Mortal Defiance (Dark Betrayal Trilogy #2)

Chapter 4

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Shannon leaned forward and black spread around the edges of her eyes. “You think I’m a whore? Your little friend was begging Tristan to bite her. She was all over him, pleading for him to touch her.”

Ree jumped to her feet and was vaguely aware that the walls of the restroom were starting to rattle. A tile fell from next to her shoulder to shatter near her foot. She took a step toward Shannon, adrenaline making the air in the room feel electric. “Don’t you dare talk about Claire.”

“She was lucky. Tristan doesn’t take just anybody. I don’t know why he wanted someone pathetic like her.” Shannon’s voice was dropping into the deep croak Ree had heard the night they had all been at the concert. “She got to feel his fangs in her throat, his hands on her body. That little bitch died happy.”

Green energy flared out of Ree’s body, knocking Shannon to the ground. A dark trickle of blood ran out of Shannon’s nose, the black in her eyes faded away to nothing but shock. As Ree moved forward, the other girl skittered backward on the floor. A pipe under the sink behind Shannon snapped, spitting water along the floor with a loud gushing sound. The dim lights flickered angrily, casting twisted shadows along the walls.

“Don’t ever talk about her. Do you hear me? Do. Not. Talk. About. Claire. Again.”

“Ree!”

Ree was jerked back to reality by the sound of her friend’s voice. She let go of the power and felt like the floor moved underneath her feet. She looked from Shannon to Melanie, and then at the mess in the bathroom, but for once she didn’t care if anyone saw it.

Chapter 6

“Get out of here.” Melanie snarled at Shannon, showing her fangs. “Before I let her finish what you started.”

Shannon stood up and slowly brushed the dirt off her skirt. Grabbing a paper towel, she wiped the blood off her upper lip and sneered at Ree before throwing the paper towel in the trashcan and waltzing to the door. “This isn’t over, bitch.”

The room began to vibrate and the lights flickered again as Ree took a step toward Shannon. “I hope not.”

Shannon’s eyes tightened, but she pushed out of the door without saying anything else.

“Holy crap, Ree. What happened?” Melanie looked around the bathroom and whistled. “This looks like when you first called the power on Sanctus Island.”

Still too angry to respond, Ree shook her head. She looked around the bathroom and assessed the damage. Some of the tiles from the walls had fallen off, shattering on the floor. The broken pipe under the sink was quickly flooding the bathroom and there was a crack in one of the mirrors that she hadn’t noticed before.

“Well, we need to get you out of here. I’ll run by the office and tell them a pipe broke in the bathroom. You get an excuse from the nurse and I’ll meet you in the lobby.” Melanie looked at her friend and Ree nodded her head.

“I need my bag from the classroom, but I don’t trust myself to see Shannon again.”

“I’ll get it on the way to the office.” Melanie held open the door to the bathroom and Ree stepped out. “Do me a favor and stay calm. When I walked in there your eyes were glowing and your feet were almost two inches off the floor. I don’t know when you picked up that trick, but I don’t want to see the faces of the staff if you do it in front of them.”

“I was floating?” Ree looked at Melanie with wide eyes. She remembered feeling like the floor had moved under her feet when she let go of the power. “Wow.”

“You find out you can float and all you say is wow?” Rolling her eyes, Melanie chuckled and headed down the hall. “I’ll meet you near the front entrance in a few minutes.”

Looking down at her feet, Ree shrugged to herself. So, I can float. After everything else that’s happened, is that really something that should surprise me?

Deciding she shouldn’t waste any more time, she headed down the long hallway. It was lined with the traditional lockers—a blue-and-green-painted travesty of cold metal that clashed horribly with the dingy white floor tiles. Everything glowed a sick, muted yellow that was cast down from the old overhead lights. She got to the nurse’s station, which was located near the secretary’s office at the front of the school, pretty quickly. Ree opened the door and was greeted by an older woman sitting at a desk that was entirely too large for the small room. The curtain behind the nurse was half-open, announcing no one else had given up on the school day in less than an hour.

“Can I help you, dear?” Nurse Ward looked up from the book she was reading and peered at Ree over the edge of her reading glasses.

“Yes, ma’am. I need a note to go home.” Ree looked down at her blue shoes and hoped it looked like she was sick.

“Home? It’s barely nine o’clock!” The older woman set her book down on the desk, stood up, and motioned for Ree to follow her behind the curtain. “What’s wrong?”

“Um, I have a headache. And I’m nauseated.” Ree sat on the old hospital cot and let the nurse stick a thermometer in her mouth.

Nurse Ward grabbed her wrist and checked her watch as she counted Ree’s pulse. “What’s your name, dear?”

“Frhee McfKennuh,” Ree mumbled around the thermometer.

“You’re the McKenna girl?”

“Fhyes,” Ree said. The thermometer beeped and the nurse pulled it out of Ree’s mouth and checked the numbers.

“Well, no fever. But, that doesn’t surprise me. Maybe it’s nerves?” The older woman sat on the cot next to Ree and patted her shoulder. “I know you had a really bad weekend.”

“You do?” Suspicion clouded Ree’s voice, making the nurse laugh.

“Yes, dear. Whenever something like a death happens, the administrators receive notes to alert us to the students that may have been affected.” She patted Ree’s shoulder one more time before standing up and walking to her desk. She jotted something down on a notepad before ripping it off and handing it the younger girl. “I think you just need a little more time to deal with everything. Stress can do terrible things to a body.”

Looking at the note, Ree almost sighed in relief. It excused her from school for the rest of the week. “Thank you.”

“Don’t thank me, sweetheart. You’ve had a rough time of it. Go home and rest. Throw on some comfy clothes and watch a good movie.” She smiled at Ree. “Have someone pick up your assignments so you don’t fall too far behind. Do you have a ride, or should I call your mother?”

“Um, please don’t call my mom. I have a way to get home.”

“Okay, dear. Now, shoo. Get some rest.” She gently pushed Ree toward the door.

“I meant to tell you when I first got here, but there’s a broken pipe in the girls’ room near Mr. Tomasino’s classroom.”

“Drat this weather. It hasn’t been this cold in twenty years!” She grabbed the walkie-talkie off her desk and pointed at the door. “Go on, now. I’ll take care of the pipe. You worry about relaxing.”

Ree stepped out of the office and closed the door gently behind her. She wasn’t surprised to see Roland leaning against the wall between the clinic and the secretary’s office. However, she was surprised when he grabbed her shoulder and turned her toward him, his eyes searching her face and body to make sure she wasn’t hurt.

“Are you okay?” He held her left arm out and pushed her sleeve up.

“I’m fine!” She snatched her arm back, well aware he had let it go, otherwise she wouldn’t have been able to break his hold. Pushing her sleeve down, she raised her eyes to his and tried to ignore the worry that clouded the usual sapphire.

“What happened? I could feel you using the power somewhere in the school.”

“Shannon is in my first class.” Ree started walking toward the entrance where she was supposed to meet Melanie.

“The darkling?” He matched her stride, his eyes never leaving her face.

“Yes.” Ree didn’t say anything else, hoping he would drop the matter.

“I see.” He was quiet as they neared the door. After a moment he asked, “And did you put her in her place?”

Ree looked up at him and couldn’t help the twitch at the corners of her mouth. “Something like that.”

“That’s my girl.” He threw a friendly arm around her shoulders and squeezed gently.

Ree looked down at the floor, hoping he didn’t notice her blush. They walked the rest of the way to the door with his arm around her shoulders. She couldn’t think of a polite way to get rid of it. The worst part was that she was happy to have him so close. There was a comfortable familiarity to his touch, the way he formed his words and the little dip between his eyebrows when he was concerned. It didn’t help she could feel a little echo of the happiness he was obviously trying to contain.

“Roland, I think we need to talk.”

“Not right now, Ree. Let me enjoy the moment a little longer, okay?” He looked down at her, his face so sincere and open it made her heart stutter.

“Okay.”

He sighed in relief and pulled her a little closer. The soothing scent of leather, eucalyptus, and mint filled Ree’s nose. It was comforting in a way that she didn’t understand, but she decided to worry about it another time.

“Ree?” Confusion laced Melanie’s tone. Roland let his arm drop and they turned toward her, Ree’s heart dropping when she saw Paden was with Melanie. His expression was dark as he stared at Roland, his hands clenched at his sides.

“Hey, Paden. What are you doing out of class?” Ree’s voice was a little too upbeat.

“I went to check on you when I felt you use the power and ran into Mel at your classroom.” He moved close to Ree, his eyes traveling over her much the same way Roland’s had. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. Shannon wanted to have a heart-to-heart.” Surprise and pleasure warred with guilt when he reached out to touch her cheek. The simmering anger Roland exuded was palpable. Paden tilted her chin and looked into her eyes; once he was satisfied with whatever he saw there he took a step back.

Wanting to diffuse the tension, Ree looked at Melanie and hoped her cheeks weren’t a bright red. “Are you ready to go?”

“Yep.” She held up Ree’s backpack. “Got an excuse from Mrs. Ward, too.” She held up a piece of paper similar to the one the nurse gave Ree.

“You think of everything,” Ree said with a smile of relief. She had worried about Mel ditching school.

“You’re leaving?” Paden stuck his hands in his pockets.

“Yeah, I can’t deal with Shannon. I’ll tell you about it later, okay?” Ree slid her backpack onto one shoulder and stepped closer to Melanie.

“Did you want to come too?” Melanie looked at Paden and Roland with a halfhearted smile. Apparently she didn’t want to be stuck playing moderator between the two guys, either. Paden looked upset about Ree leaving without him, but shook his head no.

“And mess up the girl time? Nah. Besides, I have some things to do.” Pulling a cell phone out of his pocket, Roland tossed it to Ree. “This is yours. Sophie wanted to make sure you had one on you at all times.”

“Uh, thanks. I can—”

“Ree, it isn’t like we have to pay for it. Our wealthy benefactors take care of stuff like this. Just take it. Download a bunch of ring tones and games or something.” Roland rolled his eyes. He turned and looked at Melanie, his stance shifting, the open expression becoming a little more businesslike. “Where are you guys going?”

“I was going to let Ree decide. We could go hang out at my house. Gram is there,” Melanie responded.

“Sophie is at the shop. You guys could head over there.”

“That’s a good idea. Sophie still has a lot of questions to answer.” Ree hitched her bag over her shoulder. “Maybe we can grab a coffee, too. That run-in with Shannon wore me out.”

“How about I pick you up from the shop after school, Ree?” Paden asked. Roland scowled at him, but didn’t say anything.

“Uh, yeah. If Mel doesn’t mind.”

“Nah. I’ll see you later anyways. I get to patrol tonight.” Melanie grabbed her arm and pulled her toward the door. “Now, let’s get out of here before someone asks what we’re doing.” She waved at the boys with her free hand. Ree smiled over her shoulder at the two guys, watching them leave. After they exited the doors, Melanie let go of her arm and mimed wiping sweat off her forehead.

“Good grief. The tension was going to kill me!”

Ree couldn’t have agreed more. “Let’s get outta here.”

Chapter 7

After grabbing a peppermint mocha from the coffee shop near Sophie’s, the girls crossed the street and pushed through the heavy door. The tinkling sound of a small bell accompanied their entrance and brought Sophie from the back of the shop.

“Hi, girls.” She set down the lamp she was carrying and wiped her hands on her jeans. “Giving up on school already?” She smiled and motioned for them to follow her into the back.

“Well, you know. Too cool and all that.” Ree threw her bag down in the corner and collapsed onto one of the overstuffed chairs. Taking a big sip of her warm drink, she leaned her head back on the armrest and draped her legs over the opposite side. Closing her eyes for a moment, she let herself relax. The dusty smell of the shop and the sunlight streaming in through the back windows combined to fill Ree with a peaceful feeling. With her eyes still closed, she listened to Mel and Sophie talk about the shop and the gentle sound of classical music drifting in from the storefront.

“Yeah, when I got to the bathroom Ree was floating in front of Shannon like an avenging angel. I didn’t know she could do that and apparently she didn’t either.” Mel was sitting backward in the desk chair, her arms propped on the backrest. “I’m pretty sure Shannon was a minute away from pooping her pants.”

Opening her eyes, Ree snorted and looked at Sophie. Despite being amused by Melanie, she was curious what Sophie had to say about the floating. The Greek woman’s expression was almost unreadable, which made Ree sit up in the chair. Could this be a bad thing? Or was the older woman trying to cover her own shock?

“Has this happened before, Ree?”

Ree almost said no, but something sparked her memory and she thought about the time she had fallen out of the tree on the island. Somehow she had managed to use the power to catch herself mere inches from the ground. Had she somehow used the power to float herself? Had she created a shield that kept her from hitting the pebble streaked ground? Her eyes rose to her friends and she cleared her throat.

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