Verity (Cursed #1), page 1
(Cursed # 1)
By Claire Farrell
Sixteen-year-old Perdita Rivers has spent her entire sheltered life being told what to do. Lately, she’s felt ready for a change, and the universe seems to agree. Her new best friend’s brother is the boy of Perdita’s dreams. Literally. Even though he plays hot and cold, she’s sure there’s more to it, but she’s kind of distracted by the sense she’s being followed, not to mention the rumours of wild animal sightings that seem to mean more to her new crush’s family than they should. Perdy’s on a mission to find the truth, but maybe the truth is the danger she should hide from, after all.
Copyright © Claire Farrell 2011
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One by one, my family members phase into wolves around me. My own wolf paces within the imaginary cage in my mind, waiting impatiently. It’s taking me too long to change. They’re al watching, waiting, wondering what’s wrong. Only I know. It’s her.
My body aches, but I can’t let go of the stress. It’s al her fault. I don’t know her yet, but she haunts my dreams every night; al of the signs say I’m heading straight for her. She’s about to cross my path, and there isn’t much I can do about it. Except refuse to love her. Make her hate me.
I hear a snarl and realise it’s me. Wel, the wolf me. Disagreeing as usual. Relief washes over me as he makes his presence known. He pushes his wil against mine and cleanses my thoughts. He wants her. The one he recognises as his true mate.
So I let go. I picture the animal inside escaping, overshadowing my human self. The links entwining both halves break, alowing the wolf to gain centre stage. The floating sensation signals the war between human and animal has been fought and won. Humanity subsides and wolf takes over.
A sharp twist of pain and an overpowering rush of adrenalin push me to my knees. I choke a little at the speed of the change. Fingers stretch into claws that sink in the earth, striving for release. My back arches into a curve as a warm coat of coal black fur sprouts from my skin.
My head spins as my face elongates into a snout and fanged teeth fil my mouth. I shake free of the dizziness, and al of my senses improve immediately. I smel and see everything like the world has been magnified. It’s been a year since I first changed, but so much feels brand new to me.
I stretch my new form almost lazily, relishing the sensations that never get old no matter how many times I change. Instinct kicks in, and my body aches to take in every scent around me. My peripheral eyesight transforms. My focus and point of view alter completely.
I am ready.
I am wolf.
Life is less complicated like this. I even catch myself thinking it would be nice to share al of this with her. Humanity recoils at the thought . Bad idea, it tels me, but in this form I’m happy. Free.
Bieszczady Mountains, Poland
Far from the snowy peaks of the mountain, surrounded by a dense forest of beech trees, a group of wolves gather together. They are far from the trails the humans like to use. Other animals, even predators, avoid the area once they catch the unique scent of werewolf. Yet stil the group remains cautious. Wariness prevails. Rival packs have gathered together in an uneasy truce. The presence of the few lone wolves who skulk the earth without a pack increases the tension. The need to dominate is strong. Instinct urges them to fight, but they wait for news—for the greater good. Edgy and cold, they sit in silence. Numbering less than twenty, they are the last stronghold of their kind.
A silver elder sits alone at the head of the group. He is in no mood for chalenges. His mate rests behind him, leaving a considerable amount of distance between them.
She snaps a warning at the young male close to her when he tries to inch past. He retreats, his head bowed in a gesture of submission.
The eerie silence is broken only by an occasional low growl. A man appears, red-faced and sweating as his feet scuff the ground noisily. His presence brings displeasure, but they know him, know they must tolerate him. At least until he shares the news.
The man’s dark brown hair sticks to his forehead. He trembles with fear. The scent entices the wolves to make a move, but they need to hear what he has to say first.
The youngest male shivers and growls incessantly, barely able to control himself. He is flanked by two others who nip him to remind him of his manners.
“We’ve tracked them. Watchers are in place.” The man is stil panting from the hike. It was never meant to be taken by a human. The wolves are pleased by his words, but many of them sense hesitation in the man’s voice.
“There is more. Worse news.” A cacophony of growls builds up into one single sound. The man tries to back away. He wants no part of this. It makes no difference; they know his weakness. The news wil be told regardless.
Many of the wolves phase into their human forms; their nakedness is not their shame.
“What else?” the elder demands.
“They’re on the move again. The signs say it’s almost time for the pup to mature.”
The elder considers the news. “And what of the abomination?”
“No changes, but time is not on our side. She’s almost of age.”
Some of the wolves growl in unison. A russet coloured wolf moves forward to stand next to the elder. He is joined by two others; one curls back his lip to display a toothy snarl.
The bearer of news can feel the atmosphere change and desperately wants to leave, regretting playing any role in shifter politics. It was a mistake. He can’t trust them.
“We have no need for impure females. The girl was always meant to die. As for the pup... take the distraction out of the equation. In the chaos, bring the woman to me.”
The man shakes his head. “I can’t do that. I’m a seeker; I don’t deal with… problems. I can’t hurt kids.” His voice rises into a desperate whine.
The elder can’t help laughing, but he has abandoned his human side for so long that it sounds like an odd bark.
“I wasn’t talking to you.” With an unspoken signal, a trio of wolves advance on the man.
Along the summit of the Bieszczady Mountains, a group of howling wolves draw little attention.
“Oh, for God’s sake, I’l wear the bloody jumper, just shut up already!”
I had finaly snapped. I couldn’t help it.
“You wil not!” shrieked my grandmother at the exact same time as my father shouted at me to stop swearing.
I sighed wearily, resting my head in my hands, preparing myself to sit there until they finished rowing. They ignored me and launched back into each other almost straight away. Typical.
“I won’t have it any more, Stephen. I mean it! You can’t tel her what to wear. You’ve no right.”
“I’m her father, I have every right. I don’t want her wandering the streets like a tart, if she wants to be seen outside then she can cover herself up.”
“A tart? Do you hear yourself? You must be the only man in Ireland who wants his 16 year old daughter to look like a boy. A tart... because she wants to wear clothes her own moth
The constant arguments were slowly driving me insane. I jumped up, emboldened by anger, and walked straight over to the front door.
“Where do you think you’re going?” My Dad’s eyes widened in disbelief.
“Out. To Tammie’s house.”
“You’re not going out at this time of night, Perdy,” he said, his voice firm and resolute, never expecting an argument.
I gave him a withering look reserved for very important occasions.
“Dad, it’s not even 6 o’clock. That’s not night. It’s not exactly pitch black outside. I’m tired of this. You two can argue al you like; I’m not listening to it anymore.
When you both grow up and sort yourselves out, let me know. This has never been about me.” I glared at the two of them, their faces reddening with shame because they knew I was right. Their battles were a front for the bitterness they couldn’t discuss. They didn’t try to stop me leaving, much to my relief. It would have been mortifying if my rebelion was overturned before I actualy left the house. I shrugged on my denim jacket and picked up the jumper but made a point of carrying it out the door.
Outside, I took a deep relaxing breath. Exhaling slowly, I felt a lot calmer and made my way over to Tammie Rutherford’s house. As my best friend, she would absolutely understand if I hid in her house for a few hours. She knew better than anyone how much I needed a break from Dad and Gran. Sometimes they were toxic together.
Tonight’s row had been about clothes. As per usual. My mother’s idea of parenting was to either send me business newsletter type emails about her life, or clothes guaranteed to launch Gran and Dad into a miniature war.
The battles were constant because they never agreed with each other. They both wanted me to do things their way. Neither of them seemed to care about what I wanted.
I loved my Dad, but I didn’t get him. He was so busy trying to protect me from the world, he kept forgetting to let me live in it. I didn’t want to hide away because of a few hypothetical what ifs.
I loved my Gran, but I hated the way she encouraged me to break the rules because it was me who had to deal with the aggro over it. She was flamboyant and liked to be noticed; I could never be that person, no matter how much she tried to force it on me.
Tammie didn’t live far from me so I was there within minutes. That was long enough to mul things over and calm down a little. Tammie was the youngest of six, her family were realy loud and relaxed about everything. I knocked at her door, beginning to feel a little embarrassed that I had walked out of my house in a temper. Her Dad answered, his eyebrows rising in surprise when he saw me.
“Perdy? Does your Dad know you’re here?”
“Yeah,” I said, feeling irrationaly grumpy that everyone in the world seemed to know my Dad’s rules almost as wel as I did. “Tammie here?”
“I think so.” He looked puzzled for a few seconds; he regularly had trouble keeping track of who was at home. It was the sort of thing that drove my Dad crazy. He could never rely on Tammie’s father to know if I was in his house or not.
“Tammie! You here?” Tammie’s Dad shouted, making me jump.
I heard a few bangs before Tammie ran down the stairs, stopping abruptly when she saw me.
“Hey,” she said, sounding surprised. “Dad, get lost.” He wandered back in, good-naturedly patting her on the head as he passed her by.
“What’s going on Per?”
I shrugged. “Walked out. Two of them at each other again, driving me insane.”
She nodded. “Come on in, we’ve the room to ourselves for a bit.” I folowed her upstairs to the bedroom she shared with one of her older sisters. It was smal and messy, but at least it looked lived in, unlike mine. She shook a bottle of electric blue nail varnish violently, then settled down to paint her toenails.
“Right, what happened then?”
I lay back on her bed, feeling frustrated. My life just wasn’t my own. Dad couldn’t let me do anything, and Gran kept trying to use me to make him mad. I didn’t say any of that though.
“Remember that purple blouse thing my mother sent me a few weeks ago? Wel, Gran pretty much made me wear it when we went food shopping earlier. Dad happened to drive past us on his way home from work, saw the top and flipped his lid. He was at home waiting for us and went off on one about wearing a stupid jumper over tarty clothes if I was out in public. That just kicked everything off.”
Tammie sniggered. “He thinks that blouse is tarty? I should send you home in one of my outfits.” I groaned. “He’d lock me in the attic or something. Seriously, Tams, he’s getting worse. I said I was going out, and he was al, you can’t go out at this time of night, blah, blah, blah. It’s stil day time!”
“What the hel is he afraid of, that you might actualy get a life? No offence Perdy, but he might as wel have you locked in the attic, it’s not like you go anywhere anyway. You’re not even alowed sleep over here.” She made a face at that injustice. She had stopped inviting me long ago.
“It’s not my fault, Tammie; it’s not worth the hassle. None of this is. I’m so tired of it though. I just want... I don’t know what I want, something to happen, something to change. I’m so bored of everything.”
“You could ask your Mam can you stay with her for a while.”
“Eh, yeah. Doubt that would happen,” I replied, wondering why she couldn’t get it into her head that my mother just wasn’t interested in me.
“Ah, I don’t know then. You could always stay here.”
I smiled at her. It was nice of her to offer, but her house was already ful to the brim. Besides, I couldn’t handle the noise for too long. I was too used to being alone.
Gran was officialy supposed to babysit me whenever Dad worked, but she pretty much snuck off most of the time to her Senior Citizen nights. She always said she was off to play bowls, but anytime she caled me, I could hear pub noise in the background. As if a sixteen year old needed a babysitter anyway.
I stayed in Tammie’s house until it got late. I didn’t want to go home, so I let her test out makeup on me because I knew she liked that. When Dad arrived to pick me up, I didn’t make a fuss. He raised his eyebrow when he spotted the sparkly green eye shadow but, to his credit, didn’t mention it. In fact, he didn’t say a thing on the way home. He sat in the kitchen and fidgeted while Gran made a pot of tea.
They glanced at each other before Gran began to speak.
“Perdy, we’re realy sorry about earlier. You were right. We do need to... sort ourselves out.”
Dad nodded in agreement. “I don’t want you to feel badly about us rowing, so we’ve agreed to make more of an effort. It won’t happen again.” I glared at them, irritated by their attempts to brush things under the carpet. “What won’t happen again? She won’t want me to do one thing while you want the opposite of me? Things have to change around here or... or I’m not staying.”
Gran’s hand flew to her mouth; Dad’s face drained of colour. For once, they both looked like they were on the same page.
“What?” I said.
“What do you want from us?” Dad said. His voice shook, and that scared me a little, but I figured I had to take my chances wherever they came.
“Look. I’m almost seventeen. I don’t need anyone teling me what to wear. I don’t need a babysitter. I don’t need you two arguing over every single part of my life.
I’ve never gotten into trouble, so I think I should be alowed some freedom. I think I should be alowed to do things that other teenagers do. I think I’ve earned your trust by now Dad. If I mess up, punish me. But don’t punish me for things I haven’t done yet. And Gran, you need to stop using me to prove points to Dad. It’s not fair on me.”
I took a deep breath and glanced at them both to see how they were taking it. I couldn’t believe I had the guts to say al that. I usualy went along with everything they said, but I needed to start standing up for myself.
They both looked a little winded. The silen
“Fine. I’m going to bed,” I said. “And I’m getting the bus to school with Tammie from now on.”
I hurried up the stairs to my room before either of them could argue with me. Locking the door behind me, something I knew would infuriate my Dad, I sat on my bed and texted Tammie with an update. I made a decision about my own life, and I was going to stick by it. I just hoped I had the guts to go through with it.
The high from winning a smal battle left me too quickly. I suddenly felt deflated, worried and even a little scared. I had done some things I never had before, answered back, told Dad and Gran what I wanted, and hadn’t bothered listening to their arguments. Yet the world hadn’t ended. Tammie once said to me, “What’s the worst that could happen?” And so far, she had been right; nothing bad had come from me standing up for myself. Better do it more often, I thought, yawning loudly.
I checked my email, automaticaly deleting an unread one from my mother, before deciding I was too tired to stay awake. I barely managed to comb out my hair before my eyes began to close by themselves. I lay down, praying I would have that dream again. For months, I had been dreaming about a boy. At least, I thought that’s what they were about. The dreams themselves were out of focus, confusing and vague, but the main point was me reaching something. Someone. Someone with beautiful, big brown eyes that made my insides melt.
I knew it was a dream, but it felt like it was leading me somewhere. Waking up from such a dream left me with a warm feeling inside; yet the way it ended was always frustrating. I hadn’t gotten to where I was supposed to be. It left a sense of longing inside me that I couldn’t get rid of. I didn’t know what a recurring dream signified, but this one made me feel like I always woke before the most important part. It was like having a word on the tip of your tongue for a year, or being on the verge of remembering something you were supposed to do but not quite getting there.
I forgot about everything except those eyes as I relaxed into a deep sleep, stil hoping for a good dream. I wasn’t disappointed. Wind whipped my hair backward as I sped through a forest. I must have been flying because my feet didn’t touch the ground. Not flying exactly, gliding. It was dark, but I wasn’t scared, I knew I was meant to be there. I was looking for something. Something was waiting for me. An orb of light danced ahead of me, leading my way. It soon paused and changed direction, finaly guiding me along a path to an ancient oak tree that towered above.
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