Ruthless

Kara Lowndes

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A small-town lesbian in the big city. It should be easy. Except for Ruth, it’s anything but predictable. Born with powers she can’t explain, she escaped to the sprawling metropolis of Dollar to figure out why she was endowed w...
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A small-town lesbian in the big city. It should be easy. Except for Ruth, it’s anything but predictable. Born with powers she can’t explain, she escaped to the sprawling metropolis of Dollar to figure out why she was endowed with her mysterious gifts. But, three years later, she’s none the wiser--until she gets hit by a car and a mysterious nurse named Killian comes to her rescue. But Killian has a dark past that she’s desperately trying to leave behind and, as a dangerous organization uncovers Ruth’s secrets, they must fight to keep their intense romance alive.

Excerpt
Killian was still in her room when I woke up the next morning, and I didn’t want to barge in and wake her. Besides, I was hankering to get back to my place, having spent most of the night lying awake trying to figure out if I had left the stove on for some reason. Oh, and thinking about her. Obviously.

Leaving a note on the coffee table to thank her for taking care of me the night before, I pulled on my shoes and left. I made my way across town to my landlord, and she returned me my keys, but not before a brief scolding about my idiocy. I took it along with the keys and headed back to my place, sinking into the couch as soon as I got through. Oh, yeah. Good to be home.

I had only been there a couple of minutes when there was a knock on the door. I snapped upright; who the hell would be visiting me? One of the neighbors, maybe, after they saw what happened the night before? I got to my feet and scrunched my eye up against the peephole. My heart skipped a beat when I saw who was standing there: Killian.

I opened the door, and she glanced around with a relieved smile on her face.

“Oh, thank God it’s you!” she exclaimed, and I cocked my head curiously. She waved her hand, flushing slightly.

“I knew you lived on the other side of the street so I went around a couple of your neighbors’ doors knocking till I figured out where you lived.” She shrugged. “They seemed pretty annoyed so I figured they might have sent me to the wrong place just to get rid of me.”

“No, you found the right one.” I stepped aside. “You want to come in? Sorry the place is such a mess.”

She brushed past me, close enough that I caught a whiff of the heady scent of her perfume; it filled my senses at once, enveloping me in a wash of sweet, tropical air. I briefly imagined what it would be like to wake up next to that gorgeous smell, but pushed it from my mind as she perched on the edge of my couch. Her eyes were drawn downward, and I saw that she was staring at the small bloodstain on the table where I had cracked my tooth the day before that I had been in too much of a rush to clean up. I leaned down as casually as I could manage and shifted a ring-stained coaster over the mark, hoping she wouldn’t question it too deeply.

“So…why were you looking for me?” I asked in an attempt at distraction. Her eyes snapped back to meet mine, and the small furrow that had appeared between her eyebrows disappeared.

“I just wanted to check you were all right,” she replied with a shake of the head. “I…I kept thinking about that crash yesterday, and I knew I would never be able to forgive myself if I didn’t check up to see how you were doing.”

“I’m good, really,” I assured her, taking a seat on the other end of the couch. Too aggressive? I shifted myself a couple of inches away from her. Fuck, now she probably thought I was trying to indicate I wasn’t interested. And now she probably thought I was trying to cover up my feelings one way or the other.

“Yeah, you look…good,” she remarked, her eyes sweeping up and down my body. “You always go out dressed like a cat burglar?”

“Only when I want to make myself invisible to oncoming traffic,” I replied, and she laughed. I moved a little closer again—yeah, laughing was good.

“So where were you last night?” she asked. “You know, before you ended up back at my place.”

“I was… Uh, I was visiting a diner.” I shrugged. “You know what it’s like on a work night. I didn’t feel like cooking.”

“Where do you work?” She cocked her head, and I started to get the distinct impression she hadn’t just come here to check on my physical wellbeing.

“A shop down the street.” I jerked my head in the direction of the bodega where I picked up just enough hours to cover my rent at this place.

“So, this diner…” She hesitated, as though she was figuring out how best to raise the question. “Good?”

“Yeah, it was really good.” I grinned, and she leaned toward me slightly, that gorgeous smile playing at the corner of her full mouth once again. God, I just wanted to reach out and run my thumb along her lower lip, to feel the way her flesh dragged against mine. Suddenly, her phone buzzed, and she pulled it out of her pocket.

“Sorry, just give me a…” She trailed off as the furrow between her brows made another appearance, her expression changing from flirtatious to freaked out in a split second.

“What’s up?” I asked, craning my neck toward the screen. She unlocked her phone, tilted it away from me, and tapped the screen. I sat there for a moment, silent, not sure what I was meant to do next.

“What is it?” I asked her again. She returned her gaze to mine, and this time her eyes were filled with horror.

“Show me!” I demanded, bugged out by her change in attitude, and leaned over to get a look at her phone. Her perfume smelled sweet, but it was almost sickly now as my stomach turned in a panic.

She had received a video, and she pressed play without a word. It took me a second to figure out what I was looking at as the grainy footage began to play, but I squinted and could just make out a street that I recognized. It was CCTV from the restaurant a couple of doors down from my apartment building, and it was pointed toward the part of the street where I’d been hit the night before.

The video played out; I fumbled in my pockets, slumped my shoulders, and turned back onto the street in grainy black and white. And then the car came out of nowhere and hit me.

Even I flinched; I had to admit that it looked a lot worse than it had turned out. My back contorted at an odd angle, my head snapping around so fast I could practically hear the crack. I rolled off the hood of the car and landed with a sickening, bone-crunching crash on the tarmac below, and I realized Killian’s hands were shaking as she attempted to keep the phone upright. The video jumped forward, and I got to my feet, Killian leading me in the direction of her apartment. It came to an end and looped back to the start, but Killian tucked her phone in her pocket before it had a chance to play again. I was glad. Seeing myself like that… It was a reminder of the things I was capable of and just how much I was hiding from everyone around me.

“What the fuck was that?” Killian looked up at me, and her eyes were imploring. She just wanted answers, and I couldn’t say I blamed her.

“I don’t know.” I shrugged uselessly. I wanted to find some way to turn the conversation around, but I knew that wasn’t how it worked. She had gone ice-white and looked as though she needed a shot of something strong.

“You just…walked away from that?” She shook her head. “I guess I convinced myself it wasn’t as bad as all that last night, that I was over-exaggerating it in my head or something but… It was that bad. You should be dead.”

“Well, thanks,” I joked in a feeble attempt to lighten the mood, but she was already getting to her feet.

“You know, my mom sent that to me,” she said quietly. “She recognized me in it.”

“I’m sorry you had to see it again,” I apologized, getting to my feet. I wanted to put a comforting hand on her shoulder, but I had a feeling that was only going to make things worse.

“Yeah, me too,” she shot back, her voice still shaky. “I should… I should go. Really.”

Copyright © Kara Lowndes

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