I sat down on the hotel bed, and couldn’t help but sigh as my butt sank into it like a heavenly sponge cake. After three years of sleeping on a damp and moldy mattress, I’d almost forgotten what a real bed felt like.
“So, Kayli’s going to Chicago,” I said, fighting the urge to fall asleep then and there. “We follow her. Then what?”
Dex turned on the tv and idly began to flip through the channels. “We catch her. Duh.”
“But how?” I pressed him. “Chicago’s a huge place. Tell me you have a plan to find her!”
He didn’t reply right away. He stopped changing channels, and the tv settled on the local news station.
“…bodies of Tony and Lucy Frasier were found in their home today,” said the reporter, standing in front of a familiar house. “Tony had been shot point blank with a shotgun, while his wife appears to have been attacked by a dog.”
A chill went down my spine. “Are you sure we should be staying here in town?”
“We’re right across the street from the bus station,” he answered. “This is the best place for us right now.”
“But we were at that house! What if the police track us here?”
He shook his head. “They won’t.”
“Amber,” he gave me a smirk, “trust me. We’re fine.”
The reporter went on, “Police are saying that it’s the result of a break in, though nothing seems to have been stolen. Whether or not this has anything to do with the ransacking of the Stoneman Bar, whose owners have also gone missing, is currently unknown. Citizens are encouraged to lock their doors, not go out at night, and report any suspicious activity.”
I curled up on the bed, hugging my knees to my chest. Why was it that everywhere I went, people ended up dying? Even if I wasn’t the one to kill them, I always left corpses behind. Did the fact that I was there make it my fault? Did the grim reaper have a crush on me? Was he trying to impress me with all the different ways he could kill people? Had someone cursed me to watch everyone around me suffer while I, myself, was spared? Or was I just the world champion for being in the wrong place at the wrong time?
No matter which of those it was, it didn’t make me feel better.
“The way I see it,” Dex spoke up quietly, “our best bet may be to let her find you.”
“Hmm?” I asked, looking up at him.
He turned off the tv and leaned against the wall, arms folded. “You’re right, Chicago’s a huge place. We have no leads as to where she’ll go after she gets off that bus. But what was it you said back there at the station?”
“She’s doing this for revenge.”
“Exactly.” He nodded. “That means she’s expecting you to follow her. When we get to Chicago, we’ll introduce ourselves to the local Mythic community, let the word spread that we’re there, and then sit back and wait for her to come to us.”
I shivered again. “I guess. But if all she wants is to kill me, why lead us to Chicago? Why not just grab the stupid glove at the hotel, wait for me to come back for it, and then kill me there?”
Dex blinked and cocked his head. “That’s, uh…a good question.”
“If she really wants us to follow her all the way to Chicago, there must be a reason for it,” I said, thinking out loud. Then I sat up straight with a gasp. “She found a new pack! One that lives in Chicago! She’s leading us there so that they can back her up when we find her!”
“Oh, huh,” Dex said thoughtfully. “Yeah, that’s probably it.”
I paused, then looked at him. “Are you telling me that never even occurred to you?”
He shrugged. “What can I say, Sugarsnout? You’re a regular Sherlock Holmes.”
Taking a deep breath, I folded my arms. A whole pack. How big would it be? Both the packs that I’ve been part of were small, just three or four people, but I didn’t know if that was normal or not. This one might have ten…twenty…fifty wolves in it.
My skin crawled at the thought of having to kill that many people. Not that I didn’t think I could do it—having Dex on my side made losing almost impossible—but the thought of having to do it made me feel sick to my stomach.
Dex flopped down on the bed beside me, apparently not bothered by these things in the slightest. I watched him as he laid down on his back, sighing as he relaxed. His messy blonde hair spilled out around him like the world’s most ironic halo, and I couldn’t help but look at the way his shirt rode up a little when he folded his hands behind his head. He was thin, but the work he did for Majestic still gave him a nice set of abs.
“Eyes are up here, Sugarsnout.”
I jerked my head up to see Dex smirking at me, and I turned away, face burning.
“No way!” he said suddenly. “Look at this!”
I turned back around, curious, to see him reach over to the nightstand and grab the big yellow book that was sitting on top of it.
I snorted. “A phonebook? You’re easily impressed.”
“No, really! I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen one of these things!”
Sitting up crosslegged, he began leafing through the phonebook like it was a hot new bestselling novel. I glanced at the window. Outside, the sky was starting to turn orange as the sun set. As soon as I saw that, my skin started to prickle.
GO OUT, the ever-present beast inside me demanded. GO IN MOON. CHANGE. RUN. HUNT.
I looked away, and the wolf growled in irritation. It still hadn’t forgiven me for slamming the door on it last night.
LET. ME. OOOUUUUUT!
I sighed, getting up and going to the sink. Fresh, cold water poured from it, as clear as crystal. For a minute, I just held my hands under the stream. Just like the bed, I’d almost forgotten what clean water felt like. And…I grabbed one of the little paper cups off the counter…what it tasted like. In Hendricks’ mine, the only water came from an old rusty spigot that was drilled into the wall. The water was always room temperature, and you could taste the dirt with every drink you took. And why should he care? It wasn’t like he needed to eat or drink to survive. He drank expensive liquor practically by the gallon, but I got the feeling that was because he just liked the idea of how much it cost.
co the voice of common sense asked in my head.
No. No, I did not. But I’d already made up my mind. I couldn’t be trusted with this kind of freedom.
Still, the thought almost made me cry. It was bad enough just living there with him. Being reminded of everything that I was missing like this just made it even worse.
I turned around. “What?”
Dex pointed at something in the phonebook. “There’s a Chinese place nearby that delivers. How about a little room service, Sugarsnout?”
I stared at him for a few seconds, then shook my head. “Wait, you’re buying me food?”
“Uh, yeah?” He looked around and then shrugged, like I’d just spoken gibberish. “Unless you have some money you haven’t told me about?”
“No, I just…” I went to the armchair and sat down. “I know Majestic doesn’t pay you well. Why waste your money on me?”
Dex stared at me for almost a full minute.
“What?” I asked, suddenly self-conscious.
“Well, that settles it.” He pulled out his cell phone. “We’re ordering Chinese.”
“And a pizza!”
“Dex, stop! You don’t have to—”
“Keep talking, and I’ll order wings too.”
I stopped, more than a little freaked out, and could only watch as Dex dialed the first number. My stomach growled, reminding me that I hadn’t eaten since the breakfast he’d made me back home.
First he cooks for you, the voice in my head says, and now he’s buying you dinner. It’s almost like…
I shut down that train of thought immediately. No, no, freaking no. I had enough crap going on in my life already. I didn’t need to add that to the list too.
I sat, numb and silent, for the next twenty minutes until someone knocked on our door. Dex peeked through the spyhole, but I could already smell the food on the other side of the door. The smell got even stronger when he opened it, paid the man, and set it on the bed.
“Dig in,” he said with a grin.
All at once, my reservations vanished. I threw myself onto my stomach, and would have spilled chicken fried rice all over the bed if I hadn’t grabbed it and a spoon, and immediately began shoveling it into my mouth.
“Mmmm,” I moaned with my mouth and eyes both closed.
“Try not to get anything on the bed,” Dex said, cracking open a box of general tso’s chicken. “You’ll be sleeping in it tonight.”
“Mmph?” I asked, mouth full.
He smirked, then winked. “Unless you want to share it.”
“Mm-mm!” I shook my head. Swallowing, I said, “Forget it, bub! If you even try it, I’ll nail your nuts to the wall!”
He laughed and took a bite. “Oh ho, spicy!”
Listening to him, I couldn’t help but laugh too. Dex had that effect on people. Or on me, at least.
“Who?” I asked. “Me or the chicken?”
“Sugarsnout,” he said, putting on a mock serious face, “the chicken is spicy, but you are flaming hot.”
“And you,” I pointed my plastic spoon at him, “are as corny as…” I paused and looked around. “Does any of this have corn in it?”
I raised the thin cardboard box, shoveling even more rice into my mouth.
“Probably some cat in there, though,” Dex noted.
I burst out laughing right into the box, and when I lowered it I had a few grains of rice stuck to my face.
“You’re going to make me choke!” I complained, still smiling.
Dex smirked, and before I knew what he was doing, he had reached out and rubbed a thumb across my cheek. I froze as his warm fingers brushed my skin. Then he withdrew his hand—and there was a kernel of corn in it.
“Ha, there!” he said, declared. “See? You’re the corny one!”
My cheek burned where he had touched me, and I couldn’t help but stare at him. My heart gave a nervous beat.
“Fine,” I said, turning around to face the darkening window. “I’ll let you have one of the pillows when you sleep on the floor.”