Shiver, page 42part #1 of The Wolves of Mercy Falls Series
Turn, Sam said, or maybe I imagined him saying it, but when I turned the wheel, the Bronco kept going straight, sliding, sliding, sliding. I remembered, in the back of my head, my dad saying, Steer into the skid, and I did, but it was too late.
There was a sound like a bone breaking, and there was a dead deer on the car and in the car and glass was everywhere and God, a tree shoved through my hood, and there was blood on my knuckles from the glass, and I was shaking and Sam was looking at me with this look on his face like oh, no, and then I realized that the car wasn’t running and there was frigid air trickling in the jagged hole in the windshield.
I wasted a moment staring at him. Then I tried the engine, which wouldn’t even respond when I turned the key. I said: “We call 911. They’ll come get us. ”
Sam’s mouth made a sad little line, and he nodded, as if that really would work. I punched in the number and reported the accident, talking fast, trying to guess where we might be, and then I took off my coat, careful not to drag the sleeves over my bloody knuckles, and I threw it on top of Sam. He sat quietly, unmoving, as I grabbed a blanket from the backseat and threw it on top of him, too, and then I slid across the seat and leaned against him, hoping to lend my body heat to him.
“Call Beck, please,” Sam said, and I did. I put it on speakerphone and set it on the dash.
“Grace?” Beck’s voice.
“Beck,” Sam said. “It’s me. ”
There was a pause, and then, “Sam. I—”
“There’s no time,” Sam said. “We’ve hit a deer. We’re wrecked. ”
“God. Where are you? Is the car running?”
“Too far. We called 911. The engine’s dead. ” Sam gave Beck a moment to realize what that meant. “Beck, I’m sorry I didn’t come by. There are things I need to say—”
“No, listen to me first, Sam. Those kids. I need you to know I recruited them. They knew. They knew all along. I didn’t do it against their will. Not like you. I’m so sorry, Sam. I’ve never stopped being sorry. ”
The words were meaningless to me, but obviously not to Sam. His eyes were too bright, and he blinked. “I don’t regret it. I love you, Beck. ”
“I love you, too, Sam. You’re the best of us, and nothing can change that. ”
Sam shuddered, the first sign I’d seen of the cold acting on him. “I have to go,” he said. “There’s no more time. ”
“Good-bye, Sam. ”
“Bye, Beck. ”
Sam nodded to me and I hit the END button.
For a second he was still, blinking. Then he shook off all the blankets and coats so that his arms were free and he wrapped them around me as tightly as he could. I felt him shuddering, shuddering against me as he buried his face in my hair.
I said, uselessly, “Sam, don’t go. ”
Sam cupped my face in his hands and looked me in the eyes. His eyes were yellow, sad, wolf, mine. “These stay the same. Remember that when you look at me. Remember it’s me. Please. ”
Please don’t go.
Sam let go of me and spread out his arms, gripping the dash with one hand and the back of his seat with the other. He bowed his head and I watched his shoulders ripple and shake, watched the silent agony of the change until that one soft, awful cry, just when he lost himself.
CHAPTER FIFTY-THREE • SAM
crashing into the trembling void
stretching my hand to you
losing myself to frigid regret
is this fragile love
CHAPTER FIFTY-FOUR • GRACE
When the paramedics arrived, I was curled on the passenger seat in a pile of coats, my hands pressed against my face.
“Miss, are you all right?”
I didn’t answer, just put my hands on my lap and looked at my fingers, covered with bloody tears.
“Miss, are you alone?”
CHAPTER FIFTY-FIVE • SAM
I watched her, like I’d always watched her.
Thoughts were slippery and transient, faint scents on a frigid wind, too far away to catch.
She sat just outside the wood near the swing, curled small, until the cold shook her, and still she didn’t move. For a long time, I didn’t know what she was doing.
I watched her. Part of me wanted to go to her, though instinct sang against it. The desire sparked a thought which sparked a memory of golden woods, days floating around me and falling around me, days lying still and crumpled on the ground.
But I realized then what she was doing, folded there, trembling with the vicious cold. She was waiting, waiting for the cold to shake her into another form. Maybe that unfamiliar scent I caught from her was hope.
She waited to change, and I waited to change, and we both wanted what we couldn’t have.
Finally, night crept across the yard, lengthening the shadows, pulling them out of the woods until they covered the whole world.
I watched her.
The door opened. I shrank farther into the dark. A man came out, pulled the girl from the ground. The light from the house glistened off the frozen tracks on her face.
I watched her. Thoughts, distant, fled with her absence. After she disappeared into the house, there was only this: longing.
CHAPTER FIFTY-SIX • GRACE
Their howls were the hardest thing to bear.
As terrible as the days were, the nights were worse; days were just listless preparations to somehow make it through another night populated by their voices. I lay in bed and hugged his pillow until there was no more of his scent caught in it. I slept in his chair in Dad’s study until it had my shape instead of his. I walked barefoot through the house in a private grief I couldn’t share with anyone.
The only person I could share with, Olivia, couldn’t be reached by phone, and my car—the car I couldn’t even bear to think of—was useless and broken.
And so it was just me in the house and the hours stretched out before me and the unchanging, leafless trees of Boundary Wood outside my window.
The night I heard him howl was the worst. The others began first, like they had for the last three nights. I sank down into the leather chair in Dad’s study, buried my face in the last Samscented T-shirt of his that I had, and pretended that it was just a recording of wolves, not real wolves. Not real people. And then, for the first time since the crash, I heard his howl join in with them.
It tore my heart out, because I heard his voice. The wolves sang slowly behind him, bittersweet harmony, but all I heard was Sam. His howl trembled, rose, fell in anguish.
I listened for a long time. I prayed for them to stop, to leave me alone, but at the same time I was desperately afraid that they would. Long after the other voices had dropped away, Sam kept howling, very soft and slow.
When he finally fell silent, the night felt dead.
Sitting still was intolerable. I stood up, paced, clenched and unclenched my hands into fists. Finally I took the guitar that Sam had played and I screamed and smashed it into pieces on Dad’s desk.
When Dad came down from his room, he found me sitting in the middle of a sea of splintered wood and snapped strings, like a boat carrying music had crashed on a rocky shore.
CHAPTER FIFTY-SEVEN • GRACE
The first time I picked up my phone after the crash, it was snowing. Light, delicate flakes drifted by the black square of my window, like flower petals. I wouldn’t have picked it up, but it was the one person I had been trying to contact since the crash. “Olivia?”
“G-gr-r-ace?” Olivia, barely recognizable. She was sobbing.
“Olivia, shh—what’s wrong?” That was a stupid question. I knew what was wrong with her.
“Re-remember I told you I knew about the wolves?” She was taking big gasps of air
“Bit you,” I said.
“Yes,” Olivia sobbed out the word. “I didn’t think anything would happen, because days went by and I felt the same!”
My limbs fell slack. “You changed?”
I closed my eyes, imagining the scene. God. “Where are you now?”
“At the b-bus stop. ” She paused, sniffing. “It’s c-cold. ”
“Oh, Olivia. Olivia, come over here. Stay with me. We’ll figure this out. I’d come, but I don’t have a car yet. ”
Olivia began to sob again.
I stood up and shut my bedroom door. Not that Mom would hear me; she was upstairs, anyway. “Olivia, it’s okay. I’m not going to freak out. I saw Sam change and I didn’t freak out. I know what it’s like. Calm down, okay? I can’t come get you. I don’t have a car. You’re going to have to drive over here. ”
I calmed her down for another few minutes and told her I’d have the front door unlocked when she got there. For the first time since the crash, I felt closer to me again.
When she arrived, looking red-eyed and disheveled, I pushed her toward the bathroom for a shower and got her a change of clothes. I sat on the closed toilet lid while she stood in the hot water.
“I’ll tell you my story if you tell me yours,” I told her. “I want to know when Jack bit you. ”
“I told you how I met him, taking pictures of the wolves, and how I fed him. It was so stupid that I didn’t tell you—I was just so guilty about fighting with you that I didn’t tell you right away, and then I started cutting classes to help him out, and then I felt like I couldn’t tell you without…I don’t know what I thought. I’m sorry. ”
“It’s water under the bridge now,” I said. “What was he like? Did he force you to help him?”
“No,” Olivia said, “He was pretty nice, actually, when things went his way. He got pretty angry when he changed, but it looked painful. And he kept asking about the wolves, wanting to see photos, and we talked, and after he found out that you’d been bitten—”
“Found out?” I echoed.
“Okay, I told him! I didn’t know it was going to make him crazy! He went on and on about a cure after that, and he tried to get me to tell him how to fix him. And then he, um, he…” She wiped her eyes. “Bit me. ”
“Wait. He bit you when he was human?”
I shuddered. “God. How awful. Sick bastard. So you’ve been dealing with this all the time, by yourself?”
“Who would I tell?” Olivia said. “I thought Sam was one, because of his eyes—because I thought I recognized them from my wolf photos—but he told me he was wearing contacts when I met him. So I knew I either had it wrong or he just wasn’t going to help me, anyway. ”
“You should’ve told me. I already told you about the werewolves, anyway. ”
“I know. I was just—guilty. I was just”—she shut off the water—“stupid. I don’t know. What can I do, anyway? How was Sam human so much? I saw him. He waited in the Bronco for you all the time, and he never changed. ”
I handed her a towel over the top of the curtain. “Come into my room. I’ll tell you. ”