The Dark Divine Page 63

"No, Gracie," Mom shouted.

T couldn't see over their bodies that filled the doorway. "What happened?" I tried to squeeze between them.

"Da--" I heard Jude sputter. He coughed like he was choking. "Dan--" Dad pushed me back. "Get away, Gracie." "But--"

"Go to your room!"

And suddenly I was being pushed up the stairs. I couldn't see anything beyond my mother's body and her shoving hands.

"Room, now. Stay there."

I ran to my bedroom and pushed up the blinds. I couldn't see the porch or anything that was going on with Jude. But something else caught my eye. It was something white yet shadowed in the full moon's glow, crouching under the walnut tree, watching what I couldn't see on the porch. I squinted, trying to make out what it was, but it receded into the shadows and vanished.

"I'm sorry," the darkness whispered, cutting off the forgotten memory in my head. It was one of those phantom voices from so long ago. It was too far away and I tried to reach for it, but something bound me tight--I couldn't remember what.

"I'm sorry, Don," the phantom said.

The voice was followed by a thump, a metallic clink, and half a gasp. The bands that held me fell away, and I felt the rushing of wind, then hardness under my back, and warmth pressing over my lips.

Sweet air filled my mouth, my lungs. The misty darkness retreated from my brain. My eyelids felt heavy as I forced them open.

Daniel stared back at me, his eyes black with anger.

"You didn't stay home," he growled.

I coughed and tried to push myself up off of what felt like a table. But my head was as big as a semi truck, so I rolled on my side instead to look at him. He seemed more afraid than angry.

"You didn't tell me you bit my brother," I replied.

A FEW MINUTES LATER

"Is Don okay?" I rubbed the sides of my sore jaw as I lay on an art-room table. The pulsing of the music from the gym mingled with the pounding inside my head.

Daniel paced in front of the window behind Barlow's desk. He hadn't looked at me since I'd asked about my brother. "I only knocked him out. He'll be fine soon."

"Only knocked him out?" I said. "And what about Pete? Did he look dead to you?"

"Pete?" Daniel looked back at me. "Pete wasn't there."

"Oh. That's good, I guess." Pete may have run off and left me to fend for myself, but I was still glad he wasn't dead. I fingered the broken strap of my dress. Bruises formed under my skin.

"Pete attacked me... He did this to me."

Daniel's hands locked into fists. "I thought I could smell him all over you." His eyes went blacker than before. "Good thing he wasn't there, I would have--"

"Don beat you to it. Stabbed him in the side with his silver knife. He thought Pete was the monster and kind of lost it when he realized what he'd done."

Daniel nodded like the scene he'd come upon finally clicked. "I sensed more anguish in him than malice."

I sat up. Little flashes of light swam in front of my eyes. "Why didn't you tell me my brother is the monster?"

Daniel turned to the window. "Because I wasn't sure myself. I don't remember biting him. I tried to deny that I could have done anything like that until the day James went missing. That was Jude's blood on the porch--but it didn't smell normal, his scent was confused."

"Because he's a werewolf?"

Daniel gazed out the window at the full moon hanging over the parish next door. He brushed his moonstone pendant. "He's not a werewolf. Not yet anyway."

"But he hurt those people. That was him, wasn't it? Wouldn't that turn him into a full-blown werewolf? A predatory act?"

"Not if they were already dead when he found them. Maryanne froze to death. Jessica must have died from something else--overdose, maybe. He must have mutilated their bodies somehow, making it look like a wolf attack. Violence against common animals doesn't count. That cat that turned up dead was just for show. And he didn't intend to kill James. He just wanted to scare people."

"But how could he do those things? How could he take Baby James? Didn't he know James could have gotten hurt or worse? James would have died if it weren't for you."

"It was the wolf, Grace. The wolf hasn't taken him completely over yet, but it has enough control to influence his actions. It feeds off his emotions. The stronger the emotion, the more hold it has. Each time he did something was after we were together. ..."

"He knew that you fixed my car on Markham," I said. "And somehow he knew I was at that party at your place. He knew that Jess was there, too. Do you think he followed me, followed my scent?" I rubbed my eyes--they still didn't want to focus quite right.

"Jess was so wasted," I went on. "Maybe he found her. Maybe the wolf made him do something to her body and then he planted it somewhere, but no one found it." My stomach churned when I pictured my brother with her mutilated corpse.

"And he was at the market today. He must have seen us together, and with all those rumors Lynn was spreading ... Pete said it took Jude three hours to pick up the corsages." My throat closed in an involuntary gag. "Do you think he went to the city to retrieve the body--to plant it where you work?"

Daniel nodded. "Here's the crazy thing, Grace. He probably doesn't remember doing any of those things. He's probably only aware that he's been losing minutes, even hours of his life. But he doesn't know what he's done. He really believes I'm. the monster."

"And he thinks he has to stop you."

Daniel stiffened. He stared far out the window. After a moment, I heard it, too: police sirens blaring toward the school.

"Jude wants to kill you," I said.

Daniel backed away from the window. "Then the police are the last of our worries."

"We have to find Jude." I swung my legs over the side of the table. "He's here looking for you. We need to go find him first." I felt stronger now so I tried to stand. Daniel pushed me down. "We aren't going anywhere. You are staying here while I go look for Jude."

"Like hell I am." I got right back up. "Stop telling me what to do."

"Grace, this isn't a game. Just stay here."

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