Read Dead Is Just a Rumor Online

Authors: Marlene Perez

Dead Is Just a Rumor (10 page)

BOOK: Dead Is Just a Rumor
11.52Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


During English,
I tried to figure out what to tell Ryan. I knew he would ask me about my meeting with Ms. Tray, since he was president of her fan club. He'd already had at least two meetings with her.

"How did your last counseling session go?" I asked Ryan on our way to lunch.

"She's so good at her job," he replied.

"How so?"

"Ms. Tray asked all these questions about my family," he said.

"What kind of questions?"

"Like where my mom was, where my dad grew up, that sort of thing."

"I doubt she was just making conversation," I said. I was sure it was something else. What did Ryan's family have to do with where he went to school? Apart from the financial stuff, of course.

"She's so conscientious," Ryan replied, totally missing my point. "I have another meeting with her next week."

I wasn't too thrilled with the idea of Ryan in another one-on-one session with her. Besides, she was asking way too many questions. And I wanted to know why.

A minute later, a thought slithered through my brain.
They will pay.

I put a hand to my head as a sharp pain stabbed my temple. The next thing I knew, I was on the floor and Ryan was crouched next to me.

"Daisy, talk to me," he said. "Nurse Phillips will be here in a minute."

The pain in my head was gone, but my mouth felt dry. "I'm okay," I said. I tried to sit up, but Ryan stopped me.

"Don't move until the nurse checks you out."

Nurse Phillips came hurrying toward us. "Daisy, what happened?"

"I ... fell," I said. "At least, I think that's what happened. I must not have been watching where I was going."

I mean, what else could I say? I wandered into someone else's mind and got a dose of the nasties strong enough to make me faint?

She checked my pulse and shone a light in my eyes. "Let's get you to the infirmary," she said.

Ryan insisted on carrying me. Werewolves were strong, but I wasn't exactly tiny. He didn't even break out in a sweat. I wrapped my arms around him and held on tight. There were a few strange looks sent our way, but since Nurse Phillips was right behind us, everyone got the picture.

At least, I hoped they did. I saw Penny Edwards texting furiously and hoped it was just a coincidence.

When we reached the nurse's office, Ryan placed me gently on the cot and then stayed with me. He grabbed a chair and pulled it next to me and held my hand. That made me feel much better. Nurse Phillips took my pulse and then got paged to the gym. "I'll be right back," she said.

Samantha came rushing into the nurse's office a few minutes later. "Daisy, I heard you broke your ankle," she said.

"No, I just fell down. I'm fine," I replied.

Ryan snorted. "Typical Nightshade gossip."

I decided I should tell them the truth. If I couldn't be honest with my best friend and boyfriend, who could I be honest with?

"Something weird did happen," I admitted.

"I knew it!" Samantha crowed.

"You don't need to sound so happy about it," I responded.

"Sorry," she said. "Go on."

"I caught someone's thoughts and whoever it was, he or she is full of the most terrible hatred. It gave me a blinding headache. I think I passed out for a minute."

"You didn't pick up anything else?" Ryan said.

I thought about it for a moment. "I'm pretty sure the person was at the school, but other than that, no idea."

Samantha clapped her hands. "A new mystery."

Nurse Phillips came bustling up. Today, her cat's-eyes glasses were purple and her blond beehive was slightly askew. "Daisy, how are you feeling? Do you want me to call your parents?"

"No, I think I can go back to class now," I said. "I'm fine."

She looked at her watch. "You still have time for a bite to eat if you hurry."

Ryan, Sam, and I rushed to the cafeteria, but the selections had been pretty well picked over by the time we got there.

Sean waved us over to his table. "Samantha told me to grab some extra stuff for you guys," he said.

There was a pile of food, including a couple of salads and a giant pizza.

"You're a lifesaver, Sean," I said. My stomach growled and I realized I was starving. Ryan handed me a slice of pizza and a salad.

"Thank you," I said.

We had about fifteen minutes to wolf down the food and get to class. As I chewed my slice, I wondered who at the school had a soul that was as black as licorice and not nearly as tasty.

My headache finally disappeared and I couldn't pick up a trace of the dark thoughts I'd heard earlier. I hurried to my next class. Unfortunately, there was a new headache waiting for me there.

I'd signed up for Nutrition as my elective for fall semester. I liked Ms. Andrews, the teacher, and with my cooking experience, anticipated an easy A. And so far, I'd been getting what I'd signed up for.

But today, I got an unpleasant surprise. Circe Silvertongue was standing next to Ms. Andrews's desk. I smothered a groan and tried to hide behind Tyler Diaz, a six-foot-six basketball player, but no such luck. Circe spotted me and gave me a regal nod.

I was still thinking of ways to get out of class when the bell rang. "Class, settle down, please," Ms. Andrews said. "I have a wonderful surprise for you today. Circe Silvertongue, the executive chef at Wilder's, is here today to give you a cooking lesson."

Wonderful surprise? That's one way to put it. Another would be horrible torture.

"Daisy, come here," Circe commanded. "I require your assistance."

I got up slowly and walked to the front of the room.

"Daisy will act as my assistant," Circe said. "Her cooking skills are adequate."

For the next forty-five minutes, she criticized every single thing I did. Which wasn't exactly new to me, at least not since I'd started my cooking lessons with her, but I'd never been picked apart in front of my classmates.

We were supposed to be making a simple stir fry, but apparently, even slicing veggies was beyond my meager skills. "Daisy, I said julienne, not enormous clunky hunks," Circe said.

My teeth sank into my bottom lip with the effort of keeping silent and in control of my temper. I wasn't successful, because a decorative pumpkin exploded right next to Circe's head.

The class gasped. Ms. Andrews looked confused. "There must have been something left over from last period's chemistry class," she reasoned. I heaved a sigh of relief.

Circe didn't even seem to notice, until I reached over to brush a chunk of pumpkin out of her hair. The dismissal bell rang right as I finished scraping the last bit of pumpkin into the trash. I had a smear of food across my new white sweater and was hot and sweaty.

"Daisy," Circe called after me as I gathered up my books to make my escape.

"Yes?" Was it possible that she was actually going to pay me a compliment?

No such luck. "Please take that abomination with you when you go."

It was the dish I'd slaved over the entire period. Was she goading me into another pumpkin explosion? I'd give the meal I'd made to Sean, who would eat anything.


After school the next day,
Ryan called with some upsetting news. When I got off the phone with him, I unloaded my frustrations on my sisters.

"Ryan just got another blackmail note," I stated baldly. "This one asked for money."

I wanted to have a look at the note myself and get some answers, but the moon was full, which meant he wouldn't be around for the rest of tonight or tomorrow. Or answering his cell phone. I'd have to live with my questions for another day.

"Stay calm, Daisy," Rose soothed. "Getting emotional about the situation won't help."

"But it's
" I said.

"We know," Rose said. "We know how much he means to you, but you need to stay calm if we're going to be able to help him."

"Who would have a reason to wish Ryan any harm?" Poppy asked.

"That's just it," I said. "I can't think of one single reason. Wolfie's a different story."

"He's a major pain in the butt," Poppy said, nodding her head.

"That reminds me," I said. "I saw his parents coming out of a meeting with the guidance counselor yesterday."

"That woman I met at the fundraiser?" Rose asked. She looked a little disgusted. I was glad I wasn't the only one who was rubbed the wrong way by Ms. Tray. "I wonder if it had anything to do with what I heard from Nicholas."

"What did you hear from Nicholas?" I asked. Since her boyfriend's dad was the head of the Nightshade City Council, he always had the latest gossip on the paranormal community. Especially the shifters, like the Paxton family.

"I heard he withdrew his entire car fund," Rose said. "His parents are furious, but Wolfgang won't tell them what he spent the money on."

My ears prickled. Wolfgang had received a blackmail note, and now he was withdrawing money from the bank? It didn't take a genius to see that the two were related.

"What are his parents going to do?" Poppy asked.

"They're threatening to send him to military school," Rose said.

"Poor Wolfie," I said without thinking.

Poppy gave me a sharp look. "Since when do you have any sympathy for Wolfgang?"

I shrugged. "It just seems a little harsh," I said.

Silence enveloped the room as I made a list of the blackmail victims. Finally I said, "Maybe the blackmail's

"Blackmail's pretty personal," Rose said wryly.

"Blackmail isn't usually just about money," Poppy commented. "It's about having power over someone."

"What do the people on the list have in common?"

We peered down at the list.

Rose snapped her fingers. "They're all paranormals."

Poppy raised an inquiring eyebrow.

I nodded. "I wonder if"—I paused and lowered my voice so Dad wouldn't hear—"the Scourge could be involved."

"Don't worry, Daisy. Dad's upstairs taking a nap," Rose said. "I don't think he can hear you."

"Good," Poppy said. "Because Dad would freak out if it turned out someone from the Scourge was in town! He's already, like, traumatized enough!"

I sighed. She was right. This midday nap was just another example of how Dad's imprisonment at the hands of the Scourge had affected him. His sleeping schedule had been off ever since he'd been back.

"Dad is still being weird about my seeing Ryan," I said.

"You're sneaking around behind Dad's back?" Rose said.

I lifted my chin. "He didn't give me any other choice," I said. "He wouldn't even listen to anything I said about Ryan."

"Well, this isn't helping," she pointed out.

"I seem to recall you snuck out to see Nicholas a few times in your day," Poppy said. She was actually taking my side. Usually my two older sisters sided together.

"Something's got to give soon," I said."The anniversary ball is next weekend! I can't be grounded for that."

"You should talk to Mom," Poppy suggested.

"She won't help," I said. "She's been tiptoeing around Dad ever since he came home."

"She's doing the best that she can," Rose defended her. "I think you should talk to her."

I sighed. I knew my sisters were right. I went looking for Mom, to have what was sure to be a difficult conversation.

She was home for a change—in the backyard, deadheading the flowers.

"Mom, you've got to do something about Dad," I said.

She stood up and led me over to the patio table.

"Daisy, why don't you sit down and tell me what's the matter," she said.

"What's the matter?" I said. "Dad is the matter."

"Don't say that," she protested.

"You know it's true," I said. "He's ruining my life. He hovers all the time, he treats me like an infant, and worst of all, he won't let me see Ryan."

"Your dad has had some adjustments to make since he's been back," she said.

"He's not adjusting, that's the problem," I said. "He won't even give Ryan a chance." I felt tears threatening. "I feel smothered. I'll be in college soon and I can't wait to leave. Because of Dad."

Mom took a long look into my eyes. "Daisy, I know Ryan is a good kid. I shouldn't have let it get so far out of hand. I was just so happy that your father was home that I..."

"Didn't want to rock the boat?" I said. "I understand, but I'm a senior, Mom. This is supposed to be the best year of my high school experience. Instead, I'm getting treated like I'm still in elementary school."

"I'll talk to your father. I promise."

I gave a relieved sigh. "Thanks, Mom," I said.

There was motion in the upstairs window, which caught my eye.

My heart sank. My parents' bedroom window, which overlooked the backyard, was open. My father must have woken up and overheard our entire conversation. How was he going to react to the unvarnished truth?


At first,
Dad didn't say anything. In fact, I had the feeling he was avoiding me. Not that I could blame him, after all the mean things he'd heard me say. It was the truth, but if I'd known he was listening, I would have been more tactful.

On Thursday he found me in the family room, where I was attempting to study. "I thought I'd make dinner tonight."

"That sounds good," I said cautiously. This was the first conversation we'd had in days.

"Why don't you invite Ryan?" he suggested.

"Ryan? You mean my boyfriend Ryan?"

"Don't sound so surprised," he replied. "Yes, I mean Ryan."

I frowned. "What's the catch?"

"There is no catch," he said. He cleared his throat. "I realized I may have been somewhat unreasonable about him. I'd like to have the opportunity to get to know him."

"Dad, you can't treat him the way you have been," I said. "It's not fair."

"I know," he said. "Daisy, I'm trying. I promise I'll behave myself."

I bounded up from the couch and gave him a hug. "Thanks, Dad. I'll call him right now." I was dying to see Ryan, especially since he had just been out of school a few days due to the full moon.

A few hours later, preparations were on their way for a Giordano family dinner.

I followed the delicious smells into the kitchen. "Need any help?"

Dad had gone all out. There was food piled everywhere.

"I've got it handled," he said. "In fact, I may still be able to show you a thing or two, at least in the cooking department. Go get glamorous for that boyfriend of yours," he said, shooing me from the kitchen.

I had to admit it was kind of fun to have someone cooking for me for a change.

Dad had even invited Grandma Giordano to the festivities—I still worried that he planned to feature grilled boyfriend. I knew Ryan could take the heat, but I wasn't sure why Dad disliked him so much.

When Grandma got there, we sat down to dinner. There was silence as everyone appreciated the freshly made pasta and sauce.

"Rafe," Grandma said. "This is delicious. Is it one of my recipes?"

He nodded. "But I did something a little different with the ravioli dough," he said.

"I noticed," she said. "Daisy, your father is the most talented cook I know. You've definitely learned from the best."

"Remember all those cooking lessons, Dad?" I said. "That's one reason I was thinking about going to a culinary institute after college."

He beamed, clearly pleased, and then changed the subject.

"How's your father, Ryan?" Dad asked.

"Busy," Ryan said. "That blackmail case is keeping him awake nights."

I kicked him under the table. We didn't tell my dad about the awful things that occasionally happened in Nightshade, because we didn't want him to worry.

My father didn't comment, but asked another question. "Do you and your father get along well?"

Ryan didn't even flinch. "My dad is great," he said loyally. "I couldn't ask for a better father."

Dad's expression softened. If the question had been some sort of test, it was obvious that Ryan had passed with flying colors.

"Ryan, why don't you help me with the dishes?"

"I'll help, too," I said quickly.

My dad smiled but shook his head. "I'd like to get to know your young man a bit better."

I gave Mom an imploring look, but she only smiled placidly.

Do something,
I sent a silent plea to Rose.

Don't worry,
she told me.
Dad won't hurt him.

"Cut it out," Poppy said. She'd caught us in our silent communication. I think it bothered her that Rose and I both had the power of telepathy.

Ryan and Dad came back about ten minutes later. My dad was smiling broadly, which wasn't necessarily a good sign. Ryan's face was noncommittal.

"Who's up for coffee?" Mom asked, with what I thought was totally inappropriate cheerfulness.

"I'll get it," Poppy said.

"I'll help," I said.

Once in the kitchen, I moaned. "This is a disaster."

"You're making a big deal of nothing," she said.

"I'll remember that when he corners
boyfriend," I said. I could have bitten my tongue when I saw the stricken look on her face. Her last boyfriend, Gage, a ghost, had vanished on the dance floor at prom.

"I'm so sorry," I said. "Me and my big mouth."

She gave me a tiny smile. "It's okay," she said. "At least you and Rose aren't tiptoeing around me anymore. I've actually been thinking about dating again."

I must have looked dubious, because she said, "No, really, I am. Thinking about it, I mean. I don't think I'm ready for an actual date yet, but I'm getting there."

"That's great," I replied. She'd been pretty devastated about Gage and until recently, her notebooks were covered with sad doodles of Gage and Poppy forever. Lately, though, her notebooks were pristine, which I took as a sign that she might be ready to fall in love again.

Mom came into the kitchen. "What's taking you girls so long?" she asked.

"Just a little chat," I said. "We'll be out in a minute."

"You'd better hurry," Mom warned. "Your father is getting out the family photos."

I groaned. "We'll hurry." The last thing I needed was Ryan and Dad bonding over my baby pictures.

I got out cups while Poppy got out the cream, sugar, and flavored syrups. "What flavor does Ryan like?" she asked. "We have hazelnut, vanilla, and almond."

"Just bring a little of everything," I said. "And hurry."

We rushed back to the living room, where everything appeared to be running smoothly. There wasn't any sign of my baby book, but I saw Mom slip something into a drawer when Dad wasn't looking.

"You are the best mom ever," I told her.

She leaned in and gave me a hug. "You'd better distract your father before he remembers the home movies," she whispered.

"Ryan has been telling me about your recent adventures," my dad said.

"Really?" I sent a panicked look at my mom, but she only smiled serenely.

"It sounds like you can think on your feet," Dad said.

"Daisy does think fast," Poppy agreed. "Like the time there was this soul-sucking vampire who was targeting the cheerleaders and she..." She trailed off when she saw Dad's face.

Definitely too much information. It was time to change the subject.

"So, I'm halfway through my lessons with Circe now," I said.

"I'll bet that's some relief," Poppy said.

"Yeah," I admitted. "She's tough to work with, but I have been learning a lot."

"Between those cooking lessons and the anniversary preparations, you've been spending a lot of time up at the Wilder place," Grandma noted. "Have you seen much of Mrs. Wilder?"

"Not really," I said. "But she's been great about letting us borrow old furniture from storage to use at the Nightshade Through the Ages ball. Isn't that nice of her?"

"That's very nice of her."

I turned to Mom. "I want to help her find her sister," I said. "She's never given up hope. Like you never gave up looking for Dad, never believed those awful things people said."

I glanced at Dad when I said it. Mom hadn't ever given up, hadn't stopped looking for him. Even when there were rumors that he'd left her for another woman.

My parents were loyal to each other, no matter what.

Mom gave Dad's hand a squeeze and her eyes were misty.

"Mom, I didn't mean to make you cry," I said.

"No, Daisy, it's fine," she said. She cleared your throat. "But you're right. I
want to know. As soon as the opportunity presents itself, I will ask Mrs. Wilder if I can help find her sister."

"We'll help, too," Rose said. "If we can."

The entire table turned to Dad, waiting for his response.

"As long as you're careful," he said.

We all cheered and he blushed profusely. "Who would like dessert?" he said. "I made red velvet cake. It's your mother's favorite." He turned to her and said anxiously, "It's still your favorite, isn't it?"

She gave him a kiss. "Of course it is. Red velvet cake made by my husband. There's nothing I'd rather have."

It was so sweet that the entire table had to look away.

Finally, Grandma Giordano said, "Where's that cake you promised us, Rafe?"

We all laughed.

Mom and Dad went to the kitchen to get the cake. They were gone a long time and when they came back, Mom was giggling and Dad had a smudge of lipstick on his shirt.

I dug into my dessert and tried not to think about it. After dessert, Rose and Poppy volunteered to clean up.

My mom smothered a yawn and Ryan got to his feet a minute later.

"Thank you for a wonderful evening," Ryan said politely. "But it's getting late. I should be going."

"I'll walk you out," I said. I crossed my fingers that Dad wouldn't object.

He didn't. He gave me a smile. "Have fun."

As soon as we were out the door, Ryan took my hand. "Thanks for inviting me to dinner," he said.

"Thanks for coming," I said. Ryan took a seat on the porch swing and pulled me into his lap and gave me a gentle kiss.

"It's such a relief," Ryan said. "I couldn't stand the thought that your dad didn't like me."

"Me, too," I said. "But everything is all right now."

He kissed me again, and for that moment, everything was more than all right. Everything was perfect.

BOOK: Dead Is Just a Rumor
11.52Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Worldbinder by David Farland
The Last Forever by Deb Caletti
Love Made Me Do It by Tamekia Nicole
Her Homecoming Cowboy by Debra Clopton
Where Words Fail by Katheryn Kiden, Kathy Krick, Melissa Gill, Kelsey Keeton
Love And War by Various
Cigar Box Banjo by Paul Quarrington
dark ops 3 - Renegade by Catherine Mann