The Hollows series
The woman across from me barely sniffed when I slammed the pen down on the counter. She didn’t care that I was furious, that I’d been standing in this stupid line for over an hour, that I couldn’t get my license renewed or my car registered in my name. I was tired of doing everything through Jenks or Ivy, but DEMON wasn’t a species option on the form. Friday morning at the DMV office. God! What had I been thinking?
“Look,” I said, waving a faded photocopied piece of paper. “I have my birth certificate, my high school diploma, my old license, and a library card. I’m standing right in front of you. I am a person, and I need a new driver’s license and my car registered!”
The woman gestured for the next guy in line, her bedraggled graying hair and lack of makeup only adding to her bored disinterest. I glared at the tidy Were in a business suit who had moved to stand too close behind me, and nervous, he dropped back.
The clerk looked at me over her glasses and sucked at her teeth. “I’m sorry,” she finally said, tapping at her keyboard and bringing up a new screen. “You’re not in the system under witch or even other.” She squinted at me. “You’re listed as dead. You’re not dead, are you?”
Crap on toast, can this get any worse? Frustrated, I tugged my shoulder bag up higher. “No, but can I get a dead-vamp sticker and get on with my life?” I asked, and the Were behind me cleared his throat impatiently.
She pushed her thick glasses back where they belonged. “Are you a vampire?” she asked dryly, and I slumped.
No, I was obviously not a vampire. From all accounts, I looked like a witch. Long, frizzy red hair; average build; average height; with a propensity for wearing leather when the situation demanded it and sometimes when it didn’t. Until a few months ago I’d called myself a witch, too, but when the choice was between becoming a lobotomized witch or a free demon . . . I took the demon status. I didn’t know they were going to take everything else, too. Demons were legal nonentities on this side of the ley lines. God help me if I should land in jail for jaywalking—I apparently had fewer rights than a pixy, and I was tired of it.
“I can’t help you, Ms. Morgan,” the woman said, beckoning the man behind me forward, and he shoved me aside as he handed her his form and old driver’s license.
“Please!” I said as she ignored me, leaning toward her screen. Beside me, the man grew nervous, the spicy scent of agitated Were rising up.
“I just bought the car,” I said, but it was obvious this date was over. “I need to get it registered. And my license renewed. I gotta drive home!”
I didn’t—I had Wayde for that—but the lie wouldn’t hurt anyone.
The woman eyed me with a bored expression as the man took a moment to write his check. “You are listed as dead, Ms. Morgan. You need to go down to the social security office and straighten it out there. I can’t help you here.”
“I tried that.” My teeth clenched, and the man in front of the counter fidgeted as we both vied for the scrap of worn carpet. “They told me I needed a valid driver’s license from you, a certified copy of life from my insurance company, and a court-documented form of species status before they’d even talk to me, and the courts won’t let me make an appointment because I’m listed as dead!” I was shouting, and I lowered my voice.
“I can’t help you,” she said as the man pushed me out of his space. “Come back when you have the right forms.”
Shoved to the side, I closed my eyes and counted to ten, very conscious of Wayde sitting in one of the faded orange plastic chairs under the windows as he waited for me to realize the inevitable. The twentysomething Were was one of Takata’s security people, having more muscles than tattoos showing from around his casual jeans and black T-shirt, and the small, stocky man had a lot of tattoos. He’d shown up on my doorstep the last week of July, moving into the belfry despite my protests, a “birthday gift” from my mom and birth father/pop-star dad. Apparently they didn’t think I could keep myself safe anymore—which bothered me a lot. Sort of. Wayde had been on my mom’s payroll for nearly four months, and the anger had dulled.
My eyes opened, and seeing that I was still in this nightmare, I gave up. Head down, I gripped my birth certificate tighter and stomped to the bank of orange plastic chairs. Sure enough, Wayde was carefully staring at the ceiling, his feet spread wide and his arms over his chest as he snapped his gum and waited. He looked like a biker dude with his short, carefully trimmed orange-red beard and no mustache. Wayde hadn’t told me this was a lost cause, but his opinion was obvious. The man got paid whether he was playing chauffeur for me or camped out in the church’s belfry talking to the pixies.
Seeing me approach, Wayde smiled infuriatingly, his biceps bulging as his arms crossed over his wide chest. “No good?” he asked in his Midwestern accent, as if he hadn’t heard the entire painful conversation.
Silent, I fumed as I wondered how the woman could treat me like I was just some jerk-ass nobody. I was a demon, damn it! I could flatten this place with one curse, burn it to nothing, give her warts or turn her dog inside out. If . . .
Hands clenched in fists, I gazed at the decorative band of charmed silver on my wrist, glinting in the electric light like a pretty bauble. If . . . If I hadn’t wanted to cut off all contact with my adopted kin. If I wasn’t such a good person to begin with. If I wanted to act like a demon in truth. I’d devoted my life to fighting injustice, and being jerked around like this wasn’t fair! But no one messes with a civil servant. Not even a demon.
“No good,” I echoed him as I tried and failed to get rid of my tension. Wayde took a deep breath as he stood. He was small for a man, but big for a Were, coming to my five foot eight exactly, with a thin waist, wide shoulders, and small feet. I hadn’t seen him as a wolf yet, but I bet he made a big one.
“You mind driving home?” I asked, handing him my keys. Crap, I’d had them in my hand for only the hour it had taken to get to the front of the line. I’d never get to drive my car legally.
Introspective, Wayde fingered the lucky rabbit’s foot key chain, the metal clinking softly. There wasn’t much on it these days—just the key to a car I couldn’t drive and the key to Ivy’s lockbox. “I’m sorry, Rachel,” he said, and I looked up at his low, sincere voice. “Maybe your dad can fix something.”