Unraveled, p.54

Unraveled, page 54

 part  #2 of  Intertwined Series



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Page 54


  “I’m staying out here,” she announced.

  They stopped, looked at her.

  Mary Ann studied Aden, and she couldn’t help but wonder if this would be one of the last times she saw him. You have to stop thinking like that. He was such a beautiful boy. He was a natural blond, but he dyed his hair black. His eyes were multicolored, blue, green, gray and brown, each representing a soul, as well as Aden himself, and when those colors blended, his eyes looked completely black.

  He was as tall as Riley and just as muscled. Where Riley was ruggedly appealing, dangerous, Aden was model handsome. His lashes were long and cast spiky shadows over his cheeks. His lips were perfectly pink and soft-looking.

  “Everything okay?” he asked her, frowning with concern.

  She loved him like a brother, and when she left this group, she was going to miss him terribly. “I just think it’s better if I stay out here,” she said as Riley said, “Mary Ann’s not feeling well. ”

  They shared a smile, though neither of them was amused. Last night, after he’d realized beyond any doubt that she was a Drainer, he had fallen silent. He had held her while she absorbed the witch’s power, strengthening, and then, after Victoria returned them to his room, he had gotten back into bed with her. Still without saying a word. She hadn’t spoken, either, though.

  She doubted either of them had slept. They’d simply lain in each other’s arms, knowing their time together would one day end.

  With a sigh, she returned her attention to Aden. She stepped up, reached out and clasped his hand. His skin was warm, callused. “Good luck,” she said, “and be careful. ”

  He squeezed her fingers. “Always. ”

  “You were feeling fine a moment ago,” Victoria said with a frown of her own. “Are you…afraid? You shouldn’t be. You’re protected now. ”

  “Only against certain things. ”

  “Oh. ” Victoria shook her head, long dark hair waving around her arms. She was a beautiful girl, the perfect match to perfect Aden. Pale, flawless skin, lips of the deepest scarlet. Eyes of sapphire blue. No wonder Aden had fallen for her so quickly and so hard. “I see,” she said.

  But she didn’t. Her expression had coward written all over it, just as Mary Ann had known it would. That was okay, though. This was better than Victoria knowing the truth—and trying to kill her.

  So many death threats, she thought. And that she wasn’t running, screaming for help, proved just how far she’d come.

  Victoria and Aden turned and strode into the cabin. Riley remained with her for a few seconds, watching as the pair disappeared.

  “I’ll be fine,” she assured him.

  “I know. ”

  It was the first time he’d spoken directly to her today, and she relished the sound of his voice.

  “Are you nervous?” he asked. “About tomorrow?”

  She opted not to lie to him. “Yes. It just doesn’t feel real, though. You know? I’m fine. I feel fine. How can I die?”

  “I know,” he said again. “I regret that we weren’t…together last night. ”

  Just then, so did she. She regretted so many things. She should have spent more time with her dad. Should have forgiven him sooner for how he’d lied about her mother. He wouldn’t recover if he lost Mary Ann, too. He would be alone, no one there to look out for him.

  She couldn’t leave him like that. He might blame himself, tormented by thoughts that he could have done something to save her.

  “I was trying to do the right thing,” Riley said, bringing her back to the present. “For you. ”

  “I know,” she was the one to say this time. “We’ve had a wild few weeks, haven’t we?”

  “We certainly have. ”

  “And I’m sorry, I really am. You wouldn’t be in this situation if it weren’t for me. ” If she hadn’t met Aden, she wouldn’t have met Riley, and if she hadn’t met Riley, she wouldn’t have spent every spare moment of her time with him, binding them closer and closer together, changing the course of his life.

  “Hey. Don’t talk like that. The one thing I don’t regret is meeting you,” he said gruffly. “Never that. ”

  To be honest, she didn’t either. He was one of the best things to have ever happened to her. No matter how this thing ended, she couldn’t regret meeting him.

  From inside the cabin, the witch cursed. At least she’d recovered from Mary Ann’s draining enough to do so.

  Riley sighed wearily. “I better get in there. ”

  “Okay. I’ll be here. ”

  He leaned down and pressed a swift kiss to her lips, then strode up the rest of the steps and into the cabin, leaving her alone. Suddenly feeling just as weary as he’d sounded, she settled on the bottom step, elbows resting on her knees, chin resting on her upraised palms.

  The sun was bright, throwing orange-gold spots in her line of vision, and the air warmer than it had been in weeks. She—her thoughts skidded to a halt as, in the distance, limbs rubbed together and brittle leaves crunched. She straightened, gaze homing in. Soon, a familiar face and form came into view. A boy. A football player. Tucker, her ex. He lifted a hand in a brief wave.

  Mary Ann was on her feet before she realized she’d moved, mouth opening and closing, heart pounding. She raced to him, praying he wouldn’t bolt. The closer she came to him, the more clearly she saw him. He was so pallid she could see the blue tracery of veins beneath his skin. When they’d dated, he’d been beautifully tanned. Now his face was gaunt, as if he’d lost weight. His sandy hair was matted to his head, and his clothes were wrinkled and stained, ill-fitting. Torn, as if he’d recently been in a fight.

  The moment she was within touching distance, she saw the scars. Small, round, side by side. Punctures. From vampires. They’d healed quickly—too quickly—no longer scabs, as they should have been, since very little time had passed since he’d been served up as an hors d’oeuvre at the Vampire Ball, but already scars. On his neck, his arms, even his face. No, wait. There was a fresh pair of punctures on his neck, beads of blood still leaking.

  Not so long ago, she’d hated this boy for cheating on her. Then she’d seen him strapped to a table, near death. Her hate had drained, pity and fear taking their place. Just then, that pity and fear intensified.

  “Tucker,” she said. “How did you find us? And what are you doing here? You should be in a hospital right now. ”

  “No. No, I have to warn you. ” He grabbed her by the wrist and jerked her deep into the forest, so deep the trees hid them from cabin onlookers. He whirled on her, mouth opening to speak. He stilled, closed his eyes, pressed his lips together. A smile lifted the corners of his mouth. “Peace. I had forgotten how wonderful I would feel, being this close to you again. ”

  She gripped his shoulders and shook him. “What’s going on, Tucker? What do you have to warn me about?”

  “Just…give me a minute. ” His eyes remained closed. “Please. I didn’t think I’d ever get you alone again, but here you are. Here I am. And it’s better than I could have imagined. ”

  He radiated such bliss, she couldn’t deny him. So she stood there, silent, shaking with the force of her curiosity and dread. One minute passed, two. Three, four. An eternity.

  Finally, blessedly, his eyes opened. He frowned. “I shouldn’t be here,” he said. “He’ll probably punish me. ” He laughed without humor. “Probably? He’ll destroy me, no question. ”

  “Who, Tucker? Talk to me!”

  He licked his cracked lips. “I’ve come this far. I might as well just tell you, right? It’s…” A beam of sunlight hit his face, illuminating the dark circles under his eyes, making him look like the living dead. “It’s…Vlad. ” His voice dipped into a tortured whisper.

  “Vlad?” Her brow crinkled in confusion. “Vlad’s dead. ”

  He shook his head. “Not anymore. He’s very much alive. He called me while I was in the hospital.

  “Like, on the phone?”

  “No. Inside my head. He called me, and I went to him. I couldn’t stop myself. He’s underground, in a crypt behind the vampire mansion. ”

  “Tucker, I—”

  “No. Listen. He wanted me to watch Aden, to report what he was doing. And I—I did. Have. Will. He’s angry right now, Mary Ann. Very, very angry, and all of that anger is directed at Aden for daring to take his throne. ” Tucker’s gaze darkened. “I don’t know what Vlad will do to him, and I don’t know what he’ll command me to do, but you should know that I’ll do it, whatever it is. I won’t be able to help myself. ”

  “This is—this is—”

  “True. ”

  The implications of this were vast. Too vast. Too frightening. And, she thought, almost more than her already fragile state of mind could bear. “You have to tell the others what’s going on. They’ll—”

  “No. No. ” He jerked from her hold, backing away. “I won’t go near them. Not while they can see me, at least. ”

  “Tucker, please. They won’t hurt you. ” She wouldn’t let them. “You have to tell them everything Vlad has said to you. Everything he’s asked you to do and everything you’ve told him. ”

  “No. ” He gave another shake of his head. “You don’t understand. When I’m with you, I feel good. Normal. Happy. I can control myself. But when I’m with the others, I…can’t. I do bad things. ”

  “I’ll be with you. I won’t leave your side. I swear!”

  “Doesn’t matter. Not when you’re with them. ”

  “Tucker. Please. ”

  “I’m sorry, Mary Ann. So sorry. Consider yourself warned. ” He turned on his heel and ran off as fast as his feet would carry him.

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