Unraveled, p.16

Unraveled, page 16

 part  #2 of  Intertwined Series



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Page 16


  Questions were hurled at him. Aden could only decipher two words: catatonic and regressed.

  Were they talking about him?

  Of course they were. Pills were shoved into Aden’s mouth, and he tried to spit them out. Dr. Hennessy pinched his nose closed and held his jaw still, his purpose clear. If Aden wanted to breathe, he’d have to swallow.

  “Take your medicine like a good boy, Aden,” the doctor said crisply. “You’ve had these before. I’m not giving you anything new. ” A sigh. “Still determined to resist? Well, if you don’t take them, I’ll simply give you an injection. Wouldn’t you prefer to avoid a needle?”

  Only when his lungs screamed in protest and his throat began to convulse did he swallow. A second later, he could breathe.

  He sucked in mouthful after mouthful of air, but his I’m-going-to-live happiness disintegrated when he realized what he’d swallowed. Those pills always fogged Aden’s brain and put the souls into a stupor, two things he loathed. Two things they loathed. More than that, he needed to be clear-headed tonight. He needed… The blood-brain barrier was broken almost instantly, and dizziness washed through him.

  The fog he’d feared appeared behind his eyes, thickening, spreading, fuzzing his thoughts.

  “Sorry,” he managed to croak out, jaw once again working. “So sorry. ”

  Julian was the first to quiet. Then Caleb, then Elijah, who fought the hardest to remain heard. You’ll need me, Aden. Tonight is…tonight is…

  Even Thomas, standing beside Dr. Hennessy, glaring down at Aden, began to waver, shimmer, there but not there, an outline without substance.

  “He’ll need to visit me tomorrow morning,” Dr. Hennessy was saying to Dan as he straightened, wiping his hands together in a job well done. “First thing. ”

  Dan crossed his arms over his massive chest. He was a former pro-footballer, tall, wide, pure intimidation with pale hair and dark eyes. “He has school. If he’s well enough, and I think that he will be. He always pulls himself together quickly. ”

  “He can miss one day. ”

  “No, actually, he can’t. His studies are just as important as his therapy. ”

  Thank you, Aden wanted to say, but didn’t allow the words to move past his lips. No reason to encourage attention or unwittingly admit he understood what was being said. Dan cared about the boys here. Truly cared. Even about Aden, as his insistence proved.

  “I’ll bring him to you immediately afterward,” Dan continued. “How about that?”

  “I highly recommend you reconsider. This boy doesn’t need to be in school, around normal children. I could take over his—”

  “Excuse me, Dr. Hennessy,” Dan said tightly. “I may not have a fancy degree, but I know this boy better than you do. He’s a good kid with a lot of heart, and he’s doing well here. He’s excelling in school with those so-called normal kids, and he’s even made new friends and gained confidence. He’s doing better than ever and I will not disrupt that progress. ”

  “Yes, but he still talks to himself. And today, well, he lost himself inside his mind. I would hardly call that ‘better than ever,’ Mr. Reeves. Would you?”

  Dan stuffed his hands in his pockets, going all “well, shucks,” on the doctor, a sign Aden recognized as growing annoyance. “We all occasionally regress, as you said, but he’s pulling himself together. ”

  “That’s the pills. ”

  “That’s the boy’s strength of will. ”

  Slowly Aden relaxed, rubbed a hand over his face. His vision was slightly blurred, his movements sluggish, but at least his mind was quiet. Still. Poor souls.

  The two men continued their conversation a while longer, until finally it was decided that Aden would attend class, then immediately be driven to Dr. Hennessy’s office for a session.

  Great. Those sessions were nothing but a pain in the ass. The good doctor always wanted to touch him. Nothing overt, and nothing too creepy, just a hand-holding, skin-to-skin thing. That, on top of the fact that he had to be in therapy at all, aggravated the piss right out of him.

  At last the men left, and Aden gingerly sat up. His stomach burned as if a fire had been set there, and that burn rose into his throat, his brain. More fog, more dizziness. He closed his eyes. In the distance, a wolf howled.

  So he hadn’t imagined the howling. Riley must be nearby.

  “S-sorry, man,” he heard Shannon say.

  His lids cracked open, and he saw that Shannon was beside the bed and crouched in front of him, his features tight with concern.

  “D-didn’t want to get Dan, but didn’t k-know what else to do. You were really o-out of it. Never seen you l-like that. ”

  “Don’t worry about it. ” He blinked, doing his best to focus. “What time is it?”

  “About ten-thirty. ”

  That late? Wow. Riley really would be here any minute. How was Aden going to sneak out now? Dan would check up on him throughout the night, Aden knew that he would. Apparently, that’s what people who cared about you did. Checked on you. It was new and wonderful and yet, hell on the social life.

  Something clanked against the window, and both Aden and Shannon turned. The glass rose, then Riley was there, smoothly climbing through. He was dressed in a black suit, was cleanly shaven and had his hair arranged in perfect spikes. In his arms, he clutched what looked to be a garment bag.

  “Shannon,” he acknowledged with a stiff nod.

  Shannon, who was used to Aden’s nightly visitors, nodded in return. “Riley. ”

  “I’ve gotta borrow our boy for a little while. ”

  Shannon frowned. “He’s b-been sick and needs his r-rest. ”

  Riley frowned, too, gaze darting to Aden. “Sick? Again? How?”

  “Again?” Shannon’s focus swung back to Aden. “When were you s-sick before? What was wrong?”

  Oh, yeah. Aden hadn’t explained—or lied, as he’d planned—so Shannon had no idea how iffy things had been for him.

  “Shannon,” a musical female voice said from just beyond the window. Victoria had arrived. “You are tired. You must sleep now. ”

  “Sleep,” the boy muttered, yawning. “Yeah, I’m pretty tired. ” He scaled to the top of the bunk bed and lay down. He was softly snoring a few seconds later.

  So much power in one little voice, Aden thought. A voice she used liberally, but always to help him, so he didn’t want to complain. Even though a part of him sometimes feared she’d one day use that voice against him. How would he combat the compulsion to do what she wanted if, like, he made her mad and she told him to do something tragic?

  Don’t think like that. She cares about you.

  He blamed the drugs for his illicit thoughts.

  Still outside, she moved backward one step, two, though remained in a beam of light spilling from the room. Her dark hair was piled on top of her head, he noticed, and several ringlets framed her pale face. Her eyes had been outlined in black and black glitter sprinkled on her lids. His favorite? Her lips were painted bloodred.

  From what he could see, she wore a silky black robe with thin straps on both shoulders and a neckline that dipped low in the center. New favorite, he thought. He even liked the metal bands winding around her biceps like thin, bejeweled snakes.

  She was breathtaking.

  Mine. The thought was his own, no one else’s. Because she was. His.

  “Aden,” Riley said, claiming his attention. “You were sick?”

  Aden nodded, and had to blink against the sudden renewal of dizziness. Stupid pills. He explained what had happened, what had been done to him. How he’d been drugged.

  Riley shook his head. “I don’t know how you deal with all those voices anyway. But don’t beat yourself up about it. One slip-up in how long? A year or more? That’s reason to celebrate. You know, at a vampire mansion. Like, now. ”

  At least the wolf wasn’t snarling at him.

  “Help him dress, and I’ll ensure Dan stays away from this room for the rest of the night,” Victoria said from her outer post, and then was gone.

  Riley unzipped the bag he held. “I seriously hope you’re not going to make me do all the work. ”

  “Please. I’d have to be dead to let you put your hands on me. ” Aden stood—and almost tumbled back on his bed, his knees were so weak, but he managed to remain upright, and held out his hands. Several articles of clothing were thrust at him.

  He dressed quickly, and realized he was now wearing a suit almost identical to Riley’s. Black, silk, expensive. He brushed his hair and teeth, then splayed his arms wide, silently requesting inspection.

  “Better, but not done yet. ” Riley held out his open palm.

  Aden saw what rested in the center and actually backed away. “No. No way. ”

  “You must. ”

  The ring—Vlad’s ring—glistened with a luminous shimmer in the light. Bad idea, all the way around.

  “Your coronation ceremony will take place in thirteen days and—”

  “Thirteen days,” he interjected. That seemed relevant somehow. Familiar. “So why wear it now?”

  “As a symbol of your power. ”

  Power? Please. He had no power. Not any that mattered.

  “We must go,” Victoria said suddenly, at the window again. “Everyone is waiting. ”

  Riley arched a brow at him and shook the ring. “You’re king, ceremony or not, and the vampire king wears this ring. Always. Your people won’t take you seriously without it, and you’re going to have a hard time being taken seriously anyway since you’re human. ”

  “Thanks for the newsflash. ” I don’t want to be king, he thought, but he reluctantly pinched the band between two fingers and slid the thing in place. A large opal stared up at him, casting multihued beams in every direction. His foggy mind could have studied those beams forever, lost.

  He’d wear the ring tonight because, in their minds, he was king. According to their laws—of which he knew only this one—he who killed the king became king. But Aden planned to appoint someone else, someone deserving, someone competent and equipped. And soon. Without letting himself be killed.

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