Chapter Seven - The Cave

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"Peter, don't you think I'm a little too old for chocolate chip pancakes?" I giggled, taking a seat at the kitchen table anyway.

He gasped. "Never!" Flipping a couple of the pancakes onto a plate he slid towards me. "I know you love them, Al."

Okay he was totally right. I grinned, "You know me way too well."

"I know, kiddo." He shot me an affectionate look as he tugged gently on the end of my ponytail. "Don't tell your mom I said so but I think differing from college was a great idea."

My smile couldn't have gotten bigger. Mom was pretty disappointed when I decided to take a gap year. In her mind, I would have gotten a fantastic scholarship out of this town and moved onto great things with my life. I just didn't have it in me yet.

"Are you going to Kyle's for dinner tonight or should I expect you here?"

"Not sure yet." I bit a piece of the pancake off, loving the chocolate melting onto my tongue. He was a king in the kitchen. "I'll text you."

"Okay, just tell me as soon as you can. If you don't come I'm going to make lobster."

I grimaced. I hated almost all seafood. Except popcorn shrimp. That stuff was bomb.

He laughed. "Yeah, exactly. So let me know."

"Will do." I cleaned off my plate and dropped it into the sink. "Going to work now, bye." I gave him a quick kiss on the cheek before leaving.

***

I was locking up the studio for the night when I noticed a figure approaching me on the sidewalk. I slipped the keys into my jacket pocket and turned towards him. "Hey, Ricky." He hated when I called him that.

He rolled his eyes. "Hi, Alaska."

In the back of my mind, I remembered Kyle's suspicions of him. But I wasn't too concerned. He seemed harmless to me. Besides, it had been three weeks since Ireland and nothing major had happened. Maverick's family had come and gone a few times and now they were back for the weekend. "Whatchya doing out so late?"

"Taking a stroll." He shrugged. It was pretty chilly but he was a werewolf and they didn't tend to get cold. "Are you coming to Kyle's?"

"Yeah."

"Cool. I'll walk with you."

My car was getting an oil change so I didn't have much of a choice. "Sure." I fell into step with him. It was a little awkward. Neither of us spoke. I stared at my new combat boots. I'd bought them from Steve Madden. They cost a fortune but were totally worth it. "So, how's school?" I asked uncomfortably. He and I didn't usually spend one on one time together.

He scoffed. "It's lame." He took community college courses for marketing or real estate or something. I really didn't remember. "Can I ask you something?"

"Sure."

"Are you in love with Kyle?"

I frowned. Where was he going with this? "Yeah."

"How do you know?"

"Uh... I don't know. I just do. We've been together for so long it feels natural."

"But it's not."

"Excuse me?" I looked at him in alarm. Did he know about Jacobi? Or did he think Kyle had a mate? Or was he just against the idea of the two of us?

He stopped walking. We were standing at the outskirts of the public park now. The sun had faded long ago leaving behind a thick black sky. Parks weren't normally a popular location during this time of day. I tried to push the creepiness from my mind. It was only Maverick. "You don't belong with him."

"Why would you say that?" I frowned.

He took a step towards me. His brown eyes flashed gold. I blinked in confusion certain it had to be the reflection of a streetlight. But no... his eyes were actually glowing gold, like a pair of miniature halos.

He reached forward, grabbing my arms and tugging me towards his chest. His face was so close that I could feel his hot breath on my cheek. I looked away. "Maverick." I tried to take a step back but it was useless.

He bowed his head, the tip of his nose touching the cold skin of my neck. I shivered. "What are you doing?" I gulped. His mouth was against my neck in seconds. I struggled to break free but his hands dug into my arms, so deep that I gasped in pain. His nails broke through my coat and ripped into my flesh. They weren't human hands.

"Stop it!" I yelled in terror. My heart was ready to burst from my ribcage. "Maverick! Let me go!" Fresh tears spilled from my eyes, staining my frigid cheeks.

He emitted a ferocious growl from the base of his throat. I quivered in fear but his nails were buried so deep into my forearms I was afraid to move and hurt myself more. Warm blood was trickling down my arms. My vision slipped out of focus like a digital camera struggling to zero in on its subject. My knees wobbled.

He opened his mouth and I felt two sharp canines against the delicate curve of my neck. I couldn't keep myself from emitting a blood-curdling scream. The pain was excruciating. My eyes rolled behind my head and the world flipped to black like a light switch.

The pain wouldn't go away. My lungs struggled for oxygen but I couldn't open my mouth and swallow gallons of air like I wanted to. I felt like I was suffocating.

My whole body quivered before I finally lost the fight in me and collapsed.

***

The world was an eclipse. Dark, darker, dark, light, dark, darker... Glimpses of life passed me but I was a ghost in the world. I could hear voices, I could feel things. Like needles pricking my skin and warm touches on my arms, tender pecks on my cheeks and fingers brushing through my loose hair. I couldn't communicate with anyone. I wanted to scream because sometimes a very specific spot on my neck burned with such tremendous heat I thought I would combust into flames. Other times, the pain was bearable but my whole body felt numb. It was like I had to lose all feeling in the rest of me for that pain to dull.

"She won't wake up." Someone sobbed beside me.

"She will, son... give her time."

"She's only human."

"They're strong enough." A stern voice responded.

Voices faded away, pain rose again like rapid ocean waves. Slowly at first and then drowning me all at once. I wanted to open my mouth and cry out in pain but I couldn't. I was frozen and I wondered why I couldn't just die already. Nothing could be worse than this. Nothing.

"He's recovering..."

"Fuck. Him."

"Kyle, he's sick."

"I don't care! Look at what he did to her."

"Shh, she needs quiet, sweetheart."

Sobs were followed by a heavy weight on my arm.

The pain returned.

"Should we tell her parents?"

"No, she'll recover soon enough."

"What if she doesn't?"

"She will."

I felt like I was at the end of a deep cave and I was listening to the outside world from miles away. Wondering what was beyond. But I was stuck. When I was still in school I'd read this philosophy theory about humans tied to a chair inside a cave. They could only witness the world through shadows on the wall. I felt like one of those people. Experiencing life through shadows and darkness. Stiff, unmoving, and filled with pain. I was a philosophy theory.

I was fading into nothingness, even the voices surrounding me were starting to sound jumbled. Gibberish.

A loud bang brought my senses back to life.

"Where is my mate!?" 

---

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*ironically links 'the cave' by mumford & sons*

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