Miles hears Jordan and Brian arguing. Rather than letting it escalate, he intervenes and tries to explain to Jordan what Brian is going through. He tells them to put their personal feelings aside to deal with later, and focus on what’s probably going to happen that night. They decide to have a picnic by the river.
“You can smooth the ground with a swoosh and can’t control flames to save your life.”
Brian chuckled. “Dirt’s easy. Dirt won’t set my house on fire. I’m comfortable with dirt. Dirt won’t ignite my hair or give me blisters or sizzle my sack.”
Jordan burst out laughing again. “Sizzle my sack,” she giggled.
They had a good time over lunch and spent the better part of an hour playing with the water. Jordan was quiet adept at making water spouts. Brian was good at creating waves. They stopped when they nearly made a couple of kayaks capsize. Brian kept them upright while Jordan got their antics contained. Giggling, they cleared up their mess and went back to the car.
The Harvest Ball was set for 7:00 and Jordan demanded the rest of the afternoon to prepare. Brian, who wasn’t female, had no idea why she had to have so much time.
“I want to be beautiful tonight. Just because we’re going to vanquish a demon doesn’t mean I don’t want to look good.”
Brian brushed her cheek with his thumb. “You look beautiful all the time. You don’t need a fancy hairdo or dress to make me want you.”
His voice dropped to a deep husky range that was completely foreign to him. It made Jordan shiver. His kiss was far more friendly than she wanted. Realizing that this was more than just Brian, she pushed him gently away.
“Another time, when you don’t have an Ethereal Rider, I’d like this attention. Right now, I feel like I’m being spied on.”
Brian understood, but she wasn’t sure the Rider did. Rather than putting him in an uncomfortable position, she went home. He wasn’t overly surprised to see the adults having a meeting without the teenagers.
“We asked Cynthia to take Cliff’s place,” his father told him. “She agreed. Dora has already said she doesn’t want to go back to the house, so Cynthia will have it fixed up and move in.”
“How’s Dora doing?”
“Shaky, but well,” Maribelle said. “We live with the very real knowledge that what we do is extremely dangerous. We knew there would eventually be holes in our ranks.” She sniffled, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand.
“What’s the game plan?” Brian asked.
“We don’t want to involve you kids,” Harold said, face grim.
“That’s unavoidable, Mr. Pennybaker. No offense, but you’re down by two. That alone is cause for concern. And I’m the one with the dubious honor of playing host to the Rider. If he is the Peddler, he needs to be around. Whatever’s in that mausoleum wants out.”
“How do you know that?” Harold sneered. “Did you see it in a dream?” The contempt and disbelief in his voice were quite obvious.
Brian gave him a level stare. Mr. Pennybaker shifted nervously as Brian continued to stare, saying nothing. Taking a deep breath, he decided to answer the rude question.
“Remember the part about having the Rider?” He gestured toward his right shoulder. “It knows things which it passes along to me. I don’t want to know them. I don’t want him there, but what can ya do?” A barking laugh left his lips. His eyes didn’t share the joy. “It wants out. It wants to eat our souls. Just for fun, let’s say it starts with yours. Do you have any clue what happens to you when a demon sucks your soul out of your body?”
Mr. Pennybaker said nothing. His body shook and he gasped for breath. Opening and shutting his mouth, he gulped and grimaced, turning red in the face. A vein stuck out in his forehead as his face turned blue. Brian looked on placidly, just a tilt of his head indicated that he was doing anything. Suddenly, Harold Pennybaker collapsed on the coffee table, smacking the wood with his chin.
“How did that feel, Harold?” Brian bent over the prostrate man, face less than two inches from Harold’s ear. “Did it feel like your blood was being sucked out through your pores? Could you feel your spleen heat up, trying to explode? How did you like the fire in your groin or the excruciating pain up and down your spine? Because that!” He poked Harold’s cheek with his index finger. “Was nothing compared to what that demon wants to do—with all of us—including your precious, virginal daughter!”
Brian left suddenly, storming out of the house, slamming the door. Miles and Heath went after him, followed by Meru and Dwight. They rushed out the door, but couldn’t see Brian anywhere. In those few seconds, he’d disappeared. His car sat in the driveway, so he’d gone on foot.
“Where would he go?” Miles asked.
“He might go to our house,” Heath replied.
“Or to Chase’s,” Meru speculated.
“Or neither,” Dwight said, pointing up.
Brian sat in a tree several feet above their heads. He crouched in the thick of the branches, perched like a predator. Miles fetched Claude, hoping that the doctor would have some brilliant idea to get Brian down.
Nothing any of the men said made any difference. Brian refused to come down. Dwight solved the problem by climbing the tree. He sat across from Brian, offering him half a candy bar. Brian took it, nodding his thanks.
© 2017 Dellani Oakes
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