I stare up at Marcus’s house, watching as a the light in the upstairs bedroom turns off and the house goes dark. Someone is still awake. That’s okay. I’m probably going to wake them up when getting into their house anyway.
I check to see if the front door is locked, which it is, then go around the check the back or side doors. No side doors but I jump their fence and find a back door. It’s also locked, sadly. I’m going to have to break in.
There’s a window about five feet away from the back door, and I walk over to it. Clenching my fist, I break the window,. My knuckles get cut and blood drips onto the ground, but it quickly heals. I clear out the rest of the glass with a stick from the ground and pull myself inside.
The house is eerily quiet though I’m sure someone had to hear me break the window. I came in near the door, not in any particular room. I can see the living room to my right and there’s the underside of a staircase in front of me. I hear footsteps above my head, slowly heading toward the stairs. Someone’s coming.
I dart underneath the staircase, as far is it will allow me to go. My heart gallops in my chest as I crouch down, waiting to see someone’s feet passing by. God, am I really doing this? This is terrifying. How am I going to do it anyway? We can only die from a silver bullet to the heart, burning to death, our heart getting ripped out, or our head getting ripped off. The heart it is. Am I really deciding how to kill someone right now?
I hear the footsteps pass above my head and then step onto the ground. They slowly pad around the staircase, drawing closer every second. I can feel the vibrations from their weight on the floorboards. This is it.
Their feet come into view— black socks that stop at the ankles, so I can see the person must be wearing shorts because I can see their legs. With hairy legs and large feet, I think it’s safe to assume that this is Marcus and not anyone else.
The feet take a couple more steps, stopping directly in front of me. All I can hear is my heartbeat, my breathing, and his heartbeat, surprisingly steady. It feels like my heart stops completely when the feet slowly turn in my direction.
My claws scratch against the flooring and my body tenses up as I prepare myself to attack him. He’s bending over.
As soon as his face comes into view I jump, knocking us both into the floor. We slide into the wall and I have my hands wrapped around his neck, shaking him. His feet come underneath me, pushing against my stomach, and I go flying. For a split second I’m upside down in the air, but then I land on my back with a thud.
The breath is knocked out of me but I know I don’t have the time to stop and catch it, so I spin onto my feet anyway. My hood falls off of my head, probably for the best. Marcus has gotten to his feet and we both rise to a standing position while staring at each other.
“Julia?” he says, shocked.
I lash out with my claws in reply, leaving gashes across his cheek. Before I can attempt anything else his fist comes up in an uppercut underneath my chin and I once again go flying. I lean my head forward in an attempt to prevent my head from cracking on the floor, and I slide backwards several feet on my shoulders.
Marcus has a chance to get on top of me but he doesn’t take it. I bring myself to my feet, my fists hanging in the air in front of my face. Something runs down from my nose onto my lip, then drips down the floor. Glancing down, I see that it’s blood.
“Julia or Logan?” he asks, his eyes locked on mine.
I try to shoot daggers at him with my eyes. “Julia.”
“What are you doing?” His face looks angry and confused at the same time.
“I tried everything I could to convince you to let Logan go. You forced it to come to this. I’m going to kill you.”
He laughs loudly. “I doubt that’s going to happen. You should just count your losses and go home.”
“That’s cute,” I say. “You must-”
“Julia?” Tiffany must have heard us fighting because she’s now standing next to the staircase staring at us. The look on her face is of pure shock and I can’t help but feel pity for her, even though she’s been lying to me for so long.
“Tiffany, I’m so sorry,” I say. “You seem like a good person although you’ve betrayed me and have lied to me the entire time we’ve been together. I hope you can understand why I have to do this. I tried everything. I tried to convince your dad to let Logan go in so many different ways. Hell, I even offered myself to him. He just won’t budge. This is my sister’s life on the line here. I will protect her at all costs, and I believe that if you were in my position, you would do the same thing. I’m sorry, but I have to do this.”
She doesn’t say anything; she just stares. I wish I didn’t have to do this in front of her, but if she refuses to leave, then so be it.
I look back at Marcus. “This is your last chance to change your mind, Marcus. We can both walk away from this. Don’t keep feeding into the cycle of hatred that goes on in this world. You can forgive Logan and teach everyone a valuable lesson. If not, you understand that I’m not going to allow you to hurt her. I love her more than anything else in this world and if I have to kill someone for her, I’ll do it.”
“I can’t,” he hisses between his teeth.
A big ball of fury rises up in me and it’s all I can do not to roar at him right now. But I don’t want to wake the neighbors and draw attention to this so I hold myself back.
“Then you’ve brought this upon yourself,” I say. I run at him and claws at him but he dodges it, slashing my back in the process. I let out a yelp and block his next move. We go head to head for what seems like a long time. The only reason I can keep up with him is because of the motivation I have.
Somehow I manage to avoid his swing and I lash out at his abdomen, my claws digging in and slicing skin. I shove him against the wall and for a split second everything stops and it’s my chance to do it. To kill him.
And I can’t do it.
“Julia, stop,” Marcus says, and I can tell that he’s trying to use his power on me.
C’mon, Julia, c’mon. Just rip his heart out. You know you want to. Think about Logan.
But I just can’t. All I can see is Marshall in front of me, my hands breaking his neck. Every fiber of my being is screaming at me to do it, to kill him. But looking at him now, face to face, eye to eye, I can’t bring myself to do it. He’s human, too. Right now, more than ever, I can see just how much we have in common.
“Step away from me,” Marcus says.
I hesitate, but decide to do as he says. I can’t kill him now, but letting him think he can still control me might be to my advantage later. He steps forward, staring at me. I can’t tell if he’s angry or what. What’s he going to do?
Throw me against the wall, apparently. Then he grabs my throat, squeezing until it feels as if I’m about to burst. I do everything I can to get him off: hitting him, grasping at his hands, trying to kick him. I don’t even get mildly close to getting him off; he’s much, much stronger than me. The fact that I was able to keep up fighting with him for so long is even more astounding now.
The rage on his face is the most terrifying thing of all. I’ve never seen such rage on anyone in my entire life. If I had to describe his expression in one word, it would have to be murderous, cliche as that is. Out of all of my experiences with Marcus, including the attack at my house, the kidnapping of Elijah at the warehouse, the negotiation with him here, even the time in the hospital when I was helpless, didn’t know who he was, and confused, I have never been this scared of him. The only other person I’ve ever seen this look on would be Marshall, completely out of his mind and going after Elijah and me. My earlier conclusion that Marcus is human seems like a mistake now. I should’ve killed him. I lost my chance.
Weak, squeaky noises escape me and I my head feels like it’s stuffed with cotton. My vision is blurring in and out and my lungs are on fire.
“Dad! Dad, stop! Stop! Dad, get off of her! DAD!” Tiffany yells at her father, pulling at his shoulder. Upon screeching the final word, she yanks him back with a remarkable amount of force. I land on my feet, bent over coughing and sputtering until I catch my breath.
When I look up, both Tiffany and Marcus are standing over me. Tiffany’s expression is . . . regretful. Sympathetic. Not at all what I expected. She doesn’t look malicious like her father, who is seething with anger.
“You need to leave,” Marcus says. “I thought you were smart until you showed up here. This was eye-opening. You are not the pleasant girl I thought you were. You will much more of a struggle to conquer than I earlier expected. Nonetheless, I still want you in my pack. Actually, now more than ever. But right now, if you don’t leave, there’s a good chance that I will kill you in my anger.”
I should’ve killed you.
“Fine,” I say, feigning bravery. I turn to Tiffany. “Tiffany, I am so sorry for your loss. Losing a sister is the worst thing I can imagine. I forgive you for lying to me and manipulating me, whether you want my forgiveness or not. I’m also sorry you got stuck with this miserable man for a father. He may have been good at one time, but he’s not anymore.”
I glare at Marcus, some of my confidence returning. “You, however. I’m not sorry to you. I don’t like you, I don’t respect you, and I don’t want anything more to do with you. My father was friends with you for a reason, but whatever that reason was, it’s long gone by now. Goodbye.”
I walk to the back door, unlock it, and step outside. No one stops me. I quickly shut the door once I’m outside and take off sprinting around the house, jumping over the wire fence with grace. My hoodie and tank top is torn up and there’s blood all over me, both mine and Marcus’s.
I sprint as fast as I can, not caring who sees me. The tension built up in that house doesn’t go away like I expected it would. It just gets worse and worse, leaving me feeling overwhelmed until I have to stop running.
I tumble onto the grass in someone’s yard, landing on my knees. My fingers grope my hair and my heart rate skyrockets as I have flashbacks to all the attacks that have happened to me. Marcus in the alley, Luke in the woods, Marcus at my house, Marshall at Elijah’s house, Marcus in his house. It’s too much, it’s too much fear, I can’t take it anymore. It’s all so terrifying, I–I can’t . . I–
“What the hell’s wrong with you?”
I spin around so fast that I’m surprised I don’t fall over. Rachel is standing there, peering down at me with a smirk on her face and her eyebrows raised. She looks so smug. I didn’t even hear her come up.
“No–nothing. Just having a mental breakdown is someone’s yard. Why are still out? It’s way past curfew.”
“I could ask you the same thing. But I’m out for a walk because I couldn’t sleep. What are you doing?”
“I’d really rather not talk about it. But, um . . .” I look around, trying to work up the nerve to say what I have to say, but my brain is having a hard time functioning right now. “I’m sorry about what happened at the park. We should’ve told you everything right then. I don’t know what’s going on with you, Rachel, but I could be able to help. And I can tell you everything that’s going on with me. But can we not do it right now? I don’t think my brain has the capacity to do much of anything right now. Maybe we can do it on Monday.”
She stands there staring at me for a brief moment, though it feels much longer. I think she’s about to get mad at me, but then she offers her hand to help me up. I take it and she pulls me to my feet.
“It’s okay. Monday’s fine.” She sticks her hands back in the pockets of her brown leather jacket. Her feet anxiously kick at the ground and I get the feeling that she either doesn’t want to be here or is nervous about something.
“So do you remember who attacked you at the park?” I ask, hoping to distract myself from the panic attack I was about to have.
“No,” Rachel says, a little too fast. She quickly glances away and I can tell that she’s lying, but I don’t push it.
“I see,” I say, brushing my fingers through my messy hair. “Well, I better get going, I’ll see you Monday.” I turn to go and get about five feet away before she speaks up.
“Julia,” she calls. I stop and look at her, seeing her hazel-colored hair shifting with the wind. “Is there something wrong?”
That’s an understatement.
Logic would tell me to answer no so she doesn’t worry, but I’m tired of lying to people. “Yes,” I say, “there is. But there’s nothing you can do. Go home.”
I walk away and this time she doesn’t call out to me, though I can feel her gaze on my back. Whatever was happening to me earlier with the flashbacks have passed now, though I still feel as if something bad is happening. Like someone’s going to attack me at any second.
I continue to walk for a long time, and after a while my thoughts, along with my fingers, begin to numb. My memories aren’t affecting me anymore. Nothing is affecting me anymore, I just feel empty. It’s like I’m stumbling along in a dream.
I don’t know how long or far I walk, nor do I know where I’m going. All the buildings seem to blur together until I see one I recognize. A large, beautiful modern home, with fancy, expensive cars parked in the circle driveway. Looking up at it, my feet begin to move toward it though I don’t plan on it. I just roll with it anyway, climbing a tree to the side of the house and crawling along a branch until I reach the second story window. I knock on the glass a few times, wait, then knock some more.
I hear a thud, followed by another sound that I assume is the sound of someone bumping into something. I knock again and hear footsteps coming to the window, and the curtains pull back. Sarah’s squinty eyes widen a bit and she yanks the window up.
“It is bloody three in the morning, what are you doing here? Oh my god, it’s freezing.” She shivers. “Get in here before you fall and break a leg. I’m not paying for the hospital bills.”