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Chapter Thirty Five

I sat on my bed, staring down at the floor.

 

“This is good,” Dex was saying, pacing the room behind me. “You can control your Silverblood form. That means you’re ready for a rematch with Kaylie!”

 

The morning sun’s rays were poking fingers through our blinds. After I’d gotten control of myself, I’d slept through the whole night and woken up to find myself human again. Now, with the clothes I’d destroyed replaced, we were back in our hotel room.

 

Dex was ecstatic. He’d gotten exactly what he’d wanted. But I just felt numb. All night, my dreams had been plagued with visions of Kimberly lying in a pool of her own blood, her right arm bitten off just below the shoulder. I knew I should have felt happy too, or at least relieved. Now that I could control the Silverblood, that meant I wouldn’t go on anymore killing sprees when I changed again.

 

And I would change again. Like a relapsing drug addict, all I wanted was to shed my humanity and release the animal again. It had been too long. I was a freaking werewolf! Holding back my changes like that had been horrible. I could tell myself I’d go back to how things were before last night, go back to avoiding the full moon, but that would be a lie.

 

The next time the full moon came around, I’d be out in it. And I would love it.

 

“So, no more reservations?” Dex asked, pausing to come stand next to me. I shook my head glumly. What was the point of reservations now? I’d just lost everything I’d been fighting for. I just wished I could have felt a little bit worse about it.

 

Kimberly…

 

That was one thing, at least, that would never change. Transforming might have been my addiction—an addiction I didn’t have the strength of desire to break—but I would always hate myself for what I’d done to her. Not just for her arm, but for being the one who’d dragged her into all this to begin with.

 

But of course, Dex didn’t hear any of my tortured internal monologue.

 

“Good! Perfect!” I could hear his palms rubbing together in evil glee. “We sprang their trap once, so we’ll have to bait it again. That shouldn’t be too hard. Kaylie wants you dead, and you are very not-dead at the moment. I’ll get with a few of my contacts, and…”

 

He stopped talking when I hesitantly took him by the hand.

 

“Dex?” I said softly. “I…I need to ask you something.”

 

Dex didn’t say anything, but the way he sat down next to me and put a hand on my shoulder told me he’d picked up on my serious mood.

 

“What is it?” he asked.

 

I didn’t look at him, staring instead at the ugly pattern on the carpet. “We need to talk about that, um, thing that happened yesterday…”

 

He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “Look, I’m sorry I tricked you. I’m a scumbag and I know it. But I knew you would never do it on your own, and you need—”

 

“Not that.”

 

He thought for a second. “You mean you nearly getting killed by Kaylie? Are you mad that I didn’t help? Amber, I couldn’t! It was a fight between you and her. If I’d intervened, you would have had the entire pack on you.”

 

I shook my head. “Not that either.”

 

“No? Well, uh,” he looked around, like the walls had a clue written on them. “What else was there?”

 

I finally looked up at him. “The kiss, Dex.”

 

Immediately, his face turned bright red.

 

“Oh, that. Yeah.” He cleared his throat. “That was just, uh, you know—”

 

I reached up and grabbed him by his jacket. “Dex, I need to know! Why did you kiss me? Were you just trying to calm me down?”

 

“No, I—”

 

“Was it just one of your stupid jokes?”

 

His eyes opened wide. “What? No! Amber, even I wouldn’t make a joke like that! That’s horrible!”

 

I could see the truth in his eyes, but I still didn’t have my answer. “Why, then?”

 

He swallowed hard and looked away.

 

“Was it,” I said slowly, “because you actually…”

 

My voice trailed off, but he nodded.

 

My heart leaped into my throat. Dex actually loved me!

 

“How long?” was the only thing I could make myself say.

 

“Dunno,” he answered with a shrug. “I’ve always liked you. I hated the things that Majestic made us do to you. I always thought you were…” He cleared his throat again. “Beautiful.”

 

My cheeks turned red too.

 

He went on, “I guess it just sort of, you know, built up over time. All this crap? Working behind Hendricks’ back, risking my own butt when I don’t get anything out of it? I wouldn’t do this for just anyone, Amber.”

 

I nodded slowly. That was what had confused me. All the danger he’d put himself in was drastically out of character for a dedicated self-server like him.

 

I felt his arm slide across my shoulders. If anyone else had done that, I’d have punched their nose out through the backs of their skull. After everything I’d been through, physical contact was one of my biggest no-no’s. But when Dex did it, I didn’t feel threatened. Being touched by someone else was actually really nice.

 

I guess he wasn’t the only one acting out of character.

 

“I know I’m probably going to regret this,” he said, looking absently at the window. I could imagine all the horrible things Hendricks would do to him that must have been flashing before his eyes. “I guess I’ll just have to hope that I love you more than I regret it.”

 

My head was spinning. Yesterday all I’d had on my mind was getting a stupid glove, killing another werewolf, and then going back to my old crappy life. To think that, not even twenty four hours later, someone would be confessing their love for me…it was surreal. I would have thought I was dreaming, if everything hadn’t felt so real around me.

 

He coughed awkwardly. “Uh, Sugarsnout? This is the part where you say Dex, I love you too.

 

Those words hit me almost as hard as his confession had. What did I say? My emotions were in turmoil, a hurricane of thoughts and feelings that I couldn’t even begin to comprehend. Did I love him back? Was I even still capable of feeling love?

 

“I- I don’t know,” I whispered. “This all happening so fast. I need time to figure this out.”

 

I felt Dex slump forward in dejection, but he didn’t argue. That meant a lot to me. If he’d tried to pressure me about this, I don’t know what I would have said or done. I felt like, after everything that had happened over the past day and night, my sanity was hanging over a bottomless pit by a thread. I needed to reel it in slowly. Making big decisions on the spur of the moment would only snap that dinky little string.

 

“So,” I said, shuffling that off to be thought about later, “what were you saying about setting the trap again?”

 

And just like that, Dex was back to business. He stood up, taking his arm from around my shoulder—I felt a quick pang of disappointment—and started pacing again.

 

“We need bait,” he said. “Normally, I’d say you would be enough. She still wants you dead, after all. But that could take days, maybe even weeks. I’ve been leading Hendricks on with a string of BS—”

 

What?” I exclaimed. “You’ve been talking to him?”

 

“Uh, yeah? What did you expect me to do?” he snapped back. “I work for him, remember? Not reporting in every couple days would make him suspicious, and we don’t need him breathing down my neck and finding out about you.”

 

“Oh.” My cheeks burned a little. “Right. Sorry.”

 

“But like I was saying,” he went on, “I don’t know how much longer he’ll be patient with me. He wants that gauntlet, Amber. You have no idea how badly he wants that gauntlet.”

 

“But it’s only been a couple of days!” I protested.

 

Dex gave me a serious look. “Amber, it’s been a month.”

 

A month? How had…oh, crap, the time bubbler thing! A whole month had gone by last night!

 

“What do we need to do?” I asked.

 

“Get her angry,” he answered. “Angrier than she already is. And to do that, we’ll have to take something she really cares about from her.”

 

I looked up at him in surprise. “You want to kill someone in her pack!”

 

“No.” He shook his head. “There’s a better way to get her to come after us: ransom.”

 

A chill went down my spine. We were back. It had been nice, talking about love and kisses and stuff, but my life always came back to that one thing: evil.

 

“I’m thinking Benny,” Dex said. “He looks like he’s the weakest. Kidnap him, say you’ll kill him if Kaylie doesn’t show up, and she’ll bring the Gauntlet of Malleus straight to us.”

 

I nodded, suddenly feeling exhausted. I lay down on my bed, staring up at the ceiling. Have I told you I hated my life? Because I really freaking hated my life.

 

“Okay, I’ll get things…” Dex pulled out his phone, but then froze when he looked at me. “Uh, you okay, Sugarsnout?”

 

“Do it,” I said softly. “I’ll be fine.”

 

Dex turned the phone on, and I could hear him dialing a number—but then he stopped. I looked over at him just as he tossed the phone onto the bed.

 

“You know what?” he said. “Maybe that can wait a day or two.”

 

I sat up, raising an eyebrow in confusion. “What do you mean?”

 

He shrugged. “I mean that you’ve been through a lot since we got here. I don’t think it’d hurt if we took a couple of days off.”

 

“Days…off?” The words felt alien on my tongue.

 

With a new spring in his step, Dex crossed the room and threw our blinds open. “Think about it! We’re in one of the biggest cities on earth. I’ll bet you anything…”

 

He turned and gave me one of his trademark smirks, the mischief shining in his eyes.

 

“…we can find something fun to do around here."

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