Audrey was waiting outside Corey's office with two duffle bags. Once I saw her, she tossed me one of them.
She led me down the dizzying, white halls of CORE's building. She changed clothes. Black tank top and dark blue jeans. Sexy. Audrey even had her long, silky-black hair pulled up in a ponytail. Thirty points for attractiveness.
"Stop staring at my butt," Audrey ordered as she walked in front of me.
Again, my eyes had strayed to her rear end.
"I'm a guy. I can't help myself. I mean, has anyone ever told you that you're hot? Gorgeous comes to mind too. Hardcore. Intelligent."
"You don't even know me."
"Maybe not, but I'm a pretty good judge of character. Also, I found out a lot about you while we were...physical during training yesterday."
"Oh really? What exactly did you find out?"
"Well, for one, you have a nice dragon tattoo in the small of your back, just above your rear end. Second, you take care of your complexion. You probably use face cleansers right? Third, you like your hair parted a little on the left. If it's not how you like it, you end up messing with it. Fourth, that locket you wear around your neck is important to you. It makes you feel safe. That's why you always touch it before Corey gives you an assignment. It's like you're afraid he's going to ask you to kill someone or something. Do I need to go on?"
"No. That's enough. I guess you can already turn your ability on and off."
"Actually, I'm just really observant. I've always had to be. Living in Drayton, you have to sleep with one eye open and a knife under your pillow."
Silence. I half-expected something, anything, from Audrey but nothing came. She stood beside me in the elevator and stared ahead. I noticed her looking at my reflection in the shiny metal doors. The elevator beeped as we reached the lobby. The doors didn't even get opened good before Audrey rushed out. Did I say something wrong? Man, she's complicated. Then again, there's not a woman on Earth who isn't. Their 'monthly episodes' don't help either. I struggled to keep up as she practically ran through the streets of Raven City. As we walked, people greeted Audrey with kind words and prayers for safety. When I passed them, they gave the same terrified, distrusted stares they had when I first arrived. My level of discomfort soared. There are so many people. Their stares drilled holes into my back. I don't know why, but terror started to seep into me. I stopped. Slamming my eyes shut, I tried to convince myself that they were only wary of me because I was new. It wasn't working. Audrey's probably blocks away by now and when I catch up to her, she's gonna be pissed.
"Hey, you. Stranger."
I opened my eyes to see a group of young, thirty-something guys blocking my path. I stared at the guy who spoke, the leader it seemed. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up as my senses automatically adjusted to the threat.
"Didn't you hear him talking to you, punk?" one of the guys snorted.
"Easy, Dan," the leader coaxed.
"What do you want?" I retorted.
"You're from Drayton, aren't you?"
"So, how does a street rat like you get those heightened senses of yours?...Blue veins. Interesting."
"Look, it's not like I asked for this."
"Maybe not, but that's just it. You didn't ask for it but you have it now. To a lot of people, those abilities are a blessing. Anyway, you're gonna wish you had never come to Raven City. We're gonna mess you up if you so much as step one foot over your boundaries. That's a promise. Oh, and Audrey isn't yours. Got that, brat?"
The leader wore a smug grin. My heart thundered in my ears from my increased adrenaline. My anger surged. Oh great, a rival. Yay. The sound of someone clearing their throat broke the tension.
"Audrey. Hey. We found him for you. He got lost. Raven City is pretty big. You should be more careful, Nick," the leader said sweetly.
"Uh-huh. Come on, Nick. We have an assignment to complete," Audrey said as she ignored the guys.
I took one last look at them before scurrying after her. My senses returned to normal. I was too focused on what just happened that I didn't notice when Audrey stopped walking. I looked back to find her staring past Raven City's white buildings. Beyond the city's limits, a hill covered in grave markers stared back at us. I could almost feel the spirits of the dead staring back at us. I shuddered.
"Creepy, isn't it? You can practically feel the dead reaching out to touch you. It only adds to the unsettling feeling of Raven City," Audrey commented.
"You feel unsettled too? I thought it was just me...because of Drayton."
"Yeah, I feel it. We've got the dead staring up at us from their graves and the buildings looking down on us from their place in the sky. Everywhere you go, you're never alone."
"Wow. That's, um, dark."
Audrey whipped her gaze away from the graveyard.
"Come on. We missed our flight," she said as she powerwalked ahead of me.
I shoved my hands in my pockets and kept my head down. I stuck close behind her. This uneasy feeling is going to make me go crazy. It's worse than Drayton. I hope Strayfort isn't like Raven City. On top of all that, the thought of having to arrest Arnold Sek didn't sit well with me. Then again, I was used to being on the wrong side of the law. Now, I'm working with them to catch people like me. Oh, and I've also got superhuman abilities. This is not how I envisioned my future. Glancing at the back of Audrey's head, my pounding heart eased a little. Audrey and I aren't that different. Not really. I'm not alone in this. Raven City, I won't let you control me. I am a free man. I live by my own rules. You won't intimidate me. Not anymore. Even as I thought that and headed for yet another unknown place, I grew more nervous.