I sat bolt upright, every muscle in my body tensed in anticipation of…what?
“What’s wrong?” Erika mumbled sleepily, half lifting her head. I didn’t answer for a moment. I was sure I had heard something just outside the front door, but I didn’t hear anything now.
“Ian?” Erika said, struggling to get up.
“No, no, everything’s fine,” I assured her quickly, pushing her down again. “Just finish watching the movie, I’ll be right back.”
“M’kay.” she sighed, her head drooping down onto the cushions. She would be out within seconds. I got to my feet, creeping quietly into the kitchen. Then I heard the sound again. I froze, my ears straining. It was almost the sound of fingernails scraping against glass…
I moved forward to peer out the window. A flash of color in the darkness made me pull in my breath sharply. Making sure the shield was up around both my head and Erika’s, I slipped silently out the door.
I felt the prickle of warning on the back of my neck a split-second before something knocked me flying. I landed hard on my back twenty feet away and all my air was knocked out of me in a gust. I groaned softly as I launched to my feet, but I couldn’t orient myself before someone rushed up to meet me and kicked me squarely in the jaw. I fell back again, my head ringing.
“This is more fun than I though it would be,” a horribly familiar voice observed.
“Lyra?!” I gasped, getting unsteadily to my feet. The world spun around me and it took a second to focus on the girl before me.
“Yup.” she said cheerfully, sauntering forward. I couldn’t move. Lyra’s face was gaunt, her eyes shockingly scarlet against her alabaster skin. Deep shadows hung under them, giving her a haunted look. She sure as hell had not looked like this at school.
“What the hell happened to you?” I asked, horrified. Lyra laughed.
“This?” she snickered, gesturing to her face. “Oh, Ian. You’ve experienced it. Just a little thing called thirst.” She came at me again, but this time I was ready for her. I dodged her just as she reached for me, dropping into an aggressive crouch.
“Ooh, you’re pretty good,” she complimented, baring her fangs. She lunged at me again, and this time I didn’t move quick enough. We crashed to the ground and Lyra straddled my chest, pinning my arms down with her knees. Striking like a snake, her hand darted into my pocket.
“Lyra!” I snarled, trying to worm my way out from under her. I was momentarily shocked when she let me go. Then I saw that she held my phone.
“Lyra, what are you doing?” I asked in a menacing whisper, prowling towards her.
“I’m not sure yet,” she said, poking out her lip in a show of regret. “I could call Erika and tell her to come out here.”
A startling sound split the air. It was every bit as threatening and terrifying as the snarl of an enraged tiger. For about two seconds, I wondered where it had come from. Then I realized that it had been me.
Lyra had actually frozen, looking apprehensive for the first time.
“Okay, then.” she said. “Not that. But there’s a multitude of things I could do.” then she grinned impishly. “Catch me if you can!” she cried gleefully, turning away and racing into the trees. There was no hesitation. I tore after her, a roaring in my ears, fury surging red-hot through my veins, the only thought in my mind to kill. In that moment, I wanted nothing more than to make Lyra pay for what she had done to us.
I was faster than she was. I caught her five seconds later, grabbing her arm and yanking her around to face me. In one swift movement, I knocked the phone out of her hand and slammed her into the ground. I pressed my forearm against her throat and watched in vindictive pleasure as all the arrogance on her face vanished.
“You like it now?” I snarled, pushing harder against her throat, making her gasp for air. “You like it when it’s the other way around?”
She didn’t have time to answer.
“IAN!” I froze, completely horrified. Oh no. Erika.
I opened my mouth to scream at her to stay where she was, but Lyra took advantage of my distraction. Astonishingly fast, she gripped the arm that was pressing against her throat and rolled so she was on top of me again. A cruel smiled on her face, she clamped her hand over my mouth. I yelled Erika’s name over and over again, but all I could manage with Lyra’s hand over my mouth was a muffled grunting.
There was not a prayer of Erika hearing me. And then--
Someone called Erika’s name, their voice so identical to mine that I wondered crazily if I had somehow made myself heard. But no.
Daemon. Daemon was calling Erika. Daemon was going to kill her.
I thrashed violently, surprising even myself. I yanked one of my arms free and my nails raked across the side of Lyra’s face, leaving bloodless gashes behind. She shrieked in surprised pain, but in the same moment she was wrestling me into immobility again. For about a minute, Lyra and I were locked in a silent struggle, both of us too strong for the other to gain an advantage. And then, in one split-second, my entire world seemed to crash down around my ears.
Erika screamed. The sound was so raw, so full of pain, that I wanted to scream right along with her. Her wordless shriek of agony was like a spark to gasoline, and I somehow managed to lift Lyra off me and send her crashing to the ground a few feet away. Snarls ripped out of me as Lyra and I started to move in a perfect circle, Erika’s continued screams ringing in my ears.
This was no longer a game. Lyra seemed to realize that, and a tiny hint of fear flickered in her eyes. In that moment, I knew I could beat her. Catching her off guard, I suddenly threw myself at her, slamming her to the ground once more. Erika’s screaming grew louder, and fear washed over me. I had to save her.
Lyra stared up at me, her face transforming into a mask of fear, and I suddenly saw Gabriel’s sweet twin sister looking back at me. A sob choked in my throat and I almost lost my nerve, but I knew I had to end this.
“I’m sorry.” I whispered. Then I put my hands around her neck and twisted hard. There was a sharp crack, and the light in Lyra’s eyes died.
Sobbing, I quickly broke a couple limbs off the closest tree and tossed them on top of Lyra’s lifeless body. Just as a spark leaped from the two stones in my hand, Erika’s screams ceased.
Quickly, quickly, she’s going to die! I screamed at myself.
The flames licked at the branches, growing larger, and I turned and sprinted towards where Erika and Daemon were.
It was time to end this.