Matheus Taylor didn’t ask to be murdered. Quin didn’t care. A seventeen-hundred old Roman, Quintus Livius Saturnius had a different view of morality than most people. Killing Matheus and hijacking his undead existence seemed perfectly acceptable to him.
Now, Matheus spends his nights running for his life, questioning his sexual orientation, and defying a mysterious new threat to the vampires within his city. Not that he set out to do any defying; he just wanted to be left alone. Unfortunately, that was never going to happen.
The cell was dark and damp and stank of shit and piss and the woman sat huddled in the corner and her hair was matted to her skull and his father was too close, talking in his ear, Sie ist verdorben. The knife pressed into his palm, sweaty and shaking, not his hand, someone else’s hand and his head ached from the booze and not enough sleep, and oh, God, his father was talking again, talking, talking, talking, words sparking dark. Dieses Übel muss bereinigt werden. The woman was crying now and begging, snot dripping down her face and he hated her. Wir sind das Licht. Wir sind die Hand Gottes auf Erden. And now he was running, running in the dark, running so far and fast that the wind burned against his skin and tore into him and still his father’s voice followed him, a bright arrow, Töte sie und seien Sie einer von uns, and he could never run far enough, never, never, never, never, the words sought him out in the dark and it was all dark, always dark, Mein Sohn, mein Sohn . . . .
Matheus dove for the light, awareness breaking over him like the snap of a rubber band. He trembled in the center of his bed, winding the sheets in his hands. He’d had that particular nightmare before, but the last occasion had been nearly eight years ago. He didn’t know how dreaming was even possible. For all the picturesque language linking the two, sleep was sleep, and dead was dead. Matheus was supposed to give people nightmares, not have them himself.
He ignored the soft knock on his door. Quin called his name, once, twice. Matheus heard his soft sigh slip under the door before footsteps signaled his departure.
The lamp cast a fan of light up the wall. Matheus stared into it, twisting,then untwisting, the sheets into hard sheaths around his fingers. When he closed his eyes, he saw Carruthers’ face, sunken with bleak confusion, mouth working without sound. Disconnected, like a director’s commentary, the boy’s shrieks played and repeated, overlapping into a solid block of sound. Matheus could do nothing to stop either, so he tormented the sheets, stared at the light, and waited for the night to pass.
“Sunshine! Get your ass out of bed!”
“No!” Matheus shouted. “Go away!” He pulled the covers over his head, snug in the little hollow he’d carved out for himself.
For the first awful week, Quin left books and newspapers beside his door, clearly intent on distracting Matheus from his guilt. He waited until Quin gave up talking at Matheus through the door and walked away, then, in a dash, pulled the piles into his room. He always rushed to return to the circle of light, just as he had as a child, when the monsters still lived under his bed.
The second week, Quin’s patience waned, but by then, it was too late. Matheus had a supply of reading materials to last him half a year. He sank into his Matheus-shaped hollow in his mattress, content to remain there until Armageddon. Really, he rationalized, there is no need to leave. He moved often enough to prevent bedsores, if corpses even developed bedsores, and he didn’t sweat, so how dirty could the sheets get? Matheus didn’t understand why everyone didn’t live this way, barring, of course, the certain necessities of the living.
Quin pounded on the door.
For a moment, Matheus was alarmed it might break. The door was old, but well-made and sturdy despite the nightly attacks.
“You’ve been in there for a month!” Quin yelled. “Stop fucking moping!”
“I’m not moping! I’m depressed! Leave me alone!”
“Goddammit!” Quin stomped away.
Cautiously, Matheus lowered the blanket, listening for a second before reaching for his book. This had become a daily ritual. Quin came and yelled at him through the door, Matheus refused to leave, and then Quin stormed off. It was nice to have a routine.
Matheus curled onto his side, propping his book up on the pillow and snuggling into Quin’s thousand-thread-count sheets. The words blurred into a grey mess as he fell into the pleasant daze of doing absolute nothing. He missing sleeping, but a vague, meditative state served as a diet-alternative. He floated, a fuzzy blip outside of the passing world, secure and timeless. Which was why he had no idea how long Quin took to unscrew the hinges off the door.
“Christ!” Matheus jerked upright as the door hit the floor with a heavy and resounding bang.
Quin stood in the doorway, one arm still extended, palm outward. In his other hand, he held a screwdriver, ancient and rusty, which, considering it was Quin’s screwdriver, had probably been used to shiv a guy. He glared at Matheus and lowered his arm.
“It’s time to get up,” he said.
“No,” said Matheus. He flopped down, crossing his arms over his chest.
Quin threw the screwdriver at him. It bounced off Matheus’ head and landed on a teetering stack of books.
“Ow! That fucking hurt!”
“Good,” said Quin. “Now, are you going to get up or am I going to have to drag you?”
Quin had to drag him.
Matheus did not go easily. He clung to the bed, tearing off all the blankets as Quin hauled him out of the room by his feet. His fingernails left channels on the hardwood floor. He howled as he tore off yard-long strips of wallpaper. Nothing worked. Quin had freakish strength and no qualms about throwing Matheus over his shoulder and tossing him into the shower fully dressed. Matheus shrieked as the water hit him.
“Bastard!” he yelled. “You didn’t even turn on the hot water. “He shoved at Quin’s hand holding him under the stream. The shower curtain hid the rest of him. Apparently, Quin preferred not to look at the object of his torment.
“You would have gotten hot water if you had gotten up willingly,” Quin said, raising his voice to be heard over the water. “Pass me your clothes.” His hand withdrew a little, fingers opening and closing in a give gesture.
Matheus yanked off his sodden shirt, hurling it over the shower rod at the spot where he thought Quin stood. It hit the floor with a splat. Fumbling at the drawstring of his pants with numbed fingers, Matheus cursed Quin. He hopped, trying to wrench off the pants as they clung to his legs like flypaper with separation issues.
“I hope you get gonorrhea and your prick rots off,” he said, throwing the pants after the shirt.
Quin’s arm disappeared.
“Lovely to have you back, sunshine,” its owner said.
“Go to hell!”
Matheus sat on the couch in the living room, clean, dry, and sulking. A visible cloud of soap aroma surrounded him, a scent too floral to be masculine. He sniffed. Lilacs; he smelt of lilacs. As best as he remembered, Quin did not smell like any sort of flower. He wore one of those designer colognes engineered beyond any identifiable scent except, perhaps, expensive. Matheus concluded that Quin thought he, Matheus, was the type of person who enjoyed smelling of girlish plants and had purchased soap accordingly. Either that, or the soap signaled a new, subtle form of torture. Matheus sniffed again, and decided he preferred the second option.
“I hate you,” he said as Quin entered.
“That’s nice,” said Quin. He stood over Matheus, immaculate in dark grey slacks, a navy shirt, and narrow tie. His rolled-up sleeves had cuffs so perfectly crisp and matched Quin must have used an iron and a ruler. He didn’t look at Matheus, absorbed in fastening his watch.
Matheus tilted his head to catch the name of the maker and repressed a whistle. Quin had close to two hundred thousand dollars clasped around his wrist. No wonder he hadn’t balked at the Mercedes.
“We’re going shopping,” Quin said, straightening.
Matheus leaned back quickly, scowl set into place.
“Why?” he asked.
“You need clothes.”
“I have clothes,” Matheus said. “Look, I’m wearing them. Shirt, pants, boxers, even socks. I am a clothed man.”
“Good clothes,” said Quin, pulling a wallet out of his pocket. He picked up another one, slightly thicker and made of deep brown leather. Dropping sideways into the armchair, he transferred the contents of the old wallet into the new one. “Clothes that don’t belong to a fourteen-year-old boy still being dressed by his mother.”
Matheus looked down at his outfit. He wore a light blue polo with a collar that always stuck up on one side. He’d left the shirt hanging loose, because he’d replaced the missing button on his khakis with a safety pin. He meant to sew on a new button, but the pin worked well enough, going on four years now. His socks were two different colors; Matheus gave Quin that, at least. Other than that, Matheus thought he looked fine. Not as fashion-forward as Quin, but not board shorts and an Ed Hardy shirt, either.
“What’s wrong with them?” he asked.
“Trust me.You can do better.”
“I’m not going shopping,” said Matheus. He swung his legs up onto the couch, lying flat on his back. “I left the bedroom. That’s good enough.”
Quin stood up, tossing the old wallet onto the mantel of the unused fireplace. An antique trunk sat in the firebox, huge brass buckles dangling off leather straps. Matheus matched it to the same time period as the sofa, a dark wood and forest green affair with more scrolling than strictly advisable.
“Sunshine, it’s your choice.” Quin knelt beside the trunk and flipped up the lid.” Either we go shopping, or I tie you up and drop you in the reservoir.”
“You wouldn’t,” said Matheus.
Quin pulled a length of rope out of the trunk.
“You are an evil, evil man,” Matheus said.
When Matheus first moved to Kenderton, he made the mistake of taking a roommate’s advice to visit Marlboro Street. He went only once. The street stretched for seven city blocks, dominated by Armani, Burberry, and Prada. Massive glass and steel stores full of chic women in heels and too-large sunglasses. Small, quirky shops packed with merchandise that prevented more than two people from browsing at the same time served as buffers for the brand names. Tourists filled the area, swinging arms full of bags, moving through the crowd like sumo wrestlers. Matheus avoided the street like a nuclear test site. He couldn’t picture Quin zigzagging through Midwesterners on holiday, but Matheus was still surprised when Quin bypassed the shopping center of Kenderton for Birch Hill. He trailed after Quin down a quiet side street.
History cast a hush over this part of the city, the oldest in Kenderton. History and money. Discreet bronze plaques cast in austere fonts hung on Colonial bricks, immaculate despite their age. Matheus had never been to this street before, but he recognized it, nonetheless, as one of the secret corridors accessible only to old money. Any questions about cost would be met with expressions of disdain and derision. Clerks who gave the impression of being British, even when they weren’t, offering imported tea, small-roast coffee, and single-malt Scotch. A shop that did everything possible not to appear as one.
“Here?” Matheus asked. “We’re shopping here?”
“I don’t do Wal-Mart,” said Quin, holding the door open.
A saleswoman greeted them at the door. She took one look at Matheus and sniffed, but rewardedQuin and his crisp cuffs with a small, precise smile. Although, judging by the way her eyes caught on his wrist, likely the Glashütte Original earned her affections more than anything else.
Quin waved off her offer of refreshments and led Matheus over to a display of dress shirts.
“These don’t even have price tags,” Matheus whispered, leaning into Quin’s shoulder as he examined an ivory Windsor-collared shirt. The atmosphere dampened normal tones.
“May I help you, gentlemen?” The saleswoman paused between you and gentlemen.
Matheus stiffened, stepping away from Quin and sending the saleswoman a sneer that rivaled her own. Matheus had learned condescension at the feet of a master, and he wasn’t about to lose to a woman whose ancestors had been fish merchants.
“We’ll need an entire wardrobe,” said Quin.”Pants, shirts, suits, and ties.”
“For your friend?” asked the saleswoman, raising an eyebrow in Matheus’ direction. She appeared unperturbed by Matheus’ subtle shaming.
“Yes. Neutral colors, I think. Maybe some spring greens?”
“I agree.” The saleswoman smiled at Quin, ignoring Matheus’ attempt to force feudal conditioning into her brain via telepathy. “Shall we start with the basics?”
Matheus felt like a Ken doll. He stood mute as Quin and the saleswoman held various pieces of clothto his face, trying to determine his colors. Then came the measuring, with the saleswoman buzzing around him, scribbling down numbers while Quin roamed around the store, gathering piles of shirts, trousers, and sweaters. Matheus, convinced he’d entered his own personalized hell, squeaked as the saleswoman measured his inseam. After she recorded the final figure, Quin thrust the pile of clothing into Matheus’ arms and steered him into a dressing room.
The bright light of the dressing room reminded Matheus he’d forgotten his sunglasses. A pair of mirrors hung on either wall, catching him between them. With a sigh, he dropped the pile of clothing on the padded bench. Tans, cool blues, soft yellow-greens and creams, sweaters and shirts, dress slacks and jeans so far removed from their original proposeas to be an entirely new species. He glared at the assembled wardrobe.
Nope, no pyrokinesis, he thought.
Matheus pulled off his shirt, then dropped it onto the floor. He bent down, picking the first shirt out of the mass, shaking out the material as he held it up. The mirrors reflected back to him, tossing the image back and forth at the speed of light. Matheus paused, lowering the shirt as he caught sight of his shoulders. The wounds had healed, leaving behind thick, raised scars. The spaces between the letters were even, the strokes straight and defined. Matheus had not been the first person on which Linken had practiced his graffiti.
Someone knocked on the door. Matheus ignored it, hunching his shoulders, then straightening, watching the scars contract and stretch.
“Are you dressed yet?” Quin asked through the door.
Marked, Matheus thought. Marked as a monster for the rest of eternity. That word would follow him everywhere. He’d never be able to escape.
“I’m coming in,” Quin said.
Matheus dropped the shirt, half-turning toward the door. He tried to remember if he had locked the door.
Quin walked in, closing the door after him. He looked at the shirt on the floor, and then the mostly untouched pile on the bench.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
Matheus scooped up the shirt, holding it in front of his chest like a shield. He glowered at Quin. It worked on him as well as it had on the saleswoman.
“Do you mind?” Matheus asked, making tiny flicking gestures in the direction of the door.
“I’ve already seen you naked,” Quin said.”Besides, you still have your pants on.”
“Maybe I don’t want you ogling me shirtless.”
“Please.” Quin rolled his eyes and took a step forward.
Matheus turned, angling his back away from Quin. He forgot about the mirrors.
“This is about your scars, isn’t it? You’re being sulky again.”
“He used me as a fucking cuneiform tablet!” Matheus said, throwing down the shirt.
Quin took his shoulder, spinning him around gently. Matheus watched in the mirror as Quin tilted his head to the side, scrutinizing the scars.
“At least he didn’t go Euro-trash pretentious and use a Y,” Quin said.
“Fuck off.” Matheus jerked away, pretending to sort through the stack of clothing.
Quin leaned back against the mirror, crossing his arms and ankles.
“It could be worse,” he said.
“How? How could it be worse?”
“You could be a neat little pile of dust,” said Quin. His eyes drifted down Matheus’ frame.
Matheus wondered if he had forgotten about the mirrors as well.
“Stop staring at my back,” said Matheus.
“It’s a very nice back.” Quin gave him a lazy smile.
“Pervert.” Matheus grabbed a shirt at random and yanked it over his head. The shirt was an Oxford button-down. With the buttons done up, it didn’t fit over Matheus’ head, leaving him with his arms stuck halfway through the sleeves and the collar wedged tightly around his forehead. He flapped uselessly for a second, then slumped, looking like the Headless Horseman after his wife left him for the stable boy.
Quin sighed. Crossing the small room, he began undoing the buttons.
“Sunshine, you’re a good-looking man,” he said, snapping a button free. “I like looking at you. That doesn’t mean I’m going to leap on you and start humping your leg. Get over yourself.” He opened the last button, yanked the shirt down, gave Matheus a dark look, and left.
Matheus scowled after him.
“How the hell am I supposed to take that?” he asked.
Matheus left the store, weighed down with bags, papers crinkling as they banged against his legs. He’d never owned so many clothes in his life.
On top of the ready-made stuff, Quin had ordered a half-dozen bespoke suits in a variety of colors. When the saleswoman handed Quin the refined leather booklet with the total inside, Matheus peeked over his shoulder. He could have bought a house with that amount. Two houses even, with enough left over for a boat and a membership to the yacht club. He fell into a dead faint.
“Feeling better?” Quin asked.
“Super,” said Matheus darkly. He wore dark jeans, an obscenely soft cream shirt, and a green suede jacket. His old clothes had mysteriously vanished.
“I’ve never seen anyone keel over like that. Like in the movies.”
“Never mention that again,” Matheus said.
“Just whoosh, slam.”
Matheus walked faster, heading toward the large park that dominated the center of the city. As they moved farther away from Birch Hill, the property values dropped, giving way to tall office buildings of mirrored glass. The city library was located here, a modern building made to look like a Greek temple with columns and statues of scantily clad women holding urns. The neoclassical architecture clashed with the aggressively sleek modernity of the conglomerates around it, earning the library a small place in Matheus’ heart, despite the fact that its minions still insisted he owed them thirty-seven fifty for an unreturned book. Next to the library rose Marwood Tower, the tallest building in the city. Matheus stared at his reflection into the mirrored windows, craning his neck as he tried to get a look at his ass.
“I think these jeans are too tight,” he said.
“They’re supposed to be tight. That’s the style.” Quin strolled beside him, hands tucked away in a slim navy coat that reached to his knees.
“I don’t need strangers knowing if I wear boxers or briefs.”
“Then don’t wear either.”
Matheus wrinkled his nose.
“No way,” he said.
The sidewalks filled as they left the business district. Theaters lined the street that ran alongside the park, bright signs advertising plays and concerts. The warm night kept people outside longer, taking advantage before winter locked everyone indoors by seven o’clock.
College students were having a movie night in the park; the occasional piece of dialogue drifted over to Matheus. He stopped, resting his bags on the stone wall that bordered the park, squinting at the distant movie screen. After a minute, Gary Oldman appeared and Matheus laughed shortly.
“Dracula,” he said to Quin.
“It’s Halloween,” said Quin.
Matheus frowned. He rearranged his bags, knocking into Quin as he passed him. Six weeks since his death. He hadn’t realized it’d been so long.
“Are we done?” he asked as Quin fell into step next to him. “I’m tired.”
“You’re a whiny little shit, aren’t you?”
Matheus’ head snapped up.
One of the theaters had just let out, a crowd people flowing around them, chattering loudly about the play.
“I don’t like shopping,” he said, dodging a group of women in matched shirts. “Sorry, I have too much testosterone.”
“Oh, yes, you’re very manly,” said Quin.
One of the women stopped, looking back at them over her shoulder.
“I subscribe to a modern theory of masculinity.” Matheus moved closer to Quin to be heard over the crowd. A man in a black cabbie’s hat and homemade sweater shouted about the downfall of American values. The women moved farther and farther away with each increase in volume.
“Don’t smirk at me,” Matheus said.
The woman in the matched shirt waved to her friends, then walked toward them, ducking under the waving arms of the man in the black hat.
“I’m not smirking,” said Quin.”This is my interested face.”
“That’s your amused condescension face.”
“Matheus?” The woman in the matched shirt hovered next to Matheus, her hand raised halfway to his shoulder. She jerked it away as he turned, letting her arm fall to her side. She smiled, sweet and hesitant, lips trembling as though they had stage fright.
“Eleanor?” Matheus said, trying to picture the woman in front of him in a pink cardigan and headband.
Eleanor’s smile steadied as she moved closer.
“Oh, my God, Matheus, what are you doing here?” Eleanor was short, nearly a foot shorter than Matheus, and curvy. She had the features of Renaissance painting, pretty in a vague, doughy sort of way. She used to talk about her dog a lot, Matheus remembered.
“Shopping,” he said, holding up the mass of bags.
Eleanor faltered. She flushed, one hand reaching up to fiddle with her necklace.
“I mean, you disappeared. No one knew what happened to you,” she said. She blushed, adding, “I tried your phone, but it had been disconnected.”
“I, uh, decided on a new path,” Matheus said. Talking to Eleanor always made him think of swimming in treacle. She worked as the receptionist at his old job, before Quin and the theft and his unheralded death. Matheus resisted the urge to take a step backward, as though she knew just by looking at him. He made a point of breathing at regular intervals. Eleanor frowned at him; maybe he’d gone overboard with the breathing. “Um,” he said.
Quin moved closer to Matheus, standing behind him, an atom’s width away from touching. The crowd dissipated around them. Quin’s cologne danced on the edges of the air, barely enough for Matheus to discern what it was. He could lean back so easily, rest against Quin’s chest, feel his arms wind around his waist, solid and shielding and—
“What!” Matheus yelled.
Eleanor’s mouth fell into a perfect O.
“Sorry.What did you say?” Matheus knew Quin was grinning behind him.
“I said, you left with telling anybody,” said Eleanor.
“Yeah, things changed, er, suddenly,” Matheus said, mentally thumping his inner voice with a sledgehammer. “Weren’t you here with some people? I don’t want to keep you.”
“Oh, I’m meeting them at the restaurant.”
It has to be the connection, Matheus thought. Because he did not find Quin attractive, and he definitely did not find him safe.
Eleanor looked up at him, sliding the charm of her necklace back and forth along the silver chain. Matheus didn’t know what she wanted him to say. He wanted to tell her to go away, but thought that might make her cry, ratcheting the awkwardness up to International Space Station heights.
“I didn’t think anyone would notice,” he said with a small shrug.
“I noticed,” said Eleanor.
In the park, Winona Ryder screamed. Several of the students howled or made catcalls at the screen. The projection leaked over the edges of the screen onto the apartment building behind it. Matheus imagined watching the lights shift over the walls, never realizing a bit of movie-land had seeped in. He sighed. Eleanor waited with this look of concern that made Matheus want to push her into the river. He felt bad about thinking that, because Eleanor was, essentially, a nice person, and it wasn’t her fault that nice people whipped Matheus into a homicidal froth.
“Well,” he said. “Sorry if I worried you.”
“Sunshine,” Quin said, his voice deeper than normal.
Matheus jumped, dropping half of his bags.
“Right,” he said, with one hand frantically scooping up the clothes that spilled while waving at Quin with the other. “This is Quin. He’s . . . .”
He paused, then coughed, straightening up.”Anyway, this is Eleanor. We used to work together.”
“Lovely to meet you,” Quin said, reaching around Matheus to take Eleanor’s hand. His fingers lingered against her wrist before he withdrew.
A hot blush rose up Eleanor’s collarbone. She looked at Matheus, a tiny wrinkle forming between her eyebrows.
“Sunshine, we don’t have much time before the shoe store closes.”
“I have shoes,” he said.
“You need new ones.”
Eleanor split a look between the two of them. The wrinkle grew deeper. Her necklace charm zigzagged back and forth with a scratching beat straight out of a dubstep remix.
“So, you’re okay, then?” she asked.
Okay? Matheus thought. He was a walking, talking corpse forced into designer clothing. Okay was not the word that came to mind.
“Sure, okay,” he said.
“He just wanted to try new things,” Quin said, giving Eleanor a wide smile.
Her eyes widened as Matheus’ narrowed. Quin’s smile was open and innocent and as fake as the tits on a stripper. He looked like a choirboy and an Eagle Scout rolled into one. For the first time since Matheus had met him, Quin looked genuinely human. Matheus’ nerves writhed.
“I see,” said Eleanor. “You, er, had to leave work for that?” Her blush rose up her neck and captured her cheeks, set on conquering skin all the way up to her hairline. She avoided Matheus’ eyes.
“Oh, he keeps busy,” said Quin with another quick grin.
Matheus stared at him.
“That’s . . . nice,” Eleanor stammered.
Matheus stared at her instead. He was missing something.
Quin leaned toward him, placing his mouth next to Matheus’ ear. He wrapped a hand around Matheus’ arm, digging into the soft flesh inside his elbow.
“I’ll wait for you at the corner,” he said in low whisper that crawled through Matheus’ear canal to his amygdala. “Get rid of your little admirer before I decide I want a snack.”
Giving Eleanor a nod, Quin strolled away, walking in a way that bordered pornographic.
Matheus watched him leave with envy. If he had let Quin eat Eleanor, he’d be able to walk away, too. Albeit with less hip-swinging. Quin didn’t even have hips, but he managed to swing them nevertheless.
“I should go,” Matheus said, trying to inch away. “Quin gets cranky if he’s denied shoes.”
“Are you happy?” Eleanor asked. She blinked up at Matheus, doing her best to gnaw off her lower lip. She was quite pretty.
Matheus tried to remember if she had a boyfriend. He rarely paid attention to anything she said. Ignoring ninety percent of all conversations was his secret to maintaining civil relationships with his coworkers. They hadn’t been close. Eleanor bruised too easily for him to be comfortable. Sarcasm escaped her, and irony lived in a foreign country. Besides, she liked to print out pictures of adorable puppies and share them around the office.
“I suppose,” Matheus said. He didn’t think he’d ever considered himself happy. He thought the people who consistently described themselves as happy either took a lot heavy drugs or belonged in a room with padded walls. Matheus subscribed to the theory that life consisted of a long string of miseries, tolerated only because the alternative was worse.
“Take care of yourself.” Eleanor dropped her necklace, wrapping her arms around Matheus’ middle and squeezing.
“Urk,” said Matheus. Eleanor felt warm and soft, and smelled like steak flavored with rosewater. The double pulse of her heart teased at Matheus’ nerves. He wiggled, the bags banging together, but Eleanor refused to be dislodged. A couple of passersby gave them strange looks. Saliva built up in Matheus’ mouth. Ten seconds more and he’d perform his own reenactment of Dracula.
Matheus yanked an arm free and shoved Eleanor away.
She staggered back a couple of steps, shock and hurt mingled on her face.
“Sorry,” said Matheus.”I’m not really a hug kind of person. So, uh, bye.”
He stared at the pavement as he hurried away, nearly missing Eleanor’s soft, “Goodbye.”