Unraveled, p.45

Unraveled, page 45

 part  #2 of  Intertwined Series

 

Unraveled
 



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Page 45

 

  “I don’t… I have no—” But he did. From everything Tucker had witnessed, only one answer made sense. “Tell me!”

  Vlad had yelled the words, and Tucker had just realized he’d been wrong. Nothing was worse than hearing this vampire shout his disapproval. The deep, rolling waves of his fury were tongues of fire, licking, feasting. Tucker gulped. Just as part of him wanted to run, part of him wanted to hold his next words inside.

  That part of him lost to self-preservation. “The wolves protect him. ”

  “The wolves. ” Silence followed. Thick, heavy silence. Gut-wrenching, sweat-inducing silence, but finally, blessedly, Vlad spoke again. “Continue observing him. I have much to consider. ”

  Not an order to kill, and yet, Tucker experienced a sickening wave of dread. That final order was coming. Of that, he had no doubt.

  DINNER SUCKED.

  Oh, the food was good—Meg Reeves was an excellent cook—and Aden loved him some pot roast and potatoes. And this room, the “formal” dining room, was wicked cool. Aden never felt more like part of a family than when he was here. Something about the long, square table that Dan had crafted himself, the wallpaper with cherries and wheelbarrows, of all things, and the cabinet brimming with Meg’s favorite china. This was what a home should look like.

  But the new “tutor”…he shuddered. Or perhaps shivered. The word “hot” didn’t do her justice. However, the word “fairy” did. Thomas had been right. His family had come looking for him. The new tutor was none other than Ms. Brendal, his sister.

  Aden had immediately realized how precarious the situation was, but he hadn’t been able to bail. That would have looked too suspicious. So here he sat. And ate. And pretended to be as normal as the others.

  All the boys were around him. Shannon and Ryder, who sat across from each other, refusing to look at each other, were too quiet. Seth was leaned back in his chair, one arm resting on the back slat, his gaze telegraphing come hither. RJ, Terry and Brian were openmouthed and dumbstruck. Dan sat at the head of the table and beautiful Meg at the foot. They, too, seemed to be under the fairy’s spell, raptly listening to her every word as if she were the savior of the world.

  Even the souls were listening to her, waxing poetic about her face and body. Sadly, he wanted to join them.

  Ms. Brendal sat across from Aden, and yeah, she was beautiful. Probably the most physically perfect being he’d ever seen. She had big, sparkling brown eyes that were somehow familiar to him, but her long, curling blond hair was not. He didn’t think. Her skin was so golden and luminous she could have swallowed the sun. And she smelled like jasmine and honeysuckle.

  He loved jasmine and honeysuckle, more than anything. He loved Brendal, too.

  His hands curled into fists. He had to stop thinking like that, but didn’t know how. Even though he knew what she was, he was more drawn to her with every second that passed…had the urge to protect her…hell, even to lay his head on her feet just to be near her. Caress her, kiss her…worship her. And that was dangerous (not to mention embarrassing). For Victoria, as well as himself. This woman, this lovely fairy, was his enemy. She would want to murder him the moment she learned what had happened to Thomas.

  A fact that Thomas delighted in pointing out, over and over again. The ghost stood behind her, desperately trying to gain her attention, screaming at the top of his ghostly lungs, kicking at the table, the chairs, tugging at Ms. Brendal’s hair, and when that didn’t work, shouting threats at Aden. “My sister will avenge me. This I swear. ”

  Behind that delightful scene was Victoria. She’d come to the ranch a bit ago to wait in Aden’s bedroom until this dinner ended, wanting to talk to him, about what he didn’t know. But then she’d spied Brendal, and it had been game on—even though—or maybe because—fairies hated vampires and preferred to kill them on sight, and Aden had the dubious honor of being king of the vampires. Victoria now paced outside the house, just in front of the window across from Aden. Only he could see her, she blended so well into the night, but that didn’t help his sense of doom.

  “I hope everyone is ready for dessert,” Meg said, standing. She was a petite woman, with delicate features and hair that couldn’t decide if it wanted to be brown or blond.

  “I’m always ready for one of your desserts,” Dan told her with a warm smile. They loved each other, and Aden’s chest constricted every time he saw them together.

  “I’ll just be a moment. ” Smiling, too, Meg skipped off to the kitchen.

  “You keep peering just over my shoulder, Aden. ” Even Brendal’s voice was beautiful, soft, like a song. “Why?” She turned to look, and Victoria swiftly moved out of sight.

  Close, too close. He forced his gaze to fall to the tabletop. He was sure everyone was now staring at him, and he hoped like hell he wouldn’t blush. He blushed. Fine. Better they stared at him than the window. He hadn’t realized he’d been so obvious. “Is looking over your shoulder a crime?”

  A pause. Had his bluntness startled her? “I much prefer my students to look me directly in the eyes. ”

  She did, did she? “I’m not your student. ”

  “You could be,” she said, leaning forward and reaching for his hand.

  He snapped both into his lap just before contact. “I’m happy at Crossroads High. ”

  “And you’ve been attending for over a month?”

  “Yes. ”

  “So you never spent time with Mr. Thomas?”

  Thomas knelt beside her, beseeching. “I’m right here. See me. Please, see me. ” He sounded close to tears, and Aden had to clear his throat to dislodge the lump growing there.

  “Aden,” Dan said. “Answer Ms. Brendal, please. ”

  Had he just been sitting here in silence? What had she asked? Oh, yeah. “Correct. ” He prayed he wasn’t a neon sign of guilt. “I didn’t spend much time with Mr. Thomas. ” I only used up half an hour to kill him.

  Necessary, Elijah told him, and he blinked. Usually the souls didn’t hear his thoughts. Or had Elijah just guessed? No, he realized a moment later. The topic had given him away.

  That, and we’re certified bad asses, Caleb said. I swear, God might have created the world in six days, but we could have done it in five!

  That isn’t something to joke about, Julian snapped.

  Who’s joking?

  Aden hated when they argued, but that was far better than the poetry.

  Meg returned with a large plate piled high with brownies. She offered Dan and Brendal first choice, then placed the treats in the middle of the table for the boys. Everyone dove in like starving dogs that had just spotted a meaty bone.

  “Now that we’re relaxed, I’d like to ask some personal questions,” Brendal said. She placed her brownie on her plate. “I want to ensure my teachings fulfill your needs. In that regard, I’d like to know what everyone thought of Mr. Thomas. ”

  “We didn’t have time to get to know him,” Seth said.

  Brendal was undeterred. “Then tell me what you think could have happened to him. ”

  “If he’s missing, shouldn’t you talk to the police?” Ryder asked.

  A moment passed in silence, and yet, in those quiet seconds any resistance the boys harbored melted away. Until the last brownie crumb was consumed, they, and even Dan and Meg, speculated about the man’s sudden disappearance. Alien abduction was mentioned. A need for a fresh start. Murder—Aden tried not to squirm—and even a car accident.

  “Tell her I’m here, Aden,” Thomas said, speaking to him without animosity for the first time since Brendal had entered the room. Their eyes met, clashed. “Please. ”

  He almost caved. That please… I can’t, he projected.

  “You owe me. ” The anger was returning to Thomas’s tone.

  Aden shook his head.

  Still Thomas persisted. “She might be able to save me. ”

  So you can kill
my girlfriend? No. Not now. Maybe after the witches were dealt with, and only if Thomas swore to drop his quest for vengeance against the royal family. Until then, no deal. So he looked away, silently ending the conversation. Thomas began yelling again, snarling, stomping around, and guilt once again welled inside Aden’s chest.

  “Aden?” Dan said, drawing his attention. “Are you agreeable to Ms. Brendal’s suggestion, then?”

  “Her suggestion?” He could only imagine what she wanted. His head on a silver platter? His heart in her favorite trinket box? As much as she’d charmed everyone, Aden doubted a single one of them would hesitate to please her.

  He searched the boys’ faces. They were peering at him with envy. Except for Shannon and Ryder. Earlier they’d gone to such great pains not to look at each other, but now they were locked in some kind of livid staring contest. Both of their eyes were narrowed, both of their lips thinned with displeasure.

  His gaze shifted to the window, but Victoria was no longer there.

  “Sure,” he finally said, sweat beading on his brow. “I’m…agreeable. ”

  “Good. ” Dan pushed to his feet, his chair sliding behind him. Everyone but Aden followed suit. The boys gave Brendal one last lingering once-over—Seth even wiggled his brows at her—before shuffling from the main house and back to their bunks. Dan walked to Meg and threw his arm over her shoulders. They waited, watching Aden expectantly.

  What was he supposed to do?

  “Shall we go, then?” Brendal asked him in that musical voice.

  “Uh, sure. ” Maybe he should have declined her “suggestion. ”

  She moved around the table and toward the front door. Aden remained in place for several seconds, peering out the window. Victoria suddenly reappeared and pressed her hand to the glass. If he wasn’t mistaken, someone, a female, stood beside her.

  Another date for him? Probably.

  Fabulous.

  “You’ll need a jacket,” Dan said, prompting him into motion.

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