Home > Once Bitten (Shadow Guild: The Rebel #1)(4)

Once Bitten (Shadow Guild: The Rebel #1)(4)
Author: Linsey Hall

Today, it was time to run.

3

Carrow

I turned to head back out into the main room, my earlier sentimentality urging me to scavenge whatever I could. Yeah, my place was shitty, and the neighbors weren’t fond of me. Or anyone, actually. We were all dead broke and scrabbling to survive in London. But deep in my heart, I knew I’d never be back here. I had a few favorite books from Beatrix that I didn’t want to part with, and an old blanket that—

The hair on the back of my neck stood up as the mobile in my pocket buzzed. Only one person texted me.

Corrigan.

I pulled it out and flipped it open, quickly scanning the message.

Carrow Burton, return to the station. The police are looking for you, and things will go easier if you turn yourself in.

Shit. He wasn’t really telling me to turn myself in. But he was warning me in a way that wouldn’t cast suspicion on him if his texts were ever reviewed.

The cops were coming.

The faintest sound from outside caught my hearing.

They were here.

Screw the books. I’d rather avenge Beatrix.

I whirled around and scrambled over the bed, heading for the small window on the other side. Sweating, I eased it up as quietly as I could and slung my pack over my shoulders. It took a moment to fumble with the iron bars. This was the fire escape, and I could open the bars like a door, but it always made a squeaky noise.

The lock was horribly rusty, and when I pushed open the window, the metal made the familiar soft, terrible screech. It sounded louder than ever before. Every inch of me stiffened. Had the cops heard?

No. Get a move on.

Quickly, I scrambled out of the window. Was that the murmur of voices out in the hallway, or was I imagining things?

No, they were out there. I could hear them at the door.

Carefully, I closed the window behind me—they had no way to know I was definitely here. No point in leaving them a big blinking arrow indicating which way I’d run. I left the iron bars open because of the betraying squeak, but they weren’t visible unless someone stuck their head out the window. Besides, loads of people in the building kept their bars open at the fire escape—it was the best place to smoke.

With a last, brief look back at my old home, I stared down at the alley. I was only one level up, and I could lower the ladder to get down. But that would make more noise.

I should just jump it.

“Just keep swimming, just keep swimming,” I whispered to myself.

Then I jumped, landing hard in a crouch. I couldn’t head toward the front street—there would definitely be cops out there. But the back street might be okay.

I hurried down the alley on swift, silent feet. The cold night air kept my head clear and my senses alert. As I neared the main road, I slowed and stuck close to the wall.

At the end, I paused and peeked around the corner.

Looked clear.

Even better, a drunken hen party was headed my way. Ten girls, all dressed in sparkly dresses and boas out to celebrate. The bride wore a crown and a sash that said Last Night A Free Woman.

“Don’t get married then, idiot,” I muttered, then cringed. I was being a total Bitter Betty, and these girls were just having fun.

If I were being honest, I was lonely and a bit jealous of their easy friendship. I missed Beatrix.

I joined them as they passed me, trying to blend with the crowd. It was the tail end of the night, closer to dawn than midnight, and they were probably headed home.

Though the hen party was too wasted to notice that I’d joined them, no one else would buy it. I didn’t fit in with my black jeans and battered black leather jacket. More like a dour cousin forced to celebrate with them, but it was better than nothing.

I huddled amongst them and let them carry me down the street, glancing back to see a cop car pull around to the back of the building.

They should have covered this exit before going into the front.

Thank God they hadn’t.

When the girls turned into a club that was blasting Bon Jovi, I felt my eyebrows rise. Apparently, I’d been wrong. The party girls were still partying, even at this insanely late hour.

I need to get more of a life.

I added it to my to-do list, putting it right after clearing my name of murder. Easy peasy.

I followed them into the packed club, where music blared and colored lights flashed. The whole place smelled of booze and sweat, and the crowd was heaving on the dance floor. My group surged toward the long bar at the back, and I split off, veering toward what I hoped was the rear exit.

Honestly, I’d rather follow the hen party to the bar. I’d have a quick shot of vodka—which I hated, though it definitely got the job done—and then I’d dance the night away and forget my current troubles. Getting lost in the oblivion of this place sounded a hell of a lot better than being on the run from the law.

But that wasn’t my life. And I was on the run.

“Better pick up the pace,” I muttered.

I pushed my way through the press of bodies, aiming for the far corner and a nondescript door.

I was almost there when I got caught between two drunk guys.

“Hey, pretty bird,” slurred one of them, his hands going immediately to my hips. He gripped me hard, pulling me toward him.

A streak of anger blasted through me.

“Don’t touch me.”

I kneed him in the balls, and he bent over with a grunt of pain.

“No fair!” shouted his friend, so drunk that his eyes were nearly crossed.

“Fair? This isn’t a freaking game, moron. And no one touches me without my permission.”

Especially when I was jumpy and trying to outrun the cops.

I hurried away, slipping into a hallway that led to the toilets. I strode into the women’s, ignoring the two girls drunkenly fixing their lipstick in the mirror.

I tossed my pack on the counter and dug through it for my hoodie. Shrugging out of my leather jacket, I pulled the hoodie on, then flipped the hood up. Last, I tugged the jacket on over the hoodie and zipped up my bag.

“You’re too pretty to cover your face,” one of the girls slurred. Her blonde hair was a wild mess from dancing, but somehow, she’d got her red lipstick on perfectly. That was a handy skill.

“Thanks,” I said.

“You on the run?” the dark-haired one asked, her blue eyes keenly assessing me.

I nodded, mind racing. “Bad boyfriend.”

Her face fell. “I know how that is.” She fumbled in her purse, and I thought she was reaching for more makeup. Instead, she pulled out a small wad of cash and thrust it toward me. “Here.”

I stared at it like she was trying to hand me a snake. “What’s that for?”

“To help you get away.”

The blonde dug into her own bag and shoved a Mars bar at me, then said apologetically, “It’s all I’ve got.”

My throat tightened. Drunk girls in bathrooms were the best people on earth.

“Thanks.” It was hard to get the words out through my stiff throat. Though my story about the bad boyfriend was fake, I needed the money.

I took it from the brunette, making sure to brush her hand with my own as I did so, hoping that I could see something to help her. An image flashed in my mind—one of a dark-haired guy slipping something into their drinks. Right now.

Bastard.

I gripped her hand. “Don’t drink the cocktails you left behind. The tall guy in the leather jacket put something in them.”

She gasped. “You know him?”

“I know his type.” My gaze moved to the blonde. “You, too. He put something in yours as well.”

“You saw it?”

I nodded. Let them assume I’d seen it before I walked in. “Just avoid him.”

“We will.” The brunette nodded fiercely.

The blonde pressed her Mars bar into my hand, and I took it gratefully. I loved chocolate. Even more, I loved the kind gesture. “Thank you. Truly.”

“Good luck,” the blonde said.

“Take care of yourself.” The brunette threw her arms around me in a hug, and I jerked.

I was the first time I’d been touched like this in years. I’d almost forgot what it felt like. I hugged her back. “Be careful. Go home.”

She pulled back and looked at her friend. “Let’s go. I have wine at my place.”

The blonde nodded, and they left the bathroom.

Briefly, I slumped against the counter.

Why did the world suck so badly?

Between the murderer and the bastard with the roofies, this was turning into a dark night.

But the one thing I didn’t have was time. No time to worry, no time to break.

I straightened and shoved the money into my pocket, not even bothering to count it. As I strode from the toilet, I unwrapped the Mars bar and took a huge bite.

The guy in the leather jacket was coming out of the bathroom, a smug smile on his face. No doubt the bastard thought he’d find the girls at the table drinking their poison.

He’d be disappointed.

As he neared me, I couldn’t resist stepping into his way.

“Hey, baby,” he said.

I kneed him in the balls, grinning as he went down with a wheeze.

I was two for two tonight, which was two more times than I’d ever pulled that maneuver in my life. Apparently, it was a night for new beginnings, and I was going to leave a trail of wheezing men in my wake.

He was curled like a pill bug on the floor, whimpering. I swallowed my bite of chocolate and leaned over. “Don’t put things in girls’ drinks, you tiny-pricked bastard.”

I didn’t wait to hear what he moaned. There was no time. I stepped over his worthless body and beelined for a back door at the end. It opened easily, and I slipped out into a narrow alley.

Should I risk another cab?

No, too expensive, and I was close to a Tube station, where I could get lost amongst the crowd. I kept my head down so my hood covered my face and moved as fast as I could without sprinting, making it to the stairs that led down to the station. I took them two at a time, debating jumping the turnstile at the bottom.

Nah. Too risky.

   
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