“What the hell are we supposed to do?” I questioned.
“What can we do? We have to take them out.” Luke was reclining on the couch in my office, looking much too relaxed.
“Take them out. Really?” I looked at him, wondering if he was serious or messing with me. I was having trouble concentrating on anything. My thoughts scattering in all directions like they were blowing away with the wind.
“Why not? They were already dead. We wouldn’t really be killing them, just returning them to their previous reality.” Luke adjusted himself, tossing a throw pillow to make room for his long legs, and laid down.
“Returning them to…” I shook my head. Yeah, he was messing with me. “We have to do something. We can’t leave them like this. They’re becoming more and more unstable. No one was meant to live without a soul.” We had spent weeks tracking down everyone we could from my…experiments. In the meantime, I had done what research I could with the small amount of information I had. I found out that the people who hadn’t been dead for very long were completely intact. The unfortunate men and women who were dead for a longer amount of time came back missing their souls. Okay, so I had no information to research. It was frustrating. I could only go by what we knew so far, which wasn’t much.
The best I could tell, it took time for the soul to move on, but once it did, it was gone. I could bring a body back from death. It just wasn’t always whole. It wasn’t possible for me to pull their soul back once it was gone. I was sitting at my desk, staring blankly at my computer screen, and buried my face in my hands. “I’m not going to get any work done,” I said, my voice muffled behind my hands.
“I told you that two hours ago,” Luke said with a smirk.
“I know. I just feel like I should be doing more. I need to do more,” I said, frustrated.
“You know what has to be done. We can’t leave them out there, and we can’t pretend that everything will be okay.” He ran his hand through his hair and gave me a sad smile. “I was serious. They were already dead, and they need to be dead again. We can stall as long as you need to until you’re comfortable, but we will eventually have to take care of it. I can’t have my guys watching them forever.”
He was right. We had someone watching everyone that we had been able to track down, and the ones we hadn’t been able to find were slowly making themselves known. My stomach turned at the thought. When they made themselves known, it was in the most gruesome way imaginable. These hadn’t been good people to begin with. Removing their souls twisted an already depraved mind into something that couldn’t be allowed to live.
Luke’s face paled, and I knew his mind went to the same place mine did. There was one man in particular we were trying to find. Rodney. He had been in the first group I brought back, and we had been two steps behind him at every turn. We found out that he was already wanted in several states, and we were pretty sure he was a serial killer before losing his soul. Now, though? He was so much worse. “We can’t wait. I know that. If I can’t turn them to stone, how do we…how do I kill them?” I still couldn’t believe that they were immune to my power.
“You don’t have to be the one.” He looked at me with so much love and compassion in his eyes it made my breath catch in my chest.
“It’s my mess.” I sighed. “I’ve never needed a weapon before. I’m not even sure I’d know what to do with one.” I tried to laugh, but my stomach was so tied up in knots, it was all I could do to hold on to my lunch. The only good thing about this mess was that it occupied all my thoughts; I hadn’t had time to dwell on the past.
I ran my hand through my hair, then brought my snakes to the surface and let one twist and wrap around my finger. I had no idea what I was going to do. “Who’s bright idea was it to experiment with my abilities in the first place?”
Luke looked at me, tilting his head, and showed me his dimple. “I believe that bit of genius was all you.”
“Yeah, yeah. I know,” I grumbled. It really did seem like a good idea at the time. Alright, I still felt like I needed to know what I was capable of. I just wish there was a way to do it that didn’t include so many mistakes.
“Hey, it wasn’t all bad. And you’d never know what you’re capable of if you don’t try new things,” Luke replied, echoing my thoughts.
He stood and walked over to me, taking my hand and pulled me up. My body molded to his, and I let him hold me, taking comfort in the heat radiating from his body. “It all just turned to crap so fast. I feel like I keep making a mess of things.”
“Everything can’t be perfect the first time. There’s no way you could have known what would happen.” Releasing me and stepping back, Luke asked, “Will you let me take care of it? We can’t wait. I know I said we could, but we both know that it’s just not possible.” He ran his hand through his hair, lines of worry creasing his handsome face.
I let out a slow breath and moved to the window, looking out. “I know. I feel horrible for letting it go as long as we have as it is. I just don’t know how we’re going to find him.” I had been spending every bit of free time I had trying to find Rodney. I wasn’t sure what I would do once I found him, but I hated the thought of what he could be doing out there.
“I’ve gotten more information from my contact in the county sheriff’s department.” Luke leaned on the windowsill next to me and looked out quietly for a long moment. “He seems to be deteriorating. He’s been…the scenes have been…” He paused, clearing his throat and kept his gaze focused out the window, then continued, “I don’t think it will be hard to find him much longer.”
Putting my hand on his shoulder, I urged him to turn so I could search his eyes, trying to find the answer to the question I didn’t want to ask. I knew the answer wouldn’t be one I wanted to hear.
He gave an almost imperceptible shake of his head, knowing that I wanted to ask what Rodney had done, but wanting to save me from the details. “I’ll get every available man I can on this. We’ll find him.”
I nodded quietly, not asking what we’d do once we found him. I was dragging my feet with the rest of them. But he’d have to be dealt with immediately.
“Hopefully, we’ll have some news tonight. In the meantime, let’s go get some food. I know you haven’t been eating enough.”
I put my hand over my stomach, knowing he was right that I hadn’t been eating, but I wasn’t sure if I would be able to. I’d feel so much better once this whole mess was behind us. I felt like I was losing control of my life, and it brought up painful memories of my past. I knew it wasn’t the same thing. I wasn’t the same person, and looking at Luke, I knew I wasn’t alone. I let out a breath I didn’t even realize I’d been holding when that thought hit me. I wasn’t alone. I was building a new life, and I wasn’t doing it alone. It was so much more than I could have ever hoped for, and probably more than I deserved.
With a newfound resolve, I grabbed Luke’s hand and pulled him towards the door. “Let’s go eat. We’re going to need some energy. This can’t wait any longer.” I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself. It wasn’t helping anyone, and I was pretty sure it had been holding me back.
Luke graced me with a huge smile, his dimples on full display. “Sounds like a plan.”