Unraveled, page 44part #2 of Intertwined Series
She wouldn’t feel guilty about that. Much. “So why not just fight us?”
“I don’t know. Maybe they’re planning something. Maybe they’re searching for their friend. ”
She didn’t mean to, but she stiffened. What if they succeeded? What would happen if her group lost their only bargaining chip? Nothing good, that was for sure.
“Don’t worry,” Riley said. “They won’t find her. They can’t track like wolves can. ”
Slowly she relaxed. There’s nothing more you can do here. For once, enjoy yourself. Before it’s too late. She twisted in his arms, rose on her tiptoes and pressed a kiss onto his lips. Soft, sweet…but not enough. “Riley…”
He jerked her as close to him as he could get her. His breathing was suddenly labored, sawing in and out of his mouth. “Let’s go somewhere private,” he said hoarsely.
“Yes,” she said, melting into that puddle of butter as Brittany should have. “Let’s. ”
“—SAID YOU WERE GOING TO be out of it because of the medication, but I’m a little worried. Are you okay?”
Dan’s voice dragged Aden out of a long, dark tunnel. A bouncy tunnel. He blinked open his eyes. A moment passed before he oriented himself and realized he was in Dan’s truck, local shops whizzing past, a party taking place outside them.
“Aden?” Dan prompted.
“What? Sorry. ”
“Yeah. Sure. ” He rubbed his temples, then his eyes. How had he gotten in the truck? Last thing he remembered, he’d walked inside Dr. Hennessy’s office, the sun dimming but shining, the air cool. After that he’d… He frowned. He didn’t remember. Now, the moon was high and golden.
What had they talked about? How much time had passed?
His frown deepened. He didn’t remember that, either.
Medication, Dan had said. Had Dr. Hennessy dosed him without his knowledge? “Hello,” Aden whispered under his breath. “You guys there?”
No medication then. If Dr. Hennessy had forced the drugs on him, the souls would be unable to communicate with him. He wanted to ask them if they remembered what had happened, but couldn’t. Not with Dan here.
“Are we just now leaving his office?”
“Yeah. You were pretty out of it, so I waited as long as I could before taking off with you, just in case you needed medical attention. ” There was sympathy in Dan’s voice. Clearly, he assumed Aden was regressing. “We’ve got the dinner with the new tutor, and we’re already a little late, so I finally hauled butt out of there. ”
None of this made any sense. He suddenly recalled sitting in his chair, filled with dread but resolved. Then…nothing.
“If you need to take tomorrow off from school,” Dan said, “I’ll understand. ”
“No. I’ll be fine. ” He hoped. He still had witches to hunt. “Did Dr. Hennessy say anything else?”
“Only that he was sorry you had such an adverse reaction to your therapy. Well, that, and you weren’t taking your medication properly. That true?”
Aden hated lying to Dan, and had to do so all too often. He wouldn’t do it now, he decided. “Yes. It’s true. ”
“Why? Don’t you want to get better?”
Surprisingly, there’d been no anger to the question. “I’m not crazy. I don’t need to get better. ”
Dan scowled at him. He was in his thirties, with sandy hair and hazel eyes, and those eyes most often regarded Aden with kindness and understanding. Just then, the anger Aden had expected dominated them. “You still talk to yourself. Of course you’re not better. You’ll have to do better than that if you want me to help get you off the meds. ”
Dan would help? Deep down, where every betrayal and rejection he’d ever received festered, unable to heal, Aden simply couldn’t believe it was possible. They’d find out the truth soon enough, though. “You want to know why? Fine. The pills make me tired, foggy. When I’m on them, I can’t think right, or at all, really. They make me stupid and I have enough to deal with without adding bad decisions and bad names to the mix. And yeah, I’m called names. Retarded being at the top of the list. ”
Several seconds passed in silence, seeming to stretch into eternity. “Well, okay, then. We’ll talk to the doctor about putting you on something else. ”
Just like that? That was…that was…still unbelievable. He decided to push a little more. “I don’t like Dr. Hennessy, Dan. He creeps me out, and I’d rather you didn’t talk to him about me. At all. ”
Dan tossed him a guarded glance. “Creeps you out, how?”
“I don’t know. I just don’t like the way he looks at me. ”
The patent stillness of a predator overcame Dan. “Has he ever touched you, Aden? In an improper way?”
“No,” he said, and Dan relaxed. Then he added, “Kind of,” as he remembered the way Hennessy had perched at the edge of his recliner, holding that recorder. “Oh, I don’t know. I just don’t feel…safe with him. ”
“Well, I don’t like that. Not at all, and I won’t tolerate it. So I’ll talk to your caseworker about getting you another doctor, but I’ll be honest. This is a small town and we’re running out of options. In fact, I remember the list from last time and there was only one other name. Dr. Morris Gray. ”
Mary Ann’s dad. Aden’s stomach clenched, even as he realized Dan truly meant to help him. Dr. Gray had been his doctor years ago. They both recalled that, and how Dr. Gray had tossed him out of his office because Aden had admitted to time-traveling—exactly what Mary Ann’s mom used to claim to do. He’d thought Aden had stolen and read his journals about his wife’s history, and had erupted.
Dr. Gray still thought so, because he didn’t want to admit the truth, that his wife hadn’t been crazy, that he’d tried to medicate her for nothing. That she’d died because no one had listened to her, helped her. Therefore, Aden and Dr. Gray did not get along.
“No,” Aden said with a shake of his head.
“Wouldn’t matter anyway. Dr. Gray already turned us down because he had too many other patients. ”
Yeah. Right. “Maybe we could find someone in the city. ”
“That’s close to a thirty-minute drive one way, and we just don’t have time for that, but I promise you I’ll be thinking. Something will be done. I don’t want you to be uncomfortable. Okay?”
“Okay. ” That was more than Aden had hoped for, a dream come true. The adult responsible for his care had just proved he…cared. How had such a crappy day taken such a wonderful turn?
When they reached the ranch, Aden hopped out of the truck. “I want to wash up before I eat,” he said, and after Dan’s okay, he trekked to his room.
The bunkhouse was empty, the boys already at the main house. Aden shut himself in the bathroom, happy with Dan, with the unexpected support, with the fact that he would never have to see Dr. Hennessy again.
At the sink, he twisted the knobs until warm water sprayed and soaked his hands. “Guys?” he whispered to the souls. One by one, they acknowledged him. “Do you remember what happened in that office?”
No, Caleb said. I’m like a black hole right now, and it’s seriously messing with my mojo.
Who cares about mojo? I barely remember the day at all, Julian said.
It’s like my memory has been scrubbed, Elijah said, and I don’t like it.
So, what had been done to them during all those minutes inside Hennessy’s mind? Wait. He’d been inside Hennessy’s mind?
Even as the question formed, his own memory seemed to be sprayed with Windex and wiped clean. He frowned at his pale reflection in the mirror, trying to relive the past five minutes. Nothing. The last hour. Still nothing. Droplets of water splashed onto his hands, but he suddenly couldn’t remember walking into the bathroom, much less turning on the faucet.
Cleaning up, Caleb said with an unspoken “duh. ” We’ve got a new tutor to meet.
“Oh, yeah. ” He shook his head, rattling the sense of uneasiness working through him. “Let’s get this over with. ”
ONCE AGAIN, TUCKER found himself huddled in the underground crypt, dust in his nose, darkness a vise around him and a damp chill stroking him with bony fingers. He was shaking this time. Not because he was weak—he was physically stronger now than he’d been last time—but because he could feel the menace pouring through the air. Thick, like blood. Acrid, like burning rubber.
What was in store for him? Nothing good, that was for sure. And why? He’d done everything he’d been told. He’d followed Aden. He’d kept watch. Yeah, he’d veered off course a few times, following Mary Ann instead, making sure she got to where she wanted to go without any problems, but he’d always gone back to Aden. Always.
“I am not pleased with you, boy. ”
The smooth voice came from just a few feet away from him, though he couldn’t see the speaker, and jolted him far worse than if Vlad had yelled. “I—I’m sorry. I’m trying. Please, don’t punish me. ” He couldn’t make himself stand and run, no matter how much he wanted to. God, did he want to. But he also wanted to please this man, this deposed king, the need a part of him, as much as his lungs or his heart, and right now Vlad wanted him to stay put.
“Punish you? Perhaps. You aren’t trying hard enough. ”
“You’re not doing anything, either,” he muttered before he could stop himself. Then he cringed, expecting a violent retaliation.
“I am healing, you fool. My people cannot see me like this. ”
“Of course, of course. ”
“I have questions, and you will get me answers. How is the human, Aden, leading my people? Why are they following him? How is he still alive?” Each question was more clipped than the last.