woke the next morning and kept my eyes squeezed shut, willing
everything that had happened the previous day to all have been a bad
dream. My pretending was ruined through, when I felt Conner's
steady breath on the back of my neck.
curled into his side, feeling utterly safe, wishing I could stay
there forever. I no longer felt afraid of what Conner was, or
of losing my best friend. Somehow while I had slept, all of my
fears and misgivings had dissipated entirely. I felt him stir
beside me, and tried to lie as still as I could, unwilling to wake
him. He looked so serene when he slept; all traces of the hurt
I had caused him gone from his face, for now.
arms curled around me, hugging me closer to his chest. I
sighed, knowing that when he woke it wouldn't be like this
anymore. He probably wouldn't want to be anywhere near me.
My stomach twisted itself into painful knots at the thought of my
behavior the previous night, and I stared up at Conner, treasuring
this peaceful time with him.
rested my head on his chest, listening to the rhythmic sound of his
heartbeat while I studied his features, still amazed by the elegant
beauty I had somehow missed. Every line of his face was
perfect, from his angular jaw to his strong cheekbones. My
fingers yearned to touch his face, to trace the contour between his
eyebrows, down to the tip of his nose and along his jaw line, but I
was loath to risk waking him.
then his eyes flickered open, his pupils contracting as they reacted
to the early morning light. My heart thudded painfully
somewhere around my middle as I waited for him to recoil away from
me, too hurt by the night before to stand being in my
what I would have done.
he just smiled down at me, his dark blue eyes creasing at the corners
as he took me in, lying across his chest, wrapped up in his arms.
I shrunk away from him, awaiting the hurt, the anger, but it didn't
come. He just wrapped his arms even tighter around my middle,
stopping my retreat before it had even begun.
stared down at me wordlessly, the smile never leaving his face.
It was as if he had somehow forgiven me already. My heart
refused to slow to its normal pace though, fear building inside my
chest that this was some kind of trick. I'd deserve it after
what I'd done. Maybe I was still asleep and
you... aren't you mad at me?" I had to ask, but I was
terrified of hearing his answer.
course not, Stella." The reassurance in his expression did
little for my anxiety. I would never have forgiven me if I was in his
since I told you I was waiting for something like that to happen.
You're not the first person to have an unfavorable reaction to us
raised one eyebrow at him; 'unfavorable reaction' was a major
understatement. He laughed at my expression, obviously knowing
that he hadn't convinced me.
screamed at me for weeks when I told her what she was," his
shrugged, as if that explained his seemingly unconditional and
obviously undeserved, forgiveness.
relaxed slightly, but his words just raised more questions in my mind
that I didn't want to ask. Suddenly his smile faltered, and I
braced myself, still half convinced that he was just pretending not
to be angry at me.
knew what to expect when I told you," he started, his eyes sad as
he looked down at me, and my stomach twisted at the knowledge that I
was the cause behind his melancholy. "But I didn't realize
how much it would scare me." He was whispering now, his eyes
boring into mine, and I fought the automatic urge to look away.
"I thought I was going to lose you, Stella." The pain in
his expression was clear now; an echo of what it had been the night
before. My heart thundered in my chest as I searched for the
right words to take away his pain.
meant what I told you yesterday." I stared into his eyes,
making my expression stern. "I will always want you around."
My tone was level, certain. And so was I. "I need you,
my very best friend. And that's not changing any time
relief in his face was overwhelming, and it hurt me how unsure he'd
been about my loyalty to our friendship, but I knew it was a lot less
than I deserved. I wrapped my arms securely around his torso,
and for the first time that morning I was confident he wouldn't
push me away.
was still lying curled around Conner when I felt his body stiffen
beside me. I opened my eyes to look at him and saw his face
carefully arranged into a neutral expression, his eyes fixed across
the room. I turned to follow his gaze, dreading what I would
see. My fears were confirmed as my eyes fell on Olivia,
standing frozen in the doorway, one hand still resting on the door
handle, the other clutching a rolled up newspaper.
thought that she'd hated me before, but that was nothing compared
to how she obviously felt now. Her face was twisted in silent
anger as she watched us, and the phrase 'if looks could kill'
passed briefly through my mind. I lay frozen against Conner's
side, and even though we were both fully clothed, I knew how it must
look. Explanations and excuses ran wildly through my mind, but
I knew it would be useless voicing any of them, she would never
listen to anything I had to say after this.
warning her arm flicked up and behind her head before swinging back
down to throw the newspaper towards Conner, but his hand whipped in
front of his face to deftly catch the blurred paper moments before it
met its intended target. Olivia spun around and stormed out of
the room without a word, slamming the door behind her. Only
then did I slide away from Conner, feeling enormously self
conscious. He let me go, removing the arm that had been wrapped
around my shoulder and unrolling the newspaper.
sat up beside Conner, staring blankly at the wall ahead of me.
I'd never felt so horribly embarrassed in my entire life.
Even though I knew that there really was nothing to feel embarrassed
about, I couldn't get rid of the sickly feeling in the pit of my
stomach. I glanced at Conner, my face coloring as I once again
imagined us through Olivia's eyes. His eyes were narrow as he
read the newspaper in his hands, his brow falling lower and lower as
leant towards him, trying to catch the title of the piece, curious
about what was causing this reaction in him. He jerked the
paper out of my view when he realized what I was doing, but not
before the front page headline had jumped out at me. My blood
froze in my veins, and my heart shuddered, trying to leap into my
stomach heaved and I swung myself off the bed, racing to the dingy
bathroom off the side of the room. I reached the toilet bowl,
horrified. My mind went straight to my mother, all alone at
home, unprotected. Straight away I knew that this was what we
were running from, and images of terrifying monsters flashed through
my head. Who knew what was real and what wasn't any more?
heard Conner behind me and spun around, hundreds of accusations on
the tip of my tongue, and the worry in his face as he looked at me
just made my blood run hotter.
could you take me and leave her there?" I screamed at him,
sickening images flashing unbidden through my mind. Sebastian
featured in all of them, his eyes black as night and his teeth
crimson with the blood of my family.
mother is fine. I left Matthew to keep an eye on her."
His voice was calm, quiet, as if to remind me not to shout, but it
just made me want to scream louder. I sucked in a deep breath
of air; relief at knowing my mother was okay flooding through my
veins and almost deflating my anger. Almost.
you ever, ever do that to me again." I hissed, pushing myself
to my feet, stumbling slightly on the slippery bathroom tiles.
Conner's hand shot out to catch my elbow but I slapped it away, the
movement almost making me fall again.
I had my balance, I stood in front of him, arms crossed as I treated
him to the filthiest look I could conjure. He met my gaze
levelly, seemingly determined not to back down.
did what I had to keep you safe," he said evenly, his expression
glared up at him, still fuming.
the hell is going on here, Conner?" I demanded, my anger and the
need to know what was happening temporarily overpowering my fear of
pushed past him and went to sit in the middle of the bed, crossing my
legs beneath me as I waited for his answer. He stood for a
moment longer in the doorway to the bathroom before moving across the
room to sit next to me. His hand searched for mine but I pulled
it out of his reach, only just managing to stop myself snapping at
him in agitation. He sighed resignedly and instead clasped his
hands in his lap.
kept my eyes on his face, scrutinizing his every movement, and he
fidgeted nervously under my gaze.
I asked impatiently.
took a deep breath, weary of my anger. "There have been some...
attacks recently, around Niceville." I nodded impatiently,
reports of suspicious deaths had been plastered all over the news for
weeks, but he held up his hand before I could say anything. "I
mean...demon attacks, among other things."
gaped at him wordlessly, all of the recent murders taking on a new
light. "And that?" I asked, pointing shakily to the
newspaper lying beside him on the bed. He nodded grimly and my
stomach twisted itself into painful knots. I swallowed
are we running?" I demanded. "I thought that you were
supposed to protect people from them, not run away from them."
eyes tightened and I knew I'd hit a nerve. "We're not
running away from them," he snapped, a bitter edge to his voice.
"There are three of us who stayed behind to keep an eye on the town
while we left to look for more. Everyone should have been
safe. That was the plan." The newspaper article beside
him made it painfully obvious that the plan had gone devastatingly
happened?" I asked quietly, trying to force down quickly surfacing
images of my neighbors mutilated and pale skinned, drained of their
don't know," he replied brusquely, the muscles in his neck
twitching as he clenched and unclenched his jaw. "Something
must have happened that we didn't account for" he was cut off by
the door to the room swinging open a second time, and I swung around,
dreading facing Olivia again.
my relief, it was William at the door, his expression solemn.
He looked to Conner, who nodded briefly before speaking.
have you heard?"
Isaac, and Jared were all wounded, but alive, by the sound of it.
One attacked," he paused, his eyes sliding to me, and a flicker of
something that looked like pity crossed his face "He attacked the
school. In full daylight." I gasped, my vision blurring
as I thought of my defenseless classmates, and I dimly registered
Conner swear under his breath.
many fatalities?" Conner's voice was cold and emotionless,
but I could see the suppressed pain in his eyes, and the way his
entire body was rigid.
My head swam as William's words registered, and I felt a renewed
urge to empty my stomach. I clutched my middle as I watched the
room spin around me, determined not to think about the death and
destruction that I'd missed by hours, possibly minutes.
sudden memory from the day before flashed through my mind, of
Sebastian on his knees in front of me, his face contorted in pain.
"He's coming," he groaned, his eyes squeezed shut. "It's
too late." I gasped, realization hitting me like a
His name slipped from my lips unintentionally, and suddenly both
William and Conner were watching me, their gazes sharp.
Conner instantly looked livid, as if Sebastian was standing in the
room beside him.
knew," I murmured, annoyed at myself for having forgotten his words
entirely up until now, too focused on his terrifying transformation.
"He knew someone was coming."
and William looked away from me momentarily and at each other, their
expressions confused. "What?" Conner repeated; his voice
coming,' he said. 'It's too late.'"
and William exchanged another look, but the confusion was gone from
their expressions, replaced with rage.
leaving," Conner barked, pushing himself off the bed and striding
towards the doorway.
going home?" I asked, hope blooming inside my chest. Even
knowing that there were killer demons back in Niceville couldn't
detract from how desperately I wanted to return to my
heart fell, and I nodded numbly at Conner's retreating back.
"Of course not," I murmured, but if he heard me he showed no
indication of it.