Shiver, page 45part #1 of The Wolves of Mercy Falls Series
Isabel handed me the syringe and ducked aside. I took her place. “Look the other way,” I ordered Jack. He turned his head away. I stuck the needle in, then smacked his face with my free hand as he jerked back around toward me. “Control yourself!” I snapped. “You’re not an animal. ”
He whispered, “Sorry. ”
I depressed the syringe fully, trying not to think too hard about the bloody contents of it, and pulled out the needle. There was a dot of red at the injection site; I didn’t know if it was Jack’s blood or infected blood from the syringe. Isabel was just staring at it, so I turned around, grabbed a Band-Aid, and stuck it over the site. Olivia let out a low moan.
“Thank you,” Jack said. He hugged his arms around himself. Isabel looked sick.
“Just give me the other one,” I said to Isabel. Isabel handed it to me and we turned to Olivia, who was so pale that I could see the vein running over her temple; nerves shook her hands. Isabel took over my duty of swabbing the arm. It was like an unspoken rule that we both had to feel useful to make the hateful task possible.
“I changed my mind!” Olivia cried. “I don’t want to do it! I’ll take my chances!”
I took her hand. “Olivia. Olive. Calm down. ”
“I can’t. ” Olivia’s eyes were on the dark red of the syringe. “I can’t say that I’d rather die than be this way. ”
I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t want to convince her to do something that could kill her, but I didn’t want her to not do it, out of fear. “But your whole life—Olivia. ”
Olivia shook her head. “No. No, it’s not worth it. Let Jack try it. I’ll take my chances. If it works on him, then I’ll try it. But I…can’t. ”
“You do know it’s nearly November, right?” Isabel demanded. “It’s freezing cold! You’re going to change soon for the winter, and we won’t get another chance until spring. ”
“Just let her wait,” Jack snapped. “There’s no harm. Better her parents think she’s missing for a few months than find out she’s a werewolf. ”
“Please. ” Olivia’s eyes were full of tears.
I shrugged helplessly and put down the syringe. I didn’t know any more than she did. And in my heart, I knew that, in her position, I’d make the same choice—better to live with her beloved wolves than die of meningitis.
“Fine,” Isabel said. “Jack, take Olivia out to the car. Wait there and keep an eye out. Okay, Grace. Let’s go see what Sam’s done to the exam room while we were gone. ”
Jack and Olivia headed down the hallway, pressed against each other for warmth, trying not to shift, and Isabel and I turned to go to the wolf who already had.
Standing just outside the exam room where Sam was, Isabel put her hand on my arm, stopping me before I turned the door handle. “Are you sure you want to do this?” she asked. “It could kill him. Probably will kill him. ”
Instead of answering, I pushed open the door.
In the ugly fluorescent lighting of the room, Sam looked ordinary, doglike, small, crouched beside the exam table. I knelt in front of him, wishing that we’d thought of this possible cure before it was probably too late for him. “Sam. ” I don’t want to stand before you like a thing, shrewd, secretive. …I had known that the heat wouldn’t change him back to human. It was nothing but selfishness that had made me bring him to the clinic. Selfishness, and a fallible cure that couldn’t possibly work for him in this form. “Sam, do you still want to do this?”
I touched his ruff, imagining it as his dark hair. I swallowed unhappily.
Sam whistled through his nose. I had no idea how much he understood of what I said; only that, in his semi-drugged state, he didn’t flinch under my touch.
I tried again. “It could kill you. Do you still want to try?”
Behind me, Isabel coughed meaningfully.
Sam whined at the noise, eyes jerking to Isabel and the door. I stroked his head and looked into his eyes. God, they were the same. It killed me to look at them now.
This has to work.
A tear slid down my face. I didn’t bother to swipe it away as I looked up at Isabel. I wanted this like I’d never wanted anything. “We have to do it. ”
Isabel didn’t move. “Grace, I don’t think he stands a chance unless he’s human. I just don’t think it will work. ”
I ran a finger over the short, smooth hair on the side of his face. If he hadn’t been sedated, he wouldn’t have tolerated it, but the Benadryl had dulled his instincts. He closed his eyes. It was unwolflike enough to give me hope.
“Grace. Are we doing this or not? Seriously. ”
“Wait,” I said. “I’m trying something. ”
I settled on the floor and whispered to Sam, “I want you to listen to me, if you can. ” I leaned the side of my face against his ruff and remembered the golden wood he had shown me so long ago. I remembered the way the yellow leaves, the color of Sam’s eyes, fluttered and twisted, crashing butterflies, on their way to the ground. The slender white trunks of the birches, creamy and smooth as human skin. I remembered Sam standing in the middle of the wood, his arms stretched out, a dark, solid form in the dream of the trees. His coming to me, me punching his chest, the soft kiss. I remembered every kiss we’d ever had, and I remembered every time I’d curled in his human arms. I remembered the soft warmth of his breath on the back of my neck while we slept.
I remembered Sam.
I remembered him forcing himself out of wolf form for me. To save me.
Sam jerked away from me. His head was lowered, tail between his legs, and he was shaking.
“What’s happening?” Isabel’s hand was on the doorknob.
Sam backed away farther, crashing into the cabinet behind him, curling into a ball, uncurling. He was peeling free. He was shaking out of his fur. He was wolf and he was Sam, and then
“Hurry,” Sam whispered. He was jerking, hard, against the cabinet. His fingers were claws on the tile. “Hurry. Do it now. ”
Isabel was frozen by the door.
“Isabel! Come on!”
She snapped out of her spell and came over to us. She crouched beside Sam, next to the bare expanse of his back. He was biting his lip so hard that it was bleeding. I knelt, took his hand.
His voice was strained. “Grace—hurry. I’m almost gone. ”
Isabel didn’t ask any more questions. She just grabbed his arm, turned it, and jabbed the needle in. She depressed the syringe halfway, but it jerked out of his arm as he seized violently. Sam backed away from me, tugging his hand from mine, and threw up.
But he was gone. In half the time it had taken him to become human, he was a wolf. Shaking, staggering, nails scratching on the tiles, falling to the floor.
“I’m sorry, Grace,” Isabel said. That was all she said. She laid the syringe on the counter. “Crap. I hear Jack. I’ll be right back. ”
The door opened and closed. I knelt next to Sam’s body and buried my face in his fur. His breaths were ragged and exhausted. And all I could think was—I killed him. This is going to kill him.
CHAPTER SIXTY-ONE • GRACE
Jack was the one who opened the exam room door. “Grace, come on. We have to go—Olivia’s not doing so good. ”
I stood, embarrassed to be found with tear-stained cheeks. I turned to tip the used syringe into the hazardous waste container by the counter. “I need help carrying him. ”
He scowled at me. “That’s why Isabel sent me in here. ”
I looked down, and my heart stopped. Empty floor. I spun, ducking my head to look under the table. “Sam?”
Jack had left the door open. The room was empty.
“Help me find him!” I shouted at Jack, pushing past him into the hallway. There was no sign of Sam. As I pelted down the hall, I could see the door wide-open at the end of it,
I spun in the parking lot, looking for any sign of Sam in the slender finger of Boundary Wood that stretched behind the clinic. But it was darker than dark. No lights. No sound. No Sam.
I knew he wouldn’t come, even if he heard me. Sam was strong, but instincts were stronger.
It was intolerable to imagine him out there somewhere, half a vial of infected blood mixing slowly with his.
“Sam!” My voice was a wail, a howl, a cry in the night. He was gone.
Headlights blinded me: Isabel’s SUV, tearing up beside me and shuddering to a stop. Isabel leaned over from the driver’s side and shoved open the passenger-side door, her face a ghost in the lights of the dashboard.
“Get in, Grace. Hurry the hell up! Olivia is changing and we’ve been here way too long already. ”
I couldn’t leave him.
Jack climbed into the backseat, shuddering; his eyes pleaded with me. They were the same eyes I’d seen at the very beginning, back when he’d first been turned. Back before I’d known anything at all.
I got in and slammed the door shut, looking out the window just in time to see a white wolf standing by the edge of the parking lot. Shelby. Alive, just like Sam had thought. I stared in the rearview mirror at her; the wolf stood in the parking lot and gazed after us. I thought I saw triumph in her eyes as she turned and disappeared into the darkness.
“Which wolf is that?” Isabel demanded.
But I couldn’t answer. All I could think was Sam, Sam, Sam.
CHAPTER SIXTY-TWO • GRACE
“I don’t think Jack’s doing well,” Olivia said. She sat in the passenger seat of my new car, a little Mazda that smelled like carpet cleaner and loneliness. Even though she wore two of my sweaters and a stocking cap, she was still shaking, her hands wrapped around her stomach. “If he was doing well, Isabel would’ve called us. ”
“Maybe,” I said. “Isabel isn’t the calling sort. ” But I couldn’t help but think she was right. This was day three, and the last we’d heard from Isabel was eight hours ago.
Day one: Jack had a splitting headache and a stiff neck.
Day two: Headache worse. Running a temperature.
Day three: Isabel’s voicemail.
I pulled the Mazda into Beck’s driveway and parked behind Isabel’s giant SUV. “Ready?”
Olivia didn’t look like she was, but she got out of the car and bolted for the front door. I followed her in and shut the door behind us. “Isabel?”
“In here. ”
We followed her voice into one of the downstairs bedrooms. It was a cheery yellow little bedroom that seemed at odds with the decomposing odor of sick that filled the space.
Isabel sat cross-legged on a chair at the foot of the bed. Deep circles, like purple thumbprints, were pressed beneath her eyes.
I handed her the coffee we’d brought. “Why didn’t you call us?”
Isabel looked at me. “His fingers are dying. ”