Author: EmberJennings PM
Anson is a loner, bullied, and bored of his stupid classmates. Then Poppy arrives at school and immediately takes an interest in the loner boy. Anson thinks his luck is turning - but Poppy isn't all she seems. She's part of a secret organisation of vampires who train to fight werewolves. And she's been sent to recruit Anson. But things get tricky when she starts to fall for him.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Supernatural - Chapters: 38 - Words: 131,402 - Reviews: 58 - Favs: 28 - Follows: 27 - Updated: 03-21-13 - Published: 05-30-12 - id: 3027323
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Cautiously, I got to my feet and stared into the trees around us. The Wolf was moving, circling us. I spun slowly on my heel to follow the sound of its footfalls on the soft dirt ground and the rasp of its deep breathing. My eyes raked the shadows under the leafy boughs, picking out the shifting limbs of the bushes and ferns, the individual leaves on every branch as clear as daylight – one of the perks of being an undead predator. A dark form slunk between the trees so fast it would have been nothing more than a black blur to the human eye. To me, it was a long, low shape on four slender legs, chased by a thick tail. Pale light, sinking through the leaves from the stars above, caught streaks of silver in the Wolf's fur. It was getting closer, the scent stronger. It made my skin crawl, my muscles stretching as adrenaline spilled into my veins. My stomach tightened and twisted. This was the part I hated most; the animal inside me responding to the threat of the Wolf. It made me feel all out of sorts on a dozen different levels.
"Poppy? Poppy, what's wrong?" Anson asked quietly. He was anxious and confused, I could tell by his tone and the hiccupping of his heart rate. I wanted to reassure him, to turn around and smile and tell him it was nothing but we should be heading back to civilisation. But I couldn't. The Wolf had seen me with him by now, it had picked up his scent. Even if we left right now and the Wolf didn't attack us or follow us, it would find Anson the next time he left the house and nothing would stop it from tearing him apart. That was what the Wolves did to our targets, and to anyone of our kind who wasn't careful enough. That was why we had to move fast when we found a suitable target, to Turn them and get them to the Academy to be trained before the Wolves got to them. Now this one had a lock on Anson. I had to stop it before it got back to the rest of its pack and passed on the information, or else Anson would be in real danger. A pack could be up to fifteen or twenty Wolves and it would take at least ten of our kind to take them down – There were only me and Lyle in the area. If I wanted to keep Anson safe and keep him human, I had to kill this Wolf.
My head snapped up at the sound of a branch cracking, far too close for comfort. I glared into the space under the boughs of a nearby oak tree, listening carefully in the fear that there might be more than one Wolf circling us. I could only hear two people breathing, one of which was Anson, but something else had changed. The pace of the other person's – if you could call a Werewolf a person – breathing was slower, the footfalls were lighter and…different. I tilted my head, frowning. There wasn't a Wolf in those trees anymore, but I could still smell it. The footfalls were simple and light, those of a human.
And then I saw it…him…whatever. The Werewolf had Changed. He emerged from behind a tree on two legs, naked but for a pair of ragged, dirty shorts. He was tall and lean with stringy muscles and knotted, shoulder-length hair. If I looked closely, I could see strands of silver in his hair though he couldn't have been more than nineteen years old. His eyes shone with reflected light, like a cat's or a wolf's, until he stepped out of the shadows of the trees and into the light of the clearing. His thin legs were caked in mud up to the knee, the crescents of his toenails and fingernails were black. I recognised him. He was a fairly new Wolf, Changed only eight or nine months ago. He'd been my last target before Nathan. His name was Jason.
He grinned at me viciously, showing wide, sharp teeth stained with blood from whatever woodland creature he'd been snacking on before he'd picked up my scent on the wind – I hoped it was a woodland creature, and not a person, but with the Wolves you could never be sure. Most of them tried to avoid eating humans but sometimes the primal animal in them took over so completely that they ended up attacking a person, oblivious to what they were doing until they Changed back to their human bodies. When they attacked a human, someone from the Academy had to take them out. It was part of why our races hated each other, why we were always at war. Occasionally, one of our kind went rogue and munched on a human, but we preferred to deal with our own kind ourselves – Like with Nathan. The Wolves didn't deal with the law-breakers in their packs because they were so common that they'd be killing half their population. Only if one Wolf killed more than three humans did the Pack Leader step in.
A hand touched my arm and I very nearly ripped it off before I realised it was Anson. I flinched but didn't turn to face him, not with my fangs refusing to retract in the presence of a threat. The Wolf boy's eyes narrowed and flickered to Anson before jumping back to me. A cruel, cold smirk curled his lips and he shook his head slowly. "Oh, naughty girl, Poppy." Jason clucked his tongue, and I tensed at the use of my name. I'd hated Jason when I'd been assigned to Turn him and I hated him infinitely more now. He was obnoxious and lecherous, but he'd fit the profile for a recruitment at the time. Then he'd gotten bitten by one of the Wolves and Changed.
Anson's fingers tightened on my shoulder and I could almost hear the thoughts running through his head. I bit my tongue to keep from explaining to him that it wasn't what he thought, that Jason was a crude bastard I'd known a while back and nothing more. I had to focus on the Wolf, on keeping Anson safe. I could work on fixing his bruised feelings later. Glaring at Jason, I said, "You shouldn't be here, Jason. You know what I have to do now." It just had to be tonight, didn't it? I thought bitterly, the one night I really wanted to be alone with Anson, more than anything else in the world.
Jason chuckled. His laugh sounded like a hyena. It was freaky. "Yeah, yeah, you have to kick my ass. You can try. But first, answer me this: Do Lyle and Leo know about your human boy toy? I bet they don't. Oh, you're going to be in so much trouble when they find out. Have you had sex with him yet? That's illegal in your world, right? I wonder how many rules you've broken already. At least four, maybe five." He was enjoying this, trying to mess with me, but I refused to let him see it was working. My nerves were strung so taut that it was almost painful, muscles rubbing across each other like a bow across the strings of a fiddle. I could feel Anson beside me, sense his rising anger. His pulse was beating in his throat, hard and increasingly fast. I couldn't take his hand because then Jason would know he was right. I had to convince him that Anson was just another target to me. He'd be in less danger if the Wolves thought he was just any human boy, being recruited. If they knew what he was to me…there was no telling what they'd do to him. They might Change him, or they might torture him for information, or they'd do it just to hurt me. They could try to use him as a bargaining chip; his life for mine, or something similar. No, if I could convince Jason that Anson wasn't important to me, maybe I wouldn't have to kill him. That was a very big maybe, though.
"Of course Lyle and Leo know. They wouldn't even be here if this wasn't an assignment, would they? How about you just run back to your doghouse, take a flea bath or something. There's nothing to see here, nothing to interest you." The hairs on the back of my neck were prickling and there was a horrible slimy finger running over each vertebrae of my spine, spilling cold goo into the gaps in between. It was awful, but I knew the longer I talked, the more uncomfortable Jason got, too. I could see it in the hunching of his shoulders and way he bared his teeth even when he wasn't grinning. I wondered how long he could stay human this close to me. He was young, so probably not much longer. He would burst out of his human skin, Change into a Wolf, in no more than ten minutes. If he Changed in front of Anson…I'd have some serious explaining to do, and I wasn't sure I could explain Lycanthropy without explaining what I was. I needed to get him out of here, or get Anson out of here. But I knew without a doubt that Anson wasn't going anywhere without me. He wouldn't leave me with this git – which was really sweet, but also, right now, very bad for us both.
Jason stepped forward menacingly, his eyes narrowed. He tilted is head thoughtfully even as a shudder wracked his slim body, the first sign that his instincts were roaring at him to Change. My stomach sank uneasily. "No, this isn't just an assignment. He's not just another target." He jerked his chin at Anson, who jolted like he'd been shocked, his fingers tightening further on my arm. I was sure he didn't realise how hard he was gripping. "Nah, you never looked at me like that. You never even looked at Nathan like that–"
"Don't you talk about Nathan! You didn't know anything about him. You don't know anything about me, either. Jason, just get out of here while you still have your legs," I snapped, glowering at him furiously. My glare should have melted holes in his skull, but he didn't even flinch. I wanted to claw his face off for mentioning Nathan. The Wolves only knew about Nathan because of Jason. Because of him, I was seen as a weakling, a wounded doe in the open. Some Wolves would take pity on me if they found me. Jason wouldn't.
Anson moved forward, pushing me behind him. His jaw was set, his eyes cold and fixed angrily on Jason. "Look, I don't know who you are or what you want, but Poppy clearly doesn't want to see you so I suggest you get out of here," he said in a low, controlled voice. It was the same dark voice he'd used when he'd been talking to Jake the night of the party. I tried to hide the smile that twitched at my lips. He was such a gentleman, so chivalrous. The fact that Jason could rip him apart, or the fact that I was ten times more well equipped to handle the Wolf boy than he was, were of no consequence.
Sneering, Jason chuckled. His voice, when he spoke, was condescending. "Of course you don't know who I am. You don't even know who she is. Don't try to pick a fight with someone outside your weight class–"
"I know enough," Anson growled.
"I doubt that." Jason grinned unpleasantly. It wasn't a real grin. He was getting annoyed now. Another shudder visibly shook his body, and then another. I bit my lip, frowning. He had minutes before he Changed, but he didn't look like he was prepared to leave. The angrier he got, the sooner he'd Change. "Has she told you who Lyle is? Let me guess, she said he's her brother. And her cousin, Leo, is just staying with them for a while. Have you seen her fight? Probably not, I guess, since one of those rules of her kind says she can't show off in front of the humans. There are no marks on your neck, so she hasn't bitten you…yet, anyway. How long have you known her? A week, maybe two?"
"Three weeks. Not that it's any of your business."
Jason nodded. "Hmm. She should have Turned you by now. I wonder why she hasn't." He cut his gaze to me knowingly, and I gritted my teeth. He gestured to the decanter full of red liquid sitting on the ground. "Do you know what's in that? Blood. She's got you drinking blood before she even–"
I gasped, outraged, horrified. "It's not blood! I wouldn't do that to him! It's just…juice." I hesitated because that last bit was a lie. It wasn't just juice. It was pomegranate and cranberry juice, but it was mixed with an elixir Leo had given me. The elixir wouldn't do anything to him, it just added a little kick, encouraged his natural feelings for me while lowering his inhibitions slightly. It was basically just like alcohol. Giving him wine would have worked just as well, but I didn't think he'd like wine – well, okay, I didn't like wine.
"What the hell are you talking about? Whoever you are, just get out of here. You're clearly high or drunk or something. Go sleep it off instead of interrupting people's dates," Anson snarled, his blue eyes flashing with anger and confusion. The wind blew his hair into his eyes, and my fingers itched to push it back, but I didn't dare touch him. His shoulders were tense, his chin tipped up. He looked like he wanted to punch Jason. Truthfully, I wanted to do the same. I was terrified Anson would believe what he was saying, question me, yell at me for the truth…If he did, I'd tell him the truth and hope for the best. Lyle had said his ignorance would save him, but I didn't think it would. It might – might – keep him from being Turned but it would almost definitely get him killed by Wolves. Dead was worse than Turned, and Changed was hardly any better than dead.
With savage force, another shudder shook Jason's body, hard enough to rattle his bones. He grunted in pain and doubled over, panting. He was out of time. He'd been close to me for too long. The Wolf inside him was forcing its way to the surface. He was going to Change any second now, and I had no time to get Anson out of here. I barely had time to push Anson back, making him stumble and fall to the ground, before Jason let out an ear-shredding howl of agony and his human skin ripped apart as his bones cracked and shifted. His jawbone crumpled and reformed, stretching into a muzzle. His teeth lengthened and yellowed, his nails popped out of his fingertips and curled into thick, inch-long claws. He fell to his knees, his fingers digging gouges in the dirt. I could hear his bones bursting out their sockets, hear his lungs crackling as he heaved white foam onto the ground. His eyes rolled back into his skull as he spasmed, seizing. Dark fur rolled from his head down his neck, over his chest and back and down his legs to his clawed toes. It was horrifying to watch, like a horror movie being played out live just five meters away. And then there was a snarling, quivering Wolf in front of me, his hackles rising as he bared his teeth, slavering as he growled. The sound was so low I felt it rumbling in my chest, and all my instincts kicked in with amazing force. I couldn't have ignored them if I'd tried, and my training wouldn't allow me to try. I had to fight, and I had to win. It wasn't just my safety that depended on my victory.
The Wolf's front paws slid in the dirt, lowered his body so his jaw almost touched the ground. He was getting ready to pounce. I lunged at the same time he did, dodging his open, dripping jaws but only just. He got close enough that I felt his hot, disgusting breath on my face, ruffling my hair. I hooked my fingers in the side of his mouth, his back teeth grazing my wrist, and gouged a chunk out of the wet lining, tearing the muscles that operated his jaw. Evidently not enough, because he still managed to try and close his teeth on my hand as I yanked it back.
The Wolf howled, but twisted to clawed at me with one paw. His claws caught my arm, ripping gashes in the skin. I hissed at the stinging pain, but the wounds would heal quickly. Still, blood poured down my arm, crimson and macabre. Viciously, I grabbed the end of the Wolf's tail and yanked on it, pulling out a handful of fur as he whipped it away. Growling, he backed away far enough that he could circle me. I circled with him, making sure never to turn my back on him, making sure he was never beyond the edges of my vision.
Then he lunged, and I ducked, dropping to the ground so he sailed over me. I grabbed one of his back legs as he flew over my head, jerking him back and throwing him to the ground. He hit the ground with a whimper and rolled. He scrambled to his feet quickly and lunged again. This time, I didn't get out of the way fast enough. His paw hit my left side, knocking me backward and dislocating my shoulder. I yelled, clutching at my shoulder, lying on the ground. I couldn't pop the bone back into its socket on my own. I had to wait for it to do it itself, and I didn't have any time. The Wolf was already on me again, and his claws raked slashes across my chest from my right shoulder to my left breast, blood pulsing out and spreading across my skin, staining my ripped t-shirt. I took my hand away from my dislocated shoulder to try to throw him off, and he clamped his jaws down on the shoulder. I think I screamed, but I wasn't sure. I was too focused on the blinding, searing agony in my shoulder.
Gritting my teeth, I tried to cling to my training. Don't panic, don't scramble, think. I thought. He was on top of me, his underside exposed to me. It made him vulnerable. His throat was the obvious target, but I was seeing spots behind my lids. I didn't think I'd have time to slowly strangle him, and even if I crushed his windpipe, he could still tear my head off with his claws. Beheading would kill me. So, instead of going for his throat, I went for his chest. Putting as much force as I could behind it, I punched my fist into his chest, plunging my hand through his ribs. Three ribs snapped with sickening sounds, and the Wolf tried to howl but it came out distorted and breathless. I figured one of the ribs had punctured his lung. He could recover from that, though, if he was given time. If he ran now, I wouldn't be able to chase him and he could get back to his pack, tell them about Anson…Swiftly, before he could scramble off me, I wrapped my fingers around his heart and twisted. The arteries and veins and various other stringy bits holding his heart in place snapped. The Wolf twitched, gurgled, and then slumped, dead. Groaning, I shoved him off me. He flopped to the ground next to me, horribly limp and disjointed.
I tried not to look at him as I rolled to my feet. Grasping my shoulder, I winced. With a sigh, I looked down at myself and winced again at the gruesome state of my chest. Three ragged gashes marred my skin, wet blood coated most of my top half in a macabre red. My t-shirt was in tatters, exposing parts of my bra, which was also stained with blood now. My arm ached but the slashes there were healing, shrinking. They weren't bleeding anymore, at least. They'd be sealed completely in twenty minutes, and the scars would be gone in an hour. The ones on my chest would take twenty-five minutes to disappear entirely. I yelled out as my shoulder popped itself back into place. It ached, but the pain would go away soon, too. The physical damage was minimal compared to wounds I'd suffered before, but…there was collateral damage that wouldn't be nearly so easy to fix.
Reluctantly, I turned and raised my gaze to Anson. He was standing twenty feet away, his hands limp at his sides, and he was deathly pale. Disbelief and horror was written on his face, his eyes wide and his mouth open. My stomach tightened and I held my bloody arm over my chest as if it would hide the carnage of my body. I swallowed my fear and took an uncertain step toward him. He flinched. My eyes stung but I tried not to be hurt. Of course he flinched. He was shocked, probably terrified…I just wasn't sure if he was terrified of what he'd just seen, or terrified of me.
I took a deep breath to steady my voice before I spoke. I had to make him understand. I had to make him stop looking at me like that before it broke my heart. "Anson, please, just…just listen to me. I'm not going to hurt you." I had to stop and bite my lip, feeling my lips tremble. My throat threatened to lock down because of the accusing, horrified look in his eyes. Slowly, I tried stepping toward him again. He flinched again, but I kept going. Step after cautious step, and he didn't back away. I took that as a good sign. "Please, Anson. Don't be scared of me. I swear I'd never hurt you." I was close enough to him now that I could touch him if I just raised my arm…I didn't.
His heart was pounding fast behind his ribs, but his breathing was amazingly steady. His gaze on mine didn't waver, but his mouth was pressed into a thin, pale line. I waited for him to say something, anything. I had no idea what he was thinking. I waited a long time, each minute agonising, but he still didn't say a word. "Come on, Sunshine, you've got to believe me. I love you," I whispered. My eyes filled and tears fell down my cheeks when I blinked. A whimpering noise escaped my lips and I looked away, pressing my fingers to my mouth. This wasn't how he was supposed to react. He was supposed to understand. He was supposed to touch my cheek and tell me it was okay and kiss me and say he loved me no matter what I was. But he was just standing there, staring at me like he wasn't even seeing me. I closed my eyes, sucking in air to calm me more than because I needed it.
Then I felt his fingers curl around mine, and I jerked my eyes back to his. His expression was still painfully blank, but I was starting to think that was because he was in shock, not because he was scared of me. Finally, finally, he spoke, and his voice, thankfully, wasn't nearly as emotionless as his face. "What are you?" he asked softly, a tremor shaking his voice. His eyes brightened and he blinked, his brow crumpled. His mouth made an uneven shape. I wasn't great at reading facial expressions, especially Anson's, but I didn't think he looked scared or even confused. Just…thoughtful.
"What are you?" he breathed, lifting a hand to my face. Gently, he swiped the tear off my cheek with his thumb, and warmth sank into my skin. It made me want to cry more and I didn't know why, so I blinked back the tears and stared into his cobalt eyes, looking for something in them to tell me he wasn't going to freak out at my answer. There was a softness, a curious spark, in the blue depths as he looked back at me. I could read his thoughts on his face: I still love you.
So I raised my chin and slid my fingertips down his arm. I felt goosebumps rise under my touch. It reassured me. I took an unnecessary breath, prayed that I wouldn't regret this, and told him everything, starting with one, simple statement. "I'm a vampire."