Shiver, p.38
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       Shiver, p.38

         Part #1 of The Wolves of Mercy Falls series by Maggie Stiefvater
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Page 38


  An unexpected breeze lifted my hair from my neck, frigid and penetrating.

  Winter suddenly felt very close. I stopped on the sidewalk, closing my eyes, fighting the incredible desire to go back to Sam. In the end, duty won out, and I headed into the school. But it felt like a mistake.



  After Grace got out of the car, I felt sick. Sick from arguing with her, sick from doubt, sick from the cold that was just warm enough to keep me human. More than sick—restless, unsettled. Too many loose ends: Jack, Isabel, Olivia, Shelby, Beck.

  I couldn’t believe that Grace and I were going to see Beck. I turned up the heat in the Bronco and rested my head on the steering wheel for several long moments, until the ridged vinyl started to hurt my forehead. With the heat turned up all the way, it didn’t take too long for the car to become stuffy and hot, but it felt good. It felt far away from changing. Like I was firmly in my own skin.

  I thought at first that I might just sit like that all day, singing a song under my breath—Close to the sun is closer to me / I feel my skin clinging so tightly—and waiting for Grace, but it only took me a half hour of sitting to decide that I needed to drive. More than that, I needed to atone for what I’d said to Grace. So I decided to go to Jack’s house again. He still hadn’t turned up, either dead or in the newspapers, and it was the only place I could think of starting the search again. Grace would be happy to see me trying to put everything into place for her.

  I left the Bronco on an isolated logging road near the Culpepers’ house and cut through the woods. The pines were colorless with the promise of snow, their tips waving slightly in a cold wind that I couldn’t feel down below the branches. The hair on the back of my neck tingled uncomfortably; the stark pine woods reeked of wolf. It smelled like the kid had peed on every tree. Cocky bastard.

  Movement to my right made me jump, tense, drop low to the ground. I held in a breath.

  Just a deer. I caught a brief glimpse of wide eyes, long legs, white tail, before she was gone, surprisingly ungraceful in the underbrush. Her presence in the woods was comforting, though; her being here meant that Jack wasn’t. I had nothing as a weapon except my hands. Fat lot of good they would do against an unstable new wolf with adrenaline on his side.

  Near the house, I froze at the edge of the woods, listening to the voices carrying through the trees. A girl and a boy, voices raised and angry, standing somewhere near the back door. Creeping into the shadow of the mansion, I slid around a corner toward them, silent as a wolf. I didn’t recognize the male voice, fierce and deep, but instinct told me that it was Jack. The other one was Isabel. I thought about revealing myself but hesitated, waiting to hear what the argument was about.

  Isabel’s voice was high. “I don’t understand what you’re saying. What are you saying sorry for? For disappearing? For getting bitten in the first place? For—”

  “For Chloe,” the boy said.

  There was a pause. “What do you mean, ’for Chloe’? What does the dog have to do with all this? Do you know where she is?”

  “Isabel. Hell. Haven’t you been listening? You’re so stupid sometimes. I told you, I don’t know what I’m doing after I’ve changed. ”

  I covered my mouth to keep from laughing. Jack had eaten her dog.

  “Are you saying that she’s—you—God! You’re such a jerk!”

  “I couldn’t help it. I told you what I was. You shouldn’t have let her out. ”

  “Do you have any idea how much that dog cost?”

  “Boo hoo. ”

  “So what am I supposed to tell the parental units? Mom, Dad, Jack’s a werewolf, and guess what, you know how Chloe’s been missing? He ate her. ”

  “Don’t tell them anything!” Jack said hurriedly. “Anyway, I think I’ve stopped it. I think I’ve found a cure. ”

  I frowned.

  “Cure. ” Isabel’s voice was flat. “How do you ’fix’ being a werewolf?”

  “Don’t you worry your blonde brain about it. I just—give me a few more days to make sure. When I’m sure, I’ll tell them everything. ”

  “Fine. Whatever. God—I can’t believe you ate Chloe. ”

  “Can you please shut up about that? You’re starting to irritate me. ”

  “Whatever. What about the other ones? Aren’t there other ones? Can’t you get them to help you?”

  “Isabel, shut up. I told you, I think I’ve figured it out. I don’t need any help. ”

  “Don’t you just think—”

  A noise, sharp and out of place. A branch snapping? A slap?

  Isabel’s voice sounded different when she spoke again. Not as strong. “Just don’t let them see you, okay? Mom’s at therapy—because of you—and Dad’s out of town. I’m going back to school. I can’t believe you called me out here to tell me you ate my dog. ”

  “I called you to tell you I fixed it. You seem so excited. Yeah. Not. ”

  “It’s great. Wonderful. Bye. ”

  Barely a moment later, I heard Isabel’s SUV tear down the driveway, and I hesitated again. I wasn’t exactly eager to reveal myself to a new wolf with an anger management problem until I knew exactly what my surroundings were, but I needed to either get back to the car or into the warmth of the house. And the house was closer. I slowly crept around the back of the building, listening for Jack’s position. Nothing. He must’ve gone inside.

  I approached the door I had broken into earlier that week—the window had already been fixed—and tried the knob. Unlocked. How thoughtful.

  Inside, I immediately heard Jack rummaging around, loud in the otherwise still house, and I slunk down the dim hallway to a long, high-ceilinged kitchen, all black-and-white tile and black countertops as far as the eye could see. The light through the two windows on the right wall was white and pure, reflecting off white walls and sinking into the black skillets hanging from the ceiling. It was as if the entire room were in black and white.

  I vastly preferred Grace’s kitchen—warm, cluttered, smelling of cinnamon and garlic and bread—to this cavernous, sterile room.

  Jack had his back to me as he crouched in front of the stainless steel fridge, digging through the drawers. I froze, but his hunt through the fridge had covered up the sound of my approach. There was no wind to carry my scent to him, so I stood for a long minute, assessing him and my options. He was tall, wide-shouldered, with curly black hair, like a Greek statue. Something about the way he carried himself suggested overconfidence, and for some reason, that irritated me. I swallowed a growl and slid just inside the door, silently lifting myself onto the counter opposite. Height would give me a slight advantage, if Jack got aggressive.

  He stepped away from the fridge and dumped an armload of food onto the shiny topped kitchen island. For several long minutes, I watched him construct a sandwich. He carefully layered the meats and the cheeses, slathered the bread with Miracle Whip, and then he looked up.

  “Jesus,” he said.

  “Hi,” I replied.

  “What do you want?” He didn’t look afraid; I wasn’t big enough to frighten by looks alone.

  I didn’t know how to answer him. Hearing his conversation with Isabel had changed what I wanted to know. “So what is it you think will cure you?”

  Now he looked afraid. Just for a second, and then it was gone, lost in the self-assured set of his chin. “What are you talking about?”

  “You think you’ve found a cure. Why would you think that?”

  “Okay, dude. Who are you?”

  I really didn’t like him. I didn’t know why; I just felt it in my gut and I really didn’t like him. If I hadn’t thought he was a danger to Grace and Olivia and Isabel, I would’ve said the hell with him and left him there. Still, my dislike made it easier to confront him. It made it easier to play the role of the guy who had all the answers. “Someone like you. Someone who got bitten. ” He looked about to protest, and I h
eld up my hand to stop him. “If you’re thinking you’re going to say something like ‘You’ve got the wrong guy,’ don’t bother. I’ve seen you as a wolf. So just tell me why you think you’ve found a way to stop it. ”

  “Why should I trust you?”

  “Because, unlike your father, I don’t stuff animals and put them in my foyer. And because I don’t really want you showing up at the school and on people’s doorsteps and exposing the pack. We’re just trying to survive with the crappy lot we’ve been given. We don’t need some smarmy rich punk like you revealing us to the rest of the world, so they can come after us with pitchforks. ”

  Jack growled. It was a little too close to animal for my taste, and my thought was confirmed when I saw him shiver slightly. He was still so unstable—he could change at any time. “I don’t have to worry about it anymore. I’m getting a cure, so you can get the hell away from here and leave me alone. ” He backed away from the island, toward the counter behind him.

  I jumped down from my counter. “Jack, there is no cure. ”

  “You’re wrong,” he snapped. “There’s another wolf that was cured. ”

  He was edging toward the knife block. I should’ve run for the door, but his words froze me. “What?”

  “Yeah, it took me all this time, but I figured it out. There’s a girl who was bitten and got cured, at school. Grace. I know she knows the cure. And she’s about to tell me in a hurry. ”

  My world reeled. “Stay away from her. ”

  Jack grinned at me, or maybe it was a grimace. His hand was on the counter, feeling backward toward the knives, and his nostrils flared, taking in the faint odor of wolf that the cold had brought to my skin. He said, “Why? Don’t you want to know, too? Or has she already cured you?”

  “There is no cure. She doesn’t know anything. ” I hated how much my voice revealed; my feelings for Grace felt dangerously transparent.

  “You don’t know that, man,” Jack said. He reached for a knife, but his hand was shaking too much to grasp the handle on the first try. “Now get out of here. ”

  But I didn’t move. I couldn’t think of anything worse than him confronting Grace about a cure. Him trembling, unstable, violent; and her, unable to give him the answers he was looking for.

  Jack managed to grab a handle and pulled out a wicked-looking knife, the edge serrated and reflecting the black and white of the kitchen in a dozen different directions. He was shaking so badly that he could barely hold the blade toward me. “I asked you to get out. ”

  My instincts urged me to leap on him like I would on one of the wolves, growl over his neck and make him submit. To make him promise to stay away from her. But that wasn’t how it worked when you were a human, not when your adversary was so much stronger. I approached him, eyes on his eyes instead of on the knife, and tried a different tactic. “Jack. Please. She doesn’t have the answer, but I can make this easier for you. ”

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