Authors: Angel Lawson
Text Copyright © 2012 Anna Benefield
All Rights Reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without prior written permission of the publication.
The characters and events in this book are fictitious.
Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Library of Congress Cataloguing-in-Publication Data
Shadow Bound (Wraith 2)/Angel Lawson-1st ed.
1. Young Adult-Fiction
Book Cover by Anna Benefield and Samantha Marrs
Table of Contents
he brush on
the trails grew thicker this time of year. And greener. Vines of kudzu and poison ivy covered trees and rocks, anything upon which the fast-growing weeds could manage to get a strangle hold. I wiped the sweat off my face with my shirt.
My dad and I parted back where the trail split. Once I was far enough away, I ducked into the woods, going to the place that I felt closest to Evan. It was silly and even a bit emo. This was never our place. But I felt him here last, so every Sunday morning I slipped into the trees to the damp shade of The Ruins.
A prickly branch scraped across my calf. “Ouch,” I said, stopping to check my leg. The scratch left a raised, inflamed line but wasn’t too bad so I continued walking since the trail became too narrow to navigate at a run.
After the fire, I found renewed interest in running. Normally I would spend Sunday mornings convincing my dad bagels and coffee were the better way for us to bond. We couldn’t really talk while running anyway. But once I healed physically from the smoke inhalation, I pushed him to let me run with him again. I needed the release. Running exhausted me and I slept better, something sort of elusive lately.
In the summer, everything back here grew wild and many of the old buildings were obscured by growth. The trails themselves were almost invisible, but I knew where I was going, and soon enough I found myself at the top of the small hill, looking down at the graffiti-covered brick.
I pulled out my ear buds, shut off my iPod and listened. The Ruins were quiet other than the sounds of the woods. Birds and insects. No tell-tale clink of a spray paint can or chemical smell wafting through the air. I was alone.
I made a quick pass through, looking for any recent artwork. Was I spying on Connor? Maybe. Not in a creepy-girlfriend-stalker kind of way but, I knew he came down here alone or with his friends and I wanted to see if there was anything new. I passed by the long wall of a decayed building and ran my fingers over the familiar tag. He preferred metallics now. I smiled at the shiny silver design that I had watched him perfect on his sketchpad at home. Maneuvering around the littered paint cans, I peeked into what was once a functioning doorway. The boys came in here as well. No surface was left untouched.
“Ah!” I jumped just as I crossed the threshold. An enormous black bird eyed me from inside the doorway. A raven or something. Did we have ravens here? A crow? The huge bird had beady gray eyes. “Stupid bird.”
The raven didn’t move, other than to tilt its head in my direction. “What?” I said, trying to catch my breath. Between the running and the bird scaring me, I wished I had a hit from my inhaler. Unfazed by my alarm, the bird only stared and twitched the black, sleek feathers at its side.
“Shoo,” I said, flinging a hand out, hoping it would fly off. The bird stood its ground, opening and closing its beak soundlessly. I took the hint and stepped backwards, out of the doorway. I didn’t go far. Moving outside the old arched, brick doorway, I slammed into something hard and jumped.
“Hey,” I heard as I spun around. My heart pounded faster in my chest. Connor stood over me, tall and strong, and I slumped a little in relief.
Connor’s arms reached around my waist and held me up a little. “You okay?”
I pushed on his chest, trying to work my sweaty body away from his, but he held tight. “I’m fine. There was just this big, creepy bird in there.” I jerked my thumb behind me.
He craned his neck around my head. “It’s gone.”
I turned and peered around the corner. “Good,” I said, shivering despite the heat. “It was massive and freaking me out a little.”
My boyfriend laughed and tightened his arms around me. “I think you’ll be okay.”
“Shut it. Birds weird me out.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Really? You can deal with ghosts and murderers but not a bird?”
I wiggled loose, but wove my fingers through his and pulled him away from the building while taking one last look over my shoulder. We sat on a row of cement steps.
“Yes, really. They look at you like they can see inside your head. Plus, they can fly. And they could land on your head or face or poop or something.”
Connor made a face, the one where he thinks I may be crazy, but knows better than to say it out loud. “I don’t know, I think they’re kind of cool. Plus, ravens have cool legends and stuff about them.”
“What are you doing back here? Besides scaring me?” I asked in an attempt to change the subject.
He looked down at the ground and I saw his olive green paint bag. “I came to paint.”
Connor reached up and ran his hands through his hair. It had officially grown shaggy after months of avoiding a barber. Truthfully, I liked it better than his former buzz cut. It suited him. Not long, but also not super-short. Enough to wind my fingers through. “Nah, the guys will be here soon. I just hoped to catch you first.”
“Stalking me?” I laughed, punching him lightly in the stomach.
“Whatever, Jane. You and your dad are, like, the two biggest creatures of habit ever. How’s the asthma?”
I reached into my pocket and pulled out an inhaler, shaking it. “Fine, with my meds.” Before the fire, I had some minor asthma. Since the smoke damage, running was impossible without help.
“Speaking of... I should probably head back. He doesn’t know about your little hobby and I’m not sure you want to bring out the former lawyer in him.”
Connor gasped. “Your dad loves me.”
“As much as any father loves their daughter’s boyfriend, yes. But knowing you’re a vandal? Let’s keep that to ourselves, okay?” I teased, and from the look on his face, he knew it. The tiny smile on his lips gave it away. I stood to leave, but felt fingers in the waistband of my pants tugging me backwards. “Hey,” I laughed, swatting the hands that moved around my hips.
Connor leaned over and kissed me, which was fine by me, even though I was sweaty and gross. I knew he didn’t care. He’d seen me worse – like I’d seen him.
“Hey, what’s this?” I asked, brushing my thumbs on the soft, dark skin under his eyes. We both had our sleeping problems. Running helped with mine and medication helped his. It had been months since he had seen any ghosts – since Evan and Ellen – but we both knew they wouldn’t hold off forever. I wish I’d been so lucky. “No sleep?”
His eyes fluttered closed and he rested his head on my shoulder. “Not so well.”
“What’s going on?”
“Nothing. It’s no big. I stayed up too late playing Wii with Matt.”
I raised an eyebrow. No wonder.
“Oh, well then, I don’t feel so sorry for you.” Not sorry, but worried all the same. “I gotta go.”
He nodded and released me. “I’ll call you. Later.”
I winced. The words a tiny slap. He noticed and grimaced back. Both of our eyes shifted upwards to the highest point in the ruins.
“I’ll call you,” he repeated, dropping the trigger word.
“Bye,” I said and ran up the trail before disappearing into the woods.
On the ride home from the bagel shop, we saw her. Ms. Frances, our elderly neighbor, walking down the sidewalk from church. Like every Sunday afternoon. Dad even offered her a ride once or twice, but she claimed to enjoy the walk after sitting at the service so long. This time she wasn’t alone. A young girl tagged beside her, skipping along in a dress covered with flowers.
“I didn’t know Ms. Frances had a granddaughter,” I commented as we drove closer.
“Me neither,” Dad said, keeping his eyes forward.
“Oh really? When did you see her?”
I stared at him and then back at the girl who was on the sidewalk. We drove past and Dad honked the horn gently. We both waved. Ms. Frances smiled, like always, but the girl just stopped and stared. Her dark eyes boring into my own.