The carnival had ended a short while earlier. All the flashing, multicolored lights had stopped blinking and eeriness settled over the place. The giant double Ferris wheel creaked in the silence.
Leaning against the side of the shoot the balloon booth, Clary studied the empty main breezeway where all the games were located. Taking another long drag on her joint, she squinted against the sting of the smoke. The sharp burn tightened her throat. She wasn’t ready to go home. And why should she? For another ass-chewing by her parents? Not gonna happen.
They hated the fact she played in a local grunge band, but, hey, who cared? She loved music, especially that type of music. Why couldn’t they be happy she was attending the local university and doing well, she mentally smirked? But no, the people she hanged with were a bad influence. Yeah, right.
Further up the aisle, the soft sound of footsteps hurried in her direction.
Clary stiffened, waiting for who might still be around. Most of the carny workers had shut down their booths and rides a while ago. One of them might have left something and was coming back to pick it up. She shifted further into the shadows. The back of her combat boots hit the side of her guitar case. Damn, go ahead and announce to the world you’re around, idiot.
The footsteps slowed and the person came into view.
O.M.G! Not Emily Buchannan? Crown Princess of the entire town. She also happened to be the hottest piece of womanhood in the surrounding ten counties.
Fuck. Clary’d had a crush on Emily since seventh grade with no hopes of ever finding out what her pussy tasted like. She released a quiet sigh. Probably wouldn’t have been that great, but still, just to touch that smooth skin and run her fingers through that crimson hair.
Desire tingled between her legs. She squirmed. Stop it, cunt. That woman would never look at you twice.
Emily panted as though she’d run a great distance. She looked over her shoulder at the way she’d come and tilted her head from side to side as though searching for someone…or something.
Clary covered her mouth with her hand to keep the snort that threatened from escaping with that thought. What the hell was the something she’d be running from? Alley cats?
A low moan echoed down the breeze way. Emily gasped and jerked back. She turned as if to start running again but tripped and fell. Her short flowery printed dress flew up to reveal startling white panties. Bikini panties.
Mouth watering, hormones veering out of control, Clary leaped out from her hiding place, hoping to catch Emily before she slammed into the asphalt.
Too late. The girl managed not to hit face first. Her slender, pale hands slid across the pavement.
That was gonna hurt. Big time.
“Emily, you okay? It’s Clary Picard. From school.” Hoping not to frightened Emily, Clary squatted next to her.
Wide green eyes rose to meet hers. “What are you doing here? You have to leave. Now. They’re coming…”
Quirking an eyebrow at Emily, Clary wasn’t sure she hadn’t hit her head. “Who’s coming?”
Another moan came from the end of the breezeway. Emily glanced that way and Clary followed the direction of her look. Nothing but darkness swirled down there.
The Ferris wheel creaked in the slight gust of wind.
“My father did something bad. Really bad.”
Clary shook her head, completely lost with what the young woman was saying. “What? He stole millions from his company?”
Emily didn’t answer, only struggled to gain her feet. “We have to leave. Please.”
“Why are you so scared? Did you run across some gang members or something?”
The wind blew across the ground, lifted the hem of Emily’s dress and ruffled Clary’s short hair. Dust and tiny pieces of trash churned down the aisle.
The moan came again only to end in an elongated screech. From the blackness, a man’s figure erupted in a rush toward them.
Emily screamed. Clary’s ears rang from the high pitch.
“Oh, God, he smelled my blood,” Emily cried. “We have to go now. He’ll kill us.”
The man, or whatever the hell it was, had almost reached them. How did he move so fast? Clary swung the case around, pulling Emily behind her and landed a solid strike against the guy’s chest. White coated eyes in blackened sockets met her gaze for a brief second before the guy slammed into the aluminum door of the booth.
Without considering, Clary took off at a sprint between the booths, pulling Emily behind her.
The only thought running through her mind repeated over and over. Run, bitch, run.
After several minutes of outright dashing among the maze of booths and rides, Clary slowed and came to a panting stop. She searched for a hiding place. Somewhere, any place to hide from that thing. She couldn’t call it human. Hell, she’d never seen anything like it before.
The tunnel of love’s entrance loomed to her right. She pulled Emily toward the opening.
At the archway, Emily tugged on her hand, her words coming out between pants. “We…can’t…go…in there. He’ll…find…us.”
“If we…stay out …in the open…he will find us.” Clary pulled in a deep breath and spoke through clenched teeth. “Come on. I’m saving you.”
A gasp came from Emily.
Clary sent her a look. “What?”
The exhausted woman shook her head.
“Then let’s go. There’s a sink inside and paper towels to clean those cuts. That way he won’t smell your blood anymore.”
Stepping over the ride’s rails, she entered the darkness. “Hold the handle of my guitar case. That way I can feel our way, okay?”
She released Emily’s wrist and the warmth of the touch faded. Blinking the sudden stinging in her eyes, she found she missed the brief feel of the woman she’d lusted after since seventh grade. Mentally rolling her eyes at her silliness, she tried to concentrate on making her way through the tunnel. A wash room was situated about half way down.
Two days ago, she’d helped Bart run the ride and she’d cut her finger on a ragged edge along the side of one of the metal doors. Bart had shown her the room so she could wash and put a bandage on the slice.
Sliding her hand along the wall at her side, she found the edge of the doorway. She fumbled with the door knob and shoved, almost falling into the tiny room. Damn, that was close. The toilet in there was rank. She didn’t think Bart had ever heard of Lysol. She flicked on the single switch for the uncovered light bulb above the sink.
She kicked the lid of the toilet down. “Sit and I’ll clean your cuts.”
Emily nodded and released her hold on the handle. Her fingers had wrapped around the back of Clary’s and again the feeling of loss shot through her after Emily let go.
“So you gonna tell me what’s going on?” she asked, turning to the first aid box screwed into the wall next to the sink.
“I told my father the truth tonight.”
Clary frowned. “And the truth was so bad he sicced this crazy guy after you?”
“To him it was. He blew up and said he was going to teach me a lesson.”
What the hell? “This is not a lesson. Taking your credit cards, your car keys, hell, even your phone away is a lesson. What’s wrong with your dad?”
Emily stiffened under the question.
Oh, man, she hadn’t meant to piss her off.
“He’s a wonderful father. He just couldn’t deal with what I told him.”
Clary waved a hand hoping to move the explanation along. “We don’t have much time, baby. Hurry up and spill it.” She found the alcohol swabs and ointment along with several Band-Aids.
She shifted closer to Emily. “Show me your hands.”
Soft green eyes met hers as pale slender hands opened palm up for her. “I told him I was in love with someone.”
Nodding, Clary could see where this was going. “And the guy isn’t suitable for the Princess.”
Silence swirled between them for a few seconds. Clary tore open the swab and swiped it over the bloody scrapes on Emily’s hands. The woman cringed.
She fucking forgot to breathe. More seconds slipped by.
“That’s when he blew up.” Emily tugged her hand from under the swab. “It stings.”
“Oh, sorry. So it’s a woman?” Hot, holy damn. She would have never guessed. Not at all.
She shot a glance at Emily and froze. A soft, dreamy look spread across her gorgeous features. With a nod, Emily continued, “Yes. I have classes with her.”
“So you’re in a relationship?”
“Oh, no.” Emily shook her head. The sweet floral scent she wore filled the space between them.
Clary inhaled deep, savoring the smell.
“She doesn’t know. I haven’t told her.”
“Is she straight?”
“I don’t know. I never asked her. I’ve never really talked to her.” Those green eyes dulled and shifted toward the wall on the side of her. “I’m afraid she won’t like me.”
“She’d be a fucking idiot if she didn’t.” Oh, shit, I didn’t just say that out loud, did I? From the shocked expression on Emily’s face, yes, she had. Crap.
“So I should tell her?”
Unable to look into her eyes any longer, too afraid of what Emily might find in hers, Clary lowered her gaze to the scrapes. “Uh, yeah. I’d check and make sure she’s lesbian. That way you won’t be hurt if she isn’t.”
“I’ve tried to find out, but haven’t had any luck.”
Clary shrugged. “Do I know her?”
Before Emily answered, moans came from the opening of the tunnel. Clary’s gaze flew to meet Emily’s.
Bending close and whispering into her ear, Emily’s breath coasted over her skin. “They’ve found us.”
The word they struck full force in Clary’s mind. “They?” Why hadn’t Emily told her there was more than one of those things after her?
“Yes, that’s what happened. More than one was created.”
Don’t go there, Clary. Not now. Later, when they were safe.
She turned to the doorway.
Shuffling steps drew nearer.
Shit. The thing was headed for the light.
Reaching for the switch, she barely touched it when the creature appeared. Ragged clothes hung on a gaunt frame. The ashen head with the white eyes tilted in her direction. Its gap-toothed mouth opened to release a cry, but Clary punched it square on the jaw.
Its neck cracked and the head slanted a bit too far to the right. The next second, it grabbed her by the upper arms. Silently thanking her parents for the self-defense classes, she slipped her hands on the inside of its arms and chopped down. The arms detached from the body.
Clary screamed. The hands still held her. The creature screamed. It did a few little bouncy steps then sent a deep breath in her direction. She shrieked as the air breezed across her face. Snapping her mouth shut, she jerked the hands off her arms and kicked out at the thing’s stomach. It broke in two pieces. The upper part fell backwards while the hips and legs teetered for a moment then toppled toward her. She kicked out again, knocking it out of the way.
“Come on, let’s get the hell out of Dodge.”
Taking her case and tucking the first aide stuff in her back pocket, she motioned for Emily to take the handle again.
The tunnel circled around and came out on the side of the entrance. Hoping that no other creature waited out there, Clary slipped through the dim tunnel. When they rounded the curve at the back and started toward the exit, she heard the distinctive moans coming from the end.
One of the cars sat midway down. She left the wall and moved to the back of the car. The light at the exit opening was blocked by several figures.
Whispering, she told Emily, “Take the case and don’t let go of it.”
Giving the woman full control over her most precious possession was a huge step for Clary. She loved that guitar, having busted her ass to save enough money to buy it.
She grabbed the back of the car and pushed it along the track, glad the ride owner, Bart, kept the rails and wheels well oiled. The car moved silently forward. She picked up speed until she was running. The car smashed through the creatures filling the exit’s opening. Grunts and shrill cries broke out among the small group. Clary grabbed Emily’s free hand. Swerving to the right, she cut along the side of the ride.
There had to be a place around here for them to hide until morning came. The carnies would come at first light to work on their equipment for tomorrow night’s opening.
Running left then right, she worked her way until they came out across from the double ferris wheel. The control box caught her eye. Lloyd had a remote control for that thing in the box and Clary knew where he kept the spare key.
She looked up again to the highest point on the second wheel. Up there, they’d be safe. Well, she hoped they would be. No, she wouldn’t think otherwise.
“Come on, I have an idea.” She released Emily and sprinted to the control box. Fumbling under the bottom edge, she found the key. Shaking, she managed to unlock the thing after a couple of tries. She took the time to check the controls and seeing if the remote would work.
Yes! Maybe now Emily would be safe.
Clary kept the remote, locked the box back and pocketed the key. Lloyd’s tool box was left next to the steps leading to the first bucket at ground level. She grabbed it and almost toppled over. What the hell did that man keep in the thing? Weights lined the sides. Oh, right, he used those to keep the bucket level as he was up working on the equipment.
“Help me with this thing.” She motioned for Emily to grab one end of the open topped, two foot long tool box. They managed to place it in the floorboard of the ground level bucket. Next, her guitar case was squeezed in the far side so the bottom was wedged in against the tool box and the bucket’s inside wall.
She helped Emily get on.
Sitting next to Emily, she pulled the protective bar across their laps and pressed the remote. The wheel turned. Slowly. She adjusted the setting and the wheel moved a little faster. Once they reached the peak of the first round, she pressed the button to move the second wheel to the bottom.
She looked toward the direction they’d just come from. Black shadows were emerging from beside the booths across from the Ferris wheel. The shuffling figures converged on a spot close to the control box.
Her entire body tensed. Don’t touch the damn box. Don’t mess with it.
Several of them surrounded the thing but they only touched it. Some even stuck their noses to it, while others licked it. Were they trying to catch Emily’s scent? Yeah, they had to be. Would they realize where they were? Maybe not. Hope not.
Emily took her arm. Leaning closer, she whispered, “Can they hear us? See us?”
She shook her head. “Don’t think so but let’s keep it low until the sun comes up.”
The wind blew Emily’s hair away from her face as she nodded. The beauty of her flawless complexion and sparkling eyes stole Clary’s breath.
Hoping to distract her wayward thoughts from the hot babe next to her, she checked the creatures mulling about below them. Satisfied the things hadn’t noticed where they’d gone, Clary faced Emily. Quietly, she asked, “So want to tell me the entire story? What are those things and who is the woman you’re in love with.”
A strange expression, a mix between surprise and shyness, flitted over Emily’s face. She looked out over the city. The view from this high was spectacular. Clary let her gaze slide over the glittering lights of the city.
“I like your hair.” Emily commented.
Hair? Thrown off a bit, Clary nodded. How the hell did her lime green iridescent, spiked hair have to do with her questions? “Thanks. Thought it’d stand out while we were preforming tonight.”
“It does but it looks great on you. You’ve always looked great.”
Warmth spiraled through Clary at the complement.
“The woman is special to me. Always has been, even when she went Goth, then grunge, it didn’t matter.”
The softly spoken words froze Clary. She jerked her gaze to meet Emily’s.
Emily slowly nodded.
Clary shook her head, hoping to clear her head and ears. Maybe that joint had something in it she wasn’t aware of, and all of this was some sort of weird drug-induced dream.
Slender fingers touched her cheek. “I think I’ve always loved you but I was afraid.”
If this was a dream, then she fully intended on enjoying it.
“So the woman you’re in love with is…” She pointed to her chest. “Me?”
“Yes. For a while now, but I didn’t know what to do about it.”
Leaning closer to Emily, Clary whispered, “You could have walked up and talked to me.”
Emily shifted closer. Her gaze traveled to Clary’s lips and back to meet hers. “Was afraid to. You always looked so mad.”
With a gentle touch, Clary touched her lips, softly, not wanting to frighten Emily. Sweet heat radiated from her mouth, drawing Clary in deeper. She swiped her tongue along the edges of Emily’s lips.
The world receded, those weird creatures forgotten in the pleasure of finally touching the woman she’d desired for so long. A fresh cherry taste coated the inside of her mouth and Clary drank deep of the nectar. She leaned closer as Emily reclined against the guitar case.
Her hands roamed over the sleek skin of Emily’s legs, confident the tool box would keep the buggy level with all their movements. Her fingers inched closer to the vee and those tempting white panties.
A gasp escaped from Emily. She pulled away.
Frustrated, Clary stared at her in stunted shock. “What?”
“My shoe fell off.”
Clary shook her head, not quiet comprehending what Emily meant.
“It fell over the edge.”
She twisted and looked down. The shoe had caught on one of the narrow spokes. It tilted one way then the other and back until gravity pulled it over.
Down, down, free falling to land right smack on the top of one those thing’s head where it did a little bounce before dropping to the ground at its feet. The grunt from the one the shoe hit caught its fellow creatures’ attention. They crowded around it, staring at the shoe. As one, all those milky white eyes looked up.
Heart pounding, Clary pulled back but too late. They’d seen her. They were climbing now.
Now what the hell were they to do? Brilliant idea to put them on top of the world with no escape route. Shit. She grabbed the first tool lying at the top of the tool box. A wicked looking crescent wrench looked huge in Emily’s slender hands but she took hold of it and nodded.
She chose a ball peen hammer.
“When they get close, knock ‘em off,” she told Emily.
The bucket shifted as scabby, gray fingers took hold to the bottom edge of the bucket. Clary slammed the hammer against the fingers. A surprised expression crossed over the ashen face of the creature a moment before it fell. It struck against the poles and metal on the way down, leaving oozy gray and green matter behind.
“Ack. I hope I don’t get sick.” She told Emily. “That one was ripe.”
Shockwaves from the creature’s hitting the wheels rattled over the rigging. More of those things climbed higher and faster. The Ferris wheel swayed under the added weight.
“This thing won’t fall will it?” Emily gripped a wrench in one hand and the edge of the seat with her other one.
“I hope not. It’s not made to have this kind of unleveled weight.” Oh, man, what were they going to do now? Those things were climbing faster and there were so many of them. They seemed to be multiplying by the second.
Another one’s head popped up along the edge of Emily’s side. She screamed, closed her eyes and swung.
The creature grabbed the handle of the guitar case. Furious heat sped over Clary’s face. She kicked out. Her heel landed on the thing’s forehead. Emily hit the hand holding the handle. The thing grunted and tilted away from them. Another solid kick sent it flying back.
This time Clary didn’t watch it fall. She took a ten lb. weight out of the box, handed it to Emily.
“Wait until they’re close, then drop that baby on them.”
Lips sealed, determination lighting her eyes, she nodded.
They managed to hit several more of the creatures before they reached the bucket. Clary eyed the tool box. Not many weights remained.
She snatched the remote and pressed the forward button. The wheel turned about twenty feet. She stopped it and punched the reverse button.
A few of those things fell off. Not enough, though.
Damn, what were they going to do?
Panic built. When she glanced at Emily, she saw her own fear reflected in the other woman’s eyes.
“Emily? Are you up there?”
What the hell? Clary met Emily’s look. She frowned and asked, “Who?”
Emily glanced toward the ground. Surprise flitted over her features. “Marcus? What are you doing here?”
Clary looked down at the guy who was staring up at the top of the Ferris wheel. She couldn’t tell the color of his hair but his face looked familiar. Marcus? Didn’t Emily have a brother named Marcus?
All those creatures still remaining on pavement milled around him like he wasn’t even there. What was going on here?
“I’ve come to take you home. Mom and Gran calmed Dad down. He’s okay now. You know how he can get. So come on down.” He waved his hand in a circle to mimic the movement of the wheel.
“No. Not until these things leave me alone!”
Marcus looked around him, then with a shake of his head and a snap of his fingers, he shouted. “There, now will you come down.”
The moment he’d snapped his fingers, every one of the creatures turned to dust. The slight breeze carried the dust away.
No fucking way…Clary turned toward Emily.
“That didn’t happen, did it?” She couldn’t seem to control her increased breathing.
An expression of horror passed over Emily’s face. Her shoulders slumped and she nodded. “Yes it did. Clary, my family…well, they are a little bit magical.”
Clary shook her head. Did she just hear that right? What the hell did that mean?
“A little bit? I don’t understand.”
“Emily, come down.”
“Hold on!” Emily shouted over the edge.
When she turned back to Clary, lines of worry creased her forehead. “I know this will be hard to believe, but…”
“Just tell me. I’m confused here.”
“My father is a warlock. So is my brother. My mother is a witch. It’s who we are.”
Staring at Emily, Clary wasn’t sure heard right. But she had to have. Emily seemed so serious.
“So, uh, that makes you a witch too?” she asked, not sure what else to say. Was the woman she’d fallen for crazy? If so, then she must be too, especially after tonight.
“No, I can’t do any magic. Mom says I just haven’t grown into it yet.” A sad expression slipped across her features. “I hope I never do. I just want to be normal.”
Well, hell, what was she to say to that? Did it matter what Emily was? Clary had loved her for too long to let a little thing like this stand in her way.
“Doesn’t matter. You’re still you.” She reached out and took Emily’s hand. “I like you and it’s okay if you’re a witch. Won’t change the way I feel about you.”
When Emily met her gaze, there was renewed hope brightening her green eyes. “You do?”
“Yeah. I really do.”
Another shout came from her brother. “Emily.”
Damn, why couldn’t he just leave them alone? Something important was happening between them.
“Go home, Marcus. I’ll be home later.”
A slow smile tilted Emily’s mouth. “Yes. I’m very sure.”
Clary matched her with a grin. “So where were we?” she asked as she leaned closer to pick up where the creatures had interrupted them.
Her lips met Emily’s and nothing else mattered. The future looked as bright and beautiful as the clear, star-filled night surrounding them. Yes, she looked forward to living every wonderful second of it with Emily at her side.