From Sinners and Saints Book I: Lost Wages of Sin
Gravel crunched beneath her feet. Bugs chirped and the wind made love to newly budding leaves. Above her, clouds rolled against the ominously darkened sky.
“I am absolutely out of my mind.”
Ava whirled around. He was there. Of course he was there. There was no way their paths wouldn’t cross again. For this, she was seemingly destined. Wherever she went in Natchez, Dante would be with her. No matter how she tried to shake him he wouldn’t let go.
“That’s a hoot,” Dante continued with a grin, taking slow, intentional steps forward. “’Cause just a second ago, you were of sound mind.”
She chose to ignore that. “What are you doing here?”
It was a redundant question. They both knew perfectly well what he was doing here, thus it came to no surprise when he ignored her question.
“Now, I’m a man who knows my crazies,” he drawled instead.
“And while I’ll give you points for effort, I gotta say you lack the essentials.” Dante’s grin broadened as he shrugged, hands diving into his pockets. “Ava, gotta admit, never pegged you one for breaking and entering.”
“Breaking and entering?”
“That’s what you’re doing, right?” he said. “Isn’t this one of those touristy places?”
The accusation--or the hint of one--left her feeling bitter and foolish. To the layman, her actions would seem crazy. To anyone who knew her, though, it was preemptive. Therefore, she wiggled self-consciously and said, “I felt something.”
He grinned. “I’ll say.”
“Figures you, err, dwarf types to follow your tinglies in the dead of night.” He rocked slightly on his heels. “What are we doing?”
“I am...none of your business,” Ava retorted, crossing her arms and cocking her head. “What are you doing here?”
Dante shrugged. “What’s it look like?”
“Wasting my time?”
He nodded as though it were the most obvious thing in the world. “I got nothing better to do.”
Ava just stared at him for a second. “No.”
“No to this. No to you helping. No to everything.”
Dante pouted. “Why not?” he whined. “You got no one else, do you?”
“There are plenty of demons I could call on if I wanted.”
Okay, so that was a lie, but it was the only one she had.
“But none others that are yours. I’m here for a reason, you know.” Dante’s head tilted as he studied her. “You need me.”
Ava reeled. “No.”
“There’s the makings of a good argument.”
“What’ve you got to lose?” he demanded.
“Not much. I’d prefer to hold onto what I have left.”
Dante glowered. “Fine then. Have it your way. Just figured you wouldn’t mind a bit of company, seeing as you’re chatting yourself up to keep from going crazy. I’ll be on my way, then.” He waved and began to backtrack down the path. “Cheers.”
It was the most pathetic bluff she’d ever heard, yet as Dante’s familiar form began to fade into shadow, part of her succumbed to panic. She really didn’t want to be alone; another thing that seemed good on paper yet failed miserably in reality. Thus before she could reconsider, she heard herself call after him.
His answering grin was the one of a canary-stuffed cat. “Miss me already?”
Ava sighed and wagged a finger at him. “Don’t make me regret this.”
Dante just shrugged, not bothering to hide his satisfaction as he took his place at her side. “Not much chance of that, is there?”
No, there really wasn’t.
Yet as they started up the path, side-by-side, Ava couldn’t bring herself to mind.