[et_pb_section bb_built=”1″ admin_label=”BLOOD MOON HEADER” fullwidth=”on” specialty=”off” transparent_background=”off” background_color=”#ffffff” allow_player_pause=”off” inner_shadow=”off” parallax=”off” parallax_method=”off” padding_mobile=”off” make_fullwidth=”off” use_custom_width=”off” width_unit=”on” make_equal=”off” use_custom_gutter=”off” global_module=”312″][et_pb_fullwidth_header admin_label=”BLOOD MOOD GLOBAL HEADER” global_parent=”312″ background_layout=”dark” text_orientation=”center” header_fullscreen=”off” header_scroll_down=”off” background_url=”https://www.worldofsilentpines.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/blood-moon-back.png” parallax=”off” parallax_method=”off” content_orientation=”center” image_orientation=”center” custom_button_one=”off” button_one_letter_spacing=”0″ button_one_use_icon=”default” button_one_icon_placement=”right” button_one_on_hover=”on” button_one_letter_spacing_hover=”0″ custom_button_two=”off” button_two_letter_spacing=”0″ button_two_use_icon=”default” button_two_icon_placement=”right” button_two_on_hover=”on” button_two_letter_spacing_hover=”0″ logo_image_url=”https://www.worldofsilentpines.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/bloodmoonti.png” /][/et_pb_section][et_pb_section bb_built=”1″ admin_label=”section” transparent_background=”off” background_color=”#000000″ allow_player_pause=”off” inner_shadow=”off” parallax=”off” parallax_method=”off” padding_mobile=”off” make_fullwidth=”off” use_custom_width=”off” width_unit=”on” make_equal=”off” use_custom_gutter=”off”][et_pb_row admin_label=”row”][et_pb_column type=”3_4″][et_pb_post_title admin_label=”Chapters Post Title” global_module=”241″ title=”on” meta=”on” author=”on” date=”on” categories=”on” comments=”on” featured_image=”off” featured_placement=”below” parallax_effect=”on” parallax_method=”on” text_orientation=”left” text_color=”light” text_background=”off” text_bg_color=”rgba(255,255,255,0.9)” module_bg_color=”rgba(255,255,255,0)” title_all_caps=”off” use_border_color=”off” border_color=”#ffffff” border_style=”solid” saved_tabs=”all” /][et_pb_text admin_label=”Text” background_layout=”dark” text_orientation=”justified” use_border_color=”off” border_color=”#ffffff” border_style=”solid”]
Silvia was the first one up in the morning. Normally this wasn’t case. Despite being bright-eyed and bushy tailed most of the time, she actually preferred to sleep in.
But this was a SPECIAL case because there was unfinished business in the Devil’s Wood. Caleb had to go and bust her party before she could go on an adventure, and Knucker’s story about the unfinished cabin in the woods sounded way too cool to go unexplored. There were very few things she didn’t know about when it came to stuff on or near the Whelan property.
And Julian was the perfect person to help her find it! Julian could find anything AND Caleb wouldn’t go and have a bucket of kittens about it, because Julian never got in to trouble. At least not without Angela or Margrit around.
“It’s moooooorning!” Silvia announced as she bounced through the guest room door. “Here, you need to put on your clothes, we’ve got to get breakfast and sneak out. Um.” She paused in confusion as she picked up a pair of jeans. These were definitely not Julian’s.
That’s about the moment she realized Julian was not the only person in bed. Her eyes went wide as saucers.
“Whoooa. ….Be right back! I need to go punch Dylan McLean in the face!” Silvia dropped the pants and skittered out of the room as quickly as her feet could carry her.
Julian barely registered the chattering nonsense at first. Brushing a hand against her forehead and glancing at the still wide open door. But once she did…
“Crap.” she muttered softly. “I’m a bad influence.” Julian turned back to nestled in to her comfy spot, where she nuzzled against warm bare skin.
“You probably have ten minutes to live. Nice knowing you, though.” she ended with a contented sigh.
“Not scared of a broody alpha,” returned Leo.
He sat up, though, wincing at the sun filtering in through the open window. He ran his fingers through his hair and surveyed the damage.
Right. Clothes everywhere. Massive hickey on Julian’s neck. Severe need of a shower, for both of them. Oh yeah, and then there was the part where he’d popped Julian’s cherry in the middle of Werewolf Central a few hours after she’d clocked him in the jaw.
Holy shit. What was he going to do?
“But yeah, I’m guessing I’m not invited to breakfast.” He reached over to recover his jeans from the floor, slipping out from under the sheets and wriggling them on. He glanced around to try and locate his shirt, hands on his hips. “You’re here for the whole weekend, right? So I’ll see you Monday morning?”
Julian watched him through one half-opened eye. He looked even better with barely filtered sunlight, instead of the weak nightlight tucked away in the corner. Snatching a pillow and curling her arms around it, Julian was just fine with not bothering to get up at all. She slept so good. No nightmares, no dreams, just pure unmolested SLEEP. He’d probably freak out if she suggested they do that every night.
She had to work very, very hard not to grin.
“I guess you’re not interested in Silvia’s annoyingly early morning adventure.” Julian rolled to sit up and was actually surprise to find herself a little stiff in unusual places. She pulled the sheets up and tucked around her, mostly because any moment now Silvia was going to come running back in.
Julian rest an elbow on her knee and her chin in her hand. There was no helping it, she HAD to grin.
“Is that roomie version of ‘I’ll call you’? I thought you’d have something better for the Vampire Edition of Awkward Morning After speech.”
Leo turned around slowly, tilting his head to give her a once-over.
“Did you have something in mind?” he asked, eyebrows quirked. He spent a minute eyeing the hickey on her neck, the creases in the sheets where they clung to her- and he wasn’t subtle about it, either. “What do you want me to say? Because awkward isn’t something I’m particularly feeling.”
He waited, outwardly calm, pretending he wasn’t holding his breath.
She twist her mouth to the side and tapped her fingers against her cheek. Her eyes flickered from his face down to his toes. She even leaned a bit to the side when she did. There was that look. The one where you just knew she was trying to figure something out.
She must have decided real quick, because her face went dead serious and she held up a finger.
“You can choose one rule to scratch off the list. And I guess if you want to talk to me about all those things you forgot while I was using my evil wiles on you, you should come back later.”
What the fuck? Did she think she was handling him? Leo didn’t need to be handled. His eyes narrowed.
He leaned over, resting one knee on the mattress as he made eye contact. He didn’t blink even once. One of his hands slid up over her leg through the sheets, his thumb rubbing in a slow circle.
“Are you offering me your cereal?” he asked innocently, in a voice Julian had recently become very familiar with. “Aw, sunshine.”
Oh damn. Ohdamnohdamnohdamn. Julian forgot that Leo knew how to throw down the flirt game like he was the freaking KING of it. And now he had a new trick that she had absolutely zero defenses for. She couldn’t let him know how well that worked.
“Tch.” Well, that sure didn’t do it. Crap. She swallowed hard and tried again.
Brushing her hair behind her ears and tilting forward, Julian leaned just inches away from his face.
“Is that the one you want? Because I was thinking you might prefer the one that’s sweet and sticky. And I’m not talking about the cinnamon r-”
That’s when Silvia decided to come running back in, slamming the door behind her and throwing her back against it. Her arms and hands splayed up against it too, as if hell were on the other side and about to break it’s way through.
“I forgot about things!” she announced, leaping from the door to snatch up the articles of clothing she could find. Julian’s pajama shorts were tossed at Leo and Julian was nearly tackled when Silvia got busy trying to force Leo’s shirt over her head.
“I asked if Leo could come with us today, and they were like ‘Only if Julian is okay with that’ and then I was like, ‘She’s TOTALLY okay with it, they’re snuggling now!’ and then everything got quiet and I RAN.”
“Christ,” Leo mumbled, pulling Julian’s shorts out of his face and grabbing hold of Silvia. “Oookay, new plan. You and I are going to go guard the door so a bunch of angry wolfed-out assholes don’t come barging in while Jules is getting dressed. Like other people I could mention.”
He picked Silvia up and tossed her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes, shoving Julian’s shorts into her hands and heading for the door. Halfway there he stopped. With a snap of his fingers, he reached out and wiggled his fingers at Julian.
“Shirt,” he reminded her, hand poised to catch it. He gave her an apologetic little shrug and a look that said we’ll finish this later.
Silvia gave a couple kicks of her feet but didn’t bother trying to escape. She just tilted upside down so she could peer under Leo’s arm. “Why were you sleeping naked, anyway. It gets really cold in here.”
Julian hid a laugh behind her hand, tossing Leo’s shirt back to him.
“Because you create more heat skin to skin, didn’t you know?” she responded, disappearing under the blanket and wiggling in to her shorts. A moment later an arm appeared out from the opposite end of the bed and snatched up her shirt.
“Oh. I guess- Heeeey. Wait a minute.” Silvia starting pounding on Leo’s back with her balled up fists. “I know STUFF when I see it! You can’t STEAL her, she’s supposed to be with me all weekend! You have to wait your turn or at least share.”
“Okay, Pup, settle down.” Leo stepped through the door, shut it behind him, and very carefully dropped Silvia on her ass. “You’re cute, but you’re not old enough to share. Come back when you’ve grown into those big paws.”
He pulled his shirt over his head, leaning back against the door in the process. He took a deep breath.
As he tugged the thin material of the shirt down from around his eyes, he fund himself face-to-face with a glowering brown pair.
“Well hello there, big guy,” Leo greeted Caleb Whelan, who was glaring at him like he’d deflowered his kid sister on prom night. He reckoned that was just close enough to the truth. “Jules can’t come to the door right now, may I take a message?”
Silvia was really confused, trying to figure out which bit of the joke about sharing was flying over her head. Because it did, and she KNEW it did. She finally gave the loudest world weary sigh.
“I TOLD you they made up.” she tried to explain to Caleb while she shuffled her way off the floor.
Julian managed to get her pajamas back on in record time (because damn, there was no way she was putting on anything else without a shower first), and swung open the door.
Leo’s back and Caleb’s scowly face over his shoulder were not the first things she expected to see.
Flushing and trying to play the entire thing off, she rest her hands on the door frame.
“Good morning, Caleb. I’m not grounded am I?”
“I am.” lamented Silvia. “I didn’t even get to kiss OR punch somebody, it’s so not fair.”
“Juli-” Caleb came up short halfway through saying her name, his mouth hanging slightly open. He stared at Julian, and Leo could practically see the slow dawn of shock behind those deeply-furrowed eyebrows and stiffening muscles in Caleb’s shoulders.
Leo also understood the root of the problem instantly. A grin curled at the side of his mouth as he hooked a finger into his shirt collar and tugged a couple of times in quick succession, like he was trying to fan himself with his clothes.
“Sorry, boss wolf,” he said coyly. “Did I come at a bad time?”
Leo was probably going to hell, but he was going to enjoy every minute of it.
“…Julian,” Caleb continued, in a flat, hard tone, “We need to talk.”
He reached past Leo to grab Julian by the hand and drag her past him.
“You wait here,” he added to Leo, who just shrugged cheerfully.
“Knock it off.” she hissed at Leo, shoving him at the shoulder when she passed. Caleb had enough trouble with Silvia without Leo piling his nonsense on top of it.
Julian didn’t put up a fuss even while being led down the hallway to his room. When they crossed the threshold and he let her go to close the door, she already decided apologizing was the best thing to do. After all, Whelan-land was supposed to be vampire free.
“I don’t need to hear the vampires are bad speech again.” she said first, not being able to help it. “I AM sorry he snuck in, though. He wanted to say he was sorry a-” the sentence cut off real quick when she caught a look at herself in the dresser mirror. Julian slapped her hand over her neck and then made quick work of pulling her hair over her shoulder.
“…among other things.” she squeaked. Crap! What was the rules on screwing around with someone in someone else’s house?
“…on the bright side, Silvia will definitely NOT be choosing Leo for her future betrothed.”
“I’m less concerned that he’s a vampire than I am that the last time I saw you with him, you punched him,” Caleb answered, keeping one hand flat on the door.
He scowled at her for a moment, then rubbed his face with his hand.
“Julian, you’re… you’re family,” he told her. “I know we haven’t talked as much lately, but that hasn’t changed. Not for me. Leo is… I actually don’t think he’s bad, honestly, but I do think he’s a stupid ass. And I will kill him if anything happens to you because he doesn’t have his shit together.”
Julian sighed, tossing her head back to glance at the ceiling as she shuffled and dragged her feet towards the bed. She plopped down heavily, folding her legs and then crossing her arms.
“I lost my temper, that’s all. I really shouldn’t have hit him. Pretty sure I was making him nervous and then he tried to hide behind your sister and I have NO idea why that pissed me off.” she groaned and tilted backwards, slapping her hand against her forehead. “I think I SCARE him. Punching him in the face probably didn’t help.”
“That’s a mess you probably don’t want to hear about though.” she muttered, finally sitting back up to tilt her head and give him a skeptical look.
“You don’t have to big-brother me, you know.” she followed up with a grin. “It’s probably him that needs the protecting.”
“That’s not reassuring.” Caleb grimaced. He was still rubbing his jaw like it was sore, averting his gaze. He opened his mouth, then closed it. A moment later he cleared his throat.
“I don’t want him sneaking in my windows,” he growled. “If you two can’t go a weekend without seeing each other he can just stay here. I’d prefer he stays somewhere other than your room but… at least lock the door. My sister doesn’t need to see that.”
Her eyes went wide and blinking. If she looked skeptical before, now she was just stunned.
And it wasn’t even because he was letting Leo stay.
“You do realize that Silvia is fifteen years old? She’s a couple years late to the whole kissing-is-cool party, but she’s here now. As soon as she realizes that she can answer any question just by looking it up on the internet, that’s it. Do you know how easy it is to get porn on the internet?”
Julian was trying really, really hard not to start laughing, but surely Caleb KNEW this was coming.
“Just wait until she figures out how to flirt. Her catching me and Leo getting handsy is the last thing you need to worry about. She might actually be safer around us than the stuff Margrit and Angela are trying to teach her.”
“I don’t want to hear this from you right now,” Caleb shot back, getting a downright ornery expression. “You can’t just- In my spare room, Julian.”
He grabbed a towel off of his dresser and tossed it at her.
“And- just use my shower,” he added. “Alone.”
…Holy shit, was he blushing?
Oh no. She was probably going to hell for this, but getting Caleb all blushy and flustered was too fun to resist. He’d been a grown man since he was twelve and this was pretty much the most adorable thing she’d ever seen next to a blue-eyed firefly. You’d think after dating Angela for a year, he’d be well used to this kind of stuff.
“Okay.” she acquiesced. “I won’t do naughty things with Leo in the guest bedroom.” Of course, by the way she said it, it was obvious that meant everywhere else was up for grabs.
Julian stood shaking out the towel and draping it over her arm. “Or in your shower. But I’ll have you know I can get up to all kinds of things alone too.”
Yep, going to hell. But she was going to hell with a big asshole grin on her face, and she was okay with that.
“Is it that way?”
“Is it THAT way?”
“Is it over there?”
“Julian, that’s ALL the directions!”
Silvia was perched on Kyle’s back where she had been stealing a ride for the past ten minutes. One armed hooked around his neck and her legs locked pretty tight. He really didn’t get much choice in the matter unless he wanted to wrestle her off.
Julian was actually surprised that Silvia wanted to take the risk and invite one of Caleb’s wolves. She suspected Silvia was put out by Dylan’s (completely expected) betrayal and was now trying to woo someone more trustworthy to her side.
“I don’t just automatically know stuff. …Uh… most of the time. We might not even find it before we have to head over to the lake.”
“I knoooow.” Silvia lamented. “But it should be a million times easier to spot it with all the sunshine, right!”
A brief moment of daydreamy stupidity washed over her and Julian miss-stepped. She tripped over a branch and landed face first in to a pile of leaves.
Silvia smacked Kyle’s shoulder a few times so he’d stop walking. “Are you okay!? Is it the going nuclear thing?”
“No, I was thinking about someone stupid.” Julian hauled herself up to her feet then dust the leaves off her jeans. “Kyle, you really don’t have to carry her around. We could just tie a rope around her and drag her.”
“I don’t mind,” Kyle replied- maybe a little too quickly. He glanced up at Silvia with a look that spelled nothing but trouble for anyone involved.
Julian hadn’t had much interaction with Kyle before now. He was in the same grade as Silvia, and it was already evident on short acquaintance that he had done just about as much actual growing up as she had over the years. Literal growing was another story; somehow, the boy was almost as tall as Caleb now, at the tender age of fifteen. Unlike Caleb, Kyle was all long gangly limbs and huge feet that he hadn’t yet caught up to.
“You should’ve brought that guy,” he told Julian, with just a bit of uncertain accusation in his voice. Like he wanted to tell her off, but didn’t know if he’d get in trouble for it. “They can find creepy stuff, right? What use is having a vampire around if you don’t use him?”
“Vampires don’t like the sun, you dummy.” chided Silvia, giving him a soft bonk on the head. She finally slipped off his back to go skipping around and kicking at underbrush to see if she could find old ruins. Silvia wasn’t sure what an unfinished Cabin from a thousand years ago would look like, but she suspected it would probably be buried under a bunch of branches and leaves.
Julian just laughed in response, stuffing her hands in to her jacket pockets. “I’m not sure finding creepy stuff is part of a vampire’s day job any more than it would be for a wolf.”
“What IS a vampire’s day job?” Silvia paused in her path of destruction to give it some thought. “I think I’m going to be a veterinarian. And an alpha. An Alpha Veterinarian!”
“Ask him when you see him, he’ll probably enjoy that conversation.” Julian grinned. She took a moment to glance around them, watching as a shadow darted up a tree. In places where the morning sun broke through the canopy mist was rising up. It was an eerie, but pretty effect. “Besides, I think the weather will turn soon. If we’re lucky we’ll get snow.”
“SNOW!” Silvia bounced. “Snow is SO much better than all the dumb rain! Fall is the worst. Oooh, what’s this thing?” The girl came to a skittering halt, picking up a ratty bit of blue fabric and old plastic. It was a doll with half it’s hair missing and black marker scribbles drawn all over it’s face.
Julian froze. “Jesus! You put that down!”
“So is that guy your boyfriend or what?” asked an utterly unfazed Kyle, snatching the doll out of Silvia’s hands and chucking it one-handed back into the woods. It disappeared out of sight amongst the bushes and undergrowth. “Were you two doing it? I thought you were dating the other vampire. The one who got kidnapped.”
Apparently, he’d either forgotten Leo’s name or just didn’t respect him enough to use it.
“Hey!” Silvia sulked, watching the doll go fly off in to the distance. She took a few steps to follow it, but Kyle’s question was way more interesting than an old doll. The girl spun back around, blinking at Julian with the wide eyes.
“You weren’t just trying to get warm.” Silvia accused. “What was it like! Was there a lot of biting? Auntie Leelee says there’s always a LOT of biting.”
Julian let out a sigh of relief once the doll was out of sight, but her relief didn’t last for long. Apparently she was going to get the third degree from the two silliest sophomores in school. She crossed her arms, the corner of her mouth twitching in a suppressed smile as she chose a direction to keep walking in.
“Leo is not my boyfriend. Yes, we did it. Michael is no longer my boyfriend. …and biting happens, but probably not as much as your Auntie Leelee says. I think. I actually wouldn’t know.” Julian glanced up at the sky, as if she were praying to a higher power for help.
Silvia grabbed Kyle’s arm and started bouncing after her.
“Yeah, but now that you’ve tried it, you have to tell us how to do it right!”
Julian cast a look over her shoulder. “Are we out here hunting for a cabin, or did you drag Kyle out here for sex lessons?”
Kyle turned bright red the moment Silvia grabbed his arm. He scrunched his face up like he was trying to look tough or something, but wasn’t sure how.
“I know how to do it,” he said, in a voice that didn’t convince Julian in the slightest. “So wait. You did it with him but he’s not your boyfriend? Why?”
It wasn’t clear whether he was asking why she’d “done it” with a boy she wasn’t dating, or why he wasn’t her boyfriend. Maybe it was both.
This was adorable. It was also REALLY embarrassing. Julian was glad only Silvia and Kyle were around. Having to answer all these questions with an audience would’ve been awkward. Although, she probably didn’t HAVE to answer any questions. But Julian always felt it was easier and less trouble in the long run to sate Silvia’s – and apparently Kyle’s – curiosity straight away.
She turned around, stuffing her hands in her pockets again, and walked backwards as she talked. “Which question am I answering? Why sex? Why not my boyfriend? Why have sex with someone who is not my boyfriend? The simple answer is because I wanted to, the rest is a little complicated.”
“Yeah, Kyle. Girls can have sex whenever and with whomever they want! They don’t even have to like the person or even KNOW the person. They can just have um… what is it called? A booty call? Did you booty call Leo?” Silvia stopped her dragging of Kyle to just skip along side him.
Julian covered her mouth with her hand, swallowing the grin. When she dropped it again, it was back to all business. “Uh, no. But it wasn’t planned either. So he might have a completely different opinion.”
“Are you suuuure you know how to do it, Kyle? Are you well versed on googling instructions?” Julian asked then, giving Kyle a skeptical look.
“I- I don’t have to google anything!” protested Kyle. He suddenly didn’t look as interested in Julian’s love life. “Anyway, you- I don’t have a problem with girls having booty calls!”
Flustered, the boy huffed and bounced ahead, crashing through some small trees. One of them sprang back and nearly whipped Silvia in the face. A moment later, Kyle yelped.
“Hey! I think I found something.”
He poked his head back through the trees and looked at Julian.
“Psychic lady,” he said, “We were looking for a cabin, right? Does this look like a cabin to you?”
When Julian got a good look at what he was pointing at… Well, it took her a minute to find it. That was before she realized the copse of trees ahead were clustered around a wall made from stacked logs. The woods were thicker here; it was too dark to really see very far in the dim light.
Julian passed Silvia (who spent more time than was needed to swat at that branch, she was either making a scene about it or playing a game – Julian had no idea) and stopped next to Kyle. She’d never been in a part of the wood this wild before. It was almost as eerie as running around in the dark.
“Whoa!!” Silvia spoke Julian’s thought aloud when she squeezed through the brush. “No wonder I never thought to snoop around here, there’s too many trees.”
“Hmm, mystery solved. We can head back now!” chirped out Julian turning slowly to head back the way they came. Silvia immediately got in the way to grab her arms, spin her around and push her towards the rows of old logs.
“Don’t be scared, Julian! That’s why we brought Kyle. If there’s any bears, he can fight them and then we can run while they eat him.” Once she let go, she skipped over to start kicking around at the foundation.
“I’m more worried about that doll crawling through these dark shady woods and no one hearing us scream.” Julian responded, sighing to herself as she followed Silvia.
“This is cool,” Kyle pronounced. He flitted around the edges of the cabin for a few minutes, jumping over the decayed bits of log that broke away when Silvia kicked the side. Finally, he stopped at one end and grabbed onto something that Julian belatedly identified as a handle.
He pulled, and the old door swung open with a burst of sawdust and dead leaves.
“Blech!” The werewolf spit out a mouthful of tree bits. “Okay. Less cool. But look.”
Before either of the girls could stop him, he ducked inside the cabin.
“Didn’t anyone ever tell you two not to pick up creepy dolls or enter creepy cabins in the woods?” Julian asked, not that it made any difference. Kyle was already in the cabin. She shuffled on her feet a few paces away from the door.
Silvia was watching her, then the door, then Julian again.
“Are you scared?” she finally asked seriously with a tilt of her head. “I thought you weren’t scared of anything! Except for zombies.”
Julian laughed, looking a bit sheepish. “A little bit. Being scared is good for you, though. Otherwise you run head first in something that might get you killed. And I’ve kiiiind of decided I am not so keen on dying.”
“Oh! Don’t worry, then! Kyle and I will keep you super safe.” Silvia grabbed Julian’s hand and started tugging. At first Julian refused to budge and just let the girl tug and pull. Finally after a moment of Silvia’s fruitless struggling, Julian sighed again and caved.
Both girls followed in after Kyle, Silvia keeping her promise and holding tight to Julian’s hand. Inside it smelled like old rotting wood and mold, and it was even darker than it was outside. Julian could barely see, but that didn’t seem to be a problem for Silvia who glanced around curiously.
As Julian’s eyes adjusted to the dark, the blackness of the cabin gave way to the outlines of furnishings. Apparently that hunter had gotten farther in building than the story would have one believe, because there was a full king-size bed sitting in the corner. A rotting mattress covered in an utterly filthy quilt rested within the dark oaken frame.
Kyle sat down on it.
“I can’t believe this is still here,” he exclaimed, giving an experimental bounce that jostled the bed and caused all kinds of terrible creaking noises. “This thing is grandpa-old.”
“I didn’t know they had real mattresses in the dark ages!” chimed Silvia. Her promise of protection was short-lived, as she dropped Julian’s hand in an instant to go skipping over to the bed and jump on it. The poor thing croaked even louder, and Julian could just barely see tiny little scuttling things trying to escape from the molded fabric.
This was so dumb. Kindergarten level silliness.
So of course Julian was grinning.
“How old do you think Knucker’s Nana IS?” Julian laughed, stepping away from the creepy crawlie bed to take a look at the other furniture. From her pocket she pulled out her keychain and clicked on the tiny flashlight. They might’ve had wolf eyesight, but Julian wasn’t so great in the dark.
“I guess there wasn’t anyone to claim all this stuff.” she mumbled, running her fingers over a nearby table.
“Cause the trees ATE them.” Silvia reminded her. “I bet everyone who finds this place gets eaten too, that’s why no one ever knows it’s here. We can run while they’re eating Kyle.”
“They can try and eat me,” Kyle boasted, “but I’m way too fast.”
The cabin was nearly fully furnished, really. There was a dining table with a single chair, a large green trunk strapped with iron bars (whether the green was paint or mildew was hard to say), and shelves along one wall. The shelves were lined with glass jars, many empty and broken… but a few were filled with dark, chunky liquids that were hard to get a good look at.
“Anyway it’s fine. No one’s been here in forever.” The boy swung his feet back and forth, peering around the room. “We could make this a wolf hangout. That’d be sweet.”
“Yeah! A super secret club house just for wolves! And we won’t tell Dylan, because Dylan is the worst secret keeper in the world.” Silvia jumped off the bed with a loud thump, sending dust flying in every direction. She swatted her hand around to disperse it, which didn’t do her much good. She ended up sneezing and making it worse.
Julian stepped over to the shelves, shining her flashlight at the jars and trying to figure out what the contents used to be. They looked super gross. Angela would probably get a kick out of them.
“I doubt Caleb will like that idea. There’s probably a good reason the Whelan’s didn’t want anyone living out here.”
“Oh, that’s just because we didn’t want anyone catching the wolves running in the woods. It’s okay for US to be out here.” responded Silvia as she scooted over to the big green trunk. She gave it a few test kicks before dropping to her knees and fussing with it’s latches. “I bet there’s something really cool in here! Like treasure or furry hats!”
“Or snakes,” chimed in Kyle. He slid off the bed and hunkered down beside her. “It could be full of snakes.”
Was that a hopeful note in his voice?
Julian didn’t get much of a chance to consider it, because the moment that SIlvia finished fussing with the latch on the trunk, the cabin door slammed shut with a resounding bang.
Julian hoped to god it wasn’t sna-
The door slammed. Julian shrieked, jumping at least a foot off the ground and dropping her keys in the process.
Which in turn made Silvia yelp, grab on to Kyle and shove him towards the trunk.
Once both girls stopped squealing, Julian groaned in embarrassment while smacking both of her hands against her forehead. That was probably her crowning moment of being a big baby. She was supposed to be the supervising adult here!
“JULIAN.” Silvia complained with a huff. “That was just the door!”
“I thought the trunk exploded in to snakes or something!” Julian confessed, stooping to searching along the ground for her keys. “Snakes are even worse than dolls, have you ever been bitten by a snake?”
Silvia just started giggling.
“It was probably just the wind,” Kyle stated, bracing himself against the trunk with both hands to keep from being bowled over by Silvia. He shoved it open and peered inside. “Whoa. Okay, that’s weird.”
He reached into the trunk and picked up a bit of cloth. When Julian recovered her flashlight and turned it back on Kyle, it was to find he’d snatched up the sleeve of an old dress. It had probably been white once, but the years had yellowed it out and shrank up all the lace.
“I think Knucker’s Nana probably wore this to prom,” snickered Kyle. He pulled the aged dress out of the trunk, bending closer to examine the strange stains that had bloomed across the bodice. “Or to get married maybe?”
Silvia bounced back over reaching to pluck up the bottom layers of the dress and admiring it in her hands. “Oooh. I bet it used to be really pretty. Julian, do you think Mr. Mercy would be able to restore it, maybe? He likes this stuff!”
Julian grinned and shrugged her shoulders. “I’m not sure he knows how to restore antique clothing. It might be better off donated to the Historical Society.”
“It should have been mine.” The voice whispered Julian’s ear.
She froze so stiff she accidentally clicked off the flashlight.
“Shit, sorry!” Julian apologized in a rush of breath, flicking the light back on in an instant and turning to glance a weary glance over her shoulder.
They didn’t seem to hear the voice at all, but that didn’t stop Silvia from picking up on what happened. The girl was annoyingly good at that. “Is it a ghost?” she tried to whisper, but she was way too excited to keep her voice down.
“Maybe. Probably. It might not be such a good idea to take that dress anywhere.” Julian responded warily.
“I’ll make sure you die before I let you be the one.”
This time Julian didn’t freeze up, but her hand curled until she was digging her nails in to her palm. In a blink, there she was. Standing near the bed in the white dress. No. Not the dress… it was some sort of nightgown. Drenched down the front was streaks of red. Julian’s stare didn’t get farther than the delicate chain of a necklace before the woman vanished again.
“…okay, angry ghost. We’re leaving now! Kyle, get the door open.” Julian strode forward to grab Silvia’s hand, carefully shining her flashlight around the cabin and keeping an eye out for that ghost.
“But I don’t SEE anything! I want to see the ghost!” complained Silvia.
“What? But I don’t want to go!” protested Kyle. He didn’t seem to be on the same page as the girls; he pulled the dress further out of the trunk, the pale fabric spilling over the side onto the floor. “It’s just a dumb ghost, what can it do? It can’t hurt us.”
“ACTUALLY.” Silvia held up a hand, mimicking the way Margrit liked to correct Angela during their arguments. “Ghosts can do all kinds of things! Strong ones can move stuff. And they can take over your body and possess people if they’re really, really strong. AAAAAAAND if there’s a lot of them, they turn in to a big ghost army and they try to kill everyone!”
Julian let out a breath, something between a groan and a laugh. “That wasn’t what happened at all, Silvia. None of them tried to kill anyone.”
“Not until you told that witch you were gonna sick them on her. Then they were all like MURDERER! MURDERER! and everything got really cold and tense and she was so mad and scared of her own ghosts.”
The cold and tense part was correct. Julian was actually trying to brace for it now, that familiar feeling of a lingering presence. But… things weren’t quite feeling the same. Something was definitely going on.
She knew, because the shadows that had been on her heels since Halloween suddenly weren’t there. Why did that actually scare her?
“Who is the ghost expert here?” Julian asked, flashing her light in Kyle’s eyes a couple times. “An angry ghost most definitely could hurt you, and who do you think ghosts go after first? Cute little brown eyed virgin girls like Caleb’s precious baby sister, that’s who.”
With or without his agreement, Julian tugged Silvia along to the door. She handed the girl her flashlight so she could fight with getting the door opened herself.
“But you can stay here and be a ghost bride’s new husband, that’s cool too.” Julian flashed a pointed look over her shoulder.
He was at the door a moment later, tomato red and giving Julian a defiant glare. He put his shoulder to the door and shoved, pushing it slowly open. A sliver of dim light filtered in through the crack.
“I’m not scared,” he told her as he braced the door open wide enough for Julian and Silvia to slip through. “But- You’re not taking Silvia back without me. You can tell Caleb I wouldn’t leave without her.”
It was almost sweet, how insistent he was being about that.
Julian smiled wide at him. All flash of teeth and sanguine sweet. He was adorable and if she weren’t concerned about getting them as far away from trouble as she could get them, Julian would have teased him a little.
Instead she pushed Silvia through the door first and followed her out. Silvia scoffing and rolling her eyes the whole way. “You’re such an alpha’s boy, Kyle! I’m scarier than Caleb is and one day I’m going to be the Alpha!”
Julian ended up running right in to her back, because she wasn’t watching what was in front of her. Her stare was focused on something yards out. A tree, bigger than any tree she had seen before, with nary a single branch. And the entire thing was on fire. The flames reaching high up in to the sky. Julian could even smell the smoke.
She found her shadows, though. The were fleeing just as fast as little shadows could, darting away from the tree and in to the woods.
Julian grabbed Silvia by the shoulders and turned her in that direction too.
“The two of you are cute as buttons, but I don’t want to find out how long it takes to incite a haunting, so WALK!”
By the time they reached the lake, the sky had long since clouded over and the first flakes of snow had started to fall. That was probably a good thing, given that at least one member of the party had a severe sun allergy.
Most of the wolves were romping around through the fresh powder like happy puppies. Kyle cut off mid-sentence in his dialogue with Silvia about Disney radio and darted ahead to join them, barreling headfirst into a pile with Dylan, Tanner, and Harper. They all came tumbling down at the edge of the water amidst raucous laughter and good-natured threats.
As Kyle passed, Caleb leveled an intense frown in Julian’s direction. He seemed reluctant to actually approach her, though, content to sit with his back against a tree and survey the lake with evident disapproval.
There was a picnic table a moderate distance from the lake. Although it was now cloudy and grey, the thickness of the trees cast the whole area in shade; even in full sun, that spot would be covered by shadow. Leo was sitting at the table with his head resting on his arms. When Julian got a little closer, she could see his face was turned off to the side; he was fast asleep. Snow was starting to frost his face like a pile of pancakes loaded up with powdered sugar. Apparently the cold didn’t bother him much.
“Snow, snow, snoooow! I love it when you’re right about things!” cheered Silvia, skipping and twirling with her arms in the air. She even did a cartwheel, sticking her landing so perfectly that she had to pose and wait expectantly for Julian to clap for her. When she did, Silvia giggled and bounced around some more.
Julian had to admit the snow was pretty great. Winter was her favorite time of year. There was just something calm and beautiful about the world being blanketed in a soft white light. She held her hand out catching a few of the flakes in her palm. Then her brows furrowed. Her thumb brushed over her fingers, leaving a streak of grey.
She glanced upwards. Instead of snowflakes, everything was being smothered in grey ash. On glancing behind her she could see the tree still burning in the distance. Even feeling the heat from it despite being too far away for it to even be possible. And now, it wasn’t the only one. Five more joined it in a wide circle, smoke and ember rising up to the dark clouds. Like her vision, they were spread out at perfect points, and here she was standing at the center.
“Julian, you’ve been a little weird since the cabin.”
Julian blinked down at Silvia who was now waving her hand way to close to Julian’s face. She swatted her hand away, giving the girl a quick and soft smile. “Sometimes when the psychic stuff starts up, it’s hard to turn it back off again. I’ll be okay.”
“Good! Because I want to go draw butts on Leo’s face!” Silvia giggled, darting off towards the table.
“What? Noooo!” Julian hissed softly, chasing after her. She just barely managed to catch the wild beast around the waist, hauling her up with a grunt and slapping a hand over her giggling mouth. Now Julian herself was trying not to start giggling as Silvia put up a fuss.
“Shhh. You let him sleep, okay? Vampires don’t do the daylight, remember?” Julian waited until Silvia nodded before she set her back down on her feet and let her go. “Besides, he’s already a buttface, you don’t need to broadcast it to the world.”
Julian got the joke! That made Silvia beam ear to ear like a little wicked faerie wolf.
“Why are you here?” A voice accused from behind Julian. She blinked and turned around to spy Alexa Ryan looking as friendly as ever. “You’re not one of us. You don’t belong here.”
“I might be for dinner. I haven’t seen a picnic basket yet.” Julian responded in return. Silvia giggled softly, but Lexi didn’t seem nearly amused by the joke. Instead she stepped almost toe-to-toe with Julian and leaned down to scowl in her face. Julian hadn’t realized how tall the girl was until now.
“I don’t see what the big deal about you is. What makes you so special? I could break your neck right now if I wanted to.”
Julian blinked again, her mouth twisting to the side as she frowned. “You’re doing it wrong.”
“Doing what wrong?” Lexi almost growled.
“Intimidation. You’re not going to intimidate anyone by posturing like that. I’m not sure inspiring fear in people is what you want to do, anyway.”
“I what?” Lexi’s stony face faltered and she straightened. There might have even been a tinge of pink in her cheeks. “I bet you know all about that, right? Being Margrit’s friend and all. Fear is how she rules the school.”
Julian crossed her arms and tapped her fingers against her elbows. “But if zombies invaded the school and we were all trapped there, do you think everyone would rally behind a leader like Margrit? The one that’s bribed and terrorized them for their loyalty? I think I would rather follow someone that makes me feel safe and like they care about keeping me alive.”
Lexi cast a bewildered, almost alarmed look towards Silvia. She wasn’t sure what just happened, how they even got in to this conversation. She expected a fight. Especially because she wasn’t used to this. Lexi had only just finally gotten used to pack dynamics, why was this puppet of Margrit actually talking to her like- like-
“A person?” Julian offered earnestly. She didn’t realize until Lexi turned stark white that Lexi hadn’t actually said anything out loud.
Oh damn. What did I just do?
Now it was Julian who was tinging pink. “I’m sorry, I’m kind of… I’m weird. C’mon, I’ll show you how to really intimidate someone.”
Julian turned quickly on a heel, shrugging off her jacket in the process. Despite all the flurrying snow, things were getting uncomfortably warm. The trees vanished sometime during their conversation, but she still felt like her skin was trying to singe.
She detoured just long enough to drape her jacket over Leo’s head. He might be all vampire immune to the cold, but he also didn’t need to get buried under snow. Julian grabbed Silvia’s itchy fingers before she tried to assault him, and then Lexi’s hand to drag her along too.
The werewolf girl was still in a silent state of shock and staring down Julian like she was some sort of creature. The two girls didn’t get released until they approached the pile of tussling boys. Julian rest her hands on her hips, tilting her head to the side as she gave them all an oddly patient look.
“Dylan McLean.” Julian stated his name, just to make sure she had their attention. “You betrayed Silvia’s trust. What made you think I was going to let you get away with that?”
Dylan surfaced up from the pile with Kyle’s head locked under his arm. Ignoring the smaller boy’s flailing, he peered up at Julian with obvious confusion.
“What are you talking about?” he asked, glancing from Julian to Silvia with burgeoning dismay. “I did what now?”
Silvia bristled up, stomping her foot and getting ready to just dogpile Dylan (and poor Kyle by extension). She had to stop when Julian held out a hand in front of her. Lexi just stood there on the opposite side a pace or two away. Her arms crossed as she glanced back and forth between the lot of them, trying to look like she had a clue of what the hell was going on.
“Silvia worked very hard on her super secret bonfire, with the snacks and music. Even a chaperone to help her out.” Julian pointed at herself. “And invited her favorite most trusty boys.” She tilted her head towards Silvia. “Dylan was invited too wasn’t he?”
“Uh huh!” Silvia nodded furiously.
Julian turned back to Dylan, giving him that exasperated oh how could you look. “But instead of coming to dance and eat marshmallows, you tattled to Caleb. I’d call that a betrayal.” She paused just long enough to twist at the silvery ring on her left hand, then pulled it off to replace on her right. Julian flexed her fingers.
“I know you have to answer to Caleb, but…” she leaned forward with a smile and whispered. “I’m scarier than Caleb.”
Dylan blinked and let go of Kyle, holding up his hands. He still looked utterly confused about his predicament.
“I’m sorry?” he began, hesitantly. He glanced at Caleb, whose back was turned- even though he had to be able to hear this conversation- and then back at Julian. “I was just trying to make sure she was safe?”
Julian clasped her hands behind her back and rocked on her feet. Twisting her mouth to the side as she gave it some thought. Silvia puffed up looking nice and smug, while Lexi rolled her eyes.
“There was what, me, a vampire and three guys? That’s a lot to handle by yourself and if one of the Devil’s Wood beasties showed up – well.” Julian wrinkled up her nose and her posture changed again. She folded her arms to tap her fingers against her elbows.
“You’re right, Dylan. I’m sorry.”
“Whaaat, no!” Silvia complained with a start.
“Sorry, Silvia. I mean, he could have hung out with us and then called Caleb if something went wrong. Or maybe brought in some wolfy backup and lurked and nipped at us if we started any trouble. But Dylan is still just a puppy. Waking up Caleb in the middle of the night to help chase off a bunch of teenagers was the safest thing to do.”
Silvia stomped her foot in protest. “But he tattled and now I can’t ever trust him AGAIN!”
“That iiiis true.” Mused Julian out loud, shifting to tap her chin. “Betraying the trust of my alpha princess is a big deal. Which is why I’m afraid I still have to kick your ass, Dylan.” She went ahead and started pushing up the sleeves of her sweater while Silvia started bouncing and clapping.
“Unless you have a better idea for how you can make it up to Silvia? I’d hate to knock all your teeth out before dinner.”
Dylan’s face slowly turned beet red. He narrowed his eyes as Julian continued, and finally gritted out an apology from between his teeth.
“I’m sorry,” he told them, still grimacing. “I’ll- I’ll make it up to you later.”
Without waiting, he shoved Kyle out of the way and stomped off toward the treeline. Both of the remaining boys turned looks of something akin to awe on Julian.
“Whoa,” said Kyle. “That was so cool.”
“It was actually kind of mean. I just embarrassed him in front of the pack.” Julian commented, fretting with the edges of her sleeves. “…which is why Silvia is going to go to tell him she’s sorry for having to sic her scary Julian-monster after him, that he really is a VERY good wolf, and she acknowledges how serious he takes her safety.” She a pleading glance to the girl.
Silvia turned about as red as Dylan. Puffing out her cheeks as if she were trying to swallow a big fat frog. “Do I have to?”
“No. But I think he would like to know that you appreciate he cared enough to wake up grumpy old Caleb at the risk of it being over nothing, just because he was worried about you being alone in the woods with a bunch of potentially creepy dudes.”
The tiny girl blinked twice before her eyes went wide. “Oh. …DYLAN!!” She took off running towards the trees after him.
Now it was Lexi standing there looking bewildered. “You weren’t going to kick his ass at all. You just- What the hell was that?”
Julian grinned wide. “That was taking care of your people, so they’re happier and less likely to kill each other. A pack is stronger when they take care of each other. Riiiiight?” She wiggled a finger until she picked her victim and poked Harper’s forehead.
Julian made a new friend.
Lexi didn’t really know that’s what happened, and seemed to be just as uncomfortable as Knucker when it came to someone actively willing to engage them in conversation. Julian realized very quickly that Lexi’s biggest problem was that she just didn’t know how to talk to people, especially a girl. Silvia seemed to be the big exception, but that didn’t surprise Julian at all. Silvia could charm the poison out of a snake.
Even the burning feeling in her skin had faded away and things were back to normal.
Until she saw her again.
Long dark hair covering her face. The red stained nightgown. She looked like she had climbed right out of a horror movie, and decided to make her appearance at a dangerously close distance to Leo. Right while Julian was in the middle of a conversation with Lexi. She nearly choked mid-sentence, but the woman was gone in a blink.
It’s forbidden. But who are they to tell me what I can and can not do? I wanted it. It should have been mine.
The voice growled and she could feel it’s breath against her ear. Julian guessed if a ghost was going to follow them out of the woods, it was better her than Silvia or Kyle. When Lexi moved to shout at Tanner and Harper about not properly setting up the firepit, Julian turned away to whisper under her breath.
“What should have been yours? If you tell me I can help you.”
I made my choice. But it was wrong.
When Julian blinked again, the woman was right there in front of her. Her head tilted up and her hair slid away from her face to reveal hazel-eyes. Before Julian could comment, up came ghostly white hands and she could feel something icy cold passing through her. The whole world shifted.
Trees were everywhere, taller than she had ever seen them and with pale white bark. Mist rolled across the ground. The shadows were there, but they were angry. Frustrated. They were trying to block her path, but she just stepped over them. Ignored their warnings. She wanted this. She DESERVED this. So focused on her goal, she didn’t even bother looking anywhere but forward. No consideration for the paths she could take, the other choices she could make. It called to her. The light, the strength, the POWER.
She reached for the fire. In the flames she could see the future.
A hand grabbed Julian’s wrist and she snapped back to reality.
“Be careful!” Silvia chided. “You’ll get burned if you get much closer. It’s getting really cold, maybe you should get your jacket back from Leo?”
Somehow Julian had wandered all the way to the firepit and was about to shove her hand right in to the fire. She could almost even see the faces in the flames. Strangely familiar faces. Without saying a word, she smiled and nodded at Silvia, then stepped back to head towards the picnic table.
I chose the fire and I didn’t even get to watch it burn. What makes you so much better than me?
“Stay OUT of me.” hissed Julian once she was at a far enough distance from the others. She was being haunted by a pissed off HOLLINGER. This had to be epic levels of not good. “You’re dead now. You need to let it go.”
Silence. Eerie. Unnatural silence.
It took Julian a moment to realize it was because everything was gone. She was somewhere else again, though at least this time it wasn’t with a hitch-hiker riding along in her body. All around her were the trees and mist. There was an unsettled queasiness in her stomach and when she curled her hand against it she got a fist full of the silky black fabric of a dress instead of her sweater. She could feel the forest floor beneath her bare feet.
The shadows were there again too, but this time they weren’t frustrated or mad. They were excited. Shifting and darting in different directions to show her all of the different paths she could walk. Behind each path she could see a massive tree in the distance. Six trees missing their branches.
No. There were seven. The seventh path was dark and shaded and she shook her head when the shadows all surged towards it. They waited, though. Patiently. Until finally, chewing in to her cheek she risked the chance and took a few steps towards the shade.
Everything faded all at once. There was just Julian and black space. But floating in the space in all directions were tiny little… things. Snowflakes, embers, droplets of water, feathers, fire and more. When she hovered a hand near them she could see the reflections inside. People, events and places.
You want me to choose the future, she thought. She couldn’t see the shadows now, but they were there. This is what the Hollinger woman was angry about. She wanted to choose the future, but it was a future that was Julian’s to choose.
Julian glanced around, considering it carefully. She wanted a future that would take care of everyone she loved. She wanted them to be safe and protected and warm. She wanted…
She knew it the moment she saw it. Maybe it was stupid. But that’s what they got asking a sixteen year old girl to make these kinds of decisions. Julian could give Leo the sun and by extension give everyone else a good future too.
The Hollinger woman appeared again, her smile and kind of deranged as her pale dead hands tried to circle around the little ember of sunshine. Julian could almost feel it, as if she were trying wring her hands around Julian’s heart. She stalked forward, ignoring the icy splash that lapped over her feet and against her legs. Before the woman could take it, Julian snatched it from her fingers.
Then she fell right through the ground, the air around her feeling thick and ice cold. But she had it. When she pulled her hand back away from her chest, there was her future. Warm and safe.
Something out in the empty distance shifted, somehow even darker than the black space. It churned and grew, stretching out long tendrils.
The dark comes for you now.
The voice whispered in her ear, as the darkness circled around her. Julian sucked in a breath to scream but she only got lungs full of water.
Leo blinked slowly up through waving strands of weeds. He turned in a circle, finding himself alone, but he couldn’t shake his overwhelming feeling of apprehension. He was waiting for something, for someone.
“Leo,” a voice whispered. “You’re drifting away from me.”
“Sadie?” he called back, spinning again. “Sadie, wait-”
“You’re already gone,” she said mournfully, still invisible to his searching eyes, though it sounded like she was speaking from all around him. “You abandoned me. How could you?”
He felt icy hands pawing at his face and neck. Leo gasped and tried to jerk away, but they held him fast.
Until… all at once, without knowing why, Leo looked up again. He was just in time to watch a shape blot out the sun.
As the shape sank through the water like a stone, Leo felt those hands retreat. He stumbled forward out of their grasp, hands reaching upward automatically. Long, dark hair floated past Leo’s face. He circled his arms around the heavy bundle in the water and held on tight, taking a shuddering breath.
A hand reached up to stroke his cheek. Leo turned his head.
Julian was curled up in his arms, her hair a swirl of dark strands around her head and eyes wide open. She grinned, petting his face again. It took more willpower than Leo would ever admit to not lean into her touch.
“Hi there, firefly,” she told him fondly. “I need you to wake up.”
Leo’s eyes snapped open.
At first he wasn’t sure what had woken him. The wolves were still roughhousing- a somewhat subdued-looking Dylan was playing toss by himself while the rest competed to see who could jump the highest over a fallen tree. Caleb looked like he was half-asleep next to his tree. Leo sat up, wiping new-fallen snow from his face and startled to find Julian’s jacket laying on top of him.
He’d barely had a chance to think anything more than, What? when he heard the splash.
Leo turned around just in time to watch Julian’s head disappear into the lake. It was in a different direction than the one Caleb had been watching between catnaps, and Leo felt the bottom drop out of his stomach when she didn’t surface again a moment later.
Something was wrong. He wasn’t sure how he knew… But it was.
Leo never moved so fast in his life.
She wasn’t where she was supposed to be. Just like the fire, she had walked herself right in to trouble. Clutching the future tight to her chest, her other hand went over her mouth and nose. If she exhaled she’d start coughing and choking, sucking in would just be another mouthful of water. Julian squeezed her eyes shut.
The future was right here. She couldn’t let it get drowned. Not by the dark. Not by some asshole dead Hollinger.
When arms circled around her she fought. And she kept fighting when they broke the surface, where by reflex the shock of air made her gasp and cough.
“F-fuck you, BETH!” Julian sputtered out, nearly swallowing another mouthful of water as she flailed her one free arm.
“Stop struggling, goddammit!” Leo told her, pulling her tighter against his chest as he kicked towards land. “Or I swear to god I will drown you myself.”
He had no idea who Julian thought she was talking to. No idea who the fuck Beth was supposed to be. And he didn’t care right now. All he cared about was making sure Julian didn’t drown in Glass Lake like a fucking moron.
Leo had shucked his jacket (and hers) somewhere between here and the shore, so he was totally soaked through by the time they got out of the water. He hauled her out first and practically dropped her in the shallows, wringing excess moisture out of his shirt as he fell down next to her.
“You owe me so fucking bad,” he said, matter-of-fact, rolling over onto his knees.
Julian threw a foot up ready to kick him in the face before she realized who she was looking at and scooted away. It helped that the ghostly form of Beth Hollinger was rising up from the water just beyond him, like some sort of spawned demon with the contorted face to match. Julian choked on the words go to hell, gesturing sharply at the woman to stay away.
From that point she wasn’t quite sure what happened. Maybe it was the shadows that frightened her off with their protective circling. Maybe she took Julian’s terrified words to heart and went on her merry way right back to hell. Maybe she just wanted to come back later to be a huge pain in Julian’s ass.
Whichever it was, she vanished with a hiss of black mist. Leaving Julian numbly clutching her balled up fist to her chest and casting a wary look around her. When she looked down she brushed her free hand over her soaked jeans.
“I’m all wet.” she muttered.
“Nooo! I am officially the worst babysitter EVER! Margrit and Angela are gonna be so mad!” squealed Silvia a few paces away on dry land.
“I have that effect on the ladies, so I hear,” drawled Leo wryly.
A second later he was jabbing his finger right up against Julian’s stomach.
“You- stupid- You’re such an idiot!” he snapped. “You wanna drown? The expression ‘go jump in a lake’ isn’t supposed to be literal.”
He was going to keep yelling, because he was actually sort of terrified right now, to be honest. He’d only just gotten himself in deep with this girl, and he was also just now starting to realize how incredibly dangerous her visions were. If she wasn’t aware of her surroundings, god only knew what she might do while she was possessed by ghosts or worse.
Leo couldn’t afford to care this much.
“Julian, are you okay?” That was Caleb. For all that he’d seemed to be asleep, the alpha woke up real fast the moment Julian was in obvious danger. He knelt down beside the pair, pushing Julian’s hair away from her skin. He glanced over at Leo. “I have towels in the back of my truck. Come on.”
“The dark doesn’t like the future I chose.” she mumbled in response to Caleb, with an oddly casual shrug of a shoulder.
Frowning, she grabbed Leo’s hand and turned it palm up. She opened her fist over it, expecting the ember of sunshine to drop in to his palm. When nothing did, she glanced in confusion at her empty hand.
“I brought you something.” she said first, under her breath. “…I guess you’re not going to get it right now, though.” Julian glanced up at the sky, seeing if maybe that’s where it went.
…but that was crazy. That’s not how these things worked.
Reality was sinking in again. Probably brought on by the gust of wind and the way she suddenly shivered. Her face flushed, and her expression went surly.
“I’m FINE!” she insisted, sloshing in the shallows to try and get to her feet before either of them got it in their heads to snatch her up and carry her. “It’s just a little cold water.”
“Did you forget that you can’t swim, Julian?” Silvia asked curiously. “I’ll get your coat!”
“You do whatever you want,” Leo told her flatly. “I’m personally going where the towels are.”
No need to panic, he reminded himself. She’s not going to drown in six inches of water. And she’s got plenty of people watching out for her.
In addition to the Whelan kids, the rest of the pack was hovering nearby. Even Lexi. Leo wasn’t sure when Lexi had started giving a fuck about Julian, but there it was. Knowing Julian, she’d probably pulled some crazy psychic guru nonsense to win the girl over.
Running a hand through his sopping hair, Leo hauled himself up to his feet and started heading for Caleb’s truck. He had taken maybe one or two steps when it hit him that he had no idea how he knew Julian was going to be in the water.
What the FUCK.
Julian kicked a splash of water at him as he walked away. She was the one that just swallowed half the lake, and she wasn’t even that upset. It was just another stupid vision gone awry. This wasn’t even where she was meant to die. What did he even have to get mad about besides being soaking wet?
And just as quickly as her temper flared up, she realized that was what he was mad about. Not the sopping wet part. The why part.
Then she was mad all over again for completely different reasons.
She stomped past Caleb, turning around to wiggle her fingers at her temples and then make that little mind blown gesture to let him know what was going on. That was apparently going to be the new symbol for I just had a psychic meltdown.
Julian kept walking backwards until she passed a very stupefied Leo. He got a questioning, curious glance, but when she got a few more paces away she held up two fingers to address the whole lot of them.
“For the record, I really am totally okay. Everything tastes like frogs though and if one of you wants to give me swimming lessons later, that would be a GREAT idea. …but still. No ghosts, no apocalypse, no dying! We’re good!”
A step after she tripped over a branch buried under the fresh snow and landed on her back with a yelp and a thump.
Oh hell. So much for proving she had spatial awareness.
But she threw her arms in the air with a thumbs up anyway.
“STILL GOOD.” then slapped her hands over her face. So not good. She really did need a babysitter.
“Get up,” Leo told her. He crouched next to her, holding his hand out to help her shift onto her feet.
Outwardly he may have been calm, but his brain was whirring and fizzling inside his skull. Now that he really thought about it, Leo had been having flashes like this for weeks. Dreams, senses of impending doom, whatever you wanted to call it. He’d known Julian was going to hit the deck at school before anything had even happened.
Leo wasn’t psychic. So what the hell was going on?
And should he say something?
“You’re soaked, dumbass,” he pointed out. “And it’s snowing. You need to get changed.”
“Already trying to get me out of my clothes again.” she quipped. Julian eyed his hand for a second before she caved in a grabbed it to pull herself to her feet. She might understand why he was being pissy, but she wasn’t sure how long she could hold out on her temper and not take another swing at him if he was being a pain in the ass.
Julian really wasn’t sure if she had control over ANYTHING she could do at the moment and that was a scary thought. She wasn’t afraid to die or accidentally hurt herself, but what if she hurt someone else. Could she? She might’ve taken Leo down with her to the bottom of the lake had he not been vampy strong.
“YAY! YOU FOUND MY BOOK!” Silvia’s voice rang out while Julian dusted snow off her wet clothes. (As if that was going to help at all.) “Look, Lexi! It’s spooky stories.” It seemed Silvia was going to hold her jacket hostage for the time being.
Julian very quickly turned around to head towards Caleb’s truck.
“Right, towels and clothes. And I guess the ‘Tell me why you decided to take mid-day winter bath or I’m going to poke you in the nose.’ stuff.” she muttered and squinted at him from over her shoulder.
“That’s a good place to start, probably,” he agreed. He made a face at her, because she was doing that thing again. The one where she played through the whole conversation in her head and decided what he was going to say without even giving him a chance. “Why did you decide to suddenly take up November ice bathing?”
He actually didn’t even care at the moment, but he’d care later. He also needed a topic of conversation to get going or he was going to go insane listening to his own mental processes.
It suddenly hit him that he could totally touch her now. He was allowed to touch her. Half of a grin had curled across his face by the time he got his arm around her shoulders and pulled her in close against his side.
This. This changed everything.
All of her sass just vaporized in an instant. Her mouth twisted to the side, and there might have been a tinge of pink in her cheeks, made irritatingly obvious with her being cold and wet. Julian had forgotten that this was a thing now. A thing she could actually do. So her first impulse of wanting to throw her arms around his waist and cling because he was warm, and stupid, and that safe place she liked to be when she was trying to pretend she wasn’t freaked out, was actually okay. She was one hundred percent allowed to take it where ever she wanted to go.
But throwing her arms around him and clinging would probably make walking a little tricky.
Julian crossed her arms instead, tilting her head to knock against his shoulder and rolling to press her forehead against his neck. Only for a brief moment, though, or else she really would’ve stopped just to squeeze him and they’d never make it to Caleb’s truck.
“It’s just the same stuff that’s been going on for weeks.” she said first, trying to swallow any urges to grin at him because that would reveal things she just wasn’t ready to blurt out loud yet. “With a little extra today, I guess. We must have triggered some pissy dead Hollinger on Silvia’s adventure this morning, because she’s decided she’d rather see me dead than watch me decide the fate of the world, or something. I don’t know.”
“I DO know no one is going to ever let me out of their sight again. That’s going to make shower time interesting.”
“Interesting for who?” he asked, still smiling. His eyebrow quirked just a smidgen.
He wanted to let her talk, he really did, but that was slowly being replaced by the urge to tease her. Because Leo definitely had priorities. Absolutely.
Responsibility won in the end, though. He rubbed her arm to try and work some warmth back into her bones, because he could hear the slight chatter of her teeth as they approached the old pickup. He pulled her around towards the rear of the truck, flipping the back hatch down and reaching into the truck bed to retrieve towels from under the plastic weatherproof covering. He let go of her only to toss a towel over her head.
Before she could protest, though, he’d seized either side of it and started to rub moisture off of her face and out of her hair.
“I’m having some weird shit go on too,” he admitted. She needed to know, although he wasn’t keen on getting into specifics of some of his suspicions just yet. “Psychic shit.”
Julian put up a half-hearted fuss when he tossed the towel at her, if only because putting up a fuss was the perfect response to him pestering her. But that stopped the second he mentioned psychic shit.
She pushed the towel up and out of her eyes with the back of her hand, giving him a blinking stare. “That really isn’t a vampire thing, though, is it.” she stated, already knowing the answer. Which just made her chew in to her lip again while she mulled it over in her head.
“Hum, Angela wondered if you got any weird effects from drinking my blood. Something about psychics and blood divination or something like that. Maybe that’s all.” she wrinkled up her nose, having the feeling that maybe she got that backwards and it should have been the other way around. Trying to keep up with the massive dumps of information that Angela fed her was almost as hard as trying to keep track of the psychic stuff itself.
Impulse had her raising a hand and pressing her finger to that little glowy spot in his chest. “What sort of psychic things? You’re not going to walk in to lakes and try grabbing fires too are you? Because I’m not such a great lifeguard.”
“Maybe.” He wasn’t entirely convinced of that. “But it’s been happening since before all that, I think. I’m getting… flashes.”
“Flashes” was probably the most neutral thing he could call them. They were way too vivid, way too urgent. And so far, they’d all been related to… this dumb girl.
“I’ll be fine,” he told her. His thumb stroked her chin, almost like he’d done it accidentally. Except he hadn’t. “I’m apparently all set to be the lifeguard on call here, complete with handy pay-the-fuck-attention whistle. I’m more concerned about you freezing your ass off than anything else right now. So…”
To illustrate his point, he yanked her out of view behind the truck and started to peel her shirt up and over her head. He was going slow enough that she could totally stop him, though he kind of hoped she didn’t.
If this was something that was happening before, then it had to be something they should discuss. He always fussed HER in to talking about her psychic things. Granted, she was probably the one to push the whole talking thing in the first place. That was never a problem with Leo.
“Yes, but what kind of flashes.” she asked, as if she hadn’t noticed he was thieving her shirt and that she was lifting her arms up so he could do it. But she most certainly DID notice because she cringed went her cold wet hair hit her skin, and just out of reflex she reached up to cover her hand over her opposite shoulder.
Julian cast him a brief squinty look. She was doing it again, trying to swallow a grin, or a smirk, or something stupidly smarmy.
“You know I don’t have any clothes out here, right?” she asked, knowing full well he did. “I doubt the best way to get warm is strolling around the lake in a towel.” She didn’t mean to say it like she was looking for suggestions. But THIS was what the problem was. Distraction. Stupid simple things turned in to her wanting to kiss him and then she couldn’t think about anything else.
“You don’t?” he teased her, playing dumb as he pulled his own shirt up over his head and tossed it next to Julian’s on the ground. He grabbed the towel away from her and wiped his face, using the delay to stall while he made up his mind exactly what to say.
“How about we warm up with a little skin-to-skin contact?” suggested Leo, giving her the most ridiculously innocent look he could muster. “You. Me. Truck full of warm air and a big fluffy towel?”
Honestly, that was probably the best plan. They weren’t going to be able to change clothes here and if they stayed in their wet outfits, they were going to freeze.
“…I knew you were going to walk into the lake before you did it,” he finally cut to the chase, reluctantly. He ran a finger along her shoulder, hooking it into her bra strap. “It woke me up.”
It sounded ridiculous when he said it out loud. Leo was pragmatic, rational; he liked things he could see and understand. He didn’t like being woken out of a dead sleep by Julian’s astral projection or whatever essentially telling him she was about to drown.
Julian didn’t buy that blue-eyed innocent look at all. He was too awfully good at it. She stepped backwards until her back hit the steel of Caleb’s truck (holy crap that was icy), and reached behind her looking for the door handle.
After all, it WAS a good idea. There was no sense standing out in the snow freezing, and there was no way in hell she would hang out half naked with Caleb’s extended wolf family. It would be just ASKING for fishy jokes.
“It could have been me doing it. Maybe.” she cast him an up and down look. Really, it was just an attempt to see if she could figure out why, but then the distraction set in again. Leo without his shirt on and wet jeans clinging to him was actually a very nice thing to look at.
“I knew I was in trouble and I didn’t want to lose it after I went through all that trouble to get it.” She neglected to mention what the ‘it’ was just by accident. Her fingers found the door handled and she pried it open with a pop.
“Get what?” was Leo’s first question, of course. He didn’t wait for her answer, though, before he scooped her up and lifted her into the seat. He ducked back around to grab the biggest towel he could find out of the truck bed, then climbed in after her and shut out the cold. Caleb’s keys were waiting in the ignition, so Leo didn’t waste time in cutting the car on. While he let the engine warm up, he wrapped them both up in the towel- Jesus, Julian’s skin was freezing– and tugged her in close.
This was… cozy. Leo took a slow breath to keep his heart rate down, all too aware of the girl whose skin was pressed up against his.
“So you know,” he mentioned casually, “It’s probably a good idea for us to get out of our pants, too.”
Julian burst in to laughter as she slid her arms around him and dropped her head against his shoulder. Because, fuck it, she wanted to. And like he said, she was really good at doing what she wanted. Leo had an uncanny ability to radiate heat, and she decided it had to be a Leo thing and not a vampire thing. Somewhere in her head it made sense.
“Wow, just wow. No subtly at all.” she teased. “I guess you don’t care if Caleb finds you naked in his truck too, then?”
Even as she said it, she shifted to unbutton her pants. Then it took a lot of maneuvering to kick her socks and shoes away, and peel her jeans down her legs. Apparently water and skinny jeans didn’t mix. Julian wound up halfway in Leo’s lap at some point and left a footprint on Caleb’s passenger side window.
Once her jeans had a new home spread out on the dashboard to dry, Julian was right back to curling up under that towel with Leo.
“Get? Oh! The future. I chose the future.” She wrinkled up her nose. “…I think. That’s what it felt it. She kept saying it was supposed to be hers, but she chose wrong. The shadows didn’t want her to choose in the first place, but I’m not sure she even saw them.”
“That makes so much more sense, thanks for clearing that up.” Leo gave her a look. He knew this stuff wasn’t exactly easy to sort through, but he was also pretty sure that was the least helpful explanation he’d ever heard.
While Julian was stripping off her clothes, Leo kicked off his shoes and peeled out of his socks. He hesitated about two seconds before wiggling out of his jeans too. It wasn’t like Julian hadn’t already seen everything, and Leo wasn’t exactly shy. His wet clothes got tossed up next to Julian’s on the dashboard.
Rearranging the towel to compensate for both of them having moved around a lot during that whole process, Leo put his arm around Julian’s shoulders.
“That doesn’t exactly sound like standard haunting procedure, Jules. She was trying to keep you from something, or trying to stop you from doing it. Normally ghosts don’t have that kind of focus unless they’re specifically summoned or something. Are you sure this was just because of whatever crap you found in the woods?”
“I guess it does seem out of place.” she admitted. Now that he wasn’t moving around anymore, she twisted in her seat to drape her legs over his and more comfortably lay against his shoulder. Both because it was a lot warmer under that towel and because it gave her an excuse to be all over him.
It was definitely the way to go because she was still shivering. At least her teeth weren’t chattering together anymore.
“The cabin was weird, but not like…. ghost weird. She was a Hollinger and I’m pretty sure that cabin didn’t belong to any Hollingers. It’s where she popped up first though.” Julian tilted her head just enough to look at him, thoughtfully twisting up her mouth as she tried piece the whole thing together.
“She chose fire. And died before getting to see it burn. I think maybe she’s just bitter because she went through all of that trouble and never got to see her future. She doesn’t want me to have it if she couldn’t.”
“So basically, you pissed her off by being alive. That’s going to make it easy to keep from provoking her again, then.” Leo took a deep breath through his nose, letting his head tip back against the car seat. He rubbed his thumb in a small circle over Julian’s birthmark.
“Do you think she’s done coming after you?” he asked. “Or are we going to have to get you a panic button?”
After a moment, he leaned forward to switch the heat on. Warm air blasted out of the vents. Hopefully Julian would start warming up soon, because she still felt like ice against Leo’s side.
Julian hesitated to answer. Her pissy ancestor didn’t manage to prevent her from choosing the future she wanted. But it was the future. It hadn’t happened yet. If she wasn’t gone (and Julian really wasn’t sure if she was or not) then there was plenty of opportunity to make good on her threat.
…except it wasn’t Beth Hollinger that scared Julian. It was something else. Something familiar, like she had seen it before, but like her other memories it was buried away somewhere unreachable. Lately in bits and pieces she was starting to catch a glimpse.
Julian curled her arms around herself and buried her face in to his neck. She didn’t want to talk about this stuff. But he and Angela were right. They couldn’t do anything about it if she weren’t willing to cooperate.
“It isn’t her. It’s the dark.” she muttered softly. “Something bad is coming and it doesn’t like the future I chose.”
A chill that had nothing to do with the cold ran down Leo’s spine.
“…Hey,” he said. turning in his seat and pushing her upright enough to get a good look at her face. “Let’s be normal teenagers for five minutes, okay? No psychic bullshit, no impending doom, no darkness. Just you and me being naked in Caleb’s truck.”
That last bit was said in a teasing voice and punctuated by a wiggle of his eyebrows. He was trying to make himself laugh as much as he was trying to get one out of her, honestly. This whole situation was fucked. He had no idea what was coming, but he knew he didn’t like the despairing tone in Julian’s voice.
Usually Leo pushed. He was generally the one trying to get stuff handled before it spiralled out of control. Right now, though… Right now he wanted to just enjoy the moment while it lasted.
“So stay here with me,” he whispered, like it might break the spell if he raised his voice, and closed the distance between their lips.
Julian sighed against his mouth, shifting her arms to grip his head gently and brush her thumbs against his cheek. How could it be so easy for him to fix things with just one kiss? At the very least, it was hard to fret over her fears when he was around. She didn’t need a panic button, Leo was good enough.
She kissed him soft, just the tender movement of her mouth over his. When she pulled away she flicked her tongue over her still tingling lips and gestured her shoulders in a hapless shrug. It was a simple wordless reply in place of the millions of things running through her head. They weren’t normal. There wasn’t any escaping their impending doom.
But when she rest her arms over his shoulders and flashed him a sudden grin, that was confirmation she would stay right there with him.
She leaned closer to mutter. “I’m starting to think you have a fetish for defiling Caleb’s property.”
“It’s not my fault he’s fun to pick on,” answered Leo with a shrug. He ducked his head to kiss along her neck, grinning against her skin. Why was this so easy? It shouldn’t have been. Leo was going to be in so much trouble.
When she didn’t pull away, Leo let his mouth trail down over the curve of her shoulder. He pushed the towel out of the way to nip at the curve of her neck.
The sharp tapping of a fist on glass brought him up short just as he was pressing his tongue to her pulse point. Groaning, Leo lifted his head. He’d already hit the button on the window by the time he straightened up.
“You can’t neck in my car,” Caleb told him flatly. “And you can’t sit here running the engine. You’re going to run out of gas. If you can’t keep your hands to yourself, you might as well drive back to the house. It’s unlocked.”
“Why Caleb, I didn’t mean to make you feel neglected. Did you want to hop in with us?”
“Drive.” Caleb’s face flushed, but this time he held his ground. Leo smirked anyway.
“Aye aye boss,” he said smartly. “We’ll just drive on back to your big, empty house now.”
Julian smacked Leo’s shoulder, giving him that exasperated shut up! look. He was lucky Caleb didn’t drag him out by the ear. Besides. The only one that got to pick on Caleb was her. She’d been a honorary Whelan long before Angela even moved to town.
“I’m sorry Caleb. I’ll add the truck along with the shower to the no-no list.” Leo got the pointed, disapproving eyebrows, but it was impossible to suppress the grinning trying to weasel it’s way on to her face.
“Oh wait!” she leaned towards the window. “I need my shirt. And jacket! …and I guess Leo’s too. We’ll never get it back if Silvia gets it first.”
It sounded like a beating heart.
Julian shot up, gripping her head and letting out a slow breath. Waking up like this was getting easier, but this time the dream was different. This didn’t feel like the premonitions that were always mixed with a mess of confusing imagery.
“Stop. I’m okay.” she muttered at the annoyingly large congregation of Francis shadows lurking around the room.
She’d said that before. Or something like it. She sucked in a breath and pulled her arms over her head when it felt like her brain was trying to twist up in a vice.
“Aaahg.” she choked out first, then hissed through her teeth.
Little shadows crept closer.
“No, it’s okay. I’m okay.” she muttered next, gasping for breath. All of it was still flooding in to her head, mixed and confusing images. Shapes, faces, feelings.
The shadows darkened and surged, flittering up the sides of her bed.
“Don’t freak out! I can’t-” They weren’t listening. Julian scooted backwards until she hit the headboard, kicking at her blankets to throw off a few of the shadows that came too close. The light was gone. No moon and stars shining in from the window. No little glow in the dark stickers on her ceiling. No nightlight in the corner of the room. There were so many shadows, they layered on top of each other, turning the room in to a cave of pitch black.
“STOP IT.” she screamed.
Down the hall, at the sound of screaming Jeremy Hollinger was tossing covers aside and leaping out of bed. He swung open his door just in time to see Julian tumbling out of her room. He caught her by the arms only to have her start flailing.
“NO! I WON’T!” she shouted at him, not seeming to recognize who he was. Her eyes were unfocused and more alarmingly, he could see the bit of blood at her nose.
“Julian.” It was the only word he got out before a swift fist cracked against his jaw. He stumbled back in surprise; Julian broke away so fast that she lost her balance and fell against the wall behind her. Jeremy lept at the opportunity to try and grab her again, but her foot came up and she heeled him right in the ribs. He hit the floor on his ass with a grunt.
Julian tried to bolt for the stairs, but he managed to catch by the ankles. The girl crashed to the floor still fighting, rolling to sit up and kick him away.
By this point her mother had thrown on a robe and ran in to the hall. She hopped over the struggling form of her husband and dropped to her knees next to Julian. Sandra grabbed her head, forcing Julian’s gaze to meet hers.
“Sshhh, sweet baby. Look at me. Look at me.” Her tone was gentle, but firm. “You’re safe. Sshhh. You’re safe here and everything is okay.” Sandra’s thumbs stroked softly against Julian’s cheek, and even when the girl grabbed her arm and pushed against her shoulder, she still gripped her head and refused to let Julian loose. After a moment the manic fighting stopped, leaving a breathless girl, wide-eyed and clinging to her mother.
“Something bad is coming.” Julian whispered, almost pleadingly. “Even the shadows are terrified.” Sandra pulled her close in to a hug, casting a worried glance at her husband. He was sitting up now, back leaning against the wall pressing his fingers to his mouth and looking bewildered to find that she managed to split his lip with that swing.
“Everyone is going to die and I am going to be left with the dark.” Julian finally said, despondent as she pulled away from her mother and wiped the back of her hand against her nose.
“Julian.” her father said, shifting from his seat to reach over and grab her shoulder. He turned her around to face him and caught her eye. His expression serious and grave. “I need to go to the dentist. I don’t know if our dental covers broken teeth.”
“What.” That wasn’t the kind of thing she was expecting to hear. She blinked, confused and baffled.
“I think you broke one of my ribs too. Where the hell did you learn to put up a fight like that?”
“Um… Owen DeWhitt?”
“That kid deserves a medal.”
He paused long enough to examine her face. Now that the defeated look was gone, he sighed heavily, brushing a hand over the top of her head. “Always fight. No one can take you somewhere you don’t want to go, no one can make you do what you don’t want to do. It’s your choice to make, understand? You choose. If anyone ever tries to take it from you, you fight them with everything you’ve got. If you don’t like the future you see – fight it too. With arms and legs and this-” he wiggled his fingers towards her head before poking her temple. “Use it all. There are things we can’t control, but we can always choose how we want to live.”
“I’m not sure I can do all of that.” Julian admitted.
“You just kicked your father’s ass, sweetie, I am sure you can do anything.” encouraged her mother.
The most sour expression fell over Jeremy Hollinger’s face. “She woke me up from a dead sleep and I didn’t expect my fifteen year old daughter to start swinging punches at me, Sandra. I think I get a pass.”
Against her will, Julian laughed.
“Jesus.” It took a second to get her head back on straight, and by the time she did all the shadows were bunched up so close they were practically in her lap. She pressed her fingers against her nose and sighed with frustration to find the drops of red. If this was going to start happening regularly, it was going to be a huge pain in the ass.
These were not the kind of dreams and flashbacks one wanted when they were trying NOT to be a bundle of morbid lunacy.
Julian slapped the bed covers to shoo away Francis and his mob of friends, then reached to snatch a tissue from her nightstand. The blood was cleaned off in a second, and then she had to tip-toe her way through the black to try and find her door. She peered carefully out in to the hall to make sure it was quiet and empty. When she stepped out, she cast a frown at her parent’s door.
No. Not this time. Julian had enough of crying and feeling sorry about things. If anything at least that stupid memory reminded her of that. First thing tomorrow morning she was going to start on the future. Her future.
IF she could get some sleep. Grumbling to herself she headed downstairs.
Except… a body was blocking the stairs.
“And just where do you think you’re going?” a slightly husky voice drawled. He had one hand planted against the opposite wall as he leaned at the top of the stairwell, his legs crossed. He gave her a look- the look, the I’ve-got-you-now look.
“I knew it,” he told her calmly. “I knew you haven’t been sleeping.”
He took his hand away from the wall to reach over and poke her right on the nose. It might have seemed like he was doing it just out of that annoying habit he’d picked up lately, but…
“I didn’t know about the nosebleeds though,” he went on. “How long has that been a thing?”
“Guh…!” Julian nearly jumped right off the floor. Luckily she didn’t scream because he’d probably have gotten a kick out of that. She hated when she got busted for things. Not that she was doing anything WRONG. Why was she even flushing? This was her house and she could sneak downstairs if she wanted to!
She huffed and swatted his hand away. “It- Maybe once or twice, not counting school.” Julian admitted. That I remember. Her arms crossed over her chest and she puffed up giving her best I’m-fine-quit-your-fussing expression. There had been enough worrying over her and her psychic drama for one day.
“Besides, of course you knew I don’t sleep. I NEVER sleep. My blood is mostly coffee.”
Julian inched to the side so she could try and squeeze past him. “I was just going to curl up on the couch for a little bit, it’s not a big deal.”
“I distinctly remember someone saying sleeping anywhere but a bed was off limits,” Leo reminded her as he moved to block her again. “Or are we throwing out all the rules now?”
She probably looked like she swallowed something with the way she blinked and pursed up her mouth. Huffing, she straightened her arms at her side, and the fit would have been perfect if she stomped her foot too. Julian almost did.
“Maybe I was going to read a book. …Besides, that rule is so you wouldn’t be sleeping on the couch all the time so I COULD if I wanted to.” Julian side-stepped again in the other direction, which of course was silly and later she was going to wonder why she was even putting up a fight. At the moment she was just tired and frustrated and he was in the way!
Predictably, he caught her and spun her around. In a matter of seconds she was pressed with her back up against the wall, and Leo was pinning her in pretty much exactly the same way he’d pinned her against the lockers at school when they’d played hide-and-seek. He placed his palm against the wall next to her head.
“I don’t think so,” he told her. “I’m mad at you.”
He tilted his head, and somehow managed to look up at her through his lashes even though he was taller than her. How was that even possible?
“You don’t like to play by the rules, do you?” he asked. It was clearly a rhetorical question. “I guess I kind of like that about you though, Jules.”
For a brief second she entertained the thought of socking him, but that impulse flittered away just as quickly to replaced by the irritating desire to just LAUGH. Nothing about this was funny, it was just ridiculous! What did he even have to be mad about? It’s not like she was running out of the room screaming at the top of her lungs again.
Julian knocked her head against the wall and gave an exasperated sigh.
“They’re my dumb rules, I can break them if I want to.” she muttered under her breath. Her knees bent just a fraction so she could slide down the wall and look up at him. A smile as sweet as sugar, that really didn’t match the amount of sass she was ready to throw down.
“Am I in trouble, firefly? Because I can be in trouble just as well downstairs on the couch.”
“I think I’d be interested in what kind of trouble you’d like to get into on the couch,” Leo answered, raising his eyebrows and giving her an incredibly wicked smile. “Because I might have some suggestions.”
Before that could sink in, he slipped his arms around her and picked her up clear off the floor. He basically slung her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes.
“Fine,” he said, still irritatingly placid. “If you’re so intent on being on the couch, we’ll go be on the couch. Because you’re right.”
Ending up upside-down was not where Julian was expecting that to go.
“What! Argggh! Dammit, Leo!” Julian wasn’t going to stand for this (because, well, she obviously couldn’t), and this time she wasn’t out of her head scared and flailing around like an idiot. She hissed under her breath, putting up a struggle.
Okay, maybe she still looked like an idiot. Kicking her feet and trying to roll out of his grasp. But at least this time she was consciously trying to escape and not afraid to actually pound on him.
“What the hell is wrong with me sleeping on the couch, you jerk?! You try sleeping my room longer than an hour. It’s a stupid Francis convention.”
Goddammit, she couldn’t punch him like this!
“But the couch is where we’re going,” he replied. “You don’t want to go to the couch anymore? Careful, Jules, mixed signals going on there.”
Despite her struggles, he managed to keep hold of her the whole way down the stairs and into the living room. He didn’t let go until they were actually next to the couch.
At which point he dropped her. Practically on her head. Granted, it was onto the couch rather than the floor, and probably soft enough she wasn’t going to get hurt.
“I’m mad at you because you’ve decided you can live with me and try to pretend you sleep like a normal human being when you don’t,” he finally explained, hands on his hips as he stared down at her. “Instead of just telling me the truth so we could try and do something about it.”
Julian landed with a ploomf and a half-grunt half growling sound. At that point the physical fight went out of her and she sprawled out on the couch as a dramatic mess of limp limbs.
“I wasn’t pretending.” she defended. “Neglecting to tell you is not the same as pretending. What would we even do about it that I haven’t already done with Angela?”
Julian finally moved, shifting to snatch one of the couch cushions to hug as she curled up. She refused to look at him. As soon as she did, she knew there wouldn’t be any holding on to her bullshit and she was going to feel terrible.
“…and YOU said you weren’t going to have anymore slumber parties, anyway. It’s not like I can knock on your door and ask you to sleep with me.” That now had brand new meanings under the circumstances, but for once Julian wasn’t thinking about the dirty fun ones.
“Let me clarify.”
She felt the couch cushions depress as he sat down next to her. A moment later, there was a hand resting lightly atop her head.
“I’m not having any more slumber parties with Angela,” he said, and ran his fingers through her hair. It was a weirdly gentle gesture, almost tentative. Like he thought maybe she wouldn’t let him. When she didn’t stop him, he nudged her over and flopped down next to her on the couch. One of his hands ended up on her shoulder, rubbing a small circle.
“Besides,” he added, before things got too cozy. “I can think of a few ways to tire you out that Angela hasn’t tried.”
“Don’t be cute. You can’t be cute when I’m mad.”
Being mad lasted all of a minute before she was groaning under her breath and throwing an arm around him. Julian squirmed and fussed and prodded him until she found a comfy spot to rest her head. Who knew defiant cuddles would make a come back. She didn’t think that sort of thing could happen twice. And definitely not with Leo.
“You’re such a pain in the ass.” she murmured softly, shifting for a place to bury her face.
“What could you possibly have that Angela hasn’t tried.” She pretended to think it over. “Telling bedtime stories, maybe. Her stories are way too exciting anyway. Hmm, I guess you could try singing lullabies, but I’ll probably laugh instead of falling asleep.”
“I dunno,” he said. In that voice. “How’d you sleep last night?”
His thumb skimmed down the length of her arm. He turned his face towards her; Julian felt lips brush over her temple. Again, it was a weirdly intimate touch, the kind of thing Michael and Owen had never done with her. Maybe it was just because Leo was such a touchy-feely kind of person and they… weren’t.
“Maybe we just need to tire you out,” suggested Leo, still talking in that voice that made Julian’s knees turn into pudding. “Wanna see?”
Well that was it, then. Leo won. Julian was resigned to knowing that until some ghost got her killed or the shadows took her away, she’d spend the rest of her life letting Leo have anything he wanted if he was going to croon it like that.
She was okay with this.
“I haven’t seemed to have any trouble sleeping with you yet, firefly.” she mumbled, trying her hardest not to grin while she did and failing miserable at it.
Julian tilted her head and shifted to reach up a hand and tap a finger gently against his mouth. “Ahm, I remember you sneaking in the window and us having a very exhaustive talk? Definitely tiring.”
He smiled behind her finger. It wasn’t exactly an angelic smile, but there was still something endearing about it. A moment later, he was darting forward to catch her finger in his mouth. He nipped- not hard enough to break the skin, but she felt just the slightest scrape of too-sharp teeth- and then soothed her skin with his tongue.
“I don’t remember a whole lot of conversation, honestly,” he murmured against the very tip of her finger, and there was a definite note of barely-restrained laughter in his tone.
He kissed her finger, like he was apologizing for the bite, and then he just sort of rolled. Suddenly Julian was on her back with a lap-full of vampire. Still grinning, Leo leaned down to kiss just under her chin.
“I remember a lot of other things though,” he breathed into the side of her neck. “Including some things I wanted to do but never got the chance to. Wanna play?”
“The last time we played I got in trouble with a teacher.” she commented, humming to herself as she pretended to think it over. In the mean time it was impossible not to touch. Julian curled an arm around him, running her hand up his back as she turned her head to nuzzle against his ear.
If this is what she was going to get for not sleeping in her own bed, Julian was going to be a lot noisier about stepping in to the hall next time.
“Okay, I’ll play.” she whispered with a giggle and nipping at his ear. She reached up to brush her fingers through his hair. It was probably way sweet and mushy considering Julian had the feeling he was going to suggest something super dirty. But she couldn’t help it. He was giving her the blue-eyes and ASKING for it.
“Are there rules to this game? Not that I’m going to follow them.”
“Oh good, you remember that day,” Leo remarked softly as he smoothed his fingers up along her sides until they were flirting at the edges of her breasts, not quite touching but headed straight for dangerous territory. “You know what I remember, sunshine? I remember having you up against a locker and thinking about doing this.”
He grabbed her wrists suddenly and pinned them up over her head. His thumbs rubbed little circles on the insides of her wrists, pressing lightly against her pulse points.
“Rules?” he asked, in that distinctly intimate in-joke tone he sometimes used, leaning in closer to press a bruising-force kiss against her neck. Julian was going to have another giant hickey in the morning. When he came up for air, he spoke against her throat. “You know I can’t stand those things. But just for the sake of keeping things fun, sweetheart, I think we can have a few.”
He let go of her wrists.
“Rule number one,” he crooned. His following words didn’t match up with the sweet, coaxing voice in which he spoke them. “Keep your goddamn hands out of my way.”
As if to help remind her where to keep them, he sat up just enough to kiss both of her wrists before sliding back down to give her a once-over, tilting his head to the side. He grinned and traced a finger down from just under her breasts to the curve of her stomach- and he took his sweet time about it, too.
“Rule number two,” he went on, “I want to actually focus tonight, so you can’t touch right now. I’ll get distracted if you do.”
Before that could sink in, he planted his hands to either side of her head and closed the distance until his lips were practically touching hers.
“Rule number three,” he whispered. “You make the rest of the rules.”
“I don’t think I like these no touch rules.” she complained in a soft rush of breath. She sounded so completely disheartened by it, and even actually pouted. That was probably because kissed her hard enough to knock all the sense out of her. The rush of heat even managed to reach her feet, making her squirm and curl her toes in to the couch cushion.
And that was just kissing her neck. He didn’t know how hard this was going to be and it was written in the wide-eyed, slow blink she gave him.
She slid her arms down, wiggling her fingers a bit until she conceded to the rule and dropped her hands to the top of her head. They were just going to have to stay there for now, because she was already tempted to grab him.
Suddenly it occurred to her that there was still an awfully lot she could do without hands and with permission to create the rest of the rules.
A slow mysterious grin spread across her face.
“…okay. Okay, I can do that. Hands out of the way and not touching. Gotcha.” And as promised, no hands were involved when she leaned up to bridge the distance and capture his bottom lip between her teeth.
His answering laugh was low and throaty. He tilted his head to get a better angle and licked his way into her mouth, one of his hands slipping around behind her to support her back- from inside her shirt. His short, blunt fingernails clipped gently at her skin.
“Okay, gorgeous,” he whispered when he suddenly pulled away. “I’ve got you too.”
His other hand slid between them to trace lazy patterns down her stomach while he went straight back to mapping out every nook and cranny of her mouth.
Julian flinched and giggled when his fingers brushed over a ticklish spot. She nearly broke rule number one right then and there. He had to know it wouldn’t last long and it’d only be a matter of time.
And she didn’t know why something as simple as I’ve got you. made her heart stutter. But it caused a smile with that silly wistful expression, even when she leaned up in to his mouth and danced with his tongue. What started as a slow and sweet response very quickly turned in to an insatiable need to drink him in and kiss him drunk.
Her hands slipped off the couch and she just managed to resist grabbing him. Instead, she rest her wrists against his shoulders, flexing her fingers near his head in subconscious indecision on whether or not she wanted to run her hands through his hair or pull him down to hold him hostage.
Like he knew what she was thinking, he broke off the kiss to slide down and kiss her stomach. She felt a grazing of teeth where her shirt didn’t quite reach the top of her shorts.
“Hands off,” he reminded her, and yeah, she was definitely busted. He pressed a closed-lip kiss just under her navel and dragged his fingertips down along her spine.
He paused, looking up at her, and grinned.
“Like I said,” Leo told her, “I didn’t get to do everything I wanted to do last night.”
Without warning, he nudged her thighs apart and leaned down to lick right over her clit. After a second of mouthing at the same spot, he wiggled his tongue. It didn’t take long for the heat and damp to go straight through the thin pajama fabric to her skin.
There was something mind numbingly erotic about feeling his breath down there through slightly damp fabric. She pressed the heel of her palm against her cheek and then covered her mouth with her fingers. She actually felt a little shy and nervous this time, which was strange but also kind of exciting. Maybe it was because last night she was so swept up in getting her hands all over him, that there wasn’t room to think. Now she was stuck with agonizing anticipation and the knowledge that he had plans. Julian didn’t know what to do with herself.
It was kind of awesome and a little terrifying.
Julian squirmed, her other hand gripping in to a fist at the hem of her shirt over her stomach.
“And what did you want to do last night?” she spoke softly through her fingers, having a few guesses already but being too curious not ask.
He laughed again.
“Oh sunshine, I wanted to do everything,” said Leo. “But mostly… I kinda wanted to eat you.”
The double entendre became crystal clear when he turned his head to the side and nipped at the top of Julian’s thigh. Just hard enough to get the point across, and then he nuzzled between her legs. His nose brushed lightly past her sensitive spots.
“But that’s not my call to make,” he went on, “So without an invite, I’m going to have to go with my second favorite interpretation of the word.”
He dragged her shorts down in one swift tug, like they were nothing. She could actually feel him smiling when he kissed her clit again.
Julian masked a giggle by groaning at the joke and throwing her arm over her eyes. It was weird laying there talking about this while DOING this. Especially when she wasn’t one to even get in to sexual conversations. Angela talked about it all the time and Margrit had no issue bringing it up. Julian never got much farther than blatant flirty and throwing out half-listening comments.
Yet it was still comfortable. If she ignored the way his teeth nipping at her made stomach twist up in to a flutter of butterflies and how it made things ache. Leo made the whole world different.
Wait. She could invite him to do what?
Before she could consider the implications of what that meant, she gasped. Her shirt clung fingers unraveled only to curl up tighter again until she could feel her nails biting through the fabric. Julian opened her meaning to say something, but all she got out was a hushed sigh before sucking her bottom lip between her teeth.
Leo’s hands slipped to the back of her thighs and pushed, causing her knees to bend as far as they physically could and giving him a good deal more access than he’d had before. He didn’t hesitate to take advantage of that, outlining every inch with his tongue.
“You’re beautiful,” he confided, his lips tickling places where Julian wasn’t used to being tickled. His voice was hushed, somewhere between reverent and skeptical. “Jesus Christ.”
His thumb stroked along her inner thigh, and then his tongue was inside of her and making tiny little exploratory stabs.
“Hooooly hell.” she breathed, her voice catching when she swallowed. The flush of heat hit her in a wave, burning her ears and sending a shiver down her neck all at the same time.
This was torture. She couldn’t do this. This would kill her. He couldn’t lick her to pieces and her not be able to touch him.
A whimper and another gasp slipped out when he hit just the right spot to match her twitch and buck up her hips out of reflexive surprise. Julian let go of her shirt suddenly to reach out towards his head. Hovering her hand just close enough to brush the tips of his hair and her fingers wiggling like she was going to grab and pull.
Just as quickly, though, she retracted her hand, knocking it against the back couch cushion as if she were trying to fight the thing. Another mrphing noise escaped. One that sounded a little like it was meant to be a frustrated growl but couldn’t commit and wound up a soft sigh instead.
He kept right on going like nothing had happened, his tongue curling shallowly inside of her over and over. It was like every minute that went by, he figured out a new way to drive her nuts. His fingertips dug into her thighs and then smoothed over them in a soothing motion.
That was right before his tongue slid out of her and circled the hood of her clit. A minute later he sucked, prodding with the very tip of his tongue.
Julian jolted and yelped. And this time she didn’t have to worry about someone knowing what they were up to, so instead of her trying to stifle it with her hands, she pressed the heel of her palm to her forehead and gasped aloud.
This being still and well behaved nonsense was officially over. She just couldn’t. Not when he lit her up and made her want to moooove.
Sucking her lip between her teeth again, she twist just slightly. Enough where she could shift her leg and run her curled toes slowly down the expanse of his back. Her hand was faster, dropping to slap against his shoulder with intent to grab him and tug him, but a sudden shudder had her gripping roughly and digging her nails in to his skin.
She murmured out his name in a plaintive squeak, sure any second she was just going to die.
“Okay, that’s fair,” he acknowledged her decision, coming up for air. “But sunshine, you can’t just go breaking rules without even telling me if there are any more rules.”
Under that cajoling tone, he sounded just a little breathless. He pressed a butterfly-light kiss to her stomach and rested his forehead there for a moment.
“But this is what I missed out on,” he went on. He licked his way down from her belly to her core. “Wanted to watch this.”
And she could, in fact, feel him watching her as he slid his finger inside, his tongue lapping at her folds. When she looked down, there were bright blue eyes fixed on her face.
“Oh. Oooohno.” Not the blue-eyes. Not now when she was trying so hard not to completely lose her mind. Especially when all it took was one look at him all intense and sultry, and all her plots to roll him right off the couch to jump on him just faded in to a scorching haze.
She tensed around his finger and could feel the sensation coil all the way up to the pit of her stomach. Julian gasped, dragging her nails from his shoulder against his neck until she wound them in to his hair. She really did just want to drag him up and kiss him senseless, but she also really, really didn’t want him to move from exactly where he was.
“Hmmmkay.” she responded, her volume almost a purr. “Rule four. Don’t-” Her voice cut off when she shivered. Julian swallowed and let out a rush of breath. “Don’t stop.”
It felt like he didn’t move for an hour.
One finger turned into two, and he just kept on teasing her with his tongue the whole while. He crooked his fingers, pressing against a spot that made fireworks burst behind her eyelids. He was way too good at this; it wasn’t fair.
“Sweetheart,” he crooned, nosing around her clit, “Do you wanna know a little secret?”
His free hand ran up her leg, teasing the back of her knee. His breath was still like fire on her skin.
It wasn’t like Leo wanted to stop, either. He kind of wanted to keep going until he’d kissed every inch of her skin and then some.
“I think I figured out a new trick,” he whispered.
“I thought maybe I’d make this all about you,” he confessed, a little bit quieter than he meant to. His own fingers traced a slow circle, and then he nudged his index finger halfway inside of her. “I’m good with that.”
“Is it working?” he asked, and wiggled his tongue in alongside his fingers.
“Oh god. Ooooh god. Wha- Hrrmm!” Her fingers released his hair suddenly to join her other hand at digging in to her own. It hurt, but it hurt good. Taking something that was already driving her absolutely mad and painting over it with feelings soft, sweet, and so totally overwhelming.
How did he even-
It hit so hard, when she squeezed her eyes shut she could feel them water. Julian nearly choked on a scream, gasping his name as she writhed. Curled toes grazing against couch fabric while her hips bucked, grinded and rolled against lapping tongue and probing fingers. For a split second she thought she might’ve passed out, but the throbbing was still there lingering along with that tingling in her skin.
He didn’t stop going until she stopped moving entirely. His fingers slipped out of her with a soft sound, and he gave one last parting wet kiss to her clit.
“Yeah?” he asked, hoarsely. He trailed kisses up her stomach, then pressed his face against her ribs, taking a deep breath. He sounded a little like he was the one who’d just been utterly wrecked.
In fact… The more Julian looked, the more she noticed. A muscle in Leo’s back twitched. His breathing was shallow, and she could feel it hitch through her shirt. He shifted against the couch.
“What did you do.” she whispered in a tone mixed with accusation and awe. Trying to figure it out herself was going nowhere. Julian was dazed, faded. Her skin still humming and him just shifting on the couch was enough to make her still squirm just a bit.
She brushed the back of her hands against her eyes, hiding any evidence of tearing up. Last thing she wanted was him to think he made her cry. Julian was so so far away from being upset.
When she could finally command some will in to her limbs, she curled one leg around him. Then she was reaching her hands down to brush gently through his hair. Petting with soft affection and marveling at… well. Him. Just him.
“Hey.” she whispered again, sliding her hand to graze a thumb against a little spot behind his ear. “Can I sleep with you?”
“Shit,” it was his turn to swear under his breath, shuddering at the touch. “…What exactly do you think we’ve been doing, Jules?”
He lifted his head, staring at her, and was strangely quiet. His fingers- still slightly sticky- strummed along her calf.
“You’re the boss,” Leo reminded Julian. “I told you, you make the rules.”
Julian very nearly laughed. Instead, she wiggled and squirmed down along the couch where she could wrap both her legs around his waist. Then she pushed herself up with a hand and Leo along with her until she had him eye to eye. The tip of her finger nail scraped gently under his chin, guiding his head in just the right spot where she could lean close enough to just barely touch her nose to his.
“Then we’re going upstairs to bed.” she muttered first, her lips grazing against the corner of his mouth. “We’ll get rid of the rest of these clothes.” A nip stung his bottom lip that she was all too eager to sooth away with a flick of her tongue. “We could sleep if you want to. Or we could skip sleep and I could just make you happy.”
Julian nuzzled against his cheek before resting her forehead against his. She stroked her fingers soft along his neck.
“I’d like to make you happy.”
“…Sure,” Leo answered. There was an undercurrent of tension in his voice that hadn’t been there before. It didn’t escape Julian’s notice that his lips followed hers when she turned her head. He sat up, pulling her along with him until she was astride his lap.
His hands curled around her thighs, gripping tight.
“Jesus, Jules,” he said. He sat there for a moment, panting, before he managed to clamber up onto his feet with an armful of half-naked and mostly-boneless psychic. He still stumbled a little, but didn’t drop her or fall over, so it all worked out in the end.
They got as far as the stairs before he started kissing her into the wall.
She made a muffled sound against his mouth when her back hit the wall. Arms that were previously locked around his neck loosened. One hand diving in to the hair at the nape of his neck, stroking oddly soft in contrast to the way she was trying to devour his mouth. Her kiss was rough and desperate, fueled by a sudden sense of urgency with no telling who it belonged to.
Not that it mattered. Hers or his, she could do this for a million years.
Her other hand slipped down his shoulder to rest against his chest, caressing over that irresistible spot glowing warm under her thumb. She wanted to give him the sun, and the future, and a whole array of other ridiculously sentimental things that were suddenly filling her head. Making her smile even while she grazed his lips with her teeth.
He kissed her like there wasn’t going to be a tomorrow. The intensity was almost frightening. But there was nothing to be afraid of, she knew, so why…?
His hips pressed flush against hers and rolled. Even through his jeans, she could feel how hard he was. He’d probably been that way for a while. He shivered as he rocked against her, his fingertips curling desperately against her soft skin.
“Don’t know if we’re making it upstairs,” he admitted as he broke away. He laved his tongue along the curve of her neck, making a muffled noise against her skin.
Her response was a low moan. Somewhere between aching complaint and that little sound a person made when they stretched and it felt so, so good. Julian wrapped her whole body around him. Ankles linking behind his back and an arm curling around his neck. She nuzzled against his ear and breathed in deep. When she exhaled it came out in a hitched shudder.
Everything in her head just shut down. Her only thought left was Shut up and fuck me, which was not something she ever thought she’d be tempted to say.
She might have if she could speak.
Forget going upstairs. Julian said it a different way. With the flick of warm wet tongue along his earlobe and the nip of teeth. Her fingers drew lines down his chest, soft pads teasing and nails scraping over tense muscle until she gripped the waistband of his jeans and tugged hard to get the button loose.
He cursed and reached down between them one-handed to fumble with his zipper. When he finally got free of his jeans, he kicked them off and pressed right up against her, his dick sliding against her still-slick entrance. He let out a shaky laugh just as he was starting to push inside; she could feel it rumble in his chest.
Once he was all the way in, he thrust into her hard.
At the same moment, Leo’s lips captured hers again. For a minute it seemed like he was going to sink his teeth into her bottom lip, but then he just ran his tongue over it instead. His fingernails dug into her thighs.
Wide open was a good way to describe the feeling. Physically, mentally, she took him in and melted around him. Maybe because he had already turned her muscles to jelly, zapped her bones to dust, and replaced her brains with nothing but pure sensation once tonight. He felt like sweet sin and fierce heaven. All intense and divine.
Instinct and wanting took over. Nothing felt like enough, but still seemed like too much more would literally kill her. And she didn’t care. Julian met hard thrusts with her back braced against the wall and a roll of her hips. Fingers gripped his upper arm tight enough to press indents of her nails in to flesh.
Her other hand found refuge brushing through his hair, then sliding her thumb along his jaw and down the underside of his chin. She’d give him anything he wanted. He could take all that she had and she told him so through the desperate sweeping of her tongue in his mouth.
Last night, it had been slow and sweet and full of wonder. This time it was fast and hard and desperate. It felt a little like Leo was trying to tell Julian something, too, like he was trying to mark her somehow. He wouldn’t stop kissing her, almost past the point where she ran out of breath. When he did give her a chance to get air, he just dived in to kiss her neck instead.
“I…” he breathed raggedly, and she could hear his Adam’s apple working in his throat. “Fuck.”
He slid his hand up under her shirt, his fingers teasing her nipple a little rougher than Julian would’ve done herself. He was thrusting into her so hard that Julian was probably going to have bruises on her back in the morning, too, from where she was getting jostled against the wall. His lips were the only gentle part of the equation, trailing feverish and barely-there kisses over her throat.
“What the fuck?” he gasped, finally, so tense it seemed like he might shake apart. “What the fuck are you doing to me?”
Julian laughed, or at least it was meant to be a laugh. It was hard to get it out between gasping for breath and being bounced around. She didn’t think there was any room left for more feeling, but he found it. His hand slipping under her shirt felt like hot fire against her skin. Everywhere he touched felt burned. Tilting her head to nuzzle his cheek, she slipped her hand upwards in to his hair and cradled him to her neck.
“Making you happy?” The whisper falling soft over his ear was more like a hopeful question than an answer. “That’s what I want. That’s the rules.”
She probably sounded like she had it all together. Like she knew exactly what she was doing. But Julian didn’t. She was seconds away from breaking, knocking her head back to the wall to try and hold herself together just long enough. Whimpering through her clenched teeth biting in to her lip when all those little muscles tightened up and made her shiver.
He got to watch. Now it was her turn to see the way his eyes lit up when things got sparky.
Like he somehow knew what she was thinking, like he was the psychic one, Leo lifted his head.
He pulled his hand out from under her shirt and reached up to grip her chin, tilting her face toward his. Their noses were practically touching, and she could feel his uneven breath on her face. His eyes were wide and dark, thin rings of bright blue around his pupils. It was probably the least guarded she had ever seen Leo; he was just looking at her like… like she was something special.
“You have… no idea,” he choked.
Then he tipped forward, his forehead falling heavily to rest against the wall next to Julian as he trembled and groaned. His hips coiled and rocked a few final times, pressed tight against her.
She wanted to tell him. She really wanted to tell him. Something just snapped. Broke in to a million tiny pieces leaving her all warm and fuzzy and certain. It wasn’t even about her getting off.
Okay, maybe there was that happening too.
Why did she always want to look him in the eyes. Every time she did he turned things upside down and inside out.
Julian wrapped herself around him tight. Holding him hostage with arms and legs. Dropping to bury her face in his shoulder where she meant to kiss him. But when her spine seized up and the earth shook, she bit him instead. Only barely quieting what came out as a high pitched squeal and crooning groan, instead of the yelp it might’ve been.
Once her bones stopped being frozen and all her limbs melted, she was able to unlock her jaw. Her lips caressed the spot like an apology. The words she murmured might’ve been one too, but they were so soft it could just as easily of been gibberish.
“…Y’know, it’s supposed to be the other way around,” Leo drawled. “Vampires biting humans.”
He pulled her up and away from the wall, cradling her to his chest almost gingerly. His fingers rubbed at the back of her thigh and the center of her back, pressing into spots that would be sore later like he was checking to see if he’d done permanent damage.
“Tired yet?” he asked quietly. He still hadn’t raised his head, having relocated its resting place to her shoulder- but all the tension had melted out of his bones, leaving him loose and malleable. He turned to the side so he could lean his hip against the wall.
Julian winced a tiny bit, but it was almost imperceptible and clearly not a problem because she gave a breathy giggle and kissed the spot again. This time with a little more pressure and a flick of tongue.
That was about the extent of her ability to move, though. She had just enough willpower left in her to keep her legs clinging around him. One arm hung limp down his back, while her other hand was just barely hanging on to his shoulder. Fingers tapping a lazy rhythm in time with his heartbeat.
She closed her eyes and nodded her head, not sure if she were capable of speaking actual words at first. After a few deep breaths, she regained control of her tongue. (In a way that didn’t involve licking him all over.)
“You got my instructions all out of order.” she admonished. He could feel her grinning against his skin.
“I don’t remember you complaining.”
His fingers slipped into her hair and combed through it gently. She felt him slide out of her as he adjusted his grip so she wasn’t teetering so dangerously close to falling, and then he finally looked up and pushed away from the wall to take his first few unsteady steps up the stairs.
When they got to the top, he hesitated, hovering at the landing.
“…Where are we going?” he asked. It was clear from the way he asked that he was purposefully leaving it up to her, that he wasn’t going to just make assumptions. Of course, that might have had something to do with Julian’s recent difficulties sleeping in her own room.
She might’ve almost dozed off on the way up with the way she furrowed her brows and wrinkled her nose. Her fingers tapped against his shoulder again before she turned her head to bury her face against his neck.
“I can’t sleep in my room.” she muttered first with a resigned sigh. “They think it’s safer to cluster up, but they’re just making it worse.” The explanation wasn’t great, but even if she weren’t exhausted, Julian wasn’t exactly sure how to explain her shadow problem. Not in a way that didn’t make her sound completely insane.
Sleeping in her parent’s room didn’t seem like such a cool idea, though. Not when she and Leo just got finished doing all kinds of dirty things. It made her grin again, but their room was still just NO. Ick.
“I want to sleep in your room.” Julian actually shifted this time, tightening her legs around him so she could tilt and examine his face. She might be in charge of making the rules, but she wasn’t keen on forcing her way in to his space if he didn’t want her there. She didn’t want to find out weeks down the road that she pushed and it was all her fault.
“I offered before,” he reminded her. His expression was closed-off, a little too careful, but then he raised his eyebrow at her and suddenly he was just Leo again. “And anyway, I only sleep in there because you declared the couch off-limits. Not like this space is sacred, Jules.”
He also looked exhausted, to be fair. He was covered in a light sheen of sweat, his hair tousled and his mouth swollen. Once Julian had made her request, he didn’t waste time making a beeline for his room- he didn’t bother stopping to turn on the light- and setting her down on his bed with surprising care. Scarcely thirty seconds later he was sinking down next to her and making a grab for the covers.
“C’mere,” Leo mumbled. He threw an arm around her and tugged her until she was nestled up close in front of him, his chest pressed so close behind her that she could feel his heartbeat.
“It might be sacred.” she complained just for the sake of being contrary.
It was the ONLY fuss she put up though.
She gave the room a wary perusal through half opened lids. There wasn’t a night light or a window. Useful for a vampire house guest who wanted to avoid the sun while taking daytime naps, but not great when you were hoping for a little moonlight. It was pretty dark. A curious spectator or two was nearby, but apparently this was an acceptable place for her to be. Having Leo warm and just present really did seem to work, though. It always did.
With a rush of breath Julian finally relaxed.
“This is good.” she whispered, wriggling just enough to find the best place to rest her head. Without thinking about it, she grabbed his hand to pull his arm further around her and then just refused to let it go. Maybe there was just the one thing she wouldn’t give him a choice about.
This was definitely good. This was perfect. It was stupid to be grinning about it, but she couldn’t help it. Her breathing steadied to a slow deep rhythm and before she could even finish mumbling a goodnight she was already drifting to sleep.
Leo looked over his shoulder at Michael, his face drawn and pale. He shivered, a shiver that had nothing to do with the wet and chill in the night air and everything to do with the blank, dark stare he met.
“Please,” he bit out. It took a lot to make Leo beg, but this… “Please don’t make me do this.”
“You know this is for the best, Leo,” said Michael. “She’s not the girl you loved anymore.”
Leo looked down at the pool of blood on the warehouse floor. He raised one red-stained hand, examining it in the dark.
“You’re wrong,” he told Michael. “I can still save her. If you just let me talk to her-”
“You’ve had your chance.”
The sounds of creaking wood and booted footfalls echoed against the walls. Far off, he could hear church bells ringing, a crow cawing harshly. Another step, in something wet. Leo closed his eyes.
When he opened them, he was suddenly standing ten feet from where he remembered standing last. A chill ran down his spine.
“Michael,” he choked. “No.”
Dark eyes met his, black like deepest night. Leo felt himself falling into those eyes with a terrible lurch.
“Keep her quiet. It will be over soon.”
Dread pooling in his stomach, Leo looked down. The first thing he saw was the top of her head, long dark hair falling in front of her face as she curled against his chest. Her white dress was mottled and splattered with flecks of red.
“Leo,” she sobbed. “I can’t move. I’m scared. Why? How could you?”
“Be quiet,” he heard himself say hoarsely, in a dead and utterly flat tone. “It will be over soon.”
Behind her, Michael’s shadow loomed.
“Leo! Leo,” she kept crying softly. “Please. Save me, Leo!”
He wanted to sooth her, to take her in his arms and calm her fears. He wanted to slug Michael in the face. He wanted to do… anything, but it was like his body wasn’t his to command anymore. He felt ill, like he was seeing the world through a fish-eye lens.
“Don’t make me do it,” he managed to plead, wetting his lips.
“…Very well,” agreed the monster who used to be his friend.
With a sickening snap, her head came free of her shoulders. Leo watched helplessly as it fell and rolled next to his feet. There was a grimace of shock and pain frozen on her face, her pink lips forming a silent scream. It happened so fast that Leo didn’t even have time to prepare, time to process.
“I’ll leave you to mourn. Be sure to burn the body, just in case.” He was left alone with her empty, ruined shell, suddenly and sharply aware that he was alone. In so many senses of the word.
He fell to his knees, reaching to touch her cheek with a shaking hand. Her skin was still warm and soft under his fingers. A laugh bubbled up from his chest, because what was this, this couldn’t actually be real. Just this morning he’d been kissing her cheek and feeling on top of the world. Now… Now…
He looked down again.
Hazel eyes, recently glassed-over, stared back up at him from under a curl of chocolate brown hair.
“This is what you’ll do to her,” Sadie’s voice whispered. Leo’s blood turned to ice in his veins. “Just like you did this to me.”
He woke with a start, drenched in sweat.
Julian was still out like a light beside him, her chest rising and falling steadily. Leo pressed a hand to his eyes and flopped back down against the bed, trying to moderate his pounding heart rate.
“Fuck,” he whispered. He opened his eyes again, stealing another glance at the sleeping girl. He started to reach over and touch her face.
Halfway through, his fingers recoiled and curled up.
“…Fuck,” he swore again, and slipped from the bed in a hurry.
[/et_pb_text][et_pb_button admin_label=”Next Chapter” button_url=”https://www.worldofsilentpines.com/blood-moon-005-i-need-help/” url_new_window=”off” button_text=”Next Chapter” button_alignment=”right” background_layout=”dark” custom_button=”on” button_bg_color=”#2c3036″ button_letter_spacing=”0″ button_use_icon=”default” button_icon_placement=”right” button_on_hover=”off” button_bg_color_hover=”#484b50″ button_letter_spacing_hover=”0″ button_border_width=”0″ saved_tabs=”all” /][/et_pb_column][et_pb_column type=”1_4″][et_pb_post_title admin_label=”Featured Book Image” title=”off” meta=”off” author=”on” date=”on” categories=”on” comments=”on” featured_image=”on” featured_placement=”below” parallax_effect=”on” parallax_method=”on” text_orientation=”left” text_color=”dark” text_background=”off” text_bg_color=”rgba(255,255,255,0.9)” use_border_color=”off” border_color=”#ffffff” border_style=”solid” saved_tabs=”all” global_module=”2310″ /][et_pb_text admin_label=”BLOOD MOON CHAPTERS” saved_tabs=”all” background_layout=”dark” text_orientation=”left” use_border_color=”off” border_color=”#ffffff” border_style=”solid” global_module=”314″]
- Blood Moon 001: The Shadows (Original Draft)
- Blood Moon 002: The Monster Inside (Original Draft)
- Blood Moon 003: Bonfire (Original Draft)
- Blood Moon 004: Lake Glass (Original Draft)
- Blood Moon 005: I Need Help (Original Draft)
- Blood Moon 006: Slipping (Original Draft)
- Blood Moon 007: The Veil (Original Draft)
- Blood Moon 008: Bullets (Original Draft)
- Blood Moon 009: High School Problems (Original Draft)
- Blood Moon 010: It Starts With a Letter (Original Draft)
- Blood Moon 011: Into the Woods (Original Draft)