Late to the Party

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This one time, on twitter, we got into a conversation about the Trojan… and then this happened.

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The humming laptop harmonized with the buzzing neon lights. Their song as soothing to Matty as techno at this point. And he needed some soothing.

Being kidnapped, again, does not help the paranoia.

The hum of his computer tower purred a few notes higher than the water heater, and their melodies changed the song. It grew closer to the tune he knew and needed this morning.

This was normally his favorite time of day. Pre-dawn meant quiet, and some time to think when those at home still slept.

But he’d been too afraid to come out recently. The quiet had been ominous instead of soothing since he’d been rescued. This morning, the cold, dry air of his basement room seemed warmer and friendly, and while his hands still shook, he wasn’t jumping at the stillness and looking over his shoulder.

Matty stretched out on the orange and black patterned couch. The cushions barely gave underneath him, but the low, low cost of free had outweighed comfort when furnishing the house in the beginning.

Maybe I should mention these couches to Sam. Or maybe I should just set them on fire…

He had barely scanned the night’s news for something that looked like a monster, when the Trojan thumped down the stairs, laundry basket in hand. “I thought you slept late.”

Matty sighed at the loss of his quiet. “No, I take a midmorning nap.” Going to sleep after breakfast was a habit he’d never quite shaken. Dating a private detective only encouraged it.

Two hours and then… Dean.

Maybe he felt good enough to go out for breakfast with Dean.

The bang of the washer door accompanied the Trojan’s intruding voice. “See anything worth hunting?”

“Not yet.” Familiar annoyance fluttered through Matty. Once again, the Trojan was ruining something. Old habits died hard it seemed, whatever understanding they’d achieved while captured.

“The Trojan”…

Matty grinned at his computer. “So, how does my sister handle the name thing?”

Dark curls proceeded the Trojan’s pale face as he peeked around the corner. “Come again?”

The snicker was unavoidable. “Was that intended to be sexual? Because I will play the “ew, gross, my sister” card.”

The Trojan scratched at the full beard that obscured his face. “Well, you were about to make a condom joke. And c’mon, really? Isn’t that beneath you?”

Matty studied the man for a moment, knowing full well that he had utter disbelief etched broad. “You really trying to sell me that nobody has ever made a condom joke at a dude called the Trojan?”

A smile winked through the beard. “The night they gave me the name, I told everybody to get it all out of their system. I was at a haunt… in New York City. The place was overflowing with people, drunk as hell, and rowdy after a rough night on the job. I heard literally ever pun and joke regarding myself and condoms. You can’t make any original joke at my expense. But go ahead and try.” He leaned against the wall, boredom soft in his eyes.

Matty licked at his dry upper lip before he shook his head. “I take back everything I said in that cell. I fucking hate you after all.”

The Trojan laughed. “I thought every hunter knew that story.”

Matty rolled his eyes. “I don’t run in those, or really any, social circles, remember?”

The hunter stretched his arms over his head. “True, but I thought you were this master investigator… who formerly hated me for dating his sister. How do you not know everything about me?”

“I do hate you.” Matty sat up and set his laptop on the coffee table. “I didn’t care about your stupid name, I wanted to know about your friends, the ones with the tattoos and who walk through walls. Those guys are way more interesting than your name.”

The Trojan froze, all the playfulness gone from him. Muscles strained as he pinned Matty to the couch with hard eyes. “I thought you understood to stop talking about them.”

Matty held up his hands. “Whoa there. It’s just you and me here, and I’m not asking questions. I get it. You can—”

“Cut the shit.” The Trojan’s lips curled up into the barest of smiles. “Mentioning them casually in conversations to get me used to talking about them… not going to work. Stop it. And don’t insult me by pretending you were doing no such thing.”

Matty took a moment, considering his next response. “How did Mina see this side of you so easily?”

A single eyebrow rose at him in question.

“The dark, dangerous, and serious side?”

The Trojan’s smile grew, showing genuine amusement as well as teeth. “You’re a little turned on, aren’t you?”

Matty groaned and picked up his laptop. “I really do hate you.”

“It’s okay, Matty.” The Trojan headed to the stairs. “I won’t tell Mina.”

Blood warmed Matty’s face as he stared at the screen. “This is what I get for leaving my room.”

Laughter floated down the creaking stairs. “Good to see you out, actually.”

Matty smiled at his computer. “I’ll switch over your laundry. Just leave me alone for a while.”

The door at the top of the stairs stopped sweeping the floor and opened again. “You want some time to yourself, huh? To think about me?”

“I hate you so much.”

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Chelsea and Jackson

This is a series of short stories, detailing the adventures of Chelsea Childling. If you want to start at the beginning, click here. If you want to see an index of all the Chelsea stories, click here.
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The full moon through the skylight left the room illuminated, but cold. Chelsea lay in the bright, silvery light, wondering what had woken her.

Warm hands brushed her bare back, and Jackson murmured, “Shh. It’s okay, go back to sleep.”

She rolled over, sprawled across his body, and rested her head on his chest. The damp chest hair that greeted her face was unpleasant for several reasons. Cold and clammy against her cheek, it meant night sweats. But Jackson never stressed out.

He barely works up a sweat during our training sessions.

“What’s wrong?”

His arms wrapped around her. “Nothing, my little nun. Just one of my nightmares.”

She tightened her limbs, squeezing as much of him as she could. “You okay?”

His chin tapped the top of her head as he nodded. “I’m used to them.”

“Used to them?” her voice came out more annoyed than she intended. “We’ve been together for almost two months. How the hell did you keep something like this from me for two months?”

His low chuckle raised goosebumps along her skin as fingers trailed up her bare ribs towards her breasts.

She smacked his chest. “Seriously, Jack!”

He sighed. “You’ve been a little preoccupied, and like I said, I’m used to them. Generally, I wake up in a cold sweat, and head to the bathroom. Once I’m calm, I come back to bed. You didn’t notice, because I didn’t want to bother you.”

“Jack…”

He snugged her closer. “It’s okay. I’m okay.”

She twirled his chest hair. “Obviously, it’s not. My therapist says regular nightmares that interrupt your sleep—”

He laughed. “Yeah, my caseworkers sent me to lots of therapists over the years. Nothing to be done about my nightmares. They just are.”

“Caseworkers?” Chelsea listened to his still-pounding heart through his ribs.

There was no answer for a long moment, then he sat up, pulling her along. “I was… the thing is, Chelsea, most monster hunters are fucked up people. There’s a few hunting families that go back generations, but mostly, we get into this game for the same reason you did: somebody you know and love gets killed, and nobody is going to believe that it’s a vampire or whatever. So, you have to take care of it yourself. And you keep going after monsters until you have a bad night. Then the fight is all over.”

His hand traveled down her back, returning to her shoulders as he talked. The gesture seemed more about taking comfort than giving any.

“But me… I was six, and my brother was ten. Our mom had lots of problems.” He huffed a laugh. “Well, really, she had two problems, booze and men, but they brought on the rest. And when she was in full swing, when the house was full of strung out and drunk strangers, Chuck and I took off. We didn’t have a dad, and if none of our friends could take us, we’d spend the night at the local park.”

She gave him another full body squeeze. Pampered and loved all her life, she couldn’t imagine not trusting her parents or them abandoning her.

His hands gripped her hips for a moment before he continued. “Well, one night, we ran into a reaver.”

“What’s a reaver?”

Jackson let out a rough breath, almost, but not quite a laugh. “A type of vampire. Think the exact opposite of a nightling. Instead of being inhumanly pretty and intelligent, they are saw-toothed, red-eyed, hairless, brainless, killing machines. One bite and you turn or you die.”

“Jack…”

He shrugged. “We ran, of course. Chuck boosted me over the fence, but he scraped his knee getting over the top. Reavers go nuts at the scent of fresh blood.” He swallowed, his throat twitching along the side of her head. “It tore him apart in front of me.”

Tears welled up in her eyes.

Jack’s voice took on a determinedly cheerful quality. “And so began my stint in foster care. I was pulled from the neglectful arms of my drunk mother and passed from family to family until my sixteenth birthday. On that day, I walked out of my latest home and started hunting.”

“Why did you wait so long?”

For the first time since she awoke, Jackson truly sounded like himself as a huge laugh bubbled out of him. “I thought I was fucking crazy. I was six, remember? I told everybody about what I’d seen. Which meant a good decade of therapists explaining to me about how I made up a monster so I had something tangible to be mad at, instead of the ‘obvious’ abduction gone wrong that ripped my brother to pieces.”

“What changed your mind?”

Jackson quieted. “A friend got attacked by a reaver.”

“And you had to watch, again?”

He nodded against her hair, once more. “Yeah, but at least I knew I wasn’t crazy. So I took off, hunting monsters.”

She sat up in the weak light, unsure of what, if anything to say. The moon washed out all the color. His black hair lacked its reddish highlites, and his brilliant green eyes were a pale imitation of themselves.

A forced smile stretched across his face. “It’s all right, Chelsea.”

“You still have nightmares.”

He shrugged. “I don’t know a monster hunter without them, including you.”

“I’m not—”

“A monster hunter,” he finished with her. “You just have a mean left hook, nightmares, and want to revenge-kill nightlings.”

“The nightmares started before Dink was killed.” Her voice wobbled into the pale light. “It was my parents’ murder.”

His fingers dug into her hips again, pulling her closer. Despite their lack of clothes, there was nothing sexual in the gesture, a first from Jackson Hawk.

She found herself talking about her dreams. “I’m in a clear box, looking out at a storm. The pouring rain is deafening in there, and slowly, the air is being sucked out. I can’t breathe, and I can’t hear anything except the rain, but I can see the water covering the box.” Just talking about it made her heart slam against her ribs.

Jackson’s hand slid up her back, pulling her gently against him. She leaned in, soaking up his closeness. Soft, warm skin over hard muscles and scars. More and more Jackson felt like home.

Don’t believe that.

She had to remember that Jackson lacked any desire to stick around, and she couldn’t leave, yet. But she had a life beyond killing monsters to go back to. And Jackson Hawk couldn’t say “no” to a woman if his life were on the line.

“So,” he said after a long silence, “you and Dink ever hook up?”

She shook her head and sat up again. “No. He—after my parents died, I went self-destructive, lots of drinking. Dink took it upon himself to keep an eye on me, make sure I didn’t drink too much, stumble into traffic, or get raped.”

“You two seemed chummy that night.”

Chelsea shrugged. “I wasn’t interested, and he knew it. He heard me bitch about pushy guys often enough.” Tears welled up and spilled over. “Maybe— ”

Jack shook his head. “No ‘maybes’, my little nun. Going over the past won’t prevent it from having happened.”

She studied him in the moonlight. Dark shadows painted the skin under his high cheekbones, and the sheen of humor he usually sported was absent. For the first time in two months, she finally began to feel like she knew him.

Chelsea slid her hands up his arms. “Only one shot, Jackson?”

“Monsters aren’t known for their mercy.” He snuggled into their bed, taking her with him. They shuffled and maneuvered, trying for the best way to lie together. Between one breath and the next, the balance was found. Warm and protected once more, Chelsea fell back asleep.

***

There will be more Chelsea on the first Monday of the month. Follow us on twitter for witty excerpts, random thoughts, and Kate’s pop culture obsession.

 

 

Chelsea Childling Gets in a Fight

This is a series of short stories, detailing the adventures of Chelsea Childling. If you want to start at the beginning, click here. If you want to see an index of all the Chelsea stories, click here.

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While Chelsea stories are free,  I do have stories that I ask money for.  For the rest of ths month I’m running a sale on Smashwords.com. Use the code FZ56G and get 75% off Uncommon Animals.
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Amber whistled as she spun in a circle, taking in the warehouse apartment. “Jack did this?”

Chelsea nodded, her face warming a bit. “Yeah, he set it up…”

The monster hunter turned, hands on her thick hips. “Jackson?”

“Yes.”

“Jackson ‘I didn’t catch her name’ Hawk got an apartment, to share, without being prodded, in any way?” Disbelief threaded Amber’s voice.

Chelsea shrugged, ignoring the heat in her face. “I certainly never brought it up.”

“Well, shit.” Amber shook her head. “He might be in love with you.”

Her face officially on fire, Chelsea turned to her easel and picked up a pencil. “That’s ridiculous and we both know it.” She began correcting the arch of Jackson’s eyebrows.

“That’s… an outstanding likeness of him.”

“Thanks. I’m going to try an oil painting. It requires lots of layers, so I want an outline to start.” Chelsea lost herself in the angles of Jackson’s face, the high planes of his cheeks and the exact slant of his dimples. Amber and the rest of the bright apartment faded into a background fugue as she sketched.

When her laptop chimed, it took her a moment to place the sound. It had been a long time since she’d been so caught up in a sketch. She hurried over to the island that designated the kitchen.

The video chat pinged again, flashing at her. She took a deep breath and pressed play.

Her therapist smiled at her from the tiny screen, white teeth bright against the woman’s dark skin, as her thick Southern accent rolled through the warehouse. “Chelsea, you’re painting again.”

She looked down at her stained flannel shirt. “Yes.” She didn’t know if a tree in the bedroom she shared with Jackson really counted as painting, but she’d take it.

“Well, now I feel better about that excuse I faxed your school. You have this semester off though it’s all incompletes. You’ll have to redo the courses, but they’ll take you back in the fall.”

“Thank you.” Chelsea swallowed against her tightening throat. “When do I have to get my stuff off campus?”

Dr. Kinney shrugged. “That’s not my business, Chelsea. You’ll have to get that information yourself.”

She nodded, fighting tears. Regardless of whether she wanted to leave school, she knew she’d never make it through the semester with decent grades.

“Now, I took the liberty of refilling your sleeping pills, and I have a script for anti-anxiety meds. Do you want them?”

Chelsea paused. Her anxiety had been sky high since Dink died, but the medication left her listless. Which would be a death sentence in a fight against vampires. She shook her head.

“Let me know if you change your mind.” Dr. Kinney smiled again. “I can’t wait to see your new work.”

Chelsea smiled and shrugged, unsure what to say. She wasn’t about to have any kind of conversation about Jackson Hawk with her therapist. There was no way to do it without mentioning vampires or monsters to the woman. It would be a one-way ticket to the psych ward.

“Have a good day, Chelsea.” Dr. Kinney smiled once more. “We’ll talk soon.” The screen went bright blue and Chelsea took a deep breath. Her life was officially on hold, now.

“You’re dropping out?”

Chelsea jumped. She’d forgotten the other woman was in the apartment.

Amber leaned against the island. “I thought you were just killing ‘one nightling?’”

“I am.” Chelsea let herself snap at the other woman. “I’m taking off the rest of this semester to kill the nightling.”

Amber’s smile lit up her face. “Okay, then, let’s see what you can do in a fight.”

Chelsea froze. Amber and Jackson hadn’t been very forthcoming about when they’d actually attack the nightlings. If Chelsea heard, ‘Reconnaissance saves lives’ one more time she’d lose her mind.

“C’mon, step up.” Amber strode over to the wall of mirrors that faced the tall windows.

Chelsea took a deep breath and followed. “Jack hasn’t let me do anything but unsheathe my ax.”

Amber giggled. “At least, you’re doing more than unsheathing his.”

Chelsea laughed along, despite the bile that bubbled in her stomach. Amber knew full well how Jackson operated, she’d hooked up with him before. Chelsea swallowed her jealousy as she unbuttoned her flannel and stepped towards the larger woman.

Amber twisted her thick body, grinning like mad. “Jack told me you’re a kickboxer?”

“Since I was ten.”

A faint expression of surprised approval crossed Amber’s face. “Really?”

“Daddy said if I was gonna be a wanderer, he didn’t want to worry about me when I went out.” Chelsea forced her voice to lightness and stepped towards the mirrored wall. Amber’s hand lashed out, and Chelsea didn’t jump away fast enough. The larger woman’s heavy frame was mostly muscle and it all concentrated on Chelsea’s upper arm in an explosion of pain.

“Hey! I wasn’t—”

“No whining.” Amber’s raspy voice rang out hard. “There’s no such thing as ‘not ready.’”

Chelsea froze.

Amber’s flashed a vicious smile. “Nightlings won’t wait for you to be ready, and neither will I.” The last three words were a roar as Amber charged.

Chelsea swung to the side, lifting a leg. She jammed her hip into Amber and began raining blows on the other woman’s neck and shoulders. Amber pushed her away, then lowered her shoulder and charged again. She swept Chelsea off the ground, slamming her into the nearest wall. Chelsea didn’t lose her breath, but pain settled in her lower back, ribs, and head.

She wiggled and squirmed until an arm popped free. She brought it down on Amber’s neck, right where it connected to the shoulder.

Amber swore and slammed Chelsea into the wall once more. Chelsea curled her fingers, ready to drive the edge of her hand into Amber’s neck again.

“Whoa!” Jackson Hawk pushed Amber away. “What the hell is going on?”

Amber grinned. “Wanted to see what she’d do if she couldn’t use her legs. Your little nun is a scrapper, Jack.” She gave Chelsea a weak shove, before heading to the kitchen.

Jack glared at her as she walked away. He turned back to Chelsea, worry in his eyes. “You okay?”

Chelsea nodded, fighting to catch her breath. That had been unlike any sparring she’d ever done. It had been raw and brutal. No searching blows or attempts at finesse. Amber had used pure strength to batter at her. She stretched and things popped into her back. She had a strange urge to take a swing at Amber, just to see if the next bout would be that… full of energy.

Jackson gave her a suspicious once-over before stalking towards the kitchen area. “Amber—”

Amber waved a blasé hand in the air over her head as she pulled an ice cube tray out of the freezer. “Jack, stop coddling her. You’re gonna get her killed. She handled herself.” She deftly spun the ice cubes into a dish towel and walked it over to Chelsea. “I’ve pushed past my welcome, so I’m out. See you tomorrow.”

Chelsea put the ice pack on her aching head with a smile. “Sounds good. I could use the practice, apparently.”

Jackson glared at Amber’s back until the door shut. “Are you sure—”

“I’m fine, Jack.” Chelsea wandered back towards her easel. Right hand occupied with the ice pack, Chelsea studied the outline of Jackson. The longer she looked, the more off his proportions seemed to her.

She turned slightly, studying the man out of the corner of her eye. She’s couldn’t quite pinpoint what the problem was. She turned back to her outline, trying to find the discrepancies.

She had no idea how long she stared at the canvas, but eventually, a warm and calloused hand slipped under her shirt and raised gooseflesh where it trailed along skin. “Is that me?” His warbling voice belied that casual question.

Chelsea hid a smile. Most people didn’t know what to say when they saw their portrait. “It will be, some day.”

“You need me to sit or something?”

She laughed. “No, but I might take a few photos, if that’s okay.”

“What about nudes? I’m totally down with that.”

She laughed harder and leaned into Jackson. “Maybe the next one.”

“Next one, my little nun?”

She spun around and hooked a leg on his hip. “I’m thinking of a series. My favorite monster hunter in various mediums.”

He kissed her neck, sending shivers to her fingertips. “Can we do the sensual rubbing of each other with paint, like on TV?”

“Oh hell no.” Chelsea glared at him. “This shit is expensive.”

He laughed and then kissed her. “Are you sure Amber didn’t hurt you?”

Chelsea rolled her eyes and pushed out of his arms. “Jack, we’re going to fight vampires. Do you expect me to come out of that without any injuries?”

“Chelsea…” He tugged on her jeans, pulling her closer. “I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this, but I—”

Heart pounding against her ribs again, she turned to place a finger to his lips. “Jack, don’t. Please, not today.”

His green eyes angry, he stalked towards the kitchen. She turned back to her canvas, wondering if she should have let him finish, and whether or not she would have believed him.

***

There will be more Chelsea on the first Monday of the month. Follow us on twitter for witty excerpts, random thoughts, and Kate’s pop culture obsession.

When Kate Whitaker isn’t reading something random on the internet, she’s kicking the kids outside for a few moments to drift off with her keyboard.

 

Chelsea Makes a Decision

This is a series of short stories, detailing the adventures of Chelsea Childling. If you want to start at the beginning, click here. If you want to see an index of all the Chelsea stories, click here.
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Chelsea’s melancholy lifted slightly as curiosity reared its head. Jackson had pulled up to what she knew to be an empty warehouse.

The monster hunter grinned at her. “Hold up.” He hurried into the cold air and opened her door for her. “Close your eyes.”

Chelsea stood and did as commanded, but couldn’t help the snicker as freezing wind made her hair flutter. “Can I trust you?”

From the darkness, Jackson Hawk’s breath rose gooseflesh as it snaked along her neck. “Oh, my little nun, you should know better by now.”

She laughed loudly, unable to help herself. She did know better. Jackson Hawk might be sweet, and good looking, but the word ‘no’ wasn’t a part of his vocabulary when it came to women.

Still, in the weeks since Dink died, he’d been her shadow. Living in her dorm room and generally keeping her spirits up, however he could. Now, he’d brought her here. Where ever ‘here’ was. Chelsea hit a patch of ice and her feet slid out.

“Whoa.” Jackson grabbed her waist, keeping her upright, while not incidentally pulling her closer to him. “Guess I’m gonna have to buy some salt.”

Pressed against the lean mass of muscles that made up the monster hunter, Chelsea let go of some of her misery. Jackson had that effect. Something about his simplistic world view called out to her.

Jackson never worried about what other people thought and he tended to do whatever felt good at the time. That attitude was why she tried to keep her distance. More and more, though, she had to deal with the fact that it be might impossible to stay detached.

She took another step out of the ever-blowing, icy wind. “Where are we, exactly?”

Jackson hands gently spun her around. “Eyes closed.” He pressed her up against something metal and cold. Cold enough to soak through her thick winter coat and into her skin. Her goosebumps weren’t from that though. Jackson had his lips pressed to the exposed skin of her neck.

He worked his way up to her ear. “Welcome home, Chelsea.”

The metal at her back moved, and she would have stumbled if Jackson hadn’t lifted her into a deep kiss. He set her back on her feet, and a door slammed shut.

“Open your eyes.”

The aggressive pine scent told Chelsea that the concrete floor had been scrubbed recently. Waning, gray daylight filtered through the high windows, glinting off the wall of mirrors. A few mismatched chairs littered the floor space. A long island, made of reused doors, separated the kitchen from the rest of the space.

“Jack, what is this?”

He grabbed her hand, grinning manically, as he pulled her towards a black metal, spiral staircase. “Well, the nuns at your school have been giving me really dirty looks. It’s getting harder and harder to duck them, too.”

Chelsea giggled, imagining the sisters’ glowers. They didn’t hold students to any kind of chastity but they also didn’t approve of pre-marital sex… and Jackson Hawk oozed sex appeal.

Jack smirked back at her. “I figured if I was staying in town for a while, I should get my own place. Boney owed me a favor—”

“Who’s Boney?” She hated the tinge of jealousy in her voice, but there had been so many stories about so many other women…

Jackson shrugged, leading her up the stairs. “He owns the haunt. Anyway, he also rents this out to hunters who need a place to stay. I have it for a few months.”

At the top of the stairs, an all-white room glowed orange as a skylight let in the dying sunshine. The wood floor held only a bed. Though that may have been a grand title for the pallets that held up the giant mattress.

She stepped away from Jackson, examining the room. Propped against the wall, a folded screen sat next to a few hooks.

A wave of cold apprehension shivered through her veins. “I don’t—”

Jackson cut her off with a kiss. “I’m tired of sneaking around, and hiding. I want to be able to relax when I’m not killing monsters. That’s hard to do when you’re always worried about somebody showing up.”

He unzipped her coat. “And I really, really tired of having to be quiet during sex.”

“Jack…” She couldn’t find words to describe her worry. Not that it mattered. Jackson had her out of her clothes in breathtaking moments.

He tumbled her onto the low bed. “This is our place, Chelsea. I can start teaching you how to fight.”

She froze for a moment. “Fight?”

“You want to kill that nightling?” He pulled off his shirt.

She nodded.

“Then you need to learn how to fight with an ax. That’s pretty much impossible in that cell you call a room.”

She tried to object, though why and to what she didn’t know, but Jackson kissed her again, and her objections fled.

***

The morning sun woke her. For a moment, she lay staring out the skylight disorientated, unsure where she was. Jackson rolled over, slinging an arm across her, muttering in his sleep.

She laughed softly, remembering the warehouse.

She slipped out from under him, and into her clothes. Surprisingly warm air meant she didn’t need to bother with her socks and shoes.

A door she hadn’t noticed the night before caught her eye. Behind it was a large bathroom, with high windows and a claw-footed tub. Chelsea licked her lips at the thought of real soak. She bitterly resented the tiny shower in her dorm room.

Curious to explore the apartment, she hurried past the snoring Jackson and down the stairs. The main room was as empty as she remembered, but the tall windows let in so much light. She caught herself planning where to set up her easel and stopped herself.

You are killing one monster and then saying goodbye to Jackson Hawk and the supernatural.

Her melancholy from yesterday swept over her. She tried not to let the tears fall. She was so damned sick of crying. The tears came anyway.

She stared at the perfect corner for her easel, face growing ever damper, until Jackson came down the stairs.

“Chelsea?”

She hurriedly wiped at her cheeks. “So breakfast?”

Jackson waved her over to the island. He pulled eggs out of stainless steel fridge. “Can you get the toast started?”

She nodded, pulling open a bread box. They cooked in silence. Chelsea had no idea what to say, what would make her feel better. Jackson seemed engrossed in making perfect scrambled eggs.

When they were both served, he settled himself beside her at the island. “So, after we eat, fight practice, then we grab your stuff, or do you want to move in first?”

Her food stuck in her throat. She forced it down. “I have class in an hour.”

He grinned, eyes raking over her. “You missed class.”

Tears pricked again. She loved school, but failing out looked to be on the horizon for her. “Guess we’ll get my stuff first, then.”

His chair scraped across the concrete floor before he pinned her to the wall. His kisses were urgent and desperate this morning.

“Jackson…”

He pulled away, green eyes determined. “I have two ways to cheer you up, and we aren’t killing that damned nightling for a while yet.”

She laughed into his shoulder. “You don’t… you cheer me up.”

“Doesn’t look like it this morning.” His sincere voice brought a lump to her throat.

“I just…” She leaned her head against his. “I’m so confused, Jack. I don’t know what I want or what to do.”

“I know. You should take a few days and figure it out.”

She looked at the gray concrete of the floor, hating herself for what was about to come out of her mouth. “And you…”

His soft laughter raised the tiny hairs on her neck. “I’m kind of attached to you, my little nun.”

She forced herself to look at him. The gleam in his green eyes matched the little half smile on his full lips.

“Jack…”

“This place is too big for just me.” He ran a thumb over her lower lip. “I’m not saying we should pick out curtains… although, we kind of need curtains…”

She laughed, a real laugh, from deep in her belly. “We have no neighbors, we don’t need curtains.”

“We, huh?”

She leaned her head on his shoulder. “For now, Jack.”

***

Next Post

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There will be more Chelsea on the first Monday of the month. Follow us on twitter for witty excerpts, random thoughts, and Kate’s pop culture obsession.

When Kate Whitaker isn’t reading something random on the internet, she’s kicking the kids outside for a few moments to drift off with her keyboard.

Chelsea and the Maiden

This is a series of short stories, detailing the adventures of Chelsea Childling. If you want to start at the beginning, click here. If you want to see an index of all the Chelsea stories, click here.

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As Chelsea raced to her class, one thought kept repeating: My hair is sticking up in the back.

She’d tried to sneak out without waking Jackson, and that meant no shower. The monster hunter had only to peer up her with those brilliant green eyes and she would have skipped Renaissance Art History, again.

Chelsea needed this. She needed something normal. Since the vampire, the type Jackson called a nightling, had killed her friend, Dink, she’d been drifting; floating further and further away from school and her normal life.

She made it to the door just as Sister Mary Clarence was about to shut it. The nun flashed an irritated smile. “I see you’ve finally decided to join us again, Miss Childling.”

Chelsea grinned at the older woman and fought not to laugh. “Yes, sister.”

Mary Clarence had gone to school with Chelsea’s mother. The nun’s sour exterior held a big heart. She worried about Chelsea, even more since her parents’ death.

My parents and Dink. I am a death magnet.

Chelsea blinked away tears as the lights dimmed. She finally was back in class, this was something to be happy about. She loved Art History, and Sister Mary Clarence gave amazing lectures. The projector flickered and a round-limbed woman grimaced as a skeleton molested her.

“Death and the Maiden,” said Mary Clarence. “A motif started in the Late Medieval Period, but it’s threaded throughout the Renaissance. The Black Plague and various bad harvests kept it in the front of people’s minds. Live well today, for tomorrow…”

The picture blinked to black, and then another chubby woman passively accepted Death’s embrace. Only her frightened face showed what she thought of her circumstances. The nun’s voice faded to a background buzz that Chelsea couldn’t make out.

Picture after picture of red-haired women, if not so vibrant as Chelsea’s, being felt up by Death lit the classroom. Chelsea stared at them in muted horror, frozen to her seat, until Sister Mary Clarence flicked on the lights.

Chelsea bolted out of the classroom. The nun called to her, but Chelsea couldn’t stop. She ran all six blocks to her dorm, never once feeling the biting cold. There Sister Mary Ignatius stood as Chelsea ran sobbing past her. Chelsea didn’t pause then, either.

The stairs provided some release for her angry, sorrow, and mindlessly growing terror, far more than the elevator would have. Unfortunately, Chelsea’s shaking hands couldn’t get her key in her door.

Jackson opened the door after her third attempt. Concern painted his face. “Chelsea?”

She collapsed on him. He held up her dead weight, closing the door as he dragged her into her room. He slipped an arm under her legs, carried her to the bed, and laid down with her.

“What happened?” His hand ran over her hair. S

he shook her head, pressing her face into his chest. Warm lips pressed into her head, but that only brought its own pain.

He’s temporary. This will not last. I’m half surprised he hasn’t already moved on.

The sobs came harder and faster, robbing her of breath. Jackson never moved, except to pull her closer.

Eventually, her turmoil subsided. She pulled in a deep breath, and the scent of Jackson. He hadn’t showered yet, either. He smelled of clean sweat, and her perfume.

She kissed his chest and slung a leg over his. Jackson didn’t let her down. Before she quite knew what had happened, her clothes littered the floor. Neither she nor Jackson made a sound though. He only stared at her, intensity rolling off of him as he moved her onto her back.

She closed her eyes, trying to lose herself in sensation.

***

Chelsea woke sometime later, head fuzzy and eyes swollen. It took her a moment to realize that someone pounded on her door. She glanced around for Jackson. Seemingly alone in the tiny single, she pulled a robe out of her closet and opened her door.

Sister Mary Clarence stood there, worry lining her face. “Chelsea, child, are you okay?”

Chelsea nodded. “I’m fine, sister. This morning… well, art is powerful and invokes a reaction.”

The nun’s smile still showed worry. “Will I see you on Wednesday?”

“Yes, sister.”

Mary Clarence looked like she wanted to say more. Instead, she awkwardly patted at Chelsea’s shoulder. “Get some lunch.”

“I will, sister.” Chelsea shut the door with lead-heavy arms. The last thing she wanted was food of any sort.

The second to last thing she wanted slipped out of the bathroom in his underwear, all ropey muscle under his various scars. “I thought she was about to knock the door down.”

Chelsea averted her eyes, pulled on her discarded clothes, and refused to get distracted, again. “I have to get to class.”

“Yeah.” He sounded distant. “Okay.”

Chelsea dug her charcoal pencils out of their cubby, avoiding every part of Jackson Hawk. Her hand on the door, he finally spoke again.

“Amber spotted a minion outside that house. There are definitely nightlings in there.”

She froze. She’d pushed him about hunting the nightling that had killed Dink. But finding out that there was no way of knowing which nightling had done it… Chelsea didn’t know what to do.

So she nodded, and rushed away, not bothering with her gloves or hat. The brisk February wind scoured her warm skin, making her outside match her frozen core.

The bright studio provided no solace. Three objects sat on the center table, a red apple, a white rose, and an aged skull. Chelsea pushed away every memory of her mother in the garden and concentrated on lines and shadows.

When the two hours were over, her brain felt like a rung out dish towel and her fingers ached. Chelsea trudged out of the studio, unsure where to go.

A familiar voice called out. “Hey! Chelsea!” She raised her eyes to Amber. The Asian woman could have come straight from the paintings Mary Clarence had shown that morning. All round and fleshy, her pretty face mirrored the same concern Chelsea had ducked all day.

Chelsea turned away from the monster hunter. She didn’t want to talk about the hunt for the nightlings. She wanted to stop thinking.

She trudged away from the parking lot and campus. The sidewalk petered out half a mile beyond the studio. Under the cold, bright sun, Chelsea’s mind finally blanked.

She walked along the shoulder of the road, ignoring the cold, just letting herself move. As the sun hurried off to bed, the cold grew more intense. Her shivers could no longer be ignored.

Chelsea turned back to campus, feeling no better than when she had walked away. To her shock, a most familiar car rumbled up the road. Dark blue, the body was American, the doors Japanese, and the purring engine German.

 

She found her hands on her hips as Jackson pulled her car over to the shoulder. He climbed out, grinning madly. “You look cold.”

“You took my car.” He shrugged. “I was worried. Amber called, said you had run off. It’s too cold out here to be wandering around.” He reached in the car and pulled out her hat and gloves. “Here.”

Chelsea tugged the wool and leather over her stiff fingers. “Thank you.” Her voice came out small and tired, exactly how she felt. She climbed in the passenger seat, grateful for the blowing hot air.

Jackson clambered in beside her. “Want to talk?”

She shook her head. “No.” His grin grew. “I have a surprise for you.”

A small glimmer of curiosity sparked in her soul. “Really?”

He pulled off the shoulder and rumbled towards the edge of town without a word. Chelsea leaned towards him, resting her head on his shoulder.

You need to make a decision.

It was the truth, but she’d be damned if she was even sure of what the choices were.

***

Next Post

***

There will be more Chelsea on the first Monday of the month. Follow us on twitter for witty excerpts, random thoughts, and Kate’s pop culture obsession.

When Kate Whitaker isn’t reading something random on the internet, she’s kicking in the kids outside for a few moments to drift off with her keyboard.

Chelsea Childling Goes on Stakeout

This is a series of short stories, detailing the adventures of Chelsea Childling. If you want to start at the beginning, click here. If you want to see an index of all the Chelsea stories, click here.

chelsea
***

The harsh February wind blew through Chelsea. She shivered in her thick ski jacket and her earrings burned in her cartilage, little icicles of pain. “C-can we get in the car?”
In front of her, Amber glanced at Jackson. Neither demon hunter shivered in the subzero air. Still, he shrugged. “If you want.”

Chelsea rushed over to her car. Her father had rigged the thing together years ago. The body was made in America, but the doors were Japanese, and the engine German. It ran like a dream. Once inside, her shaking hands reached for the ignition.

“Nope, sorry.” Jackson grabbed her hand. “We’re on stakeout. A running car will give us away.” He shut his door, cutting off the ever blowing wind.

Chelsea pouted in her seat. “This is not nearly as fun as TV makes it seem. There isn’t even any witty banter.”

Jack laughed. “Poor thing. Give me your hands.” Not waiting at all, he stripped off her gloves. Chelsea’s shivers had little to do with the cold as he huffed hot breath over her frozen fingers.

He glanced up, green eyes all dark and unfathomable in the fading light. Chelsea knew the look on his face though. It went straight to her groin as always. He rubbed at a knuckle and her breath sped up.

“Your armpits.” Amber’s voice quivered somewhere between amused and annoyed from the back seat. “Warmest place on your body.”

Chelsea held back a laugh and tucked her hands under her arms as Jackson flashed a glare towards the other hunter. “I was trying to work some magic, here.”

Amber smirked. “Work your magic when we aren’t looking for vampires.”

The word ‘vampire’ killed all the happy, warm feelings Jackson gave her, and Chelsea was grateful. She liked Jackson, but more and more, she found herself wrapped up in sex instead concentrating on finding the monster that had killed Dink.

Charles Xavier Johnson. Called Dink, because it’s the height of hilarity to give people nicknames opposite their physical attributes.

She’d only learned Dink’s name at his memorial service, two days ago. It had pounded home what a terrible friend she had been. Dink had appointed himself her guardian after her parents died. He had kept her from alcohol poisoning, and assholes who took advantage of drunk women.

And I got him killed by a vampire.

She leaned against her seat, eyes on the seemingly empty building down the street. This was the third place lead Jackson had found. He’d been going alone to check out the buildings while she headed to class, but no more. If he found the vampires, she wanted to be there.

She took her hands out and blew on them. “How do we know if vampires are in there?”
“Dammit, Jack.” Amber laughed from the backseat. “Do you two even talk?”

Jackson shrugged. “Occasionally. But keeping to the subject at hand: first clue will be a flurry of activity at dusk. Nightlings wake up hungry. Their minions have to make themselves available for feedings as soon as the sun goes down.”

Amber leaned forward. “Second clueactually spotting a minion.”

Chelsea leaned her head on her hand. “How can I tell if someone is a minion?”

Jackson answered. “Pale, sickly looking, and scars on their necks, wrists, or thighs.”

“Not all of us get to see a lot of thigh, Jack.” Amber’s smirking voice had Chelsea giggling.

“You see plenty.” He laughed as he tugged on Amber’s black hair.

A spike of jealousy writhed through Chelsea. She tried to crush it. Jackson Hawk was charming, sweet, good-looking, and utterly indiscriminate about who he took to bed. Worse, she liked Amber, who had made it clear she had no interest in Jackson… anymore.

Jealousy is ugly and unlike me.

Jackson leaned against his door, stretching out long, one booted foot pressed against her leg. “Sun’s almost down, and no lights. I think we’ll have to head back to the bar, see if anybody’s seen a minion.”

Chelsea swallowed bile. “This town isn’t that big. How many places could they be hiding?”

Jack and Amber exchanged glances.

“What?” Chelsea sat up, unsure what emotion the other two shared. “What aren’t you telling me?”

Amber sighed. “Nightlings move around almost as much as hunters, Chelsea. There’s a decent chance the one that killed your friend isn’t in town anymore.”

Chelsea stared at the other woman for a moment. Sympathy burned in her dark eyes. Chelsea wasn’t interested in sympathy though. She threw open her door and stormed away.

Behind her, a car door opened and slammed shut, before Jackson called out. “Wait up. Frostbite is a thing.

“Not now, Jack.”

“Chelsea, stop.” His voice sounded strange. It took her a moment to register the stern tone of command.

She whirled around, temper blazing in the failing light. “You don’t—”

“Shut. Up.” His hard tone shut her mouth. “If there are nightlings on this street, the last thing you want to do is cause a scene and draw attention.”

The wind moaned in the trees, and she began shivering again. Jackson hurried over, her bright purple gloves in his hand. He snugged them on, taking the time to caress her fingers. His green eyes peering up at her through thick lashes as he did.

“More magic, Jackson?”

He smiled. “Damn right, my little nun.”

She shook her head, smiling in spite of herself. It didn’t last long. “How… how will we know if we got the right nightlings?”

A naughty smile graced his face, but he couldn’t meet her eye.

Her eyes narrowed. “Were you ever going to tell me?”

He shrugged. “Honestly, I didn’t think it would matter. You won’t stop with just one nightling.”

Her temper flared up again, but she kept her voice down. “You keep saying that, but I don’t want to hunt monsters. I want to kill this one nightling and then go back to my normal life.”

He didn’t say anything for a long moment as he stared at her with solemn eyes. Then he grinned widely. “If that’s what you want, that’s what we’ll do.” One gloved hand hooked around her waist, pulling her tight against him, their faces only a breath apart. “But I’ll miss you, my little nun.”

This is Jackson ‘I never met a woman I didn’t like’ Hawk.

“Me and how many others?”

He grinned. “Even if I had a clue as to the number, you’d never believe me.”

She laughed at his unabashed pride in himself. “Do me a favor, never change.”

“Hadn’t planned on it.” He pulled away, half turning to the car. “Let’s go.”

Chelsea pulled on his arm, turning him to face her. “Seriously, no kiss?”

Jackson laughed, low and warm in the growing darkness. “Trying to keep a low profile.”
Still, his arm snaked around her. “I’ll make it up back at your place.”

She let him lead her back to the car. As the cold and the dark deepened, the house at the end of the street lit up. It seemed to Chelsea that every light on the entire second floor snapped on simultaneously.

“Jackson…”

He nodded. “Yes, my little nun. It’s looking like we found them. We have a lot more watching to do though.”

Amber’s face shone with sympathy as Chelsea settled back into the front seat. “We should drive around once, see if any curtains are pulled back. But getting out of here is probably best.”

“I agree.” Jackson smiled over at Chelsea. “Can you casually drive around the block twice?”

A shiver ran down Chelsea’s spine as she started the car. Finally, they were getting somewhere.
***
Next Post

***

There will be more Chelsea on the first Monday of the month. Follow us on twitter for witty excerpts, random thoughts, and Kate’s pop culture obsession.

Kate Whitaker lives in the woods of the Olympic Peninsula. When she isn’t learning about coffee, she’s kicking in the kids outside for a few moments to drift off with her keyboard.

Chelsea Childling Goes to a Funeral

This is a series of short stories, detailing the adventures of Chelsea Childling. If you want to start at the beginning, click here. If you want to see an index of all the Chelsea stories, click here.

I’m writing more Chelsea stories for NaNoWriMo. You get some hints about the future on Twitter iffen you like spoilers.
***
chelsea

Chelsea examined her reflection in the mirror and tugged on the edges of her black shrug, desperately wishing she’d been a touch less rebellious. Her school had a strict dress code, and the miniature jacket had been the band-aid on many an outfit. Now, it was the only thing making her acceptable for a funeral.

Dink.

She willed the tears not to fall. Dink had been a fan of elaborate eye makeup, and she’d spent a good forty-five on hers this afternoon. She owed Dink more than winged eyeliner and false lashes, but killing the vampire that had mangled him would have to wait.

She pulled a deep breath and tugged on the shrug again. The skin-tight, black tank top underneath was also low cut. Thankfully, she owned a longish black skirt and conservative black heels.

“You look amazing.” For once, Jackson Hawk’s voice was devoid of lust. Instead, the monster hunter sounded sad and maybe a touch wistful.

She pushed her asymmetrical, red bangs behind her ears. It didn’t help. Multiple piercings lined each ear. The spikes, hoops, and studs glinted in the faint, February sun. “What is wrong with me? Why can’t I look like a grown up? I’m twenty years old.”

Warm arms wrapped around her, but wearing heels meant that Jackson’s eyes barely cleared her shoulder. They gleamed over the black cloth now. Their bright, clear green studying her before he kissed her exposed spine. “You’re gorgeous.”

She shuddered and her words came out in a wail. “I don’t want to be gorgeous. I want to look like I care that Dink’s dead.”

Jackson kissed her neck again. “No clothing will make you more or less of a friend. You cared about him. That’s more important than any shirt.”

She tore away from him, hands once more going through her closet. Maybe there was something she had overlooked. Didn’t she have a gray sweater? Where was it?

The springs on her bed creaked as Jackson sat down. “Do you want me to go with you?”

She froze, stuck halfway between wanting company, and not wanting Jackson Hawk anywhere near the clergy who ran her college. She half feared he’d burst into flame just walking into the chapel. “Do you have anything respectable to wear? We’re talking tie and a jacket.”

Jackson’s laugh floated across the room. “For you, my little nun, I can wrangle something.”

Her heart thumped against her ribs, and she hated herself a little as she went back to searching her closet. “For me? You make me sound special.”

He ducked under her arm, slipping a hand around her waist, green eyes serious. “You are special.”

Oh damn.

She forced herself to be rational. “And Scott’s wife? Was she special? And what about Amber?”

He licked his lips and grinned. “So only one woman can ever be special to me?”

The laugh ripped out of her, followed quickly by guilt.

“Don’t. He liked making you laugh.”

She choked back tears. “How would you know?”

He shrugged. “I was following you two that night.”

Her lungs and diaphragm couldn’t sync up properly. Her voice came out wispy. “You followed us?”

“There’d been a few attacks in the area. I was keeping an eye out.”

“Then why…” One hand balled into a fist and she brought it down on his shoulder. “Why didn’t you save him, too?”

“No chance.” His voice was light, unburdened by any guilt. “The other vampire was hungry. He grabbed Dink and ran before I could react.”

She turned away, staring at her hanging clothes, not seeing them. She’d been drunk, stupid drunk, and Dink had walked her home, as he had so many times before. Chelsea’s knees shook. She wobbled downward and would have fallen if Jackson hadn’t grabbed her.

She leaned her head against his, babbling to fight off tears. “It was all my fault, again.”

He kissed her hair. “Again?”

“My parents. begged to go to South Carolina for Thanksgiving. They went down the day before to open the cottage. They were mugged and killed outside the airport.”

“Not your fault.”

She shook her head. “No, it is. I threw a tantrum. begged and begged. I wanted to feel like a kid again. I got them killed, j-just like I got Dink killed.” And there was no stopping the tears as there hadn’t been for the last four months.

Her knees gave out, but Jackson didn’t stumble under her dead weight. Instead, he scooped her up and carried her to her bed. He laid down beside her, rubbing her back as she buried her face in his chest.

When she finally cried herself out, he kissed her nose. “Here’s the deal, my little nun, you take a shower and by the time you’ve redone your makeup, I’ll be back, looking respectable.”

Before she could tell him ‘no’, he was gone. Chelsea wiped a hand across her face and headed for her tiny bathroom. The hot water ran out before she was ready to leave the shower, but by the time she reapplied her false eyelashes, her heart stopped pounding. There was no disguising her red, swollen eyes, but Chelsea didn’t care. Dink and her parents deserved more than tears.

As she reapplied her lipstick, her dorm phone rang. “Miss Childling, there’s a Mr. Hawk waiting for you.”

“I’ll be right there, Sister Ignatius.” She ignored her mirror as she grabbed her coat out of the closet, refusing to contemplate the short shrug again.

Jackson was indeed, waiting in the lobby, and respectable had never looked so good. Chelsea had no idea where he’d conjured the black suit and gray tie, but it looked tailored for his slim frame. Jackson being Jackson, he ran an obvious eye along her body, grinning like a madman. Sister Mary Ignatius glowered at him as she fingered her rosary, and Chelsea had to fight not to laugh.

The nun patted her shoulder as she walked past. “It will pass, child. Time, and the Lord, heal all things.”

Chelsea found a smile. “Amen, Sister.”

Jackson held out his arm. “I’ll have her back before dark.” Sister Ignatius grunted, lips pursed, but said nothing. Chelsea was never sure how much the nuns knew or suspected regarding rule breaking, but Jackson had pretty much moved into her dorm room last week, coming and going by way of the fire escape.

Jackson walked her to an unfamiliar car. “Where to, Miss Childling?”

She opened her door and slid into expensive leather. “Seriously, Jack, the suit, the car… where did you get all this?”

“You don’t want to know.”

She glared at him.

He shrugged and started the engine. “Scott’s wife, Judy… well, she liked going out and made sure I looked good when we did. And she barely uses the car these days.”
Her hand tightened into a fist.

You know better. Jackson Hawk… is Jackson Hawk. Do not get attached.

He put a warm hand over hers. “Where to, Chelsea?”

Dink.

She had no time for jealousy. A friend needed to be laid to rest.

The cathedral at Fourth and Craig.” They rode in silence, which remained unbroken as they stepped into the cathedralChelsea wasn’t sure they spoke the rest of the day. She bounced from person to person, a human pinball of muted grief.

All she wanted was a seat, but there were Dink’s fraternity brothers, somber and glassy-eyed. They’d all but adopted her after her parents’ death. As they begged her to come by on Saturday, her lie of a promise sat bitter in her mouth. She couldn’t go back there until the vampire was dead.

Once she escaped the fraternity, she faced Father Patrick and Sister Mary Clarence. They also worried about her. Father Patrick extracted a real promise to go to his office. The portly priest was a damn good listener, but she couldn’t confess how she’d get relief from this death. Still, it would be good to cry on his shoulder, again.

Sister Mary Clarence was, as always, harping on her grades. “You’ve missed all three of my classes this week.”

“I’m sorry, Sister. I’ve been keeping up online though.” She had been going to the demon hunter’s bar with Jackson in the morning instead of Renaissance Art History.

“Barely,” the nun harrumphed. “I check, you know.”

When she’d made enough apologies, she walked toward the chapel, bouncing off the muted sympathies of people she only vaguely knew.

The doors to the chapel came into sight, but her worst nightmare stood just outside them. Dink’s mother was unmistakable. She could see Dink in every line of the woman’s face. Her tight curls and brown skin, her dark, sad eyes. She stared at nothing, barely acknowledged the people around her. Her grief surrounded her like barbed wire, keeping everyone at bay.

Jackson’s warm hand gripped Chelsea’s elbow, and he guided her past Dink’s mother and through the doors. The ceremony was a blur. Chelsea sat frozen to the hard, wooden pew as all the people around her, but Jackson, knelt or stood along with the priest.
She didn’t hear Father Benedict’s eulogy. She barely registered the children’s choir. One thought ran through her mind as she stared at the shining wood of the closed casket.

I will find the monster that did this, and I will kill it.

Jackson put a hand over hers and squeezed. There was little comfort there, either.

***
Next Post

***

There will be more Chelsea on the first Monday of the month. Follow us on twitter for witty excerpts, random thoughts, and Kate’s pop culture obsession.

Kate Whitaker lives in the woods of the Olympic Peninsula. When she isn’t learning about coffee, she’s kicking in the kids outside for a few moments to drift off with her keyboard.