The Weird Girls Page 7

Emme clasped her hand over her mouth. “Y-you’re not our Celia.”

“Of course, I am,” she said.

Taran’s jaw clenched tight. “Then why aren’t you changing and going after her? Why are you letting Shayna fight her for you?”

Yeah! They figured it out, knowing I’d never permit them to fight my battles. Now we had her. Watcha gonna do now, poser?

The other Celia shrugged. Then changed into a golden tigress and leapt off the deck.

Shit to the seventh power.

Like my human likeness, the golden tigress resembled mine to perfection. Larissa’s power should have shocked me stupid. Instead all it did was rile my beast. I remained a very still, very pissed-off statue for roughly two-point-five seconds. Then my rage slapped my astonishment upside the head like I was a spoiled heiress. I charged my other half and rammed into her with my claws out. There remained only one true me. And my beast planned to keep it that way.

We fell into a tumble of furious fangs and wicked claws. Her incisors dug into my shoulder. I pushed back the stabbing pain and surrendered to my beast. Larissa’s creation didn’t possess the thick hide of my tigress, nor did she hold that animalistic intuition and viciousness to survive. I shredded through the loose fur and into the tender muscle beneath until the snow streaked with crimson and chunks of fur. My victim roared in agony, the sounds mimicking my tigress’s voice so closely, it became almost too much to bear. So I focused on my task rather than the virtual hamburger Larissa attempted to make of my brain. My sisters screamed, likely unsure whether the real Celia suffered or not, and torn whether to act.

As my fangs found the imposter’s jugular, she changed back, resuming her human form. My sisters gathered around, their power accelerating from their distress, but failing to act. Their gazes danced from me to her when I dropped her on the ground. They seemed unsure who to attack, who to defend.

“Fuck,” Taran sobbed.

My stomach lurched whenI saw what they saw—my small body reduced to nothing more than frayed chunks of flesh. Ribs shone white and slick, protruding with each torturous breath. Hair stuck to the deep gashes on my face—her face. Sweet Jesus. What’s happening? My eyes burned and my head spun, no longer able to distinguish the illusion from a very twisted reality.

The imposter reached a hand toward Emme, blood spurting out of her mouth as she spoke. “Help me, Emme. Please help me.”

Emme extended her hands, her palms glowing with that soft pale light, ready to heal, ready to mend, ready to save. Just before their fingertips touched, Emme stumbled backward, falling on her backside. Tears streamed down her face. She shook her head and covered her ears, wrestling with her contradictory emotions.

Shayna dropped her blade. It fell flat against the layer of ice beside her. Her face blanched and her hands shook as she tried to find her words. “Is she . . . Could she . . .”

I couldn’t take the suffering. I changed, falling into a kneeling position to cradle the other Celia’s na**d body against me. She felt cold—my God, so cold—her skin supple and moist against mine. I pushed her red-stained curls from her face. She appeared so innocent then, young, helpless, incapable of harming another soul, the menace of her beast nowhere in sight.

She locked her gaze on mine just before I snapped her neck.

The crunch of her vertebrae made me drop to my side. Shayna and Emme choked back screams. Taran hollered with rage and grief, dropping to her knees next to me with her flaming blue and white hands inches from my face. The heat roasted my skin. I recoiled as if burned, unable to take the breadth of her fire. Something in my expression made her stop mere seconds before setting me aflame. Perhaps it was my own horror staring back at her, or maybe the fact that I didn’t fight back. Either way she stopped. Thank heaven she stopped.

I bit my bottom lip hard enough to taste blood, unable to take the tormented grimace wrinkling Taran’s beautiful face. So instead I focused on the burden I still held in my arms, and how the slight weight suddenly seemed unbearable. Her lifeless green eyes continued to stare at my face, despite her lolling head. I wanted to toss her away, deep into the pine forest. It wasn’t really me after all, was it? But I couldn’t seem to do that to myself. So I sat there, watching, waiting, while my sisters’ cries reverberated against my skull.

The thick clouds above vanished like a vial of ink poured into the ocean. The strong wind and freezing sleet ceased. Slowly, Larissa’s creation dissolved into water, clean and pure, creating tiny rivers against the blood-stained snow. When she finally disappeared, all that remained was a small clump of my hair draped against my knee.

I barely felt Taran and Shayna helping me to stand. Shayna said something about hypothermia, but I couldn’t be sure, nor did I really care. I swallowed hard. In my arms, I had held the dead me. And nothing would ever wipe that memory.

Chapter Seven

“I want to kill her. Just let me kill her. Damn it, Celia. Will you look at me?”

“I am looking at you, Taran.”

The shock of my experience receded as Emme encased me in her healing aura and Shayna threw about seven blankets over my shivering form. Except Emme’s gift and Shayna’s attention failed to erase the images of the fight. They continued to haunt me, but at least now I could function. Sort of.

Taran paced around the kitchen, balls of blue and white forming, disintegrating, and reforming in her palms. Her agitation and growing hate threatened to burn down our house. I wanted to calm her and reinforce that only one challenge remained. Yet I couldn’t even stop my body from shaking. I’d killed myself. And while my rational side insisted that it was just part of Larissa’s mindscrew, it remained one hell of an illusion. The other Celia’s skin had felt like my skin. Her eyelashes fanned out thick and long like mine, her green eyes sparked just as intensely, just as sharply. Larissa had mimicked my physique to a tee, down to the freckle on the knuckle of my right pinky. Witches vowed to do no harm.

I supposed that remained true. So long as you didn’t piss one off.

Shayna’s back rested against our new granite top, her arms crossed. She no longer cried. No one did. I wished then she would, hoping the release might soothe her. “I could have killed you.” Her head angled my way. “I never miss. You know I never miss. This was the first time I didn’t hit my mark. If it wasn’t for your tigress side I would have . . .” I expected her to burst into tears then, but she only shook her head before turning toward the window.

“Shit.” Taran abandoned her fire and leaned into the counter, burying her face into her hands. “We all could have killed you, Celia.” Her carefully applied mascara smeared down her cheeks. She clenched her jaw when she regarded me once more. “I’ll find that bitch Larissa, Ceel. And when I do, I swear I’ll end this.”

“And have every last witch in the Tahoe region after us?” I shook my head. “No. You’ve already seen what one can do. And I think both of us have done our share of killing. Don’t you?”

Taran didn’t answer. She pursed her lips. In the end, murder was murder, no matter how just. Emme and Shayna had never experienced taking a life. And I hoped they never would. That’s one of the reasons I’d pounced on the Ninth Law. I didn’t want them to have someone’s heart stop by their hands. Taran and I? Hell, some nights I still woke to the screams of those who’d killed our parents. They’d begged me to spare them when I hunted them down. I didn’t. Not a one. Most people would have expected a fifteen-year-old to show some mercy. But I suppose most people would have given me too much credit.

I rubbed my face, willing my thoughts to concentrate on the here and now. Fatigue weighed on my muscles like a heavy mound of sand. Emme took almost ten minutes to heal the damage Taran, Shayna, and Larissa had unleashed. A personal record for her, but my injuries had been extensive and now my body griped from its exhausted efforts to help her. “One challenge left,” I managed to mutter. “Tomorrow, at midnight, this should all be behind us.”

Shayna raised a brow. “Will you make it till midnight, dude? These challenges aren’t getting easier.” She played with the edges of her long ponytail. “And God knows we’re not helping.”

“It all ends tomorrow night,” I promised them. And it would. Except I couldn’t predict who would stand as the victor. I never expected the challenge to be easy. And yet my naiveté never prepared me for this.

“Celia, I’m not sure what to think of all this,” Emme said almost silently.

Which part—the newt, the challenge, or Celia vs. Celia? “What do you mean, sweetie?”

Emme reached for the ice cream in the freezer and pulled the milk from the double door fridge. “I thought witches were like vampires in that they couldn’t cross our threshold to do us harm—unless we invited them in, I mean.”

I massaged the tense muscles of my left shoulder. “Technically they didn’t harm me. I harmed myself. My body—or whatever—did have a right to be here.”

Emme smiled softly. “But they needed a bit of your essence to enter. And I presume they managed that through the use of your hair. But how could they obtain such a large clump without entering our house?”

“They took it from the hospital.” I elaborated when Shayna stopped fumbling beneath the counter for the blender and frowned with obvious confusion. “I had too much slop on me following the first attack and showered at work. I normally finger-comb my waves after I wash my hair and let them air dry. But all the body fluid had glued my strands together. I borrowed your comb from our locker, Shayna, and worked it through my hair to get everything out. It was pretty much shot when I finished with it, so I tossed it. Larissa could obviously see me. That’s how she’d caught me in the dirty utility room. She or her witches could have seized my leftover hair from the drain or fished the comb from the garbage.” Shayna blinked back at me. “I, um, owe you a new comb,” I said in response to her blank expression.

Shayna rushed to her feet and threw her arms around me. “I don’t care about the stupid comb,” she choked. “I care about you. She could have cast a lot worse spell with your hair and blood in her hands.”

“God damn it.” Taran scooped the vanilla ice cream into the blender like it had called her a bitch and poured in what remained of the milk. Most of it sloshed off to the sides, spilling all over the brown and black marble counter. I grabbed a towel to wipe it, but she ripped it from my grasp. “For shit’s sake, Celia. Shayna’s right. Who knows what else Larissa plans to do? With your hair, your blood— Aw, hell. Why didn’t you throw in a tooth while you were at it?”

“If the newt had managed to pry off a molar, maybe I would have.” My dark humor was supposed to make them laugh. Only silence greeted me. Silence, and the still air that came with an ill-fated future. Taran hit the mix button on the blender. She poured me a milkshake the moment the mixer stopped. I downed it and she poured me another, giving me the much needed calories I’d need to fight. Popeye had his spinach. My tigress, well, what could I say. She liked her milk.

Shayna rushed down to the basement and returned with more ice cream and more milk. My appetite surprised even me. When I had my fill, I dumped my empty glass into the dishwasher and headed up the back steps, hoping my tired body would surrender into sleep the moment it hit the bed.

Taran gripped my arm as my bare feet felt the crush of our newly carpeted steps. Her irises sparkled so clearly, they resembled diamonds instead of sapphires. “Just know this, Celia,” she said. “If she hurts you beyond repair, if she doesn’t stay true to her word, or if she steals you from us, we will go after them. All of them. And God help anyone who takes their side.”

Chapter Eight

Weres could sniff lies. So could vampires. And even witches sensed a fib to some extent. I didn’t have that gift. But I knew my sisters, sometimes better than I knew my own tigress. Taran meant what she said. And it scared the hell of me. But what scared me more were the definitive nods from Shayna and Emme.

If something happened, they would avenge me, even at the cost of their lives. I couldn’t fault them. I’d do the same. Yet that didn’t make it the right or honorable solution. My narrowed eyes made them drop their gazes. “No, you won’t. I invoked the Ninth Law to guarantee your safety, not so you’d kamikaze if the outcome didn’t suit you.”


“Enough, Taran. I won’t hear anymore. You will stay out of it.”

I stormed up the steps. My sisters’ threats angered and saddened me. I fell into my bed wrestling with what could happen if I failed. Would my stubbornness keep me from calling mercy in time? I hoped not, but I couldn’t be sure. Eventually, though, the stress of the challenges and the toll they’d taken on my body kicked my worries aside and caused my lids to droop. Darkness claimed me. I fought it at first, afraid the ghosts of my past and the mind games Larissa played would trigger my worst nightmares. I didn’t expect pleasant dreams. I didn’t expect him to return.

I didn’t know his name. I couldn’t see his face. But I knew his arms. They were strong, stronger than mine, enveloping me with protection and an unspoken promise that I wasn’t alone. My fingers traced a line along the powerful ridges of his muscular chest.

“Hi,” I whispered when he drew me closer.

“Hi, love,” he answered in a voice that wasn’t really a voice, just a mere shadow of what could be. “I haven’t felt you against me in so long.”

“I know. I’ve missed you.” My smile faded. “I’m scared,” I confessed. Because it was only to him I could openly admit such weakness.

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