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2. How to Recover From Venom

I held the cloth up to my stiff, sore neck, wincing at the sting the cool material inflicted.

“That’ll teach you to allow yourself to get bitten,” Opal sighed, preparing a bandage for me. “Honestly, Reese, you know better than that.”

I rolled my eyes. “It’s not like I planned on it,” I muttered. “In fact, I remember thinking about avoiding exactly that.”

After leaving the alleyway, I met up with Opal a few blocks away from the bar, taking a long, winding route meant to shake off any tails I may have picked up. I remember the uncomfortable sensation of feeling like I was being watched, but, then again, I always feel like I’m being watched. Doing what I do has made me overtly paranoid - constantly looking over my shoulder, always assuming everybody knows who I really am, though I usually take careful measures to avoid giving away my identity.

Like tonight, telling Marcus Chauncey that my name is Vanessa. Disguising my bright blue eyes with dark brown contact lenses. Continuously straightening my naturally frizzy, curly, dark brown hair that reminded me of Hermione Granger’s... or Mia Thermopolis from The Princess Diaries, pre-makeover.

Every time I have a different target, I change my look, my name, my personality. Two nights ago, I was Lauren Williams, green-eyed, blonde-haired - a wig, really - extremely nice, naïve, and a little too trusting. The look of shock on the warlock’s face when I slit his throat was extremely satisfying.

Last night, I was Mackenna Rivers, hazel-eyed, pink-haired, a seductress. Brought an unmated werewolf right to his knees... before I stabbed his eye with my silver dagger.

Then there’s the normal, everyday character I play, the name and face I use most often - Isabelle Sage, brown-haired, blue-eyed, and completely average. Pretending to be Opal’s younger sister, living with her and her husband until I got a place of my own. Working at the nearest diner during the day, keeping up the illusion that I’m saving up money to leave Toronto, leave the terrible, fear-driven place the city I once loved had become.

And there’s my true self. Reese Hearne, the name I was born with. The name that was everybody’s common knowledge for seventeen years, until my life - which had already been messed up - was completely shattered.

Now? Only Opal and her husband, Kyle know who I am.

Reese Hearne only comes out at night, when the vampires come out to eat.

Reese Hearne only rises with the moon, when the werewolves come out to howl.

Reese Hearne only stands in the darkness, where the witches and warlocks once lurked.

And right now, Reese Hearne has a painful wound on her neck, the vampire venom making its way into her bloodstream making her very dizzy.

Making me very dizzy.

I glanced over at Opal, who was busy eyeing my wound.

“This is the fourth time this month you’ve been bitten,” Opal tsked at me. “You’re getting sloppy.”

“Or the vampires are just getting smarter,” I sighed. “Maybe I killed all the idiots,” or not, I thought, remembering just how eager Marcus Chauncey was to get out of that stupid bar. I’ve met much more intelligent vampires, ones who actually acted their age - being around for a few centuries, they managed to pick up a few things.

They’re the ones who are a lot more difficult to kill.

“I don’t know,” Opal smiled slightly, echoing my thoughts. “I have a client who’s rather... dim-witted, considering she’s nearly two hundred years old.”

“Is she on the list?” I asked referring to the list of names that was hung on the refrigerator - hiding it in plain sight. Every name on the list belonged to somebody who had supernatural qualities. They were mostly witches and warlocks, the species I didn’t hunt quite as often, seeing as how they were mostly harmless, along with a few vampires Opal deemed Cullen-like - meaning they didn’t typically feast on human blood.

Basically, the list held the names of supernatural beings I’m not allowed to kill.

It’s not a very long list. Only about twenty or so names.

“I think so,” Opal said, abandoning the bandage for a moment to glance at the fridge, scanning down the list. “Yep. Elizabeth Meyers.”

I craned my neck to see, and a burning hot pain stabbed through my body. I clenched my teeth, inhaling sharply, as I felt the vampire venom finally found its way into my bloodstream and was now making my vision swim and my clenched muscles relaxed.

Opal was still examining the list, like she did every night, looking for any names I might have added or taken off.

“Opal,” I called out weakly as white specks flashed at the edge of my vision. “I need you to get rid of the venom.”

She jerked her gaze away from the fridge, immediately giving me her full attention, examining my neck. Letting out another sigh, she grabbed the bandage, slapping it onto my neck with way more force than what is necessary.

“Right,” she said, sitting across from me on the table as the medication Opal applied on the bandage began seeping into the vampire bite, chasing the venom down and exterminating it from my body. “It’s not a new moon, you weren’t bled dry, and you didn’t ingest any vampire blood - I think. You didn’t bite him, did you?”

“I’m not stupid,” I said. “Of course I didn’t.”

Ingesting vampire blood is the most idiotic thing you could possibly do. Once the vampire blood enters your system, you’re kind of... infatuated... with the species until it leaves. It’s a good way of getting yourself killed.

“Just making sure,” Opal said, leaning back in the chair. “So, who’s next?”

I narrowed my eyes, trying to recall the much longer list of the supernatural beings I allowed to kill.

“Ryker Marcel,” I said. “Werewolf. Twenty-three years old. Next in line for the... Beta, I believe, of Toronto’s pack,” I think that was right. A pack’s Beta is usually the best friend of an Alpha, somebody they can completely and utterly trust without question. This particular werewolf has a particularly strong bromance with Nicholas Randon, the younger brother of Toronto’s Alpha and current heir... unless the Big Bad Alpha finds his mate and has a child.

“Excuse me?” Opal paled - and not just her skin. Her eyes, her hair, her lips... everything. “You’re going after Ryker Marcel? Didn’t you just say you’re not stupid?”

“It’s practical,” I said, determined to explain my... well, crazy plan. “You know my goal is to free Toronto from the supernatural clutches it’s fallen into. This is the start of that. We all know how the Alpha is the one who started the Uprising... this is the start of bringing down his pack once and for all!”

My best friend shook her head. “It’s not going to work, Reese. You’re no match against a powerful werewolf like that... even if Ryker isn’t a Beta, even if he won’t be Beta unless Nicholas becomes Alpha... there’s a reason he’s in the pack’s inner circle. And if you somehow do manage to kill him... well, I think it’s safe to say that Nicholas won’t take it lightly. You’ll be hunted, and you’ll be caught, and you’ll be killed.”

“They’re already looking for me,” I reminded her. “I’ve killed their pack members before, not to mention I’ve pissed off Christian Roy...”

“That was also stupid,” Opal rubbed her forehead. “Killing his wife was the dumbest thing you’ve ever done.”

“It got him angry,” I said. “And now that I’m eluding him, he’s getting frustrated. And trust me, it’s a lot easier to kill a vampire who being... emotional.”

I sighed, rolling my shoulders, determined to make her see that I can kill a powerful werewolf. “Trust me, Opal, I can do this,” I pursed my lips. “I just don’t know if I can without you there. Just... sleep on it, please? I know Ryker will be at Riverdale Park tomorrow evening, just like every evening... and I don’t really want to go tonight, since...”

Since it’s the full moon, and the of-age werewolves will be out searching for their mates.

Each supernatural being had a moon phase that was... important to them. For vampires, it’s the new moon, the only time when a new vampire can rise. For witches and warlocks, it’s the half-moon - though nobody’s ever told me why, not even Opal.

And for werewolves, it’s the full moon.

I looked at Opal hopefully, but she shook her head. “I’m sorry, Reese, but I can’t. You’re going to get yourself killed.”

And since I value her opinion - even if I don’t completely agree with it - I nodded. “How about this,” I began. “I hold off looking for Ryker Marcel for now. I’ll stick to a few of my easier targets and not go looking for trouble with the pack,” at her relieved gaze, my eyes narrowed. ”But,” I continued. “If he crosses my path, I’m striking.”

Opal, hesitantly, sighed with defeat. “I don’t like this,” she warned me. “So I’ll just have to keep you away from Riverdale for now,” she looked at me intensely. “But remember, you don’t have to do this. You don’t have to keep going after supernatural creatures. It’s dangerous.”

But my jaw was still stubbornly set, and I raised my chin, the pain from the vampire bite reduced to a dull throb as the goop Opal put on the bandage did its job. Standing up, I turned, heading for my bedroom, intent on getting out of this forsaken dress, taking out these irritating contact lenses, and going for a midnight run to clear my head.

Opal doesn’t completely understand. Though she may be a witch - not a particularly powerful one, but a witch nonetheless - she can’t see into my head to pick out the reason why I’m fighting against the supernatural beings so hard.

Because I’m a Hunter.

The last of my kind.

The only person in this beautiful-turned-shithole of a city who can restore things to how they once more.

I can’t stop fighting.

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