The Drafter

Page 31

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“Get her!” Sandy screeched, but Frank was trying to breathe around the blood and broken cartilage. Jack didn’t move, his own weapon now pointed at his head, shaking in Peri’s hand.

Peri held Jack before her like a shield, his body armor useless on the stage. “How long have you been lying to me?” she demanded as Frank sat up and Sandy ran to him. “Tell me or I’m blowing a hole in your head right now!”

“Three years,” Jack said dully.

Three years? Their entire relationship? She could hardly think, she was so angry.

“Sure, go ahead, but leave the gun here,” Peri heard Frank say to Sandy, napkins pressed to his face. The tiny woman smiled and handed him her pistol. Peri stiffened.

Howling, Sandy threw a side kick over Jack’s head. Her foot hit Peri square on, shoving her backward and dazing her. Sandy screamed again, poised to do some major damage. Instinct moved Peri and she dropped Jack’s Glock to catch Sandy’s foot, but Sandy jerked it free before Peri could break her ankle.

Sandy crouched to attack, fingers crooked to gouge and teeth clenched. The lump of Jack’s discarded body armor pinched under Peri as she got to a kneel. Her fingers twined in Sandy’s luscious black hair and she slammed her head into the stage. Sandy shrieked, elbowing Peri in the gut as Peri pounded her head again. She’d always wondered if she could take the little dragon down. Looked like Sandy had entertained the same question.

But when Sandy got a good hit in, Peri had to let go. Both women staggered upright. Peri struggled to breathe, hunched as she wiped the blood from her cheek. Frank had gotten up. So had Jack—creeping to the locked front door, the little pissant. Panting, Sandy touched her lip to find it bleeding. Seeing the hair-twined chopstick in Peri’s grip, Sandy’s eyes narrowed.

“Allen, will you just shoot her!” Frank shouted, and Sandy rushed Peri with a high-pitched howl. Peri swung, that stupid chopstick set to gouge. Sandy blocked her, dropping back to the bar and scrambling atop it.

“Not me,” Allen said as he tossed the rifle to Frank, the stock smacking his meaty hand with a solid sound. “She might remember, and I want out when this is done.”

“I don’t want her remembering me shooting her either,” Frank said.

Peri smiled grimly. Everything could be fragmented, but emotion lingered to fuel the intuition and there’d be mistrust, even if she couldn’t place why.

“You spoiled, entitled little girl!” Sandy shouted from atop the bar. “I’m sick of you drafters complaining. You have someone waiting on you hand and foot, treating you like a god, and all you do is bitch about it when you lose a little memory. Life isn’t fair. Love is not real. I’m doing you a fucking favor! Love?” Sandy shrieked. “There is no such thing as love!”

Teeth clenched, Peri slipped her six-inch blade from her boot with her other hand and threw it at Sandy. It wouldn’t hurt her much, but all Peri wanted was for her to shut up.

“No!” Frank cried as Sandy gasped, twisting to avoid the knife. She fell behind the bar and into the mirror, shattering it. Bottles rained down when the shelves collapsed.

“Jack, no!” Allen shouted, and Peri staggered when a gun popped. Something slammed into her, and recognizing the sound of Jack’s Glock, Peri looked at the blood seeping from her chest, then to him standing beside the door. The muzzle was smoking.

Peri staggered. The chopstick in her hand clattered to the floor, and she clutched the table. Shock took her down. She hit the floor hip first, then collapsed. Twin pains, one in her skull, the other in her chest, throbbed in agony as she stared at the black ceiling. Her fingers were warm and wet, and she coughed, scared when it came out bloody. Not again.

“Jump,” Jack said wearily as he stood over her and holstered his weapon. “Go on and draft. I like you better when you’re stupid.”

“What are you doing? You’re her anchor!” Allen exclaimed, and suddenly he was there, shoving a wad of those stupid napkins onto her chest. Jack must have nicked her lung. She had time, but only until it filled with blood. The longest she’d ever drafted was forty-three seconds. If she staved it off longer than that, it wouldn’t matter.

“I can’t fragment the trauma of you shooting her,” Allen protested. “It was going to be hard enough with Sandy or Frank doing it!”

Oh God. She was going to jump. She’d give anything to be able to draft a day, an hour. “I won’t,” Peri said, teeth clenched against the pain. “I’ll die first.” She coughed again, the ragged sound filling her with fear that she was tearing her lungs to shreds.

“If she dies, Bill is going to be pissed.” Hunched and wiping the blood from him, Frank went to Sandy, her loud swearing behind the bar saying she was okay. Peri hated them. She hated them all.

Allen, though, was holding her, his eyes soft, and even that small compassion from a stranger almost brought her to tears. His eyes are so pretty, she thought, deciding that his long nose suited him where it would look wrong on anyone else, and his thin hands were blessedly warm. She wouldn’t draft, not even to save her life. Bill would just have to deal with it.

“Peri, draft,” Allen said, and she blinked, wondering why his beautiful brown eyes were scrunched up as if he were the one in pain. “You can’t do anything when you’re dead.”

“What, and have all this go away?” she rasped. “Eat shit and die.”

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