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Under my skin, p.7

Under My Skin, page 7

 

Under My Skin
 


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  “I know you’re in there, witch,” a deep voice roared. “Come see what I got for you.” The man reached an arm out into the dust and then shoved a young man into the room.

  He was around my age, nearing eighteen. Tall, dark haired, thin, one hand shading his eyes from the dim glow of the Tiffany lamp. He staggered about the room as if blind, his feet scuffing in the dust. He sniffed the air, then almost fell over when he zeroed in on the witch.

  His lips pulled back in a snarl.

  A groan of agony ripped through him. His jaw unhinged like a snake’s, opening wide. From his gaping mouth the smell of death filled the air, rancid. His incisors extended into fangs.

  A vampire.

  My pulse raced. I dove between him and the witch, holding my hands out to block his approach. He walked through me. Through my very being. I gagged as darkness permeated my flesh and drifted out my back. I didn’t exist. Not in this time, not here and now. The witch was right. I could do nothing.

  “Feed, boy.” The man leaned his shoulder against the doorframe and crossed his legs at the ankle, nonchalant and at ease. His fedora slanted above his harsh, but deadly attractive, face. Under his long overcoat a silver sheriff’s badge glinted on his lapel.

  He took a long drag from a smoking cigar. Then he grinned, fangs exposed.

  Another vamp. The boy’s sire, eager to watch his fledgling’s first kill.

  I spun. Screamed a warning. I bolted, grabbing at the boy’s arm, but my fingers slipped through air. I clawed at his back, my hands sinking through his cool flesh. I toppled forward, bursting through mother and child as if I’d tried to lean on a wall of fog.

  I backed away, my body shaking.

  The boy dragged the witch into his embrace.

  “My son,” she said. “If you need, then I will provide.”

  “Noo…” I screamed again, my throat burning with the force of it. Sand settled on my tongue.

  With a guttural moan the boy sank his fangs into his mother’s neck. He fed, a sickening slurping, his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down as he gulped and gasped. The witch weakened. The two collapsed in a tangle of limbs.

  I clapped my hands over my ears, trying to muffle the slurps and sighs of his hunger, her death.

  The witch’s eyes fluttered open, met and held mine, while her son drained the blood from her body. “You see how he cursed my boy? Do you see?”

  I forced myself past the disgust, the fear—to a place of calm. I had to for the witch’s sake.

  I crept closer. His muscular shoulders, lean hips, shaggy brown hair were all familiar. I reared back. Bile rose in my throat. No. It couldn’t be…

  The young vampire ripped his fangs from his mother’s ravaged neck.

  Wade stared beyond me to face the sheriff, guilt marred his too-perfect face. Blood dripped down his chin. His mother, dead at his feet.

  *****

  Piercing barks rang in my ears. I woke, struggling for breath and coughing up red dust. It spattered my daisy print pillowcase like blood.

  Gasping, I swiped a hand across my mouth. I reached for the lamp on my bedside table and flicked it on. A shape, like a band of smoke and blacker than the shadows in the corner of my bedroom, slipped out the inch-wide gap under my window.

  Heart pounding, I surged from clinging sheets and slammed the window down in its frame, turned the rusted lock home, and muffled the barking of the Lab next door.

  Vampire mist. I’d only experienced it once before, while on a hunt with my father’s crew, but you remembered things like a strange smoke that moved with a mind of its own.

  Panic clawed at me. I struggled for breath, trying to shake off the dream—the vision of Wade at his mother’s throat. I swallowed hard and backed away from the window. Shivering, I wrapped my arms around myself, clutching at the sides of my tank top, my nails digging into my waist.

  Earlier, when I’d come upstairs…that window had been shut.

  *****

  “Wade Gervais is a vampire,” I announced as I balanced my backpack on a stack of book bags draped over an empty cafeteria chair. Alec, Brit, and Matt looked up from their Taco Tuesday specials, all wearing the same dumbfounded expression. “And I’m thinking his father, the chief of police, is really his sire. Definitely old. Definitely powerful.”

  Brit and Matt glanced from me to Alec, who bit deliberately into his taco, chewed thoughtfully, and then said, “What an entrance. Have a seat, and let’s all keep our voices down, shall we?”

  I sighed, grabbed an empty chair from the table behind me, and sat down with the crew.

  Alec pushed his empty tray aside and leaned his forearms on the table. Muscles bulged under his black long-sleeved hoodie, but I tried not to notice.

  “Wade and his father are paranorms. We all agree on that. But vampires?” Alec laced his fingers together and shook his head. “They don’t fit the profile, Eryn. They walk in full sunlight. And there’s been no sign of vampire activity in Redgrave. Vampires spread like a plague, killing and infecting people until their nest outgrows a town and they’re forced to move on.”

  Brit patted my shoulder. “Really good effort though.” She gave me an encouraging smile, her black-rimmed eyes bright with excitement. “I’m so glad you decided to help us.”

  Matt snorted. “We had to save her from a bunny-brained werewolf, she doesn’t even know about vamps and daylight, and you’re glad she’s going to help us. Nice.” He scraped back his chair, crossed a leg over his knee, and tapped his shoe.

  “Don’t be so hostile.” Brit shoved his foot off his knee. “Eryn’s new at hunting, she told us that already. We have time to bring her up to speed.”

  “Do we?”

  “Your mother will help.”

  I frowned. What did their mother have to do with this? She knew they were hunters? While I appreciated that the Delacroix boys ran their crew much like my father had run his—with close family involved, usually a hunter no-no—the Wade situation took precedence. I waved my hand in Brit’s face. “I’m sorry, could we include me in the conversation about me, please?”

  Brit grimaced. “Sorry.”

  I took a calming breath. “I know it goes against every bit of vamp lore, but these guys are up and moving in the daylight hours. I don’t know how it’s possible—but they’re vamps. I’d stake my life on it.”

  “Stake your life?” Matt sneered. “Oh, that’s cute.”

  “Enough!” I slammed my palm on the table, my chest tight with anger. “You guys don’t know what you’re up against.”

  The three of them regarded me while kids at other tables turned to stare at us, apparently fascinated by the sight of the new girl hanging with the town outcasts.

  Alec’s expression darkened.

  “Temper, temper.” Matt tsk-tsked. He turned to Brit. “She’s quite the hothead. I’m thinking she might be too much of a liability.” An I-told-you-so smile tugged at his lips.

  Brit put her hand over mine. Did she feel it tremble? My beast had woken up wild from my dreams. I wasn’t quite myself.

  “Why do you think they’re vampires?” Brit’s voice was hesitant—as if she was afraid my answer would prove Matt right.

  I drew in a steadying breath. I’d had one of the freakiest experiences of my life when Wade’s witchy mom took me back in time, and I wasn’t going to let Matt’s resentment stop me from warning this fledgling crew what they were up against.

  “I have kind of a sleeping disorder,” I said, formulating my words carefully. “I inherited it from my mother.” That at least was true. Wolven did have active dream lives. The expression “let sleeping dogs lie” originated from wolven lore. It was dangerous to wake a wolven, their dreams were so real, so blood and battle filled, that being jarred awake made it difficult for them to tell friend from foe.

  Brit regarded me with an encouraging expression, while Alec’s face remained neutral. I couldn’t tell what he was thinking. He probably thought I was a complete headcase. Matt certainly did. I c
ould read him like the cover of a tabloid on display at the grocery store. REDGRAVE’S NEW GIRL IS LOCO!

  “I get these extremely vivid dreams.” I forced myself to continue. “But last night…” I struggled against the images flashing through my mind, Wade, his father, the blood. “Last night I dreamt about Wade in a house filled with sand. I think it was in the 1930s, like the Dust Bowl era, you know? But he was a vampire—newly made. And he had been turned against his will, by an old, powerful vampire wearing a sheriff’s badge. Then he was…forced to feed on his own mother.”

  “Eww, that’s sick.” Brit scrunched up her face.

  I shuddered. “Yeah, it was.” I glanced at Alec.

  He gave away nothing, but kept his body still—listening and observing.

  “Wade’s mom was a witch,” I said, then broke off. Somehow I couldn’t tell them that she’d brought me through time, had meant for me to see what happened between her and her son. I was still trying to figure out why she’d done it. How had she known about me? How could I help Wade when I didn’t understand all the things that were going on with me?

  Matt scraped his chair closer to the table and leaned over his food tray, a look of grudging respect on his face. Finally I’d captured his attention. “We know a bit about witch lore. There are a few who work with our mother. Witches don’t often birth males.” He glanced at his brother. “It’s rare, right?”

  Frowning, Alec tapped his plastic fork against his bottle of iced tea. “Usually they have one child. A girl. When a witch dies, all her powers go to her young.” He met my gaze. “Male witches, or warlocks, are more powerful than their female counterparts. In the old days witches killed their sons at birth. Warlocks have a thing for the dark arts.” He grimaced, then exchanged a look with Matt that I couldn’t quite interpret. “Maybe guys weren’t meant to have that kind of power—it corrupts.”

  “So if Eryn’s dream was a replay of an actual event,” Brit said, “Wade might have super-witchy power.”

  “Power enough for Wade and his sire to walk in daylight,” I said, relieved they were finally getting my rather substantial point. “Which means more than enough power to control a pack of werewolves. But if I’m right, why are a couple of übervamps hanging out in Redgrave?”

  “Good question,” Alec said, an unmistakable glint of respect in his gaze. He glanced at his watch and stood. “Okay, we’ve got two more classes, and then we’ll meet after school and head to our ranch.”

  I shifted in my chair. Alec’s commanding tone rankled, as did his assumption I would blindly follow where he led. If he thought I was his to order around, he was sadly mistaken. I had enough people trying to control my life. I hoped I wouldn’t regret my little sharing session with Alec’s crew. I scratched behind my ear in frustration.

  “My mother should be able to contact her friends and get us some more information.” Alec rested his hands on the back of his chair. “We can check Eryn’s story out.” With a sharp scraping sound, he slid the chair home, tucking it under the table.

  “Check my story out?” I jumped to my feet. Who did he think he was? Insulted, I bared my teeth at him.

  Alec caught my fierce expression and did a double take.

  I swallowed my ego and concentrated on relaxing my lips.

  “Don’t get your back up, Eryn.” Alec lowered his voice. “I’ve seen a lot of things hunting. We all have. Things that aren’t supposed to exist or contradict everything we thought we knew about the paranormal world. So could a vampire retain his inherited witch powers?” He shrugged. “That’s likely Wade’s situation. But we can’t risk screwing this up, doing anything drastic, until we’re absolutely certain.”

  Ugh. Why did he have to sound so in control and logical—and right? My beast was eager for battle, even if only a verbal butt-kicking. But I couldn’t fault Alec’s logic. If the situation were reversed and the crew started spouting off about dreams and witches and vampires, I’d do a bit of investigating on my own before I made any hasty decisions.

  I held out my hand to stop them from leaving. “I’m all for fact checking, but I don’t think you’re seeing the big picture.” I paused, striving for that concise, authoritative tone Alec used. But my words came out a bit panicky. “I need you guys to believe me, and I need you to hurry. When I woke up from the dream last night, something black and nasty, like a thick smog, was slipping out my window. Only I hadn’t left my window open. I think Wade pulled the vamp mist thing and paid me a visit, which means he has access to my uncle’s house. Not good. I won’t have him threatening my family.”

  “Your family?” Alec asked. “What about the threat he poses to you?” Something dangerous flickered in his brown eyes. He glanced around the cafeteria as if scouting for Wade. He looked like he wanted to do some serious damage to his living/dead person.

  I was about to shrug off Alec’s words. I was wolven. I could probably hold my own with Wade. Maybe. But the crew didn’t know that, so I had to be a good-little-scared-human. At the same time I didn’t want them fighting Wade. He’d be way too strong for them.

  “Vampires.” Matt snorted. “Always stalking chicks, lurking in their bedrooms. They’re so predictable. Pervy,” he said, making a face. “But predictable.”

  Brit slapped Matt’s shoulder as my words sunk in. “OMG! He can get into her house? That’s against the rules, isn’t it?” She paused. “Uh-oh.”

  “Uh-oh, what?” Alec bit out.

  “Paige.” Brit’s eyes were wide. “She must have invited Wade in. For a date? To make out?”

  I grimaced at the thought of Paige making out with anyone in the house I now lived in. “I thought they went out last year?”

  “Doesn’t matter when she said the words.” Matt fished his backpack from under the pile. “We’re talking vampires, not salad dressing. Once a vamp is invited into your house, there’s no expiration date.”

  Lovely. I started a list of things to pick up after school. Crucifixes, holy water. Oh, and lots of freaking garlic. I choked back the tide of hysterical laughter threatening to leap from my throat. I had to pull it together. Losing it in the cafeteria wasn’t going to inspire confidence.

  Alec slung his pack over his shoulder with an angry jerk. “We’ll have to move fast. Mom’s friends might be able to help us set up a barrier or a banishing spell. But until then, I’m going to give Wade a little message. Vampire or not, he needs to know Eryn is off limits.” He strode away from the table, leaving us in a charged silence.

  “You had to throw in the Wade’s-stalking-me-while-I-sleep bit.” Matt shot me a frustrated glance. “Let’s hope he doesn’t do anything stupid. Alec on a mission is a scary thing.”

  As Alec started for the exit, my stomach dropped. So much for not getting involved. My body suddenly felt 100 pounds heavier, like a huge weight had jumped on my shoulders for the mother of all piggyback rides.

  After giving me a helpless look, Brit followed the guys.

  I could only stand there and watch them go.

  *****

  A few hours later, the last bell of the day rang. I threw my books into my locker, hesitated, but then tucked my physics text into my backpack. No point in taking the others. Except for physics, I was holding my own. I’d always had trouble with science, but some sadistic part of me wouldn’t rest until I’d at least passed the subjects my father had excelled at.

  I slammed my locker shut and started down the hall. What was I thinking? How could I be stressing over a stupid physics class when I should be tracking werewolves, or at least worrying about Wade and his vampy stalking? Only a few weeks out of my father’s strict training schedule and hunter practices took a backseat to theories I’d seen debunked a million times.

  A bitter wind blew across the parking lot as I pushed through the entryway doors. I tucked my chin into my jacket collar and blew against the material to warm my cheeks. Since morning, the temperature had taken a nosedive. Good-bye, rainy Vancouver winters. Hello freakin’ frostbite. I’d take the
rain any day.

  “Eryn, wait up.” Brit joined me on the steps overlooking the parking lot. Her black skull T-shirt offered little protection against the chill. Not that she seemed to notice the cold. Redgrave kids didn’t. They had some built-in tolerance to the low temperatures, or maybe the longer you lived in Redgrave, the more leathery your hide became.

  “I can’t believe it’s only October,” I whined, my toes numb. I added boots to my list of must haves.

  “Wait till it starts getting dark at three o’clock,” Brit said. She blew on her cupped hands as she scanned the parking lot. “Alec went to get the truck.” She shot me a preemptive look. “And don’t tell me you’re not coming to the ranch with us. If there’s anyone who can find out about Wade and his father, it’s Marie.”

  I quirked a brow. “And Marie is…?”

  “Alec’s mom.” She spun in an impatient circle. “Matt had to stop at the garage, didn’t he? I swear he loves that mechanics class a bit too much, you know? It’s unhealthy.” She rolled her eyes. “Alec hates waiting around for him.”

  Brit glanced beyond the concrete stairs to the nearly empty parking lot, looking for Alec. Her lips formed a silent Ohhhhh. I turned to see what had her attention. A red sports car cruised past. An old classic with a custom paint job. Sunlight reflected off its polished chrome surface and zapped my eyes. Someone sure spent a bundle on their toys.

  “There goes our monster-on-campus,” Brit said. “Bet he’s nice and warm in that baby. Not that vampires need heat, being dead and everything.”

  Wade.

  I should have guessed.

  Everything about him was smooth. His car was no exception. It screamed, “Hey sweet thing, wanna go for a ride?” Like it had read my thoughts, the car screeched to a halt and reversed. Wade cranked the driver’s window down by hand.

  “Can I give you ladies a lift?” he called. His grin emphasized his chiseled jaw and white teeth.

  Brit crossed her arms. “Do the syllables ‘ne-’ and ‘ver’ mean anything to you?”

  “Not really.” Wade shrugged. “What about you, Eryn?” he asked, a challenge in his eyes. “Or are you one of those girls who lets their friends make their decisions for them?” He rested his arm on the open window, waiting.

 
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