The Takedown

Cover by Natasha Snow

About Superpowered Love 8: The Takedown

Jody's family was kidnapped and tortured by witch hunters, and after a few days of captivity, he's all that's left. Using his frosty awakened superpowers, he manages to escape—and is rescued from the side of the road by Bren. 

Bren, a hot-thermal awakened with government connections, promises to help find the witch hunters who destroyed Jody's life. While navigating his trauma and pain, Jody comes to rely on Bren for more than just food, shelter, and superpowered connections. Brendan is all that reminds Jody what's left to live for, and a strong advocate for justice vs. vengeance, like the proverbial knight in shining armor he is.

As their affection for one another deepens and their attraction becomes impossible to deny, Bren wonders if acting on their feelings would be taking advantage. Jody, meanwhile, struggles to claw his way back to something like normalcy, certain that Bren's part of the solution, not the problem.

But none of it matters if they don't take down those witch hunters.


Page 1:

When I woke up—I mean, really woke up—I had no idea what day it was. I just knew that if the little window overhead wasn't a filthy liar, it was getting to be evening. My mouth tasted like a sewer, my arms and legs were heavy, and I still had on the pajamas I'd been wearing when the witch hunters took us. The place stank like rust and chicken shit—or, fuck, maybe that was just me. Either way, I had a Sherlock Holmes moment, figuring that must mean we were still near Harrisonburg.
I spotted the brown stain on the cement across the dingy cell. My empty stomach clenched. A nightmare vision of a slick, dark red puddle filled my head, and I shoved it away, packed it up, tried to focus. The rest of the room could've been black-and-white. The walls were gray cinderblock, the floors about the same, and they'd thrown in a couple of charcoal-colored blankets.
Their concern for our comfort was fucking touching.
But there was no our anything, anymore. No us, no we, just me. That's what that brown stain meant.
I thought I should be crying. I wondered if I already had. I couldn't remember much of what had happened after they brought us here. Just some shouting, a flash of cold, and a gunshot. I remembered a woman, a redhead with breath like a dragon, in my face. Telling me I was a witchy little orphan now.
Aching everywhere, I pushed myself to sitting. Track marks dotted the insides of my elbows and halfway down my forearms. More like some witchy little junkie. My head swam, but I gritted my teeth. After a second or three, the swimming became a dull throbbing in my brain to match the one in my arms. My middle hurt here and there. I pulled up my shirt and revealed a bruise or two. They hadn't been gentle, but if they'd wanted me dead, I'd be dead.
Avoiding the other side of the room—the bloodstain they'd left, probably just to fuck with me—I concentrated hard. Dug into myself, looking for the source of my power. A huge emptiness in my middle froze, hardened, and then came to life.
My eyes burned with relief, but I still couldn't cry.
I flexed my hands and pushed the cold inside me outward, slowed the air. Little clouds of frozen moisture collected at my fingertips. Sluggish, and my head hurt like hell, but it got easier as my brain came back online.
Okay, no point wondering why I was alive or for how long. The scarier question: why wasn't I drugged anymore? Whoever these people were, apart from crazy fucking sleepers—as in, people sans awakened superpowers—they hadn't struck me as stupid. Smart enough to take out three awakened who knew their way around ice and electricity.
The lone window in the room was tiny, but if I could get up there and get it open, I could probably make it through. Nothing else to do but wait around for them to figure out someone hadn't given me my stupid-making meds yet.
Or worse.
They'd left me a stainless steel bowl full of water. A fucking dog bowl. I remembered pulling myself to it once or twice and grabbing handfuls. Explained the scrapes on my elbows, anyhow. My tongue was swollen like I'd been at a salt lick.
I stood, shaky, and stumbled to the bowl, more out of stiffness than weakness. I let a precious handful sink into my parched tongue, slip down my throat, and then I carried the rest to the window.
I felt around inside me again, double checking on my power, since I'd only get one chance. The window was seven or eight feet up, against the ceiling. I held the bowl in the air, took a slow breath, and reached out with all the freezing power I had. The world slowed, not timewise, but motionwise, around me. Air molecules transferred their kinetic energy, and the room grew ever-so-slightly brighter as I dug deep, as deep as I could.
I turned the now-frosted bowl over and gave one last flash-burst of cold.
The water froze, forming a thin, short column of ice. Frosty-white, not much, hopefully enough to hold me for a minute or two.

The First Kiss:

We sat on the patio that night, drinking a bottle of Talisker and talking about our day. It was the most normal I'd felt since before. And it was all Bren.
He had the collar of his Lacoste polo unbuttoned, and his eyes looked pale and kinda magic in the moonlight (and, yeah, okay, through my drunk filter). In one of our easy silences, he caught me staring at his cheekbones.
He asked, "Are you all right?" Eyebrows up.
I don't know what fucking possessed me, but I leaned in close. Slow. I mean, like, everything was in slow motion. I may have been drunk, but I wanted to feel this out, make sure he was cool with it before I shoved my face up in his.
His eyelashes fluttered in surprise. But he tilted his head slightly.
That was an invitation if I'd ever seen one. I went in for it, pressed my lips to his. He smelled like peat and whatever that green scent in his shampoo was. He tasted like scotch. He had such a nice mouth, not pouty like mine, but that combo of soft and demanding that made me weak. It lasted a few seconds, just tentative. I lifted one hand and touched his cheek.
I really shouldn't have. He froze, then pulled away suddenly. We stared at each other for the longest moment in the world. I wasn't sure how to feel. I mostly just wanted to kiss him again. A lot. All night.
He stood and walked toward the table holding the booze. "I'm sorry. We can't."
Might as well have slammed me against the wall. Part of me knew that was coming, but I couldn't help feeling like shit.
Why had I done that? Why the fuck had I put myself out there like that? Why had I not protected what little of me was left? Fuck, fuck, fuck.
I stayed seated but nodded at his back. "Yeah. Yeah, sorry, I don't know what I was thinking."
He turned to look at me, but I just stared at the patio. He said, "It's not—"
"No, it's totally my fault." I still couldn't look at him, though.
He brought the bottle over.
I held out my glass, feeling like a kicked puppy, and frosted it up. "I'm just—all weird and emotional."
"I know." He poured. "It's entirely my fault, and I sincerely apologize."
"I kissed you. That's on me."
He was quiet while he finished the pour and made himself another one. Then he sat back down, just as close as before, his thigh pressed against mine on the bench.
So, good sign, I guessed? At least he wasn't pissed.
"This…" He sighed and took a drink. "This has been between us for a while. I tried to stop it."
That surprised me into looking up at him. He looked pale and serious, chewing on the inside of his cheek. "Wait, you—" But I stopped in the middle of my own question, trying to figure out what he was saying. "If you feel…something, then…why?"
He raked a hand through his hair like he always did when he was annoyed. "It's wildly inappropriate. On my end."
"You're not that old," I joked weakly.
He smiled but shook his head. "I'm sorry. I can't."
"I don't get it." I could still feel it, how warm he was all the time and how it drew me in. Now that I knew it wasn't just me who felt something here, I couldn't stop myself. "Do you want me or not?"
Bren looked miserable. "You're in my house, in my charge. You're emotionally compromised. To take advantage of that—"
"Take advantage?" I shot up off the bench, face heating up. It was like emotional whiplash: I'd been feeling so good, almost normal, finally, and here I was, suddenly reminded just how broken I really was. And he was wrong, anyhow. "What, like I'm incapable of consent just because—"
"Not incapable." Bren held out one hand in a gesture of surrender, like he knew he'd fucked up there. "But I do have a certain…position of power right now that makes this—"
"Is that what you think of me? I'm some lost little kid, your fucking ward?" Okay, part of me was thinking he wasn't that wrong about some of it, maybe. But overall, this was goddamn insulting.
"No. But…" He trailed off helplessly.
"But what? Bren, I'm not interested because you saved my life, or because I'm eating your food and drinking your whisky. I'm interested because I got to know you. And because you're—you're fucking hot. Those are normal reasons to want someone."
"But these aren't normal circumstances," he insisted. I'd never seen him look pleading before, but he did right then, eyes huge and all sincere. Fuck, he was pretty. "It would be taking advantage of—"
"This from the guy who was just telling me not to forget that I had the rest of my life ahead of me." I almost felt bad when he winced, but also felt really good. Like I'd landed a blow, which was totally what I wanted. So I swung with a few more. "You know what, fine, just keep thinking that. My mistake for thinking about anything but how fucked up my life is and how much I owe you. I'm out." I jerked open the French doors.
Bren stood. "Jody, don't—"

But I shut the door on him before he got any farther and marched back up to my room, holding his whisky tight.

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