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31. How to Summon Magic

As the full moon disappeared behind a bank of clouds, it occurred to me that nearly two months had passed since I killed Nicholas Randon. Two months, and my plans to tear apart this pack from the inside still relied on my improvisation skills.

In other words, I had no plan yet.

Sure, I had some ideas. Based on what I learned from Laurie, there were a handful of pack members who weren’t happy with Elijah in control of the city. Fewer still wanted Rebecca to be in command, even though werewolves had the somewhat out-of-date notion that women shouldn’t - or can’t - lead. Sexist dogs. Though I guess humans weren’t any better.

Three of the anti-Elijah and pro-Rebecca werewolves stood in the general area around me. Simon was a few meters away with Evangeline, training, practicing control over his transitions. From what I’ve heard, when in a fight, it becomes even more difficult for a werewolf to control their Shifting since their every instinct is urging them to attack with their full strength. But it’s not always ideal for them to become wolves, especially if they’re fighting in close quarters. I wondered what would have happened if Keith, Luca, and Oliver had shifted when they found me at Starbucks two months ago.

Next to me, watching the practice carefully, was Rebecca herself, her hands balled into fists as she felt the force of the full moon press down on her. I glanced at her anxiously.

“Hey,” I said, grabbing her attention. “Are you okay?”

Rebecca glanced down at her fists, slowly unclenching them as she inhaled deeply. “I’m fine now,” she said. “But I need to get out of here before the sun sets,” she glanced at the star, which looked as though it was carefully balancing on top of the skyscrapers as it inched toward the horizon.

I frowned. “Does the full moon not affect you during the day?” Weird.

She shrugged. “Yeah, for some reason it doesn’t work like that. I’m not exactly sure why, since it doesn’t appear to be any less full during the day than it is during the night. It might have something to do with witches and warlocks and the first werewolves, but I never paid much attention in history.”

My interest amplified. “The first werewolves? Do you know how they were created?”

“What did I just say?” Rebecca’s tone was impatient, but she grinned. “Why do you want to know? Do you think you can learn about our weaknesses by learning about our creation?”

I noted the way she said our, with careful precision, like she knew her lycanthropy separated her from the rest of the werewolf population but she still hesitantly considered herself one of them. It was sad, really, and upsetting to know that even among supernatural beings, those who were... different from the rest were still pushed back from the face of society.

“Possibly.” Actually, for once, I wasn’t particularly interested in searching for any more weaknesses. This time, I wanted to know just for curiosity’s sake; and I think my friend - my friend? - knew that based on the teasing edge to her smile. “So, do you know, or are you uneducated on such topics?”

“Rude,” Rebecca chastised me. She fell quiet, glancing at where Evangeline was reprimanding Simon on his technique.

“You’re too soft,” the werewolf was saying. “Do I need to bring Keith out here?”

“Nice try,” Simon shot back, crossing his arms. “But didn’t the Alpha send him to the Oshawa pack to keep up relations with their Alpha?”

Beside me, Rebecca let out a disgusted snort. I turned to her, raising an eyebrow. She noticed my look and rolled her eyes.

“Don’t ask,” she said.

“Do you not like Jared Morgan?” Though I’d never met the Alpha of Oshawa’s pack, I’d never much liked the sound of him. Probably because he’s a supernatural being, and a werewolf at that.

“That’s one way to put it,” Rebecca’s hands balled back up into fists. “He’s an arrogant, cocky son of a bitch - quite literally, might I add - who gets on my every nerve and tries to do so every time Elijah forces me to go to Oshawa.”

“Oh, come on,” Evangeline said, momentarily halting the training session. “He’s not that bad.”

“You’re right,” Rebecca agreed. “He’s worse.”

“You’re biased,” Evangeline insisted, then tossed a look at me. “Jared Morgan has never supported the Takeover, but he knows that it’s smarter to be Elijah’s ally instead of his enemy.”

“Exactly,” Rebecca spat. “He’s a coward.”

“Our pack outnumbers his and he knows it,” Evangeline glanced at Simon. “Which means...?”

“It would be suicide to speak up,” he shot a glare at Evangeline. “I’m not an idiot, you know. The Alpha has already slaughtered four different packs that tried to help humans.”

I remembered hearing about those events. The first time had happened not long after the Takeover, a few months after I was shut into the safe house. Hamilton’s pack had allied with Niagara Falls to try to take down Elijah. As a result, their packs were massacred. There had been no survivors.

There were two other incidents following that, the next being over three years later, shortly after I abruptly left the safe house and became a Hunter. Peterborough’s pack attacked the city, looking to dethrone the Alpha. Once again, there were no survivors. Before the prisoners were killed, they said they wanted to stop the oppression of humans, but there were rumors that they were really under the orders of Ottawa’s Alpha to claim Toronto as their own. While Peterborough’s pack was demolished, Ottawa got off scot-free since there was no proof of their involvement, and Toronto was in chaos for the next few weeks.

The final attack happened three months before I was captured, when Windsor made the long drive up Highway-401, only to meet Toronto’s pack outside of London. That time, Elijah had called upon Oshawa for reinforcements.

So yes, Simon was right. To go against Elijah was a suicide mission.

“Fine, so you have a brain,” Evangeline tapped Simon on his shoulder. “Now, show me how much control you have. If I see seven a single strand of fur, you’re on guard duty for the rest of the night.”

Simon muttered under his breath but slunk back to the worn-down patch of dirt where he’d been all afternoon. If he was in his wolf form, he’d probably have his tail between his legs.

“Nice threat,” I said. “Standing still for long hours at a time without anything eventful happening is the worst kind of torture.” I grinned. “Maybe you should have done that while interrogating me.”

“Quiet, Hunter,” Evangeline hissed, though there wasn’t as much venom in her tone as I was used to. “You’re here to observe, not to make comments on my training methods.”

“Speaking of training,” Rebecca said as Evangeline went to join Simon. “I spoke to Opal about your magic.”

I let out a loud groan, causing Simon to glance up in alarm. When he saw the dramatic eye-roll I made to go along with the sound, he turned his attention back to the task at hand. “You’re still going on about that? I don’t have magic, Rebecca.”

“Well, your friend, who just so happens to be a witch and has magic, disagrees.” The broad grin that had vanished when discussing Jared Morgan once again graced her face with its presence. “I told her what I’ve noticed, and she thinks I’m right.”

“I’m human.” I protested. “I’ve been human my entire life. I would know if I had magic.”

“Would you?” Rebecca raises an eyebrow. “Magic doesn’t manifest fully until adulthood, though teenagers often exhibit symptoms of their specialty - Opal said her body temperature was always a few degrees above average.”

“My temperature is completely normal, thank you,” I said, just as the winter wind bit sharply into my face. Contradicting myself, I shivered. “For fuck’s sake, why is it always windy?”

“We’re in a big open space with a giant lake a few kilometers away,” Rebecca waved away my complaint. “Would you just shut up and listen to me? Being a witch isn’t the end of the world, you know. If you weren’t raised with magic, then only one of your parents was a magic wielder. So at least you’re still half-human.”

“I’m completely human,” I narrowed my eyes. Why did she keep insisting that I was a witch? Why did she want it so badly? “Magic manifests in adulthood, right? So I’d have known for years that I had magic. But since I don’t...”

“Ah,” Rebecca’s eyes sparkled. Was she enjoying this? “Opal had an interesting story about that. Often, a traumatic experience causes a child to block their magic. It has to be jumpstarted to be accessible again.”

“Well, isn’t that convenient for your little theory,” I muttered. “Since, you know, my life has been nothing but traumatic experiences.”

In other words, I hunted supernatural beings for a living after having each of my family members killed in front of me. I think that would traumatize just about anybody.

“Look, if you won’t believe me, can you at least humor me?” Rebecca set her hands on her hips, looking annoyingly optimistic.

“If it doesn’t work, will you promise to never bring it up again?” The words came out tense through my gritted teeth. Rebecca, of all people, was getting on my nerves. And right now, with Rebecca as one of my only friends, I didn’t want her to be around if I snapped.

“I promise,” she said, sincere. “Do you want to make a blood pact on it? I’ve heard witches are rather fond of them.”

My hands curled into fists, and I stiffened my back. “Just tell me what I need to do.” The sooner I can make her realize that I’m strictly human, the sooner I can get on with my life.

“Right, so Opal said you need to... feel it.” Rebecca frowned. “Whatever that means.”

“Feel what? I have no idea what magic is supposed to feel like!” Sparkly? Tangy? Like Pop Rocks?

“She said it’s different for every magic-wielder,” she explained. “Opal said her magic sort of feels like the crackling of a fire.”

“That’s not a feeling,” I said. “That’s a sound.”

Rebecca threw her hands up in exasperation. “Would you quit being so difficult? Look, just... I don’t know, pick something that feels right. What were you feeling when Keith attacked you?”

I made a show of pretending to think. “I felt like I was going to die,” I said. “Since, you know, I was.”

“Until you did something that caused him to fly forty feet away. Can you actually try, please?”

I sighed, then closed my eyes, if only to give off the illusion that I was actually buying into this. This is ridiculous. I counted to twenty-seven, then opened my eyes. “Pop Rocks,” I said, since I was craving them. I haven’t had Pop Rocks since I was twelve.

Her eyes lit up. “See? Progress! Now, just... think of that, and... do magic?”

“You’re a terrible teacher,” I commented.

She blushed, blood rushing into her face and causing her face to blotch unevenly with smears of dim red. On anybody else, being a splotchy blusher is usually considered an unattractive feature, but of course Rebecca could pull it off. The world would end before anybody found something that looked bad on the Barbie werewolf.

Me, on the other hand? I tied my frizzy, uncooperative hair back into a ponytail to move it away from my face as the wind once again prove to be a major inconvenience as it caused the dull brown strands to whip across my face. When I was eleven, I loved thinking that I was secretly Hermione Granger in disguise, with my poofy hair, crippling overbite, and bookish personality - though the overbite was fixed with braces a year later. Now? It would be much more practical if I looked more like Elena Gilbert or Bella Swan.

I tried to picture what Opal usually looked like on the rare occasions she did magic in front of me - while the witch was my best friend, being in such close quarters with a supernatural being was to risk triggering my Hunter instincts. Well, I’m pretty sure she always had her eyes closed and her hands raised, palms facing up, breathing deeply...

So, I tried just that, remembering the sensation of Pop Rocks, picturing the snap, crackle, pop! feeling around me. The air could hum with the sound of the candy, and...


I felt nothing.

Opening my eyes, I gave Rebecca and I told you so stare. But she didn’t appear to be discouraged - oh no, the lycanthrope actually had the fucking audacity to smirk.

My anger and frustration rose, just as the air warmed slightly around me. Thank god. I’m pretty sure I have frostbite on my neck.

“Try again,” she said. “Try Harder.”

“Nothing’s happening,” I said.

“Try. Harder.”

I did. My eyes squeezed shut, and my hands trembled as I tensed every single muscle in my arm, my torso, my entire body. My breathing grew ragged the longer I held my muscles at an arrest. Snap, crackle, pop, Reese.

Still nothing.

“You’re not trying!” Rebecca’s voice pierced through my concentration, and my anger rose further. It was like I could feel the emotion slowly simmering under the surface of my skin, allowing waves of heat to flow from me. Why did anger always make one feel so hot?

“Shut up,” I gritted my teeth and tried again. I was going to prove that I wasn’t magical if it was the last thing I did.

Well, preferably, the last thing I would ever do is sink my dagger into Elijah’s heart before the rest of his pack decided to kill me out of revenge, but that goal wasn’t exactly accessible at the moment.

I tried again.

And again.

Yet again.

Each time I failed to prove Rebecca right, she’d spout some nonsense about trying harder, trying again, feeling the magic until it was her I wanted to stab with my dagger. Maybe not in the heart, though. Probably just the leg, or the stomach. Maybe in the back if I was feeling vengeful.

And each time I couldn’t summon the magic, my frustration grew, which bewildered me. Did I want to succeed?

Of course not! If I was supernatural, what was the point of the past five years? I’d spent so long protecting humans from supernatural beings, killing the monsters, that if I found out that I was actually one of them, my life would have no purpose. I would be what I was trying to destroy.

I’d explained that all to Rebecca a few days ago. I’d voiced my fears out loud, something I had always struggled to do, even before the Takeover.

I never saw the world in complete black-and-white, though it certainly seemed that way most time. Supernatural beings were evil, so I killed them to protect the good. The humans. But if I turned out to be supernatural? That would mean things are more grey than even I believe.

Which is why I had to put a stop to this nonsense. Immediately.

The next time Rebecca told me to try again, my anger rose to an all-time high, and my vision blurred. My ears roared as my heartbeat increased, blood pressure rising as a result. The air seemed to crackle around me, sparking with electricity, which I waved off as my imagination. The wind increased, along with the temperature.

My palms snapped outward on instinct. A force exploded from my outstretched hands, barreling towards Rebecca. Her eyes widened as she dove out of the way, the tree standing a few meters behind her taking the brunt of the attack instead.

My blood seemed to freeze in my veins.

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