Blake and Junto’s stumbled into Claire’s room, their faces grave with a message. They glanced between Spencer and I questionably before breaking their news to us. “There is someone in the forest.”
Spencer got up and followed them from Claire’s room. I squeezed her hand before I followed them out. Another one? Didn’t we just fight someone, like, five minutes ago?
We met Nathan, Stephan, and Hyene, who had started arguing. I didn’t hear all the sides of the argument, so I stood and scooted closer to find out what was going on. When I just closed in, they had just reached a conclusion. Of course. Just my luck. I joined their circle and Stephan glanced at me before shooting his gaze back at Nathan. “Watch her.” He demanded.
Nathan nodded and headed towards me. He didn’t meet my eyes, just grumbled, “Come on,” and kept walking. Confused, I came to his side and followed.
Once we were away from the group, Nathan told me what was going on. “We’ve found someone in the forest. We don’t know who they are yet and don’t want to take any chances.”
“Who’s staying with Claire?”
“You really think she’s the best choice right now?”
Nathan frowned. “She may not like you, but she has to respect the Shifters in the pack. If she hurts Claire, she can possibly be put to death.”
I nodded, content with that answer. Well, a little more comforted.
He handed me some sweats and a gray T-shirt and I turned around. “Jules,” he said and I heard his clothes ripping. I waited a second before I felt something cold and wet and turned around to find myself facing a familiar black wolf. I took his clothes and put them on his back.
He glanced expectantly at me before I gave him an explanation, “I don’t want to ride this time. I can run.”
This was one of the times I was grateful he couldn’t talk. He snorted, giving me a stern look. I matched his glare best I can, and he eventually looked away from our stare down.
What had happened in the few minutes I was upstairs? Wasn’t he just comforting me? On my side?
He started towards the woods and I followed, keeping up pretty well. I knew he was slowing his pace for me, but I was still pleased to be able to keep up. Shortly after starting, being the little Ms. Graceful I was, tripped on a tree root. My body went flying in front of my feet and my weight overtook my balance. I stumbled long enough to find the body of another tree and balance myself. Glancing up from my pitiful state, I found Nathan’s dark eyes rolling at me. I shot him what I hoped was a nasty look and regained my own balance.
Nathan had snapped his head away from me and I knew Shifters were communicating telepathically. I asked Hyene if it was possible after Nathan’s sarcastic remark later, and she confirmed it for me. He headed off to the left and I followed pitifully behind—tripping on my own shoes. I was good at running, but I didn’t have much practice of it in the dense woods.
“Let me go!” I heard a familiar cry from the sheet of trees. Nathan slowed and stood protectively in front of me as we narrowed on the noise. I could feel the anxiety rise from him as we got closer. I wasn’t worried. I felt at peace just from the cry I heard. Because if what I heard was real, there was no reason for me to be scared.
We came close enough to see blurs and I couldn’t wait anymore by going at Nathan’s excruciatingly slow pace. Without warning, I jumped in front of Nathan and dashed towards the commotion. I heard Nathan sprinting after me, so I picked up my pace, knowing I’d probably just get caught and in trouble by him—once again finding myself going slow.
I burst through the trees and found myself in the middle of a fight. The other five wolves were already there—fighting two human beings. Both of them were guys. The one fighting three wolves on the right had long brown hair that nearly reached his shoulders. He had pale blue eyes and, I might say, was pretty strong. He kind of reminded me of the Indian guys you see in movies, but he had loose jeans and a white stained T-shirt on instead of buckskins.
I glanced over to the one on the left and felt the air from in me leave. What I heard was accurate. Standing right before me was the same boy who cared for my cuts when I was little. Who pushed me on the swing in the backyard. The same person who heard my troubles and tribulations. It was Liam.
It took me a minute to realize what was happening. Liam was fighting two of the strongest beings on earth bare handed. Nathan had made it to me by then and stopped in front of me. He glared at me as he blocked the path to my brother. I tried to run past him, but he moved in the way. I was too focused on Liam at the moment to challenge Nathan, so I just kept moving side to side until I slipped past him.
I heard Nathan growl and sprint after me, so I ran a little faster, despite the knowledge he could catch me any second if he wanted to. “Liam!” I screamed at the top of my lungs. Liam stopped fighting for a minute and stared at me, a grin crawled onto his face. The moment he was distracted, Hyene leaped on top of Liam’s huge frame, knocking him to the ground with an earth-shattering ′Thud’. “No! Get off him!” I screamed, but my protests landed on deaf ears.
I finally reached Liam and Hyene to find them rolling around. I hesitated for a second before joining the commotion and trying to tear them apart. I tugged on Hyene’s fur until something hard hit me and I fell back. A big black wolf took my place and started to break up the wrestling match.
By that time, Nathan had made it to me and he stood protectively in front of me, snarling at Hyene, who I assumed was the one who slammed me to the ground. His sweats and T-shirt were no longer resting on his back, but I didn’t feel like looking around for where they might be when I had more important things to worry about.
I slowly crept towards my brother when my vision started to blur. It wasn’t until then I realized I had started to cry. I made it just feet from my brother when my vision cleared up enough to see him.
He fought well, but I noticed some bruises starting to form on his jaw and arms already. I guess that’s acceptable seeing as though he just fought a supernatural being. I couldn’t help but notice his normally bright blue eyes were dull with heavy bags under them. His face seemed to lighten as he saw me approach. He whispered, “Elana,” in between heavy breaths and I ran straight into him. He engulfed me in a powerful embrace and held me. I felt his chest heave unevenly with sobs as he cried into my hair. He suddenly burst into a laugh and picked me up easily from his grasp around my back and swung me around him in a circle. I laughed in between my choking sobs as he swung me around weightless. For the moment, all that was here were the two of us.
Liam put me down and leaned back just far enough to be inches from me. His grin was displayed large across his face as I stared playfully into my eyes. His own eyes displayed joy and relief as his emotions poured into me. “I’m so glad I found you,” Liam said in a tight voice.
“Why… How…” I started, not even knowing how he could have possibly found me. I wiped more tears from my eyes, trying to control my crying.
Thankfully, he didn’t make me finish my sentence. Like usual, he knew exactly what I was thinking. “I found your backpack on the edge of the forest outside the school and found someone to help me track you. Man, I’m glad he’s good.”
A stupid grin was probably smacked on my face at the moment, but I didn’t care. My brother was with me. Nothing else mattered.
Liam and I stayed in the same position—until I became suddenly aware that we weren’t alone and turned to find everyone was already changed back into their normal human form. Liam’s guide was in front of them, shaking uncontrollably as he tried to make himself appear as small as possible, hiding from the beasts around him. All the glares from the wolves were pointed at him. Everyone’s except Nathan’s, which was aimed at the two of us.
“Guys, this is Liam. My brother.” I announced. I saw a brief flash of emotion across Nathan’s face, but I couldn’t tell what it was because it too quickly turned back to stone. I saw the others nod understandingly and I knew then that they had a silent conversation while in wolf form trying to figure out what was happening.
Stephan stepped forward, hand outstretched. “Welcome, Liam. I’m sure we have a lot to talk about.”
Liam has spent the last hour in the family room replaying everything that happened to him, and I don’t think I will ever let him out of my sight again.
He found some of my backpack at the edge of the forest and tried to get our father to file a missing person’s report. When he denied even knowing me, he hired a guide to help him find me.
He remembered Spencer coming to him and to try and erase his mind, but it only worked for a few hours. After that, he spent the last few months looking for me. He said they were nearby when they heard some commotion and came to check it out. They must have heard the fight between the Shifters and Vampires.
Spencer looked at him with awe and hatred, probably trying to figure out how he could escape the mind control he put over him to make him forget me. It apparently worked on all my other siblings but him.
Liam looked back to me. “I’m just glad I found you.”
I placed my hand on his arm. “I am, too.”
I can’t even describe how excited I am to have him here. I love my brother more than anybody else, but guilt still crawled up my spine. Was it really a good thing he was here? We have been attacked so much in the last few months, did I really want Liam to be here in this constant danger I was forced into? He didn’t even know anything yet. I felt selfish wanting him to stay with me and give up everything he’s worked for.
Liam’s smile faded. “El, Claire’s missing, too. I’m so sorry, but I haven’t looked for her yet. Nobody seems to remember her, either, though. And her parents have no record of her adoption.”
I smiled at Liam’s concern, but then it disappeared when I realized she was still upstairs. How could I forget about Claire? “Come with me,” I said while I jumped up from the family room couch. Liam’s guide, whose name is Mark Aggarwal, had a terrorized look on his face as he realized he was about to be left with a pack of Shape Shifters. Well, and Spencer, but I don’t think that causes much comfort, either. His all black appearance doesn’t make him look all too inviting.
I jumped up the stairs and swung open Claire’s door, entering the room with Liam on my heels. She lay motionless on her bed, in the same position we left her in. Her chest rose and fell lightly, and if it wasn’t for the dried blood still clinging to her skin, she would have looked peaceful lying there.
I pointed to a chair for Liam to sit and ran to the kitchen. I grabbed a bowl, water, and rag, and rushed back into her room. Liam look apologetic as he gazed at her. “What happened?”
I placed the bowl next to her on the bed and lightly rubbed the blood off her patched skin. “The commotion you heard earlier? That was a fight with some Vampires.”
Liam’s eyes bulged as I realized he really didn’t know anything about this new world we’ve beth been sucked into. “I’m what they call a foreseer, I can see the future and past in my dreams. Claire is a Shape Shifter that can shoot fire out of her hands. Everybody down there is a Shape Shifter with some other sort of ability. Well, except the guy that tried to erase your memories. He’s a Mind Manipulator.”
“Jeez, how long have you been here?”
I shrugged. “It’s not too bad. They’re all really nice.”
I turned around to see Liam run his hand through his brown hair, making it stick up in random places. “I’m so sorry, Ellie.”
I put the bloody rag in the water and stepped away from the bowl. “You are not throwing yourself a pity party right now. You know none of this is your fault. Now get up and help my best friend, will you?”
Liam and I switched places and he started to gently remove the blood from her arm. Claire has been the only friend I have had that Liam liked. Which is ironic because she was the only one brave enough to stand up to him. Whatever it was, Liam now looked to her as another sister, and I know he feels just as bad for her as he did for me.
It was then I realized just how important these two are in my life. Without them, I really wouldn’t be here. And if either of them got killed, I know I will never be able to forgive myself.
I know Claire is stuck here for a little while longer until she can control herself completely. And now that Liam has been the only one that we know of to escape Spencer’s mind control, they will want to research him and find out what makes him to special.
I looked at Claire’s unmoving face. Her blonde roots were now peeking at the top of her hairline, in need for another dye. I thought about how much she has changed in the matter of a month. Already, she seems to have matured so much. She is so much more serious than she was when we first came here.
On one side, it was a good thing, but on the other hand? It worried my best friend would never be the same again.
I had to do anything in my power to get them both out of here if I had any chance of my old life back.
I felt the tug of a soft blanket being pulled up to my chin. My eyes begged for me to keep them closed, but when a silent lightning danced on my chin, I opened my eyes to find chocolate pools looking back at me.
Nathan shot away from me as if I’d burned him. A light purple blanket lay across my body, brought up to my chin. I craned my stiff neck, trying to work out the kinks from falling asleep in the chair in Claire’s room.
I sat up suddenly, realizing Nathan and I were alone. “Where’s Liam?”
A frown deepened on Nathan’s face. What’s his problem? “He’s downstairs; Spencer is trying to find out why his mind control didn’t work.”
I nodded and put my hands on the arms of the chair for support to go after him. I didn’t want to let him out of my sight again.
Nathan’s hand came over mine and I looked up at him, his eyes silently begging mine. “Please don’t go.”
I rested my back on the chair slowly. Maybe I could finally get some answers. “What happened out there today?”
Nathan released my hand and moved to the end of Claire’s bed, where Liam last was. His head hung low as he mumbled, “none of your concern.”
Anger bubbled in my body at his answer. “Of course it is! You heard Trysten; this is my fault. At least I should know what I started.”
Nathan’s head snapped back up at me, his eyes hardening. “He was wrong. None of this is your fault.”
The blanket fell from my chin and crumpled in my lap as I crossed my arms over my chest. “Then prove it to me.”
Nathan looked around nervously, as if looking for a way out. Finding nothing, he looked back to me and answered my question. “Those two, Gavin and Dimitri, are Keepers that work for Dr. Jackson. They were sent to retrieve Claire, but we got there before they did, so now they were after her again. They know you knew about the fire. They just didn’t know everything. When they saw you, they decided to get even. You helped their target escape.”
I interrupted him. “Aren’t Vampires supposed to be, like, not able to go into the sun?”
“No, their abilities are just taken away. When the sun comes up, they can no longer run fast, have super strength or their ability. Most of their abilities have to do with time. They can speed it up or slow it down or something like that.
“We went after them, and Claire jumped the gun and launched at them too early, and she got bit in the arm. Dimitri later got her leg. A vampire bite can go two ways, and its completely up to the Vamp. They can either drain you dry, or drain a little and inject you with poison. Vampires usually don’t bite a Shape Shifter—our blood tastes repulsing to them—but Jackson’s experiments and must have made it taste different to them.”
“Which way did they go with it?”
Nathan shook his head. “We don’t know.”
My heart sped up with worry. “Well, Trysten can take the poison out if they injected her, right?”
“No, Trysten is not able to do anything that counteracts another supernatural. So, he can’t revive memories, remove vampire poison, or heal a Shifter’s ability mark.”
My gut churned at the thought of those things drinking Claire’s blood. “Did you kill them?”
Nathan shook his head and I was surprised by the surge of anger that flew through me at the news. “No, they got away. But they were injured, and I promise they won’t be back.”
“How do you know that?”
Nathan’s lips tilted up a little at the ends. “Just trust me, okay?”
I nodded and tried to erase the murderous thoughts from my mind. “How’d you know I was in trouble?”
Nathan looked away, not answering my question. Now that I was thinking about it, why was he always there when I needed someone? Inside the school, my first night here, when I passed out from my lesson with Spencer, and now this morning. “How do you always know when I’m in trouble?”
“I heard you,” he mumbled, still not looking at me.
Unless you heard me breathing, I didn’t make any noise. “No you didn’t.” He didn’t budge. “Then how about my session with Spencer? Or that night I was having a vision? Or maybe you could explain to me how you knew I was in trouble at the school.”
“I heard you all those times. As a Shape Shifter, I have really good hearing.”
I knew that wasn’t it, but he didn’t give me a chance to question him further when he stood abruptly. “Look, I didn’t come here to explain why you need to be rescued every day. There is a Shade event coming up soon that involves all the Shade packs in the area. You have to come, now that you are part of the clan. It’s in a week.”
With that, he spun around and all but ran out Claire’s room door.
My mind sparked with aggravation at his words. All he was doing was dodging my questions, and it was really making me mad. I’ve never met a guy that was so bipolar. One second, Nathan is comforting me, the next yelling at me, and the next protecting me.