26 of March 2021 – 7:22 AM
After a heart-pounding night of thrills and suspense, I was lucky enough to nap for forty minutes before my alarm went off. Great…
The morning was a blur; I took a quick shower to wake myself up, got ready for school, and stepped into the basement’s main living space around a time when I was normally upstairs finishing my breakfast. Zander was waiting for me, and as I had come to expect from him, he didn’t get annoyed with my tardiness or make any comments about how much shit we’d get from our parents. Instead, he gestured for me to follow quietly with a nod of his head and a finger raised to his lips.
Though suspicious of his motives, I did as he wanted. We climbed the stairs to the main level and rounded the wall that divided the living room from the entryway.
“We’re leaving,” Zander announced.
Ma was seated at the table, sipping on café con leche while scrolling through her tablet. Her dark hair was straightened, falling behind her like a silky curtain, and she was dressed in a casual grey blazer over a simple navy button-up. Derrick appeared more formal in a long-sleeve, white collared dress shirt and a navy tie with grey and red stripes–he was in the kitchen, rinsing his mug in the sink before adding it to the dishwasher. His black hair was kept short in a smooth fade, making him appear almost bald.
Both of our parents looked up from their respective tasks to regard us, their teenage sons, with wide-eyed confusion. “I didn’t hear Luke pull up,” observed Derrick, straightening his posture.
“He’ll be graduating in a few months,” Zander pointed out. “We have our licenses–we might as well put them to good use, right?”
When our parents swapped uneasy glances, he added, “As alpha, I can’t just rely on my pack. I need to be someone they can rely on, too.”
Derrick chuckled and nodded absentmindedly. “What say you, O’ wise alpha?”
My mother stood from her seat and rounded the table, approaching us with a warm smile. “I think it’s a wonderful idea.”
She reached up with her left arm, gesturing with her hand for me to lean down. I obliged, hugging her with one arm as I kissed her cheek. “Bye, Ma.”
“Bye, mijito!” Then she gestured for Zander to meet her in the same fashion; he leaned down in a stiff, robotic movement and wrapped his arm around her slender waist, his hand barely grazing her back as she planted a kiss on his cheek. “Bye, Zan! I’ll see you boys tonight.”
We were almost out the door when Derrick called out, “And try not to get into any more fights.”
I shut the door behind us just as Zander and I swapped wide-eyed glances. It was the most emotion I had ever seen him show, so I knew he couldn’t have been the one to snitch. How the hell do they know about me and that freshman?!
Still, I said nothing. I followed Zan out to his car–the latest Volkswagen Jetta in a metallic platinum grey, sitting out on the driveway–and claimed the passenger seat as soon as he unlocked it. I had the door shut and my backpack on the floor between my feet when I turned to him, already in the driver’s seat. “I–”
“Not yet,” he muttered, his eyes on the rearview mirror as he tossed his book bag in the backseat and began to fasten his seatbelt. I followed his lead, fastening my own and checking my phone. We had at least half an hour before the first bell–more than enough time to make it to Sacred Heart.
Then Zander stuck the key in the ignition, brought the sedan to life with a twist of his wrist, and steered us down the long driveway and out of the neighborhood. It was almost an entire minute before either of us spoke.
“Who knows about you and that kid?” he demanded.
I frowned. “The freshman from Monday? Just the pack and the witches involved.”
“Would they have told anyone?”
“Hell nah, man,” I revealed, knowing exactly who he meant. Though interspecies relations had come a long way, even I knew that things were tense between different classifications. “Helena can keep a secret, and Cari practically begged me not to tell anyone–even her own brother. She doesn’t want that getting out. Maybe it was one of the girls–”
“Whitney wouldn’t snitch,” he insisted, his expression hardening. “She’d never do anything to get you in trouble. She’s your guide.”
“I know, I meant like Rina or Dani–”
“They like to gossip–that don’t make them snitches,” Zander pointed out. “Dani’s Luke’s girl and Rina talks shit, but she won’t go against my orders.”
I shook my head. “I don’t know. That leaves Finn, Beck, and Elle–and I don’t see any of them as going against you, either.”
There was a brief pause as we crossed over into Salem. I peered over at my stepbrother–as always, his expression was unreadable. He simply stared straight ahead, his right hand on the wheel while his left elbow was propped up against his door, its attached hand covering his mouth as he remained lost in thought.
I seemed to break through his concentration; he glanced over swiftly before returning his attention to the road. “Ah, I’m getting Mickey D’s, you want anything?”
Seriously? He was thinking that hard about food? “Nah, I’m goo–”
My protest was cut off by the sound of growling from my abdomen. It damn near reminded me of the hellhound I fought just hours before. Surprising me even more than the rumbling of my empty stomach was the short chuckle that Zander let slip.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought.”
26 of March 2021 – 7:40 AM
Zander had barely finished parking in the school’s student lot when he turned to me and said, “So? You gonna tell me what’s going on?”
Our pack’s alpha had handed me the bag of food just minutes before, so I was so distracted by the overwhelming scent of hot breakfast sandwiches, fresh hashbrowns, and sweet soda that I was caught off guard by his sudden shift in tone. “Hu–what?”
He shook his head and unfastened his seatbelt. “Hand me my food. You can talk while we eat.”
“Uh…” I reached into the heated paper bag and pulled out a wrapped breakfast sandwich; after a peek at its sticker label, I handed it to him and dug through the bag for his hashbrowns. “I don’t know what I can tell you without you freaking out on me.”
“I won’t freak out on you,” he promised, accepting his sandwich and plucking a straw from the center console.
I think I actually believe him. “Okay, well… What’s more important for you to know right now: why I’ve been sneaking out, or why I came back so late this morning?”
He cocked an eyebrow and stabbed his straw through the lid of his soft drink. “Realistically both, but let’s start with the sneaking out.”
I handed him his two hashbrowns before fishing my own sandwich out of the bag. “Well, uh… Do you know about my sister?”
“Jade Danvers,” nodded Zander. “She was supposed to be the next alpha.”
I nearly dropped my sandwich. “She was?”
“Yeah. You didn’t know?”
I fidgeted a little as I shrugged. “I never thought about it, but I guess it makes sense.”
He nodded and gestured for me to continue before taking a bite out of his sandwich. I chewed on my bottom lip, choosing my next words carefully.
“I want to know what happened. I want to know who killed her, and why.”
Zander lowered his eyes and chewed his food, contemplating my reason. Starving, I dug into my own breakfast and waited.
It was a couple of moments before he took a sip of soda and said, “So?”
I frowned. “ ‘So’ what?” I countered over a mouthful of food.
“So, what does sneaking out at night and running around as a wolf have to do with finding out what happened to Jade?”
Oh. I swallowed hard. “The cops made it seem like she was attacked by some random thugs or something–I figured they’d still be around, so I started out running through Salem Woods looking for any sign of them, or any leftover evidence from her attack. I couldn’t find anything.”
“So, why are you still sneaking out?” Zander challenged before diving into his sandwich once more.
“A while back, while I was out, I heard this guy get jumped by these other dudes,” I admitted. “I could have run over and done something, but I was too hesitant–too slow. They got away, and the old guy ended up in the ER.”
Zander’s eyebrows rose, and his dark eyes shone with what I was beginning to recognize as amusement. “You’ve been running around every month playing superhero?”
I offered him another shrug. “Yeah, I guess.”
Finished with his sandwich, Zander began sliding one of his hashbrowns out of its sleeve. “Alright. I don’t really have anything to say about that except play it smart, you know? Be careful. If something happens to you, you could expose the whole pack.”
I was finishing my own sandwich when he tacked on: “And your mom’s already lost one kid. Losing you would kill her.”
My thoughts flew back to Zan’s stiff interaction with my mother fifteen minutes earlier. “Do you even like my mom?”
His nod was more of a half shrug. “Sure. She’s a great leader, and family-oriented. I respect her.”
“That’s not the same as liking her, man.”
Obviously uncomfortable, Zander huffed out a short laugh between bites. “She’s cool, I guess. I don’t really see her that often–she’s been around more lately ‘cause you’re here, and…”
His words trailed off; the tension between us was unbearable. “And?”
“Forget it,” he grunted, shoving the remains of his first hashbrown into his mouth. Then he grabbed his drink from the center console and opened his door before grabbing his last hashbrown and a napkin.
“Hey–!” Zan shut his door, cutting me off. “Damn it, dude…”
I shoved my napkins and garbage in the paper bag, opened my door, and retrieved my backpack and drink before exiting the vehicle. Zander was pulling his bookbag from the rear seats when I shut the passenger side door and tried again. “Zan, listen, if–”
That’s when I noticed something odd. Zander’s eyes were wide as he lowered them, staring at nothing in particular. His shoulders were tense as he swung his backpack over his shoulder. The intimidating guy I had come to know was acting like a timid pup… At the sudden appearance of my best friend.
“Uh, hello?” I thought Whitney was going to smack me by the way she stomped over. Her black, springy coils had a red sheen in the sunlight and her brown eyes pierced mine before staring daggers at our leader. “I was calling you. I know you heard me with your freak-ass hearing.”
“Yeah, I heard you,” I grumbled, rubbing my head. It’s gonna be a long day. “We were busy talking about something.”
Whitney opened her mouth to ask for further explanation when Zander squared his shoulders and piped up, “Jett tried to skip breakfast again, so I got him something on the way. He won’t listen to me, though–maybe you can talk some sense into him?”
I hadn’t noticed it until that moment, but the rest of the pack was waiting for us by the sidewalk that led up to the school. Danivyn clung to Luke’s arm, chatting animatedly with Sarina as Luke and Beckett were laughing and joking with Finn. Estelle was nowhere to be seen.
Probably inside already…
“Yeah, I’ll talk to him,” Whitney acquiesced, her eyes only briefly darting over to glare at Zan before returning to Jett. “Let’s go, idiot.”
“Yeah, yeah,” I grumbled. She and I began to join the pack when Zander flew by us, adding:
“We’ll finish our talk later.”
“Uh, yeah, later,” I muttered. I had really hoped that Zander would drop last night, but I should have known better.
I kept pace with my guide, who deliberately walked slower to keep back from our alpha. Once he had converged with the pack, she whispered, “Was he giving you a hard time?”
I shook my head. “Nah, he’s helping me with something.”
Whitney scoffed. “Yeah, okay.”
“What’s your deal with him again?” I challenged, grateful that the chattering of students would act as a barrier between our words and the pack’s ears. Between Zander’s uncharacteristic behavior around my guide and Whitney’s seemingly unwarranted disdain toward our leader, it felt as if I were dropped smack in the middle of a novella. “He’s a little weird, but he’s cool, I think.”
My friend averted her gaze and shrugged nonchalantly. “It’s a long story. I’ll tell you sometime this weekend.”
“Oh, that reminds me–” Excitement bubbled over as I reached into the fast-food bag and offered Whitney a hashbrown. She grimaced in disgust–I could practically hear the words, “Yeugh, too greasy,” echo in her mind. “The witches I hang out with are throwing a party this Saturday and said I could bring some friends. I figured you’d like to go and mingle.”
Whitney rolled her eyes. “With witches? I’d rather be caught dead–”
“Oreste and Diego will be there later on,” I added, a smirk slowly forming on my lips.
She tucked some hair behind her ear and let out an exasperated sigh. “Fiiiiine, I guess I can stop by.”
I snickered. Yeah, she can’t resist the chance to meet her comfort streamers. “Since they’re also friends with Finn, I imagine Cari and the girls will invite him. Otherwise, I thought we’d bring him.”
“Careful with that one, he’s a party animal,” Whitney joked before asking, “Should I bring Elle?”
I shrugged, fighting the warmth in my cheeks. “I don’t know. I-I mean if she’s interested in coming, then sure.”
It was my guide’s turn to snicker as we finally stepped off the student parking lot and entered the school building. “You have to ask her out sometime, Jett. Before someone else does.”
26 of March 2021 – 7:54 AM
You’re an idiot, I mutedly chastised myself as I continued toward my homeroom. Sacred Heart Private Institute didn’t exactly boast a large student body, so I knew I’d have to see Jett and Whitney again in class. You’re a fucking idiot… A huge fucking idiot.
Luke was to my left, walking beside me and holding hands with Dani. She and Rina were talking about something or other about a new transfer student–I didn’t know, and I couldn’t be bothered to care.
She won’t even look at me.
She looked amazing, like always. Her hair was dyed a shade of black that gave off a red tint when the light hit it, complementing her warm complexion and framing her heart-shaped face perfectly. Her eyes were a nice, soft, medium brown–until they fell on me and sharpened like knives.
She hates me.
A gaggle of human girls giggled as we passed, waving and calling my name. I almost didn’t hear them; I nodded in their direction, eliciting more excited squeals as I nodded farewell to Luke and stepped into my class. It didn’t faze me.
I hate me, too.
Jerome and Caleb, two humans in my class, greeted me as I entered. I planted a smile on my face and joined them, hanging my backpack from the back of my chair. Mx. Ray was rummaging in their desk drawers, preparing for their first class following ours. Camille and her small coven were seated front and center; she was reading a novel while her friends chatted away. Gunnar sat to her left–my right–and was scrolling through his phone when I took my seat, nodding in my direction. Students were trickling in with only minutes left before the bell would ring, signaling the start of homeroom. One such student was Madalynn, who rushed past the humans to claim a desk in the rear of the class, only to find none left and take the one behind Camille.
My eyes dropped to my desk, where I aimlessly scrolled through Darkscene on my smartphone, feigning obliviousness as Whitney and Jett entered the room. They claimed a couple of seats close to the door, placing them in my peripheral and within earshot.
“If you don’t ask her out today, I swear, I’ll kill you,” Whitney threatened with a teasing lilt. My ears perked up. Ask who out?
“Yeah? How you gonna do that?”
“With ill intent,” she joked. “Seriously, can’t you just ask her out to that party? Elle would probably get along with those girls better than me, anyway.”
“How?” he challenged in a low tone. “You even admitted that she acts extroverted here, but she’s only got a few friends at AOA. I doubt they’ll be going to the party.”
There was a short pause. “What if we invited her friends to meet us there?”
“I’m not turning Cari’s small get-together into a full-blown house party,” Jett cautioned. “I’m inviting you and Finn to come with me, that’s all.”
“Well, at least invite the rest of the group,” she suggested. I had to fight the elation mounting within, maintaining my poker face. “She’ll be more likely to go if we all do. She hates being left out–”
Suddenly, my phone buzzed in my hand, disrupting my eavesdropping. I heard Whitney and Jett’s phones vibrate, as well as those of the witches in the room, and all my elation vanished as I pressed on the notification from Twixie.
WARNING: TRAPPERS SIGHTED NEAR SALEM, MASSACHUSETTS. REMAIN CALM & DO NOT VENTURE OUTSIDE WITHOUT A GUARDIAN OR MEMBER OF YOUR GROUP. CONSIDER THEM ARMED & DANGEROUS – DO NOT ENGAGE.