Last Kiss Goodnight (Page 21)

Last Kiss Goodnight (Otherworld Assassin #1)(21)
Author: Gena Showalter

Now, now, now. Another shake, a harder shake. Shake, shake, shake.

Rage . . . melding with a sudden burst of weakness . . .

Frustration . . . blending with a sudden spring of icy water . . .

The drugs, he realized as his mind hazed. The drugs must activate with stronger emotions, because with every moment that passed, the weakness grew and the icy water flooded another part of him, until he no longer had the strength to grip the bars.

His arms fell heavily to his sides, and his head lolled forward, his chin hitting his sternum. He lost track of his surroundings and just sort of tipped over. Right before landing, he thought he heard Criss say, “I told you so.”

Nine

Break up your fallow ground, and do not sow among thorns.

—JEREMIAH 4:3

VIKA PACED INSIDE HER trailer, the second biggest vehicle in the lot. (Her father’s was number one, of course.) The walls were covered with pink lace and draped with several jewel-toned tapestries. Every piece of furniture was plush, white, and expensive. The coffee table was Victorian and the legs carved to resemble dragons. The side tables were topped with crystal vases and ornate bowls.

A fairy-tale home fit for a fairy-tale princess, her father often said.

Fine fabrics were strewn about. Velvets, satins, silks, and even the highly expensive cotton. She knew how to sew, and was supposed to design herself “a wardrobe fit for the daughter of a king.” She hadn’t. And she wouldn’t.

To go along with her clothing, she had jade necklaces, ruby bracelets, and sapphire pendants, plus a set of diamond fingernails with rings of gold that wound all the way to her knuckles, and a brooch in the shape of a lion head, its fur made of amber, its eyes of ebony. Each piece sparkled as the overhead light cast out soft, golden rays. So pretty. So useless. They were items she was currently unable to sell, because her father would miss them.

“Why don’t you wear the things I give you?” Jecis demanded at least once a week.

“They’re not my style,” she would say. And so he would try again, giving her something else, something bigger, not understanding she had no desire to wear his guilt offerings—which was exactly what they were.

But last night at dinner, all that had changed. She had worn one of the necklaces, as planned, and he’d ruffled her hair, quite pleased with her, never noticing the slight bulge of the bandage under her shirt.

Oh, what a life I lead.

Her mother would have loved the trailer and the clothes and the jewels. She would have sewn as many gowns as possible, and danced across the entire home, laughing and twirling, and making Vika giggle.

A sudden lance of sadness pierced her. Her beautiful mother, who had claimed to love her more than anything, but had left her only child to run away with her lover.

Within a few days, Jecis had found her and dragged her back. Then, the next morning, he had summoned all the performers in one place and announced that his wife had died of a black, rotting heart. And that was true. Jecis had a black, rotting heart, and he’d killed her.

Vika had no idea what had happened to the lover.

Anyway, she wasn’t going to ponder the past, she reminded herself. She would think about today: opening day for the circus in New Atlanta.

She was to stay inside her trailer until her father finished with all of his duties and performances. She was to relax, eat her many chocolates, and enjoy herself, as if hours and hours with nothing to do but count her savings (for the three thousandth time) was fun, while everyone else within their circus “family” worked for their food and lodging, not just by helping with clothing, tents, games and vehicles, but through performing.

Vika was only to care for the otherworlders after the patrons left. That way, the townies never saw her, never tried to harm her, and heads never had to roll. More importantly, the circus never had to move to a new location sooner than planned, simply to avoid the law.

Jecis wanted Vika safe—from everyone but him.

When will you learn, Vika? There cannot be two masters in one house. You do what I say, when I say, or you suffer. I love you, but I cannot make allowances for you, just because you’re my only child.

A father who loved his daughter would not beat her. A father who loved his daughter would not maim and exile one of her only two friends, forcing her to give up the other for fear of watching the girl receive the same treatment. A father who loved his daughter would not murder her precious pets.

I just want to live in peace.

And yet, still she hadn’t stayed inside today. She had spent five minutes out in the open, running through the zoo to check on the newcomer. Five minutes, that was all, but in her father’s opinion that was five minutes too long.

A shudder nearly rocked her off her feet, and she tumbled onto the couch. How she wished Jecis was the man he used to be, the man who had listened to her stories about butterflies and tucked her in at night, but everything had changed when her grandfather died and he took over the circus.

The place had been in horrible shape, facing financial ruin. Money had quickly become Jecis’s only concern and he’d begun selling drugs and women in between acts. He’d had to do terrible things to keep his employees in line and his secrets in the dark, and those things had destroyed the man she’d known. But his pockets had filled, and that had been all that mattered to him. Within a year, he’d turned the place around—and his own terrible transformation had been complete.

If he found out what she’d done today, he would punish her for placing herself in danger.

If. Ha. He would. Too many people had seen her, just like she’d known they would.

Why had she done it, then?

There was no need to ponder; she already knew the answer. She’d done it because she couldn’t get the prisoner out of her mind. A thousand times she had remembered how she’d had her hands on him. Her bare hands. Male to female, heat to heat. A thousand more, she had remembered how she’d had her mouth on him—and just how much she’d liked it.

Suddenly she felt the vibration of someone’s . . . scream against her skin? Oh, yes. A scream. The fine hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. She nearly threw open her door to peek outside.

The newest addition to the zoo had finally reached the end of his tolerance.

Sympathy welled inside her. All night he’d desperately fought to free himself, yet he’d made no progress. Fearing her father would hear his curses and decide to act, she had waited nearby, ready to doctor his injuries. But Jecis had never appeared, and the newcomer had continued to struggle, until the realization that he was stuck in the cage had at last settled in. Anger had contorted his features and his skin had taken on that crimson cast. His teeth and claws had grown, and though she should have run away in fear, the alteration had fascinated Vika.