Unraveled, p.6

Unraveled, page 6

 part  #2 of  Intertwined Series

 

Unraveled
 



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Page 6

 

  Aden frowned. Once, these two had hated him. Once, but no longer. They’d reached a truce after their Treat-Everyone-Like-Crap idol, Ozzie, had been kicked off the ranch—and, as of this weekend, sucked dry by vampires. Not that they knew that part. They were as clueless about the “other” world as he had once been.

  So why the silent treatment now?

  “Where is it?” Seth muttered, crouching in the closet and rummaging through the clothes on the floor, wrist turning and revealing the snake tattooed there.

  “Where’s what?” Aden repeated, sitting up.

  Yet again, they ignored him.

  Shirts and jeans were tossed over Seth’s shoulder, followed by shoes. At the desk, papers crunched under Ryder’s hands. Several minutes passed. Aden kept up a steady chatter—“this joke isn’t funny, try something original, will you just talk to me already?”—to no avail. He finally stood, sheet falling away, forgotten, and stalked to the desk.

  With every intention of beating some sense into Ryder, he reached out. Except his hand wisped through the boy’s body.

  No way. No damn way.

  Aden’s heart pounded against his ribs as he tried again, shaking this time. Again, his flesh wisped through Ryder’s and he could only stand there, wide-eyed and reeling. How was that possible? How the hell was that possible? He’d burned to death, yes, but in someone else’s body. He’d thought… He’d assumed… Was he dead, too? Truly, no-coming-back dead?

  No. No way. But… Blood freezing in his veins, he stalked to Seth.

  “Found it,” Seth said, standing. He held a book triumphantly in the air. A book about vampires. Any other time, Aden would have floundered over Shannon’s chosen reading material. “Shannon’s weird, dude. He’s always reading this crap. Saves us a trip to the library, but, frickin’ please. I’ve never written a report about wackos with fangs before and I don’t want to start now. ”

  “Mr. Thomas is the weird one, my man. We’re supposed to write about how evil the bloodsuckers are, like they’re real or something. I can’t take that crank seriously, you know. I’ll probably fail, but ask me if I care. ”

  His shaking intensifying, Aden tried to wrap his fingers around Seth’s wrist. Nothing. No solid contact. Bile burned a path up his throat. His arm thudded heavily to his side, and he stumbled backward, black winking over his eyes, dizziness rushing through his head.

  The answer to his question? Dead. He was really dead. That was the only answer that made sense.

  The boys raced from the room, mumbling about stupid new tutors and dumb homework assignments. Aden just stood there. Doomed to live the rest of eternity as a ghost?

  God, was this how the souls felt? Trapped, out of control, lost?

  “Guys,” he whispered, not knowing how to begin. If he was a ghost, he couldn’t help them figure out who they’d been in their other life. And if he couldn’t help them figure out who they’d been, they could never be free of him. If that’s what they still wanted. “I think—I—This is—”

  “Hello, Aden. ”

  The male voice came from behind him, and he spun. There, in the doorway, was the D and M’s brand-new tutor. Not for him or Shannon since they attended Crossroads High, but for all the others. Mr. Thomas had shown up the day of the Vampire Ball, and Dan had hired him on sight. Which was completely unlike Aden’s guardian. No background check, no intensive interview, just, “You’re perfect!”

  Even weirder, the boys acted like they’d known him forever, already comfortable complaining about him. Aden hadn’t met the man officially, but Victoria had secretly pointed him out. Mr. Thomas, as it turned out, was not a let’s-all-learn-and-grow kind of tutor. He was a fairy and Victoria’s enemy, here to find out who was helping her.

  The man didn’t look like Aden’s idea of a fairy—small, female and winged. Instead, he was tall, lean, his skin golden and even a bit glittery (okay, that was fairylike). And never had Aden seen a more perfect face. There wasn’t a single flaw. Perfectly spaced blue eyes, a perfectly sloped nose, perfect lips neither too full nor too thin.

  And it was embarrassing as hell that Aden had noticed. Anyone found out, and they’d take away his man card or something.

  “You can see me?” He gulped. “Hear me?”

  “Yes. ”

  “Am I…dead?” Saying the word was more difficult than thinking it. And how could the fairy see and hear what Seth and Ryder hadn’t been able to?

  A chuckle rumbled from the fairy, almost like a thrum of a harp. “Hardly. You’re…somewhere else. ”

  He wished he could take comfort from that. “Somewhere else?” When everything looked the same? “Okay. Where am I? How’d I get here?” He plowed his fingers through his hair. “What’s going on?”

  Aden, Elijah said, and there was a warning in his tone. I have a bad feeling about this.

  Dread instantly filled him. Elijah’s bad feelings were, well, bad.

  “So many questions. ” The man tsked. He waved to the chair at the desk. “Sit, please, and I will endeavor to answer you. After you answer me, of course. ”

  What should have been a simple request struck Aden as a threat. And with Elijah’s wariness, he suspected a fight would soon break out. He did a weapons check. He had nothing on him, but there were knives hidden in his boots. Boots he wasn’t wearing and might not be able to touch. Boots that were…tucked neatly beside the bed, he saw.

  “Sit, Aden. ” Two words, both layered with authority.

  This time Aden sat. Without going for those blades. He didn’t want to play his (potential) ace unless absolutely necessary.

  Blood will run before this meeting ends, Elijah said.

  Ours? Caleb asked with annoyance and a hint of fear. ’Cause I like ours and don’t want to give up a single drop.

  “My name is Mr. Thomas,” the man said before Elijah could respond, walking forward and stopping only a few feet away from Aden’s chair. He anchored his hands behind his back and braced his legs apart. A war stance.

  Aden knew it well. He’d stood that way many times—just before launching himself at the person threatening him. Concentrate. The plain, ordinary name didn’t fit the man’s smooth features in any way, and had to be an alias. If it wasn’t, Aden would plant a big, fat wet one right on his lips.

  “You want answers,” he said, wondering, About what? “Then you’ll have to tell me what I want to know. First. How are we here but not here? How am I alive but invisible?”

  There were several beats of heavy silence. At first he thought Thomas meant to strike him for using his own tactics against him. With every second that passed, fury grew in those blue eyes. Fury and indignation.

  Finally, though, the fairy said, “Your people would call this place another dimension, though it is the true realm of the Fae. ” Despite his expression, his words were calmly stated.

  Fae had to mean fairy. And another…dimension? Was that even possible? As soon as the question hit him, he wanted to roll his eyes at his own stupidity. After everything he’d seen and done recently, anything was possible. “So, just to clarify, I’m not dead?”

  “This constant need for reassurance is tiresome, so listen carefully, because I will not repeat myself again. You are very much alive. But you are in another dimension, therefore humans cannot see or hear you. ”

  If Thomas was to be believed, Aden wasn’t a ghost. He could return to Victoria, to his friends. “And you brought me here?” A croak.

  “Yes. ”

  “Why?”

  Another tension-laden pause stretched between them. Clearly, getting answers was going to be like pulling teeth.

  “Because,” Thomas finally said on a sigh, “I had met all the students—but you. ”

  There at the end, the fury had returned to the man’s eyes, this time blended with disgust.

  Oh, yes. Blood will run, Elijah said on a trembling breath.

&nbs
p; “From a knife?” Please, please don’t say from a knife.

  Don’t know, was the reply. Can only see the river of red.

  “What do you mean, from a knife?” Thomas demanded.

  He must not know of Aden’s reputation as the boy who always talked to “himself. ” “Sorry. I wasn’t speaking to you. ”

  “Then to whom were you speaking?”

  A question he’d been asked a thousand times by a thousand different people.

  Maybe we should. Run, I mean, Caleb said, all his bravado gone. Before we bleed.

  I’m with Caleb. It’s not like we know how to fight a fairy.

  Caleb suddenly snickered, amusement momentarily obliterating distress. Fight a fairy. Do you hear yourself, Jules?

  “Quiet, please,” Aden snapped, and Thomas hissed in a breath.

  “Do not speak to me like that, little boy. ”

  Rather than explain, Aden rubbed his temple to ward off the coming ache. “There was no reason for you to meet me. You won’t be tutoring me. ” He couldn’t run, as Caleb had suggested. Where would he go? Plus, he wasn’t anxious. Yet. He still had those blades. Maybe.

  “No. ” Thomas started forward, one step, two, then paused, thoughtful. “But I will be killing you. ” Okay. Now he was anxious. Aden leapt to his feet. If Thomas issued another threat or made another move toward him, he’d dive-bomb the boots. And if he couldn’t clasp the blades inside them, he’d run like hell, despite his lack of direction.

  “Do not even think of bolting, Haden Stone. ”

  “No one calls me that. ” Not since he’d inadvertently butchered his own name as a kid and called himself Aden, and everyone else had followed suit. “I killed the last guy who did. True story. ”

  Far from intimidated, Thomas barked, “Sit. I answered your questions. You will now answer mine. ”

  Uh, that would be a big, fat no. He wasn’t waiting around for the second death threat, he decided. The fairy’s anger level had just jacked up a notch. “Sure thing. ” Aden faked left, Thomas following him, and then spun right, ducking around the tutor and swiping at the boots. His hand ghosted through the leather.

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