Unraveled, p.34

Unraveled, page 34

 part  #2 of  Intertwined Series



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Page 34


  He’d been ordered to follow Aden, which was easy for him, as Tucker could somehow sense wherever the boy went, and he had. Followed, that is. Yet Mary Ann was most often with the boy, and that delighted him, even as it frustrated him.

  When it was just the two of them, Aden and Mary Ann, Tucker would lose his ability to cast illusions, forced to hide by regular means. He would wonder what the hell he was doing, following them, watching them and listening to their secrets when he should be protecting them. Oh, yes, there was a small part of him that wanted to protect the two people responsible for saving his dreaded life. And he would hate himself for what he was doing, vow not to do it anymore, and walk away. But the farther he walked, the more he would hear Vlad’s voice, whispering to him across the distance, commanding him to spy on Aden, and so, Tucker would return to Aden’s side. If Mary Ann was gone, the desire to please his king would spread again. He would watch, listen and wait. An urge to hurt the boy would bloom, grow.

  Thankfully, that hadn’t been the case tonight.

  Tonight, Mary Ann was with the other boy, Riley. When those two were together, Tucker could cast his illusions. For whatever reason. So, knowing Aden was inside, Tucker should have gone inside, too. And he could have, no one would have known—even when Aden was with Mary Ann, Tucker could use his illusions if Riley was there—but Tucker had stayed out here. For Mary Ann, determined to protect her from the rage of the other boy.

  As he’d watched them, he’d realized he was glad she had a new boyfriend. She deserved happiness. She deserved love. She was the light to Tucker’s darkness, pure where he was tainted. He’d never been right for her. But damn it, why couldn’t they remain friends?

  And why couldn’t Penny be more like her?

  Penny. Sometimes—when he was around Mary Ann and calm—he was glad they’d made a baby, even though he most often denied responsibility. Penny would be better off without him. Unlike Mary Ann, she didn’t make him feel better about himself, his actions, his future. He would make a terrible father.

  Without Mary Ann, he wanted to hurt those around him. Penny, yes, and probably the baby.

  The boy. Follow the boy…

  As Vlad’s command drifted through his head, his teeth gnashed together. How did the vampire always know what Tucker was doing? How did the vampire wield such unbreakable control?

  Disappointed, angry, dreading what was to come, Tucker straightened, unable to do otherwise, and headed south, toward the D and M Ranch where Aden lived. That’s where the vampire princess, Victoria, had taken him when they’d vanished in a blink. As always, Tucker sensed it, felt a pull tugging him in that direction.

  So far, there hadn’t been much to report to the king. Aden had gotten sick, Aden had gone to school. Aden had returned to the vampire stronghold—where he’d been treated like royalty.

  The last had infuriated Vlad. So much so, Tucker had feared for his own life. For with the former king’s fury, invisible hands had wrapped around Tucker’s neck, choking him. Finally, though, the vampire had released him and sent him on his way for more spy duty.

  What was the vampire’s ultimate goal? he wondered. Why was he using Tucker like this? Why wasn’t he claiming his throne now? And did Tucker care?

  The more distance he placed between himself and Mary Ann, the more the answer solidified in his mind. No. He didn’t care. He would do what he was told.

  THE GOBLIN POISON SAVAGED Aden, turning his blood to lava, his organs to ash and his skin into one giant welt. He burned, he itched, he vomited thick black goo over and over again. Thank God he’d convinced Victoria to leave him. She’d protested, but he’d done the smiling, “I’m fine” thing and managed to convince her all was well.

  Been here, done this, he thought weakly, though he’d never experienced a reaction to this degree. Yeah, this was worse than any other corpse poisoning he’d endured. This one even affected the souls. They were moaning in his head, sometimes screaming, always incoherent.

  Except for Elijah. Death, the psychic shouted. Blood. So much blood. She dies. We can’t let her die.

  “Who?” The word was like acid in his throat.

  He dies, too. So much death.

  “Who dies?” he demanded more insistently.

  Elijah continued as if he hadn’t heard Aden’s questions. Maybe he hadn’t. Maybe he simply didn’t know. No. NO! They all die. All of them. War. Stop the war. We have to stop the war.

  What war? If that was a prediction…

  Through it all, Thomas’s ghost remained glued to Aden’s side, pacing, yelling, blaming. He wanted to leave, he said. His family would be looking for him, and would find out what had happened. And when that happened, Aden would finally know true suffering. Blah, blah, blah.

  “A-Aden. You okay, man?”

  It was still hard to distinguish real from the sea of noise, but he was still getting better at it, and he knew that someone was now in the room with him. His heavy lashes parted, and through a misty haze he saw Shannon standing at the side of his bed.

  “Can I g-get you anything?” Shannon reached out and felt Aden’s forehead.

  The moment of contact, Aden’s entire body jolted with a surge of electricity, and he lost his hold on his own reality. His conscious mind shot from him into his friend, and he was suddenly seeing the world through Shannon’s eyes. Shocking, weird. Lying on the bed one second, standing the next. Pain still coursed through him, and he groaned.

  His stomach rebelled at the new upright position, forcing him to hunch over and vomit. Again. Thankfully, someone had left a small metal trashcan here. Dan, maybe. Aden thought he remembered the guy checking on him a few times.

  “Out,” he managed to croak to Caleb. He wanted out of Shannon’s body.

  The only reply was another moan.

  Usually the soul had control. Caleb decided who to possess and when. Sometimes even Aden had control. Caleb might not want to possess someone but if Aden focused hard enough, he could do it. This time, neither of them had control, but they’d still done it.

  He tried to step from the body, as he’d done with all the others, but something kept him leashed, tethered there, unable to move. Still. Over and over he tried. Finally, weak, exhausted, hurting worse, he gave up and fell back on the bed. He couldn’t hear Shannon’s thoughts, so he probably had control of Shannon’s mind, too. Which meant his friend would not remember this.

  He hoped.

  God, what was he going to do?

  However long he sprawled there, writhing, he didn’t know. Time was immeasurable, endless. Until the true fun began.

  Aden lost his hold on Shannon’s reality, too, and when he next opened his eyes, he found himself in the body of a little boy. Shannon, he realized, as he studied the dark color of his arm. A younger version of Shannon. He hadn’t lost Shannon’s reality, after all.

  Even if he hadn’t noticed the physical differences, he would have known. He sensed the truth, deep inside. He’d just time-traveled—into Shannon’s past.

  That shouldn’t be possible, not without Eve and certainly not with someone else’s life. Always before Aden had traveled back into his own life. Now he was seeing and feeling what Shannon was seeing and feeling. The physical pain, at least, was gone, and the souls were quiet rather than frenzied.

  He sat on a swing, rocking back and forth, tiny sandaled feet pushing at the gravel. His little hands gripped the metal links at his sides. The sun glowed brightly, his only friend.

  “Hey, Sh-Sh-Shannon,” a kid taunted from a few feet away. Several other kids were clustered around him, laughing. They were outside a school, Aden instinctively knew, and at recess.

  There was a slide, a merry-go-round and a jungle gym, but none of the boys seemed to care about those things. They were focused completely on Shannon.

  “My mom says you’re so weird because your mom is white and your dad is black,” the tallest bo
y said, chucking a rock in his direction.

  The stone slammed into Shannon’s stomach, stinging. He kept his gaze to the ground. Ignore them, and they’ll go away, his mom always said. But he knew they wouldn’t. They never did. Unless Ms. Snodgrass noticed and yelled, but she was busy picking the grass out of Karen Fisher’s hair, so he’d have better luck wishing on a star.

  Another rock hit Shannon, in the leg this time. He felt the sting, but again, he gave no reaction.

  “You have a girl’s name, Stutter, you know that?”

  More laughter had him cringing inside. Not that he’d ever let them know it.

  Aden wanted to jump up, to pound those kids into the dirt, even young as they were. And he could have. He was still in control of the body. But to change the past was to change the future, and not always for the better. Actually, never for the better. So he sat there, awash in Shannon’s embarrassment and abject sense of loneliness, hoping that’s what Shannon had done.

  But then the scene shifted, the playground fading and red brick walls closing in around him. Graffiti covered those walls, and in the distance, he heard a police siren wailing.

  Smoke wafted in his face, and he coughed. He waved a hand in front of his nose, only then noticing the cigarette resting in his other hand.

  “So?” someone said. “What do you think?”

  Aden focused. A boy stood just in front of him. Probably fourteen or fifteen, and he was smoking, too. Like Shannon, he was black, though his skin was darker, and his eyes were brown.

  He was cute, Shannon thought, though not exactly his type; still, they’d been secretly dating for three weeks. What made Tyler so appealing was the fact that he was the first boy Shannon knew who admitted, freely, that he liked other boys.

  Most people were accepting of him. Some were not, like Tyler’s dad, and he often sported bruises. But still Tyler didn’t try to hide the fact that he was gay, or that he had a feminine side, was even proud of it, from his lip-glossed mouth to his too-tight pink T-shirt to his red-painted toenails.

  Shannon still hadn’t told anyone about his own preferences. His dad was clueless, thank God, but his mom…she must have suspected. Flighty as she was, she kept introducing him to girls and then questioning him mercilessly. What did he think of them? Why wouldn’t he ask them out?

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