Race the Darkness (Fatal Dreams Book 1)(8)

By: Abbie Roads

A fist slammed into his temple—or at least it felt like a fist. Xander winced at the tuning-in. Damn.

The door cracked open. All he could see was a too-large-to-be-normal jaundiced eyeball staring out at him, locking on Xander’s scars.

He bears the mark of the Beast. King warned me about him. He is here for the Dragon, but it is too late.

The mark of the Beast. Well, that was a new one. Xander touched the puckered skin on his cheek. He almost admired the originality. Almost.

“Go away. You’re trespassing.” The female voice was deep and thick, mucus snapping around each word. King must confirm the Dragon’s death before the body can be burned and the evil ashes soaked in holy water. “I’ll call the police.”

“You won’t call the police, or you would’ve called them already. Let me in. I won’t ask again.”

“Go away.” King would not permit such a risk to anyone, even one marked by the Beast. The door slammed. A lock snapped into place. A chain rattled.

Was she fearless or stupid or crazy? He leaned toward crazy, considering her thoughts of dragons and kings. He shouldn’t judge. He was short on sanity too.

Abandoning all of his self-control and the last of his logic, he rammed into the door, snapping the lock, busting the chain, and impacting with the heft of her body on the other side. He leaped across the threshold. The stench slammed into him—a physical entity that pushed him back a step.

Cigarette smoke so thick it choked the oxygen and clouded the room. Unwashed flesh so pungent and sour it burned his throat. And infusing it all, the putridly sweet rot of death. His throat kicked open, and he half coughed, half gagged, and barely managed to keep himself from vomiting.

The terrible throbbing in his head stopped, but his eyeballs took up the beat.

The floor was covered in trash. Old milk jugs, wrappers, empty boxes of food, strips of white paper that looked suspiciously like toilet paper. She obviously didn’t understand the function of a garbage can, and the concept of trash day had to be about fifty points above her IQ.

Roach-like, she scuttled to block a darkened hallway. Sweat plastered her few strands of hair to her skull like a greasy comb-over. Her bulbous nose and wide features verged on downright ugly. Stains of various colors and textures trailed down the front of her tank top, over the bulge of her protruding belly. Everything—every single thing—about her disgusted him. Repulsed him. He didn’t want to be in the same trailer with her, and he sure as fuck didn’t want to be in the same room with her.

So why was he here? Why couldn’t he force himself to leave?

She brandished a large pair of scissors and jabbed them at him like a roly-poly ninja. Under a different set of circumstances, he might’ve laughed, but her insanity sucked the humor from the situation.

And there was blood on the blades.

Dread fisted his lungs. “What have you done?” He braced, waiting for the frequency to be reestablished. His head jerked.

On the sixth day, I stabbed my sword into the Dragon’s flesh. “A peasant should not question his queen.” Her tongue slithered from her mouth and stroked over her lips, leaving a slime trail, before slipping back inside.

“I’m not your peasant.” He might be on a visit to Crazyland, but she had moved into town, taken up permanent residence, and joined the Church of Unsound Mind. When in Crazyland, do as the crazy do. He packed his tone with authority. “I am your king, and you will tell me what you’ve done.”

She froze, almost as if Xander had hit the pause button.

You don’t look like King.

Shit. “I had plastic surgery. Changed my entire appearance. That’s why you don’t recognize me.” With the scars on his face, she’d have to be more than crazy to buy that line of bovine excrement; she’d have to be downright dumb.

Her face relaxed into a look of senseless understanding.

“Sire.” She crossed one tree trunk of a leg in front of the other and curtsied. Fucking curtsied like she was some fancy-ass princess.

King is so pretty now. Except for part of his face. “I didn’t know your new face.”

“Show me what you’ve done.”

“I have followed your decree. On the sixth day, I thrust my sword into the Dragon.”

His gut coiled tight. “Show me.”

“It might not be safe for you. I’m not certain the Dragon is dead.”

He used his best I-am-the-king tone. “Show me.”

“But Sire, you cannot risk being in its presence if it still lives.”

“All will be well.” He forced himself not to gag on his next words. “My queen, please, show me.”

She turned and waddled down the short hallway. He followed her to a heavy steel door. The kind of door that wouldn’t be standard issue in a cheap trailer. The kind of door used to keep intruders out. Or to keep something locked inside, something that bled, from the looks of her scissors. An animal? He wanted it to be an animal, but—damn—he knew he was going to find a human on the other side of that steel.