Prophets of the Shadow by Darren Reid

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He would use her to make his money but he wouldn't like it.

"Beth my dear, what ever can be the problem on a night as perfect as this one?" His tone was pleasant, even his face displayed good humour, but Alamin made certain there was at least a hint of displeasure and exasperation in his words.

"I'm freezing is what the problem is! I hate this place and want to go back to my apartment!"

"Beth, Beth, Beth, we've been over this a million times..."
Before Alamin could continue Alieice began to bubble over with laughter, her head still thrown back in wild abandon, her face looking upwards invitingly towards the night's sky and the rain pouring down upon her.

"Fuck you," Beth spat, the word and tone contrasting clearly with her otherwise perfect appearance. The curse only served to increase the hilarity of the situation for Alieice however. Poor Alieice.

"And this bitch," Beth ranted, "is so doped out of her eye balls most of the time that when you can get any sound out of her at all, it's this God dammed laughter!"

Alamin spared Alieice a glance. Well, she was doped out of her eye balls, no denying it, but if that's how she chose to spend her hard earned cash, then so be it. It mattered not to Alamin.

"Star light," Alieice began to sing tunelessly under her breath, "makes me alright." Definitely tuneless, although Alamin had no doubt that in Alieice's head the music was blasting out in unbelievable layers of complexity. Poor Alieice indeed.

"Calm down Beth," Alamin tried to begin. Before he had finished uttering those words Beth had pulled herself to her feet roughly, cold fury painted on her face.

"To hell with your ‘calm down'!"

Without warning Alamin threw an open hand at Beth, slapping her painfully across the face. The cold snapping sound the action caused echoed dully around the small clearing, merging with and enhancing the sound of Alieice's continued laughter.

Looking hurt, Beth raised a shaking hand to her recently slapped cheek and rubbed it. Her mouth was opening, the half formed word she had been about to say when Alamin slapped her still on her lips. Her wide, blue eyes looked up and into Alamin's grey ones. A rush of emotions covered Beth's face; anger, hurt, but all faded away to quiet acquiescence. Good. Alamin had feared another outburst at the slap; quite unintentional as it was, but it appeared to have worked. Perfect.

Beth regarded Alamin through a mixture of tears and cold hearted fury. How dare he slap her! No, he didn't just slap her, he made her degrade herself, wait out in this freezing forest where, if it was possible, the planet's smell was stronger! Take her back to Sapphire Coast, let the stinking, oozing pollution that poured from that place cover this planet's stench!

With no small amount of effort Beth suppressed the urge to burst into tears. She would not give him that satisfaction. Alamin was standing perfectly still before her. His chubby, sun reddened face framed by hair that was long over due a cut.

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