3rd Alternating

    Becca was almost at the cemetery when something in the corner of her eye caught her attention. At first it was just a flicker, like a shadow passing through the bright sunlight, but then it happened again—for longer the second time. An instant later there was a man sitting on her dash, staring at her like she was a puzzle to be solved.

    A scream rose in her throat and tore from her. “Holy fuck!”

    She twisted the steering wheel sharply, pulling the car off the road as quickly as she could, getting ready to either push the man out or run from the car herself the second it stopped. When the first scream that issued from her ended, another one started. She didn’t seem to be able to stop herself or gather herself enough to open the door once the car skidded to a halt.

    The man’s expression went from quizzical to concerned in an instant. His gaze met hers—which started a fresh bout of screams—and then his eyes widened.

    “Can you see me?”

    Becca’s screams barely stopped long enough for her to form actual words, but when she did, they rushed out. “Get the hell out of my car!”

    “Shit, no, look calm down, please?”

    “Get the hell out of my car!”

    “Can’t we talk about this?”

    Becca reached for the nearest thing to her, a pair of cute stilettos that she’d taken off after her disappointing non-date a week earlier. Clutching one of her shoes in her hand, she hit the intruder with it. She didn’t know how he’d gotten into her car, but she would make damn sure that she got him out again. Fast. With her heeled weapon providing an illusion of safety, she felt braver and her cries died away as she smacked him again and again. Each hit that landed gave her more strength to keep going.

     In response, the man raised his arm and tried to shield himself from the blows as best he could. “Becca!”

     How does he know my name? Afraid that she was facing some deranged stalker, she increased the speed of her assault and asked the question again, out loud, between strikes. “How. Do. You. Know. My. Name?”

     “Becca! Please! Stop!” He had both arms raised to protect himself from her onslaught.

     Becca continued to rain down her shoe-driven vengeance. “Who. The. Hell. Are. You. And. What. Are. You. Doing. In. My. Car?” Each word was punctuated with another blow. Despite the crazy circumstances, she was proud of herself for keeping her composure as best she could, given the circumstances, and also for her near perfect aim.

     “If you stop hitting me, I promise I’ll explain.”

     She slowed her attack momentarily and then remembered the scare he’d given her. Her assault started again.

     “Please, Becca?”

     She stopped, but held her shoe tightly in both hands with the heel pointed right at him, making it clear that any false move would cause a fresh flurry. “Who are you?”

     “I’m Evan.”

     “That’s not going to cut it in any way, mister. You can’t just turn up in people’s cars and declare that you’re Evan and think that it’s explanation enough to stop them panicking. You’re still just a stranger, even if you have a fucking name."

     He held up his hands in surrender. “I’ll explain it all, I promise. Just put the shoe down. Please?”

     She gripped it tighter. There was no way she was going to relinquish her weapon, especially not when he seemed genuinely scared of it. It was a shame to damage such a perfect shoe, but if it went down, it went down serving her and what more could a girl ask.

     “Who are you?” she repeated, brandishing the heel as though she might strike again.

     “Are you sure you want to damage your practically new Betsey Johnson heels? Why don't you put the shoe down?”

It struck Becca as a little odd that he knew exactly what brand of shoe she was using as her weapon of choice. She wondered if he was some sort of freak with a shoe fetish who broke into people's cars. While they were driving no less.

1st Single POV

     “I’m not convinced that this here”—she waved her hand in the direction of the black bags beneath my eyes—“isn’t something that I need to be concerned about.”

     Her tone set me on edge, and the reason for her agitation sunk into my sleep-addled mind. “You think I’ve got an other on my ass?”

     “What else could it be? What you’ve described isn’t natural, not unless you’re iron deficient or something. I’ve seen the way you wolf down your food though, so I don’t think it’s that.”

     The more I thought about the idea, the more it made sense. I remembered the way I struggled against what I had assumed was my bedding before waking fully. “I haven’t seen anything though. What could it be?”

     The list of possibilities was already running through my mind as I asked the question. Top of the list was the fae, but she was in league with them, and I couldn’t voice that opinion without risking offending her and breaking the ceasefire we’d found over our disagreement there.

     “Svartálfar, alb, boo hag, or phobetor.”

     With the exception of the fae, her list was almost identical to my own. I wanted to cull the list, so tried to think analytically. “I think you can rule out it being a phobetor, the dreams I’ve been having aren’t exactly nightmares.” At least, not to start with. In fact, the start is rather pleasant. I fought a smile about how pleasant the dreams had begun.

     Something in my words or tone caused her to raise an eyebrow and chuckle under her breath. While I tried to think through the other possibilities, she excused herself in order to get her second in command, Graham, to do his part. When she returned, she hustled me into an office at the end of the loft room above the bar.

     “What are we doing here?”

     “Reviewing the footage.”

     “Footage?” I asked dumbly, even as a feeling of dread stole over my limbs.

     “It was something Granddad insisted on. One of his goons came and set it all up before you arrived in the Dove.” She sat in an office chair next to a computer and pointed out a second chair for me to drag over to sit in.

Instead of doing as she’d indicated, I stood behind her while it took my sleep-deprived brain far too long to catch up. I tried to hurry it along to a conclusion by forming words. “You’ve been filming me?”

     She booted up a computer. “It’s okay. I haven’t looked at it.”

     “Let me get this straight.” I couldn’t believe her nonchalant attitude about the complete invasion of privacy. My privacy. “You’ve been filming my every move since I got here without me knowing? And yet you think that it’s all okay just because you haven’t watched it yet? Am I really hearing that right?”

     “Do you want to stand there and be indignant, or do you want to see what’s on here?”

     I pressed my lips together to stop myself from saying something I might regret—something that might force me to abandon my quest for the artifacts. Regardless of my attempt to calm my anger, a grumbled rebuff issued from me as she opened the folder that contained the life I’d lived since moving into my little apartment.

     A few moments later, she had the camera feed open and turned to me with an apology in her eyes. “I didn’t want to agree to it, but it would have raised too many questions if I’d said no. Plus, it’s a closed circuit that only feeds to this computer. Granddad thinks I check it daily, but as I’ve said before what he doesn’t know doesn’t hurt him.”

    Still reeling from the lack of privacy, but also curious as to whether it was actually possible that I had a paranormal stalker who was somehow causing my sleep to be tainted and unhelpful, I dragged over the chair and indicated that she should proceed as I sat.

    “The camera is motion activated,” she said, somewhat unnecessarily, as she turned back toward the screen just as an image of me walking into the apartment flicked onto the screen. It was of my first night in the apartment, before I’d really been introduced to Toni and her teams.

     I tried to remember what I’d done that night. Because I wasn’t used to the space or familiar with my surroundings, I hadn’t yet paraded around the room naked, but there were probably times since where I had been fairly close. Horror filled me as I wondered whether there was a camera in the bathroom. The first two nights that I’d had the hyper-real dreams about Evie, I’d needed to find a release for my tension, which involved a not-so-cold shower and a lathered-up private massage to my favorite body part.

Thank you for visiting the website of Michelle Irwin and Fleur Smith, author of contemporary, romance, paranormal and urban fantasy stories. 

© Michelle Irwin and Fleur Smith 2020

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