My memory went fuzzy and I let the images fade away. I couldn’t even remember leaving school. What bug could I have possibly caught that had erased my memory of an entire evening? I wasn’t even sure the flu could cause something like this. But what else could it be? Nothing like this had ever happened before. Not even the night of my friend Sam’s sixteenth birthday party; I’d had way too much to drink that night; some fruity concoction that had smelled like strawberries on alcoholic steroids. The highlight had been when I’d fallen into the pool and almost drowned. George had jumped in and ‘saved me’ by pulling on me until I realized it was only four feet of water. Even then, I’d remembered most of it the next day- unfortunately - which was why I’d vowed never to drink again. But this… this felt different. I was starting to get worried.
I sighed, and rolled over, ignoring the ache it caused in my shifting muscles. Random pieces of clothing littered the carpet in my room; evidence of my tendency towards laundry procrastination. Nearest my bed, a scrap of bright red fabric caught my eye. A silk v-neck blouse, my favorite, lay in a heap, under a still- damp towel. I reached down and yanked it free, trying to remember when I’d last worn it. I thought it was still in my closet. Then I looked closer. The shirt was torn in several places, the silky fabric hanging by threads in some places. I stared at it as an uneasy feeling washed over me. A picture flashed in my mind: me, staring at my reflection in the bathroom mirror, hair disheveled and sticking out. The tattered shirt hung off my shoulders and exposed my ribs on either side. Bloody scratches showed through the tears in the fabric.
I dropped the shirt, and sucked in a sharp breath. Hesitantly, I pushed the covers away and lifted up my Pink Panther pajama tee. In several places along my ribs, I could see scratches running jaggedly down my torso. They were clean, and shallow, like I’d been in a fight with a cat. Only problem, I didn’t have a cat.
“What the…?” I said, to the empty room.
“Could’ve been worse,” a male voice answered.
My head snapped up. A boy with bronzed brown hair and eyes to match leaned against the frame of my bedroom door.
I gripped the covers, my knuckles white with the effort. “Who are you? What are you doing in here?” Despite my voice’s earlier croaking, I managed a shriek just fine.
“Calm down, Tara, I’m not going to hurt you,” he said.
His tone was calm and a little patronizing, but he’d said my name with familiarity. That surprised me enough to block out the fear for a moment. “How do you know me?”
“The same way you know me. We met last night. I’m Wes.”
“I don’t know who you are, but you need to leave, or I’m calling the police.” I grabbed my cell phone off the nightstand without breaking eye contact. I held it up in the air, like a weapon.
He pushed off from the doorway, taking a step into the room. The black leather of his jacket crinkled as he moved. “Look, I don’t want to hurt you any more than you already are, but I’m not leaving, either, so you might as well put the phone down. Besides, you agreed to ‘discreet’ remember?”
I stared at him with wide eyes. “What do you mean, hurt me more than I already am? Did you do this to me? Did we-?” Oh God. Visions of after school specials and date rape warnings from Health class danced in my head.
Halfway across the room, he turned and grabbed my desk chair, spinning it around to face the bed before sitting down. “No, I didn’t.” His lips twitched. “And no, we didn’t.”
I breathed a silent prayer of thanks and then returned to glaring at him. “But you know who did this to me?”
I waited, and then realized he wasn’t going to say more. “Well? Are you going to tell me who it was?”
“I haven’t decided.”
I threw my hands up in frustration. “Then why are you here? What do you want?”
“I told you, I want to talk to you.”
Something about the tone of his voice, the cadence of his words, unnerved me. It was familiar, but it wasn’t. I stared at him for a full minute, waiting for some memory to fall into place about where we might’ve met. Nothing came, but I got that same uneasy feeling I’d had when the torn shirt had been in my hands; something unfamiliar and unlike anything I’d ever experienced. I know it probably sounded silly because I’d only been around him for a few minutes, but I got the distinct feeling he was nothing like anyone I’d ever met before. Not even close.
I squared my shoulders. “So talk,” I said, trying to sound tough.
But he didn’t, not right away. He just continued to watch me with cool, studying eyes. They roamed my face and arms, and then glanced speculatively at the comforter I still held up to my chin.
“Strong, amazingly strong,” he said quietly, almost to himself.
“What do you remember about last night?” he asked, abruptly.
His eyes found mine and I was struck by their unique color. Last summer, I’d taken a trip to California, to visit my grandmother. She and I had hiked to the top of a bluff that overlooked a forest, thick with redwoods, and picnicked there, just the two of us. His eyes reminded me of the redwoods; a swirling mixture of tawny brown.
I blinked, trying to remember the question. “Nothing, actually. Which is pretty frustrating, let me tell you. Are you finally going to tell me where these scratches came from?”
“Like I said, it wasn’t me. I just happened to come along at the right time.”
“What does that mean?”
My cell phone rang, cutting off his response. I looked around, only to remember I still held it in my hand. I loosened my grip and glanced at the screen.
“Go ahead,” Wes said, gesturing towards the ringing phone. “I’ll wait.”
I flipped open the phone. “Hello?”
“Are you okay? Angela was in the office and heard that your mom called and said you were sick.”
I hesitated. I’d fully intended to disclose my situation –a.k.a. scream for help - to the first person who called and then wait to be rescued from Wes, the crazy bedroom stalker. I glanced over at him, wondering why he’d even let me answer the phone at all. If he was going to hurt me, he could’ve done it already – and he definitely wouldn’t have let me take this call. His eyes glinted back at me, in a silent challenge. He was willing to risk me telling someone? Why? What exactly was going on here?
“Yeah, I’m sick,” I said finally. “The flu, I think.”
“Listen, Tay, about last night. I really think we should talk about this.”
As soon as I realized where this was going, my headache began pounding in time to George’s voice. “George, I don’t feel good. Now’s not a good time.”
“Okay, I get it.” I could almost hear his shoulders slumping. “Can I call you later?”
I hesitated. “Yeah, sure.”
We hung up and I found Wes watching me. “You didn’t scream for help.”
I met his eyes; yep, definitely a challenge there. “I want to know what’s going on. What happened to me last night?”
“You were attacked.”
I nodded. His answer wasn’t all that surprising. I had figured as much, after seeing the scratches on my abdomen. I just hoped that ‘attack’ didn’t mean… I wouldn’t think about that. “Attacked by who?”
“Her name was Liliana.”
“I was attacked by a girl?” Okay, I know that probably sounds sexist, but I’d fully expected my attacker to be male. I mean, I’m a seventeen year old high school student. I’ve seen the after-school specials. I know what “attacked” usually means for a girl like me.
Wes ran a hand through his hair, further tousling it, and shifted in the chair. “What do you remember?”
“Nothing.” Then I added, “Actually I remembered one thing, a flash of something really. Of looking at myself in the mirror, bloody and bruised. But that’s it.”
“Hmm. It must’ve worked better than I thought.” He was staring at a spot on the wall; he seemed to be talking to himself again.
His reticence was really getting annoying. “Would you just spit it out already? Why was I attacked?”
“Fine. I don’t know what started it. I wasn’t there for that part. By the time I got there, Liliana was already on the ground.”
“On the ground? You mean I hurt her?”
“Yes, which was definitely a surprise to me and why I’m here now. But what you need to know is that Liliana was more than just some girl. She was a Werewolf.”
Wes might’ve kept talking after that, but all sound and movement suddenly ceased for me. I was still stuck on that last word: Werewolf. I would have laughed out loud right then, but there was no denying Wes was serious. He absolutely believed that this Liliana girl was a Werewolf and the look on his face told me arguing wouldn’t change a thing. This just figured. The hottest guy I’d ever seen, alone with me in my room, and he was completely whacked.
I abruptly cut off whatever he was saying. “You seriously just said Werewolf, didn’t you?”
He stopped, midsentence, and his shoulders sagged a little. “Yeah.”
“Do I need to explain how crazy that sounds?” I decided my wording might be better than ‘you’re crazy’, which is what I was thinking.
“What I don’t get is what you are,” he said, basically ignoring my question.
“Hello? Are you listening to me?”
“Yeah, just trying to figure this out,” he said, distractedly.
“That makes two of us,” I muttered.
He sighed, like he was getting impatient. “This will be easier for you when you remember. Close your eyes.”
“Close your eyes.”
“I’m going to help you remember.”
Hope you enjoyed the sample of Dirty Blood. If you want to read the rest of the story, you can buy it on Amazon for your Kindle, or go to Smashwords, and download it in the format of your choice. Check back next week for another sneek peek!