On Fridays I’m sharing a chapter a week from one of my books. The first book is Souls Lost. If you wish to purchase it to read faster, you can find it at your favorite retailer. Find chapter 1 here.
After Taran left, Kay sank down on the sofa in the family room—apparently this time the casual sitting area was acceptable. And then she began to cry. Zoe tried to comfort her sobs but had no idea how to do so. The grief that came out was so loud, so deep that it echoed inside the deepest places of her body, her cells reacting, contracting against the pain the other woman was sharing.
Zoe got up and found tissues, using only her left hand. She had finally braved a look at her right hand and it looked normal, though it ached and burned and there was no sign of the pain abating. She paused in the bathroom to run some cool water over a finger. The burning increased as if the very touch of something was too much for that hand.
Instead, Zoe carried the tissues out to Kay who was now doubled over and sobbing just as hard as when Zoe left. The sobs were so constant, so long and loud, that Zoe wondered how the other woman was breathing. She tried patting her on the back but such a gesture seemed so futile in the wake of this pain.
Worse, Zoe didn’t understand why Kay was crying. Her own pain, the pain in her hand, was physical but she wasn’t crying. Kay had come through unscathed but she was sobbing as if she’d lost everyone and everything she’d ever loved. Was it seeing Taran again? Was she not over her ex-husband? It seemed over the top drama if she were crying for Taran. Plus it felt out of character for the woman who had walked through her door earlier.
Zoe got up and rummaged around, finding a bag of really old, really cheap tea. She set a pan on the stove and started water to boiling. It wasn’t ideal, but they could at least have something soothing to drink. She’d read enough British mysteries to know that when you didn’t know what else to do, you made tea. Zoe wanted to giggle at herself for doing so, but she bit her lip and continued on with her preparations.
Kay’s sobs may have begun to slow by the time the tea had steeped in the mugs. Zoe brought the first one over for Kay, setting it carefully on the table. Then she brought her own. She hoped her hand would heal soon enough. If only Kay would have wished to heal her as well.
Zoe settled back on the sofa, close to Kay, put her hand on Kay’s back and rubbed like she remembered her mother doing to her. Her hand made little circles around and around like she was spreading lotion on Kay’s skin, though Kay was fully dressed and Zoe had no lotion. It was a soothing gesture for her and she hoped that Kay felt it as well.
Slowly, as Zoe’s arm began to tire, Kay’s sobs became hiccups and finally sniffles.
“I’m sorry,” Kay said.
“It’s okay,” Zoe said. She leaned forward and took a sip of her own tea, awkward at using her left hand but she didn’t trust her right.
Kay said nothing but used three of the tissues, honking behind the thin paper she pressed over her nose. Finally she wiped the bottom of her nose and looked at Zoe sadly. “I’m glad you’re okay.”
“Mostly,” Zoe said.
Kay looked at Zoe’s hand. “What’s wrong?”
“It’s incredibly painful. Like it’s on fire or something.” Zoe didn’t move her hand. Kay didn’t reach out to take it, which was a relief. There were those who would. Zoe’s father would immediately reach out and touch if she told him her hand was in pain.
Kay took a breath. “I’m not sure I can do it.”
“Do what?” Zoe asked.
“What that creature asked me to do,” Kay said. “I can’t. I know he says he’s not a demon, but my momma warned me about him, warned me that demons are tricky and that they lie to get their way.”
Zoe sighed. She understood Kay’s fear a little. She didn’t agree with Kay’s assessment, perhaps because she’d spent so much time living across the country among people who didn’t worry about their immortal soul in the same way as people did in the South. Oh, Westerners worried, but it was a different worry, not a purely Christian worry.
“I mean, am I already damned? Was that a test? Risk your life to save my own soul? Could God judge me for that?” Kay wailed.
Zoe was certain a judgmental god could. Her god, the god she found in her church, would probably understand the desire to save a life. And wouldn’t standing aside as someone else suffered be a worse sin?
“I can’t imagine God would do that,” Zoe said finally, carefully.
Kay blew her nose again and sipped her tea. “I don’t know how I can do what the creature asks. I really don’t. I think I need to leave. Go back to Virginia and never return.”
“Can you wait a little?” Zoe asked. “Can we ask it a few more questions?”
“Like what?” Kay asked.
“I want to know why those women died. Why did my momma die? What attracted those creatures to certain women and not others? I’ve been here for three weeks and nothing happened until yesterday, and suddenly they wanted me dead, too” Zoe said.
Kay nodded. “I guess if it will answer my questions and I don’t ask anything of it, I might be okay. At least as okay as I am now.”
It occurred to Zoe that questioning the creature could be considered soothsaying, but if Kay hadn’t thought of that, she wasn’t going to bring up the idea. She needed answers, if not for the law, then for herself.
Kay sipped her tea.
Zoe sipped hers. It was hard to hold the mug with her left hand. She kept wanting to steady it with her right. She finally set the mug down and watched it cool, while Kay sat silent sipping hers.
Zoe wanted to demand they go out and start asking questions right then, but she didn’t want to spook Kay. So she sat silent, waiting, her hand throbbing. She listened to the refrigerator click and the air conditioning hum. Her stomach started to knot, probably from the pain. She wondered if taking an asprin would help.
“And maybe ask what I need to do to help my hand heal,” Zoe said. She wanted to ask Kay to ask Emrys if he could heal the hand, but she didn’t want to push. She needed to get answers first. Maybe then Kay would feel better about making a healing wish.
Kay nodded. She finished her tea. Set the mug on the table and looked at Zoe.
“Let’s get this over with.” She stood up and went to the door. Zoe followed more slowly.
Chapter 37 will be coming next Friday. Don’t want to wait? Find the book here.