Unraveled, p.38

Unraveled, page 38

 part  #2 of  Intertwined Series

 

Unraveled
 



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Page 38

 

  “He thinks you’re sick. ” Aden remembered Dan’s visit, and what he’d said. “And you were. For a little while. ”

  Shannon calmed, focused on the girls and frowned. “What are you guys d-doing here? And when did you get here? God, this is w-weird. I’ve never passed out before. Never lost t-time like that. ”

  “Shannon,” Victoria said, her voice suddenly thick, layered…powerful.

  The voice. Aden reached out and grabbed her wrist. When she focused on him, he shook his head. “Don’t do it. ” Shannon had felt defenseless and out of control all his life, and Aden wouldn’t add to that—whether his friend realized what was going on or not.

  Though she was clearly confused, Victoria nodded.

  “Shannon, do you feel up to going to school?” Aden asked.

  “Yeah. I—I feel fine. Except for that loss of time. ”

  “You can still make it, if you want. ”

  One dark brow rose. “You going?”

  Aden shook his head. “Yeah, but not just yet. ” At this rate, he wasn’t going to get any kind of education anytime soon. “I’m still not feeling one hundred percent. ”

  “O-okay. I dig. ” His friend’s head tilted to the side. “But maybe o-one day, you’ll trust me with your s-secrets. See you later,” he added before Aden could reply. Motions slow, Shannon stood, bent down and grabbed his backpack, then headed out of the room, out of the bunkhouse, the door beating shut behind him.

  So. Shannon suspected something was going on.

  Worry about that later. Aden glanced down at himself. He wore boxers and sweat, and that was it. His knee was caked with dried blood, the skin still shredded. His skin was pale with a grayish tint. Nice. “Can you guys stay while I shower?”

  “Of course,” Victoria said.

  “Yeah,” Mary Ann agreed. She was peering at her hands, turning them in the light. “But will you tell us a little about what happened first? Just a small detail to tide us over before we grill you. ”

  “I…time-traveled through Shannon’s past. ” Aden gathered some clothes—a plain gray T-shirt and jeans.

  “That was Eve’s ability,” Victoria said, “not yours. ”

  “I know. Maybe, I don’t know, maybe when she left, her ability somehow stayed with me. Or maybe she gave it to me, even. A final gift in case I ever needed to right a wrong. ”

  “Or maybe you time-traveled so much, your body simply learned how to do it without her,” Mary Ann said. “You’ve heard about muscle memory, right? When a movement is repeated over and over again, a long-term muscle memory is created for that specific task and soon a person can perform that task without any conscious effort. ”

  That made sense—as much as anything in his life did these days. “You, Mary Ann, are a genius. ”

  She grinned. “I know. ”

  He rushed to the bathroom, where he hurriedly washed and dressed. By the time he returned to his room, Riley was there, sitting on the edge of the bed, stiff, obviously uncomfortable. Mary Ann stood as far away from him as possible, leaning against the closet door and looking anywhere but him. Clearly, whatever had plagued them yesterday had yet to be resolved.

  Only thing they could be fighting about was that defense lesson. Was Riley still throwing a tantrum? Baby.

  Victoria sat at the desk, composed again. Thomas had moved to the window, no longer an outline but as clear and sparkly as always.

  “Oh, good. You’re back. I found this. ” Victoria handed him a sheet of paper. “It’s for you, from Dan. Don’t worry. He had no idea we were here. I made sure of it. ”

  He peered down and read.

  Aden,

  You have another session with Dr. Hennessy this evening. Sorry for the late notice. He only called me this morning. I thought you were sick, so I told him no. Then I ran into Shannon, who was better and on his way to class. He reminded me you were better, too, and already there, so I called the doctor back. Glad you’re feeling better. I’ll expect you to do your chores after school. On another note, I’ve hired a new tutor, and she’s coming to dinner tonight to meet you boys. It’ll be after your therapy session, so no worries. Even though she won’t be teaching you, I’d like you to be there to help welcome her.

  Dan

  Great. More Dr. Hennessy. And another tutor? Aden flicked Thomas a glance. Would the next tutor be a fairy, too? Even the harbinger of death that Thomas had promised? He’d find out tonight, he supposed. Aden crumpled the paper and tossed the wad in the trash can.

  “So what happened to you?” Mary Ann asked, and he knew what she meant. “All the details this time. ”

  “Once upon a time, a goblin took a bite out of my leg…” He told them everything but what he’d learned about Shannon’s past. That was Shannon’s secret to share. He no longer cared about Thomas getting an earful. Wasn’t like the guy could do anything with what he learned.

  “I’m sorry I didn’t protect you, my king,” Riley said, standing and bowing his head. “I take full responsibility for your ordeal. ”

  “I’m not your king. ” The denial slipped from him automatically. “And the responsibility lies with me. ”

  “Thank you for the exoneration, my king. ” Such a stiff, formal, irritating tone. “I can promise you nothing like this will happen again. ”

  Aden rolled his eyes. “You’re such a jerk, Riley. ”

  Victoria wrapped her arms around him and rested her head against his shoulder, her body hot as fire. “You’ve been injured too much lately. No wonder Elijah thinks you’re going to die soon. ”

  “What?” The single word exploded from Riley’s mouth.

  “Oops,” Victoria said with a grimace. “Sorry. ”

  “Looks like I’ve got another non-fairy-tale to weave. ” Sighing, Aden explained about Elijah’s prediction. That soon Aden would die on a darkened street, a knife in his heart. Though he tried, he couldn’t keep the fear from his voice.

  “Oh, Aden,” Mary Ann said, tears in her eyes. “I already knew, but still. It’s—”

  “You knew? You knew and you didn’t tell me? Thanks for keeping me updated, sweetheart. ” Riley practically vibrated with sardonic rage.

  “First, I only found out the other day. And second, we had other things on our minds,” she snapped. “I planned to tell you after this week from hell was over. ”

  The wolf accepted the explanation with a stiff nod. “You won’t be hurt on my watch, that I swear. ”

  “Thank you. ” Later, Aden would tell him that nothing could be done—and yeah, he’d once planned to try something himself, still planned to try something himself, really, but he didn’t want to get the wolf’s hopes up. Later, though. Always later. As Mary Ann had said, they had enough to worry about during this week from hell. “So what’s the plan for today?” he said, changing the subject. He walked Victoria to the bed, sat down and pulled her down on his lap. After everything he’d just endured, he wasn’t ready to let her go. Thankfully, she cuddled close, unconcerned by their audience.

  “We go to school,” Riley said, still fighting his emotions. “My brothers are currently letting every creature in town know we have a witch in our custody. Which means the fireworks should start tonight. Use today to catch up in all your classes. Tomorrow you might be too…sore. ”

  In other words, there was going to be a fight. Great. Worse, there was nothing else they could do right now. Except wait. And hope. And pray.

  THROUGHOUT THE DAY, Aden expected a witch to jump out of every shadow and ambush him. Or if not a witch, then something, anything. A rabid gnome, maybe, or a vampire with a complaint. Even a fairy making a play for his head.

  Instead, he arrived at school in time for lunch, ate, attended his next three classes, and boom, that was it. Class dismissed, time to go home. Nothing happened.

  Aden was almost disappointed in the lack of combat. Just two more days until the death curse a
ffected his friends. Two was too close for comfort. A year was too close. He had to do something.

  Victoria walked him home and left him at the ranch, as silent and distracted as he was. In his room, he found another note from Dan, telling him not to forget to do his chores or his therapy. Like he could. Aden headed to the barn to muck the stables and feed the horses. He loved the horses and hated that he hadn’t spent much time with them this past week. Sometimes, as a special treat for good behavior, Dan let him and the others go for a ride.

  The souls loved the horses, too, and cooed at the beautiful animals while Aden worked. And yeah, it felt weird doing normal things. Acting normal, the other boys working alongside him. Redheaded RJ, punked-out Seth. Shannon, Ryder, Terry and Brian. RJ was due to turn eighteen next week, and Terry soon after that. Aden had heard them talking about getting a place of their own. Dan had asked them both to stay, to continue their studies, but the two were determined to get their GEDs and be “free. ”

  What was freedom, really? Once, Aden had thought he knew the answer: to be alone, without the souls, to be able to do anything he wanted, damn the consequences. Now he had friends, a girlfriend, and everything he did affected them. Consequences mattered.

  No one could ever truly be free as long as they loved, and life wasn’t worth living without love. So freedom? Overrated. He’d much rather have Victoria, Mary Ann and Riley, even the souls.

  So how are you going to save them from the witches? The thought was his own, the souls still baby-talking at the horses—and maybe the horses could hear them, because they were calmer than usual, even with all the activity in the barn—and he wished he could blank his mind. He couldn’t.

  Aden sighed. Once issued, spells took on a life of their own, he knew. So he couldn’t stop the magic that had already been unleashed, even by threatening the witch they had locked up.

  Hell, maybe they should release her as a gesture of goodwill. Riley would throw a fit, of course, but he would do what Aden told him to do. Aden was vampire king, after all.

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