The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Thirty Nine

[ First | Previous ]

[ 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?”


[ Next ]

Want early access to new chapters? Subscribe to my Patreon!

Enjoying the story? Help support my writing by donating on Ko-Fi!

The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Thirty Three

[ First | Previous ]

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.


[ Next ]

Get early access to new chapters on Patreon

Want to support my writing? Donate on Ko-Fi

The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Twenty

[ Start from the Beginning | Read Previous Chapter ]

Content warning: Strong language


It was morning by the time the bus rolled into the dusty little town of Willingdon. From what May could see, the place itself wasn’t especially remarkable, but from here the bus route veered off in the opposite direction of where they needed to go. She and Em gathered their packs and hobbled down to the street, stiff and groggy from their cramped night on the seats.

On the sidewalk Em nodded toward a large map of the town and surrounding area that was posted outside the station; it was where they had been told to wait for further instruction. They shuffled over to it, yawning and stretching as they went, and surveyed the lattice work of neat little roads to kill time.

“Look,” May pointed to one on the far side of town and grinned. “This one is called ‘Dingus Street’.”

Em snorted. “Who comes up with this shit?”

A pack dropped to the ground a couple  feet to their left. May recognized it as Connor’s and intensified her focus on the streets, knowing neither she nor Em was supposed to acknowledge the others so long as they were out in public.

Priva stepped forward and wordlessly tapped her lips as her eyes scanned the map.

“Yikes,” Em muttered. “‘Loveless Lane’.”

May studied the street Em pointed at. “Bleak.”

“Here,” Priva announced, jabbing at a place on the outskirts of town somewhere well past Dingus Street. “This is the pull-off for the trailhead.”

Out of the corner of her eye, May made out a dotted path snaking out to the north from the pull-off. She sneaked surreptitious glances at it while pretending to look for more odd street names.

“From the looks of things it would take most of the day to get to the first lake.” Priva gestured to the tip of a body of water just visible along the edge of the map.

“That should still give us plenty of time to set up camp,” Jeremy noted with a false cheeriness that seemed eerie after his sneering, sullen attitude.

“Should we refresh our supplies?” Connor asked.

Em burst into laughter. “There’s seriously a place called ‘Lickkity Way’ here.” She waggled her eyebrows suggestively at May.

“Behave yourself for once in your life.” May gave her a playful shove.

“We’ll leave in twenty minutes,” Jeremy said, his remarkable cheerfulness disappearing completely.

***

The plan was fairly straightforward: the two groups would appear to go their separate ways from the station and find each other again later at a meeting point. In this case, the beginning of the West Green Crest Trail, which would lead them to the next town on their route.

While Jeremy, Priva, Connor, and Rue divvied up their shopping list and beelined for a grocery store, May and Em grabbed breakfast at a charming little family-run cafe. May took her time savouring her hot tea and fresh pastry knowing it would be days before she’d get to enjoy creature comforts again.

As they left, the pair spotted the others up ahead, making their way to a store specializing in camping and outdoor supplies. The girls strolled at a leisurely pace, mindful to keep their distance. Music wafted from a cobbled plaza that opened off the street; a busker played folksy renditions of popular songs to a small gathering of onlookers. Priva slowed, listening. Her features lit up as she recognized the melody.

“Ah, this is my song!” she cried, depositing her bags at Rue’s feet. She snatched the packages in Jeremy’s hands and placed them beside her own. “C’mon, boy. You’re dancing to this.”

May watched with surprise as Priva took him by the hand and dragged him into the center of the plaza. Jeremy didn’t seem put off by her touch, nor by the closeness of her body as they danced; they were clearly used to being in each other’s arms.

“Now that’s an interesting development,” Em muttered, watching the pair with a bemused expression. She gave May a knowing glance before pushing onward.

Curious, May glanced back one last time. If dance was a conversation without words, this one said a lot. That Jeremy and Priva were an item was clear, but May wasn’t fooled. This relationship was one sided; Jeremy’s heart wasn’t in it at all.

***

The rest of the plan went off without a hitch. May and Em beat WIND to the trailhead and, once the group reunited, they began a long day of hiking. The further they walked the more rugged the trail became, twisting into darker and denser woods. Occasionally the trees would break and open up into lush, sunny meadows, or the trail would meet a babbling creek, which they would cross in single file along aging wooden footbridges. For the most part no one spoke.

May and Em brought up the rear of the pack, letting the others lead the way. They dawdled like children, keeping one another amused and their spirits up. When they passed a grove of fruit trees at the end of their blooming season, May collected handfuls of fallen blossoms and followed behind Em, sticking them here and there throughout her black wig. When May’s feet ached, Em playfully swept her up in her arms and marched until the combined weight of another person and an overstuffed pack became too much.

It took the better part of the day, but by the time they reached what Priva decided was an ideal place to set up camp, the girls’ had managed to lighten the moods of nearly everyone in the group; Jeremy kept gruffly to himself. The rest of the party joked about the sweet relief of abandoning their packs and called dibs on spots to pitch their tents. There were three in total: May and Em, Connor and Rue, and – confirming the girls’ suspicion – Priva and Jeremy.

As May hammered in their final tent peg, Em stood and stretched.

“Who’s in the mood for a camp fire?” She scanned the other two pitches. Everyone else was still a step or two behind in their tent set-up. “Maybe and I will go collect wood.”

“That would be awesome.” Connor smiled at her, appreciative.

Em offered her hand and pulled May to her feet. She didn’t let go as they wandered into the woods.

May waited until she was sure they were out of earshot before she spoke.

“Do you think the whole trip is going to be this awkward?” she asked. “They hardly said anything all day.”

Em shrugged, her attention elsewhere. “It’s a weird situation and it’s not like we got off on the best foot. Can’t blame them for being cautious.”

“And what about you?” May ventured. “How are you-”

She didn’t have a chance to finish her sentence. The trees in this part of the forest were ancient; towering and broad. In one swift motion, Em pulled May behind one and backed her up against its weather worn bark. May didn’t have time to react as Em pressed up against her, kissing her so intensely May forgot what she had been saying.

With a passionate force they usually reserved for the bedroom, Em wedged her thigh between May’s legs and gripped her hips. She pulled her closer, creating a friction so delicious May couldn’t help but moan.

“I didn’t realize how badly I needed a kiss like that until you did it,” May whispered in Em’s ear.

“Whatever happens, I don’t want you to forget what you mean to me,” Em’s voice was low and gruff against May’s cheek. She kissed her again until May was dizzy. “I don’t want us to lose sight of what makes us who we are together.”

“Never,” May breathed, overwhelmed with the heat exploding between them.

Em pawed at May’s body, unzipping her hoodie as she kissed her way roughly down May’s neck. Weak with lust, May gasped and cooed shamelessly, wrapping her legs around Em’s waist as she hoisted her up higher. Em could have devoured her right there – kissing and biting at the soft exposed flesh above the deep neckline of May’s shirt – and May wouldn’t have cared. She wanted it.

“Guys?”

A voice rang out. May and Em froze.

“Are you out here?”

It was Priva. Her footsteps were getting closer.

The girls leapt apart. May fussed over fixing herself up while Em snatched a few branches that laid close by

“We’re over here,” Em called back, fighting to keep her tone casual.

May finished tucking her hair back under her hat just as Priva stepped around the tree.

“There you are!” Priva smiled brightly. “I was starting to think you’d gotten lost. Connor found a fallen tree on the other side of the site, so I think we’re good for firewood for tonight.”

“Oh,” Em glanced down at her piddly collection of sticks and laughed. “That’s probably for the best.”

“C’mon.” Priva waved them to follow. “Let’s eat. We’re dying to get to know you both better.”

May shot Em a tense look. Em reached out and gave her hand a reassuring squeeze.

We’ll get through this together, the gesture seemed to say.

They had no other choice.


[ Read Next Chapter ]

Ko-Fi May

The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Seventeen

[ Start from the Beginning | Read Previous Chapter ]

Content warning: Strong language


May was still awake when she heard the trailer door creak.

She didn’t move as Em’s silhouette crept in the darkness.

A thud was followed by Em hissing a curse beneath her breath. May switched on the lamp above the bed. Em winced at both the sudden brightness and the pain of her freshly-stubbed toe.

It had been May’s intention to ask Em where she’d been for the past couple of hours, but when she saw the way her girlfriend’s soaking wet hair and clothes clung to her body, she had her answer.

“You went to the water after all, huh?” May asked.

“I’m sorry,” Em replied, a slight warble to her words as she stood there shivering. “I just needed to make it stop.”

May sighed and climbed out of bed. “Come on, let’s get you into some dry clothes.

They moved without speaking, Em peeling her sopping layers and draping them over chair backs while May brought her a fresh towel.

She repeated Dom’s words in her mind like a mantra: don’t make this about you. But it was hard; it stung to know her touch and her love hadn’t been enough to bring Em peace in all of this.

More than that however, was the helplessness. She had come to think of her relationship with Em – the team they made together – as being unstoppable. What was she supposed to do if this problem was what proved her wrong?

“Thank you,” Em mumbled, taking a seat on the edge of the mattress as she tugged the towel tighter around her shoulders. “Never in a million years did I think you’d be put in this position and you handled it like a rock star.” She looked up, eyes glittering with unshed tears. “I love you.”

May sat beside Em and gave her cheek a soft kiss.

“I love you, too.” May gently ran her fingers through the damp clumps of Em’s hair. “And I know you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do when your mind starts to slip, but when it comes to problems like this, I want you to know you don’t have to deal with things alone. I’m here to help, even if that just means listening to you talk through how you’re feeling.”

Em shook her head and let it hang forward like a tree branch heavy with snow.

“Right now I feel sick,” she admitted. “I don’t know what to think. It feels like a fucking nightmare they’re even here, let alone what they’re asking me to do.”

“Us.” May interjected before she had a chance to think about what she was saying.

“Huh?” Em blinked at her.

May swallowed. “What they’re asking us to do. There’s no way I’m leaving you to deal with this on your own.”

Chuckling softly, Em rolled her head to rest on May’s shoulder. ”My feisty little queen.”

“I mean it.” May smiled. “We’re in this together.”

“I’d prefer if there was no ‘this’ to deal with in the first place.”

“Em…” May wasn’t sure how to tell her what she overheard at the motel, let alone her own feeling about what WIND was hoping they’d agree to do.

“Ugh,” Em groaned, flopped backwards onto the mattress with a defeated fwump. “Do you think if we just went to sleep now we’d wake up in the morning to find this was all just a dream? I don’t remember taking anything before the show but maybe we did and this is all just a bad trip-”

“Babe.” May eased herself down beside Em. “I’ll lie to you if that’s what you want to hear right now but we’ll still have to face it in the morning.”

Sighing, Em look at May. For a moment she didn’t speak, searching the dark pools of May’s eyes for the right things to say instead.

“I thought I was done with this.” Her voice was tight with sadness. “Fuck, if Welkin knew…”

She had to take a moment to steady her breath. May wrapped an arm around her and wriggled in closer.

“The entire time we were talking to them, I could feel Audrey’s memories bubbling back up,” Em explained quietly. “It was so confusing.”

“Confusing how?” May wanted so desperately to understand what Em was going through.

“I’m not sure how to explain it.” Em closed her eyes, a look of concentration settling across her face as if searching for answers on the back of her eyelids. “There had always been a tiny, tiny part of me that wondered what would happen if I ever saw them again. Would I forget who I am now? Would the Audrey in me be, like, awakened or something?”

May held her breath as she listened. She had wondered – and worried – about the same things, only that part of her was anything but tiny.

Em sighed and opened her eyes. “But instead I just kept remembering bits and pieces of life with them and I… don’t feel anything. Audrey would be devastated about the Loyals taking Gaten but instead here I am, grateful it’s not my problem.”

“Em.” May couldn’t help but feel scandalized. “You don’t really believe it’s not our problem, do you? That little boy…”

Omi’s face flickered across May’s mind. She sat up as a wave of emotion came over her and threatened to tumble out in the form of a sob. Em righted herself as well and watched May carefully.

“You think we should help them?” Em asked.

“You honestly think we shouldn’t?”

“You realize we’re just going to end up getting pulled back into the system that cost Audrey her life in the first place, right?”

“Emmy, look around,” May didn’t mean to shout. “We’re already there. We’ve been on the run for a year now. Isn’t this exactly what Audrey and the others were trying to get free from? What if helping them could put an end to all of that once and for all?”

A darkness fell over Em’s face. “I think you’re forgetting I’ve heard this argument before, May.”

Clutching the towel around herself tightly, Em rose from the bed. Before she could march away, May reached out for her with a tender hand.

“My love, listen to me,” she begged. “I’m not saying I want this. But I don’t know if I can walk away knowing there’s a little boy whose life might depend on us. And if you forget the others – what they meant to Audrey and what they mean to you now – and just think of him as one kid who needs help, I know you’d feel the same way. I know you, Em.”

With a defeated sigh, Em slumped back down. “Fuck. Who am I kidding? We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t.”

“What do you mean?” May asked, unease creeping into her voice.

Em pointed at her chest. “Remember that scar Jeremy showed us? They all have one – it’s from a device the Loyals planted in them after the treaty to measure their vitals and shit like that. I wasn’t being paranoid; they are being tracked.”

“Oh,” was all May could think to say.

The air in the trailer felt heavy. It pressed down on the pair who struggled with the weight of their predicament in silence. After a moment, May took Em’s hand in hers and held tight.

“I know this is hard for you – scary, even – but I’ll be right beside you the whole time.” She gave Em her bravest smile. “Whether the others like me or not.”

Em’s body rocked with a silent laugh. “What makes you think they don’t like you?”

“Oh, please,” May groaned. “You were there. I’m pretty sure Jeremy wishes I was a bug just so he could step on me.”

Em’s face dropped, her expression growing distant.

“He thought I was Audrey,” she muttered, indistinguishable enough that had to May lean in to hear better.

“What?”

“Isn’t that what Dom said?” Em asked, snapping back to the present. “Jeremy was expecting me to be Audrey.”

Failing to follow Em’s train of thought, May frowned. “What are you saying? Jeremy’s mad at me because you’re not who he thought you were going to be?”

With her free hand, Em pinched the bridge of her nose and exhaled slowly. “Knowing Jeremy, he probably hasn’t given up on that theory quite yet.”

May laughed. “I don’t understand. What reason would he have to think you and Audrey are the same person?  Why would it matter if-”

“Babe.”

Em repositioned herself so she was facing May, both of her hands now clutching May’s in a way that almost seemed pleading.

“If you’re serious about wanting to help WIND find Gaten, then there’s something you need to know about Jeremy and Audrey.”

May’s mouth went dry.

“They were in love, weren’t they?” she whispered, realization hitting her head on.

“That’s putting it lightly.” Em seemed to shrink into herself with embarrassment.

“They were engaged.”


[ Read Next Chapter ]

Ko-Fi May

The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter One

[ Star at the Beginning Read Next Chapter ]

Content Warning: Brief, non-explicit insinuation of past sexual assault 


May should not have been standing at that door.

There was a foggy sense of purpose egging her on from a dark corner of her mind. Her hand trembled as she raised it to knock weakly. If someone had asked her in that moment why she was there, she wouldn’t have been able to answer, aside from insisting it was something she needed to do.

It wasn’t until she heard the lock click that the bottom of her stomach gave out. Her extremities tingled and a roaring filled her ears.

No. This isn’t right.

From across the threshold, Kane smiled down at her with cruel satisfaction. Dim light from his apartment framed him in the night; a dark and dangerous silhouette.

Wait, no.

He didn’t touch her – didn’t say a word – just stood back to let her in.

As if under a spell, she stepped past him and listened in dread at the sound of the door closing, the deadlock clicking into place.

Stop. Stop, what are you doing? Go back.

He was on her in an instant, his hands rough and unforgiving. She cried out of fear. She cried out of shame and pain. But he didn’t stop.

He never stopped.

It was only while she was in the thick of reliving one of her worst memories that May would realize that’s all it was – a memory. A dream.

She’d wake up in a cold sweat, often in tears, shaking and confused. It didn’t happen as often as it once did – before Em had washed up into her life – but that didn’t make it any less terrifying when the nightmares came.

Tonight’s dream was no different. May fought for wakefulness to escape it.

“Hey,” a soft voice came from beside her in the darkness of the room. “Hey, it’s okay. You’re alright, babe.”

May felt Em’s arms encircle her, strong and warm. She collapsed into her and took a few deep breaths. Em’s familiar, airy scent filled her senses and grounded her in the present.

“The dream again?” Em squeezed May’s shoulders gently. May nodded against the crook of her neck.

“I’m sorry, babe.”

Pulling back, May brushed away a stray tear and exhaled. Her eyes adjusted to the darkness. Moonlight streamed in through the open window and lit Em’s pale diamond eyes; her gaze was full of loving concern.

“It’s alright,” May mumbled, trying to bury the fading visions from her mind with a light shake of her head. “I woke up a lot sooner than last time.”

Em frowned. “It’s been such a long time since the last one. Is everything okay?”

It was a difficult question to answer given the circumstances.

The pair had been travelling for months; so many May long since lost count. They moved frequently but made their stops memorable. May had done more since she and Em fled Hoku than she had in the rest of her life combined. The rich, earthy scent of the vineyards they were working on wafted in from the window; it must have just rained.

But for all the amazing experiences and wonderful people they met along the way, it was never far from May’s mind that they were on the run. They had only come to this vineyard a few weeks ago, making money by working the vines by day and enjoying free wine and each other by night. Yet they were already making plans to leave. Where to head next had been the last thing the two  talked about before falling asleep that night.

May bit her lip. She didn’t want Em to worry – to think she was having regrets about leaving her home behind. But Em was giving her that look and she knew dancing around the truth wouldn’t get her very far.

“I think…” May swallowed. “I think I might be a little tired.”

It took a moment for Em to catch on. “Is this about the move?”

With a shrug, May nodded sheepishly.

“It might be. I can’t say for sure. But…” she let out a sigh. “I don’t know. It’s not like I’m not happy or enjoying seeing the world. I just-”

“No, I get it.” Em gently brushed a rosy curl from May’s forehead. “You’re right – this way of life can be exhausting. Being on the lam is stressful. Maybe we can find a place to settle for a while. A bit of routine couldn’t hurt as long as we don’t get sloppy.”

May smiled in appreciation; Em always found the words when she couldn’t. She took Em’s hand in hers and pressed it to her lips.

It was only then May realized Em was sitting on the edge of the bed.

“Were you already up?” She glanced back at Em’s side of the tiny bed they shared. The blankets were tossed aside, the pillow was on the floor.

“Couldn’t sleep.” Em’s eyes flitted to the window and at once May understood.

“Still nothing?

“Not a thing.”

Try as she might, Em hadn’t been able to make contact with Welkin. She spent long nights casting her vibrations into the sky and receiving nothing back but the regular noise bouncing around the universe. Em tried her best to downplay her concern, but May could tell not knowing what had become of the Star was wearing on her. Her gaze was unfocused, her thoughts far, far away.

“They’ll find their way back to us sooner or later,” May assured softly, trailing her fingers up and down Em’s forearm.

Em blinked, bringing herself back to the moment. She smiled at May. “Yeah. I’ll try again some other night.”

Still far from being ready to go back to sleep, May returned Em’s smile before leaning in, letting their lips meet in a soft, slow kiss.

“Want to make out until we fall asleep?” she asked in a honey-soaked voice. She trailed her fingers all the way up Em’s arm this time and used them to trace her jawline with a feather-light touch.

Em raised an eyebrow. “I would hope making out with me wouldn’t put you to sleep.”

A playful look settled across May’s face.

“Maybe we can keep each other awake instead.”

With a sly grin of her own, Em crawled up May’s lap and crushed another more urgent kiss against her lips.

“Now that I can do,” she murmured, her voice low, mouth still grazing May’s with tantalizing proximity.

They fell into one another, letting the softness of skin on skin and the heat of desire drown out all the worries and fears. Both knew they were only putting off the inevitable; neither could shake the sinking sensation that the gap between them and danger was quietly closing.

And while they couldn’t have known it for sure, they were right to worry.


[ Read Next Chapter ]

Ko-Fi May

 

 

It’s Coming…

First of all, happy blog birthday to me!

According to WordPress, I set this humble site up one year ago today, which completely blows my mind. I feel like I’ve been at this so much longer than that. The last 12 months have been one hell of an adventure.

Second, I made a pretty exciting announcement over on Wattpad yesterday when I pulled the trigger and set up a save-the-date-style warming book for The Wind and the Horizon! I’m so close to being ready to start publishing new chapters of book two so I wanted to get the hype started.

The official cover reveal will be on July 1st, which is when I intend to start posting new chapters twice weekly. As with book one of the Starborn Series, The Star and the Ocean, I’ll be simultaneously publishing both the clean edition over on Wattpad and the complete edition here on maggiederrick.com. Just like with TSATO, what I’m publishing online is considered a beta draft and, as such, I welcome your thoughts and comments so I can better prepare the ultimate final drafts for publishing!

Want to be one of the first to read The Wind and the Horizon? Subscribers to my mailing list will get exclusive access to chapters before they’re posted publicly! Want in? Sign up here!


Ko-Fi May

TSATO News and Sequel Status!

One of these days I’ll do a blog post that isn’t just an update about the state of things I’m working on…

But today is not that day!

This morning I woke up and I checked my stats like I always do (it’s become a bit of a routine…) and was met with a huge surprise on Wattpad. You see, lately The Star and the Ocean has been hovering pretty consistently around the #130s with regards to overall ranking in the fantasy category. As far as I was concerned, it would have been amazing just to break the top 100!

So imagine my shock and excitement when I opened the app and saw that TSATO had skyrocketed to #28 overnight! The story is even sitting on the Fantasy Hot List right now, which is simply mind-blowing!

I don’t know how it long it will last, but still indescribably grateful for the pick-up and exposure this story is getting lately.

It’s with this in mind that I’m happy to say I’ve officially started writing the sequel! I’ll be tackling the majority of the writing next month during Camp NaNoWriMo (more on that soon!) but it feels really good to have all of the outlining behind me. I’ve missed Em and May and it’s so exciting to get back to writing them after a few months away!


Want to help support my work?
Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com