A bites tale a furry fab.., p.3
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       A Bite's Tale (A Furry Fable), p.3

           Veronica Blade
 
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  A part of me wished I’d taken a picture of him, wished I’d gotten his true identity. But back then, I’d loved our pretend world. Knowing his name would’ve connected us to the real world. And when we met every day that summer in the clearing, we didn’t want to be reminded of reality. It was just the two of us, in our own little world. I’d wanted it to stay that way.

  And it had.

  Until I’d ruined it.

  “Miss Marsten,” my teacher said, jerking me out of my reverie.

  Crap. I hadn’t been paying attention. My shoulders bunched up as I waited for the his question I knew was coming.

  “Can you tell me what volvox is and where I might find it?” Mr. Williams asked.

  Whew. I’d learned that a few months ago at my last school. I exhaled and relaxed. “It’s an algae found in freshwater areas like lagoons and ponds.”

  “That’s correct.” His eyes narrowed. He was probably trying to figure out how I knew the answer, when I’d so obviously been on another planet during his lecture.

  Vowing to pay attention the rest of class, I put Jack out of my mind. What was the point in thinking of him? He’d probably been a tourist every summer, a temporary transplant like me. It would certainly explain why he didn’t seem to have any other friends. But even if he lived on the island, after what I’d done to him, he wouldn’t want to see me again. Of that, I was sure.

  If he was even alive.

  I remembered the terror in Jack’s eyes, just before I’d bolted to keep myself from hurting him worse. I’d regained control of myself minutes later and returned to make sure he was okay and beg his forgiveness, but he’d vanished. There was nothing left but the lingering scent of blood.

  Whether someone had found him and helped him or an animal had dragged him off, I never knew. When I got home and told my mom I’d bit someone, she’d locked me up that night. I was grateful, because I couldn’t bear to hurt anyone else.

  The next morning, I’d intended to look for Jack, but my mom had already arranged our flight back to the States. I never got a chance to find out what happened to him.

  I refused to think that he hadn’t survived. Because that would mean I’d killed him.

  Chapter Four

  Cydney

  The bell rang at the end of the first period. Chairs scraped across the floor as students pushed back from their desks, followed by shoes pounding on the floor as they fled Mr. Williams’ class.

  “Miss Marsten, a minute of your time?” Mr. Williams growled from behind his desk.

  I suspected he was about to reprimand me for not paying attention during class. I approached his desk anyway. “Yes?”

  He crossed his arms over his chest. “I understand you have extenuating circumstances that may make it difficult to fully participate in class. Perhaps you’d like to take another week at home?” His words sounded concerned, but his tone said the opposite.

  “No, I’m ready for school,” I lied.

  “In my class, there is no in-between. I indulged you today. Tomorrow, you’re either in or you’re out. Got it?”

  Great. My first day, first class, and my teacher had no heart.

  He jerked his head toward the wall clock. “Shouldn’t you be getting to your next class?” His jaw ticked.

  Without another word, I rushed to English Lit, fervently hoping my day would get better.

  I was the last to enter my next classroom, one second before the bell rang.

  “Good morning, Cydney. I’m Ms. Hambry.” The woman, decades older than me, sighed. “I was so sorry to hear about your mother. I met her a couple years ago through a mutual friend. She was such a sweet woman. Car accident, right?”

  I nodded and bit my lip to keep my chin from quivering. In an effort to escape the teacher’s pitying smile, my eyes searched out an available chair.

  “You can sit there, sweetheart.” She pointed to the first row. Right where she could throw me sympathetic glances throughout class. Yay.

  And she did. For almost an entire hour, every time her eyes strayed to me, I’d get the look.

  School was supposed to take my mind off things, not suck me into them. But by the end of Ms. Hambry’s class, my throat felt swollen and my eyes burned. If they couldn’t forget, how could I? More than anything, I wanted anonymity. To live where no one remembered my mother or how she’d been tragically ripped from our lives.

  A place where I wasn’t constantly reminded of what I’d done to Jack.

  Maybe leaving the house wasn’t such a good idea after all.

  When the lunch bell rang, I bolted to the cafeteria I’d passed by earlier that morning. I searched the huge room, but couldn’t find Winnie anywhere. My throat closed over and my eyes blurred with tears. I balled my hands into fists and inhaled deeply, desperately trying to calm down.

  I moved out of the way and stood against the wall, away from the swarm of students. I focused on the clanging of utensils and the din of voices. Anything but my rising terror that I might lose my human form and do something unspeakable.

  If I morphed into a wolf in front of the entire school, I’d expose my kind to any humans nearby who weren’t already aware of supernaturals. That was frowned upon even on Ile de Paix. Would being sent to wolf-juvie or some sort of reform school be my fate? Or did they send wayward teens like me to some place far worse?

  I didn’t intend to find out, because I would not morph in front of the entire school. No way.

  Willing my muscles to relax, I exhaled slowly and made my way to the food line.

  I needed Winnie, especially after my awful morning. She’d distract me. Grabbing a tray, I shuffled over to the food line. My tray quaked under my trembling grasp and my stomach twisted. I took another deep breath, fighting my emotions, so I wouldn’t transform into the wolfinator.

  Winnie would come. I just needed to hold it together a couple more minutes.

  “There you are.” My cousin smiled, her long, brown bangs falling into her eyes.

  My breathing steadied. “Winnie.”

  “Everything all right?” Concern furrowed her brows. “I take it your classes didn’t go well?”

  My gaze dropped to the empty tray in my arms and I scooted ahead to close the gap in the line that had opened in front of me.

  As if sensing my reluctance to confess how badly it had gone, she plowed on. “But you didn’t morph or freak out, right?” she asked in a hushed voice only the supernaturals could hear. They had to know what I was, so it didn’t matter if they overheard.

  I shook my head.

  “There’s the bright side.” She threw a glance over her shoulder. “We already have a table. Are you up for meeting my friends? Or would you prefer a quiet lunch, just the two of us?”

  I wrinkled my nose. “Would you mind very much if it’s only you and me?”

  “No problem. I’ll get my tray and be right back.” She turned on her heel and blended into the crowd of students again.

  What would I do without Winnie? I couldn’t even imagine this world without her in it.

  By the time she returned with her lunch, I’d made it through the food line. She led the way to a nearly empty table in the far corner near a window. We sat at the opposite end of the long table from a couple girls who looked a year or two behind Winnie.

  I sensed eyes riveted to me. Lots of them. “Everyone’s staring at the new girl,” I mumbled.

  She snorted. “No. They’re staring at the hot chick.”

  My eyes shot to the girls at my table, looking for the hot chick.

  “I meant you, dork.” She rolled her eyes.

  “Uhm…” I mentally pictured my reflection as I’d seen it every day — pale skin except for the mass of freckles I referred to as birth defects and curly red hair that reached past my shoulder blades. Cheekbones too prominent and an overly large mouth. No, there was nothing hot about me. “You’re delusional, Winnie.”

  Her lips curled up at one end. “Oh, spare me the faux modesty. I’m not blind and
neither are they.” She waved a hand in the air to include everyone in the large room.

  Anyone who complimented me usually lost all credibility the next time I looked in the mirror. But Jack had told me I was beautiful ages ago… right before he’d kissed me. He’d said it so sincerely, I’d believed him. After I’d lost control, I’d felt as ugly as my guilt-ridden soul.

  I pretend to ignore Winnie’s last comment as I popped the top on my soda.

  “Oh, my God!” Beatrice appeared next to us at the end of the table, slamming her palms on the table between us. “Did you hear about the ball this weekend?” Her eyes darted from me to Winnie.

  We shook our heads, knowing we didn’t need to encourage Beatrice. She’d spill it, even if she wasn’t supposed to.

  “Well, as you know, Prince Remy didn’t go to Harvard as planned. Apparently, he refused to leave the island.” Beatrice gave a smug look.

  What did that have to do with anything? “I guess he’s not interested in traveling?” I suggested.

  “Definitely not. And the king is pissed off. You want to know what his father’s doing to punish the wickedly hot prince?”

  I didn’t pay attention to the royal family or any of the daily gossip, but the level of my cousin’s enthusiasm made me a little curious. Besides, it kept my mind off other things. “What’s he doing?”

  Beatrice’s eyes widened and she bit her bottom lip. If she didn’t tell us soon, she’d probably burst. “The king says that if his son won’t go to school, then his job of raising him is done. It’s time for him to choose a wife. Prince Remy has six months to find the girl of his dreams and get engaged or he gets disinherited.”

  I blinked. What a letdown. Now the only thing hooking my curiosity was why on earth she or anyone else cared. There was a reason I didn’t pay attention to the gossip magazines or watch much TV. “So he finds a girl and gets married or he doesn’t. Either way, what’s it to us?”

  “Are you kidding me?” Beatrice squealed. “The king is looking for the future queen. He’s throwing balls and making the prince attend them until he chooses a wife.”

  My eyes would probably glaze over before Beatrice stopped. If she had it her way, she’d give us every excruciating detail about the prince, then move on to what she planned to wear. I had to distract her. “Maybe it’s not even true. Where did you hear that, Bea?”

  “Deanna’s mom knows someone who works in the castle. She hears all the juicy gossip.” Beatrice grinned.

  Lifting the can of soda to my lips, I took a sip and inwardly scoffed. I had real problems to deal with, which did not include the king’s silly ball disguised as a dating service for his son.

  “The ball this Saturday will probably be the first of many, since the prince isn’t cooperating at all.” Beatrice beamed. “That gives us plenty of time to get his attention.”

  “Us?” I exhaled and fought the urge to make a caustic remark about the royal family. Instead, I took another sip from my soda.

  “Every eligible girl whose eighteenth birthday is in six months or less. Cydney, that includes you and me!”

  “I listened to all this only to learn I’m not eligible?” Winnie groaned and began organizing the food on her tray.

  “Actually, the entire island is invited. But the boys won’t be presented to the prince. Same with any girls who are too young.”

  “A royal ball.” Winnie grinned. “How exciting.”

  “Yeah… have fun,” I said, giving Beatrice a barely-there smile.

  “Aren’t you dying to go?” Beatrice asked.

  My eyes bugged. “Are you crazy?”

  “You have to go,” Beatrice replied.

  I raised one brow. “It’s mandatory?”

  “Well… no. Not that I know of.” She scowled and crossed her arms over her stomach. “But you’re seriously telling me you wouldn’t want to be a princess?”

  My mouth dropped open. “Not in a million years. Bea, you’re supposed to eliminate the competition, not bring it with you.” I didn’t think I was much competition though. Apparently, neither did Beatrice or she wouldn’t be trying to get me to go.

  “The king is inviting other girls, royalty from other countries. The competition is already stiff. But if I don’t make the cut and you do, I’d still get to hang out in the castle.” Beatrice’s eyes sparkled.

  As if I stood a chance. “That doesn’t make any sense. You’re really pretty and popular. He’d have to be blind not to notice you. It won’t make a difference whether I’m there or not.”

  “You caught me.” Bea giggled. “I called Mom between classes to give her the scoop on the ball and make sure we were going. She said she’d take me car shopping if I could convince you to go to the ball.”

  It was my turn to groan. If Beatrice thought she had any chance of getting a car, she wouldn’t let up until she got me to the castle, even if I wore rags. “Why does Aunt Mina care if I go or not?”

  “She’s worried about you. She wants you out living life, not hiding in the basement all the time.”

  “I’m not hiding,” I mumbled. “And I’m not going to the stupid ball.”

  She narrowed her eyes. “Which means I’m not going car shopping, because you can’t do one itty bitty thing for me?”

  Winnie giggled and squirted ketchup on her plate. “Just give in, Cyd. Her mind is made up. Just think how much fun it’ll be shopping for a new gown. When you’re a huge hit with the prince, we’ll all have to call you Your Highness.”

  “That’s not funny.” I scowled at Winnie, then switched to Beatrice. “No freakin’ way.”

  “Unbelievable.” Beatrice’s face flushed. “It’s not always all about you, Cydney. For once, can’t you think about someone besides yourself?” She spun around and stormed off, leaving me staring after her.

  “You should go to the ball.” Winnie kept her voice light and her eyes on her sandwich, then casually took a bite.

  “Why would I want to do that?” To avoid eye contact, I reached for the ketchup and mimicked Winnie. It was something to do.

  “Since you got here, it’s been all about you and Gavin,” Winnie said gently. “What you two want, how you’re feeling. It’s normal since you guys just lost your mom, but…” Winnie set her sandwich on the napkin and shot a quick glance at her sister. “I know Bea gets kinda weird at school, but she’s been super nice to you at home. C’mon, she really wants this. What’s a few hours at a party if it makes her so happy?”

  Guilt crept up on me and I sighed. “I’ll have to find another way to make Bea happy.”

  “But you already have an easy way.” Winnie dipped a fry in the ketchup, then popped it into her mouth. “And I’d have so much more fun if you were there. What’s the difference whether your home or at the ball if you’re not going to be happy either place?”

  I stared at the tray of food I’d barely touched and no longer wanted to. “I’ll think about it.”

  “Awesome. On another note, I was wondering…” Winnie picked up her ham and cheese sandwich again. “Mom doesn’t talk about this much. You know, your situation. I mean, she used to tell us a little, but not since Aunt Celeste…” Her eyes darted to mine. “Even then, Mom wasn’t big on sharing. Now, she won’t talk about your mom at all — about any of it.”

  I frowned and removed the foil from the top of my yogurt container. My body was all jacked up from stress and adrenaline, which made me feel a little queasy. If I didn’t eat, I’d probably feel even worse later. “Anything in particular you wanted to know?”

  “Yeah.” She scanned the lunchroom, then leaned forward. “Who’s who here?”

  “Today’s my first day. How am I supposed to know who these people are?”

  “No.” She shook her head. “I mean which ones are werewolves? And are there any vampires here? I can’t tell any of them apart from humans. Never could.”

  Before I’d found out I was a werewolf, I’d believed myself a normal human, just like anyone else. For me, the supernatur
al had only existed in movies and books. When I’d discovered they were real, I’d become fascinated. Winnie’s curiosity had to be killing her. As much as I didn’t like to rat out my fellow freaks, I’d tell Winnie anything she wanted to know.

  I slowly filled my lungs, sifting through the different energies and scents. My eyes landed on some of the faces in the room. “A lot of werewolves near the exit.” I threw a quick glance toward Beatrice. “She seems to attract shape shifters — not necessarily the werewolf kind. Most everyone at her table is a shifter.”

  “What are shifters like?”

  “They’re not volatile like werewolves can be and they’re cerebral. Big thinkers and they’re very creative,” I answered.

  “Cool.” Winnie grinned. “Any vampires here at school?”

  “I’ve never seen one in daylight.” I stirred my yogurt until the blueberries mixed through. “Maybe that’s why only a few hundred kids go here. The vamps are probably homeschooled at night or something.” My school in Florida had thousands of students. So much easier to blend in and disappear in the midst of thousands.

  “Next time you see a vampire, point him out.”

  “Believe me, I will.” I’d never had any real reason to dislike vamps, except they fed off people, which gave me little reason to befriend any of them. Besides, they smelled strange. Not necessarily bad. But when you’re used to a fleshy smell and you get a strong metallic scent, it’s always weird. “I’m amazed Aunt Mina hasn’t told you all this.”

 
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