The Story of Ivy Hayes
chapter one.Ivy could hear only her soft, shallow breathing and the gentle rustle of her hair in the wind from the open window. A sliver of light from a streetlamp had worked its way into the empty room, glinting off Ivy’s ruby necklace. She tucked it quietly into her shirt, the smooth fabric sliding across her skin explosively in the silence.
No outside sound seemed able to penetrate Ivy’s desolate fortress. Not the cars on the street several floors below, or the troupe of children she had seen entering the room next to this one, or the elevator shaft against the other side of the room.
Was it always like this before you ended someone’s life? Ivy didn’t know. All those stories that spread about her, that she was a ruthless murderer, they weren’t actually true. Yes, she was ruthless, but she had never actually killed. She left that to her partner, Nathan Delany.
The two of them, Ivy and Nate, lived, breathed, and fought as a pair. They were even engaged. But they felt nothing for each other. If one was killed, the other would simply move on and find a new partner. They both had a goal, and they both knew it couldn’t be achieved alone.
Ivy took a deep breath. Nate was the only one she refrained from constantly manipulating, because he was just as cold and calculating as she was. She needed him.
But tonight he was nowhere to be found.
Ivy had spent the last week planning for this moment, and Nate couldn’t be bothered to show up. Ivy had carefully set her plan into motion, showing up at a local bar cloaked as a heartbroken, lonely girl in need of some attention. She had made sure the right man had asked her back to his apartment. Once she was inside the apartment building, she vanished.
The original plan had been for Ivy and Nate to just sneak in, but Ivy felt like having a little fun. Nate opted for the boring way in, sneaking into a room they knew was empty.
This was where Ivy was waiting, silently. She was on a mission to end her sister’s murderer, and Nate was about to ruin her chance to gain valuable information on where to find him.
The front door of the apartment opened and Ivy froze in the shadows, creeping back behind a wall. The footsteps weren’t Nate’s, but Ivy refused to panic. She could deal with whoever it was.
As the footsteps came closer, Ivy realized her visitor wasn't human. He was a fallen angel. She could feel it, almost like a sixth sense, a piece of ancient knowledge buried in the mind and blood of all Hunters.
“Well, well,” a dangerously familiar voice called out humorlessly, “what do we have here?” This was the one fight Ivy knew she couldn’t survive alone. She closed her eyes, praying to every god that Nate would show up.
“It looks like it’s Miss Ivy Hayes.” The sharp click of a gun cocking rang out in the still air.
Ivy awoke in a cold sweat. The terror from her dream faded slowly.
“Ivy? You ok?” Nate’s voice, rough with exhaustion, calmed her.
“I’m fine. Just a dream.” She rolled over, her hands searching for Nate. All she found were cold sheets. “Nate?”
The kitchen. He wasn’t tired, he was drunk. “Dammit, Nate,” Ivy groaned. “I thought you agreed to stop.”
“And you agreed to stop obsessing,” he retorted. “But for the third week in a row, we’ve moved apartments, hotels, towns, states. I’m surprised we haven’t moved halfway across the world following a trail that isn’t there.”
Ivy knew he was right. But rather than argue, she rolled out of bed and marched over to Nate, flicking on the lone kitchen light. She grabbed the bottle from Nate’s hand and poured the alcohol down the drain.
“I’m going back to sleep.” Ivy slammed the bottle on the counter, turned off the light and crawled back into bed. A few moments later Nate followed and curled up next to her.
“I’ll regret this in the morning, won’t I?” he whispered into her ear.
Ivy could smell the alcohol on his breath. She couldn’t really blame him, after all that they’d been through, but she still hated the fact that he drank. Alcohol changed Nate, the only solid piece of her life. The only thing she despised more than the whiskey Nate preferred was the fallen angel she was hunting.
That bastard screwed up my entire life, she thought. No matter what I promised Nate, I can't just stop.
Finally, sleep overtook her tired mind. When she awoke, Nate's strong arms were locked around her. Ivy breathed deep. This was the one place she felt safe, here next to him. She needed him in every sense of the word. He knew her better than anyone.
With him, she was weak. He could kill her in an instant and she would be hopelessly unprepared.
But he was the same way with her. Their fragile, volatile relationship worked.
"Nate?" she whispered.
He mumbled something unintelligible.
"Did I wake you? Sorry."
"Don't worry about it, princess." Nate pulled away from her, stretching. "God, woman," he groaned, "it's not even seven."
Ivy grinned coyly, taking in his dark eyes and smooth, upturned features and the rugged English accent that dripped from his barely-smiling lips. "What's for breakfast today?"
Nate's tone turned serious. "Nothing. We're all out of food. We should leave."
Crawling slowly across the bed, Ivy joined Nate in the tiny kitchen. "Well, sweetheart, where would you like to go next?" she asked sweetly, remembering their heated conversation the night before.
Wordlessly, Nate pulled his pistol out of one of the drawers.
"Oh come on," Ivy teased. "I'm the one person you can trust. Just tell me. Where is it you want to go so badly?"
"Trust is a relative word," Nate countered.
Ivy didn't argue. He was right. They couldn't trust anyone, not even each other. They liked to act like it, though; it served as a sort of reminder of a better time for both of them. For Ivy, it allowed her to cling to the scattered fragments of her life before it had been ruined by a murderous fallen angel.
Setting his gun on the counter, Nate turned back to Ivy. "What if we did it?" he asked abruptly.
Nate took one of her hands, holding it softly. "Got married."
The question was absurd to Ivy. "But we're already engaged," she laughed lightly. "We've known that we would be getting married one day. It's just a formality. It means people ask fewer questions."
"But what if it meant something more? What if it wasn't just to be normal, to keep people from getting curious?" Nate took her other hand. "What if we weren't just going through the motions?"
Ivy bit her lip, unsure how to answer. "Nate," she began slowly, "you know it doesn't mean anything. We're business partners. Not a couple."
He turned back to his pistol. "Everyone else seems to think we are."
"Everyone else is being lied to." Ivy allowed her voice to slip into a more firm tone, narrowing her eyes. "You're not seriously going to pull some crap about being in love, are you? Because I've dealt with love before, and it got my sister killed. I nearly died, too. You know about Maverick; I don't do love."
"I'm not talking about love."
"Well then what the hell are you talking about?" Only half wanting to hear his answer, Ivy pulled a sweatshirt over her head and reached for a pair of jeans.
"Didn't you ever dream of getting married?" Ivy heard Nate cross the room to her. "Don't girls want a fairy tale wedding?"
Ivy remained indignantly silent.
"Maybe it's time to stop hunting," Nate suggested. "Settle down. I know you used to dream about having a perfect little family. You used to tell me about it all the time."
Ivy considered it. The last several years of her life had been driven and consumed by revenge, and she had lost so much because of it. Besides, it had been nearly a year since she had found any trace of her prey.
"Give me one more month," she compromised, "and then we can talk about quitting for good."
"No more hunting?" Nate affirmed.