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           J.W. Phillips
 

  “Momma, look at her. She’s everything to me.” He motioned to Julie then scraped his fingers over his unshaven face.

  That statement struck Julie with such joy. She blew him a kiss which seemed to surprise Trucker, but it still lit up his eyes and smile.

  “I know, son, but I also know what that means.”

  “I never believed I was capable of true love. She has shown me I’m capable of anything.” Taking a drink of soda, Trucker looked out over the sea of people and cringed.

  “Sweetheart, you’ve always been full of love. You’re not your father. Honey, I cringe every time he walks in a room. My heart sinks when he touches Sea or you. But you’re different. I’ve never once been scared of you, not even when . . .” Catherine stopped talking, peered down at her hands and twisted one finger around another.

  “When I’m that deplorable monster,” he snarled. Throwing his cola can across the breezeway, he started to walk away. Catherine seized his hand. He snapped his hand back like he had been scalded and hissed through his teeth.

  “I’m sorry, baby,” Catherine pleaded.

  What was she apologizing for? Touching him?

  He waved her off as if it was nothing. “No, biggie, but, mom, I’m not capable of real love.”

  “Look at me. You. Can. Love. Look at Julie and Sea over there. Don’t tell me you don’t feel something for them.”

  Julie’s mind was swirling. She had stopped swinging Sea and stood there shocked. Her heart couldn’t register what her mind was screaming. He can love. What man can’t? Oh yes, a deplorable monster. No, she had to have heard wrong.

  “Mom, I’ll follow the plan. I just want to do it with Julie, not her.”

  “Baby, Emily has a say in this too.”

  Emily! No, not her! Please, God, make this all go away.

  “No, I won’t agree to it,” he said angrily. His monstrous voice came to the surface. “I can see myself in . . . No! That's not it. I can’t see myself without her.”

  That statement would normally send Julie’s heart racing, but the sound and volume of his voice sent her mind racing instead.

  “Calm down. You know your temper.” Catherine made a soothing, hushing sound.

  “Mom, she is so good.” He tried talking in a consoling voice. “I’ve never seen a human more innocent, purer then her. She fell asleep in my arms one day. Her innocence radiated into every pore of my body. I was sitting there holding this angel in her most vulnerable state, sleeping, and I wanted to protect her. The physical pain was excruciating as if I was an embracing a real angel, but at the same time it was the greatest pleasure I ever experienced. I don’t understand it all.”

  “I understand you have one thing no one else like you has. My gift to you was not only the capability to love, but my precious son, I also gave you a soul.”

  A soul, he has a soul. If he has a soul, why do I suddenly feel soulless?” Julie whispered to herself. Julie didn’t know what finally cracked her; the fact he had a soul, the accumulation of everything her eyes had seen, the feelings she so often felt from him, the idea that love was a foreign concept, or the fact that Emily was more. She didn’t know, but she not only cracked; her sanity shattered into a thousand pieces. Her nightmare was alive and breathing. Trucker was a monster. Everything started spinning, Julie could feel the ground move under her feet. Falling, she heard Sea call out her name, felt his hands under her.

  “Angel, what happened?” Trucker picked her up. Immediately, his body temperature tripled, his chest radiated intense heat, scorching her.

  She slapped his chest. “Put me down, now!”

  He went to stroke her face, but she swatted his hand away. He tenderly lowered her to the ground, studying her with awe and anguish in his eyes. All she could see was the monster he was. She whipped around and ran as fast as she could. She was revolted by the very thought of him. She heard a screaming growl. Knowing his speed, it was no surprise when he caught her almost instantly. He pulled her behind a nearby building, out of view from any prying eyes or ears.

  “What happened, Angel?”

  “What are you?” she asked almost too calmly.

  “Don’t leave. Come back to the house and talk to me.”

  “No,” she answered, shaking her head. She didn’t even register his mom walking up with Sea.

  “I know you’re scared, sweetie. I’ve been there too. Please, I’ll explain it all too you, but you’re safe with us,” Catherine said.

  How did Catherine know what she was feeling? Julie was looking into the eyes of the man she loved, and they were the eyes of a monster. How could you? I believed in you. Julie had a rush of resentment. Why was my life the one you chose to destroy? Julie contemplated what he had done to her and her emotions. Filled with a sudden rage, she slapped him. An unfathomable roar came from somewhere deep within his chest. His eyes went black. The coldness in his eyes she had dreamed about had nothing on the bone-chilling black she was looking into. He curved his hand around her neck.

  “Leave, Julie, or I will hurt you.” His warning was marked with grief.

  Stoic, Julie held her ground. She was tired of running. She firmed up her shoulders and stared him in the eyes, unflinchingly. He kneaded his fingers into her neck. It hurt. Julie took in a gulp of air. There was no doubt in her mind that he could snap her neck without breaking a stride. Trucker would never intentionally hurt her. She was sure of that fact, even if everything else she believed was fleeting away in front of her. His grip tightened. She felt despair and malice transmitting from him, but more than that, she felt fear and love. He let go of her neck and adjusted the straps on her tank top, then started dragging his fingers down her arms. She bit her lip as the burning started. Each one of his individual fingers seared into her skin. The agony was more than she could take. Julie started to scream stop when he grasped each of her wrists and flipped her hands over. They both stared down at her palms.

  “The touch of my rosy-cheeked lamb,” Trucker said and outlined her life line with his pinky. “The burn is torment. She’s worth it.”

  My touch burns him. He feels that agony every time I touch him. Yet, he still reaches for me. She concluded he was trying to confide in her how her touch affected him. He wasn’t trying to hurt her. “I love you, Trucker.”

  He arched his neck and howled. Julie felt a surge of horrendous pain. It was intense, immediate, and unrelenting. Looking down, she saw the sparks flying from his hand around her wrist as if a firecracker exploded in his palm. Then she felt a loud audible pop. Her hand started swelling immediately. So numb mentally and emotionally, she didn’t know what to feel. He slowly released her wrist.

  Closing his eyes, he spoke, “I’m sorry, please . . .” He seized her good wrist and pulled her against him. He stood over her, his body curving into hers. Julie felt his stomach muscles quiver. He bite down on his wrist until a drop of blood dripped onto his crisp white shirt. He brought his wrist to her mouth letting the blood smear across her lips. Scared, Julie screamed.

  “Let her go. We have to get her home.” Catherine cried out.

  Trucker’s face went lifeless. “I’m so sorry, Angel, please drink it. It will make the pain stop,” he begged as he pushed his wrist into her clamped together lips.

  She shoved him, but he wasn’t moved. She toppled to the ground. “What are you?” Julie was beside herself, and was surprised at how cool and collected she sounded.

  “No.” He shook his head.

  “Tell me now,” she ordered as she wiped his blood from her lips.

  “Are you sure?” Catherine asked her.

  Julie cut her eyes over to her. “Yes, I have no choice . . . What are you?” she asked.

  “A demon,” he said softly. He fell to his knees and bowed his head. She felt no emotion. Her heart had been ripped from her chest and she was left empty.

  Suddenly, vomit exploded from her mouth. She vomited repeatedly, until there was nothing left. Catherine put Sea down and held Julie up. For the first t
ime in Julie’s life, she felt nothing. She wasn’t happy or sad. Her head was going a million miles a second, but she didn’t feel anything.

  “Honey, I’ll take care of your arm. Please come with me,” Catherine pleaded. Julie saw the worry in her eyes, her human eyes.

  “Are you?” She managed to get out.

  “No sweetie, I’m human just like you.”

  “Why?” Julie asked.

  “I fell in the love with the wrong boy, too,” she answered. “Just come home with us. I’ll explain everything to you, sweetie.” Catherine stroked her hair. “You can’t tell anyone. Knowing this is dangerous for everyone. They will kill you.”

  Images drifted in and out of her mind; his eyes, telling her he had a dark soul, crushing a snake between his fingers, sudden and swift mood changes, a picture of a girl flashing on a computer screen, a girl who could double for her, a girl at the wrong place at the wrong time, a girl who was supposed to be her, the warnings, they will kill you. All there was for her was death and destruction.

  She stood up and slowly started backing away. “Do it quick. Pease don’t make it hurt.” She sobbed uncontrollably.

  Trucker caught hold of her, thrusting her onto his chest. “What, baby?”

  Julie saw profound emotions in his eyes, but the overriding ones were love and despair. Why does he still look at me like that? Just get it over with. Make it fast; at least don’t let me suffer. She closed her eyes and whispered, “Kill me.”

  Julie heard a loud furious roar come from Trucker and waited for the final blow. She felt the ground. It was different, softer. She opened her eyes. She was standing with Trucker in his home. It appeared to her to be his bedroom.

  “What?” she asked.

  He seemed shocked about the sudden change in venue, too. “Talk to me.”

  “What are you waiting for? Just get it over with, please. I won’t run, please make it fast.” The tears flooded her face and fear infiltrated her aura.

  “Baby, please stop,” Trucker insisted as he pushed his wrist back into her mouth.

  She bit down then screamed. He took three steps back and ran his fingers through his hair, pulling it. Why is he so upset? Surely he has a million ways to kill me. Oh no, he is going to make it long and hard. He lunged at her and with blinding speed and had her against the wall. She felt his arms and even with the speed, the soft landing. She tried to move, but it felt like every part of her body was belted to the wall.

  “Look at me now,” he ordered. Her eyes locked with his. They were enlarged and glowed. A pair of wings sprung out of his back in a burst of the coldest black, blacker than even a starless, moonless night. He held her in an unbreakable but gentle grasp. The look on his face was a perfect blend of longing and torment. Everything about him at that moment only humanized him. That was, until he raised his arm and started to bring it to her mouth.

  “If you make me drink your blood, I’ll beg you for death.” Julie was terrified at his reasoning behind getting her to take his blood.

  “Kiss me.” The evil resonance of his voice rumbled out of him demanding undeniable obedience.

  She noticed his lips and had a strong urge to kiss him. His lips molded around hers as if they were made for each other. It was the sweetest, most loving kiss he had ever placed on her lips.

  “Can you feel it? You’re everything to me,” he asked, and she watched in amazement as his massive wing span ascended into his back.

  Voiceless, she closed her eyes. She could feel it. The love that poured off his lips was unquestionable, but he was everything she tried to avoid in life. He was hate, evil, and the devil’s angel. His tricks were tremendous and unimaginable. She had just witnessed him sprouting wings. Julie was positive the act of showing false love was an easy one for him.

  “If I wanted you dead, you would’ve already been dead. I wouldn’t bring you to my home to do it.” Reaching for her hair, he paused before gently trailing a finger down her cheek. “How many times have I had you alone at the pond that no one knows about? You’ve seen for yourself I could beam you anywhere in this world and easily do with you what I wanted. All I want is to be with you.”

  Unexpectedly, a man burst through the door and tackled Trucker, slamming his head against the wall. Trucker dangled with this man’s hand forcibly around his neck. The whole scene unraveled in front of Julie as if she was watching a TV show. She felt detached.

  “What are you doing?” he asked Trucker.

  “I can’t lose her, Jake.” Trucker could hardly talk through the tears. “She owns me.”

  “So you’re going to hold her hostage. Look at your eyes, boy. You’re changing right in front of her. Next you’ll spread your damn wings.” He let Trucker go with a sudden drop.

  Trucker rubbed his eyes. “Tell her I won’t hurt her.”

  The man glanced back at Julie. He saw that her arm was swollen from her fingertips to her elbow. “I don’t think I can do that. She's already hurt.” Jake stated with a quick jerk of Trucker’s shirt collar.

  Trucker walked over to Julie who still felt chained to the wall. He bushed his fingertips over her temple, across her jaw, and down her neck. He tilted her head up. His eyes were wild. “Angel,” he whispered and the spell was broken. Julie fell into his arms. His grip on her was excruciatingly tight. “Jake, help her. She won’t let me.”

  Jake nodded his head and took hold of Julie’s arm. She flinched immediately. She was too tied up in knots to deal with any more of his kind. He smiled, and she felt an unexpected peace come over her. “It’s okay, sweetie. I’ll make it stop hurting.”

  He swept his hand lightly down her arm and grasped her wrist. She took in the man holding her hand and was taken aback by his average appearance in an ocean of incredibly beautiful people. He was plain, dressed in all khaki. Feeling a rush of extreme warmth in her wrist, she was shocked into reality. The pain once again became unbearable. His hands started glowing. It was as if the sun itself shone from them. The pain slowly subsided as her bones fused back together. The swelling vanished as she gained full range of movement in her wrist.

  “What?” was all she could manage to say.

  Jake peeked up at them and smiled again, a warm beautiful smile. His eyes were not harsh. They were soft and gentle. Julie fought the urge to reach out and touch his face.

  “Boy, you did a good job on this one,” Jake stated. Trucker’s breath caught and ceased for a moment. “It’s all right now, beautiful.” Jake rubbed her knee. Julie raised her wrist and moved it around; it was healed completely.

  “How?” she asked.

  “My gift, sweetie.” He kissed her hand, calming her nerves. “Julie, Trucker won’t hurt you again. I know what he is, and I also know how he feels about you,” Jake said with a wink.

  Julie watched him leave and noticed two older men standing by the door. They were dressed in black suits and seemed to fade into the background. One of them said, “We’ll be in the library if you need us.”

  Trucker nodded his head. She wondered what they meant. Trucker knelt down beside her, trying hard not to touch her. “Angel, will you talk to me, please? I won’t hurt you again.”

  “You don’t want to kill me? I’m not a game for you?” she asked, and had the sensation that someone had erased her capacity for absorbing new facts.

  “No, baby, everything I told you about my feelings are true. You mean the world to me. Please say you at least believe that?” He started to touch her before jerking his hand away but not before she noticed the bite on his wrist was completely healed.

  “I want to believe it. Will you tell me everything?” Julie asked. She was amazed she was sitting there having this conversation after all she knew about him. That was the problem. She didn’t know. Yes, she finally knew what he was, but not what made him, him.

  “I’ll tell you everything. If it gets too much . . . those two men can sweep your mind clean of all memories of us.” He spoke soft and sweet as if he was trying to explain something to a c
hild.

  She wanted to forget that day but needed to know all his secrets. As hard as it was to think about staying, it was unbearable to imagine ever losing him. She shook her head. “Am I in danger?”

  She had to know staying was not a death sentence, even if it would be the most idiotic decision ever.

  “No, not as long as you keep your mouth shut. My mom is not the only human in our world.”

  “I’ll keep my mouth shut, I promise. Just keep those monsters out of my head.” Her voice broke. He wiped the tears from her cheeks. Julie cherished the way he tenderly caressed her face.

  “Angel, they’re not monsters. They’re neutral. They help the good and bad for the greater good. They won’t hurt you. You’ll still remember me, only not my dark secrets.” He pushed a curl behind her ear and tugged on her earlobe. “I’ll walk away and leave if you want.” He couldn’t continue. The words seemed too hard to say.

  “You don’t want to hurt me?”

  “No, baby. I want to love you.”

  “Why did you try to make me drink your blood?” Julie asked and crushed his hand against her face.

  “My blood can heal you.”

  “That’s a vampire myth.”

  “That’s a me fact,” he replied and pulled her over onto his lap.

  “But you have a soul?” She remembered his mom mentioning her gift to him.

  “Yes,” he said with regret. “It doesn’t do much for a guy like me.”

  “If you have a soul, you always have a choice to be good or not. Even a guy like you.” Julie caressed along his jawline, wanting to relieve the hurt in his eyes.

  “What?” Trucker asked and tilted his head to the side. He seemed shocked that she would say that.

  “If you have a soul, you can change.”

  “Some souls are too dark to change,” he snapped. Leaping to his feet, he let Julie tumble onto the cold wood floor. He didn’t even acknowledge her sprawled out on the floor. He just started pacing.

  “Anybody can change.”

  She wanted him to see that he did have a choice. He could be good. They could be together. He kicked the bedside table beside her across the room; it shattered into a million pieces.

 
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