Into the Hollow Online - Karina Halle

CHAPTER ONE

Whiteout.

That’s what I saw when I finally pried my lids open, my lashes stuck together with the glue of tiny snowflakes.

White. White. White.

Where was I?

I rolled over with a groan and felt an explosion of pain in my side. I looked down and as my vision began to right itself, I saw a rock jutting into my stomach, protruding from the cold, snow-blown ground like a weapon.

I eased onto my back, the chill seeping through my jacket. My bare fingers tingled as I ran them over my body. I felt intact, nothing bleeding or broken.

But how did that explain the rich, acidic smell of blood in the air?

I slowly sat up, surveying my surroundings.

I was sitting on the barren, rocky ground up the side of a mountain. Snow swirled in the air from all directions, some of it falling on the icy white patches on the earth, the rest blown away like angel dust.

Because of the infinite white, I could barely make out a forested valley below, and across from me, in the haze of snowfall, a few jagged peaks.

Beneath me the ground sloped off gently, alternating between sudden drop-offs. Vertigo swept through me and I dug my frozen fingers into the hard ground, suddenly afraid I’d roll off the side and fall to my death.

A soft rumbling came from my left. I turned, painfully, my side still smarting, and saw a slight overhang where snow fell off in gentle lumps. My heart sped up a few beats.

I let out the breath I was holding, watching it freeze and catch in the air before drifting away, and noticed a trace of red where the snow had just fallen.

My bones seized with chill.

I peered at the red spot, my eyes widening as it began to spread and bleed across the snow.

Glancing up at the overhang where the snow had come from, I saw another clump of it come sailing down, landing on the red with a poof.

It too had a spot of red in it that slowly spread like a stain on a paper towel. Curiosity getting the better of me, I carefully got to my feet and walked over to the patch of silky wetness. Hunched over, I tried to figure out why the snow was bleeding. I felt a drip on the back of my neck.

I reached back with my hand and when I took it away, it was slick with blood.

Did I even want to turn around?

I did, anyway.

Above me was a limp, lacerated arm, its torn and bloody fingers dangling over the edge of the overhang.

Claws. Teeth. Blood.

Tearing. Gnawing. Eating.

The images and sounds ripped through my head in a flash of smoky darkness.

Dex! I remembered Dex.

My chest collapsed in on itself as I tried to recall the last time I’d seen him.

Where was he?

What happened to him?

I eyed the arm above my head and felt the world drop away beneath my feet.

~~~

A hard nudge into the side of my stomach again.

I winced and grabbed it, expecting to find the sharp, snow-dusted rock but instead found a dainty hand and long fingers wrapped around mine.

My eyes flew open. Beside me, Ada poked my side, a quiet smile on her face.

We were in the back of my dad’s car. Of course we were.

My father, at the wheel, eyed me nervously in the rearview mirror. My mom sat beside him, looking out the passenger’s side window. Ada was next to me, stuck with the bitch seat, as the hulking douchecanoe, Maximus, hunched on her opposite side.

“Are you feeling OK?” Ada asked, keeping her voice low, even though everyone in the damn car could hear her. “You fell asleep there. You were drooling.”

I wiped at my mouth and at the puddle on my collar.

“Well, I’ve sort of had a long day.”

My eyes met my dad’s in the mirror again. He looked so much older than he did the other day. Was it possible to drive someone to an early grave?

“We’re almost home, pumpkin,” he said.

I nodded and felt eyes boring into the side of my head. Reluctantly, I looked past Ada and at Maximus, who was staring at me intently.

“What the hell are you looking at?” I sniped.

His expression didn’t change and he didn’t look away, just kept trying to read me with those green eyes of his.

This is all your fault, I projected at him, hoping he could hear it in some way. It kind of creeped me out that it looked like he nodded in return.

“Perry,” my dad warned,