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i come around and then i'm gone

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Kate’s driving, sitting in their newest getaway car with Seth sleeping in the passenger side. 

 

She stares out at the blurring, seemingly endless length of road in front of her and thinks they really need to get passports. Eventually they’ll run out of places in Mexico to hide in. Kate imagines their pictures up in every shop, in the local police stations. She remembers missing the day they took portraits for her junior yearbook. No matter how much her Daddy protested, Kate still showed up as a blank square last year. 

 

She wonders where they’d find her picture to put up, since she’s never taken a mugshot. Glances at herself in the rearview and thinks about someone drawing the details of her face, what parts they would focus on. It wouldn’t be a perfect likeness, no one really mentally records someone’s image unless they see them every day. Would they get the slant of her nose right, inherited from her grandma? The arch of her brow or the pout of her lower lip?

 

Would the artist be able to capture the look in her eyes, the one that even Kate can’t decipher when she looks at herself?

 

Or maybe she’s just a blank square next to Seth’s last scowling mugshot, just a brief description written underneath.

 

Kate focuses back on the road and brushes her hair away from her sweaty forehead. She thinks their next car has to have air conditioning. Seth stirs and she looks over at him, frowning even in his sleep with his arms crossed over his chest. 

 

She lifts her hand from the wheel and reaches over, runs the tip of her finger down the bridge of his nose and he makes a small noise. Kate drags the back of her hand over his cheek and his arms loosen, fall down at his sides. 

 

Kate smiles to herself and presses her foot harder on the accelerator.

 

-

 

They both agree it’s time they splurge on a nice hotel. After pulling three grand from that pervert in the last town, it’s not like they can’t afford it. Kate figures they can live off three grand for a while, in pesos. 

 

“Not too nice, princess. Wanna try to stay under the radar.” 

 

Kate rolls her eyes. “Yeah, plus you can’t really pass for a rich, classy businessman right now.”

 

She just grins at him as he stands up, trying to look tough in his wifebeater ridiculously paired with his dress pants. 

 

“What are you trying to say?”

 

Kate stands up straight, lengthening her spine and looking him in the eye, stating plainly. “You look like a hobo.”

 

She can see him try not to smile, the corners of his mouth twitching a little. “You know what you look like?” He steps closer and her heart pounds a little faster.

 

Kate shakes her head and he tilts his head down, looking at her from her feet to her eyes. “Like you wanna go shopping.”

 

She laughs, poking at his chest. “Are you saying I look bad?”

 

Seth licks his lips, Kate watching him wetting the plush of his mouth. “Not bad, just not ‘nice hotel’ nice.” He lifts his hand as if to touch her and Kate breathes out harsh through her nose. His fingers brush the brown and white flannel draped at her sides instead. 

 

“Maybe a dress, some heels.” He lifts his gaze to hers, dark circles cradling his eyes. “Can you walk in heels?” He keeps walking her backwards, closer to the scratched wooden table behind her.

 

Kate speaks, her voice hushed. “I’m not twelve.”

 

Seth winces, his brow furrowing. “Thank the Lord for small favors.” 

 

Kate wants to ask him, tell him, to push the shirt off her shoulders. Slip her tank over her head and her bra down her arms. Images flash in her mind of him touching her chest, leaning over her and using his mouth on her nipples.

 

Seth’s eyes just tell her anything, that she can have anything she needs. 

 

But she reaches up instead, gripping a bit of his hair in her small palm and watching in wonder as his eyes close, face almost serene the way he waits for her to tug. 

 

“We should go.” Is all she says. 

 

He looks disappointed, but he nods. He starts to turn and Kate grabs his chin, blunt nails digging into his skin. He breathes out softly and watches her through his lashes, just waiting. 

 

Her stare drops to his mouth again. Kate knows no portrait artist could capture how beautiful it is. The slope of his cupid’s bow, the pout of his lower lip. Pencil on paper can’t convey how his whole face can change depending on how relaxed his mouth is, or how tight it’s pulled into a frown.

 

“Your mouth…” Kate whispers. He makes a choked sound in his throat and Kate moves her fingers up his chin, pressing two fingertips to his bottom lip. Seth’s eyelids droop heavy downwards, mouth opening sweet and slack. Kate’s not sure what she’s doing when she pushes her fingers into his mouth, or why it feels so good when Seth starts sucking on them.

 

It goes right to her center, like she stuck her fingers in an electrical outlet. The buzz of it traveling through her body, tickling her stomach and going further down, still. Seth moans, the vibration of the sound tickling her fingers that are touching his tongue. Kate can feel the little tastebuds rough against her skin.

 

He opens his eyes and looks at her, just begging her silently. Teeth dragging up the sensitive skin, over the pads of her fingertips. Kate pulls her hand away, watches his bottom lip bounce back a little as she does. He fingers drag over his chin, leaving behind a wet line. 

 

They’re both breathing hard, Seth standing closer than she realized he was. Kate wants to kiss him. The mere thought puts panic in her chest and an invisible barrier between them Kate feels like she can’t breach. 

 

“Katie -“ Seth just about whimpers, and Kate feels something like strength swell inside herself. Something that makes her reach back up and grip the back of his neck, pulling him down so she can crush her lips to his.

 

It’s harsh, and clumsy. Seth growls deep in his chest and she can feel him physically holding himself back from grabbing her. Kate reaches down with her free hand and grabs his palm, squeezes as she opens her mouth against his. 

 

It’s not like any kiss she’s had before. They just share a gasp, hardly kissing more than pushing their mouths against the other. Kate pushes her tongue out, curling up and brushing his upper lip, his teeth. Seth shivers and presses his forehead to hers, panting through his nose like he’s struggling to breath. Kate glances down and looks at his mouth, open and wet with his breath huffing past his lips. 

 

Kate just wants to take this one thing for herself, wants to let one thing feel good. 

 

She hums and hushes Seth, soothing him with a soft stroke of her hand down his neck and over his jaw. She finally presses her mouth to his, more controlled, sucking at his lower lip. Licks into his mouth and feels his tongue lick back at her, tender and perfect and strange. 

 

He steps forward a pace and whispers “please” into her mouth and she lets him, lets him walk her backwards against the table behind her. She lets go of his hand and lets him touch her waist, run his hands up her sides, tongue swiping slow and slick over hers with intent and his burning hot palms slip under the bottom hem of her shirt.

 

Kate feels a stab of panic in her chest the second his rough fingertips touch her bare stomach and she presses her hands on his shoulders, shaking her head and pushing him back. Seth just looks lost, eyelids heavy and mouth looking used.

 

He looks like he’s about to ask her what’s wrong but Kate doesn’t have an answer for him. She’s wet between her legs and buzzing, feels needy for his touch but the second his hands touched her skin she felt herself recoil inside. 

 

Kate tries to avoid his eye, wiping her hand over her mouth. “We really should go.”

 

Her heart is pounding and she feels hot tears behind her eyes as she walks over to her bag and starts stuffing things in it without paying attention to what she’s doing. 

 

Seth doesn’t say anything, just mumbles something about using the john and she can feel him watching her back as he crosses the room. 

 

Kate shoves her bag across the bed and rakes both of her shaking hands through her hair. She squeezes her eyes shut and gasps out quietly, willing herself not to start sobbing before Seth comes back out.

 

There’s a rushing in her ears and a weight settling in her stomach she’s come to know well. Kate lets both these feelings in but at once ignores them, wiping at one stray tear before grabbing her bag and jerking the zipper closed.

 

 

-

 

Kate carries a gun under her jacket and a stake tucked in her jeans. Seth’s taught her some defensive moves on his best days that Kate learned faster than he thought she would. 

 

Kate had just grinned at him. “I took ballet.”

 

Seth scoffed, wiping his brow and looking down at her. “We ain’t dancing, sister.” 

 

But Kate feels like it helps, makes it easier to dodge and slip around anyone trying to fight her. 

 

She’ll use any and all skills she has to make sure she’s never caught off guard by darkness.

 

They’ve been driving for hours, driving towards a better town with a nicer place to sleep, and Seth’s in bad shape. They stop at a gas station and Kate hands him a syringe, already filled with a enough of what he needs. 

 

“You okay?” Kate asks, looking at the sweat on his upper lip and noticing the tremor in his hand. He just nods, getting out of the car and walking around to the passenger side. 

 

Kate sighs and grabs the keys from the ignition, getting out and letting Seth get in. She slams the door and walks to the little store in front of the gas pumps, eerily lit in the middle of the desert in dim blue light. The soles of her boots hit the pavement, loud in the quiet of the night. There’s a chime that rings above her when she opens the door and Kate feels her nerves jump a little.

 

She juts her chin out and walks down the small aisles, picking up a few things they need and holding them in her arms. Making her way to the back, Kate opens the freezer door and pulls out two sodas, gripping the necks of the bottles in one hand. When she turns there’s a man behind her and Kate gasps, dropping both of them. 

 

One hits the floor, glass breaking with a sharp sound in the tiny store. The other hits Kate’s boot and she feels the pain in her toes but doesn’t register it. 

 

All she sees is the smile in front of her, ugly and crooked teeth faded to yellow. “You alone?” Kate can smell his warm sour breath across her face. 

 

“Get out of my way.” Kate tries to keep her voice even but feels the tremor in her throat betray her.

 

He just looks her up and down and keeps grinning. “You dropped your soda.”

 

Kate can feel that weight on her chest get heavier. She feels her blood rushing through her veins and her hands start to shake. “Fuck off.”

 

He frowns a little, eyes cloudy and dead but still they seem to laugh at her. “That’s not nice.”

 

Kate’s skin crawls.

 

Please be one of them, please, please.

 

She curls her hand into a fist, dying to grab for her stake and plunge it into his heart.

 

“You sure are a pretty one, though. Like a sweet, ripe fruit.”

 

After that, things happen so fast.

 

The clerk comes out of no where, yelling about the soda in broken English. Seth walks through the door, bleary eyed but still his voice is frantic. “Kate, hey. Kate?”

 

Kate drops the groceries in her arms and tries to get past the man but he turns as she does, eyes flashing with his mouth wide open and fangs dropping down.

 

The fear that leaps into Kate’s heart is all too quickly replaced with excitement, her stomach flipping as she pulls the stake out of her jeans and turns. Smooth and like a dance, Kate grips his shoulder and pushes him down. 

 

Seth yells her name but Kate barely hears him as she sinks it into his throat.

 

The sound of his choking, the way the blood pours from his neck with a gurgle and drips onto the floor, the shocked look in his eyes - all of it is overwhelming and disgusting and perfect.

 

Seth is behind her as Kate stabs the culebra everywhere but his heart. Screaming at him as she rears back again and again, each break of his flesh making her insides sing out in glory. Blood sprays in her face and she taste it on her tongue but she doesn’t care.

 

There are tears falling down from her eyes onto the demon’s face and as Seth pulls back at her shoulders, Kate pushes the stake into him one last time. Deep and final in his heart.

 

Kate gasps out almost in pleasure as he howls on the floor in front of her, closes her eyes at the rush of heat that sweeps over her skin as he burns to ash.

 

The stake clatters to the floor, nothing left of the culebra but the blood that’s painted on the front of Kate’s body. The spilled soda spreads across the floor.

 

“Kate, Kate!”  Seth kneels next to her on the floor, gripping her shoulders and shaking her. She blinks, feels like she’s been somewhere else. 

 

Kate struggles to focus on his face as he takes her chin in his hand. “We need to go.”

 

She just nods, grabbing her stake from the floor and stumbling as she stands. Seth grabs her hand but she pulls away. 

 

She walks in front of him in silence, gripping the stake in her hand on the way to the car. The clerk is still yelling after them.

 

“I can’t drive, can you drive?” Kate remembers the syringe she handed him earlier, feels like it was hours ago. She just nods.

 

They speed off, Kate veering a little as she tries to focus in the sudden blackness of the night. A sharp contrast to the blinding florescent inside the gas station.

 

Seth’s speech is slow like he’s struggling to stay awake, but he still tries to ask her if she’s okay. Kate just nods again, clicking on the floodlights.

 

It doesn’t make much of a difference, the old headlights dirty and yellowed from years in the sun. But she can see the road a little bit better. 

 

She breathes in deep, breathes out shaky and rough. Wipes the blood from her mouth with the back of her hand and replays the luscious way that culebra’s flesh seemed to embrace her stake.

 

Seth drifts away, and Kate keeps driving.

 

-

 

Neither of them speak that night. Kate stops at the first motel. Fancy hotel be damned, she just needs to rest. She keeps one eye on Seth sleeping in the car as she pays the clerk in cash.

 

He wakes up enough to drag himself into bed and Kate doesn’t even shower before she falls into her own bed and pulls the covers over herself. Somehow she sleeps without nightmares or dreams.

 

Kate wakes up the next day smelling the tang of iron in her hair. It’s stuck to her cheek and she grimaces as she pulls it off. She peeks out from under the blanket at the clock and sees that it’s near noon. 

 

Seth mutters something from the bed next to her and Kate sighs. Sitting up she looks over at him sitting on the edge of his bed running his hand over his face. He looks at her, blinking a few times. 

 

“Was last night a fucking bad trip or -“

 

Kate rolls her eyes, throwing the blankets off herself and swinging her legs over the side of the bed. “Hasn’t that become our lives? One bad trip?”

 

Seth stares at her like he can crack her open and see inside. “I know I wasn’t - I mean -,”

 

Kate stands, shaking her head. “It’s fine. I handled it.”

 

He gets up and laughs sharply. “Fine? Kate. You fucking eviscerated the guy. I hate them too but - Are you okay?”

 

Kate tries to fight back the heavy, hot tears that drag at her eyes but they fall anyway. The last time she cried so often was when her Mama died.

 

There’s a part of her that can’t say it. That doesn’t want to say it. Because he could never understand how she feels, especially when Kate herself barely understands it. She can go shower and let the blood of last night get sucked down the drain, come out and pretend like nothing happened as usual or she can confess.

 

Kate turns and sees the look in Seth’s eyes. It’s soft, and concerned, and Kate almost feels special because she never sees him look at anyone else that way.

 

“I feel - I feel sick, every day. I can’t look at anything in the same way any more. It’s so hard to find the good in life. It’s so hard to feel Him near me. All I feel are eyes, eyes watching me and waiting. When I sleep at night he’s there -“

 

“Who?”

 

“Tanner. Sometimes a faceless man who just wants to use me and tear me to pieces. When I close my eyes, I see -“ Kate pushes the heels of her hands into her eyes and wipes tears and dried blood down her cheeks. “I just see hands with claws and yellow flashing eyes. Those hands, Seth. They’re all over me, all the time. I can’t - I can’t let you touch me -“

 

Seth breathes out slow and licks at his dry mouth, eyes wet as he listens to her. “That’s okay, Kate.”

 

“He tied me down and he told me I was full of pure energy that would keep the Lords satisfied. He told me I had to forgive him and I hated God, then. I hated him so much because even in that moment part of me believed him. That I would have to forgive this man who was about to kill me because that’s what my Daddy and Mama would have wanted.” Kate sobs harshly, the sound coming from deep inside and bursting out. She kneels down and Seth kneels in front of her, reaching out but Kate shakes her head.

 

“You never said.” His voice is choked, fist gripping the blankets on the bed next to them.

 

Kate smiles sadly, gasping out another sob. “I could- couldn’t. It didn’t hit me until after that first night with you.” She looks up at him, hair falling into her eyes. She watches actual tears slip from his eyes and the fact that he’s crying for her seems surreal.

 

“I just dreamed about him after that. I’ve never felt so -,”

 

“I’ll kill him.”

 

Kate laughs wetly, sniffing and shaking her head. “That’s been a fantasy of mine.”

 

“I’ll hold him down for you. Kate, I’m serious-“

 

She nods. “I know. But it’s more than that.”

 

His hand is on the floor in front of her, palm down and his fingers spread out. It’s so close to her knee, Kate shifts and she watches him curl his fingers inwards. 

 

She lets herself cry for a little while longer until her sobs turn into small whimpers. Kate makes herself breathe in and out, struggling to control her emotions. She raises her eyes to Seth and he just sighs.

 

“What do you need, Kate?”

 

The breath she lets out feels like a heady rush. It’s almost a fix, the way he asks her with such genuine feeling and care.

 

Kate licks her lips and runs her hand under her nose, figures she looks like Hell but she’s seen him look worse. “Just a shower, right now.”

 

He nods, standing in front of her and reaching out to help her up. Kate takes his hand and stands, the warmth of his palm comforting in a way she actually welcomes.

 

There’s nothing but silence in the room. Kate can see the reflection of them both in the television behind Seth and Kate wonders briefly if those are their parallel selves.  Two faint ghosts holding hands. If Kate can move forward and become that person, or if it’s an image of who they used to be.

 

“I’ll be here.” Seth stammers out, and Kate realizes he’s now more shaken up than she is.

 

She lets go of his hand but runs her palm up his forearm and squeezes, watching his eyelids slowly close. There’s an ache for him in her chest she can’t define. It’s not sexual, it’s not even love. It’s something even stronger and all encompassing. 

 

Kate turns before he opens his eyes again and walks into the bathroom shutting the door between them. 

 

She peels off her jeans and tugs her shirt over her head. Takes off her bra and underwear and throws the whole pile onto the floor, almost laughing to herself at how often she’s had to throw away blood stained clothes.

 

There’s a full length mirror on the wall next to the shower Kate only notices as she walks past and jumps a little at the movement in the corner of her eye. 

 

She turns and looks at herself reflected behind a layer of grime and dust. Her face is wet and streaked with tears and dried blood, her nose still running a little. There’s blood all over her neck and the top of her chest where her skin was exposed. Kate holds up her hands and studies them, dried brown blood stuck under her fingernails. 

 

Kate looks up into her own eyes and remembers the last time she had studied herself in front of a mirror, naked, was at home in Bethel. She’d grabbed at the small amount of fat on her stomach and frowned, wishing it gone. Looked at her breasts and wondered if they were big enough, or too big, or if her nipples looked strange. She’d wondered if she’d let Kyle touch them if he wanted to, but knew he’d never ask.

 

Kate had run her hand down her stomach and slipped it between her legs, gasping a little and looking at her face. At the small ‘o’ of her mouth, the wonder in her eyes. But it made her cheeks heat up with something like embarrassment and shame to watch as she touched herself, so she’d turned and changed. Went downstairs for dinner and shifted in her seat, still buzzing a little between her legs.

 

Now Kate just turns sharply and steps into the shower. Scrubs at her skin with a thin, torn wash cloth until it’s stained red. She reaches over and turns the handle to the hottest setting, biting her lip and closing her eyes. Lets the water burn every trace of blood from her pores.

 

Kate glances at herself again when she gets out, wonders if she’ll see that same girl from six months ago. If she can find that innocence and shame in her eyes after cleansing herself. Now all she sees is that her breasts have gotten a little bigger, her hips a little wider. Kate looks at the tension set in her jaw and the way it makes her chin push out. 

 

She looks at her entire body and laughs quietly.

 

Draw this, and put it on a wanted poster.

 

She grabs a worn and yellowed towel from the rack and wraps it around herself, stepping out into the bedroom.

 

Seth is sitting on the foot of the bed nearest to the bathroom, his hands clasped between his legs. He looks up at her, eyes alert, studying her face for a sign of her mood before letting them sweep down her body and see that she’s only in a towel.

 

He coughs and stands. “Kate -“

 

She just shakes her head and smiles, her mouth soft at the edges. “Sit down.”

 

He does, right away, and Kate feels that rush again. 

 

She sits next to him, looking down at her knees dotted with beads of water. Kate keeps her arms wrapped around herself, holding the towel in place even as it spreads open at the edges over her thigh.

 

She looks over at Seth and he’s staring at the floor.

 

He huffs out a heavy breath and shakes his head. “This is all my fault.”

 

“Seth - “

 

“No, it is. The fucking chain of events that led me to thinking it was a great idea to take you and your family… I didn’t know what we were walking into but it’s still my fault.” He turns his head and glances at her face, still not catching her eye. “It’s like I tied you to that altar myself.”

 

That puts a vision in Kate’s mind she has to close her eyes to and will away, biting her lip and focusing on the that sting before she can look at Seth again. “I don’t blame you. Maybe I did, but not anymore.”

 

He stands up and runs a hand through his hair, his tight and wash shrunken tank top slipping up a little at his stomach. “Fucking Richie, and fucking goddamn fucking visions and the bank teller and-“

 

He’s just ranting now, his voice shaking. He looks at her and his eyes look clearer than they have in a while.

 

“I saw you, and I wanted you.”

 

Kate’s eyebrows furrow and tilts her head. “What?”

 

“I saw you behind the wheel of that RV and I was the most selfish I’ve ever been in my life, because you were a fucking innocent girl and I wanted you. I wouldn’t - I probably wouldn’t have picked your family if - fuck. As if this is going to make you feel better.”

 

Kate just laughs because it does, a little. It should make her hate him, make her feel like he’s just like any other man who saw her as a flower to pluck. That she’s lost everything because of him. But she looks at him now, watches him get on his knees in front of her again and bow his head. 

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

Kate reaches out and runs her fingers through his hair, slips her palm down his cheek and pushes at his jaw until he looks up at her. “Do you still want me?” Her voice is soft but strong at once.

 

He nods, taking a breath and licking his lips. “God, yes.”

 

Kate curls her toes against the rough carpet beneath her feet. “What do you want?”

 

“I want whatever you want from me.”

 

Kate tugs a little at his earlobe and shakes her head. “No. What do you want, Seth?”

 

He sighs and licks his lips. “I want to make you feel good. Even then, when I first saw you, God. I thought about kissing you and touching you. Kate, you’re so fucking beautiful.”

 

She runs her thumb over his bottom lip and he pants a little. “I want to taste you so fucking bad, Katie. Just think about you wrapping your legs around me, letting me lick at you. I need - want to make you come, hear you moan.”

 

Kate feels it between her legs, that wet throb. She pictures Seth using his mouth on her, his tongue slipping over her again and again. Kate feels her nipples harden and goosebumps bloom over her skin.

 

“But I can wait. God, I mean. I don’t deserve that anyway.”

 

Kate leans down quickly and kisses him, both of them moaning softly when she does. The angle is off, Seth’s head tipped backwards as Kate sips at his mouth. She tells him with slow swipes of her tongue that he does deserve it. Tells him with a bite to his lower lip that he is a bad guy, but he isn’t a bad person.

 

He gasps her name into her mouth and moans. “I want you to hurt me.” He confesses, his voice strained and desperate sounding. “Make me pay, Katie.”

 

Kate gasps back, caught off guard but not totally surprised by his request. It makes something dark inside her blossom, puts ideas in her head she never thought she’d have. 

 

She knows she should leave him, get in the car and drive. That this is the last man on Earth she had ever envisioned herself with, a criminal who’s killed. A man who took her family hostage because he was selfish and greedy, because he wanted her for himself.

 

On paper Seth Gecko sounds like the worst kind of cretin, but Kate could always look past his exterior. She has always seen the way he just wants to be loved, and to love.

 

Inside something whispers that he’s just like any other man, almost like Tanner. That he sees the blank slate of her and wants to make it dirty, paint it black until Kate is just a void.

 

But Kate doesn’t believe that. With Seth on his knees in front of her, only licking back at her tongue when she slips it into his mouth.

 

Tasting what she’s giving him, begging her to punish him for what he’s done.

 

She kisses him and lets it be a comfort. Kate thinks about leaving him and can only picture a lonely road. She doesn’t feel trapped, doesn’t feel like a hostage. She feels like she’s choosing him, almost stealing him for herself.

 

Their life together might be one bad trip, but it’s a trip she doesn’t want to end.

 

-

 

Kate’s best friend, Jessica, was fourteen when she first had sex.

 

Her family was super active in church, her father good friends with her own dad. They went fishing every month and no doubt talked about their families, and their God-fearing, sweet little girls. Discussed Kate’s ballet lessons, Jessica’s soccer games. Ranted about the team’s shorts being too short and Kate throwing a fit because she wanted to wear a glittery leotard in her next recital. 

 

Jessica came over to Kate’s house the night after she lost her virginity and told Kate all about it. They sat on her bed, Chips Ahoy bag open in between them, while she spoke. 

 

“I thought you were gonna wait, Jess.” Kate couldn’t help judge her. Sex was still all around them, and girls her age were having it. But most of Kate’s closest friends had faith, and had decided to wait until marriage.

 

All Jessica did was shrug, cracking her cookie in half, crumbs falling onto Kate’s floral comforter. “I was never gonna wait, really. Just tryin’ to keep my daddy happy.”

 

Kate remembers the words ‘slut’ and ‘liar’ passing through her mind back then and she feels ashamed now.

 

“Well.” Kate still had to ask, her voice soft and hushed. Worrying her mama would open her door at any moment, but she had to know. “What was it like?”

 

“It hurt. I’m still a little sore, even now. He was sweet but - I kept thinking about that summer at the lake.”

 

Kate frowned, confused. “When we were ten?”

 

Jessica nodded, pushing a blonde curl behind her ear. “I thought about laying back on that raft on the water, just bobbing up and down. It was so sunny and hot, but I had my sunglasses on and I just closed my eyes. I remember laying there and letting the sun burn my skin, thinking about my mom and how she’d yell at me later about sunblock. But I just laid there, letting it burn, and it felt like - felt like the bobbing of the raft helped me float away.”

 

Kate had reached up to touch her friend’s face. “Jess, are you okay?”

 

She had just smiled and nodded. Kate let her hand fall away and Jessica bit into her cookie. “Whatever. It’ll be better next time.” But Kate remembers her usual bright and happy eyes brimming with tears, looking a little more dim.

 

After that, Jessica hooked up with quite a few boys and always told Kate about it. Her friend seemed to start liking sex more, and Kate tried not to judge.

 

But she still thought of her friend as someone lesser. Someone God would judge, someone He had to forgive.

 

Kate wishes she could call Jessica now and apologize. Thinks about telling her she realizes now how big and complicated the world is, something she’s discovered not only because she’s looked evil in the eye and cut it in half but because Kate knows something now.

 

She knows her body isn’t God’s. It’s not God’s or her father’s, not even her mother’s. 

 

It’s her own.

 

-

 

Seth and Kate stay at the less than nice motel that night, both agreeing to leave the next day and find an actual hotel. 

 

Seth showers and says he’ll go out to get them some food. Kate nods, thankful he can tell she doesn’t want to be out in the world right now. 

 

He’s gone longer than she thought he’d be. Kate tells herself he’s probably just driving, trying to process everything. 

 

Probably looking for a source to buy his poison, too.

 

Seth is much better these days, but it’s still something hangs above their heads like a rain cloud ready to burst. Kate still can’t call it an addiction, even though she knows that’s what it is.

 

Kate spends time writing in her Bible, scribbling crude drawings of the culebra from the gas station. Notes how he seemed weak, he possibly hadn’t fed in a while. Kate tries to capture the look in his eyes, the heavy circles underneath that pulled and made him look dead. She’s never been an artist, but it helps calm her just to put what’s in her head onto paper. 

 

Scott passes through her mind and she wonders if he’s attacked girls late at night, desperate and hungry. A knot forms in her stomach at the thought, the image of him opening his mouth wide and sinking his fangs into some innocent girls neck.

 

When Seth comes back she shuts her Bible quickly and he only glances at it. Doesn’t say anything as he spreads the burgers and fries on the table. “Chow.”

 

Kate rolls her eyes but she smiles. “That what they said in prison?”

 

Seth raises his eyebrows and chuckles. “Naw, they just herded us along like cattle.”

 

There’s a lost expression on his face then and Kate feels bad for even mentioning it. They eat in silence, and Seth hands her a little plastic packet when they’re done.

 

She sighs, gathering the things to cook his drugs onto the table in front of her next to greasy wrappers and crushed ketchup packets.

 

Seth puts his hand on hers and shakes his head. “Not now. I’m okay.”

 

Kate narrows her eyes a little. “Are you sure?” 

 

He nods, reaches over and pulls a bottle from the paper bag on the table. Grips the neck and twists the top off, pouring some into a thin paper coffee cup and tips his head back drinking it in one gulp.

 

There’s still so much unspoken between them. Kate still feels that thin thread of tension, but she also feels like they have an understanding. Like they’ve shared parts of themselves they can never take back, and would never give to anyone else.

 

He turns in early, Kate going to get into her own bed and grimacing at the smears of blood on the sheets. Seth rips the sheets from his bed and hands them to her.

 

“You sure?”

 

He shrugs. “Couple questionable mattress stains won’t kill me, sis.” Kate replaces her sheets and by the time she’s done Seth is laying on his stomach half asleep.

 

Kate gets in bed and starts looking at her Bible when he mumbles something against his pillow. “What?”

 

His voice is thick with tequila and he raises his head a little, freeing his mouth. “I’m gonna get us out of here.”

 

She watches him slip into sleep and thinks about what he means. Get them out of Mexico? Out of the mental cages they’ve built for themselves?

 

Kate thinks about going back to Texas and feels her chest tighten at the the thought. Looks at her drawings, at the information she’s gathered. It’s more than finding Scott and trying to help him, the idea of going back home and seeing everything with new eyes is near terrifying. 

 

She’s still not ready.

 

Kate tries to sleep but can’t. Her whole body feels wired, her nerves jumpy. The muscles in her thighs keep twitching and Kate can’t stop shifting in bed. It’s as quiet as death, only the occasional rush of a passing car outside disturbing the silence. 

 

The longer she lays there trying to sleep the more wound up she gets. Kate rubs her legs together, turns and shifts onto her back. Her hips tip upwards and Kate lets thoughts creep into her mind.

 

Like Seth running his mouth down her stomach. His hands gentle on her thighs, spreading her open. Kate bites her lip at the thought, at the idea of exposing herself that way. It makes her heart beat faster, it makes her feel scared but excited, too. There’s no snake eyes or scaly hands touching her flesh, just Seth making her feel good.

 

She slips the palm of her hand over the curve of her stomach and into her panties.

 

Kate hasn’t touched herself since the night before they left Bethel. When her fingers pass over herself she sighs, her knees shaking a little as she plants her feet on the mattress and opens her thighs.

 

Kate’s tongue slips over her lips as she imagines Seth using his tongue on her. Strokes over her center slowly, up and down, thinking about him licking her and teasing her.

 

There’s something so thrilling about the idea. It’s something she knew people did but never thought about someone doing it to her, really. That Seth would want to put his mouth there, that he would beg her to, makes Kate clench deep inside. Makes her whimper as her fingertips stroke at her clit.

 

She recalls the feeling of his tongue on her fingers as he sucked at them, the wet slide of it in her mouth. Thinks about how that would feel on her center, licking and spreading her open.

 

Kate runs her free hand up her body, under her cami to rub at her breast, slipping her thumb over her nipple. Seth on a bed, hands tied above him to the wooden post, naked and hard for her. Kate arches her back and rubs herself harder at the idea of making him break.

 

A soft moan sneaks past her lips and Seth shifts in the bed across from her. Kate looks over and sees him watching her, laying on his side and gripping the edge of the mattress.

 

He breathes out heavy and locks eyes with her. “Katie…” 

 

Kate stills for a moment, feels unguarded and bare underneath his gaze. She’s still not ready for him to touch her, but she wants to share something with him.

 

She’s covered by the blanket but he can see her movements beneath it. “Do you want to watch me?” She whispers.

 

He nods quickly. “Please.”

 

Kate closes her eyes but she can feel Seth’s on her as she moves her hand between her legs. Feels hot and flushed all over, skin sensitive as she writhes slowly over the bed. She can feel the sheets dragging over her body, making her feel needy.

 

“Talk to me, Seth.” Kate gasps out, desperate to hear his voice.

 

He sighs and she hears his bed creak. “Just want you to feel good, Katie. I want to make you happy. So fucking gorgeous, sometimes I just watch you when you’re driving and you’re thinking. God, my hands shake sometimes just-“ 

 

Kate pulls at the sheets with her feet and they slip over her chest. Kate’s still touching her breasts, rubbing and playing with her nipples under her top. Seth groans, no doubt can see bits of her bare skin as the fabric moves with her. 

 

“That’s it, Katie. Fuck, want to suck your nipples. Just want to put my tongue on your skin.”

 

Kate hums, feeling dazed and high as she looks over at him. “Would you beg me?”

 

Seth nods again, swearing. “I’d beg, do anything.” His knuckles are strained, still gripping the mattress and Kate whimpers. 

 

“Touch your cock for me.”

 

He moans, yanking his hand away and pushing it under his blanket. She watches the slow movement underneath the thin and worn comforter, remembers the bare and raw sight of it from before.

 

“Let me see, baby.” Kate says in a hush, slipping her fingers where she’s wet. 

 

Seth tugs the blanket away and strokes at his cock, jutting out hard and thick between his legs. Kate bites her lip and pushes a finger inside herself, knows the stretch of it is nothing compared to what he’s touching right now. But it still makes her hips shake, makes her tilt them up like she needs more.

 

“I’d make it so good for you, Katie. Just do what you want. Christ, you look so sexy. Using your hands on yourself, fuck.”

 

Kate pinches at her nipple and moans loud, imagining Seth nipping at it with his teeth. She looks up and makes eye contact with him, feeling drunk on the energy he’s putting out. Overwhelmed by his attention, the way he’s drinking her in with his eyes. Every movement and noise.

 

“Touch - touch faster, Seth. Fuck, I feel -“

 

“Please, Katie. Let me see you come. Want to see you so bad, look so pretty, baby.” The huskiness of his voice goes straight to her clit and Kate rubs herself faster, panting with her mouth slack as she keeps her eyes locked on Seth’s.

 

Seth jerks himself faster and Kate’s toes curl against the bed. She lets her hips roll upwards with each circling stroke of her fingers, lets herself moan and gasp.

 

“Make yourself feel good, Katie. Please, need to see.”

 

That feeling is there, just within her grasp. The burst of pure and overwhelming pleasure she’s felt before. Kate reaches out for it, lets it grip her back with loving hands.

 

Even with Seth watching, it’s just for her. A sweet and rough ride that makes her hips shake and her back arch, small gasps escaping from her lips. 

 

The buzz she’s left with, that tingling in her limbs like she’s floating off the bed, is just for her too.  Kate keeps whimpering, keeps touching herself softly bringing herself down. 

 

When she looks at Seth with hazy eyes, he’s just grasping himself and panting. She grins and hums, turning on her side. 

 

Kate feels so light and free, relaxed in a way she hasn’t been in too long. Seth is looking at her like she’s a hundred million dollars in cash. Like she’s the biggest score he’s ever seen.

 

Kate tells him to make himself come and he does with a loud groan, hips pumping his cock into his hand.

 

They both lay in near silence for a bit, the only sounds in the room is Seth panting and Kate’s little whimpers. She rolls onto her stomach and sighs, pushing her hips down against the bed. She feels sleepy and she can barely keep her eyes open. 

 

Kate lays there for a while before she shifts over to one side and looks up at Seth. “Will you just lay next to me?”

 

He breathes in deep and nods. Wipes at himself with the blanket and tucks his cock back into his boxers. Seth gets up and sits on her bed almost gingerly, swinging his legs over and laying back. 

 

Kate’s still on her stomach, half her face in her pillow as she watches his chest move up and down with one eye. He looks over at her, face strange like he almost expects her to disappear, and she smiles at him. Just half her mouth curving up.

 

“Relax.”

 

Seth sighs, pulling one arm behind his head and shutting his eyes. Kate watches him breathe until the kind cradle of dreamless sleep takes her and holds her.