This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
I leaned my head back against the passenger seat
with a groan. If Ty found out about this, any remaining shred
of my self-dignity would be destroyed. As if I had any at this
point. How did I get here? At least he didn't know about the
panic attack. I think.
"You okay?" Liam asked.
"Fine," I said tightly. My fingers still clutched the strap
of my backpack that I now held in my lap. I kept my sights
on the road. I would remain in control.
"You look a little tense."
I turned to him. "Well, why wouldn't I be? It's not like we
don't have any white elephants hanging around the room.
Car." I winced and tried to breathe right. Okay, not keeping
Liam gave me a strange look. "You know, you're kind
of scary sometimes."
I glared and he smiled.
He refocused his attention on the road, and took a turn
that led us down a winding one-lane highway. I didn't know
the area too well, but I recognized the river to our left. Dad
and I passed it on our way back from the realtor's office the
morning we came into town.
"Where are we going?"
Liam shrugged. "No where in particular. Just thought
we'd drive up around the parklands while we talk." He
motioned his head out the window to our left. "It's a
preserve, mostly used for hiking. They allow fishing but only
at certain times. Hunting," he cleared his throat, "is
I followed his gaze. The vast sweeping valley of rocks
and canyons woven in between thick mazes of pine and
birch made me shudder. Wherever forests grew that thick,
lived other things as well. The tiny hairs on the back of my
neck rose and I felt cold. The river wound seamlessly up the
hills and disappeared around a bend. What else could be
just out of my line of vision?
"It's pretty," I said. He peered at me as if he could see
right through me. "What?" I asked.
"You don't like the woods, do you?"
Liam spun the wheel and pulled the car over onto a
small dirt viewpoint along the side of the bend. He didn't
look at me. "You don't have to lie to me, Charlotte."
I opened my mouth to protest, but stopped. "Fine. I
don't like the woods. Happy?"
"No. Why would I be?" he asked with a snap to his
Anger boiled within me. How this became my fault was
beyond me. Enough stalling. "Why did you leave that
Liam's knuckles went white against the steering wheel
and his body stiffened. "I told you, your scar."
The instinctive reaction to reach for the spot on my
shoulder screamed, but I didn't grab for it. The thought of
relapsing into some sort of delusional hysteria right now
would be too much. "What about it?"
He finally faced me and the intense rigidity throughout
his body deflated. "You aren't the only one who was
attacked by a wolf."
The effect of his words discombobulated my senses. I
expected excuses. The implication that he had been
through something similar destroyed my entire internal
arsenal. I didn't even know what to say.
"When I saw your scar, I freaked. Your dining room
ceased to exist. You were no longer human. Do you
understand what I'm talking about?"
Unfortunately I did. So much so that the similarity to my
earlier panic attack in the cafeteria made me eye him with
suspicion. Did he know? No. Impossible, and why would he
use that to deflect my interrogation? I couldn't fathom why. I
had to believe it true. Besides, I never told him a wolf bit
"Can I see it?" I regretted my words the moment I said
them. Facing the window, I watched the valley below.
"I'd rather not," he said. I nodded, knowing all too well
about the shaky state that can bring on. Then it dawned on
me. Liam understood. Somebody actually knew what it felt
like to live on the edge of reality and dreams, never
knowing for sure if insanity or truth dictated. Of course, I
was getting ahead of myself. He never said that, only that
he'd been bitten. But he did have a panic attack.
"Do you ever feel followed?"
Liam looked at me like I had grown two heads. There
went my theory. I couldn't help the physical slouch of
disappointment, despite what that really insinuated. Why
would I want Liam to be followed?
"What are you talking about, Charlotte?"
I forced a tight grin. "Never mind."
"Are you being followed?" He unfastened his seat belt
and shifted his body completely towards me, one hand
resting on the back of my seat. His sudden movement,
unexpected, made me swallow hard.
"No," I said.
His gaze hardened. I knew he saw right through me
and was getting annoyed.
"Maybe. I don't know."
"Who?" Flecks of gold began to fuse and melt together
in his eyes and my pulse pounded in my ears. I didn't want
him to think me crazy, but this intense interrogation scared
me. I tried to shut it out, to stay lucid, and not see the sharp
canines protruding from his gums in impossible ways.
"Charlotte, who?" Reality came back, his face normal.
There, I admitted it. Now he knew I was certifiable. I
readied myself for the speech my parents and psychologist
gave me so many years ago, their words almost as
haunting as the movements of those just out of view, who
waited for me in the woods. 'It's not real. You've been
through a great deal of trauma. You're not well.' I shivered
and my backpack fell to the floor by my feet. I shouldn't have
Liam leaned in closer and I crushed myself up against
the small space between the door and the seat. I should
have been fumbling for the handle, but I couldn't seem to
muster further movement. "What are you doing?"
A low rumble resonated from somewhere deep in his
chest and I saw his nostrils expand. It's not real. I'm
hallucinating. Oh, whom was I kidding? Ty, herself, saw
what happened at my house.
"When did this start? What do they look like?"
He moved back into his seat, allowing me to breathe,
but he continued to glance over at me as if the one
following me hid in my seatbelt. "Soon after the attack.
Days." I smiled tightly and gave a short chortled laugh.
"Liam, the only one following me is you. It's called
posttraumatic stress. Relax." Please. My fingers knitted
between my legs.
He appeared to be contemplating what I just said, but
his expression seemed worried. I couldn't help to feel a little
flattered. He did care.
"Okay," he said, although I could tell he didn't buy it.
Neither did I, yet I was grateful to drop the subject.
"Charlotte?" he asked.
Any question hanging with a name doomed disaster,
but I answered. "Yes?"
"If you do see something or anything strange, will you
My fingers stopped moving. "You mean like you?"
"Charlotte, I ..."
"I know what I saw, Liam. I'm not crazy. What is going
He fidgeted in his seat and went to start the engine. "I
don't know what you're talking about."
"Don't lie to me." I caught his fingers, pulling them from
the key. The engine fizzled. "I saw you. You were changing
into something." I held his hand in mine, refusing to let him
go. "Look at me and tell me I'm insane. Tell me I imagined
the whole thing. Tell me."
He met my gaze, and I sat there, watching the crease
of his brow tighten into a twisted knot. "You imagined the
"Let me out of here." I shoved his hand away and
scrambled to the door. My fingers found the latch, flicking it
open, and I stumbled outside.
"What are you...?"
I slammed the door on him and took off over the metal
guardrail. The slope dropped instantaneously and my
pathetic excuse for sneakers skidded and dug at the loose
soil. I landed on my butt and began to slide. My hands
burned as I tried to slow my momentum, shoveling up piles
of damp leaves, stone, and dirt. I heard the car door open
and close somewhere behind me.
"Leave me alone," I called out, just as I managed to
stop myself. Scrambling to my feet, I took off through the
branches, not caring which direction I headed. I had to get
away from him. My eyes burned from the run, and when I
wiped them with my sleeve, I found my arm damp.
I hated him.
A faint rustling came from behind me and I knew it was
Liam. I forced myself to keep moving, even though my lungs
felt raw and my thighs ached. I ducked under a low hanging
limb and pushed through a dry thorny bush. It snagged at
my jeans, holding me its prisoner for a moment, until I
snapped its spiny tendrils, and stamped it down with my
feet. I stopped short. The river I had seen, gurgled and
rolled in front of me, hopping over rocks as it rounded the
bend. I refused to be trapped.
Several rocks jutted out between the current and I went
for it. My sneakers did no better on their wet surface, but I
managed to keep my balance as I worked my way to the
second one, and then the third. Only one remained, but
when my foot touched it, the stone rolled. My ankle twisted,
and with a loud groan, I fell.
A hand grasped my arm, pulling me up before I even
hit the water. Knives of pain shot up my calf, and I winced,
"Hold still. I got you," Liam said.
"I don't need your help." I jerked my shoulder free of
him and then nearly cried out as I tried to put pressure on
"Don't move. You probably sprained it." He wrapped
one arm under me, pulling me to his chest, while he
scooped my legs up with the other. I felt humiliated, but in all
truth, it really did hurt too much to walk.
Liam splashed through the water, soaking his shoes,
and then placed me down on the edge of the bank. Without
acknowledging him, I pulled my pant leg up, to investigate
the damage. I couldn't see anything, but the slightest touch
made me flinch.
He plopped down next to me on the damp dirt. Without
even turning, I felt him watching me. "What were you
thinking anyway, Charlotte? Were you really going to find
your way home through the woods?"
I shot him a glare. "Yes.
"But you hate the woods."
"It was a better alternative than being in your car."
His expression fell and his fingers picked at the dirt.
"How could you say that to me, Liam?" I grabbed a pile
of mossy, soaked leaves and chucked it at him. "You know
what that means to me. You lied to me."
"Sorry?" I asked with a bemused snort.
"You don't understand. I had to." He stopped fiddling
with the dirt.
"People always have choices, Liam."
He looked up at me from under his ashen hair, his
deep, slowly melting hues told me more than words. I
swallowed hard. "You're not human, are you?"
He froze, seemingly timeless, like a forgotten statue
left to stand alone under the fallen leaves. "No."
My mind spun. I took a deep breath and tilted my chin
up to catch the late afternoon sun cascading down through
the branches, trying to hold onto my sanity. "What are you?"
I whispered. My body felt cold.
The drumming of my pulse drowned out the babbling of
the river. Everything had been true. I had known all along.
The musky scent of pine, the way he moved around me,
and those golden hues. I knew them. I knew him. Had it
been him all along? I started to tremble.
Liam caught my hands and held them fast. "It wasn't
me. I didn't attack you. I'd never hurt you. You have to
believe me, Charlotte. Please. Look at me."
A twig snapped somewhere behind me and Liam
"Shh." Liam put his finger to my lips, silencing me.
"This isn't helping with my nerves, Liam." He didn't
answer; his attention on something over my shoulder.
"Don't move," he whispered.
I had opened my mouth to protest when I heard it. Soft
padded footsteps inched closer. I wanted to turn, but I
couldn't. Everything in me shook as Liam shifted his body
from where he sat next to me, into a half crouch, his hands
splayed on both sides of my legs. His attention focused
with pin point intensity on something behind me. I didn't
even know if he realized I still sat there. The dampness from
the soil seeped through the thin material of my shirt as I
instinctively inched down away from the uncomfortable
proximity of Liam's chest. A thick cloud of musky pine
invaded my nose and then a low rumble reverberated from
My muscles quivered so badly, they hurt.
Another growl joined his and I wanted to scream. I
opened my mouth, but nothing came. My focus squared on
Liam's hands. Long sharp claws broke through from under
his fingernails, slicing down into the dirt.
This isn't real. This isn't real.
Liam's shoulders shook and the soft crack of steps
moved closer. In my mind I saw jowls tearing into my flesh,
opening my scar. This time, I screamed...and then the world
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?