Excerpt: Elemental Ride

Apparently the doorbell worked. Not much else in the apartment complex did, but as the damn thing buzzed its loud vibrating hive of angry bees clamor a second time, Rawley quickly understood why. The thing was so frigging annoying that no one had probably ever used it before, thereby saving it from the continual decay the rest of the place exhibited.

It was far too early for those thoughts. Rawley groaned again and scrubbed a hand over his face while levering his body off his rumpled bed and stumbling towards the door. A glance at the clock over the oven on his way past told him it was only eight thirty in the morning. Since he hadn’t gotten to bed until after six, it was pretty damned early.

Rawley threw the door open and no one was there. He blinked stupidly at the empty space and then carefully leaned out and glanced down the hall with the lone, blinking light bulb overhead.

A guy glanced over his shoulder at the sound of Rawley’s door opening and quickly spun on his heel to hurry back down the hall. He was wearing a uniform, Rawley saw immediately and it set him on his guard. Cops weren’t a welcome presence here. Then he noticed the Sylph Post logo on the breast—an artistic logo that, should Rawley twist his head just right, could read Swift Post instead—with a nametag clipped below it that read Reign. He lifted an incredulous eyebrow. Sylph Post was basically the USPS, but was a privately owned company. Anyone that didn’t trust the USPS or thought Sylph was faster or cheaper went with Sylph instead. Since Sylph had access to mailboxes and also shipped packages, a lot of people used them. Rawley liked that it wasn’t a government organization going though his letters or coming to knock on his door, so he used Sylph almost exclusively. Still, he hadn’t expected to see one of their employees at his door.

“Mail hasn’t been delivered here in over two weeks,” Rawley drawled. He had stupidly left his gun in the drawer of his bedside table, but it wasn’t difficult to summon a fire sprite to the hand he hid behind his back.

“I know,” the courier gushed, his blue eyes wide and guileless. He held out a brown square package towards Rawley. “I’m Reign, your new Sylph deliveryman. I ended up filling your mailbox with everything else and couldn’t get this in.” The shipping label said it belonged to the supplier Rawley had ordered a part from over a week ago.

He glanced back at Reign, who was grinning uncertainly, his dirty blond hair a little too long under his official hat. That grin started to fade slightly under Rawley’s nonplused stare, but he still resolutely held the package out. Rawley let the fire sprite fade away before slowly reaching forward to take the package. Nothing happened except the mailman’s grin returning at full force. He nodded politely to Rawley.

“Have a good day, Sir,” Reign said before turning around and heading back down the hall and to the staircase that led out of the building.

Rawley stepped back so he could close his apartment door and walked over to his small kitchen table to set the box down. He hunted up a box cutter to slash the tape holding the box shut and carefully tipped the box so the packing peanuts spilled across the plastic tabletop. He half-expected an attack to erupt from the box as he let a trapped sprite loose by rearranging the peanuts, and he was more than prepared for anything that came after him, but instead he only found the custom side panels he was adding to a customer’s crotch rocket.

Maybe Reign really had been a mailman? It was a ridiculous thought, yet it was the only explanation Rawley could come up with.

If Rawley’s apartment was a piece of crumbling shit, the surrounding neighborhood was far worse. This was gang territory. If you didn’t have a motorcycle and came strolling through this block you were liable to end up lynched. A couple of blocks over were a bunch of water sprite idiots; only people who held one or more water sprites under their skin were welcome. Was the guy dumb enough to deliver the mail there too? Rawley hoped not. Those big blue eyes didn’t deserve to be darkened by a violent death.

Rawley shook his head to clear those thoughts away. It wasn’t any of his business what happened to the mailman no matter how pretty Reign was. Rawley took one last look at the peanuts and the side panels strewn across his kitchen table, mentally shrugged, and decided to fuck it all until he had enough sleep to actually be thinking straight again. He stumbled back across the room and gratefully dropped back onto his bed. Rawley pulled the blanket up to his chin and let sleep take over.

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