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CHAPTER 33

As Phury sat on his bed, he was so strung out from the need to have sex, he could barely pour himself another shot of vodka. The bottle shook, the glass shook. Hell, the whole mattress was shaking.

He looked at Vishous, who was leaning back against the headboard beside him. The brother was just as twitchy and miserable as he nodded his head to 5Cent's The Massacre.

Five hours into Bella's fertile time and they were both a mess, their bodies mostly instinct, their minds mostly fog. The compulsion to stay at the mansion couldn't be overridden, the needing pulling them in tight, paralyzing them. Thank God for the red smoke and the Grey Goose. The numbing out helped a lot.

Though not with everything. Phury tried not to think about what was going on in Z's room. Because when the brother hadn't come back, it was obvious that his body was being used, not the morphine.

Dear God the two of them. Together. Over and over again

"How you doing?" V asked.

" 'Bout the same as you, my man." He took a deep drink from his glass, his body swimming, lost, drowning in the erotic sensations trapped under his skin. He eyed the bathroom.

He was about to get up and head for a little privacy again when Vishous said, "I think I'm in trouble."

Phury had to laugh. "This won't last forever."

"No, I mean I think there's something wrong. With me."

Phury narrowed his eyes. His brother's face looked strained, but otherwise it was the same as always. Handsome lines, goatee around the mouth, swirling tattoos at the right temple. Those diamond eyes were sharp, undimmed even by the Grey Goose, the blunts, the needing. Their superblack centers shined with a vast, incomprehensible intelligence, a genius so powerful it was unnerving.

"Like what kind of trouble, V?"

"I, ah" Vishous cleared his throat. "Only Butch knows this. You don't tell anyone else, true?"

"Yeah. No problem."

V stroked his goatee. "My visions have dried up."

"You mean you can't see"

"What's coming. Yeah. I'm getting nothing anymore. The last thing I received was about three days ago, right before Z went after Bella. I saw them together. In that Ford Taurus. Coming here. After that, there's been nothing."

"You ever have something like this happen before?"

"No, and I'm not getting anyone's thoughts anymore, either. It's like the whole thing dried up on me."

Abruptly the brother's tension seemed to have nothing to do with the needing. He seemed rigid from fear. Holy shit. Vishous was scared. And the anomaly was downright jarring. Of all the brothers, V was the one who never was afraid. It was like he'd been born without fear receptors in his brain.

"Maybe it's just temporary," Phury said. "Or you think maybe Havers could help?"

"This isn't about physiology." V finished the vodka in his glass and held out his hand. "Don't hog the Goose, my brother."

Phury passed him the bottle. "Maybe you could talk to"

But who? Where could V, who knew everything, go for answers?

Vishous shook his head. "I don't want I don't want to talk about this, actually, Forget I said anything." As he poured, his face closed up tight, a house battened down. "I'm sure it will come back. I mean, yeah. It will."

He put the bottle on the table next to him and held up his gloved hand. "After all, this godforsaken thing still glows like a lamp. And until I lose this whacked-out night-light of mine, I figure I'm still normal. Well normal for me."

They fell silent for a while, Phury looking into his glass, V staring into his, the rap in the background beating, thumping, switching to G-Unit.

Phury cleared his throat. "Can I ask you about them?"

"About who?"

"Bella. Bella and Zsadist."

V cursed. "I'm not a crystal ball, you know. And I hate telling fortunes."

"Yeah, I'm sorry. Forget it."

There was a long pause. Then Vishous muttered, "I don't know what's going to happen to them. I don't know because I just can't see anymore."


As Butch got out of the Escalade, he looked up at the grungy apartment building and wondered again why in the hell John had wanted to come here. Seventh Street was nasty and dangerous.

"This it?"

When the boy nodded, Butch activated the security alarm on the SUV. He wasn't particularly worried about the thing being stripped while they were gone. Folks around here would be convinced one of their dealers was inside. Or someone even more picky about their shit who'd be packing heat.

John walked up to the tenement's door and pushed. The thing opened with a squeal. No locks. Big surprise. As Butch followed, he put his hand inside his suit coat so he could get at his gun if he needed to.

John went left down a long corridor. The place smelled like old cigarette smoke and moldy decay and was almost as cold as the great outdoors. The in-house residents were like rats: unseen, only heard, on the other side of thin walls.

Down at the end the boy pushed open a fire door.

A staircase jogged up to the right. The steps had been worn down to the particleboard, and there was the sound of dripping water from somewhere a couple of flights up.

John put his hand on a banister that was screwed loosely into the wall, and he went up slowly until he got to the landing between the second and third floors. Up above, the fluorescent light that was sunk into the ceiling was in its death-rattle stage, the tubes flickering as if desperately trying to keep up a useful life.

John stared at the cracked linoleum on the floor, then looked up at the window. Starburst patterns covered the thing as if it had been pummeled with bottles. The only reason the grimy glass hadn't broken was because it was embedded with chicken wire.

From the floor above there was a splatter of curses, a kind of verbal shotgun that was undoubtedly the beginning of a fight. Butch was about to suggest that they get out of Dodge when John turned away of his own accord and started jogging down the stairs.

They were back in the Escalade and heading out of the bad part of town less than a minute and a half later.

Butch came to a stop at a traffic light. "Where to?"

John wrote and then flashed the pad.

"Home it is," Butch murmured, still having no idea why the kid had wanted to visit that stairwell.


John said a passing hello to Wellsie when he came into the house and then took off for his room. He was grateful that she seemed to understand he needed some space. After he shut his door he dropped his notebook on the bed, shrugged out of his coat, and immediately headed for the shower. While the water was heating up, he stripped out of his clothes. Once he was under the spray, he stopped shaking.

When he came back out, he put on a T-shirt and a pair of sweatpants, then eyed his laptop on the desk. He sat down in front of it, thinking that maybe he should write something. The therapist had suggested it.

God Talking to her about what had happened to him had been almost as bad as living through the experience the first time. And he hadn't meant to be as candid as he'd been. It was just about twenty minutes into the session, he'd cracked and his hand had started scribbling and he hadn't been able to stop once the story had begun.

He closed his eyes and tried to remember what the man who'd cornered him had looked like. Only a vague picture came to mind, but he remembered the knife clearly. It had been a five-inch, double-sided switchblade with a point on it sharp as a scream.

He ran his forefinger over the mouse square on the laptop and the Windows XP screen saver blinked off. His e-mail account had a fresh message in it. From Sarelle. He read the thing three times before trying to reply.

In the end. he sent her back: Hey, Sarelle. tomorrow night's not going to work for me. I'm really sorry. I'll get back with you sometime. TTYL, John.

He really didn't want to see her again. Not for a while, at any rate. He didn't want to see any females except for Wellsie and Mary and Beth and Bella. There was going to be nothing even remotely sexual in his life until he came to terms with what had been done to him almost a year ago.

He moved out of Hotmail and opened a fresh document in Microsoft Word.

He rested his fingers on the keyboard for only a moment. And then they started to fly.


CHAPTER 32 | Lover Awakened | CHAPTER 34



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