sure of it as she was sure she was still breathing.

But none of that could erase what Em had done.

I need you to be stronger than that, May wanted to tell her. I need you to stay who you are.

She released her grip on Em’s shoulders and wrapped her arms around her instead. Just thinking those words made May feel selfish. It was so easy for her to forget how much Em was already suffering just by being here.

“Just… tell me something like this won’t ever happen again,” May pleaded quietly.

Em took a shaky breath in. She opened her mouth to answer, but a different voice spoke instead.

“I take it this is a bad time?”

May gasped and Em sat up with a start. The stranger’s voice was like a flood light snapping on, chasing the moment from the room as though it were darkness.

Standing in the doorway was a man in his early fifties, built like a stone with shoulder-length greying hair and a beard that made him look even older than he likely was. Inscrutable hazel eyes watched them from beneath thick eyebrows.

“Shit, Grant.” Em wiped at her eyes. “I didn’t hear you coming.”

“I figured,” the man called Grant gunted in reply. He gave a pointed look to May. “How’re you feeling? You’ve been out for a while.”

“I’ve been better,” May admitted.

The man nodded and turned, motioning for the girls to follow.

“Do you think you can walk?” Em asked quietly, not quite meeting May’s eyes.

She helped May to her feet and held her hand tightly through those first tentative steps. The ache in May’s legs gave way to tingling that faded by the time they made it out of the office. Blinking, May’s eyes swept over a surprisingly bright warehouse below the grated walkway on which they stood. Warm afternoon sunlight pressed in through greasy windows that lined the top half of the walls, reflecting a lazy cloud of dust motes. The ground floor was busy; two neat rows of vehicles lined either wall and pairs of legs protruded from beneath their hoods and chassis.

“A garage?” May asked. The sounds and smells made sense now, but she was still surprised. “What kind of safehouse is this?”

“The safest kind,” answered Grant.

He led them into a room at the end of the metal walkway. The room, perhaps originally intended to be a breakroom, half-served its original purpose while doubling as a command center of sorts. A long card table filled the middle of the room, surrounded by mismatched chairs and littered with sheafs of paper, empty beer bottles, and stained coffee mugs. Blinking computer servers and monitors lined the far wall in a set-up not unlike Marina’s workshop.

“What is this place?” May marvelled quietly. The equipment seemed far more advanced than a garage required.

“Woah, hey!”

May spun to find Jun in an opposite corner, hunched over his own workstation. He jumped to his feet and stood so his body shielded his monitor from view. “What are you doing in here?”

“Relax, Jun,” Grant grumbled from the other side of the room. He busied himself by pouring a deep amber colored brew from a mason jar into a mug.

“I’m workin’ on something here.” Jun sounded scandalized. “What if they see?”

The man turned to Jun, a single eyebrow raised. Frowning, Jun sank back into his chair without another word.

“I already told you – these two are friends of the kid.” Grant screwed the cap back on the jar and slid it onto a shelf. He carried the mug back to May and held it out to her. “Drink this. Throw it back. If you try to sip it you’ll never finish it. It’ll make you feel better.”

May had her doubts but took the mug anyway. With a curious look at Em, who only offered a shrug, May did as she was told and tossed the drink back in one searing swallow. It lit a fire in her belly that burned in a flash and then sizzled out, filling the rest of her body with a comfortable fuzziness. She shook her head and coughed.

“There’s no medicine on earth that cures quite like a strong shot of hooch,” Grant said, taking back May’s mug as she hacked out another couple of ragged coughs. “Better?”

Coughing aside, when May stopped to consider herself she was surprised to find she did feel better. Grant took the surprised look on her face for confirmation and nodded, satisfied.

“May, is it?” he asked. Clearly Em had already filled him in on a few details.

“Yeah,” May replied, shaking his hand. “Thanks for taking us in.”

“Yo, Parker!” a voice shouted from the floor below. “Whaddaya think of this?”

Grant turned to Jun. “Go tell them I’m gonna need a minute.”

Jun didn’t argue, shuffling from the room and closing the door behind him.

“Who’s Parker?” May turned the name over in her mind, wondering why it sounded familiar.

“Me.” Grant gestured at himself. “Last name.”

A memory clicked into place sending a wave of realization washing over May.

“Grant Parker?” she asked. “Are you related to Jeremy?” Her eyes lingered on his greying hair, searching for a hint of Jeremy’s signature fiery red.

His strong arms were crossed, but May caught the slightest hint of a smile tug at the corner of Grant’s mouth.

“No, but he and I go way back.”

As he turned and walked away, May shot Em a quizzical look.

“It’s a long story,” Em whispered.

“Ladies, come over here a minute,” Grant called over from the command-center wall. “There’s something I need to show you.”

Everything about his words sounded like bad news. May followed Em to join him, both wary and weary at the thought of how things could possibly get worse than they already were.

He stood in front of a monitor featuring the image of a man’s serious face, frozen mid-sentence. The name Wyndam Aviar hovered at the bottom of the screen and below that, the word aldermember. Em bristled when she saw him, but said nothing. Grant tapped a few keys and the image – a paused video – jumped back and played from the beginning. Shaky cellphone footage showed dark vans parked along a hedged street and a swarm of people in uniforms lining the end of a private driveway. Between their shoulders, May could make out the unmistakable rosy shade of her own hair. She felt the blood drain from her face as the person shooting the video made a foolhardy dash across the street and continued recording from behind one of the vans.

Explosions of light and energy filled the screen and distorted the feeds. May relived the horror of Em being blasted back by the Loyals’ arm cannon and her miraculous recovery. The cameraperson swore as Loyal agents were knocked back by another one of Em’s assaults and then the picture zoomed in. The screen was filled with Em’s dark and dangerous face. The view pulled back, shaking as the person directing it tried to capture exactly what they were seeing: a young man, jerked high into the air.

Screaming and pleading.

Em, unflinching as she snapped her arm downward.

The video cut off just before the young Loyal agent hit the ground.

Beside her, May felt Em tremble.

The video moved on to the talking head of Wyndam Aviar as he addressed the viewing audience.

“It doesn’t matter if it is by magical or mythological might: any supernatural being who uses their abilities to harm the defenseless is a criminal. Whomever this woman is, she is dangerous and must be apprehended. Please use extreme caution when-”

Grant paused the video, frozen on the aldermember’s face like when they first found it.

Em clasped a hand over her mouth, breathing fast and hard.

May’s mind raced through all the things this video meant for them.

Grant turned and surveyed them both, his expression unreadable.

“Well, ladies.” His gruff voice broke the heavy silence.

“Looks to me like you’re in a whole lot of trouble.”


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Thirty Five

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[ CW: vomit ]


May awoke in a panic.

Her body was numb and, from what she could see in the dim light, she was in a small office-like room she didn’t recognize.

Where am I? she wondered, fear rising in her throat like bile. The last thing she remembered was being ambushed by the Loyals at Marina’s house. A vision of Em’s face contorted with rage flashed through her memory. Where is Em?

Without thinking, May sat bolt upright. In an instant the numbness in her body was replaced by a painful sensation of blood rushing back into her extremities. Her head pounded, her vision spun, and she barely had enough time to lean over the side of whatever makeshift bed she had been sleeping on before vomiting.

“Ugh, very nice,” said a disgusted voice she had never heard before.

“Leave her alone, Jun,” Em replied, her voice making May’s heart skip. “It’s not her fault.”

May felt the warmth of Em’s body as she sat next to her. Gentle fingers brushed the hair back from May’s face as Em crooned, “It’s okay, babe. Just take it slow.”

Embarrassed as she was, the purging seemed to be exactly what May needed. She sat back up weakly and swallowed one deep breath after another.

“Here,” she heard the voice Em had identified as Jun say. She peered up to find a man silhouetted in the doorway to the room. He tossed Em a towel before turning on his heel and disappearing again.

Em twisted to face May and used the corner of the towel to wipe at her mouth. She reached over to a nearby desk, and picked up a glass. “Here, drink this while I clean up.”

May did as she was told. Every sip of water was like a dose of medicine. She watched in silence as Em used the towel to mop up the mess on the floor. As her eyes adjusted to the gloom, May was able to make out scattered papers covering the surface of the desk, photos and newspaper clippings pinned to the wall above her, and a collection of dusty cardboard boxes precariously stacked in the corner. Em excused herself to discard the soiled towel and, from beyond the doorway, May could just make out a group of unfamiliar voices and the metallic clanging of tools.

Jun’s voice, closer than the others, was barely intelligible over the din. “Ew, just toss it in the burn barrel.”

When Em returned she smelled of cheap hand soap and motor oil.

“Close your eyes,” she said softly.

When May did, she flicked on a lamp sitting amid the mess on the desk. May hadn’t even had a chance to open her eyes before she felt herself encased in Em’s arms. “You had me so worried, babe. I’m so glad you’re awake. How do you feel?”

“Like I’ve been rocked by a massive wave,” May answered, her voice still hoarse from the attack. “Where are we?”

Em pulled back from their embrace and reached into her shirt, producing the folded paper from Priva she had hidden in her bra. “One of the rendezvous points from Priva’s list.”

“Right.” May grimaced, a headache throbbing behind her eyes. “What happens now?”

“I’m not sure,” Em admitted. “I suppose we just wait and see if they come for us.”

May looked to her. “And if the Loyals come for us instead?”

Em blanched. A fraught, uncomfortable silence fell between them.

When it became clear that May was waiting for her to say something, a sadness crept across Em’s face. She reached out to caress her cheek. “I’m so sorry, Maybe.”

Her apology could have been for anything at this point – their tenuous sense of safety, the violence May had endured, or the multitude of nightmarish things she had witnessed. Remembering the young agent as he was thrown against the ground and the sickening sound that followed, May had to swallow against another wave of nausea.

She pulled back.

“You’re sorry?” May trembled. “Em, you killed someone.”

Em flinched as though she had slapped her. “I didn’t mean – May, I was trying to protect you.”

“Not like that.” May’s voice shook but her piercing stare did not waver. “You can’t kill people because of me.”

“Are you kidding me?” Em balked, incredulous. Rising anger darkened her features. “What do you expect me to do when you’re in danger?”

May grabbed Em by the shoulders and gripped her tight. Emotion – fear, fury, and desperation – swelled inside her. She pulled Em to her so they were eye to eye and spoke slow and clear.

“Emanthy, you are not a killer.” She pressed into the word ‘you’ like a panic button. “I have heard enough about Audrey to know she was no angel. You tell me all the time that you and her are different people. I need that to be true.”

Em’s anger morphed into a look of horror as she processed what May was saying.

“Please, Em.” May jostled her, every word as urgent as they were pleading. “That ruthless, terrifying person you become when you’re protecting me is not who you are. It can’t be.”

“I…” Em’s hand covered her mouth. For a moment she was back in Omea, feeling Audrey’s rage and relentless thirst for justice overtaking her as she stood staring down a swaggering Kane on a moonlit patio. Yes, she wanted to protect May. But that violence, that anger – that was not hers.

Or perhaps, a small voice whispered at the back of her mind, she and Audrey weren’t as different as Em wanted to believe.

She sobbed.

“Maybe,” Em whispered fearfully. “What have I done?”


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Thirty Four

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CW: strong language, combat/violence, blood


May was almost at the end of the long, winding driveway before shame finally put an end to her fleeing.

“Why do I always run away?” she shouted, admonishing herself. Passersby on the street cast curious looks in her direction and whispered to one another before hustling away. But May was too caught up in herself to care about the scene she must have been making.

As she worked to catch her breath, May’s mind replayed Jeremy’s furious accusation on a loop.

This is all your fucking fault.

“Who am I kidding?” she groaned. “I know exactly why I ran this time.”

With only a few words, Jeremy struck the barely concealed nerve May had been nursing since the early days of her relationship with Em. She recalled the teary – on her part – confession she made to Em in the hospital room in Tenna; that she had always been on edge, waiting for Em to wake up one morning longing for the life she used to have.

Em reassured her then, but May couldn’t help wonder what would have happened if she hadn’t gotten in the way.

And what was going to happen now that the truth was out?

Stop, she thought, squeezing her eyes shut and pressing her palms over her ears as though that might shut out all her worries. Em loves you and you love her. You need to trust her right now. She needs you.

May’s eyes snapped open. “She needs me. What am I doing out here?”

Without another thought she turned on her dancer’s toes back toward the house.

She had barely taken her first stride when she heard a cold voice from behind her shout, “Stay right where you are.”

It was as though ice water had been released through May’s veins. She froze, petrified by the sound of a voice she recognized from her nightmares.

Peering over her shoulder, May’s fear was confirmed: Melanie, the Loyal agent who had first discovered them hiding in Tenna, stood at the mouth of the driveway. She held a device in her firm grip and had it trained right at May. Like an infestation, other equally menacing and armed people swarmed in from the other side of the hedges that lined the property. It was an ambush.

“May, wait!” Em’s voice came from around the bend in the driveway, blocked from view by a dense topiary. “Where did you go?”

Footsteps. She wasn’t alone. May’s breathing hitched; they were going to run straight into a waiting Loyal army.

Urgency sparked inside May, thawing her frozen limbs. She darted forward and cried, “Stop, it’s a-”

Without warning, pain the likes of being doused in boiling water ripped through May’s body. Every muscle in her body seized, tightening like stone, and refused to respond to anything her brain begged for. Vision jittering with the current of whatever force assaulted her, May saw Em round the edge of the bushes.

“May!” Em screamed, her eyes round with terror.

The current stopped. May felt as though she had been pushed down the rocky slope of a ravine. Her knees buckled, muscles screaming for rest, but before she could fall a hand grabbed her roughly by the shoulder and pulled her back. May barely registered it was Melanie who pinned her, an arm wrapped tightly across May’s chest. She was too distracted by the sight of Connor throwing his own arms around Em just as she tried to lunge forward.

It was all happening so fast and yet seemed to play out in slow motion. May’s ears were ringing but she saw Connor’s lips move in Em’s ear as he tightened his crushing grip around her.

Em’s face twisted. She threw her head back, howling at the sky.

When she looked forward again, Em had changed. The brilliance of her starlit skin faded to the cold pallor of corpse, and through her wild and snapping silver hair, May could see the whites of her eyes darkening like a storm-threatened sky. May’s heart clenched. She had only seen Em is such a state once before: the night Kane broke into the tree house and attacked May. Em’s fury had been absolute, and she had sent Kane crashing down to the beach below to prove it.

It was May’s threatened safety that hit a dangerously primal switch somewhere in Em. As May gazed fearfully at Em’s animalesque transformation, she wondered if there were any lengths Em wouldn’t go to keep her safe.

Hunching, Em let out a wild scream before sending a shockwave out from her center with a wide sweeping of her arms. Connor couldn’t maintain his hold and rocketted backward into Jeremy and Priva. This time when Em lunged forward, no one was able to stop her. She shot across a span of several spaces, making a beeline for May before anyone could think to react. As she moved, a sparking mass of energy gathered in her open fist.

Just as Em reached her arm back for the momentum to sling the manifested orb at the line of Loyal agents who had darted toward her, one of them drew his weapon – the same current-producing device Melanie had used on May – and fired. Em released the ball of energy and the two forces collided mid air and exploded. The impact sent Loyals careening backward.

Another agent stormed forward as the others scattered away from her. The agent carried what looked to be an arm-mounted cannon that sizzled and snapped as it charged. She squeezed her hand into a fist and the weapon fired a burst of energy not unlike Em’s own. The attack seemed to take Em by surprise, her locked and furious gaze faltering for the slightest of moments. She only had enough time to throw up a quick protective barrier before the mass hit, blasting her in the opposite direction. A raspy gasp escaped May’s scorched throat as she watched Em’s body hit the pavement and roll.

But rather than skidding to a stop, Em leaned into the momentum of her body and used it to windmill onto her feet, all while gathering another cluster of energy in her fist. A prideful look of satisfaction was still plastered on the cannon wielder’s face when Em landed, rolled on the outer edge of her left foot, heel to toe, and pivoted. She launched her assault as she turned, nailing the Loyal agent in the chest. Shrieking in agony as she was flung back, the agent caught Melanie’s shoulder with her elbow.

Melanie swore as she lost her grip on May, who had just enough energy to surge out of her hold to freedom. Once her full weight was back on her feet however, May didn’t have the strength to stand. She collapse in a tangle of limbs still wracked by lingering aftershocks from the current she had endured.

The ringing in her ears subsided just enough that May could hear the members of WIND screaming at Em to stop – Em, who was again barreling toward May with frightening speed. Yet another agent, this one looking so young with his cheeks flushed and eyes wide, reached down to haul May back to her feet.

His hand had almost closed around her upper arm when his entire body froze in place, limbs splayed in a pantomime of ducking downward. Em hovered in the expanse between WIND and the Loyals, toes skimming the ground with one arm outstretched, hand clutched as though she had caught something in her grasp.

Jerking her arm up, the young agent shot into the sky and dangled helplessly above them all.

“Stop!” Melanie cried, hands out and eyes darting rapidly between Em and her airborne hostage.

“Leave us alone,” Em demanded, her voice like deep and rolling thunder.

Melanie raised her weapon.

Em snarled and wrenched her arm down so fast that the young agent hurtled back to earth and hit the ground with a gut-curdling crunch. May clamped her eyes shut so she didn’t have to see the man’s collapsed skull or the spray of blood that painted the driveway only a few feet from where she still lay crumpled in a heap.

People on both sides of the stand-off screamed. Em didn’t pause to consider what she had done. Instead she used the distraction of her violence to dive forward and scoop May into her arms. With a powerful, no doubt adrenaline-aided jump, Em vaulted into the air and flew off.

May only caught a bleary glimpse of the chaos as it shrank beneath them before she passed out.


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Thirty Three

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CW: Strong language


All eyes were on Em.

“Emmy?” May whispered, laying her hand carefully on Em’s thigh.

“I don’t…” Em’s eyes searched something no one else could see. “I forgot.”

“You clearly didn’t forget everything, did you?” Jeremy said. His voice was tight with anger. Placing the guitar on the floor, he stood and looked down at his friends. “I know you think I’m crazy but I believed it then, and I know it now: somehow, she is Audrey.”

“Jeremy,” Priva hissed, unconvincingly scandalized. The fear of realization had already settled across her features.

“Tell me I’m wrong again,” Jeremy barked, pointing straight at Em. “I fucking dare you. No one else knew that song, no one.”

Em gaped wordlessly. She was frozen in horror, completely unable to act.

“Stop it,” May shouted, jumping to Em’s defense. “You need to let this go!”

Jeremy rounded on her like a cobra. “You fucking knew, didn’t you?” His voice shook. Tears threatened on the brims of his eyelids. “You’ve known all along, haven’t you?”

Now it was May’s turn to falter.

“I…” She didn’t know what to say. Her breath tightened; she was trapped.

“Just fucking admit it,” Jeremy yelled. May jumped, frightened by his forceful energy. “Tell me the truth.”

Seeing Jeremy come at May was the antidote to Em’s paralysis. She leapt up from the couch and stepped between them.

“Leave her alone,” she growled. “You’re not wrong, okay?”

“What?” Connor choked, getting to his feet.

Rue’s eyes were round as the moon. “How? Audrey is dead. We saw her, we put her in the ground together.”

“It’s complicated,” Em said, raising her palms before her like a protective barrier. “And it might be hard to understand. Audrey did die.” She forced herself to meet Jeremy’s fiery stare. “Welkin captured what they could of her spirit before it was completely lost and had an Emandi help to create a new body to put it in. But you need to understand, I am not her.”

May looked to her in confusion. This was the second time Em had mentioned the Emandi, but May still had no idea what that was or what it meant.

“How can you say that?” Jeremy’s voice was barely a whisper. Silent tears snaked down his face. “How can you stand there and tell me you carry her spirit but you’re somehow “not her”?”

“A spirit begins to evanesce as soon as the body dies, Jeremy,” Em spoke gently, sadly. “What Welkin was able to salvage wasn’t whole. They had to fill in the gaps themself. I am a new person.” She swallowed hard. “Jeremy, I’m so sorry.”

“My stars,” Rue exclaimed, distracting everyone with her expression of surprise. She gazed at Em as though she were seeing her for the first time. “Is it true?”

“I promise, I’m telling you the truth,” Em assured her.

Rue stood and stepped to Em slowly, taking her hand and regarding it with near reverence. “Incredible. This… this has never happened before! It makes so much sense! Where is Welkin now? I need to speak with them.”

Em opened her mouth to answer but Jeremy cut her off.

“Fuck you.”

Everyone turned to stare at him as he stood, fists balled at his side.

“You came back, knowing what you did – who you are – and you didn’t even try to find us? You didn’t let me know that you were alright? Do you have any idea-“

“Jeremy, please,” Em stopped him abruptly. “You’re not listening to me. I might have some of Audrey’s memories but I am not the same person. Besides, it wouldn’t have been smart or safe of me to come find you guys and you know it.”

Glowering, Jeremy’s eyes grew dark and foreboding. “So you got your freedom and I got left behind to grieve. Amazing.”

“That’s not fair,” May interjected. “She had to die for what you’re calling freedom.”

“Shut up,” Jeremy snapped back. “I am not interested in anything you have to say. You couldn’t possibly understand.”

Drawing up her courage, May pushed back the hurt. “Of course I understand: I love her.”

“So did I!” he screamed back, lunging forward.

“Cut it out!” Em shouted, shoving him back. The intensity of her confusion and frustration rippled outward from her like an impact strike, rattling the glassware and knocking him off his already unsteady feet.

In a flash, Jeremy was back up. Snapped from their awestruck reverie, everyone else jumped into action, struggling to pull and push Jeremy and Em away from one another. The two were incensed, shouting and swiping at one another around the others.

When May reached into the chaos, Jeremy’s hand caught her wrist and he stared at her with the fury of a wild, cornered animal. “This is all your fucking fault.”

“Let’s go!” May cried, wrenching herself from his grip and stumbling back from the mele.

Tears sprang to her eyes. Her heart hammered in her chest. She was completely overwhelmed.

With a sob, she turned and ran from the room.

She needed to get away.

Shoving open the heavy oak doors that lead outside, May tripped into the twilight, and ran.


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Thirty Two

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[ CW: strong language, sexual content ]

Marina’s big house was fairly quiet for the rest of the day, especially considering how many people were in it. The party spent most of the afternoon napping and getting cleaned up.

Some time after three o’clock, Em jolted awake and glanced groggily around the room until she remembered where she was. It came back to her slowly: the memory of crawling along the couch and flopping down onto her stomach between May’s splayed legs. May had been lounging there, reading the computer reference book Marina had loaned her; Em fell asleep with her arms wrapped around May’s middle and her face resting on her stomach as it rose and fell with each gentle breath May took.

“How long was I asleep?” Em asked. She peered up at May, who lifted the book she was still reading to peek back at her.

“Not sure,” May admitted. “Maybe an hour?”

Connor strode into the room carrying a basket full of fresh laundry.

“Do you guys mind if I fold in here?” he asked. “Rue’s sleeping upstairs.”

“Knock yourself out,” Em replied with a yawn, snuggling back down onto May who set the book aside and began combing her fingers lightly through Em’s hair.

Connor was almost finished his chore when a sleepy-eyed Rue wandered downstairs.

“Feeling better, love?” he asked when she walked up for a quick kiss and to survey his progress.

“Much better.” She smiled warmly.

Marina breezed into the room and grinned when she saw them. “Everyone’s surfacing! Who’s up for a drink or two?”

Without waiting for a response she unlocked a magnificent liquor cabinet and pulled out glasses. She then went to retrieve wine from the kitchen as everyone made their drink selection. Before striding back into the room she called up the stairs to the stragglers. “We’re getting drunk without you!”

Soon Jeremy and Priva joined them. They were disheveled, but it didn’t appear to have been from sleep. Em and May exchanged knowing looks when the pair passed them on their way to make their drinks, but they kept their teasing remarks to themselves.

“Oh, man.” Marina sighed happily, settling back with a very full glass of wine. “I can’t remember the last time I got drunk. I think I’m overdue.”

“We’re not getting drunk,” Connor laughed. “But don’t let us stop you.”

“For those prepared to party,” Em raised her glass of whiskey to Marina. “We salute you.”

They all clinked their glasses, a chaotic moment of reaching arms trying to make sure no one was missed, and toasted to being together, regardless of the circumstances.

For everyone but May and Em, the conversation flowed naturally, especially once the alcohol started to lighten the mood in the room. No one wanted to talk about the present and so those who shared a history dipped into the wells of nostalgia. They rehashed memories, retelling increasingly funnier stories until they gasped for breath between their laughter.

May and Em sat on the far end of the couch, edging closer with every sip from their glasses. At first they tried to stay cognisant that Jeremy was right there, regardless of the fact that he hadn’t looked at them once since entering the room. But as the whiskey worked its magic, they seemed to forget that anyone else was in the room. Em coiled an arm around May’s slender waist and nuzzled into the curve of her neck. She planted kiss after kiss – playful in the beginning, then slower and seductive as they worked through their second and third drinks – along May’s jawline and shoulder. Between kisses she’d whisper things in May’s ear that left her crimson-cheeked and giggling.

“One day I’m gonna buy us a big house like this one,” Em told May in a matter-of-fact, whisper-yell. “And you can just spend all day lounging around in fancy lingerie like the fucking queen you are.”

“Shhh, everyone can hear you.” May grinned and kissed Em to silence her.

Em replied by mumbling something against May’s lips that sounded a bit like, “I worship you.”

The only sign that Jeremy heard any of this was the subtle bouncing of his knee.

It wasn’t long after that May excused herself, slipping upstairs to use the washroom.

***

Jeremy didn’t realize Em had crept away too until he rose to fix another drink and found her missing. Squaring his jaw, he tried to focus on the promises he had made; one to Rue to try harder to be pleasant to the girls, made in the throes of gratitude that came with having survived his beating in the alley, the other to Priva. That afternoon she had made him promise to stop obsessing over the past – to see her, the one standing right in front of him. He had promised to try and it must have been enough for her; they made love for the first time in ages.

He thought of the sex, imagining the feeling of Priva’s silky skin under his and the look on her face as he moved between her thighs. Her moans of pleasure, her nails digging into his shoulders, the genuine happiness she radiated as they laid together afterward.

He reached out and took her hand. He could try.

“I know what we’re missing,” Marina announced, sitting up quickly. “Music!”

Priva snapped her fingers. “Didn’t you say Myles plays guitar now?”

“Yes!” Marina pointed at her, clearly into the direction Priva’s train of thought was headed. “It’s in his room!”

Priva looked to Jeremy expectedly. “Go get it, boo! Play for us!”

Jeremy blinked up at Marina. “Where’s his room?”

“Third floor. First door on your left.”

Without arguing – he was trying to be better, after all – he got to his feet and made for the stairs. He hadn’t realized just how much he’d had to drink until standing; his head swam with the early stages of his buzz.

As he stepped onto the second floor, Jeremy paused. To his right the staircase continued upwards. But to his left he saw the bathroom, open and dark. Across the hall was Em and May’s room, the door open just a crack. Everything was quiet.

That’s weird, he thought with a frown. He had been sure they had sneaked up here to fuck. A slight flurry of concern rose in his stomach.

Against his better judgement, he tiptoed toward the room. Perhaps they had simply passed out like a couple of lightweights. But what if they weren’t in there? He tried to push down the paranoid voice in his head, honed from years of fighting and fleeing, that screamed something might be wrong.

He held his breath as he peered through the miniscule opening in the door. From there he could see the bed, made and empty.

A sudden rush of movement took him by surprise as a pair of bodies tumbled into his line of vision from somewhere hidden by the door. Jeremy had to bite his bottom lip to keep from gasping out loud.

A tangle of peaches and cream; May had pushed Em up against the wall, kissing her fiercely. Their shirts had already been discarded, their hands were everywhere.

To Jeremy, the world seemed to fall away. He stood, paralyzed; knowing he needed to walk away but helpless to do so.

May dragged her teeth lightly against the tender flesh of Em’s throat. Head back, Em welcomed May’s assault with a breathy moan.

Kisses were peppered across Em’s collarbone as May groped under her lover’s bra with one hand and worked the button of her jeans with the other.

Get out of here, Jeremy’s brain shouted at him.

But he couldn’t. He was transfixed by the ecstacy on Em’s face as May’s hand plunged down the front of her pants and pressed into her warmth.

He knew that look, he remembered it perfectly. Her quiet noises of passion were exactly the same.

All at once, memories of when he was the one in May’s place came back to him like a crashing wave.

It didn’t matter what she looked like or what she called herself: Jeremy knew Audrey when he saw her.

At last he was able to tear himself away from the door. He staggered to the staircase and heaved a few deep and rocky breaths.

Go upstairs, he coached himself. Get the guitar. Go downstairs. Figure your shit out.

From down the hall, Em cried out softly.

Figure your shit out.

***

By the time the girls slunk back downstairs, the sitting room was filled with the sound of guitar strings and drunken singing.

“Welcome back, ladies,” Priva announced loudly, drawing everyone’s attention to the blushing pair as they slid back into their spot on the couch.

“Look,” May laughed, trying to come up with an excuse and failing.

“Listen,” Em said, with just as much success.

From his chair, Jeremy fiddled with the guitar pegs, adjusting the tuning. He didn’t look up as he launched into another song.

The notes were familiar. May recognized it as the song she and Em had performed at the flat in Luxton; the first song she learned to play herself.

“Hey!” She turned to Em, smiling. “It’s the song you’re always singing!”

But Em didn’t answer. She wasn’t smiling either.

Instead her gaze was fixed on Jeremy’s hands as they danced over the strings.

“Wait,” Em muttered, squinting. “How do you…”

Her eyes grew wide. “Oh, fuck.”

“What’s wrong?” Connor asked, glancing between Em and Jeremy.

“Imagine how surprised I was when you two started playing this song,” Jeremy said, his eyes still trained on his instrument as he finished the melody. “This, the song I wrote for Audrey.”

The final note reverberated itself into silence. No one spoke.

“She’s the only person I ever played it for.” Now he looked up. His eyes were cold.

“Isn’t that interesting?”


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