Shiver, p.9
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       Shiver, p.9

         Part #1 of The Wolves of Mercy Falls series by Maggie Stiefvater
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Page 9


  It took me a moment to process what he meant. I don’t know what did it—the flat, emotionless way he said it, the image of the scene that swam in my head, or just the shock of the evening in general, but I suddenly felt dizzy. My head whirled, my heartbeat crashed in my ears, and I hit the sticky linoleum floor hard.

  I don’t know how many seconds I was out, but I saw the curtain slide open at the same time that Sam thumped back down on the bed, slapping the bandage back over his neck. Then a male nurse was kneeling beside me, helping me sit up.

  “Are you okay?”

  I’d fainted. I’d never fainted in my life. I closed my eyes and opened them again, until the nurse had one head instead of three heads floating side by side. Then I began to lie. “I just thought about all the blood when I found him…ohhhh…” I still felt woozy, so the ohhhh sounded very convincing.

  “Don’t think about it,” suggested the nurse, smiling in a very friendly way. I thought his hand was slightly too close to my boob for casual contact, and that fact steeled my resolve to follow through with the humiliating plan that had just popped into my head.

  “I think—I need to ask an embarrassing question,” I muttered, feeling my cheeks heat. This was almost as bad as if I was telling the truth. “Do you think I could borrow a pair of scrubs? I—uh—my pants—”

  “Oh!” cried the poor nurse. His embarrassment at my condition was probably sharpened by his earlier flirtatious smile. “Yes. Absolutely. I’ll be right back. ”

  Good as his word, he returned in a few minutes, holding a folded pair of sick-green scrubs in his hands. “They might be a little big, but they have strings that you can—you know. ”

  “Thanks,” I mumbled. “Uh, do you mind? I’ll just change here. He’s not looking at anything at the moment. ” I gestured toward Sam, who was looking convincingly sedated.

  The nurse vanished behind the curtains. Sam’s eyes flashed open again, distinctly amused.

  He whispered, “Did you tell that man you went potty on yourself?”

  “You. Shut. Up,” I hissed back furiously and chucked the scrubs at his head. “Hurry up before they find out I didn’t wet myself. You seriously owe me. ”

  He grinned and slid the scrubs beneath the thin hospital sheet, wrestling them on, then tugged the dressing from his neck and the blood pressure cuff from his arm. As the cuff dropped to the bed, he ripped off his gown and replaced it with the scrubs top. The monitor squealed in protest, flatlining and announcing his death to the staff.

  “Time to go,” he said, and led the way out behind the curtains. As he paused, quickly taking in the room around us, I heard nurses rustling into his curtained area behind us.

  “He was sedated. ” Sunny’s voice rose above the others.

  Sam reached out and grabbed my hand, the most natural thing in the world, and pulled me into the bright light of the hall. Now that he was clothed—in scrubs, no less—and not drowning in blood, nobody blinked an eye as he wended his way past the nurses’ station and on toward the exit. All the while, I could see his wolf’s mind analyzing the situation. The tilt of his head told me what he was listening to, and the lift of his chin hinted of the scents he was gathering. Agile despite his lanky, loose-jointed build, he cut a deft path through the clutter until we were crossing the general lobby.

  A syrupy country song was playing over the speaker system as my sneakers scrubbed across the ugly dark-blue tartan carpet; Sam’s bare feet made no sound. At this time of night, the lobby was empty, without even a receptionist at the desk. I felt so high on adrenaline I thought I could probably fly to Dad’s car. The eternally pragmatic corner of my mind reminded me that I needed to call the tow company to get my own car off the side of the road. But I couldn’t really work up proper annoyance about it, because all I could think about was Sam. My wolf was a cute guy and he was holding my hand. I could die happy.

  Then I felt Sam’s hesitation. He held back, eyes fixed on the darkness that pressed against the glass door. “How cold is it out there?”

  “Probably not too much colder than it was when I brought you. Why—will it make that much of a difference?”

  Sam’s face darkened. “It’s right on the edge. I hate this time of year. I could be either. ”

  I heard the pain in his voice. “Does it hurt to change?”

  He looked away from me. “I want to be human right now. ”

  I wanted him to be human, too. “I’ll go start the car and get the heater going. That way you’ll only be in the cold for a second. ”

  He looked a little helpless. “But I don’t know where to go. ”

  “Where do you normally live?” I was afraid he’d say something pitiful, like the homeless shelter downtown. I assumed he didn’t live with the parents who had cut his wrists.

  “Beck—one of the wolves—once he changes, a lot of us stay at his house, but if he’s not changed, the heat might not be turned up. I could—”

  I shook my head and let go of his hand. “No. I’m getting the car and you’re coming home with me. ”

  His eyes widened. “Your parents—?”

  “What they don’t know won’t kill them,” I said, pushing open the door. Wincing at the blast of cold night air, Sam backed away from the door, wrapping his arms around himself. But even as he shuddered with the cold, he bit his lip and gave me a hesitant smile.

  I turned toward the dark parking lot, feeling more alive and more happy and more afraid than I ever had before.



  “Are you sleeping?” Sam’s voice was barely a whisper, but in the dark room where he didn’t belong, it was like a shout.

  I rolled in my bed toward where he lay on the floor, a dark bundle curled in a nest of blankets and pillows. His presence, so strange and wonderful, seemed to fill the room and press against me. I didn’t think I’d ever sleep again. “No. ”

  “Can I ask you a question?”

  “You already have. ”

  He paused, considering. “Can I ask you two questions, then?”

  “You already have. ”

  Sam groaned and threw one of the small sofa pillows in my direction. It arced through the moonlit room, a blackened projectile, and thumped harmlessly by my head. “So you’re a smart-ass, then. ”

  I grinned in the darkness. “Okay, I’ll play. What do you want to know?”

  “You were bitten. ” But it wasn’t a question. I could hear the interest in his voice, sense the tension in his body, even across the room. I slid down into my blankets, hiding from what he’d said.

  “I don’t know. ”

  Sam’s voice rose above a whisper. “How can you not know?”

  I shrugged, though he couldn’t see it. “I was young. ”

  “I was young, too. I knew what was happening. ” When I didn’t answer, he asked, “Is that why you just lay there? You didn’t know they were going to kill you?”

  I stared at the dark square of night through the window, lost in the memory of Sam as a wolf. The pack circled around me, tongues and teeth, growls and jerks. One wolf stood back, ice-decked ruff bristling all along his neck, quivering as he watched me in the snow. Lying in the cold, under a white sky going dark, I kept my eyes on him. He was beautiful: wild and dark, yellow eyes filled with a complexity I couldn’t begin to fathom. And he gave off a scent the same as the other wolves around me—rich, feral, musky. Even now, as he lay in my room, I could smell the wolf on him, though he was wearing scrubs and a new skin.

  Outside, I heard a low, keening howl, and then another. The night chorus rose, missing Sam’s plaintive voice but gorgeous nonetheless. My heart quickened, sick with abstract longing, and on the floor, I heard Sam give a low whimper. The miserable sound, caught halfway between human and wolf, distracted me.

  “Do you miss them?” I whispered.

  Sam climbed from his makeshift bed and stood by the window, an unfamiliar silhouette against
the night, his arms clutched around his lanky body. “No. Yeah. I don’t know. It makes me feel—sick. Like I don’t belong here. ”

  Sounds familiar. I tried to think of something to say to comfort him, but couldn’t settle on anything that would sound genuine.

  “But this is me,” he insisted, his chin jerking to refer to his body. I didn’t know if he meant to convince me or himself. He remained by the window as the wolves’ howls reached a crescendo, pricking my eyes to tears.

  “Come up here and talk to me,” I said, to distract both of us. Sam half turned, but I couldn’t see his expression. “It’s cold down there on the floor and you’ll get a crick in your neck. Just come up here. ”

  “What about your parents?” he said, the same question he’d asked in the hospital. I was about to ask him why he worried about them so much, when I remembered Sam’s story about his own parents and the shiny, puckered scars on his wrists.

  “You don’t know my parents. ”

  “Where are they?” Sam asked.

  “Gallery opening, I think. My mom’s an artist. ”

  His voice was dubious. “It’s three o’clock in the morning. ”

  My voice was louder than I’d meant for it to be. “Just get in. I trust you to behave. And to not hog the sheets. ” When he still hesitated, I said, “Hurry up, before there’s no more night left. ”

  Obediently, he retrieved one of the pillows from the floor, but hesitated again on the opposite side of the bed. In the dim light, I could just make out his mournful expression as he regarded the forbidden territory of the bed. I wasn’t sure if I was charmed by his reluctance to share a bed with a girl or insulted that, apparently, I wasn’t hot enough for him to charge the mattress like a bull.

  Finally, he climbed in. The bed creaked under his weight, and he winced before settling on the very far edge of it, not even under the blanket. I could smell the faint wolf scent better now, and I sighed with a strange contentedness. He sighed, too.

  “Thank you,” he said. Formal, considering he was lying in my bed.

  “You’re welcome. ”

  The truth of it struck me then. Here I was with a shapeshifting boy in my bed. Not just any shape-shifting boy, but my wolf. I kept reliving the memory of the deck light clicking to life, revealing him for the first time. A weird combination of excitement and nervousness tingled through me.

  Sam turned his head to look at me, as though my thrill of nerves had sent up a flare. I could see his eyes glinting in the dim light, a few feet away. “They bit you. You should’ve changed, too, you know. ”

  In my head, the wolves circled a body in the snow, their lips bloody, teeth bared, growling over the kill. A wolf, Sam, dragged the body from the circle of wolves. He carried it through the trees on two legs that left human footprints in the snow. I knew I was falling asleep, so I shook myself awake; I couldn’t remember whether I’d answered Sam.

  “Sometimes I wish I had,” I told him.

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