Poisoned Pearls
told him that kind of line.
    A strange wailing sound started up from behind me.
    “What the—” was all that Ferguson managed to say
before someone grabbed me from behind, an ironlike arm slipping around my waist. I was picked up and thrown over a shoulder. Then
I was bouncing, my stomach hitting rock-hard shoulder, as we moved with speed
along the frozen sidewalk.
    “ Let’s go ,” came
the insistent command in my ear.
    Not like I really had any choice about the matter. The
thing—person—man?—who had me by the waist wasn’t letting my
feet touch the ground.
    I didn’t know humans could move this fast.
    Ferguson yelled something behind us. Despite my luck, he
didn’t start shooting.
    “Who are you?” I asked. “Where are you taking me?” It had
all happened so quickly. I didn’t know if I should start struggling or
screaming or what. The guy was freakishly strong, too. I wasn’t tiny, and he
was acting as if I didn’t weigh anything at all.
    “Someplace safe,” the guy growled. “Safer, at any rate.”
    I froze solid at that. Was Ferguson dirty? What exactly was
this strange man trying to save me from?
    We dove between houses, leaping off a pile of car parts and
sprinting up, over the snow, between two houses, into a garage and out the back
side of it.
    Half a block away, a car waited, idling by the curb. It was
black and a beater, like Kyle’s.
    Somehow, that made me feel better.
    “Go,” the man ordered after he’d opened the door to the
backseat and shoved me in, settling himself next to me.
    The car was warm. My face instantly felt like it was on
fire, particularly after the cold and the wind of the night. The car smelled
like week-old french fries, moldy seat cushions, and
spilled soft drinks.
    “Who are you?” I demanded, turning to the guy sitting next
to me. “And why did you kidnap me?” I figured I should at least get my story
straight. Ferguson might argue that I’d run, but really, I hadn’t had much
choice in the matter. Sure, I could have struggled, but going along with the
crazy person had seemed like a better idea at the time.
    “I didn’t kidnap you. I rescued you,” the guy said.
    He was skinny and pale and dressed in Army fatigues. I
couldn’t really see his face in the dark of the car, but I bet his eyes were
blue and wide and scared. “Hunter?” I queried.
    He gave me a quick flash of white teeth. “Yes. And you are
my companion. My true blood brother.”
    I caught the eye of the pudgy guy driving in the rear view
mirror. “Only the lucky few get chosen this way,” he told me solemnly.
    Shit. I think I would have rather faced the police than two
crazed junkies.

Chapter Five
    They didn’t take me to some abandoned warehouse, which I
suppose was some sort of luck. Instead, they took me to the pudgy
    The neighborhood we drove through still hadn’t woken up,
though it must have been edging on five a.m. at this point. Buses were running,
but everyone else seemed to have hunkered down for the winter. Most of the
windows in the apartment buildings we drove by were dark, as were the small
restaurants and coffee shops.
    Then I realized we were close to the University of Minnesota—all
the smart kids had left campus, and the ones who’d stayed weren’t about to
brave the cold if they didn’t have to. Probably a lot of store owners felt the
same, and wouldn’t open up again until classes restarted.
    We parked in a large, open-air lot that held only a few
cars, most of them beaters. Either Josh had a fake student ID, or he was making
good enough bucks to pay to park there.
    When I slid out of the back seat, Hunter was right behind
me. He grabbed my arm as soon as he stood up.
    Was he afraid I was going to run or something? How in the
hell did he think I’d get away from him? He was super strong, and superfast.
    By the time we reached the sidewalk, I realized that Hunter
wasn’t afraid that I’d run. He constantly looked over

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