Hunter

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37. How to Have an Award-Winning Family


The gentle breeze I’d managed to summon turned into a forceful gale. Anything small and light was thrown across the room, some shattering upon landing. Opal, who was standing closest to me, stumbled back a few steps, her eyes wide as she regained her footing. Rebecca and Evangeline, who were further away, weren’t as affected by my sudden magical outburst.

“Excuse me?” I snapped onto my feet with speed worthy of any werewolf.

“Your dad was a werewolf,” Rebecca said. “And he killed my mother.”

“I think she heard you,” Evangeline was braiding a section of her hair. “She’s just trying to comprehend the information in her small half-human brain.” She blinked. “Well, I guess she’s not half-human anymore.”

Bitch. I glared at the blue-headed werewolf, wondering if I could zap her with some lightning. Was that a part of air magic? It must be, since my magic felt like electricity.

Opal was staring at me, hazel eyes wide, her mouth slightly gaped. My attention immediately landed on the small chip in her front tooth, something that I had done - accidentally, mostly - when she’d been teaching me how to take on a magic-wielder. Only corrupt ones, she’d said. I don’t want you slaughtering my people. That had been part of our deal, naturally. I hadn’t argued or created a speech on how magic-wielders were as inhumane and crazy as any other supernatural being. That had been the start of my small moral code, though I’d chalked up my hesitation to knowing that Opal, a witch, had as much humanity as any human. Though now, I wondered if my pickiness at killing magic-wielders was due to the fact that I was one of them.

Which is why it didn’t make sense that I was part-werewolf. I never had any difficulty in murdering them. I hated them more than anything else in the world, present company excluded - well, the jury was still out on Evangeline. My goal for so long had been to wipe out their species, to exact revenge on the chaos they’ve unleashed on the world. It was because of werewolves that my dad died. It was because of werewolves that vampires came out of hiding. It was because of werewolves that the residents of the safe house patrolled the streets at night, hunting for threats. So it was because of them that I lost Mom. Cedric. Thomas.

Myself.

I could deal with being a witch. I could accept that one of my parents was supernatural. Though a few magic-wielders were running around the city, abducting humans to use as test subjects on new spells and concoctions they create, I didn’t have a personal vendetta against them. In fact, the majority of wielders in the city lived peacefully, never taking advantage of the oppressive state humans lived in, as Opal did. Most wielders that behaved poorly and exploited the system did so because they served those who paid them handsomely to do so. People like Christian Roy. People like Elijah Randon.

Besides my obvious dislike over anything dog-related, the exceptions being the blonde werewolf eyeing me with a guarded curiosity and the annoyingly adorable red-headed boy who was off elsewhere, another reason it was pretty much ludicrous to believe that I might be half-werewolf was my age. I was twenty-three. As far as I knew, werewolves began to transition in their teens, and it was obvious that they were supernatural from birth. Besides my augmented senses that could easily be because of my magic, I never showed any symptoms of being a werewolf.

If I was a werewolf, and a witch, wouldn’t that make me a hybrid? Hells, it seemed like so long ago that I read about them. The child of two different supernatural races, bearing dominant traits from each of its parents. They were very rare, since the pretentious supernatural beings didn’t tend to dally outside of their own kind. Because hybrids bore strong powers from two species, especially if their abilities were naturally in conflict with one another, it could make the hybrid rather unstable. I wasn’t sure if it meant mentally unstable or physically unstable.

My own poor mental stability could be credited to the traumatic events I’ve had to undergo for seven years. Before the Takeover, I was about as stable as any other teenager. Which, I suppose, wasn’t saying much.

So, yeah. Me being even remotely dog-like was ridiculous.

But... the again, wasn’t Rebecca in some part werewolf? Though she was born with human abilities - to a supernatural being, weak and fragile - her father was a full werewolf. So perhaps her genetics were more complicated than human or werewolf? If there was a fifty-fifty chance of her being born a werewolf or not, the shifter gene most likely resided inside her. She just couldn’t access it.

I knew what I was talking about. Biology had been my favorite subject in school.

But I guessed Rebecca’s genes had been mutated and messed up when she became a lycanthrope. The disease affected her on a cellular level, altering her genetics to the point where, biologically, she wasn’t the same person she’d been before.

My thought train made more sense in my own head. I would make a terrible teacher.

Even so...

“There’s no way,” I said. “I’m pretty sure I would know if my dad was a werewolf. I mean, he was my dad. He was pretty much incapable of hiding anything.” As soon as I finished speaking, I knew my words weren’t entirely true. He’d hidden the existence of the supernatural world from me for fifteen years. I hadn’t known that he was a Hunter until the Takeover, and then when I locked away all memories of that traumatic experience, a few weeks ago. He had to have known that Mom was a witch, and yet, he didn’t say a word to me.

Though, when I thought about it, Cedric might have known. He didn’t seem all that surprised to find out that supernatural beings were real. It had almost been like he’d expected something like the Takeover to happen.

So, my entire family was full of liars and supernatural beings. Fantastic.

“Are we having this conversation again?” Rebecca stood up, tilting her head. “I seem to recall similar words being exchanged when I was trying to tell you that you were a witch.”

“You sounded insane then, too,” I muttered, picking at the floor. I winced as a chunk of my nail chipped off, bringing my finger to my mouth as blood welled around the quick. Opal followed the action with her eyes and sighed, most likely at my subconscious stupidity. “You say my dad was a werewolf, and the one that killed your mother, at that? My dad spent his life helping people. He was a police captain and a fucking good one at that. There’s no way he’d kill somebody - well, he wouldn’t kill a human. And from what you told me, your mother sounded like she was a good person at heart. At least, I’m fairly certain you didn’t get your personality from your father.” I met her eyes. She was frowning.

“Thanks.” She blinked twice, then glanced momentarily at Evangeline. “I think. And while I’m glad you were paying attention to my eventful past, you seem to have forgotten the part where I said my mother’s death was an accident. Arthur wanted to leave the pack, and my father wouldn’t let him. Naturally, he seemed to have jumped to the conclusion that killing my father was the best way to go about doing things.” She narrowed her eyes into green slits. “I think we both know that he was entirely capable of doing that.”

The memory of Michael Randon’s death danced through my head. I cast it away before it played through to my dad’s death. It seemed like both my father and I had the automatic response that killing was the most effective way to solve problems. In my defense, it was effective. Is your ex stalking you? Killing them would surely stop that. But, then again, it would probably bring about a swath of brand-new problems that aren’t as easy to be rid of.

“Okay, fine,” I threw up my hands, wincing as the air slapped against my sore finger. “So, it’s possible that my dad had reason to kill yours. That doesn’t explain how I’m not a werewolf.”

“Not everything is about you, Hunter,” Evangeline said, unraveling her braid and starting over again.

“I don’t know,” I shot back. “Most things seem to be these days. We need to capture the Hunter. We need the Hunter to help take down Christian Roy. Reese, you’re a witch. Oh, and you might be part-werewolf, too! We need Elijah’s mate to talk him into loosening his hold over humans.” I rubbed a hand across my forehead. “And his mate, might I remind you, is me.”

Sometimes, I wondered how my life had gotten so fucking complicated.

“Ignore her,” Rebecca said to me, talking about Evangeline. “Maybe you’re like me, and you were born without werewolf abilities.”

“I have augmented senses,” I reminded her. “And while they might be more linked to my magic, there a chance that it’s because one of my parents is a werewolf.”

She looked surprised, her eyebrows rising. “You’re coming around to this idea much more quickly than usual. Are you feeling okay?”

“My neck hurts, and everything about me wants to leave this room and go find my... my mate.” I spat out the word in a way that made it sound awfully similar to the way one might say dung beetle. “Which, by the way, completely contradicts my mental desire to stab him thirty-seven times with my dagger, which he took from me and never gave back. But besides that, I’m perfectly fine.”

“Your relationship with my brother is probably the most unhealthy thing I’ve ever seen,” Rebecca commented. “And my father had me bitten by a lycanthrope and infected me with this stupid disease.”

I sighed in agreement. Too bad I couldn’t really do much about my Elijah situation.

“As for your senses, maybe you got that from your father without the ability to shift,” she shrugged. “It’s possible to get one without that other. You’re a hybrid - please don’t argue with me on that, you know I’m right. It’s uncharted territory for all of us.”

“Speak for yourself,” Evangeline muttered. “Haven’t you read books before, Rebecca?”

“If you have,” Opal interjected, speaking to the bitch. I’d almost forgotten she was here, and a twinge of guilt shot through me. “You’d know that no two hybrids have the same abilities.”

“And I can count the number of hybrids I’ve seen on one hand and still have five fingers left,” Rebecca added. “Well, Reese? Do we make any sense, or are you going to be your annoying stubborn self that I actually kind of like?”

While I definitely wanted to argue about this, deny that I was even less human than I thought, I had to admit, the evidence of what Rebecca was saying was right there in my memories. Hadn’t I seen it with my own eyes, right before my dad attacked Michael Randon?

“I’m not going to argue,” I said. “In fact, I think that you’re... that you’re right.” The words tasted like ash in my mouth. “During the Takeover, my dad’s eyes changed color. They were black. Like a werewolf, when they’re about to shift. My dad didn’t actually shift, but it was still weird. Not to mention that he moved faster than a human, even for a Hunter.”

Cedric wasn’t a werewolf either, as far as I knew. At least, I’d never seen him disappear during a full moon. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Dad often stayed late for work every few weeks, not coming home until after I was already asleep. I didn’t know if Thomas was able to shift, but he seemed relatively normal.

Unless...

“My mom was a witch, then,” I said. “Which would make both of my brothers hybrids, too.” It explained why Cedric was so confident that he could leave the safe house during a full moon. “At least one of them should have shown signs of having werewolf abilities, but we were all normal. Cedric never shifted, and Thomas and I didn’t suffer through any major changes in puberty. So, I was wondering,” I turned to Opal since my question was something she might be able to answer. “Is it possible that my mom did something to suppress our werewolf sides? It would be in her best interest since Michael Randon had reason to seek vengeance. It would be easier to hide without having to worry about three adolescent werewolves who had trouble controlling their transitions.”

“Like Klaus?” Opal grinned, and I rolled my eyes. Nerd. “It’s possible. You managed to hide away your magic, after all. I imagine the mechanics in suppressing werewolf abilities is similar.”

My head hurt. Information dumps always made my head hurt. Learning too much about myself and my family was enough to make my brain spin.

So, I was a hybrid. Extremely rare. Unique. One-of-a-kind, sort of.

That’s fun.


The weeks following Mom’s death went by in a blur of... well, pretty much nothing new.

My neck healed slowly, and quite painfully, the venom from the vampire’s bite staying in my system for days. I felt like I was burning from the inside out, and was bed-ridden until the fever broke and the burning subsided.

Cedric brought Mom’s body back to the safe house, and we brought her to the park the next day to bury her and have a small funeral. I didn’t go, even when Thomas pleaded for me to come. I snapped at him, telling him that I didn’t deserve to go, that it was my fault. He left me alone after that, never daring to venture into my small room again.

He blamed me for her death. It was okay. I knew it was my fault, and I was glad somebody else recognized that, too.

Unlike Cedric, who basically turned into our parent. It was he who sat by my side in the middle of the night when I woke up from nightmares of snapping teeth and spraying blood. It was he who tucked a much-too-old Thomas in at night when he whimpered sleepily for Mom. It was he who brought me food when I’d briefly forgotten how to function normally.

I didn’t deserve it. I took Mom from him. I wasn’t fast enough to help her. I forced him into this position where he had to be strong to help Thomas and I. I denied him the chance to grieve properly.

Finally, two months after her death, he decided that enough was enough.

“No more sitting around staring at the walls, Reese,” he said, his strict voice resembling Dad’s. “You’re leaving this room, and you’re going to eat in the common room with everybody else.”

“I don’t know why you’re bothering to feed me at all,” I grumbled bitterly. “I don’t deserve to eat. I all but killed Mom.”

His eyes had widened, darkening into a dark blue that resembled the ocean on a semi-cloudy day. “I was the one who left the safe house that night, Reese,” he said through gritted teeth. “Mom had ordered me not to, and I... I did it anyway. If I’d listened, she wouldn’t have had to come out after me. You’re wondering why I’ve been so attentive to you and Tommy lately? It’s because I took Mom from you. Now, common room, five minutes.” With that, he spun on his heel and stalked from the room, a cloud of misery following after him.

He feels the blame? Good for him. But he wasn’t out with Mom. He wasn’t there was watch her back. I was. And I failed.

I stood up in a rush then, my mind rushing. Why was I staying here, to begin with? What was the point in hiding ourselves away, losing those we cared about? I was useless here, a distraction, not even able to defend my family. Out there, in the city, humans went about their daily lives - albeit with more fear than before, but still, I had to be more useful out there.

I wasn’t meant for this secluded life. I wanted to help humans, but not like this. No matter how much I enjoyed the kill, it wasn’t what I was meant to do.

Once upon a time, I wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to go to medical school. I wanted to save lives.

Why should I deny myself that just because I stumbled away from everything I knew two years ago?

Some part of my thought this sudden change in direction of my thoughts might make me a little crazy, but I was already up and sneaking out the door before I knew it.

Outside, the sky was black. It briefly occurred to me that it was the night of the new moon, and I instinctively reached into my pocket to feel the reassuring wood of a stake against my palm.

I didn’t know where I was headed. I just knew I had to get away from the safe house. Away from the sympathetic stares of everybody, the unbearable gentleness of Cedric, the shadow of bitterness that surrounded Thomas.

I had to begin again.

“Where are you going?”

I spun around, my heart pounding at the sound of my brother’s voice. Thomas stood a few paces behind me, his head tilted curiously.

“What are you doing out here?” I demanded. “You’re not supposed to leave the safe house!”

“Technically, neither are you,” he pointed out, the insufferable brat. “You’re not on patrol. Are you going to answer me?”

I sighed. “I’m leaving, Tommy. For good. I can’t stand being cooped up in there anymore.”

His eyes lit up. “Great! Me neither. I’m coming with you!”

“What?” I took a step back. “No, you’re not. I’m going alone.”

“You and Cedric are all I have left,” he said, his voice sad. “You can’t leave us.”

“I have to leave for that exact reason.” It took everything in me to stay still, to not wrap my baby brother in a reassuring hug. I didn’t deserve that comfort. Then I frowned, seeing something behind. On instinct, I reached for my stake, as I shouted his name...

It didn’t matter. Once again, I was too slow as a vampire grabbed my brother, briefly pressed its wrist against his mouth, then sank its teeth into his neck.


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