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
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
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
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
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
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
I looked away She’s not worth
“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
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
“What was that?” she asked,
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.”