Relentless, p.19
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       Relentless, p.19

         Part #1 of Relentless series by Karen Lynch
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  I spent Sunday morning working on my English paper and trying to keep Oscar away from the attic and his growing unhealthy fascination with imps. “Trust me, you don’t want to mess with those little monsters,” I warned as I chased him away from the crack beneath the attic door for what seemed like the hundredth time.

  By some stroke of luck he finally managed to corner one in the bathroom, and the angry chattering tore me from my work. I shooed Oscar away from the bathroom and looked at the tiny demon. Six inches tall, pasty white, and bald, the little fiend stood on the toilet tank with one hand on his hip and the other waving a fist at the cat. I felt something brush against my leg and knew Oscar had not heeded my warning to stay away. The imp began to jump up and down, emitting little furious shrieks at the sight of the cat, his loincloth fluttering around him.

  “Oh stop it,” I scolded him. “The last thing I need to see is your nasty little demon parts.”

  The imp halted immediately and looked down at the bit of cloth covering him. They liked to pretend they couldn’t understand humans, but I’d suspected all along they were faking. “Got you!” I said with a smirk before I bent down to pick up Oscar and carry him over to the bed. “You stay there if you don’t want to get bitten. I don’t think imp bites will go over too well with the vet.”

  At noon my phone rang, and I scrambled to answer it, ready for a distraction. “Hey, Roland.”

  “Finally. I thought you were ignoring me. I texted you like four times yesterday.”

  I sat on the bed and fell back until I was staring at the ceiling. “I was ignoring you.”

  He gave a nervous laugh. “I take it Samson called? Before you say anything, he’s a great guy and I thought you two hit it off last weekend.”

  I let out a loud sigh. “I do like him. But you know I can’t get… involved with anyone, especially with my life as crazy as it is right now.” I didn’t mention the whole immortal thing. Roland and I hadn’t talked about the fact that we wouldn’t age together. I’d already tried to imagine him at forty when I still looked like a teenager, but the thought had freaked me out, so I’d shoved it away where I didn’t have to deal with it.

  “I just thought you could use some fun in your life. Now that Greg’s gone you can expect more guys to ask you out.”

  Wait. What? “What are you talking about?”

  He laughed, and I could picture him shaking his head. “Sara, Greg let every guy in school know that he’d take it personally if anyone hurt you or broke your heart. They were all too scared of him to go near you after that.”

  “You’d better be kidding me.” My face burned. I couldn’t believe Greg had done something like that. Actually, yes I could, which was why I was mortified.

  “Greg was a badass, but he had a soft spot for you. Probably because you were the only one in school besides his friends who wasn’t afraid of him.”

  “Because I knew there were a lot scarier things out there.” I groaned into my hand. “God, I can’t believe he did that.” Wait until I sent him another email. He was going to hear it from me.

  Roland’s tone grew serious. “Listen, I actually called because Pete and I want to talk to you about something. You want to go get something to eat.”

  “Can you give me a hint?”

  “No.”

  “Cryptic. Okay, see you in a bit.”

  They picked me up twenty minutes later in Peter’s mother’s car, and after a quick discussion, we headed for the mall. A lot of the stores were closed on Sundays, but the food court was open and the boys loved the burgers and milkshakes from Benny’s. We got our food and grabbed a table away from everyone else. I let them take a few bites before I asked them what they wanted to talk about that couldn’t be said over the phone.

  They shared a look, and Peter said, “I overheard Dad and Uncle Brendan talking last night – about you and your parents.”

  My hand stopped halfway to my mouth. “What?”

  “Dad said they lost Madeline’s – your mom’s – trail, and they were trying to piece together what happened to your father. He said Aunt Judith told him you thought it might have something to do with your mom being Mohiri.” Peter took a deep breath. “He said Aunt Judith was afraid you were too involved in this and might do something careless. What did he mean by that?”

  “I…”

  Roland’s eyebrows drew together as he laid down his burger. “You talked to my mom about this, but you can’t talk to us?”

  “It’s not like that. I only talked to your mom because she told me they were going back and tracing Madeline’s movements from the time she left us.” I twisted my paper napkin until it tore. “I think vampires followed Madeline to my dad. I don’t know why she was in Portland when he died or why they went after him. I just know it’s all related.”

  “You’ve been trying to find the truth yourself?” Roland said in an accusing tone.

  I nodded, not meeting their stares. They weren’t going to like what I said next, and I didn’t want to see their faces when they heard it. “I wanted to look for years, but I didn’t really start until I heard about the missing girls in Portland. A guy I know online, who knows a lot about this stuff, said he thought it was vampires. He said he heard there were vampire sightings in Portland when my dad was killed.”

  “What guy? Who is he?” Roland demanded. “Please tell me you aren’t talking to some kook online.”

  I glared at him defensively. “He’s not a kook, and he does know a lot. I only know his screen name, just like he only knows mine. And before you say anything, we’ve been talking for three years, and he’s never tried to meet me or anything. He tracks vampire activity and reports it online. These guys are very serious about this stuff.”

  “Guys? There’s more than one?” Peter asked.

  I took a sip of my drink before answering. “Yeah, there’s a whole online community. And I… um… I met a new one online last month. He says he knows something. We were supposed to meet in person, but something happened and he was scared away.”

  Roland’s face grew red. “You were going to meet a total stranger alone… in person? Are you out of your mind?”

  “I wasn’t alone,” I said slowly. “You guys were there.”

  “Wha – ?” Peter started.

  “No fucking way!” Roland swore a little too loud, drawing the disapproving stares of some people across the food court. “The Attic? You were going to meet him at the Attic – the same night a vampire just happened to attack you? You don’t think that was a bit too coincidental?”

  Peter paled, and his freckles stood out even more. “Holy shit, Sara.”

  “It wasn’t a setup,” I argued, knowing that it looked suspiciously like one. “He told me later that he didn’t show because he got wind of some vampires there. He is seriously scared of them. He won’t try to meet again unless it’s broad daylight and somewhere public.”

  I probably shouldn’t have said that last part. Roland’s eyes nearly bugged out of his head, and he made a sound deep in his chest. “You are not going to meet this guy.”

  “If he can tell me what happened to my dad, then I will meet him.” I hated arguing with my friends, but I would not back down from this now that I was so close.

  “You have to let Dad take care of this,” Peter pleaded. “Please.”

  I looked from Peter to Roland. “What would you do if you were in my shoes? What if it had been one of your parents? You can’t tell me you wouldn’t do everything to get to the bottom of it.”

  “Yes but – ”

  “No buts, Peter. You wouldn’t sit back and let someone else handle it, and neither can I.”

  Roland shredded the top of his hamburger bun. “So you only went to the Attic with us to meet someone.”

  The betrayal in his voice made me want to say no, but I couldn’t lie to him anymore, not about this. “I asked him to meet me there after you asked me to go.”

  Roland let out a breath, and
I could tell he was hurt and thinking that I’d only gone with them to meet someone else. “I’m sorry,” I said softly.

  The silence at the table hung over us like a shroud, and I felt a small tear appear in the trust we’d always had between us. My deceit hurt them, and now they were wondering what else I’d lied about.

  “I swear it was the only time I ever did anything like that.”

  “Why didn’t you tell us or ask us for help?” Roland demanded. “Don’t you trust us?”

  “Why didn’t you tell me what you were?” I countered.

  He shifted on his chair. “That’s different. We thought you were human. We were protecting you.”

  “I thought you were human, too. I didn’t want to drag you into this.” It wasn’t enough to ease their hurt feelings, but it was the truth.

  We sat there quietly for several long minutes, each of us toying with our food and waiting for someone to say something to break the uncomfortable silence. I didn’t know what to say to fix things between us.

  The quiet was shattered by a small group of girls who clamored around a table nearby. Glancing their way, I saw Faith, Jessie, and Marie along with two other girls from school. The five of them chatted and giggled loudly, making enough noise to draw annoyed stares from the other customers.

  It didn’t take Faith long to spot us, and her smile fell away as she glared at me. The other girls followed her stare, and their laughter died as they looked at me with narrowed eyes. Their lame attempt at intimidation was so comical I almost burst out laughing. If they had seen half the things I’d seen in the last month alone, they’d be at home cowering under their beds. Sometimes I wondered if I should be doing that myself. I returned their stares until one by one the girls turned away to whisper amongst each other.

  “We should go.” My appetite was long gone.

  We picked up our trays and carried them to the nearest trashcan. I pointed at the restroom. “I’ll meet you over by the entrance.”

  “Okay,” Peter said. Roland only nodded.

  The restroom was empty, and I washed my hands then leaned against the counter with my back to the mirror. I’d never hurt my friends before, had never seen them look at me with doubt. I swallowed the lump that started to form in my throat. What did you think would happen when they found out you lied to them?

  I had to find a way to fix this. Maybe it was time to come clean about all my secrets. Now that I knew they weren’t human, there was no reason to hide anything from them anymore. Remy had warned me in the beginning that the wrong people would try to use my power for their own needs so I had to keep it hidden. But my friends would never hurt me that way. I knew their secret; they should know mine. In fact, I wanted them to know. I needed to think of the best way to tell them, to show them. Not today, but very soon.

  I felt lighter when I emerged from the restroom. I saw Roland and Peter waiting for me by the large glass doors, and a smile crept across my face as I imagined their expressions when I revealed my power to them. What would they say when they heard about Remy or when I told them about the visit from Aine? After I told them everything, my friends would never doubt my trust in them again.

  My happy thoughts were cut short by the shock of icy liquid splashing across my shoulder and down my left arm. I gasped at the orange stain spreading over my light blue jacket before I looked up at Faith’s smug face and the empty smoothie cup in her hand.

  “Oh, I’m so sorry!” Faith exclaimed without a hint of sincerity. “You ran right into me. You really should watch where you’re going, you know.”

  The monster in my head came roaring to life, crying out for swift retaliation. I clenched my teeth so hard it hurt, and it was only extreme willpower that kept me from slugging that smirk right off her face. Images of Scott’s bloody face still haunted me, and I would not let the demon use me like that again. As much as I detested Faith, she was human, and I had to be careful not to hurt her.

  Faith glanced at the mall cop watching us from the entrance, and her lips twitched with glee, assuming he was the reason for my lack of action. Behind her, the other girls twittered and enjoyed the show.

  I brushed past her to get some napkins from the closest concession. The blond boy behind the counter gave me a sympathetic smile and shoved a stack of paper napkins toward me. I grabbed a handful and started mopping up the slushy liquid running down my arm.

  “What? No witty comeback this time?” Faith’s voice dripped acid behind me.

  I took some more napkins to wipe smoothie off my jeans. “I have nothing to say to you, Faith.”

  “Figures. You’re such a loser.” She held up the empty smoothie cup. “Think I’ll get another. That first one went down so good.”

  I let my eyes fall to her waist. “You might want to lay off those for a while. That stuff is full of empty calories.”

  Faith’s mouth fell open like a fish gasping for air. The boy behind the counter made a snorting sound, and she shot him a scorching look. She whirled angrily, her long blond hair whipping my face as she stalked off.

  “What the heck is her problem?” the boy asked.

  “Don’t mind her. She’s still pissed about her boyfriend.”

  He leaned on the counter, his eyes sparkling. “You went out with her boyfriend?”

  “Yeah, not likely.” I crumpled the pile of wet napkins and handed them to him to throw away. “I broke his nose.”

  I looked down at my stained, wet clothes and grimaced. There wasn’t much I could do about it until I got home. I joined Roland and Peter, who had witnessed everything and were holding back grins. “Not a word,” I warned them as we walked through the automatic doors.

  It came as no surprise to find Nikolas leaning against his motorcycle across from the mall entrance. At least this time he had stayed outside. We walked right by him on the way to the car, and his eyebrows rose when he saw the orange stain down one side of me. I thought I saw the corner of his mouth twitch, and I knew right then and there that I was going to haul off and deck him if he started laughing.

  “What? You think vampires are messy?” I scoffed as I passed him. “Try tangling with the homecoming queen.”

 

 
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