Winter Wars

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The next day, we all fly back to Westmoor Replica, where, of course, fifty thousand new problems are waiting for us.

The minute we walk in the door people are tripping over each other trying to get to Marcy. Sleep deprive and jet-lagged me (is there a way to travel that doesn’t involve sitting for copious amounts of time?) didn’t realize what the ruckus was about until we’d been swept into a ballroom. Yes, a real ballroom with chandeliers, a patterned floor, and about thirty-two window doors that lead outside.

“What’s going on?” I ask Ryner as he takes me to the front of the crowd. All thirty some Pack members—which excludes the kids which would put us at, roughly, sixty members.

“Beta needs to make an announcement about Marcy taking her place as Alpha. Courtesies and formality.” Right. And we all know how much Ethan loves formalities. He can shove it up his ass for all I care.

Ryner raises his eyebrow. Did I say that out loud? Well, crap. He politely chooses to ignore my unintentional jab at Ethan. Well. Not entirely unintentional.

Marcy and Jayson have already been pushed to the front. I stand on her left, Ryner and Jayson, her right. Ethan easily takes control of the crowd and starts to talk. Normally I’d pay attention, but my hate for him is running high as I am running low. In stark contrast, Marcy seems to pay attention, following him with her eyes as he walks back and forth in front of the crowd.

“…and thus, you have your Alpha—” Ethan gestures to Marcy. “—your Luna—” Me next. “—your Beta—” Everyone knows Ryner. “—and lastly, your third in command.” It’s obvious that he has an issue with Jayson being in any position of power. One of these days my self-control will run dry and Ethan will be on the receiving end of it.

Marcy starts to fidget. As she looks at everyone staring at her, I can only imagine what she’s thinking. She may act tough, but she’s a big softie like me. She wants them to like her or at least trust her. And Marcy knows she screwed up. Jayson may not have that many friends, but the people here (Ethan excluded) still care about him. With the way she treated him (even though she was pretty much ugly to everyone that came within three feet of her), saving his and Ryner’s life doesn’t seem to matter to them anymore. Only a few people, and by few I mean three—Marcus, Tyler, and Claire—still think Marcy’s a good person. She just wasn’t thinking clearly, but no one looked past her grouchy demeanor to find out why.

“Don’t touch me,” she murmurs as I go to take her hand. Hmm.

I frown. One day soon she’s gonna figure out that, until she talks to me about whatever is wrong, I’ll take the plunge and find out on my own.

Taking her hand, I wince at the surge of pain that goes through my head. Having witnessed a much worse head pain, I can ignore it. Marcy’s making a conscience effort to stay awake, which is a weird feeling.

She sighs and closes her eyes knowing I’d insist she lie down. For a moment, her body goes slack, but then she stands up straight again and opens her eyes. Gold. Her eyes are gold. Then she giggles. Let me say that again. My sister giggled.

Marcy doesn’t giggle. She laughs sarcastically and snorts in an unladylike manner, but she doesn’t giggle. Ever. And when Ethan rubs the bridge of his nose, I know that something new and irritating just surfaced.

“What’s going on?” I ask knowing I probably won’t get a straight answer.

“I’m Marcy’s subconscious,” she smiles. “But there’s no time for long introductions. There’s a damsel in distress.” Hyperactive Marcy bounces on her toes and looks from me to Ryner then pouts. I blink and suddenly she’s gone.

“You believe me, don’t you?” She’s right next to Jayson—and I mean right next to him.

“Uh, yeah, I guess.” He stutters.

“Awesome, let’s go.” She takes his hand and their gone. Not knowing what else to do, I leave the confused crowd to Ethan and take off with Ryner at my heels.

“He won’t let me drive.” She whined as we spy them at Ethan’s car. I would say let her drive (what do I care about Ethan’s car?), but I have better sense.

“You’re not driving,” I say firmly. “Just tell us where we’re supposed to go and Ryner will drive.”

She crosses her arms and pouts again. “Fine. We gotta go to Oak Valley.”

“Why?” Ryner asks.

“That’s where Lacey is.” She says simply. Ryner and Jayson look more confused, but I understand. Ryner looks to me and I get into the car. A while ago Marcy had voiced her worry about Lacey’s wellbeing and how Sebastian would more than likely go after her, Lacey, to get to Marcy. I suppose with training and fighting with Jayson and said guy almost dying might shove it to the back of her mind and, therefore, be lurking in her subconscious.

“So, who are you?” I ask feeling silly asking my sister this.

“I told you,” she says from the back seat, “I’m Marcy’s subconscious. Marcy is dreaming about important whatnot so I’m here, in her place, to keep up with everything going on.”

“How long are you gonna be here?”

“I’m dunno,” she looks out the window as the tress race by. “Marcy was out for days the last time she had a vision, but right now she’s just resting.” After that brief explanation, she starts to talk. And talk and talk and talk a million miles per freaking hour. Then, five minutes into the twenty minute drive, I realize who’s chattering irritatingly in the back seat.

“Mac, will you please, for the love of all things holy, shut up?”

She’s quiet for a moment. Yes, there’s no doubt that’s Mac. Hyperactive and talkative and annoying. When we were little, that was one of her nicknames. If I also remember correctly, Ryner didn’t like Marcy all that much as a kid which would explain why he’s gripping the steering so hard his knuckles are white. Jayson was always swept away by her weird antics—which is why he was her main target to talk at. Why her subconscious has taken the form of her child self is beyond me.

“Why do I have to stop talking?”

“Because Ryner is irritated right now and needs to concentrate on driving before we get into a wreck.”

“But… Ryner would never hurt me.” But she posed it as a question like she wasn’t sure anymore.

“I would never hurt you,” Ryner agrees. “But your incessant talking is… bothersome.”

“Oh,” she murmurs. “Sorry, Ry.” Then, because she either doesn’t know or doesn’t care about Non-Hyper Marcy’s situation with Jayson (I’m betting on the latter; when Marcy was a kid she didn’t pay any mind to anything that wasn’t right in front of her), lays her head on Jayson’s lap and falls asleep.

“Um,” Jayson says.

“If she’s sleeping, let her sleep,” I sigh. A headache, my own and not a shadow of Marcy’s, starts to form at my temples. “Maybe when she wakes up she’ll be seventeen again.”

As soon as we cross into Oak Valley I hear, “What the hell?” whispered from Marcy. Jayson grunts as Marcy scrambles to the other side of the car. In the rearview mirror I can see her face is flushed red.

“Nice of you to join the sane,” Ryner comments.

“I was sane,” she grumbles. “I just wasn’t… seventeen. I was four.”

“Four year old Mac was driving your body,” I say. “Do you know what she was doing?”

“Kind of,” She rubs her temples. “It’s kind of fuzzy, but… oh, God. Why the hell did I talk so damn much? I know Ryner didn’t like me much as a kid. I don’t even like me that much when I was a kid.”

“Quite the contrary,” Ryner says, his gaze sweeping back and forth, taking in the land and big houses. “I was quite fond of you when we were younger. Though I could only be around you in small dosages. Much like now, actually.” He adds as an afterthought.

“Shame you have to be around me all the time then,” She scoots to the middle and pops her head into the front. “It’s that house right there.”

“Why does it look like a hotel?” I ask. That’s really all it looks like. A smaller sized version of La Quinta Inns & Suites. It even has one part of it that’s taller than the rest. I wonder if it has an elevator.

“What, exactly, are we doing here?” Ryner asks.

“Lacey, you met her.”

“Hmm,” Ryner hums. “Yes, the woman who was at the mall before.” I note how he quickly corrects himself and doesn’t bring up the reason we were at the mall that time. “I believe she mistook me for Marcy’s boyfriend.”

Jayson snorts. “Ryner can’t handle her as a friend—I doubt he has enough patience and willpower to avoid strangling her to be anything more than that.”

“Do you?” I ask.

“Huh?” was his reply.

Ryner cuts me off before I can reiterate. He asked, before I went to sleep yester—wait? Was it only yesterday? Jeez, the day has just started and it already feels like forever. Well, before I went to bed, he asked, adamantly, for me to not interfere and let their relationship run its course. “That is of little import. What is the problem?”

“Sebastian has her.”

“Is she human?”

“As far as I know. Look, I know you guys don’t really care about anything that’s not directly related to the war, but Lacey’s up the creek minus the paddle because of me.”

“What’s important to you, is important to us,” Ryner says. We stop in front of the house/hotel and file out. Marcy leads the way without hesitation. She stalks right by the two men posted at the door. They stiffen at the sight of her and look the other direction when Ryner and Jayson walk by. I suppose being raised by Ethan has some perks: they can look scary as hell when they want to. Of course, being me, I think they’re both too cute to be intimidating.

Despite never once setting foot in the building, Marcy already seems to know the layout. Maybe it’s similar to the one Sebastian had in Massachusetts.

Marcy stops in front of a door, raises her foot, and kicks it in. I refrain from rolling my eyes. If the door had been locked, there’s no way it survived. She storms in and puts her hands on her hips. “Dear God, you replicated the entire thing.”

Sebastian sits on the four poster bed going through a book. He glances up at our party. He frowns at Ryner and Jayson. “Why are they here?”

“Because there’s not a chance in hell they’d let me come by myself.” She sets her hands on her hips.

“Get out then,” he says going back to his book. “I don’t want them here.”

“No. See, here’s the thing, I’ve got two reasons for being here and we’re not leave without at least one of them.”

Sebastian stops flipping through his book. Slowly, he turns to face us again. “What did you say?”

“I said no. N-O.” Marcy either doesn’t know what fear what is or is brave beyond compare. The look in Sebastian’s face is beyond fractured. It’s damaged, desolate—mad. His anger had driven him to insanity.

Ryner shifts and puts his hand on Marcy’s shoulder. “Marcy…” he warns.

“Get your hand off her. She’s mine.” Sebastian stands and Jayson shoves me behind him. I don’t know whether to be happy that I’m in harm’s way or offended—he spent so much time training me to defend myself, and I know that I can do it, but he puts me behind him to take the hit.

Before any of us can fully grasp the situation, Sebastian takes two quick strides and grabs Marcy, pulling her back and pressing a gun to her temple.

I peak over Jayson’s shoulder trying not to let my emotions get the best of me, but all I can think about is him touching Marcy. Sebastian touching Marcy. Touching Marcy…

My hand covers my mouth as the full force of what that means grips my heart.

Marcy starts talking but her words pass in one ear and out the next. All I can think about is that pig, that swine, that bastard, that monster, that presumptuous sadistic asshole touching my little sister.

Sebastian lets Marcy go.

I lean over and throw up my breakfast.

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