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Fire and Beauty (The Vampires of Shadow Hills Book 3), Page 2

Willow Rose

  Like she had heard that Jazmine was thinking about her, BamBam entered her room, sliding through the door. Jazmine smiled and took her in her lap. The cat purred and let her pet it for a little while, then jumped down again. It jumped onto the windowsill and slid in between the curtains, then let out a meow.

  "What is it, BamBam?" Jazmine asked and walked up to her and looked down. The darn dog was still sitting there, staring at the door like it expected it to open if only it stared long enough.

  "Is it the dog?" she asked. "Don't worry. I won't let it inside. I promise. You're safe here."

  The cat let out another meow that sounded a little like it was complaining, then ran out of the room. Jazmine stared at it, wondering what went on in that strange cat's head.

  Probably nothing at all, she thought with a grin.

  Jazmine sat on her bed while waiting, then spotted a small beetle crawling up the wall of her room. She grabbed her shoe to kill it, but something about it made her change her mind. Instead, she reached out and let it crawl onto her finger.

  "Hello there, little beetle. How are you today?" she heard herself ask. Then she chuckled.

  Stupid little ugly beetle.

  She let it down on the floor with the intention of stepping on it, when she, for some reason—and she wasn't quite sure why—instead told it to jump.

  "Jump," she whispered, and so it did. The small beetle leaped into the air, then landed on the floor on its back, legs dangling in the air.

  Jazmine laughed, then approached it again and stepped on it, the beetle cracking underneath her sole.

  Then she heard the doorbell ring.

  Chapter Five

  I’ve finished my work for today."

  I turned my laptop to show my mother my work. She approached it and stared at the screen, then scrolled down to make sure she saw it all, then nodded. "Good work."

  "So…can I take the rest of the day off?" I asked.

  Jayden had sent me a picture on Snapchat of himself at the school, asking me to meet him by the lake at three o'clock.

  My mom stared at me, scrutinizing me.

  "Or you could start tomorrow's work and get ahead," she said. "I was always ahead when I went to school."

  I exhaled. "I want to go for a run. Sitting at the computer all day makes me feel fat and lazy."

  This was clearly something my mother understood. She nodded. "All right then. Let's call it a day. But tomorrow, you stay here working till three o'clock as we planned. You can always do your math problems twice, make sure you really understand them."

  I gave a strained smile. "Of course, Mom."

  She leaned over and pointed to her cheek. I rose to my feet, placed a kiss on her icy skin, then shivered slightly.

  "I can't wait for tonight," she said, grabbing me by the chin. "Finally, you get to be with someone in your own league."

  "I-I'm excited too," I said.

  She smiled, her red lips parting and showing off her pointy white teeth. "Good, child."

  Once she let go of me, I rushed up the stairs, still shivering from the cold I felt from her touch. I found my jogging outfit and glanced out the window toward the park. I wondered about Melanie and how she was doing in Amy's basement. My only contact with the outside world these days was Jayden, and he usually filled me in on the latest developments. I knew that Amy struggled with the loud noises Melanie made at night when trying to get out of the shelter and he had told me that Amy feared that Melanie might get sick down there, from not being able to get out at night. She also worried that her parents might find her and had said that soon they had to find somewhere else for Melanie to hide because she couldn't keep her there forever. They just hadn't quite found another place for her to be. My parents still wanted to kill her, so it was vital that they didn't find out where she was. I had a feeling my mother thought I knew more than I was telling her about this because she would now and then ask me about her…if I knew Melanie Peterson or knew who her friends were. They had searched the mountains for her again and again and never found even a trace of her, and it was getting on my mom's nerves, I could tell.

  I got dressed and ran downstairs. My mother was standing by the window as I came down.

  "What is he doing now?" I heard her mumble.

  I walked up behind her and looked out. Across the street, I spotted Mr. Aran, who had just moved into number three down the street with his two tarantulas.

  "Mr. Aran?" I asked. "What about him?"

  "He's snooping around again. Now he's got his eye on the Smith's house. Look at him standing there on his skinny legs with his round belly sticking out from his coat. He really has a very unhealthy body shape."

  "We can't all look like models, Mom," I said with a chuckle.

  My mom didn't find it funny and gave me a look. "I don't like him, Robyn. The way he’s constantly walking around the neighborhood, snooping outside our houses, with those…nasty spiders."

  "Tarantulas," I said.


  "Why do you care that he snoops around Jayden's house? You hate them?" I asked.

  "It's not that he snoops around their house as much as it is the fact that he does it at all," she said. "He’s all over the neighborhood; I see him constantly out there."

  "It's not like we have a lot of secrets for him to find," I said with a shrug. "We don't have anything to hide, do we, Mom?"

  Mom paused and glared at me. Then she returned to watch the odd man who walked up to Jayden's garbage can and opened the lid, then let the tarantula sniff the trash.

  "What on earth is he doing?" I asked and turned away when he picked up an old brown banana peel, then sniffed it. "That's just disgusting. I'm going for a run."

  Chapter Six

  Jayden hurried home on his bike, hoping to be able to grab a bite to eat before he was supposed to meet up with Robyn.

  He threw his bike in the driveway and ran into the kitchen, then pulled out the ingredients for making a sandwich. His mom entered just as he was about to sink his teeth into the soft bread with mayo, ham, pastrami, and salami, his favorite combination.

  "Hi, sweetie."

  She went to the pot and poured herself some coffee. Her hair was wet; she had just showered.

  "Why are you home?" he asked. Usually, she was at the fitness center until five o'clock.

  "I didn't have any afternoon classes," she said and sipped her coffee. "Thought I'd come home and be with my son."

  Jayden swallowed and looked at the clock behind her. He still had fifteen minutes till he was supposed to meet Robyn by the lake.

  "So…what's going on with you?" she asked and sat down next to him. "What's new?"

  Jayden felt awkward. He had been avoiding his parents as much as possible since they told him they were werewolves and that one day he would be too. He had no plans of letting them make him into what they were, no matter how much they wanted him to. But he just hadn't gotten around to telling them that. Not yet. He hated to disappoint them and feared how they would react. Besides, he had two more years before it would happen, so he didn't see any need for him to start the discussion now.

  What else was new? Well, he was seeing Robyn secretly because they hated her family and didn't want him anywhere near her. So, what could he answer?

  He shrugged, mouth filled with meat. "Nothing much, really," he said. "Just the usual."

  She smiled and leaned back, the chair complaining slightly underneath her. Her mug looked small between her big hands. She was very muscular, and her T-shirt was tight—almost strained—across her shoulders. Jayden loved his mother, but he found it hard to talk to her after he realized she wasn't exactly who she had pretended to be all his life. The fact that she had hidden this big secret from him made him angry and a little afraid. What else had she kept from him?

  "The usual, huh?" she slurped her coffee, her eyes still on him as the mug moved. She put it down and swallowed loudly.

  "All right. Guess there really isn't much to talk about,
" she said and got up from her chair. She walked to the sink and put her mug into it, then paused and looked at him. "You do realize we will need to know where Melanie is at some point, right?"

  Jayden stopped in the middle of a bite, then looked at her. "W-what do you mean?"

  She exhaled. "You let her out. Your dad told me that you were the one who helped her get out."

  Jayden stopped chewing.

  "We’ve searched the mountains for her, and admittedly, I was happy she was gone; we both were, your dad and I since we didn't want her to fall into the hands of certain people." She glanced toward Robyn's house, then back at Jayden. "Listen, Jay. I don't know where you’ve hidden her, but we need to see her, soon. She's one of us, even if she was made into a wolf by accident."

  "You mean she was supposed to have died?" he asked. "Like Natalie Jamieson and Blake Fisher, right?"

  "Usually, people don't survive a meeting with a werewolf, let me tell you that much," his mom said.

  Jayden felt uncertain. Could he trust her? His dad had let him free Melanie, so he felt pretty convinced that he didn't want to hurt her, but he wasn't so sure about his mom. He had heard her convince his father that it was best if they got rid of her. Plus, he was pretty sure that the one to have bitten her—and the two others who died—had to live under his own roof. Was it his brother or maybe one of his parents? He had been wondering about it for quite some time now. No matter who it was, they all had the desire to make sure Melanie didn't reveal who had bitten her or even bring any type of attention toward their house.

  His mom's eyes became distant as she spotted something outside the window.

  "What is he doing?"

  She approached the glass and looked out. Jayden came up behind her and spotted the strange man who had moved in down the street. What was he doing?

  "Is he going through our trash?" Jayden asked.

  He could almost feel his mom's concern as she pulled away from the window like she didn't want the man to see her standing there, watching him.

  She turned and looked at Jayden, then grabbed him by the shoulder. "We need to find her, Jayden. Before she reveals who we are."

  Their eyes locked. Jayden felt his hand start to shake as he debated what to do.

  "Tell me where she is, Jayden. We'll take care of her. She is dangerous out there. Don't you understand?"

  Jayden felt his mother's tight grip as it came closer to his throat. She was so strong, he felt like she could snap his throat with just her fingers. Little pearls of sweat appeared on his upper lip.

  "She is dangerous," she repeated. "You must tell us where she is, do you hear me?"

  "Mom, you're hurting me," he said as her grip on his shoulder tightened. He felt his knees give way beneath him from the pain.

  But his mother didn't let go. She held onto him, squeezing him, forcing him to bend down in pain till he was on his knees.


  She finally let go of him as his dad entered. Jayden's mother snorted lightly then shook her head.

  "We agreed not to put pressure on the boy," his dad said and came closer.

  His mom sighed, annoyed. "It's that strange man out there. He's snooping around in the neighborhood and keeps coming back to our house. I think he knows, Ben. I fear that he knows. He makes me so nervous."

  Jayden's dad looked outside, then came back to her. "We have to keep calm. We can't lose our cool now, Claire. Jayden let the girl out because he didn't know any better. And we agreed it was for the best, so the Joneses didn't get their hands on her, right? Now, Jayden let her out, but then she ran off. If Jayden knew where Melanie Peterson was, he would have told us already, right Jay-Jay?"

  Jayden was still massaging the sore area on his shoulder.

  "Right, son?" his dad repeated.

  Jayden nodded. He didn't dare not to.

  "Of course, he would," his dad said and patted him on the back, so hard he almost fell forward. "He's one of us now. We wolves are loyal to one another and especially to our pack. Jayden understands that now."

  Chapter Seven

  He arrived later than me. At first, I was afraid he might have forgotten when I ran up to the old oak tree. He was usually the first to arrive. Once he finally got there, he had a look of horror on his face.

  "What happened?" I asked, worried.

  He shook his head and grabbed my hands in his. He pulled me into a warm embrace and held me tight.

  "My parents," he said and held my head between his hands. "I thought I could trust them. It's like they're…nothing like I thought they were."

  I exhaled. "I know how that feels."

  "They want me to tell them where Melanie is," he said, his eyes looking deeply into mine. "Just now, my mom was pressuring me to tell them. They say it's dangerous that she is out there, for us, for our family."

  "Do they say what they'll do to her if they find her?" I asked.

  He leaned over and kissed me, finally. I closed my eyes and let out a small sigh when his lips parted from mine. How I longed for these moments while inside my prison all day.

  He shook his head. "No, but it can't be good. Remember how they shot her with the tranquilizer last time and chained her in the basement? I hardly think they want to serve her cookies and talk about her career dreams."

  I chortled. We turned to look out on the lake, holding hands. The snow had disappeared, and spring was around the corner. Soon, the park would be blooming with color. I loved spring but had a feeling I was the only one in my family. My mom loved the gloomy, foggy weather we usually had. Snow, she could take, but it wasn't her favorite. She loved a good gloomy rainy day more than anything.

  "I’m scared, Robyn," he suddenly said.

  I looked up at him and held his hands tightly in mine. "Of them?" I asked.

  "I don't want to be one of them. They keep talking about me like I already am. What if one of them really is the killer? What if I will be too? Will I kill people? I don't want that. I don't want to lose control over myself like that. I am not a killer. I am not an animal."

  "Just as little as I want to have to suck blood from innocent people like my parents do."

  "If I become a wolf and you become a vampire, then we can never be together," he said. "I don't want that to happen."

  "Me either," I said.

  "Let's promise each other that we’ll never give in to them, that we won't let them turn us into what they are."

  "That's a promise," I said.

  I put my head on his shoulder and we stood for a few minutes without talking, simply holding hands, wondering how this would all turn out and how we could possibly get out of our childhood without completely losing who we were in the process.

  "What do you know about that new guy that just moved into number three?" he asked.

  "Mr. Aran?" I asked. "Not much, but I have noticed my mother gets all squirmy and scared when he walks around the neighborhood looking over the hedges."

  "He seems awfully curious," he said.

  "He sure does," I said.

  "What do you make of it?"

  "I fear he might be investigating the killings."

  "Like some agent?" he asked. "A secret undercover one?"

  I nodded. "I think he’s looking for our murderer. From the park. And then I think our families fear that when Mr. Aran finds him, he'll also discover their secrets of who they are."

  Chapter Eight

  Amy had found a new recipe for meatloaf, one she hadn't tried before, and after a trip to the grocery store, she now had all the ingredients in her kitchen. Originally, she wanted to make a butter pound cake, but since her parents had come back from their latest business trip, Amy was more in the mood for cooking, since she was slightly worried, as she was all the time now when her parents were home. Worried that they might find Melanie inside the shelter.

  Her parents were still napping as they often did when coming back from their trips since they were so exhausting. But as Amy was halfway done with the meatloaf, her mothe
r suddenly came downstairs, stretched her arms, and yawned.

  "I'm making dinner for us," Amy said.

  "That's wonderful," her mother, Carol said and walked to the pot to grab herself some coffee.

  Amy looked at her beautiful mother with her big curly hair. Amy mostly took after her father, but the hair, she had gotten from her mother, and it made her happy that they had that in common.

  "So, how was your trip?" she asked, chopping lettuce for a salad.

  "Great," her mom said. "You know, the usual. Lots of flying from one destination to another."

  "Did you sell a lot of shoes?" Amy asked.

  Her mother nodded. "I think so."

  Amy smiled. She had always been closest to her mother, but the traveling often made it feel like there was this strange barrier between them, like she could get close to her, but not really close. It often left her with a longing for her mother's approval, a longing for her mother's love, even when they were together because it was like she could never really have her. It had always been that way. Her parents traveled constantly, and when she was younger, Amy was left with a babysitter, whom she often felt she knew better than her own mother.

  "So…" her mother said. "Anything new around here? Make any new friends or maybe a…boyfriend?"

  She tried hard to sound like she was genuinely interested, but Amy could tell she wasn't. Nothing about Amy's life seemed to be of interest to her mother.

  She shook her head. "Not really. A new guy moved into number three. That's all."

  Her mother checked her phone while sipping her coffee. "Mm."

  "He has spiders. Tarantulas," she said. "They're quite nasty."

  Amy turned her back on her mother and didn't realize she had stopped drinking her coffee in the middle of a sip. It wasn't until she turned back again that she noticed the strained look on her mother's face.