"What?" His gaze cut to Burnett and Kylie and then back to Holiday. Disbelief filled his eyes and rolled off of him in waves. "Hannah's dead?"
Kylie tried to listen to his heartbeat, but not being vampire anymore, all she could do was read his emotions. They came off sincere, but could she trust that?
"Answer me, damn it!" Holiday slammed her palms down on his chest. Her emotions were a whole bag of raw pain, betrayal at its worst.
Burnett moved to Holiday's side and gently pulled her back, but his eyes were bright green and on Blake with warning.
Blake exhaled, his frustration sounding in the released air. "You are so biting on the wrong vampire! This is meritless."
"Not so meritless," Holiday said. "She told me you were furious with her when she told you that she planned on telling me the truth."
"Of course I was furious. We were getting married. I loved you. She told me if I showed up at my own wedding, she'd stop the ceremony."
"Did you kill her?" Holiday demanded, her anguish filling the air Kylie breathed.
Blake stared at Holiday, hurt radiating from him. "Of all the people in the world, you know me better than that. Do you really think I could murder Hannah?"
"What I think doesn't mean shit," Holiday seethed. "I didn't think you'd sleep with my sister, but you did."
"We were drunk and ... I'd just started dating you. It was a damn mistake. And then the next thing I know, I'm in love with you. I'm still in love with you. And yes, I wanted to tell you then, but I was scared. At first, Hannah acted as if it never happened, so I convinced myself-"
"That you could get away with it?" Tears pooled in Holiday's eyes.
"No, I convinced myself that one mistake wasn't enough to stop two people who loved each other from finding happiness."
"That's enough." Burnett walked over and grabbed Blake by the arm. "You're coming with me."
Blake pulled away and the two men stared each other right in the eyes.
"Not yet." Holiday looked at Burnett. "I want to talk to him."
"You did," Burnett countered.
"Alone. I want to talk to him alone," she said.
Burnett's body turned into one knotted muscle. Jealousy oozed from his pores. "He's a suspected serial killer, Holiday, who illegally entered Shadow Falls. I need to get him to the FRU office."
"Serial killer?" Blake's eyes turned defensive. "I didn't harm Hannah or anyone else."
"That's what they all say," Burnett clipped, and reached for Blake again. The man moved back, his eyes growing hot.
"What's wrong?" Blake baited Burnett. "Worried she might still feel something for me?"
Holiday moved in and rested her hand on Burnett's arm and spoke with honesty. "Burnett has no reason to worry. I want the truth from you, Blake, that's all. And then I want you to climb right back under whatever rock you've been hiding under." She motioned with a firm hand for Burnett and Kylie to leave.
Burnett's body language and emotions said what he thought of that idea. But something told Kylie that Holiday needed this time alone with Blake, and Burnett needed to give it to her.
Kylie touched Burnett's arm, felt the warmth flow from her touch, and saw his expression soften. He looked back at Holiday right before he walked out. Kylie looked at Blake. And right then, her gut told her that he wasn't Hannah's killer.
But if it wasn't him, who was it? Then Kylie again remembered Hannah saying the killer was here. Here at Shadow Falls. Kylie couldn't help but think again of Hayden Yates. It didn't even matter that Burnett's check had come back clean; she didn't trust that guy. And by God, she wasn't going to lower her guard where he was concerned, either.
Burnett didn't move more than a foot away from the door. Kylie figured he was listening to every word spoken in the other room. For Holiday's safety, of course, so it wasn't really an evasion of privacy. At least that's what Kylie wanted to believe.
She couldn't hear the conversation, and as slightly uncomfortable as it made her listening in on private conversations, her own need to protect Holiday had her wishing she could.
"Was Blake telling the truth?" Kylie asked, wondering if the emotions she'd read from Blake were as telling as his heartbeat.
Burnett glanced over at her. "About what?"
"About not killing Hannah?"
"It doesn't matter," he said gruffly, and looked back at the door.
"Doesn't it?" she asked.
He shook his head. "The heart can lie. People, evil people with no conscience, have no problem lying."
Kylie remembered Della telling her that in the beginning. But as much as Kylie wanted to believe Blake was their man, what she'd felt from him wasn't evil. "For what it's worth, his emotions felt real."
"You mean when he said he still loved her?" Burnett's jealousy practically bounded out of him and bounced off the walls.
Kylie swallowed. "I meant his shock about Hannah being dead, but ... that, too."
Burnett closed his eyes and pressed a hand against the door.
"But just as real were Holiday's sentiments when she said all she wanted from him was the truth. She doesn't love him, Burnett."
He looked back at Kylie, sadness radiating from his eyes. "She used to."
"Is that important?"
"It is when that's what stopping her from letting anyone else get close," he said. There was a pause, and then as if to change the subject, he said, "I don't agree with Holiday's decision on removing your shadows."
"I know," Kylie said. "But tell me this-how would you take having someone shadow you all the time?"
She heard him swallow and felt his emotional answer. He wouldn't have accepted being shadowed for a single day.
All of a sudden, the room turned cold. Ghost-visiting cold. Then Hannah appeared beside Burnett; her presence came with a thick swarm of panic. "He's here! He's here! You've gotta stop him! He's going to try to kill her," she screamed at Burnett.
"Who's here?" Kylie asked.
Burnett didn't wait for an answer. He bolted through Holiday's door, without bothering to open it. Ripped off the hinges, the door landed with a loud thud on the floor. He walked across the splintered wood and faced Blake.
Door removed, Kylie watched the scene from the outer room.
Blake, already on his feet, stared at Burnett with fury.
Holiday, still sitting at her desk, wore an expression of shock. She shot up from her desk chair, showing how slow fae reaction time was to that of a vampire.
Burnett, both his hands fisted at his sides, spoke to Blake. "Either you come the easy way, or the hard way." His threat rang with honesty. "I don't care which."
Kylie's gaze shifted to the spirit. Hannah stood frozen, gaping at the scene playing out. An ugly brown aura surrounded her. While deceased, there was plenty of emotion lingering beneath the icy chill of death. Kylie picked up one emotion loud and clear. Shame-big, heaping mounds of shame. Then she felt the spirit's surprise. Oddly, Hannah's initial panic and fear had faded.
Something didn't feel right. It was almost as if Hannah hadn't known Blake was here, and if she hadn't known Blake was here, how could he be the one causing her panic? "Did Blake do this?" Kylie asked Hannah in a hurried breath. No answer. "Hannah?" Kylie said her name again. Then the ghost faded.
"What's going on?" Holiday asked Burnett again, and Kylie's gaze locked on the three people in the room.
Blake looked back at Holiday. "I didn't do this. I probably don't deserve another chance with you, but I don't deserve this." He turned to Burnett. "I'll go with you, I'll answer your questions, but if you lay a hand on me, I'll kill you."
And from the man's emotions clouding the air, his threat rang with as much sincerity as Burnett's.
It had been a lazy Sunday afternoon with a lot of frustration floating in the air. Miranda was frustrated because there was a new shape-shifter ogling Perry. Holiday was frustrated because ... well, as if losing her sister the first time hadn't been bad enough, now her spirit hadn't shown back up. Burnett was frustrated because he couldn't find one thread of evidence against Blake. Therefore he couldn't hold him.
Kylie was frustrated over the whole disaster that was her life.
The only one not in a pissy mood was Della, and Kylie, even being an emotion-reading fae, wasn't sure what mood Della was in, but it felt wrong. The girl was following Kylie around like a lost puppy.
Even now, pulling up her e-mail, Kylie felt Della standing over her shoulder. Kylie turned around and frowned. "What?"
"What, what?" Della asked.
"You're reading over my shoulder. You're not even my shadow now."
"I'm not shadowing you. And I didn't know your e-mail was so private," Della said.
Right then, Kylie got a huge sense of anxiety, coupled with a sense of sadness, and then anger from the vamp. Della's emotions were dancing all over the place.
"What's up with you?" Kylie asked.
"Not a damn thing." Della dropped into a kitchen chair.
Kylie shifted her gaze back to her e-mail and clicked to check mail. No new e-mails. Nothing from ...
"You're hoping to get something from your grandfather, aren't you?" Della asked.
Kylie looked back again. "Maybe. Why?"
Della frowned. "You're going to go live with him, aren't you? You're gonna leave Shadow Falls."
The question cut like a knife in Kylie's chest. How could she explain to Della that leaving was the last thing she wanted to do? Yet, there was a part of her that said it might be the only way she could learn about who and what she was.
And after seeing the shock on everyone's faces at the camp when her new fae pattern emerged, there was a part of Kylie that longed to be with people who didn't judge her. And the sooner she learned to control this changing-pattern game and the powers that came with it, the sooner she could come back to Shadow Falls and really fit in.
"That's what this is about?" Kylie asked.
"Yeah, that's what it's about. And don't think I didn't notice you didn't deny it, either."
Kylie chose her words carefully. "I don't have plans to do that." That was the truth. She was still praying that it wouldn't prove the only way.
"But your fae ass has thought about it, haven't you?" she asked.
"Yeah, my fae ass has thought about it, but-"
"But nothing! I'm not letting you go, Kylie." Tears filled the vamp's eyes. "I lost Lee, I lost my parents and my sister and all my friends back home. You and Miranda are all I have, and Miss Witch is so obsessed with a certain shape-shifter right now, I hardly even have time to argue with her anymore."
Della stood up and swiped at her cheeks. "I'm freaking tired of losing people I care about."
Kylie stood up. "You're not losing me." Her own eyes stung. Even if she had to go away, she'd be back. She belonged here. Surely Della realized that.
Della huffed. "I'm leaving next weekend to go ... to go do what I gotta do for Burnett. And all I can think about is that you won't be here when I get back."
"I'll..." Kylie finally heard what Della said. "Where are you going?"
Della frowned. "I can't tell you."
"Shit." Kylie shook her head, recalling the anxiety she'd read from Della. Was Della scared? Of course she was scared, Kylie realized, but Della would never admit it. Kylie went and hugged the vamp. Della didn't like it, but she didn't fight it too hard. "Whatever you're doing for Burnett, it damn well better not be too dangerous."
"Group hug! Group hug!" Miranda said, bolting through the door.
"No." Della lurched back. "That one was just for Kylie," she said, trying to sound badass, but Kylie read her embarrassment loud and clear. "Go hug Perry." Della stormed into her bedroom and slammed the door.
"What crawled up her butt and put her in such a sunny disposition?" Miranda asked.
Kylie rolled her eyes. Then the computer dinged with a new e-mail, and she scurried over to see who it was from. Her mom.
The thought crossed Kylie's mind like sandpaper. If she did have to leave Shadow Falls, what in the hell would she tell her parents?
Kylie glanced back at Miranda. "Maybe you should go pick a fight with Della so she'll know you still care."
Dinner that night was supposed to be a celebration to kick off the new school year. Books and class schedules were passed out. Kylie and Della had all the same classes. Miranda was in two of Kylie's five classes. Kylie couldn't help but wonder if this wasn't Burnett's idea of shadowing her without calling it shadowing.
Not that she was going to let that thought ruin her night. Sitting at a table with Della, Miranda, Perry, Jonathon, and Helen, Kylie downed her second piece of pizza. It was good to enjoy food again. Not that her improved mood had anything to do with the thin-crust pepperoni. It wasn't even the party atmosphere, or the party itself; it was what was happening after the party.
She eyed the clock-only two hours to go.
Right then Steve came over to their table and dropped down in an empty chair beside Della. Kylie almost grinned when Della literally blushed.
"What's up?" Steve asked.
"Hi, Steve," Kylie said, wanting him to feel welcome. Before coming to the dinner, Della had confessed that Steve was also supposed to go with her on the mission for the FRU. Della, of course, was pissed. Ahh, but she hadn't been able to hide the excitement in her stream of emotions.
Jonathon and Steve started chatting about some classes. Della seemed to relax and so did Kylie. Miranda nudged Kylie with her elbow and leaned in. "I think he likes her," she whispered in a very low voice. But Della, not missing a word with her sensitive hearing, shot Miranda a scowl.
"Here's to a great year." Someone made a toast across the room. Everyone seemed to be in a festive mood, and for the time being, everyone had stopped staring at Kylie's pattern. Probably another reason Kylie was in a better mood.
But no sooner did she appreciate not being stared at than the hairs on the back of her neck started doing a two-step. When she swerved around, Hayden Yates turned his head. Her heart gripped when she saw Holiday standing next to him in the crowd. Not talking with him, but talking to the shy teacher Collin Warren.
Kylie still didn't like Hayden being that close to Holiday. She zeroed her gaze on him and when he glanced back, obviously feeling his neck hair dancing, their gazes met. I swear if you hurt her, you'll pay for it.
He looked away; Kylie kept her gaze locked on him for several moments, and she hoped like hell he understood her message, because it wasn't a threat. It was a promise.
Just thinking about the possibility of anyone hurting Holiday made Kylie's blood thicken and start to fizz-a sure sign that while her pattern might have changed, she was still a protector.
Someday she hoped to be able to say that with a total sense of pride, but right now it seemed to be just one more thing making her different from everyone else.
Kylie had no sooner turned back when she felt another pair of eyes on her, only a different kind of feeling tiptoed up her spine. Even from fifty feet away, Lucas's gaze felt like a caress. He winked. He glanced at the clock and she knew that like her he was counting down the time until they met.
"Damn!" Jonathon yelled, pulling Kylie's gaze from Lucas. "You cut yourself." Jonathon was holding Helen's hand; blood oozed from his grip.
Helen, looking a bit squeamish, had a bloody apple in her other hand and a bloody knife sitting in her lap. "It's okay." Her words lacked confidence. "It's not bad. Is it?"
Jonathon released his hold on her hand to look at it. His eyes grew bright, no doubt because of the blood, but even more apparent was his concern for Helen. "You need stitches," he said.
Helen looked up at Kylie. "Can you just fix it?"
Kylie's breath caught. It had been a while since she'd thought about her healing powers. And the few times she'd thought about them, she remembered those powers had failed Ellie. Kylie had failed Ellie.
"I ... don't know if I can." She looked into Helen's eyes, saw her pain, but a lump of fear formed in Kylie's stomach right alongside the two slices of pizza. "I couldn't dreamscape when I was vampire; I probably can't heal as a fae."
"But faes are known for their healing," Helen reminded her.
"Oh, yeah." Kylie let go of a breath that shuddered on its escape from her lips. "What if I mess up?" She could still recall how devastated she'd been when she hadn't been able to bring Ellie back from the dead. Looking at her hands, she remembered how her palms had been coated with the girl's blood.
"You won't," Helen said with complete confidence.
Looking up, Kylie remembered how Helen had helped her by checking out her brain to see if she had a tumor the first week she'd been at camp. Helen had helped Kylie, and she couldn't say no.
She stood and moved over to the chair next to Helen. The shy and trusting girl held out her bleeding palm. Breathing in, Kylie recalled that she had to think healing thoughts. Amazingly, her hands suddenly felt hot. She gently ran her fingertip over the wound. Her touch created a tiny wake around the pooled blood on Helen's palm.
Fearing failure, Kylie put her whole palm over the wound. Hesitating to check to see if she'd done it, she suddenly realized that the entire lunch room had gone silent. Not a sound echoed in the large room.
Cutting her eyes up briefly, she realized everyone stared. Everyone! Freaking great!
Helen lifted her hand away and brought it in front of her face. Wiping the blood away with her other hand, a shy smile lifted her lips.
"You did it," Helen whispered, sounding as self-conscious as Kylie at all the unwanted attention.
Kylie leaned in. "Why is everyone staring?"
Helen made a funny face and came closer. "Because you're glowing."
"Glowing?" Kylie asked.
Kylie noticed that light did seem to emanate from her skin. "Shit!"
"No shit!" said Della. "You look like a firefly. This is so freaking cool!"
More like not cool! Kylie thought.
Holiday walked over, eyes rounded, and bafflement coming off her in waves.
Kylie stared up at her, mortified. "Make it stop. Please. Pleeeassse."