I can still see the faded letters of where the old Exxon sign used to be underneath the slightly newer SunCo sign.
A bell over the door rings as I walk inside.
An ancient old man sits behind the register, a trucker’s hat low on his head. Is he asleep?
No one else is around. Fine with me.
God, that sand is making me itchy everywhere. I blouse my shirt away from my chest and scratch at my arms as I hurry towards the restroom and relieve myself.
Then I scrub at my face with the dribble of water that comes from the faucet, no matter how much I turn the knob.
And great. There’s no paper towel to dry off my face. Of course there isn’t. I lift the bottom of my shirt and swipe at my face. At least for once I’m not wearing any makeup. We were just going to see the doctor, after all. Then I expected to head right back to bed with Ez—
Pain slices deep all over again. No. There’s no more Ezo. If I can do one Goddamned thing right in this sad, disappointment of a life, it will be to set him free.
That’s why I tossed my phone. I’m shit at self-discipline, as my dad knew so well even at the age of 11. I can’t trust myself.
But Ezo deserves better, dammit.
I glance up at my face in the dirty mirror. Puffy, red rimmed eyes? Check. Bloated face? Check. Sallow skin? Check.
I love you, my Ana.
God, will I ever be able to get that silky tenor out of my head? I close my eyes and turn away, grabbing my purse and slinging it over my shoulder.
When I come back out, there’s actually another person in the little store. An awake and live looking one, anyway.
A woman, maybe in her forties. Attractive. Casually dressed in sweatpants and a T-shirt but still elegant looking, somehow.
What the hell is she doing all the way out here? Maybe she’s on a day trip from Reno or something? Though I don’t know what there is to see out here except scrub brush, more sand, and more scrub brush.
“Hello,” she says and I realize that I’ve just been staring at her like a rude bitch.
“Sorry,” I mumble, turning away to head for the snack aisle.
But when I get there and look up again, she’s standing at the end of the aisle. She walked around the long way to get here. Guess she’s starving for some Snickers, too?
I nod my head politely at her and then go back to scanning the wall of junk food.
“What is so special about you, human?”
My head springs up just in time to see her eyes narrow on me, looking me up and down in disgust. “You are nothing.”
“Excuse me?” I had to have heard her wrong.
“The fact that this weak, bastard usurper of a King thinks any of your filthy race are fit to do anything more than clean the shit from the bowels of our sewer chamber just shows what an idiot he is.”
Oh fuck. She’s a— I didn’t even think they were transforming female Draci into—
“You are friend to the Queen, are you not?” She sneers the word Queen. “And mated—” another sneer— “to one of the abominations?”
Abomin— Does she mean Ezo? “So what are you?” I ask. “You look pretty human to me.”
She takes another predatory step forward and I stumble back, running into the rack behind me.
She laughs, an ugly hissing sound and her eyes gleam red. She opens her mouth and steam hisses out the sides.
“I am Draci where it counts.”
Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck.
I turn and run but she’s on me in a second, grabbing me by my arm—
Fuck! Ow, oh God—
And then I’m airborne. But not for long. I crash into the wall of the convenience store. Pain explodes at my back. There was a rack of something I just crashed through and my head bangs dully on the floor.
Ow. Shit. Get up. Get up! But I can only blink in shock and barely lift myself up on an elbow before she’s standing over me.
I’m going to die. Right now.
I’m going to die in the middle of nowhere, killed by some psycho alien chick I don’t even know.
And I never even told him goodbye.
Ezo, I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry.
I see the truth of it all now so clear. Too late to make any difference but still. In the last moments of my life, I state my truth.
“I am not nothing,” I declare, my voice trembling. “I am Ana Lucinda Villarreal and I am loved.”
I barely get the last word out before she opens her mouth and fire gushes towards me in a blinding wave.
I throw my arms up uselessly in front of my face.