Unraveled Page 1

Author: Gena Showalter

Series: Intertwined #2

Genres: Young Adult , Fantasy


ADEN STONE THRASHED ON his bed, his sheets falling to the floor. Too hot. Sweat poured from him, causing his boxers, the only thing he wore, to stick to his thighs. Too much. His mind…oh, his poor, ravaged mind. So many flickering images tangled with consuming darkness, horrid chaos and brutal pain.

Couldn’t take…much more… He was human, yet scorching vampire blood now flowed through his veins. Powerful vampire blood that allowed him to see the world through the eyes of its donor, if only for a little while. That wouldn’t have been so terrible—he’d experienced it before—except he had ingested blood from two different sources the night before. Accidentally, of course, but that didn’t matter to his scrambled brain.

One source—his girlfriend, the Princess Victoria. The other, Dmitri, her dead fiancé. Or betrothed. Whatever.

Now their blood fought a vicious tug-of-war for his attention. A toxic back-and-forth. No big deal, right? Over the years, he’d fought zombies, time-traveled and talked to ghosts; he should be able to laugh about a little ADD. Wrong! He felt as if he’d drunk a bottle of acid with a chaser of broken glass. One burned him while the other sliced him to pieces.

And now he was—

Switching focus again.

“Oh, Father,” he suddenly heard Victoria whisper.

He winced. She’d whispered, yeah, but, too loud. His ears were as sensitive as the rest of him.

Somehow, he found the strength to push through the pain and center his gaze. Big mistake. Too bright. The heavy gloom of Dmitri’s surroundings had given way to the sparkling colors of Victoria’s. Aden peered through her eyes now, unable to even blink on his own.

“You were the strongest man ever to live,” she continued in a solemn tone, and Aden felt as if he were the one speaking, his throat rubbed raw. “How could you have been defeated so quickly?” How could I not have known what was happening? she thought.

She, her bodyguard, Riley, and their friend Mary Ann had driven Aden home last night. Victoria had wanted to stay with him, but he’d sent her away. He hadn’t known how he would react to the two different types of blood inside him, and she’d needed to be with her people in their time of mourning. For a while, he’d tried to sleep, tossing and turning, his body recovering from the beat down it had given—and received. Then, about an hour ago, the tug-of-war had begun. Thank God Victoria had beat feet. What a freaking nightmare it would have been to see himself through her eyes, in his current pathetic condition, and know what she was thinking.

When Victoria thought of him, he wanted her stuck on the word invincible. Barring that, he’d make do with hot. Anything else, no thanks. Because he thought she was perfect, in every way.

Perfect and sweet and beautiful. And his. Her image filled his mind. She had long, dark hair that tumbled down her pale shoulders, blue eyes that glittered like crystals and lips that were cherry red. Kissable. Lickable.

He’d met her only a few weeks ago, though he felt as if he’d known her forever. Which, in a warped kind of way, he had. Well, at least for the last six months, thanks to a heads-up from one of the souls living in his head. Yeah, as if vampires and telepathic blood weren’t enough of an oddity, Aden shared his head with three other human souls. More than that, each soul possessed a supernatural ability.

Julian could raise the dead.

Caleb could possess other bodies.

And Elijah could predict the future.

Through Elijah, Aden had known he would encounter Victoria before she’d ever arrived in Crossroads, Oklahoma. A place he’d once considered hell on earth, but now considered The Awesome, even though it was a total breeding ground for so-called mythical creatures. Witches, goblins, fairies—all enemies to Victoria—and of course, vampires. Oh, and werewolves, the vampire protectors.

And, okay. That was a lot of freaking creatures. But if one myth had been true, it kinda made sense that all myths would be.

“What am I going to do with—” Victoria began again, drawing his attention to the present.

He really wanted to hear her complete that sentence. Before she could utter another word, however, his focus switched. Again. Darkness suddenly enveloped him, consuming him, chasing away his connection to Victoria. Aden’s thrashing on his bed renewed, pain exploding through him just before he linked with the other vampire. Dmitri. Dead Dmitri.

Aden wanted to open his eyes, to see something, anything, but his lids were seemingly glued together. Through panting breaths, he smelled dirt and…smoke? Yes. Smoke. Thick and cloying, itching his throat. He coughed, and coughed, or was Dmitri coughing? Was Dmitri still alive? Or was the body only reacting because Aden’s thoughts sparked through their shared mind?

He tried to move Dmitri’s lips, to force words to emerge, to gain someone’s attention, but his lungs seized, rejecting the ashy air, and suddenly he couldn’t breathe at all.

“Burn him,” someone said coolly. “Let’s make sure the traitor stays dead.”

“My pleasure,” another replied, a gleeful edge to the tone.

In the darkness, Aden couldn’t see the speakers. Didn’t know if they were human or vampire. Didn’t know where he was or—the first man’s words finally sank in, consuming his thoughts. Burn…him…

No. No, no, no. Not while Aden was here. What if he felt every lick of flame?

No! he tried to scream. Again, no sound emerged.

Dmitri’s body was lifted. Aden felt as if he were suspended from a wire, head flopping back, limbs forgotten. Nearby, he heard the crackle of those dreaded flames. Heat wafted to him, swirling around him, enveloping him.

No! He tried to thrash, to fight, but the body remained motionless. No!

A moment later, contact. And oh, yes. He felt it. The first streams of fire flicked against his feet before catching…spreading. Agony. Agony unlike anything he’d ever known. Skin, melting. Muscles and bones, liquefying. Blood, disintegrating. Oh, God.

Still he tried to fight, to pull away and run, and still the lifeless body refused to obey. No! Help! Impossibly, the agony intensified…smoldering over him, eating him up bite by tasty bite. What would happen if he remained linked to Dmitri until the very end? What would happen if he—

Pinpricks of light winked through the darkness, bloomed and locked together, until he was once again seeing the world through Victoria’s eyes. Yet another switch. Thank God. He was panting, so drenched with sweat he was practically swimming, but despite the change, residual pain—far greater than the acid still swishing through his veins—slithered from his feet to his brain, and he wanted to shout.

He was—shaking, he realized. No, Victoria was shaking.

A soft, warm hand pressed against his—her—shoulder. She looked up, vision blurry from her tears. Moonlight glowed in the sky, he saw, and stars twinkled. A few night birds even flew overhead, calling to each other in…fear? Probably. They had to sense the danger below them.

Victoria lowered her gaze, and Aden studied the vampires surrounding her. Each was tall, pale, striking. Alive. Most were not the monsters storybooks painted them to be. They were simply detached, humans a food source they couldn’t afford to care about.

Vampires lived for centuries, after all, while humans withered and died. Exactly as Aden was soon to die.

Elijah had already predicted his death. The prediction sucked, yeah, but it was the method that sucked more: a sharp knife through his very necessary heart.

He’d always prayed the method would miraculously change. Until now. A knife through the heart beat burning to death inside a body that didn’t belong to him any day of the week. And when the hell was he going to catch a break, huh? No torture, no fighting creatures, no waiting around for the end, just flunking tests and kissing his girlfriend.

Aden forced himself to concentrate before he worked himself into a rage he couldn’t hope to assuage. The vampire mansion rose behind the crowd, shadowed and eerie, like a haunted house melded with a Roman cathedral. Victoria had told him the house had been here, in Oklahoma, for hundreds of years, and her people had “borrowed” it from its owner when they first arrived. He’d taken that to mean the former owner had supplied the vampires with a nice lunch buffet—of his organs.

“He was powerful, you’re right about that,” a girl who looked to be Victoria’s age said. She had hair the color of newly fallen snow, eyes like a meadow and the face of an angel. She wore a black robe that bared one pale shoulder, traditional vampire garb, but somehow she seemed…out of place. Maybe because she’d just popped a Juicy Fruit bubble.

“A great king,” another girl added, placing her hand on Victoria’s other side. Another blonde. This one had crystalline eyes like Victoria and the face of a fallen angel. Unlike the other girls, she wore a black leather half-top and black leather pants. Weapons were strapped to her waist, and barbed wire circled her wrists. And no, the wire wasn’t a tattoo.

“Yes,” Victoria replied softly. Darling sisters.

Sisters? He’d known Victoria had them, yeah, but he’d never met them. They’d been locked in their rooms during the Vampire Ball meant to celebrate Vlad the Impaler’s official awakening from his century-long slumber. Aden wondered if Victoria’s mother was here, too. Apparently, she’d been imprisoned in Romania for spilling vampire secrets to humans. Vlad’s orders. A real nice guy, that Vlad.

Aden was human, and he knew way more than he should. Some vampires—like Victoria—could teleport, traveling from one location to another with only a thought. And if word had already reached Romania that the vampire king was dead, mommy vamp could have arrived in Crossroads seconds later.

“He was a terrible father, though. Wasn’t he?” the first girl continued while chewing gum.

The three shared a rueful half-smile.

“He was indeed,” Victoria said. “Unbending, exacting. Brutal to his enemies—and sometimes to us. And yet, it’s so hard to say goodbye.”

She peered down at Vlad’s charred remains. He was the first human ever to change from human to vampire. Well, the first anyone knew about. His body was intact, though burned beyond recognition. A crown perched haphazardly atop his hairless head.

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