Relentless, p.22
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       Relentless, p.22

         Part #1 of Relentless series by Karen Lynch
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  Chapter 15

  I AWOKE THE next morning to the heavy silence that follows a big storm. Snuggling under my covers with Oscar sprawled across my pillow and Daisy on my feet, I wanted nothing more than to go back to sleep. That is until I remembered everything from the night before and the unexpected houseguest who’d spent the night on the couch. I slipped out of bed, pulled on a hoodie and my moccasin slippers, and padded quietly downstairs. In the living room I found the quilt folded up neatly on the couch and no sign of Nikolas. I was not surprised that he had already left. Knowing him, he’d probably had his coffee and dispatched a couple of monsters before the sun came up.

  I poured some Cheerios and mulled over the strange turn our relationship had taken last night. I still found it hard to believe that the easygoing man who had laughed and roasted marshmallows was the same mercurial person I’d known up until now. I had come downstairs last night expecting a roaring fight with one Nikolas and ended up spending an almost pleasant and somewhat confusing evening with his alter ego. And then I’d offered him a truce… and invited him to stay. I groaned over my spoon. What the hell had come over me last night?

  The power was back so that meant school was open. I ran upstairs to get ready, then booted up the laptop to check email. Funny, I thought as I waited for the login screen. Any other night I would have missed my internet, but I hadn’t even noticed it was gone last night.

  The email from NightWatcher took me by surprise. I hadn’t talked to him in a week and a half – since the night after the crocotta attack. His message was short. He was leaving Maine for his own safety, and if I still wanted to meet him, I had until Saturday. He said he was sorry but things were getting too scary for him to stick around. He felt like we had to meet before he took off. I cursed the timing because it was going to be damn near impossible to get away to see him now, but I replied that I would get back to him that night with an answer.

  I worried about it all the way to school, and by the time I reached the schoolyard, I’d finally decided that the only way to make it happen was to include Roland and Peter. They were waiting for me on the steps with expectant expressions, but I brushed them off and told them to meet me in the library for study period. They had said they wanted to help, and now I was going to find out if they were good to their word.

  When third period came around I hurried to the library to get a table as far from the front desk as possible. My mind was completely preoccupied with replaying everything that happened yesterday and last night as I followed my usual path through the stacks. That explained why I did not see the boy crossing in front of me before I plowed into him and knocked us both sideways.

  “Sorry,” I breathed as I grabbed a shelf to keep myself from falling on my butt.

  “Don’t worry about – ”

  I spun and faced the boy as recognition hit us at the same time. I hadn’t seen much of Scott in the last few weeks, and I noticed that his face had healed completely from our fight. That did little to alleviate the guilt I still carried for what I’d done to him, especially after learning what lived inside me and how much worse I could have hurt him if I had not restrained myself.

  We stared at each other for several seconds, and I waited for one of his typical scathing comments. What I did not expect was the sad, wounded look that suddenly flashed across his face. In a blink it was gone, replaced by the haughty expression I knew well. He pushed past me to walk the other way as if nothing had happened.

  I continued to my table and laid my backpack thoughtfully on it as I mused over Scott’s strange reaction. I didn’t think it had anything to do with the fight; if anything, he still resented me for that. There was no love lost between us, for sure. Chances were I’d just caught him in an off moment that had nothing to do with me at all.

  But I could not help but compare the hurt I’d glimpsed on his face to his expression that day in the school yard when I yelled at him and told him I didn’t want to be his friend. I’d been too full of childish anger over the injured crow to see that I’d hurt Scott. It made me wonder, as I pulled out my biology book, if Scott and I would still be friends if I hadn’t caught him hurting Harper. Would either of us be the people we were now if our friendship had survived?

  I shook my head to clear my mind. It was useless wondering about it after so many years, and I had bigger things to worry about right now.

  “Talking to yourself now? That’s not a good sign.” Roland sat next to me with a searching look.

  Peter took the chair across from me and leaned forward to whisper, “Roland told me what happened. That was some crazy shit!” His eyes glowed with excitement. “I can’t believe you know people like that Malloy fellow.”

  “Yeah, Greg’s uncle my ass,” Roland added with some indignation over the lie I’d told him when he had run into me and Malloy at Gino’s.

  I took a breath. “Listen, I’m sorry about that. I really am. But men like Malloy don’t like a lot of people knowing their business. After yesterday, I think you can see why.”

  Roland’s mouth tightened. “No freaking kidding.”

  “So what happened last night?” Peter asked. “How pissed was the Mohiri when he found out what you were up to?”

  I gave him a disbelieving look. “Are you nuts? There’s no way I’m telling him about that.” I had very little doubt that last night would have gone a lot differently if Nikolas had discovered the truth.

  Mrs. Cope the librarian walked by, giving us a stern look, and we all quieted until she was gone.

  Roland was the first to speak. “Didn’t he ask where you went?”

  “Yes, but I wasn’t stupid enough to tell him.”

  “I bet he was mad,” Peter said.

  I shook my head. “He was…weird. He kind of let it go and told me about the Mohiri.” How could I explain the change in Nikolas last night when I didn’t understand it myself? “You won’t believe this. I have a grandfather who wants to meet me, and he doesn’t look much older than me. How messed up is that?”

  “Are you going to meet him?” Roland’s eyes were worried, and I wondered if he was afraid I would be drawn to the Mohiri now that I knew I had family there.

  “I don’t know. Someday,” I said honestly. “It’s a bit much to take in, but it doesn’t change how I feel about going to live with them.”

  Peter let his breath out noisily. “Jeeze, I thought our lives were complicated. I don’t know how you can look so calm with all the craziness in your life.”

  Seeing the opening I had been waiting for, I pursed my lips and motioned for them to come closer. “There is one thing I need to do,” I whispered. “Someone else I need to meet.”

  “No!” Roland hissed as loud as he dared. “It’s too dangerous, Sara.”

  “Shhh. Listen to me before you go off,” I said quietly. “I only have two more days to see this guy before he’s gone for good, and I may never get another chance to find out what he knows about my dad. He wants to meet in the daytime, and he said I can pick the place as long as it’s public. And he didn’t say I couldn’t have a friend close by.”

  “But – ”

  “No buts, Roland. You guys said you wanted me to stop hiding stuff from you and to ask you for help, and that’s what I’m doing. I’m doing this with or without your help, but I’d rather it was with you.”

  “You really think you’ll be able to ditch your bodyguards after your last stunt?” Roland asked in a tone that held zero confidence.

  “You really think the three of us can’t outsmart a couple of Mohiri – on our home turf?” I watched them straighten their shoulders at my well-placed dig. I’d learned two things about my werewolf friends: they did not like being compared to the Mohiri, and they really took the whole “this is our territory” thing to heart.

  “What’s the plan?” Roland asked with a new gleam in his eyes.

  “I’m not sure yet. I was hoping you guys could help me come up with one.”

  We put our heads together
literally – and began tossing around ideas. Each one we came up with was quickly discarded because I’d given Nikolas and Chris the slip one too many times for them to fall for another of my ruses. Whatever we went with had to be a little more intricate, something that required strategy and planning. Only problem was I had run out of ideas and my friends were not doing much better.

  Our brainstorm session was interrupted when Dylan walked up to our table. I hadn’t talked to him since the party, and I felt self-conscious around him now after the thing with Samson. Did guys talk about that stuff the way girls did? I almost squirmed on my seat praying the answer to that question was a resounding no.

  Dylan gave me his trademark lopsided smile, and I immediately relaxed. Either Samson hadn’t said anything or Dylan was playing the gentleman. He sat on the corner of our table. “Just who I was looking for. I wanted to give you a personal invite to the party of the semester.”

  Roland grinned. “Oh, yeah? Anything like the July Fourth bash? Man, it took me two days to recover from that one.”

  “A two-day hangover? How appealing,” I commented drolly, wondering how much you had to drink to be hung over that long.

  “Better. The folks are going to Miami tomorrow, so I’ve got the place to myself all weekend. They said no parties in the house, but the boathouse is not off limits. Some of the guys are coming around noon on Saturday to jam, and we figured why not make a day of it. Spend the day on the lake and fire up the grill for dinner. Then party all night.” He furrowed his brow. “Oh, and it’s invitation only. The parental units will disown me if the whole school district shows up like last time.”

  I’d never been to Dylan’s house on Clear Lake, but Roland and Peter had raved about the boathouse and boats and jet skis on more than one occasion. I could tell by my friends’ expressions that this promised to be one of those “I was there when it happened” parties they lived for.

  Roland gave Dylan a high five. “Hell, yeah!”

  Dylan looked at me. “That invitation includes you too, Sara.”

  “Thanks. I… might have something else going on this Saturday, but I’ll try to make it if my thing doesn’t take too long.” I had to meet NightWatcher somehow, but even if I pulled that off, I’d feel uncomfortable spending the day at the same party as Samson. I really did like him, and I would have dated him if I’d met him before my life had been turned upside down. He’d made his attraction to me more than clear. What if he got the wrong signal if I showed up at his party? Maybe most girls would not be bothered by it, but I wasn’t other girls.

  Roland and Peter looked like I had just told them they were extending the school week to Saturday. “Oh, yeah,” Roland said glumly. “We promised to give Sara a lift somewhere, so we might miss out on the afternoon. But we’ll definitely make it for the after party.”

  Dylan nodded good-naturedly. “No problem. I hope you all can make it. Some of the guys in the band won’t be there, so I need my best drinking buds there.” He spoke to Roland and Peter but his eyes were on me, making sure I got the message that a certain blond drummer would not be in attendance.

  I smiled at him. If I didn’t have to worry about an awkward encounter with Samson then I wouldn’t mind spending a day at the lake. Clear Lake was huge. I imagined taking a boat out and anchoring somewhere in the middle where I didn’t have to deal with boys or the growing list of other things I didn’t want to think about. And best of all – no Mohiri. Nikolas and Chris might be good, but I was pretty sure they couldn’t walk on water.

  My smile grew as an idea started to form. “Hey, Dylan, do you have wetsuits for those jet skis?”

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