#Chapter 57: The Cumb
I was awoken by the gunshot just seconds before James came running back to camp.
“Enzo!” he yelled. “Enzo! Nina’s in trouble! There’s something out there!”
I didn’t need to hear any more. I quickly unzipped my tent and ran out, having kept my clothes and shoes on in case of an emergency. Unfortunately, the other campers were also awoken by the gunshot, and were already coming out of their tents with panicked looks on their faces.
“What’s happening?” Jessica asked, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.
I cursed to myself as I realized that I would have to wipe all of their memories of this night. I wasn’t nearly as good at it as Edward, but I had no choice. I couldn’t have them following
me out into the woods and potentially seeing a shifter, or worse; I couldn’t have them getting killed.
“Get back in your tents and go to sleep,” I said as I borrowed Fio’s power to daze the group all at once.
They all stopped moving in unison,
their eyes widening as they began
blinking slowly. I hadn’t used this ability in so long that I had forgotten how easy it was to daze humans; the fact that Nina couldn’t be dazed, even by Edward, was solid proof that she couldn’t possibly be entirely human.
“This was all just a dream,” I said.
The group collectively nodded. James shuffled back to his tent in a daze and climbed inside while everyone else slowly zipped their tents back up. Once I was certain that they were under my spell, I cursed to myself once again and turned on my heel, sprinting into the woods and using Fio to help me track where Nina was.
I found her just in time. She was fighting with all of her might against a man who I couldn’t identify as he tried to drag her through an open portal to the Lycan realm.
“Get off of her, asshole!” I yelled, pushing myself to run even faster. He was fully through the portal now aside from his arm, which was dragging Nina by the ankle. When she saw me, she reached for me, her teary eyes begging for help as her foot started to disappear inside the rapidly-closing portal…
I leaped forward and grabbed her by the hand, yanking with all my might and freeing her from the stranger’s grip.
She fell on top of me in a sobbing heap while the portal finished closing.
The next morning, everyone woke up as the sun rose. I stayed awake all night, watching Nina’s tent; she hadn’t asked me to stay with her, although I would have if she had asked. Instead, I chose to keep watch through the window of my own tent to make sure she was okay. I had put a protective barrier around the camp when I first got here that would keep out any unwanted visitors, but I worried that Nina would wake up frightened in the middle of the night. I had to be there for her if that happened.
Although, judging from the dark circles under her eyes when she came out of her tent in the morning, she didn’t look like she slept either.
“Ugh, I had the weirdest dream,” Lori said as she came out of her tent, rubbing her eyes.
“Me too,” Jessica replied.
“Really? I slept like a baby,” Matt said as he emerged from his tent with a grin. I’d observed him on enough overnight hockey tournament trips to know that he was a heavy sleeper. I couldn’t help but smirk a bit at the oaf.
“I’m starving,” Nina said, pulling her boots on. “I’m gonna go collect some firewood so we can cook breakfast.”
I wasn’t about to let her go alone, so I followed her while everyone else was still rubbing the sleep from their eyes. She didn’t seem to mind the company; surely, after what happened the night before, she wouldn’t push me away quite so much anymore.
“Thank you for last night,” she said quietly once we were far enough away from the group. “I don’t know what would’ve happened if you hadn’t shown up.”
“I told you that I’d always protect you, didn’t I?” I asked.
Nina bit her lip as she bent down to pick up a piece of wood on the ground. She always looked cute when she bit her lip like that, and it made me want her.
We collected wood in silence for a minute, but I had burning questions that needed to be answered.
“You knew that guy, didn’t you?” 1
She stopped and sighed, nodding. “I did. I didn’t know he was a werewolf. He lied to me… serves me right for meeting strangers on the internet.”
So that was the guy Luke said she met up with in the coffee shop weeks ago?
“Why did you meet him to begin with?” I asked, calming my nerves so that I wouldn’t reprimand Nina for being so stupid.
She looked almost embarrassed while she answered. “When you first told me you were a werewolf, I didn’t believe you,” she said. “So I did research and found this guy on a forum he called himself K — who claimed to have proof that werewolves exist. I know it was stupid, but I was desperate, so I met up with him. He claimed to be a werewolf hunter, and said some awful things.”
“Like… You’re all monsters. But I know now that he was the very monster he warned me about.”
I saw tears welling up in Nina’s eyes and decided not to pry any further. Setting down my bundle of wood, I walked up to her and took the wood from her hands, then pulled her into a tight hug. Much to my surprise, she relaxed into me. I thought I felt her sobbing quietly into my shirt, but she didn’t show it.
“I’m sorry,” she said finally, pushing herself away from me and wiping her teary eyes with her sleeve. “I shouldn’t be acting like this, not with you and Lisa back together.”
I let out a sigh. “Nina, we’re not back together,” I replied. “When will you learn that I’m not interested in her?”
“But I saw you that night-”
“I know,” I said, “but if you’ll just let me explain everything, you’d understand what was really happening.”
Nina paused for several long seconds, staring at the ground as she did so, then finally nodded and looked back up at me.
“Do you remember how Lisa was acting when she attacked you? Like she was on something, right?” I asked. Nina nodded, so I continued. “It wasn’t drugs. She was bitten by a rogue.”
Nina’s eyes widened. “So does that mind that Lisa is…”
“No,” I replied, shaking my head. ” Thankfully not. I was able to get her help in time to reverse the effects. before it was too late. But that was why I was with her; I took her to my father’s house for a few days until she was strong enough, then took her home that night. Nothing ever happened between us.”
An expression came across Nina’s face that I couldn’t quite read, but at least she seemed to understand now…. Hopefully she believed me..
Without another word, she continued collecting firewood.
When we returned to camp with our firewood, everyone was dressed and complaining of hunger. Nina made a fire I was impressed at her ability to do it so well — and cooked sausages and flapjacks over the fire. After everything that happened the day before, the delicious food was much- needed.
“We should go on a hike,” Jessica said when we finished eating. “It’s really nice out ”
Although I was exhausted, I agreed — only because Nina agreed to go and I wasn’t planning on letting her leave my sight for the remainder of this trip.
So, once everyone was ready with their water and their granola bars, we started on the trail.
James, Mr. Perfect with his fancy hiking gear, took charge and led the group. I walked at the back and watched, fuming, as he kept glancing at Nina. She didn’t seem to be reciprocating, but it made me wonder why they were out in the woods together the night before.
What made me fume even more, though, was that Mr. Perfect left Nina out there by herself with a fucking werewolf. She was lucky I got there when I did; he certainly wouldn’t have been able to save her.
We walked along the hiking trail through the forest for some time, following the signs to a small mountain nearby. James claimed to have hiked it many times, although I suspected that he was full of shit. Nonetheless, in order to not rock the boat unnecessarily, I followed the group quietly.
Finally, we made it to the base of the mountain.
Now it was time to climb.