“He hates you,” I hop down the stairs with Jayson trailing behind me, trying to cool down. I’m not stupid. I know it’s not a smart idea to get on Ethan’s bad side, but I’m also a pretty reckless person. And when certain things about me or the people I care about get misconstrued, I tend to get a little… passionate. Will I apologize? No way in hell. Will I watch where I step for a while? Hell yes.
“I know,” I hop from the last stair and spin around. “Even if I hadn’t grabbed him, making him go from not liking me to hating me wouldn’t have been hard. I could do it without trying.”
“I’m not sure that’s something to be happy about.”
“It’s whatever,” Outside, a door slams and a few minutes later, a lady walks in carrying a little boy.
“Hi, Ms. Bines,” Jayson greets.
“Hey, Jayson,” she smiles. “Do you think you could watch Mickey for a bit? I need to talk to Ethan.”
“Sure,” he holds out his hands and takes Mickey from Ms. Bines.”
“Thanks, Jay.” She looks to Mickey who giggles and pulls his blanket up to his face. “Bye, bye sweetie. I’ll see you in a bit.” She jogs up the stairs to the Beta. Mickey looks at me and holds out his hands.
“Sorry,” I tell him. “I’ve never held a kid.”
“I want,” he complains. “I want, I want, I want.”
“Okay, I give, sorry.” He clings to my neck. It’s awkward at first, but somehow I manage to hold him without giving my wrist a cramp. I don’t do the kid thing. Most avoid me which I am more than okay with. We start walking away from the door. “Alrighty, then. How about we get a snack?”
“Cook, Jay, cook.” Mickey demands. “Want snacks.”
“Alright,” Jayson smiles. “What do you want?”
“Cookies,” We enter the kitchen and I set Mickey on the island. “Help,” I push his blonde curls away from his face and sit on one of the stool. “I wanna help.”
“Okay,” Jay says. “You can mix the ingredients.” He looks behind me. I turn to see Trina looking at us, her head tilted.
“What’s up?” I say.
“Huh? Oh, yeah. Ryner needs to see you.”
I turn back to Jayson push Mickey’s hair away from his face again. “If Ryner wants to talk to me Ryner can get his butt in here.”
“Marcy, it’s important.” Trina insists.
“Must not be too important if he sent you in here.” I grumble.
“Get to the foyer Marcelletta.” She growls. “This is important.”
“Fine,” I mutter. “There’s no reason to say my full name, I was gonna go anyway.” I feel like I’m a little kid again I got in trouble for not cleaning my room. Trina knows how I feel about my name. It’s like a long and drawn out prison sentence.
Ryner paces back and forth in the foyer. “What do you want?”
“You are very rude.” He grumbles. He opens the door and we walk outside.
“Thanks, I try my best.” I cross my arms. “What do you want? I was about to make cookies with Jayson.”
“Tomorrow, the cloaks your parents gave you—you will have to wear the one with a full moon. It will… ease your transition. Because neither you nor your sister have ever Changed because of your suppressed memories. It is… painful.”
“I don’t like all these pauses you’re doing.” I tell him. This earns a small smile from him. I wonder what it takes to get him to actually smile. Must take a miracle. “It makes me nervous. Does it really hurt that much?”
“Enough to make you lose yourself.”
“Well,” I kick a pebble towards the cliff as we start to head in that direction. “Can you describe it to me? I like to be prepared for anything painful.”
“There is not enough time in the world to prepare you. This is not something can be described, only experienced.”
“Wow, you’re just full of info.” Ryner chuckles at my sarcasm. “I’m being serious. With the way me and Trina are, how can you be sure we’ll actually Change?”
“Did he tell you?” Ryner raises his eyebrow.
“Nah,” I say. “I figured it out. If mom was human there’s no way dad would have told her about the dangerous things that could happen to us if he didn’t think her opinion was worth something.”
“You are very crass.”
“I know. It’s part of my charm.” I plop down on the edge of the cliff and stare at the waves. “Ryner, I wanna know something, do you listen to everything your dad asks?”
I fall back and shield my eyes from the sun as I look up at him. “Why?”
“He is in charge.”
“Don’t you ever challenge authority?”
“No. It is not necessary. He does what is best for the pack.”
A snort escapes me. “He doesn’t do what’s best for me.”
“He is yet to know you.”
“And you know me? Also, sit your butt down, I’m tired of looking up at you.”
“It would safer if you would stand.”
“True, but I like to live life on the edge.”
Ryner sighs—whether at me or my pun, I don’t know—and sits next to me. “I do know you. Better than you would think. As you could easily read me, I can very easily read you.”
“I take pride in being surrounded in mystery.” I smile. “It always makes meeting new people so much more fun, but if you can, I would love for you to share.”
“I think it would be much more interesting if you were to figure out what I know.” My head snaps over to him and he’s smirking at me.
“Oh, you are a sadistic bastard.” I laugh. “God and people say I’m mean.”
“I am particular,” he suggests. “I am not mean.”
“Yeah, whatever.” Pulling my legs up, I squint at the glare on the water. “You’d be a really awesome person for me to hang with, but you’re so…” I struggle to find the right word. Stoic? Definitely, I but I could deal with that. Socially challenged? Yeah, but, again, I could deal with that. The right word to describe him is… “Perfect.”
Ryner laughs. Like, actually laughs like I’ve said something too hilarious to hide behind his calm demeanor. “What? You are perfect.”
“I am far from perfect.” He smiles. “There are many things about me that you do not know of and it would be better if it stayed that way.”
“The same could be said for me.” I bump his shoulder with mine. “Let’s agree to stay mysterious, at least until there’s enough trust between us. Besides,” I extend my legs again. “There are some things about me that would make even the strongest want to run.”
“Ryner!” someone calls. “Ryner!” We turn to see someone beckoning us. Between now and the time we had walked outside, at least ten cars have appeared. It’s amazing we didn’t hear anything.
“I suppose it is time to go back,” Ryner holds out his hand. “Come. It is time you meet the people who, as you so eloquently put it, chill here during the full moon.”
“Yo,” I say walking into the kitchen. The number of females in the kitchen has tripled since I left, But Trina has disappeared. One girl has light brown hair and mousy features. She looks maybe fourteen with bright blue eyes and a bubbly personality. The other is supermodel pretty. High cheek bones, pale skin, perfect makeup, lots of curves and no fat that I can see. I won’t say I hate her, because I can’t hate anyone, but the condescending look she’s giving makes me not like her.
“That’s her,” the bubbly girl says to Jayson. “That’s the girl that got Ryner to laugh.”
“What?” Jayson looks just as shocked as he should. “Did Ryner really laugh?” He looks from me to Ryner then back to me.
“Yes,” I grin. “I’m the comedy master and he just couldn’t resist my amazing skills.”
Ryner rolls his eyes.
“Wow,” Jayson goes back to the book in front of him.
The younger girl bounces up to me and says, “I’m Tyler Thomas. It’s very nice to meet you.”
“If you knew me you wouldn’t be saying that.” I hold out my hand. “I’m Marcy Winters.”
“Oh, so you’re the younger one.” She retakes her seat at the island. The other girl still glares at me. “You look older.”
“Experience,” I say. “It ages you something awful.”
“Oh,” she laughs. “Maybe that’s how you got Ryner to laugh. You told him a funny story, didn’t you?”
“Well, I’m not up for sharing my life’s story at the moment.” I sit next to her and lean on the table. “It’s not really that big a deal, right? It’s just a laugh.”
“It’s not that big a deal.” The older girl final speaks. She sounds like a younger Julie Bowen which wouldn’t be a problem because I like her as an actress, but I want to strangle said actress for how many times her Neutrogena commercial came on YouTube.
“He likes to laugh, but around the right people.” I spare a glance at Ryner. He looks uncomfortable beyond belief. “Myra Thompson.”
“‘Sup,” There’s obvious tension between the two of them.
Jayson stares harder at his book. Tyler studies the ends of her hair.
Ryner coughs, says something about Ethan, and makes a beeline for the door. It’s weird seeing him so nervous. The only other time he got nervous is when he told us that mom and dad had died. Mom and dad… Mom would be able to make perfect sense out of the situation. It didn’t take a genius to know they had some history, but mom had the perfect intuition. She’d know what, when, and why. Trina says I used to be like her, but I think I’m more like her now than before. While mom was, in fact, kind, she was also strong and fierce. I was a cry baby.
I sigh. I miss mom more than ever.
Myra’s voice shatters my thoughts. “He won’t go for you.”
“Say what?” I blink rapidly to hold back my tears. “What are you talking about?”
“Ryner. You’re not his type. You’re too…” She gestures to me.
“Oh, him.” My eyebrows draw together. “And what does that mean? I’m too what?”
“Well, I suppose I mean that you’re not me. You’re shorter, thicker, ruder, louder, and well, just not perfect.” She flicks her hair and looks at me with a cold smile.
I stare at her like she’s grown a second head. “You’re damn right I’m not,” I say incredulously. “I don’t want to be you. I’m just fine being me. And if I’m not his type, so what? I don’t do relationships. Besides, I like my flaws. They’re what make me, me. I’m thicker than you, but that means there’s more to love. If I’m ruder or louder, well, it just means I got more to say. If I’m short, who cares? My personality more than makes up for my lack of height.”
I twist a strand of my hair and let the curl bounce back. “Why in the world would I want to be anyone but me? I’m the coolest person I know.” Her cold stare meets my crooked grin. “Go ahead and try to intimidate me. Not on your life could you make me think less of myself by comparing me to you. You’ve got no idea what I’ve been through. If you think you’re bad, God knows I’m a thousand times worse.”
Blood floods her cheeks and she storms out.
“Wow,” Tyler says. “You’re brave.”
“Not brave, irritated.” I correct. “I don’t like girls that think all others should want to be like them. I spent years wishing I was taller and prettier and not so loud, but recently I’ve come to accept all of my attributes. I’ve got them, so why not love them?”
“Because there’s always going to be someone better than you.” I turn to see Trina walk in. She hops onto the island and snatches Jayson’s book. “But once you accept that, accepting yourself isn’t all that hard.”
I shrug. “I got over it a few years ago.”
“It something that takes time. Also, I’ve been wondering this for a while now, but where did your boobs go? They, like disappeared, but I never felt that I could ask.”
“Huh, oh. I’m binding.”
“Isn’t that dangerous?” Tyler asks. “Serious damage could be done.”
“If you do it wrong.” I point out. “Like using ACE Bandages of duct tape to bind is super dangerous. I’m wearing a binder and yes, it’s the right size. Smaller boobs bring less attention to you.”
“Yeah, but you’ve got a big personality so you’re gonna be noticed anyway.” Tyler says.
“You know, now that you’re away from Sebastian, you don’t have to wear it anymore.” Trina says. “If you didn’t wear it, you’d be able to borrow my shirts.”
“It’s sort of a habit now.” I shrug. “And no, Jayson, you cannot escape. I’ve got questions.” During the course of our conversation, Jayson managed to scoot from the island and almost make it to the door. I’m more aware of my surroundings than most would think.
“I, uh, I don’t, um, I don’t know anything.”
“Get over here, Jayson.”
“I-I think you’d, um, be better suited asking Ryner.”
“Dude, I got Ryner to laugh today.” I point out. “I doubt I’ll be able to get him to do much else for a week. Talk.”
“Ooh, a story,” Tyler grin. She set her chin in her hands and stares at Jayson. “Go on, talk. I’ve only just met her a few months ago, so I don’t know anything.”
“Um, I don’t think I should.”
“Our deal still stands,” I remind him. “You tell me all the info you know because you couldn’t lie to me.”
“It shouldn’t apply to stuff like this.”
“Oh, but it should,” Trina grins. Sometimes it’s hard to remember how much useless and trivial information Trina has on people. And all of it comes from listening. “There are obvious factors, but what are the details?”
“I don’t know any details.” He mumbles. “He broke up with her. That’s all I know.”
Jayson looks more flustered than usual, but I get the feeling that he always looks flustered when talking about Ryner. I wonder… “Can you look at me and say that?” I wonder. “He is your brother, but he never seems to look out for you. What gives you any incentive to care what he thinks about all of this?”
Just as I suspected, Jayson steadily meets my eyes. Like me, he doesn’t like it when people speak of his family. I wonder if that’s the one thing that brings everyone together. “I don’t know anything more. What’s his business is his business. If he wants to tell you, that’s up to him and not me. And don’t talk about my brother like you know him. He does more for me than anyone else.”
I grin. “Very nice, Jayson. You’re quite the speed talker when you’re upset.”
“I don’t care.” He grumbles. “Just don’t talk about him.”
I stand and give him a deep bow. “Your wish is my command. That doesn’t matter right now anyway. I need to talk to Ethan.”
“What for?” Tyler asks. “I don’t really like him and try to avoid him at all costs. Apparently I annoy him anyway.”
“It’s true that he’s not fond of me, but I’ve got something important to ask.”
“Jayson,” Ms. Bines pokes her head in. “Beta needs you.” She glances at me and Trina. “You two as well. Tyler, you have to help watch the kids.”
“Man,” she grumbles. “I hate watching the pups with everyone. They always shove the work off on me.”
Ms. Bines smiles. “You like a little kid yourself. You blend right in. And we have snacks.”
“Ooh, I’m going.” Tyler bounces out of the room.
Ms. Bines turns serious. “I never got to introduce myself. I’m Claire Bines.”
“Nice to meet you,” Trina says. “What’s going on? This is like the seventh serious thing that’s happened today.”
We start towards the stairs with Jayson trailing behind us. “Well, discovering this part of your life might be very shocking—which you two are taking very well.”
“It’s just that, all of our lives, there have been subtle hints, so it’s really not that hard to believe.” Trina shrugs. “So what’s the crisis?”
“The Civil War.” Is it hard to believe that I completely forgot about the impending self implosion of America? With my own world exploding, I guess it’s not, but I get the feeling the Civil War is going to be more tied into our lives than I’d like it to be.
“We don’t watch the news often,” Claire continues. “But recently it’s been a necessity. This war isn’t being brought on by humans. Werewolves, vampires, diviners—they’ll all on both sides of this. Humans of this country would never in a million years begin a war like this on their own. It devastated the country with a schism of prejudice that’s barely healed.” We stop on the second floor and turn right. We’re headed for dad’s old office. “Now, it’s going to be worse because weapons are better, people are smarter. It’s going to be complete chaos.”
“You’re talking about it like it’s already happening,” I say nervously. I couldn’t imagine another Civil War. History has never been my forte. It’s always something that makes me shiver. In eighth grade, when we watched footage from wars, I would cry. It was quite a horrible experience so bad I would be moved out of class when we would watch those videos.
Claire opens the door to dad’s office. Ethan is standing with his arms crossed glaring at the TV. Ryner stands behind him looking like a carbon copy. “Just watch,”
President Keller stands at a podium reading from card. His hair seems to have turns grey within the last few weeks I had last seen him on TV. Trina stands close to me, muttering to herself. We catch the end of his speech. “Today, in an attempt to quell the uprising of anarchy in the western half of this great nation, there has been a military squadron. Unfortunately, the militia in the west is more organized than we anticipated. Our forces were stopped. It is, with a heavy heart, that I am sorry to say, we have begun another Civil War.”
A low growl escapes Ethan. “Idiots,” he mutters. “They will tear themselves apart.”
“This will cause trouble for us,” Ryner says. “We are in no position to move.”
“True,” Ethan agrees. “We must prepare. Within the next three days, there will be an attack on Westmoor.” He turns towards me and Trina. She takes my hand and gives me a reassuring squeeze. “The two of you will be in the most danger. Neither of you may leave the confines of this house.”
“Why, not?” I ask. “Can’t I still go outside?”
“No,” he sighs as if he wishes very much to let me outside at my own risk. “I will not have your life in danger. It is vital to the pack that you both live.”
“But I can’t stay in one place for too long.” I say. “I’m claustrophobic.”
“In this mammoth of a house?” Claire asks. “How could you be any type of claustrophobic?”
“Mind over matter,” Trina says. “This house may be huge, but change that she can’t leave whenever she feels like it, she’s therefore trapped in a very nice prison.”
“Yes, she’s got it right. I can’t stay in here all the time. I’ll spaz and no one will be happy.”
“Your happiness is of little consequence to me,” Ethan waves my complaint away. “If you cannot control yourself, then we will make sure you do not leave. Claire,”
“Sorry, Hun,” she shrugs. “Gotta follow the rules.” She turns to leave and Trina tugs on my hand.
“The letters,” she says. “The war is starting, we have to read the letters.”
“No need to leave,” Ethan says. “I have them.”
“What an invasion of privacy.” I grumble taking the envelope. Trina still holds me hand as we read out letters.
I can only imagine what you’re feeling right now. Your mother and I are gone, you’re being exposed to a world so dangerous your life will constantly be in danger. Even with that, I still believe that you are strong enough to handle whatever is thrown at you.
Even though you are the younger, you are more powerful than your sister. Even with this knowledge, I know that you will take up my torch proudly. You’re a natural leader with amazing talents. You and Ethan will but heads, that’s something I can easily see that, but keep on his good side.
Your mother has foreseen that to win this war, you will be the leader. You are the Alpha. Don’t ever forget that. Because you’re young and because you’re a girl, many will try to challenge your position, but make sure to always be strong and never let anyone tell you you’re not worthy. I love you, Marcy. Please always remember that.