Broken:Hidden Book Two(4)

By: Colleen Vanderlinden

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Time to face another day. Time to stumble along, trying to save the world without destroying everybody in it.

I found that routines helped me stay sane. Saner, maybe. Every morning, the same thing: shower, dress, coffee, meetings. Just run down the list, focus on doing items one, two, three, and try to hold it together through the long slog that was number four.

Relief happened at the end of my work day, when I stalked the night, ridding the city of the supernatural filth that came to my attention via the imps or the people I met during the day. But the days were long, and maintaining my sanity until that point was getting harder all the time.

I didn’t know whether mornings were a blessing or a curse, now. One one hand, I wasn’t alone.

On the other, I wasn’t alone.

This sucked.

I got up, showered. After I’d showered and dressed (my usual: black pants, black Chucks, black top) I started brushing my hair. I still startled myself sometimes at those rare moments when I happened to catch my reflection. My hair had grown longer in the past six months; it was now almost down to my butt. I couldn’t make myself cut it. He’d enjoyed running his fingers through the strands, and it felt like losing more of him whenever I even considered it.

I knew it was stupid. It didn’t matter.

More than my hair, though, was everything else. I’d gotten paler, my creamy complexion more of an almost alabaster, now, like someone who’d never seen the sun.

And then, there were my eyes.

They’d glowed orangey-red before, when I’d gotten angry. It was a typical demon thing. But since that night, the night I lost Nain and destroyed every group who’d allied with Astaroth, they’d changed, too. They glowed white, and they hadn’t been normal since.

If I went out during the day, I had to wear dark sunglasses and hope nobody noticed. At night, I just had to be really careful to avoid the Normals. I made no effort to hide my eyes from other supernaturals, though. It seemed to intimidate them. I liked that.

I pulled my hair up into a messy bun. I glanced over at the tall dresser where his clothes were still folded neatly. I walked over to it, pulled the top drawer open, and breathed his scent in. Stupid. Compulsive, now, a habit I couldn’t quit. It probably hurt me more than it helped. But any bit of him I could get, anything that helped me feel less alone, even if it was only for a second…I’d take it. I closed the drawer quickly.

His pillow had long since lost his scent.

I’d slept with it during the weeks after his death. I hadn’t left the bedroom at all for the first two weeks. The team had finally pried me out. I’d become, for some reason, the de facto leader after Nain’s death. They all looked to me, expected me to make the decisions and handle those parts of daily life that Nain had taken care of.

The way his widow would, I guess.

I hated that word.

I’d do this. I’d take care of this team. I’d keep the city safe. It was the only thing I had left, now. And doing his job made me feel closer to him.

I took a deep breath, opened the bedroom door and headed toward Nain’s, my, office. Stone was sitting in the living room, and I called a good morning to him. Ada poured me a cup of coffee, shoved it into my hand, gave me a quick hug before I retreated into the office.

I sat down in the big leather chair, behind the mahogany desk that had been neat and painstakingly organized when Nain was alive. Now it was stacked with newspapers, books, notebooks. A photo of me and Nain that Ada had taken when I’d first joined the team. We were arguing, eyes glowing. I didn’t even know he’d had it. It made me smile.

I settled in, had a few sips of coffee. The sunlight coming in through the windows proved to be too tempting to Stone’s cat, Lola, who despised me but enjoyed basking in the sun. She sauntered in and stretched out on the wood floor next to my desk.

“Well, you look like you’re going to be a big help today,” I muttered to her, and she gave me one of those superior cat looks and turned away from me. Fine.

After my little demonstration of power that night, so much had changed. One of them was that I’d become some kind of hero to many supernaturals who had been harassed and bullied by Astaroth and his minions for so long. I’d earned, thanks to my previous reputation as a finder of lost girls, plus what I’d done that night, a reputation for being the one who’d stand up to any foe.