Relentless, p.16
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       Relentless, p.16
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         Part #1 of Relentless series by Karen Lynch

  * * *

  Slipping away to see Remy or anyone else turned out to be a lot harder than I had anticipated with my two Mohiri bodyguards stepping up their watch after the attack. It wasn’t like I could just jump on my bike and ride down to see my troll friend, and if I admitted it to myself, I wasn’t too keen on going out into the woods alone right now. But it was frustrating as hell to have someone watching my comings and goings around the clock.

  It wasn’t until Wednesday afternoon that I finally saw an opportunity to steal away. I got home from school to find a note from Nate saying he was at one of his environmental meetings. Peering out the window, I saw that Chris was on duty, sitting casually on a bench as if he didn’t have a care in the world. Didn’t he get bored just sitting there? I thought warrior business was supposed to be a lot more exciting.

  As I watched, two girls approached and sat on either side of him, engaging him in conversation. At that moment, I could have kissed Jessie and Marie. I felt no pity for Chris because he seemed more than capable of holding his own against two teenage girls, and this was the perfect diversion to keep him occupied long enough for me to make my escape. In minutes, I was pushing my bike through the back door and between two buildings to Market Street.

  Remy was standing just off the road, waiting for me, when I arrived. It was uncanny how he always knew when I was coming to see him. I’d asked him about it more than once, and he’d only smiled and said it was a troll thing.

  Today he was not smiling. He spent a full five minutes going off about the crocotta attack and how I’d almost been killed. I should have known he’d know all about it. There was no way something that big had happened close to troll territory without them being aware. “This what happens when you go to city. Bad things come from city,” he ranted as we walked to the cliff.

  “I know, I know. But I can’t go back and change that now. I guess you probably know about my new bodyguards too, huh?”

  He nodded seriously. “Warriors are strong. They protect you.”

  I told him about Nikolas coming to see me last week and his news that I was Mohiri. Remy didn’t blink an eye. “Did you know what I was all this time?” The possibility that he had known sent a pang of hurt through me.

  “No,” he answered sincerely. “I knew you not normal human, but even trolls not know everything.”

  “You knew I wasn’t normal?”

  He smiled wickedly. “Everyone know that.”

  “Funny guy!” I retorted, hitting him in the shoulder.

  We sat in the cave for an hour while I told him about Nikolas and how he wanted me to go live with the Mohiri. “I don’t want to leave here. And I don’t want to live forever. Everyone I know will get old and die and I’ll still look like this.”

  “I live long time.”

  My eyes widened. “That’s right!” There was nothing I could do to change my immortality, but for the first time, the long years stretching before me didn’t seem quite as bleak.

  “Do you think we will still be friends in a hundred years, Remy?” Just the thought of the two of us still being here after a century and looking like we did today was too much to imagine.

  “We always be friends,” he stated with conviction.

  My joy dimmed when another thought hit me. “I’ll have to go away for a long while, because if I stay here people will know I’m not aging. I won’t be able to come back until they’re all gone.” I gave him a hopeful smile. “You could come with me if you want. I could find us a place out in the country somewhere, maybe up in the mountains.”

  He shook his head sadly. “Have to stay with family.”

  “Oh.” I sighed heavily. Remy was adventurous for a troll, but he still had the deep sense of faith and family ingrained in all of his people. He was a steadfast friend, but his first loyalty would always be to his family. I understood it and respected it, even if the thought of leaving him for years saddened me.

  I shook off my gloom; I would worry about leaving my friends behind when the time came to do it. Right now, I had more important things to take care of.

  “Remy, I need to protect Nate in case a vampire or some other monster finds out where we live, maybe some spells to watch over him. You have warding spells, right?”

  “I have strong ward for home, but it not help when uncle not at home. Troll magic not good for humans. But there some good spells you can use.”

  “I need something really strong. Nate’s all the family I have.”

  He stared at the floor of the cave for a minute before he said, “Ptellon blood. It most powerful protection, but it only last one moon. Then you use again.”

  I made a face. “Blood! You want me to give Nate blood?”

  His raspy laughter filled the cave. “Not real blood. Ptellon is special flower from mountain in the Asia land. It have red nectar like blood.”

  “Oh, okay. I just didn’t want a repeat of the baktu – which was pretty gross by the way.” I rubbed my arms against the chill coming off the ocean. “How do I use it, and what does it do?”

  “Put it in drink or food. It make bad smell to demons and Peoples, and they not go near him.”

  “Won’t he smell it?”

  “No smell for humans and animals.”

  I gave him a wide smile. “That’s brilliant! I’ll see if Malloy can get it. How much will it cost?”

  “It very strong. Maybe many human dollars.”

  Money meant little to Remy, so when he said many dollars I knew he meant way more than I could come up with. I chewed my lip as I tried to figure out how to get the Ptellon blood.

  “Bile worth many human dollars,” he offered, and I shook my head vigorously.

  “We can’t use your bile again or someone will find us.” It was scary just thinking of the bile we had stashed in this cave; enough for someone to kill for.”

  Remy paced the cave a few more times then zipped to the mouth of the cave. “Wait here,” he called before he disappeared up the side of the cliff.

  “Where do you think I am going to go?” I shouted after him. There was no answer.

  I sat near the opening with my back against the smooth wall. The wind moaned through the cave, reminding me how lonely this place was without Remy. I peered down at the ocean churning around the rocks like a great frothing mouth full of sharp teeth. I loved the sea, the wide openness of it, the smells and sounds. It always seemed to call to me when I was near it. One of the old fishermen told me once that he had saltwater in his veins and he would never be happy anywhere but on the ocean. At times like this, I knew exactly what he meant.

  Remy reappeared after a few minutes, bearing a small sack of what looked like sticks. I looked at him in confusion before he laid the sack on the floor of the cave and flashed a wide grin at me as he held out his hand. On his palm lay a dozen or more large sparkling diamonds and one small ruby. He pointed to the ruby. “That buy Ptellon blood.”

  I peered at the ruby, which didn’t look like it was more than half a carat. I didn’t know much about gems, but I knew rubies weren’t worth a whole lot.

  “A ruby? Is it like magic or something?” I asked him tentatively, trying not to hurt his feelings.

  He shook his head like I should know better. “It not ruby. It diamond.”

  A red diamond? “Oh. Are they expensive?” It looked like a ruby to me. But then what did I know?

  “This enough to buy you plenty Ptellon blood for uncle.”

  “That little thing? Seriously?” It didn’t look like much, but if Remy said it was valuable, I believed him. “Listen, if this is worth so much, are you sure you want to give it to me? Won’t you get in trouble?”

  He showed his teeth when he grinned. “Clan have many pretty baubles. You take all diamonds. Save others for when you need them.”

  I knew the trolls had great wealth, but it occurred to me that their riches were way beyond my comprehension. “It’s like Smaug’s treasure,” I said, tucking the diamonds in the snug front p
ocket of my jeans. It wasn’t the first time Remy had given me precious stones to use as currency, and I wasn’t as dazzled by them as I used to be.

  “Smaug?”

  It took me several minutes to explain The Hobbit and the dragon sleeping on a mountain of treasure. Remy shook his head when I finished. “Dragons not care about baubles. They only like to eat.”

  “Good to know,” I muttered, hoping I never had the opportunity to witness that for myself. I pointed to the sack on the floor. “So what’s with the sticks?”

  “This for warding house.” He explained what all the items in the sack were and how to use them to create a ward. It took me a good thirty minutes to memorize the phrases he gave me to recite during the spell, and I figured I’d better do the ward as soon as I got home before I forgot something.

  When it was time to go, Remy insisted on accompanying me back to town. He stuck to the woods as I rode my bike, and every now and then I caught a flash of him in the trees. If he’d wanted to he could have stayed invisible the whole time, but he let me see him so I’d know he was there.

  The motorcycle came up behind me as I passed the city limit sign. I didn’t turn around, and the Ducati purred behind me like a big hungry cat all the way downtown. I considered making a run for the door when I got home, but apparently Nikolas had anticipated that. When we hit the waterfront he went on ahead, and by the time I reached home he was standing by the corner of the building with his arms crossed and wearing a scowl that made me want to turn around and ride the other way. His moods changed so fast it was hard to keep up with them. The angry man waiting for me now did not resemble the person who had given me his coat and watched over me while I’d slept two nights ago.

  “Did you not learn anything the other night?” he demanded, taking a step toward me. “Are you trying to get yourself killed?”

  Swallowing dryly, I got off my bike and walked it toward him. “Of course not.” There was no way I could tell him that I’d been quite safe with a troll who could handle any threat to me.

  “No?” His eyes darkened. “Do you want to tell me where you had to sneak off to that was so important?”

  “No,” I replied, ignoring the command in his voice.

  His jaw clenched and I knew he was furious, but I wasn’t going to cower to him. I did not have to explain my every move to him.

  “There is nothing but woods for miles south of town. What were you doing out there?”

  Instead of answering his question, I asked, “How did you find me anyway? Did you put one of those trackers on my bike, too?”

  “No, but maybe I should.”

  “No, you should not!” I sputtered. I couldn’t tell if he was serious or not, but right now I would not put it past him. “I’m not helpless, you know, and I don’t need you guys following me around twenty-four seven. I took care of myself pretty well before you came along.”

  Nikolas cocked his head, and one corner of his mouth lifted arrogantly. “Yes, I can see how well you do on your own,” he drawled in an infuriatingly condescending tone. “I’m amazed you lived this long.”

  It hurt that he thought so little of me, but I refused to let him know that. More than that, it angered me that I should care about his opinion of me at all. “I’m sorry I’m such a trial to you, but no one is asking you to stick around here. You can go back to doing your warrior thing – hunting vampires or whatever you do – and forget all about me.”

  I moved past him, but he did that blurring thing again and I found my way blocked by a wide chest. A hand grabbed my handlebar when I tried to go around him, and it felt like my bike was cemented to the ground. He leaned down and spoke with deadly softness into my ear. “If I was a vampire, you’d be dead – or worse.”

  My breath hitched, and for several seconds I was back in the alley, pressed against the brick wall, unable to move. Shaking off the memory, I glared up at him, hating him for reminding me how weak and helpless I’d felt with Eli. Our eyes met inches apart, and the Mori in me shifted restlessly, sending a ripple of some foreign emotion through me. I tore my gaze from his, angry that he had the power to affect even a little part of me.

  “Does it even matter?”

  “What?”

  “You said that day on the wharf that you can’t save every orphan. What difference does one more make?”

  Nikolas stiffened, and I realized I’d probably just insulted his warrior ego or something. I was tired of this overbearing, He-Man routine, and it felt good to know that he wasn’t as invincible as he let on.

  “Do you mind letting go of my bike?” I asked when he didn’t respond to my question. “Nate will be home soon, and it’s my turn to make dinner.” And I needed to get away from him because he made me feel angry and safe and afraid at the same time and I didn’t know why.

  Instead of loosening his grip, he growled. “Khristu! Do you not understand the danger you’re in? I know you want to believe you’re safe here surrounded by your werewolf friends, but someone went to great lengths sending that pack of crocotta to find you. If it is that vampire, he won’t give up.”

  His words made the back of my neck prickle, and I remembered the hunger in Eli’s eyes when he had been forced to release me.

  Nikolas saw me waver. “If you are honest with yourself, you’ll admit I’m right.” He let go of the handlebar and laid a warm hand over one of mine. “I can protect you if you’ll let me.”

  I tried to ignore the small tremble that went through me. How was it possible to dislike someone and feel fluttery inside at the same time? His nearness suddenly made it hard to think straight. Pulling my hand away, I stammered, “I really need to go inside now.”

  This time he didn’t try to stop me. He stepped aside, and I pushed my bike past him. I hurried around to the back door and stood the bike against the wall while I searched for my keys. I didn’t realize he had followed me until he spoke.

  “You can run away from me, but you can’t run from the truth. The werewolves can’t protect you forever, and eventually, you’ll have to leave New Hastings. What will you do then?”

  My hand stilled on the doorknob. “When that happens it’ll be my problem, not yours,” I replied without looking at him. I opened the door and pushed my bike inside. “I don’t want you following me around anymore.”

  “And I don’t want you to keep putting yourself in danger. Seems like neither of us will get what we want.”

  I didn’t reply. I just let the heavy door close behind me.

 

 
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