Linger (The Wolves of Mercy Falls #2)


by Maggie Stiefvater

Prologue

• GRACE •

This is the story of a boy who used to be a wolf and a girl who was becoming one.

Just a few months ago, it was Sam who was the mythical creature. His was the disease we couldn’t cure. His was the good-bye that meant the most. He had the body that was a mystery, too strange and wonderful and terrifying to comprehend.

But now it is spring. With the heat, the remaining wolves will soon be falling out of their wolf pelts and back into their human bodies. Sam stays Sam, and Cole stays Cole, and it’s only me who’s not firmly in my own skin.

Last year, this was what I wanted. I had a lot of reasons to long to be part of the wolf pack that lives in the woods behind my house. But now, instead of me watching the wolves, waiting for one of them to come to me, they are the ones watching me, waiting for me to come to them.

Their eyes, human eyes in wolf skulls, remind me of water: the clear blue of water reflecting the spring sky, the brown of a brook churning with rainfall, the green of the lake in summer as the algae begins to bloom, the gray of a snow-choked river. It used to be only Sam’s yellow eyes that watched me from between the rain-soaked birches, but now, I feel the weight of the entire pack’s gaze. The weight of things known, things unsaid.

The wolves in the woods are strangers now that I know the secret of the pack. Beautiful, alluring—but strangers nonetheless. An unknown human past hides behind each pair of eyes; Sam is the only one I ever truly knew, and I have him beside me now. I want this, my hand in Sam’s hand and his cheek resting against my neck.

But my body betrays me. Now I am the unknown, the unknowable.

This is a love story. I never knew there were so many kinds of love or that love could make people do so many different things.

I never knew there were so many different ways to say good-bye.

CHAPTER ONE

• SAM •

Mercy Falls, Minnesota, looked different when you knew you’d be human for the rest of your life. Before, it had been a place that existed only in the heat of summer, concrete sidewalks and leaves curved up toward the sun, everything smelling of warm asphalt and dissipating truck exhaust.

Now, as the spring branches shared seldom-seen frills of tender pink—it was where I belonged.

In the months since I’d lost my lupine skin, I’d tried to learn how to be a boy again. I’d gotten my old job back at The Crooked Shelf, surrounded by new words and the sound of pages turning. I’d traded my inherited SUV, full of the scent of Beck and my life with the wolves, for a Volkswagen Golf just big enough for me and Grace and my guitar. I tried not to flinch when I felt the cold rush in through a suddenly open door. I tried to remember I was no longer alone. At night, Grace and I crept into her room, and I folded myself against her body, breathing in the smell of my new life and matching my heartbeat to hers.

If my chest caught when I heard the wolves’ slow howls in the wind, at least I had the balm of this simple, ordinary life to console me. I could look forward to years of Christmases with this girl in my arms, the privilege of growing old in this unfamiliar skin of mine. I knew that. I had everything.

Gift of time in me enclosed

the future suddenly exposed

I had started to bring my guitar with me to the bookstore. Business was slow, so hours would go by with no one to hear me singing my lyrics to the book-lined walls. The little notebook Grace had bought me was slowly filling with words. Every new date jotted at the top of a page was a victory over the disappearing winter.

Today was a day much like the ones before: wet morning streets still devoid of consumer life. Not long after I opened up the store, I was surprised to hear someone come in. Leaning the guitar against the wall behind my stool, I looked up.