The psychosexual implications of "Little Red Riding Hood" have been explored since the days of Bruno Bettelheim, and Pearce (As You Wish) tackles them with enthusiasm in this grisly contemporary reimagining. Scarlett March, 18, scarred and missing an eye after killing the "Fenris" who slaughtered her grandmother, now lives to hunt the werewolflike creatures that relentlessly stalk and murder girls far and wide. Her 16-year-old sister, Rosie, has also been trained to hunt, but feels the tug of a different life and kills Fenris only out of loyalty to her beloved sister. The neighboring woodman's son, Silas, has been a reliable ally, but he, too, has begun to think about other things--including Rosie. Still, all three move from their rural town to Atlanta when the opportunity comes to strike a major blow against the Fenris, the urban landscape becoming the vehicle of discovery for them all. Although it remains fuzzy why the trio shoulders the burden of combating the Fenris alone, rather than exposing the creatures to the rest of the populace, it's a well-told tale that does not suffer from the fairy tale predictability of its outcome. Ages 15-up. (June)
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Scarlet March lives to hunt the Fenris – the werewolves that took her eye when she was defending her sister Rosie from a brutal attack. Armed with a razor-sharp hatchet and blood-red cloak, Scarlett is an expert at luring and slaying the wolves. She's determined to protect other young girls from a grisly death, and her raging heart will not rest until every single wolf is dead.
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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* "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
"Lushly romantic ... Readers of Stephenie Meyer, Donna Jo Napoli, and Shannon Hale will enjoy the excitement, romance, supernatural elements, and fairy tale references." Booklist "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
"Darkly powerful and razor-sharp, Jackson Pearce's voice cuts like an ax." -Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, New York Times bestselling authors of Beautiful Creatures
"Suspenseful, scary, and romantic, Sisters Red is unforgettable." -Claudia Gray, New York Times bestselling author of the Evernight series
"If you love your romance hot, your bad guys downright dirty, and your heroines real enough to bleed, this is your book!" -Becca Fitzpatrick, New York Times bestselling author of Hush, Hush
"Stunning; the cleverness of the mythology is equaled only by the heartstopping action. The characters become real-life friends that you never want to let go." -Carrie Jones, New York Times bestselling author of Captivate
"Sisters Red is a captivating blend of sisterly devotion, new love, old secrets, and a vicious enemy that threatens to rip everything apart." -Carrie Ryan, New York Times bestselling author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth
"Chock-full of re-imagined monsters, heroic girls, and a very delicious romance, Sisters Red is not to be missed!" -Michelle Zink, author of Prophecy of the Sisters
"Sisters Red really has it all: two strong female characters, a sweet romance, tender sisterly love, and nonstop action. . . . It's just plain amazing!" -Cyn Balog, author of Fairy Tale
"[Sisters Red is] a sweet and terrifying story I couldn't put down. I would like to apply for the role of March sister number three, please." -A. S. King, author of The Dust of 100 Dogs
"Fairy tales take a modern twist with this action-packed story of strong sisters, deadly wolves, and risky love."
"A captivating blend of sisterly devotion, new love, old secrets, and a vicious enemy."
"Darkly powerful and razor-sharp."
"This modern, urban interpretation...skillfully develops the unique voices of two strong heroines at a crossroads in their lives."
"Lushly romantic ... Readers of Stephenie Meyer, Donna Jo Napoli, and Shannon Hale will enjoy the excitement, romance, supernatural elements, and fairy tale references."
As young girls, sisters Scarlett and Rosie March survived an attack by the Fenris, which killed their grandmother and left Scarlett without an eye. Now—joined by Silas, the woodsman's son—they hunt these charismatic werewolves, which prey on pretty girls in their small Georgia town. Scarlett wields a vicious ax, while Rosie longs for some normalcy and the chance at a romantic relationship with Silas. The game changes when the three decide to take the hunt to Atlanta, where an unprecedented number of Fenris are gathering. Alternating between Scarlett and Rosie's viewpoints, this urban transplant of Grimm's "Little Red Riding Hood" makes plain the story's violent and sexual overtones. A note to the squeamish: when the oh-so-big-teeth of the Fenris meet the March sisters' savage weaponry, the result is more in keeping with the violence of Susanne Collins's "Hunger" trilogy than with, say, Meyer's "Twilight" saga. Angelina Benedetti, "35 Going on 13", Booksmack!, 12/2/10
Gr 8 Up—For Scarlett and Rosie March, the world is not what it seems. Werewolves, called Fenris, live among them in the form of good-looking men who prey on pretty young girls. When a Fenris attacked the March girls, it killed their grandmother and left them emotionally and, for Scarlett, physically scarred. Since then, they have taken action and revenge. With the help of a friend, Silas, the girls are on a mission—to destroy as many Fenris as they can. This goal becomes more complicated when they try to unravel the mystery behind the pack and prevent the next "Potential" from transforming fully into a soulless, evil monster. Pearce is on the mark with this modern-day retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. Told by the sisters in alternating chapters, this well-written, high-action adventure grabs readers and never lets go. Rosie and Scarlett are true heroines; smart, tough, and determined, but their special bond is put to test when Rosie and Silas's relationship becomes more than just friendship. A satisfying read with a fantastic cover.—Donna Rosenblum, Floral Park Memorial High School, NY
This is not the tale of Little Red Riding Hood your granny told. In this version, the sisters, Scarlett and Rose (shades of red, anyone?), were attacked by a werewolf-like Fenris and saved by Scarlett's quick action with a broken mirror. The attack left Scarlett with one eye, bite and claw scars and an obsessive drive to rid the world of the Fenris clans. Told from the points of view of the two teens, joined by childhood friend and woodsman Silas, the story combines elements of fantasy and mystery in equal parts. The voices of both sisters are distinctive and clearly differentiated, though the dialogue is sometimes overwrought and melodramatic. The plot unfolds with steadily increasing tension and unexpected twists to a shocking climax. The ending may not be totally satisfying, but it is realistic given the depiction of both young women. This urban fantasy with its scarred heroine and intermittent violence is not for Twilight fans but may well appeal to Melissa Marr's readers and teens who like their fantasy on the gritty side. (Fantasy. YA)
|Series:||Fairytale Retellings , #1|
|Age Range:||12 - 17 Years|
Read an Excerpt
By Pearce, Jackson
Little, Brown Books for Young ReadersCopyright © 2010 Pearce, Jackson
All right reserved.
A Fairy Tale, Seven Years Ago
Strangers never walk down this road, the sisters thought in unison as the man trudged toward them. Certainly not strangers in business suits—there was just no reason for them to be out here in the middle of nowhere. Yet here one was, clouds of dirt rising around his feet with each step before settling into the cuffs of his impeccably pressed slacks. The older sister raised an eyebrow and stepped up to the white fence, while the younger sister finished a cherry Popsicle already half melted from the afternoon sun.
The man nodded his head in greeting as he finally came to a stop in front of them. “Hello, little ones,” he said, voice smooth. The sunlight glinted off the man’s slick blond hair and created thin shadows on his face where wrinkles were just beginning to form.
“I’m eleven, ” the older sister answered boldly, lifting her chin high.
“My mistake! Young ladies, ” the man corrected with a chuckle.
The older sister twirled in response, pretending not to study him as her party dress bloomed like a red mushroom around her. As the man watched her, his smile faded. His eyes grew darker, his smile more forced, and he licked his lips in a way that made the older sister’s stomach tighten. She stopped midturn and grabbed her sister’s sticky hand, snatching away the Popsicle stick and gripping it tightly, like a weapon.
“Is your mother home?” the man asked, the pleasant expression sweeping over his face once again.
“Our mother doesn’t live here,” the little sister declared, kicking at a dandelion. “You have weird eyes,” she added, squinting in the sun to look at the stranger’s face. His irises were dark sienna, the red-brown shade of autumn leaves.
“Shh, Rosie!” the older sister scolded, backing away.
“Ah, it’s all right,” the man said, stepping forward. “The better to see your lovely faces with, my dears. Your father is home, then? Brother?”
The older sister shook her head, black curls scattering over her shoulders. “Our grandmother is here, though.”
“Would you fetch her for me?”
The older sister hesitated, sizing him up again. She finally gave a curt nod and turned toward the little cottage behind her. “Oma March! There’s a man here!”
“Oma March!” she yelled louder.
The door swung open, slamming into the rows of gerbera daisies planted just outside the cottage. Oma March stepped outside, her daisy-patterned apron dusted with flour from the cake she was making for a neighboring boy’s birthday party. Sounds from the television drifted through the yard, the Price Is Right theme intrusive against the songs of sparrows in nearby trees.
“Scarlett, love, what’s wrong?” she asked calmly, never one to be easily riled.
Scarlett yanked Rosie toward the house. “There’s a man—a stranger—here,” she said, a note of warning in her voice as she brushed past her grandmother in the doorway. Rosie plopped down in front of the tiny television in the kitchen, but Scarlett lingered behind Oma March’s broad back, fingers still gripping the red Popsicle stick.
“Oh,” Oma March said as she regarded the stranger in surprise and tugged her apron off to reveal blue jeans underneath.
“Good afternoon, ma’am. I’m here as a representative of Hanau Citrus Grove. We’re trying to expand our business by selling citrus fruits door to door. Pay on delivery in three to six weeks. May I show you our catalogue?”
“Citrus? You mean like oranges?” Oma March asked in her German accent. She waved the man forward; he unlocked the white gate and strode toward her, hand outstretched.
“Yes, ma’am. Oranges, grapefruits, tangerines—” The man clasped Oma March’s palm in his, the sleeve of his navy suit jacket sliding back to reveal a curious black mark on his wrist.
Scarlett narrowed her green eyes to get a better look. It was an arrow that didn’t look so much like the tattoos the woodsman down the road had, but rather as though it was a true part of his skin.
Oma March followed Scarlett’s gaze, and suddenly her mouth became a firm line. The air stilled. The salesman’s sparkling eyes clouded with the same eerie expression they’d held when he’d regarded Scarlett outside.
“We don’t need any. Thank you, sir,” Oma March said, her voice suddenly hard.
No one moved at first, and it reminded Scarlett of the way dogs stand perfectly still before lunging in to fight. The salesman licked his lips again and stared at Oma March for a long moment before a slow, creeping smile pulled at the corners of his mouth.
“You’re sure?” the salesman said as Oma March shut the door.
As soon as the latch clicked, she wheeled around to face them, face blanched and eyes pale green disks. Scarlett backed up, afraid to see her grandmother wear such a foreign expression. The Popsicle stick clattered to the ground.
“Versteckt euch!” Oma March whispered hoarsely, pointing urgently toward her bedroom in the back of the cottage. Hide. Hide now.
Rosie abandoned the television, grabbing her sister’s hand nervously. Scarlett opened her mouth to ask Oma March to explain, but before she could find the words, a guttural, ragged howl erupted on the other side of the front door. Scarlett’s blood ran cold.
Oma March slammed a wooden beam across the door, then swung one of the bright yellow kitchen chairs over their heads and propped it up at an angle against the doorknob just before the knob began to turn furiously.
“Schatzi, my treasures, I won’t let him have you!” Oma March murmured under her breath, like a prayer. She dashed for the telephone and began dialing.
“Charlie? Charlie, one is here. Outside,” Oma March whispered frantically to Pa Reynolds, the woodsman who lived down the road. “Oh god, Charlie, hurry,” she pleaded. She slammed the receiver of the avocado-colored phone back down and threw her weight behind the couch to slide it in front of the door as well.
Another low, growling howl, followed by frantic scratching at the door.
Oma March snapped her head toward her granddaughters, eyes watery and pleading. “Scarlett! Don’t worry about me. Take Rosie and hide, ” she begged.
Scarlett nodded and squeezed Rosie’s hand, yanking her into Oma March’s room and slamming the door behind them. A tangle of legs and arms, they scrambled into the corner between the bed and bookshelf, breathing in the cool scent of laundry detergent and musky old philosophy books. They heard scraping from the other room as Oma March struggled with the couch. Another low, growling howl, then a sharp bang and a rainlike sound as splinters from the door poured down onto the floor.
Oma March shouted frantically in German, but her voice was cut off by loud thuds of furniture crashing to the ground, upholstery ripping, pans clattering. Scarlett bit her bottom lip so hard it began to bleed.
And then silence: eerie, thick silence that poured over the little cottage and drowned out the yammering of The Price Is Right contestants.
The sisters clung to each other, near mirror images with their chests pressed together until it seemed as if their hearts were one single organ beating between them. Rosie tangled her tiny fingers into Scarlett’s thick black hair and hid her face by her sister’s neck. Scarlett stroked Rosie’s head comfortingly with one hand, while the other groped under the bed for something—anything—that she could use to defend them. Something more than a Popsicle stick. Scarlett shuddered when a shadow appeared in the line of light under the door. Finally, her fingers found the smooth handle of a handheld mirror beneath the bed.
The shadow began to pace back and forth on the other side of the door, every few steps punctuated by a breathy growl and the scraping of talonlike nails on the hardwood floor. Scarlett watched, hypnotized, and when the pacing suddenly stopped, she gasped. The shadow pressed against the wooden door so hard that it looked as though the door might splinter under the weight. Rosie cried out, and Scarlett struck the mirror hard against the nightstand, cracking the glass. Trembling, Scarlett pried the largest shard from the mirror’s frame.
The aluminum knob turned so slowly that for a moment Scarlett thought perhaps it was just Oma March coming to check on them like she often did just before she turned in for the night. Scarlett squeezed her eyes shut. Just Oma March. I am not here, Rosie is not here, we are in bed. But as the door cracked, Scarlett forced her eyes wide, gritting her teeth when she saw Rosie’s chubby cheeks still shaking in fear. The door opened a little farther, a little farther, the stream of light hunting them down in the darkness. The single heart between them pounded as the door finally swung fully open and they were exposed to the light, helpless to hide from the form silhouetted in the door frame.
It was him, the salesman, but it was also… not. He still had shiny blond hair, but now it was speckled across his body like patches of disease. His eyes were enormous and hollow, his mouth twisted and stretched as if his face had been pulled apart at the corners, revealing rows of long, pointed fangs. His back arched as if it were broken, hunching his shoulders and turning his feet in. And his feet… the horrible claws were as long as fishing hooks and left deep gashes in the floorboards as he inched closer to the girls.
He ducked to fit under the door frame and, in one fluid transformation, lost the last few characteristics that had made him look even remotely like the blue-suited salesman. That had made him look remotely human. His nose became long and canine, his lips spread even farther. He lurched forward and planted his two hands—no, paws—onto the ground, thick, greasy hair clinging to his entire body. And the smell. A rotting, corpselike stench emanated from the thing—the wolf—making the sisters retch. He watched them hungrily, evil adoration in his eyes.
Scarlett swallowed hard, gripping the mirror piece so tightly that it cut her hand. She pushed away the impending tears, the energy in her legs screaming for her to run, and the sound of Bob Barker shouting about dinette sets as if nothing were wrong, as if she couldn’t see her grandmother’s form slumped on the ground just behind the monster.
She stared into the monster’s hard sienna eyes and it cocked its mangy head. Before Scarlett knew what she was doing, she shoved Rosie under the bed and leapt to her feet, wielding the shard of mirror like a knife. Scarlett took a step forward, then another, until she was so close to the monster that the rotting stench emanating from his throat choked her. The wolf opened his wide, long jaws, rows of teeth and bloodstained tongue stretching for her. A thought locked itself in Scarlett’s mind, and she repeated it over and over until it became a chant, a prayer: I am the only one left to fight, so now I must kill you.
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.”
Excerpted from Sisters Red by Pearce, Jackson Copyright © 2010 by Pearce, Jackson. Excerpted by permission.
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