The energetic feelings disappeared. She couldn’t run out of breath while running a marathon because she was already running out of breath sitting there with those words set on a sick repeat.
Cleo knelt in front of her and examined Shay’s face with narrowed eyes. Then she sat back on her heels in satisfaction. “You’ll be fine. I reckon you won’t be dying in the next hour or so, so you won’t become a vampire.”
Shay wasn’t listening to a word Cleo was saying.
“Cleo?” Shay’s voice cracked and even though it got Cleo’s attention, she tried again. “Cleo? She’s not really going to kill Aubree, too, is she?”
Cleo looked away towards the wall and didn’t speak.“Cleo, Aubree didn’t do anything. She’s not a part of this. Just let her go.”
Shaking her head, Cleo said, “It’s not my decision to make.”
“Well, you have to do something —”
“No,” Cleo said. “I don’t. I already told you, I owe Kendall, and even if I didn’t, there’s too much of a risk for me. I almost died once, and it was not an experience I play on reliving. I’m not like you. I can’t put others ahead of me. I’m not programmed that way.”
“But you just helped me,” Shay stammered. “You stopped Elijah. You gave me your blood to heal me.”
“Because if I had let you die, Kendall would have killed Elijah and Aubree, and then she would have killed me, too.”
“I can’t let her kill Aubree. I can’t let anyone else die.”
“It’s not your job—”
“You’re not listening to me!” Shay exploded. “Matt’s dead! Rowan’s dead—!”
Something like recognition flashed in Cleo’s eyes. “Who?”
“—I am not letting anyone else die because of me! If you’re not with me, then you’re against me!” Shay continued.
“If you were in my position, what would you do?”
“I’d do the right thing,” Shay said. Plain and simple.
“And that,” Cleo said, “is why you’re going to die.”
Shay reached for Cleo as she began to rise, and instead of touching Cleo’s shoulder like she had intended, the tips of her fingers came into contact with Cleo’s bare temple.
Shay remembered thinking that she had to show Cleo. She had to make her see. She didn’t realize that she had also been reaching for Cleo with her mind.
There was a burst of light, and Shay thought, Oh, my God. I’ve killed us both. Which was silly, but she didn’t know how else to explain it.
It was if a current flowed between them, linking them. Shay could feel and hear and see everything that was going on inside Cleo’s head. Images dashed by in bright torrents of color and sound. She was seeing everything through Cleo’s eyes.
Lying sprawled out in the middle of the street beside an overturned bike as blood gushed from her petite toddler legs. The scrapes on her hands and knees burning, and her wailing for her mother, who had been videotaping.
Sitting in front of a geometry book with the desk lamp on beside her and the digital clock blinking 12:01. Thinking that she had to get above a C on the test the next day, or she’d be grounded.
Waving goodbye to woman that looked like an older version of Cleo, with laugh lines and glasses. Watching the woman peer from the window of a tiny house with blue shutters as Shay—Cleo—climbed into a car with two other girls.
And then Shay was swept away in a storm of memories.
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