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I woke up the next day with a mild hangover. The sun streamed in through the blinds, temporarily blinding me.
Lazarus grumbled beside me and shifted his position so that he had an arm over my middle. I fluttered my eyes closed in pure bliss, desperately wanting to savor this moment for all eternity.
Flashes of last night crossed my mind. I saw Lazarus outside, flipping burgers, Ellie and Wilder getting engaged, Dexter storming off in a rage, his confession and... the dread.
I snapped my eyes open again and jerked myself up.
Still fast asleep, Lazarus rolled over onto his other side. I was glad he didn’t notice my current state.
Dragging a hand down my face, I forced any feelings of worry to stay deep inside of me. I only felt dread, there was no concrete evidence that something bad would happen. The scarred man wasn’t here. He couldn’t have known I was here...could he?
Perhaps I was so used to fearing him that I projected that fear wherever I went. I was looking for danger even though it wasn’t there.
However, these feelings never arose when things were okay. They only sparked when something bad was going to happen. My gut feeling was never wrong.
Swallowing, I tiptoed out of bed and jumped into the shower. I was hoping I could wash away these horrible emotions. I didn’t want to worry anyone over a gut feeling. I knew that if I told them, they would drop everything and go into protection mode. We would lose our holiday and I would be in lockdown.
The shower helped my tense muscles and my headache.
When I got out, in my towel, Lazarus was sat up, perched against the headboard. His eyes were droopy and his hair was messy. Even first thing in the morning, he managed to look incredibly sexy.
“Mornin’” He greeted me, his voice low and husky. Shivers traveled down my spine—it wasn’t from the cold.
Clutching my towel tightly, I forced myself to smile. I’m sure it came out more like a grimace.
“Hi,” I muttered. Drops of water from my soaking hair dribbled down my front and back. They landed on the carpet. At this rate, I would create a puddle around me. “I’ll just go and change in the bathroom.”
I grabbed my clothing and rushed into the steaming bathroom, slamming the door shut. I could hear his amused chuckles.
Once changed, I entered the room again. Lazarus was in the same position but was scrolling through his phone. He put it down at my arrival.
“Did you sleep okay?” He asked me, straightening his posture.
I nodded my head and strung my hair together. It was quite frizzy. “Yeah, I did. How about you?”
“Yeah, I did. I think I need a coffee though.” He told me whilst dragging a hand through his gorgeous hair. “You got pretty drunk last night. What do you remember about it?”
I could remember most things. At least, I recalled everything before I went back inside after talking to Dexter. I drowned my worries out with everyone else. I could remember dancing in the lounge for a while and then lying on the couch with Lazarus.
I told him these things, missing out on the part about Dexter. I didn’t know if he had told Lazarus yet. When I was finished, he started laughing.
“So, you don’t remember what you did after?” He questioned.
I frowned and wracked my brain for what he could mean. Did I forget anything? Was it something embarrassing?
“Oh no, what did I do?” I groaned, hiding my face in my hands.
Rustling of sheets could be heard. I next heard the padding of bare feet. His warm hands wound around my waist and pulled me to his naked torso. If I wasn’t panicking about what might have happened, I would be relishing what was happening right now.
“Please don’t keep me in suspense,” I begged him. My voice was muffled due to my face being stuffed into his chest. “If you don’t tell me, I’m going to think I killed a person or robbed a bank.”
Okay, so I could be sure the last one didn’t happen. We were miles away from human civilization.
Lazarus stroked my hair affectionately. I pulled back and stared into his alluring eyes.
“Well, around one in the morning, you dragged me upstairs and then started to strip,” He revealed, cautiously.
My immediate instinct was to gasp and cover my face with my hands again. “Oh my gosh, no... please tell me I didn’t do that.”
I was really hoping he was teasing me. I waited for the punch line—for him to shout ‘got you!’ He didn’t.
“Then you pushed me onto the bed,” And then it got worse. “But don’t worry, I stopped you before it went too far. You started crying, thinking I didn’t love you so I comforted you. You fell asleep after that.”
“So, I took my dress off, pushed you onto the bed, and tried to have sex with you.” I summarized in horror.
He nodded his head once, “Yeah, pretty much.”
I was sort of glad I couldn’t remember everything.
“We didn’t have sex though. I wouldn’t let that happen when you were in that state. We kissed and I will admit I enjoyed it a lot but I would never take advantage of you like that,” He declared, honestly. He placed his hands on my cheeks and tilted my head up. “And don’t feel embarrassed.”
He always knew what to say.
I hugged him again. Standing on my tippy-toes, I could bury my face in the crook of his neck, where his scent was the strongest. I took in a long breath, engrossing myself in him.
Both of our stomachs rumbled at the same time. I stepped back and giggled. He smirked.
“Starving,” I corrected. “You can jump in the shower if you want. I’m going to go downstairs.”
“I’ll see you down there, beautiful,” He murmured, pecking me on the lips.
I skipped down the steps, wearing a large smile on my face. Sammy and Jamie were the only people up. Sammy was hunched over the counter, her cheeks slightly green. Jamie didn’t look any better. He looked ready to sleep.
Marco was sat on the couch and was reading something on his Kindle. I wondered if he felt any attraction towards Dexter. Was it the same for him as it was for me?
“You guys look awful. Rough night?” I greeted.
The response I got was a long moan of pain.
“What are we doing today?”
“We are going walking today,” Georgia announced, treading down the stairs carefully. She already had a full face of make-up and her hair was wavy. “So, gather the gang and tell them we’re leaving in an hour.”
I poured myself some cereal and hopped onto the high chair. Sammy left to go and shower and whilst the kettle boiled, Jamie went upstairs to tell everyone the plan.
“Are we really going walking?” I asked her, not believing her. Georgia hated walking.
She seemed offended, “Of course.”
I arched an eyebrow, “I’m sorry but I just can’t imagine you walking. There will be bugs and it will be exercise.”
She pursed her lips, “You underestimate me, Celeste. I can do walking easily. Plus, it’s what Matt wants.”
It made sense. She was trying to please Matt.
“Ah, so you’re doing this for Matt.”
“No, I want to do this too,” She defended, narrowing her eyes. If I continued to fight her, it would not end well so I let it go.
I helped Georgia prepare a packed lunch for the group.
Ellie and Wilder came down next. They both looked knackered. They were followed by Lazarus, Dexter, and Marianne.
Matt and Jamie came down together, freshly showered, and ready to go.
I passed them up the stairs and grabbed my backpack and threw the essentials in it.
When I returned, everyone was waiting for me. They were all ready. I threw in my lunch and something for Lazarus.
Marco would stay behind. He wanted us to have a good time without feeling like we had an adult breathing down our necks. Dexter would shoot him longing glances every once in a while. Nobody else but me seemed to notice.
Since Georgia knew the place, she led us onto the trail. I stayed close to Lazarus. He held my hand tightly so if I tripped, he would be able to help me back up. I felt safer with him.
“How far are we going?” Ellie shouted to Georgia, breathing heavily.
“Do you need me to carry you?” Wilder asked her.
She shook her head just as Georgia answered.
“There’s a cliff about two miles away that we’re going to.”
To keep us distracted—because some of us started to struggle when we had to walk uphill—Matt played cheesy music. It cheered us all up and strengthened our motivation to keep going.
At the top of the mountain, we got a view of a bigger lake. The slight breeze in the air blew my hair to the left. I brushed a few strands away and stared in awe at the beautiful sight.
For miles, the landscape stretched out. Thousands of trees were dotted together closely. Birds soured the sky’s, squawking. We weren’t too high up—if we wanted to, we could jump into the lake.
“Wow, what a sight,” I breathed. I whipped my phone out and took several photos. My mom would love to see these.
Ellie collapsed onto the floor and chugged a whole bottle of water down.
“Do you want me to take a picture of you?” Lazarus whispered into my ear, his breath tickling my skin. Enchanted by him, I nodded numbly and handed him my phone.
He directed me, urging me to stand at an angle and stretch my arms out wide. I plastered a Cheshire grin on my face. The corner of my eyes crinkled.
Lazarus snapped a few photos of me. I changed poses every few seconds.
“Okay, I think that’s enough,” I told him, sauntering back over to him. I flicked through the photos.
“I think the fourth one is the best,” Lazarus commented, truthfully. I agreed with him.
I sat beside Lazarus and munched on my sandwich. It was a gorgeous day—it wasn’t too cold nor too hot. I could sit here for a while and revel in the atmosphere.
Things went downhill on the way back. None of us had checked the forecast. We didn’t predict thunder and rain.
The girls shrieked and started running. We all followed after them.
Suddenly, the three of them stopped. We were too close to them to react in time. I crashed into Ellie whilst Jamie and Matt collided with Sammy and Georgia. Mud coated our clothes and stained our skin.
I rolled off Ellie and heaved myself to my feet. The others behind us froze.
In front of us was a large black wolf. It had a scar that ran down its face. Its sharp eyes locked onto me and remained on me.
Gulping, I felt my heart hammering in my chest.
From my peripheral vision, I saw Lazarus cautiously approach me. His eyes were trained on the wolf. There was a deadly look in his eyes.
“Celeste, get behind me,” He commanded in a flat, chilling voice.
When I tried to move, I couldn’t. It was as if my feet were stuck to the ground. I was paralyzed. This was happening again. He was here, again.
I knew it was the scarred man. There was no way it wasn’t him. He had managed to find me. Once again, he was here to ruin things. To ruin my life.
“Celeste,” Lazarus hissed, desperately.
My mouth opened but when I attempted to say something, all that came out was pathetic noises.
I was useless with him here.
The wolf growled, warningly. He didn’t like what Lazarus was doing. I wondered if he knew who Lazarus was.
Marco, who had stayed behind us, finally caught up to us. I heard him stomp over to us and snatch his gun out of his waistband as soon as his eyes landed on the lethal wolf. He aimed, ready to fire if necessary.
Marco didn’t know about wolves. He didn’t know that this was the scarred man, in his other form.
“Don’t move,” Marco demanded, calmly.
The others around us were all shaking in fear, except for Dexter, Marianne, and Wilder. Knowing the scarred man was outnumbered gave me hope. However, that was short-lived.
Several ferocious wolves with beady red eyes jumped out of the treeline, snapping their teeth aggressively.
The scarred man—or should I say wolf—growled loudly. Now that he had back-up, he was confident he would win.
That was when all hell broke loose.
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