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With cross charm, p.18
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       With Cross & Charm, p.18

           D.L. Miles
 

  Chapter 17

  I awake to the smell of Chai tea and something else familiar but unrecognizable. It was woodsy but light, an odd combination. I scrunched my eyes, and heard someone say, “She’s waking up.”

  “Willa?” Dad calls. “Willa, are you okay?”

  I finally manage to open my eyes, and Dad is standing over me. He looks concerned, with a furrowed brow and deep lines beside his eyes. Guilt strikes again—hard.

  “What happened?” I mumble, having difficulty finding my voice. My head is pounding.

  “You passed out at the top of the stairs,” he says, “and almost gave me a heart attack.” He looks behind him at someone else, but I can’t see who it is. “Could you get her some water?”

  My bedroom door creaks as someone leaves without saying anything. Struggling to lean up, I push Dad away a bit. “I’m fine,” I tell him, “I guess I was just really tired.”

  “I think you should go to the hospital,” he argues, “just to be safe. You did hit your head.”

  “It’s just a scrape,” I say. “What time is it?”

  “Just past ten,” he tells me. He sighs and runs his hands over his face. “I’m just glad you’re okay.”

  I nod. “Who was at the door earlier?” That feeling of hope inside me isn’t going away, and I think I have it because Ithinara is gone. I give her a moment to argue with me, to mock me and tell me that I’m completely wrong but there’s only my own thoughts in my head. It’s nice.

  “Your boyfriend came by to see how you were doing after detention today,” he says with a frown. “The detention you never mentioned. Tomorrow we’re going to have a nice long talk about it.” He sighs. “For now I’m just glad you’re okay.”

  Of all the things he says, I’m most confused about the word “boyfriend”. I ask him who he means, and he looks confused now.

  “Who do you think I mean?” he questions.

  “Don’t tell me you forgot about me already,” a voice says. My door creaks open and my heart begins to pound.

  Cain Steele. Completely alive and grinning at me. As if nothing had even happened.

  I can feel the blood draining from my face, but nobody else notices. Dad only stands and takes the glass of water from Cain to hand to me. I take it without much thought, and almost drop it as I set it on my nightstand.

  “Can I talk to her alone a moment?” Cain requests.

  “Door open,” my dad says. There’s no way he would leave me alone in my room with a boy, especially when that boy is Cain.

  The boy I killed hours earlier.

  But Dad walks out of my room, almost like a zombie. I watch Cain as he leaves, and as soon as he’s gone Cain shuts the door. I can’t find words to ask any questions.

  “You look puzzled,” Cain says. “I guess that’s because the last time you saw me you were jamming a Victorian knife into my esophagus. Understandable.”

  I suck in a breath. “How—?”

  He arches one eyebrow and sits in front of me. I want to crawl away and forward at once. I can feel something dangerous within him, but I want to touch him just to make sure he’s there. My hand reaches out with its own will and gently presses against his cheek.

  He leans into it, and I jerk away. “You don’t have to be afraid of me.”

  “You’re dead,” I state.

  “Do I look dead to you?”

  “You did.”

  Cain smiles. “You’re cute, you know, for a Walcott.”

  I inch backwards. “How do you know my mother’s maiden name?”

  He sighs, but seems like he’s faking it. I know he’s enjoying my confusion, I just don’t know why.

  He’s clean from head to toe, not a drop of blood or dirt or even rain on him. Just like crashing the car, I have one memory but reality is proving different.

  “Have you ever looked at my eyes?” he asks, facing away from me. He peers around my room curiously, pretending to be more interested in it. I know he isn’t.

  “Your eyes?” I repeat.

  “Yeah,” he goes on, “they’re a shade of bluish-grey that people relate to hurricanes; humans were always so poetic. They’ve told me that my whole life but for the past few years I’ve been hearing it more. They’re electric and captivating, but they aren’t my true eyes.”

  He faces me, eyes shut. “Do you want to see my true eyes?” As he reveals them to me I almost scream. But Cain stops me by shoving his hand over my mouth. I’m pinned against the wall, staring into his eyes.

  They’re not right, much like mine weren’t. The iris is too long, and the blue is too vibrant now. His brow almost seems to curve down in anger, yet he wears a smile. I can’t blink, can’t even dare to block him from my vision.

  “Don’t scream,” he orders, “if you scream then Daddy comes running, and if Daddy comes running, Daddy dies.” I nod to let him know I understand. I can’t stop nodding.

  His hand pulls away. “Good.”

  “Ithinara what are you doing?” I ask. “Why are you in Cain?”

  He laughs. “Don’t be ridiculous, and don’t ever think I’m that low-class of a demon. I’ll use your terms, to make it easier to understand.” He shoots me a wink.

  “You’re not Ithinara,” I say.

  “Nope.”

  “Who are you then…and why are you in Cain?”

  “I’ve always been in Cain,” he explains, “at least for a while now. In fact, I’ve been in him so long, you’ve never met Cain.”

  I gasp. He gives me a moment to process that, or maybe he’s just reveling in my fear. After I come to terms with everything that’s happened between me and—and who I thought was Cain, I ask, “Who are you then?”

  He squints his eyes. “Is that what you really want to know? How long was Ithinara inside of you, telling you to do things you didn’t want to do? You don’t have any questions about her?”

  I shake my head. “I knew what she wanted; she wanted me to kill you—or Cain.” Maybe it wasn’t Cain she wanted dead at all, but the demon. I remember jamming the knife into Cain’s throat—this things throat, and wonder why Ithinara left so quickly.

  She had to know it wouldn’t kill him.

  The demon rolls his eyes. “My name is Vetis, if you really need to know.”

  “Vetis,” I say, voice somehow controlled. It didn’t quiver or give away to how fast my heart was beating. I clutch the blankets closer to me, knowing I’m not going to get away from Cain—Vetis easily. I do not have any crosses nearby to protect myself from him, or any holy water either like Beth would.

  My phone begins to ring loudly, making me jump.

  Vetis stands with a grace he never showed before. His eyes drift lazily to the phone on my dresser. He says, “You should get that; it might teach you something about me.”

  I don’t understand what he means, but he leaves without saying anything else. I am able to breathe, but hurry to the door while my phone continues to sing. Cain leaves without harming Dad.

  As soon as my phone stops ringing it begins again, and this time I check the ID to see who it is. Beth. Of course.

  I answer, having more questions than ever.

  I don’t get a single word out, her crying is too loud and obvious. “W-W-Willa,” she sobs.

  “Beth? What’s wrong?”

  “The boy they found on Hollow’s W-Way,”—her voice breaks in another sob—“it-it was Joe. Joey’s dead, Willa. He was murdered.”

  I listen as the phone smashes against the hardwood floors of her dining room. Feet shuffle, and Delilah comes on.

  “Are you busy?” she asks. “I think you should come over to Beth’s. God…I can’t believe someone would…would do that.”

  I can, I think.

  “Delilah,” I whisper. I look out my bedroom door and only see the hallway, but it’s like Vetis has left a taint there. It still feels like he is in the room with me. I shudder to think that it
was him that kissed me and toyed with me all those times I was with Cain. “I think I know who did it.”

 
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