Home > Willowgrove (Hemlock #3)

Willowgrove (Hemlock #3)
Author: Kathleen Peacock

January

SHE SWEARS SHE CAN HEAR THE ECHO OF STRANGLED sobs and slurred shouts—every sound made under the roof while he was gone—as she stands in the empty hallway.

She doesn’t knock. Knocking is asking permission, and that’s one thing she almost never does. He doesn’t speak as she steps inside and closes the door; he just sits there, on the edge of the bed, staring down at a small black box as he turns it over and over in his hands.

Silence stretches between them and she’s the first to break. “You went back there, didn’t you?”

“Don’t worry about it. Go back to bed.”

She leans against the doorframe. She knows the ground isn’t really crumbling beneath her, but that’s how it suddenly feels. He’s going to destroy everything. All of them. “You can’t trust her. Whatever she asked you to find or do, you can’t—”

“It doesn’t affect you.” His blue eyes glint like chips of ice as he looks up. Even in the soft glow from the bedside lamp, she can see how tired he is. How lost. Lies and subterfuge are her talents, not his. They wear him out and stretch him thin until you can see every thought and feeling swirl beneath the surface.

“It affects me. It affects all of us.” She takes a step toward him. “It’s just a handful of empty promises. Everything she told you is a lie.” He’d see that, too, if he wasn’t so desperate. If he didn’t want so badly to be like everyone else.

“Not everything,” he says. He sighs and pushes himself to his feet. “Besides, I haven’t made a decision.”

“Yet.” She already knows what he’ll do; she just doesn’t know how to stop him. She can’t get him to see that he’s making a mistake. He’s two years older and has always been the smart one—the one who cleaned up her messes and looked out for her—but fate has flipped their roles. Now she’s the one who needs to stop him from doing something stupid, and she doesn’t know where to start.

All she can do is stand there as he crosses the room and comes to a stop in front of her.

He presses a kiss to her forehead.

He’s never done that before. The kiss, more than anything, convinces her just how much trouble he’s in.

“Go back to bed, Amy,” he tells her again, and this time she nods and slips across the hall to her own room.

She doesn’t crawl into bed: the idea of sleep is laughable. Instead, she grabs a pair of jeans and a T-shirt from the mess on the floor and dresses as quickly and quietly as she can.

A few minutes later, she hears the shower and sneaks back to his room.

It doesn’t take her long to find the black box. It’s wedged beneath his mattress, and she suddenly misses the days when the only things he had to hide there were dirty magazines and the occasional pack of cigarettes.

As she creeps down the stairs and out the front door, she tells herself that what she’s doing isn’t wrong. She’s not just doing it for herself, and that has to make a difference. There isn’t a cure—there won’t ever be a cure—and whatever he took—whatever he stole—might be enough to destroy them all.

It’s not selfish, what she’s doing.

That’s what she tells herself over and over in the twenty minutes it takes her to get where she’s going.

Still, she can’t help looking over her shoulder. Twice, she turns, convinced she’s being followed, but no one is ever there.

Just nerves, she tells herself. I’m doing the right thing.

By the time she reaches her destination and finds a grubby pay phone, she almost believes it.

1

WATCHING A HUMAN BODY BE RIPPED TO SHREDS—EVERY bone shattered, every ligament torn—was never pleasant; watching it happen to the person you loved was a special brand of torture.

It definitely wasn’t the kind of experience you signed up for—unless you happened to be dating a werewolf.

I shivered and tugged my borrowed sleeping bag a little tighter around myself. November was almost half over; here, in the woods surrounding Hemlock, the night was colder and darker than it had been back in town.

The tremble didn’t slip past Kyle. He tossed another log on the fire, sending a spiral of sparks up into the night. He tracked their progress until the last one burned out, and then he turned and pulled his T-shirt over his head.

My heart skipped at the sight of his broad back and all that skin. Almost immediately, though, my eyes were drawn to the five scars that ran from his shoulders to his waist. They didn’t mar his beauty—in a strange way they almost added to it—but they would forever mark him as infected. As a werewolf.

I slipped a hand under my jacket and touched the quarter-sized circle of scar tissue—a souvenir from a bullet—on my own shoulder. It wasn’t my only scar, but it was the most recent. Neither of us had made it through the past few months unscathed. Our wounds were like stories: they spelled out victories and losses across our skin.

Kyle tossed his shirt toward the tent as he turned back to me. The light from the fire highlighted the strong planes and angles of his face while leaving his eyes full of shadows. “Maybe this isn’t such a great idea, Mac.” His voice was neutral, but there was an undercurrent of uncertainty beneath the words.

“It is,” I said softly.

Kyle had come closer to embracing his wolf side since Colorado, but deep down, part of him still worried he was a monster. I loved and accepted him, but until he accepted himself, his infection would always be between us.

The woods had been my idea.

We both needed a break and Kyle had mentioned, once, that the forest seemed to bring the wolf closer to the surface. He had transformed in front of me before, but always in life-or-death situations when he’d had no choice. For once, I wanted to see him transform when someone wasn’t trying to kill us.

I wanted to prove that I really wasn’t afraid of him.

He didn’t look convinced. “We don’t have to do this tonight. We can go back to town. Do something normal . . .”

I made a small, skeptical noise. Like anything in Hemlock was normal right now. The town had become Tracker central over the past week. Members of the right-wing anti-werewolf group were around every corner; you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting someone with a black dagger tattooed on their neck.

“Are you sure all this stalling isn’t just fear of me seeing you naked?”

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