Pulling me by the hand, he led me to the furthest part of the overhang. Pointing out a small narrow gap in the rocks, he led me through it.
“Close your eyes,” he whispered, covering them with his hands. I could feel the ground sloping away as he led me downwards. At the bottom, the ground leveled out and became flat.
Luke removed his hands from over my eyes, and whispered in my ear, “Take a look, Kiera,” and as I did, I gasped in wonder. Before me lay one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen, an underground lake which was lit from above by a series of stalagmites. They hung from the roof of the underground chamber like upside-down candles.
“It’s beautiful,” I said, drawing breath in wonder.
“It reminds me of home,” he sighed, “This is what parts of The Hollows look like.”
I looked at him and he had an almost kind of sad look on his face. “You miss home, don’t you?” I said.
“Sometimes,” he said, staring in awe at the stalagmites that glistened like diamonds above us, and the water that shone like a sheet of glass before us.
“I wish I could see it someday,” I whispered.
Looking at me, he said, “Maybe one day.” Then smiling at me he said, “Fancy a swim?”
But before I could answer, he was pulling off his clothes. Once naked he raced towards the water and dived in. He disappeared beneath the surface and I lost sight of him. Then his head appeared above the water. And with that wonderful boyish grin of his, he shouted, “Come on Kiera, the water feels wonderful!”
Desperate to rid myself of the dirt and grime that covered me, I pulled off my clothes and underwear and dived into the water. Although it was cold enough to snatch my breath away, it felt wonderful against my skin. It felt like it was cleansing me, washing away the horrors of the last few days. The last time I’d felt like this had been back on the road, in one of those cheap motels. I laid back in the bath with my eyes closed and listened to Leona Lewis sing ‘Run’ to me via my iPod.
Splashing above the surface of the lake, I giggled at Luke and said, “The water is freezing!”
“But doesn’t it feel good though!” he laughed, swimming towards me.
“It feels like heaven!” I screeched with joy.
“Come here,” he said, snaking his arms around me, holding me close. Then leaning me back in the water, he cupped one of his hands with water and poured it over my hair.
“What are you doing?” I laughed.
“You said that you felt a mess, so I’m washing your hair,” he smiled down at me.
So, closing my eyes, I relaxed in his arms as he gently poured water over my hair. I stayed in his arms for what seemed like forever, my fears and worries almost seeming to ebb away.
Then easing me slightly up, he poured water down my neck and back. With his strong hands, he made gentle circular motions with his fingers up and down my spine. Then working his hands around my middle, he traced his fingertips across my stomach and chest. Turning around in the water, I faced him. With the tips of our noses only millimeters apart, I lent forward and kissed him on his lips. He kissed me back with such passion that it felt like my skin was on fire. Running his hands through my hair, he pulled me closer still, covering my whole face with kisses. He worked his mouth down my neck and over my shoulders to my chest. The passion I felt inside began to grow and I felt as if I was being smothered by it. My head began to feel dizzy as he wrapped me in his arms, the muscles in his chest firm against me.
“I love you, Kiera,” he whispered.
“I…” I started, but couldn’t finish.
“What’s wrong?” he hushed against my cheek.
“It’s nothing,” I said, and I hated myself for lying to him. I hated myself because I couldn’t tell him that I loved him back. I couldn’t say those words to him, because deep down inside of me, lost in those deep, overpowering feelings I had for Luke, I also felt something for Potter, too.
Luke must have sensed something, because he stopped kissing me and eased himself away.
“Is everything okay, Kiera?” he asked me, and I couldn’t help but notice the hurt in his eyes.
Maybe I should just tell him? I thought to myself. But what could I say? That every time he held me, I couldn’t help myself thinking about that jerk, Potter? I couldn’t explain how I felt to him, when I didn’t really understand myself. I knew I had feelings for Luke, strong feelings, but if I were in love with him, would I be thinking about Potter? Maybe I did really love Luke, but perhaps there was a part of me holding back – not able to give myself totally to him. Perhaps it had something to do with trust? It seemed that everyone I‘d gotten close to recently had let me down, tricked or lied to me in some way. Perhaps that was the reason?
So leaning forward, I gently kissed Luke and said, “It’s not you, Luke, it’s me. I just need some time to get my head together. So much has happened in my life over the last six months or so. My whole life feels like it’s been tipped upside-down.”
Holding my face in his hands, he kissed me on the tip of my nose and said, “I understand, Kiera. But I just want you to know that I’m here for you.”
“I know you are,” I whispered, resting my head against his chest.
Then, from above, someone shouted, “Who wants some food?”
Looking up, Luke and I parted, and I sunk beneath the water, so just my head was peeking out.
“Whoa, sorry guys,” Isidor said, looking down at us, his face flushed red with embarrassment. “I didn’t know…erm…sorry.” Then turning away on the path that Luke had led me down, he shouted over his shoulder, “I’ve cooked some wild rabbit if you want some,” Then he was gone, disappearing through the gap in the rocks.
I looked at Luke and he laughed. “Want something to eat?” he smiled.
“Are you kidding?” I grinned at him. “I’m starving.”
We swam back to the rocks, and shivering, we pulled on our clothes. Throwing on my bra, I tried to fasten the clasp at the back.
“Here, let me help you,” Luke said coming forward.
Stepping back, I said, “No, I’ve got it.”
“If you’re sure,” he said, pulling on his shirt and walking away back up the rock path.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want him to help me, I just didn’t want him to see the bony lumps I’d just discovered sticking out between my shoulder blades, and I wondered how he hadn’t noticed them as he’d washed me in the water. I twisted my arm up my back and brushed my fingers over the lumps. They felt hard and I’m sure that as I pressed them with my fingertips they moved. Snatching my hand away, I felt sickened by what I had discovered.
Trying to shove the thoughts of those lumps on my back from my mind, I followed Luke into the overhang. However much I tried not to think about them, I knew what they were and the thought of them made me sick. How long would it be until I had those bony black fingers wriggling about? Would they hurt? God, I hoped that they didn’t hurt. I wished Kayla were with me so that I could show them to her, confide in her. But I did have Isidor, and I decided that I would find a moment together so that I could show him – see if it really was the start of me changing. I know that Potter didn’t like or trust him, but I was glad that Isidor was with us.
I could see that Potter had lit a small fire, which he was prodding with a stick. Someone had made a makeshift spit and attached to it were three skinned rabbits. Isidor was slowly turning them over the fire. It was nice to see Potter and Isidor working together and not arguing for a change.
Murphy was still sitting by himself away from the others and his face looked haggard and old, way older than the forty-five years that he was. Luke walked passed him without saying anything, and went and sat by the fire. I wondered what was so bad about these Lycanthrope – werewolves – that had upset Luke and Potter so much. It was as if Murphy had betrayed them in some way.
I sat next to Luke by the fire and began to untangle my wet hair with my fingers. Potter took one of the rabbits from over the fire, and using his fingernails like a set of knives he separated the meat from the bones. Passing it amongst us, Luke and Isidor wasted no time in wolfing it down. Juice from the meat ran from their chins and between their fingers as they devoured the meat. I looked at the pink-coloured meat that Potter had handed to me and despite my hunger, I felt sick. It wasn’t the food, it smelt delicious, it was the thought again of those lumps sticking out of my back that put me off.
“Get it down your neck,” Potter said, staring at me through the flames of the fire. “You’ll need all the energy you can get if I can guess what the sarge has got planned for us next.’”
Hearing this, Murphy spoke up from the other side of the overhang. “I don’t have a plan.”
“Well, that’s reassuring to know,” Potter whispered, so as not to let Murphy hear him.
“What did you say?” Murphy growled.
“Nothing,” Potter said, shredding the second rabbit with his fingernails.
I picked at the first handful of food I’d been given, and watched Murphy come and sit with us by the fire.
“I’m sorry for what I’ve done,” he said, his head cast down, as if unable to look at any of us.
Potter waved some of the rabbit in front of him, and said, “Have some of this.”
I looked at Murphy, his back was arched over and he looked down at the food in his hands. “I didn’t know what else to do,” he said, his voice sounding choked.
It scared me to hear him like this. Murphy always seemed so strong, he was our leader and I trusted in him. And I guess that I had in some way come to think of him as being a bit like a father to me. I didn’t want to see him hurting.
“It’s okay,” I told him.
“No, it’s not,” Potter said.
“But why?” I asked. “I’m sure that the sarge thought he was doing his best.”