Relentless, p.12
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       Relentless, p.12

         Part #1 of Relentless series by Karen Lynch
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  Chapter 9

  I PULLED AWAY from Samson and started walking in the opposite direction.

  “Are you alright?” Samson asked behind me, and I slowed to let him catch up. It wasn’t his fault I was being stalked by two overbearing demon warriors. The absurdity of that thought almost made me burst out laughing. I just smiled instead.

  “I’m fine, just a little thirsty.”

  “You want another beer?” he asked, stopping by a large cooler.

  “Water if you have one. Or a soft drink is fine.”

  He looked in the cooler. “None here. I think we have some in the van. Be right back.”

  I knew Nikolas was behind me, and I turned to confront him before he spoke. “What are you doing here?”

  Nikolas’s brooding eyes studied my flushed face for a moment before they moved to the van and back. “Obviously protecting you from yourself. Are you drunk?”

  My spine stiffened. “No, I’m not drunk. And even if I was, it would be none of your business.”

  His expression did not flicker. “You are my business. Whether you like it or not, you are one of us and we protect our own.”

  Indignation flared in me. “First of all, I am nobody’s business, and I don’t belong to you or your people or anyone else. This bossy act might work on little kids, but it won’t work on me, and if I want to party with my friends or drink or do anything else, I will.”

  I had no idea what made me go off on a tirade like that. I swear something about Nikolas pushed all my buttons. Maybe I resented him for being the one to turn my life upside down. Or maybe he reminded me how weak I really was out there in the world. Maybe it was me and not him at all.

  I began to whirl away from him and stumbled, and his hand shot out to steady me. “You are drunk.”

  I was wrong. It was all him.

  “Everything okay here?” Samson asked.

  I tried to make my expression neutral when I faced him. “Peachy. My… cousin was worried that I might be drinking too much. He’s a lot older than me and way too uptight.”

  Nikolas’s eyebrows shot up, and Samson did not look convinced. “Cousin, huh?”

  “Distant cousins, practically unrelated.” Was that a challenge I heard in Nikolas’s voice? God, all I needed was to end up in the middle of some stupid testosterone match.

  Samson glanced from me to Nikolas. “Listen, if there is something going on between you two, I – ”

  My laugh came out as more of a snort. “Yeah, not in this lifetime.” I looked at Samson, ignoring Nikolas altogether. “I think I’ll go see what Roland is up to. Maybe I’ll see you again later.”

  I hadn’t stomped off like that since I was five. Nikolas made me feel like throwing a tantrum; how could one person be so damn aggravating? But then a couple hundred years is plenty of time to learn how to piss people off.

  I spotted Roland with Dylan and a few other guys, but I found that I had no desire for company so I headed to the beach and grabbed a seat near the fire. Someone had brought a guitar and he was playing a Lifehouse tune while everyone else talked amongst themselves. I watched the fire, content to sit quietly and listen as the guitarist finished his song and started another one.

  Why did he have to show up and spoil everything? I was enjoying myself, really enjoying myself for the first time in weeks before he came along, acting arrogant and superior and reminding me how messed up my life was. All I wanted was to put the last few weeks behind me, and for a short while with Samson I had been able to do that. If Nikolas and Chris had to follow me, couldn’t they do it a little more subtly? It wasn’t like either of them could go unnoticed in this crowd, or any crowd for that matter, and I wasn’t blind to the attention I received from people when I was with either of them. I liked to stay in the background, and I hated being stared at. I hated all of this.

  I heard footsteps behind me, but I didn’t have to look up to know it wasn’t one of my self-appointed protectors. The girls coming down the embankment scrambled and squealed like they were tumbling down a mountain.

  “I don’t get it. What is the deal with her?” whined Jessie Clark. “Did you see Samson practically drooling over her? Samson – who won’t even look at a girl if she’s not in college!”

  “I know!” Marie cut in. “I tried to talk to that dark-haired hottie, but he was watching her like frigging hawk. I thought he and Samson were going to fight over her.”

  My ears burned, and I was relieved no one could see the flush creeping up my cheeks. I had no doubt they were talking about me.

  “I don’t think she even wears makeup,” Jessie declared as if wearing no eyeliner was a capital offense. I was wearing mascara and lip gloss; didn’t that count?

  Faith snickered. “Well, what do you expect? She only hangs out with guys. Maybe they’re getting something we don’t know about.”

  “You think she’s like that?” Marie asked eagerly.

  “Who knows with her,” Faith replied. “But if you ask me…?”

  I didn’t get to hear the rest of her comment because they walked past me without even realizing I was there. My hands clenched in my lap, and I was glad no one had noticed me overhearing the exchange between the three girls.

  All the fun had left the party for me, and I felt like crawling under a bush where no one could bother me until it was time to leave. I stood and picked my way a dozen feet down the beach where I could be alone but still keep the fire in sight. The night was cooling off, and it was chilly away from the fire. I pulled my jacket closer around me and drew my knees up against my chest. Close to the water, the waves drowned out the voices and music and made me feel like I was completely alone here.

  I picked up a stone and flung it out into the water. This is their fault. I couldn’t even pretend to act like a normal teenager without the two of them messing it up.

  I felt the brush against my mind, and I had to stop myself from crying out in frustration. Was it too much to ask for five minutes to myself?

  “Please go away,” I said without looking up. “I promise I won’t have any fun or fall into the ocean in my drunken state if you’ll leave me alone.”

  He sat down beside me, and I ignored the warm arm touching mine. Silence stretched between us. I didn’t want to fight again, so I kept quiet and waited for him to speak.

  “I’ve heard that some orphans take the transition to the Mohiri life well and others struggle to adapt. Eventually, they all come to love our way of life.”

  I stared at the black water. “Maybe that’s because their life before wasn’t that great. It’s got to suck being a little kid with a demon wreaking havoc in your head. But I’m not like them.”

  “No you’re not.”

  “Why?”

  It took him a minute to reply. “You are very strong. I don’t mean physically. Like I told you before, you have amazing control over your Mori; it’s almost effortless.”

  “You don’t seem to have any trouble with yours,” I said.

  Nikolas chuckled. “I’ve had many years to learn this much control, and it’s still not as good as yours.”

  “Oh.” I pondered that for a bit. “But you do control it, right? You’re not going to go all Linda Blair on me, are you? Because I’ve had all the craziness I can handle for one year.”

  His laugh was rich and warm, and in spite of my dark mood, I felt a smile tugging at my own mouth. How was he able to infuriate me one minute and make me smile the next?

  “I don’t think you have anything to worry about,” he said lightly.

  I sighed and looked at him, but he was silhouetted against the fire so I couldn’t see his face. “How long is this going to go on? I just want to go back to some semblance of a normal life.”

  “Sara – ”

  “I know what you’re going to say. How normal can it be when I’m immortal and everyone else is not? Why can’t I have it for now, at least until I have to leave?”

  It was his turn to sigh. “That might have been possible
before the vampire found you. You don’t know what they’re like; once they decide they want something, it’s like a predator scenting their prey. And you are the one that got away.”

  I shivered at the image of being hunted like a deer. “The werewolves don’t think the vampires will enter their territory.”

  “I hope they’re right, and I wish I could tell you that this will all go away, but I won’t lie to you. I believe you are in danger here, and I won’t leave you unprotected as long as that danger exists.”

  And we were back to square one. I threw another stone at the water and got to my feet. “Just do me a favor and don’t act like every person you see is out to get me. It is possible that some boys might actually like me.”

  “Ya znayu,” he muttered softly as I walked past him.

  I slowed my steps. “Did you say something?”

  “I said I’m sure they do.”

 
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