Unraveled, p.62

Unraveled, page 62

 part  #2 of  Intertwined Series

 

Unraveled
 



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Page 62

 

  “Then you don’t care about the others, the cursed, as much as we thought,” Marie said.

  “Not true,” he gritted out. “I care about them more than you realized. If I gave you what you wanted, would you give me a blood oath not to ever hurt the vampires or the wolves?”

  “No. Of course not. None of us would. ”

  The other witches laughed at him for daring to suggest such a thing, Jennifer the loudest among them.

  “If you won’t aid us, Aden, that means you will work against us, aiding them. If that’s the case, you will never walk out of this cave. ”

  So they would kill him, too, was what she was saying. Before she could make the threat outright, he switched gears. If he could soften her, just a little, he could gain the upper hand. Maybe.

  “The soul, the one who could possess other bodies,” Aden began. “What was he to you? To any of you?”

  Caleb went eerily silent, waiting.

  Marie shrugged, but a vulnerable gleam lit her eyes. “He was…everything and nothing,” she said, then gave an angry shake of her head. “And now,” she added, standing, “we will leave you. We have reached a stalemate, and you need time to think. And perhaps you should consider the fact that I could have and should have killed your friend Mary Ann days ago, but I didn’t. I let her go. For you. I have regretted the action ever since, and my sense of mercy has been depleted. The more you resist us, the less I want you happy. ”

  Wait. What? “You never wanted me happy. Now call the meeting to order,” he demanded, panic blooming.

  The others pushed to their feet.

  “As you left me bound,” Jennifer said, “we leave you bound. Maybe the isolation will loosen your tongue. ”

  “I demand that you stay! I demand you call the meeting to order!”

  One by one, they strode from the cave, silent. Jennifer watched him until the last possible second. Marie stopped at the dark, yawning mouth and looked back at him over her shoulder. “When the clock strikes midnight, your friends die. I am sorry, I truly am, but there are always casualties during war. You know what you have to do to save them. ” With that, she, too, left him.

  Over and over he screamed for her to call the meeting to order; over and over he pleaded, even though he was alone, his voice echoing off the cavern walls, mocking him. He screamed until he was hoarse, jerking at the ivy until blood ran.

  The vine never gave, and the witches never returned.

  TWENTY-NINE

  ANOTHER SUMMONS.

  Tucker tried to resist. Tried with every bit of strength he possessed. But Vlad’s voice called to him—Come to me—and his feet moved forward before he realized he’d taken a single step.

  He jumped from the roof of his mom and stepdad’s house, the impact jolting his entire body. He’d been watching his six-year-old brother play in the drizzling cold, nose wet, coat soaked, hands shivering as he talked to an invisible friend.

  Twice Tucker had almost revealed himself. Both times, he’d convinced himself Ethan was better off without him and remained hidden. Now, as he strode away, he felt a hollow ache where his heart should have been. He would never go back, he decided. Ethan was all that was good, all that was right, with a bright future ahead. Tucker had never caused him anything but pain.

  It was past time for a clean break.

  The ache intensified. This is for the best.

  Tucker blanked his mind as he ran out of the neighborhood and into town, where it seemed everyone he knew—or rather, once knew—was stuck in party mode. Some kids were driving around, throwing beer bottles at the buildings. Others were on the streets, dancing to a beat no one else could hear. Among them floated a beautiful woman, a woman with long blond hair and skin so fair it practically glowed.

  She would look a kid in the eye, speak, and that kid would shake his head. She would speak again, then the kid’s shoulders would slump, head ducking, before he bent down and cleaned up the mess. The blonde would then move on to someone else.

  Night had long since fallen. The myths about vampires and sunlight weren’t exactly true, he knew, since Victoria could stand outside all day without consequences. Vlad, though…would he burn to ash? A guy could hope.

  Come to me…

  Closer now, Tucker thought. With dread. With happiness. Vlad was no longer in his crypt. He was here, in town. Hidden.

  Tucker rounded the corner of the local laundromat but saw only a cardboard box. He frowned. Still. He knew, as he always seemed to know, exactly where Vlad was. He bent down and peered inside. Yes, there was Vlad, a dead human flung over his lap, blood dripping down his chin.

  Most of the king’s body was still charred, still black with deadened skin, but patches of pale, smooth flesh were visible.

  “Next time you make me wait, you will be the one I feed from,” the king said calmly. “Do you understand?”

  A tremor of fear moved through him, and his gaze returned to the dead man, whose neck was torn apart as if a wild animal had feasted. A painful way to die. Vlad had fed from him during that last visit, yes, but only briefly, and only as a warning. If that had been misery incarnate… He shuddered and each of his already scarred puncture wounds throbbed. “Yes. I understand. ”

  “Now. What more have you learned?”

  “The witches have taken Aden. ” Tucker had watched them suddenly appear around Aden. He could have helped. Maybe. Had wanted to help. Kind of. But he hadn’t allowed his concealing illusion to fade, his need to please Vlad still too strong to be denied. Even then.

  Vlad laughed, a cackling sound that caused his body to hunch over in a spasm of coughing. When he calmed, his lips pulled back, sharp teeth red and gleaming. “Go to them, but do not let them know you are there. ”

  To the witches? “How will I find them? They vanished. ”

  “You can feel the pull of Aden, can you not? We all can. ”

  Reluctantly Tucker nodded. Truer words had never been spoken. First time he’d met Aden, he’d feared he was, well, attracted to the boy. As in turning gay. Even though he had always preferred girls. He’d wanted to be near the bastard, though Aden hadn’t calmed him like Mary Ann did. Aden stirred him up, though, and sometimes even made him want to be worse.

  “Good. Now, for your most important task. You will kill Aden. You will stab him in the heart, as if he was a witch’s sacrifice. ”

  “I—I can’t. ”

  “You can. Listen closely, and I will tell you how…”

  MARY ANN WAS SCARED. Very, very scared. Apparently, Aden had kidnapped the kidnapped witch, and no one knew where they were. Yet. Victoria had told Riley what had happened, what Aden planned, and then teleported away before Riley could scream at her. Or tell her that her father was still alive. Where had the princess gone? To help Aden?

  And God, how was she going to react to the news about her father? Mary Ann had never met the guy, and she was still reeling. After discovering the truth, she and Riley had searched the grounds but had found no sign of him.

  Riley was distraught. Mary Ann had never seen him so upset. His new king—was Aden still his king now that Vlad was walking around?—and his princess had been—were—in danger, and he hadn’t protected them. At least he and his brothers could feel Aden tugging at them. Well, as long as Mary Ann was out of the way. When Mary Ann was with them, and Riley at her side, they could still feel the tug, but it was somewhat muted. So they were now on the hunt for Aden. Without her.

  Mary Ann had thought to use the time searching for Victoria, but no. That idea had been quickly discarded. Where would she begin looking? She couldn’t go to the vampire mansion on her own and simply driving around town, which was all she could have done, wouldn’t have been productive.

  So here she was. At home. Riley had driven her and dropped her off after giving her the quickest, most distracted of kisses. She’d spent the past hour with her dad, hugging him as she’d wa
nted and telling him how much she loved him. He’d laughed and joked with her, and it had seemed as if they’d gone back in time, before she’d found out about her mother. Victoria’s Voice Voodoo had worked its magic, because he never once interrogated her about where she’d been.

  But her nervousness was growing with every minute that ticked by. Was Aden okay? Were Riley and Victoria okay? Was this her last night alive?

  “You’re distracted again,” her dad said with an ever-patient grin.

  They were sitting at the kitchen table, playing cards. War, of all things. She glanced down at her pile, picked a card and flipped it over. An eight of hearts. Her dad’s card was a three of diamonds, so she gathered that round into her deck.

  “Want to tell me what’s on your mind?”

  “I’m fine,” she lied. She hated the necessity, but wouldn’t cave. He didn’t believe in the paranormal, even when the evidence of it was right under his nose, and she wasn’t in the mood to fight. Or receive a therapy session.

  “Problems with Riley?” he persisted.

  Riley, her sweet Riley. The boy she would date for one more day, then never speak to again. At that, her heart actually lurched inside her chest. “Dad, what do you do when you know you’re no good for the person you love?”

  He looked at her for a moment, then sighed and pushed his cards aside. He propped his elbows on the table and stared over at her intently. “I hadn’t realized you and Riley had reached the I love you stage yet. ”

  Her cheeks heated. “We haven’t said it to each other, no. ”

  He relaxed a little. “So why isn’t he good for you, sweetie?” Gently asked.

  She squirmed uncomfortably in her seat. She couldn’t tell him that it was the other way around. That she wasn’t good for Riley. He wouldn’t believe her. “What would you tell a patient who asked you the same question?”

  His lips twitched at the corners. “I see what you’re doing. Deflecting. I’ve taught you well. So, are you asking what I’d say to a patient if she refused to share all the details with me?”
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