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Awake at dawn, p.8

Awake at Dawn, page 8

 part  #2 of  Shadow Falls Series


Awake at Dawn

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Chapter Eight

  A part of Kylie wanted to push the letter back across the desk. Hadn't she promised to get over him? She knew Holiday wouldn't force her to take it.

  Didn't Kylie have enough on her plate right now? Why willingly take on more crap?

  Holiday pulled the letter back to her side of the desk.

  Looking up at Holiday, Kylie expected to see some disapproval in the camp leader's eyes because, once again, Kylie wasn't so eager to confront her problems head-on. But all she saw in Holiday's expression was empathy.

  "I'm not sure I want to read it," Kylie confessed.

  "Why?" Holiday asked.

  "He ran off with another girl. "

  "I don't think he thinks of Fredericka as-"

  "But she thinks of him like that. And if she throws herself at him . . . well, he's a guy. "

  "I know," Holiday said. "However, not all guys-"

  "But some are. And telling the difference is like math-it's hard. You think you understand it and then you get the answer wrong. And don't even try to disagree because it's the reason you won't give Burnett a shot. "

  Holiday dropped her chin back into her palm and didn't argue with Kylie's assessment. After several beats of silence, she said, "I could just stick it back in a drawer and if you decide you want to read it later, you can. "

  Yes, Holiday could do that, but could Kylie? Could she really walk out of here and not take that letter with her? Could she pretend that she didn't care about Lucas? That she hadn't worried about him since he'd left-worried about what it was that he couldn't tell her, and worried that some of what he couldn't tell her involved Fredericka?

  Oh, and if she still cared about Lucas, what did she really feel about Derek? Or was her feeling about Derek even her own feeling, or was he messing with her emotions?

  Oh, hell. Could her life get any more messed up?

  Might as well take the letter and let the chips fall where they may. Kylie reached out and pulled the letter out from under Holiday's palm. After staring at it for a few seconds, Kylie folded it and stuffed it in the pocket of her jeans. Later, alone, when she felt like spitting that problem in the eye, she'd deal with it.

  When she looked up, Holiday nodded as if somehow telling Kylie she'd done the right thing. Not that Kylie was sure about that. Very little in life felt like a sure thing right now.

  The room went back to the awkward kind of silence and Holiday shifted to another subject that was just as disturbing. "Has the ghost given you anything new?"

  "New, yes. Helpful, no. " Kylie frowned and wished she could avoid this problem like she did her stepdad and Derek. But the violence and the threat issued by the ghost didn't leave Kylie any option. "I think she was tortured by her abductors. "

  "Ouch," Holiday said. "And you really think this happened, or do you think it's just her trying to communicate something to you?"

  "I think it happened. " Kylie bit down on her lip, her thoughts going to the warning that this would happen to someone she loved if she couldn't stop it. "It felt too real, sort of like the dream I had where Daniel got shot.

  I was her in the dream. And they were coming at me with weird knives. I felt drugged and when I tried to fight back they tied me down. "

  Remembering the terror, Kylie felt her heart rate quicken. Panic once again started building in her chest.

  Holiday reached over and touched Kylie's hand. Her touch sent calming warmth up Kylie's arm. The fear collecting in Kylie's heart ran away like scared mice. And just like that, the panic faded into something less overwhelming.

  Kylie looked up at the camp leader. "Thanks, but that's not going to fix anything. It's like a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. "

  "I know. " Holiday frowned. "But when all you have to offer someone is a comforting touch, you want to offer it. "

  Kylie released a deep breath. "What's going to happen if I don't figure this out?"

  Holiday's hand, resting on Kylie's wrist, grew warmer as if she sensed Kylie would need another shot of calm. "You accept that you did everything you could in your power to try to stop it and move on. "

  The enormity of exactly what Holiday was saying, coupled with the responsibility that rested on Kylie's shoulders, suddenly felt like too much.

  Kylie jerked her hand from under Holiday's palm. "No. I couldn't . . . I couldn't live with myself. I mean, if I understand this right, someone is going to die. Actually die and it's not going to be an easy death, either. "

  All the problems in Kylie's life started bouncing around her head like ping-pong balls. Tears filled her eyes. It still hurt to think about her grandmother's funeral-she couldn't lose someone else. "Failure isn't an option. "

  Kylie's mind started racing, trying to figure out who she loved that could be in danger. Was it her mom? Was it someone from back home?

  Someone here at camp? It could even be Holiday. Oh lord, what if it was Lucas or Derek? She glanced at the door and fought the overwhelming desire to leave.

  Holiday cleared her throat. "As much as we don't ever want to fail, our gift isn't a guarantee that we can help everyone. Sometimes we have to accept that we can't fix things. "

  Kylie shook her head. "You might be able to accept that, but I can't. "

  She bit down on her lip until it hurt. "I should have refused this gift. I can't do it. I should have sent it back with a big note that said thanks, but hell no. " The knot grew larger in her throat, crowding out her tonsils. "Is it too late to refuse it now?"

  "I'm afraid so," Holiday answered. "You opened yourself up when-"

  Kylie jumped up so fast that the wooden chair shot out from beneath her and hit the floor, filling the small office with a loud crack.

  "Kylie, wait. " Holiday's voice chased Kylie as she hurried out the door, but she didn't pay it any heed. Damn it. She had to figure out a way to decipher the ghost's message. Had to, because if not, someone she loved would die and Kylie couldn't live with herself if that happened. With her throat still tight with emotion, Kylie moved up the steps of her cabin right about the time the sun finally crawled out of the corner of the eastern sky. The golden spray of light hit her back and cast her elongated shadow on the porch. As she took the next step, the sun must have risen higher because her shadow seemed to dance on the porch planks. Dancing shadows reminded her of . . . the falls.

  Kylie's breath caught. She needed to go to the falls. As crazy as it seemed, it was as if something was telling her that she'd find the answers there. She let the idea sink into her tired brain. And like the sun against her back, the first glimmer of hope started to grow. Taking in a big gulp of air through her nose, she suddenly felt refreshed, energized.

  She could do this. She just didn't want to do it alone. Her gaze returned to the cabin's front door. Why should she have to do it alone? She had friends. Ghost or no ghosts, they would help her if she asked.

  Okay, sure, she'd asked them to go before and they'd turned her down flat, but this time was different. This time, she'd beg. They would do it, wouldn't they? There was only one way to find out.

  She hurried through the front door, zipped past the ankle-chasing Socks, and yanked open Della's door. "I need you. Wake up. " She watched Della raise her head and study her through sleepy, nocturnal eyes. Morning just wasn't Della's best time.

  Next, Kylie rushed over to Miranda's door and slung it open. "Miranda. Wake up. I need you guys. "

  Miranda rose up on her elbow. Her eyes were puffy-crying puffy, as if she'd stayed awake half the night sobbing into her pillow-which, knowing Miranda, she probably had. Kylie's heart squeezed for her friend and she almost said, Never mind. But then Kylie batted back the desire to give in because she really wanted both Miranda and Della with her. And maybe Della was right-it was time Miranda stopped moping and started moving past the pain.

  "Please," Kyli
e said before Miranda had a chance to whine.

  Kylie went to the kitchen table to wait, but she felt too anxious to sit. So she paced around the kitchen, waiting for her two best friends to get up so she could commence her begging.

  "This better be important," Della said, and stumbled into the kitchen and dropped down in a chair. "Do you know what time it is? It's not even six yet. This is when I get my best sleep. "

  Miranda stepped out of her bedroom only seconds later, wearing a Tshirt, shorts, and bunny slippers. Kylie stared at Miranda's slippers; the ears bounced with each step as the sleepy girl shuffled over to an empty chair. Once she settled in, she looked up. "What is it?" she muttered. "We're a team, right?" Kylie asked. "We're there for each other. Isn't that we've said?"

  "Why is it that I think this is a setup?" Della dropped her head on the oak table, and her forehead thudded against the wood. If anyone else would have dropped her head that hard, it probably would have knocked her out, or at least left a goose egg of a knot. But not a vampire. "Just tell us what it is. " Miranda folded her arms on the table and rested her chin on top of her wrist. Her multicolored hair feathered out onto the table.

  Kylie glanced from Miranda to Della, still facedown on the table, and her heart picked up a notch. If they said no, it was going to sting. Della must have heard the thumping of Kylie's heart, because she raised her head and stared. "Spill it, ghost girl. How bad could it be?"

  Swallowing, Kylie did it. Just spilled it. "I need you both to come with me to the falls. I just want-"

  "Oh, hell no," Della said.

  "Not happening," added Miranda at the same time, and sat up.

  "But I have to go," Kylie said.

  "Then go. " Della waved her hand toward the door.

  Kylie swallowed the knot down her throat. "I don't want to go alone. "

  "So you want us to sacrifice ourselves, too," Della bit back.

  "Nothing is going to happen," Kylie insisted.

  "Then why do we have to go?" Miranda asked, a frown marring her lips.

  "Nothing bad is going to happen. " Kylie dropped into a chair, losing hope due to their attitude.

  "Says who?" Della asked.

  "Says me," Kylie answered. "I just . . . I don't want to go alone. " "Because you're scared," Della insisted. "And for a damn good reason. Don't you know what death angels do?"

  Kylie hesitated. "They are the ones who stand judgment of supernaturals. "

  She repeated what she had heard, but truth was, she didn't completely understand death angels. How could she when no one really wanted to talk about them? Well, no one but Holiday, and most of what she would say was that she had never met one face-to-face.

  "Yeah, they are the ones who stand judgment of us and sometimes they dish out the punishment, too," Miranda said. "I knew a girl, Becca.

  She was . . . toying around with spells on people who pissed her off. People who really didn't deserve it. So maybe she was being bad, but damn, her spells were more an annoyance than anything else. Then two days later, she walked outside and her clothes caught fire. Poof, just like that, she went up in smoke. She's disfigured now, scarred like crazy, and everyone says it was the death angels teaching her a lesson. "

  "Or maybe it was someone she'd cast a spell on getting even with her," Kylie said.

  "They were all questioned by the witches council. Proven innocent. "

  Kylie shook her head. "We don't even know if death angels really exist. Chances are, they are just powerful ghosts," Kylie said, repeating another thing Holiday had said. If Della and Miranda had heard even half of what Daniel had done by pulling her into his dreams, and pulling her out of her own body and into his so she could relive his death, well, they'd probably think he was a death angel.

  Della leaned her chair back on two legs. "If you don't believe they exist, then why do you even want to go?"

  "Because if there's even the slightest chance that they exist, and are more powerful than regular ghosts, then they might be able to help me save someone I love. " She'd never explained any of this to Della or Miranda.

  How could she when the moment either of them heard the word ghost they freaked?

  "Save who?" Della, balancing the chair on two legs, started looking around the room as if they had company.

  "I don't know. It could be you. " Kylie stared right into Della's black eyes. "Or you. " She pointed at Miranda. "There's a ghost who just keeps telling me someone I love is going to die. And it's up to me-"

  "I hope it's not one of us," Miranda said.

  Della snorted. "Maybe it is one of us and we die because you take us and offer us up as a sacrifice to the death angels. "

  "You know I wouldn't do that. " Frustration buzzed around her gut even stronger than before. She tapped her left bare foot on the tile floor, trying to be patient, but her patience seemed to be in short supply lately.

  Della shook her head. "I mean, it's bad enough that we have to accept that you have ghosts popping in all the time, but to actually go looking for the death angels. . . " She dropped the chair down with a whack. "I don't want to wind up with scars all over this face. Nope. "

  Kylie glared from one friend to the other. "Okay, even if they exist, what have either of you two done that is so bad that . . . that they would set you on fire?" She glanced at Miranda. "You aren't casting spells on anyone. "

  She looked back to Della. "And you don't-"

  "You don't know what I've done," Della snapped, her eyes glowed brighter. "Hell, I don't even know what I've done. There's a time when you turn vampire that you lose it completely, and I lost it. I don't know what happened for a whole two days. I don't want to know. Which is why I don't live in a glass house. Why I don't waste a heck of a lot of time judging others. And why I don't go to places where death angels are said to hang out. Maybe you haven't ever sinned, but I'm not perfect. "

  Kylie heard the undercurrent of guilt in Della's voice. "I don't think you would have done anything that bad. "

  "I wouldn't bet on it. " Miranda made a face. "Look how mean she's to me," Miranda mouthed off.

  Della glared at Miranda. "Oh, please, I haven't ever been mean to you. "

  "Bull crappie," Miranda said. "That's all you've been to me these last few days. I'm hurting and all you've done is poke fun at me. "

  "Yeah, but I do it out of love. Hoping to make you see what a dumbass you're being. Grieving over a guy who gets his shorts in a wad just because one of his friends kissed you. You should be out kissing all his other friends just to show him that you don't care. Not whining-"

  "I'm not a dumbass. " Miranda held out her pinky finger.

  "I told you never to point that damn pinky at me. " Della jumped up and started screaming something about how all witches should be doomed to hell.

  Kylie sat there, listening to them sling insults. Then frustrated and completely out of patience, she got up, collected her shoes by the door, and walked out. She stopped outside on the porch to put on her Reeboks.

  Dropping her butt down on the porch, she slipped on her right shoe. Her toes felt cramped, just like her chest, and she loosened her laces before she tied them. Did Della or Miranda even realize she'd walked out? That's when she realized that frustration and impatience weren't the only emotions fighting for a spot in her chest. This hurt.

  Didn't they realize how badly she needed them right now? Then taking her time to lace up her shoes, she hoped they'd have a change of heart. That they'd decide their friendship meant enough to trust her on this. Right shoe tied, Kylie slipped on the left and commenced the process.

  She could still hear them yelling at each other. They still hadn't realized she'd left. Or maybe they had and didn't care. That really hurt, too. If either one of them had needed her, she'd have been there.
  She stood, realized that she still wore her nightshirt over her jeans and was without a bra, but she didn't care. She jumped off the porch.

  Taking off down the trail in a solid run, she wasn't even sure how to get to the falls. But something in her gut said she'd find it. She'd do this. And she'd do it alone.

  Kylie came to quick stop at the edge of the woods, unsure which way to go. She recalled hearing the falls at the rock where she and Derek had gone. She also recalled hearing it at the creek where the dinosaur tracks were. The falls had to be between the two, so she took off down the trail.

  She'd only moved a few feet beneath the thick umbrella of trees when the dusty dawn light faded to a foggy shade of purplish gray. She could feel the mist on her face.

  The early morning heat chased away the night's coolness, forcing it to leave in the form of fog. But the cloudy haze clung to the trees and hung a few feet off the ground. Apprehension prickled the back of her neck.

  Believing she was slightly paranoid, she ignored the sensation and kept going. Going faster.

  After about a quarter of a mile on the trail, she ventured off the cleared path, hoping the sound of the falls would call out to her as it had seemed to do before. She listened and she continued to sprint. No falls.

  Only the sound of the soles of her tennis shoes hitting the earth accompanied by the normal sounds of nature.

  She kept moving between the trees, finding a path or making one as she went. The thorns in the thick brush snagged on to her jeans, as if trying to stop her from going any farther. She didn't slow down.

  Occasionally, a low-hanging branch would seemingly just appear in her way, but she either ducked in time or brushed it back with her arms.

  She recalled trying to keep up with Della through a patch of woods very similar to this one on the night of the first campfire. She'd barely been able to walk it. That wasn't the case anymore. Her legs moved one after the other in succinct, effortless strides.

  The thought hit again: change. Everything was changing. She felt it in how she moved, the speed with which she moved, she felt it in how her mouth pulled oxygen into her lungs. What else would change?

  Not important, not right now, she told herself. The only thing that mattered was her understanding the ghost's message. Saving someone's life took priority. Then she could worry about herself.

  She blinked, and then knocked a low-hanging cluster of leaves from her face. A loud crack sounded, and she could swear it was the limb breaking, but she didn't believe it. The deeper she moved into the woods, the thicker the brush was and the faster she ran. The faster her heart pumped with a mixture of fear and anticipation. Her whole body tingled with adrenaline.

  Was she crazy for going to the falls? What if Miranda and Della were right? What if death angels looked at her sins and chose to punish her? Her mind searched for the wrongs she'd accumulated though her life: lying to her mom, standing by and watching some girl bully another kid in school, hitting a squirrel during driver's education. The more she thought the longer her list of sins seemed to be.

  Was she asking for trouble by going to the falls? Or saving someone she loved from something terrible?

  Then she heard it. Or rather, she didn't hear it. The only noises bouncing off the trees were the sound of her shoes and the thread-ripping sound of the vines catching and being torn from her jeans as she ran.

  She stopped, folding her arms over her middle. Winded, she bent over at the waist. As she drew in shaky breaths, a stillness invaded the woods. The soundless air hung heavy, even heavier than the fog that had risen a few more feet and now snaked through the trees. And just like that she knew.

  She had company.
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