Stay (Page 34)

There’s a bear inside you. My young voice echoed through my head. The straight jacket disappeared, and I was me, but I wasn’t. Everything looked different. I glanced down. I had paws. What was I? Was I a bear?

Tiffany had her hands on Toby, she was chanting something. The chanting sounded familiar. A memory of being tied down in the cave came back. A shadowy figure with a robe leaned over me chanting the same words in the same voice. Wait. Could it be possible? I closed my eyes shut and tried to remember. The fog lifted, and everything clicked. Tiffany was the boss. I lunged for her, pushing her away from Toby.

“Get off me!” She yelled. “You’re not a bear! You’re not a bear!”

I refused to listen. I could be whatever I needed to be. I held her down, not sure what to do. Part of me longed to tear her apart, but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.

She reached up and started to strangle me. My eyes started watering, and I couldn’t breathe.

“You can’t do it. You’re weak. You’re a weak girl who can’t do anything.”

I needed to kill her. I needed to destroy her, but I couldn’t. I was too afraid. Everything was getting dark. “I can’t do this,” I tried to choke out, but I couldn’t speak.

“But I can.” Vera stepped off the bed, but before I could focus on her long she transformed into a bear. Tiffany’s hands loosened. I stepped back and looked away knowing what was coming. Vera growled, and Tiffany screamed.

Tiffany screamed again. I couldn’t watch even though I knew it wasn’t real. None of this could be real.

Toby squeezed my hand. “Casey?”

“I love you.” Those were the only words I could muster.

“I love you, too.” He led me out of the room, away from the cries. “We can go now. We can go back.”

The fuzziness was back. The haze. I couldn’t feel anything but Toby’s hand on mine. The one sensation that seemed to continue through everything.

“Casey?” It was my mom’s voice this time. I blinked a few times, finally opening my eyes. “Honey?”

I looked to my right. Toby was right there. He smiled at me.

“Did you see all that? Did you see?”

He nodded. “I was there the whole time. You just couldn’t see me.”

“I trusted you.”

He sat up and pulled me onto his lap. “Yes, and more importantly you trusted yourself.”

“That last part. Did you see what I became?”

“Yes. I was impressed with how you took care of her.”

“But I didn’t. I made Vera do it.”

“It was all you, Case. It was all your mind. Vera wasn’t there anymore than Levi, Finn, or Jared. That was just another vision.”

“Oh…” I looked at Mom again. “Oh. Wait. Tiffany. I know who the boss is. It’s Tiffany.” That realization was a hard one to swallow. She’d tricked me. She’d tricked all of us.

“We know.” Gareth said from next to me.

“What?” I asked with confusion.

“Jared told us.” Hailey appeared next to my mom. “He sent us here. He’s on the way to help Levi and Allie.”

“What?” I was still so confused. “And who’s we?”

“Hey, Bates.” Eric moved next to Hailey and grinned. “It’s always nice to see you.”

“When did they get here?”

“About an hour ago,” Mom said calmly.

“An hour?” Toby asked. “Were we out that long?”

“You were out for over three hours,” the healer explained.

“Oh.” I wasn’t sure what to think.

“Do you think you could do what you did in real life?” Toby asked quietly.

I knew exactly what he was asking. Could I take bear form? “I don’t know.”

“Would you want to?”

“Yes.” I’d liked being a bear. It hadn’t come quite as naturally as my wing transformation, but it was a sensation I enjoyed. There was a different type of strength and instinct associated, one that only came when you became an animal completely.

“Then you should try it.”

“Not now.”

“Yeah, I think we’ve got enough on our plate.” He ran his hands through my hair. “How are you feeling?”

“Normal, or as normal as I’ve ever felt.”

He laughed. “Good.”

“Do you feel any more of that magic?” Mom asked the healer.

“No.” The healer looked into my eyes. “But we should watch her carefully just in case.”

“Then I think it’s time for the ceremony,” Gareth leaned over us. “Do you feel up for it?”

“I don’t know what the ceremony is, but I am feeling better.”

“I’ll have your mother explain everything to you while you get dressed.”

“Dressed?” I looked down at my jeans and t-shirt. “I need to change?”

“Yes.” Gareth smiled. “We all do.”

Chapter Nineteen

Vera

Offering to go with Jared to find the king and queen was probably a mistake. I don’t know exactly what I was thinking, or if I was thinking at all. It just seemed like the right thing to do at the time. Jared needed the help of a bear whether he knew it or not, and I wanted to be the bear to help. That was the root of the problem. I wanted to be that bear not only because I was strong, but because I wanted more time around Jared. That desire was dangerous.

I got dressed, getting increasingly tired of wearing the same clothes more than once. Luckily I’d slipped into a new cami and shorts by the cave, but I had a feeling I’d be wearing this set for a few days. I’d learned to go without a bra pretty quickly after joining the Urusus. It was hard enough keeping underwear lying around. I’d learned a cami could go a long way.

“Are you done playing around with me?” Jared called from a seat toward the front of the plane.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“We’re all aware you’re gorgeous. You don’t have to throw it in my face.”

“Like I said, I have no idea what you’re talking about.” I tied my wet hair up into a ponytail and sat down next to him.

“You’re a piece of work.”

“I suppose that’s better than being a piece of ass.”

He groaned. “Let’s just stop the games for a few minutes. We’ve got work to do.”