Authors: Karen Kincy
Tags: #young adult, #teen fiction, #fiction, #teen, #teen fiction, #fantasy, #urban fantasy
Â© 2011 by Karen Kincy.
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First e-book edition Â© 2013
E-book ISBN: 9780738739816
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To my dad,
though there are no transporter accidents in this book
t isn't working. The doctor said it would, but it isn't, even though I keep taking the pills, and I keep seeing Dad sneak into the bathroom and count how many are left. As if I would stop taking them. As if I would let myself become a beast.
I tacked a heavy blanket over the blinds, but an icy pale glow trickles through a crack. I lurch out of bed to yank the blanket straight. My hand slices through the moonlight. The animal inside me leaps to the front of my eyes, and everything becomes bright and sharp until I close my eyes and stagger back into the darkness.
I tighten my abs against the twisting in my gut. No. I'm stronger than that.
For a moment, I can smell the old yellow stink of sweat and the furry mice in the wall and the sweet night air outsideâ
Shit. I almost lost it.
I close my eyes and grope for the curtain, then tug it over the moonlight and the mouth-watering night air creeping past the window. Sweat drips down my shoulders and sticks my T-shirt to my skin. I pad barefoot across the scarred floorboards, my bedroom as stuffy as July though it's the middle of September. The doctors said something about a higher body temperature being normal. Yeah, like I'm normal.
I snatch the bottle of pills from my nightstand, flick on the light, read the label again.
Take 1 capsule by mouth twice daily or as needed for management of condition. Do not exceed 4 doses in 24 hours.
Lycanthrox 325 mg Capsules
I've only had three pills today. And I sure as hell need to manage my condition.
I twist off the cap and shake one of the red pills into my hand. Right. Water. My sweaty fist clenched around the pill, I lumber to the bathroom. My shoulder hits the door frame and I swear quietly, so Dad won't hear.
I'm not sure, but I think I got bigger after it happened. Taller, stronger.
I hunch over the sink, fill my free hand with water, then down the pill in a gulp. It slides down my parched throat, dissolving in my stomach, seeping through my blood, poisoning the animal inside me. Or at least it should
I peel off my clothes and crawl into bed. Lycanthrox
always makes me dead tired. My eyelids feel heavy, like granite, like they are thudding shut and trapping me in a tomb. I fight to stay conscious, out of reflex, out of fear, but the darkness wins. It always does. And in this darkness, I'm forced to face my nightmares.
Black trees slash the sky. Rain hisses to the ground. I run naked through the forest while the moon dangles above, a cold white eye, watching me. My feet pound the dirt. I fight my way through brambles, ignoring the thorns and blood, and burst into a clearing. Moonlight gleams on my skin, makes me look shiny and unreal like those oiled-up bodybuilders. And I'm as muscular as them, too. Strong enough to crush trees.
I tear into an alder sapling, my fingers, my claws, shredding the tender bark. I yank whole ferns from the ground and fling them into the air. I'm tough. I'm badass. I'm ready to defeat any fool who stands in my way.
I want something to fight. To kill. My teeth itch into fangs, and I bare them at the moon.
“Brock?” says a soft voice I know.
I close my mouth to hide my fangs, then face her. “Cynthia.”
Cyn stands by a tree, hesitant, her slender arm wrapped around its trunk. I try not to stare through her thin white nightgown. Her chestnut hair shines in the moonlight, and she looks as pretty as an angel who lost her way.
“Oh,” Cyn says, covering her red lips with her hand. “Brock.”
She stares at my naked body, but I'm not ashamed. The way she looks at me makes me feel like a man, not an animal. Heat pools in my stomach. I walk to her, my heart thumping in my ears, and see her smile. She's so, so beautiful.
I know what to do. I'm not clumsy or ignorant at all as I curl my hands around her hips and tug her to me. She flings her arms around my neck and kisses me, and I kiss her harder, devouring the delicious taste of her lips. She moans, urging me on, and I know that she wants me to lower her to the ground. I protect the back of her neck from the cold earth, and she looks into my eyes with such sweet trust and want.
“Brock,” she whispers.
I lean in to kiss her again, kiss her neck, her collarbone. Against my lips, I feel her pulse beneath her skin. I bury my face in the hollow of her neck and inhale slowly. I smell her sweat, her blood flowing, her tender fleshâ
“Brock?” Cyn's voice sounds higher, birdlike with fear. “What's happening?”
The roots of my teeth itch; the tips press into my lower lip, sharpening into fangs. I grip her waist with claws. My mouth waters at her scent.
“Brock! Brock, no!”
Her voice, chirping, squeaking like a little animal, drives me wild. I grin at her, my mouth fully fanged, and my drool dribbles onto her face. Then I sink my teeth into her peach-soft shoulder, biting to the bone and drinking the juice of her blood. She screams, and the animal in me lunges to the surface. My skeleton shatters, dissolves, and in that agony, it reshapes and clicks back into place. Reborn, I tear into the girl beneath me, shredding and gnawing and licking while I satisfy the wolf I have become.
I claw aside my blankets and fall out of bed. Panting, I crouch on the floor. Rivers of sweat run down my face and back. I rub my hands over my skinâskin, not fur. I'm still human. I still haven't changed.
Fuck! I hit the bedpost and wince when the screws groan.
I'm always afraid those dreams are real, that I've sleepwalked my way outside and transformed without even knowing it. Jekyll and Hyde.
I fumble on my nightstand and grab a crumpled picture. It has that cheapass photo-booth look, but it's still one of the best photos I own: me and Cyn, with her smiling while she pretends to sneak up behind me and strangle me.
One photo still isn't enough to soothe the ache inside me. I tug open my drawer and carefully unfold the sweater she borrowed. With my eyes closed, I press my nose to the wool and inhale. I know Cyn's scent by heart: a sinfully bittersweet almond-vanilla aroma, lingering on my clothes and the places we slept together.
I sigh, and fold the sweater again.
For an unbelievable eleven and a half months, I was Cyn's boyfriend. She dumped me two weeks before our one-year anniversary. She said I wasn't “the right kind of guy.” Bullshit, of course, but her eyes told me what she really meant. She was scared of me and Chris going curhounding, and the murders in Klikamuksâ
There's a rap on the door. Dad.
“What's going on, Brock?”
I hide the photo. “Nothing.” My voice sounds harsh, and I cough. “Bad dream.”
Dad jiggles the locked doorknob. “Brock. Open the door.”
I climb to my feet, my legs weak, and do as he says. Dad stands in the shadows, already dressed in dirt-stained jeans and a red flannel shirt. His wiry salt-and-pepper hair looks as tousled as it always does. I glance at the clock. The glowing red numbers read 4:12
. Almost time to herd the cows to the milking barn.
“You been taking your medicine?” Dad says.
“Yeah.” I clench and unclench my fists. “Of course.”
“Good.” Dad clears his throat, like he wants to ask something else but doesn't know how.
“Dad, you need some help?”
“No. I've got it under control.”
He hasn't let me near the cows since it happened. He doesn't know, but I've tried already. When I get too close to a cow, its nostrils widen, its eyes roll back, and it trots to the opposite end of the pasture. They smell the wolf in me.
“Get some sleep,” Dad says. “We've got a long drive to Grandma June's.”
He clomps down the hallway in rubber boots. He never did that when Mom was still here; she was so proud of her peach pebble carpet. I shut the door behind Dad. That carpet â¦ me and Chris slaved over it three years ago.
Mom kept saying she wanted new carpet, but Dad kep
t complaining about the cost. Finally, he caved in after me and Chris promised to rip out the nasty old shit-brown carpet. We crouched at opposite ends of the hallway, cutting the carpet with razors and peeling it away. Just like skinning a
rabbit. Once we got down to the carpet padding, we started yanking out a few billion staples with needle-nose pliers.
Dad would wander by every once and a while, tight-lipped and silent, so we tried to beat each other by ripping out the most staples the fastest. Our clumsy leather work gloves slowed us down. Soon enough, Chris ditched his. Metal and splinters gouged his knuckles, but he was smoking me, so I ditched my gloves, too. Blood streaked our fingers. When Dad came by again, he looked at Chris, then me. I was farther along my section of floorboards and had more staples out, but Chris's hands were rawer and redder.
Guess who he thought worked harder.
Pain means you keep going, no matter what. Pain makes Dad proud.
I grab my headphones and turn on my radio. A driving beat, a surge of electric guitars, then the gravelly voice of a singer: “You left us in the cold hard ground/But we're coming out tonight/Nothing you can do to kill us again/The time has come for fight or flight.”
I recognize the song as “Undead and Unwanted” by Bloodless, one of the few all-vampire bands worth listening to. Dad would freak if he knew I was listening to them. He can't stand that “those damn gick bands” made it onto the Top 20. Dad says when he was a kid, no decent person would be caught dead listening to music by Others.
But hey, what the hell. I'm a werewolf. I guess I'm one of them now, whatever you want to call them: gicks, paranormals, Others. Lump me in with those vampires, faeries, and demons. Though for some reason Dad seems to think the medicine I'm taking will do more than slow the unavoidable, that it will actually cure me. I wish.
In the morningâwhat normal people consider morning, not the insanely early time Dad gets upâI drag my ass out of bed and rub my gritty eyes. I didn't sleep much more, but I did finally nod off around six or so. Dad is hard at work burning food in the kitchen, already back from the first milking of the day.
I lumber to the bathroom and start shaving. I'm hideously stubbly; it grows so much faster than it did before. Something like the higher body temperature, I think. Everything in my body is accelerated. Which is cool, because I heal fast if I hurt myself, but the doctors also say I'll have a shorter lifespan. I don't know how they know. I don't know if I even care. Live a long and fruitful life as a werewolf. Yeah, really top of my list.
I head down the creaky carpeted stairs, sliding my hand along the yellowed roses on the wallpaper. On the bottom step I stop, my nostrils widening. Eggs and onion and bell peppers and cheddar cheese and thymeâsmells rush into my nose, overwhelming me for a second, before I piece them together into omelet.