“I’m not the type to be easily bullied,” I admit, then frown. “Or at least I don’t think so.” He doesn’t comment on my words and changes the subject. I appreciate the save.
“Did you settle in your room alright?” he asks. I watch as he wraps his plush lips around his straw and my tongue darts out to lick along my own as I stop myself from leaning closer to him. He shouldn’t captivate me so easily but damn, he’s fucking sexy even when he’s not trying.Especially when he’s not trying.His eyes heat but I shake my head to clear my lusty thoughts and answer.
“It’s very… clinical. Am I able to use this credit card in the human stores?” I ask. “My white room looks like it’s straight out of a hospital ward. A girl needs some color in her life.” Another pang of guilt hits me for wanting to settle in, to accept this life and forget my old one. But what choice do I have? Stay here and fulfill a purpose, or disappear into the nothingness, if that’s even an option.
Liam’s smooth voice snaps me out of my self-deprecating thoughts. “You can. That’s part of what it’s for. You use it on missions if you need to, since sometimes the veil is touchy and doesn’t take you where you need to go right away. One time I ended up in Seattle instead of Portland. It was easier to rent a fucking car than go back through the portal,” he says. “Plus it’s nice to just exist outside of here from time to time.
“Amazing. Maybe after my first assignment is over I can get some shopping done.” I grin widely, my mood improving immensely with the prospect of retail therapy. Arianna is right, this can be my second shot. I can choose to be a miserable bitch, or I can make the most of it.
“I can take you after you are finished reaping,” he offers casually. I look at him for a moment to see if he is joking but he actually looks hopeful.A man that can laugh and loves shopping? I’ll take it.
“That would be fun. How do I get a hold of you after I’m done?” I ask. It’s not like they gave us company issued cell phones or anything.
“Find me at the gate to the After,” he says, standing up and flashing me a smile. “See you soon.” With one final wink he wanders off, leaving his empty plate behind. As he moves away I see a flash of a tattoo on his neck.I can’t wait to get a chance to explore that a little more.
Usually I’m not so bold but why not enjoy my time here. We’re all stuck for… likely eternity, why not have fun while we work?
For once I don’t let the guilt come back. Instead I smile to myself and finish my food in peace.
Walking out of the diner is much more pleasant than it was walking in. Everyone stares at me again, but now looks of curiosity and surprise are on their faces. I’d much rather be a woman of mystery than the topic of gossip by a bunch of grim reaper mean girls.
Plus, now I have something to look forward to.
Aloud knocking on my door jolts me out of a dead sleep and I groan, glancing at the clock to see it’s only a quarter until six. I’m so groggy I don’t even notice that I didn’t put my pants back on before stumbling over and opening the door. The look on Arianna’s face as she takes in my lack of pants is priceless.
“You get what you get this early. Why are you here?” I ask around a big yawn. She looks at me in annoyance and huffs.
“I’mtraining you today. Get ready. Meet me in the lobby at six sharp,” she orders and spins on her heels to stalk off down the hallway.
Not wanting to push her too far I take the quickest shower of my existence before throwing on my black uniform. Since it’s training I leave off my tank top and just wear a sports bra. Despite Arianna’s apparent dislike for me this morning, I had yet to hear any rules against swapping the clothes around. In fact, I have a suspicion that everyone here just accepts their job without question or care. I’ve never been one to sit back and take everything at face value and honestly it’s liberating to embrace the ‘I don’t give a fuck’ attitude.
I step into the lobby just as the clock above the desk hits six. I give Arianna a smug look as I walk up to her. It falls quickly at her tone when she speaks.
“One of our reapers didn’t report in. Which means we can’t spare another to train you. You will learn what I have to teach and then I will take you on a trial run of your duties. I suggest you pay attention because tomorrow you are completely on your own,” she says. There’s an attempt at sharpness in her voice but I see right through it. She’s panicking. There’s clearly more to this missing reaper than they’re telling me. Likely so I won’t run for the hills. They need me to do my job.
“Alright,” I say with false bravado. “Let’s do this.” She lets out a breath and nods, rushing past and leading me across the street to a gym. We walk past the few reapers working out on equipment to an empty room. It’s large and open, a mirror stretching across two of the four walls.
She wastes no time getting started. “Each reaper gets a rune when they join the city.” I raise my eyebrow at her words. I haven’t noticed any weird new marks on me. She turns and lifts her shirt. A series of symbols run down her spine. I step closer to look but she snaps her shirt back down.
“Alright, what do they mean?” I ask while I turn in a circle trying to catch a glance at mine. It is a really good impression of a dog chasing his tail.
“Do you ever take things seriously?” She growls at me, shaking her head.
“Well I’m sorry I choose to not live my afterlife with a stick up my ass. I won’t apologize for having a sense of humor, and I hardly think not wearing pants to sleep and trying to see my rune is me not taking this seriously. All things considered, I think I’m handling this fucking brilliantly. Remember, you need me, so stop being a bitch,” I say sharply. “I’m not here to be fucking looked down on and pushed around. Teach me what you need to so I can do my fucking job.”
She opens and closes her mouth for a moment before the fight drains a bit. “I brought you to the room with mirrors for a reason.” She gives me a look that clearly says she thinks I’m an idiot. I laugh at myself for not realizing this sooner. For once she’s patient as I move toward the reflective wall and pull off my jacket. Mine isn’t down my spine like hers but over my left shoulder blade.
“I didn't realize they’re all different,” I mutter to myself as I study the shape. It’s a circle of runes, sprawling words separating it into four pieces. In the middle is a rune I recognize from Arianna’s markings.
“They’re not,” she answers.
“Why is mine so different? What do the words mean?” I ask loudly, since she’s still in the middle of the large room. Her brows furrow and she walks over to me reading the words out loud.
“Porta liber, communicare, unitatis, vinculum, and lux. The words are Latin. Yours is the only one that’s like this. You have more runes than we all do, and they form a different pattern. All reapers have the runes that are representative of their character or abilities, and always include one for creating gates between our layers of the veil. Mine are the words for leader and gate. Yours translates roughly to free gate, communicate, unity, bond, and light. Even your portal rune is unique. I’m not sure why yours is like this,” she admits. It’s strange to hear her so unsure. “If you notice anything weird happening, report it to me or the Council of Elders. We have never encountered anything like this to be honest.”