“You won’t end this if you stay here huddled over her like some damn guard dog,” Gee grumbled from the chair that sat in the corner of Pagan’s bedroom.
I didn’t even take the time to sneer at her. I couldn’t take my eyes off Pagan as she lay sleeping in her bed. Safe. She was here with me and she was safe. The rage inside of me from having her snatched away right under my nose boiled. I’d been lax in my dealings with these spirits but no more. They’d messed with the wrong guy. The next soulless creature they sent near Pagan would be ended. I wouldn’t wait around to see what its intentions were. I would just end its existence. I’d be starting with Kendra. She wouldn’t be another missing person. Unlike the weak spirit lord I could make sure no one remembered her. I wouldn’t have to wait until their souls all forgot she existed. It would be a clean excision. Kendra should have vanished when Leif did. It bothered me she was still around although she’d caused no stir since his departure. I’d watched her but she’d acted as if she were the flighty air-headed cheerleader she had always been. Not once had she approached Pagan or tried to flirt with me in order to upset her. At least she had more sense than the one who created her and knew to leave me and mine alone.
“You have that ‘I’m going to kick someone’s ass’ snarl on your face, Dankmar. What are you planning?” Gee demanded.
I’d almost forgotten Gee’s presence in the room. She’d been here when we returned worried about Pagan. That was one thing I could say about Gee. She was loyal to a fault, and Pagan had managed to snare Gee’s loyalty. Now getting rid of her was the problem.
“Kendra needs to go. Soulless creatures have no place here and I don’t want her near Pagan.”
“Oh goody. I like that plan. The bitch should’ve gone back when Leif did. I’ve been watching her at school and she isn’t causing a problem but the fact remains she’s there. Leif left her there for a reason.”
“Exactly.” For once we agreed. But then when it came to Pagan’s safety Gee was always on board. Pagan muttered in her sleep and rolled over onto her back. I watched in awe as her eyelashes fluttered against her high cheekbones. The plump bottom lip I adored was sticking out just a little as if she were pouting. Dark silky locks of her hair fanned out around her on the pillow. Everything about her was incredible.
“Puhlease stop looking like a love sick puppy. It’s annoying as hell,” Gee teased.
“So, I’ve gone from a guard dog to a love sick puppy. What is it with you and your canine descriptions?”
Gee laughed softly, “I don’t know. Maybe I need a dog.”
“Yeah, like that’s gonna happen. A transporter with a dog as a pet. Where you going to board him while you’re working? On cloud nine?”
“Well, aren’t you a barrel of laughs? For your information I figure if they will let Death have a human I can at least have a dog.”
I started to respond when Pagan’s eyes blinked slowly and she opened them. I could see her pupils dilate as she tried to focus.
“Hey you,” she rasped in a sleepy voice. It was time for Gee to leave.
“Go Gee. I’ll call for you when I need you here,” I demanded without bothering to glance back at her. I enjoyed watching Pagan wake up and I didn’t want to miss a second of it.
“I can see I’m not wanted here,” Gee’s amused tone caused the corners of Pagan’s lips to lift.
“I’ll see you soon Gee,” Pagan called out as Gee left the room.
“That’s better,” I sighed, sitting down beside Pagan and leaning back against the headboard. I reached over and pulled Pagan up to lay her head on my chest.
“Mmmmhmmmm,” she agreed, still not fully awake. Leif had drained her energy by apporting her human body. It was dangerous to apport a human yet the idiot had done so. Pagan would be feeling its effects for days. I’d brought her home via a private jet and she’d slept the entire way.
“I can’t seem to keep my eyes open but I want to.”
I played with her hair wrapping the strands around my fingers. “That would be Leif’s fault. He used a method of transportation not meant for humans. For that he’ll pay.”
“I’m sorry I left,” Pagan’s small apology caused me to stiffen. She had no reason to apologize. I’d been panicked and handled the situation wrong.
“No, I’m sorry I didn’t explain to you that the blond was soulless. I shouldn’t have disregarded your feelings. Seeing her so close to you sent a jolt of fear through me. I’d been on a mission to find out why she was there.”
Pagan yawned then tilted her head back to peer up at me, “She was soulless?”
I nodded, “She distracted me and upset you all for the purpose of Leif getting you alone. I fell right into their trap.” Admitting my failure left a bitter taste in my mouth. I’d failed her twice now.
“No, I fell into their trap. You were trying to protect me and I acted like a silly jealous girl and ran off,” the sleepiness was gone from her voice now. She didn’t like for me to take the blame for anything. If I didn’t defuse her she’d stand up and start ranting about how wrong I was.
“You were jealous,” I teased and her determined gaze morphed into a bashful smile.
“You know I was. The girl was calling me your newest fling and acting like you dated a different girl every week. I knew she didn’t know you very well just by that comment alone but then she called me a slut and well, I snapped.”
“She called you a what? I wonder if Leif knows about that. Since he seems to think you belong to him I wonder how he’d feel knowing his little evil sidekick called you such a vulgar name,” I paused and took a deep breath. Raging while I held a very sleepy and exhausted Pagan in my arms wasn’t a good idea.
“I should have disposed of her right then,” I muttered angrily to myself.
“No, you shouldn’t have. Besides I was just being a jealous girl. If I’d kept my cool none of this would have happened.
“Hmm, I like you jealous.”
Giggling, she pinched my nipple through the thin cotton of my shirt and I burst out laughing. The sound was still so new to me. Before Pagan I don’t think I’d ever laughed.
“So what are you and your sexy rocker boyfriend planning for Valentine’s Day?” Miranda asked coming up beside me as soon as I stepped out of my car. I’d forgotten about Valentine’s Day but I doubted Death actually acknowledged that holiday. Besides Dank had left again this morning. Gee would be here soon. I’d left her eating the leftover waffles and strawberry topping Mom had put out for me on the kitchen table before she’d left bright and early for a writer’s convention in Chicago. She’d be gone all week. The way things were going at the moment that was probably for the best. This way Gee could remain in human form and roam my house freely while we waited on Dank to find an answer to my problem.
At the thought of Leif, I glanced over to his parking place and stopped walking at the sight of his truck parked in his spot. Ohgod he was here. What did that mean? Everyone had forgotten him. Now he was back.
“I know you broke up with Leif but, dang, you don’t have to glare at his truck like it’s the worst thing ever. So he’s back from his trip up north visiting his grandparents. You’ll get used to being around him again. No big.”
His grandparents? What? And she remembered him. My head started pounding. This was too much. Nothing made any sense.
“There’s my girls,” Gee’s voice broke into my internal panic attack and I swung my horrified expression toward her. She understood. Her eyes flickered over to Leif’s truck and then back to me. “Well, lookie lookie, the king has returned or should I say ‘prince,” she smirked at her own joke and squeezed my arm. “Won’t today just be loads of fun?”
I started to shake my head and she squeezed my arm tighter.
“Smile and be nice Peggy Ann. That’s all you need to do. I got this,” she hissed and led me toward the doors of the school. Miranda silently followed behind us which in itself was a miracle. But then Gee always freaked her out anyway.
Gee didn’t stop pulling me until we reached my locker. Miranda had said her goodbyes and gone to wrap herself around Wyatt as soon as we entered the hallway. I was thankful for her departure because I needed to talk to Gee alone.
“What am I going to do?” I whispered as I glanced around frantically for any sign of Leif.
“You’re going to act like everything is fine. He’s your ex; act like girls do around their exes,” Gee blew a bubble with the gum in her mouth as if this weren’t a big freaking deal.
“Gee. You are aware that he’s after my soul,” I snapped angrily.
She rolled her eyes, “You are aware that he ain’t got nothin’ on Dank.”
“But Dank isn’t here.”
“I am Peggy Ann. Besides he’s here because Dank disposed of his little helper. He has no one to report back to him.”
Little helper? What? “Can you elaborate on that one please?”
Gee leaned against the locker beside me and pulled a string of gum out of her mouth as she rested one booted foot on the bottom locker. “Kendra was soulless, sweetheart. Now she’s no more. Dank was on a rampage when he got you back from New Orleans. He isn’t a fan of the French Quarter you know. All those old French buildings bug him to no end. But me, I like all the alcohol. Except then there are the naked women. That can get a little annoying.”
Kendra was soulless. I rested my forehead on the cool metal in front of me while Gee continued to prattle on about New Orleans. Of course, Kendra was soulless. That made complete sense. If Leif was so enamored with me then he’d never really be in a relationship with someone else. Her taunts were all meant to feed me right into Leif’s arms. And Dank, he’d pretended with her because he was protecting me from her. God, I was an idiot.
“So, she’s gone...” I muttered mostly to myself.
Gee stopped talking about beignets and their gift to the world and sighed, obviously frustrated that her attempt to change the subject had failed.
“Yep, and Dank does his clean up. Not a soul will remember her. No pun intended.”
“I need a coke and a candy bar. Lots of chocolate.”
Gee laughed and shoved off from her perch against the lockers. “I’m on it. I’ll meet you in class.”
I watched her as she headed down the hallway toward the teacher’s lounge.
Leif’s laughter rang down the halls and I turned to see him standing among the same group of boys that always surrounded him. He didn’t glance my way and the cheerleaders hung on his every word. It was as if nothing had happened this year. This was very similar to the same scene I’d witnessed the first day of school. The day I’d met Dank sitting in the back of my homeroom. Smiling, I turned and headed for homeroom. Things might be all screwed up now but just thinking about how sexy Dank had been that day while I tried so very hard not to stare at his adorable little dimple made things better. I’d thought he was just another soul back then. One that could actually talk. So much had changed. The soul I was convinced was stalking me wasn’t that at all. He’d been here to take my soul because I was meant to die. But something changed his mind. I liked knowing I’d affected him in a way no other human ever had. He’d broken all the laws of the universe for me. He’d let me live.
“Coke and Snickers,” Gee announced as she placed the cold can in my hand and dropped the Snickers down the front of my shirt.
“Gee,” I squealed in surprise and quickly caught the candy bar before it hit the floor and was trampled on by the herd of students rushing from homeroom to second period.
“Beggars can’t be choosers Pay-gan. Deal,” she chimed beside me.
“You can be such a brat,” I snapped opening the Snickers and taking a bite.
“Yep, but you love me anyway.”
I could only nod. My mouth was full and of course she was right. I did love her.
“Hey! Where’d you get that?” Miranda demanded as she ran up next to me.
I tilted my head over at Gee, who smirked. We both knew there was no way Miranda would ask Gee for anything.
“Oh,” was Miranda’s reply. Then she seemed to get over it quickly enough and whispered loudly, “You talked to Leif yet? And how weird is it that Leif comes back right after Kendra up and moves? It’s like we’re playing musical chairs around this place.”
I couldn’t help but tense up at the mention of Leif and Kendra’s name. If Miranda thought this was weird she’d really be weirded out by the truth. Trying to wrap my brain around the fact Kendra was a soulless creature was just too much. I had Leif and his claim on my soul to deal with. I was going to have to put Kendra and her existence out of my head. Maybe I’d forget her like everyone else eventually would.
Gee softly cleared her throat. “Nope, but she’s about to and we get a front row seat. Damn, I should’ve grabbed some popcorn while I was in the lounge.”
Leif was coming directly at us with his crooked grin and easy swagger. “Hey Pagan, how are you?” he asked, stopping in front of me so I couldn’t go any further. Even though I was flanked on each side by Miranda and Gee I wished fervently that Dank were here.
“Um, good thanks, and you?” I could feel the eyes of other students glued to us. This was what everyone had been waiting for. The teenage drama and angst that fueled our lives. If they only knew.
“I see you’ve made a new friend,” his gaze shifted to Gee and the warning gleam in his eyes was obvious. Was he actually challenging her?
“Uh, yeah, I have.”
“Ya know what they say, out with the old,” Gee piped up raising her eyebrows and glaring directly at him, “and in with the new and improved.”
Leif stiffened and I worried she’d pushed him too far. We were in the hall with a bunch of humans. Maybe it would be wise if we kept the evil spirit prince calm.
“A matter of opinion,” his voice was clipped and cold. Knowing Gee she’d get amusement from that and make this worse.
“Um, okay well, it was good to see you again Leif and I’ll, uh, see ya around,” I reached for Gee’s arm and held it firmly in mine tugging her with me as I stepped around Leif and walked as quickly as possible toward the girls’ restroom. I could hear Miranda’s heavy breathing as she ran behind us to keep up. Where was Wyatt when you needed him? Not that it would do much good. Miranda would pick gossip and drama over a make-out session with her boyfriend any day.
“Dang, Peggy Ann you’re running like the demons of Hell are on your tail,” Gee chuckled at her own joke. I didn’t find her one bit funny.
“Please be nice,” I shifted my focus off Gee and found Miranda watching us with a look of worry mixed with determination on her face. I realized she was prepared for Gee to lash out at me and she was mentally getting ready to come to my defense.
“I was being nice,” Gee drawled and jerked her arm out of my grasp. “Jeez, Pagan get a grip. Eat your chocolate and drink your soda. I think your sugar is low and it’s making you bitchy.”
Sighing, I leaned against the wall beside the sink and took a drink of the coke in my hand. I needed to talk with Gee alone but the protective stance Miranda had taken said she wasn’t going anywhere. So, instead I ate my candy bar and shot warning glares in Gee’s direction.
“When, uh, is uh, Dank gonna be back?” Miranda’s voice trembled. Gee seemed to find this entertaining.
“Not sure, he’ll probably call tonight.”
“You gonna tell him Leif is back?” she asked cautiously.
Of course I was as soon as I saw him. Better yet I could send Gee to tell him. I wasn’t sure I could convince her to leave me with Leif so close now but I was going to try my hardest.
“Sure, but it isn’t a big deal. Leif broke things off with me before he left. He’s just friendly. You know that.” I didn’t even sound remotely believable.
Miranda frowned and walked over to the mirror and began fixing a few of her curls that she thought were out of place. “Hmmm, well ex-boyfriends can be a problem. Even nice ones like Leif.”
She had no idea. “I think everything will be fine.”
Gee found this funny and I glowered in her direction which only caused her to cackle louder.
Miranda glanced back over her shoulder and frowned at Gee but didn’t say anything.
“Okay, I’m finished. My blood sugar should be fine now. Let’s get to class. We’re probably late.”