“It will be fun.” Dylan’s eyes flashed with more danger than anyone else’s could, and as usual, Kara was unable to resist the temptation. In the sixteen years before meeting Dylan, Kara had never once done anything that came close to breaking a law. In the three months since she had known Dylan, Kara had done at least a dozen things. Thankfully, she hadn’t been caught for any of them.
Kara sighed and nodded her submission to Dylan’s will, like always. Dylan grinned wickedly at her and began to climb the fence, which rattled noisily. The fence was chain link, and Kara was glad Dylan warned her to wear gloves. Otherwise, the iron in the links would leave both their hands blistered. Dylan dropped to the other side safely, and then turned back to Kara. She pushed her fingers through the links and rested them over Kara’s own. Dylan grinned. Even through their gloves Dylan’s touch sent sparks racing through Kara. Every nerve in her body tingled deliciously.
“Come on.” Dylan motioned with her head toward the dark buildings behind her. “It’s easy and no one is going to catch us.” Dylan didn’t step back until Kara nodded.
“I’m coming,” Kara said. Of course she was coming, what was her other option? Head home for a night of TV with her mom and her boyfriend? Not fucking likely.
As Kara slipped over the top of the fence, her shirt and jacket lifted. Her stomach brushed across the cold iron of the fence. Kara winced as pain surged through her body. Fighting the urge to let go, Kara made it safely to the ground. She pulled off her gloves and shoved them in her pockets as Dylan had done. Gingerly, fearing what she would see, Kara lifted her shirt.
There was a three inch mark as red and raw looking as the fresh burn left by a hot poker. It arched in an angle across her stomach from her navel to her ribs. Dylan stepped towards Kara, her eyes wide with concern.
“Oh shit,” Dylan said softly, as she gently fingered the wound. Kara’s stomach twisted as Dylan’s warm fingers tickled her skin, pleasure mixing dangerously with pain. “Are you alright?” Dylan asked. She looked up from under her long eyelashes at Kara, a slow, teasing grin on her face.
“Yeah,” Kara said. She swallowed back the pain and dropped her shirt. Dylan pulled her hand away. The double innuendo was always a favorite of Dylan’s. Kara often wondered if Dylan had any idea how crazy she made her feel. “I’ll be fine.” Kara was glad the blush on her cheeks could be explained by the frigid night air.
“We’ll put something on it when we get back to my place,” Dylan assured her. All the teasing was gone from her voice now. For that moment she was nothing but the concerned friend. “I know how much that hurts.”
Kara nodded and followed Dylan into the alley between the old factory buildings, letting the darkness swallow them up. Dylan did know exactly how much it hurt. It was one of the few things they had in common, an extreme allergy to iron. Kara pushed her shoulder length hair behind her ears and wrapped her arms around herself. Dylan had insisted Kara wear only a tank top for the rave. That combined with her winter jacket wasn’t quite enough warmth in the frigid night.
The dark alley was hugged tight on either side by derelict factory buildings, making Kara claustrophobic. She wondered if there even was a rave. Dylan had been wrong before. Still, Kara was always ready to go on any adventure with Dylan. Crazy as Dylan could be, Kara was never as happy as she was around Dylan. They had little in common, but it felt like life had meaning when she was with Dylan.
“You sure you don’t want a hit?” Dylan asked. She stopped short and turned to Kara in the darkness. “I think I feel it starting to kick in.” Dylan ran her hands through her own long hair, shutting her eyes and smiling at the sensation. “It’s kind of amazing already.” Her eyelids fluttered open. She smiled and looked at Kara with drug hazed eyes. Kara knew the expression all too well.
Drugs were something they didn’t have in common. Sometimes Dylan could convince Kara to take whatever drug Dylan was into at the moment, but it hadn’t taken Kara long to figure out that one of them needed to be sober enough to take care of Dylan. Dylan was never the sober one. Kara couldn’t count the number of times in the past few months she had all but carried Dylan home.
“I’m good,” Kara said. Without thinking, she ran her hand down Dylan’s hair. “But you have fun, okay?”
“Okay.” Dylan smiled dreamily, as the ecstasy kicked in.
Kara knew the look. Dylan’s eyes would grow darker. All night long she would look at everyone as if she wanted to pounce on them. Not far in the distance, there was a sudden pulse of music. Dylan hadn’t been wrong about the rave.
“Hear that?” Kara asked with a smile. She turned toward the music, but Dylan grabbed her arm and pulled her back.
Kara froze as she found herself within an inch of Dylan’s already warming body. Dylan ran her hand down Kara’s arm and onto her side.
“Relax,” Dylan ordered with a soft smile, sensing Kara’s tenseness. “You feel really good.” Dylan’s eyes closed as her hand worked its way around to the small of Kara’s back. Dylan’s fingers brushed under Kara’s coat; Kara couldn’t help but relax into the unexpected touch.
“What are you doing, Dylan?” Kara asked softly, as she leaned into Dylan’s body. Both Dylan’s hands were on Kara’s hips, her thumbs moving lazily on Kara’s stomach.
“I know you love me,” Dylan answered. She said it as simply as someone would say what they wanted for dinner. She opened her eyes and smiled up at Kara, who frowned. “It’s okay,” Dylan leaned up and brushed her lips softly on Kara’s. “I kinda love you too.” She spoke the words right against Kara’s lips; it was all Kara could do not to shudder.
It was only the drugs. Kara had to keep telling herself it was only the drugs.
“Dylan, you’re stoned.” Kara pushed Dylan’s hands away, hoping Dylan wouldn’t notice her blush. Just the gentle touch of Dylan’s lips had sent her blood spiraling through her veins at a suicide pace.
“Not stoned.” Dylan pouted, and then smiled. “I do love you.”
“Let’s get you inside.” Kara smiled despite herself as Dylan nodded and turned toward the beat of the music.
Dylan wouldn’t remember it in the morning, but Kara knew the memory would stay with her.
Kara awoke, urgently pushing herself up from the mud as she took a deep breath. She was on the verge of suffocation, tears, and panic all at once. She thrashed in the mud, regaining her equilibrium as she got her breath back. Seeing Glint and Collicks watching, Kara shoved herself to her feet. She knew they had experienced the memory with her. The thought caused her to flush with embarrassment.
“The Morning hurts you, see?” Glint asked eagerly. “Gives up the Morning.”
Kara was still breathing heavily, trying to work through the memory in her head. Now that she had relived it, she remembered the night. It was Dylan’s birthday, they had snuck into the factories down by the docks for a rave, and Dylan kissed her. Now that she thought about it, she remembered it happened again later in the night too. She didn’t think they ever talked about it. If Dylan was this Morning they kept talking about, then Kara knew she couldn’t give her up. Everything before that night, three months into their friendship, was a pleasant blur. Everything after it was still shrouded in darkness.
“I want to see your master,” Kara demanded. She stared down the two small creatures, willing them to challenge her. She wasn’t budging on this. The creatures were small enough that she thought she might have a chance if it came to a fight. Mud lay wet on her face but she didn’t bother wiping at it, knowing it was pointless. Finally, after what seemed like far too long, Glint and Collicks exchanged a sad look.
“We sends you to him.” Collicks nodded.
“You regrets this, you will see,” Glint warned. “You could have gone home, given up the Morning.”
“Dylan is my friend,” Kara answered coldly. “I won’t give her up.”
“You know nots what you say,” Glint shook his head.
“I don’t care.” Kara was surprised that she meant it. She didn’t care what Dylan was to her, or what history they shared. If Dylan was trapped in the same strange world Kara found herself in, then she couldn’t leave her.
“You regrets this,” Collicks warned one last time as he took her hand.
His hand was freezing. It felt like taking hold of an icicle. Her hand began to ache from the cold, but when she tried to pull away, he held tight. The dark pit around her faded slowly to blackness before light seeped in again. Kara found herself standing alone in a great hallway.
The air around her was still cold, but one glance down told her she was clean again. The hall was lined with black marble, floors, walls, and ceilings. Harsh florescent lighting illuminated the hall from far above, reflecting off the smooth floor. After the darkness of the pit, Kara squinted before she got her bearings.
“Hello?” she spoke softly, but she couldn’t have sounded louder if she had shouted. Her voice echoed off the walls in the silent hall.
There were no doors leading off the hallway, only more of the same smooth marble. She could only move forward, or backward. Trusting that Collicks set her down facing the right direction, Kara started forward.
The soles of Kara’s sneakers squeaked on the floor, and she winced. The squeaking echoed loudly in the vast hallway. Kara imagined all manner of evil creatures rushing to see what was sneaking through their hallway. The hallway seemed to go on forever before ending in a single, large door. Kara faced the ancient looking door. The wood was rough, weathered, and faded. One look at the handle was all Kara needed to see it was pure iron.
Kara looked around the hallway, hoping for something to cover her hand. It was empty, as she had already known. Carefully, she slipped her hand under her shirt, praying the thin fabric would be enough protection from the iron. After taking a deep breath, she reached out and pulled the handle downwards. The door was heavy, and she could only push it a few inches before she felt the iron start to burn her through the shirt. She let go of the handle and shook her burning hand. The door began to creak back into position. Kara slipped her foot in the crack to keep it from closing all the way and grimaced as her foot was squeezed painfully.
A glance at her hand told her no real damage had been done, but it was irritated and red. Kara forced her way through the door, shoving it open with her shoulder and steering clear of the handle. She stood just inside the door, staring with shock at the modern looking office around her. The room was huge, a good fifteen feet between where she stood and the wide black desk that held a computer at the far end of the room. It was the only furniture in the room.
A man sat behind the desk, his back to her as he stared out the windows. The view was amazing. Windows curved across the whole end of the office giving a panoramic view of an unfamiliar city draped in twilight. When she was sure the man wasn’t going to turn her way without prompting, Kara moved forward to stand in front of his desk.
“Excuse me?” Kara tried her best to make it sound polite, but knew she failed. Sometimes it wasn’t easy to be polite to someone who locked you in a mud pit.
The man swiveled smoothly to face her. He was beautiful. He looked barely twenty years old, with thick brown hair and eyes so dark they were almost black. His smile revealed straight white teeth against his tan skin. In his perfectly tailored suit, he was the picture of young and successful. Perhaps if there had been even an ounce of true human emotion in his eyes Kara might have bought it. His dark eyes were cold and empty as he studied her.
“How can I be of service?” the man asked. The kindness in his voice was forced.
“Who are you?” Kara asked coldly. She wasn’t about to pretend to be anything other than pissed off.
He considered the question before answering. “Let’s go with Demitar this round, shall we?” He leaned back in the chair with his hands behind his head and one ankle resting on the opposite knee.
“How about you go with the truth?” Kara suggested, as she crossed her arms over her pounding heart. She felt like Demitar would hear it and know how nervous she was. Facing him was like staring down a lion. He was dangerous, and he was trying to decide if she was prey. She needed him to see her as an equal.
“Young Guardian, how little you remember of your own roots.” Demitar shook his head with a small smile. He stood and walked to the front of the desk. His hands moved as he spoke. “Truth is so fluid. Demitar is as much my real name as a host of others.”
“Fine,” Kara said, trying hard not to let her confusion show. “Who the hell are you, Demitar?”
Demitar smiled and leaned against the desk. “I can’t tell you that. Wouldn’t be fair now would it?”
“Okay, listen,” Kara said. She put her hands on her hips. “I don’t know what the hell you are playing at here, or where the hell I am. I can over look all that though, if you just give me back my friend and send us home.”
“Your friend? Would that be the girl you call Dylan?” Demitar still had a half amused smile on his face. “I can’t give you Morning anymore than I can keep her from you.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Years of anger boiled inside Kara, anger at her mom, anger at her mom’s boyfriend, and anger at the kids at school who ignored and bullied her. She crossed her arms in front of her, holding it all in. Instinct told her she needed to keep controlled around Demitar.
“Go with the anger.” Demitar smiled wider. He leaned forward with his elbows on the desk. Kara tried to control her emotions. He knew what she was feeling? That meant that he would also know how afraid she was. She tried to shove the fear deep inside, too far for him to feel.
Demitar cocked his head, confusion flitting over his face, before continuing. “I only meant that Morning is Inbetween now.” He swept his hand, motioning to the view behind him. “At this moment she belongs to neither of us, as long as she’s out there somewhere. She should have been here with me years ago, but her father was smarter than I assumed. It was my mistake.”
“Why should Dylan be here with you?” Kara narrowed her eyes at the man. However old he was, he was definitely too old for Dylan.
“Because that was the deal I made with her father in exchange for his life. Unfortunately, he sent her to the world you know, that blighted human world.” Demitar’s face pinched, like he had gotten a whiff of garbage. “Worse than that, he bought another child to be her Guardian when this time came. That, my dear, is you.”
“That’s impossible. I’ve known Dylan for less than a year.” Kara shook her head. The strange world, the even stranger inhabitants, Kara could take that. But the words coming out of Demitar’s mouth were beginning to stir something long repressed in her that she wasn’t ready for.
“You’ve known her your whole life.” Demitar smiled. “She was the Day King’s daughter; you were only the daughter of a servant. You were the princess’s only friend. Even at that age you were in love with her.” He said it with disgust; as if love was a weakness he didn’t have time for.
Kara’s stomach turned as the memories came rushing back to her. Nothing in her life was real. She was an interloper in the world she thought of as her own. Her mom wasn’t really her mom at all. She could see a glimpse of the faces of her true fairy parents, her father with his kind eyes and her soft spoken mother. It was only because her father was the King’s right hand man that she had been allowed to play with Morning. At five, she had followed Morning all around the castle. At six, they had both been sent to live in the human world.