Shiver, page 33part #1 of The Wolves of Mercy Falls Series
“I’m already yummy,” muttered Isabel. She handed two pans to Grace, and Grace deftly unfolded the pie pastry—magic—into the bottom of each. She began to show Isabel how to crimp the edges. The entire process seemed very wellworn; I got the idea that Grace could’ve done this whole thing a lot faster without me and Isabel in her way.
Isabel caught me smiling at the sight of the two of them crimping piecrusts. “What are you smiling at? Look at your mushrooms!”
I rescued the mushrooms in time and added the spinach that Grace pushed into my hands.
“My mascara. ” Isabel’s voice rose above the increasing clamor, and I looked to see her and Grace laughing and crying while cutting onions. Then the little onions’ powerful odor hit my nose and burned my eyes, too.
I offered my sauté pan to them. “Throw them in here. It’ll kill it a bit. ”
Isabel scraped them off a cutting board into the pan and Grace slapped my butt with a flour-covered hand. I craned my neck, trying to see if she’d left a print, while Grace rubbed her hand in leftover flour to get better coverage and tried again.
“This is my song!” Grace suddenly announced. “Turn it up! Turn it up!”
It was Mariah Carey in the worst possible way, but it was so right at the moment. I turned it up until the little speakers buzzed against the tins next to them. I grabbed Grace’s hand and tugged her over to me and we started to dance like we were cool, terribly clumsy and unbearably sexy, her grinding up against me, hands in the air, my arms around her waist, too low to be chaste.
I thought to myself, A life is measured by moments like these. Grace leaned her head back, neck long and pale against my shoulder, to reach my mouth for a kiss, and just before I gave her one, I saw Isabel’s wistful eyes watch my mouth touch Grace’s.
“Tell me how long to set the timer for,” Isabel said, catching my eye and looking away. “And then maybe we can talk…?”
Grace was still leaning back against me, secure in my arms, covered in flour and so entirely edible that I ached with wanting to be alone with her, here, now. She gestured lazily toward the open cookbook on the counter, drunk with my presence. Isabel consulted the recipe and set the timer.
There was a moment’s silence when we realized we were done, and then I took a breath and faced Isabel. “Okay, I’ll tell you what’s wrong with Jack. ”
Isabel and Grace both looked startled.
“Let’s go sit down,” Grace suggested, removing herself from my arms. “Living room’s that way. I’ll get coffee. ”
So Isabel and I made our way into the living room. Like the kitchen, it was cluttered in a way I hadn’t noticed until Isabel was in it. She had to move a pile of unfolded laundry to sit on the sofa. I didn’t want to sit next to her, so I sat on the rocker across from her.
Looking at me out of the corner of her eye, Isabel asked, “Why aren’t you like Jack? Why aren’t you changing back and forth?”
I didn’t flinch; if Grace hadn’t warned me of how much Isabel had guessed, I probably would have. “I’ve been this way longer. You get more stable the longer it’s been. At first you just switch back and forth all the time. Temperature has a little bit to do with it, but not as much as later. ”
She immediately fired another one off: “Did you do this to Jack?”
I let the revulsion show on my face. “I don’t know who did it. There are quite a few of us and not all of us are nice people. ” I didn’t say anything about his BB gun.
“Why is he so angry?”
I shrugged. “I dunno. Because he’s an angry person?”
Isabel’s expression became…pointy.
“Look, getting bitten doesn’t make you into a monster. It just makes you into a wolf. You are what you are. When you’re a wolf, or when you’re shifting, you don’t have human inhibitions, so if you’re naturally angry or violent, you get worse. ”
Grace walked in, precariously carrying three mugs of coffee. Isabel took one with a beaver on the side and I took one with a bank name on it. Grace joined Isabel on the sofa.
Isabel closed her eyes for a second. “Okay. So let me get this straight. My brother wasn’t really killed by wolves. He was just mauled by them and then turned into a werewolf? Sorry, I’m missing the whole undead thing. And isn’t there supposed to be something about moons and silver bullets and a bunch of crap like that?”
“He healed himself, but it took a while,” I told her. “He wasn’t ever really dead. I don’t know how he escaped from the morgue. The moon and silver stuff is all just myth. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s—it’s a disease that’s worse when it’s cold. I think the moon myth is because it gets cold overnight, so when we’re new, we change into wolves overnight a lot. So people thought it was the moon that caused it. ”
Isabel seemed to be taking this pretty well. She wasn’t fainting, and she didn’t smell afraid. She sipped her coffee. “Grace, this is disgusting. ”
“It’s instant,” Grace apologized.
Isabel asked, “So does my brother recognize me when he’s a wolf?”
Grace looked at my face; I couldn’t look back at her when I answered. “Probably a little. Some of us don’t remember anything about our lives when we’re wolves. Some of us remember a little. ”
Grace looked away, sipped her coffee, pretended she didn’t care.
“So there’s a pack?”
Isabel asked good questions. I nodded. “But Jack hasn’t found them yet. Or they haven’t found him. ”
Isabel ran a finger around the rim of her coffee mug for a long moment. Finally she looked from me to Grace and back again. “Okay, so what’s the catch here?”
I blinked. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, you’re sitting here just talking, and Grace is here trying to pretend like everything’s just fine, but everything isn’t just fine, is it?”
I guess I couldn’t be surprised by her intuition. You didn’t claw your way to the top of the high school food chain without being able to read people. I looked into my still-full coffee cup. I didn’t like coffee—too strong and bitter a flavor. I’d been a wolf too long; I’d lost my taste for it. “We’ve got expiration dates. The longer it’s been since we’ve been bitten, the less cold we need to turn us into wolves. And the more heat we need to turn us into humans. Eventually, we just don’t turn, become human again. ”
I didn’t look at Grace. “It varies from wolf to wolf. Years and years for most wolves. ”
“But not for you. ”
Shut up, Isabel. I didn’t want to test Grace’s even expression any further. I just shook my head, very slightly, hoping that Grace really was looking out the window and not at me.
“So what if you lived in Florida, or someplace really warm?”
I was relieved to get the topic off me. “A couple of us tried it. It doesn’t work. It just makes you supersensitive to the slightest temperature change. ” Ulrik and Melissa and a wolf named Bauer had gone down to Texas one year in hopes of outrunning the winter. I still remembered the excited phone call from Ulrik after weeks of not changing—and then his dejected return, minus Bauer, after they’d walked past the slightly ajar door of an air-conditioned shop and Bauer had instantly changed forms. Apparently, Texas Animal Control didn’t believe in tranquilizer guns.
“What about the equator? Where the temperature never changes?”
“I don’t know. ” I tried not to sound exasperated. “None of us ever decided to go to the rain forest, but I’ll keep that in mind for when I win the lotto. ”
“No need to be a jerk,” Isabel said, setting her coffee mug down on a stack of magazines. “I was just asking. So anybody who gets bitten changes, then?”
Everyone except the one I wish I could take with me. “Pretty much. ” I heard my voice, how tired it sounded, and didn’t care.
Isabel pursed her lips and I thought she’d press it further, but she didn’t. “
Grace’s eyes narrowed, and I wished I knew what she was thinking. “Yeah. You got it. But you already knew all this. So why did you ask us?”
Isabel shrugged. “I guess I was waiting for someone to jump out of the curtain and say, ‘Whoopdie-friggin-doo, fooled you! No such thing as werewolves. What were you thinking?’”
I wanted to tell her that there really wasn’t such thing as werewolves. That there were humans, and there were wolves, and there were those of us that were on the way from one to another. But I was just tired, so I didn’t say anything.
“Tell me you won’t tell anyone. ” Grace spoke abruptly. “I don’t think you have yet, but you can’t tell anyone now. ”
“Do you think I’m an idiot? My dad fricking shot one of the wolves because he was angry about it. Do you think I’m going to try and tell him Jack’s one of them? And my mother’s already medicated out the wazoo. Yeah, big help she would be. I’m just going to have to deal with this on my own. ”
Grace exchanged a look with me that said, Good guess, Sam.
“And with us,” Grace added. “We’ll help you when we can. Jack doesn’t have to be alone, but we have to find him first. ”
Isabel flicked an invisible piece of dust off one of her boots, as if she didn’t know what to do with the kindness. Finally, she said, still looking at her boot, “I don’t know. He wasn’t a very nice person last time I saw him. I don’t know if I want to find him. ”
“Sorry,” I said.
For not being able to tell you that his nasty temper was from the bite and would go away. I shrugged. It felt like I was doing a lot of that. “For not having happier news. ”
There was a low, irritating buzz from the kitchen.
“The quiche is done,” Isabel said. “At least I get a consolation prize. ” She looked at me and then at Grace. “So soon he’ll stop switching back and forth, right? Because winter’s almost here?”
“Good,” Isabel said, looking out the window at the naked branches of the trees. Looking out to the woods that were Jack’s home now, and soon, mine. “Can’t get here soon enough. ”
CHAPTER FORTY-THREE • GRACE
I was a zombie of sleeplessness. I was
Mr. Rink’s voice
Flickering fluorescent light above my desk
Isabel’s stone face
“Earth to Grace,” Rachel said, pinching my elbow as she passed me on the sidewalk. “There’s Olivia. I didn’t even see her in class, did you?”
I followed Rachel’s gaze to the kids waiting for the school bus. Olivia was among them, jumping up and down to stay warm. No camera. I thought about the photos. “I have to talk to her. ”