Authors: Shannon Dermott
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction
As I stood twenty five paces from the lunch table I shared with Luke and his friends, the senior elite, I felt frozen in my spot.
A girl with long, dirty blonde hair strolled up to my table, and planted herself in my boyfriend’s lap. Before I could blink, her lips were on his. Yet, he didn’t push her away. Yes, he looked shocked at least from what I could tell from his eyes, which popped wide for a second. However, beneath the kiss, it looked like he was possibly smiling.
Flynn, who sat a seat away, glanced over at the girl. He didn’t look surprised to see her either, maybe that was recognition I saw in his gaze. Instead, he turned back and locked eyes with me. Was there amusement there? I had a moment of indecision. The old me would have walked out in quiet fashion. My concrete legs took much effect to move, but I pressed on.
A gentle shove from behind pushed me forward a few steps. “Mercy, what are you doing standing here,” Maggie said coming to my side. I didn’t look at her but knew when she gasped that she’d seen. We were like statuettes, immortalized in inactivity. I had to get going or I was going to lose my nerve.
What felt like hours were only seconds. When Blondie put her hands on Luke’s face, he captured her wrist and pulled them away. By this time, I was only a few strides behind him. Forest green eyes locked on me causing Luke to turn his head to notice me. Urging her off his lap, Luke had the decency to look sheepish.
Clearing his voice, which only made him seem guilty, he said, “Sara, this is my girlfriend, Mercy.” His long reach clasped my forearm and pulled me the final few inches to the table. With his other hand, he took my tray and set it on the table next to him. Soon, I was sandwiched between him and Blondie, a place I wasn’t sure I wanted to be.
Faking a smile, I said, “Hi.”
Maggie had other ideas. My fiery Irish best friend wasn’t having any of it. “Oh, no. You,” she said pointing at Blondie, “have crossed a line.”
Blondie raised her hands and said, “Look, I didn’t know.”
Maggie said, “You didn’t bother asking either.” She handed Luke a napkin. He just looked at her with querying eyes but took it. “Don’t you need to wipe your mouth? Brushing your teeth and mouthwash is important too.” If I wasn’t torn as to what to do or say, I might have laughed.
Blondie put her hand on my other forearm. Luke’s hand had slipped down to intertwine with my fingers. Turning, I speared the girl with my no bullshit stare, glancing quickly at her hand on me to give her the hint.
She let go. “Look, I’m really sorry. Honestly, I didn’t know he was taken.”
I studied the spray of freckles on her face while I deciding on what to do. Her words didn’t ease my mind. Had Luke been seeing this girl on the side and not told her until now that he had a girlfriend? No, he wasn’t that type of guy. I ground my teeth with the urge to make my palm connect with her cheek. I gave myself a quick reality check. If she really didn’t know, then my anger was misplaced.
Continuing, she said, “It’s been a really long time since I’ve seen them. And I know this isn’t the right time, but could I borrow him and Flynn?” Why did she have to look so damn sincere? It made it hard to imagine her flesh being peeled away from her skin.
“Mercy, you don’t have to put up with this,” Maggie said flexing her fingers like she planned to rumble. Then she twirled her plastic knife like it was a viable weapon.
Not willing to play jealous girlfriend in front of the whole lunchroom, I said quietly, “Maggie, I can’t tell him what to do.”
“The hell you can’t,” she furiously whispered giving me stink eye and all kinds of
you have to be crazy
Luke sliced up the silence with his
this is none of your business
look and handed it out as everyone waited. And when I say everyone, I meant the immediate area that was focused in on us like MTV was filming our table. A shifting sound broke up the empty noise; I glanced at Flynn who now stood. He held a hand out to Blondie. Smiling at him, she took it and was pulled to her feet. “How about you handsome? Are you taken?”
Flynn appraised her whole body through hooded eyes and smirked.“Nope.”
Standing on her tiptoes, she locked her mouth with his in a scorching open mouthed kiss. My stomach tightened. Looking away, I caught Luke moving to stand. He was watching Flynn with intense eyes; the bottom fell out of my stomach. Was he jealous?
Finally, he placed a hand on my shoulder and dipped to speak in my ear. “I’ll be right back.” Where my head had slightly angled to listen to him, I moved away when he made as if to kiss me. I heard his sigh before he stood, giving me a sad smile and left the lunchroom with Flynn and Blondie. What I didn’t say was that Maggie had the right idea. There was no way I was kissing him after she did. He’d let that happen.
Maggie took Flynn’s seat. “Eme, why didn’t you say anything?”
Shaking my head, I said, “I trust him.” It wasn’t the total truth. Luke had changed. And everything that I witnessed gave strength to my doubts. But there were ears. Nina and her crew were nearby. Never show weakness, I’d learned that over the last few months.
My best friend had more to say but all I could do was push down the bile that threatened to shoot out like a projectile missile. Forcing small bites of my burger in my mouth, I finished about half without ever touching my fries before Flynn came back alone.
“Red, move over,” he said planting himself next to her on the bench seat. Somewhere along the way, the conversation at the table had started up again. Flynn’s presence brought back total silence as everyone waited to hear his next words. It was apparent to everyone who didn’t return. Luke and Blondie. Voices changed to whispers discernibly discussing the latest developments. School was worse than gossip magazines. Closing my eyes, I picked up a cold fry and shoved it in my mouth. I didn’t enjoy the taste of rubbery food but swallowed it anyway.
“Eme,” Maggie said. The sensation of my eyes filling with tears had me taking deep breaths. I would not cry in front of everyone. Luke was probably just talking to her. Yeah, right, I chided myself. Who was I fooling?
Not speaking, Maggie took my hand. Standing up, she pulled me to my feet and shoved the remnants of her lunch on my tray while I looked on. Stacking our trays, she held them with one hand and took my hand with the other.
“Maggs,” I said with a whisper.
“Luke is outside if you’re looking for him,” Flynn called out.
Snapping my head in his direction I saw he had a satisfied expression on his face. How could he be so cruel? I turned away while Maggie led me out. I mentally counted to ten so I could pull myself together.
Ending up in front of our lockers, I spun the tumblers not remembering my combination. “Luke wouldn’t do that to you.” Her quiet voice had fat tears spilling from my eyes. Quickly wiping them away with the sleeve of my shirt, I was grateful for the navy color that hid the dark wet stains.
“Maggs, he’s not the same,” I managed to choke out.
Pulled into a hug, I only had moments before the lunch bell rang. Standing straight, wiping my face again, I dialed my combination, reality snapping my memory back into place.
Still no Luke; Maggie walked me to my next class. Not making my runaway imagination any better, I didn’t see Luke the rest of the day. Thunderstorms, canceled softball practice. I wasn’t sure what to do after school because there was no way in hell I was riding with Flynn again. His practice was mostly likely canceled as well, but I didn’t care. The rain was coming down in sheets, melting the remnants of snow faster than the sun ever could. No one was milling around. People stood under the awning, inside buses or in cars headed out. The hulking Hummer, however, was there along with Luke’s BMW. Stepping outside, the rain was cool, chilling my skin on contact. I hadn’t brought an umbrella. Luke’s car door opened and he popped his head out to wave me over.
My feet moved in his direction until his passenger door opened. Blondie got out and hurried over to Flynn’s Hummer. As she hopped in, I stumbled to a stop. Luke had only partially gotten into his car; now he closed the door and strode over to me, drenched in the steady rain. I was dripping wet, too, by this point. Any tears that could have fallen from my eyes would have been disguised by the rain.
“What?” he asked. “You’re soaked.”
Shaking my head because that didn’t matter, I asked, “Who is she to you?”
“Nobody,” he said earnestly. Why was it so hard to believe him? I wanted to desperately. “I’ll tell you about it. There is so much you need to know.”
Reaching for my hand, I pulled it out of his reach. We stood letting the rain pour on us. His eyes narrowed and he pushed back his wet hair. “You’re mad at me for something she did?”
“You seemed fine with it,” I answered, angrily.
A crack of thunder didn’t hide the menace in his voice. “All the things I’ve seen and forgiven that you did. Kissing every guy that comes within ten feet of you and you can’t trust me?” His blue eyes were incredulous.
Turning my head to the side, his words stung like a slap. He was right. “You know what, whatever,” he said waving me off as he walked away from me.
“Luke,” I called out just as lighting stuck. The crack in the air covered my plea. He was inside his car by the time I wiped the rain from my face.
When he didn’t peel out of the lot, my heart rebounded. Then Flynn’s truck doors opened, both of them. I saw Blondie make a dash for Luke’s car again.
“Mercy,” Flynn called out. The new me crumbled under the pressure. This was too much. Blondie was gorgeous. I hadn’t allowed myself to see it. Her features were in perfect alignment. I couldn’t compete with her. She was perfectly proportioned according to the wet clothes that clung to her body like second skin. Turning, I walked, squishing through the mud and melting snow that was the mess of the school’s front lawn. I should call Maggie. However, I didn’t. I needed to think.
“Mercy.” This time it was Luke’s voice that rang out.
I moved with more vigor. My eyes were downcast into the earth because the suction of mud threatened to draw my shoes off my feet. Then arms stopped me. I looked up to meet Sebastian’s eyes. He hadn’t been at school. I didn’t think I mentally called him either.
“You want to get out of here?” he asked.
I nodded. If ever there was a time, now was it. Taking his hand, I followed him into the trees against Flynn and Luke’s protest. He could teleport us out of there. But there were humans to consider. I heard the slaps of feet in the puddled ground, probably Luke or Flynn coming after me. Maybe neither since they were both mad at me. But Sebastian had me in his arms and traveling his way before I could make out the voice that called my name.
Where I landed was anyone’s guess. It smelled earthy and pungent, also wet, like morning dew or mist. But everything was dark and a chill ran in the air. It wasn’t the cold like home, but it had a clammy sort of feel.
A torches lit up all at once and I was encased in stone walls. The ceiling was high above and the chandelier and wall lights held candles. It felt medieval. Where had Sebastian taken me?
“Kayla, welcome to my home,” he said with a wide grin.
“Where are we?” I asked mystified. Had he taken us back in time? Could he do that?
He stood in front of me drenched in long sleeve and jeans. “Scotland, where else?”
Before I could utter words of rebuke, he hauled me up a stone staircase by my hand. Winding, winding, we went up past tapestries on the walls that looked as old as the building we were in. They depicted scenes of violence and war, blood and gore, nothing sweet and gentle. We ended up in a bedroom fill with a wooden four poster bed that was large and weighty. I couldn’t guess how it had gotten up the winding narrow passageway. Sebastian handed me a towel. “You’re wet, lass. You should dry off; this castle is drafty and old.”
Castle? Okay, if that didn’t freak me out as much as being in Scotland, my mom was so going to kill me. “You have to take me home. I’m grounded,” I muttered, toweling myself off. It felt so stupid to say that to him. We weren’t human. Why was my mom making me play by human rules?
Grinning, he flipped out his phone. I looked at it and wondered if it would work. Did he have an international phone? A few swipes and he said, “Julie, I just wanted to let you know that Mercy is with me. I’ll have her home soon. She was concerned about not making it home on time.” Pause. “Okay.” He held out the phone to me.
“Mom,” I said more petulantly than required. I didn’t know how I was going to explain where I was without her flipping out.
“Mercy, is Luke there?” she asked.
“No,” I answered quickly and sounded very annoyed like I felt.
“Fine. Make sure you are home by curfew.”
What? That was it. No ‘
where are you
?’ as long as I wasn’t with Luke? “Okay,” I mumbled.
Then she hung up. Confused, I handed the phone back to Sebastian who looked rather pleased with himself.
“Tell me why you were running this time.” He came closer and I took small steps back. Chuckling, he said, “After all this time, you don’t trust me.”
I stopped. He was right. He could have taken me at anytime. He could have brought forth McKayla who would love nothing more but to give my virginity to him. But he hadn’t done any of that.
Keeping about six inches between us, he slid his hands in his pocket of his jeans leaving his thumbs out. He almost looked innocent, almost. Licking his lips, he lowered those blues on to me like a gauntlet. The connection between my brain and my body was severed. Being surrounded by attractive guys, you think I’d be used to it. But when their focus was solely on me, it was hard to ignore. “You’re wet too,” I said, looking at how the shirt clung to him. Smiling, with one hand he pulled the shirt over his head letting it fall with a thud to the stone cold floor.
“Care to dry me off?” he asked, the smirk said there was nothing more that he’d rather I do. I was sure he got his way most of the time. His penetrating stare caused my face to heat. I turned, not wanting to look at him anymore. A wicked chuckle crooned out of him. “So why the SOS?”
I turned to look at him. “What SOS?” His answer was a lifted brow. “Why’d you come then? You haven’t been at school in a while?”
“I’m taking care of things. You haven’t been bothered recently?”
I had, but not by demons and I was pretty sure that was what he meant. “Not by anything inhuman,” I responded.
“So why the bat signal?” Looking down, trying to avoid his stare, I caught sight of his chest. He was built like a biology mannequin. Every muscle was defined to perfection down to the V that led further past the hemline of his low slung jeans. I swallowed. Closing my eyes, I forced back the feelings that were stirring within me. My demon was coming to life.
“I didn’t call for you,” I said and looked back at his face, which was safer.
His hand left his pocket and played with a strand of hair that had fallen in my face. After looking at it, he pushed it behind my ear. “Ah, you didn’t say my name, but I felt your distress.”
Tenderly, his hand touched my cheek and I shrugged away from him. I wasn’t going there with him no matter how desirable he was. “It was nothing.”
“Nothing,” he said with an arched brow. “You were so eager to get away from Luke. What did the Golden Boy do? Did he finally show his true colors?” Wondering what he knew, I searched his eyes with near panic. “Aye, so he did do something.”
If that was a question, I wasn’t fully sure. “Some girl threw herself at him today and he didn’t quite seem to not enjoy it.” My words were a mess. But so was I. Luke didn’t deserve me running off. It was a rash decision. How was I going to explain why I left?
He chuffed, and said, “You’re being with him is only going to end him.”
There was something in the way he looked at me that said he knew how things would end. “What do you know?” I demanded.
Making a noise that almost sounded like a snicker, he said, “I don’t know much more than you do. My father didn’t send me here with yours or his fate. I am to watch over you and make sure you survive.”
“I don’t believe you,” I accused. If I could have a dime for every time someone refused to give me any answers, I’d be a millionaire by now.
Shaking his head like he pitied me, he said, “As much as you don’t want to accept who you are, you must. Luke is cut from angel cloth. You are glued together by demon blood. Don’t be a silly little human girl who believes in fairytale love. There will only be death at the end of this story.”
I turned away and headed to the single window. The only reason I knew that it was there was the light around the tapestry that hung over it. Peering out into the faded light, I looked over rolling green hills and wondered when was the last time I saw so much unencumbered land. “There is nothing wrong with falling in love.”
“Love is for humans,” he said, sounding closer. Yet I hadn’t heard him move.
“You just called me human.” I looked back at him, letting the tapestry fall back in place taking the light and my dreams away with it. I knew he was right. I’d already damned Luke. But there was no way I could justify leaving him for his own good now. The damage was already done.
Rolling his eyes, he said, “You act like one, so I forget.”
I once again looked outside. The air was fresh and it felt different. “What year is it?” I asked casually.
The sound of the friction of his jeans as he neared had me tense. “The same year you were in. I can do many things, but I did not time travel.”
Turning to face him, holding open the window so the light could shine true on him and his words, I watched as he approached with the grace and stealth of a panther. With curiosity, I asked, “What is it that you can do?” What else he could do besides teleport, change his solid form into one that can travel into other solid forms with the ease of a knife on butter and end demons.
His next words made me wonder how long he’d been lying in wait. “I could make you happy.”
I wasn’t expecting this. Although on some level, I knew that Sebastian was around me for some reason other than my protection, I had let it go. He’d flirted on occasion, but nothing like the forward advances of Paul and Flynn. “I love Luke,” I said on instinct. It was my go to motto with Flynn. My brain was on overload at the moment to come up with anything more clever.
“Of course you do, lass.” He stopped, leaving enough distance between us that I could breathe.
“Then why are you saying this?” I asked.
“Who has been the one to keep you safe all this time? It’s been me. Always me. And in the end, I may be the only one left standing between you and certain death.”
Stepping forward, he was oh so close, close enough that his scent surrounded me like a blanket. If I was honest, there was little doubt that I could always be safe with him. But was being safe my ultimate goal, or was happiness? “And what about Luke?” I asked, while looking into those sterile blue eyes void of any real emotion. I wondered if Luke was in danger from him.
His finger, which I’d never notice before wasn’t calloused, put gentle pressure on my lips. “No one matters but you and me. When will you realize that?”
I wanted to shout
, but I held my tongue. I was at his mercy right now which was an odd thought, but true. I was in Scotland with no way home, no passport and little cash. I had to be smart. “I should go home.”
“At some point you will realize this. In the meantime, I will do my job and keep you safe.” He walked away and over to a chest black in color and gilded with gold leaf along the lines of it. Opening it, he pulled out a wrapped object thin and as long as my forearm. He walked over to me and held my attention. Holding it out to me, he said, “Take this.”
Reaching out, I took the object. It was wrapped in worn beige cloth. Once in my hand, I could feel what it was. “Open it,” he directed.
Unwrapping it slowly, I was astonished at the look of it once the cloth was undone. It looked nothing the way it felt. It was solid black, much like the chest it had come from. The handle of the dagger had a gold leaf design pattern that swirled around it. I lifted the tapestry so that I could view it in light. It wasn’t black as I thought. Rather it was black speckled with tiny red coloring like looked like drops of blood.
“It’s a bloodstone knife. It is one of the few things that can kill demons,” he said. My eyes widened in surprise. He’d given me something I could use against him. “Bloodstone is normally a dark green. That stone will have no effect on us. It is rare to find it black. It is only the black ‘bloodstone’ that will have any effect on demons.”
He met my eyes. “I have bargained, demanded and killed on your behalf. You should be safe from your enemies and mine.”
“Yours?” My voice cracked.
“Demons are always looking to usurp each other.” Waving a dismissive hand, he said, “Nevertheless, I may not always be able to get to you. This dagger could save your life if I cannot. I’m trusting you with this knowledge. It is something most are not aware of. Keep this secret even from Luke and I will keep them safe from harm.”
He stared into my eyes sending me the unspoken words. If I told, he could let Luke die at anytime. And he was working with Luke to help him find a cure. “Okay.”
He nodded and looked at me a beat longer before he said, “I have a few things to take care of before we go. You should get some rest.”
“What—” I began.
Again, he touched his finger to my forehead. “Sleep,” he said and I was shrouded in darkness.