So this was what it meant to be losing your mind.
It wasn’t until she stopped running, when she was deep inside the forest, did she realize what happened. Marissa should have broken her leg, sprained it at least. There should be some kind of fracture somewhere, but there wasn’t. Not even the slightest bruise was on her after leaping out of the window. She hadn’t even been terrified. She landed precisely on her feet and took off in a sprint towards who knows where.
All of this was crazy.
So what the hell were they? Werewolves? No, that would mean they had to be wolves wouldn’t it? Werecats? God that sounded stupid.
And she was supposed to believe that she was one of them? It was too much.
She still wanted to believe it was a dream but it was becoming harder and harder to do so. She should have jumped awake several times by now, startled and dripping with sweat from the fear of it all, but she hadn’t. No, she was still living this nightmare.
It had been several hours since she sat down near the edge of the lake with her knees pulled to her chest. The crashing sound of the waterfall merging with the gentle pitter-patter of the falling rain was soothing.
She was soaked and mentally and physically exhausted. She hadn’t realized where she was running to, but her body just knew where to take her. When Kaleb brought her here it was amazing. Too bad the very thought of Kaleb wasn’t. She didn’t want to see him since he changed in front of her.
She ran a hand through her damp hair, but her fingers got caught in the tangled mess. Frustrated, she yanked her hand out and cursed.
She crept forward and peered over into the water. Her eyes hadn’t changed back. She glared at her reflection and swung her hand at it, slapping the image away, but not for long. The water swayed, rippling messily, and then returned to place, showing her unfamiliar face once again. The rage she felt kept building the more she stared. Curiosity got the best of her and she opened her mouth. Sure enough, she was sporting a pair of sharp Canines.
No kidding. She couldn’t decide whether she was impressed with herself or terrified that she was so accepting of that news flash; Probably healthier to be shocked and disbelieving and all about the hell no.
Her brain just rolled with it, though, which meant she was either getting really flexible with what she considered reality or she had fallen into a state of learned helplessness.
Through all of this, she still had a pile of questions and no answers. So was Jamoy one too? At the thought, she remembered that moment when they were in the gym’s bathroom. His eyes had changed. She thought it was her imagination then but it wasn’t. If this was all true, then she had seen exactly that, and his rejection of her suddenly made sense. She had seen something she wasn’t supposed to.
Maybe having sex with him changed me…
She burst out laughing. How absurd! Maybe a bite would have done that, but not coitus. Oh god she was really losing her mind. She was actually humoring the thought that she was some kind of animal.
So this was what her life came to, fighting to decipher what was real and what wasn’t. Living in a constant of fear of who may come after her, not knowing who to trust. Was she supposed to keep running now? Her legs were tired. Walking even sounded exhausting. But unless she planned on living in the forest, she had to get moving again.
Or you could go back to the mansion…She snorted. Right, back to a house full of possible psychopaths.
Psychopaths that were helping you. “Okay conscious, not helping.” And now she was talking to herself.
This was getting her nowhere fast. Sitting and thinking and hoping and denying were doing nothing for her. If it were a dream, so be it, she would see it through, and if it were real…there was nothing that could be done now was there? The only way to come to terms with this was to understand it and to do that she needed to get some answers.
With her resolve in place, she stood, and wiped the wet strands of hair out of her face. “No more running.” She told herself and was about to return to the estate when something tackled her from behind and into the freezing waters.
They were grown men. There was no reason why they couldn’t have a civil conversation and not rip each other’s head off. He said he would give him five minutes of his time. It was a better suggestion as oppose to being stalked; very poorly at that. If he was trying, that was a terrible attempt. But something told him he wanted to be spotted. They were sitting at separate ends of a park bench. Well, he was sitting, Kaleb was standing, arms folded, staring out at the random strangers passing by, both were unaffected by the falling rain.
He’d promised him five minutes and they had already wasted at least three in silence.
“If you have nothing to say—”
“What do you want with Marissa?”
Straight to the point, but hardly worth stalking him for; if that’s all he wanted to know he could have asked him that in passing, but, “How is that any of your business?” He couldn’t resist being difficult.
“I thought we only had five minutes, let’s not waste each other’s time.”
“She’s my friend.”
“Still wasting my time, why were you at the restaurant the night of the shooting?”
“Who says I was there?”
Kaleb’s frustration amused him. Did he honestly think he would get straight answers? None of this concerned him. He should just mind his own business.
“Look,” Kaleb growled low, just enough for Jamoy’s sensitive ears to catch, “just stay away from her. She’s got enough shit to deal with without you adding to the list.”
“Is there a threat coming after because if there isn’t I really can’t promise you anything.” Not that a threat would help either.
“Stay. Away.” The “or else” was definitely tucked away in the statement.
“You want her.” Jamoy’s body shook as he chuckled. They weren’t mated. So what made him think he had any right to make demands?
Kaleb was set on leaving but the laughter held him in place. “Something funny?”
“Your sad, little crush on her is hilarious.”
“Don’t ruin the little civility I managed to make for myself.”
His exterior was eerily calm, showing no signs of being phased by Jamoy’s words. But Jamoy could smell the rage boiling inside of him. He was just the slightest tick away from exploding. The right words would set him. The fun came in finding them.
“You can leave. I’m not going to answer any questions and you know that, so why are you still here?”
That was undoubtedly true. Kaleb knew he could leave. In fact, leaving was the smartest solution. But he was rooted in place. Waiting for something.
A moment of silence fell upon them. Neither watching the other, but the clashing presence of both kept them on their toes. Night was falling, and the number of people in the area shrank until there was no one left.
“Who won the last time we fought?”
Strange question. It was a draw if he recalled correctly.
Too bad Jamoy didn’t believe in ties. There was always a winner. Always. “Considering I’ve had the pleasure of fucking Marissa,” ah, there it was, that final tick, “I Won.”
The words were barely out of Jamoy’s mouth when Kaleb tackled him. The frail boards of the bench shattered on impact as the two and toppled over the thing and onto the wet grass.
Her lungs felt like they were on fire.
Whatever the hell had knocked her into the water was hell bent on keeping her under it. Every time she broke the surface, she was pulled back down. It wasn’t until she felt her foot kick the thing did she manage to escape back onto the shore.
While trying to catch her breath her eyes never left the lake. She didn’t want to be caught off guard when it left the water.
A body soon rose out of the depths, but it wasn’t human. Of course not. Her luck wouldn’t allow something so simple.
It snarled as it came onto the shore and crept near her. It didn’t even bother to shake out the water from its fur.
She took a step back but didn’t run. A normal person would have tried if there was a lioness creeping towards them, but she was just tired of running. And, call her crazy, but there was something too familiar about the big cat.
Should she try talking to it? And say what…Don’t eat me?
As it slowly continued its path towards her, she continued to step away. It could have pounced on her by now. Was it being cautious? She couldn’t imagine why it would be wary of her.
But, she was getting bored with this game. Her body felt tight, like something was trying to jump out of her but couldn’t find the exit. Could she—obviously if it was a lioness it was a she—feel it too?
It did a little jump forward as though trying to punk her. Rather than scaring her, it pissed her off, rousing a deep, threatening growl from her throat.
Marissa froze. Why was that voice familiar?
Did they communicate through a psychic connection? Whatever. The point was, she didn’t know how to shift, and even if she did, why would she listen to someone…something…that tried to kill her!
It didn’t give her the chance to respond as it leaped from its spot. All Marissa could do in her startled state was put her hands up to shield her face and was pinned under the weight of the animal.
There is no merit in taking down a human. Change this instant!
She would if she could and damn if she didn’t want to right now. So much for it being afraid of her. It just didn’t want to fight her in her current state. Funny how that didn’t stop it from trying to drown her moments ago!
Still, she couldn’t tell it that she didn’t know how. Something about admitting that irked her.
Fine! Die as damned human then!
Her eyes squeezed shut as its powerful jaws parted.
But nothing happened.
When she peeked out of one eye she found it staring at something in the distance.
“Get. The. Fuck, away from my best friend,” a voice said, followed by a gunshot.