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 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 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 Artist Life For Me: My Support and Work-With-Me Master Post!

As some of you already know, I lost my job at the end of February.

While the news was completely unexpected, I decided to treat this major upheaval as a blessing in disguise.

Anyone who writes and creates while working full-time can tell you how challenging it is. Finding the time to dedicate to your craft while also spending most of the day working is hard enough; Couple that with trying to spend time with loved ones and maybe even take care of yourself, and you understand what it means to say “there aren’t enough hours in the day”.

All I’ve ever wanted is for my creative projects to be how I make my living.

So, rather than rushing back into the job market, I’ve decided to the artist life an honest shot. Over the past month I’ve spent hours a day writing; Treating it like the priority I want to be in my life. I’ve also been hustling on several side projects – you know, the ones that pay the bills, ha ha!

I’m really, really excited to be giving writing and art a real chance to be my new full-time job.

But to make this work, I need those side hustles! So, if you’re looking forward to all the extra content I now I have time to pump out and/or you just want to help make the dream happen, here’s how you can support my work!

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Hire me

In my previous life, I was a communications professional. I’m university educated (University of Toronto 0T8) and have completed post-graduate studies in public relations, with a decade’s worth of experience under my belt. I even taught college-level social media courses for four and a half years!

Add this to my experience in the world of books and fiction, and I your one-stop shop for all kinds of projects and initiatives, including:

  • Beta reading
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TELL YOUR FRIENDS!

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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 One

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When May finally made her way upstairs she found Em lingering outside the half-closed kitchen door, listening to the excited chatter on the other side of it. Her eyes – glassy, bottom lashes glittering – turned to May and the corners of her mouth twitched into the smallest of smiles.

“I thought I’d give them a bit of privacy,” Em whispered, hitching a thumb toward the voices. “Sounds like it’s been a long time since they’ve seen each other, right?”

May frowned, knowing she was lying.

“Em,” May breathed her name and took Em’s hand in both of hers. “You don’t have to-“

They jumped as the door swung open.

Rue stood on the threshold, her face splitting into a delighted grin. “There you two are! It’s so good to see you safe and sound! Come on now.”

She pulled the girls into the kitchen, cutting the conversation like a switch. Every face turned to them and, just like Rue, everyone lit up.

“You’re alive!” Priva cheered, pulling Em into a tight bear hug.

Em laughed. “Of course we’re alive, dork.”

“Are you both alright?” Connor asked from the other end of the kitchen island. “No one’s hurt?”

“We’re fine,” May answered, watching Em squirm and struggle against Priva’s boa constrictor grip and giggling.

She turned to ask Connor the same question just as Jeremy stepped up to her, startling her.

“Relax.” Jeremy lifted his hands. “I come in peace.”

His voice was soft and friendly and made May realize he had never spoken to her like that before. Her eyes searched his face and regarded the blooms of purple and yellow around his eyes and across his already-delicate looking cheekbones. His split lip looked painful, but he grinned at her anyway. “Don’t worry; it’s not as bad as it looks.”

A well of emotion swelled in May’s chest as she remembered every blow that had left those bruises on Jeremy’s face. “It looked pretty bad when it was happening. I’m so glad you’re okay – I can’t believe I just left you there.”

“You did exactly what you should have done,” he insisted with a tight shake of his head. “Thanks to you the team was able to act. They would have been fucked if you hadn’t warned them. Which is why I, uh…” his casual air slipped and suddenly he seemed awkward. Clearing his throat, Jeremy thrust his hand forward. “Thank you.”

It took a second for May to realize he was serious. Surprise turned to happy relief, and she smiled and took his hand, shaking it firmly. “You’re welcome, Jeremy.”

“On that note, I should probably check in,” Connor announced, pulling a nondescript cell phone from his pocket. He turned and made his way to the breakfast nook on the far side of the room and spoke under his breath to a voice on the other end. Knowing that he was communicating with a Loyal agent made May shudder.

“While he’s doing that, is anyone hungry?” Marina asked, surveying the group. The remaining members of WIND looked ragged and wilted with exhaustion. “I’ll make us something to eat.”

Jeremy, moving gingerly, started to make his way over to her. “I’ll help.”

“I don’t think so,” Rue clucked, pulling a chair over and waving Jeremy into it. “Your job right now is to rest. Marina, I’ll give you a hand.”

As the two women got to work, Connor finished his call. He gave Jeremy the slightest of nods and the battered redhead relaxed back into his seat.

Smiling softly, Connor gazed around the room, taking in what he could gleam of his sister’s life from the details. His eyes landed on the fridge and class photo of Myles held beneath a magnet made from a pinecone with plastic googly eyes.

“He’s gotten so big, Rini,”

Marina glanced over her shoulder. “Tell me about it. I feel like he was still in diapers a couple weeks ago.”

“He sure looks like dad.” There was so much heartache in Connor’s eyes, but he kept smiling anyway.

“He does,” Marina agreed. “He’s playing soccer now. He’s pretty good at it too. Oh, and he started taking music lessons a few years ago. Plays the guitar. He does not get musical talent from our side of the family, that’s for sure.”

“Must be from Marcus’ side.” Connor grinned.

A phone rang, making Marina jump.

She pulled her phone out from her back pocket and squinted at the name on her caller I.D.

“Speaking of Marcus. I’ll be back in a sec,” she said, stepping out of the room to answer the call.

“Oh, I need to give you this before I forget.” Priva dug through her pockets, unearthing a folded sheet of notebook paper. She handed it to Em. “This is a list of meet-up locations for the rest of our route, in order. If we get split up again, head to the closest address. These are the only places and people we can trust.”

“Don’t lose it,” Jeremy said, miming the action of putting something in his pocket. “One of you should always have it on you.”

“Got it,” Em confirmed, reaching down her collar and stashing the list in her bra. She gave May a wink, who responded with a deep blush and a playful shove.

“So, Jeremy,” May said, trying out this tentative new friendship that seemed to have settled between them. “Marina showed us a security camera picture you sent her so she knew which train we’d be on. How did you do that?”

“It’s called a screen cap,” he teased, smirking – playfully this time – as May put her hands on her hips and shook her head at him.

“Did you hack their security system?” she asked. “How did you learn to do that?”

Jeremy shrugged, then winced. “It’s just one of the surprisingly useful skills I managed to pick up over the years.”

“Who just ‘picks up’ hacking?” Then, as soon as she asked, May remembered. “Does it have anything to do with your ability?”

“Ha, no.” Jeremy chuckled. “It would be cool if I could actually do everything I’ve ever seen or read about, but that’s not how it works.”

The kitchen door opened and Marina hurried back into the kitchen.

“Sorry about that,” she said, fussing around the counter as she spoke. “That took longer than I expected.”

“Did they make it okay?” May asked, noting Marina’s far-off expression. “Marcus and Myles?”

“Oh, they’re still driving.” Marina gave her head a shake. “They were just calling to check in. Myles got carsick, poor kid.”

“Ew.” Jeremy pulled a face. Marina ignored him.

“So, how long do you guys plan on staying?” she asked, glancing around the room.

Rue sighed. “Not long, I’m afraid.”

“Will you at least be spending the night?” Marina looked hopefully at her brother. “It’s been so long since the last time we were together.”

Connor ran his fingers along the tight line of his lips.

“It would be nice to have a short break,” he agreed. The others nodded and shrugged their shoulders. “But only if you’re sure. I don’t want you to feel obligated to put yourself at risk any more than you already have”

“Not at all.” Marina grinned.

“One night off and then we’ll get back at it,” Em announced, as though her words were absolute. No one disagreed.

Em absentmindedly placed a hand lightly on the center of her chest and imagined the hammering of her heart.

“We have important work to do.”


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Twenty Three

[ Beginning | Previous Chapter ]

Content warning: sexual/physical assault mentions, PTSD trauma, sex


With each day that passed, the awkwardness and tension lifted. Though Jeremy remained cold toward May, she found herself warming up to the other members of WIND.

According to Priva, it would take three more days for the group to arrive at a small town called Luxton where they would be able to take a brief rest and resupply. The town was a stop along a train route that would take them to their next destination; the city of York.

“You’re amazing with these maps,” May remarked as she hunched beside Priva, watching her trace the path they would follow with the tip of her finger.

“I’d better be,” Priva laughed. “Cartography is in my blood.”

“How so?”

Priva pointed to a signature in the bottom corner of the map. It didn’t register as anything familiar to May, but Priva was clearly proud of it.

“My great granddaddy drew this map himself when he explored this range as a young man,” she explained. “People think we’ve found all that’s worth seeing in this world. But there are still so many remote places waiting to be understood. I even like to map out the places I’ve been, just in case I’ve seen something other explorers have missed.”

“That’s incredible!” May was so enthralled that she listened to Priva explain the finer points of cartography and tell stories about her great-grandfather for half a day out on the trail, hanging on every word.

After dinner the following evening, May was helping Rue clean up when she noticed the far off look in her eyes as she gazed into the dying fire.

“How are you holding up?” May asked kindly.

Rue started slightly. “I’m sorry. I was just…”

“Thinking of Gaten?”

There was a heartbeat of silence. “Yes.”

“I can’t even begin to imagine how you’re feeling,” May said. “I have a nephew back home and I love him like crazy. Don’t tell Em this, but when we first went into hiding I would wait for her to fall asleep and then I would cry because I missed him so much.”

“Oh, May.” Rue pressed a hand to her heart. “That’s awful. I’m so sorry.”

“No, don’t be!” May balked. “I only bring it up because I thought that was bad. I was a mess over it. And yet here you are, going what you’re going through, and you’re being so brave about it. Gaten is going to be so proud of you.”

Eyes glistening, Rue still managed to smile. “That’s a very sweet thing to say, May. Thank you.”

They worked for a couple more moments in a silence that was lighter than a moment earlier.

“So, you like kids then?” Rue asked, unexpectedly continuing the conversation.

May grinned. “Yeah. I mean, I spent a lot of time looking after my nephew and he just… I don’t know. I guess kids just have a way of giving you a whole new perspective on things.”

“They sure do,” Rue agreed, laughing.

The more May got to know these people, the better she felt about the dangerous journey they were on together.

She also felt like she was getting a better sense of who Audrey might have been. The person Em had once been often felt like a ghost to May, haunting just out of her line of sight. But the more she learned about the people Audrey had known and loved, the more that spectre seemed to take shape. While Jeremy’s thorny disposition had left May wondering what kind of person could love someone so perpetually hostile, the others gave Audrey more dimension. May could imagine being friends with these people. She could imagine Em being friends with them too, and although May recognized that she still had virtually nothing other than a notion to go on, she couldn’t help but wonder if Em and Audrey were quite as different as her lover insisted they were.

As for that lover, the pair did what they could to make sure the circumstances didn’t come between them. Long after the others fell asleep, May and Em would keep one another awake, rolling and rocking in the throes of love and lust as best they could while trying to stay as quiet as possible.

May loved crawling between Em’s legs, using her tongue to guide her in the darkness as she teased and tasted, feeling Em tremble and buck against her. Em preferred to use her hands. With one she would pin May down while the other worked its magic. The night was like a blindfold that kept May tense with anticipation; each touch was a surprise so overwhelming that it took every ounce of willpower May had not to shatter the silence of midnight with her passion.

On their last night in the woods, long after the lovers had exhausted themselves into sleep, May awoke with a violent, heat-pounding jolt. She sat up, breathless and terrified. Frantically she tried to remember where she was by reminding herself of where she wasn’t.

“It was a dream,” she whispered into the darkness, feeling hot tears slide down her face. “He’s not here. It’s not real.”

Beside her she could feel the softness of Em’s naked body and the gentle rhythm of her breath. She was, somehow, still asleep and May couldn’t bring herself to wake her.

But her nightmare – the feeling of Kane’s greedy mouth on hers, his hands in places they had no business being – refused to release her from its grip. Her lungs panicked for air and her heart wouldn’t stop racing. To May, the world seemed to be tipping, threatening to cast her off into a full fit of panic. Knowing she needed to move – to do something – she crawled, trembling from beneath the covers and pulled on her clothes before staggering out into the cold of the night.

Free of the tent, May doubled over, gasping for breath and pleading with herself to calm down.

“It’s not real,” she wept as quietly as she could. “He can’t hurt you anymore.”

“May, it’s Connor,” she heard in the darkness. “Don’t be frightened.”

Through tear-soaked eyes, May peered around but it was too black for her eyes to focus.

“Connor? Where are you?”

A match flared, illuminating him from where he sat beside the fire pit, a heavy blanket over his shoulders. “Would you like to sit?”

May’s flight instincts were still firing wildly in her mind. It was a struggle for her to overcome the impulse to shrink away, but slowly she shuffled to where Connor sat and lowered herself down beside him just as the match burnt out.

“I’m going to put the blanket on you. Is that okay?” Connor asked, his voice soft and steady.

“Yes,” May whispered back.

In the darkness she felt the full weight of the blanket gently drape across her shoulders. She clutched at its edges, drawing it closer around her body; she hadn’t realized just how cold she had been before now.

They sat in silence for a long time, until the blindness of night came to feel like a hiding place and May felt her heartbeat slow.

When her lungs were at last able to have their fill and her mind had ceased its noise, May looked into the void beside her where she knew Connor was sitting.

“Why are you out here?” she asked.

She heard him release a long, slow exhale. “The same reason you are, I’d imagine.”

“Did you have a nightmare too?”

“Is that what it was?” There was a hint of skepticism in his voice, so faint May wondered if she imagined it.

May considered his question in the privacy the night’s black shroud afforded her; she’d had plenty of nightmares before, but when she really thought about it, she knew this one was different.

“Maybe not,” she admitted finally. “It’s more like a… I don’t know…”

“A flashback?”

She ruminated on the word.

“Yes, I think so.”

Connor hummed. “Me too.”

Questions leapt to May’s mind at his subtle confession, but she wasn’t sure it was her place to ask them.

“We don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to,” Connor said as if reading her mind. “But if you’d like to, I’ve been told I’m a good listener.”

This made May smile despite herself. “I’m not sure why it happens. Something happened to me – was done to me – years ago. Sometimes I relive it in my sleep.”

“Trauma is like a ghost that way; sometimes it doesn’t like to be ignored.”

“What about you?” May asked. ”I mean, we don’t have to talk about it either but-”

“It’s okay,” Connor assured her. “I’ve had a lot of time to get familiar with my ghost. I’m not sure how much you know about the different Star worshipping groups; there are a lot of them out there. My uncle is part of a fairly conservative group that only acts on direct command from the Stars. They opted not to pursue Wishes because, technically, the Stars didn’t sanction the hunt in the first place. But they also frowned on the illegal Wishes.”

Connor paused to sigh. May waited in polite silence.

“I was still pretty young when the Loyals were formed and began hunting down Wishes. My parents thought the safest place for me was in hiding.”

“So they left you with your uncle?” May ventured.

“It was a good idea in theory; the Loyals didn’t suspect such a stringent group of harbouring a Wish. But, like I said, this group didn’t approve of the Wishes either, they just weren’t willing to destroy them. Needless to say, I wasn’t treated very well.”

“They didn’t… hurt you, did they?”

“Very much so.”

The wind passed, rattling the tree branches above them.

“Connor, I’m so sorry.” Already May was feeling terribly guilty for having asked.

“Don’t be,” Connor replied. ”Like I said, I’ve had plenty of time to learn to live with what’s happened to me.”

“But that doesn’t make it alright.”

“No, and it’s not always easy, but I’m doing better now than before. I’m proud of how far I’ve come.” Even in the darkness, May could tell he was looking at her now. “Besides, I’m not the only one out here with ghosts.”


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Ko-Fi May