Things are not getting any better. In fact, there is a good chance that my life is spiraling so out of control that the idea of spending the rest of it on a deserted island while mumbling crazily to myself is beginning to look like a vacation.
It has been two days since my mother was attacked and she still yet to regain consciousness. The doctors have assured me that everything went well with her surgery and that the dye they ran through her veins showed brain activity, but what they haven’t told me is why all of their attempts to wake her up have failed.
Dealing with her failure to wake up and the growing urges inside of me to slaughter the Nexxus children of the loving woman who has taken me in has only amplified the Reaper rage I have been battling against daily.
Running track for two hours a day after school has been good for releasing some of the pent up energy I am harvesting but I still find myself struggling to fall asleep each night. I still find myself in the woods behind the Browning house, tearing trees out by their roots. This, of course, is followed by replanting them so they don’t notice how much of my shit I am losing.
Curtis approaches me slowly, an apprehensive look plastered on his face. “Hey, Ev, how is your mom doing?”
“Still in the hospital.” I slam my locker shut, shoving my way past the end of day crowd that has gathered in the hall. “Still unconscious.”
He catches up with me, stepping in the way and blocking me from going anywhere. “Ev, I know I said some messed up shit to you and I am seriously sorry about that, but whatever happened between us doesn’t change how long we’ve known each other. Cassandra practically raised me. She let me live at you guys’ house when my parents were going through their divorce because she knew how upset I got listening to them fight. I just want to know how she is doing. She, she didn’t deserve to be hurt like that.”
The desperation and honesty in his voice shatter the hardness surrounding me. “I know... I’m just... I don’t even know anymore. The police still have no leads and no idea why anyone would want to hurt her. They spoke to her boss and she hasn’t gotten a threatening letter in months. Everything is so up in the air and they are still treating my house like a crime scene. I can’t go in there for more than ten minutes and I am supervised the whole time. I had to sign a waiver and then give them a detailed list of the things I took with me.”
The yellow tape forbidding non-police personnel from entering hadn’t stopped me from breaking into my own house. It had not been easy to remove and replace without making it too obvious, but I had managed to maneuver my way around it.
I broke in the day after the attack, about fifteen minutes after I had left the police station where I had given my statement. Despite what Axel and his mother had told me about it being a Reaper, I had let the police know that I had no idea who could have wanted to hurt my mother.
The house looked ten times worse than I have imagined it would. Tables had been knocked over, there was a hole in the living room wall from where the recliner had been throw against it, and the carpet was soaked with blood.
The damage had mapped out the path my mother had taken after the first initial blow had landed, long lines of red leading from the living room and into the kitchen before stopping at a large, dried puddle. A pair of bloodied shoe prints was next to that puddle, police tape surrounding that as well.
It had watched her suffer. The Reaper hadn’t left her for dead, it had watched her struggling for her own life. It had fed off of her emotions as she had tried not to bleed out on the floor.
A strange feeling had fluttered in my stomach as I had stood there, but it had quickly disappeared seconds later. I had been hoping that being inside of the house would help me somehow find a way to track down the Reaper that had attacked her but nothing had happened.
There had been no sudden realization of how to locate it.
Curtis shifts, moving so that we are walking side by side instead of blocking me. “Damn, that sounds rough. Let me know if there is anything I can do. My mother said that if you need a place to stay that you can always stay with us. Her boyfriend’s daughter has been crashing in the frog for a few weeks but she heads off to college next weekend, so you’d have your own space. Also, I’m sorry for what I said to you. You didn’t deserve it and I shouldn’t have felt like I had a right to.”
“It’s fine and tell your mom I will thank about it.” I grip the straps of my bag tighter. I know that Curtis feels bad about what happened to my mother, but I am currently running high on anger and low on sleep, and this makes dealing with him harder than it should.
“No, it’s not fine. You were so amazing and patient with me for so long and I messed it all up, I took advantage of it. Before we were together we were friends and I should have remembered that before I said what I did.”
“I appreciate that Curtis, I really do.”
“I’m glad. It’s just, I think I got jealous that you let Axel come between us that way. I should have just t-”
“What?” I cut him off. So much for remaining calm today. “I let him come between us? There was nothing to come between and I’ve already told you that. The issue was us and our broken relationship. Things between us would have been so perfect had it happened earlier, before you slept with the same girls you watched torture me, but you waited until you’d had your fill of them before giving me a second chance. You’ve spent more time apologizing this year than you have doing anything else, just to do the same damn thing a few days later. Tell me, Curtis, when do I get an apology for when you let Monica go down on your this summer? Oh, was I not supposed to know that? Don’t worry, she didn’t say anything; she had one of her old cheerleader friends do it. I figured I had no right to say anything because we weren’t technically together but then you wanted to throw that fit about that minor thing between me and Axel. Or maybe I won’t get an apology because you don’t feel bad about what you did with her. No, you’re sorry because you were an asshole to me and then something horrible happened. Did you ever care about me or was it all about adding my name to your list of conquests?”
His face contorts, the features twisted with pain. “Ev, stop, you’re hurting me. What, what are you doing?”
I didn’t notice that I grabbed his arm during my ranting or that, once I did, I began to squeeze it so hard that now I can almost feel the bone.
His skin pales and I feel a rush of energy seep from him into me, so mesmerizing that I don’t ever want to let go.
“Eveline!” Axel’s thunderous voice booms from behind me and I jump, releasing Curtis’ arm.
He rubs where I held. “What the hell, Ev? I was just trying to apologize and you damn near broke my arm.”
“I...I..” I stutter, backing away from him.
His energy is still buzzing through my veins and, even though I feel horrible for hurting him, I want more of it.
Take it, something whispers inside of me. He can’t stop you. No one can. Take it.
“She hasn’t been sleeping well,” Axel chimes in for me. “She was on the phone with her mom when the whole thing went down and I think it might have messed with her a little. Between that, her mom not waking up, and the police not finding who did it, I think she’s just under too much stress. Maybe give her a little space and, once things are better, she will be herself again and you two can talk it out.”
Curtis mutters something under his breath about Axel minding his own business before storming off.
“Don’t,” he snaps, dragging me out of the hall and into the parking lot. We pass by rows and rows of cars, but he doesn’t say another word until we reach his. “What the hell was that? You, you were draining him. When did it start? How long have you been able to do that?”
Fueled by anger and Curtis’ energy I try to move past Axel but he blocks me in, pinning my shoulders to his Jeep; he is surprisingly strong. “I don’t know but he had it coming. He thinks he can just walk all over me because I have been letting him do it for years, but I am done with that. I am done being everyone’s doormat! Do you think he would have talked to me that way if he knew what I could do?”
“You are losing your shit, Eveline. This isn’t like you. Do you even hear yourself right now? I need you to tell me what is going on with you. Ever since your mom was attacked you’ve been so withdrawn, different. I know that you’re frustrated with everything that is going on but this, this is a whole level of bitterness. Something isn’t right with you and I know that you can feel it too. You barely drink your tea since the night your mom was hurt and you don’t sleep anymore. Yeah, I know what you’re doing out there in the woods each night. Tell me, please, what is going on with you?”
The battle inside of my mind, the war raging between the Reaper and my humanity, reaches its breaking point and something shifts. The tears I have been holding back spring free, my humanity winning out for once. “I don’t know anymore. Something is seriously wrong with me. I can’t control it like I used to and it just keeps getting worse. If you hadn’t shown up, oh my god, I might have killed him. I wanted to. I wanted to drain everything from him. The tea isn’t working anymore and I don’t know how much longer I can hold it all in. Your mother said this shouldn’t happen for another five months but she was wrong. I think, I think something is wrong with me because it is becoming harder to fight off these damn urges. Everything is so damn hard and, most days, it is a struggle just to be around you and Alyssa.”
“Shit, I was hoping she was wrong. I needed her to be wrong.”
“Who? Wrong about what?”
“My aunt. She called my mother the other night to check in on Alyssa. My mother told her about everything that had happened and she told her to get you out of the house as soon as possible because, if your gifts were showing early, chances were that you came from a powerful line of Reapers and that being around us would only make things worse.”
“Why wouldn’t Lillian say anything to me about that? Why would she keep me letting me stay with you guys?”
“Because my mother has the lovely ability to see the best in everyone. She knows that you want don’t want to hurt anyone. She thinks she can help you and, honestly, I think she can too. You’re doing everything you can do burn off all that excess energy and it shows how hard you are trying to fight against what you feel like you have to do. She didn’t kick you out because we know there is still hope for you. Also, I asked her not.”
The last part of his explanation catches my attention, keeping my Reaper side at bay a little while longer. I guess curiosity and hope trump murderous instincts. “Why would you do that? Your aunt basically told your mother that it would be best to get me out because I could kill you all at any moment but you asked her to let me stay? It doesn’t make sense.”
“I asked her to let you stay because I have been wrong about everything when it comes to you. At first, I thought you’d tricked me so that you could get your hands on me and Alyssa’s energies, but then I learned that you had no idea what you even were. I watched you as you sat there listening to my mother tell you how you were five months away from becoming a killer and the first thing you asked was how to stop it. You didn’t care that it had driven your father crazy, you just didn’t want to hurt anyone. Every time I think I have you figured out you do something crazy and I realize that you are the complete opposite of who I thought you were. You’re, I don’t know, something else. Giving up on you now, well, it doesn’t sit right with me. What I said in your kitchen a few nights ago wasn’t a lie, I can’t seem to stay away from you and I’m done arguing with myself. The thought of sending you away, of not having you around to make a smart ass comment about everything I say or do, it doesn’t sit right with me.”
“That’s called guilt.”
He chuckles. “Are you always this dense?”
“I said, are you always this dense? It’s not guilt, Eveline, it’s affection. Even after I found out what you were, I still wanted to get to know you. I told myself I wasn’t going to be the kind of idiot who chased after someone I knew I shouldn’t want to be with but, damnit, I lost that argument before it ever started.”
“Well, maybe you should reconsider the other side of the argument because it might have a valid point. How can you even talk to me about affection when you know what I am going to become? How could you even want me after what you just saw me do?”
He takes a step towards me, his hands sliding around my waist. “How can I not want you? You are so incredibly frustrating, stubborn, and intoxicating as hell. I know what you could become and I don’t care. Do you know how hard it is not to reach for you every time I see you? The second you show up I need, no, I have to touch you. It doesn’t matter if it is for a second or a whole hour, I need it. Do you know how many nights I have found myself outside of your room wondering what you would do if I asked you to let me in? All I think about is how much I want you.”
“Don’t.” I watch his eyes darken with lust, his gaze traveling toward my lips. He presses himself against me, moving me so that my back is pressed against his car. His earthy smell invades the air around me, both my Reaper and human side longing for something they can’t have. “We can’t. You were right to try and stop this before it began. It was dangerous then and it is twice as dangerous now. That night in the woods, I had to stop because of the horrible thoughts I had while kissing you. When you are this close to me, all I can think about is draining you.”
“You won’t though. You didn’t hurt me then and you won’t now. You’re stronger than you think you are. I was wrong to try and stop this. I don’t care how dangerous it is, you are what I want.”
His lips brush over mine.
“I could kill you.”
He hesitates for a moment before his lips rush to meet mine.
My Reaper side is the first to flare up, letting me know that he is exposed and draining him would be simple. It begs me to kill him, savoring the strength of his power.
I almost pull away but then Axel runs his hands up the back of my shirt, his nails raking down my back, and my Reaper side goes silent. My fingers knot into his hair and I am pulling him as close as I get him, breathing him in like he is the damn air itself.
Axel is the one who breaks the kiss, his breathing uneven and ragged. He stares down at me through heavy lashes, ignoring the group of giggling students as they pass. “See, I told you nothing bad can happen. We can do this, Eveline. I am in this with you. I can help you try and control it like I did back in the hall. It will be hard as hell but, if you stop fighting me, we can make this work. Eveline, are you listening to me? Hey, what’s wrong?”