Shiver, page 12part #1 of The Wolves of Mercy Falls Series
I shook my head. I changed too early now to even see Christmas decorations in stores.
Grace frowned at the steering wheel. “Do you think of me when you’re a wolf?”
When I was a wolf, I was a memory of a boy, struggling to hold on to meaningless words. I didn’t want to tell her the truth: that I couldn’t remember her name.
“I think of the way you smell,” I said, truthfully. I reached over and lifted a few strands of her hair to my nose. The scent of her shampoo reminded me of the scent of her skin. I swallowed and let her hair fall back down to her shoulder.
Grace’s eyes followed my hand from her shoulder to my lap, and I saw her swallow, too. The obvious question—when I would change back again—hung between us, but neither of us put words to it. I wasn’t ready to tell her yet. My chest ached at the thought of leaving all this behind.
“So,” she said again, and put her hand on the steering wheel. “Do you know how to drive?”
I pulled my wallet from my jeans pocket and proffered it. “The State of Minnesota seems to think so. ”
She extracted my driver’s license, held it up against the steering wheel, and read out loud: “Samuel K. Roth. ” She added, with some surprise, “This is an actual license. You must really be real. ”
I laughed. “You still doubt it?”
Instead of answering, Grace handed my wallet back and asked, “Is that your real name? Aren’t you supposedly dead, like Jack?”
I wasn’t sure I wanted to talk about this, but I answered anyway. “It wasn’t the same. I wasn’t bitten as badly, and some strangers saved me from being dragged off. Nobody pronounced me dead, like they did with Jack. So, yes, that’s my real name. ”
Grace looked thoughtful, and I wondered what she was thinking. Then, abruptly, she looked at me, expression dark. “So your parents know what you are, right? That’s why they—” She stopped and sort of half closed her eyes. I could see her swallowing again.
“It makes you sick for weeks afterward,” I said, rescuing her from finishing the sentence. “The wolf toxin, I guess. While it’s changing you. I couldn’t stop shifting back and forth, no matter how warm or cold I was. ” I paused, the memories flickering through my head like photos from someone else’s camera. “They thought I was possessed. Then it got warm and I improved—became stable, I mean, and they thought I was cured. Saved, I suppose. Until winter. For a while they tried to get the church to do something about me. Finally they decided to do something themselves. They’re both serving life sentences now. They didn’t realize that we’re harder to kill than most people. ”
Grace’s face was nearing a pale shade of green and the knuckles on her hand clutching the steering wheel had turned white. “Let’s talk about something else. ”
“I’m sorry,” I said, and I really was. “Let’s talk about cars. Is this one your betrothed? I mean, assuming it runs okay? I don’t know anything about cars, but I can at least pretend. ‘Runs okay’ sounds like something someone would say if they knew what they were talking about, right?”
She seized the subject, petting the steering wheel. “I do like it. ”
“It’s very ugly,” I said generously. “But it looks as though it would laugh at snow. And, if you hit a deer, it would just hiccup and keep going. ”
Grace added, “Plus, it’s got a pretty appealing front seat. I mean, I can just—” Grace leaned across the bench seat toward me, lightly resting one of her hands on my leg. Now she was an inch away from me, close enough that I felt the heat of her breath on my lips. Close enough that I could feel her waiting for me to lean into her, too.
In my head, an image flashed of Grace in her backyard, her hand outstretched, imploring me to come to her. But I couldn’t, then. I was in another world, one that demanded I keep my distance. Now, I couldn’t help but wonder whether I still lived in that world, bound by its rules. My human skin was only mocking me, taunting me with riches that would vanish at the first freeze.
I sat back from her, and looked away before I could see her disappointment. The silence was thick around us. “Tell me about after you were bitten,” I said, just to say something. “Did you get sick?”
Grace leaned back in her seat and sighed. I wondered how many times I’d disappointed her before. “I don’t know. It seems like such a long time ago. I guess—maybe. I remember having the flu right afterward. ”
After I was bitten, it had felt like the flu, too. Exhaustion, hot and cold shakes, nausea burning the back of my throat, bones aching to change form.
Grace shrugged. “That was the year I got locked in the car, too. It was a month or two after the attack. It was spring, but it was really hot. My dad took me along with him to run some errands, because I guess I was too young to leave behind. ” She glanced at me to see if I was listening. I was.
“Anyway, I had the flu, I guess, and I was just stupid with sleep. So on the way home I fell asleep in the backseat…and the next thing I remember was waking up in the hospital. I guess Dad had gotten home and gotten the groceries out and forgotten about me. Just left me locked in the car, I guess. They said I tried to get out, but I don’t remember that, really. I don’t remember anything until the hospital, where the nurse was saying that it was the hottest May day on record for MercyFalls. The doctor told my dad the heat in the car should’ve killed me, so I’m a miracle girl. How’s that for responsible parenting?”
I shook my head in disbelief. There was a brief silence that gave me enough time to notice the consternation in her expression and remind me that I sincerely regretted not kissing her a moment ago. I thought about saying Show me what you meant earlier, when you said that you liked this front seat. But I couldn’t imagine my mouth forming those words, so instead I just took her hand and ran my finger along her palm and between her fingers, tracing the lines in her hand and letting my skin memorize her fingerprints.
Grace made a small sound of appreciation and closed her eyes as my fingers whispered circles on her skin. Somehow this was almost better than kissing.
Both of us jerked when someone tapped on the glass on my side of the car. The tow-truck driver and car-lot owner stood there, peering in at us. His voice came through, muffled by the glass. “You find what you were looking for?”
Grace reached across and rolled down the window. She was talking to him but looking at me, gaze intense, when she said, “Absolutely. ”
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN • GRACE
That night, Sam stayed in my bed again, chastely perched on the farthest edge of the mattress, but somehow, during the night, our bodies migrated together. I half woke early in the morning, long before dawn, the room washed clean by pale moonlight, and found that I was pressed up against Sam’s back, my hands balled up to my chest like a mummy. I could just barely see the dark curve of his shoulder, and something about the shape it made, the gesture it suggested, filled me with a sort of fierce, awful affection. His body was warm and he smelled so good—like wolf, and trees, and home—that I buried my face in his shoulder and closed my eyes again. He made a soft noise and rolled his shoulders back against me, pressing closer.
Right before I drifted back to sleep again, my breathing slowing to match his, I had a brief, burning thought: I can’t live without this.
There had to be a cure.
CHAPTER NINETEEN • GRACE
The next day was unseasonably fair, too beautiful to be going to school, but I couldn’t skip a second day without coming up with a really good excuse. It wasn’t that I’d get too far behind; it just seemed that when you never miss school for a certain length of time, people tend to notice when you do. Rachel had already called twice and left an ominous voicemail saying I’d picked the wrong day to cut class, Grace Brisbane! Olivia hadn’t called since our argument in the hall, so I guessed that meant we weren’t on speaking terms.
Sam drove me to school in the Bronco while I hastily caught up on some
“I love this weather. I feel so me. ”
Watching him bask in the sun, winter seemed a million miles away, and I couldn’t imagine him leaving me. I wanted to memorize the crooked line of his nose for later daydreaming. For a moment, I felt an irrational stab of guilt that my feelings for Sam were replacing those that I’d had for my wolf—until I remembered that he was my wolf. All over again, I had the weird sensation of the ground shifting beneath me at the fact of his existence, immediately followed by relief. My obsession was so—easy now. The only thing I had to explain to my friends was where my new boyfriend had come from.
“I guess I have to go,” I said. “I don’t want to. ”
Sam’s eyes opened the rest of the way and focused on me. “I’ll be here when you come back, promise. ” He added, very formal, “May I use your car? I’d like to see if Beck’s still human, and if not, whether his house has the power turned on. ”
I nodded, but part of me hoped the power would be off at Beck’s house. I kind of wanted Sam back in my bed, where I could keep him from disappearing like the dream that he was. I climbed out of the Bronco with my backpack. “Don’t get any tickets, speed racer. ”
As I came around the front of the vehicle, Sam rolled down his window. “Hey!”
Shyly, he said, “Come here, Grace. ” I smiled at the way he said my name and returned to the window, smiling wider when I realized what he wanted. His careful kiss didn’t fool me; as soon as I parted my lips slightly, he sighed and pulled back. “I’ll make you late for school. ”
I grinned. I was on top of the world. “You’ll be back at three?”
“Wouldn’t miss it. ”
I watched him pull out of the lot, already feeling the length of the school day stretching before me.
A notebook smacked my arm. “Who was that?!”
I turned to Rachel and tried to think of something that was easier than the truth. “My ride?”
Rachel didn’t push the issue, mostly because her brain was already on to something else. She grabbed my elbow and began steering me toward the school. Surely, surely, there had to be some kind of eternal reward waiting for me for going to school on a gorgeous day like this with Sam in my car. Rachel wiggled my arm to get my attention. “Grace. Focus. There was a wolf outside of the school yesterday. In the parking lot. Like, everyone saw it when school got out. ”
“What?” I turned and looked over my shoulder at the lot, trying to imagine a wolf amongst the cars. The sparse pine trees that bordered the lot didn’t connect with Boundary Wood; the wolf would’ve had to cross several streets and yards to get to the parking lot. “What did it look like?”
Rachel gave me a weird look. “The wolf?”