Page 36

“Hey, kiddo,” Dex whispered. “It’s just me.”

I heard him hoist himself through the window and land softly on the carpet. He appeared beside me. Like before, he crouched down so he was at my level. I moved my head on the pil ow to look at him.

With blood crusting at the corners of his eye, he gave me a quick, almost shy smile. I hated how it made me feel. His smile stil had the ability to make me feel good.

“Sweet climbing tree you’ve got there,” he said, nodding his head at the outside. He looked me up and down, frowning, then asked, “How are you?”

“How do you think?” I replied, my tongue feeling sluggish.

“Yeah,” he said slowly. “I know. I’m going to get you out of here, OK?”


“I said I had a plan. Your parents never gave me a chance to tel it to them. You just have to trust me.”

My eyes narrowed at him. “How the fuck do you think I can trust you?”

He winced and rubbed at his thin beard. “I deserve that, I know. And I don’t blame you. But none of that’s important right now. Later, yes. Not now, kiddo. Ada was right. You can’t stay here. Whatever’s inside you, it’s going to kil you.

Sooner rather than later. And a hospital, alone...Perry you don’t want to die in there.”

My eyes flickered in alarm.

He reached over and stroked my hand gently. His touch made gooseflesh appear on my arm. “It’s true. I’m not trying to scare you. In fact, you’re the one who’s scaring me. As usual. But we have to go. Wil you come with me?”

“You’l have to untie me,” I said in a hush.

He leaned in closer. “I’l risk it.”

“Promise you’l tie me up again after?”

I expected him to have some sexy remark to that. But his face was stern, washed with determination. “I don’t want to.”

“But you have to. Or I won’t go. I don’t want to hurt you again.”

“Even though I deserve it.”

“You deserve something. But not that.”

He nodded and took a deep breath. “OK, deal.”

He leaned over me and untied my left arm. He smel ed the same as ever. Old Spice, Nicorette gum. I tried not to breathe it in, just in case it messed with my heart a bit. But it was hard.

My hand came free and I wiggled it as he untied the other one. He paused before heading down to my legs and shot me a wry look out of the corner of his eye. He was waiting for me to attack him.

I smiled quickly. “I’m OK.”

He nodded, and chewing on his lip, he undid the other two legs. As he worked, I stretched my arms and back and reflected on how odd everything suddenly was. Here was Dex, someone I had known in the most personal level possible and it felt like we were almost strangers. Like we were starting all over again. It made me a little bit sad. But I pushed the sadness away because I couldn’t afford to vulnerable. Not only because it made me more susceptible to that thing, but because I didn’t want to backslide, as foolish as that was. Dex had just warned me that I might die because of this but I wanted to hold onto my precious pride.

But what use was pride if you were dead?

When he was finished, he came back to me and gently slid his arm underneath my back, easing me into a sitting position.

“Here, up you go. Easy...take it easy.”

My heart pounded in my head and I pressed down on both temples. His warm hand cupped the back of my head, supporting me. I pointed at the rope, keeping my eyes shut.

“Tie me up,” I said, grinding my teeth against the pain.

“Right now?”

“Please, Dex.”

He sighed and reluctantly tied the rope around my wrists and ankles.

“Do it tighter,” I whispered harshly.

He stopped and tilted my chin up so I was looking at him.

I opened my eyes. His eyes were large and searching mine. I could see my reflection in them.

“What?” I asked. “You saw what I did. Your throat is practical y blue.”

It was now. Blue and purple and ugly. all because of me.

“I don’t like this.”

“And I do?”

But he tied my wrists and ankles tighter, stopping just before the circulation was cut off.

“I’m obviously going to have to carry you,” he said warily.

“Obviously,” I whispered back.

He put his arms behind my back and knees and lifted me up with little effort. I was right. He had bulked up a bit.

Not that it matters, I thought quickly, then tried to concentrate on the task at hand. Mainly, getting the hel out of Dodge without my parents, or Maximus, or Ada, catching us. Stil , as I rested my head in the crook of his sweet- scented neck, I couldn’t help but wonder how I smel ed; my last bath having been days ago. And that was with spiders.

“You OK, kiddo?” he asked after taking a step.

I nodded and breathed into his neck.

“Here goes nothing,” he said quietly. He adjusted my weight on him and quickly opened the door with his hand. It creaked open slowly. The lights in the hal way were on but the ones on the stairs weren’t. I hoped he wouldn’t fal down them; we’d both be hurt and we’d be letting everyone know what we were up to.

He tiptoed (if it’s even possible to tiptoe when you’re carrying someone) to the edge of the stairs and then careful y made his way down them. I wanted to warn him to be extra quiet since Maximus was asleep in the living room but I didn’t want to open my mouth.

We made it to the hardwood floors and he turned toward the front door.

Then stopped.

There was someone standing there.

We waited until the figure came forward and the light from upstairs il uminated them enough.

It was Ada. She was stil in her clothes, having not gone to sleep yet.

“What are you doing with her?” she hissed.

“I’m taking her. This is part of the plan.”

“Taking her where? You never told me the plan.”

“You guys, shut up.” I hushed them. “You’l wake Maximus.”

I jerked my head in the direction of the living room.

Dex continued, voice even lower, “I can’t tel you the plan.

When your parents find out what I’ve done-”

“They’l cal the fuzz!” she shot in.

“Exactly. And you’l be gril ed until you tel them the truth.”

“I can keep a secret.”

“No she can’t,” I whispered to him.

He nodded. “See, Perry knows. Just trust me, Ada. You cal ed me here for a reason, didn’t you? I’m saving your sister the only way I know how.”

“And how is that?”

“She needs an exorcist.”

Silence fel over us as we sucked on that exotic word: Exorcist. Dex was taking me to see an exorcist. I know I had been half-convinced I needed an exorcist this whole time but when someone else said it, it became real. Like an actual thing you could have done. What did you do today? Oh I saw an exorcist.

I don’t know if the thing inside me was cowering at the mention of that but suddenly I was very scared again.

“An exorcist?” Ada repeated after what seemed like an eternity.

“Yes,” Dex said, his patience being tried. “You know.

You’ve seen the film.”

“Actual y, I haven’t.”

“Wel , you should. It’s very good.”

“Guys,” I whispered again. “Maximus!”

“Please, Ada,” Dex said imploringly. “Just let us go. You know I’l do anything for Perry. She’s safer with me than with anyone else.”

His admission tugged at my heartstrings. Only a little. He was stil a douchecanoe. The douchcanoe who was going to paddle me to safety.

“My dad wil cal the cops the minute you’re gone,” she said. “They’l come after you. For, like, kidnapping or something.”

“I know.”

Ada folded her arms and stuck out her leg in front of her.

“Then I’m going with you.”

“Noooo,” Dex said, shaking his head. “This is nasty business, little fifteen.”

“I don’t care. There wouldn’t even be a dumb plan if it wasn’t for me. I’m going with you. She’s my sister and you need someone to watch over her while you drive. And if you don’t take me with you, I’m just going to march over to your little ginger friend over there and-”

“Fine,” he said swiftly. “You can come. But we’re going now. Right now. Before it’s too late.”

She smiled widely, which in turn made me feel that bounce of hope again. The thought of going to an exorcist was terrifying but it was no worse than being possessed. I just hoped I’d hold on long enough. The thing was always waiting.

Ada crept quietly to the front door and opened it for us.

With quick feet, Dex jogged down the front steps and into the wet, cold night. The rain splashed hard against my cheeks.

With hot breath he whispered into my ear as he ran, “I’m just around the corner, a few more seconds.”

I heard Ada close the front door quietly, and within seconds she was running beside us. We left the driveway and made a turn for the right. Farther up the road was his black Toyota Highlander. What a sight for sore eyes that car was.

It was unlocked, so Ada opened the back doors and Dex gently placed me in the seat. Ada hopped in on the other side, choosing to ride in the back with me.

Dex got in the front and adjusted the rearview mirror. He looked at me and then looked at Ada.

“Last chance to get out and live a normal life,” he said.

“Are you kidding? I gave that up for Lent,” she answered with a rol of her eyes.

Dex started the car and with a powerful purr, we were off.

“How is she?” Dex asked.

I felt the car rol to a stop and opened my eyes. Dex was turned around in the front seat, looking at me with concern.

Ada leaned forward until her face fil ed my vision. The only light came from a nearby street lamp. We had pul ed along the side of a road, a gas station in the distance. The far-off roar of cars told me that the highway was close by.

“Perry?” she asked.

“Yes?” I replied groggily. I tried to move in my seat but found it impossible. I looked down. Forget the rope, now my arms and legs were bound to me in a layer of duct tape. I looked like a silver worm.

I looked up at them. “Seriously?”

Dex chewed on his lip for a few seconds and glanced at Ada.

“Perry, it was real y bad,” she said gently. “We had to stop at a gas station and buy out their rope and duct tape.”

“They definitely thought we were doing some kidnapping,” Dex said.

“What did I do?” I tried to adjust myself; the duct tape was so tight and binding and pinched at my sore skin.

“You broke out of your ropes somehow and opened the car door. You were about to jump out.”

My mouth dropped open.

“Dex did some Need for Speed- style maneuvers; you fel back in the car before you could. I grabbed you...shit, you real y need to cut your nails, Perry.”

She rolled up the sleeve of her striped shirt. There were long, scraggly scratches on it.