Home > Jealousy (Strange Angels #3)

Jealousy (Strange Angels #3)
Lili St. Crow, Lilith Saintcrow

CHAPTER ONE

A long despairing howl split the night.

It could have been mistaken for a siren in the distance, I suppose, if you ignored the way it burrowed in past your ears and pulled on the meat inside your head with glass-splinter fingers. The cry was full of blood and hot meat and cold air. I sat bolt-upright, pushing the heavy velvet covers aside. My left wrist ached, but I shook it out and hopped out of bed.

I grabbed my sweater from the floor and yanked it over my head, glad I hadn’t worn earrings in a dog’s age. The floor was hardwood and cold against bare feet; I was across the room and almost ran into the door. Threw the locks with fumbling fingers. A blue-glass night-light gave just enough illumination to allow me to avoid stubbing my toes on unfamiliar furniture. I hadn’t been here long enough to memorize anything.

I wasn’t sure I would be, either. Not with the way everyone keeps trying to kill me.

Thin blue lines of warding sparked at the corner of my vision. I’d warded the walls my first night here, and the hair-thin lines of crackling blue light ran together in complex knots, flashing just on the edge of visibility. I woke the rest of the way and cursed roundly at the door, the howl still ringing inside my skull.

Gran would be proud. I was warding without her rowan wand or a candle, and it was getting easier. Of course, the practice of doing it over and over again was probably responsible. I wasn’t going to sleep anywhere without warding now. Hell, I probably wouldn’t even sit down without warding a chair, if I could.

I wrenched the door open just as another bloodcurdling howl split the air and shook the hallway outside. Hinges groaned—the door was solid steel, four locks and a chain, two of the locks with no outside keyhole. There was a bar, too, but I hadn’t dropped it in its brackets.

I’d kind of guessed I wasn’t going to be sleeping through the night without a fuss.

Light seared my eyes. I ran straight into Graves, who was fisting at his eyes as he stood in my door. We almost went down in a tangle of arms and legs. But his fingers closed around my right biceps, and he kept me upright, pointed me the right way down the hall, and gave me a push that got me going. His hair stuck up wildly, dyed-black curls with dark brown roots.

He was supposed to be down in the werwulfen dorms. His eyes flashed green, startling against the even caramel of his skin. He really rocked the ethnic look nowadays. Or maybe I was just seeing what had been there all along under his Goth Boy front.

We ran down the hall in weird tandem. My mother’s locket bounced against my breastbone. I hit the fire door at the end. It banged against the wall, and we spilled down the uncarpeted stairs.

That’s the thing about the Schola Prima dorms, even the cushy wing where svetocha are supposed to sleep. Behind the scenes it’s concrete industrial, just like every other school. Just because I had my own room didn’t make it any less, well, school-like.

And just because there was a whole wing for svetocha didn’t mean that there were any more. Just me. And one other, but I hadn’t seen her since the other Schola—the reform school someone had stashed me at—went down in flames.

Down two flights, a hard right, my shoulder banged into a door frame, but I just kept going. This hall wasn’t even carpeted, so everything echoed, and the doors on either side had barred observation slits.

There wasn’t a guard at his door. The whole hall shook as he threw himself against the walls and howled again.

I grabbed the knob; it refused to turn. “Shit!” I yelled, and Graves shouldered me aside. He’d thought to grab the key ring from the nail down the hall. The key went in, he twisted, the door opened, and I piled into the room, nearly colliding with almost seven and a half feet of very upset werwulf.

Ash hunched down, long clawed paw-fingers splayed as they touched bare concrete. The howl cut off in midstream, like he was surprised. The white streak on his lean narrow head glowed in the reflected fluorescent glare of the hall.

I sucked in a deep breath. My hair hung in my face, a wild curling mass, and I felt the same leap of irrational fear I did every time I came in this room. Or maybe it was totally rational fear. Someone could sweep the door shut and lock it, and then I’d be in here with a werwulf who’d tried to kill me the first time he met me.

And of course, he could always totally lose his shit and go all, well, crazyass werwulf on me again. But after he’d saved my life a few times, I was beginning to think maybe he wouldn’t.

“It’s okay,” I managed, though my lungs were on fire and my throat threatened to close up. I could still taste the peppermint toothpaste they’d given me. “It’s okay, Ash. It’s okay.”

The werwulf growled. His shoulders came up, corded with muscle, and the shifting textures of his pelt blurred. If I could capture that on paper, maybe with charcoal—but who was I kidding? Like I had time for recreational werwulf portraiture.

His claws made grooves in the concrete, the hard sharp edges screeching as they cut through stone-hard flooring. You could just imagine those claws cutting through flesh, like a hot knife through butter.

Gee, that’s great, Dru. Why don’t you meditate on that for awhile?

I put my hand down. It looked very small and very pale, and when my fingers touched the thick ruff at the back of his neck, they sank in. Heat poured off him, and the sound of bones crackling filled the room as he tried, again, to change back into human form.

My heart leapt up into my throat and made itself at home. “You can do it,” I whispered. Just like I did every time. “Come on.”

Shaking filled him in waves. Graves stood in the doorway, outlined in pale fluorescent glare. He tilted back, glanced down the hallway, stiffened like he saw trouble coming.

“You can do it.” I tried not to sound like I was pleading. Ash leaned against me, almost knocking me off my feet, the way a dog will lean into its master’s legs. He also whined, way back in his throat, and the crackling sound got louder.

Bile crawled up in my throat. My hand turned into a fist in his fur, as if that would help. The marks on my left wrist twinged, sending a bolt of pain up my arm. Two little scabbed-over marks, where the fangs had gone in.

Another great thought. Jesus, Dru. Cut it out.

“It’s okay,” I coaxed. “It’s all right. Sooner or later it’ll happen. You can change back.”

I heard voices. Male, four or five of them. Boots hitting the ground, the clothwhisper of running. My fingers turned to wood, and Ash growled. The deep thrumming filled up the bare concrete cube, the shelf like bed with its thin mat he never slept on, the low wide toilet bowl, and the metal tray in the corner still sticky with blood—at least he’d been fed. The raw meat was all gone; he wasn’t hoarding it like he would if he was sick.

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