Home > Venom & Vanilla (The Venom Trilogy #1)(9)

Venom & Vanilla (The Venom Trilogy #1)(9)
Author: Shannon Mayer


Dahlia gasped. “Alena, why didn’t you tell me?”

“I didn’t know any of this. I mean, I don’t even know who would pay for me.” I picked at the hole in my sheet as my mind raced. “Did my parents pay for this?” That was almost as ridiculous as thinking Roger had paid for me to be cured. No, not cured, turned. The cure was as bad as the disease. I believed that. I did. Really. I didn’t want to go to hell, my soul burning in fire and brimstone while a lazy Lucifer laughed. This was one of those things I couldn’t let go of, a belief I knew was true all the way to the tips of my toes no matter how far I strayed from the church.


I shook my head. What was I thinking? I wasn’t going to do this. Yet a teeny-tiny part of me screamed to listen to him. To take the chance.

Merlin sat on the edge of my bed again, the mattress bending under his weight, inadvertently rolling me toward him. “You have your pick. The money covers any number of possibilities, really. You want to be a mermaid? I haven’t done that in a while, but here in the Pacific Northwest you’re dealing with nipple-screaming cold water if you go that route.”

I slapped a hand over my mouth to keep from laughing. I had to be dreaming still. First Roger with his Barbie doll and dog-grooming scheme, and now Merlin’s offer. There was no other answer to this strange, surreal, ridiculous moment.

But my soul was on the line if this really was happening. Merlin kept his eyes on mine but didn’t ask again. I knew the question. I might not have attended church in a long time, but I knew the consequences of taking him up on his offer, of saying yes to living. And I knew in my heart that I couldn’t risk it.

“No. I don’t . . . I don’t want it.”

I should have felt relieved at making the right moral choice. My mother would have been proud of me. Yet all I felt was a sense of defeat so sure I thought I would pass out.

Dahlia gasped. “You can’t turn this down, Lena! One of us has to make it out of this crap hole of a ward.”

“You take it, then. If the money is there, and you really want to do this, Dahlia.” I looked at Merlin. His eyebrows shot up, but he nodded.

“Yes, the money is there. They didn’t say you couldn’t transfer the goods.”

“Then cure Dahlia. That’s what she wants. I don’t.” I smiled at my friend while a part of me screamed inside to tell Merlin yes.

Lies, lies, lies. I was lying to myself. I didn’t want to die. I wanted to live. But I’d believed too long that being a Super Duper, a supernatural, was beyond evil. That even if you were turned by accident, your soul was stripped from you. And you’d never be the person you had been before. You’d be of the devil. You’d be a horrible beast, a monster that was violent and dangerous. You’d never go to heaven, blocked from being with your family forever.

I couldn’t make myself do it. Tad was already there on the other side; I couldn’t bear never seeing him again. Never hearing his voice because I made a selfish choice out of fear.

Dahlia reached a hand out for me. “Maybe there’s enough money for us both?”

Merlin grunted. “If you both want to be werewolves, sure. The money’s there.”

Dahlia cringed. “I’d do it. If that means we both survive. We could howl at the moon together. Help each other get the excess hair off our backs.”

My eyes welled, and my lips trembled. “You’re a good friend, Dahlia. I’m sorry to have met you here and not before.”

“Truly touching, ladies.” Merlin clapped slowly. “What is the decision?”

“Help Dahlia,” I said.

He kept his eyes on me. “You sure? No backsies.”

I raised a hairless eyebrow at him. “Backsies? What kind of warlock are you? Were you in a boy band in a prior life?”

His eyes twinkled. “Firstamentalists don’t believe in past lives. Or are you not as hard-core as you make yourself out to be? Perhaps you’d like to change your mind?” Why was he pushing me so hard? He had his money, what else did he need? Why did I get the feeling this was personal for him?

“Manner of speaking,” I mumbled as I pressed my arms into the bed. Mostly to keep from flipping him the bird. He winked at me, as if he could read my mind, before he turned back to Dahlia.

He bent over her and she let out a moan. “Don’t hurt her!” I jerked upright, and my chest protested the sudden movement. A low crack vibrated through me. One of my ribs was my guess.

He turned with Dahlia in his arms, the sheet wound about her skeletal frame. “She’s not the one to worry about, Alena dear. She’s going to survive. You, on the other hand, are going to die here alone, without even your friend now to hold your hand.”

In a few quick strides he was at the door and pushing through it. Dahlia reached back for me, her eyes wide with fear . . . and hope.

“You’ll never get past the nurses,” I whispered. With bated breath I waited for the alarm to go off, though I hoped for Dahlia’s sake they made it out.

I counted to one hundred. Nothing happened. The minutes ticked by, and I finally had to admit to myself that somehow Merlin—if that was even his real name, which I seriously doubted—had gotten them out of the ward.

So why wasn’t I happy for her? I was. Of course I was. But I was sad too. Dahlia had been my only source of comfort and human companionship for the last few weeks, and really, I’d thought we’d die within days of each other. A friend who’d be with me to the literal end. Merlin was right about that. I was going to die alone now.

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