Escaping the Devil: Chapter Twenty-Eight

CATCH UP!

CONTENT WARNING

This story is rated Mature for adult language, sexual content, references to graphic violence, drug, and substance abuse. This means that this is intended for audiences 18 and up.


They barely had a few hours of rest before Gunner woke them. The car was on and moving before they could get fully dressed.

Groggily, Yui combed her fingers through her hair. Her eyes locked on the passing foliage as they crawled slowly through the woods. The twilight cast lovely shadows on the underbrush, painting the world in an almost peaceful haze. Eli’s head filled with an old, familiar throb. Yui’s and Gunner’s quiet conversation sounded like shouting.

Their conversation from the night before played on repeat. Gunner’s insistence that she treated Yui like garbage put many things into perspective. Especially her drinking. She knew she wasn’t herself when she allowed herself to get pulled under. It seemed that the only appropriate response was to cut back. Though as she felt its want thrumming inside her skull, threatening to split her head in two, the temptation was there now more than ever. She consoled herself by slipping her hand into Yui’s and giving it a tight squeeze. 

The Siren had no way of knowing, but somehow she seemed to understand. 

When they reached the interstate, she freed herself of Eli’s grip and slid into the driver’s seat. Her conversation with the Archangel continued, albeit at a softer volume. 

With the backseat to herself, she sprawled out, resting her head against the uncomfortable plastic shell beneath the window. It took a bit of adjusting and a few rolled-up articles of clothing (including Archangel’s jacket) before the car’s rocking motions lulled her into another fit of sleep.  


The car slowly came to a stop, almost as if they were afraid to wake her. Her eyes fluttered open, and she realized she was baking in the backseat. She threw off the rest of her makeshift blanket with a disgusted sound. The effect was immediate, cooling her skin. She let out a small groan, followed by a question. One that sounded barely English to her as she struggled to regain her bearings.

To their credit, neither Yui nor Gunner teased her for her brief discombobulation. “Where are we?” She finally croaked, groping blindly in the backseat for a discarded water bottle. 

Yui twisted in the front seat and reached back to find it, offering it with a warm smile. “Morning, sleepy head!” She grinned as she leaned forward and planted a kiss on her lips, seemingly uncaring of her morning breath. Gunner stared studiously ahead, his knuckles near-white against the steering wheel. “We’re getting some ‘provisions,’” Yui explained, using dramatic air quotes.

“Ah.” Eli nodded. “Gas station food.”

“And gas,” Gunner grumbled. 

Yui smirked as she unwound herself, nimble fingers making quick work of removing her own seatbelt and then Gunner’s. “And a potty break!”

Its mention made Eli realize that her bladder was screaming. She nodded emphatically as she pushed herself into an upright position. “How long have we been on the road?” She asked as she swept her messy hair into a bun at the crown of her head. She tried not to think about how long it had been since they had last showered. When she was drinking, and they filled the car with cigarette smoke, it was easy to look past the smell of unwashed bodies and stale sweat. Now, with the car smelling oddly fresh, it was an assault on her senses. 

They, one by one, slipped out of the car. They moved with the same fluid movements, stretching and twitching their aching limbs. Gunner shook out his legs and popped his knees with a few satisfying clicks. Yui followed suit in cracking her neck, then her fingers. 

Eli took a moment to assess their surroundings. Their gas station was in the middle of nowhere, seemingly tucked away in this small mountain town. The parking lot was little more than a swathe of gravel and dirt. Neon signs flickered in the window, faltering as they drew their final breaths. A paper plate with a thick, black arrow drawn into its center was posted at the furthest end of the building. There were two rudimentary stick figures drawn beneath, presumably to indicate that the bathrooms were on the furthest end of the building. Eli’s nose wrinkled in distaste, preparing herself for the horrors she would likely find. Gas station bathrooms were seldom a pleasant experience, but she was willing to wager that no one had been back there to clean them in months. Maybe even years. 

Eli was tempted to find a secluded spot around the building to handle her business. However, her gurgling stomach made it clear that it was not an option.

“Wish me luck,” she said as she indicated the signs.

Yui’s face crumpled her jack slack. “Oh. I’ll pick up some hand sanitizer so you can scrub your ass.”

“I plan on hovering.”

“Still.” Her nose wrinkled. “Something might jump out and get ya.”

Eli couldn’t help but cackle, despite the disturbing reality of her potty-break-destiny. Gunner seemed entirely unenthused with their chatter and walked ahead, creating as much distance between them as possible. Not that it lasted long with Yui falling into stride behind him. Eli noticed her arm slipping into his — and the slight smile he offered her in return.

She had no right to be jealous. What she and Yui shared wasn’t romantic, necessarily. They were friends. They were lovers. But Eli had been transparent that her heart wasn’t something she gave. The last time it had happened had been a complete accident. No part of her had wanted to love Damon. And in hindsight, it would have been better if she hadn’t. Everything she touched turned to ash. 

And yet, even as she crept into the filthy bathroom and had herself angled precariously over the toilet, all she could think about was that damned smile she had given Gunner.

A sick sensation bloomed to life in her stomach. 

She endeavored to blame the smells, but not even she was emotionally stunted enough to pretend that there wasn’t more to it.

She was saved from her pondering by another quandary. The sink looked like it had been bathed in motor oil and coated with some sort of greasy sauce. Rust stains caked the handles and poured into the bowl. The soap dispenser was one lonely hand soap that seemed at least twice as old as she was. Was it better to get out of there before she contracted something? Or should she risk plunging her hands into that?

The decision was made quicker than she would have thought. She scuttled out of the bathroom like her backside was on fire and prayed that Yui was serious about picking up hand sanitizer. She held out her hands like they were sterile and about to go into an operation. 

The wind picked up and brought with her a familiar scent. The scent of leather and gun cleaner — something distinctly animal and not at all friendly. She ducked around the back of the building, crouching low. On the furthest end of the gravel parking lot were the same black-clad Werewolves they had seen the night before. In a new black car. 

Shit.

Her heart hammered in her ears as she made her way around back. She had never before prayed so hard for a back entrance as she did then. Finally, to her relief, she found one — a weathered, gray door that looked like it had seen better days. She tested the handle and cursed when she realized that it was locked. She threw her shoulder into its frame once. Twice. The third time, it gave way, squawking open. 

She stepped through, finding herself in what looked to be the store room. There were pallets of soft drinks, boxes filled with what looked like jerky, and various other snacks. To her right was what appeared to be an office. An ancient-looking computer dominated a pathetically small desk. The walls were lined with filing cabinets, all equally as rusted as the rest of the building. The floor beneath her feet was slick with grease — the same cheap tile that reminded her of fast-food restaurants. 

She crept as quickly as she dared toward the swinging door. She could see Gunner and Yui standing at the counter through the small window. Eli stuck her head out through the small crack she created and hissed to get their attention. 

Gunner’s gaze snapped onto her immediately. Yui was slower to catch find her. But both seemed to realize that something had gone wrong before she could mouth, “they’re here.” 

The clerk — a grizzled-looking man in his late sixties — spotted her. “You can’t be back there!” He hollered, his ruddy cheeks burning crimson. 

The front doors whipped open.

Gunner positioned himself between Yui and the invaders, his arm sweeping between them to urge her toward the back door. He was quick to loosen the gun from his hip but not fast enough. 

A torrent of bullets was let loose in the store, puncturing glass and tearing through shelves. Yui crouched low and ran as fast as she could toward the back.

Gunner positioned himself between the aisles, luring the assailants after him. Then, with a grunt, he threw over the shelves, pinning one beneath its weight. 

The other ducked out of the way and re-routed, heading straight toward Eli and Yui. She grasped the Siren, sinking her nails into her arms as she dragged her through the door.

“Help me barricade the door!”

They scrambled, slipping across the greasy tile as they pushed the boxes in front of the door. The Werewolf was on them within seconds, driving his full weight into the flimsy plywood. It opened wide enough to slip through. The man twisted, sliding in sideways. Eli scrambled, gripping Yui’s arm to drag her toward the exit.

A feral-sounding growl erupted from behind them. Eli didn’t dare look back. Not even as she heard the unmistakable sound of meat hitting meat. Pained grunts and anguished snarls sounded behind them. 

Their enemy erupted through the back door, nearly wrenching it off the hinges. 

“Gunner has the keys!” Yui yipped.

Eli’s heart sunk into the pit of her stomach. “Shit!”

“We have to go back for him!”

“We have to get you somewhere safe first!”

They cleared the side of the building. Finally, the car was in sight. Eli was singularly focused on getting Yuina to safety, gripping her wrist as she dragged her across the gravel parking lot. 

She was jerked backward, halted by Yui’s sudden stop. She turned, a protest grinding its way through her throat, only to die on her tongue. 

Bloodied, and grinning maniacally, one of Omnus’ men held his arm around the Siren’s throat. “You’re coming with us,” he said, his thumb pulling the hammer of his gun back. “Or I’m blowing your friend’s brains out.”

She didn’t loosen her hold on Yui’s arm. Instead, she slowly turned, sucking in her breath through her nose. “Easy,” she near-whispered, her hand held between them to try and talk him down. “Easy. Let her go, and I’ll come with you.”

The man regarded her cautiously, the muzzle of his gun still pressed to her temple. “No,” he said, taking a deliberate step back, forcing Eli to walk with him. 

He realized that he had the lead then. Her leash was tethered to Yui, and he would walk them straight back to the waiting car. Panic rose in her breast, her eyes scanning the empty parking lot for any means of escape.

With a sinking sense of dread, she realized there was no chance of escape. 

Their time had run out. 

“Okay,” she exhaled, maintaining stride with his backward steps. “Okay. I’ll come with you. Just… Just don’t hurt her,” she pleaded. 

Her captor grinned wolfishly — arrogantly — as his pace quickened. 

Her gaze remained locked on Yui, her heart hammering in her throat. “How did you find us?” She wanted to know. Needed to know. 

He regarded her coolly, wearing a predatory smile that made it abundantly clear he was too happy to have the one-up on her. His free hand snaked to Yui’s throat, his nails clicking against the collar around her throat. “You should know better than to think Nex would let their property get away.” 

His touch sent a ripple through the band, an angry red flash of magic coiling around her throat. Yui choked.

Eli’s eyes slid to the slim metal coil. Her heart stuttered when she realized they never stood a chance. 

“Eli.” Gunner’s voice ripped her from her thoughts. “Duck.”

Her body acted of its own volition as she dropped to a sudden squat. She felt the mist of something warm before she heard the blast. Their would-be captor’s body crumpled to the ground at their feet. Yui screamed, a sob tearing through her throat. 

Gunner’s hand coiled around her arm as he dispassionately dragged her to the car. “Let’s go.” 

Yui stumbled after him, her body seemingly moving not of its own volition. Her heels dug into the earth, grinding into the dirt as she sobbed. 

“Yuina!” Eli barked, gripping her other arm. “We have to go—“

Hideous purple veins had begun to sprawl from the still-red band around her neck. 

Shit,” Gunner hissed. “Get her in the car!”



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