When her mother is savagely killed on the night of her graduation, Amory's world is completely thrown to the wolves. Literally. There's a werewolf pack out for her blood and a lone vampire trying to save her. Too bad his 'saving' seems to lead them into more danger than Amory ever thought possible. Not to mention Kael's been declared a Blood Traitor for killing Dragan, a Elder of the Coven he grew up in. But he can't help it, he says. Is there a Blood Debt someone doesn't know about? Will Amory
“Mom, come on!”
Throwing the wide, square cap on the sofa for what was maybe the fifth time in ten minutes, Amory paced back to the foot of the staircase, from which floated down sounds of her mother’s continued dressing regimen.
A series of thumps reached her ears, and growling in exasperation, the teen stomped back to the living room, nearly twisting her ankle in the dressy heels she wore.
“Mom, I’m going to be late!” Amory cried, throwing herself quite ungracefully into the nearest armchair. Her dark brown hair, which had been pressed and curled for the occasion, bounced obnoxiously on her shoulders.
“You won’t be late, honey,” Roslyn said, appearing in the doorway. Her mother looked incredible; something Amory wasn’t ashamed to admit to herself. Her shoulder length black hair hung straight and glossy, perfectly complimenting the powder blue pencil leg dress she insisted on buying earlier that afternoon. For a woman approaching fifty at what seemed to Amory at breakneck speed, she her mother somehow managed to look ten years younger than she was.
Not that Amory could appreciate this at the moment.
“You’re going to a graduation, not an awards show, you realize?” Amory asked, snatching up her cap and stalking towards the door. “If those diamonds were any bigger they’d probably rip themselves right out of your ear.”
Behind her, the elder woman smiled. “Do I detect a hint of anger, darling?”
“I’m going to miss the march because of your incessant need to upstage everyone. Of course I’m angry!” Amory yelled from halfway down the driveway.
Theirs was a street filled with people who drove nice cars and had evenly manicured lawns, smiled at everyone and had weekly potluck dinners. The neighbors also took up regular backstabbing, rumor spreading and husband-switching, with the same amount of enthusiasm. When her father died of cancer four years ago, the housewives that lived nearest her house had seemed about as devastated as her mother. At the time, she had assumed that everyone should be as heartbroken as she and her mother; her father was dead. The sun should be blacked out and the entire world plunged into chaos. Then, she thought they were grieving for a lost friend; now, she knew better.
Mrs. Horowitz (oh, how the name fit so well) peeked over at them from where she had been bending over something in her yard. Seeing Amory’s gown, her face lit up. “Amory, darling! I can’t believe how much you’ve grown.” She sashayed over, large, artificial hips swinging from side to side in the tight denim cutoffs she wore. “I remember when you were nothing but a little baby, riding on your daddy’s shoulders.” She gave what Amory assumed was supposed to be a soft, sympathetic smile and sighed. “He would have been so proud of you.”
It was a well-kept secret (meaning the whole neighborhood knew) that Richard Pierce had died of lung cancer while sitting half-naked in the Horowitz’s bed. The woman hadn’t been able to come out of her house for a month for shame, and the fact that Amory’s mother would very well have killed her. Amory was too young to understand what was going on then, and when she had, it had taken her about a month to wrap her head around it.
Amory took pains to paste an appropriately grateful expression on her face. The woman’s fake Southern accent grated on her nerves, on top of her already bad day, and she really, really wanted to get to her graduation.
“Thanks, Mrs. H. I’m sure he is,” she mumbled, turning away to pull open the car door. “Mom’s already made me late, so….see you,” she said, giving a tiny wave.
“See you later, cupcake,” the woman cried, waving a handkerchief at her like an old western heroine. From four feet away. As Amory sank into the front seat, the blond woman turned, and gave her mother a wide smile.
“She’s a beautiful girl, Roslyn.”
Mrs. Pierce gave the woman a smile just as fake as the cheer she used when she spoke. “Oh, thank you so much. She gets it from her daddy.”
A flicker of guilt flashed in the other woman’s eyes, and her smile fell. “Look, Roslyn – “
As Mrs. Horowitz went back to her house, abandoning the weird metal contraption she had been tinkering with for the moment, Amory’s mother slid into the driver’s seat, and swore.
“That was impressive,” Amory said dully. “I didn’t think you knew those kinds of words.”
Her mother scowled, and pulled out the driveway. “I never want to hear that kind of language come out of your mouth, you hear me young lady?”
‘Yeah, sure, whatever,” Amory sighed.
Twenty minutes later they pulled into the parking lot of the Auditorium. The large, white banner displaying “Kingston Prepatory Magnet’s Class of 2010” completely covered the building’s own sign. During the drive, Amory had been growing more anxious by the minute, but as her mother pulled into the parking lot she forgot all about being late, and was completely confused.
“It’s already over?” she asked aloud.
“I highly doubt that, honey. It’s barely seven.”
Students and parents flooded the lot in droves, some standing in groups and others off by themselves, taking in the scene. All around, shiny blue robes flashed in the sunlight, as kids talked and laughed and generally acted as if they didn’t have a care in the world.
Spinning around, she saw her best friend running towards her. Well, ex-best friend, but the boy didn’t know it yet. At six foot four, Darren was all long legs and arms, his robes hanging too short on his long frame. “Hey, you made it,” he said, puffing to a stop near her. He grinned over her shoulder, where her mother was standing. “Hey Mrs. P.”
“Where’s Kathrin?” Amory didn’t smile. She hadn’t smiled at Darren in more than three months. The boy either was too dimwitted to notice or was pretending he didn’t. Either way it only served to piss her off more.
“She’s around here, somewhere,” he said, giving a blissful sigh. It was sickening. “Did you hear? They’ve postponed the ceremony,” he said, unzipping his gown and slipping his hands into his pockets. “Rumor has it the guest speaker was found in his hotel room a few hours ago with his throat ripped out.”
“Ew.” Was all Amory could say. Where did people get these things? She blamed horror movies, all of them. “So they’re looking for someone else to give a speech? Why don’t they just let Mr. Carre do it?”
Darren laughed. “Ammie, really, no one likes Mr. Carres’ speeches. The man never knows when to shut up; we’d be here all night.”
Choosing to ignore the boy’s slight against her favorite teacher, Amory turned to her mother. “You knew they’d postponed starting the Ceremony and you let me freak out all this time?”
Mom smiled. “You would have freaked out even if I had told you. I didn’t think it mattered.” She shifted her coat in her arms, and looked around. “Maybe you should take off your gown, sweetheart? It’s a bit hot out.”
Amory stared hard at her mother for a moment. She was right, really. Amory would have spent the time wondering if they were ever going to be able to find a replacement speaker and if they would even had a graduation ceremony at all. Much like she was now. She just didn’t like that her mother knew her so well. Yes, the woman was her mother, but that didn’t mean she had the right to easily know what was going through her head, or what had the potential to go through her head. It was unnerving.
“Maybe I should,” she murmured. Handing the slippery blue fabric to her mother, Amory started badly when a piercing whistle sounded behind her.
“Amory Pierce, if I’d known you looked like that under those ridiculous baggy things you wore, I swear I’d have been much nicer to you in school.”
There, standing next to Darren who looked a bit star struck himself, was Kory Petterson, the school’s resident bad boy/soccer captain and debate team leader; also known as the school’s hottest heartthrob of the Hottest Three. Amory didn’t pay it much attention, but the wall of the last stall of the third floor girl’s bathroom declared that Kory, and two other seniors were the hottest guys in school, and, therefore, should be drooled over. Amory disagreed.
“Thanks, Kory,” she said, folding her arms. “Too bad I can’t say the same about you; still look like that stuff we saw at the chemical plant last year.”
Kory flushed, and gave a cocky smile. “You can say what you want, ‘Mory, but your eyes say something different.”
“Yeah, sure.” She rolled her eyes and spun around. “Come on, Mom. Let’s get out of the sun.”
A warm arm wound itself across her bare shoulders. “I think he likes you,” he mother said, humor coloring her voice.
“Mom, don’t,” Amory said, shooting the woman a glare.
“What?” the woman asked, obviously finding the situation more amusing than was necessary. “He’s cute.
“He’s a pig!” Amory exclaimed. “Didn’t you hear what he said? How can he insult someone and then turn around and expect them to want you?”
Her mother chuckled, and pulled her closer. “You’re father was just like that when I met him.”
Amory stared up at the woman incredulously. Roslyn looked around, feigning interest in the trees they stopped under. “It’s amazing what a broken jaw can do for someone,” she commented.
“You broke his jaw?” Amory laughed. Her mother shrugged one elegant shoulder. “I can’t believe you! All this time you lecture me about being ladylike and not resorting to violence and you broke my dad’s jaw!”
“Well to be fair, I had only known him for about five minutes at the time.”
Amory threw her head back and laughed. It felt like she was discovering a whole different side to her mother. “Oh my goodness,” she giggled. “First you swear, then you admit that you have a history of violence. That’s too shocking revelations in one day; you aren’t going to die on me, are you?”
“Silly girl, of course not.” Her mother pulled her closer, and Amory let her head rest on the nearest shoulder. Letting out a tiny sigh, she let herself relax. This was her mom. The woman had all but taken on the whole world when her father had passed, and seemed to be doing a darn good job of it too. Just because Amory found out some things about her didn’t mean the woman would suddenly disappear on her. The woman was stronger than that.
Around them, the crowd began to filter towards the auditorium. Some of the students began chanting the schools alma mater, and Amory rolled her eyes. How is it that none of these idiots had had the same high school experience as she had? They joined the crowd and were soon at the doors. There was a short, balding man smiling at everyone who passed him. His eyes landed on her mother, and in one instant everything changed.
In what seemed like slow motion the man lunged, his form changing shape midair. Where a stylish gray suit had been a second ago was replaced with nasty, matted fur that stood on end. His face twisted into an elongated caricature of a face, large yellowing teeth snapping shut around the coat that her mother had thrown up in front of her.
And suddenly she was running.
Her mother had her hand clamped on her arm and was running faster than she had ever seen the woman move in her life. Amory wasn’t complaining. Over the sounds of retreating screams and the sharp ‘clacks’ of their heels hitting the even tar of the parking lot as they raced towards their car, came the lusty growl of the beast that was chasing them. Suddenly the thing gave a howl that couldn’t sound anything other than triumphant, and it wasn’t till Amory plowed into her mother’s back that she understood why.
Standing in front of them, blocking the way to the car were four werewolves. Heart racing, she spun around, only to see three others had joined the first beast , who had reverted back to his human form.
“Roslyn Pierce.” He said, locking his fingers over his large round belly. “I must say, it took us quite a while to track you down. Very good work.”
“Why are you doing this?” her mother asked, pushing her behind her, nearer the trees that marked the edge of the property.
“Mom, what are you doing!” Amory hissed. She couldn’t believe her mother was trying to reason with a werewolf. Never mind that werewolves didn’t even exist, and that one had just tried to eat her mum for dinner. Amory stepped backwards, tugging her mother with her. “Let’s get out of here.”
“Such a smart girl, Roslyn. You’ve done well.” The little bald man kept talking in the slightly mocking manner, the other wolves growling low in their throats. “Richard would be so proud.”
By this time Amory’s heart was hammering in her chest, and every sound seemed to be a thousand times louder than usual. She didn’t need that guest speaker turned werewolf to be taunting her mother with her father’s death. “Don’t talk about my father, you animal,” she snapped.
“I wouldn’t normally, sweetheart, honest,” the man said, placing a hand over his heart. “But seeing as he’s the cause of all this, I believe I don’t have that option.”
Flying out of the building at full tilt was Darren, his gown flapping behind him wildly in the wind. The world seemed to still all on its own. Amory saw several of the wolves turn around, and the largest of the group turned and gave her a wicked grin. And then he took off.
“Darren, no!” Amory screamed, wrenching away from her mother and racing after the four legged beast.
“Amory, come back here!”
But Roslyn’s words were lost in the wind that rushed past Amory’s ears, in the racing thud-thud of her heartbeat, lost in the fear that crowded Amory’s world as she ran. Somehow she knew she would die. She knew it. The horrible creature that wasn’t supposed to be real could turn around and rip her to shreds at any moment and she could be dead, but none of it mattered. All that mattered to her at the moment was getting to Darrne before the werewolf did.
Darren stood, frozen, only feet away from the auditorium doors, his face a mask of horror. “Darrne get back inside!” she screamed. The words seemed to come from deep in her stomach, rushing through her body to tear themselves out of her throat. The stupid boy wouldn’t move! The wolf gave another howl and leapt, and in that instant, Amory’s heart stopped.
And nothing could have prepared her for Darren to fall to the ground, laughing, and for the huge beast to act like an overgrown dog, wagging its tail and licking the boy’s face as he tried to get away.
She pulled herself to an abrupt halt. This was….wrong. This was very, very wrong. Darren looked up at her, and smiled.
“What? You didn’t expect my dad to kill his own son, did you?”
Her breath caught. How could that be? Darren was her friend, she knew Darren’s dad. He wasn’t some, some
“Monster,” she whispered.
Darren grinned, and his teeth were inch long fangs. “Got me.”
Growling behind her snapped her out of her daze, and Amory spun around, only to see wolves closing in on both she and her mother.
“I’m terribly sorry for destroying your evening,” the bald werewolf spoke. “And, truly, you’ve both been most kind to this burdened gentleman. But I regret to inform you that this night has come to an end, for you at least.” His veneer of cordiality fell as swiftly as he changed. The only warning Amory had of what was going to happen next was the half growled “Get them” he said before he was covered with fur.
Instantly, a werewolf lunged. She heard her mother scream for her to run, and then the world went silent. There was only the werewolf flying at her, its mouth wide open, sharp fangs dripping with gloopy saliva, beady yellow eyes filled with hatred and the desire to kill.
There was a rush of a cool breeze that blew her skirt back, the ‘slink’ of metal against metal and then a thud. When her eyes opened, Amory came face to face with the back of someone’s head. A male someone’s head.
“Hello, boys,” the figure said, sickly carved knife still drawn, held down by his side. “Hope I’m not interrupting anything.” His head turned, as he took in all the wolves frozen in their advance. “I do hope you weren’t about to do what I think you were about to do,” he said, shaking a finger at them mockingly. “Because that would be a very bad thing to do.”
The menacing growl the wolves gave as one only seemed to amuse the stranger more. Amory didn’t know just what was happening, but anything that kept those things from ripping out her throat was a good thing.
“Now, I’m going to ask you boys nicely,” he said, reaching back with the knife to scratch his back. “Go back to your pack, and leave the girl alone.” Amory watched in shock as the blade barely touched his shirt before slicing through it, and the skin beneath. She made an involuntarily noise of horror as thick, dark blood welled up along the gash. But before the blood had a chance to drip, his skin was already knitting itself back together, pulling the life substance back into the body in front of her.
Amory didn’t know whether to be frightened, disgusted or amazed. This person was obviously not human, yet he was protecting her. Somehow her world had gone from relatively simple to downright bizarre in little over twenty minutes.
A sudden cry had her spinning around. Her mother was wounded, but fighting, blood dripping down the side of her face, down her arms, and pooling beneath her feet where a wolf had latched onto her ankle. That wolf lay limp, its eyes unseeing, and two others lay nearby, one of which was sliced in half.
“I told you to get her out of here!” her mother screamed; right before the slammed the heel of the shoe she was holding into the werewolf that had just leapt at her.
The sword-weilding stranger raised his hands in defense. “I’m going, I’m going! Keep your undies on!” he shouted back. He turned all the way around and Amory stared into the oddest colored eyes she had ever seen. “Shall we, mademoiselle?” he asked, offering a hand like a proper gentleman.
Dazedly, Amory took it, absently noting that his grip was bordering on the side of painful. In the next instant she realized why.
In two steps, he had them four feet away from where they were standing, and another werewolf had been cut in two. He held the blade up, palm open. “My offer is still open,” he said in a singsong voice. “But, like, only for the next five seconds.” The remaining werewolves growled and advanced as one. “No takers? All-righty then.”
And then they were running again. Amory’s brain unfroze enough for her to ask a few simple questions.
“Wait! Where are you taking me?” She didn’t get an answer, but a werewolf howled from behind her, and she urged herself to go faster.
Her hand was locked in an iron grip as he pulled her across the street and into the forest. Sharp branches and thorns ripped at her skin and clothes, and still he didn’t answer or slow down. “I said who are you!” She said, struggling against his hold. “I’m not going anywhere with you until I know your name.”
“Do you realize that there’s a pack of werewolves out for your blood?” he asked calmly, dodging around another tree.
“That doesn’t give you the right to kidnap me!” Amory screamed. “Let me go! I have to go back for my mother!”
“Well, yes, I’m sure that will work out just splendidly for you,” he said snarkily, yanking her along behind him as she tried to pull free.
“I can’t just leave her there! She could be dead any – “
“She is dead, actually.”
“What!” She grabbed on to a passing branch and held tight, bringing them up short. “No! We have to go back; she’s my mother! I can’t just let her die.”
“So, what? You want to die with her?” he said, fighting to pry her fingers from the branch. “That’s real smart, actually. You hear all that howling? They’re calling for others. Instead of the measly group we left, there could be hundreds of them coming this way. I should just let you go, and I would, honest.” He loosed her fingers, only to get an elbow to his stomach in return. He didn’t seem at all fazed by it, and it only fueled her frustration. “The thing is, I can’t so keep moving, yea?”
“Why won’t you just tell me your name?” she cried, not caring where the tears that suddenly slid down her cheeks came from. “I just, I just don’t understand what’s going on.”
They stopped, and Amory was turned all the way around. “My name is Kael, and right now, you need to trust me.”
His eyes bored into hers, and for a minute Amory couldn’t move. His eyes seemed so clear, so honest. She really didn’t have a reason not to trust him. He’d been helping her this far. And her mother…. She drew in a shaky breath. Her mother was gone, never ever coming back.
She was all alone. The truth hit her like a ton of bricks, and Amory sobbed, stepping forward to bury her face in Kael’s chest. It meant more than she could understand when he wrapped his arms around her. She stood there, crying out all her confusion, fear, anger and regret, not knowing anything other than she had something to hold onto for that one moment. She held onto Kael and cried, and paid no attention when his hold tightened till she was almost melded to his body. She shifted to wrap her arms around him, and they were gone.