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Rosie March once felt her bond with her sister was unbreakable. Owing Scarlett her life, Rosie hunts ferociously alongside her. But even as more girls’ bodies pile up in the city and the Fenris seem to be gaining power, Rosie dreams of a life beyond the wolves. She finds herself drawn to Silas, a young woodsman who is deadly with an ax and Scarlett’s only friend–but does loving him mean betraying her sister and all that they’ve worked for?
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A Preview of Sweetly
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HE'S FOLLOWING ME.
About time. I had to walk past the old train depot five times before this one caught the scent of my perfume on the wind. I feign obliviousness to the sound of his dull footsteps in the darkness behind me and tug my crimson cloak tighter around my shoulders. I give a fake shiver as a breeze whips through my glossy hair. That's right… come along, now. Think about how badly you want to devour me. Think of how good my heart will taste.
I pause on a street corner, both to be certain that my stalker is still behind me and so I can appear confused and scared. There's nothing like a lost teenage girl on the bad side of town to get their blood pumping. The street lamps make the wet pavement glittery, and I avoid the light as best I can. It would ruin the whole charade if he saw the bumpy, jagged line where my right eye should be. The eye patch covers some of the mark, but the scar is still obvious. Luckily, the wolves are usually too focused on the red cloak to care all that much.
I turn sharply and head down an alley. My stalker turns as well. This side of town reeks of stale beer from the restaurants that have become bars now that the sun is down, but I suspect the man following me can smell my perfume above the booze. If you can call him a man. They slowly lose their human souls when they become monsters. I walk faster—one of the first tricks I learned. Run from an animal, and it chases you.
My fingertips skim the worn handle of the hatchet hanging at my waist, hidden by the flutter of the red cloak. The cloak serves multiple purposes—the color of passion, sex, and lust is irresistible to wolves, and the fabric hides the instrument of their death. And perhaps most important, wearing it feels right, as if I've put on a uniform that turns me into more than a scarred-up orphan girl.
"Miss!" my stalker calls out just as I emerge from the alley's opposite end.
I gasp and turn around, careful not to let the red hood slip off my head. "You scared me," I say, clutching my heart—the only part of my body untouched by Fenris jaws. My hands are scarred, just like my face, but the marks are so small that I count on him overlooking them in his fit of hunger. It's easy enough to make a wolf notice my hair, my long legs, my waist, but hiding the scars took practice.
"So sorry," he says, stepping out of the alley. He looks normal. Nice, actually—mahogany-colored hair and a firm jaw speckled with facial hair, like a high school football star in his prime. He's wearing a pale blue polo shirt and jeans. If I didn't know any better, I'd easily believe he just stepped out of one of the bars. That's all part of the illusion, of course; it's hard to lure young girls to their doom if you look like a psychopath. You have to look kind, put together, clean-cut. Show them pretty hair and stylish clothes, and most girls won't look close enough to see that your teeth point in a very canine way or recognize that it's hunger your eyes are lit with.
He glances down the road. There are a few shady characters hanging out on the street corners several blocks away, small-town thug-wannabes smoking, shouting at one another. No good—he doesn't want to kill me where people can see, and I don't want to fight him where someone might intervene. The wolves and I both prefer to stalk our prey under the cover of darkness—if possible, anyhow. I'll take killing a wolf in daylight over letting one escape alive any day.
He takes a step closer. He can't be much older than I am, really—twenty-two, absolute tops, though they stop aging once they change, so it's hard to tell exactly. Once they've transformed, they're ageless—unless, of course, someone kills them. He smiles, white teeth dazzling in the night. A normal girl would be drawn to him. A normal girl would think about touching him, would think about kissing him, about wanting him. A normal, stupid, ignorant girl.
"A lovely girl like you shouldn't be out so late, alone and all," he says calmly, though I can hear the panting in his voice as his eyes run across the red cloak. I notice that the hair on his arms has started to grow; he's too hungry to totally control his transformation for long. I'll never kill a Fenris if he hasn't transformed. It's not worth the risk of killing a person, putting someone through the same agony that my sister and I went through. I'd be nothing more than a murderer, so even though I've never been wrong, I always wait.
I shuffle my feet with pretend nervousness. "I'm lost," I lie. I meander across the street, swaying my hips. "I was supposed to meet a friend here…" Just a little farther, and the row of pawnshops on the cross street will hide us. He laughs, a deep, growl-like sound.
"Lost, huh?" he says, walking toward me. "Why don't you let me show you the way back?" He extends a hand. I look down. There's a black tattoo-like mark on his wrist, a flawless image of a coin. A member of the Coin pack, out this far? Odd. I take another step away from him. I'm hidden from the civilians' view now, and if he comes just a tad closer, he'll be as well.
"I… I'll be okay," I mutter. He grins. He thinks he's scaring me, and he's relishing it. It's not enough to just slaughter and devour girls. They need to frighten them first. I turn my back to him and start to walk quickly, letting my cloak billow out in the wind, taunting him. Come along, follow me. Time to die.
"Hey, wait," he calls out. His voice is dark now, almost guttural. He's fighting the transformation, but his hunger is winning—I can feel it somehow. His bloodlust hangs in the air like a fog. He wants to tear me apart, to dig his teeth into my throat. I stop, allowing the hood to slip down and my curls to wave in the breeze. I hear him groan with disgusting delight as I grip the familiar grooves of the hatchet's handle. Don't turn around, not yet. He hasn't changed, and if he sees the scars on my face, my cover will be blown. Can't risk him running and getting away—he has to die. He deserves to die.
"All I'm saying is"—he chokes on the words as the mutation begins to overpower his vocal cords—"people might get the wrong idea, a pretty girl like you out alone on a corner like this."
My lips curve into a grin as I draw the hatchet from my belt. There's a swish as his clothes hit the ground, then the clicking sound of claws on pavement. "I'm not worried," I answer, unable to suppress a sly grin. "I'm not that kind of girl."
When I spin around, there's no man behind me, only a monster. Some call them werewolves, but they're so much more than wolves. This Fenris's fur is dark and oily looking, fading to gray-mottled skin by his enormous feet. He growls and brings his long snout to the ground, tensing his jaw and clacking his yellowed teeth. The streetlight illuminates his enormous frame and casts a shadow that overtakes the ground at my feet. I raise an unimpressed eyebrow at him, and his eyes find the gleaming hatchet in my hand.
His powerful shoulders launch him through the air at me; he snarls, the sound like rocks being shredded. I whip around toward him, low to the pavement. He begins to sail over my head but twists back in midair. I snap the hatchet up at the last possible moment. The blade makes contact and skims his front leg, and then I spin the hatchet to the left and manage to slice into the top of his back leg before the Fenris even hits the ground. Blood showers me.
The Fenris howls and collapses onto the pavement behind me. Try again, wolf. Don't run away yet. You can't let them run, once you've started a fight. They'll be starving from the expended energy, slaughter twice as many in half the time. It can end only one way: with the wolf's death. This one isn't a runner, though. He still wants to devour me.
Saliva drips from his lips, and his eyes narrow. The Fenris paces in front of me, shoulders rolling with every step. He curls his black lips back and bares his fangs.
The Fenris darts at me again. I sidestep and swipe at him—miss. He doubles around. No time to draw the hatchet back. I lift it like a shield in front of me and let my body relax. When the Fenris slams into me, I hit the pavement—hard—but he's run his chest into the hatchet, the weight of his body driving it in. I brace my legs against his abdomen and kick up, sending the monster flailing away behind me. Back to my feet. I grimace as a wave of dizziness rushes over me, as blood runs down the back of my shoulders, scrapes from hitting the asphalt. Get it together, come on.
I blink. The wolf is gone. No, not gone—I can still smell him in the air. I hold my breath, ears straining.
Wait for it. He's here. Wait for it—
The Fenris crashes into me with all the force of a bus. My right side, my blind side. His claws pop through the skin on my waist, sharp, stinging pain that makes my eye water and my vision blur. I hit the ground again and lose my grip on the hatchet. The wolf's weight bears into me, his breathing heavy and labored. I don't struggle—it makes them happy. Blood from his chest wound pools on my stomach, and as he presses his face closer to mine, I can see only one raging eye.
Wait for it. He'll relax. He'll make a mistake. You get only one shot to get them off you—make sure you take the right one. Flecks of his fur catch in my nose and mouth, and grime from his body sticks to my sweat. I could try to reach the hunting knife on my waist, but both of my hands are locked in place by his front feet. I choke as he lowers himself even farther against me, heavy on my lungs, gagging as he exhales almost directly into my throat.
Then a thick, dull sound echoes through the night, surprising enough to distract both me and the wolf. Footsteps? Before either the Fenris or I can react, a solid hit to its side throws the Fenris off my body, and I gasp for air as though I'm surfacing from water. Get up, get up, quick. I roll to my stomach. Out of the corner of my good eye, I see a man, shadowed by the night but with a familiar lanky gait. He turns his head from me to the Fenris, who prowls a few yards away.
"You'd think after all these years, you'd know to keep a Fenris from getting to your blind side," the intruder says. I grin, standing up. The Fenris growls at us; I lean to one side as it leaps forward and swing my hunting knife into his front leg. The wolf manages to shred part of my cloak as he stumbles away.
"I could have gotten him. I was waiting for my moment," I answer. The boy laughs, eyes sparkling gray-blue even in the darkness.
"Would that moment have come just after we carved 'Scarlett March' on your tombstone?" the boy snickers.
The Fenris rears back and snarls. It knows it's too late to run. It's kill us or be killed. I join the boy, grabbing my hatchet off the ground. He licks his lips nervously. He's rusty at hunting, obviously. I wonder how long it's been.
"You know," I say, smirking, "if you aren't up to all this, I can handle it for you. You know, if you aren't man enough."
He narrows his eyes, but a smile tugs at the corners of his thin lips. We turn toward the Fenris as the wolf lowers its shoulders to the ground, eyes focused and furious. The boy draws two knives from his belt. I flip my hatchet in my hand.
"He's gonna come at you first," the boy says.
"I know," I answer. "You go to his—"
"I will," he replies, grinning. I shake my head. Nothing's changed. We don't need words, not when we're hunting together.
The wolf charges us just as we take the first few running steps toward him. The boy reaches it first. He leaps high over the Fenris's arched back and sinks both knives into his sides. That should do the trick, but I won't let him take the credit. I skid to a stop and release the hatchet toward the Fenris. It lassos through the air before sinking into his chest with a squelching thud.
The Fenris collapses to the ground, its eyes glimmering in a mix of hunger and hatred as I step toward it. It snaps at my legs once or twice uselessly. There's nothing human about it now, nothing canine, only a dying creature both bestial and disgusting. Its rotting-garbage-meets-sour-milk scent makes me gag. I've lost track of how many Fenris I've hunted, but the smell gets to me every time.
"When did you get back? And where's your ax?" I ask the boy without taking my eye off the Fenris. Best to wait until you know they're dead.
"About an hour ago, and I didn't exactly expect to be hunting straight off—hence, no ax. Figures I'd find you out here before I even get back to my house. You need some hobbies, you know?"
I shake my head as the Fenris takes a few final raspy breaths. Its tongue lolls out of its mouth, and with a final growl, it dies. The dead Fenris bursts into darkness, an explosion of nighttime. Shadows flit over walls, into the cars, between blades of grass like coal-colored fireworks scattering across the world. I look toward the boy.
"Good to see you, Silas."
Silas grins and shakes the Fenris blood off his knives before sheathing them. "You too, Lett."
"Good to see a real hunter in action again, you mean," I quip.
He steps forward and hugs me. I tense—I like being hugged, but it doesn't happen too often. Something about a girl that's missing an eye turns people off to touching her, I guess. Silas has known me since before the scars, though. I give in and put my arms around him.
Silas releases me and frowns at the bloodstains on his jeans. "There are some parts of hunting that I really didn't miss," he grumbles. "Are you okay, by the way?" he asks, motioning to the wound on my waist.
"It's nothing," I say, waving it off. "Are you saying you didn't hunt the entire time you were in San Francisco?" I run my hatchet along the hem of my cloak. The Fenris's blood barely shows up on the crimson fabric.
"Forgive me for trying to spend some time with my uncle!"
"Yeah, yeah," I sigh. It's hard to understand how he can just not hunt for such long periods of time, but the subject has always been a losing battle for me. "So how is Uncle Jacob these days?"
Silas shrugs. "Okay. I mean, for a forty-year-old man who's practically a hermit."
"That's not his fault, though," I say as we meander back through the alley. "Your brothers and sisters still riled up about your father giving Jacob all the inheritance money?"
"Yep. Even angrier about him giving me the house here," Silas mutters. Silas finished high school instead of taking a woodsman apprenticeship, something his brothers found fairly dishonorable and his triplet sisters found emasculating. Combine that with the fact that Pa Reynolds gave him and Jacob his worldly possessions before going senile… they can really hold a grudge, it seems.
"I'm sorry," I offer. I try to imagine my life without my sister, but it's impossible; if she were gone, my life would stop. I give Silas what I hope is a sympathetic smile. He nods in response.
At the end of the alley there's a car without hubcaps or a front bumper, the driver's-side door flung open. The back is piled high with duffel bags and fast-food cups.
"That thing made it to California?" I say, frowning.
"Not only that, but I managed to make it run off vegetable oil while I was there," he answers.
"All the way to California and not a single Fenris…" I sigh.
Silas grins and wraps an arm around my shoulders. "Lett, really, you've got to get a hobby. Come on, I'll give you a ride home."
I climb into the passenger seat, knocking a few empty soda bottles to the floorboard. I have the window rolled down before Silas can even get to the driver's side—maybe it's because I don't ride in them often, but cars make me claustrophobic. Silas slides in beside me and fiddles around with a few wires that stick out by the ignition, and the car grumbles to a start.
"What about here, though? I didn't realize packs were starting to prowl around Ellison again," Silas says.
I shrug. "It's been kind of recent. That one had been here awhile, I think. He was Coin. No sign from Arrow or Bell," I answer. What are packs like on the West Coast? As large as the ones in the South, as fierce? Is there anyone there to destroy them like I do here? How much more could I accomplish if I were in California instead of small-town Georgia? I can't believe he didn't hunt even once…
"Also, thanks for saying happy birthday," Silas interrupts my thoughts.
"Oh, wow, Silas, I forgot. I'm sorry. So you're old enough to drink finally?" I ask.
"It's not as exciting as you'd think." He grins. We sail past the edge of town and into the night. A few scattered farmhouses glow like stars on hills, but other than that, there's nothing but the dim glow of Silas's single working headlight. I double-check that there's no blood on my hatchet or hunting knife, then wrap both up in my cloak. I flip down the sun visor and grimace. I lick my fingers and try to smooth my hair, which is shooting out as if I've been electrocuted.
"Well, looks like Ellison hasn't changed much—hey, since when do you care about your hair?" Silas asks.
"Since now," I answer quickly. I adjust my shirt and tuck the cloak and weapons under my seat as we turn down an unpaved road. Tall grasses line either side, and the shrieks of crickets and locusts become deafening through the open window. I wipe away the moisture on my forehead.
"Wait, are you… you're trying to hide the fact that you were hunting!"
I sigh. "Look, I told Rosie that she could go hunting on her own for the first time, but that Fenris—"
"You stole a solo hunt from your sister?"
"No! I mean, yeah, but it's a good thing I did. That wolf was harder than I predicted. I don't know. She's not ready and I had to go hunting or lose my mind…"
"Scarlett…" Silas begins in a serious tone. He started using "the tone" when we were kids to remind me that he's older than I am. It annoys me just as much now as it did then, only now it's less acceptable for me to push him into the mud for it. "She's supposed to be your partner."
"No, she's supposed to be my sister. You were my partner, before you up and abandoned us—"
"Hey, I still am, I've just been away—actually, no, I'm not getting into this argument again. Why can't Rosie be in on this partnership too?"
"Look, I'm not going to wait for my sister to finish grocery shopping while the Fenris slaughter people left and right," I snap as we take the right fork in the road, toward Oma March's house. It doesn't matter how long she's been dead; I'll always consider it her cottage. The left fork goes to Silas's house. The only other thing close to us is the back side of a massive cow pasture. "It's our responsibility," I add. "We know how to kill them. We know how to save people's lives. We don't take nights off or vacations to California for a year."
"Ouch," Silas says, but I can tell my words roll off him. It's hard to get Silas riled up, unfortunately. "All I'm saying," he continues, "is that you can't keep Rosie locked up forever."
I sigh in annoyance as the cottage appears in the distance like a lit oasis in the dark. "She's just not ready," I mutter. "And I don't want her to end up like me." Silas nods knowingly and traces his thumb over the scars on my arm as the smell of jasmine flowers wafts in through the air. We ride along in silence for a few moments.
Finally, Silas's car growls up to the edge of the gravel drive. The cottage's front door swings open, sending a long stripe of light through the yard.
"Wow," Silas says softly as he kills the ignition. I follow his stare out the windshield—Rosie is standing in the kitchen doorway, arms folded and eyes sparkling in anger. "Rosie looks… different."
"Yeah. 'Different' as in mad." I sigh, throwing the car door open. "Stay here for a second."
She's back. I pace in front of the door, trying to build up strength. You have every right to be upset, I convince myself. Don't let her out of this one. I blink furiously, trying to keep myself from choking up. I can put up with a lot. But it's hard to just shrug when your sister thinks you're incapable.
I inhale deeply, throw the old wooden door open, and step outside.
It slams shut behind me, destroying the tiny ray of kitchen light that had spilled into the darkness. My face is hot and probably bright pink, and my hands are balled into fists. If Scarlett wants to think I'm a child, I'll act like a child. I storm forward, pretending the crunchy gravel isn't slicing into my bare feet. Silas Reynolds's car looms in the driveway—he was probably hunting with her. I'll deal with him next. Scarlett sighs, holding out her hands as if she's calming a wild animal.
"You promised!" I snarl. I throw a bundle of red-violet fabric to the ground at her feet—my cloak, almost the exact same color as Scarlett's.
"Rosie, look—" Scarlett begins. I grab at my waist and yank two daggers off the belt. Their bone handles clunk together as they tumble onto the rocky drive. I cringe and try to hide it; Scarlett's always nagging me about dirtying the blades, and it's a measure of how angry I am that she doesn't call me on it now. It's silent for a moment, other than the occasional hoot from a nearby owl. I fold my arms and glare.
Scarlett groans. "Oh, stop pouting." She bends over and grabs the daggers and my cloak. The moon reflects off the shiny scars on her shoulders, evenly spaced lines that disappear under her tank top. She shoves my things toward me, but I don't budge.
"I'm not pouting!" I snap back, realizing how pouty that sounds. "I can hunt too, Scarlett. You don't have to go running out into the dark every time."
"It was just one Fenris, and he was on the prowl. Someone might have died tonight if I'd waited for you. You want that on your head?"
"All you had to do was tell me you were going! How am I ever supposed to hunt on my own if you keep going after every wolf that sets foot in Ellison?"
"Look, Rosie, I'm sorry. Really."
"Just because you're older doesn't mean you get to treat me like I'm some kind of lame sidekick!" I shout, emotion betraying me on the last word. I mean for it to be furious, but instead the hurt creeps in, tiny squeaks of impending tears slipping through my lips. I hate that—it's as though I have an anger threshold, when suddenly the rage turns into hurt. It never happens to my sister—her body is always hard, firm, perfectly trained and controlled. Her body could never allow tears—it isn't trained for it.
"Um, if I may add," a male voice calls out. The driver's side of the Chevy squeals open and Silas leans out, face still shrouded in darkness. "I helped her. I'm just saying. If it makes you feel any better… she needed help. So, you know… that'll teach her." There's a hint of humor in his voice, and somehow, it makes my anger dissipate the smallest bit.
"Thanks, Silas," Scarlett mutters. "Get my things out from under the seat, will you?"
Scarlett sidesteps me and throws open the front door, dashing the yard in light that illuminates Silas's face for a fraction of a second before the door shuts. I squint to get another look—Silas looks different from what I remember. But what, exactly, has changed? The line of his jaw, or the length of his hair, something in his eyes—were they always that shade of ocean gray? I can't pinpoint what exactly is different about his face, his body, him.
Upstairs, Scarlett's bedroom door slams, interrupting my thoughts. I roll my eyes and turn to hobble back inside. The jagged edges of the gravel hurt a lot more now that I'm not on an adrenaline rush.
"So, Scarlett hasn't changed much," Silas says from behind me. I nod and then wince as a particularly sharp rock lodges itself in my heel. "You need some help, Rosie?"
His footsteps quicken behind me, and before I can respond, I feel his calloused hands on my waist. I accidentally slide back against his chest and inhale the scent that has always clung to his whole family—something like forests, damp leaves, and sunshine. I suppose when your father is a woodsman you're bound to carry the scent of oak in your veins. One breath is all I get the chance for, though; he kicks the door open and sets me down on the front stoop, then takes a step back. I turn to face him, hoping to thank him for the help and in the same sentence admonish him for carrying me like a little girl.
Instead, I smile. He's still Silas—Silas who left a year ago, the boy just a little older than my sister. His eyes are still sparkling and expressive, hair still the brown-black color of pine bark, body broad-shouldered and a little too willowy for his features. He's still there, but it's as if someone new has been layered on top of him. Someone older and stronger, who isn't looking at me as if I'm Scarlett's kid sister… someone who makes me feel dizzy and quivery. How did this happen?
Calm down. It's just Silas. Sort of.
"You're staring," he says cautiously, looking worried.
"Oh. Um, sorry," I say, shaking my head. Silas shoves his hands into his pockets with a familiar sway. "It's just been a while, that's all."
"Yeah, no kidding," he replies. "You're heavier than I remember."
I frown, mortified.
"Oh, no, wait. I didn't mean like that, just that you've gotten older. Wait, that doesn't sound much better…" Silas runs a hand through his hair and curses under his breath.
"No, I get it." I let him off the hook, grinning. Something about seeing him nervous thaws some of my shyness. "Do you want something to eat?"
"You're sure you and Lett don't need… sister time?" He glances up the stairs warily.
"No," I answer, stepping backward into the kitchen. "In fact, I really don't want sister time right now."
"Hey, now. Appreciate the sibling time."
I cringe. "Sorry, I forgot. Your brothers and the triplets still aren't talking to you?"
"Lucas is coming around, slowly. I'll manage. But hey—when did you start to cook?" He changes the subject as he follows me inside and plops down into one of our mismatched dining room chairs.
"I don't, really. I just picked up a few of Oma March's old recipes because I got tired of eating Chinese delivery."
"Ah yes. I'd forgotten Lett's love affair with Chinese food," Silas says, grinning affectionately. "She's been stressed lately?" It's a measure of how tense Scarlett is—when it gets really bad, cheap Chinese is her only comfort food.
"She didn't exactly handle you leaving that well," I say, frowning. I missed Silas too, but not the way Scarlett did. Did he miss her, his partner, that way? Do I want to know if he did? Guilt flashes over Silas's face, so I hurry to continue. "Cooking is nice, though. You know, something to do that isn't quite as hunting-centric…" I blush, afraid I've said too much.
- * "This well-written, high-action adventure grabs readers and never lets go....A satisfying read with a fantastic cover."—School Library Journal, starred review
- "Unfolds with steadily increasing tension and unexpected twists to a shocking climax...may well appeal to Melissa Marr's readers and teens who like their fantasy on the gritty side."—Kirkus Reviews
- "Lushly romantic ... Readers of Stephenie Meyer, Donna Jo Napoli, and Shannon Hale will enjoy the excitement, romance, supernatural elements, and fairy tale references."—Booklist
- "This modern, urban interpretation...skillfully develops the unique voices of two strong heroines at a crossroads in their lives."—Horn Book
- "Darkly powerful and razor-sharp."—Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, New York Times bestselling authors of Beautiful Creatures
- "Unforgettable." —Claudia Gray, New York Times bestselling author of Evernight
- "A captivating blend of sisterly devotion, new love, old secrets, and a vicious enemy."—Carrie Ryan, New York Times bestselling author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth
- "Fairy tales take a modern twist with this action-packed story of strong sisters, deadly wolves, and risky love."—Melissa Marr, New York Times bestselling author of Wicked Lovely
- On Sale
- Apr 5, 2011
- Page Count
- 352 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers