“You sound upset,” I said.
“Nah, I’m fine,” Jack insisted, shaking his head in the darkness.
“Jack, promise me that I’ll be okay. You know I’ll believe anything you say, so just promise me that everything will be okay.” My voice sounded more nervous than I would’ve liked.
“I know you can’t understand right now, but you’ve got nothing to worry about.” Then he put his arm around me and pulled me close to him, resting his chin on the top of my head. “I’m upset because I care about you too much. The problem’s me, not you. You are gonna be better than fine. I promise.”
“You’re right. I don’t understand,” I said. He stroked my hair, and I moved my head on his chest. Then I realized something odd. “I can’t hear your heart beat.”
“Just listen harder.”
Pressing my ear closer to his chest, I listened hard, and, there it was, very faint and incredibly slow. I wasn’t timing it, but it couldn’t have been beating more than ten or twenty times a minute.
“It’s so slow!” I jerked my head back so I could look at him. “Are you okay? You’re not having a heart attack, are you?”
“No,” Jack laughed, this time sounding more like himself. “That’s just the way my heart beats.”
“But that’s not the way it’s supposed to be.” I furrowed my brow, trying to understand. “That’s not how my heart beats.”
“I know.” He was mildly amused, but my confusion always seemed to entertain him. “I can hear your heartbeat.”
“How? You’re way over there.” He was actually sitting right next to me, but he was still too far away to hear. “You’re hearing isn’t that good.”
“It is for this one thing.” He reached out and put his hand gingerly on my throat.
At first, I didn’t understand what he was doing, but then I felt his thumb stroking my jugular vein. He was feeling my pulse, and a look of sheer pleasure passed across his face. A warm hunger radiated from him that I didn’t grasp.
“Jack!” Ezra’s voice broke into the room, and Jack instantly dropped his hand, as if he’d been caught with his hand up my shirt instead of on my throat. “It’s late. Milo’s tired. Maybe you should take them home. Unless you don’t feel up to it. In which case, I’d be more than happy-”
“No, I’ve got it,” Jack replied gruffly and stood up.
Ezra gave Jack a disapproving look as we walked out of the living room, but Jack refused to look at him. For me, Ezra gave a reassuring smile and said he hoped that I would come back soon. Mae hugged me tightly at the door, but she hugged Milo even tighter.
During the car ride home, Milo rattled on endlessly about what an amazing house Jack had and how great Mae was and all the fun things he’d done while I had been asleep. I rested my head against the cold glass of the window, and found that for once, I had very little to say.
I still didn’t know what Jack and his family were, but they definitely couldn’t be trusted. Peter wanted to hate me because for some reason, he might kill me. He’d been rude and kept me at a distance because he didn’t want to hurt me. He was trying to protect me.
Despite this, I loved Jack and Mae and even Ezra, and I definitely felt something strong for Peter. And I knew that if being with them meant that I would die, I would still see them again. It would be worse to live without them.
When Milo and I went up to our apartment, I felt dazed. Part of it was coming to terms with my impending death, but most of it was just an after effect of being with Peter. He was like a drug, and I was still coming down from the high.
I flopped down on the couch while Milo buzzed about the kitchen. Being over there had the opposite effect on him, and he was totally energized.
“Aren’t you hungry?” Milo asked from the kitchen. I heard pots banging, but I just buried myself deeper into the couch. “I’m starving. You know what’s weird? We were over them from five o’clock at night until after two in the morning, and I never once saw them eat or drink anything.
“In fact, when I wanted something to drink, Mae had to rummage around the kitchen for a glass and some water,” Milo continued, without pausing for a breath. “You know, I don’t even think they have any food in that house. They must order a lot of take out. Which is weird cause Mae really seems like the Suzie Homemaker type.”
Milo continued to ramble on but I was starting to drift to sleep. But then it all clicked. I understood fully what Jack and Peter were.
But before I could actually manifest the word and put it all together, I fell asleep, and lost it entirely.
- 12 -
Dreamlessly, I’d managed to sleep for thirteen hours on the couch. Whatever happened with Peter, it had been tantamount to overdosing on sleeping pills.
I stretched slowly, trying to work out the kinks and cricks in my back and neck. Milo sat at the computer, and he just smirked at my struggle to wake up.
“Morning, sunshine,” Milo chirped. He still seemed hyper from the night before.
“Shut up,” I grumbled.
Already, Peter filled the tired fog of my brain. Like some kind of hang over, my skin hurt and my head throbbed dully. When I breathed in deeply, I could still remember the way he smelled, like apples and something familiar that I couldn’t quite place.
“What are you doing?” Milo jolted me out of my daydream. He looked at me like I had totally lost it, so I stood up and decided that I had to get myself in gear.
“Nothing,” I told him absently.
Walking to the bathroom, I pulled my phone out of my pocket. It was almost four in the afternoon, so maybe Jack would be awake by now. I shut the bathroom door, but before I could even actually go to the bathroom, I had to text Jack first.
I need to see you today. I text messaged him, and then started the agonizing wait for him to respond.
After I showered, and he still hadn’t responded, I started getting a nervous pit in my stomach. Maybe I had done something wrong, and I wasn’t going to be allowed over there anymore.
Or maybe Jack had just grown bored with me. It was probably irritating him that I fawned over his brother, and I would hate me if I were Jack.
When he’d been talking to Ezra, they had said that I couldn’t be alone with Peter. Maybe that meant that I couldn’t be around him at all anymore. Somehow, I had ruined everything.
I couldn’t take it anymore, so I decided to call Jack, and find out what was going on. When I got his voicemail instead of him, I was near tears.