Chapter Thirty Three
I sit on the school steps and absently listen to Saidie ramble. We’d had a freak snow storm the night before and the snow finally stopped about mid-morning and most everyone outside is involved in some kind of snowball war. Saidie and I dodged more than we could count and managed to flee to the steps with minor damage. Jason, Tom and some of the other players on the football team are still engaged in the battle of the century. Watching them makes me smile. Jason still doesn’t like that I’m dating Tom, but he’s dealing with it. And Tom. I had been right to give him a chance. He made the pain of losing Devon easier to bear. I can laugh with him. He watches me for signs of running and bolting, though. There had been plenty, but he always gives chase. The more time I spend with him, the more I grow to like him.
If only he could distract me from what’s been going on with my friends. I sigh. Since our little powwow in the gazebo, things feel strained between everyone. Our little group has not spent more than five minutes together as a whole in days. Janna ate it up. Rumors spread and gossip mongers crowded in to watch. We all seemed to be avoiding each other which only fed the rumors. We all talked, but never together. Saidie and Devon avoided like the plague.
Connor appeared to be immune, though. He really didn’t care. In fact, he seemed excited about hanging out with monsters. God help us all.
“Alex,” Saidie nudges me. “Did you finish this problem?”
We are trying to finish our algebra homework but neither of us seems to be making too much headway. We enjoy being outside in the snow and laughing at all the antics going on among the makeshift snow forts.
“No,” I frown, suddenly feeling anxious. I automatically look for Morgan and catch my breath. He’s arguing with another boy. The boy holds my attention. He’s tall with blonde hair like Morgan’s, but that’s where the similarities ended. He looks older, more dangerous somehow.
“Who’s that with Morgan?” I ask Saidie.
“Don’t know…what?” she frowns.
The boy pushes past Morgan and starts toward Devon.
We have trouble, Bessie Mae.
I am up and running before the words are finished. I see everything he’s seen in a flash. The boy means to hurt Devon.
“Alex?” Saidie calls, getting up and running after me.
“You’re not supposed to be here,” I can hear the boy’s voice, low and full of anger.
I come to a stop directly in front of Devon and Saidie settled herself beside of me.
“Hi,” I say brightly. “Is there a problem?”
His eyes, a deep blue, stare at me, startled. His tone is cold, though, when he speaks.
“This is none of your business.”
“Yeah, it kinda is my business,” I tell him, smiling. “Devon’s a friend of mine.”
“Friend?” he laughs harshly. “You have no idea who he is.”
“I know exactly what he is, what you are.” I can feel the energy pulsing off of him. Definitely a were. His scent smells like Morgan’s and Jason’s. It’s an earthy smell, like the woods after a fresh rain. My wolf tells me he smells of pack. He’s a wolf.
His eyes narrow. “You can’t know…”
“We know everything we need to know,” Saidie tells him, her own voice hard and unbending.
His lips thin in anger. “This is ridiculous. You two need to move out of my way.”
“Nope, sorry,” I say. “Can’t do that.”
“Yeah, you will.”
Devon snarls, his warning low but clear.
“If you so much as touch a hair on his head, you will answer to me,” I tell him, anger creeping up on me. I can see the intent to hurt in his eyes. He isn’t going to touch Devon. Devon is Mine. My wolf snarls in my head. The boy’s eyes go wide, sensing the wolf in me maybe.
“And me,” Saidie agrees.
“And me,” Connor chimes in.
I glanced behind me to see that Conner has joined us. Devon is surrounded once Morgan comes to stand beside of me.
“Morgan.” There is a definite tone of warning in the boy’s voice.
“You will have to go through all of us,” Morgan’s voice comes out like the crack of a whip, full of steel and determination. “He’s staying. Accept it.”
The boy growls in frustration. A real doggy growl. He nods grudgingly.
“Let’s go, Bess.” Morgan moves to herd us away. It isn’t until then we notice that everyone who’d been outside is staring at us. People had moved closer to see what was going on.
“Wonderful,” I mutter.
“Remember, even bad publicity is good publicity,” Saidie whispers.
Leave it to Saidie to remind me of the little war I’d started with Janna. Like I need reminding. She and the hohags haven’t made a move yet and I’m nervous. Just what are the hags up to?
“Care to tell us what that was all about?” I ask once we were all seated back at our usual spot on the school steps.
“That was Paul Richards,” Morgan sighs. “He just moved here. When he caught Devon’s smell, he flipped. I tried to calm him down, but he wouldn’t listen.”
“There are other shifters in school?” Connor’s eyes are growing brighter.
“Of course,” Morgan grins at him, his eyes flashing amber for a second.
“Why haven’t any of them flipped out before now?” Connor asks.
“Oh, they did at first. The pack decided to watch them before taking any action. You remember for a while there Devon and I were practically ready to kill each other?” he laughs. “Anyway, once I figured out he wasn’t here to cause any harm I managed to convince the rest of the pack he isn’t a threat to us. My pack trusts me not to put them in danger, so they agreed to leave him be. Paul’s new here. He doesn’t know me and he has no reason to trust me. He’s only been running with us for a week or so.”
“Shouldn’t he have noticed them before now?”
“Today is his first day of school. He wouldn’t have seen Devon before.”
“It’s bad enough that we have to worry about Alex, now we have to make sure you don’t get torn apart,” Saidie shoots Devon a disgruntled look.
Devon stares at her for a long minute, and then nods in acceptance and gives her a half smile.
I let out a breath I’m not aware I’ve been holding. The last couple days have been hard with the rift that formed between all of us. It appears that we are still loyal to each other, though. Loyalty is something that cannot be so easily broken once given and can forgive much. It ties us together more tightly than even friendship. The pressure crushing my chest eases. It’s going to be alright.
We all hear the bell and Connor groans.
“I forgot to finish my homework,” he sighs heavily.
Saidie and I look at each other sheepishly. We haven’t finished ours either. No brownie points for either of us.
“Come on, Connor,” Morgan grins devilishly. “We’d best get along. We wouldn’t want to be late now would we?”
“Of course not,” Connor grins wickedly. “Devon?”
He smiles that slow mischievous smile of his that has me melting. Again. Sigh. “I would not think of missing it.”
Saidie and I exchange worried looks. Just what are those three up to?
“Come on, Alex, let’s go. I for one am not going to the office.”
I completely agree with her.
“What are they up to?” Saidie whispers a little while later. Class had started twenty minutes ago and there is still no sign of the boys.
“Miss Reed, Miss Walker, where are those boys?” Mr. Rawlings demands, noticing the time too. “I saw them with you at lunch.”
“We don’t know, Mr. Rawlings,” Saidie answers truthfully.
There is a knock on the door just then and Mr. Crouse comes in, followed by all three boys.
“Mr. Rawlings, I’m sorry the boys are late. They were helping Mrs. King move some things in her classroom and then came by the office. I gave them a note, but they seemed a little concerned about returning to class. I wondered why?”
“I do have very strict rules about tardiness, Mr. Crouse.”
“Did you tell them that you wouldn’t accept any excuse?”
“Yes, I did. They have more than enough time to get to class before the bell rings.”
“So, what you’re telling me is that you won’t accept an excuse from the office then?” Mr. Crouse asks sharply.
Morgan winks at us.
We roll our eyes at him.
Don’t you know it!
“No, I said no such thing…” Mr. Rawlings flounders.
“Please come see me after class, Mr. Rawlings.”
“Take your seats,” Mr. Rawlings says angrily after the vice principal leaves. “You’ll have to get your notes later. I’m putting a pop quiz up on the board!”
“Was it worth it?” Saidie whispers.
All three nod with huge toothy grins.