Read Adversity Online

Authors: Claire Farrell

Tags: #Paranormal, #Young Adult, #Ireland, #werewolf, #werewolves, #teen romance

Adversity (17 page)

She
sensed her father’s presence again, although his steps were
soundless. Cold hands drifted across her face, marking her with
something cool. The rain would wash it away, but that didn’t deter
him.

His hands
on her shoulders, he pushed her to her knees, forcing a metal cup
to her lips. Taking the cup, she sipped the contents, her stomach
turning at the tang. She knew there was blood in the liquid,
probably her father’s, and although unnecessary, she drained the
cup without complaint. Anything to get the day over
with.

For an
hour, he stepped around her, chanting and moaning, until he finally
removed the blindfold and led her into the cave. She could barely
see for the smoke, but the dizziness came from the liquid she
drank.

She
collapsed to the ground, her cheek against dirt and stone, as she
watched her father through bleary eyes. She saw impossible visions
of horror, fanged creatures with yawning mouths silently screaming
in her face, their rancid breath turning her stomach. Images of
shadowy hands grabbed her feet to drag her into the nether. She
felt the pricks of a snake’s bite and the sensation of a million
spiders crawling over her skin, but when she recovered from her
visions, nothing was there.

Her
father spoke to nothing and to everything. He pleaded and begged
and offered her soul to the darkness. She could do nothing to stop
him, but it didn’t matter.

She
wasn’t his to give.

She had
always been a gift, given to him, temporary and fleeting. Not his
in this life or the next. He never did understand that. He never
comprehended what it was he was trading when he made his
thoughtless deals with devils and demons.

Frustrated, he cried out, but she couldn’t understand the
words. Blood dripped from his forearms, travelling down until it
fell from his fingers to puddles on the floor. This would never be
her life. Her eyes drifted closed, and she welcomed the darkness of
her own making.

 

***

 

She awoke
on a blanket, comfortable and warm. The cave was empty, apart from
that. No fire, no smoke, no father.

She felt…
fine. More than fine. Something new simmered under her skin. She
couldn’t tell if it was her own determination or her imagination
which had gained something from the ceremony. She left the cave to
see her father outside, waiting quietly for her. There was no sign
of madness in his eyes and no hints that his actions of the night
before had taken hold.


We return,” was all he said.

As they
walked, she wondered if she could work up the courage to plead for
her freedom, yet again. Before she spoke, though, he hushed
her.


Not now, Kali. I’m tired.”

And he
did look tired. He had aged overnight. His entire appearance had a
lifeless, listless look about it. He had lost some of himself at
his false ceremony, of that, she was certain.

At the
camp, her people looked upon her with different eyes, as though a
novice was so much less than a proven chovihani. She hadn’t really
proven herself and had only her father’s word to vouch for
her.

Drina,
her face paler than usual, drew her arms around her sister. “You
survived,” she said with a grim smile.


Are you well?” Worry gripped Kali, and a dreadful premonition
filled her soul.


Well enough. We’ll celebrate tonight, little sister. Your life
is beginning.”

Something
in those words chilled Kali. Her father pulled her away. “Smile,”
he hissed in her ear as he led her to the man he wanted her to
marry.

What an
oaf he was, this man named Besnik who was supposed to father her
children. A slovenly man looking for his second wife, Besnik’s
heavy-lidded eyes and large, scarred hands repulsed her. Besnik
gave her a long glance before calling over his mother, an old woman
almost as abhorrent as he. Her wrinkled fingers squeezed Kali’s
hips, and she nodded at her son.


She’ll do,” Besnik told her father. He refused to look at Kali
again, and she caught a vision of her future.

Pain.

 

Chapter
Thirteen

 

Amelia

 

When I
saw Nathan after the big meeting, I thought something had gone
badly wrong. But everyone was okay, so no obvious fights had broken
out.


What’s with the grumpy face?”


Don’t start.” He shook his head, staring into space. I sat on
the swing next to him, shivering as the night air raised goose
bumps on my skin.


So what happened?”

He pushed
back with his feet, let go, and swung. Higher and higher he went,
until he took a flying jump and landed on his feet. “They killed
our parents, Amelia.”

I hopped
off my swing and stilled his, but I stayed quiet, knowing he needed
to talk it out for himself.


Ryan said he heard what happened to them. This Vin wolf
decided Mum would make good breeding material and sent his pack
after her. Dad fought for her and wouldn’t stop fighting. Dad
wasn’t into violence at all, but he fought a whole gang of wolves
for her. The pack held him down and made him watch them hurt her…
and she died. So he went mental and killed three of them before
they took him down.”

I swore,
following him as he wandered along the grass, going nowhere in
particular. “I’m so sorry.”

He stared
at me as though I had gone crazy. “Why are you saying sorry? They
were your parents, too.”


Yeah, I know, but…” I bit my lip. “I don’t really remember
them anymore. And I’m sorry for that, too.”


Doesn’t matter. You were a kid. How could you?”

He sat on
the grass, rubbing his face and looking absolutely miserable. “I
have to fight the werewolves who killed our parents. I have to face
them. And I have to let them live.”


Why?” I asked, suddenly fierce.


Because Mum and Dad would never want me to be like
them
. Perdita would never
look at me the same again. But Jeremy and Opa want me to do
whatever it takes. They want me to channel the pain and use it to
hurt our enemies. And those werewolves would deserve to suffer,
Amelia, for what they did. But I can’t… I can’t kill
someone.”


It’s a war,” I said resolutely. “They would be casualties of
war. But I don’t think you would be happy if you did commit murder.
Revenge isn’t the answer.”


Isn’t it?”


Look at Opa. All he wants is revenge. Do you think it will
make him any happier to get it? Do you really think he’ll celebrate
when he finally gets his way? He won’t. He’ll be even more
miserable because all he’ll have left are memories and the fact
Mémère’s gone for good. That’s the real reason he’s changed. He’ll
do absolutely anything to avoid thinking about her.”


Dad fought for Mum, though. Killed for her.”


You fought for Perdita. She fought for you. You’ll fight to
protect the family. That’s good enough, Nathan.”

I knew he
would put how he was feeling in a box until everything had gotten
back to normal. That wasn’t good for him, but that was how he dealt
with things. I hoped he kept his focus in the heat of
battle.

 

***

 

Connor hadn’t called or texted me by the following afternoon.
I agonised over whether to call him first. I didn’t want to come
across as overly eager, but I didn’t want him to think I wasn’t
interested either. I wasn’t totally sure if
I
was interested or not, but I needed
something normal. The news about my parents had shaken Byron,
Nathan and me. I didn’t know how I was supposed to feel. In a way,
I was relieved that strangers had caused my mother’s death, and
that she’d not died at the hands of my father. The idea that the
other pack had gotten away with the murders, for so long, crept
under my skin and stayed there.

So Connor
would have been a good distraction if he had called. The compromise
was for me to call Ger, instead.


Oh, hey, Amelia,” she said, sounding surprised when she
answered.


Hey. Boring day, so I thought I’d drag you down with
me.”

She
laughed. “Well, thanks for that. Oh, my… Will you lot ever shut up?
I’m on the phone! Sorry about that. Ignorant pigs
today.”


Who?” I hoped I didn’t sound too interested.


Oh, the usual misfits. Julie, Martin, Connor…”

She named
a couple more people, but I had heard enough. He hadn’t bothered to
text or show up because he was busy with Julie.


Oh, right, cool,” I said hurriedly. “I’ll let you go.
Someone’s calling me.”

I barely
let her say goodbye before hanging up the phone. I wanted to die of
mortification. I was so stupid. I had myself twisted up in knots
trying to find what Kali and Andriy had, when they didn’t have
anything at all. Neither did I.

I tried
to tell myself I was only a little embarrassed, which I was. But
more than that, I was hurt. I felt completely rejected, even if I
didn’t like Connor as much as I could have. No big spark existed
between us, and I could never see myself looking at him the way
Perdita looked at Nathan. To be with someone normal, though, and
forget about everything else for a few minutes, had been
nice.

Later,
Nathan and Perdita asked me to go to the zoo with them, so I didn’t
hesitate. Anything was better than sitting at home waiting for
Connor to call.

As soon
as we caught a bus into town, I knew I’d made a mistake. Not only
were Nathan and Perdita sappier than usual, I felt like crap,
again. The headaches were more frequent, and I felt as though my
entire body was being pulled down by weights. My joints hurt. The
sun hurt. Noise hurt. Everything bloody hurt.

We walked
through the park to get to the zoo, and passed screaming,
over-excited kids, and gangs of flirting teenagers. I wanted to
puke, for real. The zoo was hot and crowded, and I couldn’t pay
attention to Nathan and Perdita because my head hurt so much.
Glories of glories, my phone rang, and I knew without hesitation
that it was Connor.


I’ll only be a minute,” I said, a little embarrassed by the
knowing look on Perdita’s face. My whole mood buoyed at the idea of
talking to Connor, and I wondered if that little flutter in the pit
of my stomach was a good thing.


I called in at your house,” he said as soon as I answered the
phone.


At my—really? And you survived?”

He
laughed, and that little flutter moved superfast. “Just about. You
had to be the only girl in the family, didn’t you?”


Their bark is worse than their bite.” Unless they were on four
legs and covered in fur.


It’s cool. So what are you doing?”


Erm, I’m at the zoo with my brother and his
girlfriend.”

He
laughed again, but when he spoke I heard disappointment. “I guess
you won’t be around today.”


I kinda thought you were busy. You know, with Ger and all.” I
held my breath.


Definitely not busy. Maybe I should have texted you
first.”


Maybe.” Suddenly my voice sounded deeper, kind of flirty. How
did that happen?


So if I text you tonight, do you think you might come out for
a while?”

This time
I laughed. “I might. But I better go now. I’ll tell the lions you
said hello.”

By the
time I got back to Nathan and Perdita, I felt so much better. Maybe
I did like Connor after all. We moved along the enclosures, and
even the screaming kids stopped bothering me as I thought about
what Connor and I might do that evening.

Then we
found the wolves.

Nathan
leaned against the enclosure, pain in his expression, but all I
cared about was the way all of the wolves kept their eyes on me. I
inched closer to Nathan, and the eyes all followed. They knew. They
knew my secrets. They could tell I was wrong somehow. They knew
more than my own family.


I feel bad for them,” Nathan said.


Me too,” I whispered. “They look so bored.”

Ordinarily, they might have been bored, but now they were
interested in me and couldn’t take their eyes off me. One
approached, and I held my breath. His howl tore through me,
breaking my heart.

I grabbed
Nathan’s arm as more of them approached, coming out from behind
rocks to warn me off and defend themselves. What was so scary about
me?


They’re scared of me,” Nathan said. “What am I supposed to
be?”

I glanced at him in alarm. Did he not see how they were
looking at
me
?
Wary of
me
?

Perdita
led us both away as the entire zoo went crazy. The wolves kicked
off all of the other animals, and I heard screeches and whines and
an awful thudding as the gorillas threw themselves at the barrier
that caged them.

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