Chapter Twenty One
I wake up to the sound of a whispered argument and …growling.
Images flood my mind and the sounds of shifting, breaking bones haunt me. Please, no more, I think, trying to push the memories away.
“Shh, Bess, everything is fine. You’re safe.” He strokes the back of my hand in slow soothing circles.
Morgan’s here. He’s one of …them. It has to be him growling, but at what?
Light blinds me as a bedside lamp flares to life. Once my eyes refocus, I see Devon is the culprit. So that’s who Morgan has been arguing and growling at. I should have guessed it, but I’m so tired. Wait…Devon? He should be in the hospital. There’s no way he could have managed to escape injuries.
“Devon?” I rub the sleep out of my eyes. “What…how?”
“I’m fine, Cara,” Devon soothes.
“You can’t be fine, Devon.” I push myself up into a sitting position, fighting the dizziness that threatens. “I saw the cat sink claws into you. You should be in a hospital.”
“Go ahead, Devon,” Morgan’s voice is grim. “Tell her why you don’t have a scratch on you.”
“Do you not think she has been through enough already?” Devon asks through clenched teeth.
I am so over this bickering. It’s making my head pound worse.
“Both of you will stop fighting right now. I’m sick to death of it.” I look from one to the other. “I need you both, so please, just please stop arguing.”
“You don’t know…”
“Leave it be, Morgan,” Devon interrupts him, his voice low and hard.
“Why don’t you just tell me, Devon?” My voice sounds tired. “I don’t think there’s anything else that could shock me today.”
“Tell her,” Morgan taunts.
Devon snarls at him.
“Are you a shifter too, Devon?”
“But you are something?”
He nods, looking down at clenched fists.
“I do not wish to frighten you, Alexandria.”
I’m already so scared he’s lucky I’m not screaming. Really, how bad can it be?
He lifts his head and meets my gaze.
Red ringed onyx eyes stare into my own.
Too much, too much! My mind shudders back from what I see and I pull\ my hand away from Morgan.
“I told you it was too soon,” Devon snaps at Morgan.
I feel the force of my fear, coupled with the pain and anger I’d felt all day, course through me, looking for an outlet. A buzzing starts in my ears. It won’t stop. My skin begins to crawl like thousands of tiny insects are covering me.
“Bess?” Morgan’s voice is wary.
Devon glares at him, accusation in his glowing black eyes.
“Alex?” Morgan reaches out a hand to me.
“Don’t,” I flinch away from him, my eyes never leaving Devon. What is he? The buzzing grows louder, demanding an outlet.
“What…are …you?” I manage to ask.
He shoots a concerned look at Morgan before answering. “It’s complicated, I’m not quite sure what I am. I was cursed two hundred years ago and I’ve yet to find another like me.”
Two hundred years? It really is just too much. The buzzing overwhelms me and I snap, just like that day in junior high school, only this time I have nowhere to run. My vision blurs, heat blazes to life inside of me and I see a tinge of red. The scream comes out of nowhere. I can’t hold it back. The force that has been running wildly under my skin escapes with that scream. I feel it flow out of me. The windows in the room shatter, spilling glass outward.
Morgan and Devon dive out the broken windows. Seconds later the door slams open. Jason scrambles in, baseball bat in hand, looking over every inch of the room. Sabien is behind him and Dad follows. He pulls me into his arms.
“What?” he asks, the fear and concern make his voice hard almost. “What happened?”
“Make it stop, Daddy, please make it stop,” I whisper into his shirt.
“Make what stop, honey?”
“Buzzing?” Sabien is instantly beside of us. “Do you hear it or feel it?”
“Both. It feels like my skin is crawling.”
Sabien smiles at me. “It’s alright, honey. It’s normal. You’re waking up. I know it’s scary, but the buzzing will lessen soon.”
“Normal?” John snaps. “There’s nothing normal about hearing a buzzing noise.”
“Of course there is, John,” Sabien tells him, his voice clear and sharp. “She simply has an ear infection. That’s what’s causing the buzzing.”
“An ear infection,” John nods. “Of course.”
“You should go to bed now, John,” Sabien continues in the same tone.
“Bed, yes, that’s a good idea.” He kisses the top of my head and then strides out of the room. We all hear his bedroom door shut.
“What did you just do to Dad?” Jason growls.
“I simply made him forget. He’ll wake up in the morning thinking he had a strange dream.”
“I don’t think he can forget the windows,” Jason snaps.
Sabien frowns and closes his eyes. The glass begins to flow back into place and becomes whole once again. He repairs both windows before arching a brow at his nephew. Jason’s mouth hangs open.
“Alex,” his voice is soft and soothing. “I’m going to put you back to sleep. You need to rest. Your body needs to adjust to the changes taking place. Okay?”
Changes? My skin is crawling like thousands of bugs are running through an all expense paid trip to Walt Disney bug land. My body aches. My head throbs and the buzzing swarms through my ears. Changes? It feels more like I’m being ripped apart by gale force hurricane winds.
I barely feel the pillow under my head before I black out. Again.
Bright sunlight assaults my eyes when I wake up. I snap them shut. I do not like waking up to the sun. My eyes are very sensitive to bright sunlight. It actually hurts, especially when I first wake up. Dad had special curtains made to block out the light for my room years ago.
Cracking my eyelids, I look around and find myself in Jason’s room. My brother is asleep on the floor, his baseball bat clutched in one hand and his old stuffed dog, Pup-Pup in the other. He told me he got rid of the old toy years ago. Such a liar.
The next thing I notice is the massive headache. It feels like my head is going to crack open. Yesterday comes flooding back and I am wracked by a bad case of the shakes. Memories hound my mind, tormenting me.
My head feels like its imploding as image after image rushes back and I remember, not just yesterday, but all of it. Dear God, please, I don’t want to remember, but either God isn’t listening or doesn’t care that I can’t take much more.
The itsty bitsy spider climbed up the waterfall, I hummed to myself as I ran to the swings. I loved the swings. The air was cool as it bathed my legs and I shouted for Mommy to swing me. We were in matching yellow dresses and Mommy laughed as I told her to swing me higher and I screamed when I went up higher than ever before.
I saw it when I was up in the air. It was a big, black cat. I tell Mommy to look at the kitty. I heard her breath catch in her throat and she pulled me off the swing. Then she put me in the yellow bubble slide and told me not to come out until she came to get me.
Mommy looked scared. I’d never seen her scared before and I started to cry when she left me. The big cat walked toward her growling and snarling, its teeth gleamed in the sunlight. I didn’t hear what Mommy said, but then she let out a big roar and then she…she…she changed. My mommy was gone and where she was now stood a big wolf. It growled at the cat and snapped its teeth.
The big cat launched itself at the wolf and the wolf jumped to meet it. They clashed mid air and fall, their bodies twisting and rolling as they fought. I saw their teeth tearing into each other, saw them snap and snarl as they tried to kill each other. I cried louder. Where did my mommy go?
The cat let out a cry and I heard something snap. The wolf had the cat pinned down and was tearing its throat out. Then the wolf looked up at me and I shrank back. Was it going to eat me too? It turned and grabbed the big cat and pulled it into the woods.
I don’t know how long I waited in the slide, but Mommy came out of the woods. Her clothes were torn and she was limping. She came over and it took her a long time to get me to come out of the slide. I was so scared, but she promised me it would be okay. I just cried harder and then I stopped. The fear went away and I couldn’t remember anything. Everything was okay.
My mother must have caused me to forget. I’d been hysterical, crying, and unable to move out of fear. She’d done the only thing she could to calm me down, she must have used some kind of magic. In doing so, she’d relieved the fear in that moment, but those memories had haunted me all my life, they’d made me think I was insane, that I was destined to be committed to a mental hospital. All these years, I’ve thought I was crazy, but I wasn’t. Everything I’d ever dreamed about was real. Those vague memories that haunted me day and night are awful and they are as real as the sunlight pouring into my window. I’m not crazy. I’m just really, really messed up.
How can this have happened? It isn’t fair. Everything about me has all been lies. Even now I feel it, this alien force running through me, laughing at me. I don’t want to be a freak of nature. Isn’t it enough that I’ve grown up feeling out of place, like I didn’t belong, thinking I was crazy? HA! I guess I’ve been right all along. I don’t belong. I am different. A freak show.
I should have known what little happiness I’ve found over the last few weeks wouldn’t last. How could it? Eventually, everything I love is taken from me. Why? Why can’t I just be a normal person with a normal life and normal friends?
My thoughts flash to Morgan and Devon. A shifter and a self-proclaimed monster. Which is worse? What am I supposed to do? How can I be friends with them anymore? How can I not? No matter how scared I am, I need them. The thought of never seeing them or speaking to them again terrifies me more than the knowledge of what they are.
That very fact alone makes me wonder if they haven’t done something to me. I’ve never needed someone so badly that being separated from them actually causes me physical pain. That’s how I feel about Morgan. He’s become a part of me. No, he’s always been a part of me. I’ve been dreaming of being a wolf since I can remember. Even though I hadn’t met him, deep down I’d felt him. From the beginning, I felt at ease, at peace around him. All of those things that had defined me before simply melt away in his presence. I’m not shy, embarrassed, or self-conscious around him. He makes me whole.
And Devon? Rude, arrogant beyond a fault, and very mysterious. At least the mystery is solved. Well, sort of. He’d managed to ingrain himself into my life too, worked his way into it. Why? Why is he so important to me? My mother said in the dream that I should be afraid of those glowing red-rimmed black eyes, but I’m not. He shocked me, yeah, but afraid? No, I’m not afraid. He could have hurt me at any time he wanted over the last few weeks. Instead, he’s been my friend. A friend, who at times, I wanted to strangle with my bare hands, but a friend nonetheless. Plus, I still like him. A lot.
So where does that leave me?
In a hell of a mess, that’s where.