Chapter Twelve

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Tommy

Bridge had cuddled up into one corner of the couch, a blanket over her legs as she watched a holiday movie on the tiny, old television set in front of her. The shack hadn't been used for some time and was dusty as well as horribly small, but it would do for the night. Along with the couch, there was a chair and coffee table, some old mugs, and a few cans of beans in the cupboards over the gas stove in the far corner. I felt like I was being suffocated in the space, but at the same time was grateful for its presence. It wasn't well known, by those living or dead, and off the beaten path. With any luck, we would leave in the morning and be completely fine.

"Do you remember that year when Uncle Hal came over and spilled hot chocolate all over the brand new entertainment center and Mom almost lost her shit?" Bridge smiled as she spoke, her head resting on the arm of the couch.

"I do." Laughing, I left the small window I'd been staring out of and sat beside her, wishing desperately to hold her in my arms. I'd been more free with my emotions around her lately, which I shouldn't have done, but I wanted to tell her how I felt. She'd never brought us up again after I told her we didn't need to discuss it. However, it had proved to be more difficult than I thought not to tell her every time I saw her how much I loved and admired her. Spending time with her while she was aware of my existence was completely different from being with her as an unknown spirit. When she looked at me now, I knew she was really seeing me. It was thrilling, to say the least.

"She was so upset," she continued, adjusting herself so she could sit up better beside me. "And he thought it was so funny."

"Yeah. Uncle Hal was kind of a jerk, wasn't he?"

"He was." The smile on her face was so intoxicating. I felt like I was addicted to it, always watching for its next appearance so I could have another hit.

We watched the movie in silence for a while, my hands aching to touch her, but I stopped myself. I had more control than an animal. I could wait for her to be ready, even if that meant nothing ever happened.

"Are there angels?" she asked toward the end of the movie. "Do you know?"

"I've never met one," I offered, resisting the urge to sigh as she scooted closer and laid her head on my shoulder. "But it's not impossible. There are lots of creatures in this world. Angels are considered creatures of light, I would think, so they wouldn't be here with us."

"Creatures of the dark." She didn't say it with loathing or despair. It was simply a phrase, something she turned around in her mouth as she thought. "How can someone so kind and loving be thought of as dark and evil?"

"I'm sorry?"

"You," she said in surprise, lifting her head and looking at me. "You're one of the best people I've ever met, yet you were lumped in with all of these other things and labeled bad. I don't understand it." Her eyes were burning into mine, her fingers wrapping around my own as she changed her position again to better talk with me.

"You think I'm one of the best people you've ever met?" I asked, stunned. "Why?"

"How could you not be?" she countered. "You're honest and kind, you live by what you believe, and you keep your promises. I've never met anyone who made me feel as safe as you do."

I didn't know what to say. Staring at her, eyes wide, it was as if I could feel the dynamic between us shifting. She seemed uncertain, hesitating as if she felt it, too.

"I love you, Bridge," I said suddenly, wanting her to know. "Still. Always."

"I know." Her eyes went to my lips, darting back to my own gaze as she leaned in, the smell of her engulfing me. "And I think . . . maybe . . . I love you."

My heart stopped at her words and I released her hands, grabbing her face and pulling it toward my own. I didn't want the kiss to be rushed, though, slowing just before our lips met.

A howl broke the air and we froze, barely centimeters from kissing, eyes wide with fear. The sound had been right outside, as if the wolf were on our very doorstep.

"Tommy," she whispered, fear oozing from her.

"Shhh. Wait here." Carefully, I disentangled myself from her, loathing the fact that I had to let her go now, and went to the window, peering outside.

The door burst open in that moment, the wolf bearing down on me, and Bridge screamed, drawing its attention.

"Run, Bridge!" I yelled, throwing myself on top of the furry mountain and hanging on for dear life as I tried to wrestle it. She hesitated, clearly wanting to help me, but not knowing what to do. "Go, now!" I yelled again. "I'll be fine!"

She darted through the door without any further prompt, disappearing into the night as her appearance spell wore off again.

Using all the strength I had, I held the wolf back, grunting as he thrashed and growled, trying to get to me. If I could give Bridge just a few minutes head start, she might get away . . .

A sharp pain shot through my arm, teeth sinking into me, and I shouted, caught off guard. The wolf wasn't done yet, though, shaking me around until I had no hold on him at all and tearing my arm up. I saw it all as if I weren't even in my body any more, despite the pain and terror ripping through me. Finally, it released my arm, backing away with a growl. He looked angry that Bridge had gotten away.

"I'd tell you to bite me, but you already have," I said in a very Bridge-like fashion.

With another howl, the wolf leapt at me, knocking me backward and I knew no more.

****

Wincing, I rolled over, fighting the urge to be sick. What happened? I felt like I was getting ready to empty everything I'd ever eaten out of my stomach. Gingerly, I tried to push myself up, gasping as pain shot through my arm.

It came back slowly, the sunlight shining right in my eyes through the window. Bridge. The wolf.

Bridge!

Struggling to my feet, I promptly bent over and threw up, my vision swimming from the force of it. Of course; I'd been bitten by the werewolf. While the venom wouldn't change me or kill me, it would make me the most sick I'd ever been.

I don't have time for this! I thought angrily, wiping my mouth. I have to get to Bridge! Stumbling to the door, I stepped out into the light, filling with dread. As soon as I left this clearing, I wouldn't have a body any more. There was nothing I could do, even if I did find them.

It was like a flashback, to the moment I'd felt her life slip from her and I wasn't there. Helpless. Too late. Worthless.

"No!" I said aloud to myself. "I'm not useless! And I won't let her be alone again!" I was growling by that point, tripping down the steps and onto the dirt, head pounding.

Her footprints were still visible, that was good. If the wolf had caught up to her, there would be plenty of tracks to follow. All I needed was someone who could do the fighting for me when we found her.

Hurrying the best I could, I left the clearing, shuddering as I became no more than a spirit. The pain from my arm dissipated then, but I was still sick from the bite.

Please, God, I thought as I flew through the trees. Please let me be in time.



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