Chapter 38: Living Dead God

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The old truck rumbled down the road. When the GPS signal from Bryce's phone indicated he ventured into the deep desert, it was clear they needed to abandon their car in favor of transportation suited to off-road travel. Amber bought an old, beat up truck from a local resident on the outskirts of the city and jumped in the passenger seat to navigate while Liam drove. Minimal space was available in the truck's cab, so they piled Liam's equipment there, which left Courtney, Visnau, and Atanasia in the truck's bed.

"This is better?" Courtney scoffed.

"Just make sure you keep an eye on him, Court," Amber said as Courtney and the girl took a seat, leaning up against the back of the cab, leaving the archon tied and sprawled at their feet, unconscious. Courtney couldn't resist giving him a quick kick. She didn't even want the two prisoners along, but Amber convinced them it would be folly to leave them unattended back at the house.

They traveled another half hour before Liam pulled off the road and began the bumpy ride across the desert sand. Mercifully, he slowed their speed to make the journey less arduous in the off-road conditions, but it didn't keep them from shifting in their poor excuses for seats, and sand whipped up around them, somehow finding all the small crevices beneath their clothing. Courtney made a mental note to pummel Liam when the ride was finished. Here she was, bouncing around in the back of a cruddy old truck, all dusty from the desert sand. This was almost as horrible as the jungles in the Amazon. At least she'd taken Amber's advice and didn't waste time on makeup for the day. It would have been ruined by now. She adjusted the buff she wore to prevent eating tons of sand and dirt. She glanced over and noticed the girl next to her having the same problem, but with her arms bound behind her, she was helpless to ease her discomfort. Courtney contemplated letting her deal with it, but eventually decided to offer aid. She leaned over and pulled the girl's buff up over her nose again.

"Thank you," the girl said.

Courtney barely heard it over the loud engine and the wind. "Whatever."

After a few moments, the girl asked, "Are you taking us way out here to kill us?"

"If we were going to kill you, would I bother to make you more comfortable?" She sighed. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be so mean." She went back to looking at the so-very-interesting desert around her. Why couldn't Bryce be from a beautiful Caribbean island? she lamented.

"Maybe you should just kill us," said the girl.

Courtney turned back just in time to see her shiver a bit, but that couldn't have been from cold. It was fucking hot out in this fucking desert! "We're not killing you."

"I wouldn't blame you if you did. I tried to kill all of you, and you don't seem like you deserved it, especially your lover. I slit you open and left you to die! Why would you help me after that? Is this all a trick? Please just tell me now."

Courtney studied the girl for a long moment. If she lowered that buff, she would see a sight that prompted painful memories of watching the one person she loved most in the world being mind-raped on a daily basis – and for too long, there was nothing Courtney could do about it. But that wasn't this girl's fault, she reminded herself.

"It's not a trick," Courtney said in the kindest voice she could muster. "Look, I'm not about to pretend I know what you're going through, because I don't. It never happened to me, but it did to Amber, and I know what it's like to have to watch it. It was so painful, and I hated seeing it, and every time I look at you, I see it all over again. Plus, yeah, you tried to kill us." Courtney took a deep breath and stared straight at the girl. "We're going to help you because it's the right thing to do. I know you don't know what that means, because of that shit-fucker right there, but try to pay attention when Amber talks to you. She's the best there is at helping people, and she'll never give up on you. She doesn't know how to." Her eyes narrowed. "But if you ever attack her again, I swear to all you think is holy, I will kill you, and I'll make it hurt."

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