Relentless, p.33
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       Relentless, p.33
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         Part #1 of Relentless series by Karen Lynch

  * * *

  “I can’t believe you’re really leaving.”

  I set my bag down next to the suitcases and boxes cluttering the hallway near the front door. Forcing a smile, I turned to face Roland, who had barely left my side since he and Peter burst into the apartment yesterday, fifteen minutes after Nate’s call. My ribs still ached from their crushing hugs, but it was nothing compared to the pain in my heart.

  We had spent the first hour of our reunion crowded together on the couch while I retold the story of that day and my incredible journey after I fell from the cliff. Then I listened while they told me how the events of that day had unfolded for them. As soon as Maxwell had hung up from his call with Nikolas, he had organized the pack to scour the town for my scent. It was actually Francis who had picked up my trail and found Tarek’s body – or what the vampires had left of it – near the car. Francis, Maxwell, Brendan, Roland, and Peter had followed the trail to the cliff where they found Nikolas in a standoff with Eli and his coven. When I fell, the wolves and Chris took down the remaining vampires and made sure none escaped, while Nikolas dove straight off the cliff after me. When I heard that, I looked at Nikolas, who stood, staring out the living room window like he was watching for danger. As if he felt my eyes on him, he turned his head and met my gaze briefly before turning back to the window.

  Everyone grew somber when Nate, Roland, and Peter told me about my memorial service and how many people had crowded into the small church beside the school. The entire pack had come along with most of the school, and it was eerie and surreal hearing about the eulogies given by some of my classmates who I hadn’t even taken the time to get to know as well as I should have. Roland told me that Greg drove up from Philly for the service, and he had never seen my tough friend looking so heartbroken.

  Nikolas took one look at my face and said it was too dangerous to let anyone else know I was alive. I told him I would not let Greg think I was dead and that was that. In the end, we made a compromise. I would not contact Greg until I was safely ensconced at the Mohiri stronghold.

  That turned the conversation to me leaving, and Roland and Peter’s joy over my return from the dead dimmed when I told them where I was going. Well, not where exactly, since I still didn’t know where the Mohiri lived, but that I was going to live with Nikolas’s people for a while. My friends spent another hour trying to talk me out of leaving, insisting that the werewolves would protect me and Nate. But the memory of Roland almost dying and the fear on Nate’s face when Haism took us scared me too much to take a chance of it happening again.

  “I want to go,” I lied. “Nikolas says they can train me and teach me to defend myself.” At least that was one thing I could look forward to. It would be nice to not have to depend on someone else for protection.

  “But how long will you be gone? And how will we know if you’re doing okay?” Peter asked.

  I laughed as I walked back up to my room to grab my laptop bag and backpack. “Guys, I’m not moving to the Antarctic.” At least I hoped not. “They have phones and computers. We’ll talk so much you’ll be sick of me.”

  “That’s not the same,” Roland protested, following me. “We were all supposed to go to prom together, remember?”

  “I know.” I looked around my bedroom at the bare walls and found it suddenly hard to swallow. Once I’d made up my mind to leave, I had started packing before I could change my mind. Roland and Peter had insisted on staying overnight, and between the three of us, my room had been stripped bare of everything that made it mine. Now all my belongings were crammed into boxes or suitcases or sitting in piles waiting to be packed and sent on to me later.

  The old couch looked lonely without the books that usually littered it. Now Oscar and Daisy lay on it, watching me with sad eyes as if they knew I was leaving. It hurt to think of leaving them behind, but I had no idea where I was going. It wouldn’t be fair to uproot them. I knew Daisy was content here with Nate, but Oscar would miss me. Hopefully, once I was settled in my new home I could send for him.

  I’d gone up to the roof a few times to call to Harper, but there was no sign of the crow and I hated to leave without saying good-bye to him. He wouldn’t understand what had happened or why I’d left him. I’d left a window open up here all night and this morning in the hope that he might show. I wished I could wait until he came back, but it might be days before he put in another appearance. I was gone so long he might have given up on me and never return.

  Even the imps were quiet and strangely absent, and I found myself missing their shuffling and chattering behind the attic wall. I couldn’t believe I was going to miss those thieving little fiends.

  There was one big part of my life that I could not give a proper good-bye to, and every time I thought about it my heart ached. I knew Remy was forbidden to see me, but leaving without seeing him one last time left a little hole inside me. I wanted to go to the cliff in the hopes that he might come out or even to leave him a message in the cave in case he ever went back there, but Nikolas said it was too dangerous and everyone else agreed with him. Roland paled at just the mention of it. The only one not uncomfortable going back to the place where I had almost died was me.

  “It’s time.”

  The three of us turned to Nikolas, who stood at the top of the stairs. He had insisted on staying here as well, so our normally roomy apartment had felt pretty crowded last night. Roland and Peter were not happy about it, but Nikolas had left us alone for the most part, letting us have our last night together. I’d barely seen him today because he’d spent most of it outside on his phone – most likely making arrangements for the pickup. I didn’t expect him back so soon, and my heart began to race. I can’t do this!

  Nikolas must have seen my panic. “I’ll bring your bags out. Take all the time you need.”

  I nodded stiffly. As soon as he left, I turned to Roland and he wrapped me in another suffocating embrace, probably trying to make up for all the years I had refused to be hugged. I was still trying to catch my breath when Peter pulled me in for his hug. None of us spoke because we were too afraid of the tears that would follow. This is not good-bye, I reminded myself as I pulled away from them and turned toward the stairs.

  There was one thing left to do, and I dreaded it more than anything else. I put on a brave face and went downstairs to Nate’s office where he sat behind his computer pretending to work. The silence from his keyboard betrayed him, and when he looked up I saw that his eyes were a little red. We had spent a couple of hours together earlier this morning and I thought it would be enough to say our good-byes, but looking at him now, I knew it would never be enough for either of us.

  “It’s almost time to go.”

  He sighed. “I know.” He wheeled around the desk, and before he even brought the chair to a stop I wrapped my arms around his neck. “I love you, Nate.”

  “I love you, too.” He held me while I cried and then while I composed myself enough to pull away. Then he took my hands in his. “Nothing we say is going to make this easier for either of us. I just want you to know how proud I am of you and how proud your father would be if he was here. You’ve been through things that would break a grown man, and I know that wherever you go, you’ll be okay. If I didn’t believe that, I couldn’t let you go.”

  I cleared my throat. “And you will take the Ptellon nectar like I told you, three drops every month? Nate had not reacted well when I called the vial of dark red liquid Ptellon blood, and it had taken some convincing to make him believe it really was just nectar.

  “I won’t forget.”

  “I’ll call you as soon as I get there. And you promise to come for Christmas?”

  “Nothing could keep me away.”

  “I’m gonna hold you to that.” I refused to say good-bye so I said, “I’ll see you soon.”

  Roland and Peter walked me down to the black SUV parked beside Nate’s car. Behind the SUV was a white van loaded with my possessions. Two Mohiri I recogn
ized from Portland stood beside the van talking to Nikolas, and I saw Chris leaning against the driver’s-side door of the SUV.

  I turned to give my friends one last hug when I heard a loud caw and the rustle of wings overhead. “What the hell?” Chris uttered, and the four Mohiri instantly went on alert as a large blackbird zoomed toward me. I saw a flash of silver in Nikolas’s hand and knew he had a weapon ready to handle the new threat.

  “Stop!” I ordered loudly as I extended my arm to Harper, who landed easily and cocked his head at me like he was waiting for me to explain myself. I brought him close to my chest and stroked his head.

  “Um, Sara?” Roland called from a safe distance. “Why are you cuddling a crow? Are you some kind of bird whisperer, too?”

  With everything that was going on, it felt good to smile. “You remember the crow I saved from Scott and his friends back in third grade? This is him.” I held the crow away from me. “Harper, these are my friends.”

  The crow blinked and regarded Roland and Peter with intelligent black eyes that made the boys shift nervously. “He looks like he’s thinking about pecking my eyeballs out,” Peter muttered, taking another step back.

  “Don’t be ridiculous. He’s just curious because I’ve never introduced him to people before.”

  Someone cleared their throat behind me, and I turned to Nikolas and Chris who watched me with cool appraisal. If they had been surprised by Harper, they certainly hid it well.

  “What do you plan to do with that thing?” Chris asked in a tone that said he was not happy about the idea of sharing a car with a crow.

  “Harper just came to say good-bye.” As soon as the words were out, a lump formed in my throat. “Excuse me,” I managed to say before I walked a dozen yards away to make my farewell to my old friend.

  “I have to go away for a while,” I explained as he stared at me intently. “You be careful, and don’t go too far into the woods where the hunters will get you. And watch the cars on the road. I know you and your friends act like road kill is an all-you-can-eat buffet, but don’t be stupid about it, alright?”

  He shifted restlessly, and I stroked the back of his head, knowing this could be the last time I ever saw him. My future was so uncertain, and there were lots of dangers to a wild bird, even one as smart as Harper.

  Never one to stay still for long, Harper lifted his wings preparing to take off. “I’ll miss you,” I said to him before he left my hand and circled me twice before flying away. I watched him until he disappeared from sight. Then I walked resolutely back to the waiting vehicles.

  Ignoring all the stares, I hugged Roland and Peter and told them I’d call as soon as I got wherever I was going. Then I got into the back of the SUV. The windows were tinted, and I felt invisible to the rest of the world and more alone than I had ever been. I shivered and pulled my small coat tighter around me.

  The front doors opened, and Nikolas and Chris climbed in. “Okay, that was one for the books,” Chris declared as he started the car. His eyes twinkled when they met mine in the rearview mirror. “All set?”

  “As much as I ever will be.”

  Nikolas turned in his seat to look at me. “Are you alright?”

  Was I? I was heading off to God knows where to live with strangers. My future was uncertain, a vampire Master wanted me dead, and I was leaving everyone I knew. But the way Nikolas looked at me reminded me of that night in the alley when he silently assured me that I was not alone. There was something between us I couldn’t define, but I’d felt it when I thought I was dying and the moment I saw him standing in the kitchen doorway yesterday. It was more than a truce; it was like we were connected somehow after everything we’d been through together. Whatever it was and whatever was waiting for me, I knew I could trust him to be there with me like he had been through all of this. Maybe we could even be friends. Stranger things had happened.

  I gave him a small smile. “No, but I will be.”

  ~ The End ~

  Author Note

  If you enjoyed Relentless, please consider leaving a review on Goodreads or wherever you purchased the book. You can also drop me a line at my website or Facebook or Twitter. I’d love to hear from you.

  Other books in this series:

  Refuge (Book 2)

  Rogue (Book 3) Coming October 27, 2017

  Read on for books from two of my favorite authors: Hope(less) by Melissa Haag and Awakened by Ednah Walters.

  About the Author

  When she is not at her job as a computer programmer, Karen Lynch can be found writing, reading and baking. A native of Newfoundland, Canada, she currently lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her cats and two crazy loveable German Shepherds: Rudy and Sophie.

  Gabby just wanted to escape to college. She didn't count on being dragged into a hidden society where fur is optional or on Clay following her back to college. Can the two of them work together to get answers to their questions?

  They look like us, go to our schools, fall in and out of love, and have relationship issues, but they are nothing like us. They are the children of the fallen angels. Sixteen year old Lilith Falcon believes she's different because of her Gypsy heritage. She soon finds out just how wrong she is when a demon pays her a visit.

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