Iced - Page 6/120

I succeed in backpedaling a pansy foot or two. I don’t even make it out of arm’s reach.

What the feck?

I’m so discombobulated by failure that I just stand there like an idiot. Until this precise moment, I wasn’t even sure I knew how to spell the F-word, much less do it. Fail, with a big fat F. Me.

He grabs my shoulders and starts pulling me to him. I don’t know what he thinks he’s doing but I’m not getting anywhere near close to Ryodan. I explode into a Dani-grenade, all fists and teeth, and ten kinds of you-don’t-want-to-hold-me-when-the-pin-is-out.

At least I try to.

I noodle off one limp punch before I stop myself so I won’t telegraph any more catastrophic news to a dude that doesn’t miss a trick and won’t hesitate to use any weakness against me.

What the feck is wrong with me?

Did slamming into him do something to me? Like break me?



I’m as weak as a Joe and … ew! Stuck in Ryodan’s arms. Close. Like we’re about to slow dance, or get all kissy.

“Dude, you like me or something? Get off me!”

He looks down at me. I can see the mind working behind his eyes. I don’t like Ryodan’s mind working when he’s looking at me.

“Fight, kid.”

I tilt my nose up at a defiant angle, jut my jaw at my best “feck you” slant. “Maybe I don’t feel like it. You said there’s no point. You keep telling me how large and in-charge you are.”

“Never stopped you before.”

“Maybe I don’t want to break a nail,” I toss out all nonchalant-like, to cover up that I just tried fighting. And fleeing. And for the first time in, well—ever—I’m … norm—

The word sticks like a hard, spiky burr in the back of my throat. I can’t cough it up. I can’t swallow it.

It’s okay. I don’t need to be able to say it. It’s not true. It never will be.

I’ve never been that word. It’s not part of my reality. I probably just forgot to eat enough. I take a hasty mental tally of my fuel consumption over the past few hours: eleven protein bars, three cans of tuna, five cans black beans, seven Snickers. Okay, so my menu’s coming up a little light, but not enough to drain my gas tank. I step on the freeze-frame pedal again.

I still don’t move. Motionless is me. That and way freaked out.

He’s holding my hand, looking at my short nails that TP painted black the night she found out the truth about me. I don’t know why I haven’t taken it off yet. It chips like crazy in no time with all the fighting I do.

“You don’t have nails to break. Try again.”

“Let go of my hand.”

“Make me.”

Before I can snap off a pithy, brilliant reply, my head is back, my spine is arched like a bow, and Ryodan’s face is in my neck.

He bites me.

The fecker bites me!

Right on the neck!

Fangs bracket my jugular. I feel them, sharp and deep, sinking into me. It hurts.

Ryodan does have fangs! I didn’t imagine what I thought I saw on the rooftop the other night when he was telling me he had a job for me!

“What the feck you doing? You a vamp or something? You turning me?” I’m horrified. I’m … intrigued. How much stronger might I get? Are vampires real? Fairies are. I suppose that flings the closet door wide open. Everything’s going to be springing out now. Does TP know about this? Is Barrons a vampire? What’s going on here? Dude, my world just got so much more interesting!

Suddenly I’m staggering for footing, resisting nothing and looking like a drunken pinwheel doing it. It pisses me off, Ryodan making me look clumsy in front of him. I wipe a smear of blood from my neck and glare at it. When was the last time somebody spilled my blood? Like never. Sure, I bang myself up. But nobody else does. Not anymore.

Bleeding? Clumsy? Slow? Who am I?

“I know your taste now, kid. I know your scent like I know my own. You will never be able to pass me again without me knowing it’s you. And if I ever catch you on the lower levels of Chester’s … or anywhere in my club for that matter …”

I jerk my glare from my hand to his face.

He smiles at me. There’s blood on his teeth.

Fact: it’s just wrong to be smiled at by someone who has your blood on his teeth. It offends to the bone. Where were his fangs? Did he have fangs? Natural or cosmetic implants? You never know with folks these days. They didn’t retract with a smoothly audible snick like on TV or I would have heard it. I have superhearing. Well, sometimes I do. Like when I also have superspeed and superstrength. Which used to be all the time. Until exactly now.

“… don’t let me …”

His gaze does that unnerving flickery thing it does sometimes. I think it’s because he looks me up and down so quick that I can’t focus on his eyes changing directions, I just see a kind of ocular shiver. I wonder if I can do it, too, superspeed a single part of me, like maybe tap a finger hyperfast. I need to practice. Assuming I can superspeed again at all. What the feck is wrong with me? Did I stall? How could I stall? I don’t stall!

“… unless you’re working for me and there at my direction. That’s the deal.” He’s cold. Ice cold. And I know without him even saying what the second option is: die. Work for me or die. It pisses me off big-time.

“Are you giving me an ultimatum? Because that is so not cool.” I don’t emote disdain. I become disdain. I flash him number seventeen of my thirty-five Looks of Death. Grown-ups! They see a teenager with a little more stuff going on than they know what to do with, so they try to lock them down, box them up, make them feel bad just for being what they are. Like I can even help it. Dancer’s right, adults are afraid of the kids they’re raising.

“If growing up means turning out like you,” I say, “I’m never doing it. I know who I am and I like it. I’m not changing for anybody.”

“One day, kid, you’ll be willing to mortgage your fucking soul for somebody.”

“I don’t think you should say ‘fucking’ around me. In case you forgot, I’m only fourteen. And news flash, dude, I’ve got no soul. There aren’t any banks. And there isn’t any currency. Ergo. Never. Going. To. Happen.”

“I’m not sure you could be any more full of yourself.”