Ch. 1 - Asking for Trouble
The school van sped over the causeway. Overcast clouds darkened the horizon ahead like a bad dream. Tom glanced over at Shannon Kelly, who was doubled over and staring at the floor of the van. The tall, athletic boy nudged the ginger-haired girl with his elbow.
"Shan, what are you doing?"
Shan risked a look out the van windows, greeted by endless water on either side. She quickly lurched forward again, studying the floor.
"What does it look like I'm doing? Trying not to panic. You do realize that water comes in and covers this entire road, don't you? When the tide comes in…" She shuddered.
"Which is why Mr. Jeffries checked the tide tables. He's not stupid, Shan." Tom shook his head with disgust. "Can you not flip out? This is going to be amazing. School trip to the isle of Lindisfarne. That means Lindisfarne Castle! And you're seriously obsessing about a little roadside water. Shan, please…don't be neurotic."
"I am not neurotic," she growled. A few of their schoolmates looked towards her as she raised her voice. She quickly dialed it down a notch.
"Good, then you won't mind giving me some advice." Tom strained to see over his seat, catching a glimpse of Maddy in the very front. Normally she would've sat right near Tom and Shan, but for some reason she'd been extremely hyper lately. Especially this morning. She'd claimed the seat at the very front, muscling Jimi aside before the boy could protest and insisting that she had dibs on the view. At least she'd had the decency to give Tom and Shan an apologetic shrug.
Now Shan sat up only by forcing herself to, with clenched teeth. She looked at Tom. "Okay, what's this advice that's so important you have to ask me even though we might drown any moment now?"
Tom again peeked over the top of the next seat. He could just make out Maddy's cute face glued to the window as she looked out at the waves. She was literally bouncing up and down with excitement. Too much. She bounced a little too high, hitting her head on the overhead storage rack. With a yelp of pain Maddy clutched her head, but two seconds later all was forgotten and Maddy was again bouncing like a giddy little kid, staring at the outside world like it was about to become her own personal playground. What in the world's gotten into her? Tom seriously wanted to know what was up with Maddy, and he wasn't about to believe Shan's preposterous theory.
"Hello? Still waiting," Shan prodded.
"Yeah, yeah, keep your knickers on. Hey, you know I've always sort of fancied Mads. Right?"
Shan nodded slowly. "I guess I was distantly aware of it. Why…?"
Tom shrugged, risking another glance Maddy's way. "I don't know, I just thought… Fine, I'll just come right out with it." Tom rubbed his hands together, like he usually did right before football practice when he was looking forward to taking shots on goal. "I was thinking of telling Mads how I feel about her. Seeing, you know, if she might…" His voice trailed off, so Shan filled in the blank.
"So you can find out if she feels the same way about you?"
Tom shrugged, blushing a little. Sometimes he was thankful his skin tone could hide certain things. "I mean…yeah. Or if she would, you know, be willing to give it a shot." He elbowed her. "So…what do you think? You think I should tell her?"
Shan sat up in her seat, sufficiently distracted by Tom's conundrum that she temporarily forgot about her terror of being swallowed up by the tide. She ticked off on her dainty fingers as if she were going through a laundry list in her head. "Let's see. We have to think this through logically. Make a list of pros and cons in your head, and then if the pros outweigh the cons, go ahead and ask her."
"Shan, seriously. I'm not asking for help on my lab homework, yeah? I want some real advice."
Shan stiffened. "Tom Okanawe, don't speak to me like that. I am giving you real advice."
Tom groaned again, slightly softer than last time. The van jostled, and he held onto the seat in front of him as he watched Maddy go flying. His heart cringed as he saw Mads nearly smash her face into the window frame when the van lurched back the other way. The short little brunette hardly noticed, bracing her hands and staring greedily out the window like a kid at a chocolate factory.
"No, but Shan, I need real advice. If I could make a clinical list of reasons for or against, do you think I'd be asking for your help?"
"Well then, you'll just have to place the problem in my capable hands then, won't you? Let's start with the cons." Shan adjusted her plaid chartreuse sweater, typically un-stylish Shan. "First, Maddy may be some kind of creature, which means getting too close to her might put you in danger."
Tom threw Shan a long, devastating look. It said all he needed it to. Shan, she's our best friend! Shan wisely backed down.
"All right, all right! The only big con is that if she says no, it might make things weird between you two. On the plus side, you two have been friends since we were little, so you're probably safe. Even if she shoots you down, as long as you're prepared for the possibility of failure, you should be able to recover. Knowing Mads, she'll let bygones be bygones as long as you don't make things weird."
Tom clutched to the top of the seat in front of him as the van took another curve. "Fair enough, any other pros?"
"Of course. If she lets you get close to her, maybe you can prove once and for all whether she's some kind of beast." Tom's eyes turned to slits as Shan burst out laughing. "I was kidding, Tom. Please, you look like you're about to hurt me."
"The thought crossed my mind," Tom grumbled. "Shannon Kelly, for an amazingly good friend, sometimes you're no help at all. You know that?"
Shan grinned. "Yet still you put up with me. Tell you what, I'll make you a deal."
Tom rolled his eyes as Shan stuck out her fingers for a firm handshake. "I'll sound Maddy out on the idea of you…and her…and even help you ask her out. In return, you tell me if Mads does anything weird. If her eyes turn yellow, especially, I want to know about it. Okay?"
Tom shook his head as if he was suffering in the company of a delusional madwoman. "You are so strange, Shan. Fine." He took Shan's hand and shook it firmly. "You're on."
A Short While Later…
The van had pulled into a spot at the car park, with everyone piling out. "Guys, come on. You're so slow!" Maddy called. Tom gasped as Maddy raced up and leapt onto his back like an agile little monkey. Tom tripped, sprawling face-first on the asphalt as Mr. Jeffries and Ms. Derby's voices called in unison.
"Maddy, stop horsing around."
"As if a horse could even do what I just did," Maddy grumbled, helping Tom to his feet. Are you okay?" Tom was too aware of Maddy's scent as she pulled him up. Wisps of her hair flew about untidily with the wind, and he resisted the urge to tuck a few strands behind her ear.
"Um, yeah. Thanks Mads. What's gotten into you anyway?"
Maddy stretched her arms wide as if she were about to do jumping-jacks. "What's gotten INTO ME? We're on Lindisfarne, don't tell me you're not excited. She grabbed him by the front of the shirt and shook him. Tom slowly grinned.
"I get it, Mads. And yes, I'm pumped too. Promise."
"The sooner we get out of this cold, wet, dreary excuse for weather, the sooner we can see the interior of the castle and actually have some fun," Shan declared. "Are you two coming?"
Shan realized her mistake when Maddy grabbed one of each of their hands and tugged them along forcefully, much like a dog taking its owner for a walk. As Maddy catapulted into the lead past her schoolmates, Jeffries' strident voice could be heard trying to rein them in. Rarely had there been a more futile effort.
"Maddy Smith, slow down!" But the more frantic Mr. Jeffries' voice became, the more Maddy tugged away, until they were well ahead of the main group. Shan knew an opportunity when she saw one. She glanced back at Tom, tossing him a meaningful look.
"Tom, why don't you go back and talk to Mr. Jeffries, let him know we'll slow down and wait for the group so he doesn't lose his patience."
"Good idea," Maddy piped up, enfolding her hand in Shan's a little more tightly and dragging her best mate along.
Tom faded into the background as Shan walked ahead with Maddy. I have to be subtle about this...but how? How did you tell your best friend that your other mutual best friend had a huge crush on them and really fancied them? Shan bit her lip. Some psychologist needed to write a manual called 'How to Handle Really Awkward Social Situations.' Shan would totally buy it.
"Mads…can I ask you something personal, girlfriend to girlfriend?" Maddy glanced over at Shan, forehead furrowed.
"Sure, what's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong, it's just—"
But before the ginger-haired girl could get out another word, Maddy whipped around, sniffing the air intently…almost as if she smelled danger. Shan tried to smell whatever it was that Maddy was smelling. She couldn't smell a thing.
Maddy's figure went taut, like the string of a bow right before it releases an arrow. "Shan, go back and meet up with the others. I need to check on something real quick."
The ginger-haired girl was about to protest when Maddy darted off. "Mads, what're you—?" It was too late, though. The girl had already vanished down one of the village side streets. Shan had a bad feeling about this. A very bad feeling.
A/N - This story came out unexpectedly from a couple of ideas that have been bouncing around in my head. I'm also working on Wolf Bond the sequel, but I want to wait until I get back from my trip to start posting new chapters for it. I hope you guys like this fic…it's definitely going to have a story arc you haven't seen before. What if Rhydian's life had gone in a different direction…what if the one who had saved him from being a lone wolf was someone else besides Maddy? Those questions and more will be answered in this story arc…but of course you can guess the chances of Maddian finding a way to prevail (hint: 100%).
I should probably stop here since my flight leaves at 8am for Scotland tomorrow morning. I guess sleep is sort of a good idea. Personally though, I think writing is more important than sleep. Reading too, in many cases. Oh well JGood night wolfblood brothers and sisters, and happy dreams.