Unraveled, p.35

Unraveled, page 35

 part  #2 of  Intertwined Series

 

Unraveled
 



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Page 35

 

  “Earth to Shannon,” Tyler said with a laugh. “Are you listening to me?”

  “Uh, sorry. What’d you say?”

  Tyler’s amusement faded in a blink. “Lookit. Like I’ve told you a million times already, I said I’m tired of sneaking around. I’m not gonna let you pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about this time, either. So either you like me or you don’t. Okay? So which is it?”

  “I—” Aden quickly shut his mouth. He didn’t know how Shannon had replied, only felt the panic surging through the body.

  “Say something!”

  “I—I—” And then it didn’t matter. The scene shifted again, and this time he was standing in the center of an outdoor basketball court. Sweaty boys were all around him, slapping him on the back, telling him what a good job he’d done.

  On the ground in front of them was an unconscious boy. Tyler. He recognized Tyler’s face, even though it was swollen, bloody and battered. Shannon’s hands were throbbing. Aden studied them. The skin on his knuckles was ripped to shreds. By teeth. By Tyler’s teeth.

  He had beaten Tyler? Why?

  Guilt and shame bombarded him. Remorse. Sorrow. Self-loathing.

  The scene shifted yet again, the emotions falling away like leaves on a tree. Now he was inside a home, sitting on a couch. Pictures abounded. Of him. Of an older black man and a white woman. His parents, he thought.

  His cheeks itched, so he reached up with a shaky hand to wipe at them. They were warm and wet. With tears? Someone was in front of him, pacing, screaming. Because Shannon had beaten Tyler?

  No, he realized, as Shannon’s thoughts and feelings sank into his awareness. Because Shannon had finally told his parents the truth. He was gay. He hated what he’d done to Tyler. He wished he could go back, stop himself from treating his boyfriend that way, as if he were trash. As if he were something shameful.

  On and on his father screamed. This was wrong. This was a sin. His mother even joined him, crying hysterically about how embarrassed she was. Why couldn’t he be normal?

  He and Shannon were so much more alike than Aden had ever realized. He’d been called a freak his entire life, rejected by his parents, tossed throughout the system, unwanted by anyone. Trash. Shameful.

  “Shannon?” The male voice called out from a long dark tunnel, and then someone was shaking him. “You’re sick, too?”

  Tugged back to the present, Aden blinked open his eyes—too bright, burning, tears forming—and found himself inside his bedroom, still on the bed, once again writhing in pain, the souls loud in his head. Dan was staring down at him, frowning with concern.

  “You’re burning up. ” His sigh wafted over Aden’s face, and even that hurt. “That means whatever Aden has is contagious. ” Dan looked around. “Where’s Aden? Do you need a doctor?”

  Several seconds passed while Aden groggily waded through the facts. He was still inside Shannon’s body, and Dan wanted to know where “Aden” was. “No,” he managed to croak. “Aden’s…fine. At school. I’ll be fine, too. ” Then he closed his eyes again and rolled to his side. “Please, go. ”

  “All right, I will, but get some rest. I’ll check on you in a bit and bring you some of Meg’s chicken noodle soup. ” Meg. His sweet, beautiful wife. Footsteps sounded, a door creaked open, closed.

  So many deaths, Elijah moaned.

  Dear God, not that again. The psychic said something else, but another voice soon blended with his, claiming Aden’s attention. A female’s voice.

  “Shannon?” she said. “Where’s Aden?”

  Victoria, he thought. Once again he forced his eyes to open. The lights had been turned off and the curtains closed, so the room was cast into welcome darkness. He flopped to his back. Like Dan, Victoria stood at the side of the bed, staring down at him.

  Thomas was beside her, watching, listening.

  When she reached out, Aden scrambled backward. “No touching. ”

  Hurt clouded her expression as her arm fell to his side. “Why? What’s wrong?”

  “I’m Aden. It’s Aden. Trapped. ” If she touched him, would he possess her body, as well, taking Shannon with him? He hadn’t with Dan, and he wanted her hands on him—always—but he wasn’t willing to risk it.

  First, she appeared confused, then frightened. “I knew it! I never should have left you. I knew you were sick, I just, I wanted you to rest and I was afraid you wouldn’t if I stayed, and oh, God, now I’m babbling. I’m so sorry. I’ll get Mary Ann. Yes? I’ll have to leave you again, but only for a moment. ”

  Mary Ann. Perfect. She muted abilities. “Yes. ” Maybe, just maybe, her presence would force him out of Shannon’s body. If not…

  God. He’d be stuck. Forever.

  MARY ANN SNUGGLED against the warm, soft—strangely large—heating pad in her bed. She’d never slept this deeply or this peacefully before. Maybe because this was the first real sleep she’d had in what seemed forever, so her body had needed to do something drastic. Or maybe because this just might be her very last sleep.

  No. Wait. That kind of thinking didn’t make any sense. She would have been scared, up all night tossing and turning, and wondering if she really was a Drainer, if Riley was done with her, if the witches were now coming after her.

  Now the tossing and the turning began. What was she going to do? How was she going to— Wait again. No matter where she moved, the heating pad remained pressed into her side. How odd. Even odder, she didn’t own a heating blanket. Did she? Her eyelashes fluttered open.

  There was a big, black wolf in her bed.

  Mary Ann yelped in surprise, heartbeat speeding out of control.

  Shh. It’s me. It’s okay.

  The words reverberated inside her head, deep and husky and familiar. “Riley?” His name was more a shout than she’d intended. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes and peered over at him. The lights were off, and the sun hadn’t yet risen all the way, so details were hazy.

  The wolf was stretched out beside her, dark fur gleaming and green eyes bright.

  “Riley,” she said, a statement of fact this time.

  The one and only.

  “What are you doing here?” More importantly, did she look like a mess? She scanned herself. She wore a blue tank, and her covers bunched at her waist, shielding her lower body—boy shorts and bare legs—from his view. She ran her hand through her hair. A few tangles, but nothing too terrible.

  You might be a Drainer, and that witch, Marie, suspects it. No way you’re sleeping alone again.

  He cared, then. He still cared. And he’d said “might be a Drainer,” which was an improvement from their last conversation when he’d baldly stated, “You’re going to kill me. ” Her lips curled up at the corners. “So you’ve been here all night?” Protecting her.

  Yep. Came back right after I escorted Aden and Victoria home.

  “I’m glad. And thank you. ”

  My pleasure.

  Their gazes met, and for a heated moment, he was watching her as he had in the very beginning, before the witches and the feeding, as if she were important, as if she mattered more than anything else in the world. A girl could get used to that.

  Grin widening, she fell back onto the mattress and wished she’d woken up sooner. “Now that we’re both alert, we should probably talk about last night. We said some things that—”

  Suddenly her bedroom door burst open, and her dad flew inside, scowling. “What is going on, Mary Ann?”

  “Dad!” Panicked, caught red-handed, she jolted upright, jerking her comforter with her. “What are you doing?”

  “You shouted that boy’s name. I thought—” His gaze landed on Riley and he stilled, terror darkening his eyes. He was still in his pajamas, a flannel shirt and pants, so he must have rushed straight from bed. “Mary Ann, listen to me, baby. Get up slowly. No sudden movements, okay? I want you to inch your way behind me. Okay? Do
it now, honey. ”

  Oh, God. This was so not happening. “Dad. The, uh, dog is harmless, I swear. ” Biggest. Lie. Ever.

  To prove his “harmlessness,” Riley licked her palm. Goose bumps broke out over her skin, and then heat flooded her cheeks. She didn’t want her dad to think a dog turned her on.

  “How do you know that mangy thing is harmless?” Her dad had always hated animals, feared them. “Now, why aren’t you moving away from him and toward me? I don’t want to scare you, but he could use your face as a chew toy, sweetheart. ” Riley stiffened.

  “I just do. Know, that is,” she said. “He won’t hurt me. He’s…my pet. ” Please don’t be mad, Riley, she thought, even though she knew he couldn’t hear her. “He has been for the past few weeks. ”

  Her dad’s blue eyes widened, panic and fear giving way to bafflement. “No. No, that isn’t possible. I would have known. ”

  “Yes, way. See?” She wrapped an arm around Riley’s large frame and buried her face in his soft neck, cuddling him close.

  “No,” her dad insisted, shaking his head. “You would have told me. I would have known. ”

  Oh, Dad. There’s a lot you don’t know. She straightened, heart still hammering against her ribs. “I know about your rampant animal phobia, so I kept him hidden. But, see? He’s trained. He doesn’t cause any trouble. I swear. ”

  He was shaking his head again before the last word left her mouth. “That thing could have you for breakfast, Mary Ann. I want it out. Now. ”

  “Daddy, please. Please let me keep him,” she said, and commanded tears to bead in her eyes. Laying it on too strong? Maybe. But she needed him to say yes. That way, Riley could come and go freely. There’d be no more sneaking around. Really, she should have thought of this before. “He makes me happy. Since…you know. What happened between us. ” Reminding him of their fight was low, but she was desperate.
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