Relentless, p.2
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       Relentless, p.2
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         Part #1 of Relentless series by Karen Lynch

  Chapter 2

  I LOOKED DOWN at Scott Foley and Ryan Walsh on the beach below me. Tall and good looking with straight dark hair, Scott stood with his back slightly toward me. Ryan, who was a few inches shorter than Scott, stood several feet behind him, looking like he would rather be somewhere else.

  “Leave it alone.” Ryan ran a hand through his blond curls. “This is not cool, man.”

  “Dude, when did you turn into such a pussy?” Scott scoffed. “I’m only having some fun, and like you said, it’s half-dead already.”

  My fists clenched, and I scoured the beach for whatever animal they were talking about. Seeing nothing, I moved closer to the edge of the bank to get a wider view.

  I let out a yelp as my foot slipped out from under me, sending me tumbling down the four-foot embankment to land in an undignified heap at the feet of the two startled boys. Not exactly the entrance I would have chosen.

  For a moment neither of them moved. Then Ryan crouched and peered at my face through the curtain of dark hair that had come loose from my ponytail. “Whoa. You okay?”

  “I’m fine.” I pushed my hair back out of my face and got to my feet, wincing at the pain in my left ankle. I put my weight on it to test it. A light sprain maybe. Great.

  I faced the boys and found Scott’s wide-eyed gaze fixed on me. He narrowed his eyes when he realized who he was staring at. “What do you want?”

  My eyes left his to scan the beach. What the hell were they after? “You guys look like you’re searching for something. Anything I can help you find?”

  “No,” Scott retorted. His eyes went to a spot behind me, and I followed his gaze but saw nothing but a pile of old fishing nets.

  “Are you sure, because – ?” I broke off when the nets made a plaintive mewling sound. In the fading light I saw them move as a scrawny gray tabby emerged. The cat was a sorry sight. Its ribs stuck out painfully, and it walked unsteadily for a few seconds before sinking down on its hind legs.

  I whirled on Scott and Ryan, my eyes blazing. “You were going to hurt that cat!”

  “No.” Ryan could not meet my eyes. “I wouldn’t…”

  Scott shifted from one foot to the other. “Yeah right. Like we’d waste our time with that flea bag.”

  I stepped between them and the cat. Scott and I had known each other since elementary school, and if I knew one thing about him, it was how to tell when he was lying. “This is low, even for you, Scott.”

  A flush crept across his cheeks. “I told you I couldn’t care less about a stupid cat. And what’s it to you anyway?”

  “You think I’ll let you hurt a defenseless animal?” My voice rose. Scott always managed to irritate me, but for some reason I was having trouble keeping my anger in check this time. “Is this how you get your kicks on a Saturday night? Does this make you feel big and manly?”

  “Shut up!” Scott glared at me, and for a second I thought I saw something else in his eyes that looked like regret, but it was gone as soon as it appeared.

  Scott and I had been friends for a time way back in elementary school. He was the first person to approach me when I moved here, even though his buddies teased him about making friends with a girl. Our friendship was short-lived, ending the day I caught him and some other boys throwing rocks at an injured crow outside the school. I’d yelled at him, pushed him to the ground, and told him I could never be friends with someone like him. Any feelings of friendship he had for me quickly changed to animosity after I embarrassed him in front of the whole school like that.

  “Make me shut up.” Even as I said the words, I wondered what the hell I was doing. Why was I goading someone who had six inches and at least forty pounds on me – and who already couldn’t stand me?

  Scott’s face darkened. “If you know what’s good for you, Grey, you’ll get out of my face.”

  “Or what?” I took a step toward him. “You going to beat me up, too?”

  “Whoa! No one’s beating anyone up.” Ryan laid a hand on Scott’s arm. “Come on, Scott, let’s go. This is not worth it, man.”

  Scott shook off Ryan’s hand. “No one talks to me like that.”

  Try to stop me. The thought flitted maliciously across my mind. Another voice told me to calm down and step back, but I ignored it. Instead, I let out a mocking laugh. “Come on then, and shut me up if you can. If you’re man enough, that is.”

  Scott’s eyes glittered dangerously as he took a step toward me.

  “Dude, you can’t fight a girl.” Ryan sounded scared now.

  “Shut up, Ryan,” Scott and I said at the same time. I gave Scott a cheeky grin, and his nostrils flared.

  I glanced down at my coat and let out a sigh. “Just try not to bleed too much, okay. It’s a bitch to get blood out of this thing.”

  Scott made a choked sound, and Ryan yelled something as Scott raised his right arm. I didn’t know if he intended to strike me. I wasn’t even sure Scott knew what he was going to do.

  Roaring filled my ears and a strange prickling heat spread through my body. It felt nothing like the fiery power I’d released a few hours ago. This fire held no healing, just rage and wild exhilaration like a lion set free from its cage. In the back of my mind the beast stretched and swelled with joy. I blinked, and it was like a veil lifted from my eyes, bringing the world into startling focus.

  My right fist connected with Scott’s cheek before he even realized I had swung. I barely registered the pain in my knuckles as I watched him stagger back several feet from the force of my blow. Again, cried the beast, and my other hand curled into a fist.

  Scott recovered faster than I expected, and I ducked just in time to avoid the brunt of the powerful fist that would surely have knocked me senseless. I felt a sharp pain in my lower lip as his fist clipped it, and a coppery taste filled my mouth.

  “Scott!” Ryan yelled, his voice muffled in my ears. “What the hell are you doing?”

  Moving faster than I could have believed possible, my left fist plowed into Scott’s chin and spun him off balance. I pivoted on the foot I was sure I’d sprained just a few minutes ago and delivered a well-aimed kick to his midsection, a move I had never even attempted before. He doubled over with an agonized moan that made my lips curl into a wicked little smile. The beast crowed with glee.

  Scott roared and came at me like an enraged bull, but I sidestepped his charge and he stumbled past me. Behind me, I heard Ryan smother a laugh, but that only seemed to anger Scott more. He turned and came at me with both arms raised.

  My hand moved so fast it seemed to blur as my fist met Scott’s nose with a sickening crunch. He fell to his knees with both hands over his face. “You bitch!” he wailed. “You broke my nose!”

  Standing over him with my hands on my hips, I savored the delicious triumph at seeing my opponent brought low. I reveled in how easy it had been to take down a boy who was bigger and stronger than me. Heady with power, I spat, “You’re lucky that’s all I broke, you asshole.”

  “Jesus, Sara!”

  I felt Ryan’s eyes on me, and I took in his stunned expression as his gaze moved from me to his moaning friend. It was like a bucket of cold water in my face. The rage drained out of me along with the bizarre heat that had enveloped me a few minutes ago. What am I doing? I thought as the world around me returned to normal and I stared aghast at Scott’s bloody face. His nose was swelling grotesquely, and bruises were already beginning to show around his eyes. I was no angel, but I had never inflicted this kind of beating on another person. The knowledge of what I’d done made my stomach churn.

  “Scott, I – ”

  “Stay away from me, you fucking lunatic!” he growled, throwing a hand up to keep me from coming near him. As he spoke, a spray of blood dotted the rocks in front of him.

  I backed away, sick with remorse as he staggered to his feet. What the hell had come over me and made me go all berserker on him? I was mad about the cat, yes, but Scott would have gone on his way if I had left well enoug
h alone. I’d baited him and deliberately made him angry, and I had struck first. The memory of my fist hitting his face filled me with disgust. It was as if I’d been possessed, and if Ryan hadn’t spoken and woken me up, there was no telling what I might have done.

  “We were just messing around. You know he wouldn’t have hurt the cat, right?” Ryan asked, forcing me to look up and meet his gaze, to see the truth on his face.

  He turned away to help Scott climb the embankment. As soon as I was alone I sank down to sit on the ground, pulling my knees up and wrapping my arms around them. It was the beast. I always kept a tight grip on it, but whenever I used up some of my power for a healing, I felt it stirring, pressing against the walls that imprisoned it. Today I’d depleted my power so much that I lost control of it – and look what had happened.

  I hadn’t fought since I was ten and never with such intent to hurt someone. Hell, I’d never moved like that before. No wonder Ryan had looked at me like I was some kind of circus freak.

  A weak meow intruded upon my unhappy thoughts, and I lifted my head to see the scrawny little cat sitting beside me. Up close he looked even more pitiful with half a tail, one ear in tatters, and his whole body wavering like a breeze would blow him over.

  “Hey there, kitty.” I reached out to stroke the back of his head. He hissed but didn’t try to run away, which told me how sick he was. Animals were drawn to me, especially the sick ones. I think they could sense my power even when it was locked away. Even so, the feral ones needed a little encouragement to get past their natural fear of humans.

  I opened my power to let a wave of soothing calm sweep over him, and within thirty seconds he stopped hissing and leaned against my leg. As soon as my fingers made contact, I sent a stream of healing energy into his frail body and he immediately laid down. My hand moved down his back, feeling the bones almost poking through his skin as I sought out his injuries. He had mange and his fur was full of fleas, but there were no broken bones. I got rid of the fleas and mange, took care of a few cuts and scrapes and knocked a respiratory infection out of his lungs before I pulled back my hand, satisfied he would be okay.

  “There. You’re still one of the sorriest looking things I’ve ever seen, but I think you’ll make it.” I stood slowly, a little drained from my second healing today. “Stay away from those mean boys from now on, you hear me.”

  The cat’s amber eyes met mine, and he let out a sad yowl.

  “None of that,” I warned him as my heart felt a little tug. “I can’t take you with me. I’m not supposed to bring home any more strays.”

  He got up and walked unsteadily over to rub his thin body against my calves. Even through my jeans I could feel the outline of his ribs.

  “No fair.” I sighed and bent down to scoop him up. He began to purr as soon as I cradled him in my arms. “Okay, you can come home with me for now, but I can’t guarantee anything. My uncle’s not exactly a cat person, and he still hasn’t forgiven me for the last houseguest I brought home.”

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