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Chapter 15

It wasn’t until mid-day of her first day off that Lauren realized just how much of her sorrow the hospital staved off. It had become a part of her. She packed and unpacked her grief at every stop, her only companion. While working, it would wan. Under the burden of labor it would ebb to a manageable if not forgettable level. It would never, however, go completely away, lurking in shadows and any lull in her workload.

To be fair, Lauren would have to admit that her melancholy was with her long before fleeing the grips of the light fae. Her life as a slave was a constant reminder of the choices she’d made. Even then only her work kept her sane. The only speck of light in the endlessly monotonous, and utterly ironic, life she was destined to live had been Bo. She stormed into the lives of the fae, light and dark alike, in a fashion few had ever seen. It only took that one singular meeting to give Lauren something to look forward to, to hope for. Her analytical mind would count the days, hours, minutes, seconds until the succubus’ life force pressed against all it came into contact with. Bo either breathed life into those around her or literally sucked it out of them. Lauren felt fortunate to be a member of the former.

It was just these thoughts that Lauren couldn’t avoid during her break. She filled her day with shopping and arranging. It was with barely constrained pride that she slowly pieced together her home. But alas there was so much that could be done in a twenty-four hour period. There was only so much she could purchase and assemble before she was left to wait for deliveries and/or the dawning of a new day.

Feeling the winds of memories seeping through the pores of her new home, Lauren stared at the white walls entertaining the idea of painting. She’d had her fill of sterile white at the compound and any activity was preferable to her ruminations.

A knock sounded at the door and she watched half expecting it to open and someone to let themselves in. It sounded again and she was just as thrilled for the distraction even as she was wary of the caller.

“Lauren, you in there? It’s Jess.”

Rolling her eyes dramatically, Lauren gave herself a mental slap as she scrambled to open the door. The threat of capture would be a fear she’d never totally conquer.

“Jess? What are you doing here?”

Unlike the countenance Lauren had come to expect, the EMT didn’t greet her with her usual warm smile and open expression.

“I’m sorry for not calling first.” She looked down the hall. “Can I come in?”

Lauren stepped aside. “No—I mean of course. It is technically your place.” She watched as Jess moved to the center of the room watching her expectantly. “Is there something wrong?” Panic began its infiltration of Lauren’s psyche and she hoped to be spared the trauma.

“I’m not sure really.” Jess went to the window, peering out cautiously.

“Jess, you’re scaring me. What’s happened?”

Finally making eye contact, Jess sighed deeply before closing the space between them. “I don’t mean to alarm you, but some people were looking for you at the hospital yesterday.”

It was clear Lauren would not be spared her panic. “What? Who?”

“I didn’t catch any names. Three people.” Jess furrowed her brow in thought. “Two women, one super skinny, really hot with long dark hair. The other was a brunette. Intense eyes, leather. They were both hard to read,” she added more to herself to Lauren.

“Really beautiful?” Lauren asked of Bo.

“Eh, okay looking.”

“The third?”

“A guy, youngish. He had the biggest nose I’ve ever seen, it like dominated his face.”

Lauren stepped away trying to gather her thoughts. It couldn’t be. Her mind was only playing tricks on her when she thought she saw Kenzi. Right? The possibilities rushed through her mind in quick succession. Just because the description of the two women matched that Kenzi and Bo doesn’t mean it was them. This could only be a figment of her wishful thinking.

What if it was them? Who sent them? How’d they find her? Just how many people were aware of departure at this point? There was a very distinct chance that they were carrying out the bidding of the light fae. Bo owed the previous Ash more than a few favors. What if the new one was collecting?

“Lauren?”

And who was the guys? Not Hale or Dyson by the sound of it, which was a relief.

One thought lead to another. She didn’t know if she should be relieved that Bo had found her and her running could finally end, or disappointed that the new fledgling life she’d built would need to be stomped out so soon.

“Lauren!”

She jumped a foot into the air when Jess placed a hand on her shoulders.

“I’m sorry! Sorry. Just slow down.”

Lauren placed a hand over her chest.

“Are you okay?” Jess’ eyes bled with concern.

“I’m not sure,” Lauren breathed as she fell into an arm chair, the only furniture in the living room outside of a TV stand with no TV and a couple contemporary art reprints.

“Do you know who they are?” Jess asked tentatively.

“I have an idea…I think.”

Silence stretched between them for long moments as Lauren considered her options.

“You’re going to bail aren’t you?” Jess’ tone was in no way accusatory, if anything it was sympathetic if not a touched resigned.

Lauren nodded her head dumbly even as she responded, “I’m not sure.”

Jess took the seat beside her. Lauren absently resented the fact that she’d never get to see how the couch looked with her lovely new chairs. “I’m sorry I didn’t call yesterday. I didn’t want to give you the news over the phone and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t being followed.”

Lauren dug deep for a grateful smile. “Thank you, that was very prudent.” The words, “what now,” echoed loudly in her consciousness.

“Now what?” Jess parroted and Lauren wasn’t the least big surprised.

She went with the truth. ”I have absolutely no clue.”

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