love_sfDeaganMoonby an animal attack, seventeen year old Charlotte feels she is being followed. When she runs into a mysterious boy while camping, she’s afraid. Nothing seems right about him. 6 страница

"What?"nodded my head, the only reaction I could muster. "Something still doesn't make sense though. Liam said the clerk at the gas station knew his secret. He said that was different because he was human." I smirked at the ridiculous implication and forced out a small laugh. "Eh, it's crazy. I mean, come on, what? I'm not human?"

"What if you're not?"gave her a disbelieving glare.

"No, no, hear me out," she said. "I've seen the way all of those guys look at you, Charlotte. It's like they all know there's something different about you, something about you that drives them all crazy."

"Yeah, it's the killer heels I'm always wearing."

"I'm serious, Charlotte." She nudged me in the shoulder. "Remember that night at your house when they all ran out? You even mentioned Liam said you were different. Remember how scared they all looked?"

"How could I forget," I said. My insides twisted into a rock and my face fell.placed her hand on my arm. "I'm sorry, Charlotte. I didn't mean it like that. I just meant that in retrospect, considering this new enlightening information, it seems suspicious."fingers tapped nervously on the back of my chair. "So what are you saying? What am I?" I felt ridiculous for even entertaining the stupid question.

"I don't know," Ty said. "Maybe you're a werewolf too."took one serious look at my friend and then forced a laugh. "I'm a werewolf, Ty?"shrugged. "You never know."

"Ty, I'm no werewolf expert, but I'm pretty sure you have to be able to turn into a wolf to be one. Just a thought." I shook my head. "You sound like the guys."

"They think you're a werewolf?" She gasped. "You didn't tell me that."'d I say anything? I had to tell her now.her by the arm, I led her over to the women's restroom.

"Charlotte, what are you doing?"door swung wide and I checked to make sure the room was empty.

"I've been bitten," I said, locking the door behind me.

"What? What are you talking about? That's not even funny."

"No, I'm serious," I said. "It happened years ago when I was five. It's why Liam freaked and left. He saw the scar when he kissed me."

"You were attacked by a werewolf when you were five?" Ty asked. Her voice rose.

"Shh, quiet."approached the bathroom door and I held my breath. A second pair joined them, along with the sound of muffled voices. They moved away and I exhaled.

"Sorry," Ty whispered.

"I don't know if it was a werewolf that bit me. Liam said it's a wolf bite. I can't remember the attack, only flashes. All I know is what my parents told me. They said a dog bit me."

"Did they see it?"

"No. They found me later, out back of my house. I can remember sneaking out that day. There was a lose rail that I pushed under and crawled through. The rest is hazy. My parents said it was the trauma."pushed back the collar of my shirt, showing her the scar. Her jaw dropped.

"That's not a dog bite, Charlotte."

"You can tell the difference between a dog bite and wolf?" I asked.

"My parents have raised dogs for years. That thing is huge. A mastiff wouldn't make a scar that big. A normal wolf didn't do that either."

"Okay, you know what? This is ridiculous. Come on. I was bitten by a werewolf? We are forgetting a major factor here. I can't turn into a wolf. Kind of blows the theory, doesn't it?"

"Hmm, true," she said, tapping her lip. "If only we could get a hold of the pictures of the victim's bodies."

"What?" I asked. She couldn't be serious.

"I was just thinking that if we had a picture of their wounds, we could match up yours to see if it was from a similar creature."had to be given credit on that one. Still, I thoroughly denied that a werewolf bit me. "I know where we can get pictures."

"Really? Where?"

"Liam's."

"Great."gut twisted. "There's one catch. He wasn't exactly happy when I saw the album that has the photo in it. I don't think he's just going to hand this over, and he doesn't know that you know he's a 'you know what'."nodded and started to pace the bathroom, her fingers playing with her charm. "You have Liam's home number right?"didn't like the sound of this.



"You call him, find out if he's home and if not, we shoot over."

"That's breaking and entering, Ty."

"So?" She said with a forced smile. "This is important. We'll be quick. No one will know."

"Who are you?" I asked.gave a tight grin and my insides squirmed. I didn't like the idea of going behind Liam's back. I liked him, and I knew he didn't want me to see the album. But how many secrets did he hold from me? I needed to know. Even he said my life could be in danger.flicked my cell phone open and brought it to my ear. The number rang, but no one picked up.

"Okay," I said with a sigh. "Let's do it." 12house had a different air about it, stark and forsaken, in the low preamble of day. The wind, though soft, scratched and clawed at the old worn siding, making me wonder about the age of the place. My nerves were on end. The place had been intimidating enough when I had been with Liam. Breaking and entering, especially considering werewolves lived there, didn't sit well. Maybe this was a bad idea.

"Are you ready?" I asked, my voice tight.'s boisterous courage seemed to have dwindled since we turned onto the long dirt road that led out here. Trees, I fathomed. They had an ominous way of casting out the sun as if poison. Of course, Ty grew up on the east coast, unlike me. Woods probably went hand in hand with breathing.didn't answer, so I turned off the gas. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, fine," she said. She looked pale, as she stared at the faded blue Victorian.

"This was your idea."

"I know," she said, gently rubbing her temple. "I just didn't think it'd be so..."

"Big? Old?" I asked.

"Creepy."

"We can go back."

"No, no." She shook her head, dropping her hand. "This is important."nodded and opened the door, stepping out with a crunch onto the pine needle covered ground. I felt exposed standing outside the car in front of the old place. It didn't feel right. "Why are we doing this again?"

"Charlotte," Ty said with a grumble, grabbing my hand. "Come on."started up the creaky front steps to the porch, when I paused, my hands wringing together. "How do we know they're all gone? I only called Liam's cell. Who's to say the others aren't here?"

"Relax," Ty said, squeezing my arm. "We'll knock first. If no one answers, then we'll find a way to get inside."

"Find a way to get inside?" I asked.gave me a rueful glance. "Charlotte, we don't exactly have a key. I'm sure if no one's here, the door is locked."whole escapade screamed bad idea. Ty went to knock on the door and I almost stopped her. But what choice did I have? She wrapped her fingers three times. A scurry of house finches took off out of a nearby tree, making me jump.

"You are nervous," she said.

"Is it that easy to tell?" I rolled my eyes. No one answered. "One more time," I said, "just to make sure."shook her head, but obliged. Nothing. She tried the handle, but it wouldn't budge.

"I say we head around back to see if we can find an open window or something," Ty said, as she started past me down the steps. If I hadn't known her better, I would have thought she had done this before. "Come on, Charlotte."porch groaned as we hopped down from the last step, taking route around the left side of the house. Everything appeared shut up tight. I stepped up to one of the oversized paned windows on the side of the house, and peered in. The large open living room seemed emptier than it did before, dark, the lights off. It helped settle my fears on whether or not anyone was home. I wondered where they had gone. It was still early in the morning on a Saturday. Who else would be up and out at this ridiculous hour? Of course I wouldn't put anything past Liam. He was probably taking one of his overnight walks, or hunting. He was a wolf after all. The thought made me shudder; sharp teeth and blood, all I saw.

"You cold?" Ty asked, moving up from behind me.

"No, I'm fine. It's nothing," I said, ridding myself of the vision. I placed my hands up on the window and shoved. It didn't move. Frustrated, I hopped down from the small vent protruding from house that I had been standing on. The grass squished under my feet, dew still lightly covering the ground.stood with her sneakers tucked into a large chain linked fence that separated the side of the house from a large drop off down the back. "This view is amazing," she said. "Is this the preserve?"

"Yeah, and be careful. You don't want to fall down there. That material looks a little flimsy."

"Yes, Mom," she said with a giggle.rolled my eyes, when I saw a shadow race along the edge of the house. Goosebumps flooded my arms. I turned, but didn't see anything.

"What is it?" Ty asked.

"Nothing," I said. "Let's try the other side of the house."headed around the front, past the old winding porch, and the small graveled lot where the CRV sat. Chills still prickled my skin, and I had the strange feeling of being watched. I glanced around, but everything seemed still, vacant. I had to be imagining things.other side of the house had been given more attention than this one. Brambles, thorns, and everything known to mankind blocked our path, making walking difficult.

"Ow, my hair," Ty said ahead of me. A low hanging branch had snagged a wad of her blonde curls, twisting them up into a knot. Pushing my way through the shrubs, closer, my fingers went to work, freeing her from the spiny tendrils.

"Thanks," she said, and then pointed in front of her. "I think I found a way in." She kicked a large overgrown bush to the side, revealing an old bulkhead.

"Is it open?"reached down for the rusty handle, and pulled. The bulkhead groaned, resisted, but then came free. Swinging it wide, she let it drop to the ground with a crunch.small cement stairwell smelling of mold led down to a faded red steel door. Brushing past Ty, I took the lead, and started down the dank steps. A thin trace of cobwebs tickled my arm as I reached for the doorknob, but I ignored them. When I twisted the knob, I was surprised.

"It's unlocked," I said.a gentle push, the door swung wide. A draft of moist mildew hit my nose, making me almost sneeze. Save for the small space near the stairwell where light came in, the basement was completely dark. I moved my hand along the inside of the wall in hopes of finding a light switch, but nothing.

"I suppose you don't have a flashlight?" I asked over my shoulder. The irony of the question didn't escape me.

"Sorry," Ty said. She crooned her neck around me, to see. "What do you think?"

"Do we have a choice?"

"Not if we want a look at those photographs."groaned, and stepped into the large void of darkness. Ty held my shirt, I think afraid of losing me. She didn't say anything, so I kept moving. My arms splayed out in front of me in hopes that I would find the stairwell and not topple into something sharp and dangerous. Who knew what kinds of things Liam and his friends kept down here. Visions of mauled victims flooded my mind again, and I desperately shook it off.

"Are you okay?" Ty asked.

"Yeah, just nerves," I said, when I saw something move; a flicker of a shadow in the darkness. My heart pounded in my ears. "Did you see that?"

"See what?"

"I don't know. Maybe we shouldn't be here." My hands shook. "What if they're not really gone? We really don't know that much about them."

"They're gone," Ty said. She changed her hold on my shirt to my arm. "Wow, you're cold, Charlotte. Look, relax. Even if Liam or one of the guys did come home, I'm sure they wouldn't do anything. Liam obviously has feelings for you, right?"nodded, though Ty couldn't see it. I just wished my mind would stop playing tricks on me. "You're right," I said, trying to shove off the eerie feeling. With a deep breath, I started forward again.

"Over here," Ty said. "I think I found the stairs. I feel a railing."pulled me around to where she stood, and when my fingers touched the smooth rounded wood, I sighed. "Thank god," I said with relief.carefully ascended the creaky staircase. The daylight seeped through the cracks of the door, giving it an aura like affect in contrast to the dungy cellar. It opened and we stepped into the long, empty, hallway.

"This way," I said, heading down towards the study. The faster we could get out of there, the better.light greeted us through the now closed and locked up window as I made my way over to the desk. The large leather bound photo album sat, tucked into a small shelf attached to the frame. I glanced around, and then pulled it down. "Here it is," I said. "This is the book."

"What book?" a male voice said.head shot up. Prickles of goose bumps rose on the back of my neck as I met an intense blue gaze bearing down at me. He stood, leaning on the door jam, in a way that oddly reminded me of Liam. He appeared about the same age and build too, but instead of Liam's ashy blond hair, he had auburn.took a moment for my mind to connect with my body, and I shoved the book behind my back "What are you doing here?" I asked, wincing at how stupid that sounded.corner of his mouth lifted into a grin. "I should be asking you that," he said. "You're breaking and entering. Perhaps I should call the cops." He reached into his back pocket, pulling out his cell phone.

"No, no," I said, taking a step towards him. He seemed pleased by my newfound hysteria, and put the phone away.

"Why are you here?" he asked, again. His focus flicked to Ty, and then back at me. Hands in his pockets, he pushed himself up off the door jam, moving towards me. The muscles of his shoulders flexed taut under his thin t-shirt and he rolled them, tilting his head to the side.

"She's friends with Liam," Ty said.I winced with horror. Liam didn't want people to know I knew about him. He said it was dangerous. My chest felt constricted. His face looked like stone.

"What's with the book?" he asked.

"It...it's nothing," I said. My fingers clutched the leather so hard I could feel the painful pinch of my nails biting into its flesh.took another step towards me. "Then what's behind your back?"contemplated denying the fact that I held it there, but it seemed pointless. "Just something for a homework assignment that Liam was helping me with." I prayed I didn't look as sickly as I felt.

"I wasn't aware Liam went to school," he said. A coy smile lifted to his mouth.

"Oh, he doesn't. It was for me. I go to school. He just said I could borrow it." I needed to shut up. Seriously. A pin could have dropped and I would have screamed. Where was Ty?

"Can I see it?" he asked.

"No." I swallowed hard.

"Why not?"heart pounded in my ears. "Because it's not yours."stalked towards me then, but stopped short. His intense blue eyes widened and his jaw went slack. His nostrils expanded, and he inhaled, tilting his head. The familiarity of the ritual did not escape me - werewolf. I needed my body to respond. Run, my mind screamed, but I couldn't move.

"It's you," he said with a disbelieving nod. He reached out to touch my hair, but I shrank back.

"I don't know what you mean," I said. "I don't know you."

"How did Liam find you?" he asked, ignoring me.

"Liam didn't find me. I was in the woods and he ran...into me."

"Mhm," he said with all knowing grin. "Interesting."

"It's not what you think," I said.

"Sure it isn't."did this guy think he was? Did he know his words twisted and stirred subconscious fears I had about Liam and my past? He didn't know me; impossible. But then why did it seem he wanted to make me doubt myself? What did he know?blue gaze penetrated my skin as he started to walk around me. I tried to remain stone, and not shake. My nails bit into the book.

"I need to go," I said.

"Of course." He looked mocked hurt, as though the idea of him keeping me there, absurd. He stopped circling, his hands still in his pockets, and cocked his head to the other side. "I'm not holding you and your friend here. I merely wanted to make sure that you weren't here unbeknownst to Liam."

"Well, we're not, so bye." Ty said. The voice sounded so foreign, it took me a moment to recognize it.stranger turned, regarding her for the first time. A small smile etched across his face, but he focused back on me. "Why are you here with her?" he asked.

"She's my friend?" I didn't know what he wanted me to say.

"You're friends with Liam and her?"

"Yes," I said, the point of this lost on me. "Why?"

"Does Liam know?"

"Does Liam know what?"rolled his eyes with a groan. "That you're friends with her?"

"What's wrong with Ty?"took a step towards me. His body loomed over mine so that I had to press back against the desk. It felt like I couldn't breathe and I turned my head away. "You know what I'm talking about," he whispered, his breath on my ear. "It's dangerous to mingle outside..." He paused, to my relief, standing back a bit. "You still haven't changed," he said with a slow nod. He seemed rather amused. "This is interesting. How Liam found you is beyond me. You aren't his you know."corners of my mouth fell. "I don't know what you're talking about."leaned forward and the hairs on the back of my neck rose. "I think you do," he whispered, flicking his gaze over to Ty.

"We're leaving," I said. I had enough. I didn't like this guy and I wanted to go home. Pushing myself past him, I grabbed Ty's hand. "No wonder Liam never mentioned you living here," I said as I headed for the door. I heard him chuckle.

"Who ever said I lived here?"13spun around, but he had gone. The absence of his presence made the goose bumps on the back of my neck fade, but I felt cold. How did he get out? The window by the desk sat open and I could hear the faint babbling of birds outside. Walking over, I peered across the front lawn. I didn't see a sign of him anywhere.

"Where'd he go?" Ty asked.

"I don't know." I said. "I don't see him anywhere." I didn't like this. "Let's get of here."didn't need to ask twice. We sped out of the study, down the front hallway, and swung the main door wide. Several sparrows flapped and chirped as they startled off into the air, but that didn't give us pause. My hands landed on the CRV with a flush of relief. My fingers couldn't work fast enough as I fiddled with the door handle.

"Hurry, Charlotte," Ty said from the passenger side, jumping and fidgeting. "I locked mine."

"What?" I asked. The door budged open and I slipped inside. Leaning over, I popped hers ajar. "Who do you thinks going to steal this thing out here?"slipped into the warn seat. "Who'd have thought we'd be running from red haired dudes?"

"Good point."the engine, we took off down the small overgrown path that Liam and his friends called a road. Once the shrubbery faded into the main single lane highway heading back towards civilization, I sighed. "What was that?" I asked.

"Did you get the book?" Ty asked.

"Yeah, here." I handed it to her. "I can't even think about that right now. My head is spinning."

"Yeah, whose idea was that anyway?"glared at her. "Amusing, Ty."

"Okay, so it was kind of a bad idea."

"Kind of?"shrugged, flopping back into her seat. "At least we got the book."

"Yeah," I said. I really didn't want to think about this anymore, not now. My head hurt. I also realized we left Liam's front door open. The idea of him knowing we broke into his house, made me feel like the worst person in the world. I wanted to get home.had drifted into a strange quietness by the time I turned onto my long hilly driveway, but as soon as the house came into view, she gasped. Sitting in front of my garage sat a beautiful black Ford Mustang.

"Wow, nice car," Ty said.parked and shut off the engine, afraid to look.

"Is that Liam talking to your dad?" Ty asked. "What's he doing here?"

"I don't know," I said, the words barely passing my lips.looked up from his conversation with a grin, and waved at me to come over. Liam turned from Dad and his gaze met mine. Panic gripped my chest. Did he know we broke into his house? No, there was no way he would, unless that guy called him. It seemed unlikely considering the time frame involved. Both Liam and Dad smiled at us. I needed to relax.

"Hide the book," I said, forcing a wave back to them as I hopped down from the car. I swallowed hard.

"Liam?" I asked as I approached him. "What are you doing here?"flashed one of his ridiculous grins and for a moment I almost forgot what I had been doing. Flustered, I forced myself to focus. Despite saving my life and saying he loved me; some serious details had been omitted from the picture. If he hadn't murdered those people, then he knew who did. The words of the crazy guy at Liam's house haunted me too. Had Liam been looking for me? What if he had been the one following me all along?

"This young man's been waiting for you, Charlotte," Dad said, with a pat on my back. He grabbed my shoulder giving it a hug with his palm. I wobbled, embarrassed. Liam chuckled.

"I missed you," Liam said, the sincerity unmissed.

"Liam..." My glaze flicked in my father's direction.wrestled my shoulder again. "You kids go have some fun," he said. "Liam seems like a good guy. Just make sure you're back by dinner. Your mother's supposed to be calling."looked at Dad with disbelief. Where was I? I didn't know how Liam pulled that off, but impressed didn't come close. "Thanks, Dad. I'll be back for the call."

"Okay then, have fun you two." Dad tossed a quick look of warning to Liam, before disappearing into the house. The door clicked shut, and my body relaxed.

"How did you do that?" I asked.

"I have my ways," he said with a small teasing grin. He closed the distance between us, and my breath caught in my throat. His warm fingers slipped into mine and he brought them to his cheek. My heart pounded in my ears.

"Hey guys," Ty hollered over from the CVR. "Do you think I can get a ride?"face burned and I moved back from Liam. "Of course. Right, Liam?"

"Sure," he said.we sped down the road in Liam's mustang, Ty had become a ghost of her normal bouncy self in the back seat. "Ty?" I asked. "Are you all right back there?"only a tight small grunt, I turned around to face her. "What's wrong?" I asked, when I saw the fear on her face. Both her hands gripped the seat next to her as she stared at the back of Liam's head. I followed her gaze, but saw nothing weird. 'What is it?' I mouthed. She wouldn't answer. She just shook her head back and forth.pulled into a small shopping plaza in the center of town. A conglomerate of chain restaurants, and stores surrounded us from every angle. Weaving his way through the parking lot, Liam stopped in front of a small restaurant at the far end.

"I hope you like Chinese," he said.

"What?" I asked.

"I ordered take out. Thought we could have a picnic."couldn't help but smile. Liam seemed to take my expression as a yes and got out. "I'll be right back."disappeared inside the building, and I turned back to Ty. "What's going on?" I asked. Ty relaxed a little, but I caught her stealing a glance to the outside. "He's gone, Ty."nodded. "Sorry, it's nothing. It's just, I don't know." She leaned forward on the back of my seat and whispered. "He's a werewolf! I mean, in theory I was fine with this, but we are sitting in a werewolf's car!"

"Shh," I said. "Look, I know this isn't normal, but Liam wouldn't do anything to hurt you or me. I know that."

"But he doesn't know that I know. What if he finds out? What he wolfs out on me?"

"I don't think that's going to happen." My voice surprised me with its defensiveness. "Liam wouldn't do that. He's a good guy. You're my friend and he says he loves me.", I said it.'s jaw dropped. "What? You didn't tell me that. Are you crazy? You don't even know if he had something to do with those killings? He's not even really a teenager." Her chest rose and fell with quick jerks.

"Look, relax. I know that, okay. Don't hyperventilate on me. I know what I'm doing." I hoped.

"Do you love him?" she asked.words caught in my throat. "I don't know. It's complicated. The way he makes me feel scares me, Ty." I wanted to tell her how it felt almost primal, as if he had the key so some hibernating force lying dormant in me, but it terrified me too much. I couldn't think that way. I wouldn't. "I like him," I said. "I do. There's just too many unknowns right now."nodded in understanding, looking a little relieved. "Look, I'm sorry for over reacting about the whole werewolf thing," she said, rolling her eyes. "It's just a little huge. I'm trying to wrap my brain around it. I trust your judgment of wolf boy."

"Thanks." I smirked over the back of the seat. "Don't worry. Everything's going to be fine. He won't hurt us."door opened and we both jumped.

"What's going on?" Liam asked.

"Nothing," Ty and I said at once. I sunk back down in my seat, fixing my belt. "Food smells good," I said with a small grin.

"Delicious," Ty said.worked my best poker face as I felt Liam's mind work over us like an x-ray machine. "Were you talking about me?" he asked.

"Not at all," Ty and I said at the same time. My face burned.

"Hmm, I see," Liam said, giving us a curious look as he started the car. "What were you talking about?"

"Just how lucky I am to have a guy like you buy my lunch," I said, teasing. I gave him a peck on the cheek. "Thanks for the food. It smells really good."eyes flashed gold from under his messy hair and whispered in my ear. "The food's not the only thing that smells incredible."heart rate soared and my body trembled.

"Still in the car," Ty said.licked his lip as he sat back up with a grin, and then pulled into reverse.'s house appeared in record time, and as I watched her descend inside with the album in her backpack, I knew our investigation would have to wait.

"I wanted to make sure you were okay about yesterday," Liam said.words made my stomach turn. I spent most of the morning trying not to think about the horrific scene at the gas station. The earlier diversion had in its own way been at least helpful in that aspect. Now, with the image of yesterday afternoon laid out in my mind, I wanted to huddle into a ball.

"I'm okay," I said, lying.

"That's what I thought," He said, nodding.couldn't blame him for being worried. I was not okay. Liam took a turn into a small wooded picnic area. Markers for camping stood to the left of us, and I realized this place looked familiar.

"This isn't...?"broad grin broke across Liam's concerned expression, and my jaw dropped. "The one and only. I can't help it. I love this place. It's where I met you," he said with a chuckle. I didn't know if I wanted to kiss him or scream. "We're using a different entrance though. There's mostly hiking and picnicking up here."

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