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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Tips For Making Your Wattpad Story Wattys Worthy

Watty’s season is here again!

For anyone who isn’t super familiar, The Wattys are like the Oscars of Wattpad. Every summer hundreds of thousands of books are entered for consideration, with only a small group ultimately winning the coveted title in a handful of categories.

Screen Shot 2018-05-15 at 12.10.50 PMLast year I was extraordinarily lucky enough to be one of those winners. The Wattpad edition of my first novel, The Star and the Ocean, was named one of 50 winners in 2017’s Watty Awards. It’s an accomplishment I still haven’t gotten over, and it’s exciting to know that a new round of authors will soon get to experience that special thrill for themselves!

But if you’ve been following me for a while, you know I actually submitted TSATO for The Wattys in 2016 as well (it was only because I didn’t finish the book until February of 2017 that it was eligible to be re-submitted last year as well).

Needless to say, I didn’t win the first time around.

While I didn’t say anything publicly, I was SUPER heartbroken over it. I, like so many other entrants, truly thought my book had what it took to win. But because I knew I’d have a second shot I excused myself from my pity party and took some steps to make sure the book was as good as it could be when the contest opened back up again in 2017.

Whether you missed the mark last year or are planning on giving it a shot this year for the first time, here are some of the things I did to get my book ready for the Wattys!

Look for feedback and actually do something with it

Even the most constructive criticism can be hard to take, but if you want to improve your work you’re going to have to suck it up. Ask your readers for feedback and pay close attention to what they have to say. A lot of it might end up just being matters of preference but if you see legitimate issues cropping up, make the effort to address them.

I completely restructured the beginning of The Star and the Ocean, as well as the length of my chapters, in September of 2016 because of reader feedback. It was a massive undertaking (not to mention a frustrating pain in the ass) but in the end, it did make the story stronger and more attractive to readers.

Finish your story (or at least be as close as you can)

Technically your story doesn’t have to be finished to be eligible for The Wattys (in the past you’ve been required to have a minimum of five parts up) but I truly think it helps. The first time I submitted TSATO it wasn’t quite halfway finished, whereas last year it was complete. I’m sure the judges do their absolute best to keep an open mind when going into unfinished stories, but you’ve got to admit that it’s easier to appreciate and understand a full and complete work over a handful of chapters. Think of it this way: would you ever pick a favourite movie based solely on the teaser alone?

Get those reads

This piece of advice is completely based on speculation and observation. The number of reads your story has don’t technically factor into the judging criteria, and there are definitely winners each year with only a few thousand reads. But the majority of winning stories tend to have read counts on the higher side. Does it matter? Probably not. Does it hurt to try? Nope.

If you’re stumped over how to drum up reads, begin by understanding that no one breaks the 100k read mark overnight. When I submitted TSATO in the Wattys the first time I had around 3k reads by the time the contest closed. In 2017 I had over 100k when the contest opened. It’s a long game and you have to be committed to playing it.

Admittedly, a lot of my reads came from features; first by making the Wattpad Featured Fantasy list and again by their official LGBT account. While Wattpad has since changed how its Featured List works, there are still plenty of other Book of the Month lists you can apply – or have someone nominate you – for. I also recommend entering book clubs. They’re a bit time consuming but you’re guaranteed reads PLUS most book clubs require participants to leave feedback, which we already know can also be helpful.

Be kind to yourself

Would it be amazing to win? Damn right! Are you a shitty writer if you don’t? Of course not. Not everyone can win and there are SO MANY great books out there that will never win anything. No contest defines your worth as a writer, so don’t let this one stop you from doing what you love!

Best of luck to everyone who throws their hat into the ring this year – I’ll be rooting for you!


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Thirty Nine

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[ CW: Strong language, men being garbage: the sequel ]


Em insisted everything was fine.

“I feel like I owe it to everyone to stay out of sight,” she mumbled over the box of greasy fried chicken Grant brought them for dinner. “Besides, I don’t have a knack for fixing cars like you do.”

But that didn’t explain the sadness she wore like a shroud or the way she avoided meeting May’s eyes.

May didn’t buy the excuse, but she didn’t pry either. If she were being honest with herself, she was glad Em was punishing herself. It was a cruel way to think, so she tried not to dwell on it, but selfishly it helped May to know that Em was feeling remorse for what she had done.

Days wore on without word from WIND. Eventually, May stopped wondering how long they would wait, choosing instead to lose herself in the busy work on the garage floor. By now no one doubted her vehicular proficiency, and while she was only allowed to work on genuine client vehicles – as opposed to the “specialty product” the crew moved through on the regular – she had unquestionably earned the Murder’s respect.

She stuck close by Lety, who offered to share her station after surveying May’s handiwork with her timing belt.

“Not bad, Tiny,” she had said with a sharp-toothed grin. “Glad to see you can earn your keep.”

Those sharp teeth, May discovered, were due to how Lety earned her own keep in the Rookery. Aside from being a skilled mechanic, she was also a shifter.

“It’s kinda like being a werewolf,” Lety explained one morning as they worked a stubborn set of tires off some hipster’s van. “Minus the whole full moon business.”

“So you can control it?” May asked as she stood on the rod of her tire iron and bounced until the lug nut turned. What she lacked in Lety’s strength she made up with clever ingenuity.

“Pretty much,” Lety grunted, hauling off a liberated tire from the opposite end of the vehicle and rolling it aside. “Oh, and it’s not like I was bitten or anything. I was born this way.”

“So how did you wind up here?” May knew she was walking a fine line by asking the question; It bordered on “digging” territory, which she had discovered was not appreciated in the Rookery.

But Lety didn’t seem to mind. “It’s good money.”

May pursed her lips but stayed quiet. It was a bullshit answer but she knew it wasn’t her place to push.

After a few beats of silence, Lety relented.

“Shifters tend to have a lot of rules,” she explained as she rounded to the other side of the van. “They stick together, listen to the alpha, all that shit.” Her head popped up over the van’s stubby nose. “I wasn’t really into it.”

“But why a gang?” May knew Lety was tough – she could fend for herself. But this life didn’t strike her as something a person would choose if they didn’t have to.

“Why not?” Lety countered. “It’s like a pack I got to choose. I get to work on cars all day, which I love, and being a shifter makes me a pretty invaluable part of the team. I’ve got a particular set of skills you humans could only wish for. Besides, Grant’s a good boss. There are worse places I could be.”

“I suppose so,” May muttered. She had become distracted by the feeling of eyes boring into her and it was taking everything in her to ignore them. It was nothing new – the more time she spent on the floor, the bolder some of the guys on the crew had become. But one guy, Sid – the youngest on the team who worked at the station across from May and Lety – had become increasingly uncomfortable to be around. He had a thing for leering too long and standing too close; It made May’s head spin with bad memories.

“I see him,” Lety said quietly. “Don’t let him get away with being a creep.”

May snorted. “Yeah, easy for you to say.”

Lety gave her a pointed look. “Why?”

“These guys aren’t afraid of me,” May replied, discomfort prickling up her neck and making her squirm. “But you’re tough. They don’t mess with you.”

“First of all, you had no trouble putting Memphis in his place so I don’t know what the problem is.” Lety straightened up and looked May straight in the eye. “Second, they don’t mess with me because I don’t let them. There are two kinds of people, Tiny: people who dominate and people who are dominated. You think I didn’t have shit to put up with when I first got here? You’d be amazed by how many crude dog jokes a group of guys can come up with when they put their heads together. But I wasn’t interested in living my life by their rules, so I put a stop to it.”

May wished Lety would give her a play-by-play of exactly how she had put a stop to it, but instead Lety just nodded in Sid’s direction.

“You gotta show him who’s boss.”

As they finished with the van’s tires, May tried to imagine what she could be like with Lety’s confidence and Em’s mouth. She imagined carrying herself tall, like an ancient sturdy tree, and strung together all manner of insults she had ever heard Em fling at people who pissed her off. In her mind she imagined telling off Kane, saying all the things she wished she’d had the courage to tell him to his face.

By the time Lety asked her to fetch some clean rags from the sink at the other side of the shop floor, May was high on the adrenaline she churned up through sheer willpower alone. The sink was in the corner closest to Sid’s station; she’d have to walk by him to get there.

Buzzing, she strode across the room without sparing Sid a look, even when she felt his eyes following her. She clutched a pair of pliers in her fist like a talisman, gripping their rubber coated handles as though they would keep her steady. At the sink, May took a few moments to wash her hands, watching the dirty water circle the stained drain until it ran clear. She exhaled and dried her fingers on her shirt front before picking up the rags and pliers.

The warmth of a body standing too close brought her back to her senses. She whirled around to find Sid smirking barely a foot behind her.

“What?” she snapped.

“Woah, easy there,” he laughed, staying planted in her space. “I’m just waiting for my turn.”

“Well, do it over there,” May waved him back but he didn’t budge. “I don’t need a chaperone.”

“What’s your problem?” His tone was accusatory but there was a glint in his eyes that made May’s stomach turn. How many times had Kane looked at her that very same way?

“You are.” Anger burned up from May’s core. She could feel herself going red and she knew he could see it, but she didn’t want him to have the satisfaction of getting the wrong idea. “Where do you get off leering at me all the time? Get out of my bubble, jerk.”

Sid’s eyes narrowed.

“Learn to take a compliment.” His voice was so condescending, May’s fist clenched the pliers, her anger boiling over.

“That’s not a compliment,” she retorted, fast and cutting. “A compliment would be Grant saying, ‘Wow, May! You got those pliers pretty far up Sid’s nose. I’m impressed!’” She snapped them inches from his face to make her point, relishing the way he flinched back. “You’re just a pig. Now, leave me the fuck alone.”

“Whatever, bitch,” he grumbled, his shoulders tensing as he stalked back to his station.

Some of the guys were watching the exchange – they chuckled and elbowed each other as Sid slunk off. May’s eyes flicked to Lety, whose face was painted with delight as she mouthed ‘fuck yeah’ back at her. The knot in May’s chest unwound, her breath coming easier.

But before she could take her first step, Jun’s voice came over the garage’s intercom.

“Tiny, call for you on line two,” his words – the code for an incoming client and May’s cue to hide – echoed through the shop. “Tiny, line two.”

“Dammit,” she hissed, jogging over to Lety and tossing her the fresh rags before racing up the stairs to her office bedroom.

Without pausing, she turned the handle and shoved, crumpling into the door when it only inched open a nudge.

“Ow, what the- ” This time she shouldered the door and it opened wider, still impeded by something that had been pushed up against it. From behind her, May heard the garage doors rolling open. She didn’t have time to think, so she squeezed in and slammed the door behind her.

With the light of the shop cut off, May gasped.

There, at the center of the otherwise pitch black room was a swirling nebula of light.

At its center, Em was suspended, glowing ghostly in a close-eyed trance.

“Em,” May choked on a mixture of awe and fear.

“What’s happening to you?”


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Thirty Eight

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CW: Strong language, men being garbage ]


May learned a lot in the days following their arrival at Grant’s garage.

She found out the garage itself was named “The Crow’s Nest” but the crew preferred to call it the Rookery. This, Jun explained after he warmed up to her a little, was to help distinguish between those who knew what they really were from those who believed the front. May tried not to think about how this line of taxonomy collectively made the crew a murder.

She learned making herself useful was a better use of her time than skulking in corners, no matter what Grant said about laying low. At first, she hung around upstairs off the shop floor, tidying the command center. She won Jun’s favor by making him tea.

“I always get as far as steeping it before I completely forget about it,” he admitted, taking the steaming mug from her with grateful hands.

Jun was the team’s resident hacker and programmer. Between rounds of coding, he was happy to banter with May about most things – namely himself – so long as she didn’t ask questions about what he was working on or the Murder’s operation.

“Can you show me how it’s done?” May ventured one afternoon. She had just listened to a story about how Jun first taught himself hacking to change a couple abysmal grades on his transcript back in high school. It turns out he had a knack for it, unlike biology and phys ed. “Just the basics!”

His glare pierced her from over his monitors. “No.”

But he was willing to let her tinker with a few of his old machines. She did her best to recall the things she had learned from Marina’s reference book, but she wasn’t Jeremy; her memory was far from perfect, and soon enough she had gone as far as she could without Jun’s help.

When Jun eventually kicked her out so he could focus on some particularly tricky code he was writing, May wandered downstairs. She earned admission to the shop floor by offering to help, which relegated her to grunt work.

“What are you doing down there?” Em laughed softly one evening as they settled in for the night. Grant gave them the cluttered office May had woken up in as a private space, and their “bed” was nothing more than an wide bench seat from an old car that had been serving its second life as a couch, but it was better than nothing.

“I’m helping,” May balked, as though it should have been obvious. “Remember when we finally made it to that hostel in Sanatos only for the roof to cave in?”

Em smiled at the memory. “What a fucking mess that was.”

“Right. And what did we do?”

“We helped them fix it.” Em reached out to brush a lock of hair from May’s face, but stopped herself with the self-conscious uncertainty that plagued her since their first day at the garage. “But helping to repair a hostel isn’t quite the same thing as helping a criminal organization maintain their front. Are you sure it doesn’t bother you?”

May shrugged and laid down beside her. “I’ll draw the line at robbing banks and running drugs.”

For the most part, the crew ignored May as she ghosted her way around them, rolling tires and collecting grease-stained rags. She could feel lingering gazes and hear chuckles echo after her when she passed, but she had dealt with worse. The only person to address her directly was a woman named Lety.

“Hey, Tiny,” she called to May from underneath a raised sedan. “Can you grab me an oil pan?”

May did as she was asked, crouching next to the chassis and watching as Lety wrenched off the car’s filter with her bare hands, releasing a stream of filthy black oil that spilled into the pan.

Lety’s warm brown skin was always splotched with grease up to her elbows. She was a woman built strong and sturdy, rounded out with generous curves. May had never seen her without a full face of fierce make-up, which stood out against her shaved head. But nothing about her stood out quite like her ears, which rose into pointed tips. May did her best not to stare.

One morning, May was sweeping near Lety’s station, careful not to interrupt the work she was doing, when someone called from across the garage.

“Lety! We need a hand with this lift.”

“Cool story,” Lety shouted back, her head still buried under the hood of a slick refurbished roadster she had been babying for the better part of the past two hours. “I’m a little busy.”

“Business before pleasure,” the crew member retorted. “You can work on your own shit when the work is done.”

Lety lifted her head and snarled, the sharp fangs she had instead of eye teeth just visible beneath her sapphire-painted lips. May peeked around to see what she had been working on.

“I can help if you want,” she offered, motioning toward the exposed engine.

“You know how to change a timing belt?” Lety asked, raising a doubtful eyebrow.

“Done it a bunch of times,” May answered with only a touch of indignance.

Lety regarded her critically before handing over the socket wrench she was wielding. “Fuck up my ride and I’ll kick your scrawny ass, yeah?”

“Maybe when you’re finished over there you can crawl up into my cab and give me a hand,” joked Memphis, the guy at the next station over. He waggled his eyebrows suggestively, to the snickers of his pals.

“I like my men the way I like my coffee,” May replied, inspecting the wrench in her hands. Then, flicking her eyes to him, she finished, “And I hate coffee.”

The rest of the crew howled, Memphis included. “Fair enough, girl.” He gave her a nod. “Fair enough.”

“‘Atta girl, Tiny,” Lety said as she sauntered across the garage. “Take no shit. Kick him in the balls if you have to.”

Flushed with self-satisfaction, May got to work. But before ducking under the hood, she glanced up to the walkway where Em often sat watching, her feet swinging idly over the edge. She wondered if Em had caught her sassy come-back.

When May’s eyes found her, Em was in the doorway to their office-turned-bedroom.

She gave May a sad smile, and closed the door between them.


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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 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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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Thirty

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Marina opened a door off the main foyer – a door May had assumed opened to a coat closet – to reveal an unlit set of stairs. She gestured for the girls to follow as she descended into the darkness. A chill chased its way up May’s body as the air grew cooler and she faltered when the light from upstairs was no longer bright enough to illuminate what was ahead of her. All she could see was a light sprinkling of tiny green, blue, and orange lights glowing like faint stars against the blackness.

“Lights, please,” Marina spoke from somewhere in the void. On command the room brightened – gradually like a time-lapsed sunrise – leaving May and Em wide-eyed and gaping.

The basement was home to a large and open-concept workshop. May marvelled at an assortment of half-finished projects surrounded by halos of tools and schematics, blank monitors that reflected her own astonished expression, and juxtaposing workbenches – one pristine and the other cluttered. Marina slumped into a worn office chair at the latter and sighed. Em motioned to a high stool, offering it to May while she leaned back against a massive tool cabinet and folded her arms across her chest.

“This place is cool,” May remarked, eyes still scanning the room and its many impressive details. “Is all this work yours?”

Marina nodded. “Some of the messes my own pet projects and research but I also work on contract commissions from clients.”

“What kind of work do you do exactly?” May eyed what looked to be a dismantled computer on a table to her left. Wires and circuitry spilled from the casing like the entrails of a slain prey animal.

“The specifics are private,” Marina explained, an air of routine to her answer. “But I create advanced security programs and surveillance systems for corporate clients. I also like to dabble in A.I. and robotics when I have spare time.”

May blinked. “That barely made sense to me.” Her eyes flicked to the row of well-read reference books lining a shelf behind Marina’s workstation, landing on a sizeable volume about advanced computer architecture. She pointed at it. “Do you mind?”

Marina swiveled to see what May was pointing at and looked back at her with a raised eyebrow and a laugh. “Uh, why?”

Em laughed too, giving May’s shoulder a squeeze. “The woman has an insatiable brain.”

At this, May flushed. “I’m just curious! Your work sounds really impressive – you must be brilliant.”

“Well, before you follow that train any further down the track, no: I’m not a Wish.”

Marina’s words – her completely unsolicited response to a question May had only just begun to entertain – took both women by surprise. They shared an uneasy glance.

Em cleared her throat. “Good to know.”

“This brilliance was earned the old fashioned way,” Marina said, waving a hand at the room around them. She reached up and slid the book from the shelf, handing it to May. “A spark of passion coupled with years of hard work and diligent study.”

She paused for a moment, taking May and Em in one at a time. “I’m also smart enough to know that if you two are tangled up with my brother and his friends, then you probably know a thing or two about the Wishes and the Loyals.”

May swallowed; her mouth was suddenly extremely dry. Em replied with a curt nod.

“That’s why I sent Marcus and Myles away,” Marina continued. “It’s also why I don’t speak to Connor very often. His cause is noble but I need to keep my family safe. The Loyals are capable of some pretty terrible things.” Her eyes dropped to her hands, which she had folded tightly in her lap.

“That’s fair,” Em agreed. “We appreciate what you’re doing for us.”

“I can’t imagine this is easy for you,” May said.

Marina turned her back to them. “You’re right.”

She stood on her toes and reached behind the row of books, rifling around for something on the shelf they sat on. When she pulled back, Marina held aloft a small, dusty photo album.

“I should really clean that shelf more often,” she muttered as she sat back down. She blew at the cobwebs and wiped the cover with the sleeve of her shirt before flipping through the album’s pages. With a faint smile, Marina paused on a family portrait and turned the book so the girls could see it clearly.

“That’s our family,” she said. “Connor isn’t even a year old in this picture.”

Connor, like his own son, was a big-eyed child brimming with delight. In the photo he sat perched in the protective arms of his big sister who grinned over his head at the camera. The two were cradled between a mother and father who could not have looked prouder.

“You all look so happy,” May said as she absentmindedly traced a finger around the border of the photo. But she knew all too well how deceptive pictures like these – the only surviving relics of a time before tragedy – could be. She too had posed happily with her adoptive family for portraits back before her scandal shook their foundations. Looking at those photos after the fact had always left an ache in May’s heart; pity for the smiling faces, frozen in time, completely unaware of the terrible things to come.

“I was ten years old when the wishing star fell.” Marina’s eyes were hazy with recollection. “My mom had just found out she was pregnant with Connor. They had been trying for years to have a second baby and we were over the moon it was finally happening. But then mom got sick and, when the doctors told my parents Connor wasn’t going to make it to term, my dad got desperate.”

She paused, inhaling a slow and shaky breath. “My parents were the first to misuse the star when it was initially recovered. Dad actually led the search party that found it. They weren’t trying to start a war; they just wanted to save my brother.”

Shocked, May looked up at Em to find her frowning. There was confusion in her eyes that made May wonder if this was one of the memories from Audrey’s life Em had forgotten over time.

“I often wonder what things would be like if that fucking star hadn’t been stolen.” Marina’s voice shook with barely concealed anger. “The Loyals wouldn’t have a leg to stand on if that thing had just gone back to where it came from like it was supposed to.” She drew another uneven breath and gave her head a shake.

Gently Marina lifted the top corners of the photo and slid something out from behind it. Hidden beneath the family portrait was another photograph, which she flipped over and laid flat on the album page.

The snapshot was much newer and featured three laughing teenagers out in the summer sunshine. Two of the faces May recognized immediately, despite the years that had passed since the picture had been taken. Even so, she was slightly taken aback to see Connor and Jeremy looking so happy. Not once had she witnessed such genuine smiles from either of them.

May had never seen the third person before, but she didn’t need to ask to know who she was.

Glossy chestnut hair. Stunning golden eyes. Audrey was smaller than Em, her features differing ever so slightly. But if May focused she could imagine Em looking like her former self if only she were splashed with colour.

“This was taken before Myles was born,” Marina explained, tapping the photo with a finger. “Before the treaty. Have they told you about that?” May nodded and she continued. “This is the most recent photo I have of them.”

She moved her finger to the girl wrapped in Jeremy’s arms. “This is Audrey.”

“We’ve heard about her too,” Em said in a quiet voice, her eyes – pale and diamond-like now – glued to the visage of the person she used to be.

May struggled to remind herself that the person in the photo was not the woman she had fallen in love with, particularly given how obviously involved Jeremy and Audrey were in the photo. His arms were wrapped around Audrey’s waist, his chin resting on her shoulder. With one hand, Audrey cupped Jeremy’s cheek, pressing his face into hers. Her other hand rested atop his forearms.

Until this moment, May had never been able to imagine the two of them together.

Now she just felt small and out of place.

“What was she like?” May asked, tearing her eyes from the once-happy couple to focus on Marina, who shrugged at the question.

“I have complicated feelings about her,” Marina admitted, squirming with discomfort. “I will always love her for getting my brother away from our uncle. That was such a terrible situation. She was a good person – a brave person. Really adventurous and full of life, if not a bit too scrappy for my liking. But it was also her idea to form WIND and I know they mean well but…”

Marina trailed off, her eyes shining as they bored down into the photo of her teenage brother. “Things would be so different if they had just laid low instead of becoming some rogue group of vigilantes.”

Em tensed imperceptibly.

“How did she die, Marina?”

Tension flooded the room, leaving the hairs on the back of May’s neck standing on end. For a moment Marina shielded her eyes with a hand to her brow. Then she dropped the hand to her chest.

“Do you know about the-” Her voice cracked, so instead she tapped her palm lightly over her heart.

“The device implants?” May asked, trying to be helpful. “Because of the treaty.”

Marina nodded sadly. “Audrey and Jeremy ran away together. This was probably about a year or so after the treaty. They were trying to get the devices removed so the Loyals wouldn’t be able to find them. They wanted to start a new life.”

“But the Loyals found them.” Em surmised.

“They found out.” Fat, silent tears escaped from Marina’s lashes and traced down her cheeks. “But they wouldn’t even do their dirty work themselves. The Loyals had never told them that they had a failsafe built into the devices. Audrey’s was detonated remotely; a prolonged shock directly to her heart. They didn’t even give her a chance to redeem herself. They just made an example of her to scare the others into playing by their rules.”

While Marina wiped at her eyes, May looked to Em once more and found her stunned into silence.

May had always assumed Em hadn’t told her how Audrey died because it was too painful a memory. Only now was she realizing that it was because Em herself had never known the truth in the first place.

A cheerful chime sounded, making May jump and bursting the moment like a bubble. A screen above Marina’s workstation blinked to life showing, a live view from the front door. Four figures, limp with fatigue, huddled on the step.

It was WIND.

“It’s about damn time,” Marina said with a weak laugh. She hurried past the girls without so much as a backwards glance.

Before May even had a chance to rise from the stool, Em had already taken a few strides forward, following in Marina’s wake.

“Em.” May reached for her hand, just managing to catch her fingers as she swept by.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Em said without looking back. “Please, I’m not…”

May released her. “Okay. I’ll be here when you’re ready.”

Em nodded, shoulders trembling, and kept walking.

May hung back and cried alone.


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Twenty Nine

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Later that evening, Marina showed May and Em to a spare bedroom and told them to make themselves comfortable.

“I’m going to make sure Myles is actually in bed,” she said, watching as the girls surveyed the room. “Marcus and I are at the end of the hall – last door on the left. Knock if you need anything.”

She pulled the door closed behind her with a soft click. May listened to her retreating footsteps until they disappeared up the stairs to the floor Myles’ bedroom was on. Down the hall Marcus, Marina’s husband, had already retired for the night. In the quiet, the house felt like a trap and May’s unease resurfaced once more.

Though Em had already collapsed into a full sprawl on the bed, May felt too restless to join her. She began to pace, pausing at the window. Her hand hovered at the closed curtains. A paranoid, anxious part of her brain begged her to peek out, but she was stopped by the memory of Marina asking them to stay out of sight. Reluctantly she pulled away and wandered back to the door. She checked for a lock and, when she didn’t find one, dragged an old wooden chair from the writing desk in the corner and wedged its back beneath the handle.

It wasn’t that she didn’t trust Marina or her family; May had simply learned not to get too comfortable.

“I wonder how much longer the others will be,” May wondered aloud, examining her makeshift blockade with a satisfied nod.

It took her a beat to realize Em wasn’t listening.

When she glanced over, May saw Em’s gaze trained on the ceiling. Her expression was one of deep and troubled thought. May sank gently onto the mattress beside her and laid a soft hand on Em’s shoulder.

“Babe?” she inquired quietly. “Are you sure everything’s okay?”

Em blinked, looking at May as though she had forgotten she was in the room. “What?”

“I asked if everything was alright.”

Biting her lip, Em rolled her face onto May’s hand and pressed her cheek into its warmth. “I don’t know. I guess so.”

But May knew her better than that. She laid down next to Em so they were face to face.

“Talk to me.”

Em cringed; she knew it was pointless to protest.

“It’s about Audrey,” she admitted without looking May in the eyes. She had never been comfortable talking about her past life with May more than was absolutely necessary.

“What about her?” May hoped the inquisitive cadence of her voice didn’t give away the flutter of panic in her stomach.

“I think…” Em squinted, thinking hard about what she wanted to say next. “I think I’m starting to forget her. Well, not her exactly, but her memories. Her feelings. I didn’t realize it until we got here and now I’m wondering how long it’s been going on.”

“What kind of things are you forgetting?” May asked. She had a hard enough time reconciling the fact that Em was host to two lives worth of memories.

Em frowned. “I forgot Marina has a kid. And yet I remembered she’s a computer engineer. It’s weird.”

“That’s awful,” May said, stroking Em’s silver strands back from her face. She combed her fingertips gently along Em’s scalp and watched her features relax into the sensation. “What do you think is causing it?”

“Probably just time to be honest,” Em admitted, closing her eyes. “When they first brought me back, Welkin told me it would take a while to settle into being me. But even they had no idea what that would look like. Maybe in time I’ll forget about Audrey altogether.”

May let the idea roll around in her mind. As much as Em’s past had left her feeling troubled, the idea of her losing that identity somehow felt worse to her.

“Or maybe two sets of memories is just too much for one brain to hold on to,” she offered. “I have a hard enough time remembering people’s names and I’ve just got my own memories to deal with.”

Em chuckled quietly. “I guess that makes sense. It makes me wonder what else I’ve forgotten though.”

“Are you worried?”

“Not exactly. A little sad, a little relieved.”

May was surprised. “Relieved?”

“It’s like you said, two sets of memories aren’t easy to juggle. It’s not like it’s been peaceful or anything.” Em shrugged into the mattress. “Besides, there’s a lot about Audrey I’d rather not have to live with.”

“Hey.” May touched her forehead to Em’s, staring resolutely into her eyes. “No matter what happens, you’re still you.”

“Thanks, love.” Em smiled. “What about you? How are you handling all of this?”

“It’s a little weird,” May admitted. “Being here with Connor’s family while everyone else is out there somewhere. I feel like I can’t relax. Do you trust Marina? Are we safe?”

Em’s arms circled around May and pulled her close, burying her face into the soft curls of May’s hair. “Connor and the rest of WIND are so careful; if they trust Marina right now, I think we’re fine.” May nestled into every nook and curve of her body until she could imagine their edges blurring into one. “As far as whether or not we’re safe, I’m not going to let anything happen to you.”

May smiled into the softness of Em’s neck. She wasn’t naive enough to let the burden of their safety fall solely on Em’s shoulders, but her girlfriend’s conviction was enough to let her relax just enough to drift off to sleep.

*

The following morning, May awoke to Em crawling out of bed.

“Don’t get up,” Em whispered, planting a soft kiss on May’s forehead. “I’m just going to have a shower.”

With a groggy nod, May snuggled into the warm place Em left behind and tried to recapture the last wisps of slumber. She hovered in that hazy threshold between wakefulness and sleep for a few minutes, but the sound of running in the halls pulled her fully into the morning. Yawning, she dragged herself from beneath the covers and pulled Em’s hoodie over her shoulders.

May wandered out into the hallway, the air still with the chill of morning. She craned her head and followed the sound of the footsteps bounding down the hallway above and onto the stairs. When the offending feet came into view she discovered it was Myles racing toward her. His duffle bag, overstuffed into a bulging mass, bounced against his back with every step.

“Hi,” Myles said, jumping over the last stair and landing with a heavy thump on both feet. He smiled up at May with the confidence she recalled coming easy at that age.

“Good morning,” May replied, returning the smile. “Are you off to another game?” She gestured to his bag.

“Nope.” Myles hitched the strap so the bag sat higher on his back. “Dad and I are going to visit my aunt Eliza for a few days. He and mom are letting me skip school and everything. Cool, huh?”

“Wow, sure is,” May marvelled, genuinely surprised. No one in the family had said anything about a trip when they had sat around with their bowls of ice cream the night before. She followed Myles as he thundered down the final flight of stairs, her soft footsteps nothing more than a whisper by comparison.

“Have you got everything?” She heard Marina ask from the garage entrance way.

May stepped into the room just as Marina wrapped her arms around Myles and held him long and tight. She didn’t let go until her son started to squirm.

“Mom! You’re squishing me!”

“Sorry, baby.” Marina reached for her husband and gave him a kiss. “Call me when you get there, okay?”

“It’ll be the first thing I do,” Marcus promised, holding a hand over his heart. “I won’t even stop to say hello to my sister.” He winked as Marina snorted, then turned his attention to May. She froze; she didn’t think they had noticed she was there. ”It was nice to meet you, May.”

“Likewise,” she replied, her cheeks flushing involuntarily. Marina wouldn’t look at her.

Once Marcus and Myles were loaded into the vehicle, Marina watched and waved, smiling brightly until they turned onto the road and disappeared behind the hedges. Her smile faded, and she closed the garage with the tap of a button.

“Did you send them away because of us?” May asked when Marina shut the side door, locking it behind her. She gave May a critical look, and then sighed.

“No offence.” She breezed past May and motioned for her to follow. “I couldn’t risk them getting caught up in whatever my brother is up to. Listen, I want to talk to you two. Where’s-”

Em came trotting down the stairs, shaking out her damp hair. “Did I just hear the garage? Are they here?”

“No.” Marina frowned. She opened a door to a set of stairs that descended into the basement. She nodded, gesturing downstairs. “Come on, I have something to show you.”


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