Unraveled, p.10

Unraveled, page 10

 part  #2 of  Intertwined Series



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  The vampire furrowed her brow. “What do you mean?”

  “You can’t just go around offering to kill people. That’ll get you into all kinds of trouble. ”

  She raised her chin, and Mary Ann caught a glimpse of her stubborn core. “I welcome trouble. ”

  “Fine. But Aden doesn’t,” Mary Ann reminded her.

  Gradually, Victoria’s chin fell. “You’re right. ” She pushed out another sigh. “Sometimes I wonder if I’m the right girl for him. If perhaps…” she twirled her fingertip over the tabletop, tracing some sort of design “you wouldn’t be better suited for him. ”

  “Are you kidding?” One, Victoria might have phrased the words like a suggestion, but there had been fury in her tone. And two, Mary Ann adored Aden, but she didn’t crave him the way she craved Riley. “That boy worships you. ”

  Some of the tension left Victoria’s shoulders. “Yes, but sometimes, when we’re all together, you’ll laugh and he’ll watch you, and there will be such…longing on his face. When that happens, I want to rip out your trachea. Sorry, but it’s true. ”

  Okay. She’d been close to dying before the curse, and had had no idea. Perfect. “I can tell you for sure that he doesn’t like me as a girlfriend. Aden and I…we will only ever be friends. Our different—” She looked around, making sure no one was listening. Everyone seemed to be going about their day, eating and talking, unconcerned about her and her conversation. “Our different abilities make us want to run from each other most of the time. It’s a miracle we’re even friends. Besides, can you imagine wanting to kiss the guy who housed your mom?”

  Victoria shook her head, but still didn’t appear completely convinced.

  “Maybe that longing shows up because he wants to make you laugh like that. Let’s face it, I’ve known you for weeks and I’ve seen you smile once. Maybe. You might have been grimacing. ”

  Now Victoria blinked over at her. “Are you saying I’m…depressing?”

  “Will you want to rip out my trachea if I am?”

  Crystalline eyes narrowed. “Maybe, but I won’t allow myself the luxury. ”

  “Thank you. Then, yes. I am. Just…lighten up, maybe. Tell a joke every now and then. Aden’s had a lot of seriousness in his life, you know? A lot of bad. Now he needs good. ”

  What? You’re a doctor now? Well, she had always wanted to help people.

  “I…I— Well, I hate that the boys think it’s okay to leave us behind. ” Clearly, the subject of humor was closed. “They treat us like we’re damsels in distress. ” Like Mary Ann, Victoria propped her elbows on the table. She rested her chin in her upraised hand.

  Mary Ann didn’t know if the girl would take her advice or not. Time would tell. “I agree,” she replied, allowing the change of topic without comment. “And it’s irritating. ” But you are a damsel in distress, and that’s the real reason you find it irritating. Proof: she hadn’t punched Shane in the nose like he’d deserved.

  Disgusted with herself, Mary Ann pushed her tray aside, even the scent of the pepperoni pizza suddenly hurting her stomach. She should be starving by now, she mused. First she’d skipped breakfast, and now lunch. But she’d been unable to think about taking a bite without wanting to barf.

  “I mean, I understand that I can do a lot of good here,” Victoria continued, unaware of her inner turmoil. “I can protect you, of course. And I’ve convinced all of Aden’s teachers that he’s here today so that he won’t get into trouble and be kicked out of the ranch. ”

  Victoria could make anyone do or believe anything she wished with only her voice. Mary Ann secretly called the ability “Voice Voodoo” and nearly peed her pants in fear every time she thought about it. Stripping in public just because a vampire told her to? Yeah, it could happen. That, and a lot worse. Thank God they were on the same side.

  The litany of her skills persisted. “I’m also a trained fighter. More than that, I can’t be hurt. I’m an indestructible vampire, for God’s sake. ”

  Mary Ann didn’t bother to point out that her father—an indestructible vampire—had just been killed. Or that her former fiancé—an indestructible vampire—had soon followed Vlad the Impaler to the grave.

  “First, you don’t need to protect me. I’m not helpless,” Mary Ann said, her irritation clear. Didn’t you just admit to yourself that you are, in fact, a damsel in distress? And isn’t a damsel in distress, what? Helpless. “There’s no need for you to play babysitter. ”

  Victoria uttered a dejected sigh. “I didn’t mean to offend you. I’m new to interacting with humans. You have always been my food source, nothing more. Or rather, my delicate, easily destroyed food source. ” Her lips twitched there at the end.

  A grin? Now?

  Victoria was attempting to joke with her, just as Mary Ann had instructed, but Mary Ann’s shoulders slumped in nervousness rather than amusement. Here was yet another reminder of the death and destruction that could be waiting around the corner. A vampire could drain a human in seconds. A werewolf could rip human skin into shreds. But…

  Maybe there was a way to fight them.

  The stray thought had her tilting her head, considering her options. She didn’t want to fight Victoria or Riley, of course, but she did need to learn how to defend herself. Then maybe they’d see her as more a help than a hindrance.

  “What if—” she began at the exact same time as Victoria said, “Riley told us—”

  Mary Ann laughed. “You first. ”

  “I was saying that Riley told us to stay here, but that doesn’t mean we have to obey him. I mean, he and Aden might need us. And if we save them, they’ll have to thank us for coming to their rescue. ”

  Slowly Mary Ann smiled. “True. Where would we go, though? How would we find them?”

  “I would—” Victoria stiffened, frowned, then blinked. “Did you hear that?”

  Listening, Mary Ann glanced around the cafeteria. Same kids, same inane chatter. “Hear what?”

  “That scream. ” The vampire massaged her throat with one of her hands. “So much pain…I’ve never heard anything like it. ” She jumped up, her chair skidding backward. “And I think…I think it belonged to Aden. ”

  Mary Ann was on her feet in the next instant, as well, heart hammering, blood chilling. Something hot and hard banded around her wrist, and then a strong breeze was ruffling her hair. Her feet lost their solid foundation, and suddenly she was floating, flying. She yelped in shock.

  The kids, the tables, even the walls around her vanished. In a snap, thick tree trunks and orange-gold leaves took their place. Sunlight gleamed from the gray sky, murky, yet still too bright for her startled eyes.

  An unruffled Victoria stood beside her.

  “What just happened?” Mary Ann rasped. And why did she feel like she was going to fall over and vomit? Black spots replaced the light as her stomach churned mercilessly.

  “I teleported us to the forest. I can only travel short distances, so we’ll need to do this several more times before we can reach the ranch. ”

  Wait. They’d just teleported? Out of school? “Did anyone…see us?” God. Now she couldn’t breathe, the air freezing in her nose before reaching her lungs.

  “I’m not sure. We’ll find out tomorrow. ”

  Great, she thought, swaying with her sudden light-headedness. “A little…warning next time. Okay?” She hunched over, sweat pouring from her, even though that winter storm was raging inside her veins.

  “Mary Ann?”


  “Here’s your warning. ”

  Once again a hot brand circled her wrist. Once again the ground disappeared from beneath her. Once again she was floating, flying, wind ripping through her, splitting her into thousands of pieces, then fitting her back together again in an instant.

  This time when she focused, she realized they were in a neighborhood. Small, kind of rundown houses surrou
nded her. Those pesky blackbirds were squawking and flying in every direction, as if something had startled them. Next to her was a street—with a car driving past. The driver rubbernecked, trying to look at them as long as possible. Had he seen them appear out of nowhere?

  He’ll think he made a mistake. Don’t worry about that now. “Don’t…just…rest…” Words—form properly, damn it!

  Another cuss word. Excellent. At this rate, she’d soon sound like every other kid at school.

  No time to mourn that development, however. The black spots were expanding in front of her eyes, thickening, some of the circles now touching. The snowstorm inside her raged out of control, becoming a blizzard, and she shivered. Ice. Her new most-hated thing.

  “Just a little farther,” Victoria said. There was no sympathy in her tone, only worry. “Okay? Yes?”

  For Aden. For Riley. Mary Ann could do this. She straightened. Nodded.

  Victoria wasted no time. Hot brand, ground gone. Mighty wind. Unwanted chill. Mary Ann in pieces—pieces that could be lost forever. What if she didn’t fit back together the right way? What if she— God, she really was a liability. She really was the weak link of their circle. She couldn’t even handle being teleported.

  That will change. I’ll learn to fight, no matter what’s required of me, she told herself as she solidified in…she looked around, only fragments of her surroundings registering past the ever-growing black. A train track, too-tall grass that was yellow, brittle. A snake slithered and hissed over the rusted iron. Shouldn’t it be hibernating?

  “Mary Ann?”

  She knew what Victoria was asking. Was she ready to go again? “Just…do it,” she said. “Finish this. ”

  Brand. Wind. Chill. Ground. Stop.

  Brand. Wind. Chill. Ground. Stop.
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