I can see Tom pacing in front of the gym when we pull into the parking lot. His head swivels in our direction as soon as he hears the engines. Thanks to my improved night vision, I can see his face clearly even in the dark. And boy does he look pissed.
“You up for this?” Connor asks.
“No, not really,” I sigh and get out of the car, trying to remember the story we came up on the way back.
“Where the hell have you been?” Tom shouts as soon as he reaches me. “Do you know how worried I’ve been?”
I wince. Yup, he’s good and mad.
“She came to get me,” Connor drags himself out of the car.
Good Lord, Connor looked awful. His lip’s busted, he has a black eye, and a small cut on his left cheek. He’s a mess, but then again, so is everyone else. They’d had to fight their way inside to get to me. They are all bloodied and bruised, including Devon. He doesn’t look nearly as bad as the rest of them thanks to the blood he’d ingested, but there is still some bruising visible.
“When I came out to get some air I saw some of the guys from the Ieager team fighting with Connor,” I said. “They threw him in a car and I jumped into his brother’s car to follow them.”
“You did what?” Tom explodes. “Do you have any idea how dangerous that was?”
“Jason and Devon have already yelled at me, Tom,” I glare, getting angry. Yeah, I know he’s mad, but still, he has no right to yell at me. I’ve been through enough tonight. “Can I finish?”
He nods, tight-lipped.
“You called Cameron?” he bites out, glaring at Devon and me both.
I so do not need this.
“No, I didn’t call Devon. I called my brother.”
“Then how the hell did he end up with you, Alex?” Tom stalks closer, pressing me backwards into the car. Devon lets out a low snarl, but I see Jason put a restraining hand on him.
“He was standing next to Jason when I called,” I snap. “He came with Jason.” He doesn’t look like he believes me.
“Why didn’t you call me, Alex?” he demands, leaning closer.
The wolf rises up and growls in response to the challenge. He blinks. I close my eyes and force her back. No way can he see my eyes glowing amber.
“My phone died.”
“Don’t lie to me, Alex,” he yells. “You charge that thing religiously.”
Thank you God for small miracles, I breathe a prayer of thanks. I really had forgotten to charge my phone last night. I push Tom away from me and fish my phone out of my dress. Yeah, I know, not the best of places to put a phone, but hey. There had been no way I was leaving it in my purse after the incident at the mall with Nathaniel. Uh-uh.
“Here, look.” I throw the phone at him. “It’s dead.”
He catches it and looks down. The first looks of uncertainty cross his face. “I thought you…”
“That I’d what? Run off with Devon or something?” I yell at him. Make him out to be the one in the wrong, my wolf growls in agreement. Jason always says the best defense was a good offensive. “Do you really think so little of me?” I ask. “How could you believe I’d do that to you?”
“Alex…I,” he pauses and takes another look at the boys. It’s plain as day they’ve been in a fight. He can’t doubt that. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions. It’s just that when both of you went missing…”
“You know, Tom, I’m really not in the mood for your jealousy.” I storm around to the driver’s side of the car. “Jason, find your own way home.”
As soon as I am out of sight of the school, the panic I’ve been keeping at bay by focusing on everything else hits full force. My mind whirls with images of the fight, of Devon dying on the ground, of Lorelye being consumed by fire. Thankfully, I only live ten minutes away. Any longer than that and I might not have made it before I broke down. As it is, I barely make it to the bathroom.
Locking the door, I turn on the shower. I pull off the dress and step under the hot water. It scalds me, but I pay it no mind. I keep seeing Lorelye’s face as the fire came at her, hearing her screams as she was burned alive. I had done that to her. Me. I killed her. No matter how much I scrub my hands, I can’t seem to get them clean. The fire that killed her came from me, from my hands. They will never be clean.
When the water runs cold, I step out and pull on my robe.
“Sis?” Jason knocks softly on the door. “Are you okay?”
“Fine, Jason,” I whisper back. Neither of us wants to wake Dad. I’d seen him asleep on the couch when I came in.
“I know you’re fine,” he whispers, “but are you okay?”
Jason knows me well enough to know I’m not fine no matter what I say.
“No,” I sigh, “but I will be. I just need to be alone for a while, ‘kay?”
“I’ll be in my room if you need me,” he calls and I hear him move away from the door down to his own room. When his door closes, I look at myself in the mirror. I sure as certain don’t look fine.
My eyes are black and hollow, filled with the horror of what I’ve done. Her face torments me. I can still see her fear, her pain as she burned. Nausea overtakes me and I barely make it to the toilet before I start throwing up. Hot bile burns my throat just as I’d burned her to death. I…killed…her.
Bess, I’m coming. Get to your room.
I creep to my bedroom and change into my pajamas. I’m shaking so hard by the time I crawl into the bed I think I’ll literally break into pieces. I killed her. Dear God, I killed her.
Morgan let himself in through the window. He piles onto the bed and wraps his body around mine. I’m not alone anymore. I’ll never be alone again as long as I have Morgan. Turning over, I bury my face in his chest and cry until there’s nothing left.
“Shh, shh,” he whispers, stroking my hair. “It’s okay, Bessie Mae. I’m here.”
I killed her, Morgan. I killed her. Oh God…
You had to, Bess. She would have killed Devon and maybe all of us. You didn’t have a choice.
I can see her face, Morgan. Every time I close my eyes I see it.
I know, Bess. I see it too.
He pulls me closer, his warmth melting some of the chill that I can’t seem to shake. What would I do without Morgan?
You’ll never have to know, Bess. He starts to rub slow circles into my back. I was so scared earlier when I couldn’t feel you.
It felt like I couldn’t breath, I tell him, remembering the panic. When I couldn’t find you…
You’re okay now, you’re safe.
Lorelye’s face swims up in front of my eyes. Her eyes glare at me, in accusation. I can smell her skin as it burns, hear her screams.
Her face, Morgan...Sweet Jesus, I killed her.
I’m here, Bess. It’s okay. We’ll get through this, I promise. Just try and sleep.
Tears well up again. Please, God, I beg. Help me get through this. Please.
I fall asleep breathing in the scent of wet dirt and honeysuckle and the sound of Lorelye’s screams.