The first two chapters of Badly In Blood are below!
Blood spotted my vision, crimson dripping down walls and pooling on tiles. It stained the pristine white towels, soaking into every woven fiber like a disease. It ate away the light, the life, the soul. Everything was gone or ash. Just gone.
A buzzing lit my ears, but I brushed it aside, staring in the corner of the room as a puddle of blood surrounded the stainless steel stepstool. It reflected in the metal, spawning a horrifying and yet hypnotic image.
Buzz, buzz, buzz again.
What was that sound? And what was that pressure slowly weighing on my shoulders?
I think that’s my name.
That was my name. Before. Before there was nothing.
“Koralein. Please look at me. Please.”
There was that voice again—so compelling. It struck a nerve in my core, the vibrations seeping throughout my body.
I blinked and the mesmerizing blood was gone.
“Koralein.” The weight on my shoulders tightened.
I finally peeled my gaze away now that the crimson liquid was gone, no longer capturing my attention, to find a pair of chocolate brown eyes staring into mine. Gold flecks danced in them, flaring with every breath he took. Golden brown hair cropped shorter on the sides and longer on top fell in his handsome face currently etched with worry. His plump bottom lip was caught between his teeth as if waiting for something.
This was Rex.
“Rex.” I spoke his name. At least I think I did.
A flicker of relief softened those lines on his face before they settled back again even deeper. “Kory, where are you hurt?” His hands slowly hovered over me, trying to find the source of his worry without touching me.
A body broken and empty, floating on a pool of blood flashed through my mind. Pale blonde hair tinted pink and skin thin against blue veins. No life. Maggie.
I shook the image away and glanced down, finding droplets of blood forming on the tile beneath me like drizzles of rain. I blinked, but they remained.
“That’s a lot of blood.” A new voice struck my ears.
“I can’t tell where it’s coming from,” Rex growled. “I can’t even tell if it’s hers.” Rex shook me harder this time. “Where are you hurt Kory?”
Where was I hurt?
I knew what he was asking. My brain simply couldn’t process the information. It was hiding things from me. Things I didn’t want to see—like a child shielding their eyes from the monster in front of them. I was simply hidden from the bad as long as the bad was hidden from me.
“Where do you feel pain?” he asked, his gaze searing into mine.
I took stock of my body and knew I had injuries. They were there in the distance, pulsing. Only if I felt them, paid attention to them, other things might get in the way. Other more painful things no amount of ice or medicine could ever heal.
“I feel…” I gazed into Rex’s eyes while he leaned forward as if waiting on a precipice. “Nothing.”
Panic rippled through his expression, lighting those gold flecks in his eyes. It took him a moment to collect himself, his jaw flexing and chest enveloping a deep, steadying breath.
“What’s wrong with her?” Jack—I think that was his name—stood in the doorway of Rex’s bathroom, his body taut.
“She’s in shock.” Rex began sliding my leather jacket off my arms. “I’ve got to get her in the shower. Get her some clothes.” His voice was so authoritative it made me want to listen. Should I get me some clothes too?
Jack nodded, his dark hair sliding in his pale face. “Anything else?”
“Shut the door behind you.”
With a resonating click of the door Rex pushed me up against the counter and squatted, taking off my boots. A sense of urgency hung in the air, thick and buzzing against my skin. He tossed them aside with a thud and quickly stood, towering over me. He removed my black knit shirt and then tank top, leaving me in a black bra. His eyes roamed over my torso while his hand gently grazed. His movements were mechanical and medical, searching for injuries. A few curses tumbled out his mouth. Blood smeared my torso from gashes and scrapes along with lumps and bruises.
An image of getting thrown into a wall flashed through my mind.
Rex leaned forward, opening the glass door of the shower and lifted the handle until a spray of water rained down. He stood, his body tense as he stared, taking several deep breaths. He was waiting for the water to warm, but the tremor in his shoulders made me think otherwise. He was taking a moment to gather himself.
When he spun back around he averted his eyes as he unbuttoned my jeans and carefully dragged them down my legs. Those too were bloody and bruised, cuts marring the skin.
Was this all my blood?
It couldn’t be.
My gaze landed on a startlingly dark drop of burgundy next to the other crimson splotches as Rex helped me step out my jeans.
That was not my blood.
That was his blood. The demon. The demon that killed her…
I shook my head, shattering the dangerous thoughts threatening to drag me into a world of pain. I wouldn’t let it.
Rex’s hands were on my cheeks, gently tilting my head up. His touch was suddenly more intimate, softer, warmer, caring. The feeling of his lips against mine, molding and caressing went through me. It had my insides sparking with life for an instant.
It was enough for him to notice—that one tiny wisp of awareness and he clung to it. Emotion seeped into his eyes as he leaned closer. “Don’t get lost on me Koralein. Please,” he whispered over the sound of the shower, his thumbs brushing the length of my cheeks.
A lump rose in my throat and I nodded. The pleading in his eyes was too much, chipping away the icy, numb veneer surrounding me. Most of my defenses had always been immune to him.
I leaned off the counter and reached for the shower door. “I can do it.” My voice was strained, sounding strange to my ears.
His hands released my face. I slipped off my bra and underwear, his gaze no longer on me until I stepped into the shower. The glass door wasn’t completely transparent especially with the hot steam crawling along it. But I didn’t care if Rex saw me naked.
The warm water burned my cold skin, sending needles across me. I winced without making a sound. I just stared at the white tiles as the pink tinted water swirled down the drain, wishing it could take with it the last few hours of my life.
Rex was there when I stepped out, holding a white towel open for me. His gaze remained on my face as I came forward, wrapping the soft terrycloth around me. He didn’t stop there. His arms followed, enveloping me in his warm embrace. My face landed on his chest, finding the hard planes more comfortable than any bed or pillow I’d ever laid on.
Moments later—which was probably more like an hour—I was sitting on the loveseat in Rex’s living room with my knees drawn up against my chest. I glimpsed a gauzy white bandage on my arm and from the stiffness I could tell there were plenty more all over my body. I didn’t remember him bandaging me or even getting dressed yet here I sat in yoga pants and a tank top, staring listlessly at the fire.
Rex was suddenly in my line of vision and kneeling in front of me, his face deeply lined with worry. His lips moved and sound came out, but I couldn’t understand his words. It was as if he was under water or speaking another language. His hands reached up and cradled my cheeks, his touch so hot against my cold skin it stung. He frowned and said something else indiscernible. He left and returned with a soft blanket that held his spicy scent, wrapping it around me before disappearing again.
Where did he go? It was too hard to turn my head so I waited for his return only someone else blocked my gaze from the fire. Her brows were furrowed in concern. Red hair, green cat eyes, porcelain skin. Bridget.
The sight of her zapped the haze out of my mind, violently tossing me back into reality.
Her stupid lilting accent assaulted my ears. “Here’s some tea Kory. It will help relax and warm you.” She held a porcelain cup of steaming liquid in her hand, offering it to me.
My gaze narrowed and face hardened, tempted to throw that steaming cup of shit at her. In my peripheral I saw Rex walk out of his room, his eyes widening at my expression.
He crossed the room in long strides, quickly taking the cup from Bridget’s hands. “I don’t think Kory wants that right now Bridg,” he said, his gaze surveying me as my senses slowly returned.
“Oh but it will help her.”
He shook his head and pulled Bridget away.
A shiver racked my body and the sound of my teeth chattering echoed through the room, forcing me to realize how cold I was. I pulled the blanket tighter around me, curling into my body to seek warmth that wasn’t there.
“Koralein, can you hear me?” Rex was kneeling in front of me again.
I met his dark eyes. “I’m s-so c-cold.”
He rubbed my arms, warmth sparking the surface of my skin. “It’s because you’re in shock.”
I vaguely remembered him saying that to Jack earlier.
Was I? That had never happened before, not even after my parents died or not that I can remember. Maybe it did happen. I was only seven.
“Do you want something warm to eat or drink?” He knew better than to offer me the tea Bridget made.
I grimaced and shook my head. The mere thought of anything entering my stomach made me sick.
My eyes shifted to the coffee table, staring at a tiny chip, but I could feel Rex’s worry weighing on me. He got up and spoke to Bridget, their words quiet whispers. Footsteps echoed and then the door closed. Rex sat on the couch next me so close I could feel heat radiating from him.
“Bridget’s gone. It’s just you and me now.”
I knew what he was hinting at. He was saying I could fall apart. Only I was afraid to.
He brushed the hair from my face, his fingers lingering on my back. “Look at me Koralein.”
A lump was growing in my throat as my chest tightened painfully.
“Koralein,” he pleaded. “It’s all right. We’re alone now.”
My breath caught. Images of Maggie bombarded my mind followed by snapshots of her death—no murder. Everything I wanted to hide from came rushing back like a tidal wave, slamming me. Her listless blue eyes and skin thinned by the theft of her life force. The oily black eyes of the demon I killed.
I let my gaze trickle down to my wrist to see the third broken infinity symbol shockingly dark stamped on my skin.
It wasn’t enough that I killed him. No amount of broken infinity symbols would be enough to bring my aunt back or take away the pain and terror she must have suffered when that thing sucked her life out.
Rex’s hot fingers were on my cold face, turning it toward his. Deep worry lined his face, shimmering in his eyes to swallow up the last ounce of control I was hanging onto. My lips trembled and hot tears spilled down my cheeks, burning my skin. He pulled me against his chest just as the damn exploded. Choking sobs tore out my mouth and I shook.
“Let it out Koralein. Let it out.”
I definitely did.
I pressed my face into his chest, soaking his shirt. I hadn’t cried like this since my parents died and I hadn’t cried in front of anyone in years. It was mortifying and relieving all at the same time. I let everything go. I was that little girl again, heartbroken and alone. Something in me hardened the day my parents died and here was Rex tearing the stone down to expose my gaping wounds as he held me, trying to bandage them back together.
The fight, the kiss all brushed aside. None of that mattered.
His strong arms dragged me into his lap, shielding me from the rest of the world so that only he could see my pain.
Images of blood and gore, demons and pain flashed behind my eyes before they snapped open. I was tucked in Rex’s bed, his scent so strong it instantly stilled the trembling in my muscles. I vaguely wondered if Bridget had slept in his bed since she’d been here. I couldn’t smell her. Could she smell me? She was only human, but a girl knew when her boyfriend’s sheets didn’t smell like her.
Nighttime still blanketed the city beyond the massive windows, lights for stars in an urban sky. I’d only slept a few hours. Choking emotions threatened to rip me apart again. I squeezed my eyes shut, forcing them down with effort.
I sat up and sighed. Rex had left the door open this time and I could see his foot hanging over the edge of the couch. My cheeks flushed remembering him holding me while I cried myself to sleep. I had conflicting emotions about that, which was how I often felt about Rex. I could loathe him and at the same time be awed by him. It was like that from the beginning. The first time I saw him standing under that oak tree, I hated that he could see me when no one else could. But I also thought he was dangerous and beautiful. When he caught up to me I hated that he was so much stronger and faster than me and yet thrilled by it.
The memory of that kiss—or rather kisses—was bittersweet too. Rex had been the one to initiate the hottest, steamiest moment of my life yet he was the one saying he didn’t feel that way about me.
He was lying. Maybe.
I shook myself, scattering those dangerous thoughts. This thing between us—whatever it was—wasn’t going anywhere. But if I wasn’t careful I might be. I was seventeen and not legal. I didn’t have a guardian anymore. The weight of my situation wasn’t lost on me. Rex said he’d take care of me, but if I screwed things up, pushed him too far, he might be forced to hand me over to someone else.
Still, I couldn’t help but want to be near him.
I hated being weak.
I gathered the comforter in my arms, wincing from the sharp pains that radiated all over my body.
Son of a bitch!
That demon nearly tore me to pieces.
I tiptoed toward the living room, gritting my teeth to keep from groaning, and sat on the loveseat adjacent to the couch.
Rex’s lids immediately lifted, his brow furrowing in worry. “Koralein?”
The darkness shrouded the pink suddenly highlighting my cheeks. “I can’t sleep,” I whispered then buried myself in the covers, hoping he would leave it at that. When I heard the other couch creak I knew he was going back to sleep.
I didn’t know what I would have done tonight without Rex. I didn’t even want to think about it. I also didn’t want to think about how much I was beginning to rely on him. It was comforting and yet dangerous at the same time.
Maggie lay on a blue float in the lake, her pale skin pinked by the sun while big sunglasses protected her pretty blue eyes. My legs dangled off the edge of the doc, swinging above the dark deep water, too wary of the unknown beneath to trust it.
I was eight.
“Kory, sweetie, are you going to come in or not?” Maggie asked while her hand trailed beside her in the water. “Nothing’s going to get you.”
My brow knit. I wasn’t so sure. There could be monsters lurking at the bottom, waiting for my juicy legs. I did see Jaws.
“Don’t be scared squirt.” Maggie’s boyfriend Jake rubbed my head, messing up my hair.
I swatted his hand away and scowled. “I’m not scared.” I wasn’t. I just preferred to know what I was jumping into. Or at least have a weapon. My hand flexed. Maybe a knife of some kind. A big one.
Jake downed his beer before picking up another one, twisting the cap off while he shot me a grin. He motioned the bottle toward me. “Want a sip?”
I scoffed. “No.” Ewwe. Like I’d drink after him. “I’d rather not wake up puking my guts out or pissing in the trashcan.” I’d seen him do it.
His blue eyes sparkled. “You got a mouth on you, don’t you?”
“Jake, stop messing with her. She’s just a kid.”
He laughed before diving off the doc and swimming out toward Maggie. He popped up beside her and hung on the side of her float, dripping water onto her. He shook his blonde hair out, wetting her even more until she squealed.
“Cut it out Jake.” She didn’t sound like she minded it though.
Jake laughed and dove back under the surface.
I watched Aunt Maggie adjust her tiny yellow bikini. She was so pretty. Of course she was pretty. She was a model.
Maybe I could be a model one day.
But posing in front of a bunch of sleeze ball men in barely enough to cover my girl stuff didn’t sound too appealing. I’d rather punch those men than prance for them.
I couldn’t believe I used to want to be a princess when I grew up. How embarrassing.
In all fairness it was my parents’ fault. They were the ones who decorated my room with all that pink frilly fairytale stuff. Of course I liked it. I was five! That was ages ago. I was practically a toddler then—very susceptible to suggestion.
The image of my parents suddenly bombarded by mind. I hadn’t thought about them in forever. I always pushed them away to the back of my brain, blocking them with an iron wall and somehow they just slipped through.
A painful knot formed in my chest, clogging my throat. Tears burned in my eyes, turning the blue sky with puffy white clouds blurry.
No. No. No.
I will not cry. I will not.
I clenched my teeth, gritting against the pain that wanted to drown me. I shook off the pictures of their smiling faces and swallowed the knot back down, shoving it in the pit of my stomach where it belonged. My parents were never coming back and being sad over it didn’t get me anywhere.
I took a deep, calming breath and ran my toes through the surface of the cool water. I pulled my foot back up, blinking confusedly at the crimson liquid marring my skin.
Did I cut myself?
I dipped my foot back under the surface, pulling it out to examine. Goose bumps exploded across my skin as ice sank through my veins. The thick, syrupy substance slid down my ankle, dripping back into the ocean of crimson.
This is water. This is blood.
My gaze shifted to Maggie. Rivers of red flowed over her, branching out across her skin. Her blonde hair was now pink from it.
“Maggie!” I choked out.
She sat up, removing her sunglasses to reveal milky blue eyes. A gaping hole tore her neck open, oozing more blood. “What is it Kory? What’s wrong?”
My heart clogged my throat, preventing me from speaking. I helplessly watched as Jake popped back to the surface. Only it wasn’t Jake.
Black curls of hair stuck to a pale, sharp face, framing ageless brown eyes. Those dark brown eyes found me, flooding with tar as his mouth opened, revealing two rows of sharp teeth stained with Maggie’s blood.
“Don’t trust them Kory,” Maggie said, scratching at her wound as if it were a mere bug bite.
A vicious smile curled the demons lips. “I should have known considering your blood… Your parents would be so proud.” His bloodied arm gripped Maggie’s waist and pulled over off the float, down into red oblivion
My eyelids snapped open, my heart pounding in my chest. Blood spotted my vision, trickling down the white walls. I blinked several times, clearing the morbid images from my head and shaking off the horrific dream.
Gray overcast skies stared at me from beyond the floor to ceiling windows in Rex’s living room. The couch he had been sleeping on was empty. I felt cold except for my right hand. It was laying against something warm and solid.
I glanced down, surprised to find Rex stretched out on the floor next to the loveseat. The reason my hand wasn’t icy like the rest of me was because it was on his arm, tucked under the sleeve of his t-shirt and gripping his solid bicep.
Heat flared across my cheeks, trickling down my neck. Did he know it was there?
I started to pull my hand back, but my fingers didn’t want to release their hold. I closed my eyes for a moment, savoring the feel of his skin and the warmth it brought. I thought of his lips on mine, bringing a flush to my entire body and melting the cold.
Rex stirred, shifting his head toward me and meeting my eyes.
I snatched my hand back, completely embarrassed.
A ghost of a smile curled his lips, his brown eyes dancing with gold flecks as he surveyed me. “Did I wake you?”
I tried to keep my face neutral. He was awake, knowing my hand was up his shirt? And he didn’t remove it? “Why are you on the floor,” I blurted, my voice hoarse.
Rex sighed as he rolled over on his back, staring up at me. “You were having nightmares. I just…” He trailed off, his brow knitting in thought as if he wasn’t sure why he decided to sleep on the floor by me. He swallowed audibly. “I wanted to be there in case you woke up and you needed m—uh—something.”
He was going to say needed me, meaning him.
Part of me wanted to deny it. The other knew I’d be lying.
Instead I turned and sat up. Or at least I tried. Sharp pains exploded through my body, prodding me everywhere like a hundred knifes. My sharp intake of air echoed through the living room.
“Kory, are you okay?” Rex was now sitting alert, surveying me with worried eyes.
“Fine,” I grimaced, grabbing my ribs were the worst pain was as I struggled into a sitting position.
Motherfucker! I did not feel this bad last night. Of course I was blocking pretty much everything.
Maybe I should go back to that.
Rex’s hand was unexpectedly lifting my shirt, exposing my bruised torso. I must have removed the wraps at some point. His fingers gently trailed across my skin, delicious heat shimmering in their wake.
That feels nice, I vaguely thought. Maybe I wouldn’t go back numb.
“Do you want some ice for this?” His voice was a deep whisper.
I swallowed hard and bit my bottom lip to keep from telling him what I really wanted. Another kiss. I shook my head.
His dark eyes bored into me, attempting to read past all my bullshit. After a few moments he blinked and looked away. “Okay.”
He rolled to his feet, graceful as ever and stood. From this vantage point I felt like a dwarf compared to him. He was so big. “I’ll make some breakfast.”
I grimaced. “I’m not hungry.”
“You need to eat. Just try.”
I sighed knowing arguing was futile. My eyes followed Rex to his bedroom until he stopped at the door, glancing back at me, his expression quizzical.
“What’s going to happen to me?” My voice was barely audible and I hated the fear I could hear in it.
A shadow crossed his face. “We’ll figure it out. It’ll be okay.”
I managed to swallow down two pancakes—of course only because Rex made them and they were the best pancakes I’d ever tasted. Afterwards a horrible conversation I’d been dreading came up. With help from the ferrums in the police department and coroner’s office they covered up Maggie’s murder. Rex was hesitant to tell me they decided to write it up as an overdose. He thought it would upset me, but honestly it was the best decision. That way no one would be poking around, asking questions. It was simple and self-inflicted.
My eyes took in my former living room, expecting to see more damage. All the furniture was removed, including the smashed coffee table. Several stark white spots dotted the dingy walls where someone had covered up holes with plaster. The fireplace mantel had been removed as was the iron poker I used as a weapon. The shitty brown carpet was replaced too. It was now beige—the color the previous one was probably supposed to be.
How did they do this in only a few hours?
Everything seemed spotless. And yet I could still detect the scent of blood and death lingering under the disinfectant.
“Come on Kory.” Rex’s hand rested gently on the small of my back as he led me toward the hall, staying on my right side as if to block me from the kitchen.
Believe me. I didn’t want to see that.
I kept my eyes fixed forward as we passed, a lump knotting in my chest. For a moment the walls dripped with blood, pooling on the carpet. I shook my head, shattering the hallucinations.
Rex brought me to my house to get some things. Of course it wasn’t my house anymore. Maggie was renting and without her social security I couldn’t afford to keep it. I didn’t want it. The thought of staying here for more than an hour had my skin crawling.
I pushed the door to my room open and grabbed a duffle bag out my closet, immediately dumping clothes into it.
“Do you have a bag for your laptop?” Rex asked, grabbing it off my bed along with the power cord.
I shook my head. Like I could afford a bag for the damn thing. “Just put it in anything.”
I went to my dresser, catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror. My long, soot colored hair was messy around my pale face and dark eyes haunted. A boxers cut split my eyebrow while another gash slashed along my cheek, bruising surrounding it. My bottom lip was busted. My knuckles were purple and few split open.
I looked a hot mess.
I dumped the contents of one drawer into the bag. I felt like I was drifting weightless in a vast ocean, nothing keeping me down. Nothing holding me. No one wanting me. I didn’t belong anywhere.
Rex said he’d take care of me, but I couldn’t really expect that much from him. I couldn’t expect to live at his place. I wasn’t his responsibility. Look what happened to the last person whose responsibility I was. Maggie’s death was on my hands. I ruined her even before her death.
A shiver of panic rippled through my body, tightening my chest. I glanced at the bed and saw that Rex had already filled two other bags. I dropped the one I was holding and marched over, shaking my head.
“No.” I started pulling clothes out, tossing them on my bed. “No. It’s too much stuff.” I couldn’t be a permanent guest in his apartment. “Too much.”
“Kory. It’s fine. You want your things, don’t you?”
I shook my head frantically, terror sinking into my chest. My heart was hammering and breath ragged. “There’s no place for them.” Really I meant me.
“We’ll find a place.” Rex gripped my hands to stop me. “Koralein, it’s okay.”
No it wasn’t.
Blood suddenly spotted my hands, dripping onto his. I blinked, trying to make it disappear. It wasn’t leaving. I snatched my hands away, staring at them horrified. My body trembled and breaths came in quick pants, unable to deliver enough oxygen to my brain. The dingy walls were closing in, suffocating and sucking every ounce of air out.
“Koralein.” Rex’s hands found my face, forcing me to meet his eyes. “Breathe. It’s okay. Just breathe.” He made a show of breathing deeply, his chest rising and falling in a slow, calming manor.
I gripped his wrists, staring into his eyes and following his movements. My fingers bit into his skin, but he didn’t budge. The panic finally began to recede as did the blood.
He pulled me closer until there was barely an inch between us, burning me with his intense gaze. “I told you you’re coming home with me now.”
“But I can’t…”
I clenched my jaw against the arguments that were warring in my head. “I think I need to leave,” I blurted instead. “This place is making me…” I shook my head, unable to find the right words.
“It’s okay. We can come back.”
I nodded, still clutching his thick, sturdy wrists. “I think I need to be alone for a while. I’m going for a walk.”
He hesitated. It was clear he wanted to tell me to stay out of trouble, but thought better of it. Instead he nodded.
He probably should have told me to stay out of trouble. Because that was exactly where I was headed.