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Awake at dawn, p.9

Awake at Dawn, page 9

 part  #2 of  Shadow Falls Series

 

Awake at Dawn
 



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Chapter Nine

  The sound of twigs being crushed underfoot told Kylie her company stood behind her. She froze, air caught in her lungs, fear sank into the pit of her stomach. Had the death angels found her?

  She hadn't decided her next move when she heard, "Holy crappers, that was fun. "

  Kylie recognized the singsong voice. She fought back the panic and turned around. She couldn't believe what she saw. Miranda clung to Della's back and her legs wrapped around the vampire's waist. "Ride's over. Open your eyes. We found her. " Della unlocked Miranda's ankles and nudged Miranda off her back, but her gaze never left Kylie.

  "You okay?" Della asked Kylie. "Your heart's really racing. Is something wrong?"

  Even with raw panic still running through her veins, Kylie couldn't help but smile. They'd come. Emotion filled her chest and shot upward and knotted in her throat. Unwanted tears filled her eyes.

  "You let her ride on your back?" Kylie asked, hoping they wouldn't notice her watery weakness.

  "It was that or wait on her. She's slower than a three-legged turtle using a broken walker. "

  "Am not," Miranda said.

  "Are too," Della countered.

  Kylie tried to swallow the lump in her throat.

  "What is it?" Miranda and Della asked at the same time, dashing Kylie's hopes that her emotion would go unnoticed. Not that it really mattered. They'd seen her cry before.

  "We're sorry we told you no," Miranda piped up again, elbowing Della. "Aren't we?"

  "Yeah," Della said. "Are you really okay?" she asked. "Your heart's running super fast. Really fast. Not human fast. "

  Kylie blinked again. She did feel weird, but not completely a bad weird. "I'm fine. Actually, I'm better than fine now that you two are here.

  Thank you. " The words came with sentiment and more tears formed in her eyes.

  Della shrugged. "Yeah, well, if I die or something, I'm coming back and haunting your ass. "

  "Don't worry," Miranda said to Kylie and half smiled. "If she starts haunting you, I've got a spell that will lock her in purgatory for at least a dozen years. "

  Della shot Miranda a mock frown and then she reached out and latched on to Kylie's elbow. "Come on, let's go track us down some death angels. "

  "Can I climb on your back again?" Miranda asked, and rubbed her hands together.

  "No. And if you tell anyone I gave you a ride, I'll break your kneecaps.

  I'm not going to become everyone's joyride. "

  "Unless it's a boy, right?" Miranda giggled.

  "That's gross," Della said, and Miranda giggled harder.

  Kylie looked at her friends and realized it was the first time in days she'd heard Miranda laugh. "I love you guys. "

  "Yeah, we know," Miranda said, and they all three started walking. The humorous mood slowly faded in the dark shade of the trees.

  They walked without talking. A bird chirped above, the wind rustled the leaves. Kylie assumed she was going the right direction because Della never spoke up and she'd told Kylie earlier that she could find the falls just by listening to it.

  As they moved, trampling over and sometimes through the thick brush, Kylie noticed her pace matched that of Della's. It was Miranda who seemed to be struggling to keep up.

  They made about a hundred feet, and Kylie noticed Della eyeing her under her lashes. Had she noticed Kylie's newfound energy as well? "What is it?" Kylie asked.

  "Nothing," Della said. "It's just . . . your heart's still racing really fast and you look . . . different. "

  "Different?" Kylie asked, and looked from Della to Miranda and back. "How do I look different?"

  Della continued walking but held her hands out in front of her boobs. "The girls. "

  Kylie looked down at her chest. "You've seen me without my bra before. "

  Della stopped. "It's not that your girls aren't supported. It's that they're bigger. "

  "They are not. " Kylie stopped walking and protectively cupped her full size Bs in her palms. And the craziest thing happened. They didn't feel right. They felt . . . "Oh, damn. " They felt bigger.

  "She's right. " Miranda cupped her own boobs as if checking them. "Oh, God," muttered Kylie, staring down at herself.

  "Hey, if you don't want them, pass me a cup or two over here. " Della laughed.

  Kylie recalled thinking that everything was changing. She just hadn't expected that to mean her boobs.

  "That's not all," Miranda added. "You're taller, too. You must have had a growth spurt overnight. "

  "A growth spurt?" Kylie stood straight and visually measured herself against both Della and Miranda. She did appear to be a bit taller. Right then, her shoes felt tight, too. What was happening to her?

  "My aunt Faye used to tell me every other week, 'You've just grown like a weed. Must have had a growth spurt. '"

  Kylie wanted to believe that this was just a normal-human normal- growth spurt, but she didn't believe it. Her gaze shot to Della. "Did you . . . did you, like, get bigger right before you turned?"

  Della looked down at her chest. "Do I look like I got bigger? I wish. "

  Kylie looked back down at her boobs. "What if it doesn't stop? What if I just keep getting bigger?"

  "Then you'll have boys lining up for miles. " Miranda snickered. "Hey, you know how they feel about boobs. The more, the merrier. "

  "You could always change your name to Barbie," Della said, grinning. "My mom wouldn't even let us play with Barbie because she said it was an unhealthy body image. I think it was because she knew that with us being part Asian, we would probably suffer from the no butt, no boobs syndrome.

  And she didn't want us to get our body image from a stacked piece of plastic. "

  "You've got a butt," Miranda said.

  "Yeah, thank God. I at least got that from my mom. She's not short on bootie. " She looked down at her chest. "Unfortunately, I took my dad's boobs. "

  Kylie tried to appreciate their lighthearted reactions to her situation, but it didn't dampen her concern. Okay, she'd admit that she'd occasionally wished she had a wee bit more up top. Especially when she compared herself to Sara, her best friend back home who no longer called, whose boobs were an eye magnet for guys. And sure, another few inches of height meant Kylie would look thinner.

  None of that made her feel better. The idea that all this stemmed from some unknown, inhuman DNA she had coursing through her body made her nervous. Nervous because she didn't know how far it would go, or what would come next.

  Would she end up having to have her size F bras custom-made like Sara's great-aunt did? Dear God, the woman nearly smothered Kylie when she hugged her at Sara's family's picnic.

  Kylie still had her boobs in her hand when the chill ran down her back and up her arms, and her lips felt frosted from breathing in the icy air. Company had arrived.

  Standing right in front of her was the ghost. Only she looked even worse than before. She was emaciated, too thin. Even her cheekbones protruded from the sides of her face, giving her the appearance of a skeleton.

  "You have to do something. Soon. You have to do something. They killed me. Killed me and they will kill her, too. " Then the ghost folded over and barfed all over Kylie's too-tight tennis shoes and Della's pretty white running shoes.

  "Gross. " Kylie jumped back and slammed into Miranda. "Gross what?" Della said, and looked down, and then Miranda moved in to see what was happening.

  Kylie couldn't answer. She knew they wouldn't see the barf, she knew it wasn't really there, that as soon as the ghost left so would the vision, but Kylie was a bit of a sympathy puker, and real or not, right now it looked pretty damn real. Her gag reflex started to jump up and down in her throat. She looked away from her shoes.

  "Do something," the ghost repeat
ed.

  "Oh, shit," blurted out Della. "They're here, aren't they?" Della started turning in circles, talking to things that weren't there. "I swear, I swear I'm sorry for everything I've ever done. "

  "Me, too," Miranda said, her eyes shifting from left to right. Kylie stared at the ghost and, not wanting to freak out Della or Miranda any more than they were, she spoke to the spirit in her mind. I'm trying to do something. But you have to tell me who it is. I need more information.

  "Killing me," said the ghost. Then she and her puke disappeared into the thin, icy air.

  Kylie, realizing she still held her magically growing boobs in her hands, dropped her arms to her side. While she gave her chest one last look, her new boob size no longer seemed important. She had to get to the falls and see if the death angels could help her.

  Glancing at Della and Miranda, Kylie said, "Let's go. "

  "I didn't catch on fire," Della said, sounding surprised. She elbowed Kylie. "Does that mean I didn't do anything that bad those days right after I turned?"

  "Maybe. " Kylie didn't have the heart to tell her that it hadn't been the death angels, so she just started walking. In a few seconds, she heard the almost hypnotic sound of the cascading water. She wasn't sure if it was real or from some mystical calling, but she kept walking.

  They traveled another five minutes in silence. Then Miranda tucked a strand of her straight multicolored hair behind her ear and looked at Kylie. "Do you really think someone you love is going to die?"

  "The ghost seems to think so," Kylie said, trying not to sound frustrated.

  "And she won't tell you who?"

  "According to Holiday, some ghosts have a hard time communicating. "

  "That sucks. "

  "Yeah. " The overwhelming responsibility to save someone filled Kylie's chest with a heavy ache. If someone died because she couldn't figure this out, she wasn't sure she could forgive herself.

  "Do you really think that the death angels might help you?"

  Kylie considered Miranda's question. "I don't know for sure, but yeah, for some reason I believe they will. "

  "You really aren't afraid of them?" Della asked.

  "Sure I am," Kylie said, but when she saw the fear appear in Della's eyes, she qualified it. "But I don't think they're evil. "

  Miranda piped up. "Do you think maybe you could ask them to . . . to make Perry forgive me?"

  "Oh, please," Della said. "Perry just needs to pull his head out of his ass. You don't need forgiving. "

  "Not true," Miranda said. "I'd have been mad if he kissed someone else. "

  "Mad, yes. But to totally drop you because of it is ridiculous. I mean, it's not like you slept with Kevin or like you even gave the guy a blow job. He kissed you . . . big friggin' deal. "

  Kylie's mind shot to kisses. To both Derek's and Lucas's. They had felt like big deals to her. Don't go there, she told herself. But even as she tried to chase all thoughts of kissing from her mind, she remembered the letter she had in her pocket. Lucas's letter.

  One thing at a time, first save someone's life, then worry about boys. And magically growing boobs. And the fact that she still didn't know what type of DNA she had coursing through her non-human veins.

  "If you are going to be asking favors," Della said, "ask if they can get me out of going to see my parents for parents weekend. My parents are going to be watching my every move, trying to find the signs that I'm doing drugs. I'll probably be peeing in a cup every two hours so they can see if I'm using. I swear, if I make one wrong move, they'll yank me out of the camp and put me in a detox center with the washed-up child stars. "

  "I just want Perry to give me another chance. I. . . " Miranda continued talking, but Kylie tuned her out. Della grew quiet, as if lost in worry about spending time with her parents.

  Kylie hated to let both her friends down, but right now she couldn't worry about their problems, not when it might even be one of their lives on the line. "I'm not going to be asking for favors. I just need to see if they can help the ghost communicate better with me. I've got to figure this out. "

  Miranda hurried her steps, still struggling to keep up. "Do you really believe it could be one of us that the ghost is trying to warn you about?"

  "I don't know. " The words the ghost had said replayed in Kylie's head.

  "You have to do something. Soon. You have to do something. They killed me. Killed me and they will kill her, too. " That's when Kylie realized that for the first time, the ghost had referred to the person with a pronoun. She said her. Hope that more answers would soon be revealed began to build in her chest as she continued toward the falls.

  "Okay, this place is totally freaking me out," Della spouted the moment they stepped through the clearing and got their first glimpse of the falls.

  "I agree. " Miranda took a step back. "I don't think we should be here. I feel it. "

  Kylie kept moving, her gaze moving left and right, trying to soak it all in. It was . . . beautiful. No, more than beautiful. It looked picturesque.

  It looked photoshopped, as if someone had spent hours adding details.

  All those tiny details added up and created an ambience. The emotional essence of this place seemed as alive as the trees. As Kylie took in the fragrant air, it took her a minute to define what she felt. But she finally got it. The place breathed reverence-like an old temple or church.

  Maybe it was the way the sun streamed through the trees as if spotlights from heaven. Maybe it was how the cascade of water tossed out tiny droplets of water that danced in the air and turned silver in the rays of light. Or how the verdant plant life glistened with all the pinpoints of dew. Or perhaps it was the noise. The rush of water filled her ears until she felt the same vibration in her blood. Or it could be the way the moist air tickled her throat and filled her chest with warm emotion. Not bad emotion. Acceptance.

  "Okay, we said we'd come here with you. We did. Now let's go. "

  Miranda took a step back.

  "Not yet," Kylie said, unable to move her eyes from the rush of water falling from fifty feet above. Then, without thinking, as if she were being lured, she stepped into the creek bed. Just walked in, didn't even stop and think about removing her shoes, or rolling up her jeans.

  "Whoa. I'm not following you," Della called out. "Really, we need to get back for breakfast. Let's leave, okay?"

  "Just wait on me. A few minutes. " Kylie didn't look back. Her shoes and jeans soaked up the shin-deep water like a sponge. She took another step and then another.

  "Are you sure you should go in there?" Miranda's voice tightened with concern. "Come on, Kylie. Let's go, okay?"

  "If you go in there, you might not be able to come out," Della warned. Kylie didn't answer, not when she could swear she saw someone or something move behind the spray of glistening water. The figure shifted again. Someone was definitely there. She just hoped that it was someone with answers. And not someone ready to make her spontaneously catch fire for any past sins. But just to be sure, as she took her next step, she sent up a prayer for forgiveness for anything bad she'd done.

  The tiny droplets of moisture sprayed on her face as she drew closer. She took the final step. The gush of water splattered on her head and shoulders.

  Walking through the falls into the cavern-like darkness, she wiped a hand over her face, waiting for her eyes to adjust. Her skin pickled with goose bumps, not the kind of goose bumps that came from ghosts; no, they were the kind that came from fear. She stood completely still and hoped with the return of her vision came a bit more courage.

  The sound of the falls echoed and closed off any noise from the outside world. When she blinked, the darkness suddenly didn't seem so blinding. She realized that the mouth of the falls was really a cave. Just when her eyes seemed to distinguish shapes, she saw
someone dip behind a rock wall.

  "Hello?" Her voice seemed lost in the rush of the water. When no one answered, Kylie continued, "I know someone is here. "

  "Then I guess I'll just come out," a voice boomed from behind the rock. It took Kylie a few minutes to recognize the voice, and she did recognize it, but she still couldn't believe it when she saw him step forward.
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