Raechel’s jaw dropped. “He actually did it?”
“Yes.” And then I proceeded to abuse Orcus in as many languages as I knew, which actually happens to be quite a number. Raechel wasn’t a bit miffed at my outburst. It was how I’d reacted in the alcove that had her flummoxed.
“But why would you do that?”
“Because I didn’t want it.”
“I thought you said he was good,” she protested.
“He was,” I admitted. “I still didn’t want him to actually kiss me.”
Raechel huffed. “You should have thought of that, shouldn’t you?”
I explained about my mother’s phone call and Orcus wanting to know what she’d said, and the ultimatum he’d given me in the alcove. She wasn’t as much miffed by the physical harassment as she was the fact that I didn’t appreciate it.
“And you didn’t take him up on it?”
“I was debating whether or not to answer. I mean, it would piss off my mother, but at the same time I live to be his nuisance. He was wonderful, but it wasn’t a mutually consented . . . thing. I mean – ”
“But you enjoyed it?” she interrupted.
“Yes, but that’s not th—”
“Do you want him to do it again?”
I hesitated. “Erm. . .well – ”
“You do,” Raechel said definitely. “You enjoyed it, you’d do it again, and I told you to snog him a month ago; this is all your fault.”
“He cornered me!” I insisted.
“You went into the alcove first.”
“I was trying to hide.”
“You knew he was trying to catch you up.”
“Stop victim blaming, Raechel,” I snapped.
“You know I’m right,” she retorted. “And you’re also right, that was shitty of me, and I’m sorry.”
“I still think you should roofie him and just get it over with.”
We were in the safety of our dorm room, thankfully, so this conversation was private. About as private as it could get, anyway, with Sebastian sitting in the room; he didn’t look very happy.
“You’re supposed to be a trained assassin,” he groused. “You couldn’t have fought back?”
I looked at him quizzically. “What’s got you in such a state?”
“Nothing,” he snapped. “What state?”
I rolled my eyes. “Never mind.” Picking up a book, I threw it at him and said, “Read.”
“I don’t want to.”
“If you’re going to last any length of time here, you’ve got to learn to read.”
Sebastian huffed and opened the book, the unhappy scowl painted even more deeply on his face. “He already had his week.”
I almost groaned. Seriously? That was his issue? “Why are you worried?” I sniped. “It’s not like you’ll get any closer.”
Sebastian stared angrily at me a full minute before he threw the book away, wrenched open the window, and jumped out.
Raechel and I exchanged glances, and then bolted to the window just in time to see him land in the quad and start off in the direction of the river – Orcus’ general hang-out spot. Raechel and I were frozen for a good moment, the looks of many stunned students imprinted upon our minds. And then we jolted back to life and ran out the door, down the stairs, and through the quad, following Sebastian as close and as quickly as we could. For reasons unbeknownst to me, Raechel made a detour through the cafeteria, but caught up in no time. Being shorter than the vampire wasn’t helpful, but we were better fit and lasted much longer. Even so, by the time we were close to catching him up, he’d approached Orcus.
The latter was surrounded by his posse, and even if he hadn’t been, the look of pure confidence on his face wouldn’t have been any different. Orcus didn’t need seven other boys to protect him; he did just fine on his own, I was evidence of that. Personally I’m convinced that most people were subconsciously terrified of dying a slow and painful death should they attempt to harm him; combined with Orcus’ natural charm and intelligence, Sebastian didn’t stand a chance.
We slowed to a fast paced walk, and the closer we got the more distinct the words became.
“Why,” Orcus was saying, “should I sacrifice my time for you?”
“It is an important issue,” Sebastian replied stiffly.
“Importance is relative,” Orcus rejoined lightly.
Even as far as Raechel and I were, I could see Sebastian’s jaw muscles working. “It is in regards to –”
“Sebastian!” I shouted. “Stop!”
He wheeled about, face contorted in rage. “No.” He turned back round to face Orcus, whose face had gone from gently amused to aware and a little furious. “A word,” Sebastian growled as Raechel and I shuddered to a halt next the group.
Orcus stood slowly. “Very well. This way then,” His gaze landed on me. “No, Tourney, you may not accompany us.”
“I wasn’t going to ask your permission,” I returned.
Orcus eye twitched. “Your attempts at interference will be pointless and futile.”
I snorted. “That’s all you know.”
Orcus did know. He knew very well I was a lost cause. He tried often and valiantly, for whatever reason never giving up hope, but in his black hole of an ego, he knew it wasn’t worth the fight. At least, I’d been telling him so for years. Didn’t mean he believed me; as he says, it’s all relative.
Orcus nodded once to Owens, and then motioned Sebastian to follow him. As they stalked away, about fifty feet or so, Owens pushed me and Raechel down into the position previously occupied by his boss. I watched the boys keenly, hoping against hope that they wouldn’t break into a fight. It’d be impossible to moderate if they got going, and Madame Ghost still didn’t know, let alone the Head or the Director. It was Raechel’s secrecy and Michelle’s desire for Orcus that kept it quiet. Orcus himself was too secretive to entrust anyone with anything if it didn’t have some benefit for him. Personally, I was notorious with the staff for objections to their disciplinary policies, and, in any case, the deal with Sebastian was too precarious and still too mysterious to allow authority figure involvement. Owens had likely been silenced by Orcus, and probably a good thing, too. He had a tendency, Owens did, to let loose, especially where his tongue was concerned. If he was shutting up it was because his boss had put him on the straight and narrow and wasn’t letting him off it.
The boys in the distance were both rigid and formal, the arrogant look on Orcus’ face, his trademark, now beginning to reassert itself. Sebastian’s shoulders were sagged, and he turned away. Orcus moved to follow him, but Sebastian suddenly veered about, his fist slamming into Orcus’ cheek.
I was almost overcome with anger. The flap-mouthed popinjay! I wanted to hit him! Who did he think he was? He couldn’t just steal my chance at satisfaction! Well, obviously he could, as he just had, but I’d wanted to score that punch!
Orcus obviously hadn’t expected it, and had reeled under the impact. He was recovering now, and he looked like an angry bull. Sebastian appeared very much aware of the fact he’d made his rival quite angry, as he was spreading his feet, planting himself in such a manner that he was ready to box. I knew that was the furthest thing from Orcus’ mind.
He feinted a swing, which Sebastian attempted to block, and then delivered a blow to the vampire’s stomach that caused the latter to double over. I made to intervene, but Owens caught me about the waist and held me fast. My arms were pinned to my sides, but I wasn’t completely useless. I brought my right foot down on his instep, my left foot down on his knee, and when he buckled, my elbow cracked his mouth. Raechel, who is the best back up to be found anywhere, helped to depose the other six boys, and then we were running to Sebastian’s aid.
Orcus had him on the ground and was doing what he could to make Sebastian into a decent clinic case, so there was really nothing else for it. I tackled him and we ended up sprawled a few feet away. It wasn’t much but time for Raechel to pull Sebastian to his feet. Orcus pushed me aside with ease and was up on his feet in a second. If only the delay hadn’t given Sebastian a much-needed advantage: He charged Orcus and tackled him again, this time sending them both rolling downhill towards a bit of marsh.
“That didn’t exactly go the way it was supposed to,” Raechel observed. I rolled over onto my stomach, watching as the boys disappeared down the hill.
“Come on!” I grabbed Raechel’s arm, and launched to my feet, giving chase to the two squabbling morons.
The embankment was slippery, more so than I’d recalled, and very soon Raechel and I were sliding our way to the bottom. The boys were at it already, Sebastian this time having the upper hand. It was, as I’ve said, a fight with Orcus; invariably Sebastian had to lose. And he did.
The vampire’s arms were tight around Orcus’ throat, but the school sociopath was slippery at best; he elbowed Sebastian’s wind-pipe, and when the hold around his neck had loosened Orcus wriggled out of the vampire’s grasp and began to pummel him again. I was making my way as fast as I could towards them and just as I was getting close the sounds and shouts that usually accompanied authorities reached my ears. In the next moment several things happened in very rapid succession.
First, Sebastian pulled together one last bit of strength and sank his teeth deep into Orcus’ bicep. Normal people would have howled out of, not only pain, but fear. Normal people would have panicked and tried to free themselves. Normal people wouldn’t have picked a fight with a vampire in the first place (although Sebastian did start it). Then again, I suppose normal people are not Orcus Locke.
The second thing to happen was Orcus’ act to free himself from the jaws of what was likely a very hungry vampire. The look on his face bespoke death and destruction, but Sebastian seemed to get off lucky. One fell blow of Orcus’ fist to the vampire’s jaws resulted in immediate release of the appendage. And then Orcus was on his feet and releasing a hard, decisive kick to Sebastian’s face.
The third thing to happen occurred at this point: I rugby-tackled Orcus. We hit the soft ground with a thud, and Orcus quickly rolled away.
“What is wrong with you?” he bellowed.
I said nothing, simply straddled him and began to rain blows down on his head and shoulders. As valiant as I’m sure I must have felt, and even as embarrassed as Orcus later was, it was a victory short-lived. Orcus took hold of my wrists and flipped me onto my back, pinning me to the ground. His face was livid, but that was nothing to the look on his face when he was broadsided by a savage kick from Sebastian.
Orcus rolled with it, and used the generated force to land himself on his feet. It wasn’t enough; Sebastian didn’t seem terribly fazed by the pedal blow to his face, and he was moving with a fluid motion. He was swinging and Orcus was blocking as well as the best of them, rendering Sebastian’s onslaught quite pointless.
I was beginning to feel a bit hopeless, when Raechel suddenly broke between the two of them, pushed Orcus away, and flung something in Sebastian’s face. Both boys stopped immediately, obviously confused. Propelled by said confusion, I meandered over to inspect it, and found myself more than a little baffled.
“Raechel, these are sunflower seeds.”
“Why are you throwing sunflower seeds in a fist fight?”
“It’s supposed to be a distraction.”
I looked between the two idiot boys. “Yeah, I’d say we’re all pretty distracted now.”
She rolled her eyes. “It’s supposed to distract vampires; they’re supposed to be obsessed with counting things.”
I blinked. “Oh.” I looked at Sebastian, who just looked confused. “I don’t think it worked. He’s not counting.”
It was Sebastian’s turn to roll his eyes. “It would be helpful if I knew how to count.”
Raechel and I exchanged looks. “Hadn’t thought of that,” she admitted. “But the point here is he is still distracted. Confused, probably very disturbed, and a bit miffed, but still distracted.”
“You imbeciles!” someone shouted; Orcus and Raechel didn’t pay much heed. Mr. Prime, our Head, was muscling his way through the crowd of onlookers. He stopped when he saw us at the bottom of the hill, tired, very muddy, and an absolute bloody mess. “My office!” he roared. “Now! And no back-talk, Tourney!”