Shiver, page 20part #1 of The Wolves of Mercy Falls Series
“What if you hadn’t been shot? When would you have become you again?”
I closed my eyes. “I don’t know, Grace. ” It was the perfect moment to tell her. This is my last year. But I couldn’t say it. Not yet. I wanted another minute, another hour, another night of pretending this wasn’t the end.
Grace inhaled a slow, shaky breath, and something in the way she did it made me realize that somehow, on some level, she knew. She’d known all along.
She wasn’t crying, but I thought I might.
Grace put her fingers back into my hair, and mine were in hers. Our bare arms pressed against each other in a cool tangle of skin. Every little movement against her arm rubbed off a tiny spark of her scent, a tantalizing mix of flowery soap, faint sweat, and desire for me.
I wondered if she knew how transparent her scent made her, how it told me what she was feeling when she didn’t say it out loud.
Of course, I’d seen her smelling the air just as often as I did. She had to know that she was driving me crazy right now, that every touch of her skin on mine tingled, electric.
Every touch pushed the reality of the oncoming winter further away.
As if to prove me right, Grace moved closer, kicking away the blankets between us, pressing her mouth to mine. I let her part my lips and sighed, tasting her breath. I listened to her almost inaudible gasp as I wrapped my arms around her. Every one of my senses was whispering to me over and over to get closer to her, closer to her, as close as I could. She twined her bare legs in mine and we kissed until we had no more breath and got closer until distant howls outside the window brought me back to my senses.
Grace made a soft noise of disappointment as I disentangled my legs from hers, aching with wanting more. I shifted to lie next to her, my fingers still caught in her hair. We listened to the wolves howling outside the window, the ones who hadn’t changed. Or who would never change again. And we buried our heads against each other so we couldn’t hear anything but the racing of our hearts.
CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT • GRACE
School felt like an alien planet on Monday. It took me a long moment of sitting behind the wheel of the Bronco, watching the students milling on the sidewalks and the cars circling the lot and the buses filing neatly into place, to realize that school hadn’t changed. I had.
“You have to go to school,” Sam said, and if I hadn’t known him, I wouldn’t have heard the hopeful questioning note. I wondered where he would go while I was sitting in class.
“I know,” I replied, frowning at the multicolored sweaters and scarves trailing into the school, evidence of winter’s approach. “It just seems so…” What it seemed was irrelevant, disconnected from my life. It was hard to remember what was important about sitting in a classroom with a stack of notes that would be meaningless by next year.
Beside me, Sam jumped in surprise as the driver’s-side door came open. Rachel climbed into the Bronco with her backpack, shoving me across the bench seat to make room for herself.
She slammed the door shut and let out a big sigh. The car seemed very full with her in it. “Nice truck. ” She leaned forward and looked over at Sam. “Ooh, a boy. Hi, Boy! Grace, I’m so hyper. Coffee! Are you mad at me?”
I leaned back in surprise, blinking. “No?”
“Good! Because when you didn’t call me in forever, I figured you’d either died or were mad at me. And you’re obviously not dead, so I thought it was the mad thing. ” She drummed her fingers on the steering wheel. “But you are pissed at Olivia, right?”
“Yes,” I said, although I wasn’t sure if it was still true. I remembered why we fought, but I couldn’t really remember why it had been meaningful. “No. I don’t think so. It was stupid. ”
“Yeah, I thought so,” Rachel said. She leaned forward and rested her chin on the steering wheel so that she could look at Sam. “So, Boy, why are you in Grace’s car?”
Despite myself, I smiled. I knew what Sam was needed to be a secret, but Sam himself didn’t have to be, did he? I was suddenly filled with the need for Rachel to approve of him. “Yeah, Boy,” I said, craning my neck to see Sam right beside me. He wore an expression caught somewhere between amusement and doubt. “Why are you in my car?”
“I’m here for visual interest,” Sam said.
“Wow,” Rachel replied. “Like, long-term, or short-term?”
“For as long as I’m interesting. ” He turned his face into my shoulder for a moment in a wordless gesture of affection. I tried not to smile like an idiot.
“Oh, it’s that way, is it? Well, then, I’m Rachel, and I’m hyper, and I’m Grace’s best friend,” she said, and stuck her hand out to him. She was wearing rainbow-colored fingerless gloves that stretched up to her elbows. Sam shook her hand.
“Nice to meet you, Sam. Do you go here?” When he shook his head, Rachel took my hand and said, “Yeah, I didn’t think so. Well, then, I’m going to steal this nice person from you and take her to class because we’re going to be late and I have lots of stuff to talk to her about and she’s missed out on so much freaky wolf stuff because she’s not talking to her other best friend. So you can see we have to go. I would say I’m not normally this hyper, but I kinda am. Let’s go, Grace!”
Sam and I exchanged looks, his eyes fleetingly worried, and then Rachel opened the door and pulled me out. Sam slid behind the wheel. For a second I thought he might kiss me good-bye, but instead he glanced at Rachel before resting his fingers on my hand for a moment. His cheeks were pink.
Rachel didn’t say anything, but she smiled crookedly before pulling me toward the school. She wiggled my arm. “So that’s why you haven’t been calling, huh? The Boy is supercute. What’s he, homeschooled?”
As we pushed through the school doors, I looked over my shoulder at the Bronco. I saw Sam lift a hand in a wave before he started to back out of the parking space.
“Yeah, he is, on both counts,” I said. “More on that later. What is going on with the wolves?”
Rachel dramatically clutched her arms around my shoulders.
“Olivia saw one. It was up on their front porch and there were claw marks, Grace. On the door. Creep. Factor. ”
I halted in the middle of the hallway; students behind us made irritated noises and pushed around us. I said, “Wait. At Olivia’s house?”
“No, at your mom’s. ” Rachel shook her head and peeled off her rainbow gloves. “Yes, at Olivia’s house. If you guys would stop fighting, she could tell you herself. What are you fighting about, anyway? It pains me to see my peeps not playing nice with each other. ”
“I told you, it’s just stupid stuff,” I said. I kind of wanted her to stop talking so I could try and think about the wolf at Olivia’s house. Was it Jack again? Why at Olivia’s?
“Well, you guys need to start getting along because I want you both to go with me over Christmas break. And that’s not that far off, you know. I mean, not really, once you start planning stuff. Come on, Grace, just say yes!” Rachel wailed.
“Maybe. ” It wasn’t really the wolf at Olivia’s that bothered me. It was the claw marks bit. I needed to talk to Olivia and find out how much of this was real and how much of it was Rachel’s love of a good story.
“Is this about The Boy? He can come! I don’t care!” Rachel said.
The hall was slowly emptying; the bell rang overhead. “We’ll talk about it later!” I said, and hurried with Rachel into first period. I found my usual seat and began sorting through my homework.
“We need to talk. ”
I jerked to attention at the sound of an entirely different voice: Isabel Culpeper’s. She slid her giant cork heels the rest of the way under the other desk and leaned toward me, highlighted hair framing her face in perfect, shiny ringlets.
“We’re sort of in class right now, Isabel,” I said, gesturing toward the taped morning announcements playing on the TV at the fr
Worst case was that she wanted to talk about Jack.
Sam had said that the only rule the pack had was that they didn’t talk about werewolves to outsiders. I wasn’t about to break that rule.
Isabel’s face was still wearing a pretty pout, but I saw storms destroying small villages in her eyes. She glanced toward the front of the room and leaned closer to me. I smelled perfume—roses and summer in this Minnesota cold. “It will only take a second. ”
I looked over at Rachel, who was frowning at Isabel. I really didn’t want to talk to Isabel. I didn’t really know much about her, but I knew she was a dangerous gossip who could quickly reduce my standing in the school to cafeteria target practice. I wasn’t really one who tried to be popular, but I remembered what had happened to the last girl who had gotten on Isabel’s bad side. She was still trying to get out from under a convoluted rumor that involved lap dancing and the football team. “Why?”
“Privately,” hissed Isabel. “Across the hall. ”
I rolled my eyes as I pushed out of my desk and tiptoed out the back of the room. Rachel gave me a brief, pained look. I was sure I wore a matching one. “Two seconds. That’s it,” I told Isabel as she shuffled me across the hall into an empty classroom. The corkboard on the opposite wall was covered with anatomical drawings; someone had pinned a thong over one of the figures.
“Yeah. Whatever. ” She shut the door behind us and eyed me as if I would spontaneously break into song or something. I didn’t know what she was waiting for.
I crossed my arms. “Okay. What do you want?”
I’d thought I was prepared for it, but when she said, “My brother. Jack,” my heart still raced.
I didn’t say anything.
“I saw him while I was running this morning. ”
I swallowed. “Your brother. ”
Isabel pointed at me with a perfect nail, glossier than the hood of the Bronco. Her ringlets bounced. “Oh, don’t give me that. I talked to him. He’s not dead. ”
I briefly wrestled with the image of Isabel jogging. I couldn’t see it. Maybe she meant running from her Chihuahua. “Um. ”
Isabel pressed on. “There was something screwed up with him. And don’t say ‘That’s because he’s dead. ’ He’s not. ”
Something about Isabel’s charming personality—and maybe the fact that I knew Jack was actually alive—made it very difficult to empathize with her. I said, “Isabel, it seems to me like you don’t need me to have this conversation. You’re doing a great job all by yourself. ”
“Shut up,” Isabel said, which only supported my theory. I was about to tell her so, but her next words stopped me cold. “When I saw Jack, he said he hadn’t really died. Then he started—twitching—and said he had to go right then. When I tried to ask him what was wrong with him, he said that you knew. ”