In Which the Moon Rises
It was almost five in the morning when we finally got back to our upstairs rooms, immediately crashing for a few hours. I was the last to wake up, and by then, word had already gotten around about the break-in at the Defenders center.
Lana, the second she heard, started asking everyone she encountered if they knew who was behind it. No one was owning up to the incident, so of course suspicions fell on the new people, and she was pretty blunt about her questions. “So, did you do it?”
“Did I do what?”
“You know what I mean. The break-in.”
I shrugged. “Maybe, maybe not. My lips are sealed.”
She made a sort of excited squealing noise. “It was you. I can tell.”
“Now, hey,” I protested, “I didn’t say that, exactly....”
“You, Jac Ravenheart, are a terrible liar.”
She was right. For someone who spent most of their life having to hide who they were, I was comedically bad at telling lies. My voice got overly defensive, my ears went red, and besides, I just wasn’t good at making up stories on the spot. Many of them were unbelievable on a good day. “Okay, sure, you got me.”
“About what, that you’re a bad liar, or that you were behind the break-in?”
“I knew it. I knew it!” she exclaimed triumphantly.
I made myself sound more nervous than I felt, hopefully to evoke some sympathy from her. “You’re upset?”
“Upset? God, no!” she exclaimed. “I think it’s great for someone to stand up to those bastard hunters who think they’ve got the right to be here.”
From the tone of her voice, that’s what I’d guessed. “Well, thank you, Lana.”
“I must admit, I am a bit upset.” I turned, and there was Adam, arms crossed over his chest, giving me a one-eye-raised look. It didn’t say upset, exactly, but he was definitely at least slightly perturbed. “You haven’t been here for three days, Jac, and already you’ve caused an uproar.”
I couldn’t help it: my smile muscles twitched a little at that. Yep, that was me in a little acorn shell right there. “I apologize, Mr Dark,” I said, killing the smile. “I didn’t mean to cause trouble for anyone else.”
“Why did you go to begin with?” he asked. “What’s the purpose of breaking into a Defenders center, if there is any purpose at all?”
“A friend,” I said.
“Yes,” I said, “a friend of mine who recently arrived in Nashville. There was something he wanted to know.”
“And let me get this straight: you thought the best way to get the information they wanted was to break and enter and steal it?”
I looked down, sheepishly fiddling with my hair. “It was his idea,” I shrugged, and that part was true. It had, indeed, been Fred’s idea to break in.
“Really?” He shook his head. “I’d like to meet him, then.”
“I’ll see if I can do that,” I said, “but I warn you, I’m very protective of him.”
“I’m not angry at him.”
“You aren’t? Then what do you want him here for?”
“Because,” Adam said, “I want to be sure he’s protected. The Defenders are very unhappy about this, after all.”
“Oh...th-that’s great!” It was better than I had hoped. We were all in, and we hadn’t even had to explain much or create any elaborate cover stories. I trusted Adam Dark a bit more after that. “I will call him, in that case.” So I did. I called Fred, and told him everything that had happened.
“Wonderful,” he groaned. “We’re infamous now. Everyone’s going to know about us.”
“To be honest, I’m kinda enjoying the infamy,” I replied.
“Oh, you would. But how’s it going to be for the rest of us?”
“Actually, I think it’ll be good for us. Once you’re here, once we’re all reunited and such, we can tell him the truth.”
“The truth,” he repeated.
“Yeah, of course,” I said in my matter-of-fact voice. “I’ll just come clean about who I really am and ask for help.”
Fred was silent for a long moment. “And you think he will?”
“I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t. Us lycans value loyalty to kind, after all.”
“We also value honesty, last time I checked.”
I bristled, though the comment wasn’t undeserved. “Is now the time to have an ethical discussion, Fredrick?”
“Probably not. When can I be there?”
I lowered the phone. “Adam, when do you want him here?”
“Anytime,” he called back.
“Anytime, I hear.”
“Okay then. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
“He wouldn’t miss it.”
“Bye, then.” I hung up the phone. “He’s on his way.”
Adam nodded. “Good. Don’t worry,” he assured me, “I’m sure things will be fine for your friend.”
I agreed with him. In my head, though, I wasn’t continuing the conversation. I was thinking of how I was finally going to break the truth to him. “Yes, Mr. Dark, I’ve been lying to you. I’m an Alpha, and you’ve already met the rest of my pack. Yeah, this is all of us -- we come from a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. Also, my name isn’t Jac at all.”
Fred had a point, a very solid point. Adam Dark would be perfectly justified in rejecting my request for help when I explained all the lies I’d been telling. In fact, I realized then that I might have endangered the mission.
Man, I thought, I could just slap myself right now....
Fred and Levi arrived about ten minutes later. “Where’s Holly?” I asked.
“With the band,” Levi replied. “That’s where she spends most of her time now.”
I brought them in. We talked. Adam’s decision, as I thought and hoped it would be, was to allow Fredrick and Levi to stay. Fred kept shooting pointed glances at me, almost urging me with his mind to speak up.
The next day, the first full day we were all together, was the day before the Change, and I was definitely scared. I’d never lived so much as a week in the city; the Changes I was used to took place way outside of anywhere, in the woods. As far as I knew, there was only one person who’d ever been hurt out there.
Remembering Sadie Powers still put a twist in my stomach, and the thought that there may be more deaths like hers here in the city, even more so. I had to figure out a plan, and as of now had nothing, so of course I consulted Lana.
When I asked her, she shrugged. “It depends. Some people lock themselves inside, some find more secluded spots in the city, everyone has a different strategy. I know a kid who used to hideout in a storage closet. It was Riley, actually. I think it was, anyway.”
Lana didn’t give me any ideas, but by now I had figured out what I wanted to do. I thought of staying in the warehouse, sealing up the room, but I didn’t like the idea of being around others in a moment that had before been intensely private. Surely there were secluded places in this city, on the outskirts; in fact, I had seen several on the drive out to the center.
Well, that wasn’t a good idea, of course. Especially with the high-security situation we had caused, I wasn’t going anywhere near the PD center -- that was asking to be shot. Surely there were other places out there, though, so I went searching for one.
Eventually, I found one: an out-of-the-way slice of national park on the south side of Nashville. It had a thick tree cover and long, winding paths that led to all kinds of places, some of them to nowhere at all. Best of all, walking hours closed at five, so no one would be there to disturb me.
It was perfect.
At four-fifteen, I left. With winter quickly approaching, the days were growing shorter and shorter, and when I finally got to the park twenty, twenty-five or so minutes later, the sun was already falling low toward the ground. I wandered down the main path, and it was surprisingly peaceful. There was a little stream that ran down a tall hill, blown by a chill breeze, and it was lovely. Reminded me of home. At one point, I passed a man I vaguely recognized, apparently someone with the same idea as me. I flashed my yellow eyes at him like car headlights in a sort of greeting, and he responded in kind.
Five in the evening rolled around, and I ducked off the path, curling into a little ball behind a bush, a branch sticking into my back. A park ranger or two wandered by, sweeping their flashlights into the shrubbery, halfheartedly searching while not really expecting to find anything. The sun was almost gone, and I was beginning to feel itchy, so once about five minutes had passed without a ranger appearing, I got into gear.
I got up, got closer to the path (didn’t quite get back on, but I was just on the edge), and went deeper and deeper into the forest. Over on the horizon, I could see the moon inching up bit by bit into the sky, and my body reacted appropriately.
When I couldn’t take it anymore, when I sensed it was high time, I ducked back into the trees and undressed, making a mental note of where I left my clothes. From there, it was all a matter of hiding, and waiting, for the light to finally find me.
I’m going to be quite a sight when I wake up.... I thought ruefully.