Sorry this chapter’s a bit late. I had a lot of things due last week. Chapter 4 should be up Wednesday, and you can get caught up on previous chapters here. Another note: this chapter is when the story really starts to feel like a sequel. If you find yourself feeling lost, you may want to pick up the first book in the series, Flesh and Fire. I’ve posted the Indiebound link to support independent bookstores, but you can grab it on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, if that’s more your speed.
Katie didn’t remember much of what happened next, only that somehow she, her mother and father had escaped with their lives, while the strange, dark-haired girl had gone off with that monster to God knew where. Likely, she thought, they’d gone to somewhere God couldn’t reach. Almost six months had passed. A lot had changed since then, but she still dreamed of the man with the fiery eyes. In her dreams, flames engulfed her bedroom. Smoldering tendrils crawled up the wall like burning kudzu. Bright orange tongues swirled overhead, circling a black hole. He stood at the center of it all, as if the fire and the black hole all blossomed from somewhere inside him.
Now, she woke from another of these infernal dreams to find the spot beside her on the bed empty. Jake had been sweet enough to spend the night. But where had he gone? Had he gotten sick of how withdrawn she’d been, and decided to abandon her the night before her father’s funeral? Maybe the fire had consumed him and the black hole had swallowed his ashes.
Neither scenario seemed unlikely. Not after all she’d been through.
Katie sat up and checked her phone for messages from Jake, or from Dale, who swore he’d come home for the funeral. She dialed Jake’s number and gnawed her lip as the phone rang.
“Hey, I’m downstairs making you breakfast.”
“Bad dreams again?”
She pressed her hand against her forehead. Get a grip, Katie. You just have to get through today.
“Yeah, I’ll be right down.”
She hung up and tossed the phone aside. She pulled on a pair of gray yoga pants and stumbled into the hallway, feeling hungover, even though she hadn’t imbibed since that night. In her experience, alcohol didn’t drown trauma. Instead, it it made trauma grow, the way water expanded those Grow-A-Boyfriends that cruel women bought for their single friends.
She paused at the base of the stairs and touched the doorway of what used to be her dad’s neglected study. It now housed miscellaneous clutter. The night before the demon came, she had taken a CD of her dad’s music, gave it a listen and returned it to her father the next morning, an act she felt set so many things in motion.
In the kitchen, Jake stood at the stove, already dressed in black for the funeral. Though his cleanly shaven face made him look boyish and soft, he still looked exhausted. Dark circles shaded his usual bright eyes. Being her emotional anchor had taken its toll on him. Yet, he remained, ever her anchor.
“How’d you sleep?” he said.
“I didn’t.” “I’m sorry, baby,” she said. “Thanks for making me breakfast.”
Jake scooped some eggs onto a plate on the island. He pointed to the chair scooted next to it. “Eat. You may not get a chance until later.”
“I’m not hungry.”
“You’ll feel less like eating after the funeral.”
“Maybe.” Katie slumped into the chair and poked at her food with a fork. She pushed the eggs around her plate and sighed. “Fucking Dale.”
“You’re gonna drive yourself crazy.” Jake said and put a mug of coffee down next to her.
“I think I punched that one-way ticket a long time ago. I’m just pissed he hasn’t even called, texted, anything.”
“Look, he said he’d be here, right?”
“He had plenty of leave, right?”
“There’s still time until the service. Maybe he’s just running late.”
“Maybe you don’t understand how bad it got between him and my father.” Katie put down her fork and shoved the plate away, imagined she was shoving it into a black hole. “I can’t fucking eat right now.”
“Hey, come on. I’m trying to make you feel better.”
“Yeah, well, what?”
“Yeah, well, it’s not working.”
She held his gaze, watched him wince at the edge in her voice. She knew she was being a bitch and didn’t care. Everything hurt. Didn’t that give her the right? Especially today? She thought again of the black hole from her dream, flames encircling its perfect darkness. Is that where my father is now? Is that what Jake sees whenever he looks at me?
She lowered her gaze and tried again to take a bite of egg. The food had gotten cold.