Ed didn't move for a good thirty seconds, and his face slowly turned as pale as Hendricks'.
"Oh, hey, Amber," he finally said. "What's up?"
He started to sink below the table, and I leaned in closer so that we never broke eye contact while I glared daggers at him.
"You heard me," I growled. "What the hell are you doing here? I thought Majestic was done with me!"
By now, Ed had slid so low that the back of his head was resting on the seat of his chair.
"Well, I, uh," he stammered. The little twerp's eyes were so huge now that I actually started to feel a little bad for scaring him like this— until remembered who he worked for.
"Get up here, you idiot!" I snarled, grabbing him by the collar and hauling him upright. With my strength, it was like picking up a doll, and I sat him firmly down in his chair the right way. I took the seat opposite him. "Answer my question."
"Did you see the news this morning?" he finally asked. "Your—"
"My old pack house got burned down, I know. What does that have to do with..."
My voice trailed off, and I slapped my forehead when everything suddenly became obvious.
"The only one who would that is Hendricks," Ed went on, confirming what I'd already figured out. "My higher ups decided that if he was back, then—"
"Then you should be here to protect me," I groaned, leaning back in my chair.
Ed nodded. "Yeah, exactly. So—"
I pounded my fist on the table again, almost making Ed fall out of his chair a second time. "Yeah, because you clowns did such a great job at that last time, didn't you?"
Ed's face turned a shade redder, and he looked down at his lap. "Things... didn't go according to plan that day."
"No crap," I nodded, folding my arms. "Wasn't the entire reason you were there to stop Hendricks from kidnapping me?"
I paused, and then leaned forward again.
"In fact, didn't he say that—"
"It wasn't me!" Ed yelled, interrupting me this time. I paused, feeling every eye in the cafeteria turning to look at us. Ed paused too, and then self-consciously shifted so that he was sitting on his hands.
"It wasn't me," he said again, more quietly this time. "He knew where I was hiding, so he caught me on his way to the meeting place and tortured me."
"Why didn't he kill you?"
Ed's face paled even more. "I... what?"
"If he hates Majestic so much, why would he stop at torturing you?" I asked. "I would have killed you afterwards, but he let you go with... what? A couple bruises?"
"I- I don't know," he admitted quietly. "But—"
"Sounds like something he would do to cover up the fact that he was working with you all along."
"It wasn't me!" he insisted again, leaning forward and grabbing the edge of the table with white knuckles. "I swear!"
I narrowed my eyes, giving him the coldest look I could muster. "How am I supposed to trust you, Edgar?"
"Because..." he paused, but then looked down at the table and didn't say anything else.
"Even if you're here to protect me, how safe is that supposed to make me feel?" I went on, my sympathy leaking away with every word. "Dex and Victor both got their butts handed to them too, but at least they did something."
"Well, it's not like I'm here by myself," Ed said. "Majestic's got a whole security team set up to protect you. I'm here because I blend in best at a high school."
"Why does Majestic even care?" I demanded. "I thought Wrogan and I were square since he helped get my mom back."
"Well, uh," he said, "Wrogan decided that since you were, you know, kidnapped, that we needed to... help you a little more."
His eyes flickered upward to glance at me, but then looked back down at his lap again.
He was lying.
"Edgar," I growled, leaning across the table toward him, "if you don't answer my question right now, I swear to God that I am going to tear your lungs out."
"Through your nose!"
He drew in a sharp breath and bit his lip so hard that it almost drew blood. Then, so quietly I wouldn't have heard it without my werewolf senses, he whispered, "Don't make me say it."
Finally, he looked me in the eye. "Majestic is still conducting Silverblood tests, okay? We've left you alone since we have the original Silverblood back, but we... I mean, my bosses want to make sure we have a contingency plan just in case the tests end up killing it."
We both looked down, and saw that I was gripping the edge of the table so hard that the wood was breaking. I let go, but didn't break look away from Edgar. I had thought that I'd given him my scariest glare before, but the one I was giving him now was so intense I could almost feel frost forming in the air between us.
"Do you mean to tell me," I finally said, "that you people are still planning to use me as a lab rat?"
"It's not me," Ed said again, spreading his hands. "It's my bosses. I only do what they tell me to do!"
"You make me sick, Ed!" I spat, scooting the chair away. "Tell your bosses that they can all go to hell."
I got up and walked away, but Ed came after me.
"Amber, come on!" he whined. "Don't be like that."
"Don't be like what, exactly?" I asked, rounding on him so suddenly that he slid to a stop and nearly ran into me. "Don't be pissed off that you still want to stick me full of tubes and pump freaking acid into my veins?"
Other people were starting to look at us again, but I didn't care.
"We're only doing what we have to do," he insisted.
"No," I held my finger in front of his face, making him cross his eyes to look at it, "you don't have to do any of this. You're just trying to make money!"
Edgar sighed, and his shoulders slumped.
"What happens if I end up dying anyway?" I asked. "What's your contingency plan then? Are you going to kidnap Kimberly again?"
Edgar didn't answer, but his eyes told me everything I needed to know. I took a step towards him, and he immediately took a step back, his hand inching towards his jacket.
I wonder if I could kill him before he got his wand out? the wolf side of me wondered.
No, my rational side argued. Not right here in the middle of the school. If you have to fight him, wait until there aren't other people around to see.
Holding back was hard, though. The thought of tearing this little twerp a new one was enough to make me seriously consider giving in to my animalistic side. I held back, though. I had to. As difficult as it was for my wolf to understand, the consequences of something like that weren't worth what little satisfaction it would give me.
"You are a creep, Edgar," I growled, backing off. "If you, or anyone from Majestic, comes within five feet of Kimberly, I'll murder you."
Ed's face went pale, and I spun around and marched off before he could reply. This time, he didn't come after me.
I stormed all the way to my locker, not looking left or right, and had to force myself to dial in the combination instead of just ripping the door off its hinges. Once open, I poked my head inside like I was searching for a book...
And I cried.
Within seconds, tears were running down my cheeks and I had to hold my breath to keep the hiccupping sobs from breaking free of my chest. What had I done to deserve this? All I wanted was to live a normal life! Now I didn't just have to worry about Hendricks, but Majestic too? I could have handled one or the other, but not both of them... not at the same time...
And on top of that, Edgar had all but threatened Kimberly as well.
Holding onto the locker door for balance, I laid my forehead down on top of my history book, not caring if my tears soaked into the cover. I couldn't handle this on my own. I was too weak, and that, more than anything, was what frustrated me. I'd told myself over and over how strong I'd become since this all started, but I wasn't strong enough for this. I needed—
"You gonna tell me what that was all about?"
With a gasp, I pulled my head out of my locked and saw Stacey standing beside me. In all the excitement, I had completely forgotten about her.
"Have you been crying?" she asked when she saw my face.
"N- no," I stammered, hurrying to dry my eyes. "It was nothing."
She frowned. "You want to tell me the truth? I can't help if I don't know what's going on."
I looked at her, and I could see the sincerity in her eyes. She might have been an airhead, but when she cared about something, she cared hard. It made me choke up a little bit.
"It's nothing," I forced myself to say again.
"Did that kid do something to you?" she asked, looking backwards like she expected Edgar to come waltzing past us. I was almost more afraid of what she would do to him than of what I would do.
"No," I insisted. "We were just..."
Stacey crossed her arms. "You were just what?"
"Playing a game," I finished lamely, and grimaced.
One of her fingers started tapping the side of her arm. "A game?" she repeated skeptically.
Idiot! I thought. In terms of the lies I've told, this came in just under telling D.K. that Kaylie and I were going shopping together. I'd already said it, though. I was committed.
"Yeah, that's all it was," I said, nodding. My head was spinning, trying to come up with something reasonable to say. "It's one of those... oh, what do you call them? A Larp?"
Stacey paused for a second, and then curled her lip up. "A live action roleplay?" she asked. "I didn't think you were into anything that nerdy."
"Uh, yeah, well I am," I said, clasping my hands behind my back and bouncing on my heels. "Don't tell anybody, okay?"
"I don't think you need to worry about that," she said, and turned to head towards our first class. "I mean, you were right in the middle of the cafeteria, remember?"
Oh, right, I thought, my stomach tightening. Crap!
I hastily grabbed my books from my locker and followed her, trying to put Hendricks and Majestic from my mind. It wasn't really so bad, I tried to tell myself. I only really needed to worry about Majestic if the original Silverblood died, and Kimberly only needed to worry if I died.
Of course, with Hendricks back in town, that wasn't exactly such a farfetched idea anymore.
"Are there any openings in this Larp you're doing?" Stacey asked, bringing out of my thoughts again.
"Uh, nope," I replied. "Sorry. I didn't think you were into nerdy things like that either."
She drew her lip back again. "I'm not, but I want to be there so I can kick that kid's butt if he ever makes you cry again."
"Stacey, seriously," I snapped, "it was just pretend, okay? We were playing a game!"
She turned to look at me just before going into the classroom, and I could see the distrust in her eyes.
"Uh huh," she said. "Whatever you say, Amber.”
NEXT TIME: Isn’t Edgar awesome? Don’t you just want to be his best friend in the whole wide world and not tear out his organs and donate them to charity? How’s Amber going to handle this now? And how’s she going to deal with Stacey if she doesn’t stop poking her nose where it doesn’t belong?