Shiver, p.40
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       Shiver, p.40

         Part #1 of The Wolves of Mercy Falls series by Maggie Stiefvater
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Page 40

 

  Crap. It was cold. Not cold enough for me to change, not yet. But it would be soon. I was lying down—why was I lying down? I staggered to my feet and bit my lip, hard, to keep from gasping aloud. There was something wrong with my ankle. I tried it again, carefully, a fragile fawn on new legs, and it gave underneath me. I crashed sideways, arms wheeling, feeling for some kind of support. My palms raked across a legion of spiked instruments of torture hung on the walls. I had no idea what they were—cold, metallic, dirty.

  For a moment I stayed on all fours, listening to my breathing, feeling blood well on my palms, and thinking about giving up. I was so tired of fighting. It felt like I’d been fighting for weeks.

  Finally, I pulled myself back up and limped to the door, arms stretched out in front of me to protect my unarmored body from more surprises. Icy air seeped in through the crack in the door. Trickled into my body like water. I reached for a handle, but there was nothing but ragged wood. A splinter stuck into my fingers and I swore, very quietly. Then I leaned my shoulder into the door and pushed, thinking, Please open please if there’s any justice in this world.

  Nothing.

  CHAPTER FIFTY • GRACE

  39°F

  I picked up my backpack. “This is it. ”

  It seemed stupid, somehow, for Beck’s house to look exactly the same as when Sam had brought me here to walk me to the golden wood, because the circumstances were so wildly different, but it did. The only difference was Beck’s hulking SUV in the driveway.

  Jack was already pulling to the side of the road. He took the keys out of the ignition and looked at me, eyes wary. “Get out after I do. ” I did as he said, waiting for him to come around and pull the door open. I slid out of the seat and he grabbed my arm tightly. His shoulders were thrust too far together and his mouth hung slightly open—I don’t think he even noticed. I guess I should’ve worried about him attacking me, but all I could think was He’s going to change and we won’t know where Sam is until too late.

  I prayed Sam was somewhere warm, somewhere out of winter’s reach.

  “Hurry up,” I said, tugging my arm against Jack’s grip, almost jogging toward the front door. “We don’t have any time. ”

  Jack tried the front door; it was unlocked, as promised, and he shoved me in first before slamming the door behind us. My nose caught a brief hint of rosemary in the air—someone had been cooking, and for some reason, I remembered Sam’s anecdote about cooking the steaks for Beck—and then I heard a shout and a snarl from behind me.

  Both sounds came from Jack. This wasn’t the silent struggle of Sam trying to stay human that I’d seen before. This was violent, angry, loud. Jack’s lips tore into a snarl and then his face ripped into a muzzle, his skin changing color in an instant. He reached for me as if to hit me, but his hands buckled into paws, nails hard and dark. His skin bulged and shimmered for a moment before each radical change, like a placenta covering a terrifying, feral infant.

  I stared at the shirt that hung around the wolf’s midsection. I couldn’t look away. It was the only detail that could convince my mind that this animal really had just been Jack.

  This Jack was as angry as he had been in the car, but now his anger had no direction, no human control. His lips pulled back from his teeth and formed a snarl, but no sound appeared.

  “Stand back!”

  A man tore into the hall, surprisingly agile given his height, and ran directly at Jack. Jack, off guard, crouched down defensively, and the man landed on the wolf with all his weight.

  “Get down!” snarled the man, and I flinched before I realized that he was talking to the wolf. “Stay down. This is my house. You are nothing here. ” He had a hand around Jack’s muzzle and was shouting right into his face. Jack whistled through his clenched jaw, and Beck forced his head to the ground. Beck’s eyes flitted up at me, and though he was holding a huge wolf to the ground with one hand, his voice was perfectly level. “Grace? Can you help?”

  I’d been standing perfectly still, watching. “Yes. ”

  “Grab the edge of the rug he’s sitting on. We’re going to drag him to the bathroom. It’s—”

  “I know where it is. ”

  “Good. Let’s go. I’ll try to help, but I have to keep my weight on him. ”

  Together, we pulled Jack down the hall and to the bathroom where I’d forced Sam into the bathtub. Beck, half on the rug and half off, got behind Jack and shoved him into the room, and I kicked the rest of the rug in after him. Beck leaped back and slammed the door, locking it. The doorknob had been reversed so that the lock was on the outside, making me wonder how often this sort of thing had happened before.

  Beck heaved a deep breath, which seemed like an understatement, and looked at me. “Are you all right? Did he bite you?”

  I shook my head, miserable. “That doesn’t matter, anyway. How are we going to find Sam now?”

  Beck jerked his head for me to follow him into the rosemary-scented kitchen. I did, looking up warily when I saw another person sitting on the counter. I wouldn’t have been able to describe him as anything other than dark if anyone had asked me later. He was just dark and still and silent, and smelled of wolf. He had new-looking scars on his hands; it had to be Paul. He didn’t say anything, and Beck didn’t say anything to him as Beck leaned against the counter and picked up a cell phone.

  He punched in a number and put it on speakerphone. He looked at me. “How angry is he with me? Did he get rid of his cell phone?”

  “I don’t think so. I didn’t know the number. ”

  Beck stared at the phone and we listened to it ring, small and distant. Please pick up. My heart was skipping uncontrollably. I leaned on the kitchen island and looked at Beck, at the square set of his shoulders, the square set of his jaw, the square line of eyebrows. Everything about him looked safe, honest, secure. I wanted to trust him. I wanted to believe that nothing bad could happen because Beck wasn’t panicking.

  There was a crackle at the other end of the line.

  “Sam?” Beck leaned close into the phone.

  The voice was badly broken up. “Gr—t?…you?”

  “It’s Beck. Where are you?”

  “—ack. Grace…Jack to—…co. ” The only thing I could understand was his distress. I wanted to be there, wherever he was.

  “Grace is here,” Beck said. “It’s under control. Where are you? Are you safe?”

  “Cold. ”

  The one word came through, terribly clear. I pushed off from the island. Standing still didn’t seem to be an option.

  Beck’s voice was still even. “You aren’t coming through very well. Try again. Tell me where you are. Clearly as you can. ”

  “Tell Grace…call I—bel…in…shed some…re. I heard…ago. ”

  I came back to the counter, leaned over the island. “You want me to call Isabel. You’re in a shed on their property? She’s there?”

  “—es. ” Sam’s voice was emphatic. “Grace?”

  “What?”

  “—ove you. ”

  “Don’t say that,” I said. “We’re getting you out. ”

  “Hur—”

  He hung up.

  Beck’s eyes flicked to me, and in them, I could see all the concern that his voice didn’t reveal. “Who’s Isabel?”

  “Jack’s sister. ” It seemed to take too long to pull off my backpack and get my cell phone out of one of the pockets. “Sam must be trapped somewhere on their property. In a shed, or something. If I get Isabel on the phone, maybe she can find him. If not, I’m going now. ”

  Paul looked at the window, at the dying sun, and I knew he was thinking that I didn’t have enough time to get to the Culpepers’ before the temperature dropped. No point thinking about that. I found Isabel’s number from when she’d called me before and hit SEND.

  It rang twice. “Yeah. ”

  “Isabel, it’s Grace. ”

  “I’m not an idiot. I saw your number.


  I wanted to reach through the phone and strangle her. “Isabel, Jack’s locked up Sam somewhere near your house. ” I cut off the beginning of her question. “I don’t know why. But Sam’s going to change if it gets much colder, and wherever he is, he’s trapped. Please tell me you’re at your house. ”

  “Yeah. I just got here. I’m in the house. I didn’t hear any commotion or anything. ”

  “Do you have a shed or something?”

  Isabel made an irritated noise. “We have six outbuildings. ”

  “He has to be in one of them. He called from inside a shed. If the sun gets down behind the trees, it’s going to get cold in, like, two seconds. ”

  “I get it!” snapped Isabel. There were rustling sounds. “I’m getting my coat on. I’m going outside. Can you hear me? Now I’m outside. I’m freezing my ass off for you. I’m walking across the yard. I’m walking across the part of the grass my dog used to pee on before my damned brother ate her”.

  Paul smiled faintly.

  “Can you hurry it up?” I demanded.

  “I’m jogging to the first shed. I’m calling his name. Sam! Sam! Are you in there? I don’t hear anything. If he’s turned into a wolf in one of these sheds and I let him out and he rips my face off, I’m having my family sue you. ”

  I heard a dim, faint crack. “Hell. This door is stuck. ” Another crack. “Sam? Wolf-boy? You in here? Nothing in the lawn mower shed. Where is Jack, anyway, if he did this?”

  “Here. He’s fine for now. Do you hear anything?”

  “I doubt he’s really fine. He’s seriously screwed up, Grace. In the head, I mean. And no, I’d tell you if I heard something. I’m going to the next one. ”

  Paul rested the back of his hand on the glass of the window over the sink and winced. He was right. It was getting too cold.

  “Call Sam back,” I begged Beck. “Tell him to shout so she can hear him. ”

  Beck picked up his phone, punched a button, and held it to his ear.

  Isabel sounded a little out of breath. “I’m at the next one. Sam! You in there? Dude?” There was a nearly inaudible squeak as the door opened. A pause. “Unless he’s turned into a bicycle, he’s not in here, either. ”

  “How many more of them are there?” I wanted to be there at the Culpepers’ instead of Isabel. I’d be faster than she was. I’d be screaming my lungs out to find him.

  “I told you. Four more. Only two more close. The others are way out in the field behind the house. They’re barns. ”

  “He has to be in one of the close ones. He said it was a shed. ” I looked at Beck, who had his phone up to his ear still. He looked back at me, shook his head. No answer. Sam, why aren’t you picking up?

  “I’m at the garden shed. Sam! Sam, it’s Isabel, if you’re a wolf in there, don’t rip my face off. ” I could hear her breathing into the phone. “The door’s stuck like the other one. I’m kicking it with my expensive shoe and it’s pissing me off. ”

 
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