Unraveled, p.5

Unraveled, page 5

 part  #2 of  Intertwined Series

 

Unraveled
 



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Page 5

  “I love kissing you,” he rasped.

  “Me, too. I mean, I love kissing you. Not myself. ”

  His chuckle brushed her cheek with warm breath, and goose bumps broke out from there to her neck. “While we’re at school, I won’t be able to think about anything else. Just this. Just you. ”

  With a moan, she tugged him down for more. The tangle of their tongues excited her as nothing else ever had. The feel of him against her, so strong and sure, thrilled her. Other girls might look at him and crave him, but it was Mary Ann he turned to with desire in his eyes.

  Yeah, but because he really wants you or because you calm his wolf?

  Stupid fear.

  She stiffened, and Riley pulled away from her. He was panting, little beads of sweat on his brow.

  “What’s wrong?” he demanded.

  “Nothing. ”

  “I don’t believe you, but you’ll tell me the truth later, after the flames have died and I can think properly. Won’t you?”

  He couldn’t think properly? She almost grinned. “Yes. ” Maybe.

  “And anyway, we needed to stop. ”

  The same words he’d uttered last time.

  She was having trouble catching her breath or she would have sighed. “Yeah. I know. ” Disappointing, but indisputable. “If we don’t, we’ll be late for school. ”

  “Or we won’t make it to school. At all. ”

  Plus, she didn’t want her first time to be out in the open. Not that she would tell him that.

  They reluctantly parted and kicked into gear, heading toward Crossroads High. She couldn’t help herself. She reached up and traced her fingertips over her lips. They were swollen. Probably red. Definitely moist. Would everyone know what she and Riley had been doing with only a glance?

  Twenty minutes later, not nearly long enough, they reached the edge of the woods and stepped onto school property, the massive building coming into view, forming a half-moon of three stories. In several places, the roof pointed toward the sky. Salmon-colored brick was decorated with multiple black and gold banners that read Go Jaguars.

  The lawn was manicured, the grass slowly fading from green to yellow to off-white. Cars sped through the parking lot and kids rushed up the concrete steps, bypassing the flagpole without a glance.

  In front of the closest set of doors stood Victoria. Alone. She was pacing, hands wringing together in agitation. She wore a black T-shirt and matching miniskirt, dark hair flowing down her back. A beam of sunlight bathed her as if drawn to her, causing the blue of her eyes to practically glow.

  The younger the vampire, the more time they could spend in the sun, Mary Ann knew. The older they got, the more the sun burned and stung their skin. Surprisingly sensitive skin, since it was so thick and hard, like marble, that even a blade couldn’t cut through it.

  Victoria was still at an age—eighty-one or something like that—where the sun didn’t bother her. Like wolves, vampires aged slowly.

  For the first time, that thought upset her. Victoria and Riley would age at the same rate while Mary Ann would wither, becoming a hag. Oh, God. How mortifying! And now she wanted to slap the vampire girl around a bit, just on principle.

  “Have you seen Aden?” Victoria asked the moment they reached her. Normally she was pale, but today she was chalk white.

  “No,” Mary Ann and Riley said in unison. She recalled the last time she’d seen him. They’d snuck him into his room at the ranch and he’d flopped onto his bed. He’d been pale, shaking, sweating, breath shallow as he fought for every inhalation.

  She’d thought he would rest, and rest would heal him. What if—

  “Well, he wasn’t at the ranch this morning,” Victoria rushed on. “But he was supposed to be there so we could walk to school together. ”

  “Maybe he’s inside,” Riley said.

  The vampire’s concern didn’t lessen. If anything, her hand-wringing became more insistent. “He isn’t. I checked. And the tardy bell will soon ring. You know he can’t be late. He’ll get into trouble, be kicked out, and you also know he’ll do anything to avoid being kicked out. ”

  “Maybe he’s sick,” Mary Ann said, not believing her own words. If that were the case, he would have been at the ranch, still in bed. And Victoria was right. Aden was never late to school. Not because he feared being sent away, but because he never missed an opportunity to spend time with his princess. He worshipped the girl.

  “I’ll hunt him down. ” Riley glanced at Mary Ann before she could tell him she would be coming with him. “You’ll stay here with Victoria. ”

  “No, I—”

  “I can move faster without you. ”

  Embarrassing but true. “All right. Fine. Just be careful. ”

  “Riley,” Victoria began. “I—”

  “You’ll stay, too,” he reiterated.

  With the many creatures that now prowled the streets of their small town, he wouldn’t leave Mary Ann without a guard. His protectiveness was as fine a quality as the six-pack on his stomach.

  Victoria nodded stiffly. “You’re my soldier, you know. You’re supposed to obey my orders. ”

  “I know, but it’s my king out there. Sorry to tell you this, babe, but he now comes first. ” With a final glance at Mary Ann, Riley spun on his heel and strode away, soon disappearing into the trees.

  TWO

  ADEN AWOKE WITH A JOLT, a shout of pain caught in his throat, wild gaze cataloging his surroundings. Bedroom. Desk. Dresser. Plain white walls. Planked floor.

  His bedroom in the bunkhouse at the ranch, then.

  Alive. He was alive, not burned to a crisp. Thank God. But…

  Was he intact? He patted himself down while looking himself over. Skin? Check. Smooth and warm, tanned rather than deep-fried. Two arms? Check. Two legs? Check. Most important—was he now a girl? No. Thank God, thank God, thank God. He expelled a sigh of relief, sagged against the mattress and took stock of everything else.

  Sweat soaked him. His hair was plastered to his head, and his boxers looked like they’d…like he’d… His cheeks flushed with heat. If Shannon, his roommate, saw him like this, he’d be teased about having a wet dream. Albeit good-naturedly. That’s just what friends did. Still. No, thanks. He—

  Saw the bottom of Shannon’s bunk, and his eyes widened. There were deep grooves in the wooden slats, as if he’d clawed and kicked at his friend’s bed. Repeatedly. He glanced at his fingernails, and sure enough. They were ragged and bloody, with wood shards embedded underneath them.

  Great. What else had he done while crashing on vampire blood?

  Worry about that later.

  “Elijah?” he asked. Time for roll call.

  Present, the psychic said, knowing the drill.

  One down. “Julian?” The corpse whisperer, as they called him. A single step into a cemetery, and hello, walking dead.

  Here.

  Sweet. Two down, one to go. “Caleb?” The body possesser.

  Yo.

  Rock on. The gang was all here.

  Once, Aden had wanted them gone. He loved them, but come on. A little privacy would be nice. But then he’d lost Eve. Her name might have been Anne in her real life, but she’d always be Eve to Aden.

  He missed her, his motherly time-traveler. Missed her terribly. Now he wasn’t sure he could deal with losing the others. They were a part of him. His best friends. His constant companions. He needed them.

  As always, that line of thought made him feel guilty. They deserved their freedom. Wanted their freedom. Maybe. Since Eve had left, they hadn’t asked him to figure out who they’d been before taking prime real estate in his head, as if they were afraid he would succeed and they, too, would have to leave and experience the unknown.

  Where Eve had gone, none of them knew. They only knew that she’d disappeared and hadn’t returned.

  So what’s going on? Julian asked.

/>   What he means, Caleb said, is that our dreams were hot. And not the good kind of hot. We burned, dude. Burned.

  And most of us normally don’t share your dreams, Julian added.

  Well, Elijah did, but that was because Elijah was psychic and his visions were Aden’s. Tonight, last night, whenever, hadn’t been a vision, though. It had been real, a mind-merge, but now, pieces of his memory were missing. He remembered seeing Victoria, feeling those flames, then meeting her…sisters? Yes, her sisters. But nothing else stood out. The rest of what happened was blurred at the edges, as if his mind couldn’t process what it had seen. If that were true, though, why did he remember being burned alive? Why did they all remember that? Shouldn’t that be what they forgot? Something too painful to recall?

  So? Julian prompted. An explanation would be nice.

  “Vampire blood,” he reminded them. He couldn’t just think his replies because they couldn’t hear his inner voice amid the chaos. “We saw through two other sets of eyes. ”

  Oh, yeah. And speaking of vamps, Caleb said. Where’s ours?

  Victoria, he meant. She’s mine, Aden wanted to snap, but didn’t. Caleb the Pervert couldn’t help himself. He lived for girls and “nookie” he might never get. “She’s supposed to meet us here and walk to school with us. ” What time was it?

  Before he could check the clock on his desk, his bedroom door swung open, and Seth and Ryder strode inside.

  “—Shannon won’t mind,” Seth was saying. Seth Tsang. An Asian last name, though you couldn’t tell his race from looking at him. He’d streaked his black hair with red, and had blue eyes and pale skin.

  Ryder Jones, who was behind him, arched a brow. He, too, had dark hair, but his eyes were brown. “You sure? You know how possessive that dude is with his stuff. ”

  Aden grabbed the sheets and jerked them over his sweat-soaked lower body. “Hey, guys. Knock much?”

  They ignored him.

  “So what’re you looking for?” he grumbled.

  Again they ignored him. In fact, they didn’t even glance in his direction.

  “Just check the desk,” Seth told Ryder, and the boy shuffled forward to obey.
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