Purring woke him. That and a mouthful of fur.
Death peeled open one eye. “Do you require more food little cat?”
It licked him. He never realized that cats had such rough tongues before the urge came upon him.
He peered at the ceiling. “Don’t you ever give up?”
What he wouldn’t give for his incorporeal form, where he could harvest all souls in a matter of moments and get back to his big house and his sword-fighting and his whiskey. He was beginning to understand how pissed Danu was. There was no arguing her when she was in a mood like this. The only thing he could do was ride it out until she came to her senses.
He only hoped it wouldn’t be for that much longer.
He searched for clothing and found some in the alcove behind some doors in the room, made use of the bathroom, and noted that he would need some more bananas if he was to stave off hunger. The door to the limo swung open just as he stepped foot through the front door and he was slammed inside.
“Damn.” He untangled his limbs and sat on his ass instead of his face, to find the kitten watching him from the adjacent seat.
“How the hell did you get in here?”
He gripped the sides of the seat as the limo sped through traffic. They wove in and out of parked cars. They were on a freeway and shouldn’t be parked at all. Then he saw why.
Black mist swirled around a pile of cars, thicker in some places and thinner in others. The bodies had already expired where the mist was thickest. He lurched back through the open car door and fought his way through the crowds to where the mist hung like a black cloud.
He touched the poor woman and her child at the same time. White mist washed them away together. He then ran to an upturned car. Red mist took that driver, her screams echoing into the air, though nobody but him could hear.
Again and again he touched the victims until they had all been harvested. He sat, exhausted, at the edge of the road, watching as paramedics came to try and revive the bodies. Some he knew would be revived because he hadn’t harvested those souls and they were safely connected to their bodies. Others he knew would never be revived and after several minutes the paramedics came to the same conclusion.
Twenty souls he counted. The number was significant. And unusual. It wasn’t war. Rare for a traffic incident. There was another time when he had harvested twenty souls. A suicide, if he remembered correctly. There’d been something not quite right about that harvest, but he hadn’t stayed to speak with the souls. He’d done his job and left, turning his back before he’d had to listen to them begging to return to their bodies.
The limo drew up. He sighed as he stared at the open door. Slowly, he gathered his legs beneath him and slid into the back seat. He didn’t even tell the limo he wanted to go back home. It seemed he had little choice in the matter.
It rolled to a stop at the front of the vintage store instead of the bungalow as he’d expected. Inside, Sophia dusted items in the window. She looked so lovely with her thick strands of blonde hair tossed over her shoulders. She was dressed in another concoction of color and gathered material, this time all in different shades of pink. She wore a matching headband that kept the locks off her face.
His gut lurched and he said something he never though he would say: “No, Danu. I will not take her soul.”
The next thing he knew he was in the shop. Sophia turned and bumped into him. He caught her before she could overbalance and topple to the floor. The tempting fragrance of cinnamon and woman teased his nostrils. He searched for black mist.
“What on Earth are you looking for…? And why on Earth are you here…? I told you not to come here again,” Sophia said.
“Oh! How adorable!” She picked something up on the floor by his booted feet. A little ball of fluff was in the cup of her hands. “Is it yours?”
She held the kitten in the delicate cage of her fingers and rubbed her cheek against it. The creature let out a little mew and began to purr. And then he had the first good idea of his very long existence, “Yes. I brought him for you.”
Her luminous eyes rounded and her expression morphed into something delighted, and all he could do was let his eyes roam her face and stare at her.
“Are you hungry? Would you like some water?” He thought she might have been asking him, until she brought the kitten to her chest and disappeared behind a yellow curtain.
Unsure, he followed to see she was in a little kitchen area and was placing a dish of water on the ground in front of the kitten. It obediently sat in front of the dish and lapped up the water.
Sophia rested against a bench and crossed her arms. She leveled a stare at him that nobody had ever been brave enough to do. “What are you doing back here…? Who actually are you?”
He threw back his shoulders and straightened. She should know how he really was. Perhaps it would take all of the confusion away. “I am Lo…”
Sophia frowned, “I’m sorry?”
Death cleared his throat. How hard was it to say he was Riordan, Lord of Death on the immortal world Amaru Elora? It would be a shock, but she should be properly impressed once her shock passed. “I am Lo…” His throat closed over and his tongue became stuck to the top of his mouth.
She grabbed a glass and filled it with water. “Here. Take a sip. Generally it’s not hard to tell someone your name.”
As her fingers touched his, a tingle traveled up his arm. She drew a startled breath and withdrew her hand, “Sorry. Static electricity… or something.”
He was surprised she’d felt anything, and then pleased. It meant that whatever was going on between them wasn’t all one-sided.
“L…” he drew a breath. “L… Liam.” He frowned. Liam? That wasn’t his name.
“Liam? Do you have a last name?”
There was a well-read book on a shelf by a well-known author he’d harvested years ago. The man hadn’t wanted to move on without taking his manuscripts. Little did he know that the only things souls took with them of any value at all were memories, learning, and experiences. And love.
They took the love.
Money. Businesses. Houses. Cars. Clothing. Botox. All worthless.
“Lewis. Liam Lewis.”
She pursed her lips, regarding him. “I don’t think that’s your real name. Somehow you don’t look like a Liam Lewis.”
He settled for the truth. “I can’t tell you my real name.”
Her phone beeped. Sizing him up, she picked up her phone and read the message. She put a hand over her mouth and began to tremble.
“My God. Oh my God!”
“Sophia? What is it?’ He was impotent. Unsure. While terror razed through her. He wanted to take it away.
“I… have to go.” She reached for her bag, fingers fumbling, unzipped it and rattled the contents around. Then she patted herself down, her eyes wild, mouth slack.
“Sophia. What’s wrong?” Because something was obviously wrong. He didn’t know what to do and he was floundering. He wanted to do something.
And he wasn’t used to that. Not by a long shot.