Chapter 18 - Small Dirty Room
Unlike the rest of my wolves, I was still unconvinced that this chick wasn’t pulling our tail. I was sure that any day now, her nice girl act was going to drop and she was going to demand something devastating. I was only eight when Florance ordered for the next born wolf to be given to her as payment because her guards had stepped in and saved a small group of us from rabid vamps. My father had refused, pleading with her to ask anything else from us instead. The queen had sent my father away and he had thought that gotten through to her. The next month two of our women gave birth, one boy and one girl. We found the girl dead in her crib and only a note in the boys.
My decisions are not to be questioned.
Luna and the others kept telling me that Ray was different, but I had learned this lesson the hard way. When a female Valkyrie tells you to jump, you jump with everything in you and hope that it is high enough. Or the ones you love will pay the price.
Blake parked the limo directly in front of the ER entrance and I ran inside. The large group of about ten shifters wasn’t hard to miss and I headed straight for them. Most of them looked at us in shock and I remembered that I was still wearing the ridiculous ball gown and heels. Lawerance stepped from the group but I couldn’t read anything off of his hard features.
“Amy?” I asked in a whisper laced with fear.
“The nurses took her back as soon as we got here and someone was just here a minute ago to give us an update. She overdosed, but they think we got her here in time. They gave her medication, pumped her stomach, and are flushing her system with fluids. She is still unconscious, but the doctor sounded hopeful,” Lawerance said in an official tone, refusing to show any emotion.
I don’t know what came over me but as soon as Lawerance stopped talking my knees gave out and it was only Connor’s quick reflexes that kept me off the floor. Amy was going to be okay. The doctors were hopeful. Amy was going to be okay. Where was Jack?
Jack needed to be here. I turned and looked up into Connor’s concerned eyes and said, “I have to find Jack. He is not picking up his phone and he needs to be here. I have to find Jack and I have a bad feeling.”
Connor’s features hardened when I told him about my bad feeling, but it was true. In my gut, I just knew that something was off. “Okay, let’s go find Jack,” Connor agreed.
I looked over at Max and he knew what I needed before I even asked. “I will stay and make sure Amy is okay. If things start to look bad, I will figure out some way to help,” Max said and I widened my eyes at him. It was our number one rule, the unbreakable law. Never expose the supernatural world to humans. Max must have seen my confusion because he explained, “I am not going to let you lose a protected. Not after yesterday. You are strong, Ray. But no one is that strong.”
“I don’t think you should stay here alone,” I said back when I couldn’t think of a response to his words. He was right. If Amy died, I would be lost.
“We can stay with him,” Lawerance said from behind me and I turned to blink up at him. “If you are expecting trouble, I and some of the others can go with you too.” I swallowed down my fear, feeling the seconds tick by, and nodded my head. I gave Max one last hug and then walked back out the doors. Lawerance and three other wolves, including Luna, followed us. I got in the front seat so that I could tell Blake where to go while everyone else piled into the back. I closed my eyes, thought of Jack, and willed myself to find him. I felt the now-familiar tug in my chest and told Blake to turn right.
“How do you know where Jack is?” Lawerance asked from the back and I didn’t hesitate to answer him.
“I have the Tracking Gift.”
Lawerance was quiet for a moment before he stated, “So you have four Gifts. Isn’t that basically unheard of?”
I told Blake to keep going straight and then answered, “I actually have five. I also have the Truth Gift.”
“How is that even possible?” Lawerance demanded showing the first bit of emotion since we showed up at the hospital.
“My mother was a member of a secret faction of Valkyrie that they call the Hidden. They are thought to be stronger than the Valkyries in this plane of existence,” I said and Connor cursed.
“Fuck Ray, you shouldn’t be telling them this information,” Connor growled but I disagreed.
“He saved Amy without hesitating or asking questions. The very least he deserves is the truth from me,” I said and felt the tug start to pull to the left. I told Blake to turn and the back of the limo was quiet.
Several minutes passed with only me giving directions before Lawerance asked his next question. “What happened yesterday?”
I swallowed the lump in my throat and refused to think about the possibility that the people after me had gotten to Jack. “Someone Compelled Derik to attack me,” I admitted, determined to stick to my word and be honest with the man that had saved Amy’s life. It was a small price to pay.
I think Lawerance was about to ask another question on that subject but stopped when Connor growled, “Ask her one more fucking question on that subject and I will break your fucking jaw to make you shut the hell up.”
I looked around and suddenly recognized where we were driving. “Why would Jack be at the high school?” I asked and the bad feeling within my gut got worse. Why couldn’t he just have been passed out at the rent house or something simple like that?
“Jack has spare keys to the school auto shop. He uses it to fix up a lot of teachers’ cars so they don’t mind letting him use the space,” Luna said and I turned so that I could look at her.
“Why in the world do you know that?” I hadn’t known that, and I considered myself Jack’s best friend. Guess I had been doing a pretty poor job at that lately.
“He and Amy are your protected, so we make it our business to know about them,” Lawerance stated, back to his emotionless facade.
“So Jack is probably just fine and I am overreacting,” I said as a statement but was hoping that someone would confirm it for me.
“Yeah, Ray-Ray. I am sure he is perfectly fine and just working on a car with the music too loud and he didn’t hear his phone. We will go in, pick him up, and get back to the hospital before Amy even wakes up,” Blake said with forced optimism. He pulled the limo up in front of the garage doors of the auto shop and I bolted out the door, following the pull within my chest. I summoned my Kukri and walked in through the unlocked side door. I felt bodies behind me, but I didn’t wait. Inside the music was blasting and my heart jumped. Maybe Blake was right and he just didn’t hear his phone.
I followed the tug in my chest, passed the bays filled with cars on jacks, and into a small back room. I opened the door and stopped dead in my tracks. I stared in complete surprise, unable to fully comprehend what I was seeing. Images were playing out before my eyes, but my brain was refusing to put two and two together.
Jack and Jonas were both in that small room. Both were completely naked and Jonas was bent over the back of a dirty-looking yellow couch. Jack was standing behind him, thrusting almost violently with his hips.
“Fuck!” Connor yelled right behind me, startling me out of my daze and I quickly turned to the side, facing the doorway instead of the scene in that small dirty room. What in the world had we just walked in on?
Was Jack having sex with Jonas?
Jonas, the boy that told me he was willing to try to have a relationship with me, was having sex with my best friend. My male best friend.
No, that couldn’t be right because Jack knew that I liked Jonas. Jack had asked me if I liked him after I had spent time with the Blade Clan and Jonas and I had fooled around. Jack had asked me if I liked him and I had told him yes, so there was no way that he was now having sex in a small dirty room with the boy that I liked.
Jack wouldn’t do that to me.
“Ray? I can explain,” Jack called out and I noticed that Connor was no longer standing beside me. Explain? So that means that this is real? Sour betrayal sank deep into my soul and I felt myself sway on my feet with the weight of it.
All of a sudden Blake was there, tucking me into his side and I got another glimpse of the small dirty room. Jack was off in the left corner and he was buttoning his jeans. Connor had Jonas pinned to the wall with his forearm and it looked like he had already punched him at least once.
“Ray?” Jack called and took a step towards us. “This isn’t what it looks like, we just got caught up in the moment. It didn’t mean anything. Please -”
“Amy is in the hospital,” I said cutting him off because all of this didn’t matter compared to that. I heard movement behind us and knew that the wolves were getting a good look inside of this small sad dirty room. That didn’t matter either. Only Amy did. I put up a Shield around Jonas and Connor was forced to step away from him. Humans couldn’t see Shields, so as long as Jack didn’t try to go to Jonas, he would never know.
“What?” Jack called in horrified confusion.
“Amy is in the hospital and you weren’t answering your phone,” I said one last time in a dead voice that I didn’t recognize. Then I simply turned and walked away from that small dirty room and the implications of what had occurred inside. Those could wait. Amy could not. I walked on stiff legs back out to the limo and climbed into the passenger seat. I buckled my seatbelt and heard everyone else shuffle inside. Everyone except Jonas because he was still trapped in my Shield.
“What the fuck happened to Amy? Why is she in the hospital? And why the fuck are we in the back of a limo with a motorcycle gang?” Jack demanded to know but everyone else in the car refused to answer.
“Amy was at a party and took something. She overdosed. Lawerance found her and brought her to the hospital and called me. I tried calling you, but you didn’t answer your phone,” I said in the same dead voice.
Jack hadn’t answered his phone for over an hour. Had he and Jonas been at it for over an hour?
“Is she okay now?” Jack asked, sounding scared.
I wanted to know the answer to that too, so I pulled Connor’s cell phone from within my bra and texted Max.
Max: She is just waking up now. The doctors want to run some tests to make sure there is no brain damage, but I checked. She is going to be fine.
Connor: Love you Max.
Max: Love you too Ray.
I cleared my throat and pushed back the wave of emotion threatening to crash over me and said, “Lawerance got her to the hospital in time. The doctors think she will be okay. She is waking up now.”
The car fell silent after that and I fought to remain within my numb state. Numb was better than breaking and I was damn near my breaking point. I wanted to just lock myself away with my clan for a week and rest. Images kept trying to push their way into my head and I didn’t know how to keep ignoring them.
That small dirty room. Jack thrusting. Amy’s cold lifeless body, alone on a bathroom floor. Cruel expectant eyes of dozens of royal Valkyries. Derik’s fists as they flew towards my face. I ended up reaching out and clasping onto Blake’s hand. He gave it freely to me and gripped my hand in return. I focused on the clan bond to chase my demons away.
When we pulled up to the hospital, Jack immediately jumped from the back and ran inside. I sat for a beat and took a deep breath before finding the strength to let go of Blake’s hand so that I could follow him in. Jack was talking to the admin nurse, but I led our group right back into the waiting room.
Max was there sitting with seven wolves that I really didn’t know. He stood the second he saw us and I didn’t hesitate to walk directly into his arms. Max gave great hugs. Then before I was really ready to leave the warm embrace, we were walking down a hallway and through some official double doors. Max and I walked into a small, curtained room and within I saw a pale and small-looking Amy laying in a bed with a thick I.V. tube running from the top of her hand. Jack had beat us here and was sitting by her bed holding her hand.
I walked to the other side of the bed and looked down at the little girl. My heart simply hurt for her. Amy had been through so much lately and I hadn’t been there for her. I had been too wrapped up in my own drama to notice. This was partially my fault.
I didn’t want to jostle the I.V. so I sat in the plastic chair by her bed and laid my arm next to hers so that our forearms touched. We stayed like that for at least twenty minutes before a nurse came to wheel Amy away for some tests. I stood and watched her go before locking eyes with Jack from across the curtained-off space. He looked absolutely devastated and my first instinct was to go to him, but I didn’t. I stayed rooted to the spot looking at my best friend feeling hollow and slightly numb.
Jack broke the spell by sinking back into his own plastic chair and cradling his head in his hands. I turned and slowly walked back out to the waiting room. I was a little surprised to see that everyone was still there. I knew that the twins wouldn’t have left, but all of the wolves were still there too. Maybe they needed something from me. The least they deserved was my gratitude, so I walked straight up to Lawerance with the intent of giving it to him, but he started talking before I could.
“We didn’t see anything,” he told me in a frantic yet determined voice. “Hell, we weren’t even with you. I swear that we know how to be discrete. You don’t have to worry about my wolves. We didn’t see anything,” he repeated and I had to admit to myself that I was completely lost.
Of course, he saw something. And with the way they knew about Jack’s tendency to use the auto shop I was sure that they knew that I had been getting close to Jonas. So they also knew what that scene in the small dirty room would mean to me. Why was he lying to me?
It hit me then that Lawerance was scared. He was damn near terrified out of his mind and it was because of me. Because he thought that I cared that he was there to bear witness to my humiliation and betrayal. God, I was so tired of this twisted political and classist game.
“Thank you,” I said just a little too loudly and Lawerance snapped his head back as if I had slapped him. “Thank you for finding Amy and getting her to the hospital. I could feel that I was going to be too late. You saved her life. I will be forever grateful for that. And thank you for backing us up in what could have been a dangerous situation. I appreciate your discretion, but honestly, everyone seems to know the details of my life almost before I do, so I wouldn’t stress about it too much.”
Lawerance didn’t move a muscle. He just stood there and stared at me with a confused look on his face. I wasn’t doing this right. Somehow I had to let him know just how grateful I was and that he had nothing to fear from me. I stepped forward a small step, slightly crowding into his personal space hoping that he would hear me this time.
“Thank you, Lawerance Lopez. I owe you and the Oakland Pack a debt I may never be able to repay. Please know you can always come to me and I will do everything in my power to help you in the future. Thank you for stepping up and saving Amy when I could not.”
Lawerance still didn’t say anything and I felt my shoulders drop. He didn’t believe me. “For fucks sake. Nod your head or something before she spells it out in her own damn blood,” Connor growled and Lawerance shifted his eyes to him. “She’s not like the royals. Hell, neither are we. You should know that by now.”
Lawerance furrowed his brow and looked back down at me. His harsh scrutiny made me want to blush or push back into the void, but I held still and tried to look honest and trustworthy. I must have failed miserably because Lawerance muttered, “She definitely looks like a royal.”
However, when he said it his voice had lost that edge of fear and I decided to take what I could get. “Yeah, well six hours with a stylist will do that to a person,” I heard Luna tease and looked over to see her walking around the mess of men surrounding me until she found an opening that she could slip through. She laced her fingers into mine and looked up at her future pack master before declaring, “I told you that Ray was cool. She won’t hurt us. She’s our friend.”
I smiled at her and her words shed a little light and warmth on this otherwise shit day. “I can stay and wait with you,” Luna told me right as I noticed movement at the waiting room door. I looked up to see that Elijah, Derik, Sean, and Mathis were all here, still dressed in their immaculate tuxedos.
“No, that’s okay. I don’t think this waiting room is big enough for all of us,” I told Luna without looking at her. I couldn’t tear my eyes off the guys walking toward us. Derik looked so angry that I was surprised his ears weren’t smoking. He walked straight towards me, pushing the other guys out of the way with the sheer force of his anger and determination, and stopped not six inches away from me. I looked up into his eyes and saw simmering desperation within their muddy brown depths.
Lawerance surprised me by tensing up again and stepping forward, drawing my attention back to him. He was staring hard at Derik and looked like he was preparing for a fight. I understood that he was worried because I had told him about Derik attacking me yesterday. I gave him a reassuring smile and stepped closer to Derik until my side was pressed up against his, sending a clear message that I was exactly where I wanted to be. Derik hadn’t missed Lawerance’s reaction and stiffened by my side.
Jesus Christ, there was just too much testosterone in this room.
I let out a breath and felt bone tired. I kicked off my heels, hoping to demonstrate that there was no longer a crisis that needed to be dealt with, and said, “Lawerance and the Oakland Pack did me a great favor and saved Amy’s life tonight. The doctors think that Amy will make a full recovery, but I want to stay to make sure. How was the rest of the ball?”
Elijah surveyed the mass of people in the small waiting room and told me, “I am glad to hear that Amy is okay. We were all worried about her. Your disappearance made quite the statement, but overall I think we accomplished our goal for the night.”
Ah, so people believed I was powerful and intimidating. Guess that was a good thing. Maybe now they would start to leave me alone.
Lawerance recognized his cue and the wolves all trailed out of the waiting room, each giving me a meaningful look as they passed by that I didn’t have the mental capacity to understand at the moment. Luna gave my hand one final squeeze and promised to call in the morning before following her pack out of the hospital leaving me alone with my clan.
We settled into the uncomfortable waiting room chairs and I found that I was unable to really concentrate on anything in particular. Images, words, and thoughts drifted through my mind but nothing really took root. At one point a doctor came out and told us Amy would make a full recovery but was being checked into the hospital for overnight observation. We were told that because we weren’t blood relatives, we would have to wait until visiting hours tomorrow morning to see her again. I just nodded my head, knowing that I would use the void to go see her once they had her situated.
Another length of time passed before Blake’s grip on my hand tightened enough to wake me up from my daze and I looked around. Jonas was standing in the doorway of the waiting room and he looked terrible. His lip was split and his left eye was darkening with a large bruise. His shoulders were hunched and he gripped the edge of the doorframe to steady himself. I scanned the faces of the guys and saw that each and every one of them was looking at Jonas like he had strangled their puppy. So Blake and Connor had filled in the rest on what I had walked in on earlier.
I considered leaving everyone’s minds uncloaked because I felt like he deserved whatever emotions he was picking up from the guys but in the end, I found that I didn’t have it in me to be that cruel. Jonas sagged into the doorframe when I Cloaked the room. I closed my eyes and counted to ten in my head before I moved to get up. Derik and Blake, who were each holding one of my hands, tried to keep me in my seat but I quelled their attempts with a single look. This was my life and I wanted answers.
I pulled my hands free but when I went to cross the room, both twins shadowed me. I didn’t have it in me to turn them away and deep inside I was grateful for their support. Jonas backed away from the door when we approached and I silently walked by him and out through the ER doors knowing that he would follow. He was the one that had come to me after all. After walking a good distance into the parking lot, I turned to face the boy I had allowed myself to get close to over the last week and crossed my arms across my chest. I felt silky cloth run over my bare shoulders and looked back to see that Connor had draped his coat around me, adding another layer of protection.
“I can explain,” Jonas croaked out and I nodded my head encouraging him to get it over with already. However, he just stood there and stared at me with a distraught look on his face.
“Are you gay?” I found myself asking and hated how it sounded like an accusation. I had no problem with people loving whoever they wanted, but I was confused as to why Jonas would push to start something with me if he wasn’t interested in women. Jonas visibly swallowed and then nodded his head. My stomach sank.
“So it was all an act. Everything that I felt between us was a lie?”
“No. I care about you, Ray. I felt those things too,” Jonas stated and the lack of buzz in my head told me that he was telling the truth.
“I don’t understand,” I admitted.
Jonas shuffled from foot to foot and kept his gaze on the ground as he answered. “Edison came to me and told me to get close to you so that Blade could keep an eye on you. Make sure that you were safe. At first, I refused but he told me that if I did this one thing, he would let me go try out that clan in Denver that I told you I was interested in. Being gay isn’t really a big deal for Valkyries because of the lack of females but for some reason, they are prejudiced against it in Blade. I am suffocating here because they don’t accept who I am and there are so many strong Valkyries. I can’t escape their emotions. I need to get out, but Edison is determined that I join the Collins Royal Guard Clan. When he offered this chance, I jumped at it thinking that I wouldn’t feel anything towards you.”
I already had figured out that Jonas was spying on me for the Blade clan, but I had thought it was a product of our budding relationship, not the driving cause. “Ray, you are so kind and thoughtful that it would be impossible for anyone that spent a little time with you not to care about you. I never wanted to hurt you.”
“And the fact that she can protect you from the emotions of those around you had nothing to do with it?” Blake asked in a harsh sarcastic voice that didn’t sound like him. Jonas stuffed his hands in his pockets and rounded his shoulders telegraphing that Blake had hit the target with that accusation.
“We kissed,” I breathed out, still stuck on this point. “Hell we did more than kiss and I would have bet my life that it wasn’t a one-sided thing.” I felt both twins tense beside me and felt a little embarrassed that we were going to discuss this in front of them, but a part of me needed to know if that had all been fake. It had been my first kiss. The first time I had ever allowed myself to feel those things with another person. What did it say about me that I hadn’t even noticed that it was one-sided.
Jonas’ head snapped up at my words and he tried to step toward me but Blake and Connor surged forward and blocked his path in an oddly synchronized movement. “Of course, it wasn’t one-sided. I told you that I felt those things too and you know I was not lying. Being near you, touching you, is one of the most exciting things that I have ever felt.”
Regina’s words telling me that she was actually encouraged to spread the love so that more male Valkyries could experience what it was like to be with a female of their own kind at least once in their life popped into my head. My stomach twisted. It was fake. Jonas didn’t feel those things because of who I am as a person, but because I am a strong Valkyrie. The more powerful the Valkyrie the stronger the allure and the more potent the clan bond. In the end, Jonas had been assigned to do something that was against his nature and he did it because he wanted to finally be free from the hold these people had over him. Me being a strong female just made the ride more enjoyable for him.
Surprisingly, I didn’t feel overly distraught at the loss of Jonas. Yes, I had liked him but I never really allowed myself to trust him. Yes, this whole thing was a major blow to my ego and humiliation ran deep within me, but I would survive not having Jonas as a part of my life. What really hurt was that Jack was a part of this.
“Why Jack?” I asked, hating that my voice cracked as I said his name.
Jonas didn’t answer right away and I felt myself shiver even though the air was warm enough and I was wrapped inside Connor’s jacket. “I don’t know. We ended up spending a lot of time together over this last week and we just clicked. He is a really great guy and being around humans is easier for me. We never meant for tonight to happen and we sure as fuck didn’t plan it. We were just hanging out and things just happened.”
Being passed over for your best friend was a hard pill to swallow, but Jonas was right. Jack is a really great guy. I looked down at my feet and pushed back the sudden urge to cry. I clenched my jaw and counted to ten. I would not let Jonas of all people see me cry. Once I had myself under control I looked up at his blue eyes and said, “Okay.”
Jonas furrowed his brow at me. “What do you mean by okay?”
“I mean that I understand. I mean that I am ready for this conversation to be over with. I mean that it is time for you to leave,” I said and some of the anger within me leaked into my voice.
Jonas looked at me with lost puppy dog eyes and I knew that he really didn’t want to actively hurt me, but that didn’t change the fact that his actions had led us down this road. He could have just been honest with me from the start and maybe we could have cultivated some sort of friendship that would have lasted. Now, there was just too much baggage and distrust for me to ever feel easy around him.
Jonas’ eyes switched to scan the twin’s faces and I remembered that they had grown up together, playing just like the kids at the barbeque. But even with a childhood of experiences tying them together, Blake and Connor were choosing me over him. I let this fact act as a balm to my battered soul as I watched Jonas walk away into the night.