Macy was having the most wonderful dream. She was on the front row at a press conference with her microphone poised, and the Prime Minister’s aide pointed at her and said, ‘Question please.’
‘Sir, in your previous statement you said, and I quote, “Be in no doubt, we’re committed to destroying the Jelvian government”, but what exactly do you intend to do? So far, they have killed six members of parliament, and now the veteran actor Mike Mardle, and his death came after your previous promises that the Jelvias were being controlled.’
‘Macy, wake up. Macy! Oh God, I think I’m going to be sick. Macy!’
Macy jerked awake, and automatically glanced at her bedside clock, wondering if Courtney was waking her because she was late for work. But it was dark, apart from the glow of the landing light. She looked up at Courtney, who plonked herself down on the end of her bed. She was shaking.
Immediately concerned, Macy sat up. ‘What’s the matter?’
Courtney was still wearing her nurse uniform. ‘I think I’ve been attacked.’
‘I called into the late-night shop for milk, a-and a group of kids surrounded me, and a m-man grabbed me.’
Macy reached for her friend’s hand. It was icy cold and shaking. Moving up onto her knees, Macy pulled her into her bed and covered them both with the duvet. ‘Start again,’ she said. ‘What happened?’
‘I came out of the shop and a group of teenagers stopped me. They were giving me lip—you know the kind—but then it turned nasty, and a man, he came out of nowhere, grabbed me. H-he said thanks to the kids, and-and got me in a headlock. I was so scared.’
‘Oh God, Courtney!’ Macy cuddled her friend, feeling her heart thudding against her chest. ‘Did he…?’
‘No. He was interrupted.’ She giggled, and Macy heard hysteria in the laugh. ‘By a Jelvia.’
Macy pulled back. She tried to see her friend’s face in the dim light but couldn’t, so she turned to switch on the bedside light. She turned back. Courtney’s face looked sickly pale.
‘A Jelvia?’ Macy asked.
Courtney nodded. ‘Th-the man who grabbed me pushed me towards him and ran off. I literally fell at the Jelvia’s feet! His feet!’ Courtney flung the duvet off and swung her legs out of bed. ‘I really do need a drink.’
Macy got up with her. ‘I’ll join you.’
Lifetime friends, their career paths had taken different turns when Courtney became a nurse, and Macy, a journalist. Courtney had split up with her boyfriend of five years eighteen months ago, and Macy had automatically taken her in and given her a home, somehow though, Courtney had stayed. She was good company, and it was nice to come home (when Courtney wasn’t working) to a house that smelled of cooking food, and one that was clean.
Macy wasn’t much of a cleaner, and since Courtney had moved in, the place was always clean and tidy.
Macy grabbed the bottle of wine and poured two drinks.
‘He didn’t kill me! He had the perfect opportunity, but he didn’t!’ Courtney was saying.
‘Of course the Jelvia.’
‘I’m more concerned about the man who tried to rape you.’
Macy took a sip of her drink as Courtney stared at her, then enlightenment dawned on her face.
‘That’s why he was trying to drag me up the alley!’ Courtney gulped the drink, shuddered, and took another gulp.
‘And Jelvias don’t automatically kill everyone they meet.’ Macy placed her drink down. ‘Right, we need to call the police.’
‘Are you still after that Jelvia story? Well, here’s one: The Jelvia knew he’d saved me. I think he heard the commotion and purposely came over to help, because, guess what, he winked at me. Winked!’
Macy had picked up her mobile and was about to dial, but stopped at Courtney’s words.
‘Winked? Like a proper ordinary wink?’
Courtney nodded. She finished her drink. ‘Are you calling the police? Because I want a shower.’
‘Wait. For DNA and all that.’ She pressed in 999, and as she spoke to the operator, Courtney refilled her glass with a shaking hand.
The police had gone, and left Courtney clutching a flyer on ‘how to stay safe’, a crime reference number and the number of Victim Support. They promised to look at any CCTV footage, but both women doubted they’d hear anything more. The perpetrators were long gone.
Macy ran her friend a bath and brought her up a cup of tea while she bathed.
‘Describe the Jelvia again,’ Macy said. She had her notebook on her lap, and her pencil was poised.
Courtney half laughed. ‘You’re obsessed. He was tall and had black hair.’
‘Duh,’ Macy said, rolling her eyes. ‘They’re all tall and have black hair.’
‘This one had short hair. Not short short, but a fashionable length, I suppose you could say. He had no distinguishing marks on his face. He wore the typical Jelvian dress, and he just seemed to appear from nowhere. You hear that they’re very stealthy, and they’re right! He just… appeared.’
‘And he acknowledged you with a wink?’
‘Yep. He looked right at me. He knew he was saving me.’ She leaned forward and turned the hot tap to warm the bathwater.
Macy gave a smug smile. ‘I knew they weren’t all bad. There’s something mysterious about them. God, their race fascinates me.’
‘They aren’t a race, Mace. They’re… they’re, I don’t know, another form of life.’
Macy rolled her eyes.
‘Ever since your mum died you’ve been looking for a superhero to take on the baddies, and you’re building the Jelvia up to be this superhero, and they are nothing of the kind.’
‘That’s unfair. And Mum didn’t die, she was murdered.’
‘Exactly, sweetheart. Sorry.’ She rubbed the back of her neck. ‘I shouldn’t have brought her into it. Your fascination with them worries me, that’s all. They aren’t superheroes, Mace. This Jelvia didn’t even help me up!’ She turned the tap off. ‘Some hero.’
‘You’d have freaked out if he’d picked you up.’
‘Probably,’ she grudgingly admitted. She yawned. ‘The sleeping tablet I took is kicking in. I feel tired now.’
‘Look, it’s almost morning, go to bed and get a few hours.’ Macy stood up and turned to take a towel out of the cupboard. ‘How many more days do you have of your twilight shift?’
‘That was my last one for now. I’ve the weekend off.’
‘Good. I don’t need to ring in sick for you. Come on, let’s get you tucked up,’ Macy said, holding up a large towel.
When her friend was in bed, Macy let herself out of the house and jumped into her Mini. She reversed out of the driveway and headed towards the shop where the attack took place. It was still dark, the sun not yet showing. The police were combing the alley where Courtney’s attackers had tried to drag her. A forensic team had already arrived, and they were hard at work within the confines of a taped cordon marked, Caution. Police.
Macy frowned as she drove past. The police wouldn’t do all that for an attack such as the one Courtney had been a victim of, no matter how traumatised she’d been. Had this Jay fellow and his teen accomplices committed a further crime?
A man with a Jack Russell was talking to a police officer.
Macy parked up along the road and covertly watched the man talking to the police through the rearview mirror. She waited until the conversation was over and then climbed out of her car. She hesitated on locking the car because it would bleep, and she didn’t want to draw attention to herself, so she left the car unlocked. The man had disappeared around a corner, and she hurried after him, shoving the car keys in her jeans pocket.
‘Excuse me,’ she said when she was within hearing distance.
The man turned at the sound of her voice.
‘Have you seen a spaniel come along here? I think the police frightened her. She’ll be trailing a lead.’
‘Sorry, love, I haven’t.’
‘Oh, well,’ Macy said. ‘She’ll find her way home. She always does. What are the police there for anyway?’
As she expected, he came towards her and offered her what she was really after.
‘I called them. I found a body!’ He sounded thrilled. ‘I only made a joke t’other day about a man walking his dog at this hour and finding a body. Didn’t expect it to be me!’
Macy loved conversationalists. She got all the information she needed without even trying.
‘A body! You saw it?’
‘Aye, I did. In the alley, over by the shops. A man. On his back, dead.’
Macy’s mouth was one thin line. She said, ‘Do you remember what the dead man was wearing?’
‘Aye, he wore jeans and one of those black armless puffer jacket things.’
‘A body warmer,’ she offered. It was precisely how Courtney had described the man named Jay to the police.
The man nodded excitedly. He was obviously high on adrenaline. When he crashed, no doubt, he’d be feeling sick over finding the dead man rather than animated.
‘I called the cops, and they’re searching the area for evidence. They’ve taken my details in case they want to speak to me. Come on, Muttley,’ he said, tugging lightly on the lead.
Macy watched him go, and then turned, thinking hard. Even without evidence, Macy was one hundred per cent certain that the winking Jelvia had been responsible for the man’s death.
She headed back to her car wondering if the knowledge that Courtney’s attacker was dead would benefit her friend or scare her. She decided she wouldn’t tell her anything—not yet, anyway. She looked over her shoulder as she reached her car.
She had the feeling that someone was watching her movements, and the sensation had been with her all the while she had been talking to the man with the dog. She’d tried to ignore it earlier, but now the feeling had strengthened.
She looked toward the police and the forensic team. They hadn’t noticed her—or were ignoring her. The body was brought out in a body bag and loaded into the back of a waiting van.
She opened her car door as invisible eyes scorched her back. She turned and looked. There was no one. She was being silly. Then something caught her eye on the roof of the shop nearby.
She stared at the unmoving, crouching shadow on the roof, and felt it stare back at her. The moonlight caught its reflective eyes, and the gaze pierced right through her. The Jelvia rose until he was standing. The wind tugged at his coat, making him appear even more outlandish.
He turned, superhumanly fast, and jumped from the roof of the shop to land on the roof of the next building. He made no sound. And then he was gone from sight. Macy was freaked out. It was dark, her friend had been attacked, and someone had died. She scrambled inside her car. She closed the door and dug in her pocket for the keys, but her car shuddered, and Macy’s head snapped up in alarm. The Jelvia was standing in front of her car, hands on the bonnet as if to prevent it from moving. He leaned in to peer through the windscreen.
Macy began another frantic search of her pockets for the car keys as he took one hand off the bonnet and beckoned her out of her car.
Macy shook her head.
The Jelvia cocked his head at her as if regarding her. The black eyes, already shadowed by the night, appeared to be empty black orbs in the Jelvia’s skull.
He dangled her car keys in front of her.
Macy stared into eyes that were nothing but complete darkness and felt a shiver trickle down her spine. She’d never been this close to a Jelvia before and could finally appreciate the words of those who encountered them: It wasn’t only their eyes that were black, their whole being was as well.
As she looked into those eyes, it really did feel as if his soul was enveloped in darkness. She waited for the feeling of intense terror that people were said to feel, but none came. Logic told her his venom could pierce through the windscreen and kill her where she sat, and she should be scared, yet scared wasn’t an adjective she could use.
She felt… electrified.
Maybe it was fear playing with her senses.
The Jelvia was big and wore the typical Jelvian dress of a knee-length, bulletproof, black coat. Given his size, he didn’t look like he should be able to move as quickly as he had done on the shop roof. But she knew from her research of the Jelvian species that they were incredibly light on their feet, had amazingly sharp reflexes and coordination. They were superhuman.
He continued to dangle the keys from his fingers, and Macy opened the door and exited slowly. She stood before him with her hand outstretched to receive the car keys she must have dropped rushing after the man walking the dog.
‘Please, can I…?’ she asked.
The Jelvia stepped towards her. As he moved, his face came out of the shadow, and she was able to see him clearly. She was transfixed not only by his beauty, but because she’d seen that face so many times in the newspaper recently, due to her own research of Mardle and Becks murders, and she was sure that this was the Jelvia who had killed both men.
The police van behind her started up, and the Jelvia looked over her head towards the vehicle. Macy turned to watch as it moved off in the opposite direction. When she looked back, his eyes were on her, and his gaze was all-consuming as if he were drinking her in.
Everything had happened in an instant, and she still had her hand out for the keys. He placed them in her upturned hand gently and closed her fingers around them. His big hand lingered over hers.
The instant he touched her, her nerves became electrified, and the way he became still told her he’d felt the sensation as well.
Macy wanted nothing more than to step into those big arms. Her brain was yelling caution, but everything else was submitting to this man—this Jelvia.
She looked down at their hands. He had begun to trace an imaginary circle at the base of her wrist with his thumb, and the touch sent tingles through her body.
Then he leaned in until his breath stroked her face. Macy held her breath, certain he was about to kiss her.
And certain that she wanted him to.
A large hand cupped her cheek, and she opened her eyes, embarrassed that she’d had them closed. She stared up at him, then his other hand rose until her face was held in his hands.
He frowned, and she could see in his expression that she’d surprised him. Most humans would have been terrified.
His eyes dropped to her mouth. His face was so close she could see the pupils in his all-black eyes. Then he lowered further and touched his lips against hers—and all embarrassment vanished. The taste of his lips was more than she had bargained for and, beyond her comprehension, her body melded to his with a sigh.
As if under a spell, Macy raised her hands to hold his in place around her face, and parted her lips. She could hear the sound of her own shallow breath, could hear his as he plundered her mouth.
His hands left her face, and one cupped the back of her head, while the other pulled her closer still. She felt his hard body against hers, felt his arousal and wanted to touch it. His hot mouth moved over hers; his tongue thrust inside her mouth, and she knew, now that she’d had a taste of him, she’d never have enough.
Macy’s fingers twined in his hair. Desire licked through her, ripening her body.
She felt the cold exterior of her car behind her as she was shoved up against it. A hand pressed against her breast and her nipples hardened against his touch. She was beginning to think that he was going to take her there and then, and was almost certain that she wanted him to.
But he stepped away from her. She was breathing rapidly, stupefied as she looked up at him.
His hand reached out, and his fingers trailed a hot path down her throat. The hand splayed, the smallest finger disappearing into the neck of her tee-shirt, touching the swell of her breast. She felt herself pressing into his hand, but he didn’t move further, and then she realised he was feeling the vibration of her erratic heartbeat.
Feeling his gaze on her, she raised her eyes. He took his hand away, then he did something she’d not expected him to do. He grinned—a cock-sure grin, complete with dimples.
Macy found herself grinning back.
Then he bent and opened her car door. And reluctantly, she slipped inside, and he closed the door on her. Only when she was safely inside, did the Jelvia turn and walk away.