SOME ROOMS LOOKED BETTER IN THE DARK. THIS WAS definitely one of them.
Neon light slipped around the curtains, muted flashes of red as the vacancy sign blinked on and off. I shifted my weight and the mattress protested with a chorus of groans and squeaks.
“Are you okay?” Kyle’s voice was still rough around the edges as he tightened his arm around me. “Was it okay?” He had done this before; I hadn’t.
I pressed my lips to his bare shoulder. “It was perfect.”
The muffled sounds of a fistfight drifted in from the parking lot, and Kyle made a skeptical noise in the back of his throat.
“Okay,” I admitted, a sleepy smile tugging at the corners of my mouth, “so it’s not the most romantic place to deflower a girl.”
My cheeks flushed. I shrugged and my skin brushed his, sending a wave of sparks racing down my spine. “That’s what Tess calls it. Anytime she tries to give me a serious sex talk, she turns into the mom from a sixties sitcom.”
“Bet none of her talks covered werewolves.” A somber note crept into his voice, one that hinted at the reasons he had left.
“No,” I said, struggling to keep my voice light, “but she did say all teenage boys were ravenous beasts. Plus, her last boyfriend was a mass murderer. Compared to that . . .” I shivered and cursed myself. I didn’t want to ruin what we had just done with thoughts of Ben and everything that had happened in Hemlock.
Silence filled the spaces where our bodies didn’t quite meet.
“You shouldn’t have come after me,” he said, finally.
“I had to.” I couldn’t remember finding him or how we had gotten here or who had kissed who first, but I knew there had never been a choice. We were inevitable. “You know I did.”
“You can’t just run away.”
“It’s still kind of perfect.”
He pushed the hair back from my face and traced the line of my cheek with the pad of his thumb. “I love you, Mackenzie.”
I opened my mouth to tell him that I loved him, too, but a particularly loud thud from the parking lot made me jump. “Okay, the setting could be a lot more romantic,” I said, looking over my shoulder. “The back of your car would at least be quiet.”
I turned to kiss him, but he wasn’t there.
“Kyle?” My throat was sandpaper dry, my voice thick with sleep. Soft snores came from across the room, and Jason’s shape—a tangle of blankets and skin—shifted in the dark. Outside, the fight in the parking lot was going strong.
I skimmed my fingers over the other side of my bed. The sheets were cold. Reality sank in: I hadn’t found Kyle; he had never been here; we had never done . . . that.
It had all been a dream.
For a moment, it was like losing him all over again, and I put a hand over my mouth to smother the small, strangled sound that lodged in my throat and fought to get free. I wouldn’t cry. I couldn’t cry.
Jason was sleeping seven feet away. If he woke, he’d put his arms around me and whisper that everything was going to be all right.
Part of me wanted the comfort and the lie—wanted it badly—but it wouldn’t be fair. Not to Kyle, who had walked away from everything to keep us safe. And not to Jason, who thought he loved me and who belonged to my best friend even in her death.
Burying the desire for comfort, I stood and made my way to the bathroom, ignoring the way the carpet crunched under my feet. The North Star Motor Inn—cash up front and no questions asked—was a step above a total dive, but it wasn’t a very big step.
I should know.
Home isn’t a permanent address—not for people like us. My father’s words drifted back to me as I flicked on the bathroom light. Hank had seen motels as the way stations between cons and as dumping grounds for things he no longer wanted. Things like me.
I ran the water in the sink and scooped up a drink in my palm. It tasted of chlorine and brine and did nothing to dislodge the lump in my throat.
Three glistening drops of red hit the porcelain. They mixed with the water, tingeing it pink.
My heart jackhammered as I glanced up.
Amy—my best friend and one of Ben’s victims—stared at me from the other side of the bathroom mirror.
I scrambled away so quickly that I tripped and had to grab the towel rack to keep from falling.
“Easy, tiger.” Amy leaned forward. Her ink-black hair fell around her like a curtain and her eyes were shadows that shifted and swirled like smoke.
I hadn’t seen her in days—not since the night Jason and I had left Hemlock. Foolishly, I’d begun to think maybe I had left her behind.
“Just because you didn’t see me didn’t mean I wasn’t here,” she said, reading my mind in the unsettling way she sometimes did. “Don’t you remember what I told you?”
I shook my head. Amy had said a lot of things—both before and after death.
She pressed her fingertips to the glass, her manicured nails making the same rat-tat-tap sound the blood had made when it hit the sink. With each tap, fault lines spread across the mirror. “Something’s coming, Mac.” She sounded oddly sad. Almost apologetic. “It’s not over.”
A large crack split her face in two and the mirror exploded outward.
I woke—really woke—gasping. Soft yellow light filled the motel room, and I was lying, fully clothed, on top of my bed.
I struggled to shake away the fog of sleep.
Jason and I had come back to regroup. I remembered lying down—just for a second—and . . . nothing. I must have passed out.
A ball of lead settled in my stomach as I realized I was alone.
I checked the bathroom—empty—and then pulled my phone from my pocket. Ten p.m. I’d been asleep for over three hours. Pacing, I dialed Jason’s number. The call went straight to voice mail.
“Where are you? I woke up and—”
My foot hit something smooth and solid. I glanced at the floor and then crouched down.
“GoddamnitJason.” I breathed the words in a rush as I straightened, one hand still pressing the phone to my ear, the other holding a half-empty bottle of Jack Daniel’s.
THERE WERE FIVE BARS WITHIN STUMBLING DISTANCE OF the motel, but in the end, I found Jason right back where I had started.