Unraveled, p.67

Unraveled, page 67

 part  #2 of  Intertwined Series

 

Unraveled
 



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Page 67

 

  What he saw shocked him anew, and he stilled, the witches slamming into his back. Fairies littered the ground. Wolves and vampires stood around them, all staring over at Riley, in wolf form, who was in front of Mary Ann and growling. He was…protecting her? From his own people?

  Meanwhile, Mary Ann was pale and clutching her stomach, as if in pain. “Aden,” she said on a moan.

  All eyes swung to him, and then the vampires were kneeling. The witches gasped and took a collective step backward.

  He’d find out what was going on in a minute. “Allow the witches to pass. Don’t look at them. Don’t touch them. Don’t follow them. Just allow them to pass. ” He waited until both the vampires and the wolves had nodded before stepping aside.

  Though hesitant, the witches filed out, their unconscious sisters propped between them. The vampires parted, creating a pathway, and Aden released a breath he hadn’t known he’d been holding. No one reached out, no one attempted to stop the robed women.

  Now for his friends. “Riley, take Mary Ann home. ” She was clearly sick and in need of rest.

  “But, my king,” a vampire covered in blood said as he rose. “She’s a Drainer. She must be killed. ”

  Someone was going to have to explain the drainer thing, and soon. As for now, he said, “I don’t care what she is. No one touches her, and no one follows her, either. Riley, take her home like I told you. Now!”

  The guard moved behind Mary Ann and nudged her forward. Again, the vampires and wolves heeded his command—though all of them were stiff and clearly eager to act. More so than they’d been with the witches.

  Such blind obedience. In a sudden moment of clarity, he realized these were his people. And he…he was their king. Yes. Yes. The admission felt right, so unbelievably right. He’d earned the title with this victory. More than that, he had somehow tamed their beasts. He was king, and he wasn’t going to fight it anymore.

  “The rest of you…stay here. Don’t move. ” He turned and strode back to the cave. Chomper and Victoria were exactly where he’d left them, only Victoria was now sitting up.

  “Better?” He squatted beside her and cupped her jaw. He gently moved her head left and right, gaze intent on her skin. The burns were already fading.

  “Better. ” Those blue, blue eyes regarded him with concern. “Are you?”

  “I’m just fine. ”

  “I’m so glad. ” She threw her arms around him, placing little kisses all over his face.

  Chomper snorted to remind Aden of his presence. Grinning, Aden reached up and petted his new protector behind the ears. So much could have gone wrong tonight, he thought. He could have lost everyone he loved, but with this creature’s help, things had turned out okay.

  Better than okay.

  After he convinced a reluctant Chomper to go back inside Victoria—where he could better protect them both, Aden explained—he and Victoria walked back outside, hand and hand. This time, he wasn’t surprised to discover his orders had been obeyed. The vampires and wolves hadn’t moved.

  Aden looked over at Victoria, and she looked over at him. They shared a grin, happy to be alive and with each other. “I’m king,” he said.

  “Yes,” she agreed. “You are. ”

  He faced the waiting crowd. “Return home. Rest. I’m proud of each of you. ” Next week, after he had rested, he’d hold a meeting of his own. Things were going to be different now.

  As they began to teleport, disappearing from view, Victoria said, “Now I’ll take you home. ”

  A moment later, he was standing in his bedroom, Shannon snoring softly from the top bunk. Aden peered up at his friend. He would stay here a while longer, he thought, before moving into the vampire mansion with Victoria, where he would rule as was expected. There were a few things he had to do first. For the boys. For Dan. He wanted to make sure they were forever taken care of, forever safe.

  He didn’t see Thomas, and wondered where he was.

  “You go home and get some rest, too. Because tomorrow,” he said, placing a soft kiss on Victoria’s lips. “We’re going on a date. ”

  She grinned slowly. “Is that an order from my king?”

  “That’s a plea from the guy who loves you. ”

  “Then I accept. ”

  “YOU HAVE TO LEAVE, Mary Ann,” Riley said, stuffing her clothes in a bag, several pieces at a time. Even as she pulled those clothes out. “And I’m going with you. ”

  “I’m not leaving my dad. And no, you’re not. ”

  “It’s the only way. If you’re here with him, he’ll be killed to get to you. Everyone knows what you are now. Aden can command the vamps and weres to leave you alone, but he has no power over the witches or the fairies. And they’ll be very eager to destroy you. Especially after tonight. So just so you know, there’s no way I’m staying behind. I want to protect you. ”

  He was right about the danger. She knew he was right. That didn’t make this any easier. “I can’t just leave. ”

  “Write him a note,” Riley continued as if there was no question of her course of action. “Tell him goodbye. That’s the only way to save him. ”

  Save him. Nothing else could have propelled her into action. Tears filled her eyes, but she stopped stopping Riley from packing and walked to her desk. She wrote her dad a letter, telling him she loved him, but needed to get away for a little while and she’d call him when she could.

  He was going to be distraught and blame himself. God, she hated herself just then.

  “All packed,” Riley said, resolute.

  “My dad…he’s still in his room. The fairy told him to stay there, no matter what he heard. I think he’s been there all night. ” She’d been home less than half an hour, but she’d checked on him twice. Both times, he hadn’t heard her, hadn’t noticed her, had merely remained perched at the edge of his bed, his eyes glazed.

  “I’ll contact Victoria and she’ll release him from the fairy’s compulsion. Any other objections?”

  “Yes. No one knows Vlad is still alive. What’s going to happen to Aden when everyone finds out? You need to stay here and protect him. Or have you lost your loyalty to him?”

  His lashes fused together, but she could still see the way his pupils expanded and retracted. “No, I haven’t lost my loyalty to Aden. No one else will, either. Believe me, he has more than proven himself, taming the beasts, and our people would now rather deal with Vlad’s wrath than Aden’s. He’ll be fine. Now, let’s go. ”

  Gulping, she stood and faced him. Telling her dad goodbye wasn’t the only tough thing she had to do. “No,” she whispered, then added more firmly, “No. I told you. I’m going alone. ”

  “Not just no, but hell, no. ” He slung the bag over his shoulder. “Let’s go. Together. ”

  “I’m going alone or I’m staying here. ” She wasn’t going to allow Riley to give up everything for her, not when such an act would get him killed. If not by her, then by the people he left behind. Protecting her after the battle with the fairies was explainable. She’d saved the day, defeated their adversary. He’d felt obligated. And yet still the others had growled and hissed at him as if he were the enemy. They would have killed him right then if Aden hadn’t stepped out and ordered them to back down.

  They’d forgive him, though, welcome him back into the fold. Surely. Unless Riley chose her over his brethren a second time. Then they’d hunt him down—as they were going to hunt her.

  “I’m not kidding, Riley. If I stay and he’s hurt, I’ll blame you. You have to let me go alone. ”

  “And just where will you go?” he snapped.

  She didn’t know, but she wouldn’t have told him if she had. “It’s best if I keep that to myself. ”

  He popped his jaw.

  “For both of us,” she added, and had to fight a fresh spring of tears. This is for the best. Don’t forget.

  “Fine,” he said, h
is knuckles white as they clutched the bag’s handles. “Do it. Go. ”

  “I will. ” The words choked from her as she pried his fingers loose and anchored the heavy nylon in place. “I guess this is goodbye, then. ” She turned away before the tears started falling and strode out of her bedroom. Then stopped in the hall. She couldn’t leave like this. Couldn’t end things like this.

  Quickly she backtracked, pausing in front of a scowling Riley, grabbing him by the back of the neck and jerking his mouth to hers. The kiss was swift, hard and teased her with the wildness of his taste, the unwavering strength of his body. Seconds passed, and she wished for eternity. This was it. The end. Their last kiss. She committed the moment, the boy, to her memory.

  She’d need it.

  With a groan, she released him and spun. She ran out of her house and into the bright sunlight.

  She threw her bag in the car Riley had stolen last night, recalling how he’d sped along the roads, whisking her from somewhere in Texas to Oklahoma in record time. Then she drove, just drove. She never stopped crying.

  ADEN SAID NOTHING about his plans to Dan or the boys while they ate breakfast and discussed Ms. Brendal and how she’d seemed to disappear exactly as Mr. Thomas had. And how Dan wanted to give up on tutors entirely and try and enroll the other boys at Crossroads High with Aden and Shannon.

  They were, of course, excited.

  He said nothing as he gathered his books and backpack, the souls chattering inside his head—Caleb making plans to find the witches again, Julian amusing himself by pointing out the flaws in each of Caleb’s ideas, and Elijah trying to figure out why he saw more turmoil in the future than ever. Aden ignored them, still flying high. Even Shannon and the other boys remarked on how happy he seemed, how light his mood was.

  He didn’t know what he’d tell them yet, or even how he’d tell them. But he wasn’t going to worry about that now. After everything that had happened, he was simply going to enjoy the day. And the evening, of course, when he took Victoria on their first official date. He grinned. He frowned. Would evening never arrive?
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