Previously on the adventures of Jessie Flores, I got blown up and met my mom.
Okay, it wasn’t quite as simple as that. I returned to the world of the living following five long years spent in Hades – while the world assumed I was dead and moved on.
At least I’m guessing they were long years, mostly because it sounds dramatic, but the truth is I had no idea. I can’t remember a single moment of it. Yep, that was me, the girl who came back to life without a clue as to what her epic journey between life and death had entailed.
Fortunately, there hadn’t been much time to rue the missing chunk of my life as the world had become hell-bent on throwing mystery upon mystery at me. See, I’d gone to the Underworld a sixteen-year-old girl with vampire-killing locks. I’d come back a twenty-one-year-old woman wearing Amazonian garb and sporting hair that occasionally liked to turn blue. I hadn’t been alone either. Wyatt had been there with me, but he’d changed too.
One moment, he was a centuries-old vampire, then poof. The next, he was some weird mix of human, False Icon, and death otter depending on the time of day. And that wasn’t even counting his vampire half, Hunter. He’d eventually returned to Earth as well – as a separate being, one with both a fetish for killing me and a crazed yearning to rejoin with his former self.
Sadly, as fresh as those memories were, they might as well have been a lifetime ago.
Just as I was coming to terms with this new me, slowly figuring out my place in this world –I ended up walking into a trap. Not only had I failed to save some newfound death otter friends, but I’d almost been killed in the process. Neither the failure, the grief, nor the pain had been the worst of it, though.
No. That had been waking up in a hospital bed, bandaged head to toe, and with no idea where Wyatt was.
Then she showed up. Sporting hair the color of fresh blood, a thick Bostonian accent, and an attitude problem that just begged to be punched out, she’d claimed to be the mother I’d never met.
And the strangest thing was, I knew she was right.
Call it instinct, women’s intuition, or just a gut feeling, but something inside me had instantly recognized her.
Too bad those same instincts also told me she was the absolute worst.
♦ ♦ ♦
I had no idea how long I’d been stuck in this hospital room/prison. It had been at least a week, maybe longer. It was hard to tell. There were no windows, at least that I could see, just the fluorescent lighting above the bed.
Holly, as she called herself, had been my only visitor during that time – catering to my meds, emptying my bedpan, and changing my bandages. I had a feeling that wasn’t her real name. She smirked every time I said it, but it didn’t matter. Far more important was the isolation – long hours in that room, unable to move due to my injuries. I’d seen no sign of doctors or nurses, only her and her insufferably smug smile.
Heck, she’d refused to answer my questions with anything other than riddles – leaving me with no idea as to Wyatt’s fate, or whether my friends even knew I was missing.
I couldn’t count on the room’s tiny TV to provide me with information either, as it stayed tuned to a channel that played nothing but telenovelas and infomercials. At this point, I was ready to give up the battle and buy the newest successor to the Thighmaster.
The first few days I screamed my voice hoarse, all to no avail. Afterward, the tears came – leaving me crying for those I’d lost and those whose fates remained unknown.
Most of it was for me, though, lying there helpless as a baby – knowing I’d failed whatever tests fate had thrown my way.
Then, when there were no more tears left, that’s when the true depression set in –I’d failed myself and everyone I knew. I couldn’t punch it, burn it, or run away from it. All I could do was wallow.
I’m no superhero.
I wasn’t even sure I was a person anymore.
I was a broken lump of flesh, beholden to a woman I didn’t...
“Wake up, little one,” a singsong voice called as the lone door to my room – my cell – opened. “I have a surprise for you!”
Holly stepped in, looking every bit the femme fatale. I gritted my teeth as she approached, feeling the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
I guess it wasn’t hard to imagine her seducing my father, getting knocked up, then dumping the baby – me – at his doorstep simply because I was an inconvenience to her free-spirited evil-queen lifestyle.
Yeah, so easy to picture that, but somehow, I knew she was more than just some random bimbo – a lot more. A darkness radiated from her, something that spoke of power – an aura like the monsters I’d previously battled but far more intense.
Of course, that could’ve been because she was able to stand, while I was little more than a full body cast with shredded vocal cords. The jury was still out.
“And how are we doing this fine day, Jameson?”
I looked away She’s not worth it.
“Oh, stop that. Nobody likes a sulker, least of all me. Besides, I wasn’t lying. I do have a surprise for you… or maybe you don’t want to hear about that scruffy cowboy after all.”
That caught my attention, and I swiveled my eyes toward her.
“I guess you do want to hear some news.” She shrugged. “Too bad I don’t have any to share.”
“What I do have,” she continued, lifting a small cardboard box into view, “is even better. We run on Dunkin here, don’t we?”
Much as I wanted to tell her to go to hell, my stomach betrayed me, growling as she pulled out one of the glazed delights. I couldn’t help it. I’d had nothing but intravenous feeding since I’d woken up. Heck, I’d reached the point where I would have gladly bitten off one of her fingers had she gotten close enough.
“I think you’re ready for solid foods again,” she told me, holding the donut in front of my face. “Hell’s bells, I’m certain you’re ready for more – quite a bit more if we’re being honest here. You’re my daughter after all, and you’ve had more than enough time to mend.”
I couldn’t have cared less about her platitudes, since it was painfully obvious I was anything but healthy. But right then, all I wanted was to feel some sugar sliding down my throat.
Except she continued to hold it just outside my reach.
“Uh-uh. If you want it, you’ll have to sit up and take it. There will be no free lunches on my watch, little one.”
“What was that?” she asked, leaning in.
I struggled to form the words against the bandages wrapped around my chin and jaw. “I... c-can’t.”
“Can’t or won’t?”
What? Was she blind? Not only had I nearly been blown to bits, but this psycho had heavily insinuated upon my waking that I’d also survived major heart surgery.
No matter how much she taunted, both my body and brain had taken a beating. I was pretty sure even my bruises had bruises under the swaths of gauze and plaster holding me down. Now here she was, taunting me as if she expected some sort of miracle...
“Fuck it. So much for the easy way.” She pulled the donut away, scarfing it down in three big bites before licking her fingers. “Mmmm, I have to give the humans credit. It’s not quite as tasty as the soul of a newborn, but they got it damned close.”
No way. She’s not talking about what I think she is. She can’t be...
Whatever thoughts I had on the matter were interrupted as she reached down, grabbed me by the thick bandages around my torso, and lifted me from the bed – tearing me from my restraints, not that I could’ve escaped without them.
I could do nothing but shriek as pain exploded from every single inch of my body – my nerves relaying the extent of my injuries to my tortured mind.
“Oh, enough of that,” Holly snapped, holding me aloft as if I weighed less than nothing. “I can see you’re feeling sorry for yourself, and I simply can’t tolerate that. To that end, I think it’s time you discovered how effective the power of positive thought can be, especially for one such as yourself.”
Rather than answer, she flung me across the room like a ragdoll. I slammed into the TV, sending sparks flying before I crashed in a heap.
A moment later, she loomed over me, her eyes gleaming with murder.
“Shall we play a little game, Jameson? I’m going to tear you limb from fucking limb in the next thirty seconds. You have a choice. You can either lie there and die, or you can fight back and prove to me that you’re not the mistake we both know you are.”
COMING MAY 22nd to Kindle and Kindle Unlimited!
COMING MAY 22nd to Kindle and Kindle Unlimited!