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Authors: Heather Hildenbrand

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Dirty Blood

BOOK: Dirty Blood
3.32Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub





Dirty Blood



Heather Hildenbrand



Copyright 2011 Heather Hildenbrand



Smashwords Edition



Accendo Press




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the hard work of this author





~ 1 ~




“C’mon Tara, you didn’t even give tonight a fair
chance,” George said. His blue eyes were a mixture of pleading and

I returned the pool stick to the rack on the wall and
tried to think of a fair answer before I turned to face him again.
I was careful to keep my voice down; the tiny pool hall was pretty
crowded for a Tuesday night. The smoky haze that hung permanently
in the dimly lit air gave the illusion of privacy around our corner
table, but I noticed the couple next to us was already glancing
over, trying to look like they weren’t listening.

“George, you were an hour late picking me up because
you were working on a press release with your agent.” I stepped
closer. “Your agent,” I repeated, shaking my head. “Seriously. You
haven’t even graduated yet, much less secured a scholarship. Why do
you even need an agent?”

He ran a hand through his hair, evidence of his
impatience, though he was careful to keep his tone light, in an
attempt to win me to his way of thinking. “I told you already, my
dad set it up. And a lot of the pros got one early, especially the
big timers. And I’m sorry I was late, but I’m here now and I’m
focused on us.” His expression became accusing and he added, “More
than I can say for you.”

I rubbed at my temples, trying in vain to massage
away the stress headache that had become a trademark of our
relationship. “I’m sorry, George, but I’m not the one who messed
things up. And I don’t fault you for a change in priorities.
Football is important to you. That’s fine, but it’s pushing out
everything else, including me. It would make it easier for you to
just admit it.”

“You’re wrong, I can do both,” he insisted, shaking
his head vigorously. His loose blond hair shook with it.

“You’ve cancelled on me three times in the last
week,” I argued. “Not to mention standing me up two nights

“Tay-” he began, using his nickname for me.

I put my hand up to silence him. I couldn’t do this
anymore. “Just stop, George. Stop with all the excuses. It’s just
not going to work. You should go. I’ll find my own ride home.”

George stared back at me and I waited for him to
argue some more. The tone of regret in my voice had been obvious,
but so had the finality of my words. Finally he sighed.

“I’m going to find a way to fix this,” he said

I didn’t answer. There was nothing to say.
Reluctantly, he grabbed his jacket and left. I watched him until
the door swung shut behind him and then turned back to our half
finished game. I went to the wall and retrieved my stick, as if the
breakup I’d just initiated didn’t bother me one bit, and lined up
my next shot.

I ignored the curious looks from the nosy couple
beside me and focused on sinking the three ball. Only a small
twinge of regret ate at me while I finished the game. I hadn’t
wanted things to end with George. We’d known each other since sixth
grade, and in a lot of ways, he was my best friend. I cared about
him a lot. But he’d changed in the past few months. At first, it
was so slow I’d barely noticed. We’d go two days without talking –
a record for us at the time – which slowly turned into a missed
date or a last minute changing in plans. Then, he got an agent, and
it was only downhill from there. And while I hated thinking I was
throwing away everything we’d ever been to each other, I wasn’t
going to be a ‘back-burner’ girlfriend, either. A girl had to have
some self respect.

With the game finished, and my pride somewhat still
intact over letting a pool hall full of strangers witness my
breakup, I pulled out my cell phone and dialed my friend Angela for
a ride home.


“Ang, you busy?” I asked, doubting she was.

There was a second of hesitation and then, “Um, Dave
and I are having dinner.”

“Dave? That guy from your pre-Calculus class?” I knew
my surprise came through, maybe a little too loud and clear, and I
felt bad for the way it had come out. “That’s great,” I hastily
added. And it was great. Angela had been harboring a crush for this
guy for like four months now. And it wasn’t that she couldn’t get a
date; she was really pretty with her long dark hair and
sexy-librarian-style glasses, but she was mortifyingly shy.

“Thanks. We just ordered so…. Is everything okay? Are
you already home from your date?“Oh, yeah, I’m fine. Never mind.” I
decided against interrupting her. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow and I
want details.”

Angela giggled and I pulled the phone away from my
head to stare at it like maybe it had just morphed into another
life form. Angela never
. “Okay, see you tomorrow,”
she said.

We disconnected and I dialed my friend Sam. Even if
she was out, I wouldn’t feel nearly as bad interrupting her; Sam
was always ‘out’. Unfortunately, all I got was voice mail. Darn. I
disconnected without leaving a message. No point. She rarely
checked it anyway.

The only option left was to call my mom but I quickly
dismissed that. No doubt she’d have questions as to why I’d gotten
myself stranded in the first place. Which would lead to what
happened with George, which was something that, even though I loved
her, I didn’t really feel like discussing with my mother. It wasn’t
that she wouldn’t listen. The problem was, she’d listen too
eagerly. My mother was a classic worrier, and because of that, she
hovered. She always wanted to know every single detail of my day,
down to what I’d had for lunch and who did I stand next to in gym.
And it seemed like the older I got, the worse her worrying became.
No way was I calling her.

With all my transportation options exhausted, I sort
of regretted letting George leave. Only sort of, though. If he’d
driven me, it would have extended the argument or his pleading
attempts to change my mind, which in the end would’ve pissed me
off. And I was still hoping to maybe salvage our friendship.

I turned my rack of balls in to the bar attendant and
walked to the door. I stood there, staring out the foggy glass of
the front window, and considered my last resort. There was a bus
stop a few blocks away. Not ideal in the middle of February in
northern Virginia but it was all I had. I yanked my arms into my
coat sleeves and headed for the back hall, past the restrooms, to
the back door which would give me a minimal shortcut through the
alley that ran between the building and the public parking lot on
the other side. The cut-through would shave at least five minutes
off my travel time, which was five minutes less I would have to
stand in the cold -and I despised the cold.

I slipped out the metal door and pushed it closed
behind me, making sure it clicked. A few yards to my right, a
streetlamp cast a yellow beam onto the asphalt, but I turned left,
towards the bus stop, and into the darkness that was my shortcut. I
walked slowly until my eyes adjusted and then picked up the pace.
The dark didn’t bother me; I’d made this shortcut dozens of times.
The parking lot coming up on the right was free parking and I used
it more than the meters out front whenever I came to this part of
downtown. I passed the lot, wishing I’d driven separately so that
my hand-me-down Honda – and its wonderful heater – would have been
waiting for me, instead of the drafty city bus. Matter of fact, I
wished I hadn’t come at all. George’s tardiness would’ve been the
perfect excuse to change my mind. Especially when we both knew our
relationship had already hung in the balance, precariously leaning
towards ‘breakup’ before we’d even made it out tonight.

It was quiet and my boots thudded loudly against the
asphalt. I hurried to reach the bus shelter, hating the bite of the
cold air, and glad that the surrounding buildings were high enough
to keep the wind to a minimum. I drew my coat tighter around my
neck against the chill that seeped its way into my skin, giving me
goose bumps from head to toe.

I hated goose bumps because it meant the hair on your
legs grew back twice as fast. And I was always getting them,
because of some weird cold chill that would come over me. Even in
the summer, when everyone was wearing shorts and bathing suits and
having shaved legs was sort of a priority. When I was younger, I
complained to my mom about it a few times and she would always say
that Godfreys were thin blooded and easily chilled. Then she would
stare at me, with an odd expression, and disappear; either into the
backyard, to weed the flowerbeds, or the pantry, to reorganize the
canned goods.

The tingling of the goose bumps subsided and my
thoughts wandered back to George, and all the history between us.
Like in sixth grade, when he’d tried growing his hair out, saying
he’d wanted a surfer look, but really, I’d had no choice but to
tell him he just looked… grungy. Back when grungy was NOT “in”. And
seventh grade, when he’d shaved it all off again, after we’d
watched a video on career day, about the army. He’d talked about
joining for months afterward; talking about how cool it would be to
shoot guns for a living. Then, in eighth grade, we’d each had our
first kiss, though not with each other.

George had fallen hard for the girl until her family
had moved away. She was military and her dad had gotten
re-stationed. He’d changed his mind about enlisting after that.
Ninth grade, he’d gone out for football, and made Junior Varsity
MVP. He changed a lot that year, gaining a self confidence that
wasn’t there before. By the end of sophomore year I’d started to
notice him as more than just a friend. Last summer had been awkward
between us. I’d spent the entire time stressing over the uncharted
territory of having feelings for him, and whether he might have
feelings for me.

I’d never even questioned being with George. It felt
natural and right. He was my best friend for so long that the only
thing dating had really changed was adding kissing into the mix.
Not bad, as perks go.

Up ahead, a movement caught my eye, pulling me out of
my thoughts. I stopped short and felt my pulse jump at the
unexpected company. I didn’t usually see anyone else in this part
of the cut-through but just past the next dumpster, a girl with
long blond hair and pointy-heeled boots stood in the center of the
alley, shaking uncontrollably. I took a step towards her, wanting
to help in some way, and then stopped again, at the look on her
face. She was glaring at me with a look of hatred so raw that it
sent a shiver down my back.

“Um, are you okay?” I called out, still trying to
understand why she was basically convulsing. Was she having a
seizure? But she was managing to stay on her feet. Her gloved hands
were balled into fists at her sides, and she was breathing heavy
now. I tried again. “Do you need some help?” Something about the
way she looked at me was making my skin tingle and crawl. I
shivered again.

“Help,” she repeated, through clenched teeth.
“Right.” Her words dripped with sarcasm and unconcealed malice.

Then, before I could think of something to say to
that, her shaking reached its crescendo and then she … exploded.
There was really no other word for it. With a harsh ripping sound
her clothes disappeared, scattering into the air in tiny pieces. In
the same second, her body seemed to waver and then morph, leaving
in its place the largest wolf I’d ever seen. I felt my jaw drop.
Was I crazy or had that girl just turned into a giant dog?

I had a split second to stare at her and then she
charged. The brown fur became nothing more than a blur as she
rushed forward, teeth bared and claws extended. In that moment, I
was completely sure that I was going to die. I didn’t even have
time to be afraid; it would all be over too quickly.

Then, somehow, though my conscious brain had nothing
to do with it, my body reacted. Just before impact, I twisted
aside, dodging her. Using my body’s momentum, I brought my hand
around and swung. I hadn’t even realized I’d made a fist, but my
knuckles connected and I heard the crack of bone as my hand slammed
into the wolf’s cheek. The hit drove it - her? - back a few paces
but then it straightened and seemed to right itself. Its yellow
eyes locked onto mine and it came again. I shed my jacket, and let
it fall next to me on the asphalt; some hidden part of me knew I
needed better use of my limbs.

BOOK: Dirty Blood
3.32Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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