Winter Wars

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Three hours. Marcy hasn’t left the confines of the bathroom in three hours and I have no idea what she’s doing in there. Ryner says I should leave her alone and let her work through everything and normally I would respect his ideas—normally. But I can’t on this. Not when she’s clammed up and refuses to talk. Not when she can’t stop washing her hands like they’ve been tainted. Not when she can’t stop crying.

I don’t know what happened in her fight with Expiry. No one but Dana, Trevor, and Onyx are privy to that information and all of them refuse to tell.

“I can’t tell you that because I know what she’s going through, how she feels and everything.” Dana says sadly. “But I can tell you that you have our allegiance. If you ever need an army of vamps, just call.” With that, she left her number on the fridge and disappeared. I offered for them to stay, out of curtesy, but they declined saying there probably wasn’t a room suited for the needs of a vampire. Seeing as we’ve never had one as a guest, I can safely say that their assumption was correct.

I give up on getting her out of the bathroom once my hand goes numb with pain from pounding on the door. I seek out Ryner in hopes of at least getting his prediction of what happened. Easing open the door, Ryner is laying on his bed, eyes closed. I huff and back out knowing I won’t be able to wake him up no matter how hard I try. Not that I really want to. He spent a great deal of his time fighting to protect me while I was in the trees. Nobody likes a camper, nobody likes a sniper, but everybody hates a combination of the two.

I go to Marcus instead. He’s pacing the ground floor ranting about something to Tyler. I catch the end of a sentence as I round into the family room. “…on her own.”

“Well, you know how she is,” Tyler says from her spot on the couch. “She’s headstrong.”

“Marcus,” I say. He turns to me, stops acing for a second, then continues.

“I can’t tell you,” he says as I open my mouth. “I won’t and neither will anyone else.”

“What’s the issue? What happened?” He doesn’t answer. Tyler pulls her legs up and looks the other way. I turn on heel and hustle out.

I’m not sure that I really want to know what happened. If whatever she did made her nearly break down, maybe it’s best to let her deal with and tell me on her own. That’s what’s logical, but what kind of sister would I be if I looked the other way and did nothing to help?

Three more hours later, she comes out of the bathroom. She doesn’t utter a word, just walks by me and out of the room.

I hardly see her. Maybe passing through the hallways or a glimpse of her in the kitchen, but she spends most of her time holed up in the War Room with Ethan and Greg. What they’re doing in there, I have no idea. Even Ryner doesn’t know.

Lacey woke up the day after the fight. She freaked out, to put it mildly.

“Just what the hell is going on?” she screeches as Onyx rubs her side. Lacey’s hair flies wildly around her as she holds her arms out trying to fend everyone away. I can relate to the feeling of waking up in a strange place with no memory of getting there. Ah, yes. Those were simpler times.

She sees me walk through the door and launches herself at me. With my nerves shot, I go to shove her away, but she only wraps her arms around my neck. “Trina, where the hell am I?”

Lowering her onto one of the cots and shooing away the nurses, I explain what happened sans the supernatural aspect. Lacey starts shaking her head. “Where is Marcy? I want to see her.”

“She’s here,” I give a vague gesture to represent all of Westmoor Replica. “But she’s busy with other things. Not that you aren’t important, she’s just going through something. Do you have anywhere to go?”

“I—no. With the Civil War and everything I got laid off. It’s weird since I work at a mall, but that’s what happened. I lived by myself—you should know.”

I wince. Thinking on it, I do know. Word of mouth travels faster than one might think, all you have to do is ask the right question and I always knew which ones to ask. Digging around Lacey’s background feels like a lifetime ago.

“I can’t just boot you out. You’re welcome to stay here until you find a place. Sacramento is only two hours away.”

“Sacramento? I know someone who lives here. An old friend. She moved away a year ago.” Lacey runs her fingers through her hair.

“I can drive you there, if you want. Or I can find someone…”

“Trina, what are you doing here? I mean, I know something is going on. You have a cut on your arm that doesn’t look like an accident.”

I glance at my arm. From my shoulder to my elbow, an Amazon had managed to cut me. Having been in the trees at the time, it was easy to lose balance. After a short hand to hand tangle, I pushed her from the tree. The gash itself was healing slowly and a purple-ish black bruise had formed around it. It doesn’t hurt that much, it’s more like a slight inconvenience.

“I got into a fight,” I tell her truthfully.

“Huh?” she says. From what she knows, I’ve never wielded anything other than credit cards. If mom and dad could see me now. “Don’t seem like a physical confrontation kind of person.”

“I’m not,” I assure her. “But this was inevitable.”

“I guess,” She wrings her hands together. “Trina, what do you think is going to happen with the war? I mean, everything was already falling apart with the economy, but we’re going to actual war. I’m old enough to be drafted. Do you think I’ll have to fight?”

“I can’t tell you one hundred percent,” I say slowly. “But I think we’ll be okay, in the end. I’m sorry I can’t be more reassuring, but even I’m not sure where this war is going.” There were so many possibilities and unknown variables, I can’t imagine it going our way at all. The only thing I can really hope for is Marcy not dying. Some diviner said we’d both be the cause and leaders of this war, for some reason or another. If just one of us dies, then I think we have still have a fighting chance.

A sigh escapes me and Lacey eyes me warily. “What are you doing here? I mean, this place—it’s not a hospital, is it?”

“No, this is, well. This is my place. My parents had this place built from scratch. When they died, I inherited it since I’m the oldest. It’s still weird to think of it as mine even after almost two months.”

“Your parents died almost two months ago?” I can almost see the wheels turning in her head. “That time I caught you at the mall—your parents were dead? Is that why you rushed out?”

“Uh, yeah. That was part of the reason. The other part was… Sebastian.”

Her face lost all expression. “Sebastian… I don’t remember what really happened. He was taken on my way home and then…” She furrows her eyebrows. “I don’t remember. It’s really blurry.”

“Lacey,” I say gently. “You were drugged. When we found you, you were in a bed—not really awake but not really asleep. You were never hurt, I checked, but…”

“That rat bastard drugged me for almost two weeks?” She pushes off the bed and starts pacing. I fight the urge to tell her to sit down. Someone who’s still working the morphine out of her system shouldn’t move around so much. “Why? What the hell did I do?”

“You were friends with Marcy. He was trying to get to her and since he couldn’t here, he got the next best thing: you.”

“Because… Just who is he?”

“A very, very sick man who is better put to good use than left alone,” Ethan says walking in. “You need to lay down.”

“I don’t need to do anything, I need… I need,” Lacey lets out a whoosh of air and sits down on the bed again. “I’m light headed again.”

“I’ll help you to the bathroom and then you can lay down again.”

“But I…” she slows to a stop. “How’d you know I need the bathroom? I didn’t even now.”

“Years of nursing,” I say. After helping her to the bathroom and back, she laid down and immediately fell asleep. Ethan had disappeared along with Onyx. I’m alone again.

I traipse through the mansion looking for something to do—our training is done, Marcy and everyone is busy, they’re not letting me into the War Room.

I find Ryner in his room again. Maybe I can ask him what happened. Recently, he’s had a hard time saying no to me. Of course, I’m proved wrong the minute I think it.

“Come on, Ryner, maybe I can help her.”

“You cannot help those that do not wish it.”

“I know.” Flopping down on his bed, I wonder why she always shuts me out. She’s always been like this. It’s like she thinks I won’t notice something’s wrong and if she doesn’t tell me I’m just going to be more worried.

“Ryner, does Jayson ever shut you out?”

He stares at me. Right. Dumb question. Jayson shuts him out all the time. They might share a room and parents and a mutual feeling of trust, but they aren’t especially close. It’s not the age difference (if that were the case, me and Marcy wouldn’t fight so much), it’s that they were raised separately. For what reason, I have no idea, neither of them will tell me.

“Sorry, but you get what I mean, right?”

“I do understand, but you have to understand that there are certain things that require being alone.”

“But how long is she gonna stay away?”

“I… do not know,” he frowns. “With Marcy, there are so many possibilities. It is hard to predict her reaction.”

“How come you get to know why she’s being so… eh.”

“It is because a great many of us have experienced exactly what she has.”

I sidle a little closer to him. So close I can feel his body heat, but that comes with the territory. All werewolves are hot. “And that would be…?”

“Something you will unfortunately have to endure,” He frowns again then smiles slightly. “But I doubt you’ll have to go through that any time soon.”

“Come on, Ryner,” I whine. “You’re just being mean now.”

“Perhaps,” he smiles. “Perhaps you are being too nosy for your own good.”

“Hey, I thrived on being nosy back when I thought I was human.” I stick my chest out proudly and he laughs. My stomach does a slow roll and my heart speeds up. Not a good idea, my brain tells me for what feels like the hundredth. He’s willing to give his life for you and you’re often in dangerous spots. He or I could die and then he or I could be very much heartbroken—or more so than we would originally be. Right. But that still doesn’t stop my heart from flipping over backwards when he smiles at me.

“Ryner,” Myra pokes her head in. She glares at me. “Marcy needs you.”

Ryner loses his smile and stands. “I—”

“Don’t worry about,” I stretch and walk out. “I’ll find something to occupy my time.”

“Find something that doesn’t involve bothering Ryner,” Myra mutters as I walk past.

“Screw off, princess. The only one bothering him is you.” I don’t like to be petty, honest I don’t, but people like Myra piss me off. Exes who still feel like they have the same place in the other’s heart. Maybe I’m just being petty because it’s Ryner.

I start wandering through the mansion. I never thought I’d feel trapped in this mammoth of a house, but I agree completely with Marcy. I entertain the kids with cheap magic tricks. I help Tyler polish up on her archery skills, I manage to binge watch two seasons of Sherlock—and we all know how long those are.

I manage to catch up with some people I used to work with. Apparently after a week I was fired and my last two checks are just sitting in my mail box. Margie, one of the other nurses, offered to mail them to me, but I told her it was fine. I’m not hurting for money and I doubt it would do me any good.

When night comes, I feel more alone now that Marcy has disappeared almost entirely from our room. Despite my own internal warning, I sneak into Ryner room. Jayson has abandoned his room in favor of trying to talk to Marcy—the only reason I haven’t bothered him yet. Ryner doesn’t seem too surprised to see me. Not sure whether that’s a good or bad thing, but I don’t think too hard as I climb into bed with him.

One week is what it takes for Marcy to start making an appearance again. Within the week I have accomplished nothing. Well, I kept tabs on Lacey who’s still working the last bit of morphine from her system and getting the nutrients she needs. It’s sad that because I don’t have access to my sister that I have nothing to do. But since she’s also my Alpha and she doesn’t want me to be in danger, I probably wouldn’t know what was going on anyway.

In the kitchen the first time I see her. He shuffles in looking like death on two legs. The bags under her eyes are designer.

“Hi,” she murmurs taking a seat next to me. Tyler hustles out for which I am grateful for, but not before setting a cup of tea in front of Marcy.

“Are you talking to people now?” I ask cautiously.

“Yeah, I—I’m sorry about not being around, I just—I had something to take care of.” She stares at her hands and takes the mug of tea.

I take her hand and she doesn’t try to pull away. I brace myself for what might happen, but I don’t see anything, hear anything or feel anything. She’s focused her attention on me. “Marcy, just what happened out there? No one would tell me?”

“I killed her,” Her voice is so quiet I almost miss the words. “I went back and buried her after the fight. I didn’t have any control,” she says into my shoulder as I pull her close. My arms lock around her. “The Alpha in me dealt with her the way any Alpha would; it couldn’t tolerate her presence.”

“You weren’t at fault,” I say. “It was self-defense, Expiry would have killed you. And please, talk to me. You’re not alone, you’ll never be alone again as long as I’m breathing. And even if I’m not you’ll have Ryner and Jayson.”

Marcy pulls away and smiles, wiping a stray tear from her cheek. “I hear you’ve been sleeping with Ryner.”

“It’s not even like that,” I pull out a napkin from my pocket and give it to her. She blows her nose and tosses it into the trash. “I didn’t realize how much I needed you there with me. Being alone, I just couldn’t fall asleep and there wasn’t anyone else I could go to.”

“Kenine is impressed,” someone says effectively ruining our affectionate atmosphere. Ahead of the only (and weirdest) royals I’ve ever met, walks in a kid. Or maybe that’s wrong. He’s not a kid, he’s just short. Five foot even, maybe. He doesn’t look old, but his hair is stark white. “Kenine thinks this is worthy of his sovereigns.” It takes me a second, but I realize that this man is talking in the third person.

“Welcome back from the torture chamber,” Marcy smiles.

“The War Room isn’t so bad once you get over Ethan being a prick,” Dana says in greeting. She hugs Marcy then me.

“Hello again, Marcelletta,” Marcy shudders as she takes Trevor’s hand. It’s so weird that he calls her by her full name. She’s that one friend whose full name sounds weird because no one ever says it. He turns to me. “This is Kenine, as I’m sure you’ve gathered. He’s our personal attendant and works closely with us,”

“Hi, I’m Trina,” I hold out my hand and he firmly grasps it.

“Kenine was waiting to meet you.” I don’t know whether to be flattered or not, so I just let it slide.

Dana starts talking again. “What my dick of a husband means is that Kenine is his willing slave.”

“That was redundant, my queen,” The three vampires round the table. “We only wish to give our farewells, you have been a very gracious host.”

“I do my best,” Marcy shrugs. “It was nice of you both to make it here on short notice, but what I had was really important.”

“Oh, and we’re still working on that witch alliance thing,” Dana promises. “Kenine offered to track down Tiffany. She owes me for not letting Trevor kill her and she’s the most diplomatic witch we’ve met so far. Over kill is perfectly rated.”

“My queen, when your life is in danger, any logic or reason I possess is of little consequence.”

“That’s the type of b.s. lectured and laid.”

“There’s only one ‘L’ word in that sentence that I enjoy.” Trevor teases. Marcy rolls her eyes and I discretely gag on my tea. With that, the king, the queen, and the attendant leave Westmoor under the cover of darkness.

Marcy and I wander up to our room a few minutes later to get ready for bed. “Alliances?”

“Yeah,” she says pulling on a lose t-shirt. “Dana is kind of friends with the witches so she’s working on getting them, a lot of them at least, to our side.” Marcy falls down beside me. “It has to stop. Everything. The wars, the bloodshed. If I can do it, I want to.”

I resist the urge to push her hair away from her face as she closes her eyes. Marcy falls asleep first and finally exhaustion takes over me.

Around a lot o’clock, I wake up, startled by the sudden loss of heat in my bed. I open my eyes in time to see Marcy sneaking out. I wait a moment before flipping my covers back and following her. Thanking Jebus for the carpeted floors (for the heat—I hate being cold when I wake up—and the quiet footfalls), I follow Marcy to Ethan’s room. His light is still on.

Call me crazy for tailing my sister in the middle of the night, but when she’s been cut off from the world and has only recently appeared again, I’m worried when she’s not near me.

She doesn’t close the door all the way and I stay a little ways down the hall, listening.

“…you here this late at night.” Ethan mocks. “What boredom you must feel.”

“I’m not bored, and I didn’t come in here to banter,” She says quietly. She shifts her weight hesitantly. “I just woke up early and I had a question for you. How do you do it? How do you… how do you live with taking a life?”

Ethan’s quiet for a moment before carefully saying, “Despite the severity of it all, try to look at it in a positive light. Unbeknownst to you, Expiry hunted humans for sport and even other wolves if she wanted a challenge. The world is better off without her.

“I do realize that you did not wish to take her life, but it was a necessary evil. As to how I deal with it,” Ethan sighs. “You keep your head and keep telling yourself that you did the right thing. If you say it enough, you might even start to believe it.”

I can hear Marcy shifting her weight again. “Do you believe it? That you did the right thing?”

“I have yet to believe the lie I tell myself.”

“Then how do you know you’ll be alright?”

“You don’t.”

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