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Forty-Two

Alex

  I just wanted things to go back to how they used to be. Ava and me going to school, some ****** yelling at her, me guiding her to class and hoping she wouldn’t yell back because or else I would lose it too, and end up meeting that kid behind the gym at 2:30pmthat day.

           I wanted Ava to forget that I’d ever told her how much I liked her. It’s all too complicated, I thought as I dressed in the living room. I want Ava to not question it when I meet with her on Fridays for movie night, skipping the date that I’d promised to be at with that pretty girl.

           Because Ava was more important.

           Because Ava was the best thing in my life, and I wasn’t losing her for anything.

           Of course, there was that one time I’d missed movie night. There was just that one girl… She’d been absolutely gorgeous, and I couldn’t resist. The next morning, I’d gone to Ava’s house to apologize. She’d told me, “It’s okay. I understand if you want to go to parties and on dates and stuff. It’s Friday night.”

           But I knew her better than anyone else, and I’d seen the hurt behind her eyes, the place where she hid her undesired emotions.

            I never missed another movie night.

 

Ava

           I awoke to the sunlight streaming in through the thin curtains, projecting a pink glare on my walls. I groaned and rolled over. I had that satisfying feeling marking a good night’s sleep- tired muscles, eager to be stretched and eyes popping open.

           The events of the previous night crashed into me. I sighed and stretched my arms out above my head, peering over the edge of the bed. Jace’s chest was rising and falling evenly, soft breaths being exhaled. I smiled to myself and poked his chest.

           “No fair…” he mumbled.

           I raised my eyebrows and moved to poke him again- unsuccessfully. Hey, my brain reminded me, there’s this new thing called gravity… Maybe I should show you how it works.

           Well, gravity certainly showed Jace because I tumbled onto him in a matter of seconds, crashing onto his chest as he cried, “Oomph!”

           I rolled off him, accidentally hitting the wall. “Eugh,” the sound escaped my lips.

           My gaze moved to Jace, who was staring at me with sleepy eyes, a spark of amusement playing behind his features.

           I grinned. “Yeah… Sorry ‘bout that.”

           “No, you’re not.”

           I thought about it for a moment. “Yep, I guess you’re right. I was bored.” I leaned over and kissed him. At first, he seemed surprised. Soon, though, he was kissing me back.

           He carried me up onto the bed, setting me down gently. My hair spilled onto the pillow, and I pulled him onto me. He idly played with my hair, kissing my neck and shoulders.

           A breath of pleasure escaped me, and Jace drew back. His fingers continued twirling my hair, but his lips were done.

           “What’s wrong?” I asked, turning my face to him. I pecked his nose. He moved even farther back on the bed, his breathing heavy. I grabbed his hand, which he promptly wrestled free of my grip. “What the ****, Jace?” I demanded.

           “Ava… We can’t… Go any further. I only have so much control.”

           A smirk played on my lips. “What if I were to tell you that I want you to lose control?” I said.

           “No. Ava, trust me. Too easily, you forget what I am.”

           My heart sank, and I looked away, my gaze focusing on the one small window that overlooked the beach.

           “So, you don’t want to-“

           “Damn it, Ava. I can barely kiss you without going crazy. You’re like a ********* drug, and I love it. I absolutely love it. The rush I feel, the rightness of your lips on mine… But I’m not human. You’re dangerous for me, Ava. You’re dangerous to us both.”

           My voice small, I asked, “What did David mean?”

           “When?”

           “Yesterday.”

           “You’ll have to be a bit more specific,” he mumbled, but he was obviously just avoiding the question.

           “When he told Roman he’d have to Mark me or whatever? Roman wouldn’t… tell me,” I admitted.

           “It’s… He said that other Shifters were starting to take notice of you. It isn’t too often we get beautiful, intelligent, gifted girls that don’t have a problem with Shifters around here. Actually, that’s never happened. Except for Infinity, but David doesn’t exactly allow the boys to have much contact with her. And female Shifters are rare because Shifting is a recessive gene, but it’s usually not in the same batch as the genes for a female, because the required X chromosome…. It’s complicated and scientific, and I don’t really remember most of it, but the outcome is this: There are more males than females. We only have four girls in our entire pack, while we have twenty-nine males. And Victoria is one of our four, but she prefers humans anyway. She’s always coming back from wherever, talking about this new boy that she’s met. Anyway, back on track. Finn is the perfect example. Her mother was a Seer, and her father was a Shifter. The genes didn’t match up correctly, and now Finn is a powerful Seer with some added abilities, but she can’t Shift,” he explained.

           “But then-“

           “I’m not done. To Mark someone is… like a vampire bite in the movies. It Marks the person as someone else’s property… kind of. The two people share a special bond, then. Some are more powerful than others. Roman marked Natalie hundreds of years ago. They were bonded so closely together, they could read each other’s minds if the other person willed it… Or, rather, they could talk to each other in their heads.”

           “How-“

           “Stop interrupting me,” he told me. I rolled my eyes.

           “Which is probably why her death was so hard on him. But I’ve also seen couples that shared a Mark, where the bond wasn’t as… close. Sometimes, it barely changes anything… Maybe they feel like they want to be with the other person more, or something.”

           “And David told Roman to Mark me?”

           He nodded. “Yes.”

           “Was Roman going to do it?” I asked.

           He shrugged. “I’m not sure. He was probably planning on it- eventually. But I don’t think you’d like being Marked- the idea of it, anyway.”

           “You’re right.”

           “That’s why I can’t afford to lose control,” he told me. “I might accidentally Mark you.” Or worse. There was that unspoken phrase at the end of the sentence.

            It’s the risk of being with a Shifter, but it’s a risk I think I’m willing to take, I thought, biting my lip.

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