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Authors: Michelle Clay

The Bad Wolf (11 page)

BOOK: The Bad Wolf
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“So you aren’t interested in dating her?” Karen
looked somewhat relieved as she picked up a wine glass and took a sip. “It was you I saw kissing her, wasn’t it?”

His skin warmed and h
is guts tightened. “It was, but … can I just talk to her?”

She
smiled and said, “I’m just messing with you, Ryan. Go on back, but the door stays open. No funny business.”

He nodded then anxiously made his way down the hallway.
Behind him, he heard Coach Lewis say, “Be careful, Karen. That boy is nothing but bad news.”

Ryan
didn’t stop to listen. He’d heard it all before. He was a bad seed, he wasn’t to be trusted. Couldn’t anyone see that he’d changed? Had all his efforts gone to waste? Would the close-minded inhabitants of this town forever see him as enemy number one?

A
pop song, he couldn’t remember which bubblegum-brained girl sang it, drifted down the hallway. As he approached the closed door, he took a calming breath. He could do this.

His knock went unans
wered so he pushed the door open. Chloe lay on her stomach atop the bed. Her tan legs were bent, crossed at the ankles and she was humming along to the music. She looked good in only a tank top and sleep shorts. Then he noticed the creature on her laptop screen.

“Chloe?”
A jolt of static raced down his spine and left his skin tingling. How would he ever forget the way this girl made him feel?

She yelped then slammed the
screen down, hiding the hulking wolf-man with glowing red eyes and long, bloody teeth. It also shut off the music and threw the room into an uncomfortable silence.

She scrambled off the bed and smoothed
down her wrinkled shorts. Her large brown eyes flicked to the hallway behind him. The knot on her forehead had gone down, but there was still a purplish bruise. “What are you doing here?”

“I
wanted to check on you.” He stepped into her room. “You haven't been to school and won’t return Jenna’s calls.”

Her face twisted into a frown and she lowered her voice. “I haven’t told anyone, if that’s what you’re
so worried about. Who’d believe me anyway?”

He knew better than try to touch her right now. It was too soon and she was still too shook up.
He shoved his hands into his jeans pockets instead.

The
bare walls of her room were painted a light purplish-gray, a hue that reminded him of a rainy dawn. He’d half expected them to be adorned with boy band posters or movie star crushes. The only decoration she’d hung was a string of multicolored bulbs shaped like tiny lanterns. A couple cardboard boxes that had yet to be unpacked sat in the corner.

Ryan stepped further into the room and she shrank away. He ran his hand along the edge of her midnight purple duvet
then said, “Jenna misses you.”

This
was a bad idea. A very bad idea! Just being near her made him dizzy. More than anything, he wanted to take her into his arms and kiss her until neither of them could breathe. The knowledge of it just pissed him off more. He shouldn’t feel this way about an outsider. Especially this outsider.

It wasn’t as if he’d never
been with an outsider before. He’d slept with a couple last year, but none drew him like this girl did. It was just so weird. She wasn’t even his type!

Chloe
tried to brush past him. “You should leave.”

Without thinking, he reached out and snagged her arm. She teetered backward
as he leaned closer. “I miss you.”

His lips brushed against the lobe of her ear
, causing a slight shudder to run through her. He couldn’t help wonder if it was a reaction to him being so close or the monster that she thought he was. As soon as he let her go, she rushed backward with large, wary eyes.

Chapter Eleven

 

“Is that
really how you see me?” Ryan’s hands fell to his sides.

“What?”
She followed his gaze to the computer. A fierce blush crept up her neck then settled in her cheeks. “Oh that? I just, I mean…”

“It’s okay.
I know you’re curious.” He half smiled. “Can we talk outside?”

She didn’t know how to answer that.

His fingers closed over hers. “Please?”

Her
panicky heartbeat threatened to choke her. “I don’t think that’s such a good idea.”

“I don’t bite.”
His blue eyes were like chips of ice as he surveyed her face. “I just want to talk somewhere we won’t be heard.”

A bubble of
nervous laughter rushed up her throat and she clapped her free hand across her mouth to stifle it. Before she could come up with a lame excuse, he gently pulled her toward the doorway.

Chloe dug her heels into the carpet.
“I don’t think this is a good idea, Ryan. I know how you feel about people like me. I don’t know if I should trust you."

“Have I given you a reason not to
?” He raised a dark eyebrow and she couldn’t help but smile just a little. He really was cute and the hand clasping hers felt warm and familiar. It felt nice.

Biting her lower lip, she nodded. “Okay, I’ll meet you on the back po
rch.”

He gave her one last glance then moved silently down the hall and out the door. Once he’d disappeared into the murky darkness, she breathed a sigh of
relief. She tiptoed down the hall to peer into the living room. Karen was stretched across the couch asleep, despite the flickering television. The blanket that usually lay across the back of the couch was thrown over her body and Mike Lewis was gone. Chloe sighed with relief then hurried to meet Ryan.

“Might as well get it over with,” she m
uttered glumly, not at all certain of what she expected.

She found
him sitting on the top step, watching the lightning flicker over the mountains on the not so distant horizon. As she stood behind him, staring down at his broad shoulders, she wondered just what it was like to run through the woods in animal form. She was willing to bet it was exhilarating.

F
ear and trepidation slowly melted away. Ryan had reached out to her, proved time and again that while he was a little rough around the edges, he was someone she could probably trust. He’d come to her rescue countless times and had come to her now. The least she could do was hear what he had to say.

He turne
d his head slightly and watched as she moved down the steps. She stood at the bottom, surveying the yard that wasn’t lit by the security lamp.

In a quiet voice, she
said the words she’d rehearsed countless times since seeing him transform in the clearing. “I don’t think we should hang out any more. You, me and Jenna … it’s just a bad idea.”

Ryan sat in silence for a momen
t. “You’re right, we shouldn’t. That’s part of the reason I’m here.”

Chloe bit her bottom lip and looked at him. Her brain knew the smart thing to do was to go back inside and forget
all about Ryan Neal and the way he made her feel. Her heart had other ideas and was a little hurt that he hadn’t even tried to talk her into remaining friends. She bit back a laugh. She and Ryan had never actually been friends. Just who was she kidding?

“What
exactly did you see in the woods, Chloe?” Ryan asked as he turned to study her face. His fingers picked at a fray at the knee of his jeans.

“Nothing really
. You were there then everything kind of got this hazy blur. Then there were wolves standing where you and the others were. At the time, I thought it was just a side effect of Jenna’s potion.”

Ryan pu
rsed his lips, but said nothing.

Chloe stared out at the night and tried
to gather her thoughts. It was a little tricky as the night animals skittered about, excited about the coming rain.

The
ir hair ruffled in the breeze. It smelled of fresh, damp earth and renewal. The temperature had dropped only a few degrees, but it was enough to cause goosebumps on Chloe’s skin. She sat on the bottom step, a safe distance away from him, and hooked her arms around her knees.

“How is it
even possible?” she asked after a few moments. “It makes me wonder what else is out there.”

He leaned
forward to rest his elbows on his knees then stared up at the star blotted sky. “You have to forget what you saw.”

“But I saw you and the others change. I can’t
just ignore that.”


You have to,” he said. “I’m trying to protect you.”

“I’m not going to say anything,” she reminded
him. “I don’t know who is or isn’t a werewolf around here. What if I were to unknowingly tell the head honcho?  I’d probably be eaten for breakfast.”

Ryan allowed a small smile.
“The head honcho already knows you have knowledge of our unique condition.”

She stared at him over her shoulder. “I’ll just keep pestering you until you tell m
e.”

“It’s a type of virus.” He sighed then glanced back at her.
“It runs in my family.”

“So everyone in your family has lycanthropy? Even Mr. and Mrs. Sparks? And Jenna?” She’d spent the past two days looking up werewolf myth and legend. Many of the sites were pure garbage set up for a role playing game. This morning she’d stumbled upon a goldmine. Some guy in Utah
had a blog about his recent self-discovery. He called himself a Lycanthrope. At first she thought it to be another RPG site, but soon realized the guy truly believed what he was writing. Just before Ryan had shown up, she had gone back to the bookmarked page, but it had been replaced by some sort of site about movie monsters.

“N
o, not everyone,” he said. “My father had the disease. My mother and brothers didn’t.”

“Where are they now?” Chloe asked, truly trying to understand the dynamics of this “diseas
e”.

“Gone,” was all he offered.
The faraway, pained look on his face told her she shouldn’t prod for answers. But god, did she want to.

“What about Jenna?” Chloe asked. “
Does she have it too?”

“No.”

Chloe could hear the emotion just under the surface, but he held it back.

She frowned, trying to think past the thoughts and sounds that insisted on being heard from the forest. “
How do you know? Is it something you can check for?”

“No need,” he said in a rough voice.
“She was bitten. Luckily, it didn’t take.”

“It’s transferred by saliva too?” Now she was go
od and confused. “Who bit her?”

He sat up now and watched the line of trees at the far end of the yard. A yellowish security light had been rigged on a pole near the woods and lent a bit of light. In its golden halo, a young doe moved out of the underbrush. She paid them no attention as she focused on grazing on the lush grass. Her belly was s
wollen and round, full of fawn.

When Ryan spoke again, his voice was low enough not to disturb or frighten the deer. “I did.”

Chloe shot another tense glance over her shoulder. “On purpose?”

“No.”

Chloe turned to place her hand on his knee, offering understanding. “What happened?”

His muscles tensed beneath her fingers. “It was
just a stupid accident. We were playing around and … things got out of hand. If she was a carrier, my saliva would have triggered the change.”

Understanding flooded through her. Now she realized why he was so fiercely protective of his cousin. He felt guilty about what he could have done. Was this why Jenna dressed gothic and did witchcraft? She needed some way to stand out, to feel special amongst those who were?

Her heart ached for him, knowing this must eat him up inside. This guilt he burdened himself with must be a heavy weight to carry.

“It was just an accident,” she soothed.

He laughed, a harsh sound that echoed off the trees. “I’m not so sure. Sometimes my wolf gets the better of me.”

The doe ventured
a bit closer. She was about a hundred yards away when she raised her head. Large brown eyes widened and her ears twitched this way and that. Her nostrils flared. Fear slammed into Chloe at once and threatened to drive her mad. The animal wanted to flee, but was afraid. The doe’s gaze darted to where Ryan sat, clearly detecting something dangerous about him.

Ryan’s
entire body tensed. The muscles jumped in the leg resting against Chloe’s shoulder. He sat up slowly and she noted the intense predatory look that came over his features. A slight buzzing, like a faulty outlet, started at the back of her brain and her vision shimmered and blurred just slightly.

Chloe shivered. Armed with the new knowledge about him, she
was able to piece this strange phenomenon together. He was about to change into the wolf! She could feel it now, just as surely as if they were her own wants and needs. He wanted to run and ravage.

The doe bolted toward the woods and Ryan vaulted to his feet. He sprang from the porch then whipped his head around to stare at Chloe. Ever so slowly, her vision cleared and he was normal once again. Only his face was a bit flushed and he looked as though he was gritting his teeth. Forcing a smile, he sat beside her on the steps.

“Hard to control sometimes,” he said in a hoarse whisper.

Chloe was thankful he hadn’t changed
right in front of her. The other night when she’d witnessed it, Ryan and the others just sort of exploded into wolves. They were normal teenagers one minute, then animals the next. It was disconcerting, to say the least.

He must have noticed her shivering because he scooted closer. His arm
draped over her shoulders and he drew her close. Despite her resolve not to, she melted against him. It felt good, almost as if they belonged like this.

She stared at the trees where the frightened deer had disappeared. “
What about the rest of your family? Where are they?”

His arm tightened around her just slightly. “
I don’t know.”

Chloe twisted to look at him. “What do you mean?

“Dad was killed several years ago when we still lived in Oregon.”

She didn’t dare look at him. “Killed?”

“Yeah, he had a habit of sneaking onto our neighbor’s ranch and killing the livestock. The rancher shot him dead.” Ryan’s voice
held an indifferent intonation that made her suspect he hadn’t fully dealt with the loss of his father.

“What about your mom? Your brothers?”
By now her heart was aching for him.

He sighed. “As far as I know, they’
re doing alright. Both of my brothers are older and from my mom’s first marriage. They never had a lot to do with me in the first place and always treated me like a freak. Mom just … she just pushed me away after dad’s death.”

Chloe
sat up to stare at him. “How could she do that? You’re her son!”

“Dad didn’t bother to tell her he was a wolf until after they were already married. By then it was too late. She was already pregnant with me. After a while, she hated what he was. What I am.”
Ryan’s laugh was filled with contempt. “Soon as he was gone, she contacted Uncle Frank and asked him to take in his brother’s bastard child.”

They sat in silence for several minutes. Chloe took his hand in hers and squeezed it.
“So what happens now?”

“You forget what you saw,” he said as if it was an easy feat to perform. “You don’t tell anyone, you
just put it out of your mind.”

Her features darkened. “Everything just goes back to how it wa
s?”

“Yeah.”

“On one condition.” She agreed, knowing things would never be normal again. Asking her to forget what she’d witnessed, what she now knew, would be like asking her to ignore she was connected to the creatures crawling around the forest. “Stop being mean to me.”

His blue gaze slid
in her direction. “Mean to you? I’m not mean to you.”

A fierce blush crept onto her cheeks. “Sure you’ve saved my neck a couple times, but you’re
still kind of an asshole.”

“An asshole,” he echoed, but didn’t see
m too upset by this revelation. “You’re an outsider. Your kind and my kind don’t mix.”

“So?”
When she turned her face up to look at him, Ryan made use of the opportunity. His mouth closed over hers in a gentle kiss. The arm around her shoulders pulled her just a little closer as the fingers of his other hand tilted her chin up.

After a moment, he pulled awa
y and grimaced. “I shouldn’t have done that.”

Her
eyes were large and concerned. “Should we be doing that? I mean, it won’t make me all wolfy will it?”

BOOK: The Bad Wolf
11.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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