- Author: eden Hudson
Book online «Honkytonk Hell: A Dark and Twisted Urban Fantasy (The Broken Bard Chronicles Book 1) eden Hudson (best book club books txt) 📖». Author eden Hudson
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood…”
Table of Contents
Part I: Life on the Inside
Part II: In Between
Part III: Outside Looking In
Mailing List and Reviews
About the Author
PART I: LIFE ON THE INSIDE
“Sit, Colt. Stay,” Mikal said.
My body obeyed. I couldn’t do anything about that anymore. Right then it was all I could handle to shut out the laughter going around the Dark Mansion’s parlor and the burn of humiliation in my stomach. I couldn’t waste the energy worrying about what was happening outside my head.
But inside I told Mikal, Fuck you.
That’s my good little soldier. Never stop fighting, she said. Or thought. I don’t know. It was a sound inside my skull and the sound was her voice.
Fuck you. For responses, I was down to “fuck you.” Anything else gave Mikal an opening, and around the same time that I stopped being able to tell whether it was day or night or some weird in-between that only mental hospitals and prisons have, I realized that openings are always bad.
Outside, Mikal slipped her fingers under the heavy leather band of the dog collar, lifting it away from my neck. The cool air and her touch soothed the places where the collar had rubbed my skin raw. It was such a relief. I tried to make myself feel disgust or loathing—anything but good.
Is this better? Mikal asked. The version of her tar-covered wings that was inside my head arced with electricity and wrapped around my brain. My teeth clenched, but she wouldn’t let me scream. You can have the good or the bad, Colter. It’s your choice.
She meant I could take my reward like a good dog and be grateful or we could go back to the way it was when I first got there. But she was wrong. She couldn’t take me all the way back. If she tried to, I would shut off completely. Catatonia wouldn’t be any fun for her.
Mikal laughed, but the pain stopped.
I love how clever you think you are, she said. If you go catatonic, I’ll cast you off and leave you all alone. Who’ll save you then? Tough? He’s barely keeping his own head above water.
At first I thought it was a hallucination brought on by her mentioning Tough—I saw the Tracker leading him into the parlor by the log chain wrapped around his chest and arms. The Tracker stopped Tough in front of Kathan, at the foot of the dais.
Then I realized that I could feel the cracks in the hardwood under my knees and I could smell the rotting-meat stench of the Tracker. Mikal stood beside me, running her fingers through my hair. Kathan said something to Tough and Tough got that smartass look on his face like he was about to say something that would probably get him killed.
My heart started pounding so hard I could feel it hammering on the wall of my chest. This was really happening. My little brother was still alive. Tough was all right. For a second that was all that mattered.
Then I saw the way Tough was looking at me.
I was naked. It’d been so long since I had worn clothes that I’d forgotten. I couldn’t remember the last shower I’d taken or the last time I’d been allowed to act human.
No, that wasn’t true.
My ears rang and cramps plowed into my shoulders. The basement—the last time Mikal had let me act human had been in the lunatic’s cell in the basement. The last piece of clothing I’d worn had been a straightjacket.
My ears were way past ringing now. The only thing I could hear was that hollow laughing and screaming. I couldn’t go back there. I would do anything to keep from going back.
Mikal stroked my cheek and rested her fingers against my face.
You see, Colt? she said. I don’t have to take you all the way back. You’re a good dog. You remember.
I parked my pickup on the north side of the square, climbed down and slammed the door. That aloe Harper had given me for the chain burns wasn’t helping much. Every time I moved, the blisters jerked, and the mid-August heat made them feel like they were still on fire. Friendly little reminders from Mayor Kathan.
I took my John Deere hat off and wiped the sweat off my face with the bottom of my shirt.
“Hey, Tough,” Tiffani yelled across the square from under her bakery’s awning. “Mitzi told me you were headed back to town. They take you to see the big boss man last night?”
Tiffani was Mitzi’s vampire-sister, so they could talk to each other telepathically. It was like a bonus prize of living in Halo—cell phones didn’t work, but the vamps’ connections kept the gossip lightning-fast. Tiffani had probably even known ahead of time that Jason and Mitzi were going to screw me over. Maybe I was the only guy in town who hadn’t seen that coming.
I made the cross at Tiffani with my forearms and a tourist couple glared at me. The guy grumbled something about punk kids not having any respect. I shot him the finger—because fuck everybody today—then I headed for the Matchmaker’s building. If it wasn’t daylight, Tiffani probably would’ve been across the square and whooping my ass before I could finish thinking that I didn’t have to respect someone who listened in when I had sex with her vamp-sister.
The air conditioning in the Matchmaker’s office made me break out in goose bumps. I let the door slam behind me.
“Tough?” Addison Kelley, a girl from my high school class, was the Matchmaker’s receptionist. “I figured you were gone for good this time! What’re you doing back in town?”
I didn’t worry about trying to answer.