The Weird Girls Page 8

“You’ve been scared before.”

“Yes, more times than I can count.” I listened to his heartbeat, taking comfort in the soft, reassuring drum. “The fear, the threats—they don’t end, do they? I’m still not safe.”

“No.” His voice seemed gruff, angry. Like my fear or the possibility of me getting hurt was too much for him to take. Or maybe I just needed him to sound that way.

I rubbed my face against him, purring softly when his fingers ran gently along my unclothed back. With him, I didn’t feel the need to cover my body. It was only right for our bare flesh to touch. “Will you be with me tomorrow?”

“I’m always with you, Celia. You just don’t know it yet. . . .”

* * *

I woke to the wonderful smell of bacon, my arms clutching a pillow tight, my cheek moist from the tears on my sheets. I cried whenever I dreamt of him, mostly because he remained a figment of my wildest dreams. After all, the possibility of a male’s loving arms around me was the furthest thing from reality. Males didn’t seek my company. Period. So how could I ever convince one to hold me, to touch me, to see me as beautiful?

I wiped my eyes and slipped on a pair of yoga pants before making my way into the bathroom. Brushing my teeth would never be the same again. I paused in front of the mirror. It took several long, tension-filled minutes before I became convinced my reflection wouldn’t choke the snot out of me. I reached for my toothbrush and some paste, all the while glaring at my potential would-be assassin.

My original plan included making my bed, except the wonderful smell of delicious artery-clogging goodness made me abandon those efforts. I quickly padded down the steps, grateful I’d survived the morning’s teeth-cleansing experience.

Shayna’s bright smile greeted me in the kitchen. The window spilling the bright morning sun made her blink as she passed. Good grief, I must’ve slept a hell of a long time.

She gave me a one-arm hug, careful not to spill the batter-filled bowl in her opposite arm. “Hey, dude. I made you your favorite: bacon, bacon, and more bacon.”

I frowned, pretending to be annoyed. “No omelets to go with that bacon?”

She slapped her palm against her forehead. “Oh! How could I have been so dense? Don’t worry, Ceel. I’m on it.”

I grabbed the silverware and plates and started arranging them along the elevated bar. Shayna placed the bowl on the counter and lifted everything from my grasp. “Ah, ah, ah. You have a long day ahead of you. I’ll take care of it. Could you go see what’s keeping Taran? She promised to help with waffle duty.”

“Oh, sure.”

Taran’s room lay directly below mine on the first floor. She liked having the level to herself. I supposed it allowed the independence she’d always sought, all the while keeping us close. I knocked on her door. “Taran? You awake?” I knocked harder when she didn’t answer. “Taran?”

I opened the door, figuring I’d let her sleep if I found her snoozing. My tigress and I could take on waffle duty if necessary. No need to disturb sleeping beauty. And maybe I’d serve her breakfast in bed. God knew we all deserved a bit of kindness.

Taran’s frilly white linens lay scattered on the floor next to her four-poster bed. Like me, she had a king-sized bed. But unlike me, she’d soon have someone to keep her warm between the sheets. Lack of company wasn’t an issue for Taran. It was more that most males failed to keep her interest for long. The bad boys tended to bore her over time and the good ones never seemed good enough. Too bad. Deep beneath her tough outer shell and short fuse, Taran’s heart radiated enough heat to warm those she loved. I often wondered who would capture her heart—and if he could handle the love she had to give.

I lifted her sheets and tossed them over the navy comforter crumpled into one giant heap. She must have had a rough night of sleep in anticipation of the day. The light shone from the open double-doors to her five-piece bathroom. I stepped in. “Taran?”

The large open bathroom appeared empty, nothing but a stack of cobalt blue and white tiles on the side wall waiting to be mortared in place by our contractor. The freshly tiled countertop remained undisturbed. A row of expensive cosmetics lined the neatly arranged shelf just above the slowly running faucet. Drip, drip. Drip, drip.

But still no Taran. No . . . anything.

I shut off the water. Taran only rose early to make our seven a.m. shift start. Shopping remained her preferred choice of exercise, and the stores hadn’t yet opened. She didn’t take long walks to contemplate the meaning of life. And she knew better than to wander off alone during the Salem Celia Trial. I glanced over my shoulder, hoping against all hope she’d unravel herself from the jumbled mess on the bed.


My voice cracked as a chill crept its way down my spine like a centipede. “Are you upstairs waking Emme?” I asked for the sake of my sanity. But in reality, I knew she wasn’t with Emme. My preternatural hearing didn’t pick up any movement on the second floor—nor did it hone in on any voices—just Shayna in the kitchen, whistling as she chopped the ingredients for my omelet.

I inched my way to Taran’s walk-in closet, my claws ready to replace my nails. “Shayna!” I called. “Come in here. Something’s wrong.”

The whistling ceased abruptly as my sweaty palms pushed opened the door of the room-sized closet. My heart stopped when something blocked the door from opening all the way. I didn’t force it, choosing to slink through the narrow opening.

I found Taran. Hanging from a noose fashioned from her prized scarves. Her bare feet swayed in a circular motion from where the pieces of silk had been knotted to the railing. A small, overturned vanity chair lay tilted against the boxes of her pricey shoes and the clump of clothes she’d tossed onto the floor to make room for the loop. Her chin slumped against the note pinned to her lacey white nightie. Mea culpa, it read—My fault.

I staggered into the mountainous clothes rack behind me, my heart aching from how hard it pummeled my ribcage. Pain gurgled in my throat. I tried to scream. Nothing came out. I willed my trembling body to act. It betrayed me, keeping me cemented to where I stood helplessly trying to scream.

“Taran,” I finally squeaked. “Taran . . . Taran!”

My legs propelled me forward, jumping onto the railing that held her and bringing the whole damned thing down. More clothes and shoe boxes tumbled over me as my claws sliced through the scarves fastened around her neck. I dragged her back into the bathroom and onto the floor. I jerked when I lay her against the cold foundation. Her sickly green pallor told me she was gone even before my quivering fingertips searched for a pulse that no longer beat.

I screamed for Shayna and Emme as I pounded on our sister’s chest. “Wake up, Taran! Wake up!” My arms grew weaker and heavier with every thrust. I don’t know how long I performed CPR before I realized Shayna wasn’t coming. Or Emme.

And that no one answered my calls.

I covered my mouth as I backed away from my dead sister, knocking over the ceramic tiles that scraped against my calves. With legs that more stumbled than walked, and a heart that had no business racing so fast, I lurched my way into the kitchen, where the smell of burning bacon beckoned me forward.

Chapter Nine

The tears welling in my eyes blurred my vision. At first I thought it was better that way. I didn’t want to see what awaited me. I didn’t want to feel it, either.

But I saw it. And I felt it. And it hurt so much more than I expected.

The knife Shayna used to dice the red peppers and onions into pretty little cubes stuck out from her sternum. Her left leg bent at a right angle against the bottom of the stove while the other extended to the opposite cabinet. She twitched as if seizing while bacon grease splattered on her face from the burning pan above. Blood squirted from her mouth as she slanted her head in my direction.

Jesus. She was still alive.

I rushed to her, slipping over the sea of scarlet flowing away from her thin frame. “Oh, God, Shayna!”

I held her body against me, causing the blood beneath her to saturate my hands and thighs as it poured. My sobs rolled out of me in one horrible wretch.

Shayna smiled—smiled, her lips and teeth soiled with her lifeline. Her hand slapped my face weakly. I gripped it against my cheek as if it could somehow keep her in this world. She shook her head. And that’s when I realized she didn’t want me to save her. She was saying good-bye. She knew nothing could help her now.

Except maybe Emme.

I bolted up the steps with Shayna in my arms, falling on my knees more than once on weedy legs. “Emme! Emme!”

I kicked opened the door and lay Shayna on Emme’s snow-white carpet. As I swayed toward her bed, I already knew what to expect. Yet it didn’t stop me from throwing back her dainty pink-and-rose-colored quilt.

Emme’s face seemed more angelic in death despite her pale lips, despite her slack mouth, despite her clouded eyes. I shook her limp form hard. “Don’t you leave! Your sister needs you. Your sister needs you!”

I shook her harder and harder, until my shakes turned into that gentle rocking my mother soothed us with as children. It always comforted Emme. Always. Would it comfort her now? My gulps and wails seemed to come from someone else, too loud, too desperate, too frail to be from me. “Why did you have to die, baby?” I asked as my grief soaked her face. “Don’t you know I need you, too?”

The babbling of secretions followed by one long hiss from Shayna’s mouth told me she was gone, too. And just like that my heart broke in one, two, three pieces. Symbolizing the loss of the only family I had left.

Numbness masked and eventually dried my sorrow. Slowly I let Emme slide back onto the bed. With the greatest of care, I arranged her perfect blond waves around her sweet face and closed her mouth and eyes. I kissed her forehead, just as I’d done when she was little and missed our mother’s touch. I straightened her legs and then positioned Shayna next to her with their hands touching.

They’d want to be together, I thought wearily. I tucked the quilt against their sides, not wanting them to be cold. Maybe Taran would want to be with them, too, I reasoned.

I stumbled down the steps, passing by the kitchen phone. I picked up the receiver and punched in some numbers, figuring I should call . . . someone. But the numbers didn’t make sense and formed strange symbols I couldn’t make out.

“I should do laundry,” I decided as an afterthought.

I gathered the dirty towels from every bathroom, confused why I felt so cold and why my hands continued to tremble. I thought I heard someone ask me a question, but that didn’t make sense.

They were all dead.

I dumped everything in the washer and turned the knob to start it. Time to clean the kitchen. I better clean the kitchen. The kitchen needs to be cleaned.

The part of me clinging to my sanity tried to slap me out of my shock. But the slap wasn’t hard enough to register, and I no longer cared . . . about anything.

The right side of my ribs banged into the countertop as I fumbled around the kitchen. The table appeared to hold the biggest mess, well, next to all the blood. Papers and receipts covered most of the surface, but it was the scroll the witches had left us that caught my attention.

I lifted the rolled up pieces to my nose and took a whiff, filtering through the other aromas fused into the thick paper until I found Larissa’s scent. My nose remembered it the moment my delicate senses reached it. She reeked of licorice and sunflowers, of all things. A unique blend. Too unique. Easy to find.

I tucked the parchment beneath my arm and I shoved my bare feet into a pair of sneakers Shayna had abandoned near the foyer. A laugh I hadn’t expected broke through my hoarse throat, mixing with the sniffles that continued to irritate my nose. Shayna wouldn’t need her ratty canvas shoes anymore, would she?

I sighed, staring back at the mess in my house. But it would have to wait. It wasn’t time to clean, or scrub, or tidy up.

It was time to hunt.

Chapter Ten

Protection. The last challenge. The one I catastrophically misinterpreted.

This whole damn thing had been about me, at least at first. Beast. I was one. Self. I fought me. Protection . . . I didn’t need to protect me. I needed to protect them. And I failed. God, had I failed.

My sweat-soaked palms slicked the steering wheel. I struggled to keep our Subaru on the road. My nerves wouldn’t allow me to focus, and my tigress could already taste Larissa’s blood.

I wiped my clammy cheeks and concentrated on the stretch of highway ahead. The last time I’d spoken to Danny, he’d mentioned that members of the clan supposedly gathered around Meeks Bay to practice making it rain this time of year. I hadn’t construed it as useful information then, but now it seemed helpful—valuable even. Perhaps one of the witches would lead me to Larissa if I asked politely.

Or not so politely.

If I thought about it, Meeks Bay provided the perfect location for a bewitching rendezvous during the winter months. In the summer, hordes of campers would rent out the surrounding cabins or spend the day lounging on the beach. In February, tourists were too busy skiing their way down the mountains of Squaw Valley. It should be deserted for the most part in winter. Good. I didn’t need an audience, not for what I planned to do.

The afternoon clouds shadowed the lake as I drove along 89, while birds hurried to return to their shelters as the heavy snowfall began. I wondered if Saint Peter would reunite me with my sisters tonight, or if he would find me unworthy of entrance into heaven. “Thou shall not kill, remember?” a voice reminded me. But did God make exceptions for those so sick with grief they could barely stay within the yellow lines?

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