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Thirty-One

Ava

 “Here we are,” Roman announced, coming to a halt in front of me. I nearly bumped into him.

           I looked around. The sun was just setting over the ocean, and grains of sand stuck between my feet. I was tired, hot, and hungry. “What do you mean here we are? We’re standing on the same beach we have been since-“

           He laughed. He actually had the nerve to laugh at me. I gaped. He shook his head and waved my shocked expression away. “Look. In the trees.”

           I rolled my eyes and did as he told. Sure enough, there were small houses connected with wooden paths in the treetops, vegetation shielding them from view. Little lanterns dotted the roofs, and I heard complete silence.

           “Oh.”

           He nodded and pulled at a rope. A ladder appeared, and he began climbing up.

 

           “Infinity?” he called, poking his head into the last door. We’d been doing it for about a half an hour, and every person we’d walked in on had nodded to the right.

           “Roman?” That was… a voice I recognized. I gasped. Jace.

           “Jace!” I called, somewhat relieved to see a familiar face- even if it was Jace’s. He smiled and reached out to take my head.

          I twisted my arms behind my back, having absolutely no intention of ever giving him my hand to hold. His smile faded, and his hand awkwardly fell to his side.

           “I’m happy to see you’re okay.”

           I noticed a sudden darkness. I glanced at the open doorway where we’d come from. A figure was standing in it. Okay, more like leaning against it. Like, yo, man, waddup? Oh, you know, just chillin’ over here.

            I smiled and ran over to greet Alex. He put his arms around me in a hug and kissed my forehead, which my stringy hair was sticking to.

           “Ava, I was so worried.”

           I smiled and pulled him closer to me. He was my best friend- maybe even more- after all. 

Jace

Seeing her hug him infuriated me. It was even worse than her kissing Roman. This kid- this boy- was human. I was racially superior, and she didn’t even care! Not to sound obnoxious or anything, but seriously? Ava refused to touch me, yet she ran into the arms of a mere human.

I shook my head and pushed past the happy couple in the doorway and plopped down on the bridge. I just want to stop thinking about her, I thought. In my heart, however, I knew that I’d never get over her and her laughter, her soft face, the waves of dark hair, or her exotic blue eyes.

           And seeing her with him- with them- just made me want her more.

Ava

           “Oh, god, Alex, I’m so happy you okay.”

           “You’re happy? Jesus, I thought you drowned or something!,” he said, nodding towards Roman. “You passed out, he threw you over his shoulder, and just… jumped into the water!”

           I frowned and turned to Roman. “You threw me over your shoulder?”

           He was hiding a smile. “Yeah.”

           “After you made me pass out?”

           “Well… yeah.”

           I rolled my eyes and cocked my head to the side. “What’d you do, hit me?” I demanded, remembering Jace’s hard hand when he tried to slap it over my mouth.

           He doubled over in laughter. Just like that. I felt my face redden. “What? What the **** did you do; throw me into a wall?” I said.

           He smiled and said, “Ava, I kissed you.”

           I looked to Alex, who was admiring a basket of fruit with waaayy too much interest. I sighed and shook my head. Mental facepalm.

           “So,” I said finally, “what’re the sleeping arrangements-“

           “I’m sleeping with you,” Alex said.

           I raised my eyebrows. “I don’t get my own bed?”

           His gaze fell, once again, to the freakin’ bowl of fruit. “Ava, um, there’s only the couch.”

           I sighed. “Alright, so, what? Are we sleeping in shifts?”

           Jace walked through the doorway just then, picking up a banana from the bowl and taking a bite. “Ava’s taking the couch. We’ll sleep on the floor.”

           I heard Roman snicker from behind me. “Says you.”

           Jace turned on him. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

           “Don’t tell me Infinity didn’t offer you her bed.”

           “What-“

           “To sleep with her.”

           I raised my eyebrows. Jace’s face burned bright red. He spared me a glance before growling. Like, a real growl. As in, crazy, ferocious, dog-like growl. I gasped.

           “Jace, not here.”

           “Roman, what’s-“ I began.

           “He’s Shifting.”

           I closed my eyes. Shit. That’s what I thought.

           “Get outside, Jace.”

           “Roman-“ I strated.

           “Get outside, Jace.”

           Slowly, Jace obeyed.  

Jace

   Pain tore through my body. The process of Shifting was not at all pleasant- and I hadn’t done it in nearly a month, leaving my bones sore. I felt a numbing, tingling sensation course through my human skin, and I knew fur was growing all over it. Pain shot through my back, causing me to arch over groaning. I just wanted to crawl into a corner and curl up into a ball. Who knows, maybe that was my wolf side getting the better of me?

           My bones cracked, groaning in protest of the transformation. My breath started coming in heavy pants. I heard screams in a faraway place, and I looked over the wooden bridge. Land. I was in the sky, it seemed.

           I rolled off the bridge. Aren’t there ropes there? I thought slowly. My body slammed onto the ground, head pounding with the impact. I rolled onto my side, saw a dark red color, and then just blackness.

Ava

           I was trying to calm down. Really, I was. I peeked out the window, my eyes glued to the scene as if it was an intriguing movie On Demand.

           Well, my life seemed to be a movie anyway.

           Jace’s body was cracking, moving into unnatural forms- well, I guess a wolf isn’t natural for a human anyway- as he made awful moaning noises, sounding like a soft siren on a fire truck.

           Jace rolled over onto his side, and broke through the rope barriers. He disappeared from sight. I felt tears sting my eyes, and I threw my hand over my mouth in shock. It wasn’t until then that I realized I’d been screaming bloody murder.

           The way his bones had popped out of his skin, his body bending and twisting in agonizing pain. I felt like I was the one Shifting, I was crying so freakin’ much.

           The tears blurred my vision. I wiped my cheeks with my dirty hands, biting my lip. I wanted to go outside and make sure Jace was okay.

           But I was terrified of what I might find.

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