Unraveled, p.25

Unraveled, page 25

 part  #2 of  Intertwined Series



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Page 25


  “Yeah. What was wrong w-with you yesterday, man? I’ve never seen y-you like that. ”

  Aden wanted to confess. He wanted to trust Shannon fully. He really did. But he couldn’t predict the boy’s reaction to vampires and werewolves and ghosts, which meant he couldn’t say a word. If Shannon told Dan, Dan would think Aden was crazy—more than he already did—and send him back to juvie or to another institution. For “help. ”

  “Stress,” he said, and left it at that. In a way, that was the truth.

  “Know what you m-mean. Sometimes life just seems to be t-too much. ”

  “Having trouble?” Aden knew kids liked to tease Shannon about his stutter, and that embarrassed the boy unbearably.

  “What if I t-told you that I—I…” Shannon rubbed the back of his neck, clearly uncomfortable. His stutter was more pronounced now, which meant his emotions were jacked. “M-my parents, they knew I was d-different and—” He pressed his lips together, now mute.

  “Come on. ” Aden grabbed his arm and tugged him into the woods completely, seemingly leaving civilization behind. Yeah, he’d told Riley he’d stick to the main roads. No, he didn’t feel guilty. When a friend needed you, you delivered. “It’s okay, man. You can tell me anything. Believe me. ” He’d been different his entire life. Hearing voices, talking to people who supposedly weren’t there. Now, summoning creatures from fairy tales and nightmares.

  “Yeah, but I’m not d-different like you. ” Horror blanketed Shannon’s expression. “I-I’m sorry. I—I didn’t m-mean that in a b-bad way. I j-just…” He pushed out a shaky sigh. “I’ve n-never really told anyone else a-and—No, that’s n-not exactly true, b-but—”

  A boy Aden didn’t recognize stepped from behind a tree.

  Aden and Shannon drew up short.

  Another boy he didn’t recognize swung from around the next trunk over. Both were relaxed, seemingly unarmed. The first had pale hair, pale skin and pale blue eyes. Multiple shades of brown and gold colored the other’s hair, the same shades swirling in his eyes. Both were tall, stretching over Aden’s own six feet. They were leanly muscled, and both wore T-shirts and soft-looking slacks.

  Not another fight, Caleb groaned.

  Aden reached for his daggers.

  “Riley sent us, Majesty,” the pale one said, his voice deep and husky. He held up a palm in greeting. “We’re his older brothers. Be glad you aren’t meeting the younger brothers. I’m Nathan. ”

  “Maxwell,” the other said with a nod.

  Thank God, Julian said after a relieved sigh. Werewolves.

  The horror returned to Shannon’s expression, though Aden suspected it was because he’d almost confessed his secret, whatever it was, with strangers nearby.

  “Nice to meet you,” Aden replied.

  Shannon tossed Aden a strange look. “M-Majesty?”

  “Nickname,” he muttered. To the new boys, he said, “I prefer Aden. ”

  They nodded as they straightened from their relaxed poses.

  “Why are you here?” More babysitting?

  Maxwell waved his arm, motioning them forward. “To see you home safely, of course. Just in case you deviated from your promised route. ”

  He still wouldn’t feel guilty, he told herself as he surged forward, dragging Shannon with him. Nothing he could say in rebuttal, not now. Riley, though, would get an earful later.

  Wish Riley would have sent a girl to guard us, Caleb said.

  There are more important things in life than girls, Elijah admonished.

  Name one.

  A moment passed in silence.

  Caleb laughed. See!

  The list is so long I got lost in thought, the psychic grumbled.

  Yeah. Right, Julian said, his own laughter blending with Caleb’s.

  “Guys. Please. ”

  Shannon tossed him another strange look, and Aden motioned to their escorts, trying to pretend he’d been talking to them.

  Sorry, Caleb said, repentant. My bad. I just, I miss Victoria, I guess.

  Aden missed her, too. Monster and all, whatever she’d meant by that. He still didn’t fully know. Her demon-possession example hadn’t told him much. Did she morph into an actual beast or just exhibit beastly qualities? Either way, she’d been mortified to tell him.

  Didn’t she realize he would care for her, no matter what? Didn’t she realize that this, whatever it was, made her better able to understand him and his differences, and offered more proof that they belonged together?

  There was absolutely no way he’d date those other girls. That simply wasn’t going to happen, whether Victoria was fine with the idea or not.

  The newcomers didn’t speak again, even when they reached the edge of the forest and the ranch came into view. They simply backtracked, soon disappearing. Aden didn’t get a chance to ask Shannon about his problem, though. Ryder and Seth were at the edge of the property, smoking.

  When Shannon spotted them, he drew up short again. Only this time, a little color flooded his face. He was…blushing? Really? Why?

  Aden closed the rest of the distance. “Why aren’t you inside?” Usually, they were doing chores this time of day.

  “Mr. Thomas didn’t come in again today,” Seth said with a shrug. He raised the butt to his lips and inhaled, his wrist turned so that Aden had a full view of the fanged snake tattooed there. “We did our chores early and called it a day. ”

  And then they’d snuck out to smoke. Dan would rage if he saw them inhaling “cancer sticks,” as he called them.

  “Want?” Ryder asked, claiming the butt and offering it to Aden.

  “No, thanks. ”

  Shannon finally approached, though he remained outside the little half-circle. “Where’s D-Dan?”

  Ryder immediately looked down at his shoes. He handed the cig back to Seth and tangled a hand through his hair. “He had to check on his cows or something and said he’d be right back. ”

  Maybe he’d luck out, and Dan would arrive too late to take him to Dr. Hennessy. Like you’re really that lucky.

  Shannon motioned to the cigarette with a wave of his hand. “T-then maybe you should put that out. ”

  Ryder’s head snapped up, his eyes narrowed. “Maybe you should make me. ”

  “T-thanks for the invite, but I’ll pass. I mean, why b-bother?” Shannon’s hands balled into fists, and the image caught Aden’s attention—as if it were important. As if it were…life-changing. Why? “You already smell like an ashtray. ”

  Tension crackled between them, thick and palpable. Usually, they got along just fine. Clearly, though, something had changed.

  “So, uh, what’s Dan going to do about Thomas?” Aden asked, hoping to distract them from their anger. He brushed off his uneasiness. There was no time to ponder it now.

  Seth shrugged. “He tried calling the guy, but someone else answered, a Ms. Brendal. She said she was his sister and that he’d disappeared. She also said she’d be by later to talk to us. Fingers crossed she’s hot. ”

  Guilt consumed Aden. Guilt and fear. Ms. Brendal. She claimed to be Thomas’s sister. If she had told the truth, she was a fairy. Which meant another enemy of the vampires would be coming to the ranch. Asking questions. Would Aden be forced to kill someone else? A woman this time? He shuddered. Please, God, no.

  Gravel suddenly crunched up ahead, and Aden saw Dan’s truck coming up the long driveway. Nope. He wasn’t that lucky. His stomach sank.

  Seth tossed the cigarette on the ground and smashed the butt with his shoe. Ryder whipped out a tiny can of body spray from his pocket and hosed everyone down. Shannon coughed and glared, but didn’t protest.

  “I better get going,” Aden said, fighting dread and trudging forward. When he was certain the wind wouldn’t carry his voice back to the boys, he muttered, “Elijah, are we coming out of this unscathed?”


sp; Aden stiffened, stumbled.

  You might, the psychic finally said, but I don’t know about us.

  “TELL ME ABOUT the voices, Aden. ”

  “I don’t hear voices anymore, Dr. Hennessy. ”

  “You’re lying to me, Aden, and I don’t like liars. Tell me. About the. Voices. ”

  “I don’t hear voices anymore, Dr. Hennessy. ”

  The same conversation had been replaying between them for over an hour. Aden was tired and fighting sleep, lying in the doctor’s plush recliner, the lights dimmed, and peering up at a plain white ceiling. His lids were heavy, keeping them open a difficult chore. Didn’t help that soft music played in the background. Dr. Hennessy sat behind him, papers rattling every so often, but even that had a lulling effect.

  Bor-ing, Caleb said with a yawn.

  Lame, Julian agreed.

  Remain on guard, please, Elijah said, but even he sounded fatigued. I don’t trust this man.

  I’m always on guard, Caleb retorted.

  This time, Julian yawned. You’re a liar, and Dr. Hen is pushy. Not a good combo.

  Aden agreed.

  “—and as you know, I’ve read reports from your other doctors. ”

  Great. He’d lost track of the conversation. “So?”

  “So, when you were younger, you told several of them that these voices are souls and those souls possess special powers. ”

  “I lied. ” No way would he trust Dr. Hennessy with the truth. That would only score him more medication, more sessions like this one. “No one has special powers. ”

  “So you admit there are souls, then? They just don’t have any otherworldly abilities?”

  He ground his teeth. “No. I didn’t say that. ”

  “Are you telling me that one of the souls can no longer time-travel?”

  Aden stiffened. Eve had been the time-traveler, sometimes sending him back into younger versions of himself. One wrong word, and he would change the future, sometimes returning to a different reality than he’d left.

  He didn’t think he could time-travel now that Eve had passed on, and anyway, he was too afraid to try. The consequences were too vast, and he was too happy with his life. Well, most of it.

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