16: Packaged Synthesized Versions of You

It was strange.

This place. It had always had been, sure, but I'd become accustomed. It had offered something majestical; a life of partying, a world of delusions.

Everything in Project started and ended with Slait.

I wove in and out of people. I was a shooter girl tonight—something new, for once—and it was hard not dropping shots on everyone's heads as they bumped into me. I wove in a daze.

My last night.

This was my last night here.

I wove through what was apparently a cluster of horny whoevers who seemed intent on having an orgy right here, right now, and then caught Tiffanys' eye. She was sitting on a couch with Elias, who had his arm round her, but was talking to Sisk.

She winked at me, and I strained out a smile. It would be Tiff and I, like the beginnings of this all. Tiff, leading me into a new world.

Census's world.

I felt like chugging these shots above my head like nobody's business.

I'd taken a pregnancy test last night.


Thank God, negative. I couldn't frolic my way into the panther's side and pop out a demon snake baby. I was sure that wouldn't be allowed. Nope, they'd kick me in the stomach if I was pregnant with Slait's offspring.

Before I knew it, I'd taken oodles of cash and my tray was near empty. I walked back to the bar to refill. I felt faint. Everything around me was spinning.

This would end.

I would jump from one cage straight into another.

At least this time, I would have Tiff by my side, and not on the sidelines, conducting. I would have Census, and even Ticket. Maybe, I'd have Britt.

But I wouldn't have Slait.

My feet carried me, floating, down the hallway to my room. The dim lights flickered above.


My hand was on the door of my room. I tensed and looked over my shoulder. Slait was here, standing a couple paces away, one hand in the pockets of his dark pants. Slait's grey eyes were searing, somehow.

"H-hey," I said, making myself smile. My hand slipped from the doorknob.

"Sisk tells me you were spacey tonight," Slait said.

I watched him for a moment. Guh—Sisk, the awesome tattle tale stupid fuck. "Tired," I said.

Slait leaned a shoulder on the wall. "May I come in?"


"Your room, dumb ass."

"Ah," I said, very wise. I opened the door and motioned for him to do as he pleased. He walked in, and I watched the way his body moved as he did so. Wait, would I miss Slait, or his body?

I shut the door behind us, then thought maybe I should've left it wide open. You know, in case he was here to kill me and all.

"Torrie," he said, taking a seat on my bed like it was his own. He leaned back on his hands and peered at me. "My instincts are going haywire, and it has something to do with you."

I stiffened.

"Is something going to happen to you, I wonder?" He tilted his head.

I took a wary step towards him. "Are you asking if I'm pregnant in a super roundabout way?"

"I'm asking you what's going on," he said. His voice was hard.

What did he know? I knew he suspected me of being Sally Shoe, but what, exactly, did he know?

I sat down next to him and placed a hand on his knee. "Is something worrying you?"

He leaned forwards now, resting a hand on the side of my neck. His thumb stroked my jaw line, and he gazed into my eyes with a strange tiredness. "Torrie."

He was addressing me a lot. I leaned into his touch to ease him, to show I wasn't afraid, because I wasn't Sally Shoe.

"I like you," he said. His forehead touched mine. "I think you're amusing, in any case."

How nice.

"I think you're sweet, stupid, and stubborn." There was a smile in his words. His eyelashes brushed mine. "If you ever betray me, Tor. . . I will erase your heartbeat."

Merciless snake.

Then, I will run as far away as I can, Slait, and become untouchable to you.

My hands, shaking, rested on his shoulders. But tonight, all I wanted him to do was touch me. All I wanted to do was hear him, feel him, taste him.

"I will kill you and I will smile all the while, Torrie." He nose brushed mine.

"I know you are paranoid of betrayal," I forced out, "but could you not threaten me? What did I do to get this side of you?"

His thumb meandered to my lower lip, and he traced the sensitive skin.

I kissed him. I did was Census said, and said good-bye in my head.

Tiff held out her bag to me. "Hold while I climb."

We went up the ladder. We were exposed to the sun, and I flinched at the brightness. I wondered if it was my serpent senses that had me so sensitive.

We dragged our bags behind us.

"W-where did he say to meet?" I asked.

"Ticket's house," she replied.

Her face was red, but not from the cold. No, she'd told me she'd sobbed her heart out last night in Elias's arms. He'd asked her what was wrong, and she'd made up some crap about all the guilt she held, having to please other guys, how it weighed on her, how it hurt him. While it was true, what had tipped her over the edge wasn't any of that.

It was leaving him.

Leaving the boy who had stolen her life, leaving the boy she'd been unable to not fall in love with, leaving the boy who she needed to leave.

I reached over and clasped her free hand. She looked up at me with wide eyes, and then smiled, though it was a weak thing.

We walked.

When we reached Ticket's house, he let me in. I finally accepted his coffee offer.

And it was the best cup of coffee I'd ever had. Why hadn't I accepted this earlier?

Ah, right. He'd sooner poison me, then.

We sat in the den on snuggly couches. Ticket was sipping away, standing up.

Tiff and I exchanged looks.

"Okay," Ticket said, setting his cup down on the glass coffee table. "I'll show you where you'll be living. I'm sorry to do this to you, but due to safety reasons, we're gonna split you up."

My grip tightened on Tiff's hand.

"Don't get me wrong," he said, sliding off a grin, his golden eyes friendly enough. "You two will still be able to see each other any time you want. You'll still be close. Tiffany, you'll stay with me. Torrie, I'm sure Census has already warned you, but you'll be staying with him."

Yep, he'd warned me.

I wondered if the panthers lived like the snakes. Holed up dormitory shit.

"To let you know," Ticket continued, "you will not leave our sights."

I hesitated.

"This isn't because we don't trust you," he added. "It's for your own good. Think of us as your bodyguards." He stopped to grin. "Yes, we'll guard your bodies. . ."

"Get to the point, creep," I growled.

His grin widened. "I'm sayin', when Slait finds out you two are with us. . . ho, fuck. Shit's gonna get crazy."

I leaned back in the couch and buried my face in my hands.

AN: well yikes!

I'm aware FP now has a review reply feature, but I feel like that is most spammy, so I will instead reply as I usually have, if thats HONKY DORY with you.

Thanks to: meowza, Night-Rayne, Awesome Story, NovelS, Your Execution, atreyu love, betta-than-u, becca7193, anon, aryagal, ktgirl14, witeaya, dipintheriverstyx, Scott Pilgram Is My World, chrissy2911, Starcazed

Night-Rayne: thanks! but I don't know who terry is :)