Unraveled, p.15

Unraveled, page 15

 part  #2 of  Intertwined Series

 

Unraveled
 



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Page 15

 

  Thank God, Julian said. We’re back.

  What happened while we were gone? Caleb asked. Why are we outside?

  Were you…fighting? Elijah demanded.

  “Guys,” he muttered. “I’ll have to explain later. ”

  Shannon reached him, clearly concerned. “W-where were you t-today? I told Dan you’d already l-left for school this morning, so you’re clear on that front. ”

  “Thank you. ” Aden was still amazed that he and Shannon were friends. They hadn’t started off that way, but they were pretty tight now. And it was nice. Even so, he couldn’t tell Shannon the truth. Boy knew nothing about the real world and the creatures populating it, and that was for the best. “Come on. Let’s go in, and I’ll tell you everything. ” Yet nothing.

  They headed into the bunkhouse, where the others were already washed up and in dry clothes, watching TV in the living room as if they’d just finished up their schoolwork like good little boys.

  Aden waved at them, and kept moving. He and Shannon needed to talk, but what he would say, he still didn’t know. After that, he needed some time alone to talk to the souls. Where he would go, though, he didn’t know.

  “Well, well,” another familiar voice said when he entered his room. “Look who’s back. Me. ”

  Freaking fantastic, Caleb grumbled.

  Not good, Elijah said with a sigh.

  Aden didn’t have to look around to know that the ghost prince had indeed returned. His hands curled into fists as he wondered if he’d ever lead a normal life.

  “Aden?” Shannon said beside him. “You okay? The guys asked if y-you wanted to watch Sports Center with them. ”

  At the same time, Thomas said, “Tell me what you did to me. Tell me why I’m here, why my people can’t see or hear me. Why no one but you can. Tell me!”

  The voices blended together, making the words intelligible. He knew then that he wouldn’t be having a conversation with Shannon anytime soon. Nor would he find that private moment with the souls.

  Not knowing what else to do, Aden covered his ears and threw himself on his mattress to wait out the storm.

  SEVEN

  TUCKER HARBOR HUDDLED in the corner of a dim, damp crypt, surrounded by darkness and flat-out creepiness. A spider might have just crawled over his hand, and was that a mouse squeaking? He would have given anything to see.

  He hadn’t wanted to come here. He’d been lying on a hospital gurney, hooked to all kinds of monitors, drugs pumping straight into his veins, chasing away the pain. Yet the voice had called to him, drifting through his head, and he’d found himself unhooking the tethers, rising, walking, finally running, desperate to be wherever the voice wanted him to be.

  Unfortunately, getting here hadn’t been that difficult. No one had tried to stop him, and his “gift” hadn’t been on the fritz. Tucker had cast illusions—something he’d been able to do his entire life. Whatever he envisioned in his mind, he could create around him. Or rather, make people think was around him.

  If he pictured a gutter, a gutter would seem to encase him. If he pictured a circus, a circus would seem to appear, with him in the center ring. On his way out of the hospital, he’d pictured himself as the wall beside him. Outside, he’d pictured himself in a T-shirt and jeans, rather than this paper-thin gown.

  So now, here he was. In pain, again, still weak from the vampire bites he’d endured only a few days ago—or maybe hours ago, he didn’t know anymore. Time was just…time. Ticking away, but not part of his awareness anymore. Maybe because he didn’t care.

  Which he didn’t understand. He’d been tied to a table as if he were dessert, and vampires—real-life freaking bloodsuckers—had been allowed to simply lean over and bite him. Anywhere they had desired. He’d wanted to die. But then, as the blood had drained from him, his body growing cold, his conscious mind dimming, he’d wanted to live. So badly.

  Then Aden Stone and Mary Ann had come to his rescue. He’d been so grateful. He’d thought, I’m going to turn my life around. I’m not going to cause trouble anymore. When I want to do bad things, like grinding my fist into as many faces as I can, watching the blood pour and hearing the screams echo, like stealing and fighting and hurting my mom with mean words just to hear her cry, I’m going to ignore the urges.

  Yet now, without the threat of death hovering over him, without the utter helplessness, without the drugs, he wanted to do all of those things again. And he couldn’t ignore the urges. On the way here, he’d punched a middle-aged man he’d never met, felt the guy’s teeth cutting into his knuckles, and had laughed. Laughed. Because he’d liked inflicting pain.

  I’m a monster.

  The only time those kinds of urges left him was when he was with Mary Ann. They’d dated for several months, and for those several months he’d been blissfully happy. Of course, being Tucker, he’d managed to ruin everything.

  She’d taken off one night, so he’d visited her neighbor and best friend, Penny Parks. He and Penny had tossed back a few beers, had stupid unprotected sex, and now Penny was pregnant with his kid. Or so she said.

  Part of him believed her. The human part of him that hated when he acted like a maniac. The other part of him, the part where all those urges churned, didn’t want to believe her.

  He needed Mary Ann again. Not as a girlfriend. Just as a friend. He wasn’t sure he’d ever really wanted her romantically. He just liked how she made him feel. She would fix him, make him better again. And maybe then he could be a better dad to his kid than his own father had ever been to him.

  Somewhere in the dark, he heard the whisper of cloth against flesh, the sound somehow far more obscene than the squeak of that mouse. Then, “You came,” a hard, emotionless voice said from the darkness. “Good boy. ”

  The voice. Only this time, it wasn’t inside his head.

  As his heart pounded out of control, Tucker straightened. He still couldn’t see anything. There wasn’t a single beam of light in this crypt, and dust layered the air. Dust and death. “Y-yes. I try to be. ” He would try to be anything this man wanted. “Who are you?”

  “I am your king. ”

  Four simple words, but they changed Tucker’s life. Irrevocably. Yes. He belonged to the owner of that voice. It was strong, powerful, almost as if magic floated from each syllable, wrapping around him, tightening…tightening…controlling. More than being what this man wanted, Tucker would do whatever was asked of him, whenever it was asked. Happily.

  “Vlad,” he said, knowing the name deep in his soul. He inclined his head in reverent greeting, even though he couldn’t be seen. Or could Vlad’s gaze pierce the darkness?

  “Yes. I am Vlad. And there is someone else you know, Tucker. Someone I am deeply interested in. Aden Stone. ”

  A statement, not a question, yet Tucker replied anyway. “Yes. ” He couldn’t help himself. Must please Vlad. Must always please Vlad. “I know him. ”

  “You will watch him. ”

  “Yes. ” No hesitation.

  “You will tell me everything you learn. ”

  “Yes. ” Anything. Everything.

  “That is good. I am counting on you, Tucker. Do not let me down. Because, you see, he took my crown, and when the time is right, I will take it back. ”

  THE NEXT FEW HOURS of Aden’s life passed in a blur. Shannon realized something was wrong with him and tried to distract him, telling him about his day and how Mr. Klien, their chemistry teacher, had had him stand at the front of the class doing finger-strengthening exercises the entire period for dropping one of his test vials.

  At the same time, Thomas continued to barrage him with rapid-fire questions. “Why can’t my kind see or hear me anymore? Why did I disappear into a black hole after the vampire and werewolf left?”

  At the same time, Elijah demanded they discuss the coming vampire assembly. Plans needed to be made. What if there was a rebellion and someone
tried to de-throne him?

  At the same time, Caleb outlined what Aden should wear to impress Victoria enough to make out with him. Black leather was a top contender. Whipped cream, too.

  At the same time, Julian wrote an I’m-sorry poem for him to give to Victoria. Oh, sweet darling, my heart bleeds. But you love blood. And I am mud. Forgive me.

  That’s when Caleb became mocking, and Elijah incensed. Blah, blah, blah.

  Through it all, Aden even thought he heard wolves howling in the background. Arf, arf, arf, he thought mockingly.

  His head throbbed. He couldn’t keep up with the chatter, the words and sounds doing more than blending together. They were creating an ever-increasing buzz that hammered against his skull.

  Finally, he gave up. He rolled over, closed his eyes and tried to block out all of them. Peace. He just needed a little peace.

  Soon, lack of rest and dying-by-proxy twice caught up with him, and he drifted in and out of agitated slumber. No, slumber wasn’t the right word. He wasn’t asleep, but he couldn’t move. Even when Shannon shook him, he couldn’t move or respond. It was like someone had tied his arms and legs to the bed. Like his eyelids had been taped open, and he couldn’t blink, even when his eyes dried and burned.

  What was wrong with him?

  He was vaguely aware of Shannon leaving the room and returning with Dan, who looked him over with concern. Dan tried to talk to him as he undressed Aden and tucked him under covers, but still Aden couldn’t answer. One, his jaw was as useless as the rest of him, and two, he simply couldn’t wade through the sea of voices, his awareness still being tugged in too many different directions.

  Besides, Dan would think he was crazy—like everyone had always called him—if he answered something incorrectly.

  Finally, Dan left and he sighed with relief. Short-lived relief. On and on the souls chattered. On and on Thomas spewed demands. Then Dan returned with Dr. Hennessy, Aden’s newest therapist, adding something more to the mix.

  Dr. Hennessy looked him over, as well, frowning but not concerned. The doctor was a short, balding man, with wire-framed glasses and cold brown eyes, and he never showed any type of emotion. He was clinical, impersonal and always radiated shrewd awareness.
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