Shiver, page 34part #1 of The Wolves of Mercy Falls Series
“Yes. You do,” Rachel said. “Because you need to be on speaking terms before our vacation to hot, sunny places this Christmas. I would go with you, but Dad’s waiting, and he’s got an appointment in Duluth. He’ll go all fanged if I don’t get out there this second. Tell me what she says!”
She ran toward the parking lot and I jogged toward Olivia. “Olivia. ”
She jerked, and I caught her elbow, as if she would fly away if I didn’t. “I’ve been trying to call you. ”
Olivia pulled her stocking cap down and balled herself up against the chill. “Yeah?”
For a single moment, I thought about waiting to see what she would say. To see if she would confess to knowledge about the wolves without prompting. But the buses were pulling in, and I didn’t want to wait. I lowered my voice and said in her ear, “I saw your photographs. Of Jack. ”
She abruptly turned to face me. “You were the one who took them?”
I tried, with some success, to keep the accusation out of my voice. “Isabel showed them to me. ”
Olivia’s face went pale.
I demanded, “Why wouldn’t you tell me? Why wouldn’t you call me?”
She bit her lip and looked across the parking lot. “I was going to, at first. To tell you that you were right. But then I ran across Jack, and he told me I couldn’t tell anyone about him, and I just felt guilty, like I was doing something wrong. ”
I stared at her. “Have you talked to him?”
Olivia shrugged, unhappy, and shivered in the growing chill of the afternoon. “I was taking photos of the wolves, like always, and I saw him. I saw him”—she lowered her voice and leaned toward me—“change. Become human again. I couldn’t believe it. And he had no clothing, and my house wasn’t far, so I had him come over and get some of John’s clothes. I guess I was just trying to convince myself that I wasn’t crazy. ”
“Thanks,” I said sarcastically.
It took her a moment. Then she said, quickly, “Oh, Grace, I know. I know you told me at the very beginning, but what was I supposed to do—believe you? It sounds impossible. It looks impossible. But I felt sorry for him. He doesn’t belong anywhere now. ”
“How long has this been going on?!” Something was stinging at me. Betrayal, or something. I’d told Olivia at the very beginning about my suspicions, and she’d waited until I came to her to admit anything.
“I don’t know. Awhile. I’ve been giving him food and washing his clothes and stuff. I don’t know where he’s been staying. We talked a lot, until we had a fight about the cure. I was cutting class to talk to him and to try to get more photos of the wolves. I wanted to see if any of the others would change. ” She paused. “Grace, he said you’d been bitten and cured. ”
“That’s true. Well, that I was bitten. You knew that. But I didn’t ever change into a wolf, obviously. ”
Her eyes were intent on me. “Ever?”
I shook my head. “No. Have you told anybody else?”
Olivia gave me another withering look. “I’m not an idiot. ”
“Well, Isabel got those photos somehow. If she can, anyone can. ”
“I don’t have any photos that really show what’s going on,” Olivia said. “I told you, I’m not a total idiot. I just have the photos of the before and after. And who would believe anything from that?”
“Isabel,” I said.
Olivia frowned at me. “I’m being careful. Anyway, I haven’t seen him since we fought. I have to go. ” She gestured at the bus. “You really never changed?”
Now it was my turn to give her a withering look. “I never lie to you, Olive. ”
She looked at me for a long beat. Then she said, “Do you want to come back to my house?”
I kind of wanted her to say that she was sorry. For not confiding in me. For not answering my calls. For fighting with me. For not saying you were right. So I just said, “I’m waiting for Sam. ”
“Okay. Maybe another day this week?”
I blinked. “Maybe. ”
And then she was gone, onto the bus, just a silhouette in the windows making her way toward the back. I had thought that hearing her admit to knowing about the wolves would give me some…closure, but all I felt was an uneasy disquiet. After all this time looking for Jack, and Olivia had known where to find him all along. I wasn’t sure what to think.
In the parking lot, I saw the Bronco pulling in slowly, heading in my direction. Seeing Sam behind the wheel gave me peace in a way that the conversation with Olivia hadn’t. Strange how just seeing my own car could make me so happy.
Sam leaned over to unlatch the passenger-side door for me. He still looked a little tired. He handed me a steaming Styrofoam cup of coffee. “Your phone rang just a few minutes ago. ”
“Thanks. ” I climbed into the Bronco and gratefully accepted the coffee. “I’m a zombie today. I was dying for caffeine and I just had the weirdest conversation with Olivia. I’ll tell you about it once I’m properly caffeinated. Where’s my phone?” Sam pointed to the glove compartment.
Climbing into the Bronco, I opened the glove compartment and retrieved the phone. One new message. I dialed my voicemail, put it on speakerphone, and set the phone on the dash while I turned to Sam.
“I’m ready now,” I told him.
Sam looked at me, eyebrows doubtful. “For?”
“My kiss. ”
Sam chewed his lip. “I prefer the surprise attack. ”
“You have one new message,” said the recorded cell phone babe.
I grimaced, throwing myself back in the seat. “You drive me crazy. ”
“Hi, honey! You’ll never guess who I ran into today!” Mom’s voice buzzed out of the cell phone speaker.
“You could just throw yourself at me,” I suggested. “That would be fine with me. ”
Mom sounded excited. “Naomi Ett! You know, from my school. ”
“I didn’t think you were that sort of girl,” Sam said. I thought he might be joking.
Mom continued, “She’s all married and everything now, and in town for just a little bit, so Dad and I are going to spend some time with her. ”
I frowned at him. “I’m not. But with you, all bets are off. ”
“So we won’t be back until late tonight,” Mom’s message concluded. “Remember there’s leftovers in the fridge, and of course, we have our phone if you need us. ”
My leftovers. From the casserole I’d made.
Sam was staring at the phone as cell phone babe took up where Mom had left off. “To hear this message again, press one. To delete this message…”
I deleted it. Sam was still looking at the phone, his eyes sort of distant. I didn’t know what he was thinking. Maybe, like me, his head was full of a dozen different problems, all too amorphous and intangible to be solved.
I snapped the phone shut, and the sound seemed to break his spell. Sam’s eyes were suddenly intense on me. “Come away with me. ”
I raised an eyebrow.
“No, seriously. Let’s go somewhere. Can I take you somewhere, tonight? Someplace better than leftovers?”
I didn’t know what to say. I think maybe what I wanted to say was, Do you really think you have to even ask?
I watched him intently while Sam babbled on, words tumbling over each other in their hurry to get out. If I hadn’t scented the air at that moment, I probably wouldn’t have realized that anything was wrong. But coming off him in waves was the too-sweet scent of anxiety. Anxious about me? Anxious about something that had happened today? Anxious because he had heard the weather report?
“What’s up?” I asked.
“I just want to get out of town tonight. I want to just get away for a little bit. Mini vacation. A few hours in someone else’s life, you know? I mean, we don’t have to if you don’t want to. And if you think that it’s not—”
“Sam,” I said. “Shut up. ”
He shut up.
“Start driving. ”
We started driving.
Sam got onto the interstate and we drove and drove until the sky grew pink above the trees and birds flying over the road were black silhouettes. It was cold enough that cars just getting onto the highway puffed visible white exhaust into the frosty air. Sam used one hand to drive and used the other to twine his fingers with mine. This was so much better than staying at home with a casserole.
By the time we got off the interstate, I had either gotten used to the smell of Sam’s anxiety, or he had calmed down, because the only odor in the car was his musky, wolf wood scent.
“So,” I said, and ran a finger over the back of his cool hand. “Where are we going, anyway?”
Sam glanced over at me, the dash lights illuminating his doleful smile. “There’s a wonderful candy shop in Duluth. ”
It was incredibly cute that he’d driven us an hour just to go to a candy shop. Incredibly stupid, given the weather report, but incredibly cute nonetheless. “I’ve never been. ”
“They have the most amazing caramel apples,” Sam promised. “And these gooey things, I don’t even know what they are. Probably a million calories. And hot chocolate—oh, man, Grace. It’s amazing. ”
I couldn’t think of anything to say. I was idiotically entranced by the way he said “Grace. ” The tone of it. The way his lips formed the vowels. The timbre of his voice stuck in my head like music.
“I even wrote a song about their truffles,” he confessed.
That caught my attention. “I heard you playing the guitar for my mom. She told me it was a song about me. Why don’t you ever sing it for me?”
I looked past him at the brilliantly illuminated city, every building and bridge lit bravely against the early winter darkness; we were heading downtown. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been there. “It would be very romantic. And add to your walking stereotype street cred. ”
Sam didn’t look away from the road, but his lips curled up. I grinned, then looked away to watch our progress downtown. He didn’t even look at the road signs as he navigated his way down the evening streets. Streetlights striped light across the windshield and the white lines striped below us, marking time above and below.
Finally, he parallel parked and gestured to a warmly lit shop a few doors ahead of us. He turned to me. “Heaven. ”
Together we got out of the car and jogged the distance. I didn’t know how cold it was, but my breath formed a shapeless cloud in front of me as I pushed open the glass door to the candy shop. Sam pushed into the warm yellow glow after me, arms clasped around himself. The bell was still dinging from our entrance when Sam came from behind me and pulled me to him, crushing his arms over my chest. He whispered in my ear, “Don’t look. Close your eyes and smell it. Really smell it. I know you can. ”
I leaned my head back against his shoulder, feeling the heat of his body against me, and closed my eyes. My nose was inches away from the skin on his neck, and that was what I smelled. Earthy, wild, complex.