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Tue, 26 Mar GMT shiver maggie stiefvater pdf - Free download or read online. Shiver pdf (ePUB) book. The first edition of this novel was. The amazing, haunting Shiver trilogy is complete!shiverSam's not just a normal boy - he has a secret. During the summer he walks and talks as a human, but. the shiver. For Grace and Sam, love has always been kept at a distance. But once it's spoken, it cannot be denied. Sam must fight to stay human—and Grace.
It had been the longest, coldest winter of my life. Day after day under a pale, worthless sun. And the hunger—hunger that burned and gnawed, an insatiable master. That month nothing moved, the landscape frozen into a colorless diorama devoid of life. Until they found the girl. Until they attacked. They crouched around her, snarling and snapping, fighting to tear into the kill first.
I saw it. I saw their flanks shuddering with their eagerness. I saw muzzles smeared with red. The girl smelled warm, alive, human above all else. What was wrong with her? I could smell her blood, a warm, bright scent in this dead, cold world. I saw Salem jerk and tremble as he ripped at her clothing. She was so little underneath our wildness, the pack pressing against her, wanting to trade her life for ours.
With a snarl and a flash of teeth, I pushed forward. Salem growled back at me, but I was rangier than him, despite my starvation and youth.
Paul rumbled threateningly to back me up. I was next to her, and she was looking up at the endless sky with distant eyes. Maybe dead. I pushed my nose into her hand; the scent on her palm, all sugar and butter and salt, reminded me of another life. Then I saw her eyes. The girl looked right at me, eyes holding mine with such terrible honesty. Her eyes on my eyes. Her blood on my face. I was tearing apart, inside and outside. Her life. My life. The pack fell back from me, wary. They growled at me, no longer one of them, and they snarled over their prey.
And I stopped it. He stood at the edge of the woods in our backyard, his yellow eyes steady on me as I filled the bird feeder or took out the trash, but he never came close. In between day and night, a time that lasted forever in the long Minnesota winter, I would cling to the frozen tire swing until I felt his gaze. No threat. I was trying to speak his language. But no matter how long I waited, no matter how hard I tried to reach him, he would always melt into the undergrowth before I could cross the distance between us.
I was never afraid of him. He was large enough to tear me from my swing, strong enough to knock me down and drag me into the woods. I waited. And waited. It felt like I was the only one reaching out. But he was always there.
Watching me watching him. Never any closer to me, but never any farther away, either. I thought they were wolves. Only wolves. Even in the bookstore, which was air-conditioned, the heat crept in around the door and came in through the big picture windows in waves. Behind the counter, I slouched on my stool in the sun and sucked in the summer as if I could hold every drop of it inside of me.
As the hours crept by, the afternoon sunlight bleached all the books on the shelves to pale, gilded versions of themselves and warmed the paper and ink inside the covers so that the smell of unread words hung in the air.
This was what I loved, when I was human. I was reading when the door opened with a little ding, admitting a stifling rush of hot air and a group of girls. They were laughing too loudly to need my help, so I kept reading and let them jostle along the walls and talk about everything except books.
The action itself was insignificant, but the movement sent a gasp of scent into the air. I recognized that smell. I knew immediately. It was her. It had to be. I saw her face then, and I recognized something of myself in her expression. Her eyes flicked over the shelves, seeking possibilities for escape. She was so real here. It was different when she was in her backyard, just reading a book or scribbling homework in a notebook.
There, the distance between us was an impossible void; I felt all the reasons to stay away. There was nothing to stop me from talking to her. Her gaze headed in my direction, and I looked away hurriedly, down at my book. I had to believe she would recognize my eyes. I prayed for her to leave so I could breathe again. I prayed for her to download a book so I would have to talk to her. There was a certain tilt to her shoulders that seemed to indicate only polite interest; she nodded as they pointed to other books, but she seemed distracted.
I watched the way the sunlight streamed through the windows, catching the individual flyaway hairs in her ponytail and turning each one into a shimmering gold strand. Her head moved almost imperceptibly back and forth with the rhythm of the music playing overhead. Not Grace. One of the other girls, dark-haired and tanned. She had a huge camera slung over her shoulder and she was looking right into my eyes. Reactions to my eye color ranged from furtive glances to out-and-out staring; at least she was being honest about it.
I cast around for an excuse. It sounds like a very logical argument to me, so sorry, no pictures. My heart was pounding. I bagged the book and receipt slowly, thinking Grace might come over to see what was taking so long.
But she stayed in the biography section, head tipped to the side as she read the spines. The freckle girl took the bag and grinned at me and Olivia. Then they went to Grace and herded her toward the door. Turn around, Grace. Freckle girl opened the door—ding—and made an impatient sound to the rest of the herd: time to move along.
Olivia turned briefly, and her eyes found me again behind the counter. Olivia frowned and ducked out of the store. But Grace, the only person in the world I wanted to know me, just ran a wanting finger over the cover of one of the new hardcovers and walked out of the store without ever realizing I was there, right within reach. September of my junior year, when it happened, Jack was all anybody in our small town could talk about.
But when he was killed—instant sainthood. With a gruesome and sensational undertow, because of the way it had happened. The upshot was this: Everyone was terrified of the wolves now. Far be it from Mom to funnel her growing anxiety into something logical like spending more quality time with her only daughter, the one who had been attacked by wolves in the first place.
Instead, she just used it to become even more scatter-brained than usual. The news anchor looked insincerely sincere as a map of our county appeared next to a blurry photo of a wolf in the upper right corner of the screen.
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The hunt for the truth, he said, continued. She shook her head. Sure, there was the lean, sicklylooking brindle wolf who hung well back in the woods, only visible in the coldest of months. Everything about him—his dull scraggly coat, his notched ear, his one foul running eye— shouted an ill body, and the rolling whites of his wild eyes whispered of a diseased mind.
I remembered his teeth grazing my skin. I could imagine him attacking a human in the woods again. And there was the white she-wolf. She had a sort of savage, restless beauty to her; I could imagine her attacking a human, too.
But the rest of them? They were silent, beautiful ghosts in the woods. Summers without my wolf were bad enough. As a child, those months had seemed impossibly long, just time spent waiting for the wolves to reappear.
During those long months, I had imagined great adventures where I became a wolf by night and ran away with my wolf to a golden wood where it never snowed. Sighing, I pushed my math book across the kitchen table and joined Mom at the cutting board. Mom was permanently paint-spattered and absentminded. But seriously—I needed to get my homework done. Shoving the mutilated mushrooms into a bowl, I looked at the clock hanging on the bright yellow wall. Still an hour until Dad would be home from work.
I had plenty of time to make dinner and maybe, afterward, to try to catch a glimpse of my wolf. There was some sort of cut of beef in the fridge that was probably supposed to go with the mangled mushrooms. I pulled it out and slapped it on the cutting board. The whole thing just put me in a bad mood. The phone rang. I was glad to hear from her; she was the exact opposite of my mother—totally organized and great on followthrough.
She made me feel less like an alien. I shoved the phone between my ear and my shoulder and chopped the beef as I talked, saving a piece the size of my fist for later.
Talk about surreal, right? Olivia saw the world through her camera; half of my school memories seemed to be in four-by-six-inch glossy black-and-white form. Olivia will definitely want a piece of that hot asteroid action. Got a moment to talk? Just while I finish up dinner, then I have homework. Just a second then. Two words, baby, try them out: es. It sounded better in my head.
I so want to go somewhere. Anywhere but Mercy Falls. God, anywhere but Mercy Falls!
Will you and Olivia come over and help me pick something after school tomorrow? No matter how absent he was for the rest of the year, I always had my wolf for Christmas. Rachel groaned. I sort of belonged here.
Love ya. I hurried to get the pot of stew simmering on the stove so it could occupy itself without me. Grabbing my coat from the hooks on the wall, I pulled open the sliding door to the deck.
Cool air bit my cheeks and pinched at the tops of my ears, reminding me that summer was officially over. I squinted at the edge of the yard and stepped off the deck, trying to look nonchalant as I did. The piece of beef in my hand felt cold and slick. I crunched out across the brittle, colorless grass into the middle of the yard and stopped, momentarily dazzled by the violent pink of the sunset through the fluttering black leaves of the trees.
This stark landscape was a world away from the small, warm kitchen with its comforting smells of easy survival. Where I was supposed to belong. But the trees called to me, urging me to abandon what I knew and vanish into the oncoming night. It was a desire that had been tugging me with disconcerting frequency these days. The darkness at the edge of the wood shifted, and I saw my wolf standing beside a tree, nostrils sniffing toward the meat in my hand.
My relief at seeing him was cut short as he shifted his head, letting the yellow square of light from the sliding door fall across his face.
I could see now that his chin was crusted with old, dried blood. Days old. His nostrils worked; he could smell the bit of beef in my hand. Either the beef or the familiarity of my presence was enough to lure him a few steps out of the wood. Then a few steps more. I faced him, near enough that I could have reached out and touched his dazzling fur. Or brushed the deep red stain on his muzzle. I badly wanted that blood to be his. An old cut or scratch earned in a scuffle.
It looked like it belonged to someone else. He was as still as a statue, his eyes watching my face instead of the meat in my hand. Did you do it? And then, for the first time in six years, he closed his eyes.
It went against every natural instinct a wolf should have possessed. A lifetime of an unblinking gaze, and now he was frozen in almost-human grief, brilliant eyes closed, head ducked and tail lowered. It was the saddest thing I had ever seen. Slowly, barely moving, I approached him, afraid only of scaring him away, not of his scarletstained lips or the teeth they hid.
I crouched, dropping the meat onto the snow beside me. He flinched as it landed. I was close enough to smell the wild odor of his coat and feel the warmth of his breath. His outer coat was not soft as it looked, but beneath the coarse guard hairs was a layer of downy fluff. With a low groan, he pressed his head against me, eyes still closed. For a moment, I forgot where—who—I was.
Movement caught my eye: Far off, barely visible in the fading day, the white wolf was watching at the edge of the wood, her eyes burning.
I felt a rumble against my body and I realized my wolf was growling at her. The she-wolf stepped closer, uncommonly bold, and he twisted in my arms to face her. I flinched at the sound of his teeth snapping at her. She never growled, and somehow that was worse.
A wolf should have growled. But she just stared, eyes flicking from him to me, every aspect of her body language breathing hatred. Still rumbling, almost inaudible, my wolf pressed harder against me, forcing me back a step, then another, guiding me up to the deck. My feet found the steps and I retreated to the sliding door.
He remained at the bottom of the stairs until I pushed the door open and locked myself inside the house. Though my wolf was nearest to her and the most obvious threat for the food, it was me that her eyes found, on the other side of the glass door.
She held my gaze for a long moment before she slid into the woods like a spirit. My wolf hesitated by the edge of the woods, the dim porch light catching his eyes. He was still watching my silhouette through the door. I pressed my palm flat against the frigid glass. The distance between us had never felt so vast. It had taken six years for him to let me touch him. Hold him. I kept my mouth shut. In the front hall, Dad stomped in. His eyes looked tired behind his glasses, but he smiled.
Mom appeared in the yellow kitchen in two seconds flat. She was out of breath from running down the stairs—she never walked anywhere—and there was a streak of green paint on her cheekbone. Dad kissed her, avoiding the paint. She had a look on her face like she already knew what he was going to say. She danced into the kitchen, chanting some sort of nonsense song.
Well, except for dinner. They usually showed up for food. But that seemed unimportant in comparison to the promise of reliable transportation. My own car? I mean, one that runs? A car like that meant freedom. That night, I lay in my room, eyes squeezed firmly shut, trying to sleep. The world outside my window seemed silenced, as though it had snowed. It was too early for snow, but every sound seemed muffled. Too quiet. I held my breath and focused on the night, listening for movement in the still darkness.
I slowly became aware that faint clicks had broken the silence outside, pricking at my ears. It sounded for all the world like toenails on the deck outside my window.
Was a wolf on the deck? Maybe it was a raccoon. Then came more soft scrabbling, and a growl—definitely not a raccoon. The hairs rose on the back of my neck. Pulling my quilt around me like a cape, I climbed out of bed and padded across bare floorboards lit by half a moon. I lifted the blinds and looked out onto the deck. Perpendicular to my room, I could see that the yard was empty.
The stark black trunks of the trees jutted like a fence between me and the deeper forest beyond. Suddenly, a face appeared directly in front of mine, and I jumped with surprise.
The white wolf was on the other side of the glass, paws on the outside sill. She was close enough that I could see moisture caught in the banded hairs of her fur.
Her jewel-blue eyes glared into mine, challenging me to look away. A low growl rumbled through the glass, and I felt as if I could read meaning into it, as clearly as if it were written on the pane.
I stared back at her. Then, without thinking, I lifted my teeth into a snarl. The growl that escaped from me surprised both me and her, and she jumped down from the window. She cast a dark look over her shoulder at me and peed on the corner of the deck before loping into the woods. Biting my lip to erase the strange shape of the snarl, I picked up my sweater from the floor and crawled back into bed.
Shoving my pillow aside, I balled up the sweater to use instead. I fell asleep to the scent of my wolf. Pine needles, cold rain, earthy perfume, coarse bristles on my face. It was almost like he was there. It clung to me, a memory of another world. I was drunk with it, with the scent of her. My instincts warned against it. Especially when I remembered what had just happened to the boy.
The smell of summer on her skin, the half-recalled cadence of her voice, the sensation of her fingers on my fur. Every bit of me sang with the memory of her closeness. Too close. I snapped to attention, however, when Mrs. Ruminski led a policeman into the classroom and to the front of our Life Skills class. She left him alone at the front of the room, which I thought was pretty cruel, considering it was seventh period and most of us were restlessly anticipating escape. Maybe she thought that a member of law enforcement would be able to handle mere high school students.
Beneath a gun belt that bristled with holsters and pepper sprays and other assorted weaponry, he looked young. He glanced toward Mrs. Ruminski had told us that he was a graduate of our fine high school, but neither his name nor his face looked particularly familiar to me. Your teacher—Mrs. As usual, everything about Olivia looked neat and tidy: straight-A report card made flesh.
Her dark hair was plaited in a perfect French braid and her collared shirt was freshly pressed. You could never tell what Olivia was thinking by her mouth.
It was her eyes you had to look at. He was cute, but not my type. He looked very serious as he said it, frowning in a sort of serve-and-protect way. Officer William Koenig shot a look at us and rested a hand on his gun. I guess it was habit, but it looked like he was considering shooting us for whispering. Olivia disappeared into her seat and a few of the other girls giggled.
A hand whipped up. Is it true? Why would someone steal a body? For a suicide. Maybe the Culpepers stuffed Jack, too. Officer Koenig looked aghast at Mrs. Ruminski, who stood in the open door of the classroom. She regarded him solemnly and then turned to the class.
She turned back to Officer Koenig. Ruminski said. But being dead had done wonders for his reputation. And just what those tempers looked like. Mercy Falls was all about rumors, and the rumor on Jack was that he got his short fuse from his dad. It seemed like you ought to pick the sort of person you would be, no matter what your parents were like. Ruminski added, gesturing to the sea of black in the classroom. This is about giving closure to a close-knit community. Officer Koenig crossed his arms over his chest; it made him look petulant, like a little kid being forced to do something.
Elizabeth waved her hand again. Do you get lots of calls about them? My mom said you got lots of calls about them. Ruminski, but he should have figured out by now that she wanted to know just as much as Elizabeth did. I—and the rest of the department—feel this was an isolated incident. I bit the inside of my lip. Not because the attention bothered me, but because every time someone remembered I was dragged from my tire swing, they remembered it could happen to anyone. And I wondered how many someones it would take before they decided to go after the wolves.
To go after my wolf. In between that and his checkered history at the school, it felt hypocritical to go into public mourning along with the rest of the school. And it might have been dogs. Who was going to contradict me? Panic leads to carelessness, and carelessness creates accidents. I felt a vague kinship with humorless Officer Koenig as he steered the conversation back to careers in law enforcement.
After class was over, the other students started talking about Jack again, but Olivia and I escaped to our lockers. I felt a tug on my hair and turned to see Rachel standing behind me, looking mournfully at both of us. Step-freak has demanded a family bonding trip to Duluth.
Can we get together tomorrow or something? It still felt weird to ask. In middle school, she and Rachel and I had hung out every day, a wordless ongoing agreement. Somehow it had sort of changed after Rachel got her first boyfriend, leaving Olivia and me behind, the geek and the disinterested, and fracturing our easy friendship.
She pinched my elbow. She drove a white SUV and had one of those handbag Chihuahuas that she dressed to match her outfits. At the moment, Isabel was staring into her locker as if it contained other worlds. I looked away quickly, but I still felt her eyes on me. Olivia opened the door for me.
To Olivia, photography was a religion; she worshipped her camera and studied the techniques as if they were rules to live by. Seeing her photos, I was almost willing to become a believer, too. She made you feel as though you were right there in the scene. What is wrong with you? Taking a bite of scone, she spoke around a mouthful, covering her mouth to keep from spraying me with crumbs.
We should order pizza sometime. Other than your James Dean poster. For a long time we sat in silence, paging through her photos. I lingered on a close-up shot of me, Olivia, and Rachel together; her mother had come outside to take it right before school started.
Like always, she was the glue that held our threesome together: the outgoing one who made sure us quiet ones stuck together through the years. In the photo, Olivia seemed to belong in the summer, with her olive skin bronzed and green eyes saturated with color.
Her teeth made a perfect crescent moon smile for the photo, dimples and all. Next to the two of them, I was the embodiment of winter—dark blonde hair and serious brown eyes, a summer girl faded by cold. I used to think Olivia and I were so similar, both introverts permanently buried in books. But now I realized my seclusion was self-inflicted and Olivia was just painfully shy.
This year, it felt like the more time we spent together, the harder it was to stay friends. And you look angry. I liked it. You look like a princess and I look like an ogre.
She does look insane. Or at least highly caffeinated, as per usual. Really, Rachel looked like a sun, bright and exuding energy, holding us two moons in parallel orbit by the sheer force of her will. It was my wolf, deep in the woods, halfway hidden behind a tree. In fact, keep the whole stack. We can put the good ones in a book next time. I pointed at the picture. I stared at the photo of him—breathtaking, but flat and inadequate in comparison to the real thing.
Something knotted in my chest, bitter and sad. Something had changed—and I thought it was me. They were impressive: a fall leaf floating on a puddle, students reflected in the windows of a school bus, an artfully smudgy black-and-white self-portrait of Olivia. I oohed and aahed and then slid the photo of my wolf back on top of them to look at it again. Olivia made a sort of irritated sound in the back of her throat.
I hurriedly shuffled back to the one of the leaf floating on the puddle. I frowned at it for a moment, trying to imagine the sort of thing Mom would say about a piece of art. Did she want me to pretend to like the other photos better than the one of my wolf? Anyone home? He grinned at me from the front hall, shutting the door behind him.
He was handsome in a very conventional way: tall, dark-haired like his sister, but with a face quick to smile and befriend. We like doing nothing together. All talk, no action. Are your parents home? I should get a head of household bonus on my taxes. I shut up. You coming, Grace? I shook my head. Rain check? Come on, Olive.
Bye, good-looking. Just go. The crashing of my own steps through fallen leaves and tangled brush drowned out any other sounds. I hesitated, listening. The voice was gone, replaced by just a whimper, distinctly animalsounding, and then by silence. The relative safety of the backyard was far behind me now.
I stood for a long moment, listening for any indication of where the first scream had come from. But there was nothing but silence. And in that silence, the smell of the woods seeped under my skin and reminded me of him. Crushed pine needles and wet earth and wood smoke. I retreated to the house, just long enough to get my shoes, and headed back out into the cool autumn day.
There was a bite behind the breeze that promised winter, but the sun shone bright, and under the shelter of the trees, the air was warm with the memory of hot days not so long ago. All around me, leaves were dying gorgeously in red and orange; crows cawed to each other overhead in a vibrant, ugly soundtrack. I stepped carefully, avoiding the little streams that snaked through the underbrush.
This should have been unfamiliar territory, but I felt confident, assured. Silently guided, as though by a weird sixth sense, I followed the same worn paths that the wolves used over and over again. It was just me, acknowledging that there was more to my senses than I normally let on.
I gave in to them and they became efficient, sharpened. As it reached me, the breeze seemed to carry the information of a stack of maps, telling me which animals had traveled where and how long ago. My ears picked up faint sounds that before had gone unnoticed: I felt like I was home. The woods rang with an unfamiliar cry, out of place in this world. The whimper came again, louder than before.
Rounding a pine tree, I came upon the source: It was the white wolf and the black pack leader; the sight of the she-wolf made my stomach twist with nerves. The two of them had pounced on a third wolf, a scraggly young male with an almost-blue tint to his gray coat and an ugly, healing wound on his shoulder. The other two wolves were pinning him to the leafy ground in a show of dominance; they all froze when they saw me.
The pinned male twisted his head to stare at me, eyes entreating. My heart thudded in my chest. I knew those eyes. I remembered them from school; I remembered them from the local news. The pinned wolf whistled pitifully through his nostrils.
I just kept staring at those eyes. Did wolves have hazel eyes? Maybe they did. Why did they look so wrong? As I stared at them, that one word just kept singing through my head: With a snarl in my direction, the she-wolf let him up. She snapped at his side, pushing him away from me. Her eyes were on me the entire time, daring me to stop her, and something in me told me that maybe I should have tried. But by the time my thoughts stopped spinning and I remembered the pocketknife in my jeans, the three wolves were already dark smudges in the distant trees.
I could have been misremembering his eyes. What was I thinking, anyway? I let out a deep breath. Actually, that was what I was thinking.
Or his voice. There was a knot in my stomach. That night I lay in bed and stared at the window, my blinds pulled up so I could see the night sky. One thousand brilliant stars punched holes in my consciousness, pricking me with longing. I could stare at the stars for hours, their infinite number and depth pulling me into a part of myself that I ignored during the day. Outside, deep in the woods, I heard a long, keening wail, and then another, as the wolves began to howl. More voices pitched in, some low and mournful, others high and short, an eerie and beautiful chorus.
My heart ached inside me, torn between wanting them to stop and wishing they would go on forever. I imagined myself there among them in the golden wood, watching them tilt their heads back and howl underneath a sky of endless stars. Or can I leave it here? She was wearing reading glasses, complete with a chain on the ear pieces so that she could hang them around her neck.
On Olivia, the look kind of worked, in a sort of charming librarian way. Behind us, the hall hummed with noise as students packed up and headed home. And now the day was over. I took a deep breath. Even inside my head, the words sounded crazy. But since the evening before, the secret had surrounded me, tight around my chest and throat.
I let the words spill out, my voice low. The new wolf—I think something happened when the wolves attacked Jack. Her knotted eyebrows were making me regret starting the conversation. I sighed. It was his voice. Wait—what do you mean? About me wanting to believe it? The whole pack? It was impossible. That those long absences were because my wolf vanished into human form?
The idea was immediately unbearable, only because I wanted it to be true so badly that it hurt. What in the world would we call something like that? Oh, yeah! An obsession! Just not like all-consuming, involving, whatever, interested. I wanted to walk away and leave her standing there in the hallway.
Instead, I kept my voice super flat and even. Thanks for the help. Instead of heading home, I trailed back into my empty homeroom, flopped into a chair, and put my head in my hands. She owed it to me to at least hear me out. My thoughts were cut short by the sound of cork heels squelching into the room. The scent of expensive perfume hit me a second before I lifted my eyes to Isabel Culpeper standing over my desk.
The sympathy conjured up by her presence vanished at her words. You must not have heard the newsflash: Those animals killed my brother.
If Olivia thought I was crazy for believing in werewolves, Isabel would probably be on the phone to the local mental institution before I could even finish a sentence.
Well, obviously they are. Tom Culpeper and his stuffed animals. I imagined my wolf, stuffed and glassy-eyed. I knew the wolves had done it. She just looked at me for a long moment. Long enough for me to wonder what it was she was thinking.
They killed him. But you know what? For a single moment, I sat at the desk, my cheeks burning, pulling her words apart and putting them back together again. And then I jumped from my chair, my notes fluttering to the floor like listless birds. I left them where they fell and ran for my car. I shoved my key in the ignition, feeling the car rattle reluctantly to life as I did. My eyes were on the yellow line of school buses waiting at the curb and the knots of loud students still milling on the sidewalk, but my brain was picturing the chalkwhite lines of the birches behind my house.
Was a hunting party going after the wolves? Hunting them now? I had to get home. My car stalled, my foot uncertain on the dodgy clutch. I bit my lip, pulled myself together, and managed to restart. There were two ways to get home from the school. One was shorter but involved stoplights and stop signs—impossible today, when I was too distracted to baby my car.
The other route was slightly longer, but with only two stop signs. Plus, it ran along the edge of Boundary Wood, where the wolves lived. As I drove, pushing my car as hard as I dared, my stomach twisted, sick with nerves. The engine gave an unhealthy shudder.
I checked the dials; the engine was starting to overheat. Stupid car. If only my father had taken me to the dealership like he kept promising he would.
As the sky began to burn brilliantly red on the horizon, turning the thin clouds to streaks of blood above the trees, my heart thumped in my ears, and my skin felt tingly, electric. Everything inside me screamed that something was wrong. Up ahead, I spotted a line of pickup trucks parked by the side of the road. Their four-ways blinked in the failing light, sporadically illuminating the woods next to the road. My stomach turned over again, and as I eased off the gas, my car gasped and stalled, leaving me coasting in an eerie quiet.
I turned the key, but between my jittery hands and the redlining heat sensor, the engine just shuddered under the hood without turning over. Growling under my breath, I braked and let the car drift to a stop behind the pickup trucks.
What I was worried about was those trucks. Because they meant that Isabel had been telling the truth. As I climbed out onto the shoulder of the road, I recognized the guy standing next to the pickup ahead. It was Officer Koenig, out of uniform, drumming his fingers on the hood. When I got closer, my stomach still churning, he looked up and his fingers stilled. He was wearing a bright orange cap and held a shotgun in the crook of his arm.
I turned abruptly at the sound of a car door slamming behind me. Another truck had pulled up, and two orangecapped hunters were making their way down the side of the road. I looked past them, to where they were heading, and my breath caught in my throat. Dozens of hunters were knotted on the shoulder, all carrying rifles, visibly restless, voices muffled.
Squinting into the dim trees beyond a shallow ditch, I could see more orange caps dotting the woods, infesting them. The hunt had already begun. I turned back to Koenig and pointed at the gun he held. Cheers rose from the group down the road.
But I knew what it was. It was a gunshot. In Boundary Wood. My voice was steady, which surprised me. The wolves.
My wolf. In my head, I saw a perfect image of a wolf rolling, rolling, a gaping hole in its side, eyes dead. The words just came out. You have to call them and tell them to stop. I have a friend in there! She was going to take photos this afternoon. In the woods. Please, you have to call them! Are you sure?
Call them! Pulling his cell phone from his pocket, he punched a quick number and held the phone to his ear. His eyebrows made a straight, hard line, and after a second, he pulled the phone away and stared at the screen. I stood by the pickup truck, my arms crossed over my chest as cold seeped into me, watching the gray dusk take over the road as the sun disappeared behind the trees.
Surely they had to stop when it got dark. Staring at his phone again, Koenig shook his head. Hold on. Let me lock my gun up. It will only take a second. I jumped the ditch and scrambled up into the trees, leaving Koenig behind. I heard him calling after me, but I was already well into the woods.
I had to stop them—warn my wolf—do something.
We were silent, dark drops of water, rushing over brambles and around the trees as the men drove us before them. The woods I knew, the woods that protected me, were punched through by their sharp odors and their shouts. I scrambled here and there amongst the other wolves, guiding and following, keeping us together.
The fallen trees and underbrush felt unfamiliar beneath my feet; I kept from stumbling by flying—long, endless leaps, barely touching the ground.
It was terrifying to not know where I was. We traded simple images amongst ourselves in our wordless, futile language: A crack deafened me, shook me out of balance. Beside me, I heard a whimper.
I knew which wolf it was without turning my head. There was no time to stop; nothing to do even if I had. A new smell hit my nostrils: The lake. They were driving us to the lake. I formed a clear image in my head at the same time that Paul, the pack leader, did. The slow, rippling edge of the water, thin pines growing sparsely in the poor soil, the lake stretching forever in both directions.
A pack of wolves, huddled on the shore. No escape. We were the hunted. We slid before them, ghosts in the woods, and we fell, whether or not we fought. The others kept running, toward the lake. But I stopped. These were close woods made of a thousand dark tree trunks turned black by dusk. I was completely disoriented; I had to keep stopping to listen for shouts and faraway footsteps through the dry leaves. My breath was burning my throat by the time I saw the first orange cap, glowing distantly out of the twilight.
And then I saw the others—orange dots scattered through the woods, all moving slowly, relentlessly, in the same direction. Making a lot of noise. Driving the wolves ahead of them. I was close enough to see the outline of the nearest hunter, shotgun in his hands. I closed the distance between us, my legs protesting, stumbling a little because I was tired. He stopped walking and turned, surprised, waiting until I approached.
I had to get very close to see his face; it was so close to night in these trees. Seconds ticked by as I struggled to find my voice. I have a friend in the woods here. She was going to take photographs. I saw a black box at his waist—a walkie-talkie. How would they see her? He reached for his walkie-talkie and unstrapped it and lifted it up and brought it toward his mouth. It felt like he was doing everything in slow motion. The hunter clicked the button down on the walkie-talkie to speak.
And suddenly a volley of shots snapped and snarled, not far away.
Not little pops, like they were from the roadside, but crackling fireworks, unmistakably gunshots. My ears rang. In a weird way, I felt totally objective, like I was standing outside my own body. So I could feel that my knees were weak and trembling without knowing why, and I heard my heartbeat racing inside me, and I saw red trickling down behind my eyes, like a dream of crimson.
Like a viciously clear nightmare of death. There was such a convincing metallic taste in my mouth that I touched my lips, expecting blood.
But there was nothing. No pain. Just the absence of feeling. There are people with guns here. On the edge of the woods. The house was invisible behind a black tangle of trees. Koenig seized upon this bit of information. Ralph, use that thing to tell them to stop shooting things. The cold air was beginning to bite and prickle on my cheeks, the evening getting cold quickly as the sun disappeared. I felt as frozen on the inside as I was on the outside.
I could still see the curtain of red falling over my eyes and hear the crackling gunfire. I was so sure that my wolf had been there. At the edge of the woods, I stopped, looking at the dark glass of the back door on the deck. For a long moment, I stood in the silent twilight, listening to the faraway voices in the woods and the wind rattling the dry leaves in the trees above me.
The rustling of animals in the woods, turning over crisp leaves with their paws. The distant roar of trucks on the highway. The sound of fast, ragged breathing. I froze. I held my breath. I followed the sound, climbing cautiously onto the deck, painfully aware of the sound of each stair sighing beneath my weight. I smelled him before I saw him, my heart instantly revving up into high gear. Then the motion detector light above the back door clicked on and flooded the porch with yellow light.
And there he was, half sitting, half lying against the glass back door. My breath caught painfully in my throat as I moved still closer, hesitant. His beautiful ruff was gone and he was naked, but I knew it was my wolf even before he opened his eyes. Red was smeared from his ear to his desperately human shoulders—deadly war paint. Not like this. The breeze carried the smell to my nostrils again, grounding me. I was wasting time. I pulled out my keys and reached over the top of him to open the back door.
Too late, I saw one of his hands reach out, snatching air, and he crashed inside the open door, leaving a smear of red on the glass. Stepping over him, I hurried into the kitchen, hitting light switches as I did. I ran back to the door. He lay half in and half out, shaking violently. Without thinking, I grabbed him under his armpits and dragged him far enough inside that I could shut the door. In the light of the breakfast area, blood smearing a path across the floor, he seemed tremendously real.
I crouched swiftly. My voice was barely a whisper. His knuckles were white where his hand was pressed against his neck, brilliant red leaking around his fingers. It was him. Human words, not a howl, but the timbre was the same. There was too much blood to see the wound, so I just pressed one of the dishcloths over the mess of red that stretched from his chin to his collarbone. It was well beyond my first-aid abilities.
The wildness was tempered with a comprehension that had been absent before. My words were gentle, as though he might still leap up and run. It was already soaked through with his blood, and a thin red trail ran along his jaw and dripped to the floor. Lowering himself slowly to the floor, he laid his cheek against the wood, his breath clouding the shiny finish.
I have to take you to the hospital. I had to lean very close to hear his voice. I was a leaking womb bulging with the promise of conscious thoughts: The future and the past, both the same, snow and then summer and then snow again. I wanted to answer, but I was broken. He had that sort of moptop black hair and interestingly shaped nose that a girl could never get away with.
He looked nothing like a wolf, but everything like my wolf. Sunny smiled pityingly at me. I kept waiting to feel sleepy, but I was wired. Every time I saw him it was like another jolt.
Midnight was early for them. For the bullet to just graze him? Why he was in the woods? He was. A hunter accidentally shot him. I was pretty confident it was no accident. Sunny clucked. Grace, are you his girlfriend? Sunny took it as a yes. I almost laughed. I stared at them, but they were like words in a foreign language.
They meant nothing to me. I shrugged. It was some insane hunter. Let me know if you need anything.
Face flushed, I shook my head and stared at my white-knuckled grip on the bed. Of all my pet peeves, condescending adults were probably at the top of the list. It took a long moment of staring at him for my pulse to return to normal.
Logic told me to read his eyes as hazel, but really, they were still yellow, and they were definitely fixed on me. My voice came out a lot quieter than I meant it to. He narrowed his eyes. Sam reached his hand toward mine, and I automatically put my fingers in his. With a guilty little smile, he pulled my hand toward his nose and took a sniff, and then another one.
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His smile widened, though it was still shy. It was absolutely adorable, and my breath got caught somewhere in my throat. I feel stupid for not remembering. It takes a couple hours for me—for my brain—to come back. He wanted me to say it.
He blinked. Warm makes me me. Makes me Sam. When I opened my eyes and spoke, I said the most mundane thing possible. I opened my eyes. He was still there. I tried again, closing and then opening them once more. But he was still there. He laughed. Maybe you should be in this bed. I spared him from his mortification by answering his question.
He peeled away the gauze to reveal four new stitches dotting a short line through old scar tissue. There was no fresh wound still oozing blood, no evidence of the gunshot except for the pink, shiny scar. My jaw dropped. Sam smiled, clearly pleased by my reaction. There are some perks to being me.
How I was taking the fact of his existence. I let my hand linger on his neck for slightly longer than necessary, not on the scar, but on the smooth, wolf-scented skin beside it. So obviously you need to leave before they look at it. Which is true. Well, the insurance part. I pointed to his wrists.
He rubbed a thumb over one of his wrists, thoughtful. Dad did the other one. My head whirled, my heartbeat crashed in my ears, and I hit the sticky linoleum floor hard. Then a male nurse was kneeling beside me, helping me sit up.
I closed my eyes and opened them again, until the nurse had one head instead of three heads floating side by side. Then I began to lie. I thought his hand was slightly too close to my boob for casual contact, and that fact steeled my resolve to follow through with the humiliating plan that had just popped into my head.
This was almost as bad as if I was telling the truth. His embarrassment at my condition was probably sharpened by his earlier flirtatious smile. The nurse vanished behind the curtains. You seriously owe me. As the cuff dropped to the bed, he ripped off his gown and replaced it with the scrubs top. The monitor squealed in protest, flatlining and announcing his death to the staff.
As he paused, quickly taking in the room around us, I heard nurses rustling into his curtained area behind us. Sam reached out and grabbed my hand, the most natural thing in the world, and pulled me into the bright light of the hall. The tilt of his head told me what he was listening to, and the lift of his chin hinted of the scents he was gathering.
Agile despite his lanky, loose-jointed build, he cut a deft path through the clutter until we were crossing the general lobby. At this time of night, the lobby was empty, without even a receptionist at the desk. The eternally pragmatic corner of my mind reminded me that I needed to call the tow company to get my own car off the side of the road.
My wolf was a cute guy and he was holding my hand. I could die happy. He held back, eyes fixed on the darkness that pressed against the glass door. Why—will it make that much of a difference? I hate this time of year. I could be either. Wincing at the blast of cold night air, Sam backed away from the door, wrapping his arms around himself.
But even as he shuddered with the cold, he bit his lip and gave me a hesitant smile. I turned toward the dark parking lot, feeling more alive and more happy and more afraid than I ever had before.
I rolled in my bed toward where he lay on the floor, a dark bundle curled in a nest of blankets and pillows. His presence, so strange and wonderful, seemed to fill the room and press against me.
It arced through the moonlit room, a blackened projectile, and thumped harmlessly by my head. What do you want to know? I could hear the interest in his voice, sense the tension in his body, even across the room. I knew what was happening. The pack circled around me, tongues and teeth, growls and jerks.
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One wolf stood back, icedecked ruff bristling all along his neck, quivering as he watched me in the snow. Lying in the cold, under a white sky going dark, I kept my eyes on him. He was beautiful: And he gave off a scent the same as the other wolves around me—rich, feral, musky.
Even now, as he lay in my room, I could smell the wolf on him, though he was wearing scrubs and a new skin. Outside, I heard a low, keening howl, and then another.
My heart quickened, sick with abstract longing, and on the floor, I heard Sam give a low whimper. The miserable sound, caught halfway between human and wolf, distracted me.
Sam climbed from his makeshift bed and stood by the window, an unfamiliar silhouette against the night, his arms clutched around his lanky body. It makes me feel—sick. Just come up here. I trust you to behave.
And to not hog the sheets. In the dim light, I could just make out his mournful expression as he regarded the forbidden territory of the bed. Finally, he climbed in. The bed creaked under his weight, and he winced before settling on the very far edge of it, not even under the blanket.
I could smell the faint wolf scent better now, and I sighed with a strange contentedness.
He sighed, too. Formal, considering he was lying in my bed. Here I was with a shapeshifting boy in my bed. Not just any shape-shifting boy, but my wolf. I kept reliving the memory of the deck light clicking to life, revealing him for the first time. A weird combination of excitement and nervousness tingled through me. Sam turned his head to look at me, as though my thrill of nerves had sent up a flare.
I could see his eyes glinting in the dim light, a few feet away. A wolf, Sam, dragged the body from the circle of wolves. He carried it through the trees on two legs that left human footprints in the snow. He closed his eyes, miles away on the other side of the bed. For a moment, I lay still, blinking, trying to determine what had woken me. Here, lying next to the girl who had rescued me, my simple humanity felt like a triumph.
I rolled onto my side and for a while, I just watched her sleep, long, even breaths that moved the flyaway hairs by her face. In slumber, she seemed utterly certain of her safety, utterly unconcerned by my presence beside her.
That felt like a subtle victory, too. When I heard her father get up, I lay perfectly still, heart beating fast and silent, ready to leap from the edge of the mattress in case he came to wake her for school. But he left for work in a cloud of juniper-scented aftershave that billowed toward me from under the door. Her mother left soon after, noisily dropping something in the kitchen and swearing in a pleasant voice as she shut the door behind her.
But the door stayed shut. I hesitated on the back deck, looking at the frost-tipped blades of grass. I could almost feel the nausea of the change rolling over in my stomach. Sam, I told myself, willing my body to believe. I needed to be warmer; I retreated inside to find a coat. Damn this weather.
What had happened to summer? In an overstuffed closet that smelled of stale memories and mothballs, I found a puffy, bright blue jacket that made me look like a blimp and ventured out into the backyard with more confidence. Despite the chilly air that made ghosts of my breath, the woods were beautiful this time of year, all bold primary colors: Details I never noticed as a wolf. Normally, I could hear the industrial symphony of cars and trucks on the distant highway and detect the size and speed of each vehicle.
But now all I could smell was the smokiness of autumn, its burning leaves and half-dead trees, and all I could hear was the low, barely audible hum of traffic far in the distance. But not now. She was nearly on top of me when I got the feeling that something was close. The tiny hairs on my neck stood at attention, and I had the uneasy sense that I was sharing my breath with someone else.
I turned and saw her, big for a female, white coat ordinary and yellowish in this full daylight. She seemed to have survived the hunt without so much as a scratch. Ears slightly back, she observed my ridiculous apparel with a cocked head. I clung to my humanity—and to my obsession with Grace—like a drowning man, but Shelby welcomed the forgetting that came with her lupine skin.
Of course, she had plenty of reasons to forget. Now, in these September woods, we regarded each other. I found myself remembering the sensation of dried leaves beneath my paws and the sharp, rich, slumber-heavy scent of these autumn woods when I was a wolf.
I closed my eyes, shutting out the vividness of her gaze and the memory of my wolf body, and instead thought of Grace, back at the house.
I immediately turned this thought over in my head, creating lyrics. In the second it took me to compose the lyric and imagine the guitar riff that would go with it, Shelby had vanished into the woods, soft as a whisper. That she could disappear with the same silent stealth as she had arrived reminded me of my vulnerable state, and I clumped hurriedly to the shed where my clothing was stashed.
Years ago, Beck and I had dragged the old shed, piece by piece, from his backyard to a small clearing deep in the woods. Inside were a space heater, a boat battery, and several plastic bins with names written on the sides. I opened the bin marked with my name and pulled out the stuffed backpack inside. The other bins were loaded with food and blankets and spare batteries—equipment for holing up in this shack, waiting for other pack members to change—but mine contained supplies for escape.
As I shut the shed door behind me, I caught dark movement out of the corner of my eye. I doubted he even knew me now: To him, I was just another human in these woods, despite my vaguely familiar scent. The knowledge prickled a kind of regret somewhere in the back of my throat. I knew my own remaining shifts were numbered, too. And this year? I thought of how frigid it had been when Grace knelt over me, pressing a cloth to my neck.
The brilliant colors of the brittle leaves all around the shed mocked me then, evidence that a year had lived and died without my being aware of it. I knew with sudden, chilling certainty that this was my last year.
To meet Grace only now seemed like an intensely cruel twist of fate. Admit it. I wanted so badly to see her again, this iron-willed ghost that had haunted my years in the woods. But I was afraid, too, of how seeing her face-to-face in damning daylight might change things.
Anyone might have saved me. Today, I wanted more than saving. But what if I was just a freak to her? Where is my son? What have you done with him? Grace called again in her room, barely above a whisper, wondering where I was. I pushed open her door and looked around her room. Framed photographs of trees on the walls, all matching black frames with no frills. Matching black furniture, all very square and useful looking. Her towel and washcloth tidily folded on top of the dresser next to another clock—black-and-white, all smooth lines—and a stack of library books, mostly narrative nonfiction and mysteries, judging by the titles.
Probably alphabetized or organized according to length. I was suddenly struck by how dissimilar we were. Grace sat up, her hair frizzy on one side and flat against her head on the other, her dark eyes filled with open delight. You have clothes. I mean, instead of scrubs. I got an award for it last year. And a free pizza or something. I turned away. She grinned at my lie and pulled some jeans from the closet floor. I listened to the rustling sounds she made as she pulled on her clothing, my heart pounding a million miles an hour.
I sighed, guilty, unable to contain the lie. Telling you I saw you naked while I was another species does not help my case. I could smell her nervousness, faintly wafting from her skin, and could hear the fast beat of her heart carried through the mattress to my ear. It would have been so easy for my lips to span the inches between our mouths.
I thought I could hear the hope in her heartbeat: She giggled quietly; it was a terribly cute noise, and also completely at odds with how I normally thought of her. Or brunch, I guess.
I was acutely aware of her hands on my back, pushing me through the bedroom door. Together we padded softly out into the kitchen. Sunlight, too bright, blared in the glass door to the deck, reflecting off the white counter and tile in the kitchen, covering us both with white light. Because of my previous exploration, I knew where things were, so I started to take out supplies.
As I moved about the kitchen, Grace shadowed me, her fingers finding my elbow and her palm brushing along my back, finding excuses to touch me.
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It was as though I had never changed, as though I still gazed at her from the woods and she still sat on her tire swing and watched me with admiring eyes. Grace laughed. Not when I had a thousand thoughts competing for space in my head at the same moment.
That I hope you know how to cook eggs. She whirled away and pulled the blinds, instantly changing the mood in the kitchen. I turned back to the scrambled eggs and tipped them onto a plate just as the toast popped out of the toaster. I reached for it at the same time as Grace, and it was just one of those perfect movie moments where the hands touch and you know the characters are going to kiss.
Only this time it was my arms somehow accidentally circling her, pinning her against the counter as I reached for the toast, and bracing against the edge of the fridge as I leaned forward. I kissed her. Just the barest brush of my lips against hers, nothing animal.
Even in that moment, I deconstructed the kiss: Grace smiled at me. Her words were taunting, but her voice was gentle. Her fingers ran through my sideburns and into my hair before linking around my neck, alive and cool on my warm skin. I was wild and tame and pulled into shreds and crushed into being all at once. For once in my life, I was here and nowhere else.
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And then I opened my eyes and it was just Grace and me—nothing anywhere but Grace and me—she pressing her lips together as though she were keeping my kiss inside her, and me, holding this moment that was as fragile as a bird in my hands. A hundred little pieces of different color and mood that, when combined, create a complete picture. The last twenty-four hours had been like that.
The night at the hospital was one pane, sickly green and flickering. Then the cold blue reminder of my other life this morning, and finally the brilliant, clear pane that was our kiss. In the current pane, we sat on the worn bench seat of an old Bronco at the edge of a rundown, overgrown car lot on the outskirts of town. It felt good. You know, car shopping usually involves…shopping. I was beginning to see how very Grace such a statement was. She narrowed her eyes at me in mock irritation and crossed her arms over her chest.
Better not be anything embarrassing. I felt like this was the first question: My pulse raced, a wordless answer. I felt my throat tighten in anticipation of her reply, but, mercifully, she changed her line of questioning. I had to struggle to remember that night—her fingers in my ruff, her breath moving the fine hairs on the side of my face, the guilty pleasure of being so close to her.
The boy. The one who was bitten. That was what she was really asking. Part of me felt a little sad that she had to ask, but of course she did. She had every reason not to trust me. My human brain supplied logical answers—rabbit, deer, roadkill—all of them instantly stronger than my actual wolf memories. The blood. But it was obvious her mind was still on Jack.
I tried to remember what little I knew of the attack, hating for her to think badly of my pack. Nothing complicated.Reactions to my eye color ranged from furtive glances to out-and-out staring; at least she was being honest about it. The girl looked right at me, eyes holding mine with such terrible honesty.
His yellow eyes looked into mine while the other wolves jerked me this way and that. After class was over, the other students started talking about Jack again, but Olivia and I escaped to our lockers. The growl that escaped from me surprised both me and her, and she jumped down from the window.
Better not be anything embarrassing. And to have had only that thought, each day, was heaven. Two words, baby, try them out: es. There was this one girl my eyes kept finding for some reason, skin stark white against her black tank top. I thought my part in this particular episode was definitely over, so I left them behind in the kitchen.