Uri Etters is very good at getting himself into trouble. Good thing for him he knows how to handle most criminals. He finds himself in need of a rescue when some territorial crow shifters think he’s an enemy spy. Virion might have swooped in and saved the day, but it’s been Uri’s experience that nothing comes free, not even from a respected Rogue soldier. Uri discovers love comes easier than trust.
Uri Etter held a can of chili in one hand and a bag of plain ridged potato chips in the other. He walked through Tent City with a single-minded purpose, not bothering to stop even when someone called his name. Tent City might be a hodge podge mess of tents scattered on the forest floor, but Tent City had a doctor, which was why they’d pulled up stakes and moved there. His brother, Casey, had been sick too long, and Uri had to do something to make him better.
If he stopped and talked to anyone, he’d lose his nerve. He could already feel it slipping. He searched his mind for another way to get the money they needed but didn’t come up with a better solution.
“Hey, Uri.” Sal’s greeting didn’t change his purpose or stop his forward momentum. Usually, he sat with the older man, watching him whittle away at a piece of wood until it slowly took on some recognizable shape and they’d talk about nonsense. Sal was one of the bright spots of having to stay in such a dangerous area. No one messed with Sal, probably because he was the oldest single Uri had ever seen.
Being a single usually meant a human died young. The top two causes were sickness or murder. Not that he collected statistical data or anything, but the gunfire and coughs told the sad story well enough.
“Can’t talk, Sal.”
“What you’re doin’ is dangerous, and I’m not just talking about a john beaten the shit out of you. The city is even more dangerous than settlin’ around here at the moment.” Sal pointed his knife toward East Druleg City, which was the thing that made Uri finally stop.
Tent City was just on the outskirts, as were most single areas. The blasts of gunfire could be heard sporadically, which wasn’t a big deal to Uri anymore, having grown used to the sounds a long time ago. Most singles knew when they needed to panic over gunfire and when it wouldn’t affect them. “East Druleg is going to shit. It’s not the time to peddle your ass there. You gonna do that, best move on to another area.”
Sal dropped his arm and went back to whittling.
Some of the nervousness took hold, and he allowed the panic to swamp him for a moment “I don’t have a choice. Casey’s getting so bad we can’t move him. Jalen’s trying to find work, but I gotta help. I can’t fix things like Jalen can. I don’t know what else to do.”
“Crow shifters and the demons have been at each other’s throats for days now.” How Sal knew that considering he never left Tent City, Uri had no clue, but he seemed to know everything in the surrounding area.
“What are they fighting over?”
“Territory. What else.”
“I don’t understand their logic.”
“You and most singles, kid.” Sal waved him away. “You’re gonna do what you’re gonna do, regardless of what I say. Just don’t settle for a corner on the south side. That’s where most of it’s going down.”
Uri nodded, and then realized Sal wasn’t looking at him, so he said, “I’ll stay on this side of the city.”
Uri got underway again, moving around tents, intent on trading food for the kind of clothing that would entice potential johns.
When he got to Mavis’ tent, the flap was open, and he could hear her puttering around inside. He crouched down, holding out the food items in front of him. Her back was to him, so he couldn’t see what she was doing, but her shoulder muscles flexed and rotated as if she was stirring something. Then the smell hit him, so he brought a hand up to his nose. He wondered what she was making that smelled so badly.
“Word is you’re the person to talk to if I want sexy clothes.”
“I don’t have anything for a demon.” How she could tell he was half-demon, Uri had no idea. He just knew some people could tell, while others didn’t have a clue.
“I can’t help who my mother fucked.” He winced at the crude way that sounded. He might not remember much about his father, but his older brother, Jalen, did. Jalen talked about him all the time, telling both him and Casey what a kind, loving person he was. For Uri to make him sound like a sperm donor dishonored his memory, but the prejudiced woman wouldn’t give him what he needed otherwise.
“Makes you half.” She turned and stared at him, her brown eyes turning all white as she chanted something.
Uri sighed and rolled his eyes. He’d come across people like her before. Not a lot of humans liked to have a half-breed like him around. Considering her eyes turned white with her magic mojo shit, she really had no room to talk.
His younger brother, Casey was also half-demon. Casey and Uri both got their light features from their mother. His blue eyes turned black when he was upset, but he didn’t know how or even whether he could control them. Jalen, having a different father, was completely human, so he didn’t know anything about being a demon either.
“I just want to trade. Food for clothing. That’s all.”
She let go of her big, wooden spoon and turned to face him. “My spells don’t work on you.”
Uri had no idea how to comment, so he said the first thing that came out of his mouth. “Sucks for you. Will you trade or not?”
“Will you take over my mind if I don’t?”
“Since that’s not something I can do, no.” At least Uri had never tried, and didn’t really care to, either.