Home > Wayward Souls (Souls of the Road #1)

Wayward Souls (Souls of the Road #1)
Author: Devon Monk

Chapter One

 

 

Illinois

 

 

Lu wanted the truck.

“It’s too old,” I repeated.

There were two things going against me winning this argument. One: I was dead, so she couldn’t hear me, and two: I was her husband, so she probably wouldn’t listen to me anyway.

“I like it.” She ran a palm along the hood as if she could tell its life story through touch alone. With her abilities, I wouldn’t put it past her. Touching things and knowing their value was likely the only good she’d gotten out of the day we’d died.

Her wedding ring, worn down to a thin gold band, winked dully in the afternoon light and caught like a sharp hook in my heart. I’d told her she could take it off. Told her she should let me go.

I hadn’t won that argument either, and didn’t I love her all the more for it?

“What do you think, Lorde?” she asked.

“That dog couldn’t spot a bad front-end alignment if she were chewing on the axle,” I groused.

The dog in question tipped her big, fuzzy black head. She was part chow chow, and part shepherd. From the way her eyes tracked me, as I leaned against the back bumper of the truck, I knew at least one of my girls was listening.

I bent forward so my face was closer to the dog. “Tell her Brogan says it has a bad radiator, it’s leaking oil, and the electrical is shot.”

Lorde panted, her black tongue almost disappearing against all that black fur. She barked once.

“Atta girl,” I said. “Front. End. Alignment.”

She dutifully barked three times.

“Okay, okay,” Lu said. “I get it. You like the truck too.”

The dog wagged her tail. I groaned.

Lu plucked the weathered FOR SALE sign off the cracked windshield and marched toward the crooked front stoop of the house, determination in every lean line of her.

“That was a no!” I threw my arms up and stared at the wide blue arc of Illinois sky.

“You’re gonna spend twice as much time under that thing as in it,” I said. “Lu. Lula, just…touch the watch. Listen to me. Talk to me.” I strode up to the house with her, an easy lope. Moving as a spirit through the world meant the world had very little impact upon me, and I didn’t have much on it either.

Unless I got angry.

Then I could tear this world to shreds.

But this wasn’t something that needed my anger.

A frown put three lines between her auburn eyebrows. Her wide mouth tightened at the corners like she was half chewed through a lemon. That, along with the look of resolve in her eyes, just made me love her more.

She was being a bit of a sap about the truck, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to pull her in my arms and kiss the hell out of her.

“Listen.” I put a little more energy behind the command this time.

Lu paused, one foot on the rickety first step. Her hand lifted toward the heavy gold pocket watch hung on a thick chain around her neck. She didn’t touch it. Not yet.

She was beautiful, my Lu. Cherry hair wild around a pale face that freckled good and hard but never tanned, even before, when she was much more alive, and much more human.

Now she was a thrawan—that step between being almost killed by a vampire, but not turning out to be either of those things: killed or a vampire. I supposed she’d scan as human in any of those computerized machines the world used for medicine now.

The only outward hint that she was something else, something other, was that she was incredibly strong, sensitive to magic, and lonelier than anyone deserved to be.

The loneliness was my fault too.

Somehow, a shred of my soul beat fiercely inside her, just as a slip of her soul had stuck deep in me.

Neither of us knew how we’d traded pieces of our souls. It might have been during the attack, as I lay dying, watching the monster feed on her.

Our gazes had locked and then…

…then everything had gone black. It was a good blackness. Peaceful, warm.

Until I’d woke into the shattering of her scream.

She: bent over my unbreathing, unresponsive body.

Me: standing above myself—poor dead bastard—unable to close the deal, finish the story.

There was no white light guiding me up, no red flames dragging me down. I wouldn’t have wanted them anyway. All I wanted was her.

I was more dead than alive, she was more alive than dead, and as far as we could tell, we were stuck that way.

After ninety years, we’d both given up on the why and had moved solidly onto the how.

As in: how could we kill the assholes who did this to us?

Back when we were alive—the Dirty Thirties, they called it—monsters had been on the move.

Boats, trains, roads, highways did as much to move the supernatural critters across the country and around the world as it had the humans.

People settled down to make homes, businesses, towns. Monsters staked out their territories, claimed their towns, cities, and hidden patches of land.

The monsters were still out there, still here, all around us. Moving as much as they liked, or staying put and setting down roots.

And it wasn’t just monsters who moved through the modern world. The gods were among us, meddling in the lives of mortals for reasons of their own. I’d even heard there was some sort of town out in Oregon where the gods liked to vacation.

“Touch the watch,” I urged Lu. “Ask me if I like the truck. We agreed all big purchases have to have both our approval. Remember that accordion? Or the beehives? Or that boat? Ask me, sweetheart.”

I stood in front of her and hooked my thumbs in my belt.

“’Cause those tires ain’t looking too good either.” I pushed need and desire toward her, focusing hard. It was a fifty-fifty chance she’d sense me, much less hear me, but it didn’t stop me from trying.

“You like trucks,” she whispered, her eyes skipping right past me to focus on the wilted patch of thistles leaning against the porch. “I like the truck. I can modify the back. Put in a bed, a light. Some of your books.”

Sorrow squeezed what was left of my heart. I reached for her, unable to stop, my fingers brushing along the side of her face, down her shoulder, her arm to rest on her wrist.

Her honey-colored eyes went wide and distant. She shivered before closing them.

“Plus silver’s your favorite color,” she whispered.

“Ah, love.” I wanted to kiss her, wanted to feel her, warm and soft and tender in my arms. But she was mist, only the slightest sensation of warmth on my fingertips, like a dream half forgotten and fading in daylight.

“Lorde and I are going to dicker the owner down by half.” She held up the sign like maybe I hadn’t noticed her plucking it off the truck. As if I’d miss a single thing she did. “If not, we walk.” She opened her eyes, waited for me to say something else, then marched up the stairs.

I chuckled at the stubborn set of her shoulders. Whoever lived in that house didn’t know what was about to hit them. “All right. All right. Give ‘em hell, girl.”

 

 

Chapter Two

 

 

It was a big silver lug of a thing, sporting the newest technology of its time: an AM radio and a push-in cigarette lighter.

It had exactly six hundred sixty six miles on it.

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